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

Saturday, 25 June 2016

PPV REVIEW - WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Event Poster
Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California
March 31st, 1996

Would Shawn Michaels finally realise his boyhood dream of becoming the World Wrestling Federation Champion, or would reigning champion Bret Hart leave California with the his beloved title still around his waist? Tonight, we were set to find out in one of the highly anticipated matches of 1996. 

Other matches were set to take place too, but for all intents and purposes, this entire show was built around two of the biggest stars of the 1990s. 

Let's head to the video and take a look at what went down, shall we? 

Our event tonight begins with a dramatic hype video for tonight's WWF Championship Iron Man Match between Bret 'The Hitman' Hart and 'The Heartbreak Kid' Shawn Michaels. Shown entirely in black-and-white, the video (which I sadly can't find on Youtube), did a great job of making the hotly-anticipated match feel like not only the most important wrestling match ever, but also a legitimate sporting contest in which both men would really lay it all on the line for the most prestigious title in pro wrestling.






WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Jerry Lawler and Vince McMahon were our commentary team
The video was followed by the famous Wrestlemania theme, and a welcome from our hosts, Jerry 'The King' Lawler and Vince McMahon. Lawer and McMahon ran down some of tonight's matches, including the upcoming Diesel/Undertaker clash, and the Hollywood Backlot Brawl between Goldust and Rowdy Roddy Piper. 

Yet it was neither of those matches which would get us underway tonight. That honour went to a six man tag team bout which heralded the first of just a few pay per view appearances for Yokozuna as a baby face, and also the pay per view debut of Ahmed Johnson. 

Six Man Tag: Vader, Owen Hart & British Bulldog (w/ Jim Cornette) vs. Yokozuna, Ahmed Johnson, & Jake 'The Snake' Roberts (w/ Mr. Fuji) 
Despite featuring the usually conform talents of Davey Boy Smith and Owen Hart, this opening contest failed to live up to what it could have been. 

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Vader (w/ Jim Cornette) teamed with Owen Hart and British Bulldog to Face Ahmed Johnson, Yokozuna, and Jake 'The Snake' Roberts
Though it was saved from being a total snooze-fest thanks to the opening six-man melee and a couple of smashmouth exchanges between Vader and Yoko, the majority of the match saw the heels beating mercilessly on Jake 'The Snake' Roberts, much to the general apathy of the Anaheim faithful. 

Yoko did eventually turn the tables for his team, but it was too little, too late. The former two-time WWF Champion got himself beat up at ringside whilst Vader -who to be fair looked excellent in this match- finished off Roberts for the three count.

The stipulation that Yokozuna would get five minutes alone with Jim Cornette if his team won the match was ignored and never spoken of again. 
Your Winners: Vader, Owen Hart, and British Bulldog


WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Marlena watching her man Goldust in a Hollywood Backlot Brawl against Rowdy Roddy Piper
With the victors making their way backstage, Vince and King began to hype up our next match, pitting Goldust and Roddy Piper in what McMahon very clearly referred to as a Hollywood Backlot Bra. 

A clip of Marlena settling in to watch the action from her dressing room was shown, and with that, it was on to the fight. 

Hollywood Backlot Brawl
Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Goldust (PART 1)
In a pre-taped opening segment, cameras panned to the erm, Hollywood backlot, where a visibly pissed-off Roddy Piper stood waiting, baseball bat in hand. Godie arrived a few seconds later in a golden (what else?) Cadillac, and was promptly beaten every which way by an incensed Hot Rod. 

I remember quite clearly that as a 12  year-old kid I thought this match was just about the coolest thing I'd ever seen, simply because it was -for a child who grew up on New Generation WWF- so different from anything else I'd seen. 

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Rowdy Roddy Piper waits for Goldust in their Hollywood Backlot Brawl
With the benefit of hindsight (or perhaps its just old age cynicism), I'm willing to call this segment what it was; a mildly entertaining brawl which served as a nice change of pace from the evening's in-ring action. 

Speaking of action, the majority of the "match" so far largely saw Roddy kicking seven shades of holy moly out of his rival until The Golden One returned to his car and ran Piper over. Making a miraculous recovery just seconds later, Piper returned to his own vehicle, and chased Goldust out onto the highway. 

Ladies and gentlemen, this match WILL continue..albeit not just yet...

A word from Savio 
In a typically cheesy babyface promo that was still somehow strangely effective, Carribean Sensation Savio Vega spoke to Doc Hendrix about his joy at finally making it to Wrestlemania, and how the occasion was made all the sweeter by the opportunity to even the score with Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Stone Cold Steve Austin (w/ Ted Dibiase) vs. Savio Vega 
Tonight's match finds the man who would go on to be the biggest star of the Attitude Era in a weird, transitional phase of his WWF tenure.

