Previously on the Best and Worst of NWA World Championship Wrestling: NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair assured the women of the world that despite his busy schedule, he would make time to have sex with them — all of them — on Christmas morning.
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And now, the Best and Worst of NWA World Championship Wrestling for December 28, 1985.
Best: Marquee Matches
Who knew that booking good matches featuring good wrestlers and using them to advance your stories made the show better?
This week is the final show of 1985 and the end of the TBS SuperStation Championship Challenge Series, which means we’re taking a break from our weekly two hours of high-level jobber termination to promote two main-event matches: United States Champion Magnum T.A. vs. one half of the National Tag Team Champions Ole Anderson, and Ric Flair defending the 10 Pounds of Gold against 240 pounds of borium, Ron Garvin.
The first of those is Magnum vs. Ole, and man, it’s so clearly the best weekly television match I’ve reviewed for these World Championship Wrestling reports in a walk. I like how the narratives kinda rose up to meet one another. On one side you’ve got Magnum T.A., who has been absolutely burning through enhancement talent in 15-second “belly-to-belly, that’s it” matches for months. On the other you’ve got Ole Anderson, the most experienced but arguably the least important Horseman, who has connections to all the top-level guys Magnum and Dusty really hate — Flair, Tully, Arn — and has been taking his time ripping jobber limbs from jobber torsos in singles and tag matches. So Magnum is forced to really work, based on Ole’s ability to meticulously dissect his opponents and keep them from any big bursts of offense, and Ole looks like a million bucks, win or lose, because even getting this deep into a match with Magnum feels like an accomplishment.
Magnum appears to have the match won with an axe-handle off the ropes, but time expires mid-three-count. The NWA LOVED the “aw nuts, time expired as you were being pinned” spot. As a kid, it felt like every third match ended with a time limit draw due to bad timing. But yeah, by this time Arn Anderson and Dusty Rhodes have wandered out to complain, and Jim Crockett has to restart the match. He promised that all Championship Challenge Series matches would end by pinfall or submission, and this is the last one, so it must continue.
The sudden death vibe of the match causes the tertiary players to get involved, so Arn ends up tripping Magnum, and Dusty meanders over to punch him in the face about it. Ole gets upset at Dusty battering Arn, and Magnum’s able to roll him up for three. And while I normally hate distraction roll-ups, they weren’t the insanely common thing in 1985 that they are now, especially not in the NWA, so it doesn’t feel like a cop-out. Plus, Magnum already had the match won straight-out when the time limit expired, and — I can’t stress this enough — Arn made the first move, cheating to help Ole, which caused Dusty to have an instant, in-the-moment excuse to get involved himself, and the Anderson hubris came back to bite them. These kinds of segments work when there’s an A-to-B-to-C cause and effect layout to the situations involved that don’t rely on you externally thinking, “well, one of them is bad in general, so he deserves it.” Earn that shit, guys.
Later in the show, Flair takes on Garvin. As you might expect from a televised Ric Flair match, he gets frustrated about 15 minutes in and starts taking shortcuts. If you’ve never seen Flair and Garvin wrestle, it’s notable for them chopping the shit out of each other. Garvin never had Magnum’s look or Dusty’s charisma or … anything, really, but he was tough, rugged you might say, and it showed.
So yeah, they’re practically knocking the referee around to get to each other, and Flair escapes by atomic-dropping Garvin onto the top rope. That doesn’t draw a disqualification, so Flair just grabs the ref by the shirt and hurls him across the ring. He then starts STANDING ON GARVIN’S THROAT, because if you can’t beat them, manslaughter them, and eventually Dusty hits the ring and has officially Had Enough Of This Shit™. Dusty puts a whipping on Flair and locks him in the Figure Four, which turns out to be a big mistake. He leaves himself open for an attack from the Andersons, and with Garvin down and the Horsies holding the high ground, not even support from the locker room red-shirts. They try to re-break Dusty’s leg, and only fail because Magnum and the red panty party recover simultaneously and can fight them off.
Dusty, Magnum and Rugged Ronald start destroying the interview area trying to “make room” for Flair and the Horsemen to get back out here and continue the fight, but they’ve already cut their promos and bailed.
You don’t say?
Again, all of this shows the importance of Ric Flair to the National Wrestling Alliance in the 1980s. Dusty Rhodes was a huge, charismatic star, but Ric Flair was the man, and any episode with Flair on it is exponentially better than any episode without. It’s going to sound like I’m insulting him or giving him a backhanded compliment at best, but Flair really was to the NWA as John Cena is to WWE now. He’s the only guy they’ve got who is really, nationally, socially important. Love him or hate him, he’s on top for a reason.
And how could you possibly hate him when he’s dropping the best of all Ric Flair catchphrases — “what’s causin’ all this?” — and turning Tony Schiavone into the Pillsbury Doughboy by touching him?
If you’re wondering what’s going on with Tully during all of this, he’s cutting suspiciously low-key promos and suspiciously not combing his hair while the announcers wonder where Baby Doll is. This becomes important later.
J.J. Dillon shows up near the end of the show and subtweets Buddy Landel, talking about how he’s being forced to refocus and find a new, better client for 1986. He also (suspiciously) kisses Tully Blanchard’s ass, saying that Tony and David Crockett “overstepped their bounds” as announcers by wondering where Baby Doll was, and saying he “personally handled the travel arrangements to Acapulco” so Baby Doll could have a rest at the end of the year.
