What if…Barry Windham didn’t join The Four Horsemen in April 1988?

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Text By Simon Rawls

What if…Barry Windham didn’t join The Four Horsemen in April 1988?

Part I

Our story begins just two days before the NWA’s 3rd Annual Jim Crockett Cup Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament. Trying to regain the World Tag Team Titles, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard have champions and arch-rivals Lex Luger and Barry Windham reeling. After a long brutal beating, Luger has managed to tag in Barry Windham. Not faring much better, Windham realizes Lex is still too hurt to tag back in. “I told you he was not going to be there when you needed him!” James J. Dillon continually shouts from the ringside floor.

 

April 20, 1988: World Championship Wrestling

 

 Windham stops the Horsemen onslaught for a second and puts a hand out to Arn Anderson indicating for him to stop. Arn looks confused, but begrudgingly obliges. A wide grin appears on Barry’s face. He points to James J. and says “He’s right!” Windham then sticks out four fingers, sending the Jacksonville crowd and the announce team into a frenzy. “Is he serious?” exclaims Tony Schiavone. Windham then closes his fist and signals that he is going to wallop a still recovering “Total Package”. He charges …and at the last second slides out the ring and punches James J. Dillon instead. The crowd erupts. Windham then slides back into the ring. He raises the four fingers at a now stunned Arn Anderson again, and a second later turns his hand upside down and makes a downward motion. Arn attacks and Tully quickly joins him. Seconds later, Ric Flair storms the ring and Tommy Young calls for the DQ. In a matter of seconds, the masked Midnight Rider enters the ring and with the help of Lex Luger, the three Horsemen are ousted from the ring right before a commercial break.

 

When the show resumes, the three heroes are interviewed by Jim Ross. “Barry, what was that all about?” “Jim Ross,” Barry Windham says, “you know that earlier in the year Ric Flair had been trying to recruit me to be the fourth Horsemen. Well, the recruiting effort never really stopped. I even went out and had a meeting with them recently. But Lex knew about it the whole time.” Luger nods. “Further more, I never had any intention of joining them. They are nothing but scoundrels and rogues who I have fought for the last year and the likes of which I have spent my entire career fighting and plan on spending the rest of my career doing the same. I saw how they treated Lex when he joined, and I would NEVER make the same mistake.” “You know, Barry is the best partner a man could ever have. And tonight, he proved to me that he will always be Lex Luger’s friend. We’re in this to the end. And come next weekend at the Crockett Cup, were taking home the trophy and the million dollars.” Lex Luger says. “And James Dillon,” The Midnight Rider says, “don’t think for three seconds you getting’ my mask. You nothing but a no good yellar belly, and next week in Greensboro, I’m takin’ you outta this sport for good!” The interview concludes with the most anticipated tournament of the year on the horizon.

 

April 22-23, 1988: The Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament

 

April 22: Greenville, SC

 

Opening day for the Crockett Cup has finally arrived. The Carolinas are on fire for this one. Greenville, will get the opening two rounds and a Prince of Darkness Death (blindfold) match between Kevin Sullivan and Jimmy Garvin. The next day, Greensboro gets the final three rounds, James J. Dillon v. The Midnight Rider and a World Title defense, pitting champion Ric Flair against challenger Nikita Koloff.

 

 

1st Round                            2nd Round                          3rd-5th Rounds

                                                                                              

Ace/Savage     _________Winner____________       Follow Brackets Accordingly

Lightning Express             Midnight Express

                                                                            

Cruel Connection      ____Winner___________

Sheepherders                     Fantastics

 

I.Koloff/Murdoch______Winner__________

Wilbur/Valiant                  Luger/B. Windham

 

Champion/Starr ________Winner_____________

Twin Devils                       Varsity Club

 

King/Royal_______         Winner_____________

Jive Tones                         Sting/R.Garvin

 

Machine/Terminator ____Winner____________

K.Windham/Stallion         Anderson/Blanchard

 

Cruz/Santana__________Winner____________

Perez/Zbyszko                  Road Warriors     

 

Super Powers                    Winner    ___________

Simmons/Williams            Powers of Pain

 

 

Before the tournament gets underway, a very familiar figure is noticed taking a seat at ringside in the front row. In an expensive three piece suit and with dark sunglasses, is none other than the always controversial “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert. Jim Ross, who knows him well from their days in Mid-South/UWF, goes down to ringside to find out what Gilbert’s intentions are. “Mr. Gilbert,” Jim Ross begins, “welcome to Greenville.” he says as he offers his hand. Gilbert takes the hand and warmly puts his other hand around Jim Ross’ shoulder. “Jim please, call me Eddie or ÔHot Stuff’. We go way to far back for formalities.” You’re totally right, Eddie.” Ross replies. “But tell me, what brings you to Greenville, tonight?” “Jim, as you and all these great fans know, the NWA is where the action is. It’s where the winners are. And Eddie Gilbert is always about being where the action is and being a winner.” “True enough.” Ross responds. “But what are your intentions, tonight?” “Who knows? I mean, look at the card. Rick Steiner, who I used to manage, is on the card tonight. Same with Sting. And if you remember, just two years ago, I managed the Koloffs at the first Crockett Cup in New Orleans. Ivan is in the tournament tonight, and Nikita… well he has shot at becoming the biggest guy in the business. I think tonight I am just going to sit back and enjoy the show.” “Well you picked a great night for that, Eddie. Welcome back!” “Thank you, Jim.” The two shake hands and Jim Ross goes back to the announce table.

 

1st Round

 

The veteran tag team of Tim Horner and Brad Armstrong don’t have much trouble defeating the last minute makeshift team of Johnny Ace and John Savage, put together after the Japanese team can’t make it, Armstrong pinning Savage after a double team leg drop. The masked Cruel Connection isn’t quite cruel enough to get past the hardcore Sheepherders, #2 falling prey to a double gutbuster from the wild men from down under. Former U.S. Tag Team Champions, Ivan Koloff and Dick Murdoch outwit “The Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant and The Mighty Wilbur, Valiant getting pinned after getting kneed in the back by Murdoch from the outside as he ran against the ropes and “The Russian Bear” follows with the Russian Sickle. Chris Champion and Mark Starr beat the Twin Devils when Champion pins #2 with a slingshot splash. Tiger Conway Jr. and Shaska Whatley take out Nelson Royal and Rocky King, King being pinned after a double Russian legsweep. Kendall Windham and The Italian Stallion get a first round bye when The Green Machine no shows. “The Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko and “The Latin Heart Throb” Al Perez beat the last minute team of Joe Cruz (substituting for a recently departed Shane Douglas) and Ricky Santana, Cruz submitting to Perez’s spinning toe hold. As Dusty Rhodes is suspended and Nikita Koloff has a World Title match at the tournament, last year’s tournament winners, The Super Powers, forfeit to Ron Simmons and “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, rocketing them into the second round.

 

Prince of Darkness Death Match

 

“Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin and “The Games Master” Kevin Sullivan go at it with both of them wearing hoods. Garvin has his valet, Precious, in his corner and Sullivan is much stronger represented with Rick Steiner in his. The match is slow, as Garvin tries to use the crowd and Precious to find Sullivan, where Sullivan relies on Steiner. But when they do lock up it gets vicious, as Sullivan has been making passes at Precious over the last several weeks. At about the ten minute mark, Steiner starts circling towards Precious as part of a pre-meditated plan to get her out of the equation. But as he is circling her, Steiner notices Gilbert for the first time and starts chit-chatting. This causes Sullivan to lose his eyes, and under advice from Precious, Garvin is able to kick Sullivan square in the gut and hit his brainbuster for the pin. Precious quickly enters the ring and unmasks her man, and by the time Rick Steiner and Eddie Gilbert have finished talking, Garvin and Precious have already left the ring and Steiner has to attend to his fallen mentor. [1]

 

2nd Round

 

The Lightning Express puts up a valiant effort against the Midnight Express, using quick tags, scientific and high flying moves and great team work. But Jim Cornette’s duo of “Beautiful” Bobby and “Sweet” Stan are just too much too overcome. After a bout of double teaming. Lane rocket launches Eaton onto Tim Horner, getting the 1-2-3.

 

In a rematch from two Crockett Cups ago in 1986, the Sheepherders and the Fantastics once again go at it full strength. It is a brutal encounter, proving time does NOT heal all wounds. Last time, the match was fought to a double disqualification. This time however, while Luke Williams distracts referee Teddy Long, Butch Miller holds Tommy Rogers so the Sheepherders flag bearer, their nephew Rip Morgan, can nail him with the New Zealand flag. But Rogers breaks free at the last second, causing Morgan to nail Uncle Butch instead. Rogers follows up with a right hand, and quickly covers “Wild” Butch, while Bobby Fulton makes certain that Crazy” Luke does not intervene.

 

The match between Ivan Koloff and Dick Murdoch against the World Tag Team Champions is well fought on both ends. Koloff and Murdoch try to use their cunningness and experience against the champs (not to mention Paul Jones’ interference). But Luger and Windham work like a well-oiled machine. After dodging a Russian Sickle, Windham counters Ivan with his lariat and gets the three count, advancing he and Lex to Greensboro.

 

Even without manager Kevin Sullivan, The Varsity Club has little trouble with Chris Champion and Mark Starr. After using their unique combination of amateur and pro moves, Mike Rotundo finishes Starr off with a hard hitting butterfly suplex.

 

Though relatively inexperienced as a team, Ron Garvin and Sting, being billed as “the former World’s Champion and the next World’s Champion”, work well together. No doubt their manager for the night, Garvin’s partner at the 1986 Crockett Cup, Magnum TA, himself billed as a future World’s Champion until his career ending car accident, trained them well and got them on the same page. Whatley and Conway make a valiant effort, but after “Tiger” is nailed by a hard Garvin right hand and then is the recipient of the Garvin stomp, “The Stinger is tagged in, and puts Conway out of his misery with the Stinger Splash.

 

Both teams still fresh, Kendall Windham and the Italian Stallion perform well against Arn and Tully. At one point, Tully comes within an eyelash of getting himself disqualified by refusing to break a chokehold on Kendall Windham, no doubt wanting some revenge for his older brother’s “betrayal” two days earlier. But, the Horsemen regroup in their corner, Arn and James J. calm Tully down, and he tags out to “Double A”. About a minute later, a freshly tagged in Italian Stallion prematurely drops his head for a back body drop, resulting in an Arn DDT- and is consequently pinned.

 

Though a great team, Al Perez and Larry Zbyszko just do not have the sheer power, the raw athletic ability nor the experience as a team together as Hawk and Animal do. Their savvy and technical skills take them a long way, but manager Gary Hart’s presence is countered by one of the few minds in wrestling on par with his own, that of Road Warriors’ manager, “Precious” Paul Ellering. Al Perez gets hoisted up and hit with the Doomsday Device, spelling an inevitable fate for him and the “Legend”.

 

In the final match in Greenville, two fresh hard-hitting teams are ready to go at it. The most even matched fight of the first two rounds, the two bruiser teams of The Warlord and The Barbarian and “The All American” and “Doc” go back and forth trading the advantage … and hard hits. But Paul Jones proves to be the equalizer, as he grabs “Dr. Death’s” leg as he has The Barbarian hoisted up for his patented Oklahoma Stampede. Williams, acting uncharacteristically inexperienced, throws down The Barbarian and chases Jones. He gets into it with The Warlord as Ron Simmons enters the ring to take it to The Barbarian. But as Williams and The Barbarian are the legal men, Randy Anderson has no choice but to count “Doc”out, advancing the Powers of Pain in the last match of the night.

 

April 23: Greensboro, NC

 

The night begins with Tony Schiavone summarizing to the Greensboro crowd the results of the previous night’s action. Additionally, Eddie Gilbert is once again sitting quietly wearing his three piece suit and dark sunglasses at ringside.

 

3rd Round

 

The opening match of the night involves four men who are no strangers to one another. The Midnight Express’ manager, Jim Cornette runs his mouth off from the opening bell, saying how “his” United States tag team champions are three matches away from $1 million. The match starts with Rogers and Lane and at first is surprisingly clean. It is very fast paced with both teams exchanging dropkicks, high flying and scientific holds. Rogers eventually bests Eaton and tags in Bobby Fulton, and he holds Bobby Eaton’s arm for Fulton to drop a quick elbow off the top rope. The Fantastics live up to their name and go to work on “Beautiful” Bobby. But ever the consummate tactician, Eaton sees an opportunity when Fulton charges him and back body drops him out the ring, avoiding a disqualification by claiming momentum took Fulton over. While a weary Eaton tags in Stan Lane, a dazed Bobby Fulton jumps when startled by seeing his former Mid South rival, Eddie Gilbert. “Hot Stuff” innocuously raises his arms and says “The past is the past, I am just here observing.” Fulton gives a slight nod and rolls back in the ring to face off with “Sweet” Stan. The two go at it and The Fantastics once again gain the advantage. The two work on the newer Midnight while keeping “Beautiful Bobby” at bay. Once Lane comes close to a tag, but Bobby Fulton slaps him at the last second causing him to run in and miss the opportunity as Tommy Young puts him back in his corner. To make matters worse, Tommy Rogers run in and The Fantastics both clip indicating a tag. When Tommy Young turns around, he sees the wrong man in. Jim Cornette is jumping up and down livid. But The Fantastics insistence-with the help of the fans-lets the tag stay. The two are able to work over Lane even more, but a miscalculated Tommy Rogers top rope body press turns the tide. Bobby Eaton is tagged in and he goes at the hurt Fantastic with a vengeance. He and a now recovered Stan Lane work over Rogers and come closer and closer to a win. It looks like all is lost when the Midnights hit him with a double flapjack, drawing a near three count. Stan Lane then connects with a karate kick and is ready to finish Rogers off with the rocket launcher. He tags in “Beautiful” Bobby who climbs to the top. Eaton launches to Rogers… but somehow he has enough strength and moves out the way. Stan Lane rushes him, but Tommy Young forces him back to his corner. Rogers struggles to his corner …and makes the tag. Bobby Fulton comes in with a vengeance, but when Tommy Young comes back in he says he did not see the tag and does not let it stand! Lane is by now tagged in and he goes to work on Rogers.  Knowing Rogers is about done, Lane hits another karate kick and goes for the pin, getting another near fall. He tags back in an anxious “Beautiful” Bobby, who comes in and starts on Rogers. He throws his opponent across the ring for a dropkick, but Rogers holds on to the ropes. Eaton struggles to his corner and makes the tag… but so does Rogers! A fresh Bobby Fulton comes in with fury. He clears house on Lane then on Eaton. Fulton continues his onslaught for a bit. After a hard flying clothesline, he tags back in a now recovered Rogers, who continues the beatdown then hits his Tommyknocker (double underhook facebuster) on Eaton. He then tags in Fulton and sets him up for their own rocket launcher… But right before Fulton jumps, the bell rings. He stands on the ropes looking confused. A second later Tommy Young talks to ring announcer Tom Miller, who announces that the 30 minute time limit has expired and thus both teams are eliminated. The crowd registers its boos, but the decision has to stand.

 

The next quarter final match is of crucial importance. Both the World Tag Team Champions and The Varsity Club know that the winner of this match gets a bye to the finals. Luger and Windham are ready to go as are The Varsity Club, now with a returning Kevin Sullivan. Luger and Mike Rotunda start if off. And they hit each other hard, neither pulling a punch. Rotundo gets in a few good amateur takedowns and gloats on it to Luger, but a hard clothesline to Rotunda ends that. He tags in Barry Windham-no stranger at all to Mike Rotundo- and hits a hard elbow as Lex holds him down. A quick eye poke allows Rotundo to tag in Rick Steiner, who executes a fireman’s carry takedown. The Varsity Club shows it stuff taking it to the World Champs. Kevin Sullivan is clapping, no doubt thinking he will be able to get over last night’s defeat. While beating Windham in their corner, the illegal Steiner holds Windham for Mike Rotundo. Rotunda swings, but Windham dodges it and he hits Steiner instead. Windham throws some haymakers at his former partner and is able to make the tag to Luger, who proceeds to clean house. He hits a hard powerslam on Rotundo and gets a near fall. He then clotheslines him and signals for the human torture rack. He starts to put it in, but Rick Steiner charges the ring and prevents it. This brings Barry Windham back in and the four are going at it. The Varsity Club bests the champs and is going to throw them together from opposing turnbuckles, but Luger and Windham reverse it and The Varsity Club are rammed together instead. The champions hit a clothesline on each opponent, then they both toss Rick Steiner out between the 2nd and top rope. Lex then puts the torture rack on Rotundo, who has no choice but to submit, pushing the champs into the final round.

 

The next two matches are grudge matches if there ever were ones. Teddy Long has to use repeated disqualification threats to keep Sting and Garvin and the Horsemen apart before the bell. Magnum and James J. exchange choice words as well. The match is everything one would expect, with hard hitting, repeated four counts and bending of the rules. All four men great wrestlers, it is still an all and all great tag treat for the Greensboro crowd. At one point Tully is clotheslined out the ring by the Stinger who follows him out. He notices Eddie Gilbert and again Eddie says he is just there to watch. Sting gives a slight nod, but it allows Tully to escape back to his corner. He tags in Arn and Sting then tags in Garvin and the two go at it. After several minutes, all four are in the ring. Tully is about to set up Sting for his slingshot suplex, but Magnum T.A. grabs Blanchard’s leg preventing it. Incensed he grabs Magnum by his hair and will not let go. Teddy Long runs over and does what he can to break them up, allowing James J. to toss his shoe to Arn, who nails Sting with it. After finally separating Tully and Magnum, Long forces Garvin and Blanchard, the illegal men, back to their corners, Arn then hits a weakened Sting with the spinebuster for the win.

 

The next match features two teams that have no give and hate each other; The Road Warriors and The Powers of Pain.  The LOD has obviously not forgotten how The Powers of Pain nearly ended Animal’s career three months back. Hard hitting, fast paced and even high flying, The Road Warriors take the early advantage and work over both The Warlord and The Barbarian. At one point outside the ring, Hawk picks up the stairs and throws them at The Barbarian. Eventually able to turn the tide, the Powers of Pain work over Hawk, at one point The Barbarian nailing him with a chair while Randy Anderson’s back is turned. But, never one to quit, Hawk fights back. He is able to tag in Animal who comes in with a vengeance. He goes for a clothesline on The Barbarian but accidentally knocks Randy Anderson out the ring. This brings in all four men and the match turns into a pier six brawl. Hawk eventually climbs the top rope and nails a clothesline on The Barbarian while Animal keeps the Warlord at bay. Teddy Long runs in and makes the pin, sending the Greensboro crowd into absolute delight. He raises the Warriors hands in victory. But shortly after a recovering Randy Anderson grabs him by the legs and pulls him down. They pow-wow and Long then goes outside and raises The Powers of Pain’s hands, Anderson having disqualified Hawk for the earlier clothesline.

