As many of you are aware, WWE Network is pretty packed with all sorts of content. And as you may also know, we here at Place to Be Nation love long term, in depth projects. So, as part of this initiative, JT Rozzero, Brad Woodling, Chad Campbell, Jason Greenhouse, Scott Criscuolo & Dan McGinn are starting in 1975 and are planning to watch the entire offering of the WWE Network chronologically. They have plotted their course and after watching each program, they will share their thoughts, notes and recommendations with our readers. So, settle in and enjoy this epic ride through wrestling history!
Run Time: 46 minutes
David Von Erich vs. “Captain” Frank Dusek
Al Madril & Jose Lothario vs. Checkmate & Magic Dragon
The Samoan vs. Gran Markus Dos
“Freebird” Michael Hayes vs. Roberto “The Great” Renesto
JT: I really enjoyed the anchor tag match. The crowd was absolutely rabid and the multiple heat segments blended with the comebacks ensured the match never lagged. Madril and Lothario had great energy and bounced all over the place when doling out their offense and also showed off some strong selling chops when the masked duo was in charge. I dug the commentary too as it was really refreshing when Saldi sadly said “it’s gonna be a draw” in the final minute. That felt real. I also enjoyed the “two minute offense” from the faces as they knew the clock was dwindling and had to pick things up. The match flew by and never really slowed down at all and was the best in ring offering on the night.
Chad: The tag match feels like the easy choice tonight. Checkmate and Dragon is one of the odder teams you can think of but the contrast in their style melded together to make a fun team. Jose Lothario is someone that is receiving a huge reputation bump with the NWA Classics stuff coming out, and he delivered here with great strikes and surprising agility at points. Checkmate’s turtle and attack to gain heat on Lothario was awesome and unique. The heat segments were diverse and interesting enough to have myself and the crowd clamoring for a comeback. It was destined that this match would be a draw, but overall this is the type of match that is perfect to hold attention of a viewer across a whole hour of the show. ***
Jason: I was all about the tag team match here. The team of Al Madril and Jose Lothario brought a lot of energy the entire match. Madril was a house of fire and brought a very fast pace style for the early 80s. The team of Checkmate and Magic Dragon brought some goods of their own as well. A nice flying forearm from Dragon and some strong knees to the back of Lothario by Checkmate. Dragon’s back flip followed by a superkick to Madril was quite impressive. Although Magic Dragon missed a Senton from the top rope, it was a move that I wasn’t expecting to see. No complaints from me for this match going the time limit draw All four men were very good and the crowd at the Sportatorium was super into this one too. I going to go as far as to say this is in the top five in matches that we’ve watched so far in this adventure.
Dan: Sure the tag match was good, I guess, but who wants to read about that again for the fourth straight paragraph? Not me. So let’s say Michael P.S. Hayes making his WCCW debut on the same night the Adventure takes it’s maiden voyage down to Dallas. Mercer and Saldi make him out to be the wrestling messiah and it was fascinating to hear about his previous stops. Weird to think that at this time he was friends with David Von Erich. He really connected with the Texas crowd and his charisma was off the charts. He’s the epitome of what Rock and Roll was back then so it makes sense that he would head bang his flowing blond hair into the turnbuckle in an effort to psych out his opponent. He makes short work of Renesto – as he should have as the new big star – and quickly moves on to bigger things. I can’t wait to see The Freebirds in their prime and this night was just the beginning!
Scott: I really enjoyed the tag team match, as all four guys really worked hard and were probably Fritz’s most trusted hands on these shows. Of course newer fans know Jose Lothario as Shawn Michaels’ manager in 1996 but he was a very popular wrestler in Texas and Mexico. The crowd was crazy and all four workers busted their tails on these shows. The size of the Sportatorium made for a very loud crowd and the energy level was off the charts. I’m not a big fan of draws, but in this instance both teams really worked hard and this is something that can carry on over multiple weeks.
JT: Ric Flair. The sit down interview from Kansas City about Kerry Von Erich’s injuries and issues with Great Kabuki was great. It put over the legitimacy of the sport and sold the angle in just a brief few minutes. They also talk about Flair’s bounty on the Von Erichs, which Flair denies with stoic arrogance. Fantastic angle and segment. I love that after being cordial, Flair can’t bury his true feelings and cockiness and they come spilling out at the end as he issues the challenge. Aces.
