The NWA and Jim Crockett Promotions bring us their fourth annual Starrcade from Chicago and we’re no longer on closed circuit, but pay-per-view! JCP has also just recently purchased the Universal Wresting Federation (formerly Mid-South Wrestling) from Bill Watts, so we have a number of new talents including one on our announce team. Tony Schiavone & Jim Ross welcome us to the UIC Pavilion and send us directly to the ring, where the combatants for our first match are on their way out!
Match #1: ‘Hot Stuff’ Eddie Gilbert, Rick Steiner & Larry Zbysko w/Baby Doll vs. Sting, Michael ‘P.S.’ Hayes & ‘Gorgeous’ Jimmy Garvin w/Precious
Sting and Rick Steiner will get this one started. Steiner blindsides Sting with a lariat followed by a shoulder block. On an attempted 3rd attack, Sting issues a drop toe hold and Steiner stumbles through the middle rope onto the floor. As Steiner gets to his feet, Sting launches over the top rope with a plancha. He rolls Steiner back into the ring, climbs to the top rope and lands a missile dropkick. Zbysko and Gilbert rush the ring but they’re cutoff by dropkicks from Hayes and Garvin. Sting’s team knocks Gilbert’s team into one another with simultaneous Irish whips and they knock the heels to the floor.
Steiner tries slowing things down by taking his time back to the ring. He meets Michael Hayes who goes to work on Steiner’s left arm before a quick tag to Garvin. Jimmy whips him to the rope and delivers a backbody drop. Steiner gives, and crawls to his corner to tag Zbysko. The two lock up and Garvin lands several shoulder blocks before it’s Hayes’ turn again. The Freebird lands an elbow and struts around the ring. The defeated Zbysko tags in Gilbert, but it is all Michael Hayes. Sting is tagged in, climbs to the 2nd rope and delivers an axe handle followed by a clothesline. Gilbert thwarts the offensive attack and comes back with a body slam. He makes the tag to Steiner who is greeted with an arm drag. Sting tags Garvin who goes up for a sunset flip and gets a 2 count. Back to their feet, Steiner is able to work Garvin into his corner and tag in Zbysko.
The “Living Legend” pulls the ref’s attention away so Gilbert and Steiner can take advantage of Garvin in the corner. Zybysko delivers a power slam to Garvin. 2 count. Gilbert is tagged back in. He executes an atomic drop and a back breaker before trying another pin. Another 2 count. Gilbert lifts Garvin for a body slam. He runs the ropes for an elbow drop but Garvin moves. Nonetheless, he is the first one to make a tag and Rick Steiner is back in. The Michigan shooter delivers a power slam for a near-fall. Steiner puts Garvin in a long bearhug. He tries to run Garvin into the corner unsuccessfully. Steiner makes the tag to Zbysko and Garvin is prevented from making his. The crowd is hot for Garvin to make that tag.
Zbysko applies an abdominal stretch on Garvin, but Jimmy is able to reverse out of it and give a hip toss and make that tag to Sting. He is attacked by all 3 heels but is able to get the better of them until finally Zbysko rakes his eyes. The ref is once again distracted by the heels and Gilbert gets some cheap work in before throwing Sting over the top rope. The heels regroup and Gilbert is now the legal man even though I never saw a tag. Gilbert with a vertical suplex to Sting for a near fall. He issues a knee to Sting’s head and tags in Zbysko. Zbysko attempts a vertical suplex twice but Sting reverses and both men are down. Zbysko is the first to make the tag and in comes Rick Steiner. After a few punches and kicks, Sting is locked in a sleeper hold.
There is less than 3 minutes left in the time limit. Sting is able to break the sleeper hold by running Steiner into the turnbuckle, but Sting cannot make a tag yet. Zbysko returns to the ring but Sting reverses his Irish whip to the corner and Larry is down. Near simultaneous tags are made to Hayes and Gilbert and Hayes is first to strike with a back body drop. The heels rush Hayes and the babyfaces respond. All 6 men are in the ring brawling in their respective corners. Hayes hits Zbysko with a huge running bulldog. He appears to get the 3 count, but Zbysko had his leg on the rope.
