- I remember WWE 24/7 putting this on one of their December Playlists a few years back, and I was so under-whelmed by the entire show, I just kind of put the DVD in the very back of my wrestling case and haven't even thought about dusting it off for another viewing... until now. Maybe I'll enjoy it more now that I'm kind of in the mood for it, but we'll see what happens.
- We're "Live" from the UTC Arena in Chattanooga, TN. Televised on December 7th, 1988, we're only a couple of weeks away from Starrcade, set to be headlined by the World Title rematch between Ric Flair and Lex Luger, as well as a handful of other Championships to be defended and scores to be settled. I honestly don't know if ANYTHING from this show has a direct result in the build up to the PPV, but we'll see in just a few moments...
- NWA U.S. Tag Team Championship; Tournament Finals:
The Fantastics vs. "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert & Ron Simmons:
You're probably wondering about the weird combination of Gilbert and Simmons and why two sets of babyfaces are wrestling. I haven't looked too much into it, but this was originally meant to be the Fantastics vs. The Sheepherders, but the latter jumped ship to the WWF without much notice, so the team they beat in the previous round was given their spot instead, for whatever reason. Simmons is still pretty green, only being in wrestling a little less than two years at this point, but pairing him with a veteran like Gilbert seems smart at least. Quickly looking it up, I find it funny too, that despite Gilbert being a pro wrestler for about a decade at this point, he was sitll a few years younger than Simmons. There's your tidbit of the match, enjoy. Oh, and introducing the participants of the match... Jason Hervey, a.k.a. the Douchebag older brother on the Wonder Years.
Fulton and Simmons start with a lockup, and Simmons powers Fulton down with it, but can't do anything to follow up. Fulton uses his speed, but a shoulder tackle goes well in the favor of Simmons, who I'm sure will be praised for his college football career by Jim Ross. Fulton with a series of dropkicks, but he gets caught going for a cross body, and Simmons puts him down with a back breaker, followed by a press slam. They fight over a hammerlock, and Fulton quickly takes Simmons down with an arm drag. Rogers tags in and connects with a dropkick. They trade wristlocks, and Rogers grabs a headlock. Gilbert tags in, and for some reason, we have a roof camera view as Gilbert grabs a headlock. Irish whip, and Gilbert with a shoulder block, followed by a hip toss. Rogers avoids an elbow drop, and covers for a two count. Rogers with an arm drag, then applies an armbar. Irish whip, and Fulton comes in and is quickly taken down with a sunset flip. Gilbert does some strutting to get the crowd going. Fulton with a headlock, followed by a shoulder block. Eddie tries a hip toss, but Fulton puts the breaks on, does some strutting, then offers a handshake... which is accepted. BOO! Lockup, and Gilbert with a fireman carry takeover. Fulton returns the favor with a hip toss. Fulton grabs another headlock, but Gilbert counters with a head scissors. Fulton escapes and puts another headlock on Gilbert. Irish whip, and Fulton cradles Gilbert for a two count. They go nose-to-nose and we get a shoving match. Gilbert offers another handshake, and it didn't seem all that appreciated like the first one. Simmons tags back in and takes Fulton to the canvas with an armbar, followed by knees into the elbow. Fulton uses his momentum to throw Simmons out of the ring. Back in the ring, and Fulton cradles Simmons for a two count. Tommy Rogers tags back in, and they lockup. Simmons school boys him for a two count, then grabs a headlock. Rogers tries fighting free with a hammerlock, but Simmons is too strong. Irish whip, and Simmons plows through with a shoulder block. Rogers retaliates with a dropkick, but misses an elbow from the top rope.
