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Leighty’s Retro Review: NWA WrestleWar ’89 – Music City Showdown

February 26, 2024 | Posted by Robert Leighty Jr.
NWA WrestleWar 89 Ric Flair Ricky Steamboat Image Credit: NWA
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Leighty’s Retro Review: NWA WrestleWar ’89 – Music City Showdown  

-We continue along with 1989 and the last of the Flair/Steamboat Trilogy. Up next will be Clash of The Champions from June as the WWF doesn’t have as how until Saturday Night’s Main Event in July. Let’s get to it!

-Announce Team: Jim Ross and Bob Caudle
-Nashville Municipal Auditorium, Nashville, TN
-May 7, 1989
-Attendance: 5200
-PPV Buys: 120,000

-The Oak Ridge Boys sing the National Anthem!

The Great Muta (w/ Gary Hart) vs. Doug Gilbert

-The graphic on the card rundown had this as Muta vs. JYD, but Gilbert is filling in here. I believe Dog was fired from the various things I have read and have been shared over the years. Muta is still undefeated and he catches Gilbert running in with a kick to the chest. He awes the crowd with The Green Mist in the air and then hits a spinning kick on Gilbert. To the floor and Gilbert gets sent into the post. Back in the ring Gilbert ducks a kick and gets a body press. He hits a clothesline that sends Muta to the floor. Back in the ring and Muta throws a kick to keep Gilbert at a distance. Muta goes to the eyes and drops the snap elbow. Handspring elbow in the corner which was one of the coolest things I had seen as a seven-year-old wrestling fan. Backbreaker from Muta and he heads up for the moonsault. Gilbert avoids, so Muta lands on his feet and sends Gilbert to the floor. Slingshot plancha which mesmerized the fans in Tennessee and then once back in the ring, Muta gets another backbreaker and The Moonsault gets the pin at 3:03.

Winner: The Great Muta via pin at 3:03
-Muta’s awesomeness even in a 3 minute SQUASH deserves two stars. **

-Ric Flair cuts a promo backstage and he has to be on his best. He calls Steamboat the greatest wrestler on the planet, but today he has to beat Ric Flair one more time. He will kiss Steamboat’s boots if he can do it. Probably should ask the boots’ permission first.

”Hacksaw” Butch Reed vs. Ranger Ross

-I am getting kind of full of Butch Reed matches at this point. I am sure I have at some point, but I don’t remember ever seeing a Ranger Ross match. JR is quick to mention Reed’s football background. Thanks for bringing up football Jim as I am still not over The Super Bowl. Stupid punt! Go Niners any way as we have next year! Ross gets a side headlock and takes Reed to the mat. Reed up and sends Ross into the ropes and they collide. Neither man budges so Ross hits the ropes again and ends up getting a hip-toss. He goes back to the side headlock as we learn Reed was also a steer wrestler. Since he mentioned it, Go Cows! Reed comes out of the corner with a clothesline and the crowd is pissed. Oh, wait, they are booing Teddy Long, who has a visitor’s pass after being fired, and is scouting Butch Reed. I’m sure that doesn’t go anywhere and ends up being DOOM for Long. Reed drops a series of elbows and gets a two count. Now Reed hooks a reverse chinlock and puts his foot on the ropes for extra leverage. Man, the crowd doesn’t even get on the ref’s case about the blatant cheating and this is a Tennessee crowd. Finally, a child yells, “his foot is on the ropes,” but the ref is apparently deaf as well. Reed eventually gets caught and is forced to break. Reed misses a clothesline and Ross gets a take down. He throws some chops and hits a pair of dropkicks. Ross leaps over the ropes which looked cool, but he didn’t hit a move. Had he dove on Reed I would have popped! Reed in the ring first and he brings Ross back in with a suplex. Reed heads up top and hits the flying shoulder for the pin at 6:58.

Winner: “Hacksaw” Butch Reed via pin at 6:58
-This was quite boring and the crowd reacted as such. Not a good sign when you can’t get heat in Tennessee cheating. *

-Lex Luger, our US Champion, cuts a promo backstage to hype his match with Michael Hayes. Luger tells Hayes this is his chance to show everyone he can win on his own. The Title means everything to Luger and he tells Hayes to bring everything he has.

