PTBN’s Excellent WWE Network Adventure: NWA Starrcade 1983

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 RozzeroChad CampbellJason GreenhouseScott 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!


NWA Starrcade 11/24/83
Run Time: 2:57:21

Rufus R. Jones & Bugsy McGraw vs. The Assassins
Scott McGhee & Johnny Weaver vs. Kevin Sullivan & Mark Lewin
Carlos Colon vs. Abdullah the Butcher
Mark Youngblood & Wahoo McDaniel vs. Bob Orton, Jr. & Dick Slater
Charlie Brown vs. Great Kabuki – Mask vs. NWA TV Title
Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine – Dog Collar Match
Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood vs. Brisco Brothers – NWA Tag Team Titles
Ric Flair vs. Harley Race – Cage Match – NWA World Title

Best Match

JT: There is some strong competition at the top of the card, but I have to go with Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine in the dog collar match. They take what could have been a very restrictive gimmick and really made it work. The build up was good to with Piper having messed up equilibrium due to an earlier attack from the Hammer during the lead up to the bout. Valentine would target that ear throughout the match, leading to some nasty shots with the chain and eventually serious bleeding. They really pelted each other with that chain too and Hammer bled a gusher as a result. The match just felt real and the hate was palpable. How could it not be with the shots they were laying in? A great brawl to cap a hot feud and the crowd was invested the whole way through. It is also a top two Roddy Piper match from what I have seen. Full show match ratings: *, *1/4, *3/4, **3/4, *3/4, ****1/4, ***3/4; ****

Chad: The dog collar match has always been the match that smacked me in the face when watching this card and this viewing was no different. Roddy Piper has a few all time classic matches with Buddy Rose in Portland and Bret Hart at WrestleMania VIII, but this is the best match of his career in my opinion. This match reaches a vitriol level of hatred that is unparalleled throughout almost every match. The competitors don’t spend time setting up props or other elaborate stunts, they just beat the shit out of each other. I love every second of this thing. ****1/2

Jason: The clear favorite would be the main event here. Flair and Harley were both fantastic, but that dope Gene Kiniski might have been the worst ref of all time. The tag title match featured some classic tag team wrestling and our first look at Steamboat. But then we have the Dog Collar match. Greg Valentine and Roddy Piper stole the show. What a violent blood bath. Each man sacrificed their own during the match and told a great story during this barbaric battle. This has my vote for best match we’ve watch so far during this adventure.

Dan: Hard to go against the Dog Collar here. This is an all-time bloody classic with spots that are often overlooked because your are too distracted by the bloodshed. For example, when Piper loops the chain around the ring post and then yanks on the chain systematically choking the life out of Valentine was a creative use of the collars without just whipping the guy senseless. Plus we get cool visuals like both men having their faces wrapped with steel in the center of the ring and all the blood stains marking up that light blue canvas. I liked Piper’s playing up of his loss of balance as a result of his ear being mutilated by Valentine and how the US champ just “hammers” away on the Scotsman with the chain repeatedly. Finally, how brilliant is Piper to actually use the chain to hook Valentine’s legs to secure victory? Just an awesome war between a pair of tough guys and it’ll be difficult to top this effort as we continue this adventure.

Scott: For the first time in quite a while we have multiple candidates for Best Match on the Network thus far. But I have to say that the Greg Valentine/Roddy Piper dog collar war gets a slight nod over the main event strictly for the reason that Gene Kiniski was horrendous refereeing that cage match. He was always out of position and almost blew the spot where Flair actually gets the three count. The tag title match is superb also, but the pure violence and psychology of that dog collar match created the best story of the night and makes it for me by a hair best match of the show.

Best Performance

JT: Ric Flair and Harley Race are pro wrestlers. They are awesome at it. They nail the little things. They feel like stars. They sold this show and delivered in the main event. They worked around an albatross like Gene Kiniski and still doled out a really damn good match. The torch is passed and Ric Flair becomes The Man in the NWA.

Chad: Greg Valentine was the man that made the match. Roddy Piper had the emotion and did his thing well, but Greg standing up to him in an admirable and yet heelish way really made the match go to the next level. As great as Greg’s run in WWF was at times while holding the IC belt, I wish he would have stayed around Crockett throughout most of the 1980s because he fits the promotion like a glove.

Jason: As much as I loved Piper here, I’ll go with a tie and give the nod to both Flair and Harley. The build for this match throughout the show was fabulous and they were both ring generals during their classic match. Harley passing the torch to Flair is such a huge moment during this era and was a true professional in doing so.

