The SmarK Rant for AWA WrestleRock ’86 (04.20.86)
Not to be confused with Rock N’ Wrestling. Not that ANYONE would. Just in case you might be confused…
Live from Minneapolis, MN, drawing 22,000 to the Metrodome. I mean, reasonably impressive for the AWA, but that stadium was looking SPARSE on the wide shots. Maybe just doing an arena show would have been a better idea? By the end of the show the camera side was filling up pretty good, so they probably managed to paper the s--- out of it. I can’t remember the details from that issue of the Observer or even if Dave reviewed the show.
Oddly, I’ve never done this show, and someone e-mailed asking for it, so why not?
Your host is Rod Trongaard, who could REALLY use a color man.
Brad Rheingans v. Boris Zukhov
So on the heel side, we’ve got a former Native American playing a Middle Eastern Sheik, managing an American who is playing a Russian. Sounds about right. Also, isn’t there some pretty serious ideology clashes going on between Islam and Communism? Really, they should be the babyfaces for putting aside their massive differences and getting along. At least we know that Rheingans is an American because they NEVER SHUT UP ABOUT IT. Brad hiptosses him into a dropkick to start, but Boris and his ridiculous Mongolian topknot stomp him down to take over. Clearly Jim Nelson was still working out the kinks of being a Russian traitor. He should take notes from Zoya the Destroyer. Boris puts him down with a knee and stomps away for two. Zukhov with a clothesline for two and the crowd is already comatose. Boris tosses him and brings him back in for a backbreaker that gets two. Backdrop suplex gets two. Rheingans makes the comeback with some generic babyface stuff and goes to work on the knee. That at least makes sense because they made a big deal out of Zukhov hurting Brad’s knee to set up the match. Atomic drop gets two. Some kind of gut wrench or Belly to belly suplex finishes at 8:30. Just a match. *1/2
MIDGET MADNESS! Lord Littlebrook & Little Tokyo v. Little Mr. T. & Cowboy Lang
The heel midgets control Cowboy Lang with their shenanigans in the corner, but Mr. T comes in and overpowers Tokyo until a cheapshot turns the tide. Not quite the fast-paced action promised by Rod here. We get the usual comedy spots like Littlebrook accidentally choking his own partner out and other heel miscommunication. Mr. T gets the airplane spin on Tokyo and the faces do the rowboat spot and dogpile the ref and then Lang finishes with the rolling cradle at 10:00.
Wahoo McDaniel v. Col. DeBeers
DeBeers goes for the arm to start, but Wahoo chops him away and they take it to the mat with a hammerlock from Wahoo. DeBeers slugs him down and tosses him, and they throw chops on the apron before Wahoo fights in with more chops. DeBeers goes flying off a tomahawk chop and bumps to the floor, and then Wahoo accidentally tosses him over the top for the DQ at 5:10. Nothing to this one. *
(At this point, the show is supposed to feature the Midnight Rockers jobbing to Rose & Somers, but it’s been omitted for reasons that are unclear.)
Buck Zumhofe v. Tiger Mask
I certainly wasn’t expecting to have Misawa on this show, but here we are. TM takes him down and works the arm, but Buck works a top wristlock and then goes to a toehold. Boston crab, but Mask reverses out and comes back with a dropkick for two. Mask works the arm now as they continue doing the most generic match humanly possible. I’d like to stop and rage at the world for taking Misawa from us young but leaving this piece of s--- Zumhofe alive. Mask with a bodypress for two and a suplex for two. Zumhofe goes for the mask and gets a slam for two, but Mask gets a spinkick for two, but Buck goes to the abdominal stretch. Tiger Mask dumps him to escape and follows with a dive as they FINALLY do something. Back in, Tiger with a backdrop suplex and he goes up with a flying somersault senton and that finishes at 11:00. Zumhofe was as useless as you’d expect and completely out of his paygrade. **
Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo v. The Fabulous Ones
