This movie nearly didn’t come out. Dirk Benedict, who stars in Body Slam, has said that he and director Hal Needham (Megaforce, Rad) fought with the film’s writer/producer team of Steve Burkow and Shel Lytton. Burkow didn’t have any other writing credits, but Lytton wrote a series of teen books titled Mustang and a few episodes of Death Valley Days. However, they were lawyers, and between the verbal and physical fights, lawsuits kept the movie out of theaters for an entire summer. It ended up going straight to video.
Also, and this is my favorite part of this movie, Benedict needed smartened up to the wrestling business. He plays M. Harry Smilac in this, a music promoter who only has one band left, Kick*. After falling for Candace (Tanya Roberts), Smilac tries to hire Rick Roberts (Roddy Piper in his second acting role after playing Leatherneck Joe Grady in The One and Only; his nickname is “Quick Rick,” which is ironic as Piper feuded with “Quick Draw” Rick McGraw in WWF before that man’s untimely death) to be a performer before learning that he’s a wrestler. So he ends up managing Rick and his tag partner Tonga Tom (Sam Fatu, the Tonga Kid who was wrestling Madison Square Garden at the age of 18, ironically feuding with Piper; you can also see him teaming with Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell to battle The Fabulous Freebirds in Highlander; he’s considered a relative of The Rock) and they have a pretty good run until they start dealing with politics.
Let me tell you, as someone who has spent way too many years in independent wrestling, I get it, M. Harry.
Captain Lou Murano (Captain Lou Albano, who had appeared in Below the Belt and Wise Guys before this) and his men, The Cannibals (Sione “The Barbarian” Vailahi and Tom “T. Joe Khan” Cassett) hurt all three of our leads and get them blacklisted, so they start booking themselves on outlaw rock and wrestling shows, getting back to the big time just in time to get a world tag title match.
This movie, beyond wrestling, has lots of 70s stars in it, such as John Astin, Charles Nelson Reilly and Billy Barty. And if you look carefully enough during the main event, you can spot Ric Flair, Freddie Blassie, Adnan Al-Kaissie, Bruno Sammartino and Alexis Smirnoff during the match.
Speaking of that main event, the crowd turned on the match as they could see that the moves were being redone for filming. At this time, there was no such thing as sports entertainment. As fans began to say the f word — fake — all of the wrestlers started brawling for real, even throwing Needham out of the ring. It took a ton of people to break up the fight, leading to chaos amongst the crowd, cast and even the crew. When they all got backstage, Piper finally smartened Dirk Benedict up as to why they had to make everyone believe that it was real.
*Kick is made up of drummer Jack D’Amore (Rock Rose), Kelley Dillard, David Hallowren and Bruce Wallenstein, who composed the soundtracks to Twisted Nightmare and Demon Wind.