Let's start this week's Underrated and Under Appreciated Wrestler Series with a hypothetical trip through time to the signing of Ric Flair by NWA. Since this is a hypothetical trip, let's change the course of history and convince Vince McMahon, Sr. to sign the talented young wrestler to WWF. Without Flair, who would fill the void left by him as the top heel in NWA/WCW?
There was one wrestler working at the time with the talent, both on the mic and in the ring, to occupy that top spot: Tully Blanchard. Without the great shadow cast by Ric Flair, it is quite possible Tully Blanchard would have become the dominate heel of the southern territories during the eighties, and be remembered today as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
As a member of the Four Horsemen and the Brainbusters, Blanchard has been primarily remembered as a tag team specialist; a legacy that while well-deserved, is one which short changes the capability and career he had as a singles competitor.
Before being a founding member of the Four Horsemen and changing the landscape of professional wrestling, Blanchard had two of the most underrated feuds of all time, with Dusty Rhodes and Magnum TA respectively.
Blanchard's feud with the American Dream saw two of the greatest promos in the business squaring off. Rhodes was the hero of the common man and the blue collar worker, while Blanchard was the antithesis of everything Dusty represented. Before Blanchard, there weren't many wrestlers that could pull off being the villain and make it seem so damn cool. As the two fought over the NWA World Television Championship, the action in-ring kept pace with the action on the mic and began to establish Blanchard as one of the top heels in the promotion.
Following the end of his feud with Rhodes, Blanchard would acquire the services of JJ Dillon and set forth on one of my personal favorite feuds of all time against Magnum TA for the NWA United States Championship. The matches between Blanchard and Magnum TA would set new standards for brutality and create what would become one of the bloodiest feuds in the history of professional wrestling, up until that point.
With every single match, they left it all out in the ring and with the fans just begging for more. The conclusion of their epic feud would come at Starrcade '85 in a devastating I Quit match that set the benchmark for all matches of it's type to follow.
With the conclusion of the Magnum TA feud, Blanchard was firmly established as the second greatest heel in the promotion and would become a founding member of the Four Horsemen. As a member of the Four Horsemen, he was the heat generator. Flair was the bigger name, but fans enjoyed him too much and would earn the stable cheers. Blanchard was the tool by which the Four Horsemen would retrench themselves as the bad guys. No man could draw the ire of the fans quite like Tully Blanchard.
Blanchard's most notable work in the Four Horsemen was his tag team success with Arn Anderson. The tag team of Blanchard and Anderson would establish much of the tag team psychology used up until this day. During their run in NWA they would set the world on fire with great matches against the likes of the Rock'N'Roll Express, the Road Warriors, and the Midnight Express.
During their second reign as NWA Tag Team Champions, a pay dispute would send Blanchard and Anderson to WWF where they would be renamed the Brain Busters. During their time with WWF, the Brain Busters most notable feud was with Demolition. The Brain Busters would end the historic title reign of Demolition and become the first tag team to have earned the NWA and WWF Tag Team Championships.
Their run together and Blanchard's career would come to an end shortly after with news of a failed drug test. On their way back to NWA, Blanchard failed a random drug test for cocaine and his hand shake deal with NWA was rescinded.
Tully Blanchard was among the most well-rounded talents to ever step inside the ring, but the shadow of Ric Flair and his own personal demons would prevent him from reaching his full potential. Despite that, Blanchard had a career that most wrestlers would kill for and deserves his due for the impact he had on the professional wrestling world.
Matches of Tully Blanchard: