PTBN’s Excellent WWE Network Adventure: NWA Starrcade 1984

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 11/22/84
Run Time: 2:58:44

Mike Davis vs. Denny Brown – Junior Heavyweight Championship
Brian Adidas vs. Mr. Ito
Jesse Barr vs. Mike Graham – Florida Heavyweight Championship
Zambuie Express vs. The Assassin & Buzz Tyler – Elimination Tag Team match
Black Bart vs. Manny Fernandez – Brass Knuckles Championship
Paul Jones vs. Jimmy Valiant – Tuxedo Street Fight; Loser Leaves Town
Ron Bass vs. Dick Slater – Mid-Atlantic Championship
The Koloffs vs. Ole Anderson & Keith Larson
Tully Blanchard vs. Ricky Steamboat – TV Championship and $10,000
Wahoo McDaniel vs. Superstar Billy Graham – US Championship
Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes – World Heavyweight Championship and $1,000,000

Best Match

JT: Have to go with Tully Blanchard vs. Rick Steamboat for this one. The stakes were high and it was the first match on the card to come out of the gate with a real big time feel around it. Tully wasted no time going right at the ribs of Steamboat and the attacks was focused and consistent. I love that Steamer got another long shine segment,including using Tully’s finisher and busting the champ open, after the initial rib work before we swung into the heat segment. Tully then capping it by cheating to win was perfect booking as he looked to barely escape, so Steamer looked strong, especially with the rib injury, but the champ still finds a way. This was a great showing from two stars about to enter their primes.

1/2*, DUD, **1/4, 3/4*, **1/2, *1/4, **1/2, **3/4, ****, 1/2*, **1/2

Brian: Without a doubt it was Tully Blanchard vs. Ricky Steamboat. Just a great match that told an excellent story. I never seen this show before and this was a treat to watch. Even more impressive is the fact these two worked an hour-long broadway the night prior and that Steamboat hated Blanchard at this time due to his abrasive personality.

Dan: I actually really enjoyed the Koloffs vs. Keith Larson and Ole Anderson and amazingly it had a ton to do with the appearance of the nearly crippled Don Kernodle. First of all, it told a cool story of Larson stepping in for his downed brother and the youngster definitely brought a ton of energy on the face side. Then you had the grizzled veteran Ole giving the young man pointers on how to work a body part to the point where the announcers referanced Anderson’s days in the Minnesota Wrecking Crew. Nikita was a bad ass making Ole look like a Jr. Heavyweight out there and then savagely attacked Kernodle on the outside. Then after cheating to win, the Russians attempt to end Larson’s career only to have Kernodle hit the ring, smash the heels with his crutch, wood explodes everywhere and the crowd goes bonkers! This was a rare moment on this show where I could not look away and had zero expectations when the bell first rang.

Scott: This show doesn’t have as many memorable matches as it’s predecessor in 1983 did, but there were a couple of gems. I’m gonna go with Tully Blanchard vs. Ricky Steamboat because both guys are expert workers and the money in the match added the draw. The Flair/Dusty match was fine but they would do better later on in the decade. The surprise match is Graham/Barr. That was much better than I remember. But I give the nod to Steamboat’s last NWA match for almost four years.

Best Performance

JT: I am going to stick with Tully Blanchard and Rick Steamboat. They had the match of the night and each played their roles perfectly through their aggression, selling and in the finish. Steamboat gutted through the big rib injury but held on and seemed poise to win before Tully pelted him twice with a foreign object to sneak out the victory. Two real pros.

Brian: Steamboat was phenomenal here and gets the nod from me. His selling was top notch and all wrestlers today should watch his performance. Blanchard was right behind him in second place.

Dan: Blanchard and Steamboat had their A-games on tonight. Ricky was tremendous in selling his ribs and back injury that they played up throughout the show. To his credit, Blanchard was brilliant in continuing to attack his opponent’s weaknesses. Even subtle things like breaking out of a headlock by draping himself over the top rope leaving Steamboat prone to repeated body shots was terrific. I also dug the psychology of Tully catching himself from leaving the ring so he wouldn’t be charged with running away thus losing his title.

