The SmarK Rant for NWA WrestleWar 89 – Music City Showdown (05.07.89)
Man, I didn’t even realize it had been so long since I reviewed this one. 22 years and counting! But hey, I’m enjoying this trip back to 1989 so might as well redo this one and then finish off the year with Starrcade later this week.
Apparently WWE has renewed the rights to this particular name again. Hope they use it again, but I doubt it.
Live from Nashville, TN, drawing 5200 with a 1.3 buyrate. The WWF actually switched up their house show schedule to make sure they ran the NIGHT BEFORE in Nashville, in the same arena, and then moved all the talent to the one show (actually drawing 8000 people themselves) so that it was hours long and didn’t end until 11:30PM. This way they could ensure that Turner’s crew wouldn’t have adequate time to set up for the afternoon PPV. And also, as a bonus, they could hopefully burn out the crowd as well. This of course was to ensure that Vince helped himself and didn’t hurt the other guy. That being said, WCW were the ones poking the bear on Wrestlemania weekend and it backfired on them, so it’s hard to feel too bad.
Thankfully the Network omits the country music concert, which cuts it down to 2:28. Although we still get the Oak Ridge Boys singing the Star Spangled Banner. Frankly I’m shocked they didn’t replace that with a generic soundalike song while they were at it.
Your hosts are Jim Ross & Bob Caudle
The Great Muta v. Doug Gilbert
This was advertised as JYD jobbing to Muta, even in the rundown of the matches done before this very match! But of course Dog managed to get himself fired yet again, which JR describes as “circumstances beyond our control”. No, a pandemic is circumstances beyond our control. JYD no-showing is just a fact of life. Muta immediately sprays Doug with the green mist, and then spinkicks him to the floor and runs him into the post. Back in, Gilbert makes a comeback with clotheslines to chase Muta, but Muta drops the power elbow on him and follows with the handspring elbow. Gilbert gets ANOTHER comeback, but Muta gets the backbreaker, and then misses the moonsault. Gilbert bails to the floor, but Muta hits him with a pescado, and then back in to finally put this goof away with the moonsault at 3:02. I didn’t need to see goddamn DOUG GILBERT getting his shit in. **
Meanwhile, Ric Flair has heard people calling this his “last shot” at the World title, but he’s pretty sure it’s not. No kidding.
Butch Reed v. Ranger Ross
Questions that are never answered: Is “Ross” the Ranger’s first or last name? Was his first name “Ranger” and he just happened to join the Rangers in the armed forces? Actually his real name is Bob Ross, which is another layer of weirdness. Ross works a headlock, but Reed takes him down with a neckbreaker while Teddy Long scouts at ringside. Reed slams him and drops elbows for two before going to the chinlock, and you know that goes on for a while. Basically for the first five minutes of the match in fact. Ross makes a comeback with dropkicks and ALL AMERICAN KUNG FU, but Reed kicks him in the face from his back and puts him away with a flying shoulderblock (and a nice bump from Ross) at 6:57. Perhaps the devastating loss led is what to Ross going nuts and becoming a bank robber, before (allegedly) trying to blow up a police station to hide the evidence in 1996. ½* Apparently he got better, though.
Meanwhile, Lex Luger doesn’t think Michael Hayes has what it takes.
Bullrope Match: Bob Orton v. Dick Murdoch
Orton tries to run away but Murdoch yanks him back from the floor, and straps him with the belt for a bit. Orton beats him into the corner with knees and slugs him down. The visual contrast here is weird, as Orton is wearing normal wrestling gear but Murdoch is in full Bunkhouse Stampede casual wear. That’s gotta be awkward for both of them. Not to mention that Murdoch was wearing a t-shirt from the show, which is like wearing a concert t-shirt at the show where you bought it. Although I’ve never agreed with that viewpoint. Murdoch uses his boot to make the comeback, putting Orton down for two, but now he’s only wearing one boot and his equilibrium is gonna be all messed up! And the ref gets rid of the boot, not even offering him a chance to put it back on again! Orton puts him down with a cowbell and goes up, but Murdoch crotches him to bring him down, hogties him so he can’t kick out, and drops an elbow for the pin at 4:57. That was a pretty clever finish, actually. The match not so much. * And then Orton attacks him after the match and hangs him on the ropes in a strangely heavy heat angle for a pair of midcard geezers. And then both guys were gone from TV and this led to nothing.
