Introduction - You know the two things that get my dander up in wrestliing are cross promotional matches and tournaments. So you know for damn sure the second this popped up on the Network I had to review it. Worth noting is that The Russians, Rock n' Roll Express, Arn/Tully, The Road Warriors, Team All Japan, The Midnight Express, Garvin/Magnum and Martel/Bravo all have first round byes.
Round 1 Match
The Fabulous Ones (Steve Kern and Stan Lane) vs The Fantastics (Tommy Rogers and Bobby Fulton) - 6/10
The first thing you'll notice about this show is that there is no commentary, which I really think adds to the slow southern style, with a lot of people verbalizing and interacting with the crowd to sell.
There's a spot almost immediately where Kern and Fulton shove each other, the illegal guys jump in the ring, and the referee has to calm the situation down. This makes it feel real Another fun "this is a real sport" spot where Rogers schoolboys Kern, and after the kick out, Lane screams about Rogers having hooked the tights, which Rogers denies having done, but the ref still gets involved. This allows Kern to take control with an armlock because the babyface's concentration is broken. The next most evident thing, about this match anyway, is that it's very much based on technical, old school wrestling, by which I mean the babyfaces (Fantastics) are allowed to work body parts and the heels subsequently have to work for the hot tag. We then get some cool tag psychology with Kern trying to get to a tag while in an armbar, and Lane reaching so far out to try and tag his partner he lands flat on his ass in the ring. We also get a dope ass running twisting splash from Fulton that genuinely looks like he could've hit a dropkick to someone else at the same time. The Fantastics trade armbars on poor Steve without tagging, and the heels give out to the ref, but the crowd love it.Stan misses a kick which Bobby sells and that's our heat. Bobby scrambles for the hot tag and we get a PROLONGED look at his ass, but the heels take control. Bobby fires up outside the ring but the heels take control again. Tommy tags in finally and we get a babyface comeback, at which point they do a wacky double team move which involves Tommy landing on his feet from a back boddy drop, and one of the Fabs taking an O'Connor roll for the three count win.
This match was a decent opener, but what really killed its chances at being "good" was the length of time between Tommy getting worked over, the hot tag, and the finish were either too long or too short, which really dampened a match that previously had had some great flow.
Round 1 Match
Rick Steiner and Buzz Sawyer vs Koko B Ware and Italian Stallion - 4/10
At this point, Steiner (who looks strange without a singlet and headgear) and Sawyer are champions of some description as they have belts but they aren't identified on Wikipedia so whatever
We get some generic 80's rasslin to start, and then Sawyer takes the most ridiculous bump from a dropkick I've ever seen, which involved him flying into a turnbuckle sideways, hitting the turnbuckle with his legs, and bumping to the floor. Rick takes a safer spill out of the ring. We get some super gnarly attempts by Sawyer at pushing out of a headlock, which ends in a backdrop for Koko. Steiner tags in and misses a falling headbutt. Stallion tags in and gets control as he should Rick gets some stuff in but the faces are in control until a heel tag, at which point Koko fights off both heels by himself. We get a reset after a big "pinfalls between punches in the ring and in the corner" spot, and a reset, which grinds the match to a screeching halt Koko headlock. Buzz leap frogs and double downs while making karate noises, including flopping into a double down with such fury he nearly Pele kicks Koko. We get a Koko cross-body and we we just go right back to headlocks. Babyfaces in control again. Buzz takes control and drops down into a amateur wrestling waist-lock from a run. Excuse me? We're back to babyface headlocks tho so it doesn't matter. Oh shit, Steiner and Koko tag in and they might do things! Oh, never mind, more headlocks when Buzz tags back in. Wacky John Cena style shoulder block from Buzz, which sends Koko out of the ring, where he gets suplexed. The heels work the back, including a primordial Steiner Bely-to-Belly, which leads to the world's longest bearhug on the ground spot, including the laziest attempt at leverage I've ever seen, in which Buzz is just lightly stepping on Rick's foot. Eventually we liven things up with more back offense when the heels get back on top after a brief Koko comeback. Stallion tags in to the most tepid hot tag in history, only to get hit with a catch deadlift powerslam for the three count.
