The match that inspired Hell in a Cell: Tommy Rich, Buzz Sawyer and The Last Battle of Atlanta

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October 26, 2014

Rich and Sawyer first butted heads in early 1982. Even in its infancy, the rivalry between the two was extremely heated. Nothing could keep them from getting to each other, despite the best efforts of fellow wrestlers like Jimmy Garvin and Kevin Sullivan.

Watch Rich and Sawyer battle

STRIKER: The beauty of this whole rivalry was that Buzz Sawyer made Tommy Rich, who was otherwise known, for lack of a better word, as a “pretty boy,” ugly. He brought the ugly out of Tommy Rich.

RICH: It was a fight every night. He had a bad personality. He was rough. I just went in there and threw it back at him.

ELLERING: They’d go a half-hour every night. They were brutal.

APTER: I photographed a lot of their matches. I had seen barbed wire matches and cage matches. When they got into the ring, no matter what kind of match it was, the intensity was incredible.

ELLERING: It was perfect.

APTER: I would see both of them in the back before their matches. Buzz Sawyer would be pacing back and forth in the hallways, going “AH! AH! AH! GET OUT OF MY WAY!” while I was trying to get pictures of him. Tommy Rich was just hanging out with Mr. Wrestling II and “Pistol” Pez Whatley, just very calm, waiting to go to the ring. Buzz, however, was working himself into a fever pitch, into a frenzy, every time I saw him.

RICH: Buzz was like a pit bull dog. I knew how he wrestled. It was always rough.

APTER: At that time, Georgia Championship Wrestling was on TBS and everybody all over was seeing this rivalry. Every place they went, if the two of them were in the same arena, whether they were wrestling each other or not, the fans came hoping that they were going to see them go after each other.

They had been battling so much, verbally, on television that the crowds couldn’t wait. It was fight fever any time they got there. They were uncontrollable. Their matches rarely stayed in the ring. They went all over the arena, to the parking lot, into the dressing rooms. Nobody could control the action.

Watch Rich and Sawyer brawl through arenas

RICH: We took it to Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan. We had concession stand fights, stuff that had never been done before. [The fans] must have loved it, because they kept coming back.

ELLERING: Tommy and Buzz never left anything in the dressing room.

APTER: It wasn’t just when they wrestled [each other]. When one of them was wrestling another opponent, the other would run in and attack him during the match. It got so bad that the National Wrestling Alliance put down a ruling — I think it lasted two or three months — that neither of them were allowed to be in the same arena at the same time.

RICH: It was time for it to be over.

APTER: They were disrupting the TV shows. They were disrupting the flow of everything that was going on. There were other matches taking place and people trying to get air time on TV, but everything was being dominated by either Buzz Sawyer or Tommy Rich. That’s why they had to [end the rivalry.]

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