Prior to my vacation/wedding/honeymoon, I promised a reflection of NWA Great American Bash ’88; however, this show serves as a precursor to it. Therefore, allow me to provide you with said precursor as a turning point for a promotion.
Live from St. Paul, MN
Airdate: April 24, 1983
Hosted by Rod Trongard
Match 1: Brad Rheingans versus Tom “Rocky” Stone
“Mean” Gene Okerlund provided ring announcing duties for this show.
After a leap frog, Rheingans slammed Stone.
As Rheingans attempted another leap frog, Stone delivered an elbow to the midsection. I hadn’t seen that counter before. NIFTY!
Upon tossing Rheingans to the apron, Stone continued to hammer him allowing Rheingans to sell effectively.
Rheingans came back with a cross-corner whip followed by a back drop.
After ringing Stone’s bell, Rheingans gave him another cross-corner whip and followed with a pair of dropkicks.
He then gave Stone a gutwrench suplex and got the pin.
Summary: Being both a Wisconsin native as well as an Olympic hero, Rheingans was over with the St. Paul faithful. Having said that, he sold Stone’s heel tactics very well. During the replay, Trongard mistakenly called Rheingan’s suplex a “soufflé” instead of “su-play.” HA!
After the match, Okerlund interviews Rheingans in the ring.
Match 2: “Rock’n’Roll” Buck Zumhofe versus “Mr. Electricity” Steve Regal
Zumhofe, in a jumpsuit, brought a boom box with him to the ring.
According to Trongard, Zumhofe will face Mike Graham on 5/22 in Bloomington, MN for the light heavyweight title. What happens if he loses this match?
After receiving a monkey flip, Zumhofe landed on his feet and delivered a dropkick.
Regal responded with a slam to a chorus of boos.
Zumhofe gave him his own slam then gyrated for the ladies in the crowd.
Upon giving Zumhofe a knee to the midsection, Regal stomped the midsection and got 2.
He then mounted the second turnbuckle and gave Zumhofe an elbow smash for 2.
After a cross-corner whip, Zumhofe delivered a hip toss followed by a dropkick that sent Regal down to the concrete floor.
Upon Regal’s return, Zumhofe gave him another cross-corner whip but ate knee upon his follow-through.
He then reversed a cross-corner whip and slammed Regal.
Afterward, he leaped to the second turnbuckle, delivered a Vader bomb, and got the pin.
Summary: As you would expect from light heavyweights, the action was rapid and exciting. In fact, Zumhofe impressed me with his ability not only to hang with Regal but also to pop the crowd.
After the match, Okerlund interviews Zumhofe.
Match 3: Jerry “The King” Lawler versus the “Golden Greek” John Tolos
On July 29, 1982, Lawler slapped Andy Kaufman and gained national notoriety for it.
For those unaware, Tolos managed Mr. Perfect and the Beverly Brothers in the WWF as “Coach.” He was a mere 52 years old when this match took place.
The special referee for this match was Steve Olsonoski who would later portray “Ninja Go” for the AWA.
After attacking Lawler at the bell, Tolos mounted the second turnbuckle and stomped Lawler’s left arm twice.
Lawler came back by grinding a head lock (and giving Tolos cauliflower ear) while the St. Paul faithful counted up to 27. Yikes!
He then hooked a sunset flip but only got 2.
Meanwhile, a double shoulder block put both men down on the mat.
After Tolos nailed Lawler a couple of times, a third punch sent Lawler flying over the top rope down to the concrete floor. While Trongard believed it was a DQ, Olsonoski waived it off.
Upon Lawler’s return, Tolos gave him a backbreaker and got 2.
Afterward, a knee drop by Tolos got another 2.
Next, Lawler mounted the second turnbuckle and delivered a fist drop for 2.
After Tolos gave Lawler a cross-corner whip, he came up empty on his follow-through.
Lawler then gave him a cross-corner whip but came up empty as well. In the process, he rammed his left shoulder into the ring post.
Tolos then mounted the second turnbuckle but missed a knee drop.
Capitalizing on the missed opportunity, Lawler then delivered the piledriver and got the pin.
Summary: While not great, the crowd loved Lawler.
Match 4 for the NWA World Women’s tag team titles: Wendi Richter & Joyce Grable (champions) versus Judy Martin & Velvet McIntyre
Immediately, Richter tossed McIntyre between the ropes to the concrete floor.
