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, 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!
AWA Super Sunday 4/24/83
Run Time: 2:13:00
Rocky Stone vs. Brad Rheingans
Steve Regal vs. Buck Zumhofe
Jerry Lawler vs. John Tolos
Judy Martin & Velvet McIntyre vs. Joyce Grable & Wendi Richter – NWA Women’s Tag Team Titles
Dizzy Ed Boulder vs. Wahoo McDaniel
Blackjack Lanza, Ken Patera, Jesse Ventura vs. Jim Brunzell, Greg Gagne & Rick Martel
Hulk Hogan vs. Nick Bockwinkel – AWA Heavyweight Title
Mad Dog Vachon & Verne Gagne vs. Jerry Blackwell & Sheik Adnan El Kaissey
JT: It has to be the AWA Heavyweight Title match. The atmosphere was tremendous with the long introductions to build the heat and the natural and easy face/heel alignments on display. Hogan’s charisma was crackling right from the start and it bled into the match. The story going in was great too, of course, as Hogan had come to close, so many times and this was finally his chance to get it done. Hogan was super aggressive with his strikes and the fans were riding with him the whole way. It was interesting seeing him dominate a lot of the match as well, wearing down Bock and picking up lots of near falls before finally missing the leg drop. The final minutes were well executed too with both men emptying the tank until Hogan finally grabbed the win and the title that had been eluding him, making this a truly special day in the Twin Cities. For about three minutes anyway… then came a monumentally stupid reverse decision. The post match beatdown was good… but my lord. Honorable mention to the six man tag, which had a great mix of talent and was a lot of fun throughout, even when the cameraman fooled Trongard by missing the finish.
*1/2, *3/4, **1/4, **1/2, *1/2, ***1/4, ***1/2, ***
Chad: Hogan vs. Bockwinkel is my choice for this card but I do want to give a special mention to the main event on the show which was also a really fun match and truly was presented as a main event at that current time in the promotion. Attendance shockingly went up when Hogan left the AWA. The Hogan vs. Bock match really showed an interesting wrinkle to the Hogan formula that would fill out WWF cards for the remainder of the decade. Bock was a different type of heel from the athletic or monster types that Hogan engaged in. This forced Hogan to rely more on his basics and use sound wrestling strategy along with his power advantage. The finish is terrible and a really big gaffe that did have overall ramifications affecting the company, but the action that preceded was brisk and a welcome chapter in the career of both men. Rating: ***1/4
Jason: Without a doubt, the AWA Heavyweight Championship match. My goodness, Hogan was mega over! The crowd came unglued the second his music hit and he had them in the palm of his hand as soon as he hit the ring. Bockwinkel’s swagger and cockiness ranks towards the top when talking about heels in the history of wrestling. Bockwinkel had never been in the ring with someone like Hogan before. He had to outsmart the Hulkster and use his scientific ring work to try and stay ahead of Hogan. I thought the roof was going to blow off the building when Hogan was presented the title. But then, the cock teases of cock teases happened. Minus the garbage finish, this match had a special feel to it from bell to bell. A big night for the AWA, mainly do to the efforts of Hulk and Bockwinkel.
Dan: Honestly, do you even remember the other matches on this card? Admit it, you had to scroll up just now just to think of one match that wasn’t Hogan/Bockwinkel. This match had it all. An electric atmosphere, a beaten down, desperate champion clinging to his belt by the flimsiest of threads. A molten hot challenger who just looked like the future of Professional Wrestling and only an idiot of epic proportions couldn’t see that, even in 1983. Hulk Hogan could print money at this time! Fans were salivating over the prospect of seeing his hand raised in victory on this night. And how about Bockwinkel? He was a beatable man who could barely throw punches because of the pounding he was taking. If this match were on a show called WrestleMania and not on one called “Super Sunday,” it would go down on one of the greatest main events of all-time… until, of course, the very end. Silly booking aside, this bout was clearly the match of the night.
Scott: That World Title match was dripping with excitement and electricity as Hogan had that crowd on the edge of their seats, ready to see their hero take out Bobby Heenan’s prim and proper champion. I enjoyed the way the match was worked where Bock’s technical prowess wasn’t going to work against a bigger, stronger guy who is hitting endless power moves. So when he was on offense he did a lot of desperate strikes like head butts and kicks. The crowd was nuclear at the end and when the pinfall occurred it was like a new era in the AWA had been launched and Greg Gagne was on cloud nine…until his selfish, greedy father stuck it to their new star because he was going broke. The six-man tag match was fun and I have to say the women’s tag match was much better than it probably deserved to be. It still goes to the World Title match, ridiculously terrible ending aside.
