The SmarK Rant for NWA Starrcade 84 – 11.22.84
True story: Some guy actually went to the trouble of finding my home number and called my house in 2004 asking me to review this show. I didn’t have a copy of the tape back then, but now there’s the Network and I’ve been on an old school territorial kick anyway, so the time is right!
Live from Greensboro, NC, drawing 16,000 in the building and a shitload of people on closed circuit.
Your hosts are Gordon Solie & Bob Caudle
I should note that the Network version of this is PRISTINE video quality and the audio is clear as well. Every previous copy I’ve seen of it has been 8th generation VHS dubs, so it’s amazing to see it like this.
World Junior heavyweight title: Mike Davis v. Denny Brown
Denny takes him down with a headscissors and controls the arm to start, but misses a shoulderblock and lands on the floor. Davis takes over with the dreaded “full body slams” and a backbreaker to go after Brown’s injured back, but Denny fights back with a forearm. Davis catches him with a small package for two, but Brown runs up the ropes with a cross body attempt that goes awry. Solie notes that it’s been a “grueling match”, here at the 4:00 mark. They collide for a double down and Davis recovers with a back suplex, which gives us my least favorite finish: Both guys have their shoulders down, but Brown gets his up first and gets the pin at 5:32. The announcer, however, announces Davis as retaining the title while Brown celebrates with the belt. Solie and Caudle just have no clue what’s going on, which is always a good sign. A sterling start to the show. *
Mr. Ito v. Brian Adidas
Apparently Ito is known the world over as “The Japanese Terror”. Even in Japan? Adidas works a headlock, and this was pretty much the height of his popularity as “Friend of the Von Erichs” so he gets a big babyface reaction. Adidas works the arm, then finishes with the AIRPLANE SPIN at 3:10. Just a match. *
Florida heavyweight title: Jesse Barr v. Mike Graham
Barr, older brother of Art Barr, gained some level of fame as Jimmy Jack Funk and for getting his ass headed to him in a bar fight via Haku. They trade holds on the mat to start and Barr works the arm, with an arm-Barr if you will. They exchange wristlocks as Barr bends the rules by pulling the hair and such, despite being an All-American wrestling star who even has “USA” on his boots. FOR SHAME. Thankfully, Graham comes back with an Indian deathlock and works Barr’s treacherous knee, and they do a test of strength. That goes on for long enough that I have a chance to refresh my drink, and finally Graham takes him down and tries a figure-four. Barr escapes to the floor and now goes to work with a headlock. Graham once again gets the figure-four, but Barr makes the ropes, and now the ref is bumped. He quickly recovers and they trade rollups for two, but Barr pins him in the corner with his feet on the ropes at 11:50. Dull match, but the finish was super hot. **1/2
Elimination match: The Zambuie Express v. Assassin #1 & Buzz Tyler
Well this is incredibly random. Everyone brawls to start and the Express bails, as Tyler seems to be doing some kind of Jimmy Valiant / Leroy McGuirk act. I’m not really familiar with him, as his entire career preceded my fandom and was surprisingly short. Tyler gets beat up by Kareem Muhammad and choked down, and Elijah Akeem adds some headbutts. Tyler fights back and slugs him down for two and it’s another four-way brawl. Assassin collides with Muhammad and Tyler pushes his partner on top for the pin at 5:03. So this leaves Akeem alone, but apparently Tyler and Akeem were previously counted out during the brawl and no one mentioned it, so the babyfaces win. What a mess. DUD That’s the second miscommunication on this show thus far.
Meanwhile, Dusty Rhodes lets Flair know that there’s no more talking and showboating, and Dusty is about to be $1,000,000 richer. Well, he’s got a ways to go if he wants to catch up to Vince.
World Brass Knuckles title: Black Bart v. Manny Fernandez
The Brass Knuckles title was the precursor to the Hardcore title, where title defenses were always no-DQ, anything goes. It was mostly a Texas thing, unsurprisingly, but this was the short-lived Mid-Atlantic version of the title. Manny uses his otherwise-illegal KARATE on Bart to start, but Bart comes back with punches that bust the Bull open. Frankly I’m shocked that this is the first color of the evening. Solie notes that “Fernandez has a reasonable amount of scar tissue on that forehead” in the understatement of 1984. Manny fights back and they inevitably brawl to the floor, and Fernandez wins that and takes over with a fistdrop in the ring that gets two. Bull goes up and drops an elbow for two, but Bart hits him in the nuts and gets two. We get a cool overhead shot of Bart dropping an elbow for two and Bart retrieves his bullrope, but Manny rolls him up for the pin and the title at 7:45. I had no issue with this. **3/4
INTERMISSION TIME! We get an interview with Ricky Steamboat as he prepares for Tully Blanchard tonight.
