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 Wahoo McDaniel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wahoo McDaniel. Show all posts

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.




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.




Be the first to catch the latest Retro Pro Wrestling reviews by following on Facebook or Twitter @RetroPWrestling.


Thursday, 8 October 2020

PPV REVIEW: NWA Starrcade 1984 - The Million Dollar Challenge

November 22, 1984
Greensboro Coliseum Complex, Greensboro, North Carolina

Back at Starracde 1983, Dusty Rhodes had appeared multiple times and, in between cutting a series of bizarre promos, appeared to challenge the winner of the Harley Race vs. Ric Flair title match.

Between then and now, Flair had actually lost and regained the title at least twice, but give credit to the National Wrestling Alliance, they stuck with their long-term booking plans and presented Rhodes vs. Flair as tonight's feature attraction.

Not only was the title on the line, however, but the winner of the match would also win one million dollars, hence the Million Dollar Challenge subtitle of tonight's show.

As for the rest of the card?

Well, let's head down to the Greensboro Colliseum and check it out, shall we?







Welcome to Starrcade, The Premier Event of the Decade

We began tonight's show with a brief look back at the finish to Starrcade 1983's main event with Ric Flair pinning Harley Race to become our new World Heavyweight Champion.

Alas, as our announcers Bob Caudle and Gordon Sollie were quick to remind us, that was then and this is now.

Tonight, three-time World Heavyweight Champion Flair would defend the title against Dusty Rhodes in a match where a million dollars was also on the line.

The two then hyped up tonight's show before sending it down to the ring where the ring announcer clearly got lost and wasn't sure what to do.

The Premier Event of the Century, Starrcade '84

Seriously, he first welcomed all the ladies and gentlemen to Starrcade '84, calling it 'The Premier Wrestling Event of the Decade.'

He then changed his mind and introduced us again, this time to 'The Premier Event of the Wrestling Century.' After that, poor Mr. Ring Announcer flipped through his papers but still couldn't figure out what to say next so ended up asking referee Earl Hebner.

National Wrestling Alliance Junior Heavyweight Championship
NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion Mike Davis vs. Denny Brown

Eventually, the ring announcer figured out what was happening and we got on with our opening contest, a decent junior heavyweight match between champion Mike Davis and challenger Denny Brown.

This was an interesting match as it was clearly just two guys competing to see who the better wrestler was with no animosity and none of the back-stories that are usually attached to almost all modern pro wrestling matches.

At one point, Brown even went crashing out of the ring. Rather than capitalizing on this by heading out to attack him, Davis left the ring, checked on his opponent and held the ropes open for him so that he could get back in the ring.

Unfortunately, being Mr. Nice Guy didn't work out quite so well for the champion.

At the finish, Davis hit a bridging German suplex on Brown but ended up pinning himself when Brown got his arm up at the last second.
Your Winner and NEW Junior Heavyweight Champion: Denny Brown

Afterward, Davis was irate for like two seconds but then congratulated the new champion.

The ever-confused ring announcer declared the wrong man as champion before correcting himself.

Backstage, Tony Schiavone hung out in the dressing room to let us know that he'd be hanging out in the dressing room for the rest of the show and conducting interviews.

Mr Ito vs. Brian Adias

There wasn't much to this match. It was only a few minutes long and very much felt like filler, but even then it was a decent enough match.

After a few minutes of basic, old-school professional wrestling, Adias lifted his larger opponent up for an airplane spin and won the match.
Your Winner: Brian Adias

Seriously, only in the 80s would that move end a match.

National Wrestling Alliance Florida Heavyweight Championship
National Wrestling Alliance Florida Heavyweight Champion Jesse Barr vs. Mike Graham

This was another really good quality match. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t the kind of raging classic you’d see from today’s performers, but neither man held anything back and gave us nothing less than solid wrestling from start to finish.

After an unrelenting performance, champion Jesse Barr used the ropes for leverage to get the cover, the count, and the fall.
Your Winner and Still Florida Heavyweight Champion: Jesse Barr

Up next, we flashed back to a recent TV taping on which Ricky Steamboat and Dick Slater had been beaten up after competing in a tag match.

Sollie and Caudle told us that Steamboat had put $10,000 of his own money on the line to get revenge.

Tag Team Elimination Match
The Zambuie Express (Kareem Muhammad & Elijah Akeem w/ Paul Jones) vs. Assassin Number 1 & Buzz Tyler

There wasn’t much to this match. It was mostly just punching, clobbering, and more punching, but there was something about the way that the crowd was super into every blow that made it just incredibly fun to watch.

