Mega Powers Running Wild!

The legendary 'Macho man' Randy Savage teams up with 'The Immortal' Hulk Hogan to take on Ted Dibiase and Andre The Giant in the first ever WWF Summerslam!

Shawn Micahels vs. Mankind

The Heartbreak Kid defends the WWF Championship against Mankind in a thrilling main event at WWF In Your House: Mind Games.

The Birth of the nWo

From Hulk Hogan's shocking turn at WCW Bash at the Beach 1996 to the addition of Ted Dibiase, THe Giant Syxx and more, relive the very beginning of the New World Order.

Austin 3:16 Says I Just Kicked Your Ass

It's one of the most famous promos of all time; Stone Cold Steve Austin wins the 1996 King of The Ring and serves notice on all the WWF superstars. Check it out in our complete review

Wrestlemania 12 Review

The boyhood dream comes true as Shawn Michaels battles champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart in a classic 1-hour iron man match. Plus, Diesel vs. Undertaker and more.

WCW Fall Brawl 1996 Review

Was Sting in cahoots with the New World Order? Would Lex Luger be able to get along with the Four Horsemen as they faced the nWo in War Games? Find out in this review

Showing posts with label Abdullah The Butcher. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Abdullah The Butcher. Show all posts

Thursday, 5 August 2021

EVENT REVIEW: ECW Ultra Clash 1993

ECW Ultra Clash 1993 - Event review
September 18, 1993
ECW Arena Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

ECW Ultra Clash 1993 may not be the most widely-remembered wrestling event in history, but that doesn't mean it isn't significant in its own right.

This was the first event for which Paul Heyman had taken control of Eastern Championship Wrestling's booking and creative vision. 

It was the event in which he first began to turn this little indie outfit into an extreme institution and one of the Big Three US wrestling companies. 

It was also the event at which we would first meet future ECW mainstays like Joey Styles and The Public Enemy...

But was it any good?

Let's head down to the ECW arena to find out.




Welcome to Ultra Clash


ECW was still Eastern Championship Wrestling at this point in time but our opening video (set to what sounded like a cut from a low-budget PlayStation skateboarding game) featured shots of a woman getting her top ripped off and JT Smith being knocked from a balcony, so it was already fairly extreme...at least more so than the fairly tame product we’d seen back at ECW Super Summer Sizzler Spectacular earlier in the year.

After said video, we went straight into our opening match.

The Public Enemy (Flyboy Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge) vs. Jason Knight & Ian Rotten

ECW Ultra Clash 1993 - The Public Enemy
If your only exposure to The Public Enemy was as the party-loving jobbers from WCW, you’ll likely be surprised to find them here as two ass-kicking heels who just destroyed their opponents.

I mean they demolished them. So much so Ian Rotten and Jason Knight didn’t manage to get in a single offensive move between them for the duration of this five-plus minute slaughter.

In fact, Jason Knight didn’t even get tagged in. He just got his ass kicked on the outside while Rotten got destroyed between the ropes.

Unsurprisingly, Johnny Grunge and Flyboy Rocco Rock prevailed when the latter cannonballed onto Rotten for the win.
Your Winners: The Public Enemy

Post-match, The Public Enemy further drew the ire of the crowd by continuing their beat down of Ian Rotten.

When they’d had enough, Joey Styles started to tell us all about the group’s next big event, NWA Blood Feast ‘93.

Sadly that isn’t on the WWE Network, though I did find a https://youtu.be/WRltkUbMV0Qone-hour version on YouTube so we’ll get to that soon.

ECW Pennsylvania State Championship 
ECW Pennsylvania State Champion Tony “Hitman” Stetson (w/ Hunter Q. Robins III) vs. “Ironman” Tommy Cairo

ECW Ultra Clash 1993 - Tony Stetson vs. Tommy Cairo
Imagine still using the nickname “Hitman” in the 1990s and not considering changing it.

Here, the not-so-excellence of execution put his title on the line against Tommy Cairo in a decent if somewhat unremarkable match that failed to maintain this fan’s attention.

After roughly ten minutes, Stetson’s manager, Hunter Q. Robins III distracted referee Jim Molyneux while the champ blasted his opponent with the title belt.

One three count later and this one was done.
Your Winner: Tony Stetson 

Mask vs. Mask Match
Super Destroyer I vs. Super Destroyer 2 (w/ Hunter Q. Robins III)

ECW Ultra Clash 1993 - Super Destroyer 1 vs. Super Destroyer 2
Prior to the match, Robins took to the microphone to berate Super Destroyer I, but the quality of this recording is so bad that I could only make out the words “building” and “ugly face.”

This was a weird match that was very slow and basic. 

Though that doesn’t necessarily make it bad, it was like watching two wrestlers early in their training being told to demonstrate a basic sequence of moves for a match.

Plus there was the fact that both men wore identical attire and masks. Sure, Joey Styles told us that one of them was technically bigger than the other, but it was still impossible to tell them apart.

In the end, the babyface Super D. 1 picked up the win.
Your Winner: Super Destroyer 1

Super Destroyer 2 was then forced to unmask, and while Styles pretended like he recognized him but couldn’t remember his name, The Dark Patriot came down and helped Super D. 2 carry out a beat down of S.D 1.

Eventually, J.T Smith came down to make the save and this led us right into our next match.

Scaffold Match
The Dark Patriot vs. JR Smith

ECW Ultra Clash 1993 - JT Smith vs. The Dark Patriot in a scaffold match
No joke, this was probably the best scaffold match this fan has ever seen.

All of the scaffold matches the NWA had in the 1980s (including at Starrcade '86 and Starrcade '87) saw big, tough men hanging around the edges of the platform where it was safe, and then basically hanging onto the edge of the platform and dropping down into the ring as gently as possible.

JT Smith and The Dark Patriot showed no such restraint.

They brawled fearlessly in the middle of the platform and took bumps. Smith even threw a neat dropkick.

