The UWF Beach Brawl | On This Day

On June 9th, 1991, The Universal Wrestling Federation held their first pay-per-view event. The Supercard, known as UWF Beach Brawl, would also be their last pay-per-view event.

The Universal Wrestling Federation began in late 1990, when California businessman Herb Abrams saw the then-WWF was going national. Allegedly, Herb approached Vince McMahon with an offer to promote wrestling events under the WWF banner on the West coast. However, McMahon declined the offer, leading Herb Abrams to build a competitor on his own. Abrams announced the launch of his Universal Wrestling Federation at the Wrestling Fans Fantasy Weekend convention in August 1990.

The convention presented both an audience to witness the launch of a new promotion and the talent he would later sign. With a handful of known stars, like Paul Orndorff and Bob Orton, and a handful of local stars, like Cactus Jack and Louie Spicolli, Herb started shopping for a TV deal. Sports channel America eventually gave him $1 000 000, despite his lack of experience, to produce a weekly television series.

The UWF Beach Brawl
The Fury Hour

The first episode of UWF Fury Hour aired on October 1st, 1990 as part of Sportschannel’s “Feet, Fists, and Fury” block, which also included boxing and kickboxing. The episode, taped at the Reseda Country Club in Reseda, California, and featured Herb Abrams and Bruno Sammartino on commentary.  “Dr. Death” Steve Williams fought in the opening match. His opponent for the evening was a jobber called Davey Meltzer whom Williams defeated in under 5 minutes. The name was an insult to journalist Dave Meltzer, who was rightly critical of the promotion on launch. Other matches on the card include David Sammartino vs Cactus Jack, Billy Jack Haynes vs Spitball Patterson, Col DeBeers vs Michael Allen, and Paul Orndorff vs Riki Ataki. The main event of the evening was a match between B. Brian Blair and “Dangerous” Danny Spivey, which ended in a DQ.

The Fury Hour started as it meant to go on. Many of the matches played no part in the storyline and most main events had non-conclusive endings. This was all due to Herb’s inexperience as a promoter and booker. He had no idea which wrestlers had chemistry in the ring and he often let egos get in the way of business. On top of this, the production quality was laughable, as there was no uniformity in design. Interstitial cards seemed to have no connection to one another. UWF taped their wrestling events in seemingly random locations, giving no opportunity for uniform lighting or backdrops.

Despite all this, tv ratings and live attendance didn’t drop. However, with only about 450 people in the crowds, one wonders if it was possible for the numbers to drop. Herb tried to pull those numbers up with special attractions like Andre the Giant, but to no avail.

The UWF Beach Brawl
Beach Brawl

The momentum (or lack thereof) of the Fury Hour led to the first pay-per-view event. The event began with a dark match where Boris Zhukov defeated Paul Simonson. Shortly thereafter, cameras began rolling on a brightly lit ring in a near pitch-black arena.

The Blackhearts (w/Luna Vachon) Vs Jim Cooper & Fire Cat

The action began with Luna Vachon and her masked Blackhearts, Apocalypse, and Destruction, making their way to the ring. Once they get to the ring, they perform the smallest evil ceremony ever. Jim Cooper and the former Battle Kat walk to the ring while the camera focuses on the Blackhearts lighting some flash paper. The pairing of Cooper and Cat is an odd one. Cooper’s offence comes across as awkward and stiff compared to tge more agile Fire Cat. The passable opening match comes to an end when the Blackhearts throw Fire Cat out of the ring to get the pin on Cooper. Luna tried to choke Fire Cat with a chain after the match. The angle goes nowhere the following week.

Terry Gordy vs Johnny Ace

The second match on the card was a street fight between Terry Gordy and Johnny Ace. The two gifted athletes put on about 6 minutes of solid in-ring action before Ace dropkicked Gordy out of the ring. They proceed to brawl on the outside, revealing a shocking number of empty seats in the crowd. Then the bell rings, confusing seemingly everybody. “There’s no disqualification here, is there?” Bruno Sammartino remarks on commentary. Apparently The Living Legend was wrong, as the street fight ended in a double count-out. The two brawled a little while longer before officials separated them.

