The SmarK Rant for NWA Starrcade ’86: Night of the Skywalkers
(Originally written September 2016)
What the hell, let’s do it. People have been bugging me to do the full version on the WWE Network forever now anyway, and since we’re at that point in the Observer Flashbacks now is as good a time as any. As a note, I would once again like to compliment the amazing production department of the Network for cleaning up the master and making it look pristine again. Given what they frequently have to work with, they do an astonishingly great job.
Live from Atlanta, GA / Greensboro, NC
Your hosts are Tony Schiavone & Rick Stewart in one city, and Bob Caudle & Johnny Weaver in the other.
Tim Horner & Nelson Royal v. Don & Rocky Kernodle
Rocky does some nice mat wrestling with Horner to start, but Don comes in with a running powerslam for two. Over to 100 year old Nelson Royal (OK, that’s unfair, he was actually only 50 at that point), who dodges a blind charge as Horner gets a rollup for two. Royal with a sleeper on Don, but Rocky comes in with a sunset flip off the top for two. That was slick. Rocky and Horner collide on a criss-cross and Don comes back in with a delayed suplex for two. Rocky comes in and tries to finish with a rolling reverse cradle, but Horner reverses that and gets the pin at 6:12. This was OK, although the crowd was cheering for the Kernodles mostly. **
Brad Armstrong v. Jimmy Garvin
Jimmy Garvin was such an awesome character at this point that it makes me sad how terrible he became just a few years later. Garvin is also very, very popular here and has to try hard to heel on the crowd and make them boo him. Brad frustrates him on the mat with a headscissors and they fight over a wristlock and get nowhere. The commentary of Rick Stewart makes me wonder why David Crockett didn’t work the supercards. Was he busy doing production in the back? They trade armbars as the commentators have long stretches of silence, which is a weird change from today’s non-stop banter from idiots. Garvin takes him to the mat and works the leg, and both he and Precious reassure the viewers that he ain’t goin’ nowhere. Consider me reassured. Armstrong in fact proves him wrong and goes to the arm and you can actually see the announcers sitting at ringside and not saying anything. I don’t need a constant stream of inanity, but SOME commentary is nice and this is like minutes of awkward silences and it’s just weird. Granted there’s not much to talk about here, but David was always good at filling in the silences with babble. Garvin works the headscissors with some cheating, but Brad switches him to a headlock as we’re 9:00 into this and clearly headed for a draw. Brad cranks on a headlock as there’s just nothing going on here, but Garvin escapes with a backdrop suplex and drops a knee for two. Garvin finally gets frustrated and tosses Brad for a nice bump, and back in for two. Brad reverses a slam attempt for two, but charges and hits knee in the corner and Garvin gets two. Small package gets two, reversed by Brad for two. Garvin grabs a sleeper and then goes up, but misses a flying splash as time expires at 15:00. Match was nothing for the first 10:00, but it got really good and heated at the finish. *** It wasn’t boring at all, just nondescript. Also, fun fact: Jimmy Garvin and Precious have been married for two years longer than I have been alive. That kind of longevity is a rarity in wrestling.
The Barbarian & Shaska Whatley v. Hector Guerrero & Baron Von Raschke
This is like a bad first round matchup in the Crockett Cup or something. Hector gets double-teamed by the heels in their corner, but Barbarian charges and lands on the floor, allowing Hector to follow with a dive. This only angers Barbarian, who drops Hector on the railing. Back in, they continue working him over as Hector wisely does 100% of the work here while Baron stands on the apron. Barbarian with the big boot for two, but Hector comes back and spits on Shaska to allow the hot tag to Baron. Baron quickly gets the claw and drops an elbow for the pin at 6:18. Baron looked ridiculously old here, even confined to working 30 seconds after the hot tag. *1/2
Meanwhile, Dusty Rhodes just wants to be left alone in the dressing room, away from the cameras. Well, there’s a first time for everything.
