Chairshot Classics: NWA Starrcade ’88 – True Gritt
Turner has officially taken over! Starrcade ’88 is still under the NWA banner, however Jim Crockett Promotions couldn’t keep up the battle with Vince McMahon and the WWF. We’re now called World Championship Wrestling and this is the first pay-per-view under Ted Turner’s ownership. With Starrcade traditionally a Thanksgiving night event, we have now moved into December to avoid the head-to-head competition. With that being said, let’s dive in, shall we?
In The Arena: Tony Schiavone & Magnum TA welcome us to the show and run down our card for the evening, the send us down to ringside with Jim Ross & Bob Caudle for their thoughts before our opening contest.
Match #1 for the NWA United States Tag Team Championships: NWA United States Tag Team Champions The Fantastics (Bobby Fulton & Tommy Rogers) vs. Kevin Sullivan & ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams
The two teams clearly bring diverse styles. Sullivan and Fulton start the match. Sullivan powers Fulton to the corner with chops and punches. Sullivan whips Fulton, but Fulton comes back with a big boot and a near fall. They exchange shots but Fulton takes control. He lands a right to Sullivan and makes the tag to Rogers. Rogers delivers a back body drop, and the tag is returned to Fulton. Sullivan uses his strength to power Fulton toward the opposite corner so he can make the tag to Steve Williams.
The two slow down the tempo. Fulton grabs Williams with an arm bar and immediately tags Rogers back in. Williams tries to power out of it, but Rogers’ move set is too quick. Fulton is tagged back in. Williams reverses an Irish whip to the corner, but he misses Fulton with an attempted elbow to the head and he hits the corner hard. Their teammates rush the ring. Both members of the Fantastics take Williams over with a snap suplex. When the legal men are alone once again, Williams is able to deliver a military press to Fulton. Williams follows it up with a huge lariat and Fulton falls out to the floor. Once down there, Fulton rolls under Williams and delivers a dropkick.
Both Fantastics dropkick Williams after a run in, but Williams is easily able to recover with a quick belly to back suplex on Fulton. Williams misses an elbow drop and Rogers is tagged in. Rogers lands a drop kick but Williams is barely phased, he tags in Sullivan. The two double clothesline Rogers. Now on his on, Sullivan misses a clothesline and tumbles over the top rope. Once back in the ring, the two men tie up and Rogers puts on a side headlock. The two run the ropes and Rogers shows his agility by reversing a back body drop into a successful drop kick. Members of both teams are in the ring. Williams takes control driving heads into turnbuckles.
Sullivan comes back into the ring to take a cheap shot on Rogers. Williams and Fulton are the legal men in the ring and Williams is delivering stomps before getting backed off by the ref. Williams finally returns Fulton to the ring with a powerful vertical suplex but only gets a 2 count. Back to their feet, Fulton ducks an elbow and catches Williams off guard with a rollup. Williams is back in control and Sullivan rushes the ring for some more cheap shots. With no apparent legal tag, Sullivan is now the man in the ring for his team. A tag is made to Fulton and Williams. Williams delivers a knee to the face to Fulton and then catches him in a bear hug.
Fulton gets the crowd behind him as he tries to escape. He gives a thumb to Steve William’s eye and he makes a tag to Rogers. Sullivan rushes the ring after a tag and it’s now Rogers and Sullivan. Sullivan gets a knee up on his charging opponent but he is gorilla pressed from the top rope when he tries to follow it up. Now it’s Rogers’ turn to attempt a high risk move off the top rope but Sullivan gets his knees up. Tag is made back to Steve Williams who slowly pulls Rogers up. A quick clothesline from Williams as the crowd boos. Williams taunts Rogers and delivers more knees. Another tag is made to Sullivan.
