PDRwrestling Review: Starrcade 1985: The Gathering Posted by Matt Peddycord on 05.14.2010
Magnum TA and Tully Blanchard get hardcore!
NWA Starrcade ’85: The Gathering
November 28, 1985
Atlanta, GA & Greensboro, NC
The Omni & Greensboro Coliseum
This is the original show that gave Vince the idea to book a “multi-location” show, except Vince had to one-up Crockett and book his WrestleMania in three different venues ALL over the country. The tape I have starts out in G-boro and then switches back and forth between cities until we reach Flair/Rhodes in ATL, which I can only assume is how it was presented on CCTV.
Your hosts are Tony Schiavone and Bob Caudle, with Johnny Weaver conducting interviews in Greensboro. Shame the man couldn’t be in two places at once, because I would love for a good old school Ric Flair promo to be on here.
Sam Houston vs. Krusher Khrushchev – Vacant NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title
Interesting reason for the title being vacant was because the former champion Buzz Tyler had claimed that Dusty Rhodes, who was the head booker for JCP at the time, owed him money. Since he didn’t receive what he felt was owed to him, Buzz left the territory and took the belt with him. Naturally, he never wrestled for JCP again. The winner of this one wins the newly designed belt, even though at this point, it mattered about as much as the Cruiserweight title does these days on Smackdown. Sam Houston is the half-brother of Jake Roberts, which might explain his drinking problem and why he’s serving a ten-year prison sentence for mounting up too many DUIs. Houston was basically just your generic, skinny, young 1980s cowboy. Krusher Khrushchev is Barry Darsow: the Soviet turncoat who hangs out with Ivan and Nikita Koloff. He later went on bigger fame in the WWF as Smash in Demolition and various other gimmicks like the Repo Man and Mr. Hole in One! Krusher uses his power to control to start, but Houston uses his quickness to send Krusher out to the floor to take him off his game. Khrushchev slows the pace down and choke lifts Houston, but then misses an elbow drop. Houston wins a slugfest and hooks on a side headlock. Khrushchev shoves Houston off into the ropes, but goes down to a head scissors. Khrushchev stands up out of the headscissors and places Houston in the corner, but Houston uses his quickness and nails Khrushchev with a dropkick. Houston goes to an armbar, but Khrushchev grabs the ropes for the break. Khrushchev reverses a whip and introduces Houston to gravity the hard way by lifting Houston up in the air and dropping him to the canvas. Crowd HATES it. Khrushchev delivers a press slam and continues to keep the pressure on Houston with a RUSSIAN bearhug. Khrushchev releases the hold after one punch and then ducks low off a whip. Khrushchev is back up first though, and slams Houston before going up top. Houston gets back to his feet and crotches Khrushchev. Houston hits a few rights in the corner and then hits the BULLDOG! Houston covers for 1, 2, NO! Khrushchev gets his foot on the bottom rope. Houston thinks he’s won, however, and is too busy celebrating to see Khrushchev coming up to nail him with the RUSSIAN SICKLE! That kills Houston dead and Khrushchev wins the belt. (9:30) The replay shows that Houston had his foot on the bottom rope after two, which results in a Houston/Khrushchev feud for the next couple months. It was an okay match with a fairly cliché ‘80s finish. *½
Abdullah the Butcher (w/Paul Jones) vs. Manny Fernandez – Mexican Death Match
Don’t let the name of the gimmick fool you, it’s not as violent as it sounds. This is basically a “sombrero on a pole” match. It’s a pretty standard Abdullah match with him stabbing Fernandez in the face with his spike. I mean, seriously, what else can you do with Abdullah? Fernandez bleeds like crazy and kicks away on Abdullah. Fernandez actually monkey flips him, then hammers Abdullah with his boot. That busts Abdullah open, which doesn’t look like a very hard task to accomplish. Abdullah fires back and nails Fernandez with the boot, then makes the first attempt to retrieve the sombrero. Fernandez low blows Abdullah and brings him to the mat for more punishment with the boot. Fernandez drops the boot and tries for the sombrero, but Abdullah takes the boot and nails Fernandez in the back of the head. Fernandez whips out his belt and starts working over Abdullah. Abdullah comes back with kicks and headbutts, but then misses an elbow drop. That allows Fernandez to get back to his feet and deliver the FLYING BURRITO! It’s no different than Tito’s Flying Jalapeno. Fernandez pounds on Abdullah and then gives him a suplex! As Fernandez goes for the sombrero, Abdullah comes up from behind and stabs Fernandez in the balls with his spike! Abdullah delivers some more headbutts, but Fernandez fights back and hits the FLYING BURRITO one more time! Abdullah doesn’t go down, so Fernandez comes off the middle turnbuckle with a clothesline to put Abdullah on the mat. Fernandez stupidly goes up top instead of grabbing the sombrero, and misses Abdullah completely. Abdullah whips Fernandez in the corner, but then misses a charge and hits the ringpost. Fernandez climbs up the corner and grabs the sombrero for the win. (9:07) The action was watchable once Manny got going. Other than that, there wasn’t much to it. ½*
