The SmarK Rant for NWA Starrcade 85: The Gathering

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starrcade85dustyricflairThe SmarK Rant for NWA Starrcade 85: The Gathering – 11.28.85

Hey, why not.  I had originally done all the World Championship Wrestling rants leading up to this one, but never got around to doing the full show.  It still blows my mind that I can just wake up and have someone suggest I watch Starrcade 85, and then just go “OK” because it’s right there on the WWE Network whenever I want to watch it.  Who cares if the current product is shit, you have more awesome wrestling then you could ever watch in one lifetime for $9.99 a month!

Live from Atlanta, GA and Greensboro, NC.  It’s the show too big for one city!  We jump back and forth between matches and it’s pretty seemless for 1985, I have to say.  Worked much better than WM2 did, that’s for sure.  I’m a little saddened that the WWE music gestapo didn’t edit out the Star Spangled Banner from the intros and replace it with generic classical music.  Just to be consistent.

Your hosts are Tony Schiavone & Bob Caudle

Mid-Atlantic title:  Krusher Kruschev v. Sam Houston

The title is currently vacant for reasons I forget, but would disappear soon after anyway.  They slug it out to start and the crowd is insanely jacked for SAM HOUSTON for some reason.  Perhaps they spiked the beverages with hallucinogenic drugs and people think he’s Barry Windham.  Houston can’t get a hiptoss, but takes Krusher down with a headscissors.  Sadly, this offensive onslaught is cut off by the evil Russian, who takes over with a backdrop and a bearhug.  Krusher goes aerial for some reason and Houston dropkicks him down and makes the comeback with the bulldog for two.  Houston is an idiot and thinks he’s won, allowing Krusher to finish him with a Sickle and win the title at 9:33.  Nice touch as Krusher got his foot on the ropes to break up the Houston pinfall, but then when Houston got HIS on the ropes Krusher was smart enough to pull it off.  They actually had a rematch a couple of weeks later where Krusher legit blew out his knee during the match and lost the title to Houston as a result.  Decent opener, hard work by both.  **1/2

Mexican Death Match: Manny Fernandez v. Abdullah the Butcher

So this is more accurately a “sombrero on a pole match”.  Yup.  Abby immediately makes use of the foreign object in his pants and the Bull is bleeding.  The ringbell hammer to the head follows, but Manny fights back with his own boot and now it’s double juice.  Butcher puts him down and makes the first climb, but Manny pulls him down and Butcher takes quite the bump on the way down.  And then Manny climbs and ends up taking a flat back bump from the top rope as well.  Butcher slugs him down, but misses his big fat elbow and Manny hits him with a flying forearm with a belt wrapped around his arm. And then he SUPLEXES the Butcher.  Jesus.  He climbs again, but Butcher cuts him off with the mystery object.  Bull keeps fighting with the Flying Burrito and a top rope clothesline, but he misses a flying splash.  Abby sets him up for an Avalanche, but misses and hits the post, and Bull jumps and grabs the hat at 9:08 for the win.  That was WAY better than it had any right to be, with crazy heat and real drama.  Manny Fernandez worked his ass off.  ***1/4

Meanwhile, Krusher Kruschev is happy to be champion and knows that Mother Russia will be proud of him.

Bullrope match:  Black Bart v. Ron Bass

So if Ron Bass wins, he gets 5:00 with JJ Dillon.  This one was actually built up pretty well on the TV shows and I was curious to see it.  Bass is clearly lifting his whole deal from Cowboy Bill Watts at this point.  Bass starts throwing MORE COWBELL to the head of Bart right away and blades him on camera in the corner.  Way to go, Ron.  Bob Caudle is amazed that these men used to be partners before they split up.  Really?  Because they’re both doing cowboy gimmicks and from Texas, so really it makes perfect sense.  Bart continues pounding with the cowbell, but Bart goes low and now Bass blatantly gigs himself after a cowbell shot.  I feel like they had to learn to be sneakier once the TV era really took off in the 80s.  Good thing it wasn’t in HD, too.  So they slug it out in the corner and both guys are bleeding, and Bass rubs the strap into Bart’s bloody forehead.  That would hurt.  Bart charges and goes flying over the top, and Bass slugs him down for two.  They collide for a double KO, but Bart puts him down with the cowbell again for two.  Another cowbell from the middle rope finishes at 8:35.  Too long, but not bad.  **  So Bass gets five minutes with Dillon, and JJ immediately puts him down with the cowbell for two and chokes him out with the bullrope.  Bass immediately makes the comeback and pulverizes Dillon, but the ref is bumped.  Black Bart runs in and hits Bass with a piledriver, and Dillon gets the pin.  Well why didn’t Bart just do that during HIS match?  At least this wasn’t the usual bullshit WWE finish where the manager gets disqualified after a minute.

