Wrasslin Back in the Day: The Last Battle of Atlanta

The WWE Network delivers again with a Georgia supercard with the Road Warriors, Jake Roberts, an epic cage match and more from the Omni!!

From the WWE Network:

October 23rd, 1983

I first covered this in my October 1983 look back at wrestling history, but since then the WWE Network has uncovered actual footage of the “Last Battle of Atlanta”, giving me the chance to check out the full card:

“Chief” Joe Lightfoot vs. Les Thornton

The men shake hands before the match. They go through a nice sequence early as they struggle for control with an inverted headlock. Thornton escapes several times and is able to throw his opponent with a nice deep hip toss. Lightfoot maintains the dominant position of gripping Thornton’s head though, returning to the headlock despite Thornton escaping several times.

Lightfoot attempts a series of headscissor takeovers, forcing Thornton to back away, rather than try and counter. The men return to the headlock work, but with Thornton fighting and reversing things consistently, the move is not a “rest hold” as the men are showing their physical struggle. Thornton attempts a few suplexes to escape, but Lightfoot won’t let up.

The struggle continues over the headlock, with full nelsons and other moves being used as the men fight for dominance. Lightfoot attempts to roll through with a move and Thornton tosses his own weight onto the Indian’s legs and scores a cradle win. Really good stuff. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen Lightfoot work before, and now I’m baffled as how he wasn’t a player in the AWA/NWA/WWF war.

David Sammartino  vs. Pat Rose

Sammartino looks like a smaller version of Scott Norton from his rookie year. Similar haircut and a big broad chest. Sammartino controls the early going with multiple shoulder tackles. The men exchange headlocks, but without any of the fancy physical theatre we saw in the opener.

Sammartino does some more basic blows before finishing things with a powerslam. This was just a squash.

Mr. Wrestling II vs. Bob Roop

This is “Mask vs. Mask” as there is a phony Mr. Wrestling running around Georgia, and II wants to put a stop to this. The heel Mr. Wrestling is played by Jesse Barr. He opts out of the match due to “injury” (big heat from the crowd for that) and Roop has taken his place.

II works a headlock and face lock early on. Roop manages to escape, but runs into II’s patented knee, forcing him into a time out. More headlocks from II, setting up another knee lift. Roop manages to take over with a gut buster, followed up by attempting to remove II’s mask. He hangs II upside down to try and hold him still enough to yank off his gimmick.

II’s comes back with brawling, but his attack is cut off with a flying knee. Roop went for a shoulder breaker, but II fights his way off and rolls Roop up for the win. Barr is forced to unmask after failing to run off. They don’t play the unmasking up much at all, not milking it for a maximum pop, or even giving II the honor of taking off the hood. This was paced slowly, but II was mega over, so the crowd was hot for all of this.

NWA National Heavyweight Championship: Brett Wayne (c) vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts

Wayne is giving up quite a bit of height, but he uses his scientific knowledge to score an early advantage over Roberts. The Snake convinces Wayne to go in for a test of strength, and Jake quickly uses his leverage advantage to wear on Wayne. Wayne spends a minute in peril before countering and downing the Snake. The crowd applauds his efforts.

I love that the front row has 3 old ladies and a trucker sitting in it. That alone is a sign of the times when you watch old footage like this. Roberts tries to sucker Wayne in for a cheap shot, but the champ beats him to the punch.

The Snake snags control and spends several minutes wearing on Wayne’s limbs. Wayne is chop-blocked, then has his leg inverted as he is trapped in a half crab. Roberts works the hold by grabbing onto the rope, greatly upsetting the ringside fans. He dismisses Wayne to the floor. The champ’s attempts to fire up get a good response from the crowd, but Wayne’s busted open and can’t respond to the fan’s will.

Wayne continue to tease comebacks as the fans become raucous over Ole Anderson, Buzz Sawyer and Mr. Wrestling II coming to ringside to survey the damage. After watching Wayne become less and less capable of defending himself, Ole finally throws in the towel. Roberts defiantly stares down the three men before walking off. The ring announcer reveals that Wayne will keep his title as an injury forfeit is not the same as a pin or submission. Wow – what B.S. that is!!

I’m not quite sure of the GCW storylines without looking up results, but Buzz was a heel aligned with Paul Ellering and the Road Warriors in some form or fashion, and Roberts was part of that faction at some point as well, so there was probably some layered storytelling here that went right over my head.

Ronnie Garvin vs. Kabuki

Kabuki’s manager Gary Hart gets in Garvin’s grill. so Garvin takes care of the situation by slugging him. The punch didn’t look too good, however Hart took a bump from it. That was rare as Hart was limited in his bumping after he had his career path altered thanks to a plane crash.

Both men are apprehensive of getting things started. Kabuki fears the fists of Garvin, and Ronnie can’t trust the martial arts of Kabuki not to do him in. Kabuki bumps big for Garvin once things get rolling. Kabuki slows the pace with a long neck pinch. Kabuki scales the ropes and leaps off…into another neck pinch. Sigh.

