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And now, on with the show ...
And now, on with the show ...
When Arn Anderson returned to Georgia in 1985, he immediately re-ignited the competitive spirit in his "brother" Ole. Arn's influence on a man thought to be his teacher was due to the profound difference between himself and Ole's then-current tag partner, Thunderbolt Patterson. Patterson was already in the fading days of his career. He was an old (too old?) favorite in Georgia, whose wrestling style was a throwback to the 1970's style which was also fading away. Arn, on the other hand, was young, intense, and prepared to deal with professional wrestling's law of the jungle - eat or be eaten. Just from the way in which he cornered an opponant and viciously pounded away at him, it was easy to tell who was "hungry" and who was probably already "full."
To illustrate how seriously Ole took the opportunity to team with Arn, he was willing to forsake the National Tag Team Championship which he shared with Patterson. With the very last remnants of sportsmanship, Ole took a moment to publicly explain to T-Bolt that their team was over. It was an issue of "family values," said Ole. Even though Patterson totally disagreed with Ole's decision to work with this vile young gun, Ole's respect for his old partner seemed to prohibit him from getting into a showdown with T-Bolt. Ole was civil, for now.
Arn, on the other hand had no friends to hinder him. He went about his sadistic way by attacking anyone he pleased, including Manny Fernandez, Sam Houston, and Buzz Sawyer – all former friends of Ole Anderson. When a confrontation between Arn and T-Bolt became physical, Ole made it clear that he was sticking with his decision. Ole and Arn did a number on Patterson and demanded that he hand over his half of the National Tag Team Title to Arn. Patterson, naturally, refused. Rather than have the titles vacated, officials permitted the champions to select replacement partners for a tag match, and the winning team would be recognized as the new champions. The match was set for April 28 in Charlotte, NC. Thunderbolt Patterson selected Manny Fernandez as his ally against Ole and Arn. When the dust settled, The Andersons had officially become the National Tag Team Champions, and therefore one of the top teams in the entire NWA. (A common misconception is that Ole and Arn had been NWA World Tag Team Champions at some point. In fact, this National Title is the only championship they had ever won together.)
In spite of their shady beginnings, the Andersons were two of the hardest-working champions in the business. Even as tag team champions, Ole and Arn would also compete in singles matches to remain sharp. They leveled a slew of opponants such as Sam Houston, Pat Tanaka, and the masked duo of American Starship, Eagle and Coyote. (Eagle and Coyote were the alter-egos of rookies Dan Spivey and Scott "Razor Ramon" Hall.) The team showed their dominance by defeating Dick Slater & Buzz Sawyer at the first-ever Great American Bash.
Things really heated up, though, when they began to work alongside the flamboyant World Champion, Ric Flair. One night in May, Flair was in a hotly contested match with United States Champion Magnum TA. The match stipulations stated that, if Flair failed to win in ten minutes, he had to pay Magnum $10,000. Lo and behold, Ole and Arn Anderson arrived on the scene claiming that Flair was a cousin to the Andersons. When the ten-minute mark dangerously approached, the two of them pounced on Magnum and beat him to a pulp in the ring.
This action may have briefly derailed Magnum from pursuing Flair, but now the Andersons had their own gold to worry about. Magnum called upon Dusty Rhodes, forming "America’s Team." Unfortunately, Magnum’s ambitions distracted him from the battle at hand. Just prior to a National Tag Team Title match between the two teams, Magnum decided to videotape a challenge to Tully Blanchard, who had taken his US Title. Without Rhodes in attendance, The Andersons double-teamed Magnum in front of the camera and dished out another beating. When match time arrived, Dusty Rhodes stepped into the ring not knowing where his partner was. Dusty pleaded with the referee to delay the match until Magnum could be found. At that moment, The Andersons hit the ring and again delivered a two-on-one thrashing, this time to Rhodes. A bruised and bloody Magnum TA managed to limp towards the ring, but Ole and Arn put the finishing touches on him beside his partner. Thus, in one night, Ole and Arn Anderson destroyed their two top challengers without even having to compete in a legitimate match. No match? No problem. It was all in a night's work for the Minnesota Wrecking Crew. It was a ruthless and shameful tactic, but an effective one as well.
Meanwhile, their cohort, Ric Flair, was doing his best to compete against the monstrous Nikita Koloff throughout the summer. In their grand finale match, Koloff and Flair met for the World Title in a cage match in Atlanta on September 29. Flair was in all of his heroic glory as he defeated Koloff and was immediately attacked by Nikita and his uncle Ivan Koloff. Coming to Flair’s rescue was none other than Dusty Rhodes! Dusty sent the Russians packing and offered his hand to Flair in friendship. The champion, however, had none of this. Ole and Arn Anderson entered the cage and assaulted Rhodes. With Flair’s help, they managed to break Dusty’s ankle, putting him on the shelf indefinitely.