This is a strangely specifically-timed bit of business, as Windham had left the WWF and Rotundo reformed the US Express with Dan Spivey later in 86, but here they are crossing paths in limbo. Windham and Stan Lane trade headlocks to start and the Express works the arm in their corner. Steve Keirn comes in and Rotundo holds him in a side headlock and Windham slugs him down to block a leapfrog. Double dropkick from the US Express gets two and Rotundo goes to the chinlock. Finally a cheapshot turns the tide and the Fabs work Rotundo over on their side, with Lane using his white guy karate moves and Keirn chokes him out. Lane tosses him over the top rope behind the ref’s back and blocks a sunset flip attempt, and Keirn cuts off the ring with a facelock. Lane with a neckbreaker, but he misses an elbow and it’s hot tag Windham. Noggins are knocked and a powerslam gets two on Lane, but Keirn clips him from behind to cut off the comeback. Windham gets a rollup for a hope spot on Keirn while Lane distracts the ref, and Windham fights back on Keirn until Lane cuts him off again. They collide and Windham gets the hot tag to Rotundo, who gets the airplane spin on Lane, but Keirn trips him and Lane falls on top for two. The Fabs set up for a spike piledriver, but Windham nails Lane off the top rope, behind the ref’s back, and pins him at 14:01. This referee was a complete moron. Match was pretty fun but it felt like they were just waiting to escape second gear and never got there. **1/2
Giant Baba v. Bulldog Bob Brown
Uh, this is…quite the deal. Baba works the arm to start and Bob goes for the leg and gets nowhere. Baba takes him down with a headscissors, but Bob thumbs him in the eye and chokes away on the ropes, but Baba comes back with chops and throws some slow motion knees. Bob bites him on the nose to come back, but Baba chops him down and puts him down with the big boot to finish at 5:39. -* Oddly, the Wikipedia article about this show claims that this match was scheduled and never took place. If only we were so lucky.
Harley Race v. Rick Martel
Ken Resnick makes a point about how neither guy can afford to lose in the pre-match promo with Race, so you win ONE MILLION DOLLARS if you can guess the finish. Both guys were soon WWF-bound, with this one billed as “The battle of ex-World champions.” These days that’s every match on RAW given how much the belts change around. Martel works the arm to start, showing the HOT FIRE that led to such a successful and prosperous reign as AWA champion. Cough. Rod notes that Martel has speed, but Race has “savvy and ring wise-ness”. Wiseness is definitely important. Race drops a knee and goes to a chinlock and the crowd is already catcalling the match. So Martel goes back to the arm to really crank up the excitement. I mean, I appreciate the AWA as much as anyone who grew up watching it, but this is the least rock n’ roll show in wrestling history. Race gets a standing powerslam for two and Martel gets a sleeper, which is “cutting off the cartaroid arteries”, apparently. Race decides to go AIRBORNE and Rick slams him off the top and drops a knee for two. They slug it out, but Race reverses a headlock into a backdrop suplex. Martel comes back with a slingshot splash from the apron for two, but Race drops him with a piledriver and a falling headbutt for two. Race drops an elbow for two and goes to a chinlock, but Martel fights out and then completely whiffs on a bodypress attempt. Their timing was WAY off there. Race pounds away in the corner, but Martel sends him to the floor with a whip into the corner. Martel suplexes him back in, but misses an elbow and Race takes over again with a shoulderbreaker for two. Race with a neckbreaker for two. Martel with a backdrop suplex for two. They collide and Race bumps over the top again, apparently trying to get this thing over by sheer force of willpower, but Martel escapes a piledriver and hits a belly to belly for two. Dropkick gets two. Martel starts on the leg, as the match isn’t really going anywhere. Race bearhugs him into a belly to belly suplex for two. They fight over a suplex and Martel wins that, but misses a big splash and they both tumble to the floor for the double countout at 16:00. Big shocker, I know. This had occasional flashes of excitement but was mostly just a bunch of stuff that happened with no real flow. **1/4 Harley debuted in the WWF two weeks later and Martel soon after.
Ladies Battle Royal:
Man, they’re just throwing everything at the wall with this show. So we’ve got Joyce Grable, Kat LaRoux, Luna Vachon, Rose Devine, Taylor Thomas, Despina Montagas, Misty Blue Simmes, Sherri Martel, Debbie Combs and Candi Devine. Very early in the careers of Luna and Sherri, of course. Very (very!) late in the careers of all the rest. Absolutely nothing to this, just a bunch of laying on the ropes and yelling most of the way. Like, colossally dull stuff. Sherri eliminates champion Candi Devine to set up that program later and Debbie Combs dumps Grable to apparently win, but Martel appears from outside of the ring to get the win at 7:30. She apparently gets a cheque for $50,000 for this win. Like, come on. That would be about 1/6th of the gate for the show!