“Cowboy” Ron Bass vs. Black Bart (w/JJ Dillon) – Bull Rope Match
If Bass wins, he gets a five minute “Bull Rope” match with JJ Dillon. You can call this the CLUBBERIN’ match of the evening. Both men just pound on each other with fists and a cowbell for ten minutes. By the way, JJ Dillon is wearing a tuxedo t-shirt. The finish comes when Bass comes off the middle-rope and nails Black Bart with the cowbell. (8:34) That was terrible and leads to more terrible. CRAP
“Cowboy” Ron Bass vs. JJ Dillon (w/Black Bart) – Bull Rope Match
Dillon makes the mistake of taking off the tuxedo t-shirt to reveal his less than stellar physique. Since JJ Dillon is fresh and not, well, bleeding, he gets his licks in on Bass pretty easily. Dillon chokes on Bass with the rope, but then Bass gets ANGRY. Bass rocks Dillon with the cowbell to bust him open, but the ref gets in the way of his swing and goes down. Black Bart sneaks in and gives Bass a piledriver. He lays Dillon on top of Bass for the three-count. (3:29) Dillon dumps these losers like Black Bart and Buddy Landel for the big time six months later to manage the original (and most awesome) Four Horsemen. CRAP
The Barbarian (w/Paul Jones) vs. “Superstar” Billy Graham – $10,000 Arm Wrestling Match
This one’s got your typical arm wrestling BS that you see in the movies. Both guys get really close to winning and all that jazz. Graham wins, but then Paul Jones nails him in the face with his cane. Now the REAL match starts and Barbarian takes over and busts Graham open. After a couple minutes of controlling the match, Barbarian misses a leg drop and Graham fires back. Just when it looks Graham has things going his way, Barbarian explodes out of the corner with a clothesline. Barbarian goes up top for the FLYING HEADBUTT, but Graham moves out of the way and hooks on the BEARHUG. Barbarian looks to be out of it, so Paul Jones hops in and jabs Graham with his cane again to bring on the DQ. (3:02) Graham blocks a cane shot and takes it away from Paul Jones. He hits him softly as can be, but Jones sells it anyway until Barbarian comes up from behind and knocks Graham out to the floor. Barbarian follows Graham out and they brawl around ringside. Match was nothing special. CRAP
NWA National Champion Terry Taylor vs. “Nature Boy” Buddy Landel (w/JJ Dillon)
It starts out almost like a Flair match; he avoids contact, but then he does some poor man’s styling and profiling around the ring. I just don’t feel the cockiness, man. Landel tries to get in some forearms, but Taylor blocks and sends Landel sliding back into the corner. Landel works a headlock, but Taylor escapes into an overhead wristlock. Landel escapes out of that and backs Taylor into the corner and unloads on the champ, but then cross-corner whips and charges into a boot. Taylor follows up with a back drop and a knee drop for only a one-count. Taylor starts to work on Landel’s arm, but then gets caught with a forearm to take over. Landel hooks on a chinlock as JJ Dillon shows up at ringside with his head bandaged up after his match with Ron Bass. Taylor fights up and counters with a back suplex. Taylor hits a backbreaker and then follows up with a standing legdrop for two as Landel gets his foot on the bottom rope. Taylor delivers some chops in the corner, but then runs into a clothesline for 1, 2, NO! Landel tries a suplex, but Taylor blocks it and rolls him up for 1, 2, NO! Landel gets right back on top and applies a camel clutch. Taylor can’t stand up, so instead he walks Landel over towards the corner and shoves Landel off into the bottom turnbuckle. Well, that’s one way to escape that hold. Taylor rakes Landel’s face with his both boots and gives Landel a suplex for 1, 2, NO! Taylor rams Landel’s face into the buckle a bunch of times, and when the ref tries to bring Taylor out of the corner, JJ Dillon hands Landel his shoe for him to nail Taylor in the face. Landel shoves Taylor into the ref to send him down for some heelish double-teaming with the shoe as Dillon gets up on the apron. Taylor reverses the whip and runs Landel into Dillon. Taylor nails Landel with a forearm and sets him up for the SUPERPLEX, but Dillon is able to trip Taylor up to make Landel fall on top for the three-count. (10:30) Fairly solid match, but nothing earth-shatteringly great. Landel was fired by Jim Crockett a few weeks after this due to a drug problem and the belt was awarded to the bookerman himself: Dusty Rhodes! **¼
