This is the third “He’s The Booker, I’m The Blogger” feature. We discuss Starrcade 1985: The Gathering.
If you’ve never read one of these colums before, John LaRocca (@LaRoccaJL), president and co-owner of Premier, a Bay Area based independent wrestling company and myself, editor of this very website, go back and forth on an old wrestling show.
We’re going to go over the card match-by-match and give insight about the show overall. It’s great supplemental material to follow along if you’re watching this show for the first time.
The show took place on November 28, 1985 from the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro and The Omni in Atlanta. Yes, Jim Crockett Promotions held their biggest show of the year at more than one location three months before the WWF would do so for WrestleMania 2.
At both Starrcade 1983 and Starrcade 1984, Gordon Solie and Bob Caudle were the broadcast team with Tony Schiavone as the backstage interviwer. On this show, Caudle and Schiavone handle the broadcast while Johnny Weaver is the backstage interviewer. Put someone in the Weaver lock, daddy!
The production starts off on the wrong foot. As Schiavone throws it to announcer Tom Miller at the Greensborough Coliseum, the shot is of Weaver and his eyes are going back and forth. He’s absolutely uncomfortable not knowing if he’s on air or not.
1. Sam Houston Vs Krusher Khruschev
GG: This is for the vacant NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship.
JL: I always enjoyed Sam Houston’s matches, especially in the mid-80s. Houston always gave 100% and took great bumps.
GG: Khruschev is huge, but maybe a bit more in shape than as Smash in his Demoltion days.
JL: This match told a simple story of speed versus power.
GG: Houston’s reminiscent of a C+ version of Barry Windham with his size and athleticism, all the way down to the bulldog.
JL: It was a solid opening match, but I really did not like the finish.
GG: Houston looked like a huge goof not understanding that he didn’t get the three-count from the bulldog.
JL: Houston hit his bulldog headlock finisher (you know, cause all Texas must use the bulldog headlock), but Krushev got his left foot on the bottom rope before the count of three. Houston celebrated like he won and came off like a geek.
GG: He literally jumped up for joy.
JL: Then Krushev killed Houston with a clothesline and also covered him close to the ropes. So they made Houston look like a geek, but then put the heat on the referee. A simple clean finish of Krushev going over with the clothesline would have been fine. No need to protect Houston here. No matter if he wins or loses, Houston always gets over with his effort he puts in the ring.
The second match is from Atlanta at the Omni. They would go back and forth between venues for the telecast.
2. Abdullah The Butcher Vs Manny Fernandez
GG: This match is actually called a Mexican Death match. You had to capture a sombrero on a pole. I wonder if a young Vince Russo watched this show?
JL: Minus the goofy stipulation, this match was a great, violent and bloody brawl.
GG: It took less than a minute for Fernandez to get busted open.
JL: Abdullah is one of my favorites when it comes to blood, and watching him here makes me miss the days of unique wrestlers like him.
GG: Fernandez actually tried to monkey flip Abdullah. Who decided that was the proper move to use in this match?
JL: You don’t see anyone out there today who can get over being crazy like him.
GG: Fernandez took his boot off to beat up Abdullah. He was bloodied quickly. Then pulled out his leather belt, wrapped it around his hand and was throwing big right hands.
JL: It was really impressive to see Abdullah take a second rope schoolboy bump which is no fun, especially for a man of his size. Equally impressive was Fernandez’s top rope schoolboy bump of the top rope a few moments later.
GG: Fernandez hits a flying forearm smash, which Schiavone calls the, “Flying Burrito.” Butcher missed a chance to shoulder block him in the corner as he moved out of the way and he grabbed the sombrero to win the match. Paul Jones was not happy about that.
Johnny Weaver talks to Khruschev who just won the NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship. Khruschev speaks better English than Weaver does, yet says he did it for the motherland Russia. After he says that he’s going to keep the strap because he’s stronger and Russian, he tells Houston, “You got that?”
3. Ron Bass Vs Black Bart
GG: This match is a Texas Bullrope Match. If Bass wins, he gets a second bullrope match, but with Bart’s manager, JJ Dillon.
