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 411mania » Wrestling » TV Reports

411's AWA on ESPN Classic Report 05.05.08
Posted by Randy Harrison on 05.06.2008

411's AWA On ESPN Classic Report

AWA Championship Wrestling (Originally aired on...)

Larry Nelson welcomes us to the studios and pimps a main event featuring Curt Hennig, the AWA World Heavyweight Champion, which I'll hopefully actually get to see, along with a Rockers match, and apparently since I'm leading a charmed life, a Soldat Ustinov match. I can already feel the bile beginning to well up, so let's get to the ring and smack this puppy's ass to see how far it'll run.

Rod Trongard and Ray Stevens are your announcers, and yes, we're still in "beautiful" Minot, ND. I'm thinking that this particular TV taping was either a two-day affair, or about eight hours of sheer torture. Take your pick.

Match One:
Bob Orton vs. Ricky Rice

Orton and Rice hit the lockup and Orton shoves Rice back into the corner, giving him the "Hey, I'm a nice guy" clean break. Apparently, it's not Ray Stevens on commentary, but the shrill, shreiking tones of Donna Gagne. I wonder if she'll talk about martians today. We miss a move in the ring because the camera cuts to the announce team, but Orton's strutting, so I think he did alright with whatever it was. Hip toss from Orton and he pats himself on the back before moving to a side headlock. Rice shoots him into the ropes and Orton shoulderblocks him down, running the ropes and getting another shoulderblock before laying a stomp in. Rice counters a turnbuckle smash with one of his own and Orton's almost all the way over the top after that bump. Standing arm-wringer from Rice and he moves to an armbar but Orton hip tosses him out of the corner, following it up with a dropkick. Rice fires up and hits a couple dropkicks of his own, sending Orton out to the floor to regroup. Orton with a knee to the gut and he grabs ahold of Rice's tights and sends him out to the floor before coming off the TOP ROPE TO THE FLOOR WITH A FOREARM!! LUCHA ORTON~! He slams Rice on the floor as the bell rings for the disqualification and he sets Rice up for THE SUPERPLEX!! He hits it and sends Rice on a trip to the chiropractor's office with an express pass. Orton tries for the pin but gets told about the DQ and he just keeps stomping away at Rice. ELBOWS FOR THE REFEREES!!! THERE GOES ONE TO THE FLOOR!!! PILEDRIVER ON RICE!!! Orton stops to admire his handiwork as the crowd boos the piss out of him. Here come a couple jobbers to help out Rice and HE STOMPS THE JOBBERS!

Winner: Ricky Rice (disqualification, Orton using the top rope)

Match Analysis:Absolutely tremendous. Orton needed to get over as a badass and this did it perfectly. I think that Rice was definitely in his element more as a job guy than as part of a pushed tag-team, and he was bouncing around well for Orton. The key is that the people liked Rice enough to want to see him do well against Orton, and were emotionally invested in him, which made it that much better and mean that much more when Orton laid the ass-beating down. Good stuff.

Back from the break, Larry Nelson talks about Orton's mentality and he says that other wrestlers are saying that he uses that as an intimidation factor, to try to make the other wrestlers afraid to step into the ring with him. He then sends us to the end of last week's main event, the Greg Gagne/Adrian Adonis TV Title match. If you're really feeling the need to go through that one again, it's right here for you to check out. Nelson says that Gagne did indeed get back his International Television Championship after the promoters took it away from Adonis and Orton. I know I was sleepless all weekend wondering the same thing myself.

