From the WWE Network: The (Lost) AWA Team Challenge Series Pilot

A look at the car crash wrasslin’ show that has taken the wrestling world by storm!

Holy cow! We open with gals in their bikinis chanting for the AWA. We next see clips of a rock concert and women boxing?   MTV meets Wrestlicious? Did the WWE buy the rights to Rob Black’s porno hardcore wrestling promotion?!?

We quickly cut to Verne Gagne sitting on a dock next to what I presume is the lakeside property that the government would steal from him not too long after this was taped. Gagne puts over the new concept the AWA has created. The dog makes this a ***1/2 promo.

Greg Gagne and “Ringside” Ralph Strangis greet us from the AWA control room. They are excited that we are going to see wrestling, rock and hot women over the course of the next hour. They send us off to someplace outside of the space-time continuum of the wrasslin’ world.

Tommy Jammer vs. Tom Burton 

I can’t properly put into words the sight of a superimposed audience (in a bar or ballroom!?) being green screened over Jammer’s entrance. What….the….hell!

They are wrestling in an empty studio, with smoke hiding the surrounding ringside. Fake crowd noise is added in to boot. The production team cut to fans sitting at a restaurant reacting to the camera. They do some overhead camera shots of the action in an attempt to be unique. In addition, they show a slow motion replay of a bodyslam to continue the “innovative” theme. Jammer wins with a splash in short order. We see a woman cheering in a bar. Jammer plays to the empty room to celebrate.

Now I kind of wish they would have just taped this in the barn where Verne used to train wrestlers.

Sgt. Slaughter and Baron Von Raschke cut a promo side by side as each man talks up their charge for the main event later tonight in a Team Challenge Series match. Baron trips over his lines, but they don’t bother redoing the promo.

Wayne Bloom and Mike Enos pretend to use their sledge hammers to knock down a building that is on the green screen behind them. Enos actually cuts a promo, which goes against their usual routine of Bloom interrupting any attempt by Enos to say his peace.

Ricky Rice and Jerry Lynn vs. Wayne Bloom and Mike Enos

The heels get the wacky entrances. Johnny Valiant playing to the empty studio makes me grin.  Gagne and Strangis explain the fan cutaways are from a sports bar that this match is (allegedly) being streamed to. So that explains this bizarre set up a little bit.

The guys work a fast paced bout, with frequent tags. Someone needs to ask Jerry Lynn about this. How hard must it have been for these guys to work this without any fans or noise? Lynn gets mauled with several big moves, but the heels aren’t content with that, so they distract the ref and hit the “Doomsday Device” to earn the win. This was pretty frenetic in pace, making it a decent squash.

Eric Bischoff appears! ATM Eric tries to interview the guys, but his mic doesn’t work. Then the production team kept the crowd noise up too loud and drowned out the promo a bit. THIS WAS PRETAPED. Fix your errors!

Sgt. Slaughter cuts another promo. His enemy Col. Debeers is on his Team Challenge Series squad in spite of the fact that they hate one another. Debeers is going to face Paul Diamond in a battle royal match on tonight’s main event.  They cut to Debeers, who is in full white supremacist African apartheid gear. They overdub African tribal chants as he talks to really drive home the uncomfortably racist gimmick.

We go to a bar where two women are sitting in tiny shorts and tight shirts for…I kid you not…Foxy Boxing. The women around the ring are all in their skimmies as they cheer this on. The Blond Bomber is very easy on the eyes. Gagne jokes about getting in the ring with the women. The Bomber takes off her gloves and uses a suplex, which isn’t a DQ. They are adding to the surrealness of this mess by tossing in some point of view shots, which would serve to take me out of the “match” if my head wasn’t already fluttering with disbelief in what is on my screen.

The ref is distracted and we get a run in as another of the models delivers a back breaker to one of the boxing babes. They run a “Rocky 2” finish as both gals go down and the first one to rise up is declared the winner. This was so far outside of what the AWA normally presented that this feels like someone was taping an AWA wrasslin’ show and flipped over to GLOW for a minute.  Actually, GLOW was classier than this sexplotation.

Author’s note: Sean Waltman went on Twitter after this was released and revealed that he and Jerry Lynn trained local strippers in Minnesota for the foxy boxing segments.

Paul Diamond cuts a promo in front of a spinning planet on the green screen.  I don’t get the connection.

Has Diamond and Billy Ray Cyrus ever been seen in the same place?

That makes me wonder which of them has retained the most dignity over the years?

Diamond is now Max Moonlighting in possibly a drunken stupor:

Wait a minute…Max Moon? OMG the green screen planet was an omen of things to come!

Back on topic… Cyrus is now cosplaying as Hillbilly Jim… HillBilly Ray Cyrus?

Paul Diamond vs. Col. Debeers

Diamond controls things early on with a few flying head scissors. Debeers uses his rough house tactics to take a good chunk of the match. The Colonel tosses Diamond over the ropes at one point and turns around to pose for fans who aren’t there. He quickly turns back around and chews on Diamond’s hand in an attempt to win this special battle royal challenge.

Debeers next attempts a piledriver, but winds up backdropped out of the ring, and due to the special rules, he loses the match. This was fine for what it was as the guys worked hard in a situation that could not have been easy. Trying to work a match with no fans to play off of goes against a lot of basic wrestling psychology. This is actually the WWE’s dream audience as they could manipulate the crowd response in any manner they desired.

Debeers goes off to find his lost dignity:

Sgt. Slaughter vs. The Terminator

Slaughter entering through the computer graphics looks especially hokey as he pretends to point and salute at individual fans…who aren’t there. Once he gets to the ring, I notice that Slaughter looks ROTUND, corpulent, FAT! Jesus, semi-retirement was not good for the Sarge. Those GI Joe royalties went straight to his diabetes medicines.

Terminator talks a bunch of trash. Sarge reveals a major comb over when he takes his hat off. Terminator can’t budge the Sarge once they start things off proper. Slaughter takes him down with a big shoulder block and “flying” crossbody. The crossbody is so epic that the announcers demand a slow-motion replay.  Sarge shouts into the empty room “I can’t hear you!” –  apparently without a hint of irony.

Sarge takes a miniature version of his famous corner bump, slamming his skull against the metal pole. Slaughter recovers fast and begins to take the beating to the Terminator. Sarge hits the “Slaughter cannon” clothesline and plays to the empty arena again. He locks on the Cobra Clutch sleeper for the win.

Bischoff talks to the Sarge, who is sweating profusely and gasping for air. He says he is in the best shape of his life! As someone funnier than myself mentioned after watching this, Slaughter should have told Vince McMahon to go ahead with the plans to run the Los Angeles Coliseum for Wrestlemania 7, since Sarge was used to working in empty places anyway!

Gagne and Strangis close the show by promising we’ll see Kokina Maximus, The Trooper, the Russian Brute and the Texas Hangmen next week.  All we were missing was the promise of some midgets.

Final thoughts: Well…this was incredible. The wrestling was perfectly acceptable, but the aesthetics to the whole shebang make this a must see!

I need the WWE to buy the rights to the lost empty studio matches that Randy Savage put up on his website for a nominal fee during his jacked up/retired/insane phase. If I recall correctly, among the guys Savage beat in those was Pat Tanaka.




Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

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