The beginning. Well not really. More like the middle.
“WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING”
Date: Saturday, April 6, 1985
Location: WTBS Studio (Atlanta, GA)
This would be the debut of the W.C.W. program under the Jim Crockett Promotions banner after a year or so under WWF reign (Google “Black Friday” if you’re not up on that whole story). It’s a bit of a grabbag of JCP booking and Georgia Championship Wrestling booking for the first few weeks. It eventually would become the flagship of WCW the company until Nitro rolled onto the scene.
The show opens with a clip from a confrontation between tag team partners Thunderbolt Patterson and Ole Anderson. We get the full segment later, so no point in bothering with it here.
Opening credits sequence.
David Crockett and Tony Schiavone are our hosts, as they join us from the podium at ringside in the WTBS TV studios in Atlanta, GA. They hype the stars we’re gonna see, including a match from “the hottest fued in wrestling today”, Arn Anderson vs Manny Ferandez. Not for nothing, but I don’t think that was really the *hottest* fued going, but then again Tony was never one to shy away from hyperbole. Or should I say, THE GREATEST HYBEROLE IN THE HISTORY OF OUR SPORT!!
IVAN KOLOFF & NIKITA KOLOFF vs GEORGE SOUTH & GREG STONE
(referee: Tommy Young)
Ivan and Nikita were the “World’s” Tag Team Champions, although to be technical, the NWA didn’t sponsor World Tag Titles at that point so there were multiple regions which claimed that their titles were “World”. As this is the first episode under the JCP regime, Tommy Young will handle ref duties all night. Ivan goes to work on South with some slugging and a clothesline. Front facelock and he grinds it in. South comes out with an arm wringer but eats a boot to the gut and a snapmare takeover. Elbow drop by Ivan. He sends South into the elevated boot of Nikita and then tags in his “nephew”. Whip to the ropes and a double back elbow drops South. Nikita picks him up like he’s a feather and drops him throat first across the top rope. Ivan back in and they just kind of pound on South, who gets enough of a comeback to be able to tag out to Stone, who himelf gets immediately pounded down by Ivan. Double stomp and Ivan tags Nikita back in. Some rope assisted choking is followed with a shin-across-the-throat choke. Nikita hits a “Russian Hammer” which is apparently a choke-clothesline. Or Tony’s just randomly naming stuff, which is highly likely. Back in comes Ivan for a scoop and a slam. Kneedrop follows for a one-count. Pesky jobber, kicking out at one. A sloppy back bodydrop and back in comes Nikita with a second-rope axehandle. He throws Stone back into the corner and demands South tag in. Big back elbow takes South down. Another whip off the ropes and a WICKED Russan Sickle finishes for the one! Two! Three!
Result: Ivan Koloff & Nikita Koloff via pinfall (4:02).
Replay shows that Nikita didn’t hit the Sickle quite as cleanly as I thought, but it was still effective.
Back over to the podium where NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair is stylin’ n’ profilin’ in his PIMP silver & black robe with MAD frills. He says that Atlanta has been starved for a real man, which is why he’s back, and drops that the robe cost him 5 grand. He’s the best athlete in all pro sports and has the gold to prove it. “To be the man you’ve got to beat the man”. And there you have it. A nice re-intro for those who may have forgot who Flair was at the time (as if).
JIMMY VALIANT vs. MARK HILL
(referee: Tommy Young)
Not sure about the jobber’s name, as they don’t have any chyron on this first show, something which they rectify for week two. Valiant dances to the ring and goes to work with his goofy offense which features lots of wild punches and thumb spikes. He gets a decent armdrag and works an armbar so he can call out Paul Jones. Valiant also tends to clap in between every move. He does the same shin-choke that Nikita used in the match before and continues to call out Paul Jones. They were of course in the middle of a two or three year long fued at this point. He tosses Hill outside and sends him into the corner post before heading back inside. Big wind-up punch and cross corner whip. Scoop slam gets two but Valiant’s not ready for it to be over so he pulls Hill up by the hair. More punches and another two count that he pulls up on. Valiant wrestles like a total heel but the crowd loves him. Big elbowdrop gets the final three as Young slides outside the ring to the floor in order to get a good angle for the count. I’m surprised that over the years no other ref has stolen that, as Young used to do it often and it makes him look like he actually gives a crap about his job. (EDIT: Wouldn’t you know it, I saw Charles Robinson do it a week after I wrote this.)