Simmons measures up and nails Rogers with a diving shoulder tackle, but a pin attempt is futile. Gilbert tags in and applies an armbar, as J.R. reminds us Simmons' number had been retired at Florida State, and he came in 8th in the voting for the Heisman Trophy his senior year, the highest a defensive player has ever placed (at the time), according to Ross. Gilbert with a headlock, and a hammerlock takes Rogers back to the canvas, and tries a pinning attempt, only getting a two count. Rogers escapes the hold, and takes Gilbert over with an arm drag. Fulton tags in, and quickly takes Gilbert over with an arm drag, then to the armbar. Gilbert escapes with a fireman's carry, and they're back to a standing position giving each other the business. Lockup into the ropes, and we get some shoving. Gilbert with a drop toe hold, and Simmons tags in to roll up Fulton for a two count. Simmons with a front facelock applied. Whip to the corner, and Simmons misses a charge. Rogers tags in, and stomps on the arm. Rogers sweeps the leg, and Fulton tags back in to work the arm, as well. Irish whip, and Simmons takes Rogers over with a back drop, but misses an elbow, and Rogers goes back to the armbar, grapevining the arm in the process. Gilbert and Fulton have words with each other on the apron, in the mean time. Simmons escapes and drops Rogers with a big elbow. Gilbert tags in and connects with a swinging neck breaker for a two count, followed by a suplex for another two count. Rogers with a fist to the midsection, and Gilbert retaliates with a forearm. Irish whip, and Rogers surprises Gilbert with a suplex of his own. Fulton and Simmons get tags back in the ring. Lockup, and Simmons with a slam. Fulton rolls out of the way of an elbow, then drops a leg for a two count. Fulton quickly applies a chinlock before Simmons could get back to his feet. Irish whip, and it the fist to the midsection and running knee lift combo for another two count. Irish whip, and Rogers with a back elbow and a roll up for two. Simmons rams Rogers into the corner and crushes him into the buckle a few times. Gilbert tags in, and he drives a knee into the back, and the crowd definitely approves of Hot Stuff. Gilbert with an atomic drop, followed by another batch of knees and elbows to the back. Gilbert with a back suplex, and a cover for a two count. Simmons tags in, and quickly goes to work on the left arm. We go into the corner for a break. Whip to the opposite corner, and Simmons posts himself on the charge. Fulton tags in and comes off the top, only to be planted with a powerslam. Gilbert tags back in and rolls up Fulton for a two count, then he gets rammed into the post on the kick-out. Rogers tags back in, and knocks Gilbert off the apron, into the security railing.
Back in the ring, and Rogers is letting Gilbert get back to his feet. Gilbert looks like a wounded animal, desperately trying to stand his ground. Rogers with a drop toe hold, and he goes to work on the injured arm with knees and an armbar. Fulton tags in and takes Gilbert down with a single-arm DDT. Fulton uses his feet to twist the elbow of Gilbert, then Rogers comes off the top rope with more punishment to the arm. Rogers drops a leg across the elbow, then tries hyper-extending the arm with a submission hold. Fulton tags in, and goes back to the armbar. Irish whip, and Rogers takes Gilbert over with a hip toss, then grapevines the elbow. Gilbert fights his way back to his feet into a pinning combination, but Rogers kicks out and keeps the hold applied. Gilbert slugs Rogers in the mouth, but gets taken down with a drop toe hold. Fulton tags in and slams Gilbert onto the elbow. Fulton misses a headbutt, but is aware enough to cut off the tag. Gilbert counters a wristlock with a hip toss. Rogers tags in and goes to the arm again. Gilbert takes it into the corner for a break, then drives an elbow into the midsection. Rogers takes Gilbert back over, into the armbar. Gilbert counters with a head scissors, then lets Rogers momentum take himself into the corner, avoiding more punishment to the arm. Fulton cuts off another tag, knocking Gilbert out of the ring. Back inside, and Gilbert manages to hot shot Fulton on a charge attempt. Gilbert unloads on Fulton in the corner. Whip is reversed twice, sending Fulton into the corner, but Gilbert rams the arm AGAIN, and Fulton rolls him up for the three count at 27:02, making the Fantastics the NEW United States Tag Team Champions. After the match, everyone checks on Gilbert. **** I might be going out on a limb, but this was a fantastic match, no pun intended. I definitely don't remember enjoying this match as much the first time, maybe because I wasn't expecting this kind of match. Both teams wrestled a strong face vs. face team, the work on the arm of Gilbert for the last 7-8 minutes of the match built up to a fine finish, and it just seemed like everything flowed perfectly. Some might say "the crowd was more into Gilbert", but Gilbert was from Tennessee and they were in... yep, Tennessee, so that might be the reason the crowd really got behind Gilbert so strong.
