PPV REVIEW: WCW / NWA Chi-Town Rumble 1989

NWA Chi-Town Rumble 1989 - Event Poster
February 20, 1989 
UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois

The 1989 Chi-Town Rumble was the only such NWA event with this name, yet just because it was a one-off doesn't mean it wasn't important.

After all, when people talk about Nature Boy Ric Flair's greatest opponents, Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat's name inevitably comes close to the top -if not right at the very top- of that list.

The reason for that is simple:

The two had some incredible matches together, the first of which took place right here on this very card.

Steamboat had not long since returned to the NWA after a several-year stint in the World Wrestling Federation, and immediately made Flair his target.

Still, we'll get to all that later.  

For now, let's head to Chicago, Illinois for the first, last, and only, NWA Chi-Town Rumble. 

It’s a Cold and Snowy Night In Chicago

NWA Chi-Town Rumble 1989 - Jim Ross & Magnum TA
We began tonight’s proceedings with a relatively simple introduction, featuring clips of the NWA’s star performers doing their thing presented in a wonderfully 80s format.

Coming live to an arena that was presented more like the kind of major wrestling shows we’d get in the 90s rather than the dark, dingy and cluttered 80s events, our announcers Jim Ross and Magnum TA then welcomed us to a cold and snowy night in Chicago for the Chi-Town Rumble.

The duo ran down every match on tonight’s card before sending us to a second video package showing us what to expect from the show.

This wasn’t a recap of the main feuds or storylines. It featured nothing that might make you get emotionally invested in what you were about to watch. Rather, it served as a highlight reel, showcasing tonight’s performers slamming and bumping around the ring interspersed with multiple shots of Road Warrior Hawk poking his tongue out.

It was OK for what it was, but let’s be honest, it can’t have accomplished much. Fans had already bought the show. They already had some idea of what to expect.

Anyway, when it was over, Ross and Magnum sent us backstage for our first promo of the evening.

It’s Showtime!

NWA Chi-Town Rumble 1989 - Michael 'P.S' Hayes gave an insane promo to Bob Caudle
Out in the back, Bob Caudle asked Michael P.S Hayes about his upcoming match against The Russian Assassin.

Hayes had apparently decided that he didn’t want to talk about that. In fact, he didn’t want to talk much at all. He much preferred to yell, REALLY LOUDLY AND EXCITEDLY, about the show’s upcoming title matches, none of which he was involved in.

He then wrapped things up with a very basic ‘oh and of course I’m gonna kick this guy’s butt’ kind of message before shouting some more about it being showtime and making his way to the ring.

Well, alright then.

Michael P.S Hayes vs. The Russian Assassin (w/ Paul Jones)

NWA Chi-Town Rumble 1989 - Paul Jones with The Russian Assassin
Michael Hayes has red, white, and blue literally running through his veins,” said JR.

I’m not sure, but I think that’s maybe something Hayes might want to see a doctor about.

The match itself was a slow, simple affair which may not be all that appealing when viewed through the filter of modern pro wrestling, but which kept the fans suitably entertained and remains a decent watch if you view in the context of the period.

After trading the advantage several times, The Russian Assassin shot Michael Hayes into the ropes only for the Freebird to plant him with a sweet DDT for the one, the two, and the three.
Your Winner: Michael P.S Hayes

Post match, Hayes did a lap of the ring, hi-fiving fans as Bad Street USA blared through the PA.

He’s a Family Man

NWA Chi-Town Rumble 1989 - Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat was a family man
One of my favourite moments on the WCW Slam Jam album is the track about what a great guy Ricky Steamboat was because he didn’t cheat on his wife.

Tonight, he played up that Family Man gimmick as he gave an interview to Bob Caudle with his wife and child by his side.

To be fair, the family man thing worked to establish how different he was from the limousine-riding, jet-flying playboy that was his arch-rival Nature Boy Ric Flair, but it did little to help his promo ability.

The dragon stumbled his way through a monotone promo that was so dull I’ve forgotten anything he said even though I only just watched it. What’s more, he was upstaged by his infant son who kept grabbing Caudle’s microphone and bringing it to his face. It was so funny that I don’t know how anyone in the promo kept a straight face.