Result: Jimmy Valiant via pinfall (2:17).
Jimmy dances and claps while he calls out for Jones and his many minions by name.
SAM HOUSTON vs. TULLY BLANCHARD (w/ Baby Doll)
(referee: Tommy Young)
Not strictly a jobber match here as Houston was one of those young guys they were looking to push. Dusty Rhodes joins the commentary team as he was in the midst of a fued with Blanchard at the time. They actually shake hands to start and Tully gets a CRISP armdrag out of a lock-up. Houston works some arm wringers so Tully pulls the hair to drag him down. Tully knees the gut to block a lock-up and works some punches, but Houston hits a dropkick after a rope whip and Tully knows he’s got his hands full. Waistlock reversals leads to a Tully hammerlock and he rides Houston down to the mat with it. Dusty puts both guys over on commentary so you know Houston wasn’t a scrub. Tully works some amatuer stuff while holding the hammerlock and gets a couple of one counts. Backslide gets two but Houston squirms free, leading Tully to go back to punches and kicks. He tosses Houston outside as Dusty puts himself over this time (shocker). Back in, Houston avoids an elbowdrop and makes a brief comeback but Tully gets a knee up on a corner charge and goes back to work. Some slugging follows and then he scoops Houston into the yet to be named Tree of Woe. Houston falls out of it as this was in the days before that spot became popular. Tully gets a rolling cradle off a rope runner for two, then takes Houston over with a headlock, but Sam counters into a head scissor. Tully falls back into a pinning combo for two, but Houston rolls out while holding the scissor. Tully finally pushes himself free and starts slapping Houston which gets the young southern boy’s dander up, allowing Tully to take over again with some slugging. Side backbreaker gets another two count and now Tully is getting pissed that he can’t put the kid away. Houston fires back with some forearms, but Tully works him into a catapult under the bottom rope. That leads right into an awkard version of the slingshot suplex and Blanchard has the pin.
Result: Tully Blanchard via pinfall (5:01).
Nice little spirited contest there, as Houston looks competant and like an up-n-comer, but Blanchard looks like the savvy veteran that he is. One immediate thing I notice about these NWA squashes versus their WWF conterparts of the same era is that they have a much quicker pace (which makes recapping hard to keep up with). This may seem ridiculous to say, but I always felt Blanchard was underappreciated.
Dusty is still at ringside when we come back from commercial. He cuts a generic promo to establish that he’s the top babyface in the promotion before moving on to challenge the Russians to a future six-man encounter. Then onto Ric Flair for another “somewhere down the road” challenge. Now it’s on to Tully Blanchard and his “perfect 10”. “If that’s a ten, daddy, then Tony Schiavone, I might be interested in taking YOU out”. *shudder*
SUPERSTAR BILLY GRAHAM (w/ Paul Jones) vs. ROCKY KING
(referee: Tommy Young)
Graham is in his kung fu phase at this point, which actually made him look like a worse worker than normal. King is a jacked-up, young black dude who I am surprised never got a legit chance in the biz as he’s got a great look. Graham shows off the guns, although King looks like his are bigger. Jones is at ringside with his arm in a sling. Graham casually pushes King into a corner and goes to the eyes. He runs the youngster into the corner buckles and then hits a back elbow while talking trash. Some punches and then a weak looking “karate” chop. King fires back with punches of his own but another chop to the throat stops that comeback. Raised boot and then a scoop slam by the Superstar. Another scoop slam is followed by some stomps then a trip over the the ropes for some choking. Jones gets in a cane shot while Young warns Graham about the choking. Graham picks King up in an over-the-shoulder backbreaker but then kind of wanders around like he doesn’t really know where to go from there and eventually just drops him on top of the corner buckle. Some elbow drops to the back as Crockett tries to cover for Graham’s lethargic pace by saying he doesn’t need to rush. Graham slaps on the full nelson and swings King around, leading to the KO win when King just passes out.
