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Chairshot Classics

Chairshot Classics: NWA Starrcade ’88 – True Gritt

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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 #275- The Big Four Project Chapter 3: Royal Rumble ’88 & WrestleMania IV

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Attitude of Aggression
Attitude Of Aggression #275- The Big Four Project Chapter 3: Royal Rumble ’88 & WrestleMania IV

The Attitude Of Aggression returns for Chapter 3 of The Big Four Project, a chronological analysis, review, and discussion about WWE’s Big Four PPVs/ Premium Live Events. On this Episode, Dave welcomes back the one and only PC Tunney to discuss two more immensely important events in pro wrestling history, the inaugural Royal Rumble and WrestleMania IV. The 1988 Royal Rumble was different than any other Rumble in history and not just because it was the first. Dave and Tunney break down the fascinating history of the first installment of an event that would evolve into an annual favorite for many in the WWE Universe. From there, the guys recap the surreal events that led to the end of Hulk Hogan’s 4-year reign as WWF Champion and set the stage for, arguably, the most important tournament in WWE History at WrestleMania IV. Macho Madness reached new heights that night. But was Savage the first choice of Vince McMahon to emerge from Atlantic City with the gold that night? We have the whole story for you here on Chapter 3 of The Big Four Project!

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Chairshot Classics: What I Watched #15 – AAW Defining Moment 2018

Harry covers a show that helped to continue Sami Callihan’s 2018 infamy. AAW Defining Moment should be a fun trip down memory lane!

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Apologies for the slight delay getting to this but it’s Harry here once again. And for as verbose as I can be at times, I don’t feel the need to waste any time getting to this one. This is the second part of the double shot for AAW on ‘All In’ weekend in Chicago. 

The WayBack Machine takes us to August 31st, 2018 as we once again arrive at the Logan Square Auditorium (and oh boy does that become important later) for AAW’s Defining Moment 2018.

What I Watched #15

AAW Defining Moment 2018

8/31/2018

Logan Square Auditorium in Chicago, IL

Runtime: 3:18:22 (HighSpotsWrestlingNetwork)

Commentary By: Tyler Volz (PBP) and Marty DeRosa (Color)

 

THE RESULTS

  • Match 1: Curt Stallion/Jake Something def. Ace Romero/Colt Cabana, Something pins Cabana @ 8:41
  • Match 2: Shane Strickland pins Darby Allin, top-rope Swerve Stomp @ 13:30
  • Match 3: Jessicka Havoc def. Palmer Cruise/Steve Manders, pinning Cruise with a Chokeslam @ 2:52
  • Match 4: OI4K (Dave/Jake Crist) def. Ace Austin/Brian Cage, Dave pins Austin @ 5:55
  • Match 5: AAW Heritage Title- Trevor Lee © pins DJ Z (Shiima Xion), roll-through on CBB with tights @ 13:30
  • Match 6: AR Fox/Myron Reed def. Bandido/Flamita, double cover @ 15:42
  • Match 7: Maxwell Jacob Friedman taps Marko Stunt, Salt of the Earth @ 10:41
  • Match 8: Sami Callihan pins Jimmy Jacobs, Cactus Driver on a bridged guardrail @ 17:52
  • Match 9: AAW Tag Titles- Eddie Kingston/Jeff Cobb © def. Davey Vega/Mat Fitchett, Cobb pins Fitchett @ 14:19
  • Match 10: AAW Heavyweight Title- Brody King pins ACH ©, All Seeing Eye (Whiplash) @ 22:46

 

THE BREAKDOWN

Curt Stallion/Jake Something vs. Ace Romero/Colt Cabana

*The match was decent but nothing special. A pretty big win for Something at the end with the three count over Cabana, who has a storied past in Chicago and was one of the biggest names in independent wrestling. That said, I personally don’t love the flukish nature that Something pins Cabana, as I think Something could have used a defining pinfall to really give him a rub going forward. 

