Terry Taylor and the Failed Red Rooster Gimmick

Terry Taylor, a magnificent territory wrestler with a truckload of gold to prove it, was de-feathered in the prime of his career, saddled with a gimmick very few could have overcome: The Red Rooster.

Terry Taylor, a magnificent territory wrestler, with a truckload of gold to prove it, was de-feathered in the prime of his career, saddled with a gimmick no one could have overcome: the Red Rooster.
Terry Taylor as the Red Rooster.

If one were to peruse the Urban Dictionary for the word ‘Munsoned,’ you would find the following definition:

munsoned (verb)

1. To be up a creek without a paddle.

2. To have the whole world in the palm of your hand and blow it.

A figure of speech.

This, of course, refers to the epic movie entitled Kingpin, and more specifically to Roy Munson, played by Woody Harrelson, who was riding high atop the bowling universe after capturing his first pro title, the Odor-Eaters Open, only to throw it all away for a failed side hustle that the Professional Bowlers Association did not sanction.

As the definition notes, Munson literally had the whole world in the palm of his hand, only to lose said palm, along with the rest of his hand, resulting from a shoot rib gone bad, perpetrated by his evil arch-nemesis, Ernie McCracken, played by Bill Murray.

One could likewise opine that Paul Worden Taylor III, better known to wrestling fans as Terry Taylor and infamously known as the Red Rooster, was either munsoned or perhaps ‘roostered.

Terry Taylor – Early Years

Terry Taylor was born in Greenville, South Carolina, on March 12th, 1955,

Growing up, he was a massive fan of Championship Wrestling from Florida, owned and operated by the legendary Eddie Graham.

Taylor went to college in North Carolina and became a fan of Jim Crockett Promotions, particularly Ric Flair.

Wrestling was always on the mind of young Terry Taylor.
Wrestling was always on the mind of young Terry Taylor.

Taylor made his professional wrestling debut on October 24th, 1979, for Graham’s CWF promotion, losing to Bugsy McGraw in Tampa. This was followed by a subsequent defeat a week later, this time at the hands of Terry Funk.

Per WrestlingData.com, Taylor’s docket for 1979 was a less than stellar 0 wins, 11 losses, and 3 draws (although one of the draws was against Bill Irwin, who would later be known as The Goon in the WWF).

Things would not get much better in early 1980. At the end of March of that year, Mr. Taylor’s professional wrestling record stood at 0 wins, 30 losses, and 5 draws. Easily a first-ballot inductee for the Enhancement Talent Hall of Fame.

However, all of that would change in April.

Taylor moved his base of operations to Knoxville, Tennessee, home of Southeastern Championship Wrestling, owned and operated by Ron Fuller.

Taylor’s first match in the territory was a victory over Mike Davis on April 4th. Taylor would reel off an additional six wins in April without a defeat. One of those victories was over The Matador, which caused me to conduct further research.

Thinking it was too early to be Tito Santana‘s gimmick, I was proven correct, as the ‘original’ Matador was Jerry Stubbs (also fondly remembered as “Mr. Olympia“).

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Finding Championship Gold

Terry Taylor’s momentum in SECW continued in the ensuing months, as he tasted wrestling gold for the first time, winning both the Southeastern Heavyweight Title as well as the Southeastern Television Title.

Going from a career 0-fer to a multiple belt holder in a matter of a few months was quite the accomplishment, even in the zany world of professional wrestling. Mr. Fuller saw great potential in Terry Taylor, borne out in the years to come.

After several months in SECW, the Taylor Train made its next stop in Atlanta, Georgia, home of Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW).

Although wrestling mostly as a mid-carder, Taylor picked up his third title, the NWA National Television Title, on August 22nd, less than three months after his foray into the territory.

The year 1981 began with Taylor in the Kansas City territory, where he won the Central States Television Title, along with the Central States Tag Team Titles, with Bulldog Bob Brown. After a five-month stay in the Midwest, Taylor made his way to Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling.

Terry scored a significant upset after just a few matches in the territory when he toppled the legendary Les Thornton for the prestigious NWA World Junior Heavyweight Title.

