Thursday, 17 December 2020

EVENT REVIEW: NWA Starrcade 1986 - The Night of the Skywalkers

NWA Starrcade 1986 (The Skywalkers) - VHS cover
November 27, 1986 
Greensboro Coliseum Complex, Greensboro, North Carolina 
Omni Coliseum in Atlanta, Georgia

For the second year in a row, the National Wrestling Alliance's marquee event of the year came to us live from two different venues in Greensboro and Atlanta.

I thought I'd read somewhere that there was also a Kansas portion to this show, though that seems not to have been the case.

Thank goodness too, because with just the two venues, Starrcade 1986 ran to four hours long, setting a record for the longest Starrcade in history that would remain unbroken by the time of the last event in 2000.

Still, unlike the four-hour chore that would be Wrestlemania 4, this event proved that having a super-long event didn't have to mean compromising on quality entertainment.

Don't believe me? Here's what went down on the Night of the Skywalkers.







Welcome to The Night of the Sky Walkers

NWA Starrcade 1986 (The Skywalkers) - Tony "Good Mustache" Schiavone & Rick Stewart
Tonight was the first Starrcade to feature anything like a proper intro. While all of the previous shows had started with the action already in the ring, Starrcade ‘86 went full-on 80s with a seizure-inducing light show and rocking guitar riff.

This super cool intro gave way to an awesome shot of the arena with the scaffold for tonight’s main event looking large over the ring.

As fired up as ever, ring announcer Tom Miller played MC at the Greensboro venue, welcoming us to the show and inviting us to stand for the playing of the National Anthem before sending it over to Atlanta where Tony Schiavone and his glorious mustache were standing by with fellow commentator, Rick Stewart.

The Atlanta commentators were psyched about the big scaffold match while their counterparts in Greensboro -Johnny Weaver and Bob Caudle- were more interested in the rest of the card, starting with our opening match.

Tim Horner & Nelson Royal vs. The Kernodle Brothers (Don & Rocky Kernodle)

NWA Starrcade 1986 (The Skywalkers) - Nelson Royal puts a hurting on Don Kernodle
Honestly, I’m happy to see Don Kernodle competing on this card. The guy had appeared at every Starrcade event so far yet this was his first time actually wrestling at the NWA’s marquee event.

Tonight, he teamed with his brother Rocky to face Nelson Royal and future Smoky Mountain Wrestling star, Tim Horner.

Though it wasn’t the longest match in the world, it was pretty good and featured some quality wrestling and fast-paced action from bell-to-bell.

After a solid six-or-so minutes, Horner got the roll-up on Rocky Kernodle and This one was over.
Your Winners: Tim Horner & Nelson Royal

Moving on...

Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin (w/ Precious) vs. Brad Armstrong

NWA Starrcade 1986 (The Skywalkers) - Jimmy Garvin hurts Brad ArmstrongThis was another great match.

Brad Armstrong spent so much time floundering in the lower echelons of the card during his time on the main stage that it’s easy to forget what a talented performer he really was. Combined with Jimmy Garvin’s unquestionable charisma and flamboyance, it made for an entertaining contest that told a simple story.

As the aggressor, Garvin continually looked to wear down Armstrong and eventually put him away, but his resilient opponent refused to stay down and took the Gorgeous one quite literally to the limit.

The time expired, rendering this a draw, but as the minutes went by, the crowded were swept up in the story of Garvin growing ever more desperate to win and Armstrong sneaking near falls wherever he could.
Time-Limit Draw

Afterwards, Precious distracted Brad so that Garvin could attack, but Armstrong met him with a flurry of fists and sent him packing, much to the delight of the live crowd.

The Barbarian & Shaska Whately vs. Barron Von Rashke & Hector Guerrero

NWA Starrcade 1986 (The Skywalkers) - Shaska Whately & The Barbarian
Yes, Barron Von Rashke was a babyface now but hadn’t actually changed anything about his character, making for an odd moment when the crowd cheered loudly for a guy doing a goose step despite all the connotations.

The match itself was one of those that the live crowd clearly enjoyed yet didn’t translate well to television viewing, at least not 34 years after the fact.

After a passable but forgettable contest, Rashke picked up the pinfall for his team.
Your Winners: Barron Von Rashke & Hector Guerrero

Post-match, Shaska Whately and Barbarian threw Hector Guerrero out of the ring and beat up on Rashke until Guerrero returned for the save.

Leave Me Alone, Johnny

Backstage in Greensboro, Johnny Weaver told us that Dusty Rhodes had been uncharacteristically quiet as of late, refusing to give any interviews about his upcoming World Television Championship defence.

Just to prove it, Weaver poked his head inside The American Dream’s dressing room and asked him to come out. As a viewer, all we heard was the champion encouraging Weaver to leave him alone.