Desperate for a decision before the time limit, Hayes puts Zbykso into a sleeper, but it’s broken up by Gilbert’s axehandle. A tag is made and Rick Steiner is now the legal man. Hayes is once again in Steiner’s bear hug. Rick flips him for a belly to belly suplex and a near fall. Gilbert is tagged in but Hayes reverses his attempt at a back body drop with a small package for a 2 count as the arena announcer exclaims that there are 15 seconds left. The other 4 men rush the ring as the countdown is on. Hayes executes a sunset flip for an apparent 3 count, but the time limit is hit when the ref gets to 2.
Winners: Time Limit Draw
- EA’s Take: Unlike any other Starrcade, this year we start off with a bang. The crowd was popping for everything the babyfaces did in this pretty basic 6-man tag team match. It’s strange that Hayes & Garvin are getting cheered since they were primarily known as being heels, but Zbysko & Gilbert make it easy to cheer the future incarnation of The Freebirds. Rick Steiner is one of the UWF stars who has arrived via the sale of the company and is not yet sporting his trademark headgear, as Scott is not around yet. Another guy who we’re used to seeing “on the other side of the fence” so to speak in regards to his heel/face status. Our biggest name in this match is of course The Stinger, who the crowd is wildly into already. This match was used by booker Dusty Rhodes as a means to showcase his young star, because The American Dream saw the writing on the wall. Sting would very soon be pushing for the World Title.
Match #2 for the UWF Heavyweight Championship: UWF Heavyweight Champion ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams vs. NWA Western States Champion Barry Windham
The commentators explain that these two are friends out of the ring and they shake hands as the bell rings. The two run the ropes perpendicularly before Williams hits a hip toss. Williams attempts a gorilla press slam and actually lifts his opponent several times over his head but Windham is able to reverse it, get down, run Williams to the rope and get a near fall. The two start a series of what looks like amateur wrestling and they eventually roll out onto the floor in undramatic fashion. The crowd seems restless and they boo when the two mutually agree to return to the ring. Windham with a headlock that is reversed by Williams into a side suplex.
The two lock up and Windham lands a gutwrench suplex. The two lock up and Williams has Windham in a headlock, turning it into a suplex while maintaining the hold. The headlock is held for a while and I think I can hear random people yelling “boring”. Windham is finally able to free himself and lands a shoulder block. There seems to be a little confusion, followed by the two running the ropes. Windham leaps over a ducking Williams and on the comeback, Williams attempts to leap over Windham and bashes his crotch right into Windham’s head and yelps in pain. Williams is down in what appears to be a legitimate injury.
The ref starts counting but Windham stops the count. Windham is checking on Williams and it takes a while for Williams to get up. Williams is adjusting himself in a way that tells you that bump was not a work. When the action returns, Windham breaks a head-scissors attempt. Williams is limping. Windham takes Williams down with another shoulderblock, then tries a cross body, only to fly over the top rope. Windham climbs back into the ring, but is immediately rolled up for a pinfall.
Winner and STILL UWF Heavyweight Champion: ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams (Roll-Up)
- EA’sTake: After an opening match that featured some great crowd work and a lot of action, this was frankly boring for two notable stars, even before their big botch. There was absolutely some sort of miscommunication on that leapfrog spot, Williams took a legit low blow, then it just got strange with the finish coming off a surprise roll-up. The son of BlackJack Mulligan is a tremendous worker, so we know that he can do much better than what we got here. Dr. Death comes with a big reputation from the UWF, but personally I never saw his appeal. Total dud.
Match #3 is a Skywalkers Match: NWA United States Tag Team Champions The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane) w/Jim Cornette & Big Bubba vs. The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson)
There is a little bit of hesitancy to climb the ladder from both sides as the teams jaw at each other. The Midnight Express and Gibson from The Rock n’ Roll Express climb up, but before Morton can get there, he is attacked by Big Bubba. Cornette is directing traffic as always. Midnight takes advantage of the 2 on 1 and drives Gibson’s face into the grate. Big Bubba is on his way up the latter to make it 3 on 1, but before he could get there, Morton steals Cornette’s tennis racket and gives him repetitive shots.
Morton climbs up with the racket and takes a shot at Lane’s knee with it, followed by a head shot. With Gibson down, Morton attacks Eaton with the racket. As Eaton starts to get up, we see some powder in his hand that he throws in Morton’s face. Morton has a “near fall” if you will. Lane is holding Gibson for Eaton to go to work on, but Gibson moves and Lane is hit. Eaton is once again hit with the racket and a punch. The two go back and forth with some very careful work and attempted shove-offs.
