Hello everyone and welcome to my very first NWA review. Today I bring to you the first NWA PPV of 1989, featuring an impressive up-and-coming Sting in action, a loser leaves town match and, above all else, one of the best wrestling matches in the history of the sport – Flair vs. Steamboat.
The point system I use for the WWF shows will work for NWA too going forward. Click here to see how it works.
Before starting, here’s the list of champions in the NWA at the time of this event:
- NWA World Heavyweight Champion – Ric Flair
- United States Champion: Barry Windham
- World TV Champion: Rick Steiner
- World Tag Team Champions: The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal)
- US Tag Team Champions: The Varsity Club (Kevin Sullivan & Steve Williams)
- World Six Man Tag Team Champions: Genichiro Tenryu, Hawk & Animal
Enjoy the review!
The hosts are Jim Ross & Magnum TA
– We open the show with a Michael Hayes promo. He’s all excited and does a great job of promoting pretty much everything happening on the event. He’s facing Russian Assassin #1 in the opening bout.
Michael Hayes vs. Russian Assassin #1(w/ Paul Jones)
They trade headlocks to start. Hayes clotheslines Assassin and literally stops to play with the crowd. Hayes locks in an armbar, RA escapes and dumps Hayes only for him to get back inside and go back to it. The armbar goes on for a while before Assassin breaks it with a knee to the gut and (sort of) hits the Russian sickle for two. That didn’t look very good. Now it’s the Russian’s turn to apply his hold of choice, in this case a chinlock, as well as the typical heel choking. Choking in the ropes gets two. Hayes tries to go for a quick bulldog but is unable to do it. Assassin misses a suplex, but Hayes TOO misses an elbow. Hayes misses a corner charge but eventually hits a DDT out of nowhere for the win at 15:48.
- Analysis: This dragged a little bit. The crowd was alive for Hayes’ taunting, but while the action was going they were mostly quiet. Not horrible or anything, but very forgettable and way too long. *
– In the back, Ricky Steamboat & family. Cute interview with Steamboat’s son (Richie, future WWE/NXT wrestler for a while in the early 2010s) constantly trying to steal the microphone and play with it while his father cuts a promo on Ric Flair.
Butch Reed(w/ Hiro Matsuda) vs. Sting
Sting is crazy over at this point. And I mean OVER. Sting hits an atomic drop to start, and Reed talks some strategy with Matsuda. He gets back in only to be dropkicked right back out, and the people just can’t get enough of Sting. Reed is even more pissed but walks into a Sting headlock. Meanwhile, on commentary, Jim Ross with the comment of the night. He says Sting broke into the business as a tag team wrestler, but he’s now a singles wrestler and he is leagues above his former partner athletically. His partner? The Ultimate Warrior. Ouch, Jim! Sting goes after the arm and Reed just sends him flying to the floor to break it, before choking away once Sting gets back in. He distracts the ref so that even Matsuda can get his own shots in. And here it actually works because of how over Sting is. Reed goes to a chinlock and even grabs the ropes for illegal leverage. So simple yet so effective. Sting breaks the hold and tries to make the big comeback only to miss a splash and allow Reed to once again take over. He hits a neckbreaker for two. He goes back to the chinlock and Sting once again escapes with a jawbreaker. He once again goes for the comeback only for Reed to stomp away on the apron. Sting sunset flip is blocked by Reed thanks to assistance of the ropes, but Sting rolls over anyway to complete the sunset flip and catch Reed at 20:07.
- Analysis: Long? A little bit. However, I enjoyed Reed playing with the rules and using them to fuck with the audience and Sting’s strategy. “Hey look, I’m in the corner, you can’t come after me now”. It was longer than it probably needed to be, but I don’t think you can argue Sting was even more over at the end of this match due to how smart the crowd psychology was. **
– Meanwhile, Paul E. & his Midnight Express address their upcoming “loser of the fall leaves town” six man tag match. It’s Heyman cutting a promo. Need I say more!? He is awesome now, he was awesome back then.
