The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems – AWA SuperClash IV (04.08.90)
OH YOU KNOW I’M ALL OVER THIS.
So yeah, welcome to the dying days of the AWA, after Mr. Saito got an AWA title reign as payment for a Japan tour by Verne’s guys, if I’m remembering the Observer Flashbacks correctly. Granted the prestige of the belt was on the level of someone sending their kid to the corner drug store with 10 bucks to buy a pack of smokes and 2 AWA World title reigns with $2.50 change coming back to them, but Saito’s reign was pretty egregious even by the low standards of the time.
This is a hard camera shoot, which is amazing considering the show was supposedly never taped in the first place. And there’s no commentary, but that just means not having to listen to Lee Marshall or Larry Nelson or whatever. You’d think after SuperClash III nearly sunk the company, Verne would learn his lesson, but Verne wasn’t very good about learning lessons, unfortunately.
Taped from St. Paul, MN, with what the Observer noted as “a paid crowd of under 1000 and no TV cameras present”. Shows what HE knows. Maybe there was way more than 1000 people there, too! WAKE UP, SHEEPLE!
BREAKING NEWS: Junkyard Dog has suffered a knee injury, so Baron Von Rashke will take his place.
Jake The Milkman Milliman v. Todd Becker
Quite the opener! Milliman kind of reminds me of Otis Dozovic, come to think of it. Jake takes Becker down and works the arm, then uses a monkey flip of all things and goes back to the armbar. Obviously he’s shooting for the vacant “top babyface” spot in the company last held by Verne Gagne a decade earlier. Becker slams out of it and goes to a chinlock. “Come on, Milky!” yells a fan in the front row, showing that Milliman really did get passed over for a top spot. Becker slams him for two and drops an elbow for two. Milliman gets a sunset flip out of nowhere to finish at 4:10, however. A thrilling opener befitting the AWA’s biggest supercard of the year. Maybe ever. ½*
The Texas Hangmen v. DJ Peterson & Brad Rheingans
The Hangmen were two nondescript masked guys named KILLER and PSYCHO, like Sons of Anarchy characters but executioners instead of bikers. Then they moved to WCW and became even more generic, dubbed Disorderly Conduct as “Tough Tom” and “Mean Mike”. They’re such a footnote that Cagematch doesn’t even list their real names. That’s like being jobbers to the jobbers. Rheingans tries a lockup with one of the Hangmen while we get some fascinating banter in the background between Greg Gagne and some guy asking about a local station. Probably gonna be more exciting than this match, I’m not gonna lie. Killer grabs a headlock on Rheingans and overpowers him, but Psycho comes in and the babyfaces work him over with armdrags and suchlike. Note to self: If I’m ever caught in a street fight with the Texas Hangmen, go for the guy named Psycho because he’s clearly the weak link. Or maybe it’s the other guy, I dunno, the masks always confuse me. Peterson is just working that armbar like a madman and Brad comes in to add one of his own. That’s an Olympic caliber armbar! Rheingans gets caught in the corner and choked out with the noose, which you’d expect. I mean, why else would two guys named the Hangmen have a noose in their corner? Drying laundry? That’s just stupid. They double-team Rheingans and some people clap their hands because I’m assuming Brad gave tickets to his friends and family because otherwise no one in the crowd would care and feelings would be hurt. And no one wants that. Rheingans survives an array of chinlocks and the Hangman take turns punching him, but one Hangman misses a clothesline and hits the other Hangman, and it’s hot tag Peterson. Meanwhile, some kid bothers a wrestler for an autograph in the background of the audio. SHUT UP AND LEAVE HIM ALONE, you stupid kids. Who lets their kids attend an AWA show in 1990, anyway? Probably grew up to be Kenny Omega or something. The Hangmen do the masked switch and pin Peterson with an inside cradle at 12:00. Normally I’d say it was a miscarriage of justice, but in this case it was just a miscarriage. DUD
Colonel DeBeers v. Baron Von Raschke
