AWA on ESPN Championship Wrestling – Mar. 04, 1986

I thought I’d have a look at the extremely limited AWA content on the Network, which pretty much should be subtitled Shawn Michaels: The Early Years, but at the same time it’s still f------ HBK, only almost the best wrestler of all time, so that’s enough for me.

Nice that they’ve managed to keep the intro music for the show, complete with Larry Nelson’s introduction and graphics that look really good, although we’ve probably got ESPN to thank for that rather than Verne.

From the Showboat Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, welcomed by Larry and the general manager of the Showboat, who never looks at the camera once. Ken Resnick and Greg Gagne on commentary.

Buddhakhan vs. Sean Micheals (sic)

Despite being pushed as a hot, new babyface, Shawn gets booed on his introduction. He’s in trunks with short hair at this point. Buddha, despite a name that suggests otherwise, is a black guy from Detroit. Shawn gets a rear waistlock and takes Buddha down, almost on his head. He gives him a punch out of a headlock in return. He works a roll-up, using the tights for leverage. Shawn comes out of that and works the left arm. Very mat-wrestling heavy match, as per the AWA tradition. Just as I type that, Shawn gets a leapfrog and a dropkick and wants to continue that volley, but Buddha bails (“Come on!”, gripes Shawn). He manages to get him into the corner for his mounted punches followed by a backflip. Buddha charges out into a backdrop, then eats the superkick and Shawn finishes with a splash from the top rope. That’s more like it! By the end, a good debut for Shawn. Larry comes in to interview him after, to more boos. He rolls out a quick mini-profile of himself while barely looking up and with a face so young that he’s still got spots. A world removed from who he’d be by the nineties. He also drops a comment about being up for tagging up with someone… could have potential.

Tim Patterson and “Bun Boy” Barton vs. The Long Riders

The Long Riders are of course brothers “Wild” Bill and Scott “Hog” Irwin. Bill is more of a cowboy and Scott is more of a biker. Bill was fine, but Scott was heralded as quite the worker before his untimely death. He starts with Tim Patterson, who did jobs in the WWF later. Greg on commentary gets himself (only himself) excited about the impending arrival of David Sammartino, looking for revenge against Stan Hansen. Bun Boy, who’s a chubby guy with a fat arse in all white with a mask, comes in with a side headlock. Hog gets an elbow and tags in Bill. He goes to work with his piston kick. Big slam on Barton, which is a challenge more so because of his shape, not his weight. Hog and Patterson tag back in, with Patterson again actually getting the advantage, to the point that Bill’s having to come in and break things up until Hog gets a boot to the jaw. Bill comes in and finishes with his big boot. Very strange match, with Scott giving way too much and bumping badly, and Bill looking more the star. Scott does cut a good sarcastic promo after the match, followed by Bill suggesting tag champs Curt Hennig and Scott Hall are doing “favours” for the bookers to avoid wrestling them, which was a big of nowhere.

“Pretty Boy” Doug Somers vs. “Big” Scott Hall

Anybody who’s seen Somers knows his moniker is a facetious one. Hall has his Tom Selleck moustache and American Starship moccasins, while his tag partner Curt Hennig, at ringside, has a Miami Vice beard. Hall upset Somers a few weeks prior, so this is a rematch for him to try and regain face. I’m not optimistic. He dominates Somers with power moves until missing an elbow drop, opening himself up for a reverse three quarter nelson. Somers may not have looked much, but he was a good wrestler. He goes flying on a back bodydrop, bailing to the outside. After stalling, Hall hip tosses back in, but gets an elbow real low, stretching Hall’s trunks out dangerously far to lay some more in. Back suplex for two, followed by a stomp. Hall keeps on trying comebacks, but it doesn’t lead anywhere solidly for him. Eventually he gets a powerslam out of nowhere for the pin. They kept Somers strong in defeat, but it seemed to defeat the object of getting Hall over as the new dominant good guy in the promotion, beyond how green he was. So weird seeing him in the post-match promo with brown hair and him and Hennig with facial hair trying to look at lot older than they were and not pulling it off.

In This Corner… : An interview segment hosted by Larry Nelson and Larry Zbyszko, this week featuring newcomer Marty Jannetty. All the pieces are coming together. Nelson hypes him while the Legend knocks him before we go to some super slow motion clips of him in recent action set to ill fitting music. Then a quick interview where Marty drops that he and Shawn Michaels are going to team up as… the US Express?! Think they’ll need to workshop that one before the clock strikes midnight. He’s got more of a rock ‘n’ roll look than anything. Points for them dressing the set with the Remco AWA figures and ring. Zbyszko asks Marty the tough questions, cutting him off when he goes to answer before Marty questions his pink shirt. And with that we call it a show!

The Bottom Line: Fair play for them having some competitive if not always entirely compelling matches. Pretty sad that you’ve got the guys who would be Mr. Perfect, Razor Ramon and the Rockers on your roster, but the booking and overall presentation is so archaic that it’s a very pedestrian programme. You probably could’ve let the boys book themselves and while it would’ve been self-serving it would’ve been more interesting.