Smoky Mountain Wrestling was an organization staging professional wrestling in the Appalachian area of the United States from October 1991 to December 1995, when it was run by Jim Cornette. The promotion was based in Knoxville, Tennessee with offices in Morristown, Tennessee.
History and overview
Cornette formed the promotion in October 1991 upon leaving World Championship Wrestling with Stan Lane, Tim Horner and Sandy Scott. The promotion was backed financially by music producer Rick Rubin. The first events and TV tapings were held in October and November 1991. Matches from these shows were first shown in February 1992. The first Smoky Mountain Heavyweight Champion, "Primetime" Brian Lee, won the championship in a tournament held at Volunteer Slam on May 22, 1992, in Knoxville, Tennessee. The first Smoky Mountain Tag Team Champions were crowned in a tournament final on April 23, 1992, in Harrogate, Tennessee, when The Heavenly Bodies defeated The Fantastics.
Cornette had initially envisioned a territory reaching from Kentucky into as far as South Carolina and Georgia. Though they did eventually run events over that large of a region, including a few shows at the Cobb County Civic Center in Marietta, Georgia, the promotion's biggest towns included Knoxville, Tennessee, and Johnson City, Tennessee. SMW event tours also included high school gyms and fairs in cities throughout Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina.
In 1993, Smoky Mountain Wrestling signed deals with the World Championship Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation to showcase their wrestlers on the larger companies' shows. This led to The Rock 'n' Roll Express wrestling The Heavenly Bodies (Tom Prichard and Stan Lane) at SuperBrawl III in February. The Heavenly Bodies (Prichard and Jimmy Del Ray) then faced The Steiner Brothers for the WWF Tag Team Championship at SummerSlam 1993, and then defeating The Rock 'n' Roll Express at Survivor Series 1993 for the SMW Tag Team Championship.
The promotion featured a number of wrestlers who were regulars in the south eastern wrestling scene and was the birthplace of the Heavenly Bodies, Stan Lane and Tom Prichard and later Prichard and Jimmy Del Ray. The Heavenly Bodies, managed by Jim Cornette, were featured heavily throughout the years as they worked storyline feuds with The Rock 'n' Roll Express, The Fantastics and The Armstrong Family (especially Bob Armstrong) SMW also featured a number of younger wrestlers who had not yet made their mark on a national stage, including Bob Holly, New Jack, Al Snow, Balls Mahoney, Chris Jericho, Glenn Jacobs (then known as Unabomb, later better known under the ring name Kane), Lance Storm, Chris Candido, Tammy Lynn Sytch, Brian Girard James (B.G. James / The Road Dogg) and D'Lo Brown, but ultimately, like most independents, was not financially successful. Cornette eventually signed a working agreement with the World Wrestling Federation to trade talent, manage and serve as an on-air talent for that company.
Brian Hildebrand was a Smoky Mountain mainstay, occupying such myriad roles as Head of Merchandise, referee (under his alter-ego Mark Curtis) and sound director.
Style and controversy
Cornette, a traditionalist, catered to fans that Mick Foley described as "old-time fans...who still believed in good guys and bad guys, and to whom cheating was still reason to get upset." Bob Caudle, who was the play-by-play announcer on the TV program, would also proclaim at the beginning of each show that Smoky Mountain Wrestling was "professional wrestling the way it used to be, and the way you like it." This was in sharp contrast to ECW, in which edgy angles, "tweeners" and anti-heroes increasingly took precedence over clearcut heroes and villains. Smoky Mountain was, however, the birthplace of the controversial "Gangstas" gimmick, where black wrestlers New Jack and Mustafa would cut promos about activist Medgar Evers, use fried chicken and watermelons as props and win matches as a result of a two count (rather than the conventional three count), which the Gangstas (kayfabe) insisted on due to Affirmative Action.
National Wrestling Alliance
The promotion had a brief association with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), whose flagship promotion Eastern Championship Wrestling had split away in August 1994, leaving the NWA with no World Heavyweight Champion. A 10-man tournament was held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in November, featuring many SMW wrestlers; the participants were Tracy Smothers, Devon Storm, Eddie Gilbert, Johnny Gunn, Chris Candido, Al Snow, Dirty White Boy, Jerry Lawler, Lou Perez, and Osamu Nishimura. The winner was Chris Candido, who defended his title mostly at SMW events. In February 1995, however, Candido lost the belt to Ultimate Fighting Championship winner Dan Severn, who as a freelancer decided to become a traveling World Champion, depriving SMW of a basis for World Heavyweight championship matches. However, in April 1995, The Rock 'n' Roll Express won the NWA World Tag Team Championship for the fifth time, giving SMW a handful of World Tag Team championship matches.
Though the promotion was highly thought of, it struggled to get a profitable television deal, and operated throughout a wrestling recession that would not end until 1997. After years of operating in red ink, Cornette shut the promotion down in December 1995 to work full-time with the WWF. The last SMW show was held on November 26, 1995 in Cookeville, Tennessee, and featured the entire SMW roster attacking Jim Cornette, who was then pinned by referee Mark Curtis. Several SMW wrestlers would soon obtain work in the WWF, including Tracy Smothers, The Dirty White Boy, and Boo Bradley. WWE now owns the SMW video library.
Both Curtis Comes Home and the 2005 sequel show, held in memory of SMW head referee Mark Curtis are both considered "unofficial" reunion shows.
|SMW Heavyweight Championship||Jerry Lawler|
|SMW Beat the Champ Television Championship||Bobby Blaze|
|SMW Tag Team Championship||Tom Prichard & Jimmy Del Ray|
|SMW United States Junior Heavyweight Championship||Bobby Blaze|