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411 Video Review: Chi-Town Rumble (1989)

November 26, 2002 | Posted by Sydney Brown

Chi-Town Rumble (1989)

VHS is dead. Hell, so is TiVo for that matter.

I usually try to avoid talking about me during these columns, but this past weekend I bit the bullet and purchased a DVD recorder, which I think may have been the best purchase I’ve made in years. With a recorded picture equal to digital TV, and the same “pause live TV” you can get from TiVo, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

What does this mean to you? Well, I’m slowly transferring all my tapes to DVD, and as such, I won’t have much use for them on VHS. In the past, a lot of you have E-mailed me asking where you can get a specific tape, and while I don’t sell, in this instance I will. Anything I’ve reviewed (including the much-loved Best of MSG) and almost anything in my collection is up for grabs. The catch of course is that there’s only one of everything. First come, first serve. E-mail for a list of what I’ve got or to request a title. I’m not doing this to make a profit, just recoup what I spend on the software (blank DVDs aren’t cheap).

Okay, with that out of the way.

We’re headed to 1989 and the NWA, the year Ric Flair was given the book, did marvelous things, nobody really cared enough to make the ratings or the buyrates go up much, and would then got passed in favor of Ole. And this was the show that started that. This was the second PPV in about as many months to come from Chicago, the other being the disastrous AWA SuperClash III, that had less people in the stands than a World Championship basketball game.

As a nice aside, the box cover shows a big picture of Road Warrior Animal beating up Lex Luger, which would be fitting, if you know, those two actually WRESTLED EACH OTHER on the show. But then I see the show was produced by David Crockett, so that explains it.

BTW, as most of the early Turner videos had, there’s a promo for Starrcade ‘86 that’s as bad as any movie trailer as it shows the freakin’ ENDINGS to half the matches on the tape.

I’m rambling, I know, but speaking of movie trailers, if you haven’t seen it, download the trailer to the new Jerry Seinfeld movie “Comedian.” It’s on the Miramax website, and it just says so much about how lazy Hollywood’s become in marketing and promotions.

Match #1

Michael Hayes vs. The Russian Assassin

Hayes is freshly arrived from a brief return to the World Class area, and this I believe was right before his heel turn. Because c’mon, who wants to watch a face Freebird? Especially when he doesn’t have the other ‘Birds with him? The Russian Assassin is aka
Angel of Death another former WCCWian so these two should be familiar with each other. It’s a Turner production so we are JIP with Assassin in control. For some reason, we cut to a freakin’ RESTHOLD. Hayes gets a bodypress, but Assassin gets a clothesline for two. Back to resting with Hayes eventually going into the corner. Hayes comes back with a clothesline. Hayes tries a bulldog but Assassin tosses him instead. Hayes reverses a suplex into one of his own, but he misses a follow-up elbowdrop. Assassin blows a blind charge and Hayes punches away. Assassin tries a backdrop but Hayes DDT’s him for the pin in 15:46. They gave this 15 minutes, why I don’t know. BTW, this match features the infamous Chicago ref who slaps his hand on the mat three times for every count, so that by the time he counts three, he’s up to seven. Either you know who I’m talking about or you don’t. I bring it up because the camera cuts to a wideshot just so you can’t see him doing it which only makes it more obvious.

Match #2

Sting vs. Butch Reed

Anyone who moans about how “They never push RVD” or “Give Booker T the belt already” need only be reminded of how the NWA completely wasted Sting for over a year after his Clash match with Ric Flair MADE him. I mean, Sting was easily THE most popular man in WCW, and he’s in the second match here? His Flair match was in March 1988, yet he wouldn’t even get a singles belt (the TV title no less) for another year.

