The SmarK Rant for World Championship Wrestling – 01.14.89
Life’s too short to worry about all the shit they haven’t put on the Network yet. Let’s review some good shit they HAVE put on there. I know this era in particular is a popular request from many, and hey, it’s one that hasn’t been covered to death on the blog already. So that’s a nice bonus.
As a bit of background, Jim Crockett Promotions had crashed and burned in late 1988, with Starrcade marking the transition to the new Turner overlords with former restaurant CEO Jim Herd in charge and Dusty Rhodes ousted in the ensuing power struggles.
Taped from Atlanta, GA
Your hosts are Jim Ross & Tony Schiavone. Speaking of which, what should appear in my mailbox this morning? How about an early review copy of “Under the Black Hat” by one Jim Ross! Really looking forward to giving this one a read before it releases March 31.
Barry Windham v. Eddie Gilbert
Eddie Gilbert, in his plucky babyface role at this point, was being harassed by the remaining Horsemen of Flair and Windham, leading to this showdown. They get into a shoving match to start and Barry gets pissed and slugs Eddie down, then follows with the suplex, but he goes for the lariat early and misses, allowing Eddie to chase him into the corner. Windham gets a cheapshot in the corner to take over and takes him down with a headlock, but Eddie gets all fired up and beats Windham down. Barry slugs away in the corner to take over and follows with a nice gut wrench suplex out of the corner before dropping a knee on him. Barry goes up and Eddie slams him off the top while Ric Flair comes out to lend moral support to Windham. Barry gets an atomic drop out of the corner and just goes with headbutts to the nose to be a complete dick, then carries him around the ring for a while before dropping him with a back suplex. Windham tosses him, but Eddie WILL NOT DIE and fires back in the ring again, backdropping Windham out of the corner for two. Windham gets all pissed off and slugs him down again before following with the delayed vertical suplex into the floatover for two. Eddie manages a rollup for two, but Barry rakes the eyes this time and then bites the forehead for good measure. Finally it’s time for the superplex, but Eddie goes dead weight and falls to the apron. So Barry gets frustrated and tries it again, but Eddie has recovered enough to block it, and Barry has to fight and hits the move on the third try. But Eddie still won’t stay down and slugs back again, so Barry just beats him down, but misses a kneedrop, and Eddie gets a figure-four. Flair and JJ are concerned, but Barry is so tall he just grabs the ropes from damn near the middle of the ring. Eddie makes the comeback with his own suplex, and at that point Flair decides the time is right to come in and beat the shit out of Eddie for the DQ at 12:23. Hell of a match, one of the best ever from Gilbert that I’ve seen. ***3/4
JJ Dillon immediately goes over to bitch about Eddie eating up his valuable TV time when he’s got so much on his plate with managing the Horsemen.
Michael Hayes v. Paul Lee
This was Hayes’ big return as a babyface singles act, although THAT sure didn’t last very long. PS struts and moonwalks to start and slams Lee while we focus on rookie non-sensation Steven Casey at ringside for some reason. That guy’s career ended up being a whole lot of nothing, unless you count him in GWF as Steven Dane. Which I don’t. Hayes works a chinlock and drops an elbow on Lee and it’s back to that chinlock again. JR and Tony meanwhile talk up Michael’s new tag team with Junkyard Dog, and I don’t think I could concoct a much worse combination than that one. Maybe if El Gigante was in there somewhere? DDT finishes at 3:30.
JYD joins Michael for the post-match promo, and apparently they’re targeting the US tag team titles currently held by Steve Williams & Kevin Sullivan. Regardless, Hayes cuts a hell of a promo, throwing out “Heaven don’t want us and hell is afraid we’ll take over!” before quoting Thorogood to finish.
Kevin Sullivan & Steve Williams v. Randy Hogan & Mike Collins
Sullivan really takes liberties with the first poor geek, backdropping him like a ragdoll into a powerbomb from Williams that nearly drops the guy on his head. Over to Hogan, and they brutalize him and Sullivan hits the double stomp. Doc cranks on the arm and they let Collins come back in so Kevin can hang him in the Tree of Woe and throw knees. Doc finishes with the Oklahoma Stampede at 3:47.
The Varsity Club talks with Tony afterwards, throwing out a challenge to the Road Warriors while Rotunda accuses Rick Steiner of stealing his TV title before they have their rematch later tonight.
The Road Warriors v. jobbers
Before I can even check the names, the Roadies finish in 0:30 with the Doomsday Device. The Warriors, as the tag team champions, were supposedly the monster heel team in the promotion but were so awesome that the crowd turned them babyface even as they did horrible things.
The Road Warriors do their promo on the Varsity Club afterwards, even as they complain about Sting and Dusty Rhodes being useless partners. So now they’re gonna defend the tag team titles with TENRYU and Dusty can go fuck himself, basically. As usual, the Warriors rant and rave and then Paul Ellering bats cleanup with an eloquent putdown of Kevin Sullivan. “And he’s DUMB, too!” notes Hawk on the way out. OK, I laughed.
The Horsemen are back to answer for beating on Eddie Gilbert, and Ric Flair is feeling good in the new year. So Eddie comes out again with one more challenge for them, because now he’s called someone and he wants a tag team match NEXT WEEK. JJ thinks he’s pretty stupid to challenge the US and World champions, and Flair laughs it off. “Who he’s got? Dusty Rhodes?” So JJ agrees as long it’s not Lex Luger, and continues laughing it off. Who’s scared of Eddie Gilbert, anyway? Eddie is certainly happy as he leaves, however.