Loser Of The Fall Leaves: The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane) & Jim Cornette vs. The Original Midnight Express (Randy Rose & Jack Victory) & Paul E. Dangerously
Only the person getting pinned/tapping out leaves the NWA here, not the entire losing team. The heels take over to start with a Rose slam to Lane, but Rose pulls a Flair and goes up only to get slammed back down by Stan. Stan proceeds to hit a clothesline on the outside. Rose brings in Victory only to be dominated in the babyface corner as well, and Cornette too comes in to drop an elbow. Rose gets back in to finally take control. He brings Lane to the heel corner and tags in Heyman for a cheapshot while Lane is in a full nelson hold. However, Lane moves out of the way and Heyman ends up punching his guy instead. Good spot. The crowd loved it. Eaton is in only to be thrown off the apron into the railing. Heyman finally comes in to get his shots but he is immediately out of there again once Eaton starts showing some life again. That brings in Cornette for a showdown with Heyman, but Rose gets a shot from behind. Heyman now takes his time beating up Cornette for fun, but he stops to celebrate his incredible wrestling ability and ends up opening the door for a brilliant babyface comeback by Cornette… and Rose sneaks in with a clothesline again. Smart. The babyfaces have finally had enough as Eaton jumps in to attack Victory and give Cornette enough time to get out of there. However, this distraction allows Heyman to attack Lane on the other side of the ring and Rose gets a powerslam for two. A massive lariat dumps Lane and Rose follows it up with a fistdrop off the top to the floor. Rose brings him back in and is thinking piledriver, but Lane escapes that with a backdrop… only for Victory to jump in with a suplex to give Rose two. This has been incredibly dramatic so far and the heels are drawing awesome heat. Eaton comes in for the hot tag and cleans the entire house, leaving only Heyman in for the inevitable showdown between two of the greatest managers in wrestling history. This time it’s Cornette who gets to beat up Heyman and he even hits a clothesline for two. Check out Corny with the moveset!! Heyman has had enough and he brings Rose back in, but Lane also gets in and everyone is in for the giant brawl. Heyman sneaks in with a sleeper on Lane but that shockingly ends up going nowhere (sarcasm), and a few seconds later the babyfaces finish Rose with a double flapjack at 15:51.
- Analysis: This was technically not on the level of the regular Midnights vs Midnights encounter at StarrCade ’88 a couple of months earlier, but it didn’t have to be. This was all about the story and drama of the stipulation, as well as building up the showdown between both managers. It was an incredible pro wrestling spectacle, and shockingly (no sarcasm) the shortest match so far. I know the opener was three seconds longer than this, but fuck it, I am going to change the narrative so it can fit my story!! It felt way, way, way shorter than the opener anyway. And yes, Rose ended up leaving the NWA for good shortly after this, so consider the stipulation legitimate. Very good stuff here. Recommended. ***1/2
– And now it’s Ric Flair‘s turn to address the ‘Dragon’ and that night’s epic main-event title bout. He is confident as usual.
World TV Championship: Rick Steiner(c)(w/ Scott Steiner) vs. Mike Rotunda
For you younger readers out there, Rotunda is the father of current WWE wrestlers Bo Dallas and Bray Wyatt. They shove each other to start and that sequence ends with Steiner sending Rotunda to the floor. Rotunda bails and eats a Steinerline for two back inside. Steiner gets a headlock and Rotunda gets to the ropes to break and asks for a handshake. Steiner obviously refuses but that small distraction allows Rotunda to take over anyway with an abdominal stretch. Rotunda uses the ropes for leverage and ignores the ref’s (Teddy Long, by the way) warnings, forcing Long to literally kick Papa Fiend and force the break. Well that’s certainly a way to get it done. Rotunda with a half assed high crossbody but Steiner rolls over for a nearfall. That sequence was really sloppy. The crowd also does not give a crap about either guy, unfortunately, which does not help. Rotunda with a shoulderblock that Steiner blocks with a (horrible looking) monkey flip into a backdrop for two. In the words of Jim Ross, this is getting into ‘bowling shoe ugly’ territory and getting there fast. Steiner misses something off the top and eats the post. He manages to hit a powerslam for two anyway. Kevin Sullivan makes his presence felt at ringside, distracting Steiner and giving Rotunda a nearfall after a suplex. Steiner gets in a sleeper, but drops down to the mat and literally pins himself like a complete geek to give Rotunda the title after 16:21 of my life that I will never get back.
