NWA Starrcade ‘84: The Million Dollar Challenge (11.22.84) review
November 22, 1984
We’re in Greensboro, North Carolina at the Greensboro Coliseum. This is the second Starrcade and a huge opportunity for the NWA. With the WWF building momentum and hurtling towards their first WrestleMania show, the NWA had a chance to lay down a marker. To show that they were the superior brand of professional wrestling. As they did with Starrcade ‘83 a year ago. So, how did that pan out? You’re not going to be happy with this one readers. I know I’m not. I have to watch the fucking thing. Hosts are Bob Caudle and Gordon Solie.
I reviewed this back in 2007 for 411. Please don’t read it. The review is as much of a mess as the show. I deeply regret doing some older shows back in the day and watching it all out of order with no context or anything.
Caudle and Solie talk about the million dollars from the title and that’ll go to tonight’s main event winner. The crowd is piping hot here. Be interesting to see if that remains the same by the end of the night.
NWA World Junior Championship
Mike Davis (c) vs. Denny Brown
Where WWF was struggling in 1984 was showcasing their juniors. So, this is a smart move to try and start the show fast. Davis took the belt off Hector Guerrero, so we only just missed out on some Guerrero family business here. Davis looks like a surly veteran, he’s 28. People were older in the 80s. Look at some old Panini stickers if you don’t believe me. Davis would never make it to the age he actually looks. He died of a heart attack aged 45. It’s weird how some of these old-timers overlap. Brown did a job for Chris Jericho on WCW Saturday Night some 13 years after this. If we’re doing wrestling Kevin Bacon-style, that gets Jericho’s number to a bunch of early 80s guys really short. The match is sloppy at times and very rushed. Davis his a bridging side suplex for the pin but he pins himself and Denny gets the shoulder up. Davis looks flabbergasted. The ring announcer calls it a Davis win, despite evidence (IE his eyes) to the contrary. Commentary remains flummoxed too. Solie sounds very confused, and they need a replay to figure it out. The replay doesn’t show the kick out. What a fucking mess. Even Tony Schiavone stumbles over his words backstage. Not a great start this.
Mr Ito vs. Brian Adidis
Adidis went to school with the Von Erichs. He’s a generic white meat babyface, going against a “sneaky” Oriental heel in Ito, a former AJPW man. Adidis works the arm for a few minutes and finishes with the airplane spin. Nothing much happening here. Adidis would go on to work a lot in WCCW until the company collapsed. He went on to work in sales.
NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship
Jesse Barr (c) vs. Mike Graham
This belt changed hands all the time so I’m surprised they don’t put the face over to pop the crowd. Graham is 33 here but looks much older. If I had to guess his age, I’d say late 40s. Mike got pushed in Florida because it was his dad’s territory. We’re talking Greg Gagne/Erik Watts levels of nepotism. He’s not a bad wrestler but the match is sluggish. Barr working the arm, Graham the leg. None of it going anywhere. Barr you may remember from his WWF run, where WWF decided he could pass as a Funk brother and changed his name to Jimmy Jack Funk. He already had a famous brother; Art Barr. Mike Graham keeps going after the Figure Four, which is annoying on a card where Ric Flair is on top. The match turns into a corker with loads of near falls and Barr pins Graham using the ropes. Hey, this was actually good! Not notebook good, but good. Like **½ or so. I’ve never seen much Florida wrestling so it was a surprise to see Mike Graham look good here. The Graham’s had a tragic history. Eddie Graham, promoter and father of Mike, shot himself in 1985. Mike would go on to shoot himself to death in 2012. Wrestling.
The Zambuie Express vs. Buzz Tyler & Assassin #1
The ring announcer says this is an elimination match but goes on to say it’s for one fall. It’s not though is it? Buzz Tyler didn’t last long in wrestling. He was in the NWA for about a year after this but walked out with the NWA Mid-Atlantic belt because Dusty owed him money. Assassin is Jody Hamilton. Elijah Akeem, from the Zambuie team, used to be Leroy Brown. Kareem Muhammad, the other member, is Ray Candy. So, if you thought Paul Jones just recruited a couple of Africans to be a tag team, you would be wrong. Both guys would go on to die young, of heart attacks. Akeem aged just 37. They are in terrible condition here. Two guys get counted out as everyone does shit tier brawling. Assassin then gets pushed onto Kareem for the pin. This was absolute shit. Commentary is confused again, and missed the count out completely.
