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 411mania » Wrestling » TV Reports

411's AWA on ESPN Classic Report 05.19.08
Posted by Randy Harrison on 05.20.2008

411's AWA On ESPN Classic Report

AWA Championship Wrestling

We're joined in progress after missing the opening match because my DVR decided that it wanted to revolt because of the heat and not work until a few minutes after the show started. It looks like I missed the first segment of the show, but since that's usually jabbering and highlights, I'm not too heartbroken over it. Let's soldier on and get through the rest of the episode shall we?

Match One:
Jim Evans and Ricky Ataka vs. Badd Company w/Diamond Dallas Page and his Skank

This looks like DDP's first appearance as the manager of Badd Company. He talks to his questionable piece of sex and everyone else in the crowd before cranking the music and introducing Diamond and Tanaka. They now have SUPER-SWANK red zebra print tights and tuxedo jackets, and those are almost cooler than the powder blue ones. Diamond locks up with Ataka and drops him to the mat with a shove, strutting over and high-fiving Tanaka. The referee rightly makes them exchange and Tanaka is in with Ataka now and Ataka gets a good armdrag takedown, prompting Tanaka to complain about a hairpull. Tanaka pushes Ataka to the ropes and chops him a couple times before whipping him in and hitting him with a HARD clothesline. Tag to Diamond and he gets an EVEN HARDER clothesline off the ropes into a two-count. Tag to Tanaka and he unloads with a NASTY chop to the chest. A thrust kick and another HARD chop in the corner score for Tanaka before he pulls Ataka out and lands a VICIOUS headbutt. Tag to Diamond who hits a FRONT SUPLEX!! He follows that up with some paintbrushes on poor Ataka, bodyslamming him but missing an elbowdrop. Tag to Evans and he takes over with some shots as well as a flying dropkick but Diamond backs away from the second dropkick, whipping Evans in for a flying reverse elbow. Tag to Tanaka and it's SLINGSHOT DDT TIME, BITCHES!! COUNT TO A HUNDRED!! GET HIM A BODY BAG!!

Winners: Badd Company (pinfall, slingshot DDT)

Match Analysis: Good enough match to get over Badd Company as the best team in the company, and to allow DDP to get himself over a little bit before the match started. A little backstory as to why he just showed up and started managing them would have been nice, but I guess it is what it is. I like that I got to see the slingshot DDT again though, so it's all good.

Baron comes on and starts talking about the spot shows in places like Timmins, Ontario and Las Vegas, Nevada. Interesting pair of cities on a tourt there. He threatens Soldat Ustinov with his Louisville Sleeper (baseball bat) and does his horrid rendition of Take Me Out To The Ballgame again. I don't think I'll ever be able to watch baseball again.

After the break, The Rock n' Roll Express are here and they're talking bout how they have to thank Chuck Berry for the lick that he taught them, before they threaten Badd Company and warn them that they're coming for the titles.

Match Two:
Bill Anderson vs. Big Mountain Fudgecake w/hobo bindle

Marshall claims that he asked what was in the bag and that Fudge told him that it was a surprise. The Cake is also wrestling barefoot now to go along with his rope belt, looking a lot more like some sort of inbred Appalachian. He starts off with a big shoulderblock and then grabs a side headlock on Anderson, punching to the throat before ramming Anderson into the turnbuckle. Big Irish whip and Anderson SLAMS into the corner before Mountain whips him into the ropes for a big clothesline. BMF picks him up and drops him with a vertical suplex, which is enough to get the three-count and thankfully spare me more agony. SOMEONE GET THAT MAN HIS BINDLE!!

Winner: Big Mountain Fudgecake (pinfall, vertical suplex)

Match Analysis: Thank god it was short, but it still made me feel a little queasy. I'm not sure if it was the match or if I'm catching a stomach bug, but if I was FORCED to guess, I'd say it was the match.

We get a little video promo package for the main event featuring Soldat Ustinov and Teijo Kahn going up against Baron Von Raschke and Ray "The Crippler" Stevens (who looks horrible I might add), and Lee Marshall turns the hype machine on a little bit before sending us to break.

