Going to go to the early days of the pre-WCW for this famous show on this one. It is the 27th November 1986 and we are in both the Greensboro Coliseum of Greensboro, North Carolina and the Omni Coliseum of Atlanta, Georgia for Starrcade ’86: “The Skywalkers”! Your main event tonight: Ric Flair defends the NWA World Heavyweight Championship against Nikita Koloff!
The early Starrcade’s are certainly an experience, and this one might be the dooziest of them all: a nearly four hour show across two locations, with the highlight to be a “scaffold match”, hence the sub-title that has more to do with wrestlers preparing to take crazy bumps from a height, and less to do with lightsabers. This was the era where the NWA was basically just Jim Crockett Promotions, and was struggling to keep up with the growing behemoth that was the WWF. Wrestlemania had overtaken Starrcade as the big show in wrestling, and at this time we’re only a few months away from Hogan/Andre at Wrestlemania III, and a year from Vince McMahon putting the boot into NWA/JCP by running Survivor Series against Starrcade ’87: the 1986 edition was pushing against the tide. But it was a stacked push at the very least, with some interesting matches on this card.
Rock and/or Roll music, a very basic lazer show, and literal spotlights over the crowd: it is the 1980’s alright. Our announcer, super-imposed over the scaffold that bridges the ring, welcomes us to “Night of the Skywalkers”, and we get The Star Spangled Banner, complete with super-imposed American flag. This is the Greensboro arena, and we get thrown to Atlanta where a super young Tony Schiavone, complete with glorious mustache, is on hand with Rick Stewart, bow ties all round. I assume the multiple locations is a response to Wrestlemania II earlier in the year, which was held in three places. After a brief intro to the event we are thrown back to Greensboro, where Bob Caudle and Johnny Weaver will be on commentary. They run down some of the stipulation matches we have tonight, without once mentioning who is competing in them. The competitors for the opening contest are in the ring.
Nelson Royal and Tim Horner vs the Kernodles (Don & Rocky)
Mostly nobodies and jobbers here, though Don Kernodle had a few Tag Title runs in the NWA, teaming up with Slaughter for a while. Rocky and Horner to start, and they are very hard to tell apart, wearing similar gear. Trading hip-tosses and a few rolling chains, not too shabby. In comes the larger Don, gets Scoop Slammed quick for one, then up to hit a powerslam for two. Royal in, gets floored with a shoulder, then able to wrap in an impressive looking abdominal stretch for a bit, before Don flips him over. Not too shabby at all.
Don misses on a corner charge, in comes Horner again with a roll-up for two. Don back with another hip-toss, and one thing that is very noticeable early is the crackling noise the ropes make every time anyone touches them. Lock-up, quick tag to Royal, and he slaps on a sleeper. Don able to tag in Rocky, who hits a nice Sunset Flip for two, before hitting a Scoop Slam for two. Rocky then misses on a crossbody, Horner back in and hits a spinning powerslam for two. Some leapfrog chains, both men collide, and Rocky able to make the tag to Don. Delay suplex to Horner for two. Big back body-drop puts Horner down, but then Don misses on a very telegraphed headbutt, then eats a drop-kick for two. No matter, he rallies back with a stiff looking clothesline.
Rocky in, hits a press slam, but only two. A chain of O’Connor Rolls, and Horner finds himself on top for the 1, 2, 3 in around seven-and-a-half.
Winners: The Royal and Horner Connection
Verdict: Actually pretty good as an opener for the time and place, it just needed some more context to sell it.
After a brief replay of the pin we get thrown without much ceremony to a blacked-out Atlanta, where we get some honest-to-goodness entrances for their first contest.
Brad Armstrong vs Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin w/Precious
Two guys who could arguably have had bigger careers than they got, especially in Armstrong’s case: it’s hard to find anyone who ever had a bad word to say about him. I think “Precious” was Garvin’s real life wife. They are out escorted by cops, with Garvin as the flamboyant heel, with sparkly ring gear, and push-ups before the bell.
Lock-up, and Garvin breaks to abuse the crowd. Lock-up, breaks down into fists flying, and the crowd is into this. Dueling takedowns, another, extended lock-up, as Precious gives out at ringside. Armstrong with an elbow lock as we go to rest-holds early. Some brief chains, and the two move from hold to hold on the mat. All a bit dull, and even the commentators aren’t saying much. Garvin takes the advantage with a bunch of not super-impressive-looking leglocks.
