Assorted May PPV Countdown: NWA Wrestlewar 89

(2012 Scott sez:  I figure that May PPVs are as good a theme as any, since there’s some good stuff there with the Wrestlewar shows and Over the Edge.)  The Netcop Retro Rant for NWA WrestleWar 1989 – Live from Nashville, Tennessee, which is somewhere near Spokane, I think. – Jim Ross & Bob Caudle are your hosts. – Opening match:  The Great Muta v. Doug Gilbert.  Doug would be the Gilbert brother who the distinction of still being alive today.  This match is why I hate Muta so much today, namely because he was so far over what everyone else in North American wrestling was doing it’s just sickening, and now he’s still doing the same stuff nine years later with no growth or change or effort put into it.  (So this was written in 1998, two years before Muta began his improbable comeback and total reinvention as a worker.)  Gilbert is subbing for the Junkfood Dog here.  Aw, that’s a shame.  (Holy cow, Muta v. JYD would have been an epic trainwreck.)  Muta does everything crisp and smooth, and it’s still amazing to watch him do his thing.  He pulls out a pescano before JR even knew what to call it (or 1998 Scott knew how to spell it), and finishes Gilbert off quickly with the moonsault.  ***  (No fucking way Muta squashing Doug Gilbert would be ***.  Probably *1/2) Odd stat:  Announced time of match was 3:16. – Butch Reed v. Ranger Ross.  This was pre-Doom for Reed, back when the NWA had him and didn’t know what to do with him.  “Hey, let’s team him up with the other black guy in the fed, there’s a great idea.”  Well, I guess sometimes racial intolerance breeds good things?  (Good thing we’ve moved past silly notions like teaming up the two random black guys and making them tag champions!  Oh…never mind.)  Ranger Ross is just some guy, basically.  I never heard of him again after 1989, that’s for sure.  (Yes you did!  He was around again in 91.  Although he left wrestling after that and became a minister.)  His gimmick is that of an Army Ranger, much like Craig Pittman.  Most of his offense is kicking and punching while jumping up and down and flailing his limbs, which JR calls “martial arts”.  Uh huh. This is back before the letters “UFC” meant anything when typed together, of course.  (It’s always funny what was considered the domain of “martial arts” in the days before anyone knew what an armbar actually was. )  This match was heavily edited for time reasons (thank god) but I’ve seen it in full and Reed basically weathers a bunch of kicks and punches and puts Ross away with a shoulderblock off the top rope at will.  (no rating due to editing).  (Wuss!)  – I really dislike Gary Michael Capetta’s whiny announcing, by the way.  (His book was pretty good, though.  Plus I’d take Capetta’s nasal announcing style over Justin Roberts any day.)  – Bullrope match:  Bob Orton v. Dick Murdoch. Oh, this is too fucking exciting.  If you think WCW has a dinosaur problem now…  This match came about because of various nefarious dealings on Gary Hart’s part at Clash VI which resulted in Murdoch being punked by Orton.  And since Dick is from Texas, naturally they have a bullrope match.  This is about as anti-hardcore as you can get, as both guys barely make contact with each other.  Finally, Murdoch simply hog-ties Orton and pins him after an elbow.  Orton beats up Murdoch out of spite after the match.  I don’t know why the NWA kept hiring these two.  (Because they worked cheap and had connections in the booking committee.)  They do the hanging spot for some extra heat after the match (although the crowd isn’t really into it anymore), and the feud never really went anywhere after this match. Heavily edited for time, thank god, but I’ve seen it in full and it was safely a DUD. – The Dynamic Dudes v. The Samoan Swat Team.  Wow, how things change. Let’s run it down…the Dudes are comprised of former king of hardcore and ECW World champion Shane “I’ve never heard of the Dynamic Dudes” Douglas, and current God of Japan and former Sheepherder flagbearer Johnny “I’ve never heard of the Dynamic Dudes or the Sheepherders either” Ace.  (Wow, how things change even further.  Now Shane is desperately trying to revive ECW while still putting himself over, and Johnny Ace is nearly running WWE and main-eventing against John Cena.)  The SST is the team who would go on to be known as the Headshrinkers in the WWF, including Fatu, who would go on to become the Sultan.  (And Rikishi.)  They’re managed by Paul E. “What do you mean I used to be a manager?” Dangerously.  (Well, he ended up being a manager again.)  And at this point, both teams represent everything that was wrong with tag team wrestling in North America at the time.  Standard WWF formula tag match, as Ace gets the crap kicked out of him (literally, that’s all the SST knows how to do) by the Samoans.  Jim and Bob remind us what a wholesome, all-American pair of kids the Dudes are every two minutes.  