Open: Bob Caudle & Tony Schiavone are ringside and welcome the loud crowd at the Omni in Atlanta. Standing by at the Greensboro Coliseum is Johnny Weaver who explains that there are over 17,000 excited fans there as the event was taking place at two separate sold out venues, and broadcast back and forth via closed-circuit television. Back to Caudle and Schiavone who induce a big crowd pop with mention of Dusty Rhodes returning from injury to be in action tonight. It is announced that both cage matches will take place in Greensboro. Schiavone explains that all major titles except for the TV title will be on the line tonight and we’re ready to kick off the action starting in Greensboro with the National Anthem (after an odd tech error that shoots us backstage for an awkward moment with Weaver)!
Match #1 for the Vacant NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship: Krusher Kruschev vs. Sam Houston
Caudle emphasizes that it’s anyone’s game despite Kruschev’s size advantage. The two lock up, Kruschev quickly throws Houston backwards on his head. Lock up, Houston uses momentum to send Kruschev through the middle rope onto the floor. Kruschev returns to the ring angry and misses a clothes line. He turns around the two exchange punches, crowd pops. The two regroup. Kruschev looks baffled by Houston’s ability to match him. He lifts Houston up by the neck with both hands and slams him to the mat. Tries to follow with a standing elbow drop, Houston moves. Back to their feet, lock up, Kruschev powers Houston to the rope and delivers a knee, but when he whips him to the rope Houston counters a gorilla press and lands on his feet. Kruschev misses a series of punches while Houston lands retaliatory punches. Houston applies a long headlock.
Finally Kruschev is able to whip Houston into the ropes and a the two have a fast paced series before Houston is able to take him down with a headscissor take down. Locked in a head scissor submission, Kruschev powers his way up. He maneuvers to pin Houston’s shoulders in a couple of near falls. Kruschev gets to his feet, picks Houston up off the ground and carries him to a seated position on the top rope. Houston deflects Kruschev away from the turnbuckle. Houston misses an axehandle but connects a dropkick. Some mat work followed by a strong arm bar by Houston. The crowd pops when Kruschev writhes in pain. Krusher breaks the hold and whips Houston into the ropes and lands a massive backdrop. He taunts the booing crowd. More heat as he lands a 2nd backdrop. Kruschev whips Houston into the ropes and catches him for a long bear hug. Houston breaks it with a punch but, but Kruschev body slams Houston in the middle of the ring and heads for the top rope.
Houston wills his way up and dropkicks the turnbuckle before Kruschev can do anything. Houston delivers a long series of punches both on the mat and at the turnbuckle. Houston whips Kruschev into the opposing turnbuckle and calls for the bulldog. A 3 count is made, but Kruschev had his foot on the rope. Houston celebrates his win unaware of this. When he turns, Kruschev delivers the Russian Sickle, covers and Houston gets his leg on the rope, but the ref misses it and we have a new champ.
Winner and NEW NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion: Krusher Kruschev (Russian Sickle)
- EA’s Take: For the first time in the three years of Starrcade, our opening bout involves not one, but TWO men I’m familiar with! Bonus! The master of the Russian Sickle, Barry Darsow, will of course be known for his portrayal of Smash in the WWF later, but this was his big break after making noise in Georgia and Florida. Unlike Nikita, Krushev was an American who was not portraying himself as Russian, merely a sympathizer. The hot babyface here, Sam Houston, is a second generation star, the half-brother of Jake Roberts. His arrival in the Mid-Atlantic immediately put him on the map, which will happen when you’re billed as the protege of Dusty Rhodes and Magnum TA. If I were to rate this match against the past two Starrcade openers, bar none this will be tops of the list. A nice, slow burn to this one and I found the reversal spots to be wisely placed, allowing for the crowd to get further behind the young Houston.
Match #2 is a Mexican Death Match: ‘The Raging Bull’ Manny Fernandez vs. Abdullah The Butcher w/Paul Jones
The winner of this match is the first man to grab the sombrero. The action starts quickly with Abdullah dominating the action, beating Manny with a couple of foreign objects and quickly splitting him open. Abdullah chokes him on the ropes before Fernandez makes a comeback, Manny gets him to the mat and jumps off the turnbuckle, clocking The Butcher with his boot. Several more boot shots follow, Abdullah’s got the crimson mask, The Raging Bull attempts a running shot with the boot now, but The Butcher trips him up. Abdullah takes the boot and uses it on Manny, makes his 1st attempt for the hat, but Fernandez hits him with a low blow.
Paul Jones being held back by the referee and The Raging Bull goes to work with body shots using the boot. He makes an attempt at the hat, but takes a shot from Abdullah with the boot. Abdullah attempts the hat, but Fernandez whips and beats him with his belt. Punches exchanged. Abdullah headbutts The Raging Bul to the mat and misses an attempted running elbow drop. Fernandez hits him with a running lariat. More hits with the belt followed by an impressive suplex. Fernandez’s hat attempt thwarted by a low blow. Abdullah head butts him but Fernandez ducks a clothesline and hits him with ‘The Flying Burrito’. Fernandez to the top rope but misses a splash. Abdullah misses a turnbuckle thrust and hits the post. This allows Fernandez to grab the hat and win the match.
Winner: ‘The Raging Bull’ Manny Fernandez
- EA’s Take: Ahh yes, the 80’s…when politically correct didn’t exist. If you’ve followed along from Starrcade ’83, you already knew what to expect going into this one from Abdullah and we saw a lot of the same from Fernandez last year. Abdullah is a legend if you look at what he did for the hardcore style, which is why he’s a WWE Hall Of Famer (Yes, I’m aware it’s a bit of a joke, but still). Fernandez’s efforts in the ring that I’m familiar with are limited to these events, so it has got me thinking. If Abdullah is considered a “fore-father of hardcore”, does Manny deserve the same consideration?
Backstage: Johnny Weaver is with Krusher Kruschev, Krusher claims to be the happiest man in the world and thanks The Koloffs for making him the”Russian” athlete that he is, vowing to show all Americans that they’re physically superior. Kruschev addresses The Koloffs’ match later, warning that The Rock n’ Roll Express is about to learn the same lesson.
Match #3 is a Texas Bullrope Match – If Bass Wins, He Gets A Match With James J. Dillon: ‘Cowboy’ Ron Bass vs. Black Bart w/James J. Dillon
A tug of war ensues with the rope, Bass kicks Bart to the ground, wraps the rope around Bart’s neck in the corner and delivers some punches with a cowbell, causing Bart to bleed. Bass continues the offense, Bart has a few comeback shots here and there, but Bass is abusing him with the cowbell. Bart finally gets in a low shot and gains control of the bell. After the first shot, Bass is cut now, Bart works hims into the corner and digs at his forehead with the bell. Exchange of punches and Bart delivers some elbows. Bass manages to get Bart down and slams his head into the mat. He wraps the rope around the forehead of a screaming Bart, more punches are exchanged before Bart attempts to clothesline Bass over the ropes.
Bass avoids it and Bart launches over the top rope to the floor, The Cowboy jumps to the other side of the ring apron, then delivers a jumping blow with the cowbell. Back to the ring, more cowbell shots to Bart followed by a kick. He wraps the rope around the back of Barts neck to pull him in for 3 big punches. Bart falls to his back. Pinfall attempt, kickout at 2. Both men back to their feet. Bart with some offense, whips Bass to the ropes but Bass hits a shoulder takedown. Both men lying on the mat. JJ Dillon pleading at ringside for Bart to get up. Bart is up first and misses a punch. From his knees, Bass hits another cowbell shot. When Bart tries to get up the rope is pulled, flipping him to the mat. Back on their feet, punches are exchanged and Bass is backed into the corner. Bart misses a running lariat. Bass maneuvers Bart into position, climbs to the 2nd rope and delivers one final cowbell blow to put it away.
Winner: ‘Cowboy’ Ron Bass (Cowbell Shot)
- EA’s Take: The Long Riders are no more and Bass is the one who “sees the light”, leading to this slugfest that can be completely summed up in one sentence: both guys clobber each other with a cowbell until there’s a three count. A little unusual putting two hardcore-type matches back-to-back as well. This would serve as a finale for the former partners, Bart going on to feud for and win the Mid-Atlantic Title before leaving for World Class. The Cowboy’s departure is still more than a year away, but it’s yet another departure from NWA upcoming nonetheless.
Match #4 is a Texas Bullrope Match: ‘Cowboy’ Ron Bass vs. James J. Dillon w/Black Bart
JJ Dillon tries to take advantage of the situation by rushing Bass and kicking him to the mat immediately after the bell. He stomps and kicks Bass while he’s down before the ref can tie them together, Dillon hits Bass with the cowbell and gets a 2 count. Dillon chokes him with the rope, The Cowboy makes the crowd pop as he starts the comeback to his feet. JJ tries to run from the ring, gets yanked back, pleading with Bass not to hit him with the cowbell. Bass declines and clocks him, busting Dillon open, then continues the attack and gets JJ wobbly-legged. He does the same punching spot with the rope around the back of Dillon’s neck, Bass goes for one more big shot with the cowbell, but hits the referee on his wind-up. The Cowboy goes for the pin without realizing the official’s down, Bart takes the opening, hits the ring and ambushes him. BHe spikes Bass with a piledriver, drags Dillon on top for the cover and JJ steals the win.
