It is at this time that I’d like to bring the third meeting of the Lords of Pain Championship Committee to order. We are here to discuss and decide the lineage of the lineal wrestling world heavyweight title, as represented in the Lords of Pain World Heavyweight Championship. In attendance are Mizfan, Mazza, Uncle Joe and Steve. As always, in the chair and taking minutes is myself, your genial host Prime Time. Gentlemen, feel free to help yourself to scotch and cigars, and once you are settled we’ll get underway.

If you’ll recall last time we worked through the period in the late 1970s through into 1981. We had some tough decisions to make, especially regarding the situation with Bob Backlund and Antonio Inoki, before ultimately deciding that Inoki did not meet a suitable calibre of contender to remain the champion. Where we finished in 1981, we were recognising Dusty Rhodes as the LoP World Heavyweight Champion.

Rhodes held the title from June until September 17th, when he lost the title to Ric Flair in Kansas City, Missouri. Flair would hold the title for almost a year without serious incident, but we need to assess a series of matches that took place in Puerto Rico in August and September of 1982. There is at least one match that we need to assess, and depending on the result of that discussion, potentially more. On August 29th, Flair defended his title against Jack Veneno, and the result of the match is disputed. Veneno certainly left the arena with the belt, people celebrated, and he was presented as champion for the remainder of the tour in Puerto Rico. In his book, To Be The Man, Flair claims that the crowd were mistaken, and that the result was actually a time-limit draw – Veneno kept the belt solely for safety reasons. If he is right, then the champion’s advantage would mean Ric Flair was still the champion. If he is not, Veneno would take the gold. Gentlemen, what are your thoughts on this difficult situation?

Wooooo! Fun and games definitely going on.

The situation is definitely unclear... but not so unclear that there isn't a correct answer. I think the NWA actually had it right in just basically ignoring that this stuff ever happened.

Unc's Dominican right? Is Veneno Unc's Unc? Can we call him Uncle Jack? I'm gonna call him Uncle Jack and assume he likes really obscure pornography.

Given the situation and the danger that Flair and others may have potentially been in had they handed the belt over to him that night instead of just going with the flow, I don't see any other safe and/or responsible option for them to have gone with.

I motion Jack Veneno retains the title for 3 reasons: A: Flair’s a bitch, B: his cowardice allowed foe the confusion, C: the guy’s name translates to jack venom and that’s fucking bad ass.

Flair was still officially champion at the end of the first match which ended with the sleeper spot and the time limit draw, even though Veneno took physical possession of the belt.

As for what to do here, I think there's only one thing we can do in such a mess and that is go out for some drugs and murder a hooker in honour of Uncle Jack. Once we get back however we need to hold up that title. Too many shenanigans to try and keep on top of. Vacant gets another run while a 13 year old Michael Cole overuses the word "abeyance".

The belt was never supposed to change hands. Circumstances dictated a judgment call... but the rules are the rules and they clearly state that Champion's Advantage takes precedent.

He’s either been beaten in front of a crowd, or he hasn’t. Champion’s advantage only comes into it that far – it doesn’t have any bearing on which version is right. And the truth is, when push comes to shove the only real evidence we have for keeping the belt on Flair is his own word, in his book. And I’ve read that book. And to be honest, I don’t trust him. It’s basically an exercise in self-justification that they’ve slapped a cover on. It’s a straight call between voting for Veneno and holding the title up for me, and in the absence of any clarity I think the only thing we can do is to vacate the title and move on from there.

Ric Flair 2 Jack Veneno 1 Vacate 2
Uncle Joe casts the deciding vote to vacate the title

With Joe casting the vote to hold up the title, we’re now in the position of once again having to look for an appropriate match, in the proper time frame, to crown a new world champion. At this point we are still only recognising three belts as being potentially ‘world title’ worthy (though this will change with time), so it’s once again a straight choice between three matches. This time, they are Ric Flair vs Mike Graham for the NWA title, 19/9/82 in Orlando, FL; Otto Wantz vs Nick Bockwinkel, 16/9/82 in Oakland, CA for the AWA title; and Bob Backlund vs. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka (special referee S.D. Jones), 18/9/82 in Philadelphia, PA for the WWF Championship. I’ll now open this to the floor for comments.

Sadly none of these exact matches seem to be available online, but I’m pretty familiar with everybody involved so let’s see what we’ve got.

Well you know what they say right? The heart Wanz what the heart Wanz. My heart however doesn't Wanz Otto. So I can go to familiar home territory or throw Naitch into the mix.

