TOM ZENK
MATCH HISTORY
PART 1


January  -  June 1990


In Ole Anderson's first PPV - Midnight Express win the US Tag team titles from Tom Zenk and Brian Pillman in 20.19. The scene was set for disbanding the successful tag team of The Z-Man and Flyin' Brian.

This first detailed match history of Tom Zenk's ring work in NWA-WCW covers the period  January 1, 1990 to Zenk's match against Big Van Vader on July 7, 1990.

It reveals that Tom Zenk's fortunes, during all of 1990, ebbed and flowed with the presence and absence of Ole Anderson on the NWA booking committee.

For as long as Anderson was absent from booking (from January1 to around May 5, 1990) Tom Zenk's ring career flourished.  Zenk partnered Brian Pillman as "The Z-Man and Flyin' Brian" and the two men hit their straps in four and five star matches across the country - winning, then defending the US tag team titles.

From January to May, Zenk took to the ring in more than 70 tag and singles matches and was booked to lose only 5.

In addition, both Zenk and Pillman were given a limited number of title matches against Ric Flair. Flair apparently recognized the advantages of working with (and booking himself to win over) these hot young performers.

By March, both Zenk and Pillman's achievements in single and tag competition had made them top contenders for the Fourth Horseman spot (Wrestling Observer Newsletter [WON], 3/5/90).

But their apparently endless upwards trajectory came to a sudden and dramatic halt with the resignation of Flair as chief booker and the appointment of Ole Anderson in May 1990.

Anderson's plans to 'improve' the NWA involved returning it to a regional promotion based on 'established' mat names. These included The Iron Sheik, Paul Orndorff, Stan Hansen, Bob Orton, The Junk Yard Dog, etc.,  - that is, older men, all former associates of Anderson, who were prepared to work at cheaper rates and under less secure conditions.

But even before these older men were in place, Anderson was already targeting the younger talent recruited under a contract system introduced by Jim Herd.  Zenk and Pillman were especially prominent in Anderson's sights - despite the fact that both men were perfoorming at high levels and were 'over' with the crowds.

WIthin days of Anderson's appointment, following an alleged no-show in Chicago on May 13, Anderson fined Zenk an unprecedented $2,500. As the Wrestling Observer Newsletter noted  "Since no-showing at that time, and even now, was a somewhat frequent occurrance without fines anywhere near that level, Zenk's lawyers protested to management" (WON, 8/20/90). Zenk's attorney had business connections to Ted Turner and the matter was quickly resolved in Zenk's favor.

The Z-Man and Flyin' Brian were then booked to drop the US tag belts to the Midnight Express at Capital Combat, May 19, 1990. Ironically Zenk, Pillman and the Midnights turned in a performance that ranked among the top ten matches of 1990. (Images from the match) Nevertheless, within weeks the highly successful tag team of "The Z-Man and Flyin' Brian" had been disbanded by Anderson and the Rock 'n Roll Express were being pushed in their place.

With Anderson's intentions now clear and Zenk refusing to quit ('until hell freezes over') Anderson began jobbing him out to an endless succession of 'hot heels' (Vader, Hansen, Vicious, Callas, etc). By June, Pillman - despite his friendship with Flair - had joined Zenk in jobbing to Callas, Vicious and others (see below).

Zenk's match history from May to July, 1990 provides clear evidence of what was to come  over the remainder of Anderson's tenure - reduced bookings (Zenk is absent from NWA cards from 6/13 to 7/4) and an increasing number of losses (50% of all matches). In this way Anderson sought to remove 'heat' from Zenk and demoralize him into quitting.  Zenk hung on against the odds, until Anderson himself was sacked in December, 1990.

For a few brief weeks in late 1990, Zenk's career flourished again -  until the arrival (within less than a month) of Dusty Rhodes as chief NWA booker!
 