Kevin whips him to the ropes and hits a clothesline but only gets a two count. The crowd is getting behind Rogers who is trapped in a headlock. Rogers fights back with a shoulder block, but he’s immediately taken back down to the mat and Williams is tagged back in. Dr Death drops him over the top rope and delivers a headbutt. Williams with a lateral press but he only gets a 2 count. Williams has Rogers trapped in a reverse chin lock on the mat. He fights his way to his feet and he breaks the hold. After a whip to the ropes he dropkicks Williams, but Dr Death is still quick to tag Sullivan back in and Kevin catches him before he can make a tag himself.
A body slam and stomps to the abdomen from Sullivan. A pinfall attempt but he only gets a two count. Rogers reverses Sullivan’s attempts at a vertical suplex and hits one of his own. Fulton is tagged in and hits Williams with a back body drop. Rogers squares up with Sullivan and Fulton hits Williams with punches at the turnbuckle as the crowd counts along. Williams tries to fight out but finds himself caught in a sleeper hold. Sullivan rushes the ring but Rogers catches him in a sleeper as well. Fulton attempts a Lou Thesz press but it backfires and he is thrown onto the ropes for a hot shot by Williams. A pin is made. He kicks out but it is a half second too late.
Winners and NEW NWA United States Tag Team Champions: Kevin Sullivan & ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams(Williams/Hot Shot)
- EA’s Take: Solid opening bout between two teams who definitely have contrasting styles. This is our first look at The Varsity Club (Sullivan & Williams) in tag action, although the faction had started back in February when Mike Rotunda & Rick Steiner were brought into JCP. Sullivan was a bit of an outlier for the group in terms of his character, retaining his dark persona as the figurehead for The VC. Behind the scenes, legitimate issues between The Fantastics and Sullivan would arise. ‘The Gamesmaster’ would take over the book for WCW, so he was in control which forced The Fantastics to depart in 1989. We won’t be seeing them again on pay-per-view as a tandem, but they would continue teaming on the independents and Smoky Mountain Wrestling.
In The Arena: Tony Schiavone & Magnum TA go over replays of the finish between The Fantastics & Williams/Sullivan, speak on our next match and what’s to come later.
Match #2: The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane) w/Jim Cornette vs. The Original Midnight Express (Dennis Condrey & Randy Rose) w/Paul E. Dangerously
Eaton and Lane clear the ring and Cornette cuts a quick promo on Dangerously (Paul Heyman). The four men start to brawl as Lane and Eaton welcome the Originals into the ring with some force. Lane and Condrey kick it off and Lane immediately knocks Condrey out of the ring where he meets a shot from the tennis racket. Dangerously has big issues with it. Condrey and Lane lock up. Condrey hits a shoulder to the midsection and hammers him Lane some punches at the turnbuckle. This is reversed when Sweet Stan carries him back to the center for an atomic drop.
Rose enters the ring for the Originals and Cornette is up taunting on the ring apron. A tag is made to Eaton and the Express deliver a double teamed elbow. Eaton is taking control and knocking Rose out to the floor where he is now attacked by Cornette’s tennis racket. Dangerously is ringing the bell in protest. Rose tries to re-enter the ring but Eaton knocks him right back out. On the outside, Sweet Stan throws him into the ring post and then back into the ring. Rose wants a timeout but he doesn’t get one. The two tie up and Lane is tagged back in. They run the ropes and Lane ends it with a cross body press.
A tag is made to Condrey but Lane is quick on the attack. A tag is made to Eaton, but he’s slow to get in the ring as Condrey appears to be coming to life. Eaton knocks him to the mat and heads for the top rope. Beautiful Bobby hits an elbow drop from the top rope. Eaton knocks down Rose at the apron and tags Lane back in. Lane delivers a spinning kick and snapmare take down before holding Condrey in a headlock submission. The hold is broken and they are back to their feet. Lane locks up again, but he makes another smart tag to Eaton who catches Condrey in the midsection before hitting a bulldog.