Winner: James J. Dillon (Interference)
- EA’s Take: It’s kind of crazy to think about because he looks much older, but JJ was only 43 years old at this time, so stepping in the ring wasn’t really too uncommon for him yet. The NWA’s version of Bobby Heenan, Dillon is still backing a stable of performers, like most managers of the time. He’ll quickly ascend up the managerial ladder and overshadow Paul Jones, much like this match did the one previous.
Match #5 Arm Wrestling Challenge: ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham vs. The Barbarian w/Paul Jones
This contest is for a $10,000 prize. Barbarian seems unfamiliar with the rules. Long bout. Both men drop to their knees and struggle. As Graham is about to win, Paul Jones hits him with his cane leading to a bloody Superstar and a DQ.
Winner: ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham (Disqualification)
Match #6: ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham vs. The Barbarian w/Paul Jones
Match begins with Barbarian taking advantage of the cane shot using vicious headbutts and kicks. Whips Graham into the ropes for a big boot that connents, tries to follow with a leg drop that’s off the mark and Graham comes back with some punches. He shoots Barbarian into the corner, but Barbarian rebounds right out and shoves Superstar to the canvas. Barbarian to the top rope for the flying headbutt, Superstar avoid it, quickly back to his feet with some kicks, whips Barbarian into the ropes and applies his trademark Bearhug. The Barbarian tries going for punches to break free, but Graham wrenches it in tighter until he starts to fade. Ref goes to check the arm, Paul Jones again gets involved, cracks Superstar with the cane and we get a second disqualification.
Winner: ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham (Disqualification)
- After The Bell: When Jones attempts another cane shot, Graham intercepts it, hits him once in the corner before Barbarian comes in from behind. Superstar falls to the floor and Barbarian follows, only to slam Graham into the post. The two stumble outside the barricade and Barbarian scores with a chair shot now, the ref is able to finally separate the two and declares raises Superstar’s hand.
- EA’s Take: The Karate Kid version of Billy Graham is no more and he’s back to being his old ‘Superstar’ self, at least gimmick-wise. Barbarian is another bruiser of course, so while it’s nice to have two names that most would be familiar with, the sledding is not so smooth. If you’ve seen one arm wrestling match, you’ve seen them all in terms of pro wrestling standards. Also, they just went to the second location for this match without saying anything. Very unusual.
Match #7 for the NWA National Heavyweight Championship: ‘The Nature Boy’ Buddy Landel w/James J. Dillion vs. NWA National Heavyweight Champion Terry Taylor
Landel teases a lockup and instead fluffs his hair and taunts the crowd with a…moonwalk?!. Lockup, Landel powers Taylor into the corner, but Taylor jumps up and they go nose-to-nose. Lockup again and we go to the ropes. Ref breaks it up. Landel slaps Taylor on the chest and Taylor slaps him across the face in return, Landel cowering around the ring on his backside. Ref backs Terry off. Lockup, arm bar by Landel this time around and he taunts the crowd some more. Taylor finally breaks free with an arm drag. Lockup and they go to the ropes once again, the ref breaks them apart, Landel attempts two cheap shots which are blocked by Taylor, who in turn lands a right. Regroup. Lockup, Landel with a snapmare takedown.
Headlock on the mat. Taylor muscles Landel over for a quick near fall, but The Nature Boy gets his positioning back. Both men to their feet with the headlock still applied, Taylor is able to reverse the maneuver into an armbar. Landel to the mat, armbar still applied. Taylor gets the shoulders down for several near falls, knees the affected arm and both men to their feet. Lockup to the corner. Knees to the stomach from Landel followed by chops, whips Taylor to the opposite corner, but Terry reverses and scores with a big boot. He shoots Landel to the ropes and hits a back body drop, goes to the ropes himself for a knee to the head and a finds a 1 count.
Armbar by Taylor, Landel reverses it and lands a stiff punch. Landel laying on a series of punches in the corner followed by a snapmare takedown. Landel applying a front headlock on the mat. Once to their feet, Taylor reverses with a side suplex, followed by a backbreaker. Taylor with a standing leg drop and attempts a pin but Landel has his leg on the rope. Landel whips Taylor into the corner and delivers a running lariat. 2 count. Landel in position for a snap suplex but Taylor reverses into a small package. 2 count. Landel gets up hot and stomps Taylor. Landel applies a chinlock. Taylor up to his knees, walks a few steps and throws Landel into the bottom turnbuckle. Taylor with some chops in the corner followed by a snapmare. Taylor stands on Landel’s face and then pulls him up for a suplex. 2 count.
Taylor with a whip into the corner and lands repeated headshots into the turnbuckle. Ref pulls Taylor away and Landel turns around for a punch that knocks both Taylor and the ref to the mat. Dillon up on the apron with his shoe. Taylor reverses the Irish whip and forces Landel to knock Dillon off. Taylor sets up for his trademark superplex. As he gets Landel up, Dillon trips Taylor causing Landel to fall on Taylor. Pinfall 1-2-3.
Winner and NEW NWA National Heavyweight Champion: Buddy Landel (Interference)
- EA’s Take: Don’t adjust your screens folks, that is in fact NOT Ric Flair, but an essential carbon copy in look and gimmick. Buddy Landel was going for the whole, “I’m the real Nature Boy” thing and it worked to a degree. Honestly, had he gone with another gimmick he may have had even more success. His opponent, Terry Taylor, what can you really say about him? He had solid runs, but is really known for the amount of people he’s broken in and helped further their careers along. The match I found to be fantastic, despite the fact that neither of these men were ever considered “big stars”. They are consummate professionals in the ring and The Nature Boy really could work the crowd. That is vitally important when you’re in the ring against a “white-meat” babyface such as Taylor. It’s funny that Landel is considered the tops of Dillon’s stable right now, since JJ will soon be “upgrading” one Nature Boy for another.
Match #8 for the NWA National Tag Team Championships: NWA National Tag Team Champions The Minnesota Wrecking Crew (Ole & Arn Anderson) vs. Wahoo McDaniel & Billy Jack Haynes
Arn and McDaniel start. They lock up, McDaniel powers Arn to the turnbuckle twice in a row. Lock up once more, McDaniel with a headlock. Whips Arn to the rope, picks him up for Gorilla press slam. Arn falls to the corner and tags Ole. The two lock up followed by an exchange of punches. McDaniel with the upper hand and Wahoo gets a shot in as well. McDaniel makes the tag. Wahoo whips Ole to the rope and hits him with a chop, followed by a snapmare and elbow drop to the head. Ole is able to crawl over for the tag. Arn and Wahoo lock up.
Wahoo ducks a punch and lands a chop. Wahoo with a headlock to Arn followed by a takedown to the mat with the headlock still applied. Arn reverses into a headscissor submission. Arn up to a seated position with Wahoo’s face driven into the mat. Wahoo muscles out and delivers a seated lariat. Both men to their feet. Lock up, Arn with a headlock, falls back into his corner and tags Ole with the headlock applied. Ole with some punches to Wahoo’s back before Arn releases. Ole with a snapmare. Ole with a submission maneuver. Wahoo gets a slap in but Ole quickly gets the tag. Arn continues to work on the arm with holds, kicks and knees.
While still applying a chicken wing, Arn tags Ole once again and Ole picks up where Arn left off. Ole delivers a body slam and gets a near fall. Works Wahoo to the corner for another tag and double team. McDaniel impatiently enters the ring and attacks Ole from behind and all 4 men go at it. The ref redirects McDaniel and Arn puts Wahoo in another armbar. Wahoo trying to fight back with chops but Arn again is able to make the tag. After working the arm some more, Wahoo is able to escape, roll to his corner and tag McDaniel. As he did so, Arn is tagged in and McDaniel delivers punches to both Andersons capping off by smashing their heads together.
Wahoo re-enters the ring until the ref is able to get Ole and Wahoo out of there. The legal men work to McDaniel’s corner where he makes the tag. Wahoo with chops to Arn, whips him to the ropes and delivers a clothesline. A 2 count before Ole makes the save. The ref directs Ole out and he moves to the floor. Wahoo applies a headlock, but Arn is able to whip him to the ropes. Wahoo is tripped by Ole from the floor. 2 count. McDaniel is in the ring upset about Ole. Wahoo works Arn into the Wrecking Crew’s corner while the ref is distracted, and Ole trips Wahoo to the mat and holds his legs down. Arn makes the cover 1-2-3.
Winners and STILL NWA National Tag Team Champions: The Minnesota Wrecking Crew (Arn/Interference)
- EA’s Take: As you would expect, superb technical work by TMWC, really demonstrating what dominating tag team wrestling is all about. The 27-year old Arn (Yes, he was bald by 27) comes in as Ole’s kayfabe nephew and immediately reinvigorates his “uncle’s” career. We know Wahoo’s story after the last two Starrcade’s, but his partner is a newcomer in Billy Jack Haynes. Billy Jack comes from Florida and the Portland (OR) area, teaming with The Chief in this heated rivalry, but would abruptly leave the company for the WWF in 1986 after a confrontation with Jim Crockett. It would work out in the end for The Andersons because much like the Drake line, if Wahoo & Billy Jack were a pair of ex’s to ask where they were going, Arn & Role would reply, “Onto better things”.
