The SmarK Retro Rant – NWA Bunkhouse Stampede 88


The SmarK Retro Rant – NWA Bunkhouse Stampede 88

I’m going to assume that y’all don’t need another history lesson on why this (for all intents and purposes) debut PPV from Jim Crockett Promotions was such a laughingstock, but basically Crockett tried to get a slice of the PPV pie with Starrcade ’87, only to see Vince counter-program the Survivor Series and destroy his audience in the process. When cable companies told Vince never to try that again, Crockett assumed it was safe to re-launch his PPV attempts, and he created the Bunkhouse Stampede show for January ’88. However, Vince countered with perhaps the devious end-run ever devised, as he came up with his own battle-royale specialty match, called it the Royal Rumble, and aired it on free TV at the same time as Crockett’s PPV. Again, the audience was destroyed. However, Bunkhouse Stampede was already a notoriously weak card going in, and furthermore confusion over start times (tickets said 8:00, PPV said 6:00, and the actual start time ended up being 7:00) rendered the whole thing an exercise in stupidity, and was one of the last straws that lead to Dusty Rhodes being fired and Crockett selling to Ted Turner in the summer of ’88.

I have specifically avoided ranting on this show because of how notoriously bad it is, but someone sent it to me, so here you go and please keep in mind as you read along, this was supposed to be the introduction to the NWA for new fans and the show that launched them on PPV to compete with the WWF.

– Live from Long Island, NY. That’s always a bad sign right off the bat. Official attendance is listed at 6000, but from the HUNDREDS of empty seats on the camera side alone I’d say 2000 would be a liberal estimate.

– Your hosts are Jim Ross and Bob Caudle. Speaking of which, via Max Levy

“Bob Caudle was much like Scott Hudson in that pro wrestling was always his

side job. Bob Caudle’s main job was as an aide to North Carolina Senator

Jesse Helms (R). Helms had owned WRAL in Raleigh, NC which had long been the

home of Jim Crockett Promotions when the promotion taped matches at the

stations studios. Caudle had been the station’s weatherman and play by play

man for Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling.

When Helms was elected to the Senate, he took Caudle along as his media

relations/press agent guy (I’m unsure of the exact title). Caudle worked in

this role for Helms while continuing to broadcast wrestling in JCP’s direct

employ and eventually WCW’s employ as well. After leaving WCW in the early

1990s, Caudle stayed on as a member of Helms’ staff until just within the

past couple of years when Bob retired.”

So there you go, Caudle lovers!

– Opening match, World TV title: Nikita Koloff v. Bobby Eaton. Yes, Bobby Eaton was being booked as a serious threat to the TV title at this point, while still half of the US tag champions. Stalling from the heel side to start, and Koloff overpowers Eaton. More stalling. Eaton gives Koloff a clean break in the corner and grabs a hammerlock, and they work off that for a bit. Eaton slugs away in the corner, but Koloff returns fire and overpowers him again. They do a wristlock sequence, which Koloff wins with ease. Koloff works on the arm as the match grinds to a halt. Bobby kicks him out of the ring to break, and they brawl out there, which Bobby wins via a good old thumb to the eye. Back in, Eaton works a headlock and they lie around for a while. Criss-cross and Koloff gets a slam, allowing Eaton to stall some more. They go back to the headlock and the crowd completely turns on the match. Eaton slugs him out of the ring, but ends up running into the post. Koloff hiptosses him on the concrete, but Eaton kind of no-sells and pokes him in the eyes again to keep control. Back in, he drops an elbow (and that elbow NEVER hits) for two. Back to a hammerlock. Cornette tries to distract the fans from how incredibly boring this match is, but is only mildly successful. Koloff comes back, but Eaton goes low and stays on offense. To the top, and a missile dropkick gets two. Back to the hammerlock as the crowd groans. That goes on for a ridiculous length of time. Mat-wrestling and grabbing a hold is one thing, but laying on the mat for 4 minutes in a hammerlock is BORING. We’re at the 15:00 mark and by now everyone knows what the finish is gonna be. Koloff FINALLY fights out and hits the Russian Sickle (which is a clothesline done with a hooked arm, for those who ask), but Eaton goes back to the hammerlock to kill the crowd again. They start popping for the “time remaining” announcements more than anything else. I mean, geez, work on the arm if you want, but DO SOMETHING. Switch from a wristlock to an armbar or something or ANYTHING. Koloff fights out again, but Eaton knees him and say it with me goes back to the hammerlock. We’re down to one merciful minute remaining. TAKE ME NOW, LORD. Koloff slugs back with the good arm but makes the standard retarded error of hammering away in the corner instead of doing something useful, and hits an elbow and Russian Sickle as time expires at 20:00. This was BRUTALLY boring and I wouldn’t wish this sort of perverse punishment on anyone. Well, except maybe Kevin Nash or HHH. And even then I’d be enough of a gentlemen to leave them a knitting needle in case they feel the need to poke their own eyes out. ½*