JL: After the blood-fest between Fernandez and Abdullah, they followed that up with another blood-fest in Ron Bass versus Black Bart. Unlike most Texas Bull Rope Matches where you drag your opponent and touch all four top turnbuckles in succession, this match could end by pinfall.
GG: JJ isn’t dressed in his normal get-up. To put over the stipulation, he’s dressed in a t-shirt and jeans in case he has to face Bass in the second match if his guy loses.
JL: Within seconds Bart was bleeding buckets. At least, right away, they got over how sharp the cowbell was and when anyone got hit with the bell, they bled.
GG: Since they had a bloodbath at the Ommi, they had to have a bloodbath in Greensborough. Oddly, Schiavone and Caudle are silent for the first half of this match.
JL: Most of the match was Bass and Bart beating each other to a bloody mess with the cowbell. It was a very good brawl, but I would have put a match that had no blood in between these two violent matches.
GG: Schiavone announces that the Bunkhouse Stampede is coming to the Omni. Somewhere, Vince McMahon is listening to Pat Patterson tell him about this battle royal idea from San Francisco.
Finally, Bass hits Bart with the cowbell off the second rope and pins Bart. JJ jumps him immediately and takes off his shirt in the process.
JL: Dillon is such a tremendous worker that even though he wrestled for years, he knows exactly how to work as a manager. There was a referee bump and Black Bart, who never left ringside, came back in and nailed Bass with a piledriver. Bart put Dillon on top and the referee woke up just in time to count Bass’s shoulders to the mat. This violent fight had the feeling of a blowoff to the program, but with Dillon going over, this feud continues.
4. The Barbarian Vs Superstar Billy Graham
GG: This is an arm wrestling match first and then a wrestling match second. The winner of the arm wrestling match wins $10,000.
JL: It’s a waste of time, but at least Graham was back to doing his “Superstar” gimmick with the tie-dye shirts and feather boas.
GG: Graham isn’t in tip top Superstar shape, but like John said, he’s back to his successful gimmick, rather than the terrible karate gimmick he was using at the last Starrcade.
Schiavone tries to sell that the Barbarian doesn’t understand the rules of arm wrestling. I’m assuming this is because he was barbaric? If so, wouldn’t he have known arm wrestling quite well? Graham sells better in the arm wrestling match than most wrestlers today do in a regular wrestling match. Sylvester Stallone should’ve added him to the cast of Over The Top.
JL: Graham wins and The Barbarian’s manager Paul Jones attacks Graham who of course is bleeding.
GG: Barbarian bites Graham’s head after it’s already bleeding. This always bothered me. There’s no need to bite the head after it’s bleeding. Then again, I guess it was supposed to show that he was a savage like a barbarian.
JL: The match only went three minutes until once again Paul Jones attacked Graham causing a disqualification.
GG: The Barbarian took Graham outside and beat him up before the referee raised Graham’s hand.
JL: I would have just done the arm wrestling match with the post match beat down. No need for the singles match.
GG: I agree. There was no need for the wrestling match. The arm wrestling match was better too.
5. Buddy Landel Vs Terry Taylor
GG: This match is for Taylor’s NWA National Heavyweight Championship.
JL: Both men are fantastic workers, with great execution on everything.
GG: After all the blood and guts, they took it down a notch and gave you a wrestling match. For those who only saw Taylor as the Red Rooster in the WWE or in WCW as a gimmick like the Taylor Made Man, you can see here how good he really is. We need Mid-South/UWF stuff on the WWE Network for reasons like this.
JL: It’s the best match of the show up to this point. If it wasn’t for his demons, Buddy Landell would have had such a great and memorable career.
GG: Taylor got Landel up for his patented Superplex after a ref bump. But JJ Dillon, who wasn’t there at the start of the match as he must’ve been tending to his wounds, tripped Taylor on the Superplex and Landel landed right on him. Landel is the new champ.
JL: There was no need for the referee bump for the finish. Positioning wise, the referee would not have seen JJ Dillon pull Taylor’s leg when he attempted to superplex Buddy Landell. That made the finish a bit overbooked.