Cabana usually makes for a fun watch and I’ve grown to enjoy Ace Romero the more I see him (he especially stands out for Limitless, which I hope to get to one day soon). Jake Something is a huge star in the making and you can see it even early in the run of AAW that he has. Stallion is what Stallion is. Solid opener, but nothing you’ll remember post show. (**½)

Darby Allin vs. Shane Strickland

*Showstealer, plain and simple. Strickland had been with AAW for a while but to the best of my memory, it was more often in a tag team with Keith Lee (funny how that works out with 2022 eyes on it, as Swerve and Keith are the current AEW tag champions at the time of writing). I do believe this is only Darby’s second match in AAW (the prior being a five-ish minute loss to Brody King). Both guys are huge names now and with efforts like this, it’s easy to see how. Darby tries to keep pace with Swerve and is able to do so for a good portion of the contest until Swerve finds that next gear down the stretch and puts Allin down with the Swerve Stomp to a massive (deserved) ovation from the crowd. (****)

Jessicka Havok vs. Palmer Cruise/Steve Manders

*I dislike handicap matches in general. However, unlike certain other writers for this site, I don’t mind intergender wrestling. But the suspension of disbelief gets lost here when you have two dudes the size of Cruise and Manders struggling with Jessicka Havok, who should realistically not being coming in at 100% after taking the Ganso Bomb from Brody King through the chairs the night before. I won’t rate the match due to the Larry Csonka (RIP) Rule of not rating anything shorter than three minutes, but I’m calling this a miss regardless. (X)

OI4K (Dave/Jake Crist) vs. Ace Austin/Brian Cage

*The Brothers Crist come out to ringside to stand next to Havok after said match and call out Brody King and Jimmy Jacobs. They get one of those two men as Jacobs makes his way out, but informs Dave and Jake that neither he nor Brody will be facing them due to having prior obligations, but he did find the perfect opponents for OI4K. As for the opponent, Cage does make for a good size fill-in for Brody King. Ace Austin is a OI4K trainee that hadn’t quite made a name for himself at the time but has since turned into a pretty good wrestler, having just competed for NJPW in Best of the Super Jr’s as well as being Impact Wrestling’s X Division champion for a while.

The match itself was not memorable at all. I will admit to typing this review on a bit of a delay and other than the finish (a Tiger Driver ‘98 by Dave to Austin), I don’t remember anything that happened during the course of the contest. Not the best impression for these four men to leave. (**)

AAW Heritage Title- Trevor Lee © vs. DJ Z

*I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I like DJ Z. I liked him more under his previous identity, but this was him using the Impact Wrestling name for more notoriety with the casual fan. That being said, despite DJZ winning a three way relatively quickly the night before while Trevor was in a war with Ace Romero, I never felt the title was in jeopardy here. For as much as I like DJZ’s run with AAW, this misfortune of his injury just so happened to coincide with Trevor Lee becoming one of the hottest acts on the undercard and there wasn’t anything in the build up to the rematch (despite some good promo work from Z) that made me think that the strap was switching here. 

As for the match itself, they have really good chemistry together and that isn’t a surprise given how many of the same promotions they were working for at the time as well as their history in AAW up to this point. I do think this match does a nice job of setting the stage for a return match as it is DJZ’s offensive attack at the end of the contest that gets reversed into the cradle (with a handful of tights) for the finish. The nature of the victory leads me to believe that the story with these two isn’t over quite yet. (***½)

AR Fox/Myron Reed vs. Bandido/Flamita

*This was similar to the main event the night before, but didn’t have the same crowd investment that match did. Bandido and Flamita once again shine here and it is easy to see why they become semi-regulars in AAW after this weekend. AR Fox and Myron Reed (Team Firefox, as they were referred to by Sarah Shockey) get a massive victory with a double pinfall following stereo 450 splashes. This sets up Fox and Reed for a title match against the winners of WRSTLING vs. Besties later in the night, but honestly, I think that Bandido/Flamita was the better pairing to have go forward to a title shot. Firefox had previously unsuccessfully challenged for the tag belts and if I’m being fully honest, I prefer AR Fox as a singles wrestler over being in a tag team. Good match, but I think the wrong team wins. (***½)