Match #9 I Quit Match for the NWA United States Championship: Magnum T.A. vs. NWA United States Champion Tully Blanchard w/Baby Doll
To win this match, your opponent must say the words “I quit” and it will also be contested inside the confines of a steel cage. The two lock up. Blanchard whips him down by 1 leg but Magnum kicks him of. Tackle to the mat and the two struggle for the upper hand. Blanchard works him to the corner and the two men return to their feet. Blanchard with the offense first but Magnum retaliates with a series of punches and uppercuts of his own. Magnum attempts to slam Blanchard into the cage but he holds on for a block. Blanchard on offense now and is able to whip Magnum into the case. Blanchard applies a camel clutch but Magnum works his way to his feet. Blanchard with a knee to the kidney. Magnum reverses the Irish whip and picks Blanchard up dropping him neck first on the rope.
The two exchange more punches and kicks. Blanchard falls to his knees but grabs Magnums trunks and throws him into the cage. More submission battling on the mat. Both men back to their feet. Blanchard delivers knees but Magnum able to throw him head first into the cage. Magnum picks him up and does it again. Blanchard is bleeding. Magnum demands, Blanchard refuses and headbutts T.A. in the stomach. Both men on their knees, Magnum delivering labored punches followed by a submission move on the mat. Magnum also has color. The bloodied men do a little brawling. With Magnum on his back, Blanchard demands, Magnum refuses.
Blanchard hits him on the head with the microphone and asks again. Magnum refuses. Blanchard delivers 4 right hands before picking him up and driving him into the cage. Blanchard goes to the top rope and delivers an axehandle. He demands again. With labored breathing, Magnum refuses. Blanchard delivers one standing elbow drop but Magnum moves for the 2nd. Magnum makes a comeback of punches and grabs the microphone. Blanchard refuses. Magnum delivers kicks to the stomach, pulls Blanchard up and clocks him with the mic. Demands again, Blanchard refuses. Both men roll on the mat digging at eyes and pulling on hair.
Both looking weary but exchanging punches from their knees. Magnum demands and Blanchard kicks the mic from his hands. Blanchard hits Magnum with the mic twice and demands again. Magnum refuses. Blanchard with some elbow drops and a knee to the ref. Blanchard throws the ref aside and a wooden chair is thrown into the cage. Blanchard breaks the chair into pieces and kicks the referee. Blanchard attempts to stab Magnum with a broken piece of wood but it is intercepted and they have a power struggle on the mat. Magnum knees Blanchard to the mat, grabs a piece of broken wood and drives it into Blanchard’s forehead. Blanchard quits. Huge pop from the crowd.
Winner and NEW NWA United States Champion: Magnum T.A.
- EA’s Take: This is by far the most enjoyable match of the card to this point, to nobody’s surprise if you’re familiar with Tully & Magnum, two of the most underrated performers in history to me. The rivalry was hot, the crowd was hot. It was the perfect storm and just an absolute war, but was brutally violent and if you’re squeamish may not be for you. Even Baby Doll was key, as her screams of terror for what was happening to Blanchard just draws you in more. Did to me at least. You already know how I feel about Blanchard if you read Starrcade ’84 and Magnum really echoes those same feelings, but on the babyface side. Obviously his name comes from his similarity to Tom Selleck and ‘Magnum P.I.’, which sounds silly now, but at the time Tom Selleck was what my mother would consider a “nice piece of man meat”. So you can only imagine the screams from women for Magnum TA and those would only increase over the coming year. He could have been and SHOULD have been one of the all-time greats, but in October of ’86 a devastating car crash would leave the right side of his body paralyzed for months, taking away his career and nearly his life. It’s really one of the tragedies of wrestling.
Match #10 is an Atlanta Street Fight: The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Dennis Condrey) w/ James E. Cornette vs. Jimmy Valiant & Miss Atlanta Lively w/Big Mama
Mayhem ensues at the start when the Midnight Express try to rush their opponents. Lively sprays Condrey in the face with some kind of powder while Eaton and Valiant do battle outside of the ring. Lively chokes Condrey in the ring with a necklace while Valiant works Eaton over with a chair outside. They trade opponents in the ring exchanging some punches and the Midnight Express gets some comeback momentum. Condrey is working Lively in the corner. Valiant tosses Eaton across the cement floor outside the gate and re-enters the ring to save Lively. Eaton makes his way back to the ring but the double team of Lively and Valiant whip Condrey into his partner.
Valiant drops to a knee and puts Condrey in a headlock punching him several times with an unidentified foreign object. Valiant whips Condrey into the rope and catches him in a sleeper hold. Cornette wills Eaton back in the ring who engages with Lively. Eaton gets foreign object from his boot. It is some sort of powder thrown into the eyes of Valiant. Condrey and Eaton take advantage and attack him with a series of punches and kicks. Eaton throws the powder in Lively’s face. The Express remove their belts and whip and choke their opponents. Valiant is thrown to the floor and the Express double team Lively. Holding both arms, Cornette enters the ring and hits Lively over the head with some sort of racket. Condrey picks Lively up for Eaton who is preparing an elbow from the 2nd rope. He hits the elbow and Eaton kicks Valiant who was trying to re-enter the ring.
Valiant makes it into the ring but is thrown out again. More double teaming on Lively. Here comes Valiant again who lands punches on both members of the Express. Eaton and Condrey grab him, whip him into the ropes and Valiant goes down from a double elbow. Condrey positions Valiant as Eaton goes to the 3rd rope. Eaton leaps but is cutoff and punched in the face by Lively who falls to the mat. Eaton is knocked out and Lively pins him 1-2-3 just in time as Cornette was attempting to break it up.
Winners: Jimmy Valiant & Miss Atlanta Lively (Lively/Punch)
- After The Bell: Lively and Valiant get ahold of Cornette and strip him to his boxer shorts.
- EA’s Take: This one will probably only leave you feeling one of two ways; either you loved it or you hated it. It’s gimmicky, it’s silly, but it’s also kind of fun, which is what wrestling is supposed to be and sometimes I forget that. While seeing Ronnie Garvin as Miss Atlanta Lively is certainly something I could live without, the guy can definitely perform, as can The Midnight Express. Oddly enough, this version of The ME would really put the team on the map, but most don’t know it was rehashed with Condrey, an original in 1980 alongside Randy Rose in Southeast Championship Wrestling.
Match #11 is a Steel Cage Match for the NWA World Tag Team Championships: NWA World Tag Team Champions The Koloffs (Ivan & Nikita) w/Krusher Kruschev vs. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson) w/Don Kernodle
Nikita and Morton start. They lock up and Nikita powers him down into the corner. Morton runs the ropes and hits Nikita with a dropkick. They slow it down and pace the ring. Nikita with a kick to the gut, punch to the back, turnbuckle shot and a kick to the mat. He makes the tag to Ivan. Morton escapes his grasp, runs the ropes 4 times before landing a crossbody. Morton puts Ivan in a standing headlock but Ivan counters by lifting Morton, dropping him crotch first on the ropes and kicking him while down. 2 count. Ivan attempts to launch Morton into the cage, Morton blocks with his foot. Morton lands a few punches and tags in Gibson. Gibson whips Ivan into the ropes and lands a drop kick. Gibson bodyslams Ivan and lands a jumping knee to the skull. 2 Count.
Gibson headlocks Ivan and tags Morton. He works Ivan down to the mat. 2 Count. Reverse headlock and another tag. Gibson tackles Ivan. 2 count. Another reverse headlock and tag to Morton. He chokes Ivan to the ropes, lands a punch, and yet another reverse headlock for a tag to Gibson. Gibson lands elbow from the 2nd rope. 2 count. Ivan finally makes a comeback. Whips Gibson to the ropes but he ducks a clothesline and bear hugs Ivan into the cage. He picks Ivan up and slams him into the cage again. Picks up Ivan and holds him behind the arms while Morton comes off the top rope for an axehandle. Morton’s turn to slam him into the cage and come off the top rope for another axehandle. 2 Count. Tag to Gibson. Punch to the head. 2 count.
Both men up and Ivan fights back with an eye rake and is able to get the tag to Nikita. Ivan holds Gibson in place for a double axe handle from Nikita. Gibson is whipped into the ropes, grabbed in a bear hug and sent face first into the cage. Nikita picks up Gibson for 2 more hits into the cage. Nikita walks to Morton’s corner and gives him an elbow. Morton enters the ring the illegal man trying to attack Nikita and the ref redirects him. Ivan goes to the top rope on his side and delivers an axehandle to Gibson. He picks Gibson up and delivers shoulders to the midsection followed by a launch into the cage. Ivan with a standing elbow. 2 count. Ivan whips Gibson into the rope and sets up for a backbody drop but Gibson stops short and delivers a kick. The exhausted Gibson falls to the mat and Ivan is up first. He tags Nikita who delivers kicks while Gibson is down.
Nikita bites the bridge of the nose until the ref pulls him off. Bodyslam to Gibson. The ref goes to argue with an irate Morton while Ivan returns to the third rope and delivers another punch. 2 count before Morton breaks it up. Whips Gibson into the rope and kicks him in the kidney. Gibson falls to the 2nd rope. Ivan misses his attempt move on the rope. Ivan walks Gibson to the Koloffs turnbuckle. Nikita is holding his arms and biting his face while Ivan delivers midsection blows. Morton rushes Ivan and pulls him off. The ref redirections Morton once again. Ivan whips Gibson into the ropes, kick to the midsection, snapmare takedown, standing legdrop. 2 count. Ivan misses his next legdrop. Ivan makes the tag to Nikita who takes Gibson down into a seated sleeper hold. Gibson fights out of it but the the tag is made to Ivan. Headbutts and knees to Gibson. 2 count – leg on the rope.