Result: Billy Graham via knockout (3:39).
Sorry, but Graham looked bored here and he gave the kid nothing. Compare this to how Blanchard and (upcoming) Flair made their guys at least look like they belonged in the ring and you know why they have the reputations they have.
Back from another break and David & Tony talk about the “Hearthrob of America”, Magnum T.A. That leads into a VERY cheesy beefcake video of Magnum riding around on his motorcycle and macking with some chicks. They intersplice some match footage as well, with him hitting his two moves – a dropkick and the belly-to-belly suplex. Actually, for as cheesy at it is now, this was a great way to introduce characters to the audience, and you gotta admit that Magnum looks like a badass. Some better production values would be nice though.
“Freebird” Michael Hayes cuts an interview on Ric Flair, as he’s got a match upcoming at the Omni in Atlanta. Hayes was part of the Georgia contingent and as a result wouldn’t be around long. They cut to Flair looking LESS than impressed by Hayes’ smacktalk as he waits in the ring.
RIC FLAIR vs. GENE LIGON
(referee: Tommy Young)
Flair of course didn’t often wrestle jobber matches, but again as this is the debut they’re pulling out all the stops. It’s a pity too, because he was so good at making people look like they’re worth something even when they’re guys who look like they should be doing Flair’s taxes. Ligon isn’t one of those guys though, as he’s in that Tony Garea mold where he’s an older guy in decent shape who would have been considered “rugged” back in the 60’s and 70’s when a chiseled frame wasn’t as important. They circle for a bit and Flair gets a droptoehold off the lock-up. They scramble on the mat with some amateur stuff before starting over. More amatuer stuff as Ligon is holding his own, but Flair’s not sweating him just yet. Third lock-up and Ligon works a side headlock. Shoulderblock won by Ligon but Flair tosses him into the corner on the next try for some chops. Double underhook suplex by Flair leads to our first pinfall, but Ligon is out at two. Flair shrugs off some punches and works a corner chop and a snapmare. Jumping kneedrop (CLASSIC FLAIR!) for another two and then we work a headlock for a bit. More chops and then Ligon fires back and actually DROPS Flair with a blow. They kinda screw something up and regroup for Ligon to get a backdrop. Flair’s had enough of that though and pastes him with a chop. Back elbow sends Ligon down and Flair brings him back up for a pretty delayed vertical suplex. “NOW… we go to school”. Flair slaps on the figure-four and it’s only a matter of moments before Ligon gives up the ghost.
Result: Ric Flair via pinfall (3:58).
A replay gives us the suplex and figure-four again. Would have liked to have seen Flair at least give a token shot to the leg before slapping on the submission, but hey, it’s a four minute jobber match, and he certainly made Ligon look credible, even if it means nothing in the long run.
The Boogie Woogie man comes back out with his axe handle and plants a big wet kiss on Tony Schiavone. No, I’m not kidding. The axe handle has “Jones” written on it and it is apparently the cause of Paul Jones’ broken arm. Valiant admits to being in love with the hunk of wood, planting a kiss on it as well before we cut abruptly to a commercial. I wish I was making that whole thing up. I wish.
When we come back Tony and David recap the recent rift between National Tag Team Champions Ole Anderson & Thunderbolt Patterson. The National champs were from Ole’s Georgia promotion so the belts won’t be around for long as they get forgotten about soon enough. But for now, the champs aren’t getting along. The angle is that Ole saw some footage of his nephew Arn and decided he was tired of carrying T-Bolt’s old ass and wanted to reform the Minnesota Wrecking Crew with new family. We then get the interview that sealed the deal, which aired the week before (I believe) on “Championship Wrestling from Georgia”. Thunderbolt stutters through his portion but Ole, who is really quite good at the calm but effective promo style, basically tells Patterson that they’re through and he’s getting a free pass, but the next time they cross paths Anderson may have lay on some hands. It’s essentially a heel turn by Ole, although I find the concept of him being a face to be hard to accept to begin with. Great little segment that explains the angle and the turn quite nicely while leading us directly into the next match and segment.