TOM ZENK
MATCH HISTORY
PART 1
 
January  -  July 1990
>
 
Date
Place
Card
Result
Notes
WON = Wrestling Observer Newsletter
DM = Dave Meltzer  in WON and his 5* match ratng system
(most of the images from Altoona 2/28/90 match)

 

1/9
Saginaw
(turn away crowd)
Zenk and Pillman vs Galaxians
W
 
 1/10
Toledo, OH
Zenk vs Hayes
W
1/11
Hammond, IN (sellout 5,400)
Zenk vs Hayes
W *DM
nd
Greensboro, NC
Zenk and Pillman 
vs Ned Brady and Bob Cook
W "Zenk and Pillman are looking way better as a team than anyone expected....Rock'n Roll aren't going to cut it this time around. Zenk and Pillman fit the same niche and are younger, fresher looking and tons better in the ring to the fans" DM 1/22/90
xx xx xx xx
1/23
Greensville, SC 
Zenk and Pillman
vs The Mod Squad
W TV taping (air date 2/3 - first round of US tag tourney)
1/23
Greensville same date - 
Title match
Zenk vs Flair
L "It was a total face match until Flair reversed a reverse cradle and held onto the tights for the win" DM 2/1/90 

According to Dave Meltzer
"Flair pinned Zenk wrestling as a total heel in a good match but unspectacular and less reaction to Flair's old heel spots than in years back (Carolina fans were confused as Zenk not over enough for them to cheer him even though Flair played heel).' DM 2/12/90 .

Reviewing the tape - the crowd are, in fact, cheering Zenk.
 

2/4
Dallas (crowd 2,500)
Zenk and Pillman
vs Freebirds
W
xx
Dallas same card
Zenk vs Flair
L
xx
Dallas same card again 
Zenk and Pillman 
vs Royal Family
W
semi finals of US tag tourney
2/6
Clash of the Champions X - "Texas Shootout"
The Coliseum, Corpus Christi, TX
Zenk and Pillman 
vs The Mod Squad
W
2/7
Beaumont, TX 
Zenk and Pillman 
vs Midnight Express
W setting up final for the tag team tourney at syndicated tv in following week.
2/9
San Antonio (2,000 crowd)
Zenk and Pillman vs Freebirds
W
2/10 
Cincinnati, OH
Zenk and Pillman vs Freebirds
W
xx
Cincinnati, OH (same card)
Zenk vs Anderson
L
2/11
Knoxville
Zenk and Pillman vs Freebirds
W
2/12
Rainesville, AL 
Zenk and Pillman vs  Freebirds 
W Z-Man and Flyin' Brian win the finals of the 8-team tournament to win the United States tag team championship
2/12 xxxx xxxx xxxx "Don't expect Ole Anderson to wrestle anymore. The front office wanted him out of the ring" (WON 2/12/90) 

"Ole is awesome in interviews but wish we didn't have to watch him wrestle" (WON 2/26/90) 

Ole considered too old to be an effective wrestler.

2/15 Augusta, GA 
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Freebirds
W

"The Rock'n Roll Express may not be the ones to generate that kind of popularity today, but there are others who could like Scott Steiner, Pillman or Zenk. " Letter in WON 3/5/90 

2/22(?)  Center Stage Atlanta
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Freebirds
xx
2/25 Wrestle War '90 - "Wild Thing"
Greensboro Coliseum
Greensboro, North Carolina 
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs  Freebirds 
W and retain titles Match lasted 23.40 "the match was way too long. Zenk and Pillman tried and didn't look bad, but the match was bad. Garvin was just awful. The NWA has just a few weeks to decide whether or not to allow his contract to extend for another year and if there is anything on the borderline he did a great job in hurting his own case. Finish was booked well but looked pretty sloppy in execution. Pillman pinned Garvin with a flying body press during a four way."  Half a *" DM 3/5/90
xx xx xx xx

"Zenk and Pillman top candidates for Fourth Horseman spot. Flair wants Pillman". (WON 3/5/90)

2/26
Beckley, WV (sell out crowd 5,000)
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Royal Family
W
2/28
Altoona, PA - TV taping (crowd 4,200)
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express
W/DQ Cornette hit Zenk with the tennis racquet and then went after Pillman's throat with the racquet 'injuring' Pillman's throat and stealing the tag belts. After the angle, the NWA decided not to push the injury aspect as NWA don't want to make a play of injuring internal organs or acknowledge Pillman's throat problems as a child. 

This is considered a major booking mistake as it tones down the heat in a very promising angle.  Cornette and Midnights having major trouble with NWA following Flair's resignation from committee. 

"The angle with Zenk and Pillman on 3/10 [broadcast date] was fabulous. All the men involved deserve a round of applause ...This was the best angle in the NWA in a long, long time and the extra touch of unnecessary violence was really appreciated" (Letter to WON 4/2/90) 

first week of March Flair resigns as NWA booker 

"Flair was being saddled with most of the blame for the company's failures since he was both ... booker and World Champion" (WON 3.12.90) 

Herd and Barnett return to the booking committee.

