The SmarK Rant for NWA Capital Combat 1990: The RETURN OF ROBOCOP
Live from Washington, DC
Your hosts are Jim Ross & Bob Caudle
Hey, I figured that since we’re at that point in the Observer Flashbacks anyway, we might as well hit this one up. I’ve only ever had the videotape version to review before, so this is my first time seeing the PPV version. Although it’s technically still the NWA at this point, the ring apron and banners all say “World Championship Wrestling”, so the writing was LITERALLY on the wall.
Kevin Sullivan, Bam Bam Bigelow & Cactus Jack v. The Road Warriors & Norman the Lunatic
I literally do not remember Bigelow being on TV at this point, especially in his weird sleeveless tights. Nearing the end for the Road Warriors at this point in the NWA, of course. Poor Jack gets destroyed by the Warriors to start, and Hawk no-sells all the heel offense and fights them off. Animal overpowers Bigelow and clotheslines him out, but Hawk immediately comes in with a comeback on the heels. Jack is just killing himself out there, taking an unprotected bump over the top rope and then going over the railing into the crowd as well. Back in the ring, Sullivan cuts off Norman and the heels finally get the heat, as Bigelow suplexes Norman for two. Jack continues hurtling his own body around the ring to get over, even when he’s on offense, and Norman actually takes some impressive bumps for someone his size as well. Finally he collides with Jack and makes the hot tag to Animal, and it’s BONZO GONZO. Hawk clotheslines Sullivan off the top in the chaos and pins him at 9:41. Good opener with Cactus Jack trying to jump for six guys, but I can see why they cut it from the home video. ***
Mean Mark v. Johnny Ace
Ace uses his speed to evade Mark, and puts him on the floor and follows with a dive. Back in, Big Johnny works the arm and gets a crossbody out of the corner for two. Finally Mark just slugs him down and tosses him to take over. Back in with a delayed suplex for two. Ace decides to chase after Teddy Long for some reason, so Mark nails him from behind and gets the Undertaker clothesline for two. Legdrop gets two. Ace gets a small package for a hope spot, but misses a dropkick and Mark gets two. He chokes away on the mat as this drags on. How is Mean Mark ever going to get over by moving slowly and choking people? Ace gets ANOTHER comeback with a monkey flip and a flying clothesline, but it misses and Mark finishes with the HEART PUNCH and ropewalk elbow at 10:36. Way too long for a squash, but I wonder if they gave Ace more offense to send a message to Shane Douglas for refusing to job to Mark? *1/2
Meanwhile, Gordon Solie heads back to the dressing room, which is apparently shared by Sting and Robocop. With all of Robocop’s maintenance equipment, how can that even leave enough room for Sting to change?
The Samoan Swat Team v. Tommy Rich & Mike Rotundo
The SST is Fatu & Tama in this case, as Samu had managed to get himself fired again. For those keeping track, Mike Rotundo is a boat captain at this point in his career, although he would soon come into some money and rebrand himself as a stock mogul. So the first 2:30 here are the Samoans stalling, before they finally make contact and Rich fights them off. More stalling from Fatu, but Rotundo puts him on the floor with some dropkicks. Back in after still more stalling, and Fatu misses a flying headbutt off a Tama powerslam, allowing Captain Mike to take over and work the arm. The SST takes over on Rotundo with a cheapshot and we get the false tag and “throw the babyface over the top behind the ref’s back” spots as Rotundo is sweaty face in peril. Fatu holds him in a facelock that LITERALLY lasts 2:00, and then switches to a chinlock to mix things up. Finally it’s a clothesline from Rotundo and a hot tag to Rich, who gets a sleeper on Fatu, but Tama hits him from behind and Fatu falls on top for the pin at 17:00. Thank god they cut this off the videotape. *
Hair v. Hair: Paul Ellering v. Teddy Long
This was where the videotape picked up. Both guys are already bald, so this is a particularly dumb stipulation match. And tying into a discussion from yesterday, Ellering grabs Long by the throat and Jim Ross notes “Uh oh, he’s got Teddy Long by the goozle”. So there you go. Ellering steals one of the presumably loaded boxing gloves worn by Long and knocks him out at 2:00. DUD So the “celebrity” hairstylist runs into the ring, cuts off a few snippets of Long’s hair, and we rush to the next segment.
The Four Horsemen are out to cut a hell of a promo against Lex Luger, with Sid standing in the background wearing a tuxedo that seems to be made to prove that guys like Sid shouldn’t be wearing tuxedos.