Mercifully, Rose is tagged in but Eaton and Lane are really doing well with these quick tags. Lane lands an elbow. Rose is fighting back to little avail and Eaton is tagged back in. So much quick work by the Express here. A whip to the ropes and an elbow by Eaton. Irish whip to the corner but Condrey moves and Rose is tagged back in. Eaton finds himself trapped at the turnbuckle and he is double teamed by his opponents until his partner and Cornette save him. Back in the ring, it’s Condrey and Rose’s turn to enjoy the quick tags and Eaton is feeling the pain. Bobby is pulled down to the floor and Rose hits him with an ax handle from the turnbuckle.
Dangerously takes a cheap shot at Eaton on the apron and Cornette chases him around the ring but does not catch him. Everyone is back in their appropriate corners and Eaton is caught in a headlock. Eaton is whipped to the ropes but reverses the momentum with a swinging neck breaker. He immediately looks for a tag, but Condrey is able to make his first. Rose with a vicious clothesline to Eaton. He makes a pin but only gets 2. Eaton is caught in Rose’s reverse headlock as he reaches for Stan’s tag. Rose lifts him for a pile driver but Eaton reverses the attempt with a back body drop.
However, Condrey is the first to be tagged in and he goes to work with knees on Eaton’s back and midsection. Lane rushes in without a tag but he’s redirected by the ref as the Originals keep on Eaton. Beautiful Bobby is choked on the ropes and then he’s hung by his legs from the 2nd rope. From the apron, Cornette pleads with him to get out of there. More double team work, but the Originals miss their “Rocket Launcher”. This opens up the hot tag made to Stan Lane who is delivering shots to both of his opponents much to the dismay of Dangerously. Lane with many impressive kicks. He attempts a pin as Eaton drives Rose out of the ring.
Dangerously breaks up the pin attempt by hitting Lane on the back of the head with his phone. Cornette rushes the ring! The crowd goes wild as Cornette takes a shot at Dangerously and proceeds to chase him out of the ring. Condrey tries to take advantage of the knocked out Lane by pinning him but referee Teddy Long spots the phone. Off the distraction, Lane and Eaton execute the Double Goozle and get the pinfall before it can be broken up by Rose.
Winners: The Midnight Express (Eaton/Double Goozle)
- After The Bell: All six men brawl and Cornette really takes a beating. Bobby Eaton is finally able to clear the ring out.
- EA’s Take: Pretty unusual circumstance here with Eaton, Lane & Cornette all playing babyfaces for the first time on PPV. They continue using heel tactics as well, something that’s still rare for a “good guy”. We get our first look at Paul E. Dangerously, the only guy in the world who could make Corny a loudly cheered personality. The Original Midnight Express is in fact the actual original combination. Rose & Condrey are long in the tooth at this point, but the combination that really put the name of the team on the map (Eaton & Condrey) has broken apart when Condrey essentially left JCP like a thief in the night in 1987 with no explanation. Personally, I always found Lane & Eaton to be the most entertaining incarnation of the duo. This is the last we’ll see of these four going at it as Condrey would again up and leave prior to Chi-Town Rumble in February of ’89.
Match #3: The Russian Assassins (#1 & #2) w/Paul Jones vs. Ivan Koloff & Junkyard Dog
JYD and #1 start the action and Dog immediately gets a near fall off of a small package. JYD throws #1 into the ring post and follows with a clothesline. There is an attempted pin but Paul Jones pulls his foot on the ropes. #2 is tagged in he’s immediately sent over the top rope by JYD. Koloff throws the opponent back into the ring for a pinfall but Jones once again pulls the foot to the ropes. Ivan Koloff is tagged in and he has all the offense against #2 which includes a small choke slam. #2 tries to fight back and works Koloff over in the corner. He attempts an Irish whip but Koloff gets his boot up.