Match Two: AWA World Tag Team Championship
Mike Smith and Mark Wagner vs. The Midnight Rockers (c)

The crowd goes nuts for the Rockers as they always do, and it looks like Michaels and Wagner will start things out. Michaels takes a knee to the gut and a REALLY fake looking forearm before he Irish whips Wagner into the corner for a Jannetty clothesline. They make an exchange and hit a double-team chop before Wagner staggers over and tags in Smith. Jannetty bullrushes and sends Smith into his corner, making a blind tag and sliding between Smith's legs, allowing Michaels to come off the ropes with a flying clothesline. Standing armbar by Michaels gets reversed to a BIG slam and a legdrop from Smith, and he goes to the second rope but misses whatever he was going to try. Michaels tags in Jannetty and they hit the double-hamstring pull on Smith before rolling through to knock Wagner off the apron. Smith staggers back to his corner and makes the tag, with Jannetty Irish whipping Wagner in and making a tag to Michaels. A double boot to the midsection is followed with a double DDT and that gets them the three-count!

Winners: The Midnight Rockers (pinfall, double DDT)

Match Analysis: Squash here, get your squash!!! Sadly, it wasn't even terribly entertaining because there wasn't a lot of the innovative double-team offense that the Rockers were known for at that time. Sure, there was double-teaming, but nothing that was a "wow" move, like we usually get from them. They didn't seem terribly interested and actually forgot to grab their tag belts from ringside, having to go back to get them. I guess there was some good blow behind the curtain or something and they wanted to hustle on back.

Right after the match Larry Nelson brings in Shawn Michaels, claiming that Marty Jannetty was hung over as shit in the back held up by the throngs of screaming lady-fans. Michaels says that the Rockers are back and going 100% and then he goes down the list of the teams coming after the Rockers, saying that they've been two-time tag team champs, and that they've only been beat once in two years. He says that anyone looking for them can find them at the top of the AWA and then goes into where they'll be defending their titles. Out goes Michaels and in comes Soldat Ustinov. He starts talki....BWAAAAAAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA. The Espy for fakest Russian accent ever goes to Soldat Ustinov. It's like every bad impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger rolled into one. I can't even focus on what he's saying, THAT'S how bad the accent is. Apparently, his partner is going to be Sheik Adnan El-Kaissie. That's all I got.

Match Three:
Soldat Ustinov w/Sheik Adnan El-Kaissie vs. Daryll Olsen

Ustinov comes in with his Russian flag and that goes about as well as you'd imagine. Ustinov shoves Olsen off and into the ropes before hitting some HARD forearms to the back. Ustinov stomps and pounds away, walking over Olsen's back before picking him up for some shoulderblocks in the corner. He whips Olsen into the corner and then hip tosses him out, picking him up for a big bodyslam, but missing the follow-up elbow. Olsen gets ONE right hand and Ustinov picks him up in a bearhug, ramming Olsen into the corner before picking him up in the old-school, over-the-shoulder, backbreaker. Ustinov hangs on for a few extra seconds after the submission and then stomps on him some more while Sheik has the referee distracted.

Winner: Soldat Ustinov (submission, backbreaker)

Match Analysis: At least, it was quick. It wasn't any good, but it was quick.

Match Four:
Wahoo McDaniel vs. Jim Thomas

Wahoo is over big with the North Dakota crowd, that's for sure. They lockup and Thomas shoves McDaniel off to the ropes. another lockup and another shove off, with Thomas adding a flex afterwards to be an extra bit of douche. McDaniel shoves Thomas into the corner after a lockup and he chops the FUCK out of him as he runs out of the corner and Thomas takes a walk. Thomas wants a handshake now and Wahoo gives him one but gets a paintbrush across the face and Thomas takes another powder to the outside. HEELING IT UP~! McDaniel gets the lockup and pushes Thomas against the ropes, chopping his chest a bunch and he Irish whips Thomas in for the HUGE chop to the chest!!! 1-2-3!! McDaniel adds a face-wash for Thomas after that ass-beating.

Winner: Wahoo McDaniel (pinfall, tomahawk chop)

Match Analysis: Will there be anything besides these horrible squashes? I mean a squash is fine, but so far out of all four of them, the only good one was the first and that was more for the post-match beating. Another short match, done so to protect the limited abilities of the name talent. The Ustinov one was because he's green as hell, and this one was because Wahoo was two years older than dirt.