- Analysis: Started going okayish, but quickly turned into an ugly mess. Bad match. Sloppy at times. Avoid this. 1/2*
– Meanwhile, the Road Warriors discussing putting the world tag titles on the line against the Varsity Club. Coming up later tonight.
United States Championship: Barry Windham(c)(w/ Hiro Matsuda) vs. Lex Luger
Mucho shoving before the bell. The crowd is quite into this Luger guy. Hopefully nobody ever makes him celebrate a count-out win in a title match like an idiot. Luger with a sleeper to start. Windham gets out of that one with a suplex, which Luger no-sells. The crowd goes nuts for it. Luger delivers him one of his own, which Windham does sell. And he stalls for a little bit. Simple psychology that everyone can understand. Luger wants the TEN PUNCHES OF DOOM in the corner, but Windham escapes with an atomic drop only for Luger to block and hit a clothesline for two. Powerslam and he goes up for a top-rope spear(?) but there is no water in the pool and Luger lands on the floor. Windham brings him back inside where he hits a suplex for two. Luger tries to fight back only to eat the turnbuckle, followed by a Windham lariat that sends him back to the outside, followed by a huge shove to the railing. That was nice. Windham goes for a punch but ends up hitting the post, breaking his hand. Back in he goes for the Iron Claw anyway, but Luger smartly takes advantage of the broken hand to easily escape as Windham’s wrist is bleeding. Windham gets a powerslam for two. Superplex gets two more. He hits a german for three, but turns out Luger got his shoulder up at the last second while Windham did not. That means Luger wins the title at 10:43. Windham gives him a piledriver on the belt to give his reign a memorable start.
- Analysis: Solid match with the psychology over Windham’s broken hand obviously being the highlight of the match. Luger was over with the fans so it was a smart choice to put a midcard title on him. ***1/4
– In the back, Mike Rotunda celebrates his title win.
World Tag Team Championship: Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal)(c)(w/ Paul Ellering) vs. Varsity Club (Kevin Sullivan & Steve Williams)
The late Road Warrior Animal overpowers both heels at a time to start. The champions double-team the challengers in their corner for huge reactions, but Williams finally stops Animal with a leg lariat for two. Sullivan comes in to work the arm a little bit, and Williams follows it up with a hammerlock slam for two. Animal and Williams collide for a double KO spot before each tag in their partners. Hawk comes in on fire, shoulderblocking Sullivan for two. The champions are thinking Doomsday Device, but Williams clips Animal to prevent that from happening. Williams pins Animal, but they’re not the legal wrestlers, allowing Hawk to retain with the flying clothesline on Sullivan at the same time as Williams pinned Animal at 8:27.
- Analysis: This was a fine tag match with another weird finish to add to the list. Could’ve lived without it, but this was otherwise good enough and short. **1/2
– Meanwhile, Lex Luger is nearly dead in the dressing room. But he says it was all worth it since he is the new champion.