The Original Midnight Express v. Trent Knight & Bob Emory
Rose beats on Trent in the corner while Paul E. Dangerously joins the commentary team and does his Michael Hayes impression to annoy JR. Rose beats on Emory and hauls Knight back in for an STO before going up with a missile dropkick. Condrey with the gut wrench as JR continues burying Paul E. “We’ll speak with him at length in the next segment. That’s the bad news.” So then Paul does another drive-by on commentary and notes that Condrey earned his “Loverboy” nickname thanks to experience with Jim Cornette’s mama. OMX finishes with the double-team legdrop at 4:10, which Paul dubs “The Human Cough Drop” and declares it to the be the reason why ratings are up.
The Original Midnights head over to the desk with footage of the Midnights v. Midnights match on Worldwide, as the good guys win again and then Cornette gets beat up by the heels. Paul E goes full on Michael Keaton with a crazed promo about how he’s going to kill Cornette and send him out of the NWA.
Al Perez & Larry Zbyszko v. Curtis Thompson & George South
Oh my god it’s the World’s Most Boringest Tag Team. They double-team Thompson, who looks like he forgot to pull the needle out of his ass once he was already full of steroids, and then South comes in and gets beat up on the floor by Abdullah the Butcher. Back in, Larry stomps away on South while JR has to say with a straight face that either Perez or Zbyszko are both viable contenders to Ric Flair’s World title. Perez finishes South with the ALLY-COPTER at 2:52. Case in point. Bet Flair is terrified of THAT one.
Gary Hart talks about going after Flair and OH MY GOD I’M BORED ALREADY. Even worse, Perez looks like Seth Rollins’ older, sleazier brother. Larry’s carrying around a belt of some kind, which actually takes me a minute to realize is the Western States Heritage title. Larry declares that in 1989 he’ll be the World heavyweight champion. And I guess he was kind of right.
Dick Murdoch v. Eddie Sweat
Eddie Sweat? Murdoch immediately tosses this goober and runs him into the podium, and then beats on him on the apron with elbows and clotheslines him for two. More elbows in the ring and a slam gets two. Brainbuster finishes Eddie at 2:30, no Sweat.
Missy Hyatt interviews Ric Flair from another studio, and insinuates that Flair CHEATED to retain his title at Starrcade against Luger. Missy is just brutal here doing her dumb blonde routine, but Flair was Flair and pulled it together for a great promo just being himself.
The Midnight Express v. jobbers
They omit the entrances, probably to cut out the music, so we don’t get the jobber names. Usual destruction by the Express and Bobby drops a flying elbow and Cornette just goes on an epic rant on commentary. Dennis Condrey is so sick…
Apparently he reads his kids the obituaries as a bedtime story! Man, that’s sick! Veg-O-Matic finishes Keith Steinborn at 3:15.
Jim Cornette ain’t afraid of Paul E. Dangerously, because the game ain’t over until he wins.
NWA World TV title: Rick Steiner v. Mike Rotunda
Rick Steiner was just massively over as a babyface here, although this character had a shelf life and he was lucky enough to have Scott Steiner as a brother in the wings. Rotunda just BLINDSIDES Rick with a clothesline before the bell, but Rick fires back and backdrops him for two. Rotunda bails for some advice from Sullivan. That advice? “You should class up your gear. Maybe wear a necktie”. Back in the ring, Steiner controls the pace and chases Rotunda with a clothesline as Mike stalls for time. Back in, Rotunda catches him with a necksnap and follows with a dropkick to take over. Back to the floor, where Sullivan just chucks a wooden box at him and then runs him into the hard camera. Back in, Rotunda with a sleeper while using the ropes for two. Steiner fights up, but Rotunda stiffs him with a forearm and slams him, then goes up, but gets slammed off by Steiner for two. Well that was just dumb on Mike’s part. Sullivan hauls Steiner to the floor for a thumb to the throat, and Rotunda suplexes him back into the ring for two. Back elbow gets two. Rotunda bites the hand, which negates the influence of Alex, who was of course Rick’s imaginary friend drawn on his hand. Now there’s some psychology for you. Steiner tries a sunset flip and Rotunda accidentally boots him in the eye on the way down, and gets two. Steiner makes the comeback, but Dr. Death runs in for the DQ at 9:18. Better work than their Starrcade match, but as usual for these shows the finish sucked. *** And then Kevin Sullivan tries to STEAL THE DOG, but Michael Hayes & JYD make the save.
Lex Luger & Sting v. Agent Steele & Bill Holliday
Sting throws both jobbers around and Luger comes in with a clothesline on Holliday. Steele tries a sunset flip on Sting and that gets blocked. Steele was Brad Anderson, the masked jobber better known as Zan Panzer in later years, by the way. I forget if he was legitimately Gene or Ole’s kid or if that was kayfabed. Holliday gets double-teamed in the corner as they’re just stretching out the match to fill out the runtime now and then trade bearhugs on Holliday before Sting finishes with the Stinger Splash and Deathlock at 4:53. And they do their rushed promo at the desk to wrap it up.
Next week: Eddie Gilbert has a mystery partner, and it’s a BIG ONE!