After the commercials, Larry Nelson is ringside and introduces Greg Gagne with this week's Mat Classic! It's 1982 (which can't be right because Verne had already retired and Nick Bockwinkel was champion) and we're going to get to see Verne Gagne, the AWA Champion, against Crusher Blackwell.

Match Three: AWA World Heavyweight Championship
Crusher Blackwell vs. Verne Gagne (c)

We're joined in progress with Gagne taking over with some dropkicks on the huge Blackwell, putting Crusher to his hands and knees. Verne gets a go-behind into the Gagne sleeper, climbing onto Blackwell's back!! Blackwell rams Verne back-first into the turnbuckle and they're both in trouble. Blackwell drops a HUGE elbow on Gagne and jumps off the bottom rope with a splash but Gagne rolls out of the way. Blackwell staggers to his feet and MISSES A LEGDROP as Verne is trying to get his senses together to mount a comeback. He stands in the corner and Blackwell charges for an avalanche but GAGNE MOVES OUT OF THE WAY!! BLACKWELL SLAMS INTO THE TURNBUCKLES!! Gagne capitalizes and gets the pinfall to retain the title!

Winner: Verne Gagne (pinfall, Blackwell sloppiness)

Match Analysis: It looked like a well-booked match with Verne using his speed to barely avoid being crushed and then capitalizing on the mistake from Blackwell. The way that big men were booked to lose back then, and Gagne really played it to a T. Again, it's a shame that we don't get to see more of the match with these mat classics because I'm sure there's plenty of good, old-school action in them. At least we get to see the finishes I suppose.

Match Four:
Samoan Joe and Rocky Stone vs. The Rock n' Roll Express

This is not the same Samoan Joe that we've seen previously on the AWA shows, instead some older man in floral trunks over yellow, full-length tights. Gibson and Stone start things off and Stone gets a side headlock, scoring a shoulderblock off the ropes before Gibson takes over with a hip toss. Tag to Morton and Stone gets Irish whipped into a HUGE dropkick from Morton. Tag to Gibson who comes over the top rope with a knee to Stone's arm before slamming him int he mdidle of the ring and hitting another kneedrop. Stone takes over with a couple of punches and then tags in Joe, who runs right into a drop-toehold from Gibson. Gibson takes over and manages to get a tag to Morton and he starts UNLOADING on Joe before grabbing a side headlock against the ropes. Joe shoots him in and Morton gets a hard shoulderblock into a boot to the face and the Rock n' Rolls make another tag. Gibson takes a shot to the stomach though, allowing Joe to get the quick tag to Stone. Stone with an Irish whip and he punches Gibson in the gut again but Gibson fires right back with a dropkick into a tag. Morton takes over with a BIG bodyslam and a TOP-ROPE DROPKICK! Tag to Gibson and he gets a shot in on both Stone and Joe before delivering a BIG kneelift to Stone. Another quick tag to Morton and he snap mares Stone over into a fistdrop that gets a two-count. There's a tag to Gibson and the R n' R's end up hitting a double-dropkick on Stone that gets them the 1-2-3!!!

Winners: The Rock n' Roll Express (pinfall, double-dropkick)

Match Analysis: Even at this later stage in their career, the R n' R's could still go and go they did in this one. Tons of speed from them and they even managed to get in some of their double-team spots and classic moves. A great builder for them to head into a possible program with Badd Company, which I can't remember if it ever happened or not. I'm hoping so since it'd be nice to see some decent tag matches between those two teams.

Lee Marshall talks about the upcoming tour to the small Ontario towns and then takes us back to the whole Badd Company/Midnight Rockers deal where they took the belts through the nefarious means. He says that DDP will not allow Badd Company to face off with the Rockers before throwing it to Marty and Shawn for some comments. Shawn talks about all the Ontario towns and says that they're coming! He says that they've chased the Tag Team Championships for a full year, going from the bottom to the top and that they can do it again. Jannetty talks about how it's embarassing that they have to look at their friends and admit that they aren't the best, no matter how Badd Company got it done. Jannetty finishes it off with a great line about being the team that gave Badd Company a chance, that made them and now the Rockers are going to break them!