 

Texas Bullrope Match

 

The next match is the special grudge match between the masked man from Diablo Canyon, Colorado, The Midnight Rider, and The Four Horsemen’s manager, James J. Dillon. Dillon only took this match because he knows if he unmasks the Rider and it is Dusty Rhodes, the “Dream’s” suspension will go from four months to one whole year. Dillon, dressed in street clothes, waits cautiously on the ring apron. He finally enters, but will not attack the bullrope to his hand. When the Rider gets close enough, James J. throws powder in his eyes, blinding the masked man. He then quickly attaches himself to the bullrope and goes to work on the Midnight Rider, using the cowbell as a weapon. The Rider starts a comeback, but Dillon thwarts it by hitting the masked man with a low blow with the cowbell. After a few more cheap shots, Dillon goes for the mask, but he prematurely judged the Rider’s condition. The Rider knocks Dillon with the cowbell and turns the tide. For the next few minutes, the Midnight Rider beats James J. Dillon senseless, using the cowbell, the rope and his massive physique to punish the hated manager. He busts him open with the cowbell then rakes the bell across Dillon’s head, opening his wound even further. After this goes on, he finally pins Dillon. But not satisfied, as their bad blood runs deep, he takes the bull rope and starts choking Dillon with it, determined to put him away for good. At this point another masked man enters the ring and attacks the Midnight Rider from behind. The announce team indicates that he is The Texan. A massive man wearing a red mask, a white shirt and chaps with the letters “DM” on them, he goes to work on the Rider. The Midnight Rider fights back, but James J. Dillon makes a surprise recovery and a double team beatdown ensues. The Midnight Rider’s friend, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams charges the ring to help out, but gets hit by the cowbell. The Texan goes to work on Williams while Dillon works on the Rider, determined to unmask him and prove he is Dusty Rhodes. Eventually the Rider bests Dillon and pulls the bullrope from the Texan, stopping his beating of the normally always on top “Dr. Death”. The Texan considers charging the Rider, but a swinging bull rope with a cowbell attached changes his mind and he and Dillon both exit the ring.

 

4th Round

 

As Windham and Luger receive a bye to the finals, this unlikely heel vs. heel match is the only semifinal match. The Powers of Pain, with both Paul Jones and Ivan Koloff, look very confident. Arn and Tully come down to ringside alone, as James J. is not in condition to second them at this moment. Still being consummate professionals and athletes, Tully and “The Enforcer” will not back down to their larger opponents. The Powers of Pain use hard hitting and high flying holds to break down the Horsemen, while Arn and Tully rely on their natural wrestling ability and tag team expertise. More than once Ivan Koloff and Paul Jones intervene, proving definitively that there is no true honor amongst thieves, especially when $1 million is on the line. After having worked over Tully Blanchard for several minutes, the Barbarian climbs the top rope to execute a diving head butt. Tully moves out the way at the last second and is able to tag in Arn, who gets to the Barbarian before he can tag in the Warlord. Arn works on the bigger man, but is unable to put him away, even after two DDTs. He then attempts a third, but his larger opponent is able to block it and hit an inverted atomic drop. Both men tag out, and Tully is quickly overpowered by the much larger Warlord. He sets the arrogant Horsemen up for a gorilla press slam, but Arn runs in and clips his legs. This brings in the Barbarian and all four are soon going at it. Teddy Long sends Arn back to his corner, but has more trouble with the Barbarian. The Warlord tries to lift up Tully for a powerslam, but Tully pokes him in they eyes and counters it into a small package. Teddy Long runs over and grabbing the trunks, Tully is able to get a surprise pin and put the Horsemen in the finals of the Crockett Cup for the second straight year.

 

World Title Match

 

Nikita comes down to the ring for his match against Ric Flair. He notices Eddie Gilbert at ringside, but the two merely stare at one and other. Seconds later, “The Nature Boy” makes his appearance, also with no James J. Dillon. No strangers to each other, the two have a great match. Koloff being much slimmer (by about 30 lbs.) than he used to be, is much faster than Flair anticipates. He is still able to out power the hated champion, but better keeps his wind. Flair is able to keep in the match, but it seems as though Nikita is just more there tonight. A Russian Sickle from the second rope nearly gets a pinfall. A couple of minutes later, Nikita is working Flair over on the ropes, and shoves Tommy Young away, inadvertently poking the senior official in the eye. A minute later he hits a second Russian Sickle, but Young is slow to count due to his injury and Koloff only gets two. A little after this, Koloff charges Flair. Sensing that he had better live to fight another day, Flair blatantly backdrops Nikita over the top rope drawing a disqualification, but keeping the World Title around his waist.

 

Final Round

 

This one’s for all the marbles. Arn and Tully come down first, this time with James J. Dillon, who knows full well that he cannot miss this match. Then to the cheers of the crowd, the World Tag Team Champion team of Barry Windham and Lex Luger is announced. There is no love lost here at all. Luger and “Double A” start it off. Anderson repeatedly points to Barry Windham, but the champs will not allow him to dictate their strategy. Arn and Lex finally lock up and the match is on. Fists quickly fly and Tommy Young warns both that further punches could result in a disqualification. They begrudgingly tone it down and go at it. The Horsemen gain the early advantage and Arn tags in Tully. But Lex sees him coming and shows his stuff by picking him up and repeatedly pressing him over his head before gorilla slamming him. Arn Anderson runs in and gets the exact same treatment. This causes James J. to meet with his two men to get their heads back together. The match turns into an evenly fought contest with both teams holding the advantage at varying points. Having had a much longer break in between matches, Windham and “The Total Package” are the more rested and less beaten and it begins to show as the match progresses. The champs work on Arn Anderson’s arm, insultingly in typical Horsemen fashion, wearing down the mighty “Enforcer”. Barry Windham is able to get a near fall with a hard hitting flying lariat. He then tags in “The Package” who quickly executes a flawless powerslam. Luger then gives the signal for the human torture rack. As he starts to hoist Arn up, Tully Blanchard charges the ring, knowing Luger’s backbreaker will spell certain doom for “Double A”. He starts pounding on Luger which quickly brings in Barry Windham. Adding to the melee, James J. Dillon jumps on the ring apron, causing Tommy Young to run over to make him get down. All of a sudden, Eddie Gilbert jumps up from his seat, picks up his chair, hops the guardrail and enters the ring! He nails Barry Windham in the back with the chair and when Lex Luger turns around, he gets a shot right in the forehead. Arn Anderson follows this up with a DDT. Gilbert jumps out the ring as Tully Blanchard drags Windham outside. James J. then jumps off the ring apron and Tommy Young turns his attention back to the wrestlers and makes the three count giving the Horsemen the win … and with that the Crockett Cup and the million dollar prize. Gilbert and Dillon both enter the ring to celebrate with Arn and Tully. Seconds later, Ric Flair follows suit. Arn, Tully, James J. and “The Nature Boy” all shake “Hot Stuff’s” hand and then Flair with a big grin on his face sticks up four fingers. Gilbert grins back and sticks up four fingers as well, formally initiating him into wrestling’s most elite dynasty. The five of them are as ecstatic as can be as Jim Crockett Sr.’s widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Crockett, and Jim Crockett Jr. award Arn and Tully the Crockett Cup and the $1 million prize.

 

To be continued…

 



[1] In the real world, Gilbert was not at the Crockett Cup. His being in this story allows this not to happen. From http://www.thehistoryofwwe.com/jcp88.htm Jimmy Garvin (w/ Precious) pinned Kevin Sullivan (w/ Rick Steiner) in a blindfold match with an inside cradle at 7:20; after the match, Steiner unmasked Sullivan and attacked Garvin from behind; moments later, Ron Garvin came out to make the save, with NWA TV Champion Mike Rotundo appearing as well; during the brawl, Sullivan hit Garvin in the chest with his golden spike; as a result of Ron Garvin’s injury, Sting was left without a tag team partner for the tournament; it was later announced that Sting would team with Lex Luger, who also was without a partner

 

Part II

Our story picks up right after the ’88 Crockett Cup. With the assistance of the newest Horseman, “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert, former World Tag Team Champions Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard have won the tournament and the million dollar prize. With the always dynamic Four Horsemen and the combustible element of Eddie Gilbert, things are getting ready to explode.

April-May 1988

The next episode of World Championship Wrestling comes and starts with a recap of recent events. An interview with The Four Horsemen is promised for later. A few segments later, the once again complete Four Horsemen make their appearance. “Ain’t life grand?” starts off “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. “What a difference three days makes! We got stabbed in the back by Windham, but we wound up with ‘Hot Stuff’ instead. It was like getting dumped by a fat chick and then dating the prom queen. Not that any of us have ever dated a fat chick.” he says to well received chuckles. “But seriously, it’s like this, after the tag match, the four of us were talking in the back about how mad we were at Windham. We didn’t know what to do. Then ‘Double A’ says ‘that Windham thinks he’s real hot stuff’. Then it clicked. I remembered my old friend, made one phone call, and the rest is history. “Ric,” Eddie Gilbert says, “getting that phone call was one of the greatest moments of my life. Being tapped to join wrestling’s most elite group; The Four Horsemen. I couldn’t believe it. But it happened. And Barry Windham, thank you. Thank you so much for being such a fool. All the money, the glory, the women… well that’s nothing new for me, but it could have been yours. Butno, you wanted to stick with Loser Luger. Well your loss is ‘Hot Stuff’s’ gain. And boys, watch out, because I am going straight to the top. “That’s right.” says James J. Dillon. “Look at these two men.” he says, pointing to Arn and Tully. “They’re a million dollars richer and will shortly be two-time World Tag Team Champions. It’s a matter of when not if.” And pointing to Gilbert, he says “And I am here and now announcing that Eddie Gilbert will be The Four Horsemen’s representative in the upcoming United States Heavyweight Title tournament. The Horsemen will once again rule the roost.” “And Dusty Rhodes,” Tully Blanchard says, “don’t think we’ve forgotten you. That mask is coming off.” At this the interview ends.

Next week on World Wide, Windham and Luger win a quick match against Big Bear Colley and the Super Destroyer and then go for an interview with Bob Caudle and Tony Schiavone. “Well gentleman, I know you two must be upset about the Crockett Cup.” Tony Schiavone says to them. “Tony Schiavone,” Lex Luger answers, “yeah we’re upset. We were all set to win $1 million, and that little snot nose punk, Eddie Gilbert, costed us BIG. But, you know what? We still have these.” he says pointing to the World Tag Team Title belts. “And Horsemen, you’re not getting them back.” “That’s right.” Barry Windham chimes in. “Gilbert, looking at it, you are the perfect Horsemen. You are lying, deceitful, unscrupulous, dishonest, and backstabbing. And those are your good points. And I wouldn’t get too worked up over the U.S. Title. It was a travesty that my mentor, Dusty Rhodes, had to vacate that title. But, I will be in that tournament, too and I will not a little runt like you …” All of a sudden the Horsemen all attack Barry and Lex. The tag champs put a valiant effort, but the 5 on 2 ambush is too much. They are left battered and beaten by the dastardly Horsemen. Adding insult to injury, Eddie Gilbert slams the interview podium down on Windham and kicks him twice for good measure.

On World Championship Wrestling, this is shown over and over. Later, Gilbert comes out with James J. Dillon right before his debut match, and is laughing like a hyena. “J.J. did you see Windham’s face when I slammed those stairs on him? That stupid inbred didn’t know what hit him. He thinks he can best me in the U.S. Title tournament? I guess he realizes his days with Luger and the World Tag belts are almost gone with the wind. But Barry, it will do you no good. Soon you are going the way of that fat mentor of yours. G-O-N-E. Speaking of fatsos, let me take care of this schmuck they got in the ring for me.” Gilbert goes in to wrestle the Italian Stallion. The Stallion being both a staunch babyface and a solid wrestler puts up a good fight. But Gilbert is able to overall out wrestle him and dominates throughout with his crisp movements and scientific holds. After hitting a hard dropkick and following up with a hip toss, he sets the Stallion up for his patented Hot Shot (Throat first flapjack onto the top rope) and connects. He goes for the pin, but before Nick Patrick can hit 3, the Midnight Rider storms the ring and starts pounding on Gilbert.  James J. Dillon comes in to help, but is met with a hard elbow that sends him reeling. Arn, Ric and Tully storm the ring, but the Rider sees them coming and makes quick haste, escaping through the crowd.

On all NWA programming, it is announced that the next week on World Championship Wrestling that there will be a double main event; Lex Luger and Barry Windham will defend the World Tag Team Titles against Arn and Tully and Eddie Gilbert will be taking on the Midnight Rider.

Just days before the U.S. Title tournament, World Championship Wrestling braces itself for a monumental double main event. A pre-taped video is shown of The Midnight Rider at his camp site. “Well, Eddie Gilbert, the newest Four Horsemen. You thought you could come and do a number on the Midnight Rider’s good friends, Lex Luger and Barry Windham? Well Eddie, I tell you, that did not sit well with The Midnight Rider. The Rider looks out for his friends, but his enemies had better beware. I will NOT have you and your band of rogues run roughshod over the good people in this world. You can guarantee it!”

The World Tag Team Title match is first. Anderson and Blanchard come out with a determined look in their eyes. A look that says that they want their gold back. Luger and Windham, still sore (at least mentally) over the recent attack, have vengeance in their eyes. Luger and Blanchard start off and it doesn’t take long for tempers to flare and fists to fly. Teddy Long restores order, but it doesn’t take long for things to get out of hand all over again. James J. Dillon repeatedly tries to interfere, which after the fourth time, brings Sting out. He shoves Dillon and the two get into a shouting altercation. This brings out Ric Flair. Moments later, “Dr. Death” and Nikita Koloff are at ringside. Pretty soon all men are in the ring and the match ends in a double disqualification.

When the opposing parties are finally separated and order is restored, an irate Jim Crockett Jr. comes out and makes an announcement. “The outside interference as of late is getting way out of hand. Well the NWA is not about outside interference: it is about professional wrestling. Thus for the second main event match tonight, James J. Dillon is barred from ringside and any NWA employee who interferes will be heavily fined and suspended. I will have law and order in my ring!”

Match time comes and Eddie Gilbert comes to the ring first. Then the Rider’s music hits and he comes down riding his beautiful, black horse, Diablo. He gets off and gives the reins to a ringside attendant. Gilbert is screaming “Come on Rhodes! Tonight’s the night that mask comes off!” The Rider coolly slides into the ring and quickly gets up. Randy Anderson rings the bell and the two go at it. Though the Midnight Rider is clearly the bigger of the two, Gilbert is no slouch and besides being a skilled tactician is double tough. He uses every dirty technique he can- biting, eye gouging and low blows just to name a few- to get the best of the Rider. But the masked man is not exactly one to follow the rules either, and does not want “Hot Stuff” to be in any condition to win Dusty Rhodes’ U.S. title in six days. They go back and forth, Randy Anderson, giving considerable leeway to the rules. After a sustained offense, Gilbert, throws the Rider across the ropes and hits a well executed hip toss. He then smiles and signals for the Hot Shot. But as he whips the Rider across the ropes, he counters with a surprise Thesz press and starts wailing on “Hot Stuff”. He then takes him to a turnbuckle, rams his head as the crowd counts to 10, then hits a stiff bulldog headlock and goes for the pin. But before he can get the 1-2-3, the masked Texan makes a reappearance! He instantly starts attacking the Rider. While distracted, Gilbert grabs the Rider’s bullrope and clobbers him from behind with it. He and Gilbert work him over, the Texan holding the Rider while Gilbert repeatedly bashes him with it. Finally, Gilbert smiles and makes an unmasking motion. “Oh no!” Tony Schaivone says. But being ever savvy- or perhaps out of instinct- The Midnight Rider kicks The Texan from behind with a low blow and nails an unexpecting Eddie Gilbert with a hard elbow. Realizing he is outmanned, the Rider quickly slides out the ring and lives to fight another day.

 

May 13, 1988: United States Heavyweight Title Tournament

 

First Round

 

Jimmy Garvin

v.

Dick Murdoch

 

Winner meets winner of

 

Mike Rotunda

v.

Barry Windham

 

“Dr. Death”

v.

Al Perez

 

Winner meets winner of

 

Eddie Gilbert

v.

Nikita Koloff

 

1st Round

 

The tourney to determine the NWA’s #2 man is tonight. Starting things of is “Captain Redneck” Dick Murdoch taking on “Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin. Two veterans with contrasting styles, though both use the same finishing hold, the brainbuster. Garvin starts off with the advantage catching Murdoch off guard with quick punches and takedowns. He and Murdoch reverse an armbar a few times and Murdoch hits a hard elbow to gain control. But it doesn’t seem to last long as Garvin kicks Murdoch’s head after a back body drop attempt and hits a Russian leg sweep. He goes for the brainbuster, but Murdoch is still too strong and punches Garvin in the gut. He slams Garvin’s head into a turnbuckle, hits a snapmere, and cradles Garvin up for a pin. Putting his feet on the ropes for leverage, he gets three.

Next is the match between two the former partners, Windham and Rotunda. Rotundo wants to move up a title, and Windham wants to win the U.S. Title for his fallen mentor. As well as these two know each other, it is no surprise that they wrestle a top notch match, Rotunda using more amateur holds, Windham relying more on traditional pro wrestling. After Windham misses a lariat, Rotundo uses his airplane spin and gets a close two. He smiles at his manager Kevin Sullivan who gives him a big “thumbs up”. He attempts a butterfly suplex, but Windham blocks it and nails a triad of elbows then hits a hip toss. “Those were for Dusty” the young cowboy yells. He then clobbers Rotundo with a lariat, then hits a bulldog headlock for good measure getting the pin.

After the match he picks up the microphone. “I want to address what happened last Saturday night. Real convenient that when Jim Crockett says that any wrestler who shows up in that ring will be suspended that an unlicensed masked thug interferes. Well let’s see; big, fat, double tough, from Texas and I noticed you had chaps with ‘DM’ on them. Who could that be? Murdoch, I’m on to you! And in just a few minutes, I’m gonna tan your hide for what you did tried to do the Rider!”

“The Latin Heart Throb” meets the four time All-American in the third match. Perez, is a tough skilled tactician, but Williams, an excellent amateur wrestler as well as ox strong and leather tough, is no easy nut to crack. The devious “Playboy” Gary Hart, gives sage advice (and attempts interference), but in the end after a kicking out of Perez’s attempt at a spinning toe hold, Williams nails a hard football tackle and follows it up with a brutal Oklahoma Stampede, getting to the second round.

The last first round match features the Horsemen’s hope “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert against a sworn Horsemen enemy, Nikita Koloff. From the outset, Nikita is on the offensive, looking to dismantle the man who once briefly managed him. But like him or not, Gilbert is no slouch. More scientifically skilled than Koloff, he is able to keep the large Russian either grounded or incapacitated for much of the match. But Nikita will not go gently into the night, either. After reversing a turnbuckle whip he charges him and nails him with a sickle taking him over the top rope. Nick Patrick rules it was not intentional and does not call for the DQ. To halt Nikita in his tracks, James J. Dillon jumps on the ring apron. When Koloff goes over to him, Patrick has to jump in between them and he orders Dillon of the apron. This allows Gilbert to pull something out of his trunks. He climbs on the apron and Nikita goes to suplex him in. But in mid-air, Gilbert slugs him with his loaded hand, and covers Koloff, prompting Dillon to jump off the apron. Now undistracted, Nick Patrick comes over and makes the pin to the boos of the Houston crowd.