Chad: I will go with Jose Lothario. I thought he was the best performer of that tag match and did the most effective sell job and comeback throughout the match. I really wish we had more of Lothario on tape overall as my thoughts of him being a weak adviser to Shawn Michaels in 1996 are dwindling.
Jason: WOOOOOOOOO! Who’s causing all this? Hands down the World Heavyweight Champion, Ric Flair. I loved him denying that he paid Gary Hart and Great Kabuki $10K to take out Kerry Von Erich. “I don’t need anyone to do my dirty work for me” was such a great line from the champ. I also enjoyed his dig at Fritz, saying that Fritz is a frustrated man, because he would love to see one of his sons as champion. Telling Kerry that if he’s not tough enough to be in this sport, to stay at home was incredible too. No one cuts a promo like Flair and this one here is proof.
Dan: Funny how the best performance didn’t even occur inside the squared circle. You know I’m going to say Ric Flair right? His calm and eloquent promo was an absolute grand slam. Calling the Von Erich injury “tragic” was priceless. $10,000 is nothing to the Nature Boy. He doesn’t need anyone to do his dirty work because in his mind, Von Erich isn’t even in the same class as Ric Flair. Pure unadulterated genius and he didn’t have to resort to the “woos” and screaming of his eventual interviews. A five star performance if there ever was one. I also dig the line about how if you aren’t tough enough, then stay home. It gives me the chills that at only 31, Slick Ric was without equal. This definitely makes me want to see Kerry come back from injury and iron claw that smug face! Hallelujah!
Scott: Like there was any suspense that I would choose the WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION. During Ric Flair’s first World Title reign he was a lot more subdued in his interviews and didn’t flip out and go crazy like he would by the mid-80s in Crockett. The interview put over the sport’s legitimacy and anything involving bounties is pretty awesome. The matches on the show were solid, but in terms of putting over an angle, no one does it like the “Nature Boy”.
JT: Despite his look, Jose Lothario was entertaining here. He had nice fire in his strikes and the crowd was surprisingly really into him. His selling during the heat segment was on point as well. I really liked his big backbreaker to Checkmate before making the hot tag as well. The crowd was all revved up by the time he swapped spots with Madril. His sense of urgency as the time limit drew near was good too. I enjoyed everyone in this bout, but Lothairo stood out the most to me.
Chad: Al Madril is someone I have never liked much at all but he was really effective himself in the tag match and had good strikes. I still think his overall look leaves a lot to be desired, but it was nice to see him hold his own inside the ring on this episode.
Jason: I’m going to go with play by play announcer, Bill Mercer. He did a fantastic job putting over all talent and telling the background of all storylines, as well as selling what’s coming up next week.
Dan: I was quite surprised that The Samoan lost. They kept pumping him up like he was a future superstar. He had the family lineage, a great physique, threw a good dropkick, won the title of “Most likely to be mistaken for Carlito” and then lost to the Checkmate knockoff. Sorry Gran Markus but you looked like Baby Herman wearing a diaper on your head and I honestly didn’t think you were winning on this night!
Scott: After getting off to a sluggish, nervous start Jay Saldi actually settled in and wasn’t a bad color commentator as the show progressed. Sure he has that dopey meathead sound to his voice but he put over the angles and added that athletic angle to his analysis that Mercer can’t do. I know he doesn’t do it too long but perhaps he gets even better as the shows progress.
JT: David Von Erich. I have always heard he is the best of the family, but here he had shaky offense, was a little sloppy and while the match was fine, I thought it would be much hotter in front of the hometown fans. I am looking forward to seeing more of David as we work through World Class, but his first impression wasn’t the best here.
Chad: “Captain” Frank was the only one I was real unfamiliar with here and despite his ultimate scuzzy look, he didn’t do a whole lot in the match with David to win me over. I am not as surprised with David’s performance as I say below, he was someone that has consistently disappointed me in footage watching.
Jason: I figured watching David Von Erich in action in the Sportatorium was going to be fun. Not so much. He looked a little uncomfortable in the ring and didn’t bring much energy. For a short TV match, he was given enough time to look like a star and show why the Von Erich’s were the most popular family in Texas at this time, A major fail by David here.