Match Five:
Ray Stevens and Baron Von Raschke vs. Soldat Ustinov and Teijo Khan

This is YOUR main event of the evening and as soon as the faces hit the ring, Ustinov and Kahn take a powder to the floor. Baron's got his bat and threatens Kahn with it while he's out on the floor and the referee tries to get some control so the match can actually get underway. Lee Marshall busts out the "this match could see out any arena in the world" chestnut, while I wonder if he might be fibbing because there are empty seats ALL OVER the Showboat Pavilion. We start the match with a brawl between all four men and Stevens gets a big backdrop on Ustinov, as Von Raschke sends Kahn out to the floor. The action settles down and Von Raschke starts working over Kahn in the corner with some choking, Irish whipping him across and hitting a back bodydrop of his own. Baron TO THE EYES!! HE LOVES IT!! Baron rams Kahn into Stevens' knee and makes the tag in, with Stevens getting a snap mare for a two-count before he moves to a side headlock.

Kahn gets to his feet and shoots Stevens into the ropes but Stevens gets a big clothesline and a tag to Baron as Kahn makes a tag to Ustinov. Baron goes to the gut and lands some right hands but Ustinov takes over quickly, going to the eyes and then hitting a BIG boot that gets two. Shoulderblocks in the corner from Ustinov and Kahn cheats a little, choking at Baron with the tag rope. Irish whip into the ropes and Ustinov gets a BEARHUG!! Forearm shots from Baron but he can't break the hold as Ustinov pushes Von Raschke back into his corner, allowking Kahn to choke him some more. BIG bodyslam from Ustinov and he gets another long two-count. Tag to Kahn and they double-team Baron in the corner before Kahn gets a snap mare into a fistdrop. He follows that up with a nerve hold as the crowd chants "USA" at the German babyface. Kahn gets a two-count before raking the eyes of Baron, whipping him across but telegraphing a back bodydrop, allowing Baron to kick him in the face. Kahn holds on and keeps him from making the tag though, tagging in Ustinov for some shots.

Irish whip in the corner gets reversed by the Baron and he gets a hip toss out of the corner, but again the heels keep Von Raschke from making the tag. Tag to Kahn and he clamps the bearhug onto Baron in the middle of the ring. Baron breaks the hold and takes Kahn over with a hip toss but misses the follow-up elbowdrop and the heels make the tag again. Ustinov picks Baron up for a HUGE slam and comes off the ropes with a legdrop but Baron sits up!! He's crawling over and gets the HOT TAG TO STEVENS!! RIGHT HANDS ON KAHN!! IRISH WHIP INTO A BACK BODYDROP!! ATOMIC DROP!!! 1-2.......NO!!! Ustinov breaks up the pin attempt and Baron sends Ustinov out to the floor. BOSTON CRAB ON KAHN FROM STEVENS!! Baron is distracting the referee though and Ustinov sneaks in to break the flagpole over the head of Stevens. Kahn gets the pinfall and gets the 1-2-3!!

Winners: Soldat Ustinov and Teijo Kahn (pinfall, Ustinov interference)

Match Analysis: A decent match, or at least as decent as it could be with four very limited workers, but this was more about advancing the angle to get people to the house shows rather than putting on a classic. They probably did that with the screwy finish, but at this point I don't think much of anyone would have been coming to the house shows anyhow.

After the match, Baron's checking on Stevens and trying to bring him to, helping him out of the ring and taking him to the back.

A quick commercial break leads to Nelson and Marshall at ringside, talking about the show and the main event as well as "Dallas Diamond Page", with Marshall saying that Badd Company is going to have to sign the contracts against the Midnight Rockers no matter what. Nelson talks about how there are some European promoters that are looking to bring the AWA over and they talk about The Rock n' Roll Express facing The Nasty Boys in next week's main event!

Final Thoughts

A decent show although much like the usual, you have to to take the good with the bad when it comes to the AWA. At least they kept the Mountain man's match short and allowed some time for teams like Badd Company and The Rock n' Rolls to get their working boots on. A better main event and this show would have been a full-on thumbs-up, but as it is, with the limited work from all four guys in the tag main, it's more along the lines of a thumbs in the middle, leaning towards going up.

