Introduction - Watching the most recent Crockett Cup, and seeing Magnum there made clear to me that I should probably review the show that featured Magnum's best match. So let's see if it, among others, holds up.
We get the show open, and we get...
Going in between the two venue's commentary teams - Bob Caudle and Tony Schiavone are physically at the Omni, but providing commentary for everything (your move Wrestlemania II) while Johnny Weaver is in Greensboro, This whole thing plays out like a Tim and Eric sketch. There's dead air when there shouldn't be, and Johnny looks TERRIFIED behind a mic, his eyes constantly darting, and compulsively flicking tongue when he's not speaking. What's more, during one cut back to Johnny, the camera is off center, so for no reason Johnny is to the right of where he was before as the camera slowly finds its center. They also cut to Johnny like they're going to throw back to him at one point, but Johnny looks disappointed when they throw to...
The National Anthem - They play an instrumental over the house speakers, which I wish more events (especially local ones) would do. The serenity of the moment is broken because every time the people in the crowd realize they're on camera and either do a big wave or try to look up at the stadium's big screen. This goes longer than your typical anthem, and for the extra part we cut to complete darkness.
(Vacant) Mid Atlantic Heavyweight Championship match
Sam Houston vs Crusher Khrushchev - 5.5/10
They set the stage in the first lockup, Crusher is the big powerful heel whereas Sam is the smaller babyface. They get over Sam's speed by having him duck a lockup and Crusher's momentum sending him out of the ring as a result., Crusher tries to go for an elbow drop after a choke, but Sam dodges. Sam lands on his feet after a back body drop and makes his comeback...but then the match slows back down. Sam .Crusher gets momentum by being a big scary heel. Sam does a great job of selling that he's barely able to fire back, so it makes when he gets the opening all the more effective. Sam fires back with punches in the corner and hits the Bulldog, his finisher. A foot on the rope sees Sam celebrate too early, and get Sickle'd for his arrogance with the three count.
I'm not sure about how I feel about such a wacky finish in the opener, but here we are with a good opener for the time.
"Hat on a Pole" Mexican Deathmatch
Abdullah The Butcher (w/Paul Jones) vs Ragin' Bull - 3.25/10
They call it a "Mexican Deathmatch" but it's basically a Sombrero on a poll match, which Tony mistakes as a "Hat on a Pole" match, and I refuse to call it anything else.. One thing I really appreciate about JCP's presentation so far is that the heels all look like terrifying monsters, and the babyfaces that aren't pretty boys all look like badass cowboys from an action movie.
Butcher's only move so far seems to be headlock punching his opponent with his fucking dagger of a gig. Butcher clocks Manny with the timekeeper's hammer. You've basically killed your opponent in a minute, why not go for the hat? We're going for a long choke now, and even though Manny is fighting back, I've already seen a guy get stabbed in the head and smashed with a hammer, everything else just feels tame in comparison. Butcher sells like fucking piss, and can barely go over for a monkey flip. Bull uses his boot as a bludgeoning weapon. Now Butcher is bleeding. Bull misses a running boot attack, now Butcher has the boot and wacks him with it. Paul tells Butcher to go for the hat, which he does, but Manny attacks him, causing Butcher to take a big tumble off the second rope. Now Butcher is up, and blocks Manny from getting it, but Manny takes his belt when Butcher tries to go for it but somehow Butcher has momentum now. Manny dodges Butcher's big elbow, More belt shots, and a big running forearm. Bull gets his big "suplex the big guy spot" Manny takes a ridiculous flip bump off a low blow. Manny reverses a shoulder charge and gets his hat.
I feel like if this match had ended after the first big turnbuckle bump from Butcher this would've been serviceable. But the longer it got the more tedious and uniform what the match became, which is not a good look when you have someone like Abdullah in the match.
Crusher Khrushchev interview with Johnny Weaver - Completely ridiculous that a guy with a Southeastern drawl is supposed to big up Mother Russia. Johnny also is reduced to a modern WWE interviewer, throwing out a generic question and holding the mic. He also fucks up the verbage for "Steel Cage Match" while prompting Crusher to talk about that. Weaver is over the house mic for half a second as he talks about the next match which is...
