Previously on the Best and Worst of NWA World Championship Wrestling: We closed out a banner 1985 with Dusty Rhodes promising to take out Flair and his cronies one-by-one, Jim Cornette promising to make the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express put the Tag Team Championship up against the Midnights, and Buddy Landel mysteriously leaving and dying on the way back to his home planet.
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And now, the Best and Worst of NWA World Championship Wrestling for January 4, 1986.
Best: A Heel/Face Dynamic That Works, And How To Justify A Good Man Doing Bad Things
A lot to take in this week, but it’s great.
In December, manager of the jobbers to the stars James J. Dillon (whose real name is “Jim Morrison,” not shitting you), lost his best client, National Champion “A Nature Boy” Buddy Landel, to substance abuse issues. Realizing he was never going to get to the top with Thunderfoot and Black Bart, Dillon decided to get ambitious and manipulate an already tense situation with Tully Blanchard and Baby Doll.
Over the past several weeks, especially since his big loss at Starrcade, Tully’s been struggling with the realities of “keeping” Baby Doll. You always assumed Tully just didn’t know how to be Ric Flair and hitched his wagon to one attainable lady who he called a “perfect 10” and treated like a zero, but the suggestion here is that Baby Doll’s basically a gold digger, Tully’s the best Horseman she can get, and Tully can’t get a girlfriend without paying her. Now that he’s struggling, he’s worried he can’t keep up the balance, and he’s going crazy. He’s wearing Magnum T.A.’s clothes.
Dillon’s plan is simple: prey on Tully’s insecurities by giving Baby Doll a flight to Acapulco for the holidays “from Tully,” not telling Tully, then denying the story when Baby Doll explains it. It erupts into Tully literally slapping her on television, a bridge too far, and Dusty Rhodes getting between them to defend her. He hates Baby Doll, sure, but this ties back to a situation from early in ’85 when she threw hands at Dusty and her instinctively slapped her back. He regrets that, so he’s trying to take a stand and make it right.
Meanwhile, Dusty Rhodes is on a mission. From the very first Best and Worst of NWA column:
At the Omni in Atlanta a little over a month before this episode, Flair was stuck in a cage getting his ass kicked by The Russians. I’ll explain them later. Dusty came to his aid, elbowing a bunch of Russians in the face and sending them packing. Dusty turned his attention to helping Flair recover, and that’s when Flair’s “cousins” The Andersons, Ole and Arn, stormed the ring, locked the cage door and broke Dusty’s ankle. These jerks are Vikings at breaking Dusty’s shit.
Now that Dusty’s back and at 100% and Flair and the Horsemen have screwed him out of an NWA World Heavyweight Championship at Starrcade ’85, he’s decided to do to them what they did to him and target and hurt them one at a time. The Horsemen have been interfering in each other’s matches and fights and just general running amuck, in an era when nobody really did that.
At a live event, Dusty used a figure-four leg lock and some devastating MMA-style kicks to break Ole Anderson’s leg. Three important notes: (1) the Horsemen did it first, so it’s a direct one-to-one attack that (2) Dusty announced in advanced and promised, so it’s not a sneak attack, it’s a receipt. A fulfillment. And (3) he’s smart enough to get help from the Road Warriors, who let Dusty do the actual leg breaking but stay in the ring to run interference and keep the Horsemen out.
The combination of Dusty helping out a lady he once hurt and attacking and injuring one of their own, the Four Horsemen have a redwood forest full of sticks up their ass about it and are in full Internet Commenter Stranger-mode with the HOW DARE HE and HYPOCRITE stuff. I think they’ve got like 10 separate interviews about it on this one episode. Tully will cut a promo, leave, wait a match, come back out and cut a meaner and more specific version of that same promo, leave, wrestle, come back and be like OH JEEZ ARN ANDERSON OH JEEZ RIC FLAIR MY TOUGHER FRIENDS, ISN’T IT SHITTY THAT DUSTY RHODES DID THAT TO OLE. They think it’s the most unprecedented, underhanded, unforgivable thing to do, possibly because they did it first so they know what they’re talking about.
Arn wants blood. Flair, unable to communicate like a human being, is out of his mind.
“Dusty Rhodes, I spent more money on spilt booze with Leona Helmsley last Sunday night sitting in my lap than you made in the last six months. That’s right. You know why? Because I am legitimately a big deal.”
Flair also adds a little gossip and lore to the situation by confirming what we all suspected: that Baby Doll originally wanted to be a Ric Flair groupie, but Flair can do better, so she settled for Tully Blanchard. Flair comes right out and says it, which means it’s definitely not true, but it’s perfect for the Flair/Tully dichotomy. Tully wants to be Flair so he hangs out with him and acts like him. Flair is willing to be nice to the guy and throw him scraps, but he’s Ric Flair, he doesn’t have time to think about Tully Blanchard unless it directly affects him. Now that Tully’s in Dusty’s face again and Flair’s trying to end the Starrcade World Title discrepancy AND keep Dusty from actually injuring all his cronies on his way to HIM, Flair’s got something to say.
The Baby Doll portion of his segment is really incredible.
“I never liked you to begin with! You understand that? I’ve seen better on the backside of the worst days of my life! And Tully Blanchard, I’m gonna put my arm around you, brother, I’m gonna walk you through society. Baby Doll, you remember the night in Philadelphia that you almost got to ride Space Mountain? You remember that? But out of respect to Tully Blanchard, I sent you to your room! EVEN THOUGH YOU KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK PLEASE LET ME IN SLICK RIC, PLEASE, NO NO BABY DOLL, NO SPACE MOUNTAIN TONIGHT.”
By the end of it he’s so wound up that he closes with, “God bless America and God bless Ric Flair, GO FOR IT, WOO!”
