July 28, 2023

NWA Battle of the Belts II (2.14.86) review 

NWA Battle of the Belts II (2.14.86) review 

February 14, 1986 


Valentine’s Day and Florida is the host region for this NWA special. The last Battle of the Belts exposed Florida as a dying territory. It’s in the worst shape of any of the regional promotions I’ve seen since I started this project. Then, why are we back? Because Ric Flair is wrestling Barry Windham in the main event. Hosts are Gordon Solie and Mike Graham. We’re in the Eddie Graham Sports Arena. Also known as the Orlando Sports Stadium, this is a venue that got renamed after the late Eddie Graham, who shot himself to death in 1985. The building was very basic and got shut down by the state. It was demolished in 1995.  


NWA Bahamas Championship 

Tyree Pride (c) vs. Ron Slinker 

The Bahamas title was one of the regional islands ones and naturally Dusty Rhodes held it. Slinker is a martial artist. An increasing number of MMA style gimmicks were creeping into wrestling around this time but weren’t successful. Slinker doesn’t scream “MMA”. He’s a big balding dude with moustache and red trousers. Pride is somewhat exciting and Slinker would be ok if he could use his size better. He’s obsessed with taking big overly elaborate bumps. Pride wins with a crossbody despite his foot being under the rope. This was way untidy.  


Pride gets an interview afterwards where he says wrestling is better than karate. A young Dana White wonders if he could find out if that was true. The gimmick was right there for MMA. I’m surprised the UFC didn’t happen sooner.  


NWA Florida Championship 

Kendall Windham (c) vs. Prince Iaukea 

Iaukea is the same guy who wrestled in WCW. He is green and terrible here. Kendall is also green and terrible. It’s not a smart match to put together. Kendall looks better than he did last time but I suspect he’s been smartened up to things he was doing badly. Probably by Barry, or Blackjack Mulligan. He’s still not good but the technique is less glaringly bad than before. They make an absolute hash of a headlock takeover. Due to the camera work, I can’t even tell whose fault it was. Kendall gets a bulldog for the win, which Solie calls the “Oklahoma Stampede” for some reason. Firstly, it doesn’t resemble the Oklahoma Stampede (a powerslam used by the likes of Bill Watts) and secondly, it’s not even that Kendall is from Oklahoma, he’s from Texas. Anyway, the match stank, let’s move on.  


In his post match promo Kendall says he’ll carry this belt until he’s dead or he wins the world title. It’s a brutal interview. He can barely talk and he sounds, and looks, like a child.  He reminds me of the foreman who sounds like Bart Simpson! 


NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship 

Denny Brown (c) vs. The White Ninja 

This is the White Ninja. Look familiar? Yep, it’s Muta. He went on an American ‘excursion’ in 1986. One problem; it was almost exclusively in Florida. As a junior Muto is proficient in mat technique. His judo background helps. They do some very good mat work with submission attempts, counter holds and bridging pinfall attempts. Some Florida guy is yelling “BORING” every couple of seconds. It’s good mat work, sir. Denny was a decent worker but got left behind in the 80s. He retired in 1997. His last match was a job to Chris Jericho in WCW.  


Gordon Solie is a delight here saying research has proven a body slam is at 25mph. Hence all the spinal injuries wrestlers suffer. It’s like a car crash every time. He then adds in that the amount of contact in a football game (NFL) is 14 minutes over the course of 3 hours. Whereas they’ll do that here consecutively. Muto frustrates me with his inconsistency. For every handspring back elbow there’s an Irish whip that sucks. He busts out a perfect moonsault and it’s not the finish! Spotfest. Mike Graham says he’s not seen it but it’s Lanny Poffo’s finish. Brown gets dumped over the top rope and that’s a DQ. Muto protests his innocence. This was pretty good, as you might expect. **½  


Sidenote: I never liked Muto, or Muta, so it’ll be interesting to see if I can gain an appreciation for him this time around. It’s certainly working with Tenryu.  


NWA Southern Florida Championship 

Jesse Barr (c) vs. Lex Lugar 

One of these guys is about to sign for the WWF and is, therefore, losing here. It might not be the guy you think.  

Flexy Lexy gets a bad rep because he got lazy later in his career, but he was a great powerhouse babyface back in the day. He’s a heel here, managed by Hiro Matsuda, the guy that trained Hulk Hogan. Matsuda has wrestled Lou Thesz for the NWA title, so you know he has useful tips for Lex. Some nutcase, some fucking madman, gave this match 20 minutes. Hey, if Luger is wrestling Ric Flair then yeah, give him 20 minutes. Otherwise, that’s a hard no from me, chief. It doesn’t help that the other man in the ring is Jesse Barr. They do a load of really boring stuff like tests of strength and bearhugs.


The aim of the match is to have Luger overpower Barr and Jesse to counter out of his power holds. Barr hits his shoulderbreaker but Luger is too near the ropes. Luger hits a clothesline, in the same place, Barr puts his foot on the rope and Luger knocks it off to win the belt. This wasn’t terrible but, it would have been way better if it was ten minutes not twenty.  


Luger says he’s coming after the NWA world title next. It’s a calm promo from Luger. Buddy Colt spends the entire interview telling Lex how great he is. What the fuck is this interview, Buddy? Gorilla Monsoon would have created some kind of heat there to get a decent promo out of Luger but here, nothing.  


Wahoo McDaniel vs. Bruiser Brody 

Unbelieveably, this is the first Brody match I’ve done (in this flashback series). His name is spelled “Brodie” on the graphic, but I had a hard time with “Lugar” in the last match, so we’ll stick with the correct spelling. Someone has put a $20,000 bounty on Wahoo, which is pointless because he’ll be retired soon anyway. Brody is here to collect.  