After the commercial, Larry Nelson continues to pimp the AWA Championship match, but first here comes the SMOKING HOT Madusa Miceli. Damn, time sure kicked her in the ass towards the end. Nelson starts complimenting her fashion like he's fucking Tim Gunn or something and Madusa tells him that he's lucky to be standing so close to an AWA Women's Champion. Actually Madusa, he's just lucky to be standing so close to a woman period, what with restraining orders and all. Miceli starts talking about Mr. Magnificent, Kevin Kelly and here he comes. He says that he's been beating people up for over a yer in the AWA and now he has his chance to be the champion!! NOWHERE TO HIDE MR. HENNIG!! ALL HE THINKS ABOUT IS THE CHAMPIONSHIP!! HE'S GONNA BEAT CURT HENNIG AND 1988 IS HIS YEAR!!! I'M NOT SHOUTING, I'M YELLING!! GET IT RIGHT!! DON'T CUT ME OFF ASSHOLE, I'M STILL YELLING!!! Nice promo Kevin.

Match Five: AWA World Heavyweight Championship
Kevin Kelly w/Madusa Miceli vs. Curt Hennig (c)

A heel vs. Heel title match, so no one really knows who to be cheering for here. I will say that Hennig has one hell of a robe on him. Doesn't fit his character at all, but it's still pretty swank-ass. Speaking of swank asses, Madusa is in black leather. Yum a dum dum. They have a pretty intense staredown while they get the instructions from referee Gary DeRusha and then circle around a little bit, sizing each other up before the bell. Kelly looks great here, which again leads me to wonder what the hell happened between now and his run in New York. Hennig offers up a handshake and Kelly grudgingly accepts it before they hit the lockup. Kelly shoves Hennnig off HARD into the corner, flexing to show off as Hennig heads out to the apron to think it over. Kelly tries to get the crowd behind him and he actually succeeds a little. Hennig hits a go-behind but Kelly stops that shit with a reverse elbow that slows Curt right down. Kelly tries an Irish whip into the corner but Hennig reverses it, getting an armdrag takeover as Kelly comes off of the buckle, but he misses a clothesline and eats one from Kelly, putting him on his ass and out to the floor.

Hennig thinks it over on the outside as Kelly climbs up on the ropes and begs him to come back in. Hennig gets a little trip to put Kelly on his ass as he walks around the outside, in a TREMENDOUS heel move. Hennig was one of the best, there's no disputing that. Kelly tries to head outside after Hennig, completely losing his shit, but the referee keeps stopping him. Finally Hennig is back in the ring and he pushes Kelly against the ropes, kicking away at his legs before Kelly fires back and does the same thing to Hennig, flipping Curt over and sending him right back out to the floor. Hennig stalls like a mofo and keeps trying to get under Kelly's skin as the crowd chants BORING at the two of them. Hennig reverses a lockup and hits a chop in the corner, but Kelly no-sells it completely, backing off Hennig before talking a little shit to him. Even Miceli is putting the bad-mouth on him from the outside. Hennig gets a single-leg takedown and a hamstring pull, kicking the PISS out of Kelly's left leg and taking him down to SLAM THE KNEE INTO THE RINGPOST! Another single-leg takedown into a stepover toehold and Hennig grabs the ropes to increase the pressure on the hold.

The referee finally sees it and breaks the hold, but Hennig just kicks at the leg before re-applying the toehold. Hennig turns it into an Indian deathlock and Kelly is screaming on the mat as we keep cutting back to the announcers for some stupid reason. Hennig gets caught grabbing the ropes again and breaks the hold to stomp on Kelly's gut, following that up with a HUGE right hand that leads to a back and forth slugfest, which Kelly wins. Irish whip into the corner and Kelly gets a BIG back bodydrop, following that up with a reverse elbow that gets a LOOOOOOONG two-count. Kelly picks up Hennig for a powerslam that gets another two-count and Kelly picks him up for another one, but Hennig grabs the top rope. DeRusha kicks Hennig's hands free and Kelly ends up falling over backwards, with Hennig on top. Ever the opportunist, Hennig grabs a handful of tights and gets the three-count in the middle of the ring. Kelly waffles him one and flings him over the top after the bell, just to try to save a little face.

