Greetings all. Today we step away from the weekly magazine recaps to look back at January 24, 1988 when two wrestling shows went head to head, with reviews courtesy of Scott Keith and selected comments from others. We begin with the first Royal Rumble before moving on to the third Bunkhouse Stampede.
The SmarK Rant for WWF Royal Rumble 1988 – 01.24.88
Of course, the story here is typical Vince McMahon, as Jim Crockett managed to get a PPV night to himself for Bunkhouse Stampede 88, so Vince came up with his own battle royale show, to be aired for free on USA at the exact same time by a staggering coincidence.
Live from Hamilton, ON, drawing 18,000 and an 8.2 rating on the USA Network.
Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jesse Ventura
Ravishing Rick Rude v. Ricky Steamboat
Rude beats on Steamboat off the lockup and tosses him, but Steamboat skins the cat back in and sends Rude to the floor. He even poses at Rude, which seems a little presumptuous but he does own a gym so I’ll allow it. “Look at that physique on Rude!” notes Jesse. “Not bad. Not bad at all,” confirms Vince. They do the test of strength, but Steamboat takes him down for the armbar to escape that and goes to work on the arm. I would be remiss in not pointing out the annoying fan in the front row who has a megaphone and won’t shut up, as even Vince and Jesse take note of her. Rude tries the FISTICUFFS but Steamboat chops back to put him down again and goes back to the armbar. Rude kicks him in the gut, however, and slugs away on the ropes to take over, but Steamboat goes back to the armbar until Rude elbows him down to escape. Sadly, his posing arm has been injured and he’s unable to finish his flex. Vince is so excited that he declares it a SEE SAW MATCHUP, BACK AND FORTH, his highest praise for any wrestling match. Steamboat misses a charge and lands on the floor, allowing Rude to slam him out there and now he’s finally able to finish his posing. Whew. Rude suplexes him back in for two and goes to a rear chinlock (“Form of…of a maneuver here!” notes Vince) which is slightly more interesting than Steamboat doing armbars for 10 minutes, I suppose. Steamboat fights out with an electric chair, but he misses a splash and Rude puts him down with an atomic drop for two. Back to the chinlock, but Steamboat runs him into the turnbuckles to make the comeback and chops him down for two. They do the Flair pinfall reversal sequence and Steamboat gets two off the backslide and a jackknife cradle gets two. They trade small packages for two and Rude clotheslines him for two. Steamboat wins a suplex battle and goes up for the bodypress, but the ref gets wiped out by Rude. Rude puts Steamboat in the body vice and thinks he’s won, but of course Steamboat wins by DQ at 17:50. Total snoozefest but it got good at the end. **3/4
JWBraun: Rude and Steamboat would have better matches in WCW, such as their contest at SuperBrawl II.
Jabroniville: God that fan with the megaphone was annoying.
PremiumLiveJman: Steamboat was clearly mailing this one in.
Rock Star Gary: A better finish would have put this match a lot higher on my scale.
Bench Press Challenge: Yes, it’s time for the segment that we’ve all been waiting for, DINO BRAVO LIFTING WEIGHTS. So after some words in French from Frenchy, Dino lifts 415 pounds and that’s no problem for him. Next up, we jump to 505 and that’s nothing for him either. Sadly, the crowd is making too much noise for Dino Bravo, as they usually do for his matches, and he gets all distracted while trying to jump to 595. But he still pulls it off for Canada, and then we go up to 655 while Vince tries to incite the crowd to make noise and distract Bravo further. And finally, we jump it up to 715, which Jesse stresses is unofficial, but the crowd remains too loud for Bravo and he decides to walk out while a disgusted Jesse cuts a promo on the crowd. But Bravo decides to gut it out and lift the weight to spite the rude Ontario crowd, although it seems pretty clear that Jesse had to help him get it up to the bar. But still, for the moment, when it comes to bench pressing, you could certainly make a case that DINO BRAVO IS THE BEST.
Pride of Canada: Bravo’s segment is actually pretty great. Sometimes stalling works.
Scott Blair: Best thing about the Bravo bench press segment is the continuity that followed. Gorilla Monsoon rode Jesse Ventura for the next 2 years about helping him.