Koloff hits a Russian Sickle but Assassin #1 breaks up a pin attempt and is tagged back. Koloff delivers an elbow. He reverses an attempted back body drop with a sunset flip but the referee is distracted. JYD is tagged back in and A1 is hit with an elbow followed by a snap mare take down. JYD is rattled when he misses a headbutt and both men are slow to get up. A1 is able to tag A2 and the two work back and forth for a minute. JYD is victim to an Irish whip with a successful boot by A1. A tag is made to A2 and they attempt their Russian Missile but JYD moves. Dog is looking for a tag and he gets it. Ivan takes on both Assassins and Paul Jones gets knocked off the apron.
The Assassins are whipped together in the center of the ring. After the collision, Ivan is able to land a trademark Sickle. As this is happening, Paul Jones is giving the other assassin a foreign object to put in his mask. Ivan’s pin attempt is broken up by a headbutt using the foreign object. The ref did not see the headbutt and cannot distinguish which Assassin is #1 or #2, thus who is legal, and a pin is made.
Winners: The Russian Assassins (Foreign Object)
- EA’s Take: Short, slow, plodding and boring. JYD is by far the best part of this match, but his best days are behind him and it’s only because he could still pop the crowd. Ivan’s well past his prime and he’s out the door less than a month later. Then, you’ve got The Russian Assassins that I don’t fully understand. For whatever reason, the Russian gimmick continues to be part of the go-to gimmicks, but The Cold War was nearing an end in the next couple of years. By this time, hatred towards the Russians was waning, as evidenced by face turns from Nikita & Ivan. We’ll get to see one of those Russian Assassins later on without his mask (Jack Victory), but the other (David Sheldon) is probably best known as the original Black Scorpion. So that shows you how well his career went.
Match #4 for the NWA World Television Championship: NWA World Television Champion Mike Rotunda w/Kevin Sullivan vs. Rick Steiner
There is a stipulation that Kevin Sullivan be locked in a cage suspended from the arena, much like Cornette was at a previous PPV. The two start with a shoving match that turns into a brutal punching match until Steiner knocks Rotunda out of the ring. Rotunda is slow back. The two lock up, Steiner reverses a wrist lock and follows it up with a fireman takedown. Another lockup and Steiner has some leverage. He holds Rotunda in a headlock. Try as he may, Rotunda isn’t quick to break it. They run the ropes and Steiner powers him down when they collide. The crowd barks as Rotunda rolls to the floor and tries to call for a timeout.
Sullivan glares on from the cage. Back in the ring, the two men lock up and Rotunda manages a drop toe hold. This doesn’t last long as Steiner offers a reversal back into a hammerlock. Rotunda breaks the hold and both men are back to their feet. Rotunda finally gets something going with a belly to belly suplex but he misses the follow up elbow drop. The two square each other up and Steiner works Rotunda to the corner. Rotunda fights back with a right hand. The two run the ropes and Steiner delivers a cross body. Both men are quickly up to regroup. The crowd is clearly behind Steiner and Rotunda wanders to the floor, bothered.
The two run the ropes and Rotunda sends Steiner through the middle rope to the floor. He follows him and hits a hot shot on the metal gate before pulling him back to the apron. Rotunda dropkicks him back out. As Steiner tries to return to the ring, he receives an elbow to the back of the head. Back in the ring, Rotunda is quick with a back body drop plus a flurry of of rights and kicks. Rotunda holds a relatively helpless Steiner in a headlock and he gets leverage from the ropes when the ref isn’t looking. The crowd reacts every time Teddy Long questions this, but Rotunda plays innocent. Long finally breaks it up.
Rotunda goes back on the attack. Steiner starts matching him, but Rotunda stays on offense with a big elbow. Rotunda only gets a 1 count and he immediately puts Steiner back in a chin lock. Steiner starts fighting back with some elbows but Rotunda stops him in his tracks with a huge clothesline after breaking the hold. Steiner is whipped to the ropes but he reverses Rotunda’s offensive attempts with a sunset flip. He only gets a 2 count. They run again and Rotunda misses a dropkick. The two lock up on their feet and Steiner almost catches him off guard with a small package. Steiner whips Rotunda to the ropes and hits a massive clothesline. The tides have turned and Steiner hits rights followed by a back body drop.
