This is the second of our “He’s The Booker, I’m The Blogger” feature. This time, we discuss Starrcade 1984.
If you missed our last review on Starrcade ’83, John LaRocca (@LaRoccaJL), president and co-owner of Premier, a Bay Area based independent wrestling company and editor of Fight Game Blog, GG, 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.
Starrcade: The Million Dollar Challenge took place on November 22, 1984 from the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina and featured Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair in the main event refereed by Smokin’ Joe Frazier.
Gordon Solie and Bob Caudle are the announcers and Tony Schiavone is the backstage interviewer, giving fans something they weren’t able to see before; a look right inside the locker room. Hey, wait, he said that at Starrcade ’83 too.
1. Denny Brown Vs Mike Davis
GG: This is for the NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Championship.
JL: The NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Championship means very little at this time, especially when Denny Brown, who is basically an upper level enhancement talent is competing for it.
GG: The high camera is annoying. It does nothing to enhance the viewing. Keep the camera in the ring.
JL: The work was solid by both, but the finish did nothing to get Denny Brown’s championship win over. It was the old wrestler getting back suplexed and lifting his shoulder up at the last second, while the wrestler delivering the back suplex has his shoulders down. It should have been booked in which Brown gets a clean and clear win to get the crowd excited to open the show.
GG: Everyone was confused except Brown. The ring announcer announced the wrong winner. Bob Caudle and Gordon Solie were confused. And worse, the crowd didn’t seem to have any idea what was going on.
Though, I heard the Road Warriors used this match to come up with their finish to lose to the Steiners in 1989.
2. Mr. Ito Vs Brian Adidas
GG: The young babyface Adidas kind of looks like some of the photos I’ve seen of a young and lean Dave Meltzer.
JL: This should have been the opener. The match was fast paced and the finish was clean. Adias was always a solid worker; just lacked personality. Adias was best suited for a babyface tag team role. Mr. Ito is the classic “foreign heel.” He went up really damn light for Adias’s airplane spin finish.
GG: In today’s wrestling, Adidas would’ve spun him until both guys vomited and it would’ve only been for a two-count.
JL: For a big guy, that was impressive. The finish looked smooth.
3. Mike Graham Vs Jesse Barr
GG: This one is for the NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship. This also might be the first time I’ve seen Barr wrestle without his Jimmy Jack Funk mask.
JL: It’s weird seeing the Florida Heavyweight title defended in Greensboro, North Carolina. Obviously, the booker Dusty Rhodes was throwing his former territory a bone with a featured match on the biggest card of the year.
GG: Barr’s doing fun heel stuff that’s missing today. He tried a headlock takeover, but couldn’t get it and then pulled Graham’s hair to get it.
JL: Jesse Barr was in his best shape during this period of his career. Barr is one of those guys who came along in the wrong era. He should have been born earlier and would have been a main eventer in the 70’s.
GG: Ref bump in the third match!
JL: Mike Graham is always good, but is really a junior heavyweight. Dusty should have scrapped this match, replaced Denny Brown with Graham and had Graham win the NWA Jr. Heavyweight Championship. Barr winning with his feet on the ropes would be the start of the heels going over at Starrcade ’84.
4. The Zambuie Express Vs Assassin #1 and Buzz Tyler
GG: Doing some research because I didn’t know the Zambuie Express well and was sad to learn that both men died before they reached their 43rd birthday.
JL: This was unneeded and should have been left off the card. With such a short time, the tag team eliminations went quickly. The babyfaces went over and that was rare for this card – a waste of time.
GG: It was another weird finish. I’m not sure why this was an elimination match if they were only going to do one fall and call the second fall as a count out. Why not just make it a regular one-fall match?
Tony Schiavone interviewed Dusty Rhodes in the back who said the talking is over. For some reason, Rhodes resembled a baseball pitcher who was icing his arm and keeping warm. He did the interview looking like this.
5. Manny Fernandez Vs Black Bart
GG: This is for the Brass Knuckles Championship. Both guys had their fists taped.
JL: The Brass Knuckles Championship is what we could call a “Hardcore Title” today. The difference is Fernandez and Bart made the match look like a fight. Today, guys just hit each other with objects.
GG: First juice of the show comes via Manny Fernandez’s forehead.
JL: Black Bart was such an underrated big man. For a guy his size, he was such a smooth bumper. Fernandez was always a top level worker. Fernandez got the pin when Bart’s manager James J. Dillon tried to throw in Bart’s bull rope, but Fernandez rolled up a distracted Bart for the pin. This was the last satisfactory victory for the fans in Greensboro at Starrcade ’84.
