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Matches From 1988


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Lex Luger & Barry Windham v Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard - 04/20/88


Fucking beautiful in every sense of the way. Anderson and Blanchard are detestable heels here, relentlessly giving Lex Luger a much-needed shitkicking and working their damndest to do the same to Barry Windham. Windham is a one-man face in peril/bump machine/character extraordinaire here, transforming from lovable whitebread babyface into hated heel ready to conquer the world in the span of 15 minutes. Luger's not exactly the best seller in the world, but he's more than competent here, and all the character motivations make sense with the angle and don't take away from the match in the slightest. It's quite fascinating to see Windham work so many different roles in one match -- as the face of the story changes, so does that of B. Dubbya. With all the complexities, the match needs to be grounded somewhere, and that's where Arn and Tully come in, working their roles just amazingly well from start to finish. They stooge early on, and amidst all the storyline development, still manage to squeeze TWO FIP sequences out of Barry Windham, along with one really well done one to put sympathy on Luger. This is all in the span of 15 minutes, if that tells you how action packed this match is. Windham gets upset because he has been getting his ass kicked for several minutes and needs to tag in, but Luger is KO'd on the outside and isn't there. JJ steps in and says, "I told you he wouldn't be there" and Ross and Schiavone immediately freak out about what that means. Windham ends up pulling Luger up on the apron, tagging him in and SUPLEXING HIM into the ring, leaving him as easy prey for Arn and Tully, who regain the tag titles in stylish fashion, parading around after the match like they've won fair and square. The babyfaces run them all off and the Midnight Rider decides to enter the lion's den alone and kick some ass as retribution, but the Horsemen jump him, steal his mask and get the Hell out of the arena in a limo, with Barry holding up four fingers outside the limo next to Dusty's mask. This was in 19 f'n 88! Probably the best non-MX/Fans match the NWA put out in 1988 with what was definitely my favorite angle of all time as part of the package.



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  • 1 year later...

I totally dug this match. The ending angle was incredible. On a sidenote I was living in Houston at the time this match originally aired. It was broadcast on some syndicated sports channel similar to MSG channel. This angle solidified me as an NWA fan from the kid friendly WWF. I enjoyed this match a tad better than their match up from the Clash I. They were given a little bit more time to develope the story they were trying to tell.

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  • 9 months later...

Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard v Barry Windham & Sting - NWA 01/17/88, Charleston, WV


Calm down, this match isn't quite at the level you'd expect from these four at this time frame. There are some good moments, and the match is laid out well until the last two minutes or so, with the heels stooging big early, and Arn and Tully doing a fair job working over Sting's knee while Sting does a fair job playing FIP. But there's nothing here that hasn't been done better a million times elsewhere, and the match never really establishes any type of flow. It's more of a collection of okay ideas without anything to tie it all together. Barry gets the hot tag and the match almost immediately ends in a DQ because of Arn using JJ's cowboy boot to attack Windham, so there's no real payoff to all the build. That said, this is better hot tag build than you'll see from any match in at least the past year or so. Windham didn't get a chance to do much of anything here. Sting taking random partner after random partner all year in '88 and pursuing the Horsemen did occasionally produce some good matches, but this isn't among the best.

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Nikita Koloff v Mike Rotunda - NWA 01/26/88, Raleigh, NC


This is not a bad match at all, and it tends to break the NWA heel formula around this time, as Rotunda dominates Koloff on the mat with some really basic, effective stuff that's fun to watch. There's nothing really outstanding to put this over the top, but it's interesting to watch a competitive NWA title match that doesn't have the babyface getting shined up for the first 10 minutes. This was a match that was laid out to showcase what Rotunda did well. Nikita was really losing his edge by this time, and it showed, so dropping the belt made sense at this point. Rotunda is better at working what is essentially the same amateur gimmick into his wrestling style than Kurt Angle.

