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Going Old School: Starrcade ’84

January 26, 2008 | Posted by Matt Adamson
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Going Old School: Starrcade ’84  

I’m holed up in my apartment awaiting the biggest storm Oregon has seen in many years. I hope I have power by the end of the night, but I‘m not counting on it. For some reason if power has to go out somewhere in Portland, it goes out in my neighborhood first.

This is the second in my series of reviews covering the “Graddaddy of Them All“, Starrcade. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out my review of Starrcade ‘83 as well as the rest of the series. If you have any comments or input I’d appreciate all that I can get, so drop me an email. Also, if there is a show you’d like to see reviewed, just request it and your wish is my command, so long as I have the show.


The first Starrcade had been a tremendous success and Jim Crockett, knowing he had something special, decided that they would hold another Starrcade. The long awaited second Starrcade would come on November 22nd 1984. The pieces had been placed for this show a year prior with the appearance and challenge of Dusty Rhodes at Starrcade ‘83. During the year between these two legendary shows, Flair had lost the World Heavyweight Championship to Harley Race and Kerry Von Erich and regained it both times. It was the biggest event for the NWA in 1984 and would be the last time the NWA would host the showcase wrestling event as WrestleMania would happen 4 months later. I should mention that this review is of the entire show as it originally aired. There is a clipped version floating around that I’ve heard makes this show seem a whole lot better than it actually was.

November 22nd 1984 from the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina, in front of a crowd of 18,000 fans.

Starrcade ‘84 – The Million Dollar Challenge

Hosts: Gordon Solie and Bob Caudle
Interviews: Tony Schiavone (Apparently he hadn’t graduated to the booth yet.)

Show starts off with one of those awesome white light shows. Hilarious not, but back then they were “so radical!”

NWA Junior Heavyweight Championship: Mike Davis © vs. Denny Brown

This would be Davis’ only major title in the U.S. He was best known during his period teaming with Tommy Lane as the Rock and Roll RPM’s who were a very 80’s stereotype heel tag team in AWA and World Class during that decade. Brown spent most of his career as a jobber and this match would in my opinion be the biggest of his career by a wide margin. Interestingly, this lineage of the Jr. Title is unofficial as the title change in Japan is unrecognized in most of the U.S. Les Thornton would be the official champion at this point. Brown would win this title for real in 1985, but again wouldn’t amount to much more.

Earl Hebner is the referee for the match and he gets booed HARD. Nice to see some things never change. The match stated with some quality mat work in the opening minutes which is always a treat especially as well as it was going. It would slow down a little later once Brown ends up outside the ring. Davis showed a nice sportsmanship in the match. Belly to Back Suplex by Davis gets the three count, but Brown raises his shoulder and the Hebner counts Davis’ shoulders down and Brown wins the title. The match is entirely forgettable despite the promise early on. It just trailed off from its pace. I actually don’t mind this style of finish, it plays with the fans minds which is the idea after all.

Winner and NEW (unofficial) Champ: Denny Brown
Match Rating: *¾

Tony Schiavone is in the dressing room, much like he was for much of Starrcade ‘83. This time he is there to tell us he is in fact in the dressing room. I’ll never get that 3 minutes of my life back.

Mr. Ito vs. Brian Adias

Certainly appears to be a filler match here on a major show. Too bad. Mr. Ito is one I don’t know much about. He’s a stereotyped Asian, wearing traditional garments. Adias is best known for his time spent in World Class Championship Wrestling where he was a top name. He was friends in real life with the Von Erich’s prior to their becoming wrestlers so he was always a mainstay in Texas. He had a lot of success there. He also wrestled some in Portland where he teamed as a heel with Buddy Rose.

