Welcome to a VERY special edition of “Return To 6:05”, this being the payoff to months worth of build, particularly the last 4 entries covering NWA Championship Wrestling that we’ve been watching here. Starrcade ’85: The Gathering is legendary in many ways, being one of the first truly mega shows of the new era of television. Bob Caudle & Tony Schiavone welcomed us over at the Omni in Atlanta while there was action also going down at the Greensboro Coliseum, with Johnny Weaver not-so-expertly manning the helm on that end. We kicked things off in The Omni, which was on fire for this event. Trucker hats & feathered hair were in full effect as the crowd was panned. The arena was filled with about 17,0000-18,000 raucous fans, all of whom were ready for a good time. This really did have the big event feel that you would hope an event of this magnitude would have. As Schiavone mentioned, almost every title was on the line tonight.
Khrusher Khrushev vs Sam Houston (Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship)
It was glaringly apparent that every single person in the Omni was behind Sam Houston. The ref was clad in a sweet polyester canary yellow leisure suit that he may have stolen from Mr. Furley on Three’s Company.
Separated at birth?
This match was for the vacant Mid-Atlantic heavyweight championship, so both men came to win. The lockup was short and quick, with Houston flipping Khrushev out of the ring, much to his chagrin. Khrusher didn’t let Houston off easily, immediately choking him and lifting him high into the air. He tried to follow up with an arm drop, but Houston was not tired down enough to stay put. Houston outclassed Khrushev, flipping over him and getting the better of the exchanges. Houston landed a head scissors after a hip toss didn’t work out, and he was able to ground the Russian for a bit to wear him down. Khrusher attempted a pin after he was able to power through the head scissors, then picked him up and placed him on the ropes, but Houston was way too quick and agile to take any damage.
Khrusher threw Houston high into the air for a body drop, which took its toll on him, and again did the same. Houston took a pounding, being folded in half by a lariat, then the big Russian applied the bear hug to squeeze him. Not above desperate moves, Houston raked Khrusher’s eyes, which threw him off his game. Houston was able to hit the big bulldog on the Russian and started celebrating, but the bell never rang as Khrusher had his foot on the rope. Taking advantage, Khrusher landed his huge Russian Sickle lariat to become the new Mid Atlantic champ.
Winner: Khrusher Khrushev
“Ragin’ Bull” Manny Fernandez vs Abdullah The Butcher (Mexican Death Match)
This match was not only a death match, but a Mexican Death Match, with Manny’s “beautiful sombrero” (as David Crockett liked to refer to it) on the line. Before Abdullah could even make it to the ring, shit was already popping off. A fan snatched Abby’s headgear and Abby went after him. If not for the presence of #1 Paul Jones, we may have never been treated to this classic for the ages (slight sarcasm intended). The announcer got on the mic and proclaimed “There are no pinfalls. We will not stop for injuries or blood.” I guess this is a good thing, because we were zero seconds into the match and Abby’s head was already drip drip dripping. Vince Russo was probably creaming his pants watching this as a young man because it was a random-item-on-a-pole match, this time the item being the “beautiful sombrero” we talked about earlier. You knew this was a no holds barred match because Manny was rocking a cut off shirt, jeans and shit kicker boots instead of his normal ring gear.
As expected, this wasn’t pretty. Abby stumbled around like an off-balance giant infant, hitting Manny first with his fork to split open his head, then a hammer. Manny’s face was a crimson mask and Abdullah continued the onslaught by biting, choking and chopping the neck. Manny attempted the most awkward sunset flip on record, then removed his boot and jumped off the ropes to hit Abby with it. 4 boot shots later, Abby’s face was dripping as much as Manny’s and he went down. Abby grabbed the boot from Manny, hitting him in the head and climbing up the pole to pull the sombrero off. A nut shot stopped Abby from his goal and Manny started going off with the boot again to temporarily neutralize the big man. Manny tried to climb up the pole, but Abby making use of the boot was the equalizer, knocking Manny down. Manny pulled his belt off, stinging Abby with the strap. Abby tried to drop an elbow, but Manny wasn’t having it, rolling out of harm’s way. Manny flew across the ring & hit Abby with the belt that by this point was wrapped across his fist. Manny was able to take Abby up for a suplex, impressive considering the size differential. He tried to will his way up the ropes, but Abby stabbed him in the ding ding with the fork and he fell.