Speaking of threw, Patriot won the match by hurling his opponent off the scaffold. Smith took an unbelievably nasty bump but then popped back up so that Patriot could come down and attack him some more.
Your Winner: The Dark Patriot

And attack him he did.

Smith got thrown into the crow, hit with a chair, thrown into another part of the crowd, hit with another chair and so on until he was destroyed.

Tag Team Bunkhouse Match
Kevin Sullivan & Abdullah The Butcher vs. Terry Funk & Stan Hansen

ECW Ultra Clash 1993 - Abdullah The Butcher & Kevin Sullivan vs. Terry Funk & Stan Hansen
I don't know why anybody would think this was good.

Sure, I can see how it might have been entertaining if you were there live, but watching it back now, it just looks like four sloppy-arsed drunks falling over each other after closing time.

At various points, Kevin Sullivan tried a brand new, never-before-tried approach to winning a pro wrestling match:

He would just walk up to his opponents and look at them.

 Seriously, there was a moment when he wandered towards Stan Hansen and just stood there staring at him for a while until Hansen thought 'screw it' and slapped the Taskmaster silly.

In the end, Eddie Gilbert ran out with a steel chair, causing a disqualification, which was dumb because this was a weapons-filled, anything goes brawl.
Your Winners via Disqualification: Terry Funk and Stan Hansen

Post-match, Kevin Sullivan and Abdullah The Butcher started fighting each other for no explainable reason until some dudes ran in to break it up. 

Funk and Hansen then returned to beat up those dudes and we got another wild brawl into the crowd that was exactly the same as the Dark Patriot/J.T. Smith brawl except with more people.

I'll say it again, this was not good.

$5,000 Intergender Battle Royal
Sensational Sherri vs. Tigra  vs. Angel  vs. Don E. Allen  vs. Jay Sulli vs. Hunter Q. Robbins III

ECW Ultra Clash 1993 - Tigra
Nor was this. 

While Tigra spent the whole match sat on the turnbuckle, watching, each of the men took turns in walking over to Sensational Sherri and Angel and being routinely eliminated by them.

Sherri then did a Mil Mascaras and eliminated herself, though rather than hitting a top rope splash, she chased off some dude in a shell suit who Joey Styles told us was Freddie Gilbert, Eddie's brother and ECW referee.

At that point, Angel deliberately popped herself up on the ropes making her an easy target. Tigra came over, poked Angel in the bum with the tip of her finger, and won the match.
Your Winner: Tigra

I'm a big fan of Sensational Sherri, but this was dumb and pointless.

Loser Receives 10 Lashes
Wildman Sal Bellomo (w/ Sensational Sherri) vs. Sir Richard Michaels (w/ Hunter Q. Robins III)

Did Hunter Q. manage every single heel in ECW?

ECW Ultra Clash 1993 - Wildman Sal Bellomo
I’m sure he did, because here he was again, backing Sir Richard Michaels.

Not to be outdone, Wildman Sal Bellomo got on the microphone before the match started and said ”whmph, mmph, bumpy bum bmmph, Sherri would you come to the ring, please?”

OK, so it may not have been that exactly, but like I said earlier, the recording quality is so bad that I’ve really no idea what he said beyond asking Sherri to join him in the ring.

The Sensational One did so, making her presence felt in Big Sal’s corner for what was a fairly average, if inoffensive, match.

After a few minutes of uninspired action, Sal fell like a sack of potatoes onto Richard Michaels and got the one, two, three.
Your Winner: Wildman Sal Bellomo

If you were worried that this show didn’t have enough post-match brawls,  you’ll be delighted to know that yet another one came right up.

Wildman Sal started to lash Michaels with a training belt while Sherri rolled around on top of Hunter Q and made him the luckiest dude in the whole building.

At that point, Rockin’ Rebel ran down to blast Sal with a chair and throw Sherri around the ring.

Eastern Championship Wrestling Heavyweight Championship 
Fabulous ECW Heavyweight Champion Shane Douglas (w/ Paul E. Dangerously) vs. The Sandman

ECW Ultra Clash 1993 - Shane Douglas vs. Sandman
Yes, Shane Douglas was “Fabulous” here, apparently. 

Though, to be fair, he almost wasn’t much of anything as he first walked off and threatened not to defend his title until the referee promised that he would give said title to Sandman if Douglas didn’t return to the ring immediately.

The champion did so, and consequently entered into what I have to say was the best match on the card up until this point.

No, I can’t quite believe that I just wrote that either, but it’s true. It was a competently wrestled heel vs. face match with some stuff which, while fairly textbook, was still pretty fun.

In the end, the ref took a tumble and Paul E.‘s phone came into play as an international object to give us a very near fall.

The challenger then dove off the top with what looked to be the match-winning flying cross body only for Douglas to roll through, grab a handful of tights and retain the gold.
Your Winner and Still ECW Heavyweight Champion: Shane Douglas 

Afterwards, Sandman berated the referee while Fabulous Shane made his escape.

Baseball Bat Match
W*ING Tag Team Champions Headhunters (Mofat & Mahim) vs. Miguel Perez & W*ING Heavyweight Champion Crash the Terminator

ECW Ultra Clash 1993 - The Headhunters
Ok, scrap what I said about Douglas vs. Sandman, this was the best match on the card.

As a baseball bat match, things started with all four men outside the ring and a baseball bat inside.

After the count of ten, they charged to the ring to grab the bat and beat the living hell out of each other with it.

And beat the living hell out of each other they did.

The match immediately spilled back out into the crowd for a wild brawl which was hampered only by ECW's lack of budget. 

The show was filmed entirely on a single camera, and when you have two teams pairing off and brawling all over the building, that one camera is going to miss stuff.

At one point, one of the Headhunters got thrown through a fricken wall by Crash the Terminator and the camera was focussed purely on the other Headhunter hanging around in the ring doing nothing much of anything. 

That gave us the odd moment where Joey Styles called something that we didn't actually see.