While a shoulder block from Richter kept McIntyre from re-entering, a second try missed landing Richter directly on the concrete. OUCH!
McIntyre then brought Richter in the hard way.
After Richter reversed an Irish whip, McIntyre came off the ropes with a cross body block for 2.
Shortly after, Richter tagged back in but received a slam from Martin.
While Richter distracted referee Bob Warren, Grable bit McIntyre’s arm. Yes, folks, Richter and Grable were the heels in this match.
Nonetheless, Grable then gave McIntyre a series of hair mares.
Martin tagged in and gave Richter a back elbow.
She then gave Richter a clothesline but only got 2 thanks to a save by Grable.
Next, Martin rammed Richter face-first into the mat.
Following that, she gave Richter a knee lift.
Richter then tied Martin to the Tree of Woe allowing both McIntyre and Richter to distract Warren as Grable gave Martin the business.
Shortly after, Martin ducked a clothesline and gave Richter one of her own.
Hot tag McIntyre who gave Richter a monkey flip followed by a dropkick.
Afterward, she delivered a flying headscissors to Richter.
All four women were in the ring.
After some shenanigans by Richter and Grable failed, McIntyre and Martin hooked a double pin attempt but only got 2.
Upon slamming Richter, Martin missed a splash. Subsequently, Grable, McIntyre, and Richter missed splashes. I guess if you can’t be taken seriously, a comedy match isn’t a bad strategy.
After Grable nailed McIntyre coming off the ropes, Richter hooked her in an over-the-shoulder backbreaker.
Another slam by Richter was followed by a double-team backbreaker across Grable’s knee.
While Martin distracted Warren again, the champs used a back drop/powerbomb tandem maneuver on McIntyre for the pin.
Summary: While the St. Paul faithful enjoyed the previous matches, this was their popcorn match. Please pass the salt!
After the match, Okerlund interviews the champs.
Match 5: “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel versus “Dizzy” Ed Boulder
For those unaware, Boulder was portrayed by Ed Leslie a.k.a. Brutus Beefcake.
After Boulder missed a clothesline, McDaniel chopped him down to the mat.
Lawler joined the broadcast team for this match.
Upon giving McDaniel a boot to the midsection, Boulder delivered a pair of knee drops.
Following that, a standing leg drop got 2 for Boulder.
He then slammed McDaniel, delivered a pair of knee drops, and got another 2.
Afterward, a cross-corner whip by Boulder resulted in a McDaniel flip.
Shortly after, McDaniel delivered a vertical suplex for 2.
He then made Boulder eat a series of top turnbuckles to the crowd’s delight.
After delivering a chop off the ropes and a chop drop, McDaniel got the pin.
Summary: It would appear that Leslie was still paying his dues at this point of his career.
Match 6 (six-man): Rick Martel, Jim Brunzell, & Greg Gagne versus Blackjack Lanza, Ken Patera, & Jesse “The Body” Ventura (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan)
After a leap frog by Patera, Martel gave him an arm drag.
Upon catching Patera’s boot, Brunzell gave him an atomic drop.
Ventura tagged in as the St. Paul faithful chanted “Jesse sucks.” Their tune would change in the following years to Governor.
Regardless, to counter an arm bar, Ventura hooked Greg in a fireman’s carry and took him to the heel corner.
After giving Greg a cross-corner whip, Lanza ate a boot to the midsection on his follow-through.
Martel tagged in and gave Lanza a dropkick for 1 thanks to a save by Patera.
While Ventura leaned over the top rope trying to receive a tag from Lanza, the High Flyers upset his balance causing him to fall into the ring.
Patera tagged in, slammed Brunzell, and got 2.
Ventura tagged in and applied a bear hug to Brunzell who ultimately rang Ventura’s bell to escape.
All six men were in the ring.
After the High Flyers rammed Patera and Lanza together, Greg gave Patera a dropkick.
He then applied a sleeper to Patera, but Ventura made the save.
Lanza tagged in and gave Greg a back drop.
Ventura tagged back in and gave Greg an atomic drop for 2.
He then rammed Greg back-first into the top turnbuckle.
Afterward, a false tag occurred as the heels triple-teamed Greg.
Patera then applied a bear hug to him.
To escape, Greg nailed him a few times landing on top for 2.
