Welcome to Midcard Faces! This is a new series where I’ll be checking in with some fond memories of those wrestlers who got over but never got to the top. A mini-celebration of some favorite midcard babyfaces that we loved, but didn’t get love in the main event scene. We begin this series with the quintessential example of a second-generation wrestling (super)star, Sam Houston.
How He Got His Start
Like so many others with wrestling in their DNA, Sam Houston debuted in Championship Wrestling from Florida. Being the son of Grizzly Smith and showing an innate talent for the business quickly lead to him being taken under the wing of the incomparable Dusty Rhodes, which is just about the most fortuitous start to a professional wrestling career as one can have.
If you want to be a midcard babyface that never gets a shot at the big gold in a territory, please fall in line behind Magnum T.A. and The American Goddamn Dream Dusty Rhodes. Sorry, Sam.
How I First Became Aware Of Him
I still own a VHS copy of Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Ringmasters: The Great American Bash 1985, which was headlined by a Nikita Koloff vs. Ric Flair Championship bloodbath and a Dusty vs. Tully Blanchard cage match blowoff with a seriously problematic ending to the angle.
After watching that link, I hope you have a greater appreciation for my girlfriend’s sainthood in allowing me to keep nearly 300 VHS tapes of Cynthia Rothrock movies, black and white cartoons and an unironic copy of Wing Commander in our shared home.
I grew up in High Point, North Carolina, The Furniture Capital Of The World, and watching the NWA and Mid-Atlantic wrestling on Saturday mornings was practically required viewing. The Great American Bash was held on July 4th weekend every year, and as far as I knew, that was federal law.
Sam’s spot on the card was a perfectly-placed and -executed six-man tag match pitting Houston, “The Raging Bull” Manny Fernandez and potential future Midcard Faces subject Buzz Tyler against “No Knee Cartilage” Superstar Billy Graham, Abdullah The Butcher and The Barbarian.
Senior props to PWI senior editor Bill Apter for either writing fan fiction in real time with “The Experience Between The Barbarian, The Butcher and The Superstar,” or having a time machine and knowing that Arnold Schwarzenegger, Daniel Day-Lewis and Molly Shannon would all be available to us in 2017. I’m slated to direct the feature film adaptation in the fall of 2018.
Sam Houston’s work in that match was just about as much of a classic white meat babyface-in-distress that could possibly ever be accomplished by a human being without the benefit of sorcery. One must remember that Houston’s look is what passed for attractive in the Deep South in the early ’80s, because it was a very, very weird time, so those screams of concern you’re hearing in the background are legit.
Quick Side Note: Why we ever allowed referees to stop dressing this way is beyond me. I want a pair of those red pants yesterday.
The shoulder block Abdullah delivers to Houston at 1:52 is an animated gif that Dolph Ziggler probably had taped up on the inside of his locker in high school. Sam spins all the way around and dumps himself on his own head like he’s trying to botch his own spot. It’s beautiful. It’s like someone took all the bones out of DJ Qualls and threw him off a cliff in an old SNL sketch.
Personally, I feel like you could show a picture to anyone in the world of a fatter than hell Abdullah The Butcher working over super-rail-thin, Powder-ass Sam Houston, say the words “professional wrestling” and everyone would just nod like, “Well, of course, yes, when you put it that way … ” You could show that picture to a dog and probably get a similar reaction.
But that’s kind of your job when you look like Sam Houston. Having giant dudes like Bam Bam Bigelow, One Man Gang and Cowboy Ron Bass hit you with a car so the fans will run out into the street to check on you like Lea Thompson is how you make your money, brother. Shave all of your body hair, never lift a weight in your life and put on some cowboy boots. Done and done.
Don’t grossly make out with your girlfriend who is the only female talent on Crockett’s plane and get kicked off, I guess? I lost track of Houston when he went to the WWF in the late ’80s, and the picture below indicates that I didn’t miss all that much.
What Is He Doing Now?
It appears that Sam has found peace (and thankfully sobriety) as evidenced by this trailer for the documentary about his life where he Wrestled With The Shadows Beyond The Mat With The Resurrection of His Relationship With His Half-Brother Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
If nothing else, and I’m not being facetious here at all, he learned to pull off a pretty dramatic “slowly raise your head and morosely look down the barrel of the camera” move that is pretty sweet.
And that is no small feat when Jake “The Snake” Roberts is in your family and you held the NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship one time for 66 days because Barry Darsow blew out his knee. I mean, I love my sister and all, but that’s only because she doesn’t work in the same business as me and have a lifetime achievement Oscar, you know?
When your single greatest achievement is winning the first match at The F’ing Gathering, you sir are a fantastic Mid-Card Face.