At least it was fun until the finish.

We were told that this was an elimination-style tag team match, but after Assassin #1 pinned one of the Zambuie Express, the match should have continued, right?

Even the announcers seemed to think so, but then it was revealed that their respective partners had been counted out and thus had both been eliminated.

It was a little confusing and would have made more sense if they’d just kept this to a standard one-fall tag, but hey, it’s a small complaint.
Your Winners: Assassin Number One and Buzz Tyler

Backstage, Dusty Rhodes was sad chilling while Tony Schiavone bigged him up.

Rhodes then cut a fast-paced shouty promo in which he promised that Ric Flair would become yesterday’s newspaper.

He probably meant 'yesterday's news,' but with Dusty, who knows?

Anything Goes Match for the National Wrestling Alliance Brass Knuckles Championship
NWA Brass Knuckles Champion Black Bart (w/ James J. Dillon) vs. NWA Tag Team Champion Ragin’ Bull

The Brass Knuckles Championship was essentially a precursor to the modern-day hardcore championships. The announcers told us many times that anything goes, but sadly neither champion Black Bart nor challenger Manny ‘Ragin’ Bull’ Fernandez really took advantage of that stipulation.

For the most part, this was just a straight-up wrestling match with added blood.

It was OK for what it was, but certainly, nothing that anybody should rush out to see.

Eventually, J.J Dillon tossed the champion a length of rope but Bart got rolled up and pinned by the Ragin’ Bull.
Your Winner and NEW NWA Brass Knuckles Champion: Ragin’ Bull

As the show went to intermission in the arena, Ricky Steamboat talked to Tony Schiavone backstage.

When he wasn’t repeating the phrase ‘everybody has been gearing up for this night all year’ over and over again, Steamboat told Schiavone that he had been seriously injured when Tully Blanchard, Black Bart and Ron Bass attacked him and was in a lot of pain. Regardless, he was looking forward to getting his revenge on Blanchard.

God bless Steamboat, he was one of the greatest in-ring performers ever but his promos were never much to write home about.

Offering a retort, TV champion Tully Blanchard and his manager J.J. Dillon reminded us of the stipulations for their match:

The title could change hands on a DQ and if Blanchard tried to run away, he’d lose the title.

The champion didn’t seem too concerned by this. He insisted that Steamboat was going down and that after that he’d go after the world champion no matter who that might be.

Tuxedo Street Fight
Loser Must Leave Town
Paul Jones (w/  Kareen Muhammed) vs. Jimmy Valiant (w/ Assassin Number One)

So, Jimmy Valiant was no longer doing the Charlie Brown gimmick he had back at Starrcade 1983. That’s a bit of a shame. As ridiculous as it was, I kind of enjoyed it.

What I didn’t enjoy this chaotic mess of nonsense.

In the opening moments, Valliant tied Paul Jones to the ropes and very quickly stripped him down to his undies.

Honestly, I thought that’s how a tuxedo match should end, but not this one. Jones broke free and went on the attack but Valliant made a comeback and looked to be in control until JJ Dillon interfered, giving the win to Mr Jones
Your Winner: Paul Jones

The loss meant that Jimmy Valiant now had to ‘leave the area,’ though it was never expressly stated what that meant.

  • Did he have to leave the NWA?
  • Did he have to leave whatever territory he was most closely associated with?
  • Or did he simply have to leave the town they were in like every wrestler on the show would have to anyway?

If so, for how long?

Who knows?

Not me, that’s who.

Ric Flair is Ready

Backstage, Tony Schiavone reminded us that Ric Flair had been champion for a year after defeating Harley Race at the first Starrcade. This wasn't technically true. Flair had dropped and regained the belt a bunch of times over the course of the year, but apparently, none of those occasions counted.

Anyway, The Nature Boy warned The American Dream that he better be half the man he claimed to be when they stepped in the ring tonight.

National Wrestling Alliance Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship
NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion ‘Cowboy’ Ron Bass (w/ James J. Dillon) vs. Dick Slater

It’s starting to feel like Dillon is in practically every segment on this show. Meanwhile, Dick Slater used to be dirty but apparently, he’d had a wash since turning babyface.

This was all part of one of the hottest storylines in the company between Dillon’s stable and a gaggle of babyfaces but sadly the heat generated by that story didn’t translate into a quality match.

Though the fans were into it, there was nothing special about this one.

Bass won when Slater got disqualified for putting his hands on the official.
Your Winner and Still Mid-Atlantic Champion: Ron Bass

Post-match, Slater got revenge by taking out both Bass and Dillon.