As this is going on, Steve Williams is in street clothes wandering slowly to the ring. Steiner hits a power slam and Rotunda barely kicks out at 2. Steiner hits a patented belly to belly suplex and the bell rings immediately. Steiner celebrates, but Teddy Long is saying no. Tommy Young is down to the ring to confer with Teddy Long. In the meantime, Sullivan is now out of the cage and down to the ring. Tommy Young says they need to continue the match. Rotunda makes the first move, but Steiner is able to whip him into Sullivan who is now standing on the apron. Steiner covers him with a lateral press for a 3 count. The crowd ERUPTS!
Winner and NEW NWA World Television Champion: Rick Steiner (Outside Interference)
- EA’s Take: The former partners do battle here in what I’d call another solid match as Steiner gets the big win. Strange finish too where the bell seemed to ring unprompted since they didn’t ever show ‘Dr. Death’ as the man ringing it. If you go to a movie and the ending sucks, it doesn’t matter what else happened because that’s the lasting impression you’re left with..even if the crowd exploded for the pinfall. This finish wasn’t quite to that level, but it hurts it in my book. Rick is set for a big push and the people are loving him since he broke away from The Varsity Club. It won’t last long on his own however, as Scott is coming in the beginning of 1989 to form without question one of the best tag teams of all-time. For Rotunda and The Varsity Club, their road will continue on after adding Dan Spivey, as well as the previously seen ‘Dr. Death’ to the group not long before this match.
In The Arena: Tony Schiavone & Magnum TA again go through the action of the previous match
Match #5 for the NWA United States Championship: NWA United States Champion Barry Windham w/James J. Dillon vs. Bam Bam Bigelow w/Oliver Humperdink
The two lock up twice and break up with hostility. On the third lock up, Bam throws Windham across the ring. They lock up again and Windham uses his leverage to get BBB to the corner. He delivers some rights, but upon a whip to the corner, Bigelow catches him over his shoulder and delivers a crazy gut buster over his shoulders. After a consultation with Dillon, Windham is back in the ring and squares up Bigelow. They reach for a test of strength but instead, Windham goes on the attack with some rights and kicks.
Windham delivers a side suplex but Bigelow is back to his feet immediately. He scares Windham back to the floor and the crowd is loving it. JJ Dillon looks flustered. Windham is very slowly back to the ring. They lock up, run the ropes and BBB hits a shoulder tackle as Windham begs for mercy. Upon next lockup, Windham rakes the face and delivers some rights that only appears to make Bigelow angry. BBB delivers a military press to the delight of the crowd. They lock up, and Bigelow goes for big rights at the turnbuckle and Windham falls on his face as the crowd cheers. Bigelow delivers a dropkick and Windham tumbles over the top rope.
Dillon wants a DQ but the refs having none of it. Back in the ring, Bigelow lands some more kicks to the midsection and follows it with an impressive vertical suplex. Lateral press for a 2 count. Bigelow applies a reverse chin lock and Windham struggles. Windham slowly fights back and throws Bigelow out to the floor and he lands on his knee. The commentators acknowledge problems Bigelow has had with his knee. Windham is on the floor with some rights and the two make their way back to the ring. From the apron, Bigelow is able to take Windham down and he leaps over for a splash but he only gets a two count.
Bigelow lifts Windham for another military press and he heads for the top rope. BBB attempts an atomic splash but misses. Windham pulls Bigelow to his feet and delivers some chops and rights. Windham then delivers a brutal lariat and taunts the crowd. Windham delivers a side suplex and goes up for some punches at the turnbuckle. He whips Bigelow to the ropes and lands and dropkick that knocks Bigelow to the floor. Bigelow is run into the ring post and rolled back in the ring. Windham applies his patented claw and he taunts the crowd. Bigelow fights his way back to his feet but to no avail. The Claw is broken by the ropes.
