Classic Wrestling Review: Bunkhouse Stampede ’88

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I have to start off this week by addressing the recent sad news. Leon “Big Van Vader” White passed away a couple of days ago. Doctors gave him two years to live and he made it a year and eight months after that diagnosis, before passing away after a bout of pneumonia. I started watching wrestling in 1994 and the first PPV I watched was Spring Stampede ‘94. That night I witnessed Vader do a moonsault off the top rope, which was insane for a man his size. I was blown away and needless to say, he became one of my favorites almost immediately. I also remember being greatly amused by his appearances on Boy Meets World. Even though I knew this day would be coming sooner than later, it still doesn’t soften the blow. Rest in peace, Leon.

I also have a couple of notes before I get started. First, I am now including comments sections at the bottom of the page (below the article links). Feel free to leave your feedback there. Second, I have started a side blog where I review the Monday Night Wars. I will include a link at the end of this review.

(All screen captures are the property of World Wrestling Entertainment)

Bunkhouse Stampede

January 24, 1988

Nassau Coliseum

Uniondale, New York

When we last left off, the two major wrestling promotions were running PPVs on the same night. Cable companies were not happy about this and told the two promotions that this could not happen again. However, they didn’t say anything about running TV specials on the same night as a PPV. JCP decided to try the PPV market again with Bunkhouse Stampede, so Vince decided to run a special live on the USA Network. That special would be the first ever Royal Rumble, which I will cover in my next review. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the only issue that this show faced. The tickets for this event were printed with the wrong start time, so fans showed up late and missed part of the event. After watching this show, I think some of those fans might have wished they had missed the event entirely.

This event is the finals of the Bunkhouse Stampede, which consists of a series of battle royal street fights. The finals will be held inside of a steel cage. Yes, that’s right, a steel cage battle royal. This idea might rank just under TNA’s reverse battle royal as one of the most nonsensical gimmick matches ever. Two Bunkhouse Stampede series had been held before and both were won by Dusty Rhodes. Surely someone else would get a chance to win on this night, right?

The show starts with a shot of the crowd, a light show, and some funky 80s music. Nikita Koloff can be seen walking to the ring for the night’s opening match-up. The commentators for the night, Bob Caudle and Jim Ross, welcome everyone to the show. Ross talks about how $500,000 is on the line in the Bunkhouse Stampede finals and he talks a little about the other matches on the card. He then throws it to Tony Schiavone, who is doing the ring announcing for the night.

NWA TV Title Match: Nikita Koloff (c) vs. Bobby Eaton (w/ Jim Cornette)

This night seems to be the night of tag team members getting singles title shots. I couldn’t find much explanation as to why Eaton got this shot, other than the fact that the Midnight Express was feuding with Dusty and Nikita. Bobby Eaton was already one half of the U.S. Tag Champs, but Cornette had guaranteed that Bobby and Stan would win singles gold, as well. Nikita gets a good reaction when he’s announced, except for one guy in the audience who keeps yelling “commie” at him. Jim Cornette gives the referee an earful before the match starts and Caudle tells us that Eaton is going to put the moves on Nikita. Oh, my!! Eaton gives Jim a hug before the match starts, which draws great heat from the crowd.

They start with a lock-up to a stalemate, so Eaton seeks advice from Cornette. Jim simply tells him that Nikita is stupid, so use it to an advantage. They then set the tone for the match with some dueling hammerlocks, but Eaton can’t get an advantage. They end up brawling to the outside and Eaton uses an eye rake to finally take control. He takes him back inside and gets a long headlock. Koloff’s shoulders are down for a moment and the ref doesn’t count, so Cornette tells him, “His shoulders have been down for ten years!” Eaton keeps going back to a headlock on the mat until he’s knocked to the outside and sent into the post. Koloff hip tosses him and they fight back and forth, but Eaton goes back to the old trusty eye rake. Then…the match becomes a hammerlock-fest. Other than a missile dropkick, it’s mostly hammerlocks. The fans get bored, so they start a “Cornette sucks” chant and Jim starts arguing with fans at ringside. He also takes an opportunity to call Nikita a “bald-headed goof”. At one point, Koloff looks to be fighting back and even hits a weak Sickle, but he can’t capitalize. Sadly, Eaton goes right back to the hammerlock and the match grinds to a halt. The only variation we get is a couple of armbreakers, which are used to set up more hammerlocks. Tony tells us that there’s one minute left in the match, but Eaton doesn’t break the hold. Koloff finally fights his way out and goes for 10 punches in the corner, but he stops at 6 when he realizes there’s little time left. He then hits the Sickle, but it’s too late. Time runs out on the match.

