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AWA Team Challenge Series (Plus) - Part 3

by Scrooge McSuck

- I might as well push myself to follow through with a promise, for once. The promise of recapping a bunch of AWA stuff from their last year on television, featuring a lot of Larry Zbyszko matches and the infamous Team Challenge Series. You want to know what’s sad? We’re so far removed from this era of wrestling, I’m sure the majority of fans in the world don’t even know what "AWA" was, let alone the dumbass concept of a three-team series of matches that are never quite clearly acknowledged ahead of time.

Part 1 gave us some truly bizarre matches, like a Body Slam Match between two guys who combined for a weight of around 450 pounds, a Football Clash between the Trooper and Mike Enos, a One-Armed Tied Behind Your Back Match, and a Gagne Favorite™, a Greco-Roman Wrestling Match with Baron von Rashke and Wayne Bloom. Part 2 gave us a bunch of Larry Zbyszko matches...... what, there’s no way to top the out-of-this-world, bat-shit-crazy gimmick matches from Part 1. If only I had the Great Turkey Hunt Match to complete the insanity.

Tony Denucci (Legends) vs. "The Illustrious" Jonnie Stewart (Snipers):

Yep, this is, according to Lee Marshall, a Team Challenge Series Match, and is the 1st match in a tournament (WOO!) to determine a NEW Light Heavyweight Champion. Wait, what? That was a real title?! (Searches Wikipedia) Well I’ll be a monkey’s bare-assed uncle. And what prestige, held by such grand Champions of wrestling like Mike "Don’t Draw Dimes" Graham and Buck Zumhofe, who had to vacate the Championship in 1986 FOR GOING TO JAIL. How did I not mention in Part 2 that Stewart comes out to Technotronic’s "Pump Up The Jam"?! Denucci with a side headlock and shoulder tackle. Denucci with another shoulder tackle, followed by a hip throw. Denucci looks green as grass in there, with very little grace. Stewart counters a headlock with a back suplex and follows up with a short-arm clothesline. He uses the wrist tape to choke while the referee plays blind. Stewart with a sloppy back breaker and a jumping elbow drop for two. Denucci comes back with a dropkick, knocking Stewart to the floor. Stewart with a whip to the ropes and dropkick to the chest. Could’ve been worse, I guess. Denucci with a hand-spring elbow into the corner, but a second attempt misses. Stewart with a snap suplex and its good for three (with a little help of his feet on the ropes) at 6:23.That wasn’t a pretty match. How did Zbyszko get saddled with this scrub on his team?

"The Timekeeper" Mike George vs. The Menace:

I love masked Jobbers, especially ones with such names like "Menace". For all anyone knows, it’s probably one of the scrubs who works as the Tokyo Bullets getting an extra pay-off for pulling double duty. George is an old-timer, most notably working for Central States throughout the 70’s, doing a gimmick where he predicts how long his matches would last. If only he could afford Michael Wallstreet’s computer technology instead of just guessing. He comes out to Queen’s "Another One Bites The Dust." They fight over a hammer-lock until MENACE takes him over with an arm drag. George counters a front face-lock and works the arm. Whip to the ropes and a sloppy back drop, followed by a back breaker for two. Hangman’s Neck Breaker finishes at 2:03. That was, indeed, a squash match.

"Rock ‘N’ Roll" Buck Zumhofe vs. W.T. Jones:

Another RETURN to the AWA, it’s Jail-Bird and Scum of the Earth, Buck Zumhofe. As mentioned earlier, he was a former AWA Light Heavyweight Champion who vacated the title because he went to jail for sexual misconduct. I guess the world wasn’t surprised when he was sentenced to 25 years not long ago for sexual abuse on his own daughter. With that kind of intro, kind of makes it hard to follow through with recapping the match without bias. I think I saw Jones work as Syndies enhancement for WWE around this time, but that’s all I got on him. I guess he’s signed up for the Baron’s Blitzers. Zumhofe dances around a lot, looking like a goof. He takes Jones over with a snap-mare and rakes the eyes with his boot. Zumhofe with an over-head wristlock into a take-down. Jones with a short right between the eyes, followed by a headbutt. Zumhofe fires back with rights and goes back to working the arm. Whip to the corner and Jones follows in with an elbow. Zumhofe reverses another whip and rams Jones to the buckle. Splash from the second rope is enough for three at 5:02. Extended squash to re-introduce Zumhofe back into society.