Windham picks up Bigelow for a body slam and he goes for an elbow drop but misses! Bigelow is back to his feet delivering rights! They run the ropes and both end up over the top rope and down to the floor. Bigelow delivers an atomic drop, but is then ran into the post. Windham rolls back into the ring. Despite Bigelow rolling right back into the ring, and no clear audio of the referee’s counting, apparently Bigelow was counted out.
Winner and STILL NWA United States Champion: Barry Windham (Count-Out)
- EA’s Take: I sound like a parrot with this one, but again, just solid and another confusing finish. I will say this though; it’s certainly true that time can help give someone perspective. Bam Bam Bigelow was such an underrated talent to the business. I allways liked the guy in real time, but never thought of him as the special talent he really was. Hardcore wrestling fans always acknowledge him for his agility given his size, but let’s parlay that onto the time when he broke in. Wrestling was starting to get slightly more creative during this time, but there weren’t many big men participating in the creativity. Therefore, The Beast From The East was special.
Backstage: Magnum TA is in the locker room with new NWA World Television Champion Rick Steiner, Rick saying that Mike Rotunda is a tough wrestler, but every dog has his day and today was his. He speaks about getting sick of being called stupid by Kevin Sullivan and dealing with his tricks.
Match #6 for the NWA World Tag Team Championships: NWA World Tag Team Champions The Road Warriors (Animal & Hawk) w/Paul Ellering vs. Sting & Dusty Rhodes
Upon the RW’s entrance to the ring, the four immediately start brawling. Rhodes and Sting clear the ring and the crowd loves it. The ring announcer gets to do his job and they finally settle down and start. It’s Animal and Sting. After a tie up, they run the ropes until Sting drop kicks Animal out of the ring. Back in, Sting holds a strong wrist lock and he tags in Rhodes. The Dream beats Animal down and to the outside of the ring once again. Slowly back to the ring, Animal tags Hawk. Rhodes and Hawk exchange blows. Dream tags Sting back in who holds Hawk in a wrist lock. Hawk battles out, and delivers a flurry of rights and kicks.
The two exchange more rights until the Stinger takes the upper hand. Sting whips him for a power slam and follows it up with an elbow drop. Once on their feet, he can’t prevent the tag made to Animal. Animal, immediately delivers a military press followed by a hot shot on the ropes. This doesn’t phase Sting as he comes back with some clotheslines and knocks Animal out to the floor. Sting climbs the ropes and takes a dive on Animal from that height. Back in the ring, a tag is made to Rhodes who immediately goes to work on Animal’s leg using the ring post as a weapon. Animal retreats to the ring and is able to make the tag to Hawk. All 4 men brawl in the ring once again. Hawk and Rhodes tumble out of the ring.
Hawk stomps on Rhodes until he finally stumbles back in. Now Animal is the legal man with Rhodes and he is right on him. Multiple rights, but it seems to be pumping Rhodes up and the Dream lands a dropkick. This kick knocks Hawk back into a tag with Animal who is starts working on Dusty. Animal holds him in a sleeper but Dusty does not give. Hawk comes back in with multiple chops. After a whip to the ropes, Dusty is caught in another sleeper but he’s able to break it with a chin breaker.
Hawk makes it to Animal but the hot tag is also made to Sting. He lands a Bulldog on Animal and follows it with a Stinger Splash in the corner. Sting is set up for the Scorpian Deathlock but Hawk breaks it up and throws Sting over the top rope. Rhodes is at the mercy of the RW double team but Sting is back up to the top rope. He lands a cross body from the top rope. Paul Ellering pulls the ref away from making the count and the bell rings.