Americas title: Sgt. Slaughter v. Kamala
The good news: We finally get some color commentary. The bad news: It’s Larry Nelson. Sarge literally has “GI Joe” plastered on his tights, just to show you the level of sellout that Slaughter had become by this point. Kamala puts him down with chops and follows with a splash, but he’s too savage to understand that you need to have his shoulders down. You’d think after a decade he’d grasp that. Kamala goes to the dreaded ARMPIT PINCH and gets two off that. Sarge fights out, but Skandor Akbar gives his man a whip and he gets some shots in with that. Kamala throws a multitude of chops and sneaks in the whip again for more abuse. And he’s CHOPPING. And CHOPPING. And CHOPPING. Finally Sarge decides that he’s sold enough to justify his downside and comes back with a bodyslam for two. Cobra clutch looks to finish, but he stops to go after Akbar. Kamala hits his own manager by mistake and someone’s disqualified at 9:50. Probably Kamala. Either way, I will have stopped caring by the time the next match starts. Slaughter literally did about 4 moves in the entire match. His GI Joe figure probably had better workrate by this point. ½* He brings a couple of kids out to say the Pledge of Allegiance afterwards. Fun fact: The pledge was invented by a flag company as a way to sell flags in schools.
AWA World tag titles: Scott Hall & Curt Hennig v. The Long Riders
Hall is awarded a trophy for “Most Popular” by a magazine called “Pro Wrestling Report” and I’m thinking it won’t survive the match. This was from that precious time in Hall’s career when he wore cowboy boots in an effort to be Magnum TA. Hall works a headlock on Scott Irwin and Hennig comes in with his own. The Riders try to double-team him and he fights off Wild Bill with a dropkick and chases him out of the ring with armdrags before bringing him back to the corner for more headlocks. Rod Trongaard is very focused on how very good-looking both Hall and Hennig are. Well, I HAVE heard that he’s dripping with machismo. Hennig with a dropkick on Bill for two and they slug it out to pick up the pace, which leads to Bill going down first as Hennig gets two. They take turns missing elbows and Hennig goes back to the headlock. Bill escapes the hold and tries to drop down, but Hennig drops down beside him and Bill freaks out and runs away in a cute spot. The Irwins regroup and we get a test of strength, but Hennig takes him down for two. Finally a bit of double-teaming turns the tide and Hennig is your (ridiculously good-looking) face in peril. They double-team him in the corner but Hennig manages to get the hot tag to Hall and the champs double-team Bill as it’s BONZO GONZO. Hennig gets tossed over the top behind the ref’s back, but he comes back into the ring with a missile dropkick on Bill to retain at 13:33. This was another one that never really went anywhere and abruptly ended just when it looked like it was getting good. **1/2 The champs cut a fired up promo looking for a rematch, but as it turned out, this was Scott Irwin’s last match, as he discovered a tumor in his head the next week and decided to retire rather than risk death in the ring.
Martial arts match: Larry Zbsyzko v. Scott LeDoux
This has disaster written all over it, with Larry Hennig as special referee, plus a round system and Ninja Go at ringside for Larry. I never ever understood Verne’s fascination with LeDoux, but I guess it was a Minnesota thing. LeDoux boxes Larry out of the ring right away, so Larry uses his powers of stalling to buy time before taking LeDoux down to end round 1.
Round 2 and Larry gets a spinkick on him, but Scott throws punches in the corner and Larry runs away. Larry takes him down with an armdrag and manages to pull off one of LeDoux’s gloves, then waits for Hennig to check it and slams him to take over to end the round.
Larry comes in with a shoulderbreaker to start round 3 and punches LeDoux down after a thumb to the eye and goes to a facelock to end the round.
Round 4 and LeDoux uses the thumb to the eye technique for his own purposes and runs Larry into the turnbuckles, then makes the comeback with a slam and slugs away in the corner. He gets the knockout blow, but Larry is saved by the bell.
Round 5 and Larry runs him into the post, and that’s a DQ at 13:31. They seriously couldn’t even book a clean finish for this freakshow match? It was fine and reasonably entertaining, but WAY too long for what it was. I will say, it was at least a million times better than Piper v. Mr. T from earlier in the month, mostly because LeDoux is an actual boxer who knows how to make worked punches look legit.
