Smoky Mountain Wrestling was a professional wrestling promotion that held events in the Appalachian area of the United States from October 1991 to December 1995, when it was run by Jim Cornette. The promotion was based in Knoxville, Tennessee, with offices in Morristown, Tennessee.
Cornette formed the promotion in October 1991 upon leaving World Championship Wrestling with Stan Lane, Tim Horner and Sandy Scott. The promotion was backed financially by music producer Rick Rubin. The first events and TV tapings were held in October and November 1991. Matches from these shows were first shown in February 1992. The first Smoky Mountain Heavyweight Champion, "Primetime" Brian Lee, won the championship in a tournament held at Volunteer Slam on May 22, 1992, in Knoxville, Tennessee. The first Smoky Mountain Tag Team Champions were crowned in a tournament final on April 23, 1992, in Harrogate, Tennessee, when The Heavenly Bodies defeated The Fantastics.
Cornette had initially envisioned a territory reaching from Kentucky into as far as South Carolina and Georgia. Though they did eventually run events over that large of a region, including a few shows at the Cobb County Civic Center in Marietta, Georgia, the promotion's biggest towns included Knoxville, Tennessee, and Johnson City, Tennessee. SMW event tours also included high school gyms and fairs in cities throughout Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina.
The promotion featured some of the most popular wrestlers in wrestling and served as a platform for young talent, including Bob Holly, New Jack, Al Snow, Balls Mahoney, Chris Jericho, Glenn Jacobs, Lance Storm, Chris Candido, Tammy Lynn Sytch, Brian Girard James (B.G. James / The Road Dogg) and D'Lo Brown, but ultimately, like most independents, was not financially successful. Cornette eventually signed a working agreement with the WWF to trade talent, manage and serve as an on-air talent for that company.
Brian Hildebrand was a Smoky Mountain mainstay, occupying such myriad roles as Head of Merchandise, referee (under his alter-ego Mark Curtis) and sound director.
Style and controversy
Cornette, a traditionalist, catered to fans that Mick Foley described as "old-time fans...who still believed in good guys and bad guys, and to whom cheating was still reason to get upset." This was in sharp contrast to ECW, in which edgy angles, "tweeners" and anti-heroes increasingly took precedence over clearcut heroes and villains. Smoky Mountain was, however, the birthplace of the controversial "Gangstas" gimmick, where black wrestlers New Jack and Mustafa would cut promos about activist Medgar Evers, use fried chicken and watermelons as props and win matches as a result of a two count (rather than the conventional three count), which the Gangstas (kayfabe) insisted on due to Affirmative Action.
National Wrestling Alliance
The promotion had a brief association with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), whose flagship promotion Eastern Championship Wrestling had split away in autumn 1994, leaving the NWA with no World Heavyweight Champion. A 10-man tournament was held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in November, featuring many SMW wrestlers; the participants were Tracy Smothers, Devon Storm, Eddie Gilbert, Johnny Gunn, Chris Candido, Al Snow, Dirty White Boy, Jerry Lawler, Lou Perez, and Osamu Nishimura. The winner was Chris Candido, who defended his title mostly at SMW events. In February 1995, however, Candido lost the belt to Ultimate Fighting Championship winner Dan Severn, who as a freelancer decided to become a traveling World Champion, depriving SMW of a basis for World championship matches.
Though the promotion was highly thought of, it struggled to get a profitable television deal, and operated throughout a wrestling recession that would not end until 1997. After years of operating in red ink, Cornette shut the promotion down in December 1995 to work full-time with the WWF. The last SMW show was on November 26, 1995 in Cookeville, Tennessee, and featured the entire SMW roster attacking Jim Cornette, who was then pinned by referee Mark Curtis. Several SMW wrestlers would soon obtain work in the WWF, including Tracy Smothers, The Dirty White Boy, and Boo Bradley. WWE now owns the SMW video library.
SMW Heavyweight Championship 1992-1996
The SMW Heavyweight Championship was the major singles title in Smoky Mountain Wrestling. It existed from 1992 until 1996 when SMW folded. "Dirty White Boy" Tony Anthony held the title the most times with three reigns. The United States Wrestling Association briefly recognized the SMW Heavyweight Championship as part of a USWA vs. SMW feud in late 1995, before abandoning the title.
SMW "Beat The Champ" Television Championship 1992-1995
The SMW "Beat the Champ" Television Championship was the secondary singles championship for the Smoky Mountain Wrestling. The title was created in 1992 and was active until SMW closed its doors on November 26, 1995. The storyline concept of the title was that the champion would defend his title every week against a "randomly drawn" opponent. For each successful defense of the belt, the wrestler won $1000, and if the champion could win five title matches in a row, including the title win, then the title was vacated and the champion received a $5000 bonus. The title was never represented by a belt
SMW Tag Team Championship April 23, 1992-November 26, 1995
The SMW Tag Team Championship was the tag team title in Smoky Mountain Wrestling . It existed from 1992 until 1995 when the promotion closed.
SMW United States Junior Heavyweight Championship September 13, 1993-July 29, 1994
The SMW United States Junior Heavyweight Championship was a singles title in Smoky Mountain Wrestling. It existed from 1992 until the promotion's close in 1995. There were three officially recognized champions and eight title reigns, with Bobby Blaze holding the title a record four times.