- The Italian Stallion vs. "Dr. Death" Steve Williams (w/ Kevin Sullivan):
Sometime since the last Clash of Champions, Dr. Death had turned heel and joined forces with the Varsity Club, who lost member Rick Steiner in a sympathetic babyface turn to feud with Rotundo, who is still the reigning Television Champion. Stallion is some out of shape scrub who's best known these days as the guy who was screwing over the Hardy Boys when they were trying to break into wrestling. No introductions, as we simply cut to the match. Williams with a single leg takedown, followed by a firemans carry. Irish whip, and Stallion with a shoulder block, followed by a hip toss and dropkick, sending Williams out of the ring. Back inside, and they trade wristlocks. Williams sweeps the leg to escape and grabs a toe hold. Williams with a knee and clubbing blows. Whip to the corner, and Stallion comes out with a clothesline. Williams goes to work on the arm, and takes Stallion down with a samoan drop. Williams with a slam, but he misses an elbow drop. Stallion drops a leg for a one count, then grapevines the arm. Williams eventually escapes, but Stallion gets a cross body for a one count, then pressed out of the ring on the kickout. The ring announcer blows the time limit countdowns, and if this match goes 30-minutes, I'm killing someone. Sullivan looks like a complete tool wearing blue jeans and an Oklahoma Sooners jacket. Like the chick in CryBaby with the frying pan face. Williams works Stallion over with little of note. Williams brings Stallion back in the ring with a suplex, then floats over for a two count. Stallion fights back, but takes a knee to the midsection. Irish whip, and Williams applies a sleeper. Stallion fights free with elbows, then comes off the ropes with a clothesline, but he misses an elbow drop. Williams plows over him with a shoulder tackle, then kicks him in the face and rolls Stallion up for a two count. Williams picks the leg and goes to what I guess might be called a toe hold, before applying a more orthodox version. Jim Ross makes a redneck comment without being too over the top, concerning fans at ringside in overalls. Williams knocks Stallion out of the ring, and yes, even with a scrub like this, Sullivan cheats at every opprotunity. Williams comes off the apron with a double axehandle. Back in the ring, and Stallions tries a comeback. Williams puts him down with an inverted atomic drop, then drops an elbow across the back of the head for a two count, before going to a front facelock. Williams heads to the top rope, but misses a splash. Stallion with a series of rights. Whip to the ropes, and he connects with a dropkick, followed by a powerslam. Whip is reversed, and Williams catches him for the Oklahoma Stampede, and that gets the three count at 15:17. Are you kidding me? That long for what was nothing more than a squash? 1/2* I would go lower than that, but out of respect for Williams, I just didn't have the heart to do it. Total dog of a match though. If you ever pop this show in, skip this match without thinking about it.
- Ivan Koloff vs. Paul Jones:
Special stipulation of the match sees Koloff having to wrestle the match with one arm tied behind his back. If you remember, at the previous Clash of the Champions, Koloff lost a match to Ricky Morton, and in the process, was ousted from Jones' stable, and beaten down by the Russian Assassins. As mentioned in a previous review, Ivan was supposed to be joined by Nikita Koloff, but his personal life was far more important at the time, so we've got Koloff and the JYD teaming at Starrcade. Koloff catches Jones by the throat with a choke, forcing Jones out of the ring. We do some HEAVY clips, and we see the saddest Irish whip ever, as Koloff comes "bouncing" off the ropes with rights, knocking Jones back out of the ring. Jones has a foreign object, and he stabs Koloff in the throat with it. Jones stomps away, but Koloff rakes the eyes, and Jones rolls out of the ring, again. Koloff blocks the weapon and nails Jones with it instead, and that gets a three count at 1:35 (apparently, this is the THE version that clips the match from an excrutiating 10-minutes). The Russian Assassins hit the ring and beat on the one-armed Koloff until the Junkyard Dog runs them off. DUD Not much here, thankfully.