Second Round

The battle between the two big Texans is ready to ensue. “Dirty” Dick attacks Barry Windham as he is taking his vest off, getting a distinct advantage. “You think I’m the Texan, boy?” he says as he pounds on Windham. Well I’m more of a Texan than you’ll ever be, little Blackjack!” He pounds on Windham for several minutes, but eventually Barry blocks a punch and gives one of his own. Barry turns the tide and knocks Murdoch off his feet with a dropkick. He follows up with a hip toss, then throws Murdoch into the ropes and punches away as the crowd counts to ten. He then attempts a bulldog but Murdoch pushes him into the turnbuckle and follows up with a hard elbow to the back. Murdoch then throws Windham into the corner and starts wailing on him, punching and kicking him. He then adds bites and eye gouges and will not break. Eventually Randy Anderson, having counted to five for the third time, rings the bell and calls for the DQ, though it does not stop Murdoch who is obviously out to take out Windham and never was looking for a win. This is however thwarted by an approaching Midnight Rider, whose appearance causes Murdoch to scramble. The Rider helps Barry up, raises his hand to the Texas crowd’s cheers and helps his hurt comrade to the back.

Steve Williams, no friend of The Four Horsemen himself and also a very good friend of Dusty Rhodes, is ready to put Eddie Gilbert down once and for all. Gilbert and he know each other very well. “Doc” comes out fighting and takes an early advantage, at one point pressing “Hot Stuff” over his head to the crowd’s delight. But a simple eye poke changes the momentum and Eddie works over “Dr. Death” with everything he has. This doesn’t last though as Williams turns an attempt at a back body drop into a gutwrench suplex. He then hits a three-point stance shoulder block. He then picks Gilbert up for the Stampede but as he is running, Gilbert is able to slip free and run with Williams into the turnbuckle. He slams “Doc” into it, maneuvers it into a reverse roll-up, and grabbing Williams’ trunks, is able to get a quick three and advance into the finals.

Final Round

The final match of the tournament is here. Windam and Gilbert, both wanting U.S. gold equally bad for polar reasons, are ready to go at it. Windham, still a little beaten and bruised due to his match against Dick Murdoch, is nonetheless determined to do his mentor proud. Gilbert on the other hand, wants to prove to his new allies that he is indeed Four Horsemen material. Nick Patrick rings the bell and at each other they go. Using his natural quickness on the still groggy Windham, Gilbert moves ahead first, particularly focusing on fast pace and hit and run techniques to wear Windham out. He is also not above using fists and cheap kicks when he can. But Barry Windham is a fighter and is able to turn the tide. He works on Gilberts arm with an armbar, giving himself a little recuperation time. He turns it into a headlock and comes close to hitting a bulldog, which Gilbert blocks, knowing it would spell certain defeat. A James J. distraction allows a low blow to turn the tables to the Horseman. He quickly throws Windham over the top rope just before Nick Patrick turns around. Gilbert follows Windham outside and proceeds to ram his head into the ring post. Then stomps at his fallen opponent and climbs in the ring at 9. Nick Patrick restarts the count, Gilbert jumping up and down fully not expecting Windham to get back in. However, the Midnight Rider returns to ringside and picks up Windham, shakes and slaps him awake and throws him into the ring, beating the count at 8. After chewing out the Rider, Gilbert goes to work on Windham, but Barry catches his foot after an attempted kick, swings him around and delivers a right hand, followed by many others. The tall Texan is now “up and at ‘em”, and is ready to put “Hot Stuff” away. James J. Dillon jumps on the ring apron, but The Midnight Rider promptly pulls him down and starts to beat the dastardly manager, continuing where he left off at the Crockett Cup. Nick Patrick runs over and tells the two to “quit it”. The distraction allows Gilbert to pull the same foreign object from earlier out of his trunks and attempt to slug Barry Windham, but Windham blocks it, slugs Gilbert, and then kicks him, causing Gilbert to drop the object. Windham picks it up, nails “Hot Stuff” with his own foreign object and makes the pin. Nick Patrick makes the count and the crowd erupts as Barry Windham gets the three and wins the United States Championship. The Midnight Rider immediately enters the ring to congratulate him. “Dr. Death”, Nikita Koloff, Ron Garvin, Lex Luger and Sting all join him in the ring for the celebration. Nick Patrick goes over to Barry Windham to raise his hand and present him with the U.S. Title belt. But as he raises Windham’s hand, he notices the foreign object, which in the excitement, he forgot to discard. Patrick throws Windham’s hand down, grabs the U.S. belt from him and hands it to a just risen Eddie Gilbert, raising the Horseman’s hand. Flair, Anderson and Blanchard quickly come down and drag him out the ring as well as help James J. Dillon up. The five rule breakers happily celebrate their tainted victory as the sickened Houston crowd and the fan favorites look on in disgust.

May-June 1988

On the next World Championship Wrestling, matches are announced for the upcoming Clash of the Champions. Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard will get a rematch for the World Tag Team Championship against Lex Luger and Barry Windham. It is also announced that Ron Garvin will receive a U.S. Title shot against new champion, Eddie Gilbert. Additionally, The Texan will make his in ring debut against The Midnight Rider. The audience is then told that The Four Horsemen will be interviewed later on in the show.

A few segments in, the foursome and James J. Dillon come out for their interview and boy do they look happy. “Look at this! Look at this! I mean look at this!” says an ecstatic Eddie Gilbert. “I told you Ross, Schiavone that I was walking out of Houston with the U.S. Title and by God, I did it!” “Yes, you did.” Tony Schiavone responds. “But do you really think you earned it?” “Of course I did. What does that mean, Noah?” “Another thing:” Jim Ross says. “How much are you paying Dick Murdoch to prance around in a red mask and do your dirty work for you?” “Ross,” Tully Blanchard says, “for over a month now, Dusty Rhodes has been running around as The Midnight Rider and you two act like you don’t know him from a Central Park bum. Then low and behold, a big man who happens to say he is from Texas appears, and you two assume he is Dick Murdoch. That is ridiculous!” “And another thing, we’re not paying him anything.” James J. Dillon says. “We can’t help it if he doesn’t like Dusty Rhodes. I mean that’s a natural human reaction.” he says to laughs all around. “Rhodes, Windham, Luger, Garvin and all the rest of you,” “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair says, “you’ll are looking at the elite in professional wrestling today. Now and for all time. The Four Horsemen. We take what we want, when we want it. And if you don’t like it, too bad! You better learn to love it, because that’s the way it is, and it’s not changing! Woooo!” “Lex Luger, Barry Windham,” Arn Anderson says, “we already took the million dollars from you. And come just a few short weeks in Miami, we’re completing the circle and bringing the tag belts back to The Four Horsemen. Bank on it.” He then holds up four fingers and the others follow suit as the interview ends.

The next week on World Championship Wrestling it is announced that Sting, who has been wresting great matches with Ric Flair all around the country, often either winning by DQ or count out, or losing by a Flair cheat, will get a title match at the upcoming pay-per-view, The Great American Bash in July. This excites the crowd as Sting’s popularity has skyrocketed in 1988. Also, it is announced that the dreaded masked Texan will be giving his first interview later on.

The Texan’s interview time comes and he shows up looking as angry as a man whose face under a mask can, nearly hitting Jim and Tony with his cow bell. “Texan,” Tony Schiavone asks, “I am just going to come out and ask what is on everybody’s mind. “Are you or are you not, Dick Murdoch?” “AM I DICK MURDOCH!?” The Texan redundantly repeats. “Am I Dick Murdoch?” he repeats again. “I tell you, I have nothing but the utmost respect for Dick Murdoch. He is a class act all the way. But to answer your utterly ridiculous question, no I am NOT Dick Murdoch. I am The Texan as you can plainly see!” “Well all due respect, Mr. Texan,” Jim Ross says, “but why do you have chaps with the letters ‘DM’ on them?” “That’s none of your damn business, Ross” The Texan angrily responds. “Maybe it’s because I am a dirty man. Or maybe a dreaded monster. Bottom line, it doesn’t matter what my chaps say. What matters is come Clash of the Champions, The Midnight Rider is gettin’ unmasked and Dusty Rhodes is gonna be humiliated!” he says to end the interview.

Leading up to the Clash the action is intense as ever. On TV and house shows the Horsemen meet Luger, Windham, Sting, Ronnie Garvin and their allies in singles, tag team and six-man matches. Often The Midnight Rider, The Texan or both interferes, almost always leading to bloodshed and beatdowns. Usually an attempt on the mask of one or both of the two masked men is made on a given night, but both seem to guard their secret identities with their lives.

June 8, 1988: Clash of the Champions II: Miami Mayhem

The jam-packed Knight Center is filled with anticipation as the NWA’s second Clash is here. Both title matches and grudge matches are in the cards, not to mention interviews with both Sting and Ric Flair about their upcoming World’s Title match at the Bash.

The show starts off with a shot of the arena both inside and out. The screaming fans can’t wait for the night’s festivities to begin. And begin they do with the arrival of a black stretch limo. Out of it pops, all in black tuxedoes, The Four Horsemen and James J. Dillon, surrounded by beautiful women in evening gowns. Ric Flair looks at the camera and gives a loud “Wooo”, the others all flash the four fingers as they head inside the building.

After a couple of early matches, “Hands of Stone” Ronnie Garvin goes to the ring for his match against Eddie Gilbert. Looking as pompous as ever, Gilbert proudly showcases his newly won U.S. belt to the booing Miami crowd. Garvin has a determined look on his face to win the title tonight. It starts off with Gilbert using his agility and quickness. Garvin not surprisingly relies on his ruggedness and natural toughness. Gilbert uses a variety of hit and run moves, keeping away from the stronger Garvin. Each time he gets a reasonable distance he taunts his challenger. Eventually though after a drop toe hold takedown he taunts Garvin again and doesn’t move fast enough and winds up on the end of Garvin’s right hand. Not called “Hands of Stone” for nothing, this gives Garvin a decisive upper hand in the match. He uses an array of holds getting several near falls. He throws Gilbert into the ropes and charges but “Hot Stuff” sticks his foot out and nails Garvin in the mush. He then jumps to the second rope and delivers a hard double ax handle. The tide turned, Gilbert goes to work on Garvin. He gets a near 3 with a flying body press but Garvin kicks out. Blocking a Gilbert punch, Garvin retaliates and regains the advantage. He then knocks Gilbert down hard and signals for his Garvin stomp causing James J. Dillon to jump on the apron. Garvin runs over and Tommy Young has to step in between them. Young gets Dillon down, but by now Gilbert is back up, though acting woozy. Garvin charges with a clothesline, but Gilbert, partly playing possum, counters it into a Hot Shot and gets the three count.

A little later, a white limousine is shown approaching. Out of it comes, the World Title challenger at The Great American Bash, the Stinger. He is decked out in a white tuxedo, face painted. “Owwwwww!” He yells when he gets out the limo. Jim Ross goes over to interview him. They shake hands and Ross says “Tell me Sting, about your thoughts on your upcoming World Title shot.” “Well Jim,” Sting says, “as you all know, I’ve been calling Flair out. Putting the chase on ‘the dirtiest player in the game’. And come The Great American Bash, I plan on winning the World Title for all the little Stingers out there!” “That sounds great Sting. But as you know, Ric Flair is a great wrestler.” Ross says as Sting nods. “So tell us do you have any… Wait, I’m getting something over my headset.” Ross says with a now concerned look on his face. “Something is going on. Oh no.” A live stream in the Knights Center is now shown. Barry Windham is being brutally beaten by The Four Horsemen. He tries to fight back, but as it’s 5 on 1, there is little hope. Eddie Gilbert rips Windham’s vest off and Tully kicks him in the gut. Arn Anderson slams him head first into a table. They kick and stomp at him unmercifully. Finally they desist, but adding insult to injury, Arn Anderson takes his World Tag Team Title belt.

After a commercial break, Tony Schiavone and Bob Caudle exclaim their shock and horror over what has transpired. Jim Ross is set to interview the Horsemen. “What the hell is wrong with you five?” an angry Ross asks the Horsemen. “Got a little thirsty, Barry?” says a smug Eddie Gilbert. “Shouldn’t go wondering around alone now.” he finishes with a diabolical laugh. “Windham,” Ric Flair says, “you play with fire, you get burned! You shoulda known better!” “Barry Windham,” Arn Anderson says holding Windham’s World Tag Team Title belt, “this” he says holding up four fingers, “is the elite in this sport, bar none. Now you had something that belongs to us, now we have it back. Luger, if I were you, I would just come to the ring and drop your belt and be on your way. Play hero, and you will get hurt. I promise.” “In a few short minutes, the Horsemen will once again have all the gold. As it should be.” Tully Blanchard says to conclude the interview.

With spirits now dampened and the main event in jeopardy, the show must still go on. The Texan makes his way down to the ring, violently swinging a bullrope, nearly hitting Randy Anderson with it. Then the Rider’s music hits and he comes down to the ring. No horse this time, he charges in the ring. It doesn’t take long before the two rugged masked men are going at it. Neither one pays the rules any due. Realizing the nature of the match, Randy Anderson lets a lot more go than usual. After a few minutes of fighting they land outside the ring. The Texan slams the Rider into the guardrail and throws him into the ringpost. He then charges, but the Rider moves out the way. He then slams the Texan’s head straight into the ringpost, then bodyslams him. The Rider follows up with an elbow drop, but The Texan dodges it. He gets up and starts stomping the Rider, who eventually catches his foot and trips him. The two start choking on the floor. Realizing a normal match is not for these two, Randy Anderson happily counts to ten and ends the match, not that the ringing bell affects these two hated rivals any. The show goes to a commercial with them still going at it.

When the Clash returns, security has finally separated The Midnight Rider and The Texan. It is now time for the main event World Tag Team Title match. Arn and Tully make their way to the ring with James J., Anderson proudly wearing the NWA World Tag Team Title belt he stole earlier. Tommy Young repeatedly and fearlessly grabs for it and eventually gets it. Then Lex Luger’s music hits and he comes to the ring- alone. But ¼ down the walkway he pauses and turns around… and out comes Sting! Wearing no shirt and tuxedo pants, he high fives Luger and the two proceed to the ring, amidst strong Horsemen protests and massive crowd cheers. Not allowing for debate, Luger and Sting charge the ring and start swinging. Seconds later the ring is cleared. Arn and Tully cry “foul” but Tommy Young pays them no mind. He signals for the bell and when it rings starts a ten count. Arn reluctantly starts off against Luger at 9. Lex gets a quick powerslam on Arn which lights the crowd on fire. He then tags Sting who hits a big hip toss. Arn crawls to his corner and tags in a very concerned looking Tully Blanchard. He cautiously enters, but Sting soon gets the best of him. Though inexperienced as a team, Sting and Luger work together like a veteran duo. “They could be World Tag Team Champions.” Tony Schiavone commentates. But like them or not, the Horsemen are no slouches. Arn is able to hold on to the ropes, avoiding a Sting dropkick and the heel tandem works over the Stinger. “He can’t move all that well in those tuxedo pants.” Bob Caudle comments. As if they overhear him, Arn and Tully work on the young sub’s legs, weakening him for a possible submission. Tully puts him in a figure four. Close to his corner, he grabs Arn’s hands for leverage, always releasing when Tommy Young looks that way. On the verge of submission Sting starts to turn Tully over, but the veteran blocks it. Undeterred, Sting tries again, only to be blocked at the last second. Sting then yells to the crowd, turns again and would have it except for Arn’s interference. But this time, Tommy Young catches it and forces the break. Tully grabs Sting and tags in Arn, determined not to let Lex Luger back in. But making the same mistake Sting made earlier, Tully goes for a dropkick while Sting holds onto the ropes, enabling him to tag “The Total Package”. And Luger comes in with a vengeance.  He hits Tully with a hard clothesline, causing Arn to charge in and gets gorilla slammed for his troubles. Blanchard then gets hip tossed. Lex grabs the two challengers and rams their heads together as the now alive Knight Center voices its strong approval. Sensing trouble, James J. once again climbs on to the apron, but this time Sting knocks him off it. Arn Anderson charges, but Sting backdrops him over the top rope. Not being the legal men, Tommy Young can chastise the Stinger but cannot call for the DQ. Lex then picks up Tully and puts him in the human torture rack. Realizing he is going nowhere, Tully has no choice but to submit. He is summarily dumped from the ring and Tommy Young presents Lex Luger and Sting with both World Tag Team Title belts, the two proving they are indeed worthy champions, even if just for a night.

June-July 1988

The next episode of World Championship Wrestling promises an interview with The Four Horsemen for later on.  When the time comes, they come out, and are not looking happy. “We demand, Jim Crockett right now!” James J. Dillon declares. Obliging, Jim Crockett Promotions’ owner comes down. “What can I do for you?” he asks. “I tell you what you can do Crockett:” Tully Blanchard screams. “You can reverse that miscarriage of justice that happened on Wednesday! Sting is not a World Tag Team Champion!” “We” he says pointing to he and Arn “are the rightful champions.” “Well Tully,” Jim Crockett responds, “you raise an interesting point. One problem: After your attack on Barry Windham, Sting and Lex Luger came to me and asked if Sting could substitute for Barry Windham. I quickly contacted the members of the NWA Board, all of whom were watching, and they unanimously gave the go ahead for Sting’s substitution. So the decision stands!” This sends the Horsemen into conniptions. “And furthermore, due to your heinous, cowardly attack on Barry Windham, The Four Horsemen have been fined $25,000!” This sends them even further off. Ric Flair responds, “Crockett, this is not going to stand!” “Oh it will stand Ric, it will stand. In fact, the NWA Board of Directors is having a meeting later next week and further action will be taken on your attacks. I will give a report on that next week.” Mr. Crockett then leaves five very agitated Horsemen to gripe.

The next week Jim Crockett comes to the interview podium. All have been waiting with anticipation for his announcement. He starts by saying “As you all know, ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes was suspended for 120 days on March 26 for attacking yours truly. I will say right now that I voted against the suspension. That being said, due to the recent actions of The Four Horsemen, The Texan and The Midnight Rider- who has not been proven to be Dusty Rhodes, the Board of Directors has come to the realization that Dusty’s suspension was too harsh and effective immediately, he is to be reinstated. He in fact has already been informed and is here today. You will hear from Dusty later on.” The Atlanta crowd comes alive at this. “However, we still have the issue of The Midnight Rider. Now he and The Texan have made it clear that a normal match will not suffice for them. Thus the two will meet at The Great American Bash in a lights out, Texas Bunkhouse match. No disqualification, no count out. The loser must unmask. And if The Midnight Rider is unmasked and it is Dusty Rhodes, he will have his reinstatement revoked and will be suspended for a year.” “Also, we have decided to give Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard one more shot at the World Tag Team Titles. But if they are to attack Barry Windham or Lex Luger before the Bash outside of a sanctioned NWA match, or we deem they are responsible for another doing so, they will lose their shot and it will go to another contender. Thank you.”

