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

Page 3 of 4
October 26, 2013

With Rich and Sawyer interrupting anything and everything to get a piece of each other, the rivalry became larger than Georgia Championship Wrestling. National Wrestling Alliance President Bob Geigel was forced to intervene, noting that it was unusual for the NWA to get involved in local matters. However, when he was presented with the chance to end the carnage that the two combatants were causing around the country, Geigel jumped on it.

Watch Geigel's announcement

Rich and Sawyer both agreed to one last bout. They would do battle one more time and then never cross paths again. To ensure that things would come to an end, officials threw out the rulebook. There were no time limits, no disqualifications or count-outs, in addition to the bout taking place inside the fully-enclosed cage — the first of its kind. And to make sure that Paul Ellering wouldn’t get involved in the brutal proceedings, Sawyer’s manager was locked in a cage and raised up above the ring, forced to watch the bout while dangling from the rafters of The Omni. The cage, the combatants and a city eager to see them settle the score was the perfect formula for wrestling history.

ELLERING: For Tommy Rich and Buzz Sawyer, it had to be a sellout.

RICH: Atlanta, Ga., was a great place for wrestling. It had to be one of the best places to wrestle in the South. People would come from all over the country to The Omni to see wrestling.

APTER: The Omni was the Madison Square Garden of Georgia. What made it so special was that the territory ran all their major shows at that building and all their major stars were there. The Omni had the feel of local Georgia.

ELLERING: You couldn’t get that atmosphere anywhere else.

STRIKER: Imagine a Steel Cage Match. Then put a ceiling on top of it. It was something that no one had ever seen before. It told you that these two men were not getting out; that someone was going to have to walk out of Atlanta a winner.

MICHAELS: Tommy Rich being trapped in the ring with “Mad Dog,” it was very cool to wrestling fans back then.

RICH: It was wild. It was sold out. They were turning folks away at The Omni’s door. This was a regular cage with a top on it. If I’m not mistaken, Paul Ellering was in a cage on top of the cage.

ELLERING: It was an interesting angle, to say the least.

RICH: We both knew what we had to do. I just remember going out there and looking at the crowd and thanking God for the opportunity to be able to do something. A lot of kids [as young as I was] had never been where I have.

APTER: I remember the sheer brutality and the fans reacting to it, because they wanted to see Tommy Rich practically kill Buzz Sawyer. They were so passionate about their hatred for Buzz Sawyer.

STRIKER: Tommy Rich had this almost white, blondish hair. When Buzz Sawyer busted him open, Rich’s hair became this stomach-churning maroon and orange. Sawyer seemed to be enjoying this. His nickname was “Mad Dog” and Buzz Sawyer became a dog, tearing apart a bone in the backyard. That bone was Tommy Rich.

ELLERING: Tommy was Ali and Buzz was Frazier. Buzz would throw haymakers and Tommy kept going with the rope-a-dope.

RICH: It was wild. They called it the bloodiest battle in the South.

STRIKER: You can chart how the careers of Tommy Rich and Buzz Sawyer went on after that match. They were never the same again.

APTER: That match was so brutal. I compare it to the third Muhammad Ali–Joe Frazier fight. They had fights before that, but after the last one, they were never the same again. I’d say the same thing about Rich and Sawyer. After The Last Battle of Atlanta, they were so beaten up and drained, that they both remained good competitors, but they both lost something.

View Comments
Shawn Michaels Bio, Videos, Photos, and News Articles Matt Striker Bio, Videos, Photos, and News Articles