The Best And Worst Of NWA World Championship Wrestling 11/16/85: More Cowbell

Previously on the Best and Worst of NWA World Championship Wrestling: “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes returned from injury to discuss thieves’ honor, because there is no honor among thieves anyway. We were also graced with an appearance from THUNDERFOOT, a man who can channel the power of thunder in his foot, but only if he’s allowed to stand in the middle of the ring and stomp for five minutes without being touched.

Click here to watch this week’s episode on WWE Network. You can catch up with all the previous episodes on the Best and Worst of World Championship Wrestling tag page.

Remember, if you like this column and want to see it keep going, your job is to share it around on social media, tell people to read it, and drop down into our comments section to talk about it. These columns are doing surprisingly well, so help me keep writing about them at least until Starrcade ’89, when you find out who survives to become the wrestler of the ’90s.

And now, the Best and Worst of NWA World Championship Wrestling for November 16, 1985.

This Week’s Theme

So far, every episode of NWA World Championship Wrestling we’ve recapped has had an underlying sexual theme. The first episode was all about forced kissing, and the second featured way too much teabagging. This week’s theme? Being stripped naked against your will.

During last week’s Boogie Woogie Jimmy Valiant roller rink promo, Valiant promised to “strip each and every stitch” of Jim Cornette and the Midnight Express’ clothes, giving a solemn oath to the people (?) that they’ll be “nekkid as they day they was born.” This week, we get two additional promos about how everyone in the Atlanta Street Fight is going to be super naked.

Valiant opens the show against the only person in the company with a worse look than Jimmy Valiant, Tony Zane. Valiant wins without breaking a sweat (or even pausing his dancing) with a regular elbow drop, because Tony Zane’s a human pimple that explodes into pus if you touch him wrong.

After the match, Jim Cornette shows up to explain what a stupid decision it is to bring a woman to a street fight and plans to prove it by, you guessed it, stripping Jimmy Valiant, Big Mama and Miss Atlanta Lively nude. Actual wrestling story: “You’re going to make ME naked? I’ll make YOU naked!”

Later in the show, Valiant returns in a leather motorcycle helmet to insist that no, it is in fact JIM CORNETTE who will be naked. He says he’s been to Jupiter, Mars, Pluto and Saturn after having spent a few nights with Big Mama and Ron Garvin in drag. So he has to know it’s Ron Garvin by now, right? There’s no confusion? Is this secretly a progressive parable about a grandpa discovering he loves dick? Sure man, you do you.

The look on Tony Schiavone’s face says it all. Dude looks like he’s moments away from being boogie-fucked by a hillbilly werewolf. I don’t remember how the Atlanta Street Fight actually ends, but I’m 80% sure the world’s ugliest orgy breaks out.

Before We Continue, Let’s Talk About This Shirt

During one of Valiant’s public humiliation fantasy rants, the camera cuts to the crowd and finds a lady wearing a shirt that says BOOGIE’S THE BEST [REDACTED] [REDACTED].” I mean, unless she tried to draw Groucho eyebrows on her stomach and doesn’t have any depth perception. But yeah, what does that shirt actually say? Is it curse words for emphasis they had to make her black out since she was gonna be on TV? Does it say STRIP ME OF THIS T-SHIRT AND MAKE ME NAKED? I need to solve this mystery.

Best: The Russians Are Amazing

I wrote about this a little last week, but so far the big revelation in this 1985 rewatch is that the Russians are wonderful, and aside from Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair’s respective wardrobes are my favorite parts of the show.

Last week, they brought out a picture of them holding the 6-man Tag Team Championship trophy, because they’d decided the people in the crowd weren’t deserving of seeing it in real life. This week, they respond to the Starrcade challenge of the Rock n’ Roll Express by bringing them a video tape of FUNERAL HOME REGULATIONS. The fact that it’s so non-specifically threatening is the best part.

