INTERVIEW: Paul Barton

Current Texas indy manager (and WCCW fan) Barton shares his memories of the promotion and comments on its influence.

How would you describe the atmosphere at the first Parade of Champions in 1984, having attended the event live?

It was weird. I think I knew that Kerry was going to walk out with the belt, but it seemed surreal. Like "Is this really going to happen? What will the ramifications be if Kerry does win the belt?" I knew something special was going to happen because I saw Bill Apter & Craig Peters (from PWI) there taking photos that day and they never appeared at World Class events, so I knew something was up. I got their autographs on some PWI mags that I brought with me and I think they were flattered that I recognized them. The "electricity" was high that day and the crowd I was sitting around was popping big for anything. We all loved seeing Fritz in the 6-man match and it was hard to see for us, since we were in the second to last row ringside, by the entrances. It was VERY hot that day, like over 100 degrees. I remember that the match between Kerry and Flair was not spectacular, but it seemed that the crowd was just ready for the finish & see Kerry walk out NWA World Champion. I knew I was going to see history and that a NWA World Title change was rare and I appreciated the fact I was there. I was only a fan since '82 and I knew how important the World Title meant. What I thought was weird was the fact it wasn't the last match. I thought that would be a good way to send the crowd home happy from the big World Title win, but the last match was the mixed tag between Sunshine & Chris Adams vs. Precious & Jimmy Garvin. But all in all, it was great being there and seeing it all first hand.

Were there any noticeable differences you could see as a fan between the first two Parade of Champions?

The atmosphere was very different. We all thought that Kevin would not pull it off. That something screwy would happen and the finish would be a screw-job of some sort (not that Kevin would take the pinfall). The big hype around this event was the 2-ring, 10 man Elimination Match, that the winning team would win $100,000. Since it was the best 3 out of 5 falls, the winner of the last fall would win a new Cadillac. The World Title seemed secondary to that match on this particular show. But it was neat seeing all those guys on one show: Steve "Dr. Death" Williams, Kamala, One Man Gang, The Von Erichs, The Freebirds, The Midnight Express, The Fantastics, Rip Oliver, Gino Hernandez & Chris Adams.

What, as a fan, attracted you to the World Class promotion?

I grew up here and my first exposure to wrestling was the local wrestling, which was World Class Wrestling. The Von Erichs were billed as hometown heroes and that means a lot here. Look at The Dallas Cowboys football team. There are die-hard fans that love them no matter what. That was the same with the Von Erichs. We all got caught up with the boys and their feud with H&H, Inc., The Freebirds and later Gino & Chris. Good over Evil.

What do you think World Class' legacy to professional wrestling is?

World Class popularized a lot that goes on in wrestling. The TV production was top notch. A 3 camera shoot (two on the floor, one stationary camera) and the editing was top notch. The videotaped promos on the syndicated show, the heat of the feuds, the personal feeling that it gave us, was the talk of the town. Syndication was big deal, and still is, but we here locally had no idea of the impact that we were having across the nation and internationally. I was in Jr. High when David Von Erich died and they had a moment of silence in our school. If someone died in the indy ranks here today (God forbid) no casual fan would care. Wrestling made the legit news here in that day. Nothing compares to that today. World Class had coverage in all the local papers (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Times Herald) and TV. If it has a legacy, I think that building heat in a feud owes a huge debt to the Von Erich/Freebird war. It was a war and perceived by the fans as that. Feuds that have that intensity are what are missing these days. Kayfabe may have been broken, but you could still build a feud like that today, but those in charge don't care enough to do that. It's all about TV ratings and product placement in today's age. A legacy? Building superstars is World Class's legacy.

Did you ever sense any of the camaraderie between WCCW fans during the live events?

Yes. We all seemed like we were "into it" and there always seemed to be that proverbial phrase "electricity in the air." The fans seemed to care about the drama and not how many dangerous bumps someone took. We cared if Kerry lost, we cared if Adams lost, we cared if Devastation, Inc. won, and we cared about a lot. We didn't criticize the wrestling, if it was technical or not. We cared about the individual wrestler or wrestlers and we cared about them as people.

If you ever attended a live event of another federation, how would you compare it to the WCCW promotion?

The magic was gone. I did not attend a live show between 1985 and 1990. When I took my then girlfriend to a WWF show, that even had Kerry Von Erich on it, it did not "feel" the same. It was "fake" feeling. The wrestling was good, but I felt I cared less who went over in any match. There was a separation from the show and the fans and it was not going to be bridged. There was no personal feeling to it. Nothing compares to the days when we thought it was real and we cared about the wrestling product. I miss that intimacy.