NWA National Tag Champs The Minnesota Wrecking Crew vs. Wahoo McDaniel and Billy Jack Haynes
Wahoo and Billy Jack were Florida’s U.S. tag champs at the time, but those belts are not on the line here. Those belts are not to be confused with the NWA U.S. tag belts that were not created for another year. Billy Jack looks great here against Arn as he overpowers him, so Arn decides to give Ole a try. It takes a good dozen shots from Billy Jack to put Ole down, but he finally does and brings in Wahoo. He chops Ole down and lets him tag in Arn. Wahoo chops him down as well and then hooks a headlock. Arn counters into a head scissors, but Wahoo escapes back into the headlock. Now Arn grabs a headlock and backs up into his corner and tags in Ole. He comes in and goes right after the arm! Wahoo is able to chop Ole away with his free hand, but gets his leg hooked to prevent a tag as Ole tags in Arn. Arn comes in and works the arm like the point of the match was “first to dismember someone’s body part, wins.” Some double-teaming from the Andersons causes Billy Jack to run in and help out Wahoo, but that just results in more double-teaming. Wahoo chops Arn away again, but can’t get the tag. Wahoo chops Ole down and rolls over and makes the HOT tag to Billy Jack. Ole attacks Billy Jack from behind, but Haynes tags in Wahoo. He comes in and hits the big chop and covers Arn, but Ole breaks up the count at two. While the ref is busy with Billy Jack, Ole trips up Wahoo and Arn covers for 1, 2, NO! Wahoo fights up and backs Arn against the ropes as Ole trips Wahoo up once again, and then Ole holds Wahoo’s leg as Arn gets the pin to retain the belts. (9:00) Decent Anderson formula tag match. **½
NWA U.S. Champion Tully Blanchard (w/Baby Doll) vs. Magnum TA – “I Quit” Cage Match
Wow, do these two hate each other or what? Not only is this match inside of a STEEL CAGE, but they’ve also got to make the other say, “I quit!” in order to win! The “stone cold” expression on Magnum’s face is awesome. They roll around on the mat for a bit clawing at each other until Tully goes to the eyes and unloads on Magnum. That just fires Magnum up as he comes back with shots. Tully blocks a cage shot and took Magnum into the steel instead. Magnum stands up out of a reverse chinlock and hotshots Tully, but then goes face-first into the steel. Tully grabs the mic and screams at Magnum to say I quit, but he refuses. Magnum fights back and applies a hammerlock before throwing Tully into the cage not once, but twice. Ouch, his arm is busted OPEN! Now Magnum shoves the mic in Tully’s mouth, but Tully refuses and headbutts Magnum in the groin. Magnum hammers away on Tully’s bloody left deltoid. Now Tully busts Magnum open, all while kicking him in the face. Tully grabs the mic, but since Magnum refuses to quit this time, Tully hits in the cut forehead with the mic. Tully takes Magnum into the cage again, and comes off the top rope (not cage) with a double axe handle. Tully asks Magnum if he wants to quit again, but Magnum still says no. Magnum fights back and asks Tully again if he wants to quit, but he’s still saying no as well, so Magnum waffles him with the mic. Now will Tully quit? NO! Both men claw on each other’s cuts! That’s just SICK! Magnum fires back and asks Tully if he wants to quit now, but Tully kicks Magnum away. Magnum nails Tully again and goes up for a ten-count corner punch, but Tully counters with an inverted atomic drop. Tully screams at Magnum to quit, but he still says no! Tully nails Earl Hebner and drops Magnum with some elbows as he waits for Baby Doll to throw a wooden chair over into the cage! Tully shatters it in the ring and takes a broken piece of it and tries to stab Magnum in his already badly lacerated forehead! Well that’s just CRAZY! Magnum blocks it, but doesn’t get Tully off of him completely, which adds some amazing suspense to the moment. Greensboro is FREAKING OUT! Magnum is able to knee Tully off of him and jab the sharp-edged piece into Tully’s forehead! OH MAN, Magnum screams at Tully over and over again, asking him, “DO YOU QUIT?” At this point, Tully has no choice but to scream YES several times in order to get this crazy dude off of him. This one is OVER. Magnum walks out with the last wrestling title he would ever hold. (14:43) A match FILLED with hatred capped off by one of the most insane finishes in American wrestling history. I think this match solidifies both men as two of the sickest mofos on the planet. These two were hardcore, before hardcore was cool! *****
