This article series is me, a couch, a remote, possibly an adult beverage and some random Wrasslin’ I decide to watch. I won’t bore you with play by play, instead I’ll offer random observations and memories – and an occasional dose of arm chair re-booking.
September 28th, 1985 from Comiskey Park in Chicago.
I’m glad WWE 24/7 put this show all in one piece as the AWA originally released it in parts on separate VHS tapes and I’ve only seen bits of it.
Larry Nelson and Verne Gagne introduce us to the “greatest night in wrestling history”. Ten title matches on one card!
Brad Rheingans vs. (non-British) Steve Regal: Brad compares his training for this match to his Olympic training. Steve Regal isn’t sporting the beard I’m accustomed to and looks more like Stan Lane after losing all muscle possible. Regal sticks his gum on the turn buckle. Classy. Tons of empty seats thanks to holding this at a ball park. One has to wonder if Verne really thought he’d sell 60,000 seats? The scope of the stadium makes for a cool visual though. The guys work an extended headlock sequence and lose the audience in the process. Regal received a long run with the AWA during the initial wrestling war – that alone should tell you of his perceived value. (He’d be a WWF jobber within a year or 2.)
I just realized that Regal was 24 hours away from beating THE ROAD WARRIORS for the AWA tag belts. His partner Jim Garvin comes down and distracts Brad long enough to have Regal roll him up for the win. How can we expect Brad to beat the Russians at the Olympics if he can’t even handle the twiggy Regal? So this relatively un-over goober is about to become a double champ in the AWA. Yikes.
Sherri Martel vs. Candi Devine: Candi looks ROUGH. Martel has a cape that makes her look like a superhero sorceress. Wrestling needs more capes! Sherri and the ref have a cute bit before the match over the ref rubbing her down for foreign objects. Sherri is using some quality heel stalling tactics. Martel botches a small package. Larry Nelson explains the logical flaw of tossing your opponent onto the grass field vs. a normal cement floor. Candi tries to rupture Martel’s vagina with the ringpost. They blow a sunset flip and REPEAT THE SPOT. Candi sells a suplex by holding her belly. Odd. Sherri hits a bad looking flying knee to win the title. That fell apart at the end… The title is an ugly rectangle. Sherri cuts an underwhelming promo after declaring Candi “crazy”.
THE ASIAN SIX MAN Titles are on the line. The decidedly un-Asian Scott and Bill Irwin and Harley Race vs. Giant Baba, Jumbo Tsuruta and Tenryu: The Long Riders cut a promo that can’t be understood and the crowd cheers for the heels. The Japanese come out and Larry Nelson tries to get a promo from 3 non-English speakers…awkward moment. The All Japan crew has no belts as I assume the titles are fake. The Japan team gets dead silence as they are introduced. They have a Japanese ref which makes sense since the title is from a Japanese organization. Bill Irwin works a fast paced series of spots and the fans meekly approve. They really want to be jingoistic here, but they aren’t comfortable supporting the heels either. Baba hits his usual terrible looking chops that I hate so much – of course Race sells them like crazy. Nelson refers to Baba as “incredibly strong” which is laughable given his spindly frame. The Irwins are now getting full face pops for their high spots. The fans pop for a Race piledriver also.
The Irwins might have been a solid face team as they have the good ol’ boy shtick and were both pretty solid workers. Sad that Scott would die a couple years after this from a brain tumor. Jumbo’s hot tag elicits no response. I think the Irwins are bumping their asses off to earn some All Japan pay days in the future. The crowd is openly chanting “USA” now. Baba wins with a big boot. Crowd is unhappy with that. Bill Irwin cuts an incomprehensible promo yet the crowd pops huge.
Little Mr. T vs. Little Tokyo: NWA Midget Title! T has the same hair cut but doesn’t look much like T at all. How was a law suit not involved here? T’s jacked for a midget. Google tells me that T is Haiti Kid who ended up in the real Mr. T’s corner for Wrestlemania 2 after Piper shaved his head. So stealing T’s gimmick led to a nice payoff. They are working this straight and not doing the usual cutesy midget spots. Oops I spoke too soon. 3 Stooges routine time as T gets Tokyo and the ref to look up and starts with the cheap shots. “They worked for the goose but it was feathers for the gander” says Larry Nelson…WHAT???? T uses his ass for a weapon but it backfires and a chop finishes it.
Mil Mascaras vs. Buddy Roberts: Does Chicago have an appreciable Mexican population for Mil to draw with? Mascaras sucks in his gut a lot and works some wacky lucha spots that weren’t a common sight in ’85. Buddy’s just working a dick heel style of chokes, eye rakes and groin shots. Flying press wins it for Mil. Style clash aside this was fine. Crowd appreciated the finish.
The AWA crack production staff plays audio of fans mocking Roberts as Mil cuts a promo on camera.
