AWA Championship Wrestling
On ESPN Classics
April 15, 2008
Back again for one more week of classic AWA mat goodness from the folks at ESPN Classics. I’m Doug. How the heck are you? First off, my apologies for no report from Friday night. I went off with friends and set the VCR to record the show for me. Well, all the VCR did to that tape was eat it for lunch. I contacted a friend of mine who regularly records the show to bring me his copy of the show that he recorded. He promised to have it to me by Saturday night. And well, I’m still waiting…
Damn that modern technology (VCR’s are modern?) and damn relying on other people. I’ll do it the proper way from now on. Watch the show, take some notes and get ‘er dun! Yay! Does that sound like a plan or what?
This is in early 1986 (no actual date given) and is from the world famous Showboat Pavilion in Las Vegas, NV. The announcers are Greg Gagne & Larry Nelson. Let’s get to it.
Steel Gladiator & Jesse Hernandez versus King Kong Brody & The Barbarian (with Sheik Adnan El Kassey)
Huss! Huss! Huss! Brody is attacking his opponents even before Larry Nelson can finish the ring introductions and right from the beginning, it’s OINGO BOINGO time. Barbarian is working over the Steel Gladiator. The name, by the way, is more impressive than the man who carries it. Brody tags in and gives Gladiator a slam. Steel rolls to to the floor and Brody follows and rams Glaidiator into the announce table. Barbarian is out as well and gives Jesse Hernanadez a big slam to the concrete floor outside the ring. The referee has lost control and one of the ringside officials calls for the bell. Brody and Barbarian are disqualified for being too crazy. Huss! Huss! Huss!
Winners by DQ: Steel Gladiator & Jesse Hernandez
After the commercial break, we go immediately to the next match. Damn! And I was looking forward to seeing Larry Nelson get shoved around as he attempted to interview Barbarian and Brody. I guess it’s not meant to be. I never get to have any fun. Maybe tomorrow night. One can only hope.
Pistol Pete versus Brad Rheingans
First “Steel Gladiator” and now “Pistol Pete”? And AWA had the nerve to call themselves the “major leagues of professional wrestling”? It must have been amateur night at the Showboat. Speaking of amateurs, one of the best amateurs of all time, Brad Rheingans, is up now, or as I see him, the AWA’s version of Bob Backlund. So much talent as a wrestler, but so little charisma. The referee for this bout is Scott LeDoux.
Pete & Brad start off with a handshake and then Pete quickly shows his true colors as he takes Rheingans down by a hand full of hair. Brad goes after the arm and head and we end up in some sort of weird move after a fireman’s carry by Rheingans where Pete tried for a roll, but Rheingans bridged up and it was just kind of stuck there as if neither man could figure out what to do next. Brad finally figures out his next move and heads into a front face-lock and then a neckbreaker for two. Brad goes after the leg, but Pete decides to get dirty and rips at the eyes. Punches and fingernails across the back by Pistol Pete as he takes control with some kind of nerve hold on both sides of Rheingans’ neck. Kind of like a Vulcan Nerve Pinch x 2. Brad fights up and out of this hold with some punches and a dropkick, but Pete goes right back to his “Shades of Mr. Spock” move. Live long and prosper! Brad fights up again with punches and kicks and a headcracker. Backdrop by Rheingans and Pete rolls to the floor. Gagne and Nelson are talking about how, next week, the main event will be Rheingans taking on Boris Zhukov. I can hear the TV sets being turned off already. Brad gets Pete back into the ring and scores with a hedbutt to the gut and the “Shades of Bob Backlund” atomic drop. A suplex by Rheingans for the pin and victory.
Winner: Brad Rheingans
Larry Nelson talks to Brad Rheingans and I can already feel my eyes getting heavy. Brad admits that he underestimated his opponent this week and says that he’s looking ahead to next week when he gets to face Boris Zhukov alone and one-on-one. He mentions how Zhukov likes to brag that he put Brad out of wrestling and it’s true. But Zhukov didn’t get the job done and Brad is back. And he promises that Zhukov will be the one heading to the hospital and being hurt. He moves on to talk about the Sheik and how Sheik Adnan thinks that money can get him to the top. Brad says that money can’t get anyone to the top – it takes work, sweat, experience, etc. Brad goes back to Zhukov and says that he’s coming to take him out of wrestling.