Fun With Comments

From Joe K. :
"Actually, the "swear" that Ricky Morton yelled out was
"funky". It was muted the first time the showed the promo, but in
full the second time. I can see why it was muted though because Morton's
Southern drawl kinda made it sound like an F-bomb, especially at 1 am when your
not paying as much attention as usual.

Best exchange from the Cheap Seats/IWA episode:
"Your Mascaras is running!"
"That's terrible!"
"What? It's just your run of the Mil Mascaras joke"
"That's worse!""

It's REALLY hard to understand Morton sometimes when he gets talking really fast with that accent of his. I can see why they would have beeped it since the couldn't be sure and everyone is ultra-sensitive about things of that nature. That Cheap Seats exchange is classic. One of their funniest episodes, though I might be biased due to my love of shitty wrestling.

From Adam:
"This was one of the only shows that I've liked. Every match was watchable
except Rocky Mountain Blunder. The 'Mat Classic' was alright, but I wish they
would have showed the whole match. Wahoo-Hennig was good, although Wahoo was
old and Hennig was not quite "Perfect". It was the best the AWA
could do in 1988."

Sadly, you're right. That WAS the best that the AWA could do in 1988. At least they were trying hard though. Nothing's sadder than a promotion that gives up completely, like the AWA did in 1990.

From Frozen:
"I think Morton actually said something like, "We're gonna get funky,"
but ESPN thought he said the "other" F-word.

Also, Monday night's show has more Crappy Mountain Thunder. The matches for
Monday night (or Tuesday morning, if you prefer) are:

1. Richards vs. Ricky Rice

2. Evans & Ataka vs. Badd Company

3. Arn Anderson vs. Rocky Mt. Thunder (pretty sure they mean Billy Anderson,
not Arn)

4. Samoan Joe & Stone vs. Rock N Roll Express

5. Soldat Ustinov & Khan vs. Baron Von Raschke & Stevens"

Well, it looks like I missed a Ricky Rice match. I'm thoroughly crushed.

From Guest#7187:
"so did they show the match where Bad Company won the titles? i thought they
showed the highlights of it a few days ago. i saw the non-title win they had.
im enjoying the mat classics. id never seen Robinson only heard of him so his
match was a treat."

They haven't shown the title change match yet, just the highlights. I'm glad they're showing some of those mat classics too since those are a lot of guys that I haven't seen in years and am enjoying getting to see again.

From James:
"About Big K...I now remember that I think I once read that he was supposed to be
Badd Company's manager. As it is, his segments were odd...I don't think anyone
else on the show ever mentioned him?

Roughly on the topic, when did DDP make his debut here?"

DDP made his debut on tonight's show it appears, and Big K's segments must have been thought to be especially useless if even the rest of the commentators wouldn't even mention them. Filler to try get the show to the end with the limited roster of talent the AWA had if I had to hazards a guess.

From Arnold_OldSchool:
"Baron's botches were at least entertaining. Can you imangine a worker doing
that on RAW? *scratches head*

Lee Marshall's inability to count to 10 when Baron was doing the turnbuckle
smashes was quite amusing too"

I can't think of anyone who would be able to do that today and get away with it. Maybe Eugene when he was at the heights of his retard gimmick, but that's about it. I also found it funny that Lee Marshall had trouble countint to ten. Not surprising, just funny.

From Steve:
"I saw the last few minutes of that Baron Von Raschke & Ray "The
Crippler" Stevens Vs. Soldat Ustinov & Teijo Khan that Frozen was
talking about on Youtube, and it was meh. We do get another controversial
finish though, as you'll see on Monday's show, which features that very match
in full"

Yes, the match was indeed rather "meh", though I guess they did the best they could for the talent that was in the ring. They needed to do the screwy finish though because they had to run the same match on the house show loop so they had to keep people interested and not give too much away.