When we could see stuff, it was all good stuff, culminating in one of the big fat Headhunters hitting a sweet moonsault for the three.
Your Winners: The Headhunters

At this juncture, Joey Styles told us that The Headhunters had successfully defended their W*ING tag team titles, though there was no mention on the show -or in anything I've read since- that says the titles were actually on the line.

Afterward, both teams continued fighting to end the show with yet another brawl through the crowd because why choose to end your show with something different when you could just repeat the same damn thing you'd been doing from the beginning?

To be fair, it was a pretty entertaining brawl, but I can't help but feel that it would have meant so much more had we not already seen the exact same thing multiple times.







So no, Paul Heyman's start as ECW booker was not a spectacular one by any stretch of the imagination.

When one of the best matches on the show is Shane Douglas vs. The Sandman, you know things are pretty bad.

Sure, it's historically important, and if you do watch it you'll get to see not only Heyman's first attempt at booker but also the ECW debut of The Public Enemy and Joey Styles on commentary, but don't expect to be entertained very much.

If you can get the moment JT Smith plummets to his doom and the main event on YouTube, those are the only moments you need to see from what was otherwise a poor show.


Thursday, 5 November 2020

EVENT REVIEW: NWA Starrcade 1985 - The Gathering

NWA Starrcade 1985 - Event poster
November 28, 1985 
Greensboro Coliseum Complex, Greensboro, North Carolina 
Omni Coliseum, Atlanta, Georgia. 

It's often said that Vince McMahon is a genius, but when you think about it, how many of his ideas were truly original?

Sure, he gave us the game-changing Attitude Era, but wasn't that merely an inevitable evolution from the kind of content surveyed by Extreme Championship Wrestling?

Sure, he gave us memorable angles like D-Generation-X, but wasn't that just in response to the unprecedented popularity of the New World Order?

And sure, he gave us Wrestlemania, an event which today holds its own among the likes of the Superbowl as a veritable institution, but before there was 'Mania, it was NWA Starrcade which held the crown of pro wrestling's premier event.

Now in its third year, Starrcade 1985 was the first version of the National Wrestling Alliance's marquee event to take place after the success of Wrestlemania 1.  In an attempt to prove that theirs was still the biggest and best, Jim Crockett Promotions upped the ante, running The Gathering from two separate venues and once again beating McMahon to the punch before he had the chance to put Wrestlemania 2 in three venues simultaneously.

Would JCP have better luck with this multi-venue format than the WWF would have months later?

Let's head down to both Greensboro and Atlanta to find out.







NWA Starrcade 1985 - Bob Caudle and Tony 'The Mustache' Schiavone
Welcome To The Gathering

After a rather spiffy intro that was about a thousand times better than the kind of lame intros WCW would start its PPVs with in the nineties, we got a welcome from our Atlanta-based announcers Bob Caudle and Tony 'The Mustache' Schiavone.

The two hyped tonight's big matches before sending it over to Johnny Weaver, who was handling backstage interviews over at the other Starrcade site, the Greensboro coliseum.

With that, it was onto our opening match.

Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship
Krusher Khrushchev vs. Sam Houston

NWA Starrcade 1985 - Sam Houston battled Krusher Kruschev
There will be modern fans who hate this match for its reliance on long-periods of 'rest holds,' but personally, this writer found it to be a decent opening match.

The crowd adored babyface Sam Houston and that made everything he and Krusher Khrushchev did seem like a big deal.

OK, so this kind of match was very much of its time, but if you can watch it in context rather than through the filter of modern pro wrestling, there was a lot to like here.

After a solid effort, Khrushchev demolished his opponent, smashing his way to victory and repossessing the vacant Mid-Atlantic title.
Your Winner: Krusher Khrushchev

Moving swiftly on...

Mexican Death Match
Abdullah The Butcher (w/ Paul Jones) vs. The Ragin' Bull Manny Fernandez

NWA Starrcade 1985 - Abdullah The Butcher faced Manny Fernandez in a 'Sombrero on a Pole' Mexican Death Match
Well, this was a strange one.

It was billed as a 'Mexican death match' but was basically a 'sombrero on a pole match' with the obligatory Abdullah The Butcher bloodshedding.

It was OK for what it was, but I can't help but feel like a Mexican death match should have delivered a lot more.

After a few minutes of Basic Blood Spilling 101, Manny Fernandez hit a move called Flying Burrito because that was the sort of thing that was totally acceptable in the 1980s.

In case you're wondering, it was a flying forearm. It allowed Ragin' Bull to knock Abby on his flabby ass, climb the pole, retrieve the sombrero and win the contest.
Your Winner: Manny Fernandez

Backstage, Krusher Khrushchev was interviewed by Johnny Weaver.

Russian sympathizer Khrushchev thanked The Kollofs for helping prepare him for tonight’s match before claiming that his victory proved that Russia had the world's most superior athletes.

This was a decent enough promo from Mr. Darsow, even if the crappy audio did mean that you could hear his every word echoing around the arena.

Texas Bullrope Match
Cowboy Ron Bass vs. Blacktop Bully (w/ James J. Dillon)

NWA Starrcade 1985 - Outlaw Ron Bass faced Black Bart
If Ron Bass wins, he gets a five-minute bullrope match with JJ Dillon

Two-thirds of this match involved Ron Bass hitting his former Long Riders partner in the face repeatedly with a cowbell.

Christopher Walkden would have loved it.

Blacktop Bart occasionally fought back, but this was all about him getting his comeuppance in his heated rivalry with Bass and bleeding like the proverbial stuck pig.

The match was pretty decent, though again I can see why some people wouldn’t like it when viewed through the filter of modern wrestling.

After a few minutes of fairly slow action, Bass lept off the top rope with a death-defying Flying Super Cowbell Shot to the Head of Doom and won the match.
Your Winner: Ron Bass

Wasting no time, James J. Dillon immediately got to the ring and started attacking Bass.

Texas Bullrope Match
James J. Dillon vs. Ron Bass

Bass fought back quickly and this one quickly developed into another one-sided ass-kicking until the referee took a tumble.

