Remembering Smoky Mountain Wrestling…

Smoky Mountain Wrestling was an independent professional wrestling promotion founded and run by Jim Cornette, was based in Knoxville, Tennessee with its offices in Morristown, TN, and held events in the Appalachian area of the United States from October 1991 to December 1995.  Cornette formed the promotion after he left World Championship Wrestling along with Stan Lane, Tim Horner and Sandy Scott, with financial backing from music producer Rick Rubin, co-founder of Def Jam Records. The first events and TV tapings were held in October and November 1991 while the matches from these taped shows were first shown on television in February 1992.

SMW, like Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) in its hey-day, featured some of the most popular wrestlers in wrestling and served as a platform for young talent, including: Bob Holly, New Jack & the Gangstas, Al Snow, Balls Mahoney, Chris Jericho, Freddy Brooker, Glenn Jacobs (Kane), Lance Storm, Chris Candido, Tammy Lynn Sytch (Sunny), Brian Girard James (B.G. James/The Road Dogg) and D’Lo Brown. Cornette would eventually sign a working agreement with the World Wrestling Federation to trade talent, manage and serve as an on-air talent for that company, and SMW would enjoy a working relationship as a flagship promotion in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). The first Smoky Mountain Heavyweight Champion was “Primetime” Brian Lee, who won  a tournament on May 22, 1992, in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the first Smoky Mountain Tag Team Champions were The Heavenly Bodies, who also won a tournament on April 23, 1992, in Harrogate, Tennessee.

SMW catered to — to quote Mick Foley — “old-time fans…who still believed in good guys and bad guys, and to whom cheating was still reason to get upset,” which was in sharp contrast to ECW’s edgy angles, “tweeners”/anti-heroes. Though the promotion was highly thought of, it struggled to get a profitable television deal, and after years of operating in the red, Cornette shut down SMW in December 1995 and went to work full-time with the WWF. SMW’s final show was on November 26, 1995 in Cookeville, Tennessee, featuring the entire SMW roster attacking Cornette, who was then pinned by referee Mark Curtis. Today, the WWE owns the entire SMW video library. Long live Smoky Mountain Wrestling!

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