One of the hallmarks of these 1980s NWA shows is the “promo on everybody.” On modern wrestling shows, characters are locked into feuds with one guy and that’s all they can talk about. The feuds exist in little segregated bubbles, and characters don’t interact with anyone new until that bubble bursts. On this show, though, everybody has something to say about EVERYBODY. The Russians don’t just cut a promo on the Rock n’ Roll Express, they namedrop all the other faces to keep the universe together. Nikita is like, “Road Warrior Animal strongest man in wrestling, Nikita A LITTLE BIT STRONGER.” When the Horsemen show up, they run down Dusty, Magnum, the Road Warriors, each other sometimes, the works. It’s a great, easy reminder that these characters all exist in the same world, and makes their intermingled interactions fresh and understandable. Anybody can launch into a hot match with anybody, because they’re constantly setting it up. WWE could seriously learn a lesson from this.

After the promo, the Russians get two extended, lariat-heavy squashes:

Krusher Kruschev defeats Larry Clark, who went on to direct Kids. I’m kidding, but man, I wish it was the same guy. Wrestler Larry Clark is an AWA and Mid-South jobber who dressed like Toshiaki Kawada and did absolutely nothing else like Toshiaki Kawada.

Ivan and Nikita Koloff murder Rocky King and Adrian Bevins. King is subbing in for Bevins’ usual six-man tag team partners, Bell and DeVoe.

Note: Rocky King’s shining moment would come five years later, when he became WCW’s first attempt at a Little Richard gimmick, “Little Richard Marley.” He was briefly the manager slash Sephora representative for the Fabulous Freebirds, and I’m guessing he’s called that because Little Richard and Bob Marley were the only two black people Michael Hayes could name. The angle ends a few months later with the Freebirds beating him up, because … uh, similar reasons.

Best: Jobber One-Upsmanship

A big theme of mid-80s NWA shows is two stars set to face each other for actual stakes on a big arena show proving their dominance over one another by seeing who could brutally end jobbers the hardest.

The Russians took out their frustrations about the Road Warriors on King and Bevins, so The Road Warriors (sadly without ‘Iron Man’ … thanks, WWE Network!) take out theirs on Mac and Jim Jeffers, the pre-mod Mod Squad. It’s easy to hate on the Legion of Doom for pretty much everything they did in the ’90s, but the ’80s Road Warriors were the spiked shoulder-pad tits. They’re like The Godfather. They’ve been redone and parodied and ripped off so many times now it’s hard to see how great and influential they were. Here, in a land of average looking guys with realistic relationships and goals, the Road Warriors were chaotic, violent nutjobs with weird hair and weird facepaint who screamed at you about the streets until their newspaper-reading Truman Capote manager instructed them to kill you. Everybody’s like, “holy shit, I need to stay away from these guys. Can I wrestle Terry Taylor instead? Please?”

After their win, the Warriors cut a borderline-incoherent promo about how they’re going to kick everyone’s butts for mentioning them, and shake so hard during it they shake off their studded collars. Seriously, there are few things more frightening to 1980s wrestling fans than, “WE ARE THE TOUGHEST AND STRAIGHTEST DUDES AT THE GAY CLUB, WE ARE HERE BECAUSE WE LIKE THE VIBE, TALK SHIT AND WE’LL CHOKE YOU TO DEATH WITH OUR TRAPS.”

The second example of jobber one-upsmanship involves Tully Blanchard and Magnum T.A., because of course it does.

Early in the show, Tully cuts a great promo about how Magnum doesn’t know how to be successful, because he looks like an idiot and drives around on an old rusted motorcycle instead of investing some of his winnings money in his lifestyle. This is Tully Blanchard, mind you, who spends most of his time in a Halloween costume bootleg of one of Ric Flair’s robes. Tully says he went to Virginia Beach to where Magnum trained and learned a little secret about him, and that at Starrcade, Magnum will be begging “Master Tully” to put him out of his misery. Spoiler alert: the secret thing Tully learned is, “Magnum hates being stabbed in the face with spikes.”