The Midnight Express (w/Jim Cornette) vs. Jimmy Valiant & Miss Atlanta Lively (w/the grotesquely large-breasted “Big Mama”) – Atlanta Street Fight
You talk about going from a mountain top into a pit of DESPAIR. This would be the Condrey/Eaton version in case you’re wondering, and the earliest NWA footage I’ve seen of the Midnight Express, as they had only been in the NWA for about five months at this point. Miss Atlanta Lively is better known as Ronnie Garvin in drag, which he seemed to think was hilarious. Me? I’m just not that into drag queens. Not my bag, baby. The Midnight Express is going to wrestle in TUXEDOS! Garvin throws baby powder in the Midnights’ eyes to start to send Condrey out to regroup, and Eaton stumbling around in the ring. Eaton kicks out of the corner and kicks Valiant while he’s got Condrey up against the ring jabbing a plastic chair in his throat. Eaton brawls with Valiant while Condrey works Garvin over in the ring. Now all four men are in the ring, and Valiant hooks the sleeper on Condrey. He’s busted open too! Eaton tries to break it up, but Garvin cuts him off. Condrey backs Valiant into the corner to break, and Eaton nails Garvin with some brass knucks. The Midnights whip out some powder and throw it in Valiant’s face, and then hammer him with some knucks to bust Valiant open. Garvin gets shanked, and Valiant comes back to save him. Now Valiant gets dumped as the Midnights concentrate on Garvin. Cornette comes in and decks Garvin with the tennis racket. Valiant finally gets back in, but promptly takes a double clothesline. Eaton goes up top for the ALABAMA JAM, but Garvin catches him coming down with a forearm to the face for the win. (6:36) The Midnight Express wisely walked away from this feud to go after the NWA World tag titles. This is what you might call a completely passable match. ½*
NWA World Tag Team Champions Ivan & Nikita Koloff (w/Krusher Khrushchev) vs. The Rock n Roll Express (w/Don Kernodle) – Cage Match
Not sure why Don Kernodle is in the RnR Express’s corner, other than that he is an American! Nikita starts off naturally over-powering Morton. Once Morton uses his speed, he catches Nikita off-guard with a dropkick. Nikita wisely slows the pace down and hammers Morton to the mat. Ivan tags in, but he lets Morton run around. Morton nails him with a crossbody for a close near-fall. Morton grabs a headlock, but then Ivan crotches him on the top rope. Morton blocks a cage shot, and pounds Ivan back to his corner so he can tag in Gibson. The Express make frequent tags dominating the weaker and smaller Ivan Koloff, gaining several near-falls in the process. They also make sure Ivan tastes plenty of steel and busts him open. Ivan finally seizes the moment and tags in Nikita. Gibson tries to control Nikita by using his speed, but he runs right into a bearhug. Nikita takes full advantage of the cage and drives Gibson’s face right into it, several times. Morton has had enough and comes in to try and save, but that just causes a double-team on Gibson from the Koloffs. Yep, Gibson is bleeding now. Ivan tags in and takes Gibson to the steel for two. Gibson catches Ivan ducking low off a whip, but he can’t make the tag. Nikita tags in and rules Gibson and then taunts at Morton to bring him in to cause another double-team on Gibson for two as Morton makes the save. Ivan goes for the Russian Straddle, but Gibson moves out of the way! Ivan gets right back on top and backs Gibson into his corner for a double-team beatdown. Ivan hits a leg drop for two. He tries another one, but Gibson avoids it. He still can’t seem to make the tag as Nikita comes in and hooks on a chinlock. Gibson pounds and knees out of it, but Ivan tags in and cuts Gibson off from Morton. Ivan pounds Gibson to the mat and covers for two, as Gibson gets his foot on the bottom rope. Gibson fires back, but Nikita tags in and runs Gibson face-first into the cage. Nikita covers for two, but Morton comes in for the save. Ivan tags in and misses a clothesline, allowing Gibson to dropkick Ivan into the ref. Gibson covers and as Morton comes in, he gets blasted with a RUSSIAN SICKLE! Gibson stands back up and he takes a RUSSIAN SICKLE. Nikita places Ivan on top of Gibson, but referee Earl Hebner takes too long to make the count. Gibson makes a blind tag to Morton, who comes in and rolls up Ivan for the win to regain their NWA World tag titles as the crowd freakin’ EXPLODES! (12:22) Pretty decent match, which ends their feud and sets the stage perfectly to continue the RnR Express/Midnight Express feud in 1986. ***¼