JT: Hulk Hogan. From the minute he explodes onto the screen and gets right in the face of Nick Bockwinkel, the crowd loses their shit and his charisma just owns the entire show.He was easily the biggest star of the night and stood out as such with ease. The pop when he finally won the strap was out of control and it felt like a riot of joy may erupt any time. Even after he was screwed, the crowd went bananas when he wiped out Bock and Heenan, winning them back over after being shellshocked. A true superhero amongst stars on this night.
Chad: This was Hogan’s night. There is a few moments in time in wrestling history where you can point to someone that had an opportunity in one area to be something and they decided to not pull the trigger. If Hogan would have flamed out in WWF with the likes of David Sammartino, the mistake of not going with Hogan here would be an afterthought. Still, even in the micro sense, it is easy to see how over Hogan was with this crowd and Bock seemed like a selfless performer that was willing to put the right guy over as the next ace in the same way he was given the honors by Verne. Hogan exuded great charisma, power and some technical ability here. He had the total package.
Jason: Like there’s any doubt here. Hulk Hogan!!! There’s a list of shows I wish I could have been in attendance for to feel the energy of a crowd. This is one of them. He was on the verge of becoming a pop culture icon and this was his coming out party. The 80s were all about superheroes coming to life and Hogan was the superhero that the wrestling world needed.
Dan: Hulk Hogan, Nick Bockwinkel, Bobby Heenan, the crowd, Gene Okerlund, that referee’s orange shirt, basically everything about that title match besides the outcome put in a top notch performance. Even Hogan’s post-match attacks on the victors while garbage is being thrown into the ring made everything feel more real. I even like the added angle where Bockwinkel demanded the highest payday ever given to a wrestler which led to the AWA having to raise ticket prices. It was a nice touch that added legitimacy to this story.
Scott: Hulk Hogan’s true coming out party to the wrestling world came on this night in St. Paul. Sure people knew who he was (either in his early WWF run or at Thunderlips) but from when he comes in the ring to after he was screwed out of the title and wiped everybody out it was pure joy and excitement that the AWA would turn the corner. Little did anybody know how much Verne’s shortsighted decision would cost him very dearly down the line.
JT: The women’s match brought the energy and was a lot better than I expected it to be. Grable & Richter were a pretty damn good little heel team and the finisher was hot with the backdrop into a stiff powerbomb to close out the match. I really was shocked at how they won me over as the match went along.
Chad: Both the women’s match and the six man that went on before Hogan vs. Bockwinkel were very enjoyable affairs. Neither of those matches made the final listing of the Death Valley Driver Best of the 1980s AWA setlist, but I had them both around the *** range. I thought Richter looked way better in ring here than her offerings we have seen on the TNT shows. The High Flyers are one of my favorite tag teams to go back and watch because they had a ton of good double team moves and were really over with the crowds.
Jason: Whoever thinks that the Divas Revolution began in 2015 should really check out the women’s tag match here. All four ladies worked their tales off and told a great story. The team of Wendi Richter and Joyce Grable could be probably hang with any women’s duo in the business today. I was only familiar with Judy Martin as a part of the Glamour Girls, but she really impressed me here. Well done, ladies!
Dan: As much as I want to say Wahoo winning an actual wrestling match with a chop of all things, the women’s match was definitely better than I expected. It also had my favorite moment of my wrestling lifetime when all four girls missed with splashes which led to this exchange: CROWD: BOOOOOOOO! ANNOUNCER: THE CROWD LOVES IT! CROWD: BOOOOOOO! In all seriousness, The Texas Cowgirls were quite heelish and remained one step ahead of the veteran Martin and her protege McIntyre.
Scott: Wendi Richter working heel was a lot of fun. I never really thought she ever did work heel and she and Grable were fantastic with their pink cowgirl boots. Also kudos to my girl (or woman I suppose) Judy Martin and the very green Velvet McIntyre to work as sympathetic babyfaces and I think the crowd was legitimately upset that they didn’t win the tag straps.
JT: The terrible reverse decision to cause Hulk Hogan to no longer have won the AWA Heavyweight Title. I mean, how could you be in that moment and not realize you had something special? To do such a weak, awful decision like that on something as lame as the inadvertent fall over the top? Soft. They deserved to lose Hulk Hogan.
Chad: Verne and the Hogan decision loom large here but I am actually going to go with the booking of Wahoo McDaniel vs. Boulder. Here we have Wahoo who was excellent around this time period and engaging in heated battles with Nick Bockwinkel. In this super show, he is paired with Hogan’s big buddy and they have a lumbering affair that ends in anticlimactic fashion. I would have liked to have seen Wahoo been given a more substantial opponent.