And HOW many times has Shane hit a woman, exactly?  🙂  (Oh lord, the SMILIE.) At one point, Paul tries to incite the crowd by telling Ace that he’s “as useless as a woman from Nashville,” thus once again showing his sensitive, feminine side.  (No way you could go on TV and say that today without getting sued and losing sponsors.)  The Samoans are basically wiping the mat with the Dudes when Fatu goes for a bodyslam on Douglas and Ace dropkicks them over for an upset Dudes win.  **  (This was actually the start of the awesome Dudes-Midnights angle that sacrificed the Dudes and revived the career of the Midnights with a fake babyface turn.)  The scary part is, it took the NWA the better part of a year to come to their senses and break up the Dudes. – US title match:  Lex Luger v. Michael “PS” Hayes.  This is an interesting match, for reasons I’ll get into later.  Hayes, the current WWF huckster Dok Hendrix  (and even more currently, head TV writer Michael Hayes), had turned on Lex in a tag match against the Windhams a few weeks prior, and NO ONE gave him a snowball’s chance in hell of winning.  Hayes is not a good singles wrestler. (Now there’s some bold commentary.) Luger was a good singles wrestler back then…honest…but he needed a far superior worker to kick his ass into gear.  You figure out for yourself how good this was.  (Not very?) Lots of headlocks, chinlocks and armbars here.  Hayes works the crowd like a god, but they cut to shots of the crowd reacted way too much.  Boring match, but Luger is a pure babyface and Hayes is a pure heel so it never gets too boring because both guys get monster reactions by, you know, breathing.  (It wasn’t really that bad.)  The storyline of the match has Luger controlling, Hayes cheating to gain an advantage, and Luger simply shrugging it off because he’s too powerful, then start over.  Hayes gains a protracted advantage after a long chinlock, but Luger mounts the Big Comeback and just annihilates Hayes.  Luger goes for the rack, but Hayes hits a fluke DDT, but can’t pin Lex because he’s out of it.  Both guys get up and do an irish whip, but now the ref gets bumped and everyone goes down in a heap, except Hayes.  And then Terry Gordy comes down!  This was out of nowhere, and he pushes Hayes onto the fallen Luger as Patrick wakes up and counts three!  Hayes wins the US title in one of the biggest upsets ever.  (Not really.)  This is an interesting match because there was no such thing as a swerve back then, because the internet didn’t really exist.  The NWA used to have Sting and Luger go out there and manhandle guys who didn’t have a chance all the time, and people would think nothing of it because they were so over and needed someone to kill to keep them over.  These matches would be like if WCW had DDP defending the US title against, say, La Parka on PPV.  It’d just be begging for an angle to give La Parka the US title because we expect to be swerved nowadays.  (Nowadays the secondary champions ARE cannon fodder.  Randy Orton beats the minor champions and laughs at the thought of the belts.)  But back then people thought nothing of Sting squashing JTTS on PPV because it was just something he did.  So when Luger is signed to fight a non-contender like Hayes on a major show, no one was expecting Hayes to win because “the cannon fodder” guys never did, and then the NWA surprised everyone by having Hayes win. (I’m still not 100% sure WHY they picked Hayes to interrupt Luger’s mammoth US title run for a week, unless they had some other plan with Hayes joining the faux-Horsemen group and then changed their minds.)  Of course, it had a point, because Luger got so pissed off that he ended up eating Hayes for breakfast in a rematch, then taking out the rest of his frustrations on Ricky Steamboat to signal his official heel turn. Oh yeah, the match was about *1/2  (More like **1/2, I’d say.  Hayes could at least bump.)  – TV Title match:  Sting v. The Iron Sheik.  Remember that little lecture I just gave?  Here ya go.  Sting beats the Sheik from pillar to post and puts him in the Scorpion Deathlock at will, selling not a single move from the challenger.  This was before Sting met Muta and got REALLY good.  The NWA really didn’t know what to do with Sting at this point, either.  It was too early to put him over Flair and too late to have him keep squashing jobbers ala Goldberg so they gave him the TV title and let him squash ex-WWF champs on PPV. 🙂  *  (Why does that rate a smilie?!  SHUT UP!)  – NWA World title match:  Ricky Steamboat v. Ric Flair.  Flair brings 46 women to the ring, Steamboat brings his son.  The match is watched by three judges:  Pat O’ Connor, Lou Thesz…and Terry Funk.  Funk actually looked YOUNG back then.  Flair was a mere 5-time champ at this point, only barely past his prime.  Funny how he won all his titles *after* he deteriorated.  