July 9, 2023

NWA Battle of the Belts (9.2.85) review 

NWA Battle of the Belts (9.2.85) review 


September 2, 1985 

We’re in Tampa, Florida at the Sundome. Championship Wrestling from Florida is the ‘home’ promotion here, so this isn’t a Jim Crockett production. I’m hoping to see some different personalities on here compared to other NWA shows from the same era. Florida is very much a blank slate for me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show from CWF. This event is brought to you by a combination of territories including the AWA. Hosts are Gordon Solie and promoter’s son Mike Graham.  

Graham gets insane hatred when he was a decent worker. Simply because his dad pushed him a lot. Crowd for this is 7,600. Which would be a bad WWF crowd around this time. Interesting to see the difference in draws. Solie talks about a hurricane that’s on the coast of Florida at the moment, which might explain the lower turnout. They have two interviewers backstage in John Heath and Buddy Colt, who both retired in the 70s. Solie tells us Rick Martel is off the show for hurricane reasons.  


Rip Oliver & The Grappler vs. Los Guerreros ‘85 (Chavo Classic & Hector Guerrero) 

In the latest episode of “who is that masked man” the Grappler is Len Denton, WCW jobber circa 1998, and Dirty White Boy #2. The Guerreros are superb, and it makes me wish more historical lucha had been retained. The hurricane is causing havoc and the lights keep going out, which causes the crowd to boo. The heels work heat on Hector, which rather kills what was an entertaining opener. It eats up a huge chunk of time and the match is way longer than it needs to be. Los Guerreros try hard to make the heat entertaining and they do a near-tag spot that’s executed to perfection. “That Mexican blood is coming out in them” says Mike Graham quite racistly. We get a hot tag, a shitty ref bump, Grappler “loads up” his boot and Hector pins the knocked out Oliver for the win. Well, this sucked. The first five minutes are pretty good and the rest of it is dogshit. This is another crazy Dave Meltzer rating as he went 3.25 on this nonsense. It’s maybe **.  


Koko Samoa vs. Rip Rogers 

How on earth have both the first two matches had a guy called Rip in?  

Koko comes out to “Eye of the Tiger”. What? Both men have valets with Rip’s, Miss Brenda, being the original and the gigantic Lady Maxine being brought in to offset her. Maxine has a Roadwarrior gimmick and was also known as “Mad Maxine”. Get it? Maxine is enormous so naturally has already been to the WWF but washed out quickly because, even by Vince’s standards, she can’t work.  


Koko, or Coco as he known elsewhere, isn’t related to any of the famous Samoans but was mates with Jimmy Snuka and even went by Jack Snuka during his career. Both these guys stink and the match has a lot of fumbling half-botches. Rip’s snap mares sadly arrive right after I’ve watched Jaguar Yokota vs. Lioness Asuka and the difference is sickening. Rip has the fucking temerity to go on social media and bitch about modern workers when he absolutely sucked in the ring. His bumps suck. He just keels over slowly. There’s no snap at all. His strikes suck. There’s no thought process to anything. Koko does a lot of stuff that Jimmy Snuka does, which seems even more dated from a copycat. Brenda fucks her interference up by running in and doing nothing and Maxine pushes Rip over for the loss. Jesus, this sucked something fierce. Meltzer gave this 3.25 as well. It’s around *-*½.  


NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship 

Jack Hart (c) vs. Kendall Windham 

Hart comes out to “Jump” by Van Halen and has a blonde Percy Pringle III (the future Paul Bearer) as a manager.  

Jack Hart is none other than Barry Horowitz back when he was a champion. Kendall Windham is very green and skinny. Mike Graham points out he needs to get in the gym. Kendall can’t do anything. He had his first match in June. Percy Pringle is the only guy out here who can actually do their job. He runs his mouth, is animated and works hard to get the match over. Hart has no idea how to work heel and Kendall can barely walk convincingly. He’s like Bambi on ice. Jack pulls out some brass knucks, fails to conceal them at all, and Kendall beats him with a crossbody. At least the win is popular but this match was dreadful and Kendall might be the worst wrestler I’ve seen in this 80s Odyssey. He’s not convincing at all.  


Backstage: John Heath gets a word with Harley Race. He’s going after the AWA tag belts tonight but also stops off to say he’s not done with the NWA title. He’s got his eye on Flair vs Wahoo later.  


NWA Florida Southern Heavyweight Championship 

Rick Rude (c) vs. Billy Jack Haynes 

Haynes comes out to “Holding Out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler (1984) and is very over. I’ve never seen a popular babyface incarnation of Haynes, who was never as popular in the WWF as he was in various territories. Rude comes out to “Smooth Operator” by Sade (also 1984). He’s also managed by Percy Pringle.  

Getting big Bee Gees vibes from Ricky Rude. He’s slim here with defined muscles. Whereas Haynes has bulk. As a result, he’d get to the WWF first, in 1986, while Rude had to wait another year and was still considered small by that era’s WWF standards. Haynes big finish is the full nelson and Rude does a decent job of selling it.  

Solie rambles about artists being in town to sketch wrestlers and here one is! What a bizarre thing to have on a wrestling show. Was there a convention in town? Solie goes on to call the action “exciting”. Haynes offence is sleep inducing and he’s the babyface! Rude tries to get the match over by taking bumps and the crowd are animated but it’s hard to see why. The match is pedestrian at its best. The finish is terrible. Percy is supposed to do something with his cane but it goes flying and the ref must surely have seen it. While dealing with…something…Rude waffles Haynes with the cane for the pin. “Waffles” is strong. He barely touched him. Boring match, bad finish. The hits keep on coming!  