PremiumLiveJman: Jesse on Bravo at WMV: “And the unlimited strength.” Gorilla: “Semi-unlimited.”
The Gambler: I know it’s a running joke that Dino Bravo sucks, but let’s let him have this one moment.
WWF Women’s tag team titles: The Glamour Girls (Leilani Kei & Judy Martin) v. The Jumping Bomb Angels (Itsuki Yamazaki & Noriyo Tateno)
This is 2 out of 3 falls and Vince is already all over Jesse for the weightlifting deal as Jesse has to explain the difference between “helping” and “spotting”. Vince knows nothing about weightlifting. Nothing! Tateno gets worked over in the heel corner, but she dodges a splash and Yamazaki comes in with a slam on Martin for two. Vince McMahon, professional announcer and owner of the company, does not know the Angels’ names and decides to call them “Pink” and “Red” based on their tights. Kai comes in and Yamazaki slugs her down for two and goes to an Octopus hold, but Martin breaks it up, so the Angels do stereo figure-fours on the champs. Yamazaki splits the legs on Kai ala Jeff Hardy and Tateno gets a deathlock to tie her up on the mat. Martin tries to pull her over to the corner, but the Angels pull her back. Finally Martin is able to make a tag, and Martin yanks Yamazaki out of the corner to take over. Martin with an over the shoulder throw (like a powerbomb but released backwards) for the pin at 6:20 and that wins the first fall.
Second fall and Yamazaki bridges out of a pin attempt to start, and dodges a Martin splash, and it’s over to Tateno as the Glamour Girls clothesline each other and Vince has now learned the names of the challengers during the break. And Martin tries the powerbomb variation again, but Yamazaki gets a sunset flip on Martin for the pin at 8:36 this time to even it up.
Third fall and the Angels double-team Kai and Yamazaki gets an enzuigiri on Martin, but Tateno tries a fisherman’s suplex and that gets blocked. Kai comes in with a necksnap and works Tateno over in the corner, and a butterfly suplex gets two. Yamazaki gets the tag again and the Glamour Girls double-team her in the corner and choke her out while Marella does nothing and Jesse notes that it’s a good thing pins are only three counts because he couldn’t make it to four. PREACH. Yamazaki comes back with a slam on both heels and Tateno comes in with a flying knee for two on Martin, and a slam gets two. Bridging butterfly suplex gets two. Even Vince is bitching about the slow count from Marella at this point. Yamazaki goes up and misses a senton and Martin gets two off that. Tateno comes in with a middle rope clothesline for two, and then both Angels go up for a stereo missile dropkick, and that wins the tag team titles at 15:27. And that was the last we saw of the Women’s tag team titles until they were resurrected a couple of years ago. The Angels were doing a lot of crazy stuff for the time, but it wasn’t like a transcendently great match or anything. In particular the finish was janky (Martin’s shoulder was clearly off the mat!) and there wasn’t ever a real heat segment. ***1/4
Nicky Kayfabe: The Jumping Bomb Angels match made me a wrestling fan for life. I’d never seen anything like it.
Warren Boo Spearman: Jumping Bomb Angels. The name will always rule.
FweemerTwirple: Good lord, Judy Martin was only 32 here? That’s a really hard lookin’ 32.
Jabroniville: Those Moolah singlets made everyone look like grandmas.
Boomska43: Apparently, if you had the raw satellite feed, you could hear Vince being clued in as to the names of the Jumping Bomb Angels during a commercial break.
JWBraun: The amazing thing here is that these women took a nothing championship and turned the title change into something that felt like a magical moment worthy of a pay per view. And it wasn’t even their best match! (Check out December 14, 1987’s Prime Time Wrestling for a better one. It’s about 15 minutes in—and includes Nick Bockwinkel on commentary.) Give kudos to Ventura, however, for noticing the shoulder wasn’t down on the final fall and pointing it out to viewers at home, foreshadowing the finish of Feb 5th’s Hogan/Andre match. On the other hand, the one time there’s no Gorilla Monsoon, we get the most perfect adnominal stretch ever applied.