3/2
Power Hour (2.6 rating)  - main event
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Freebirds
W
3/3
WCW TV show
Zenk and Pillman vs U.S. tag team champions Freebirds
W Recap of win in tag tournament
3/5
Amarillo, TX
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Freebirds
W Steve Casey substituted for Michael Hayes. Hayes on suspension for failing drug test.
3/9
Savannah, Georgia
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express
W "Hot" DM 3/19/90
3/10
WCW TV (rating 3.3) main event
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnights
W

The Altoona match played on TV

3/11
Omni, Atlanta (8,300 crowd)
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Freebirds
W
3/18
Miami, FL 
(2,200 in building)
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Samoans 
W/DQ
3/20, 21 xx xx xx Zenk misses a few matches through illness
3/23
Chicago 
(crowd 6,500)
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express
W ** DM
3/24
St Louis (crowd 4,500)
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express
W ** and a half DM
3/25
Baltimore (crowd 5,000)
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express
W
 
3/26
Harrisonburg, VA 
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express
W "Zenk and Pillman vs Midnights had a hot angle, but most of the heat was killed in the boardroom and the rest of the heat was done away with this weekend when Zenk and Pillman stole the belts back " (WON 4/2/90)
xx xx xx xx "Jim Crockett appears to be back in some kind of power role. The booking committee right now is composed of Crockett, Jim Herd, Jim Ross, Jim Barnett, Jim Cornette, Kevin Sullivan, Wahoo McDaniel and Jody Hamilton and Terry Funk. Cornette and Sullivan as Ric Flair allies are fading fast from the picture. Actually Cornette is fading from the company at this point..."  (WON  4/2/90) 
3/27 
Canton, OH ( tv taping for TBS special)
Tom Zenk 
vs Stan Lane
W/DQ Cornette interference
3/30
Richmond, VA 
 
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express 
3/?
Augusta, GA
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Freebirds
W
4/5
Charlottesville, VA
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express
W
4/6
DC Armory, Washington DC
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express
W
4/7
WCW TV
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Fatu and Tonga Kid
W
4/7
Philadelphia, PA
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express
W 30 minutes.
DM rated the match ****and a quarter
4/8
Omni, Atlanta (crowd 8,000)
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express
W 23 minutes 
DM rated the match ****
4/9
Greenwood, MS
tv taping (crowd 3,000 in house)
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express
L Lane hits Pillman with the tennis racquet in a non-title match.DM rated the match ****
4/?
Baltimore, MD
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express
W
4/?
Hampton, NJ 
U.S. tag team championsZenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express
W

Samoans have been removed from the upcoming PPV against Zenk and Pillman because of a no show on 4/9. "In addition Zenk and Pillman both wanted to work a lot more with the Midnights since its readily acknowledged by most NWA wrestlers that Bobby Eaton is the best worker in the circuit besides Flair and easiest to have a match with besides Flair" WON 4/23/90

4/14
Houston, TX 
(crowd 2,000)
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express 
W
4/14 ?
WCW 3 hour special (3.3 rating - very good) 
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Nasty Ned Brady and Bob Cook
W taped earlier in year?
Easter Sunday
NWA Main Event (2-8 rating - excellent rating for Easter) main event
U.S. tag team championsZenk and Pillman vs Wrecking Crew
W
4/15
San Antonio, TX (crowd 400)
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express
W
4/16
 Beaumont Civic Center, Beaumont, TX (crowd1,000)
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express
W
4/17
Baton Rouge
Zenk and Pillman and Rock'n Roll Express vs Midnight Express and Freebirds 
L Cornette interfered for the win.

At this Baton Rouge show Shane Douglas refused to accept a heart punch finish from Mean Mark Callas and quits.

