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Chairshot Classics

Chairshot Classics: NWA The Great American Bash ’88

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Here is our next event in my NWA/WCW timeline, The Great American Bash! Created by booker Dusty Rhodes, The Great American Bash, like our previous pay-per-view Bunkhouse Stampede, wasn’t the first show produced under this name, but was the only one to be broadcast. The other events, again like Bunkhouse Stampede, were simply what I call “glorified house shows”. This is the end of the road for Jim Crockett Promotions as well, selling the company to Turner Broadcasting in November, one month prior to Starrcade, but a relationship with the NWA would remain a little while longer. So it’s the finale of an era for Crockett, but the start of another for the Great American Bash event so let’s get into it and head right to the ring!

Match #1 for the NWA World Tag Team Championships: Sting & Nikita Koloff vs. NWA World Tag Team Champions Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard w/James J. Dillon
After the bell rings, all 4 men pair up and brawl. Sting and Koloff clear the ring to the delight of the crowd. The Horsemen return to the ring for round 2. Anderson and Koloff stumble out and Sting almost steals the match immediately with a small package. Anderson ambushes Sting, but he’s met with a dropkick. Anderson rolls out of the ring, but turns around to meet a plancha from Sting. The crowd’s really digging it. Koloff and Blanchard go to the corners and Sting and Anderson start the structured action. Sting with a hip toss into an arm bar submission. He drags Anderson to his corner and tags in Koloff.

Koloff leads with some stomps and a submission of his own on Anderson’s arm. Anderson works his way to his feet, he powers out of the hold but misses an elbow drop. Koloff is back in control, now working on Double A’s other arm. Anderson is slow to his feet, works Koloff to the corner and lands a left and a few kicks. Koloff reverses Anderson’s Irish whip to the opposite turnbuckle but Anderson moves. Arn looks confident that Koloff collided with the turnbuckle, but Koloff had stopped short. Anderson turns around and is met by a Russian Sickle. Blanchard rushes the ring to prevent a cover and has the same fate. Koloff with a lateral press but Anderson’s foot is on the rope. Tag made to Sting. Anderson is sent to the turnbuckle but Arn gets his knee to Sting’s midsection.

Sting quickly counters a sleeper hold by driving Anderson’s head into the turnbuckle. Sting hits a leg drop on Anderson’s left arm and continues with the submission work. Anderson works his way to his feet and Blanchard illegally enters the ring to double team Sting. The Stinger counters their hold on both his arms with a backflip for positioning and a double hiptoss. The Horsemen stand up to meet Sting’s drop kick that strikes both. After a regroup, Anderson manages a headbutt to the midsection and can mercifully make a legal tag to Blanchard. Tully is whipped for 2 hiptosses before a tag is made to Koloff.

Sting holds Blanchard in place as Nikita lands several kicks and hard rights before back to the mat for an arm submission. Blanchard tries to squirm his way to the ropes but Koloff is in control. Koloff works Blanchard’s shoulders to the mat for several near falls. Tully finally gets his leg on the bottom rope. The hold is broken but he can’t escape Koloff. Tag is made to Sting. Blanchard reverses Sting’s Irish whip but Sting moves. Sting has a near fall after Blanchard’s collision. Tully gets up dazed and stumbles to the wrong corner for a tag. Nikita takes advantage of the blunder with a cheap shot and the crowd loves it.

Tag to Koloff and he powers Blanchard into the turnbuckle. Blanchard tags Anderson with his boot but the ref will not allow it. Blanchard tries to break the submission with a knee to Koloff’s midsection, but no luck. Nikita lifts Blanchard for an atomic drop and follows it up with a hiptoss. He goes right back to work on Blanchard’s shoulder. Blanchard slowly struggles his way to his corner while locked in and he’s able to make the tag. Koloff retreats to his corner and Anderson is frustrated with the lack of opportunity to take liberties. Anderson and Koloff square each other up and lock up. They run the ropes and Koloff executes a drop toe hold. Koloff dials in a half nelson on the mat, barking that he wants the title. Anderson slowly works to his feet reaching for Blanchard but instead he ends up in a standing full nelson.

He kicks Koloff’s knee twice which allows him to make the tag to Blanchard. A run to the ropes and Koloff delivers his Russian Hammer choke hold. Blanchard is surprisingly right back up, but Koloff hits him with a shoulder block. Blanchard is then clotheslined over the top rope to the concrete and Koloff falls over with him. Blanchard makes it back to the apron at a count of 8, but his met with a vertical suplex. JJ Dillon interferes with the pin attempt and Koloff pursues him on the floor. When Koloff rushes him, Dillon moves and Koloff runs into the post. Anderson is on the floor and drives Koloff’s shoulder into the post once again. Koloff is rolled back into the ring, injured. Tag is made to Anderson. Body slam by Anderson followed by several knees to the back.

Anderson with a hammerlock submission as it is announced that there is 5 minutes left in the match. Koloff works his way to his feet with a psychotic look on his face. Anderson is whipped to the ropes. Koloff sets up for a back body drop but Anderson reverses it by catching his head and executing a DDT. Koloff kicks out at 2. Tag is made to Blanchard who comes off the top rope with an axe handle. Blanchard attempts an unsuccessful pin, and then continues the armbar submission. Tag made to Anderson. Snapmare takedown by Anderson. He goes to the 2nd turnbuckle for a splash but Koloff gets his knees up. The 2 men work to their corners slowly and make simultaneous tags.

The crowd has a HUGE pop for Sting. He rushes Blanchard, and whips him to the ropes for a back body drop, followed by a dropkick. Sting with an Irish whip to the turnbuckle and a gorilla press to Blanchard. Anderson rushes Sting and is met with a bulldog. A double atomic drop reversal by Blanchard, then Sting, and the Stinger with another great dropkick. He pulls Blanchard to Anderson’s corner and bashes their heads together. 1 minute remaining and Sting has Anderson in a sleeper hold. Anderson breaks the hold with elbows and tags in Blanchard. Sting stops the momentum of Blanchard’s sunset flip and delivers a right to Tully.