Meanwhile, Michael Hayes promises NO TERRY GORDY because he’s gonna win the US title all by himself.
The Dynamic Dudes v. The Samoan Swat Team
The Dudes CARRYING their skateboards down the ring in the most painfully awkward way possible is one of the prime reasons why people still make fun of them today. Bob Caudle: “You know, the Dudes love to do all the things that the young people love to do, like skateboarding and surfing.” Yes, certainly BOB CAUDLE is an expert on what the young people enjoy in their free time. Johnny controls the SST with armdrags and a slam on Fatu, and Shane comes in with a dropkick to chase him to the floor. Over to Samu, but Shane gets a victory roll and the Dudes switch off with some wristlocks. But the Samoans hit Ace with a superkick in the corner and go to work on him. Paul E. takes the ref and the Samoans split the legs of Ace, and Samu gets a superkick and goes to the chinlock. Sideslam gets two. Fatu gets a powerslam for two and they double-team Ace behind the ref’s back again and Samu goes back to the chinlock, but Johnny fights out with a facejam. But he’s unable to tag Shane and gets caught in a Boston crab. The crowd is really dead so Paul grabs the mic and declares that Ace is “as useless as a woman from Nashville”, which prompts Johnny to make the hot tag to Shane. But the Samoans quickly cut him off and Fatu gets the flying splash for two, with Ace diving in for the save. So they set up for another one, but Ace dropkicks them over and Shane falls on top of Samu for the pin at 11:03. This finally wakes up the dead crowd. Match was pretty OK, mostly the Dudes selling. **1/4
At this point in the original PPV, the Oak Ridge Boys did a half-hour concert, which is mercifully cut here.
Meanwhile, Lance Russell chats with the judges for tonight’s main event: Lou Thesz, Pat O’Connor, and Terry Funk. I should point out that O’Connor has a move named after him and he’s a former NWA World champion, and they still managed to spell his name wrong here.
US title: Lex Luger v. Michael Hayes
Hayes had turned on Luger and was being managed by Hiro Matsuda here in a thing didn’t last long. Much like Michael’s singles push at this point. Hayes, and I know this is a shock, stalls a lot to start before going to the headlock and a crossbody for two. Luger tries a slam, but Hayes reverses out to a legsweep that goes badly. JR: “Teddy Long is back at ringside. I’m sure that’s gonna excite everyone at home.” Hayes stalls outside for a bit and they slug it out in the ring before Lex backdrops him and chases him to the floor with some flexing. Back in the ring, Hayes gets a clothesline to take over, but Luger slips out of the DDT and Hayes runs away again. JR keeps hammering home how Hayes is a LONE WOLF who is doing everything by himself right now, with no help from any Freebirds or managers. Luger works on the arm and gets a slam for two, but Hayes chops him in the corner and follows with a clothesline. Lex no-sells that while Hayes celebrates in a simple but funny spot, and Lex pounds him in the corner. But then he tries a bodypress and misses, landing on the floor. Hayes runs him into the post and brings him back in with a suplex for two. Bulldog gets two and Hayes goes to the chinlock before tossing Luger for some punishment from Matsuda. Oh man, betrayed by his own trainer, that’s harsh. Back in, Hayes goes back to the chinlock after some bumping and grinding, but Lex makes the comeback and rams him into the turnbuckles. Hayes pokes him in the eye and tries another bulldog, but Lex throws him off and hiptosses him into a clothesline for two. Lex with a trio of press slams for some impressive power, but Lex goes to finish and Hayes reverses the Torture Rack into a DDT. They slug it out and collide as the ref is bumped, but Terry Gordy comes out and pushes Hayes on top for the fluke pin and US title at 16:30. Wasn’t exactly a peak Luger match, but it was fine for what he had to work with. *** And then after all that, they just hit the reset button a couple of weeks later, putting the belt back on Luger and moving Hayes to the tag titles instead and erasing Matsuda completely. And then Luger turned heel himself!
