The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems – Star Wars ’81 (02.22.81)
Yeah yeah, a bunch of people e-mailed me the moment this went up on the Network yesterday. Twist my arm and all that. The show is 80 minutes on here, so clearly it’s not the full card. Not sure what the television situation was unless it was stitched together from the WCCW TV shows at the time or whatever. Well I guess it wasn’t “World Class” at that point, it was Big Time Wrestling or whatever Fritz was promoting as.
Taped from Dallas, TX
Your host is someone I’m not sure of. Normally it would be Bill Mercer, but he’s doing ring intros tonight. I suspect it might even be overdubbed from years later because he references “World Class Wrestling Alliance” on more than one occasion, and that term didn’t exist until they went rogue from the NWA in 86.
Mil Mascaras v. Killer Tim Brooks
Tim Brooks was of course a staple of the territory era and looks like a crazy homeless guy at this point in his career, although his character was more along the lines of badass biker. However, his greatest claim to fame in the sport is the angle where he won the National title from Paul Orndorff a couple of years after this, and sold it to Larry Zbyszko, who was stripped of the belt and forced to win it for real in a tournament. That was of course the storyline that was recycled with Hogan, Andre and Dibiase in 1988 to much better returns at the box office, although poor Dibiase didn’t have the same success in the tournament. Brooks works a lengthy wristlock on Mil, burning up about 5 minutes of the match (no exaggeration) and then switching to a headlock. Mascaras escapes with an armdrag and Brooks claims multiple hairpulls and then accidentally flies over the top rope and wants a DQ called. Mascaras escapes the barrage of technicalities and goes to his own headlock, but Brooks puts him down with a kneelift, but Mascaras comes back with the flying double chop, but misses a dropkick. Brooks misses a legdrop, however, and Mil finishes with a flying bodypress at 9:54. *1/2
Fritz Von Erich v. The Great Kabuki
Fritz is mobbed by autograph-seeking kids during his entrance, although I wouldn’t put it past him to plant all of them. Fritz is seeking REVENGE for his son David, who was attacked by Kabuki and had “a few teeth knocked out”. Maybe that was just covering for meth addiction. Wouldn’t surprise me, frankly. Every time I think we’ve hit the bottom of the barrel with Von Erich stories, I read another one. The announcer notes that Gary Hart looks like either a banker or an accountant, but good taste prevents him from saying what he really looks like. I’m assuming he was going for “pimp” there. Well, there WERE a lot of kids watching. Kabuki, who oddly has short hair at this point in a look that I’m not used to seeing on him, throws kicks to start, but Fritz swats him away and slugs him down. Actually, short-haired Kabuki looks a lot like Muta, so I can see why they went with that fake relationship when they introduced him as Kabuki’s son or nephew or whatever it was. Kabuki and Fritz continue their stalemate and we learn that a match between Kerry and Harley Race occurred earlier, which sucks that we didn’t get to see that one. They had a corker in late 83. Kabuki throws kicks in the corner to take over after some extended stalling, but he makes the mistake of taking Fritz down and gets caught with a stomach claw on the mat. Kabuki fights out of that and slugs away in the corner, but Fritz unleashes another Iron Claw, which causes Kabuki to roll out of the ring to escape. The old cranky fart in me thinks it’s ridiculous that people today feel the need to do complex finishing sequences with multiple reversals and crazy dives off the apron, and here’s Fritz at 150 years old getting mad heat by threatening to squeeze his fingers on a guy’s temple. Wrestling! Kabuki comes off the top with a chop and Fritz no-sells him and pounds away in the corner, so Kabuki decides to up the ridiculous factor of this battle by using the very rare and ultra-deadly ARMPIT PINCH. Fritz escapes by slapping the IRON CLAW on him again and some idiot fan jumps the railing and attacks Gary Hart while Kabuki uses an illegal karate chop on Fritz to get the advantage. OH SHIT, HE’S USING KARATE! WE’RE ALL FUCKED! And then David Von Erich runs in and beats on Kabuki because it’s no-DQ, and after Fritz lets his son do all the work, he pins Kabuki and wins the match at 10:22 and takes the credit. Story of his life. Fuck this match like Fritz fucked over his kids. -**
NWA World title: Harley Race v. Kerry Von Erich
OK, we do get the match after all. I believe this would be the first title shot for the Von Erich kids of many. Kerry, a mere pup at age 21, had not yet grown out his magnificent mane of hair yet and he was still working on the body. But holy man did he look like a star even at this point, kind of reminiscent of a young Paul Orndorff. Kerry quickly gets a pair of slams and drops an elbow for two. Kerry works the headlock and gets a press slam, but misses an elbow and Race takes over. Kerry reverses a suplex attempt into a sleeper, which was his devastating finisher in 1981, but Race gets a slick low blow to escape. Amazing timing from Race, as he goaded the referee onto one side of himself and then whacked Kerry in the nuts from the other side. Race pounds away in the corner, but Kerry gets a suplex and then misses another elbowdrop. Kerry trying an elbowdrop at this point was like watching a crash test dummy flying out of