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[WIW] [Wrestlepack] The incomplete history of Smoky Mountain Wrestling


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For anyone who doesn't remember (or, like me, was on the wrong side of the world to be receiving any footage of it) Smoky Mountain Wrestling was the brainchild of everyone's favourite angry man of the business, Jim Cornette, after he left WCW in a fit of being Jim Cornette and hit upon the idea of forming his own territory without the blackjack and hookers. The idea was basically to resurrect the old Continental territory that had collapsed in the 80s and run things essentially the same way - a small core crew of local names making their money with oldschool southern rasslin shows in driveable towns too small or out of the way to get the attention of WCW (who had cut back their low drawing house shows in a bid to stop haemorrhaging cash) or WWF (who wouldn't be caught dead running shows in Podunk USA). Considering that Continental had finally choked on its own bullshit a mere three years earlier after managing to kill attendance in a virtual monopoly area, hindsight suggests that emulating it down to the bones might not have been such a grand idea. But that's how it happened, for better and worse. In short, its a love letter from Corny to every vice and virtue of the old southern territories.

And we're going to follow its entire run as best we can, from the initial TV in early 92 to its shutdown at the end of 95. I say as best we can because there's a few issues with the footage. Originally I was going to just do the big events rather than the week to week television but a large number of those either weren't recorded, were at least partially recorded but never released as full shows or have become the white whale of 90s southern rasslin fans (all fifteen of them) and live on in a legendary state of simultaneous existence, non-existence and private collection existence. Someone clued in to the tape trading scene might have better access but there's a whale-filled ocean between me and any of those guys. The TV, by contrast, is a nearly complete run and happens to contain recap footage of several big shows that I would otherwise have zero footage of.

With any luck I'll have the first show done in a few hours and will be chewing through about two shows per week until this ends or it kills me.


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I've been listening to the Exile on Badstreet podcast about SMW and it was pretty fascinating, especially for a promotion I only knew of bare bones.

Be following with interest.


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Episode 1, airdate February 1 1992
From the Memorial Auditorium in Greeneville, South Carolina

We start out with the most 80s of intros, small clips of the action floating and warping across the SMW mountain background.

Bob Caudle and Dutch Mantell are our commentary guys tonight. Bob wastes absolutely no time in going to the 'traditional wrestling, just the way you like it' spiel. Dutch has the most ridiculous layered lsd-addled bandido look going on.

First match up tonight and, holy shit, they're actually going with time limits. We get Killer Kyle (a big fat guy working the worlds least subtle New York mafia gimmick, complete with violin case and home in Hells Kitchen) against the legendary Robert Gibson (I can only presume this was an era where Morton was on Cornette's shitlist for some reason or another). Gibson is way over, Kyle is getting the dead fish response. This is SMWs second show ever so either he sucked last time or no-one has seen enough of him to care one way or the other.

Mullet count: 1

Dutch and Bob spend about thirty seconds speculating on what's in that case then Dutch puts over Kyle as a streetfighter and Gibson as a legit amateur wrestler. We're not missing much in the ring - this is pure southern big guy/small guy shtick with Kyle playing the cowardly bully from up north. Dutch tears into the supposed singing career of Gibson and Morton and then we get an ugly looking corner spear/splash countered into a sunset flip rollup to give Gibson the win in about three minutes. Short TV match, no point rating it or anything. I like Kyle's character work but he's not very smooth in the ring.

Now we get the Fantastics hyping tonights main event, where Bobby Fulton is gonna take on Ivan Koloff. 1992 Ivan Koloff. This is going to a bad place real fast.

Mullet count: 3

Bob Armstrong, local legend, talks up his place as Comissioner for SMW. He runs down modern wrestling (we get our second "as it used to be, as it should be" bit of the night) and talks up how family friendly and fan-friendly SMW is going to be and how he'll be enforcing all the rules with heavy fines - no weapons, no throwing someone over the top rope, no touching the referee. Solid enough promo despite stumbling over a few words. I actually kind of believe that Bob could be an enforcer style authority figure here despite his age. Maybe because he's got the build and forearms of a career construction worker and the most dressed-up blue collar flannel shirt and tie outfit I've seen in ages. But we'll see how long his decree lasts.