GG: Solie calls for a 7-minute delay. Schiavone interviews Ricky Steamboat who hurt his back/ribs after being jumped by Black Bart, Ron Bass, JJ Dillon, and Tully Blanchard. Steamboat cuts a long promo that’s a little rough. He’s hurt which doesn’t bode well for his match later in the show with Tully Blanchard. Both guys put up $10,000 of their own money in the match.
Gordon tells us that Tully can lose the title if he’s disqualified. Tully’s wearing a sweet Starrcade ’84 shirt. Tully calls out Steamboat for making excuses before the match even starts.
Gordon said that Steamboat knows jiu jitsu and karate.
6. Paul Jones Vs Jimmy Valiant
GG: This is a Tuxedo match. Valiant immediately tied Jones to the top rope so that he couldn’t move.
JL: The Valiant-Jones feud went on forever, but at least here it was still fresh. Valiant puts a whooping on Jones and strips him down, which was well, awkward looking.
GG: I would’ve worn a few pair of long johns under my tuxedo pants so he would’ve been have been able to strip so easily. All Jones had to do was take his shirt off and he would’ve been freed from being tied up.
JL: The referee gets distracted by the seconds at ringside, The Assassin and Elijah Akeem. James J. Dillon sneaks in and knocks out Valiant with metal object. Good match and keeping it short was perfect.
GG: Two things were good about this match: Valiant’s ants in his pants comeback and Jones getting really good color. Solie and Caudle didn’t really sell Dillon’s interference at all.
Schiavone interviewed Ric Flair and Flair used daddy and brother when talking about Dusty Rhodes and then called himself the number one stud.
7. Dick Slater Vs “Cowboy” Ron Bass
GG: This match is for Bass’ Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight title. Dillon is with Bass. He’s in almost every match it seems. He worked his ass off on this night.
JL: This match was a real let down. Slater’s comical selling at times really took the match down. As a heel it is okay, but as a babyface, it just came off really goofy.
GG: Very Roddy Piper-ish.
JL: The finish was beyond lame. As Slater is making his comeback and punching Bass in the corner, the referee is putting on a five count like he should. Slater grabs the ref and throws him out of the ring. Slater hits a big move and covers Bass, but the referee taps him on the shoulder and Slater gets up with his arms raised in victory. Referee goes and raises Bass’s hands and disqualifies Slater. Horrible finish. The finish made Slater look like an idiot and did nothing to get heat for future rematches. Why would the fans have sympathy for Slater when he clearly got himself disqualified?
GG: I’ve pointed to the announcing already before. But Solie or Caudle didn’t even mention Slater tossing the referee out. A subtle reference would’ve been helpful. And then after the DQ happens, Gordon says that the referee did his job. He didn’t mention it until he saw the slow motion replay. This show is weird.
At exactly the half way point of the show, an American flag is shown and the Star Spangled Banner is played via a trumpet. No idea who is playing the trumpet. Aren’t you supposed to do this at the beginning of the show? Oh, it’s because the Americans (Ole Anderson and Keith Larson) are facing the Russians next!
8. Ivan Koloff and Nikita Koloff Vs Ole Anderson and Keith Larson
GG: Nikita is a monster.
JL: Nikita is really green here, but he is such an awesome physical specimen. Ivan Koloff is such a workhorse and showed that off during a long babyface shine early in the match. Long heat on Ole Anderson, which I knew right away Larson was doing the job.
GG: I didn’t know Larson all that well before this match, and because of that, I figured he was losing the fall.
JL: Of all the matches on this card, the heels should not be doing the job here. Nikita wiped out Don Kernodle at ringside who was on crutches. That looked nasty. The second best match on the show.
GG: I wanted to see a Nikita Russian sickle for the finish, but Larson losing because of a chain shot was fine as well.
9. Ricky Steamboat Vs Tully Blanchard
JL: The gimmick is that both wrestlers put up $10,000 in a winner take all. Also, if Blanchard is disqualified or counted out, he would lose his NWA TV title.
GG: Steamboat’s selling the injury during the introductions. Also, he and Nikita were the most ripped guys on this show so far.
JL: I thought calling the counted-out stipulation the “no run rule” was clever.
GG: Blanchard broke a chin lock by diving over the top rope, leaving Steamboat hanging on and then took another shot at the ribs.