Later, he gets a dominant win over Sheamus’ inner child, Jimmy Black. It takes him a few minutes, but mostly because he’s screwing around to make a point.

Magnum’s response? Bell, belly-to-belly, bell.

After the match, Magnum’s like, “I don’t care if you know my secrets, I’ve got more heart than you, and I’m gonna beat your ass at Starrcade.” I love the continued, subtle story that Tully’s a try-hard trying to back up a reputation he’s mostly earned by proxy of hanging out with people cooler and better than him, and that Magnum is a supremely confident dude who doesn’t need to prove anything, and will only truly lose if he lets Tully’s bullshit get to him.

Under: Barbarian Is Still Pinning People Like He’s A Dog Going To The Bathroom On Them

Here’s a picture of the Barbarian pinning George South, and by “pinning” I mean “taking a dump on the chest of.” It’s like he’s trying to teabag his soul.

After the match, Paul Jones explains that the Barbarian has a major hand injury, diagnosed by a doctor he won’t specify, and that because of this, the arm wrestling match with Superstar Billy Graham will now happen with their left arms instead of their right. You know, because Barbarian’s strong with both arms, and Graham’s stronger with his right. They’re playing the damn arm wrestling arm percentages, because Paul Jones is pretty much hateful Moe Howard if he didn’t have any friends to blame.

Other less important notes on the show:

Southern steroid mannequin Billy Jack Haynes continues his winning ways with a submission victory over Gerald Finley. The most interesting part is probably the referee, college Barack Obama.

We get to meet Outlaw Ron Bass for the first time in a promo that puts over the concept of a bullrope match faster and better than any I’ve ever seen. Bass, who is basically Elizabeth Olsen to the Blackjacks’ Mary-Kate and Ashley, says the idea for the match came from Dusty Rhodes, who created it because (and I’m paraphrasing) he thinks cowboys murdering each other in a cowboy way is super entertaining.

So Bass is like, “I’M GONNA CHOKE YOU TO DEATH WITH THIS ROPE, THEN I’M GONNA TIE UP YOUR BODY AND BEAT YOU IN THE HEAD WITH THE COWBELL, AND THEN I’M GONNA USE THE JAGGED EDGE OF THE BELL TO CUT YOU TO PIECES,” and Tony Schiavone’s brain is like, “goddamn, I thought cowboy fights were just somebody getting punched once and jumping backwards into a card table.”

This badass moment of Adults Fighting is undermined a little by the followup match, where Bass takes way too long to beat Paul Gardner because he gets 100% of his energy drained from applying a side headlock. If you’re making Outlaw Ron Bass in WWE 2K17 (you aren’t), set his stamina and recovery to zero. He wins when he’s able to put his hand on Gardner’s face, and Gardner flops around like a dying fish so the referee will let him stop wrestling.

Note: I really hope Westworld becomes a real thing, so I can pay $40,000 a day to walk around the old west in nothing but a cowboy hat, a leather vest, fingerless gloves and some black underpants. I’m gonna make that wrestling cowpoke aesthetic work for me.

Best: Our Main Event Story

Finally, we have the core story of the episode, building up the Starrcade ’85 main event of Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes for the Heavyweight Championship. This is accomplished via a Dusty Rhodes promo, a match, and three (3) Ric Flair promos. If you’re bringing in the NWA Champion for a taping, you might as well get your money’s worth.

In the first, a pre-match, sparkly robed Ric Flair

1. reminds David Crockett that his championship belt costs more than Crockett’s car
2. says Dusty Rhodes’ recovery timeline is total bullshit
3. says “fat, pot-bellied” men at home can’t handle him because he stresses them out about what’s happening in “big time athletics”
4. threatens the Road Warriors if they agree to team with Dusty
5. buries the AWA as “rejects”

That leads to this week’s Championship Series match, which teams Flair with the Andersons in the complete Minnesota Wrecking Crew against an all-star squadron of Jobbers To The Stars: Terry Taylor, Mr. Atlanta Lively Ron Garvin and “Pistol” Pez Whatley.

