The SmarK Rant for AWA – 01.24.88

The SmarK Rant for AWA Championship Wrestling on ESPN – 01.24.88

Well, now that we’ve pretty much wrapped up reminiscing about the Royal Rumble, it’s back on the horse to review all the random stuff uploaded to the WWE Network again.  And I know I promised Smoky Mountain Wrestling a while back, but there’s only four episodes left of AWA to cover so I’m just gonna plow through those first because that’s how I roll.

Taped from Las Vegas, NV

Your host is Larry Nelson

Nick Kiniski & Kevin Kelly v. Jake Milliman & Van Van Horne

Kevin Kelly is the future Nailz, and he looks more like Paul Orndorff at this point in a stunning display of letting oneself go.  Like what the hell happened to the guy between 1988 and 1991 to cost him all his hair and muscle tone?  I’ve probably mentioned this before, but my dad actually went to high school with Nick Kiniski and was neighbors with the Kiniskis.  Kiniski and Kelly double-team Van Horne with power stuff, and Nick finishes with a piledriver at 3:18.

Billy Jack Strong v. Tom Stone

Hoo boy, RSPW meme alert!  OK, so Mr. Strong is in fact the legendary Steve DiSalvo, former Stampede Wrestling heel and noted steroid-bloated musclehead.  So in 1992 when Warrior came back, the prevalent rumor online was that Warrior died and got replaced by DiSalvo, stemming from a vague resemblance between DiSalvo and Jim Hellwig, plus DiSalvo getting a couple of tryouts that didn’t go anywhere and reports of him being part of the ring crew.  Why he ended up as “Billy Jack Strong” in the AWA, I have no idea.  He’s quite possibly even worse than Warrior and is so overly muscled that he can barely move, like Hellwig back in his Blade Runner days.  He throws Stone around, but it’s all fake muscle, so he can barely get Stone up for any of it and it’s REALLY embarrassing.  A DDT off the middle rope and then a tombstone finishes at 4:00.  If you’re a fan of Botchamania, you might want to check this match out on the Network for all the LOLZ.

Meanwhile, Wahoo McDaniel talks with Bill Apter about his protégé Billy Jack Strong, who is apparently “of Indian descent”, and is a surefire future World champion.

Soldat Ustinov v. DENNIS STAMP

Man, both the Milkman and Dennis Stamp AND Steve DiSalvo on the same show?  Ustinov is another in a long line of Russians from Minnesota, and his career only lasted until the end of the AWA.  Ustinov gets some devastating slams before Stamp makes a brief comeback, but runs into a big boot in the corner to end it at 2:08.  Yes, he jobbed to a blind charge.  I don’t think he deserves to be booked on Terry Funk’s retirement show, frankly.

AWA World tag team titles:  The Original Midnight Express v. The Midnight Rockers

So the Rockers had been champions in 87 before getting poached from the AWA by Vince McMahon, which led to a hilarious story.  They did some squashes as the Midnight Rockers on WWF TV, but went on tour and Shawn got into a bar fight only a few days into his big break.  According to Shawn, he got called into Vince’s office and had a new pair of snakeskin boots on, and Vince told him how much he liked the boots.  Shawn was impressed, but then Vince said “You know what they’re made for, right?  Walking.”  And that was how the Rockers got fired and went crawling back to the AWA.  The Rockers clean house to start and Shawn suplexes Rose on the floor, as the Express retreats to confer with Paul E. Dangerously.  Back in, Condrey gets double-teamed in the corner and the Express begs off again.  They try the same double-team clothesline on Shawn, but he moves and Condrey gets clotheslined by Rose instead.  Now THAT’S a funny spot you don’t see anymore.  But then there hasn’t been a really good pretty boy tag team since London & Kendrick anyway.  The Rockers continue their double-teaming on Rose, but Paul takes the ref and Shawn goes flying to the floor after some shenanigans.  Condrey beats on him outside and Rose suplexes him back in, and follows with a clothesline (with somersault sell) that gets two.  Condrey with a backbreaker for two, but Shawn keeps fighting, so Rose gets a pump splash for two.  Shawn’s babyface comebacks were just so great.  The Express cuts him off again and holds him in the corner with Condrey’s abdominal stretch, and Rose comes off the top with a shot to the ribs for two.  Shawn waits until the last possible moment to kick out, and there’s a little girl in the front row just losing her shit and it’s great.  Shawn finally hits them with a double clothesline and makes the hot tag and the crowd goes nuts.  Marty cleans house with slams and cradles Condrey for two and it’s BONZO GONZO.  The ref is bumped, but Marty falls back on Condrey to reverse a full nelson, and the Rockers regain the tag team titles at 15:00.  I know this is a shock, but Shawn Michaels is a magnificent professional wrestler.  ***1/2  Vince apparently forgave them quickly, because they dropped the belts to Badd Company a few weeks after this and went back to the WWF for good.