The SmarK Rant for NWA Final Conflict 83 – 03.12.83
OK, people have been asking me for my opinion on the Slaughter & Kernodle v. Steamboat & Youngblood match, so I figured I’d take a look at the full(ish) card that’s up on YouTube.
Taped in Greensboro, NC, drawing 16,000 or so people, with the footage apparently saved by Private Jim Nelson/Boris Zhukov. Bob Caudle provides commentary, with David Crockett joining later, and it’s pristine footage shot with multiple cameras. So this show was MASSIVE, with stories of a sellout of the building and then traffic backed up for miles from people trying to purchase walkup tickets.
Jerry Brisco v. Ken Timbs
Brisco takes him down with armdrags, but Timbs gets his own wrist control and yanks Brisco down by the shorts to keep him on the mat. Jerry fights back with forearms, but Timbs sends him into the corner, so Brisco gets fired up with a double arm suplex and figure-four to finish at 3:51. Not much to this one. *1/2
Ricky Harris v. Mike Rotundo
Harris was the generic cowboy who would later be repackaged into the slightly less generic evil cowboy Black Bart. So I continue to be confused about where and when to use Rotundo and Rotunda, as he’s clearly announced and called by ROTUNDO here, but I thought that was strictly a WWF thing for the most part. Rotundo takes Harris down with a top wristlock, but Ricky works the arm in turn and then pounds him down with the CLUBBING FOREARMS. He goes to the chinlock and Rotundo fights out of that, so Harris slams him and drops the leg for two. They slug it out and Mike catches him in the airplane spin, which finishes him at 4:41. Another briskly paced match here. *
Johnny Weaver & Private Jim Nelson v. Gene Anderson & Red Dog Lane
Before the match, the ring announcer gives us the main event for the next show in April, with Greg Valentine teaming with Oliver Humperdink and the One Man Gang to take on Bugsy McGraw, Jimmy Valiant and Andre the Giant. Now that’s a main event! I’m not familiar with Red Dog Lane, who is announced as being from “Mule Shoe Texas”, but apparently 1983 was the end of his career anyway. Nelson had recently turned on Sgt. Slaughter and is now a babyface, although he’d go full Russian pretty soon after this. In fact he was teaming with Weaver for a month after this, leading to a feud with Don Kernodle and Sgt. Slaughter, and then in May he abruptly switched to Boris Zhukov in Houston and that was that. Weaver trades knucklelocks with Lane and that doesn’t really go anywhere, and then Nelson gets a hot tag and slams both of the heels repeatedly and drops a knee on Anderson for two. Back to Weaver, but Gene hits him with a knee to the gut and Red Dog goes to work on him and puts him down with a forearm. Gene works the arm, but Weaver slugs out of it and brings Nelson back in, and a small package finishes Lane at 6:28. This was three geezers and Jim Nelson out there shuffling around the ring. ½*
We get a cool bit left in as we hear Caudle talking to the director in the headset to set up the intermission. And dammit, Tom Miller keeps teasing me with the prospect of Andre the Giant teaming with Jimmy Valiant and Bugsy McGraw, but I can’t buy tickets without a time machine!
Mid-Atlantic TV title: Dick Slater v. Roddy Piper
As per usual with this belt, it’s only on the line for the first 15:00. They start brawling immediately as Slater uses Gary Hart’s towel to strangle Piper, but Roddy gives it right back and Slater runs away for some advice from Gary. That advice? “If a New York-based promotion offers you a job playing a Confederate sympathizer as a babyface, you’re probably not gonna be there very long.” Slater tries to use that advice to go after Piper again, but he gets chased back over the top rope this time. So Gary Hart argues with the ref and HE gets shoved off the apron for his troubles. Piper works on Slater’s arm as I stop to ponder that Roddy Piper was made into a manager in the WWF when he debuted because Vince thought he was TOO SMALL to be taken seriously as a wrestler. Can you imagine if Roddy Piper walked into the Performance Center today? He’d be a main eventer within a month. Or they might give him a stupid name and cause him to quit in frustration within two weeks. It’s a crapshoot, really. Piper works the arm, but Slater headbutts him down and puts him in the spinning toehold, so Piper punches him in the face from the mat and then pokes him in the eye to get him away. Piper takes him to the floor, but Slater runs him into the post while Gary Hart takes the ref, and Slater takes over via kicking him in the head from the apron. They slug it out there, but Slater runs him into the ringpost again while Hart takes the ref again. Piper’s selling here is fantastic. Piper beats the count and flies in to make the comeback, firing away on Slater and then hanging him in the ropes for more fisticuffs. Piper steps on his face, but Slater gives him a questionable headbutt to the midsection and they slug it out on their knees and trade headbutts. They fight for a suplex and Piper wins that battle as David Crockett has joined us on commentary and he’s nearly having a coronary. Slater with a backdrop, but Piper reverses to a sunset flip for two. Small package gets two. Slater hits a gut wrench suplex for two, but Hart takes the ref again while Slater gets another cheapshot. Piper gets the sleeper and Hart keeps distracting the ref and finally Slater pushes off and they collide for the double down. Piper unleashes a DROPKICK (!?!) for two, showing why he didn’t do that often, and a neckbreaker gets two as Hart puts the foot on the ropes. Piper gets all distracted by Gary now and Slater attacks him from behind and throws him over the top rope while Gary takes the ref again. Back in with a suplex for the pin at 12:54, but Piper gets his foot on the ropes and the ref waves it off. So Slater rakes the eyes and adds a headbutt, dropping elbows on Piper before going to the top. Piper hits him on the way down, however and drops a fist, and finally the ref gets away from Gary Hart and counts the pin at 14:54. Piper proclaims himself the new champion, but that was apparently not the case because they claim it was “17:00” and the belt is only on the line for 15:00. LIARS.