Anyways, Butch Reed was in line to become a Horseman supposedly, but then Flair got the book and decided better. Interestingly, the ref for the match is Teddy Long, Reed’s future manager. Sting attacks first with an atomic drop, and Reed backs off. Jim Ross drops his first WWF dis: “This is the NWA. We WRESTLE here.” Reed bails again, and Sting wants him back in. Reed gets the upperhand, but misses an elbow and Sting goes to a wristlock. Sting bites Reed’s hand in an odd heel spot. Sting shoulderblocks Reed and goes for a second one, but Reed tosses him instead. Reed works on Sting’s throat, choking him on the ropes. Back in he gets a double axehandle for two. Ten minutes expired, so either there’s been some cuts or the announcer’s lying. More choking of Sting and manager Hiro Matsuda joins in. The ref is distracted by Matsuda, so Reed chokes Sting some more. Resthold lasts some three minutes, jeez why not clip this? Sting gets control but blows a Vaderbomb. Reed tries to clothesline Sting, but Sting accidentally ducks when it’s obvious he’s not supposed to, so Reed wisely goes with it and falls out of the ring. Sting looks a little confused, but he suplexes Reed back in for two. Reed dumps Sting and snapmares him back in rather viciously. Neckbreaker gets two. And another resthold? Sting responds with a clothesline. Backdrop and a big elbowdrop, but Reed dumps Sting again to break the momentum. Sting sunsetflips in but Reed grabs the ropes. The ref hits Reed’s arms, so Reed’ll let go, but he won’t. The ref does it again, Reed falls, Sting gets the pin in 20:04. Remember when the opening two matches would take almost forty-five minutes? Me neither. Pretty good match though, despite the fact that Sting should have been way above Reed at this point.

Match #3

The Midnight Express & Jim Cornette vs. The “Original” Midnight Express & Paul E. Dangerously

This is a six-man match where the man who gets pinned leaves the NWA. The angle that set up the Midnights feud was so awesome that the feud couldn’t live up to it. In it, Paul E. and his “Midnight Express” consisting of Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose jumping Cornette’s Midnights during a TV match with Paul E. busting his phone in Cornette’s face, and Jim bleeding a gusher afterwards. I can’t do it justice but it was a KILLER angle. This is a once-and-for-all match, one team breaks up for good.

The problem was that Dennis Condrey found out he was going to be the one getting pinned, so realizing he was out of a job anyway, he walked out on the PPV, leaving Paul E. to resort to Jack Victory as a sub, making the whole match VERY anti-climatic. Cornette is billed as 200 lbs, leading Ross to scoff, “Wait a minute, that’s more than me, that can’t be right.” And if you want to see how stressful running ECW was, check out Paul E. with a full head of hair (well, mostly full) and realize it was all gone seven years later. Paul E. has a white and pink sweatshirt which according to Ross is “very appropriate.”

Rose and Lane start with Lane dominating while Paul E. screams like a girl on the outside. Victory tags in and Lane trips him so Cornette can drop an elbow to a huge pop. Eaton tags in, and Rose comes back in. Eaton holds Rose so Cornette can pop him one. Lane tags in and Rose grabs him for a Paul E. slap but of course Lane reverses it and Rose eats it. Rose gets mad and threatens to tag Paul E. but Lane rolls him up for two. Eaton back in with shots and Rose bails. Eaton grabs Rose on the apron so Rose launches him from the apron into the guardrail for the first “GASP!” of the night. Paul E. lets out a “WHOOOOO!” And he gets tagged in. He stomps on Bobby who gets up and takes a shot at Paul E. He runs away and tags both men just in case and runs out of the ring. Rose comes back in, and Eaton tags Cornette?