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Dusty Rhodes v Bobby Eaton - NWA 01/26/88, Raleigh, NC


It's a shame more of this match didn't make the air, because the near 10 minutes of the near 20 minute match that are shown look really good. Eaton takes some wild bumps on the floor, including a hip toss and a DDT, and he also works over Dusty's leg like clockwork, bending it over the guardrail and doing lots of awesome cheating. The NWA, in 1988, was amazing at doing really great wrestling spots on the floor and getting them over as death spots, which is a big part of this match as well. Seeing this in full sometime without the commercial breaks eating such important parts of the match would be nice.

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Tully Blanchard v Barry Windham - NWA 01/23/88, Richmond, VA


It's been a while since I've really felt compelled to write a lot about wrestling in terms of reviewing a match, but this match almost made me want to write a novel for the first time in a long while. It's a shame I can't really review this in a way deserving of the match at the moment because of writer's block. I'm finding that short summaries of what I liked or didn't like with a general overview of the match tend to do better for me these days. That said, I'll try to be concise and hit on the high points of this match as best I can without being too long winded.


The opening part of the match is really well done. Barry is on fire early, which is what you'd expect, but Tully puts it all in context really well. He tries to be slick by offering an insincere handshake and gets tossed outside. He's a little peeved as a result and ends up on the losing end of a slugfest and gets thrown out again. Realizing this is a battle he can't win unless he changes strategy, he makes his first effort to start slowing things down. He pushes Windham down off of a lock up and then runs from him. This still doesn't work, as this time he's met with a big punch back in the ring again. Windham goes for a pin and gets a two-count, surprisingly, which prompts Blanchard to roll outside. He comes back in and is already having to take the cheap way out of falls, this time putting his leg on the bottom rope after Windham gets him with a powerslam.


Tully realizes he has to slow this down even more. He cuts Barry off with a knee to the gut and tries a modified camel clutch, but Windham fights back yet again and belly-to-back suplexes his way out of it. It's a shame that we don't get to see what put Windham in peril due to a badly-timed commercial break. In a match like this, it was a really important transition that needed to be shown. Still, what we do see is great. Windham tries to fight out from Tully's leg hold with some nasty looking headbutts and also tries punching his way out, but nothing seems to work. When he finally gets away, he tries to stand and distance himself briefly, but it doesn't work, and Tully just goes after the leg again. He's a vulture.


Windham then tries a sleeper, which is not normally an important spot in a match, but here, it's awesome. It's more of a defensive move to keep Blanchard away from his leg than it is part of his offense. Desperation sleepers mean a lot more than proactive ones. Tully of course still gets away and still goes back to Windham's leg.


The point is made throughout the match that Windham is unable to stand on his own. He tries a bodyslam and Tully falls back on him and it nearly costs him the match. Later, he thinks he's rallied back further than he has and tries a vertical suplex and the same thing happens. During the final stretch, he goes for one of his big moves - the superplex - and still can't do it because his knee gives out. Another commercial break unfortunately takes out some good stuff, but when we come back, Tully is getting two counts off the figure four. Windham fights out and now Tully is dropping some great looking elbows on the leg. At this point, the only equalizer Barry has is his punches, and he makes them count after turning over the figure four. Tully tries to go right back to the hold, since he was able to do so earlier when Windham fought out, but this time Windham catches him in a quick rollup.


Tully goes for a side headlock to set up Barry's bridging out of the pinfall and finally doing a gutwrech suplex which begins his comeback. It's at this point that his knee gives out on the superplex, but he still gets in the lariat and JJ rings the bell from ringside at two to trick the ref into stopping the match. Luger comes out and pleads the case for Blanchard, which leads to all the Horsemen rushing Luger. They give Windham the chance to join them (Oooh, foreshadowing!) but Windham opts to save Lex, setting up the best storyline of the year from my point of view.


I could have done without the instant replay spoof in the booking, but everything else here is terrific, from the match to the post-match angle. If this match happened in the WWF in the 80s, it probably would have been an easy #2 on my ballot. This match would be talked about all the time had it happened on a pay-per-view.