Though it kinda seems I'm putting more stock in quality of opposition than some, I do so again here. Mike Graham was a quality worker but far from a consistent main event talent outside of the Florida territory that his father booked. I would LOVE to put the LOP strap on Ric Flair, but Mike Graham is far from elite competition for the Nature Boy.

Ric Flair is, of course, a wonderful choice for a champion on any given day in the 80s. His opponent, however, is pretty damned weak in this instance. I don’t think Mike Graham is as bad as he’s made out to be by some, but he neither the reputation nor the skill to be a particularly credible opponent with a world championship on the line. So I think the NWA is gonna have to pay for their shenanigans with Veneno and sit this one out.

Well as much as I love Snuka’s "youthful happy go lucky island savage" gimmick, I was never too enthralled in most of his matches, and the ones i did like were good at best. Nor is he the type to the pull out great performances out of otherwise shit situations or matches so pass.

I am going to go with Flair vs Graham here. Gonna be far too much Backlund and Hogan over the next few years otherwise.

I think I’ve got to go with the consensus that Mike Graham winning the match and becoming world champion is a potential outcome that basically rules out the NWA title. Besides, at this point in time there’s a very decent chance of us having the same problem just a few months down the line if we go with Flair again.

The WWF match is a very interesting one. Backlund is another very strong choice for champion, and there can be no doubt based on reputation Jimmy Snuka is a high profile opponent. My big issue with this one is… Jimmy Snuka totally sucks. He may have pioneered jumping off tall things, but every time I see the guy in the ring I leave feeling letdown, even if I go as far back as the 70s. There’s no doubt he had a certain charisma that made him memorable and a big draw at one point and time, but even putting aside the fact that he would murder his girlfriend a year later, I’m very low on Snuka in terms of actual performance.

I don’t hate Jimmy Snuka at all; certainly not in this period where I could definitely see him as a contender.

Otto Wanz is a recognizable name. I'm betting that you, the reader of this, has heard it... but knows dick about the dude. Same here. He was a pretty big star in the European territories and made one notable trip to the US. It was during this time that he feuded with the fucking brilliant Nick Bockwinkel in the AWA. He's a worthy contender, I'd say, but only stuck around in the US, the inarguable highest profile and hottest country for pro wrestling in the world in that and pretty much all other eras, for a cup of coffee. Otto gets a maybe.

The AWA match has the opposite problem. While covering the AWA years of Heenan’s career I was pleased to find that Otto Wanz is actually fairly entertaining in the ring, but I feel the circumstances of his short lived title win, which is when this match took place, have earned him a poor reputation. The story goes that Wanz, who promoted wrestling all over Europe, came to America and contributed financially to the AWA in exchange for a title reign, essentially “buying” the title for a short time. When I researched the situation I saw enough to think this story is probably true, but at the same time it’s not as if Wanz was an unknown to AWA fans and his title reign was not appreciated in its time. I have watched the actual title change, and the crowd reaction is enormous when he wins the belt. Granted, that is surely due in part to Bock and Heenan being so incredibly over as a heel act, but Wanz earned his share of success in the company too.

Wanz is one of the biggest names in European wrestling, both as a performer and a promoter, and has to be taken seriously as one of the names in the match. In fact, I think I’m going to vote for those guys. While I’m not going to hold the fact we’ve already taken the belt off Backlund once against him, I’m just not sure we’re ready, in 1982, for the title to change hands in a match that has a wrestler performing the role of special guest referee. We’ll break that precedent at a more natural juncture, I think. It doesn’t feel right here.

Jimmy Snuka was a star in 1982, and not just in the WWF. He had travelled around various NWA territories for almost 15 years prior to making his debut in New York and had stacked up a shitload of gold along the way. His debut in the WWF as a heel alongside legendary (and heat magnet) manager "Captain" Lou Albano made one hell of an impact and would eventually lead to him becoming one of the absolute hottest babyfaces in the industry a short time later. I want to go with Flair because, well, I love Ric Flair. I also want to go with Bockwinkel because, well, I love Nick Bockwinkel. Bob Backlund frankly bores the shit out of me and always has. When it's all said and done, based upon my own personal criteria, the guy facing the highest calibre of competition at the time was easily Backlund. Snuka was a fucking megastar in the era and had a rocket strapped to his ass at the time. I vote we go with Backlund, boring as he may be.

Still on my fuck Ric Flair wave and that sentiment has carried me throughout much of my career, so why stop now? Pass hard on the sharpeé puppy of wrestling, per Big Poppa Pump. So naturally means I’m going with Bockwinkel because that bastard was just too good.