Armstrong eventually rallies back with an armbar, and Garvin actually taps but it’s the 1980’s so there was no such thing. Precious gets up on the apron to distract which allows Garvin to lock in a head-scissors, but I’m not sure he even did anything illegal. Armstrong eventually out of it to slap on his own headlock, then a hip-toss, but Garvin back with a head-scissors again. The crowd is into it, but this is frighteningly dull, even for the time.
We go back and forth with the headlocks for another minute as Precious jaws at Armstrong. Some dueling pin attempts with Garvin grabbing the trunks, but caught out by the ref. Another extended headlock, then the biggest move of the match when Garvin counters with a reverse suplex. Garvin with a choke, then chucks Armstrong out. Precious berates him, and we are getting close enough to the time limit of 15 minutes. Garvin’s kicks keep Armstrong out for a bit. Three minutes left. Snapmare from Garvin for two. Clothesline for two, and I suppose this one has picked up a bit. Back-breaker for two. Two minutes to go, Garvin hits a shoulder charge off a whip and both down.
Garvin looking for another backbreaker, countered into a crossbody, but only two. Dueling whips into the corner, Armstrong charges into a knee. Slow pin, but only two. One minute. Garvin looking for a sleeper hold, Armstrong out. Dueling roll-ups for two. 30 seconds. Another headlock, because why not. 15 seconds. Garvin to the top, but the time expires just as he leaps, to find nobody home, as it happens. Maybe the timing was off?
Winner: Time limit draw, but the real winner was the headlock.
Verdict: 12 minutes of dull-as-dishwater holds, then did get a mite more exciting for the finish.
The two keep fighting, until the ref pulls Armstrong away. Precious gives out to Armstrong as the crowd bays for blood. Garvin back in, takes some punches and rolls out. Trying to get back in as Precious and the ref attempt to dissuade him, and eventually Garvin leaves. Not exactly the red-hot feud they might think it is. According to Cagematch Garvin would win a re-match between two two on Mid-Atlantic a few weeks later.
Straight back to the Greensboro for a wordless intro to the next match, but plenty of mariachi music.
Baron von Raschke & Hector Guerrero vs Shaska Whatley & the Barbarian
Von Raschke was a big AWA guy, Hector is one of the famous Guerrero brothers but perhaps best known for being the guy in the Gobbeldy Gooker costume, and later for non-wrestling work with TNA. Whatley was a mid-card NWA guy and later a New Generation-era jobber, Barbarian of course has been all over. No context provided for this one, other than it being described by the ring announcer as “a special grudge match”. Guerrero described as “the very popular Hector Guerrero”, like they think the audience needs a hint who to cheer for.
Things breakdown from the start with a four man brawl. Heels sent clattering into each other off stereo whips. Guerrero and Whatley to start off proper, and Guerrero showing off some nice flips and drop-kicks early. Sells well too, flopping around the ring from strikes. Barbarian in, misses a boot, then able to drape Guerrero onto the ropes. Misses a big charge and ends up flying outside, where he takes a tope crossbody from Guerrero that the crowd goes bananas for. Fighting at ringside where the lights aren’t on, so hard to see what’s happening.
Eventually back in, where Barbarian hits a press slam, while half of the commentary team leaves the desk to go interview Dusty Rhodes later. Jeez, talk about not giving this match much credence. Heels double-teaming Guerrero, now firmly ensconced as the face-in-peril. Takes a backbreaker from Barbarian, then a big headbutt that he sells like crazy. Double back body-drop from the heels gets two. Wonky big boot from the Barbarian gets two, and a stunned Guerrero looks for the tag in the wrong corner. Sidebreakers, and one thing that’s a bit disorientating is the position of the ringside cameras, that keep switching position and making the teams look like they are in the wrong places. Off a whip Guerrero spits in the face of Whatley and gets a hot tag to the Baron. Crowd explodes.
Baron looking all out of shape, but cleans house anyway. Locks his famous Claw on Whatley, but Barbarian saves the day. Things break down again, Whatley misses a corner charge on the Baron, takes an elbow drop and while it isn’t immediately clear if the ref counts to three, that’s it in just under seven-and-a-half.
Winners: East Germany and Mexico
Verdict: Guerrero can go, and is miles ahead of anyone else in event so far. Other than that, standard tag.
The heels attack Von Raschke after the bell, but hitting a big boot and a diving headbutt. Guerrero in belatedly to make the save and drive the heels away.
Backstage, Johnny Weaver is with Dusty Rhodes. He defends the NWA TV Title against Tully Blanchard later. Rhodes isn’t full of chat however, and kicks Weaver out of his dressing room. Bit of a pointless segment really.
