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AWA Team Challenge Series - Part 1
by Scrooge McSuck
- The Team Challenge Series.... for fans around my age (going on 28 as of this writing), that's probably the only memory of AWA that we can recall, other than being a part of the "what wrestling shows were on ESPN" discussion. I don't know who came up with it, or if there was ever some long term thought process to the whole thing, other than randomly ending it, but this idea could've worked. Honest. However, the ridiculous gimmick matches used, to the thin rosters available (even by AWA standards), there wasn't much to salvage the problem. The roster was split into three times, captained by AWA Champion Larry Zbyszko, Sgt. Slaughter, and Baron von Rashke. They had cute little team names, such as Sarge's Snipers, Larry's Legends, and Baron's Blitzers.
Sound familiar? No? Well, there was a Hanna-Barbera cartoon in the late 70's where all the H-B characters (and some created specifically for the show) were formed into three teams, and competed in ridiculous concepts for points and a never-ending quest for a winner that never seemed to came except randomly with little warning. The team names were the Scooby-Doobies, Yogi Yahoo'ies, and the Really Rottens. Yes, I am jokingly accusing the AWA creative team for ripping off a child's cartoon show. Somehow, the name "LAFF A LYMPICS" seems quite appropriate for what we're about to see. Unfortunately, the YouTube account that housed this playlist has been terminated recently, but thanks to whoever for taking the time to upload all of these videos. Forgiveness if there's matches out of order, or if some matches aren't directly part of the TCS. If I feel like showcasing "new talent" in a squash, then so be it.
Queen of the Ring Match: Wendi Richter (Snipers) vs. Candi Devine (Blitzers):
Richter is the reigning AWA Women's Champion. She comes to the ring to Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Want To Have Fun, as if there was any doubt. You win this match by either being thrown over the top rope, to the floor, or by submission. Interesting rules. Richter with a waistlock takedown. Devine with a handful of hair to turn the tide and slaps on a head scissors. The referee yells at them for fighting in the ropes, despite the rules saying being thrown over the ropes is a way to win. Logic in Referee'ing. Richter with a slam and splash... for two?! Did someone forget to tell the referee about the rules? Richter slingshots Devine through the ropes, but it has to be over the top rope. Richter with a trio of snapmares for another near fall. Richter works the arm and we get more near falls. Richter with a suplex/slam for two. Sunset flip for two. Richter with a chinlock, but Devine makes it to the ropes. They fight near the ropes again, and I guess they now remember the stipulations, and Devine tosses Richter to the floor for the victory at 6:37 with little trouble. Just stupid on all levels, especially from the referee. Did they tape this match and add stipulations in post-production? It sounds like it might be the only logical excuse. Richter was gone from the company almost immediately afterwards, vacating the title.
Body Slam Match: Yukon John Nord (Blitzers) vs. Kokena Maximus (Legends):
We're only two matches in, and it's false advertisement. Instead, Maximus (much better known as Yokozuna in the WWF) is replaced by his manager, Shiek Adnan Al-Kahassie, who wound up in the WWF later that year as Gen. Adnan. Yukon John wound up in the WWF by years end as well, first as the Viking, then randomly changing his name to the Berzerker. He comes out to Creedence's Bad Moon Rising. ZUH?! Rules of the match: Slam your opponent either in or outside of the ring. Some goober tries to give us the "reasoning" behind this replacement, prompting Larry Zbyszko to scream "you suck." Baron ron Rashke walks around with John's head gear, acting like a senile old man. Make your own joke about AWA here. Lots of stalling after the bell. Even here, John Nord is acting like his future persona (or ripping off Bruiser Brody, whatever). Nord pounds away on Al-Kahassie in the corner. He sends Sheik Adnan to the floor with a shoulder... why is this match still going? It should've been over in 5-seconds. Zbyszko createds a distraction, allowing Sheik Adnan to rake the back. Nord no-sells it and boots him coming off the ropes. Al-Kahassie goes for a slam, but Nord blocks. Nord tries and Al-Kahassie hooks the ropes... END IT. Nord no-sells the senile grandpa's offense (no, not Rashke) and clubs away on him. John Nord finally plants him with a POWER-Slam for the victory at 8:37. Yes, that long for this putrid pile of pig puke. This slam match made Andre vs. Studd from WrestleMania look like a 5-star classic. Maybe the fact a pair of guys who weigh a combined 450 pounds in a slam match doesn't offer much drama.
