Starrcade ’85 “The Gathering” – November 28, 1985

Continuing the chronological look back at the NWA/Jim Crockett Promotions’ run in the mid-late 80s, it’s time for Starrcade ’85 “The Gathering”. Our main event is a rematch from Starrcade ’84, NWA Champ Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes. However, perhaps the most anticipated match on the card is the I Quit steel cage battle for the U.S. Title between Tully Blanchard and Magnum T.A. Let’s roll…

I know this match has been covered before by Scott and others, but I wanted to stick with the chronology of recapping the Crockett Era, and maybe I can offer a little different historical perspective. Or maybe this will bore you to tears. We’ll see …

We’ve got a TV-MA warning from the WWE Network, due to violence. Cover your eyes kids. Bloodbaths aplenty await. We open with Bob Caudle & Tony Schiavone ringside at the Omni in Atlanta. They toss to Johnny Weaver, who is in the locker room at the Greensboro Coliseum. Weaver looks incredibly uncomfortable and keeps glancing back and forth between the camera and his monitor. Decent wrestler in his day, but a brutal announcer when Caudle wasn’t with him to lead the way.

The first two Starrcades took place in Greensboro and were shown around the Mid-Atlantic area on closed circuit. This year, with JCP now owning the Saturday night time slot on WTBS, it made sense to hold a split card in both Greensboro and Atlanta. At least in theory.

The matches begin in Greensboro. After, the national anthem, they bring out commie traitor Khrusher Khrushchev vs. Sam Houston for the vacant Mid-Atlantic Title. Schiavone’s microphone isn’t working for the first 30 seconds or so. Not a good start, production-wise. Houston’s speed helps him avoid Khrusher’s early attacks and he’s able to take Khrusher down and hold him with the headscissors. Off the ropes, Khrusher positions Houston for the backdrop but instead just lifts him straight into the air for a big, face-first bump. He follows with a press slam and a bear hug. Khrusher goes to the top as that’s a mistake. Houston gets up and dropkicks him off. Khrusher crotches himself on the ropes. Houston nails the bulldog and thinks he’s won, but Khrusher’s foot is on the ropes. Houston celebrates and Khrushchev surprises him with the Russian Sickle to finish it and claim the Mid-Atlantic Title. *1/2

Next, we go to Atlanta for Abdullah the Butcher w/ Paul Jones vs. the Ragin’ Bull Manny Fernandez in a Mexican Death Match. Some idiot fan tries to grab Abby’s headdress on the way to the ring. I hope the Butcher forked him. Fernandez brings a big sombrero to the ring. That’s the prize for the match. The only way to win is climb a poll and grab the sombrero. Methinks this puts Abdullah at a serious disadvantage. Though, I bet if it was a Taco Bell six-pack atop the poll, he’d find a way to get up there.

Shockingly, Abdullah attacks before the bell. He quickly opens Fernandez up with a weapon. The Bull is a bloody mess as Abdullah pounds away. Fernandez fires back with some kicks to Abdullah’s ample belly and he’s able to barely get him over with a monkey flip. Fernandez takes his boot off and nails Abby with it off the second rope. Abdullah is busted open now too. Another shocker. Abby goes after the sombrero. He almost gets it, but Fernandez nails him from behind and Abdullah takes a big bump (for him) off the second rope. Then we get the exact same sequence, but with the roles reversed…

Fernandez removes his leather belt and whips Abdullah. Blood is pouring out of both men. Abdullah misses the big elbowdrop, his usual finisher. Fernandez tries a vertical suplex on the near 400-pounder, and accomplishes it! Fernandez goes after the sombrero, but Abby hits the low blow. Fernandez responds with the Flying Burrito. Abby doesn’t go down. Manny hits him again from the second rope and the Butcher drops this time. Now to the top rope, Fernandez misses a splash. Abdullah misses the charge in the corner and Fernandez quickly scales the pole to grab the sombrero and the victory. A good old fashioned bloodbath, which Mid-Atlantic fans always appreciate. **

We go to the locker room in Greensboro, where Johnny Weaver interviews new Mid-Atlantic Champ Khrusher Khrushchev. He thanks the Koloffs for making him what he is and says he’ll show all Americans that Russians are superior athletes.

