Written By: Matt Peddycord
NWA Wrestle War ’89: Music City Showdown
May 7, 1989
Nashville Municipal Auditorium
Your hosts are Jim Ross and Bob Caudle!
Great Muta (w/Gary Hart) vs. Doug Gilbert
Doug Gilbert, Eddie Gilbert’s younger brother, is subbing for the Junkyard Dog tonight. What a clash of styles that would’ve been. Muta is undefeated, by the way. Gilbert interrupts Muta’s pre-match misting, and pays for it as he gets tossed out to the floor and thrown face-first into the ringpost. Back in, Gilbert ducks a kick and catches Muta with a crossbody block. Muta comes back with eye-rakes and hits the Handspring Back Elbow into the corner. Gilbert elbows out of a nerve hold, but then Muta catches him with a backbreaker to set up the MOONSAULT. Gilbert moves out of the way, but Muta lands on his feet! Since that didn’t finish Gilbert off, Muta dropkicks Gilbert out to the floor for a pescado and brings him back in for the MOONSAULT for the 1-2-3. (3:04) Nice little squash for the legendary Great Muta. *
Butch Reed vs. Ranger Ross
In case you’re wondering who Ranger Ross is, he’s Turner’s first attempt at an army guy turned wrestler who just so happens to be black. They tried it again in 1994 with Sgt. Craig Pittman. Butch Reed is about 4-5 months away from Doom at this point, so he’s just kind of hanging out with nothing to do. Ranger Ross’ main offense is of the martial arts style (if you can call it that). This one is thankfully edited as we start off with Ross taking Reed over with a hiptoss. They cut to Ross making a comeback and sending Reed out to the floor with his “martial arts” blows. He leaps out after Reed and brings him back in, but then Ross gets nailed on the apron. Reed gives Ross a suplex back in and heads up top for the FLYING SHOULDERBLOCK for the win. (2:41/6:59 shown) It looks pretty crappy, but there’s not even half the match here for me to be able to rate it.
Dick Murdoch vs. Bob Orton Jr. (w/Gary Hart) – Bullrope Match
I’ve read that this match is a result of some unfair deals with Gary Hart, but I really don’t know any of the details and that’s okay with me. Since Murdoch’s from west Texas where this type of match originated, this is supposedly his specialty match. This one is heavily edited down to the finish where Murdoch pulls Orton off the top rope and hog-ties him up for the pin. (1:04/4:54 shown) Another craptastic-looking match, but once again it’s cut down next to nothing.
The Samoan Swat Team (w/Paul E. Dangerously) vs. Dynamic Dudes
The first real Samoan threat in the NWA would be Samu and Fatu (better known as Rikishi) who called themselves the Samoan Swat Team. They would later show up in the WWF as the Headshrinkers and wrestled there throughout the mid-’90s and even held the WWF Tag Team titles at one point in 1994. On the other hand, you have the Dynamic Dudes who are Johnny Ace and Shane Douglas – two guys with mullets who happened to enjoy skateboarding and surfing. Johnny Ace starts off with Fatu to start as the “Paul E sucks!” chants go up right at the sound of the bell. Fatu NO-SELLS a face slam, but then he gets his bare feet stepped on and THAT HURTS! Ace goes slam crazy on the SST as we cut to Johnny receiving a powerslam from Fatu for 1-2-NO! Samu tags in and cuts off Johnny’s pathway to Shane. Samu does something that looks mildly painful to Ace, which he elbows out of it and hits a faceslam. He reaches out for a tag, but Samu cuts him off again and puts Ace in a Boston crab. Ace makes the ropes and monkey-flips Samu so he can make the HOT TAG TO DOUGLAS! He’s got dropkicks for both SST guys, but then he turns around into a clothesline to set up a flying bodypress from Fatu for 1-2-NO! Fatu lifts Douglas up for a backbreaker perhaps and then turns around into a missile dropkick from Ace with Douglas falling on top to give the Dudes the upset win. (5:30/11:02 shown) That’s cutting it close. The crowd was pretty hot and the action was solid. **
NWA U.S. Heavyweight Champion Lex Luger vs. Michael PS Hayes (w/Hiro Matsuda)
