wrestling / Video Reviews

Going Old School: Starrcade ’86

January 30, 2008 | Posted by Matt Adamson
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Going Old School: Starrcade ’86  

By the time November 27th 1986 came rolling around, professional wrestling was riding the biggest wave of popularity it had ever seen. With Hulkamania running wild in Stamford and the biggest names in the AWA making their way to Jim Crockett promotions, it seemed like they were on top of the world. Little did they know that only 4 months later, the popularity of wrestling would blow through the roof and reach a level in pop culture to which it has never returned. This is the last major show before Andre and Hulk would change wrestling history forever. Sadly, this show very well could have been the one that shook the earth. Originally the plan for this show was to have Flair defend his title against the wildly popular Magnum T.A. who was all set to take the big one when on October 14th 1986, a tragic accident happened. Magnum T.A. was involved in a car accident that left him partially paralyzed, thus ending his promising career right before it got to the top. I’m convinced that had Magnum not been in the accident, and had they followed through with the plan for him to win the title at this event, it would have changed the history of wrestling in a significant way.

November 27th 1986 from the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina and The Omni in Atlanta, Georgia.

Starrcade ‘86 – The Night of the Skywalkers

Indian Strap Match: Wahoo McDaniel vs. Rick Rude

Oh, the stereotypes wrestling always threw on minorities. Rick Rude was a fresh face in the Mid-Atlantic as he had just joined the promotion (for the second time, but this time was more significant) in September. He was immediately put with Paul Jones who was also managing Manny Fernandez. The two would go on 2 weeks later to win the World Tag Team Titles. They would then commence a fantastic feud with the Rock and Roll Express over the titles, which was cut short when Rude jumped to the WWF. Wahoo, a long time staple of Jim Crockett Promotions was finishing up his time there and was soon headed off to the much less promising land of the AWA.

Rude is with Paul Jones and is looking CUT. The rules for this one are that to win you must drag your opponent around the ring and touch each of the four corners. Lots of punches and dragging early on. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff. Normally I like this type of match as it usually is pretty brutal and emotional, but this one is below par. Let’s just say it’s no White Castle of Fear. Late in the match, Rude changes things up a bit, lending some high flying to the mix. The match latches on to the classic end to these matches as Wahoo is reaching for the fourth corner and Rude panics and tries to stop him, but the momentum allows Wahoo to hit the corner for the win. Jones and Rude attack Wahoo after the match, but Hector Guerrero and Baron Von Raschke make the save. This match failed to meet its quota for lashings.

Winner: Wahoo McDaniel
Match Rating: **

World Tag Team Championship: Steel Cage Match: The Rock & Roll Express © vs. Ole & Arn Anderson

The Rock and Roll Express had been holding the titles for about three months by the time this show happened. They were the dominant team in the NWA from 1985-1987, there was no doubt. This was their third reign and it would come to an end shortly after this match when they lost the title 2 weeks later in Atlanta. Ole & Arn were two of the most hated wrestlers in the world by this point due to their involvement in the Four Horsemen. This is right around the peak of the original group. I remember watching this stuff and just HATING these guys.

The idea behind this cage match has purpose. Keep the Horsemen out! That’s a great premise alone and the fans loved it. Excellent tag psychology throughout the entire match by the Anderson’s. They cut the ring in half, hold Gibson while tagging, and work Gibson’s left leg. Gibson sells the leg brilliantly. When Morton is in, the Anderson’s work the arm and again, the injury is sold brilliantly as Morton doesn’t use the arm that Arn and Ole had been working. They use the cage repeatedly, but don’t get too caught up in using it when there is nothing else to do. They always come up with something to make the match entertaining. The match is over as Arn goes for a slam, but Gibson dropkicks Morton from behind, sending him down on top of Arn for the three. One of the best tag team matches around and further proof of the genius of these four men. I love that these guys always brought their work boots to Starrcade.

