The SmarK Rant for AWA Championship Wrestling on ESPN Classic

The SmarK Rant for AWA Championship Wrestling on ESPN Classic

Taped from somewhere in Minnesota, I think. The ring announcer is Donna Gagne, so that’s what you’re getting into here.

Your hosts are Lee Marshall and Eric Bischoff

This looks to be early 1990, judging by the cast of characters.

DJ Peterson v. Jimmy Magnum

Peterson was a guy who had the look and a pretty good skillset, but ended up being yet another casualty after a motorcycle accident. At least it wasn’t drugs that killed him. DJ with a takedown and he works the leg with a grapevine, but Magnum makes the ropes. Magnum gets his sad jobber offense with a slam, but misses a ridiculous elbowdrop, and Peterson finishes with a sloppy flying clothesline and Scorpion deathlock at 2:53. Kind of funny hearing Marshall yell “Ring the bell, ring the bell!” while Peterson was using that particular hold.

Tommy Jammer v. Tom “Rocky” Stone

Jammer, as all the kids know, is the master of the abdominal stretch. Stone tries to attack him, but Jammer pulls him off the ropes and starts working on the leg. Jammer was a very green kid who looked like a bodybuilder and was supposed to be the teen heartthrob in the absence of, well, everyone else. Was there even anyone under 35 left in the promotion at this point? Jammer rams Stone into the turnbuckles a few times, and finishes with the ABDOMINAL STRETCH OF DEATH at 2:42. Jammer, and I shit you not, is sucking wind after this squash. He kicked around the indies for another couple of years and then thankfully retired.

Yukon John Nord v. The Annihilator

Nord is of course Nord the Barbarian in his pre-Berzerker days, and Annihilator looks like a very young Ahmed Johnson. It wouldn’t be him because he didn’t debut until about three years after this, but the resemblance is uncanny. Nord throws boots and Annihilator no-sells a lot of it, but misses a charge, and that allows Nord to finish with a flying legdrop at 2:17.

The Texas Hangmen v. Tony Leoni & The Cobra

The Hangmen are Killer and Psycho. Not surprisingly, they were heels. The Hangmen double-team Leoni (who appears to be 80 years old) and hit a double bulldog, which gets two for Killer. The Cobra manages to get a tag and gets nowhere before Psycho hits him with a cheapshot and then comes in with a neckbreaker. DDT gets two. Psycho has an elbowpad, so I’m assuming that’s Mark Canterbury. Demolition Decapitation finishes at 3:22. They could not have been more obvious about ripping off Demolition unless they were managed by “Mr. Fugee” or something.

As a bonus, we take a look at the first meeting of Larry Zbyszko and Nikita Koloff, leading up to our main event tonight. I thought they would show clips, but no, they end up showing an entire 10 minute TV match between them. Larry hits Nikita with the belt to draw a DQ here.

Larry Zbyszko v. Nikita Koloff, 2/3 Falls

Sadly, this is non-title. Koloff pounds away in the corner and hiptosses Larry before tossing him out of the ring, and they brawl outside. Koloff runs him into the shower curtain that keeps fans from rushing into the ring, but Larry comes back and chokes him out with a TV cable. Back in, Larry with more of his patented choking and they slug it out. The announcers spend an inordinate amount of time talking about the referee, who is apparently a former football player. Note to idiot announcers: No one gives a shit about the referee. Koloff pounds away in the corner and gets two, then drops an elbow for two. Larry rolls him up with a handful of tights at 4:09 to win the first fall, however.

Second fall and Koloff runs Larry into the corner and puts him down with a shoulderblock, but Larry takes him down in the corner and gets two. Finally, after 30 seconds with his feet on the ropes, the idiot ref notices that Larry is cheating and breaks it up. Oh lord. Larry with a backbreaker for two, and he goes to the chinlock. Vintage Larry Z! That goes on so long that I have a chance to go read the new Observer while I wait for Koloff to escape. It lasts more than a minute, no joke. Koloff escapes with a backslide for the second fall at 9:10, continuing the cheap finish motif for this match.

Third fall and now the announcers are discussing the career of Zbyszko’s “grandfather” Stanislaus. Did Larry even use that as part of his gimmick? Larry pounds away in the corner, but Koloff shoves him off and finishes with the Sickle at 10:48. A competent but really boring main event, as clearly neither guy gave a shit at this point. They’d both bail for WCW when the AWA folded later that year. **1/4

Yikes. This wasn’t even the kind of bad that was fun to mock. This was a company clearly circling the drain.

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