This absolutely did not need to go 15 minutes. If you'd shaved about 5 minutes off this match I think we would've gotten to the same point.
Round 1 Match
Black Bart and Jimmy Garvin (w/Precious) vs Brett Wayne and D.J Peterson - 5.5/10
Wayne/Peterson are fresh to us from the UWF. Brett Wayne is Buzz Sawyer's shoot brother, and D.J would go on to be half of the last set of AWA Tag Team Champions.
This felt like a trimmed down version of Fantastics vs Fabs, and what the previous match should've been. Babyfaces start out hot, aping the Fantastics offense to silence, heels cut them off, hot tag gets thwarted, heels win. Notable chants were one guy yelling "SUNSHINE" because he remembers his WCCW and a "Precious smells bad" chant. This was a very basic match but considering we just had a 15 minute headlock jamboree, I'm super okay with that
It's at this point we jump to Round 2, and I realize that we only are getting some of the round 1 matches. Considering what's to come especially considering the Fabs, I wonder if the Round 1 matches play a part in angles later?
Round 2 Match
The Midnight Express (Dennis Condrey and Bobby Eaton) (w/ Jim Cornette) vs Nelson Royal and Sam Houston - No Rating, Great Squash
The Midnights destroy Sam until he tags in to Nelson. Nelson locks an Abdominal Stretch on Dennis but Bobby comes off the top rope behind the ref's back to allow Dennis to get the three count. This felt right at home on WCW Saturday Night or Mid-South TV, and it was great
Oh wow, we're actually in this all the rest of the way I think, as we stay with the crowd for
Round 2 Match
Magnum TA and Ron Garvin vs Buzz Sawyer and Rick Steiner - 6/10
Immediately we get a story beat as Buzz tries to power around the babyfaces while hooting and hollering, but stone faced babyfaces just powers through and keeps on going. Rick teases a "can't knock me down" spot with Ron but just gets slapped across the face for his efforts, and hits more chops on Rick. The heels catch Magnum unaware and work him over in their corner, raking his eyes, and it occurs to me no one sells pain as well as Magnum TA. Old school heelery prevents the hot tag until Rick ducks his head on a back body drop, Magnum kicks him in the face and we get the hot tag. Ron cleans house by himself and tags Magnum in for a drop down assisted Belly to Belly Suplex for the win. This is now the second finish we've had in which a guy has sold forever and tagged back in to hit his move.
That gripe aside, this was a perfectly acceptable match with enough story flourishes, especially Rick's inexperience causing the hot tag, to squeak this above average.
Tony Schiavone and Jim Ross announce the matches/run down the rules - The piledriver and top rope moves are legal tonight, one save per team per match, no throwing somebody over the top rope. We're also continuing the tournament as well as having Slater/Duggan and Rhodes tonight. They throw to the National Anthem which is made funny by the fact that the only flag they can find is one in the crowd being held aloft by two dudes. Also holy shit Bruce Prichard is our ring announcer
Round 2 Match
Wahoo McDaniel and Mark Youngblood vs The Road Warriors (w/ Paul Ellering) - 5.75/10
The Road Warriors come out not to Iron Man, but a completely bizarre song that's just a promo of theirs set to what sounds like something Giorgio Moroder composed hung over. And no, it isn't an edit because some mark yells "YEAH! HAWK AND ANIMAL" during the lyric "Hawk and Animal are coming to town"
When Youngblood is in the ring with the Warriors it's a test of power and speed, but when they're in the ring with Wahoo, it's power vs power/experience. Wahoo gets some impressive showings in but eventually the Warriors overpower them both, with Hawk winning with a flying clothesline after Wahoo McDaniel of all people is too scared to break up a pin.