World TV title: Sting v. The Iron Sheik
I’m not liking Sheiky Baby’s chances here. Sheik attacks Sting with the flagpole to start and chokes him out with his robe, but Sting gets all fired up and gives it right back. Sheik with a gut wrench for two, but Sting hits the Stinger Splash and finishes him with the Deathlock at 2:12. Yup. DUD
NWA World title: Ricky Steamboat v. Ric Flair
This is Ric Flair’s last ever shot at the title, and there’s three distinguished judges at ringside in case of a draw. They trade shoulderblocks to start and Steamboat starts with the armdrags, but Flair wants a slap fight and loses that one. Flair starts throwing chops, but Steamboat fires back and they are throwing HEAVY leather. Flair takes a backdrop and bumps to the floor while the camera catches Terry actually pretending to take notes in a nice touch. Back in the ring, Steamboat takes him down with a top wristlock and goes to work on the arm, but Flair takes him down with a hammerlock and Steamboat immediately reverses that and SHOOTS THE HALF for two. JR: “If it was amateur wrestling it’d be over, but this is the NWA and WE WRESTLE so it takes a three count!” I’m not sure I’m following his logic there. Finally Flair yanks Dragon to the corner by the hair to escape the armbar and throws elbows to put him down, and Steamboat’s glazed eye selling is tremendous. But he fights back with more chops and we get a Flair Flop off that, allowing Steamboat to go right back to the arm with a bridging hammerlock. “NO, I SAID, DAMMIT!” notes Flair when Tommy Young keeps bugging him to submit. Geez, quit being a dick, Tommy. Steamboat takes him back to the corner for more chops, then hiptosses him out and dropkicks him out of the ring as Flair flies over the top rope. Back in, Flair tries to mount some offense, but Steamboat goes right back to the armdrag until Flair hiptosses him. But then he misses an elbow and Steamboat goes back to the arm again.
BREAKING NEWS: Steamboat is ahead on points from the distinguished judging panel.
So they throw MORE chops in the corner and Flair still can’t get any momentum, as Steamboat gives back as good as he takes, and whips Flair into the corner for a Flair Flip that puts Ric in the Tree of Woe. Finally Flair “accidentally” throws Steamboat over the top rope, which is called “not a DQ” by the ref, and Flair takes the opportunity to put the boots to Steamboat and then chops him literally into the front row. And then he elbows Steamboat right in the throat in a nice callback while Steamboat gets sympathy from the rednecks in the front row, which FIRES HIM UP, and he throws more chops on the floor before running back in with a flying chop and another Flair Flip for Ric! Steamboat cranks on the arm again, trying to set up the double chicken wing, but he tries a crossbody and lands on the floor, taking another monster bump over the top. Back in, Flair goes to work with the kneedrop and cuts off Steamboat’s attempts at a comeback by chopping him down each time. And he makes sure to give it to the fans between each one. Flair with a backdrop suplex for two and he works the count, then follows with a kneedrop and a double arm suplex for two. Flair successfully drops the elbow this time for two, and then cuts off another Steamboat comeback with a stungun for two. Steamboat manages to BLAST Flair with a chop and they head to the floor, where Flair adds a suplex out there.
BREAKING NEWS: Steamboat is now up 4-2 after the next round of distinguished judging.
