Rock Star Gary reflects on…NWA Bunkhouse Stampede ’88

Live from Uniondale, NY

Airdate: January 24, 1988

Attendance:  6,000

Hosted by Jim Ross & Bob Caudle

This was Jim Crockett Promotions’ second foray into PPV. Can you guess how the WWF counterattacked? Oh yeah, I reflected on the Royal Rumble last week, and that was on free TV! Let’s see what Dusty Rhodes’ booking did here.

Match 1 for the NWA World TV title: The “Russian Nightmare” Nikita Koloff (champion) versus US tag team champion “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton (w/ Jim Cornette)

Highlights:

  • After Eaton escaped a hammerlock, he booted Nikita through the ropes to the concrete floor.
  • Upon joining him, Eaton and Nikita brawled.
  • Back in the ring, as Eaton was on the apron, Nikita whipped him back-first into the ring post.
  • After a leapfrog, Nikita slammed Eaton.
  • Eaton came back with a right hand that sent Nikita through the ropes to the concrete floor a second time.
  • Again, Eaton joined him, but Nikita shoved him shoulder-first into the ring post.
  • Next, Nikita rammed him shoulder-first into an adjacent ring post then hip-tossed him on the concrete. OUCH!
  • As Eaton raked Nikita’s eyes, Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Bill Apter was spotted taking photos.
  • Back in the ring, Eaton delivered an elbow drop for 2.
  • While Eaton held a hammerlock, the Long Island faithful chanted “Cornette sucks!”
  • Eaton then mounted the top turnbuckle and hit a missile dropkick. Sweet!
  • Do we have a new champion?
  • 1-2-NO!
  • While Eaton maintained a hammerlock, Cornette berated Nikita as if he was related to David Crockett.
  • Five minutes remained in the match.
  • Nikita then hit Eaton with the Russian sickle but couldn’t follow up.
  • As the crowd chanted “Ni-ki-ta,” two minutes remained.
  • After delivering a single-arm DDT to Nikita, Eaton reapplied the hammerlock, but Nikita wouldn’t submit.
  • One minute remained as the outcome became even more apparent.
  • With thirty seconds remaining, Nikita gave Eaton the ten-punch count-along.
  • After a cross-corner whip, Nikita delivered a back elbow followed by the Russian sickle.
  • However, time ran out before a pinfall could be made.
  • Time-limit draw.

Rating: *

Summary:  Boring mat-fest that barely had any drama leading toward the finish. Not a good opener.

After the match, Cornette enters the ring but is forced to back-pedal and accidentally tossed his racquet to Nikita. After Eaton and Nikita trade blows with the racquet, “Sweet” Stan Lane runs in to attack Nikita before dumping him to the concrete floor.

Match 2 for the Western States Heritage title: Barry Windham (champion) versus Larry Zbyszko (w/ Baby Doll)

Highlights:

  • To begin the match, Windham came off the ropes and countered a hip toss with one of his own.
  • As expected, Zbyszko exited the ring to regroup.
  • Back in the ring, he then missed a dropkick.
  • Next, he tried a savate kick, but Windham caught his foot.
  • Windham then turned Zbyszko around and gave him an atomic drop.
  • Once again, Zbyszko exited the ring to regroup.
  • Upon trading drop toeholds, Zbyszko hooked Windham’s heavily-taped knee.
  • Windham escaped by standing up and delivering an enziguri followed by a powerslam for 2.
  • After a slam, Windham mounted the top turnbuckle but missed an elbow drop.
  • According to Ross, the injury to Windham’s knee was caused by the Four Horsemen. How dastardly!
  • Regardless, a savate kick by Zbyszko was followed by a backbreaker for 2.
  • Windham came back by countering a side headlock with a belly-to-back suplex and dropkick.
  • A subsequent vertical suplex barely took Zbyszko over but got 2 anyway.
  • Afterward, a gutwrench suplex by Windham got another 2.
  • He then applied a sleeper, but Zbyszko made the ropes.
  • Yet again, Zbyszko exited the ring, but this time, Windham followed him.
  • After leaping from the apron and nailing Zbyszko, Windham rammed him face-first into the timekeeper’s table.
  • He then rammed Zbyszko face-first into the apron barely missing the wooden steps.
  • After that, he tried to ram Zbyszko into the ring post but HIT THE POLE himself.
  • Zbyszko returned to the ring only for Windham to pull his legs and ram him groin-first into the ring post. Baby Doll couldn’t have been thrilled about that.
  • Anyway, back in the ring, Zbyszko ducked as Windham sailed over him, between the ropes, and to the concrete floor.
  • Zbyszko joined him and rammed him into the timekeeper’s table.
  • A shoulder block followed by a sunset flip returned Windham to the ring, but a right hand prevented Windham from getting the pin attempt.
  • Windham then countered a swinging neckbreaker with a backslide for 2.
  • As Zbyszko attempted a piledriver, Windham countered with a back drop.
  • Following that, a double shoulder block put both men down on the mat.
  • After a cross-corner whip by Zbyszko, he came up empty on his follow-through.
  • Windham then delivered the ten-punch count-along.
  • Upon getting whipped 360° back into the corner, Zbyszko ran over referee Dick Kroll like a Mack truck.
  • Afterward, a roll-up by Windham caused a false pin. Baby Doll actually duped Windham by making a count herself.
  • As Kroll was OUT COLD, Zbyszko received a high heel from Baby Doll and knocked Windham into the middle of 1990.
  • Slowly, Kroll came over and counted the pin.
  • WE HAVE A NEW CHAMPION!