JL: It’s the best match on the card and that was easy to predict with these two great workers. It’s fast-paced with a lot of back and forth action. Blanchard’s selling is so realistic and should be studied by all young workers out there.
GG: Caudle gives Steamboat an out by saying that he wonders what Steamboat would be like in this match at 100%. The camera missed the part where Blanchard spit in Steamboat’s face and the announcers didn’t see it either.
JL: Blanchard pinned Steamboat by hitting him with a foreign object.
GG: Had to hit Steamboat twice with it! And man, poor Steamboat had to get hit with whatever that thing was twice that Tully put right into the front of his trunks. Couldn’t have smelled nice.
JL: Dusty should have booked Steamboat to go over to give the fans something to celebrate after being screwed by heels in the previous three matches. I believe Steamboat was leaving the Crockett area after this match, but he could have dropped the belt quickly afterwards. This was one of my personal favorite Starrcade matches.
10. Superstar Billy Graham Vs Wahoo McDaniel
GG: This is the first time I’ve ever seen Superstar with the karate gimmick. And man, add Graham to the ripped list, but you knew he would be.
JL: I loved McDaniel as a badass heel. He was great in the role and it should have lasted a lot longer.
GG: Graham throws the same measured strikes that Steamboat throws with the fingers pointed. Graham’s don’t look quite as awesome.
JL: It was shocking to see this match end so quickly and so cleanly. Instead of wasting time with The Assassin/Tyler vs Zambuie Express tag team elimination match, it would have been nice if these two got a little more time.
GG: McDaniel defended his title by throwing a chop at Graham after he shot him off the ropes. That was the finish. Really. Gordon said it didn’t look like McDaniel had a hold of the trousers. Yes, Graham was actually wearing trousers and not tights.
Solie and Caudle sent it back to Tony again to do an interview with the three judges for the main event, in case the match goes to the 60 minute time limit. Duke Keomuka, former wrestler and father of Pat Tanaka, race car driver Kyle Petty (sweet mullet) and Smokin’ Joe Frazier (also the in-ring referee) are the judges. Duke says whoever wins will win. Frazier’s promo is a bit inaudible. And Petty says he might have to mail in his vote if this goes to decision for fear of getting beat up.
11. Dusty Rhodes Vs Ric Flair
GG: Not only is this for Flair’s NWA World Heavyweight title, it’s also for $1,000,000.
JL: The entrances made it feel like such a huge match. Flair and Rhodes always had great chemistry together.
GG: Frazier was slow to count the pin falls. He would only get to one knee so his hand had to come down far.
JL: At one point, it was so bad, the crowd was really upset.
Flair rammed Rhodes into the ring post and blood started to flow. Rhodes gigged himself and he bled a gusher. Dusty has always been a bleeder, but since the blood was the main reason for the finish, he made sure it was a good one.
GG: Frazier kept looking at the eye as if it was a boxing match or WWE in 2014.
JL: Flair was great as he ran and started to pound on Dusty’s cut. The aggressiveness by Flair made this look so realistic. Dusty made his comeback by hitting his bionic elbows and punches. Keomuka told Fraizer to check the eye again. This was done to babyface Frazier so he would not get all the heat for calling match. This did not work.
GG: The announcers were split on whether Frazier should be this concerned about the eye. Caudle thought he should. After the match, Solie made the point that in boxing it was important, but maybe not so much in wrestling.
JL: Once Frazier called for the bell, the fans were pissed off. It was stale cherry on top of a poorly made cake. After plenty of unsatisfactory results, this really had the fans riled up.
GG: It was definitely grown worthy.
JL: The finish is a good finish, but not on the biggest show of the year. You build to this event all year and the fans want finality. The idea was to build towards Dusty Rhodes versus Joe Frazier. That match would have received a lot main stream media if it would have taken place. For whatever reason it never did and thus this main event was just a bad finish.
GG: Dusty cut quite the promo on Frazier after the match saying that no matter where he was, he was going to get him.
JL: Grading this event, I would give it a C. Too many bad finishes and too many matches. Instead of eleven matches, it should have been reduced to eight.
GG: I’d agree. The show was really bad in parts, but when you have the caliber of guys they did on this card like Steamboat, Tully, Flair, and Dusty, it couldn’t really have been that bad. Watch the show for Steamboat’s selling if anything.
John and I will review Starrcade ’85: The Gathering in our next, “He’s The Booker, I’m The Blogger” column. Magnum and Tully!