To the victors (or the predators) go the spoils, and Arn Anderson had already selected his reward. He wanted Dusty’s NWA TV Title, which was to be vacated due to the injuries he sustained in the cage incident. When Dusty Rhodes, with his lower leg in a cast, appeared on WTBS to officially surrender the title belt, he was jumped by Arn Anderson and another Rhodes foe, Tully Blanchard. Whereas Tully lived only to see Rhodes suffer, Arn came to take the actual TV Title belt. He proclaimed himself to be the true TV Champion, declaring "possession is nine-tenths of the law." Weeks later, Rhodes returned the favor by attacking Arn and retrieving the stolen belt. Still, one thing was dangerously clear. Arn Anderson wanted a singles championship at any cost.
On the other hand, teams from throughout the NWA desired the National Tag Team Championship as well. When Starrcade ’85 arrived, their new challengers were champions themselves. The opponents were the team of Wahoo McDaniel and Billy Jack Haynes, co-holders of Florida’s United States Tag Team Championship. Furthermore, only the Andersons’ National Tag Title would be on the line. They had everything to lose but nothing to gain. Wahoo’s experience countered several of the Andersons’ double-team tactics. The big factor, though, was the enormous power of Haynes. The Andersons managed to use Haynes’ temper against him by luring him into illegally entering the ring late in the match. When the referee pushed Haynes back to his corner, The Andersons managed to trip up Wahoo and secure a pinfall for the win.
The night did not end there for the Andersons. When Ric Flair met Dusty Rhodes for the NWA World Title in the main event, Ole and Arn got involved. Although Rhodes pinned Flair to apparently win the title, a review of the match showed that The Andersons' interference should have ended the bout with a disqualification for Flair before the pinfall. In a way, Ole and Arn handed Dusty the victory but cost him the World Title.
This action only gave Rhodes more reason to seek revenge for the steel cage incident in September. On New Year's Day, Rhodes enlisted the aid of NWA newcomers The Road Warriors in an effort to eliminate his enemies, one at a time. The first target was Ole Anderson. A six-man tag team match pitting Rhodes & The Warriors against Flair and the Andersons broke down into a pier-six brawl. As Road Warrior Hawk and manager Paul Ellering held Flair and Arn away from the ring, Animal and Rhodes double-teamed Ole. With Animal holding Ole’s leg flat on the mat, Rhodes delivered a succession of top-rope kneedrops to Ole’s leg. The damage was done and Ole was out of action. The Andersons had suffered a dose of their own medicine. Rhodes himself was one of the very first people to coin a phrase following the incident. "One Horseman is down ... only Three remain."
Ever since Rhodes had vacated it in October, the TV Title was still vacant. Arn Anderson made his way into an eight-man one-night tournament on January 4, 1986 in Greensboro, NC. He pinned the comical Jimmy Valiant in round one and obtained a “bye” in the semi-finals. When it came down to two men, Arn had to go one on one with Wahoo McDaniel. Arn pulled off the upset win over the veteran and finally had the gold he wanted. Arn had won the first of an eventual four NWA (and WCW) TV Titles. By making full use of deadly holds such as the DDT, the gourdbuster suplex, and his own patented spinebuster, Arn proved that he could fight his own battles.
Since Ole Anderson was out of the picture, Tully Blanchard stepped in to aid Arn and Ric Flair. On February 23, 1986, Dusty Rhodes took on Arn Anderson in a no-DQ steel cage match. Rhodes pulled off a (non-title) victory over the TV Champion, but he paid dearly for it. Tully and Ric stormed the cage and attempted to re-enact the Atlanta incident from October. They managed tp pull off Dusty's boot and delivered some damage to his ankle, but Rhodes was rescued by his comrades before any serious damage could be done.
In return for Blanchard's aid in the cage, Ric Flair helped Tully beat Rhodes for the National Heavyweight Title in March. After the match, Flair and Arn then helped Tully try to eliminate Dusty’s valet, Baby Doll! Luckily, Magnum TA and The Rock n' Roll Express came to her rescue. It was slowly becoming clear that Tully Blanchard had long-term plans to cooperate with Arn Anderson and Ric Flair.
When Ronnie Garvin made a series of challenges for Arn’s TV Title, Tully always made it his business to be nearby. One night, when Garvin seemed to have the match well in hand, Tully ran in the ring, causing a DQ to save Arn's title. The two of them then used the steel ringpost and Tully's cowboy boot to injure Garvin’s knockout punch fist. Not only did the attack draw Garvin away from Arn's TV Title, it also turned him into an injured challenger to National Champ Blanchard.
In the spring of 1986, plans were made for the first-ever Jim Crockett Sr Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament. Tully and Arn, each man holding a singles title, teamed up for a chance to win the one million dollar purse. Unfortunately, they fell victim to the talents of The Fantastics, Tommy Rogers and Bobby Fulton. Even though they lost in the first round, their fans got their first look at a team that would dominate the sport years later. One week later, Dusty Rhodes faced Arn Anderson in a steel cage match at the AWA's Rage In A Cage. Dusty came away with a victory, but not the championship, as this was another non-title match.
As usual, Rhodes was also the most persistent challenger for Flair’s World Title throughout the summer. In June, yet another title encounter ended with interference from Tully, Arn, and James J Dillon. Even as Rhodes managed to fight off all of the intruders, the crowd was distracted by another participant. To everyone's surprise, Ole Anderson hit the ring. Finally, THE FOUR HORSEMEN were officially united!
CLICK HERE AS THE HORSEMEN RIDE IN 1986!