Now, the big TV selling point for the show, as Hulk and Andre sign the contract for their rematch. But first, we recap the past few weeks of syndicated angles, DiBiase announcing that he’s going to buy the WWF title from Hulk Hogan, then Hulk refusing to sell out, and finally DiBiase announcing that he’s bought the services of Andre the Giant to win it for him. (This show is doing some heavy lifting, like heavier than Bravo was lifting, as it has to establish the new Royal Rumble concept, PLUS hype up the biggest match in TV history, PLUS screw over Jim Crockett at the same time!) Jack Tunney is of course there to preside after making sure he gets a kickback out of the contract. Hogan sits down to sign and DiBiase just goes OFF on him with a killer promo, declaring that Hogan is too scared to sign because he knows that he’s signing away his CAREER because Andre already beat him in 3 minutes at WrestleMania.
So Andre calmly reads the contract, which Hogan didn’t do, and discovers that DiBiase put in “incentive money”, which is probably code for corrupt old Tunney’s piece of the action. So Hogan is still agitated and Andre calmly signs the contract, and then grabs Hogan’s head and smashes it into the oak table. This must have been Bruce Prichard’s dream segment, but regardless Andre and DiBiase were fantastic here.
MyronB: I always loved how calm Andre was during his confrontations with Hogan. It made him look more badass.
Flash Man: I also love calm, cool and collected Andre in these segments. His WrestleMania III contract signing was even better when Hogan was literally shaking with anger and even fear, while Andre with his awesome sport coat just calmly smiling.
Gentlemen Jeff: Andre was a dapper dude.
JWBraun: Only Hogan and Andre could have turned a contract signing into the main event of a show. And kudos to whomever bought the kid’s table and chairs for Hogan, Andre, and Tunney to use. Also, the table should go into the WWE Hall of Fame for surviving the segment intact.
The Royal Rumble:
We start with Bret Hart at #1 and Tito Santana at #2, as Finkel actually has to explain the rules! Bret beats on Tito in the corner to start, but Tito takes him down and slugs away on the mat. Bret takes him down with an atomic drop and goes up with a middle rope elbow, but he can’t put him out. Butch Reed is #3 at 2:00 and he of course beats on Tito and tries to put him out, but Tito runs the heels together and makes a comeback. The heels team up and put him down with an elbow as Jim Neidhart is #4 at 3:45 and Tito is really screwed now. So the heels triple-team Tito and there’s no hint yet of the future “Every man for himself” nature of the match. They all try to put Tito out, but Jake Roberts is #5 at 5:20 and he makes the save and puts Reed out at 5:28. Jake runs wild on the Hart Foundation and runs them into each other, but he tries the DDT on Bret and Neidhart saves with a clothesline. Harley Race is #6 at 6:45 and he goes after Jake and drops elbows on him, but can’t put him out. Jim Brunzell is #7 at 8:20 and Jesse is just outright talking about what a great concept this match is. Everyone piles up on Bret on the ropes but still can’t get him out, what with all the tears in their eyes. Sam Houston is #8 at 9:45 as this is one of the rare matches with both Jake and Sam together in the same ring. The deadwood is piling up a bit, so the Harts toss out Tito at 10:52 like they’re throwing out day old burritos in Tocula. Danny Davis is #9 at 11:20 and he slugs it out with Sam Houston to pay off their curtain-jerking feud, while Jake slugs away on the King and Race teeter-totters in the ropes. I’m surprised those two never had a marriage in their peak WWF years, actually. Jake tries the DDT on Davis and can’t sink it in, and Boris Zhukov is #10 at 12:50 as we’re halfway through.
