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WCW Starrcade 1984: The Million Dollar Challenge
by Erick Von Erich
Keeping Thanksgivin' Thumpin' rolling along, it's the NWA's second "Starrcade" event, held on November 22, 1984 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Bob Caudle and Gordon Solie are our hosts. This is an era and show I'm not familiar with at all. Sure, we've got Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes headlining the show for the actual "Million Dollar Challenge" and the NWA title, yet aside from that I'm fairly clueless on all the angles leading up to this. Thus, it'll be interesting to see how many details I can pick up just from watching this show. That is, without Googling stuff and acting all smarmy, pretending that I knew what was going on. So the ol' cliche of "can this match tell a story" will be put to the test. But with so much going on in the National Wrestling Alliance, let's get down to ringside for...
-Opening ceremonies! Some cheesy music that I can only describe as a "infomercial seminar intro" cues up inside the blackened Greensboro Coliseum. When the lights come on, a ring announcer Tom Miller welcomes us to "the premier wrestling event of the decade!" He repeats himself less than 30 second later, as he upgrades the event to "the premier wrestling event of the CENTURY". Whoa there, turbo.
- NWA Junior Heavyweight Championship:
Mike Davis (c) vs. Denny Brown:
Earl Hebner is the ref and gets a chorus of boo-birds as he's introduced. Yup, this is Mike Davis from the Rock n' Roll RPM's, GWF and other stuff. He's facing Denny Brown who I remember from... well, Starrcade '84. Brown gets the best of the opening zig-zag sequence, with some nice hip-locks and flying head-scissors. Davis tries to escape, then gets locked back into Brown's armbar. Brown twists underneath and does the fireman's carry take-over. Davis ducks down on another zig-zag spot, but Brown does a horrible job of "missing" him and slowly tumbles out to the floor. Davis hops out to politely pat him on the back and let him back in the ring. Brown sells a back injury from his tumble, so Davis capitalizes and plants him with two slams and a back-breaker for a 2 count. Brown reverses an Irish whip and hits Davis with a forearm. Another Irish whip reversal from Brown, but this time he climbs to the second turnbuckle and leaps with a crappy body-press. Brown delivers a backdrop and drop-kick for 2. Brown eventually tries an Irish whip, but Davis reverses and sends him into the corner. Davis hits a belly-to-back suplex and bridges for the tired old double-pin spot. Brown lifts his shoulder up at 2, but Solie and Caudle think Davis has retained...and so does the ring announcer. Which makes it all the more confusing when the referee hands the belt to Denny Brown
, who is the NEW NWA Junior Heavyweight champ! The ring announcer corrects himself and announces Brown as the new champ. Basic, old-school studio wrestling tune-up match, but Brown's blown spots and the confusion at the end hurt the overall package and made it seem like a mess.
Tony Schiavone is in the locker room, teasing upcoming interviews from all the wrestlers. Ric Flair walks behind him, but doesn't get the mic.
Brian Adidis vs. Mr. Ito
Yup, it's World Class regular Brian Adias with yet another spelling of his ring-name. Caudle and Solie put over Adidis as a potential future superstar. They start of with a chain of trading wristlocks and waistlocks, the criss-cross (JUMP! JUMP) so Adidis can leapfrog and hit a drop-kick. Adidis then goes to his ol' favorite, the side headlock to the mat! Ito escapes for a bit, but Adidis then works the arm. They go into a chop-exchange/brawl and hit the ropes. Adidis picks up Ito for a BIG airplane spin (about 5 or 6 times around), then dumps him down to get the pin. Nothing happening, here. Two matches into this big supercard and it feels like a random weekly show.