Mask Confusion vs The Power Twins

The following match featured B. Brian Blair and “Jumping” Jim Brunzell, under the name “Mask Confusion” against The Power Twins (Larry and David Power) in a tag match. The match was pretty standard for a tag match. The Power Twins give some impressive displays of strength before the smaller, more technically gifted opponents get the better of them. The Mask Confusion name for the former Killer Bees is questionable, though, as not one man in the match wore a mask.

Candi Devine vs Rockin’ Robin – UWF Women’s Championship

This match was to determine the inaugural UWF Women’s Champion. The match itself is passable, though Devine’s skill becomes a bit suspect after a poorly applied Boston Crab. Rockin’ Robin rolled up Devine after a missed splash in the corner to pick up the win. Robin held the title until November. While her title reign was by no means memorable, she did pave the way for Tina Moretti (later Ivory in WWF) and Miss Texas (later Jacqueline in WWF) to compete for it later on.

Col. DeBeers vs Paul Orndorff – Strap Match

After that was a strap match between Col. DeBeers and Paul Orndorff. In what little buildup there was for this match, DeBeers was advertised to have a black cornerman called Mr.Black. This was an interesting choice, as it contradicted the Colonel’s gimmick of a racist South African militant. It might have led to an interesting development for the character. However, when it came time for the match, Mr.Black was nowhere to be found. Orndorff and DeBeers make minimal use of the strap, opting for more a more fundamental ring approach. After 6 minutes, Orndorff hits the piledriver on DeBeers for the win. As Orndorff celebrates his win, DeBeers produces a tazer and zaps him. DeBeers leaves the arena to boos that would be deafening if there were more than 500 people. The angle goes nowhere.

Bob Backlund vs Ivan Koloff – Legends Match

In the desert of this card, the match between Bob Backlund and Ivan Koloff is an oasis. Koloff and Backlund put on a short clinic in old school technical wrestling. The pace of this match is actually quite impressive for men of their age, but likely contributed to the sub-3 minute runtime.  The match ends when Backlund hits a German suplex on Koloff and transitions into a prawn hold for the win. The only problem with this match apart from the duration is Koloff’s manager. The unknown Mr. Red accompanies Koloff to the ring and does absolutely nothing apart from get beat up by Lou Albano after the match.

Sunny Beach & Steve Ray vs Bob Orton & Cactus Jack

The following match sees the unfortunately named Wet’N’Wild (Sunny Beach & Steve Ray) vs Bob Orton and Cactus Jack. The match begins with Beach & Ray shoving their opponents’ manager John Tolos into a shark cage. Tolos had been interfering in the previous encounters between the two teams. Orton and Jack get the better of their opponents early on, displaying some old school ring psychology. This would have been commendable, but considering the match itself goes less than 5 minutes it only bogs it down. After a ref bump, Jack ties up Steve Ray while Tolos throws Orton a knuckle duster. Orton tries to sock Ray, who ducks and Orton hits his partner instead. Ray sends Orton out of the ring and pins the unconscious Cactus Jack. Afterwards Jack and Orton brawl to the backstage area. The angle goes, as you could probably guess, nowhere.

“Dr. Death” Steve Williams vs Bam Bam Bigelow – UWF Television Championship

The main event of Beach Brawl was the finals of the UWF  Television Championship Tournament. Bam Bam gets the early offence with punches, headbutts, and throws, drawing blood from Williams early on. Once he starts bleeding, Dr. Death comes back to life, out-brawling Bam Bam and getting some blood as well. Bam Bam tries twice to put Dr Death away with flying body presses but Williams kicks out. Dr Death then tries to take down Bigelow with shoulder blocks but to no avail. Williams tries three times to get Bam Bam into a powerslam. His heavier opponent wiggles out twice, but on the third time, Williams gets the win. Afterwards, Herb Abrams himself comes out to award Williams an ugly, flimsy-looking belt. In the promo afterwards, Williams puts the locker room on notice, saying he’ll take on any challenger. This angle, predictably, goes nowhere.

What Went Wrong?

In a word: Cocaine. The reason Herb Abrams was so energetic and enthusiastic had little to do with the business and lots to do with his drug abuse. This might also explain the slapdash booking and breakneck match pace. Of the eight matches on the card, only two had any TV build and only one went longer than 10 minutes. In the end, UWF Beach Brawl brought in 550 in live attendance and 10 000 ppv buys. They never ran a pay-per-view again.

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