The crowd is naturally hyped to hear from Dusty Rhodes. Finally towards the end of the show, the “Dream” makes his long awaited return, with Sting, Lex Luger and in his first appearance since the Clash, Barry Windham. “Welcome back ‘Dream’!” Jim Ross warmly says. “Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone, let me just say it is a pleasure to be back here in the NWA with all my fans and friends. The Four Horsemen tried to get rid of ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes once and for all. But you see, he will not go quietly into the night. No sir, not at all. And he is lucky to have such fine friends as ‘The Total Package’ Lex Luger, the Stinger, and this young man I raised like one of my very own, Barry Windham.” Still heavily bandaged, Windham now speaks. “Thank you Dusty. So Horsemen, you tried to take me out. And you tried to get this.” he says showing off his World Tag Team Title belt. “But thanks to my good friends Lex and Sting, you failed. Oh yes, you failed. But now I want some revenge. No clashes outside the ring- that’s fine. We can do it all in there” he says pointing to the ring “and keep it nice and legal”. “Arn, Tully, these belts are not leaving our waists.” Lex Luger now says. “I made you submit once Tully, and I’m ready to do it again. Bank on it!” “Flair, I didn’t get to finish my interview at the Clash. Let me say now, you’re mine! And if James J. gets in my way, I’ll knock his head off just like I did at the Clash! Owwww!!!” Sting enthusiastically yells. “Folks, The Great American Bash: The Price of Freedom coming July 10 in Baltimore live and on pay-per-view. Don’t miss it!” Tony Schiavone says to end a very pumped interview.

Later in the week on World Wide, it is announced that Eddie Gilbert will defend the U.S. Heavyweight Title at the Great American Bash against Nikita Koloff. After a successful U.S. Title defense against George South later on in the show, Gilbert is joined by the rest of the Horsemen for an interview. “Now Horsemen, what do you have to say about the recent events in the NWA?” Bob Caudle asks. “Bob Caudle,” Ric Flair says, “the Horsemen are as ready as ever. We are a well oiled unit. Rhodes, Sting, Luger, Windham, Koloff, you’re days are numbered and your times a comin’.” Tully Blanchard then adds “So Barry Windham, you want to hide behind the NWA corporate suits? That’s fine. We can beat you up in that ring as easy as we can beat you out of it. And we got a strict hands off policy. Anyone who touches you outside an NWA ring will have a bounty on their heads. And you try and fake an attack and we’ll sick our lawyers on you!” “That’s right, Windham.” Arn Anderson adds. “For too long you’ve held our World Tag Team Titles. At Baltimore, that will come to a screeching halt. And plan on getting hurt in the process. The Four Horsemen don’t take prisoners.” “And Nikita Koloff,” Eddie Gilbert now says “you want to be U.S. Champion again. Well don’t bank on it, commie. This belt is mine!” he says while patting it on his shoulder. In fact you know I wanted Dusty Rhodes to show that he and the Rider are one in the same, but in its ever corruption, the NWA once again stopped that one!” Now Eddie, you know before he knew his suspension would be lifted Dusty booked an obligation in Japan!” Tony Schiavone counters. “What are you on, Schiavone? That’s bull and you know it!” “No matter, Eddie.” James J. Dillon says, patting an irate Gilbert on the shoulder. “The Texan will once and for all prove just who The Midnight Rider is. Then the NWA will be forced to deal with Rhodes appropriately!” This draws laughs all around. “Andthis will reign surpreme!” Dillon says while raising four fingers, his charges immediately mimicking his actions.

Leading up to the Bash, the competition in the NWA is as tough as ever. Mysteriously absent, no doubt preparing for his big match in the mountains of the Diablo Canyon, the Midnight Rider is nowhere to be seen. Dusty Rhodes, however, is taking on the Horsemen and Dick Murdoch at every turn. The Horsemen reluctantly don’t go near Barry Windham or Lex Luger, save for official matches, which often get way out of hand. Heavily promoted and frequently mentioned, this year’s Great American Bash will doubtless be one for the ages.

Part III

Our story starts back up at the 1988 Great American Bash. Getting what is perhaps their last title shot, will Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard be able to recapture the World Tag Team Titles they lost over four months ago? Will Nikita Koloff be able to recapture the U.S. Title? Can Sting fulfill the prophecy and indeed become “the next World’s Champion?” And as this Bash is appropriately billed “The Price of Freedom” will The Midnight Rider be able to pay that price by beating The Texan and keeping his identity a secret? Or will he be unmasked, and if indeed is Dusty Rhodes be suspended? All answers await…

 

July 10, 1988: The Great American Bash: The Price of Freedom

The inaugural Bash pay-per-view is now underway. In a few moments, Nikita Koloff will have his chance to recapture the U.S. Title. Moments before his match he is interviewed by Bob Caudle.

“Nikita,” Bob Caulde says, Ôyour thoughts on your U.S. Title shot against Eddie Gilbert.” Nikita responds “So Eddie Gilbert calls me a Ôcommie’? Funny he wasn’t name calling when he wanted to manage me a couple of years back. But that being said, that is why Uncle Ivan chose him. He is crafty and shrewd. But look at me. I am still world’s greatest Russian athlete. And after tonight, I will be two times United States champion.” he concludes by raising two fingers, flexing his shoulders and arms and sticking out his tongue.

Both participants make their way to the ring for this important match. Gilbert knows that he cannot take an athlete of Nikita’s caliber lightly. And Nikita knows “Hot Stuff” will pull all the stops to retain his title. They lock up and Nikita throws Gilbert to the ground and flexes his muscles and sticks his tongue out. Undeterred, Gilbert locks up again to the same result. He comes in a third time, but this time pokes Nikita in the eyes. He puts him in a headlock and smiles at his predicament… until Nikita counters with a backdrop. “The Russian Nightmare” then goes to work on the Horseman champion. Gilbert eventually runs out the ring, calls a “time out” and confers with James J., while Teddy Long starts a ten count. Gilbert climbs back in and with some quick moves is able to take the advantage. He uses a lot of hit and run tactics on Nikita and tries to ground wrestle him as well. But Nikita is able to take everything Gilbert has and then some. He fires back with a barrage of high impact forearms and slams. After a few minutes, it looks very promising for the challenger. After a gorilla press slam he signals for his finishing Russian Sickle. This causes James J. Dillon to jump on the apron which in turn provokes Nikita to charge him. Dillon drops at the last second, Nikita just missing him. Koloff then turns around and sees Eddie and now charges him with the sickle. But Gilbert sees him coming and counters with a Hot Shot. He turns the mighty Russian’s mishap into a pin and gets a three.

The Horsemen already one up, Tully and Arn come down to the ring looking confident and determined. This is their moment to recapture the World Tag Team Titles. Barry Windham and Lex Luger are then introduced to a huge ovation by the crowd in the Baltimore Arena. After an exchange of harsh words, the two rival teams go at it, Luger and Anderson starting it off. It doesn’t take long for fists to fly, but Tommy Young will not let it turn into a donnybrook. “Keep it clean.” he warns the participants. They somewhat accede to his demands, though late hits and stiff shots are the norm. The two go back and forth with control, Arn and Tully seeming to maintain a slight edge over the champions. But Luger and Windham do NOT want to give their titles over to The Four Horsemen. The Horsemen get Lex Luger trapped and work him over, a couple of times he is close to tagging but both times the Horsemen cheap shot Barry Windham, provoking him to come in, which forces Tommy Young to send him back to his corner. This simultaneously allows a double team on Lex Luger and prevents Barry Windham from being tagged in. Seeing Lex hurt, Tully prances cockily around the ring and attempts his patented slingshot suplex. But Luger blocks it at the last second and counters with a suplex of his own. Both crawl to their corners, Blanchard making it to Anderson first… but Luger makes it to Windham! Coming in with a vengeance, Windham is out for Horsemen blood. In no time he is attacking both Arn and Tully amidst Tommy Young’s protests. Barry soon lariats Blanchard straight out the ring and then sets his sights on “Double A”. Arn gives an approaching Windham a hard kick and hits a surprise DDT, though Windham is able to block it partially. Lex Luger charges in, but Tommy Young quickly sends him back to his corner. While this is going on, Arn throws Windham against the ropes and as he hits them, Tully Blanchard hits a hard knee into Windham’s back. Anderson follows this up with another DDT which this time gets the 1-2-3. The Horsemen bask in the glory of for at least the next hour or so, holding all the top titles in the NWA.

But, the good times may not last that long. Sting’s music hits and outcomes the popular rising star to a massive ovation. He happily gives high fives as he comes down to the arena floor and climbs the ring for his match. Then “Sprach Zarathustra” hits and in all his pomp and circumstance, out comes “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Cheered by a few, booed by most, Flair is nonetheless ready to fight. But so is the Stinger. Tommy Young calls for the bell and the two rivals go at it. They lock up and Flair pushes Sting to the ropes. Tommy Young calls for a break and Flair, slowly backing away… gives it to him. They lock up again and this time Sting pushes Flair to the ropes. Tommy Young again calls for the break… and Sting delivers. They lock up a third time and Flair again pushes Sting to the ropes. Flair is called to break, which he does… but then slaps the Stinger right across the face. This incenses the challenger, who charges the champion, which Flair was hoping for. Flair turns it into a drop toe hold/side headlock takedown. Flair then lifts Sting, throws him against the ropes, drops to the ground as Sting comes back, Sting leapfrogs on the next exchange and then Flair attempts a flying body press… only to be caught by the Stinger, who proceeds to lift him and after holding Flair for several seconds, gorilla slams him down. He yells “Owwww!” to the crowd then flexes at “The Nature Boy”. He points at James J. and makes a strapping motion around his waist. Flair goes to the turnbuckle and Sting follows, making a rookie mistake as Flair pokes his eyes and kicks him in the gut. He then goes to work on his for now silenced challenger. Flair controls the match for several minutes. He has Sting in a tightly cinched hammerlock, which Sting reverses out of nowhere, surprising the five times World’s Champion. Flair reverses, then Sting reverses again. Sting turns it into an arm twist then into an armbar and picks Flair up and slams him arm first to the mat. He then takes it to the champion, determined to reach the top of the wrestling mountain tonight. After a minute he grabs the champion by the hair, ignoring Tommy Young’s warnings and slams Flair’s head into the turnbuckle ten times. He then lets Flair go… who walks a few feet and falls face first into the mat. Sting yells to the crowd and goes for the Scorpion Deathlock. Flair scrambles to the ropes and reaches them just as the Scorpion Deathlock is clinched in. Tommy Young calls for the break and Sting reluctantly obliges, after using four of the five available seconds up to hurt Flair as badly as possible. He then pulls Flair legs first from the ropes, and he hits the ground hard. Sting then throws him from one turnbuckle to the other and attempts the Stinger Splash, but Flair dodges it at the last second. Sting falls hurt and the very sensing Flair smells blood. He pounces on Sting like a ravenous wolf, taking it to his challenger with everything he has. He drags a fallen Sting to the turnbuckle, goes outside the ring and slams both his legs into the steel ring post. Ignoring Tommy Young’s threats of a disqualification, he drags Sting out and slams him headfirst into the steel barricade. He throws Sting back into the ring, crawls in himself and gives a very happy “Woooo.” to the crowd. He then locks Sting in the figure four leg lock and the end for the Stinger looks near. He clinches it on tight, and Sting is in such pain he is on the verge of submission. Tommy Young comes close to counting to three several times. But with the cheers of the crowd, something snaps in Sting. He fights to turn the figure four over, though Flair always manages to pull it back. He tries again and fails. A third time is also not successful. Flair lets out another “Wooo.” and this time Sting surprises him by turning quickly, instantly putting the pressure on Flair’s legs. In agonizing pain, Flair is able to pull away. But both men are now hurt. Flair is able to charge Sting and throws a punch, but the challenger blocks and punches the champ with a hard right of his own. Flair punches at Sting again, but is blocked, again. Sting turns this into a punch/kick combination, throws Flair across the ropes and hits a hard flying clothesline. He then picks Flair up and slams him. Flair crawls to the ropes and tries to pull himself up. An overexcited Sting charges at Flair, aiming for a flying body press, but at the last second Flair dodges, and Sting winds up hitting Tommy Young instead, knocking the much smaller official senseless. Flair sees his opportunity and goes after Sting. He punches away and backs Sting into a corner and hits a patented Ric Flair low blow. He laughs then attempts to throw Sting into the opposing corner… but Sting reverses it and immediately executes a vicious Stinger Splash. Revived with adrenaline, Sting yells “Owww” at the top of his lungs and proceeds to apply the Scorpion Deathlock. But a now worried James J. Dillon jumps on the ring apron. Sting drops Flair’s legs and stares daggers at the hated manager. All of a sudden Ronnie Garvin runs to the ring getting cheers from the crowd. Once in the ring, he tells Sting, “You get Flair, I’ll watch Dillon.” Knowing his good friend has his back, Sting locks Flair in the Scorpion Deathlock. Unfortunately, Garvin cold cocks him with a right hand, stabbing his former partner right in the back. He throws Flair on an unconscious Sting, pulls Tommy Young over to them, and shakes him till he is semi-conscious. Young makes a slow count, but eventually hits three. James J. jumps up ecstatically, and jumps in the ring with the World Title belt. He shakes Ronnie Garvin’s hands and Ric Flair now back up and fully cognizant, does the same.

After this, ring announcer Gary Michael Cappetta announces that all sanctioned matches for the night are over. The lights go out for a second, then come back on. The Texan makes his way down to the ring in full cowboy gear, swinging his bullrope as wildly as ever. Then The Midnight Rider’s music plays and he comes out riding Diablo, carrying a bullrope of his own. He stops midway to the ring, gives the reins to a ringside attendant and slowly walks to the ring. The Texan repeatedly swings his bullrope at him, but the Rider will not walk into the ring unsafely. Finally Nick Patrick gets The Texan to allow the Rider just enough room to enter. When he does, Patrick calls for the bell and the carnage begins. These two hated rivals throw everything but the kitchen sink at one another. Punching and kicking, biting and clawing, neither masked man shows any mercy. Both use their bullropes as weapons, especially the cowbell. Though both masked, it does not take long to determine both are soon bleeding. The blood blurs both their visions making them go at each either even more wildly. The Texan manages to lasso his bullrope around the Rider’s neck, then throws him over the top rope and proceeds to choke the life out of him. Sensing urgency, Nick Patrick intervenes, trying to pry the bullrope from the mammoth Texan’s hands. While the Texan is struggling with Patrick, the Rider regains his composure and is able to get his feet on the mat. He then throws the Texan over the rope to the floor and hits a hard elbow jumping down from the ring apron. He slams the Texan’s head into the guardrail then into the ringpost. He throws him back into the ring and starts to choke him with the bullrope. Returning the favor from earlier, Nick Patrick tries to pull the rope off the Texan’s neck. After several seconds of a tug-a-war, the Rider gets up and starts arguing with Patrick. “I am not letting you two kill each other!” Nick Patrick yells. This break gives the Texan time to recuperate and he hits the Rider with a low blow with the cowbell when he turns around. He then attempts to unmask the Rider, but the man in black refuses to allow that. The Texan hits four hard elbows then follows with an arm-wrench short arm clothesline, knocking the Rider down. He then picks him up for a brainbuster, but the Rider blocks it, The Texan tries again, but this time the Rider hits a lowblow on The Texan. He then picks up a bullrope, nails The Texan with it, puts him in a headlock and connects with a bulldog. He then pins his opponent and gets the three. The Midnight Rider immediately pulls The Texan’s mask off… and it is indeed Dick Murdoch! [1]

Out of nowhere all Four Horsemen appear on the scene. The Rider tries to fight them off, but already badly injured, he is soon taken down by them. Arn and Tully hold him while Eddie Gilbert and Flair laugh on. James J. Dillon then walks over and starts to take off the Rider’s mask. However, right before he can pull off the mask, he is nailed in the head with the cowbell by Dick Murdoch! He then hits Flair then Gilbert with it. Tully and Arn then start attacking him. Seconds later all five of them are on Murdoch until the Rider joins the fray, helping his former rival out. Then Lex Luger, Barry Windham, Sting, Nikita Koloff, “Dr. Death” and The Road Warriors all arrive and the Horsemen make haste. The faces are not sure what to think or do about Murdoch, but lucky for “Captain Redneck,” The Midnight Rider says, “Help him, he’s earned it.” The Great American Bash closes with The Rider and Dick Murdoch being helped to the back after beating each other senseless.

 

July-September 1988

For the first time in their illustrious history, The Four Horsemen now control the NWA’s three major titles. Even though they failed to get unmask The Midnight Rider and prove he was Dusty Rhodes, victory was still theirs at the Bash. A clip is shown of James J. Dillon and The Four Horsemen presenting Ronnie Garvin a large sum of money in a briefcase. Garvin acts like a little kid on Christmas morning, throwing the money up in the air and picking it up again.

On the first World Championship Wrestling after the Bash, Arn and Tully make quick work out of Chris Champion and Tim Horner in a non-title match. The Horsemen then have an interview.

“Well we told you we would do it, and we did it! The Four Horsemen now control all the major gold in the NWA. And we do not expect to drop any of it anytime soon!” James J. Dillon proudly boosts. “That’s right!” Eddie Gilbert says. “You idiots didn’t think that the Horsemen had it in us. Well this,” he says holding up four fingers, “represents wrestling’s elite-us!” “Now wait a minute.” Tony Schiavone says. “You did have a little help. Tell me is Ron Garvin now a Horsemen?” “Can you count, Schiavone?” Ric Flair rudely asks him. “There are Four Horsemen. Not five! Garvin is a fine wrestler- one of the very few who’s ever taken this” he says proudly pointing to his World Title belt, “from me. And I am sure we will ask him for some favors down the road. But no, he is not a Horseman.” “And I would like to add, that anyone who wants a shot at Tully and I’s belts had better think twice. We just got them back and we will do anything to keep them around our waists.” Arn Anderson says. “That’s right, Arn.” Tully says. “Road Warriors, Fantastics, Windham and Luger, Rhodes and Murdoch- which I can’t believe- but whatever! These our ours,” he says rubbing his tag team belt, “and don’t any of you forget it!” he says to end the interview.

Later on Dick Murdoch takes on Tiger Conway, Jr. Conway puts up a great effort, but he is out wrestled and out powered by “Dirty” Dick. Afterwards, Murdoch also gives an interview and is joined by Dusty Rhodes. “Dusty, Dick, I see it but I can’t believe it.” Jim Ross says. “The Texas Outlaws are reunited.” “Jim Ross,” Dick Murdoch says, “let me tell you: At the Great American Bash, The Midnight Rider took it to me like no man ever has. He whupped me, good! And Dusty,” he says looking at his once again comrade, “if you are in fact The Midnight Rider, please do not tell me. I do not want to know!” Murdoch states with a bit of a laugh with Dusty grinning as well. “But after a fight like that, there was no way I was letting The Four Horsemen come and pick the Rider apart!” “Dick Murdoch,” Dusty Rhodes says, “I’ve told you once and I’ve told you a million times, Dusty Rhodes was not the Midnight Rider! Right now, he is riding around in the Diablo Canyon. We may see him again, then again, we may not. Only time will tell. But Four Horsemen, watch it boys, because, Dickie and Dusty are back and there is gonna be hell to pay!”

On the next World Wide, Ron Garvin wrestles his former partner the massive Mighty Wilbur. At over 400 pounds, the good natured Wilbur is never an easy fight. But Garvin uses his speed, skill and stamina, along with his solid wrestling ability to wear Wilbur down. After a hard right and the Garvin stomp, “the man with the hands of stone” gets the victory.