Manny hit Abby with the Flying Burrito cross-body block, then a dove off the ropes and came crashing down as Abby slipped away. Manny used one of Abby’s fat rolls as a stair, climbing up over his prone body to retrieve the sombrero as Paul Jones attempted to stop him. Manny’s beautiful sombrero was safe from falling in the hands of the dastardly villain for one more day.
Winner: Manny Fernandez
Johnny Weaver interviewed Khrusher, who was over the moon to have the Mid Atlantic title in his hands. Khrusher thanked his friends, teammates and comrades Ivan and Nikita Koloff, saying “They made me what I am today, a Russian athlete, and I know my Motherland is proud of me too” in the single most Minnesotan accent I have ever heard. Weaver stumbled through almost every word of his questions, but still managed to serve his purpose as a microphone stand.
“Cowboy” Ron Bass vs Black Bart (with JJ Dillon) (Texas Bullrope Match)
This not only had the stipulation of it being a gimmick bullrope match, but if Bass won, he got 5 minutes with Black Bart’s manager/trainer/adviser, JJ Dillon. Speaking of Dillon, always a snappy dresser, he came to the ring in the fancy attire that a match of this caliber deserved, a tuxedo t-shirt and jeans. The Cowboy has been counting the days down to this moment, fondling his bullrope & clanging his broken rusty bell on everything that crossed its path. Despite itching to get a hold of JJ, he was not looking past Black Bart.
I wish I could claim that this match was fun, but it was largely a steaming pile of garbage. Bass started off fast & rough, ramming the rough rope & the broken bell against Black Bart’s forehead while Bart blatantly and shamefully gigged his own head with a razor as if motion cameras had never been invented. The power of the “cowbell” caused two well-placed parallel cuts to form across Bart’s forehead and it started bleeding several seconds after the bell should have caused the dripping to begin. I’ll be honest, as a kid, I never noticed stuff like this, but as an adult watching old matches, if the performer gave zero fucks about making it look real, why should I be invested as a fan?
At least for Bart’s sake, Bass cared enough to lay it in. He wound the rope across his knuckles, punched Bart with it, used the bell as not only a carving tool but also as a replacement for a turnbuckle, ramming Bart’s head into it with a mighty “CLANG!” Bart also cut up Bass’ head with the bell, though in truthfulness his forehead also started mysteriously prematurely bleeding. Again, in full view of the camera, Bass stuck his own head several times, bringing more of the magic juice to his dome. This was so bad by this point that I could care less about the play by play of it, just hoping it will end. Mercifully it did, with Cowboy jumping off the ropes to KO Bart and pick up the pin.
Winner: Cowboy Ron Bass (1st match)
But wait, it wasn’t over yet! This is where things finally started to get interesting. JJ Dillon came storming into the ring to start off his 5 minutes in Heaven with Bass. The tuxedo shirt came flying off and Dillon, moobs flailing, started laying into Bass with his boots. The ref could barely tie the rope around JJ’s arm due to him being so aggressive. Dillon tugged and choked on Bass’ neck, almost choking him out until Bass “Hulked up” and powered through it. JJ was the best chickenshit heel, trying to run away but forgetting that there was a rope keeping both men close to each other. Bass clocked JJ over and over with the bell, then tied the rope around his neck to pound him. In his over-zealousness, Bass accidentally clocked the ref, who fell down, allowing Bart to do a run-in to knock out Bass. Dillon was able to steal a victory in what was a fun couple of minutes, desperately needed after the steaming turd that was Bass vs Bart.
