More after and before the WWF action in the AWA. Gotta comment on the overdubbed music for the opening, which sounds like it would be playing in a rave club in Essex in 1989 as opposed to Verne Gagne’s aging product. “Little” Larry Nelson, who seems to have been sponsored by an orthopaedic chair company for this episode, opens the show. He talks about how the AWA Superstars programme is recorded in front a “semi-live” audience, and anyone who’s watched an AWA show knows how accurate that description is. It’s a “Day of Champions” today. Especially topical too with Adonis and Orton featuring on the newly uploaded episodes of Wrestling Challenge.
From that wrestling hotbed, Minot, North Dakota, Rod Trongard and Ray Stevens on commentary.
Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs vs. Greg Gagne
Knobbs’ music is overdubbed, and there’s a part of me that’s just hoping that he and Sags were coming out to Nasty by Janet Jackson. This is for the International TV championship, held by Groovy Greg, who I’m surprised hasn’t been more obnoxiously omnipresent on these shows so far. Knobbs is a relatively svelte 250 pounds or so at this point, as opposed to the 500 he’s probably got up to over the years. Greg isn’t exactly Mr. Excitement, but he’s obviously giving a green Knobbs a bit of in-ring training. After an Indian deathlock, Knobbs gets Greg in the corner and distracts the ref so that Sags can get some punishment in. Knobbs gets a rear chinlock while the ring announcer perks me up by reminding that we’ve only got four minutes remaining, with six gone already. Knobbs gets whipped into the ropes, barely able to run them at this point, but evading a dropkick. He then tries to run Greg into Sags, but Greg reverses and the heels come together with Greg getting two off that. A final run of the ropes sees Knobbs toss the champ out for the DQ a minute ahead of the time limit. Well, that was s--- all round. “Rambo” Gagne runs both Nasty Boys off on his own. He’s the promoter’s son, you know.
Backstage interview with Da Baron, who’s hunting for a hyena called Adnan Al-Kaissie. I’d be hunting for someone with a razor who could take the creepy moustache he’s wearing off him first.
Curt Hennig vs. Kevin Kelly
Curt’s the world champion now and the one with the heel demeanour, even though it’s the future Nailz who’s got Madusa with him. He tries a kick to the knee, so Kelly gives him a kick in return to the back of the knee, triggering Hennig’s flip bump. Kelly actually has good presence as a tough guy babyface, even though his skills were severely lacking and he looked like a nutcase (and seemingly was one). Curt works the leg in return, going to the ropes for assistance. Donna Gagne has replaced Ray Stevens on commentary at this point, and I’m reminded of Hulk Hogan’s summary of her: “Hot body, but she looked like Greg”. Speaking of hot body, Madusa is struggling to stay in her leather skirt and jacket while she topples around on her heels outside. Kelly mounts a comeback, with a powerslam that has all the components of one (a run, a slam, and drop down on top), but none of them gelled together. He goes for another one, but Curt gets the ropes. The ref kicks the hands, but it triggers Kelly falling backwards with Curt on top, who grabs the tights for the win. That’s some crooked Joey Marella refereeing there, the WORST! Match was alright for a weird heel vs. heel match. Squint and Nailz looks like a mid-nineties Steve Austin in blue at this point.
Backstage interview with a stuttering Tom Zenk. Zenk is a guy who both looked incredibly physically impressive AND plain as toast at the same time. Speaking of someone more like the latter, he welcomes Ricky Rice to the AWA while throwing out challenges. “Look out ladies, we’re both single!”, says Zenk, followed by a creepy smile. Not all at once, ladies.
Adorable Adrian Adonis and “Ace” Bob Orton vs. The Midnight Rockers
Adrian had been back in the AWA longer than Orton, who was a more recent arrival after getting fired by the WWF for some misconduct issue at an airport. He’d actually gotten really muscular for him in order to feud with Muraco, but has lost some of that size by this point. Adrian has his hair grown back out and is starting to slim down a bit from his biggest, but is still a mess. “Living After Midnight” is overdubbed with something that sounds more like the fast part of “The Chain”. Marty starts with Orton, who skids out of an Irish whip, but gets dropkicked into the corner face-first, bringing Shawn in to take a side headlock. Marty tags back in to take it over and Adonis heads in to break it and gets taken down with headscissors. He also gets an inadvertent high knee from Orton too. Shawn walks into a side backbreaker just after five minutes, which Adonis adds an elbow to for a Decapitation-like move, then a bulldog. Orton with a delayed vertical suplex, followed by a double-arm suplex for two. Adonis comes in with lefts, and I realise that his pink trunks and white kneepads have the disconcerting effect of making him look nude. Nasty kneedrops to the forehead, then he blocks Shawn from escaping with his sizeable ass while Donna takes forever to work in a worse fat joke than I could do. Slingshot from Orton into a clothesline, but Adrian’s splash hits knees and Shawn starts heading for Marty. Adonis sweeps the leg and Orton comes back in with the Calf Branding move (ride down knee to the throat from an elevated position).
Massive powerslam from Adrian for too, then he applies a pretty convincing front facelock, which you could bet would put someone out. Marty gets the tag behinds the ref’s back, so the heels send Shawn flying over the top while he protests. I wouldn’t want to be slipping and sliding on the loose tarp they have out there. Back in, Adrian misses a charge to the corner, but Shawn then misses his own splash and Adrian brings him back again with a sweet backdrop driver and Orton gets a stiff neckbreaker. It’s slow and Shawn doesn’t really bump smoothly on it, but it makes it look all the more jarring and painful. Bob goes for a pin off a fistdrop looking like it’s no big deal, then pops up like John McEnroe when it only gets two. He goes into the corner for a crotch bump, allowing Marty to get the hot tag. Adrian comes in and does a Ray Stevens bump in the corner, fighting off both. They all head outside to brawl for a double count-out as the tarp finally comes up as they skid back and forth doing spots. Back in after the match Orton takes double chin music before the heels head back. Good match, disappointing finish, but I can imagine they were going somewhere, and it was good to see the underrated team of Adonis and Orton putting on a clinic with Shawn as their victim.
Closing, Larry tells everyone to call Rob Russen (future WrestleReunion promoter) if they want the AWA to come to their town. I bet the calls were verging into double figures.
The Bottom Line: Terrible Nasty Boy match, different Curt Hennig match, high enjoyable Rockers match – can you say you’re surprised? Back tomorrow to see if the Rockers could work their magic with Knobbs and Sags even in ’88.