Back in, Steamboat escapes a suplex and rolls up Flair for two and it’s more chops, but Flair flings himself in a bodypress and they both go flying to the floor. Back in, Flair goes to the top and Steamboat slams him off and slugs away in the corner, but Flair backs off and then kicks him in the knee. Steamboat reverses a suplex for two and they fight to the top for a superplex from Steamboat, and that sets up the DOUBLE CHICKEN WING. Flair immediately makes the ropes to avoid disaster, so Steamboat goes up again with the flying chop. To the top again, but Flair crotches him and Steamboat lands on his knee outside. Flair brings him in with a delayed suplex and he smells blood in the water (pardon the pun) and gets the figure-four. Steamboat manages to escape that, but Flair keeps pounding the knee until Steamboat fights back with an enzuigiri. But he’s still limping, and when he tries a slam, Flair reverses to an inside cradle for the pin and the title at 31:35. I actually like the Chicago match better at this particular moment, but you can’t argue against any of them. *****
And then the topper for the whole deal sees Flair giving a humbled interview after his win, but distinguished judge Terry Funk pops in and puts over Flair while JR is trying to interview the new champ. But he also wants to throw his name into the ring for a title shot, but Flair advises him to work his way through the top 10 instead, and Terry gets all offended at not being a contender. And we get this awesome psychotic break from Funk, as he pretends that he was kidding about the challenge and offers a handshake, and then goes full on CRAZY TEXAN, laying out Flair to monster heat before tossing him outside and brutalizing him in the front row. And then of course, he puts Flair on the judge’s table and piledrives him through it in one of the greatest angles of all time, turning Flair babyface and “breaking” his neck. And then he calls him a “horse toothed, banana nosed jerk” for good measure! That’s literally adding insult to injury! I honestly have no idea why they didn’t end the show with this because no one’s topping it. You could probably give the match an extra star for the Funk deal, to be honest.
Meanwhile, Nikita Koloff is the special referee for the tag title match, and he’s so dedicated to the job that he’s shaved ref stripes into his head.
NWA World tag team title: Steve Williams & Mike Rotunda v. The Road Warriors
The Varsity Club had of course screwed the Warriors out of the title at Clash VI, not that you’d know that from the WWE Network version, so we’ve got Nikita Koloff as special referee because he’s apparently unbiased. Nikita immediately tosses Sullivan from the match and lays down the law on Williams for good measure. JR notes that Jim Herd made a good move signing Koloff for this match. Well there’s a first time for everything. Rotunda goes up and gets caught in a powerslam by Animal. Over to Hawk, who dodges an elbow and drops a fist on Doc, and then chases him to the floor and follows with a flying clothesline off the apron in a hot spot. But then he clotheslines the post by mistake, and given how many drugs he was on I’m shocked he didn’t break the post with that one. Doc works on the arm, but Animal gets a hot tag and clean house as I guess we’re going short here. Shoulderblock on Rotunda gets two and it’s BONZO GONZO as the Warriors hit Doc with a double clothesline and Doomsday Device. But Dan Spivey yanks Koloff out of the ring and attacks him for the DQ at 6:10. This would lead to the tag titles being vacated and the reset button getting hit on this whole deal, as Williams turned babyface to end the Varsity Club. Also, the replay retains “Iron Man” with no overdubbing. Match was pretty hot while it lasted. ***
US tag team title: Eddie Gilbert & Rick Steiner v. Kevin Sullivan & Dan Spivey
Odd choice for a show closer. Apparently this was advertised as a hair v. hair stip between Sullivan and Gilbert, but JR notes several times that it’s not happening. No idea what was up with that. They must be really running short on time because they immediately start brawling on the floor and Spivey takes out Rick (due to legit shoulder injury because he couldn’t work), leaving Eddie to go it alone. Spivey pounds on Eddie while Sullivan gets some cheapshots on the injured Rick and runs the shoulder into the post. Back in the ring, Sullivan clotheslines Gilbert and Spivey adds a dropkick, but the crowd is beyond burned out after the World title and Road Warriors and they’re literally emptying out during the match. Spivey with a sideslam for two and he brings Sullivan in, but Rick gets a tag that’s disallowed. So he hits Sullivan with a Steinerline and Gilbert falls on top for the pin at 6:50 to retain. And then the Varsity Club brutalizes Rick again to end the show. **1/4 And then of course this also hit the reset button right afterwards, with the US tag titles being abandoned, Eddie Gilbert leaving the territory, and Steiner and Spivey suddenly going in DRASTICALLY different tag team directions.
Obviously having one of the most legendary matches in history makes it an instant thumbs up. The rest was mostly good, but as you can see, very little else on the show had any long-term effect on the direction. Is it a great show? No. Starrcade 88, Chi-Town Rumble and Bash 89 all blow it away for a variety of reasons. But it’s still a solid one and worth watching.