NWA World Champion Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes
In September 1985, Flair was unhappy about Dusty trying to save him from a beatdown by the Russians in a cage. Once Dusty was in the ring and had chased them off, Ole and Arn came in from behind and pad-locked the cage and proceeded to break Dusty’s ankle. This is Dusty’s revenge match. That’ll teach you to try and help Ric Flair out. Dusty struts to start, then wins a slugfest. A Bionic Elbow sends Flair down and out to the floor to collect himself, as the crowd is red hot for this match. Flair gets back in at the count of eight and tries to chop Dusty down, but he stops Flair with an elbow. Flair rolls out to the floor again and takes a walk. Back in, Dusty reverses a hammerlock and takes Flair down with it. Flair gets on his knees and grabs for Dusty’s hurt ankle, but Dusty scurries away. Flair chops Dusty in the corner and then lowers the knee pad and connects with the knee drop. Flair twists on Dusty’s arm and then surprises him with a hard kick to the injured ankle. Hahaha, nice. Dusty has to take a break after that one. Flair is there to meet Dusty on the apron. Dusty blocks and delivers some elbows, then drapes Flair’s foot over the side of the apron and stomps one good time. Dusty works on Flair’s ankle for a bit, but Flair goes to the eyes to get away from him. Flair attempts a suplex on Dusty, but can’t do it and takes a suplex for his troubles. Dusty goes right back to what he was doing before, and that’s working the ankle. Flair escapes and catches Dusty off the ropes with a sleeper. Dusty escapes that by sending Flair off into the turnbuckle. That puts Flair right where Dusty wants him, as he goes out to the floor and posts Flair’s leg. Back in, Dusty no-sells some chops and chops back on Flair, but then misses an elbow drop. Flair goes up top and we all know what happens next. Dusty tries a figure-four, but Flair kicks him away. That makes Dusty fall wrong on his hurt ankle, allowing Flair to take control. Now Flair goes for the FIGURE-FOUR, but Dusty kicks him away with his good leg. Flair tries again, but Dusty kicks him away once more. Flair stomps the bad ankle, but Dusty comes back with a headbutt and sends Flair in the corner for the Flair Flip out to the floor. Dusty follows him out and posts him to bust open the champ. Back in, Dusty backhands Tommy Young by accident, so Flair tosses Dusty out over the top rope. That was considered a DQ in NWA/WCW until 1996 or 1997 when the nWo made WCW throw the rule book out, according to kayfabe. While Flair is looking the other way, Dusty gets up on the top rope and basically just lands on top of Flair. Tommy Young takes a second to get in position and counts 1, 2, NO! Dusty pounds away with elbows and punches until Flair does his Flair Flop. Another Flair Flip, but he gets caught in the gut coming off the top rope. Dusty stupidly tries to kick Flair with his bad foot, and hits the turnbuckle instead. NOWWWW! Flair is all over Dusty’s ankle, which inevitably leads to the FIGURE-FOUR. Dusty reverses the hold, which goes against logic completely if his ankle is REALLY hurting. Both men to their feet, and Dusty no-sells chops. Dusty delivers some elbows and then a big clothesline. He covers for 1, 2, NO! Flair “lifts” Dusty off of him onto Tommy Young! Flair gets thrown inadvertently into Tommy Young, sending him out to the floor. Dusty elbows Flair down and hooks on the figure-four. Now Arn Anderson runs in and Dusty releases the hold. He gets beat down and kicked out to the floor as Ole Anderson runs in and knees Dusty from behind. Ole leaves with Arn thinking that the damage is done. Flair covers Dusty as a new ref comes in to count 1, 2, NO! Flair tries a slam, but Dusty reverses with a small package for the three-count to become the new NWA World Champion. (22:08) It’s all for naught though because a week later, Tommy Young changes the decision to a DQ win for Dusty because he saw Arn and Ole run in and the belt returns to Flair. This is the first instance of what smarts would come to hate as the Dusty Finish. Not counting the controversy that resulted, I liked seeing Flair make Dusty make a mistake instead of mauling the hurt ankle the whole match. Of course this isn’t Flair/Steamboat, but it was entertaining and it’s always great to see Flair at the peak of his career, because that guy could carry anybody to a good match. ***
The 411: What a great card full of classic '80s NWA rivalries. Definite 'thumbs up' for Starrcade 1985.