The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems – AWA Team Challenge Series!
No word of a lie, I almost feel like my entire career has been merely a series of incidental occurrences, all building up to this moment. I feel like Ultimate Warrior running down to the ring at Summerslam 88, so excited to destroy his hapless opponent that he doesn’t even know where to begin.
We start with an introduction video highlighting AMERICA, Rock N Roll, and bikini clad cheerleaders!
Hosted by Verne Gagne and his dog. Fun fact: Vince signed the dog to an exclusive contract two weeks after this show. Anyway, he promises that with NEW TELEVISION TECHNOLOGY, we’ll be right in the ring with the wrestlers. Given that Verne’s definition of new television technology is “color”, I’m not getting my hopes up. Commentary is done by Ralph Strangis and Greg Gagne.
Tommy Jammer v. Tom Burton
The entrances are something to BEHOLD, as they tape the show in an empty TV studio and literally green-screen an audience on either side of the “aisle”. Sadly, even with a CGI crowd they still couldn’t sell out. Jammer gets a couple of arm drags, which we see via the magic of SLOW MOTION REPLAY, as if this is the newest innovation in TV technology. In 1989. Jammer makes a brief comeback and finishes with a powerslam and splash in 1:31. For crowd shots, they cut to a random shot of people at what appears to be an unrelated bar. THIS IS AMAZING. -**
Meanwhile, Sgt. Slaughter and Baron Von Raschke argue about which of their jobbers will emerge victorious in our alleged main event.
Meanwhile, the Destruction Crew take a pair of sledgehammers to a green screen and demolish a building before cutting a promo where they’re trying to sound like Demolition while wearing garbage-picking uniforms.
The Destruction Crew v. Ricky Rice & Jerry Lynn
I should note that this is the second match into this show that’s supposed to be centered on the team point system and there’s still no mention of the actual point of the show: The Team Challenge Series. The brief promo from Sarge and Baron was the only time we’ve even heard about it. Lynn and Rice double-team the arm of Mike Enos and completely control the team that’s supposed to be the future of the division and dominant champions. Rice and Lynn keep double-teaming on Bloom this time while we cut to random unrelated reaction shots from the “crowd”, like Kevin Dunn’s wet dream, and Enos gets a cheap knee from the apron and Bloom hits a backdrop suplex on Lynn. The commentary team sounds like something out of an early WWE2K video game. Enos gets a powerslam on Lynn and the Crew finishes with a Doomsday Device at 4:42. Greg notes that the ref should have disqualified the heels for coming off the top rope. Uh, why, exactly? The “crowd” noise was particularly obnoxious here, just meaningless background noise in a loop for the entire match. Also, you could tell it was a fake crowd put in via post-production, because they were actually reacting to an AWA show in 1989. ½*
Meanwhile, Slaughter continues hyping the main event, an over-the-top challenge match between Paul Diamond and Col. DeBeers, and apparently DeBeers will disgrace America if he loses. Slaughter pretends to address DeBeers off-screen, and we cut to DeBeers in front of his own green screen ranting about taking orders from an enlisted man.
And now, actual foxy boxing, as we get a random match between “The Blond Bomber” and “Slaughterhouse Sean” and they do a terrible, TERRIBLE boxing match where the camera cuts like Kevin Dunn on a coke bender as they desperately try to use every first year film student trick possible to edit this into something watchable. Here’s the camera angle used for most of the match:
To further cover up the lack of audience, the ring is surrounded by other random women in bikinis who I guess have some connection to this match that is never explained. Why they are all in bikinis is also never explained. Is this related to the Team Challenge Series or even part of the AWA? No idea. In the second round, they just give up the pretense of boxing and start doing a worked wrestling match while occasionally throwing punches and I literally have no idea what’s happening in the match or what the rules are. Apparently they knock each other down and the first one to get up wins, and in fact one of them gets up and wins. WHAT THE FUCK WAS THIS EVEN?
Meanwhile, Paul Diamond cuts a promo, apparently from outer space. I mean, they green-screened a crowd for the entrances, so I would have to assume that the green-screened planet behind Diamond means that we’re supposed to literally believe he’s floating in space for this promo. Of note is that Diamond says this is the first match in the Team Challenge Series, but we just had a recap of the point standings to date! Whoever emailed me to tell me that this was “unwatchable garbage” and not worth my time could not be more wrong if they were booking this show themselves.
King of the Hill match: Col DeBeers v. Paul Diamond
“King of the Hill” means “over the top rope challenge” apparently. And let’s talk about the “entrances”. I mean, you have to check out this green-screen technology:
Like, come on. This is the greatest and craziest bullshit ever. They should be beaming this nonsense into space and storing it on the alien time capsule thing along with Jack White’s record so future generations and any visiting extraterrestrials will be warned never to watch it. Speaking of beaming it into space, Greg and Ralph stress that they’re watching this “live from satellite base” along with everyone in sports bars live all over the world. I don’t even know what to do with that. Have they not heard about TIME ZONES? Are there sports bars open at 6am in Egypt or something supposedly watching this? Diamond gets a flying headscissors to start, but DeBeers boots him in the head to break. Diamond tries it again and crashes into the corner, but DeBeers can’t get him over the top. DeBeers works a headlock, but Diamond gets a leapfrog into a dropkick. So we watch this in SUPER SLOW MO, which reveals that Diamond’s dropkick missed by three area codes while DeBeers sold it anyway. Have I mentioned how amazing this show is? It’s pretty fucking amazing. DeBeers suplexes him in from the apron to take over and goes up with a diving headbutt that misses, and we keep cutting back to the “sports bars” where people are supposedly watching this pre-taped show, featuring themselves, live. HOW DOES THAT EVEN WORK? This is making my brain hurt. I don’t even drink anymore and I really only keep booze in the house for when company comes over or if I have alcoholic friends, and this is making me break out the Root Beer Schnapps. Oh yeah, the HARD STUFF. DeBeers works on Diamond’s throat outside with elbows, but tries to finish with the piledriver and Diamond backdrops him over the top at 6:00 to win it. *
Sgt. Slaughter v. The Terminator
The New AWA continues as this time the ring is heavily mic’d so you hear all the quality trashtalk. I’m assuming the Terminator is Marc Laurinaitis, the member of the family who didn’t get the looks OR the talent. So they exchange shoulderblocks and headlocks and there’s lots of yelling to really take us inside the ring. Look, if I wanted the experience of being inside an AWA ring, I’d just walk around inside an empty arena and burn a bucket of money while only giving my child the best jobs. Slaughter gets SUPER SLOW MO bodypress for two and they stall and stall and stall for the pretend crowd, but Slaughter gets a BODYSLAM and the announcers sell this like state of the art wrestling action we’ve never seen before. Sarge finishes with the Slaughter cannon and SUPER SLOW MO cobra clutch at 6:40. Turns out that they didn’t need to artificially reduce the speed of the film, that was just how fast Slaughter was working in 1989. -** Afterwards, Slaughter, with a straight face mind you, tells Eric Bischoff that he’s “in the best shape of his life”. I literally spit my drink out in shock because this was shot in 4×3 and Slaughter filled the screen like he was 16×9.
And then, just like that, it was over and we get a teaser of “next week’s action” that never came. I don’t care what NONE OF Y’ALL say, this was a must watch. This was a trainwreck of epic proportions, a clown car flying off a cliff and landing on a fireworks factory and it was fucking amazing. They had literally had chicks boxing for no reason in the middle of the show and expected people to watch it. I can’t even top that.
Highest recommendation. I love the WWE Network and hope they never stop delivering me crazy nonsense like this, ever.