The SmarK Rant for NWA Starrcade ’83 (11.24.83)
(Originally written May 2018, reposted for a little Thanksgiving spirit!)
Live from Greensboro, NC, drawing 15447. This was of course the first “supercard” as we know them today, broadcast on closed circuit to a bunch of locations and starting a Thanksgiving tradition for the NWA.
Your hosts are Gordon Solie & Bob Caudle. If there was any introductions or talk beforehand, it’s all cut out on the Network version because we go TO THE RING post-haste.
The Assassins v. Rufus R. Jones & Bugsy McGraw
Rufus was apparently Mid-Atlantic champ at this point, and Bugsy quickly uses his power of crazy to chase Assassin #1 out of the ring. Back in for a back elbow and Bugsy slugs away and #1 runs away again. Over to #2 (who would be Hercules Hernandez at this point) and the babyfaces double-team him and dance a lot in the process. Rufus boots #2 down and gets two, then goes to work on the arm. Back to #1, who probably should not be wearing form-fitting black spandex at this point in his career, and Rufus works him over in the corner with a whole lot of nothing until #1 goes to the eyes with a thumb. Back to #2, who slugs away on Jones, but he quickly makes the hot tag to Bugsy and it’s a bunch of old men punching each other all over the place. Bugsy cleans house, but Assassins switch and #1 gets a schoolboy for the pin at 8:13. How dumb does the referee have to be to miss THAT? *
And now Bob and Gordon introduce things. They throw it back to baby Tony Schiavone, while Ric Flair and Roddy Piper pace in the background.
Johnny Weaver & Scott McGhee v. Kevin Sullivan & Mark Lewin
Kevin Sullivan is also looking very young at this point, with much more hair. McGhee controls with dropkicks on Sullivan to start and evades the double-teams of the heels. Mark Lewin was always an interesting fellow who never really adjusted to the modern era and kind of faded away in the 80s. Weaver and McGhee double-team Lewin and work on the arm a bit, but McGhee gets caught in the heel corner and they take turns working him over. Lewin has remarkable dedication to his character, making sure to do facial tics and twitches in between moves. McGhee fights out of a surfboard and makes the tag, but Weaver was reaching THROUGH the ropes, so the ref doesn’t allow it. Man, that’s picky as fuck. Lewin keeps McGhee down with a nerve hold, but McGhee sends Sullivan into the corner and makes the hot tag to Weaver. Bulldog on Sullivan gets two. Another try is reversed into the corner, however, and Lewin stomps him down as the heels show some impressive continuity and quick tags. They quickly switch off on the arm and torture him, and a flying knee from Sullivan on McGhee’s arm behind the ref’s back is enough to finish at 6:37. Kind of a surprising finish. Lewin then pulls out an international object and BUTCHERS Scott McGhee with it and he’s bleeding all over the place here in the second match. Finally Angelo Mosca makes the save and chases the heels. Solid tag team action and some good double-teams here. **1/2
Barbara Cleary interviews a group of hicks in the front row who sound like they parked their trailer in the back to be here tonight. Perhaps they did.
Meanwhile, Harley Race explains all the research he’s been doing on Ric Flair and what his injuries and shortcomings are.
Carlos Colon v. Abdullah the Butcher
Oh man, I sense there’s gonna be some bleeding in this one. Gordon informs us this match was BANNED IN PUERTO RICO because it was too violent and bloody. Abby immediately pulls out an object and beats on Colon in the corner, then drops the elbow for two. Colon fights back in the corner, and steals Abby’s gimmick to take over, and the Butcher is bleeding. Carlos doesn’t even try to hide the object and keeps spiking Abdullah in the head with it, then drops elbows on him for two. The ref gets wiped out by an accidental elbow from Abby and Colon makes his comeback and works on the leg to set up a figure-four, but we are lacking in officials. This brings future Spanish commentator Hugo Savinovich in and he breaks up the hold, allowing Abdullah to get the pin at 4:29. Nothing to this one. *1/2
Meanwhile, Angelo Mosca might only have one arm, but he’s determined to be special referee tonight and then get his revenge on Mark Lewin later. Poor McGhee is sitting there on the bench, covered in blood while Mosca cuts his promo. SOMEONE GET THAT POOR KID A BAND-AID!
