August 5, 2023

AWA Battle by the Bay (6.28.86) review

AWA Battle by the Bay 

Hey, this was supposed to be UWF but I can’t find the UWF shows on the Network anymore. I swear they were there. When I was putting together a show list for this, I listed two UWF supercards from 1986 but I don’t see them anywhere. Basically, they’ve re-tooled the Network and it fucking sucks. It’s so bad that I can’t understand why anyone would use it unless they were desperate. So, fuck WWE, and I can’t find this either but it’s on YouTube so I’m watching it there.  


June 28, 1986 


We’re in Oakland, California at the Convention Center. Hosts are Rod Trongard and James Blears. Immediately, I get flashbacks to the horror of the last AWA show I watched. However, this card is a bit different to that one. It’s less gimmick driven and there are some genuinely interesting pairings. Also, Verne has listened and the main event has actual talent in it. This was on ESPN! Larry Nelson interviews the illusive Stanley Blackburn among the marks. Blackburn claims AWA is worth seeing. Nelson claims the AWA is “growing by leaps and bounds”. Sure it is. He rejects claims for instant replays for refs and the crowd boos him.  


Ali Khan vs. Earthquake Ferris 

Khan used to be in the AWA as Tom Lintz. I guess he had a change of religion.  

I don’t approve of this message! Ferris is the local boy, so they’ve got him battling an international menace. Ali Khan is fucking awful. Legitimately useless. He moves in slow motion. Everything he does looks horribly fake. Ferris is billed at 6’6” but the ref is the same height as him, so I doubt that. He also stinks. He has no mobility. He can barely run the ropes. He’s in horrible condition.  

The match is so bad that if Antonio Inoki was in the building he would definitely rush into the ring and order the wrestlers to the back. Ferris mercifully finishes with a powerslam. This was six minutes of torture. Absolute dogshit. DUD. Ferris being a local celebrity, apparently, is the only reason this happened but it shouldn’t have been on TV. Dark match fodder.  


Nelson is back and interviews Leo Nomellini and Ray Stevens. Leo is the local AWA promoter and Stevens is the “match maker” aka the booker aka the pencil. “The AWA has the best wrestlers in the world” claims Stevens. Sure it does! Like Earthquake Ferris.  


AWA Ladies Championship 

Candi Devine (c) vs. Sherri Martel 

Sherri won a battle royal, for $50,000, to make herself the #1 contender. They’ve done this match, and this title switch, beforehand; back in October 1985. This time Sherri would stick as champion as she was one of the few stars the AWA had. The ref explains the rules. No pulling the hair, stay off the eyes, no closed fists. Sherri promptly goes straight to the eyes, pulls the hair and punches Candi in the face. Hey, you said you understood the rules!  


This is as bad as the last match they had. It’s sloppy, disjointed and they fuck stuff up all the time. More worryingly, it has all the beats of their last match. Which suggests they thought that match was good enough to do it again. Sherri is a legend but for her managerial work. There’s a reason the WWF gave up on her as a worker and made her into Savage’s manager. They work in a horrible ref bump here, where Sherri accidentally hits him with a flying headscissors. The set up is even worse than it sounds, and it doesn’t even serve a purpose!  

This being ESPN, they cut in with baseball scores and Sherri wins with a roll up. You can see from the still that she grabbed the ropes in the process. This absolutely stunk. Like, negative stars awful. Sherri would hold the belt until she quit and went to the WWF in 1987. Verne literally had Sherri beat Madusa the week before she left. Madusa would go on to be the next champion. Sherri would win the WWF women’s title in her first house show match in the WWF.  


The commercials have been left in for this, which is great because I love mid 80s beer adverts. However, the best part is seeing a trailer for “Big Trouble in Little China”. What a movie that is. Again, if you’re reading this and you’ve not seen it you should get on that. It’s on Disney+ if you have that gimmick.  


Jay York vs. Jimmy Snuka 

Snuka was a great pick up by Verne and the big pop he gets reflects that. It’s a shame they didn’t know what to do with him. Jay York looks pretty good for a guy who debuted in the 1950s and is about to retire. York is a technician who slaps Snuka in a long Cobra Clutch. You can hear people screaming “BORING”. Jay scans the crowd and he’s probably thinking about retirement. Business has passed me by, brother. As they continue to lie around in rest holds, I scream “do something” at my monitor. Comms take some time to talk about the origins of the “Superfly” nickname. Let me clear that up for you;  

The difference is that Jimmy didn’t want to “stick it to the man”, he just wanted to beat his girlfriend to death. Snuka finishes with a crossbody. This was so, so boring. DUD. 

Nelson jumps into the ring to interview Snuka. He says he’s interested in a shot at Stan Hansen. I have some bad news for you, Jimmy, and it’s not about you getting arrested for manslaughter in 2015 or being dead at time of writing.  


We take a break and come back to chat with old man Bockwinkel, who says he used to cheat but now he’s a clean-cut gentleman who will behave himself and wrestle within the rules.  


Nick Bockwinkel vs. Nord the Barbarian 

They literally should have had Bockwinkel win the belt back on this show but instead let Stan Hansen walk away with the title. More on that in the next match. Bockwinkel is a top contender for the belt and is due to beat Hansen for it tomorrow. More on that shortly. The point of this match is to line up Bockwinkel’s first title challenge in the form of John Nord. While I have a soft spot for Nord, a big dumb worker who yells “HUSS” a lot and got repackaged by the WWF as The Berzerker, he’s not a world champion.  