- Team Challenge Series Update, courtesy Lee Marshall. Here’s a doozy for you, and try to keep up. It was a Triathlon-style event featuring representatives from Larry’s Legends and Baron’s Blitzers. Representing the Legends, Team Captain and AWA Champion, Larry Zbyszko, one-half of the Tag Team Champions "Mean" Mike Enos, and Hangman Psycho. Representing the Blitzers, Team Captain Baron von Rashke, The Trooper, and Scott "Flapjack" Norton. In the first event Norton defeated Hangman Psycho in a good old fashion "Neck Pull." Immediately afterwards, Psycho KO’ed the Baron with his loaded mask, taking him out of action. Next was a 3-Minute Gauntlet (against Scrubs), and while Mike Enos scored 2 Falls, the Trooper rallied late to score 3 Falls for another 2 Points. Finally, in a 3-on-2 Handicap Match, the Trooper and Norton walked away with another victory, tallying 6 Points and a huge lead in the standings. Here are the updated standings...

Baron’s Blitzers – 15 Wins, 15 Losses, 2 Draws, 6 DQs (38 Points)
Sarge’s Snipers – 15 Wins, 15 Losses, 1 Draw (31 Points)
Larry’s Legends – 13 Wins, 17 Losses, 1 Draw, 1 DQ (28 Points)

Tommy Jammer & Jake "The Milkman" Milliman vs. Mike Enos & Jonnie Stewart:

Now what the heck is this... way to spit on the Team Challenge Series and have tag teams featuring guys from separate teams. Heck, one man from each team represents Larry’s Legends (Enos and Milliman, an undercard baby-face). Jammer is a member of the Blitzers, and Stewart is a douche heel representing good guy Sarge’s Snipers. I’m guessing Bloom was hurt or something, as he’s being subbed out here for unknown reasons (Bischoff said it, not me). Enos and Stewart attack before the bell. Milliman gets sent to the floor and thrown into the ring post. Jammer works on Stewart, but Enos attacks from behind, and they double team him, including a spike piledriver. The referee gets shoved around, so "Benchwarmer" Bob Lurtsema hits the ring and throws them both around and hits a bunch of sad looking shoulder tackles and grabs the von Rashke Claw on Enos. Stewart decides to run away instead of facing him. No Match, but I don’t see how much sense it makes to have two heels, one of them half of the Tag Team Champions, running away in fear and getting their asses kicked by a middle-aged, retired Football player.

Curtis "The Cat" Hughes (Snipers) vs. Texas Hangman Psycho (Legends):

I love how everyone has a nickname in the AWA. I’m not sure if this counts towards the TCS Standings, but both men represent a team, so why not pretend it does. It’s not like whoever was in charge was doing such a grand job of it, either. Smiling, dancing baby-face Curtis Hughes doesn’t work for me. Psycho attacks before the bell, but Hughes quickly turns the tide. Is there a more tired gimmick in the 80’s than claiming so-and-so played in the NFL? They hype in every match Hughes played for the Cowboys (and specifically under Tom Landry). "The Notorious" Ox Baker is watching at ringside, for reasons unknown. They do a test-of-strength and Hughes quickly goes to work on the arm. Whip to the ropes and Hughes manages to throw a dropkick. Psycho takes control, and Killer gets some cheap shots in while the referee’s back is turned. Hughes teases a comeback, but Psycho goes to the eyes. Snapmare takeover and it’s time for a chinlock. Whip to the ropes and Psycho with a diving elbow. Whip to the ropes, Hughes ducks under a clothesline and hits another dropkick, knocking Psycho to the floor. Hughes pulls Killer in for one of the lamest, most obviously dumb switches. He slingshots Psycho back in, and the bell suddenly rings at 7:37, awarding the match to Hangman Psycho by DQ. What?! He clears the ring with a few more dropkicks. Meanwhile, Ox Baker gives his business card to the Hangmen. This was a whole lot of nothing.

- Time for another Team Challenge Series Update! "Last Week", "Flapjack" Norton (Baron’s Blitzers) took on Col. DeBeers (Sarge’s Snipers) in a "Knockdown Match", with the rules being a victory awarded to whomever could knock his opponent off his feet three times. Norton did it with ease, triggering a post-match attack (and blade-job), but Norton shrugged it off with a mighty Hulk-Up. The victory puts the Blitzers at 40 points and a whopping 9 point lead over the 2nd place Snipers, and 11 point lead over the 3rd place Legends.