Kerry Von Erich vs. Jimmy Garvin: Kerry cuts his usual not so good dumb jock promo. Crowd is hot for Von Erich. Put the belt on him Verne! Drugs stink kids. Kerry of course was only 8 months or so away from his horrific motorcycle accident that cost him a foot and killed WCCW dead. David’s death and Mike’s illness are brought up and it sombers me a bit. Garvin is crotched on the top turnbuckle and bounces to the mat and is pinned. Von Erich gets the claw after to send the fans home even happier. Young girls toss roses at Kerry and the millions this man missed out on because of drugs is amazing to comprehend. Tears are flowing from just being near him!
The fans are all wearing jackets, so I wonder what the temp was for the poor bastard workers who are out there in their shorts. A late September night in the mid-west probably meant around 50 degrees or worse. There is no tarp or anything over the ring so I guess if it rained Gagne had no back up plans.
Ray Stevens, Nick Bockwinkel and Larry Zybysko vs. Greg Gagne, Curt Hennig and Scott Hall: This night served as a final hoorah of sorts for the AWA legends in Chicago as both Stevens and Bock and Crusher and Bruiser get their last major tag team efforts in on this card. Sadly the AWA heel roster is pretty weak at this point as Hansen is Baba’s guy, The Freebirds were on the way out, Stevens was way past his prime, Bock was still amazing in his 50’s, Larry Z is here since he was black balled by Vince and wasn’t one of Dusty’s guys. Not sure when he dated/married Verne’s kid.
BWHAHAAHAHAHAHAHA Greg Gagne is in “Rambo” Greg Gagne mode here with his mid-drift bearing camo shirt and matching head band…oh Verne!
(Supposedly the dubbed in porno music was done for the VHS release of this vignette and replaced Springsteen’s “Glory Days”)
Scott Hall has a perm and a porn ‘stache and Hennig has an oversized collar. AWA’s top faces…oh boy… The ring announcer refers to Nick Bockwinkel as “an old friend of yours and mine” HE’S A HEEL!! The announcer puts Verne Gagne over and waxes poetic about a long ago bout between Verne and Lou Thesz. The crowd doesn’t give the baby faces much of an ovation. Bock is so smooth and in really good shape – just a pleasure to watch.
Hall’s pretty green here as he must have under 2 years of experience at this point. They desperately wanted him to be the new roid monkey heart throb but he was missing something that Kerry Von Erich and Hulk Hogan had. Gagne wears his usual yellow boots with his camo pants and looks ridiculous because of it. Come to think of it, I’m surprised Verne didn’t find an excuse to put himself on this big card. Verne had a legit rib injury from Sheik Adnan El Kaisse in 1983 or 84 but I would think that would be healed by now. In fact, Verne was wrestling a few months before this in tag action. Hall pins Larry Z for the win. Hall’s looking forward to his “relationship” with Hennig.
Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy vs. The Road Warriors: The ‘Birds have confederate face paint on. Hayes looks faggy as possible and I love it. I have an unhealthy crush on Hayes and Jimmy Garvin’s version of the ‘Birds. The ‘Birds are the first guys to have music on the card – a sign of Verne losing ground on what’s hip in the (then) modern wrestling world. The Warriors kick the ‘Birds ass and send them to the outfield to regroup. The crowd loves the bad asses and I can’t blame them. This was also the Warriors last hurrah in the AWA as they would lose the belts 24 hours later and start making an increasing amount of appearances in JCP. Verne could have had the titles change on this big card instead of some random spot show and then the fans rioting afterward would have been hilarious. No Verne you don’t need to keep your most popular tag team, you have a rookie Scott Hall working for 1/10th of the pay to push instead! Never mind you’ll draw 1/10th of the fans as a result… I wonder if Verne sat in the back here listening to the crowd come alive for the first time tonight and contemplated how losing the Warriors would affect business?
Hayes takes off again and the fans hound him. Larry Nelson is hung up on the Freebird’s make-up and seems baffled that they were able to acquire such things. Gordy bumps around like he’s Flair for the muscular Warriors. Larry Nelson needs a color man as he’s running out of superlatives by this point as he’s stuck in solo commentary. Ken Resnick was shown earlier so I have no idea why Nelson is commentating alone and doing sideline promos. Buddy Roberts hits Ellering with an unfolded chair in what looks like a dangerous spot. Hayes hits Animal with a foreign object and the Birds win the match. Security tries to stifle the crowd tossing junk at the ring. The crowd is in silent shock. The Birds run off with the titles until Verne Gagne comes down and order an “instant replay” on the Jumbotron. The ring announcer then announces a reverse decision and it’s an anti-climactic finish to the hottest match of the night. Introducing instant replay opens up a whole new can of worms for future screw job booking.
Crusher, Bruiser and Baron Von Raschke vs. Ivan Koloff, Nikita Koloff and Krusher Khrushchev: AWA’s geriatric gang against the NWA’s feared Commies. The faces are all well past their prime here. Nikita looks like the prototype dream wrestler for Vince McMahon here. The fan heat for the Commies is great. J Ivan gets busted hard way during the opening skirmish. The crowd chants “USA” as the German locks up with the Russian. Nikita runs away from a claw hold tease.