There are two great things about this match. The first is how the Horsemen give the admittedly pretty lame babyfaces a ton of offense, sell their asses off for them and make them look like equals. They get the idea that if you make your opponent look good, you look BETTER for having beaten an actual challenging opponent. If you totally squash somebody, what have you accomplished, really? You beat a guy everybody knew you could beat. If you make the chump look great and do something smart, smarmy or cool to pull out the win, you look tough or crafty or shifty as hell.

The second great thing is how Flair portrays himself as equals to the Andersons, even though he’s clearly above them in the pecking order. He’s in here doing just as much work as them, which elevates them to HIS level. So Flair uses his power and influence to make his friends look as good as Ric Flair, and three Ric Flairs work together to make three average dudes look like they’re Dusty Rhodes and the Road Warriors. Flair even cheats to beat them, but only a little. He gets knocked out of the ring, trips up Pez and holds Pez’s foot for JUST long enough for Arn to get the three. No big theatrics, just a smart guy using his experience and the referee’s line of sight to give his team an unfair advantage. THAT’S how you book a heel. They’re good enough to win, good enough at what they do in the ring to make every match feel like a battle, and take shortcuts when they absolutely didn’t have to. It’s just easier. And then you compare them to more noble characters that are just as good, don’t take shortcuts, and are occasionally cheated because of it. Then, you build to that character getting the win they deserve over the character that’s proven they don’t. Motivation, logic, and a sequence of entertaining moments understanding and utilizing both.


Here’s Dusty Rhodes, looking exactly like Ray Jackson from Bloodsport.

… Tony can kinda pass for Frank Dux, too.

But yeah, no, Dusty’s here to take the common man’s position yet again and call Flair’s bluff. He says Flair’s got a yellow streak so long it continues onto his cousin’s backs, and says Flair’s only got two weeks of money left because he won’t stop buying jet flies and limousine rides and diamond whatevers like an asshole. He’s, uh, not wrong. He says Arn Anderson’s time is coming — Arn stole Dusty’s Television Championship without actually winning it, and is just carrying it around saying it’s his — and promises to break Flair’s leg at Starrcade, so he’ll spend the next year on the disabled list learning what Hard Times are. Dusty is HOT FIRE.

That brings the Horsemen back out, and they cut a sweaty, post-match post-showers about how it is actually DUSTY who is the ball-lickers. The highlight here is clearly Ric Flair’s “I do it with Flair” shirt, the ancestor of his daughter’s first WWE tee. It makes a lot more sense when it’s being worn by a braggy hypersexual hip-hop 40-year old and not by a lady who hugs all the people she hates, but in this context it still might as well say, “I MASTURBATE.”

The Horsemen collect themselves and come back at the end of the show as a unit for a more level-headed, “it’s fine, we’re the best” speech, but get interrupted by Dusty Rhodes and Magnum T.A.:

In a booking moment that would make an Italian chef kiss his own fingertips, the Horsemen start taking off their jackets and getting ready for a fight, because it’s set to be 4-on-2. Then the Road Warriors run out, tired of being shaded for an hour and a half, and stand beside Dusty and Magnum. When it’s 4-on-4, the Horsemen back down. BEAUTIFUL.

Not only is that a perfect statement on why you should boo one team and cheer the other, it allows the Horsemen to stay threatening and not be COMPLETELY neutered — they’ll only fight when they have the high ground, which is both smart AND situationally cowardly — and it ties together all the major stories from the episode. Flair and Dusty hate each other. Magnum and Tully hate each other. Flair threatened the Road Warriors if they agreed to back up Dusty, so they called his bluff. Now the Andersons are drawn into a beef with the scariest team on the roster because of Flair’s mouth. All the allegiances make sense, the stories intersect, the crowd is HYPE to see them fight, and we’re still two weeks away from Starrcade.