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AWA Team Challenge Series (Plus) - Part 2

by Scrooge McSuck

- After completing the review for UWF Beach Brawl, I scrolled through the Miscellaneous Reviews to see what I’ve covered and what I have laying around that I’ve been putting off. No, I don’t have more episodes of AWF: Warriors of Wrestling (Thank God!), and there’s a couple more “episodes” of XWF, but after one, I was done. Then I noticed something much worse… I only did the first part of the AWA Team Challenge Series I planned on following through with. I know, I’m really bad about finishing up on promises, and wow, it’s been quite a while since that recap has been covered. I planned on doing a mass recap of some UWF stuff (Abrams crap, not Watts), but I figure I can pump out the remains of this set in a few more installments.

Quick note: I’m giving up on going with exclusively Team Challenge Matches, just because you never quite know when anything officially counts towards the standings (and some matches don’t have introductions), and there’s absolutely no help online to try and figure anything out. With the exception of the extra-goofy gimmick matches, who knows. We’ll pick things up where we left off, and the next three volumes will cover as many (known) Team Challenge Series matches as possible, as well as title defenses, competitive non-gimmick matches, and the occasional squash of interest. Also, since I don’t have exact dates for anything, please forgive any chronological errors.

2 out of 3 Falls Match: Nikita Koloff vs. Larry Zbyszko:

Definitely not a TCS Match, but this is quite a TV Main Event. Zbyszko is labeled a “former AWA Champion”, so this telecast was featured somewhere between February 10th and April 8th of 1990, with Mr. Saito being the reigning Champion. Zbyszko would regain it at SuperClash 4, and no, that doesn’t exist on tape. Koloff left wrestling to be with his ailing wife, who sadly passed away in the Summer of ’89 from Hodgkin’s Disease, but started easing back in as the calendar flipped to 1990. Sorry for taking us down a depressing road. Fall #1: Koloff bum-rushes the ring, chasing Zbyszko to the floor. Koloff pounds away in the corner and takes him over with a hip throw. Whip to the ropes and Koloff with an elbow. They take it to the floor, with Zbyszko being rammed into and taking out the security rail. Zbyszko takes control, slamming Koloff onto the ringside table, and chokes him with a microphone cord. Hey look, Bob Lurtsema is the referee! Zbyszko with knees to the back and choking across the middle rope. Koloff counters a whip to the corner and mounts Zbyszko for a series of rights. Whip to the corner and Koloff with another elbow for two. Koloff with a snapmare and elbow drop for two. Whip to the ropes, Zbyszko comes back with a roll-up, and a handful of tights is good for the three count at 4:04.

Fall #2: After a brief rest period (and Zbyszko stalling on the floor), we resume the action. Koloff works Zbyszko over in the corner. Whip to the ropes and he connects with a diving shoulder tackle. Zbyszko sweeps the legs and uses the ropes for leverage, but only gets a two count. Zbyszko with a snap-mare into a cover for two. Back breaker for another near fall, then it’s time for a chin-lock. Lurtsema checks the arm, but Koloff rallies back to his feet. He escapes with a series of elbows to the midsection and counters a neck breaker with a back slide for a three count at 3:54, evening things up at one-fall each.

Fall #3: Who could’ve guessed this would go to a third fall? Zbyszko attacks from behind to jump the gun on the start of the fall. Lurtsema physically tries pulling Zybszko off, but that’s not happening. He does it again, throwing Zbyszko across the ring. Koloff quickly comes out of the corner with the Russian Sickle, and it gets the three count at the 42-second mark to take the deciding fall. And people complain about 2 out of 3 Falls being rushed in the year 2015? This was fine for a TV Main Event (by 1990 standards), but a bit too rushed for quality purposes. It does set Koloff up as a top contender for when Zbyszko regains the Championship, so the match does something to further things.

Curtis Hughes, Paul Diamond, Brad Rheingans vs. The Texas Hangmen & The Russian Brute (w/ Ox Baker):

Who doesn’t love some good old fashion Six-Man Tag Team Action?! The Hangmen and Brute are part of Larry’s Legends, while the baby-face team is kind of… I don’t know. Paul Diamond has been established as a member of the Baron’s Blitzers, but no idea on Rheingans and this is one of the first matches to feature Hughes in the AWA. Hughes starts strong, taking over all three opponents with sloppy hip throws. He knocks the Brute over the top with a clothesline, then back in the ring via the same means. He goes for a second rope splash, but meets knees. Rheingans in with a Hangman. They do a test-of-strength, with Rheingans taking him over into a cover for a near fall. Diamond and Rheingans with a double clothesline for two. Hangman #2 tags in and gets his arm worked over. Rheingans with a suplex for two. Rheingans misses a charge to the corner and the heels finally get some offense. After only 30-seconds, we tease a fake hot tag. Diamond gets the real one a moment later and goes to work on everything walking. The Brute with a cheap shot from the apron, followed by a clothesline. Whip to the ropes and Diamond collides with a Hangman. Hughes gets the real hot tag and pounds away. Whip to the ropes and he actually throws a dropkick! He plants the Hangman with a slam, but a cover only gets two. Heck starts to break loose. Hughes with the Torture Rack, but the Brute hits him with a Heart Punch, and the Hangman lands on top of him for the three count at 9:11. Post-match, Hughes lays out both Hangmen. Not much to this one. When Hughes is booked as the star of the match and still jobs is the highlight, you’re in for a long night.

