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wrestling / Columns

The Best Of Times 2.14.08: April 1986

February 14, 2008 | Posted by Matt Adamson

I hope everybody enjoyed their Valentines Day and didn’t manage to piss off their significant other. The jury is still out with me as we have reserved this weekend for all things Valentines in order to avoid the rush and to make it easier to get a sitter. So I bring you the 5th edition of The Best Of Times, which is the first Valentine’s addition. I’ll withhold any “love” from this bad boy… this time.

If this is your first time, I should explain things before we get going. The Best of Times is a column in which I will be evaluating several wrestling promotions during a selected month from the past. I’ll take anywhere from 3-5 promotions that were thriving during the period I’m covering and go over what went down in each promotion during that month including results of big shows and major angles going on at the time. I’ll give my opinion of each and then choose the best wrestler, tag team, match, feud, show and promotion of the month. I hope to give this is slight old school kayfabe feel with a lot of modern analysis. Well, on with the show!

April 1986

April 1986 might have escaped your memory for significant news events, but I guarantee, those living in the former Soviet Union will never forget this tragic month in history. It was April 26, and in a town of 10,000 people (with nearly a million in the surrounding area) the worst nuclear accident in the history of the world occurred. It would go down in history as the Chernobyl disaster. It would devastate the area and would effect crops over thousands of miles due to nuclear fallout. 31 would die immediately from the event, and many more in later years from cancer due to radiation exposure. It became a wasteland, a ghost city, and would live in the minds of hundreds of millions for years to come. There was little good news as bombings would be occurring in several places around the world, but Roger Clemens did amaze the world breaking the single game strike out record with 20 on the 29th, a feat that is much less impressive today. Amidst all the global unrest, all of this happened in April 1986 in professional wrestling…

WWF

With the success of the first WrestleMania a year into the past, the WWF was ready to capitalize on the success of that event by running another. The popularity of Hulk Hogan was on the verge of breaking through to the mainstream media and he had a mountain of an opponent in King Kong Bundy lined up for the event. The build had been simple enough, Bundy injured Hogan’s ribs prior to the show, making the odds even greater against the Immortal one. Also, making his WrestleMania debut was Jake “The Snake” Robert, and while his match wouldn’t be too impressive, it would only be the beginning of some of the most entertaining stuff pro wrestling has ever seen. So it was set, WrestleMania II on April 7th, and taking from the idea set forth 5 months prior at Starrcade, the event would air live from 3 different locations. It was a classic way to upstage the NWA, who had only used 2 locations. Here are the results from WrestleMania II…

1. Paul Orndorf fought Don Muraco to a double count out
2. Intercontinental Championship: Randy Savage © def. George “The Animal” Steele
3. Jake “The Snake” Roberts def. George Welles
4. Boxing Match: Mr. T def. Roddy Piper by DQ
5. Women’s Championship: Fabulous Moolah © def. Velvet McIntyre
6. Flag Match: Corporal Kirchner def. Nikolai Volkoff
7. Andre The Giant won a 20 Wrestler/Football Star Battle Royal by eliminating Bret Hart
8. World Tag Team Championship: The British Bulldogs def. The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine) © to win the titles
9. Ricky Steamboat def. Hercules
10. Adrian Adonis def. Uncle Elmer
11. Terry and Hoss Funk def. Tito Santana and The Junkyard Dog
12. World Heavyweight Championship/Steel Cage Match: Hulk Hogan © def. King Kong Bundy

From the perspective of the fans the day of the event, the show was a great success, but looking back, the show missed the mark with so much filler. The experiment of airing from multiple locations was deemed a failure by the WWF, but not the NWA. The British Bulldogs vs. The Dream Team was considered one of the best matches of 1986 and a shining spot on the face of an otherwise disappointing second WrestleMania.

NWA

In April 1986, the NWA was no slouch either. Many who worked for the NWA in 1986 considered this the golden age for the promotion. The talent was heavy, from Ric Flair to Dusty Rhodes to The Rock and Roll Express to the Midnight Express. April was a transitional time for the promotion, but it was all for the better. The AWA had not come to terms with several of their wrestlers and lost The Road Warriors to the NWA, which was a huge deal for the southern promotion. They immediately got over and became one of the most popular tag teams in the world. On April 19th 1986, the NWA would show off its incredibly deep tag team roster in the first annual Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament. It would be a one night affair featuring 24 teams with 8 of the teams getting a bye to the second round. It would be the first event in a huge run of great events for the promotion, and would be live at the Superdome in New Orleans and would be in cooperation with Mid-South Wrestling. Here are the results…

1. Mid-South North American Championship: Jim Duggan def. Dick Slater
TOURNAMENT ROUND ONE
2. Wahoo McDaniel and Mark Youngblood def. Mike Miller and Bobby Jaggers
3. Sam Houston and Nelson Royal def. Bart and Brad Batten
4. The Fantastics def. The Fabulous Ones
5. The Sheepherders def. Hector and Chavo Guerrero
6. Jimmy Valiant and Manny Fernadez def. The Barbarian and Baron Von Raschke
7. Steve Williams and Terry Taylor def. Buddy Landell and Bill Dundee
8. Rick Steiner and Buzz Sawyer def. Koko B. Ware and The Italian Stallion
9. Jimmy Garvin and Black Bart def. Brett Wayne and DJ Peterson
TOURNAMENT ROUND TWO
10. The Road Warriors def. Wahoo McDaniel and Mark Youngblood
11. The Midnight Express def. Sam Houston and Nelson Royal
12. The Fantastics def. Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard
13. The Sheepherders def. The Rock and Roll Express
14. Ivan and Nikita Koloff def. Jimmy Valiant and Manny Fernandez
15. Steve Williams and Terry Taylor def. Dino Bravo and Rick Martel
16. Magnum T.A. and Ronnie Garvin def. Rick Steiner and Buzz Sawyer
17. Giant Baba and Tiger Mask def. Jimmy Garvin and Black Bart
TOURNAMENT QUARTER FINALS
18. The Road Warriors def. The Midnight Express
19. The Fantastics fought The Sheepherders to a double DQ (Road Warrior receive a bye to the finals)
20. Ivan and Nikita Koloff fought Steve Williams and Terry Taylor to a draw
21. Magnum T.A. and Ronnie Garvin def. Giant Baba and Tiger Mask to receive a bye to the finals
22. World Heavyweight Championship: Ric Flair © def. Dusty Rhodes by DQ to retain the title
23. Tournament Final: The Road Warriors def. Magnum T.A. and Ronnie Garvin to win the tournament

