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AWA All-Star Wrestling – July 28, 1990
by Scrooge McSuck
Last time we had a look at the dying days of the AWA, the Team Challenge Series was in full swing, and the roster was decimated to the point that an entire hour-long episode was dedicated to SIX people doing a series of challenges and cutting a dozen or so promos to pad things out. I'll say this every time I check in on the AWA archives. As easy as it is to take shots at them for second-rate production values and the laundry list of misfortunes plaguing their existence, it's mostly a depressing experience to see this company struggling on life support. Not to go on a rant about wrestling in 1990, but it's easy to forget that the WWF was rapidly losing their audience, WCW was doing WCW things (including drawing pathetic sub-1,000 gates with loaded lineups), and outside of Memphis, the idea of territory wrestling was dead, so I can't stress enough that the AWA's demise isn't because the rest of the American wrestling scene was on fire.
Ralph Strangis and Greg Gagne are our green-screen hosts, with Strangis and Lee Marshall calling the action, unless otherwise noted. This week, we've got the AWA World Champion Larry Zbyszko, the Tokyo Bullets, and "the man who receives the most fan mail in AWA" Tommy Jammer. I guess getting two letters to everyone else's zero still counts. Gagne and Strangis note that next week, the Bullets will meet the undefeated Hangmen in Team Challenge competition. Odd to hype NEXT week during the cold open, but who am I to tell the Gagne's how to run their company 32 years later? We're also promised women's action involving Candi Devine and WENDI RICHTER? She was still floating around?!
Peeking at the TCS standings, Baron's Blitzers are comfortably in first place with 42 points (17-16-2; 6 DQ), while Sarge's Snipers (15-18-1) and Larry's Legends (14-18-1; 2 DQ) are stuck at 31 points and looking to chip away at Baron's Blitzers lead. Wins are worth 2 points, draws and DQ wins are worth 1 point, and of course, a loss nets zero points. Now that we're all caught up, let's throw it to Snagglepuss to kick off today's festivities.
The Trooper vs. Tom Burton:
Sometimes squash matches mean awarding an easy point to the star of the match, and sometimes they don't. It's basically tracked on the whim of whoever was putting the shows together. We're reminded that the Trooper has earned the most individual points for the Team Challenge Series and had an impressive outing recently against Zbyszko. He hands out novelty badges and deputizes the referee. Lockup and the Trooper shoves Burton to the canvas. Burton shoots for a full nelson, but Trooper easily blocks. Burton grabs a waist-lock and Trooper rips the grip apart. Trooper with a pair of arm drags. Whip to the ropes and Trooper with a shoulder block. Crisscross and Trooper with a hip toss, followed by a dropkick that sends Burton to the floor for a powder. Trooper brings Burton back in with a slingshot. Trooper with a back body-drop and he puts Burton away with the nerve hold at 2:34. Not the babyface finisher I'd establish, even if it plays into the gimmick. After the match, Trooper leaves a note that reads "Liberty and Justice For All."
Eric Bischoff is standing by with Verne Gagne. Bischoff strokes Gagne's ego about putting on some of the most unique matches. Yeah, having goes do a tug-of-war with their foreheads and doing football matches with guys in American football pads diving into soccer nets is some innovative booking. Maybe Vince Russo was a closet AWA fan growing up. OH MY GOD, GAGNE ACKNOWLEDGES ALL OF THESE MATCHES AS IF HE SHOULD BE PROUD OF THEM. He also mentions the Great American Turkey Hunt, but that's low hanging fruit, so I'll leave it be. He compares this stretch of the TCS to College Sports or the Olympics. I get where he's coming from, but those two things are worlds apart.