Boris chokes out Houston and tries to get him out as we’re getting into the usual battle royale spots now, but they start to mix in stuff like Race attacking Zhukov while Vince stresses that it’s every man for himself. Don Muraco is #11 at 14:50 while Nikolai Volkoff follows him out and protests that it’s supposed to be him, but Boris falls like the Berlin Wall at 15:31. Jesse takes a funny inside shot at Vince here, noting that “if he doesn’t knock off the barbs, he’s gonna hear from Barry Bloom!” Vince: “Who?” Jesse: “YOU KNOW WHO!” Indeed Vince would have his fill of Jesse’s agent and lawyer over the years. Nikolai Volkoff is indeed #12 at 16:50, as Race goes out via a Brunzell dropkick at 17:00. Hacksaw Duggan is #13 at 18:12 and he gives Race a shot on the way by, before heading into the ring and jumping into the fight. So he slugs away on Anvil and Ron Bass is #14 at 19:45 as Vince notes that “he’s a brawler and a stomper”. But not Mongolian. Volkoff throws out Brunzell at 20:34, but B. Brian Blair is out at #15 at 21:10 to get REVENGE. He goes after Neidhart, but Bret hits him in the kidneys from behind to save while Jake tries to put Davis out. Hillbilly Jim is #16 at 22:40 and he backdrops Anvil out at 23:00 but doesn’t have much else after that. Dino Bravo is #17 at 24:10 as Vince is still disparaging Bravo’s world bench press record, and Sam Houston goes up on someone’s shoulders like a moron and gets thrown out at 24:30. Never leave your feet in a Royal Rumble! Anyway the match is just a pile of midcarders at this point, before they started learning how to pare it down. Ultimate Warrior is #18 at 25:40 and he gets rid of Bret at 25:54 and goes after Bravo. One Man Gang is #19 at 26:25 and yes, the intervals ARE completely out of whack for this match and it’s kind of driving me nuts. Gang tosses out Blair at 27:10 and then Jake at 27:25, and Junkyard Dog is #20 at 27:49 to round out the entrants. And there’s still 10 guys in the ring, literally half of the entire field! Duggan backdrops Volkoff out at 28:36 and Gang backdrops Jim out at 28:48 to rack up three eliminations in his very first Rumble! Duggan puts Davis out with the three point stance at 29:27, and the heels all team up and put out Warrior at 29:40 as we speed through some late eliminations. Bass throws out the Dog at 30:00 to end his easy night, and Muraco throws out Bass at 30:13 and our first ever Final Four!
Final Four: Don Muraco, Dino Bravo, Jim Duggan and One Man Gang
I’ve seen worse, to be honest. Bravo and Gang team up on Duggan, but Muraco fights them off by himself with dropkicks until Bravo stomps him down. Gang puts Muraco out with a clothesline at 31:20 and the heels team up on Duggan, but he fights them off. Bravo drops an elbow on him, but Gang charges and hits Bravo by mistake, putting him out at 32:36. And then Duggan makes one more comeback, slugs away on the Gang, and then low bridges him out at 33:37 to win the first Royal Rumble. So yeah, I’d call this is a good proof of concept more than anything, with way too many dead zones of guys piled up in the ring doing nothing and no real “every man for himself” feeling to it. Clearly it needed more people and more frequent eliminations, and thankfully they immediately tweaked it for the next year. ***
Creature of the Night: Obviously increasing it to 30 men was a game-changer, but it also interesting to me that a show this big was lacking in people like Randy Savage, Honky Tonk and Bam Bam Bigelow because they were running a house show on the same day.
Sid jAWAstice: It’s also interesting that this event, solely created to screw over another promoter, is still running long after said competitor is gone. Not a bad day at the office for an evil businessman.
PapaShango: I don’t understand why Duggan won this.
Sakamano: Because he was the last one remaining in the ring.
Bret Hart: I was chosen to be the first guy in the ring and wrestled for over thirty-five minutes—with the hope of getting Vince McMahon’s attention and landing a decent spot at WrestleMania IV. It didn’t work.
