July 16, 2023

NWA Starrcade ‘85: The Gathering (11.28.85) review 

NWA Starrcade ‘85: The Gathering (11.28.85) review 


November 28, 1985 


We’re in both Atlanta, Georgia, at the Omni, and Greensboro, North Carolina at the Greensboro Coliseum. Starrcade is so big this year, it comes from multiple venues. It’s also one of the bloodiest shows of all-time in mainstream wrestling. It’s a show I’ve dubbed the Night of 1000 Cuts. I’ll be keeping track of the number of juice jobs on this show.  

Look at how bad this logo is? NWA were already struggling to keep pace with the WWF’s technical advancements. Hosts here are Bob Caudle & Tony Schiavone in Atlanta. Johnny Weaver is over in Greensboro to do interviews. To flesh out both cards to make them worth attending we start into the show around match #3 in both venues.  


Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship 

Krusher Krushchev vs. Sam Houston 

This belt is vacant because Buzz Tyler quit the territory citing money owed him by Dusty and refused to return the belt. So, the NWA ran a tournament and this is the final.  

The aim of Dusty here is to put babyface Texan cowboy Sam Houston in with evil Russian Barry Darsow. It doesn’t pan out to the heated affair Dusty was hoping for because they both suck, and Darsow is incapable of pretending to be Russian. Darsow would injure his knee a few weeks after this and miss half a year, which would be enough time for NWA to repackage him but they didn’t. He came back as Krusher until the end of 1986 where he jumped to WWF and ended up in Demolition. So, we’ll score that as Vince 1 Dusty 0 in terms of using the same guy properly. Houston gets a pin but Darsow gets his foot on the rope. Sam thinks he’s won, gets battered with the Russian Sickle and loses by pinfall. The funny part is that Houston had his foot on the rope too but Darsow swept it off. I don’t know why they felt the need to put the heel over in the opener of the show when he’d lose it to Houston a few weeks later anyway.  


BLADEJOB COUNT: 0. Nothing so far, just clean all-American fun.  


Mexican Death Match/Sombrero on a Pole match  

Abdullah the Butcher vs. Manny Fernandez 

The rules of a Mexican death match are that Manny’s sombrero is hanging on a pole over the ring and the winner is the guy who pulls it down. Manny is wearing jeans so you know it’s a street fight. He blades almost immediately for our first blood of the night. Given Abby’s scar tissue it’s only a matter of time before he’s busted open too. Manny does so by waffling the Butcher with his boot. The crowd respond well to the carnage.  

They keep cutting the crowd going wild and the pop for Manny pulling down the sombrero is enormous. Like he’d won a world title or something. Manny worked hard here to get this over and it was actually good. Colour me surprised. Colour the mat red.  


BLADEJOB COUNT: 2. This is more like it! Blood and guts baby.  


Texas Bullrope Match 

Ron Bass vs. Black Bart 

If Bass wins he gets a bullrope match against JJ Dillon too. Dillon is in street clothes; jeans and a t-shirt tux. I love big rangy southerners who beat the piss out of people. Ron Bass is in that Blackjacks, Stan Hansen school of violence. Bass uses the cowbell to shield Bart’s face while he blades underneath. It’s one of the most obvious bladejobs I’ve seen in some time. You can almost see him do it. The bull rope match is the same as a chain match, but the ‘chain’ is a rope with a cowbell in the middle. Bass blades too and it’s also pretty obvious. It’s also sickening. These two just bleed all over each other. Bart, not content with his blood loss, cuts himself up some more. Jesus, lads. There are so many shots with the cowbell in this match that Christopher Walken would even approve. Eventually Bart takes so many shots with the cowbell that he stays down.  


Ron Bass vs. JJ Dillon  

His reward is a match with JJ but Bass is down and tired so Dillon just jumps on him and pounds him with the cowbell. Bass recovers, bloodies up JJ Dillon, who does the third obvious bladejob in this match. They bump the ref, which leads to Black Bart running in and hitting a piledriver. Dillon gets the pin but Bass still beat the piss out of him.  


BLADEJOB COUNT: 5. Three more here, courtesy of a sharpened cowbell. You know it’s an evening of bloodshed when your manager is busted open too.  


Billy Graham vs. The Barbarian 

This is a two-pronged match. An arm wrestling contest, which Paul Jones has been dodging for a while because he thinks Graham can win and he’ll lose $10,000. Why did he put up $10,000? Reasons?  