A railing on the scaffold appears to break and Gibson uses it as a weapon on Eaton. Gibson goes for a double team on Lane who is slowly “slipping” from the scaffold to the lower bars. The tennis racket had fallen and Cornette throws it back up to Eaton who is back to his feet and uses it on Gibson. Lane is now underneath the scaffold and Morton is giving chase. Gibson is working over Eaton with the racket up top. Lane tries to monkey-bar his way away from Morton but instead swings a few times and falls to the ring. Cornette is incensed. It’s 2 on 1 and the Rock n Roll express make quick work of Beautiful Bobby, beating him to his stomach, Eaton grabs the bars underneath and falls.
Winners: The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express
- After The Bell: Cornette orders Big Bubba to climb the scaffold and attack the RnR. Gibson had been climbing down one ladder but Morton is still there. Bubba is wielding the racket and the two have a long stare down. Bubba takes off his coat and Morton appears to oblige. Morton distracts Bubba by pointing off in another direction and uses the distraction to hit a low-blow and quickly descends from the ladder.
- EA’s Take: Like I said during my last Starrcade review, I could really live without the scaffold match. You’ve got two of the better tag teams of all-time and unlike last year with The Road Warriors, all of these guys are workers. Yet, you have them in a match where they really can’t do anything. Honestly, beyond the morbid curiosity of whether or not someone is going to have a horrible accident, what’s the appeal? I get that they were trying to make this almost a signature match for The ME due to Cornette’s fear of heights, but the match doesn’t deliver. It CAN’T. The majority of offense has to be done from your knees since everyone’s forced to be so careful, plus when someone goes to “fall”, they have to do so in a manner that they end up hanging first to make it a controlled fall. Even then, we saw last year a controlled fall can still go haywire. No thanks, I’m cool with the scaffold match.
Backstage: Jimmy Garvin and Michael Hayes are interviewed by Bob Caudle. They explain that they want to challenge the winner of the NWA Tag Team Championship match and Jimmy Garvin gives a rambling (but decent) promo putting over every babyface on the card. ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams comes in next and speaks about the controversy in his win, comparing it to a recent Oklahoma Sooners football game, then stumbles through a promo about what he’ll do to remain champion.
Match #4 is a Unification Match: NWA Television Champion Nikita Koloff vs. UWF Television Champion Terry Taylor w/’Hot Stuff’ Eddie Gilbert
The two men are showing a lot of animosity with their stare down. The crowd is chanting for Nikita. The two lock up and Nikita powers him off twice. The two jaw in each other’s face. An aggressive lock up is broken in the corner. Another lock up and Taylor with an arm drag but Nikita is up quickly. Nikita applies a headlock and whips Taylor for a shoulder block. The ref breaks up a subsequent lockup. Taylor applies a wristlock to Nikita who is simply taunting him. Nikita reverses the wristlock and turns it into an arm drag. Nikita follows this up with some submission work on the mat. Taylor tries to escape but he is dragged right back in.
Gilbert is barking to the ref, and Nikita taunts him. Nikita continues the submission attack and gets a near fall. Taylor rolls out of the ring to slow it down. Upon his return they are back in each other’s faces and exchange slaps and punches and Taylor can’t keep up. Nikita hits a back body drop and Taylor escapes to the floor. The ref is forcing Taylor to get back into the ring. He rolls in but rolls right back out. Nikita comes over, grabs Taylor by the hair and pulls him back into the ring. Nikita pounding on the head and back of Taylor. Arm bar to the corner. Irish whip. Taylor reverses with a knee to the midsection. Taylor.
Arm bar to the corner. Irish whip. Taylor reverses with a knee to the midsection. Taylor gets a nearfall and before he knows it, he’s back in a hammerlock. Nikita works him up to a half nelson on the mat. Taylor is able to work himself to the ropes. Back to their feet, Taylor rakes Koloff’s eyes. Taylor with some shots in the corner and snapmare but he misses an elbow drop. Koloff right back to work with the arm. Both men back to their feet with the lock still on and Taylor gets to the corner. The ref breaks the hold and Taylor headbutts Koloff. Nikita is enraged and executes the Russian Hammer chokehold. Koloff is up and positioned for the Sickle, but he misses and runs into the turnbuckle instead. Koloff is dangling off the apron and Taylor kicks him to the floor.