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Stone Cold Steve Austin (w/ Ted Dibiase) made his Wrestlemania debut
Despite dropping the  'Ringmaster' moniker, in favour of the now-famous 'Stone Cold' tag and displaying early signs of the permanently-pissed-off attitude that would make him such a star, Austin was still accompanied by his old Ringmaster music, The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase as his manager, and the Million Dollar Championship.

It's also worth noting that this was the better part of 18 months prior to being dropped on his head and changing his style to that of a brawler, meaning this version of Stone Cold Steve Austin could go with all the skill and agility displayed in his WCW heydey.

And man, did he go.

Though largely ignored given the remainder of his body of work, Austin's Wrestlemania debut was nonetheless an impressive outing, taking the mediocre Vega through a fun little match before putting him out of his misery courtesy of the Million Dollar Dream.
Your Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin. 

What I didn't mention during the above recap, was that during the bout, Vince McMahon managed to get hold of Roddy Piper on the phone as cameras showed us the WWF President chasing Goldust through the highways of California. Another clip of this was shown prior to our next interview.

Mr. Perfect interviews Diesel
WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Diesel gave a backstage interview to Mr. Perfect about his upcoming match against Undertaker
Back in the locker room, Mr. Perfect reminded Big Daddy Cool Diesel of his recent rivalry with The Undertaker. For his part, Diesel -now a fully-fledged heel- declared that despite Undertaker's size, he would defeat him, before going on to challenge Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship. This despite Shawn not yet having the belt.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Sable) vs. The Ultimate Warrior 
Another debut next, as Sable made her first appearance on our screens on the arm of Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who was also putting in his first of many Wrestlemania appearances. Yet it was neither the future Attitude Era pin-up nor the future multi-time world champion that was the star attraction here.

No sir, that honour went to the highly anticipated return of The Ultimate Warrior, a man not seen on WWF telivision since before the 1992 Survivor Series.

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Triple H and Sable made their Wrestlemania debuts together
I'd say that this match was garbage, but let's be honest, this one was never supposed to be about having a competitive pro wrestling match, it was all about the spectacle of the Warrior's return, and to that end, it delivered.

In the opening seconds, Triple H got in his only bout of offence by drilling Warrior with a Pedigree, only for the former World and Intercontinental Champion to completely no-sell the move.

A few clobbering blows, clotheslines, and the inevitable Big Splash of Doom later, and that was all she wrote.
Your Winner: The Ultimate Warrior

Marc Mero made his first WWF appearance in a promo with your mate and mine, Todd Pettingill. Mero claimed that he'd waited 'five long years' to get to the World Wrestling Federation without once mentioning his time as Johnny B. Badd, then said some other stuff about the fire which burns in his eyes that made little sense.
WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - The Ultimate Warrior returned to the WWF and squashed Triple H
The debuts continued next, as Sable's real-life husband

Mero's promo was interrupted by an irate Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who first took out his frustrations by yelling at Sable, before turning his attention to the 'Wild Man.' A short brawl ensured, before we cut back to the roads of Anaheim, with Vince McMahon telling us that Goldust was on his way to the arena to see Marlena, and Roddy Piper was on his way to, well, presumably to beat the stuffing out of Goldie.

Big Daddy Cool Diesel vs. The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer 
I'll admit to being a little disappointed whenever I criticism's of Kevin Nash' in-ring performance. Sure, he was no Eddie Guerrero, Bryan Danielson, or Shawn Michaels, and sure his WCW run left a lot to be desired in terms of bell-to-bell action, but during his WWF run, Big Daddy Cool more often than not came up with a decent offering when it came to big-time Pay Per View bouts.

And whilst this match wasn't as good as his earlier encounters with Bret Hart and the aforementioned Heartbreak Kid, with both he and Undertaker playing to their strengths here, this was at least an entertaining battle of the big men.


WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - The Undertaker continued the streak by defeating Big Daddy Cool Diesel
After a ferocious brawl in the early moments, the match did admittedly slow down tremendously for a spell, though even then, Nash's natural heel charisma and the fan's unwavering devotion to The Phenom were enough to maintain this writer's interest.

As you may expect, Big Daddy Cool controlled much of the contest, and, given the legend of The Streak, you don't need me to tell you that The Dead Man eventually made a comeback, planting Diesel with a chokeslam and a rather wobbly Tombstone piledriver to pick up the win.
Your Winner: The Undertaker (5-0 at Wrestlemania)

Backstage, Todd Pettingill just happened to be conveniently watching Roddy Piper and Goldust's big chase on the security monitors as the two men arrived at the arena.