Gibson is brought to his feet and fights back with punches until Nikita rushes the ring and delivers a kidney shot and slams him into the cage. 2 count broken up by Morton. Tag to Ivan. Gibson is whipped into the ropes, he sneaks between Ivan’s legs and delivers a dropkick. Crowd is chanting USA. Gibson attempts a cover but the ref is down. Morton rushes the ring and is hit with a lariat from Nikita. Nikita then hits Gibson with a lariat and Ivan covers but the ref is still down. Both men to their feet. Nikita whips Gibson to the rope who tags Morton in the process. He delivers a backbody drop to Gibson but Morton rushes him into the rope from behind and rolls him into a double leg cradle. The ref is there for a 1-2-3 pin. Enormous pop.
Winners and NEW NWA World Tag Team Champions: The Rock & Roll Express (Morton/Double Leg Cradle)
- After The Bell: The Koloffs are up and grab Gibson. Morton escapes by climbing over the cage, but Krusher Kruschev enters the cage with a chain. The 3 clothesline Gibson with the chain. Triple team clothesline from the top rope followed by whipping Gibson with the chain. Wrestlers from the back come out to fend off the Russians.
- EA’s Take: After being paired together by Jerry Lawler in 1983, Morton & Gibson would arrive in Jim Crockett Promotions in 1985 and quickly take the division by storm. If you are a fan of The Rockers, Michaels & Jannetty, you can thank these guys for it as they are really the originators of the oft-used tandem offense style of tag wrestling…and they are fun to watch. The Russians are still hot as heels with the Cold War still ongoing, Nikita is coming along, but he’s still a little more “sizzle” than “steak” as Good Ol’ JR would say. Ivan is still able to hold a good portion of the work and combining that with the energy of Morton & Gibson makes this one of the better matches of the night.
Match #12 for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship: ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes vs. NWA World Heavyweight Champion ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair
Dusty gets the crowd going with a strut around the ring. Lockup, Dusty is in the corner and Flair takes a cheap shot when the ref breaks them up. The two exchange chops until Dusty gets about 10 punches in a row in knocking Flair to his back. Rhodes struts. Flair rolls out to the floor and paces. Back to the ring and they lock up again. Flair gets a little offense in before Rhodes takes control again delivering many of his patented elbows. Flair is flustered and rolls out of the ring again. A long staredown ensues. A lockup, Rhodes reverses a headlock into a chicken wing. Flair drops to the mat kicking his feet and screaming. Flair makes it to the ropes and the hold is broken.
Both men to their feet and cautious to lock up. Flair on the offense with chops and digs. Snapmare take down by Flair and a knee to the head. “Wooo!”. 1 count. Armbar by Flair who kicks Rhodes behind the knee. Rhodes yelps and rolls out of the ring. Flair grabs Rhodes as he gets up the apron. Rhodes blocks Flair’s punch and delivers some elbows with Flair stuck on the top rope. Flair to the mat and Rhodes stomps Flair’s knee. Rhodes pulls him on his back to the center of the ring and an elbow to the knee. Rhodes applies a submission hold targeting that knee. Flair in pain attempting to break the hold by putting Rhodes in a headlock.
Rhodes to his feet again holding Flair’s leg. The crowd pops and another elbow to the knee. Flair is able to get up after a poke to the eye. Flair positions for a suplex but can’t lift him as he’s favoring the knee. Rhodes reverses the hold and suplexes Flair. Another elbow and submission hold to the knee. Both men work their way to their feet. Whip to the ropes. Rhodes hits flair with a shoulder takedown. Another whip and Flair puts Rhodes in a sleeper. Rhodes escapes by running Flair into the turnbuckle and Flair goes down. Rhodes pulls Flair to the corner and smashes the knee on the pole.
Back to the ring and more stomps and elbows to the knee. More exchanging of chops and weak snapmare to Flair. Rhodes misses a standing elbow drop. Flair limping around the ring but goes to the top rope. Rhodes is up and gives Flair a gorilla press from the top. Both men staggering. Flair is the first to attack and gets Rhodes down on his back. He attempts a figure four leg lock but Rhodes kicks him away. Flair tries again, same result. Flair comes back and stomps Rhodes’ head. Flair picks Rhodes up, puts him in the corner and tries to target Rhodes’ leg but Dusty fight back. He whips Flair to the opposite corner and he does his trademark fall over the turnbuckle and onto the floor. Rhodes follows him to the floor and drives Flair into the ringpost.
He picks Flair up to his knee and smashes him on the gate. Rhodes back into the ring. Flair climbs onto the Apron and Rhodes hits more elbows to the head. Flair is pulled back into the ring and he reverses Rhodes’ attack and throws him over the top rope. Rhodes is quick to return to his feet and he climbs onto the apron and onto the top turnbuckle. Flair rushes over to give him a gorilla press but Rhodes falls and lands on top of him. The ref is delayed to lay down for the count. 2 count. Both men slow to their feet. Rhodes blocks a punch and lands one of his own. Flair to the mat. Rhodes kneels over Flair’s chest and delivers a series of punches. Pulling him back up and to the corner, more elbows and stands on the 2nd rope for more punches. Flair with his trademark face first fall to the mat. Crowd cheering. He pulls Flair back up for another barrage.
Flair is seated and scooting backwards away pleading for no more. Rhodes picks him up near one turnbuckle and whips him to the opposite. Flair flips over the rope again but this time stays on his feet, runs across and climbs the other top rope, but is hit in the midsection when he jumps to hit Rhodes. Flair crawls to the opposite turnbuckle and Rhodes attempts a punt. Flair moves and Rhodes kicks the turnbuckle. Both men are down. Flair is the first one up and takes Rhodes’ bad foot to the rope and stomps it. Flair pulls him to the center of the ring and drops a knee on the bad leg. Flair successfully applies the figure four leg lock. Rhodes is writhing but shaking his head no. Each time he falls backward, the ref makes a 2 count.
The crowd is cheering Rhodes on as he attempts to turn it. A successful turn is made. Both men release and are slow to get up. Flair delivers chops and punches but Rhodes is fired up and returns the favor. Flair is whipped to the ropes and Rhodes delivers a clothesline. 2 Count. The ref is hit by Rhodes on the kickout. Rhodes is trying to apply the figure four but the ref is on the floor. Rhodes successfully applies the figure four. Arn Anderson makes a run in but Rhodes fights him off. Now Ole Anderson rushes the ring and attacks Rhodes from behind knocking him to the mat. Ole pulls Flair on Rhodes for the cover. The ref is delayed in getting back to the ring for the count and Rhodes kicks out at 2. Flair picks up Rhodes and positions for a body slam but Rhodes reverses into a small package. Pinfall 1-2-3.
Winner and NEW NWA World Heavyweight Champion: Dusty Rhodes (Small Package)
- After The Bell: A variety of babyfaces rush the ring to celebrate with Rhodes and lift him up. Flair and The Andersons walk away livid and screaming at the referee.
- EA’s Take: Simple, effective and crowd involved would be the best way to describe this one. PWI’s Match Of The Year for 1985 is a great example to show someone why mic work and storyline will always sell better than a match based off just pure in-ring work. Nothing overly flashy in the ring, you’re not going to see anything innovative, but it’s Flair & Rhodes at their best. What more do you need?
Backstage: Tony Schiavone is backstage with Dusty Rhodes who is being showered with champagne by celebrating babyfaces. Rhodes cuts a promo celebrating the blue collar workers. Schiavone and Caudle then recap the night to close us out.
EA’s Finisher: While the card gets a bit rough after the opening contest, it absolutely picks right back up with a great mix of excellent in-ring work, tremendous physical storytelling and just straight-up overall entertainment. There’s not much in the way of long-term historical significance outside of the title wins by Magnum & Dusty, along with the introduction of some faces we’ll see in the WWF, but Starrcade ’85 is easily the most enjoyable effort of the three to date. There are still minor details, which is a bit of a recurring theme (or at least it seems like New York always did it better on the production side). It’s another case of Crockett trying to one-up McMahon by broadcasting from multiple venues, as WrestleMania 2 just a few months later would pull it off from three, all with a different time zone.
Top Three To Watch
1 – Tully Blanchard vs. Magnum T.A.
2 – Dusty Rhodes vs. Ric Flair
3 – The Koloffs vs. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express
Chairshot Classics: PROGRESS Chapter 5 – ‘For Those About to Fight’
Chapter 5 of the Progress time machine checks in! Harry breaks down the action, the stories and much more!
Chapter 5 of the Progress time machine checks in! Harry breaks down the action, the stories and much more!
Greetings and salutations, everyone. Welcome back to the return of ’What I Watched’ now under the Chairshot Classics banner. The first four chapters of PROGRESS as well as Slammiversary and Bound for Glory 2018 from Impact Wrestling are available in my archive, which you can reach by clicking my name at the top of this article. To update everyone on future plans for What I Watched, obviously we’ll be continuing to cover PROGRESS. Eventually, I’ll get to a somewhat modern show. For other companies, once I hit 2005 on my watching of CHIKARA, I hope to start cover those here as well (the pre 2005 shows don’t have commentary and are (for me anyway) much harder to get through).