Bull Rope Match: Dick Murdoch vs. Bob Orton (w/ Gary Hart)

-Dude called Captain Redneck is cheered wildly in Tennessee. Good timing for me to review this show as we just came off Cody/Nakamura Bull Rope Match on RAW a few weeks back. Orton looks weird to me without the cast. Murdoch gets in the first kick and starts firing away with right hands. He swings with the bell, but Orton ducks and gets in a kick. He drags Murdoch to the floor and they brawl out there for a bit. Orton tries to run, but bounces back. Murdoch heads back in and uses the rope to pull Orton into the post. He lands a few shots with the bell, but Orton fires back with an elbow. He gets the bell and gets a few shots with it to the back of the head. Another shot to the head and some stomping from Orton gets two. Murdoch removes his cowboy boot and blasts Orton in the head. Another shot as this is anything goes! Murdoch uses the boot as a boxing glove and then swings it like a bat to get another two count. Orton returns fire and gets another elbow to the head. He heads up top, but Murdoch yanks him down. He uses the rope to hogtie Orton and after a couple elbows gets the pin at 5:00.

Winner: Dick Murdoch via pin at 5:00
-Better than the previous match and I can appreciate it was just a fight before the finish. *1/2

-Hart attacks after the match and Orton joins in before using the rope to hang Murdoch off the apron. The ref gets kicked in the head which brings out another ref and they are finally able to save Murdoch.

-Michael Hayes promo!

The Samoan Swat Team (w/ Paul E Dangerously) vs. The Dynamic Dudes

-Oh man, all kinds of stuff here with Shane Douglas being on The Dudes and being The Franchise in Paul’s ECW years later. Johnny Ace now being part of the WWE/Vince McMahon lawsuit. Also, Paul managing The OG Bloodline decades before it got that name as Fatu is the father of The Usos and Solo. The way things weave in and out with wrestling history is pretty crazy sometimes. The Dudes apparently like to do all the things young kids like to do like skateboard and surf. Funny enough, I did neither as an 8-year-old at that time. I was all about Nintendo, watching pro-wresting, and playing with Ninja Turtles. Fatu starts with Johnny, who tries to attack the head which never works on a Samoan. Johnny gets a slam and makes the tag to Shane. He confuses the Samoan and gets a standing dropkick. Samu gets the tag and lands a heavy chop. Clothesline misses and Shane gets a head scissors take down. Tag to Johnny and he comes off the top rope with a double axe. Back to Shane who works the arm and back to Johnny. Blind tag by Fatu and he catches Johnny with a super kick. Clothesline from Fatu snuffs out a hip-toss attempt and tag made back to Samu. Another heavy, loud chop from Samu! I approve! Samu gets a leg whip and then we get some double team as Dangerously distracts the ref. Reverse back kick from Samu and he follows with a neck crank. Fatu back in off the top with a right hand and he chokes away on the mat. He works a chinlock as JR plugs what’s still to come on this show. Johnny reverses a whip and gets a backdrop, but whiffs on a dropkick. Samu back in and he lands some chops to the face. Samu accidentally decks his partner, but these are Samoans and they enjoy punching each other in the face. Sidewalk slam from Samu gets two! Double headbutt and then Johnny gets caught with a power slam from Fatu for two. Eye rake and Shane eats a right hand on the apron for good measure. That draws him into the ring and The SST double team Johnny. Samu ducks too early on a backdrop which lets Johnny plant him face first on the mat. That was weird as you would think a Samoan wouldn’t sell that, but he does and Johnny nearly gets a tag. For some reason Dangerously gets on the mic and tells Johnny he is as useless as a woman from Nashville. Hot tag made to Shane and he runs wild with a series of dropkicks. Fatu rips his head off with a clothesline and then comes off the top with a splash for two as Johnny makes the save. Fatu tries a slam, but Johnny comes off the top with a dropkick and Shane falls back for the upset pin at 11:00. It really looked like Fatu kicked out at two, but I guess not. Bigger crowd pop for the win that I expected as well.