Winner: JJ Dillon (2nd match)
The Barbarian (with #1 Paul Jones) vs “Superstar” Billy Graham
Back to back, we get double matches, this one being not just a regular match, but also a special arm wrestling contest rolled into it. The arm wrestling contest was for not only bragging rights, but also a fat stack of Paul Jones’ money ($10,000 to be exact). Things started off with Barbarian acting like he had never seen an arm wrestling contest before, looking entirely confused as he locked up with the original Mr. Pythons himself, “Superstar” Billy Graham. Barbarian looked like he took 5 Somas before they started, showing as little emotion as a human is capable of, while Graham looked like Barbarian was ripping his arm off, screaming and fighting with all he had. Graham was able to overpower Barbarian, winning the contest, but for his victory he got a present in the form of the end of Paul Jones’ cane being rammed into his head.
Barbarian kicked Superstar in his damn throat before the bell even rang to start the grudge match, then getting his head split open by Barbarian, who proceeded to eat his skull for dinner. As an observation, this was the fourth match on the card, and already the third one where blood was at play. This had a detrimental course, as it killed the impact of a blood feud later in the card (we’ll talk about that when we get there). Barbarian clawed and ripped at Superstar’s eyes and mouth, using the cast on his arm to his advantage. A failed attempt at a leg drop was all it took for Graham to try to take advantage, and when Barbarian tried jumping off the ropes he also ate the canvas. Superstar applied the bearhug and squeezed away while #1 Paul Jones lost his mind outside. Jones could handle no more, running in and hitting Graham with his cane, which resulted in his man getting DQ’d. It didn’t matter to Barbarian, as he just took things outside and inflicted damage with a chair. The ref had to jump in between the two men to break it up, hugging on to Graham for dear life. Graham may have won, but you’d never know by looking at him.
Winner: “Superstar” Billy Graham
Terry Taylor (c) vs “The Nature Boy” Buddy Landel (National Heavyweight Championship)
The future Red Rooster and Bootleg Ric Flair faced off next. Buddy styled and profiled, infringing on as many gimmicks as possible on the way to the ring. He even stole Daniel Laruso’s gig, striking the Crane technique from the previous year’s Summer blockbuster, “The Karate Kid”. Taylor was at this time a perfect white meat babyface, the crowd being audibly behind him. Long before Vince Jr. was able to demean him by making him pretend to be a chicken, Taylor had a run as one of the most promising up and comers in his era of the NWA.
Conspicuously missing from action was Landel’s manager, one Mr. JJ Dillon, who you will remember from taking an ass beating at the hands of Cowboy Ron Bass just 2 matches prior. Terry slapped the taste out of Buddy’s mouth and he fell to the ground, making him angry in the process. Taylor was able to block Landel’s punches, having scouted him for months. This served to frustrate but also focus Landel, who had a nice headlock sunk in until Taylor was able to reverse and try to hold down Landel. Much like Flair before him, Landel was great at flipping and flopping, taking a boot from Taylor that caused him to dive face first to the canvas. Nature Boy rose up angry and determined, tying up Taylor and trying to lull him to sleep.
At this time, JJ Dillon returned to the scene in a proper suit this time, a little worse for wear, with a taped up head with a little blood soaking through, but otherwise intact. He uncomfortably stood by watching Landel take abuse from Taylor. The Nature Boy was able to clothesline Taylor & get him in a Camel Clutch in hopes of making him humble. Taylor thrust Landel to break the hold. Terry got a bit overzealous, fighting the ref when he was grabbed. The ref played the role of a ping pong ball, being batted from place to place. JJ tried to clock Taylor with his shoe heel, but Landel took the hit thanks to a reversal.
Just before the finish. This grandma is freakin’ awesome.
