Wrasslin’ Back in the Day: The NWA “Final Conflict” Supercard

Jim Crockett Promotions set their corner of the wrestling world on fire with a wild feud between Jay Youngblood and Ricky Steamboat against Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle over the NWA World tag team titles. Someone has put all the key parts up on Youtube in proper sequential order:

This collection apparently belonged to Jim Nelson (aka Boris Zhukov) who had the tape made for himself as  a momento. Nelson was a key part of the feud as he was portrayed as one of Sarge’s lackeys until exposing himself as a mole feeding info to Youngblood and Steamboat. The months long angle between the teams included several blood baths inflicted by both pairings on one another. Youngblood was injured by the heels to add heat to the angle at one point. Another time the faces had their head dress and leis destroyed by the heels. A major point of contention was the babyfaces having to learn how to avoid Slaughter’s cannon finisher (a flying clothesline) as well as figure out how to escape his dreaded “Cobra Clutch” sleeper lock. Things were finally to be settled in a cage, for the titles, and if the faces lost, they would break up as a team.

JCP knew they were onto a hot program, but the day of the supposed blowoff in Greensboro, North Carolina took everyone by surprise as literally thousands of fans (reported to be legitimately around six thousand, but much higher numbers are claimed by some) were turned away and denied the chance to see “The Final Conflict”. Radio stations had to go on air and ask people to turn around as the tickets were long gone. The highway near the arena was deadlocked with cars.

The undercard had several feature match ups, including NWA US Champion Greg “The Hammer” Valentine vs. NWA World Champion Ric Flair. Flair was still the world roaming champion, not yet locked down to just JCP, but he had roots in the Mid-Atlantic area and the fans certainly embraced his stardom.

Also on the undercard was a match with Roddy Piper challenging Mid-Atlantic TV champion Dick Slater. These two had been at one another’s throats for several months, with the TV title hanging in the balance. This feud would directly lead to Greg Valentine and Piper feuding over the United States title and eventually Slater would challenge Piper over that title as well.

Around the rest of the wrestling world: (All results come from wrestlingdata.com, thehistoryofthewwe.com or crazymax.com)

GCW: Towards the end of March, Paul Orndorff lost his NWA National Heavyweight championship (Ole Anderson’s Georgia promotion) to Killer Brooks. Brooks then immediately sold the title to Larry Zbyszko for $25,000. This angle was heavily covered and mentioned in the Apter mags for years after the fact, and I’m not sure why.  Larry would ultimately be stripped a few weeks later since title can’t be sold. Then Zbyszko won the tournament to determine the new champion anyway!

The Omni in Atlanta, GA 3/20/83  Brian Blair defeated Chick Donovan
Brett Wayne vs. Joe Lightfoot ended without a winner as a time limit draw                                                                                                      Brad Armstrong and Ray Candy defeated Paul Ellering and Moondog Rex
Canadian Lumberjack Match Stan Hansen and The Masked Superstar defeated Ole Anderson and Buzz Sawyer
Tony Atlas defeated The Iron Sheik
Tommy Rich defeated Larry Zbyszko
Dick Murdoch defeated Ivan Koloff by disqualification
NWA National Heavyweight Title Match Killer Brooks defeated Paul Orndorff (c)

The other major cards of the month from the big territories included:

St.Paul, MN 3/13/83  Buck Zumhofe vs. Steve Regal ended without a winner as a time limit draw
Curt Hennig defeated Jacques Goulet
Brad Rheingans defeated John Tolos
Jerry Blackwell and Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissey defeated Mad Dog Vachon and Baron Von Raschke
Hulk Hogan, Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell defeated Bobby Heenan, Ken Patera and Jesse Ventura
AWA World Heavyweight Title Match
Nick Bockwinkel (c) defeated Rick Martel

The AWA‘s last stop in it’s “home” arena before the big “Super Sunday” card scheduled for the following month. I’ll cover the highlights from this card next time since they tie into the event.

Dallas, TX 3/18/83  Jim Garvin defeated José Lothario
King Kong Bundy defeated Tola Yatsu by disqualification
Kerry Von Erich and Kevin Von Erich vs. Fabulous Freebirds (Terry Gordy and Michael Hayes) ended without a winner as a double disqualification
Little Coco defeated Billy the Kid
Killer Karl Krupp defeated Mike Reed
David Von Erich defeated Buddy Roberts
King Parsons defeated The Great Kabuki

As you can see WCCW is on fire with the Freebirds vs Von Erichs feud still in it’s early stages. Ric Flair made a defense against Kerry Von Erich on the 20th in a highlighted bout.