The crowd just loves Adias. Caudle says he’s going to go a long ways. I can’t say that ever happened, unfortunately for Adias. This match is one of those that 95% of wrestling fans will either fast forward or fall asleep to. Just a LOAD of rest holds until the finish. I actually can’t remember being more bored. I’m serious here, the match consisted almost entirely of rest holds until the finish. The finish happens when Adias hit’s an Airplane Spin on Ito. Extremely Boring match. Not embarrassing, but only because they didn’t try anything at all.

Winner: Brian Adias
Match Rating ½*

Florida Heavyweight Championship: Jesse Barr © vs. Mike Graham

Starrcade ‘84 had expanded a little bit to include some more regional rivalries in it’s card. This match is really the first to be obvious about it. Both Barr and Graham are very much Florida guys at this time, not seeing much time outside of that territory. Barr had won the title a month prior from Scott McGhee (read a little about McGhee in my review of Starrcade ‘83). Barr was a big name in Florida during his time there. He was also known as Jimmy Jack Funk (fictional brother of Terry and Dory Jr.). He was a product of Portland Wrestling where he and his brother Art Barr wrestled for much of their career. Mike Graham is another big name in Florida. He is the son of legendary wrestler Eddie Graham. While he was a major star in Florida, he never saw much success outside the Sunshine State.

I grew up watching Barr so I’m a bit partial to him (as I am with anything related to my lovely home town.) The match is a bit disappointing to me as whenever Barr is in control the match is very slow and full of rest holds and mat work, but not the kind I would consider good. When Graham is in control, the match really turns around and the mat work becomes quality and the pace is quickened considerably. The match has a lot of good fundamentals but is otherwise empty. Graham uses some good psychology to give the match some hope. He works Barr’s leg, but Barr just isn’t giving his all. Graham does what he can to salvage the match but it isn’t enough. Barr wins after a Double Leg Takedown with his feet on the ropes. Match was disappointing as Graham tried, but Barr was like a stick and Graham couldn’t carry that particular stick to a good match that night. For a Jesse Barr match I’d consider this one of the worst during his time in Florida. The match was also just too damn long and not enough happened to be entertaining.

Winner: Jesse Barr
Match Rating: **

A video is shown of Tully Blanchard, Black Bart and Ron Bass (w/JJ Dillon) attacking Dick Slater and Ricky Steamboat. This is the major piece of the Blanchard/Steamboat and Slater/Bass storylines.

The Zambuie Express vs. The Assassin and Buzz Tyler

Another filler match but it actually makes sense later in the show that these two teams face each other here. The Assassin is Jody Hamilton, the Original Assassin who would go on the manage Paul Orndorf in the dark days of WCW. Tyler was at his career peak here having just come off a brutal feud as a heel with Wahoo McDaniel. He had turned face when he aligned himself with the Assassin against Paul Jones Army. The Zambuie Express are members of Jones Army. One member of the Express, Elijah Akeem was best known in Georgia as Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. He was one of the best mic-workers of that period. His famous line was “badder than old King Kong, meaner than a junkyard dog” much like the song. His partner, Kareem Muhammed spent time all over the southeast U.S. and in All Japan. His most notable contribution to pro-wrestling is also his worst. He trained New Jack how to wrestle.

There is very little going on in this match besides a little punching and kicking and some good old chaos. Not exactly a technically sound match, but had it’s fun. I don’t think I’ll ever go out of my way to watch it again, but it didn’t offend and Paul Jones shenanigans is always entertaining. The Assassin scored the pin on Kareen Muhammed after shenanigans.

Winners: The Assassin and Buzz Tyler
Match Rating: *¼

Schiavone is with Dusty Rhodes. He asks Dusty if it’s the biggest night of his life. Dusty says a bunch of words that get nowhere near answering Schiavone’s question. Pretty much a classic Dusty promo. He calls Flair “yesterdays newspaper” and himself “the prettiest man in professional wrestling.” Amazing.