Scott: Aside from the Blamchard/Steamboat match, I have to say Mike Graham and Jesse Barr (the future Jimmy Jack Funk) put on a much better match than I thought they would. The pacing was good and considering all the matches on the show this one was given more time than I thought it would. They made the Florida Title feel much bigger than it probably was at this time.

Biggest Surprise

JT: I was surprised by how much I got into Mike Graham vs. Jesse Barr. That one easily could have went another 7-10 minutes and really built to a hotter finish. They built so well and then just ended out of nowhere. The crowd was digging it too. Nice undercard tilt.

Brian: The end of the main event has to be the biggest surprise and sadly for all of the wrong reasons. Just a terrible finish that left a bad taste in my mouth. The Florida Heavyweight Title match was a pleasant surprise at least.

Dan: I was kind of stunned seeing Dick Slater at a babyface. I’m used to seeing him being all wicked and nasty and I suppose he was to that unsuspecting referee but this was definitely different for me. He’s supposed to be dirty. Tough break, even if it was avoidable not to mention rather stupid, getting disqualified as he was owning that match with Cowboy Ron Bass.

Scott: I was stunned at the end of the Rhodes/Flair match. I really thought when I first watched it that Dusty was going to win. I always thought the ending of that match was kind of bush league, particularly for Dusty who comes off as a whining bitch instead of a tough guy with a cut over his eye. It made no sense for the non-wrestling guy to make the call either. No disrespect to Smokin’ Joe, but it wrecked Dusty even more to know he lost on a call made in boxing and not in wrestling.

Biggest Disappointment

JT: Besides all the hiccups in production, it has to be the main event. The stage was set for a classic as the crowd was rabid, the mood was right, Smokin’ Joe and Kyle Petty were welcomed like heroes and added to the atmosphere and there was a lot of big time stakes on the line. Both Rhodes and Flair were cheered and booed and it felt like it was going to be a legendary clash of the titans. The match built and evolved nicely, with Dusty controlling a lot of the early action until Flair smashed him into the post on the floor, busting the Dream wide open. And of course, that one move set up a very disappointing finish. For such a well executed build and early portion of a major title match… and for that match on the biggest show of the year, the finish really was terrible. It didn’t help either guy and left the crowd to walk away with a sour taste in their mouths. They could have even had Dusty pass out or something or just have the blood blind him and he gets rolled up, anything except what we got. Once the cut happened, Frazier was annoying too, sticking his way in between both guys and treating it like a boxing situation. They also could have at least let things settle a bit to show how truly bad the cut was affecting the Dream. Very disappointing ending to a match I was really looking forward to watching.

Brian: The main event was a major disappointment, especially the ending. How many times have we seen guys bleed more than this and not have the match called? I also was not expecting much from Superstar Graham here but he put on a pathetic performance capped off with one of the most awful bumps I have ever seen and the announcing team of Gordon Solie and Bob Caudle (in general, the production values were awful) literally sucked out loud but the main event surpassed all of these as the biggest disappointment.

Dan: Oh that main event sucked! This show wasn’t the bloodbath of 1983 but it still had multiple matches where guys were getting color left and right. Tully bled on just some well placed fists in the corner. They had a bout centered around two men with taped up fists for Pete’s sake. And now we have a match with $1,000,000 and the biggest prize in the NWA on the line and you’re going to stop it because of a cut? Seriously? Were they just trying to be cute and add legitimacy because a boxer was in the ring? And it’s not just the ending either. Fraizer was ill-equipped even to be a guest referee. He fast counts one minute, slow counts the next. He doesn’t even check Flair for a submission when he’s in a figure-four leg lock but feels the need to get between both men when Rhodes is attempting a suplex. And then that swamp ass of a finish! To quote Jim Mora, “in my opinion that sucked!”