He is then interviewed. “Ronnie, we’ve seen the clips a million times, now. How could you sell out Sting?” Bob Caudle asks him. “Bob,” Garvin replies, “let me tell you. I have nothing against Sting. He is a great wrestler and has a great future ahead of him. But Ron Garvin is in this business for one reason and one reason only;” he says raising his pointer finger in the air. “to make money. And The Four Horsemen had the right price. Now Sting, if I were you I’d go about my business and not bug me. Otherwise son, you will get hurt!”

The next episode of World Championship Wrestling has Sting facing The Russian Assassin. The Assassin is a dangerous contender and his manager, Paul Jones, and trainer, Ivan Koloff, are not exactly two guys to follow the rules. Sting uses all his finesse and quickness to take it to the big man. The Assassin tries to bully the Stinger, but being no pushover, Sting will not back down. After getting the best of Sting for a minute, the Russian Assassin throws Sting from one turnbuckle to the opposing one and charges, but Sting manages to move out of the way. He then does the same to The Russian Assassin but manages to connect with The Stinger Splash. He goes to apply the Scorpion Deathlock, which prompts Jones and Ivan to attempt a run in… but Lex Luger, Barry Windham and Ivan’s nephew, Nikita, make sure that does not happen, and Sting forces a submission from the overgrown Bolshevik.

After a commercial break, Sting is interviewed with his pals. “Sting, I know you must still be disappointed in what happened with Ronnie Garvin. He costed you the World’s Title.” Tony Schiavone says. “Well, Ronnie really let me down. But let me tell you Garvin, payback’s a you know what. And boy, it’s comin’. And Flair, I haven’t forgotten you either. Just wait. That belt will be mine. Owwww!” he yells getting a great reaction from the crowd. “Barry, Lex,” Jim Ross says, “I know the two of you must also be disappointed.” “Jim, first off, we want to thank all our wonderful fans.” Barry Windham says. “Without them we never could have held on to the World Tag Team Titles as long as we did. And don’t think it wasn’t appreciated. And we will get them back real soon!” “That’s right.” Lex Luger adds. “And we know there are a lot of great teams out there that want those titles-The Sheepherders, The Fantastics and The Road Warriors just to name a few. But we’ll take on all contenders; friend or foe.” Nikita Koloff closes the interview by saying “Eddie Gilbert, you get lucky with ÔRussian Nightmare’. We’ll see how much ÔHot Stuff’ you are the next time we meet!” He then flexes his massive shoulder muscles and sticks out his tongue, ending the interview.

A week later, The Midnight Express defend their United States Tag Team Titles against Joe Cruz and Kendall Windham, and shellack their challengers with a fair amount of ease. Afterwards, an irritated Jim Cornette demands an interview.

“Jim, you seem a little flustered.” Jim Ross comments. “What seems to be the problem?” “I’ll tell you what the problem is.” James E. angrily responds. “Since Arn and Tully regained the World Tag Team Titles, everyone’s been talking about ÔWho deserves a shot?’ and ÔWho are the number one contenders?’ Well, I’ll tell you who are the number one contenders; these men! ÔBeautiful’ Bobby and ÔSweet’ Stan, the United States Tag Team Champions. It wasn’t long ago that I brought The Midnight Express to the World Tag Team Championship. And this team is a more well oiled version of that one. They’re unstoppable. And we’re tired of playing second fiddle. Now I have the utmost respect for The Four Horsemen. But that respect is supposed to be mutual. And that means offering a title shot to your friends. But I have never gotten that very simple phone call from James J. Dillon. And I am here and now throwing the gauntlet down.” “The Horsemen vs. The Midnight Express? Folks, this would be huge.” Tony Schiavone comments.

The impact of this statement is immediate. Strange as it may seem, though both teams have existed in the NWA together for over two years, have both been in all three Crockett Cups, and shared tag team dominance, their paths have never crossed. Everyone is eager with anticipation to get the Horsemen reaction to this challenge. And it doesn’t take long, in fact it comes a mere week later on World Championship Wrestling.

Arn, Tully and James J. come out for an interview, “James J., by now you’ve heard Jim Cornette’s challenge. Your response?” Tony Schiavone asks the Horsemen’s representative. “Tony, I think we’ve all heard The Midnight Express’ challenge by now. And let me tell you Cornette, don’t get too big for your britches. Just because we’re friends, doesn’t mean that we will take any flack from you or your boys.” Pointing at Arn and Tully, he says, “You’re looking at the best tag team in wrestling. The U.S straps are nice, but there’s no substitute for World gold-none.” “But don’t you think The Midnight Express deserve a challenge?” Jim Ross asks. “After all, they are the number one contenders?” “Ross, we decide, who we challenge, when we challenge them and under what terms.” an irritated Tully Blanchard says. “Now if Cornette’s boys think they are up to the challenge of The Four Horsemen, well…” Blanchard says with a chuckle “they may want to make sure that Cornette’s mouth isn’t writing a check that their rear ends can’t cash.” “Eaton, Lane, I have nothing but respect for the two of you.” Arn Anderson says. “But we don’t tread on your territory, so please, do yourselves a favor, do NOT tread on ours.”

Things are really getting interesting in the NWA. The Four Horsemen’s not so subtle threats withstanding, Jim Cornette still demands a World Tag Team Title shot against Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard. Sting is busy pursuing revenge against Ronnie Garvin, the two having matches in house shows all over America. Ric Flair and Eddie Gilbert are defending their respective singles titles as well.

In the beginning of August, the situation really heats up. The NWA Championship Committee has ruled that The Midnight Express is the legitimate number one contenders and the Horsemen will be required to give them their rightful title shot. On World Championship Wrestling, while “Beautiful” Bobby dominates a singles match against Gary Phelps, Jim Cornette happily expresses his joy on this turn of events. “It’s just a matter of time. Look at Bobby. Now that guy he’s facing is no Arn Anderson or Tully Blanchard, but working as a team, my boys can’t lose!” However, a security guard suddenly approaches the podium and tells Jim Cornette something. Cornette’s face turns white and he runs to the ring and practically pulls “Beautiful” Bobby out of it, yelling “They got Stan!” The two then run to the dressing room with the camera following them. A minute later they come across a bloody and battered Stan Lane. Cornette is screaming for a doctor as Bobby Eaton tries to help his fallen comrade. Finally, EMTs arrive and take Lane out on a stretcher as his partner and manager concernedly look on.

Though it is obvious who did it, it doesn’t take long for the Horsemen to take credit.  A week later on World Championship Wrestling, all four come out to discuss the situation.
“Well Cornette, we warned you. And like so many fools before you, you didn’t pay heed. We already got to one of your boys, and soon enough if you don’t back down, Bobby Eaton and yourself will pay next!” James J. Dillon says. “Cornette, you should’ve known better than to mess with this.” Eddie Gilbert says, proudly flashing four fingers. “Next time you and your boys may not be so lucky.” “Lane, Eaton, we warned you.” Arn Anderson sternly says. “Now I don’t like hurting people when it’s not necessary, but you three made it necessary. Don’t do it again.” “Midnight Express,” Ric Flair says pointing to Arn and Tully, “these two men are like my brothers, you jump on them, you jump on me and ÔHot Stuff’, too. Keep listening to that motor mouth, and you’ll keep gettin’ beat up!” “That’s right.” Tully says. “And do you really think you have a shot at us? We’re the best tag team in the world. Period! In the ring or out, it will not end pretty for you.”

This starts a series of matches between the Horsemen and the Midnights. The matches more often than not end in a disqualification for one side or the other, or a double DQ. Ric Flair and Eddie Gilbert are very prone to run in. And of course neither, James J. Dillon nor Jim Cornette has ever been above breaking the rules. But the quality of their matches is top notch and does not go unnoticed. Thus for the upcoming Clash of the Champions, a title match is signed between the two teams. Additionally, both managers are barred from ringside and Eddie Gilbert and Ric Flair are told if they show up at ringside for the match they will be fined and suspended.

As the weeks progress, things heat up even more. Other great matches are signed for the Clash. Sting gets a grudge match against Ronnie Garvin. The Texas Outlaws are given a match against Eddie Gilbert and Ric Flair.

Shortly before the Clash, Sting and Ronnie Garvin meet in a house show in Seattle. It is an intense match, with Sting showing a ferocity heretofore unseen. Garvin is no less vicious, throwing rights and lefts at every chance. However, it is after Garvin attempts a piledriver, Sting back bodydrops his way out and dominates the rest of the match. He nails Garvin with the Stinger splash and locks in the Scorpion Deathlock, getting the submission. He sits on it for a while after, wanting Garvin to feel genuine remorse for betraying him (and some pain as well). Sting finally breaks the hold and walks away.

 

September 7, 1988: Clash of the Champions III: Fall Brawl

Tensions are running high as the third Clash gets underway. It is announced that after their match, Ronnie Garvin went looking for Sting in the dressing room. He found him, but Sting got the better of him and took Garvin out. Thus subbing for “the man with the hands of stone” will be Rick Steiner. Dusty Rhodes and Dick Murdoch and The Four Horsemen in a nut shell just want to beat the hell out of each other. And Arn and Tully are ready to assert their tag team superiority. Problem for them is that The Midnight Express is aiming to do the same.

Rick Steiner comes to the ring flanked by Kevin Sullivan. Sting comes out to huge cheers. Sting and Steiner, former partners who know each other quite well, approach the other with caution. But once locked up, the two go at it like vultures fighting over a dead carcass. Rick Steiner is determined to prove to Kevin Sullivan that he is a worthy member of The Varsity Club, something Sullivan and Mike Rotundo have doubted as of late. Sting, fresh off taking Ronnie Garvin, has a fire in his eyes previously unseen. Steiner relies more on mat wrestling and his amateur background. Sting on high flying and traditional pro wrestling holds. After a missed Stinger Splash, Steiner puts Sting in a Boston Crab, nearly getting a submission. Ever vigilant, Sting is just able to crawl to the ropes. But Steiner continues to beat him down. Attempting a German suplex, Sting blocks it and pulls Steiner’s legs from under him. Going on the offensive, he hits “The Dog Faced Gremlin” with a barrage of dropkicks and clotheslines not to mention a hip toss and a flying body press. This resurgence brings out Mike Rotunda, who distracts Randy Anderson. This prompts Kevin Sullivan to jump on the ropes, but “The Gamesmaster” miscalculates and Sting throws Steiner right into him, knocking him down and severely stunning his charge. Sting then follows up with a schoolboy rollup and gets the pin. Afterwards, both Rotundo and Sullivan chastise Steiner, thought their interference is what cost him the match.

The next match is a simple grudge match between two teams that are more out to hurt and humiliate their opponents rather than win or lose. Flair and Gilbert come to the ring first and really egg on the crowd. Then the Outlaws are introduced to a huge ovation. Murdoch and Gilbert start off but, “Hot Stuff” is hesitant to lock up with the much bigger “Captain Redneck”, who he knows quite well as both an ally and an enemy from their days in Mid South/UWF. Finally he is forced too, but goes for a low blow for the early advantage. He then acts like he is the toughest guy on the block, chastising the stunned Murdoch. But he carries his arrogance to far, and shortly winds up on the wrong end of Murdoch’s thunderous elbows. He and Dusty go to work on “Hot Stuff” giving Ric Flair a running for his “dirtiest player in the game” moniker. After enduring several minutes of eyerakes, scratches, low blows and hard elbows, a now desperate Gilbert tags out to Ric Flair who comes in slowly, not falling into the Outlaws’ trap while Gilbert recovers. But “The Nature Boy” shortly thereafter finds himself on the wrong end of “The Dream’s” bionic elbow, and wobbles into the wrong corner to be given an elbow by Murdoch. He then gets hit by a barrage of them by Dusty, who does his classical wind up before delivering the last one on a now stunned Flair. Seeing danger, James J. Dillon, gets both his men outside the ring for an emergency conference. After pow-wowing, Gilbert then climbs in the ring first, forcing Teddy Long to demand Flair come in, buying them more time in classic Horsemen fashion. Regrouped and recovered, the Horsemen now go on the offensive and are able to take control. Knowing that they have the edge in stamina, they try to keep the match moving faster and rely on fast tags. Working incredibly well as a team, the two heels are able to take it to the larger Outlaws. But neither Murdoch nor Rhodes is going to go down easy. After a Horsemen mishap, an injured Rhodes tags in Murdoch and he comes in with a vengeance. “Dirty” Dick hits both Flair and Gilbert with hard punches and elbows then rams their heads together. He then tosses out Gilbert and goes to work on Flair, the other legal man. After a hard right hand, he sets him up for the brainbuster, but Gilbert charges back in and pulls Flair’s legs down just in time to prevent it. That brings Rhodes in who goes to work on Gilbert. Teddy Long sends Gilbert back to his corner then insists on the same for Dusty Rhodes. Murdoch walks over to get revenge on the interfering Gilbert, who responds by throwing a ball of fire in Murdoch’s face! Now writhing in pain on the ground, he is an easy target for Ric Flair who wastes no time pinning him. Seeing Dusty come in with a steel chair, the Horsemen get out of Dodge, leaving Rhodes to tend to his fallen comrade.

The World Tag Team Title match arrives to close out the evening. A purist’s dream, two of the most technically sound teams in the business going at it with no nosing managers or stablemates to interfere. Both teams are surprisingly cheered as the public really wants to see this. And neither team disappoints. It is a tag team classic by all accounts. Momentum shifts back and forth between defending champions and challengers, both using there superb in ring skills and tag team dynamics like quick tags, efficient double teaming and cutting the ring in half to disenable their opponent to tag out. Several times it looks like one will win over the other, only for the tide to turn. Eventually after dropkicking at each other simultaneously, Tully Blanchard and “Beautiful” Bobby struggle to their corners. Both make the tag and Arn Anderson and “Sweet” Stan go at it toe to toe. Soon Blanchard and Eaton are back up and all four of them are going at it. Arn then attempts a DDT on Lane and Eaton attempts one on Blanchard. Both men counter them into small packages and Tommy Young simultaneously counts to three. The bell rings and there is mass confusion as to the results, both teams claiming victory. Both Jim Cornette and James J. Dillon make their way to ringside to plead their case. After hearing what seems like endless yelling from both teams and their managers, Tommy Young goes to the ring announcer and gives the decision. “Ladies and gentleman, we have a decision.” Gary Michael Cappetta says. “Stan Lane pinned Arn Anderson at the exact same time Tully Blanchard pinned Bobby Eaton. And as Lane and Anderson were the legal men at the time… The Midnight Express are the new World Tag Team Champions!” James E. cannot contain himself at this. He jumps up hysterically as his men are now presented with both the World and U.S. Tag Team Title belts. James J. Dillon, Arn and Tully protest to the hilt, Arn repeatedly saying “A draw goes to the champion.” to no avail.

 

September 1988

On the next episode of World Championship Wrestling, highlights of the Clash are shown to the audience. It is then announced that the NWA and Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard could not come to contractual terms and that they and that they were no longer NWA employees.  A short montage of their best moments is played and they are wished well in their new endeavors. It is also announced that Ric Flair and Eddie Gilbert will be taking on The Fantastics later on in the show and after the Horsemen will be interviewed on the recent developments

The two remaining Horsemen come to the ring as cocky as ever with James J. smiling away. Of course, Tommy Rogers and Bobby Fulton are no slouches and can never be taken lightly. No friends of Eddie Gilbert, bad blood still runs red from their days in Mid South. They engage in a very fast paced, hard hitting match. Knowing a win over the Horsemen on national television would be a huge break, Tommy and Bobby give it their all. Of course, that is a given against anyone who wants a shot to beat the Horsemen, four or two. Early on, Gilbert uses his first class taunting skills to get Bobby Fulton to lose his cool, which not surprisingly, the Horsemen take advantage of. As at the Clash, Flair and Gilbert team like they’ve been a regular unit as opposed to patchwork, tagging in and out regularly and using solid double teams. Not to be outdone, The Fantastics fight back and bring the Horsemen to the verge of defeat. Flair is down and out and Bobby Fulton is about to be launched on him from the top rope. Sensing urgency, Eddie Gilbert distracts Nick Patrick with a run in. This allows James J. Dillon, to grab at Fulton’s leg. He gets kicked away and Rogers’ launches him, but Flair manages to put his knees up. Patrick forces Rogers to his corner while “The Nature Boy” manages to tag “Hot Stuff”. Gilbert charges in and punches Tommy Rogers on the outside guaranteeing a tag is not made. He then picks up a still injured Fulton, hits the Hot Shot and gets the win for the Horsemen. He and Flair give each other a big high five as James J. Dillon walks in and pats both on the shoulder before the commercial break.

When the show resumes, Gilbert and Flair are now at the interview podium. “A great match champs.” Tony Schiavone says. “Thank you.” Ric Flair responds. “But we have to ask you, based on recent activity, what is the status of The Four Horsemen?” “I’ll tell you what are status is, Tony Schiavone- we’re great. Better than ever. Yeah losing Arn and Tully was hard, but we’ll be back on top. Cream always rises to the top. Woooo!” Flair responds. “That’s right,” James J. Dillon says. “This” he says holding up four fingers, doesn’t die with any one or two men. Ric Flair and Eddie Gilbert are the two premiere wrestlers in the NWA. And nothing is going to change that.” “That’s right, Schiavone!” Gilbert chimes in. “And just because those two losers couldn’t cut it in the NWA anymore doesn’t mean the Horsemen are going anywhere. In fact, we’re going to be stronger than…” “Wait, wait, wait!” Ric Flair interjects. “Now they may be gone, but they’re still my friends. We do not disrespect their name like that, Eddie.” “That’s right James J. Dillon concurs. “Their contribution to this sport and The Four Horsemen, short of Mr. Flair’s himself, is bar none.” “Ric, James, I am sosorry. That will not happen again.” Gilbert responds somewhat nervously. “Eddie, it’s not a problem.” James J. Dillon says. “Now moving on…” “But wait James J., one more thing,” Gilbert suddenly says, “this!” And he cold cocks James J. Dillon. Before Ric Flair can move, he is pounced on by Ron Simmons and “Dr. Death” Steve Williams. They proceed to pound him into the ground while Eddie Gilbert stomps on his former manager, all the while laughing maniacally. Adding insult to injury, Williams picks up the interview podium and slams it on an already bloodied and beaten up Ric Flair. World Championship Wrestling closes with Jim Ross saying “Oh my God…”

To be continued…


[1] This was actual a little known real gimmick. Murdoch appeared as the Texan at the 3rd Crockett Cup and what happened in my story went down as told. However, The Texan was never mentioned before or after Greensboro. I thought a rogue, heel masked man was a cool idea and so for this RTB, I brought it back. From http://www.thehistoryofwwe.com/crockettcup88review.htm  A masked man named the Texan (looks like Murdoch) comes in to attack the Rider.