To the ring, it’s Cowboy Ron Bass vs. Black Bart w/ J.J. Dillon in a Texas Bullrope Match between former partners. If Bass wins, he gets five minutes in the ring with Dillon, his former manager. Bass nails Bart with the cowbell and he’s bleeding less than a minute into the bout. After a couple minutes, Bart gains control and opens up Bass with the cowbell. The entire offense has consisted of punches, cowbell bashes and choking with the bullrope. Both men are a bloody mess. Bart does the worst job of telegraphing a corner charge in wrestling history. He misses by a mile, Bass nails him with the cowbell off the second rope and that’s enough for the pin. Horrid, but this is Mid-Atlantic where gore is appreciated. We award a star for the blood. *

That means it’s Ron Bass vs. J.J. Dillon for five minutes. Dillon quickly attacks Bass, who is worn out and bloody from the battle with Bart. Dillon nails him with the cowbell and chokes him with the bullrope. The fans are trying to rally Ron Bass. He’s hulking up. Yes, really. Bass nails Dillon with the cowbell and we’ve got more blood. Bass accidentally hits referee Sonny Fargo with the cowbell. That allows Black Bart to come in and deliver a piledriver on Bass. He puts Dillon on top and J.J. F’ing Dillon wins the bullrope match over Ron Bass. The crowd hates it. Bass pretty much jobs out to The Barbarian, Tully Blanchard and in tag team matches for the next three months before returning to Florida as a heel. *

Up next, we go back to Atlanta for The Barbarian w/ Paul Jones vs. Superstar Billy Graham in an arm wrestling challenge, which will be followed by a standard match. The Barbarian’s right arm is in a cast, so they’re doing it left-handed. This colossal waste of time, like every arm wrestling challenge in wrestling history, ends with Graham winning and then getting attacked by Jones with his cane. The match begins and Graham is already a bloody mess. Barbarian goes to the top rope for the flying headbutt, but misses. Graham locks him in a bear hug and this horrendous display just gets worse. Jones interferes and nails Graham with the cane and we’ve got a disqualification. Total DUD.

To Greensboro, it’s Buddy Landel vs. Terry Taylor for the National Heavyweight Championship. Landel is wearing a cheap imitation of a Ric Flair ring robe that looks like something your grandmother picked up at the local Goodwill store. J.J. Dillon is supposed to be at ringside with Landel, but he’s likely still recovering from the bullrope match. Landel lands some Flairesque chops in the corner but runs into a boot from Taylor and does the Flair Flop. Landel takes control with a great forearm shot after an arm wringer by Taylor. J.J. F’ing Dillon arrives at ringside with his head bandaged up…

A Landel clothesline garners a two-count. He locks in a modified camel clutch. Taylor escapes by bucking Landel into the turnbuckle. Taylor stands on Landel’s face with both feet and nails the vertical suplex. Dillon hands Landel his shoe and he nails Taylor with it. Then referee Sonny Fargo gets bumped. Dillon is on the apron with the shoe. Landel tries the Irish Whip, but Taylor reverses and Landel collides with his manager. Taylor sets Landel up for the superplex, but Dillon tries him up, Landel lands on top and we’ve got a new National Heavyweight champion. Action went back and forth throughout. **1/2

Next, it’s Ole & Arn Anderson vs. Billy Jack Haynes & Wahoo McDaniel for the National Tag Team Titles. The WWE Network gives us a rip-off of Prince’s “1999” for the faces’ entrance music. Haynes overpowers Arn and delivers a press slam. Ole doesn’t fare any better in an exchange of fisticuffs. Wahoo tags in and lands some big chops. We get some mat grappling and the Andersons work on Wahoo’s arm. Wahoo plays face in peril for awhile…

McDaniel finally reaches Haynes after some open hand chops. Haynes takes down both Andersons and all four are in the ring. The ref forces Wahoo out and for some stupid reason, Haynes quickly tags him back in. Wahoo lands the big chop on Arn and has him down, but Ole comes in for the save. Then in the corner, Ole trips Wahoo and holds his long down while the ref to three with Arn on top. Haynes looked really stupid here tagging Wahoo back in so quickly after he’d been taking a beating. I’m guessing Billy Jack didn’t want to do the job. I’ll give it **.

To the Greensboro locker room, Johnny Weaver interviews Buddy Landel & J.J. Dillon. Dillon says it’s the greatest night in his career. Could better ones be on the horizon? Dillon adds that the National Title is the last stepping stone to the NWA World Title and Landel is well on his way. Landel says he’s watched Tully Blanchard, Ric Flair, and Arn & Ole Anderson for the last nine months and he’s modeled his life after them. All except for that showing up for work part, presumably.