Will Matsuda represent ANYONE who goes against Luger in 1989? This is Michael Hayes in his one and only singles run in the NWA. As usual, Hayes stalls to start. Hayes gets a crossbody block off a headlock, which surprises Luger for a one count. Hayes slips out of a press slam and tries for a Russian legsweep, but boy was that botched. Luger slaps Hayes around for a bit and then gives him a backdrop for more stalling out on the floor. Back in, Hayes hammers Luger with elbows and then nails him with a clothesline. Hayes goes for the DDT, but Luger shoves him off and rolls out to the floor again. Back in, Luger works an armbar. Hayes fights back up, but Luger NO-SELLS a corner clothesline. Luger goes to the corner for a ten-count punch and avoids an inverted atomic drop, but then he misses a charge and goes flying out to the floor. Hayes sends Luger into the ringpost and then gives Luger a suplex back in the ring for two. Hayes grabs a chinlock. Luger elbows out, but he gets popped with the left jab and takes a bulldog for a pair of twos. Luger gets dumped again for Matsuda to smash his face into the guardrail. Back in, Hayes connects with an elbow drop for a few more nearfalls. Hayes doesn’t follow up and decides to showboat when he had Luger down on his back. He returns to the chinlock where Luger’s arm drops twice, but not three times. Luger starts up his big comeback with turnbuckle smashes, but Hayes nails him with a back elbow in the corner. Hayes goes for the Bulldog, but Luger shoves him off and gives him another ten-count corner punch. Luger hits a clothesline for 1-2-NO! He delivers THREE consecutive Press Slams and calls for the TORTURE RACK, but Hayes spins Luger around and hits the DDT! Triple-KO spot as the ref and Luger go down, but Hayes remains vertical thanks to the ropes. Then out of nowhere, Terry Gordy runs in and pushes Hayes down on top of Luger as the ref crawls over and counts three to give Hayes the title. (16:30) Swerves like this one just never happened in the ’80s, which makes it unique. Luger would regain the belt fifteen days later. Not bad considering the usual Michael Hayes we’re used to seeing. **½
NWA World Television Champion Sting vs. The Iron Sheik (w/Rip Morgan)
Haha, Rip Morgan will hang out with anybody who isn’t American to be on TV. Sting won his 1st major title a month prior to this show after he beat Mike Rotunda. Sheik attacks early by beating Sting with his flagpole and chokes on Sting for a bit. Sting starts to NO-SELL and clotheslines Sheik with his own turban. Sting hits the Stinger Splash and then applies the SCORPION DEATHLOCK to quickly retain his title. (2:12) They gave the crowd their Sting fix and that’s really about it. ½*
NWA World Champion Ricky Steamboat vs. Ric Flair
Flair comes down to the ring with FORTY-SIX girls, while Steamboat brings his wife and son with him. How could two complete opposites put on the greatest series of matches ever in American wrestling history? I still don’t know how to explain that fact, but it sure is true. In case the match goes to a 60-minute draw, we’ve got Lou Thesz, Pat O’Connor and Terry Funk as our esteemed judges! Steamboat lets Flair know immediately out of a tie-up that he’s going after his arm with an armdrag. Keep in mind that during Clash VI where these two went nearly 60 minutes in a 2/3-falls match, that Steamboat made Flair submit for the first time ever in the second fall with a double-chicken wing hold, which KILLS your arms and Steamboat hasn’t forgotten that. Flair connects with a shoulderblock off a headlock, but Steamboat catches him with a hiptoss and an armdrag leads to an armbar. Flair backs Steamboat into the corner where they begin to disrespectfully slap one another. Steamboat wins that, as Flair backs away. They lock up again as Flair puts Steamboat in the corner for some INTENSE chops. Steamboat fights back with chops of his own ALL the way around the ring. He shoots Flair into the corner and follows up with a back drop to send Flair rolling out to the floor. Back in, Steamboat powers out of a side headlock with an overhead wristlock into the armbar. Flair is selling like he’s in an unbelievable amount of pain. Flair stands up out of it, but he goes right into the armbar. Steamboat changes over to a hammerlock, but Flair counters with a drop toe hold. Steamboat slips out of that and puts Flair back in the hammerlock/half-nelson for a one-count. Flair gets out of that and chops back, but he’s then tripped up and into a keylock from Steamboat. Flair backs Steamboat into the corner for the break and LEVELS Steamboat with forearms. Steamboat chops back at him leading to the Flair Flop. Steamboat goes right back to the arm and grinds on the injured arm with a hammerlock into a bridge. Flair stands up out of that and picks Steamboat up and sets him in the corner and slowly moves away like he’s injured, but then he charges back at Steamboat! Steamboat leaps over him and sends Flair out to the floor with a dropkick. Steamboat realizes how dangerous Flair can be on the floor and doesn’t accept Flair’s challenge to come meet him down on the concrete. Flair crawls back in and gets put back in the armbar, but he escapes and catches Steamboat