The shoe in question ended up being the difference maker, though, when Taylor suplexed Landel off the ropes, but Dillon hit him with the shoe to trip him, causing Buddy to end up on top as they went crashing to the canvas. The sneaky heels may have won, but the crowd was pretty vocal in voicing their displeasure.
Winner: Buddy Landel
Wahoo McDaniel and Billy Jack Haynes vs Arn and Ole Anderson (c) (National Tag Team Titles)
The Chief and Billy Jack came to the ring to a thunderous eruption from the crowd, while the Minnesota Wrecking Crew (Ole and Arn) got the proper heel heat. If you’ve been paying attention for the last few weeks, you would know that Billy Jack Haynes was on fire in terms of popularity, being the young, physically gifted and stronk babyface. He started off big, easily getting Arn up and pressing him to the sky. Arn wanted none of this, and it appears either did Ole, who was tagged in quickly. It was clear early on that Billy Jack was stronger that his opponents. Wahoo also looked impressive, slapping and chopping the Andersons. As was the modus operandi of the Wrecking Crew, they were quick to interfere any time their partner was in danger. This allowed the Andersons to maintain control despite having disadvantages present. In a fair fight, it was apparent that Wahoo and Billy Jack would have won hands down, but when you mess with the Horsemen, you have to be prepared for an unfair fight. The Andersons proved to be tricky bastards, as their team continuity and not being afraid to cheat to win got them the victory, thanks to Ole holding Wahoo’s leg from outside, out of the view of the ref, who counted the 1-2-3.
Winners: Arn and Ole Anderson
Johnny Weaver stumbled over every word as he interviewed JJ Dillon and new National Heavyweight Champion, Buddy Landel, from the back area of the Greensboro Coliseum. JJ congratulated Landel for his victory, and also proclaimed himself the “King Of The Bullrope Matches”. Landel said he would take on any and all comers, and would defeat them all handily.
Magnum TA vs Tully Blanchard (c) (TV Championship)
Oh man, this was a match that had building up for months and was so hot that they needed a steel cage to contain the fire. Magnum looked like a heat-seeking missile, laser-focused and ready to inflict damage. Magnum was so hyped up that even before Tully could get prepared, he barraged Tully with punches, making him stumble around the ring like he was punch drunk. Tully did his best to escape, but the cage made that an impossibility. He snuck in a couple dirty shots, giving himself the advantage for the time being, and he tossed Magnum to the cage head first, getting the first blood of the match. It was a back and forth slugfest at first, not only fists flying, but bodies as well, crashing into the cage and causing cuts all over the bodies of both men. Magnum’s head was dripping and Tully’s arms were sliced up by now. Magnum tried to get Tully to quit, but he had more fight than may have been expected. Tully began pounding the ever-loving shit out of Magnum with the mic, which was hot and you could hear the skull of Magnum every time he slammed the mic into his head. Tully was screaming at Magnum to quit, but Magnum screamed “No!” repeatedly.
There was no mistaking that both had been in a war, just covered in blood by this point. The crowd was losing its mind while Baby Doll looked in horror as her man was brutalized (and was brutalizing). In from the outside, a wooden Adirondack chair was tossed in the ring, breaking upon impact. Tully smashed it even more on the canvas in a move that was perplexing until I realized why he was doing so. He ended up with a pointed part that was a support of the chair, the kind of wood stake that one would use to kill a vampire with. This can’t be good for Magnum. Tully kicked the ref and attempted to shove the wooden stake through Magnum’s eye! Magnum struggled but finally got away, grabbing his own fragment and dug it into Tully’s forehead. This was fucking nuts. The result resembled a crime scene as Magnum strolled out of the ring with his shiny new US Heavyweight championship over his shoulder as Baby Doll ran in to check on her man.