Rating: ***1/2

Summary: Really good match where both wrestlers executed well. Remarkably, Zbyszko would not relinquish this title until he returned to the AWA in 1989.

Match 3 for the NWA World title: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair (champion w/ JJ Dillon) versus Road Warrior Hawk (w/ “Precious” Paul Ellering)

Highlights:

  • Joined in progress as the WWE Network notified me that this was their best copy available. OK. It’s not like Flair matches were five minutes long anyway.
  • Hawk showed off his power by military-press-slamming Flair.
  • After Flair rolled out of the ring to regroup and returned, Hawk gave him another one.
  • A head butt by Hawk resulted in a Flair flop.
  • Upon stomping Flair, Hawk delivered a standing dropkick followed by a fist drop.
  • After a hip toss out of the corner by Hawk, Flair exited the ring to regroup again. He must have been taking notes during the Zbyszko match.
  • Hawk then suplexed him back into the ring and followed with a bear hug that got a series of 2 counts.
  • Upon giving Flair a flying shoulder block, Flair fell out of the ring onto the concrete floor.
  • Hawk joined him, but Flair made him taste the steel railing. It must have tasted like the Foul Ball at Jim’s Delicatessen. Unfortunately, Hawk must have sent his order back because he no-sold it. What a rude customer!
  • As Hawk sauntered after him, Flair tried to put the wooden steps in Hawk’s path, but Hawk lifted them overhead and tossed them at Flair.
  • Back in the ring, with referee Dick Kroll behind him, Flair nailed Hawk down near Jones Beach.
  • A subsequent knee drop by Flair got 2 with a big kick-out by Hawk.
  • After tossing Hawk outside the ring, Flair joined him and whipped him back-first into the steel railing twice.
  • Once again, he made Hawk taste the railing. This time around, Hawk must have enjoyed the Hoagie Carmichael as he was hurtin’ for certain.
  • Back in the ring, Flair mounted the top turnbuckle and gave Hawk a double axe handle.
  • Knee drop #2 got another 2 for Flair.
  • Hawk then countered a back drop with a hangman’s neckbreaker.
  • He then tried a fist drop but missed hurting his left knee in the process.
  • While Ellering occupied Kroll’s attention, Flair took Hawk on a trip to Southampton, NY. OUCH!
  • As Hawk grabbed a side headlock, Flair countered with a belly-to-back suplex.
  • He then rammed Hawk’s right leg into the ring post.
  • Next, he hooked the figure-four leg lock and used the top rope behind Kroll’s back.
  • After Hawk brought him closer to the center of the ring, he reversed it. Will Flair submit? No, he made the ropes. Shucks.
  • Upon giving Hawk an elbow smash, Flair mounted the top turnbuckle, got caught, and was slammed down to the mat. That seems to happen a lot to Flair. I might need to sing about that during my Monday Night War series.
  • Nevertheless, Flair then gave Hawk a cross-corner whip; however, Hawk exploded out of the corner.
  • Instead of hitting Flair with a clothesline, Hawk hit Kroll knocking him to the concrete floor.
  • Hawk then clotheslined Flair over the rope to the concrete floor.
  • Flair pulled him out, tried to ram him face-first into the ring post, but was rammed instead.
  • With Kroll still OUT COLD, Hawk rammed Flair into the post again causing Flair to be BUSTED OPEN!
  • Back in the ring, Hawk hit a powerslam, gave Flair a cross-corner whip, and then clotheslined him.
  • Once again, Flair mounted the top turnbuckle, got caught, and received a superplex.
  • Hawk got the false pin as Kroll remained OUT COLD. I fear for Kroll’s health here.
  • Dillon came into the ring with a steel chair and WALLOPED Hawk.
  • On the other hand, Hawk no-sold it and attacked Dillon.
  • Flair then grabbed the chair, nailed Hawk in the head with it, but only got 2 as Kroll finally recovered. He might need some Excedrin after this.
  • Afterward, a delayed vertical suplex by Flair was no-sold by Hawk.
  • Hawk then gave Flair the ten-punch count-along resulting in Flair flop #2.
  • After receiving another fist drop, Flair grabbed the steel chair and hit Hawk in the back for the DQ. Booooo!
  • While Hawk won, Flair retained the title.

