The Best And Worst Of NWA World Championship Wrestling: Superstars On The SuperStation

Previously on the Best and Worst of NWA World Championship Wrestling: We met Wee Willie Wilkens, one of the most legendary jobbers of the era for all the wrong reasons, and imagined what Ric Flair would look like in blue jeans.

This week’s actual World Championship Wrestling show is nothing but jobber squashes, so we’re going off-Network (gasp) to bring you a write-up of Superstars On The SuperStation, more or less a televised house show concept that became the Clash of the Champions. You can catch up with all the previous episodes of World Championship Wrestling on the Best and Worst of NWA World Championship Wrestling tag page.

Note! If you don’t follow us on social or haven’t picked up on it yet, we’re trying an experiment where we post one of these columns every Saturday afternoon at 6:05 Eastern, like the SuperStation would do. 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.

And now, the Best and Worst of NWA World Championship Wrestling: Superstars on the SuperStation for February 7, 1986, live (in public, if you will) from The Omni in Atlanta.

Before We Begin

As mentioned in the intro (which you totally read through carefully), “Superstars on the SuperStation” was, more or less, a televised house show boasting “dream matches” voted on by fans that created the template for the Clash of the Champions. It’s important to remember that when this event took place, you couldn’t see star vs. star matches ANYWHERE outside of live events, and there was only one “pay-per-view” (Starrcade, on closed-circuit) a year. So getting to see stars fight stars in important matches on free TV was a pretty huge deal.

The live broadcast only featured four matches, but here’s a quick rundown of everything else that happened. Ron Bass and The Barbarian fought to a draw, Baron Von Raschke defeated The Italian Stallion in a rematch from World War II, and Boogie Woogie Man Jimmy Valiant defeated Arn Anderson via what I can only assume was second-hand embarrassment.

Your hosts for the event are Linda Curry and Magnum T.A., who (1) has never been asked to talk about ANYTHING for two hours before, (2) has no idea who Linda Curry is and (3) very obviously would rather have Abdullah the Butcher peel his forehead open with a fork than spend another second asking Linda goddamn Curry what she thinks of the “great action here tonight.”

I don’t have a lot of info about Linda Curry, except that she combines the inquisitive journalism of Susan Saint James with the good looks of Ron Perlman’s character Vincent from Beauty and the Beast.

Best: Let’s Get The Only Thing That Actually Happens Out Of The Way First

The best thing on the show by far, which you could’ve guessed if I’d given you less than one attempt, is the NWA Tag Team Championship match between the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and the Midnight Express. While it’s far from the best match the teams ever have and doesn’t include a lot of the signature tag spots the pairing becomes known for, it does elevate the teams as characters by having them drop the bullshit, get nasty and brawl over personal issues. Remember, Cornette tried to crush Morton’s throat a few weeks ago, so even the do-gooder Rock ‘n’ Rolls are out for blood.

I think the best part of the rivalry between these teams is that they’re such equals. Honestly, the Midnights don’t cheat that much. On a completely even playing field, there might not be two more evenly matched teams to have ever hated each other’s guts. Cornette is the difference, though, so when the match goes on for a while and the beatings the Midnights are laying into Ricky Morton don’t seem to be able to keep him down, they lose their confidence and go for the shortcuts. Cornette’s tennis racket comes into play, and it’s almost a melee between two halves to see who can claim the whole.

By the time the RNRs hit a double dropkick on Beautiful Bobby, David Crockett is losing. his. mind. Pee Wee Anderson gets bumped, though, because of course he does, and it becomes tennis racket hot potato as Cornette gets in the ring and everything goes crazy. Bobby gets whacked and cleared out of the ring, but Morton gets distracted by Cornette and gets it worse (to the back of the head), and the Midnights shock the world by winning the straps on free TV.

There’s also a fantastic post-match interview with the Midnights backstage, where Cornette and Condrey play Weekend with Bernies with Bobby Eaton’s body as he keeps unconsciously slumping into the floor. “Bobby’s okay! Just a momentary diversion! Bobby’s all right!”

Worst: The Russians Vs. The Road Warriors Does Not Include The Rock ‘n’ Roll Or Midnight Expresses

The show goes downhill tremendously from here, unless you’re a local Georgian in 1986 who scored tickets to the Omni and are deeply invested in a pair of post-apocalyptic leather daddies defending the sanctity of the United States of America against Russian Supermen. And don’t get me wrong, the crowd is absolutely those people. The great thing about Jim Crockett Promotions during this time is that no matter how base they got with the story, the people paying to sit in the crowd bought all of it. The Warriors and the Russians aren’t doing anything more involved in this than running into each other and falling down — sometimes not even at the right times, or for any reason — and it doesn’t even matter.

That said, this was … not good. Hawk’s the face in peril for a lot of it, which is especially funny when Ivan’s in the ring, but he’s also inconsistently no-selling so much that he’ll like, sit up in the middle of a pinfall just to lie back down. It’s so weird. The finish of the match is Baron Von Raschke showing up to cheat for the Russians, deciding it’s not worth cheating unless you get caught, then blatantly attacking Hawk in front of everybody. The referee did Nazi that coming!

The Road Warriors get beaten up a little bit, then dump the Russians and steal their chain. This of course sets up In Your House: Off The Chain. [checks notes] No, no it doesn’t.

Best: Star-Studded Celebrity Guests!

Remember when the National Wrestling Alliance launched TNA, and the first few pay-per-views were full of NASCAR drivers and country singers? I think Superstars on the Superstation is what they were going for.

