Wrestle War ’89: The Music City Showdown!

May 7th, 1989

New World Champion Ricky Steamboat wasn’t able or willing to rest on his laurels after his big title win at the “Chi-town Rumble”. His title defenses included matches with Kendall Windham, Tiger Mask II (Misawa), Jack Victory, Mike Rotundo, and Ric Flair who received several rematches. Flair and Steamboat’s most notable encounter came at Clash of the Champions 6 when Steamboat defeated Flair after 55 grueling minutes of action. One final rematch was signed soon after with the stipulations being 3 judges would be at ringside to decide a winner if the one-hour time limit expired. If Flair lost, he would no longer receive any further rematches.

Rick Steiner did not stop his dogged pursuit of the Varsity Club after losing the TV title at the PPV; instead he formed a partnership with Eddie Gilbert and captured the US Tag titles from Kevin Sullivan and Dr. Death in late April (taped a month earlier). It is somewhat interesting that Scott Steiner remained the odd man out here. During the build up to this, it was revealed that Kevin Sullivan caused the car accident that left Rick Steiner “brain damaged”. No word regarding Katie Vick being in the backseat with Glen Jacobs.

Rotundo’s TV title reign would end via a loss to Sting. The Varsity Club rebounded quickly though and Dr. Death and Rotundo stunned The Road Warriors for the World tag team titles at the Clash of the Champions 6 thanks to the help of crooked referee Teddy Long. Remarkably, the NWA allowed Long to screw over several more babyfaces before removing him as a ref. Must have a good union head.

Lex Luger was ready and willing to give Barry Windham rematches for the US title, however his direction took a turn when his own partner, Michael Hayes turned on him during a match at the Omni against the Windham Brothers. Hayes then joined Hiro Matsuda’s group of rogues.

Newcomers to the NWA included The Iron Sheik who debuted soon after the PPV and immediately drew the ire of fellow newcomer Ranger Ross.  The Samoan Swat team (Fatu and Samu) were brought to the NWA by Paul E. Dangerously in order to seek revenge on Jim Cornette and the Midnight Express for eliminating his Midnight Express from the area. The Great Muta came in under the employ of the insidious Gary Hart and his workrate style immediately made an impact by showing North American fans that “high flying” meant more than dropkicks and headscissors. The Dynamic Dudes (Shane Douglas and Johnny Ace) became the newest “cute” babyface tag team to try their hand at swooning the female audience. Essentially they replaced the Fantastics, who had left the NWA.  Rugged veteran Bob Orton Jr. also joined the NWA ranks and started a feud with fellow cagey vet “Captain Redneck” Dick Murdoch.

LIVE from Nashville, Tennessee it’s a “Music City Showdown!”


Hosted by Jim Ross and Bob Caudle


Junkyard Dog vs. The Great Muta

Who thought this styles clash would make a good show case for Muta?  JYD suffered from jobbingitis (Doug Gilbert said on Twitter JYD’s Mom died, but he was gone from WCW for the rest of the year after this, so I assume he was fired?) and no showed the PPV so instead we get:


Doug Gilbert vs. The Great Muta

Gilbert isn’t even on the roster. Muta is awesome here before the match even begins – his music, his look, his entrance, Gary Hart’s managerial antics and the mist. Little doubt this guy was going to be a star! Gilbert moves in while Muta is doing his pre-match ceremony. Muta sends a thrust kick to the guts of Doug and he is sent flying. Gilbert is chucked to the floor and posted.

Gilbert manages a tackle and a clothesline so Muta takes a breather. Muta rakes Doug’s eyes, sucks on his own fingers and then rakes the eyes again before hitting a crisp elbow drop. Handstand elbow sets up a nerve pinch. Muta sets up a moonsault but Gilbert rolls away and Muta lands on his feet and dropkicks Gilbert to the floor. Eddie Gilbert comes down to support his brother. Muta hits a flying bodypress to the floor and now Doug’s DOA. Moonsault finishes Gilbert’s night. Just a squash but when I saw this in 90 or 91 on VHS, I thought Muta’s offense was amazing.


Lance Russell interviews Ric Flair. Flair says Ricky Steamboat is the greatest wrestler in the world but Flair’s still the man.


Ranger Ross vs. Butch Reed

Reed’s music sounds like he should have a futuristic gimmick like Lazor-Tron or the New Breed. Ranger Ross comes down with a dozen or so military garbed people and the announcers put over his legit 8 year stint in the armed forces. Ross hiptosses Reed and takes him down with a headlock. A big clothesline downs the Ranger. Reed loses a slugfest  but grinds Ross back down to the mat. Teddy Long joins us at ringside to “scout”. Shitty headlock by Reed – loose and lazy. Match grinds to a halt. Ross punches and chops his way back into the match and drop kicks Butch to the floor. Reed catches him with a kick to the face, a suplex and flying shoulderblock for the pin. Reed was dreadfully dull here, much like he was during the last PPV against Sting.