AWA World title: Stan Hansen v. Nick Bockwinkel
I think in retrospect, everyone would have been happier if Hansen had just dropped the title to Bockwinkel here. They immediately brawl out of the ring and Bockwinkel slugs away in the ring until Hansen cuts him off with a knee and goes to a chinlock. Nick throws his own knees in the corner, but Hansen takes him down with an elbowdrop for two. Bockwinkel works the arm and throws rabbit punches to the ribs, but Stan just tosses him off with a slam and drops a knee for two. Larry Nelson relates the story frequently told by Bockwinkel about how he’d be sleeping and someone would count to two, and he’d suddenly kick out in his sleep. Bockwinkel with a sunset flip for two and he goes back to the arm, keeping Hansen grounded, but Stan reverses to the chinlock again. Elbow gets two. Bockwinkel catches him with the sleeper, but they fight out of the ring again. Back in, Bockwinkel comes back with a series of slams, but the ref is bumped and misses a couple of pinfalls from Bockwinkel. Piledriver and there’s still no ref, and finally Hansen backdrops him over the top rope for the DQ at 10:18. Man, there’s some really lazy finishes for what was supposed to be a major stadium show. Much like everything else tonight, the match was getting pretty good before the abrupt shitty finish. ***
Cage match: Nord the Barbarian & King Kong Brody v. Jimmy Snuka & Greg Gagne
As always, Brody has to be billed as “King Kong” because the Bruiser is the only Bruiser in the territory. This then led to the later wackiness of King Kong Bundy coming in and having to change HIS name to “Boom Boom Bundy” to avoid confusion with King Kong Brody. The AWA, man. Brody and Mini Me Brody attack Groovy Greg to start and then work over Snuka in their corner, but he chops Brody down and the babyfaces take over on Nord. Greg double-teams both Bruiser Brody and Nord by himself, because of course he does, but Brody cuts him off with a slam and runs him into the cage to draw blood. Snuka gets a hot tag and hits Brody with a flying headbutt for two as Brody is busted open. Nord comes in and pounds on Snuka, but the faces whip the heels into each other and hit Brody with a double suplex. Snuka comes off the top and accidentally headbutts Gagne, which allows the furry booted heels to double-team Snuka. However, Brody dropkicks his own partner by mistake and Snuka rolls him up for a flash pin at 11:38. Reasonably entertaining. ***
Cage match: Verne Gagne v. Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie
Verne attacks Adnan to start and busts him open, but the Sheik slams him for two, only to have Verne reverse to a small package for the pin at 3:49. Obviously this was just a showcase for Verne. *
Cage match: The Road Warriors v. Michael Hayes & Jimmy Garvin
Oddly, this was third from the top on the original show, but has been edited into the main event position here. Hayes quickly gets a piledriver on Hawk, and SHOCKINGLY it’s no-sold. Hawk puts Hayes down with a press slam and drops the fist and Hayes is somehow bleeding already. Garvin conveniently positions himself in the other corner when Hayes tries for the tag, so Michael tries to climb the cage and escape, only to have Hawk follow him up there and headbutt him down before following with a flying fistdrop. Hayes forcibly tags Garvin in and Hawk proceeds to destroying him, and Animal follows with a powerslam for two. Animal presses Garvin and gets a bunch of reps on him, but the Freebirds get a brief heat segment on Hawk via a figure-four from Hayes. Hawk powers out and suplexes Hayes, and it’s hot tag Animal. Hayes finds a chain in his tights, but hits Garvin by mistake and Animal gets the pin at 7:00 to get their final revenge for losing the tag titles. The Warriors jumped to Crockett immediately afterwards, won the first Crockett Cup tournament, and never looked back. **
Seriously, at FOUR HOURS long, it’s a bit of a slog. You could probably edit this down to a hell of a two hour show with little trouble, though. For me, the good doesn’t really outweigh all the crap finishes (particularly in the Martel-Race and Bockwinkel-Hansen matches) and since the AWA is such an acquired taste, I wouldn’t personally recommend it. However, if you do choose to brave it, it’s not bad at all and it’s an interested last gasp at relevance from Verne Gagne before Vince and Crockett gutted and destroyed the promotion once and for all. Thumbs in the middle.