Funkin’ Unbelievable

This marks the first of many reviews I’ll be doing on the early days of NWA / WCW, starting with WrestleWar 89. Just to clarify I will be reviewing every WCW Pay-Per View starting with WrestleWar 89 until the closing of it’s doors.

I’ve always wanted to go back and experience wrestling in it’s golden era. As a kid I remember buying the Ric Flair DVD and watching Flair vs. Sting at the first Clash of the Champions for the first time. Being at the age of fifteen at the time, realistically I should of gotten bored with the match within five minutes because it was the complete opposite of the wrestling product on at the time. But that wasn’t the case. Instead I embraced what I was watching. The flamboyant “Nature Boy” head to head with the charismatic Stinger. Every move they made was deliberate. My eyes were glued to the screen for the whole forty-five minutes. The decision of a time limit draw only left me wanting to see more. It was in that moment that I fell in love with old school wrestling.

Fortunately, five years later, I am now able to go back in time and watch all of the old wrestling I want with the WWE Network (for only $9.99). And that’s exactly what I’m going to do with this article.

Now you might be asking yourself “why WCW?” Well, let me tell you why. I always connected more with WCW than I did with WWE or then WWF. In my opinion, WCW had the better in-ring performances, story lines, characters and better overall atmosphere of their shows. And last but not least, WCW had realism. Which was the complete opposite of the ‘cartoonish’ characters of the WWF…….brother.

Alright with that explanation out of the way, let’s get to the second PPV of 1989, WrestleWar. Now I skipped Chi-Town Rumble simply because I’ve seen it multiple times and it’s been covered on this network a lot as well.

The Great Muta w/ Gary Hart vs. Doug Gilbert – Our first match of the night was originally advertised as The Great Muta against Junkyard Dog but apparently JYD could not attend the event….I wonder if there is a story behind that. Anyways, we get the prestigious brother of “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert who by the way has his own match later on. Unfortunately for good ol’ Doug he gets kicked the crap out of for a period of about three minutes before Muta hits his beautiful moonsault and wins. Not much of a match but what can you expect when the originally opponent doesn’t show up to the event.

Butch Reed vs. Ranger Ross – Yes you read that correctly….this guy’s name is indeed Ranger Ross. This guy is so military that he comes out with his black leather jacket, an American flag and tear away camo sweatpants. I’m pretty convinced that Ranger Ross is somehow related to Sgt. Craig “Pitbull” Pittman. In terms of the match itself, let’s just say its exactly what you’d think a Butch Reed and Ranger Ross match would be like. The most interesting thing about this match was the fabulous do-rag wearing Teddy Long.

After being suspended as a referee for favouring the Varsity Club at the Clash of the Champions before this event, Teddy comes to ringside in full do-rag mode. He starts flashing his press pass to the camera as if this is Nazi Germany and someone just asked for his papers. Although I wasn’t sure why Teddy was even out at ringside but nonetheless it provided some entertainment to an otherwise boring match-up.

After what seems like a lifetime, Butch Reed finally gets the pinfall after a flying shoulder block from the top rope. Come on…..did you really expect Ranger Ross to win?

Next we had a very face Lex Luger being interviewed by Lance Russell. Luger says Michael Hayes doesn’t have what it takes to win his US Heavyweight Title later on tonight. It was a pretty standard promo but it doesn’t take away the fact that Lex is the man.

Bullrope Match: Dick Murdoch vs. Bob Orton Jr. w/ Gary Hart – Speaking of boring matches, I don’t think it gets any better than this. You’d think two guys whipping and choking each other with a bullrope would be entertaining to watch….instead it was pretty much the complete opposite. The match was very slow, almost like they were just waiting for it to finish. Which might have been the case since it only went for six minutes after Murdoch “hogtied” Orton with the rope and therefore getting the pin. Almost immediately after the bell rang Orton starts attacking Murdoch while Gary Hart prevents the referee from getting involved. I have to admit, it was an old school beatdown. Orton cracked Murdoch with the cowbell several times before wrapping the rope around his neck, throwing him over the top rope and basically hanging him. It was pretty brutal.

I know we haven’t gotten off to the best start but I promise you, the worst is over.

Michael PS Hayes and his chest hair gets interviewed backstage. Hayes says something in response to what Luger said earlier on in the night. Honestly, I wasn’t really paying attention because I was too busy staring as his gross looking chest hair. I did pick up him saying “ without men like you there wouldn’t be men like me”. Which makes me think maybe that was an insight to the whole heel / face thing……or maybe he was just high on cocaine, who knows.

Dynamic Dudes vs. Samoan Swat Team w/ Paul E. Dangerously – Don’t let John Laurinaitis and Shane Douglas’ beach blonde hair, colorful ring gear and skateboards fool you. These two guys actually make a good team and it shined through in this match. I’ve always enjoyed the classic “keep him in our corner and work on him” tag team match and that’s exactly what this was. The Samoans dominated Johnny Ace, beating him down for the majority of the match. But never fear! The Dynamic Dudes pull out the win after Ace came off the top rope with a dropkick into Fatu’s face while he had Douglas on his shoulders. Hence making him lose balance allowing Douglas to get the quick pinfall. Great match.

Lance Russell interviews Lou Thesz, Pat O’Conner and Terry Funk who are the “judges” for the Flair versus Steamboat match. Nothing to really write home about, they discuss the importance of the world title match and how it will be scored.