Twenty Three matches seems like a little much and believe me it was. In the following years that they held the tournament it would be spread over a couple days. While the event was exciting and had some great matches (though many were far too short), too few people saw the event as it was not shown on TV or closed circuit. It’s a shame that this show didn’t have a quality video release as well. It is out there, minus commentary and featuring many of the matches clipped to about 45 seconds, but hey, what can you expect trying to jam 23 matches onto a two hour tape?

AWA

Many people associate 1986 with the beginning of the end of the AWA. That wouldn’t be entirely true early in the year as the AWA featured one of the strongest rosters they ever had. It was so strong I’d say that before the AWA failed to re-sign some of them later in the month, it was the strongest roster around. While it didn’t feature that one big name to carry the company, it did have an amazing amount of talent. They would feature this talent at their biggest show of the year, WrestleRock ’86. The Road Warriors and The Freebirds as well as several other wrestlers would be featured on this show, which aired on ESPN on April 20th, but were just fulfilling contract dates before they moved on to other promotions. They would enlist the help of All japan Pro Wrestling for this stellar card and they would send their best. This would be the last great event from the AWA in front of 22,000 fans at the HHH Metrodome in Minneapolis, MN. Here are the results from that show…

1. Brad Rheingans def. Boris Zuhkov
2. Little Mr. T and Cowboy Lang def. Lord Littlebrook and Little Tokyo
3. Col. DeBeers def. Wahoo McDaniel by DQ
4. Buddy Rose and Doug Somers def. The Midnight Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty)
5. Tiger Mask (Mitsuharu Misawa) def. Buck Zumhoffe
6. Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda def. The Fabulous Ones (Steve Kiern and Stan Lane)
7. Giant Baba def. Bob Brown
8. Harley Race fought Rick Martel to a double count out
9. Sherri Martel won a Women’s Battle Royal
10. America’s Heavyweight Championship: Sgt. Slaughter © def. Kamala by DQ
11. AWA Tag Team Championship: Curt Hennig and Scott Hall © def. Scott and Bill Irwin
12. Boxing Match: Scott Ledoux def. Larry Zbyszko by DQ
13. AWA World Heavyweight Championship: Stan Hansen def. Nick Bockwinkle by DQ
14. Steel Cage Match: The Road Warrior def. The Freebirds (Garvin and Hayes)
15. Steel Cage Match: Jimmy Snuka and Greg Gagne def. Nord The Barbarian and Bruiser Brody
16. Steel Cage Match: Verne Gagne def. Sheik Adnan Al-Kassie

The show was huge, it was over 4 hours long of non-stop wrestling, and featured some of the biggest names in the business at the time. It’s sad that crowds like this would disintegrate within a few months and that this would be the last time the spotlight was really firmly on the AWA. By the end of the month even, things wouldn’t be the same, but this show would mark one of the greatest moments in the AWA during the 80’s and it needs to be seen by all.

The Best of Times: April 1986

Best Wrestler: Hulk Hogan (WWF)

In an age where heroes and villains was what drew emotion from the crowd, none were better than Hulk Hogan. Hogan doesn’t often get the credit he deserves these days, but at this point in time, in a month where no single wrestler stood out besides him, the choice was easy.

Best Tag Team: The Road Warriors (AWA, NWA)

It doesn’t get much more successful that The Road Warriors in April 1986. They won the Crockett Cup tournament and one of the main events of one of the biggest shows in AWA history. They were the top billing on the biggest show of the month for two different rival promotions. It doesn’t get much bigger than that.

Best Match: The British Bulldogs vs. The Dream Team (WWF)

Not only was this match the greatest match of April in 1986, but it very well might be one of the two or three best of the entire year. The Bulldogs and Dream Team put on one hell of a show in an otherwise disappointing WrestleMania and helped it live up to the name it would later become.

Best Feud: The Road Warriors vs. The Freebirds (AWA)

This was an epic feud in 1985 and 1986, and took place in the AWA. It started with Hayes, Gordy and Roberts and ended with Hayes and Garvin but the feud was terrific no matter who was involved. The WrestleRock event would be the end of the feud and despite their having later meetings, would settle things between the two teams. Few feuds are as good as The Road Warriors vs. The Freebirds

Best Show: WrestleRock 86 (AWA)

This show was really something else. It has so many fantastic matches, including the beginning of the tremendous Rockers vs. Rose and Somers feud that would go on for the next year. It would feature some of the best in-ring talent in the world at the time, including a rare North American appearance by Mitsuharu Misawa under the mask of Tiger Mask. If you haven’t seen any AWA, let me recommend WrestleRock 86.

Best Wrestling Promotion: AWA

It is a rare thing to see the AWA in such a position as the best promotion on The Best Of Times, but alas, the time has come and it is well deserved. There is rarely a time when a promotion going head to head with WrestleMania could pull something like this off, but the AWA put on the better show and had the better talent in April 1986.

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Matt Adamson
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