They sell this match as Flair’s last hurrah.  How many times have you heard that one?  (Many more times after this was written, too.)  Well, what do you say about this match?  It’s the greatest match, ever, period.  Quite possibly the only perfect wrestling match in the history of North American wrestling, with the exception of maybe the ladder match from WM10, but that’s a gimmick match.  This match needed no gimmick.  The chops *literally* echo throughout the arena.  Jim Ross’ hyperbole is not the least bit silly here, as he gets something to work with for once.  Now *that’s* how you chop a guy.  Even the armdrags have purpose, as Flair sells the arm injuries like he’s dying.  It’s ring psychology, people.  ECW take note.  These guys could do *everything* at this point in their careers — mat wrestling, brawling, flying, you name it.  Steamboat goes for the arm like a vulture circling a carcass, which causes everyone to remember Clash VI, where he made Flair submit to the double chicken-wing to win the first fall.  Storyline, people.  All the punches and forearms actually *hit*, unlike many of the loosy-goosy matches today where punches miss by 6 inches.  I mean, they don’t hurt *that* much.  No ugly missed moves either.  This is what happens when neither guy has an ego to speak of:  They can freely beat the hell out of each other because they trust each other not to hurt themselves. There’s no “formula” to the match…each guy controls at various points. Steamboat goes for the kill about 25 minutes in, but Flair gets out of the chickenwing, and then dumps him over the top rope during the flying bodypress setup.   Steamboat hurts his knee, and then Flair nails him with the figure-four, like a sadist.  The knee is eventually hurt so bad that Steamboat tries a simple bodyslam and Flair is able to reverse it into a cradle for the pin and title #6.  Ironically, it was this very move that gave Steamboat the win over Randy Savage in their historic 1987 match.  *****  I’d give it more, but that’s as high as the scale goes.  They hug and shake hands in the ring, something unheard of these days, and that’s that. Almost. Judge Terry Funk also congratulates Flair, and asks him for a title shot right there.  Flair rightly points out that Funk is a non-contender and Ross tries to shoo him out of the ring.  Of course, Funk is a lunatic so he “apologizes” and when Flair’s back is turned, he decks him from behind, then destroys him and piledrives him through the judging table. You see, there was a *reason* for a table to be at ringside.  Take note, ECW.  This was the start of the best feud of 1989, and one of the best ever.  It still blows my mind that even through all the turmoil going on at that time, they were still able to pull off a match and an angle and a feud like that one so beautifully.  They’ve never matched it since. (For the sake of having a better version, here’s the full PBP version from the Flair DVD rant) – NWA World title: Ricky Steamboat v. Ric Flair. This is the famous WrestleWar rematch, with the judges at ringside. They start with the lockup and Steamboat takes him down with an armdrag, but Flair overpowers him. Steamboat comes back with a hiptoss and armdrag, and they exchange slaps in the corner. Back to the lockup, and Flair gets a cheapshot and opens the chop bidding at two, but Steamboat fires back and the shit is ON. They just unload and it STILL hurts to watch, even after all those times seeing the match. Steamboat finally backdrops him and he bails. Back in, Flair grabs a headlock, but Steamboat powers out with a wristlock and goes to the armbar. See, just to show how much they had to offer, they didn’t even TOUCH on the arm stuff in the 2/3 falls match, and that’s like 20 minutes worth of stuff right there! Steamboat works on the arm and overpowers him, then back down into the armdrag again. They work on the mat and it ends up with Steamboat in control of a hammerlock. Flair fights up, but Steamboat takes him back down again with the hammerlock and keeps working on the arm. Flair brings him into the corner and uses some forearms, and slugs Steamboat down. Back to the chops and he starts working on Steamboat’s ribs with some rights, but Dragon fights back with more chops and Flair is forced to Flop. Back to the armbar. Steamboat takes him down with a hammerlock and bridges off it as Flair argues with Tommy Young in a cute bit. Flair takes him into the corner with a fireman’s carry, but Steamboat jumps over him and hiptosses him into a dropkick, and Flair bails. Steamboat heads up to the top, but Young talks him into staying grounded. That buys Flair some recovery time, as he kicks Steamboat in the ribs on the way back in, but he gets armdragged again. Steamboat cranks on the arm and takes him down, but Flair hiptosses him to take over. Elbowdrop misses, however, and Steamboat goes right back to that armdrag. Flair