Taylor bashes Koloff into the steel rail and runs him into the post. He then uses the post. Koloff is slow to roll into the ring and the crowd is chanting his name. Taylor distracts the ref as Gilbert takes a cheap shot. Snapmare takedown by Taylor followed by a couple knees to the head. Taylor attempts a pin and gets 2. Koloff tries to pull himself up by the ropes but Taylor is back to work on the arm. They run the ropes and Taylor attempts a sunset flip that is reversed by Koloff’s punch to the head. Taylor with a kick to the midsection. Koloff reverses Taylor’s attempted vertical suplex with one of his own. Taylor is still the first on the attack, but after a few punches, Koloff bashes his own head off the turnbuckle and turns around looking fired up. He works Taylor into the corner for 10 punches.
For some reason, Hebner breaks this up and Taylor takes advantage of the pause with an atomic drop. Taylor slowly rolls him for a pin but Koloff’s foot was on the rope. Taylor argues with the ref and Koloff almost catches him with a small package. Koloff reverses an attempted piledriver with a back body drop. Koloff pounds on him until Taylor leaves the ring and runs away. When Koloff follows him back to the ring, Taylor greets him with a knee to the midsection. The ref lectures him on this and Gilbert uses the distraction to cheapshot Koloff on the knee. Taylor stomps on the injured knee and executes the figure four.
A couple near falls when his shoulders are down. Hebner turns around to see Gilbert giving Taylor leverage and the hold is broken. Taylor and Hebner are arguing again and Gilbert tries to take another cheapshot. Instead, Gilbert is dragged up to the apron by Koloff. When Taylor attempts to hit him from behind, Koloff moves and runs into his friend knocking him off the apron. After Taylor falls back, Koloff lands the Sickle for the pinfall.
Winner and Unified NWA & UWF Television Champion: Nikita Koloff (Sickle)
- EA’s Take: Very solid match to unify the TV Titles where the crowd was hot for Nikita, but there was still a miniscule smattering of boos for him at the beginning. The now-former UWF TV Champion Terry Taylor had left the NWA once, becoming arguably the UWF’s hottest star. It’s funny how things work out sometimes though, as he was obviously brought right back into the NWA with JCP’s purchase of the promotion. Ultimately, this would be a quick trip as the consistently solid Taylor would take off again not long after this match for WCCW.
Match #5 for the NWA World Tag Team Championships: The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal) w/Paul Ellering vs. NWA World Tag Team Champions Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard w/James J. Dillon
Arn and Hawk start the match. Arn fights off a choke hold, but is sent to the corner by Hawk. Arn reverses with a knee and climbs the ropes. Hawk rushes to the corner and picks him up and a gorilla press. Arn rolls out of the ring and JJ Dillon wants a timeout. The ref demands Arn return to the ring. Arn cautiously approaches Hawk. Arn gets a headlock on but Hawk strengths his way out of it and pulls Arn to the mat. Arn rolls out again. Anderson slow to get in the ring and there is a standoff between Ellering and the Horseman outside.
A tag is made to Blanchard and Hawk strengths him down. Blanchard attacks but is met with a clothesline. Blanchard tries to escape the ring but Animal presses him back to the ring. Blanchard has had enough and goes down the entry way but he is chased down and brought back to the ring. Hawk with a dropkick and lateral press for a two count. Tag made to Animal. Blanchard reverses an Irish whip with a knee to the mid section. Blanchard heads for the top rope but Animal catches him for a body slam from mid air and the crowd explodes. Animal attempts a pin but it’s broken up by Anderson. Animal stares down Anderson who is getting heat from the crowd. Anderson is tagged in and he’s barking for Hawk to back up. Anderson gets the first offensive blows in, but Hawk hits a clothesline following a whip to the corner.
Anderson is back in the ring, standing in his corner and checking on his face. Anderson whispers something to Blanchard. Anderson with some kicks, but is caught in a bear hug that is quickly broken by Blanchard’s interference. Anderson and Blanchard double team Hawk, they whip him to the corner but he comes back with a double clothesline. Hawk pins the legal man but his leg is on the rope. A couple big rights from Hawk and a tag is made to Animal. They double team Blanchard into a big bear hug followed by an atomic drop. Tully is up and he tries to land some chops to no avail. Animal goes to work on Blanchard until he can take no more and from his knees tags Anderson back in.