US Tag team titles: Ivan Koloff & Krusher Khruschev v. The Kansas Jayhawks
This is actually a rematch of the finals of the US tag title tournament. The idea of Dutch Mantel as a babyface is just weird. Talk about miscast. The Jayhawks quickly switch off on Ivan in the corner with arm-wringers, and Khrusher comes in and gets smashed. Dutch gets caught in the heel corner, but goads Ivan back into his corner and they continue working him over. Finally Krusher just drags Dutch out of the ring and drops him on the railing to take over. Back in, Dutch hits them both with a clothesline and Jaggers comes in to do his Dusty Rhodes impression as it’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA. It’s a no-DQ match anyway. Ivan grabs the chain and Dutch trips him up with the whip, but he foolishly brawls outside with Krusher, leaving Jaggers alone to get hit with the chain for the pin at 7:54. **
Indian Strap match: Rick Rude v. Wahoo McDaniel
Rude pounds away in boring fashion as Wahoo does what he’s best at by this point – bleeding and selling – before coming back and using the strap to cut Rude open a bit. He wraps Rude up and drags him to three turnbuckles, but Rude breaks it up with an elbow and goes up with the flying fist. Wahoo comes back again and drags Rude to three, but Paul Jones jumps up to interfere and Wahoo goes after him as Rude accidentally shoves Wahoo into the fourth turnbuckle at 8:11. What a crap match that was. DUD
Central States title: Sam Houston v. Bill Dundee
This is another rematch of a tournament final, the one that kicked off the garbage fire that was Crockett’s version of Central States. Houston controls with a headscissors and armdrags, and takes him down with a headlock, but Dundee escapes the bulldog. They fight to the floor and Dundee takes a dramatic bump over the railing off an atomic drop, before Houston slingshots him back in for two. Dundee comes back with a flying elbow to take over and goes to a chinlock. Dundee slugs away for two and goes to a boston crab while Stewart notes that “Sam Houston reminds a lot of people of former great Cowboy Bob Ellis”. I wouldn’t use the word “great” in any description of Houston. Dundee continues pounding away in dull fashion, but Houston makes the comeback, trying really desperately to be Barry Windham and not pulling it off. Kneedrop misses and Dundee goes to work on it, but the ref is bumped, but he still sees Bill using Houston’s own boot for the DQ at 10:20. Should have hit the ref harder, I guess. Lame match, bad finish. *1/2
OK, so for those keeping track, about 90 minutes into the show we’re finally at the point where they started showing matches on the home video version. Thankfully they’re now in proper order, unlike the strangely-rearranged video release.
Hair match: Jimmy Valiant v. Paul Jones
Valiant is accompanied by Big Mama, who (not to cast aspersions on her) literally looks like a hooker of ill repute that they found working in front of the arena earlier in the night. Like, one who was holding up a sign reading “Will trade crack for tickets” or something. Manny Fernandez is supposed to be a cage at ringside, but he refuses, so the babyfaces from earlier all come out and beat him into it. Nice touch. Valiant tosses Jones around the ring, but quickly gets busted open by an international object and goes from house of fire to corpse as Jones pounds away on him. Valiant fires up again and grabs a sleeper, so Jones gets his object to escape, Valiant steals it, and puts him away at 4:23. At least it was short and had good heat. * And as promised, Jones is a bald headed geek as Valiant wastes no time in shaving him to the scalp. Brutus Beefcake and his little snippets of hair was a rank amateur compared to this guy. And then Rude & Fernandez hit the ring and completely maul Valiant, giving him a double team DDT on a chair to set them up as killers for their tag title win at the next TBS show.
Meanwhile, Nelson Royal is sitting around a campfire and tells us all about the Bunkhouse Stampede, before we take an intermission.
Meanwhile, we take a look back at the Crockett Cup with random clips of exciting (?) matches like Giant Baba & Tiger Mask v. Black Bart & Jimmy Garvin, leading up to the Road Warriors winning the finals.