By the way, here were the interval times:
- 1m 57s: Buzzer 1 – Butch Reed
- 1m 38s: Buzzer 2 – Jim Neidhart
- 1m 39s: Buzzer 3 – Jake Roberts
- 1m 30s: Buzzer 4 – Harley Race
- 1m 28s: Buzzer 5 – Jim Brunzell
- 1m 29s: Buzzer 6 – Sam Houston
- 1m 30s: Buzzer 7 – Danny Davis
- 1m 30s: Buzzer 8 – Boris Zhukov
- 1m 59s: Buzzer 9 – Don Muraco
- 2m 00s: Buzzer 10 – Nikolai Volkoff
- 1m 28s: Buzzer 11 – Jim Duggan
- 1m 29s: Buzzer 12 – Ron Bass
- 1m 27s: Buzzer 13 – B. Brian Blair
- 1m 31s: Buzzer 14 – Hillbilly Jim
- 1m 29s: Buzzer 15 – Dino Bravo
- 1m 26s: Buzzer 16 – Ultimate Warrior
- 0m 51s: Buzzer 17 – One Man Gang
- 1m 13s: Buzzer 18 – Junkyard Dog
Tag Team Attraction, 2 out of 3 falls: The Islanders v. The Young Stallions
The Islanders and Stallions do basically nothing for the first few minutes and trade armbars while Vince and Jesse banter and ignore the match. Haku with an elbow on Powers for two and work him over in the corner, but Haku misses a blind charge and they clothesline each other. Meanwhile Vince and Jesse debate whether Tama “being able to hang from the top rope by his toes” is a racist remark. Spoiler: Yes, it is. Roma gets a hot tag, I guess, and dropkicks Tama for two, although it’s not up to his usual standards of dropkick. But then the Islanders pull down the top rope and Roma lands on the floor and hurts his knee. Of course idiot referee Joey Marella doesn’t count until he’s been out there for 30 seconds, and then finally counts him out at 7:55.
We take a break and apparently Roma is having his knee tended in the dressing room, so they replay Andre having his way with Hogan again and then we get a special interview with Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant.
Eventually, we finally get the second fall of the nothing tag team match and the Islanders go after the knee of Roma, but Tama misses a splash and Powers gets the tag. Dropkick on Haku gets two and a suplex gets two. Back elbow gets two as this drags on. Vince and Jesse are so bored they’re going off on a bizarre tangent about evangelists and the crowd is openly filing out of the building on the hard camera side. Haku with a backbreaker on Powers for two and a standing dropkick for two. Gut wrench suplex gets two. “It’s not over until it’s over!” notes Vince. No one in this match is over. Haku misses a splash and Powers tries for the tag to crippled Paul Roma for some stupid reason, but Haku cuts him off and gets a dropkick. But then Roma gets a tag regardless, and Haku just kicks him in the knee and dismantles him, and submits him with a half crab at 15:30 total. Real crack medical team they must have back there, letting Roma go out for the second fall while not being able to walk under his own power. *
Hardaway1: I’m still shocked the Stallions closed a big show.
Rock Star Gary: Since the Islanders were feuding with the Bulldogs, I would have rather seen that match.
JWBraun: A young pair of studs… a hope for something special… Oh no, Haku’d again.
And Vince and Jesse wrap it up.
Well, for a free TV show at the time, it’s mostly a thumbs up show for the in-ring action. That last half hour was BRUTAL, though, and you should absolutely stop at the Rumble match.
JWBraun: This show was a freebie that felt like a small-scale pay-per-view, something JCP would replicate with Clash of the Champions. It wasn’t the greatest, but as a young wrestling fan, I loved it.
Rock Star Gary: With the woman’s’ tag title match and the Rumble, this is a must-see show. While it isn’t spectacular, those matches make this show worthwhile.
The SmarK Rant for NWA Bunkhouse Stampede 88
So, if you’re unaware, on Thanksgiving of 1987, Crockett tried to get a slice of the PPV pie with Starrcade, only to see Vince counter-program the Survivor Series. When cable companies told Vince never to try that again, Crockett assumed it was safe to re-launch his PPV attempts, and he scheduled the Bunkhouse Stampede show for January ’88, only to have Vince air the first Royal Rumble on free TV at the same time. However, Bunkhouse Stampede was already a notoriously weak card going in, and furthermore confusion over start times (tickets said 8:00, PPV said 6:00, and the actual start time ended up being 7:00) rendered the whole PPV an exercise in stupidity, and was one of the last straws that led to Crockett selling to Ted Turner.
Anyway, this was supposed to be the introduction to the NWA for new fans and the show that launched them on PPV to compete with the WWF.
Live from Long Island, NY. That’s always a bad sign right off the bat. Official attendance is listed at 6000, but from the HUNDREDS of empty seats on the camera side alone I’d say 2000 would be a liberal estimate.
Your hosts are Jim Ross and Bob Caudle.
Opening match, World TV title: Nikita Koloff v. Bobby Eaton.
