Old School Memories: The 1980 Feud Between The Fabulous Freebirds and Kevin Sullivan & Austin Idol

I remember the huge day that occurred for the Carlan family back in 1980 while we lived in East Meadow, New York. My dad had a big announcement to make to the entire family. He told us that we were going to be getting cable TV installed into our house for the first time! Cable TV was still kind of in it’s infancy back in 1980 but having access to many more TV channels in addition to the 13 we already had was extremely exciting at the time.

After the cable was hooked up, I can remember grabbing that Jerrold converter box and navigating through channels nonstop. It was that first Saturday of having our new channel selections when I came across a program that instantly became my favourite – Georgia Championship Wrestling on TBS.

I was 10 at the time and already a huge fan of professional wrestling but was limited to only WWF programming as New York was WWF territory. A whole new world opened up for me when I discovered Georgia Championship Wrestling. Up until then I was only able to read about NWA stars in magazines, now for the first time I was going to be able to watch them in action and I couldn’t be a happier kid.

The first episode I ever watched of Georgia Championship Wrestling I was delighted to see NWA stars including Tommy Rich, Kevin Sullivan, Dusty Rhodes, Tony Atlas, Mr Wrestling II and Austin Idol. Tommy Rich became one of my favorites immediately. I admired the terrific job the legendary Gordon Solie would do as an announcer and interviewer week after week. Every Saturday from 6pm to 8pm, nothing else mattered to me except Georgia Championship Wrestling.

I was very fortunate to witness the Georgia Championship Wrestling debut of a new heel tag team that called themselves The Fabulous Freebirds. They consisted, of course, of Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts. Gordon Solie, who was interviewing The Freebirds during their debut, described them as “a new dimension” in tag team wrestling. Michael Hayes took over and delivered an outstanding promo while introducing Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts to the fans of Georgia Championship Wrestling. Hayes explained the The Freebird rule for the first time. He told Solie that they would hold an advantage over their opponents because they would never know which two of the three Freebirds they would be facing. While they were on for about 5 minutes, I knew right away, even at 10, that The Fabulous Freebirds were pure gold. I knew they were going to be big stars in the world of professional wrestling. From that first introductory promo, I already wanted someone to shut them up.

The first feud that I vividly remember for The Freebirds was against top Georgia Championship Wrestling stars Kevin Sullivan and Austin Idol. I remember The Freebirds, then the Georgia National Tag Team Champions making life difficult for Kevin Sullivan week after week. Finally having enough, Sullivan insisted on getting a match with The Freebirds and found a partner in Austin Idol.

I can remember Kevin Sullivan and Austin Idol challenging The Freebirds to a match on TV. I was so very excited at the prospect of this tag team war happening on TV because at the time all the big matches normally happened at non televised events in arenas like The Omni in Atlanta.

Gordon Solie stated during the next broadcast that he assumed the Idol/Sullivan TV challenge would be accepted by The Freebirds but Solie was wrong. The Freebirds came out for an interview and claimed they had a contract to face another team that week. Sullivan and Idol arrived and confronted The Freebirds as they verbally jabbed at each other. I was so disappointed that the match wasn’t taking place as I was solidly behind Sullivan and Idol and wanted them to shut The Freebirds up for good.

Austin Idol and Kevin Sullivan each had nicknames for The Freebirds. Kevin Sullivan referred to them as The Dolly Sisters. I never made that connection as a kid. I looked up the Dolly Sisters recently and found that they were twin sisters who were popular in vaudeville during the 1910’s and 1920’s. As an adult, I still don’t make the connection between The Dolly Sisters and The Freebirds. Austin Idol had a more popular name for The Freebirds that stuck with the fans. Idol called them The Jailbirds which made more sense than the Dolly Sisters. For the record, back in 1980 I had my own nickname for The Freebirds. I called them the Chickenbirds. I know it’s corny but I was 10.

As The Freebirds continued to refuse to meet Kevin Sullivan and Austin Idol on TV, Sullivan took matters into his own hands. Sullivan wanted The Freebirds so badly, he offered to meet The Freebirds on TV and he would let them choose who Sullivan’s partner would be. I thought this was a huge mistake on Sullivan’s part. I actually yelled at the TV for Sullivan to reconsider his offer. The Freebirds decided to accept the match and named enhancement talent Mike Davis as Sullivan’s partner. Michael Hayes indicated that the Georgia National Tag Team Titles would be on the line as well. Kevin Sullivan came out and announced that there would be a special referee for the match. This didn’t seem to worry The Freebirds until Sullivan announced that Austin Idol was that special referee! I was so proud of Sullivan for outsmarting Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts. I remember saying that The Chickenbirds are finally going to get what’s coming to them.

Much to my dismay, things didn’t go the way Sullivan had hoped. The time for the Georgia National Tag Team Title match between Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts vs. Kevin Sullivan and Mike Davis had arrived. There was one problem. Austin Idol was nowhere to be found. Sullivan asked for the match to be delayed a few times as he believed Idol would eventually arrive.

After waiting as long as they could, Idol still hadn’t arrived thus leaving Sullivan and Davis with no choice to but to wrestle the match with another referee. The match was actually a terrific, fast paced encounter. I was on the edge of our couch thinking Sullivan and Davis were going to pull off the win but that would not be the case, Gordy and Roberts wound up victorious. I remember yelling out a hearty “Damn it”.

What happened next was terrific TV but made me a furious 10 year old as I watched it unfold. After Gordy and Roberts defeated Sullivan and Davis, Hayes continued to insult Sullivan. This led to a brawl between Sullivan and Hayes in which Sullivan threw Hayes back into the ring. Sullivan got the better of Hayes which made me happy because the big mouth Hayes was finally getting what he deserved. Gordy and Roberts returned to the ring and triple teamed Sullivan until Jim Brunzell, Terry Taylor and Steve O made the save. Hayes then joined Gordon Solie and he cut a promo on Sullivan when Austin Idol finally arrived and said he is ready to referee the match between Sullivan/Davis and The Freebirds. I yelled at the TV, “Where the hell were you Idol!”

Solie informed Austin Idol that the match already happened as they couldn’t wait anymore for him to arrive. Idol explained he was late because he had to change a flat tire (remember there were no cell phones back then) but he is here now and asked for the match to begin. Hayes stated that it’s not their fault that Idol had to change four flat tires to which Idol stopped Hayes and asked him how he knew it was four flat tires as Idol only stated he had to change a flat tire. Austin Idol now knowing that it was The Freebirds who were behind the flat tires grabbed Hayes and threw him into the ring much like Sullivan did a few minutes earlier and another wild brawl ensued. Hayes was joined by Gordy and Roberts as they triple teamed Idol until Sullivan made the save.

Austin Idol and Kevin Sullivan did get a number of matches with The Freebirds throughout Georgia in 1980 but were unsuccessful in winning the Georgia National Tag Team Titles.

The feud between The Freebirds and Sullivan/Idol defined exactly what professional wrestling was all about.  We got a terrific angle and fantastic storyline fueled by the burning desire of seeing the good guys triumph over the bad guys. Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, Buddy Roberts, Kevin Sullivan and Austin Idol all played their roles perfectly. This feud greatly contributed to me becoming a lifelong professional wrestling fan.

You may not be able to go back in time but the great memories you hold inside will be with you forever. Back in 1980, Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, Buddy Roberts, Austin Idol and Kevin Sullivan provided me with great, lifelong memories to which I thank each and every one of them.

You can follow Lewis Carlan on Twitter @ShootingUpNorth 

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