I think this did a lot for each guy's character and is a classic example of how to do a lot with a little.
Sashka Whatley/Paul Jones and Jimmy Valiant segment - Weird. The heels appear where Sashka brags about having lopped off a lock of Jimmy's hair. He heels on the crowd for a bit before we get a jump cut, in which Jimmy has appeared, and Sashka is being lead away by security. One fo those things that played out great live I'm sure. We also learn that Manny Fernandez has appeared along with several chairs of varying shapes and sizes. This leads to
Round 2 Match
Jimmy Valiant and Manny Fernandez vs The Russian Team (Ivan and Nikita Koloff) (w/ Eddie Gilbert and Corsica Corchinco) - 6.25/10
Corcsica is an old Russian man with a goatee on loan from Gilbert A cool spot sees Manny go up top and jump to get out of a Roman Knuckle Lock. He tries to work the leg but a missed dropkick puts the Russians back in control. They work Jimmy's back and tease a flying clothesline but Manny stops it and tags to Jimmy. Jimmy runs wild and breaks down into a four way which allows Nikita to hit a Russian Sickle from the apron for a sneaky pinfall win.
This is the match of the day for me so far because there was no wasted motion like the Magnum/Garvin vs Sawyer/Steiner match before it, but they didn't shit on the psychology of the hot tag.
Williams and Taylor win by forfeit because Dino Bravo has appendicitis - Dino was shoot injured in the last match.
Round 2 Match
The Rock n' Roll Express vs The Sheepherders (w/ Jack Victory) - 7/10
This match has two distinct phases. It starts out as a brawl between all four men, and then The Sheepherders start working Robert's arm, and basically do for the entire rest of the match sans a few punches. A hot tag is made, but it breaks down into a four way again. The Sheepherders beat Ricky with the New Zealand flag, but Ricky gets a turn on Butch. The referee, who's been distracted with Gibson and Luke, only sees Ricky beating Butch, for the DQ win!
This was artful. They never lost sight of the story to set up anything else that lead to it, and is a great match even with 30 years hindsight
Round 2 Match
Four Horsemen ( Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard) (w/ James Dillon vs The Fantastics (Bobby Fulton and Tommy Rogers - 6.75/10
This starts out hot but the heels powder out when the faces have the advantage. They stall for a while as the heels are applauded that the referee wouldn't accept a tag while Tully was outside the ring, which leads o Tully staling and being brought in the hard way by Tommy. The heels do a cool spot where they tease a test of strength only for the illegal man to run in and try to get a cheap shot. Babyfaces clear the ring, more stalling. The heels cheat,, but the babyfaces outdo them still, so Tully just has to go in there and beat the shit out of Bobby . It breaks down into a four way, with JJ cheating when Bobby gets knocked out of the ring. More cheating by the heels, including an eye poke spot which results in a blind Bobby having to be lead to the ring by Tommy. Tommy fires up, which involves him kicking out of an Arn spinebuster and kicking out of about six of the most intense looking pinfalls I've ever seen from Tully. Cool sequence where Tommy blocks a suplex from Tully outside the ring, but Arn intercepts Tommy, and this still gives Bobby enough time to get out of the hold. Tommy has to openly forget to hot tag because that's not the spot yet. Hot tag to Tommy sees Tommy run wild, but Arn cuts it off with a Gordbuster, but Bobby makes the save. which Tully attacks him for. With the ref distracted with Tully, Bobby can dropkick his own partner mid slam knocking down Arn for the surprise 3, to which the crowd goes apeshit.
