NWA Crockett Cup 1988 (4.22.88) review
April 22-23, 1988
We’re in Greenville, South Carolina at the Memorial Auditorium. A mere 4,440 in attendance for N1. For N2 we move to Greensboro. Crockett held a lot of shows in Greenville. The arena isn’t there anymore. It was demolished in 1997. It was most famous for being the final arena the original line-up of Lynyrd Skynyrd played at before the fatal plane crash, which killed lead singer Ronnie Van Zant. The band got back together afterwards with Ronnie’s brother Johnny replacing him as the front man. I saw the Nu LS lineup supporting ZZ Top somewhere around the late 90s. We had backstage passes, so I was standing stage left and next to me was ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons. He nodded at me! Rock and roll!
Hosts are Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone.
There’s a bunch of matches that didn’t make tape. I have the two hour long commercial release so the likes of Kendall Windham & Italian Stallion vs. Green Machine & The Terminator (an actual match) are lost to the mists of time. Terminator here was not Arnold Schwarzenegger but rather Johnny Ace’s brother Mark. Better known to WCW fans as Wrecking Crew Fury. Instead of that delight we start with…
Dick Murdoch & Ivan Koloff vs. Jimmy Valiant & Mighty Wilbur
Wilbur is one of those ‘flash in the pan’ country boy gimmicks. He’s a big fat guy in dungarees. He debuted in late 1987, broke his kneecap doing one of those stupid Bunkhouse Stampede matches, and recently came back from that injury. Wilbur is terrible, but marginally better than Ultimate Warrior. This is a very Jimmy Valiant match, but he eats the pin from the Russian Sickle.
We skip some more crap like Chris Champion & Mark Starr vs. The Twin Devils (one of which is Firebreaker Chip).
Steve Williams & Ron Simmons vs. Varsity Club (Mike Rotunda & Rick Steiner)
Former football player Ron Simmons (his jersey was retired at Florida State!) burst out of the Florida scene in 1986. His common ground with Doc is the football background. This is the first match in the tournament that feels important. Tony points out this is a tough draw for both teams. Doc is looking heavy. Simmons’ inexperience feels like it’s the weak point for the team though. The match keeps a good degree of energy but as Doc is cleaning house, he doesn’t notice Simmons getting counted out. Varsity Club progress while Doc gets the visual pin on Rotunda.
Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson vs. Kendall Windham & Italian Stallion
Kendall’s form is starting to look more like Barry. He’s still a scrawny looking noob. Arn tries so, so hard to make Kendall look capable. Arn & Tully were great at making their opponents look good. To the point where they were even getting a little babyface reaction for stuff. Arn beats Stallion with the DDT. Planted him with it too.
Road Warriors vs. Jive Tones
The Jive Tones as Shaska/Pez Whatley and Tiger Conway. The latter is almost retired, and neither are anywhere near the Roadies on the tag team totem pole. The Jive Tones drag it out with double teaming and breaking up pins until Hawk murders Pez with a diving clothesline.
Fantastics vs. Larry Zbyzsko & Al Perez
Perez is a weird one for me. He certainly had the look (think Scott Hall) but not the personality. If he’d gone to the WWF and been given a gimmick that suited, he could have gone far. Instead by the time he got to the WWF, his stock was low, and he got the jobber treatment. They have a great spot here where Fulton goes for a high crossbody, and Perez ducks and backdrops him in mid-air. Either that, or it was a botch. It looked good though. Perez has another cool spot where he blocks a roll up by grabbing Larry’s arm (or rather Larry grabbed Al) and Fulton can’t get Larry over. Rogers dropkicks him through, and Larry gets pinned anyway.
Lex Luger & Sting vs. Dick Murdoch & Ivan Koloff
And the Luger/Sting thing begins. They’d end up being pals for the entire of WCW. It only comes about because Luger’s previous partner, Barry Windham, turned on him to join the Four Horsemen. They run formula with Sting playing Ricky Morton. Sting makes his own save and catches Murdoch in a roll up to advance. This was a heated affair with the young babyface duo going places.
