Wrestling Observer Flashback – 03.01.89

All sorts of stuff going on this week in history. But most importantly, did Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat manage to pull out enough smoke and mirrors to trick people into thinking it was a good match? Let’s find out.

Dave apologizes for the brevity of the small territory stuff, but he was travelling to the PPV and just got back today.

  • Overall reaction to the NWA shows was mixed, with a Clash V that was disappointing and a Chi-Town Rumble that’s getting rave reviews, plus Clash VI on the way. Meanwhile, Randy Savage is ON FIRE as champion, selling out every arena he’s main eventing thanks to the heel turn. This includes near-record gates in St. Louis (which was supposedly a “dead” territory), MSG and Chicago. In hindsight more than ever they should have kept the damn belt on him past Wrestlemania.
  • Roddy Piper will be appearing on the Brother Love segment at Wrestlemania, after accepting a verbal deal for $500,000 a year with the NWA and then reneging on it. Well, as Richard Marx said at the time, it don’t mean nothing until you sign it on the dotted line.
  • Dave feels like WM5 will be the highest grossing live show in history, although it might have trouble touching WM3’s buyrate. In fact it passed it handily. Clash VI probably won’t affect it in the least, which was also accurate.
  • Mildred Burke, one of the most famous female wrestlers in history, died on 2/18 from complications after a stroke.
  • To Dave’s live review of Chi-Town Rumble!
  • Michael Hayes pinned Russian Assassin #1 (actually Russian Assassin #2 Jack Victory because Dave Sheldon got fired earlier in the week, but he was still announced as #1 because otherwise I’m sure people would have demanded refunds) in the usual Hayes stallfest with the DDT.
  • Sting pinned Butch Reed with a sunset flip in 20:07 in a match that bored the crowd to death. ½*
  • The Midnight Express & Jim Cornette beat Randy Rose, Jack Victory & Paul E. Dangerously when Lane pinned Rose at 15:51 to banish him from the NWA. Dave jokes that of the 50 wrestlers employed by the NWA, 12 of them are played by Jack Victory. Dave thought it would be death, but Cornette and Dangerously have hilarious chemistry together in the ring and it ended up a pretty good match. Dennis Condrey of course no-showed and went home over a pay dispute, and never returned. ***1/4
  • Mike Rotunda won the TV title back from Rick Steiner at 16:21 by falling back on a sleeper and getting the pin. More importantly than the title change, this marked the debut of Scott Steiner in the NWA, which would end up far more important than anything else on the whole show, I’d wager. Match wasn’t good, but it was worked really snug and hard-hitting. *1/2
  • Lex Luger won the US title from Barry Windham in 10:43 with my most hated of finishes, the double backdrop suplex pin. Dave notes that the crowd was turning on Luger and cheering for Windham, but that didn’t really come across on TV. Barry punched the ringpost at one point and bladed his hand, which was to set up a cast gimmick when he returned from wrist surgery. But he never returned. This was a great match. ***3/4
  • The Road Warriors retained the tag titles over Steve Williams & Kevin Sullivan in 8:27. The Warriors were fully babyfaces again at this point, especially in Chicago. They did a double pinfall gimmick for the finish, with the ref ruling that Hawk’s pin on Sullivan was the legal one. **3/4
  • And finally, Ricky Steamboat pinned Ric Flair in 23:18 to win the NWA World title. Dave said they decided to fly to Chicago because it had the potential to be the best match of the year, and it managed to exceed even those expectations. Many people called it the best match they’d ever seen, and the other wrestlers were watching from the dressing room like little kids. “It was amazing” notes Dave. *****
  • Kendall Windham pinned Steven Casey at 25:00 (!!!!!!!!!!) in a dark match to close the show, which didn’t even air on PPV. The building literally emptied out while it was going on.
  • Next up, Clash of Champions V, which Dave HATED. I don’t recall being particularly moved one way or the other, but then my friggin’ apartment burned down while I was writing the rant, so you can see how I might be distracted. Dave’s review:
  • The Midnight Express beat the Russian Assassins in 13:14 with the Rocket Launcher. ½* for the finish.
  • Butch Reed pinned Steven Casey in 17:36 with the flying shoulderblock. Awful. -*
  • They did the Flair-Steamboat brawl angle, which Dave notes is a repeat of the original 1978 angle with Flair and Steamboat that turned Steamboat into a big star in the first place. Trivia note: One of the models used by Flair in the original angle was the future Bonnie Steamboat. The brawl was pretty great here, as they chopped the shit out of each other and got the angle over big.
  • Lex Luger pinned THE BLACKMAILER (Jack Victory appearance #2) in 12:53 after a superplex. Dave thinks they need to retire working the left arm, because the 70s style wrestling is driving him crazy. *
  • Steve Williams & Mike Rotunda retained the US tag titles on behalf of Williams & Sullivan by beating the Fantastics at 13:25. Not bad. **1/2 Dave isn’t fond of the Freebird Rule.
  • Rick Steamboat pinned Bob Bradley in 6:23 in a total squash. *1/2
  • Rick Steiner pinned Rip Morgan with a belly to belly in 4:40. This was supposed to be Steiner against Ray Candy, but Candy was fired for refusing to do a job to Bobby Eaton earlier in the week. *
  • The advertised main of The Road Warriors & Tenryu v. Sting/Hayes/JYD never happened, and turned into a big schmoz with the Varsity Club instead. *1/4 A thumbs down show overall.
  • Chris Adams is in some pretty serious hot water for allegedly beating up his wife, but she isn’t pressing charges.
  • The Russian invasion of New Japan has begun, with the two key guys being Victor Zangiev and Salman Hashimikov. They’re actually doing a bunch of submission finishes on the undercards to get sambo moves over as a thing in advance.
  • Dave blows through the SNME results with Hogan and Bad News. Nothing much of note anyway.
  • The WWF is doing consumer surveys in selected cities to try and find out what people like and dislike about wrestling. The thing they’re pushing most is that they want people to say “There’s too much wrestling on TV” so they can take it to rival stations and get the competition canceled.
  • Lots of heat on George Scott as booker because he turned down both Brian Pillman and Tom Pritchard and signed Chief Jay Strongbow’s son instead, who immediately got booed out of the studio at TV tapings.
  • Don Muraco was stripped of the North American title in Stampede. Bulldog ended up with the belt at the end of the month, so I guess they must have talked Muraco into coming back for one more job.

And Dave will catch us up on everything else next week!