Meanwhile, the Road Warriors address their role in Ole’s injury by saying the corniest thing you can say as a post-apocalyptic leather daddy, which is that Ole has to wear earmuffs when he eats Rice Krispies because the “snap crackle and pop” reminds him of oh my God Hawk you are 6-3 270, stop talking like a first grader’s idea of a Batman villain and threaten to punch someone to death.
The Warriors are still on a collision course with the Russians and are so tired of getting jumped 3-on-2 that they’re only going to wrestle teams of 3 now to make sure they’re prepared. That’s one of the pro-wrestling toughest things I’ve ever heard.
This week, their opponents are the jobber Suicide Squad of (from left to right) poorest man’s Larry Zbyszko Gene Ligon, pro wrestling’s Umaro Mark Hunt, and my cousin Josh Stroud. Also, shout-out to baby Randy Anderson on the far right. Dude’s so young he looks like Gallagher in his prime. He should’ve reffed on roller skates.
The Road Warriors beat them in seconds with clotheslines, because of course they do. After the match, they go full Lee Marshall and declare the Russians as “weasels,” and themselves as “weasel slappers.” They even make a t-shirt about it, despite not knowing how to spell weasel.
It’s like George Miller’s 1-800-COLLECT Road Report.
Best: The Midnight Express Are The Worst
You know how I’ve mentioned that the Midnight Express didn’t just beat people up, they gave them these theatrical beatings they’d never forget? This week’s show features one of those, via footage from a live event in which Bobby Eaton holds Ricky Morton’s arm over the top rope, Dennis Condrey holds Morton’s opposite leg so he’s hanging but off-balance, and Jim Cornette beats Morton to death with a tennis racket.
The best part of this, other than the visual, is Cornette’s explanation. They want the NWA World Tag Team Championship, so their idea was to either make the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express mad enough that they’d put the belts on the line against them, or injure Morton so the titles would get held up in a tournament, which they’d easily win. Sometimes it really helps to have a charismatic heel show up and say, “this is why we did what we did, this is how it affects the show, and here’s how it made sense.”
Best/Worst: Harley Race Looks Like A Cauliflower That Became Sergeant In A Movie About Food That Comes To Life
The final major story of the week is that legendary NWA Champion Harley Race is back, and he’s decided to use his out-of-control drunk uncleness to defeat United States Champion Magnum T.A. He’s held the world’s title more than any man on the planet at this point, and notes that it’s “not that plastic garbage” you see today. C’mon, Harl, you don’t need to shade the National Championship just because the previous champion got fired for doing drugs and Dusty Rhodes booked himself to win it off-screen at an imaginary house show.
Harley faces living gummy bear Tony Zane, and it’s crazy to see two of the best body guys of their era squaring off.
Later in the show, Magnum wrestles The Barbarian, and Harley sits in on commentary to mispronounce every second word. He alternately calls the dude “Bubbarian” and “Bavarian,” and mentions his wrestling history in “Greensburg” North Carolina. It’s pretty pretty pretty lousy.
Anyway, the ref gets bumped as Magnum’s about to win the match, bringing Paul Jones into the ring to hit him in the throat with a cane. With the ref down, Harley races to the ring and counts the three himself. It doesn’t count, but, y’know, heel moral victories. Magnum tries to fight back after the match and gets beaten down, and headbutted from two top ropes simultaneously a la Ready To Rumble.
If you’re wondering why you don’t remember this story, it’s because (1) Harley was already a little past his prime here, and (2) it’s mostly to set up house show matches that we never see. Harley weirdly beats Magnum in “Greensburg” that night to set up a non-title cage match against Flair the next month, which he also wins. And then he beats Flair in a tag match the next month, and then he’s gone again. Harley Race invented modern WWE part-timer booking!
The Rest Of The Jobbers Lightning Round
Up first, poor Thunderfoot has been demoted from the Four Horsemen to Raw and must now go fullest-jobber and team with Jim Jeffers against The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. Jeffers of course totally shits the bed and loses to a double dropkick in a matter of minutes. It’s no country for old Thunderfeet.
If you’re wondering what MAC Jeffers is up to in this episode, and there’s no way you are, even if you’re Mac or Jim Jeffers, he gets teabagged by Ronnie Garvin after an Iron Fist-style stone punch. I make a lot of fun of him, but honestly, Garvin’s pretty fun to watch. He’s like Magnum T.A. in the body of a five-foot-tall high school lunch lady.
As we mentioned, Arn is out for blood, so he gets it from Kent Glover. If you Kent Glover, you must acquit.
Manny Fernandez defeats Larry Clark with a Flying Burrito.
In case you weren’t around for this time period and think I’m making a joke about Manny Fernandez’s heritage, that was the actual move name. Which kinda rules when you think about it, because what better way to describe a flying forearm than, “it’s like someone made a big burrito and threw it at your face.” Just 260 pounds of hot Manny Fernandez to the dome.
This is an anagram, right?
Cowboy Ron Bass wins the match and goes to the pay window, because the NWA doesn’t have enough money to pay the entire Bill Tabb.
In tag team action, Sam Houston and Nelson Royal team up against Steely Dan members Don Turner and Pablo Crenshaw, and I mostly just want to post a screencap and point out that Houston and Royal might be the worst looking tag team of all time. Royal looks like Carl from Up and Houston looks like … Dug from Up.
It’s like a grandpa wrestling with his pre-teen grandson. It’s like a Bill Murray movie as a tag team.
Finally, If You Get Nothing Else From This Report, Please Remember That Jimmy Valiant’s Elbow Drop Is The Worst Move In Wrestling
Look at that impact. The skin on the guy’s chest almost moved!