The only way an arm wrestling thing would be interesting, for me, is if it was a shoot. Do the whole roster and see who wins. Like Brawl for All with less risk. Graham wins so Paul Jones hits him in the head with his cane. Naturally that’s another bladejob. Billy Graham’s late career NWA run is so weird. He’s effectively finished here and yet still managed to have a WWF run in 1987. Graham has this won with a bearhug but Paul Jones jumps in for the DQ. At least this was short.  


BLADEJOB COUNT: 6. Add in one from the Superstar.  


NWA National Championship 

Terry Taylor (c) vs. Buddy Landel 

The National title is one the NWA gave up on in 1986 but like all NWA titles it eventually came back. Landel was getting a big push but like with all Landel pushes it would go wrong. According to a shoot interview he later recorded, he started into drugs in a big way in 1985 and it ruined his promising career. The plan was, apparently, for Landel to face Flair for the NWA title in 1986 in a Nature Boy vs Nature Boy battle. Instead, he was gone shortly after this. After the bloody carnage of tonight this match serves as a cool down. Both guys are technically capable but it feels like they’re delivering something the fans don’t want. If this was the opener, it would have fared better I suspect.  

Landel is technically a babyface, despite being managed by JJ Dillon. This changes as Landel uses Dillon’s shoe to hit Taylor with. Taylor goes for his superplex finish but Dillon trips him and Landel falls on top for the belt. Landel would hold the strap for all of three weeks. Good finish though and it got heated near the end.  


BLADE JOB COUNT: 6. A good scientific match from those clean cut boys.  


NWA National Tag Team Championship 

Minnesota Wrecking Crew (c) vs. Wahoo McDaniel & Billy Jack Haynes  

The Anderson’s are very much the heels and the challengers come out to Prince’s “1999” to solidify that (Dusty also used Prince as entrance music). Arn Anderson is very underrated in my book. He could make any tag team combination work and would sell his ass off for just about anybody. Unlike a lot of ‘jobber’ types who were good at getting stuff over his offence looked awesome too. Ole is a similar worker to Arn but less good. They did look alike, although they weren’t related. Wahoo eats heat, and gets his arm worked over, for most of the match. Billy Jerk gets the hot tag, makes a mess of it and has to tag out. Wahoo gets pinned in the corner because of it with Ole holding his feet so he couldn’t kick out. This was very solid. Good tag work from the Andersons. The opponents didn’t really matter. **½ 


Video Control takes us backstage.  

JJ Dillon puts over Buddy Landel at length, and he gets a decent promo putting himself over. Again, he’ll be gone in three weeks.  


“I Quit” Steel Cage Match 

NWA United States Championship 

Tully Blanchard (c) vs. Magnum TA  

This is Magnum’s big match. He’s tried to beat Tully, and Flair, before but has always come up short. Now they’ve got him in a cage on the biggest show of the year in the biggest match. He’s clearly being groomed to the NWA world champion at this point. Or if not champion, Flair’s main challenger in 1986.  

I don’t generally like cage matches, especially if the gimmick involves the winner escaping. The cage is just dressing for this one though, as the point of the match is to get the other guy to give up. Both guys blade, obviously, and Tully cuts his arm at the top. I like the idea that the cage can cut up any part of the body, not just the forehead. 

The blood on Tully’s arm is more unsettling than the usual head gushers. Baby Doll looks genuinely freaked out by the violence. The crowd is too. There’s a hush. The microphone becoming a weapon is a nice touch because, apart from the cage itself, it’s the only weapon available and it’s good and legal. Baby Doll throws a chair in and it’s a crappy wooden one. Tully breaks it up and tries to stab Magnum with it.  

TA grabs it off him and jabs him in the face with it until he quits. Magnum’s reaction made this. His look at the end was of a gunslinger who’d killed too many folks and was sick of it. He just casually throws the US title over his shoulder and slinks off into the crowd. This has a reputation as being one of the big matches of the 1980s. I don’t think it’s aged as well as it could have. It still retains a lot of hatred and violence. Blanchard blading his arm is sick. ****¼  


BLADEJOB COUNT: 8. Both guys bled gushers. Blanchard bladed his arm too, which should count for bonus points. 