Hollywood Backlot Brawl
Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Goldust (PART 2)
In the culmination of this unique match-that-wasn't-really-a-match, Piper stalked Goldust through the backstage area and out to the ring. There, Goldust took the advantage, pummeling Piper into the corner, working over his leg, and eventually choking him out with Hot Rod's own t-shirt.

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Roddy Piper stripped Goldust to reveal his women's underwear in their Hollywood Backlot Brawll
"This one started in a Holywood Backlot Bra," McMahon reminded us on at least two occasions, making this fan wonder whether he wasn't actually making some inside joke rather than repeatedly failing to pronounce the word brawl.

With the crowds firmly behind him, Piper eventually turned the tables, beating up on his adversary and stripping him of his gold suit, revealing that Goldie had been wearing stockings, suspenders, and a corset the whole time.

Sort of brings new meaning to the phrase backlot bra, doesn't it?
Your Winner (sort of): Rowdy Roddy Piper 

With that out of the way, there was only one thing left on tonight's show; an epic, hour-long showdown between two of the biggest stars of the 1990s.

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - WWF Champion Bret Hart gave a backstage promo before facing Shawn Michaels
Before we got to the action, we saw pre-taped interviews in which both champ and challenger appeared calm, focused and ready, each man separately agreeing that the only thing left to do was to make it happen.

World Wrestling Federation Championship 60 Minute Iron Man Match
WWF Champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart vs. 'The Heartbreak Kid' Shawn Michaels (w/ Jose Lothario)
Over the years, I've seen various people give mixed reviews of this epic main event, with some declaring it close to a full-on masterpiece and others deriding it as little more than a slow, long-winded, and not terribly exciting affair.

It's fair to say I fall somewhere in the former camp. No, I don't think this is a five star, grade A, perfect match, but I do admit to thoroughly enjoying it, even if I do wonder whether part of that enjoyment has to do with a certain nostalgia factor.

The moment that Shawn Michaels descends from the rafters on a zip line in a moment played literally thousands of times on WWE television since, a little chill of excitement rushed through my spine.

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - WWF Champion Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels get instructions from Earl Hebner before their Iron Man Match
This is the pro wrestling of my childhood, and I can't help but enjoy it for that reason, but with age and experience comes the benefit of a certain appreciation for just how talented both Michaels and Hart were. Together, the two delivered a fantastic performance.

Admittedly, the bout did drag on a little through the 20 - 40 minute mark, but the closing moments were as good as anything this fan has ever seen, and when Shawn Michaels finally fulfilled The Boy Hood Dream during the sudden-death overtime period, it was both the culmination of a terrific bout and -at the time- the start of my lifelong admiration of The Heartbreak Kid.
Your Winner and NEW World Wrestling Federation Champion: Shawn Michaels 






And that was another Wrestlemania in the bag. On the whole, this was far from the worst 'Mania in history, though it was abundantly obvious that tonight was all about one thing and one thing only; finally putting the WWF Championship around the waist of Shawn Michaels.

On the undercard, the Steve Austin vs. Savio Vega was a surprise highlight, whilst the Hollywood Back Lot Bra Brawl served as a welcome change of pace, even if the whole thing does seem a little ridiculous in hindsight.

On a final note, thanks for sticking with me and reading this Wrestlemania 12 review. A combination of real life responsibilities and a lack of enthusiasm for the current WWE product means I just haven't been able to commit to the Retro Pro Wrestling Blog as much as I would like, but, as ever, I will keep plugging away in the hopes that I can recapture some of that magic that I felt when I first watched Wrestlemania 12 back in my childhood. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

BOOK REVIEW: William Regal - Walking a Golden Mile

From the fairgrounds and holiday camps of working class England to the heights of WWE Stardom, William Regal's journey to one of pro wrestling's most respected -if not necessarily successful- figures certainly makes for an interesting read. 

In all honesty, I had my reservations about this book, not necesarily because of Regal himself, but because I've found some of the more heavily-branded WWE books, especially smaller ones like this one, to be somewhat lacking.

So it was a nice surprise to open the book and find that, although there is a certain brisk pace to this one, it was a very well-written read that chronicles the life of Darren Matthews from his early days growing up as a fan to his then-current role in the WWE, striking just the right balance between humour, heartbreak, and hope.

Indeed, the mid-section of the book, in which the British superstar recounts his battle with drug and alcohol addition were particularly hard-hitting, and it's refreshing to read an open, honest account of how quickly addiction can spiral out of control without the writer blaming anyone -or anything- but themselves.