Part IV

Our story continues with things in the NWA having been turned upside down. Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard have just left the company. In an even stranger turn of events, after a hard fought tag team win, Eddie Gilbert turned on Ric Flair and James J. Dillon, seemingly without reason and has now recruited the services of both Ron Simmons and “Dr. Death” Steve Williams. The future course of events has never been this uncertain in the NWA before…

September-December 1988

Confusion now reigns supreme in the NWA. In just a short period of time, Ron Garvin, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard are all gone and The Four Horsemen, until literally a week ago considered an iron fixture of the National Wrestling Alliance, is no more. Everyone is waiting with baited breath to hear from both Eddie Gilbert and his new cohorts, not to mention Ric Flair and James J. Dillon. On the next episode of World Championship Wrestling, it is announced that Steve Williams and Ron Simmons will team up and that an interview will then be given.

Simmons and Williams come down to the ring with Gilbert, apparently their new manager. Now hated heels, the former popular All Americans receive audibly loud boos which seem to faze them not in the least. The two’s opponents are Ron Ritchie and Bill Cody. Showing a ferociousness never before seen in Simmons and not in quite a while in Williams, the two systematically dismantle the two unfortunates. After a top rope shoulder block, Simmons tags in Williams who nearly puts a register on the Richter scale with an Oklahoma Stampede. A cockier than ever Gilbert jumps in the ring, congratulating his two men.

It is now time for the interview everyone has been waiting for. “Eddie,” says Jim Ross, “now I’ve known you a long time. And you’ve pulled some surprises before. But just what kind of coup have you pulled? I mean you turned on your friend and manager. And ‘Doc’ why would you ever go along with him?” Jim Ross says, now addressing Steve Williams. “First things, first, Ross!” Eddie Gilbert says, carrying a leather pouch. “Ric Flair, James J. Dillon, do you two think I’m stupid? Ric, since you founded the Horsemen it has always been about one thing; Ric Flair. Or more specifically, Ric Flair and him keeping the NWA World Title. And give the devil his due, he has done a great job. I mean he had those two schmucks who are now headed for higher ground ‘up north’ watching his back at every turn. Well Flair, when you called me, yeah you got the best as far as talent, but did you really think I was going to let you use me like those two?” Laughing he says, “You and Dillon should have known better. Eddie Gilbert moves mountains, he isn’t moved by them. Sure I took your invitation to join your little gang. But only as long as it suited me.” Pointing at his new charges, he says “But now, look at ‘Dr. Death’. Look at Big Ron. Last week, you and JJ got to witness the official reformation of Hot Stuff International!” “So that’s your plan?” says a furious Tony Schiavone. “You accuse Ric Flair of using you, and now you convince these two men to follow you for your own selfish gains!” Gilbert starts cracking up and his men follow suit. Putting his hand on Tony Schiavone’s shoulder, he says “Schiavone, I know you and Flair are old buddies, but you got it all wrong! You see, Eddie Gilbert isn’t a user, he’s a helper. An enabler! Want proof? Look at this!” Gilbert then opens the leather pouch and the two announcers’, especially Jim Ross’, jaws drop. “That’s right, Jim!” “Dr. Death” says. “That’s my UWF World Title belt! When the NWA liquidated the UWF, I was supposed to get a unification match against Ric Flair. But you know what? The pansy coward used his political pull to prevent it from happening! I got screwed!” “Calm down, ‘Doc’” Eddie Gilbert says. “Yeah, you got screwed, but we’re gonna fix it. We’re going to take care of everything. Mark my words: ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams is the next NWA World’s Heavyweight Wrestling Champion”! “And you,” Tony Schiavone says to Ron Simmons. “Why are you with them?” “Why I am I with them? I’ll tell you why I’m with them. Just like Eddie and Steve, I came from the UWF, too. And just like them, I’ve been held back! Now I know what this mind’s capable of,” he says pointing to Gilbert, “, and I’m tellin’ you a lotta people are gonna get hurt… Damn!” “So that’s what this is all about Eddie? You want to bring back the UWF?” Jim Ross asks “Hot Stuff”? “No Jim, that’s not it. Not at all. The UWF was great, but that blowhard Bill Watts couldn’t keep it up, even with the talent you see here. Granted the announce team left a lot to be desired… just kidding Jim!” he says with a maniacal laugh. “The UWF is dead and gone, but the men here haven’t forgotten how tough it was. And I plan on taking that talent, and reaching all the way to the stars!” Gilbert says, ending the interview.

With his newly reformed stable, Eddie Gilbert wastes no time making his already menacing presence even more known. Himself, “The All American” Ron Simmons and “Dr. Death” Steve Williams plow through any opponents put in their way. Ric Flair and James J. Dillon remain completely silent on the matter, behavior not typical of either man. Finally a match between Gilbert and Flair is set for the NWA Main Event.

The crowd has been anticipating this one for a while. Gilbert comes to the ring with Ron Simmons, Flair with Dillon. No words between the two are exchanged. Gilbert acts as cocky as ever while Flair just stares daggers at him. “That is notthe Ric Flair, I know.” Tony Schiavone observes. The two go at it and have a great match. Fists do fly, but Nick Patrick refuses to let either man toss the rule book out the window. Gilbert shows while he has a big mouth, he is still amongst the best of the best in the ring. And love him or hate him, Ric Flair is par none a wrestling legend. After having the “Nature Boy” on the rocks for several minutes, Gilbert throws Flair across the ropes in an attempted “Hot Shot”, but Flair counters and hits a Thesz Press and proceeds to punch the living daylights out of Gilbert. He then picks him up hits an array of chops and follows up with a snapmare. After that, he hits a knee drop, picks Gilbert up and rams his head ten times into a turnbuckle. He then releases Gilbert, who stumbles a couple of feet then hits the ground head first. Flair then applies the figure four on his former friend. Gilbert screams out in pain, and in seconds Ron Simmons charges in the ring, getting an instant disqualification. Flair gets up and starts swinging with the bigger Simmons, not backing down an inch. “The Nature Boy” really holds his own, at one point besting both Simmons and Gilbert and ramming their heads together. But then “Dr. Death” storms the ring and from there it is all down hill. He fights them as best he can and even James J. tries to help out, but the two of them shortly find themselves beaten and battered once again at the hands of Hot Stuff International.

On the next World Championship Wrestling, the closing moments of the NWA Main Event is replayed. Later Hot Stuff International is interviewed. “How can you justify your behavior?” Tony Schiavone asks Eddie Gilbert. “I’ll tell you justhow I can justify my behavior Tony: Ric Flair has spent the last seven years cheating and getting himself disqualified to hold on to the World Title. Anything I do in return is fair game! And who’s going to align themselves with him and Dillon? Lex Luger? They turned on him. Dusty Rhodes? He tried to help Flair out and he and his two turd cousins broke his ankle. The Midnight Express? The Horesmen beat up Stan Lane in the back.” You were part of that!” Jim Ross interjected. “Don’t interrupt me, Ross!” Gilbert replies. “Barry Windham: We beat him up in the back, too. The Road Warriors: Not after you slapped Hawk in the face. They can’t stand you. Flair, you’re all alone. But guess what? We’re adding on. In fact, Hot Stuff International, is now once again Hot Stuff and Hyatt International!” And then from the dressing room area comes out none other than Missy Hyatt. She jumps right into Eddie Gilberts arms and the two kiss one another. “Eddie, I am so glad to be back with you! We are going to take this company over!” That’s right Missy, that’s right!” Gilbert happily responds. “But Edddiiieee… remember, it’s not Hot Stuff and Hyatt International, it’s …” That’s right, sweetie.” Gilbert says putting his head down and putting his right hand on his forehead while shaking it and grinning. “It’s Hyatt and Hot Stuff International. I won’t forget again. And Flair, all you got is one old man watching your back… and that ain’t good enough! ‘Nature Boy’, better enjoy that belt while you can, because your days with it are numbered!”

Reunited, Hyatt and Gilbert at once try to assert supremacy in the NWA. They run roughshod over anyone who gets in their way. They bully not just opponents but officials and the ring announcer and the announce team as well. Uncovering two people more full of themselves would be a challenge even for the likes of Encyclopedia Brown or Sherlock Holmes.

But right before a tag match, Hyatt and Hot Stuff International hits a bump in the road they were not looking for. After Simmons and Williams squash two nobodies on World Wide, instead of just going back to the dressing room, they decide to beat their opponents even more. Williams and Simmons each execute a couple of extra powerslams for good measure and Eddie Gilbert slaps them both. Making things worse, they even hold them up while Missy gets in their face, taunting and then slapping them.

Finally deciding to leave the ring, they run into The Varsity Club going to the ring. At first everyone was diplomatic, giving friendly nods, but then it could not be agreed upon who would move out of whose way. They then start arguing profusely. Ringside security separates the two factions right before they come to blows and they are still yelling epithets at one another while being separated.

Immediately after this, a six-man match is signed between the two teams for the next week on World Wide. On World Championship Wrestling both teams are separately interviewed.

First is The Varsity Club. The three come down and Kevin Sullivan does not look happy. “Kevin,” Tony Schaivone asks, “what do you have to say about what transpired last week with Eddie Gilbert?” “I’ll tell you what I think Schiavone, I think Eddie Gilbert is an arrogant little toerag! He may get away with that with most people, but I’m Kevin Sullivan. And brother, you bit off more than you can chew! Look here, I got the best technical wrestler in the business, Mike Rotundo. And right here, not quite on Mike’s level, but still real tough, I got Rick Steiner. And I’m no slouch myself! “Mike, what are your thoughts on this?” Jim Ross asks. “Well, it real simple, Ross. Eddie Gilbert is just too big for his britches. Yeah Williams and Simmons were great college athletes. But better than myself or Rick? I think not. We’re The Varsity Club. That’s not something we take lightly. ‘Hot Stuff’… or ‘Cold Turkey’?” “And Rick” Jim Ross now addresses Rick Steiner. “You must have a strong opinion on this. After all Eddie Gilbert is your former manager.” “Well Jim, actually I…” “Hold on.” Kevin Sullivan interrupts. “Don’t confuse Rick. He doesn’t want to talk about Eddie Gilbert!”  Steiner responds, “Actually Kevin I would like to …” “The Games Master” interrupts Rick Steiner with a hard slap! “No you don’t! He’s old news to you! Don’t ever contradict me in public, Rick! Come on boys, this interview is over!” At this the three leave.

Later on, Hyatt and Hot Stuff International make their way to the interview area. Eddie Gilbert starts off. “So Kevin Sullivan. You Satanic jerk. How dare you embarrass me and my first family? I mean, we were willing to let you live side by side with the most dominant force in wrestling and that wasn’t good enough for you? Well Sullivan, I promise you, you are going to pay big time!” That’s right.” “Dr. Death says. “Mike, you’ve been running from me for too long. I could beat you for that World Television Title anytime we would face. And who knows, I may still do it. But either way, you three are going down next week on World Wide!” Missy Hyatt with her nasally voice then puts her two cents in. “All I can say is you three have no shot against my men! Kevin and Rick, you two are just too ugly, and Mike, you’re just stooopid!” Ron Simmons then just stands for speechless for several seconds with all eyes on him. “Damn!” “The All American” finally says to end the interview.

The main event on World Wide arrives. All eyes are on this heel vs. heel six-man match. Both teams seem perfectly cool and confident. Rick Steiner starts off with “Dr. Death”, both super tough yet technically sound competitors. Williams gets the advantage, and Hyatt and Hot Stuff work over “The Dog Faced Gremlin”. Capitalizing on a Gilbert mishap, Steiner is able to hit a hard clothesline and tag in Mike Rotundo. “He calls that the Steiner-Line.” Jim Ross says on commentary. The Varsity Club then takes it to “Hot Stuff”. But Gilbert, ever savvy, is able to slip away from Kevin Sullivan and tag in Ron Simmons. They then beat on “The Games Master” for a while. The advantage switches back and forth, neither team ever gaining a distinct advantage. After a while, all six men wind up in the ring fighting it out, Sullivan and Gilbert being the legal men. Mike Rotunda and “Dr. Death” wind up on the outside and are going at it full speed. Steiner disenables Ron Simmons out after he reverses a back drop and turns it into a belly to back German suplex. Kevin Sullivan is pounding away on Eddie Gilbert and signals for Steiner to come join him. Steiner locks Gilbert in a full nelson while Sullivan whips himself across the ropes to nail “Hot Stuff” with a hard knee… but at the last moment Rick Steiner releases Eddie Gilbert and hits his manager with a hard Steiner-Line! Gilbert quickly picks Sullivan up and hits a Hot Shot getting the pin. Rick Steiner goes outside the ring and he and “Dr. Death” together pulverize Mike Rotunda while in the ring Ron Simmons and Gilbert stomp a mud hole in Kevin Sullivan. Steiner and Williams then reenter the ring and Gilbert jumps right into Rick Steiner’s arms, him now obviously reunited with his former charge. “They’ve just gotten even stronger.” Bob Caudle says to close the broadcast as Simmons, Williams and Hyatt all welcome Rick Steiner back into the fold with handshakes, high fives and from Missy, a big hug.

With the rejoining of Rick Steiner, Hyatt and Hot Stuff International is now stronger than ever. Gilbert pairs Steiner pair up with Ron Simmons while “Dr. Death” now focuses on singles competition. The move proves a success. “Doc” goes through his opponents like a knife through hot butter and Simmons and Steiner click instantly as a team. Gilbert continues to successfully defend his U.S. Title while Missy cheers them all on (and sometimes interferes).

On World Championship Wrestling, Kevin Sullivan and Mike Rotundo come out for an interview, Sullivan looking very anxious. “Kevin,” Tony Schiavone says, “what do you have to say about Rick Steiner?” “Never mind about Steiner!” Sullivan angrily retorts. “He’ll be dealt with in good time. Right now, we have a more pressing issue. Ric Flair, since Eddie Gilbert turned on you, you’ve been a ghost. It’s time for that to end. You and Dillon get out here right now!” Kevin Sullivan’s calling out of the World’s Champion draws an immediate reaction from the crowd. Sure enough, “The Nature Boy” and his manager come out. “Look Flair, you and I have known each other a long time. And you’ve known Mike a long time, too. Same with you, James. I know lately we’ve been neither friend nor foe. But that has to change. Eddie turned on you and Rick turned on me. We have to unite to defeat a common enemy.” Ric Flair looks at Sullivan and Rotunda then turns to James J. and the two stare at each other uncomfortably for several seconds. Flair then finally says “Sullivan, you raise a good point. Thing is, James J. and I have done a lot of thinking about what we’ve done the last few years. And we ain’t proud. Not proud at all. We have bullied people, used our political clout to stay ahead and been outright thugs. And Kevin, let’s not pull punches. You’re not a nice guy. You’re the devil himself. But, as much as I hate to say it, that rat Gilbert is right. James J. and I have no friends. We’re marked men. And we realize that in these oh so turbulent times that we need allies. Sullivan, devil or not, you and Rotundo are great athletes. Great wrestlers. And if you hadn’t called on us, we would’ve called on you. But let me make one thing clear devil: We will unite with you to take on Gilbert. Do not expect James J. and I to engage in outside thuggery. Those days for us are over.” “Flair,” Sullivan responds “what you do on your own time is your business. You got a deal!” The two then shake hands.

With this new alliance, Gilbert and his army have a new force to contend with. After Rick Steiner and Ron Simmons beat The Fantastics on World Wide, “Hot Stuff” gives his two cents on the matter. “So Ric Flair and The Varsity Club have formed a union? Big deal! That’ll just allow us to kill two birds with one stone. Take a look at this team. Notice something different about Steiner? “Yes I do.” Bob Caudle says. “He is no longer wearing his Michigan outfit and headgear. He’s wearing red trunks.” That’s right.” Gilbert responds. “You know why? Because he is a professional wrestler, not an amateur one. Sure he, Ron and Steve were all great amateur athletes, but they’re in the NWA now. Their amateur careers are in the past, now.” “That’s right, Eddie.” Rick Steiner says. “Kevin and Mike were horrible to me. They picked on me, berated me and used me. But now, I am back where I belong.” “That’s right, Rick. Eddie is a winner and we’re going all the way to the top with him. …Damn!” Ron Simmons says!

As the weeks go on, the intensity between Hyatt and Hot Stuff International and The Varsity Club and Rick Flair reaches new levels. Reluctant alliance or not, Flair and his new allies do a great job watching each others backs. And it is needed as singles matches between the two factions are always cut throat and frequently end in disqualifications, double DQs or double count outs. Tag team and six-man matches have similar results. Often when a six-man tag match happens, the referee is always forced to throw it out because order is impossible to keep. And neither party limits violence matches between the two. Run-ins when they are involved in matches with other parties are also quite common.

In late October on the NWA Main Event, Mike Rotundo clashes with Eddie Gilbert for the U.S. Title. Rotundo being a great mat technician and all around talented wrestler, plans on giving Gilbert a wrestling lesson. Gilbert though will not go down easy and the two engage in a great match up. At one point, Rotunda sets Gilbert up for a suplex, but Missy Hyatt grabs his leg and distracts him. This causes Kevin Sullivan to chase her around the ring. Hyatt runs back to the dressing room and Sullivan chases her while the match continues. Not realizing it though, Sullivan falls into a trap and is attacked by “Dr. Death”, Rick Steiner and Ron Simmons. A couple of minutes later, a beaten Sullivan makes his way back out to the ring. Seeing his manager in that condition, Mike Rotundo exits the ring taking a count out loss to help out Sullivan.

After a commercial break, Gilbert is interviewed with Missy, both laughing hysterically. “Is Sullivan that stupid?” he cackles into the microphone. “I mean did he think I would let Missy be put in harm’s way? Come on!” “That’s right Eddie. We have some stupid enemies. And where was your friend Ric Flair? Hiding scared, that’s where!” “Ric Flair was not here today.” Tony Schiavone replies. “Whatever!” says an agitated Gilbert. “He wasn’t here because…” Gilbert stops upon seeing Barry Windham approach. “What do you want Windham?” Gilbert yells. “I tell you what I want, Eddie. Since you reformed your little gang, you’ve been walking around here like you own the place. You and your thugs can only win by ganging up on people. Since June, you’ve held that U.S. belt even though you don’t deserve it. Well, I am here to say here and now, I am going to beat you for that belt!” He then sucker punches Gilbert. Windham continues to pound on him while Missy shrieks, then hightails it to safety upon seeing Gilbert’s three charges approaching.

The next World Championship Wrestling opens with Ron Simmons and Rick Steiner taking on the very formidable Lightning Express. Though outsized, Brad Armstrong and Tim Horner use their experience, speed and wrestling ability to stay in the game. But in the end, the raw power and explosiveness of Steiner and Simmons is too much for them to handle. Ron Simmons catches Tim Horner diving off the top rope and ends the match with a hard powerslam. After the match, Eddie Gilbert promises to “drop a bombshell”.

In the middle of the show “Dr. Death” takes on long time rival, Dick Murdoch. Both as tough as nails and with no love lost, this is a predictable slobber knocker. The seasoned Murdoch, now a crowd favorite hits “Doc” with everything he has, including those hard elbows of his. But Williams is equally ferocious. The match goes into the second hour of the show and Murdoch starts to run out of gas. He tries for a clothesline, but Williams ducks and nails him with a hard football tackle. He then picks him up and hits the Oklahoma Stampede, getting the win.

