Wrasslin’ Back in the Day – November 1983

Jim Crockett Promotions
With Starrcade looming near the end of the month, NWA tag champions Jack and Jerry Briscos continued to defend the titles against Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood at many house shows.

Ric Flair used Wahoo McDaniel’s help to battle Bob Orton Jr. and Dick Slater.

US Champion Greg Valentine and Roddy Piper were still battling all the way up till the big dog collar match at Starrcade that is suppose to end their feud.

Dory Funk began teaming with Jimmy Valiant and Bugsy McGraw against Paul Jones and the Assassins. He would leave before Starrcade in order to work an All-Japan tour.

The big “Starrcade” event took place on November 24th. The event drew 100,000 fans at closed circuit events and 16,000 fans live, which made for a total gate of 1.3 million dollars.

NWA champion Harley Race losing his title to Ric Flair in a steel cage match headlined the show. The undercard saw US Champion Greg Valentine fall to Roddy Piper in an infamous dog collar match where the U.S. title was not on the line. The Brisco Brothers lost their NWA World tag titles to Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. Jimmy Valiant (as Charlie Brown) beat Mid-Atlantic TV champ Kabuki for the title. Dick Slater and Bob Orton Jr. overcame Wahoo McDaniel and Mark Youngblood. Abby the Butcher pinned Carlos Colon in a match that was “banned in Puerto Rico”. Kevin Sullivan and Mark Lewin pounded Johnny Weaver and Scott McGhee and The Assassins bested Rufus R. Jones and Bugsy McGraw.

Tommy Rich showed up on TV right after Starrcade to give the area some fresh juice after several months of the same feuds dominating the TV.

WWF World champ Bob Backlund defended his title against Don Muraco, Sgt. Slaughter, Masked Superstar, Mr Fuji, Iron Sheik, Big John Studd, and Ivan Koloff over the course of the month.

The Jimmy Snuka/ Don Muraco feud continued across many towns.

Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson won the WWF tag titles on November 15th, besting Afa and Sika.

Pat Patterson and Ivan Koloff had wild brawls around the horn.

Paul Orndorff made his WWF debut.

The California expansion efforts continued as Los Angeles was treated to Tito Santana facing Intercontinental champ Don Muraco, Pat Patterson fighting Ivan Koloff, Mil Mascaras besting Sgt. Slaughter by DQ, plus Brian Blair, Paul Orndorff, Tony Atlas and Alexis Sminoff in prelim action.

San Diego fans saw Santana beat Sarge by DQ, Mil Mascaras earned a DQ win over Ivan Koloff, Patterson pinned “Iron” Mike Sharpe, Don Muraco bested Tony Atlas, plus Paul Orndorff, Alexis Smirnoff, and Brian Blair took part in prelim action.

San Jose was headlined by Tito and Sarge, Patterson beat Sminoff by DQ, Muraco survived a title defense against Blair, Mil Mascaras won via count-out over Koloff, and Orndorff, Atlas and Sharpe took part in prelim action.

The attack on Ole Anderson’s GCW continued as the WWF went to Cincinnati. 2000 fans came to see Snuka battle Don Muraco, Patterson and Koloff brawl, and Backlund defend his title against Sgt. Slaughter. Ole responded later in the month with a Cincy show headlined by The Road Warriors defending the National tag titles against Brett and Buzz Sawyer.

Buddy Rogers abruptly retired in November, leaving his interview segment “Rogers Corner” to be replaced by “Victory Corner”. “Victory” was the name of the WWF’s in-house magazine. The editor of the magazine, Robert Debord, took over hosting the segment. He was very bland and the bit would be dropped when Roddy Piper came in and started up “Piper’s Pit” in a few months.

Rogers also missed out on a scheduled series of matches teaming with Snuka against Muraco and Capt. Lou Albano.

St Louis/Central States
Harley Race defended his NWA World title against Buzz Tyler several times. Bob Brown was also granted a shot. Ted Dibiase also came in for a title match.

Kansas City got a heck of a main event on November 10th as Ric Flair teamed with Kamala to battle Bruiser Brody and Mr. Wrestling II.

