After Starrcade 88, business continued as usual for the NWA. Booker Dusty Rhodes started to schedule the fourth annual Bunkhouse Stampede series to headline house shows and he kept his personal rivalry going against the Road Warriors. Rhodes was probably surprised to be booed in some markets – fans had been catching on that the obese old man was over exposed since 1987, when the first detractors could be heard on TV. Dusty wrestled a few dates into 1989 and even challenged Barry Windham on NWA television to accept his challenge for more US title shots. Before that could occur Rhodes was removed as booker and fired for his gory blading against orders, and also thanks to losing a power struggle with Ric Flair over the direction of the World title. Apparently before he left Rhodes booked himself to win the 1989 Bunkhouse Stampede finals, however I can’t find the actual match listed on wrestlingdata.com or the “History of WCW” results site, so that may be a false report. I’m sure some of my faithful readers who love to catch my historical oversights will let me know soon after this is published!
The Road Warriors remained heels until February, when they started being challenged by the Varsity Club, who had added Dan Spivey to their unit. Meanwhile Ric Flair was challenged at multiple house shows by TV champion Rick Steiner, with the Dog Faced Gremlin taking Flair to the limit several times in 30 minute wars. The Midnight Express continued to feud with their older counterparts Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose. Larry Zbyszko defended his “prestigious” Western States Heritage title that he had held for a year – he also started squawking on TV that he wanted to face NWA kingpin Flair. Ironically Larry would jump ship to the AWA and win their World title in early February, then Zbyszko proceeded to challenge Flair in many interviews over the next year on AWA TV, clamoring for a unification match.
New to the roster were Dick Murdoch, Eddie Gilbert, Abdullah the Butcher, Butch Reed and Michael Hayes who all rejoined the NWA in January after sabbaticals of various lengths. The biggest returning star however was Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, who surprised Ric Flair in January by appearing for a tag match as Eddie Gilbert’s mystery partner. Flair was pinned by Steamboat and that set Ricky up for a title match at the next PPV “The Chi-town Rumble”.
Kendall Windham broke up with his undercard tag team partner Dustin Rhodes and joined new manager Hiro Matsuda, who also signed Butch Reed. Things were shook up for Matsuda when longtime NWA mainstay JJ Dillon jumped to the WWF to take an office job, that allowed Dillon’s men Barry Windham and Ric Flair to be picked up by Hiro as new associates. This move has led some historians to argue that Reed, The Windhams and Flair should technically be considered a version of the Horsemen, but that idea has gained little traction. Tony Schiavone also left his longtime position as a NWA announcer and joined the WWF circus.
The NWA ran a “Clash of the Champions” event to help give the PPV a boost – the most notable event that came from it was JYD, Sting and Michael Hayes being locked in a part of the building by Kevin Sullivan and missing the main event against The Road Warriors and Tenryu. The Varsity Club then replaced the babyfaces. Supposedly Giant Baba severed ties with the NWA after seeing that ridiculous happenstance. Flair and Steamboat also had a confrontation that led to Flair’s clothes being ripped off, an angle reprised from their own feud in the late 70’s. Now that we are caught up to speed, it’s time to check out the first non Dusty Rhodes booked super card since 1983:
Cosmic porn music opens the show. A bunch of empty seats are evident. Jim Ross and Magnum TA intro all the matches. This same arena hosted the AWA’s SuperClash 3 PPV two months earlier, and Michael Hayes holds the dubious distinction of being the only man to appear on both PPVs. The Samoan SWAT team had just signed with the NWA though and they were also on that AWA card, but not used here.
Michael Hayes vs. Russian Assassin 1
Hayes cuts a cocaine-fueled promo beforehand doing a hard sell for the PPV that we already ordered. If Vince saw this, it’s no wonder Hayes was hired to do “Slam Jam” segments 6 years later. The Russian is David Sheldon by the way. Sheldon worked elsewhere as “The Angel of Death” and would go on to portray “The Black Scorpion” in 1990.