Wahoo McDaniel & Mark Youngblood v. Cowboy Bob Orton & Dick Slater
Wahoo and Youngblood work on Slater’s arm in the corner to start, but Dick gets a rollup on Youngblood for two. Youngblood works on a hammerlock and sends Slater to the apron, and Slater complains that he was thrown over. That argument goes nowhere, but the heels just cheat and start working on Youngblood in their corner. Orton gets a press into a backbreaker for two, but he misses an elbowdrop and Mark comes back with a hiptoss off a chase around the ring and the heels regroup. Orton catches Youngblood with a backbreaker and Slater adds an elbow for a nice double-team, and then Dick slugs away on him and gets a gutwrench for two. Slater tosses him and Orton gets some solid kicks to the head in there, then gives him a backbreaker onto the railing for more quality cheating. Back in, the heels are complete dicks as Slater steps on him while Orton beats on the neck, but Youngblood fights back and Orton cuts him off and stomps on his face again. Youngblood fights off Orton, but Slater positions himself between Youngblood and the corner and cuts him off. That’s some masterful tag team wrestling. Slater with a suplex for two, and importantly he sends him back to the heel corner with the move. Youngblood finally fights out of a piledriver and collides with Slater for a double down, but he recovers and it’s HOT TAG Wahoo. Wahoo is taking no shit and chops everyone as the crowd goes nuts and Orton sells his ass off. Falling chop gets two. But Orton is brilliant and makes sure to position himself in his own corner while taking the beating, which allows Slater to tag in and cut off Wahoo’s offense. They double-team him again and Slater gets a backdrop suplex for two, then works the count. I always love when heels do that. Orton drops a knee for two, but Slater comes off the top and accidentally elbows his partner, allowing Wahoo to make the comeback. Back to Youngblood for a double-team chop on Slater, but Dick tags Orton back in on the rebound and Youngblood is forced to fight off both heels with dropkicks. Finally it’s too much for him and the heels wait him out and then set up a double superplex, which finishes at 13:51 as Wahoo can’t save in time. What a magnificent class in tag team wrestling from Orton and Slater, two seriously underrated dickhead heels. And then they break Wahoo’s arm after the match, because I guess Wahoo had gone enough months without having a limb broken by a heel at that point. What a fantastic hidden classic this was, although Mark Youngblood was useless. Slater and Orton just did all this simple but completely logical stuff and controlled the match from start to finish. ***3/4
Meanwhile, Ric Flair is prepared and ready for anything, as are Rick Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. Despite this being the biggest match of his career, Youngblood is still unable to cut a promo to save his life.
Dusty Rhodes is in the audience, so naturally he gets to cut a promo, at which point the sound cuts out. Ha! “Well, if you can read his lips, you can tell what he’s saying” deadpans Solie.
NWA World TV title: The Great Kabuki v. Charlie Brown From Outta Town
I feel like I’ve seen Charlie Brown somewhere but I’m unable to nail down his secret identity. However, should he lose the match, he’ll be forced to unmask, so perhaps then the mystery will be cleared up. Also of note, this is the usual wacky stip where the TV title is only on the line for the first 15 minutes of the match, so obviously they’ll do the finish where the challenger wins slightly after the time limit and thus they don’t have to change the title or unmask Charlie Brown. Charlie cleans house and runs Kabuki into the post a couple of times to start, and back in for some stomps to the lower midsection and thumbs to the throat. Sleeper and Kabuki is fading, but he rubs the dreaded green spew on his hands into Brown’s eyes to escape. Charlie catches him with the sleeper again, but this time Gary Hart puts his man’s foot on the ropes to break. Kabuki comes back with an IRON CLAW on Charlie, although that would require a brain for the move to work and I’m not convinced that’s the case. And indeed, Charlie Brown fights out and Kabuki has to put him down with a superkick. Back to the claw, but Charlie fights up and then goes down again due to all the damage of the claw. So Kabuki wisely goes back to the hold again and gets two. Kabuki with a flying chop for two. This time he goes to the mask, but ref stops him because he hasn’t won yet. There’s RULES, you know. Kabuki slugs away, but Charlie makes the comeback and Kabuki misses a charge, allowing Brown to drop the big elbow and get the pin at 10:23 to win the TV title. Huh. Did not expect that finish, actually. Match was 10 minutes of Jimmy Val…I mean, Charlie Brown, laying on the mat and selling. *1/2
Meanwhile, Harley Race is a bit upset that the promoters have barred his friends Slater & Orton from ringside tonight in the main event, but he’ll still piledrive and beat Flair on his own anyway.
