This week in wrestling is a long one with a number of shows, including two NWA shows and a return to Mid-South after around a month absence. With my work kicking back into gear, I feel I will no longer be in a position to match the weeks, especially as I will have 7 (!) shows for some weeks, but the project will continue, just at a slower pace.
Let us head straight into our first NWA show of the week, before making a beeline down to Mid-South for some big time action.
NWA Pro 22.02.1986
As seems to happen often with pro, we see some footage from a previous episode (one I don’t have) of a brawl between Dusty Rhodes and Arn Anderson/Tully Blanchard before we head into the opening sequence. Little of note really, with the weight of numbers getting to Dusty as Anderson and Blanchard beat him down outside the ring.
Due to the shorter nature of Pro, I will try to cover it in chronological order, yet some of the matches (as I mentioned previously) are so short as to be almost pointless. The first match, The Rock and Roll Express against Ben Alexander and David Dillinger, literally has about three moves and one tag. Dillinger is hit with a double backdrop and a double dropkick for the Express to pick up the victory. Later in the show, we get another opportunity for Dusty Rhodes and the Rock and Roll Express to talk about Betty Lou, the cage in which Jim Cornette will be trapped next time the two Expresses meet for the title.
Similar to the first tag match, the following match between Tully Blanchard and George South is over very quickly. Blanchard has promised to take the NWA National Heavyweight Title off of Dusty Rhodes in four weeks, and South proves little obstacle, a couple of punches followed by a slingshot suplex is enough for Blanchard to get the three count.
Two quick squash matches also showcase the main members of Paul Jones’ Army, with Baron Von Raschke taking on Ron Rossi, followed by The Barbarian and Teijo Khan facing off against Rocky King and The Italian Stallion. Raschke is very old school in terms of his offense, using a lot of knees and clubbing blows to take down Rossi before locking in the Iron Claw for the victory. In the second of the two listed matches, we get to see a brief segment of Khan wrestling, in which a whole lot of clubbing goes on and not much else, leading to a Barbarian powerslam and top rope headbutt. A pretty comprehensive victory, especially considering how the Stallion has been positioned as a relatively viable contender in recent weeks.
NWA take a play out of WWF’s book in the next match as Ron Bass, Ron Garvin and Manny Fernandez team for no other reason than they are all faces against the team of Mike Jefferies, Jim Jefferies and Tony Zane. The match is short (shocker), and it just an opportunity to allow each face member to take a couple of shots at a jobber. The booking isn’t the cleverest, as this really highlights how little the crowd care for Ron Bass as his reactions are really muted when he gets tagged in. Fernandez eventually gets the pin with the Flying Burrito.
A notable match for the tag team champions occurs next as The Midnight Express take on Nelson Royal and Sam Houston. As is often the way, the Midnights are initially taken apart by their opposition, Royal and Houston using their relative speed and wrestling wiles to take control. Even when Condrey grapples Houston to the mat, it isn’t long before a leapfrog and a dropkick has the youngster back in control. The same happens with Eaton, as Houston lands a hiptoss and a flying headscissors, only to get dumped throat first on the top rope. A shorter heat section ensues, with a particularly nice Condrey butterfly suplex getting a two count, before Houston is able to scoot between the legs of Condrey to tag out to Royal. With Royal using the abdominal stretch, Jim Cornette uses his racket to cause the DQ – this is particularly egregious, as Cornette has only mentioned earlier in the show that the NWA had allowed him to bring the racket down to ringside as long as it wasn’t to be used as a weapon. Whilst the champions are a heel team, this is the second show in a row where they have had to get DQ’d to save their titles, which is arguably pretty weak booking.
The ‘main’ event has Arn Anderson once again defend the TV Title, this time against Rocky Kernodle. Rocky isn’t much in comparison to his brother, and although he has some early success with an escape from a drop toe hold into a hammerlock, a brief Anderson control sequence sees him telegraph a back body drop with an elbow to the back of the head and land the gourdbuster for the three count.
Peppered throughout the show are a number of other little interviews: Ric Flair reveals the new NWA Heavyweight Title (effectively the Big Gold belt that would persist for years to come); Ivan Koloff is still banning Nikita from competing on TV until Magnum TA agrees to a title match; Dusty Rhodes spends a little time on the mic talking about how wonderful Baby Doll is. Also, and most importantly, we get the NWA debut of Jimmy Garvin and Precious. They are seen in an in-ring interview, with Garvin making a few notable jibes in the direction of Magnum TA. Will be interesting to see where that might head considering Magnum’s current feud with Nikita.