That brings us to why we’re here today. PROGRESS has just crowned a new champion at Chapter 4 in El Ligero, who tapped Nathan Cruz in the main event. Rather then do the immediate rematch, PROGRESS’ brass decided that instead they would do a bit of a ‘pick your poison’ situation as Ligero picks Cruz’s opponent and Cruz picks Ligero’s. There was another match revealed before the show as well, but I’ll save the mention of that for a bit later. In addition, the ‘Natural PROGRESS’ tournament continues, but we don’t know the participants for this Chapter. Beyond that, I don’t have a clue what to expect for this show, so it’s looks like we’ll find out together. With that said, it’s into the way back machine once again, as we head to January 27th, 2013 as “What I Watched” presents ‘For Those About to Fight’ or PROGRESS Chapter 5.
WRITER’S NOTE #1: My reviews will not be a play by play recap. I’ve done that style in the past and honestly, I don’t especially care for it. Instead, it’ll be more of a stream of consciousness review as I talk about the wrestlers, the matches, the storylines and whatever else happens to pop into my head while I watch.
WRITER’S NOTE #2: As much as I’d like to let everyone make their own decisions on the matches, giving away match results in the review will be a necessary evil. The reason being is that I will discuss what I think everything means going forward and maybe even doing a little fantasy booking of where I would go from where they presently are. I will still post the results as one big listing at the end of the articles as well as my ratings for the contests. The final show review will be after that as well as the ‘Final Reaction’ for the show. Going forward, I’ll have an archive to all of my previous reviews here on the Chairshot if you click on my user name.
MY RATING SCALE: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Above Average, Average, Below Average, Bad, Very Bad, Terrible and SKIP. Some matches will occasionally get a ‘N/A’ rating as well. That will be reserved for matches that I feel don’t warrant a rating.
PROGRESS Wrestling Chapter 5
‘For Those About to Fight…We Salute You’
From: ‘The Garage’ in Islington, London, England
Date: January 27th, 2013
Run Time: 1:55:53 (Demand PROGRESS)
WITH SPECIAL THANKS: Ian Hamilton for some of the research that I did while working on this review. (http://www.backbodydrop.com)
*OPENING VIDEO: The first match that the opening video reveals is the London Riots (James Davis and Rob Lynch) taking on the Leaders of the New School (Zach Sabre Jr. and Marty Scurll). That should be a lot of fun…RJ Singh has an open challenge as well…finally, we get highlights of the title match from Chapter 4 to show how El Ligero won the title and then it’s revealed that Nathan Cruz has picked Dave Mastiff to face El Ligero, while El Ligero has selected the debuting Rampage Brown as the opponent for Nathan Cruz.
*GENERAL NOTES: We return to the scene of the first three shows but with what appears to be a different setup. You can’t see any monitors in the frame, but the lighting is absolutely awful. Will not make a fun review if I can’t see stuff that happens…EDIT AT MATCH 3: the lighting gets a bit better as the show goes on, but still not what I’d call great.
*Once again, either Smallman doesn’t have an opening welcome promo or we skip it on the show. Shame, really. As I said time and time again, I really enjoy those in the future Chapters.
*Match #1: Stixx (1-2 as a singles competitor) vs. Danny Garnell (1-0 as a singles competitor)
The Who: Stixx is coming off a loss in the triple threat at Chapter 4, where he was pinned by Dave Mastiff. He had split a pair of matches against Lion Kid before that. Danny Garnell was not at Chapter 4. His most recent match was a loss in a tag match at Chapter 3 where he and Darrell Allen were defeated by the London Riots. In his only previous singles match, Garnell defeated Jimmy Havoc at Chapter 2.
The Why: I haven’t a damn clue here. Makes zero sense to me. If Jimmy *cough cough* Barnett mentions something on commentary, I’ll be sure to pass it along.
The Match: Before the match gets underway, Stixx lets everyone know that he, like Garnell, is originally from London but he moved away because London ‘is full of a bunch of pillocks’. Somewhere, William Regal smiles…opening bell goes here and gets a rousing ovation…Stixx impressed me in his last match against Lion Kid, but the first one was less then appealing. Garnell had a surprisingly good match with Havoc at Chapter 2…first topical reference from 2013 gets explained by Barnett and given the PROGRESS fan base, it’s no surprise that it makes light of a death. Highs and lows of these crowds…the ‘crowd counts the next number’ has run it’s course now but was still pretty fresh when this show happened…not the opening match you’d come to expect but technically proficient thus far…heavier shots finally start getting fired around the five minute mark. This is more what you’d expect from these two…first crowd expletive based chant at six and half minutes into match one. I would have had the under there…cravat with knee strikes and that’s more what I expect from this match then the opening five minutes where they basically stayed on the mat. Not saying they can’t do it, but not what you expect or want to see with two guys this size. You expect more ‘Hoss Fight’ here…Garnell busts out a nice looking Northern Lights for two…slingshot neck snap by Stixx. That was new and very nice looking. Also not what you’d expected from a guy who’s probably closer to two fifty then two hundred…I’ve never seen a crowd response so favorably towards exploder suplexes. It doesn’t happen but the crowd was ready to, pardon the pun, explode for it…Stixx gets two with a Black Hole Slam. Which I think was the move that did pin Lion Kid at Chapter 3…I don’t mean this is a terribly negative way, but this match has been pretty long for an opener…Garnell goes for a tornado DDT off the second buckle, but Stixx is able to counter. A series of reversals leads to Garnell attempting that same tornado DDT a second time and this time hitting it, which gives him the pinfall at 14:52…technically proficient, sure. But not especially enthralling. The match had it’s moments where I went ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’, but to me, it seems like it may have been a mistake having these two go this long in the opener. Closer to the first Lion Kid match then the second for Stixx and Garnell looks like just another guy here. Call it AVERAGE and mildly disappointing at that. (AVERAGE)
*Match #2: ‘Natural Progression’ Quarterfinal: Lord Jonathan Windsor (debut) vs. ‘Wild Boar’ Mike Hitchman (0-1 as a singles)
The Who: Lord Jonathan Windsor debuts here, looking like a very British Chuck Taylor. Not sure if that’s a compliment or not. Anyway, he appears to have a Blue Bloods gimmick a la 1995 WCW Bobby Eaton or William Regal. Mike Hitchman we saw before when he challenged Mark Andrews for the BWC Starlo Scholarship. He was unsuccessful in that match but he and Andrews had a barnburner. Happy to see Hitchman back for another opportunity.
The Why: Speaking of Mark Andrews, he advanced to the semifinals at Chapter 4. This is the second of the four quarterfinal matches. The winner of which will join Andrews in the semifinals and maybe face him. No release on the brackets to my knowledge.
The Match: Hitchman is now on WWE TV as part of NXT UK, but if you didn’t know it was the same guy, you’d never be able to tell. He looks so different here…opening bell goes and Windsor takes time to fold his robe…Barnett points out there’s nothing wrong with a Blue Blood gimmick as in twenty years time, you could be married to Jim Smallman’s daughter and own part of PROGRESS. Okay, that drew a legit chuckle from me…not sure if Windsor is big or Hitchman is just really small even by Indy standards…Hitchman gets tired of Windsor’s stalling and it leads to a DDT on the apron. Not sure that’s a spot I’d use in match two, but okay then…we go to the crowd brawling in the second match as well. It’s like an ECW show broke out…Windsor seems more concerned about posing then wrestling. I get that you are new, but this is a company that prides itself on ring work…fans seems to remember the Package Piledriver that Hitchman used against Andrews because they respond every time he goes for. So far, Windsor has had the counter, but one feels that won’t be the case forever…Hitchman once again goes the for the Package PD, but Windsor counters with a backdrop over. Hitchman hooks the legs on the landing and goes for the sunset flip, but Windsor sits out with a deep cradle and that’ll be a three count at 11:24…can definitely say I don’t agree with the who won here. Hitchman had a cracker against Andrews in his first appearance and if the winner of this match was to get Andrews in the semis, I’ve had loved to see them run it back. Windsor did absolutely nothing for me as the gimmick is just basically cheap heat and there’s not a lot of steak to go with the sizzle. Call this BELOW AVERAGE and it’s two matches, two misses thus far for PROGRESS Chapter 5. (BELOW AVERAGE)
*Match #3: Nathan Cruz (3-1 as a singles) vs. Rampage Brown (debut)
The Who: Nathan Cruz is the former champion, looking for a bit of redemption against the handpicked opponent of the new champion. One could argue that Cruz has been the guy who has meant the most to the company thus far, so seeing him in match three on the night is kind of odd. Rampage Brown makes his debut here. I don’t know much about him other then he had a brief run with NXT in the US before going back over to the UK and a run with WCPW in the UK as well.
The Why: Discussed it earlier but to reiterate, it’s part of the ‘pick your poison’ series with Cruz and Ligero picking each other’s opponents for the evening.