After a commercial break, all of Hyatt and Hot Stuff International are assembled, looking as happy as can be. “Eddie, you said you have something to tell us?” Jim Ross asks him. “That’s right, Ross. But first, Barry Windham. Had to stick your nose in my business didn’t you? You want this?” Gilbert says pointing to his U.S. belt. “Well, good luck, but it ain’t gonna happen you inbred redneck!” he says drawing boos from the crowd. “And you’re gonna regret that stunt you pulled on The Main Event. Mark Eddie Gilbert’s words on that one. On to other business. ‘Dr. Death’ here is going to be the next World’s Champion. And Ron and Rick are going to be the next World’s Tag Team Champions. And as you can plainly see, I am already the United States Heavyweight Champion. And speaking of me, Jim as you remember, I was once the UWF World Television Champion. In fact, I held that title longer than anyone ever in either the UWF or Mid South!” That is correct.” Jim Ross says. “Well, I was wondering who I should get to take the NWA World’s Television Title from Mike Rotundo. I was just stumped… until I thought ‘Why not get the one guy talented enough to take the UWF Television Title from me?’ And that is exactly what I did. Ladies and gentleman, please welcome, the next NWA World Television Champion andnewest member of Hyatt and Hot Stuff International, Shane Douglas!” At this, the young star strolls in and is warmly greeted by his new comrades. “Thank you Eddie for that warm greeting. But, I know I was lucky when I beat you!” Gilbert and Hyatt both start saying “No.” and shaking their heads at this. “But I’ve grown a lot since then. And I know if I got lucky against the great Eddie Gilbert, well Mike Rotunda, you better take all the pictures you can with that belt, because it’s going around Shane Douglas’s waist!”

Now bigger and stronger than ever, Hyatt and Hot Stuff International goes on a rampage. “Dr. Death” continues his winning streak, adding huge names such as Bam Bam Bigelow, Dusty Rhodes, Lex Luger and Barry Windham to his list. Shane Douglas shows incredible potential, putting away the likes of the Junkyard Dog, Dustin Rhodes, Kendall Windham, and with extensive outside interference, Kevin Sullivan. Rick Steiner and Ron Simmons continue their tag team dominance, defeating the now former World Tag Team Champions, The Midnight Express, the reunited Koloffs, Barry Windham and Lex Luger, and various combinations of Kevin Sullivan, Mike Rotundo and Ric Flair- all in heated matches loaded with interference and rule breaking.

Their dominance does not go unnoticed by the NWA Executive Committee. The main event for Starrcade 88 is announced that it will be “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair defending the NWA World Title against “Dr. Death” Steve Williams. Shortly thereafter, it is announced that “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert will have to defend the U.S. Title against Barry Windham.

But before Starrcade, there is an upcoming Clash of the Champions. Two very important matches are slated for it. One is a World Tag Team Title match, pitting the new World Tag Team Champions, The Road Warriors, against Ron Simmons and Rick Steiner and a six-man main event featuring Eddie Gilbert, “Dr. Death” and Ron Simmons vs. Ric Flair, Mike Rotunda and Kevin Sullivan.

After decimating two opponents and beating them even more senseless after the match, Hawk and Animal along with Paul Ellering, give their thoughts on their upcoming title defense.  Hawk says “So, Gilbert, Steiner, Simmons, do you think we care that these fans don’t like you? We don’t care what they think. They didn’t like Cornette’s boys, but that didn’t stop us from stomping a mudhole in them in New Orleans, now did it? Now you two are bigger and tougher than The Midnight Express, but do you really want a piece of the LOD? I DON’T THINK SO!” “That’s right, Hawk.” Animal says. “We’ll gladly add them along with Rhodes and Sting and the Midnights to the notches on our belts. The Road Warriors destroy anyone and everyone in their paths, right Paul?” “Right you are, Animal, right you are! Eddie Gilbert, your boys don’t stand a chance against my sons. And if you or that wench dare interfere, the parts of you I don’t disassemble will be finished by Hawk and Animal!” Paul Ellering says, sounding 100% believable in capability and intent.

December 7, 1988: Clash of the Champions IV: Season’s Beatings

The Chattanooga fans in the UTC Arena are anxiously awaiting the NWA’s last major card until Starrcade. To say bad blood is flowing would be an understatement. A lot of ground stands to be gained and lost tonight. Moments before their first match, Hyatt and Hot Stuff International are interviewed by Bob Caudle.

“Eddie, tonight is a big night for you and your troops. What do you have to say?” Bob Caudle asks him. “You are 100% right Mr. Caudle, tonight is a huge night for us. First, Rick and Ron are going to show The Road Warriors that they are not as tough as they think they are. Oh, and Ellering, you lay a hand on Missy or me, it will be the last thing you ever do. Bank on it! And you think your such a great mind?” Gilbert asks. Tapping his head he says “Paul you’ve met your match with me. And then, ‘Doc’, Shane and myself are going to take it to The Varsity Club and Ric Flair. Total domination is rapidly approaching!” “That’s right, Eddie.” Ron Simmons says. “Now Hawk and Animal, you two are tough, real tough, but Rick and I, we both tough, too. And unlike you, we got training both in the schools and on the streets. You only got one. And that ain’t enough!” “That’s right.” Rick Steiner says. “I am going to suplex you two all over that ring! Remember, we are not The Midnight Express!” Dr. Death then chimes in “Flair, I plan on giving you a taste of what’s coming to you at Starrcade tonight. And champ, it ain’t gonna be one bit pretty. Sullivan, Rotunda, I got something for you, too!” Shane Douglas closes out by saying “Flair, Sullivan, Rotundo, you represent the past, the old guard. You are now looking at the new guard. The torch if not passed, will be forcibly grabbed and dragged out of your hands. And it is going to happen soon. Very soon.”

Steiner and Simmons come down to the ring for their match first, being accompanied by Gilbert and Hyatt. Then Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” hits, and down comes The Legion of Doom. They come to the ring at a brisk pace, though don’t charge as fast as normal. Steiner and Simmons do not retreat, nor do they, Gilbert or Missy make the same mistake as The Midnight Express and Jim Cornette, and keep their eyes on both Road Warriors and Paul Ellering until the referee clears the ring of all but two men and calls for the bell. Ron Simmons and Hawk start it off. Hawk pushes Simmons in an effort to intimidate him, but “Big” Ron pushes him back. Hawk pushes again and Simmons follows suit. Hawk then slaps him and is slapped back. Soon fists are flying. Teddy Long warns them to stop but is ignored. While going at it, Hawk is able to make a blind tag and while Simmons’ back is turned, he is hammered with a hard clothesline. This brings Eddie Gilbert on the apron to complain, but he is quickly told to leave by Teddy Long. The Road Warriors work over Simmons a bit, then Animal goes to work. He hits a hard flying shoulder block that would impress even Simmons’ old Florida State coach, Bobby Bowden. He throws Simmons against the ropes and tries a clothesline, but Simmons ducks and blind tags in Rick Steiner. While running after hitting the ropes, Steiner nails a hard Steiner-Line on Animal, bringing Paul Ellering to the apron. Once again, Teddy Long does his job and demands Ellering get down. Steiner nails a backdrop on Animal and goes for a pin, getting only one. “It’ll take a lot more than that to take Animal out.” Jim Ross says on commentary. Steiner and Simmons attempt to deliver that lot, working over Animal something fierce. After a couple exchanges and hard body slam, Steiner attempts a belly to back suplex on Animal, but he blocks it. While struggling, Hawk attempts to walk in, and causes a distraction, which enables Animal to reverse kick Steiner with a low blow. He then tags in Hawk who pounds on the now hurt Rick Steiner. He throws him across the ropes and picks him up for a gorilla press and slam. He then sticks his tongue out at Missy and Eddie and says “How do you like that, ‘Hot Stuff’?” The Warriors then do their thing against Gilbert’s men, taking it to them full blast. They get several near falls, and would have put a lesser opponent away. But “The Dog Faced Gremlin” proves to be a tough nut indeed to crack. After a while though, he seems to be fading. After yet another hard slam, Animal tags in Hawk and hoists Steiner on his shoulders. This means only one thing; Doomsday. A frantic Eddie Gilbert jumps on the apron and is immediately admonished by Teddy Long. Seeing her cue, Missy Hyatt climbs on the apron and tries to trip Hawk, but the Road Warrior sees it coming and grabs Missy by her hair, causing her to let out an intense, shrill scream. Paul Ellering has by now grabbed Eddie Gilbert by the legs and pulled him off the apron and the two are engaged in a slug fest. But seeing Teddy Long still has his back turned, Ron Simmons enters the ring and clips Animal, causing Rick Steiner to collapse on him. He then goes over to Hawk and punches him-causing him to release Missy- then slams him off the top rope. Steiner and Simmons now join arms and nail Animal with a hard double clothesline. They then both throw Hawk out between the second and top rope. Simmons then goes outside to help Eddie Gilbert out with Paul Ellering. Steiner nails a hard belly to belly suplex on Animal and gets the pin and wins the World Tag Team Titles for his team. Seconds later he and Simmons are back in the ring with Eddie and Missy having their hands raise and the World Tag Team Titles presented to them and they are all as jubilant as can be.

Before their match, The Varsity Club and Ric Flair are interviewed. James J. Dillon comes with them, but remains as silent as he has been for quite some time. Bob Caudle starts “Gentleman, you three have a huge match tonight. Any thoughts?” “Yes we do have thoughts- lots of them!” Kevin Sullivan says. “Gilbert, you and your punks think you can best me, Mike Rotundo and Ric Flair? Well guess again! Mike is the World’s Television Champion and Flair is the World’s Heavyweight Champion. We are the best! And when I get my hands on you, just wait. It’s not going to be anything pretty!” “And let me ask one thing: Shane Douglas, who the hell are you?” Mike Rotunda says. “I mean Gilbert pulls you out of nowhere, starts calling you the next big thing and it goes to your head. Do your really think you deserve a shot at this?” he asks tapping his belt. “I don’t think so. Get in line. I have bigger fish to fry.” Ric Flair then says. “So, ‘Dr. Death’, you got your shot at Starrcade. Do you really think you can beat ‘The Nature Boy’? Yeah, you held the UWF title, but let me remind you, this is not the UWF. It is the N W A! And I don’t care what Gilbert has been putting in your head, you ain’t getting my gold! Woooo!” The four then leave to make last minute preparations for their match.

The main event of the night hits and the two teams come out. Hyatt and Hot Stuff International looks cool and confident and The Varsity Club and Ric Flair look ready to fight. Shane Douglas antagonizes his opponents by calling them “old men”. This bothers Flair in particular, who insists on starting. But, ever shrewd, Gilbert has “Dr. Death” start for his side and refuses to budge. Eventually, Flair locks up with him. Williams throws him across the ring and flexes his shoulders, causing his partners to laugh at the fallen Flair. Ever determined, Flair goes in for another lock up… and pokes Williams in the eyes at the last second. He then starts punching away on him. Now yelling instead of laughing, Gilbert and Douglas are crying “foul”. After a few punches and kicks, Flair brings Williams to his team’s corner and he and The Varsity Club go to work- all being experts on foul play. Tommy Young steps in between them and forces a break. Flair tags in Sullivan who then continues the onslaught. No one in the business can smell a hurt man quite like “The Games Master”. He picks Williams apart for a bit, then tags in Rotundo. With a great amateur background, Rotunda starts using high impact takedowns and holds on “Dr. Death”. But then, he surprises everyone and shoves Williams to his corner, insisting on Shane Douglas. At Gilbert’s demand, Douglas reluctantly tags in. He is slow to approach, Rotunda, who is anxious to teach his would be challenger a lesson. Eventually they lock up, and Rotundo promptly takes him down. He then releases him after messing his hair up then demands another lock up. He gets it and does the same, again. Mike Rotundo is now laughing quite hard. They lock up a third time with similar results. But he laughs a little too hard this time, and Douglas connects with a hard right hand. He then hits a hip toss and works on Rotundo. Not wanting to press his luck, he tags in “Hot Stuff” who always anxious to kick a man who is down, happily obliges. He takes it to Mike Rotundo, using his solid technical background to best the TV champion. Hyatt and Hot Stuff International then “cuts the ring in half” and works on their foe. After a bit, “Dr. Death” attempts a shoulder block with Rotundo’s back against the turnbuckles, but Rotundo dodges it at the last second and Williams hits the ring post  hard. This allows him to tag in Kevin Sullivan who goes after “Doc” with a vengeance, raking his eyes, biting, clawing and scratching at him. Now with the advantage, The Varsity Club and Flair want to make a point and beating Eddie Gilbert’s top dog would indeed do just that. After hitting a shin breaker, Ric Flair lets out a loud “woo” and attempts to put Williams in his signature figure four leg lock. But “Doc” kicks him to his corner and Mike Rotundo is tagged in. He charges Williams, but showing amateur depth of his own, Williams neutralizes Rotunda with a leg takedown and tags in Shane Douglas. Douglas goes right to work on Rotundo, hitting a hard vertical suplex. He gets up laughing and then out of nowhere slaps an unexpecting Ric Flair across the face. This is too much for “The Nature Boy” who storms in. In no time all six men are in the ring going at it. Tommy Young tries to restore order with little luck. Kevin Sullivan and Eddie Gilbert wind up on the outside fighting. “Dr. Death” is neutralized with a Flair low blow, allowing him and Rotunda to double team Shane Douglas, whom neither can stand. Rotundo holds Douglas for Flair to wallop and Flair charges at him full speed. But at the last second, Douglas breaks free and Flair winds up punching Rotundo instead. Seeing the opportunity, Douglas nails Flair with a swinging neckbreaker. A still stunned Mike Rotunda charges him only to get caught with a belly to belly suplex, which Shane turns into a pinfall. After regrouping, Hyatt and Hot Stuff International goes to the dressing room to celebrate a hard fought but nonetheless very successful night.

In the ring, The Varsity Club, Flair and Dillon are recuperating. Rotundo looking really angry, starts chastising Flair who is a bit shocked. “You hit me, Flair!” he screams. “Can’t you do anything right?” “Hey, you couldn’t hold that chump!” Flair retaliates. “Don’t blame me!” Kevin Sullivan then wallops Ric Flair from behind. He then hits James J. Dillon then throws the bespectacled manager out of the ring. Turning on their former partner, Rotunda and Sullivan take out their frustration on Flair, pounding “The Nature Boy” unmercifully. Rotundo hits Flair with the World Television Title belt. Then he and Sullivan position Flair on the ropes upside down for Kevin Sullivan’s tree of woe. But before he can hit it, James J. Dillon comes charging back in the ring swinging a steel chair. He nails Sullivan, and underestimating him, Mike Rotunda gets nailed in the jaw, causing him and “The Games Master” to scatter. With a wild look in his eyes, Dillon dares either Sullivan or Rotundo to return to the ring. “I’m sick of this crap! No More!” Dillon screams. After making sure, there would be no more attacks, James J. puts down his chair and attends to his hurt charge.

December 1988

The effects of the Clash are immediately seen. On the next episode of World Championship Wrestling, it is announced that The Road Warriors will be receiving a rematch against Ron Simmons and Rick Steiner for the World Tag Team Titles at Starrcade. Also due to his pinning of Mike Rotundo in the six-man match, Shane Douglas has been granted a shot at the World Television Title for the pay-per-view. It is also announced that Ric Flair and James J. Dillon, Hyatt and Hot Stuff International and The Varsity Club will all be heard from. With Starrcade only weeks away, the ante is raised even higher than usual in the NWA.

After Mike Rotunda successfully defends his title against Mike Jackson, The Varsity Club has their say. “Tell me gentleman, how do you explain your actions?” Tony Schiavone asks them. “Let me tell you something, Tony Schiavone.” Kevin Sullivan starts. “Like me or hate me, and most people hate me, I have never once hid who I am. Ric Flair, you knew if you couldn’t get the job done, there would be repercussions. And you failed us. And we don’t take kindly to failure. Now we have other fish to fry besides you, so your probably off the hook for a little while, but don’t get too comfortable, because if ‘Dr. Death’ doesn’t beat you for that title, Mike will.” “That’s right, Kevin.” Mike Rotundo says. “You are looking at the premier athlete of today. Shane Douglas is right about one thing: Flair, you are washed up. Oh and Douglas, you got lucky. Reallucky. But son, don’t let it get to your head. ‘Cause come Starrcade, I am going to take it to you like I have never taken it to anyone in my life. I am going to teach you the meaning of the word ‘respect’.”

Later on in the show, Shane Douglas meets Randy Mulkey. The popular jobber gives a gallant effort, but is outmatched by the up and rising star. After only about five minutes, Douglas catches Mulkey in a belly to belly suplex and gets the win. Afterwards, him, Missy and Eddie Gilbert put in their two cents.

“So, Mike Rotundo, you didn’t think I could match up to you? Well who pinned whom? That’s right. And furthermore, I now have a shot at the NWA World Television Title. I am already getting worked up over my future title reign. Mike, bank on this, come Starrcade, you and The Varsity Club are going down!” Douglas says making a thumbs down motion. “That’s right, Shane.” Eddie Gilbert chimes in. “And after I beat Windham, Rick and Ron teach Hawk and Animal yet another lesson, and of course when you and Doc win your title matches, Hyatt and Hot Stuff International will control all of the gold, which is our destiny. There’s no stopping us!” “No stopping us at all, Eddie!” Missy says. “I love being around all these tough good looking men with all the gold. And after Starrcade, I’m going to buy some brand new sparkly jewelry to go along with all my men’s gold!” “That’s right, Missy.” Eddie Gilbert agrees. “Only the best for you!” he says and ends the interview with a kiss.

Finally, the men everyone wants to hear from comes out. “Ladies and gentleman, Ric Flair and James J. Dillon!” Tony Schiavone says. The World’s Champion and his manager come out to a loud ovation. Then James J. takes the mic. “Folks I know I haven’t had much to say lately. First, two of my long time charges, two men I was and am very fond of, leave the company. Then another one of my men turns on me, and leaves me and this man for dead.” he says pointing to Flair. “In all my years in this sport, I have never had my spirits broken like that before. And I didn’t know if I could recover. But when Kevin Sullivan and Mike Rotundo attacked Ric Flair and I… well something snapped. It made me realize that for now and maybe forever, Ric Flair and I would be in this thing alone. Well, that’s OK. Because he is the greatest wrestler in the history of this sport. And I’m not such a slouch as a manager, either.” “James, you’re the best.” Ric Flair says. “Bar none! And Rotundo, Sullivan, you think you’re getting off the hook. Nuh uh! No way! ‘The Nature Boy’ is going to dismantle you two, just like he is going to take care of ‘Dr. Death’! And Williams, don’t even kid yourself that you are on Ric Flair’s level. That UWF belt, it doesn’t have the names of Frank Gotch, of Ed ‘Strangler’ Lewis, of Jack Brisco, of Harley Race or any of the other greats. Brother, at Starrcade, I’m putting you in your place for good. And Gilbert, we haven’t forgotten what you did. Rest assured, your day’s comin’! Woooo!”