Survival Series Battle Royal:

Participants: The Lumberjacks, The Trooper, and The Russian Brute (Blitzers), Nikita Koloff, Buck Zumhofe, Jonnie Stewart, and Curtis Hughes (Snipers), Larry Zbyszko, The Texas Hangmen, and Mike Enos (Legends)
This is an OFFICIAL Team Challenge Series Match, and wow, way to rip off another company with that name. The same company they more often than not like to bash, but stealing ideas from them is OK, like naming this after one PPV and using the gimmick of another for the basic rules. Again, when it takes a full minute to run down the rules, maybe it’s a bit too complicated. One man from each team starts, then every 30-seconds a new man enters (and what a surprise, the "4th" person in is from the heel team of Larry’s Legends).

Hangman Psycho (Legends), Buck Zumhofe (Snipers), and Yukon John Nord (Blitzers) start. Zumhofe bum-rushes Psycho and gets back dropped out at the 3-second mark. Nord pounds away on Psycho until "Mean" Mike Enos (Legends) enters, and what luck, it’s a 2-on-1 advantage. Nord gets dumped at 1:10. Nikita Koloff (Snipers) enters and again, it’s a 2-on-1. He comes off the ropes with a double clothesline and pounds away. Koloff and Psycho both go tumbling out at 1:45, and here comes the Russian Brute (Blitzers) to do nothing. Larry Zbyszko (Legends) trots in and helps Enos dump the Brute at 2:42. Curtis Hughes (Snipers) cleans house with headbutts. The Trooper (Blitzers) pounds away on the AWA Champion while Hughes throws Enos with a slam. Hangman Killer (Legends) sneaks up on Hughes and tosses him at 3:46, meaning the Trooper is at a 3-on-1 disadvantage. Jonnie Stewart (Snipers) makes it a 4-on-1 on the Trooper, but he shows off some Patriot Pride and hammers on everyone. "Flapjack" Norton (Blitzers) rushes in, still suffering from the DeBeers attack, and tosses Stewart at 4:48. Looks like Zbyszko is gone as well, but it happened off camera. Norton clotheslines Enos out at 5:11. Trooper hammers on Killer and whips him into an elbow from Norton. Trooper with a diving shoulder tackle, and Killer is tossed at 6:18, giving the victory to the Trooper and Norton representing Baron’s Blitzers. Incredibly rushed, but I guess it followed the necessary structures, making sure the heels were mostly at an advantage.

2 out of 3 Falls: The Tokyo Bullets vs. The Texas Hangmen:

Who booked this crap? We’ve got two masked, heel Tag Teams, and a crowd that is practically non-existent to not give a crap about any of this. Why 2 out of 3 Falls?! It wasn’t long ago where the Bullets were used as bottom-rung enhancement talent. We’ve got some RIDICULOUS stipulations for this one too, and Eric Bischoff almost sounds like he’d rather be elsewhere than calling it. Fall #1 will be contested under normal tag team rules. Fall #2 will feature a 2-on-1 Handicap, with the Winners of Fall #1 (Spoiler: Heels, or in this case, Hangmen) having the advantage. If a 3rd Fall (Spoilers: There will be), then it’s back to 2-on-2, Texas Tornado (not Kerry Von Erich) Style. To top it off... this is a "Team Challenge Series" Match, even though the Bullets have never been acknowledged before. I guess they are "Wild Card" members.

Fall #1: Psycho and Bullet #1 start. Lockup and Psycho plants him with a slam. Lockup and repeat. I love when the commentators give up on trying to figure out which is which. Bullet #1 comes back with a slam of his own, followed by an arm-drag into an arm-bar. Bullet #2 with a whacky fist drop from the top rope. Bullet #1 with a double chop to the arm, followed by a snapmare. Bullet #2 gets nailed from behind and spills to the floor. Killer slingshots in with a headbutt to the shoulder, then takes him down with a belly-to-belly suplex. Whip to the ropes and he connects with a diving back elbow. Snapmare and elbow drop gets two. Bullet #1 with a sunset flip for two. He slips out of a press slam and rolls Killer up for two. Psycho rams him to the post and throws him on the concrete with a hip throw. Back inside, Killer with a side slam for three at 5:05.