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Bobby Eaton v Dusty Rhodes - NWA Superbouts 02/06/88 - Cage Match


Not nearly as good as the other match. Dusty takes no bumps, which is fine when you have Eaton in there, but even Eaton's bumping is a bit clumsy compared to his usual self, and the crowd is pretty dead through all of this. Much of the match is Eaton playing Jerry Lawler hiding the fake foreign object, but none of it really results in any heat, and there's not really a payoff. I was excited about this one, but it's not as good as you'd think it would be.

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Tully Blanchard v Barry Windham - NWA 01/23/88, Richmond, VA




I absolutely love this match. Both guys bring a lot to the table. This would be my #2 match on the WWF set also. As it is I thought this was the 2nd or 3rd best match of 1988 in the NWA. I pimped this match over at TOA a while back and called it a top 5 which really doesn't give it enough justice. The only match in 1988 that was better in the NWA for sure was the WWW title change of the MX-Fantastics on 5-14-88. I even liked this match better than the awesome Steamboat-Tully match from Starcade 84. What is amazing is this only a set up match to amazing tag matches later in the year. Everyone knows of what a stud Windham was from 86-88, and then from 90-93. To me though Tully was just an amazing heel who was blackballed in the 90's because of drug issues who would have had another great run in the 90's at the Turner owned WCW. Instead of being an afterthought he could have been remembered as an all time great heel worker. People say what a great working heel that Hennig was, and he was but I feel Tully was even better.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Barry Windham and Ric Flair vs Dusty Rhodes and Bam Bam Bigelow 11/88


This is a match to build the Bigelow/Windham and Rhodes/Flair matches for Starcade 88. It's you typical Horsemen vs Rhodes match with The Horsemen(Windham) getting beaten by Bam Bam. Flair comes in and keeps the babyface in there corner for the Hot tag. Ending has JJ hitting Dusty with his shoe and the Heels getting the victory. The thing that I get out of this match is How good and underrated Bam Bam was at this time. I knew he was good but he was probably the best in this match out of the bunch.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I decided to post my Benoit vs Smith match thoughts from the section of the forum so we can get everything under one roof.







This is for the Commonwealth mid heavyweight title and is a rematch from their first bout the previous week. In that bout Smith was 3pds over the weight limit so the title wasn't on the line. This time he has made the limit at 225pds and thus the title is on the line.



The match is unfortunately JIP about 2 min in. From there we have several very cool exchanges between Benoit and Smith that almost alyways end up with Benoit getting the advantage and Smith bailing to the outside. In fact Smith being a total heel vacates the premises at least 6 times in total. So of course Benoit gets frustrated as anyone naturally would, follows Smith outside the ring only to get caught coming in with some boots to the head by Smith which ends up being a turning point of the bout. Very well done as you can't really blame Benoit at all for being so impatient with the irritating Smith. In fact, one has to admire his patience for lasting this long without going outside the ring to attack Smith earlier.


From there we go into a long beatdown by Smith where Smith is mainly doing the pitching and Benoit the catching. Smith is dominatiing and in a sweet heel spot starts slapping an out of his feet Benoit in the face looking for a fight. Benoit here is just fantastic selling the exhaustion and making a brief comeback where he lands on his feet from an attempted Smith elbow. He climbs up to the top rope for a big splash but gets caught on Smith's knees FLUSH (this is the best I've ever seen this done) causing the tide to turn and Smith's focus as he now attacks Benoit's ribs.

This is where the match truly becomes something special as it just turns into a viciously hard fought battle/struggle. With the slapping bit and the knees to the stomach mentioned previously plus a knee to the stomach off of the ropes by Smith which has to be seen to be believed we have ourselves a series of moves that are just criminally well done. The thing is though is that Benoit and Smith don't cheat by just deciding to stiff someone. They just execute these manuevers so well including maybe the fastest crossbodyblock I've ever seen by Benoit later on in the bout that looks more rugged than a million stiff kicks.