Back to Atlanta for our fist title match of the evening.
The Russians (Ivan Koloff & Krusher Kruschev) (c) vs the Kansas Jayhawks (Bobby Jaggers and Dutch Mantel (NWA United States Tag Team Championships) (No DQ)
The imaginatively named “Russians” are your standard evil Soviets, with Koloff really from Ontario and Kruschev – better known as Smash and Repo Man – from Minnesota. Jaggers a somewhat forgotten NWA guy, and oddly out of place next to the much bigger deal that is Dutch Mantel. The titles on the line are brand new, with the Russians champs for just over a month.
Starting off with Mantel and and Kruschev, and after a show of power in comes Jaggers. Rapid tags interspersed with beatdown offence. Who are the heels again? Kruschev breaks things up with a sudden roll-up attempt, but it’s back to rapid tags soon after. Eventually Koloff in, and there’s brief pause as the commentators play up the possibility of weapons. Russians can’t really get anything going, and the Jayhawks are most certainly employing heel tactics, distracting the ref so they can double-team one of the Russians, preventing tags, etc. I guess it’s OK when it is against evil communists, amirite?
Eventually the Russians get going for a bit, but only for 30 seconds before the Jayhawks are well back on top again. Schiavone posits that if they were to lose, the Russians would be looked down upon even more by the Kremlin. Not sure if Gorbachev is an NWA fan myself. We got outside for some more brawling, where Mantel is sent into the ringside barricade, and now the heels can actually be, you know, heels. It’s beatdown offence and basic double-teaming with the occasional interjection of Jaggers, and we get a really bad looking double clothesline from Mantel to the two Russians. Hot tag to Jaggers, and he cleans house.
Things breakdown, four way brawl on the inside and out. Koloff grabs a chain and goes to the top, but dumped off by Jaggers. Now Mantel has a whip, which he takes to both Russians. Jaggers and Kruscher awkwardly brawling on the inside, Jaggers gets a head full of chain from Koloff, and that’s it just over nine.
Winners (and still NWA United States Tag Team Champions): The wicked communists.
Verdict: Bit of a mess of a tag match, where they did a terrible job of establishing alignments.
Back to Greensboro for what could be a showstealer or a disaster. Oh, and we’re around a quarter of the way through the show, but a third of the way through the card, so some of the later matches must be going long.
“Ravishing” Rick Rude w/Paul Jones vs Wahoo McDaniels (Indian Strap Match)
Wahoo an NWA guy whose best years were in the 70’s, and he doesn’t look in the best shape here. Future WWE Hall of Famer all the same. Rude on the up and up, and I have a feeling he’s been put with the wrong guy for this show. The strap is hooked on and away we go. This is a four corners match, though they only explain that after the bell.
McDaniels with some early whipping and knock-downs, before just straight-up choking Rude on the mat. Rude tries to take a powder for some reason, but gets dragged back into the ring. McDaniels has never lost an Indian Strap match, which has zero difference from any other strap or chain match. Rude taking McDaniels down but then gets a poke to the eye. Who’s the heel here? Back on top quick enough with mounted punches and his own whips. Slow enough this one.
Spending a lot of time in the corner with the beatdown, eventually a Scoop Slam and Rude finally goes for the win, getting only as far as two corners before Wahoo takes him down. Back to the corner, only this time it’s McDaniels with the beatdown and whips. Very samey feel to every part of this, and lengthy sections where commentary is silent. Chop down off a whip, and now McDaniels goes for the turnbuckles. Gets three before getting a kick to the head. Wahoo looking very gassed despite not really doing much.
Rude to the top to land a big knee strike, and at some point Rude was actually busted open, which this match does not deserve. Rude to the top again, but knocked off – well, McDaniels rolled into the ropes – before he can do anything. McDaniel’s going for the corners again, Paul Jones getting animated at ringside, Wahoo gets as far as three, takes a while to get to the fourth, chops down an interfering Jones, and then gets forearmed into the last corner in just over nine. However, there’s no bell, so not all clear this was the finish.
Winner: Wahoo McDaniels, despite doing almost nothing.
Veredict: Total bomb with a confusing ending.
Rude and Jones with the beatdown, but Hector Guerrero and the Baron out to make the save. Crowd is hot, but couldn’t tell you why.
Backstage, the Russians are interviewed by some guy whose mike is not working. They are looking forward to the Bunkhouse Stampede event, where they will get the chance to take down Dusty Rhodes. They insist Koloff will win later, or else. Amazing, the total lack of Russian accents from either of these guys.
Back to Atlanta.