Fall #2: Bullet #1... wait, what? Shouldn’t he be disallowed? Oh, so both Hangmen are allowed in the ring at the same time. Whip to the ropes and they connect with a double clothesline. They take turns choking the Bullet while the other distracts the referee. This seems a bit unfair, under any circumstances. Whip to the ropes, Bullet ducks under a clothesline, but a body press attempt is easily caught and he gets pounded down in the corner. Killer with a slam, but both Hangmen miss splashes. Bullet #2 gets the hot tag and he throws a pair of dropkicks. Whip to the ropes and an elbow to Psycho. Bullet #1 illegally enters the ring and gets caught in a Full Nelson. Heel miscommunication happens, and the Bullet rolls up Psycho for three at 3:35. Fall #3: The rules for this match kind of suck. Killer is choking a Bullet across the top rope while Psycho pounds away on the other. There’s just a lot of aimless stuff going on right now. Bullet with a sloppy body press on Killer, but the referee waits to count until Psycho covers the other Bullet, and we get a Double Count at 1:47... but then awards it to the Tokyo Bullets for no reason. It’s the biggest upset of 1990! Fall #1 was fine, but this went downhill and fast, and the low-rent look of the Bullets was really hard to ignore.

- Team Challenge Series Update with Lee Marshall. Larry’s Legends have hit the skids, and a motivational speech from the Living Legend has done little to change the fortune of his team. First, the Texas Hangmen were upset by the bottom-feeding tandem of the Tokyo Bullets, and then the Team Captain himself dropped a 2 out of 3 Falls Match (Non-Title, of course) to Nikita Koloff (representing Sarge’s Snipers). The commentary claims Koloff lost the first fall, but won falls #2 and #3 by pinfall, but the clip clearly shows Zbyszko being DQ’ed for using his belt as a weapon, and the standings support that theory. Maybe the voice-over was meant for their other 2 out of 3 Falls Match, where Crooked Babyface Referee™ "Benchwarmer" Bob Lurtsema helped Koloff pull off the victory.

AWA Ladies Championship Match:
Candi Divine © (Blitzers) vs. The Magnificent Mimi (Snipers):

Not only is this a Championship Match, but it’s an OFFICIAL Team Challenge Series Match, too. I’m pretty sure these are the only women in AWA, with the departure of Wendi Richter kind of crippling things and leaving the Legends without a female representative. Mimi teases the crowd by toweling herself down with her t-shirt before tossing it for some weirdo to cherish. Mimi with a takedown, but Divine kicks her off. Divine with a leg pick and step-over toe hold. They go through a series of counters. Divine holds onto a head scissors until Mimi flips over into a cover for a near fall. Diving with a leg sweep and slingshot across the ring. Whip to the ropes and Candi with an axehandle to the midsection. Snapmare and Divine with a body scissors. Mimi manages to escape again and sends Divine to the floor with a dropkick. Whip to the ropes and Mimi with a sloppy back drop, followed by an equally sloppy suplex for only a one-count. Mimi with a "clothesline" that doesn’t hit, but Divine sells it anyway. Divine with a suplex, nearly dropping Mimi on her head. Second rope splash misses. Mimi with a monkey flip and snap suplex for two. Divine throws some weak blows until Mimi sweeps the legs and slingshots her over the top rope... for a Disqualification at 8:51. Well that was lame. Match was watchable until they started doing the spot sequence at the end, with most of the moves poorly performed.

- Team Challenge Series Update to close things out. We recap the downfall of the Legends and the previous match between Candi Divine and Magnificent Mimi before going to the scoreboard...
1.Baron’s Blitzers (18 Wins, 17 Losses, 2 Draws, 7 DQs – 45 Points)
2. Sarge’s Snipers (16 Wins, 19 Losses, 1 Draw, 1 DQ – 34 Points)
3. Larry’s Legends (14 Wins, 20 Losses, 1 Draw, 2 DQs – 31 Points)

On top of the standings, I guess there’s also a leader board for TCS MOST VALUABLE WRESTLER...
1. The Trooper – 18 Points
2. Col. DeBeers – 12 Points
3. Yukon John Nord and Hangman Killer – 9 Points Each
5. Jake Milliman, Mike Enos, Wayne Bloom, Flapjack Norton, Nikita Koloff – 8 Points Each
10. Candi Divine – 7 Points

Final Thoughts: This was definitely a more interesting collection of matches compared to Part 2. Unfortunately, it was a much weaker lineup for quality wrestling, and by weak, I mean there wasn’t a single match on here that I’d consider good. You’ve got a job-team like the Tokyo Bullets going over the Hangmen in a head-scratching confusing mess of a gimmick match, a "Survivor Battle Royal" that follows Royal Rumble Rules that doesn’t allow for any interesting spots, the Women putting on a turd, the return of scum-lord Buck Zumhofe, and the continued push of a crooked baby-face referee in the form of Bob Lurtsema. Even with all the bad wrestling, it’s almost good enough to be enjoyable (in small doses).

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