The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems – Pro Wrestling USA 08.16.85
So yeah, I guess part of the Gagne collection of tapes was an episode of this wackiness, which was the AWA and NWA teaming up to put Vince out of business for good! That didn’t go well for them, but it was certainly a valiant effort. Unfortunately much of the partnership was spent with David Crockett running around behind the scenes making offers to the AWA talent to jump ship, and as Vince himself noted on the AWA DVD years ago, they could barely agree on what to order when they went for coffee together. So running a major opposition promotion was likely asking too much.
Sgt. Slaughter has words for Ric Flair, as he’s going to add the NWA World title to his Americas title. Also, the Freebirds are facing the Road Warriors and Terry Gordy is pretty sure there’s a conspiracy against them because they’re from the south. And with that, we head to the Meadowlands for the two featured matches! Now, I have no idea if these were part of the show itself, which I doubt because it’s basically raw footage with no commentary. So they likely just took the hype segment from the TV show and then added the two Meadowlands matches as the Hidden Gems.
NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Sgt. Slaughter
Pretty impressive crowd at the Meadowlands, all things considered. Although this show only features two matches from the show, here’s the full undercard from thehistoryofwwe.com:
JCP/AWA Star Wars – East Rutherford, NJ – Meadowlands – August 16, 1985 (7,000)
Baron Von Raschke defeated Davey Gee
Brad Rheingans defeated Boris Zurcov via disqualification
AWA Light Heavyweight Champion Steve Regal pinned Buck Zumhoffe
Greg Gagne & Curt Hennig defeated Nick Bockwinkel & Ray Stevens at the 19-minute mark when Gagne pinned Bockwinkel
AWA World Champion Rick Martel pinned Larry Zbyszko at the 19-minute mark
Not too shabby. Slaughter overpowers Flair to start and they fight for a wristlock, which Sarge wins. He goes to a headlock and throws Flair around with hiptosses, and then back to the headlock again as the crowd stays surprisingly crazy for Slaughter. Kind of funny that he was coming off GI Joe and the WWF success and probably could have been a top level star for either side in the territorial wars, but he priced himself out of the market and grossly overestimated how long his peak would last. Flair bails and tries a suplex back in the ring, but Slaughter won’t let him have it. Sarge takes him down with an armbar and works on that as it is clear that Slaughter shall not be the one doing the selling for the majority of this match. And in fact, the super-hot Slaughter crowd actually starts turning on him because he’s not doing fuck all, and pops when Flair gets a bit of a comeback, with Slaughter trying a bodypress and failing miserably, only for Sarge to get a press slam to take over again. Flair finally gets some chops in the corner and drops an elbow for two, but misses a kneedrop. And then Slaughter lays on the knee for a bit and goes with a figure-four, and he’s about as facile with it as Dusty Rhodes is. In fact, Flair actually has to tell him to switch legs as he’s desperately feeding him the right leg and Sarge is trying to put the hold on the left. Flair makes the ropes and Sarge hauls him out and tries again, still putting the hold on the wrong leg, but Flair finally escapes by hitting him in the GI Junk. Sarge pretty much shakes that off and pounds on Flair with forearms in the corner, but Ric goes to the eyes to break that up and tosses him. Back in, Flair finally gets to start working his own match after 20:00 and the crowd is still shockingly amped for this boring portion, as Flair goes to a hammerlock and uses the ropes. I’m not clear on how the physics of that would work based on the direction they were laying, but wrestling logic does say that putting your feet on the ropes makes anything hurt more so I’m willing to go with it. Just like submission moves are more painful on the floor.
Flair works the arm, but Slaughter powers up and hits the Slaughter Cannon and follows with a sleeper. The crowd absolutely loses their SHIT for this, and Slaughter gets him in pinfall position and gets two. Flair gets a very questionable knee to buy some time and we get a Flair Flop, but Slaughter comes back with a backslide for two. Flair throws more chops and Slaughter whips him into the corner for the Flair Flip, and then runs him into the post. And then suddenly at 25:00 into the match, Larry Nelson comes in on commentary so I guess that was the edit for the TV version. That was a pretty slick edit on WWE’s part if so. Flair goes for the figure-four but Slaughter reverses for two. Flair goes up and Sarge slams him off. Man, I was enjoying the match way more without the commentary. Slaughter puts him on the floor with a clothesline, but Flair manages to catch Slaughter’s leg in the ropes and he goes to work on it. Backdrop suplex sets up the figure-four, and Flair uses the ropes to keep him down, but Sarge makes the ropes to break. Sarge hooks him in the Cobra Clutch while standing on the apron, and Boris Zhukov runs in for the DQ at 32:20. Is it me or did they miss an incredibly easy angle for the Slaughter-Boris feud by not playing up the fact that Zhukov used to be Slaughter’s protégé Private Jim Nelson? I guess they were going for method acting by pretending like he was from Russia all along, but the traitor angle is always guaranteed money. Anyway, this one was Slaughter insisting on doing his own boring match for the first 20:00 and then Flair did the Big Fat Broomstick formula with him to save the match and get something pretty goddamn good out of it despite Slaughter’s best attempts to tank it. ***1/2
The Fabulous Freebirds v. The Road Warriors & Paul Ellering
The Birds have MOLTEN heat here in Yankee country, complete with Confederate flags painted on their faces, as they milk the crowd for minutes on end while Hawk yells at them. Buddy slams him to start and Hawk pops up and slams him right back multiple times, and then Hayes comes in and gets slammed as well. Gordy faces off with Animal and gets a couple of slams, and he’s got it under control. No problem. And then he tries it again and Animal just blocks him and presses him with an Ultimate Warrior gorilla press and elbow for two. He nearly lost him on the way up, too. Ellering comes in and beats on designated fall guy Buddy Roberts and Hawk adds a gut wrench for two. Finally Roberts escapes an Ellering headlock with a suplex and goes to work on the leg as Paul is your face in peril. And that literally lasts for 30 seconds before Animal comes back in and destroys Buddy with a clothesline for two. Back to Ellering and Gordy thankfully gives him a knee from the apron and get some heat again as Hayes comes in and taunts the Warriors while beating on their beloved manager. I feel like that’s a bad idea. Funny spot as Gordy is trying to drop an elbow on Ellering but Hawk messes with him from the apron by grabbing his trunks and he flails his arms helplessly while trying to figure out what to do. Buddy works Ellering over in the corner, but Hayes hits Buddy by mistake and it’s HOT TAG Animal. And the Freebirds go flying all over the ring for the Warriors and it’s powerslams for everyone, but Buddy hits the ref for the DQ at 12:30. So yeah, Exhibit A for why this super-promotion didn’t last, as they draw a big hot crowd in the WWF’s home turf and end the night with cheap DQ finishes in both halves of the main event. Anyway, this was ALL heat on Ellering and gaga from the Freebirds and nothing as a match, but the crowd was losing their minds all the way through and made it worth checking out. ***
A very entertaining hour! This one gets a solid WATCH IT.