Winners: The Dynamic Dudes via pin at 11:00
-This was just a standard tag match and nothing more which is fine. They followed the tried and true formula as they built to the hot tag and went home not long after. **1/2

-We head backstage to meet the three judges assigned to Flair/Steamboat III. The judges: Lou Thesz, Pat O’Connor, and Terry Funk.

NWA United States Championship: Lex Luger (c) vs. Michael PS Hayes (w/ Hiro Matsuda)

-The crowd is all over Hayes to start, so he stalls a bunch to really get them annoyed. Lockup and Hayes cowers in the corner as Nick Patrick separates the two men which also annoys the crowd. JR notes these two were partners until Hayes turned on Luger. Hayes hooks a side headlock, and gets a crossbody, but Luger is out at one. Another side headlock from Hayes and he avoids a slam by getting a weak looking side Russian Leg Sweep. Teddy Long is at ringside to scout some more. Not sure, but my guess is he is writing about Tag Matches being the future of the industry. Hayes stalls some more and draws big boos from the crowd. Hayes with an elbow to the back of the head and he starts bouncing Luger off the top buckle. Leaping lariat from Hayes! Luger falls back to avoid the DDT, so Hayes bails to the floor again. He stalls more as the crowd starts a Luger chant. Lockup and Luger grabs an arm and transitions into an armbar. Hayes escapes and tries a sunset flip, but Luger just punches him in the face. Armdrag from Luger into an armbar. Luger misses an elbow, but catches Hayes trying a cross-body and slams him down for a two count. Back to the armbar! Hayes backs Luger into the corner and fires off some chops. Running clothesline to the other corner, but it has no effect on Luger. He gets an elevated double choke and pounds away in the corner. Luger misses another clothesline and goes flying over the top to the floor. Luger gets run into the post and goes flopping like a fish. Suplex brings Luger back into the ring and that gets a two count. Hayes hooks a side headlock as the crowd starts a Luger chant. Hayes lands a short right hand and gets a bulldog for two. He goes for another pin and it’s another two. Back to the reverse chinlock from Hayes. Hayes goes to the eyes and sends Luger to the floor. Matsuda rams Luger into the railing. Didn’t Matusda train Luger? I know he trained Hogan. Back in the ring Hayes gets an elbow for two and then another two and then another two. I always appreciate guys going for repeated covers as the goal is to win the match. Back to the reverse chinlock and Hayes informs the crowd, “I got him now.” Luger starts to rally and gets to his feet and punches his way out. Luger blocks a trip into the buckle and rams Hayes into it instead. Thumb to the eye saves Hayes. He goes for another bulldog, but Luger shoves off. The crowd loves Luger! Hip-toss sends Hayes flying and a clothesline gets a two count. Military Press Slam from Luger! Another one and then one more as he teases throwing Hayes to the floor. Hayes slides off a Torture Rack attempt and plants Luger with a DDT. They start trading blows and the ref gets bumped in the process. They collide heads which knocks Luger down. Hayes is out but is up against the ropes and that brings out Terry Gordy who pushes Hayes over and on top of Luger for the upset pin at 16:28.

Winner and New NWA United States Champion: Michael Hayes via pin at 16:28
-They worked hard, but this was longer than it needed to be. Hayes can talk and has all kinds of charisma, but I never found myself getting invested in any of his matches as a kid or even looking back now. **1/2

-Sting promo that is full of energy and not much else, but that’s all he needed at this point.

NWA World Television Championship: Sting vs. The Iron Sheik (w/ Rip Morgan(

-Sheik wants it made known that he is a former World Champion. I’m sure Sheik’s Title Loss wasn’t industry changing or anything. Morgan hits Sting with the Iranian Flag before the bell and Sheik starts choking with his robe. Sting starts no selling and unloads with right hands. He chokes Sheik with the robe and then gets a clothesline. He tries to smother Sheik with the robe and then they try to have a wrestling match with a lockup out of nowhere. Suplex from Sheik, but Sting us out at two. Clothesline, but Sting is back with a Stinger Splash in the corner. Scorpion Deathlock finishes at 2:08.

Winner and Still NWA World Television Champion: Sting via submission at 2:08
-It was a SQUASH and not a really good one. SQUASH

-Ricky Steamboat with some words before his upcoming match. He calls this match the most important of his career. The judges are there to eliminate any controversy if needed. No excuses tonight!

