Smoky Mountain Wrestling was founded in 1991 with television being aired starting in 1992. The company was a regional company that toured Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Jim Cornette was responsible for the day to day operations.
Fans in the South believed in wrestling and it was presented in a very old school manner. The good guys always did the right thing and the heels were cheaters. There wasn’t much of an in-between. There would be times where fans would turn a wrestler from heel to good (Dirty White Boy) or from good to bad (Brian Lee), but for the most part SMW kept it by the books from 1992 to the summer of 1994. There weren’t many risks…
That was until the summer of 1994. The tag team division in Smoky Mountain Wrestling was always focused around two major tag teams, the Rock N’ Roll Express and the Heavenly Bodies. So, when the Heavenly Bodies lost a loser leaves town match in April of ’94, that left a hole in the company that needed to be filled. It was at this point in time, that Cornette took a chance.
What was that chance? It was bringing in the African American tag team, the Gangstas. After viewing SMW shows for quite some time, I can tell you that the SMW crowds did not cater to the African American community.
The team consisted of New Jack and Mustafa. The Gangstas were, as you would expect just by the name, thugs. When they walked to the ring, they didn’t slap hands with the fans, nor did they really acknowledge them. They would come out to rap music and when they entered the ring they would fight, not wrestle.
New Jack was the vocal leader of the team and eventual group. They had objectives while competing in SMW. First, they wanted to cause havoc on the lives of the racist fans in the area as they beat their heroes. And, secondly, they wanted to end Rock N’ Roll Express and take the SMW Tag Team Championships, something no other team had been able to accomplish over the past ten years.
During this time, there was a racial divide going on. Rodney King, an African American taxi driver from Los Angeles, had been brutally beaten by officers in March of ’91. There were often references by the Gangstas to that situation as a way to get heat from the white Southern crowd.
In professional wrestling a team or wrestler can win a match by pin fall, which is when someone has their shoulders on the mat for three-seconds. However, SMW came up with the idea to have the Gangstas use affirmative action, which allowed the Gangstas to win their matches at the count of two.
Almost every week the Gangstas would be given interview time and each time New Jack would use the n-word on a routine basis and call the fans crackers. SMW would put a note on the screen saying they didn’t endorse the comments being made, but television networks that SMW aired on would take them off television due to the racial tone that the Gangstas were presenting on television.
Upon their arrival in Smoky Mountain Wrestling on July 23rd, 1994, the Gangstas wasted no time making a mark as they cost the Rock N’ Roll Express to lose the SMW Tag Team Championships to Brian Lee and Chris Candido. Have no worry Rock N’ Roll fans, they would quickly win the titles back on TV.
For a month the Gangstas claimed the Rock N’ Roll Express were dodging their challenge. They didn’t want any normal tag match but rather a street fight, which is something their accustomed to on the streets in LA. They got their first shot at the Express on the September 3rd, 1994 TV show. Gangstas would lose, since it was a traditional tag match, but they viciously attacked the champions with nightsticks.
September 17th, 1994 the Gangstas took it one step further by hanging Ricky Morton over the top rope and that led to a lengthy brawl around the arena. New Jack continually stated that they would be champions at any point they wanted them.
On the October 1st TV show, the Gangstas won the SMW Tag Team Championships but the referee demanded the match be restarted after surveying the fans that they had cheated. As usual these cases, the Rock N’ Roll Express pinned the Gangstas to survive and remain champions. Or, so they thought.
It was explained that the Gangstas went to a lawyer in Atlanta claiming racial discrimination as to why they weren’t the champions. So, in order to prevent SMW from going bankrupt with lawsuits, the Rock N’ Roll Express handed over the titles and the Gangstas achieved their goal to be champions. Now, they just had to eliminate Ricky and Robert forever.
Ricky Morton is attacked on the side of the street and is sure that the Gangstas did it, but they deny they had anything to do with it. To get revenge, the following week the Rock N’ Roll Express attacked the Gangstas at a bar.
On November 26th, 1994, The Gangstas were approached by Jim Cornette to have him manage the SMW Tag Team Champions. Cornette believed he was the guy that could take New Jack and Mustafa to the next level and also get rid of the Rock N’ Roll Express, something he had been trying to do for ten years and thought the Gangstas were the guys to do it. However, New Jack dismissed the offer and told Cornette they were “black owned and black operated” which caused Cornette to freak out in anger.
So, Jim Cornette would do the unthinkable and align himself with the Rock N’ Roll Express with the idea being that Cornette would help them get violent and cheat to win the titles back. Once they get the titles back, Cornette’s team (whomever it would be) would get a shot at the Express to take them out. Apparently desperate for the gold, the Rock N’ Roll Express accepted the offer for Christmas Chaos.
Christmas Day in 1994, with Jim Cornette in their corner, the Rock N’ Roll Express regained the SMW Tag Team Championships defeating the Gangstas in a match billed as a ghetto street fight. The Gangstas held the titles for 83-days.
For anyone that has been following the blog, you’ll know that I’ve gotten to the end of ’94 and will be continuing on with the 1995 season for SMW, which was their last year. There will be a second article looking at the final six months of the Gangstas in ’95.
Their arrival in ’94 gave the program a much needed shot in the arm. Their segments were different then anything else and while it was incredibly controversial, having New Jack cut uncensored promos is what really got the duo over. The idea being that the southern fans would despise the Gangstas because of their skin color. That didn’t actually appear to be the case, and rather most times the fans were afraid of the Gangstas. Heck, there were times there were riots or members of the KKK were in attendance. It got so bad, that New Jack started to carry a gun to the shows to make sure nothing deadly happened.
That’s the definition of wrong kind of heat if I’ve ever heard it. Prior to watching SMW, I never gave New Jack much credit as I largely saw him as a hardcore wrestler without much substance, but in SMW where the story lines and promos were vital to success of a wrestler or a story, he did an incredible job on the microphone. I personally think the six-month run in ’94 is really good work.
However, it’s not the end of the Gangstas as they will stick around for six more months ’95 and they get involved in a few major storylines. One of which included a top WWF superstar, and produced some memorable moments in the dying days of Smoky Mountain Wrestling.
What are your thoughts on New Jack, the Gangstas or even Smoky Mountain Wrestling? Share your thoughts below!
Thanks for reading.
34-year-old currently living in Syracuse, New York. Long-time fan of the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls, and Minnesota Vikings. An avid fan of professional wrestling and write reviews/articles on the product. Usually focusing on old-school wrestling.