That allowed Blacktop Bart to hit a piledriver and dump Dillon on top of his opponent.

One three count later and we were done here.
Your Winner: James J. Dillon

Arm Wrestling Match
The Barbarian (w/ Paul Jones) vs. Superstar Billy Graham

NWA Starrcade 1985 - Superstar Billy Graham faced Barbarian in an arm-wrestling match
Man, they were really going all out with the gimmick matches on this show, weren’t they?

Back at Starrcade ‘84, Superstar Billy Graham had turned up looking like crap and doing a silly karate gimmick for a horrible match with Wahoo McDaniel.

Tonight, he arrived looking more like the Billy Graham for an arm-wrestling match with The Barbarian.

Fun flashback: remember when Dusty Rhodes was doing commentary for WCW and it always sounded like he called Barbarian ‘The Ball Bearing?’

I mention that because its easier than trying to review a worked arm-wrestling match.

Credit where it’s due, Graham and Ball Bearing really did sell this like they were arm-wrestling as though their lives depended on it and were pretty convincing, but it was still just arm-wrestling.

Billy Graham won and I don’t know what else to say about that.
Your Winner: Superstar Billy Graham

Paul Jones immediately attacked Billy Graham and that apparently led us right into a match.

Superstar Billy Graham vs. The Barbarian (w/ Paul Jones)

The actual wrestling match was OK, but again it wasn’t particularly special.

For the third match in a row, we got plenty of blood because this was the 80s and it was the law.

As the end came, Graham locked on a bear hug, Jones then hit him with his cane and that was that.
Your Winner via Disqualification: Billy Graham

Post-match, the two brawled out in the crowd.

National Wrestling Alliance National Championship
NWA National Champion Terry Taylor vs. Buddy Landel (w/ James J. Dillon)

NWA Starrcade 1985 - Buddy Landel works Terry Taylor's arm.
Buddy Landel was claiming to be ‘The Real Nature Boy’ and did his best Ric Flair impression for this singles contest against future Red Rooster, Terry Taylor.

This was another competent match,  albeit one that never really kicked up into the kind of high gear you’d probably hope for.

That seemed to be the big issue with almost everything on this show so far. Most of it was fine, but for the NWA’s biggest show of the year you’d probably expect more.

The end came with a win for Nature Boy thanks to Dillon’s interference.
Your Winner and NEW National Champion: Buddy Landell

No time to waste, the NWA were cramming as much into this show as possible.

National Wrestling Alliance National Tag Team Champions
NWA National Tag Team Champions The Minnesota Wrecking Crew (Ole & Arn Anderson) vs. NWA US Tag Team Champions Wahoo McDaniel & Billy Jack Haynes

NWA Starrcade 1985 - Arn Anderson locks up with Wahoo McDaniel
So, here we have the Starrcade debuts of Arn Anderson and Billy Jack Haynes while Ole Anderson puts in his second appearance and Wahoo McDaniel continues his run of appearing in every Starrcade so far.

One thing I will point out is the randomness of the theme music on this show. McDaniel and Haynes came out to a very obvious rip off of 1999 by Prince. It was so weird, so unsuitable, and yet so perfectly 80s.

The other weird thing about this show was the commentary. Not just in this match but throughout the entire event, there were entire minutes were neither Caudle nor Schiavone said a word.

Occasionally, they’d chip in with a remark or two but then it was right back to radio silence from our announcers, making for a very odd viewing experience indeed.

Anyway, neither the Ill-fitting entrance music nor the lack of commentary could take away from what was otherwise a very solid match that could have benefited from having a few more minutes tacked onto it.

Otherwise, this was one of the better matches on the card, coming to a close with a win for the Andersons thanks to some shady heel shenanigans.
Your Winners and Still National Tag Team Champions: The Minnesota Wrecking Crew

Backstage, Johnny Weaver interviewed James J. Dillon and Nature Boy Buddy Landell.

In one of the better interview segments from the last three Starrcades, Dillon bragged about being the ‘Bullrope’ champion and about how he knew all along that Landell was championship material.

For his part, Nature Boy insisted that he’d modelled his life after Tully Blanchard, The Andersons, and Ric Flair. He also called himself the ‘world’s national champion’ which I’m not sure is accurate.

Anyway, this was pretty decent stuff from a confident and cocksure Landell.

Steel Cage ‘I Quit’ Match for the National Wrestling Alliance United States Championship
NWA United States Champion Tully Blanchard (w/ Baby Doll) vs. Magnum T.A

NWA Starrcade 1985 - Magnum T.A battled Tully Blanchard in an awesome US title match
My goodness, this was insanely good. Brilliantly brutal and brutally brilliant, it was an intense, impassioned bloodbath for the ages.

At no point did this ever feel like a choreographed wrestling match. It felt like a straight-up fight to the death between two men who legitimately wanted to kill each other.

The blood let cane thick and fast and would have added even more to what was already an incredible performance had so many other wrestlers not bled unnecessarily later on in the show.

Not that it mattered.

The violence was off the charts, the intensity and emotion was something else, and the whole thing was awesome from start to finish.

Speaking of the finish...

Tully Blanchard got a wooden chair into the ring somehow but then smashed it up rather than using it on his opponent. It looked like an odd move at first but then he took a spiked piece of the broken chair and tried to stab Magnum T.A in the eye with it.

Magnum fought back, took control of the spike and jammed it into his rival’s head until the champion surrendered.

Amazing.
Your Winner and NEW US Champion: Magnum T.A

Before the next match, Jim Cornette made his Starrcade debut to introduce his boys, The Midnight Express.

The Midnight Express (Beautiful Bobby Eaton & Loverboy Dennis Condrey w/Jim Cornette) vs. Jimmy Valiant & Miss Atlanta Lively (w/Big Mama)

NWA Starrcade 1985 - Miss Atlanta Lively was Ronnie Garvin in drag
OK, so, The Midnight Express we’re wearing tuxedos for some unknown reason and Miss Atlanta Lively was Ronnie Garvin in drag, also for unknown reasons.

