Although the episode title is oddly dismissive as it describes Portland as “Where Wrestling Got Weird”, without ever really showing anything more unusual than anywhere else, this week’s Tales from the Territories remains true to its intent of recognizing the most famed and notorious incidents from the old wrestling territories, turning its attention to what the show describes as “a true outlier.”
Mike Masters, “The Grappler” Len Denton, Princess Victoria, and Bushwacker Luke are our guides to the world of Pacific Northwest Wrestling as they tell the tales of their time and of those who have since passed on. The episode features more quick-hit stories than previous installments, so there are more stories with a little bit faster pace from one to the next.
Luke and Masters remember Don Owen, head of the territory, with admiration for his innovation. His brother Elton also managed some of the territory, and though Luke gets riled up telling a couple of stories — highlighted by Elton accidentally shooting himself in the testicles — he doesn’t figure into the episode all that much.
Masters is up next talking about Playboy Buddy Rose, who was committed to staying in character at a store when a teenager asked him for his autograph. Rose remained the heel and ended up punching the kid, to the surprise of those that knew him. According to everyone at the table, Rose was no fighter in real life.
Another story that Luke tells is one I can only presume is a classic, oft-used way by a wrestler to get out of a ticket. If Rose got pulled over, he’d use a blade to cut himself and claim he was just in a vicious match in some nearby town and was on his way to the hospital, and he’d get a police escort instead of a ticket. Rose’s most memorable time in Portland, according to the group, featured a storyline between himself and Matt Borne. Rose had married Borne’s sister and that found its way into the promos, causing a strain on the business relationship between Buddy and Matt. When the marriage started falling apart, things between the wrestlers only worsened with fights breaking in the locker room and at Rose’s home. Through it all, the roundtable has fun debating what was kayfabe and what was real — and nobody is 100% certain either way.
There are, as always, tales of overly enthusiastic fan interactions. Victoria gets her own feature, starting with herself as a fan in the audience before finding her way into the ring. She enters a Battle Royale in Salem, Oregon, competing in the ring with men. She’s eliminated by Buddy Rose and her teenaged brother, not smart to the business, stood up for her. Next up is a look back at Roddy Piper, emerging from Portland to his legendary career; and everyone around the table loves him. Masters looks back on using a Full Nelson as a finisher, with his extra deal being that he simply wouldn’t break the hold. It got a crowd in Eugene, Oregon so fired up that it had fans rushing the ring, getting beaten back.
The episode gets into the back-and-forth between Boxing & Wrestling commissions and promoters, which could have been inserted into any territory and might even warrant an episode dedicated to that relationship. Denton talks about the risk that wrestling shows could take using blood in a match if the commission had a mind to fine, punish, or shut down shows. Borne was suspended for using excessive blood in a match, which also shut down the promotion for a week and, as Denton describes in a similar fashion to all territories, started the decline of Pacific Northwest Wrestling with the loss of talent and TV time to the powerful and popular WWF. Still, it hung on until 1992, an impressive feat compared to most.
The show finishes with a dedication to Mike Masters (Michael Jones), who passed away just this year. It’s a touching conclusion and a tribute, as all of these shows are, to many who gave much of their lives to the world of wrestling.
Slam Wrestling’s Tales from the Territories story archive