Another Retro Recap here, this one for Starrcade 86 – Night of the Skywalkers. This one was the last one before the NWA ventured into Pay-Per-View, and wasn’t available in its entirety for us little people until the WWE Network came into existence. (One more reason to order the Network if you haven’t already. It’s just ten bucks people.) There are definitely some things about the show that reflect the times, one being segments where the big shows for the following year were plugged, complete with highlights of the 1986 versions. Another was the generic entrance music for everyone other than Ric Flair, I guess because securing the rights to use them at a large scale show were too much.
The card itself was set up in similar fashion to the 1985 show with 12 matches split evenly between two locations, Atlanta and Greensboro, North Carolina. It also had several matches that wouldn’t make it onto any kind of big event post-early 90s. The companies eventually realized that it was better to have 8 matches with little no filler than 12 matches with lots of it. So there was some real skip worthy stuff here if you’re watching it almost 30 years later. But it managed to not drag the show down because they all got some decent crowd reactions and the matches themselves were pretty well done.
The show was also a lot different than it had originally been planned out. The main event was supposed to be Magnum T.A. taking on Ric Flair for the title. Magnum was a quickly rising face who was poised to become the guy for the company in another year or so. But he was in a horrible car accident that ended his career, so some radical changes had to be made. Magnum’s one time rival, Nikita Koloff, made an abrupt face turn and joined forces with Magnum’s best friend and partner Dusty Rhodes. He got the main event slot in Magnum’s absence. And Ron Garvin, who was supposed to start a program with Koloff got shuffled into a no-DQ match with Big Bubba Rogers (later the Big Bossman in the WWF). They somehow made it work, though.
- Tim Horner and Nelson Royal beat Don and Rocky Kernodle
- Brad Armstrong and Jimmy Garvin went to a draw
- Hector Guerrero and Baron Von Raschke beat Shaska Whatley and the Barbarian
Now you’re wondering ‘what?’ These guys were all regulars on NWA TV, so the crowd knew them, and even though these guys weren’t any kind of draw the crowd respected them enough to cheer and boo accordingly. Several of them (Royal, the Kernodles, Guerrero, Raschke, and Whatley) were on their last roundups as regular performers for the company. The matches themselves weren’t bad, just kinda unnecessary by 2015 standards.
- US Tag Team Title Match: Ivan Koloff and Krusher Krushcev beat the Kansas Jayhawks in a no-DQ match
- Wahoo McDaniel beat Rick Rude in an Indian Strap Match (yeah, that’s pretty stereotypical)
- Sam Houston beat Bill Dundee by DQ in a Central States Title Match
More matches to fill up space. The last two wouldn’t make a 2015 show. But again they were decent enough, didn’t drag on, and the people involved were TV regulars so people knew them and responded to them.
The important stuff
- Jimmy Valiant vs Paul Jones – this was a Hair vs Hair match that was the final chapter in a years long feud between these two men. Valiant was pretty up in age at this point and would be done within a year. Neither guy could do much other than brawl at this point. Valiant won to give the fans a happy ending here. If you think this match didn’t matter….listen to the crowd. They cared like hell. That made the match.
- Bubba Rogers beat Ronnie Garvin in a street fight – this was a pretty good brawl, it got pretty messy. Garvin would be in the main event a year later but got stuck with this because of Magnum’s absence.
The Big Matches
- Dusty Rhodes vs Tully Blanchard (First Blood Match for the television title) – you want to see some first class cowardly heel/heel manager work, this is your match. Blanchard was one of the underrated heels from the 80s, and was overshadowed by Flair in the Four Horsemen but when he got to shine he came through. A First Blood match featuring Dusty Rhodes doesn’t sound like a winning proposition and it wasn’t. As usual, Rhodes was cheated out of a win thanks to Blanchard and manager JJ Dillon’s cheating ways. Dillon and Blanchard were absolute gold working together. The spot where Dillon broke out a towel and some vaseline to close Blanchard’s cut like he was a boxing cornerman was just great stuff.
- The Road Warriors vs the Midnight Express (scaffold match) – Scaffold matches were the most insane thing ever thought of. This one worked because of the crowd, the ferocity that Hawk and Animal delivered their punch and kick offense, the drama behind guys almost getting thrown off the scaffold, and Jim Cornette’s antics. Cornette is one of the best heel managers ever. He got two guys over who could not talk a lick thanks to his mic skills, cheating, and sheer cowardice. You cannot have a match like this with little to no workrate beyond basic brawling without someone like him involved. Ludicrous concept for a match but entertaining as hell.
- The Rock n Roll Express vs the Andersons (cage match for the World Tag Team Titles) – another triumph of great teamwork, selling, and ring work. Few people sold a beating like Ricky Morton of the Express, and few people made even the most basic holds look excruciating like the Andersons. A simple armbar by Ole Anderson looked like he was going to rip the other guys arm out. And the cage just added to the brutality. It was matches like this that made people say the NWA was the ‘real’ wrestling compared to the WWF. Just an awful beating that the Express managed to miraculously overcome, of course.
- Main Event: Ric Flair vs Nikita Koloff (World Title Match) – considering that this was a makeshift replacement match and one of Koloff’s first big solo matches after his face turn this went off pretty well. Nikita did a boatload of no-selling at various points in the match; he was still very raw at this point so it was understandable. Flair did his thing as always and made Nikita look great. The finish, a double disqualification, was well executed but seemed like a strange way to end a big show like this one. Looking back, you got to figure they saw the match as a one-off and booked it that way. No way you could put the title on a limited performer like Nikita, even for a short time, and you don’t pour cold water on a big face turn by having him job to Flair. So I can see the point now even though it didn’t make sense then.
Overall Grade: A-
The card had too many matches by 2015 standards, but this was before monthly big events were a thing. Using the whole roster was something you did because shows of this level of importance only happened once or twice a year. But even the early matches with low level guys had crowd support and were well worked. The big matches all delivered from the potentially disastrous scaffold match to the title matches. Everybody came to work and it showed. This was 1980s NWA wrestling at its best.