Loser leaves town, Tuxedo street fight: Paul Jones v. Jimmy Valiant
Fittingly, Jimmy has a very ghetto tux, with a bow-tie t-shirt under his suit jacket. Valiant goes right after the terrified Jones and manages to tie Paul’s neck around the top rope and he begins ripping Paul’s expensive tuxedo apart. He gets Jones down to his underwear, but Jones escapes and nails Valiant from behind to take over. Jimmy quickly makes the comeback and gets a sleeper while Jones literally gigs himself on camera, and that’s all she wrote at 4:43. Wait, no, Jimmy releases the sleeper and goes after the Zambuie Express, but JJ Dillon comes in and hits him with a shoe, and Jones gets the pin at 5:50. What is WITH these finishes where the announcers have no idea what’s going on? He clearly had Jones beat twice, first ripping off the tux and then putting him out with the sleeper, but they just kind of ignored both and had Jones win. Predictably terrible. DUD I believe this is what led to the debut of Charlie Brown from Way Outta Town.
Meanwhile, Ric Flair lets us know that this is the biggest match of his career thus far.
Mid-Atlantic title: Cowboy Ron Bass v. Dick Slater
Bass slugs away to start, but Slater goes running after JJ Dillon and chases him away a few times. Watching Slater here makes me think they should bring him in as Dean Ambrose’s wacky grandpa because Dean is 100% ripping off his gimmick and mannerisms, right down to the facials. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. (Author’s note: Originally written in 2018.) Back in, Slater works a headlock, but Bass elbows out of it and Slater goes back to it again. He gets distracted by Dillon again, and the ref grabs his foot to prevent him from stomping on Bass’s head for some reason. WHAT THE FUCK, REFEREE? This allows Bass to rake his eyes and take over, and Slater does his bit where he gets stuck in the ropes and rocks and back and forth. Bass with a suplex for two and a bulldog, but Slater slugs back, so Bass tosses him and Dillon gets his shots in. Back in, Bass slugs away in the corner, but Slater makes the comeback and tosses the referee out of his way, to which I say GOOD RIDDANCE. JJ comes in and that goes badly for him as Slater seemingly has Bass pinned, but the ref of course calls for the DQ at 9:07. I mean, let’s be fair here, Slater literally threw the referee across the ring, so there’s no other call he could have made. Super weak ending regardless, which seems to be a theme tonight. Match was OK. **1/4
We’re at the halfway point of the show now, so let’s stop and salute the flag. Well, I am writing this on Memorial Day.
Ole Anderson & Keith Larson v. Ivan & Nikita Koloff
I guess this was supposed to be Ole & Don Kernodle facing the Russians, but Kernodle is injured and so his brother steps in. Unfortunately changing his gimmick to “Rocky Kernodle” after this failed to ignite his career and he was out of the sport by 1986. Always weird to see Ole as a babyface, especially doing the “Made in the USA” deal. The All-Americans double-team Ivan to start and work on the arm, as Ole gets the hammerlock slam and they trade off on him. Larson gets a hiptoss for two and stays on the arm, but Ivan fights out and goes up, only to be slammed off for two. Finally, 8 minutes in, we get something other than an armbar, as Ivan gets a cheapshot on Ole and Nikita comes in with a bearhug. That goes on for a while, until Ole claps the ears to escape, only to have Uncle Ivan blindside him again before a slam gets two. Nikita goes back to the bearhug, keeping it extremely simple at this point in his career, but Ole fights out again and makes the tag to Larson. Ivan quickly gets the Russian Hammer and it’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA, so Nikita goes after the injured Kernodle to distract Ole, and Ivan finishes Larson with a Sickle (off camera) at 15:30. They go for the beatdown afterwards, but Don Kernodle comes in and makes the save with his crutch. This was kept very, very, very simple and had amazing heat. I wouldn’t call it particularly “good”, but it was fine for what it was, I guess. But seriously, KEITH LARSON this high up the card? NO BUYS. **1/2 Also weird to do the national anthem before the match and then have the Russians win cleanly.