powers him into the corner and works the ribs over, then goes back to the chops again. He adds a cheapshot and they slug it out with chops, as Flair tackles him again and tosses him. Steamboat jumps right back in and kicks Flair’s ass with more chops, and Flair gets hung in the Tree of Woe. Steamboat adds a shot and Flair dumps him again on a criss-cross. Flair kicks him in the head on the way by and chops him right into the front row. Steamboat gets upset and chases Flair back in, coming in with a flying chop and ramming his face into the mat. Flair Flip and he gets clotheslined on the apron, and back to the armbar again. Steamboat tries a crossbody and flies through the ropes, however, which allows Flair to slingshot him back in and take over. Kneedrop and more chops, and a backdrop suplex gets two. Flair works the count and drops another knee, then goes to a butterfly suplex, which gets two. Elbowdrop gets two. Flair misses a chop and Steamboat goes for a crossbody, but Flair hotshots him and chokes away while arguing with Young. They brawl outside and Flair suplexes him on the floor. He tries a suplex back in, but Steamboat rolls him up for two. Back to the chops, but he misses one and Flair hits him with a crossbody that sends both guys to the floor. Back in, Flair goes up, and you know what. Now Steamboat makes the comeback and slugs away in the corner, setting up a backdrop out of the corner. Flair catches a cheapshot, but Steamboat gets a rollup for two. Flair goes to a facelock, but Steamboat brings him to the top for a superplex. That sets up the chickenwing, but Flair hooks himself in the ropes to foil that plan. Steamboat goes up for Plan B, and the flying chop results. Back to the top, but Flair “accidently” falls on the top rope and Steamboat tumbles to the floor and injures his knee. DUM DUM DA DUM! Might as well toss chum to the sharks. Steamboat limps back to the apron, and Flair zooms in for the kill and suplexes him back in. He works the knee over and it’s figure-four time, as the crowd turns on Steamboat and starts cheering Flair. Steamboat fights his way to the ropes, but Flair keeps on the knee. Steamboat finally fights back with the enzuigiri, but tries a slam, and the knee gives way, as Flair cradles for the pin at 31:31. Watching back to back, I like the Clash match better because of the deeper psychology, but this is still pretty fucking awesome and might be preferred by some because of the faster pace. ***** – Whew.  Well, the rest is pretty anti-climactic, but we gotta finish. – NWA World tag team title match:  Steve Williams & Mike Rotunda v. The Road Warriors.  The Varsity Club ripped off the Roadies at Clash VI in the infamous “fast count” match that turned Teddy Long heel (now THAT’S a fast count, WCW) so Nikita Koloff has been appointed special referee. Koloff tosses Kevin Sullivan from ringside in short order.  Williams looks like a luchadore compared to today.  Fairly quick, as the Warriors make short work of the champs and go for the Doomsday Device, but Dan Spivey pulls Koloff out of the ring and beats the holy hell out of him to earn a DQ.  *  The Varsity Club were stripped of the belts at the end of the show because of their actions.  I guess even the NWA knew that it wasn’t working with them as champs. – US tag team title match:  Eddie Gilbert & Rick Steiner v. Kevin Sullivan & Dan Spivey.  Missy Hyatt was pretty damn hot back when she wasn’t trying to look skanky all the time.  Just a nothing tag match to put the faces over and send the fans home happy.  The Club destroys Steiner before the match (I guess he was injured legit) so Gilbert wrestles the entire match.  Spivey proceeds to wipe the mat with him. Gilbert miraculously tags Rick, but the ref doesn’t see it, but in the ensuing chaos Rick nails Sullivan with a Steinerline and Gilbert gets the fluke pin to retain.  DUD After the match, the faces get destroyed again.  The US tag titles were temporarily dissolved after this match.  End of show. The Bottom Line:  Were it not for the Flair-Steamboat-Funk segment, this would be one of the worst shows ever.  Everything was terrible, save for the Dudes-SST tag match, which was formulaic at best but certainly not terrible.  Luckily, no one remembers it for the undercard.  They would save themselves with Bash 89, their next PPV, which rocked the world and was, by contrast, one of the *best* shows ever, featuring the blowoff match between Flair and Funk.  Everything else was in transition at this point, and the NWA was also building to putting the World title on either Luger or Sting (Sting got it in 90, Luger in 91) and trying to get rid of Flair.  But Flair doesn’t go away easily, as we all know. Still, the Flair-Steamboat is an absolute must-have addition to any library, so I have to recommend the show on that basis alone.  The rest is okay for nostalgia value at least, I suppose. Later.