with a hiptoss. He misses an elbow drop though and Steamboat reapplies the armbar. Flair gets Steamboat in the corner again and DRILLS him with his shoulder and then chops away on him. Flair nails Steamboat with a shoulderblock and then tosses him out to the floor, but Steamboat hops right back in the ring and takes Flair into the corner for ten-count corner chops. Steamboat whips Flair in the corner for a Flair Flop, but Flair ends up caught in a tree-of-woe position instead and pays for it. Steamboat nails Flair with a shoulderblock, but Flair uses Steamboat’s momentum as he comes off the ropes to send him FLYING out to the floor. Flair goes out after him and chops Steamboat into the front row. Flair heads back into the ring to break the count, but that allows Steamboat to regain some composure. Flair goes out after Steamboat again and meets more chops and gets chased back into the ring. Steamboat comes off the top with a JUDO CHOP that Flair never saw coming. Flair executes the Flair Flip in the corner, but Steamboat nails him on the apron. Do you think Steamboat has forgotten about his work on the arm? No way. Steamboat goes RIGHT BACK to the armbar. Flair gets back to his feet and ducks a crossbody from Steamboat to send him falling out to the floor. Flair brings Steamboat back in the ring and chops him down again, but Steamboat won’t stay down! Flair hits a back suplex at the 20-minute mark for a bunch of nearfalls. That’s followed up by the Rolling Knee Drop and a butterfly suplex for 1-2-NO! Steamboat gets back to his feet while Flair argues with ref Tommy Young about the count. Steamboat ducks a chop, but he can’t avoid a hotshot! They’re too close to the ropes for a count though as Flair uses that time to choke on Steamboat with his shin. They go to the floor where Steamboat takes a suplex! Flair brings Steamboat back in by his hair and tries for a suplex, but Steamboat flips out and rolls Flair up for 1-2-NO! Flair ducks a big chop from Steamboat and then charges back into him to cause them both to fall out to the floor for a CRAZY bump! Back in, Flair goes to the top and gets slammed down. Steamboat pumps himself up as Flair begs away in the corner. Ten-count corner chop leads to a backdrop. Flair draws Steamboat into the corner and kicks him to set up an atomic drop, but Steamboat flips out and rolls him up for 1-2-NO! The whole building collectively just had a heart attack. Steamboat sets Flair up for a superplex and DELIVERS! It’s time for the DOUBLE-CHICKEN WING, but Flair desperately wraps his legs in the ropes for the break. Flair takes a turnbuckle smash as Steamboat heads up to the top for another JUDO CHOP. He heads up again, but Flair falls into the ropes – causing Steamboat to lose his balance and fall down on the floor to hurt his leg. Flair brings Steamboat back in with a suplex, but not before kicking at Steamboat’s knee first. Naturally, Flair concentrates on the injured leg and immediately hooks on the FIGURE-FOUR! Flair cranks on the hold a little too much, allowing Steamboat to reach the ropes for the break. Flair keeps on the leg while Steamboat chops back and puts Flair down with an enziguri! Steamboat lifts Flair up for a slam, but his knee buckles up and Flair rolls through and cradles Steamboat up for the 1-2-3! Flair has won his 6th NWA World Title. (31:28) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is the absolute best match in American wrestling history and I can proudly say that it happened in the NWA, not the WWF. Say what you will about some of the NWA and WCW’s booking and gimmicks, but there’s no denying they had the best wrestling in America during this time period. *****
After the match, Flair and Steamboat break kayfabe by shaking hands, ultimately turning Ric Flair face. JR gets in the ring for a word from the champ and to put over both men for an outstanding match. Flair puts Steamboat over by calling him the greatest challenger he’s ever faced just as Terry Funk comes by out of nowhere to congratulate and CHALLENGE the champ. Flair says he’s honored, but Funk’s not in the top ten here in the NWA since he’s been in Hollywood rubbing shoulders with Sylvester Stallone for the past several years. Funk comes back with “Am I not good enough?” and Flair responds by saying he doesn’t have a problem wrestling Funk, but he’s just not in the top ten. Funk apologizes, but then POPS Flair in the face and beats him out to ringside. He’s not satisfied with that, so he PILEDRIVES Flair on the judges’ table to set up the next WHITE HOT feud in the NWA. Remember: this is 1989! This stuff just didn’t happen back then.