– Western States Heritage Championship: Barry Windham v. Larry Zbyszko. Oh, great a Larry Zbyszko match that’ll get the joint rocking. For those wondering what the hell people like myself are talking about when we joke about “pictures of Baby Doll” being in manilla envelopes, this is the general timeframe for it. Basically, Larry came into the NWA and got put into a feud with Dusty Rhodes, and in order to blackmail him into a US title shot, he produced a mysterious envelope which were supposed to contain pictures given to him by manager Baby Doll, supposedly of Rhodes and Baby Doll in compromising positions. When the angle completely bombed, Larry was dumped into Barry Windham’s lap for a challenger to his completely lame Western States title and the angle was forgotten and never mentioned again. But I remember! Actually, the angle might have been after this match, I can’t keep all this stuff straight sometimes, but it was around this time. Windham goes for the arm to start, and Larry executes his most effective offensive move the SEVEN MINUTE STALL OF DOOM. Windham grabs a headlock and dodges a dropkick, so Larry backs off again. He likes to do that a lot. More stalling from Larry as he ducks out of the ring after every shot from Windham, no matter how minor. He stops to argue the finer points of embroidery with some fans at ringside, and heads back in for a leglock. Windham breaks and we get more stalling. Barry grabs a headlock, but Larry reverses to another toehold and goes to work on the knee. Windham powerslams out of it and gets two. Windham goes up and misses his usual “dying seagull” elbowdrop that never hits or even comes close. Larry goes back to the knee. Caudle relates a story about how Zbyszko went to the Horsemen for advice and learned that the knee is hurt. Really? You don’t think the huge knee brace and bandages would be a giveaway by itself? Man, I hope he didn’t PAY for that sort of sage advice. Larry changes things up, going to a headlock, but then switches to the toehold again in case we get too excited and drop dead from the shock of something notable happening. Windham fights back and slugs him down. A bad suplex gets two. What the heck happened there? It looked like Larry was supposed to shift his weight and fall on top, and Barry even started to take that bump, but Larry just took it like a regular suplex. Weird. Gutwrench gets two. Sleeper and Larry bails, but Windham follows and gives him a beating, only to run into the post. He posts Larry on his very favorite muscle in response, but misses the lariat by a mile and goes flying out of the ring. Dustin totally swiped that bump from him, by the way. More brawling outside, and Windham flips back in, but Larry blocks for two. Neckbreaker is reversed to a backslide by Windham, for two. Windham reverses a piledriver attempt, but for some reason Larry gets two off it. Criss-cross and collision puts both guys out, and Larry misses a charge to the corner to allow Windham the comeback, and AGAIN the babyface makes the dumb decision and pounds away in the corner. Ref is bumped and Windham gets a devastating rollup for nothing as a result, but Larry counters with SIZE SEVEN OF DOOM (oh, wait, it’s Baby Doll’s shoe, so I guess it’s the SIZE FOURTEEN OF DOOM never mind drinking champagne out of it, you can use it as a microbrewery) and gets the title at 19:15. WAY long, but Windham gave it the old college try near the end. ** In Jim Ross’ opinion, the shoe was the deciding factor. Now that’s insightful commentary. For those who care, Larry never lost the esteemed and very prestigious Western States title, as he completely forgot about even having it and jumped to the AWA later that year to become World champion there, before destroying that title, too, thus once again proving my theory: Germans love David Hasslehoff.

– NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Road Warrior Hawk. Who thought THIS was a good idea? I mean, seriously, old-school NWA fans, did you ever buy tickets for a show thinking “Oh, boy, Hawk is challenging for the title, this should be awesome!” That’s like trying to promote HHH v. Bubba Dudley for the title! Who would be that stupid? Oh, never mind. Hawk works a headlock to start and no-sells a chop and Flair decides to re-think his strategy. Hawk presses him and Flair takes a powder to reinforce just how painful that was. Back in, Hawk does it again, because when you do a move like that and the guy screams in pain and runs for his life, you might as well do it again. Who says the Warriors were dumb? Hawk stomps a mudhole in the corner and hits him with a standing dropkick and fistdrop. He tosses Flair around, and Ric calls timeout and confers with JJ. Hawk suplexes him back in and pounds away, into the BEARHUG OF DOOM. If Flair was Hulk Hogan, it would be OVER. Man, I wonder if Hogan is ever gonna live down being the only guy in history to submit to a bearhug. Hawk no-sells some chops and shoulderblocks him, as JR declares that “Flair is as limp as a dishrag”. That’s not what the women who ride Space Mountain would say! Whoo! Sorry, just to retort on Flair’s behalf there. They head outside and Hawk tosses the balsawood steps at Flair with blatant disregard for the splinters it might cause, but when they head back in Flair goes low to take over. Speaking of limp as a dishrag Flair goes to the eyes to keep up his image as a total pussy (Thanks, Big Dust!) and drops the knee. That gets two. They head out and Hawk meets the railing a few times, and STILL won’t sell! Oh, wait, he’s taking a few deep breaths and acting mildly distracted, that’s practically a crippling injury for the Warriors. Back in, Flair drops another knee for two. Hawk suddenly comes back with a neckbreaker, and Flair starts convulsing in pain. You see the difference selling makes? Hawk misses a fistdrop and sells the knee. Explain THAT one, kids. Flair goes after the knee anyway, and when Ellering protests to the ref Flair gives the most blatant ballshot humanly possible to Hawk, nearly doing a dance afterwards like Leslie Nielsen as the umpire, in the Naked Gun. Flair wraps Hawk’s knee around the post and WHOO! NOW! WE GO TO SCHOOL! Figure-four time, kids, and the ropes get involved, whether they want to or not. It’s not like they were doing anything pressing anyway. Hawk reverses, but Flair makes the ropes. You know what a cool bit of psychology would be? Wrestling someone who has a bad knee, and letting them think that they’re injuring YOUR knee, until you sucker them into putting a figure-four on you. But since their knee is more injured than yours, you reverse the hold and get the submission. They slug it out in the corner and the ref is bumped (man, this guy is having a rough night), and Hawk clotheslines Flair over the top. Keep that in mind, it’ll probably be important later. They head out and Flair hits the post, and back in Hawk powerslams him and pounds away in the corner. Clothesline and superplex get nothing, and Dillon chairshots Hawk, who no-sells it. Flair tries the chair and puts him down with it, but only gets two. Flair suplexes him, and it’s no-sold. Hawk pounds away in the corner, but Flair hits him with the chair again for the SUPER-WEAK DQ at 21:42. Oh man, that’s so weak it’s like if the finish had four simultaneous heart attacks and tried to run a marathon. It’s WEAK, I tell you. Hawk doesn’t even sell the fatal chairshot, by the way. This was the usual “Flair wrestles a broomstick and loses by DQ” special. ***1/2 Hawk had NOTHING to do with that rating, by the way – that’s pretty much the baseline for Flair around this time.

