Flashback: AWA on ESPN Classics – March 12, 2008

AWA Championship Wrestling
on ESPN Classics
March 12, 2008
Doug Maynard
Greetings all. I’m Doug and I’m back again with more classic wrestling goodness from the vaults of ESPN Classics that is the AWA. Time is short, but luckily, I’m not. Heh! Heh! A little joke there. Anyhow, let’s get right to the action that is coming, as always, from the Showboat Sports Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada. The graphic on the screen just says 1986, so when this originally aired, I have no clue. *Sighs* Yeah, it’s that kind of night. The men at ringside calling the action are Rod Trongard and Lord James Blears.
Yuri Gordyenko & Alexi Smirnoff vs. Bobby Bald Eagle & Pete Sanchez
 
Gordyenko starts off with an arm-drag on Sanchez and then clubs away at the back and arm. A quick tag to Smirnoff who takes over on the arm and continues to just pound and kick away. Another tag and Gordyenko hits another arm-drag before scoring with a big slam. The Russians are tagging in and out and Smirnoff comes in and keeps control with a snapmare. Sanchez is finally allowed to tag in Eagle who comes in with a series of punches and kicks, but a big boot to the face quickly ends that. Smirnoff with some kicks and a big suplex. Diving headbutt by Smirnoff and a tag to Gordyenko. They double “Shades of Tully Blancard” hot-shot Eagle across the top rope and Gordyenko covers for an easy pin. Big time squash match.
Winners: Yuri Gordyenko & Alexi Smirnoff
Larry Nelson talks to the Russians. Gordyenko wants to talk to the American people. They’re soft in the mind. Russian people are strong and control their minds and win championships. He’s rambling and Alexi is just grunting in agreement. Gordyenko says that the World Championships are all that matters and they’ll take the Championships back home to Russia.
Greg Gagne vs. Tony Leone
 
I swear that Greg Gagne looks more like an accountant than a professional wrestler. But he’s a wrestler tonight in singles action against Tony Leone. Tony takes control quickly of the arm. Greg fights back with a hip-toss. Leone goes for a full nelson, but Gagne reverses into a hammerlock before moving into a standard armbar. Leone decides to go for the fists, but Greg fights back with punches and chops of his own. Backdrop and slam by Gagne for a one-count. A kneelift by Gagne and he goes after the leg of Leone with a step-over toehold. Greg goes for the Indian Deathlock, but Leone rips at the eyes to escape. Leone with some elbow shots, but Gagne fights back with some punches of his own. Gagne with a dropkick and a flying knee drop to pick up the three count and the win.
 
Winner: Greg Gagne
Larry Nelson speaks with Greg Gagne. Greg calls Larry Zbyszko a “spudhead” and mentions that he wants to challenge the AWA World Champion for a match. He mentions his partner, Jimmy Snuka, who is out with an injury and says that he’s recovering and will be back soon. But in the meantime, Crusher Jerry Blackwell is taking Snuka’s place as his partner in tag team matches.
We see a video giving a “special look” at the fans of the AWA. It’s put to the sounds of “Shout” by Spandeau Ballet, I believe. I didn’t look it up. I’m going totally on memory here, so if I’m wrong, let me know. Anyhow, it’s a few wrestling scenes featuring AWA Superstars mixed with lots of crowd shots of the AWA’s loyal fanbase. A cute little video segment.
Col. DeBeers vs. Mike Richards
 
Another trip to “Squash Central” as DeBeers takes control from the beginning with a take-down and a hammerlock. Stomps and kicks by the man from South Africa as he just dominates his opponent. I turned my head for a second to write something down and missed what happened next, but it looks like an elbow shot by DeBeers did the damage. He covers and gets an easy pin and win.
 
Winner: Col. DeBeers
Larry Nelson talks to Col. DeBeers. DeBeers had heard that Jimmy Snuka is coming back and isn’t worried. If Snuka comes back and faces him again, Snuka’s career will end. DeBeers looks as if he has more to say, but Nelson cuts him off as the segment ends.
We see a caption as we go to commercial that says that the “Political views of Col. DeBeers are not of the AWA or this station.”
See, that’s what the WWE should have done way back when they had Muhammad Hussein and Daivari on Smackdown. They could have put up a disclaimer before every Muhammad or Daivari appearance and then UPN, at the time, wouldn’t have had any reason to complain when Muhammad & Daivari did anything controversial. Sure, we all would know better, but WWE would have covered their butts.
OK, that way my random thought for the night. Back to the AWA and more old-time goodies.
Finally, a date shows up on the screen. This is from August 30, 1986. Were all these matches originally from the same show? I have no idea. But this match at least, featuring the future “Living Legend”, is from this particular date anyhow.
Larry Zbyszko (with Go the Ninja) vs. Eddie Sweat
 