Arm wrestling match:  Superstar Billy Graham v. The Barbarian

Graham enters to the most awesomely bad generic version of The Final Countdown that the WWE editing team could scrape off an elevator.  Graham here is a dead ringer for Hulk Hogan during his various sad comebacks in WWE.  And as usual, the babyface is about to win before the heel attacks him, and the grudge match is ON.  Barbarian pounds away for a bit, but Graham comes back with the BEARHUG OF DISCOMFORT and Paul Jones runs in for the DQ at 2:57.  First stinker of the show.  DUD  Even Graham is bleeding all over!

National title:  Terry Taylor v. Buddy Landel

Buddy survives Taylor’s flurry and works a headlock, but Taylor works on the arm a bit.  Buddy tries some chops in the corner, but a blind charge hits boot and Taylor drops a knee to take over.  Buddy fires away in the corner again and goes to a chinlock, but Taylor escapes with a backdrop suplex and drops a leg for two.  Buddy catches him with a lariat, however, for two.  That was almost an STO, actually.  Taylor with a small package for two, but Landel gets a rear chinlock.  Taylor fights back and slugs away in the corner, but the ref is bumped and Dillon preps the SIZE 10 OF DEATH.  Taylor runs the heels together and sets up Buddy for the superplex to finish, but Dillon hooks the leg and Buddy falls on top for the pin at 10:35 to win the title.  That’s a metaphor for Buddy’s whole career right there.  Buddy of course immediately fucked up even this minor push, failing a drug test and “losing” the title to Dusty Rhodes in a phantom match a couple of weeks later.  Decent action here.  **1/2

National tag team titles:  Ole & Arn Anderson v. Wahoo McDaniel & Billy Jack Haynes

Wahoo and Billy Jack were the US tag champs at this point, but only the National titles are on the line.  Your 80s ripoff substitution for this match:  “1999” by Prince.  Billy Jack was on so many drugs that he probably THOUGHT it was 1999.  Haynes presses Arn to start and slugs it out with Ole, then over to Wahoo for some chops as the heels aren’t doing so well to start.  Arn’s awesome reactions to the chops are another reason why he was so great.  The Andersons talk a big game and love to hurt people, but always sell like cowards when hit back.  Quintessential bullies.  Arn tries to control Wahoo on the mat with a headscissors, but then switches to the arm and has more success that way.  The Andersons start switching off and pounding away in the corner.  “Never let one man do the work when two will do it better,” notes Bob Caudle.  Wahoo fights off Arn with chops, but can’t escape the corner.  Finally it’s hot tag Billy Jack and he cleans house, but the ref gets distracted by Wahoo and the Andersons manage to survive.  Back to Wahoo, who chops Arn down for two, but Ole trips him up from the floor and Arn gets two.  They do the spot again, and this time Ole holds him down for the pin at 9:00 to retain. Kind of a clumsy finish.  Wahoo isn’t exactly Ricky Morton as far as taking a beating, but it was still a fun match.  **1/2

