PPV REVIEW: NWA/WCW WrestleWar 1989: Music City Showdown

NWA Wrestlewar 1989 - Music City Showdown poster
May 7, 1989
Nashville Municipal Auditorium, Nashville, Tennessee.

About six years ago, I got into my head the mad idea to watch and review every WWF/WWE pay per view from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. 

Thus, Retro Pro Wrestling was born.

Since that time, this whole blog has expanded into something bigger than I ever thought it would be, and I've since covered the beginning of the New World Order and all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff in between.

But look, sometimes, I get burned out following the history of modern pro wrestling chronological order for the sake of this blog, and simply want to watch wrestling for the sheer fun of it.

Normally, when this happens, I go digging through the WWE Network looking for something completely random to watch, and today - that completely random something just so happened to be this - the first ever Wrestlewar pay per view.

Was it worth the watch?

Let's find out together, shall we? 

Welcome to Wrestlewar '89

We began tonight with the opening credits, presented in all their late-80s neon glory with pictures of all tonight's stars appearing on screen like we were about to watch a daytime soap opera rather than a pro wrestling show.

Jim Ross and Bob Caudle introduced us to tonight's show, informing us that we would have no less than five title matches tonight.

From there, we got the American national anthem from some group named The Oak Ridge Boys, who I'm too lazy to Google but who basically look like a cheap knock Bee Gees knockoff.

Jim Ross then ran down the full card, including telling us that The Great Muta would be facing Junkyard Dog tonight.

Doug Gilbert vs. The Great Muta (w/ Gary Hart)

NWA Wrestlewar 1989 - The Great Muta beat Doug Gilbert As Muta made his entrance, Ross decided to tell us that JYD couldn't make it so Doug Gilbert would be filling in.

Seriously, did Ross just find that out when he noticed Gilbert in the ring? Would it not have been just as easy to announce him when he was running down the card just a second earlier?

Anyway, that aside, this was a good opening contest which delivered a lot in its short three minutes and sixteen seconds.

Muta looked awesome here whilst Gilbert was no slouch either. The two kept the pace quick and the action non-stop before The Pearl of the Orient hit a beautiful moonsault for the three count.
Your Winner: The Great Muta

Afterwards, Doug's brother 'Hotstuff' Eddie Gilbert jumped into the ring to confront Muta and his manager, the late Gary Hart.

To Be The Man...

NWA Wrestlewar 1989 - Lance Russell interviews Nature Boy Ric Flair against his title match with Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat
Backstage, Lance Russell interviewed The Nature Boy Ric Flair, who at this point in his career was only a five-time champion.

Flair styled and profiled his way through a typically charismatic promo in which he praised his upcoming opponent Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat as the greatest wrestler who ever lived, but still vowed to beat him when then met for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

Hacksaw Butch Reed vs. Ranger Ross

Honestly, I'd never heard of Ranger Ross before tonight but he was certainly an interesting character.

A former United States Army Paratrooper, he came to the ring accompanied by a group of military people, wore full camouflage pants and carried an American flag, but then when he got to the ring he took the pants off and gyrated his hips like Rick Rude.

When he got some offence, which he didn't do often in this match, he busted out a little dance.

It might just be me, but I can't help think that he was some kind of cross between Corporal Kirchner and Ernest Miller.

NWA Wrestlewar 1989 - Hacksaw Butch Reed faced Ranger Ross
I tell you all this because it was the most interesting thing about the match besides the fact that Teddy Long showed up.

Long had apparently been fired by the NWA but had a visitors' pass so that he could come to the ring and take notes.

The actual action sucked, with Hacksaw dominating and spending five years working a chinlock before getting the win.
Your Winner: Hacksaw Butch Reed

Prior to the next match, US Champion Lex Luger rushed through a clumsy promo in which he said the title was the most important thing in the world to him and therefore there was no way Michael P.S. Hayes could get it off him.

Texas Bullrope Match
Captain Redneck Dick Murdoch vs. Bob Orton (w/ Gary Hart)

NWA Wrestlewar 1989 - Dick Murdoch vs. Bob Orton
This was something like a strap match except there was no silly slapping of the turnbuckles to win, and the rope that tied Dick Murdoch and Bob Orton together had an actual bull rope on it.

Though short, the match was actually pretty fun in an old-school brawl kind of way.

Murdoch won by drilling his opponent with the cowbell and pinning him, but this one was far from over.
Your Winner: Dick Murdoch

Afterwards, Gary Hart helped Orton launch a full-scale attack on Murdoch, even wrapping the rope around his neck and hanging him.

It was brutal and violent and a captivating way to end an engaging contest.