ARN ANDERSON vs. MANNY FERNANDEZ
(referee: Tommy Young)
So this basically marks Arn’s debut as a significant character, as he had been paying his dues for a number of years as a low-card guy. I’m not really sure of the “fued” that he and Manny have that they referred to at the top of the show, but whatever, if they didn’t have one before they will when this is all over. For those who aren’t familiar with the TBS show format, this amounts to the “main event”, as aside from the all the jobber matches they would feature one competetive match between pushed wrestlers which would air midway through the show (usually with a commercial break at the top of the hour) as a way to keep viewers hooked for hour two. They lock up and things are tense early, as neither guy is backing down. The Raging Bull works a headlock for the first advantage and they fight over that for a bit. Ole is on commentary and responds to Tony’s comments about the striking Anderson resemblance with “I don’t think there’s anything odd with brothers looking like each other”. Tony’s response? “Brothers?” Yeah, they really weren’t sure where what story they were gonna go with at this point. Manny gets a shoulderblock and Arn starts complaining about an eyepoke. Back to the headlock which brings Arn to his knees. Arn rolls it into a pin for one, but Manny gets back to his feet, still grinding the headlock. To the ropes for a break and Arn takes over with some knees to the gut. Off the ropes but Manny’s back in charge with a big elbow. Arn whines about the eyes some more. Leg trip by Manny who goes to work on the knee, cranking on a knee bar. Arn gets uppitty so Manny slaps him down. Ole remains confident on commentary that Arn will turn it around. Crockett, who’s somewheat subdued on commentary, actually talks strategy quite well. It’s odd because his normal M.O. is to just cheerlead the babyfaces and scream, “OKAY!… WATCH THIS!!”. The leg work goes on for a bit and finally Arn just slugs his way out of it and looks to turn the tide but Manny kicks the leg to stop that nonsense. He does a leg grapevine and drops back with it, as Arn is in trouble when we head to the break.
We didn’t miss much as they’re still working the leg when we come back. Manny goes for a figure four (perhaps) and Arn shoves him off with the other leg, sending Manny over the top to the outside. That’s the break Arn needed as he bounces Fernandez off the post and then takes it back inside where he’s suddenly in control with some sluggery. Arn proves his Anderson-ness by going right to the arm (which Tony actually mentions on commentary). It’s just basic stuff but effective, and like Manny on the leg they manage to keep it lively without doing anything spectacular. Manny chops his way out but Arn gets a boot up on a corner charge. Ole’s cheerleading gets louder, so Arn does what he’s told and gets back on the arm. Fans get behind Manny as Arn works a hammerlock on the mat. Manny finally gears things up and fires off a headbutt and back bodydrop to seemingly turn the tides but Arn dodges an elbow and goes right back to the arm. Manny looks kinda like a moron for using the worked over arm, but that’s why it’s good storytelling. Arn sends him arm-first into the corner and then hits the hammerlock slam. Manny manages to hit a clothesline with the bad arm, then switches to chops with the god arm and hits the flying double thrust for a one count. Arn gets his leg on the ropes though and Ole is RIGHT THERE to point it out. Manny starts jawing with Ole on the floor and Arn knees him through the ropes. Ole and Arn then pounce on Manny on the outside, and that’s pretty much the end of that match. No final bell or announced decision, but we’ll call it…
Result: Manny Fernandez via disqualification (11:05 shown).
Arn drops Manny with a gutbuster on Ole’s knee and they stomp away. This, as you would expect, brings Thunderbolt Patterson out to help Fernandez, but he gets handled right away by Arn as Ole just looks on. In the ring they go and T-Bolt fights back, so that’s enough for Ole to join the mix and the Andersons stomp away. Ole has Arn stretch T-Bolt’s leg out and comes off the ropes with a stomp on the leg, trying to break it. They try another but Fernandez dives on top of Patterson for the save and then a handful of guys from the back chase the Andersons off.
Tremendous match for what it was. No crazy spots, no massive heat segment, just solid back-and-forth between two good wrestlers. The pacing was excellent and all the moves were hit with conviction yet under the guise of a true fight. Plus they mixed in the storyline just enough to give the overall match meaning without it being overwhelmed by the angle. Loved it.
