(To follow up from the e-mail about the Battle of the Belts shows on YouTube, here’s Battle of the Belts III, which was written sometime in 2000, best I can tell. I’ve also seen 2 but never did a review of it. Apologies for the weird formatting as it was moved over from a text file. These shows are probably worth another look, to be honest, but I feel like WWE will be having them pulled from YouTube if they find them.)
The Netcop Retro Rant for NWA Battle of the Belts III
– Live from Daytona Beach, Florida, and broadcast on some Florida TV station way back when.
– Your hosts are Gordon Solie and someone I don’t recognize.
– I got this a while back from someone in Florida but I haven’t watched it yet. This is a supercard in every sense of the word, as EVERYTHING is a title match, with even the AWA title being defended! What a glorious time for wrestling 1986 was.
– Opening match: The Cuban Assassin v. Tyree Pride. We join this near the end as Pride rolls up the Cuban for the pin. No rating, for obvious reasons.
– US Tag Title match: The Fabulous Ones v. The Sheepherders. Remember when the Bushwhackers were hardcore? Don’t even ask me which version of the US tag titles this was. Lane and Keirn are just crazy over. Jim Cornette was a genius to steal Stan Lane for the Midnight Express. The Fabs actually cheat freely, much to the delight of the fans. They control with legholds on Luke Williams, reversing the usual tag formula as they keep Luke in their corner. It’s a damn shame we never got the Fabs v. The Midnights or the Rock n Roll Express, say I. The Sheepwhackers revert to their lazy offense, punching and kicking. They weren’t really at their best unless it was a crazy brawl, something they never got to show in the WWF. The match reverts to the usual formula, with Stan Lane playing Ricky Morton, and Luke distracts the ref enough for Butch to nail Lane with the flag. However, while Butch is being escorted out of the ring, the Fabs do the old switcheroo and Keirn small-packages Luke at 7:45 for the pin to retain the titles. Terrific little match, carried by the Fabs. ***
– US Junior title match: Tim Horner v. The Ninja. The Ninja is THE GREAT MUTA~! No makeup, so I guess I should call him KEIJI MUTOH~! Either way, this is years before he became lazy so he kicks 18 different kinds of ass. The two men exchange backflips and hipblocks to start. Muta has Kendo Nagasaki in his corner. I can just see Jim Crockett in the back room drooling over Muta. Muta’s stuff is impossibly crisp and smooth, but he seems to have some trouble establishing ring presense. By 1989, he’d have that one solved, however, with the help of makeup and green spew. Tony Skee-vone must have gotten “full arm drag and twist” from Gordon Solie, because it gets used here. Damn, listening to Solie expound on the five salient body points and the strategies used to take them out makes me wish someone would hire him today. Muta uses an Evil Japanese Foreign Object to increase the pressure from a sleeper. This man is truly a wonder to behold at this point, and I wish he didn’t suck so badly today. Unfortunately much of this match is spent in a chinlock, but the stuff in between the restholds is magnificent. Why can’t everyone wrestle like Muta used to? Why can’t Muta? Horner comes back with a dropkick and suplex for a couple of two counts, but Nagasaki nails him coming off the ropes and Muta nails the backbreaker and a MOONSAULT (in 1986!) to capture the title in 10:26. God, I used to love watching him. ***1/2 The match was spectacular by today’s standards, but it was amazing for the time period.