This was a hell of a deal even though stopwatches apparently worked differently in 1983, and a surprise highlight of the show. Piper and Slater were a masterclass in selling and facial expressions making the entire match. ***1/2
(Sadly a one-hour draw between Ric Flair and Greg Valentine is omitted here. Finally Greg Valentine has a chance to get properly warmed up and we’ll never see it!)
Cage match, NWA World tag team titles: Sgt. Slaughter & Don Kernodle v. Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood
If Steamboat and Youngblood can’t win the titles here, they have to break up. This is NO HOLDS BARRED, so the heels have taped up their fists. Kernodle and Steamboat fight over a lockup to start and Steamboat takes him down with the headlock. Kernodle fights out, so Steamboat does his dramatic flying headlock takedown and controls on the mat again. Kernodle fights out and tries a bodypress, but that misses and Youngblood comes in and chops him down before going to his own headlock. Jay really cranks on the headlock and then puts him down with a dropkick before doing his own dramatic flying headlock takedown to keep Don from tagging the Sarge in. Kernodle tries to run Jay into the cage, but Steamboat gets in the way to block in a GREAT spot, and comes in with a flying chop for two. Steamboat controls Kernodle with a facelock on the mat, so Kernodle drives him into the heel corner to break. But then Steamboat fights off both guys with chops and Slaughter tries to come into the match without a tag, and special referee Sandy Scott drags him back to the corner because it’s ANYTHING GOES, but you still need to tag. Fair enough. Steamboat continues with the headlock on Kernodle, and a bodypress gets two. Over to Youngblood and he goes back to the headlock again and gets two. Kernodle tries to move him back to the corner again, but Youngblood fights them both off with chops this time and Sandy Scott keeps Slaughter out. Kernodle fights out of the headlock, but Steamboat DIVES off the top from off-camera with a shot to the back, and they keep him from tagging as Sarge gets madder and madder. Finally Kernodle gets a few shots on Youngblood, and Slaughter finally gets his tag. But then Youngblood immediately rams him into the cage and Slaughter flails around in pain before hitting Youngblood with a cheapshot. Sarge tries to push his pretty face into the cage, but Jay fights him off and brings in Steamboat, who chops Slaughter down for two. He goes to the headlock on Slaughter, but Slaughter powers up out of that, so Steamboat KILLS him with a clothesline and Sarge goes down like a ton of bricks in a great sell. That gets two. The babyfaces hit Slaughter with dropkicks, but Sarge finally manages to ram Youngblood into the cage and finally the heels get the heat on him 18:00 into the match. Sarge keeps ramming him into the cage for good measure, drawing blood, and of course the womenfolk in the audience are pretty horrified. Kernodle goes to a neck vice and Slaughter comes in to punch Youngblood in the face while he’s in the hold, and the heels double-team him in the corner. Slaughter drops a knee for two, but Youngblood keeps fighting. So Sarge hits him in the throat to put him down again. Kernodle drops Youngblood neck-first on the top rope and that gets two, but Jay rakes the eyes and then goes to the wrong corner and gets nailed by Slaughter. Kernodle with a neckbreaker and Slaughter gets two off that. Slaughter Cannon gets two. He sets up the COBRA CLUTCH, but Youngblood slips out of it and runs Slaughter into the cage, busting him open. So it’s HOT TAG Ricky Steamboat and he beats the shit out of the heels and tries to bust Kernodle open before beating on him with chops. But then we get an AMAZING spot, as Kernodle is leaning on the cage to stand up and Steamboat dives at him, before Slaughter tackles his own partner like a Secret Service agent taking a bullet for the President, to push him out of the way and Ricky splats into the cage. That’s some fantastic timing there. Steamboat finally does draw blood on Don, however, and beats on him with chops, but Kernodle hits him with a clothesline and it’s back to Slaughter. Steamboat rolls him up for two, but he gets run into the cage and you don’t have to ask Steamboat twice to sell like he’s dead. Slaughter beats on him and the heels hit a double powerslam, before Slaughter goes to THE TOP OF THE CAGE? The match is missing a few seconds at that point, apparently edited to avoid a copyright claim, but I’m assuming he missed whatever move because we cut to Youngblood getting the hot tag and running wild. Assisted dropkick on Kernodle gets two. It’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA and the babyfaces catapult both guys into the cage in stereo. They ram Slaughter into the cage and double-clothesline Kernodle, and Youngblood puts him in his own cobra clutch. Steamboat puts Slaughter in the sleeper, but Sarge rams Steamboat into the cage to escape that and then breaks up Youngblood’s cobra clutch. Slaughter loads up the CANNON with a foreign object and hits Youngblood with it to put Kernodle on top, but Steamboat pushes them over to put Youngblood on top and they win the tag team titles at 32:00. Man Slaughter just keeps making more and more of a case for himself as a Hall of Famer. I hope he gets in next year. Once they got going this was some primo tag team wrestling, although not like an all-time classic or anything. ****
For 90 minutes of your time, this is well worth watching, dodgy edits on the main event aside. This was the show that basically acted as a precursor to the first Starrcade and thus lead to the creation of the “supercard” format of wrestling as we know it today, and by god you should just watch it to appreciate Sgt. Slaughter when he was good and not whatever he turned into later on.