Now we get Brian Lee v Barry Horowitz. Still going with the 15m time limit.

Horowitz actually has some heat. Brian Lee as well. Dutch is still playing heel commentator here, tearing in to Brian Lee every chance he gets but giving him some serious kayfabe accomplishments (I'm damn sure Lee never toured Japan or Puerto Rico at this point) and talking up Horowitz as a serious threat. Not much to say about the actual match, which is short and unremarkable except for two things. One, Lee is still damn green at this point and kind of lazy. There's a bit where he's working the standing armwringer against a kneeling Horowitz and then he just kind of stops. Keeps the hold but entirely stops working it as Horowitz gets back to his feet which seems to confuse Horowitz as much as anything else. The second is... why in the flying fuck is a WWF job guy coming off as the better contender in this match? I get that Horowitz is clearly the better wrestler (in both senses) right now but jesus. Dutch is still railing against Lee here. Horowitz is showing exactly why he was such a good job guy here but Lee goes over with the over-the-shoulder backbreaker in about four minutes.

Mullet count: 5

We get a quick promo from Ron Wright in his wheelchair, begging sympathy for his accumulated injuries and selling himself as a potential manager. Basic but good sleaze heel promo here.

Next up we get 'Golden Boy' Joe Cazanza against 'White Lightning' (a nickname that will be shot down for Scot Steiner in about eight years over fears of the race stuff) Tim Horner. Still 15m time limit, but I doubt that'll ever be an issue.

Caudle declares this'll be a quick and exciting match between two quick guys. I don't know what world he could possibly be in because there ain't no reality where Cazanza moves fast. He's an oldschool job guy - decent enough worker, but lacking the physical qualities (like, say, discernable muscle mass) of a mainstay. Kind of a fatter Dirty White Boy with less charisma. Mantell continues to be the best thing on this show, trying to play Ron as the hard done by fan favourite and then putting himself over as a world record holding diver.

Cazanza gets in the classic Flair 'go to top rope, get slammed off, beg off' spot that leads into the finish of Horner rolling up then bridging through for the win (apparently the rollup is actually his finisher). And then they show it again in slow motion. Slow motion is not friendly to a shirtless fat man, there's some definite cleavage jiggle going on there.

Mullet count: 7

Now we get Jim Cornette doing his version of the "SMW - just the way you used to like it" promo, only because this is Cornette there's an awful lot more self-aggrandisement, cheap heat and fire and brimstone pointed at the other promotions. He rails about wrestlers being picked based on their steroid intake and ability to sell action figures (maybe not the best choice, given some of the guys on this show). Jim actually looks a hell of a lot like he does today. Like it was five or ten years not closer to twenty five.

We get another quick bit of wobbly slowmotion from the Cazanza/Horner match. Jesus, leave the guy some pride.

Now we've got Black Scorpion (speaking of juiced up guys - he's a big muscled guy in a hood and black tights, billed from the always classic parts unknown) and Paul Miller. Miller gets the jobber already-in-ring start, Scorpion gets escorted to the ring by a cop. I think we can guess how this one is ending. This is a complete squash for three minutes until, shock of shocks, Miller actually gets a rollup win. Line of the match from Dutch - "Miller is from Columbus Georgia, land of high water and low brains". That's about his fifth hometown slam of the night and he's still picking fights with Lee.

Mullet count: Still seven.

Brian Lee cuts a short promo introducing the upcoming tournament for the heavyweight title. Then Dutch interrupts to talk about how much better he would have been in that match and cuts down Lee. Lee's best comeback is "you would have wrestled it differently. You'd have lost". Lee is a tolerable promo in a folksy local boy way, but he came off like a goof opposite someone as good as Dutch even with Mantell playing a not super serious version of his character.

Now our main event. Koloff v Fulton, complete with pretaped stock Koloff promo airing in the corner at the start of the match (the audio actually starts a couple seconds before the in-frame video appears, which is sloppy and kind of disconcerting).