- Team Challenge Series Update! I feel like there needs to be some kind of whacky, zany meme to accompany that. Lee Marshall is standing by with this important recap: Sarge’s Snipers are in first place, but that lead is already in danger. Sgt. Slaughter recently took on Kokina Maximus from Larry’s Legends in a, and I quote, “Battle of the Bulge” Match, because Slaughter wouldn’t make any of his men do anything he wouldn’t do.” Slaughter had the match won, but Sheik Adnan-Alkahassie’s interference frustrated Slaughter, leading to Slaughter beating up on the Sheik and getting himself Disqualified for it (logic in finishes!), giving the Legends 1 point for the DQ. The scoreboard looks like this…

Sarge’s Snipers: 13 Wins, 13 Losses, 1 Draw (27 Points)
Larry’ Legends: 12 Wins, 10 Losses, 1 Draw, 1 DQ (26 Points)
Baron’s Blitzers: 9 Wins, 12 Losses, 2 Draws, 5 DQ’s (25 Points)

Talk about 50/50 Booking… don’t ask me what matches count towards the standings, either. DQ’s are technically wins, but a pinfall/submission counts for 2 points, while a DQ counts for 1. I’m assuming the Blitzers have fought a lot of Larry’s Legends, judging by the 5 DQ victories they have.

D.J. Peterson vs. Frankie “Thumper” DeFalco:

This is likely going to be a squash match. Peterson is making his return to the AWA. Peterson comes out to AC/DC’s “TNT”. I’ve seen both these guys doing scrub work for WWF in the late 80’s, but Peterson has a much better look. Lockup and DeFalco with a hip throw. They do it again, just to show it wasn’t a fluke. Whip to the ropes, Peterson returns the favor and goes to work on the arm with a short-arm scissors. Whip to the ropes and Peterson casually walks away to avoid a back drop. I’m surprised more people don’t do that. Peterson with a take-down into a cross arm breaker, but DeFalco makes it to the ropes… only for the referee to kick him off? Um, it’s a submission move, that shouldn’t be denied to force a break. Peterson sends DeFalco to the corner, but misses a charge. DeFalco with a Power Slam for a two count. Whip to the corner is reversed and Peterson takes him over with a back drop. Peterson with a slam for two. Peterson with a high knee into a cover for another near fall. DeFalco misses a knee to the corner, and Peterson forces him to submit to the Scorpion Deathlock at 4:12. Not a full blown squash, and actually entertaining. They hyped Peterson as someone to look forward to seeing in the coming weeks.

Sgt. Slaughter vs. “Illustrious” Jonnie Stewart:

The Team Challenge Series… doesn’t continue, because it’s a battle of teammates! Stewart is a member of Sarge’s Snipers, but Slaughter wants to teach him a lesson for being a douche. Jesus Sarge, get your team under control. First Col. DeBeers, now Jonnie Stewart. Who’s next, Tom Stone?! Too bad you couldn’t score points in this match, fighting a teammate guarantees points! Stewart is a rocking a pretty boy gimmick when, in fact, he’s not very good looking and his physique is slightly above average. Slaughter quickly grabs a side headlock and messes with the hair. Whip to the ropes and Slaughter bowls over him with a shoulder tackle. Slaughter with a fireman’s lift into a slam, followed by punishment in the corner. Slaughter with a back drop, sending Stewart to the floor for a breather. Stewart wanders into the “crowd”, and you can see nothing but empty seats. It’s sad, really. Zbyszko would be proud about the length of stalling. Stewart throws a chop and hurts himself… and watch the potty mouth, guy. Whip to the ropes and Stewart hits a clothesline, his first real offense of the match. Stewart with a slam, but a trip to the top rope takes too long and he gets crotched for it. Slaughter throws him off with a slam and pounds away with rights. Whip to the ropes and a back drop sends Stewart crashing onto his previously injured knee. Slaughter with another slam, but a top rope elbow drop misses. Had it connected, it would’ve been an automatic DQ. Whip to the ropes and an AWFUL dropkick gets two. He barely got enough lift to hit Slaughter’s gut. Slaughter blocks a slam and counters with his own. Stewart goes questionably low and slams Slaughter again. Slaughter surprises Stewart with a below-average small package, and it’s good for three at 10:28. Stewart attacks after the bell, but Slaughter just won’t give him anything and scares him off. Not a very good match. Despite a lengthy time, Slaughter dominated all but maybe a 45-second sequence.

