Retro Recap: Capital Combat 1990

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Capital Combat 1990 was a one shot pay view event that took place during another rough patch for the NWA.  After 1989 saw a lot of mainstays leave and get replaced by a bunch of new faces, 1990 wasn’t starting out so good.  Sting was supposed to be doing a program with Ric Flair but got injured and was out until July.  Sid Vicious had gotten hurt in November and was out of action at the beginning of the year.  Two guys who had important roles in 1989  – Ricky Steamboat and Terry Funk – were already gone.  And some other key supporting players – Steve ‘Dr. Death’ Williams, the Great Muta, and Dan Spivey – would move on before March.

To make up for it the company had to lean heavy on tag team matches; it wasn’t uncommon for a show to have no more than two or three singles matches during this period.  While there was another influx of new guys coming that summer for the first half of the year they were in a ‘just make it through’ mode.  That doesn’t mean they weren’t able to put out a good product as the tag team division was chock full of good teams, but the big hole on the singles side wasn’t easy to hide.  This show was the poster child for that situation; an eight match show had five tag team matches and a manager vs manager match.

It also goes down in history for the worst wrestling-movie tie-in ever.  In a cross promoting idea that will forever go down in infamy, the company named the event Capital Combat: The Return of Robocop (Robocop 2, an absolutely terrible movie, was coming out that summer).  Yeah, it was as bad as it sounds.  We all know wrestling isn’t “real”, but a cross promotion that required a fictional character to show up in character and get into a confrontation with some of the wrestlers?  Yeah……that sucked real bad.So how did it go?  Let’s see.

The Road Warriors and Norman the Lunatic vs Kevin Sullivan, Cactus Jack, and Bam Bam Bigelow

This was the last pay per view match in the NWA for the Road Warriors, as they would be off to the WWF within weeks after this show.  Norman the Lunatic would be gone after this, too.  Bigelow had just come back after being gone for over a year.  It was pretty obvious going in that Hawk and Animal’s departure had not been made known, otherwise the result of this match would have been different.  At the same time for two guys as important to 1980s NWA action as Hawk and Animal to be relegated to the opening match raised an eyebrow even for then 15-year old me at the time.  Plenty of back and forth in this match, everybody got in their stuff, and the Warriors and Norman got the win in just under 10 minutes.

Mean Mark vs Johnny Ace

Mean Mark was the ring name for one Mark Callaway, who you would later get to know as the Undertaker.  If nothing else, this match showed the importance of having an interesting character.  Mark was already employing a lot of the moves that he made famous as the dead man, but because he was just a tall guy with a run of the mill name nobody cared much.  The people in charge knew they had something with him, because from here he got a decent push through the summer before leaving, but weren’t able to figure out how to present it.  Vince McMahon had no such problem, as we would find out six months later.  The match was just over ten minutes, which is long for what was supposed to be a showcase match for a big imposing guy like Mark, but again the people in charge hadn’t figured out that the best thing to do with him was make him a total dominator.

The Samoan Swat Team vs Mike Rotundo and Tommy Rich

This was a filler match, with a bunch of guys that had nothing going on at the time.  And it went entirely too long, almost 18 minutes.  The Swat Team won, and absolutely nobody cared then or now.

Paul Ellering vs Teddy Long (Hair vs Hair Match)

Yawn.  This was under two minutes which was about two minutes too long.  Manager vs manager matches are rarely any good unless you have compelling personalities like Jim Cornette and Paul Heyman.  Ellering was the manager for the Road Warriors and while he was great as a part of that unit by himself he was pretty boring.  Long was ok as a manager but had no business getting in a ring for a match.  I’ve already talked more about this match than was warranted.  Next….

U.S. Tag Team Title Match: Brian Pillman and Tom Zenk (champs) vs The Midnight Express

This match was the last title victory for the Express, as Stan Lane and manager Jim Cornette would be gone from the company by the end of the year.  Very good match between four pros.  Lane and Eaton could have a good match with almost anyone at that point, so it’s no surprise that these guys would do really well together.

The Rock n Roll Express vs The Freebirds (Corporal Punishment Match)

A corporal punishment match was a match where the participants got to make use of straps as weapons in the ring.  We had two more veteran units here with the Rock n Roll Express and the Freebirds here, so a good match was pretty much assured.  The straps were used a lot early on, but after a few minutes it turned into a standard tag team match.  The Express won and would go on to wrestle for the World Titles at the next big event while the Freebirds would tread water for a while afterward before winning the titles the next year.

World Tag Team Title Match: Rick and Scott Steiner (champs) vs Doom

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Another really good match between guys who’d been working together off and on for a good solid six months.  The Steiners were on a real roll going into this match and were way over with the fans.  Doom was making a remarkable turnaround; in just three months they’d gone from a joke of a team to a pretty formidable unit.  It turns out that by going with their normal personas they got much more over than when they were supposed to be masked menaces.  Doom would win the titles to cap off a major reversal of fortune in their careers and hold the titles for almost a year.

NWA World Title Match: Ric Flair (champ) vs Lex Luger

This was the last big pay per view match between these two; including this match they faced each other in four out of the first ten NWA pay per view shows.  In a new twist this match was in a steel cage but it was the retractable, ring surrounding cage that would become the model for Hell in a Cell matches.  And that would come into play later.  Flair and Luger were working a program that had to be assembled on the fly due to Sting’s legit knee injury, and were able to put together a good run thanks to Flair’s awesomeness and their experience together.  Flair was the perfect opponent for Luger and made him look great every time.  This was no exception.  Flair got busted open as usual.  The ending broke new ground in clusterf- finishes.  Flair’s Four Horseman mates Arn Anderson, Sid Vicious, and Ole Anderson came down to ringside to cheer on the champ, and were looking to get in the cage when Sting and NWA newcomer El Gigante came down and seemingly fought them off.  Horseman Barry Windham was absent, and a few minutes we found out why.  After leaving ringside the cage was raised up (by Ole who’d commandeered the cage controls)  just long enough for Windham, Vicious, and Anderson to get inside and commence to beating Luger down.  The match was called a no contest.

Final Verdict

This turned out to be a pretty historically relevant show even though it didn’t seem like it at the time.  A final appearance for the Road Warriors, the last big pay per view match between Ric Flair and Lex Luger, and the last title victory for the Midnight Express.  The matches were mostly good, although I have to wonder why on earth they gave the Swat Team/Rich and Rotundo match almost 20 minutes when they could have just given Flair and Luger or even the opening match more time.  But all in all some good in ring action for the most part.  Not a must see but if you’re going through a late 80s/early 90s NWA/WCW run on the WWE Network it’s definitely worth checking out.

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