We then got a brass rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner as a clearly unsteady cameraman tried to focus on the flag.

Keith Larson & Ole Anderson vs. Ivan & Nikita Koloff

Keith Larson was the brother of Don Kernodle.

Know how I know?

Because the announcers mentioned it about twenty times before he and Ole Anderson had even fully reached the ring.

Seriously, this was like the NWA’s version of Rellik.

Speaking of Kernodle. He showed up in a neck-brace to hang out on the apron and wave the American flag with Ole Anderson and Keith Larson who was his brother don’t you know?

The match finally got underway and turned into a good, solid traditional tag team match.

The faces spent the first part of the contest in control, Anderson and Larson taking turns to work over Ivan Koloff's arm until The Russian Bear turned the tides for his team with a Greco-Roman eye poke.

From there, we got bear hugs aplenty and some enjoyable action before Ivan picked up the win for his team by blasting Larson with a chain behind the referee’s back.
Your Winners: Ivan & Nikita Koloff

Afterwards, Don Kernodle took to the ring and used his crutches to beat the crap out of the Koloffs.

National Wrestling Alliance World Television Championship
NWA World TV Champion Tully Blanchard (w/ James J. Dillon) vs. Ricky Steamboat

Both men had put up $10,000. Winner takes all.

Well, this was excellent.

Proving that consistent selling really is a lost art these days, Ricky Steamboat came into the match with his injuries and sold them well from bell to bell in the kind of way that you just do t see today.

When he did get control of the match, he proved why he was one of the greatest of his generation With some outstanding work. Tully Blanchard was no slouch either and played his role perfectly.

That included being the devious heel champion who blasted his opponent in the head with a discreet International Object to retain his title.
Your Winner and Still TV Champion: Tully Blanchard

National Wrestling Alliance United States Championship
NWA US Champion Wahoo McDaniel vs. Superstar Billy Graham

In direct contrast to the previous match, this wasn’t very good at all.

Superstar Billy Graham looked nothing like you remember Superstar Billy Graham looking like. He looked like how Bruno Sammartino looked in the last few years of his life and was apparently doing a weird karate gimmick.

Wahoo McDaniel was incredibly over, but even his popularity did nothing for the match.

Wahoo won with a tomahawk chop but the whole thing was not fun.
Your Winner and Still US Champion: Wahoo McDaniel

Out in the dressing room, Tony Schiavone interviewed Smokin’ Joe Frazier and two men who would be the judges for our main event.

It was hard to tell if Frazier was drunk, bored, or had taken one too many punches to the head, but his interview comments made him sound dumb.

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

Special Guest Referee: Smokin’ Joe Frazier
In one of those bizarre, it-could-only-happen-in-the-80s moments, Dusty Rhodes came down wearing a silver and purple robe with purple smoke bellowing out and Prince’s Purple Rain (dubbed on the network) playing.

I mean, I love Prince, but it but just looked odd for Dusty.

Meanwhile, Flair came down in a hot pink robe that made him look like a drag queen.

The match started off well, got better, and was on the verge of turning into an all-time classic...

...Then Joe Fraizer got involved and the whole thing turned to hell.

Dusty got an admittedly nasty-looking cut in his eye that Fraizer kept stopping the match to check out the eye and eventually just stopped the match, awarding it to Flair.
Your Winner and Still NWA Heavyweight Champion: Ric Flair

If that had happened today there'd be very loud "BULLSH*T" chants and possible riots.

Post-Match Interviews

Backstage, Ric Flair told Tony Schiavone that he only cared about two things:

The title and his million-dollar cheque. He had both and was therefore happy.

After cutting to Sollie and Caudle, Schiavone then caught up with a very angry Dusty Rhodes who was unsurprisingly irritated at both Flair and Fraizer.

Finally, after the post-show credits, Fraizer himself cut another sloppy-arse promo in which he defended his terrible decision making.







Starrcade 1983 had been both historically important and critically acclaimed. Starrcade 1984 was neither.

Sure, only the Graham/McDaniel match was flat-out bad, but outside of the Blanchard/Steamboat match and the first two-thirds of the main event, nothing was particularly memorable. Then there was that ending, which was both infuriating and insulting.

Seriously, Starrcade 84 is not a show you necessarily need to spend any time with.



Be the first to catch the latest Retro Pro Wrestling reviews by following on Facebook or Twitter @RetroPWrestling.

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.



Be the first to catch the latest Retro Pro Wrestling reviews by following on Facebook or Twitter @RetroPWrestling.

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.