Next, it’s back to Greensboro for what is destined to be one of the most memorable matches in JCP history: The I Quit Steel Cage Match for the U.S. Title, Tully Blanchard w/ Baby Doll vs. Magnum T.A. These two have had a very heated feud leading up to this match and there is a definite tension in the air. Before the days of MMA and tapping out, submitting in a wrestling match was nearly unheard of for upper card guys, so making your opponent say “I quit” is a big deal and a great way to blow off a feud…

Blanchard gains the early advantage with a rake of the eyes and forearms, but Magnum battles back with right hands. Blanchard is reeling. Tully gains the advantage and rams Magnum into the cage. Magnum powers back, presses Blanchard over his head and drops him throat-first across the top rope. Great spot. Magnum laces in some punches, but Tully grabs the tights and tosses him into the cage. Magnum is busted open, but he responds by putting Blanchard in a hammerlock and ramming him face & shoulder-first into the cage, twice. Blanchard is now a bloody mess. It’s early, but both men are hurting…

Tully grabs the microphone and yells at Magnum to say “I quit”. Magnum refuses and gets hammered with the mic in the forehead. Blanchard pounds away as the crowd tries to rally behind Magnum. Finally, Magnum dodges an elbow drop, pounds away on Blanchard and demands the champion submit. Blanchard refuses. It’s basically a street brawl now with the two on the mat, gouging each others’ eyes and throwing punches. Tully kicks Magnum in the ribs and the microphone goes flying. Magnum pounds away in the corner, but Blanchard responds with a reverse atomic drop. Tully continues to use the microphone as a weapon to weaken Magnum. Blanchard tosses referee Tommy Young aside…

That prompts Baby Doll to toss a wooden chair into the ring. Blanchard slams the chair into the mat, breaking it into pieces. He grabs one part that looks like a sharp stake and tries to drive it into Magnum’s eye or forehead. There’s definite concern among Magnum’s fans as the females in particular begin screaming. Magnum struggles mightily to fight it off. The stake is so close! Magnum drives his knee into Blanchard’s ribs three times and finally breaks free. Blanchard loses control of the stake. Magnum grabs it! He quickly drills it into Blanchard’s forehead and there is a massive pop from the audience. Magnum yells at Blanchard, “Do you quit? Do you quit?” repeatedly. “YES! YES! YES!” Blanchard squeals, in very un-Daniel Bryan-like fashion. Referee Tommy Young calls for the bell and the crowd goes nuts. Magnum T.A. is your winner and new U.S. champion. Blanchard’s selling is perfect and Magnum looks prepared to finish him off with evil intentions. Great stuff. A unique, brutal, dramatic and gory match. A classic. *****

We go back to Atlanta to the voice of Jim Cornette introducing his Midnight Express to face Jimmy Valiant and Miss Atlanta Lively w/ Big Mama in a street fight. Eaton and Condrey are dressed in tuxedos. Big Mama sprays some sort of aerosol in Eaton’s eyes and Miss Atlanta Lively begins choking him while Valiant and Condrey fight on the floor. Both Midnight Express members are quickly busted open, because we haven’t had enough blood on this show yet. Valiant lands a huge hip toss on Beautiful Bobby on the arena floor. Eaton is so talented, he can even make Valiant look good. Ok, maybe not, but Bobby is awesome…

The Midnights gain control with powder to the eyes of both opponents, then they whip Valiant with their leather belts. Cornette bashes Ms. Lively with the tennis racket. Valiant is out on the floor, bleeding of course, while they doubleteam Lively. Beautiful Bobby comes off the top, but gets nailed by Lively with a Ronnie Garvin-like knockout punch. That’s good enough for the pin. And they strip Jim Cornette to his underwear. Ridiculous match with some comic relief, which was needed after the I Quit brutality. I”ll be generous and give it **, only because the Midnights did their best to make it look good.

To the Greensboro locker room, Johnny Weaver interviews a still bloody Magnum T.A. He says it shouldn’t have come down to an I Quit Match, because that isn’t wrestling, but that’s what it took. Magnum says the U.S. Title is back where it belongs and he’ll be a fighting champion, defending against Nikita Koloff, Arn Anderson, Buddy Landel and anyone who wants a shot. Good, fiery promo.

To the ring, it’s NWA Tag Team Champions Ivan & Nikita Koloff w/ Khrusher Khrushchev vs. The Rock & Roll Express w/ Don Kernodle inside a steel cage. A bit of history: Kernodle was NWA Tag Champs with Sgt. Slaughter, and later, teamed with Ivan Koloff as Russian sympathizer. They also won the tag gold. He also helped train Nikita Koloff. So, Kernodle was a traitor to the U.S. years before his old mentor, Sgt. Slaughter turned his back on America…

Ricky Morton uses his speed to outwit the Russians early on. Several quick tags early on and they have Ivan befuddled. The R&R are crazy over with the female audience. You can hear the squeals every time they hit an offensive move, especially Morton.  Through 1986, they brought a different demographic to JCP with the preteen female crowd and the pops when the R&R’s music hit rivaled any in wrestling history. Seriously…