This had to potential to surpass RnR/Sheepherders but it was a bit clunky with selling of things like Bobby's eye that didn't need to happen, but this is really a (pun intended) FANTASTIC showcase for the Fantastics, which shows they have the same potential as The Rock n'Roll or other babyface teams of their ilk
Round 2 Match
Giant Baba and Tiger Mask II vs Jimmy Garvin and Black Bart (w/Precious) - 5.25/10
Team AJPW gets booed because Murica, as does the actual heel team. It's super apparent that the only one making any noise is Precious. Some leapfrogs, a dropkick, and a baseball slide by Tiger gets the people into it though. Seeing Precious of all people scurry away from Tiger Mask's dive fakeout is surreal. Baba tags in, and he must've had a bad flight or slept wrong at the hotel because Baba is moving in the slowest of goddamn motion. The crowd is still mildly into Baba's comeback. The heels get the heat on Tiger until he makes the cold tag to Baba. The heels take turns bumping for Baba. Bart, to his credit, knows how to take big theatrical bumps for all of Baba's stuff. Hilariously, some Cajun in the crowd yells "GIT DAT BIG OLE SLOWPOKE OUTTA HEAUH!" Baba hits his kick and we get a pinfall.
Other than being mildly amusing to see two of the best performers in puro history perform for a bunch of Louisiana bumpkins, this match was nothing.
Post-match - Funny. Precious points and bitches at the winning team. When she screams at Baba she points at her and looks out at the crowd as if to say "Can you believe this?" When she does the same to Tiger Mask he bows his head and turns away as if to indicate he's staying out of it. The camera then cuts to Jimmy Garvin who looks like he's a second away from cracking up. Precious does a dramatic hair flip and the heels peace out.
The Road Warriors (w/ Paul Ellering) vs. The Midnight Express (w/ Jim Cornette) - No Rating, Historic Segment
Man, The Warriors get to look like God's gifts to wrestling here, no selling the Express' stuff and, in Animal's case, doing leap frogs and dropkicks. Animal gets to mow down both of them down during a cheating attempt The heels get some more offense but the Warriors power through every time. Eventually Cornette wacks Animal with the tennis racket and gets the Warriors the DQ win.
This was a great segment that got everyone involved's characters across and lead into one of the biggest wrestling angles of 1986, so thumbs up all around
No rating, historic segment
Post-match - GREAT! The heels attempt a beatdown, but when Animal starts no selling, they get out of dodge.
The Russian Team (w/ Eddie Gilbert and Corsica Corchinco) vs Terry Taylor and Steve Williams - 5/10
This match had three phases. Ivan getting his arm worked over by the babyfaces, Nikita and Williams being two big hosses against each other, and then the actual tag team phase in which heels worked over babyfaces, and Williams made the tag to Terry. We do get a false finish in which Terry gets to kick out of an illegal double team before time expires for the draw, both teams are eliminated.
This was definitely a match that's made to look Nikita, Williams and Terry look good for singles pursuits, under the guise of an average match.
Post-match - Nikita is pissed about the draw, which he displays by throwing Terry out, which causes Williams to fire up, and then a beat down to happen. This is consistent with the match existing more to build up everyone involved rather than advance the time keepers. I wonder if this is still far enough back that the time keeper is a shoot because HE DOES NOT STOP RINGING THE BELL.
The Fantastics (Bobby Fulton and Tommy Rogers) vs The Sheepherders (Butch and Luke) w/ Jack Victory - 8.5/10
This starts out as your run of the mill (exciting young babyfaces versus clobbering foreign heels) match, but then little things start happening, Dutch gets bonked into Luke on the apron by the Fantastics, Luke attacks Bobby on the outside, and Bobby gets juice. This transforms your run of the mill match into a fucking war. Tommy sells like a man actually losing blood, and when he's tagged in Tommy sells like a furious man, beating the shit out of both Sheepherders. In an amazing production touch, Butch. chucks the referee onto the camera, making it look just that much more out of control. Even better is that we get about 7 minutes of uninterrupted brawling before the Double DQ decision is reached, which made it look unscripted.
Post-match - More brawling ensues, including the Fantastics challenging them for more, and bringing the fight to outside briefly before the heels are dragged away by Victory and a woman with a mohawk.When it's announced again that both teams are eliminated, Tommy threatens to beat up two referees. This was awesome.