Hayes headlocks and applies hold #2 (arm bar) to the commie. TA tries to put over the Assassin’s power advantage, but the Russian has bitch tits, so I don’t buy it. 5 minutes in and nothing has happened. The commie dumps Hayes but Michael levels him with a punch and goes to hold #4 (arm bar). Sigh. Assassin rakes at Hayes face and chokes away. Russian Assassin tries a clothesline but Hayes thinks it’s a shoulderblock, so he takes an awkward bump. Commie takes his turn at a headlock as 10 minutes pass by. More choking. Hayes tried a bulldog but the commie blocks it. JR talks about Russians working methodically as we pass 15 minutes of little action. Hayes gets the DDT out of no where to end this snoozer.
Ricky Steamboat (with son Richie and wife Bonnie) is interviewed in the back. He butchers his lines several times. Ricky cuts a super goody goody whitemeat babyface promo.
Sting vs. Butch Reed
Sting atomic drops Reed right away and Reed starts to stall. They work some spots to show they are of equal strength, so Sting starts to use his agility to control Reed. Sting flips out of a hip toss attempt and hits a pair of dropkicks to send Reed to the floor. Sting controls with hold #8 (arm bar) and head locks. Reed takes a break and talks to Matsuda and he uses the advice to pound away at Sting until Sting locks on a wristlock and chews on Butch’s arm. Reed dumps Sting to the floor. Sting is dropped throat first over the top rope and Butch drops a double ax handle from the ropes. Hiro chokes Sting as Reed and the ref discuss life on the other end of the ring. “Those Orientals know pressure points” says Magnum. Sting’s arm drops 3 times in a headlock but the ref lets it slide. Butch uses the ropes for leverage as he adds pressure to his headlock. Sting finally slugs his way back into the match but he attempts a Vader bomb and lands on Reed’s knees.
Reed hits a neck breaker and goes back to the headlock. He gives Sting a grundy for “leverage” while in the hold. He switches to a lazy kneeling chinlock. Sting jaw jacks him to escape. Reed tosses Sting to the floor yet again. Sting sunset flips in the ring but Reed grabs the ropes – ref Teddy Long kicks his hand and Sting rolls him up for the win. TWENTY MINUTES LONG. Green Sting vs. unmotivated Butch Reed. TWENTY MINUTES. Ugh.
Paul E. Dangerously reveals Dennis Condrey has already quit/been fired whatever and so Jack Victory will now team with Randy Rose – I guess that makes them the “New” Original Midnight Express. Paul E says he replaced Condrey because Cornette and Eaton knew too much about him and so they needed a surprise to throw them off their game. That actually makes a lot of sense.
“Loser Leaves the NWA” Jim Cornette, Stan Lane and Bobby Eaton vs. Paul E, Randy Rose and Jack Victory
Heyman’s in pink for some easy cheap heat. Cornette is wearing the same red outfit he wrestled in SMW and the WWF in. Rose slugs away on Lane but ends up slammed off the top rope and clotheslined over the ropes. Victory comes in and is leg tripped, which allows Eaton to hit a leg drop and Corny hits an elbow. Cornette does the Fargo Strut to celebrate and the crowd eats it up. Lane hits an elbow and does his own dancing. Eaton and Rose give it a go and Eaton’s awesome punches rock Randy. Corny adds a punch for good measure. Rose is then accidentally punched by Dangerously. Bobby punches Rose to the cement but ends up flung off the apron and into the guardrail.
Paul E wants in and stomps away on Eaton. Eaton swings back and Dangerously runs away. Cornette comes in and challenges Paul E. Paul E runs and Rose attacks Corny from behind. Paul E wants in now and he works over Cornette. Paul E cocks off and ends up eating a Corny knuckle sandwich. Dangerously tags Rose in and Jim’s in a heap of trouble. Victory drives punches into Cornette until Eaton saves him. Lane tags in and karate kicks Victory but he tries to get at Paul E and Rose jumps him. Lane is knocked to the floor and Victory cheap shots him. Rose nails a flying fist from the second rope to the floor. Back in Lane reverses a piledriver but Victory cuts his hot tag attempt off. Rose locks on a headlock and mocks Lane’s dancing. Victory tags back in but runs into a boot and that allows Lane to tag in Eaton. Eaton tags Jack with a flying dropkick and makes Victory tag Paul E. Corny tags in and unloads on Paul E. Corny hits a big clothesline but Rose tags in and Corny evades him and tags in Lane. Rose misses a big splash from the top rope. The heels collide and the Midnights hit a double flapjack for the pin on Rose. Fun match.