Up first is NASCAR legend Benny Parsons, who surprisingly doesn’t get in the ring and kick Pez Whatley’s ass, but instead just sits in the commentary booth talking to Magnum T.A. about how Bill Elliott had a superior car last season but this year they’ve got an OLDSMOBILE. You know, shit a NASCAR guy might actually do or want to talk about. This is the most excited Magnum gets in like two hours, by the way.

In the most important celebrity interaction of the night, Tony Schiavone sits poolside with Dusty Rhodes and his good friend Willie Nelson to discuss the TV movie remake of Stagecoach Willie made with his country music friends. The conversation is super low key and fun to listen to, especially when Dusty’s talking about earning $25 for his first wrestling match, but they don’t really have much to say beyond, “we’re both entertainers from Austin so yes, we know each other.”

The retroactive highlight here is the clip from behind the scenes at Stagecoach where we see Dusty meet Johnny Cash in my perfect version of Westworld.

Finally we have an appearance from Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, who looks like a cross between Lurch from the Addams Family and Punky Brewster’s dad. He looks less like the Gaylord Perry I remember and more like Jesse Ventura cosplaying the Tall Man from Phantasm.

Gaylord doesn’t have much to say, but he’s adorable when he says it. Tony will ask him if he’s enjoying the show and he’ll be like AH SHORELY AM. Kinda wish they’d booked Juan Marichal to run in and hit him with a chair, though.

Worst: Super Dusty

I hate to say it, but the low point of the show is two of my favorites: Dusty Rhodes and Tully Blanchard.

Dusty is such a live crowd wrestler. I don’t think anyone’s ever done it better than him. He has such a deep, supernatural connection to any gathering of three or more people that he can do literally anything as “Dusty Rhodes” and send them home happy. If you’re not in the live crowd, though, some of the stuff he does gets rough.

Here, for example, the story’s supposed to be that it’s Dusty’s first big match without the protective boot that was helping him heal the leg broken by the Four Horsemen. Because Tully Blanchard is (1) one of those Horsies and (2) a heel, he tries to attack Dusty’s leg and control the match. In theory, this would allow Dusty to build some sympathy during the heat, and make his comebacks big and emotionally resonant. Instead of any of that, Tully attacks the leg and Dusty straight up ignores almost all of it, catching dude on high cross bodies and hitting backbreakers on his “bad leg.” Tully gets so sick of the leg not hurting Dusty that he abandons it completely before the match is over. If you’re in the live crowd, you’re like, YEAH DUSTY IS SO TOUGH HE’S TOUGHING IT OUT AND SHOWING NO PAIN, but at home, where you can see everything, you’re like “… damn Dusty, when did you become John Cena?”

Whenever Dusty has the match won, which is often, J.J. Dillon causes a distraction. Dusty has Tully giving up in a Boston crab as time expires, so Tully manages to effectively “lose” a draw. After the match, Tully hits Dusty with a piledriver and steals the National Championship, because dot dot dot question mark.

Just really bad. The worst example of how TV audiences and event audiences are very different, especially in 1986. And watching 1986 20+ years later.

Best: The Crockett Cup

One very cool note from this special is the announcement of the first Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament, a 24-team tournament held in New Orleans that included — and I’m not shitting you in the slightest — Giant Baba, Tiger Mask, Rick Steiner, Chavo and Hector Guerrero, the R-rated version of the Bushwhackers The Sheepherders and tons more.

Crockett Cups were one of my very favorite things as a kid. The 3rd Cup in 1988 that I got to see live (from the nosebleeds, with my back against the wall because we were sitting in the very highest back row) is the one where Sting and Lex Luger get paired up as unlikely partners and start their 15-year abusive relationship. I wish I still had that program.

Best/Worst: The Unlikely Chemistry Of Ric Flair And Ronnie Garvin

Here’s the thing about Ric Flair. He’s probably the best North American pro wrestler ever, but he’s really only got one tried-and-true match he does well. It’s where the “broomstick” scale came from. Flair could do his Flair match with a broomstick and it’d be good-to-great. If you stray from the status quo, you either get something horribly bad (at lot of the marquee Dusty matches where Dusty wants to wrestle DUSTY matches instead of Flair matches) or something unexpectedly great. Examples of that include any time Flair’s especially heated (like the Terry Funk ‘I Quit’ match) or any time he’s in the ring with Garvin.

This match isn’t anything to seek out, but the chemistry between Garvin and Flair is great. Part of what makes it work is that Flair tries to wrestle his Ric Flair match, but every time he does something corny (like the flip in the corner, or strutting, or the corner chops, or trying to come off the top rope … you know Ric Flair), Garvin just beats the piss out of him. It’s just like, “oh you’re strutting BOOM HANDS OF STONE YOU’RE DEAD.” One of Flair’s greatest talents is making base offense look like he got hit with a Burning Hammer — see any time he wrestled Kevin Nash — so he makes a guy like Garvin who is all punches and stomps look like a killer.

The finish is classic House Show Flair, though. Garvin clearly has the match won a couple of times, but referee Tommy Young goes into blind shock and collapses to the floor if anything touches him. When Garvin tries to get Young back into the match, Flair gets opportunistic. The finish has Garvin get his foot on the rope, but Flair hooking it off before the ref can see it.

To recap, that means the show had four matches with these finishes:

  • ref getting bumped, teams fight with tennis rackets
  • disqualification as both teams brawl
  • time limit draw with a fight afterward
  • ref gets bumped, doesn’t see heel cheating

Join us in nine months for JCP’s next special event, featuring Dusty Rhodes vs. Tully Blanchard and a main event ending in a double disqualification. But also scaffolding!