Texas Bullrope Match (if Bass wins there'll be another 5 Minute Texas Bullrope Match between him and Dillon)
Black Bart (w/James J. Dillon) vs "Cowboy" Ron Bass - 6/10
Another match in which someone gets sliced open a minute in, this time the heel is the victim. Bart gets the shit beaten out of him with the cowbell forever until he lands a low blow. Now it's Bart's turn to do the beating. Now they're trading punches, but now Bart has the momentum again. Now Bass does, and Bart takes a back bump while throwing punches wildly. Now Bart has the momentum again. Bass blocks a cowbell shot. and gets the momentum back. Now they're out of the ring as Bart takes a crazy Cactus Clothesline bump by himself. They trade momentum, and now there's a double down. Now Bass has the momentum, and more punches are thrown. Bass wins on a top rope cowboy shot and the people are ELATED.
Butcher and Manny technically had less intrusive match stipulations than this match, yet this match told a more varied story that also felt like a wild brawl. Despite the "above-average" rating, let it be known that this match exceeded expectations
5 Minute Texas Bullrope Match
Ron Bass vs James J.Dillon (w/ Black Bart) - No Rating, Great Segment
Dillon jumps in and starts attacking Bass because he is intelligent. Dillon goes in for the quick cowbell shot and pin, but Bass kicks out. Dillon has the momentum because Bass is wore out, with cowbell fist drops and chokes. Bass looks like a killer, being able to fire up while being choked. Dillon gets his ass kicked and does a really good job selling being out on his feet. Black Bart takes out the ref, piledrives Bass, and rolls JJ over for the win.
While I would've liked to have seen Bass really show his stuff and take out two people, this finish makes sense within the parameters of the match and the story they're telling. Managers and bookers of today should study this match to see how to properly tell and sell this type of story.
$10,000 Arm wrestling match
The Barbarian (w/ Paul Jones) vs "Superstar" Billy Graham - DUD
Superstar somehow manages to look muscular while looking frail and old simultaneously. This will be before a match between the two. Oh wow I wonder how this will end? Perhaps the heel jumping the face? I get how I was able to make the determination about Superstar earlier. He has the body of an adonis, unassuming enough to be hidden by a shirt, and the face of 78 year old man
We get way more analysis than this deserves. We also get managerial interference and a hulk up in an arm wrestling match. Why do people even bother doing this, it's one spot you can do. Graham wins, and WOWEE, he gets jumped by the heel.
The Barbarian (w/ Paul Jones) vs "Superstar" Billy Graham - 0.5/10
I looked away from the screen for two minutes and both guys are bleeding. Barbarian has the heat forever. We tease a hulk up, but Barbarian gets the heat. He misses a flying headbutt, Graham locks in the bearhug, but we get a DQ finish because why not at this point right?
I mean...they told a story? But Barbarian looks like a jabroni,
Post match - Terrible Graham hits Jones with his cane, but then Barbarian knocks him out of the ring. Graham is reduced to taking a goofy over the guardrail bump. This felt suspiciously like Russo booked WCW, where the match wasn't good, the post and pre match wasn't good, and everyone looked like a loser.
NWA National Title
Terry Taylor (c) vs Buddy Landel (w/JJ Dillon) - 7/10
Oooh, younger Buddy Landel! I'm intrigued. We get some technical wrestling (hooray, finally) and some punches blocked in a realistic manner. I think I'm in love. Something that the commentators have been doing all night is allowing for long gaps of silence, and it really shows here. Buddy is just being technical, nothing really heelish so far. Lots of mat based goodness from both guys. Terry fights out of a corner barrage from Buddy, which Tony points out is Bobby's best application. I like how, even after something resembling a babyface comeback, Buddy kicks out at one because it's the first pinfall. Buddy has to resort to hitting Terry really hard because he's a cowardly heel. A rest hold for JJ to appear and get camera time. Another count of one because Buddy's feet are on the ropes. Hansen tier lariat by Buddy leads to a nearfall. Terry fights back but Buddy takes control again. Buddy works the neck, but Terry fights out. Terry beats the shit out of Buddy but there's a ref bump. They tease Dillon interfering but there's a miscue. Terry stupidly sets up a superplex in the corner JJ is skulking around in. JJ swipes Terry's feet mid Superplex which somehow allows Buddy to fall on top of him for the three.