The Match: Before the match, Cruz announces that he has hired a bodyguard to deal with his Marty Scurll problem named Fug. We don’t see him yet, but Cruz claims he’s seven feet tall and two hundred and eighty pounds. That would be a very skinny bodyguard…the chyron for Cruz has him listed at 3-2. I’m guessing there are including the tag loss from Chapter 3, which I do not in singles competition. If you guys would like, I can keep a running archive of records at the bottom of the reviews going forward. Let me know what you think and I’ll add it in the future if so requested…second expletive based chant of the night encourages Rampage to ‘fuck him up’…opening bell goes here…Rampage is well put together. It’s easy to see why he got a developmental deal with the WWE…for a bigger guy, Rampage is pretty adept on the mat. Cruz tries a sunset flip off the second turnbuckle, but Rampage is able to roll through and escape into a Crossface. Thankfully, no Chris Benoit chants follow this time…think the sound may be a little off on this Chapter from a technical aspect. Spinal Tap kick sound happens shortly after the kick occurs…Rampage dumps Cruz to the floor with a back suplex and the around ringside brawling commences where Cruz surprisingly gets the advantage…for as much crap as the PROGRESS fans give him, Cruz is one of the smoother guys on the roster. He wrestles like a wrestler, not just a guy trying to string things together in the attempt to tell a story…Cruz has gotten a good portion of this match. A bit of a surprise given that it is Rampage’s debut but with Cruz being the former champion, it’s also understandable…sliding dropkick gets a series of two counts. Standard basement dropkick, not the sliding kick he pinned both Ligero and Colossus Kennedy with back at Chapter 1…ugh, headbutts. So not a fan of those…huge back body drop by Rampage. Looked really good despite the slight delay going to it…Rampage looked for a powerbomb but Cruz got out into a chestblower. Cruz looks to follow up and gets countered into a good looking series of powerbombs, first standard and then sit out for a very close two…Cruz hits Show-Stolen and much like Ligero did at Chapter 4, Rampage kicks out. It also gives our first ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant of the night…Rampage catches a Falcon Arrow and looks to have the cover but doesn’t want it. That drives me nuts! 2 Cold Scorpio used to do that shit all the time and it’s stupid to me. The point is to win the match…Rampage then catches the Crossface a third time but Cruz finds his way to the ropes and then to the apron. Rampage tries to suplex Cruz back in, but Cruz lands on his feet and a O’Connor Roll with a hook of both the ropes and the tights gives Cruz the win at 15:27…that was more like it, PROGRESS. Very well contested match from the standard bearer of the company and a new guy who got a definite opportunity to shine. Cruz may pick up the win here, but the way he picks up the win is the story as it keeps Rampage looking good going forward for when he comes back. Rampage definitely impressed in what was I believe my first time seeing him and I look forward to seeing more, assuming he can curb the 2 Cold Scorpio aspect of not wanting the pinfall. Cruz bounces back nicely from the Staff loss and one assumes sets himself back up into title contention. GOOD match between these two here and finally something worth the time on the show. (GOOD)
*Post-match: We see Fug help Cruz to the back. He’s not nearly what Cruz claimed him to be. 6’8-6’9 maybe. The two hundred eighty pounds may be accurate though.
*Match #4: ‘PROGRESS Championship Staff’ – El Ligero © (3-1 as a singles competitor) vs. Dave Mastiff (1-0 as a singles competitor)
The Who: El Ligero has just won the Staff at Chapter 4 as we established above. In doing so, he also got revenge on the only man to have pinned him thus far, as it was Cruz who eliminated Ligero from the four way at Chapter 1. Dave Mastiff has had two matches and two victories thus far in PROGRESS. A tag match at Chapter 3, where teaming with the now departed Greg Burridge, he pinned the then champion Nathan Cruz. Mastiff won a three way at Chapter 4, pinning Stixx after Cruz got involved in taking Marty Scurll out of the match
The Why: Two parts here. One, obviously, is that it’s for the PROGRESS Championship (Nazi) Staff. Second, it’s the second bout in the ‘pick your poison’ series for Cruz and Ligero, as Mastiff is Cruz’s handpicked challenge for the title.
The Match: It occurs to me that this is the fourth match and we’ve yet to see an inset promo on this show. They just vanished into a void of non-existence…hot start as once Ligero is introduced, he shotgun dropkicks Mastiff to the floor and follows out with a tope con hilo…Ligero goes for the guillotine early but Mastiff quickly escapes…once again, the PROGRESS fans encourage a good “Fing” up, this time in support of Mastiff…Mastiff counters a frankensteiner attempt into a powerbomb try but Ligero escapes into a second attempt at the guillotine. It’s about as successful as the first attempt…Barnett says that he described Ligero to an American friend as a mix of the ‘best of El Generico and the best of LowKi’. Not sure I agree that he’s at Generico’s level, but the point is understandable…wrecking ball dropkick by Ligero and he buries Mastiff under a pile a chairs, going for the count-out. Mastiff up at six and Ligero tries another dropkick, only to get flung wheelbarrow style into the ring post…stalling delayed vertical suplex by Mastiff goes for a full minute goes Mastiff brings down Ligero. Impressive in length but to be fair, El Ligero weighs like a third of what Mastiff does…Mastiff goes for a second but Ligero escapes into a rollup for two. Looked good…sound is definitely slightly off on this stream…sleeper (I think?) variation…out to the floor again, but only long enough for Mastiff to pitch Ligero back in. Smart. Can’t win the Staff by count-out. Wish more people would do that instead of letting opponents take the count…Mastiff goes for a Buckle Bomb but once again gets caught in the guillotine. Mastiff counters by putting Ligero on the top rope. The guillotine isn’t working, but bless his heart, he keeps trying…absolutely hate that corner hanging double stomp. Almost always looks so contrived no matter who is doing it…shotgun dropkick by Ligero is no sold and Mastiff hits one of his own, followed by a dead lift German to put Ligero on the floor again…Ligero finally gets the guillotine in with both guys on the floor and rolls back into the ring to try to take a count-out win. Mastiff breaks the count just before the ten…Ligero goes for the C4L but Mastiff stops him and gets a running Liger Bomb for a close two count and the second ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant…Into The Void (corner cannonball) misses and Ligero goes up, leaping into a sixth attempt at the guillotine. This time, Mastiff flings Ligero overhead with a belly2belly variation. Mastiff tries to follow up with another Liger Bomb, but Ligero counters back into the guillotine. Mastiff tries to power out once but collapses and it’s a KO victory for the champion at 18:18…solid big match vs. little man contest but to be frank, nothing special here. A couple cool moves and a very impressive bit of dogged determination from El Ligero but if I’m being honest, I never bought that Mastiff was going to take the title from Ligero. Ligero’s deal with Cruz isn’t over and Mastiff hasn’t been around long enough to really establish much of a name for himself in PROGRESS. The fans kinda responded the same way I did as they got involved in the match here and there, but never for any significant portion of time. The match itself was GOOD due to the efforts of both men, but not must see by any stretch of the imagination. (GOOD)
*Match #5: RJ Singh (2-0-1) vs. ‘Dazzling’ Darrell Allen (0-1-1)
The Who: RJ Singh comes in off consecutive victories, beating Paul Robinson and Rob Cage at Chapters 3 and 4, respectively. The draw is a no decision in a three way where El Ligero pinned Greg Burridge to become number one contender at Chapter 2. Darrell Allen is looking for his first victory here in PROGRESS as not only does he have the 0-1-1 singles record (tapped by Noam Dar (Chp2), no decision in three way where Xander Cooper pinned Zack Gibson (Chp1)), he was on the losing side of a tag match at Chapter 3 as well and completely left off Chapter 4.
The Why: This one I have an answer for as well. It is an RJ Singh ‘Bollywood’ Open Challenge here. Adding to the intrigue of this open challenge is info that Jim Smallman gives us before the match during introductions that these guys are usually a tag team known as the Bhangra Knights.
The Match: Pre-match, Singh reads Allen the riot act, stating that they promised to stay out of each other’s way in PROGRESS and that while Singh has thrived, Allen has been something of a loser. Allen says in his (Allen’s) hometown of London, why don’t we find out if Singh really is King (which has been RJ’s catchphrase during this PROGRESS run)…bell goes and we’re underway…Singh has the edge early but it is pretty evenly matched…this is going to come down to a classic story of aerial vs. technical. Allen is more of a flyer whereas RJ likes to stay on the match…Director and Boudica again get on the apron, but Singh tells them to get down once again. I thought that pairing dissolved at Chapter 4…Boudica and Director do find themselves ejected and in a moment that’ll make Vince smile, the ‘Na Na Hey Hey’ song accompanies them doing so…springboard kick to the midsection. Called an enzugiri. It wasn’t, but I don’t know what the technical name is…Singh catches Allen with a version of the Tyebreaker that gets two (fireman’s carry into spinning facebuster over the knee). It looked good…this may not be the most PC thing to say but every time Allen takes a big bump, it looks like he’s trying to fellate himself…crowd very wittily chants ‘This is Bhangra’ instead of ‘This is PROGRESS’. Dug that…Singh loads up for a superkick, preceding it with a ‘I’m sorry. I love you’. The crowd and Barnett pop. The move is countered but the thought that counts…Allen up top and distracted by Boudica and Director on stage. Singh pulls Allen up the top and hits Widow’s Peak. Singh looks to apply the ‘Ethnic Submission’ (Camel Clutch, obviously) but Allen is able to pull Singh forward and trap him in a cradle for the three count at 9:56…alright, so I had some doubts. Singh has been pretty basic up to this point. Allen had a good performance in the triple threat at Chapter 1 but both he and Garnell were kind of just there for the match with the London Riots. With all that being said, it actually turned into a pretty nice little match here. There was a good amount of action thrown in with the story that they told and most importantly to me, I like that the story actually played into the finish with Allen knowing the ‘Ethnic Submission’ and having a counter planned. Call this one a GOOD showing for both guys and the best match on the card thus far, in my opinion. (GOOD)
*Post-match: Singh offers the handshake and instead, he and Allen hug it out. Shah Boudica takes not kindly to this and attacks Allen from behind. Singh pulls Boudica off of Allen twice, before Boudica slaps Singh in the face. Allen then superkicks Boudica in the back of the head. Allen and Singh then team up as a Samoan Drop-Blockbuster combination (called the Bhangra Buster, but for point of reference look for Cryme Tyme’s G-9) and looks like the Bhangra Knights will be a thing going forward in the tag division….as the Bhangra Knights are making their way to the back, the London Riots make their entrance, so me thinks that may play a factor in a future Chapter.
