History of Wrestling: Tommy Rich’s World Title Run

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Tommy “Wildfire” Rich started his career in 1974 in the Georgia territory at the age of 18. After a few years working the area, he moved on to Memphis, where he wrestled as a heel managed by Jimmy Hart. A year later, he returned to Georgia and redebuted as one of the hottest faces working in the nation.

Georgia was a NWA territory, and Harley Race was the NWA World Champion. Before he left to work as a heel in Memphis, Tommy Rich had lost a series of matches to Race and left Georgia in disgust. Upon his return, he declared that he would win the World Title from Race or retire. On April 27th, 1981, in Augusta, GA, the unthinkable happened. Here is the video. Sorry for the quality, but this was a house show in 1981, and at the time no one thought there would be any value in these tapes.

Rich’s title rain only lasted 4 days, having won it on a Monday and losing it back to Race on Friday. Many theories have been given as to why a 5 day reign:

  • It has always been rumored that Jim Barnett worked a deal out where, in return of performing sexual acts on Rich, he would in return become champion for a short time.
  • Michael Hayes, of the Fabulous Freedbirds, was on the card where the title switch took place and seems to think it was a screw job, with Race not knowing he was getting pinned until the 3 count.
  • Probably most likely, and the story that Race gives: Barnett and Race worked out a deal amongst themselves where Rich got the belt to boost attendance, forcing a rival booker out of the territory making the job solely Barnett’s, and Race would have another proven draw to defend against.
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6 Responses to “History of Wrestling: Tommy Rich’s World Title Run”

  1. eric864 Says:

    When I first starting watching WCW and I heard that Tommy Rich was once the NWA champ I was like “How was this jobber the champ?”

  2. Ty Lannister Says:

    It remains a valid question.

  3. Bret Says:

    I got an old 6 hour Georgia Championship Wrestling tape from 1980 back in 1997 and Rich was definitely really over and they were positioning him to be the NWA Champion. I remember checking a title history website after watching the tape to see if Rich had won it so atleast it wasn’t like out of nowhere or anything.

    • Ty Lannister Says:

      He was a huge regional star, no doubt. But alotr of guys were who never sniffed the belt. It still seems like an odd decison for a transitional reign. You’d think it could have gone to Lawler or Colon or another more important figure to put the icing on the cake of their careers.

  4. vrr81 Says:

    But he had not even started annoucing on Raw yet. n fact Raw did not exist.

    In all seriousness though its number three.

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