Rating: ***1/2

Summary:  Bad finish to a very entertaining match. While the outcome was predictable, Flair carried Hawk extremely well.

After the match, Hawk gives Flair a cross-corner whip resulting in a Flair flip. As Hawk grabs the chair, Flair flees the ring.

While the cage is erected, Caudle rattles off the credits. We then revisit the finish to the Western States title match. According to Ross, Rhodes is a two-time reigning Bunkhouse Stampede winner. Actually, he’s won the only three thus far. Will he achieve victory #4? Let’s find out…

Match 4 (Bunkhouse Stampede):

Participants:

World tag team champion the “Enforcer” Arn Anderson, Barbarian, US champion the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, the “Russian bear” Ivan Koloff, the “Total Package” Lex Luger, Road Warrior Animal, World tag team champion Tully Blanchard, Warlord

Highlights:

  • The object of the match was to toss your opponents either through the door or over the top of the cage.
  • As far as I can tell, Luger won a qualifying Bunkhouse Stampede on 12/12/87 when he last eliminated Dillon and left the Four Horsemen.
  • According to Ross, the winner will win $500,000 along with the big boot trophy.
  • In the beginning, Rhodes tried to toss Blanchard through the door, but Arn saved his fellow Horseman.
  • Rhodes then raked Ivan’s face against the cage.
  • As Arn held Luger, Blanchard leaped from the top rope and gave him an elbow smash.
  • Rhodes then tried to toss Ivan over the top, but Barbarian saved him.
  • Ivan was BUSTED OPEN!
  • Rhodes then rammed him face-first into the cage.
  • Animal then raked Blanchard’s face against the cage.
  • Blanchard was BUSTED OPEN!
  • After Animal clotheslined Arn, Luger gave Barbarian the ten-punch-count-along.
  • Rhodes then consecutively rammed both Arn and Blanchard face-first into the cage.
  • As the Powers of Pain rammed Animal face-first into the cage, Luger gave Ivan an atomic drop.
  • Rhodes then grated Arn’s face against the cage causing him to be BUSTED OPEN.
  • When Luger tried to gorilla press slam Ivan, Blanchard saved Ivan.
  • Barbarian then bit Animal who was also BUSTED OPEN.
  • Rhodes then removed Blanchard’s weightlifting belt and whipped all the heels.
  • As Warlord held Animal, Barbarian nailed him.
  • Ivan then used the weightlifting belt to draw blood on Rhodes’ left arm.
  • As Animal delivered a flying shoulder block to Warlord, Luger used Arn’s boot to bludgeon Blanchard.
  • Barbarian then rammed Luger face-first into the cage.
  • He then headbutted Luger in the midsection as Warlord held him.
  • Animal then eliminated Ivan over the top to the concrete floor.
  • He then pressed Blanchard overhead and tossed him onto Arn.
  • Next, he eliminated Warlord through the door but was eliminated by Barbarian via Mafia kick.
  • Meanwhile, Luger delivered a powerslam to Blanchard then put him in the Torture Rack.
  • Barbarian must not have grabbed a snack before bell time because he was gnawing on Rhodes’ bloody arm. At least put some A1 on it. Sheesh!
  • Nonetheless, Blanchard assisted Arn with a gourdbuster to Luger.
  • They then attempted to eliminate Luger through the door, but Luger fought his way free.
  • As Arn tried to pull Luger through the door, he, Luger, and Blanchard all fell to the concrete floor and were eliminated.
  • That left Barbarian and Rhodes as the final two.
  • Through the cage, Paul Jones gave Barbarian some brass knuckles, and Barbarian nailed Rhodes with them.
  • Barbarian then hit a pair of diving head butts from the top turnbuckle.
  • Following that, he tried to eliminate Rhodes through the door but ate a series of bionic elbows instead.
  • Rhodes then gave him a back elbow.
  • On the top rope, Barbarian tried to eliminate Rhodes over the top, but Rhodes lifted him, gave him a bionic elbow, and eliminated him.
  • Rhodes won as referees Dick Kroll and Earl Hebner raised his arm.

Rating: ***

Summary:  While I understand a standard battle royal would neither have sold tickets nor PPV buys, using the opposite pattern of the WWF’s cage policy to achieve victory seemed awkward. Since Rhodes wasn’t going to win the NWA World title ever again, he didn’t mind booking himself as the “bull of the woods” and Bunkhouse champion. Truly, I believe Luger should have won instead.

After the match, Jim Crockett gives Rhodes the big boot trophy and the check for $500,000. I hope he paid off Luigi and Sal before leaving town.

Conclusion:  While this show resembles a glorified house show, the Zbyszko title victory at least gives it some historical value. Despite the opener, this isn’t a bad show. If you’ve never seen it, check it out. Having said that, if I compare the initial Royal Rumble match to the Bunkhouse Stampede match, the Rumble wins by a nose.

See you for WWF The Main Event!

Buyrate: 3.50

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