But to focus on just that section of the book is to do the whole thing a discredit. As someone living only a few miles down the road from Blackpool (and having spent a lot of time there drunk out of my ass), I found the tales about the British wrestling scene particularly insightful, whilst the latter part - a sober William Regal enjoying life as a WWE Superstar- to be nothing but full of gratitude and humility for the opportunities that being a famous pro wrestler affords him.

Sure, it could have been a little longer, sure it would have been nicer to expand on a few things rather than the this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened, the end approach that Regal and his co-writer, Neil Chandler, take, but on the whole, I enjoyed Walking a Golden Mile, and certainly recommend at least taking a look at it.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Mick Foley - Hardcore Diaries

First things first; as both a life-long pro wrestling fan and somebody who's only life ambition since being a kid was to work as a writer, I've got nothing but admiration for Mick Foley.

As I mentioned in my review of his groundbreaking opus, Have a Nice Day, I find the very fact that Foley succeeded in a business where by all accounts he shouldn't have done, to be pretty inspiring. In documenting the journey to that success over the course of several autobiographies, it's got to be said that the Hardcore Legend -despite the own jabs at his own work- has certainly got a talent for putting pen to paper and making readers engage with whatever story he happens to be telling.

So it was with some excitement then that I finally picked up Hardcore Diaries, the only Mick Foley memoir I hadn't yet read. Sure, like I suspect many people, I was a little put off by the number of times he deviated from the world of wrestling in his second book Foley is Good, but I didn't really think too much of that for two reasons:

1: I'd only just put down Have a Nice Day, and was on something of a Foley kick
2: This was going to be a book about his thoughts leading into a big pro wrestling match, so lots of wrestling, right?

Right, and yet somehow also wrong.

Yes, the build-up to his big match tagging with Edge to take on Tommy Dreamer and Terry Funk at One Night Stand is pretty well documented, and there are a couple of stories when Foley drops back to bring up other memories from his several-decade-spanning career, but it was precisely these flashbacks and the whole non-linear approach to this book that kind of soured me on it.






In a word, I found Hardcore Diaries to be quite an erratic book, one that was at times pretty hard to follow. One minute you're getting into the mindset of a veteran performer gearing up for one more great match, the next you're delving into his time writing a novel or rubbing shoulders with famous athletes at a charity event.

There's nothing wrong with these things in and of themselves of course -no matter what criticisms I may have of this particular book, I do at least find that Foley comes across as completely genuine- it's just that they were so liberally thrown into the book that it made for a confused, sometimes messy read.

I'm still a fan of Mick's work, just not necessarily this book, and probably wouldn't recommend it unless you're a diehard fan of the Hardcore Legend.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

BOOK REVIEW - Mick Foley - Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks

BOOK REVIEW - Mick Foley - Have a Nice Day - A Tale of Blood and SweatsocksAs you may have noticed by some of my more recent posts, I've been on a bit of a reading kick lately, ploughing my way through wrestling autobiographies, so it made perfect sense to me to go back to the original and -arguably- the best of the bunch. 

Sure, Foley's best-selling tome may not have been the first wrestling autobiography out there (of all things, I remember reading You Grunt, I'll Groan by British World of Sport star Jackie Pallo back when I was a kid), but it was the one that kick-started the trend of major US stars chronicling their career in book form.

Released at the peak of the Attitude Era, Have a Nice Day was perhaps like nothing else that had come along before it, and deserves every ounce of the praise that was heaped upon it at the time. 17 years later (wow, do I feel old!), the book remains a fascinating insight into not only pro wrestling's most popular and profitable period, but also the life, career, and thought-process of one it's -dare I say it- unique performers.

That said, this book is more than just a bloody and brutal trip down memory lane, it's a dramatic, captivating, and thoroughly engrossing story all of its own. It's the story of a man who, for all intents and purposes, never looked set to become one of the biggest stars yet did anyway thanks to a lot of hard work, determination, and sacrifice.

It's the story of a somewhat weird guy with one ear, multiple scars, and missing teeth who thrived in an industry where chiseled, picture-perfect looks were often lauded as factors critical to a star's success, a story of a man who enjoyed success anyway by bringing his strengths to the fore and being as creative as he was courageous in taking every physical and political obstacle hurled in his path and turning it to his advantage.

Physical injuries, ears and teeth missing? Foley made them part of his character. Screwed over by WCW? Foley turned that into one of the hottest angles ECW had going in the mid-1990s. Lumbered with the Lost in Cleveland sketches this fan still vividly remembers watching on Saturday afternoons as a kid? Yeah well, I suppose there's obstacles so bad even the Hardcore Legend couldn't make work for him.