With Anderson still in the ring, Koloff rushes Anderson with a Russian Sickle. Sting with an Irish whip and a Stinger Splash to Blanchard. Sting applies the Scorpian Deathlock to Blanchard and the bell rings 7 seconds later. Sting and Koloff celebrate and grab the tag team belts. There is a discussion in the ring, and it was determined the bell rang because of the time limit and not a submission.
Winners: Time Limit Draw

  • EA’s Take: I’m not sure if Nikita is trying to match Stinger, but it’s really weird seeing him with hair, let alone a flat top. You’ve got the class of the tag team division here in Arn and Tully, the red hot Sting and a bruiser in Koloff. Magnifico! Not to mention Sting with an outside dive? You never see that in this era! This one began after Sting and Dusty challenged for the tag titles, but the newest member of The Horsemen, Barry Windham, would interfere, leading Dusty to focus on Windham and Nikita to step in. The Stinger’s coming off the heels of his famous World Title match against Ric Flair at the first Clash Of The Champions, while Nikita has dropped down the card a little, but is still over like rover. Arn and Tully are looking more and more like The Brain Busters, which we will see in the fall as Double A and Blanchard would give their notices to JCP in September, prior to the sale to Turner. It would put an end to The Horsemen and in the words of Tully, “It was the end of an era”.

Ringside: Jim Ross & Tony Schiavone review what we just saw as Sting & Nikita clear the ring, then preview our next championship match.

Match #2 for the NWA United States Tag Team Championships: The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane) w/Jim Cornette vs. NWA United States Tag Team Champions The Fantastics (Bobby Fulton & Tommy Rogers)
Cornette grabs the mic and explains to the crowd that he’s not crazy. He introduces his team to a sea of boos. A stipulation of this match is that Cornette must be harnessed in a straight-jacket and hung in a cage as to not interfere. Additionally, should The Midnight Express lose, they face 10 lashes. Cornette pleads with the referee and protests the stipulation. He is consoled with hugs from the Express and begrudgingly obliges. The bell rings, Eaton and Fulton start. They lock up and Fulton grabs a headlock.They run the ropes and Fulton drops Eaton for a quick 2 count. Eaton lands a punch that sounded like a potato. Irish whip into the corner and Fulton delivers two consecutive head scissor takedowns.

Eaton stumbles to the wrong corner for the tag. Fulton lands a heavy right and Eaton regroups in his corner. Cornette is heard screaming from a distance. Eaton and Fulton lock up again and a tag is made to Lane. The crowd is heard chanting “Cornette Sucks”. Lane is in control his combo of kicks makes Fulton falls to the concrete. Back in, Fulton reverses an Irish whip and Lane is run over the turnbuckle and into the post. Tag is made to Rogers and Lane is back in the ring. Rogers lands some high energy dropkicks. Eaton is tagged in but is met with a hip toss. Back to their feet, Eaton hits a knee to Rogers’ midsection and he sets him up on the top turnbuckle. Rogers reverses an attempted vertical suplex and flips Eaton into a pin. He kicks out at 1.

Rogers jumps to the 2nd turnbuckle and hits a cross body and lateral press for another count of 1. The two regroup and are back on their feet. A tag is made to Fulton and the Fantastics hit Eaton with a double back body drop. Lane rushes the ring and they each take a partner. The Fantastics cause some confusion and get Lane to deliver another back body drop on his own tag team partner. The Express regroup on the concrete while the Fantastics strut in the ring. Fulton and Lane get the action going again but a quick tag is made to Rogers. Rogers leapfrogs his tag team partner and lands into an arm submission on Lane. Lane reverses with a knee to the midsection. He attempts a back body drop but Rogers lands on his feet.

When Rogers pushes Lane to the ropes he is unaware the tag was made to Eaton. As Rogers rolls up Lane for a pin, Eaton grabs him from behind with a bulldog. Eaton goes for a pin and gets a 2 count. Lane is tagged back in (wait, wasn’t he the legal man all along?) and wraps Rogers’ neck around the top rope. He levels Rogers with a lariat and tags Eaton back in. Eaton lands a hard elbow following a whip to the ropes. Eaton makes a cover for a 2 count. Rogers is trying to fight the momentum, but Eaton delivers a swinging neckbreaker. Quick sequence of tags back and forth between Lane and Eaton, and Beautiful Bobby finally delivers an impressive backbreaker. Fulton makes the save on the pin attempt. More double team work by the Express and they are in complete control. Eaton delivers a backbreaker on a worn down Rogers.

Eaton with a hammerlock submission. Rogers is finally to his feet. He breaks the hold with elbows and reverses Eaton’s attempted back body drop by dropping Bobby face first on the mat. Both men are down and the ref is counting. Eaton makes it to his corner first. Lane comes in with an abdominal stretch on Rogers and gets extra leverage from Eaton. When Fulton protests what he sees the ref backs him off. Rogers finds himself outside of the ring with Eaton as this happens. Rogers reverses Eaton’s attempt to bash him head first into the post and instead that is given to Bobby. He rolls back into the ring and starts fighting off Lane’s momentum. Rogers is whipped into the ropes but comes back with a beautiful sunset flip for a 2 count.

Lane is quickly up and makes the tag to Eaton. Bobby with a body slam on Rogers followed by a legdrop from the 3rd rope. Fulton breaks up the pinfall attempt and the crowd is getting behind The Fantastics. Another abdominal stretch applied to Rogers followed by leg sweep takedown. Eaton sets up for the team’s Rocket Launcher from the top rope but Rogers gets his knees up. Hot tag made to Fulton who hits a back body drop on Eaton. Stan Lane is back in the ring and Fulton is fending them both off.

He runs the ropes, leaps over both Eaton and the referee but his leg is grabbed by Lane who is standing outside the ring on his comeback. Lane pulls him through middle rope for a body slam on the concrete. Rogers rushes back into the ring and goes after Eaton but collides with the referee on a cross body tackle from the ropes. He throws Eaton into the post. Stan Lane is back in the ring with a foreign object. He rushes Rogers but Rogers hits him with a back body drop. The foreign object (chain) falls to Eaton who wraps it around his first. After Rogers sends Lane back out to the floor, Eaton hits Rogers with the chain. Pinfall victory for the Midnight Express.
Winners and NEW NWA United States Tag Team Champions: The Midnight Express (Eaton/Foreign Object)

  • After The Bell: Cornette is out of the cage but the Fantastics chase him down. They whip Cornette with referee Tommy Young’s belt. The Express pull their manager out and head to the dressing room.
  • EA’s Take: Finally The Midnight Express is used correctly on pay-per-view! After seeing them in scaffold matches for the last couple of NWA events, this was a breath of fresh air to see one of the best tag teams ever ACTUALLY get to wrestle instead of fearing for their lives. Although, having “ten lashes” on the line isn’t exactly something to scoff at. This feud really began in Mid-South in 1984, would run through WCWA and then into the NWA before The Fantastics arrived in JCP in ’88. Like their name says, they were pretty fantastic in the ring and are really one of the forgotten about tag teams in wrestling lure, at least outside of fans that consider themselves historians. Tommy Rogers is pretty undersized which is rare, but he looks much better than when I became more familiar with him during a brief stint with ECW about ten years later. My only real gripe here? It probably should have opened the show, it’s unusual that your secondary tag titles go on directly after your World Tag Titles.