Dick Murdoch vs. Bob Orton Jr.

How can you make sure a match between two good workers will stink?  Add a bullrope stipulation to it. The men are tied together by the wrist. Let’s hope they can overcome the obstacle.

Dick punches away but misses when he swings the cowbell at Orton’s face. They brawl to the floor where Orton tries running away and takes a bump from Murdoch yanking the rope back.  Dick gets in the ring and yanks again – this time sending Orton into the steel post. Orton slams the cowbell into Dick’s back to take control. Orton stomps away until Murdoch takes away his wind with some shots to the belly. Dick takes off his boot and wails away on Orton’s face.

Orton rallies briefly with a nice elbow to the face but his follow up is climbing to the top rope, which ends with Dick yanking him off to the mat. Murdoch hog ties him, drops some elbows and gets the pin. Gary Hart starts to kick away at Murdoch and that allows Orton to bash Dick’s head with the cowbell. Orton then hangs Murdoch with the rope over the ring ropes. Dick sells the hanging quite well.  Perfectly acceptable wrestling.


Michael Hayes promises to win the US title all on his own. No Freebirds, no cheating.


The Dynamic Dudes vs. The Samoan SWAT Team

I’d guess we get this match instead of the Midnight Express vs. SST because so many matches on the PPV are direct rematches from the previous Clash and this allowed a little alteration. Ace tries to hurt Fatu’s head early on and that doesn’t work obviously. Shane and Ace both use their speed to confuse the Samoans as Fatu and Samu try and use brute force. Shane hits a nice head scissors take down but Ace doesn’t fare as well and eats a big thrust kick and dual elbow smashes. Samu hits a leg whip takedown and a spinning thrust kick to the face. Ace eats a side slam, double headbutt and a big powerslam. Samu rips at Ace’s face and drools all over the place. Samu locks on a Boston Crab and Paul E gets on the house mic to rile up the fans. Ace escapes and makes the tag. Douglas hits dropkicks on both men but Samu drops him with a nasty clothesline and Fatu hits a great looking big splash from the top rope. Ace breaks up the pin. Samu tries a slam but Ace dropkicks him down and Shane lands on top for the pin.  Great exhibition of the talent the SST possesses.


The WWE edited off The Oak Ridge Boys mid- PPV concert. I won’t complain.


US Champion Lex Luger vs. Michael Hayes

Hayes avoids a lock up so he can strut. Hayes preens and tries to give off the air of confidence. Luger tries a press slam but Hayes slips off and hits a botched side Russian leg sweep. Lex slaps Hayes, so “P.S.” takes a walk.   Lex wins a slugfest and a backdrop sends Hayes back to the floor to regroup.

Hayes rocks Luger with punches and a clothesline but Lex avoids the DDT. Hayes takes another trip around the floor after that. Lex focuses the attack on Hayes arm, wrenching on an armbar and wrist lock. Lex charges Hayes but ends up crashing over the top rope and onto the floor. Hayes posts him and suplexes him back into the ring. A bulldog earns the Freebird a near fall. Hiro Matsuda slams Lex’s head into the railing, Hayes hits a series of fist drops but poses instead of going for the kill. Lex tosses Hayes across the ring when Hayes attempts a second bulldog. Hayes is press slammed multiple times and Lex tries for the torture rack but Hayes slips off and hits the DDT! Luger and Hayes are both down.

Lex shoves Hayes into the ref and the men collide heads. Lex ends up on his back and Hayes is draped over the ropes.  Terry Gordy runs down and shoves Hayes on top of Luger for the massive upset pin. Match was fine and I have to give some credit to the surprise finish as Gordy was gone for well over a year and Hayes couldn’t have had too many fans predicting a title change here.


TV Champion Sting vs. The Iron Sheik

A gaggle of fans in Sting face paint lead Sting to the ring. Sheik attacks Sting before the bell and batters him with the flag pole and then chokes him with a part of his garb. Sting starts no selling and chokes Sheik with his rope and then uses it to clothesline him with. Sheik hits the gut wrench suplex but Sting starts to choke him. Sting then hits the Stinger splash. Scorpion Death Lock finishes Shieky baby. Glorified squash.


Steamboat cuts a promo and puts over Flair as one of the best ever. Mutual admiration between these two.


World Champion Ricky Steamboat vs. Ric Flair

Flair has 40 women lining the aisle and four ladies by his side as he makes his way to the ring. JR gets flustered as the camera pans all the ladies and loses his train of thought. Steamboat comes down with his wife and son, who is riding a horse. Richie and Bonnie take a moment to pose in the ring and then we get down to business. Lou Thesz, Pat O’ Connor and Terry Funk are sitting at ringside to act as judges in the event of a draw.

