On The Streeter – NWA Starrcade ’85: The Gathering

 

After looking at what the WWF did after the first Wrestlemania with The Wrestling Classic, how did Jim Crockett Promotions react to the WWF pulling out a stunningly successful show, which they then followed by broadcasting the first wrestling Pay-Per-View event? Why, with their Thanksgiving tradition of Starrcade, of course!

 

Now, we’ve looked at the two Starrcades prior to 1985, but what of the 1985 edition? Did the WWF shake things up in Crockett land? Well, it’s hard to say. See, they tried something different, in that the show came from 2 locations (done reasonably well, it must be said, and that may even have been where Vince got the idea from for Wrestlemania 2), they being Atlanta, Georgia and Greensboro, North Carolina (which I would have spelt wrong except it’s on the banner behind a talking head named Johnny Weaver). And the matches on the show were actually generally quite good (at least watchable for the most part). But was that a response to WWF or them doing their own thing? Doesn’t matter; this is a good show and a fine way to finish looking at 1985.

 

I used to have this on VHS, but at less than 2 hours and only 9 matches (the Jimmy Valiant one was missing), there was some major clippage. So I asked my darling sister and, using her WWE Network access, I sat down to watch it so much cleaner and crisper, and with generic music plastered over the introductions. This means that quite a few of these matches I am seeing in full for the first time.

 

The show! A bit of an introduction, and then… welcome to Starrcade ’85: The Gathering! Why does that sound like a Highlander sequel? National anthem is played, not sung. And with that we hit the ring for match number 1!

 

 

Match 1: Mid-Atlantic Title: Krusher Khruschev v Sam Houston
Apparently the title is currently vacant; wouldn’t mid-Atlantic indicate it represents the bottom of the ocean? Look, the match is okay. A little slow, but the crowd is super hyped for Houston, which is a good way to start the show. But the match is on the dull side. After about 9 minutes Khruschev gets his foot on the ropes to break a pin, Houston thinks he’s won, Khruschev hits the sickle lariat and Houston gets his foot on the ropes, but Khruschev gets it off before the ref can see it. So the Russian gets the title. Way to deflate the crowd.

Khruschev shows some nice strength to get out of a head-scissor.

 

 

Match 2: Mexican Death Match: Abdullah the Butcher v ‘Ragin’ Bull’ Manny Fernandez
I was going to start this by laying bets on who’d bleed first, but Abdullah is bleeding before he hits the ring! Abdullah is 355 lbs? What about the other leg? The commentators say he is 460, which I’d believe. Apparently a Mexican Death Match is also a sombrero on a pole match. Oh God… And before you can say “is that a razor in your pocket?” Fernandez is bleeding as well. And this match is better than it has any right to be. I mean Fernandez monkey flips the Butcher! And now Abdullah is bleeding like the Abdullah we all know and make fun of. The crowd is into this match as well. The crowd explodes when Fernandez suplexes the 400-plus pounder. This is a good match! And after 9 minutes, Abdullah misses a charge, and Manny takes advantage to grab the hat and win.

Manny suplexes a small automobile in trunks.

 

 

Krusher Khruschev is interviewed… a Russian with a deep American accent. It is actually quite hilariously funny. This Weaver guy is awful as an interviewer, by the way.

 

Match 3: Texas Bullrope Match: Black Bart v Ron Bass
Apparently, if Bass wins, he gets a 5 min bullrope match with JJ Dillon. Telegraphing the finish much? Bass pounds with a cowbell and blades Bart in front of the camera. Duh! This is a brutal match, but coming after the last match it doesn’t feel as good as it might have been. They both bleed (Bass blades himself blatantly as well!) and, really, it’s just two guys hitting each other with a cowbell and a rope. After 9 minutes, Bass hits a cowbell shot from the middle rope for the pin.
Now he gets 5 minutes with JJ. JJ jumps him, things happen for a few minutes, JJ bleeds as well, the referee is down and then Bart hits him with a piledriver… why didn’t he use that in the actual match? He drags JJ on top of Bass, so JJ wins. Bleh.

Look! The bullrope is being used!

 

 

Match 4: Arm Wrestling Contest (for $10,000)/Grudge Match: The Barbarian v Superstar Billy Graham
Okay, this is shit. A crappy arm wrestling match (Graham seems to have won) followed by a crappy grudge wrestling match which starts when Paul Jones hits Graham with the cane. After some stuff Graham has a bearhug on Barbie and then Barbie’s manager Paul Jones runs in for the DQ. Fight continues outside. Graham has a nice bleeder going. Still crap.

The super-intense world of pro wrestling arm wrestling.

 

 

Match 5: National Heavyweight Title: Buddy Landel v Terry Taylor
How is the national title different to the US title? Anyway, a dull match. Nothing bad about it, just boring. Highly technical, I guess, but resthold city. There’s another ref bump, JJ Dillon tries to help but Landell is run into him, Taylor goes for a superplex (when it was a finishing move), but Dillon trips Taylor and Landell falls on top for the pin and the title. Well, that was a boring 10 minutes and the ending deflated the crowd.

Oh, Dillon, you tricksy Hobbit, you!

 

 

Match 6: National Tag Team Championship: Ole & Arn Anderson v Wahoo McDaniel & Billy Jack Haynes
I’m a bit of a fan of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew. Apparently McDaniel & Hayes are the US tag team champs, but their title isn’t on the line here. Hayes dominates to start (quite the unit… now quite the psycho – check out some of his Youtube stuff!), Wahoo comes in and he’s the face in peril. This is a fun little match. There is heaps of action, it does not stop and the crowd is hot. Ole trips McDaniel from the outside and Arn pins him for the win after a great 9 minutes. That was the second outside trip; methinks they stuffed the first one up.