This isn't a good match. Koloff was good once, but that was twenty years and a hundred pounds ago. The poor guy was starting to break down in 86 when he was teaming with Nikita, now he's obviously limited. So we get a slow, kind of lazy mat match loaded with stalling. Koloff's still a smart worker (his character stuff is good, as is the little detail stuff) but everything else looks rather bad. The best bit comes at the end - Wright is at ringside scouting, shakes hands with Ivan and palms him the fist load to just about kill Bobby with. This brings out Jacky who yells at the ref and proceeds to assault Ivan until he drops the foreign object. The ref then reverses the decision, Vladimir Koloff (oh god, another fake Russian) runs out and the Koloff pair try to hang Jacky Fulton over the ropes with the Russian chain. Massively heated end here - there's one female fan screaming her heart out at the Koloffs, so loud its clipping. I legit thought she might've jumped the guard rail to get at them.

Final promo segment from Bob Armstrong, reiterating that the rules are the rules and Ivan is getting fined $500 for his actions. Which I guess is a big fine if you're talking about backwoods east tennessee incomes but seems kind of light for attempted murder. Then he sets next weeks main event of the Fantastics against Ivan and Vladimir Koloff and we get a quick "SMW - just the way the fans like it" promo from the Fantastics. I'm not sure who I actually want to see working that match - a broken down old Ivan Koloff or a greener than tree sap Vladimir Koloff.

In summary:

This is kind of the template for SMW I'd heard about. Some great heels and great promos, pretty light on strong faces and athleticism (although if you prefer your in-ring work to be more selling and shtick, I can see how some of these guys could have classic matches by those standards) and running the gamut from super heated to soporific crowds. Also a really strange definition of family entertainment, given that the two post-Soviet villains just tried to murder a guy in the main event.
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Lee Casebolt

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Ricky Morton didn't appear yet because he was still under WCW contract. IIRC, this was his short heel run as Richard Morton in the York Foundation.

The athleticism will pick up in a bit when they get to add people like Al Snow, Chris Candido, Lance Storm, and Chris Jericho, but this is never going to be Workrate Dream Match Land.


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My apologies for the delays here. Real Life intruded in some minor but highly inconvenient ways.

Episode 2, airdate February 8 1992
From the Memorial Auditorium in Greeneville, South Carolina

This is actually from the same taping as the previous episode, so everything said about that still stands. And they're still shilling that 'wrestling they way it used to be' hardcore.

Cornette starts us off by running down the card with Bob. Cornette even manages to get heat off a straight reading of the matches for the night. Looks like it'll be Caudle and Cornette on commentary tonight instead of Dutch and Caudle.

Match 1. Tim Frye versus Hollywood Bob Holly

Frye gets the jobber alreading in ring entrance. Bob is here with black mullet, leather jacked and pink sunglasses with the pink tights doing an arrogant hollywood acting star gimmick while looking like a deep south Bret Hart ripoff. He looks about as confident in the character as you'd expect and the crowd goes mild on his entrance. Totally nothing like any of the gimmicks I'd know him in later.

This is a slow squash brawl with the high point being either wheelchair Ron lurking at ringside or Holly hitting a sweet top rope knee drop for the finish. Cornette is doing a good colour commentary job of covering for Holly's greenness and trying to get over the Hollywood gimmick better than Holly is doing himself.

We get a Koloff promo here hyping the main event tag match. Wisely they're keeping Vladimir off the mic. He's trying his best to do the intimidating Russian Heel gimmick but he just looks confused and vaguely constipated. Vladimir is damn big though, I can see why they'd think he might be able to pull it off. I wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley any more than I want to see this match.

Next up we get Robert Gibson doing a quick down to earth babyface promo hyping his return. Short, sweet and kind of undercut by the fact he looks completely punch drunk here.

Match 2, Rip Rogers vs Paul Orndorff

Orndoff has some heat going in to this. This is also the flashiest looking pair of wrestlers thus far in SMW. Orndorff has a full length red jacked with about three pounds of rhinestone attached. Rogers has the flashy pink top and bleached blonde mullet with azor Ramon level black stubble.