Maxwell Jacob Friedman vs. Marko Stunt

*Marko had just made a name for himself at GCW’s Lost in New York (a show I have watched) and this was a way for him to break out back in his Midwest home. MJF has been on a hot streak point up to this point (believe he is the current CZW Heavyweight champion, though I don’t think he ever actually defends that title) and MJF would make himself a known commodity the next night opening the ‘All In’ PPV against Matt Cross (in a losing effort)

Easy story to tell with MJF taking the much smaller Stunt lightly and Marko making him pay for it. It is unfortunate that more people didn’t get to see what Stunt is capable of, because his run in the indie scene before he went to AEW was quite special to watch due to his ability to connect with a crowd (no different here). The finish sees MJF take advantage of the arm work that he did early in match and after Marko escapes a fujiwara armbar, MJF is able to catch Marko in ‘Salt of the Earth’, a wakigatame (Marko on stomach as MJF applies a cross-armbreaker) for the the tapout. Very good work and Marko does really well for himself in his debut with another high end US Independent. (***)

Jimmy Jacobs vs. Sami Callihan

*Ooooh, boy. A lot to unwrap with this one. Let’s get the match first, because the drama that it creates leads to the fallout that has to be discussed. It is honestly a pretty standard Sami brawl for the time frame. PWG used to have what was known as the “Sami Sprint”…by which it would be Callihan vs. Opponent and the match would run anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes of hard hitting back and forth action with little in terms of a cohesive story or selling. Pretty much a ‘can you top this?’ kind of situation. This feels like that in a sense because the match features both Sami and Jimmy going into their well of tricks (the crowd brawling, the spike, the guardrail that gets used in the finish) while maintaining the crowd reaction from the prior night’s tag match. Fittingly, the finish is visually impressive as Callihan hits the ‘Cactus Driver’ (pulling piledriver) on a guardrail bridged across two metal folding chairs to secure the three count. (***½)

THE INCIDENT

The bigger story coming out of this is that this match almost costs AAW the Logan Square Auditorium and almost ends even more disastrously personally for Callihan. At one point, Callihan and Jacobs are brawling over by the stage in the venue (traditionally used for concerts) where Callihan buries Jacobs under a portion of the stage. Callihan then starts winging metal sitting chairs (not the standard folding ones you see in most companies because the four legged dinner table type chairs) at Jacobs. A voice comes over the house mic telling Callihan to stop, causing a loud visceral boo from the crowd. Callihan more or less tells said voice to “fuck himself” and hurls more chairs at Jacobs. 

At first, I thought it was Danny Daniels telling Callihan to stop, but it turns out it was actually building management. This becomes important when after the three count goes down, building security surrounds the ring to escort Callihan out of the building as they were pissed at Sami for throwing chairs that the venue used for other events. As I’ve heard the story, Callihan thinks this is part of a storyline and begins to push the security guys until one of them shows Callihan that he is carrying a real pistol and will use it if necessary. Things break down from there with the rest of OI4K getting involved and eventually Sami is escorted to the back (and presumably out of the building).

How much of this is real? How much of this is scripted? How much of this was sensationalized for additional attention? I don’t have the answers for those questions. I do know that cooler heads would prevail and AAW was able to continue running at LSA, however I feel the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It may have been a planned altercation to play off the recklessness of Callihan. It may have been a real reaction from the building to what they perceived as damage to personal property. The old axiom in wrestling is “believe none of what you hear and half of what you see”. Overall, it makes for a great story with a relatively happy ending all considered. But man does it take the wind of the crowd for quite a while. And I will have to check out the follow up AAW shows to see what the fallout truly is.

AAW Tag Titles- Eddie Kingston/Jeff Cobb © vs. Davey Vega/Mat Fitchett

*Trevor Lee’s promo before the match is not one I can do justice. I recommend the show in general, but Trevor’s asshole smarmy heel persona in AAW (Impact Superstar Trevor Lee) is one of the best things going in the company.

