Michael Hayes vs. Russian Assassin #1 (w/Paul Jones).
We're JIP to the Assassin hitting the Sickle for two. Nikita he ain't. Hayes comes back with a crossbody as Capetta announces the 10-minute mark. Assassin kills the match with a chinlock, though. Hayes gets fired up, but the Assassin blocks a bulldog. Finally, Assassin misses a charge and posts himself, allowing Hayes to finish with the DDT at 7:44 (of 15:48). Hayes was actually in good shape here and was becoming a better all-around athlete. Sadly, too much Jack Victory dragged this down. *
Sting vs. Butch Reed (w/Hiro Matsuda).
Lots of power jockeying to start. Sting takes Reed down in a wristlock and bites his fingers. Reed tosses Sting to the floor and grounds the match with a chinlock for nearly 10 minutes! Sting fires back but goes for a pump-splash and lands on Reed's knees. Reed hits a neckbreaker and gets two. Back to the chinlock. At least he's pulling the tights to get some heat for the move. Sting slugs his way back and goes for a sunset flip. Reed nearly steals it with a handful of ropes, but Teddy Long catches him and makes him break. Sting completes the move and gets the pin at 16:02 (out of 20:04). *
Six-Man Tag: The Midnight Express & Jim Cornette vs. Randy Rose, Jack Victory & Paul E. Dangerously.
Loser of the fall leaves the NWA. This was supposed to be the Midnights versus the Original Midnights, but George Scott was hired as booker, and he didn't care for either Rose or Dennis Condrey. Condrey knew he was going to be either fired or humiliated so he decided to quit before that could happen. That killed the heat for this match. Too bad they couldn't lure Norvell Austin back. Corny is having way too much fun during this match, though. He adds an elbow during a tandem sequence and does the Fargo strut. Big pop for that. Eaton holds Rose for a Cornette punch, so Rose and Dangerously try the same thing, but it backfires. Paul makes nice with Randy, though. Finally, rose launches Eaton off the apron into the railing to take over. Corny tags in and calls out Paul E., but he gets caught in the heel corner and takes a beating from Heyman (and wouldn't that be an interesting brawl these days). Dangerously stops to pose. That allows Corny to come back. Lane tags in but now *he* gets caught in the heel corner to complete the trifecta. Victory charges into a boot, though, and Eaton gets the hot tag. Eaton hits a missile dropkick and forces Victory to tag Paul E.. That turns it into Cornette versus Dangerously. The whole thing breaks down, and Rose misses a dive off the top. Dangerously hops on Lane's back. Cool finishes as Lane shoves Victory into Rose during a doubleteam move, knocking Victory to the floor. That sets up a double flapjack on Rose for the win at 15:54. Rose has to leave the NWA as a result of the decision. This was a surprisingly good match, even with the mismatched heel tandem. Cornette really added a lot of enthusiasm. ***1/4
Rick Steiner introduces us to his brother Scott Steiner - who was already wrestling in the AWA. Scott explains that Rick had his brains scrambled by a car accident, and that's why he talks to "Alex," his stuffed animal.
NWA TV Title: Rick Steiner vs. Mike Rotundo (w/Kevin Sullivan).
Rick defeated Rotundo for the TV Title at Starrcade. Once Steiner turned babyface, he got stupid, or maybe it was vice versa. Rotundo gets to do his amateur stuff here instead of his pro-wrestling heel stuff – he does that too, but he actually wrestles too. He reminds me a bit of Bret Hart when Bret was a young heel. Steiner misses a splash and gets tossed to the floor. Back in, he hits a powerslams, but he stops to bark and only gets two. Kevin Sullivan makes veiled threats to Steiner's dog, distracting Rick long enough for Rotundo to recover. Back in, Steiner locks in a sleeper, but he falls back on his own shoulders and pins himself at 16:27. D'oh! Oh well. The loss of the title freed Rick up to form a pretty decent tag team with his brother. Good match too, although I wonder what an extended feud between Rick and Rotundo's partner Steve Williams would be like. ***
U.S. Heavyweight Title: Barry Windham (w/Hiro Matsuda) vs. Lex Luger.
Luger dominates early, hitting an atomic drop and tossing Windham into the post. He misses a diving shoulderblock, though, and falls to the floor. Windham takes over as Ross giddily recaps their amateur football careers. Windham takes a swing but hits the post with his Claw hand. Back in, Windham immediately goes for the Claw, but Luger powers out and smashes it with his bare hand. Windham stays on top, but he can't use his right hand. Windham hits a struggling superplex. Big pop for that. ONE, TWO, THR-NO! Windham picks up Luger and delivers a bridging backdrop suplex. Luger gets his shoulder up before three, though, and Windham pins himself at 10:40. Windham carried the psychology, action and pacing here, so this was one of the better matches for either guy. ***1/4
NWA World Tag Titles: The Road Warriors (w/Paul Ellering) vs. The Varsity Club.