Jason: Clearly the finish of the title match is one of the biggest travesties in the history of the business. No wonder this company was heading down the toilet. How could they not put the AWA Heavyweight Championship around the waist of Hulk Hogan? Verne and Stanley Blackburn deserved to lose Hogan and everyone else who left Minnesota for New York soon after this show. An honorable mention goes to not having the title match as the actual main event here. Did Verne really have to put himself and three other has-beens on last. Get off your high horse, old man!
Dan: Verne Gagne. For the love of Pete, how on Earth did you not see the money-making potential in a guy like Hulk Hogan? What harm would it have done to not give the fans what they so desperately wanted and have this megastar carry the crown for your company? And perhaps even more egregious, who the hell decided that some ridiculous tag match should go on last after such a titanic title match? Oh right, you were in that bout and you probably didn’t want the night to end with a riot. That decision by Stanley Blackburn was Jack Tunney-esque bogus. At least let the fans go home happy before pulling the gut-wrenching Dusty finish. If we had a category ranking the biggest disappointments thus far, this booking would have to be at the very top of that dubious list.
Scott: We know what the biggest disappointment is, and his name is Stanley Blackburn. Some faceless old fart says in the crowd that Hogan did something wrong and the guy sitting in section 356 in that arena has no idea what’s going on. That main event showed what was WRONG with the AWA. Having Verne Gagne winning a useless tag match in the MAIN EVENT was an awful idea. He should have been in the spot where the six man tag match was and that should have been second after the Brad Rheingans match. This match should have been last and ended with Hulk Hogan triumphantly hoisting the World Title over his head and let the Hogan machine begin. Nick Bockwinkel seemed like a straightforward guy. Could he have gone to Verne and said “Look buddy, I think you’re making a mistake here.” RIP Verne Gagne, but the eventual demise of this legendary promotion is solely in his lap.
JT: Rocky Stone is a hell of a name, too bad WWF didn’t let him keep it when he did job duty years later; Ron Trongard going solo is an intimidating premise; Brad Rheingans got to show off a bit out there and looked pretty good working on the mat; That boombox with Zumhofe, whoa nelly; I am enjoying Gene Okerlund’s introductions; Steve Regal looks like an 80s movie villain, so he was cast well here; Zumhoe’s finisher was the best part of that match as he is executed it so quickly and with authority; Weird seeing such little fanfare for Jerry Lawler, and an odd match to fly him up for; Gene plugging Lawler’s appearance on David Letterman and the upcoming replay during his introduction was great; Lawler’s punches were awesome and he really brought the fire down the home stretch; This women’s tag was pulled right from my nightmares; Weird seeing Velvet in boots and weirder seeing Judy Martin as a (somewhat) fiery babyface; I wonder if Wendi Richter had any clue how huge she was about to become; Grable’s powerbomb is hot fire; Always a fun time when you get to see Dizzy Ed; Nice treat to have Lawler pop in on commentary; Wahoo’s hair is forever atrocious; That six man match is loaded with some interesting talent and the face team may be an time babyface fire team; Heenan’s team has such good heel presence about them; Awesome atmosphere for Hulk Hogan’s entrance; Nice note by Trongard about how Wally Karbo increased ticket prices for the show due to the demand; Hulk Hogan should have been a mega star for the AWA and instead they dicked him around until he took off and became an icon; The fact that Hogan/Bock wasn’t the main event should have probably been a big red flag, although I guess a Verne match could be sold as worthy of top billing; Lord Blears explaining the end of the title match on commentary was a nice touch; The crowd was apeshit for Verne & Mad Dog; The storyline of the main event was good too as Verne is trying to prevent Kaissey and Blackwell from being able to challenge the High Flyers; That was a fun, wild brawl to close out the show
Chad: The opening matches of this show are typical for AWA. Buck Zumhofe and “Mr. Electricity” had a never ending feud that resulted in one pedestrian match after another. Okerlund does fit his role as a ring announcer well here showing how versatile he was. Lawler vs. Tolos is a dream match from the 1970s on paper but Tolos didn’t have much more to give here. It was entertaining but could have been a feud to set the territories on fire if it had occurred ten years earlier. The show did have a good flow to it and I thought it built to a logical crescendo. I also want to commend the main event as it would have been easy for the air to have been let out of the arena after the booking of the prior match. Instead, there is really good heat and they allowed the guys to tell a story. This certainly felt like a big card for the AWA territory at the time and I appreciated the variety that it showcased overall.