Florida State Championship:
Jesse Barr (c) vs. Mike Graham
Graham starts off with two drop toe-holds and targets the left knee. Unlike the previous match, I'm able to tell Barr's the heel, because he whines and carries on while Graham is working on his knee. Barr breaks the hold with a chinlock and gets the advantage on Graham for a bit. They take it to two feet and fight over a wristlock. Graham bounces off the ropes with a shoulderblock and takes over with an armbar. Brawl for a bit and Barr uses the ropes to work on Graham's arm. Graham whips him to the other corner, hooks a drop toe-hold and goes back to working the knee with an Indian Death Lock type of hold. Things go evenly for the next few minutes, including the Penultimate Knuckle-Lock Challenge. Barr keeps trying to take short cuts, while Graham tries a series of wear-down holds to the mat. Barr works a standing side headlock, but Graham lifts him up and connects with that left knee again. Graham cinches in the Figure Four, but Barr makes the ropes. Sunset flip off the ropes gets 2 for Graham. Atomic drop sends Barr staggering into the corner, where he suckers Graham in, grabs the legs and pins him with the ol' "feet on the ropes for illegal leverage" trick. With all the wear-down holds, I was afraid this would've gone to a time-limit draw, but the ending worked well-- the sneaky heel held his own and got the pin with some patented Heel Tactics. Not great by any means, but a mildy acceptable match.
Video flashback, showing a beatdown of Ricky Steamboat and Dick Slater, courtesy of Ron Bass, Black Bart, JJ Dillon and Tully Blanchard. Bass and Bart are billed as "The Long Riders", as I'm not sure who used that name first-- Bass and Bart or Scott and Bill Irwin.
"Avalanche" Buzz Tyler & Assassin #1 vs. the Zambuie Express (Elijah Akeem & Kareem Muhammed w/Paul Jones)
Assassin and Tyler have "Footlose" playing as they're introduced to the biggest pop of the show, so far. This is elimination rules, which really doesn't add much on paper, so I'm curious if something creative happens. All four guys brawl, with Tyler clearing the ring and getting a chance to wiggle his legs in a form of "dancing". Nothing but each team trading amplified punches for a good five minutes, until the Express squash Tyler with a double team belly-bump. Tyler simply punches back and knocks Akeem down for a 2 count cover. Tyler and Akeem brawl on the outside are are BOTH eliminated via count-out. In the ring, Assassin hits Muhammed with a shoulderblock, then covers for 3 to eliminate him. Assassin #1 is the lone winner. Aout 6 minutes of lame "super heavyweight brawling". Assassin kept swiping at Paul Jones, so I'm guessing he had recently split with him via faceturn.
Locker Room Interview with Dusty Rhodes
Schiavone is with the Dream, who is kinda' slouching on a folding chair. Dusty puts over himself and Flair as "the greatest wrestlers today".
Brass Knuckles Championship:
Black Bart (c) (w/JJ Dillon) vs. "The Raging Bull" Manny Fernandez
Yup, anther one of those weird specialty championships. Those things seemed to dry up around 1986 or so. As you'd expect, it's a basic brawl. Manny evens blades his forehead towards the end. Bart drops Manny, neck-first, on the top rope, then Dillon tries to toss Bart his bullrope. Manny uses the distraction to roll-up Bart from behind, get the 3 count and become YOUR new Brass Knux Champ. Manny's one of those guys who, despite his seeming popularity, never seemed to advance past the midcard.
Intermission time, until we come back with video highlights of Starrcade '83 and Ric Flair pinning Harley Race.
Locker Room Interview with Ricky Steamboat
Very monotone promo from Steamboat, who basically recounts his past year in the ring, then the incident with Blanchard and the Long Riders. He's also put up $10,000 as a bond to face Blanchard, tonight.
Locker Room Interview with Tully Blanchard and JJ Dillon
Long promo, as they run down Ricky Steamboat. Blanchard looks past Steamboat and challenges the winner of tonight's Flair/Dusty tilt for the World Title. Tony Schiavone concludes the interview by saying Blanchard has the advantage going into his upcoming match.
Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship:
"Cowboy" Ron Bass (c) (w/JJ Dillon) vs. Dick Slater
For the second straight match, Frank Stallone's "Far From Over" plays over both guys' entrances. Slater starts by whipping Bass to the ropes for a back-elbow, then hops out to chase Dillon. He locks-up with Bass, then hops out AGAIN to chase Dillon. This time, upon returning, Bass stomps away on Slater. Slater rolls out and pantomimes the "KMA" manuever to Bass. Slater returns and gets a hip-lock takedown into a headlock...and there goes the next four minutes of the match! Slater with an atomic drop, so Bass rolls out for a break. Bass goes to the eyes, then hits a kneelift and thumps Slater into the corner. Dillon gets in some shots, while Bass clubs away. Suplex from Bass gets a 2 count. Bulldog from Bass and then they trade blows. Bass tosses Slater outside, then distracts the ref so Dillon can get in a few kicks. More brawling and Slater bumps the ref. Belly-to-back suplex from Slater, then Dillon runs in to get slammed. Slater slams Bass and drops a leg, but the ref is still out. The ref crawls over and announces that he's disqualified Slater for the bump. Slater gets some revenge as he slugs Slater and Dillon to clear the ring. Seemed like a WWF match, circa 1986.
Tuxedo Street Fight:
"Boogie Woogie Man" Jimmy Valiant (w/The Assassin) vs. Paul Jones (w/Kareem Muhammad)
It's also "loser leaves town" and "anything goes". I love that the Assassin also comes out in a tuxedo WITH his mask on. That was one of the inspirations for my recent Halloween costume, when I wore a luchador mask and 3-piece suit to a black tie masquerade. More on the Assassin/Jones split, as the former keeps stomping towards Jones' corner. Another basic brawl, as I'm starting to realize that most, if not ALL, of Jones' charges were just brawlers. When he picked up the Powers of Pain in late 1987 they were probably the best workers he ever had and that's not saying much. Anyways, Valiant is all "Boogie Woogie Man" with his wobbly legs to get the crowd going. As you'd expect, it's a garbage managerial brawl with shirts getting ripped and Valiant choking with the tag rope. Jones gets stripped all the way down to his undies and even blades. Muhammed interferes to stop the count of Valiant's sleeper hold. The Assassin runs in to beat on Muhammed and things break down. For whatever reason, JJ Dillon runs in and brains Valiant with a beer can, allowing Jones to steal the pin. Considering Valiant feuding with Jones in the NWA/JCP for the next year or so, I'm guessing the "loser leaves" stipulation didn't stick.
Locker Room Interview with Ric Flair
Not really too heel-ish, as Flair talks about what an honor it is to be the World Champ and wrestling for a million bucks.
The camera zooms in on the American Flag while a Very Special Bugel Rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner is played to set the stage for our next match. This is followed by a "laser light" show set to Neil Diamond's "America". Okay, I get that they're trying to be patriotic, but once again they're missing the boat, as Diamond's song is actually about "they're comin' to America" and how people can imigrate to the USA to find their dreams. So in that case, it would actually support the Russian heel team of Ivan and Nikita Koloff, right?!
Ole Anderson & Keith Larson (w/Don Kernodle) vs. Ivan & Nikita Koloff
This is another reason why I think Sgt. Slaughter was one of the top US wrestlers in the early 80's. His "Cobra Corps" stretched across promotions and here his old flunky, Don Kernodle, is drawing heat by riding on Sarge's pro-US coattails. Or, it could be that a lot of pro-US sentiment was stirred up thanks to Ronald Reagan, but I don't want to get too political. Larson is being billed as Kernodle's brother, but I'm not sure if that's legitimate or just kayfabe. Kernodle's injured and sporting a crutch, so I'm guessing Ole is stepping in for him.