Brass Knuckles Championship: Black Bart © vs. “Raging Bull” Manny Fernandez

The Brass Knuckles Title is nothing more that a Taped Fists title or a Hardcore title. It really never meant anything more than a little entertainment in the middle of the card for people who get bored with the mat-based matches. Fernandez is half of the World Tag Team Champions at this point. Why is he relegated to a Brass Knucks Title match when they would have a Tag Title defense? Well that’s because his tag partner, Dusty Rhodes, is busy in the main event. Fernandez really reminds me of Cheech Marin every time I watch him. Black Bart is part of JJ Dillon’s Long Riders stable. His time as a wrestler would mostly be as a glorified jobber. His time at this period and a year later when he left for World Class would be the only times that wasn’t true.

Bart is with JJ Dillon. Manny comes to the ring to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”. Awesome! Both of them have their fists taped so of course the match is full of punching. Fernandez gets opened up early so there’s lots of blood. There is also a nut shot which always gets the match an added ratings bonus. It makes me laugh every damn time. It’s an entertaining beat down and that’s cool with me. I don’t expect much out of this except to enjoy it and I did. There was nothing too flashy going on, and it wasn’t trying to be something that it’s not. Manny gets the win with a rollup. That would make Fernandez a dual title holder… neat.

Winner and NEW Champ: Manny Fernandez
Match Rating: **

Schiavone is with Steamboat. The lights go out on them and they come back on to a redundant Gordon Solie & Bob Caudle. Two years, first there is a sound issue, second there is a lighting issue. Back to Steamboat who discusses the Bart/Bass/Blanchard attack and all the injuries he received. He says he’s at 100% for the match later in the night.

Schiavone is magically with Tully Blanchard and JJ Dillon. They talk about being better than everybody else and how they are going to injure Steamboat.

Tuxedo Street Fight: “Number One” Paul Jones vs. Jimmy “Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant

Paul Jones is a manager at this point in his career and has himself a little stable called the Paul Jones Army. I believe it is Kareen Muhammed who is Jones’ second which The Assassin is in Valiant’s corner. Thank goodness Valiant was finished with that absurd Charlie Brown masked gimmick he was involved in at Starrcade ‘83. This feud would go on for another two years. Absolutely ridiculous.

Valiant actually looks like he is made of plastic. If you’ve seen The Santa Clause 2, imagine the fake Santa Claus. The match involved lots of clothes ripping and removing. Jones does a lot of selling, but he sells the wrong stuff. He sells an article of clothing being ripped off like he got punched in the stomach which he no sold many of Valiants punches. This is NOT Jim Cornette vs. Paul E. Dangerously from Great American Bash ‘89 that’s for certain. The match doesn’t leave the ropes as Valiant ties Jones to them almost immediately. Valiant no sells everything Jones throws at him (like he always does). Once Jones gets away, Dillon hits Valiant with an object and Jones gets the pin. Terribly sloppy mess of a match.

Winner: Paul Jones
Match Rating: BOO!

Tony Schiavone is with Ric Flair in the dressing room. Flair talks about having honor and about the $1,000,000.00 purse. Flair has a baby face demeanor which wouldn’t last much longer.

Mid Atlantic Heavyweight Championship: “Cowboy” Ron Bass vs. Dick Slater

This is a grudge match that comes from the big storyline that dominates this show. Slater became a heel as a result of the beat down he received by The Long Riders. He had been a heel for most of his time in Mid-Atlantic prior. People often forget this era as having great stables, which is a shame as this show alone showcases two. In fact just about every era of wrestling from the 80’s on was full of great stables until the 2000’s came along. The Long Riders were awesome in their time and this show was their pinnacle.

Bass is with JJ Dillon and of course these two are looking for blood. Slater wrestles a solid match as he always does, but he relies a bit too much on rest holds. Bass is pretty worthless in the ring during the match as contributes next to nothing to add to the excitement of an otherwise boring match. It’s nice to see Slater do his thing in his prime, but it is far from his best. He shows some passion at the end of the match when he gets caught up in the heat of the match and throws the referee out of the ring. This gets him a DQ and Bass keeps the title. Was Ron Bass really that boring? I don’t remember it that way.