Giant Baba and Tiger Mask vs Ronnie Garvin and Magnum TA - 6.25/10
This is a babyface vs babyface match in execution. but team All Japan plays the more technical roll, which makes Magnum and Garvin the babyfaces by default. There were some very interesting catch wrestling sequences that I've never seen before, such as a schoolboy out of your partner's neck crank, a school boy where the guy kicks out multiple times, and another where Tiger Mask had to go to the ropes to get Ronnie to break. It was also interesting seeing Mask throw out some proto-Misawa stuff like a big senton. The finish comes when Magnum catches Tiger Mask off of a crossbody and hits a Belly-to-Belly for the win.
UWF North American Title
Dick Slater vs Jim Duggan (c) - 4.25/10
Duggan outdoes Slater with big hoss moves until Slater slams Duggan into the guard rail, knocking him and the guardrail down. Dicky works over Duggan with stomps and rest holds. Ar least Dicky has the decency to work the neck which makes the rest holds make more sense. Dick misses a top rope nothing and Duggan fires up. Dick no sells a reverse atomic drop and is back into it. Duggan throws Dick onto the ref, and Dick ends up in the camel clutch position on top of him and just stomps him. Dick gets a two count off of a move. He then ties Jim up in the ropes, the ref backs him off, Jim just breaks free and hits the Three Point Stance Clothesline for the three.
This whole thing was just an anachronism of 80's cheese, which means we get a below average match.
NWA World Championship
Dusty Rhodes (w/ Baby Doll) vs Ric Flair (c) - 8/10
Dusty has all the momentum early until Ric gets it and busts Dusty open inexplicably on a bulldog headlock, then Dusty gets it back. Dusty goes to work on Ric's leg, and then Ric gets it back after a dramatic sleeper hold spot. Dusty gets it back, and gets it back immediately after Ric tries to work the leg again. We get a cool inversion of the Flair turnbuckle bump where he ends up in the Tree of Woe and Dusty stomps on his head. During a sleeper hold spot on Ric, he gets the ropes but can't grip them, I guess that's what constitutes a rope break vs not? Dusty pins Ric from here but Ric gets his feet on the ropes. The world's lamest shoulder check knocks the ref out, and we get a false finish with Ric hitting Dusty with his own boot. Ric then sexually assaults Baby Doll which causes Dusty to knock Ric out with his boot. Dusty then knocks out the ref for the DQ.
This was sooo much better than their match at Starrcade 1985. We got a taste of what makes both guys awesome, and we got a finish that preserves Dusty's standing as a badass hero without having to beat Ric.
Post-match - Dusty steals the belt and the people love him for it.
1986 Crockett Cup Finals
Ronnie Garvin and Magnum TA vs The Road Warriors (w/ Paul Ellering) - 7.5/10
Man, this final looks like the most effed up March Madness bracket and I love it. Every once in a while a match can be summed up with "the better man/team won" and this is one of those times. The relatively new team on the scene The Road Warriors went up against two of the top five babyfaces in JCP, two of the hardest hitting guys around, and outdid them. Animal even kicked out of the vaunted Magnum TA Belly to Belly! The finish comes when Ronnie Garvin hits Hawk with the Hand of Stone and sells breaking his hand. Hawk then hits a lariat f or the win.
This was an absolutely brilliant match. It was one of those rare ROH style squashes done to perfection.
Post-match - Jim Crockett Sr's wife, Bill Watts, and Jim Crockett Jr present The Warriors with the check and trophy, and it's almost a mirror image of when Paul and the Authors of Pain were presented with the Dusty Classic Cup.
Skip to about 3 hours in this 4 hour piece of footage and you'll get to where you need to go. The deeper you get into the card the more you realize why so many people loved professional wrestling here and remember these workers fondly. This stuff is absolutely required viewing.