The SmarK 24/7 Rant for WCW WrestleWar 90
– Apparently Ric Flair retired this week, although according to WWE 24/7 he’s still the World champion in both 1986 and 1990, and that’s the way I’d prefer to remember it. This is actually an interesting one, because this was the first time, 18 years ago mind you, that people “in the know” decided that Flair was done and the belt needed to be moved off him so he could retire gracefully to the midcard.
– This is of course a redo of my previous rant on the home video version, which was apparently written in 1998. I say this often, I know, but I just can’t stand to read my old stuff anymore because it comes across so half-assed to me now. Thankfully, 24/7 uses the PPV version of the show because they love me so very much.
– Live from Greensboro, NC.
– Your hosts are Jim Ross & Terry Funk. I’m surprised Terry hasn’t done more as a color commentator, especially today where they’re always looking for crazy retired wrestlers. God knows he couldn’t be any worse than Coach.
Kevin Sullivan & Buzz Sawyer v. The Dynamic Dudes
Oh man, I know which side I’m cheering for here. Sullivan and Sawyer were actually a good pairing, plus the missing sanity they each lacked helped them fit together as a team. Buzz grabs a headlock on Johnny Ace to start, but Johnny dropkicks him out of the ring and follows with a pescado. Back in, the Dudes double-team Sullivan and Shane grabs a quick chinlock, and soon the heels are smacking each other around in frustration. Back to Buzz, and he hammers on Ace in the corner, but misses a charge and hits the post. That allows Douglas to start on the arm before Sullivan tosses him. On the floor, Sawyer gets a suplex to make Shane YOUR Dude-in-peril. You know, I really hated the Dudes back in the day, but time and perspective make you REALLY grasp what a stupid and pandering gimmick it was and what a couple of turds that both guys turned into. See, the fans were right to boo them all along. Back in, Buzz gets a belly to belly suplex for two. Side suplex gets two. Over to Sullivan, but Shane gets a sunset flip for two, so Buzz comes in with an elbow to cut off a tag. Buzz goes to a bearhug and then tosses Shane to keep him down. Back in, Sullivan gets his own bearhug and the heels switch off with that move, but Shane fights out and makes the hot tag to Ace, who dropkicks both heels and then botches a flying headscissors on Buzz. Sawyer responds with a suplex and goes up with a flying splash to finish clean at 10:10. I should note that if either Sawyer or Sullivan walked into the WWE offices today looking like they did in 1990, Johnny Ace wouldn’t give either a job. **1/2
Cactus Jack Manson v. Norman the Lunatic
Holy cow, check out young Michael Foley. Mike Shaw was essentially doing a more intelligent version of Eugene with this gimmick, as he started out as a deranged mental patient and turned into a lovable idiot. Jack chokes Norman out on the ropes to start and elbows him down for two. Jack bails to regroup and Norman pounds him down and clotheslines him, then pounds away after no-selling Jack’s attempt at a comeback. Norman goes to the bearhug and follows with an avalanche in the corner, then whips him to each corner and out of the ring. They brawl on the floor and Jack takes his first sick bump in the NWA, going flat back off a backdrop into the front row, and he’s back into the ring right away. They brawl on the floor again and this time Norman goes into the post, and Jack follows with a dropkick off the apron. Back in, Jack rams him into the mat a few times, clearly not having refined his offense like in later years, and does some biting for two. Jim Ross is already into his coded apology mode, noting that “it’s not a mat classic like our main event will be!”, which is JR-speak for “Sorry, this match blows and we know it.” Jack headbutts Norman down for two and hits the chinlock. Norman escapes with an electric chair, but misses a splash and Jack chokes him out on the ropes. Norman comes back and slugs away, but Jack goes to the eyes and tries a piledriver, but Norman flips out of it and sits on him for the pin at 9:29. Not exactly Foley’s finest hour in the sport. 1/2*
The Midnight Express v. The Rock N Roll Express
Stan Lane starts with Robert Gibson and gets armdragged, so Lane hiptosses him in response. Gibson uses a BLATANT closed fist and Stan rightly bitches about it, and he’s so flustered that he gets countered on a leapfrog attempt. Lane takes out his anger on the ref, which leads to a shoving match between Cornette and Nick Patrick and ends with Cornette running away. That bit would have KILLED in 1987, although it’s still pretty funny here. By 1998 they were doing it as a deliberate comment on how lame that era was, and it sucked. Lane and Eaton have some communication problems, but Lane gets it together and smacks Morton around, but Bobby comes in and gets armdragged. Ricky Morton is like couples therapy for tag teams — any dispute can be mediated by beating on him. They do the test of strength and Ricky does the badass shoulder-walk escape as they really pull out all the old spots again. Lane comes in Morton boots him in the ass to send him running again.