This match was on its way to an 8, but the match ground to a halt in places where such a thing didn't make sense, we got yet another ref bump, a false finish that didn't need to be there, and a finish that mechanically didn't make a ton of sense knocked it down to its actual rating. To JCP's credit, a replay in the post match actually upped the rating as it made the finish more clear.
NWA National Tag Team Championship
The Minnesota Wrecking Crew (Arn and Ole Anderson) (c) vs Wahoo McDaniel and Billy Jack Haynes - 9.5/10
The match's story so far is so Mid-Atlantic it warms me heart. Technical heels bumping for the big strong babyface. Wahoo gets his stuff in now, and Ole tags out. Arn gets a headscissor out of a chin lock to get the heat. A reversal into a floatover is built up as a big moment, but Wahoo terrifyingly gets out of it, screams, and clotheslines Arn, but Arn is back into the headscissor. Andersons do a headlock/punch double team for the heat, and now the Andersons are working Wahoo's arms, Wahoo fires back, but Arn takes control again. Frequent tags and both heels work over Wahoo's arm. More double teams, and Haynes having seen enough makes this a four way. Haynes getting involved ties up the ref which allows for more heelery to take place. Wahoo comes back with chops, but the heels cut off a tag. Wahoo rolls to his corner and Haynes is in and running wild. Andersons use double teams to cut off the big guy though, and Haynes tags Wahoo back in. Some false finishes and more heelery. Andersons trip Wahoo and hold him down outside the ring to retain. I like that Wahoo took the pin because he's week enough to get grounded by tomfoolery, and the fact that they didn't beat Haynes leaves the door open for several other things. The crowd legit sounds like they're about to riot oh my God.
This match was so simple, yet so wonderful in execution. If you watch this, I hope you understand why The Andersons are the best of all time.
J.J Dillon and Buddy Landel interview with Johnny Weaver - GREAT! JJ is not being outrageous, but the comedy of a man big upping himself while in a tuxedo looking like he got shot in Vietnam, with a bandage wrapped around his head, is still there. Buddy cuts an almost babyface promo but is arrogant about it, which is awesome.
"I Quit" Steel Cage Match for the United States Championship
Tully Blanchard (w/ Baby Doll) (c) vs Magnum TA - 10/10
Even during pre-match, Magnum looks terrifying. The match starts with some amazing storytelling. Tully is more careful, unsure, whereas Magnum looks like a stone-faced killer of men. They fight on the ground, and Tully immediately rakes the eyes. These guys immediately lay into each other with punches, with Magnum coming out on top, and Tully slinking to the ropes like a stunned boxer. Tully uses heelery to gain the momentum back. Something that's adding to the match early is Baby Doll's verbal reaction, shrieking at the brutality even when Tully is on offense. Magnum either gets opened up hard way or does the most subtle blade job of all time, looking like his forehead was punctured. Tully locks in a chin lock but Magnum fights back. Neck snap. Tully fights back and the two get their crazy stiff sounding punches in. Magnum goes into the cage again. Tully screams like he's being murdered as his eyes get raked. Now Tully hits the cage. Tully has BLADED HIS ARM. Meanwhile Tully gets his eye poked and screams "OH SHIT" These guys are just throwing hay-makers wherever they may land. When you get the guys on the mic, you can feel the hatred, and the animalistic desperation Tully Stun Guns Magnum into the cage but he's lifting dead weight. Magnum is near unconsciousness but won't quit. We also get the hollowest "ga chunk" sound off a mic shot. Magnum got potatoed in the skull. Magnum dodges and elbow and fights back. Tully won't quit either. Now they're just clawing at each other's wounds. Now we're punching back and forth kneeling. Magnum goes for punches in the corner but a reverse atomic drop puts an end to that. Now we get the "spike wooden chair" spot which drives the crowd spastic. Magnum actually stabs the stake into his cut and Tully quits. Post match, Magnum slings the belt over his shoulder and leaves without looking back like a gunslinger at the end of a western.
You can see how every deathmatch schlub was taking notes, but what all of that is missing is the real fight atmosphere, the visceral hatred, and the lack of any kind of unnecessary fluff. Only a few matches are so brutal the absence or subtraction of any of those other components can be overlooked. This was amazing. Go watch it, now.