- Are you ready for another Team Challenge Series UPDATE? Well, here it is anyway. Recently there was a “Captain’s Plus Battle Royal”, featuring all three Captains plus a member of their team, all of which happen to be bottom of the card scrubs. Representing the Sniper’s is Tom Stone, the Legend’s is poorly treated Jake Milliman, and the Blitzer’s have Todd Becker. Apparently Tom “Rocky” Stone actually attacked his own Captain (D’oh!), but couldn’t get the job done and was eliminated for being a dirty traitor. The match came down to Rashke and Zbyszko, but things went south for Larry and his Legends when Milliman accidentally pulled the ropes down on him, causing the AWA Champion to be eliminated, and awarding the 2 points to Baron’s Blitzers. Larry’s Legends sit in first with 28 points, while the Snipers and Blitzers are tied with 27 points.

AWA World Heavyweight Championship Match:
Larry Zbyszko © vs. The Trooper:

So SuperClash 4 has come and gone. A “Super Show” with poor attendance and no cameras present, so who knows how bad things were and how accurate the numbers were for how many people actually came to see it. If you haven’t read Part 1, the Trooper (Del Wilkes) is probably better known as The Patriot. He’s been going through all opponents and remains undefeated to earn this spot as #1 Contender. Lockup goes nowhere and the crowd is all over Zbyszko. Lockup and Trooper with an arm-drag. Zbyszko with a slam, but a pin attempt doesn’t even get a one count. Trooper with three slams, sending Zbyszko to the floor for a breather. Trooper blocks a hip toss and grabs a side headlock. Zbyszko with a drop toe hold, but Trooper hops right back up and goes to work on the arm. Zbyszko escapes by throwing Trooper through the ropes. He follows him to the floor and rams him into the timekeeper’s table. Back inside, Trooper mounts a comeback, pounding away with rights. Whip to the ropes and a back drop gets two. Trooper with a suplex for another two count. Trooper goes for a dropkick, but Zbyszko avoids it by hanging onto the ropes. He grabs an abdominal stretch to kill time, as the limit (TV time) is quickly running out. The referee spots the cheating from the Champion, allowing Trooper to escape. Whip to the ropes and a sunset flip gets two. Small package gets two. Whip to the ropes and a shoulder tackle puts them both down. Zbyszko removes a turnbuckle pad, but gets sent into his own trap. Trooper with a fist to the midsection and back drop. He slaps on the “Big Punch” (double nerve hold), but the time limit expires at 10:00 and Zbyszko is still the AWA Champion. Not a lot of explosive offense, but the match was sold as a big deal and it was pretty good in its simplicity.

D.J. Peterson & Ric McCord vs. The Tokyo Bullets:

Holy hell, where do I begin with this one?! We’re already familiar with Peterson, who’s fairly normal looking, but his partner is something to behold. With a bleach blonde mullet, white jacket and pants, it’s almost sad that this almost-albino look is ruined by the fact he’s wearing red tights. I guess he was a regular in Continental and other regional NWA locations (he’s a former Central States Tag Champ, dammit… with PORKCHOP CASH!). The “Tokyo Bullets” are from “Tokyo, Japan”, and its too guys under masks who likely aren’t actually Japanese. I’m going to guess “North American Caucasians” isn’t the most threatening team name in the world. McCord sends Bullet #1 to the corner and goes to work on the arm. Bullet #2 tags in and doesn’t fare much better. Peterson with a gut-wrench suplex for two. Whip to the ropes and a double back drop. What is the Black Scorpion doing in the crowd!? McCord misses a dropkick and the Bullets connect on a double shoulder tackle. Bullet #2 with a snapmare, but an elbow misses. Peterson tags in, clubberin’ away. He feeds a boot and connects with an enziguri. Whip to the ropes and Power-Slam. McCord to the top rope, and the flying body press gets three at 2:58. That was decisive. I love how it’s their first match as a team (in the AWA) and they are already being hyped as top contenders to the Titles. Yes, the roster situation was that bad.