Atlanta Street Fight 

Midnight Express vs. Jimmy Valiant & Miss Atlanta Lively 

MAL is Ron Garvin in drag. I don’t get it either. For some reason the Midnight’s wear tuxedos. It’s not like the other team is dressed up. There’s more bloodshed here because it’s a street fight. The match is chaotic with everyone in, various plunder items being used, and everyone blades apart from Garvin because he’s in drag and that would feel wrong. There’s plenty of action but most of it is bad. Largely due to Garvin being limited by his high heels. Oh wait, he’s busted wide open too! Sickos. Eaton comes off the top, Garvin socks him in the face on the way down for the pin and they strip Cornette to his underwear for good measure. 


BLADE JOB COUNT: 12. Four in this match. Four! Both Midnights, very early, Valiant joined them (and I saw his) and finally Ronnie Garvin blades for the full set. No blood from Jim Cornette or we’d be heading into the bloodshed Hall of Fame. 


Steel Cage Match 

NWA Tag Team Championship 

The Russians (c) vs. Rock N’ Roll Express  

This is the Greensboro main event. I immediately think it’s stupid because it’s a cage match with tags in it. It seems even more stupid following the street fight with this.  

You must have Ricky Morton take heat though. It’s a rule. Another rule is that there are no DQs so why bother with tags? This being a cage match someone has to bleed and that’s Robert Gibson. Given the rest of the show, I’m surprised Morton doesn’t too. Ivan blades but not Nikita. Robert Gibson plays Ricky Morton in this, which is bizarre. The female support for the Rock N’ Rolls is astounding. The noise in here. Morton gets a tag and rolls Ivan up for the pin. New champions! Nikita throws Morton over the top rope and he blades on the floor! Holy shit the bloodshed here. Don Kernodle, outside the ring, gets busted open too. I assume Barry Darsow got him, but it wasn’t on camera. This match would be really good, if it was just a match without the DQ nonsense or the cage. The finish in particular is great with Gibson taking a backdrop at the same time as Morton got the roll up. **¾  


BLADE JOB COUNT: 16. Both RNR bladed, along with Ivan Koloff and Don Kernodle. I didn’t see this version of the tape before so I missed the double bladejob after the match had finished. Astonishing bloodshed.  


NWA World Championship 

Ric Flair (c) vs. Dusty Rhodes 

The angle here goes back to September when Flair (and the Andersons) broke Dusty’s leg. He came back in late October, with a special cast/boot, and cut the “Hard Times” promo. Both entrances are suitably epic. Flair has held the belt since defeating Kerry Von Erich in Japan in May 1984.  

Flair bumps around like crazy for Big Dust, knowing he needs to get Dusty’s strikes over if the match is to work. Meanwhile Dusty needs to sell the injury, which has been the focal point of the build. Flair usually takes his time working the leg and there’s a big old bullseye right on it here and he still doesn’t go for it. Dusty figures the best form of defence is attack and goes after Flair’s leg to even it up. I’m screaming at Flair to go after Dusty’s broken leg! It feels like it takes him 20 minutes to do it and as soon as he does Dusty is dead meat. Flair gets thrown out of the ring and blades, for his own amusement presumably. Nothing happened. 

As for the leg, Dusty has to punt the buckles to get Flair to remember the leg. They sit in the Figure Four for ages and Dusty just pops up and starts running around. He doesn’t run normally, what the fuck! Tommy Young gets bumped, and the Andersons run in. A second referee runs in and Dusty rolls Flair up for the win. I hate this match. I hated the last Starrcade match they had but at least it was short. Dusty always had bad matches with Flair. It’s incredibly frustrating that they kept doing this on the biggest show of the year.  


The NWA reversed the decision the next day with Dusty’s win changed to a DQ thanks to the Andersons running in. I don’t see why they needed to do that. Flair would carry on as champion until the summer when Dusty won it officially for his third, and final, reign.  


Greensboro 411: 

Greensboro was the better card of the two. You had the Rock N’ Roll Express winning the tag belts on top with Magnum beating Tully right under that. Add in a decent Landel-Taylor match and the bloody pleasures of Bass vs Bart and it’s a decent show.  


Atlanta 411: 

Atlanta got saddled with the NWA title match, which I hate, and a dreadful tag team match with Ronnie Garvin in drag as their top two. It hurts that the NWA title match was built so skilfully over so many months only to fall flat on its face and be booked that badly. Probably the best match from Atlanta was the Andersons vs. Wahoo & Haynes match and that’s saying a lot.  


FINAL BLADE JOB COUNT: 17. Add in Ric Flair for a staggering number of blade jobs on one show. Absolutely staggering.  

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