US tag team titles: Brian Pillman & Tom Zenk v. The Midnight Express
Great spot to start as Cornette is supposed to be locked in a cage at ringside but doesn’t want to, so he runs away from the babyfaces, only to get WALLOPED with a clothesline from referee Randy Anderson. Cornette’s comedic timing on that one was amazing. Bobby slugs it out with Pillman and the babyfaces quickly clean house, with Zenk slingshotting Pillman in with a flying clothesline to chase them. Zenk controls Lane with armdrags and dropkicks, and Lane bails for some advice from Cornette. That advice? “If you’re running a wrestling promotion six months before the biggest boom in the history of the business, for god’s sake don’t close up shop too early!” Back in , Pillman and Bobby do a very fluid sequence of reversals. Zenk used to talk about the Express feud back when he was doing shoot interviews, and he described the Express as two guys who would work out the matches with complex hand signals and codewords, like air traffic controllers. Pillman with a sunset flip on Bobby for two, and the champs double-team Bobby in the corner until Lane comes in after some heel miscommunication, and he too gets double-teamed. Pillman works the arm, but charges and goes over the top by mistake, allowing Eaton to take over with a neckbreaker on the floor. Lane follows with a knee on the apron, and Pillman does the signature bump into the railing, and NOW the heel fans are coming out of the woodwork. Lane comes in with the springboard clothesline, into a Bobby elbowdrop for two. How can you not love two guys going out and trying to upstage everyone in the promotion as a “fuck you” to management? Pillman is your face in peril and the MX proceed to the double-team goodness, with a Lane drop toehold into an Eaton elbow for two. Lane goads Zenk into the ring and then tosses Pillman, and as JR notes, normally that’s where Cornette would sprint over and hit him with the racket. So in this case, Lane does his own dirty work, and they go back to beating on Pillman again. Bobby with the flying elbow for two. To the top again with the Alabama Jam, and that gets two. That was great because it looked like Pillman was going to slam him off the top, but Eaton just cheated and raked the eyes, then hit him with the legdrop instead. But Pillman finally just slams Eaton and crawls for the hot tag to Zenk. The Express quickly cuts him off and hits the Rocket Launcher for two, but Eaton misses a blind charge and Zenk gets a crossbody for two. It’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA and Pillman loses his temper, as Lane hits Zenk with an enzuigiri behind the ref’s back, allowing Eaton to roll him up for the pin and the titles at 20:21! ALL OF THIS. ****1/4
Meanwhile, Robocop is here, but the camera shorts out. So this brings out Sting for his return interview, decked out in Zubaz like a geek. Sadly, the Horsemen attack him and lock him in Cornette’s cage, so ROBOCOP comes out and rips the door off like he’s Kane or something. I’m sorely disappointed that this didn’t lead to a tag match with Sting & Robocop v. Sid & Ole Anderson.
Meanwhile, Junkyard Dog returns because Ole is in charge and he works cheap. Dog does get a good burn on Jim Cornette, telling him that he’s been at Mama Cornette’s house all this time.
Corporal Punishment match: The Rock N Roll Express v. The Freebirds
The Birds are the clear babyfaces here, as the RNR’s comeback wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire. The stip here is that leather straps are attached to the ringposts, to be used as needed. Michael Hayes does the epic stall to start, as you’d expect, but contact is made a mere 2:00 into the match, a new record for him. The Birds get double-teamed by the RNR, and the Express grabs the straps and gets some whipping on them. Garvin gets worked over in the corner as the RNR switch off on headlocks and cheat, once again hinting at the heel turn that could have revived their career. Express with double figure-fours, but Robert gets caught in the Fireebird corner and worked over. However, Robert grabs a whip to counter Hayes’ whip, and JR notes that Hayes doesn’t like even odds. JR always knew how to establish motivations for the guys. Garvin drops Gibson on the top rope and gets two, and tosses him for some abuse from Hayes on the floor. Back in, Morton gets the tag, but we’re only 10:00 in so you know it’s about to go south for him. And indeed, Garvin reverses Morton into a Hayes left hand that knocks him out, but Hayes inadvertently distracts the ref and Garvin only gets two. Amazingly, the Birds are such cowardly heels that the crowd is cheering the RNR again. Hayes with a chinlock, but Morton fires away in the corner until Hayes punches his lights out again. Hayes drops elbows for two and goes back to the chinlock. Morton fights out, but Hayes counters with a bulldog for two. Morton bails, and Hayes whips him with the strap again, and back in for another chinlock from Garvin. Garvin goes up and gets slammed off, and Morton comes back on Hayes but goes to the wrong corner and gets nailed again. Hayes tries another bulldog, but Morton blocks it and makes the hot tag to Robert. The Birds quickly double-team Gibson and Hayes gets the DDT, but he stops to gloat and Morton comes back in with a sunset flip for the pin at 18:30. Hard work from everyone, although the straps didn’t really figure into things that much. ***1/2
Doug Furnas talks about nothing in particular with Tony. Apparently there was fear that Tom Zenk was going to no-show, so they brought Furnas to the show as a sub, just in case.