Lanza tagged back in but was reversed on a cross-corner whip.
Hot tag Martel.
After giving Lanza and Patera a double noggin knocker, Martel delivered a cross-corner whip but missed a dropkick.
Patera tagged back in, hit a flying elbow drop, but only got 2.
He then hooked a vertical suplex to Martel for only 2 thanks to a save by Brunzell.
Brunzell tagged in and gave Lanza a hip toss followed by a dropkick.
He then applied the figure-four leg lock as all six men were in the ring again.
Heenan got up on the apron, but Brunzell nailed him.
After a back drop by Brunzell to Lanza, Patera came in and received a back drop.
Upon delivering a second dropkick, Brunzell could not successfully hook the figure-four leg lock on Patera.
While all six men were in the ring once again, it appeared that Patera nailed Brunzell with a foreign object.
He then pinned Brunzell.
Summary: Most exciting match of the night thus far. Either the finish or the camera work was botched as the foreign object spot wasn’t clear.
After the match, referee Larry Lisowski questions Heenan about the foreign object to which Heenan denies any involvement. Chaos then erupts as Martel and the High Flyers attack the heels to a big ovation. Greg and Brunzell even get their hands on Heenan during the melee.
At ringside, Okerlund interviews Martel and the High Flyers who question the sneaky finish. On the replay, the exchange of the foreign object between Patera and Heenan is revealed.
Match 7 for the AWA World title: Nick Bockwinkel (champion w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan) versus the “Incredible” Hulk Hogan
Interestingly, the champion entered first. BOOOOOOOOOOOO!
On the other hand, Hogan came to the ring to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” and a HUGE ovation.
He also wore a t-shirt that read “We want the belt” on the front and “Now or Never” on the back.
Prior to the introduction of the combatants, Okerlund introduced promoter Wally Carbo and AWA President Stanley Blackburn. In addition, Lord James Blears will be the special referee.
As the music restarted for his introduction, Hogan ripped off his t-shirt. Methinks this guy is over.
If that wasn’t enough, the crowd chanted “Hulk” prior to the opening bell.
Shouldn’t this be the main event? Hmmm…
After Hogan gave Bockwinkel a forearm shiver, the champion sought refuge outside the ring.
As Bockwinkel gave Hogan a series of knees to the midsection, the St. Paul faithful again chanted “Hulk.”
Hogan returned the favor to a vociferous count-along.
After a double stomp, Hogan gave Bockwinkel a backbreaker for 2 thanks to a foot on the bottom rope.
He then gave Bockwinkel a cross-corner whip followed by a shoulder smash.
Shortly after, Bockwinkel attempted a piledriver, but Hogan countered with a back drop.
After giving Hogan a cross-corner whip, Bockwinkel ate knee on his follow-through.
Upon nailing Bockwinkel three times, Hogan got 2.
He then gave Bockwinkel a clothesline followed by an elbow drop for another 2.
Next, he delivered a shoulder breaker for yet another 2.
Following that, a powerslam by Hogan almost got 3.
After delivering a snap mare, Hogan missed a leg drop.
Bockwinkel then tried a slam, but Hogan fell on top.
Do we have a new champion?
After giving Bockwinkel a boot to the midsection, Hogan delivered an Axe Bomber.
He then gave Bockwinkel another elbow drop but didn’t get 3.
Following that, he gave Bockwinkel a cross-corner whip but came up empty on his follow-through.
Bockwinkel came back with a sleeper, but Hogan flipped him over head. In doing so, Bockwinkel landed on Blears.
Bockwinkel then reapplied the sleeper, but Hogan backed him into the corner to break it. In doing so, they SQUISHED Blears. I hope he got hazard pay for this.
With Blears OUT COLD, Bockwinkel again applied the sleeper, but Hogan flipped him over the top rope to the concrete floor. Cue ominous music.
With Bockwinkel on the apron, Hogan delivered a vertical suplex to bring him in.
He then delivered the leg drop.
WE HAVE A NEW CHAMPION!
The St. Paul Civic Center came UNGLUED!
Summary: While the match was very good, the aftermath became quite a story. Let’s continue.