Larson and Anderson attack right away, ripping off the Koloffs' shirts and sending Nikita outside. Larson backdrops Ivan and takes him to the mat, pounding away. Sloppy drop-kick from Larson and then Ivan is double-teamed, as the zero in on his left arm. They whip Ivan to the ropes for a double-team reverse elbowsmash, then Ole drops an elbow to get a 2 count. Right back to the arm as they keep cranking on Ivan for the next 10 minutes. Ivan finally catches Ole with the Greco-Roman Thumb to the Eyes to tag in Nikita. Nikita plows Ole into the turnbuckles, then hooks a bearhug. Ole almost breaks it, but Ivan leaps from the corner with a forearm smash. Ole uses his arms to work the crowd, as he eventually escapes the bearhug with a few shots and an earclap. Ivan returns to work over Ole with a reverse elbowsmash and a slam for 2. Nikita tags in to resume the Bearhug Portion of the match. Ole manages a sorta' reverse atomic drop and makes the hot tag to Larson. He cleans house on the Russians and whips Nikita to the ropes for a reverse elbow, but misses a drop-kick. Nikita takes voer with a sickle/choke-slam. Ivan comes in to drop Larson on the ropes, then slam him. Larson gets a desperation small package, but the count is broken when all four guys enter the ring. Ole and Nikita tumble outside, where Nikita levels Kernodle. While referee Tommy Young tries to get Ole and Nikita calmed down, in te ring Ivan grabs his chain and smacks Larson's dome. Young turns around to make the count and Ivan Koloff gets the 3 count pin. Post-match, the Koloffs set up Larson for their finsher, but Kernodle runs in and takes names with his all-mighty crutch. Nikita's become something of a mythical figure in recent years, but he was rather green and hadn't yet developed into the "animal" he was in 1986.
NWA Televsion Championship:
Tully Blanchard (c) vs. Ricky Steamboat
Steamboat hugs Kernodle and Pals on the way to the ring and gets "Eye of the Tiger" for his entrance music. Hard to tell if this was "live" or added in during post-production. This is no DQ and the "No Run Rule" is in effect-- I'm guessing that means you can't simply walk away to save yourself? Steamboat is still selling the effects of a "rib injury", which comes into play throughout the match. VERY animated brawl to begin, with Steamer getting the upper hand. Two flying chops and a suplex from Steamer get a quick 2. Steamboat floats-over and works a reverse chinlock. Blanchard keeps trying to squirm away, but Steamer pulls him back in for more punishment. Blanchard targets the bum ribs to take over; kicking the lowe back and whipping him to the ropes for an elbow. Steamboat fights him off with a leg scissors from the corner, then his "martial arts" chops. Blanchard goes back to the ribs and lands a belly-to-back suplex for 2. They break to their feet, as Blanchard stalls, trying to get in another shot to Steamer's ribs. Steamboat puts caution to the wind, whips Blanchard to the ropes, leapfrogs thim twice, then hits a NICE powerslam for 2! Steamboat delivers more blows, as Blanchard staggers around. Blanchard makes a wild swing, but Steamboat is right in his face to SPIT at him! Swinging neckbreaker from Steamboat gets another 2. He hits Blanchard with his OWN FINISHER, the slingshot suplex, but that only nets another 2. Drop-kick from Steamboat has the same result, although Blanchard blades. Blanchard staggers out to the apron and reaches into his tights for something. He swings and misses, so Steamboat brings him in with a belly-to-back suplex. Blanchard blasts him in the head with the object, mid-suplex and both guys hit the mat. Blanchard waits in the corner and hits Steamboat with HIS finisher, the flying body-press, but only for a 2 count. Blanchard sets him up for a super-plex, but gets knocked down. Steamboat off the top with a flying splash...but only for 2! Steamboat from the ropes for a sunset flip attempt, but Blanchard reaches into his tights for the foreign object, smacks Steamboat in the mush and gets the 3 count pin. Excellent match and just as good as you would expect.
NWA United States Championship:
"Chief" Wahoo McDaniel (c) vs. "Superstar" Billy Graham
Post-production seems to have added in "Kung Fu Fighting" for Graham's entrance. Such a HAPPY song for someone who's supposed to be a bad ass. Penultimate Knucklelock Challenge starts the match, with Wahoo getting the advantage until Graham gets the always lethal HAIR PULL. Wahoo's not above bending the rules, so he delivers a Greco-Roman Eye Boink and chops at Graham. Wahoo clubs away until Graham goes for the full nelson and takes over. Reverse elbow and an elbowsmash get 2 for Graham. They bounce off the ropes until Wahoo lands a tomahawk chop, which is enough for a 3 count. Yup, that was the entire match. Graham complains about a bad count, I complain about a bad match.