Makahn Singh who rules on commentary (kind of like Ventura and is probably 2nd place behind Ventura for heel commentary) is right on the ball here commentating talking about broken ribs but it gets even better. The next comeback by Benoit features Benoit hitting his own to knee to Smith's stomach off of the ropes in a revenge spot. The thing is this move was so well executed that we're now wondering if Smith has broken ribs as well. In fact Smith is now holding his stomach for a bit giving Benoit some time and just adding to the epic struggle that these two are going through. One of the last comebacks by Benoit is also really indicative of this. Benoit hits a superfast crossbodyblock only for Smith to throw him to the cement off a cover where he than proceeds to slam Benoit on the cement.


Throughout the match, Smith is often hitting Benoit with knees to Benoit's injured stomach. It's a little hard to describe but he does it in such an arrogant manner that when he finally misses one you can't help but pop for Benoit. This leads to the beginning of Benoit's comeback after about 10 mins or so of being annihilated. The comeback is lots of fun since we the fans have been anticipating/hoping so long for one. Benoit manages to hit a small package which is a lethal move in this series and than hits some offense. Smith goes for the skullduggery route with some brass knucks as he's now desperate but Benoit counters that via blocked punch. Smith than counters Benoit's punch and we have the end of a controversial bout.



In conclusion, this is one of my favourite all time matches. Smith is a tremendous heel throughout such as when he's strutting about in the ring after slamming Benoit on the cement, the beginning is chalk full of fun wrestling, the match itself gives off a tremendous hard fought struggle vibe, the execution of everything was spot on including some of the best hit stuff I've seen, the comebacks by Benoit when he is getting beat up are exceptional and the ending stretch/comeback by Benoit is very good.









This was the climax of the first series of matches between Benoit and Smith. 3 weeks later they had another match but you could tell from watching the TV shows that was never supposed to originally happen.



As a general rule, I don't like English rounds in wrestling. They almost always are a detriment to a match because they wreck the flow of a match and stop the sympathy of a wrestler getting beaten up as he has a chance to recover. In saying that I must say 1 match that managed to use the English rounds well was the Dynamite Kid vs Marty Jones from England



These rounds are 5 minutes long with 1 minute rest periods. Benoit has Steve Blackman in his corner and Smith has the weasel.


The first round starts off with Benoit dominating Smith with Smith vacating the ring after flurries of offense against Benoit. Really wicked exchanges as Smith would go behind Benoit, take him down to the mat amateur style - Benoit than sits out and turns -- Smith than grabs Benoit's legs -- Benoit rotates his body sideways causing Smith to flip on his back which is than proceeded by I believe an armdrag and a dropkick before Smith bails to the outside.

Another highlight has Smith trying to monkey flip Benoit mid ring but Benoit does a cartwheel right beside him at full speed off of the ropes. Smith not to be outdone nips up a second afterwards but it's "all for naught" as Benoit once again nails him causing Smith to bail yet again.


Smith is real good here at these beginning portions of the match. At first he's fighting pretty clean but once Benoit starts to get the best of him he'll start backing away in the corner, using the hair for an unfair advantage and than attacking right after backing away in the corner.


Benoit largely dominates until around the 10 min mark where we have a real nice series of moves where Benoit ends up being dropped on his back which causes Smith to start attacking his ribs which along with Benoit's upper body becomes his main point of attack. Smith now is using full blown heel tactics. He does a real smart bit at the end of a round as he throws Benoit in an illegal move over the top rope to the cement floor letting himself rest up while at the same time not allowing Benoit to recover and lose some of his beat up sympathy from the fans.


That though is an example where I think the round problem can play havoc on you in the ring. The 1 minute rest did take away the possibility for a cool out of the ring into the ring counter possibility. Also, at the end of the other round time is running out and they may have had to cut a hope spot for Benoit short.