Together with Jimmy Valliant (making his third Starrcade appearance), they all created a chaotic mess with almost no redeeming qualities.

Sure, this was a straight-up comedy match and that would have been fine if, you know, it had actually been funny.

There weren’t many laughs, but there was a lot of mess.

Thankfully, it was kept quite short and ended when Miss Atlanta Lively kind of just lied down on top of Dennis Condrey for the win.
Your Winners: Miss Atlanta Lively and Jimmy Valiant

Afterward, the good guys stripped Jim Cornette down to his knickers.

NWA Starrcade 1985 - New US Champion Magnum TA gives an interview to Johnny WeaverOur New US Champion

Backstage, Johnny Weaver interviewed Magnum T.A.

The new US Champion cut a compelling promo, declaring that he’d be ready to defend “the fighting champion’s belt” against anyone on the roster.

Between that match and this promo, it was easy to see why people had such high hopes on Magnum becoming The Next Big Thing.

Steel Cage Match for the National Wrestling Alliance World Tag Team Championship
NWA World Tag Team Champions Ivan & Nikita Koloff (w/ Krusher Khrushchev) vs. The Rock 'n' Roll Express

This was a quality match but it really didn’t need the cage match stipulation, especially since we’d already had an all-time classic less than thirty minutes earlier, and especially since referee Earl Hebner enforced traditional tag rules throughout.

Even despite all that, this was a great effort from everyone involved and the crowd absolutely ate it up.

A Ricky Morton roll-up sealed the deal for him and Robert Gibson earning them the titles.

On another note, Don Kernodle was at ringside for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. So far, he’d appeared at all three Starrcade shows and yet never once wrestled a match. As far as I know, he was still an active competitor at this stage of his career.
Your Winners and New World Tag Team Champions: The Rock n Roll Express

Post-match, the Russians got their revenge by beating the Rock ‘n’ Roll express to a pulp and taking out anyone who tried to help the. We champions.

Finally, it was onto our main event of the evening.

National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship
NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nature Boy Ric Flair vs. The American Dream Dusty Rhodes

NWA Starrcade 1985 - Dusty Rhodes battled Ric Flair for the World Heavyweight Championship
This match was a perfect reflection of Starrcade ‘85 as a whole.

It was far superior to the 1984 effort but there was still something about it that didn’t quite meet the expectations might have for it.

I mean, don’t get me wrong:

It was Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair, so it was always going to be very enjoyable. What’s more, it didn’t suffer from the same terrible Smokin’ Joe Frazier ending that Rhodes/Flair ‘84 did, but it just didn’t quite feel like the all-time Classic that it perhaps could have been.

Towards the end, referee Tommy Young got bumped, prompting a run in from the Minnesota Wrecking Crew to attack Dusty. Flair capitalized by making the cover as a new referee ran in, but alas he only got a two count.

Dusty then rolled up his opponent, and one three count later we had a new champion.
Your Winner and New World Heavyweight Champion: Dusty Rhodes

Afterward, a bunch of babyfaces ran in to congratulate the new champion and douse him in champagne.

Dusty Did it For the Blue Collar Workers

The champagne continued to flow backstage as Tong Schiavone got an interview with the new champion.

The American Dream dedicated his match to the textile workers as well as ‘the auto workers and the car workers,’ who were apparently two different sets of people.

He then vowed to remain champion for a long time, bringing this ace promo, and this show, to an end.







All in all, Starrcade 85: The Gathering wasn’t a bad show. Only the weirdness with Miss Atlanta Lively and Jimmy Valiant was outright poor, but with very few exceptions almost everything else settled around a level of mediocrity.

Man though, what exceptions they were.

Tully Blanchard vs. Magnum T.A. deserves all the credit it gets and is genuinely one of the best matches this fan has seen in years.

Elsewhere, the world tag team title match was exhilarating stuff, and though Rhodes and Flair’s second Starrcade main event wasn’t a classic, it was still very entertaining.

Watch for those matches but don’t feel bad about skipping everything else.




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Thursday, 6 August 2020

PPV REVIEW: NWA Starrcade '83: A Flare for the Gold

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold Review - Event poster
November 24, 1983 
Greensboro Coliseum Complex in Greensboro, North Carolina

"Folks, we've come a long way since Ric Flair vs. Harley Race at Starrcade '83."

That was Tony Schiavone, commenting at the end of a Bunhouse Street Fight between Jeff Jarrett and the Harris Brothers and The Filthy Animals at Starrcade 2000.

That one single line sticks out to me more than anything else that happened on that show. It stuck out partly because of how bewildered and bemused by the state of then-modern pro wrestling that was evident in Schiavone's voice.

After all, he was there at the very beginning. He'd seen it all -the good, the bad, and The Yhetti. So if anyone knew how much things had changed, it was Tony.







It also stuck out to me because it made me realise that I'd never actually seen Starrcade 1983. Not once had I sat down to witness the birth of an event that would often be referred to in later years as 'WCW's answer to Wrestlemania.'

Of course, that simply wasn't true. If anything, Wrestlemania was the WWF's answer to Starrcade, an event which proceeded Vince's annual spectacle by a good two years.

Without further ado then, let's head down to the Greensborough Coliseum for the debut of the NWA/WCW's flagship event.


Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold

Gordon Solie and Bob Caudle host the show, but there’s no opening gambit, no video package or special welcome, just straight to the ring for our opening match.

The Assassins (w/Paul Jones) vs.  NWA Mid-Atlantic Champion Rufus R. Jones & Bugsy McGraw.

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold - The Assasins beat on Rufus R. Jones
If you ever find yourself in a pro wrestling trivia contest and are asked to name the participants of the first-ever Starrcade match, don’t feel too bad if you don’t remember it.

After all, there was nothing particularly memorable about tonight’s opening contest.

