The SmarK Rant for NWA Chi-Town Rumble – 02.20.89
Well I had to redo this one after watching that Steamboat match on World Championship Wrestling. Plus I’m pretty sure my original version from the Turner Home Video release and was missing a bunch of stuff.
Trivia note: The Network version of this one uses the same music as Mid-South Wrestling in the intro.
But most importantly…they finally updated the Network interface on the web version! THERE’S NO MORE PERMANENT RED TIMELINE BAR! I CAN DO SCREEN CAPTURES AGAIN! HOLY SHIT!
Live from Chicago, IL, drawing 8000 and a 1.5 buyrate.
Your hosts are Jim Ross & Magnum TA
One thing my previous version was DEFINITELY missing is the music video that JR introduces to start the show, with random clips of the people wrestling tonight set to generic WWE Music Rights Machine music.
Michael Hayes does a coked up promo with Bob Caudle backstage, and he hypes up the other big matches because he’s stuck with Russian Assassin #1.
Michael Hayes v. Russian Assassin #1
Well on the episode of WCW I just watched, I got to see Hayes work a negative star match with Assassin #2, so at least this completes the set. Although #1 is supposed to be Angel of Death and this is pretty clearly Jack Victory, what with the giveaway junk in the trunk and blond hair poking out from under the mask. JR notes that “red white and blue literally runs through Michael’s veins”. Man, what pills was he taking at that point? Assassin works a headlock to start, but Hayes grabs his own while JR compares him to Charles Manson. Jim’s metaphors are in rare form tonight already. Hayes clotheslines the Assassin down and spends a bunch of time playing to the crowd before going to an armbar. JR: “The atmosphere is so electrifying you could literally cut it with a knife”. Who would be stupid enough to stick a metal knife into an electric atmosphere? You wanna tell all the kids to stick a fork into a toaster while you’re at it? Hayes works an armbar while Jim talks about how he remains friends with Terry Gordy but he’s on “sabbatical” from the Freebirds, which would be foreshadowing. The Russian throws Hayes out of the ring to escape that deadly armbar, but Michael is like “NO WAY JACK” and goes right back to the armbar again. I can’t believe they cut this out of the original videotape release! It’s got so many layers! Finally the Assassin gets a knee to the gut to put him down and chokes him out in the corner. Half-assed Russian Sickle gets two. Assassin chokes him out for two and we move to the inevitable chinlock before Hayes makes the comeback with a bodypress, but the Russian goes back to the chinlock again. Hayes fights out, but the Assassin clips him and chokes him out on the ropes. That gets two. Hayes comes back and tries the bulldog, but the Assassin is too bottom-heavy and blocks it. Hayes reverses a suplex, but misses an elbow and Assassin takes over AGAIN. Holy fuck it’s been 15 minutes, wrap it up, dog. Finally Hayes dodges a blind charge and slugs away in the corner, then hits the DDT for the pin at 15:46. Yeah, Michael Hayes selling for 15 minutes and then winning with a DDT is a big ol’ NOPE from over here. ½*
Meanwhile, Ricky Steamboat and family, including future NXT washout Richie Steamboat, are here to show Ric Flair the importance of family. Ricky wants to clarify that he’s not OJ Simpson, which is a reference that means something TOTALLY different in 1989.
Sting v. Butch Reed
Sting hits an atomic drop right away and Butch goes to Hiro Matsuda for some advice. That advice? Actually, I don’t think Hiro actually speaks very much English, so I’m at a loss. Sting fights off the dreaded soup bone rights of Reed and dropkicks him out of the ring. Reed takes a breather for a bit and back in for a headlock from Sting, and he cranks on that. So JR throws some SHADE, pointing out that Sting used to be a tag team wrestler but now “he’s certainly surpassed his former partner in athletic ability” at this point.
