NWA WrestleWar 1989 Review (Flair vs. Steamboat III)

Welcome everyone to my review of WrestleWar 1989. Wrestlers will be given points in this show as usual, to see who’s the overall best wrestler of 1989 at the end of the year. You can check out how that works here.

Before starting the review, here is the list of champions in the NWA heading into this show:

  • NWA World Heavyweight Champion: Ricky Steamboat
  • United States Champion: Lex Luger
  • World TV Champion: Sting
  • World Tag Team Champions: The Varsity Club (Dr. Death Steve Williams & Mike Rotunda)
  • NWA US Tag Team Champions: Rick Steiner & Eddie Gilbert

Enjoy the review!

The hosts are Jim Ross & Bob Caudle

Live from Nashville

The Great Muta(w/ Gary Hart) vs. Eddie Gilbert

This was supposed to be Muta vs. Junkyard Dog, but JYD no-showed. We get green mist action by Muta to start, who immediately follows it up with a spinkick to the outside. Back in, Doug tries to make a comeback but Muta stops him with a handspring elbow. Muta kills another brief comeback attempt with the backbreaker, but misses the moonsault. Doug bails but quickly eats a massive pescado, and back in the Mutasault ends Gilbert at 3:03.

Analysis: Basically, a glorified squash as Muta continues to win. A win over a much bigger name like JYD would’ve helped him a lot more, but JYD no-showed… again. *1/2

Meanwhile, Ric Flair says this won’t be his last shot at the Big Gold belt. As Funaki would say, indeed.

Butch Reed vs. Ranger Ross

Headlock by Ross to start. Reed gets out of there with a neckbreaker and drops some elbows for two. Reed puts on a chinlock that is probably still locked in today. Ross escapes and makes a comeback featuring mucho dropkicks, but a flying shoulderblock puts him away at 06:59.

  • Analysis: Yes, the match lasted seven minutes and that was all that happened. Apart from a pretty good bump by Ross on the flying shoulderblock at the end, this was completely skippable. 1/4*

In the back, Lex Luger likes his chances.

Bullrope Match – Bob Orton Jr(w/ Gary Hart) vs. Dick Murdoch

JR points out on commentary how Murdoch has a lot of experience in this kind of match, and Orton immediately tries to run away from him. Murdoch uses the rope to bring him back into the ring, though, and whips Orton with the belt. Orton turns things around briefly, but Murdoch hits him with his boot for two. Murdoch only has one boot now, though, and Orton uses that to his advantage. Orton hits him with the belt and goes up, only for Murdoch to bring him back down and hogtie him for the pinfall at 04:54.

  • Analysis: The finish was fantastic and quite realistic, but the rest of the match was nothing more than kicks and punches. *

Samoan SWAFT Team (Fatu & Samu)(w/ Paul E. Dangerously) vs. Dynamic Dudes (Shane Douglas & Johnny Ace)

Johnny Ace goes all Ricky Steamboat on the heels to start, hitting everything that moves with armdrags. He slams Fatu before bringing in Douglas for a quick dropkick. Samu gets in but gets caught in the babyface corner, who use quick tags to double-team him before the Samoans catch Ace with a superkick. Samu superkicks him again and goes to a chinlock. A sideslam by Samu gets two. Fatu gets in for a powerslam that also gets two, and Samu goes for another chinlock. Ace escapes and tries to reach Douglas, but Samu stops him and takes him down into a Boston Crab. Douglas finally gets in for the hot tag, but that goes nowhere rather quickly and Fatu comes down with a flying splash and Ace saves at two. The Samoans go for it a second time, only for Ace to dropkick them as Douglas falls on top of Samu for the win at 11:02.

  • Analysis: This was a little bit longer than it probably should have been, but it was decent enough. **1/2

Terry Funk, Lou Thesz and Pat O’Connor, the judges for the World Title match, give their thoughts on tonight’s match between Steamboat and Flair.