My head tells me the WWF is probably the most legitimate way to go at this point, but my heart pulls me towards AWA, and since I expect the title will go back to New York regardless, I’m going to go ahead and throw my vote towards Wanz and Bock. Probably my last chance to vote for the AWA in good conscience, so that’s the way I’m going.

Wanz vs Bockwinkel wins 3-1-1
As a result we recognise Otto Wanz as LoP Champion as of 16th September, 1982.

So that’s a pretty clear and decisive vote to follow the AWA Championship. That means that Otto Wanz is the LoP Champion until he loses the title to Nick Bockwinkel in October. Bock, in his first reign as champion, holds the title without major incident until almost the very end of 1982, when he goes to Memphis for a match with Jerry “The King” Lawler. This match is mired in controversy. Bock has the match won and is covering Lawler but the ref is down. Bockwinkel goes over to help the referee, Lawler hits him from behind and gets the cover, with the referee missing Bockwinkel's feet on the ropes. Lawler wins the match, but the AWA returned the title to Bockwinkel pending a rematch. Given the clarity of the footage available of the incident I'm not sure vacating the title needs to be an option here, though we'll consider it if people want to vote that way. But it's essentially a choice between agreeing with the AWA, and continuing to recognise Bockwinkel as champion, or going with the pinfall and recognising Lawler which will send us on a path through Memphis in 1983.

So it’s a simple question, gentlemen - Lawler or Bockwinkel?

I'm still over here scratching my head over how we wound up recognizing the AWA Championship at this point. Oh well. At least Bockwinkel's in the mix, which is never a bad thing. Speaking of which, I think I'll stick with Nick here.

It's 2018 and we still don't VAR apparently. We certainly don't need it in 1983. Whatever next. Hand of God overturned? Bollocks to all that.

I’m totally up for overturning the hand of God. I say eliminate Argentina and have England, Belgium and West Germany (only the West, mind you) play in a three-team round robin for the ’86 World Cup.

Pah. The ref didn't see it but he called it. Lawler is the champ in my eyes.

This pains me soooo damn much to say this considering he’s a goddamn Trump supporter, but Lawler in my opinion is the best wrestler of all time. And as much as I love Bockwinkel and his girthy bulge, I gotta go vote for the King of Memphis.

After reviewing the footage, I can only agree with Mr Bockwinkel's aptly put comments after the match. The decision to award Lawler the victory was a complete miscarriage of justice, and should in no way recognize it. I wholeheartedly vote to continue to recognize Bockwinkel as champion!

Actually, I’m really torn because while I’m not exactly a beacon of morality and standards, Lawler by all accounts is a sexual deviant lacking any semblance of moral fortitude. Not sure if the rumors are true of his ephebophilia (sp?), so this is really giving me pause.

When I look at that and I look at the way I voted on the Inoki interference case, I think for the sake of consistency it’s only right that I vote for Bockwinkel to retain. I think the AWA made the correct call here. How on earth can you change the title not only when the man had his opponent pinned, but when the actual fall that was counted was also incredibly dubious? Bockwinkel to retain, and apologies to the city of Memphis, TN.

Actually all of our favorite wrestlers are absolute scumbags so fuck my vote is still for Lawler.

I see nothing there that would truly justify holding the belt up. I vote let it ride.

Jerry Lawler 2-3 Nick Bockwinkel
The board abides by the AWA decision to not recognise the title change.

That close decision, then, means that we’ll follow the AWA title line which stays fairly stable through the next couple of years which allows us to move without controversy into what many consider the contemporary era of wrestling. The next time we meet we’ll be picking things up when it is almost 1986. The board would like to put on record that we are aware of a phenomenon known as ‘Hulkamania’ which is sweeping the world: despite his popularity we do not recognise the claims of Mr Hogan that he is the world champion, but we certainly look forward to the time when he might compete for the LoP Championship. Thanks again to my partners in crime, and to everyone for reading. We all hope you’ll join us again next time. Until then, I’m going to finish by recapping the ground that we’ve covered today.

Dusty Rhodes - June 21, 1981 - September 17, 1981
Ric Flair - September 17, 1981 – August 29, 1982
Vacant – August 29, 1982 – September 16, 1982
Otto Wanz – September 16, 1982 – October 9, 1982
Nick Bockwinkel – October 9, 1982 – February 22, 1984
Jumbo Tsuruta - February 22, 1984 – May 13, 1984
Rick Martel – May 13, 1984 – December 29, 1985

Otto Wanz, first LoP World Heavyweight Champion from Europe since Dick Shikat in 1936