Dusty Rhodes rambles about various things. He points at camera A LOT. Tony seems to have interviewed him during his nap time, which explains why he has a coat over himself.
NWA Mid-Atlantic Brass Knuckles Championship
Black Bart (c) vs. Ragin’ Bull
“Ragin’ Bull” is Manny Fernandez. This is not a prestigious belt. There’s no time limit! The Brass Knucks rules involve being able to punch and “use karate”. Which means we get a lot of very dated “karate” offence in this. Yes, Karate Kid was released in 1984. How did you guess? I am shocked no one stole the crane kick. The entire match is aimless striking. Both guys blade. Bart doing so in obvious fashion under the ring apron. Black Bart goes after his bull rope and Manny rolls him up for the belt. This had a lot of energy and bloodshed. I guess I can’t complain. The second best match on the card so far.
Backstage: Ricky Steamboat gets interviewed about how he’s been assaulted by Tully Blanchard over the past weeks. Black Bart nailed him in the spine with a boot a few days ago and he’s struggling. The original version of the show had a huge technical issue here where the lights went out during this promo, and they had to go back to ringside. That’s been clipped off by WWE sadly. You’d think they’d want to make fun of Jim Crockett.
Tuxedo Street Fight
Loser Leaves Town
Jimmy Valiant vs. Paul Jones
Jimmy Valiant’s gimmick is being Jimmy Valiant but it’s close to crazy homeless guy.
Valiant is still alive, at the time of writing, and wrestled a match in 2022. He’s 80. I’ve seen quite a few Valiant matches and they’re all bad. Like if Hulk Hogan had a serious cocaine addiction. The match is Valiant amusing himself and stripping Jones of his clothing over the course of five minutes.
Look at this. A masked man watches an old man strip another old man in a wrestling ring. It’s borderline porno.
Next, from the NWA…
Anyway, Jones even blades and he’s pissing blood before he passes out. JJ Dillon runs in, bashes Valiant in the head and Jones gets the pin. Haha. Terrible. Charlie Brown “from outta town” returned to the NWA, surprisingly, in January. What a coincidence.
NWA Mid-Atlantic Championship
Ron Bass (c) vs. Dick Slater
Bass won the title from Angelo Mosca Jr. Actually, Mosca Jr might be the worst second generation wrestler I’ve ever seen. I love Ron Bass. I’m not even sure why. He’s just a big clubbering brute. Slater is a decent worker too, although he’s a wee bit distracted by JJ Dillon here and spends a lot of time chasing him. There’s a weird spot in this where the ref grabs Slater’s foot to block a stomp. Stomps are legal aren’t they? Striking with the flat of the foot has always been fine. They continue to brawl, the ref gets in the way so Slater throws him across the ring. The fight continues with Slater finally getting to JJ Dillon but the referee points out he’s been disqualified here. Slater, despite there being no obvious reason why he should have won…thinks he’s won. Wrestlers, eh? This was packed with brawling and was quite energetic. It’s not the disaster I remember it being.
Sidenote: we’re halfway through the show. There are only four matches left.
We go to another intermission and a wobbly shot of Old Glory is shown while the national anthem plays. Buy a tripod Crockett, you cheap bastard.
Ole Anderson & Keith Larson vs. Ivan & Nikita Koloff
Larson is Don Kernodle’s brother. Solie claims Larson didn’t want to use the Kernodle name because he wanted to make it on his own. How did that work out, Keith? I’ll spoiler it, he retired in 1986. He’s the only person on this card who doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. Ole is a die hard NWA guy, who debuted in the mid 60s. Ivan Koloff showed up in the WWF when I reviewed a show of theirs from last year. Nikita is his super rookie protégé. Ole and Ivan spend a lot of time leading the match. The Koloff’s are not related. They’re not even from the same country and neither of those countries are Russia. Wrestling lied to me. The one guy in this match using his real name is Don Kernodle, in Ole’s corner after Nikita turned on him and hurt his leg.
