Situations like this PPV are why Vince McMahon rules the world and we're all just biding time until he forces us to bow down to a golden shrine in his honor.
Jim Crockett Promotions finally decided to dive into the PPV market with Starrcade '87, so Vince put up the Survivor Series with a huge potential rematch between Hogan and Andre. The cable companies intervened to stop a war that could cost them millions and told Vince and Crockett not to make them choose.
Crockett poked his head of the groundhog hole, thought it was safe to come out and do another PPV, so he announced The Bunkhouse Stampede would be on PPV in 1988. Vince, true to his word, did not schedule a PPV, but he did schedule the first ever Royal Rumble on free cable TV.
January 24, 1988
Live from Uniondale, N.Y..
Your hosts are Jim Ross and Bob Caudle.
Opening Match, NWA TV Title: Nikita Koloff vs. Bobby Eaton (w/Jim Cornette).
Caudle predicts two different styles. That's like saying Beethoven and DeBarge had different styles. Koloff steamrolls Eaton early on. It's just total slaughter. Eaton bores the crowd with a headlock, and they let him know about it, so they take it to the floor where Koloff hiptosses Eaton on the concrete. Back in, Eaton practically no-sells it and rides Koloff down into a hammerlock… for the next 10 minutes. Nikita makes a comeback, but it's too late, and time expires at 20:00. There was just *no* action after the first few minutes. It was just 10 minutes of armbar and hammerlock. 1/2*
Stan Lane comes in, and the Midnights leave Nikita lying.
Western States Heritage Title: Barry Windham vs. Larry Zbyszko (w/Baby Doll).
Yay. After the 20-minute headlock to end all headlocks we get Larry "One-Man Stalling Machine" Zbyszko. Larry made the jump from the AWA and immediately paired up with Baby Doll. The scandal was that Baby Doll had pictures of Dusty Rhodes that allegedly showed him in flagante delicto. She offered to trade them for the U.S. Title. Presumably, no one wanted to see those photos, so Dusty just dropped the whole thing by saying they didn't show anything incriminating. That's some captivating TV right there, folks. Anyway, that came later. Here's this match. Barry hits a move. Larry stalls. Barry hits a move. Larry stalls. Barry argues with Baby Doll. Larry stalls. Larry takes over on offense. Larry stalls. They botch a suplex. Barry falls to the floor off a missed flying lariat. Larry stalls. Back in, they collide for a double KO. The ref gets bumped off a corner whip. Barry thinks he has the pin, but Baby Doll tricked him by counting Larry's shoulders down. That allows Larry to hit a confused Windham with Baby Doll's shoe to pick up the win at 19:16. Good God, this was a long match. Zbyszko showed he had the ability to come up with a hold for anything other than my attention. At 20 minutes, it feels closer to an hour draw. It picked up a little at the end, salvaging itself (and my sanity). *3/4
NWA Heavyweight Title: Ric Flair (w/JJ Dillon) vs. Road Warrior Hawk (w/Paul Ellering).
Dusty didn't quite seem to get the concept of the PPV main event. Sure, Flair vs. Hawk was just fine as a main event when it was part of a long series back in 1986 because it was the equivalent of a house show. You can do something like that on a TV special, but this is PPV. You'd never see Hulk Hogan versus Demolition Ax as the PPV main event, but you would see him take on Nikolai Volkoff on free TV. Big difference. That's not to say it's a bad match. It's just the same as Flair vs. Luger, Flair vs. Koloff, etc.. Hawk no-sells everything and chases Flair around the ring. He gets in the big press slam, and Flair bails to think things over. Finally, leads Hawk on a chase (nearly gets squashed by the ring steps) and uses the Great Equalizer to take over. Flair goes to work on Hawk's leg. Hawk tries a fistdrop but lands on his injured knee. Flair goes back to work on the knee and applies the figure-four. Hawk turns it over, though. "AHHGGHAGH! JESUS CHRIST!" Flair is so awesome. The ref gets bumped, so Hawk knocks Flair over the top rope. Back in, Hawk hits a powerslam. That sets up a clothesline and a superplex, but JJ nails Hawk with a chair. That just pisses Hawk off. Flair gets a slightly better chairshot as the ref recovers. It only gets two, though, and Hawk hulks up. Flair finally just grabs the chair and nails Hawk with it at 21:39. This was going along fine until the silly DQ. It would also be the first in a series of title defenses where Flair had to be rescued from losing his title. Flair's sneaky-bastard-vs.-big-guy template was starting to get tiring, although Luger would help revitalize it by the end of the year. ***1/2
This is the Third-Annual Bunkhouse Stampede match, which such a stupid concept. The idea is that you have to be thrown out of the cage over the top. What's interesting is that it's another one of those Dusty Rhodes inventions where you're supposed to "come as you are." Does Dusty have a something against changing his clothes? The original Bunkhouse Stampede was just a series of battle royals where you could bring weapons. The final was another battle royal with all of the other battle royal winners. Dusty Rhodes won that one. The following year, Rhodes and Big Bubba Rogers wound up tied, so they had a Bunkhouse Cage Match (same rules as here only with two guys instead of eight). Dusty Rhodes won that one. Are you sensing the beginning of a pattern? Anyway, your participants are Road Warrior Animal, Arn Anderson, Ivan Koloff, Lex Luger, Dusty Rhodes, the Barbarian, the Warlord, and Tully Blanchard. Paul Jones, JJ Dillon and Paul Ellering are at ringside. Luger, who has already left the Horsemen and turned face is taking a beating from Arn and Tully. The Road Warriors are also in there, intermittently beating on the Powers of Pain. Tully strangles Ivan Koloff near the door. Koloff gets tossed. Animal and Warlord get knocked out of the cage. That leaves Arn & Tully, Dusty Rhodes, Lex Luger and the Barbarian. Luger racks Tully, but it's irrelevant. Barbarian works on Dusty's shoulder while the Brainbusters try to eliminate Luger. Arn has the brilliant idea of walking to the steps and then pulling Luger out. Step one: get on the steps. Step two: choke out Luger. Step Three: money? Luger and the Brainbusters all fall to the floor, making it a moral victory for Luger and leaving Barbarian and Dusty Rhodes. Barbarian scales the cage because there's just no other realistic way to get him out. Dusty follows him and hits an elbow to send Barbarian to the floor at 26:30. I believe this was Earl Hebner's last match with the NWA for about 18 years. That earns it 1/4*, and that's all it deserves. 1/4*
The 411: Horrible start to 1988 for the NWA. Not only were they getting their asses kicked in a head-to-head national war by Vince McMahon, but the quality of the wrestling and angles (outside of Flair) began to sputter. Thankfully, Dusty and Crockett cooked up a way to get new fans, an answer to the WWF's Saturday Night's Main Event -- Clash of the Champions. But that's another show.