Sam Houston (c) vs “Superstar” Bill Dundee (NWA Central States Heavyweight Championship)
Dundee we’ve met before, briefly, and is, you will be stunned to hear, an Australian heel that the partisan crowd dislikes even more than the Russians. Looks in bad shape it has to be said. Houston is a real nearly-man whose alcoholism problem pretty much destroyed any chances of a career bigger than this level. No better way for them to face each other than over one of NWA’s many regional belts.
Lock-up, and Houston thrown away. “Let’s Go Sam” chants annoy Dundee enough that Houston is able to take him down. Some roll-up attempts to no effect for both, then a nice electric chair into a head scissors from Houston, though the subsequent waiting around kills the crowd. Hip tosses, a drop-kick and Dundee begs off momentarily. Then gets in a head-lock, but gets given out to for hair pulling. Transitions into an armbar, then into a pin for some reason, but only two.
Houston gets Dundee into position and calls for a Bulldog, but Dundee out of it, then Dundee out of a Sunset Flip pin. Houston slingshotted to the outside, which the camera misses. Able to recover and hit an Atomic Drop that Dundee sells like Michaels against Hogan, flipping over the ringside barricade. Eventually back in, Dundee nails a big kick, then to the top, hits a flying right hand – rubbish looking – but only two. A fishhook that the ref breaks up, then a necktie rest-hold. Not much to this one so far.
Dundee with a bit of rope-a-dope flooring Houston, but only two. Dundee’s offence just elbows and strikes, but now gets in an awkward looking Boston Crab. Houston able to reverse this into a rolling pin attempt, but he’s too close to the ropes when he does it so both guys just end up tangled, looked awful. Dundee trying to get some heat back by flinging Houston out again, then hits a springboard axe-handle when Houston is back in, probably the spot of the match so far. Back to the head-locks right after though, ugh.
Houston out of it eventually, rallying back with strikes. Dundee goes down, but Houston clearly wanted him to spring back up, so Dundee suddenly recovers when urged to. Sloppy stuff. Houston with an awkward running kick, a Scoop Slam, but then Dundee dodges a knee strike. Dundee starts working over the knee as we go past the ten minute mark, with a 20 time limit. Please no. Houston locks a deathlock by shoving Dundee, who ends up barging into the ref. With the ref seemingly down he grabs the belt for a shot, but turns out the ref wasn’t as bumped as we thought and calls for it in just around 10-and-a-half. Phew.
Winner (and still NWA Central States Heavyweight Champion): Sam Houston, who heroically takes a DQ victory.
Verdict: A few good spots, in the middle of a lot of dull stuff. Ending was badly booked too.
An enraged Dundee attacks Houston with the belt again in the aftermath, and the face has to scuttle out of the ring. Crowd sounds unimpressed. Schiavone announces the winner in the ring, with his mike only half-working. Jeez, this is shoddy. Straight back to Greensboro for the next contact. We still have nearly two-and-a-half hours left, with just six matches remaining.
Jimmy Valiant w/Big Mama vs Paul Jones w/ “Raging Bull” Manny Fernandez (Hair vs Hair) (Raging Bull Suspended In A Cage)
This has a clusterf**k written all over it. Valiant an older guy whose best years were already well behind him. Jones we have seen already tonight, better used as a manager than a wrestler. Context for this one? Non-existent. This is actually the hair of valet Big Mama against that of Paul Jones but you only know that because the announcer says so, the commentators certainly aren’t keeping us informed. Fernandez refusing to get in the cage, and the ref arguing with him about it is a very young Earl Hebner. I wonder if he was selling stuff out of his car at this one. Anyway, a bunch of faces come down to manhandle Fernandez into the cage so we can get this over with.
The bell rings with Jones still trying to get Fernandez out of the cage, and Jimmy Valiant commences to throw his opponent around. After a spell in the corner the ref drags Valiant away, Jones takers the chance to take some knucks out of his tights and nail Valiant. Some badly whiffed mat punches leads to two, and for some reason Valiant has bladed. Eventually Valiant rallies back, dueling strikes, Valiant locks on a sleeper, Jones gives up the knucks, and Valiant uses those for a 1980’s WMD for the pin in just about four minutes.
Winner: Jimmy Valiant and I suppose Big Mama, that nature of her problem with Jones left to our imagination.
Verdict: Rubbish from one guy who should have been retired and another guy who shouldn’t have been wrestling.