*Match #6: London Riots (James Davis/Rob Lynch) (3-0 as a team) vs. Leaders of the New School (Marty Scurll/Zach Sabre Jr.) (Debut as a team)
The Who: London Riots are clearly the class of the PROGRESS tag division thus far. Wins over the Bastard Squad (probably done now that Allen is back with Singh), the Hunter Brothers and the Velocity Vipers (shame about Esmail’s leg) have led them to here, a main event level match. Leaders of the New School make their debut as a team here for PROGRESS, but it will not be my first time seeing them as a team. I remember getting into the European wrestling scene by watching wXw out of Germany and Scurll and Sabre Jr. were the wXw Tag Team champions for a while there. Scurll has been one of the biggest stars of PROGRESS thus far and in my opinion, Scurll vs. Sabre Jr. from Chapter 1 remains the best match in PROGRESS history to this point.
The Why: London Riots wanted competition, Jim Smallman decided to give them competition in the form of what many at the time considered to be the best tag team in Europe. Pretty straight forward here.
The Match: As per the usual, if I screw up Davis and Lynch, I apologize. They have stuck with the singlet and bikers gear, so once again, I should be okay…aw, Chris Roberts just got his first kiss. It was from Marty Scurll, but it still counts!…Davis is the one in the singlet. Now I know. Thanks Smallman, er, Barnett…Barnett lets us know that the Chapter 1 match between the Leaders was voted best match in Britain in 2012. That’s fair…Scurll spits his gum at Lynch. Well, with no Noam Dar on this show, someone had to be unhygienic…has that sit out butt drop worked for another then Rikishi in the last decade?…a little Poetry in Motion by the Leaders and then Scurll uses Sabre Jr. as a weapon to take out both Riots…off to an insane pace. Shit ton of action and we’re not even four minutes in yet…Scurll with a running bitch slap to Davis. Davis responds with a STIFF running body block. Don’t think he appreciated the slap…everything Sabre Jr. does is so fluid. With as many huge Indy names that ended up in NXT, I am stunned that Zach never got a shot there. I know he had a set of Japanese commitments, between NOAH and NJPW, but what could have been…believe the word to describe Sabre would be lanky. But he makes the most of it…apparently, I owe Rob Lynch and James Davis an apology. My Chapter 3 review got posted as I’m typing this and I apparently called them the Riot Squad during the course of that. They were facing the Bastard Squad and I just joined the names for a common WWE name. My bad…Lynch just knocks Sabre weak kneed with a forearm. Good lord…we’ve settled into a bit of tag formula here but as I’ve said before, it’s a formula because it works. Riots are hated and Leaders are loved. What better way to do this then to keep a member of the Leaders isolated and get the crowd to rally behind him…despite a pretty good experience gap, Riots are looking good in this match. Part of it is a master class from Sabre and Scurll as babyfaces, but Riots are more then holding their weight…I really hope Sabre Jr. is around more in PROGRESS in 2013. That war he had with Scurll at Chapter 1 was his only match for 2012. It would definitely make these reviews more fun to get to see more of the wizardry that Sabre possesses…tag finally made and Scurll comes in a house of fire…Scurll gets the Cesaro apron superplex that gets broken up by a bloody nosed Rob Lynch. A kick from Sabre caught him flush before the hot tag…gamengiri by Sabre Jr. into a DVD by Scurll gets two with another save by Lynch. It looked good…pop-up spear by the Riots and it looked really good. Last second save by Scurll…Riots look for the ‘District Line’ powerbomb but Sabre is able to get out and he chuffing loves putting people in cross-armbreakers. It’s broken up by getting Scurll powerbomb’d onto him…everyone down after a series of strikes and the crowd hits our fourth ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant…saves are coming hot and heavy here. I like it to a point, but let’s not get to the line of overkill…Sabre nails Scurll with a kick by mistake and the Riots take advantage with a really good looking Doomsday Device which Sabre kicks out of at two. That would have made for a good finish…shortly thereafter, the ‘District Line’ powerbomb does land (looking a bit rough but the point was there) and James Davis pins Zach Sabre Jr. at 20:07…VERY GOOD but not to the level are the previous Scurll main event matches in PROGRESS. The biggest issue I have here in that while the Riots had a good heat segment on Sabre, it didn’t break down nearly as much as I expected it to in the finish. Speaking of the finish, it looked slightly blown as I think Lynch may have tried a neckbreaker for the ‘District Line’ or he just didn’t get far enough out of the way. The big thing here is that it definitely establishes the Riots as the team to beat in PROGRESS as they take down the Leaders relatively cleanly. (VERY GOOD)
Post-match: London Riots don’t attack after the match as has been their tradition, instead heading to the back. Probably to fix Rob Lynch’s nose. Jim Smallman gets on the mic and lets us know that the first match they’ll announce for Chapter 6 will be a rematch of Chapter 4 as the Riots will once again face the Hunter Brothers, this time in a weapons match. Seems like an odd time to announce this with Sabre Jr. still down in the ring, but the show must go on, I suppose. Scurll goes to get a bit of mic time as well, but the show fades before he speaks and that’s a wrap for Chapter 5.
Match #1: Danny Garnell pins Stixx, tornado DDT off second buckle @ 14:52 (AVERAGE)
Match #2: Lord Jonathan Windsor pins Mike Hitchman, sit-down on sunset flip @ 11:24 (BELOW AVERAGE)
Match #3: Nathan Cruz pins Rampage Brown, O’Connor Roll with hook of tights and ropes @ 15:27 (GOOD)
Match #4: PROGRESS Wrestling Staff- El Ligero © defeats Dave Mastiff by KO, guillotine choke @ 18:18 (GOOD)
Match #5: Darrell Allen pins RJ Singh, leverage pin out of ‘Ethnic Submission’ attempt @ 9:57 (GOOD)
Match #6: London Riots (James Davis/Rob Lynch) defeat Leaders of the New School (Marty Scurll/Zach Sabre Jr.), Davis pins Sabre Jr. after the ‘District Line’ powerbomb @ 20:07 (VERY GOOD)
FINAL SHOW THOUGHTS
It picks up quite a bit at the end, so I can’t call it the worst of the five shows thus far. That being said, it’s definitely not mandatory viewing either. The issue that I find myself with is that I know what PROGRESS is capable of as it goes forward. When you go back and watch these formative shows, you can see moments of potential. But that’s all they are usually at this time frame. Just moments. Top to bottom, none of these shows have delivered a knock out show. Try to find the semi main and main event if you have a chance, but the rest is watch at your convenience. Except for the Windsor and Hitchman match. Do yourself a favor and skip that.
Where does this leave us? It leaves me a little disappointed, but that’s what happens when expectations are set so high. It leaves you hopefully wanting to come back as we take the next step in this journey with Chapter 6. In addition, it leaves me still hungry. I wonder if I could work out a ‘burgers per review’ deal around here.
THE FINAL REACTION
Best Match/Moment: Despite the fact that I gave the main event a higher rating, I going to give this honor to the RJ Singh and Darrell Allen match. The match itself is a good mix of comedy and ring work. The post match is where the money is as the fans go crazy for the Bhangra Knights reunion.
Worst match/moment: Feels like I’m beating a dead horse, but Mike Hitchman and Lord Jonathan Windsor can be classified as nothing less then a disappointment. The blueblood gimmick has potential, but in a company like this, you need to be able to back it up in the ring. Windsor simply did not.
MVP: Going to give this as co-MVPs again and I’m going to give it to James Davis and Rob Lynch for a star making performance in the main event as the London Riots prove they are the class of the PROGRESS tag team division.
FINAL SCORE: 6.0/10.0
Until next time: “This Is PROGRESS” and that’s “What I Watched”. Up next is Chapter 6: “We <3 Violence” And make sure you guys check out the Raw Reaction every Monday night at 11:30 PM (EST) to hear Tony Acero, Andrew Balaz and myself break down the important news and cover Monday Night Raw over on the Chairshot Radio Network.
Doctor’s Orders: Ranking The Greatest Matches and Rivalries in NXT Takeover History
Objectively subjectifying all-time greatness on NXT’s premiere stage, Takeover. See what matches are on the list!