6. The Minnesota Wrecking Crew Vs Billy Jack Haynes and Wahoo McDaniel
GG: The match is for the NWA National Tag Team Championship. Haynes and McDaniel are the champs.
JL: You can see right away that Ole Anderson has a different respect for Billy Jack Haynes then he does Wahoo. Ole doesn’t bump for Billy Jack, but goes flying for Wahoo.
GG: Haynes’ tights simply say Oregon on them. I used to really enjoy how jacked and fired up Haynes would get.
JL: Billy Jack Haynes is another guy whose demons and attitude cost him a great career. Wahoo took the heat and made the hot tag to Billy Jack Haynes.
GG: The crowd loved the hot tag. Maybe the most pumped the Omni crowd was so far in the show.
JL: Wahoo tagged back in and the finish was very creative and simple. As Wahoo was pounding Arn Anderson in Arn’s corner, Ole tripped up Wahoo and held his legs for Arn’s pin.
GG: The Minnesota Wrecking Crew are the new NWA National tag champs.
Johnny Weaver announces a 15 minute intermission. But because this is the WWE Network’s version of the show, they immediately cut to an interview with Buddy Landel and JJ Dillon. I don’t know why they even kept Weaver’s intermission acknowledgement in there.
7. Magnum T.A. Vs Tully Blanchard
GG: The match is for Tully’s US title. It’s not only a cage match. It’s also an “I Quit” match.
JL: This is one of my all-time favorite matches and one of the best cage matches ever. Both of these guys told a story of true hatred. It was violent; the final conflict between these two enemies.
GG: The selling is tremendous. Tully threw Magnum into the cage a couple times and he started bleeding from the forehead. Magnum threw Tully in shoulder first and Tully bladed his shoulder. It’s pure fight. There are very few wrestling holds.
JL: Today, you would never see a cage match worked like this. Guys would be trying to figure out a way to do some crazy bump off the cage. Magnum and Tully are not looking to be flashy. They are looking to present a violent fight.
GG: There’s a wired microphone inside the cage. The cord is long enough to stretch across the entire ring. Tully finally uses the mic on Magnum after he doesn’t quit and there’s a nice pop that you hear from the punch.
JL: The screams from both men when the mic is pressed up against their mouths when asked if they want to quit is chilling stuff.
GG: Baby Doll is in Tully’s corner and she’s deeply worried.
JL: The finish is awesome. Baby Doll throws in a wooden chair. Tully breaks it and uses a sharp piece to stab Magnum. The crowd goes nuts as T.A. is blocking Blanchard from driving that piece of wood into his eye.
GG: T.A. shoves him off and gets his own piece of wood and drives it deep into Tully’s head.
JL: Blanchard screams in pain and and the referee rings the bell.
GG: Yes!!!!! Yes!!!!! Yes!!!! I don’t think the referee needed the mic to hear that blood gurgling scream.
JL: T.A. grabs the piece of wood again and it looks like he is going to inflict some more damage to his arch nemesis. Instead, he has mercy and it is just a perfect moment. If you have never seen this match, this is a must-see match, especially if you have the WWE Network.
8. The Midnight Express Vs Jimmy Valiant And Miss Atlanta Lively
JL: It’s “come dressed as you are” and The Midnights are in tuxedos.
GG: It’s an Atlanta Street Fight. Big Mama is in the corner of Valiant and Ron Garvin, I mean Miss Atlanta Lively. Big Mama was Valiant’s second wife who according to Wikipedia has a son with him named Handsome.
JL: It is a wild brawl, but after the Magnum/Tully classic, this match just came off silly.
GG: There’s more blood in this match, including from Garvin in drag. They portray him as a woman, but then he bleeds like a stuck pig.
JL: For as wacky this was, all four are good workers and put on a great effort. Bobby Eaton is the star of the match, bumping all over the place. The bump Eaton takes after being hit by a Ron Garvin right at the end was great.