What I found just as fascinating about reading this book two decades after it was published was just how popular wrestling used to be back in the late 90s. Though I was glued to my TV screen for every hardcore match, every crotch-chop, every Steve Austin Beer Bash and every ass whooping Mick Foley was served, the passing of time has naturally made me forget that I was watching all this at a time when wrestling wasn't just popular, but was as mainstream and globally famous as the industry has ever been.

So, though he'll likely never read this review, I guess I should say thank you to Mick Foley, for reminding me of the days when I was perhaps at my happiest as a fan at a time when I just can't seem to care about the WWE's current product, for entertaining me through those years, and the years before it, and for providing me with one hell of a read, seventeen years after Have a Nice Day was first published.


One more thing: If you want some more Foley, check out my review of the legendary IWA: King of Death Match Tournament from 1995.


Other Mick Foley book reviews: 

Sunday, 17 April 2016

EVENT REVIEW: NWA Clash of the Champions 1

NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988
March 27th, 1988
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina

By now, there shouldn't be too many long-term wrestling fans who don't know the story of how the NWA/WCW Clash of the Champions TV specials came into existence. In the days before the Monday Night War, the precursor to WCW as we remember it today were locked in a strategic battle with Vince McMahon's burgeoning World Wrestling Federation, with both companies using the PPV market as their battlefield. 

WCW presented Starcade and Bunkhouse Stampede, McMahon countered with Survivor Series and the first Royal Rumble. Having taken just about as much as they could from Titanland, Jim Crockett promotions looked to fight back by pitting a new, PPV caliber TV event, Clash of the Champions against McMahon's flagship event, Wrestlemania.






NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Live at the Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina
The results didn't work out in Crockett's favour, with 'Mania trouncing Clash every which way. Yet despite the poor return on investment, the show was a hit with fans, and would continue to run all the way up until 1997, the height of the war between the two companies.

When I was last posting regularly on this site (and I know it's been a while, I'm sorry), I was mainly covering WWE events from the mid-1990s, though I decided to change that around just recently. I cancelled my WWE Network subscription after Wrestlemania 32, and decided that for the proverbial shizzles and giggles, I'd watch -and review- some content that I won't be able to get my hands on elsewhere.

With that in mind then, let's turn on the Network and review the first ever NWA Clash of the Champions.

Is Sting finally ready to knock Ric Flair off his throne and become NWA Champion? With Dusty Rhodes by their side, will the Road Warriors take revenge on the men who brutalized them, Ivan Koloff and the Powers of Pain. Are wrestling's new breed of young gladiators equipped with what it takes to be victorious on a day where anything goes? There are so many questions, and the time has finally come to find out the answers. Now, TBS Superstation presents...Clash of the Champions
NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Tony Schiavone & Jim Ross
After that dramatic introduction, complete with footage of the stars in question, generic 80s Movie style music played over pictures of the NWA championship belts before Tony Schiavone (complete with terrible 80s mustache) and Bob Caudle welcomed us to the show, running down tonight's big matches.

It was a simple, no-frills introduction that worked well in setting the tone for tonight's show, and ultimately took us to a youthful Jim Ross standing at ringside.

Ross put over our next match, and with that, it was up to the ring.

NWA Television Championship

NWA Television Champion Mike Rotundo (w/ Games Master Kevin Sullivan) vs. Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin (w/ Precious)
NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin (w/ Precious) prepares to challenge Mike Rotundo for the TV title
"Just like in amateur rules, a one count will count as a fall, and there will be three, five minute rounds" decreed the ring announcer before the future IRS and the future Freebird locked up in a textbook opening contest.

With the Greensboro crowd popping huge for moves most modern fans wouldn't bat an eyelid over (hiptoss, bodyslam, hiptoss, work the crowd) both men went to-and-fro in a match which -though short- was as good as any card-starter you could hope for.

After trading the advantage in the first round, things became much more heated in the second round, with the respective managers getting involved. This was enough to distract referee Teddy Long (who I'm sure was itching to book a tag team match there on the spot) and for Rotunda to grab the quick one fall and retain his title.
Your Winner and Still NWA Television Champion: Mike Rotundo.

Post match, more shenanigans ensued, with Rick Steiner entering the fray, only to be drilled across the spine with a 2x4 courtesy of Precious, who then went further in her efforts to save Garvin from a Varsity Club beatdown by choking out Sullivan with -of all things- a coat hanger.