Scott: The main event was very disappointing, not only for the ending but the match didn’t have the sizzle that the one the following year would have. Flair and Rhodes were feuding but it didn’t have that pure hate the the feud would eventually have. My second choice would be that the putrid announcing. Caudle and Solie are hall of fame caliber guys, but they were totally clueless on what was going on. That can also be production’s fault as a majority of the matches ended strange and totally threw everybody off. A show this convoluted with so many different territories involved needed more quality control. This show didn’t have it.

Additional Observations

JT: I like how they open the show with the callback to last year’s closing moments; Weird seeing Mike Davis when he isn’t doing the wacky “Manic” gimmick; The end of this opener was a mess, tough way to open your biggest show of the year; Funny to see Brian Adias show up here after we watched him start out in WCCW back in 1983 and he gets a squash win over Ito; Graham and Barr should have talked about their tights choices before the show; Always good to see the Zambuie Express; The Assassin’s mask always looks so uncomfortable crammed onto his face; The crowd was super into that tag match even though there wasn’t much to it; Dusty cutting a tremendous promo while wrapped in his jacket on a bench like a bum is prime American Dream; Great strikes from Black Bart and Manny Fernandez; I can’t believe it 45 minutes to get blood for the first time on the show; Really good intense promo from Ricky Steamboat; The crowd was manic for Jimmy Valiant wrecking Paul Jones but were not happy at all for that finish; JJ Dillon is all over this show; Ron Bass looks like the asshole manager of the Yankees from Bad News Bears here; Lots of screwy heel wins on this show; A lot of heat for the Russians here as the Cold War was still raging on; I chuckled when the camera cut late and Don Kernodle was rolling around on the floor as Nikita stepped over him but sadly that poor camerawork also caused us to miss the finish; Blanchard vs. Steamboat is the first bout to have a real big match feel; Great focus on the ribs by Tully; “Just to tell the fans about this Indian”; The finish of Wahoo vs. Graham was brutal, as was most of the match; Smokin’ Joe sounds like he took a few too many shots to the head here; Setting up the judges ahead was nice work, planting the seed that we could have a draw and adding some cloudiness over the outcome; Pretty swank entrance and robe for Dusty with his Prince tribute; The main event was building nicely until the terrible finish; Dusty had every right to want to wreck Frazier after that match, costing him the title and a million dollars and his closing promo was tremendous

Brian: The opener was okay. Interesting to hear how the Junior Heavyweight Division was under 230 lbs back then. Even more interesting was how much of a trainwreck this was at the end. Brian Adias showed nothing in his match as he is someone I just never saw anything in, even looking back at his run in World Class. The Florida Heavyweight Title was a pleasant surprise to watch. Both guys looked good there. Ricky Steamboat was not happy at this point in his run, upset in how Dusty was booking things, and ended up bailing within a couple of months for the WWF, who was booked by George Scott. They did a great job presenting the main event as a major deal but that finish was inexcusable.

Dan: Hey it’s Earl Hebner in the opener. Boy did he get screwed doing that match! See what I did there? They started us off right away with screwy finishes with Denny Brown’s shocking title win. Was it me or were Caudle and Solie way off tonight? Brian Adidas was on a Starrcade card? That bum who road the coattails of the Von Erichs in Dallas was booked and put over on Starrcade. If he’s a rising star then I am the next George Clooney. Barr has U.S.A. on his boots. Is he a member of the Cobra Corps? I enjoyed Barr screaming “I don’t have to pull hair” then quickly calling out Graham for supposedly pulling on his trunks. Paul Jones always reminded me of either a sleazy television game show host or Moe from the 3 Stooges depending on the angle. What in the blue hell is a brass knuckles championship? Funny how there was strangle no apparent use of any brass knuckles in this match. There certainly was a great deal of punching though. Figures it ended in a roll-up. Nice line by Caudle when he described Blanchard as “on his bicycle” after Solie acknowledged that the champion was backpedaling. How did Tommy Young miss seeing Steamboat getting his face smashed in with a foreign object right in front of his face? Kung Fu Billy Graham was the shits.