Louisville Street Fight: Big Bubba Rogers v. Ron Garvin
This is basically falls count anywhere, win by pinfall or knockout. Garvin throws punches to send Bubba to the floor right away, but Bubba throws him right back out. Garvin grabs a cup of delicious soda and tosses it in Bubba’s face to gain the advantage, then beats the hell out of him as Bubba bails again. Back in, Garvin chokes him down, but Bubba hits him with a roll of nickels to take over. Garvin pulls a rope out of his boot and chokes Bubba down with that, and actually ties him to the top rope by the neck before Bubba fights him off again and goes to the bearhug. Garvin slugs out of that in dramatic fashion and Bubba bumps to the floor, drawing a 5 count from the ref. Garvin follows him out and keeps punching, and manages to slam him off the top for one before Bubba tosses Garvin into the ref on the kickout. Garvin piledrives him, but Cornette whacks Garvin with the racket and both guys are out for the 10 count. Since there must be a winner, first man up wins the match. Garvin is up first, but Bubba pulls on the ref to distract him and Cornette hits Garvin in the knee to put him down again, allowing Bubba to win at 12:00. They actually edited the match down a LOT on the home video release, and the full one was much better, a fun match with some really good bumps by Bubba. *** I still don’t love it as much as Meltzer did, though.
World TV title, First Blood: Dusty Rhodes v. Tully Blanchard
Dusty, ever on the cusp of fashion, has the sides of his head shaved with “Tully” written on them. Dillon tries putting head gear on Tully, followed by Vaseline, but the ref disallows both and Dusty quickly elbows JJ and cuts him open because even the managers bleed in Crockett Country. The point being of course that if Dusty hits the elbow on Tully, he’ll also bleed. Dusty threatens with the elbow early while Tully runs away. Finally, about 5:00 in, we make meaningful contact as Dusty hits the elbow and starts working on the leg. You know, as most people in First Blood matches do. Tully runs away again and the ref gets bumped, so Dillon tosses in his shoe. Dusty eschews the shoe and just uses the elbow to bust Tully open, but the ref is sadly unconscious and thus misses Dusty’s triumph. So now JJ wipes the blood off and puts Vaseline on the cut, allowing Tully to knock Dusty out with a roll of coins and bust him open to win the TV title at 8:28. What a nothing match that was. ½* It’s a match stip used in vicious feuds and Dusty had to turn it into a cutesy-wutesy booking showcase.
Skywalkers match: The Road Warriors v. The Midnight Express
Hawk is even crazier considering that he was working on a broken leg up there. The Express quickly throws powder in their eyes and beats on them individually, but Animal manages to shove Bobby off and onto the rigging underneath while the fans freak out. Hawk comes back on Condrey and boots him down to the area underneath as well, and they have a terrifying fight while clinging to the bars. Bobby Eaton, clearly nuts, tries climbing across the scaffold from underneath, and the Warriors boot both him and Condrey down to win at 7:10. Those were some scary bumps from that height. And then poor Cornette has to climb up as well and takes a horrifying bump from the scaffold, blowing out both knees as a result. Although it was worth it for the stories that he told about the interaction with Big Bubba for years afterwards. I’m just not a fan of this kind of spectacle, especially when it’s so dangerous. ** But it did sell a shitload of tickets, so you can’t say it wasn’t a draw, at least.
Meanwhile, we take a look at the Great American Bash 85 tour for some reason. And then all of the highlights are from Bash 86, so this doesn’t really make much sense. I guess they needed to fill time while the scaffold came down?