Feeling out process to start and that goes poorly for Flair. Flair slaps Ricky and Steamboat slaps back and that knocks Flair back and to his butt. They hack into one another with a flurry of back and forth chops – each man selling the blows with spastic body quivers.  Steamer takes Flair down and starts to drive elbows and knees into Flair’s arm. Ricky works a hammerlock and drives more knees into the arm of the “The Nature Boy”. Flair chops his way out but the Dragon slips through Flair’s legs and reapplies the hammerlock. Ric hits some forearms that send Ricky into a dazed state and Steamboat gets some retaliatory chops and goes back to the arm. A hammerlock is reapplied and then a bridging armlock continues to bend Flair’s arm in an unnatural torque. Flair is dropkicked to the floor.

Back in Ricky slaps on another armbar. Flair starts to chop away again and Ricky once again out does him with his counter chops. Flair chucks Steamboat over the top rope in desperation. Flair’s next chop sends Ricky into the audience as he flips over the railing. Ricky perseveres and once again out chops Flair then chases him into the ring and lunges a chop to the head of Flair. Flair flop follows that big blow. Ricky accidentally propels himself over the top rope and crashes onto the floor. Flair chops away and hits a back suplex. Ric measures Steamboat and drops a knee across Ricky’s chest. Double underhook suplex and a stun gun wear down Steamboat. Ric suplexes Steamboat on the floor. Flair ends up being bodyslammed off the top rope and Steamboat nails a superplex. Steamboat tries a chickenwing but Flair gets to the ropes. The Dragon connects on a flying chop from the top rope. Back up to the top and Flair falls onto the ropes and that causes Steamboat to fall to the cement floor and injure his leg. Ric works on the leg and locks in the figure four. Ricky survives and hits an enziguiri. Ricky attempts a follow up slam and ends up cradled for the pin. Tremendous match. Ricky congratulates Flair afterward.

JR tries to get a word with Flair. Terry Funk interrupts and tells Flair how great he is. Funk then challenges Flair for the title but Funk gets rebuffed since he is an actor, not a wrestler now. Funk gives Flair a few chances to take back the statement and then sucker punches Flair and assaults him on the floor. This culminates with a piledriver onto the table the judges had been sitting by. This is probably the first piledriver on a table most in North America had seen.


World Tag Team champions Mike Rotundo and “Dr. Death” Steve Williams

Six cheerleaders root on the Varsity Club until the Road Warriors music hits and the ladies flee. I marked out like crazy for that! Four way melee breaks out and The Warriors clear the ring. Don’t screw the Warriors over, they’ll bite your face off for fun when they aren’t pissed off – no telling what they will do now that they are! Kevin Sullivan gets on the ropes and special ref Nikita Koloff kicks him out.

Rotundo catches Animal with a drop kick but is powerslammed right after. Dr. Death wins a slug fest, but Hawk roars back and sends Williams to the floor where he blasts him with a flying clothesline. Hawk misses a second charge and his arm smashes into the ring post. Dr. Death wraps the arm around the railing for further damage. Animal takes over and controls both members of the Varsity Club. Rotondo is sent to the floor. Dr. Death is propped up for a Doomsday Device and driven into the mat. Before Nikita can count though, Dan Spivey and Kevin Sullivan attack him and that sets off a 4 on 3 brawl in and out of the ring. Nikita and the Warriors repel the heels and Paul Ellering’s men accept the DQ win.  This set up an obvious 6 man match that never materialized that I know of. Fast paced and fun match – under six minutes long as the PPV is quickly running out of time.


US Tag Team Champions Eddie Gilbert and Rick Steiner vs. Dan Spivey and Kevin Sullivan

The Varsity Club come out to the “Halloween Havoc” theme. A four way brawl erupts and Steiner is driven twice into the ring post shoulder first. Eddie and Sullivan unload on each other. Steiner is hurt and Eddie seems to have to go it alone. Spivey uses his size to control Gilbert while Sullivan cheap shots Steiner. Sullivan pounds on Eddie and lets Spivey back in to get his licks in. Spivey with a dropkick(!) and then a back breaker. Spivey and Sullivan take turns torturing Gilbert until Sullivan attempts a piledriver and Rick sneaks in for a Steinerline and Eddie flips on top of Sullivan for the surprise pin! Spivey assaults Steiner with a chair after the match. Sullivan tries to get at Missy Hyatt but Gilbert makes the save.  The PPV closes with the announcement that the Varsity Club has been stripped of the World tag titles for attacking Nikita, who was a sanctioned NWA referee for the evening.


Final Thoughts:

Only one must see match, but most of the PPV is very watchable stuff. Next time I venture to the summer of 89, where Ric Flair returns to extract revenge on Terry Funk for his brutal attack. Plus War Games and Luger vs. Steamboat!


Written by Andrew Lutzke

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

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