Winners: The Rock & Roll Express
Match Rating: ****¼

Louisville Street Fight: Big Bubba Rogers vs. Ronnie Garvin

Big Bubba Rogers is Ray Traylor, who was better known as The Big Bossman, but was also known as The Boss & The Guardian Angel. This was the first year of Traylor in a major promotion as he had been working as a prison guard less than a year prior. He was originally packaged as Jim Cornette’s bodyguard and this match materialized from events stemming from over a year prior during the time Garvin was cross-dressing as Miss Atlanta Lively. The two (Garvin and Cornette) had feuded on and off during 1986, and Cornette got Rogers to do the dirty work for him. That brings us to this match.

Match is very punchy kicky from the start, but gets interesting when Garvin grabs what looks like a beer from in front of Tony Schiavone and throws it in the face of Rogers. Hey, I envy any job where you can get paid to drink beer and watch wrestling. Garvin dominates much of the match early, but it isn’t pretty. It takes me a while to realize that to win the match you must knock your opponent out for a ten count. Eventually both men are down for about a 600 count (Tommy Young counts about once every 15 seconds). Garvin is all set to get up before Rogers, but Rogers distracts Young while getting up and Garvin gets up. He is then hit by Cornette with a tennis racket, which Young doesn’t see. When he turns around to count ten, Rogers is up and Garvin is down. Rogers gets the fluke win thanks to some clever distraction and a tennis racket. Nothing important happened and it wasn’t terribly entertaining.

Winner: Big Bubba Rogers
Match Rating: ¾*

Hair vs. Hair Match: Jimmy “Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant vs. Paul Jones

This is probably the most unnecessarily long feud in wrestling history up to this point. It goes all the way back to before Starrcade ‘84. While this is a Hair vs. Hair match, Valiant had lost his hair to Jones at the Great American Bash, so Valiant, being the gentleman he is, got cocky and put up Big Mama’s hair. Yeah, awesome, I know. So, we pretty much know how this one is going to end. Two years of feuding, with the big blow off being that Jones gets his head shave. It was TOTALLY worth the wait… right?

Manny Fernandez is forced to get into a cage that hangs above the ring as he had played an integral role in Jones winning many of their previous matches. The nearly literally consists of punches, knees and a sleeper. The only variety to this formula comes at the end when Jones has an object which Valiant forces out of Jones’ hand by punching him. He uses it on Jones and pins him. Really underwhelming match, but it gets worse. Jones gets a shave while he is unconscious. Fernandez is let out of the cage and he, Rude and Jones attack Valiant and sneak Jones out of the arena. Alright, rule #1 of Hair vs. Hair matches is that the reaction to the shaving is the big payoff, without it, the match is just another match. How disappointing!

Winner: Jimmy Valiant
Match Rating: ¾*

World Television Championship: First Blood Match: Dusty Rhodes © vs. Tully Blanchard

While this feud went on for about as long as the Valiant vs. Jones feud, it was twice as good and twice as entertaining. Going all the way back to the spring of 1985, everybody had seen Rhodes dominate for much of the time, but this time around, Blanchard was a Horseman, and that meant something. Dusty Rhodes had held the World Title earlier in the summer for the last time. The Rhodes vs. The Horseman feud is the important thing here and it’s just the beginning.

JJ Dillon is with Tully Blanchard as is looking bad ass. Dillon tries to get Tully into wrestling head gear, but the referee puts a stop to it, but Dillon has a back up plan, Vaseline. No go, the referee is having non of that either, so he wipes Tully’s head and the match gets going. They stall a lot early on, but once it gets going it’s a fun little match that lives the gimmick. The two spend most of their time trying to draw blood. This is how it’s done, as the focus, not as an afterthought. Tully gets opened up first, but the referee was down. Tully hits Rhodes with a roll of coins that cracks him open and litters the ring. The referee is still down, which leads an opportunistic JJ Dillon to wipe the blood from Tully’s forehead and busts out the ol’ Vaseline. See kids, there is more than one use for Vaseline. When the referee gets up he looks at Dusty and sees the blood and calls for the bell and Blanchard win the TV title. First Blood matches aren’t always a lot of fun, but this one was pretty decent as they worked the gimmick of the match in well.