Straight away we're out of the ring and into the brawl around the ring with Rogers begging off and selling like crazy, first for the head being slammed into the chairs and then for the ring announcers microphone. We even get the top rope bionic elbow as Orndorff gets his shine and then things slow the hell down as Orndorff works the arm and Rogers goes hard into the shtick heel offense of back rakes, stomps and then more arena brawling. Rogers is spending a lot of time in yelling matches with the crowd and they bite for it every time. Back in the ring and Rogers is in to the standing sleeper hold again slowing things down. Orndorff doesn't fight his way out but almost does that and kind of falls forward in a way that drags Rogers face first into the turnbuckle. More heel cowardice from Rogers and a really fun spot where Rogers gets caught up in the ropes and Orndorff grabs Rogers by the nose to set him in place for the big overhand punches. Quick finish when Rogers goes for the piledriver, gets backdropped by Orndorff, goes for the sunset flip and gets caught by the butt splash into a hooked leg for the pin. They're still hyping the illegality of the piledriver here. Good TV match and while its a long way from the WWF or any of the big territories you can still get a sense of how Orndorff v Hogan outdrew just about any other program in the era.

Danny Davis on the mic now in a crazy purple and gold-edged top with the bleached mullet talking about how he'll explode on the people then Bob Armstrong almost repeats his promo from last week about the rules, fines and family affair. I've seen the clips that bookend the ad breaks and I'm still struggling to see how some of this is family friendly. Then we get Brian Lee calling out Dutch Mantell. Still seems like they're trying to set him up as the top face. Thank gods they didn't let Dutch get a right of reply. We're already going to see one bit of butchery tonight.

Match 3, Scott Armstrong vs Dutch Mantell

This time its Scott getting the jobber entrance. I can't read the crowd here - they're giving Dutch hell, but some of it seems almost smarky love-to-hate heat. Scott is openly called out as Bob's son by both commentators.

Slow match overall. Dutch is just heeling the hell out of everything here. Pulling the ropes on the abdominal stretch, jawing with the ref, jawing with the crowd, pulling the hair. Not a trick out of the book missing. Cornette's not missing any either, he's been slagging off Bob and Scott the entire time. And at about five minutes in we get Mantell pulling otu the bullwhip for the disqualification and going to absolute town on poor Scotts back before Lee runs him off. That doesn't stop Mantell from getting on the house mic and threatening to whip the crap out of Lee. And you'd believe it.

More promo work from Bob Armstrong, threatening to fine Mantell $500 over the bullwhip issue and setting the Lee/Mantell match for next week. He's far calmer than I'd expect anyone to be given it was his son being whipped. Cornette comes in to hype his new tag team that he'll be bringing in but refuses to name them, while still running down modern entertainment wrestling and the advertising contracts. This is really unheelish until the last ten seconds or so when he gets in the requisite redneck ribs against the crowd.

We get a replay of last weeks end segments, with Bobby getting hung by the Koloffs and then the Fantastics promo. This leads to our last match of the night.

Match 4, Koloffs v Fantastics

I'm not recapping this match. The Fantastics are good workers but they're up against a team in which 1992 Ivan Koloff is not only the better worker but I'd argue the only worker. Vladimir can't even hit a convincing axehandle and its not for lack of attempts. If he's not the worst of the fake Russians he's certainly a write-in vote. Even the crowd seems to realise how shit this is but the finish gets a nice pop. Maybe because its over.

I haven't been harping on it, but between every segment they've been shilling the spot shows trying to get more venues.

And we end tonight with a brief Terry Gordy promo. I don't know what exactly he's on here but Gordy is out of it. Not a good note to end on.


Better and worse than last week. The in-ring highlights are definitely higher but the lows are far worse. I'm pretty sure i could put on a better performance than Vladimir. You know things are bad when they're protecting a guy by making Ivan Koloff carry the team.


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Given time and talent, Smokey Mountain gets really good. Bob Caudle was always one of my favorite announcers. Like Lance Russell, he's so down to earth that you can buy what he's saying. Nothing seems forced, and his pacing is very good. Dutch was alright, but tends to get a bit carried away at times. Ron Wright...Cornette said that Wright was over because his gimmick was the older uncle who was always in trouble, always trying to borrow money, always pulling some hustle. Everybody in that building had a Ron Wright in their family.