Dr. Death Steve Williams Promo
NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: "Dr. Death" Steve Williams cut a promo challenging Flair for a title shot
Though I'm sure he no doubt had plenty of fans, I never really saw the appeal of the late Steve Williams. Whilst I'm willing to accept that's probably because I've never actually seen most of his best work, his wooden promo here certainly did little to endear me to JR's favourite.

Asked by interviewer Bob Caudle about the recent events surrounding Dusty Rhodes, Willliams ranted on for at least a minute, mentioning Dusty by name at least every few seconds and sounding for all the world like he hadn't got a clue what Rhodes had been upto without actually admitting as such.

After that, I admittedly switched off, only barely paying attention when Williams said "one more thing...and another thing," and claimed to be ready for an NWA title shot against Ric Flair.

NWA United States Tag Team Championship Match

NWA United States Tag Team Champions The Midnight Express ('Beautiful' Bobby Eaton & Sweet Stan Lane w/ Jim Cornette) vs. The Fantastics (Bobby Fulton & Tommy Rogers)
NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Midnight Express (w/ Jim Cornette) vs. The Fantastics for the NWA US Tag Team Titles
Introduced by their manager, a slim, young-looking Jim Cornette, Beautiful Bobby and Sweet Stan wasted no time in going after their Fantastic Opponents in a wild match where chairs were used liberally in the early moments like something out of ECW's heydey.

The pace of this one was pretty relentless. A fast, furious stormer of a match, with the heels doing everything to batter down their opponents (including slamming them onto folded-up tables at ringside ECDUB! ECDUB!) and keep the crowds up on their feet, cheering and roaring for Fulton and Rogers to fight back.

After one of the best tag team matches this writer can remember seeing for a long time, The Fantastics looked to do just that after Rogers leapt off the top rope onto Eaton and pinned him for the three count. The babyface celebration was shortlived however, as Fulton had -for whatever mad reason- tossed the referee out of the ring (a second ref appeared from nowhere to make the three count). The ref then returned, reversed the decision, and allowed the champs to retain their gold by DQ.
Your Winners via Disqualification and Still NWA United States Tag Team Champions: The Midnight Express.


NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Jim Cornette with Ken Osmond from Leave it to Beaver
Man, that was fun. It wasn't over yet though, as Sweet Stan, Beautifully Bobby and even Jim Cornette ganged up on the Fantastics, the latter lashing one of the Fantastics with his belt as the former two held him over the ropes. This. Is. Hardcore.

After a quick advertisement for NWA Main Event, Bob Caudle showed us the barbed wire being wrapped around the ropes ready for our next match before taking us to a pre-taped segment with Ken Osmond from Leave it to Beaver and Jim Cornette.

Though I'm sure it made more sense at the time (and I'm aware that Cornette's gimmick was that he was a spoiled rich kid using mama's money to play wrestling manager), this was just a bizarre segment in which the two talked more about Cornette's mum and her mansion than they did The Midnight Express.

NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Al Perez and his manager, Gary Hart, cut a promo on the show
Moving back to Caudle next, who was standing by with Al Perez and his manager Gary Hart. The interview mainly involved Perez looking confused whilst Hart hyped his charge's US title shot against reigning champion, Dusty Rhodes. Perez finally spoke up, insisting that the only way Rhodes could beat him would be to strike him with a baseball bat.

"Let's just hope they legalise baseball bats, Dusty Rhodes...." said Hart finally, before adding he indeed, invented the Dirty Deeds. Somewhere, a young Dean Ambrose was probably taking note.

Jim Crockett Snr. Memorial cup 

Up next, Frances Crockett announced the top ten seeds for the upcoming Jim Crockett Snr. Memorial Cup, all whilst looking as though it was the last place in the world she wanted to be.

Chicago Street Fight: Six Man Barbed Wire Match

NWA United States Champion Dusty Rhodes and The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal, w/ Paul Ellering) vs. Ivan Koloff and The Powers of Pain (Warlord & Barbarian, w/ Paul Jones)
Dusty Rhodes and the Road Warriors, among the very greatest of all time. There was no possible way this could be bad, right?

Wrong?

NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Dusty Rhodes & The Road Warriors lost a barbed wire match to Ivan Koloff and The Powers of Pain
OK, maybe bad's the wrong word here. Let's try boring. Uninteresting. Not worth watching. Yeah, that's more like it.

Indeed, I think the most interesting thing about this match was that Animal was wearing a hockey mask to sell the very face injury that had led us to this match, and that Dusty was wearing L-O-D style facepaint.