As it turns out, Dillon actually bought Baby Doll the tickets and sent her on the trip without Tully’s permission, then sells her out and pretends he doesn’t know what she’s talking about when she tries to explain herself … because Tully is the client Dillon wants to focus on in the new year, and he can’t do that when he’s got “bought and paid for” Baby Doll in the mix. That sets up the still shocking segment from Worldwide where Tully smacks Baby Doll in the face and tries to drag her to the back by her hair until Dusty steps in. Starrcade has Tully in a total spiral, Dillon’s an opportunist, and Dusty will stick up for someone he hates if he has to. Perfect character work, and a great look back at a time when being an asshole got you booed and made people want to see you get your ass kicked instead of making them laugh and buy your t-shirt.
Best: The NWA Invents Taboo Tuesday
All in all, this is to set up February’s The Superstars on the Superstation, a TBS special of dream matches voted on by the fans. As you might’ve already put together, this concept turns into the Clash of the Champions, and I wish WWE Network had the original show in the archives somewhere. We end up with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express vs. the Midnight Express, the Road Warriors vs. the Russians, Dusty vs. Tully and a Flair vs. Garvin rematch. Sadly my one vote for “Bill Mulkey vs. Randy Mulkey, Iron Man Match” was not enough to get it on the show.
The Rest Of The Jobbers Lightning Round
I know I’ve made fun of poor Tony Zane in the past, but look at that guy. I’m not trying to body shame anybody as I’ve got the physique of a pear that’s been left in the bowl a little too long, but Tony Zane might have the worst body in wrestling history. Look at all those little bruises on him. He looks like Donny Osmond checked into the Overlook Hotel and died in the bath tub.
Zane loses to Sam Houston, which is a lot like losing a game of checkers to a dog.
Rod Farva’s gay dads Mac and Jim Jeffers each have matches again this week, most notably Jim’s effort against Black Bart. It’s so boring that even Bart is about to fall asleep during it, and nearly forgets to kick out of a cradle a few minutes in. Bart wins with a flying leg drop so weak that if you did it in WWE Champions, it would give you extra blocks. And they’d all be beige.
Arn Anderson defeats George South. George South couldn’t beat Arn Anderson if you gave him riot gear and a handgun.
Up next is the first of two jobber vs. jobber showdowns, because it’s the last show of the year and we’ve got to get our money’s worth out of their red underoos. The first is Mac Jeffers vs. Rocky King. Rocky wins with a powerslam.
Rocky King is an unusual story, if you don’t know it. Basically he was a homeless guy who started hanging out around the wrestlers and the studio trying to get a job. Eventually Jimmy Valiant felt bad for him and started training him — because of his “fondness for street people,” according to the announcers — so he became a jobber. And he was shockingly okay at it, considering that he was the “golden voiced homeless man” as a wrestling gimmick 20 years too early. He sticks around long enough to be turned into a pre-Johnny B. Badd Little Richard gimmick by the Fabulous Freebirds, and rides out the ’90s as a referee. That’s officially the most anyone’s ever gotten from hanging out with Jimmy Valiant, non-disease division.
Later, we get The Italian Stallion vs. Pablo Crenshaw in a match that sounds like you’re reading a music festival poster and got to the smaller names at the bottom. “Ooh, Italian Stallion is playing at 1PM. And if we stick around we can catch Pablo Crenshaw on the pink stage at 3!”
Velveteen Dream should be booked as El Hijo del Pablo Crenshaw. I think the highlight of his entire career is Jim Cornette calling him “Pablo Cruise.” Italian Stallion — pronounced “tyin’ styin'” by David Crockett — wins with his legendary finisher, the Powerslam He Can Barely Get Around For.
I’m going to type more about the Midnight Express below, but I wanted to give some love to Mark Cooper in this section. How is he out here looking sadder than Tony Zane? Dude looks like when you take Trevor clothes shopping in Grand Theft Auto V and put him in the most ridiculous thing you can find. “Purple onesie with suspenders? Perfect.”
Best: The Midnight Hour
The greatest of the jobber trouncers, arguably even greater than the Andersons, are the Midnight Express, Beautiful Bobby and Loverboy Dennis. What they lacked in the Andersons’ technical brutality they made up for by being the biggest shitheads on the planet. The Midnights would just TOY with guys, and would break an opponent just to throw him into his corner and let the other guy tag in to get the same. They got so, so much mileage out of a gimmick that was essentially, “a mama’s boy televangelist manages two ugly dudes who say they’re handsome, named after a Turkish prison drama from 1978.” I just wanted to point out the amazing way Condrey is pinning Cooper here. He’s covering his mouth and nose with his hand, and sitting on his throat.
As a bonus, Jim Cornette cuts an amazing promo where he offers Tony Schiavone a tie covered in tennis rackets, says what he wants to say, then takes the tie back because he “kinda likes it.” His plan is to come out and call the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express “every kind of dog-faced, stinkin’ yellow coward” until they’re “so ashamed” they have to put the tag titles on the line against the Midnights. He sticks around during their match to cut like, three minutes of non-stop promo that makes the announce team ask him to stop and take a breath. It’s really sad that Cornette’s become such an icon of codger-ass holier-than-thou purist wrestling and getting people hot about bullshit on the Internet, because outside of maybe Bobby Heenan he’s the best heel manager of all time.
1986 begins with the official creation of the greatest heel faction in NWA history (a couple of months after they figured out the name), Dusty Rhodes magically wins a championship belt from a guy he fired, Harley Race shows up for some reason, and Ric Flair has sex with one of the most prominent tyrannical businesswoman of the 1980s.
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