The fans are holding up well considering the men haven’t done anything for minutes on end. Kabuki riles up the crowd by biting Garvin. Ronnie finally makes a comeback, using choking and biting to abuse his foe. Garvin rips at Kabuki’s face as you can hear many fans calling for vengeance.

Kabuki spins in circles to befuddle Garvin. It works as he manages to catch him with a neck breaker. Garvin survives this onslaught, grabs Kabuki’s legs and crotches him on the ringpost. The Garvin stomp and a series of elbows nearly end things, but Hart breaks up the pin. Garvin goes to the floor to abuse Hart, and Hart stands toe for toe with Garvin, shaking off the “Hands of Stone” and swinging back at him. WOW, does that kill off the aura of one of the top babyfaces or what!?

Kabuki gets a foreign object, but we miss the spot as fans stand in front of the camera. Garvin is downed and pinned. Way too long for a match where they didn’t have much to do. I was largely bored and ended up nodding off. Wrasslin’ shouldn’t serve as a sedative.

NWA National Tag Team Championship: The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal) vs. Jimmy Valiant & Pez Whatley

Valiant talks smack before the match, and then the faces charge into battle. The Warriors are green rookies here, as they have barely been teaming up for around five months at this point. The heels dispel their no selling reputations right away as Hawk FLIES across the ring from a Valiant blow and then both Road Warriors take bumps as the faces flip them in the ring.

Hawk is downed by Whatley with headbutts and a drop kick. Valiant tags in and rattles Hawk. He traps the big man in a sleeper, only for Animal to charge in and fall prey to the sleeper as well.

The ref is bumped. The faces keep whipping the Road Warriors’ butts. A chair is introduced. David Sammartino runs in and seems to think he can become the ref as he starts counting the Road Warriors out. They grab him by the legs and yank him to the floor.

The Warriors then climb in the ring as a unit and I figured they were about to get their chance to smash up the faces, but it is not to be as the faces humble the Warriors yet again in this round. The ref wakes up and DQ’s the champs. The heels get their tails beat a little more in the post match and then the faces dance and jive to celebrate their victory.

“Last Battle of Atlanta” Tommy “Wildfire” Rich vs. “Mad Dog” Buzz Sawyer

This is taking place in a covered steel cage, with Paul Ellering trapped in a shark cage which is hovering above the ring. Sawyer becomes the aggressor right from the start, attacking Rich’s wrist.  He hammers at our hero’s wrist, bites at his face and slings Rich into the steel several times. Rich bleeds a gusher.

Rich fights through the pain and unleashes a few kicks and punches. He then chucks Sawyer into the cage. Sawyer bleeds, but it seems to only inspire him to rally as he begins to pound on Rich again. Rich delivers a somewhat desperation piledriver, but Sawyer won’t stay down. Sawyer assaults Rich further, and rattles his spine with a piledriver.

Both men are battered and they turn to briefly trading blows on their knees. Rich attempts a diving knee, but his target moves. Sawyer places Rich against the steel and attempts to launch at him, only to miss and knock himself silly with the mesh.

Rich sends Sawyer into the steel once more and that is enough to end the blood bath as Buzz is pinned. Both men are hurt and lay on the mat. The babyfaces help Rich from the cage. Ellering is lowered and he goes to check on his man Sawyer. Sawyer slowly makes his way to the door in a daze. As others stated when this match first surfaced, it feels like the men missed something with the match layout, relying on the blade jobs to sell the drama for them instead of telling a wider story with the bout.

Ole Anderson vs. Paul Ellering

Ole doesn’t even have his wrestling clothes on. He grabs Ellering at the door and immediately puts a hurting on him with his fists. He smacks Ellering around for several minutes with punches, kicks and even walks on his face.

Anderson sells his own punches by shaking his hand after many of the blows. He uses the cage as a cheese grater, finally busting open Ellering. Ellering is chucked into the cage once more. After five minutes has gone by, Ellering has yet to get a move in.

As I type that, Ellering scores with a reverse atomic drop. He propels Ole into the cage several times. The crowd rallies behind Anderson as Ellering tries to use his boot to choke the life from him. Anderson reveals a face of crimson as Ellering aims for a pile driver. Anderson flips him off, smashes him into the steel once again. Ellering gives Anderson a shot into the cage to show he wants to fight on. The men trade fists before Anderson wins the slug-fest and scores a sudden pin.

The announcer thanks the fans for coming and the crowd rushes for the exits. Jake Roberts makes his way into the cage and helps Ellering batter Anderson. The heels scamper away and the faces are left to tend to Ole.

Final thoughts: I’ve read a few glowing reviews of this card online since the WWE Network put it up, but I guess I’d put it down as being a mostly fun watch, but nothing one needs to go out of their way to see. The Road Warriors match is crazy to watch if you only know them as ass kickers, and the opener was a nice hidden gem of a grappling affair. Perhaps an announcer providing context to the bouts would have helped me get into some of them a bit more.



Written by Andrew Lutzke

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

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