United States Championship: Lex Luger(c) vs. Michael Hayes(w/ Hiro Matsuda)

Luger is incredibly over at this point in his career. Hayes bails and stalls a lot to start, and back in puts on a headlock before hitting a crossbody for two. Luger tries to slam Hayes to stop him, but Hayes turns him into a (slightly botched) legsweep. Hayes stalls once again, allowing Luger to finally catch him with a backdrop to take over. Back in, Hayes clotheslines Luger and goes for a DDT that Luger blocks before Hayes bails once more. A Luger slam gets two as Hayes tries to fight back with a number of chops, finally cutting Luger off with a clothesline. Hayes turns around to celebrate, while Luger pops up and no-sells before taking it to Hayes as the crowd explodes. That was very well done. Luger ends up missing a bodypress, though, allowing Hayes to ram him into the post followed by a suplex for two. Bulldog gets two more. Hayes locks in a chinlock but Luger escapes and makes the comeback, blocking a second bulldog and connecting with a clothesline for two. Luger press-slams Hayes a number of times and goes for the Torture Rack, which Hayes turns into a DDT. The ref gets bumped as they get up and start fighting, and Terry Gordy joins and shoves Hayes on top of the exhausted Luger for the win and the title at 16:06.

  • Analysis: I wouldn’t exactly take the midcard title off Luger after winning it at the prior PPV, simply because he was getting more and more over at this time. Otherwise, the match was good enough and quite enjoyable. ***1/4

World TV Championship: Sting(c) vs. The Iron Sheik(w/ Rip Morgan)

If Luger was over in the prior match, I don’t have words for Sting then. He gets the crowd going by simply screaming. Sheiky Baby forces the announcer to call him a former World champion. Sheik takes it to Sting with the flag before the bell and chokes him out with it. He gutwrenches Sting for two, but Sting quickly takes him down with the Stinger Splash in the corner before hooking the Scorpion Deathlock for the submission at 02:12.

  • Analysis: A complete squash, but it got Sting even more over. 1/2*

NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Ricky Steamboat(c) vs. Ric Flair

This is Flair’s last shot at Steamboat, as Flair had his foot on the ropes in the third and final fall at Clash of the Champions. Former NWA World Champions Lou Thesz, Pat O’Connor and Terry Funk are at ringside, just to make sure there’s a winner in case the match ends in a draw. Steamboat takes it to Flair with quick armdrags to start. Flair bitchslaps Steamboat in the corner, but Steamboat immediately responds by slapping Flair in the face EVEN HARDER. There you go. Flair gets up only to get backdropped back down. Steamboat catches Flair in a wristlock and starts working the arm, not allowing Flair to escape. Flair manages to block Ricky’s wristlock and turn it into a hammerlock for two, but Steamboat turns that into an armbar. Flair finally has enough of being outwrestled and decides it would be much easier to pull Steamboat’s hair to escape. He proceeds to drop some elbows on Steamboat. Epic selljob by Steamboat. Now it’s Steamboat who’s had enough of Flair’s cheating so he decides to chop Flair with a little bit of extra mustard on them. Steamboat goes back to outwrestling Flair, keeping him down once again, this time with a bridging hammerlock. As Flair is about to get to his feet, Steamboat releases the hold and dumps Flair with a hiptoss into a dropkick, totally outsmarting Flair. That pisses off Flair, who gets back in more aggressive, only for Steamboat to naturally use that against Flair and take back control. Meanwhile, the judges announce the results of the first voting: all three vote for Steamboat, meaning if the two are (for example) double counted-out before the next round of votes is announced, Steamboat would retain. I appreciate this a lot, especially since Steamboat has manage to completely outwrestle, outsmart and outclass Flair so far.