WWF in Philadelphia, PA 3/19/83  S.D. Jones defeated Baron Mikel Scicluna
José Estrada defeated Pete Sánchez
Sonny Boy and Pancho Boy defeated Tiger Jackson and Butch Cassidy
Jules Strongbow vs. Ray Stevens ended without a winner as a double disqualification
WWF Intercontinental Title Match Don Muraco (c) defeated Rocky Johnson by disqualification
Salvatore Bellomo defeated Billy Graham by countout
3 out of 5 Falls Match André the Giant, Jimmy Snuka and Bob Backlund defeated Big John Studd, Afa and Lou Albano

Surprising to see that they ran a “Best of Five Falls” multi-man tag main event here two months in a row. Maybe the ten man tag match I covered last time really sold out fast and the WWF decided to chase the money?

Florida was full of Dusty Rhodes vs. Kevin Sullivan matches headlining, with Barry Windham, Magnum TA and other future stars carrying the undercard. Roddy Piper came in for some shots as a heel as well.

On March 21, 1983, in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Junkyard Dog won a tournament for the Mid-South North American title, besting Mr. Olympia, Ted DiBiase, and Kendo Nagasaki. A controversial finish to the finals with JYD and Olympia led to the title being held up again and setting up the next Superdome megacard, which was scheduled for April.

In Memphis, Jerry Lawler battled Austin Idol multiple times over the area’s top strap. Lawler than moved on to a multi-week program with Bobby Eaton and company. Andre the Giant came in at the end of the month to help pop a house.

St.Louis ran an event on March 11th with Bruiser Brody headlining against Jerry Blackwell. Brody had just come off an hour-long draw with NWA champion Ric Flair in St. Louis weeks earlier. Harley Race defeated Rick Martel on an under card that also saw Kerry Von Erich beat the Super Destroyer, Dick the Bruiser and Bob Brown overcome Dewey Robertson and Greg Valentine and other assorted prelim action.

A second show on the 25th saw NWA Kingpin Ric Flair defeat Kerry Von Erich. Brody teamed with David Von Erich to battle Harley Race and Greg Valentine, Dick the Bruiser wrestled a young Hercules, along with other action.

Now on to the featured attraction…

Greensboro, NC – Coliseum – March 12, 1983
NWA: The Final Conflict

Bob Caudle calls the action. The house lights go down on the fans because the WRESTLING is the focus.

Jerry Brisco vs. Ken Timbs
Tommy Young is the referee. He gets booed. There were noticeable empty seats during the intro portion. Wasn’t expecting that considering the hullaboo surrounding ticket sales. Must be buying their popcorn. Timbs is a bleach blond heel who worked around the south for a good while in the late 70’s through the 80’s. Perhaps best known for his team with Eric Embry, but others may choose to disagree with that.

Brisco gets several clean ametuer takedowns. Tibbs takes control with some armwork and Brisco has to resort to fists to regain the advantage. Sweet double underhook suplex by Brisco sets up a figure-four and this things over after 5 brisk minutes. Good little opener that served to warm the crowd up. Nothing flashy but solid.

They announce The Brisco Brothers vs. Dory Funk Jr and Paul Jones will headline next month’s event in Greensboro.

Mike Rotondo vs. Rick Harris
The ref is Sonny Fargo. He gets booed like Young did, Tough crowd. Fargo was “Roughhouse” Fargo in his younger days and drew some big money in the south by playing a wacked out character. When Jackie Fargo was in need

Harris is Black Bart, pre gimmick change. He’s still a cowboy here. Poor Rotondo never had abs, even here when he’s in top form. No wonder poor Bo Dallas has that gut. Harris is a bull and uses his size to enforce his will. Rotondo is forced to use leverage to try and take the big man down. Harris clubs away casually before being trapped in the dreaded airplane spin and that shockingly is enough to get the win at around the six minute mark. Really a nothing match until the abrupt finish. Everything looked good in delivery, but Harris’ offense was much like King Kong Bundy’s – focused on mostly clubbing.

Bugsy McGraw, Jimmy Valiant and ANDRE vs. One Man Gang, Oliver Humperdink and Greg Valentine is announced for next month’s show. Crowd pops for that one!

Pvt. Jim Nelson and Johnny Weaver vs. Gene Anderson and Red Dog Lane 
Nelson, as stated earlier, is the future Boris Zhukov. Weaver is a local legend who is at the end of his career. Ditto that sentiment for Gene Anderson, who looked bored coming to the ring in his bowling shirt. Anderson had already had a stroke by this point if I’m not mistaken.  “Red Dog” Lane is “Cowboy” Larry Lane, who was a ten year vet at this point. He’s not well known but he was apparently tight with the Funk Family and tended to work southern promotions the Funks had influence in.

Weaver and Lane have a stagnant lock up, that ends as Weaver side steps the situation and the heels collide on the apron. Lane works a knuckle lock for a long while as Weaver works on different reversals out of it. That’s called working a hold kids. I enjoy seeing intricate technical work like that. Anderson and Nelson tag in and Nelson is a house of fire and everybody gets slammed. Weaver and Lane make their way back in and Weaver becomes the face in peril. That only lasts maybe a minute as Nelson tags back in and explodes on Lane with blows before cradling him for the win at around the seven minute mark. Another basic match that was well worked, especially Weaver’s efforts while in the knuckle lock. I enjoyed it well enough.