Meanwhile, Dusty finally gets a chance to do his promo because GOD KNOWS we couldn’t have a show without Dusty Rhodes doing a promo and challenging the winner of the main event.
Dog Collar Chain match: Roddy Piper v. Greg Valentine
Valentine was the US champion, but this is non-title due to the gimmick match. There was some confusion from the announcers about it, though, as Solie keeps declaring that the title is on the line. They have a tug-of-war using their NECKS to start as Solie again emphasizes that the gold is on the line. This is where it would be helpful to have someone producing him. Valentine swings wildly at Piper with the chain and Piper dodges him, so they slug it out instead. And then Piper wraps the chain around his fist and beats on Valentine in the corner, giving us a Flair Flop where Valentine lands in position for Piper to yank up on the chain and knacker him as well. Valentine retaliates by hitting Piper in the injured ear with the chain to put him down and then dropping elbows on him, but Piper chokes him out with the chain and wraps his face up like a Jigsaw trap. And then we get really creative, as Piper wraps the chain around the post and uses the leverage to pull Hammer into the corner while beating on him. SCIENCE! Greg is bleeding, but it gets personal and he just straight up chokes Piper out to fight him off before they brawl to the floor. Back in, Valentine hits him in the ear again with the chain to take over, and runs Piper into the post. Back in, Valentine starts hammering on the ear in brutal fashion, as Piper is now bleeding heavily from the ear. That takes some balls on Piper’s part. Who would be crazy enough to blade their own ear?! Valentine drops an elbow for the first near-fall of the match, 10 minutes in. Another elbow gets two. Piper has a brilliant counter, waiting for Valentine to wind up again and then yanking on the chain to pull him down, which gives him the opportunity to fight back. I love little touches like that. Piper wraps his fists in the chain and beats on Hammer, but Valentine just keeps going back to the ear to stop him. Piper throws BOMBS to fight back, but Valentine goes cheap again and chokes him out, then drops a knee for two. They fight for a suplex and Piper gets that, as Piper comes back one more time. Valentine catches him with the sleeper and Solie is like “Welp, that’s it, let’s stop the match right now, he’s done” but Piper dramatically wraps the chain around his fist and punches him in the head to break. Valentine drops elbows on him, but goes up and again Piper uses the leverage of the chain to haul him down, and he wraps up Hammer’s legs with the chain and pins him at 16:15 to get his revenge. Unfortunately Valentine hangs him with the chain afterwards to spoil the party, sending Piper all the way to the WWF. I think he’ll do OK for himself there. A brutal classic. ****1/4
NWA World Tag title: The Brisco Brothers v. Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood
Don Kernodle is there to shake everyone’s hand for some reason. Maybe he was getting ready to the jump to the WWF and wanted to practice locker room etiquette? Gerry appears to be cranked up on some kind of substance, standing on the top turnbuckle during ring introductions and jumping up and down on the apron cheerleading while Jack starts with Steamboat. Maybe take it down a notch, Gerald, or avoid going to the roof for a while. The Briscos try to double-team Steamboat in the corner, but Ricky escapes and takes Jack down with an armdrag. Gerry tries to wrestle Steamboat down while Caudle explains the backstory here: The Briscos refused to defend the titles here and actually signed a title defense for Kansas City on the same night, but Jim Crockett bought out the contract and moved the defense to this show instead. That’s actually a storyline they could try with Brock. Youngblood comes in and goes for Gerry’s arm, holding onto an armbar through a slam and switching off with Steamboat. The Briscos manage to trap Ricky in their corner and Jack drops Ricky on the top rope to take over and goes to a chinlock. Ricky fights out, but tries a leapfrog and gets backdropped instead. Jack with a butterfly suplex for two and he bridges on the pinfall attempt and makes Ricky WORK to escape. He hiptosses Steamboat into a short-arm scissors, but Steamboat slams out of it and makes the hot tag to Youngblood. Jack quickly powers him into a suplex and goes to work, and the Briscos hit him with a double shoulder tackle for two. Gerry with a suplex for two. Abdominal stretch rollup gets two. Youngblood fights back with chops and it’s back to Steamboat, who is a house of fire and chops everyone. Double chop on Gerry and they work him over in the corner until Rick press-slams Jay onto Gerry for the pin and the titles at 12:20. Kind of an oddly-paced finish that was different from the usual formula, but the match was all action. ***1/2
Unfortunately, he still can’t do a promo even in victory.