Ringside: Jim Ross & Toy Schiavone review the finish of our last match as the cage is being set up for the next contest.

Match #3 is a Tower Of Doom Match: ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams, Ron Garvin, The Road Warriors (Animal & Hawk) & ‘Gorgeous’ Jimmy Garvin w/Precious & Paul Ellering vs. Kevin Sullivan, Al Perez, Mike Rotunda, The Russian Assassin & Ivan Koloff w/Gary Hart
A three-level cage is set up. In two minute intervals, doors will open for a new competitor to come into the top level. At these same intervals, trap doors will open for approximately 10 seconds giving competitors a chance to jump down to the next level. The first team who has all five members of their team move through all 3 levels and exit the cage will win. Precious is in the ring and is holder of the key. Ron Garvin and Ivan Koloff will be the first to enter the tower at the smallest level on top. The two lock up and brawl. They use the cage as a weapon and exchange punches and chops. Steve Williams and Mike Rotunda wait outside the door for the first 2 minute horn to sound. All you can really do is brawl in this scenario and they slug it out.

The first horn sounds. The trap door is open and Garvin opens it. Garvin gets down successfully but Koloff is stuck on the first level. This makes it a 2 on 1 against Williams at the top level while Garvin just paces alone on the 2nd level. Despite this, Williams has plenty of offense, bashing the heels’ heads together. The 2nd horn sounds. Williams is headed for the door but Koloff grabs onto him. With no opposition, Garvin easily jumps down to level 1 and walks out of the cage. Road Warrior Animal is now on the top level, double teamed by Rotunda and Al Perez while Koloff and Steve Williams have moved on and do battle on the middle level. Animal is handling the double team well and the crowd is roaring for him. Hawk is waiting in the wings to come in next.

Steve Williams holds on to the cage and delivers stomps to Koloff. The next horn sounds and the doors are open. Al Perez easily makes it to the 2nd level and right behind him is Road Warrior Animal. No one from the 2nd level advanced, so it’s now Williams and Animal against Koloff and Perez on that middle level. Hawk brawls with Rotunda and the Assasin up top. The crowd is really reacting to the Road Warriors. Steve Williams delivers a body slam on Koloff for the first non-brawling move. The final horn sounds and here comes Jimmy Garvin and Kevin Sullivan. Al Perez and Animal make it through the doors to the ring (1st level).

Hawk escapes to the 2nd level to join teammate Steve Williams, and behind him the Assasin joins Koloff to even the field. Jimmy Garvin deals with a 2 on 1 on the top level. Animal makes quick work of Perez in the ring and exits the cage. With no one else in the ring, Perez is able to stumble out as well despite his losing effort to Animal. The horn for the trap door sounds and Rotunda is finally able to make it to the 2nd level. Koloff and the Assasin make it to ring followed by Hawk who will face a 2 on 1 for 2 minutes. Hawk runs the ropes and hits the Russians with a double clothesline. Jimmy Garvin and Kevin Sullivan are still battling on the top level. Williams and Rotunda are squaring up on the middle level.

Despite the 2 on 1, Hawk escapes the cage first. Again, with no opponents to stop them, both Russians stagger out despite Hawk getting the best of them. The next horn sounds. Steve Williams makes it to the ring and walks out. Garvin and Sullivan both make it to level 2, which makes it a 2 on 1 against Garvin as the final 3 men who are left do battle. Garvin bashes their heads together and fights off the mismatch. The horn sounds and the crowd begs Garvin to get down. Sullivan holds Garvin down on the cage allowing Rotunda to jump down to the ring and walk out with ease. The final 2 competitors, Garvin and Sullivan are on level 2.

A brawl breaks out on the floor between the 8 men who have escaped the tower. Garvin with some submission work on Sullivan’s knee, but Kevin fights back. The horn sounds, the door is open and Sullivan is first through the door but Garvin is right behind him. Sullivan goes to Precious who is holding the key and she kicks him away. Garvin does more work with legs and elbows on Sullivan’s knee. Garvin delivers a brain buster. Garvin struggles with the lock on the door for a second, but finally gets the chain off. Sullivan makes a last ditch effort to stop him from behind, but Garvin leaps to the floor.
Winners: ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams, Ron Garvin, The Road Warriors & ‘Gorgeous’ Jimmy Garvin

  • After The Bell: Sullivan locks himself in the cage with Precious and pursues her. With no way in, the winning team must re-climb the ladder and drop through the levels again to save her. Sullivan pulls a rope from his trunks and chokes her until finally Hawk and Jimmy Garvin make it to level 1 take him out.
  • EA’s Take: More gimmick matches here and holy cow, was this structure quite the sight to behold. Not to mention, how forward thinking was this concept in 1988? I prefer this much more than the scaffold matches. It’s primarily brawling on the top two levels of the cage, but you can at least use the ring on the bottom level, so you’re not even close to as limited with what you can do. The time intervals also create some interesting handicap situations, something the WWF did with its Royal Rumble concept back in January. One thing I will say though, that spot where Precious was getting choked at the end…man, people would have a field day with something like that today. It would NEVER fly!

Ringside: Jim Ross & Tony Schiavone go over the action once again, showing us replays of Sullivan stalking Precious and Hawk making the save with Jimmy Garvin. They send us to Bob Caudle in another part of the arena for his thoughts on the Tower Of Doom.