Ric Flair promo. Steamboat’s got to beat the man to be the man.
TV Title: Rick Steiner vs. Mike Rotundo
Rick chases Mike to the floor. Steiner messes with Rotundo by talking to his imaginary friend. Steiner powers out of a full nelson. Scott Steiner is at ringside, I didn’t realize Scott was around this early in 89. Rick out wrestles Rotundo in a college style exhibition. Rick teases a Steinerline and Rotundo bails. Rick locks in a headlock but Mike works hard to escape, which is a nice change of pace from the restholds we saw in the first two bouts tonight. Steiner drops Mike with a big Steinerline and the dogs start woofing in the audience.
Mike fights out of another headlock and wants a handshake. Rick declines but ends up trapped in an abdominal stretch. Rick reverses it and rolls Mike up and works the ground and pound. They grapple on the mat again as this becomes a UWFI match from time to time. Takada would approve. They fight over another headlock and I’m digging this shoot style work. Steiner hits a monkey flip but misses a dive from the second rope. Mike sends Rick into the post. Rick survives and manages to hit a powerslam in the ring. He barks instead of pinning Mike.
Kevin Sullivan shows up and implies he’s going to hurt Rick’s dog. Steiner looks around confused. Scott Steiner didn’t give chase and argues with the ref instead. Mike hits a side suplex but misses a follow up dropkick. Rick slugs away and locks on a sleeper. Rick falls on his back while the sleeper is locked on and that leads to Rick pinning himself. Good match, lame ending.
The Road Warriors cut a promo. The Roadies aren’t going to kill the Varsity Club because dead men feel no pain.
The intros seem to be edited off of the PPV for many of the matches, perhaps to avoid having to play generic music over the licensed original track? Odd since this wasn’t an issue for the first few NWA PPVs I covered.
US Champion Barry Windham vs. Lex Luger
Luger finally gets to avenge Barry turning on him a full 10 months earlier. Luger wants the US title so he can be the recognized number one contender to Flair’s World title. Barry has Lex Luger’s trainer Hiro Matsuda in his corner. Hiro had previously helped Luger master the sleeper hold to help prepare Lex to battle Dusty Rhodes who had learned the “(Johnny) Weaverlock”. Lex tries to mat wrestle early but they both jump to their feet. Lex locks on a sleeper and Windham back suplexes out of it but Lex no sells that. Press slam and Windham takes a breather.
Windham is driven chest first into the turnbuckle, and Luger takes his head off with a clothesline and earns him some frequent flyer miles with a back drop. A powerslam damages Barry but Lex tries a flying move and lands hard on the mat. Windham nails a suplex and a slug fest breaks out. Lex is busted open hard way and a lariat rocks Luger. Barry punches the ring post by accident and hurts his claw hand. Windham blades his hand! Barry tries a clawhold out of desperation but Lex grabs his hand and forces the break. Windham hits a power slam and nails a superplex. Barry uses his “broken” hand to punch several times and I don’t approve of that psychology. Windham hits a German Suplex but Lex raises his shoulder and Barry pins himself. Really? The same basic finish two matches in a row? Windham attacks Lex after and piledrives him. Good match until the abrupt finish.
Mike Rotundo promo. “You’re looking at the New World’s Heavyweight…uhh TV Champion”. The NWA guys can work…cutting promos though is not quite their forte.
