NWA Bunkhouse Stampede ’88

This PPV marks one of the most frustrating time periods in JCP/NWA history.  Jim Crockett was essentially the last man standing against the WWF onslaught of talent acquisition, fan base expansion and mass media attention.

 By this point, Vince had cornered the market on PPV by threatening cable companies to withhold Wrestlemania from them if they ran any competing wrestling PPVs.   With the millions the PPV providers had made off of Wrestlemania 3 the prior Spring, this was a serious threat. Vince had also gone arena by arena and tried to get as many as possible to sign exclusive contracts with the WWF.  If they refused that deal, Vince would still try and have a 60 day “no compete” contract agreed to, in order to keep JCP from gaining ground outside of their homebase by blocking them out of any area the WWF just ran.  With the WWF merchandise machine churning out T-shirts, action figures, lunch boxes, posters and a million other varieties of knick knacks, the WWF talent had a chance to rake in a lot of money on peripherals outside of the squared circle and that made the WWF the most desirable spot to be.

JCP was bludgeoning money thanks to unnecessary costs like buying the UWF (who had a huge syndication network) for millions only to have to toss out tons of more money to keep all those stations onboard weekly.  Renting stadiums for summer super cards in markets that were not supporting the JCP product to that level left big bills and empty seats in their wake. Big name country acts were also added to these events for further expense. They also kept 2 corporate offices open for poorly thought out reasons instead of consolidating into one. The most lavish spending was probably buying two airplanes to fly the talent around in – Dusty Rhodes loved living the high life on Jim Crockett’s dime.

That would all have been fine had the JCP business keep booming, but after some banner years in 85 and 86, 1987 saw a stale product who was missing its next big thing, Magnum TA, in a huge way. Starrcade ’87 was suppose to be the turning point, as JCP was finally getting on PPV, where the big money was to be made.  However as mentioned earlier, Vince had manipulated most PPV providers into not offering the event and JCP took another financial bath.  Survivor Series ’87, held the same day, made boffo bucks.

So two months later JCP tries again with this “Bunkhouse Stampede” event.  The WWF responded by running the first Royal Rumble on free TV at the same time and running their own bunkhouse battle royals on the house show circuit.  Going in, this PPV card looks fairly weak as we see a tag wrestler facing the World champ, and another tag wrestler facing the TV champ.  The steel cage battle royal sounds intriguing on paper to me at least.  (I’ll chime in with my fantasy card in my final thoughts.)

The tickets to this show were printed out with 3 different start times, so a lot of fans were screwed out of seeing a portion of the action.  This fact, along with the lackluster card/action saw the fans chanting “refund!” after the main event.  Well enough rehashing, let’s see if this PPV really deserves the infamy it has acquired.

From the Nassau Coliseum with a crowd of 6000 fans

The laser light show that opens the show reveals a ton of empty seats. 

Jim Ross and Bob Caudle on the call.

TV Title: Nikita Koloff vs. “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton

The background to this is the Mama Cornette ordered Jim to have his men win some single titles.  In reality, I think it was an excuse for Dusty Rhodes to work with Bobby Eaton and have someone who could work around his flaws. Koloff’s star had already peaked, less than 4 years into his career.  Nikita’s wife Mandy would get deathly sick soon after this and that basically sent Nikita into semi-retirement. 

No Big Bubba as the WWF and JCP were in a legal battle over his contractual status. They go through a feeling out process early on. Hammerlocks and headlocks. Cornette’s banter at ringside keeps the first 8 minutes from curing my insomnia.  Groups of people are obviously still wandering to their seats.  Those who have already found their seats chant “boring” to let those still wandering know they aren’t missing much.  Eaton responds by dumping Koloff to the floor where Nikita posts him and Eaton bumps into a camera man and splats into the cement. Eaton gains control and takes it back in the ring for more hammerlocks. Crowd is bored so they start catcalling Cornette to amuse themselves. Eaton nails a flying dropkick and inexplicably goes back to the hammerlock. I feel like I’m being trolled. 15 minutes in and almost nothing has happened.  We are still in that hammerlock!  Augh! Nikita finally breaks the hold and hits a clothesline, but Eaton goes right back to the mother loving hammerlock. They announce 2 minutes left and Eaton just keeps that hold on. What a shitty strategy if this was a shoot.  Nikita powers out and Eaton immediately locks the hammerlock back on.   Finally in the last minute Nikita powers out and hammers away and hits the Russian Sickle as time expires. Cornette distracts Koloff and Eaton and Stan Lane beat Nikita down and dump him to the floor.  What a terrible match.  Minus 2 million stars.

