Before the title of the AWA Southern Heavyweight Championship was introduced to professional wrestling, it was known as the NWA Southern Junior Heavyweight Championship. The title was held by Jerry “The King” Lawler, who held the title into its rebrandishing after defeating “Fabulous” Jackie Fargo. Lawler feuded with many athletes over the gold, including Robert Fuller, Bill Dundee, Tommy Rich, and “Bullet” Bob Armstrong, working through the 1970’s to help build prestige for the gold. By the end of the 70’s, Lawler would be a 22 timeAWA Southern Heavyweight Champion!
Where Lawler brought glory to the gold, it was the politcally incorrect, mouthy Southernman “Dirty” Dutch Mantel who would take the title back to the South and make it his own. Mantel originally won the title in 1981, defeating 3-time champion The Dream Machine for his first reign. Holding the belt for 4 months as champion, Mantel lost the championship to Jerry Lawler at the start of 1982. The two spent the first quarter of the year feuding over the title, which changed hands between them 5 times in 3 months! What made this feud even more interesting is that both Mantel and Lawler were beloved by fans, and Mantel became the first man to get a clean victory over The King!
It would be well over a year before Mantel would regain the title, defeating long-time rival of Jerry Lawler’s, Bill Dundee. The two feuded for two months, with the title bouncing back and forth between competitors until Jerry Lawler stepped into play and defeated Mantel for the gold. The title then began being contested between Lawler and Dundee, who still had a strong disdain for one another. Lawler and Mantell teamed to defeat Dundee and his partner, Buddy Landel, in a “Falls Don’t Count” match in Mephis, which saw a record 26 falls within one hour and 15 minutes. In the end, it was Mantel who scored the victory over Buddy Landel, pitting the two in a feud while Lawler focused his efforts on ridding Memphis of Dundee.
These Were The Good Old Days Of Memphis Wrestling. Good Old Days that will never be recaptured.
Dutch was always one of my favorites.
And as tough as they come
James Toombs 1-4-2015
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