Stalling from the heel side to start, and Koloff overpowers Eaton. More stalling. Eaton gives Koloff a clean break in the corner and grabs a hammerlock, and they work off that for a bit. Eaton slugs away in the corner, but Koloff returns fire and overpowers him again. They do a wristlock sequence, which Koloff wins with ease. Koloff works on the arm as the match grinds to a halt. Bobby kicks him out of the ring to break, and they brawl out there, which Bobby wins via a good old thumb to the eye. Back in, Eaton works a headlock and they lie around for a while. Criss-cross and Koloff gets a slam, allowing Eaton to stall some more. They go back to the headlock and the crowd completely turns on the match. Eaton slugs him out of the ring, but ends up running into the post. Koloff hiptosses him on the concrete, but Eaton kind of no-sells and pokes him in the eyes again to keep control. Back in, he drops an elbow for two. Back to a hammerlock. Koloff comes back, but Eaton goes low and stays on offense. To the top, and a missile dropkick gets two. Back to the hammerlock as the crowd groans. Eventually, Koloff fights out and hits the Russian Sickle, but Eaton goes back to the hammerlock to kill the crowd again. They start popping for the “time remaining” announcements more than anything else. Koloff fights out again, but Eaton knees him and goes back to the hammerlock. We’re down to one merciful minute remaining. Koloff slugs back with the good arm but makes the standard error of hammering away in the corner instead of doing something useful, and hits an elbow and Russian Sickle as time expires at 20:00. ½*
Rock Star Gary: Boring mat-fest that barely had any drama leading toward the finish. Not a good opener.
Michael Fitzgerald: I get trying to keep Koloff on the mat selling for a prolonged period so that you can eventually have him fire up to pop the crowd, but that probably works better in a 10 minute match than a 20 minute match. It’s just too long to watch Bobby putting Koloff in a variety of rest holds.
Jim Cornette: Nikita, Scott Simpson, was a gimmick performer that shouldn’t have been out there wrestling anybody in a 20 minute broadway in an opening match. The only thing that drew heat was after the time had expired, I started yelling “five more minutes.” The people wanted to kill me.
Western States Heritage Championship: Barry Windham v. Larry Zbyszko.
Oh, great a Larry Zbyszko match. That’ll get the joint rocking. Windham goes for the arm to start, and Larry executes his most effective offensive move: the SEVEN MINUTE STALL OF DOOM. Windham grabs a headlock and dodges a dropkick, so Larry backs off again. He likes to do that a lot. More stalling from Larry as he ducks out of the ring after every shot from Windham, no matter how minor. He stops to argue the finer points of embroidery with some fans at ringside, and heads back in for a leglock. Windham breaks and we get more stalling. Barry grabs a headlock, but Larry reverses to another toehold and goes to work on the knee. Windham powerslams out of it and gets two. Windham goes up and misses his usual “dying seagull” elbowdrop that never hits or even comes close. Larry goes back to the knee. Caudle relates a story about how Zbyszko went to the Horsemen for advice and learned that the knee is hurt. Really? You don’t think the huge knee brace and bandages would be a giveaway by itself? Man, I hope he didn’t PAY for that sort of sage advice. Larry changes things up, going to a headlock, but then switches to the toehold again in case we get too excited and drop dead from the shock of something notable happening. Windham fights back and slugs him down. A bad suplex gets two. What the heck happened there? It looked like Larry was supposed to shift his weight and fall on top, and Barry even started to take that bump, but Larry just took it like a regular suplex. Weird. Gutwrench gets two. Sleeper and Larry bails, but Windham follows and gives him a beating, only to run into the post. He posts Larry on his very favorite muscle in response, but misses the lariat by a mile and goes flying out of the ring. More brawling outside, and Windham flips back in, but Larry blocks for two. Neckbreaker is reversed to a backslide by Windham, for two. Windham reverses a piledriver attempt, but for some reason Larry gets two off it. Criss-cross and collision puts both guys out, and Larry misses a charge to the corner to allow Windham the comeback, and AGAIN the babyface makes the dumb decision and pounds away in the corner. Ref is bumped and Windham gets a devastating rollup for nothing as a result, but Larry counters with Baby Doll’s shoe and gets the title at 19:15. WAY long, but Windham gave it the old college try near the end. **
ZoeyBomb: I watched this the other night. I think I fell asleep during Larry’s 3rd stall segment. I can respect a good heel stalling tactic as much as the next guy, but some people take it too far.