The faces spend half the match isolating Ivan and working his arm. It’s the Anderson Way. Nikita was ahead of his time. A big powerful, muscular guy. The trouble is…he can’t do anything. Someone taught him a bearhug and now he’s more hug than man. He is useless here. Ivan and Ole just work around him. At least Larson can keep up with the flow of the match, Nikita has nothing. My favourite thing about Nikita is that he learned to speak Russian to get the character over. Which is better than that ugly prick El Ligero just saying “si” instead of learning Spanish. Ivan waffles Larson with the old International Object for the pin. This was fun, apart from the Nikita Koloff extended bore-hugs. **½
Sidenote: I may have glazed over the timeline of 1984 somewhat. It’s the year where Vince McMahon bought a time slot on TBS in an event known as “Black Saturday” where he kicked the NWA off the air. It failed though, because Vince’s product sucked, and Crockett bought the slot back before the year was out. Although the money that he paid for it helped to finance WrestleMania. I’m sure Vince tells the story like he got one over on old Jim Crockett Jr.
NWA TV Championship
Tully Blanchard (c) vs. Ricky Steamboat
This is your work rate main event. They go hard and fast right from the bell. Tully knows he can work the ribs and is cocky about it.
Steamboat, when he gets going, flies through this match at breakneck pace. Solie suggests he’d be even quicker if he didn’t have bad ribs. Blanchard takes an enormous beating and does a sneaky bladejob, which was hard to spot. I saw him conceal the blade afterwards. Steamboat gets all fired up and steals the slingshot suplex. Tully gets an International Object, which he hits Steamboat with while Ricky is trying to suplex him back into the ring. It’s a nicely concealed shot and Tully does magic work in hiding his cheating. Steamboat goes a sunset flip, the ref is looking at the shoulders and Blanchard punches Ricky in the face with that hidden object again, stashing it in the tights before the pin. These guys did beautiful work here. Head and shoulders above everything else on the card. One of the best matches I’ve seen so far in this 80s Odyssey. ****
NWA US Championship
Wahoo McDaniel (c) vs. Superstar Billy Graham
Superstar has developed a cutting-edge karate gimmick. Did I mention Karate Kid got released in 1984? Billy looks out of sorts and just lets Wahoo beat him for the entire match. He does get a hope spot with a full nelson but Wahoo gets out and chops Graham down for three. Even in 1984, winning with a standard chop was pretty lame. The match was fairly energetic, all things considered, but that’s because it was only four minutes long.
Joe Frazier gets asked about how he’s going to call the match. His response is rambling, incoherent nonsense.
NWA World Heavyweight Championship
Ric Flair (c) vs. Dusty Rhodes
The special referee is “Smokin” Joe Frazier. Why does Flair keep getting lumped with special referees? Just give him a normal referee! Gene Kiniski tried to ruin the title match last year. The network doesn’t pay for “Purple Rain”, so I stick it on as a tribute to Big Dust. What a fucking banger. Flair’s music is copyright free. Get yourself a classical music entrance boys and girls.
Flair gets an enormous pop and Dusty gets booed by some people. It’s clear who the fans want as the ‘wrestler of the 80s’. Dusty is in horrible shape but still manages to fire off some of his patented punches. In front of Joe Frazier. The man has no shame. Frazier does a great job of staying out of the way. I’m guessing Flair just told him to stay back. That does have the unfortunate effect of leaving him AWOL while submissions are applied. He also goes down on one knee to count pinfalls. Still better than Kiniski.
Flair tries hard to get this match over, but Dusty is an inflexible opponent. Rhodes repaired a lot of the damage to his reputation with what he did after he retired. He left a generation of wrestlers inspired by his words. However, growing up watching Dusty was not a fun experience for me.
Dusty blades on the floor and he’s soon a bloody mess. Joe Frazier spends ages looking at the cut and this is where, as a wrestling fan, you know some bullshit is about to happen.
And there it is, Frazier stops the match for blood loss. This was only 12 minutes long, which is not what you want from a Starrcade main event. Dusty looked in no condition to work a main event, although he did give it a try. Flair was leagues above him here.
Starrcade ‘84 is a show that’s not fondly remembered. I think that’s fair to say. Because of its poor reputation, I actually came away liking it. A couple of the undercard matches are decent, they were still better than WWF undercards and you have the Blanchard-Steamboat match to compensate for a poor main event. There were a lot of booking issues. The commentators missed the finish in three matches, including the main event. The WWE edit on the Network has been extremely kind in editing out mistakes but even they can’t clean up the commentary. A bad night at the office for the NWA. Everything seemed to go wrong for them. If they had any intention of battling the WWF they didn’t really showcase it here. The booking leaned towards pushing the people who were booking the shows, which is far from ideal. The funny thing is, from an in-ring perspective, this is still better than WrestleMania I.