I’ll be honest, that was a Hell of a match. The kind that you watch a PPV for and are happy you sat through all of the other matches to get to the gem. Only complaint I have actually has nothing to do with the match itself, but rather the fact that it could have had even more impact if only it was not one of multiple matches up to that point to have bloodshed. As I alluded to earlier, the blood at the beginning of the card should probably have been left out altogether or at the very least diminished. Note to bookers: you don’t need juice on your undercard if you want to build a story around it later in the show. That said, it was clear that at this stage the NWA was fully buying into the old adage “red makes green”.
Winner: Magnum TA
Midnight Express (with Jim Cornette) vs Jimmy Valiant and Ms. Atlanta Lively (with Big Mama) (Atlanta Street Fight)
Jim Cornette lets us know that the Midnight Hour had arrived, and with it, out came “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton and “Loverboy” Dennis Condry. All 3 men were dressed in tuxedos complete with long tails and top hat. Big Mama led the charge for the Street People, draped in a sequin top, followed by the Boogie Boogie Man with his special sequined bandana and Ms. Atlanta Lively, dressed in a long sweater and tights that could only have come out of the 1980s. Ms. Atlanta started the fight, spraying baby powder all over Condry’s face and making Beautiful Bobby have so much powder on his face that he looked like he was coming fresh off a Scarface-style coke binge. Boogie Woogie clocked Bobby, sending him outside sliding across the floor. The foreign objects were in effect early, Loverboy’s face being a crimson mask minutes in. This was straight garbage, but the audience was screaming non-stop for the circus that was this match. I’ll admit, when I saw this as a kid at the age of 9, I enjoyed stuff like this way more than I do as a near 40-year old looking at it with a more critical eye.
It quickly devolved into the Midnights pulling the tights off of Ms. Atlanta Lively because they supposedly “thought something was funny about her” (editor’s note: Ms. Atlanta was secretly “Rugged” Ronnie Garvin in drag, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t still an uncomfortable scene). A few minutes in, pretty much everyone involved was covered in blood (because why not at this point) and they were all also tossing baby powder in each others faces. The Midnight Express were proficient at the double team, taking it to Jimmy Valiant. Ms. Atlanta Lively turned out to have a mean punch, as she clocked Beautiful Bobby so hard he blanked out and she got the pin. Jim Cornette ran in right as Bobby was being pinned in an attempt to save him, but he was too late. It was also too late for him to run away, as Ms. Atlanta Lively stripped him down to his boxers just like he and his team had try to do to her. The Midnight Express retreated like cowards to escape further humiliation.
Winners: Jimmy Valiant and Ms. Atlanta Lively
Back to the Greensboro Coliseum, Johnny Weaver interviewed Magnum TA, who told us that he was proud to have finally won the belt and it was now a fighting championship. He told any potential opponents that if they thought they were going to take the belt from him, good luck and he wasn’t letting go of it for a long, long time.
Ivan and Nikita Koloff (with Khrusher Khrushev) vs The Rock N Roll Express (with Don Kernoodle) (World Tag Team Championship)
The Russians have been on a roll, destroying anything and everything they have had their sights on. This was a classic USA vs USSR showdown, at the height of the 1980s Cold War phenomenon. Nikita showed off his power, manhandling Ricky Morton early on until he tagged in Ivan. The wave continued until Ricky was able to get Ivan in the RNR corner, when Robert Gibson tagged in. The momentum for the RNR stayed for a while, as Ricky and Robert used their great continuity and series of quick tags to stay fresh and in control.