Dan: So many to choose from. All the competitors in the final three matches certainly have claim to this distinction. We saw two hot title changes plus that gruesome collar match is still revered to this very day. If I go outside the box I probably enjoyed the work of Slater and Orton the best, however, as they were tremendous in their roles as Harley’s henchmen and evil heels in their tag match with Wahoo and Mark Youngblood. It’s not enough that they murdered Youngblood in and out of the ring culminating with that superplex by Orton, but then they attempt to end Wahoo’s career by trying to break his arm. Winning wasn’t enough, these guys wanted to hurt somebody. If you go outside the featured attractions, these two professional bad guys scored high marks on this occasion.

Scott: There were a myriad of strong performances on this show, from both Harley Race and Ric Flair, to the dog collar match and the tag team title bout. I will give the nod to Roddy Piper for sacrificing his ear getting bludgeoned again for the good of the company. I was surprised he actually won this match considering he’d be gone very soon from the promotion (although Valentine wouldn’t be around much longer either). Flair and Race worked their asses off inside that cage but I will go with the future Hot Rod for his performance in one of the most violent matches of the decade.

Biggest Surprise

JT: I was surprised at how vicious the post match attack by Kevin Sullivan and Mark Lewin was. They just gashed Scott McGhee wide open with the foreign object and put a beating on Angelo Mosca as well. Nasty stuff and on a night filled with blood, this may have been the most violent instance of the red water.

Chad: I hold an unpopular opinion that the second best match on this entire card is Wahoo and Youngblood vs. Dick Slater and Bob Orton Jr. Slater and Orton were having a hot run being the bounty takers from Race and having the ultimate gatekeeper in Wahoo standing in their way was a great touch. The action was brutal especially when Wahoo was mixing it up with Orton. This is a ***1/2 match in my eyes.

Jason: I’m with JT here in that the McGhee beat down and blood bath were a surprise and gory spot. There was lots of blood throughout this show, but McGhee dumped more than everyone combined.

Dan: I wanted to hate this match. My first note for it was “Poor Kabuki deserves so much better.” And yet, the more I watched the more I enjoyed the TV Title vs. Mask match between World Class favorite Great Kabuki and Charlie Brown from Out of Town. Okay, the claw holds got tedious and everyone on the planet knew that Charlie was really Jimmy Valiant, but I loved the story going in of Gary Hart trying to prove Brown’s real identity once and for all. Charlie just would not say die and eventually scored a shocking upset that seemingly came out of nowhere. Having the belt only up for grabs in the first 15 minutes was a nice touch that only added to the intrigue.

Scott: I was surprised at how well booked the Wahoo & Youngblood vs. Slater & Orton match was. The psychology of the inexperienced Youngblood getting beat down by the grizzled heel tag team while the veteran Wahoo was helpless on the apron was great storytelling and was the first match where the crowd really got into things. I was also surprised that Dusty Rhodes didn’t wrestle on this huge show. He may have had an injury. The Mid-South episode we covered before this one was a month before and he refereed a match and didn’t work. But if he was healthy it is strange he didn’t wrestle on a show as big as this one.

Biggest Disappointment

JT: Gene Kiniski turns what could have been an all time classic into a really great title bout. He constantly gets in the way and you lose track of how many times both Race and Flair have to shove him out of the way to get their spots in. He then went on to nearly blow the finish as well, causing the final minute to perhaps be the worst part of the match. I really wish he was just an outside the cage official or something instead of mucking up the bout in the ring.

Chad: Kiniski is awful and deserves every heap of criticism. I also will say that Ric Flair and Harley Race seemed oddly off on this huge stage. They tried to work a more technical match in the early going which didn’t fit the angle beforehand. The torch passing moment is great, but these guys had a crackling match a few weeks before this one so it is disappointing that they under-perform here.

Jason: Gene Kiniski wins the award for worst special referee of all time. Period.

Dan: Yikes, Gene Kiniski… Just yikes!

Scott: The show is carried by three matches that can be argued as all *****, but the undercard is pretty weak in terms of workrate. Most of them are legit undercard matches, except for the Wahoo tag match with Slater & Orton, the first match that really got the crowd going. Otherwise those other preliminary matches are pretty sad.