Sure,  NWA Mid-Atlantic Champion Rufus R. Jones and Bugsy McGraw were entertaining in their own unique way, throwing their arms around a lot and doing the whole ‘crazy babyface’ thing, but much of the actual action was nothing to write home about.

After minutes, the masked Assassins pulled a switch-a-roo to score a win that this writer did not see coming.
Your Winners: The Assasins

After the official welcome from Caudle and Solie, we went backstage to a fresh-faced Tony Schiavone. One thing I will say, I love how Solie pronounced Tony’s name as Sch-Phoney.

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold - Tony Schiavone hangs out backstage as Roddy Piper talks to Ric Flair and Mark Youngblood
Anyway, out in the back, the NWA/WCW mainstay told us that tonight he would be conducting exclusive backstage interviews from inside the locker room, something Schiavone claimed was a first in pro wrestling.

Whether it was or not, I couldn’t say, but I did enjoy this segment. As the company’s future lead announcer spoke, we saw Ric Flair and Rowdy Roddy Piper talking in the background.

At one point, Charlie Brown from Outa Town (Jimmy Valiant in a mask) walked by and then Ricky Steamboat came up to say hi to Flair and Piper, all showing us that the wrestlers -at least the babyfaces- all shared one dressing room.

If you ask me, that was far more realistic than pretending every wrestler had his own dressing room like the major companies would eventually do.

Johnny Weaver & Scott McGhee vs. Kevin Sullivan & Mark Lewin (w/Gary Hart)

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold - Johnny Weaver & Scott McGhee vs. Kevin Sullivan & Mark Lewin (w/Gary Hart)
Our second tag match of the evening was a decent contest but again, not something that anybody would remember or be in any hurry to rush out and see.

Scott McGhee played face-in-peril for a while before finally making the hot tag to Johnny Weaver, but neither man was any match for Kevin Sullivan and Mark Lewin on this night.

The nefarious heels used multiple quick tags to get the better of their opponents before picking up the win with - of all things- a flying knee to the arm courtesy of Mark Lewin.

Well, come on, it was 1983.
Your Winners: Kevin Sullivan & Mark Lewin

Post-match, Garry Hart gave his men some kind of spike that Sullivan and Lewin used to stab McGhee in the face multiple times until he bled like the proverbial stuck pig.

Angelo Mosca eventually made the save, but the damage had already been done.  After a brief struggle, Mosca sent the heels packing then lifted McGhee over his shoulder and carried him out of the arena like a baby.

Harley Has Done his Homework

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold - Tony Schiavone interviews Harley Race, with Greg Valentine and Gerry Brisco
Somewhere on the front row, Barbara Clary interviewed a family of fans who were all excited to see Ric Flair win his match with Harley Race later on in the show.

Meanwhile, out in the back, Tony Schiavone had words with the World Heavyweight Champion himself. Flanked by US champion Greg Valentine and tag team champions The Briscos, Race took his time and cut a deliberate, almost sinister promo in which he claimed to have spoken to people who knew his opponent well and had learned everything he needed to know about Flair's flaws and weaknesses.

Carlos Colon vs. Abdullah The Butcher

The announcers told us that this match had been banned in Puerto Rico, presumedly for being too violent.

To be honest, there wasn't much to this match. I've never really seen the appeal in Abdullah The Butcher and this did little to change my mind.

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold - Carlos Calon attacks Abdullah the Butcher
Early on, Abby got Carlos Colon in the corner and discretely stabbed him with an International Object out of view of the referee.

A little while later, Colon managed to seize control of the object and stab The Butcher repeatedly with it. It was done in such a way that we were supposed to believe he was hiding the weapon, but the referee had to be a blind idiot not to see it.

Eventually, the official got knocked down by Carlos and inadvertently squashed by Abby. Colon applied a figure four, but future WWF Spanish Commentator Hugo Savinovich ran in and hit him in the head with something.

One three-count from a groggy official later and this was all wrapped up.

As I say, there wasn't much to this match and I can't really rate it all that highly, but to give them their credit, something these two did really got the crowd fired up.
Your Winner: Abdullah The Butcher

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold - Angelo Mosca cuts an angry promo about Kevin Sullivan and Mark Lewin
Backstage, Angelo Mosca was nursing a wound he suffered while rescuing Scott McGhee from the hands of Kevin Sullivan & Mark Lewin.

With a battered, bloody McGhee slumped by his side and looking like he might die at any moment, Mosca cut an impassioned promo in which he scolded Lewin and declared that even if he had only one arm, he'd still be on hand to referee tonight's tag team championship match.

Out in the crowd, Barbara Clary interviewed two young women with awesome 80s haircuts. Both girls were looking forward to seeing Ric Flair take the title later on in the show.

Dick Slater & Bob Orton Jr. vs. Wahoo McDaniel and Mark Youngblood

If you like tag team matches, this is the show for you. We're currently on three tag matches out of four matches total, and there's at least one more to follow in the form of the tag team title match.

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold - Wahoo McDaniel & Mark Youngblood faced Dick Slater and Bob Orton Jr.
Fortunately, this one was far superior to the other two and proved to be highly enjoyable from beginning to end.

Not from the very beginning, you understand - at the very beginning, the ring announcer decided that this was the most appropriate time to tell us that Dusty Rhodes was in the house, but his mic cut out so it was all kinds of awkward and weird.

But after that, the two teams went at it in a really solid bout.

Mark Youngblood did almost all of the work for his team, throwing dropkicks around like candy and playing face-in-peril before making the crowd-popping hot tag to Wahoo McDaniel.

Alas, his efforts were for nought.

Dick Slater and Bob Orton Jr. -both of whom looked awesome throughout this match- got the win when Orton drilled Youngblood with a second-rope superplex.
Your Winners: Dick Slater & Bob Orton Jr.

Afterwards, Slater and Orton took turns attacking McDaniel's arm like the dastardly heels that they were.