Not a bad interview for Rheingans. Nothing outstanding, but he showed energy and fire that are usually lacking when Rheingans is around. Not too shabby at all.
In This Corner w/ Larry Zbyszko & Larry Nelson
Nelson mentions that they haven’t seen Zbyszko in about a month and Larry says that he’s been dealing with the suspension, training and in litigation with his lawyers. Larry Z. moves on to say that they receive tons of mail from the teeny-boppers who write in crayons and pencils and want to see The Midnight Rockers. Zbyszko says that the Rockers “ain’t no Chipendales” and maybe America will grow up one day. We take a patented AWA “Special Look” at the Midnight Rockers – Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty.
We come back from “Cheesy-Videos-R-Us” and the Larrys’ are joined by Shawn & Marty – the Midnight Rockers. Marty starts off by talking about how they’ve been training hard and are working their way towards the top. They want to be the tag team champions. He mentions Rose & Somers and how they’ve been wrestling them and how tough Somers has become since hooking up with Rose. Shawn says they’ll go through anyone they have to.
And then, it’s time for Zbyszko to save the segment. He says that the Rockers can talk about wanting the American Dream (no, not Dusty Rhodes) and that they’re fast and quick, but how will they do when they have to face big, tough men like himself or Bockwinkle. They’re at the bottom of the ladder and see guys like him and that’s their dream. How will the teeny-boppers love them then when they have hair ripped out and they’re all bruised and ugly? Larry constantly refers to Shawn as “Gene” and Marty as “Mumbling Marty”. Awesome!
Zbyszko continues. They are looking good and entertaining 13-year olds, but that’s not what matters. Do they have what it takes to be tough and big. Larry makes reference to Shawn being a “rich kid” and Daddy giving him everything. Shawn manages to inject a comment about how he wasn’t given anything and his Daddy knocked him around sometimes when he needed it. Larry calls Shawn’s father a “child-beater” and I swear, I almost saw Shawn crack up and he’s trying to repress a smile at that comment by Zbyszko.
Jannetty tells Zbyszko to find a partner and wrestle the Midnight Rockers in a match. Larry says that there are no partners for him and he’ll take them both on at once. Larry tosses Jannetty a box of crayons so he can write to his teeny-bopper girlfriends. And Zbyszko continues. When the Rockers are old and losing their hair and are all battered and bruised and not so pretty anymore, he’ll be laughing. Jannetty says that they’re not going to be “like Larry”. Ooooh! Burn! Larry responds with they “won’t have a bank account either!” Larry Nelson ends the segment by mentioning that it’s obvious that Larry Zbyszko hasn’t forgotten how to talk. Zbyszko is still talking as the segment fades to commercial.
Great segment. When Larry Zbyszko is on, he’s really on and this segment showed just how entertaining the “Living Legend” can truly be. The Rockers did OK, but they were just horses being led to water by the veteran Zbyszko. It was a good and fun segment and thus far, the highlight of the show.
And now, back to Larry Nelson in the studio for a look back in AWA history. He’s joined by Ray “The Crippler” Stevens in a segment called…
AWA Mat Classics…
Ray “The Crippler” Stevens vs. Red Bastein
It’s in Chicago, IL on September 29, 1973. It’s Ray Stevens taking on Red Bastein. Nelson & Stevens talk about the match and how this was shortly after Stevens & partner, Nick Bockwinkle, had defeated Bastein & partner Hercules Cortez for the tag team titles. Ray & Nelson then move on to talk about Ray’s career and how he’s spending more time on the business side of things as a promoter rather than doing much active wrestling in his career. Ray would go on to retire full-time from the ring in 1988, but at this point (1986), he was only a part-time wrestler at best anyhow.