St. Louis held two cards in November. Fans who came to the event on the 4th saw Missouri Champ David Von Erich upset Ric Flair. The rest of the card was pretty bad with Dick the Bruiser facing Scott Farris (who?), Barry Windham beating Karl Krupp, Bruiser Brody bested The Mongol, Buck Robley went over Doug Somers, plus other action. Bleh!

The day after Starrcade Ric Flair brought his newly won World title in to defend against David Von Erich, AWA World tag champions Ken Patera and Crusher Blackwell beat Bob Brown and Dick the Bruiser, Austin Idol bested Denny Brown, Iceman Parsons overcame Blackjack Lanza, Paul Orndorff pinned Steve O and Angelo Mosca Jr. beat a fake Tiger Mask.

Buzz Sawyer faced off with Tommy Rich in Altoona, Pennsylvania in what I see as taking GCW’s hottest feud and trying to draw in WWF territory. Perhaps I am judging it wrong.

Buzz Sawyer ended up making a babyface turn in order to team with his brother Brett against the Road Warriors in many towns. In at least one of those matches the Sawyers won the match, then the title switch was just ignored. This would continue to be a problem as you’ll see in a future article.

Sawyer’s face turn actually led to him and Rich becoming strange bedfellow tag team partners in matches with the Road Warriors. Dusty Rhodes also came in to team with Buzz against the Warriors.

Harley Race was advertised as appearing on the November 6th Omni card, but Ole never actually booked him. The new main event became a chapter in the feud between Tommy Rich and Ted Dibiase. Also on the card was Brett Sawyer and Rhodes battling the Road Warriors to a draw, Buzz Sawyer and Abby the Butcher brawling to a no contest, The Boogie Woogie Man over Kabuki, Jake the Snake beating Ron Garvin for the National TV title, plus Brad Armstrong and Les Thornton in prelim action.

GCW returned to the Omni on Thanksgiving day for their annual tag tournament. Here’s a sampling of the teams involved: King Kong Bundy and Jim Neidhart, Butch Reed and Pez Whatley, The Bruise Brothers, Nikolai Volkoff and Kortsia Korchenko, Ron Garvin and Jim Duggan, and Randy Savage and Magnum TA(!). Reed and Whatley ended up beating Savage and TA in the finals. In non-tournament action Ted Dibiase beat Brett Sawyer, Jake the Snake pinned Mr. Wrestling II and Buzz Sayer and Tommy Rich bested the Road Warriors. The event drew 12,000 fans.

World Class

Nearly 20,000 fans came to Dallas to see the possible end of the nearly year long Von Erichs vs. Freebirds feud. In the main event Kerry Von Erich beat Michael Hayes in a loser leaves Texas steel cage match. Terry Gordy had his head slammed in the cage door by Fritz Von Erich after the match to put a final bow on the angle that started when Gordy slammed Von Erich with a cage door the previous December. The rest of the card saw Chris Adams going over Jimmy Garvin for the American title, JYD and Iceman Parsons battling the Super Destroyers to a draw, Mike Von Erich made his debut by beating Skanador Akbar, David Von Erich survived a match with Kamala, Kevin Von Erich beat Terry Gordy, The Missing Link bested Buddy Roberts, among other action.

New World champ Ric Flair came to Texas at the end of the month and lost to Kevin Von Erich in a non-title match, then lost to David Von Erich in another non-title match.

Andy Kaufman made his final Memphis appearances, first teaming with Jimmy Hart to beat Jerry Lawler, then losing to Lawler in a one on one rematch that was held soon after. Andy can be heard coughing during his final promo, a sign of the lung cancer that was about to kill him in rapid fashion.

Lawler also battled the Moondogs with Austin Idol as a partner during the course of the month.

Jesse Ventura and Ken Patera were both in chasing Lawler’s Southern title as well.

Harley Race came in to defend his NWA World title against Dusty Rhodes and Mike Rotondo, Barry Windham and even “Outlaw” Ron Bass in a heel vs. heel encounter.

Rhodes stayed busy by helping Blackjack Mulligan and Barry Windham fight off the threat of the One Man Gang, Abdullah the Butcher, Kareem Muhammad and Elijah Akeem.