Football Clash: The Trooper (Blitzers) vs. Mike Enos (Legends):
... What the unholy hell is this?! Lee Marshall: I'll try and explain the rules the best I can. That's a good sign. Looks like they are wearing Minnesota Vikings jerseys and helmets. Two kiddie-Soccer nets are set up in the corner, and the first man to score FIVE times by running across the designated line wins. There's also three lines in the center of the ring for penalties, and the person on offense has 45-seconds to score. Unbias referee "Benchwarmer" Bob Lurtsema is clearly bias in favor of the Trooper's fake claims of being a former NFL player. He tosses the ball like a basketball for the opening posession. He shoves Enos into the goal and gives posession to the Trooper. He plows through Enos for the first point. Enos first attempt is unsuccessful, and Trooper scores easily for a 2-0 lead. Next posession, Enos fumbles, and Trooper recovers to make it 3-0. Gorilla Monsoon would have a fit over the poor officiating in this "match." Enos works over the knee and casually scores his first point. Enos with more working of the leg and another easy point. Repeat and it's tied. Enos scores again, making it 4-3. After a long struggle, Trooper ties it at 4. For whatever reasons, Lurtsema tackles Enos, and Trooper recovers the ball to score the fifth and decisive point. What a complete joke. I'd rather see two men wrestle over a Turkey. No, I don't have that match on this disc, so apologies in advance.
Greco-Roman Match: Baron von Rashke (Blitzers) vs. Wayne Bloom (Legends):
Lee Marshall explains the rules: There will be three two-minute rounds with 30-second rest periods between them. There is to be no grappling below the waste. Pinfalls can be completed with only a one count. Points are awarded for takedowns and escapes. Sounds way too complicated for fake wrestling marks. Rashke was a young 50-years old at this point, and not looking a day older than 65. Rashke with a takedown, but Bloom hooks the ropes to avoid a pin. Rashke with another takedown for more points. Round 1 ends with Rashke leading on points. Bloom sweeps the leg, but that's not allowed in Greco-Roman Wrestling. Can't take away points when you've got zero. Bloom with a gutwrench suplex for two points. Baron with a takedown, but it looked more like a botched DDT. Baron wins that Round as well, and leads 9-2. Bloom with a takedown for two points. Baron with a takedown as time is close to expire. Enos runs in and helps double team Rashke to draw the Disqualification as Round 3 was about to end. Suddenly Paul Diamond and Tommy Jammer (who?) run in to make the save, but too little too late. At least it tried to be a wrestling match, even if it was boring as heck.
Six-Man; Tag Team Battle Royale
(The Texas Hangmen - Larry's Legends; Johnny Stewart & Unknown Soldier - Sarge's Snipers; Paul Diamond & Tommy Jammer - Baron's Blitzers)
Once again, Lee Marshall is here to give information on the stipulations, because EVERY MATCH has to be needlessly complicated. On top of being a standard battle royale, it's also a tag team battle royale, thanks to each of the three TCS Teams having two representatives, but there can only be ONE Winner... what the hell is the point of that? The Hangmen double team on Jammer, but can't toss him. Stewart heads to the top, only to be crotched across the buckle. Unknown Soldier misses a body press on Jammer and goes flying over at 2:30. Jammer tries to toss a Hangman, but Stewart throws Jammer out at 2:43. Stewart (heel) offers to work with Diamond against the Hangmen. I don't think he's sincere... for too long. Stewart with a pair of knees to a Hangmen, then goes to work on Diamond. Told ya'. Diamond skins the cat back in, dropkicks Stewart into the corner, then tosses him out at 3:17, leaving Diamond alone with the Texas Hangmen. Diamond with a double body press, but the numbers game catch up soon enough. Whip to the corner, and Diamond comes out with a double clothesline. Heel miscommunication has one Hangmen gone at 4:56. Diamond sends the other Hangman to the corner, but crotches himself across the middle turnbuckle. The Hangmen work over Diamond while Stewart, still hanging around ringside, distracts the referee. Diamond offers a comeback, but the eliminated Hangman pulls the ropes down, and Diamond meets the floor at 7:10, giving the match and points to Hangman #Whatever and Larry's Legends. Post-Match, Diamond and Stewart brawl. Standard battle royale action.
