Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1985)

Starrcade bounced back in 1985 with a now pretty legendary lineup....

Starrcade '85 - Greensboro Coliseum/The Omni - 11.28.85

Now this was more like it.  Starrcade '85 was broadcast from two venues again, but this time there were really only ten matches, thus the important bouts all felt long enough.  While not at the level of Starrcade '83, this edition had a handful of memorable bouts, one of which is still considered an all-time classic battle.

For this show Tony Schiavone replaced Gordon Solie on commentary, and right away I noticed two things: #1 Schiavone and Bob Caudle didn't talk much during the matches; there were long stretches of action with no commentary at all.  #2 Schiavone was asked to plug the upcoming Bunkhouse Stampede event (and others) way too many times, during actual matches.  This distractive shilling should've happened in between bouts.

The show opener was Krusher Kruschev vs. Sam Houston.  This was a decent little match, with a good speed vs. power dynamic.  Houston looked good and reminded me of early Shawn Michaels.  Kruschev won after escaping Houston's bulldog with a foot on the ropes and then hitting Houston with the Russian Sickle, after which the referee missed Houston's foot on the rope.

Next was Manny Fernandez vs. Abdullah the Butcher in a Sombrero on a Pole match.  What a ridiculous gimmick; what'd Vince Russo book this?  This was just ok - both guys bled within the first couple minutes, which became a pattern on this show.  That struck me as diffusing the tension very quickly.  After missing a top-rope headbutt Manny then just leapfrogged over Abdullah and climbed the ropes to get the hat, which was a strange ending.

What followed were two 2-part matches in a row.  The first was Black Bart vs. Ron Bass in a Bullrope match where if Bass won he got five minutes with JJ Dillon.  Storyline-wise this was awfully similar to the previous year's Bass vs. Dick Slater match, with two former partners fighting.  Again the blood flowed right at the beginning, and by the end both guys were covered in it.  The finish came out of nowhere (in a bad way) when Bass hit Bart with the cowbell off the second rope and abruptly covered him.  This match could've used more cowbell!  Sorry, had to do it.  Dillon then attacked Bass, starting their followup match.  Short and forgettable, Dillon won after a ref bump when Bart knocked Bass unconscious.

My god this was sadistic.

The other two-part event was an arm wrestling match, followed by a wrestling-wrestling match.  Billy Graham vs. Barbarian was the third match in a row with blood, again right at the beginning.  Graham won the arm wrestling match and Barbarian attacked him, leading to a five-minute throwaway.

Refreshingly we got a gimmick-free bout next: Buddy Landell vs. Terry Taylor.  This was a well-worked wrestling match, though it was like watching Ric Flair's stunt double wrestle his son.  It's so odd that JJ Dillon managed the fake Ric Flair only months before he traded up for the real one.  The ending was clever - Taylor went for a superplex but Dillon quickly swept his leg out from under him and both wrestlers fell to the mat hard with Landell on top for the pin.  Definitely the highlight of the show so far.

The second half picked up pretty well, with multiple Championship matches, starting with Ole & Arn Anderson vs. Wahoo McDaniel & Billy Jack Haynes.  Decent enough little match that started out fast-paced before the Andersons took over on offense.  Sadly this had a pretty silly ending with Arn pinning Billy after a simple forearm strike with Ole holding his leg down.

The most memorable bout on the show was unquestionably Tully Blanchard vs. Magnum TA for the US Title.  A classic I Quit Steel Cage match that was gritty, realistic and brutal.  This was just a slugfest with lots of vicious ground & pound, great selling, and buckets of blood.  The closing moments with the two fighting over a piece of broken chair are iconic.  Nothing fancy, but a helluva fight.

The I Quit match was tough to follow, and this next match didn't really bother.  The Midnight Express faced Jimmy Valiant & Miss Atlanta Lively in what was a very wild brawl, but the babyface team was impossible to take seriously, particularly with Ronnie Garvin dressed in drag.  Also, three of the participants were bleeding within the first minute, which was unnecessary coming after such a great gorefest.  Not much of a match.

The semi-main slot went to Ivan & Nikita Koloff vs. The Rock n' Roll Express for the Tag Team Titles.  This was a very enjoyable Steel Cage tag match.  Morton & Gibson were expert underdog babyfaces and at the time probably the most consistently good team in the company.  This fine bout built to a cleverly executed finish, as Morton blind-tagged Gibson, bounced off the opposite ropes, and rolled up Ivan for the pin.  Then all hell broke loose as the Russians beat the piss out of the good guys.  One of the best matches on the show.

Flair's hair looks dented; no wonder he's upset.

In a rematch from Starrcade '84, the main event was Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes for the World Title.  This was light years better than its predecessor, but rather unremarkable overall.  The action was a little slow, and I always thought Flair and Dusty had better chemistry as characters than in the ring.  Flair bladed pretty unnecessarily, bringing the total number of matches with blood to eight (if you include the tacked-on Bass vs. Dillon match).  That's pretty excessive; when the majority of matches on a given show feature blood it becomes numbing and it takes away some impact from matches that need it, like the brutal Tully-Magnum bout.  Since Flair's bleeding didn't play into this match at all, it was just gratuitous.  The end came after a ref bump.  Arn and Ole interfered unsuccessfully and then Dusty rolled Flair up into a small package (which Flair visibly assisted with) while the secondary ref counted the pin.  Dusty appeared to win the Title but a week later it was overturned when Tommy Young retroactively disqualified Flair for outside interference.  Rather questionable if you ask me - why reward Flair after the fact for the Andersons' illegal conduct?  Anyway, this match was decent but not great.

Starrcade '85 holds up thirty years later as a pretty good show featuring one bona fide classic, four or five decent bouts, and nothing I'd call truly bad.  The NWA definitely relied much too heavily on blading to ramp up the drama, when less of that would've made it much more meaningful and dramatic.  But this show had a lot to like, so it gets an easy passing grade.

Best Match: Tully Blanchard vs. Magnum TA
Worst Match: Billy Graham vs. The Barbarian
What I'd Change: Tone down the blood so it means something when it's needed.  The I Quit match was brutal but would've come off much more strongly had it not followed four other bloodbaths.  Sometimes less is more.  Also I generally hate the Dusty Finish.
Most Disappointing Match: The Andersons vs. Wahoo & Haynes
Most Pleasant Surprise: Terry Taylor vs. Buddy Landell
Overall Rating: 7/10


Thanks for reading - subscribe to our mailing list, and follow us on Twitter, MeWe, Mix, Facebook and YouTube!

1984
1986





No comments:

Post a Comment