1990 was year number two of the Ted Turner ownership era for what used to be Jim Crockett Promotions, still operating under the banner of the NWA and a year away from becoming officially known as World Champion Wrestling, and was another year of transition all over the company. 1989 had a lot of really great wrestling matches and two great main event feuds (Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat and Flair vs Terry Funk), but those two challengers were now gone and semi-retired respectively (Terry never truly retired but whatever), now it was time to bring things full circle and launch the reprisal of the Flair-Sting feud that launched the latter’s career into orbit just two year prior. Flair had been working as a face since the summer, and reformed the Four Horsemen with original members Ole and Arn Anderson plus Sting as the surprise fourth member. But anyone who knew the deal saw that a turn was going to come and Sting would find himself on the outs one day. At Starrcade he beat Flair to win the Iron Man round robin tournament and secure a title shot in the future which was scheduled for this show, and that would prove to be the cause for his dismissal from the group. Challenging Ric for the title was breaking the Horsemen bro code so Sting was toast.
But a major monkey wrench got thrown into the process. The night he got thrown out Sting would come down the aisle at the end of the show to get into it with Ric and the Andersons and in the process he blew out his knee, which would keep him out until June. With no challenger for the main event Lex Luger would make a snap face turn after working heel since the previous summer, and fill in for Sting. Flair and Luger had just finished working a short program with the roles reversed that didn’t go over as well as when Lex was face and Ric was heel, so even though they’d just finished working against each other now that things were back as they should be it didn’t feel like so much of a rehash. The card got further shuffled as Luger’s scheduled U.S. Title match with Steve ‘Dr. Death’ Williams was scrapped entirely, and Williams would leave entirely. He wasn’t the only one out. The Great Muta, who’d been a sensation for the past year, would return to Japan as well. The singles side of the roster was so depleted at this point that major shows were dominated with tag team matches (this one had five out of the seven matches and the next pay per view, Capital Combat, had five out of eight), but the teams involved were very good so it was all fine in the end. So how did this show go? Let’s see:
Before we get to the matches, you absolutely have to listen to absolutely comically awful opening music for this show. If you wonder how we ended up with PN News the rapping wrestler you can listen to this and figure it all out. Yikes.
Buzz Sawyer & Kevin Sullivan vs The Dynamic Dudes
This was the final appearance for the Dudes as a team. Having debuted in May of 1989 they were a mostly failed attempt at finding the next iteration of heartthrob tag teams a la the Rock n Roll Express, Fantastics, etc. The famously got booed out of the building the previous October in what was then a rare occurrence of a live crowd not wanting any part of who were supposed to be the good guys. so it was time to move on. Sawyer, Sullivan, and Cactus Jack had formed what was a precursor to a Wyatt Family type of stable (the connection between Sullivan’s always spooky persona and Wyatt, the son of onetime Sullivan protégé Mike Rotundo, needs to be explored a bit more). OK opener, the Dudes would do the job in about 10 minutes to put over the new group. If there was a downside to NWA style match setup it’s that matches like this got 10 minutes or more when a competitive five or six would have done. Ironically, this group would be short lived as Sawyer would be gone from the company within days.
Norman the Lunatic vs Cactus Jack
Norman is definitely a character that would not fly today. Even back then he made no sense. A psych ward resident who got out to do wrestling matches originally managed by a disgraced former referee in Teddy Long, who would jingle his room keys to get him under control….yikes. At this point Norman had gotten free of Long and turned face.
Jack was not the Mick Foley we all know and love at this point but was more a stuntman who would do some crazy stuff and sell for guys then put them over. Same here for about 10 minutes. Totally skippable match here.
The Rock n Roll Express vs The Midnight Express
The Rock n Roll Express was returning full time to the NWA for the first time since Summer of 1988, and picked up right where they left off with their old rivals here. These two teams could have a great match together in their sleep and they put on another one here. Old school tag team wrestling at it’s best, with one of the best managers of all time in Jim Cornette outside the ring. They’re always worth watching and were again here.
