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The Furious Flashbacks – NWA Starrcade 86

March 6, 2008 | Posted by Arnold Furious
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The Furious Flashbacks – NWA Starrcade 86  

The Furious Flashbacks – NWA Starrcade 86

Night of the Skywalkers

The NWA had a cunning plan during 1986. They realised the popularity of one Magnum TA and spend the year building up to him getting a shot at Ric Flair and the NWA title. Dusty Rhodes had a brief run with the belt after winning at the Great American Bash but Flair took the belt back to set up the big babyface win at Starrcade. Unfortunately for the NWA, and more so for Terry Allen himself, he had a nasty car crash in October of 1986 leaving him badly injured and ending his wrestling career. It was a horrible incident for Magnum TA but from Jim Crockett’s point of view it left him without his main event at the biggest show of the year. The quick fix was to turn Nikita Koloff face and throw him in there with Flair. The opening for this face turn coming during a period of Glasnost courtesy of Mikhail Gorbachev, the then Soviet premier, and closer relations between the USA and the Soviet Union as the Cold War was coming to an end. The fans were now able to accept a Russian as a babyface. Which was lucky because the only other realistic option for Crockett would have been re-treading the Flair-Rhodes feud once again. In a bid to deflect the loss of the original main event Crockett began hyping the show around another match they had scheduled; the scaffold match. The Roadwarriors v the Midnight Express would take place on a scaffold above the ring and it was strongly hyped as wrestling’s most dangerous (see “stupid”) match. Hence the event being labelled “Night of the Skywalkers”.

We’re in Greensboro, North Carolina & Atlanta, Georgia. Hosts are Tony Schiavone & Rick Stewart plus Bob Caudle & Johnny Weaver.

Brad Armstrong v Jimmy Garvin w/Precious

Garvin comes out to “Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top. He’s like a goofy opening match version of Ric Flair. All over the top mannerisms and the blonde valet. Armstrong isn’t even masked here because he’s so young. Although that should tell you who’s going to win. He also gets no entrance and is standing in the ring awaiting the loss. The early mat duel is quite entertaining and the actual wrestling is reasonably solid. Armstrong works at the arm a bit and it really feels like he’s already putting this one in the cooler. Uh oh. I sense impending boredom. Precious fluffs her hair a little. That really is HUGE 80’s hair. Like one of those Jersey tunnel dykes. Garvin retorts with a lazy looking leglock. Crowd seems rather disinterested. Garvin substitutes “he ain’t goin’ nowhere” for actual in ring work as if yelling at the crowd makes up for how loose his leglock is. Armstrong gets out with a headlock and his first move after that? A leapfrog. Way to sell the leg Brad. Garvin and Precious run interference so Garvin can cheat with tights and hair pulls behind the ref’s back. The one hair pull is a work of art as he escapes a headlock into a headscissors with a hair pull but the ref can’t see it because he’s checking Garvin’s shoulders. It’s actually so good that you can’t see it on camera even but the audience reacts. I like cheating as an art form. Garvin basically uses cheating as his main offensive weapon. Armstrong counters with a 7-minute long headlock. Hey, I have no problem with headlocks in an hour match or a match well over 15 minutes but absorbing your whole time limit with a headlock is no fun. Luckily Garvin is out there to back suplex Armstrong on his head. Ouch! Someone’s getting an invite to All Japan! Garvin goes on a rampage and starts hitting moves in an attempt to finish Armstrong off and the crowd is now buying into it. Armstrong’s moveset has become increasingly desperate in a bid to keep Garvin at bay. Garvin tries to finish off the top but misses and the time limit expires at 15.00. *1/2. I’d question the lengthy nature of the match. The crowd didn’t really care until it was going down the stretch. Some form of DQ or something after 7-8 minutes would have worked too. Armstrong didn’t bother selling anything that Garvin went after until they ran fatigue stuff near the end.

Hector Guerrero/Baron von Raschke v Barbarian/Shaska Whatley

Babyface Raschke? Well I never! On a tangent here; how did Hector Guerrero never make it anywhere? I know he got saddled with some stupid gimmicks, in particular the Gobbledygooker but also Lazer Tron, but he was as close to Eddie as any of the Guerreros and Eddie was the one that made it big. The crowd support for him here is huge, which shows how popular he was. Plus his bumping makes big lumps like Barbarian look great. Hell, he even hits a pescado on Barbarian in the early going to a HUGE pop. He had all the right ingredients to become a huge star. I don’t get booking sometimes. Hector even takes bumps like Eddie at times. Including the way he takes a back bump. I’m guessing Eddie learned from him being his older brother. The heels run heat on Hector and he probably doesn’t get as much sympathy as he should. Maybe that’s why he didn’t get the push. He was technically great and fun on offence but the fans didn’t buy into him emotionally. Hot tag to the Baron who is highly immobile and totally unsuited to this babyface role but it doesn’t matter because the crowd pop everything he does HUGE and Shaska gets the IRON CLAW. Barbarian saves but the Baron just elbow drops Shaska instead for the pin. That Iron Claw has devastating side effects. **. This was far more fun than the opening match courtesy of Hector’s offence and the brisk nature of the match. If the opener have had the same brevity it probably would have been better.