Beyond that, this was just several minutes of guys standing by the ropes rubbing each other with barbed wire and occasionally punching each other. Somewhere amidst the melee, you're likely to have seen Hawk busting out his trademark press slam/fist drop spot, and Barbarian accidentally nailing Warlord with a headbutt to give the win to the good guys, but that's only if you were still paying attention at that point.
Your Winners: Dusty Rhodes and the Road Warriors

Post match, the heels pretty much no-sold the loss, getting back up, ripping Animal's mask off and attacking him until his partner's made the save.

Nikita Koloff Reveals his New Look 

NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Nikita Koloff revealed a new look at the show
After Tony Schiavone and Jim Ross stood around at ring side hyping the new NWA Main Event show, it was back to our man Bob Caudle for an interview with Nikita Koloff. Wearing a white suit, white shirt, and white tie, this was apparently Koloff's 'new look.' Since I was four at the time, and this is about the furthest I've ever gone back in watching NWA/WCW footage, I have no idea what his old look was, but hey, more power to the man. 

Looking sharp in his new suit, Koloff claimed that he'd spent the last two months talking to young people about taking care of their health, cleverly transitioning this into talking about how the heels of the company had tried to take his health, making him a fighter.

I'll be honest, the thick, faux-Russian accent made it hard to understand every word of Kolloff's promo, but the points were delivered well enough, and despite not being particuarly memorable,t his was so far the best promo on the show.


NWA World Tag Team Championship Match

NWA Tag Team Champions 'The Enforcer' Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard (w/ JJ. Dillon) vs. Barry Whindham & Lex Luger 

So much of me wants to refer to the champs here as The Brainbusters, but I'll refrain, and instead tell you what an enjoyable bout this was.

Following the same non-stop pace of the first two matches, this was another textbook, old-school match with barely a dull moment in sight. All four men worked hard, the big, brawny challengers putting their size and strength up against the smaller champions speed and dastardly heel tactics, the very same tactics which ultiamtely cost them the match.

NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Barry Windham & Lex Luger beat Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard for the NWA World Tag Team TitlesAfter a good match, JJ Dillon jumped up onto the apron with a chair, only for Lex Luger to throw Arn Anderson head-first into it. One pinfal later, and The Total Package leapt into the air, celebrating his and Windham's victory.

Your Winners and NEW NWA World Tag Team Champions: Lex Luger & Barry Whindham

Prior to our main event, we were introduced to the match judges; Gary Juster from the National Wrestling Alliance, former wrestler Sandy Scott, Penthouse Playmate Patty Mullen, Jim Cornette's buddy Ken Osmond, and 'The Wonder Years' Jason Harvey, all of whom randomly stood around at ringside looking like they couldn't find their seats. 

NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match

NWA World Heavyweight Champion 'The Nature Boy' Ric Flair vs. Sting (w/ JJ. Dillon)

NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Ric Flair kept his NWA World Heavyweight Championship in a 45 minute draw with StingWith JJ suspended in a cage at ringside, WCW's two biggest stars went at it in an gripping main event that proved why both men still enjoy the kind of acclaim they do today.

Challenger Sting fought desperately to claim the title, using everything in his arsenal to take it to the champion. Flair meanwhile, played the cowardly heel to perfection, backing into the corner whenever Sting went on the rampage, begging for mercy and taking cheapshots whenever possible.

Though it may not have been the best match the two would ever have (that's certainly not for me to say), this one was certainly a riot from start to finish.

Speaking of the finish, both men went the full forty-five minutes, leaving the decision up to the judges. The fact that three celebrities held the fate of the most prestigious wrestling title in the world at that time in their hands kind of spoiled things a little bit for this fan, but only a little bit, and I'll admit I'm nitpicking here.

In the end, the match was -somewhat predictably- declared a draw.
Match Result - Draw: Ric Flair retains the NWA Championship


NWA CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS 1 - 1988: Sting holds Ric Flair in the Scorpion Death Lock in the closing moments of their World Title Match
And that was all she wrote folks. Though not the greatest event ever recorded in the history of televised professional wrestling, this was nonetheless a very good card, with the only low-point being the dull barbed wire match and a couple of wooden promos. In fact, I enjoyed the whole thing so much, that I'm seriously reconsidering cancelling my WWE Network subscription.

Writing this has been just the thing I needed to rediscover my passion for pro wrestling, and this blog, a passion which has been slowly battered away by a current WWE product that I can sadly no longer relate to.






'Til next time,

Thanks for reading.


BOOK REVIEW: CHRIS JERICHO - BEST IN THE WORLD (AT WHAT I HAVE NO IDEA)

I began my recent review of Chris Jericho's first book,  A Lion's Tale: Around the World in Spandex, by noting how my main motivation for picking up a book I'd read several times over was to prime me ready for delving into his most recent tome, Best in the World (At What I have no Idea). 

