Happy Holidays Everyone!
Today we’ve got an AWA review, as they had a show back on Christmas Day 1984, so it seemed apropos to review it today. Apologies if you don’t celebrate the holiday period but I couldn’t find my copy of PWG Chanukah Chaos (yes, they actually named a show that) so I’m afraid this show will have to do.
You can check out the card by clicking below;
The event is emanating from Minneapolis, Minnesota on the 25th of December 1984
Calling the action is Ron Trongard
Billy Robinson Vs Steve Olsonoski
Robinson is a British submission machine who could be known to be dangerous if he’d had a skin-full, whilst Olsonoski is a name I don’t recognise but I think he had a couple of seasons at Sparta Praha before moving on to Juventus and then settling into a wrestling career. I believe Robinson had recently gone Heel as Trongard talks about his change in attitude and he essentially jumps poor Olsonoski at the opening bell.
Robinson doesn’t do a lot of technical wrestling here, instead focusing on stomping and punching instead, in an effort to get across his new Heel persona I guess. Olsonoski has no real answer to any of this, although he eventually manages to back off and wrap Robinson’s leg around the ring post, causing Robinson to back off. Robinson does manage to get a back breaker, but he takes the time to sell his leg once he does it and then Olsonoski kicks away at the appendage.
The crowd seems to enjoy watching Olsonoski destroying Robinson’s leg and Robinson sells it fantastically. Olsonoski is only doing basic holds and throwing in some kicks to the leg, but Robinson’s selling makes every attack look punishing. We get an aloha-Billy at one stage, but Robinson manages to kick out of the resulting sunset flip before Olsonoski returns to working over the leg.
After a shaky start for him this match has basically been all Olsonoski, which is kind of strange seeing as Robinson essentially got a babyface shine and has been selling for the rest of the match, even though he’s seemingly the Heel. I could never really get to grasp with the AWA and their funky match psychology. Case in point, the Heel Robinson ends up making the comeback (?) to take us into our closing stretch, which has some nice wrestling to be fair. Olsonoski ends up missing an elbow off the ropes and gets pinned.
WINNER: BILLY ROBINSON
This meandered a bit and didn’t really make sense from a traditional wrestling psychology perspective as Robinson basically got the shine and then made a comeback, even though he was the Heel in the match, which was just weird and I don’t think the crowd really knew how to react to it. The wrestling itself was fine but I’m not really sure what they were going for with this
Baron Van Raschke Vs Steve Regal (not that one)
The Baron was one of the biggest stars in the territory, starting out as an evil Nazi but then eventually becoming a well-liked babyface. He even got a bizarre run in the WWF as a manager for The Powers of Pain. Sadly his peak years were way before the 90’s so I don’t think he ever used Castle Wolfenstein as his hometown. Regal was the inspiration for William Regal’s name when he saw him in a wrestling magazine and that’s about all I know about him. CageMatch.net would seem to suggest he mostly worked AWA, Pacific North West and Memphis.
Regal was the Light Heavyweight Champ at the time, but the belt isn’t on the line here. Regal appears to be the Heel here and starts jawing with them right from the opening bell, with one of the fans standing up in the front row to trade barbs with Regal. The Baron ends up going out there to raise the fans arm in a fun moment, which I think Lex Luger did in a match with Ludvig Borga on one of those WWE Unreleased sets.
Regal gets some cheap shots in on The Baron and works him over, with Baron’s selling hardly being that good but it draws the desired boos from the crowd at least. Baron fights back though and gets some pretty lousy looking offence that the crowd enjoys. Hey, if you can get a pop for doing barely anything then fair enough, although it’s not exactly thrilling when you’re watching hardcam footage at home. In the building I’m sure it was fun though.
Regal works a bit of hit and the actual wrestling continues to be pretty lousy due to The Baron being pretty bad on both offence and defence. Regal works well enough that I think he could have an entertaining match when in there with someone mobile at least. Regal works a long side headlock, with Baron just lying there and occasionally raising a shoulder.
Baron finally gets a back body drop and fires up a bit, which wakes up the crowd at least, but then Regal immediately bails in order to kill the momentum. Baron starts THIRD REICHING UP by goose stepping around the ring and prepping for THE CLAW, which leads to Regal bailing again. Holy Fudge, what is it with AWA wrestlers and their aversion to the seven point structure?