Oh, and Brian Lee is there. Not a good worker. He had the look, but he was a guy who would call a spot, whip you into the ropes, and forget what spot he called before you got back to him. It took one match as Fake Undertaker for the real one to talk Vince into getting rid of him. But here we are in a small southern promotion and they can't exactly afford to drop a guy who is 6'7".


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And we end tonight with a brief Terry Gordy promo. I don't know what exactly he's on here but Gordy is out of it. Not a good note to end on.
I'd say that was after Gordy's OD on pain medication but that was in '93. So probably just being on a lot of pain meds.


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This week has been a little slow, but the aim is to go at two a week from now on and try to catch up to the airdates so I can keep things (more or less) in sync two and a bit decades after the fact. So without further ado...

Episode 3, airdate February 15 1992
From the Morristown East High School in Morristown, Tennessee

This is the second TV taping now, so a new location in what looks like a converted basketball gym. The lighting might actually be better on the road here.

Bob Caudle and Cornette on commentary here and doing the intro. Jim has the greatest shit-eating grin in wrestling.

We start with Pat Rose and Bob Holly. Rose is getting the jobber in-ring start. I swear Bob Holly is doing his best to look like Owen Hart cosplaying Bret Hart. Rose is wrestling in just tights here and I'd like him to put the shirt back on. Fake sportsmanship from Holly at the start where he does the touch-hands spot before jumpnig Rose as he turns his back. Holly is really in love with his hair here and Rose is doing a much better match than I'd expected from the old fat guy. Some nice arm drags on offense and a great sell job on the inverted atomic drop to put Holly back on offense. That looked legitimately painful. He put the sleeper over kind of well too - staggering into the corner and using his considerable bulk to drag Holly with him into a rope break rather than fighting out of it. Quick sleeper exchange sequence and then we get a complete miscommunication on what I think was meant to be a sunset flip pin spot where Rose was just out of reach and too side-on for Holly to grab the legs after rolling over Rose's back. They re-run the rope spot and this time Holly gets a sloppy neckbreaker before going upstairs for the huge knee drop. Weak looking cover by Holly and Rose kicks out just after three then gets out of the ring quick-smart. I wonder if Holly didn't already have his reputation here because Rose did not want to stick around after that botch.

More shilling with the spot shows, as Caudle has Horner and the Fantastics. More blonde mullets than you can shake a stick at. Total hometown babyface localised promo stuff, although Jacky Fulton makes a nod to their old blowjob babyface status and ends the promo talking about meeting all the pretty local women. Hope any female fans were smart enough to get tested afterwards. Straight into the stock shill video after this.

Bobby Fulton cuts his promo on Koloff, who apparently has a new partner. Maybe the SMW booking team (which I think at this point is Cornette and Horner) felt the same way about Vladimir that I did. Very short promo which sets up Ivan gettin in Caudle's face to cut his usual russian-accented Mad Dog Vachon promo. Apparently Vladimir went back to the Soviet Union on official business, suggesting that either Ivan has dementia or Vladimir is a time traveller. Rambling story short, Ivan's new partner is Jimmy Golden (younger fans might recognise him as Jack Swagger senior), one of the oversize Welch wrestling clan. So we're three episodes in and we've already got the two east tennessee families showcased. Golden is positively dwarfing Ivan here which is no mean feat even after the weight loss.

Tag match time now, Joey Maggs taking on Rip Rogers

Both guys get the jobber entrance. Within the first few seconds of the match we get the Cornette double entendre/unfortunate placement of the night. "I don't want to look at his body, he doesn't attract me in the least". Beat. "Rip Rogers from behind. I'm loving it". Rip Rogers on offense to start and Maggs might be where the Heartbreak Kid got his overselling lessons from. He managed to sell the kick-counter to a back body drop setup from the center of the ring to the ropes. Maggs rolls to the outside for space and holy shit, we got our high spot of the night. Rogers come off the top rope to the outside for, of all things, a flying axehandle. Back in the ring and we slow the whole thing down. Ugly slow brawling with both guys overselling and shticking it up. Rogers really loves that stuck in the ropes spot. He also really loves to talk, I think he's being picked up on the commentary mic as much as the regular mic. More slow, kind of awkward shticky back-and-forth wrestling until Rogers re-uses the stagger back into the ropes and get stuck spot to crotch Maggs on the top rope and follows it up with the superplex for the finish.