Flair is Ready for Race

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold - Ric Flair chats to Jay Youngblood and Ricky Steamboat backstage
Backstage, a sombre Ric Flair told Tony Sch-Phoney that he was ready for Harley Race before wishing his friends, Jay Youngblood and Ricky Steamboat, luck in their upcoming tag team title match.

In response, Jay Youngblood mumbled his way through an ill-advised promo in which he talked about training with Flair at Steamboat's gym.

This was not good at all.

Dusty Rhodes Says it All...


...well, at least he tried to.

Out in the crowd, Barbara Clarey attempted an interview with The American Dream only for the show to suffer audio difficulties once again.

Dusty didn’t care one bit that nobody could hear him. He went off on what looked like a very impassioned promo, but honestly, you couldn’t hear a word of it.

‘Dusty Rhodes said it all there,’ said Sollie said with a level of sincerity that made the whole thing hilarious before adding... 'well, if you can read his lips, you can tell what he’s saying’

Title vs. Mask Match for the National Wrestling Alliance World Television Championship
NWA World TV Champion The Great Kabuki (w/ Garry Hart) vs. Charlie Brown

True story:

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold - The Great Kabuki defended the TV title against Charlie Brown
Once upon a time in the early 90s, I found an old VHS tape on a market stall that featured a few NWA matches. Many years later, the only wrestler I remember being on that tape besides Ric Flair was Charlie Brown from Outa Town.

If you’re not familiar with Brown, he was better known as Jimmy Valiant doing a Masked Rider/Mr America ‘everybody-knows-who-I-really-am-but-I’m-denying-it’ gimmick.

The story was that The Great Kabuki’s manager, Gary Hart wanted to prove that Brown was Valiant, so he put Kabuki’s TV title on the line against Brown’s mask for the first fifteen minutes of the scheduled sixty-minute time limit.

The actual match was pretty captivating in a way that you don’t see all that much of these days.

The challenger spent the first half of the match applying sleeper holds to the champion. Every time he did, Gordon Solie would remind us how ironic this was because the sleeper was invented in Kabuki’s home country of Japan.

In the second half of the match, the man from the Orient clamped a claw on his masked nemesis and held it there for as long as possible.

Nothing much happened, but both the competitors and the announcers sold each hold like it meant something important, and that was enough to get this fan fully invested.

After a decent contest, Charlie Brown from Outta Town hit a basic elbow drop on the legendary Great Kabuki to capture the TV title.

Ah, the 80s. Such a simpler time.
Your Winner and NEW TV Champion: Charlie Brown

Cutting to the announcers, Bob Caudle interviewed some guy from the radio who I’m pretty sure they said was called Dude Walker.

Dude Walker. Seriously.

Anyway, like everyone else on the show, the dude abided by the script and told us he was sure Ric Flair would win, though Sollie was adamant that we couldn’t count out Harley Race just yet.

After all, said Sollie, he was the only man in history to be a seven-time world champion.

Meanwhile, Flair was only a two-time world champion. What a chump.

Race Reveals His Game Plan

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold - Tony Schiavone hangs out with Harley Race, Bob Orton, and Dick Slater
Out in the back, Tony Schiavone interviewed Dick Slater, Bob Orton, and Harley Race.

Slater and Orton bragged about previously taking Flair out on orders of the champion, but now that the Nature Boy was at Starrcade, Race revealed that he was gunning for the champion’s neck.

I don’t know about you, but I would’ve kept that information to myself so that my opponent didn’t have time to plan a defence, though I’m not a seven-time champion so what do I know?

Rhodes Wants the Winner

Elsewhere, they tried again with Barbara Clarey interviewing Dusty Rhodes and this time got a better result.

In a short promo, the ever-charismatic ‘Dream predicted a win for Race and declared that he was coming after the champ’s title once Starrcade was over.

Dog Collar Match
NWA US Champion Greg Valentine vs. Roddy Piper

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold - Greg Valentine hurts Roddy Piper in their classic Dog Collar Match
There’s a reason why this match is so legendary:

It was really, really good.

You know how some matches look a bit too polished with spots which, though they look impressive, are clearly well-choreographed?

This wasn’t one of those matches.

This was two men who hated each other battering one another to a bloody pulp until neither one could stand.

It was violent, it was brutal, and the creative use of the chain linking the two dog collars made it all the more engrossing.

By far the best match on the card up to this point, this one came to an end when Piper smashed his opponent’s face in and got the three count.
Your Winner: Roddy Piper

Afterwards, Valentine avenged his loss by beating Piper senseless. At least he kept his belt as this was a non-title match.

Flair is Ready

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold - Another Ric Flair promo, this time with Wahoo McDaniel
Backstage, we got another interview with Ric Flair because why not?

I get that they were going all out to make the main event a big deal, but two promos a piece from champ and challenger seemed excessive, especially when neither man had much to add in their second segment.

To be fair to Flair (TM Bobby Heenan), he did address a beat-up Wahoo McDaniel who was sitting next to him and thanked Daniel for helping get him ready for tonight because, if you didn’t already know, he really was ready.

Out in the crowd, Barbara Clary interviewed former tag team champion, Don Kernodle, for his tights on the upcoming tag team title match.

Kernodle also predicted a win for Flair.

National Wrestling Alliance World Tag Team Championship
NWA World Tag Team Champions Jack & Gerry Brisco vs. Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood

Special Referee: Angelo Mosca

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold - Jack Brisco takes down Ricky Steamboat
If you’re only familiar with Gerald Brisco as a figure of fun from the Attitude Era, this one might surprise you.

He and his brother Jack Brisco were great wrestlers who put on an absolutely excellent tag team title match with Steamboat and Youngblood.

I know I complained earlier about there being too many tag team matches on the show, but honestly, when they’re this good, it’s not a chore at all.

No frills, no fancy gimmicks, just a solid back-and-forth wrestling match that ended with a win for Youngblood and Steamboat.

Very good indeed.
Your Winners and NEW Tag Team Champions: Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood

Post-match, the booking committee once again ran the heel-attacks-the-face angle they’d run after like 80% of tonight’s matches.