4/19 
Charleston, WV 
(or Biloxi, MS?)
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnights
4/?
Mississippi Coast Coliseum, Biloxi, Mississippi 
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express 
W
4/20
Power Hour  (main event) 
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman  vs Midnights 
4/?
Gardens Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio
Tom Zenk vs Cactus Jack
W
4/21
Hammond Civic Center, Hammond, IN  (crowd 4,500)
Tom Zenk vs Jack Victory 
W
4/22
Cedar Rapids, IA
Tom Zenk vs Stan Lane
W
4/23
Marietta, GA (sellout 1,600)
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Samu and Joel Deaton
W
Pillman pinned Samu
4/26
Byrne Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey, NY
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express 

Zenk subs for Morton in Rock'n Roll vs Freebirds


 

W

The booking Committee's mistake in downplaying the Pillman-injury angle becomes apparent when Zenk and Pillman defend their tag titles against the Midnights in this straight title defense with all the heat removed from the feud. The hard core Meadowlands crowd cheer the Midnights and boo the tag team champs. Both teams, however, turn in a  four star performance. Zenk gets a second dose of anti-face heat from the Meadowlands crowd later in the evening when he subs for Ricky Morton in a match between the Rock'n Roll Express and Freebirds.
4/28
Vanguard High School, Ocala, FL
Tom Zenk vs Mean Mark Callas
W/DQ
xx xx xx xx WON 5/14 speculates on possible identity of new booker who is to be announced soon. TBS have specified that it must not be an active performer. Watts was considered front runner but wanted more control than the company TBS was prepared to give. Rhodes at WWF is also a possibility. WON considers the current wrestlers at NWA " a stable of experienced top quality workers". Watts is considered better at developing young talent.
4/30
Athens, GA
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and  Pillman vs Midnight Express
W

DM - "30 minutes - great match"
 
xx xx xx xx

WON 21/5 announces Ole Anderson to be new chief booker and observes - "Expect ...Tom Zenk to be putting guys over with Anderson as booker".
 

5/9
Bishop Ludden High School, Syracuse, NY 
(crowd 400)
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs The Wild Samoans (The Samoan Savage and Samu)
W

DM *** match
5/10
The Dome Arena, Rochester, NY (crowd 500 )
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs The Wild Samoans (The Samoan Savage & Samu)
W

Zenk pinned Samu
5/11
Saginaw, MI 
(crowd 650)
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs The Wild Samoans
W

DM **
 

5/12 
Cobo Arena, Detroit MI
(crowd 1,700 )
U.S. tag team champions Zenk and Pillman vs The Wild Samoans 
W DM ** and three quarters 

Zenk 'injured' in 5/12 Detroit match and is replaced by Paul Drake with Pillman  for 5/13 Chicago 
 

5/19 Capital Combat 90 "The Return of Robocop"
Washington DC Armory (crowd 7,500)
US tag champions Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express 
L - drop tag titles In Ole Anderson's first PPV - Midnight Express win the US Tag team titles from Tom Zenk and Brian Pillman in 20.19. Jim Cornette was placed in a cage at ringside ...Pillman's chest was all bruised up before the match even started courtesy of working most of the past week with Flair. Good fast action all the way. In some spots the guys seemed slightly flat, I would guess because of the heat (no air conditioning). Still, it was the best match on the card. Zenk and Pillman did most of their best moves early. Midnights gained control when Pillman missed a tackle at the 10 minute mark and they worked him over for most of the rest of the way. Pillman juiced the hardway from the forehead which I understand wasn't mentioned nor evident to home viewers. He took one great bump from the apron on to the guard rail. Midnights did their usual hot moves, including two or three new ones while working Pillman over. The hot tag to Zenk was the biggest pop live of the entire night. After Zenk kicked out of the rocket launcher and Eaton missed a tackle into the corner, Zenk put the sleeper on. It turned into a four-way and Lane gave Zenk an enzuiguiri (karate kick to the back of the head, although it looked more like the upper back) and Eaton cradled Zenk for the win " DM *** and three quarters. 

WON 7/16/90 Steve Sims in a column article  lists this as one of the 10 best matches of 1990 

Images from the match
 
5/22 
Ozark, AL
Tom Zenk vs Cactus Jack Manson
W
5/26
Monroe, LA
Pillman vs The Galaxian (Danny Davis) 
Zenk not on card.
W "Appears there will be a renewed push for Tommy Rich, while Tom Zenk, Norman and Cactus Jack don't appear to be seeing a whole lot of push. ....Don't know about Brian Pillman. He's booked mainly with the Iron Sheik and Mean Mark. That could mean lost in the shuffle but it may mean being shuffled to the bottom of the deck, but doesn't look like he'll be keeping the high face spot either". DM 6/4/90 
5/27
Philadelphia Civic Center, Philadelphia, PA
Tom Zenk vs Mean Mark Callous
L Mark Callous (later The Undertaker) via a heart punch and clothesline
5/28
Richmond Coliseum,
Richmond, VA
Tom Zenk vs Mean Mark Callous
L
xx
5/30
Raleigh 
(crowd1,100)
Zenk and Pillman vs Midnight Express
L DM ***
5/31
Charleston Civic Center, Charleston, WV
Zenk vs Mean Mark Callous 