Crowd explodes with the fall it has to be said. The electric razor is out immediately, and Jones lays prone as he gets shaved bald. Bull out of the cage, ambushes Valiant from behind. Rick Rude out to join in the beatdown too. A chair is produced, and Valiant takes a double pile driver into it. Jones hides his shame under a bandana as the three heels make their exit. “Some concern about the condition of the Boogey Woogey man in the ring at this time” explains commentary with a seriousness that is mind-boggling. Some of the faces check on Valiant who eventually walks out on his own power. There follows a slow-motion replay of the head shaving that literally lasts for 90 seconds.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Schiavone plugs the Bunkhouse Stampede, which gets its own video package. Nelson Royal is next to a campfire to explain the concept, because of its western roots, which is essentially a hardcore battle royal. Royal doing this without a script, and man it does not sound great, he’s just way too dry and dull. Dusty Rhodes would win all four Bunkhouse Stampede events as I recall.
Plenty of time to kill here, and we now get a promo for the Crockett Cup. Some rapid-fire highlights of the 86 edition, with some dire narration from some guy in a TV studio. The Road Warriors won the first one, and the concept died off after just three years.
Astonishingly we are only just about halfway through this show.
Big Bubba Rodgers w/Jim Cornette vs Ronnie Garvin (Louisville Street Fight)
First of two appearances from Cornette tonight, and fair to say the second one is the bigger deal. Rodgers is, of course, the Big Boss Man, Garvin a fairly popular face in the 80’s who never truly broke into the top tier of performers. Loving Bubba’s bass-heavy entrance. Cornette introduces Bubba, Paul Heyman-style, as “the baddest man on the planet”.
Circling, Garvin with punches, Bubba no-selling mostly. Cornette’ ringside advice to Rodgers is to “break his neck”. Oh, so that’s all you need to do. Rodgers calling for a test of strength, but gets a few more right hands inside, and now Rodgers is knocked down and out of the ring, to Cornette’s general unhappiness. Lock-up, now Garvin tossed out. Rinse, repeat for another segment. Garvin grabs a glass of water from…somewhere, throws it in Rodgers’ face, which is a devastating maneuver apparently. More righthands, Bubba out. Cornette hands him something, back in so Garvin can put on a choke. Weird rhythm to this one so far.
Rodgers gets in a corner charge, and I think it’s a roll of quarters in his hand, and he’s wailing on Garvin. Garvin down, up at a count of eight, rinse, repeat. Is a Louisville Street Fight a Last Man Standing match? Garvin bloodied up now. Takes a Scoop Slam, then a Big Splash, and now the ref is counting a fall so I guess this isn’t a Last Man Standing match? Kicks out, sort of, up at nine. Suddenly Garvin has some kind of rope or wire, and Rodgers waits patiently to be tied up, only not really. Now choking Bubba with it. This match is really random.
More right hands from Garvin, neither of these guys seems to know how to, you know, wrestle. Bear hug from Rodgers for a bit, before Garvin lays in some headbutts. Rodgers lets go, then locks it in again, then takes some headbutts again. Does every spot need to happen twice in this match? More right hands, and the last to the chest is enough to propel Rodgers out. He’s counted while outside, which is a first for any street fight I’ve seen. “Bubba fight back!” yells Cornette, helpful. A few more rights, both to the outside, more rights, back in. Frighteningly dull.
Rodgers to the top looking for a Bubba Slam, intercepted and slammed to the mat. Gets two for Garvin, and with a kick out lands on top of the ref, which counts as a bump. Nasty looking Piledriver from Garvin, no ref for the count, and Cornette in to crack Garvin with his gold racket. A new ref in, both men down, counts to ten, the ref decides that, since there must be a winner the first man who gets to his feet will be the winner. Why have a count-out at all then? Cornette in, remonstrating with the ref, and gets shoved out. Garvin stirring first, then Rodgers, Rodgers grabs the ref to distract him so he doesn’t see Garvin on his feet. Garvin collapses, Rodgers gets up and they call that a win in just under 12.
Winner: Big Bubba Rodgers, but really there are no winners here.
Verdict: Awful stuff. Garvin looked shallow in terms of offence, Rodgers wasn’t much better.
“Bullshit” chants greet the decision. Quick, back to Greensboro.
Dusty Rhodes (c) vs Tully Blanchard w/J.J. Dillon (NWA World Television Championship) (First Blood)
This should be a treat, I hope. Rhodes getting a lengthy entrance as we watch him go through the arena, then through the crowd with an escort. Fans all over him. Blanchard with mountains of heat when announced. Dillon puts some kind of protective cover on Blanchard’s forehead pre-match, to the referee’s unhappiness. When that is removed, they slap some Vaseline on instead. Lots of ill-feeling, to put it mildly, and Rhodes lays a punch on Dillon, who blades unnecessarily. Blanchard leaves the ring, and then they sound the bell for some reason.
