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[1989-10-28-NWA-Halloween Havoc] Lex Luger vs Brian Pillman

Superstar Sleeze

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NWA US Heavyweight Champion “Total Package” Lex Luger vs “Flyin” Brian Pillman

Halloween Havoc 1989  

Unfortunately, this is pretty much our only example of how Lex Luger, touring NWA World Champion would have looked as he takes on young, hot newcomer, Brian Pillman. It is a helluva damn match and it is too bad we didn't get more Luger matches like it. I do not know of any backstory to this match. Basically, I get the feeling that Pillman was a bright newcomer so they put him in there with one of the top heels and give him a shot at a major title and see how he does. This is one of the smartest worked matches I have ever seen. It is not like Steamboat/Luger, which has the ability to play off a feud. Instead all the drama in the match has to be generated between the ropes, which is not an easy task. Now factor in that both men debuted about three years before this and it is a very tough challenge. Both men delivered in spades with big time performances and getting very good crowd heat throughout.

The story does take a couple of viewings before you get a good grasp of it. It seems that not even announcers really understood what was going on as he often wondered why Luger was not going for power moves instead of his strike-oriented offense. All will be explained in the following paragraphs.Instead of establishing the obvious Luger strength advantage, they put over Pillman’s tenacity by letting him stick with collar-elbow tie-up and get a playful slap out of that. Luger does not take to kindly to the insolence from the rookie (it was Pillman’s first year with company) and takes him to the woodshed. Then he gets cocky after all he is Lex Fuckin Luger. Pillman does not take kindly to that and TACKLES him to the ground then follows it up with a chop, back body drop, dropkick, baseball slide and another chop. This felt really heated and Luger was bumping like a madman to make Pillman look good. Luger is giving Pillman a lot here and making him look really good. Air Pillman misses and Luger bails; Pillman gives chase. Luger cuts Pillman off with a kneelift, hmmm where I have seen this before. Luger tries to set up for a power move to consolidate the advantage but Pillman evades him with a cross body block, which gets two. Pillman then grounds the more powerful Luger with an armdrag and wristlock.

This is the sequence I just fuckin love about this match. Pillman started off full of piss and vinegar, but that got him in trouble so now he is content with controlling the pace with an armbar. This frustrates Luger rather than really hurting him. Everytime, Luger tries to get something going on offense Pillman will use his quickness to get back into the armbar. They go back to this like three times, which really hammers home the point. Pillman does not how to put away Luger and Luger cant use his strikes to set up a control segment because of Pillman’s quickness. This only works because Luger consciously only uses strikes and no slams or suplexes during this portion. You really get a feeling that Pillman is out-wrestling Luger, but you are worried that he wont put him away. Perfect analogy is when an underdog has the slight lead on a favorite the whole game. You are in shock that they are hanging tough with the favorite and as the match progresses you are nervous if they can hold on. Just like in that scenario, when the favorite or Luger in this case starts to build momentum your stomach drops.

That’s when it happens. Pillman goes for the put away and crashes and burns on a splash attempt. Now Luger finally has the ability to put together an offensive sequence that makes Pillman only more sympathetic as he takes an ass-kicking from the much bigger Luger. Luger crushes him with a wicked clothesline from behind, steps on his throat and a delayed vertical suplex gets two as he releases all that frustration. Luger is so jacked in terms of energy. It was an awesome burst of offense. As Pillman tries to build a comeback, Luger sends him crashing through the ropes onto the outside with a well-timed leverage move. Pillman gets a sunset flip for two when he gets back in and then Luger crashes and burns on his big lariat attempt as he hurdles over the rope to the floor. It is such a great spot because it looks visually impressive and Luger uses it late in matches to put over the fact his opponent is so resilient that he needs to go for a big move to end it, but cant connect. As they tussle on top, Pillman pushes Luger off the top and gets a sunset flip for 2. Pillman follows this up with a flying reverse elbow for 2. Now the place is rocking as Luger is begging off and Pillman is looking like a million bucks. Air Pillman (springboard clothesline) connects, but only gets two as Luger puts his foot on the ropes (protecting the finisher). Pillman misses a dropkick and Luger connects with a hotshot to escape with title.

Luger gave so much to Pillman throughout the match. In the beginning, he let Pillman look like his equal in the collar-elbow tieup. He sold for Pillman well during the hot shine segment. Then he let Pillman control a well-put together body of the match, which illustrated how Pillman’s quickness was besting Luger’s power. The heat segment put over Pillman’s resilience. Then finally the Pillman comeback really felt like Pillman was one move away from winning. The finish paid off how Pillman’s mistakes were his downfall and that Luger escaped with his title by hitting one lucky move off. Fabulous match and really shows how Luger was one of the best workers in the world in 1989 and that Pillman had a bright future ahead of him.   ****1/2

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