BEFORE THEY WERE STARS: Early D/FW Appearances of Future Wrestling Icons

Al "Rock" Rogowski: This St. Paul native appeared briefly in Big Time Wrestling during June of 1968, while still a rookie. Fans of the old Georgia and Mid-Atlantic NWA territories remember him fondly as the tough-as-nails veteran of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew and the Four Horsemen: Ole Anderson.

Jack Brisco: The future NWA World Heavyweight champ worked undercard matches in D/FW during the summer and fall of 1967.

Sabu Singh: Having wrestlers play stereotypical characters from an ethnic group other than their own has been common practice in pro wrestling through the years. Such was the case with Singh, who wrestled in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in the summer and fall of 1971. Supposedly hailing from Bombay, Singh was actually played by Jose Gonzales, a native of Puerto Rico who would later become internationally famous as the masked Invader I -- and internationally infamous as the alleged murderer of Bruiser Brody.

Ric Flair: The young Nature Boy first appeared very briefly in Dallas, losing a midcard bout to Dale Lewis in a one-shot appearance at the Sportatorium in October of 1973. When he was next seen in North Texas almost exactly eight years later, Slick Ric was defending the NWA World Heavyweight title.

Roddy Piper: "Hot Rod", who was billed as "Ronnie" Piper during his early 1975 stint as an undercard worker in D/FW, told (in his book In the Pit with Piper) of how he dated the Dallas Fire Marshal's daughter so that the promotion would be permitted to squeeze more fans into the Sportatorium than the law allowed! He would soon leave for Mike LeBell's WWA in Los Angeles, where he first became a headliner.

Paul Perschmann: Used as enhancement talent in Big Time Wrestling during the early stages of his career, Perschmann is remembered by Texas wrestling fans as the debut opponent for Kevin Von Erich in August 1976, and as one of David Von Erich's earliest opponents in June 1977. He would eventually go on to international stardom as Playboy Buddy Rose.

Sugar Bear Harris: Mississippi-born James Harris, who made a handful of appearances in Big Time Wrestling during 1979-80, went to Memphis a short time later, where he was given an altogether different gimmick by Jerry "The King" Lawler. It was a role Harris would continue to play for the remainder of his career, including his appearances in World Class: the "Ugandan Giant", Kamala.

Tully Blanchard: First appearing in the D/FW area as a referee in 1975, the future Horseman began wrestling in prelim bouts the following year. Interestingly, on a few occasions in 1976-78, Tully wrestled Gino Hernandez, with whom he would later form the original Dynamic Duo in Southwest Championship Wrestling.

Jake Roberts: Long before his brief WCCW stint in 1984 and subsequent rise to WWF fame, Jake made a few prelim appearances in Big Time Wrestling early in 1978, putting over Tully Blanchard, Killer Karl Krupp and other stars of the period.

Dale Valentine: Dale Hey, working babyface in 1978 as the "brother" of the legendary Johnny Valentine (who appeared in Dale's corner while confined to a wheelchair as a result of the 1975 plane crash that ended his career), returned four years later as a member of WCCW's premier heel team: Fabulous Freebird Buddy Roberts.

Iceman King Parsons: Quick, now: when did Iceman first appear in Dallas/Fort Worth? 1983, right? Wrong. Try 1980. Ice teamed with Rick Oliver and Skip "Sweet Brown Sugar" Young on separate cards in Dallas and Fort Worth during late March of that year, losing on both evenings to J.J. Dillon's team of Mr. Hito and Mr. Sakurada.

(B.) Brian Blair: After stints in Florida, Kansas City and Oklahoma, Blair arrived in D/FW in October 1980 and later became co-holder of the American Tag Team titles along with Al Madril. He is, of course, best remembered as a competitor in the World Wrestling Federation, where he teamed with Jim Brunzell as the Killer Bees.

Shawn Michaels: The future (Midnight) Rocker and holder of multiple WWE belts appeared at a single WCCW TV taping in 1985 during his rookie year, losing quick squash matches to Billy Jack Haynes and One Man Gang.

Texas Red/The Punisher/The Master of Pain: Mark Calaway made his pro wrestling debut in June 1987 as the masked Texas Red, then went on to play two more hooded heel characters in World Class during 1988-89. Though his stay in Texas wasn't particularly memorable (despite a brief Texas Heavyweight title reign as The Punisher), Calaway would soon resurface in WWE as one of its most popular stars ever: The Undertaker.

Cactus Jack Manson: We don't really have to tell you about Mick Foley, do we? He wasn't yet a hardcore icon at this stage of his career, but Cactus nonetheless made a strong impression on Sportatorium crowds during 1988-89 as a member of Devastation Inc. before going on to worldwide stardom in WCW, ECW, and WWE.

Steve Austin: Another star whose story is so well-known that there's almost no need to mention him here, "Stunning" Steve -- the most talented student to graduate from Chris Adams' wrestling school -- worked in both WCCW/USWA and Gary Hart's Mesquite-based Texas Championship Wrestling prior to his runs in WCW, ECW and finally WWE, where his "Stone Cold" persona made him the most wildly popular wrestler of the Attitude Era. Gimme a "hell yeah!"

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