Eventually back in so we can start. Thunderous “Dusty” chants. Rhodes dodges a charge, then kicks the legs out from Blanchard. Lock up, Rhodes blocks a head strike and Blanchard backs off. Interesting chess game feel to this one as Rhodes poses in the corner, his elbow cocked. Blanchard gets a takedown, but Rhodes dodges a falling right, and Blanchard skitters out.
Back in, lock up, Rhodes with a headbutt, which seems like a move that could be counter-productive in this match. Blanchard playing defence the whole time. Rhodes gets in a good strike, elbow drop to the knee, and again, and Blanchard runs out again. In danger of falling into a dull pattern here, as the crowd quietens. Back in, 30 seconds of circling, then Blanchard gets the takedown. Trying to tear at Rhodes’ face, but Rhodes out of it.
Strikes in the corner, Blanchard pushes off and Hebner goes night night. Blanchard goes on the attack, Rhodes dodges and Hebner goes super night night. Dillon has thrown his shoe into the ring, Rhodes picks it up, fakes using it, but tosses it instead. Laying in the head strikes, Blanchard is bleeding, but no ref. Rhodes knocking Blanchard about, Dillon slapping on some Vaseline as Rhodes tries to get the ref going, when he turns back to Blanchard he gets nailed with a roll-of-quarters assisted punch. Rhodes is busted open, the ref is suddenly revitalised, and he calls it after one look at Rhodes, in around seven-and-a-half.
Winner (and new NWA World Television Champion): Tully Blanchard and Vaseline
Verdict: It was OK, told a decent story, but not a very engaging match.
Blanchard and Dillon hightail it out of there while Rhodes remonstrates with the ref. Crowd a bit numb.
Back to Atlanta for the titular match. Time for (dramatic pause) the Skywalkers!
The Road Warriors (Animal & Hawk) w/Paul Ellering vs the Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Dennis Condrey) w/Jim Cornette (Scaffold Match)
Apropos for me to talk about this one now, as at time of writing Animal, real name Joseph Laurinaitis, has just passed at the far too young age of 60. I’ve heard all about this match but never actually seen it, so I am very interested. Just waiting for that Cornette bump. The Warriors out and pose for the crowd on top of the scaffold, which traverses the ring, while the heels look on in trepidation from below. “Precious” Paul Ellering looks so young. With a bit of a delay, the Express slowly make their way up the scaffold. The Warriors greet them by shaking the structure, making the Express cower.
So, what are the rules of a “Scaffold Match”? Well, both teams fight on the top of the scaffold, and the first team to knock both opponents to the ring below win. It’s a fairly sizable drop too, so this is pretty high-risk for the period. No titles on the line, and not a hint as to why these two teams are willing to settle their differences in this manner. Given the narrow walkway they have to work with, I’m not expecting a technical classic, though I’m also not expecting a fruition of the Network’s “Only one team will survive” description. Still, looks dumb as hell.
We commence the awkward grappling, where the men involved are trying to look like they might be in danger of getting thrown off, but are really anything but. There’s only really enough room for strikes and kicks, but things are enlivened when Condrey throws some powder at Animal’s face, to Cornette’s delight. Crowd is a bit dead, except when people start dangling. First major moment is when Eaton and Animal end up beneath the scaffold, but eventually both scramble back to the ladder. Eaton blades at some point, like it was needed. Condrey too.
Warriors putting in the shots, Condrey trying to climb down the ladder, but Hawk intercepts. They exchange shots on the structure for a bit, and eventually the other two do the same on the other side. Now all four are playing at monkey bars, and one after the other Condrey and Eaton fall, in just about seven.
Winners: RIP Animal.
Verdict: About as good as it could possibly be given the circumstances. Which is to say, not very. At least the Express didn’t hurt themselves.
In the aftermath Ellering chases Cornette up the structure, he gets cornered, ends up hanging from the underside and drops to the ground, landing feet first before crumpling. As Cornette has famously outlined, he was initially supposed to take such a bump, but backed out when he realised the distance, which was around 15 feet. The plan instead was for Bubba Rodgers to catch him, but the sunglasses wearing Rodgers couldn’t see properly and was in the wrong position. Cornette hit the mat hard and legitimately suffered some series leg injuries in the process. As much as I dislike the man for a lot of reasons, it was a botch not of his own making, and he could have killed himself. And all for this stupid gimmick match.