AWA World Heavyweight Championship Match:
Larry Zbyszko © vs. Brad Rheingans:

Wow, another Championship Match already!? I’m sure this is another “TV Time Limit”, considering the last match we saw with the Championship on the line. Rheingans is listed as an “Olympic Great” (to be fair, he actually participated in the Olympics, unlike Ken Patera) and comes to the ring uses BTO’s “Takin’ Care of Business.” Zbyszko stalls, complaining about the “Larry Sucks” chant. Lockup to the ropes and the referee forces the break. Zbyszko with a fireman’s carry, but Rheingans surprises him by quickly hooking a head scissors. In a bit of shameless commentary, we talk about the Showdown at Shea headlined by Zbyszko and Sammartino, and that Andre vs. Hulk was on the under-card… oh, and Andre defeated Hogan. Whip to the ropes and an Oklahoma Roll by Rheingans gets a near fall. Rheingans gets dumped to the floor, but comes back in with a sunset flip for another two count. Criss-cross and a collision puts both men down. Zbyszko with a reverse kick to the midsection, followed by a back suplex for two. Rheingans with a twisting back suplex for two. Zbyszko with a vertical suplex for two. Zbyszko rests with a chinlock as we get more childish commentary. He switches things up with an abdominal stretch. Rheingans muscles his way out and reverses. Zbyszko escapes with a hip toss into a cover, then goes back to the chinlock (using the ropes for leverage, of course). Rheingans with elbows to the midsection and rake of the eyes. He takes Zbyszko over with a hip throw and connects with a clothesline. Whip to the ropes and a back drop, followed by a foot across the eyes. Gut-wrench Suplex for two. Rheingans misses a charge to the corner, and Zbyszko rolls him up, with feet on the ropes, to retain at 13:25. Another good TV Main Event. Slowed down a bit in the middle, but its Zbyszko, what did you expect?

D.J. Peterson & Brad Rheingans (Blitzers) vs. The Destruction Crew (Legends):

This is an OFFICIAL Team Challenge Series Match, and is Non-Title. The Destruction Crew are Wayne Bloom and Mike Enos, a.k.a. the Beverly Brothers. I’m guessing this was taped before they decided to pair up Peterson and McCord. The Tag Champions attack before the bell, but things quickly turn around and Peterson and Rheingans clear the ring with clotheslines and slams. Bloom offers a handshake, but Rheingans isn’t buying it and gives him a slap. Peterson with a hip toss and side headlock. Rheingans with a fist to the midsection and swinging neck breaker for two. Gut-wrench suplex for two. Rheingans and Peterson with a double clothesline for two. Peterson with a snap suplex into a cover for two. Enos tags in and finds himself on defense immediately. Whip to the ropes and Rheingans with a shoulder tackle. He tries it again but takes a knee to the midsection. Bloom tosses him to the floor for some illegal tactics. Whip to the ropes and Bloom with an elbow for two. Enos with a slam for two. Whip to the ropes and Rheingans surprises him with a roll up for two. Enos goes for a suplex, but Rheingans blocks and counters with his own. Bloom with a snapmare and fist drop for two. Peterson with the hot tag and he unloads on Bloom. Whip to the ropes and diving elbow for two. Peterson with a bad dropkick for another two count. He tries a roll up, but Bloom uses a foreign object behind the referee’s back, and Enos covers for three at 9:18. Two Points for Larry’s Legends! When Peterson and Rheingans were in control, it was pretty good. Bloom and Enos were still green, but let’s not kid ourselves, they didn’t develop much beyond this, either.

- Here comes another Team Challenge Series UPDATE with Lee Marshall. Hopefully he can contain himself from taking cheap shots at the Ultimate Warrior. Recently Yukon John Nord took on Texas Hangmen’s Killer, with their partners (Psycho and Flapjack Scott Norton) at ringside until being ejected by the referee. Yukon John had the match won, but Psycho ran in for the Disqualfication, trying to hang Nord with his noose. Norton made the save, but the bottom line is that they earned one point because of the DQ. Let’s check the “updated” scoreboard for the imaginary standings…

1. Baron’s Blitzers (13 Wins, 15 Losses, 2 Draws, 5 DQs – 33 Points)
2. Sarge’s Snipers (14 Wins, 15 Losses, 1 Draw – 29 Points)
3. Larry’s Legends (13 Wins, 13 Losses, 1 Draw, 1 DQ – 28 Points)

I should note that despite obvious changes in the points since our last updated scoreboard, the Blitzer’s still have 5 DQ wins, even though the latest update featured a DQ! The voice-over is incorrect too, as the Blitzer’s are incorrectly credited with a 3 point lead over the Snipers. I’m assuming the Legends’ game plan is to get DQ’ed as much as possible, but not against the Snipers, because they suck.

Final Thoughts: When you take away the outrageous gimmick matches, the AWA was still capable of putting on some decent action. Yeah, the roster is really thin, so you’re not going to get a very diverse selection of matches worth sitting through, but the bottom line is there was entertainment to be had. That doesn’t excuse the production flaws, like poorly splicing episodes together with footage from different tapings, or not keeping track of their major storyline, or even making sense of it half the time. I promise, Parts 3 and 4 will be completed before the year 2020.

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