Match #4 for the NWA United States Championship: NWA United States Champion Barry Windham w/James J. Dillon vs. Dusty Rhodes
The two lock up and Rhodes hits a quick arm drag. Windham rushes Rhodes, but Dusty intimidates him with his elbow. There is a side headlock and shoulder tackle from Rhodes. Windham rolls out to the concrete for a regroup. The two criss-cross through the ropes but Windham stops it with an elbow to the back of Rhodes’ head. Back to their feet, the Dream is able to send Windham into the ropes for a gorilla press followed by a DDT. Rhodes heads for the top rope and lands a cross body press. Very close 2 count by Rhodes. Windham once again is out to the floor and this time feigning like he’s walking to the dressing room.

Windham consults with Dillon takes his sweet time to get back in the ring. Finally back, Windham signals Rhodes to slow it down. They lock up and Windham delivers a series of blows in the corner, but it has little effect. Rhodes dances around the ring and returning shots to Windham. Dillon is up on the apron but Rhodes takes care of him with a big elbow. Windham is back on the floor again and barking at the ref who is counting. Windham gingerly returns to the ring and sets up a test of strength. Windham takes advantage of the open torso with some kicks to the midsection and Rhodes tumbles out to the floor. Windham stays on the attack and sends him shoulder first into the steel rail.

Windham sets up for a piledriver on the floor, but Dusty reverses with a back body drop. Rhodes hits a huge clothesline on Windham and proceeds to chase Dillon around the ring. Slowly back to the ring, Windham is able to regain some offense, pummeling Dusty in the corner. Back to the floor again and Rhodes’ head is bashed on the apron. Windham crawls back into the ring as Rhodes gets up. Dusty steps up to the apron. Windham attempts to use the ropes to flip Rhodes back into the ring but Dusty reverses it and sends him over the top and to the floor. Windham stumbles around the outside of the ring as Dillon provides a distraction for the referee.

This allows Windham to attack Rhodes from behind, and deliver a body slam to the big man. Standing elbow drop from Windham and he pulls Rhodes up for his patented claw, digging his fingers into Rhodes’ skull. Rhodes fades as the ref checks on him. Rhodes is on his back and Windham gets a couple of 2 counts. Rhodes uses the crowd’s energy to work his way to his feet, but he’s quickly forced back down. Dusty is up again for attempt number 2 at breaking the hold. He backs his way to the corner and steps up to the 2nd turnbuckle. He teases a big elbow but Windham pulls him back to his knees and taunts the crowd before he can do it.

Rhodes swings his arms around for attempt number 3 to break the hold and finally lands midsection shots as Windham holds on. Finally, Rhodes hits 3 elbows. The hold is broken and Windham is down. Rhodes attempts a figure four, but somehow Windham reaches out and has the claw applied once again. Rhodes backs his way to the 2nd turnbuckle again and he lands some rights. Windham reverses with a shot to Rhodes’ midsection and sets up for a superplex. Rhodes instead shoves him off and the ref is hit.

Rhodes misses a standing elbow and Windham heads for the top rope. Dusty pursues him and sends him flying for a huge body slam from the top rope. Dusty lands an elbow drop but there is no referee to make a cover. Ron Garvin comes down to the ring but surprisingly attacks Rhodes knocking him nearly unconcious. Dillon rolls the referee back into the ring, and Windham applies a claw once again. Rhodes is out cold and his shoulders are down. Windham gets the pinfall victory.
Winner and STILL NWA United States Champion: Barry Windham (Outside Interference)

  • EA’s Take: One thing I love about this era is how genuinely emotional the crowd gets at certain spots. For example, the panic in the crowd with fans trying to get Dusty’s attention. Small things like that are what make me miss the old days! The Dream always knows how to entertain and Jim Ross is too good at calling matches for this one to disappoint. Windham had been saddled with some bad luck in his previous Chairshot Classic appearances and we really see what he can do here when all goes well. I previously mentioned how Barry had jumped Rhodes during a tag title match, but Dusty had also previously been stripped of the US Title and suspended for attacking Jim Crockett. Of course, all kayfabe. Dusty keeps finding ways to stretch out his program with The Horsemen, moving from one member to another and keeping himself away from Flair. Most people complain that he put himself in such spots as the booker, but you can’t argue that he didn’t help guys like Windham and previously, Lex Luger by working with them. My stance is that he was grooming his young talent with his own name value. Surprising heel turn here as well with Ronnie Garvin costing Dusty the match, but it wouldn’t lead to much as he’d leave the company about a month or so later.

Backstage: Ronnie Garvin is shown with Gary Hart & James J. Dillon, celebrating and lathering himself with cash after receiving a briefcase full of it.

Match #5 for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship: NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair w/James J. Dillon vs. Lex Luger
Flair works Luger to the corner, but Luger uses power to shove Flair across the ring. They regroup and lock up again, resulting in a hip toss from Luger. They circle the ring tentatively and lock up. Luger with a big headlock until the ropes break it up. Another lock up and they move toward the turnbuckles. Flair delivers ineffective chops and kicks in the corner. Luger stalks Flair and delivers another hip toss and follows it with a drop kick. Flair rolls out of the ring and paces the concrete. Flair returns to the ring and backs up until they grapple, Flair attempts an shoulder tackle that doesn’t move Luger.

The next run and Luger catches him in a Gorilla press. Flair stumbles over the outside railing and calls for referee Tommy Young. He tries to accost Young, but Young runs and hides behind Luger. Slowly, Flair returns to the ring. After a test of strength, Luger twists Flair’s arm and whips him into another gorilla press slam. Flair is whipped to the ropes again and is caught in Luger’s bearhug. Luger drops Flair’s shoulders to the ring for a 2 count. The bearhug continues, and Flair refuses to give up. Finally they wander to the ropes and the hold is broken. Flair is whipped to the ropes, he puts the brakes on but stumbles out to the apron. Luger pursues Flair and delivers a vertical suplex back into the ring. Luger pins but Flair kicks out at 2.

Luger hits a massive elbow drop, but misses his 2nd attempt. Luger is right back to his feet and Flair begs for mercy in the corner. Luger delivers another hip toss and Flair retreats to the floor. Luger follows and the two brawl on the floor Flair uses the gate as a weapon twice. Luger stumbles back into the ring and Flair takes advantage with a snapmare take down and a knee drop. The Nature Boy drags Luger’s face across the top rope and hits another snapmare/knee combo. Luger kicks out of a pin attempt at 2. Flair uses an armbar, but is warned by Tommy Young about making a cheap shot to Luger’s ribs while doing so.