JWBraun: For some reason, the New York crowd didn’t seem to care that much about the Western Heritage title.
Rock Star Gary: I thought it was a really good match where both wrestlers executed well. ***1/2
NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Road Warrior Hawk.
Hawk works a headlock to start and no-sells a chop and Flair decides to re-think his strategy. Hawk presses him and Flair takes a powder to reinforce just how painful that was. Back in, Hawk does it again, because when you do a move like that and the guy screams in pain and runs for his life, you might as well do it again. Who says the Warriors were dumb? Hawk stomps a mudhole in the corner and hits him with a standing dropkick and fistdrop. He tosses Flair around, and Ric calls timeout and confers with JJ. Hawk suplexes him back in and pounds away, into the BEARHUG OF DOOM. Hawk no-sells some chops and shoulderblocks him, as JR declares that “Flair is as limp as a dishrag”. That’s not what the women who ride Space Mountain would say! Whoo! Sorry, just to retort on Flair’s behalf there. They head outside and Hawk tosses the balsawood steps at Flair, but when they head back in Flair goes low to take over, then goes to the eyes and drops a knee. That gets two. They head out and Hawk meets the railing a few times. Back in, Flair drops another knee for two. Hawk suddenly comes back with a neckbreaker, and Flair starts convulsing in pain. But Hawk misses a fistdrop, and Flair goes after the knee. Then when Ellering protests to the ref, Flair gives the most blatant ballshot humanly possible to Hawk, nearly doing a dance afterwards like Leslie Nielsen as the umpire in The Naked Gun. Flair wraps Hawk’s knee around the post and WHOO! NOW! WE GO TO SCHOOL! Figure-four time, kids. Hawk reverses, but Flair makes the ropes. They slug it out in the corner and the ref is bumped. Meanwhile, Hawk clotheslines Flair over the top. They head out and Flair hits the post, and back in Hawk powerslams him and pounds away in the corner. Clothesline and superplex get nothing, and Dillon chairshots Hawk, who no-sells it. Flair tries the chair and puts him down with it, but only gets two. Flair suplexes him, and it’s no-sold. Hawk pounds away in the corner, but Flair hits him with the chair again for the SUPER-WEAK DQ at 21:42. This was the usual “Flair wrestles a broomstick and loses by DQ” special. ***1/2
Matt Johnson: This match happened when I was still in my first couple of years of wrestling fandom, and I saw the Road Warriors unbeatable killers that were bigger than life, so I was really excited for the match and didn’t see how Hawk could lose.
Michael Fitzgerald: Darn good match here. ***1/4. Give it an actual finish and I might rate it higher.
JWBraun This match served as a warmup for Flair in preparation for his match against a green Sting at the first Clash of the Champions.
Bunkhouse Stampede Finals:
This is a cage match battle royale (devised by Big Dust, of course) where you lose if you escape the cage. That’s silly on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin mocking it. Okay, so your esteemed competitors are Dusty Rhodes, Tully Blanchard, Ivan Koloff, Warlord, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger, Barbarian and Animal. Yup, 8 guys in a battle royale. Warlord pounds on Animal, Luger goes after Anderson, Koloff and Blanchard pair off, and Dusty takes Barbarian. Dusty elbows away on Tully and tries to put him through the door, but Arn saves. Barbarian goes low on Luger, and Animal battles with Tully at the top of the cage. Dusty tries to put Ivan through the door, but he hangs on. This match is so counterintuitive do you know how HARD it is to force someone over the top of the cage? You require so much cooperation from the victim that it has to kill any credibility of the match. Luger and Animal work Tully over in the corner while Barbarian & Koloff take on Rhodes. Dusty comes back and sends Koloff into the cage to draw blood, while Animal gives Tully more of the same. Koloff gets his revenge, choking Rhodes out with wire or something. Tully is bleeding, too. Not really much going on. The Powers of Pain double-team Animal and Barbarian chokes him down. Rhodes takes off his belt and starts whipping people. Everyone keeps slugging it out as we desperately need an elimination. The heels take control of things, tying up Luger in the ropes, but DUSTY STANDS TALL. Dust chokes out Koloff while the Powers keep working