That was actually a lot more fun than expected for a four minute TV match. Not good by most standards - the holds and transitions were sloppy as hell - but enjoyable as hell with two campy oversellers going out there to one-up eachother. I'd like to see a longer match where they could cut loose.

Straight into the next match with Robert Gibson taking on The Mighty Yankee. Yankee is a fat jobber under a blue stars-and-stripes mask. No idea of his unmasked identity and if he's only 235lbs I'm a cruiserweight. Nothing much I can say about this match - its TV match 101 stuff. Competent time filling and nothing more.

Jim Cornette gets his promo time now, harping on how you don't know who you can believe in these days. And jesus christ he's not holding back. In the span of thirty seconds he's brought up Magic Johnson giving people HIV, Pee-Wee Hermans jacking off in a porn theatre, the governor of Louisiana being an indicted criminal, Jerry Falwell being Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Swaggart fucking hookers... all so he can get over how honest he is and how he's gonna bring in the best tag team ever real soon. Its one hell of a promo, vintage angry man Jim and you can easily see that this is the man who'd let both Daryl Van Horne/Jim Mitchell and New Jack off the leash in the future.

Quick repay of the Dutch/Armstrong match, this sets up a promo with Ron Wright and Dutch Mantell with Dutch offering, in a roundabout way, to beat Lee so badly he'll turn to Ron for help.

Tim Horner vs Barry Horowitz up next.
Horner is the hometown guy and he is kind of over. I know Horner cops a lot of crap for overpushing himself in SMW and was ultimately stripped of the book as a result but its not like he's getting dead air on these shows.

Very bursty match. Horowitz is a coward begging-off heel who slows things down between spots while Horner is pushing fast (for the promotion) work whenever he's calling spots. Fun little five minute go-around. I'm not super high on Horner (probably because him working that faster, spottier style is just similar enough to better mat workers that it shows his limitations although he's still clearly a solid worker) but Horowitz is really fun in his role. I don't think it ever happens, but even as a workrate mark I'm totally wishing we had a face Dirty White Boy vs heel Barry Horowitz shtick-off match.

Buddy Landell gets a quick vignette hyping up his future appearance. He spends about half the promo talking in a mush-mouth imitation of someone he just punched in the face and the other half putting over SMW as the haven for guys who don't brownnose promoters. Speaking of people who seem to be getting a little chemical inspiration for their promos.

Main Event time, Dutch v Brian Lee

Someone please take that bullwhip off Dutch before he accidentally pokes out the announcers eye. Lee is over here, especially with the women. His cheers have a noticeably higher pitch than the other guys are getting.

I don't think Dutch trusts Lees work much. There's a lot of holds going on where it looks like Dutch is talking his ear off calling the next spot. Headlocks especially. Watching Lee try to work Dutch's style isn't all that entertaining either. He doesn't have the selling, the subtleties or the back hair to keep up with such a slow approach. He needs to be doing more basic power wrestler stuff and Dutch ain't having it. Lee gives Dutch about his first bump of the match with a nice release powerslam before Wright hands Dutch the brass knuckles. Which Lee then wrestles off Dutch and uses them to give Dutch the weakest looking haymaker seen outside a kindergarten. And then Lee forgets to take them off before going for the pin leading to the ref DQing Lee and giving the match to Dutch. That was a waste of five minutes.

Lastly we get the start of a Hollywood Bob Holly promo. He's clearly not comfortable with this gimmick and his fake accent keeps swinging in and out. Thankfully Cornette saves us after a few seconds and pushes the upcoming SMW events and the tag team he's going to be bringing in.

Actually, that wasn't the end of the show. The end is Brian Lee mangling the usual wronged babyface promo. Somebody get this man a mouthpiece.

That's all for this time.

Lee Casebolt

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I caught a Darryl Van Horne promo from '94 on last week's Between the Sheets... holy shit, the things this company got away with.
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