US title, I Quit Match:  Tully Blanchard v. Magnum TA

This match is pure hatred and rage and seeing all the buildup from week to week on World Championship Wrestling just makes it all the greater.  The dynamic is like Ric Flair v. Dusty Rhodes, but good.  Sadly, this would prove to be the high point of Magnum’s seemingly unlimited potential, as the car accident ended his career before he could claim his destiny at Starrcade ’86.  Magnum immediately wins a slugfest and sends Tully reeling, and they tussle on the mat as a result.  Tully gets a cheapshot and fires away with forearms, but Magnum fires back with REDNECK RAGE and Tully runs to the apron, getting nowhere.  Magnum pounds him on the ropes, but Tully runs him into the seam of the cage and cuts him open right away.  Magnum powers out of a chinlock in a famous iconic image, and then presses Tully onto the top rope, but Tully fires back with a knee to the gut.  TA unloads on him again, but Tully leverages him into the cage and grabs the mic for the first time, but Magnum fights him off and then runs him into the cage via a hammerlock.  Then it gets nasty, as Tully’s arm is cut and Magnum rips at the gash and shoves the mic in his face.  Tully answers by headbutting him in the nuts.  Magnum bites on the bloodied arm, but Tully goes to the eyes and hits him low again, as it’s just a visceral street fight.  Then the most memorable part of the match, as the ugliness comes out with Tully yelling at him to submit and then hitting him with the microphone, giving us the great “Say it!  NOOOO!  *THUNK*” sequence that defines the match.  Tully goes up and hits him with an elbow, then continues punishing him with the mic (THUNK!), as you can just feel the desperation and hatred from both guys.  Magnum fires back again and Tully won’t quit either, so Magnum jams the microphone into his forehead and the match is getting so ugly and hateful that it must have been pretty uncomfortable to watch live.  They slug it out from their knees and Tully puts him down with the microphone again (“Noooo!”  THUNK!), and just tosses the ref aside because he’s so pissed off and frustrated.  Baby Doll tosses a wooden chair in and Tully breaks off a piece of leg, trying to spike Magnum in the eye with it in a spot that has the crowd freaking out like nothing I’d ever heard before then.  And then Magnum fights him off and RAMS THE SPIKE INTO HIS EYE, drawing the submission and US title at 14:39.  Tully, bloodied and cowering and on the verge of tears while TA stands triumphant but disgusted with himself for letting it go that far, is wrestling’s version of Shakespeare.  Yeah, some of the specific spots became almost cliché in the years after, but this one did it first in a major match setting (instead of a freakshow like The Sheik or Mark Lewin) and used the gory spots to pay off drama instead of popping a crowd by mere bloodlust.  One of my favorite matches EVER.  *****

Atlanta Street Fight: The Midnight Express v. Jimmy Valiant & Miss Atlanta Lively

Why we needed Ronnie Garvin in drag, I have no idea. The Express are ROCKING the tuxedos tonight.  Garvin sprays powder in everyone’s face to start, and Jimmy hiptosses Bobby on the floor for a sick bump.  And of course Condrey is bleeding right away as Valiant beats on him and gets a sleeper.  Finally the Express finds assorted powders in their pockets (“I’ve been there, brother!” Buddy Landel can be heard saying with the new digital clarity of this show on the Network) and take over, stripping poor Miss Lively, but it just turns into a wild brawl while Lively stomps on Condrey’s feet with heels.  Ouch.  Cornette waffles Lively with the racket and the Express double-teams him, but that wig just will not come off.  Jimmy is just bleeding a gusher as usual, and now so is Garvin.  The Express double-teams Boogie now, but Eaton goes up for his flying knee and lands on HANDS OF STONE out of nowhere for the pin at 6:38.  What an awesomely timed finish.   Great, crazy brawl.  ***1/4  I am concerned, however, because I’m pretty sure the Express isn’t getting their damage deposit back from the rental place.

Cage match, NWA World tag team titles:  Ivan & Nikita Koloff v. The Rock N Roll Express

I feel like Nikita Koloff beating the shit out of Ricky Morton is what I was put on this Earth to watch.  Nikita overpowers Ricky to start, but Morton fights back with a dropkick and gets a bodypress on Uncle Ivan for two.  Ivan crotches him for two, but Robert comes in with his own dropkick and a kneedrop for two.  Rollup gets two as the Express makes some quick switches and hold Ivan in the corner.  Ivan tries his own rollup, but Robert sends him into the cage to counter and Ricky comes off the top with a fistdrop for two.  And now Ivan is bleeding.  Robert switches in for two, but Nikita stunguns him into the cage and Robert is in the face-in-peril role tonight for whatever reason.  Robert into the cage again and now he’s busted open, and Ivan gets two.  Nikita pounds away and Ivan comes off the top with a clothesline for two.  Legdrop gets two.  Nikita comes in with a chinlock which Robert fights out of, but Ivan cuts off the comeback and slugs him down for two.  The ref gets bumped and Nikita comes in and clotheslines everyone, but Ricky sneaks in with a hot tag and rolls up Ivan for the pin and the title at 12:22.  Simple but effective.  ***1/4  Poor Robert gets absolutely destroyed by the Russians afterwards.