World TV title: Tully Blanchard v. Ricky Steamboat
Winner gets $20,000, and the DQ rule is waived. Steamboat fires away on Tully with chops to start and takes him down with a chinlock, but Tully manages to roll him into the ropes to escape. Steamboat puts him down with a kneelift, but Tully gets a cheap knee to the gut and takes over with a backbreaker. He works on Steamboat in the corner, but Ricky kicks free and fires back with chops and drops a knee for two. Tully goes to the injured ribs, however, and gets two off that. Tully backs off and backs off and backs off and tries to goad Steamboat into charging, and finally Steamboat has had enough and gets a powerslam for two and a double chop for two. He slugs away in the corner and Tully is bleeding, and another chop gets two. Tully takes a wild swing and misses, so Steamboat actually spits on him and beats on him with chops in the corner before hitting a swinging neckbreaker for two. Steamboat actually hits him with his own slingshot suplex for two (OH SNAP!) and a beautiful standing dropkick for two. Tully retreats to the apron, so Ricky hits him with more chops out there, only to fall victim to a foreign object out of Tully’s tights while trying to suplex him back in. That gets two for Tully, and they fight to the top rope for a superplex attempt that Steamboat blocks. He follows with a flying splash for two. Steamboat with a sunset flip, but Tully pulls the object out of his tights, knocks Ricky out, and gets the pin at 13:20. Hot take: These two guys were great workers, although the finish loses a lot of impact after all the screwy finishes over the course of the show. In fact, I actually liked the match LESS after watching the shitshow of terrible finishes that preceded it! ****
US title: Wahoo McDaniel v. Superstar Graham
Oh good lord, it’s KUNG FU BILLY GRAHAM. In a featured title match? Wahoo tries a wristlock and Graham powers out of it, so Wahoo goes to the eyes and chops him down to take over. Graham quickly comes back with the full nelson but can’t lock the fingers, and Wahoo makes the ropes. Graham tries it again and this time gets two, but Wahoo hits a chop out of nowhere and gets the pin at 4:00 to retain. OK then. ½*
The $1,000,000 Challenge! NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Dusty Rhodes
Smokin’ Joe Frazier is YOUR special guest referee! Weird to hear Flair announced as hailing from Minnesota. I mean, PWI had his hometown listed in that state well into the 90s, but they were basically the only ones after 1985. Solie notes that Dusty has been “working out with the heavy weights” to build up strength for this match. I feel like that’s the sort of situation where you need Jesse Ventura or Bobby Heenan to chime in. Dusty escapes a headlock and slugs Flair down, then goes to his own headlock. I should note that we have special celebrity judges in case this goes to a 60 minute draw, although I don’t feel like there’s much threat of that happening. Flair takes him down with a snapmare and drops a knee for two. He misses another one and Dusty gets his “interpretation” of the figure-four, but Flair escapes and goes to the knee. Dusty comes back with a slam and pounds away in the corner, which gives us a Flair Flip to the floor. Back in, Flair cuts him off with an elbow and goes up, but Dusty slams him off and then misses an elbow. Flair tries a sleeper, but Dusty takes him to the floor to escape and they slug it out. Flair sends him into the post and Dusty is of course bleeding, so Flair goes to work on the cut and Joe Frazier decides that Dusty is unable to continue, calling a stop to the match at 12:10 for yet another bullshit finish in a series of them tonight. I’ve never liked this match, as it’s way too short for a major Flair main event and doesn’t go anywhere. Plus, the politics were incredibly transparent, with Dusty taking over as booker and then MIRACULOUSLY getting the main event of Starrcade. **
Yeah, I kind of hated this show. I recall Dave saying it was a “good show” in the Observer where he debuted the star rating system, but it’s just shitty finish after shitty finish and Dusty Rhodes trying WAY too hard to overstuff the show with every booking trick he knew to get heat. In particular, stuff like the ridiculously overbooked Jimmy Valiant v. Paul Jones trainwreck, putting Kung Fu Grip Billy Graham in the semi-main, and doing a double-pin in the GODDAMN OPENING MATCH just made me cringe. Time has not been kind to this one, and there’s good reason.
Thumbs way down.