Bob Caudle Interviews Michael P.S Hayes

NWA Wrestlewar 1989 - Michael P.S Hayes talks to Lance Russell about his title match against Lex Luger
Out in the back, Michael P.S Hayes cut a terrific promo in which he promised to defeat Lex Luger without any help from the Fabulous Freebirds, without any foreign objects or anything.

This was great stuff from the future Hall of Famer.

Samoan Swat Team (Samu & Fatu w/ Paul E. Dangerously) vs. Dynamic Dudes (Johnny and Shane)

Before the match got underway, Paul E. Dangerously got in some practice for his time as Brock Lesnar's advocate by taking to the mic to introduce Samu & Fatu to the live crowd.

After Dangerously had done his bit, two bleach-blonde surfer types named Johnny and Shane ran to the ring carrying honest to goodness skateboards.

It would have been far more impressive if they'd actually skated, but let's not nitpick.

For those of you who need it explaining, the Dynamic Dudes are Shane Douglas and Johnny 'Ace' Laurinitis.

NWA Wrestlewar 1989 - Dynamic Dudes vs. Samoan Swat Team (w/ Paul E. Dangerously)
The two had a look that just screamed 'jobber' and, alas, that's exactly what they looked like at first, getting absolutely destroyed by the Samoan Swat Team.

Yet in what we were told was a surprising upset, Shane got the win when he was about to be slammed by one of the Headshrinkers but Johnny dropkicked him. He landed on his opponent, got the three count, and this one was over.
Your Winners: The Samoan Swat Team

Out in the back, Lance Russell interviewed Lou Thesz, Pat O'Conner, and Terry Funk.

The trio had been brought in to act as judges for the upcoming Flair/Steamboat match as the two had a tendency to go long and wrestle to a draw. Having Thesz, O'Conner, and Funk to score them like in a boxing match would guarantee a winner.

The three gave some not very interesting comments about their judges role, whilst this writer wonders if a similar gimmick couldn't be used in today's product.

National Wrestling Alliance United States Heavyweight Championship
NWA United States Champion Lex Luger (w/ Some Random Men) vs. Michael P.S Hayes (w/ Hiro Matsuda)

NWA - Wrestlewar 1989 - Michael P.S. Hayes beat Lex Luger for the United States title
Lex Luger had a group of black men bust out a power jog alongside him as he walked to the ring which was never explained. The presence of Hiro Matsuda in Michael Hayes' corner wasn't acknowledged in the intros either, so I had to look that one up.

Anyway, this turned out to be an above-average match with an exciting finishing sequence in which Luger lifted Hayes up and press slammed him no less than three times before the Freebird countered the Torture Rack with a DDT.

Luger still looked to be in control, but referee Nick Patrick took a tumble, allowing Hayes' Freebird partner, Terry 'Bam Bam' Gordy to sneak in and just kind of push Hayes on top of Luger.

A three count later and this one was over.
Your Winner and New United States Champion: Michael P.S Hayes

NWA - Wrestlewar 1989 - Sting talks to Lance Russell about his TV title match with The Iron Sheik
Backstage, Lance Russel stood by with Television Champion, Sting.

The Stinger was on some kind of mad sugar rush as he raves on about just how excited he was to be heading out to the ring.

Not once did he mention his opponent or his upcoming title defence, just how happy he was to be heading out there.

National Wrestling Alliance World Television Championship
NWA World TV Champion Sting vs. The Iron Sheik (w/ Rip Morgan) 

Prior to this one getting underway, The Iron Sheik yelled at the ring announcer and forced him to inform the crowd that he was a former world champion.

Rip Morgan then attacked Sting from behind, and whilst the referee was busy admonishing Morgan for his behaviour, Sheiky Baby waylaid the champ with his Iranian flag.

Alas, despite such dirty deeds, tonight was not the night for Sheik to break Sting's back nor make him humble.

After just a short couple of minutes, the challenger found himself trapped in the Scorpion Deathlock and forced to submit.
Your Winner and Still NWA TV Champion: Sting

NWA - Wrestlewar 1989 - Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat cuts a backstage promo on hisopponent, Ric Flair
Backstage, Lance Russel interviewed World Champion Ricky 'The Dragon Steamboat about his upcoming defence against Ric Flair.

Never the greatest promo man in the world, Steamboat waffled his way through an awkward monologue about how the best man was going to win.

It was cringeworthy.

National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship
NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat vs. 'Nature Boy' Ric Flair

To give you some idea of the contrasting characters of Steamboat and Flair, the challenger came to the ring accompanied by a bevvy of 40 beauties, none of whom seemed too thrilled to be there.

Meanwhile, Steamboat was joined by his wife and son, who rode a pony to the ring for no real reason.

NWA Wrestlewar 1989 - Ricky Steamboat defends the NWA title against Ric Flair
After the introductions of both the competitors and our ringside judges, this one was on.