This match was dreadful. It was a series of endless holds that was occasionally broken up by other moves. Cornette was the only entertaining thing because he spent much of the match yelling at fans, but he wasn’t enough. If it weren’t for Cornette, this match might not have had any heat because the fans didn’t seem to care about the action.

Winner: Time Limit Draw

After the match, Cornette comes in to attack Nikita, but Koloff turns around. Jim freaks out and tosses his tennis racket into the air in fright. Eaton gets a hold of it and attacks Koloff, so Stan Lane joins him in a beat down. They knock Nikita out of the ring and taunt him. The show then cuts to the commentators and Caudle calls it a great match. I vehemently disagree. Ross says that Eaton was trying to get him to submit, but Koloff has never been in a position like that. Stan Lane then walks into the shot and flexes for the camera, as the commentators are oblivious to his presence.

Western States Heritage Title Match: Larry Zbyszko (w/ Baby Doll) vs. Barry Windham (c)

Larry comes out to the ring with Baby Doll and he’s wearing a jacket with the letter “Z” on the back. I think Tom Zenk might want to have a word with him. Windham is out next and he comes to the ring to music that sounds like it was ripped directly from “Saturday Night Slam Masters”. I can’t tell if it’s a dubbed theme or not. Most of the original music is no longer intact on these NWA shows. Poor Larry gets his last name misspelled on the graphic. They left the second “z” out of it. Baby Doll gets in Windham’s face before the match starts. She starts poking him in the chest and Ross suggests that he should poke her in return. I don’t think that’s such a good idea. The commentators then tell us that Larry wants nothing more than to take the title from Windham. Larry just wants to be proud of that Western States Heritage, and he should be!

The match starts off with typical Larry stalling. He gets hit with a hip toss and some shoulder blocks, so he bails to the outside. Larry does get the advantage, but when he locks in a leg grapevine, Windham ruffles Larry’s hair. This causes him to break the hold in anger, for some reason. Larry misses a front dropkick and sells his lower back for a moment, but he does manage to get Windham in a hammerlock (Oh, not again!). Thankfully, he turns it into a fireman’s carry takeover. Windham then catches Larry’s back kick and hits an atomic drop, so Larry bails to the outside again. He gets back in and goes back to the leg grapevine, but this time Windham grinds his forearm into Larry’s face to break it. Larry keeps finding a way to get back to the leg and gets a leg lock that causes Windham to call him a “bastard”. Windham fights back and hits an enziguri, before absolutely clobbering Larry with a forearm as if Larry owed him money. Unfortunately, Windham misses an elbow off the top and Larry goes back to the leg. Windham seems to be getting legitimately pissed, as he starts throwing some stiff shots at him. He fights back and hits a suplex that’s botched just enough to confuse the commentators. They thought it was reversed until Windham went for a pin. Windham takes back control of the match and slams Larry’s head on a table outside, before crotching him on the post. This causes one fan to laugh hysterically. Windham then goes for a flying forearm, but Larry moves and he goes tumbling to the outside. The problem is that Larry moved too soon, so Windham looked like an idiot. Windham catches him at the ropes and goes for a sunset flip, but it’s blocked. The two of them fight back and forth but end up colliding with each other. Windham is up and goes for 10 punches in the corner, but stops at 6. That’s almost heelish! He then goes to whip Larry into the corner, but accidentally takes out the ref. Windham goes for a pin and Baby Doll slaps the mat 3 times, making Windham think he’s won. He turns to see that the ref is out and is confused, despite having seen the ref go down a few seconds earlier. Larry uses this opportunity to nail Windham with Baby Doll’s high-heeled shoe and then pins him for a 3 count and the title.