Hulk Hogan finally earned a rematch at AWA World champ Nick Bockwinkel when he won a battle royal in Phoenix that earned the winner a title bout. He would never cash it in though as the battle royal ended up being Hogan’s final AWA match. He headed to Japan before jumping to the WWF in December.

Another battle royal during this time saw Hogan and Andre the Giant almost come to blows which (according to Greg Gagne in modern interviews) was to set up a network TV special on CBS where Hogan would face Andre in an AWA ring.

Bockwinkel defended his AWA gold against Mad Dog Vachon, Andre, Rick Martel, Jim Brunzell and Gino Brito during the month. Several of these bouts saw Ray Stevens acting as special ref.

Blackjack Lanza continuted to face Bobby Heenan around the horn.

Mad Dog Vachon and Rick Martel’s war with AWA Tag Team Champions Ken Patera & Jerry Blackwell waged on.

JYD reclaimed the advantage in his feud with Butch Reed, beating him in street fights and dog collar matches.

Nikolai Volkoff has generated a ton of heat for himself and now has Jim Duggan and Dusty Rhodes coming after him in defense of America.

Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey were sent in the area-along with Jim Cornette- in a trade with Memphis to freshen up both products. Eaton and Condrey would take the moniker of the “Midnight Express” from Condrey’s previous team and the rest is history…

“Macho Man” Randy Savage was suppose to come in for a run in Mid-South, and even had some teasers air on TV. Bill Watts convinced him that the chance to go to Memphis and play off his real life feud with Jerry Lawler over the Poffo’s outlaw wrestling federation was too good to pass up and Savage moved on.

NWA Champ Ric Flair came in to face Mr. Wrestling II in Houston at the end of the month.

Another mega event at the Superdome went down on November 19th with 8,000 fans attending. In the main event JYD beat Butch Reed. In other action Dusty Rhodes went to a double count-out with Nikolai Volkoff, Kerry Von Erich pinned the Missing Link, Kamala lost to David Von Erich via count-out and the Road Warriors beat Mr. Wrestling II and Magnum TA.

Now on to our featured attraction…

The WWF at the Philly Spectrum 11/24/83
7,752 fans came to see the action, a fairly lousy number all things considered.

Dick Graham and Gorilla Monsoon call the action

Tony Garea vs. Rene Goulet
Garea out wrestles Goulet early with armbars and armdrags. Things slow down fast as as they trade rest holds. Goulet chokes and bites. Monsoon is apparently super human as he shares a story of having three of his cervical vertebrae twisted around during on of his wrestling matches. Goulet works a headlock and a claw to eat up a bunch of time. Garea delivers a flying crossbody out of nowhere for the win at 11:08. A total bore.

The Tonga Kid vs. Charlie Fulton
The Kid is swamped down by Fulton right away and the first several minutes is all Fulton trying to wear the Tongan out. Tonga Kid would go on to be Tama in the Islanders, as well as the Samoan Savage in WCW. He’s Fatu’s (Rikishi) twin brother and the nephew of Afa and Sika. He’s only 19 years old at this point. Lots of headlocks from Fulton. Kid is thrown to the floor. The Kid somewhat blows a dropkick before getting a surprise role up on Fulton at 6:15. Not an inspiring debut for Kid as he allowed Fulton to take the whole match.

Special Delivery Jones vs. Butcher Vachon
Vachon shoves Jones during the ref’s instructions. I enjoyed the dick move. Butcher hacks, kicks and chops away at Jones for several minutes. Jones comes back with a slam and a headbutt to snag the win at 5:07. Nothing special.

Tony Atlas vs. Sgt. Slaughter
Sarge stalls to start, then shows why as he loses out to Atlas’ power once they get into one another’s reach. Sarge stalls more. Atlas tries a press slam but can’t get Sarge up and drops him in the ropes. Slaughter starts to work over Atlas’ midsection before trying to wear him out with a headlock that goes on a while. Atlas finally fires up and starts wailing away on Sarge with punches and several head butts. Both men go down from a collision and that allows Slaughter to lock in the Cobra Clutch. Atlas muscles his way out of it but Sarge knocks him to the floor. Atlas pulls Sarge to the floor and both men are counted out as they brawl at 16:02.   Atlas press slams Sarge after the match for a moral victory. Match was fine but both men did as little as possible.