From Brian:
"Damn...sorry I missed this show. Wahoo/Hennig would have been fun to see. I
agree with your comment about Hennig bouncing off of a cage like a tennis ball.
(heh) That man may have been the best ever at floppin' around the ring. Bret
Hart and Shawn Michaels come to mind as being in Hennig's league, but not
I'm especially bummed that I missed any portion of a Billy Robinson match!!! In
an age when technical rasslers were abundant, he was still among the best. I
wish there were a few more around now days, it would be a nice change of pace
to the status quo.
Heck, there was even a Rocky Mountain Thunder match on this show!!! A perfect
chance to go make a sandwich and watch everything else!!! Pretty thoughtful of
the AWA to include that for everyone watching at home.
One last comment..."Dan" made a grrrrreat point in his post about the
lack of a strong face. Too bad that at this point the AWA had already lost the
likes of Rick Martel, Hulk Hogan, Tito Santana, etc. It's a shame that Verne
Gagne was either unable, or unwilling to change with the times."

Agreed to pretty much everything, though I will say that Verne not being able to change with the times had little to do with the lack of a primary babyface that the company could build off of. Being cheap however...

From AndresV:
"An ok show. Has the Baron ever had the ability to do power moves or is it more
because of age? The Suplex, Bodyslam, and the Backdrop looked weak. Time to
go to the gym and work on something besides your hands. I did like his moves
at the beginning and of course marked out for the Goose Step and The Claw. Oh
yeah Rocky Thunder's splash was bad especially when the announcers mentioned
him hitting Daryl with the splash. Will he take out Larry and Daryl's other
brother Daryl in the coming shows??"

Baron had a little bit of trouble with most of those moves from most of the times I saw him, but a lot of it was more than likely due to his advanced age and relative lack of muscle in his later years.

From Eric:
"For the record, since I've not seen anyone else give the answer (tho I might be
wrong, of course), but Rocky Mountain Thunder was a man named Greg Boyd, a
former NFL defensive lineman who played parts of seven seasons in the NFL,
including time with the Denver Broncos hence the Rocky Mountain monicker.
Apparently Verne was hoping to catch lightning in a bottle again, since Leon
White was long gone to Japan by 1988. Boyd didn't cut it, and those few
appearances on AWA Championship Wrestling were pretty much it. Him nearly
reverse-decapitating The Surfer pretty much killed his career in the AWA. And
no, The Surfer wasn't Sonny Rogers.

Big K, Stan Kowalski, was also a temporary stopgap between managers Paul E.
Dangerously (Heyman) in 1987 and Diamond Dallas Page in 1989. No big loss
there with Big K.

This part of 1988 was really the last gasp, as I've mentioned before. The
Baron was back (from a very short last stint in the WWF) and would stay until
the end. Curt Hennig would be on his way out, dropping the belt to Jerry
Lawler (when Gagne and Jerry Jarrett would band together and play mix-and-match
workers). It was also Wahoo's last gasp before retiring as well. Sarge, loyal to
Verne, would also stay to the end. Well, not really...McMahon would coax him
back again before the Team Challenge series would start. Ricky Rice (yeah,
blah) and Derrick Dukes would wind up being the last 'created' tag team under
the AWA as "The Top Guns".

If you noticed this particular set of tapings....how empty the Showboat was?
Even with parts of the Rock & Roll Express? Newsflash: apparently Robert
Gibson didn't like not getting paid and he blew off the next set of tapings
(only Morton showed). This was the same scenario with the U.S. Express:
Windham never made it to a second set of tapings. Rotundo did. Then he was
gone too.

That's pretty much how things went down in the end. Depending on what they
actually show, the saving graces of the upcoming programming will feature
wrestlers at the beginning of their careers. That, and Jake "The Milkman"
Milliman. "

First of all, good to hear from you again Eric! Secondly, it was kind of sad to see how things ended up for the AWA and I indeed noticed how empty that Showboat was. Interesting to hear about the Gibson situation and how closely it mirrored the Windham situation of a couple of years previous. I hadn't heard that information about Rocky Moutain Thunder either, and it all sounds pretty plausible so I'm guessing you're right. He's just terrible though and hopefully I won't have to sit through much more of him.

From Eric, again:
"A few quick notes on the beloved Baron, for AndresV.