So this would make for quite the awkward dinner conversation. Would Nazis get along with South African slavers, I wonder? I feel like it’d be a style clash. Or they could just hang out and watch “Roots” and have some laughs together. DeBeers grabs a headlock as Greg Gagne shows up in the background of the audio and the kids are decidedly NOT bugging him for autographs. DeBeers goes to the top and Baron slams him off and clubs away in the corner, but the Colonel uses the dreaded rope burn to take over. He chokes away in the corner and the annoying kids call him a CHEATER. Hey, stupid kid, he has until the count of five to break. Daniel Bryan taught me that. DeBeers goes up and misses a diving headbutt, and I once again ponder: Wouldn’t it hurt MORE if you actually hit the move? The Baron manages to tie the Colonel in the ropes, but Sheik Adnan blocks the claw with his briefcase and everyone fights on the floor, but Baron somehow moves faster than another human being and beats the count at 6:20. Talk about exposing the business. I can buy Baron squeezing a guy’s head until he submits, but outrunning someone? No way. -*
Tommy Jammer v. Tully Blanchard
Holy shitballs, what’s Tully doing slumming it on this shitshow? Oh yeah, his dad was figurehead President, I forgot. What’s the AWA coming to when they’d resort to pushing the son of the guy in the charge? Tully was apparently deep in the throes of his own cocaine-and-booze-induced hell at this point, so I’m not expecting much out of him. And indeed, Tully stalls and bitches and backs off for the first couple of minutes before Jammer goes to a hammerlock to take control. And he works the hammerlock on the mat for EIGHT MINUTES, I shit you not. If you were waitingyou’re your life to watch Tully Blanchard laying on the mat selling a hammerlock for 10:00, and you can’t get your hands on a tape of the Shane Douglas match, this might suffice. Tully maneuvers into a half-crab attempt to escape, but Tommy hits him and Tully releases and bails to the floor. To take a breather, I guess. From all the frenetic action. Back in, Jammer covers him for two, because reasons, but Tully dumps him to the floor. To take a breather, I guess. From all the frenetic action. Back in and now Tully really cranks up the workrate with a boot rake, but a blind charge misses as the ring announcer calls 15:00 at 13:00. Geez, and I thought time was running SLOWER watching this, not faster.
BREAKING NEWS: Tommy Jammer does an abdominal stretch.
Tully bails to the ring apron and Jammer tries a suplex, but Tully’s generic fat manager trips him up for the pin at 15:00. Rookie move, Jammer. Oh, let’s say, -***? Sound good to everyone?
INTERMISSION TIME! Buy tickets for the show with Ric Flair against Brian Pillman! Geez, how come THAT wasn’t on here?
Kokina Maximus v. Yukon John Nord
This is a lumberjack match, which of course should be Nord’s specialty because he’s a lumberjack now. Hopefully he’s OK. Kokina is young and merely Rikishi-sized at this point in his life, before he made being fat into a career path. Speaking of career paths, I’m curious what would lead a career barbarian into a life of lumberjacking? I suppose the axe-wielding would appeal to him, but would cutting down trees give you the same satisfaction as bathing in the blood of your enemies from the glory of war? I dunno. I’d assume they’d provide training for the transition period, I’d hope. Maybe the benefits were better? Maybe he got downsized from his barbarian tribe and needed something to tide him over? So we get 5:00 of stalling and Nord working a headlock while I wonder about this stuff, and then he puts Kokina on the floor with a shoulderblock so the lumberjacks can chase him back in. Kokina goes to his standby, the nerve hold, but Nord fights out of it, so Kokina clotheslines him to the floor and the lumberjacks continue to be useless and don’t get Nord back into the ring at all. So Kokina chokes him out in the corner and then goes back to the nervehold again. I believe now the idiot kids are harassing Nick Bockwinkel for an autograph. Careful, kids, he’ll probably tell you the history of the fountain pen if you engage him. Finally Nord escapes the Vulcan death grip and fights back with a big boot, but Adnan trips him up, and then gets thrown into the ring by the lumberjacks. That’s not your job! You had one job! Throw the wrestlers back in! Nord steals the briefcase and hits Kokina with it a few times, which is somehow not a DQ, and gets the pin at 12:20. You know they say “It was terrible but at least it was short?” Well this was only one of those things. -***
We’re on quite the roll here. Will Jake Milliman retain the “best match” crown for the second half of the show? Stay tuned!
