Pro Wrestling USA Star Wars (2.24.85) review
February 24, 1985
With Vince McMahon’s WWF running wild in the North-East of the country, the other two ‘big’ promotions decided to team up and stick it to Vince. The NWA and the AWA ran this joint promotion, under the banner of “Pro Wrestling USA”, and did so in Vince’s back garden. The territory wars were well and truly underway. We’re in East Rutherford, New Jersey at the Meadowlands Arena. In a typically short-sighted move, they didn’t tape the entire show. Sadly, that means no Bob Backlund vs. Billy Robinson. The second half of the show was taped, however, and aired on TV in Japan.
Ivan & Nikita Koloff vs. Jimmy Valiant & Steve Keirn
Valiant is subbing in for the injured Stan Lane. He’s already wrestled once tonight. As with Starrcade the Russians leave Nikita on the apron for most of the match. Ivan spends a big chunk of the match taking a beating off the babyfaces. This is all very familiar. Keirn looks like a goddamn super-worker compared to WWF undercard guys in 1985. Then Nikita tags in…and boy does he suck. If he tries anything more complicated than a rest hold it goes wrong. One of the wrestlers who my opinion has gone up on during this project is Ivan Koloff. He works hard, gets matches over, gets his opponents over and carries gigantic Russian baggage through tags. The camera completely misses the finish here, focusing on Keirn brawling with Nikita at ringside, and I assume Ivan waffled Valiant with something. This was really fun, apart from Nikita’s bit. Around **½
AWA World Championship
Rick Martell (c) vs. Jimmy Garvin
Verne Gagne finally figured out he needed a younger, more exciting world champion and stuck it on Ricky Martell. It wasn’t a bad choice and he’s a better worker than Hogan, but Verne still dropped the ball big time in 1983. Martell is an entertaining wrestler to watch but Garvin is intent on killing the crowd and getting his heat in. Martel works like a cruiserweight with a lot of high-speed offence. At one point Garvin gets his foot on the ropes to break up a pin, Martel jumps right up and onto the knee. It’s an electric performance. Precious interferes, grabbing at Martell’s leg, and Ricky gets so pissed off he throws Garvin over the top rope for the DQ. I wish this went longer. Martell is one of those great workers that doesn’t get enough respect, possibly because of his run as the Model.
AWA Tag Team Championship
The Roadwarriors (c) vs. Jerry Lawler & Baron von Raschke
The Roadies burst onto the scene in the mid 80s. Animal had a few years on Hawk but in 1985 they were both still very green. While Nikita Koloff was green and had no idea what to do with himself and his power, the Roadies are green but know how to hit a bunch of power moves. They also don’t bother selling. The Mad Max franchise was over with the boys so frequently that Roadwarrior style transitioned on over to wrestling. Lawler is an ideal opponent for them. He bumps like crazy and hasn’t got much in the way of offence for them to no sell. Hawk does basically ignore the piledriver, which gets a big pop but I still don’t get it.
Of all the moves to no sell, a piledriver. Of course, it got him over, he was no selling one of the deadliest moves in wrestling. No sell other stuff but come on. He’s more scared of Von Raschke’s Claw. The Baron has been working since the mid 60s and is an ideal fit to Verne’s dated AWA, wrestling as an evil German Nazi type turned funny German babyface. The match is way better with Lawler in there. The Roadwarriors were AWA’s tag division, for their entire run, and it’s no shock when they easily beat these two jamokes. Von Raschke was a joke even in 1985. This was fun enough too. Basically 3/3 tonight.
NWA World Heavyweight Championship
Ric Flair (c) vs. Harley Race
Race is nearing the end of his usefulness and would jump ship to the WWF in 1986. He still had 3-4 more shots at Flair in 1985 left in him. Flair takes a pisser into the buckles about a minute in and blades.
They beat the piss out of each other here. Big bumps, big chops, blood everywhere. All done at a belting pace. Flair showing a lovely balance of vulnerability and viciousness. Flair uses those chops as a defensive mechanism rather than an offensive one, or a chance to get pops. Any time he needs to back Harley up, here they come. Race plays the role of a savvy veteran who sees a lot of Flair’s intentions coming at a distance and cuts them off. He’s also keen to prove he can still go toe to toe with a younger man and they frequently go into striking duels. Holy shit, this fucking rules.
Flair eventually goes after the leg, with a few minutes left, but ends up hurting himself. Race tries to beat Flair with the high crossbody, like Flair did at Starrcade ‘83, but he’s not sure on his feet on the ropes and Flair rolls through it for the pinfall to retain. Holy shit, this was great. ****½. They went 20 minutes and just beat the tar out of each other for the whole match. No rest holds, no bullshit. This is what happens, NWA, when you put two of your best workers out there and just let them go. No special referees, no dumb gimmicks, no Dusty. Just two guys having a match. It was brilliant. Easily the best match I’ve seen from the 80s to this point.
This was like Starrcade ‘83 on steroids.
Tag Team Battle Royal
This is the main event. It’s a bunch of tag teams. If one member of your team is eliminated, you’re both out. Some of the teams: Dory Funk Jr & Nick Bockwinkel, Lawler & von Raschke, Backlund & Valiant, Road Warriors, Ivan & Nikita Koloff and the Youngbloods. There are more than that. Sgt Slaughter is out here solo because Jerry Blackwell is injured.
Babyface all-American hero Sgt Slaughter against these near impossible odds? He has to be the favourite.
There are a lot of people in the ring. There’s no room to do anything so everyone hugs the ropes. Battle royals suck. Towards the end we have Sgt Slaughter, the Road Warriors and the team of Kamala & Billy Robinson. Sarge somehow puts both Roadies out but then gets double teamed for ages. Mainly by Billy with him stopping to explain spots to Kamala. He obviously doesn’t explain it well enough because he charges Sarge and gets backdropped to the floor. Slaughter hits the Slaughter Cannon on Billy for good measure and the ref counts three. That’s pretty decisive. This was terrible, as expected.
This was really fun. Lots of energy, entertaining match ups and a killer NWA title match. This was the NWA and AWA Strikes Back. It’s a pity the joint force couldn’t get on the same page and NWA went ahead and tried to attack Vince solo. This was great though. It’s an hour long and it’s on YouTube and you can skip the dumb main event. Big win.