Over at the podium the Koloffs are happy to see Ole losing the useless garbage Patterson, although not happy to hear Dusty shooting his mouth of. Another generic promo in a series of them as everybody has to talk about how great the talent is in the promotion while name-dropping everybody they can think of. Nikita makes specific mention of Flair, sewing the seeds for their later fued.
Speaking of Flair, he’s back at ringside, having showered and changed into a nice white suit. He’s got a trio of lovely ladies with him, all dressed in gowns. Wherever he goes, he “never leaves a lady without a smile on her face”. He reiterates that Atlanta has been starved for a real man for a long time. He shows off the ladies some more before segueing into wrestling talk. He stops in the middle of it and tells some lady at ringside, “you pay attention sweetheart, or you’ll never get in line”. Tremendous. He botches the “diamonds are forever” catchphrase, but works his way out of it smoothly.
MAGNUM T.A. vs. PAUL BARNETT
(referee: Tommy Young)
Magnum is the United States Champ at this point. Barnett is actually jobber Paul Garner, but for whatever reason they refer to him as Barnett here. Not that it matters. They actually fight over the lock-up and Barnett wins it, but Magnum gets a few shots to counter and hits the belly-to-belly out of the corner for the one! Two! Three!
Result: Magnum T.A. via pinfall (0:27).
Get used to that result, because Magnum will make his living on this show doing sub-one minute squashes. The replay is essentially the whole match.
Back from a break and it’s time to hype up Tully Blanchard. He gets the video treatment as they again go to a cheesy montage that shows Tully’s search for the “Perfect 10”. How he ever wound up with Baby Doll I’ll never know, as she’s just about the ugliest valet in wrestling history. Love your style, Tully, but you clearly made the wrong choice on this one. The package does a nice job setting up Blanchard as a classy guy, wearing a white tux, dining on fine cuisine and drinking wine. Nice contrast to the more down-to-earth Magnum. Hmmm. Maybe these two should fued someday.
THE BARBARIAN (w/ Paul Jones) vs. JOSHUA STROUD
(referee: Tommy Young)
Stroud has the same chiseled young black dude look as Rocky King. Again, not sure why he didn’t get a shot. They could have teamed them up and had a decent midcard tag team if they wanted to, but then it was the south and… well… never mind. Barbarian looks like the third Road Warrior at this point, what with the face paint, spiked wrist bands and dog collar. He mauls Stroud right out of the shoot, but the kid doesn’t go down to a shoulderblock. Stroud tries a bodypress but Barbarian catches and dumps him. Barbarian pounds away and tosses Stroud to the floor where Jones taunts him. Barbarian comes out for a slam on the concrete then goes back in to catch his breath. He stomps on Stroud when he tries to come back in, but eventually lets him. Forearms and stomps mark the bulk of Barbarian’s offense. Shoulderblock puts Stroud down. Open-handed choke gets a five count from Young. Stroud tries to fight back but Barbie isn’t really in the mood to sell and just pounds him back. Hard scoopslam leads to the flying headbutt which is his finisher and Stroud is done without much of a fight.
Result: The Barbarian via pinfall (2:39).
Replay makes it look like Barbie fell off the top rope more than leapt, but whatever, it got the job done.
Dusty is back for another interview, just in case you weren’t sure who’s running the promotion. He proves he can’t count to three while trying to make like he’s more of a sex symbol than Flair. He runs through the same list of contenders as everybody else, making special point to get on Ole Anderson’s case now that he’s officially a heel.
We come back from a commercial to find that Tully Blanchard, like Flair before him, has cleaned up nicely. He calls Dusty’s win over him in which he ended Tully’s record-setting TV title reign a “miracle”, then gets on his case for talking about everybody else but Tully. He takes credit for giving the TV title credibility as Baby Doll stands there looking stupid. She really brings nothing to the table.