The Texas Hangmen vs. Nacho Berrera & Steve Butler:
The Hangmen, comprised of Psycho and Killer, are two of the elite members of Larry's Legends along with AWA World Tag Team Champions, the Destruction Crew. Once again, we're told the Hangmen will meet the Tokyo Bullets in next week's Team Challenge Series Main Event. I'm surprised that Lee Marshall addresses the oddity of the Hangmen, the top contenders, on the same squad as the Champions. Psycho starts with Butler. Lockup and Butler surprises Psycho with a snap arm drag. He grabs a side headlock and quickly takes Psycho down with a hip toss. Psycho lands a body blow to cut him off. Crisscross, Butler catches a boot, but wastes time playing to the crowd and has his eyes rakes. Killer with the tag, and he takes Butler's head off with a clothesline. Killer with a belly-to-belly suplex, followed by a powerslam. Psycho comes off the ropes with a sledge and rubs Butler's face into the canvas. Psycho with a suplex, pulling Butler up at two. Whip to the corner and Killer takes a shot at him with the referees back turned. The Hangmen pull off a super-sloppy version of the Demolition Decapitation and that's enough for three at 3:02. Poor Nacho didn't get to tag in. After the match, Butler gets dumped and Nacho is given the same treatment. I'm sure he worked 5 other times that taping, so I assume he already earned his $25.
Eric Bischoff is standing by in front of an AWFUL green screen of demolished buildings, and he sets up bringing in the Wrecking Crew of Wayne the Train and Mean Mike. Enos has no problem with the Hangmen and all their attention is on that million-dollar prize. Enos randomly mentions that Zbyszko has worked hard lately, beating the likes of Sgt. Slaughter and Kerry von Erich. Bischoff notes the Trooper has 16 points, while Enos and Bloom have 8 each. Enos (doing all the talking this week) says that they're a team and doesn't bother taking offense because he makes a good point. While they have competed in singles competition from time to time, they've mostly earned points through tag team challenge situations.
Baron von Rashke and Candi Devine are standing by to hype today's Main Event. After 5-seconds, we cut to Wendi Richter putting the Cobra Clutch on Sgt. Slaughter. This segment lasted almost as long as your typical bathroom break (#1, not #2).
The Tokyo Bullets vs. Todd Becker & Anthony Wright:
The Bullets are masked men in blue sweatpants and tank tops. Of course, I had to look them up, and the men under the mask are Frankie DeFalco and Johnny Mercedes. I've seen DeFalco a time or two working as WWF syndication enhancement talent around this time but couldn't pick him out of a lineup, but I'm drawing a blank on Mercedes. Bullet #1 starts with Becker, going for a top wristlock and taking Becker to the canvas with a drop toe hold. Bullet #2 comes off the top with a goofy flying chop and hooks an arm bar. Whip and Becker with an elbow, with more goofy selling. Becker misses an elbow drop, allowing the Bullets to regain control. Crisscross and Bullet #1 with a shoulder block, followed by a dropkick. Whip and the Bullets with a double elbow. Becker goes to the eyes, allowing Wright to get the tag. The Bullets cut him off immediately. Whip and the Bullets with a double diving shoulder tackle. Whip and they can barely do a double boot properly. Double DDT finishes at 3:00. This was some rough stuff. The Bullets look like they put $5 into their gear and half the stuff they did was sloppy.
Eric Bischoff interviews Rock n' Roll Buck Zumhofe. Zumhofe is a piece of sh*t, so don't bother wasting your time watching this bum's stuff. He's a top contender for AWA's Light-Heavyweight Title along with Johnnie Stewart, and that's all you need to know. Next segment please.
I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but ring announcing duties usually fell on Donna Gagne. Based on that surname, I can only assume it was to save money by finding someone in the family to do the work.
Larry Zbyszko vs. The Cobra:
Cobra is a masked man with blonde hair sticking out the back. I'm going to assume this isn't a Championship Match, and so far, none of the matches saw points awarded to the winners for the Team Challenge Series scoreboard. Wait a minute... the screen lists Zbyszko as "FORMER A.W.A. WORLD CHAMPION", and he's without the gold, but we're told he's the Champion by Marshall and he's back from Guam and Hawaii where he defended the belt against Sgt. Slaughter and Kerry von Erich. Sure, Jan. That makes me think this was recycled from the period where Masa Saito was AWA Champion, and sure enough, it was taped on February 17th. Cobra offers a handshake and Zbyszko accepts. Zbyszko quickly goes to work, pounding the body of Cobra. Snap mare out of the corner and Zbyszko with blatant choking. Zbyszko starts calling out Saito. I'm OK with having stuff in the can, but this is ridiculous. Zbyszko with a piledriver, and that's three at 2:01. It's explained he's annoyed by his team underperforming, ignoring his obvious yelling out Saito's name on several occasions. At this point, I jump ahead in the episode and I'm not too happy with my findings.