US tag titles – Ivan Koloff/Khrusher Khrushev (c) v Kansas Jayhawks

This is another rarity for me; babyface Dutch Mantell. Teaming with Bobby Jaggers with a team name that sounds like a minor league baseball franchise. This is no DQ so it allows Dutch to cheat and remain a face. Despite it being no DQ they still make tags, which always annoys me. They just don’t have to. Tony points out the stupidity of the wrestlers as they keep breaking on five counts. Know your rules ladies! The fact that no one actually plays up to the no DQ ruling pretty much ruins this match. Why is the ref even making five counts? Why don’t the participants just flat out brawl in there? Why is no one using foreign objects? I can’t believe that Ivan Koloff and Dutch Mantell didn’t think to bring a weapon out here. Coming out here with nothing is like taking a knife to a gunfight. When this fight does break down and everyone piles in the referee continues to admonish the participants. Why? It’s all legal ref. Having requested this big messy brawl I now have the misfortune of having to watch it. Mantell whips Koloff around the legs to stop him using the chain. See, they DID bring weapons! I knew it. Koloff jumps back on the apron though and chain shots Jaggers in the neck for the win. *. They really should have played to the stips throughout because as soon as they did the crowd got into it. The whole thing should have been a wild brawl not just the last 2 minutes.

Rick Rude v Wahoo McDaniel

This is an Indian Strap Match. Not sure if it’s Yappapi or not. Rude is managed by Paul Jones. He’d jump to the WWF in April 1987. You can see why. His personality is enormous. Probably more so than anyone else on this show bar Flair. Putting the green Rude in with Wahoo could possibly work out. Especially with Wahoo controlling the tempo via strapping. Rude hasn’t quite got his selling down like he would in the WWF the following year. Beating up the beloved Wahoo does wonders for his heat though. He works Wahoo over with strap assisted punches and choking. The thing is, regardless of what’s happening, there’s no escaping that this is a strap match. And strap matches suck. I’ve seen maybe three in the last 20 years that were any good. Wahoo manages about one interesting thing in the entire match after whipping Rude into the ropes to give him enough space to actually hit a chop. Rude tries something more ambitious when he heads up top but that has predictable consequences as Wahoo drags him off. Wahoo collects buckles, chops Jones off the apron and just as he’s about to get the 4th buckle Rude blindsides him. And he falls onto the buckle anyway and wins. ½*. That was a lot of nothing. Strap matches suck.

Central States title – Sam Houston (c) v Bill Dundee

This title dates back to the 1950’s and actually meant something up until the later 1980’s when it’s home promotion, Heart of America Sports Attractions, closed. The title disappeared with it. Houston won the title in a tournament and defeated Dundee in the finals. Hence this re-match. Houston uses speed to control and Dundee retorts with cheating. 1986 was the year that Dundee tried to make a name for himself by wrestling all over the place. Prior to that he was one of the main high card guys in Memphis. His offence in this one is very Memphis style. He punches away a lot, pulls the tights and acts like a jerk. His Bombs Away knee drop gets 2. That would be his finisher. So Houston is now in a great position because he’s taken everything Dundee has and he’s still ticking away nicely. Dundee with more punches and like Lawler he’s made a point of making his strikes look good. Dundee decides the time is right for a submission and he hooks a Boston crab. Crowd seems worried but not very vocal. Houston is the kind of guy who had big support from the ladies but the male side of the audience was less than thrilled with him. There have been many examples of this over the years including Shawn Michaels and most recently John Cena. Only back in 1986 they weren’t vocal about booing Houston because they just didn’t care. Houston misses a kneedrop and this gives Dundee a target. Ref gets bumped but he still sees Dundee smack Houston with his boot for what should be the pin. It’s a DQ instead. *3/4. A long match for no pay off. Was Dundee really that vital that he couldn’t take the job here? At Starrcade? It looks rather foolish in retrospect.