This was also a cage match since it was live from the Greensboro Coliseum, which had been set up for the Magnum TA vs Tully Blanchard match from earlier. The cage came heavily into play, initially in the favor of the Rock N Roll Express, but quickly swinging over to the advantage of the Russians, who solidly turned the tide, bouncing Gibson off the cage repeatedly, and you guessed, started the blood flowing because apparently that was a requirement of any big match in the NWA in 1985. Gibson was desperate to get the tag to Morton, but even when he saw an opportunity, the Russians kept him just outside of range for tagging in. Just when you thought it was over Gibson was pinned by Nikita, but Ricky had enough ring awareness to put his foot on the ring rope. A ref bump kept Gibson from getting a pin on Nikita a moment later, but when Gibson was sent to the ropes near his corner, Morton slapped his back to get the pin. While Nikita was paying attention to Gibson, Morton jumped in, knocked over Nikita with the help of Gibson and he got the roll-up for the win
Post-match, the Russians were none too happy to be at the losing end of things, and they took their frustrations out with a giant chain onto Gibson, who got the brunt of the attack, as well as a couple shots at Morton. Not a good night to be the Rock N Roll Express, even in victory.
Winners: The Rock N Roll Express
Ric Flair (c) vs Dusty Rhodes (World Heavyweight Title)
The ghost of Ric Flair
No one could argue the magnitude of this match. There was so much history between Dusty Rhodes & The Mature Boy Ric Flair at this point. The most recent string of events had to do with the breaking of Dusty’s leg by the hands of Ric Flair & the Horsemen, the custom boot/cast that was made for Dusty, and Dusty’s determination to get what he felt was rightfully his back. Dusty always had a way of getting the people behind him, and boy were they this night (side rant: so much so that some idiot mark fan shouted “Dusty Rhodes, let’s go! Hey! Woo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo, Dusty Rhodes!” throughout the ENTIRE FUCKING MATCH). Ric came out in a white with paisley sequined robe that almost had an Elvis final days in Vegas vibe. Dusty looked damn well determined to get the title back from The Nature Boy, but as always Ric was not going to let anyone walk over him to get it.
The elbows were a’ plenty at the beginning, brother. Dusty wanted to set the pace, and after a few of those elbows, Ric was ready to take a break already. He returned to the ring focused, setting a better game plan and tried himself to be the ring general. As expected, Flair focused on Dusty’s previously broken/possibly not fully healed yet leg. Dusty howled and stumbled around, but quickly made Flair’s own right leg a target, stomping it, dropping an elbow, then tying it up in a grapevine. He then twisted his foot & dropped an elbow on his knee. By this point, Fair’s whole leg was shot, and buckled when trying to take Dusty up for a lift. Dusty reversed & continued the torture to Flair’s leg in a dramatic fashion, wrapping around the ring post and elbows to the ankle. Flair got no reprieve, even getting taken down hard when he tried to climb to the ropes to drop on Dusty. During the skirmish, Dusty’s already damaged leg was kicked by Ric and he screamed out in pain again. Ric tried multiple Figure Fours, but Dusty fought out, eventually sending Flair for his flip flop & fall over the top rope. Dusty was sent flying by Ric, but regained balance and jumped off the top rope onto Flair for a near-fall. Dusty had full control until he missed a kick on Flair that ended up kicking the rope instead. He fell to the ground in pain and Flair did everything in his power to destroy Dusty’s leg. Flair snatch the Figure Four and held onto it for dear life, almost getting several pins by making Dusty’s shoulders hit the mat when he was hurting. Dusty called up that good ol’ intestinal fortitude, getting out of the lock. Referee Tommy Young was knocked down and out of the ring (the 3rd or 4th time that night) and Dusty got a Figure Four locked on Flair that he tapped from, but since the ref was asleep on the outside, no one was there to call it. On cue, Arn and Ole ran out, but getting a piece of Dusty. A second ref ran out at that point, just in time for Flair to roll Dusty up. Dusty kicked out, Flair tried what looked like it was to be a Piledriver, and in all the mayhem, Dusty reversed and stole the pin with a rollup. The ring filled with the babyface locker-room as they celebrated, spilling into a locker-room celebration.
This was such a fun show over-all and was a blast to revisit it again with you all. Hope you had a good time going down Memory Lane as well. See you next week for another “Return To 6:05”, from November 30th, 1985, same bat time, same bat channel.