Winners: Sting & Dusty Rhodes (Disqualification)
- EA’s Take: Boy, a lot has changed in the tag team division since the last Starrcade. The Midnight Express are babyfaces and The Road Warriors are heels, which we saw at Great American Bash. Their turn came at the hands of Dusty, violently jamming one of the spikes from their shoulder pads into his eye. This would also lead to Dusty’s firing with Turner execs being less than pleased that he booked the bloody spot. This is probably why Sting carried the action for his side. The match was different because the people didn’t fully want to boo The Road Warriors and Dusty even got some boos from the LOD fans. This match also left me wondering why Sting didn’t continue going after the World Title following his Clash of the Champions match with Flair. I know they went with the Luger turning on The Horsemen angle, but we’ll see why I think that was the wrong call next.
Match #7 for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Lex Luger vs. NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair w/James J. Dillon
Flair wastes no time to strut and mock Luger. The two lock up, but Flair holds onto the ropes. The two lock up again and move to the corner. Luger retaliates on Flair’s chops, but the next time Flair holds the ropes he is clotheslined over the top rope. Flair paces the floor. They lock up again and Luger reverses Flair’s hammerlock submission. Luger immediately takes Flair from a side headlock to a shoulder tackle. Flair teases a test of strength and instead takes some cheap shots. They run the ropes and Luger lands a power slam. This is followed up with a gorilla press. Flair retreats to the ropes.
Luger executes an armbar submission as Flair yelps. After a whip to the turn buckle, Flair tries a chop but Luger is fired up. Referee Tommy Young redirects Luger to the ring and Flair lures him into a kick to the midsection. The Package doesn’t take kindly to this and he whips Flair to the turnbuckle and then catches him in a hammerlock. Luger hits several shoulder tackles and a hip toss. Flair reverses the momentum by raking Luger’s eye. Flair attempts to take some offense with chops but Luger is fired up and he chases Flair outside of the ring. Tommy Young is on the floor convincing Luger to take Flair back to the ring.
Lex takes some shots on the ring post and then rolls him back into the ring. Luger holds an armbar submission on Flair as he tries to fight out of it. After running the ropes, the two exchange shoulder tackles, but Luger can only get a two count. From the apron, Luger executes a vertical suplex back into the ring. Flair kicks out at two. Luger attempts an elbow drop but Flair moves. Back to their feet and Flair is taking some offense. He throws Luger through the middle rope and follows him down. Flair bashes Luger on the guard rail and JR reminds the crowd that a DQ could cost Flair a championship.
Back in the ring, Tommy Young gets physical while lecturing Flair. Luger is back in the ring, but Flair hits a snapmare takedown and follows it with a knee to the head. Flair with double feet to Luger’s midsection. The Nature Boy hits several chops, but those chops seem to be waking Luger up. The Package fights back and he catches Naitch in a sleeper hold. Finally, Flair is able to reverse the hold with a side suplex. Flair starts the offense with a quick kick, a snapmare and an attempted figure four, but Luger immediately reverses it into a small package. The pin is unsuccessful, and Flair jumps back on the offense.
He lands another snapmare and heads for the top rope. Luger catches him before he can do anything and superplexes him from the top rope. Luger gives Flair a taste of his own medicine and holds him in the Figure Four leg lock. Tommy Young is forced to break the hold as Flair is on the ropes. Luger nails some rights but Tommy Young is inadvertently hit. Luger flies with a cross body from the top rope, but the count is slow due to the position of the struck ref. Flair hits a shot to the midsection, but after a run to the ropes, Luger gets Flair over for a 2 count on a backslide. Luger is up on the 2nd turnbuckle for the punches as the crowd counts to 10. Luger sends him to the other turnbuckle and Flair only partially flips on it.
The Total Package brings him back to the ring with a vertical suplex but Flair kicks out at 2. Back to his feet, Flair delivers some ineffective chops before getting caught in a gorilla press slam. This is followed with a power slam, and then Luger is distracted with JJ Dillon as Flair rolls out of the ring. Flair trips Luger onto his back and uses a chair on Luger’s knee. Flair comes back to the ring and goes to work on that knee. Flair mocks the referee as he delivers more shots to Luger’s leg. Finally, Flair goes for the Figure Four leg lock.
