Hello everyone! As you all know, over on WNW I have been running a piece at the end of The Smackdown Breakdown on the career of the man currently known to the WWE audience as Zeb Colter, best known to us long-time fans as “Dirty” Dutch Mantell. He has had a long and storied career, and I only hope that by the end of this that you will think the same. Just like on WNW, this is being broken up into three parts, but this time it is for the sake of your eyes!
Wayne Keown first broke into professional wrestling in 1972 as Wayne Cowen, wrestling for the local Atlanta, Georgia promotion. He was a self-taught wrestler, having decided to become a wrestler after returning from Vietnam. This was just as rare then as it is now. In fact there is only one self-taught wrestler currently on WWE’s active roster, Kofi Kingston. He, like most wrestlers of the time, ran the territorial circuit, primarily working with the National Wrestling Alliance. During the early years of his career he would undergo a pair of name changes, first to Wayne Mason Dixon, then to Dutch Mantell. But regardless of the name, his gimmick always stayed the same, a rough and tough individual who could fight with the best of them. He could easily transition between face and heel, making him one of the earliest examples of a tweener.
It was in NWA Mid-America’s Tennessee territory that Dutch would experience his first major success when he captured the NWA Tennessee Tag Team Championship with John Foley in December of 1974. They would hold the titles for about a month before losing them to Les Thatcher and Nelson Royal. They would recapture them a month later, only to lose them again to Thatcher and Royal on March 23rd, 1975. And we talk about fast title changes these days! His next title would come in the way of the NWA Southern Tag Team Titles on January 03, 1977, with David Schultz. However, it was short lived as well, as they would drop the titles to Memphis mainstays “Superstar” Bill Dundee and Ricky Gibson on January 28, 1977. During this time, NWA Mid America underwent a split between owner/promoter Nick Gulas and booker Jerry Jarrett. Jarrett would start his own promotion in Memphis, taking the biggest draw of the promotion with him in Jerry “The King” Lawler. Gulas would rely upon the drawing power of the Poffos and run more shows out of Nashville. Dutch would work in the Gulas side of NWA Mid America.
He would team up with Gypsy Joe to capture the NWA Mid America Tag Team Titles in early 1978, but Dutch surrendered his half, as he had his sights set on a much bigger prize, the NWA Mid America Heavyweight Title, which was currently held by a young up-and-coming star by the name of “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Savage had already been making waves in the NWA with his infamous promo style, and Dutch made the low-key transition that was common in those days to being a face. They held a bitter rivalry that resulted in a number of Taped Fist matches, No Disqualification matches, and I Quit matches. He would defeat Savage for the gold on March 25, 1978. They would continue their rivalry until the end of April, after which time Dutch began a number of smaller feuds against other stars such as Whipper Watson Jr., Don Fargo, Blue Yankee, and Mexican Angel. These feuds were back and forth, with Dutch’s opponent getting the title from him, only to lose it back to Dutch a couple of weeks later. During the later part of this time, Dutch would renew his rivalry with Savage. After winning back the title on November 11, 1978, Savage would challenge Dutch to a match just three nights later. Dutch would lose the title, and continue feuding with Savage through the end of the year.
As the wrestling landscape was changing before him, Dutch Mantell’s career lay at a crossroads. Would he wrestle in Jarrett’s CWA or continue with the success he had garnered over in Puerto Rico? Well, why not have both? Dutch would make his long awaited return to Memphis in July and would immediately be thrust into the title picture. It would start with Dutch teaming up with Austin Idol to take part in CWA’s tournament to crown the promotion’s first ever Tag Team Champions. Mantell and Idol would make it all the way to the finals, where they would encounter the team of Jerry Jarrett and Tojo Yamamoto. Mantell and Idol would fight hard, but come up just a bit short. However, Jarrett and Yamamoto’s reign would be very short lived, as they would lose the titles to Mantell and Idol the next week in a No Disqualification match. During this reign, Dutch would return to WWC and capture the NWA North American Tag Team Championship yet again, this time with Danny Condrey as his partner, beating the team of Carlos Colon and Jose Rivera on October 11, 1980. It was during this time that Dutch would adopt the “Dirty” moniker and start carrying around his signature bullwhip. They would hold on to the titles until January 19, 1981, where they would fall to Carlos Colon and Invader #1. This would be Dutch’s last Title reign in WWC for 13 long years. After this, Dutch would briefly appear in Georgia Championship Wrestling, winning the NWA Georgia Junior Heavyweight Title from a young Kevin Sullivan, before losing it to Steve Olsonoski.
Part 2 is now availible to read here!