THE MINNESOTA WRECKING CREW
Gene & Ole Anderson
1970s - 1980s
NWA Tag Team Champions
Written by Mike Rickard
When Arn Anderson boasted of being double-tough, it was because of his kayfabe pedigree to the Minnesota Wrecking Crew, Gene and Ole Anderson. These kayfabe brothers were the epitome of tough, going toe-to-toe with some of the strongest wrestlers in the business and earning the fans’ respect, albeit begrudgingly. Gene and Ole Anderson’s work was mostly limited to Georgia Championship Wrestling and Jim Crockett Promotions, but as Ole Anderson notes in his memoir Inside Out: How Corporate America Destroyed Professional Wrestling, they were so over they were able to stay in these territories as long as they wanted.
The Anderson Brothers were originally made up of Lars Anderson, Gene Anderson, and Ole Anderson. None of them were related but their pedigree would lead to one of wrestling’s greatest kayfabe families. Ric Flair entered JCP as the Andersons’ cousin during the 1970s, giving him instant credibility as a heel and tough guy. During the 1980s, Arn Anderson was introduced as Ole’s cousin (or nephew, depending on what the promoters felt like at the time), again giving him instant heat. During the late 80s, Gene Anderson’s son Brad Anderson entered the squared circle, becoming the first actual blood relative of the Andersons to wrestle.
While Lars Anderson teamed up as an Anderson, the team of Gene and Ole are the best-known pairing of the Anderson Brothers (although it’s important to note Lars distinguished himself both in pairings with Gene and Ole as well as his singles career). Gene and Ole Anderson terrorized JCP during the 1970s, bringing a brutal and stiff style to their matches. The Minnesota Wrecking Crew became known for their modus operandi of targeting a body part on their opponent and working it over until it was useless. They weren’t afraid to sacrifice their bodies in pursuit of championship gold, as seen in the unforgettable “Supreme Sacrifice.”
The famous angle occurred when Gene and Ole Anderson challenged Paul Jones and Wahoo McDaniel for the NWA World Tag Team Championship. Ole whipped Wahoo into the Andersons’ corner where Gene was waiting. Wahoo’s head struck Gene’s, knocking both men out, and allowing Ole to cover Wahoo for the win.
The Andersons were mainstays of the tag team scene in JCP and Georgia collecting tag team gold such as the NWA World Tag Team Championship (the JCP version), the NWA Georgia Tag Team Championship, the NWA Macon Tag Team Championship, NWA Atlantic Coast Tag Team Championship, and NWA Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Championship. The Andersons made great heel champions for the babyfaces to chase after. The Andersons were proven draws and could work sixty-minute Broadways standing on their heads.
While it may be hard to imagine with today’s shorter matches, the Andersons sometimes competed in matches with two-hour time limits or even no time limit matches. As incredible as this may seem, promoters wouldn’t have booked these matches if the fans didn’t go to see them. The ability of two wrestlers to compete this long and maintain the fans’ attention is another testament to their greatness.While it may be hard to imagine with today’s shorter matches, the Andersons sometimes competed in matches with two-hour time limits or even no time limit matches. As incredible as this may seem, promoters wouldn’t have booked these matches if the fans didn’t go to see them. The ability of two wrestlers to compete this long and maintain the fans’ attention is another testament to their greatness.
Like any family, there was bound to be infighting, so when “Nature Boy” Ric Flair started getting cocky, one thing led to another and he found himself at war with his cousins. Flair teamed with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and launched a legendary feud with the Andersons that kept JCP fans coming back for more. I highly recommend you check out the Mid-Atlantic Gateway’s eight-part feature by David Chappell. The matches took both teams to the limit and even the hospital on occasion. When Flair turned babyface, he scrapped with Gene Anderson and Gene’s stable of wrestlers.
While Gene and Ole’s war with Flair and Valentine may be their greatest feud, the two had fantastic programs with other teams including Dino Bravo and Mr. Wrestling II, Paul Jones and Wahoo McDaniel, Johnny Weaver and Art Neilson, and Jerry Brisco and Thunderbolt Patterson. Whether they were battling for the gold, or just battling to beat up another tag team, Gene and Ole were either on top of the mountain, or poised to knock someone off of it.
During the territory years, it was uncommon to see one team stay for too long because promoters wanted to keep their act fresh. However, Gene and Ole Anderson wrestled primarily in JCP and GCW without becoming stale.
While some have argued their overall status as a tag team is diminished by focusing their careers in these two territories, their enduring ability to draw speaks volumes. Ole Anderson discusses this in his memoir and seems more than satisfied with his career.
Gene and Ole Anderson’s work as The Minnesota Wrecking Crew laid the foundation for the Four Horsemen. On at least one occasion, the Anderson Brothers were acknowledged in interviews as the originators of the brutal style The Four Horsemen took to new levels.
Gene Anderson retired from wrestling and became a deputy sheriff. He also operated a wrestling school with one of his trainees being Ken Shamrock. Ole Anderson continued wrestling and working behind the scenes as well. In 2007, Ole Anderson was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
For more information on the Andersons, I recommend Dick Bourne’s book Minnesota Wrecking Crew: A Brief History of the Anderson Family in Wrestling, available at Mid-Atlantic Gateway and Amazon.