Rock Star Gary reflects on AWA on ESPN 05-16-1987

Taped from Las Vegas, NV

Airdate: May 16, 1987

Attendance: unknown

Hosted by Larry Nelson, Rod Trongard, & Russ Francis

Who is the World champion? What will happen when Zumhofe and Al-Kaissie collide? And who’s the new guy? Grab your favorite examination tool, and let’s find out!

Opening montage.

While Nelson questions who the World champion is, he gives a fan from Maine a Ninja Star Wars game for being the “fan of the week.” Somewhere both Eric Bischoff and Sonny Onoo are smiling.

Match 1 (non-title): AWA World tag team champions the Midnight Rockers versus Dennis Stamp & Mike Tolas

Highlights:

  • Jannetty leapfrogged Stamp before monkey-flipping him.
  • When Michaels tagged in, he mounted the second turnbuckle and lowered the boom on Stamp.
  • Tolas tagged in, gave Michaels a cross corner whip, but came up empty on his follow-through.
  • As Jannetty tagged in, he fed Tolas a flying back elbow.
  • He slammed Tolas and tagged in Michaels.
  • After he climbed atop Jannetty’s shoulders, Michaels launched a big elbow.
  • 1-2-3.
  • The Midnight Rockers won at 3:58.

Rating: **

Summary: Showcase match for the champs.

Match 2: Jerry Blackwell versus Tony Leone

Highlights:

  • Normally, Nelson would perform the ring announcing duties; however, Al DeRusha was manning the microphone this week and teased both Trongard and Francis throughout the telecast. HA!
  • Blackwell dropkicked Leone and applied a bear hug.
  • As Leone contemplated his mother’s restaurant relocation from Manhattan to Florida, Blackwell released the hold and dealt him an elbow drop to the back.
  • Blackwell side-suplexed and pinned Leone at 4:24.

Rating: ½*

Summary: Showcase match for Blackwell who is tagging with a new wrestler named Avalanche at both the wrestling arenas and the pizzerias. I’m sure Leone could point them to Mama Leone’s restaurant for some good eats.

Match 3: The Avalanche versus Joe Pantera

Highlights:

  • For those unaware, Avalanche was portrayed by Paul Neu who was better known as P.N. News.
  • An extremely SLOW criss-cross commenced the match until Pantera bounced off Avalanche between the ropes and down to the concrete floor. Not sure if he was talking a walk or not.
  • When Avalanche slammed him, he dealt Pantera an elbow drop.
  • He gave Pantera a cross corner whip and followed with, you guessed it, an avalanche.
  • As he gave Pantera another cross corner whip, Avalanche fed him another elbow drop.
  • Pantera basically hip-tossed himself believing he was a cowboy from Hell.
  • After Trongard apologized for Avalanche’s lack of experience, the rookie powerslammed Pantera through the cemetery gates.
  • 1-2-3.
  • Avalanche won at 3:32.

Rating: DUD

Summary: Showcase match for a very green Paul Neu. Afterward, his opponent claimed he was broken.

Match 4: “Rock’n’Roll” Buck Zumhofe versus Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie

Highlights:

  • We’re joined in progress, and the Vegas faithful chastised Al-Kaissie for groaning in pain.
  • As Zumhofe hip-tossed him, he reversed a cross corner whip and fed Al-Kaissie a ten-top-turnbuckle count-along.
  • Suddenly, Zhukov stormed into the ring and ambushed Zumhofe.
  • Consequently, Zumhofe won by DQ at 2:33 shown.

Rating: DUD

Summary: More angle than match as the Sheik and his army intend to turn Zumhofe into mincemeat.

After the match, Al-Kaissie and Zhukov double-team Zumhofe until Al-Kaissie grabs the boombox and DESTROYS it over Zumhofe’s head. How dastardly! They lay waste to Zumhofe, and Al-Kaissie crowns Zumhofe with the boombox again. As Zhukov headbutts a BUSTED OPEN Zumhofe, Al-Kaissie demolishes the boombox. The Midnight Rockers scramble to the ring to halt the chicanery, and armed security assist the injured Zumhofe from the ring. I’m sure Zumhofe’s accustomed to police escorts.

For the main event, let’s return to SuperClash II for the World title match joined in progress.

Match 4 for the AWA World title: Nick Bockwinkel (champion) versus Curt Hennig

Highlights:

  • Hennig converted a spinning toe hold into a figure-four leg lock, but Bockwinkel made the ropes to escape.
  • As Bockwinkel socked Hennig, he got 2.
  • He planted another knee into Hennig’s midsection yet writhed in pain as it was his left knee.
  • When each wrestler BELTED the other with right hands, they fell to the mat.
  • Bockwinkel reversed a cross corner whip sending Hennig HARD into to the turnbuckle.
  • After Bockwinkel got 2, Hennig hooked a sunset flip for 2.
  • He rammed Bockwinkel face-first into the mat for another 2.
  • While he fed Bockwinkel an atomic drop, Hennig tried an O’Connor roll but couldn’t get 3.
  • Hennig scored with a cross body block for yet another 2.
  • As Hennig decimated Bockwinkel with a right, he secured a somersault rollup.
  • Do we have a new champion?
  • 1-2-NO!
  • When he landed an Axe, Hennig came within an eyelash of becoming champion.
  • Hennig piledrove Bockwinkel but was too close to the ropes.
  • After he launched a standing dropkick, Hennig smelled the title within his grasp.
  • 1-2-NO!
  • He gave Bockwinkel a cross corner whip but ate a clothesline.
  • While Bockwinkel countered a side head lock with a belly-to-back suplex, both wrestlers were down on the mat.
  • A mid-ring collision occurred, and Zbyszko left his seat at ringside to confer with Hennig.
  • As both wrestlers got to their feet, Hennig KNOCKED Bockwinkel OUT.
  • 1-2-3.
  • WE HAVE A NEW CHAMPION!

Rating: ***½

Summary: Finally! After enduring a bloody 60-minute battle in Vegas and a screwjob in St. Paul, Hennig defeats Bockwinkel, but with a punch? How can that be?

According to multiple sources, Hennig was offered an opportunity to join the WWF, took a week to mull it over, but decided to remain with the AWA. Hence, the title change stood.

Conclusion:  Timing is everything. Had Hennig accepted the offer to stay with the AWA prior to SuperClash II, his victory over Bockwinkel could have been momentous. Instead, it looked like Verne was up to his old tricks again but stuck with Hennig to swerve us.

Zumhofe’s destruction by the Sheik’s army would have meant more if Zumhofe had decimated Al-Kaissie at Super Clash II. On the other hand, it was good to gain context for their match.

The next episode on my schedule is the Christmas 1987 card. Between this show and that one, the Midnight Rockers dropped the World tag team titles to Boris Zhukov and Soldat Ustinov in Lake Tahoe, NV on 5/25. Hang your stockings over the fireplace because Christmas 1987 is just around the corner, and the Midnight Rockers will be there but not with bells on.

TV Rating: NONE

Stay tuned for AWA 12-25-87!

Comments? Suggestions? Send them to me at [email protected]m and follow me on Twitter (@rockstargary202). Also, please check out all of my reflections at rockstargary.com including the Monday Night War and Herb Abrams’ UWF!