This is the best match on the show to this point, which is a very low bar. Nord isn’t the best of workers and they let him run the match as the heel. The result is middling heat for quite a long time. The weird thing is; Nord is better at taking bumps. So, why not just have Bockwinkel beat the piss out of him? The evidence of this is Bock’s big dropkick comeback. Nord takes an enormous bump over the ropes. It’s awesome. Bockwinkel stops off to attack Adnan Al-Kassie, Nord’s manager, and turns around right into a Nord big boot. Nord grabs the ropes to cheat but was in perfect position to put his feet on the ropes, which was presumably the actual finish.  


In This Corner 

Larry Zybzsko’s chat show. They chat about it happening with Nelson beforehand. Larry’s guest is Greg Gagne. 

We go from them beefing about potentially being the #1 contender to a music video for Greg Gagne. For Greg? Fuck off. It’s set to “Jump” by Van Halen. The funny part is how many shitty looking moves make it into the video because Greg sucks.  


Sports Center, on this day, has a story about Don Rogers, a young NFL player who died of a heart attack aged just 23. This was a cocaine story. The 80s had a lot of them. 1986 is the same year Gino Hernandez died. A young basketball player called Len Bias, just 22, also died from cocaine use in 1986. Another NFL player, David Croudip, would die from cocaine use in 1988.  


AWA Heavyweight Championship 

Stan Hansen (c) vs. Jerry Blackwell 

Right, so here’s the Stan Hansen AWA title story. He was always meant to lose the belt, but the timeline was wrong. Verne told him he was losing this weekend but Hansen, an All Japan man, had to ring Baba to ok the loss. Baba had booked Hansen on an upcoming tour to defend the AWA title. He’d already advertised the tour as such. So, Baba is all “you can’t job here, brother, I need that strap around your waist”. Hansen goes back to Verne and says “I can’t job here, brother, Baba needs me strapped up for Japan”. Verne is all “fuck that goofy looking motherfucker, it’s my fucking belt”. Verne strips Hansen of the title and awards it to Nick Bockwinkel. Only, he doesn’t have the belt so Nick is left holding one of the tag belts. Hansen goes to Japan and defends the belt anyway, because that’s what Baba booked. Verne gets pissed about that too and sends him a telegram, or fax, or whatever they did in 1986, telling him to give the belt back and stop pretending to be the champ. Hansen, miffed about the whole thing, reverses his truck over the belt and sends it back unusable, therefore burning that particular bridge. Before all that happened, they had Stan work against Jerry Blackwell, and he could have dropped it here but it’s Jerry Blackwell so nobody would have bought it.  


I giggle at AWA or ESPN misspelling “lariat”. Blackwell is a weird looking brawler type of wrestler. He’s a big flabby guy with a beard and clothes that don’t fit him properly. Hansen goes and blades right in front of the rubes. Like he bladed leaning on the guardrail. Hey, kids, watch me mutilate myself! Blackwell has an ankle injury coming in so they slowly punch each other for the whole match so he can wrestle while leaning on the ropes.  

Comms call Blackwell the “biggest man in wrestling”. He’s not even the biggest man in this match! Or did you mean fattest? The ref gets bumped. “The striped man is down”. I’m pretty sure that’s not his skin mate. Stan waffles Blackwell with his boot and Jerry opts to blade on camera. Some intriguing choices in blade work in this match. Anyway, that’s a DQ and we move on. Considering Blackwell didn’t want to do anything other than punch, this was perfectly fine. Just a good bloody, old-fashioned brawl. **½  


Post Match: Larry Nelson jumps in the ring and gets words with Stan Hansen. The crowd are fuming!  

Stan rants about how badass he is. It sounds remarkably similar to Steve Austin Attitude Era promos. Someone could have made good money booking Hansen as an ass-kicking babyface.  


Buddy Rose, Doug Somers & Alexis Smirnoff vs. Midnight Rockers & Curt Hennig  

The heels come out to “Dress You Up” by Madonna. AWA was just about ahead of the WWF in terms of having entrance music for all the big acts. This would rapidly change. Look at that babyface team! They come out to Judas Priest’s “Living After Midnight”. This is the first time I’ve had a Shawn Michaels match in this project but not my first Marty Jannetty match as I saw him in Japan. Rose & Somers are the tag team champions, so the Rockers are lined up for a title shot. Hennig was tag champion, with Scott Hall, beforehand.  


Sherri is in the heel corner, foreshadowing her eventual partnership with Shawn Michaels, where she would sing his entrance music. Shawn is 20 here and doesn’t know what he’s doing but he’s quicker than everyone else and takes good bumps. The international that he runs with Buddy Rose in this is elite. Rose tanking across the ring at full tilt and Shawn just getting out of the way in dramatic fashion. Rose was a decent worker, but he took overly big bumps, which look silly (sound like anyone? Hennig? Shawn?) Everyone looks like they’re having a blast here. The faces are so willing to sell for the heels that it’s soon reciprocated.  


Hennig plays Ricky Morton but does a great job of sprinkling hope spots in there. Hot tag to Marty and they manage to negotiate a triple noggin knocker on an Irish whip. Shawn presses Jannetty and drops him on Somers for the win. This was great. Good effort all round. ***½ 


We get an interview with the winners before Nelson throws to Frank Biner and the Soul Patrol. I can hear a fan yelling about how they want more matches. The Rockers make a point of dancing around on the stage with the band. Marty pretending to be backing vocals, when there are clearly none is quite funny.  


The 411: 

This was a much easier show to watch than WrestleRock because it’s two hours shorter. The fact the undercard stank doesn’t really matter because it was over much quicker. A good main event and a decent under-main with Hansen-Blackwell makes this a much easier recommendation than WrestleRock.  

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