After the match, Hogan celebrates with the belt while thanking the St. Paul faithful. Okerlund then announces that Blackburn noticed Hogan’s toss of Bockwinkel over the top rope and disqualified Hogan. In effect, Bockwinkel remains champion. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! As concessions pelt the ring, a chorus of “BULLSHIT” erupts. To appease the masses and avoid a riot, Hogan then nails both Bockwinkel and Heenan with the belt. After giving Heenan a cross-corner whip, Hogan deliberately tosses Bockwinkel over the top rope.
At ringside, Okerlund interviews Hogan who yells “this is YOUR belt” referring to the fans.
On the surface, it appeared to be a case of déjà vu. Back on April 18, 1982, Hogan beat Bockwinkel but lost on a technicality (foreign object). Here, the AWA fans, firmly in Hogan’s back pocket, were screwed again by a technicality. This fact would not be lost on them going forward.
Conversely, beneath the surface, or should I say behind the curtain, AWA owner Verne Gagne wanted a portion of Hogan’s merchandising profits as well as a piece of his Japanese purse in exchange for the World title. Knowing that he didn’t have to give up a dime to continue working, Hogan rejected the offer and sought greener pastures.
Match 8: Verne Gagne & Mad Dog Vachon versus Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie & Jerry Blackwell
Both Al-Kaissie and Blackwell wore keffiyehs to the ring.
Verne and Vachon came to the ring to Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration.”
Additionally, Verne received quite the ovation upon his introduction.
While Verne gave Al-Kaissie a chop, Vachon bit Blackwell on the ear. Perhaps he thought Blackwell had a dog biscuit.
Nevertheless, Verne then gave Blackwell a back drop for 2.
An “injured” Blears joined the broadcast for this match.
After receiving three shots from Al-Kaissie’s cast, Vachon fell out of the ring.
Al-Kaissie followed and nailed him with the ring bell while Verne distracted referee Larry Lisowski.
Coming to aid Vachon, Verne rammed Al-Kaissie face-first into the ringside table.
Vachon then attempted to bring a microphone stand into the ring, but Al-Kaissie caught it and nailed Vachon with it.
Vachon was BUSTED OPEN!
After tossing a chair into the ring, Vachon got nailed with it by Al-Kaissie.
Verne then got ahold of the chair and went crazy with it on both Al-Kaissie and Blackwell.
Blackwell tagged in, gave Vachon a powerslam, but only got 2 thanks to a save by Verne.
Al-Kaissie then applied an abdominal stretch until Verne nailed him.
Verne tagged in to a big ovation and hammered Blackwell in the corner.
After ramming Blackwell into Al-Kaissie, Verne delivered a pair of dropkicks. Not bad for a 57 year-old.
Blackwell came back with another powerslam but only got 2.
He then tried a splash but missed.
With Verne in the corner, Blackwell tried an avalanche but came up empty.
Verne then applied the sleeper as Vachon thwarted Al-Kaissie’s attempt to save Blackwell.
While Vachon occupied Lisowski’s attention, Al-Kaissie adjusted his cast.
Seeing what was going to transpire, Vachon grabbed Al-Kaissie by the cast and nailed Blackwell with it.
Verne and Vachon then removed Al-Kaissie’s cast and nailed him with it.
Al-Kassie was BUSTED OPEN!
Outside the ring, Vachon nailed Blackwell with a chair shot to the head.
In the ring, Verne slammed Al-Kaissie and got 2.
Meanwhile, Vachon rammed Blackwell face-first into the ring post.
As Vachon held Al-Kaissie, Verne mounted the second turnbuckle and lowered the boom on Al-Kaissie’s arm.
Summary: Absolutely, positively, without question, they HAD to send the fans home with a happy ending after the title match shenanigans.
After the match, Vachon dispatches Al-Kassie then teams with Verne to toss the bloodied Blackwell over the top rope to the concrete floor.
Okerlund interviews Verne and Vachon who states it’s “dog eat dog.”
Conclusion: So how was this show a turning point for the AWA? By not putting the title on Hogan here, the AWA insulted its fan base which led to a downturn in business. Also, Vince McMahon began the WWF national expansion by signing away not only Hogan but also Ventura, Heenan, Brunzell, Patera, Boulder, Richter, Martin, McIntyre, and even Okerlund. In doing so, the AWA had to scramble to make new stars and fell behind the WWF in terms of competition.
As a show, I would definitely recommend it since the Hogan match has significant historical value. Fire up the WWE Network and spend a couple of hours of what could have been long-term success for the AWA and the Gagnes.