This wasn’t a very good match. It had some shades of decent stuff, especially when Windham was on offense. However, that ending made Windham look like a complete fool. There was too much stalling for my taste and too many long and repetitive holds, much like the last match.

Winner: Larry Zbyszko (New champion)

NWA World Title Match: Road Warrior Hawk (w/ Paul Ellering) vs. Ric Flair (c) (w/ J.J. Dillon)

Holy random title shot, Batman! How did Hawk get a World Title shot? The only thing I could find was that the Road Warriors were still feuding with the Horsemen. Apparently, they got a DQ win over Ric and Arn and that was enough to earn Hawk a title shot. Unfortunately, this match is joined in progress. According to the network, there were some technical difficulties.

The two men lock-up and fight into a corner. Flair tries to chop him, but it has no effect. Flair chooses to bail to the outside and second think some of his life choices, but when he gets back inside he’s press slammed. He bails again but gets back into the ring to the same result, which causes him to flop to the mat. Hawk then stomps a mudhole in him in the corner and beal tosses him across the ring. He then locks him in a bear hug. He leans him forward into some pin attempts, before punching him precariously low. On the outside, Dillon looks rather bored. Flair tries some more ineffective chops but gets shoulder tackled to the outside. He attempts an eye rake and slams him into the guardrail, but it’s not enough. Hawk attempts to throw the ring steps at Flair, but he moves. When they get back inside, Flair finally finds an advantage through a low blow. This low blow apparently makes Flair’s chops more effective. Ric gets a 2 count off a knee drop, but Hawk powers out of it. They fight outside and Flair sends him into the guardrail a few times and even manages to hit a top rope axehandle when they go back inside! Hawk powers out of another pin attempt and gets a neckbreaker. However, he misses a fist drop, which oddly causes him to sell his knee. Flair smells blood and immediately attacks the leg. He even gets another low blow and works the leg over some more. He slams the leg into the post and then locks in a Figure Four. Ric uses the ropes for leverage and Ellering tries to tell the ref, but he’s ignored. Hawk scoots his way into the middle of the ring so that Flair can’t reach the ropes. He then reverses the move and Flair reaches the ropes to break it, before yelling, “Jesus Christ!” Ric goes up top, which is reversed, as usual. Hawk ends up going for a clothesline, but he accidentally hits the ref. Flair tries to take advantage of this, but he’s sent outside and into the post, which busts him open. Hawk hits a powerslam and Flair tries to fight back, but Hawk hits a superplex. The ref is still out, so J.J. gets into the ring and hits Hawk with a weak chair shot. All it does is anger Hawk, so he chokes Dillon. This leaves him open for Flair to hit an equally weak looking chair shot. The ref finally comes in, but Flair only gets a 2 count. Flair then hits a suplex, but Hawk no-sells it and gets up right away. He hits 10 punches in the corner and Flair flops again. Ric has had enough, so he hits Hawk with another chair shot in front of the ref and gets disqualified. Hawk gives him one last whip into the corner, for good measure, but Flair nearly hurts himself on a bad Flair bump.

This was half-way decent, especially considering Hawk is primarily a tag team wrestler. However, the ending was lame, so I have to deduct some quality for that. I don’t know how much of the match was lost to technical difficulties, but it doesn’t seem like I missed much. The pairing felt way too random for a PPV World Title Match.

Winner: Hawk (by DQ)

The ring crew starts to set up the cage for the main event, while we hear a sound guy complaining about losing his headset. Ross and Caudle talk a little about the previous match and then talk about the Bunkhouse Stampede Match. Ross mentions that Dusty has won the last two Stampede finals. Caudle lists off the credits for the show, as the crew continues setting up the cage. Ross then tells us the rules of the Stampede Match. It is basically your standard battle royal, but you have to either throw your opponent out the door of the cage or over the top of it. They also show us some highlights from earlier matches. Ross then ends the segment by talking about how Dusty had to win a Wildcard Match to enter the Stampede finals. Could they not have filled this time with some wrestler promos?