NWA US Heavyweight Title Match – Lex Luger (champion) vs. Michael PS Hayes w/ Hiro Mastuda – Before I get into the nooks and crannies of this match, I think it’s only fair that I confess my love of Lex Luger to you. Sure he isn’t the best technical wrestler out there but to be fair big guys like him aren’t really supposed to be the best wrestlers. Luger was very charismatic and that’s what I think carried him through most of his career.

Anyway, this match is just what you’d expect, brilliant. It was a back and forth contest where Luger used his power while Hayes got the upper hand with his smarts. After more than fifteen minutes of grueling punishment between the two, they butt heads and in the process the referee gets knocked down. Terry Gordy comes running down and pushes Hayes onto Luger, allowing him to get the pinfall. Michael Hayes is the new US Champion!

Lance Russell gets a quick interview with Sting before his match with the Iron Sheik. In typical Sting fashion, he is just excited to go out there and wrestle. He gives us a WOOO and runs out to the ring.

NWA World Television Title Match – Sting (champion) vs. The Iron Sheik w/ Rip Morgan – This match ended in just over two minutes which surprised me. The guys get dirty right off the bat with eye rakes etc etc. Eventually Sting gets the upper hand, hits the Stinger Splash in the corner, locks in the Scorpion Deathlock and Sheik taps pretty quickly. Personally, I would’ve liked to see more of a technical match out of these two especially with Iron Sheik’s background. But it is what it is.

Lance Russell interviews Ricky Steamboat about his upcoming world title match. As usual, the family man is very respectful and nice. He says he respects Flair and may the best man win.

NWA World Heavyweight Championship Title Match – Ricky Steamboat (champion) vs. Ric Flair – What can I really say about this match that hasn’t already been said? Steamboat vs. Flair is one of the best feuds in the history of wrestling. And their entrances capsulized why these two men gelled so well. On one hand you had the playboy Ric Flair coming out with forty gorgeous women closely behind him. On the other hand, you had the family man Ricky Steamboat come out with his wife and son, who was riding a pony. These two men were basically polar opposites. And although this match isn’t their best, it’s in the top three. What kind of weirdly interested me about the match was the judges. They had to score the match every ten minutes. I thought that was a brilliant idea especially for the commentators as it gives them more material to work with when it comes to who was winning and how close the score was.

In the end, Steamboat lifts Flair up in a scoop slam when his legs buckle which allows Flair to get the pin and become the six time NWA World Heavyweight Champion. After showing some respect to Steamboat with a handshake, Jim Ross conducts a quick interview with Flair. While that’s happening, Terry Funk comes into the ring and congratulates Flair on his win. He also challenges Flair for his world title but Ric says “I don’t give title shots to people who have been in Hollywood”. Funk snaps and starts attacking Flair which gives us the famous image of Funk piledriving Flair through a table at ringside. One of the main reasons why it was so believable is because Flair was screaming “Oh god! My neck!” after the piledriver. The transition from Steamboat to Funk was so seamless it was unbelievable.

After that brilliant wrestling match, we get Lance Russell conducting an interview with Nikita Koloff and his tight referee shirt. Nikita says he’s pleased to be the referee for the Road Warriors vs. Varsity Club match. He’s going to call it straight down the middle.

NWA World Tag Team Title Match – Road Warriors vs. Varsity Club (champions) (Mike Rotunda and Dr. Death) w/ Special Guest Referee Nikita Koloff – For a match that had so much on the line it wasn’t a very long match. Basically Kevin Sullivan, who is the manager of the Varsity Club, got ejected early in the match by Nikita Koloff. Sullivan and Dan Spivey come back to the ring, pull Koloff out and attack him which automatically gets the Varsity Club disqualified. Fortunately for Koloff he holds his own against the dastardly men. The Road Warriors win but no gold belts for them.

NWA US Tag Team Championship Match – The First Family (Eddie Gilbert & Rick Steiner) w/ Missy Hyatt vs. Varsity Club (Spivey and Sullivan) – Originally supposed to be a hair match, things break down pretty quickly and Spivey attacks Rick’s shoulder pretty violently. Spivey was throwing him shoulder first into the ring post, wrenching it over and over again so Rick would be incapacitated enough to leave Eddie by himself. And that’s exactly what happened. Eddie ended up fighting both Sullivan and Spivey by himself only to be completely dominated by them. Rick tried to get back up on the apron but got attacked by Spivey once again. Eventually after a false tag, Rick gets sick of the shenanigans, comes into the ring illegally and gives a Steiner-line to Sullivan so Eddie can cover him for the three count. I’m not going to lie I marked out when Rick hit the Steiner-line just because he had been wronged the whole match and he came out of nowhere with it.

Overall, I thought Wrestle War 89 was a pretty good PPV. It started off boring but picked up after the first hour and I saw some fantastic matches. I’d like to know if there was a story behind JYD not being at the event or why the got rid of the Hair stipulation for the main event. Speaking of the main event, I honestly think Flair / Steamboat should have been THE main event. I loved the last match but everything after the world title match seemed to be overshadowed by the world title match.

Pros and Cons

– Boring matches to start the PPV

– World title match should of been main event

+ Fantastic title matches

+ Seamless transition from Steamboat v Flair to Funk v Flair

 

About The Author

Dan is host of Shooting from the Hip which you can hear every Sunday at 8pm EST, 7pm CST right here on PWpop.com.