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NWA Chi-Town Rumble ’89 (2.20.1989) Review

March 24, 2019 | Posted by Adam Nedeff
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NWA Chi-Town Rumble ’89 (2.20.1989) Review  

-It’s February 20, 1989, LIVE on pay-per-view.

-We’re in Chicago, hey duh.

-WWE Network uses their Mid-South Wrestling theme music for the opening this show, which is a weird visual after you’ve gotten used to that music.

-Your hosts are JR and TA. Jim Ross leads off the rundown of tonight’s card by telling us we’ll see Michael Hayes vs. Russian Assassin #2.

-We open with a video montage of all the stars we’re going to see tonight at Chi-Town Rumble. We already bought the show, dude, just go to the ring.

-Bob Caudle is backstage with Michael PS Hayes, who is pimping the entire card aside from his own match, trying to get us excited about the fact that tonight’s card will have four title matches. Does this company get how pay-per-view works? We bought the show, dammit! You made the sale, you’re done.


-This is the end of the line for Paul Jones after a ridiculous six-year run of being made to look like the most ineffectual manager in wrestling. Absolutely every one of his charges eventually quit on him, usually in mid-feud, and Paul re-invented his look from fancy tuxedo man to Yosemite Sam to district regional manager in charge of accounts receivable in the process.

-Side headlocks and punches to start. Atomic drop by #2, but Hayes no-sells and clotheslines him down. Axehandles get a two-count. He goes to the arm and a sunset flip gets two. Hayes goes back to the arm. #2 breaks it with a bot and an elbow. He sends Hayes out to the floor, but Hayes lands on his feet and sprints back in, going back to work on the arm. #2 sends Hayes into the ropes and meets him with a knee. #2 chokes him out and JR explains that it could be a problem because oxygen is the fuel that athletes depend on to keep going. Okay, there are some moves and bits of psychology in pro wrestling that really depend on commentators to explain and sell them effectively. I don’t think there’s a viewer out there who needs an explanation of why breathing is important.

-#2 clotheslines Hayes as we get the ten-minute alert from Gary Michael Capetta. Chinlock by #2, but Hayes elbows out. #2 goes after the back, but Hayes gets fired up, ramming #2 into the turnbuckles and signaling for the bulldog, but #2 puts on the breaks and heaves Hayes across the ring. Corner charge misses and Hayes lights into #2 with right hands. #2 makes a last ditch effort, sending Hayes into the ropes for a backdrop, but Hayes turns it into a DDT for 3. 0 for 1. Why in god’s name would you book these two to go 16 minutes?

-Bob Caudle talks to Ricky Steamboat, who says he draws strength from the family unit. He concludes by assuring us that he’s not OJ Simpson, a line that would have totally different context five years later.

STING vs. HACKSAW BUTCH REED (with Hiro Matsuda)

-Atomic drop right away by the Stinger. They lock up as JR sees his opening and whips out “We wrestle!” for the first time tonight. Attempted hiptoss by Reed is blocked and Sting dropkicks him out to the floor. Back in, Sting applies a side headlock and wrenches it. JR gets a little shot in, mentioning that Sting got his start in tag team wrestling but has surpassed his partner in ability, never even mentioning the partner.

-Armbar by Sting. Reed breaks and tries a corner charge, but Reed hits the corner elbow-first and Sting goes back to the arm. Crowd enthusiasm for this one is starting to wane a bit. Reed elbows free and throws Sting through the ropes and out to the floor. Reed chokes Sting out and JR again takes a moment to explain that professional wrestlers are athletes who depend on oxygen to avoid dying. Reed drops Sting throat-first on the top rope, as JR notes that Reed is focusing on “the oxygen factor.” WHO THE HELL TALKS LIKE THIS?

-Reed distracts the referee while Matsuda works the neck over. Reed applies a chinlock. Sting begins to “fight back up to a vertical base,” or stand up to the layman. I feel like JR is feeling a weird sense of pressure about being dubbed head commentator for the company, because he’s using the most bizarre, highfalutin vocabulary on commentary tonight and it’s like a hillbilly version of John Charles Daly is calling the matches.

-By the time I finish that tangent, Reed is still applying the chinlock, so the director amuses himself the only way he knows how and treats us to a crowd shot, and he winds up finding a fan in a Hulkamania t-shirt. This director always had the worst fucking luck with t-shirts in crowd shots.