Cornette comes in, and says “I don’t want to fight you, I want HIM!” pointing at Dangerously. He charges Paul, so Rose clocks him in the back of the head. He slams Cornette and tags Paul. More stomping from Paul and a punch gets two. Paul E keeps hitting, launching Jim into the corner. Cornette lunges, so Paul tags Rose. Rose clotheslines him, and Victory tags in. Victory punches him, but Eaton gets a quick bulldog to help his manager. Lane gets the hot tag, but he gets distracted by Paul, and Rose takes over. Lane goes to the floor and he gets attacked by Victory. Rose drops a elbow from the second rope to the floor. Back in and a sideslam gets two. He tries a piledriver but Lane backdrops him. Victory tags in and hammers away. So Rose comes back in with a resthold. Rose mocks Lane’s gyrations. Victory back in but he gets a boot to the face. Lane gets the hot tag and Eaton cleans house. He hits a nice top rope dropkick and forces a stunned Victory to tag Paul E. He gets dragged over to the corner and Cornette gets tagged in. Cornette slugs him several times and gets a decent clothesline. Dangerously tags Rose and Cornette tags Lane. All four wrestlers in and Rose blows a splash off the top. Lane gets two, but Victory pulls him off. It doesn’t matter as Victory gets dumped and the Midnights get the flapjack on Rose for the pin. Rose is gone, but as a consolation, he got to come back later in 1989 as a glorified jobber for a few months. Good match, but it’s unlikely you’ll find it on a Best of Midnights comp.

Interview: Rick Steiner.

Historic segment as Scott Steiner makes his NWA debut, and it’s shocking how soft spoken he is. Bob Caudle seems surprised that Scott isn’t retarded too (That being Rick’s gimmick at the time.)

Match #4

Rick Steiner vs. Mike Rotundo

I forget we’re in the NWA, so it’s Rotunda, isn’t it? All of the matches have had 45 minute time-limits, somehow this match has 20. Steiner is TV champ here after beating Mike at Starrcade. This is the rematch. Scott’s at ringside for this one. Rotunda gets a fireman’s carry, so Rick responds with a stiffer one. Rotunda gets a takedown, so Rick rides him to the floor. Clip to a Steiner headlock into a hiptoss and a brutal Steinerline. Rotunda offers a handshake, and Rick talks to his hand who tells him no. Mike gets an abdominal stretch and uses the ropes of course. Rick reverses it into a pin, then punches Mike in the face. Rotunda takes a breather.

Back in, and Mike regains control. He tries a bodypress off the second rope which Rick is SUPPOSED to catch but he falls, instead rolling him up for two. They trade armbars and headlocks. Rotunda gets some stiff chops and tackles Steiner down. Steiner responds with a godawful monkeyflip. Steiner redeems himself with a backdrop for two. Steiner blows a top rope splash. Rick gets tossed, and he rams Rick’s shoulder into the post. Back in, and Steiner gets a powerslam for one, then he pulls him up to the fans’ dismay. Suddenly Kevin Sullivan comes out and threatens to kidnaps Rick Steiner’s dog. Rick gets worried allowing Rotunda to regain control. But Rotunda blows a dropkick and Steiner regains control. He locks on a sleeper, and Rotunda goes down. Ross: “He’s going SLEEPY-BYE!” Problem is, Rotunda goes down on top of Rick Steiner, and Steiner ends up pinning himself. The fans to their credit, pick up on it a lot faster than they probably should. And Rotunda wins the TV title. Considering how popular Steiner was, it seemed like an odd thing to have him lose the belt so soon, but then again Rick would be busy forming one of the greatest tag teams in wrestling history. Solid match.

Match #5

Lex Luger vs. Barry Windham

This is for the U.S. belt then held by Barry Windham. Windham was in a little bit of limbo here, with the Horsemen disbanded and Dillion gone. Actually, after finally earning main event status in 1987 and 1988, Barry’s world would come crashing down as you’ll see as a result of this match.

Luger slaps on a sleeper thirty seconds in which Windham counters with a belly to back which Luger no-sells and hits an atomic drop followed by a press slam. Windham bails. Back in, Windham tries an Irish whip which Luger reverses, except Windham doesn’t realize he’s being reversed and he slams into the corner. Brutal clothesline for one. Small “Barry” chant starts as Luger powerslams him. BTW, if you’ve ever read Missy Hyatt’s book, it’ll ruin every Lex Luger match forever as he does what Missy claims he does constantly throughout a regular match.