Match is good but you’d have to expect that from the four men involved. Kingston and Cobb work surprisingly well as a team and despite being on separate pages for most of the bout, Vega and Fitchett do link up for a few double teams (corner enzuigiri/Kippou kick combo being standout among them) to continue to prove why they are one of the best tag teams in pro wrestling (still are to this day, though not known as the Besties in the World anymore). The finish sees the final stab from Vega to Fitchett as Vega chooses to take Scarlett to the back after she gets knocked off the apron, leaving Fitchett alone to take a one-two combo of the Backfist to the Future from Kingston that staggers him into a Tour of the Islands from Cobb to finish the contest. The ring work is on point, the story is very well told and you can hear the disappointment from the crowd when Vega chooses the hussy over his long-time tag partner. (****)

AAW Heavyweight Title- ACH © vs. Brody King

*Unfortunately, something gets lost during the course of this contest through no direct fault of the participants. As I understand it, Brody King got concussed relatively early in the bout. Credit to ACH for keeping things together as well as he did, but I would be curious to see what they are capable of with both competitors at 100% capacity for the full duration of the match.

As for the match, it does tell a pretty good story. ACH comes in still pretty beat up from the match with Jeff Cobb the night before. However, ACH lets his pride (or perhaps his ego) get the better of him as he once again tries to hang step for step, strike for strike and move for move with a man much bigger than he is. It ends up coming back to bite him at the end as a distraction from Jimmy Jacobs allows Brody King to take a distracted ACH up into the All Seeing Eye (fireman’s carry into a Michinoku Driver) for the three count to crown a new champion. Slightly cheap on the distraction ending but does help get Jimmy some of the heat he lost earlier in the evening back after dropping the contest to Callihan. (***½)

THE FINAL REACTION

Overall, a better show then the day before but not without a couple flaws. Obviously, the big story to come out of this show would be the fact that AAW almost lost Logan Square Auditorium due to the issues in the Callihan-Jacobs match. Thankfully, those would be resolved and to my knowledge, AAW is still running there. But it gets awfully hairy there for a few.

The highs: two four star matches on this show and they come in completely different type contests. Eddie Kingston continues his march of dominance in AAW and cuts one hell of a promo at the end of the show to run down how ACH let him down by losing the title. Marko Stunt has a fun debut and quickly gets the crowd behind him. The lows: that handicap match helped no one and the tag match that followed wasn’t much better. The main event isn’t what it could have been either, but that’s a case of shit happens with the early concussion to King. I will also say that I thought Sarah Shockey did a better job on color commentary yesterday then Marty DeRosa does here.

We’ll call it an 8 overall. As I said, it is a better top to bottom show then Destination Chicago is. And while high on the guest stars (for obvious reasons), you also get a really good look at what the overall AAW roster is all about too. I look forward to coming back to AAW down the road (ironically, upcoming shows are a double shot as well for the ‘Jim Lynam Memorial’ tournament), but I do want to mix in some other odds and ends before I do so.

Best Match/Moment: Shane Strickland vs. Darby Allin

Worst Match/Moment: The Havok handicap. Especially when you consider what Steve Manders would come to mean for AAW, it’s a really inauspicious debut.

Overall Show Score: 8/10

MVP: Eddie Kingston. The key part of a match that tied for best match of the night honors and absolutely shows why he is viewed the way he is when it comes to talking with an amazing promo to close out the show.

 

THE SIGNOFF

So, where does ‘What I Watched’ go from here? I go on vacation in about a week’s time and will be gone for most of August. I spoke to Andrew and what I hope to do is reformat the ‘All In’ report that I did to the new style so you guys have something to tide you over.  As for where I go when I get back from vacation…well, the Peacock WWE Network watch-through that I am working on has reached a show that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen (and if I have, it has been quite a while). Therefore, ‘What I Watched’ #16 will be ECW’s Guilty as Charged 1999 to set the tone for a year where all hell breaks loose in two of the three major promotions. Hopefully, you guys enjoy the ‘All In’ redo to hold you over and I’ll be back later in August with Guilty as Charged. I appreciate everyone who has been checking these out and if you’ve missed any, feel free to click on my name at the top of the article to check out my archive. Thanks for reading.


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