-Sting finally gets free and slams Reed. Vader bomb by Sting meets a pair of raised knees and Sting is winded. Reed goes for a flying clothesline but misses and I feel like there was a miscommunication there. Reed takes over again, and a neckbreaker gets two. Back to the chinlock, but Sting gets free and connects with a clothesline. Big elbow by Sting. Reed desperately throws Sting to the floor. They battle for a sunset flip and Teddy Long catches Reed grabbing a rope for leverage, so he smacks the arm off and Sting rolls him up for three. 0 for 2. TWENTY-ONE MINUTES! GOOD GOD! No issue, no stakes, one hell of a chinlock.

-Bob Caudle talks to Paul E. Dangerously, who reveals that he’s switched out Dennis Condrey for Jack Victory because logically, Jim Cornette can’t plot a strategy as effective as he was plotting for the guy he used to manage. That’s a pretty nice cover story to explain Dennis Condrey’s departure. This was pretty funny–George Scott didn’t care for Randy Rose, so the plan was for Randy Rose to lose this match, and therefore leave town, with Dennis Condrey being paired up with another tag team partner and continuing the feud with this new team. Condrey considered this bullshit because it ruined the entire selling point of the feud. He and Randy Rose truly were the ORIGINAL Midnight Express, now battling the better-known team with that name. That’s inherently more interesting than Midnights vs. Dennis and some other guy. So Dennis quit.


-Only the loser of the fall has to leave.

-Stan Lane and Randy Rose trade hammerlocks. Rose throws forearms and slams Lane down, but he gets slammed off the top rope and Lane clotheslines him out to the floor. Jack Victory tags in and gets triple-teamed, with Lane holding him in a drop toehold for Eaton and Cornette to drop elbows. Tommy Young jumps up to the second rope to get out of the way of a bump by Victory, which is a fun visual that you never see from the referees before or since. Randy Rose comes in and takes a right hand from Cornette. Rose tries to retaliate by setting up for a double-team with Paul E., but Paul accidentally punches his own man and the match comes to a halt as Paul begs Randy for forgiveness.

-Cornette tags in and begs for Paul E. to tag in. He gets caught in the ring and slammed by Rose, and THEN Paul happily tags in and stomps on Cornette. Right hand by Paul gets two. Paul goes to the eyes and tags in Jack Victory. Victory just lays into Cornette with hard punches until the Midnights rescue their manager. Cornette manages to tag out and Stan Lane takes control until getting distracted by Paul E. Dangerously. Rose takes advantage with a powerslam for two. Piledriver is countered by a backdrop and Lane tags Eaton. Eaton connects with a missile dropkick on Jack Victory, then shoves him into Paul E., causing him to make the tag by accident. Once Paul is in the ring, Eaton tags Cornette and the crowd absolutely bursts.

-Cornette beats on Paul E, but when he goes for a pin, Rose breaks the pin with an elbow. Cornette is damn near dead because he’s not a wrestler and can’t even absorb that blow, but he tags out to Stan and we gradually end up with all six guys in the ring. In the midst of it, Randy Rose gets flapjacked, and Jim Cornette holds onto Paul E’s ankle to prevent him from breaking the pin. Stan Lane gets the three-count, and Randy Rose is out of the NWA. 1 for 3. Even with the monkey wrench thrown into this match by real life, they found a story to tell with it and made it work all the way through.

-Ric Flair talks a big game. He’s wrestled everybody in every city on Earth, so what does he have to worry about if he’s wrestling Ricky Steamboat in Chicago?

TV TITLE: RICK STEINER (Champion, with some beefy guy at ringside) vs. MIKE ROTUNDA

-The problem with Rick Steiner’s character and booking at this point was that the thrill really was in the chase. He was verbally abused and mocked by guys who said he wasn’t good enough. So Steiner stood up to them, kicked their asses, and won the TV Title. And now that he’s done all that…well, what is there to do with him? So Rick had cooled off in a big way in just two months and this match was kind of a necessary evil. Oops, spoiler alert.

-Takedown by Steiner to start. Rotunda retreats to the floor and gets distracted by the anonymous muscular guy standing in Steiner’s corner, and Magnum FINALLY bothers letting us know that’s Rick’s brother Scott at ringside to cheer him on. Steiner winds up for a devastating clothesline and Rotunda bails in a panic. Back in, Steiner applies a side headlock. Rotunda gets a handful of hair to break the hold, but Steiner hiptosses him down and follows with a clothesline. Crowd shot shows fans wearing Wrestle War ’89 t-shirts, which seems a bit suspect. Side headlock again by Steiner, but Rotunda gets free and goes to an abdominal stretch. Rotunda keeps trying to use the rope, but Scott tattles on the referee and Rick reverses the stretch and turns it into a pinning combo for two.

