After several years of negotiations, Ene Watts and the Watts family agreed on a deal for WWE to purchase about 1,200 hours of Mid-South Wrestling footage, including TV programming and shows during its heyday in the late 1970s and during the 1980s. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Mid-South Wrestling (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma) flourished under the direction of Watts. It was one of the hottest territories in pro wrestling during that timeframe. Junkyard Dog, Ted DiBiase, Ernie Ladd, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Dr. Death Steve Williams, Magnum T.A. and Ross are some of the prominent names who made a mark during that Mid-South era.
The 6-3, 280-pound Watts was a tough-guy wrestler during his day and an even tougher booker/owner. Prior, Watts learned the business from one of the best, Eddie Graham, a former hard-nosed wrestler who successfully ran Championship Wrestling from Florida.
Like Graham, Watts developed solid angles and talent (good vs. evil) with physical matchups and energetic matches that meant something — revenge for the good guys — in an episodic fashion. His wrestlers also tough.
As Mid-South’s lead announcer, Ross told the stories in the ring, helping build the product by making it believable to its strong, regional fan base.
“Back then the only revenue source of any significance was live event tickets sales,” Ross said. “Before pay-per-view became fashionable, Mid-South was in business. We ran a circuit or a territory where we ran many of the same markets on a regular basis, and all that leads to is episodic television.”
What can fans expect from the Mid-South library?
“Depending on how it’s packaged,” Ross said, “if the fans are fortunate enough to get either volumes on DVD or another platform to see it on a weekly basis -- how the shows evolved on a week-to-week basis in keeping up with the storylines and what happened the pervious week and how everything was brought forward -- I think they’re going to love it, because it was very episodically produced.
“It was one hour a week where every segment meant something. Every segment had a reason. Every segment had its own platform. It was very physical. It was very athletic. There was some comedy, but it was organic. It was more drama, more sports based. It was a very fast-paced, six segments of a one hour television show. There’s infinite ways to package it that will be good.”
WWE can use the footage in special DVD packages on the territory or particular talent who competed in Mid-South. With the WWE Network in the company’s future, that’s another possibility.
“It’s very network friendly,” Ross said.
And fans enjoy nostalgia.
“I think they do,” Ross said. ‘There are networks right now on television that built their programming on nostalgia. ESPN has done a great job with their NFL Films library. Even though they do current product, obviously, some of the best NFL Films content, at least from this football fan’s perspective, is some of the older stuff, some of the nostalgic features that they have on the air. I think nostalgia is a big thing. I think it’s good.
“It must work because some of the best radio stations in a lot of markets are classic rock. I think that pretty well indicates the genre is all about classic, meaning nostalgic. It’s old rock-n-roll, and I think Mid-South is a little bit of classic rock-n-roll. If you like rock-n-roll, you’re going to enjoy this, so to speak.”