NWA World Tag Team Champions Mike Rotunda & “Dr. Death” Steve Williams (w/Kevin Sullivan) vs. The Road Warriors (w/Paul Ellering) – Special Ref: Nikita Koloff
It must suck to have to follow the best match ever. Nikita was brought back for this match to give LOD a fair rematch for the belts since ref Teddy Long screwed them out of the titles with an extremely fast count at the last Clash. The Warriors go CRAZY on the Varsity Club to start. Sullivan hops up on the apron and gets in Nikita’s face, so he gets sent to the back! Doc gets in Nikita’s face, but he threatens to do the same to him, so Doc tags out to Rotunda. He nails Animal with a dropkick, but then gets caught for a powerslam as he comes off the top rope! Hawk and Doc tag in, where Hawk connects with a slam and hits the fist drop. Doc rolls out to the floor, but he can’t get away from Hawk as Hawk leaps off the apron with a clothesline! Hawk goes for a clothesline up against the ringpost, but Doc ducks and Hawk’s arm meets the steel. Doc grinds Hawk’s arm in the guardrail before they return back into the ring. Rotunda and Animal receive tags off a double-KO. Animal catches Rotunda with a running shoulder tackle for two until Doc makes the save. Now all four men are in the ring. Rotunda misses a charge on Animal and falls out to the floor, leaving Doc all by himself for the DOOMSDAY DEVICE! Just as Animal goes for the pin, Kevin Sullivan and Dan Spivey run down and pull Nikita out to the floor for a beatdown to draw the DQ. (6:14) Nothing special, but not terrible either. Because of their actions, The Varsity Club was stripped of the belts and a tournament was started. After the finals at Clash VII, all you could hear was “Freebird” playing over the PA system. *
NWA U.S. Tag Team Champions Eddie Gilbert & Rick Steiner (w/Missy Hyatt) vs. Kevin Sullivan & Danny Spivey
This was supposed to be “hair vs. hair”, but the “championship committee” changed their minds at the last minute. Spivey takes Steiner out to the floor immediately and drives him shoulder-first into the ringpost to keep him down for a while and turn this into a handicap match. Gilbert gets beat up for what seems like forever with the Varsity Club in total control. Steiner finally makes it over to his corner for a false-tag spot. During the confusion, Steiner sneaks in the ring and lays out Sullivan with a STEINERLINE as Gilbert covers for the 1-2-3 to retain the titles. (6:49) The US tag titles would be abandoned after this match until early 1990 when the tag division was revived. The match was rather boring, but Rick Steiner was pretty popular at the time so it sends the crowd home happy. *
Final Thoughts: The card seems really disjointed with the tag title matches happening after the main event. The point though is really irrelevant since nothing was necessarily above average elsewhere besides Luger/Hayes and the SST/Dudes matches. Nearly twenty years later though, this is a one-match show. Thumbs down for WrestleWar ’89, but Flair/Steamboat 3 is must-see. You can check it out in DVD quality, as well as the Clash VI match, on the Flair DVD. I’ve mentioned a couple times before that that DVD is recommended viewing for any REAL wrestling fan.