Jason: No opening video package? Figures. Throw a mic in Gene’s hands and he will always kill it. I really enjoyed him as the ring announcer. When talking old school enhancement talent, Rocky Stone’s name should come up more often than it does. Even in the opening match there was a buzz in the building. I have to hand it to Rob Trongard, he did a solid job calling this show. Between calling the action in the ring, telling background of the talent and promoting the matches later in the show, Rob gets a thumbs up from me. Man, that boom box of Buck Zumhoffe screams 1983. I wonder if he’s able to have one in his jail cell these days. Nevertheless, the crowd loved this guy back in ’83. For a monster show like this you’d think Verne would open his wallet and add some more production. Only two camera and no ring apron, plus poor lighting. Scooping up Lawler for this show was a nice get for Verne. Good call by Gene to plug Lawler’s appearance on Letterman. John Tolos looked to be in his late 50s or so, but he moved around fairly well. Lawler was a huge name around this time and the crowd was really into him. This match should have been a squash for the King. Lawler’s piledriver is still one of the best to watch. Man, heel Wendi Richter was a nice treat to watch. I like how the women’s match was taken as serious as any other match on the card. They weren’t presented as a special attraction or as something for the crowd to laugh at. No wonder Vince wasted no time making Richter the face of the women’s division about a year after this. She was young, very attractive and could go in the ring. Damn, Dizzy Ed was hitting the gas pretty hard at this point. Nice bleach job, Ed! I wonder how he got put on this card, BROTHER? His match with Wahoo was quite the clash of styles. Thank God Lawler jumped in on commentary to help take away from the mess in the ring during this match. What a trainwreck. The six-man tag was loaded with talent. Did Jesse ever have hair? The heel trio along with Bobby is quite the crew. I would have been invested in a Patera and Martel feud from this era. The post match brawl got the crowd all amped up after the screwy finish. When the house lights came on following the six-man, you can tell how jam packed this place was. Did we really need the AWA stars of the 1970s to headline this show? Jerry Blackwell is one unhealthy looking man.
Dan: Did you know that Brad Rheingans was from Appleton, Minnesota? That announcer Rod Trongard made no secret of that fact. Anytime he mentioned hometowns or womens’ body weights, I wanted to take a shot of jagermeister. Also, is it Tom Stone or Rocky Stone? Rod, buddy, just pick one name and stick with it! Buck Zumhofe used a boombox as his prop to the ring. I wonder if John Cusack used this as inspiration for his famous scene in the film “Say Anything.” Meanwhile, Buck isn’t doing much rocking or rolling these days as he is currently serving a 25 year sentence for criminal sexual conduct. More facts about Buck I found on the internet include he was the first guy to be placed in a body bag by The Undertaker and he was Triple H’s first WWF opponent. What a bizarre career! The Golden Greek’s selling of Lawler’s punches was downright comical. Judy Martin is the opposite of the expression “a sight for sore eyes.” Dizzy Ed will someday by known as a great deal of things in this business but I can honestly say I didn’t recognize him in his match with Wahoo. Geez Rick Martel was over in that six-man match. I bet he’s going places!
Scott: Man, Verne was too cheap to have an opening graphic? Or perhaps the Network had to cut it; Rocky Stone, now that’s a classic enhancement talent name right there; the camera angles aren’t as bad as I would think they’d be; Rod Trongard wasn’t a bad PBP guy when he was in his element and he was comfortable with the roster and storylines, unlike when he was borrowed for WWF house shows and had no idea what was going on; Buck Zumhoffe was the prototypical AWA stalwart, kind of Verne’s version of Tito Santana or Checkmate in World Class; Was the prerequisite of working in the AWA that you had to be from Minnesota? There are towns being announced I’ve never even heard of; So Verne must have had a good relationship with Lawler and Jerry Jarrett if Lawler came in for a one shot on this show. Wonder if he actually got paid for this one; This Tolos/Lawler match is horrendous. Why couldn’t it have just ended with the top rope DQ? Complete parlor trick crap; Seeing Wendi Richter as a heel is kind of cool actually, working with veteran Joyce Grable; Why would Vince steal the rest of this trash for the Women’s division?; This women’s tag match has been a lot of fun, with minimal hair pulling and lots of great cheating by Grable and Richter; Richter really had the thick Texas accent that was streamlined a bit the following year when she headed north; Wow that was some blonde mullet that the future Brutus Beefcake was carrying in 1983; An early taste into Jerry Lawler’s second career as he does some commentary with Trongard during the Wahoo/Boulder match; Jesse Ventura never cared about having no hair, since I didn’t know it was him till Trongard said his name. He looked like Buzz Sawyer from behind; People could say what they want about Greg Gagne, but he honestly wasn’t a bad wrestler. He may not have looked like a world champion or anything but he