the backseat of a test vehicle. Kerry gets a sunset flip for two, but collides with Race for the double down. God bless Harley for doing everything he could to carry this green, gawky goof to something watchable. I mean, say what you will about later era drugged out Kerry, but at least he looked and moved like a pro wrestler. This version of Kerry was all sizzle and no steak. Kerry gets a stomach claw but accidentally dumps Race over the top rope and that should really be a DQ, but the ref lets it slide. Back in, Kerry throws some punches and they fight to the floor, where Kerry runs him into the post. Back in, Kerry with the IRON CLAW, but Race rolls out to escape and they continue fighting. Race literally sandbags him on the floor to take over again, although that could be dangerous because one of them might have been the kids’ coke stash for the night. Race tries a suplex back in, but Kerry reverses for two and makes another comeback because god knows poor Harley hasn’t sold enough for Fritz’s super-green kid in this match yet. Ref gets bumped and Kerry drops knees on Race and stupidly goes to check on the ref. Race attacks him from behind, but Kerry puts him in the sleeper on the floor and then tosses Race back in. And then he checks on the ref AGAIN and Race attacks him from behind AGAIN. Kerry gets a slam and this is seriously supposed to be a visual pinfall. Off a BODYSLAM? A second ref runs in to make the count, but Race bails again and pulls Kerry to the floor, slamming him on the ringside table and it’s a double countout at 16:00. This was the first of many times that Kerry was the “uncrowned World champion”. Thank god that Kerry got a million times better by the end of 1982 because he had nothing here but Race still had to put him over for the entire match anyway. *1/2
World Class tag titles: Ali Mustafa & Hercules Ayala v. David & Kevin Von Erich
Ayala was a longtime midcard heel in Stampede who later went on to huge fame in Puerto Rico doing bloodbaths with Carlos Colon. I’m not entirely clear on which version of the World tag team titles this is supposed to be. The announcer calls them the “World Class World tag team titles”, but other sources list them as the NWA World tag team titles. So a little bit of digging reveals that in fact they were BILLED as NWA World champions when they showed up in the World Class area in January 81, but in fact that was just wrestling bullshit and it was a fictitious reign created to give the Von Erichs a “World” title to win. See, they were already the “All Asian” tag champions, plus the Texas tag champions, and another bullshit title, with this one supposedly being for their fourth simultaneous title. And you thought Roman Reigns was pushed too much. Granted, there was no “real” version of the NWA tag titles because every territory had their own. The Von Erichs double-team Ayala, but Kevin gets caught in the heel corner and Ali drops him on the top rope to take over. Oddly, Kevin was wearing boots at this point in his career. Just looks strange on him. The heels goad David into the ring for some more shenanigans in their corner. Kevin fights back with a sleeper, but they double-team him some more to break it up, and the Von Erichs finally just come back with their own double-teams and Kevin splashes Ayala for two. Finally David gets the hot tag and quickly gets two on Mustafa, but the heels double-team him now with more basic stuff, and Kevin comes in to break it up. And David gets choked out while the ref deals with Kevin, but Kevin makes the save again and runs Mustafa into the post. And that promptly gets ignored. David fights over and gets the hot tag to Kevin, who goes for the claw but has it broken up by the heels again. Ayala with a bearhug, but David makes the save and Kevin comes back with an elbow for two. Kevin with a slam for two, but the heels double-team David with more punches and kicks, until Kevin comes off the top with a sunset flip on Mustafa to win the “World” tag team titles at 16:41. I guess Fritz couldn’t secure the NWA title for Kerry, so he decided to give the crowd at least one World title win on the show. So this gives us the big celebration with Kerry, Kevin, David, Mike, Fritz and Chris all together in the ring. Aw, man. I’m always reminded of Kevin’s sad quote “I used to have four brothers, and now I’m not even a brother.” Mustafa and Ayala were about the most generic heel team humanly possible and just there to punch and kick and then lay down for the kids. This was serviceable and had amazing heat, but that’s about it. *1/4
$5000 Battle Royal:
And with finish with everyone back for a battle royal, including a Japanese heel who is SWEAR TO GOD named “Chang Chung”. Bet he’s gonna have fun tonight. Chung gets tossed quickly and Barr is pinned by Ayala and he’s gone. Anyway, more shit happens and I’ve got no patience for this and duh, Bruiser Brody survives the parade of geeks and closes the evening by throwing out Tim Brooks and Ali Mustafa to win at 5:38.
I dunno man, if you’re endlessly fascinated by the history of the Von Erich human trainwreck like I am, it’s worth a look to see them in their early years, I guess. But as a show, there’s nothing here for me. But it’s short and reasonably watchable, so use your own judgment.
Edit to add: A few hours after I posted this, I thought about it and it might come off like I’m bashing the show. Not at all. This is considered a super rare Holy Grail among collectors and it’s an amazing piece of history to even have it. Just wanted to clarify