Ricky Morton nails Ivan with standing fist drops off the ropes and the Russian Bear is busted open. Nikita misses the Sickle, but catches Robert Gibson in a bear hug then drops him head-first into the cage. Nice spot. A couple more times into the cage and Gibson is in trouble. He’s got the proverbial crimson mask now. The Russians continue work over Gibson. He keeps almost getting away for the tag, but can’t quite make it…

Finally, Gibson sneaks through Ivan’s legs and hits him with a drop kick, but Ivan runs into the ref. They’re all three down. Gibson covers Ivan and could win it, but the ref is out. Nikita sickles Gibson and puts Ivan on top. An easy three-count, but still no ref. Finally, Gibson makes the tag to Morton, and Ivan Koloff doesn’t see it. He back drops Gibson, but Morton rolls up Ivan from behind and we’ve got new World Tag Team Champions! Afterwards, they throw Morton into the cage and then out of the ring. He’s busted open and the Russians triple-team Gibson with a chain, followed by a double-clothesline off the ropes into a back suplex. Kind of a modified Doomsday Device. Some jobbers come in to help the R&R, finally. Great match.  ****

Time for the main event, for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes. Dusty gets a huge pop during the introductions. Loud boos for Flair. This is in Atlanta, the same city where Flair turned on Dusty and broke his ankle. They trade chops early on. Dusty goes to the right hands and the Flip Flop & Fly. Flair is down. He goes outside to take a breather. Back in and Dusty gets the better of two more exchanges thanks to his bionic elbow. Flair takes a powder again…

Flair gains the advantage with his patented chops, followed by the knee drop. He goes after the injured leg for the first time, kicking the ankle he injured two months earlier. Dusty yells in pain. Now he’s taking a breather outside and hobbling on the hurt leg. Dusty answers with elbows, then stomps on Flair’s leg to return the favor. Flair tries to suplex Dusty, but can’t get the big man over. Rhodes suplexes Flair, then drops elbows on the champ’s leg. Dusty rams Flair’s leg into the post. The champ is hobbled, but goes to the top. You know what happens. A slam, followed by a figure-four attempt, but Flair kicks Rhodes off before he can lock in Flair’s favorite hold. Now Flair attempts the figure-four twice, to no avail. So he stomps the injured ankle…

An Irish Whip into the corner, Flair flips over the ropes and down to the floor. Dusty rams Flair’s head into the post and, you guessed it, he’s busted open. Rhodes hits referee Tommy Young with an errant shot and he’s temporarily blinded. Flair throws Rhodes over the top rope, a disqualification if the ref saw it. Rhodes scales the ropes and executes a cross-body block on Flair. He’s got him down…Young counts…but it’s only two! He might have had him if Young had been there sooner…

Dusty pounds away on Flair and we get the Flair Flop, to a big pop from the crowd. Flair gets whipped into the corner, over the ropes again, to the top again, and gets caught with a shot to the midsection. Dusty misses a kick in the corner and hurts his leg. Flair works it locks in the figure-four. Dusty is somehow able to reverse it. Now Flair’s in pain, but he’s in the ropes and the ref makes them break it. Flair laces in some chops, but Dusty starts no-selling and responds with elbows. Dusty bounds off the ropes and lands a clothesline. Flair powers out, tossing Rhodes on top of the referee. Then Rhodes grabs Flair’s tights and yanks him into the corner, but right into Young, who gets knocked out of the ring …

Inside, Rhodes locks in the figure-four. Arn Anderson runs in, but Dusty takes him out. In comes Ole Anderson from behind with a knee to the back. Flair goes for the pin…another referee comes in to count…but Dusty kicks out at two. Dusty rolls up Flair in the small package and we’ve got a count of three. Dusty Rhodes is your new NWA World Heavyweight champion. The faces rush the ring to hoist Dusty up and celebrate as the Andersons and Flair protest. The ring announcer confirms the decision. Dusty is the champ for the third time. ****

We go to the locker room, as the faces celebrate with a champagne shower. Billy Jack Haynes, Pez Whatley, Manny Fernandez, Wahoo McDaniel and the Italian Stallion are there with Dusty and Tony Schiavone. Dusty says he did it for the blue collar people of America and he’s going to be world champion for a long time.

Schiavone and Bob Caudle recap the show. Five new champs were crowned: Mid-Atlantic, National, U.S., World Tag Team and World Heavyweight champions. Bob and Tony think Dusty will hold the title for a long, long time. Hmmm…

Overall, the first half of the card was ok, but nothing special. Three of the last four matches were outstanding, including the I Quit classic. Lots of blood, lots of drama, and five title changes. Overall, an enjoyable and historic show.