NWA World Title: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (c) vs. Ric Flair

-As mentioned earlier we have three judges at ringside in case this goes to a 60 minute time limit. Flair has 40 women with him for his entrance. That seems a tad excessive! Not to be outdone Steamboat comes out with his son and wife. The Little Dragon is riding a pony to the ring. Flair being introduced as a 5 Time World Champion is weird. Lockup to start and Flair backs Steamboat into the ropes, but offers a clean break. Another go and Dragon gets an arm drag, but Flair struts as he is still confident. Another lockup and Flair gets a side headlock. Flair runs Dragon down, but gets caught with a hip-toss and then an armdrag. They start trading slaps to the face and Dragon gets the better of that exchange as Flair falls on his ass. Lockup again and this time Flair doesn’t offer a clean break in the corner. Loud chop from Flair pops the crowd. Dragon responds with his own chops and they start trading leather. Heavy chop nearly sends Dragon over the top and to the floor. Dragon back with more chops and he gets a backdrop out of the corner. Flair rolls to the floor to stop the momentum. Back in the ring Flair gets a side headlock. Steamboat breaks and gets a wrist lock. They fight over that as it becomes a test of strength. Steamboat takes Flair to the mat and transitions to an armbar. Dragon drops a series of knees to the shoulder as Flair yells out for God. Dragon with another shoulder tackle and another armdrag as we are past the five minute mark. Hammerlock from Steamboat, but Flair counters with a drop toe hold which Steamboat counters back into a hammerlock. Sweet! Steamboat turns Flair over and gets a one count. Chop from Flair and another and another and another. Steamboat slides between Flair’s legs and drops Flair back to the mat and hooks another hammerlock. Flair is able to get Dragon in the corner and delivers a cheap shot. CHOP! Right hand from Flair followed by some body blows and rabbit punches. CHOP from Steamboat. How about four more and Flair Flops! Steamboat goes back to the arm as we see the judges taking notes at ringside. Flair is able to get Steamboat on his shoulders and carries him to the corner. Steamboat leaps over Flair and then throws some chops followed by a dropkick that sends Flair to the floor. We have hit the ten minute mark as Flair regroups on the floor. Steamboat has controlled this one, so he should be ahead with the judges. Back in the ring Dragon goes back to the armdrag and right back to control of the arm. Flair shoves off, but Dragon gets a shoulder tackle. Flair then catches him with a hip-toss. Elbow misses and Dragon right back to the armdrag. To the corner and Flair buries a shoulder to the ribs. The judges give their 15 minute notes to Jim Ross (only been 13 minutes) and they all have Steamboat ahead on points. Chops from Flair! Dragon returns fire, so Flair goes to the eyes. He pitches Steamboat to the floor, but Dragon is right back in and pissed. He pounds away on Flair in the corner. Flair upside down and stuck in the Tree of Woe. Dragon stomps and gets another tackle. Flair sends Steamboat over the top to the floor and apparently no DQ as the ref rules that was momentum. Flair follows out and fires off a chop that sends Steamboat over the railing and into the front row. Another chop and an elbow as the fans encourage the Dragon. Flair doesn’t want a count-out though and heads back out. They chop the crap out of each other and Dragon gives chase as he seems pissed. He comes off the top with a chop to the head. Flair Flip in the corner and Dragon catches Flair with a clothesline on the apron. Snapmare by Dragon and back to the armbar. Dragon just buries his shin on the bicep which would probably suck. Dragon tries a crossbody, but Flair drops down and Dragon lands on the ropes and falls to the floor. Elbow to the head from Flair and another chop. He uses the rope to sling Dragon back into the ring and drops a knee to the head. CHOP! CHOP! Right Hand! Flair yells for a fan at ringside to keep their mouth shut. More trading of chops! Flair with a belly to back suplex for two. Another two count! Another two count as we are just past the 20 minute mark. Flair continues to try to hold Steamboat down, but Dragon is out at two each time. Flair drops a knee to the head and gives us a WOOO. The Flair fans are alive now! Double under-hook suplex from Flair gets a two count. Elbow drop gets another two. Flair bitches at Tommy Young about the count. CHOP! Dragon ducks a clothesline and leaps at Flair, but gets dropped on the top rope with a stun gun. No count though as Dragon is under the ropes. Flair makes sure to put his shin on Dragon’s trachea as the ref yells at him. Terrific! Suplex on the floor from Flair as the latest judges votes have it 2-1 Flair this time. According to Ross that means Steamboat is up 4-2. Back in the ring Dragon rallies and gets a suplex for two. Flair jumps at Steamboat and they both topple over the top to the floor as they tease a double count-out. If it ends in a DCO then we go to the judge’s decision. Flair is up first and decides to head up, but Dragon catches him and tosses him down with a slam. We have hit the 25 minute mark as the crowd is going crazy now. CHOP from Steamboat! He lands a bunch of chops to the head and another backdrop. Flair begs off and catches Dragon coming in. Dragon flips out of a suplex and gets a roll-up for two. He sets Flair on the top and CHOP! Superplex brings Flair down as he starts screaming in pain. Double Arm Chicken Wing is attempted, but Flair is close enough to get his feet in the ropes. Flair sent into the buckle and Dragon heads up. Karate chop hits the mark! Up again, but Flair falls into the ropes which throws Dragon off balance. He falls to the floor and is now grabbing his knee. Ross notes he has never seen anyone fall that far from the top. Mick Foley: Hold My Beer! Flair goes after the knee and gets a suplex. Back to the knee as he is preparing for The Figure Four. He is able to lock it in and the crowd is losing it. We hit the 30 minute mark with Dragon fighting to survive the Figure Four. He gets to the ropes, but Flair kicks at the knee and fires off more chops. Dragon throws some chops, but doesn’t have much behind them. Steamboat with an enziguiri which pops the crowd. Slam is countered by Flair into a cradle for the pin at 31:37. Yep, he beat Steamboat in the same manner, Steamboat beat Savage at WrestleMania III.