-They go to the mat and Rotunda gets the edge, applying an armbar. Steiner gets to his feet and turns it into a side headlock, then backdrops Rotunda for two. Rotunda fights back and sends Steiner to the floor. He sends Steiner into the post and drags him back into the ring as Jim Ross reminds us that NWA wrestlers are ATHLETES and they’ve been to college. Kevin Sullivan wanders to ringside, grabs the mic, and implies that something bad is happening to Steiner’s dog in the locker room. Steiner starts to leave ringside, which would get him counted out. JR indicates that the title can change hands on a count-out and that’s absolutely the first time we’ve been told that.

-Scott talks Rick into going back in the ring and Rotunda gives him a back suplex for two. Steiner rebounds with right hands and applies a sleeper hold, but Rotunda falls on top of him and Steiner’s dumb enough to leave his own shoulders on the mat for a three-count, and Rotunda wins the title back by virtue of Steiner pinning himself. 2 for 4. Decent match, but Sullivan’s attempted sabotage didn’t fit in at all, so it was just a weird disruption in the flow.

-Bob Caudle talks to the Road Warriors, who promise to destroy the Varsity Club, and they’re headed to the ring right now to do it!

U.S. TITLE: BARRY WINDHAM (Champion, with Hiro Matsuda) vs. LEX LUGER

-Apparently it’s a long-ass walk to the ring so we’re watching this match until the Road Warriors get there.

-They criss-cross for a bit until Luger applies a sleeper out of nowhere, but Windham breaks it with a back suplex. Luger bounces right up and gives Windham an atomic drop. Press slam follows and Windham goes out for a retreat.

-Back in, Luger clotheslines Windham all the way to Skokie and powerslams him. Luger heads to the top rope and misses a bodypress so hard that Luger propels himself to the floor. Windham suplexes him back in and goes for the claw, but Luger gets out of the way. Flying lariat by Windham and Luger rolls out to the floor.

-Windham starts targeting the eye and it looks like Luger has a slight cut. Luger ducks a right hand and Windham punches the ring post, and Windham blades his right hand to sell it. See, that’s an odd thing about blading that I never got–other parts of the body bleed, it doesn’t have to be the forehead every damn time.

-Kicks by Windham. He tries to throw punches but hurts himself with every blow. He goes for the claw but obviously it’s not as effective now. Fist fight breaks out and Windham powerslams Luger to put a stop to that. Superplex by Windham gets two. Windham tries to finish with a belly-to-back suplex, but Luger rolls his shoulder and Windham forgets to roll his up, so Windham pins himself by accident and how the hell do you put a card together and not notice you’re doing THAT finish twice in a row? Luger is the new US Champion, but Windham gets instant retribution, piledriving Luger on top of the belt. 3 for 5. Not a classic for these two but it was perfectly good.

-Mike Rotunda promises that the TV Title is staying around his waist for a long time to come.

WORLD TAG TEAM TITLES: ROAD WARRIORS (Champions, with Paul Ellering) vs. VARSITY CLUB (US Tag Team Champions)

-Animal catches Sullivan leaping off the top rope and powerslams him for two. Williams tags in and tries shoulderblocks, but Animal’s having none of it and powerslams him too. Hawk tags in and Williams just gets the hell out of there. After re-thinking his strategy, Williams manages to press slam Hawk, but Hawk springs right back up and clotheslines him. Animal gets caught in the corner and the Club works him over. They dump Animal on the floor and Sullivan drives a chair into Animal’s arm. Animal goes back in and Williams works the arm over. Sullivan double-stomps Animal and applies an armbar. Back in, Williams slams Animal and celebrates like a Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out villain, letting out a yell and staying frozen in a pose while yelling.

-Williams stays on the arm. Animal punches Williams away, but they collide on a double clothesline and Animal makes the hot tag. Pier sixer breaks out and we lose track of who the legal men are, which leads to a spot where Williams is pinning Animal and Hawk is pinning Sullivan. Teddy Long counts three, then declares the Warriors the winner. 3 for 6. Obnoxious thing: Animal made it a point to keep his shoulder up through the whole thing, even though he was going over, because god forbid we even create the illusion of jobbing.

-Bob Caudle gets an update from Lex Luger. The gist of it is “I need stitches, but fuck it, I have the belt.”