From his knees Luger fights off Flair’s next pursuit with shots to the midsection. They run the ropes, Luger ducks Flair’s elbow, stops short, and hits a clothesline on the return. Flair kicks out at 2 1/2. Both men back to their feet. Flair with another snapmare take down to Luger and he heads for the top rope. Luger is up before anything happens. He shakes the ropes and Flair falls groin first on the top rope. Luger follows with an enormous hiptoss across the ring to, but he misses the subsequent dropkick when Flair gets up. Flair can’t capitalize on the misfire and he stumbles face first on the mat. Both men are slow to get up. Flair with an Irish whip but Luger bounces off and comes back with a clothesline. Luger uses a lateral press but Flair’s foot is on the ropes. Luger is bumped to the apron, but he comes back with a sunset flip.

Flair fights for the ropes but he goes down for a 2 count. On their feet, and Flair starts working on Luger’s left knee. Multiple kicks from Flair, and he uses the bottom rope for leverage. Flair pulls Luger to the center of the ring and applies the Figure Four, pulling on the bottom rope for leverage when he can. Luger gets the crowd behind him for an attempted reversal, and he succeeds but Flair breaks the hold on the ropes. Flair is right back up and is back to work on that left leg. He pulls Luger to his feet, whips him to the ropes, Luger ducks Flair’s elbow and clotheslines Ric over the top rope. Back in the ring, Flair tries chops in the corner but it energizes Luger.

The Total Package whips Flair to the ropes for another gorilla press slam but he’s still favoring that leg. Luger is the first up, but he misses Flair on an attempted knee drop. Flair heads for the top rope with a “Wooo”, but Luger beats his attempt and delivers a 4th gorilla press slam. At the opposite corner, Luger steps to the 2nd turnbuckle and delivers rights as the crowd counts them off. Flair counters by lifting Luger for an atomic drop, but Lex gets right back up and knocks Flair out with a clothesline. Luger attempts a pin, but they’re too close to the ropes. Luger is up on the turnbuckle again for 10 punches, this time executed successfully.

Luger with an Irish whip and Flair tumbles over the opposite top turnbuckle and out to the floor. Luger gives chase and rolls Flair back in the ring. They run the ropes, and Flair can’t execute a hiptoss. Instead, Luger grabs Flair’s arms and rolls him into a backslide for a 2 count. They run the ropes again, Flair ducks an elbow and leaps awkwardly on Luger. They both get caught on the top rope and both fall to the concrete. Flair is barking about his leg, but when they’re up he’s able to run Luger face first into the post. Flair bluffs like he’s going to use a chair but Tommy Young stops him.

While Young is distracted, JJ Dillon takes a cheap shot at Luger by running his head into the post once again. Luger’s forehead is busted open and he is rolled back into the ring. Flair attempts 10 punches at the turnbuckle but Luger returns the favor with an atomic drop of his own. The Maryland Athletic Commissioner and the company doctor are ringside saying something to the referee. While this happens, Luger whips Flair to the ropes for a huge power slam. The crowd cheers as Luger puts Flair in the torture rack. The ref calls for the bell and the crowd goes wild. Sting and other babyfaces join Luger in the ring to celebrate. The crowd chants “Luger” and cheers, but the ring announcer explains that the commissioner and company doctor stopped the match due to the laceration on Luger’s face.
Winner and STILL NWA World Heavyweight Champion: Ric Flair (Referee Stoppage)

  • EA’s Take: The usual Flair entertainment in this one as he works to make Luger look amazing. There were some fun spots and a lot of people groan when they see/hear Lex’s name, but honestly he was capable of putting on a good performance. It’s not until his later years when he couldn’t care less and was older that he became stale. The NWA had some outdated rules still in these days and the finish is blamed on the Maryland State Athletic Commission, which is completely storyline. We’re squeezing more time out of this rivalry and we’ll see the finale coming up at Starrcade. Overall solid match, hot feud.

EA’s Finisher: Of all my Chairshot Classics to date, top to bottom this is the most enjoyable of them all. There’s not a bad match on the card and even if maybe the Tower Of Doom is not your cup of tea, it’s watchable at worst. The crowd was into absolutely everything, which has been a factor in how a show is perceived in my book forever and I just really enjoy the mix of new stars and veterans alike. With the sale to Turner around the corner, many former NWA stars have spoken on what led to Crockett’s demise, primarily bad finance management. It really was a shame because Flair has stated that Crockett could still be in business today had he stayed within his region and frankly, I think that’s entirely possible, but mismanaging your money also is a killer. Regardless, it was thirty years ago so we are far too late to send warning! Next week, we move on as well with Starrcade ’88!

Top Three To Watch
1 – Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard vs. Sting & Nikita Koloff

2 – The Midnight Express vs. The Fantastics
3 – Barry Windham vs. Dusty Rhodes


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Chairshot Classics: What I Watched #16 – ECW Guilty As Charged 1999

Breaking up the 2018 time travel with a much deeper dive! Harry goes back to some prime ECW with Guilty As Charged 1999!

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Greetings, salutations and welcome back. Harry here once again with another edition of ‘What I Watched’. As the calendar year turns to 1999 on my watch-through of all things ‘big three’ wrestling, I covered Starrcade 1998 in an earlier edition of WIW. I figured since this is probably the last year where all three major companies are relevant (at least at the start), it could be fun to compare and contrast how I feel about the respective PPVs when compared to some of the independent wrestling I’ve been covering recently. Or even going back to the PROGRESS or Impact Wrestling shows that I’ve covered before. I am fully aware there are going to be some bad shows in 1999. But there is also a lot to talk about in a drastically changing industry. Let’s do this, shall we?

ECW is in flux as talent losses haven’t yet gotten to what they would become but names like Sandman, Mikey Whipwreck, Bam Bam Bigelow and others are no longer with the company. To make matters worse, the ECW-FMW relationship is falling apart now as well as a Chris Candido and Sunny (sorry, Tammy Lynn Sytch) no-show of a scheduled FMW appearance. Paul Heyman himself is the first person we see telling us the card is going to change…how much does it change? The WayBack Machine takes us to January 10th, 1999 in Kissimmee, FL as it’s time for ECW to be Guilty as Charged!