AWA World title: Masa Saito v. Larry Zbyszko
Saito won the belt from Zbyszko in February at a batshit crazy combined All Japan-New Japan show, shunted down near the bottom of the card, oddly enough on the same night as Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson, in fact. This is the rematch no one but Verne demanded. Also, the timelines for this stuff run together after a while, but for some reason Saito is wearing a weird gold version of the belt instead of the classic AWA title that Larry usually carried around. Nick Bockwinkel is the special guest referee because reasons, and his pre-match instructions likely consist of him reading the unabridged rulebook of wrestling. Anyway, during the pre-match instructions, some guy yells at Greg “I got comp tickets!” Why on earth would you brag about getting comped for an AWA show in 1990? Who would admit to knowing anyone who’s wrestling on this show? I’d pretend to have paid some ridiculous price to a scalper, because then at least it can be explained away as the eccentric behavior of a millionaire playboy or something. They take it to the mat for some WRESTLING to start and Larry goes to an armbar, because he means business tonight. But then they slug it out on the ropes and Saito goes to an extended sleeper hold as I’m very confused about who’s supposed to be the babyface here. Larry throws his way out of the sleeper and gets a deadly savate kick to the gut to take over. Slam gets two. Backbreaker gets two. Larry chokes him out and then goes to the abdominal stretch. Saito escapes from that and Larry rams him into the turnbuckles, but Saito slugs back and the crowd is cheering Larry and booing Saito for some reason. So then Saito turns around and rams Larry into the turnbuckles a bunch of times and the people cheer that, so clearly the turnbuckles are the babyfaces tonight and probably draw more money than anyone on the show. Maybe Verne should find another daughter for the top turnbuckle to marry and make it his World champion. They fight on or around the apron and Larry makes his aerial quota for the decade with a sunset flip for two, but Saito comes back with a suplex. Saito charges and Larry kind of moves and Saito kind of trips and clotheslines himself on the top rope, and Larry gets a neckbreaker for two. Saito tries to finish with the Scorpion Deathlock, since Choshu is at ringside for god knows what reason. Like, the best worker on the entire show is sitting at ringside cheering on Saito. You couldn’t even have thrown him $100 and asked him to work a 3:00 squash or something? Saito with a back elbow for two. Small package gets two. Saito suplex gets two, which is some bullshit, and they collide for a double down. Saito is up first and gets a backdrop suplex for the apparent pin at 16:00 to retain, but WAIT. Turns out that Larry got a shoulder up, so he regains the title. The ring announcer, apparently not clued into the finish, announces Saito as still the champion. Wow, what an epic way for Zbyszko to regain the title. No one cares, no one barely even reacts, and the company continues to circle the drain. But at least they’ve raised the bar, at a very slow and deliberate pace, for the rest of the show to clear tonight. *1/2
Cage match: Paul Diamond & The Trooper v. The Destruction Crew
Gagne actually has to get on the PA and tell people to go back to their seats because I assume they were trying to make a rush for the exits when they found out this was the main event they’ve sat through 90 minutes of shit to see. I don’t even know if the tag titles were on the line here or what, but I assume not. The Trooper did end up as the last tag champion, but that was with DJ Peterson a while after this show. He ended up as The Patriot for those not deep into the lore of the AWA like me. So the babyfaces run Bloom into the cage a few times and then Diamond slingshots Enos into it. Enos is bleeding, although frankly I’m shocked this company could afford to buy razor blades for them to use at this point. I’m assuming they had to go to Dollar Tree and use the less popular InExacto blades instead. You know, the ones where you mostly cut where you’re aiming. Bloom comes in and he gets run into the cage a few times, but Trooper goes up and misses a flying elbow and the Crew takes over. They run Trooper into the cage and now he’s bleeding, too. GODDAMMIT, don’t these guys realize that blades cost money? They probably insist on using their own steroid needles, too. Bunch of prima donnas these days. Little did they know that Verne got a deal buying from Dr. George Zahorian’s younger brother, Milton. He’s only in pre-med but he knows a guy. Bloom runs Trooper into the cage for two and the Crew gets a double backdrop, but the ref is bumped. So the Crew does their Doomsday Device finish, but the ref revives and then attacks Bloom himself and drops a leg on him (?) and then puts Trooper on top for the pin at 9:52. WHAT THE FUCK? I mean, I’m no expert on sports ethics and shit, but I have to think that’s not cool. I guess the ref was a football player or something? I dunno. It’s over, let’s just leave it at that and move on with our lives. *
And then we get a series of backstage bonus interviews with Eric Bischoff and various participants. This is doubly awesome because we get the pre and post-interview banter and countdowns and stuff as well. This last 15 minutes is a million times more entertaining than anything else on the show, like Eric screwing up the introduction of the Trooper and Verne chastising him and restarting it.
So yeah, although the promotion technically didn’t end until 1991, there’s only about 10-12 more documented AWA shows after this one, with a couple of TV tapings getting stretched out for months to keep the ESPN timeslot on life support, so this is basically the end of the line. Larry never lost the title and took it with him to WCW by the end of the year, and the Destruction Crew lost the tag titles in August at the last TV taping. And it was just kind of a sad circle down the drain for a once-great promotion, as this show very much demonstrates. Obviously I can’t recommend it unless you’re a professional masochist like myself. But if you are, there’s plenty of material here to work with. And even if it’s awful, thank god WWE is finding all this amazing rare footage and saving it from oblivion. Still, this one gets a rating of BURN IT. And then maybe piss on the ashes to make sure the fire is out afterwards.