Schiavone declares the Road Warriors the winners, then introduces some highlights of The Great American Bash. Just as with the Bunkhouse Stampede, we get some basic clips with terrible commentary over them. The Bash that year was actually a tour of 12 events with similar cards, ongoing at the time of Starrcade, a few of which have ended up on the Network. Includes Rhodes beating Flair for the top belt in a cage match, to the delirium of the recorded crowd.
Schiavone announces an intermission, and when we are back introduces the credits for the audience, who really could not care less. I suspect they are playing for time. Back in Greensboro, time for the main event of that location.
The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson) (c) vs the Minnesota Wrecking Crew (Arn & Ole Anderson) (NWA World Tag Team Championships) (Steel Cage Match)
Must have taken a while to get that cage up, hence the lengthy delay. There is still an hour left in this show all the same, with two matches left, so they will be long. Both teams get a big reaction, with the Wrecking Crew heavily booed and the Express adored. Not a terribly big cage, maybe seven feet mat to top. Despite the cage, normal tag rules apply. Ole and Gibson to start. Lock-ups and Arn in, things breakdown almost immediately, and when we’re back properly it’s Arn getting bullied around. Some rapid action, and when things settle we have Ole and Morton going at it, with Morton striking down Ole repeatedly.
Express with the advantage momentarily, but Gibson soon being beaten down by turn-taking Anderson’s. Focusing on the left-knee with strikes and rest-holds. Crowd very loud despite the baseness of the offence. Morton whipping them up with “Rock N Roll” chants, but the Anderson’s maintain the beatdown. Extended leg-lock from Arn, eventually both men are up, Gibson hits a sudden enziguri and hot-tag to Morton, but no expected cleaning of house because we still have 50 minutes left in this show. Instead, Anderson’s are quickly back on the slow, beatdown offence. Some variation when Morton’s head gets raked against the cage, which gets the crowd really riled. Not much use of the cage so far. Naturally, Morton blades.
There’s nothing really wrong with the pacing here – NXT does the double face-in-peril structure really well decades later, but they didn’t invent it – it’s just the actual move-sets are limited enough, even for the era. It’s just joint locks, stomps and the occasional throw into the cage. When Arn busts out a Scoop Slam it seems positively exciting. Arn then to the top, but it’s a top-rope nothing for Morton to hit a shot to the mid-section. Things break down, and the Anderson’s able to maintain the advantage. Morton really bloody now, but able to get a clumsy-looking running knee to send Ole down, but no sign of a tag yet. Lengthy rest-hold spot, then Morton rallying back with strikes, but nothing doing.
A few near-tag spots get the crowd going, then Arn nails a sweet looking spinebuster, best move of the match, but only two with Gibson breaking it up. Ole off the top shortly afterwards with a knee to the head, suddenly we have a match. Cinching in a rough looking shoulder wrench on Morton, eventually he kips up out of it, but still nothing doing yet. More rest-holds, more dueling strikes, and both men down. More near-tags, Morton with a roll-up for two, things break down again. Ole looking for a Scoop Slam on Morton, Gibson with a drop-kick, Morton wraps him up and that’s suddenly it in just under twenty-and-a-half.
Winners (and still NWA World Tag Team Champions): Rock and/or Roll Express
Verdict: It was fine, but the ending was strange. No hot tag despite the crowd begging for it, and the face champs made to look weak and fluky. Crowd happy though.
Brief brawl after the bell before the Express, our crowd-favourite champs, basically run away.
Back to Atlanta for the proper main-event.
Ric Flair (c) vs Nikita Koloff (NWA World Heavyweight Championship)
Full experience for Flair’s entrance, with a few cheers, and I thought he might be default face because he’s fighting Johnny Foreigner. Looking into it (and I had to do that myself, because this show certainly isn’t going to tell you) Flair was meant to fight Magnum TA at this event, but Magnum’s real-life car crash ended his career a few months beforehand. With glasnost in the air Koloff, also a US Champ, was re-positioned as a face to take on Flair. This explains the music video that plays between entrances, which features Magnum running shirtless on a beach to a terrible country-western song. If you didn’t know the context that must seem like the weirdest thing ever, because the words “original challenger” “car crash” and “retired” are not used. By the by, the change at the top of the card is also one of the reasons for the Scaffold Match existing, as a means of drawing in the crowds. Yeesh.