Atlanta Street Fight
The Midnight Express (Dennis Condrey and Bobby Eaton) w/ Jim Cornette vs "The Boogie Woogie Man" Jimmy Valiant and Miss Atlanta Lively w/Big Momma - 6.5/10
Ah, it's time for "NWK goes light on the piss break match because it's the piss break" It's a wild brawl with everyone except Atlanta juicing. The babyfaces are a house of fire but the heels get the heat, Atlanta getting her gear ripped off causes Jimmy to hulk up. The babyfaces strip the heels until the heels isolate Atlanta. They tease Jimmy firing back up a few times. Atlanta breaks up a double team splash move in midair for the three count win.
For a tornado tag match with slightly comedic elements, everyone involved managed to put on a great match.
Post-match - Excellent The babyfaces strip Cornette down to his undies (which of course, have big hearts on them).
Magnum TA interview with Johnny Weaver - Magnum looks terrifying, and challenges a bunch of heels, while cutting a GREAT promo.
Steel Cage match for theNWA World Tag Team Championship
Nikita and Ivan Koloff (w/ Crusher Kruschev) (c) vs The Rock n' Roll Express (w/ Don Kernodle) - 8/10
The Russians get the Soviet National Anthem and a menacing red tinted entrance while The Rock 'n Roll Express get ELO and a groovy blue tinted light. Each team gets their light of choice during their ring intros. Another one for the "Triple H steals from Mid Atlantic" column.
The crowd are here for everything the R&R do, and Ricky bumps off of Nikita, which a nice inversion of most Mid-Atlantic action Ricky gets some stuff in but Nikita overpowers him on the basis of being a brick shithouse. Ricky fighs back but Nikita muscles him around Ricky tags Robert, and he runs wild on Ivan who tagged in earlier. Now it's all R&R. The Russians have the cheat to get the advantage. When the Russians muscle around Robert, Ricky is really good at selling the urgency of it all. This also allows the Russians to get heel tag teams moves in. Robert is an expert at selling barely being able to defend himself. There's a ref bump, so Robert who's been getting his ass kicked all match gets a visual pinfall which is stupid. The finishing sequence is crazy, where a blind tag is made, and Ricky manages to O'Connor Roll Nikita while he Back Body Drops Robert. This of course picks the win up for the Express.
While this was a great match, I think the inherent problem with RnR Express matches is that they HAVE to be beating the shit out of the heels to begin with to keep the teeny boppers interested, and I didn't appreciate the visual pinfall. But as I said, great match!
Post-match - Too complicated for what they were trying to get to The Russians beat up the RnR. Ricky leaves the cage (which they've sold as him being thrown out) leaving Robert all alone. Don is also down outside the ring. and other wrestlers eventually ward the Russians off. I feel like we could've gotten here without Ricky being "thrown out"
NWA World Heavyweight Title
Dusty Rhodes vs "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair (c) - 7.25/10
Auxiliary research for this show indicates that the reason why this was split into two locations is because Ric would've been cheered in Greensboro as opposed to Atlanta where the people loved Dusty. This same research also indicated that they have been flipping between the two locations back and forth. It's amazing how unnoticeable this has been.
The story of the match is that Dusty is out for revenge for being turned on by Ric and the primordial Four Horsemen at GAB '85 and having his ankle broken. As such Dusty gets most of the offense, with Flair getting potshots whenever he's able to work the leg or get potshots in generally. We get some shoddy officiating. Ric finally gets some palpable momentum but I don't know how you could believe it having seen the rest of the match. Ref bump, and we get some Wrecking Crew interference. Dusty fights them both off and gets the pin which a second referee counts.
Look, I'm sure if you were there in the moment, when the "Hard Times" promo was still fresh, when the angle was fresh.I'm sure this was the best thing in the world, and I'm sure that the snuff film we got was EXACTLY what the people wanted, but looking at the match by itself, this match spat in the face of the heel/face dynamic in order to make Dusty look good. That said, they told this story about as competently as they could, and really the only time I felt like Dusty wouldn't win was when the Andersons ran down.
Dusty Rhodes promo in the babyface lockeroom - The babyfaces spray bubbly in celebration, and Dusty cuts a GREAT, short promo.
This was a GREAT show from JCP (if you skip Manny/Butcher and Superstar/Barbarian that is)