Paul Jones w/Manny Fernandez v Jimmy Valiant w/Big Mama

Valiant is huge over here. I never got that. I see Manny turned heel in 1986 somewhere. Too many guys on the face side of things. He’s rewarded by seconding a manager at Starrcade. This is Jones’ hair v Big Mama’s. She’s not particularly big and isn’t black as her name would suggest. Manny is supposed to be in a cage at ringside but he won’t get in so Wahoo comes back out and chops him into it. I don’t get why they wouldn’t just put Valiant’s hair or beard on the line. This match sucks. It sucks something fierce. Valiant is starting to show his age. Not that he was any good as a younger man but he’s even worse at 44. Jones cheats with some form of foreign object. Valiant lies there twitching. Is he having a seizure? More foreign object antics and still no pin. Valiant comes back with the crazy old man offence. Valiant steals the foreign object and waffles Jones with it for the pin. Erm, I’d question the legality of that finish. Regardless Valiant wins and Jones loses his hair. ¼* for at least giving the crowd the happy ending of the evil manager getting shaved bald.

Ron Garvin v Big Bubba Rogers w/Jim Cornette

Bubba is Ray “Big Bossman” Traylor who’s not long debuted as the silent bodyguard of Jim Cornette. He comes out to the Peter Gunn Theme, which is just awesome. The match is a Louisville Street Fight. You can lose by pinfall or 10 count. Which means we’re in for more no DQ action. Ref is Tommy Young. This is the first match that has a big fight atmosphere appropriate to Starrcade. Garvin jabs away but Bubba just won’t go down. He just absorbs the punches as if to tell Garvin that even his best stuff isn’t good enough. After all he is “Hands of Stone”. Eventually he punches Bubba enough to knock him on his ass. Bubba grabs a hold of Garvin and that’s a different story. He’s freaky big and just throws Garvin out of the ring. No outside brawl yet though. Bubba starts to dominate courtesy of his size. Garvin retorts by throwing a cup of Sprite at Bubba. Bubba is so upset he bails to get it together. HE LIKES 7-UP DAMNIT! Garvin has smartened himself up and uses Bubba’s own shirt to choke him. Bubba gets a touch pissed off and crushes Garvin in the corner. Bubba wails away with a roll of nickels and nearly gets Garvin counted out. “Come on, count faster” – Cornette. Running splash gets 2. Bubba’s cover is lax and Garvin doesn’t even have to kick out. Could have won easily there. Garvin is fired up and starts throwing punches. He pulls out a rope and starts choking Bubba out with it. He goes to hogtie the big man to keep him down but Bubba knows what’s coming and gets into the ropes to stop it. BORE-HUG from Bubba and Young makes a point of getting rid of that rope. Garvin is hardcore and he headbutts his way out. DAAAAAAMN. Garvin is bleeding. Bubba is reeling from the sheer number of punches he’s taken. The headbutts probably didn’t help. Ref gets bumped. Garvin with a piledriver and a SICK one at that. Cornette sticks his racket into the ring though and bashes Garvin in the head. Now Young is back up and he counts them both out. Match is over. He points out there has to be a winner so first man to his feet wins this. Cornette flat out jumps into the ring so Young shoves him over. Awesome sell on that. Bubba grabs Young and Garvin is up but Cornette sneaks in a racket shot to the knee and he’s back down. Ref only sees Bubba get up and he wins the match in a very innovative finish. **1/2. Kudos to everyone involved. It had no right to be a good match but it got there thanks to the clever finish.

TV title – Dusty Rhodes (c) v Tully Blanchard w/JJ Dillon

Another stipulation match as we’re under First Blood rules for this one. We follow Dusty from his locker room ala Bill Goldberg in WCW. Minus security. He’s also got “Tully” written on each side of his head in magic marker. Does that mean he likes Tully? Oh, Tully, Tully I got a crush on you, baby. Tully was one of the better heel workers of the entire decade of the 1980’s. Unfortunately Dusty is a really hard guy to work with. Even Flair, in the late 80’s, didn’t have particularly good matches with him. And that’s when he could go *** with a broomstick. The psychology here is that Tully is scared of getting caught with an elbow and therefore busted open so he keeps his distance. Unfortunately that’s during a wrestling match. So no wrestling occurs. Tully opts for stalling to get cheap heat instead of bothering to wrestle Dusty on his own terms. The result is completely brutal and thoroughly boring. That would make this one of the least ambitious first blood matches in the history of said match. Dusty then takes the somewhat unusual tack of working the leg. Ok, explain that one Dust? It seems we lost JJ getting busted open in a piece of pre-match clipping as he’s bleeding all over ringside. Apparently that was from one of Dusty’s elbows. Which makes even more sense and aids the psychology. But sadly not the workrate. They work in a convoluted ref bump for no apparent reason then work in another one. Who booked this crap? Dusty pounds away trying to open up a cut but he just runs out of steam. Tully has a very small cut, which Dusty works on with more strikes but JJ becomes an expert cut man and covers it with Vaseline. Tully grabs a roll of quarters and nails Dusty between the eyes with it. Ref is still down. Dusty tells him that Tully is bleeding but when the ref comes to he only sees the blood on Dusty and Tully appears fine. Hah. ½*. Bad match but some interesting booking on the finish.