What I Watched #16

ECW Guilty as Charged 1999

1/10/1999

Millenium Theatre in Kissimmee, FL

Runtime: 2:40:30 (Peacock)

Commentary By: Joey Styles (PBP)

 

THE RESULTS

  • Match 1: Axl Rotten/Ballz Mahoney win 3 team tag elimination match, eliminating Little Guido/Tracy Smothers @ 10:44 (Danny Doring/Roadkill eliminated @ 8:15)
  • Match 2: Yoshihiro Tajiri pins Super Crazy, dragon suplex @ 11:37
  • Match 3: Psycho Sid Vicious pins John Kronus, powerbomb @ 1:31
  • Match 4: Bubba Ray and D’Von Dudley def. New Jack/Spike Dudley, both Dudleyz pin Spike @ 10:05
  • Match 5: ECW TV Title- Rob Van Dam pins Lance Storm, bridged German suplex @ 17:46
  • Match 6: Justin Credible pins Tommy Dreamer, That’s Incredible on ladder @ 18:44
  • Match 7: ECW Heavyweight Title- Taz defeats Shane Douglas © by KO, Tazmission @ 22:15

 

THE BREAKDOWN

Three Team Tag Elimination Match
Started as a straight up 2 vs. 2, but within the first two minutes, Ballz and Axl (Axl making his return to the company after the passing of his grandmother) join the frey and it becomes your traditional ECW three team brawl. Nothing really stands out here but the overall work is good enough for what the match is supposed to be. The elimination of Doring and Roadkill is well done, as a FBI double-team fishermanbuster looks really cool and gets a decisive win for what was to be the original match. They do give the win to Axl and Ballz here, which I get given the fact they are a popular act, but I personally think  that Guido and Tracy were a better team during the time frame. (**½)

Super Crazy vs. Tajiri

Yes, it’s the feud that never ends. But this is where it begins. Both men were relative newcomers to the American wrestling scene with both having had limited exposure on WWF TV (both were in the Light Heavyweight title tournament). This is a good match but not a great match and honestly, I think timing is the issue here. Eleven minutes may seem like a lot but knowing what these two would be capable of down the road once there is more of a fan and time investment into their matches, it ends up being a good starting point but probably not the blow away match that ECW was expecting to deliver here. (***)

John Kronus vs. Mystery Opponent

So, ECW fans are notorious for their belief that the “big oaf” style of the WWF and WCW wouldn’t work in ECW. Obviously, they are wrong. Guys like Big Dick Dudley and 911 became massive fan favorites due to their look, not anything they could do in a wrestling ring. You can add another name to that list, as Psycho Sid makes his ECW debut here (following an introduction by the ‘Judge’ Jeff Jones) and absolutely kicks Kronus’ ass in less than two minutes. Sid was never anything special in the ring but he is one of the more charismatic big men in wrestling history so the cult-like following is easy to understand. Too short to rate, but fun for what it was. (X)

Dudleyz vs. New Jack/Spike Dudley

Sixteen year old Harry getting into ECW was a huge Joel Gertner fan. Thirty seven year old Harry going back and watching these shows is an even bigger fan of Joel Gertner. Granted, his shtick is incredibly juvenile but sometimes, you just want to laugh…

The match is your standard ECW garbage brawl. Most New Jack matches definitely have a similarity to them that does not hold up well for re-watching. I will openly admit to being a Spike Dudley mark and he does well taking an ass whooping from Bubba Ray. The Dudleyz definitely have their moments in ECW (the best is still to come in my opinion) but this isn’t one of their best performances. I will give props to New Jack for taking 3D on the ramp, even if it doesn’t come across the cleanest. About what you’d expect, but nothing more. (**)

TV Title- Rob Van Dam © vs. Lance Storm

Rob Van Dam vs. Masato Tanaka was the originally scheduled match and I think it could have been fun. However, Tanaka apparently has visa issues which prevent him from being able to get into the US for the show and thus ECW has to pivot quickly. I do have to give credit to Lance Storm for his pre-match promo here. For someone who is not known as one of the better talkers in wrestling history, he does a really good job explaining the situation with the 3 way that was supposed to happen (Storm vs. Spike vs. Jerry Lynn (cracked pelvis)) and then calling out Rob Van Dam since his opponent wasn’t there either. Storm has a really good closing line for the promo too: “I’m not the ‘Whole F’n Show’, but I am the best damn part of it’. That is one of the lines that sticks with you and you remember it.

The match itself is very good but not great. It is better than anything else on the show, so perhaps I’m rating it on a slight curve for that. Van Dam’s selling is sporadic but to be fair, Van Dam’s selling is always sporadic. The biggest thing for me is that despite that, they still keep an impressive pace and the match is by and large clean. There is a super weak chair shot by Storm (which the crowd gives him a good ration of shit over), but they do manage to turn that crowd around for the finishing sequence. A little surprised by the choice of finish, but I imagine that has something to do with telling the idea that Storm got caught and wasn’t soundly defeated like most of Van Dam’s prior opponents had been. (***½)

Stairway to Hell- Justin Credible vs. Tommy Dreamer

The problem for Credible in ECW is that Paul wanted you to believe that Justin was this huge deal but truthfully, the booking never actually treated him as such. Yeah, he won…A LOT…but more often than not, it was almost treated as an afterthought. He very rarely won the big matches on his own and while I get that as a heel, you want to give him that sense of dickishness, as a wrestling fan eventually you have to make it look like the dude could stand up on his own. Dreamer has long been a favorite of mine, even if he has overstayed his welcome in the ring on occasion. You know going in that win or lose, Tommy will bust his ass to give you as good a match as he is capable of. 

As for this match, it never reaches that next level that you expect a gimmicked semi main event of a PPV to reach. It’s not actively bad or anything (in fact, probably up there for Credible’s best match in ECW to date) but with the stipulation and the gaga around it, it feels like there was so much more it could have been. The finish comes off really flat as well as it renders the whole point of the stipulation useless and only serves to put more heat on Credible by way of Funk. (**½)

Heavyweight Title- Shane Douglas © vs. Taz

So, I’ll be a little nicer to this match then some other reviewers I’ve seen for a couple reasons. It completely accomplishes the goal that Heyman set out for it. Taz comes out of the match looking like a world beater. Douglas comes out of the match as the face of the company who “went out on his shield” as the old phrase goes. Sabu looks like a lunatic and a viable threat to take the title at any time he damn well pleases. Candido comes off as a huge dick and sticks the final knife in Douglas’ back for the end scene. So the story telling is magnificent. 