No Disqualification Match for the National Wrestling Alliance United States Tag Team Championship
NWA US Tag Team Champions Ivan Koloff & Krusher Khruschev vs. The Kansas Jayhawks (Bobby Jaggers & Dutch Mantel)

NWA Starrcade 1986 (The Skywalkers) - Ivan Koloff & Krusher Kruschev
Despite the stipulation, this was mostly just a normal tag team match in which it appeared that nobody involved actually had any idea it was No DQ.

That was decent enough -not great, not the kind of thing that anybody would be raving about afterwards, but decent and inoffensive- though when all hell broke loose in the final minute and whips and chains got involved, it suddenly turned into a lot of fun.

That wild brawl at the finish culminated in Krusher Khruschev blasted Bobby Jaggers in the back of the head with Ivan Koloff’s trusty chain. Koloff himself made the cover and that was all she wrote.
Your Winners and Still US Tag Team Champions: Ivan Koloff & Krusher Khruschev

‘Ricky, you are so ravishing, where do you come from?’ asked a sultry voice as Ravishing Rick Rude’s weird theme music played. Honestly, I don’t know if this is a WWE Network dub or his actual NWA theme, but my goodness it was strange.

NWA Starrcade 1986 (The Skywalkers) - Wahoo McDaniel Indian Strap Match
Ravishing Rick Rude (w/ Paul Jones) vs. Chief Wahoo McDaniel

A lot of other reviewers have ripped this match to shreds but this writer -ever the optimist- quite enjoyed it.

Ok, so it wasn’t a technical marvel or anything, but the crowd were firmly into it, and that made all the difference.

Wahoo McDaniel won after touching the first three corners and then being pushed into the fourth by Rude.
Your Winner: Wahoo McDaniel

Rude and Paul Jones attacked the chief after the bell but Barron Von Rashke and Hector Guerrero came to his aid.

NWA Starrcade 1986 (The Skywalkers) - Ivan Koloff & Krusher Kruschev
Backstage, Rick Stewart interviewed Ivan Koloff & Krusher Khruschev.

Proud of themselves for getting past ‘the jaywalkers’ Ivan and Krusher had their sights set on an upcoming bunkhouse stampede match, though not before paying attention to their former ally Nikita Koloff and his World Heavyweight Championship match with champion Ric Flair.

The Russians were angry at Dusty Rhodes for ‘Americanising’ Nikita but still hoped Koloff won anyway so that they could challenge and defeat him for the title.

Although not the greatest promo in the world, this was pretty compelling stuff that did a great job of advancing the storylines.

National Wrestling Alliance Central States Championship
NWA Central States Champion Sam Houston vs. Bill Dundee

NWA Starrcade 1986 (The Skywalkers) - Sam Houston battled Bill Dundee
Seriously, how many different titles did the NWA have?

This match probably has its critics too, but honestly, I enjoy any match where two guys just wrestle each other and look like they desperately want to win.

Again, this won’t ever be regarded as an all-time classic, but both men did the best they could with what they had and the results were enjoyable.

Towards the finish, referee Scrappy ‘Good Name’ McGowan got bumped in the corner. Bill Dundee used this opportunity to yank Sam Houston’s boot off and hit the champion over the head with it, only for Scrappy to reveal he’d seen the whole thing and disqualify him.
Your Winner and Still Central States Champion: Sam Houston

Up next, the latest in the never-ending rivalry between Jimmy Valiant and Paul Jones.

Hair vs. Hair Match
Jimmy Valiant (w/ Big Mama) vs. Paul Jones (w/ Manny Fernandez)

Valiant had already lost a Hair vs. Hair match to Jones on that summer’s Great American Bash tour, so if he lost today it would be his valet Big Mama who would lose her locks.

Since the aforementioned Bash, Valiant’s former ally Manny Fernandez has betrayed him and aligned himself with Jones. Tonight, he would be suspended in a cage above the ring for the duration of the match even though it took four babyfaces to get him in there.

The match itself was, like most Jimmy Valiant matches from the mid-80s, not very good. Still, the crowd loved it so what can you do?

After a few minutes of nothing noteworthy happening, Valiant seized possession of Jones’ random International Object, blasted his nemesis in the face with it and won the match.
Your Winner: Jimmy Valiant

Post-match, Valiant got to work on turning Jones into a bald-headed geek but was eventually attacked by Fernandez and Rick Rude. The two hit The Boogie Woogie Man with a wicked-looking spike-DDT on a chair that was the best spot in this whole part of the show, but then Barron Von Rashke and Wahoo McDaniel chased them off.

Welcome to Intermission


While the show went to intermission, we cut to a vignette in which Nelson Royal invited us to join him for a cup of coffee by a roaring campfire as he explained the backstory of the Bunkhouse Brawl and the Bunkhouse Stampede event.

The whole thing seemed a little goofy at first but actually made for a fascinating watch as we learned the kayfabe story behind the whole thing.

