In this blog we combine two of our favourite things: reminiscing and talking about the Intercontinental Title. With the title currently in limbo owing to its current holder Ryback being injured, we look at the reign of the Honky Tonk Man.
On the episode of WWF Superstars aired on the 13 June 1987 the Intercontinental champion Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat put his gold on the line against one of Jimmy Hart’s charges: The Honky Tonk Man.
Those that turned up to the Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo New York on the 2nd of June for the taping probably had low expectations for a show with the only significance, on paper at least, being the return of the Junkyard Dog.
Sure, the IC title was on the line but Steamboat had beaten Randy Savage only a few months earlier in the stand-out bout at WrestleMania 3 and Honkytonk Man was a solid mid-card heel fresh from a victory of Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts at the same event.
However, Ricky Steamboat and his wife are having another baby and decides that he needs time off. That left Vince McMahon needing to find someone to beat the man who helped steal the show at WrestleMania just a few months before. This set off a chain of events that created the longest reigning IC Champion in the WWE’s history. For a more detailed look at those events, check out Brian’s excellent piece here.
Born on January 25 1953, Roy Wayne Farris entered the World Wrestling Federation in 1986 using the ring name Honky Tonk Man. Originally a fan favourite, he was a wrestler with an Elvis impersonator gimmick. He soon began cutting promos that marked him out as a cocky heel character and he took on Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart as his manager. During this time Hart was billed as “Colonel”, a reference to Elvis Pressley’s manager Col. Tom Parker.
Honky’s first major feud in the promotion came against Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts and it was during this feud that Roberts was injured by a guitar shot. With Roberts out of action, Honky stepped up and got a shot for the Intercontinental Championship.
On the episode of Superstars, Honky reversed Ricky Steamboat’s inside cradle attempt and obtained extra leverage by holding the bottom rope to get the 3 count and his hands on the gold.
Although originally supposed only to be a transitional champion until Roberts returned from injury but with Roberts showing little sign of recovery, Honky was booked to remain champion for what would be a record-setting run with the belt, a record that stands to this day.
Honkytonk’s reign certainly drew the ire of the WWE’s fans at the time with many of his title defences being secured through count-out against some of the most popular babyfaces of the time including Steamboat, George ‘The Animal’ Steel and former champion Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage.
At Wrestlemania IV, Honky Tonk entered into a feud with Brutus ‘the Barber’ Beefcake which continued during the spring and summer of 1998. Honky and Beefcake were scheduled to square off at the inaugural SummerSlam in 1988 in a match that was billed as the Barber’s final chance to win the title.
Instead, however, Beefcake was thrown into a feud with “Outlaw” Ron Bass in the lead up to the event and was attacked by Bass, putting him out of the hyped title match at SummerSlam.
On the night of the event, it was announced that a mystery opponent would take on Honky Tonk for the title. When it came time for the match, Honky proclaimed that he did not care who is opponent was. It was the Ultimate Warrior who ran out and won the title in just 31 seconds, ending a title run that lasted one year, two months and 27 days, a record that still stands today.
After unsuccessful attempts at regaining his title, Honky Tonk moved down the card with his final notable run being as one part of Rythym and Blues with Greg ‘the Hammer’ Valentine before a run as colour commentator before leaving the company in 1991.
The Honky Tonk Man has made a number of returns since including a run in 1997 as Billy ‘Rockabilly’ Gunn’s manager and several comedy Royal Rumble returns.
Regardless of your thoughts on the quality of his in-ring work, Honky Tonk Man drew a lot of money portraying the cowardly heel that all the fans wanted to see lose the gold every night but never did. As a fan of the IC title, the Honky Tonk Man should be very proud of the way he gave even more meaning to the WWE’s secondary title during his record breaking lengthy reign as champion.
To give some perspective on Honky Tonk Man’s 454 day run with the gold, the man with the most IC title wins in WWE history is currently Chris Jericho with 9. The combined total time of those 9 reigns is 318 days, which shows just how remarkable Honky Tonk Man’s reign at the top of the Intercontinental Title mountain was.