Luger climbs to the top rope and blows a flying clothesline, ending up on the floor. Windham sends Luger into the timekeeper’s table. He suplexes him back in. The two trade rights with Luger getting the worst of it as one of the shots splits his eyebrow open. They fall out to the floor and Luger rests against the ringpost. Barry charges and SMASHES his fist against the post, legitimately breaking it. Barry’s entire body turns beet red as he slowly gets back in the ring. Luger punches him, and Barry hits back with his broken hand which makes him collapse on the canvas in pain. A close-up shows his hand is dripping blood, but Barry charges on. He AGAIN hits Luger with his injured hand, and again staggers from the blow. Tommy Young looks concerned but Barry shoves him away. Windham wises up and starts kicking Luger instead. Tommy gestures to somebody about the hand if there’s any doubt to the seriousness of this. Barry locks the claw on, and both men look to be hurting from it. Luger simply grabs Barry’s wrist and he collapses on the mat again. Why this match continued is beyond me.

Windham powerslams Luger for two. Windham starts going to phantom punches, and sets Luger up for the superplex. But Barry gets cocky and lands a real punch and he almost falls down in pain again. He actually staggers to the top, but somehow pulls the move off. He drops an extra elbow for two. Windham finally can’t take it anymore, hits a German suplex for the pin, but Barry’s shoulders are down, but Luger raises his and Luger wins the belt. Windham takes his frustrations out on Luger, piledriving him on the belt.

Anyone who wants to see how totally useless Lex Luger was, need only watch this match. After Windham’s injury, Luger looks totally confused and befuddled, with Windham having to carry Luger the rest of the way, even with a broken hand. This would be Barry’s last NWA match for a while as he left to let his hand heal, which never really did completely. After a disappointing stint in the WWF, he’d come back in 1990, but nowhere near as big as he was prior to this. Good match only in the sense in marveling at the guts of Barry Windham, not only for wrestling almost ten minutes with a broken hand, but not having to crow later so everybody knew about it.

Match #6

The Road Warriors vs. Kevin Sullivan & Steve Williams

The Roadies finally won the NWA tag titles in late 1988 over two years after entering the federation. And as usual when the Warriors were champs, it’s hard to find opponents who could really be “Opponents.” The only legit heel tag team at this point were the Midnights whom the Warriors annihilated to win the belts. So they were fed The Varsity Club. But no one really took a tag team with Kevin Sullivan in it that seriously, so to say there wasn’t much heat for this match would be an understatement. Not to say the Warriors didn’t get a huge pop which they did, but nobody really thought Williams and Sullivan had a chance.

Williams and Animal start. Williams gets powerslammed and he bails. Hawk tags in and gets pressed by Williams. Hawk suckers Sullivan so the Warriors double-clothesline Williams for two. Sullivan tags in and the two doubleteam Animal tossing him and hitting him with a chair. Williams works on Animal’s arm. This goes on for a while as both men work on Animal’s arm. Animal gets the hot tag to Hawk. Hawk kills everybody and Animal eventually joins in. Hawk and Williams go to the floor where Hawk gets posted. Animal hoists up Sullivan for the Doomsday Device, but Williams runs in to break it up. Hawk clotheslines Sullivan anyway and gets the pin while Williams tries to pin Animal. Move along, nothing to see here.

Match #7

Ric Flair vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat

This marks the first match in the single greatest trilogy of matches in wrestling history. One of Vince McMahon’s biggest mistakes was not treating Steamboat as he should. Vince had his way, Steamboat had his, and it didn’t seem like the two paths crossed much as Steamboat became huge in the WWF despite Vince not because of him. So after jobbing to Greg Valentine at WMIV, thereby robbing the show of its one guaranteed **** match, a Savage / Steamboat re-match, Steamboat retired. Then Flair came calling. Steamboat made his return in January 1989 as the mystery partner of Eddie Gilbert in a tag match where Steamboat pinned Flair.

You could always tell when Flair was about to lose the belt. Aside from the Rhodes and Garvin wins, there was always just a feeling, it was always just set up right that Flair was going to lose. It was that way with Von Erich, that way with Sting, and you can feel it here. Flair just isn’t leaving with the belt. And the fact that he’s being managed by Hiro Matsuda in this match, who has already gone 0-2 in the show doesn’t help.