Additional Observations

JT: Man, I was hoping we would have more of a break from Bugsy McGraw; “Tony Shiphoney”; Bugsy has a degree from Indiana and is very sensitive, according to Gordon; Tony Schiavone looks like he is getting ready to give his high school valedictorian speech; The second tag match was feisty as Sullivan & Lewin worked a pretty solid heat segment into the win and the post match attack was really good too; The Estes Family can’t hold a candle to the Mayles; The backstage promo with Harley and his crew was well done; Abdullah was looking pretty good here, not as grotesquely obese as he would become; The blood flows all over this show, but Colon ups the ante by gnawing on Abby’s cut; Mosca’s locker room promo with McGhee sitting bloodied next to him has great fire even though he rambles all over the place; That one poor girl Barbara interviews is in dire need of a retainer or braces or something; Orton & Slater is a great heel team and work some real good double teams; Wahoo looked really good here, the crowd loved him and he just rocked Slater with his offense; Nice to see Kabuki pop up but I really dislike Jimmy Valiant; However, the crowd loves him and went crazy when he won the match; The local radio guy lending his pick on the main event was a nice touch; Barbara Cleary is pretty solid on the mic; Roddy Piper gushing blood from his ear is tremendous; Angelo Mosca rocking a PWI shirt while refereeing was quite the sight; The Briscos looked like mean old bastards here; Steamboat & Youngblood were a lot of fun and worked some crisp double teams at a fluid pace, that whole match was really damn good; I love all the check ins with Race and Flair throughout the night, really adding such a feeling of importance around the whole match; Dusty was hanging with some rough looking chicks before the main event; I can’t stand Gene Kiniski and wonder how good the main event could have been without him getting in the way; Race was really good at using the cage as a weapon throughout the match; The overhead camera shot was bad ass; Flair’s blade job was gory; The long post match celebration was really well done and capped off a great night

Chad: Bugsy is back, yippee. Gordon Solie is on the microphone here and there is a clear distinction of the guys who he is familiar with and the guys he is just bull shitting about as he drinks more vodka as the night progresses. The opening matches of this show are  littered with old guys but these were legit big territory stars in Johnny Weaver and Rufus R. Jones. Mark Lewin is someone that is still a mystery as he just recently popped up in an awesome match with Terry Funk from Houston on Scott McGhee got the crap kicked out of him. Kabuki brings more of his nerveholds and awful offense and really stalls the show overall with his awful performance. The tag title match is really good, but just missing that extra something for me to push it over into the great category. I liked that Jack Brisco really worked to build up brother Jerry as an integral member of the tag team overall even though Jack had the much more impressive singles pedigree. The Flair montages and hype leading up to the main event are tremendous and we get two of the most iconic images in wrestling with Flair being kissed coming to ringside and his hand being raised in victory with his blood soaked head looking down.

Jason: Paul Jones’ tuxedo was incredible. Bugsy McGraw having a degree in business administration might be the most mind blowing fact of the adventure so far. Rufus R. Jones is chock full of charisma.  He was the perfect guy to feature in the opener. I wasn’t a big fan of Gordon Solie here. He was mumbling all over his words throughout the show; “Tony Shiphoney”. Speaking of Tony, he looked super young here. I enjoyed the babyfaces mingling with Flair in the locker room. Mark Lewin and Kevin Sullivan with Gary Hart was a great pairing. Mark Lewin looked to be on the back end of his career, but was in great shape. Did they pull Johnny Weaver out of the Senior Center for this one? Lewin and Sullivan’s beat down on Scott McGhee was pretty brutal. McGee’s blade job was vicious. Does anyone reading this know the Estes family? I’d love to have them over for dinner sometime. The Briscos and Valentine chilling with Harley was quite the crew. Abby is one of the best bleeders of all time and proved that against the youngster, Carlos Colon. I loved the Angelo Mosca promo with Scott McGhee bleeding to death in the background. Dick Slater and Bob Orton are one of my favorite tag teams we’ve seen so far. Such a rugged team!. Of course there would be audio issues with the house mic when Dusty was being introduced. The crowd sure loved Wahoo, as they should. The overhead camera shot with a blood stained canvas and the NWA logo in the middle of the ring was phenomenal. Jay Youngblood’s Rush shirt, FIVE STARS from me! Jimmy Valiant is as annoying as Bugsy McGraw. Who’s not annoying is Great Kabuki. He was a favorite of mine during our World Class watches and I enjoyed him showing up here.