Billy Jack Hayes showing some pretty impressive strength.

 

 

Weaver is with ‘Nature Boy’ Buddy Landell “The World’s National Heavyweight Champion” (his words, not mine) and JJ Dillon. Nothing of note is said. I mean it – nothing of note. Generic.

 

Match 7: US Heavyweight Championship, I Quit, Cage Match: Magnum TA v Tully Blanchard
I will say right now this is one of the best matches of the 1980s. I’ve talked about selling being all the emotions before, something lacking in modern wrestling – this match you honestly think these two hated each other. Everything about the match was just angry. There was blood and there was use of the cage and the ropes, and there was hard hitting. Not a real lot of wrestling moves, but it didn’t matter because you genuinely felt they wanted to kill one another. The ending is one of the more famous in wrestling. Tully yelling, “Say it!” Magnum replying, “No!” and Tully hitting him with the microphone so that it echoes, again and again. Then Magnum rams the microphone into Tully’s eye! The crowd has gone silent – this is brutal and so damn realistic. Then Tully’s female valet Baby Doll throws a wooden chair into the cage, Tully breaks it and uses a piece to try and spike Magnum. The crowd is going apeshit, and the fight over the stake is incredible. Holy crap, this is intense. I forgot how awesome this match was! Magnum then gets a piece of the chair and rams it into Tully’s head. Blood gushes out until Tully screams, “Yes!” Then Magnum goes in for the kill… and stops, looks at the chair he’s holding, disgusted with himself, throws it away and storms off, the new champion. 15 minutes of intensity and action. Oh. My. God. If you have never seen this match, get into it. It must have been 10 years or so since I last watched it… it still holds up.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – there are some matches that need blood. This would not have worked without colour. Well, not as well.

Magnum powers out.

 

Setting up for the microphone to the head, perfected by Sauros the Great in Sparta in 155BCE

 

Piece of sharpened wood to almost the eye.

 

Piece of sharpened wood to the head!

 

And Magnum does not like what he was forced to do… and without saying a thing, we all knew how he was feeling. Awesome!

 

 

Match 8: Atlanta Street Fight: The Midnight Express v Jimmy Valiant & Ms Atlanta Lively
What, you’re thinking; a mixed gender match? No – Ms Atlanta Lively is Jimmy Garvin in drag. This is just a fun brawl, probably designed as such after the intensity of the last match, to get the crowd back into a more relaxed mood. There’s blood again (yeah… didn’t need it) but the action is non-stop and there’s lots of brawling. The Midnight Express wrestle in their tuxedos… and Bobby Eaton takes a huge bump on the concrete. This was wild. The Express loses clothing. The ending comes when Bobby tries to hit a top rope move onto Valiant, and when he is in mid-air, MAL manages to get there and hit a huge punch, knocking him out, then pinning him for the win after around 7 minutes. And, post-match, Jim Cornette is stripped as well. Hey! I liked a Jimmy Valiant match!

Ouch!

 

‘Ms Atlanta Lively’ bleeding like a stuck pig.

 

 

Weaver is with a sort of cleaned up Magnum TA. He’s pissed. Good, intense promo.

 

Match 9: NWA World Tag Team Championship, Cage Match: The Rock N Roll Express v Nikita & Ivan Koloff
There is little to say about this match. It is a good match, and fun to watch, nothing spectacular, just tag team wrestling the way people my age grew up with. With the RnRE you’re used to Ricky Morton being the face-in-peril, but it’s Robert Gibson this time. This is a snappy, non-stop 15-odd minutes of goodness. There’s blood (again! – yeah, see, sometimes they did potentially overdo it, although it is in a cage…) and nasty cage shots and double-team moves and distracted referees and almost tags and saves… it is the exact template for tag-team wrestling throughout the 80s and 90s. And then, out of nowhere a blind tag, seen by the ref, leads to Ricky rolling Ivan up for the pin and the win and the titles. And, post-match, the Russians beat the living crap out of Gibson. No, I mean, he is dead. Then a heap of guys come in, make the save… Yeah, so sue me. I really liked this match.

Morton hits a nice cross-body.

 

Double team on Gibson.

 

Post-match triple team on Gibson.

 

 

Match 10: World Title Match: Dusty Rhodes v Ric Flair
Right off the bat, I am not a fan of this match. I have only seen a couple of matches featuring these two and, for some reason, they just did not seem to gel in the ring. To me, this was Ric Flair bumping in search of a match. Look, it’s not actively bad, but it just felt off and was actually dull. Oh, and of course, Flair bleeds. The ending comes when the ref is almost murdered, the Minnesota Wrecking Crew get involved – yes, Dusty against 3 men – a second ref bounds in, and Dusty gets a fluke roll-up on Flair for the pin after 20-odd minutes. However, my trusted Wikipedia tells me that the result was changed some short time later to Dusty winning by DQ because of outside interference, and so the title did not actually change hands.

Dusty has Flair in some sort of hold and Flair has Dusty…

 

The roll-up, the pin, the not really new champion.

 

Backstage with Dusty and he gets the champagne treatment from all the faces, and then gives the standard “blue collar” speech of Dusty at the time. We have a wrap-up by a couple of commentators, and that’s it.

 

And there you have it. This is not a bad show at all. 1985 saw professional wrestling begin to blossom into the pseudo-sport as we now know it. This had good wrestling, entertaining matches, an awesome blood feud and only a couple of matches that didn’t do much for me. Can’t ask for much more than that from 3 hours.

 

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