Sting works the arm until Reed finally throws him out of the ring to slow down the action, and chokes away back in the ring. Reed with a double axehandle for two and he beats on Sting with them SOUP BONES and chokes away on the ropes. Matsuda gets some shots in, and TA notes “Those Orientals know all the pressure points”. They sure do! Reed with a chinlock as we get our first on-camera glimpse of a young Dave Meltzer at ringside with Brad Muster, but Sting fights out of it until Reed uses the tights to go back to it again. Reed uses the ropes as this drags on, but Sting finally runs him into the corner to break and makes the comeback. Sting goes up and hits the knees on a splash and JR goes into METAPHOR OVERDRIVE. He was drawing for the big card and missed his straight flush! Luckily he recovers from that poker related disaster and suplexes Reed, but gets thrown to the apron and Reed slugs away out there. Neckbreaker gets two. Back to the chinlock as JR specifically points out Brad Muster in the blue jacket, but not the guy in the yellow sweater sitting next to him. Sting escapes the chinlock with a jawbreaker and finally makes the big comeback. Reed dumps him and stomps him down on the apron, but Sting comes back in with a sunset flip. Reed grabs the ropes to block for two, but Sting finishes the move for the pin at 20:00 (!!!!!!!!) Who the hell decided to give this match that amount of time? Just because Sting could go 45:00 with Flair doesn’t mean we needed to see it with Butch Reed. ½*
Meanwhile, Paul introduces his New Original Midnight Express: Randy Rose and Jack Victory. You can add Dennis Condrey to that list of bridge burning experts, as he decided to stay home because he saw who was doing the job and what that meant for his future employment prospects.
The Midnight Express & Jim Cornette v. Randy Rose, Jack Victory & Paul E. Dangerously
Victory is of course working his second match tonight, and I have strong suspicions that they probably put a Mission Impossible mask on him and had him substitute for a couple of other people later on. In the Observer at the time, Dave joked that there’s 50 people under contract in the NWA and “10 or 12 of them” are played by Jack Victory. So the loser of the fall leaves the company, which ended up being a shoot stipulation. Rose gets a slam on Lane and goes up, but Stan slams him off and chases him to the floor with a clothesline. Over to Victory, but the Midnights double-team him and even Cornette jumps in with an elbowdrop and a Fargo strut. Victory regroups and brings Rose back in, but the Midnights double-team him again. Rose gets a full nelson on Lane and brings him to the heel corner, which gives us the venerable spot where an arrogant Dangerously takes a blind shot just as Lane reverses the move, and Rose gets punched in the mouth. Eaton fights to the apron with Rose, and Randy tosses him into the railing from there to take over. Back in, Paul E. finally tags in and puts the boots to Bobby, and then immediately runs away once Bobby shows any fire. So Cornette tags in and demands a showdown with Paul, but Rose clobbers Jim from behind and that’s a bad place to be. So now Dangerously comes in and puts the boots to Cornette for two and pounds away in the corner. But then Dangerously celebrates too early and Cornette makes a fired up babyface comeback before Rose comes in and cuts him off with a clothesline. Bobby sneaks in with a bulldog on Victory to save his manager, and Lane gets the tag as a result. But Paul E. gets a cheapshot from the apron and Lane is face in peril as Rose powerslams him for two. Lariat puts Lane on the floor and Victory puts the boots to him out there, and then Rose adds a fistdrop from the top to the floor. Paul E. is just drawing amazing heat at this point. Back in the ring, Rose tries a piledriver, but Lane backdrops out of it, so Victory gets a back suplex and Rose gets two. Finally Eaton gets the hot tag and hits Victory with a missile dropkick, and then forces a tag on Dangerously. So now finally Cornette gets in and throws hands on Paul E, then hits a clothesline for two. Dangerously sneaks off and tags Rose, but Lane also tags in and it’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA as Rose goes up and misses a splash on Lane. NO WATER IN THE POOL. Dangerously tries a sleeper on Lane with no luck, and the Midnights hit Rose with the double flapjack and pin him at 15:54 to end the Original Midnight Express for good. Of course, when they said “Loser leaves the NWA”, they really MEANT “Loser works a bunch of house shows and occasional TV tapings as a job guy for another six months before retiring from the business”. Anyway, this was teetering on the verge of a legit great match but couldn’t quite get there. ***1/2
World TV title: Rick Steiner v. Mike Rotunda