For the first five minutes or so of any Zbyszko match, you can go grab a cup of coffee and take a bathroom break. Larry is stalling and complaining to the fans and the referee. A big chant of “Larry Sucks!” has already filled the arena. Larry interrupts Larry Nelson’s introduction to take the mic and tell the fans, “Hello spudheads!” That’s classic Larry Z. right there. Larry goes to the announce table and tells Blears & Trongard to tell the fans to quit shouting obscenities. I guess he’s offended by the whole “Larry sucks” chant going on. Hey, at least it’s not put to music as it would eventually be with Kurt Angle.
Larry keeps stalling and asking for a time-out. And then, with a sudden burst of movement, Larry is ready to wrestle. He scores with a snapmare and locks up Sweat with a front facelock. Fists and stomps by Zbyszko and he uses a small-package to get a two count. And since once is never enough, Larry uses another small-package to get another two count. Two small packages? Why does this remind me of my two most recent dates? *Sighs* Zbyszko decides that it’s time to end it and nails the kid with a piledriver for the easy win.
Winner: Larry Zbyszko
What? Another match? Doesn’t Larry Z. get a chance to rant and rave to Larry Nelson? Not this week, I suppose as we quickly go to the next match.
“Playboy” Buddy Rose & “Pretty Boy” Doug Summers (with Sherri Martel) vs. Bobby Bald Eagle & Sonny Rogers
 
Rose and Summers are the tag team champs at this point, but I don’t think this is a title match. Summers looks a great deal like Dustin Rhodes. I just noticed that. Larry Nelson introduces Rose as weighing 271lbs and Rose quickly corrects him – he’s wrong. And Rose has lost weight as well. He’s now claiming to be 215lbs. Yeah, maybe his left leg? And Sherri looks pretty hot.
Rogers and Rose start the match and Rose quickly scores with an arm-drag. Chants of “Dough Boy” ring out as Rose poses for the fans. Rogers rolls up Rose for a two-count before tagging out to Bobby Bald Eagle. Summers tags in as well. Eagle scores with an arm-drag. Summers comes back with a headlock and some elbow shots. Rose tags in with some kicks and an elbow-shot for two. Summers tags back in and throws some punches before tagging back out. Rose with some kicks before allowing Summers back in. Lots of quick tagging and switching back and forth. Summers with the backdrop and a choke on Eagle. Rose tags in and keeps control. Finally, after taking a heck of a beating, Eagle manages to tag off to Rogers who comes in full of fire and energy. Dropkick and hip-toss for Rose. Summers gets tagged in and ends the big comeback by Rogers with a big suplex to pick up the pin.
Winners: Buddy Rose & Doug Summers (with Sherri Martel)
And it’s quickly to another match as we come back from commercial. This has been an all action and less talk edition of the AWA and I have to admit, I like it. It’s far easier to recap as well.
Leon “Bull Power” White vs. Rick Ganter
 
It’s Vader time! No, actually, it won’t be “Vader Time” for about another year or so. Right now, the man we would know as “Vader” is just a “Baby Bull” turned “Bull Power”. It’s Leon White. It’s cool to see matches like this and be able to see how his career evolved over time. White is greeting and hanging with the kids as he comes out. Wow! Things really did change over time.
White starts off with some fists and some clubbering. A clothesline by White and we see Ganter begging for mercy. Ganter comes at White with some punches and kicks. White picks up Ganter and places him on the top turnbuckle. Ganter is hot and tries for a big slam on White. It just isn’t going to happen. White with a slam and some clubbing forearms before slamming Ganter in the corner and squashing him with a big splash. White tries the same move again in the opposite corner and Ganter moves out of the way. White crash and burns. Ganter throws some punches and kicks, but White reverses a whip into the corner and hits a power-slam to get the pin.
 
Winner: Leon “Bull Power” White
Larry Nelson talks to Leon White. White mentions that he just became the father to a baby-boy six months ago. Then he talks about the Sheik’s army and how they broke his leg in three places and put him out of action for a while. He wants them in the ring and it could be one or all… it doesn’t matter. White talks about how successful he’s been on a recent tour of Europe where he spent five months and won lots of gold. White closes out the segment by proclaiming that America is the greatest country on Earth.
And the show, as always, abruptly ends.
Lots of good matches and lots of nostalgia in the air as we had the chance to see Vader (before he was Vader), Zbyszko (before he was the “Living Legend”), and Sherri Martel (before she was “Sensational”). Not to mention Gagne, Rose, Summers, The Russians, etc. It was all action and less talk than usual and that made for a nice change of pace.
Questions and comments, send them to Doug28352@yahoo.com. And visit me on MySpace at www.myspace.com/salt_palace. Add me.
I’m Doug and I guess that’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with another recap of the best wrestling action on TV today, even if it is twenty-three years old. Yep, it’s the AWA. It’s old school and it is that damn good. It’s true.
I’m gone. Have a great day and always be a fan. Take care.
Ubuntu!
@00 @ 1 1 a awa

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