For the curious, Royal told us that, once upon a time, cowboys working on ranches used to take lodgings in bunkhouses and there’d be so many guys living under one roof that issues were bound to come up. When they did, the men who were at odds with one another would go outside ‘just as they were in their jeans, their shirt, their spurs’ and fight until only one man was left standing.

We’d see this combined with a pro wrestling battle royal at the second annual Bunkhouse Stampede event, coming soon.

We also got a look at the 1986 Jim Crocket Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament which had been won by the Road Warriors. The second such tournament would be coming our way in April 1987.

With that, intermission was over and it was back to the show.

Louisville Street Fight
Ronnie Garvin vs. Big Bubba Rogers (w/ Jim Cornette)

Bubba Rogers' theme was basically The Blues Brothers theme, which was lots of fun.

NWA Starrcade 1986 (The Skywalkers) - Big Bubba faced Ronnie Garvin in a Louisville Street Fight
The Louisville Street Fight rules gave he and Ronnie Garvin carte blanche to go anywhere in the arena and basically do anything they wanted. Instead, they stayed exclusively in the ring (give or take the odd time Bubba got thrown outside) and did nothing more extraordinary than having Garvin choke his opponent with a piece of cord and throw a Pepsi in his face.

It was pretty disappointing, especially when the finish was a straight rehash of the same one Garvin had used in his taped fist match with Tully Blanchard on the first night of that year’s Great American Bash tour.

Referee Tommy Young got knocked down. Garvin took out Bubba with a piledriver but got clocked over the head by a tennis-racket-wielding Jim Cornette.

Young came to and when neither man stirred before the count of ten, he declared that there must be a winner and the first man to his feet would be it. That part was exactly the same as the aforementioned Garvin/Blanchard match. Where things differed was that when Garvin almost got to his feet, Cornette once again whacked him with the tennis racket, allowing Bubba to get to his feet and win the match.

The whole thing got better towards the finish, but you got the feeling they could have done a lot more with this.
Your Winner: Big Bubba

If you hadn’t yet had enough of gimmick matches, or if blood being featured in almost every match you were in for a treat as our next match would give us both.

First Blood Match for the National Wrestling Alliance World Television Championship
NWA TV Champion Dusty Rhodes vs. Tully Blanchard (w/ James J. Dillon)

NWA Starrcade 1986 (The Skywalkers) - Dusty Rhodes wearing a Magnum TA t-shirt
Years before the WWF would do this regularly, we saw Dusty Rhodes walking through the backstage area en route to the arena. It was a cooler site than I can adequately describe.

He wore a Magnum T.A t-shirt in tribute to the superstar whose career had been tragically cut short following a tragic automobile accident that October, and had the word ‘Tully’ painted on the side of his head because why wouldn’t he?

Once he got to the ring, he and Blanchard delivered a fun performance, not so much because of their actual wrestling but because of the storytelling and theatrics of it all.

Before we began, James J. Dillon drew some major heel heat for his man by putting a head guard on him. When referee Earl Hebner made him take it off, Dillon started to coat his man’s face in Vaseline to protect him from getting cut open.

While Hebner was busy wiping that off the challenger’s face, Dusty hit Dillon with his patented bionic and bust him open. Yep, the NWA loved blood so much in the 1980s that even the managers couldn’t resist blading.

After a short, decent brawl, Hebner got bumped, because who says having two ‘the referee was knocked out’ finishes in back-to-back matches is overkill?

With him down, Dusty used his elbow to make the challenger bleed, but Dillon covered up the cut with Vaseline and handed his man a roll of quarters that Blanchard used to cut open the champion.

Hebner came to, and there was a hilarious bit where he looked at the blood gushing down Dusty’s face with a state of utter disbelief, wiped it on his own finger, stared at his own hand in shock then looked at Dusty with a double-take and did it again.

Without bothering to look at Tully, our man Earl called for the bell and we had ourselves a new champion.
Your Winner and New TV Champion: Tully Blanchard

Afterwards, Dusty cried out in shock and dismay before protesting to Hebner. When the official refused to change his decision, The American Dream tossed him from the ring.

As I said, the actual wrestling wasn’t great, but the story was a lot of fun.

Scaffold Match
The Midnight Express (Beautiful Bobby Eaton & Loverboy Dennis Condrey w/ Jim Cornette and Big Bubba) vs. The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal w/ Paul Ellering)

NWA Starrcade 1986 (The Skywalkers) - The Midnight Express and The Road Warriors in a scaffold match
I started watching this match with anxious trepidation, knowing the sickening injury Jim Cornette suffered at the finish.

Indeed, the whole thing was more of a morbid curiosity than an actual wrestling match. Being the hesitant heels that they were, Beautiful Bobby and Loverboy Dennis took several years just to get on top of the scaffolding. When they got there it quickly became apparent that everyone -including the badass Road Warriors- was absolutely terrified.