Skywalker match – Roadwarriors v Midnight Express

The scaffold is over the ring. This match has become quite famous thanks to a) them naming the show after it and b) Jim Cornette took a bump that left him with a permanently fucked up knee. The Midnights are a little reluctant to get onto the scaffold due to a) the height and b) the Roadwarriors already being up there. That “structure” is easily the least safe thing I’ve seen in any major wrestling company as well. The safety bars at the top are anything but safe. They rattle and move around and I’m just feeling concern for everyone up there. That thing is stupidly high up too. And there’s no protective landing area. No airbags or anything. It’s the ring or the floor. Condrey breaks out powder to blind Hawk and Bobby gives Animal the same treatment. The rest of the match is one guy lying around on the scaffold trying not to die while the other guy puts the boots in. One of those support struts just falls off. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen. If Condrey hadn’t noticed and gone to lean on it he’d have fallen to his death. Eaton goes off the top but lands on the ladder part. None of this looks even remotely safe. Eaton blades so the crowd have something to get excited about. Condrey follows suit. Condrey decides he’s seen enough and bails onto the ladder. Hawk boots him in the face. The audience waits with baited breath for some sort of entertainment. Nothing doing. This has now gone on too long. Eaton leads the wrestlers into a swinging brawl on the underside of the scaffold and both the Midnights get kicked off for the Roadwarriors win. You can’t rate that as a match because it was just a couple of bumps. Eaton’s was particularly sickening.

POST MATCH Jim Cornette and Big Bubba jump in there to give Hawk a kicking. Cornette gets treed and Animal is up top. Animal shoves him off and Bubba, who’s supposed to catch him, misses and Jim will spend the rest of his life walking with a limp. That wacky Dusty Rhodes.

That match was really difficult to watch and a really dumb idea.

Tag titles – Rock n Roll Express (c) v Minnesota Wrecking Crew

Cage match. Just in case you were hungry for another stipulation. RNR are suitably over. Especially with the ladies. There’s such a thing as a girly pop and RNR invented it. It helps their opponents are the ugly, bearded and balding Andersons. No hope of ladies cheering those guys. They define “rugged”. So much so they look like lumberjacks. Not sure what the point of a cage is for a tag match. Its not like there are no tags. We have regular tags. I never got that. The only upside is it keeps the other Horsemen from interfering but to be frank they’re pretty busy themselves this evening. Gibson makes use of the cage by flying knee first into it. This allows the Andersons to pick him off. Heat on Gibson? That doesn’t seem right. Nevertheless it happens and Gibson gets his knee taken apart in typical systematic Anderson fashion. Well, I suppose typical Anderson fashion would be to take out the arm but you take what you can. Give nothing back. Gibson uses the now familiar enzuigiri to escape and Morton gets the hot tag. The heat is short lived though because he’s in there for all of 30 seconds before Ole launches Morton head first into the cage, twice. Now we get heat on Ricky Morton and I feel comforted by the return to normality. Even more so it’s now the arm that gets worked over. Well, the arm and the face. Which gets worked over on the fence. Which is why Ricky Morton now looks like an extra from the Muppets and not strikingly handsome so much. Hammerlock Slam~~~!!!! I love that move. It defines Anderson offence for me. Ricky attempts a comeback so Ole throws him face first into the cage again. Use your environment. Morton is now a bloody mess. He keeps trying for a comeback but Ole just cuts him off again and goes back to cranking at the arm. It’s a double whammy of babyface murder; arm work and blood letting. Arn helpfully adds in a few illegal punches. Morton’s selling here is terrific as per usual. He’s just absorbing this beating and selling it with his entire body. Arn catches him coming off the ropes; SPINEBUSTAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! Gibson has to save. Ole knees Morton in the shoulder off the ropes though and tries to armbar him into submission. Nowadays you’d think a submission would emerge sooner or later thanks to the increased trend of submission wrestling based on the success of MMA. Here it’s just an excuse for the crowd to chant “rock n roll”. I think I prefer the danger of submission wrestling to be honest. Morton jabs at Arn to set up the hot tag. The crowd go completely nuts until Ole knees Morton face first into the cage. HAHAHA. Superb. No tag for you, sir! Morton jabs at Ole too and rolls him for 2. OOOOOHHHH. Gibson piles in there to protect the pin and the match breaks down. Gibson dropkicks Morton on top of Ole and the champs retain in a long and excellent match. ***3/4. Great selling, great team work and a hot finish. This is basically what every underdog tag team has aspired to be ever since including the Rockers and Londrick.