The match itself? At least a good five to seven minutes too long for that story. I get wanting that epic storytelling to fold out but when you guys are down and low on ideas, it might not be the worst idea to take it home. The other issue is that by trying to serve so many masters, Heyman causes the main event to end up being epically overbooked. Granted, that is an ECW trademark but for what was to be the crowning moment for Taz, I don’t think the 73rd Airborne needed to be a part of it. Sabu could have just as easily returned post match to set up a run with Taz. Or Candido could have turned on Douglas post match to give him a direction going forward since Taz would be occupied with Sabu. I’m not saying it completely takes away the moment but it does make it mean less than it could or should have in the overall scheme of things. (**)

 

THE FINAL REACTION

  • Best Match/Moment: Rob Van Dam vs. Lance Storm, although I do think their match at the first ECW PPV ‘Barely Legal’ (which I imagine I’ll eventually do) is better
  • Worst Match/Moment: The main event. What could have been an awesome moment for the ‘Human Suplex Machine’ and the biggest ass kicker in the company is ruined with a boring crowd brawl (to the home viewer) and a couple of run-ins that either end up actively taking away from it.
  • Overall Show Score: 5.5/10
  • MVP: Joey Styles is the best thing about this show with his one man performance. There is a reason he was such a major influence on what I did as an announcer.

 

THE SIGNOFF

It’s not a bad show. It’s just not a particulary good one either. And while ECW would put out worse, it only barely outdoes Starrcade 98 to avoid the worst show of the return thus far.

So, where do we go from here? January of 1999 had no chill. The very next Sunday would see the first WCW outing of 1999, called Souled Out. The Sunday after that would be the 1999 edition of the Royal Rumble. I’m going to hit both of those but as a fair warning, I’ll probably try to mix an Independent show from 2018 in the middle of them. Hope to see you guys at Souled Out. And feel free to check out my archives by clicking on my name at the top of this review. Thanks for reading, everyone.


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What I Watched #10b: All IN 2018

Harry decided to abridge his All In write up and bring us the blast from the past while he’s on vacation! With only a few weeks until All Out, reminiscing could be fun!

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ALL IN

Greetings, salutations and what nots. At the time you are reading this, I will be away from home on vacation with my amazing girlfriend. In the interest of not want to lose everyone’s attention in the downtime, I decided to go back to one of my earlier reviews and reformat it to match the current style while giving people who may have not been interested due to the length of the previous review a chance to see what they may have missed as well as share my thoughts on a show that had quite the buzz when it happened.

I mention in my review of AAW’s Destination Chicago 2018 (full review available in my archive by clicking my name at the top of this review) that everyone was in Chicago for this particular show. Obviously, though it was presented as part of a deal with ROH (and to some extent New Japan), this ends up being what many consider the launching point for AEW. So join me once again as the WayBack Machine takes us to suburban Chicago on September 1st 2018 and we revisit ‘All In’ here on ‘What I Watched’.

What I Watched #10-B

ROH/NJPW/Friends ‘All In’ 2018

9/1/2018

Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, IL

Runtime: 4:45:24 (45:27 on YouTube for the preshow, 3:57:57 on Fite.TV/HonorClub/NJPW World/traditional PPV for the main show)

Commentary By: Excalibur (PBP), Don Callis (Color), Ian Riccaboni (PBP/Color)

THE RESULTS

  • Match #1: Zero Hour- Frankie Kazarian/Scorpio Sky def. Jay/Mark Briscoe, Kazarian pins Mark with a powerslam counter to the Doomsday Device @ 12:35
  • Match #2: Zero Hour- Flip Gordon wins the ‘Over the Budget Battle Royal’ @ 17:11, last eliminating Bully Ray
  • Match #3: Matt Cross pins Maxwell Jacob Friedman, Shooting Star Press @ 10:07
  • Match #4: Christopher Daniels pins Stephen Amell, Best Moonsault Ever @ 11:45
  • Match #5: Tessa Blanchard wins four way, pinning Chelsea Green with the Buzzsaw DDT @ 12:43 of a match that also involved Britt Baker and Madison Rayne
  • Match #6: NWA World Heavyweight Title- Cody Rhodes pins Nick Aldis ©, sitdown on sunset flip attempt @ 22:03
  • Match #7: Adam Page pins Joey Janela, Rite of Passage off a ladder through a table @ 20:09
  • Match #8: ROH Heavyweight Title- Jay Lethal © pins Flip Gordon, Lethal Injection @ 14:25
  • Match #9: Kenny Omega pins Pentagon Jr., One Winged Angel @ 17:48
  • Match #10: Kazuchika Okada pins Marty Scurll, Rainmaker #2 @ 26:06
  • Match #11: Kota Ibushi/Matt Jackson/Nick Jackson def. Bandido/Fenix/Rey Mysterio Jr., Matt pins Bandido after the Meltzer Driver @ 11:44

 

THE BREAKDOWN

Zero Hour- SCU (Frankie Kazarian/Scorpio Sky) vs. The Briscoes (Jay/Mark)

*Hell of a way to kick things off and the exact kind of match that you want to put out to people in order to get those on the fence to order the show. I don’t know about the $50 price tag that the PPV had, but this would have been enough for me to sign up for Honor Club for $10 to watch the show at least. I’m curious if ROH ever followed up on SCU pinning the ROH tag champions here. I’d imagine so even though the end is near for Kazarian, Scorpio and Daniels in ROH with AEW looming on the horizon. (***½)

Over the Budget Battle Royal

*It was fun for what it was. Maybe a little overcrowded, but there are several people who have got to make a name for themselves off this match. Marko Stunt is all over Game Changer Wrestling (and got a run in AEW as part of Jurassic Express) and Jordynne Grace, who got herself a deal with Impact, being two to spring immediately. I don’t rate battle royals but it was entertaining, which is all you can ask for sometimes. (X)

Maxwell Jacob Friedman (MJF) vs. Matt Cross

*Good little opener here for the main show. My misgivings on the rope hanging piledriver aside (MJF calls it the Heatseeker), they worked together well without throwing too much against the wall and burning out the crowd for later. I had hoped Cross would get a chance with AEW but we know that doesn’t happen, unfortunately. MJF does become one of the biggest creations AEW has up until this point, but no-one is really sure where his status lies with the company at present. Strong start to open the show and really happy for a genuinely good dude in Matt Cross to have gotten this opportunity. (***)