Dan: You can put him in a bigger arena with lots of stars from around the country, but much like putting lipstick on a pig, at the end of the day, Bugsy McGraw is still just a lovable loser. Speaking of WCCW, Rufus R. Jones boogies just as good if not better than my man Ice Man King Parsons. Loved all the Tony locker room spots whether chatting with the heels or faces. It just added to the legitimacy of the event plus it was neat seeing all those personalities interacting during the show. Was Kevin Sullivan really accused of being a druid? Gordon Solie seems to believe it to be true. That Johnny Weaver looks like a cross between a 1970’s sitcom father or an out of work game show host they gave a pair of trunks to. Speaking of that match, kudos to Scott McGhee for taking that “stab in the face” spot. You won’t see that in 2016. That guy bled like a stuck pig. And on that note, why was he just sitting there with Mosca during his interview with Tony? Someone get Scotty a doctor for the love of God. Dude seriously looked like a bloody corpse when they panned over. So let me get this straight, Colon/Butcher was banned in Cuba but no big deal in North Carolina? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills! This card had a ridiculous number of head stabbings and the use of the word “equilibrium.” If someone can find me Hugo Savinovich’s tux from 1983, I’ll gladly wear it and use that photo as my Facebook profile picture. Solie and Caudle were very impressed with that over-the-ring camera angle.

Scott: I thought I had gotten my share of Bugsy McGraw wearing women’s leggings; I love Gordon calling Tony “Tony Schifony”, classic; Yikes Tony that bowl haircut; The best part of this project is watching guys move from territory to territory, as Gary Hart is with Mark Lewin, where he and Kevin Sullivan were in Florida; Caudle and Solie needed to study up on the names on this card, as Caudle called Carlos Colon “Solon”; Wow there are some fugly looking women in this crowd; This Valentine/Piper match is as brutal (violent, not terrible) as any match during that time in the mid-1980s; Could Barbara Cleary find any uglier people in this crowd? It’s almost like an in-house rib, like Dusty’s telling her to find the grossest hillbillies

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 Rashcke (Madison Square Garden, 6/27/77)

Final Grade

JT: The NWA really nailed their first attempt at a major supershow as they filled the card with a bevy of stars and capped it with three high level main event caliber matches. The show is long but really flows and is an easy watch. The commentary is on point, the crowd is hot and everyting felt like a big deal. There was tons of blood and a lot of heat built into the matches. I loved the running check ins with Flair and Race throughout the night as they made the match seem like such a huge deal. Everything felt and came off as very legit and the big matches delivered, you really can’t ask for much more in a supershow at this time. It is easily neck and neck as the best offering we have watched to date (along with WCCW Christmas Star Wars 1982). This show just screams “Pro Wrestling”. Final Grade: 8/10

Chad: This show took the Final Conflict idea and expanded it to a closed circuit idea with great success. I firmly believe it was a catalyst for a lot of the business decision structure for the next twenty years in wrestling. There is certainly some low points in the show, but you do get a MOTYC in Piper vs. Valentine and two other really good matches in the two tags. Add to that the iconic Flair victory and this show is an easy thumbs up. Final Grade 7.0/10 

Jason: This show lived up to it’s hype, despite a slow start from the undercard. Lots of blood featured, but that’s OK. Some great tag team wrestling and story telling from most of the talent. Ric and Harley had a big match feel and delivered big time, as did Roddy and Valentine. If you like blood, check out the undercard.  If you just want to see three excellent matches from early 80’s NWA, jump ahead to the final three matches. I tip my hat to Ric, Harley, Piper and Valentine, plus a super hot Greensboro crowd. Final Grade: 7.5/10

Dan: I was never one to call this show one of my favorites of all-time, but looking back, aside from all backstage filler segments that made the show drag somewhat, I was thoroughly entertained by just about every match on the card. Even some of that undercard slop on this show (Bugsy McGraw) wasn’t painfully long while the top of the card was loaded with star quality. Flair and Race had a tremendous wrestling match with a huge moment at the end. The tag title bout was a clinic with creative double team maneuvers and fast-paced action. Piper/Valentine was a all-time blood bath. No matter how you slice it, this first super card lived up to the hype and should be in every wrestling fans collection. If you have never seen this show, stop reading now and see for yourself. Final Grade: 8/10

Scott: The first legitimate national supershow is a fun watch, although a bit long with endless backstage interviews with the same guys over and over. The last three matches are all MOTY candidates and made stars out of Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair. That World Title match was clearly a passing of the torch as Harley Race was on the back side of his career and was ready to settle into other aspects of the business. A huge win for Flair and a sign he would be the face of the NWA for the next several years. Roddy Piper and Greg Valentine put on a war but strangely both would be gone and heading north very soon. This show is fun but is a bit long with a lot of worthless interviews and fluff in the middle, and the first few matches are forgettable dogs. I would possibly skip ahead to the last three matches and you’ll get everything you need, perhaps watch the Wahoo tag match too. Final Grade: 7.5/10

You can find every grade and category winner from the entire Excellent WWE Network Adventure by clicking this link!