Anderson with a headlock, the two run the ropes, and Anderson cowardly grabs the rope, rolls out of the ring and runs away. Once back in the ring, Animal with a gorilla press slam to Anderson. Blanchard is tagged back in but is looking at the same fate from Hawk who is now legal. Anderson takes a cheap shot at Animal’s knee before he can do so. Blanchard goes to work on the knee and Hawk looks for a tag. Hawk rolls out of the ring where he is double teamed, with Anderson and Blanchard using the post and a chair to the injured knee. Hawk is rolled back into the ring for a DDT from Anderson. He kicks out at 2. Blanchard is tagged, and tries a figure four but Hawk reverses with a small package. 2 count. Blanchard doing more damage to the leg before Anderson is back in. Anderson attempts a spinning leg lock but Hawk pushes him off. Anderson regroups and prevents Hawk from the tag before Blanchard is tagged in again.
This time, Tully gets the figure four locked in. After a long while, Anderson is tagged in and attempts a couple of pins only getting 2 counts. When Anderson attempts a double knee while Hawk is on his back, his groin is met by Hawks knees. This gives Hawk time to make the hot tag. Animal drop kicks Anderson and fends off the charging Blanchard. When Animal goes to the ropes for a clothesline on Anderson, he is tripped from the outside by Blanchard.
Hawk gives chase to Blanchard around the ring while Anderson tries to take advantage. Running from Hawk, Blanchard rolls back into the ring, runs across and bumps referee Tommy Young out of the ring hard. When Anderson tries to clothesline Animal over the ropes, a dazed Animal ducks and lifts Arn over instead. Inside the ring, the Road Warriors connect with the Doomsday Device. Earl Hebner is now out to the ring and makes a 3 count. The bell sounds for a Road Warrior win. The crowd goes bezerk.
Winners and NEW NWA World Tag Team Champions: The Road Warriors (Animal/Doomsday Device)
- After The Bell: The original referee returns to the ring, vetoing Hebner’s decision. He says he saw Arn flipped over the top rope, which was grounds for automatic DQ and awards the victory to Arn and Tully.
Winners and STILL NWA Tag Team Champions: Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard (Disqualification)
- EA’s Take: Excellent match here and we get the swerve finish as the hometown boys get screwed over. I think I would have gone the other way here, The Horsemen didn’t need any more heat and the crowd went ballistic for the pinfall. This could have been a great moment, but we know that has always been the WWE’s forte, not JCP or WCW. The air seemed to be let out of the room anyways, so if the goal was more heat on Arn & Tully, it didn’t really work that way. Historically speaking, obviously the big change here is there’s no more Minnesota Wrecking Crew. Ole, who had been kicked out of The Horsemen in early 1987 and replaced by Lex Luger, retired shortly after.
In The Arena: Jack Gregory & Magnum T.A. talk about The Road Warriors getting hosed for the Tag Titles, then run down our next two matches for the US and World Heavy weight Championships. They throw it to Bob Caudle who is standing by with the new Unified TV Champion Nikita Koloff. Nikita goes off in broken English about defeating Terry Taylor and how good he feels to be the only holder of the TV Title, but next one his agenda is the World Championship. James J. Dillon steps in next and speaks about his busy night, stating he’s relieved that Arn & Tully got justice and held onto the Tag Titles. He talks about helping Ric Flair get ready for his match tonight, but admits he’s spent more time focusing on Dusty Rhodes and getting US Champion Lex Luger ready. JJ claims he’s got the perfect athlete and the perfect plan.
Match #6 is a Steel Cage for the NWA United States Championship: Dusty Rhodes vs. NWA United States Champion Lex Luger w/James J. Dillon
The two circle the ring and lock up and tie up in the corner. They back off and restart. Luger lands some kicks and tries to run Rhodes into the cage. Rhodes blocks it and reverses with an elbow. The two circle again and Luger taunts Rhodes with his trademark flex. Rhodes laughs him off and struts to the crowd’s cheer. Another tie up in the corner, they exchange punches before Rhodes rattles off about 8 in a row before another elbow. Rhodes goes for the Weaver Lock but Luger runs to the corner to break the hold. Dillon cheers Luger on as he gets Dusty in a headlock. They run the ropes and Luger hits a shoulder block. On 2nd attempt, Dusty catches him in a sleeper – Luger runs to the ropes again to break the hold.