Winner: Ron Bass
Match Rating: *½

Ivan & Nikita Koloff vs. Ole Anderson & Keith Larson

Keith Larson is Don Kernodle’s brother. Interesting that the two would have different last names. Brother from another mother perhaps? The Koloff’s had injured Kernodle a couple months prior and this is the big payoff. It really is unusual seeing Ole Anderson as a baby face. It doesn’t really work. Good thing the promoter saw that as he would be teaming with a young Arn Anderson 5 months later and the rest is history. Nikita was GREEN at this time, only having wrestled for a couple months. He wouldn’t be too far off his trip to the top of the card, but it wasn’t quite there yet. This was the earliest days of The Russians.

I happen to be a big fan of the Russian National Anthem and I’m thrilled that the Koloff’s use it for their theme music. The match is really a good display of psychology much of the time from Anderson and Larson. They did a fabulous job of cutting the ring in half and working Ivan’s arm. Interesting to see these two dominate the Russians as dominating the Russians would be near impossible (unless you were The Road Warriors) within a month. My main gripe with the match is Ivan’s inability to sell Anderson and Larson’s offense and that he and Nikita use the bear hug for a majority of the time they are in control of the match. Ivan finished off the match while the ref’s back was turned. He hit Larson in the head with a chain and got the pin when the ref turned back around. A classic ending to a match that hasn’t been done properly in years. Kernodle forgoes the crutches and attacks the Russians after the match.

Winners: Ivan & Nikita Koloff
Match Rating: **½

World Television Championship: Tully Blanchard © vs. Ricky Steamboat

In addition to the title being on the line in this match, both wrestlers have put up $10,000.00 each. There is an added stipulation in that if Blanchard gets DQ’d or runs (like he often did in order to keep this title) he will forfeit the title to Steamboat. Blanchard hadn’t wrestled for Jim Crockett for very long at this point and it is still pre-Horsemen as they are running the Long Riders storyline here. As I mentioned earlier, this match is a blow off of a feud that went on between the Long Riders and Steamboat, Dick Slater and a few others.

This match is in my opinion was of the lost gems of the early 1980’s. It was miles ahead of anything else on this card and was only hampered by going a tad overkill on the psychology mid-way through the match. Steamboat gets his ribs injured early on and sells them expertly throughout the match. The injury affected the way he wrestled as he noticeably changed his style in order to adapt to the injury. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that kind of consistency in a wrestling match. About mid-way through the match the psychology of the injury actually bites the match in the ass somewhat as Steamboat stalls quite a bit and Tully doesn’t take much advantage of it. Once Blanchard gets going again he attacks the ribs for much of the remainder of the match. PSYCHOLOGY people! I like to be entertained as much as the next guy, but when a match has an element of believability to it, the entertainment factor is outweighed by the emotion derived from watching it and hurting for your hero. Top notch stuff here and is match of the night for me. Blanchard finally gets the three count by outsmarting the referee and Steamboat by pulling a chain out of his trunks and leveling Steamboat with it. Great psychology + cheating heel + solid action = great match.

Winner: Tully Blanchard
Match Rating: ****

United States Heavyweight Championship: Wahoo McDaniel © vs. “Superstar” Billy Graham

Wahoo was at the peak of his career at this point and was really really over with the fans. Graham on the other hard was a mere shell of his former self and was in the midst of that abysmal karate gimmick. I count Graham’s karate gimmick amongst the worst career moves in professional wrestling. It was all his idea despite nobody really being thrilled with it. Graham would be near the end of his career in the ring as he’d wrestle for another year and become incapable of wrestling well due to injury and general health problems. This is one of the last important matches he’d have as promoters began to see his limitations and relegate him to meaningless matches a tags where he would spend a majority of the time on the apron.