Back to Eaton as the Midnights wait for their opening, and finally Cornette trips up Ricky and gets caught in a tug-of-war as a result, which leads to the Rock N Roll knocking the Midnights’ heads together and cleaning house. Back in the ring, Eaton throws punches on Gibson, but the RNR double-clothesline him and dump him. The Midnights back off again and cool down, but Gibson still takes Lane down with armdrags, and it’s over to Morton for an elbow. Aha, there’s the fatal flaw! Tagging Ricky Morton in! Lane gets a cheapshot and tosses him, but Morton sends him into the post instead. Back to Eaton and he gets his punch in the corner, but Ricky slugs right back and they both tumble out of the ring on a bodypress by Ricky. But now Stan sneaks in and slams Ricky on the floor, and do you even need me to say what comes next?
Back in, Eaton gets a backbreaker and chokes away, and they double-team with a Broken Arrow before Jim adds a tennis racket to the throat. Lane uses his White Boy Karate to put Morton down and the Midnights add a double-team elbow, which gets two for Eaton. Vertical suplex gets two. Lane slugs away in the corner and adds a powerslam for two. Lane draws Gibson in, just like old times, and Eaton uses that distraction to drop Ricky on the railing. Cornette adds his girlie shots more as an insult than anything, and back in Lane gets two. Ricky comes back with a sunset flip, but alas Cornette is busy with the ref. Ricky gets a rollup on Lane instead, so Eaton breaks that with a neckbreaker, and it’s all nice and legal-like. Ricky fights back, but charges and gets alley-ooped into the turnbuckle. The Express trade off with choking in the corner, but Lane puts his head down and gets caught. Eaton prevents any tagging and hits Divorce Court to start working on the arm. Back to Lane with a shot to the throat, and he stomps away. Bobby goes up and the flying elbow gets two. Cornette gets another cheapshot in and Lane goes to a standing armbar while mouthing off at Gibson, then pounds Morton down and brings Eaton back in. Bobby rams the shoulder into the corner and it’s another Divorce Court into a hammerlock.
Ricky whips Eaton into the corner to break, but they crack heads and Bobby brings Stan back in with a sideslam. They set up for the Rocket Launcher, but it misses and it’s finally hot tag Robert. Backdrops and slams for all, and Robert gets a sunset flip on Bobby for two. It’s BONZO GONZO and Cornette gets a wicked awesome shot with the racket on the rebound, but that only gets two for Eaton. The Midnights try a double flapjack, but Morton breaks it up and Gibson rolls Lane into a cradle for the pin at 23:00. Probably the last great Midnights v. Rock N Rolls match. ****1/4
Chicago Street Fight: The Road Warriors v. The Skyscrapers
The heel team in this case is missing Dan Spivey due to injury, so you’ve got Mean Mark Callous and a masked Mike Enos. Big brawl to start and the Warriors dominate as Hawk boots Enos down and chokes him out on the ropes. Animal slugs away on Mark in the corner while Doom join us at ringside, fresh off being unmasked and about to get pushed to the moon. Everyone slugs away on the ropes and Animal dropkicks Enos while Hawk clotheslines Mark. The Scrapers come back with some choking, but Hawk clotheslines Mark off the apron. In the ring, Enos works on Animal in the corner while Callous also chokes Hawk. Funk makes a good point amidst this crap — “Mean Mark Callous” is a REALLY good wrestling name. Thankfully the Warriors regroup and kill Enos dead with the Doomsday Device at 4:57. It was short, that much I’ll give it. 1/2* Callous of course would go on to bigger and better things in November of that year.