Although he lost the belt back to Thornton in a subsequent rematch thirteen days later, Taylor was raising eyebrows as a rising star in the world of professional wrestling. After starting his career winless in his first 35 bouts, Taylor rapidly earned his wings in the squared circle.

After a lengthy stay with Mid-Atlantic, Taylor made his way to the iconic Memphis territory. Once again, gold followed Terry as he quickly captured the AWA Tag Team Titles with Steve Keirn. Terry also garnered the prestigious NWA Southern Heavyweight Title on two occasions.

Terry’s next stop, the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Mid-South Wrestling, was where his star truly began to shine.

Bill Watts, a legendary wrestler in his own right, was universally known as one of the best minds in the wrestling business. Watts ruled his territory with an iron fist and meticulous attention to detail as he sought wrestling perfection.

Kayfabe was not just a term in Mid-South; it was a way of life. Stopping at Denny’s for a Lumberjack Slam with your opponent for the evening would very quickly result in a one-way ticket out of Tulsa.

Mr. Taylor made his entrance into Mid-South in grand style, scoring victories over Buddy Landel, Krusher Darsow (later to become Smash of the legendary Demolition tag team), and Nikolai Volkoff.

As had been his recent trend, Taylor was quickly reunited with his best friend (gold), as he won the Mid-South Television Title from Krusher Khrushchev (wasn’t he just Krusher Darsow?) on June 16th, 1984.

Taylor would win this title on one more occasion and picked up another huge victory on March 13th, 1985, wresting the Mid-South North American Heavyweight Title from Ted DiBiase.

The North American title was one of the most vaunted regional titles in professional wrestling. Like the Memphis-based Southern Heavyweight Championship, the reigning titleholder would usually receive a shot at the crown jewel, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, when the traveling champion came through the territory.

Taylor remained with Mid-South for approximately a year and a half; during this time, the promotion was renamed the Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF).

Taylor continued his winning ways, capturing the UWF Television title on two occasions and the UWF World Tag Team Titles (with Chris Adams and Jim Duggan).

Terry Taylor as UWF Television Champion.
Terry Taylor as UWF Television Champion.

Terry eventually left the UWF for another stint with Jim Crockett Promotions and a brief stay in the Dallas-based World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) before landing in the nest of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in July of 1988.

One might find this story a bit drawn out thus far. And to those who do, my apologies. My intent here was to paint a word picture of the career of Terry Taylor, hopefully demonstrating that this was a bonafide and legitimate star before his unfortunate stay in WWF.

Terry Taylor Train Derails After Joining the WWF

Terry Taylor made his WWF debut on July 10th, 1988, in a losing effort against Tito Santana.

During a televised taping (for the Prime Time Wrestling show) in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, he teamed with Sam Houston in a losing effort against The Conquistadors.

After Houston took the pin, he was accosted by Taylor, who subsequently attacked him, cementing Terry’s heel turn.

Shortly after that, Taylor appeared on the Brother Love Show, introduced by Bobby’ The Brain’ Heenan.

Heenan described Taylor as small, not very muscular, and limited ability. Terry tried to chirp in with little to no success. Heenan assured the wrestling world that although Taylor was at best an average wrestler, he would fly to the top of the heap once under the Brain’s wing.

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In my opinion, the Terry Taylor Train ran off the tracks and into the henhouse at this precise moment in time.

Taylor had wrestled for almost a decade for many of the major territories by this point. He had captured 22 regional titles, including the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Title.

He wrestled Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship while reigning Mid-South North American Champion. While Taylor was on the losing end of this match, he took Flair to the limit in an epic give and take encounter.

The WWF would often bring in an established territory star and either give them an utterly hideous gimmick, obliterate their storied wrestling past, or both.

Need some examples? How about Barry Windham. Arguably one of the top five wrestlers in the world in the mid to late ’80s.

Windham appeared in the WWF as the Widowmaker, who generated about as much heat as charcoal briquets left out on a rainy night. Meaning, none. And if this was not enough, Windham did a reprise as The Stalker, a gimmick so bad it made fans cry out for a return of the Widowmaker.