Midnight Express vs. Sheepherders
The ‘Herders have gained Rip Morgan as a corner man. We get the brawling of the ‘Herders with MXP doing a lot of selling. Both teams are heel, so it comes down to which will cheat the more effectively and Eaton smacks Butch with the tennis racket. MXP advance. Thank god.
Prince of Darkness Match
Kevin Sullivan vs. Jimmy Garvin
This is a blindfold match and Sullivan, massive idiot that he is, gets blindfolded backstage and nearly falls over on his way to the ring.
This is the first blindfold match that I’m aware of. Dusty Rhodes, once again, ahead of his time on having bad ideas. They quickly establish the whole ‘babyface points around and crowd cheer appropriately’ gimmick. The trouble is, the crowd are quite dumb and just yell at random. Garvin ends up catching an inside cradle for the duke.
Rick Steiner runs in to beat him up and Precious doesn’t wipe out two dudes on her own this time. Ron Garvin has to run in for the save. Mike Rotunda makes it three on two, and Ron gets the Golden Spike to the “heart area”. The match was awful, as you might have predicted, but they did a good job of hyping me for Varsity Club vs. Garvins.
Video Control gives us clips of the Bunkhouse Stampede from January. I didn’t care about it when it happened. What makes you think I care about it now? It’s 15:00 of clips too. Fuck off.
April 23, 1988
At the mid-way point of the tape we move from Greenville to Greensboro, North Carolina. A slightly improved 6,300 on hand for this card. For NWA reasons, we skip over the two best matches on the entire weekend; Fantastics vs. Varsity Club and Luger & Sting vs. Midnight Express. Given **** and ***¾ respectively by Dave Meltzer in the WON. Modern fans will never know the pain of commercial releases and choices made by idiots. Everything makes tape now!
Road Warriors vs. Powers of Pain
This is a Vince McMahon fetish match as everyone is jacked up to the gills doing power moves. Hawk clotheslines Warlord over the top, which is a blatant DQ. I’m surprised Dusty didn’t go straight into the finish so he could do the Dusty Finish. Paul Jones gets hot about another incident after the Roadies used the ring steps. That’s also a DQ. Randy Anderson is missing them all here.
The match is lacking. They have a few miscommunication bits where one guy is standing around waiting for a spot. It makes Hawk look particularly stupid. They also work over Hawk’s leg, but he doesn’t sell so that’s just a waste. Animal gets a corking hot tag until he lays out Randy Anderson with an errant clothesline. Warlord gets pinned and Teddy Long counts the pin. However, we Dusty Finish back to Animal’s clothesline. Powers of Pain progress.
There were a few times where you could have called that back for Road Warriors breaking the rules but the finish was the least of them. The clothesline on Anderson was clearly accidental and Randy calling a DQ for it makes him look like an asshole. They needed to get the Road Warriors out of there to give Luger & Sting a clean run to the finals but there are other ways to do that. Meanwhile the Powers of Pain left a few months after this to join Vince’s WWF. It was only a matter of time.
Texas Bullrope Match
Midnight Rider vs. JJ Dillon
Whoever could this mysterious masked man be? If the Midnight Rider loses he has to unmask and if it’s Dusty under the mask he’s suspended for a year. Why? I have no idea. JJ Dillon’s aim is to get rid of Dusty, but he could just wait until the end of the year and Rhodes would get fired anyway.
This is, at least, mercifully short. Dillon blades from a cowbell shot and spends most of the ‘match’ getting punched. Dusty resists the urge to flip, flop and fly and uses the cowbell instead. The mysterious Midnight Rider wins via pinfall. Just a squash but with blood.