They get into a chopfest, again won by Steamboat, who proceeds to whip Flair into the turnbuckle and Flair finds himself in the Tree of Woe position. Steamboat misses a charge and goes flying to the outside, though, finally giving Flair the upper hand for the first time in the encounter. Flair beats up Steamboat in the front row in a great visual, chopping him while he’s close to the fans. Flair adds a nasty elbow to the throat, and once Steamboat finally makes the big comeback the crowd goes absolutely insane. Steamboat brings him back in to connect with the flying karate chop. Steamboat goes back to working the arm but ends up missing yet another charge, this time landing on his knee. You know what time it is. WOOOOOO, time to take him to school! Flair drops the knee on Steamboat. He chops away before hitting a backdrop suplex for two. Flair proceeds to work the count numerous times to get Steamboat more tired. I always enjoy this strategy, it’s quite realistic. Flair with yet another kneedrop followed by a suplex for two. Steamboat tries to make a comeback only to walk into a Flair stungun. Steamboat absolutely kills Flair with a chop to cut him off, though, only to be the victim of another suplex, this one on the floor. Meanwhile, the second round of the judges’ voting goes to Flair 2-1, meaning Steamboat is still winning on points with an overall score of 4 votes against Flair’s 2.

Flair goes for another suplex back inside, blocked by Steamboat for a nearfall before taking the chops to Flair. A bodypress by Naitch ends up sending both guys to the outside yet again. Flair goes to the top only to get slammed off. Shocking, I know! Steamboat runs wild on Flair, who hides in the corner and gets a cheap kick to the knee on the clean break. What a prick. A Flair suplex is blocked and turned into a pin by Steamboat that gets two, and Steamboat proceeds to drop Flair with a superplex. Steamboat wants the double chickenwing and Flair immediately grabs the ropes to avoid it. Steamboat comes at him with a flying chop instead. He goes for another one, but Flair uses the ropes to crotch Steamboat and send him to the outside, as Steamboat once again lands on his knee. Flair brings him in with a suplex off the apron and puts him in the Figure Four. Steamboat somehow manages to fight his way out of the hold, and connects with an enziguiri to prevent Flair from assaulting his legs even more. Steamboat is selling the leg, though, and Flair turns a Steamboat slam into a cradle for the win and his sixth title at 31:37.

After the match, Steamboat shakes Flair’s hand and presents him the belt as a show of mutual respect. Jim Ross joins the ring for an interview with the new champ, but Terry Funk (one of the three judges) gets in the ring to congratulate Flair on his new title. Funk challenges Flair, who says he’s focused on the top ten challengers instead. Funk says he was just kidding about the challenge anyway before leav…. he then jumps back in and destroys Flair all over ringside. Funk ends the beatdown with a nasty piledriver through the judges’ table, breaking Flair’s neck and pretty much naming himself the number one contender. And Ric Flair is now the babyface champion. Legendary angle.

  • Analysis: As far as the match goes, it’s absolutely perfect much like the other two matches in the trilogy. Apart from the usual intensity and competitive nature of their meetings, I absolutely loved the simple touch of adding judges to prevent a draw. In kayfabe, how can you guarantee there will be a decisive finish and that the wrestlers won’t pin each other to cause a draw… or a double count-out… or a time-limit draw? You really can’t. I also loved the judges’ dedication, with the three former World Champions even taking notes at particular points in the match. It really is that much better when the thing is taken seriously rather than exposed as fake and/or pre-determined. Also, notice how the exact same reversal that won Steamboat the IC Title at ‘Mania III took the World Title away from him. Lovely stuff! *****

Meanwhile, special ref Nikita Koloff is not going to be intimidated by anyone.

NWA World Tag Team Championship: The Varsity Club (Dr. Death Steve Williams & Mike Rotunda)(c)(w/ Kevin Sullivan) vs. The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal)(w/ Paul Ellering)

Good luck following THAT. Nikita Koloff is your special referee here. Nikita sends Sullivan to the back immediately just to show that HE WILL NOT BE INTIMIDATED! The Warriors clean house to start, with Rotunda being the victim of an Animal powerslam followed by a flying clothesline by Hawk off the apron to the outside. Rotunda gets out of the way of a clothesline, though, as Hawk clotheslines the post instead and hurts his arm. Williams gets in and quickly goes after that arm, but Animal gets the hot tag and starts running wild. A shoulderblock on Williams gets two before it’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA. The Road Warriors take down Williams with a double clothesline followed by the Doomsday Device, but Dan Spivey attacks Koloff to keep the tag titles with the Varsity Club via DQ loss at 06:06.