Dick the Bruiser looks about 200 years old here. Larry Nelson botches the Russians angle as he thinks Khrushchev is a cousin of the Koloffs when in actuality he was a Minnesotan who turned commie in Mid-South. Ivan tries to bump enough for all six guys here to make up for all the stiffs. The crowd pops huge for the claw being applied to Ivan. The crack AWA camera crew misses the finish and we next see Baron KO’d and pinned. Crowd chants “bullshit!”
Boris Zuhkov vs. Sgt. Slaughter: Not sure that putting the two Russian acts back to back is the best layout of matches. Sarge is mobbed on his way to the ring – and is surrounded by Marines to boot. Sarge is another popular act that the AWA stopped using because he cost too much. Boris was actually a solid act for several years in the AWA despite being horrible at promos and in the ring. The ace camera crew glides the camera into the stands as the guys slug it out. Boris and Sarge actually have a not quite kayfabe back story as Boris played “Pvt. Jim Nelson” as part of Sarge’s “Cobra Corp” in JCP in the early 80’s. Nelson had his leg “broke” by the Briscos or somebody and turned up elsewhere in his new Russian gimmick. He still does indy work – but now he does the all American gimmick himself.
Sarge is still in shape here and shows that off by taking a WILD bump from the ring to the floor – landing 10 feet away from the ring. They brawl all over the place – tipping over a table and showing the tiny TV Nelson has to call the action with. Boris uses a loaded elbow pad to bust Sarge open. Boris is DQ’d and he beats on Sarge until he GI JOE’s up and chases Boris off. Sarge plugs the GI Joe toys before departing.
Kamala(!) vs. Jerry Blackwell: I love me some fatty vs. fatty matches! Nelson says these guys have a long history but if that’s true, I’m unaware. Adnan is with Kamala so at least the Blackwell/Adnan angle is involved. Adnan steals Nikolai Volkoff’s gimmick and sings the Arabian National anthem – Blackwell lets him finish… Kamala stares on as he sings. The ring announcer calls Blackwell a “solid” 475 pounds. Blackwell isn’t as over here as I’ve seen in other AWA towns at this point. He is essentially one of the AWA’s top 3 faces – mixed with Martel (who wasn’t as over as his push), The Warriors and Sarge (both part timers). It’s a shame Blackwell’s health killed his career off as even as late as 1989 he was getting good pops from the AWA audiences.
The ref counts a pin attempt even though this is a “body slam” challenge. Kamala gives the rest hold of extreme discomfort to Blackwell’s shoulder and that actually gets the fans a bit riled up. Blackwell FATTY’S UP and slams Kamala for the win to a nice pop. Adnan and Kamala beat Jerry up after and all the job squad run in to be cannon fodder for the heels until Baron Von Raschke finally saves the day.
Rick Martel vs. Stan Hansen: Hansen charges in and they brawl all over the place right away. Hansen eats up Martel and barely sells for Martel’s shots. Hansen would have barely entered the AWA by this point I believe, so he was hardly a “draw”. Martel eats some nasty chair shots and Martel hits him with some too but Hansen blocks him and attacks him with the bull rope. The men brawl all the way to the dugout as Verne Gagne and his elderly buddy Wally Karbo try and break them up. This (the AWA’s main event) went 2 and a half minutes and the fans sound a little annoyed. I’m not sure if that was the best way to set up Hansen as the new hoss in town or if they just emasculated their own world champ and put a short main event effort out on their big card in one swoop. Maybe they were short for time? Maybe they knew nothing would compare to the NWA’s portion of the main event and went a whole different direction? Opinions?
Magnum TA vs. Ric Flair: Magnum is 9 months into his “God push” that was to set him up for carrying JCP into the 90’s. Flair’s pea soup colored robe is not his best choice. Flair gets a nice pop from the crowd as he wasn’t quite a total heel yet I believe. His turn on Dusty was right around this time frame though. Nelson tries to explain why a missed drop kick hurts the guy tossing it but doesn’t when he hits it…I don’t buy it. Crowd seems to be unfamiliar with Magnum, who would probably be getting mega heat if this was happening in Charlotte. Furthering this line of thinking is the slightly thinning out crowd. A bloody Flair grabs a handful of trunks to win and the crowd empties out in record time.
The thousands of empty seats remain a jarring sight. Verne would try one last gasp the following April in the Metrodome and after that the AWA pretty much stopped booking anyone who could draw and turned to pushing The Rockers and Curt Hennig as the new generation of top guys with Snuka in a supporting role when he wasn’t high or killing his girlfriend. By 1987 the AWA was barely running cards and only a deal with ESPN kept them relevant. Even here, on a night where Verne Gagne tried to make his promotion shine, it was the NWA talent and “free agents” who stole the show and the AWA was left with some old farts and a skinny guy in a goofy camo shirt. A fun night of action but somewhat sad all at once.