Main-event – NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Ric Flair(c)(w/ Hiro Matsuda) vs. Ricky Steamboat
This is finally it, folks. Sweet wrestling sequence gets things going. Flair goes down for a criss cross off the ropes but Steamboat goes down with him and catches him in a headlock. Hell yeah. Flair bails a little bit and he comes back with some nasty chops. Steamboat catches him with a backdrop and Flair begs for mercy. Flair drops more chops, so Steamboat fights back with his own VIOLENT CHOPS WITH EXTRA MUSTARD that knock Flair all the way down. Holy shit. Another giant chop by Steamboat gets a nearfall and Flair is like “I’m outta here”. Back in, they get into a sequence that ends with Steamboat hitting another chop, this one sending Flair FLYING to the floor. Holy. Flair tries to take control of the match but Steamboat quickly catches him with a flying headscissors into a dropkick before turning Flair over into a headlock very quickly. The headlock even gets a believable nearfall from the crowd, as Flair nearly got pinned while Steamboat had the headlock on. Where else can you find this!? Flair breaks but another nasty chop by Steamboat sends Flair flying all the way to the barricade. That is a young Dave Meltzer in the front row. Back in, the Flair kneedrop gets two. He covers Steamboat a few mores times to get him more tired. Awesome. Butterfly suplex gets two more. Flair chops away before it quickly turns into a brutal chopfest. Flair flip off Steamboat’s irish whip as Flair comes off the other corner with a bodypress only for Steamboat to roll through for two. Wow. Flair catches him with an atomic drop and (WOOO) it’s time go to school. Flair locks in the Figure Four while grabbing the ropes behind the referee’s back, which draws a huge “STEAMBOAT” chant out of sympathy that gives me them chills. This match is beautiful in so many ways. The ref finally catches Flair using the ropes to force the break. They continue to chop each other to death before Flair catches him with a high crossbody that takes both guys down to the outside. They get up and continue killing each other with chops before Flair whips Steamboat into the post. Back in, Flair suplex gets two and he works that count a bit more once again. Backbreaker gets two. Steamboat gets a cradle out of nowhere for a nearfall before Flair goes back to the chops. Steamboat misses a crossbody as they get into a pinfall reversal sequence that ends with a Steamboat suplex, with Flair getting his feet on the ropes at two. Steamboat backslide gets two. Flair goes back to the chops but Steamboat takes him down and goes up for the flying chop, but the ref gets bumped as well. Flair rolls up Steamboat for the visual pinfall, before throwing Steamboat over the top rope. Steamboat, being Ricky Steamboat, skins the cat back in and goes up behind Flair’s back but misses a crossbody and lands on his knees. You know what that means. It’s indeed Figure Four time, but it’s reversed by Steamboat into a cradle as Teddy Long gets in to count and give Steamboat the win and the title at 23:18.
- Analysis: There is not much to say here. Watch this and enjoy it, it’s one of the best wrestling matches in the entire history of the sport. If you somehow or someway find a flaw in this match, you seriously need a hug. *****
– Ricky Steamboat celebrates with his new belt and the rest of the boys and drinks some champagne to close the show.
END OF THE SHOW
- Final thoughts: It would be fair to call this a one-match show, because at the end of the day you will indeed remember the show only for Flair/Steamboat. However, there are also other memorable things on this event. The ‘loser leaves town’ tag match was a great spectacle and the US title match was also really good, for example. Overall, it was a good show despite the numerous stupid finishes. 7/10
The points for this show:
- Ricky Steamboat: 8 points (5 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win + 2 for winning a title)
- Lex Luger: 6.25 points (3.25 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win + 2 for winning a title)
- Stan Lane: 5 points (3.5 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win + 0.5 for winning the fall)
- Hawk: 5 points (2.5 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win + 0.5 for winning the fall + 1 for retaining a title)
- Animal: 4.5 points (2.5 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win + 1 for retaining a title)
- Bobby Eaton: 4.5 points (3.5 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win)
- Jim Cornette: 4.5 points (3.5 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win)
- Mike Rotunda: 3.5 points (0.5 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win + 2 for winning a title)
- Sting: 3 points (2 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win)
- Paul E. Dangerously: 2.5 points (3.5 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss)
- Jack Victory: 2.5 points (3.5 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss)
- Ric Flair: 2 points (5 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss – 2 for losing a title)
- Randy Rose: 2 points (3.5 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss – 0.5 for losing the fall)
- Michael Hayes: 2 points (1 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win)
- Steve Williams: 1.5 point (2.5 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss)
- Kevin Sullivan: 1 point (2.5 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss – 0.5 for losing the fall)
- Butch Reed: 1 point (2 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss)
- Barry Windham: 0.25 points (3.25 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss – 2 for dropping a title)
- Russian Assassin #1: 0 points (1 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss)
- Rick Steiner: -2.5 points (0.5 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss – 2 for dropping a title)
Thank you for your time!