The crowd is behind Luger as he screams out. Luger flexes in position and tries to turn the maneuver on him. He breaks the hold and both men are slow to get up. Flair takes him over once again with a snapmare and gets Luger’s leg once again. Flair goes to the top rope, but Luger catches him with a gorilla press. Back to their feet, Flair throws Luger to the apron, but Lex is pursuing Flair on pure adrenaline. He whips Flair for another military press slam. Once up, Flair is able to throw Lex out temporarily. Returning to the apron, Luger hits his shoulder to the midsection and comes back in with a sunset flip for a 2 count.
Luger intimidates Flair and backs him into the corner. He punches Flair for a count of 10, delivers an Irish whip and a clothesline for another 2 count. Luger follows it up with a power slam and puts Flair up into the torture rack. As the hold is on, Luger’s leg buckles from under him and Flair falls on top of him. Flair uses the rope for extra leverage and scores the pinfall.
Winner and STILL NWA World Heavyweight Champion: Ric Flair (Torture Rack Counter)
- EA’s Take: PWI’s Feud Of The Year for 1988 is the main event of the NWA’s premier event and while I think Luger held his own again, just another decent match on this card. I must say, I was satisfied with Lex’s performances in the last two NWA main events, but of course some of that falls on Flair. I know the “Dirtiest Player in the Game” often had some trick up his sleeve, but the finish was odd on a night where there was just too much of that. There was no real explanation on how Luger’s knee randomly buckled and they could have told a better story/spent more time with Flair really working it over more than usual. This leads to Luger favoring it while using the Torture Rack and a better way to get into the counter that put it away. Lastly, why exactly does Luger NOT go over here? Is that not the point of the story, for the “good guy” to prevail on the biggest stage?
EA’s Finisher: While this show was certainly not bad by any means, it was just vanilla. I like vanilla, but not when it comes to my pro wrestling. It didn’t have any ridiculous gimmick matches and the talent on the card was pretty solid, but there’s that word again…just solid. Nothing standout whatsoever. The company seems to be coming apart already, The Horsemen are no more and they were really the backbone of JCP the past couple of years. Dusty’s on his way out and he was the heart of the company, plus all the other departures. WCW will be able to find new talent, but this is around the time they’d seemingly stop knowing how to build them or package them correctly. The WWF’s stranglehold on the business is in full effect now.
Top Three To Watch
1 – Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Barry Windham
2 – Lex Luger vs. Ric Flair
3 – Mike Rotunda vs. Rick Steiner
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Attitude Of Aggression #277- The Big Four Project Chapter 4: Summer Slam ’88 & Survivor Series ’88
The Attitude Of Aggression returns for Chapter 4 of The Big Four Project, a chronological analysis, review, and discussion about WWE’s Big Four PPVs/ Premium Live Events. On this Episode, Dave is again joined by the one and only PC Tunney to discuss two more huge events in pro wrestling history, the inaugural Summer Slam and Survivor Series’88. However, the guys are also joined by the debuting DJ of The Mindless Wrestling Podcast to join in the festivities. Summer Slam ’88 was a key event in the story of the rise, and eventual fall, of The Mega Powers. But it also saw a different kind of explosion as The Ultimate Warrior burst upon the scene like few had before him with an iconic dethroning of The Honky Tonk Man. The fellas look at how the events of that night in MSG nearly 35 years ago redefined an industry. From there, Dave & DJ recap the second Survivor Series. While not as unique or good as the first Survivor Series, there were still many key moments that took place that night. The Mega Powers would be the sole survivors of their match that night,,,,but they would not survive as a united force for much longer. What changed that night in Richfield, Ohio so long ago? We have the whole story for you here on Chapter 4 of The Big Four Project!
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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!
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
Millenium Theatre in Kissimmee, FL
Runtime: 2:40:30 (Peacock)
Commentary By: Joey Styles (PBP)
- 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
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.
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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