A full half-hour left in the show so this one will be long, but thankfully won’t go the 60 minute distance as Flair frequently did. Lock-up, and Koloff flings Flair back to a big reaction. And again. The Nature Boy takes a powder on the outside for a bit, back in, and now able to lay in some chops. But Koloff no-sells them, to Flair’s shock, and he’s off to ringside again. Standard Flair stuff so far. Back in, a very half-hearted “Woo”, and back to it. Lock-up, Koloff flings Flair back again. Flair jawing, dragging Koloff into the corner, and then hip-checked across the ring. I sense a sneaky manoeuvre coming.
Koloff flings Flair around a bit more, one-handed Scoop Slam, then another, and the crowd is into this. Flair skittering away, tries to lock-up again and walks into an elevated bear hug. Koloff puts Flair down to turn it into a pin, a technique I’m not sure I have seen before, but only two. Back to standing, and eventually to the ropes. Flair dodges a corner charge, and then hits a delay suplex. They use this to call Flair a “master strategist”, but all he did was dodge. Koloff no-selling the suplex, and a stunned Flair vacates the ring again.
At the ref’s insistence Flair comes back in, lock-up, into the corner, more chops from Flair, some strikes to the head gets some traction. A shoulder-charge gets nowhere, and when Flair tries again Koloff takes him down by the throat, looks brutal. Koloff looking for a running club, but Flair dodges again and Koloff goes flying over the rope, hitting hard. They explain this isn’t a DQ as Koloff sent himself out. Flair slams Koloff’s leg into the ringpost, back in, and Flair with a blow to the back of the same leg. We have an in-ring story.
Kicks to the leg, chops, and Flair suddenly locks in the Figure 4. Using the rope for leverage when the ref isn’t looking, a few two-counts when Koloff has the shoulders down. Koloff able to turn over, and Flair lets go. A bit early for that spot I think. Flair goes back to the leg, then runs Koloff’s face over the rope. More chops, strikes, chokes, but Koloff still able to throw Flair off. A big shoulder-charge sends Flair down, but the champion then able to throw Koloff to the outside (under the bottom rope). Some ringside brawling has Koloff in a bad way. It’s slow-paced, but effective so far.
Back in, Koloff taken down, and Flair drops the knee for two. Reverse suplex gets two, then shots to the head to help Koloff open up after a blade job. Lot of blood tonight, but it has added very little. Koloff coming back, another one-handed Scoop Slam, another big hip-toss, then Flair Irish Whipped into the corner hard enough to put him out. Not a DQ for some reason. Koloff follows, some more ringside brawling and this time the Russian has the advantage. Back in, Flair knocked down a few more times, and then from a big shoulder-charge the ref gets bumped out of the ring. Took it like a champ.
Koloff nails a big clothesline, gets the cover, but of course no count, to the crowds general unhappiness. Koloff goes looking for the ref, and Flair able to attack from behind with a knee, but only two when a new ref appears. Koloff goes for another big clothesline, Flair ducks and the ref gets it again, this time for a bit longer. Another ref in trying to break up the brawling, Koloff shoves him away and my jaw drops as the bell is called for in just about twenty minutes.
Winner: Both are disqualified. Flair retains. Glasnost wasn’t that over clearly.
Verdict: Was actually quite good, but the finish ruined it. Imagine if they pulled this at a Wrestlemania main event? Just hot potato the belt if you want Flair as champ.
Refs and heels take to the ring to try and bring Koloff down, and there is a big beatdown. The faces come out to defend him, and we have an even bigger brawl. Flair blades at some point. Crowd sounds apathetic. They pipe up when Koloff gets his hands on Flair again, and the brawling continues. Eventually they are pulled apart. Replays, then Schiavone announces the result, to boos. The commentary teams run down what we have seen, we get thrown to a highlights package that is at least 75% still photos, and that will be all.
Best Wrestler: You know what, I’ll give it to Hector Guerrero. He was able to do moves out there that 95% of everyone else present could only dream of pulling off.
Best Match: There wasn’t really a stand-out one. I would go with the main event if it had an actual finish, but instead I will pick Rhodes/Blanchard, which was booked well in regards the stipulation.
Worst Wrestler: Take your pick of a lot of options, but in terms of guys still potentially in a position to go who look very limited, I’ll plump for Wahoo McDaniels, whose offense was terrible.
Worst Match: Will give this to the Scaffold Match, just because it was so dangerous and stupid, and on top of it all just wasn’t entertaining at all.
Overall Verdict: A long drawn out affair filled with mediocre or sub-par matches, capped off by main events that were either dull or booked stupid finishes. Even for the era this is a poor effort, at a time when the WWF were streaking ahead of the competition. And it’s just so long! Avoid.
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