Sullivan and Dr. Death are representing the Club and were also the U.S. Tag Team champs. Williams and Hawk exchange power moves. Hawk wins that battle long enough for the LOD to hit sandwich clotheslines. OOF! It only gets two. Animal plays face-in-peril for Williams, the one guy it makes sense to sell for. Sullivan and Hawk both tag in, which goes badly for Sullivan. They all seem to lose their way. Hawk comes off the top and clotheslines Sullivan as Williams pins Animal, but the ref only counts Hawk's pin because those are the two legal guys. The Roadies retain at 8:26. The Road Warriors finally had a guy who could match power with them and still move around the ring. It felt a bit rushed, though. **
NWA World Title: Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat. Eddie Gilbert picked a fight with the Horsemen earlier in the year and promised he had a partner that could help him win in a tag match. That partner was Ricky Steamboat, returning to the NWA after nearly five years away. Steamboat pinned Flair in the ensuing tag match and used that as a catalyst to challenge for the title here. Steamboat shoulderblocks Flair early and covers him, trying for a quick pin. Steamboat pulls Flair down into a headlock. Flair tries to counter to a backdrop suplex, but Steamboat backflips out of it and rolls Flair up for two. Flair bales out to think break Steamboat's momentum. Flair forces Steamboat into the corner and cheapshots him in the gut. Steamboat fires back with chops and backdrops the Nature Boy to the canvass. Flair begs off and chops Steamboat as hard as he can. Steamboat chops him right back and sends him down. Flair threatens Steamboat and puts him in a hammerlock. Steamboat reverses to a headlock, but Flair shoots him off the ropes. Steamboat slides through Flair's legs and dropkicks him. Flair charges, but right into a headlock. Flair tries to counter by pulling the tights for a nearfall, but Steamboat pushes back over to the headlock. Undaunted, Flair tries to push Steamboat into the turnbuckle, but Steamboat walks up the ropes and rolls back into the headlock. Finally, Flair backs Steamboat into the corner and chops him. Steamboat chops right back and gets two. Flair takes a breather once again. Once inside, Flair backs Steamboat into the corner and delivers a hard chop. Steamboat leapfrogs a Flair charge, though and delivers a stiff double chop to Flair's chest. Flair tumbles to the outside. Flair gets back in, but both men are tentative. Flair backs Steamboat into the corner and whips him to the opposite side. Steamboat leapfrogs over Flair and hiptosses him. A flying headscissors and dropkick follow. Steamboat pulls Flair down into a side headlock for a nearfall. Steamboat maintains the headlock. Flair pulls Steamboat off him with by using the hair. Both men exchange shots and Flair hit's a reverse elbow. Just as Flair is about to capitalize, though, Steamboat nails him with a chop. Another chop sends Flair over the top rope. The ref rules that it was accidental so the match continues. Steamboat gets a little impetuous, enabling Flair to grab his ankle and pull him to the outside. Flair rams Steamboat's head into the railing and leaves him on the outside. Back inside, Flair drops a knee between Steamboat's eyes and gets several nearfalls. Flair backs Steamboat into a corner again, and delivers a right fist to Steamboat's jaw. Both men exchange chops. Steamboat wins that and sends Flair to the opposite corner with an Irish Whip. Flair flips over the turnbuckle and runs down the apron to the next corner. Flair surprises Steamboat with a crossbody block, but Steamboat rolls through for a close two count. Steamboat corners Flair and goes up for some punches. Flair counters to an atomic drop and locks in the figure-four. Steamboat pounds the mat in agony as Flair grasps the ropes for extra leverage. Finally, Referee Tommy Young catches Flair using the ropes and makes him break the hold. Flair and Steamboat trade chops again. Steamboat misses a chop and Flair delivers a crossbody block that sends both men to the outside. Steamboat fights back with chops on the outside, but Flair sends him into the ringpost. Flair suplexes Steamboat back in for two. A backdrop suplex gets two more. Flair argues with Young about the count. Flair gives Steamboat a pendulum backbreaker and gets several nearfalls with his feet on the ropes. The crowd gets on Flair about that, so he argues with them. Steamboat sneaks in and rolls up Flair for two. Flair whips him to the corner, but Steamboat hops to the turnbuckle. Steamboat goes for a flying crossbody…but misses! Flair headlocks him over and they go into their famous sequence, which ends when Steamboat bridges out into a Butterfly Suplex. Young counts one, two, thr…Flair's foot is on the ropes. Flair tries a hiptoss, but Steamboat counters to a backslide for two. Steamboat backs Flair off with more chops and hits Flair with a clothesline. Steamboat delivers a flying crosschop and comes off the top with a chop between the eyes. Crowd is incredibly hot! Steamboat flies off the top for a flying crossbody block, but they knock Tommy Young out too. Steamboat tries to revive the ref, but Flair schoolboys him. Still, there is no ref. Steamboat comes off the top, but Flair ducks out of the way. Flair is about to finish Steamboat with the figure-four, but Steamboat counters to a small package as new referee Teddy Long comes in and counts the three at 23:18. Just fantastic start-to-finish action. One of the best of all time, and it's only overshadowed by the other two legs in the trilogy. *****
The 411: This will always be remembered for the main event, but it has a solid undercard too. You definitely have to see Flair vs. Steamboat if you're a wrestling fan because that was the last of the old-school 1970s-style matches that are almost non-existent today. This was the start of something really special for the NWA.