- Dusty Rhodes vs. Road Warrior Animal (w/ Paul Ellering):
Interesting booking here. The Road Warriors had turned heel recently, with one of their defining acts being a beating on Rhodes that saw them stab Rhodes in the eye with one of the spikes from their shoulder pads. They would then beat the living crap out of Sting too, just because they could. However, the beating on Rhodes included a blade-job on one of their early afternoon time slots, and from what I understand, blading on T.V. on that timeslot was the final straw that cost Rhodes his job in the NWA, as he would disappear after Starrcade, and jump to the WWF, debuting in the early Summer. The Road Warriors, after all that to turn heel, wiped the floor with the Midnight Express to win the World Tag Titles in New Orleans about a month prior to this show. Oh, and the Road Warriors and Dusty Rhodes were still technically the 6-Man Tag Team Champions, so winner of this match gains control of the belts and gets to name the replacement title holder(s).
Rhodes comes to the ring sporting an eye patch, and he takes Ellering out with an elbow. Rhodes hammers away on Animal. Irish whip, and Rhodes with a series of clotheslines. Animal rolls out of the way of an elbow, then drops one of his own. Whip to the corner, and Animal misses a charge. Rhodes wraps the leg of Animal around the ring post a few times. Back in the ring, and Rhodes kicks the leg from under Animal, and applies his shitty Figure-Four. Rhodes knocks the referee out of the ring as he applies the hold, and Ellering comes in to break the hold. Animal pounds away on Rhodes and claws away at the injured eye. Rhodes with a low blow, then sweeps the leg and claws at Animal's eyes in retaliation. Hawk hits the ring and hammers away on Rhodes, and it's a double team. Sting comes to make the save, and he sends Hawk out of the ring. Rhodes has a chair, and he takes out the lef of Animal and just smacks away on the knee with it, as the bell rings at 2:57. It's a Disqualification victory for Animal, I'm guessing for the referee tossing. 3/4* Not really much of a match, but an incredibly hot few minutes of action and post-match shenanigans to advance the storyline for the Tag Title match at Starrcade.
- Tony Schiavone talks with Lex Luger for a few moments about Ric Flair, but it's just there to remind everyone "hey, I'm fighting Flair in three weeks, don't forget." as we prepare ourselves for the main event of the evening...
- The Midnight Express (w/ Jim Cornette) vs. Ric Flair & Barry Windham (w/ J.J. Dillon):
This has a chance to be good, I'd say. The Express (Stan Lane and Bobby Eaton) had turned babyface at some point since the Summer and started feuding with Paul E. Dangerously, who brought in the "Original" Midnight Express. We'll touch on that in the Starrcade '88 review, I promise. Flair is the reigning World Champion, of course, and Windham has been hanging on to that United States belt for most of 1988. Flair and Eaton start, and Flair does his usual antics. Lockup into the corner, and Eaton gives Flair a slap in the face after getting a "Woo." Lockup again, and Flair with chops in the corner. Eaton slugs back with rights and lefts. Whip across the ring, and Eaton with a back drop. Whip to the corner, and Flair flips onto the apron, and knocked off by Lane. Lane tags in and hits Flair with one of his signature side kicks. Irish whip is reversed, and Lane ends up nailing Flair with an enziguri. Windham tags in, and is quickly hit with a dropkick. Lockup into the corner, and Windham hammers away. Windham with a slam, but he comes off the top rope, missing an elbow drop. Lane with a dropkick, followed by a karate kick to the midsection, sending Windham over the top rope. Lane brings Windham back in the ring with a sling shot, and Eaton tags back in, as does Flair. Lockup, and Eaton grabs a headlock, then comes off the ropes with a shoulder. Flair tries for a hip toss, but Eaton blocks and takes Flair over with one of his own, then slams both Flair and an intefering Windham. Irish whip, and Eaton comes off the ropes with a diving clothesline to both men, then covers Windham, but Flair is the legal man. Breather time outside the ring for the Horsemen, who get chewed out by Dillon. Back in the ring, and Flair grabs a headlock. Lane takes him down with a drop toe hold and applies the Figure-Four. Eaton cuts off Windham and applies the move to him, as well. Cornette and Dillon have words for each other outside the ring, as Flair and Windham escape. Flair dumps Lane out on the apron, but Lane holds on and comes back in with an elbow for a two count.