Winner: Ric Flair via pin at 31:37
-Awesome match as we all know at this point. The last 10 minutes was just breathtaking stuff. I think I still like The Clash match better but we are splitting hairs here. The chops were flying and they were working here. I love the finish as a call back to Mania III as well. *****

-Steamboat shakes Flair’s hand after the match like he said he would and waves to the crowd as he leaves the ring.

-Jim Ross gets in the ring for an interview with Flair and he puts over Steamboat. Terry Funk leaves the judges table and he congratulates Flair on the win. He says he would have voted for Flair and calls him the greatest wrestler in the world today. Funk also throws out a challenge to Flair. Flair mentions Funk has been inactive in Hollywood and needs to earn his spot in The Top 10. That’s not the answer Funk wanted to hear and Flair explains again that Funk isn’t in the Top 10. Funk was just kidding and goes to take his leave, but then suck punches Flair in the face. YEAH! Funk beats the dog piss out of Flair and throws him over the railing. Then in a moment that terrified me as a kid, Funk hits a piledriver on the judge’s table. It doesn’t look as impressive today, but doesn’t matter as Flair sold it like death and this table didn’t break. Funk hits the lifeless Flair with a steel chair and gets booed out of the building while he threatens to fight the fans. Just amazing stuff and now Funk is the biggest heel in the company and Flair is beloved.

-I assume they wanted to send the crowd home on a happier note, but how do you follow that match and angle?

NWA World Tag Team Titles: The Varsity Club (Mike Rotunda and Dr. Death Steve Williams) vs. The Road Warriors (w/ Paul Ellering)