Scott: Wow everybody from the announcers to the ring announcer blew the end of that first match. Vince would have had no patience for that; The Florida Heavyweight Title match was a lot of fun and it was smart to give them the most time early on; What’s with all the dead space? Did we really need a seven minute intermission that early in the show?; I can’t stand watching Jimmy Valiant do anything; The Koloffs vs. Anderson & Larson match is really good. Rare seeing Ole wrestle as a babyface; Tony Schiavone is one of the most enduring voices in wrestling, but did he ever not have a bad hair day?; This was pretty much Ricky Steamboat’s last major NWA match. I think he’s in the WWF by the end of January; This robe was one of Ric Flair’s better choices; The crowd for this show is weird, as it seemed like Dusty was getting booed and Flair was getting cheered; That was an unusual way for that match to end. I know they didn’t want Dusty to get pinned, but he kind of comes off like a pussy

Consensus Best WWE Network Match to Date: Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine, Dog Collar Match (NWA Starrcade 1983)

Consensus Worst WWE Network Match to Date: Ivan Putski vs. Baron Von Rashcke (Madison Square Garden, 6/27/77)

Final Grade

JT: I was really looking forward to digging into this one but ended up coming away feeling very… unsatisfied? I guess that explains it best. There was only one match I would consider to be above very good, and that was Blanchard vs. Steamboat. Even that felt like it could have been better if given more time to explore the story. The rest of the card is filled with strong workers, but nothing ever seemed to click or push into that next gear like we saw a year ago. Rhodes vs. Flair felt like a match that would have set up a Starrcade main event, but instead we actually get it on the show and ends things on a real sour note, which affects the grade in my eyes. Toss in the production gaffes and down time and this one definitely ranks towards the bottom of 1980s Crockett offerings. As far as this Adventure, the TV Title match alone makes this better than a lot of the stuff we have seen so far, but we can, and will, do a whole lot better. Final Grade: 4/10

Brian: This lacked the star power of the 1983 show but even taking that out of the equation, this show underwhelmed. From bad production values and subpar talent in some cases, it did not feel like a big show until the end. Steamboat vs. Blanchard is a must-watch match and the main event had its moments but there is nothing else I would go out of my way to see here. Final Grade: 4.5/10

Dan: I’m sorry, I just can’t give this high marks. Nothing on this card was a standout performance from production, to story telling, to inconsistent announcing, to nonsensical finishes. Fraizer as the ref made it two years in a row that a main event lost significant points due to officiating. Everything else felt like filler and made for a very long evening. This was not a smooth 178 minutes of viewing pleasure by any stretch. Given the talent in the main event, Flair and Rhodes almost become afterthoughts in all this because their match was so short because of the Frazier crap. They built it up like it could potentially go 60 minutes, even introduce us to the special judges, and then it ends in a flash. I mentioned above what I liked but that’s not enough for this edition of Starrcade to make the grade. Did this surpass the original? No chance! At least it’s not TNT. Final Grade: 3.5/10

Scott: This show was loaded in terms of number of matches, but it didn’t have that sizzle that 1983 had. Sure Flair vs. Dusty is a draw, but it just didn’t have that special something their rematch the following year would have. The announcing really dragged the show down, which isn’t totally Solie & Caudle’s faults. The overall production needs to be blamed here as well, for there was a lot of dead spots and confusion after matches. The ring announcer and the referee called the wrong guy’s name in the Brown/Davis match! That would never stand in Vince McMahon’s world. I don’t know if I would jump to this show again if I wanted to scratch an itch for mid-80s Crockett stuff. The Steamboat/Blanchard match was great as well as the surprisingly good Florida Title match, but the rest was just average. Final Grade: 5/10

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