BUDDY LANDELL (w/ J.J. Dillon) vs. DAVID DILLENGER
(referee: Tommy Young)
Landell is in full-on “Nature Boy” mode here, as his gimmick is he’s a wannabe Flair. Dillenger goes to lock-up, but Landell’s worried about his hair. They try again and Buddy gets a crisp armdrag, which leads to a bit of the Fargo strut (which Flair himself stole). Scoop and a slam follows and Buddy goes over to shake Dillon’s hand as Dillenger gets back up. Dillinger tries for some offense so Buddy gets pissed and hits a WICKED chop. Another one and then it’s an arm wringer. He slugs Dillenger down and goes into an armbar with a hand to the chin. While in the resthold he turns to Dillon and asks, “who’s that guy who’s trying to immitate me?”. Again, just some nice basic character work to get people up to speed. Stiff forearm to the jaw drops Dillenger again and then he goes back to the arm wringer. Russian legsweep follows and back to the arm. He slaps Dillenger around while he’s down there, just to add insult to injury. Scoopslam and then a nice mimic of the Flair high kneedrop. Back to the arm. Dillenger’s getting nothing here, but that’s actually good in this case as the idea is to make Landell look like he’s having an easy time of it so he can keep asking for some competition. Landell keeps working from the armbar into some other move then right back to it. Brief comeback by Dillenger but he eats a knee and then Landell hits his big elbowdrop before locking on the figure-four for the win.
Result: Buddy Landell via submission (5:16).
Replay shows us the elbowdrop (which looks great as he really gets air and comes down with all his weight). Of course all the armwork went nowhere and he did nothing to set up the finish. But then, so did Flair, so maybe it’s part of the gimmick (I kid).
Back from a break where Dillon is standing by looking like a riverboat gambler in a maroon tux with frilly shirt. He puts over the promotion some while Black Bart wanders off to the ring for his match. J.J. spends the rest of his time putting over Paul Jones for whatever reason.
BLACK BART vs. RON ROSSI
(referee: Tommy Young)
Bart would best be described as the poorman’s, poorman’s Cactus Jack. He slugs away at the bell and rams Rossi into the buckle. Don’t expect much wrestling in this one. He dedicates a hard forearm across the chest to J.J. at ringside. Rossi gets dropped with a Stun Gun. More sluggery and kickery. The Move of the Night (scoopslam) is used and a snapmare leads to a Lawler-ish fistdrop. Bart gos to a rear chinlock which he grinds in for a bit. Rossi looks like… not a wrestler. The jobber gets some jobber elbows but can’t capitalize and eats more forearms. Some choking on the top rope follows as the announcers basically say Rossi is useless. Blantant choking by Bart leads to him tossing Rossi to the floor where Dillon earns his money with some stomps. He rolls Rossi back in and Bart hits a pretty big legdrop for the pinfall.
Result: Black Bart via pinfall (4:10).
Back from commerical where Arn and Ole are standing by. Arn’s rocking the sunglasses and fedora combo. He says they’re rekindling a dynasty and adds, “when I tell you an inchworm can pull a freight train, you hook it up”. Wha? Ole tells everybody to look out because “here comes the Wrecking Crew”. They go to another commercial but come right back to the Andersons. Tony tries to find out what’s up with the National Tag Titles but Ole says Thunderbolt was a freeloader and he knew he needed to go back to family.
David Crockett wanders back over after the Andersons leave and we get a video package for Jimmy Valiant. It’s by far the worst (and CHEESIEST) of the three as it’s clips of the Boogie Woogie man hanging on the beach trying to be hip. Lots of shots of chicks butt’s in bikinis though, so it has THAT going for it, even if it does nothing to make you care about Valiant per say. Seriously, at least the Magnum and Blanchard videos had a point. The shots of Jimmy in this thing are so random and pointless. Kinda like Valiant himself, actually.
Tony and David wrap things off by putting over everybody that we saw on the show. They sign off with a clip of a promo from Dusty Rhodes on the night he won the TV title from Blanchard. Nothing of note is said, although it’s funny to see him cutting a promo while drinking a scotch.
Overview: A very effective debut for Jim Crockett Promotions in the timeslot abandoned by the WWF. They showed off all their big players, got across a lot of the fueds and character traits, and gave us a decent midcard match with an angle to boot. These shows were essentially advertisements for house shows anyway, so the whole point is to make you care about the wrestlers, and they did a fine job of that.