Locker Room Interview with Duke Keomuka, "Smokin'" Joe Frazier and Kyle Petty
Schiavone introduces the judges (Keomuka and Petty), and the special guest referee (Frazier) for the Main Event. Petty tries to relate his role as judge to the "aggressiveness" of NASCAR. I'm a little amazed that the NWA didn't have more crossover with NASCAR as the 80's rolled on. They seemed like a natural fit for each other.
Caudle and Solie babble some more, as the lights go down and Prince's "Purple Rain" is played for the entrance of Dusty Rhodes. This entire introduction is more like a boxing match, as Dusty comes out in a hood and stretches in the corner. Flair enters to his trademark pomp and pageantry, but only a little bit of "Thus Spake Zarathustra". He actually comes to the ring with Mac Davis' "(Oh Lord) It's Hard to be Humble".
NWA World Heavyweight Championship:
Special Referee: "Smokin'" Joe Frazier
"Nature Boy" Ric Flair (c) vs. "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes
In what seemed to be an early Starrcade tradtion, we've got a special ref in former boxing heavyweight champ Joe Frazier (recently departed, as of this writing in November 2011. RIP, Smokin' Joe). Just for the record, this match also has the stipulation that $1,000,000 will go to the winner. After all the introductions and stuff, it's been about 20 minutes since our last match. The crowd seems to be partisan towards Flair, too.
Face-off to start, as Frazier explains the rules to both guys. For those who care, Dusty's enigmatic SPLOTCH is present in this match. Dusty bounces off the ropes, hops and hits Flair with a bionic elbow, then goes for a side headlock. Break to the ropes, as Flair tries chopping away, but Dusty comes out on top. Dusty gets into it, so I guess you could say he's clubberin'! They bounce the ropes some more, resulting in another bionic elbow. Flair fires back with a kneelift, starts pounding Dusty's forehead and drops a knee for a 2 count. Flair tries again, but misses, so Dusty quickly slaps on the Figure Four! Flair makes the ropes to break, but Dusty goes to work on his right leg. Flair twists him to the mat and thumps him in the face, again. Variations "Flair goes after the forehead" continue as most of the mat is little more than punching. Flair tries to deliver a knee off the ropes, but Dusty catches him and press-slams him. Flair falls out of the ring, so Dusty suplexes him back in from the apron. Of course, Flair tries going up top and gets flung. Flair gets a sleeper and gets sent outside. They brawl on the outside, with Dusty hitting the ringpost and blading. Dusty rolls back in and Frazier is quick to identify the cut over his eye. Flair pounds at the gash while Frazier keeps trying to separate them. Evnetually, Frazier steps in and stops the match due to excessive bleeding on Dusty's part. The match is awarded to Flair and Dusty is understandably pissed. He takes off after Frazier, but other wrestlers come in to hold him back. A somewhat lackluster finish for the biggest show of the year, but it's not like Dusty wouldn't get another chance at Flair's title.
Locker Room Interview with Ric Flair & Dusty Rhodes
Flair shows off his $1,000,000 check and the NWA title. The broadcast goes back to Caudle and Solie...and for a good minute or two, a random fan walks in behind them and just hangs out. My first throught is that it's some wrestler or even Joe Frazier there to cut a promo--- nope, just some guy crashing the set. Awesome.
Schiavone then gets a word with Dusty, who directs his anger at Frazier. Caudle and Solie sign off as "highlights" of the show are displayed.
Final Thoughts: While this was a "supercard", it's not "PPV worthy". Several matches were either awful or just plain ordinary. The only match I'd want to see again is Blanchard/Steamboat as it's something of an underrated gem. The rest is entirely forgettable.
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