Mid-South Wrestling TV 23.02.1986
The dates don’t seem to add up between this week and next weeks’ shows, as this seems to be a day later than everything else for no particular reason. Strangely, we get a short segment before the show where we see Tarus Bulba dropping Steve Doll with a piledriver, only for the cameras to cut away to the opening sequence without any explanation. Odd.
Somewhat laughable in hindsight, we initially get an interview with Eddie Gilbert where he retires from in-ring active competition. However, he does promises big things in 1986 for him and his charges.
In the move from Memphis to Mid-South, the Sheepherders have morphed into the version that most of us know, Luke Williams and Butch Miller, though they are a million miles away from the cartoon characters they would end up playing in WWF. Their opponents are the team of Ricky Gibson and Al Perez, who look decent on paper, but are eventually overwhelmed by the New Zealanders. After a Perez hot tag, Gibson uses punches and dropkicks to fire back, but Miller hits a knee from the outside to slow down the onslaught. A double gut buster later, and the Sheepherders pick up the win.
One of the benefits of a return to Mid-South is the potential quality of the TV matches, and the next tag match is no exception, as we see Dick Murdoch and The Masked Superstar take on the crowd favourite team of Ted Dibiase and Steve Williams. Williams is hugely over, and runs over both Murdoch and Superstar several times on his firs ttag in. We even get a ‘tackle-off’ between him and the Superstar, one that he wins three times in a row. This is where we see the genius of Murdoch, who fakes to tackle Williams, only to drop him with an elbow instead. A spinning neckbreaker and kneedrop gets a two count for Superstar, but Williams is to punch his way back to his corner for the hot tag. Dibiase is able to powerslam Murdoch and lock in his figure four, only for a 2nd Masked Superstar to hit the ring! A DQ win for the faces, but both Williams and Dibiase end up falling victim to a loaded mask headbutt from this mystery 2nd Superstar.
We get two quick squash matches after the heat of the action in the previous contest, Koko B. Ware showing he can juke and jive with the fans before hitting Shawn O’Reilly with a missile dropkick off of the second rope for the three, followed by a Russian gimmick called Korchenko using bland offense and a shoulder breaker to defeat Perry Jackson. In the pantheon of Russian gimmicks in wrestling, I don’t hold out much hope for Korchenko.
In completely pointless fact time, the following match had a graphic that said ‘Scott/Ricksteiner’ as one of the teams, a concept that completely confused me. Instead, it is the team of Mike Scott and Rob Ricksteiner against David Peterson and Brett Wayne Sawyer. The match is fairly closely contested throughout, with initial quick tags by Ricksteiner and Scott controlling the tempo, only for Peterson to take control over Ricksteiner with a hammerlock and some knees to the arm. When Sawyer is tagged in, he gets dumped by Scott with a slam and a few elbows, forcing him to tag back out to Peterson, leading to a Peterson Thesz Press for the victory. Totally forgettable match really, only notable due to Rob Ricksteiner’s appearance.
First with the Russian gimmick, now with the Cuban gimmick. Gustavo Mendoza is effectively Castro in the wrestling ring, and unsurprisingly, the US-loving Hacksaw Jim Duggan is his opponent. Mendoza doesn’t get a lick of offense, as Duggan throws him around the ring, outside the ring, into the apron and onto his arse before dropping him with the football tackle for the three count. USA USA USA!
On paper, I’m excited by the main event of this weeks’ show, as we get The Rock and Roll Express going up against the Fabulous Ones. You had what many considered to be the innovators of the pretty boy tag team gimmicks in the Fabs against the team who had outstripped them for popularity and made it their own in The Rock and Roll Express – and for the time they are given to wrestle, it is fine. Admittedly, it is all Express for the most part, with Gibson and Morton using armdrags, hiptosses and side headlocks to keep the opposition down. It is only when Keirn hits a knee from the outside that the Fabs take over, and we see Lane land some of his karate-style moves with a side kick off of an Irish whip. Lane ups the ante by spitting at Morton before a double team back elbow on Gibson, and Gibson is eventually able to fight his way to his corner and make the tag. We have a couple of near falls for the Express, including Gibson getting a two off of a roll-up.
Then the shows goes off the air.
Nothing. No finish. No time limit draw. Nothing. You just couldn’t do that today. The fact that the main event had no finish for no discernible reason outside of the way the time was organised is bizarre to say the least. The match felt like it has a good five more minutes left to go, and would have been a worthwhile watch. Still, a crash course in the oddities of territorial TV booking for sure.
Not a bad show, with a hot angle in the middle, but surrounded by a fair bit of a fluff. Outside of Duggan, Dibiase and Williams, I want to see how deep the Mid-South roster goes, as the other personalities on show (not including Murdoch and The Masked Superstar) don’t offer much excitement,
As always, please do get in contact, comment and tell me how you feel as I continue my move through the wrestling world in 1986.