So far as the match itself goes, it’s Red Bastein showing the flying moves and quickness that made him such a force to be reckoned with in the sixties and seventies. And Ray Stevens. He’s just out and out tough as they come. Lots of back and forth as they cut from clip to clip. In the end, Red pulls Ray out to the floor for some good old fashioned brawling. The referee is counting and Ray makes it back to the ring just at the ten-count. Bastein is counted out.
Winner by Count-Out: Ray “The Crippler” Stevens
I love these old segments. I just wish they’d show the entire matches instead of these random clips. But still, it’s all good stuff. And back now to The Showboat for our main event.
“Pretty Boy” Doug Somers versus Mike Rotundo
Rotundo is billed as a former WWF Tag Team Champion. That’s something that you’d never see these days – someone getting credit for accomplishments in another company. I guess that was Verne’s way of showing Vince McMahon that he could steal stars too. Bad thing was, he just couldn’t keep them for long. Mike starts off with a headlock and he and Somers immediately go into a criss-cross. I’ve never understood why wrestlers do this. Slam by Somers, but Mike takes control with a headlock. Somers escapes and Mike with the leapfrog, a hip-toss and another headlock. Somers throws a chop, but misses a charge into the corner. Rotundo with a forearm shot and back again to the headlock.
Somers manages to get out of the headlock and hits a big suplex. It’s to the top for Somers and he attempts a diving headbutt. He misses. Rotundo with an elbow for two. Rotundo locks up Somers with a front facelock. Somers with a punch to the gut and two inverted-backbreakers for another two-count. Somers works over Rotundo with punches and kicks. Rotundo fights back and the two men exchange chops. Somers goes to the eyes and sends Rotundo to the floor with a series of stomps and kicks.
As Rotundo is trying to regroup, Somers argues with referee Scott LeDoux and repeatedly stomps at the head of Rotundo every chance he gets. He slams Mike’s head into the ring apron and hits some more kicks. Rotundo’s eye is busted open. Somers just keeps stomping at Mike and alternately hollering at announcers Gagne & Nelson at ringside. Rotundo finally manages to grab Somers legs and pull him down to the mat. Mike drags Somers to the ringpost and pulls him so either leg is on opposite sides of the post. Is it time to make a wish? Nope! Rotundo just slams each leg into the steel pole.
As Mike gets back into the ring, Somers hits a headbutt and starts biting at the cut next to Rotundo’s eye. Somers with some hard punches as he continues to go after the eye of Rotundo. Mike finally has enough and starts pounding away at Somers. Backdrop and a slam into the turnbuckle by Rotundo. Somers tries to beg off, then in flash of speed, tosses Rotundo to the floor. Kicks by Somers and he goes to grab Rotundo and suplex him into the ring. As Somers gets Rotundo up, Mike shifts his weight and falls on top of Somers. The referee counts three and calls for the bell.
Winner: Mike Rotundo
It was an OK match, but Rotundo didn’t look nearly as good as I remembered him. Somers definitely carried the match and in this case, the better man didn’t win. But Mike was the big new star coming in, so I guess he had to get the check by his name. But it wasn’t a good match for him and he definitely didn’t deserve it.
Larry Nelson talks to Mike Rotundo. Nelson asks about the injured eyes and Mike says “Nothing lost is nothing gained!” He sees now how it will be in the AWA. He mentions that Hall & Hennig are the tag team champs and also Buddy Rose & “that guy” (Somers) are tough. He and Barry Windham are coming to pay their dues and will make it to the top of the AWA. Nelson asks about Windham (he missed this appearance due to an injury) and Rotundo says that Barry hurt his ankle and would be out of action 3-4 days. He’ll be back soon and they’re looking forward to the AWA.
Man, this show just didn’t do it for me. Nothing was really bad, but still… only the “In This Corner” with the great “Living Legend” and his “12 glorious years” kept it interesting. The Mat Classics segment was awesome, but the talking by Nelson & Stevens about everything but the match even brought that down a notch. Well, it’s only the first of five shows this week, so it’s bound to get better as the week goes on.
I guess that’s it for me. Questions and comments, send them to Doug28352@yahoo.com. Until the next time, have a great day and always be a fan. I’m Doug and I’ll see you tomorrow. And I am out.