The match with Jimmy Snuka and Arnie Skaaland vs. Lou Albano and Don Muraco was not included on the WWE 24/7 broadcast, and thus I can’t review it here. That sucks since it was probably the best match of the night.

Rocky Johnson vs. Bob Bradley
Bradley jumps Johnson at the bell and tries to ground him. Johnson just gets upset by this and hunts down Bradley. Bradley then tries several more cat and mouse offensive moves before getting rolled up for the pin at a little after four minutes. This was kind of fun as they played up Bradley’s underdog role and his “desperation” moves made sense.

World Champion Bob Backlund vs. Iron Sheik
Backlund gets a polite but far from over whelming response. Sheik does a Muslim prayer for cheap heat. The men jockey for position like they are in a NCAA wrestling tournament. Backlund then attempts a leg pick that Sarge turns into a armdrag. Sheik then tries a leg pick but Backlund was able to turn it into a underhook which transitioned into a monkey flip. Sheik locks on a full nelson that Backlund struggles to escape from. He eventually does and locks Sheik into his own full nelson. Sheik manages to elbow Backlund in the face to escape.

Sheik locks in a face lock but Backlund leverages out of it. They then exchange abdominal stretches. The men struggle attempting to get control of the other’s waist and Sheik manages to get a gut wrench suplex. Another abdominal stretch by Sheik is reversed into a double underhook suplex by Backlund.

Sheik tries to wear Backlund down with a surfboard before Backlund is able to turn it into a cradle. Sheik escapes that but Backlund traps him in a back slide for a bit of a surprise finish at 16:49. This was totally different than what you’d expect from a WWF main event and was highly entertaining in it’s own way. It was basically like a worked free style NCAA bout with some submissions worked in.

Tito Santana vs. Big John Studd
Studd smack talks Tito before the match can start. Studd goads Santana into a test of strength that Tito quickly loses. Santana kicks his way out and tries an outside wrist lock that Studd fends off. Santana charges in with a shoulder block and that of course goes poorly. Tito is knocked to the floor and battered with forearms. Santana punches his way back in the ring and manages to take Studd down with a cradle. Studd reels from a series of punches and then misses a corner charge. Santana tries to slam Studd but only manages to send him to the apron. The men then brawl, but the ref counts Studd out as he stood on the apron at 6:54. I am always annoyed by that finish because if your opponent is blocking your entry then you should not be penalized. Match told the giant vs. little man story well, but it wasn’t “good”.

The Invaders vs. “Iron” Mike Sharpe and Mr. Fuji
Fuji hides salt in his tights, his hand and his arm pit as the ref tries to search him. Fuji has it ripped out of his hand and that allows the Invader to slam and drop kick him. Sharpe tags in and suffers from a series of double team moves as the Invaders work over his arm. The heels start to pound away at their smaller prey before a four-way skirmish allows the Invaders to roll up Sharpe for the pin at 4:48. Eh? All I get out of the Invaders is they can do fast tags and armbars. They need opponents who aren’t a styles clash.

Pat Patterson vs. Ivan Koloff
Koloff tries to use his chain but Patterson grabs it and whips Koloff with it instead. Patterson fights with the ref over the chain which allows Koloff to pounce and get the advantage. Patterson quickly trapped in a back breaker and a bear hug. Koloff tries to maim Patterson with a chair but misses as things spill out to the floor. Patterson tags Koloff with a gentle chair shot in response. Koloff is bleeding from that,

Both men trade back and forth shots in the ring before Koloff is introduced to the ring post. Patterson keeps attacking Koloff’s bloody wound before the ref stops the match at 5:36 due to concern for Koloff’s well being. Koloff doesn’t accept this well and attacks Patterson before throwing a chair in the ring. Patterson grabs the chair and uses it to keep Koloff at bay.

Final thoughts: After 5 years, Backlund is stale as champion and with the Muraco/Snuka angle cooling down after almost six months, the WWF needs some fresh blood on top to help sagging house show numbers. A big talent influx starts next month….


Written by Andrew Lutzke

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

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