The "Loser Leaves Town" Match
Copyright 2010 by Mike Rickard II
Originally published at World Wrestling Insanity January 25, 2010
Promoters who knew how to make money took advantage of every dramatic possibility. For example, if a wrestler broke his leg, an injury angle was run in which the real-life injury was incorporated into an angle. Unlike today's product which often merely mentions an injury as occurring then saying the wrestler will be out for x amount of months, the promoters of yesteryear rarely passed on an opportunity to incorporate a real-life injury into an angle. The reason was simple- getting fans to buy tickets depends on generating heat and an injury is one of the best ways to get heat on someone (Interestingly enough, when Jerry Lawler broke his leg playing football, Memphis Wrestling announced the injury as occurring outside the ring but still turned it into a great moment in wrestling. That however, is a story for another day though).
Back when wrestling territories dotted the map of North America like Dusty Rhodes' infamous polka-dotted outfit, wrestlers tended to come and go from promotion to promotion. While some promotions had mainstays that anchored the promotion down such as Bruno Sammartino in the WWWF and Jerry Lawler in Memphis, these gentlemen were the exception rather than the norm. In order to keep things fresh, promoters typically brought in new wrestlers to work several months (sometimes more, sometimes less) before sending them on their way to a new territory. A wrestler might work one or two programs and then it was time to leave. Although this may have seemed heavy-handed on the promoters' part, it could work to a wrestler's advantage as well as he might leave one promotion for a more lucrative one. The result was that fans were treated to fresh faces and fresh matchups and that promoters had a ready to go angle whenever a wrestler was set to leave..
One of the conventions that arose out of this revolving door policy of talent was the Loser Leaves Town Match. Like an injury, a wrestler's pending departure was something to be taken advantage of by a shrewd promoter. Sometimes, the promoter would have the wrestler suffer a kayfabe injury and not be seen until his real-life return (in which time he was usually billed as recovering from the injury). Another way was the Loser Leaves Town Match.
The Loser Leaves Town Match as you might imagine, saw two wrestlers battling to stay in a territory (or in some cases, a tag team battling to do so). Sometimes a promoter would announce how long the leave would be, sometimes they wouldn't. In some cases, the wrestler was said to be gone for good. Whatever time period was used depended on what the promoter had in mind and how long before he (or she) planned to bring them back.
This match stipulation made for some great drama. It was usually used as the blow-off to a big feud and since the promoters usually stuck to the terms of the match, it was usually a big draw. The fans knew that one way or another, somebody was going away. The fans flocked to the match, usually hoping that a hated heel would be driven out of town. However that didn't always end up being the case.
In the Pacific Northwest territory, the Loser Leaves Town Match was used to get wrestler "Playboy" Buddy Rose over in a big way. Rose was the area's top heel for several years and part of his notoriety was due to his cheating a way to victory over a popular babyface. While Rose usually won his matches in controversial fashion, promoter Don Owens did a great job building up suspense as to if and when Rose would ever be forced out of the promotion. While the fans wanted to see Rose banished from the territory, the end result was a babyface left for greener pastures. Still, the fans couldn't help but hope that the next match might be the one for Rose to lose.
Another promotion that capitalized on the Loser Leaves Town Match was Memphis Wrestling. The Memphis territory featured many of the sport's biggest names but sooner or later, bigger and better things would lure the area's wrestlers away (during the mid 1980's, this usually was the World Wrestling Federation buying up talent) and they would be booked to leave. This usually involved the promotion's top babyface, Jerry "The King"Lawler, triumphing over the forces of evil. The fans become conditioned to seeing Lawler as an unbeatable hero who sooner or later got rid of the bad guys. That's when things really got interesting.
In 1985, Lawler faced longtime rival "Superstar" Bill Dundee in a Loser Leaves Town Match. The two had been feuding for several months and now, Lawler had forced Dundee into the match that saw Dundee and his wife putting up their hair against Lawler's career. To many fans' surprise, Lawler lost the match! Behind the scenes, Memphis' other "King" was taking time off to work in a Hawaiian promotion. Still, the fans were shocked and promoter Jerry Jarrett built up the drama even more with this twist of the tale.
Naturally, most fans were not delighted at seeing their favorite babyfaces put on ice. This created even more opportunities for shrewd promoters as they toyed with the fans' emotions by figuring out a way to bring the babyface back. The fact that the heel usually won the Loser Leaves Town Match due to chicanery made things even more galling for the fans, a sentiment any shrewd promoter was eager to milk into more ticket sales.
One way to bring the face back was by the heels running roughshod on a territory to the point that the babyface had to be brought back. This transpired in Memphis after Lawler's departure. "Superstar" Bill Dundee and partner in crime "Nature Boy" Buddy Landell terrorized the promotion, beating up retired wrestler Jerry Jarrett, his son Jeff (who was acting as a referee), and even taking shots at announcer Lance Russell. Dundee and Landell's actions forced Memphis official Eddie Marlin to lift Lawler's suspension, bringing the popular star back and reigniting the Dundee/Lawler feud..
Another way was by having a masked wrestler suddenly appear to fill in for the departed babyface. This was played to perfection in Florida Championship Wrestling when "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes lost to Kevin Sullivan in a Loser Leaves Town Cage Match. After Sullivan scored the pin with an outside assist from Jake "The Snake" Roberts, a masked man by the name of the Midnight Rider showed up to take Dusty's place. The Midnight Rider's ample girth and distinctive speech patterns could hardly be covered up by a mask and purple costume, leading some to conclude that the Midnight Rider was Rhodes under the hood. With National Wrestling Alliance president Bob Giegel promising to ban Rhodes for life should he be revealed as the Rider, Kevin Sullivan worked to unmask the Midnight Rider in matches, creating a red-hot angle in Florida.
Today, the Loser Leaves Town Match is rarely seen. Some of this is due to the fact that with so few promotions around, wrestlers tend to stay put in one promotion for a lot longer than they used to. Another is the rise of the Internet. With more and more fans becoming aware of backstage news, it's hardly a surprise when a Loser Leaves Town Match is announced and a wrestler leaves. Case in point was Jeff Hardy's loss last summer to CM Punk. Still, promoters can use Loser Leaves Town Matches to freshen things up as when Umaga beat Kane in a Loser Leaves RAW Match, forcing the Big Red Machine to leave the RAW Brand. In the end, the Loser Leaves Town Match is a tool for promoters to use. How effective it is depends on how effectively a promoter uses it. .
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