World Tag Champions: The Road Warriors vs. US Tag Team Champions Kevin Sullivan and “Dr. Death” Steve Williams
Sullivan tries to out punch Animal…that ends poorly for the Games Master. Sullivan tries a top rope move and is power slammed. Death and Animal face off and the bulls no sell each other until Animal hits a powerslam. Hawk is press slammed (!) but Hawk clotheslines him in return. Both Warriors hit a simulations clothesline and Death bails. It turns into a 4 way melee and Animal is hurt by a chair shot to the arm. Death hits a flying kick to the face! Animal no sells hold #735 (an armbar) and Death gets a leg takedown and tags Sullivan in.
Animal rocks him so Death gets back in and hammerlocks Animal. A scoop slam on his own arm wounds Animal further. Death wrenches Animal’s arm over his shoulder and only a collision that drops both men stops the torture session. Hawk tags in and routs Sullivan and Dr. Death. A four way breaks out and a Doomsday device is set up on Sullivan. Williams tackles Animal to stop that and Hawk hits a flying clothesline on Sullivan for the pin as Williams covers Animal. Sullivan is legal so The Road Warriors win. Another screwy finish! Not a bad match. I’ll gladly watch more Dr.Death against other hosses.
Lex Luger promo. The beginning of the interview is drowned out by the P.A. announcing a little boy has lost his mother. Lex puts over he and Barry’s injuries and says it was all worth it for the US title. Well done.
Steamboat/Flair video package. Basically Ricky is a goody two shoes and Flair fucks whores and drinks till his liver quivers.
World Champion Ric Flair vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
Steamboat hits a shoulderblock and goes right for the cover to try and catch Flair off guard. Ricky back flips over Flair and rolls him up for another near fall. They exchange skin tearing chops. Ricky works for a takedown but they are right back to their feet and Flair eats a dropkick. Steamboat works a side headlock and Flair tries to figure out how to cradle him from that position. More chops that are as stiff as can be from both men. Flair has had enough and takes a walk.
Flair back in, but more Steamboat chops cause Flair to flop right back out of the ring. Flair teases a lock up and Ricky gets a flying head scissors and a dropkick. A small “Steamboat sucks” chant breaks out. Ric elbows and chops away but the Dragon chops right back and Flair is sent over the top rope and to the floor. Ric suckers him in and sends Ricky into the guardrail.
Elbow to the face and a knee drop earn the Nature Boy a near fall. Double underhook suplex by Flair. Ricky whips Flair up and over the turnbuckle and Flair runs to the other corner and leaps off onto Ricky, who rolls through and ends up on top of Flair for a near fall that the fans bought. Ric hits a reverse atomic drop and locks on a figure four. Now the fans chant for Steamboat. Dave Meltzer is visible front & center in the crowd, look at the hair on him!
Ric is caught hanging on the ropes and that finally frees Steamboat. They trade more hard chops. Flair tries a crossbody and both men topple over the top rope. Ricky is sent into the ringpost. Ric hits a backdrop, suplex and back breaker. Flair uses his feet on the ropes for a near fall – a call back to his pin on Luger at Starrcade. Ricky misses a desperation flying crossbody. Ric is caught in a double underhook suplex and is nearly pinned. Backslide gets another near fall. Ricky hits a big clothesline and diving chop. Flying chop from the top rope. Flying crossbody and Flair and ref Tommy Young both go down. Good tease for the prototypical screw job finish.
Flair gets the visual pin on a roll up. Ricky misses a flying crossbody and Flair goes for another figure four. However Ricky snags Flair in a small package for the pin that new ref Teddy Long makes. Hiro Matsuda wants Young to over rule the call, but Young defiantly raises Steamboat’s hand and the crowd goes bonkers. Match is considered a classic and it’s hard to argue with that assessment. Steamboat is interviewed post match and the other faces douse him in champagne and he ends up blinded.
Final thoughts: After a painfully slow start, this PPV hit its stride and delivered. Had they used more of their roster and took 8-10 minutes off both the first two matches, this PPV would have been a can’t miss affair. As it stands it’s merely above average. Looking forward to Wrestle War ’89 next time with a 40 minute Flair/Dragon rematch!