NWA TV Champion Dick Slater vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
Gary Hart is with Slater. He and Piper jaw jack but it’s not on the mic. Slater stalls on the floor to drive Piper stir crazy. They throw fists right away and then take turns choking one another with a towel. David Crockett joins Caudle to call this big match. Slater bails to regroup. Back in the ring and Piper wails on Slater with a series of wild shots and Slater again runs off.

Slater manages to down Piper with blows and works his leg with a spinning toe hold. Piper is then tossed to the unforgiving cement and sent into the ringpost. Gary Hart has the ref tied up to avoid the DQ. Piper is still full of fight and he struggles his way to the apron. Piper brawls his way back in and delivers a number of knees to Slater’s kidney. Piper then steps on Slater’s face and twists his boot. Both men show signs of wear and tear as the fight is reduced to the men exchanging blows from their knees.

Slater goes for the kill with a side suplex but a sleeper attempt is reversed. Hart tries to keep the ref from checking Slater’s vitals. Slater is able to escape and Piper eats an elbow as both men collapse. Piper allows Hart to distract him and Slater takes control. Piper is tossed to the cement (with Hart again tying the ref up) Slater then hits a suplex and gets the 3-count. But NO…Piper got his leg on the ropes. Hart loses his mind. Piper catches Slater coming off the top rope and hits a fist drop for the 3-count at around 17 minutes. We get a screw job finish anyway as the TV title was only on the line for the first 15 minutes of the match. Good brawl between the participants, aided by Gary Hart doing some fine work as the meddling manager.

NWA World Champion Ric “Nature Boy” Flair vs. NWA US Champion Greg “The Hammer” Valentine
The match went to a sixty minute draw. It was not included on the DVDs that went on sale of this event. Depending on who you believe, either the match wasn’t taped because the tapes back then could only hold two hours of film or the match was taped but ended up taped over the following year in an effort to save money on film.

NWA World Tag Champions Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Jay Youngblood
The champions enter to “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky. They were the only wrestlers to have music this evening. If the faces lose, they must break up. Sandy Scott is the special ref. The faces control the early going with headlocks. Several times both men take Kernodle down, has the move escaped from and then locked it back on. Lots of people online have complained about this early sequence being slow paced rest holds since this was suppose to be a blood feud, while others point out that the faces had a lot to lose, so they were being cautious. The headlocks do go on forever though. Sarge is getting more and more upset as his partner stays trapped for such a long period.

Sarge finally gets tagged in and he is tossed into the cage twice immediately. Youngblood fights to keep Sarge from grating his face across the steel. Sarge is then trapped in the headlock for a bit before taking a big bump off a clothesline. Youngblood eats a vicious cage shot to the face and bleeds. The heels start to use wear down holds to take Youngblood out of the match. Both men batter the Indian for several minutes before Sarge attempts the Cobra Clutch. Youngblood manages to drop out of ut and sends Sarge into the cage and I believe he’s cut.

Steamboat tags in and explodes on Kernodle. He forces the champ to eat steel several times before making an error he ends up flying in the cage. Steamboat preserves as Kernodle hits a gusher after being flung in the cage. The heels try and set up the “Slaughter Cannon” but Steamboat is able to escape. Ref Sandy Scott is s-l-o-w to get down for a pin attempt. Steamboat is a bloody mess now too, which makes it 4 for 4.

Sarge climbs all the way to the top of the cage but misses a leap of faith at Steamboat. Caudle manages to undersell the moment, but David Crockett appropriately loses his mind. This leads to a four way donnybrook. The babyfaces toss Sarge into the steel and he takes another big bump. Steamboat locks Sarge in the sleeper as Youngblood locks Kernodle in the Cobra Clutch. Slaughter manages to escape and takes Steamboat out. Sarge then loads up his arm pad with a weapon and KO’s Youngblood. The ref orders Sarge out and Steamboat places Youngblood on Kernodle for the win. Kernodle is just an absolute mess of blood. Piper, Nelson and Weaver come to the ring in suits to celebrate with the new champions.

I hate to be critical of a legendary match, but to me this 30 minute match should probably have been maybe around 17. The first half of the bout being so headlock heavy really did seem out of place. Once Sarge started bumping all over the place, the blood started flowing and the match got heated up, this thing started to feel like a match that deserved a title like “THE FINAL CONFLICT”.

Of course, this being wrestling, the Final Conflict was not the end of this feud…but more on that in a future article.

Bloody Kernodle and Slaughter Final Conflict 1983

Next time I’m heading to the AWA to check out April of 1983’s megacard “Super Sunday” and get a peek at a little thing called “Hulkamania”.

 

Written by Andrew Lutzke

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

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