The match starts oddly as they do a test of strength and Wahoo wins it. Alright, fat Native American vs. One of the strongest wrestlers in the world in a test of strength, who will win? Well the fat Native American of course. Wahoo actually wins the test of strength and the legitimacy of this match has been flushed down the toilet. It’s a basic power match that never really goes anywhere and I just got a bad vibe watching it as it felt like there was something else going on that the fans weren’t privy to. Even the finish to the match goes wrong as Wahoo hits Graham with a Tomahawk chop and Graham takes one of the worst looking bumps I’ve seen. Wahoo gets the pin, he quickly takes off and that’s it. When I saw “worst looking bumps” I don’t mean painful, except to everybody who watched. Graham looked like a backyard wrestler in there and it’s really sad to see.

Winner: Wahoo McDaniel
Match Rating: *

Tony Schiavone is in the dressing room with Joe Frazier and the judges who don’t really matter to the match, since it would go nowhere near the sixty minutes required for them to be of any use. Really nothing interesting here.

World Heavyweight Championship: $1,000,000.00 Challenge: Ric Flair © vs. Dusty Rhodes

The seeds for this match had been planted at the previous Starrcade when Rhodes challenged the winner of the Flair vs. Race main event. In the interim Flair would lose and regain his title twice. First to Harley Race and second to a young Kerry Von Erich. The match of course was billed as the biggest purse in the history of professional wrestling at a whopping $1,000,000.00 or about what Mark Henry used to make in a year in his last contract. Boxing legend “Smokin’” Joe Frazier is the special guest referee for the match.

Rhodes comes to the ring to “Purple Rain” and I’d normally approve of the use of this song for just about anything, but for Dusty Rhodes? No way, I’m not buying it. To top it all off, Rhodes is wearing a big ol’ purple robe. Flair comes down the aisle to his usual entrance music, but after it’s gone one time through, a country song comes on and that’s about when Flair physically appears to the crowd. If ever something didn’t fit, it was that song with the Flair entrance. Flair is also in NEON PINK! That’s right, your main eveners for Starrcade ‘84 are decked out in purple and pink entrance gear. No wonder people joke about wrestling. Rhodes gets loads of heel heat and a few cheers and Flair gets a massive pop with a few boo’s. I guess that sheds a little light onto who’s the face and who’s the heel.

The match has it’s ups and downs, but the main problem I’ll get to later. The bulk of the match was a classic Rhodes/Flair affair with a lot of back and forth action that was sold well and executed well, only they reverse the roles here. Flair doesn’t work the leg like he usually does prepping it for the Figure Four, but Dusty does that a little, which would work as a nice homage these days. The problem with the match is a very negative one. With Joe Frazier as the referee he acts much like a boxing referee and is repeatedly breaking up fun moments and plays a role in the finish that forever scarred this match and this show. Toward the end of the match Flair tossed Rhodes into the ring post and it busted him open real good. Frazier then proceeded to dominate the match and insist that he be able to check out Rhodes eye which was gushing. It completely ruined this portion of the match as it was really just starting to get good. Flair was working the eye HARD, but Frazier kept interjecting himself until he finally calls for the bell and stops the match on account of blood. A boxing ending for a wrestling match? Give me a break! I loathe this ending and it killed this show and this match, which was on it’s way to being an all-time classic. Too short and too dumb, no thanks to the half-assed booking that littered the finish. After the match Rhodes is ready to box Frazier for that call, but Frazier is long gone. Good riddance.

Winner: Ric Flair
Match Rating: **¾

The 411: Starrcade ‘84 is neither as good or as important as its predecessor. Most of the show was filled with matches that really don’t hold up well today and really didn‘t get the job done then. The Blanchard vs. Steamboat match is worth checking out, but the rest can be skipped. Luckily Jim Crockett Promotions figured this out and put on a stellar show the following year. I suggest you avoid this one, there isn’t much here.
Final Score:  5.0   [ Not So Good ]  legend

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