Regal stalling would be fine in the shine but we’re way past the point where it’s time for the comeback so PICK UP THE PACE lads. Just have Baron stand in the middle of the ring and have Regal run at him and take some bumps. Regal ends up going to a chin lock, which brings the crowd down again when they were up and ready for the end. Baron fights out of that and manages to get some “Baron” chants in the process.
However, Baron misses a follow up elbow drop though and we get MORE heat, as Regal goes to a headlock again. This might possibly be one of the most boring wrestling matches I’ve ever seen. Why on Earth did The Baron need to wrestle such a long match in 1984? Have him squash someone in under 5 minutes and call it a night. Finally at around the 15 minute mark we get a Baron comeback, as he rams Regal’s head into the corner multiple times and then drops an elbow for two. THE CLAW follows and that finally brings this miserable match to it’s conclusion.
WINNER: BARON VAN RASCHKE
Like watching a far past his best wrestler lying around in rest holds? Well then this is something you need to seek out! For those of you who live in the land of the sane however, you might want to avoid this one
Mr. Saito Vs Jim Brunzell
Saito was a big star in Japan who would eventually win the AWA Title at the Tokyo Dome. His trademark back suplex is iconic and is still called a Saito Suplex to this day. Brunzell was a regular tag partner of Greg Gagne and would eventually jump to the WWF in the second half of the 80’s to form the tag team known as The Killer Bee’s with B. Brian Blair.
They mostly work this one on the mat, and it’s fine, but after that previous match I could really do with some excitement in order to wake me up. A big chunk of the match is missing so I can’t really rate it accurately. It’s not bad wrestling by any means, but it’s not especially exciting either and not the shot in the arm that the show feels like it needs.
Saito keeps going to a sleeper hold, but Brunzell plays possum and then they do the same spot from the opener with Brunzell wrapping the leg of Saito around the ring post. That was literally exactly what Olsonoski did against Robinson. They even used the same ring post! Long Figure Four follows that, with Saito refusing to submit. Saito doesn’t submit and both men continue to trade holds until the time limit ends.
TIME LIMIT DRAW
Too much of the match was missing in order for me to rate it. The wrestling was fine, but I found the match to be flat and rather dull if I’m honest. Just two guys doing stuff with no real story being told
Nick Bockwinkel Vs Curt Hennig
Bockwinkel was the long-time Heel Champion of the territory, known for dressing smart and being very well-spoken. Hennig was still quite young but was showing good promise and would end up becoming a big star in the WWF. Hennig would eventually win the AWA Title from Bockwinkel, but would then bail to the WWF, thus putting the AWA in a really tough situation.
Bockwinkel is clearly working as a Heel here and is being very violent and disrespectful to his younger opponent, which is actually a proper story and it’s no surprise that this is the most enjoyable match of the show thus far as a result. Hennig of course sells this all really well, as he keeps trying to get back in to the ring after being knocked outside, only for Bockwinkel to keep attacking him in a snide manner.
Sadly parts of this match are missing, but there’s enough included to get an understanding of the story they are trying to tell and it’s gripping stuff. Hennig eventually manages to fight back and gets a nice dropkick for two, with Bockwinkel bumping around and stooging in classic Bockwinkel style. Hennig giving Bockwinkel a taste of his own medicine there was great, made all the better by Bockwinkel selling for it big in order to make Hennig look good.
Bockwinkel regains control after every Hennig flurry, but the story is clearly that Hennig is never truly out of the contest, and Hennig continues to show he’s alive in the bout by getting the occasional hope spot or big move. It’s such a simple story but they tell it well, and Hennig comfortable in this sort of big match setting with a top guy like Bockwinkel.
The match in general gives off the impression that Hennig will one day be on Bockwinkel’s level if he keeps developing and growing at the pace is, even if he isn’t quite there just yet. Interestingly they actually have Hennig pick up the flash pin, which I wasn’t expecting, as he gets an inside cradle OUTTA NOWHERE and that’s enough for three, much to Bockwinkel’s chagrin.
WINNER: CURT HENNIG
Bockwinkel is a sore loser and beats Hennig up following that. What a jerk! The match itself was good fun, and there was enough included where I’d feel comfortable rating it as I think only a couple of minutes were missing as opposed to the near 8-10 minutes missing out of the previous match. The wrestling was good and the story was told well also, with the impetuous youngster catching the veteran unawares for the big upset, only for Bockwinkel to do the beat-down following the match to give a reason for some rematches
King Kong Brody and The Masked Superstar Vs Groovy Greg Gagne and Jerry Blackwell
There was already a Bruiser in the AWA, so Brody had to be called King Kong instead. Ironically, that meant that King Kong Bundy then had to be called Boom-Boom Bundy when he came into the territory because Brody already had the King Kong name. Wrestling is really bloody weird isn’t it? Masked Superstar would go on to be Demolition Ax, whilst Greg is the promoters son and Blackwell is a stocky brawler that also worked in All Japan amongst other places.