was a solid tag team/mid card guy and Verne was smart to put him in the slot he fit it best. Verne’s problem was he wouldn’t let Greg pull the curtain and work more behind the scenes; As expected this six-man tag match was a lot of fun with crazed chaos going crazy, but the heels winning by DQ was kind of stupid, even though Bobby Heenan’s Family are awesome; I have no idea what weird theme that was that Hogan came into, but the crowd is going nuts for him; Why is this match not last? Well obviously we know why it’s not, but it still should have been; So ticket prices were raised to pay for people to come here? I appreciate Trongard’s explanation, sound dickish to me; Bockwinkel worked great here, knowing technical wrestling may not work against a bigger guy, he’s resorting to quick strikes and head butts to the ribs to slow him down; That referee hit was one of the worst I’ve ever seen, so sloppy as Blears wasn’t in position. When that second referee hit happened, I think the crowd was getting a feeling some shenanigans were going down; If this show was in Philadelphia, Stanley Blackburn would have been shived and thrown in a dumpster behind the arena after dicking their guy over like that. Leaves such a lousy taste in everybody’s mouth; Sorry, but Verne definitely didn’t have the pop that Hulk Hogan got in the previous match, regardless of how he tried to spin it. Vince was definitely sitting home going “You idiot. In a year I’ll make that guy a mega star.”; With Verne in this match, it seemed like almost every wrestler was old and bald looking, including Tolos, Vachon and the Sheik (who wasn’t bald but old); Really a prime example of how the promotion wasn’t lifting new stars and was relying too much on the guys from the 70s; That knee drop off the top rope was one of the worst endings to a match I’ve ever seen;
Consensus Best WWE Network Match to Date: Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine (NWA Starrcade 11/24/83)
Consensus Worst WWE Network Match to Date: Ivan Putski vs. Baron Von Raschke (Madison Square Garden, 6/27/77)
JT: This was a pretty exciting little two hours, with no fluff and lots of action. It showcased a lot of AWA stalwarts and had some good wrestling up and down the card. The Hogan/Bock match was really damn good, even with the mind numbing finish, and Hogan was clearly on a rocket ship for superstardom, whether it be here or elsewhere. The main event was cool too with the AWA legends tearing down the house. It is such classic Verne, though, to have himself in the main event while dicking around Hulk Hogan underneath. This is a recommended watch for sure for a nice snapshot of AWA in the early 80s, buoyed by a hot crowd and a big time match and angle. Final Grade: 6.5/10
Chad: What a nice break from the TNT cycle. AWA wasn’t always the most exciting territory of the 1980s but they certainly produced their share of quality matches and workers. This is a good showcase over that and also a great benchmark in wrestling history to one of the worst booking decisions of all time. Final Grade: 6/10
Jason: This show was a lot of fun. That is until the splash of cold water that was thrown at us from the finish of the title match. The title match, six-man tag and the women’s tag match were all very fun. The main event was pure garbage and would have head me heading for the exits after the title match. If you like old guys from this territory, there’s plenty of them for you to enjoy. We got a nice look at pre-WWF Wendi Richter in one of the best women’s tag matches I’ve watched from this era. Gassed up Dizzy Ed was a sight to see. Overall, the show was a nice treat into the beginning of the AWA downfall. If you’re curious about this era and what babyface Hogan was like before hitting New York, throw this one on. Goodnight form the Twin Cities. Final Grade: 6.5/10
Dan: This was a nice addition to the Network and well worth going back to see. We saw plenty familiar faces and even some random guys that are certainly worth the google search. It definitely lacks in production value but it also isn’t weighed down by useless filler or endless, awkward interviews like say Starrcade would have several months later. The title match was amazing minus the gross ending that will leave you empty though it tries to win you over with Hogan’s post-match beatdown. The women’s tag was fun and undercard Jerry Lawler was an unexpected treat. All in all, you won’t regret going back in time and spending the hours reliving what probably was the peak of the AWA super shows. Final Grade 6/10
Scott: Up until the decision reversal of the main event, this was a really fun show. The undercard was the usual cast of AWA characters who are all from Minnesota and the bookers (Verne) can trust to put on decent matches. I don’t understand why Jerry Lawler came in for a throwaway match with ANOTHER old guy that was probably overpaid. The six-man tag, the women’s tag title match and of course the World Title match were all the highlights, but the minute the Blackburn reversal happened the energy was completely sucked out of the arena. That main event came straight out of 1976 and should have been earlier in the card. I will grade this show slightly higher than down the middle because of the energy of the entire card leading up to the screwjob. Final Grade: 6.5/10
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