Reading both back to back, what struck me the most was just how different the two memoirs are in almost every conceivable way. Sure, Jericho's trademark wit was there in abundance on every page, and sure it was still an enjoyable read for the most part, but beyond that, if you didn't know it to begin with, you'd be forgiven for thinking the books were written by two entirely different people.

Look, I get it. A Lion's Tale is a story about a young kid chasing his dreams and overcoming every obstacle hurled in his past to do so. Best in the World is about a man who achieved his dreams and is now living the high life as a famous Superstar. The man born Chris Irvine leads a much different life today than the one he describes in his first book, so it's not going to be the same kind of story, but there was more to it than that.

As a fan of wrestling, rock 'n' roll, and generally of anybody who chases their dreams and eventually catches them, I have nothing but respect and admiration for Chris Jericho, but reading Best in the World, I did find myself questioning whether or not I should. There was just something about Jericho's book that made me feel uncomfortable, and it was only when I got half way through that I realised what that something was.

The one thing that had made A Lion's Tale such a captivating, deeply engaging book was sorely lacking in Best in the World; that one thing was a simple word called humility.

That first book is my favourite wrestling memoir ever (and yes, that include's Foley's), partly because it was so easy to get behind the young dream-chaser as he made mistakes, learned lessons and kept pushing to make it to the big time no matter what happened. The Chris Jericho in that story was easy to relate to, the kind of guy you want to get behind, root for, and cheer for when he finally makes it to the promised land.




The Chris Jericho I've just spent reading about -and as a big fan of his it pains me to say this- came across as something of prima donna not opposed to throwing a tantrum or two to get his own way.

In a way, I kind of bizarrely admire that, a man who won't take no for an answer and will do all he can to succeed, but there were times in reading this book that I found it really hard to like the guy I was reading about, and that was disappointing.

Sure, some of the anecdotes were insightful (and that's all this book feels like, a collection of anecdotes Jericho wrote down whenever they happened to occur to him), and there were still a few belly laughs to be had, but the Chris Jericho in this book is -sadly- not the Chris Jericho I became a huge fan of years ago.

Other pro wrestling book reviews: 


Tuesday, 12 April 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Chris Jericho - A Lion's Tale - Around the World in Spandex

This past Christmas, good ol' Santa Claus brought me a copy of The Best in the World (at what I have no idea), the third memoir from WWE Superstar, Fozzy frontman, and one-time Goldberg-goader, Chris Jericho. Before I got into reading it however, I wanted to go right back to the beginning of Y2J's journey, and picked up my old copy of A Lion's Tale: Around the World in Spandex. 

Though I'll often claim that A Lion's Tale is up there in my top three all-time favourite wrestling book's (Foley's original bestseller and Bret Hart's epic autobiography being the other two), it's been a good few years since I last sat down to recount Jericho's journey from body slamming his buddy in their high school Big Time Wrestling Federation to his memorable WWF debut in the summer of 1999.


Going back through it over the past week, I've remembered quite clearly why I fell in love with this book in the first place. Jericho's remarkable attention to detail, coupled with a level of humility that's pretty rare in the pro wrestling industry, make him a captivating storyteller as he pulls you along the proverbial rollercoaster of emotions.

One minute you're laughing out loud at some of the more awkward interactions a young Chris Irvine has with his heroes (My name's Chris, too), the next you're rooting for the plucky young Lion Heart as he scratches and claws his way through an industry littered with over-inflated egos and backstage politics. In between, Jericho tugs at the heartstrings when talking about his mother and her tragic accident and his genuine love for his wrestling brothers, provides fascinating insights into the less-than-glamorous side of working his way up in the industry and then returns to the trademark Y2J humour.






I have no shame in admitting that the former Undisputed Champion is something of a personal hero of mine, as much -if not more- for his work ethic and unwavering commitment to pursuing his dreams as anything he's ever done on television to keep me and millions of other fans entertained. As such, though I doubt the man will ever read this review, I do need to say thank you to Chris for documenting his journey in A Lion's Tale. 

The story is nothing short of inspiring, and having been unable to put this book down over the last couple of days, I feel more motivated having just finished this book at 8.30 on a Tuesday morning than I have in a long while. 

The book has also rekindled my love for pro wrestling, something that I've found severely lacking in the last couple of months since I last wrote anything here on Retro Pro Wrestling. Though I'm pretty sure I'll never be as passionate about the current product as I was about the stuff I grew up with, Around the World in Spandex was the perfect reminder of why I fell in love with this unique sport in the first place, and for that, if nothing else, I consider this book not just one of my top three, but quite possibly the best pro wrestling memoir ever written. 

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.