NWA title – Ric Flair (c) v Nikita Koloff

Flair comes out to the introduction of ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’ (I’m trying to re-train my mind to remember the right title). The crowd absolutely hate him. I can’t imagine how much they’d have hated him if this match was against Magnum TA. As it stands the crowd is pleasant enough towards Nikita but it’s their hatred of Flair that makes him the crowd favourite rather than his recent actions. Nikita is the US champion having cheated TA out of that belt. That made him the automatic go-to guy as the standard #1 contender. Koloff is all about power so Flair works around him and bumps the odd shove. Basically Flair wrestles himself. Koloff doesn’t know much about main event wrestling and is a very basic and still slightly green competitor. Comparisons with Goldberg are pretty obvious. It may have been quite fun having him win the title here. Obviously that didn’t happen. Hell, it was a better idea than Ronnie Garvin the next year! Nikitaberg continues to overpower and just hurls Flair across the ring a couple of times. He even has a lot of the animalistic traits that Goldberg used. I’m sure Flair says that he gives up as he backs into the corner. Naitch tries to knock him over but gets caught in a BORE-HUG. It really is power vs technique. The thing about Flair’s game plan is he’s not used much in the way of technique. So he’s getting beaten. It almost makes no sense. Of course it is Ric Flair so he could be lulling Nikita into a false sense of security. The old “rope-a-dope”. The longer this match goes the better Flair’s chances of winning. Flair waits for the inexperienced Nikita to fuck up and then takes over with a suplex. Nikita completely no sells it so Flair bails. NIKITABERG! Flair decides to break Nikita down more systematically. He backs him into the corner and adds in chops but Nikita just explodes out of the corner with choke hold. However he misses a follow up on the ropes and hurts his leg spilling out to the floor. Now Flair has himself a bulls-eye. He takes advantage of Nikita’s immobility to post the knee. Nikita’s selling is a little shaky. Flair decides to make matters clearer with a chop block. FIGURE FOUR~! Flair cheats using the ropes while Tommy Young is right in Nikita’s face asking him if he gives up. Flair & Young have worked together so many times it makes cheating look realistic and the crowd buy into it. Nikita turns the Four over. Nikita is the worst for wear. Flair rakes the eyes to give him something else to think about it. The end is pretty much nigh thanks to the knee assault. However Nikita isn’t going to sell anything else so when Flair chops at him he no sells it. Outside and Nikita gets run into the scaffold before executing one of the most obvious bladejobs I think I’ve personally seen. Lucky folks weren’t quite so “inside” back then. Koloff comes back with an assortment of slams, which allows Flair to beg off in typical fashion. “NOOOOO”. Flair corner bump to the floor! Flair takes a header into the scaffold for the second really obvious bladejob in this match. At least Flair has the common decency to cut himself properly. Shame I can see him holding the razorblade. Tommy Young takes a great ref bump where Nikita hits a flying shoulderblock and Flair’s bump wipes him out through the ropes. Nikitaberg explodes with a flying clothesline. He has the pin but the ref is hurt. Nikitaberg tries to drag him back in the ring but Flair knees him in the back…for 2. The spare ref gets murdered with a Nikita clothesline. Accidentally, natch. Tommy Young is back in but Nikita knocks him on his ass twice for the cheap ass DQ. BOOO! Lame finish. ***1/4. The usual Flair match of bumping around his opponent’s obvious weaknesses. The matches with Luger were like this only better because Luger could hold his own end up.

The 411: I’m torn because most of the undercard is entirely forgettable. I actually had to scroll back up to remember what happened in half the matches and I only just saw them. But the Flair match is great last minute improvisation and the Rock n Roll’s were on classic form along with the Andersons in their tag match. There’s also some interesting little pieces of booking. A couple of innovative finishes and the famous scaffold match itself. So I’d wager it’d be a minor thumbs up although less than ideal because the intended main event never happened. Pretty good despite that.
Final Score:  6.5   [ Average ]  legend

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