NWA World title: Harley Race v. Ric Flair.
Gene Kiniski is the special referee and nearly ruins an awesome match on his own. The buildup with Dick Slater and Bob Orton claiming a $25,000 bounty from Harley Race is some fantastic stuff and well worth seeking out on YouTube. Needless to say, Flair is a MASSIVE babyface here, basically culminating a year-long chase of the title. Lockup and Flair takes him down with a headlock, which gets him nowhere. Flair starts him with a chop and goes back to the headlock, but Race breaks on the ropes and gives him a knee. Flair returns the favor on the other side and chinlocks him, which turns into another headlock, but Race gets the high knee. He misses the falling headbutt, and Flair chops him down for one. Back to the headlock for Flair, but Race rolls him over a few times, and Flair rolls over into a facelock instead. He holds on and tries a suplex out of it, but Race reverses for his own, and gets two. Elbowdrop misses and Flair goes for a slam, but Race falls on top for two. Race drops a knee (all this use of the knee remind you of anyone?) and some more in the corner for the choke, but Kiniski pulls him off. Race keeps pounding Flair down and drops another knee, setting up a piledriver and an elbowdrop for two. Race sees the bad neck and drops an elbow on it, and a neckbreaker gets two. He drops more knees on the neck, drawing a count from Kiniski. Race lets him up and then tosses him into the cage, which (surprisingly) doesn’t draw blood. Shoulderbreaker gets two. Flair comes back and slugs away at the gut of Race, but a headbutt puts Flair down again and Race drops a headbutt. Back to the cage goes Flair, but he fights back, so Race puts him into the cage again, and now there’s blood. Race goes to work on the cut in the corner, but Kiniski pulls him off and Flair comes back with chops. Race sneaks in with a headbutt, however, and tries to whip Flair into the corner, but it’s reversed and both are out. Race goes into the cage and now he’s bleeding, so Flair goes to work with a kneedrop and starts going to work on the cut. Piledriver gets two. Now Flair goes for the neck, which is almost an anomaly considering his usual MO, and gets a butterfly suplex for two. Back to the cage a couple of times, drawing the ire of Gene Kiniski, but Race goes low with a headbutt to turn the tide again. Flair eats some cage in dramatic fashion, but keeps fighting back. Race keeps slugging him down, but Flair chops him down for two. Elbowdrop and he peppers Race with fists and does some strutting (and bleeding), and a backdrop suplex sets up the figure-four. Race powers him over, however, and they’re in the ropes. Race headbutts him down again, but a suplex attempt is reversed by Flair for two. Race headbutts him down again and goes up with a diving headbutt, which gets two. Vertical suplex gets two. Race keeps working on the cut, which has now turned Flair’s hair red and sends him back into the cage again, but now Kiniski drags Race away by the hair to break it up. Race goes for another suplex, which Flair reverses to a delayed vertical suplex, but he misses an elbowdrop. Race grabs another headlock, but accidentally headbutts Kiniski. They slug it out in the corner and Flair staggers Race, and goes up with a flying bodypress, as they trip over Kiniski and Flair gets the pin and the title at 24:01. This was a slower pace than most fans today would probably be accustomed to and I doubt it would hold up for today’s fanbase, but it all top-shelf stuff, with perfect execution throughout. I still loved it. The only flaw would probably be Kiniski’s refereeing job, but you can’t really hold that against the wrestlers. *****
And in a change from today’s shows, we close with a Flair interview in the cage, and then about 20 minutes of recap and analysis from the hosts, and then a promo from Race where he swears revenge. Well, he wouldn’t get it.
What a fun show! I think the bad rep of Starrcade 84 kind of put me off ever taking a look at this one for a long time, but there’s a couple of buried treasures in here and the show built AMAZINGLY well from the goofy tag matches at the start, leading up to the big guns of the chain match and cage match to close the show in succession. Highly recommended, production weakness aside.