Steel Cage Bunkhouse Stampede Finals: Dusty Rhodes, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Ivan Koloff, The Barbarian, The Warlord, Lex Luger, & Road Warrior Animal

Dusty comes out first, followed by the rest of the participants. The Warlord is wearing a lifeguard t-shirt, but something tells me he won’t be saving anyone from drowning in this match. Arn Anderson is wearing a cropped t-shirt that leaves his midriff bare. He looks ridiculous. Animal comes out last and Tony tells us that he’s won most of the Stampede Matches in the series so far.

Everyone breaks up into pairs to start. Ivan gets his shirt ripped quickly and gets choked while grunting and groaning into the camera. Luger starts throwing punches at the Barbarian while yelling “OH” with each one. Animal and Tully are the first to fight up near the top, but Tully fights back. Koloff and Dusty climb up next. Why would you purposefully climb up to the top rope in a match like this? There is a lot of teamwork between the members of Paul Jones’ Army (Ivan, Barbarian, & Warlord). Animal brings Tully to the top of the cage and grates his face against the chain-link. Koloff and Tully are both soon bleeding from the head. Arn soon joins that club, as Luger grates his head against the cage, as well. Dusty then takes off his weight belt and starts whipping everyone he can get his hands on, but Barbarian takes it from him. Animal ends up saving Dusty from the beating, but soon Koloff has the belt. He starts using the buckle to cut up Dusty’s arm. Luger somehow gets a hold of Arn’s boot and starts weakly hitting people with it, while Barbarian and Warlord start working together. In the corner, Tully has Ivan by the neck and is trying to pull him out the door with a belt, but he fights back. However, Ivan ends up getting eliminated over the top by Animal. (Elimination: Ivan Koloff) Animal then turns his attention to Warlord and kicks him out the door, but Animal’s momentum takes him out with him. (Eliminations: Warlord & Animal) Luger then powerslams Tully and puts him in the Torture Rack, but when he puts him down, Arn attacks. Meanwhile, Barbarian appears to be trying to eat Dusty’s arm. Arn and Tully continue working over Luger and try to dump him out the door. Luger does his best to fight back. Arn moves out onto the steps to try and pull Luger out, but he ends up tumbling to the floor and brings both Luger and Tully with him. (Eliminations: Lex Luger, Tully Blanchard, & Arn Anderson) This leaves only Barbarian and Dusty as the final two. Paul Jones hands Barbarian an object, which he uses on Dusty. He then hits a couple of diving headbutts off the top and tries to push Dusty out the door. This doesn’t work, so they end up fighting to the top. Dusty ends up sitting him on top of the cage and goes for the Bionic Elbow. Barbarian has to sit there like a fool and wait for Dusty’s exaggerated wind-up. The elbow knocks him over to the other side of the cage, but he holds onto the top. Dusty then hits him with another elbow and knocks him to the floor. (Final Elimination: The Barbarian)

This was just awkward. For any over-the-top eliminations, the wrestlers had to climb into position themselves. Nothing seemed natural in this match. Battle Royals weren’t meant to be held in cages. Too many of the eliminations were contrived and most of the match was just mindless brawling. Then there’s the problem of Dusty winning, yet again. Can’t anyone else be given the rub in one of these matches? This is made worse when you realize Dusty was still the booker, at this time.

Winner: Dusty Rhodes

After the match, Dusty is given a comically large boot as a trophy and his $500,000 check. He lifts the trophy and kisses the check, before leaving the ring. Caudle and Ross then talk about Dusty earning the hat-trick, by winning his 3rd Stampede. Ross says that you have to hand it to the other competitors. It almost sounds like he’s kind of annoyed that Dusty won again. Caudle tries to paint Dusty as the underdog since he had to win a Wildcard Match to even enter the finals, but I’m not buying it. The two of them then recap the night and we end with some highlights.

Final thoughts:

This was not a good show, at all. In fact, I would say it was downright dreadful. With WWF running the Royal Rumble for free on the same night, JCP didn’t stand a chance. Then, the show was plagued with technical difficulties. Do not bother watching this event. It’s definitely one to skip.

As I said earlier, I started a side blog where I review the Monday Night Wars, week-by-week. You can find it by clicking here! Also, don’t forget the comment section at the bottom of the page. Feel free to also follow me on Twitter @PaulDMatthews78.

Thank you for reading. My next review will be Royal Rumble ‘88. I will see you then!


Written by Paul Matthews

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