AWA World Tag Team Championship 

The Road Warriors (c) vs. Harley Race & Stan Hansen 

This is a bizarre combination of talent. Two veteran main event studs in Race and Hansen and the, still relatively green but powerful, Road Warriors. The star power helps a great deal and they go all out on the brawling. Hansen was apparently short-sighted, which is why he worked so stiff. He accidentally punches the ring post here and I know it’s an accident because he doesn’t sell it at all. The Roadies aren’t at their explosive best here and try to isolate Race. He’s not interested in bumping like he can do. Mike Graham decides to compare Kendall Windham to Stan Hansen. The fucking nerve of this man. Referee here is Bill Alfonso. I think that’s the earliest I’ve seen him in action.  

Hansen doesn’t have his work boots on either. He’s one of the finest examples of a guy who worked his ass off in Japan but dogged a bunch of matches Stateside. Hawk attempts a press slam and can’t get Race up for it. He ends up dropping him, safely, on his feet. They try something else and both topple over the rope and that’s a double count out. This could have been much better if either Race or Hansen turned up with any intention to put on a show but they didn’t. Still the best match on the show so far, which is a low bar. 


Backstage: Ric Flair gets his interview in. Wahoo has said no one can beat him twice in the same night and Flair is all “WOOO, we’ll see about that brother. All night long. Woo!”  


Nick Bockwinkel vs. Frankie Lane 

This was supposed to be Bockwinkel vs. Martel for the AWA title and the ring announcer even announces this is an AWA title match for Bockwinkel’s AWA title. One problem; he’s not the champion, Martel is. Rookie Frank Lane is the sub. The crowd are not pleased about it. Nick barely sells for Lane and ignores a crossbody and that’s the finish. Yikes. Oh well. Moving on.  


Two out of Three Falls 

NWA Championship  

Ric Flair (c) vs. Wahoo McDaniel  

Wahoo has never been a world champion. He has five US titles and is a four times tag team champion. Wahoo has mobility issues, and this is a genuine challenge for Flair to get something good out of him. Flair has some scar tissue, and he starts bleeding almost immediately.  

Flair tries a lot of his tricks. Including arguing with Fonzie about counts. Wahoo alternates between sluggish holds and chops, which gives Flair something to sell. Hell, at one point Flair gets into a shoving contest with Fonzie and he sells for him too!  

Anytime Flair goes for a powder we see how many empty seats there are. That hurricane fucked this show. Wahoo spends a good chunk of fall one working the leg while comms (Graham, I’ll name and shame) claims they’ve been going at a hard pace. Although he also calls Wahoo “McDaniels” constantly so he’s not really an expert, is he? We’re nearly 20 minutes in and it’s still fall one. Flair has given up and just has an armbar on the go. The match is plodding towards the first fall when they start into chops and Wahoo gets a sleeper for 1-0.  


Flair seems more energetic heading into fall two and forces Wahoo into a scrap. “Slowing it down” says Mike Graham as the match gains pace. What is he smoking? Wahoo is sweating profusely as Flair starts to go after the leg. Now it slows down again. Mike Graham, anxious to make this match about him, talks about how many matches he’s won with the Figure Four. As if people think Figure Four and think of it as a Mike Graham hold. As a commentator he’s certainly lived up to his reputation as a waste of space.  


Flair does a sensational ad hoc sell when he loses his footing on an elbow drop. If he was intentionally losing his footing, that’s even better. Just excellent work. Wahoo is mostly fucked now and taking a beating but he can still throw chops and Flair is game for selling them. Mike Graham mentions he’s wrestled “plenty of hour-long matches”. Really? Name one. Fonzie gets bumped so Wahoo can get the visual backslide pin, although Mike Graham thinks the shoulders were up. The whole point of a visual pin, you asshole, is so Wahoo can say he won without winning. Saying you don’t think the shoulders were down is the most inanely stupid way of fucking up the storytelling. Flair continues to punish Wahoo and pins him for 1-1. Wahoo is now bloodied after being run into the ring post.  


The crowd gets distracted by a fight in the audience. What is this, boxing? The boys get the crowd back by starting the third fall in dramatic fashion and Ric blades after a ring post receipt. The final fall is rapid. Wahoo gets the sleeper again but Flair pushes off the corner and falls on top for the pin. Wahoo losing because he wouldn’t let go of the sleeper. Much like when Homer Simpson wouldn’t let go of the candy in the vending machine. ***¼. Kudos to Flair for getting something this decent out of a very long Wahoo match. 45 minutes of gruelling action. I don’t think matches should ever go this long and I reckon they’d have had a much better one-fall 20 minute match. Anyway, this is clearly the best match on the show.  


The 411: 

My first, and probably last, sojourn into the Florida territory. Have I just picked a bad show? I think the territory was struggling at this point and it didn’t help that they ran against a hurricane and lost Martel off the card. Championship Wrestling from Florida would cease to exist at the end of 1987 as the territories began to thin out. This was not only a sad show to watch but one of the worst shows I’ve sat through so far. It’s easily the worst show I’ve seen from 1985 and that includes the MSG shows with middling undercards.  

Leave a Reply