US Tag title match: Brian Pillman & Tom Zenk v. The Freebirds
Good to know they own the rights to “Badstreet USA” if nothing else. The champs attack to start and STEAL THEIR RING ATTIRE. Oh, that’s low. Pillman truly is the loose cannon. We get some stalling from Hayes to start and he finally gets the lockup with Pillman before stalling some more. Pillman makes him pay with chops in the corner and Hayes retreats to get his hair fluffed by Garvin. Over to Jimmy, and he wants Zenk as Funk explains the psychology of the lockup in excited voice. I never knew it was such an important move, but apparently there’s a whole alpha male thing going on with it. Who knew? Zenk goes with the headlock and a pair of dropkicks, but a third one misses so he has to let Pillman give it a go again. He works a headlock and starts working the arm on Hayes, and it’s over to Zenk for more of that while Funk admits that he knew both Flying Fred Curry and his dad, Bull Curry. Wow, that’s old. Zenk takes Hayes down with the Herb Kunze armbar, but Michael manages a tag to Garvin, and he too gets caught in this exciting armbar action. Back to Brian and he also works on the arm, before hiptossing Garvin out of the corner for two. Brian gets caught in the Freebird corner and Hayes grabs a sleeper and now we’re talking about Paul Boesch. Hayes comes back with a flying bodypress, but Pillman rolls through for two. The Freebirds put him down with a double elbow and Garvin drops him on the top rope and adds a knee. Pillman fires back with chops on Hayes, but puts his head down and gets clubbed. Finally he fights back and makes the hot tag to Zenk, and Tom slams Garvin before walking into a boot. Over to Hayes and Zenk slugs on him in the corner and gets the sleeper, but Garvin clobbers him from behind and puts Hayes on top for two. Zenk hits the floor to regroup and the Freebirds take turns with cheapshots on him out there before Hayes sends him into the post. Back in, Garvin with a chinlock in true Freebird style. That is to say, lazy and dull. Hayes switches off into his own chinlock, but Zenk gets a small package for two. Garvin pounds Zenk down again and drops a knee for two, and Hayes goes back to the chinlock again. This match just keeps going. Zenk fights out and then misses a blind charge, allowing Hayes to go up with nothing and then change his mind and drop an elbow for two instead. Back to Garvin, stomp stomp stomp chinlock. Hayes comes in with the bulldog and gets two, as Pillman saves. And we’re back to the chinlock again. Finally Zenk gets a DDT and makes the hot tag to Pillman, and there’s dropkicks out the wazoo. He knocks the Birds down with a shoulderblock, but Hayes grabs a belt, which brings the ref over. Garvin runs Pillman into the cameraman (now there’s an innovative spot), but Pillman goes up and finishes with a flying bodypress at 23:10. Thank god it’s over. Some teams (ie, THE FREEBIRDS) should not be given 25 minutes under any circumstances. **
NWA World tag team titles: The Steiner Brothers v. The Andersons
Just think — but for a failed drug test this would have been Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson v. The Steiners. Now THAT’S a dream match. Steiners clean house to start, then fight through the Andersons’ intimidation techniques and clean house again. Ole starts proper with Rick, and Rick fights out of the corner, as it turns into a donnybrook and the Steiners send them running yet again. Rough night for the Horsemen. The murky backstory for the Andersons continues, as JR continually calls them “brothers” here, but they’ve traditionally been billed as either uncle and nephew, or cousins. Rick gets a headlock on Arn, and then blocks a leapfrog attempt with a powerslam for two, and AA backs off again. Arn regroups and comes back with a kneedrop before going up, but Rick stares him down. Over to Scott, who takes Arn down with an atomic drop and goes into a figure-four, but Ole breaks it up. Scott hits him with a belly to belly suplex and drops a knee for two. The Steiners start to go after the knee of Ole, but then let him back away into his corner, and that costs them. Rick gets caught in the Anderson corner, but he reverses a gourdbuster attempt and ignores Ole’s attempts to ram him into the turnbuckle. Finally Ole uses a knee to the gut to take Rick down again, and it’s back to the heel corner.
They target the arm and pound away on it, but Rick manages to bring Scott in. Scott takes it outside for a quick brawl, but he ends up getting his arm rammed into the post, and then into the railing, and now it’s classic Anderson. They switch off on the arm and Arn gets the hammerlock slam and drops a knee on it. Arn goes up and gets caught, and Scott hits the Frankensteiner out of nowhere and makes the hot tag to Rick. They must have gotten the go home signal early, because Ole puts his head down and gets cradled for the pin at 16:01 in a hurry. Surprisingly little chemistry here, although Ole was a shell of his former self by this point. **1/2
NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Lex Luger
This is a little over a year past the “last title shot ever” for Luger. Kind of weird dubbing going on, as they sub over Sting and Luger’s generic music with their generic music from WCW later on. Anyway, Sting was supposed to get this title shot after the Horsemen turned on him, since he’s an idiot and all, but a knee injury ended Dusty’s plans to finally get the belt off Flair and put Luger into the slot instead. Flair is seconded by Woman, one of her few appearances on 24/7 since her murder. Flair starts with the hammerlock, but Luger slugs him down in the name of Sting! I haven’t yet commented on all the babyfaces wearing black Sting armbands to mourn his knee injury, but you can just imagine, I’m sure. Luger with the headlock and Flair tries the wristlock to break, so Luger just muscles him down with mustard on it, leaving Flair complaining about the hairpull. Luger wants the test of strength and Flair would have to be a moron to accept, and it goes about how you’d expect. Luger follows with a shoulderblock and Flair bails. Back in, Flair psyches him out with the hair fluff and they go to the lockup again, but Lex hits him with a clothesline out of the corner. Flair retreats up the ramp, so Luger brings him back in again and no-sells a necksnap on the way back into the ring. He follows with a press slam and Flair hits the floor again. Back in, Luger powers him down for two, but Flair goes low and starts chopping. Luger no-sells that one pretty decisively and Flair backs off, so Luger gives him another press slam and follows with the bearhug.