Baron was definitely on the downside of his career, having been in the industry
since the mid-1960s. He worked the Nazi heel very well for many years, and was
a big draw in Chicago during the early and mid 1970s. Jim Raschke was usually
managed by Bobby Heenan, and he normally teamed up with Heenan tag teams: The
Valiant Brothers and the Blackjacks.

He wasn't one of those power wrestlers. He had a gimmick, and he had the claw
hold. And he could work taking a beating like no one else. See if you can find
some of his singles matches against midwest superstars Dick the Bruiser, The
Crusher, Wilbur Snyder, "Sailor" Art Thomas, and Bobo Brazil.

He worked a good long program in the mid 70s in the WWWF. They used to X out
the finishes in his matches, as the claw was a good excuse for a good bladejob.
He worked programs with both Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund, but never won
the heavyweight belt. He did some good work tho, and was in his prime as a

When he returned to the AWA in the early 1980s to support longtime friend Mad
Dog Vachon. He was so popular, even while using the same goose-stepping
gimmick, that he wound up getting his last push with an old nemesis The
Crusher. Crusher and the Baron would be the team that would finally topple the
Road Warriors. Go figure.

Jim Raschke had a very impressive record in amateur wrestling, almost making it
to the Olympics in 1964 (he just missed making the team), and he was an AAU
champion as well.

He had one of the best modern gimmicks going...and had the real wrestling
background. It was still nice to see him on TV in the late 80s...even though
he was pushing 25 years in the business at the time.

The next time you look at the Baron in those later AWA shows and say 'man, he
looks old' compare it to how Ric Flair's looked for the past two years. Then
compare it to Flair's heyday in the early 80s. Night and day.

...and I'm out."

When you come back, you come back with a vengeance! More great info about the Baron!! Thanks muchly for all of that.

From Arnold_OldSchool, again:
"Reading about primetime wrestling (WWF) having a 12 minute SD Jones vs Steve
Lombardi match makes you almost feel lucky to be stuck with this tripe

Whaoo and Curt had the cage match on a special card, so ESPN ,may not show

Yeah, I feel blessed when I'm not having to watch twelve minutes of Special Delivery vs. Brooklyn Brawler, though when I see Ricky Rice against another jobber, it feels pretty much the same. Shame to hear about the Hennig/Wahoo cage match, since that would have been REALLY fun to get to see.

From rdfox:
"...dear god. I just got back from a weekend out of town, and while catching up
on your reports, I got to see the "Camp Slaughter" training video for
the first time.

I swear, I heard that music in an early-80s porno I "borrowed" from
my father back in the day. Combine that with two guys out in the woods, and
the image of Greg on all fours, pumping his body up and down... 'scuse me, I
think I'm gonna go barf up my socks now."

Yeah, that video was pretty bad. Though I don't think I need to hear about any barfing with my stomach in knots like it is. Let's move on.

From Guest#4882:
"Does anyone know the date of the Blackwell-Gagne match that was shown Monday
night? Greg said it was 1982, but Verne wasn't champion then."

If I had to wager a guess, I'd say that it was from the last title reign for Verne so it would put the match at late 1980 or early 1981.

Finally from Brian:
"I just wanted to add to ERIC'S comments on Baron Von Raschke...
He was indeed not even close to his former self at this point in his career. Da
Baron in his prime, was one of the all time greats.
As WWA champion, he had a long feud with Dick the Bruiser, and had programs
with Tommy (Wildfire) Rich, Paul Orndorff, Jimmy Snuka, and Fritz Von Erich. He
teamed over the years with the likes of Ernie (Big Cat) Ladd, Greg (The Hammer)
Valentine, Mad Dog Vachon, Dusty Rhodes, and many others.
He was managed for many years by Bobby Heenan...go to the following link to
find out more about Da Baron

Thanks for the link, Brian! It's always fun to get to see stuff like that and I love getting to read up on all the old-timers!

Thanks for all the great comments everyone, and with the comment bag empty, that means I'm out for another edition of the AWA on ESPN Classic report! I'll be back tomorrow, hopefully with a full show in tow! See you then folks!


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