Animal over. The camera is jumping all over the place, making it impossible to follow any one storyline. The Powers switch their attentions to Luger, while Animal tries to put Arn over the top. Meanwhile, Tully teeters on the edge of the apron near the door, while trying to choke Koloff out. Dusty’s arm is a bloody mess. Animal finally manages to put Koloff over the top and out, for the first elimination. Animal throws Blanchard into Anderson. Warlord & Animal both fall out the door to eliminate each other. So we’ve got Dusty & Luger v. Arn & Tully (with Barbarian hanging around). Luger racks Blanchard, which is a meaningless gesture at best. Tully & Arn soon double-team Luger while Barbarian bites the arm of Dusty. The Horsemen can’t put Luger out, however. They keep working him over with the door wide open, and Arn chokes him out while standing on the steps. Luger and Arn both fall out soon after, and the momentum takes Tully with them. So that leaves Barbarian and Dusty, and if you can’t guess who wins, you have no business reading this review. Barbarian uses an international object to go on the offense, and he drops a couple of headbutts from the top. They’re almost out the door, but Dusty makes the miraculous comeback. Barbarian helpfully climbs up the cage with Dusty for no adequately explored reason, but falls victim to the overpowering presence of the Bookerman’s Elbow, and he falls to his doom at 26:23, and probably suffered a concussion from such a devastating bionic elbow, too. For booking himself to win this prestigious match, Dusty is awarded Baby Doll’s cowboy boot. God bless America! God bless Dusty! Earl Hebner declares him the winner and then jumps to the WWF to escape this nonsense. I don’t rate battle royales, but this one sucked.
OutaTime: Back in the 90’s when e-Feds were a thing, I completely stole the idea of the Bunkhouse tour and the Bunkhouse cage match for the finals to crown our first hardcore champion. Stole it down to the literal booking of the match (wrote it move for move, changing the “wrestlers”). What’s funny is that no one in the e-Fed caught on that I copied the damn thing.
Rock Star Gary: While I understand a standard battle royal would neither have sold tickets nor PPV buys, using the opposite pattern of the WWF’s cage policy to achieve victory seemed awkward.
JWBraun: This is an example of a bad concept booked in the wrong city with the wrong guy going over. (Luger should have won.) Other than that, it was fine.
David Crockett: The best thing for Dusty would have been for him to just book and not wrestle. He kept a lot of people down and chased a lot of fans away because he wanted to stay number one. At times, all of Dusty’s ideas seemed inspired by True Grit. In all our storylines, he had to come back from the dead, just like John Wayne.
The Bottom Line:
Leave it to Dusty Rhodes to devise entire PPVs and match concepts to put himself over. The rest of the show ranges from boring (the opener) to lame (the DQ in the title match) to boring again (Larryland running wild). There is a reason that no one ever mentions this show these days.
Jim Cornette: The Bunkhouse Stampede in 1988 was the bottom point where just about everything involved in Jim Crockett Promotions lost the plot. That was the worst big show I think Crockett ever did. They put the Royal Rumble against us, but the Stampede didn’t need sabotage. It was a suicide show. It was a rotten card in a place that was hard to sell out even for the WWF. I don’t know what Dusty was thinking.
Memphis Heat: Even as a JCP/NWA guy, and even in my youth, I knew this show was crap.
Ric Flair: It was disappointing. I had a good match with Mike Hegstrand, but as far as I can recall, everything else about the card turned out to be a disaster. Crockett may have thought that he was starting a revolution by promoting in the WWF’s backyard, but that wasn’t enough to get the fans to like the show. The Nassau Coliseum wasn’t even close to full, and why should it have been? An old-time “bunkhouse stampede”—inspired by the days when farmhands fought it out by the bunkhouse—may have done well in the South at one time, but in New York? People from the Bronx and Brooklyn couldn’t have cared less about cowbells and bull ropes. Has there ever been a bunkhouse in Manhattan? The NWA just seemed so far behind the times.
Next week we look at an issue of Inside Wrestling to get the staff’s take on TheRoyal Rumble and Bunkhouse Stampede!