Rick has his younger brother Scott with him at ringside, which is weird because I was pretty sure the videotape version included an interview before the match where Rick introduces him, but it’s not included here. They get into a shoving match and Rick reverses Rotunda to the floor off a takedown attempt. JR talks about how many people feel that Rotunda is the greatest TV champion of all time, which blatantly disregards the reign of Steve Austin two years later. Some journalist you are, JR. Rotunda bails and stalls for a bit and Steiner goes to the headlock back in the ring and throws him with a hiptoss and Steinerline for two. Steiner with a headlock, but Rotunda gets to the ropes to break and offers a handshake. Rick wisely decides against that, but Rotunda gets an abdominal stretch anyway. He uses the ropes, so Teddy Long kicks his arm away and Rick gets a rollup before Rotunda bails to the floor to escape again. Back in, Rotunda gets a sloppy crossbody out of the corner, but Steiner rolls through for two. Well that whole thing was awkward. Looked like they were going for a thing where Rick catches him and slams him and it went south on them. They take it to the mat and Mike hits him with crossfaces and goes to the armbar as this match has NO heat. This whole feud had a shelf life and I think we’ve reached it. Rotunda gets a shoulderblock, but Rick counters a second one with a kind of monkey-flip and that was pretty ugly too. Backdrop gets two. Steiner goes up and NO ONE’S HOME, which allows Rotunda to toss him and run him into the post. Back in, Steiner comes back with a powerslam, but he stops to bark and only gets two. Finally Kevin Sullivan wanders out to threaten Rick’s dog, which gets Rick all flustered as he wanders around outside. “He might get counted out and lose his title!” notes JR. What? Back in the ring, Rotunda with a Saito suplex for two, but he misses a dropkick and Rick gets a sleeper. But then he falls back in the hold and accidentally pins himself at 16:15 to give Rotunda the title back. This was SHOCKINGLY bad, with a dead crowd and a literal stupid finish to boot. *
US title: Barry Windham v. Lex Luger
So yeah, logically this probably should have been Windham defending against Eddie Gilbert, but apparently Eddie burned another bridge and Luger was already in the print ads for the show. Luger quickly tries a sleeper and Windham suplexes out of it, but Luger no-sells it and pops up with a press slam as Windham bails. Back in, Luger tries the punches in the corner, but Windham counters with an atomic drop, which Luger escapes and hits a clothesline for two. Powerslam and Luger goes up, but misses a flying bodypress and lands on the floor. Barry suplexes him back into the ring, but Luger fights back until Windham runs him into the turnbuckle to take over again. Windham hits him with the lariat and Luger rolls to the floor on the bump, so Windham follows and runs him into the railing. But then Barry charges and accidentally punches the post. Back in, Windham desperately tries the IRON CLAW with his broken hand, but Luger just squeezes it to break. Windham, showing commitment to his art, is bleeding from the wrist to sell the injury. Windham pounds on Luger and adds a powerslam for two. Superplex gets two in a dramatic near fall, and Windham adds a german suplex, at which point Luger raises the shoulder and regains the US title at 10:51. Windham piledrives him on the newly won belt afterwards in a show of sportsmanship, and he’d be gone soon after. The whole deal with the broken hand was tremendous and this was one of Luger’s best matches to that point. ***3/4
NWA World tag team title: The Road Warriors v. Kevin Sullivan & Steve Williams
The Warriors are fully babyface again now, as the NWA has now given up on their heel run. Animal overpowers Sullivan and then gets into a power battle with Dr. Death and powerslams him to win that. The Warriors team up with a back and forth clothesline on Williams for two for a big pop, but the Varsity Club traps Animal in the corner and Doc gets a leg lariat on Animal for two. Sullivan comes in with the double stomp and works the arm, and Doc gets a hammerlock slam for two. Doc just wrenches on the arm, but they collide and both guys are down. Hot tag Hawk and he powerslams Sullivan and drops the fist, then hits a shoulderblock for two. Animal comes in and sets up the Doomsday Device, but Williams clips him. Meanwhile, Hawk hits Sullivan with the flying clothesline and pins him to retain at 8:30, while Doc was pinning Animal. But Sullivan is legal so the Warriors retain. Three goofy disputed finishes in a row is not a great look unless you’re Eddie Graham in the 70s. Match was OK. **1/2
Meanwhile, Luger notes that a concussion and broken ribs is a small price to pay for the US title.
NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Ricky Steamboat
Oddly, Steamboat’s whole entrance is omitted here. This is a strangely edited version of the show. Steamboat knocks him down immediately for two and grabs a headlock, then gets a rollup for two. Flair bails and thinks it over for a bit, and then back in for the CHOPS. MY GOD THE CHOPS. Steamboat backdrops him out of the corner and Flair begs off and then they trade more chops and Flair goes down. Flair tries the hammerlock, but Steamboat dropkicks him and goes to the headlock on the mat for two while JR points out their last title match in 1983 at the Meadowlands. Wasn’t that show on the Network somewhere and then got taken down? Or am I thinking of a DVD release? Back to the corner for more chops and Steamboat just destroys him with one of those and gets two. And you thought Cody’s whipping was brutal! Flair wisely goes to think it over on the floor and get some blood back in his chest. Back in, they criss-cross into another brutal Steamboat chop and Flair hits the floor as a result. Steamboat teases a dive, but Flair comes back in unscathed and they do the test of strength before Flair takes him to the corner for another chop. Steamboat follows with a flying headscissors and dropkicks him back into the side headlock, which gets two. They criss-cross again and Flair catches him with a back elbow, but Steamboat chops him right over the top rope as Flair flies right at Meltzer, probably deliberately. Flair yanks him out of the ring and beats on him with vicious chops right in front of Big Dave.
Back in the ring, Ric drops the knee for two and works the count, which I always love to see. Butterfly suplex gets two. More chops from Flair, but Steamboat fires back and you know they’re just daring each other to hit harder. Flair Flip but Ric hits the bodypress from the top, and Steamboat rolls through for two. Flair quickly gets an atomic drop and follows with the figure-four while grabbing the ropes, but the crowd goes nuts for Steamboat. Flair moves the hold closer to the middle, but that allows the ref to catch him grabbing the ropes, and he has to break. Steamboat fights back with chops and they just rattle each other’s teeth with them, but Flair hits him with a crossbody and they both bump to the floor off that. More chops on the floor, but Flair runs him into the post while JR clarifies that WE WRESTLE in the NWA. Flair suplexes him back into the ring for two and works that count, and a backbreaker gets two. Tommy Young somehow misses Flair laying on the middle rope, but Steamboat recovers with a cradle for two. And then Flair chops the shit out of him again and Steamboat tries a crossbody to counter, and misses. Flair grabs a headlock and they do the pinfall reversal sequence into a Steamboat suplex for two, but Flair is in the ropes. Steamboat with a backslide for two. Flair fires back with the chops and so does Steamboat, who adds a shoulderblock and goes up again. Flying chop sets up the finishing bodypress, but the ref is bumped with Flair out. Flair gets a rollup with no ref, but Teddy Long comes out as Flair throws Steamboat over the top and he skins the cat back in. Steamboat goes up and misses another bodypress, and Flair tries the figure-four, but Steamboat reverses to the cradle to win the NWA World title at 23:00 as the crowd explodes. They tease the Dusty Finish with the original ref, but then Tommy Young also declares him the winner, and that’s that. An amazing start to the series, as Steamboat countered all of Flair’s stuff and had all the fire that Flair was lacking at that point. ***** But hey, now Flair has to get his shit together and find the next level, right?
And we get the champagne bath in the dressing room, as Ricky is blinded by the booze and shows why baseball teams all wear goggles during these celebrations now.
Definitely some questionable finishes on this show as the booking regime of George Scott wasn’t exactly a smooth one, but the Luger-Windham match is a hidden gem, the Midnights blowoff is great fun, and of course the main event is one of the greatest matches in history. So that’s a pretty solid WATCH IT in my books.
Next up: CLASH OF CHAMPIONS VI