  • Analysis: I take my hat off to these guys for doing so well and putting on such a strong match despite following the World Title bout. And the crowd cared. Props to everyone involved for that. The finish would later result in the Varsity Club being stripped of the tag titles and them being vacated. **3/4

(Alleged) Main-event – NWA US Tag Team Championship: Eddie Gilbert & Rick Steiner(c)(w/ Missy Hyatt) vs. The Varsity Club (Kevin Sullivan & Dan Spivey)

Spivey immediately jumps Steiner before the match, slamming his shoulder a couple of times into the post and basically turning it into a handicap match. Gilbert is already playing face-in-peril in the first few minutes of the bout, while Sullivan keeps preventing Steiner from getting up on the apron. The heels continue to dominate Gilbert, with a clothesline by Sullivan followed by a Spivey dropkick. A sideslam gets two. Gilbert finally brings in Steiner for the hot tag, but Spivey distracted the ref and he missed the tag. Steiner is like “fuck it”, hitting a Steinerline on Sullivan anyway as Gilbert makes the cover to retain the belts at 06:41. The heels destroy Rick Steiner’s shoulder some more as punishment.

  • Analysis: Decent enough. This had an easy story that everyone could easily understand and get into, and I found nothing wrong with it. Steiner’s shoulder was legitimately injured, hence the injury angle to protect him and prevent him from working. The US Tag Titles would be retired shortly after this, though. **


  • Final thoughts: Well, there’s no way I can say this show is not recommended when you have one of the best matches of all time followed by an equally classic segment. The rest of the show isn’t bad, but I think the show wasn’t as good as Chi-Town Rumble. About fifty times better than WWF’s WrestleMania V the prior month, though. It would have been even better if the Funk/Flair beatdown angle close the show, because nothing could possily top that ending. 6/10

Here are the points for the wrestlers on this show:

  • Ric Flair: 8 points (5 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win + 2 for winning a title)
  • Michael Hayes: 6.25 points (3.25 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win + 2 for winning a title)
  • Eddie Gilbert: 5.5 points (2 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win + 1 for successfully defending a title + 1 for main-eventing + 0.5 for winning the fall)
  • Rick Steiner: 5 points (2 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win + 1 for successfully defending a title + 1 for main-eventing)
  • Shane Douglas: 4 points (2.5 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win + 0.5 for winning the fall)
  • Johnny Ace: 3.5 points (2.5 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win)
  • Dr. Death: 3.25 points (2.75 for star rating + 1 for successfully defending a title – 0.5 for DQ loss)
  • Mike Rotunda: 3.25 points (2.75 for star rating + 1 for successfully defending a title – 0.5 for DQ loss)
  • Hawk: 3.25 points (2.75 for star rating + 0.5 for DQ win)
  • Animal: 3.25 points (2.75 for star rating + 0.5 for DQ win)
  • The Great Muta: 2.5 points (1.5 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win)
  • Sting: 2.5 points (0.5 for star rating + 1 for pinfall loss + 1 for successfully defending a title)
  • Ricky Steamboat: 2 points (5 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss – 2 for losing a title)
  • Dick Murdoch: 2 points (1 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win)
  • Dan Spivey: 2 points (2 for star rating + 1 for main-eventing – 1 for pinfall loss)
  • Kevin Sullivan: 1.5 point (2 for star rating + 1 for main-eventing – 1 for pinfall loss – 0.5 for losing the fall)
  • Fatu: 1.5 point (2.5 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss)
  • Butch Reed: 1.25 point (0.25 for star rating + 1 for pinfall win)
  • Samu: 1 point (2.5 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss – 0.5 for losing the fall)
  • Doug Gilbert: 0.5 points (1.5 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss)
  • Lex Luger: 0.25 points (3.25 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss – 2 for losing a title)
  • Bob Orton Jr: 0 points (1 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss)
  • The Iron Sheik: -0.5 points (0.5 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss)
  • Ranger Ross: -0.75 points (0.25 for star rating – 1 for pinfall loss)

Thank you for your time. Until next time!