They lock up, Luger lands a couple punches and a snapmare. Dusty moves when Luger tries to land an elbow and Rhodes is up for an arm submission. Luger is trying to get to the ropes but is caught for a while. Rhodes delivers his patented elbow on the shoulder and continues the hold. Luger is finally able to push Rhodes to the corner, delivers a punch and whips Rhodes to the corner. Rhodes moves and Luger hits the turnbuckle hard. They are back to the mat with Rhodes working that arm. Rhodes lets up and stomps on Luger’s back before pounding on him in the corner. Luger takes advantage of the ref breaking it up with a cheap shot.
This opens up Luger for an attack that culminates in running Dusty into the cage and grinding his head against it. Luger hammers on Rhodes who is now bleeding in the corner. Again, Rhodes is thrown against the cage. Rhodes kicks out of a pinfall attempt at two. Luger pounds him in the corner, delivers a snapmare and an elbow drop. Rhodes kicks out at 2. Luger taunts with another flex. Both on their feet, Rhodes reverses a whip to the rope and hits an impressive (for his size) dropkick. But Rhodes is still too beaten down to take advantage and Luger is back on offense. He signals for his patented torture rack but he can’t get the big man all the way up. He stumbles to the corner and that’s where Rhodes lands.
The frustrated Luger grinds his face on the cage some more, as well as chokes him on the top rope before Hebner breaks it up. Luger applies a wristlock submission, but the crowd is rallying behind Rhodes who gradually rises to his feet. He gets there, but Luger knocks him right back down. JJ Dillon is looking very cocky as Luger is in control. The crowd rallies more and Rhodes is back to his feet, Luger pulls him back down by his hair. A determined Rhodes is up again. Luger works him to the corner and lays in punches and kicks which only seems to be firing Rhodes up. Dusty fights back to the delight of the crowd. He works Luger down to the mat and gets a 2 count.
Both men are back to their feet, Luger whips Rhodes to ropes, Dusty ducks a clothesline and Rhodes applies the Weaver lock. A distressed JJ Dillon knocks out Johnny Weaver and takes the key. Hebner won’t let him in. Instead, Dillon throws a chair over the cage top as Luger bashes into Hebner to break the lock. Luger reaches for the chair but as he does, Rhodes catches him bent over and lands a DDT on the chair. He gets the pin for the win. Rhodes and Weaver embrace as Rhodes exits.
Winner and NEW NWA United States Champion: Dusty Rhodes (DDT)
- EA’s Take: The relative upstart champion surprised me here. We all know Luger was definitely more of a “look” guy than a worker, but he managed to hold his own. However, he was also led by and opposite one of the all-time greats. Dusty’s workrate wasn’t stellar in his later years, but he could still lead the right horse to water AND make him drink it. Two years into the business and less-than one year into his JCP tenure, Luger comes from Florida and was immediately thrust into The Horsemen when Ole chose to retire. He quickly took the US Title from Nikita Koloff in July, building to tonight where the seeds were planted for his departure from The Horsemen.
Match #7 is a Steel Cage for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship: ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair w/James J. Dillon vs. NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ronnie Garvin
The two lock up and have a clean break. Ric Flair gives a taunting “Wooo”! They exchange chops and lock up again. More exchanges of chops and slaps before Garvin hits a hip toss. Flair cowers again. Garvin with a side headlock, and whips Flair into the corner for a shoulder block. Garvin with more chops to Flair in the corner and Ric walks away with his patented fall on his face. Back body drop from Garvin followed by an armbar submission. He leads Flair around the ring and into the corner. Garvin with a series of rights to the head as the crowd counts to 10. Garvin with an Irish whip into the corner and another back body drop.
The crowd cheers as he delivers the Garvin Stomp. Flair is back up and they have a vicious exchange of punches, chops and slaps and Flair hits the mat first. Garvin tries pulling him back up but Flair hits a low blow. Flair methodically back to his feet and he lifts Garvin for an atomic drop. The crowd responds to his “Wooo!” Flair with more chops and punches in the corner followed by a kick to the midsection and a snapmare. Flair backs up and hits his patented knee to the head for a near fall. Flair uses the bottom rope to work on the left leg of Garvin. Flair intimidates Garvin as he pulls him to his feet. Flair drops Garvin on his knee and turns it immediately into the Figure Four leg lock. Garvin is struggling.