Winner: Curt Hennig (pinfall, handful of tights)

Match Analysis: Slow and boring. It was a lot of starting and stopping for the first little bit of match and that killed any chance at a flow they had. It went from there to the out of nowhere ending, which made sense for heel Hennig to pull off on "face" Kelly, but it was still a bit of a cop-out to me. At least it was a title match with an actual finish so it's got the International Television title beat by a mile.

Kelly fires him back into the ring and grabs the championship belt after the match and poses with it before heading back into the ring and throwing it on the prone Hennig, shit-talking and playing to the crowd as Hennig squirms and worms his way out of the ring. Kelly poses down in the ring for the crowd and they give him a fair round of applause. Back in the AWA studios, Larry Nelson does the usual, running down the show and kissing ass with the Fan of the Week, some seventy-five year old crone that sent in a letter talking about Bobo Brazil and how she got asked out by a wrestler when she was sixteen but her mom wouldn't let her go. Smartest mother in the world right there. He thanks us for watching and sends us on our way.

Final Thoughts

Yuck. No good matches, no hot angles, the Rockers totally phoning it in. There was nothing really good on this show, except for Orton beating the snot out of Ricky Rice. I can't decide whether it was beacuse it was cool or just because I hate Ricky Rice, but either way the show is a dud, dud, D-U-D, DUD. First though, I want to take a second to say a fond farewell to Ryan Byers, the guy that seemed to love torture since he recapped BOTH the UWF shows and Impact. That's masochism! He did a great job with both though, and all of the other work he did on the site like the Custom Made News. Always entertaining, most times controversial, and never at a loss for an opinion. Good luck and fare thee well, Byers, and thanks for giving me my start on reviewing shitty wrestling when I filled in for you on the UWF show. I wouldn't be here without you, and I'll be carrying on in the name of mocking hideous wrestling on your behalf. I don't think I have to tell you anything else about what I thought of the horrible show, so let's just get into the comments!

Fun With Comments

From G-Walla:
"I hate how they always give away time limit draws by never telling time left in
any matches unless their going to a time limit draw. Lame!

So, I turned it off after that, since nothing else was doing it for me.

I would just like to say that the Nasty Boys music should just be some guy that
smokes too much saying "NASTY, NASTY... NASTY BOYS!" At least, that's
what I sing when I see them, though I don't smoke enough."

Yeah, you could see the time limit draws coming a mile away back in those days. And if you have the time, you should record a little snippet of yourself singing that song and send it my way, since that would be a great deal of fun for me. Plus, I'm having trouble imagining the tune of the song in my head.

From Arnold_OldSchool:
"Be lucky Verne didn't try out for the Olympics. They could barely keep him out
of the ring. He had to be talked out of making a comeback in 1989, as he
wanted to go around the horn (however small that was by 89) to try and pop
business. (Pro Wrestling Illistrated confirmed this in 1989)"

Yep, nothing pops a territory like a sixty year old man facing off against a bunch of nobodies. That would have totally saved the territory.

Again from Arnold_OldSchool:
"BTW Greg Gagne was over in my house hold. I was a big fan of his feud with
Henning in 87. Granted I was 5 and didn't realize the crap I was being fed."

Thankfully, I was never a Gagne guy, even at that young age. I guess my crap-meter was in fine tune, even way back then. I just never understood why people liked Gagne so much, cause he was so boring to me.

From Guest#2599:
"I actually enjoyed last nights show. I thought the wrestling was great, and
really enjoyed all of the old-school heel tactics by the Nasty Boys and the
Sheik. I just cannot for the life of me figure out why they did so many
draws,dqs,basically anything that they could do to keep from having a clean
finish to a match on television.