WORLD TITLE: RIC FLAIR (Champion, with Hiro Matsuda) vs. RICKY “The Dragon” STEAMBOAT

-Okay, see, here’s another reason I hate star ratings and want nothing to do with them. If I were to give this less than five stars, I’d get a world of shit for being insane and underrating this match. If I give it five stars, then I add nothing new to the discussion. I remember a reader complaining once about my recap of Wrestlemania III because it was nothing that he hadn’t already read a million times, and honestly, that reader was right. And I already know this is going to be the same thing.

-Steamboat shoulderblocks Flair immediately for a two-count instantly. Flair tries to go for a criss-cross but Steamboat fakes him out and turns it into a side headlock. Flair breaks it but gets rolled up for two, and Flair gets out of there, looking irked. Back in, they trade chops and Flair gets whipped and backdropped. Flair tries a hammerlock but Steamboat gets free and goes to a side headlock. Flair uses a handful of tights to get a series of two-counts. Flair backs him into the corner and they have another chop battle, with Steamboat getting the upper hand and a two-count. Flair goes for a walk before reluctantly heading back. Flair shoulderblocks Steamboat but runs into another hard chop and ends up on the floor.

-Back in, Flair demands a test of strength, then loses his nerve and demands that Steamboat try something else. Steamboat ends up hiptossing him and following with a flying headscissors and a dropkick. Steamboat applies a side headlock. Flair goes off the ropes and elbows him down, but Steamboat gets back up and chops Flair over the top rope. The fight goes to the floor, and Flair chops Steamboat so hard right in front of Dave Meltzer in the front row, and Meltzer just marks the fuck out for it. Flair sends Steamboat into the barricade, again in front of Meltzer, as JR suddenly brings up all the members of the wrestling press who are in attendance tonight.

-Back in the ring, Flair chops and punches Steamboat. Steamboat whips Flair. Flair flips and bolts to the top rope, bodypressing Steamboat, who rolls through and cradles Flair…for two. Chicago was sure that was the finish. Flair applies the figure four as the crowd chants “Steamboat” because Steamboat’s a great wrestler and that’s all that matters. Steamboat fights for his life while Flair holds onto the ropes for leverage, but he gets really sloppy about how blatantly he’s cheating and Tommy Young catches him and forces a break. They trade chops again. Bodypress by Flair sends both men tumbling over the top and onto the floor.

-Flair sends Steamboat into the post and suplexes him back in for two. Back suplex by Flair gets another two. Flair gets into an argument with Tommy Young and Tommy stops just short of giving him the finger. Tommy’s not in the mood tonight and he lets Flair know it. Flair goes for the pin again, with both feet on the ropes, but Steamboat manages to kick out again and again to Flair’s mounting frustration. Steamboat goes to the second rope for a bodypress for two. Backslide goes Steamboat’s way for two. More chopping. Steamboat gets sent to the corner but clotheslines Flair down and chops him between the eyes. Steamboat heads to the top and chops Flair right on the skull. He heads to the top again, but Flair uses Tommy Young as a human shield and we are without a referee.

-Flair rolls up Steamoat for a visual three but obviously there’s no referee. Teddy Long hustles down there as Ric Flair throws Steamboat over the top rope. Steamboat hangs on and jumps to the top rope. Bodypress misses, but when Flair goes for the figure four, Steamboat turns it into a small package and gets the three-count. And then, in the best moment ever, Flair and Matsuda tell Tommy Young what happened and insist that Tommy Young change the decision to a DQ loss for Flair, and Tommy Young is just so fed up with Flair that he raises Steamboat’s hand out of spite and allows the decision to stand. Fuck Dusty. 4 for 7. There, it gets the long-coveted point from Adam Nedeff. May I move on with my life now?

-Bob Caudle talks to Ricky Steamboat in the dressing room, and he ends up in a champagne shower from the rest of the faces.

-JR and Magnum TA finish up while Kendall Windham and Steve Casey lock up in the ring. Okay, so this is a funny story. The show was pretty much done for at the 2:45 mark, but because the NWA had reserved three hours of satellite time, they went ahead and threw another match out there to run out the clock just in case some pay-per-view company cared badly enough to insist on a full three hours of content. But then everybody running the show literally FORGOT this match was happening, so when the three-hour mark hit, nobody was around to give a go-home signal, and Kendall and Casey ended up working a 25-minute-long match.

The final score: review Average
The 411
As a whole, I liked the show but didn't love it. The Midnights match and the main event delivered and the rest of the show was what it was.

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Adam Nedeff