– Bunkhouse Stampede Finals: This is a cage match battle royale (devised by Big Dust, of course) where you lose if you escape the cage. That’s silly on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin mocking it. Okay, so your esteemed competitors are Dusty Rhodes, Tully Blanchard, Ivan Koloff, Warlord, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger, Barbarian and Animal. Yup, 8 guys in a battle royale. Warlord pounds on Animal, Luger goes after Anderson, Koloff and Blanchard pair off, and Dusty takes Barbarian. Dusty elbows away on Tully and tries to put him through the door, but Arn saves. Barbarian goes low on Luger, and Animal battles with Tully at the top of the cage. Dusty tries to put Ivan through the door, but he hangs on. This match is so counterintuitive – do you know how HARD it is to force someone over the top of the cage? You require so much cooperation from the victim that it has to kill any credibility of the match. Luger and Animal work Tully over in the corner while Barbarian & Koloff take on Rhodes. Dusty comes back and sends Koloff into the cage to draw blood, while Animal gives Tully more of the same. Koloff gets his revenge, choking Rhodes out with wire or something. Tully is bleeding, too. Not really much going on. The Powers of Pain double-team Animal and Barbarian chokes him down. Rhodes takes off his belt (make your own jokes here I’ll get you started: “But what will they hold the Lincoln Memorial’s pants up with?”) and starts whipping people. Everyone keeps slugging it out as we desperately need an elimination. The heels take control of things, tying up Luger in the ropes, but DUSTY STANDS TALL. I’m shocked. Stardust chokes out Koloff while the Powers keep working Animal over. The camera is jumping all over the place, making it impossible to follow any one storyline. Well, unless you’re a fan of Dusty, of course, because he takes up the whole screen. The Powers switch their attentions to Luger, while Animal tries to put Arn over the top. Meanwhile, Tully teeters on the edge of the apron near the door, while trying to choke Koloff out. Dusty’s arm is a bloody mess. Animal finally manages to put Koloff over the top and out, for the first elimination. Animal throws Blanchard into Anderson. I should stop to make fun of Warlord and Barbarian at this point, as their idea of “come as you are” is wrestling tights with muscle shirts. Speaking of which, Warlord & Animal both fall out the door to eliminate each other. So we’ve got Dusty & Luger v. Arn & Tully (with Barbarian hanging around). Luger racks Blanchard, which is a meaningless gesture at best. Tully & Arn soon double-team Luger while Barbarian bites the arm of Dusty. The Horsemen can’t put Luger out, however. They keep working him over with the door wide open, and Arn chokes him out while standing on the steps. How dumb is THAT? Luger and Arn both fall out soon after, and the momentum takes Tully with them. That’s so contrived. So that leaves Barbarian and Dusty, and if you can’t guess who wins, you have no business reading this review. Barbarian uses an international object to go on the offense, and he drops a couple of headbutts from the top. Ever see Greenpeace trying to move one of those dead whales off the beach? That’s what Barbarian is facing. They’re almost out the door, but Dusty makes the miraculous comeback while the cameras cut to shots of the bored crowd. Barbarian helpfully climbs up the cage with Dusty for no adequately explored reason, but falls victim to the overpowering presence of the Bookerman’s Elbow, and he falls to his doom at 26:23, and probably suffered a concussion from such a devastating bionic elbow, too. For booking himself to win this prestigious match, Dusty is awarded Baby Doll’s cowboy boot. God bless America! God bless Dusty! Earl Hebner declares him the winner and then jumps to the WWF to escape this nonsense. I don’t rate battle royales, but this one sucked.

The Bottom Line: If you think HHH is bad these days, he’s got NOTHING on Dusty Rhodes, who devised entire PPVs and match concepts in order to put himself over.

The rest of the show ranges from boring (the opener) to lame (the DQ in the title match) to boring again (Larryland running wild). There is a reason that no one ever mentions this show these days, believe me.

Strong recommendation to avoid. Not like you can find it, anyway.