Pillman vs Stallion


 

W

xx
xx xx xx xx The direction Ole is heading in becomes clear "the most talked about aspect of the new reign has to do with talent. It appears we are going back in time, about eight-to- ten years to be exact, with the return of all the "old favorites" with t he emphasis on the word old and not favorites. Looking at the whole thing collectively it isn't a good sign.... " 

"So Anderson is bringing back a lot of older names who in theory should have some recognition in hopes it'll bring back the fans who have quit going to wrestling." 

Names he brings in are Paul Orndorff, Stan Hansen Iron Sheik, Buddy Landell , Bob Orton and Junkyard Dog. Anderson's angles include a black white race angle on which Melzer comments "for a promotion that wants to go national to try (and not succeed) to draw fans and use angles from the late 60s?"). The line up for the Clash of Champions on 6/13 marks the beginning of the split of the Z-Man and Flyin Brian - Zenk and Rotunda to meet Samaon Swat Team and Pillman against Mean Mark Callas.
(WON 6/4/90)
 

 Meanwhile Mick Foley has had enough of Ole - 
"Cactus Jack finished up on Sunday night in Sunrise FL. Ole Anderson was going to job him out so he decided it would be best to quit. It appears both Brian Pillman and Tom Zenk are going to be phased down and out respectively" - this with more than a year left on their contracts. (WON 6/18/1990)

6/6
Columbia, SC
Zenk and Pillman vs Midnights
? Cornette hit in nose, bloodied by fan - Cornette beats fan in the face several times with racquet.
6/8
Gastonia 
(crowd 200)
Tom Zenk vs The Samoan Savage

Pillman vs Fatu

W

xx
6/9
WCW TV
Tom Zenk and Brian Pillman vs Doom
L
6/9
Beckley Civic Center, WCA
Tom Zenk vs The Samoan Savage
W
6/11
Ft Pierce, (crowd 2,500) tv taping
Tom Zenk vs Arn Anderson
L
6/13
Clash of Champions - Coastal Crush  (sellout crowd of 4,100) McAlister Fieldhouse on the campus of the Citadel in Charleston, SC (3rd match of 9)
Zenk and Mike Rotunda vs 
The Samoan Swat Team (Fatu and Samu)
W In 5.27 DM ** and a half . "Finish saw Rotunda thrown over the top rope behind the refs back. Fatu then gave Zenk a Samoan drop and splashed onto him off the middle rope. Rotunda then pulled Zenk out of the ring behind the ref and Fatu's back and switched places. When Fatu picked Rotunda up, Rotunda 'surprised' him with a cradle. Good finish". 

Meanwhile Pillman was set against Mean Mark Callas and lost. Pillman misses a spot and gets criticism.

Fight backstage between Ole and Steiner Bros who expected to retain belts at Clash but lost them to Doom. 

xx xx xx xx xx WON 6/25/90 on Ole Anderson's tenure so far  - "Morale is pretty bad because everyone is so unsure of what their spot is. There is no doubt Anderson is trying to turn the clock back about a decade or more and change the business back to the "old way". That is attempt to phase out the contracts and run things regionally." 

Letters to WON criticize Anderson for "emptying the old grapplers' home." 

Anderson is hiring Tim Horner (The Star Blazer) and Brad Armstrong (The Candyman) [even while he is downgrading and pushing existing faces]. 

"And there is no logical reason that can be made for phasing down Brian Pillman but giving Tommy Rich a bigger push when the fans have been rejecting Rich since his return last summer.' 

xx    xx 
 
xx xx "On main Event Arn Anderson pinned Pillman in a four star tv match reversing Pillman's finisher and holding the trunks. Pillman then did a job in a dark match to Mean Mark which was also a good match so you can see where he's headed." 

No appearances by Tom Zenk between 13/6 and 4/7 (except pre-recorded tv) 
 


 
 
 
If you've got to job you may as well do it smiling!

 ANALYSIS OF JANUARY/JULY 1990 RESULTS

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