Sting vs. Hacksaw Butch Reed (w/ Hiro Matsuda)

NWA Chi-Town Rumble 1989 - Sting vs. Butch Reed
Sting started his career as a tag team wrestler,”
said Jim Ross. “But it’s fair to say he has far surpassed his partners by now.”

Man, talk about the ultimate burn.

This match won’t be included in any Best of Sting compilations, but it was still good for what it was - a lengthy battle in which Butch Reed was forced to use dastardly heel tactics to compete with the strength, speed, and agility of Sting.

Those heel tactics clearly didn’t endear Reed to referee Teddy Long.

After admonishing Hacksaw several times throughout this reasonably entertaining contest, Long refused to break Sting’s pin attempt when Reed grabbed the ropes.

Instead, he moved Reed’s hand off the rope, counted the fall, and that was that.
Your Winner: Sting

Afterward, the two continued to brawl. This was not over yet.

Paul E. Dangerously is Smart

NWA Chi-Town Rumble 1989 - Paul E. Dangerously with The Original Midnight Express
Backstage, Paul E. Dangerously told Bob Caudle that he’d sent Dennis Condrey on vacation and temporarily replaced him with Jack Victory.

This meant that Jim Cornette’s Midnight Express would be going up against someone they knew nothing about, giving Heyman’s original Midnights a greater chance of victory.

Offering a retort, Jim Cornette and his team insisted that they would still emerge victorious. 

Both managers were, as always, great.

Losing Team Must Leave the NWA
The Original Midnight Express (Randy Rose, Jack Victory, and Paul E. Dangerously) vs. The Midnight Express (Stan Lane, Bobby Eaton, and Jim Cornette)

Cornette and Dangerously may have been great managers but they were not good wrestlers, and I doubt this match would have been any worse without the two of them flailing about the place.

Although Cornette’s Midnights had been part of many really good matches, this sadly wasn’t one of them.

Not out right terrible or anything but just kind of there.

To the shock of no one at all, Cornette, Stan Lane, and Bobby Eaton won, sending the other team packing.
Your Winners: The Midnight Express

NWA Chi-Town Rumble 1989 - Ric Flair cuts a promo on his opponent, Ricky Steamboat
Out in the back, Ric Flair styled and profiled his way through a compelling promo about how he was going to beat Ricky Steamboat later. 


All the while, Flair’s manager Hiro Matsuda looked on.

National Wrestling Alliance World Television Championship
NWA TV Champion Rick Steiner (w/ Scott Steiner) vs. Mike Rotunda

This was not all that good.

Notable for being the first PPV of appearance of Scott Steiner it was largely a lifeless affair between the former Varsity Club team mates and college athletes.

Things did get interesting towards the end, but it’s hard to say whether that’s a good thing or not.

Rick Steiner was in control until Kevin Sullivan came down and insinuated that it would be awful if anything were to happen to Steiner’s dog.

That confused and distracted the Dog Faced Gremlin, but not enough for Rotunda to get the win. Instead, the match continued with the champion regaining control, putting a sleeper hold on Rotunda and dropping to the mat.

Being the simpleton he was portrayed to be, Steiner lay flat back on the mat while holding Rotunda on top of him. Noticing that the champion’s shoulders were technically on the mat, Teddy Long counted to three and Mike Rotunda regained the title he’d just lost back at Starrcade ‘88.
Your Winner and new TV Champion: Mike Rotunda

Naturally, the beffudled Steiner Brothers protested the decision while Rotunda’s Varsity Club team mates Kevin Sullivan and Steve Williams helped him high tail out of there.

The Road Warriors are On Their Way

Out in the back, World Tag Team Champions The Road Warriors and Paul Ellering told Bob Caudle they they were going to destroy the Varsity Club in a typically SHOUTY BIG MAN promo.

National Wrestling Alliance United States Championship
NWA US Champion Barry Windham (w/ Hiro Matsuda) vs. Lex Luger

NWA Chi-Town Rumble 1989 - Barry Windham prepares to Superplex Lex Luger
This was a much better match, not so much for any of the actual action but because it told a sensible story and had a hot crowd.