Dan: I too was a tad blah about David Von Erich’s performance. Sure he gets in some knee lifts and a high knee for good measure but he almost feels like an afterthought on this night. The announcers are talking about Roddy Piper, bounties, Dusek’s tour of Japan with “Thunderlips” himself, and you forget that the Texas Heavyweight champ was even out there. I was still amazed by The Captain’s Pink Panther robe that I pretty much missed the first three minutes in a euphoric haze. When you’re supposed to be the gem of the family and you need a screwy finish involving the ref striking your opponent in order to win, that doesn’t give you high marks on this adventure.
Scott: I agree with JT about David Von Erich, as he was apparently the real jewel of the family but that opener was sloppy and out of synch.
JT: Jay Saldi looks nervous as shit immediately and it is clear why once he starts speaking; Cool get for Harvey Martin to show up here; Warm welcome for David Von Erich; Interesting discussion on the bounty angle that is ongoing; Saldi discusses Frank Dusek’s Japanese tour alongside Hulk Hogan, which was a cool little note; I also enjoy that Dusek’s nickname is “Captain”; Magic Dragon is either the best or worst wrestling name of all time, I can’t decide; Al Madril’s hair is awful; Armand Hussein is also a great name; H&H Enterprise makes me think of H&H Bagel; The Samoan is about as generic as it gets; Gran Markus looks a bit too much like Checkmate, could have used some variance; Markus vs. Samoan was bland and sloppy in spots, including a really awkward gutwrench attempt by Markus; The story was solid with the youngster not able to figure out the veteran at the least; This is Michael Hayes’ debut in WCCW and he is pushed hard on commentary; Hayes has fantastic charisma but is all over the place and awkward on offense; Hayes’ piledriver was good and a strong finish to that win; Saldi name drops a lot of other wrestling stars and angles, which is pretty neat; Hayes cuts a good promo to close out the show; Jay Saldi really settled in and I ended up enjoying him quite a bit; Usage of “Orient/Oriental” count: 1
Chad: Jay Saldi isn’t someone I am very familiar with so I will assume that his announce stint is short lived. That Pink Panther robe by Frank Dusek is something to behold. David Von Erich is someone that I have always been miffed about as being groomed to be NWA Champion. I am interested to see if this steady diet of WCCW changes that perception. Von Erich dominates this match as Dusek is unable to get anything going. The WCCW referees are generally awful and David Manning wastes no time inserting himself into the opener Joe West style. I have watched a bit of Checkmate as Les Thorton. The tag match was selected by the Deathvalleydriver.com committee as one of the 150 best WCCW matches of the entire 1980s. Bugsy McGraw annoys me in every way. The Ric Flair interview was incredible. Flair had such poise and charisma and gives a very toned down interview that still packed a ton of punch to set up his feud vs. Kerry. The Samoan is the most generic name I have seen in some time. I was surprised to see Gran Markus pick up the duke in that one. Hayes is here to essentially debut himself to the territory and he is a fired up babyface. After he makes quick work of Renesto, he promises Brother Terry would be there next time.
Jason: It was cool to see Harvey Martin on hand. A couple of questions to ask. Should Bugsy McGraw be hanging around kids in that outfit? Do Checkmate and Gran Marcus Dos shop at the same store? I’m with JT in that when I saw H&H, I thought of H&H Bagel. The refs delivered some lazy counts, including having to hold on to the rope for one. I love Michael Hayes and even though his ring work is average, when you give him a mic it’s pure gold. “240 lbs of twisted steel and sex appeal.” After Hayes hit the piledriver on Roberto Renesto, Jay Saldi mentioned that if you’re not sure what kind of impact that move has, to ask Andy Kaufman. A great reference there. The crowd was really into Hayes too. I dug the gig marks on Ric Flair’s forehead.
Dan: Welp, we are not in New York anymore. There was some things I like (the crowd shots in the front row, the interviews, the Pink Panther robe) and disliked, (no graphics during the ring announcements, ancient refs with their slow counts.) but the production value was closer to the neighborhood of WWF than I would have expected. I also enjoyed that they admitted when things weren’t smooth. Where else would you read a graphic that said “This footage is too good to miss. Picture Quality Will Return Soon”? Was it me or did Jose Lothario look older here than he did in 1996 with Shawn Michaels?