Even Hawk and Animal clung tightly to the sides as they moved timidly and with trepidation in an attempt to give us some kind of match.

This is absolutely spectacular,” said Schiavone,  lying.

Admittedly, things did get a little bit more exciting towards the finish when all four men began scaling their way down the support structure and ended up swinging from the underside of the platform.

It was a cool visual that resulted in The Midnight Express taking some sick bumps down to the canvas, thus losing the match.
Your Winners: The Road Warriors

Afterwards, Paul Ellering chased Cornette, who, in his fear-inducing stupidity, climbed to the top of the scaffold.

Ellering and Animal met him up there, so Cornette had no choice but to jump down. I say jump, it was a nasty fall that saw him land on his feet and immediately crumple to the mat with a broken knee bone and all kinds of ligament and cartilage damage.

Ouch.

Great American Bash Highlights

NWA Starrcade 1986 (The Skywalkers) - Starrcade Control with Bob Taylor
If you missed that summer’s Great American Bash tour, no worries, the Starrcade ‘86 control center had a highlights package for you.

You can also read reviews of two of the shows in this blog.

The highlights package was followed by another intermission during which time Tony Schiavone hyped up the rolling of the credits like it was some big deal.

I don’t know about you, but it strikes me as somehow fitting that a company that would become the badly-managed WCW would put the end credits in the middle of the show.

Sure enough, they rolled away, giving a Senior Producer credit to the one and only Virgil Runnels.

Schiavone also told us that there were only two matches left on this show, so these must be som pretty long matches.

Cage Match for the National Wrestling Alliance World Tag Team Championship
NWA World Tag Team Champions The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson) vs. The Andersons (Ole & Arn Anderson)

NWA Starrcade 1986 (The Skywalkers) - The Rock 'n' Roll Express defended the tag team titles against The Andersons
You know, it never fails to amaze me just how insanely over the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express were in their prime.  I bet you could put them in the same ring as Hulk Hogan at the height of Hulkamania and it would be difficult to tell who was the most popular.

Speaking of amazing, this tag team title classic truly is a gem worth watching.

Both teams were at their best here, The Andersons as evil heels taking great pleasure in the pain they were able to inflict on their opponents and The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express as they courageous babyfaces who refused to surrender.

Together, it made for incredible drama, the crowds cheering their heads off as Morton played face-in-peril role that he did so well it became named after him, and took it to a whole new level. At one point, he came within a fingertips length of making the hot tag to Robert Gibson only to be cruelly denied by Ole and Arn.

There was, however, good news for the champion’s loud and diehard audience. After the match broke down into an all-out brawl, Morton got the win after Gibson dropkicked him on top of his opponent.
Your Winners and Still Tag Team Champions: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express

Post-match, The Andersons attacked the champions until Ricky & Robert we’re able to escape the cave.

National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship
NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nature Boy Ric Flair vs. NWA US Champion Nikita Koloff

NWA Starrcade 1986 (The Skywalkers) - Nikita Koloff challenged Ric Flair for the World Heavyweight Championship
According to all sources, this was originally planned to be Flair defending the title against Magnum T.A. since Magnum’s accident had put paid to those plans.

As a tribute, we first saw a video paying homage to T.A That had him running down along a beach and holding hands with his mother. As far as I can gather, this was originally set to a the song ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ but due to licensing it was replaced with a weird song that made it seem as though Magnum was in love with his mum.

Anyway, that aside, this was a quality match. Maybe it wasn’t the best main event of all time, but it was certainly compelling and made for an enjoyable watch.

After a grilling back and forth battle, referee Tommy Young got knocked to the outside.

Nikita Koloff took down Flair and covered him, giving us the old routine where the babyface should have won because he technically covered the heel for the count of three but there was no referee.

Scrappy McGoodname then got involved but he too got flattened. Young returned, but then got pushed down by both men, resulting in the double DQ finish.
Double DQ

Afterwards, half the heels who had competed on the show (but strangely none of Flair’s Four Horsemen teammates) helped the champion attack Koloff, only for the babyface contingent to rush to the rescue.

After that, Schiavone and Stewart reminisced over some of the show’s highlights and that was Starrcade over with for another year.







Starrcade had started with a bang with a good show back in 1983 but had suffered from two lackluster installments in 1984 and 1985. In 1986, however, the brand came back strong with its most enjoyable episode to date.

Though not every match was world-class caliber stuff, only the poor Valiant/Jones match left a bad taste in the mouth while everything else ranged from decent to awesome.

Even the scaffold match -though not good in the technical sense- was intriguing enough to make it watchable.

The tag team title cage match stole the show and must have been up there as a serious Match of the Year contender.

On the whole, a pretty good show, even if it was on the long side.




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Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.