GG: Valiant and Garvin win the match and they disrobe Jim Cornette. The flab is flowing. Poor Jim is wearing humongous white boxers with hearts on them. They’re about to get him, but Eaton gets him out of there.
Weaver interviews Magnum T.A. who says that the US title is a fighting champion’s title. He puts over the belt, himself, Tully, and any future challengers including Nikita Koloff, Buddy Landel, and Arn Anderson.
9. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express Vs Nikita Koloff And Ivan Koloff
GG: Don Kernodle is in the corner of Ricky and Robert and Krusher Khruschev, the Russian with no Russian accent, is in the corner of the Russians.
JL: This match has perfect psychology. The story is speed vs power.
GG: Ricky and Robert are very quick with their tags with a lot of their offense coming from the top and middle rope.
JL: I was happy to hear that the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express were inducted into the The Wrestling Observer Hall Of Fame. Ivan Koloff should be in as well as the guy is a ring general.
GG: Ivan was busted open and then he rammed Robert’s head into the cage and Robert is now busted open. Nikita bites on his cut. I explained already why I think that’s silly, but oh well, they did it again here.
JL: At this point, Nikita Koloff gets it from working nearly seven days a week. He understands his role and he is in position for everything.
GG: He’s also humongous.
JL: If it wasn’t for the Magnum/Tully match, this would have been the match of the night. It’s yet another cage match booked to make the cage a part of the match. The finish was clever and I don’t even mind the referee bump.
GG: Morton had Ivan rolled up and Gibson leg tackled Nikita so he couldn’t break up the pin.
JL: The post match beat down by The Russians is still scary. Nikita is going crazy, tossing Ricky Morton out over the top of the cage. They kill Robert Gibson with a triple team move off the top rope. Even Don Kernodle gets busted open.
GG: Nikita goes crazy on the wrestlers who are coming in and trying to break it up. He puts the boots to someone.
10. Dusty Rhodes Vs Ric Flair
JL: This is my favorite Flair-Dusty match.
GG: I guess Joe Frazier didn’t want none of Dusty after all.
JL: They worked so many times together that they could do this match in their sleep. For whatever reason, I always felt they clicked a little extra special on this night. The big story of the match was Flair working over Dusty’s injured leg. Flair and The Andersons injured it leading up to this match.
GG: I think the weight Dusty gained from Starrcade 1984 to Starrcade 1985 might have something to do with how injured that leg was too. Man, he was big here.
JL: There’s a great false finish of Dusty coming off the top rope with a flying crossbody, but Flair kicked out at two.
GG: Flair kicked out a little early for it to be the perfect false finish, but I think the crowd collectively held their breath.
JL: Yet another ref bump.
GG: Tommy Young gets knocked out of the ring. Arn Anderson comes in and Dusty boots him out of the ring. Ole comes in and knees him in the back. A second referee comes in but Flair only gets a two count. Dusty gets an inside cradle and the pin. Some of the babyface locker room comes out to celebrate with him.
JL: While I don’t mind a referee bump in a match, numerous ones over one show is a bit much. I know this show was split between two locations, but viewing it on closed circuit or watching this on the WWE Network, it’s still just too many ref bumps. It is lazy booking when you have to go to a ref bump time and time again.
The ring goes dark. Then all of a sudden, Schiavone is in the back with Rhodes and the babyfaces. Rhodes says he’s going to hold onto the title for a long time. However, it would get stripped soon there after. Tommy Young would go on television saying that he was about to disqualify Flair before the second referee showed up. Hence, the Dusty finish.
JL: All in all, one of the best Starrcade’s ever. The main matches all delivered with one being an all-time classic; Magnum T.A. vs Tully Blanchard. They went a bit crazy with all the blood and sadly, the blood meant nothing to me after the Magnum/Tully match.
GG: It was definitely better than the previous year’s show. While Dusty and Ric for the second time in a row could’ve been overkill, it wasn’t as this match was much better. It was fun seeing guys like Terry Taylor, Ricky and Robert, and the Midnights on this show.
We’ll do Starrcade 1986 next, the night of the skywalkers.