AWA on ESPN Championship Wrestling – Jan. 24, 1988 (Midnight vs. Midnight)

Into 1988, the last year that the AWA had anything approaching decent talent or a hope of hanging on before two more years of circling the drain. Introduced by Larry Nelson, in what looks like someone’s living room.

From, you guessed it, the Showboat, with Rod Trongard and Ray Stevens on commentary.

Nick Kiniski and Kevin Kelly vs. Van Van Horne and Jake Milliman

Kevin Kelly is of course not the announcer but rather Kevin Wacholz, better known as Nailz, doing a poor man’s Lex Luger gimmick. They’re managed by Madua Miceli, before she was any good but looking hot nonetheless. Squint and Kiniski looks like Barry Windham. He fails to make Van Horne take a bump over the top, so Kelly clubs him with a clothesline. Kiniski comes back in with a stump piledriver for the win out of nowhere.

Tom “Rocky” Stone vs. Billy Jack Strong

Billy Jack Strong is Steve DiSalvo, a really thick, muscular guy who trained alongside Sting and the Ultimate Warrior and wrestled under his own name as well as Sadistic Steve Strong and the Minotaur in a very brief WCW run before retiring and getting really fat. He’s supposed to be a Native American here, from Tempe, Arizona, but must not have had much enthusiasm for it because he walks out with eyes like a psychopath, ready to kill someone. He disgustedly powers out of a full nelson attempt before hitting a flex. How could anyone ever book this guy as a good guy when he looks like he’d tie you up and kill your children and pets in front of you? He clotheslines Stone, who fails to go over the top rope for a bump, then looking scared that he’s pissed him off with the botch. He goes to the eyes, but Strong just arbitrarily stops selling and pancakes him off the ropes in a drop that just looked painful. Side suplex, that he just drops Stone with, without going down himself for, then DDT out of the corner off the second. Tombstone finishes. A fascinating display of how someone can look like they’ve got it all (great look, talking ability, cool moveset, etc.) and still not make it for entirely different reasons, and I LIKE DiSalvo!

AWA Press Conference (just an interview segment) hosted by Bill Apter with Wahoo McDaniel. Wahoo’s almost fifty and looks seventy here, but then he looked fifty when he was twenty. He talks about Curt Hennig getting an injury in a strap match and then backhandedly compliments Paul E Dangerously and the Midnight Express, saying a lot while saying nothing. Well, that was a waste of time.

Dennis Stamp vs. Soldat Ustinov

HE’S BOOKED! Stamp is of course one of the unlikely stars of Beyond the Mat, the King of the Cockroaches, lifting hand weights while jumping on his trampoline in the back garden in his swimming trunks. Ustinov is from the home of most wrestling Russians, Minnesota. Rod Trongard talks about half a dozen ways the match could be more exciting, because Soldat is just above Korstia Korchenko when it comes to wrestling ability, wrestling exactly like he’s been trained to, with no natural instincts of what to do. Stamp runs into a boot and Ustinov wraps with that. Not even a crappy clothesline or a backbreaker? Gee!

Midnight Express vs. Midnight Rockers

An interesting match that feels like it wouldn’t have happened, and while Shawn and Marty against Bobby and Stan never did (and how awesome would that be?), this is the Original MX, with Dennis Condrey having disappeared from the NWA a year before under mysterious circumstances (turned out it was his marriage breaking down) and teaming back up with original partner Randy Rose, managed by Heyman when he had hair. This would’ve been recorded before Christmas of 1987, and is from a different taping at the Showboat, with Mick Karch replacing Ray Stevens on commentary with Rod, who sounds like he’s opening a show with his “From coast to coast…” catchphrase.

Listening to the recent Jim Cornette Experience has made me look out now for Condrey tying his neckerchief around his knee, which he indeed does here. The Rockers lead a “Paul E sucks!” chants to rile up Dangerously. Shawn starts with Dennis, who struggles to get the ref in to break up some punches and bumps to the outside. Marty sneaks in with an atomic drop, which Dennis sells like he’s s--- himself. Randy runs round and gets more of the same, bumping to the floor on his arse. Marty sarcastically pats it to make it better. Back in, Dennis does the “Zip it!” gesture to show the fans they need to quit it with the chants. Not getting that, the champs walk out, prompting Shawn and Marty to grab the belts, bringing them running back in to reclaim them.

The Rockers continue to befuddle the MX, leading to Randy accidentally clotheslining Dennis before tagging back in, while Mick Karch questions whether Paul E has more than just the one crappy jacket he’s wearing here (and always). Paul was more Miami Vice than Psycho Yuppie at this point. Marty escapes a wristlock with a bounce off the ropes, but Shawn takes a tumble over the top rope courtesy of Dennis on another criss-cross, following with a backbreaker and run into the ring edge before Randy suplexes him back in for two. Just like that, the heels have masterfully turned it around.

Big clothesline, which Shawn spins in the air on, from Randy. Dennis comes back in with another backbreaker for two. Shawn tries to power out of a rear chinlock, but Dennis rakes the eyes and brings Rose back in, who hits a side suplex. Shawn again tries to come back, but Rose gets a knee to the gut to barrel him over, then blocks while Dennis comes in for a pinfall attempt. Pump splash gets too. An abdominal splash with assistance from Rose on the outside gives me a moment to ponder what the deal was with the gloves Shawn and Marty used to wear: for golf or breakdancing? At least the black leather ones Shawn wore as a heel were obviously part of biker gear.

Dennis springs Shawn’s neck off the top rope, which Shawn flies up off. The heels go for a double clothesline, which Shawn dives through to smash the pair together, then a hot tag to Marty. Double noggin knocker for them and a small package on Dennis for two. Shawn comes back in and gets suplexed onto Marty Miller. Jannetty falls back onto Dennis off a full nelson gone wrong in the havoc, and it looks like Miller and another ref are counting both pairs of shoulders, but they both count Condrey down to give the Midnight Rockers the belts back. A bit of a questionable finish, not on par with the types of finishes Ricky and Robert could pull out at that point, but the match was great and had a bit of everything.

The Bottom Line: Brilliant Midnight vs. Midnight rare match to watch here, plus the DiSalvo/Strong match is so bizarre that you need to give it a look.