– AWA World title match: Nick Bockwinkel v. Kendo Nagasaki. Kendo has Oliver Humperdink with him. Bockwinkel was pretty much the last of the Old School champions (finally bowing out to Curt Hennig in 1987 to truly herald the end of an era) and this is completely mat-based, as each man works on the arms and legs. Kendo gets frustrated and starts punching and kicking at Bockwinkel. Kendo’s stable is perhaps the dumbest name this side of the Dungeon of Doom: Hiroshima, Ltd. A guy named Nagasaki heading up Hiroshima, Ltd, eh? Bockwinkle goes for a slam and Humperdink hooks the leg, drawing a DQ. Btw, Jimmy Jett is the referee and he a) is thin and b) has hair. Compare with today and be afraid. *
– The Road Warriors v. The Shock Troops (Ed “The Bull” Gantner & Kareem Mohammed). Okay, so this isn’t a title match, but seeing the Warriors in 86 was pretty special. The Warriors are over here. In other news, the sun comes up in the morning. This is a nothing match as both teams hammer on each other with lame power stuff and the heels do all the usual cheap heat tactics to retain control. Mohammed was the wrestler formerly known as Ray Candy, if it matters. Think Mabel. Pier-six erupts and a bunch of referees come in to break things up and it deteriorates completely into a pull-apart. 1/4*
– Bahamas title match: Chris Champion v. Kendall Windham. Kendall is roughly 56 pounds here. Think Ally McBeal. Champion is hailing from Tazmania, believe it or not. He’s doing the Brian Christopher (pre-Too Much) bit, the cocky but cowardly heel. Lots of stalling, but Champion shows a lot of promise here. Quick match was Champion controls for a bit and Windham comes back with a bulldog, but bumps the ref by mistake, drawing a DQ in about 3 minutes. Champion retains. 1/2*
– NWA World title match: (2/3 falls) Ric Flair v. Lex Luger. Luger is the Southern champion, still in his rookie year, and still spells his name “Lugar”. This is an odd variation on a 2/3 falls match, as it is basically a 60 minute time limit, split into three 20 minute matches. This is the first meeting between the two. Various strength tests between the two to start. Luger wins them, of course. He also no-sells Flair’s chops. Is it me, or does Luger bear a striking resemblance to Chris Benoit at this point? Flair stalls for time. Luger dominates with power when Flair gets back in. And I mean *dominates*. He tosses Flair around like a ragdoll and the crowd eats it up with a spoon. Flair comes back but a slugfest erupts and Luger goes back to work. He misses a charge to the turnbuckles and jams his knee, however. Flair works on the knee and slaps the figure-four on. Luger blacks out from the pain and gets pinned at about 10:30.
Luger’s knee is still gimped as the second fall begins, and Flair goes back at it. Another slugfest, which allows Lex to take control with an ugly clothesline. Luger powerslams Flair at 2:53 and gets the pin! We’re even at one fall apiece.
Luger hits a bearhug quickly into the third fall for a couple of two counts. Luger with a clothesline for two. The signal keeps breaking up due to local storms at the time so I lose a good portion, but Flair cheats and comes back with a few two counts and a sleeper. They trade two counts as the signal keeps breaking up. It’s hard to judge the flow of the match because of the storms. They end up outside and Flair bleeds after a shot to the post. Luger slams Flair off the top for two and then hammers at the cut. Flair regains control and figure-fours Luger, but it gets reversed. Powerslam by Lex for two, and he slaps on the BEARHUG OF DEATH! Flair holds on until the 20 minute time limit for the last segment expires. This was about ***-ish. It’s hard to give an exact rating due to transmission problems. Official decision: time limit draw.
– Main event: Florida title match: Ron Bass v. Barry Windham. Bass controls with power, and nails Windham with a lariat to really put Windham’s lights out. He tosses Windham and Barry blades. Windham is bleeding a gusher and Bass hammers away on him. Bass goes to the post and bleeds sympathy blood. Windham hammers away with rights and kicks. Bass gets a shot in and goes to the top, loading up the elbow pad, but Windham nails him coming off, and sunset flips him to capture the Florida heavyweight title. Bleh match. *1/2
The Bottom Line: It’s hard to go wrong with Florida, one of my all-time favorite territories. Luger proved himself ready the Big Show and was signed as a Horsemen associate soon after. Unfortunately the Florida territory would get swallowed up by the Crockett machine soon after this, but it was fun while it lasted.
If you like the old NWA style, I’d definitely hunt down a copy of this show.