Western States Heritage Title: Barry Windham vs. Larry Zbyszko

JCP had far too many titles during the expansion era up till Turner bought them out, and this is just one of them.  This was just part of setting up Dusty Rhodes getting involved in an angle with Baby Doll again.  That was dropped quickly so they could set up Dusty and Tully Blanchard fighting some more after Tully attacked a crippled Magnum TA. And that was dropped so Dusty could feud with Barry Windham, who joined the Horsemen. That led right into a Dusty/Ron Garvin feud that never materialized as Garvin jumped to the AWA(!) and Dusty moved on to the Road Warriors by October. All part of a convoluted year of booking by Dusty.

The announcers play up Larry’s 14 years of experience and how he badly wants a title before it’s too late. They grapple to start and Windham outclasses Zbyszko several times to add to Larry’s frustration. Larry fails at a dropkick attempt and a spin kick to Windham’s sternum is caught and Larry flees to the floor. Larry keeps trying to work over Barry’s previously injured knee but Barry keeps grinding his way out of leg locks. Larry finally trips him up and gets a knee bar and an ankle lock. Barry slugs his way back but misses a flop from the top rope that looked bad since Barry didn’t telegraph any intended move and just took a back bump. Barry shows his power by dead lifting Larry during a headlock and giving him a back drop.  Larry goes right back to a leg lock. Windham rallies with a suplex but his knee gives out mid-move. They spill out onto the floor and Windham is posted. Windham grabs Larry and drags him crotch first into the post.  Windham tries a flying lariat back in the ring flies to the concrete. Barry flips out of a piledriver but both men collide on a shoulder charge. Barry accidentally sends Larry into the ref and Windham gets a visual 3 count on a roll up. Barry helps the ref up and Larry blasts him with Baby Doll’s shoe and earns the tainted title win.  Solid outing that went nearly 20 minutes. Larry would go nowhere off this and end up in low card purgatory teaming with Al Perez and such.  Barry would have a fantastic year by holding the US and World Tag titles along with joining the Horsemen.

We get a WWE Network alert about technical issues and suddenly…

NWA World title: Ric Flair vs. Road Warrior Hawk

The feed cuts right to the point when the opening bell rings. Hawk out muscles Flair to start and then no sells a chop.  Flair says that’s enough and takes a walk. Another chop is no sold and Flair goes flying after a big press slam. Another press slam. Hawk stomps a mudhole into him. Fist drop and Flair is flung across the ring and Flair bails out again. Hawk with a bear hug and back breaker submission.  Flair tries to rally with more chops and Hawk no sells and sends him to the floor with a flying shoulder block. Flair pokes Hawk in the eye and sends him into the railing. Hawk no sells that too.  Flair runs away from this Terminator and suckers Hawk in close enough to low blow him and finally gets Hawk to sell. Flair drops some knees and sends Hawk to the floor and into the railing several times. Ric connects from the top rope(!) with a double ax handle for a 2 count but Hawk rebounds with a neck breaker to take Flair down.  Hawk misses a fist drop and sells his knee off that so Flair can “take him to school”. Flair attacks the knee, delivers another nut shot and back drop suplexes Hawk.  Hawk’s leg is slammed into the ring post and the figure four is locked on. Hawk fights it and manages to reverse it. Hawk slams Flair off the top rope but his follow up clothesline sends the ref to the floor.  Flair is clotheslined to the floor and Ric is posted. Flair is bleeding. Hawk with a powerslam. Flair back to the top rope and Hawk catches him for a superplex.  Dillon comes in and hits Hawk with a chair. Hawk no sells that and chokes Dillon. Flair beans Hawk with the chair and that doesn’t even get a 2 count. Flair with a suplex – Hawk no sells. Flair’s had enough and hits Hawk with the chair for the lame DQ after 21 plus minutes. This was totally Flair vs. A Broom Stick so it was watchable but nothing special. When your World champ can’t beat a tag wrestler, something is wrong with your booking.