They start this one hot with it being a brawl from the off, leading to Blackwell getting cut off and worked over in the Heel corner. All four of these guys are over with the crowd, with the fans being especially interested in seeing Gagne go after Brody due to the two having previous with one another. Gagne gets the tag and runs wild on Brody, including the 10 punch in the corner, leading to an aloha-Brody spot. Brody manages to block that though and it’s time for Greg to get worked over in the Heel corner.
Greg sells taking a beating well, with the Heels even dragging him out to the floor at one stage for some more punishment. Eventually it’s hot tag Blackwell, as he tees off on both Heels and then gets the Big Daddy Splash on Brody for two. Brody doesn’t seem too especially interested to sell for Blackwell, although he’s nice enough to take a bump for a terrible Blackwell dropkick at one stage. The referee ends up getting bumped, leading to the match descending to chaos. Brody hits Blackwell with an international object of some kind and that’s enough for the three.
WINNERS: BRODY & SUPERSTAR
This wasn’t too bad, although Blackwell wasn’t great. Everyone else looked decent though and the match had a good atmosphere as the fans were into the babyfaces. The Heels try a beat down following that until Jim Brunzell makes the save
AWA World Title
Champ: Rick Martel Vs Jimmy Garvin w/ Precious
Martel looked great and could work, so they rolled the dice on him as Champion. They didn’t really book him that well though and he ended up dropping it to Stan Hansen in 85, who then refused to defend it leading to the AWA having to award it to Bockwinkel in 86, who then dropped it to Curt Hennig. Garvin ended up being one half of the new revamped Freebirds in the late 80’s and early 90’s, with his cocky handsome gimmick making him a good stooging Heel before he started getting on the gas and trying to be a tough guy.
Martel runs wild to start with traditional babyface fare like dropkicks and whatnot, with Garvin taking some nice bumps for him. Martel wrestles very well here actually, and you can see why they tried him as Champion because he definitely had the in-ring skills and was really put together physically. It was certainly worth a go at any rate, and the crowd seems to like him here. Garvin eventually manages to cut Martel off and works some holds, with Martel selling it well and showing some good fire and determination as a babyface.
Martel gets a brief hope spot but then misses and elbow drop and the heat continues. Missing an elbow drop in the AWA is clearly a very devastating spot because everyone who misses one seems to end up close to death. Precious distracts the referee at one stage and that leads to Garvin throwing Martel over the top rope to the floor, which is a DQ in the AWA, thus making it a good cheap heat spot on the part of the Heel that does it. It’s why I wish they’d ban punching again because a nice sly punch when closed fists are illegal can draw nuclear heat if you do it properly.
Martel ends up making the comeback, getting a very nice slingshot splash at one stage for two. Martel continues to show some great fire here and the crowd is INTO him dishing out some punishment to Garvin after Garvin flung him over the top rope. Garvin ends up using an international object of some kind to clobber Martel and pick up the three count, which leads to the crowd being furious. However, it’s a dusty finish as they find the object and then reverse the decision.
WINNER BY DQ AND STILL CHAMPION: RICK MARTEL
The finish was pretty lame and made Martel look kind of weak that he needed to be rescued like that, but he looked good in the match up to that point and the fans dug him. I can’t help but think that if they let Martel get more pin fall and submission wins then it might have helped with his credibility as a World Champion, but I guess the AWA didn’t have a rotating list of challengers for him to vanquish like the WWF had for Hulk Hogan?
I don’t think the AWA is for me really, as I just can’t get into it no matter how much I watch it. Until Bockwinkel and Hennig got in there I was genuinely considering whether to just jack the review in and watch something else. However, from that match onwards there was enough decent stuff on the show that I was at least able to watch it to the end.
Bockwinkel Vs Hennig is the clear highlight and Rick Martel was very impressive in his match, but aside from that there’s not much here that I especially enjoyed and it’s not a show I would personally recommend. If you like the AWA though then this might be worth a watch as some of the wrestling is solid.
Show not recommended