Ken Hoffman unearths a goldmine for every '80s Houston Wrestling fan
I became a true Houstonian the first night I moved here from Phoenix. I pulled into a dump hotel on 610 near the Galleria, unhitched the 5-by-8 U-Haul packed with all my worldly possessions, and headed straight to the Sam Houston Coliseum for a night of Houston Wrestling.
The main event was the Sheepherders vs. the Fantastics in a tag-team cage match. It was love at first sight … of blood. I heard there was an expression in the south, if wrestlers wanted to see green (money), the promoter wanted to see red (blood). Who knows if that was true, probably isn’t, doesn’t matter.
Man, that was one wooly night. I grew up in the northeast, so the only wrestling I watched on TV was WWE (formerly WWF, formerly WWWF), and babyface stars like Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, Bob Backlund, and heels like Macho Man Randy Savage, Larry Zbyszko, and the Wild Samoans. But I knew all about Houston Wrestling and Friday nights at the Coliseum from wrestling magazines. I couldn’t wait.
I am a wrestling fan. I loved it as a kid, still do, even though it’s changed, not sure for the better. Early on in Houston, I got to know Paul Boesch, the legendary wrestling promoter.
Ken wrestles with Houston Wrestling
Quick story about the time he blew up in a rage at me. I had a friend who worked for WWE up in Connecticut. He called one day and said, “We just signed Jake the Snake Roberts and he starts with us in two weeks. Well, Snake was the local champion in Houston, and that meant he had to drop the title before he left for WWE. It’s was the unwritten rule in wrestling, if the champion was leaving a promotion, he lost the title on his way out.
Not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, I wrote in my little column, “Jake the Snake will defend his title Friday night against Dirty Dick Slater, and you can bet the ranch that Roberts will lose … because he’s joining WWE in two weeks.”
Boesch was so incensed that I gave away the ending to his main event, he had Roberts win the match. I changed the course of history! Two days later, when the match aired on Channel 39 (now CWB39), there was Roberts celebrating his win and threatening me to keep my mouth shut. I was scared to death, sitting in my underwear, watching on TV.
Do a YouTube search for “Jake Roberts threatens me.” It’s there. You’ll understand why I was so frightened. Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street had nothing on Snake Roberts.
I was hooked on Houston Wrestling, and Friday nights at the Coliseum became a ritual. But like many regional “territories,” Boesh and Houston Wrestling was bought/forced out by Vince McMahon and WWE. Unlike other promotions, Boesch and his family (later lawyers) refused to sell the Houston Wrestling video library to McMahon.
For years, readers would ask, “How can I get tapes from Houston Wrestling? At long last, now.
A Houston Wrestling goldmine
Jim Cornette is offering a four-hour DVD titled Houston Wrestling Spectacular on his website. It’s $15 for 12 matches, the most intense wrestling you’ll ever see.
“I have an audience that’s interested in old-school wrestling. Especially interesting is the Bull Curry vs. Johnny Valentine match from 1969, which is an amazing spectacle of two of the biggest names in Texas facing each other in a grudge match before the biggest Houston Wrestling crowd since the mid-1950s. Houston was one of the last great wrestling cities in the country under Paul Boesch, before everything went national and global and lost all the passion and emotion,” Cornette says.
Other matches on the DVD include: Jimmy Snuka vs. Ken Patera, Jack Brisco vs. the Spoiler, Dusty Rhodes vs. Ivan Koloff (casket match), Dusty Rhodes vs. Bruiser Brody, and Black Gordman vs. Chavo Guerrero. You might want to put a drop cloth in front of your TV, there's a few very bloody matches.
Now a few words about Jim Cornette. I never got to see him work as the manager for the Midnight Express in Houston Wrestling’s heyday. I have to watch videos on the Internet. He was a maniac, hateful, and hilarious. The Wrestling Observer newsletter name Cornette “Manager of the Year” from 1984 to 1990, and 1992 to 1996. “Corny” is a member of the Pro Wrestling Illustrated and Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame. In 1994, he won the WWE Slammy Award for “Best Dressed.” Two years later, he won the Slammy for “Worst Dressed.” That’s Cornette, all right, definitely the best and proudly the worst.
Cornette is retired as a manager, and still does some commentary for TV wrestling, but his main focus is twice weekly podcasts. Every Monday, he unleashed Jim Cornette’s Drive-Thru and every Thursday it’s the Jim Cornette Experience. Both can be found on the usual podcast platforms.
I do not miss either podcast. Each one is about 90 minutes of wrestling nostalgia mixed with restaurant reviews, homeowner gripes, queasy grooming tips, and outrageously brilliant political commentary. I’m serious, this guy should be hosting Meet the Press, Martha Stewart’s Kitchen and a few hours on QVC hawking his Cornette’s Collectibles.