The Road Warriors vs The Skyscrapers – Chicago Street Fight
This match was all about who wasn’t in it. The Skyscrapers were originally Sid Vicious and Dan Spivey. Then Sid suffered a punctured lung and was replaced by ‘Mean’ Mark Callous, who we would see under a new name in the WWF 10 months later, that of the Undertaker. Spivey and Callous were low key a better team because Mark was actually a better wrestler than Sid but he didn’t have the aura and presence that Sid carried, so it looked a little bootleg. And then before this match took place Spivey got injured and had to be replaced by a guy in a mask, who I found out from Wikipedia was apparently Mike Enos of the AWA’s Destruction Crew and later the WWF’s Beverly Brothers. So in what was for all intents and purposes the last match for the team, neither of the original members was involved. Hawk and Animal would soon be on their out as well, and this was their next to last PPV match in the NWA. The match itself was pretty good, a mostly punch and kick brawl but with some good intensity. It was over pretty quickly too, 5 minutes and some change, but that was probably best considering the circumstances. Another anecdote was that the Skyscrapers manager Teddy Long spent most of the match standing in the rampway next to a tuxedo clad Doom (Ron Simmons and Butch Reed), pretty much giving away what his and their next move would be.
U.S. Tag Team Tournament Final: Flyin Brian & The Z-Man vs The Freebirds
The U.S. Tag Team Title was being filled here after an eight month vacancy; it was a secondary tag title that would be dusted off for a while then put back in the trophy case depending on how robust the tag team division was at the time. And since the tag team side was pretty flush in 1990 it made sense to bring them back. The match was good, but a bit, just over 24 minutes. Given how tag match heavy this show was and that we’d already one 20 minute tag match with the Expresses with another tag match to follow this one they really could have stood to shave about five minutes off of it. Pillman and Z-Man were fairly popular but not so much to keep the heat going for this long of a match.
World Tag Team Title Match: The Steiner Brothers (c) vs The Andersons
We were hitting peak Steiner Brothers here. From 1990 to 1992 they were the best tag team in the entire business and Scott was a top five wrestler in the entire business, hands down. Scott was such a joy to watch during this stretch, and just a few months prior was considered the sidekick to Rick but from this point forward that was no longer the case. The Andersons were a legendary duo from the 80s who were on their last run (I think this may have been their last match together but don’t quote me on that). So you got pretty much what you expect here. I wish they’d given this one more time instead of the previous match because this one had a lot more heat and energy to it. Still, it’s good what it was and I’m glad they got to go one time in a big match.
NWA World Title Match: Ric Flair (c) vs Lex Luger
After a series of matches in the fall and winter of 1988 and a short program at the end of 1989 this should have been tired and played out. It wasn’t. There two had great chemistry together in the ring and did not disappoint. Flair was Luger’s best opponent in that he let Lex get in all kinds of offense and not just stereotypical power stuff. It was pretty common to see Lex pull out the dropkicks and even come off the top rope during their matches, and Lex sold for him in return better than anyone else. Another great match between the two here reminiscent of but a carbon copy of their match at Starrcade 88 (which I highly recommend). It also helped that because of Sting’s injury Luger had to make a snap face turn so that Ric would have an opponent after turning heel on Sting. Their matches with the roles reversed weren’t bad but they were best when Ric was heel and Luger was a face. They went almost 40 minutes here (38:08 according to wiki) and I dare say this was better than all the ‘epic encounters’ we hear about today. The finish cemented the face turn with an inevitable run-in by the Andersons to put an end to it. Flair keeps the title, Luger gets protected, and Sting gets just involved enough to certify Luger’s turn (which wasn’t hard since his heel turn never really took all the way anyway).
Very good show. Lots of top notch tag team wrestling and a great main event. Shows like this are a testament to adapting to your roster’s strengths and booking accordingly. They could have force fed us more singles matches with guys who were not over but they didn’t and that made for a much better show. Definitely give this one a try sometime.