Beauty & The Beast Tag Match: Col. DeBeers & Magnificent Mimi (Snipers) vs. Baron von Rashke & Candi Devine (Blitzers):
This one has ugly written all over it. The ladies start the match, fighting over a wristlock. Mimi sweeps the leg through the legs (hey, so Triple H was actually teaching Trish something useful all those years ago). Mimi sends Devine across the ring with a slingshot. Whip to the ropes, and Devine hits her with a diving axehandle across the chest, followed by a slam for two. DeBeers tags in, so that brings in Rashke, GOOSE STEPPING to a babyface reaction. Rashke controls with a wristlock. DeBeers takes over until the fear of the Claw scares him out of the ring. Marshall brings up the Great American Turkey Hunt from November '89 (I guess that's when the pink room matches took place). The women go at it again, and we get a pinfall reversal sequene. Mimi rams Candi back into her corner, and DeBeers offers a little help behind the back of the referee. Mimi with a slam and splash for two. How does a splash from a 105 pound person hurt? Mimi continues working the arm, and DeBeers with more illegally double teaming. Devine comes off the ropes and gets pulled down by the hair. She manages to cradle Mimi, but DeBeers turns it over, and Mimi gets the three count at 7:57. That's two points for the Snipers! Match was pretty bad, and might as well have just been a ladies match, since DeBeers and Rashke spent a whole minute in the ring.
AWA Tag Team Championship Match:
The Destruction Crew © vs. The Trooper & Paul Diamond:
I don't know if this has anything to do with the Challenge Series, but the Crew are accompanied to the ring by Larry Zbyszko, their team Captain. Diamond and Trooper come to the ring to The Final Countdown. Hey, look, Benchwarmer Bob is back as special referee for this one. The Destruction Crew use We Will Rock You, which makes some sense with their gimmick, I guess. Enos and Bloom attack while the referee checks for any hidden objects. The challengers whip the Crew into each other, then hit a pair of atomic drops and dropkicks to clear the ring. They put on the Crew's jackets and prance around with their sledgehammers to add insult to injury. We stall for a couple of minutes, just because it's in the wrestling by-laws.
Things start proper, with the bell ringing again. Diamond unloads on Enos with uppercuts, complete with over-sell. Double back drop from the challengers, and the Trooper catches Enos off the ropes with a slam for two. Diamond with a snapmare and more rights for two. Whip to the ropes and Enos drives a knee into the chest. Bloom tags in and plants Diamond with a slam. He heads to the second rope and gets nailed coming down. Trooper with a powerslam for a quick two count, then slaps on a chinlock. Trooper ends up being trapped in the Champions corner and gets worked over. Enos sets for a back drop, but Trooper boots him on the chest. Trooper blocks a suplex from Enos and takes him over with one of his own. Diamond with a diving clothesline on Enos for a two count. Whip to the ropes, and Trooper connects with a dropkick for another two count. Trooper with a small package for two. Diamond with the super-kick, but Bloom interrupts a suplex attempt. The Crew sets up for the Doomsday Device, but Lurtsema pushes Enos and Diamond out of the way of it. It's a madhouse in the ring, with the referee getting physically involved, as well as Zbyszko. The bell FINALLY rings at 9:08, awarding the match to Diamond and Trooper, despite the fact the referee screwed over the Champions. Match was going OK until the spectacularly bad finish.
Taped Fist Match: Sgt. Slaughter (Snipers) vs. The Russian Brute (w/ Ox Baker) (Blitzers):
I have no clue who the Russian Brute is, but I'm sure he's probably not from Russia. I guess if Boris Zhukov (formerly Jerry Nelson) can be transformed into a Russian, then the AWA can make anyone a Russian. Apparently this is a match the AWA fans DEMANDED... via a 900-Hotline. Um, sure. Lockup into the ropes, Slaughter gives a clean break. The Brute isn't so nice, but he misses anyway. Slaughter with boots to the midsection, followed by an elbow. Slaughter with a snapmare and double stomp. The Brute reminds me of Dennis on It's Always Sunny when he put on fat-guy makeup to play the sexual predator that moves into the neighborhood. Ox Baker gets a few cheap shots in while the referee gives the Brute the business. Brute drops him throat first across the ropes for two. For a taped fist match, not a lot of punching. Whip to the corner, and the Brute misses a running knee. Slaughter stomps at the knee, because he has a history of leg submission holds at his disposal? The comeback is short lived, however. Slaughter works in his signature bump to the corner, carrying this match to 1/4* in the process. Slaughter counters the heart punch with boots to the gut. Slaughter slaps on the Cobra Clutch, but lets go to fight with Baker. We get heel miscommuncation, and Slaughter covers for three at 7:58. Terrible. Post-Match, Brute lays out Slaughter with a taped fist Heart Punch. Baron von Rashke comes out to help, despite the Brute being a member of his team. Post-Match interview, Rashke is pissed at Slaughter for DeBeers manhandling Candi Devine earlier.