He takes Flair down for two off that, but now Flair goes to the eyes to slow him down, but to no avail. Luger pounds away in the corner and it’s a Flair Flop, and Lex follows with a hiptoss out of the corner, but misses a clothesline and lands on the floor. Flair throws chops against the railing, and Funk notes that Lex had it coming for showboating. Back in, Flair puts him down with a chop and then tosses him again, then distracts the ref and rams Luger into the railing. He won’t let Luger back in and slugs him off the apron, then drops the knee back in the ring. He dedicates another one to Woman, and that gets two. They slug it out and Luger wins that battle, but a blind charge misses and Flair starts working on the arm. A variety of cheapshots keeps him in control, but Luger fights back and chokes him out in the corner, then whips him the other way to set up a Flair Flip.
They fight on the floor and back in, where Luger gets the sleeper. Flair is out, so Luger gets a suplex and drags him to the corner and wraps the leg around the post, then yanks him out of the corner and drops him on his head to set up the worst version of the figure-four I’ve ever seen attempted. Ever. And I’ve seen hundreds of Dusty Rhodes matches. Flair won’t even sell it, coming back with chops, but he walks into a powerslam and Luger gets two. Flair fights back with chops and Luger no-sells them, along with a flying forearm. Uh oh, he means business. Back to the floor and Flair goes to the eyes again since it keeps working, and back in Luger gets the backslide for two. Luger slugs away in the corner and Flair counters with the atomic drop…and Luger hurts the leg. DUM DUM DUM!
Luger limps around, so Flair comes off the top with an axehandle, and another one gets two. Butterfly suplex gets two. And now it’s Flair’s turn with the sleeper, but Luger breaks in the corner and gets a clothesline for two. Luger misses his elbow and now Flair’s had enough of this crap and starts going for the knee hardcore. Kneedrop on the knee and it’s figure-four time, complete with top rope being held. And now Sting limps out on his crutches to inspire Luger, who powers over to make the ropes. Flair chokes Luger out on the ropes, so Sting slaps Lex around to get him going again, and that works. Lex pops up and makes the comeback, so Flair runs away. Hey, if a crazed steroid-shooting sweaty guy was flexing at YOU, wouldn’t you do the same? Back in the ring, Lex with the press slam and Flair goes up in desperation, but this time Luger slams him off and gets his series of clotheslines. See, Flair’s clichÃ© slam off the top actually works when it’s the payoff after he hits the move previously. Flair runs again, but Lex suplexes him back in for two. Powerslam and it’s time for the torture rack after a superplex, but now the Andersons head down and start hassling Sting with the ref down. The crowd is just losing their shit at this point, sensing the title change. So Luger has to make the moral choice — keep Flair in the rack and win the title, or release the move and rescue his friend. He makes the right choice and gets counted out at 38:00 to get screwed out of the belt yet again. The Horsemen just destroy Luger, but the Steiners make the save. Boy, if only the eventual Sting-Flair blowoff hadn’t been such a disappointment, because the heat on Flair after this was just insane. This was classic Flair getting beat up by a bigger opponent, and not only can Flair carry a broomstick to ***, he can carry Luger to ****1/2 because this match rocked. So there you go — Luger is *1/2 better than a broomstick. QED.
– Well, I thought my initial mediocre rating of this show 10 years ago was just younger me being a dick, but yeah, the show is pretty mediocre. That being said, it features two ****+ matches, which makes it a pretty easy recommendation. Definitely check out Flair-Luger, a lost classic in their endless series.