NWA World tag titles, cage match: The Rock N Roll Express v. Ole & Arn Anderson
The Andersons are wearing matching boots tonight, so you know they’re on the same page. Bryan Alvarez went on a funny run about wrestling gear the other day, talking about how Ole Anderson would have had to go to a place that sells it and specifically order plain red tights with THREE STARS on the front, no more, no less. Arn gets pinballed in the RNR corner and he quickly tags out to Ole, who also gets dominated. Robert charges and misses a kneelift into the corner, taking a big bump into the cage off that, and the Andersons go to work on the knee. Sadly, all the bandanas in the world don’t protect Robert’s knee. Robert fights back, but Ole keeps taking him down and grinding on the knee. Over to Ricky, but they immediately cut him off and proceed to beating him down. Arn gives him some quality cheese grater action on the cage to bust him open, but Ricky slugs back, so they go after the arm with the hammerlock slam. Ricky has a masterfully timed hope spot, fighting back when Arn comes off the middle rope, but Ole comes in behind the ref’s back and just KILLS Morton, sending him into the cage and adding a shoulderbreaker for two. I really hope they make all the new teams in NXT watch this match and learn how to sell. This was arguably Morton’s peak as a worker. Ole cranks on a wristlock and Ricky falls on the ropes to escape, but Arn just hammers on the dead arm while Ricky lays there. The way Ricky builds sympathy and sells pain, but keeps fighting back enough to make sure the fans stay invested is like a master class in being a babyface in peril. Hot take, I know. Ole comes off the top with a flying knee to the shoulder and cranks on the armbar, and Arn catches him with a spinebuster when Ricky tries to fight back again. That gets two, and Arn goes to a neck vice, but Ricky keeps fighting. God, this match needs Jim Ross calling it in the worst way. RICKY MORTON FIGHTING BACK WITH AMERICAN RIGHT HANDS! BY GOD! The Andersons cut him off again, but Ricky slugs away on Ole out of the corner and gets a small package for two. Gibson has finally had enough of the double-teaming and runs in to take out Arn, then dropkicks Ricky on top of Ole for the pin at 18:49 to retain. And the Rock N Rolls don’t jump out of the cage slapping hands and smiling, they roll out in pain with Gibson barely pulling the bloodied Ricky out and helping him to the back, beaten up but still triumphant. I loved this match even more on this viewing. ****3/4
NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Nikita Koloff
So the full version here has the thing that Dave was complaining about at the time it aired – before Nikita’s entrance, they show the video of Magnum TA running on the beach and clips of him after winning matches, which sure seems to imply that he’s coming back. Nikita quickly overpowers Flair, so Ric throws chops in the corner and Nikita ignores them. Flair regroups, and Nikita throws him around the ring with one-handed slams. Flair keeps trying to trade power moves and walks into a bearhug as a result, but finally Nikita misses a blind charge and Flair hits him with a delayed suplex, then stops to pose. Nikita immediately no-sells it and Flair DIVES out of the ring in terror. Flair tries more chops, but Nikita takes him down with the Russian Hammer choke and sets up for the Sickle, which misses. Nikita bumps to the floor off that and Flair wraps the knee around the post and NOW he’s found the angle. He immediately takes Nikita down with the figure-four and proceeds to grab the ropes, just to show he’s not messing around here. Even so, Nikita powers out of it, so Flair keeps throwing chops until Nikita just throws him down again. Flair dumps him to buy time and runs him into the scaffold as we get more blood tonight (and Nikita obviously gigging himself right on camera). Back in for the kneedrop, and that gets two. Backdrop suplex gets two. Flair pounds on the cut and that just pisses off Koloff, and he goes back to throwing Flair around again. Flair Flip puts him on the floor and now Koloff sends him into the scaffold and Flair is bleeding too. Back in, Koloff hits him with a shoulderblock and the ref gets bumped and goes flying out of the ring, just as Nikita hits the Sickle of course. Nikita tries to help the ref, but Flair hits him from behind with a knee to the back for two. Another Sickle, but this one hits the second ref and he takes an admirable flailing bump off that. And they keep fighting until Tommy Young calls for the double DQ at 19:10. And then the brawl continues afterwards, clearing out the dressing room. Kind of a flat ending, which felt like they didn’t really know how to end it and just went with that. Still a great Flair v. Power Guy match, though. ****
The last two matches were fantastic, but I don’t know that sitting through the entire four hour show on the WWE Network is really something I’d recommend. The Rock N Roll v. Andersons match is seriously required viewing for fans of great tag team wrestling, though.