Not only was it on, it was also -as you might expect- the highlight of the night by a million miles.

For over 30 minutes, Flair and Steamboat put on a fantastic display of pro wrestling which proved beyond any doubt why they were both among the sport's all-time greats.

Though I doubt this was the kind of match that could happen today given the limited attention spans of modern audiences, it was still an absolute joy to watch.

After an outstanding effort from both men, Nature Boy rolled up The Dragon to capture his sixth Worlds title.
Your Winner and New NWA World Heavyweight Champion: Ric Flair

Post-match, Steamboat shook Flair's hand and raised his arm in a display of sportsmanship before Jim Ross entered the ring to get a few words from our new champion.

Not that he was able to get very many.

NWA Wrestlewar 1989: Terry Funk interrupts a post-match promo with new world champion Ric Flair
Flair was only just able to put Steamboat over as a great competitor and declare how proud he was to be the six-time champion before Terry Funk, one of the judges for the match, interrupted.

In fact, he interrupted several times, each time putting Flair over before challenging him for the title.

In response, Nature Boy claimed that whilst he respected The Funker, Terry had spent too much time out in Hollywood 'hanging with Sylvester Stallone' to be considered a top contender.

Besides, said Flair, as Champion, he was obligated to first defend the title against the NWA's own list of top ten contenders.

As you can imagine, Terry didn't take too kindly to this and promptly turned on The Nature Boy, beating him to a pulp outside the ring and Piledriving him onto a table.

This still being the 80s, the quality of wrestling tables hadn't yet declined to the point that they immediately broke on impact, so both Flair and Funk simply fell off it instead.

To finish, Terry blasted the fallen champion with a chair then yelled into Jim Ross' microphone that Flair was a 'horse-toothed, banana-nosed jerk!'

Ouch, mind your language Terry, there's kids present!

Nikita Koloff Will Not Be Intimidated

Cutting to the back, an enormous chin with a microphone Interviewed Nikita Koloff about Koloff's role as the special guest referee in tonight's upcoming tag team title match.

Nikita vowed not to be intimidated by either team, and insisted that he would be a fair, impartial referee.

National Wrestling Alliance World Tag Team Champions The Varsity Club (Mike Rotunda & Dr. Death Steve Williams w/ Games Master Kevin Sullivan) vs. The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal w/ Paul Ellering)

A short, fun, and explosive contest saw Hawk & Animal take the fight right to Mike Rotunda and Steve Williams and basically destroy them.

Yet just when it looked like we were one Doomsday Device away from new champions, Kevin Sullivan (who had been ordered to the back by Koloff) and Dan Spivey ran out to interfere.

A wild brawl ensued, resulting in the tag champs getting disqualified.
Your Winners via DQ: The Road Warriors (Varsity Club retain the titles)

National Wrestling Alliance United States Tag Team Championship
NWA United States Tag Team Champions The First Family (Hot Stuff Eddie Gilbert & Rick Steiner w/ Missy Hyatt) vs. The Varsity Club (Games Master Kevin Sullivan & Dan Spivey)

NWA Wrestlewar 1989 - Missy Hyatt leads Eddie Gilbert and Rick Steiner to the ring
Gilbert and Sullivan (lol) began the match in the ring whilst Spivey attacked Rick Steiner on the outside and injured him by driving his shoulder into the ring post.

That left Eddie Gilbert to wrestle the entire match alone, making his win all the more impressive.

After a few minutes of decent action, Steiner snuck into the ring and blasted Sullivan with a vicious clothesline. Sullivan got the win, and this one was over.
Your Winners and Still NWA US Tag Team Champions: The First Family

Understandably upset about the result, Sullivan and Spivey attacked their opponents, with the latter even going after the delightful Missy Hyatt until Sullivan came to her aid.

Rotunda & Williams Stripped Of Their Titles

In their end-of-show wrap-up, Jim Ross and Bob Caudle informed us that Mike Rotunda and Steve Williams had been stripped of their Tag Team titles as punishment for the way that their earlier defence ended.

We then got some final thoughts from our commentators about the Flair/Funk situation, and that was the end of that.

Of all the random shows I could have chosen to review this week, I have no idea why I picked Wrestlewar '89.
I tell you what though, I'm glad I did.
Built around that epic Flair/Steamboat clash, this show had a lot to like about it, especially in the second half of the card.

If you're looking for something different to watch for a few hours, this is one show I definitely recommend.

Looking for more shows from 1989? See:

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  1. Ranger Ross was a mid-car face for a couple years in WCW. He won a vast majority of his big matches but never got over enough to move up the card.
    He eventually left wrestling and chose the wrestler's fallback career of armed robbery. After serving more than a decade in jail he returned to independent wrestling in the Georgia area.