Dusty tries to kill Dillon, but he’s saved by another mysterious masked man. Steve Williams runs in for the save but gets beaten down. Dusty then makes his own save. What the fuck? Can we not let anyone else get over here Big Dust?
Lex Luger & Sting vs. Powers of Pain
Call me crazy, but I would have loved to have seen Road Warriors in here for a big old babyface match. Warlord helps Sting fuck up a headscissors by not moving at all. Given their respective careers, I think it’s pretty clear who was at fault there. Amazingly BOTH have had matches in 2023.
Sting has become adept at taking power moves and plays Ricky Morton again here. The versatility of Sting to work different guys and play different roles is why he’s such a great pro-wrestler. Sting dropkicks Luger on top of Warlord and they advance to the final. This was heavily clipped but a well put together match up.
Fantastics vs. Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard
Normally the Fantastics get beaten up. That’s their thing. Having two guys who are prepared to bump around for them creates an exciting babyface driven match up. At least until Arn takes out Fulton from the outside and they work over his spine. Fulton’s selling is a bit on the dramatic side, with lots of face-pulling, but he takes a shit-kicking like a champ.
The Horsemen cut the ring off and isolate Bobby effectively. While it’s a good example of heel tag work, it lacks the kinetic energy that both teams are capable of. They don’t quite have the chemistry both of these teams had with other great teams from the era. Tommy Rogers gets a hot tag but Arn clobbers him with JJ Dillon’s shoe and the Horseman advance. ***¼. Clearly the best match in the tournament so far (that made tape anyway) but not quite what I wanted from the pairing. Arn Anderson was outstanding here though. Absolutely on it.
NWA World Heavyweight Championship
Ric Flair (c) vs. Nikita Koloff
Flair is accompanied by Barry Windham, the newest Horseman.
We get about a third of this match, which went 30:00. Koloff was improved as a worker by being in there with Flair. There’s no doubt about that. However, this feels like a regressive performance from Nikita. A lot of rest holds. The time of the match is not ideal for him. Give them a hot 10-15 minutes instead.
There is an obsession in wrestling with making main events long to give the fans value. That doesn’t always equate to a good match though. It certainly doesn’t here. It’s nothing to do with Flair. He’s just Flair. He takes all the moves, blades on the floor, takes his bumps, does the chops, begs off. It’s his formula to a tee.
Comms ride Koloff for letting his emotions get the better of him. That’s clearly the story they’re going for. There are a couple of dodgy ‘over the top’ decisions and one goes against Flair. He’s disqualified and 30 minutes is a long time to get to that as a finish. At least it wasn’t a Dusty Finish if we’re looking for positives. ***
Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup 1988 Final
Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard vs. Lex Luger & Sting
JR talks about Luger’s emotional issues with his former Horsemen allies. Ross feels that Lex can’t be trusted to start because of this but from an analytical standpoint surely the opposite would be worse. If he was out there on the apron stewing and getting angrier, it could affect him. Ross tries to lecture Luger for not doing things properly only for him to immediately do the right thing. For those who never saw Luger in the late 80s, he was really good, on his way to being great.
Switching over to Sting, he once again takes the heat. Sting was more sympathetic than Luger and better at selling and drawing the crowd in. Sting is also able to keep the action fresh by mixing up his selling with hope spots. Luger looks clumsy by comparison. Magnum TA tries to grab at Arn, causing a scuffle and Luger capitalises with a roll up for the win. ***½
This was a good tournament conclusion with Sting being especially strong in this match. I’m not sure I love the dirty finish with the involvement of Magnum TA. There wasn’t a lot of provocation from the Horsemen to deserve it.
While we’re miles off the quality of action we saw at Clash of the Champions, this is a solid show with good performances from key players. Arn & Tully were such a great tag team at this point. They carry the tournament and Luger & Sting also did a fine job of being the obvious babyface opponents for the final. Watching the rise of Sting in 1988 is a pleasure. There was room on top for a new babyface and he was killing it.