$500,000 Steel Cage Bunkhouse battle royal: Dusty Rhodes, Lex Luger, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, The Barbarian, Ivan Koloff, Warlord, Animal

An unwise arena wide shot shows a lot of empty seats. We stall for time so they can set up the cage and Bob Caudle READS THE EVENT CREDITS. LOL. Show some promos or something!  Then we re-watch the end of Zbyszko/Windham to eat up some more time because they still aren’t done. They play up Dusty Rhodes having won the previous 2 Bunkhouse Stampede events. This somehow makes him an underdog.

Animal goes right after Paul Jones’ trio. Everybody is walking around punching and choking. Luger isn’t nearly as focused on the Horsemen as I expected. Earl Hebner is one of the refs at ringside, only a few weeks away from being in one of the WWF’s most famous angles on “The Main Event” when he cost Hulk Hogan the World title. Animal grinds Tully’s face into the cage and he’s busted open. Dusty busts Ivan open. Tully starts to whip everyone with his belt until Dusty snags it and he and Luger go off on him and Dusty whips all the heels. The camera work is very jumpy and we seem to be missing spots all over the place.  Dusty, Animal and Arn all join the juice club. Over ten minutes and no one is out yet. This thing is kind of plodding along. Ivan ties Dusty to the ropes briefly. Animal finally tosses Ivan to hopefully signal the match progressing somewhere. Animal and Warlord fall thru the door and to the floor. Luger and Dusty pair off with Tully and Arn as The Barbarian snoozes in the corner. Arn and Tully try and drag Luger out the door but Luger fends them both off. They regroup and all 3 men are tangled up by the door and after several minutes of struggles all 3 men finally go out.  Crowd seemed to react a bit there to the fact the winner was so obvious now that the hot hand of Lex Luger was gone. Barbarian delivers a flying head butt from the top of the cage – but the camera misses it. He hits another. He tries to shove Dusty out and a slight “Dusty” chant starts. Both men decide to climb the cage and a pair of elbows send The Barbarian to the floor. The crowd offers a polite applause.  Fairly flat finish. A “refund” chant then breaks out. Dusty kisses the check and walks off.

Final thoughts: Well the NWA was known for long hard fought matches. Tonight they were long but not particularly exciting bouts.  That being said the event clocked in at under 2 hours, which was already established as being short for a PPV offering. I will never watch this again.

 Let’s get to my fantasy booking to try and save this mess:

Bunkhouse Steel Cage Battle Royal: The participants as it was were fine, but the match sure did need some better layout and a quicker elimination tempo.

Ric Flair vs. “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, NWA vs. UWF title unification match: After Starrcade, have Williams and Windham both agree to a rematch of their match from that event – but add in both men calling out Flair.  Death wins clean in 20 minutes and he and Barry hug it out after – until Flair, Arn and Tully attack and leave Dr. Death with a bum knee that he carries into this PPV. Flair wins after the 4H run interference.

Tully and Arn vs. The Road Warriors – a rematch from the Starrcade screwy finish.  This time The Powers of Pain distract The Roadies and they brawl in the aisle for the count out loss.

Sting/Windham vs. Sheepherders – 7 min match to put Sting over and get Barry a PPV payday

Dusty and Nikita vs. Eaton and Lane – set up by Mama Cornette’s orders to win single gold – a special challenge is made for the US and TV titles to be on the line in this tag team setting. Whoever makes the fall wins that champion’s gold. Midnight’s get a long beatdown on Nikita until Dusty saves the day and pins Eaton. The US Tag Belts are not on the line since the Express are cowards.

Written by Andrew Lutzke

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

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