Flair uses the rope for leverage each time the ref is not looking. Garvin’s shoulders drop for a couple near falls. Garvin is trying to turn the hold and the crowd cheers. He is successful but Flair immediately grabs the ropes. Flair is up to his feet first. Flair delivers an elbow the head and a kick to the knee. Garvin is taking a lot of punishment right now. Flair tries to use the cage as a weapon but Garvin is able to block all of his attempts. Garvin reverses a whip to the ropes and instead throws Flair head first into the cage. Garvin rubs Flair’s face on the cage and he is bleeding. Garvin bites Flair’s head and the Nature Boy tries to escape by climbing over the top of the cage. Garvin stops him and both men are up on the turnbuckle.
Garvin bashes Flair several times into the top of the cage and he tumbles back to the mat. Garvin slaps Flair in the corner. Flair fights back with some kicks and goes to the top rope but Garvin is up too soon and hits him with a gorilla press slam. Garvin tries to use Flair’s move against him and puts him in the Figure Four! A couple near falls as Flair yelps in pain. Flair finally works his way to the ropes to break the hold but Garvin continues to work on Flair’s right leg. More exchanges of chops in the corner before Flair tries to throw Garvin into the cage, but again Garvin blocks it. He instead reverses it, knocks Flair to the mat and heads for the top rope. Garvin lands a cross body block from the top rope and gets a near fall. Garvin attempts a backslide, once again for a 2 count.
Flair’s head is raked against the cage some more and is slapped around on the apron. Flair tries to escape again and Garvin follows him to the top turnbuckle. Garvin bashes his head on the top of the cage and delivers a headbutt. Flair falls groin first onto the top rope and back in the ring. Garvin sets up for a sunset flip but he can’t get Flair on his back. Flair sits on Garvin’s shoulders for a pin but the ref notices he’s holding the top rope and breaks it. Garvin rolls Flair back over again for a 2 count. Garvin goes for 10 punches in the corner but Flair carries him across the ring to the other corner, hitting the ref along the way. Garvin bounces off and hits Flair with his knockout punch. Tommy Young is delayed getting over there and Flair kicks out at two. The two run the ropes, Garvin leaps up and is caught by Flair who uses the momentum to drive him into the cage. Flair pins him 1-2-3.
Winner and NEW NWA World Heavyweight Champion: Ric Flair (Cage Shot)
- EA’s Take: I think I would have rather seen a screwed finish than that one because it didn’t make a lot of sense to me. First of all, why is Garvin jumping into Flair like he wanted to be caught in a bearhug? Secondly, the first and only time Garvin’s head touches the cage, he’s out cold? It would be sold better if Flair hadn’t been abused by the cage all match, taking probably a dozen similar shots. It’s pretty unusual seeing Garvin come in as the champion in a feud that started over Flair’s lusting after Precious, the wife of Ronnie’s kayfabe brother Jimmy. However, she wasn’t referred to as such on television. Also, Ronnie Garvin was the legit stepfather of Jimmy Garvin. What is this, Jerry Springer?!?
EA’s Finisher: JCP no longer has the roster depth to give us a 12-match card, making this a shorter show, but it seemed more star-studded. The main event is easily the weakest of all the Starrcade events to date and unless you were up on the angle, you probably didn’t care. Then again, it felt that way in ’86. At least your undercard is loaded with young talent. Again, this is vital with the ongoing battle against the WWF, which continued tonight. Vince McMahon would run the first Survivor Series on the same night as Starrcade and do better numbers, just one of many shots in the back-and-forth between the promotions. JCP does beat the Fed on adding affects for wrestler entrances like smoke and colorful lighting, but if this is supposed to be their version of WrestleMania after the WWF put 90,000-plus in the Silverdome, there’s just no comparison.
Top Three To Watch
1 – The Road Warriors vs. Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard
2 – Gilbert, Zbysko & Steiner vs. Hayes, Garvin & Sting
3 – Nikita Koloff vs. Terry Taylor
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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