Larry Zbyszko (AWA Champion) vs. Todd Becker:
Non-Title Match, of course. I'm still curious if certain matches awarded points, even if it's squash matches. I seem to recall Becker working some syndicated shows for WWF, being squashed like a bug. I guess that can be a lot of the AWA bottom feeders around this time. Even in a Squash Match, Zbyszko stalls like crazy. You would think he was paid by the minute, or something. Two minutes after the bell rings, and still no physical contact has been made. Zbyszko thumbs the eyes and takes Becker over with a snapmare. He connects with a suplex, followed by a back breaker for a two count. Zbyszko with a piledriver, and that wins it at 2:54. I can't wait to see that big blowoff to the World Title program (World? That belt was barely regional at this point) between Zbyszko and... um.... well, I guess no one of particular note. Lee Marshall dropped names like Nikita Koloff, Paul Orndorff, JYD, and Sgt. Slaughter, but honestly I could've sworn Orndorff and JYD were in WCW at this point.
One-Armed Bandit Challenge Match: Yukon John Nord (Blitzers) vs. Col. DeBeers (w/ Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie) (Snipers):
For whatever reasons, DeBeers comes to the ring to GnR's Welcome To The Jungle. Why is a South African White-Supremist managed by a Middle Eastern... Sheik. Lee Marshall is back to run down the rules of the match. Both Nord and DeBeers will be wrestling with one arm tied behind their backs. That's going to make for a wonderful match, eh? Why wasn't THIS a stipulation of the Taped Fist Match? We open things with shoulder blocks, won by Nord. They trade chops, with Nord again gaining the upperhand. Nord with a one-armed slam, with little effort, making the previous slam match even more ridiculous. Whip to the ropes and Nord connects with a dropkick for two. Nord with a diving shoulder tackle for another two count. They take turns ramming each other face-first into the canvas. Nord with a running boot, sending DeBeers to the floor. Sheik Adnan undoes the rope on Debeers, and coincidentally the refeee gets bumped. Nord crotches himself over the ropes and spills to the floor, then gets double teamedfor the Disqualification at 4:50. There's another 2 points for the Blitzers. I'll give them credit for trying to make a match out of the restricted nature of working with one hand behind your back, but don't be mistaken in thinking I'm saying it was good. Post-Match, Slaughter confronts DeBeers about being a jerk, and gets laid out wioth the briefcase full of "money."
- Closing out Part 1 with a Team Challenge Series Update! Basically, for everyone who is popping in and out for weekly broadcasts and needs to know what the scoreboard looks like, here's the update as of Mid-February 1990. The Baron's Blitzers leads the pack with 22 points (8 wins, 5 losses, 2 draws, and 4 DQ? What is that, extra points awarded for DQ victories?). The Trooper remains undefeated in TCS matches, and has netted them 11 points. Larry's Legends (7 wins, 8 losses, 1 draw) and Sarge's Snipers (7 wins, 9 losses, 1 draw) are tied with 15 points each. We've seen in recent weeks that Sarge's Snipers have picked up a few victories to crawl out of last place. We're heading into the final stretch of the TCS (bullcrap. It ended the last week of AUGUST) says Marshall. Who will end up on top to win 1 Million Dollars?
Final Thoughts: Anyone have a sneaky feeling that Vince Russo was watching these shows, thinking they were wonderful ideas? Joking aside, even in compilation form, the AWA seemed like a giant mess towards the end. The challenge series should've been an easy to follow idea, but instead we're never fully informed of the points system and what matches count towards the overall scoreboard. Match quality wise, there's so many lame gimmicks thrown out there for the sake of doing, with very little quality performances shining through. Looking ahead to Parts 2 and 3, I don't think there's going to be as many ridiculous matches, but I don't expect there to be any hidden classics, either.
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