Team Challenge Series Update with Lee Marshall. Last week, all three teams had the opportunity to get two points with a Three-Team Survivor Battle Royal, where teams would alternate entries, with a new man entering the match every 30-seconds. Despite the best attempts of Larry's Legends, Baron's Blitzers took home the win when the Trooper and Wildcard Flapjack Norton were left standing, and that is how we're standing with the Blitzer's at the top of the scoreboard with 42-points.
Eric Bischoff is working overtime, getting a word from the AWA World Champion, Larry Zbyszko. Zbyszko denies the allegations that there's trouble in the ranks of Larry's Legends. Bischoff asks if there might be a lack of leadership, causing Zbyszko to explode and storm off. Baron von Rashke jumps in from the other side, acting like a goofball, saying Larry Land looks more like Kansas. Baron brags about his team having unity and promises Candi Devine will successfully defend her title against Wendi Richter.
Tommy Jammer vs. Scott Colton:
Jammer comes out to the Beach Boys' "Surfin' U-S-A", because why not, right? Colton knocks Jammer off the apron to kick off the match. Colton tries it again and takes a tumble over the top rope. Jammer with a slingshot to bring Colton in (at least that was the idea. He barely touched the ropes). Whip is reversed and Jammer no-sells Colton's strikes. Whip and Jammer puts on the breaks, counting a back body-drop with a DDT. Whip to the corner and Jammer with a powerslam, followed by a terrible splash for three at 1:28. This was short and terrible. Nice of Jammer to treat the DDT like a transition move, and that splash made Warrior's look masterfully done.
We get words from Wendi Richter which I'm sure was taped a couple of days before the broadcast date.
Candi Devine (w/ Baron von Rashke) vs. Wendi Richter (w/ Sgt. Slaughter):
A Team Challenge Series Match and today's Main Event. My suspicions were accurate. This match was taped back in October of 1989, one of the earliest matches featured in the Team Challenge Series, and one I've already covered in the first volume of the TCS recaps. Of course, this wasn't new footage! Wendi Richter's wrestling appearances were few and far between at this point, and the AWA wasn't booking women this late in the game. Richter is using "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", desperately clinging to the one thing that got her over. OH MY GOD, Lee Marshall is telling us Devine has worked every day for two weeks in Japan, while Richter has toured Australia, and both have been on airplanes for 13+ hours coming into this match. SHUT THE F*CK UP, YOU LYING BASTARD. Richter is credited as a FIVE TIME CHAMPION. Devine throws a terrible knee, so Richter grabs a waist-lock and wrestles her to the canvas. Next, we get some terrible strikes, followed by a hair mare from Devine. Richter cuts her off with a knee and plants her with a slam for two, doing the goofy Moolah splash for the cover. Candi can't throw a believable punch or kick to save her life, so naturally, she keeps doing them. Richter with a slingshot, sending Devine through the ropes. Richter with a suplex for two. Whip is reversed and Richter surprises Devine with a sunset flip for two. Candi takes control with blatant hair-pulling. Do your job, referee! Richter goes for the Cobra Clutch, but Devine gets to the ropes. Devine throws Richter over the top rope, and that's a disqualification at 6:35, awarding a whopping 1 point to Sarge's Snipers. Again. Wait... OH MY GOD. They did it. They recycled the match for two different results
! The first time the match was broadcast, it was an over-the-top-rope challenge, and Devine was awarded the victory. THEY TOOK THE SAME MATCH, RE-WORKED THE RULES IN POST, AND BAM, NEW MATCH. THIS EXPLAINS WHY SARGE'S SNIPERS DIDN'T HAVE A DQ WIN COMING INTO THIS MATCH! WOW. JUST WOW. Terrible match and a ridiculous attempt to pull one over on the audience.
Final Thoughts: Remember when I complained about the episode featuring six men doing all the segments for a full hour? Yeah, that is heaven compared to this nonsense. A show put together with old footage and presented as something new, including a "main event" that was not only taped almost a year earlier, but is already part of the canon of the TCS scoreboards, but with a completely different "finish". You're telling me they managed to fill one episode doing the bare minimum of using original footage, and a few weeks later had nothing left but THIS? I'm almost mad I wasted an hour of my time watching a re-run.
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