And how could one exclude Dusty Rhodes? Three-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, The American Dream, booking genius, one of the most iconic and charismatic personalities in the history of professional wrestling.

He became ‘The Common Man,’ replete with hideous polka dots and an obscure polka dot-wearing valet named Sapphire.

Was Taylor (now re-dubbed as Red Rooster), Windham, and Rhodes deliberately mocked by Vince McMahon and given gimmicks that could never get over with a cannon to prove his WWF promotion (which was now in the process of conquering the wrestling world) was the superior product? I will leave that to you to decide.

Taylor’s alliance with Heenan was short-lived. The January 9th, 1989, Saturday Night’s Main Event episode saw the Red Rooster facing Tito Santana.

After Santana clotheslined Rooster out of the ring, an exasperated Heenan berated his charge and threw him back into the squared circle.

A startled Taylor initiated a heated exchange with Heenan, turning his back on Tito and causing him to fall victim to the dreaded schoolboy.

Heenan then entered the ring and slapped Rooster, which rubbed the Cock the wrong way, resulting in a less than a happy ending for the Weasel.

Heenan exacted a measure of revenge when he took out Taylor (and co-host Gorilla Monsoon) on an episode of Prime Time Wrestling.

Heenan’s heinous act was carried out by career enhancement talent Steve Lombardi, who was then christened ‘The Brooklyn Brawler’ by The Brain. All of this led to a match between a Rooster and a Weasel at WrestleMania V. Taylor disposed of Heenan in a poultry thirty seconds.

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Now, had the Red Rooster turned babyface and resumed his identity as Terry Taylor, this story may have had a happy ending.

But alas, this was not to be, as not only did Taylor remain Red Rooster, but the gimmick was enhanced with the addition of a red ‘comb,’ and a new entrance theme, which Taylor would strut to, bobbing his head as if in search for that last grain of Acme Feed.

YouTube video

The Red Rooster would remain with the WWF until June 1990. His last pay-per-view appearance was the 1990 Royal Rumble (ironically, he was a replacement for The Widowmaker), where Andre the Giant quickly eliminated him. The Rooster lost his spot in the pecking order and flew the coop.

Life after The Red Rooster

Terry Taylor resurfaced in his old haunts, now renamed World Championship Wrestling (and owned by Ted Turner), and resumed his old moniker.

Wrestling heel for the next couple of years, he became Terrence Taylor in the short-lived York Foundation, then became the “Taylor Made Man’ while teaming with Greg Valentine.

For the better part of the following eleven years, Taylor bounced between WWF (subsequently renamed WWE) and WCW in various roles, with a brief run in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW).

In 2003, Terry Terry began working for Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling.

Taylor initially worked as a Road Agent, Trainer, and Interviewer, before becoming Head of Talent Relations. After his release from TNA in 2011, Taylor re-upped with WWE as a trainer for the NXT developmental promotion, a position he still holds.

So, there you have it. A potential Hall of Fame wrestling career roostered into oblivion.

WWE Performance Center trainer, Terry Taylor.
WWE Performance Center trainer Terry Taylor. [Photo: WWE.com]

What Could Have Been?

Terry Taylor was in the title picture in every territory he wrestled in but was relegated in the WWF to working a program with Steve Lombardi as a feathered adult male bird.

No offense to Mr. Lombardi, but when the all-time greats of our beloved sport are debated, there may be a Lawler but never a Brawler.

On a positive note, Terry Taylor has been continuously employed in professional wrestling for the better part of 42 years.

In addition to all his roles mentioned above, he also worked as a booker (underneath Kevin Sullivan) and writer during his 1996-1998 WCW run.

Taylor has a keen and insightful mind regarding characters, angles, and storylines.

And to his credit regarding the Red Rooster gimmick, he has not once cried fowl.

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Benny J. Scala is a senior writer at Pro Wrestling Stories and co-host of the Dan and Benny In the Ring podcast. He is also a writer/promoter for Jimmy Valiant's Boogie’s Wrestling Camp and Hall of Fame Museum (BWC). Benny is a licensed Florida Realtor and recently joined the writing staff of the Through The Fence Baseball website. He has been a fan of professional wrestling since the late '60s.