Scott: I love a show strewn with Dallas Cowboys, from backup tight end Jay Saldi to Hall of Famer Harvey Martin. Sadly the early 80s was the beginning of the Dallas’ slide to 1-15 seven years later. Oh sorry, wrong column to talk sports. It always seemed like Fritz had only about nine guys in the promotion, because Magic Dragon and Checkmate are on what seems like every week for about four years. David Manning does a good portion of the refereeing on these shows, but he is definitely no Bronco Lubitch. He’s to World Class what Earl Hebner is to WWE and Jim Molineaux is to ECW. I love seeing the old school logos like Pony on people’s t-shirts. Bill Mercer called the Samoan “a strapping, handsome young Samoan.” One show and three masked guys. That’s gotta be a record.
Consensus Best WWE Network Match to Date: Pat Patterson vs. Sgt. Slaughter (Madison Square Garden, 4/6/81)
Consensus Worst WWE Network Match to Date: Ivan Putski vs. Baron Von Rashcke (Madison Square Garden, 6/27/77)
JT: We are finally out of the WWF and into some WCCW for quite a stretch here, so we will get settled in and comfortable in the Sportatorium. This episode was a good one to start with as it featured a few of the top players and also delivered some great storyline advancement in the Ric Flair sit-down. The tag match was the in ring highlight of the night with the Flair interview checking in as the best overall segment. The other three matches were passable but nothing special enough to bump the grade up significantly. The commentary and crowd added to the show as well. At first I thought Saldi was going to be a trainwreck but he really added a lot of good background and discussed various goings on around the wrestling world that enhanced the stories unfolding here. Mercer was solid as always as well. And the fans were red hot and locked in, especially in that tag bout. Overall, an enjoyable watch that got me excited to continue working through the promotion’s archives. Final Grade: 5/10
Chad: Strong start to our foray into WCCW. We get some heated angles with Kerry vs. Flair, Michael Hayes is on the scene, and a good tag match to anchor the show overall. I am looking forward to what is to come from the promotion as a whole. Final Grade: 5.5/10
Jason: We have arrived deep in the heart of Texas and will be here for quite some time. I haven’t watched much World Class, but I really enjoyed what was brought to the table in this first episode. An excellent tag match. An incredible promo by Ric Flair. Great announcing by Mercer and Saldi. Then a decent match by Michael Hayes, followed by a vintage Hayes promo. I expected more from David Von Erich, but besides that, I’m enjoying our Texas vacation so far. We’ll see you again shortly, but in the meantime, we’re heading out for BBQ and a rodeo. DAN, YOU HAVE TO WEAR PANTS WITH THOSE CHAPS! Final Grade: 7.0/10
Dan: I never wear pants Greenhouse, especially when I’m watching these shows! Okay, I’ve said too much. This was a fun and quick watch that was a refreshing glass of iced tea compared to those two hour rides from hell we had to sit through in MSG weeks ago. It’s never bad to get out of your wrestling comfort zones and experience something new and all of this was a delight to explore. I’ll expect more of the same over the next 20 shows or so. I look forward to seeing where all these stories go because unlike the MSG house shows, we’ll be able to connect some dots along the way. I’d like to see more out of Von Erich in future outings, the rise of the Freebirds and perhaps a resolution to WCCW’s version of BountyGate. I suspect that Fritz and the boys will provide many terrific nights before this PTB posse rides off into the sunset. Final Grade: 6/10
Scott: Our first of what will be a marathon of WCCW was a fun show with a hot crowd and all the known wrestlers in the promotion. Only one Von Erich, and David didn’t impress me with his first outing. Michael Hayes was awesome and I’m looking forward to the remaining tenants of Badstreet USA. The tag team match was fun and Ric Flair’s promo was one of his best early performances on the mike. This is the feud that builds to the big Christmas show at Reunion Arena. More on that as the shows progress. Overall a solid enough outing that gives us a snapshot of the early days of WCCW’s dominance in the Lone Star State. Final Grade: 7.0/10