Creating and running a wrestling promotion is no easy task. Especially when you have designs on challenging the market leader. It is even more difficult when you don't seem to have any idea what you are doing, and you're knee-deep in a powerful addiction to cocaine. However, in the early 1990's that is exactly what Herb Abrams attempted, and a story that is the focus of this week's Dark Side of the Ring.
Herb Abrams may not be a name that is familiar to many, but his legacy to those who are aware of him lives on to this day, even if it's not entirely for the right reasons. His episode of Dark Side of the Ring focuses on his efforts to combat the growth of Vince McMahon's wrestling empire by establishing a would-be -competitor, the UWF. However, as you might have gathered, Abrams was less than successful in this endeavour, running into financial and personal problems along the way as his business faltered despite a plethora of huge names from the wrestling industry attached.
The rise and fall of the UWF is probably an inaccurate turn of phrase for that particular organisation's story, simply because the “rise” was almost non-existent. Although the company did have some big names, such as Cactus Jack (AKA Mick Foley), Bob Backlund, Bam Bam Bigelow, Paul Orndorff, and even Andre the Giant, Abrams' lack of wrestling experience and inability to navigate the inner workings of the business was always going to work against him, a fact that became patently clear as the documentary went on and examined the circumstances surrounding the UWF's brief time in existence.
However, it also becomes evident very quickly that Herb Abrams was a larger-than-life personality who also impacted the lives of a number of his friends and employees over the course of his time in wrestling. The likes of Foley, Lenny Duge, and Rick Allen all speak glowingly about Abrams as a person, even if his business practices are somewhat less warmly recalled. It is in Abrams' personal life that the most salacious details lie, with several wrestlers that witnessed him in all his, ahem, glory relaying some pretty mind-blowing stories about the sort of shenanigans and debauchery Abrams would be involved in at points.
It is worth pointing out that the Herb Abrams episode of Dark Side of the Ring does have an advantage over a number of other potential subjects, simply because of the availability of footage. There is a plethora of tape available of Abrams in full flow as an on-screen character as well as a variety of matches and angles from the UWF library, which means that as a viewer you can get a real sense of the chaotic nature of the promotion and the whirlwind that was “Mr. Electricity.” Of course, at points, there is a reliance on the blurry, out of focus recreations that have become part of the signature look of the series, but the wealth of footage on show certainly makes for a more thorough examination overall.
For the most part, Herb Abrams comes across as a larger-than-life, over-the-top character that went from a successful businessman to a second-rate promoter because he aimed too high too soon. His own demons were too much for him to handle, and that cost him dearly, but the stories that his peers tell about him certainly provide some eye-opening viewing and make this episode “must-see,” even if you're not familiar with Herb Abrams or the UWF.
Cocaine & Cowboy Boots: The Herb Abrams Story airs on Vice TV UK tonight at 10 PM.
All images courtesy of Dark Side of the Ring Facebook and video is courtesy of VICE YouTube.