Winner and NEW champ: Tully Blanchard
Match Rating: **½

Promos from both The Midnight Express and The Road Warriors about the Scaffold match. The Road Warriors promo is noteworthy because they do it from some construction site up on the scaffolding. They have two pumpkins each marked with the names Dennis and Bobby. They chuck them off the scaffolding onto the ground and we watch them break in slow motion. I always liked this promo, because it gave the sense than somebody was going to get really hurt.

Scaffold Match: The Midnight Express vs. The Road Warriors

The thing that drives a scaffold match isn’t what actually happens in the match, but rather how the fans feel about what’s happening. Can they identify with it? Anybody who is afraid of heights could very well be terrified of the result of such a match. The problem with this style of match is that everything is just so damn slow. From the start as they make their way up it takes an eternity, but the point isn’t to hustle and work a fast match, it’s about setting the tone of fear.

Once everybody finally gets up onto the scaffold, they punch and kick and throw powder a bunch until The Midnight Express get tired of fighting up there and try to escape. The try and get down but are caught by the Road Warriors who one both ends force Condrey and Eaton to work go back to the playground and monkey their way across the underside of the scaffolding until first Condrey, then Eaton are kicked until they fall, giving the Road Warriors the win. Sure, they didn’t fall as far since they were hanging, but that’s still quite a ways to fall onto something solid. After the match Paul Ellering chases Cornette up the scaffold where he meets Road Warrior Animal. Cornette tries to escape, but is forced to crawl to the underside of the scaffold and hang. In a desperate move, Cornette lets go and lands in the ring. The fall legitimately hurt Cornette’s knee, an injury that still effects him today. Not exactly amazing, but it is the first of its kind on a major stage and it’s certainly a curiosity worth seeing if you haven’t. I don’t recommend repeated viewings, but it was entertaining enough.

Winners: The Road Warriors
Match Rating: **¼

World Heavyweight Championship: Ric Flair © vs. Nikita Koloff

When Magnum T.A. was injured and they needed somebody to take his place as the main baby face to take on Flair at Starrcade they were left with a dilemma. Nikita Koloff was a much hated Russian and the U.S. and Russia were still in the middle of the Cold War. In a brilliant and risky move, Dusty Rhodes designed a storyline around Koloff’s heartbreak over the injury of Magnum T.A. This was huge as Magnum and Nikita had just had an extremely heated feud over the U.S. title a couple months prior, culminating in the legendary Best of Seven Series. When Magnum was injured, Nikita was upset and said he had respect for Magnum and wanted to replace him for the match with Flair, which of course turned him into an instant baby face. Flair had won the title from Dusty Rhodes during the Great American Bash, just a couple weeks after having lost it to him.

Koloff is the U.S. champ here. In a moment of unusual couth, Flair utters the words, “You’re gonna get your butt kicked, son of a gun,” to Koloff. These mild words sounded so wrong coming from Flair. Nikita no sells a lot, but that isn’t surprising at all. Flair is the opportunist and uses the scaffolding since it can’t exactly be viewed as a weapon, and Nikita actually sells that. It’s not your typical Flair match as it involved mostly brawling with a little bit of Flair’s trademark style thrown in. Koloff and Flair shove the referee & he DQ’s them both. After the match is over, they continue to brawl and the dressing room empties to pull them apart. Strange ending to the main event of the biggest show of the year. I guess the reasoning must have been that they weren’t ready for Koloff to have the title, but they also didn’t want to bury him in any way. The match could have been much better. It seemed like Flair was accommodating Koloff’s style too much and it hurt what could have been a very good match.

Winner: Double DQ
Match Rating: **¾

The 411: Starrcade ‘86 isn’t exactly the greatest show, but it has its moments. The Tag Title match and the Scaffold match are interesting, and the former is an absolute must-see. While it lacks quality, it’s still Starrcade and worth checking out for historical reasons. If you aren’t into wrestling history, you may want to pass on this one and just hunt down that Tag Title match, you won‘t be sorry.
Final Score:  6.0   [ Average ]  legend

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Matt Adamson

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