Back on track here Smith dominates for about 10 whole minutes and while this portion of the match was not as good as the excellent 6/4/88 match it is still very strong as Smith is that strong of a heel. Smith chokes Benoit like there's no tommorow, slaps him around while he's laying on the mat, takes 10 or so seconds to go back to his corner mid match and dry himself off with his towel, gives out a middle finger and just lets out this aura of complete arrogance with everything he does in the ring. But what I really like about Smith here is he doesn't cross the line into what I like to call a cartoon heel. There's no 10 punch in the corner, no going down with 1 punch all the time or no having your head rammed into the turnbuckle pad 10 times over. That is something that has always bothered me in wrestling and thankfully it doesn't happen here. In fact, with just a little bit of tweaking I would've loved to have seen Smith's heel charactor in All Japan.


Smith repeatably attacks Benoit's midsection hitting some real nice offense like a military press into a stomach breaker and the absolute *best knee to the stomach off of the ropes that you will ever see in your life. When it's time for Smith to put Benoit away (which I think may have also have to been sped up because of the round style) he goes up for a top rope Vader Bomb splash on Benoit's ribs. The same splash he had beaten other wrestlers with successfully. He nails it but Benoit puts his foot on the ropes. Smith takes it off but Benoit puts it back on again. Benoit is not to be denied.


Now this is a part of the match I talked about before. Smith slams Benoit in the middle of the ring and goes for a high range finisher for Stampede with a move that he didn't let out too much as a heel. The top rope flying splash which would surely be the end of the match if he hits it. But maybe the best part here is not the distance Smith gets on the splash but his complete and total arrogance adjusting his kneepads before going up to the top. Smith's all, "I got him. It's beyond over for that little snot nosed punk." Smith didn't defuse the seriousness of the situation by taking too much time but he did manage to beautifully show once again his cockiness getting the viewer against him all the more so the splash (Smith was pulling out the big stops) and the missing of it just means so, so much when you combine the fact that Smith was just nailing Benoit for 10 minutes straight and of course Smith's heelishness. It's almost impossible for someone to be cheering Smith at this point.


Benoit's subsequent comeback after the splash is extremely well done. He hits all sorts of sweet offence including a tremendous backwards top rope elbow drop from the top rope ala Tenyru. Benoit ends up going for it again but the weasel distracts Benoit and Smith in a super spot throws Benoit backwards into the middle of the ring getting the 1/2/3. Smith of course never forgetting who he is uses the tights big time for the win.


The end is a huge rollercoaster ride where you find yoursef hoping Benoit will survive to hoping he will win to cursing for Johnny Smith and the weasel. This is done by letting out all the big moves as they stressed the importance of this climatic match. In saying that I must give props for Benoit and Smith for having the patience to make their first "final" match special. Smith's finisher was never used in any of their 4 previous matches except for when Smith tried it once but Benoit got the knees up. Still he never made contact with it. This was the first time Benoit ever used the backwards top rope elbow which made it truly special. Smith only used the big splash once in the whole series. The finish was something they had never done before. All this made the match feel special.



In conclusion, I absolutely love this match. The beginning is fantastic, the face/heel structure is very strong with Smith being so arrogant that you have to cheer against him, a long heel control segment which gets you behind Benoit and a super ending that was a fitting end to their first series of bouts. A real hard fought wrestling match is the feeling you get after watching this.



* I wanted to talk about the knee. I don't know how Benoit and Smith do it but their knees to the stomach to each other off an Irish whip are heads and tails above everyone else I've seen do this manuever. So brutal looking. It must be exceptional timing because I have seen them miss the knee a couple of times.

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Dusty Rhodes/Sting v Arn Anderson/Tully Blanchard (WCW Clash Of The Champions II 08/06/88)


This is basically a clinic on how to wrestle a great tag team match. Dusty always made up for his limitations regarding athleticism and move-set with fabulous body language and charisma, and he is incredibly over here, doing not a whole lot, but making everything he did count. Sting looks more motivated than I've ever seen him, and bumps like a champion. You know Arn and Tully will breing the goods. They work the standard tag formula, but better than anyone else; it helps that all of the characters get great reactions, whether they be negative or positive, and the execution is perfect throughout. To short to be a classic, this is nonetheless a fantastic bout. ***3/4

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  • 3 weeks later...

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