-Anyway thanks for recapping the shows. I wonder how much longer the AWA shows
will last."

No thanks necessary, just send your checks to the site and make sure my name is spelled properly. Basically, the non-finishes were to draw people to the house shows because back then that was where the blow-offs for the AWA happened. Nowadays it's all on PPV, but back in the day, the television shows were a vehicle to get the crowds out to the arenas. Hence all the non-finishes to keep everyone strong.

From Joe K. :
"Adonis is one of the most underrated talents in wrestling history.
Unfortunately, I think his WWF gimmick led a lot of ppl to overlook that fact.
One of my better memories of WM2 was Adonis bumping off of Uncle Elmer. Nothing
like bumping off of a 50 something with diabetes and bad knees to make him look
like a viable contender."

I LOVED watching Adonis when I was younger, because he was such a smooth guy and could fly all over the place despite looking like a normal guy. He was actually one of my favorite wrestlers for quite some time, which made it even sadder when Adonis got stuck doing the WM2 shit with the hillbillies. At least he got to do something a little better at WM3 with Piper, which soothed that wound a little.

From Rob:
"There was a good crowd reaction this episode. So far 1986 was a better year. It
would be great if they showed highlights of Curt Henning's transition to bad

I would love to see a little more of that transition, since the little bits they've shown actually looked pretty entertaining. Him gaining that edge and turning heel solidified him as a star and propelled him into even bigger and better things in the WWF and beyond. It would be great to see more of that transition, if only for historical perspective.

From Brian:
"Back from the break, Verne Gagne is with Larry Nelson and they talk about how
Curt Hennig came out and bagged on the Olympic athletes, since this was an
Olympic year. Verne goes on and on about the Olympics and then talks about how
he went skiing and nearly killed himself. Larry Nelson: "Now, how about
Verne Gagne? I understand you've been out on the ski slopes lately. You gonna
get out there and go for the gold?" What a kiss-ass. Could you be a little
more transparent, Larry? Honestly, the entire interview was all about the
Olympics. I appreciate Verne's commitment to amateur sports, but couldn't that
time have been better served to get someone over that actually works for the
company? Just a thought.

Since the show is 20 years old, the "thought" is now moot.
Going back 20 years, it was very cool back then to put over amatuer athletes.
Rasslin' was still kayfabe and putting over "other sports" added to
that mystique. In other words, putting over RASSLIN' was at least equally as
important as putting over the individual rasslers. Taking time to do that was

I could understand if he had been talking about the summer Olympics, or guys that he had been wanting to bring in off of a wrestling team or something, but he was talking about the hockey team and his figure skating neighbor, while sounding like he didn't know anything about either. I get that they would try to put themselves over by attaching themselves to the Olympics, but it really came off as forced and sad and when something bombs that badly, that time could have been put to WAY better use elsewhere. None of those Olympians are going to have to help Verne draw more than 5,000 people to the St. Paul Civic Center at the end of the month, so why spend an entire promo trying to put them over.

From Jasper:
"Were we watching the same two tag matches? The Nasty Boy's match was horrid.
The Bad Company match was better, but not by much"

Everyone has their opinion, and if I recall, I never said that the Nasties match was any good, just that it did its job to get them over. Either way, the entire show was pretty horrid.

Finally from Joe:
"when the Nasty Boys came out the graphic said they were the former AWA Southern
Tag Team champions, did that title even exist?"

There was indeed an AWA Southern Tag Team title and it was based out of Memphis, the Lawler territory. Both of their Southern titles, the Tag and Heavyweight, had been affiliated with the NWA, but as the NWA came less and less to Memphis and the AWA started rolling through more often, the Memphis territory aligned itself with the AWA and re-christened the titles.

That does it for me for today's report folks, I'm off for now to watch some Strongmen pulling houses and ripping muscles off the bone on Cheap Seats! See y'all tomorrow everyone!


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