At first, this was just a typical battle of the big men before Barry Windham went to punch Lex Luger outside the ring. Luger moved and Windham struck the ring post, doing major damage to the hand he used for his patented claw.

From there, the champion’s every effort was thwarted by his own injury.

The only dumb point was the finish. It was one of those German suplex deals were both men have their shoulders to the mat and one lifts theirs up first. In this case, it was Luger, earning himself a new title shot.

There was nothing especially wrong with that, but it came from out of nowhere and was far too similar to the ending of the last match for this fan’s liking.
Your Winner and New US Champion: Lex Luger

NWA Chi-Town Rumble 1989 - Mike Rotunda is angry about being the TV champion
Out in the back, Mike Rotunda gave an intense interview to Bob Caudle.

The WWE Network name for this segment tells us that Rotunda celebrated his victory.

Really, the future tax man just seemed annoyed that Rick Steiner would even dare to exist, let alone hold the TV title for a few months.

Speaking of titles, after a few words from Ross and Magnum TA, it was back to ringside for our next match.

National Wrestling Alliance World Tag Team Championship
NWA Tag Team Champions The Road Warriors (w/ Paul Ellering) vs. The Varsity Club (Kevin Sullivan & Dr. Death Steve Williams)

NWA Chi-Town Rumble 1989 - Kevin Sullivan hurts Road Warrior Animal
If you like your wrestling matches to have non-straight-forward finishes, this was clearly the show for you.

After several minutes of reasonable match that was everything you’d probably expect it to be, Dr Death pinned Animal while Hawk came off the ropes and drilled Sullivan with a flying clothesline and pinned him.

With a member of each team making the cover, the referee counted to three so both teams thought they’d won. Ultimately, the ref gave the match to Hawk and Animal.

It was a dumb way to end the match.
Your Winners and still Tag Team Champions: The Road Warriors

NWA Chi-Town Rumble 1989 - Bob Caudle interviews a banged up Lex Luger
Backstage, a somber and beat-up Lex Luger talked about how badly he and Barry Windham had hurt one another in the last match.

Finally, a video reminded us of the time Ricky Steamboat had returned to the NWA after a spell in the WWF.

Having done so, The Dragon set about upstaging Ric Flair on TV and then stripped him down to his undies and beaten him up a week later.

The two would meet next.

National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship
NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair (w/ Hiro Matsuda) vs. Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat.

NWA Chi-Town Rumble 1989 - Ricky Steamboat wins the World Heavyweight Championship
For what it’s worth, this was Steamboat’s first PPV appearance since Wrestlemania 4 and his first appearance on a major NWA event since we last saw him at Starrcade 1984.

Tonight, he wrestled Ric Flair in a compelling match that was every bit as good as you might have heard.

Though perhaps the weakest of their three performances from 1989, Steamboat/Flair 1 was still a tremendous match from start to finish, telling the story of The Dragon out-wrestling Flair but the defending champion always finding a way to get even.

After lots of exciting back-and-forth action, countless gripping near falls and an unnecessary ref bump, Flair went for his second figure four of the match only for Steamboat to roll him up and win the big gold belt.
Your Winner and new NWA World Heavyweight Champion: Ricky Steamboat

After a brief in-ring celebration, The Dragon made his way backstage where the other babyfaces doused him in champagne while he tried to cut a promo.

It was pretty funny that Steamboat was pretty charismatic when the promo started but then when he got champagne poured on him it was like it stung his eyes. He could barely open them and struggled to speak as he got the point across that he was going to offer Flair a rematch for the gold.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the first and only Chi-Town Rumble, a show that started well, started to get dull, and then picked up with that awesome Steamboat/Flair match.

Honestly, most of the card isn’t worth watching, but put this on and skip ahead to that main event for some truly classic pro wrestling.

Other 1989 pro wrestling events:
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  1. Great review! I have such a soft spot for '89 WCW. We start with Flair/Steamboat, just as amazing as the stories always say, and then transition into Flair/Funk, my favorite wrestling feud of all time.

  2. Glad you enjoyed the review! I'm really enjoying going through these shows.