The Doctor is in as Chad Matthews updates his list of greatest WWE NXT Takeover matches and rivalries with a look at two of the very best, from different NXT eras.
Attempting to contextualize greatness in pro wrestling is a fascinating exercise, a much more multi-faceted conversation than it is often given credit for. To some in the business, for instance, Rock vs. Cena is the greatest match of all-time because it set the pay-per-view buy mark, while others would say the greatest match is Austin vs. Bret because of the exemplary storytelling. Why should greatness be limited to a plethora “one or the other” positions (best vs. most popular or anything of the sort)? Such has been my stance during this entire decade (see The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the WrestleMania Era), tackling the process of adding measures of objectivity to a topic deemed completely and utterly subjective and attempting to broaden the way that we have these discussions. I can also apply that to NXT.
Greatness has become regularly associated with NXT. I am personally enamored with what the yellow brand has accomplished over the past few years, with the Takeover franchise especially. The reputation that Takeover has built should astound any diehard WWE fan who, at times during the WrestleMania Era, may have felt like Vince and Co. unnecessarily (and oddly) put a critical ceiling on its in-ring product. Bold statement: Takeover has, based purely on what happens from bell-to-bell, produced nearly as many bonafide classic wrestling matches as WrestleMania in just five years of existence. Think about that for a moment, because it was with that idea in mind that I started asking, “What’s the greatest in NXT history?”
My second book (referenced above) was published last summer and in it I crafted a detailed formula to thoroughly assess the various aspects that shape how fans and pundits use the term “greatest.” Turning my attention to NXT, I took that formula and tweaked it to fit Takeover. On a 1-5 star scale, appropriately, I graded the best match in each of the top rivalries in NXT history, picked from a pool of consensus classics, on the psychology, storytelling, selling, execution, and climax of their in-ring performances, their historic ramifications on NXT lore, the setting (as defined by a pre-made scale for crowd size), the strength of their pre-match build-up, and the rating given by Dave Meltzer to account for popular opinion, as well as a few additional points (not on a scale of 1-5, mind you) for any intangible qualities (i.e. a special entrance, an innovative move or sequence never before seen, a rivalry-befitting gimmick, etc.). The sum total of the scoring yields the rivalry’s standing, which will be continuously updated as this long-term process advances.
Today’s entries grow the list from fourteen to sixteen matches, which have been selected at random throughout this project’s history dating back to last fall. Here are the rankings ahead of today’s additions (the links will take you to the objectively subjective breakdown of each match):
#1- Revival vs. #DIY (46.5)
#2- Bate vs. Dunne (43.5)
#3- Ricochet vs. Cole (43.0)
#4- Undisputed Era vs. Mustache Mountain (42.25)
#5- Dream vs. Ricochet (42.0)
#6- War Games 2018 (41.5)
#7- Nakamura vs. Zayn (41.0)
#8- Asuka vs. Moon (40.75)
#9- #DIY vs. AOP (39.75)
#10- Dream vs. Black (39.5)
#11- Balor vs. Joe (39.0)
#12- Owens vs. Balor (38.75)
#13- Almas vs. McIntyre (36.0)
#14- Four Horsewomen-Way (33.75)
Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Johnny Gargano for the NXT Championship at Takeover: Philadelphia
Psychology: 5 / Historic: 4.5 / Setting: 5 / Storytelling: 5 / Selling: 5 / Climax: 5 / Execution: 5 / Popular Opinion: 5 / Build: 4.5 / Intangibles: +4
Total Score: 48.0
There have been very few matches in WWE history that have found me clapping while watching them in replay, and Cien vs. Johnny Wrestling from Philly is one of them. Hand to heart, I am unsure that there has ever been a better performance in WWE, which is partly what makes the added dynamic of including NXT lore when historically ranking matches throughout the WrestleMania Era so challenging and simultaneously so fascinating. The depth of storytelling and the instances when believably this match could have been over but somehow was not is virtually unmatched in mainstream North American wrestling over the past thirty plus years. Gargano and Almas judged everything picture-perfectly, selling their butts off, adding layers of psychology as they reached an utterly captivating climax, and drawing every ounce of intrigue out of the in-ring chemistry that they first prominently put on display against each other at Takever: Brooklyn III.
Gargano vs. Andrade is truly one of the greats as “epic” matches go, and the Philadelphia match certainly fits the profile of the genre (an “epic match”) that I have been quietly working on popularizing in the IWC, offered up to properly label a lengthy main-event style performance that builds to crescendo after crescendo and features finisher kick-outs as one of its primary hope spot wells to tap. I have been critical of the over-use of it, as many of its staples have trickled down to ten minute mid-card matches, and I do believe that epics, like Cena vs. Styles for example, are suffering from a distinct lack of rewatchability because of how ardently they cling to bout-ending signature offense, but Cien vs. Johnny is not to be lumped in with such over-done peers because it is smarter, more intricate, better executed, and expertly paced, its gaps in action replaced with the outstanding managerial act of Zelina Vega (and the eventual cameo by Candice Wrestling).
I believe it was a truly remarkable achievement. Maybe Banks vs. Bayley, Gargano vs. Ciampa, or Gargano vs. Adam Cole beats it in the scoring system, but even if one of them or another Takeover match in the pipeline down the road unseats it, I think it is going to be a long time before something removes it from the pedestal of what yours truly would call the finest match in Takeover history. Aesthetically, athletically, psychologically, I just struggle to see how anyone could really argue that another match was better. I was fortunate enough to see them wrestle one of their prequels in Brooklyn, and that was one of the four or five best mid-card type bouts in Takeover lore too, so when you combine that match with what happened in Philly – of the nine scoring categories here, their NXT Title match scored a 5 in seven of them – you have an all-time great.
You know, it is funny that Dave Meltzer awarded the Takeover: Philadelphia match the first “5-star” rating for a WWE match since Punk vs. Cena in Chicago, and if you watch any of New Japan Pro Wrestling and know of Meltzer’s fascination with it, you can appreciate why. Almas vs. Gargano was an NJPW match in an NXT ring with WWE production value. If in the coming years, a main-event of that style and caliber is featured on Summerslam or eventually works it way to the WrestleMania headlining position, I think we may have Gargano vs. Almas to thank for it.
Neville vs. Sami Zayn for the NXT Championship at Takeover: R-Evolution
Psychology: 4.5 / Historic: 4.5 / Setting: 3 / Storytelling: 5 / Selling: 5 / Climax: 5 / Execution: 4.5 / Popular Opinion: 4.75 / Build: 5 / Intangibles: +3
Total Score: 44.25
While in the beginning of this process, it seemed probable that Cien Almas vs. Johnny Wrestling had a shot at topping this match to advance ever closer to the #1 spot, what seemed assured from the out-set was that Zayn vs. Neville would rate among the premiere title matches in NXT lore because, in terms of storytelling, there may still have never been a championship bout that possesses the same sense of urgency or the same sense of occasion.
Here you had Neville, a bit shy of a year-long reigning as NXT Champion (who held the title during the promotion’s rise to WWE Network prominence) and possessing one of the most amazing offensive arsenals in pro wrestling’s entire history, coming up against Zayn, arguably the quintessential example of how legends are capable of being made in NXT. No matter what happens elsewhere within the Titan ranks, Zayn will be someone revered by any who watched what he did in NXT from 2014 to 2016.
One of the greatest things that NXT brings to the table is how wrestlers, as personalities, are characters first, their labels (or face-heel dichotomies) rather arbitrary by comparison. Neville strayed a bit more toward a black and white personic construct during the match, but he was clearly pushed toward the line that Zayn managed to straddle a bit better and showed glimpses of the viciousness and single-mindedness (toward winning) that made his run on 205 Live so engaging to purple brand followers in 2017; it was Zayn who was truly marvelous, though, displaying a depth of character so rarely seen from protagonists in WWE proper, and far more relatable for it, as evidenced by the incredibly raucous crowd support that he garnered in what was still ostensibly a babyface match. Zayn’s ability to connect on that deeper emotional level lifted this effort to pantheon status.
The end result – the total package from the storyline build-up to the hype video package to the atmosphere it generated to the bell-to-bell fight (and it felt like the fight that pro wrestling should be in the modern era main-event scene with the athletic potential of the combatants) – closed the first chapter in the history of NXT in the Network Era with a timeless classic destined for massive hindsight accolades in the near and distant future.
#1- Andrade vs. Gargano (48.0)
#2- Revival vs. #DIY (46.5)
#3- Neville vs. Zayn (44.25)
#4- Bate vs. Dunne (43.5)
#5- Ricochet vs. Cole (43.0)
#6- Undisputed Era vs. Mustache Mountain (42.25)
#7- Dream vs. Ricochet (42.0)
#8- War Games 2018 (41.5)
#9- Nakamura vs. Zayn (41.0)
#10- Asuka vs. Moon (40.75)
#11- #DIY vs. AOP (39.75)
#12- Dream vs. Black (39.5)
#13- Balor vs. Joe (39.0)
#14- Owens vs. Balor (38.75)
#15- Almas vs. McIntyre (36.0)
#16- Four Horsewomen-Way (33.75)
If you want to discuss NXT or other wrestling matters with Doc, follow and tweet @TheDocLOP !
Check out the latest episode of The Doc Says podcast, featuring a review of NXT Takeover 25!
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