Brody was a special talent, way ahead of his time. He does a leapfrog here (which believe me, is a rarity for anyone in 1986 let alone a big man) and then hits a big boot. Given Vince’s ambition and habit of hoovering up territorial talent; I’m surprised he never went after Brody. Hogan vs. Brody could have been a huge program. They beat the piss out of each other in this and brawl into the crowd, which is the first time I’ve ever seen that happen (apart from in Memphis). Wahoo is a bloody mess but both guys are counted out. This was a wild brawl, but they only went halfway into it. It needed more time.  


Road Warriors & Blackjack Mulligan vs. Army of Darkness (Kevin Sullivan, Bob Roop & Purple Haze) 

Kevin Sullivan was an interesting guy. He had a love of the occult and in-ring violence. Purple Haze is Mark Lewin. Bob Roop is going by “Maha Singh”, although Buddy Colt calls him by both names. Roop and Lewin are both basically retired, so you’ve got a choice of guys to take a pin here.  

Animal has the Golden Spike, which is Sullivan’s evil weapon of choice, which he believes gives him sexual powers*. It’s a bizarre decision from whoever booked this show to have back-to-back wild brawls, instead of spreading them out a bit. Army of Darkness, the Evil Dead sequel, didn’t come out until 1992, so technically Raimi was ripping off Kevin Sullivan. Not sure why Sullivan never retained the Army of Darkness name. It’s cool. The heels bring out a massive python, for reasons. Also out here is Luna Vachon.  


*This is only partially true.


The match is a pier sixer. They just brawl all over the place. There are chairs, blood and such. Hawk flat out refuses to sell anything. This is pleasingly chaotic. It feels like an actual bar fight. The way guys just grab whatever is around the ring to use as a weapon. Animal just walking around with the ring steps. The Roadies are in their element. The referee gets knocked over as he completely loses control, and they all brawl to the back. ***. This was fantastic fun but surely you just put the Road Warriors over here? Who are we protecting? Mark fucking Lewin?  


NWA World Championship 

Ric Flair (c) vs. Barry Windham  

I’ve never seen this match, but I have seen both 1987 Flair-Windham matches, and Windham was arguably one of the best foils for Flair in his entire run. He’s big and can do all the power stuff that guys like Nikita Koloff, Roadwarrior Hawk or Sting did but he can also do the high speed stuff like Kerry Von Erich or Ricky Steamboat and he can also do the brawling like Wahoo McDaniel or Terry Funk. He’s all of the best of Flair’s opponents rolled into one.  

Amazingly Flair doesn’t come out to his normal music. He comes out to “Easy Lover” by Phil Collins. Haha. I’m in bits. What the fuck mate? The Florida ropes are loose, and Flair gets his neck fucked up by the top rope catching him on running the ropes. Flair takes out his frustrations on Barry with some of those trademark chops. Not everyone liked taking the chops, but Barry seems happy enough. Windham’s tactics are all over the place. He starts on the arm, switches to strikes and then goes for a Boston crab. It seems unfocused and I assume that’s intentional, to show Barry’s lack of experience in the big matches. 


From the Boston crab, he goes to the Abdominal stretch, and you could argue those are the same area of the body. The back/ribs under a lot of pressure in both. Flair makes it work by going for a slam and falling over because of his back. Windham gets colour on the floor, which allows Flair to take control. Windham had been dominating the match to that point. Flair misses a knee drop though and Windham slaps Flair in the Figure Four.  

By this point the crowd are fully behind Windham and think he can win the belt. We’re only halfway through this match though! Mike Graham claims it’s been “well over half an hour”. How about you look at your fucking watch mate? Right after he says this the ring announcer announces we’re at 25:00. Hahaha. He’s done you there Michael. Flair uses the ropes a few times instead of kicking out and his ring awareness is so good. Most guys who use the ropes instead of a kick out insist on taking a spot right next to the ropes so they can do it easily. Flair’s look unplanned.  

Flair gets run into the ring post for the second bladejob of the match. It’s a little lazy they got colour the same way, but Flair’s does feel like a receipt for Windham earlier on. Gordon Solie stops off to implore kids to not do sleepers on each other. Yeah, wait until you’re older and do it down the pub. It’s funnier. They do repetition in this where Windham misses a knee drop to set up the Flair leg work, much like Flair did earlier to set up Windham’s leg work. Or they should do that but Flair isn’t interested in his own submission finisher. The ref, which is Bill Alphonso, gets bumped and Flair yeets Windham over the top. That feels like a Dusty Finish.  


Windham hits a missile dropkick and gets the visual pin. The ‘babyface comes up short’ formula run to the letter here. At least the ref bump was ok. Windham did a suplex with a floatover, which is his prettiest move. He could have used it as a finish. They do a sensational finish where Flair crossbodies Windham over the loose top rope. A great bump. It’s a shame Barry telegraphed it by looking over his shoulder beforehand. Taking it safe is better than not, I guess. This was great and I love Barry sinking to his knees after the match. Exhausted, disappointed. This isn’t as good as either 1987 match, although I’ll need to revisit them in due course. ****¼  


The 411: 

The main event rescued another tired show from Florida. The territory is dead in the water but hey, you can always rely on Naitch to turn up and rock the main event. Barry Windham is a fascinating guy. He was arguably the best challenger Flair ever had, and that’s covering a lot of ground. I can understand support for Steamboat, Sting or Funk as well. Barry didn’t really have a great match with anyone else though, unlike the other guys I’ve listed. He was always good in tags but I’m struggling to remember another singles match that’s anywhere close to this or the other Flair matches. Is that additional credit to Ric Flair as being the absolute best at what he did? I think it is.  

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