Flair with chops, and Lane returns with martial arts kicks. Eaton tags in, and Flair doesn't want any of it. Lockup, and Flair with a knee to the midsection, followed by a stiff chop. They slug it out again, with Eaton winning the battle. Lane tags in and gets caught coming off the ropes with an elbow. Inset promo from Paul E. Dangerously! The action in the ring goes on, but we're so far away on the camera angle, I can't make out what's going on. Flair has Lane in trouble in the corner. Flair with a snapmare, then he heads to the top rope, only to get slammed off by Lane. Eaton gets the tag, and he hammers away on Flair in the corner. Whip to the corner, and Flair flips onto the apron, then heads to the top rope, and comes off into a fist from Eaton. Swinging neck breaker from Eaton, and then takes Windham out again. Irish whip, and the Express with a flap jack on Flair for a two count. Flair grabs a headlock on Eaton, but gets rolled up for a two count. Windham comes in and clotheslines Eaton from behind. Windham tags in and connects with an inverted atomic drop, and a roundhouse right sends Eaton through the ropes. Windham brings Eaton back into the ring with a suplex. Irish whip, and Windham with a powerslam. Flair tags in, and comes off the ropes with his signature knee drop, then a slap in the face, just because he can. Flair with chops in the corner, sending Eaton back out of the ring, only to be greeted by Windham, who drops him across the security rail. Flair heads outside now, and continues to dish out punishment. Back in the ring, and Windham comes off the ropes with a lariat. That only gets a one count. Windham with a gutwrench suplex, followed by a knee across the forehead. Irish whip, and Windham applies a sleeper. Eaton counters with an arm drag, but Windham tags in Flair to keep the preasure on. Eaton tries slugging it out again, but Flair drops him with a chop. Eaton continues to fight with all he's got, trading blows in the corner. Windham tags in, but Lane gets the hot tag and unloads with karate kicks on both men. Irish whip, and Lane with a back drop on Windham. Irish whip and back drop on Flair. Double noggin' knocker! Lane with a boot the chest of Windham, and Eaton tags in for a clothesline and knee clip combination move. All hell continues to break loose. Lane sends Flair out of the ring with a karate kick, and Eaton nails the top rope leg drop on Windham. Flair comes back in and nails Eaton with one of Dillon's shoes, and rolls Windham on top for the sudden three count at 17:38. ***1/4 Not the classic match I was expected, and was a bit disappointed, but it was still a pretty good match. There was definitely some highs and lows, and the finish wasn't exactly the greatest. Seemed like they went home a little earlier than usual, considering how the match was progressing before the finish.
Final Thoughts: Well, I guess I should always give shows a second chance. After an initial viewing I was displeased with the show and never bothered to watch it again. Watching it now, I was blown away by the opener, enjoyed the main event as I was expecting to, and even though it was short, enjoyed the stuff with Rhodes and the Road Warriors. The downside of the show is a snoozer match featuring talent enhancement and a gimmicked match featuring a manager, but at least the latter was clipped to almost nothing. Decent enough show to watch if you ever come across it.