-Warriors jump Varsity Club as soon as they hit the ring. The fight is on as VC heads back in the ring, but they get smoked again and bail to the floor. It should be mentioned that Nikita Koloff is the special ref for this match. We start proper with Dr. Death and Animal. Sullivan tries to get involved, so Koloff ejects him from ringside to pop the crowd. Williams and Animal have a HOSS fight while Nikita throws around his weight as the ref you can’t bully. Rotunda in and he connects with a dropkick. He heads up top and Animal catches him on the way down with a power slam. Clothesline gets a two count. Hawk gets the tag as does Dr. Death. Doc throws right hands, but misses a clothesline. He gets a slam, but misses an elbow. Hawk with a slam and he drops a right hand to the face. Williams bails to the floor, so Hawk comes off the apron with a clothesline. That was sick! Hawk tries another clothesline, but Doc ducks and Hawk clotheslines the post. That had to suck! Rotunda runs the shoulder into the post for good measure. Doc wraps the arm around the metal guard rail to continue the damage. Back in the ring it’s a double clothesline so each man tags out. Animal runs wild with a backdrop and then a flying shoulder tackle for two. Hawk back in as all four men brawl in the ring. Rotunda misses a clothesline and ends up on the floor. Double clothesline from The Warriors. Doomsday Device connects, but Spivey and Sullivan pull Koloff out of the ring to break the count. Back in the ring Animal gets caught with a double shoulder. Bodies are everywhere as things break down. Doc eats a big boot and we finally get a bell at 6:10.

Winners: The Road Warriors via DQ at 6:10
-This was a fun brawl until the crappy ending. It was kept short and they hit each other hard and the crowd loved it. Warriors just had crazy star appeal and as a kid they seemed like the baddest dudes on the planet. ***

NWA US Tag Titles: Eddie Gilbert and Rick Steiner (w/ Missy Hyatt) vs. The Varsity Club (Dan Spivey and Kevin Sullivan)

-As a Miss Elizabeth fan, I take issue with Missy being called the First Lady of Professional Wrestling. All due respect to Missy, but there’s only one first lady and that’s Liz! Sullivan punches Gilbert in the face as the introductions are still being made. Everyone hits the floor and starts brawling as Sullivan was a man ahead of his time with these wild tag brawls. Spivey runs Steiner’s shoulder into the post and then gets a shoulder breaker. That takes him out of the match for a but as Gilbert and Sullivan repeatedly punch each other in the face. Sullivan gets a boot up to block a charge as we settle into a standard tag match. Missy and Gilbert check on Steiner as he is still in his varsity jacket as he sells the shoulder. Gilbert eats a right hand from Spivey as Sullivan decks Steiner on the floor. Spivey goes to the eyes and Gilbert goes back to check on Steiner. Spivey gives chase and everyone starts brawling on the floor again. Steiner gets sent shoulder first into the post again. Gilbert gets sent into the buckle and the tag is made to Sullivan. JR tells us we will get a ruling from The Board about The World Tag Titles before we go off the air. Spivey back in and he lifts Gilbert off the mat with a choke and then slams him down. Dropkick from Spivey! Cool! Backbreaker from Spivey as Steiner gets to his corner. Tag back to Sullivan and he connects with a knee to the chest. He suckers Steiner into the ring so Spivey can come in illegally and drop a double axe off the middle rope. Sidewalk Slam gets a two count! Big boot from Spivey! Gilbert is taking an ass kicking here! Boot to the head from Sullivan on the apron. Modified spinebuster from Spivey and the tag is made to Sullivan. He slaps Gilbert around, who crawls through the legs to make a tag that the ref misses. Spivey comes in to get Steiner out, but he costs his team as Steiner hits a Steiner-line and Gilbert falls on top for the pin at 6:50.

Winners and Still NWA US Tag Team Champions: Gilbert and Steiner via pin at 6:50
-I appreciated the story here was The Varsity Club taking Steiner out early, so they can focus everything on Gilbert. Then Gilbert did all he could to hang on and then one mistake from Spivey let Steiner get in one shot to get the win for his team. **1/2

-Sullivan decks Steiner with a chair after the match and tries to go after Missy, but Gilbert makes the save.

-Jim Ross lets us know that The Varsity Club have been stripped of the World Tag Titles because of their attack on Koloff, who was a sanctioned referee.

-We get a replay of Funk’s piledriver on Flair on the table. Great stuff! Ross calls Funk a crazy man. No kidding!

-Thanks for reading!

The final score: review Good
The 411
Like the last PPV, FLair/Steamboat alone makes this a good show. Nothing else was great, but we had some solid to good tag matches. Some like Hayes/Luger more than me, but as always this is personal preference. FLair/Steamboat and The Funk post match angle are what this show is remembered for and for good reason.