NWA World tag titles: The Steiner Brothers v. Doom
Teddy Long debuts the doo-rag look he’d have for the next umpteen years here, although he quickly gets it ripped off. Scott has a power match with Simmons to start and hits a powerslam, so Simmons goes to the eyes and pounds away. Scott nails him with a release german and Jim Ross is in his GLORY calling this one. He’s just throwing every football and amateur wrestling stat he knows at the screen and there’s nothing you can do about it. Doom gets their ass handed to them by Scott, so they regroup for some advice from Teddy Long. Back in, Reed and Rick just stand there and throw forearms, seeing how hard they can hit each other without selling. To the floor, where Rick slams Reed on the floor and then Scott sends Reed into the railing. Back in, Simmons tries a backdrop and Rick just muscles him into a piledriver and clotheslines him to the floor. The Steiners are decidedly not taking any shit tonight. Doom regroups again, but Scott continues to throw Reed around and then carries him up for a powerslam into a shoulderbreaker for two. Finally Reed leverages Rick out of the ring to catch a break, but the Steiners just keep coming until Reed catches Scott with a high knee to put him down. Scott goes over the top behind the ref’s back and back in the beating commences. Simmons with a back elbow for two and Reed gets a neckbreaker for two. Reed chokes him down, but Scott fights back with a suplex, only to have Simmons come flying into the ring with a high knee to put Scott on the floor. Back in, that gets two for Reed. Hard clothesline gets two. Reed drops a knee and follows with a mean piledriver, but Scott takes Simmons down with a single-leg in a spot that looked messed up, and then they repeat it with better results. Scott gets the FRANKENSTEINER, and it’s hot tag Rick, who powerslams Reed for two. Double suplex gets two. Doom comes back with a double team clothesline on Scott for two and it’s a pier-six brawl, resulting in Scott hitting the post. Back in, Rick tries a superplex on Reed, but Simmons pulls them down and puts Reed on top for the pin and the titles at 19:16 in a HUGE upset. This was astonishing at the time, but they quickly grew into it. Super fun and hard-hitting tag match here. ***3/4
NWA World title, cage match: Ric Flair v. Lex Luger
So yeah, Luger had a shoot staph infection in his knee, which they turned into an angle. The cage is Cell / Thundercage style, covering the entire ringside area and allowing Woman to be inside the cage. The ref checks Woman’s gloves as a condition of being in there, and in fact he finds an international object (jokingly referred to as such by JR). Luger quickly overpowers Flair and slugs away on the mat, and a clothesline gets two. Flair bails and Luger suplexes him back in and follows with a pair of press slams, and Flair runs away again. Flair tries some chops and gets nowhere, as Luger no-sells and tosses him around the ring. Flair tries to climb out of the giant cage, but then decides to just chop Lex instead. They slug it out on the floor and back in for more no-selling from Lex, and Flair is busted open via the cage. Back in, Luger slugs away in the corner and gets a clothesline for two as they run through the usual spots, and Flair bails again and climbs the cage. Luger was clearly nowhere near 100% and Flair is obviously using as much smoke and mirrors as he can here. Back in the ring, Flair keeps chopping and Luger literally just stands there while Flair bumps off him. Lex gets a superplex, but the knee gives way and now we go to school. Figure-four, but the ref catches him holding the ropes, and now the Horsemen join us at ringside as the screen practically flashes SCREWJOB ALERT. Luger makes the comeback with a clothesline for two, as Sting comes down and beats on the Horsemen. This brings out El Gigante to really ramp up the excitement, but the cage is raised and Barry Windham runs in for the DQ at 17:12 for the complete bullshit finish. Flair carried him to a really good match, but it completely fell apart at the end and the finish was beyond ridiculous for a cage match. This was unfortunately nowhere in the same ballpark as the WrestleWar classic. ***1/2
The show got VERY mixed reviews at the time because WCW delivered on basically nothing that was promised. Robocop barely figured in, the cage match ended in a DQ, the corporal punishment match didn’t have the losers getting whipped, and the hair match barely even featured a haircut. That being said, viewing it years later from the perspective of someone who’s just watching it on the WWE Network without ordering it on PPV for $20, this is a HELL of a show. That Doom-Steiners match in particular is an underrated classic. So from a wrestling standpoint, it’s great and well worth watching. From an entertainment and storyline standpoint, it’s severely lacking. But since that standpoint is kind of moot now, it’s an easy thumbs up from me.