Steamboat comes out with his wife and kid whose dressed as his dad. Flair comes out with six “hot by NWA standards” chicks and a much larger pop. Tommy Young shows his place by holding the ropes for Flair. Sideheadlock start by Steamboat, Flair tries to back suplex him, Steamboat somersaults out, rolls up Flair for a two, Flair bails. Clip to (CLIP!!!! THEY FREAKIN’ CLIPPED THIS MATCH!?!?!?) Steamboat back to the headlock. A chopping match breaks out which Steamboat wins with a NASTY shot that gets two. Flair bails, clip to Flair returning demanding a test of strength. A small “Steamboat sucks!” chant starts, quieted by a Steamboat dropkick into another side headlock. Steamboat with more karate chops to the head which Flair momentarily averts with an elbow to the throat, but Steamboat fights back chopping Flair to the floor. Steamboat turns his attention which lets Flair pull him out and ram his throat into the guardrail. More nasty chops from Flair drop Steamboat. Flair throws him to the railing again for good measure. Back in, Flair lowers his kneepad so his knee can be driven into Steamboat’s throat for two. Double underhook gets one. Another chopping match starts ending with Flair going upside down into the corner. Flair charges the other corner and actually hits a flying bodypress!!!! But Steamboat reverses it for two. Flair gets a quick reverse atomic drop and he locks on the figure-four.

Huge “Steamboat!” chant breaks out as the camera cuts to a guy screaming for Flair. Steamboat taps but it’s 1989 and no one does that yet so the match continues. The ref catches Flair using the ropes and breaks the hold himself. A THIRD chopping match which Flair wins. Flair hits a bodypress that sends both men to the floor. Flair posts Steamboat. He then hits a stalling suplex back in the ring for two. Back suplex gets two. Flair shoves the ref due to a slow count. Tommy Young shoves back. Backbreaker gets two even though Flair’s feet are on the ropes. Steamboat gets a quick cradle for two. Flair throws Steamboat into the corner and Steamboat tries a quick second rope bodypress but Flair ducks and Steamboat crashes to the mat. Flair goes to a headlock which Steamboat turns into a double underhook that gets two. More chops from Steamboat followed by a clothesline. Steamboat goes to the top and hits a big judo chop. Steamboat climbs back to the top for the finisher but Flair throws Tommy Young in the way and Steamboat bodypresses Flair AND the ref knocking him out. Steamboat goes to help the ref and Flair cradles Steamboat with a handful of tights, but there’s still no ref. Flair tosses Steamboat who skins the cat back in. He rushes to the top rope for the bodypress but Flair ducks and Steamboat crashes again. Flair goes for the figure-four again, but Steamboat cradles him, referee Teddy Long comes out of NOWHERE and he counts the pin in an absolutely thrilling finish. And to show that the Dusty era was truly over, Tommy Young wakes up and raises Steamboat’s hand himself. ****1/2. And what can you say about a series when this is the WORST match of the three? Wrestling the way it should be, two guys with a grudge beating the hell out of each other until one makes a critical mistake. How difficult is that to book?

Steamboat cuts a promo afterwards hoping that this would be the start of the NWA’s return to the top.

End of tape.

Naturally, the main event is a must-see but I think you knew that before you even read this. But what about the rest of the show? The Luger-Windham is an excellent demonstration of the toughness of Barry Windham, and while not a great match, is fascinating to watch. Really there were no bad matches on this show. The Hayes/Assassin match wasn’t much but even it was at least average.

It’s been said by other people that 1989 may have been the best pure wrestling year for the NWA, and this was the show that got the ball rolling, saying goodbye to the remnants of the Dusty era (The Russian Assassins, Barry Windham) and pushing the new guys (Sting, Steamboat, Scott Steiner to a degree). So by all means, try to get a copy of this show. Flair may not have been the most popular man in the dressing room, but he knew who was supposed to win and how to make even the ones jobbing save face. Which is exactly how it’s supposed to be done.

Highly recommended, thumbs up, A-.

-Sydney Brown

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