Christopher Daniels vs. Stephen Amell (special guest referee: Jerry Lynn)

*When this show first happened, I heard a myriad of opinions on this match. Some thought it was really good, others thought it stunk. I fall somewhere in the middle here. Amell, for an actor, put in a pretty good performance here. I’m not saying he should do this full time or anything, but it’s not like he embarrassed himself either. Daniels had his own hiccups here as well though. So the blame doesn’t fall solely on Stephen. Overall, I’d call it above average given who Daniels’ opponent was. But I know first hand that Daniels is capable of much, much more. (**½)

Britt Baker (bay bay) vs. Madison Rayne vs. Chelsea Green vs. Tessa Blanchard

*Not sure if it was just me but the finish looks a little suspect. Tessa getting the win did make sense though at the time (I’d imagine this result changes with benefit of hindsight). As for the match, they worked hard and it by and large came together well. It definitely lost its way a bit towards the end, so I have to dock it a bit for that. All in all, I’d say good effort from the ladies involved and I’d even put it just slightly above the Daniels and Amell match it just followed. (***)

NWA World Heavyweight Title- Nick Aldis © vs. Cody (Don’t Call Him Rhodes)

*A very good match but a couple of little things keep it from the next level for me. First, the blatantly missed superkick. I’m not really as upset about that one as some people may be because I get it, shit happens in the moment. The blade job however, I can’t forgive. It was terribly obvious. I get the intent behind it to help Cody fight from underneath. I have no issues with blood in general (hell, I watch death matches). But if you can’t do the blade job more realistically there, it shouldn’t have been done. It doesn’t really factor into the match in the grand scheme of things. Also while I personally don’t mind the methodical pace, I do know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I dug the match as a whole though. And props to Brandi for eating it on that flying elbow drop. (****)

‘Chicago Street Fight’- Adam Page vs. Joey Janela

*This match won’t be for everyone. Some people like the old school ECW brawl and some people don’t. I do when it’s well executed but there seemed to be quite a bit of downtime in this one. Honestly, to me…Penelope Ford came out of this match looking like the biggest star of the three. All in all, I’d say good for what it was but nothing I’d probably want to go back and re-watch either. The finish was dope though. Janela is a crazy person for taking it. (***)

ROH Heavyweight Title- Jay Lethal © vs. Flip Gordon

*Let’s not kid ourselves. There was no way that they were going to change the ROH title on a non-ROH show. As much as they enjoyed having the belt defended, this defense was a lock for Lethal regardless of the opponent. Flip getting the match itself is the story here and his performance justifies it. I’d call it good but again, it’s nothing that you’ll want to re-watch again, despite the impressive agility of Gordon and the sheer nostalgia of Lethal busting out the ‘Black Machismo’ shtick again. (***½)

Kenny Omega vs. Pentagon Jr.

*Your mileage may vary for sure on this one. Everyone heaped a ton of praise on it and while it is very good, it does not raise to the level of excellence for me. The ridiculously spotty selling and the absolute disrespect to some of the most protected moves in wrestling cause me to take an issue. I do think they worked really well together and the styles meshed a lot better than I thought they might. But there was nowhere near the emotion here that came through clear as day on the Cody and Aldis match earlier. From a pure work rate aspect, it’s the best on the show so far. But personally, I prefer Cody and Aldis to Omega and Pentagon Jr. (****)

Kazuchika Okada vs. Marty Scurll

*A little long. But they told a pretty strong story throughout.At the time of this writing, I had made it no secret that I was not sold on Kazuchika Okada as a draw in the US. Clearly, I was wrong. He had the entire crowd in the palm of his and Scurll’s hands for basically the entirety of this contest and it was one that I think both raised Scurll’s standing in the world of wrestling and confirmed what many people already feel about Okada. That being said, it’s a better match if you chop off five to eight minutes from it. (***½)

Young Bucks/Kota Ibushi vs. Bandido/Fenix/Rey Mysterio

*Clearly much shorter than it was probably supposed to be, they packed a ton of action into these almost twelve minutes. I’d have been curious to see what was possible with a full run time but with Rey already gone (he had just resigned with the WWE), there would be no chance to run this back. I think it was a good way to send everyone home happy and get all the marquee moments in, but overall it just ends up being a spotfest fluff match rather than anything that’ll be strongly remembered as standing out down the road. (***½)

THE FINAL REACTION

There is a lot to get through here. As you guys saw above, the totality of both Zero Hour and All In run almost five hours. While not all of that is well spent, there is more than enough to sink your teeth into here, even if you wouldn’t classify yourself as a traditional ‘Independent Wrestling’ fan. There are a couple of real good spotfests if you liked the ECW/WCW luchador/cruiserweight style. There’s a tremendous call-back to the old NWA days with how Nick Aldis vs. Cody plays out. There is a interesting take on the old ‘hardcore’ styles that both ECW and the WWF used to enjoy presenting in Janela vs the ‘Hangman’. You even get the chance to see the celebrities that get trotted out for the big shows in places like the WWE and Impact Wrestling. Does it all work? No. But a good majority of it does. As I said, it’s almost five hours. But by and large, it’s five hours well spent. Call it an 8.5 and while there is room for improvement (as with everything), a very strong start for Cody and the Bucks as promoters.

Best Match/Moment: I’ll go moment here and go with the obvious of Cody getting to hold the same NWA title his father did in what was an NWA stronghold town. It’s cool to see the torch passed like this.

Worst Match/Moment: The fact that the main event with arguably six of the best wrestlers in the world at the time ends up getting the second shortest amount of time.

Overall Show Score: 8.5/10

MVP: I’m going to give this one to Cody, both for the role he played as a producer/agent for the show as well as the performance in the match with Aldis as well. A good night for young Mr. Runnels.

THE SIGNOFF

And that wraps up the first of the ‘retro’ look backs at previous ‘What I Watched’ reviews. When I return, I will be coming back with ECW’s Guilty as Charged 1999, the first pay-per-view of the last year of the 1900s. Following that, I know the WWF’s Royal Rumble 1999 is on the list. I’d imagine I’ll get to WCW’s Souled Out 1999 and when I do return to the Indies, promotions like IWA-MS, CHIKARA, Freelance, BEYOND, WWR and so many others are within my potentially planned scope. Hope to see you down the road and may you all enjoy quality time with those you care. See you next time and thanks for reading, everyone.


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