NWA World title:  Ric Flair v. Dusty Rhodes

If you’re talking about the absolute textbook example of what I hate about Dusty’s booking in the 80s, this is the match.  They exchange struts to start and Flair takes him to the corner and starts chopping, but Dusty fires back and gets the Flip Flop and Fly right away.  Flair bails.  Back in, Flair starts chopping, but Dusty comes back with elbows and overpowers him.  Bionic elbow and Flair backs off again and takes a breather outside.  Back in, Flair tries a headlock, but Dusty reverses to a hammerlock and they go to the mat, giving Dusty his first break of the match.  Flair goes for the broken foot, but Dusty backs off.  Flair tries chops again and that seems to work a bit better, so he drops a knee and gets two.  Back to the bad foot, and now Dusty has to take 5.  Back to the apron, as Dusty elbows Flair in the neck on the way back in, and steps on his ankle.  He lays down on the knee and it’s Dusty Rest Break #2.  Not counting his time outside the ring.  Flair comes back and tries a suplex, but the gravitational pull of Dusty’s ass is too great, and Dusty goes back to the leg again.  Flair fights up, and grabs a sleeper, and you don’t have to ask Dusty twice for THAT spot.  He manages to escape by ramming Flair into the turnbuckle, however, and wraps Flair’s leg around the post.  Flair tries more chops, but Dusty gets his own and then takes Flair down with the most ridiculously lazy snapmare I’ve ever seen.  I mean, how do you skimp on a SNAPMARE?  He misses an elbow, however, apparently winded from the exertion of the snapmare, and Flair goes up, but Dusty slams him off and goes for his version of the figure-four.  Flair shoves him off, and Dusty injures the bad foot again.  Now Flair tries the figure-four, but Dusty shoves him off.  Again, same result.  Flair starts stomping the bad foot, but Dusty comes back with a headbutt and they slug it out in the corner until Flair is whipped to the other side for a Flair Flip, and they brawl on the floor.  Flair eats post and Dusty elbows away on the apron.  Back in, Flair tosses him, but Dusty goes up with a crossbody-flop for two.  Dusty comes back (despite never really selling for Flair) and hammers away on the mat, then elbows him down and pounds away in the corner.  Flair Flop results.  Dusty slugs away and Flair goes down again and backs off, and it’s another Flair Flip, allowing Dusty to catch him in the gut coming down.  Flair finally kicks out the bad foot again to slow down Big Dust, and NOW, WHOO, WE GO TO SCHOOL.   In Dusty’s case, McDonald’s College.  Figure-four, but Dusty fights back and reverses.  Flair chops away, but Dusty no-sells and fights back with bionic elbows and a lariat.  That gets two, and Dusty flattens Tommy Young on the kickout.  He’s knocked out of the ring, just so we REALLY get the point, and Dusty goes for the figure-four.  The Four Horsemen run in and Dusty looks to heroically fight them all off single-handedly, but Ole nails him from behind with a knee and second referee counts two for Flair.  Dusty cradles Flair for the pin and the title at 22:07.  BUT WAIT.  The next week on TV, it was announced that Dusty didn’t actually win the title, because the first referee was knocked out, and Flair was given it back.  And that, my friends, is a Dusty Finish.  **1/2  The problem with Dusty is that Flair could work the proverbial ***1/2 match with a broomstick because he’d just plug the other guy into his formula and it didn’t matter who it was.  However, Dusty insisted on working HIS match, and the results didn’t click with Flair.

The Pulse

What a great show, the seminal “something for everyone” card where all the matches had a good storyline behind them and there was only one junk match on the entire show, and at least it was short.  Definitely check this one out on the Network.