This time, however, the good guys prevailed and proceeded to indulge in a lengthy celebration with their newly-won titles.

As the champs paraded through the crowd, the credits came up on the screen with Gordon Sollie trying in earnest to put over each member of the production crew.

It was kind of sweet, but also strangely very funny.

Of interest, one of the cameramen listed was none other than future WCW Head of Security, Doug Dellinger.

A Word With the Victors

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold - Tony Schiavone interviews new TV Champion, Charlie Brown From Outta Town
Out in the back, Nature Boy Ric Flair paced up and down while Schiavone interviewed some of tonight’s winners.

First up, Charlie Brown raved like a wild loon about how good it was to be the new TV champion.

In a complete contrast in tone, Piper then talked about Greg Valentine busting up his ear before challenging Valentine for the US title.

Finally, Youngblood and Steamboat addressed their unprecedented (for the time) fifth tag team championship reign.

Jay Youngblood had way more charisma than his brother Mark, cutting a convincing promo about his and Steamboat’s success.

He was even more charismatic than Steamboat himself, who tried his best to inject a little passion into his speech about competing with the best in the world and coming out on top.

Hey Look, It's Dusty Again

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold - Barbara Clary interviews Dusty Rhodes with some fans
I don't have too many legitimate complaints about Starrcade '83, but this insistence on constantly interviewing the same guys was getting pretty old.

Race had two promos, Flair had two promos, and now Rhodes had three promos and he wasn't even booked in a match.

This time, Barbara Clary interviewed him while he hung out with three girls who predicted that Flair (who else?) would take home the gold. After that, Dusty cut another promo in which he excitedly said his own name a lot and not much else.

Look, I love 'Dream as much as the next fan, but this was unnecessary.

After that, a performer called James 'Tiny' Weeks sang the National Anthem.

Steel Cage Match National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship
NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race vs. Nature Boy Ric Flair

Though it looked slow compared to the modern fast-paced-workrate-rules-all style of pro wrestling and featured none of the insane spots you'd probably find in a cage match today, this was a classic old-school battle which more than deserves its legendary status.

NWA Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold - Ric Flair battles Harley Race in their classic cage match
After some grand entrances that made this one stand out as a really huge deal, and after both men received a somewhat overly long address from the referee and former world champion Gene Kiniski, champ and challenger went at it in an intense, bloody war for the ages.

Flair started off wrestling methodically, taking the champion to the mat and attempting to wear him down. Reversing a front face lock into a suplex (or *suplé* if you're Gordon Sollie), Race then took control and stayed true to his word, beating down on his opponent's neck with brute force.

What followed was a brilliant seesaw battle in which both men got progressively more violent as time ticked on.

Of course, given that the whole show was built around Flair as the hero, the outcome was never really in question, but it sure was a joy to watch it unfold.

After an excellent match, Flair scaled the top rope and hit Race with a crossbody block. Referee Kiniski had taken a tumble and was on all fours, waiting for Flair to knock Race and Race to go tumbling over him, school-boy style. However, somebody was out of position so it didn't quite come off right, but it still led to the cover, the count, and the fall.

I'm not certain, but I wonder if that's the only time Flair has gone to the top and not been immediately thrown off. Still, given that it earned him a world title in one of his most legendary matches, it's no wonder Nature Boy would spend the rest of his career trying to hit that move again.
Your Winner and NEW World Heavyweight Champion: Ric Flair

Post-match, the babyface locker room spilt out into the ring to lift Flair on their shoulders and celebrate with the new champion as a defeated Harley Race looked on in shock and frustration.

After a kiss from his wife, Flair took to the microphone to address the crowd and thank them for their support.

Usually, this is where a show would end, but this was the NWA in 1983, so we got another ten minutes of promos.

First, we went to the back, where Ricky Steamboat congratulated the new champion. Flair was grateful for Steamboat helping him train and promised that if Ricky ever needed anything, he'd be there. It was interesting watching these two be such close friends after reviewing the epic battle they'd have at Wrestlewar '89 a few years later.

Dusty Rhodes then arrived on the scene and warned Flair that he was coming after his title. Unperturbed, Nature Boy insisted that he wasn't going to worry about that right now, and was only focussed on celebrating his big victory.

Then, after a lengthy summary from the announcers, we went to Harly Race's dressing room. With Barbara Clary holding the mic, the fallen champion insisted that despite losing the title, he wasn't going away.

Funnily enough, that's exactly what he did. Race would leave for the AWA the following year before showing up in the WWF in 1986 so that he could pretend to be a king and have that ridiculous brawl with Hacksaw Jim Duggan at the 37th Annual Slammy Awards.

Still, at the time, Harley insisted that he was gunning for his eighth world title and told the new champion to enjoy it while it lasted.

After more chatter from Caudle and Sollie, we went back to the babyface locker room once again were two funny things happened.

1: Flair said that tonight wasn't just about him, but was about people like "Roddy Piper Jimmy Valiant, and everyone who participated in this event" - thus blowing Valiant's 'Charlie Brown' cover.

2: The babyfaces had a champagne celebration. In the background, Jay Youngblood clearly got some champagne in his eye or had some other unfortunate incident and was seen stumbling around and having a bad time. I can't tell you why, but I found that hysterical.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the first-ever Starrcade, a great show that was a far cry from the last event some 17 years later.







I mean that, too.

Although the first half of the show was nothing too special, the last three matches alone make Starrcade 83: A Flare for the Gold must-see viewing.

It's a testament to Piper and Valentine that in an age when we've seen just about every act of violence and creative spot under the sun, their barbaric and bloody dog collar match remains as compelling today as it ever did.

The tag team title match was a pure joy to watch, featuring some of the crispest, solid wrestling you're likely to come across.

Then, there's the main event. Often regarded as a passing of the proverbial torch from Race to Flair, this was an utterly gripping title match that more than earned its legacy.



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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.