It is more than safe to say that the road to Starrcade has started. Tensions are high, bad blood is boiling and it is all heading to a heated climax at “the granddaddy of them all”. As the days and weeks go by the competition intensifies rather than relents. Ric Flair, with a sparkle back in his eye not seen in a couple of months, is defending his title around the clock. “Dr. Death” Steve Williams continues to go through anyone in his path, determined to meet his destiny head on. Both Shane Douglas and Mike Rotunda put on impressive performances, everyone taking notice of Douglas’ continuous improvement. Of course, the question is “Will it be enough for Mike Rotundo?” All of the NWA’s other competitors step up their game as well.

As Starrcade draws ever closer, Eddie Gilbert “evens” one score. On World Wide, Barry Windham wrestles an intense match with The Russian Assassin #1. Though overpowered, Windham still has a large skill advantage over his opponent and is no slouch in the strength department, either. Fending off various attempts at interfering- and thanks to the watchful eye of Nick Patrick, avoiding the “old switcharoo” with The Russian Assassin #2, Windham is able to get the win after pinning the Soviet monster with his lariat. However, the good times do not last long. Just after his hand is raised, Shane Douglas and Rick Steiner charge the ring. Windham fights them off as long as possible, but after a long hard fight, he is outmatched. The dirty work done, the U.S. Champion and Missy Hyatt come down to the ring. Steiner and Douglas hold Windham while laughing in his face, Missy slaps the proud Texan. Gilbert then punches him and the three men kick him while he is down while Missy jumps up and down screaming with glee. Finally, Sting and Lex Luger charge the ring. Seeing them coming, the heels make a hasty retreat, regrouping on the outside where they share a group hug and a big laugh as Sting and Luger attend to their fallen comrade.

On the last episode before Starrcade, determined for a little revenge, Ric Flair takes a huge gamble and puts his World Title on the line against Television Champion Mike Rotundo on World Championship Wrestling. If Rotunda wins, the main event at Starrcade will be in limbo. But Flair, the proud fighting champion, does not care and demands the match. The NWA Championship Committee finally relents. The fans already holding their breath for Starrcade to arrive, are given a sneak treat on the kind of match they will see. And the two champions do not disappoint. It is an enduring match, between two of the most skilled wrestlers alive, both with a mean streak in them. Even with the fire in his eyes, Flair never loses his cool and sticks to his game plan on matching Rotunda hold for hold and of course getting the occasional cheap shot or low blow in. Rotundo executes a similar strategy, relying more on amateur holds, though Flair is well versed in these as well. A sucker punch followed by a butterfly suplex nearly gains Rotundo the World Title, but Flair is able to get a foot under the ropes at two. Sensing weakness, Rotundo tries it again, but this time Flair blocks it and hits a hard forearm. Grabbing Rotundo’s tights, he then throws him out the ring to the floor and follows. He slams the TV Champion against the guardrail then rams his head into the ringpost. Kevin Sullivan is approaching ever closer, but is taken from surprise when James J. Dillon swats him with his loaded shoe in the back of the head. Sullivan then stumbles right into a Flair right hand and goes down. Flair then throws Rotundo back in the ring, hits a shinbuster and locks on the figure four. Though in great pain, Rotundo won’t quit. But with Kevin Sullivan out of it, James J. lends Flair a hand by grabbing the World Champion’s hands for leverage. This increases the effect of the hold and though he won’t quit, Rotundo starts lose his concentration and after the third pin attempt, Randy Anderson’s hand hits three, giving “The Nature Boy” all the momentum in the world going into the event he made famous.

December 26, 1988: Starrcade 88: True Gritt

Very appropriately billed “True Gritt” this Starrcade promise to be the grittiest on record and Starrcade is not exactly an event known for being for the faint of heart to begin with. Many buckets of blood, sweat and tears have been filled at the NWA’s flagship event, and this night definitely promises not to disappoint.

Shane Douglas comes to the ring for his Television Title match, now wearing red trunks with yellow fire on them, accompanied just by Missy Hyatt, who is now wearing a similar outfit, to the tune of Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” though Mr. “Hot Stuff” has opted to stay behind to prepare for his later title defense. Mike Rotundo comes out next with Kevin Sullivan and fresh off defeat, neither looks happy. The bell rings, and after both receive last minute instructions, the World Television Title defense begins. Rotundo takes it to Douglas hard, hitting his less experienced opponent with everything he has. But, Douglas earnestly believes that tonight is his night and will not let the champion push him around. Both Missy and Kevin Sullivan cheer on their charges, both at first teasing but not actually using interference. Rotundo uses his experience and skill to gain the advantage and works Douglas over. He uses his old airplane spin from his babyface days and gets a very close two count out of it. He then attempts a butterfly suplex, but Douglas counters with a neckbreaker. Both men hurt, they slowly get to their feet, charge each other and clothesline the other. They get up slowly again, Douglas beating Rotundo to his feet. Shane hits a flying body press and gets two before Kevin Sullivan puts Mike’s Rotundo’s left foot underneath the rope. Just missing Nick Patrick’s eye, “The Games Master” puts his hands in the air and laughs it off. He is then tapped on the shoulder and he turns around thinking it is just Missy Hyatt, and gets a belly to belly from his former pupil, Rick Steiner! Seeing this, the champion attempts to go to Sullivan’s rescue, only to get cold cocked by Shane Douglas. Douglas then lifts Rotundo in the air, hits his Pittsburgh Plunge (Fisherman brainbuster) and becomes the new NWA World Television Champion, with Missy and Steiner immediately congratulating him.

Shortly thereafter, The Road Warriors and “Precious” Paul come down to the ring looking none to happy. “Revenge is ours.” Ellering says to the camera. Then coming down with neither Gilbert nor Missy, are the World Tag Team Champions, following a pattern both are decked out in red tights with yellow flames. The second they get in the ring The Road Warriors attack and it is shortly an all out slugfest. None of these four bruisers are about to give an inch. The fighting makes its way to the outside and continues. Randy Anderson insists that only two men reenter and the match officially gets underway with Steiner and Animal starting off. Predictably hard hitting, momentum swings back and forth between these two teams as they bide for power. Finally, after knocking Rick Steiner out the ring, the Warriors set Ron Simmons up for the Doomsday Device. However, Shane Douglas runs down to ringside and slams an unsuspecting Paul Ellering’s head into the ring post. He then pushes Hawk off the top rope, causing a disqualification. Douglas then rolls into the ring and is met by an enraged Animal, and takes a brief beating until a recovered Simmons and Steiner rescue him and put the hurting on Animal and then Hawk as he attempts to save his partner. All three of the LOD laid out, Gilbert’s three charges raise there hand in victory, regardless of a technical defeat.

Shortly before his U.S. Title Match, Barry Windham is interviewed by Magnum T.A. “Barry, you came so close in May to winning that title, and Gilbert has held it ever since. Then that ambush he pulled on you recently. Your brain must be swarming right now.” “No Magnum,” Windham replied, “I am actually very clear. You see I know what Gilbert’s made of. He can’t do anything without his henchmen. And yeah, I should have won that belt back in May, but that is a mistake that’s shortly going to be eradicated tonight. ‘Hot Stuff’ you’re going cold turkey!” “Good luck, Barry.” Magnum says to the challenger and then shakes his hand.

Windham comes down to ringside with a fiery look in his eyes. Gilbert comes down escorted by Missy Hyatt, looking as calm and cool as ever with Donna Summer playing in the background and not surprisingly, also wearing red trunks with yellow fire. [1] Gilbert is slow to start the match, going in between the ropes when a lock up is about to take place, irritating both Barry Windham and Tommy Young. “Follow the rules, ref!” Missy yells from the outside. Finally Windham ignores Young and advances, only to get poked in the eye by Gilbert, who lets out an obnoxious laugh then pounces on his challenger. Hitting Windham with a barrage of quick moves, he executes a series of rollups, cradles and small packages, hoping to make it a quick night. But Barry Windham is too ring savvy for that and the most the champion can get is two. Windham then blocks one of Gilbert’s punches, counters with one of his own, then turns the tide of the match, really letting “Hot Stuff” have it. A lariat knocks Gilbert out the ring and Missy helps him up and the two hightail it to the back. But Windham quickly charges and apprehends Gilbert and throws him back into the ring. Gilbert is able to mount a comeback, but tonight Barry Windham will not be had. After a hard suplex, Windham then smiles and says “Gilbert, now you’re really going to the woodshed.” He then reaches into his tights and pulls out a black glove. “That’s just like his father’s, Black Jack Mulligan’s!” Jim Ross exclaims. Windham then clamps on the iron claw and Eddie writhes in pain. Shane Douglas, Ron Simmons and Rick Steiner attempt to save their mentor, but they are headed off by Barry Winham’s good friends, Lex Luger and Sting, who are determined for this match to take its natural course. After over a minute of excruciating pain, Gilbert faces reality and gives up. Tommy Young forces Windham to break the claw and calls for the bell, then presents Barry Windham with the U.S. Title belt. Sting and Luger come down and congratulate their friend and new United States Heavyweight Champion as the Norfolk crowd roars its approval.

The main event draws near. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair and James J. Dillon are interviewed right before the big match by Magnum T.A. “Ric, James J., this is it.” Magnum says. “The World Title, ‘the granddaddy of them all.’ Your final thoughts?” Ric Flair breathes in for several seconds then replies “Magnum, how fitting you would interview ‘The Nature Boy’ and James J. Dillon at this crucial juncture.” Flair says as Dillon nods. “After all we’ve been through, you knowwhat’s going through my mind. Gilbert, Williams, you’ve been pushing me and MY MANAGER around for too long. It comes to a screeching halt tonight. Starrcade is Ric Flair’s night to shine. And brother, don’t expect anything different tonight. Woooo!”

All of Hyatt and Hot Stuff International are gathered for an interview with Tony Schiavone. Eddie Gilbert still looks the worse for wear. “A mixed night, Eddie.” Tony Schiavone says. “Shane Douglas wins the World Television Title, Ron and Rick keep the World Tag Team Titles, but you lose the United States…” “Never mind that!” Gilbert interrupts. “None of that matters right now. All that matters is this man,” he says pointing to “Dr. Death”, “winning the World’s Heavyweight Title, an honor he is so much overdue. And ‘Nature Boy’ neither you nor your four eyes manager is going to be able to stop him.” “Flair,” “Dr. Death” says, “make no mistake, I do respect what you are and what you have done in that ring. It cannot be denied. But Flair, equally realize that tonight, right here in the Norfolk Scope, my legacy begins!”

“Hot Stuff” plays once again, and “Dr. Death” escorted by both Missy and Gilbert confidently comes down to the ring, wearing a now red warm up robe with yellow flames and a yellow skull on the back. Then “Sprach Zarathustra” hits and outcomes “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair and James J. Dillon. Looking as cool and confident as ever, the World’s Champion “walks that aisle” as only he can. Finally, the bell rings. It is obvious from the get go that both competitors have a lot of bent up frustration that needs releasing. Hard punches and chops are immediately thrown. Flair will not back down from his larger opponent nor will “Doc” be intimidated by Ric Flair’s mystique. An array of holds are exchanged between the two, both trading control. Throwing the champion across the ropes, Williams knocks Flair outside the ring with a hard shoulder block. He then distracts Randy Anderson as Gilbert and Hyatt “put the boots” to the champ. James J. charges over to help his comrade, causing Gilbert and Hyatt to back off. Randy Anderson turns around, and seeing foul play, warns all parties to “knock it off!” Flair reenters and Williams takes it to him. But Flair is able to catch a charging Williams with a drop down toe hold to retake control of the match. After backing Williams into a corner with a series of chops and punches, Randy Anderson pulls him off the challenger and Flair obliges while making sure he distracts Anderson. James J. Dillon wastes no time returning the favor and jumps on the ring, proceeding to choke “Dr. Death”, causing Eddie Gilbert to charge at him to force a break. Dillon jumps down to avoid Gilbert and Randy Anderson once again turns around and senses foul play. This time he has had enough, and says “You’re all outta here!” to James J., Gilbert and Hyatt. They all protest, but Randy Anderson is adamant. Finally the three begrudgingly leave and Anderson signals to the competitors to continue. With no more outside interference, Flair and Williams wrestle a classic match, Flair relying more on classic wrestling and endurance, Williams on power moves and his amateur background. Flair attempts a clothesline but Williams ducks and hits the ropes and nails Flair with a hard forearm, busting the champ wide open. He then pounces on the hurt Flair, pounding him unmercifully. He attempts his Oklahoma Stampede, but Flair is able to slip away and pokes Williams in the eyes. He works on the challenger, specifically targeting his legs. He hits a shin breaker, then signals for his figure four leg lock. He goes to apply it, but Williams kicks him to the turnbuckle, and Flair’s head hits hard, busting him open even more. Williams gets up and hits the World’s Champion with a series of hard punches, causing him to drop. He then hits a three point stance shoulder block. After that, he picks Flair up and slams him against a turnbuckle, though not releasing him. He then runs and hits his Oklahoma Stampede. Randy Anderson counts 1-2-3 and a new World’s Champion is crowned. All of Hyatt and Hot Stuff International comes down to the ring, jubilantly congratulating “Dr. Death”. Randy Anderson awards him the belt. No one pays any attention to a proud but clearly upset James J. Dillon carrying the fallen “Nature Boy” to the back.

December 1988-January 1989

To call Starrcade a major victory for Hyatt and Hot Stuff would be a gross understatement. Yes Ron Simmons and Rick Steiner lost, but they retained their titles. And while Eddie Gilbert lost the Unites States Championship, that pales in comparison to “Dr. Death” Steve Williams winning the World Heavyweight Championship. And of course Shane Douglas’ upset over Mike Rotundo can’t be discounted either.

Gilbert’s wastes no time asserting his new found air of authority. On the first taped episode of World Championship Wrestling after Starrcade, it is announced that later in the show, Shane Douglas will be defending his World Television Title against Ric Flair. All of Hyatt and Hot Stuff International gather for an interview before the match. “You people doubted me, you all doubted me.” Gilbert says. “And now look, I control… we control the most powerful, most prestigious title in the land, the World’s Heavyweight Championship. And as great as 1988 was, 1989 is going to be that much better!” “That’s right Eddie.” “Dr. Death” says. “To all those who said ‘Dr. Death’ wasn’t on Ric Flair’s level, well look at this!” he says pointing to the NWA World Title. It’s living proof! And I am not letting anyone take this from me, ever! “And Flair, don’t even think of taking my title.” Shane Douglas says. “It’s not going to happen. My victory at Starrcade was my first step in establishing Shane Douglas as the NWA’s franchise player. And you are not going to ruin that for me, old man!”

Later on in the main event, Flair enters in a rare role as challenger. Still he is obviously determined to “take Shane Douglas to the woodshed”. Douglas then comes down with both Missy and “Hot Stuff”. Surprising everyone, Douglas handles himself extremely well against Ric Flair on his first title defense. He soundly executes his holds and is not overwhelmed against the legendary former World’s Champion. But Flair still has a large edge over his younger, greener opponent and even still recovering from his grueling loss at Starrcade controls most of the match. He turns Douglas’ stomach red with a barrage of chops, then downs him with a hip toss. He picks him up and tosses him from one turnbuckle to the other, but Douglas reverses it. However, Flair skips over the turnbuckle, runs to the next ring post, climbs it and nails Douglas with a hard chop. He then starts to apply the figure four only to have Eddie Gilbert charge the ring. Flair fends off “Hot Stuff” but it shortly turns into a five on one. James J. Dillon tries to help, but is beaten down as well. World Championship Wrestling ends with Hyatt and Hot Stuff International proudly standing over their vanquished foes.

Eddie Gilbert’s rampage of destruction continues. Shane Douglas beats Mike Rotundo on World Wide in a rematch for the World Television Title. Additionally, he, Steiner and Simmons win a great match against The Road Warriors and Paul Ellering on The Main Event. And “Dr. Death” wastes no time showing his physical prowess, dominating every opponent he faces.

On World Championship Wrestling, Ric Flair has demanded and gotten a match against Eddie Gilbert for the show’s main event. Gilbert is as cool and cocky as ever. Normally calm and collected, Ric Flair looks like he wants to rip “Hot Stuff’s” head off, a not uncommon reaction from Eddie Gilbert’s adversaries. James J. Dillon does his best to keep Flair’s temper under control, knowing Gilbert will be able to capitalize much more on an out of control Ric Flair. Flair is obviously off his game and Gilbert wastes no time taking advantage of his former Horsemen ally. But even not at 100%, Ric Flair can never be taken lightly. The former World’s Champion takes it to Gilbert as best as he can and the fans get a great technical match out of it from two of the best. When Flair is about to put Gilbert in the figure four, Missy jumps on the ropes distracting Flair. James J. runs over and pulls her off. But the distraction has given Gilbert time to recover. Shane Douglas then charges ringside and attacks Dillon, which causes Flair to go after him. Flair knocks Douglas senseless and climbs back in the ring. However, Gilbert uses the distraction to pull something out of his tights. Missy jumps on the apron again, and while Teddy Long tells her to get off, “Hot Stuff” throws powder in “The Nature Boy’s” eyes, blinding him. He then hits the Hot Shot and gets what might be the biggest win of his career.

After the commercial break, Gilbert and his men are all celebrating at the announcer’s podium. “Ross, Schiavone, can things get any better?  I mean look at us? We’ve got the World Title, the World Tag Team Title, the World Television Title… and I just pinned Ric Flair. We rule the NWA!” “Eddie you’re so right.” Missy Hyatt says. “And pretty soon you’re going to beat Barry Windham and we’ll have all the gold!” All of Hyatt and Hot Stuff International laughs at this, but the laughter is interrupted by an approaching Ric Flair and James J. Dillon. “Flair, you just don’t learn.” Gilbert says. “Do I have to whip your butt again, tonight?”  “Gilbert, I’m not here to fight you… not tonight anyway. But next week! I want you and those two goons you jumped me with back in September in a six-man match. It’s time for your comeuppance!” “What?” Ron Simmons asks. “You got The Road Warriors?” “No!” Flair says “Even better!” “Well who is it, Ric?” Gilbert asks. “Luger and Windham?” “I’ll tell you this much.” says Flair. “They’re two guys who went ‘up north’ for a bit, are tired of it and are ready to come back down to the NWA!” The reaction to this is instant shock from both the announce crew and Eddie Gilbert and his stable. After a second, Gilbert laughs and says “Are you serious? You’re serious? You really got those two?” “Yeah,” Flair says. “Really!” “I don’t believe it, Flair. Those two are long gone!” “Gilbert, I’ll make you a deal.” Flair says. “You give me this six-man match and if we can’t win, ‘I’ll forfeit any World Title rematch to ‘Dr. Death’ that I’m entitled to.” At this, Gilbert’s jaw drops. “Do you mean that, Flair?” he asks. “Oh yeah, Gilbert. More than anything ever in my life I mean it!” “Well ‘Nature Boy’, you got a deal. You and your two cronies will see me, ‘Doc’ and Ron next week!” “Oh yeah! Looking forward to it.” Flair says. He and Dillon then walk off and the show concludes with Hyatt and Hot Stuff insisting that Flair has “finally lost it” and “must either be bluffing or delusional.”

To be continued…


[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZqK7TxMz9I

Part V

Our story continues with Ric Flair having just presented “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert with an incredible offer. He and two friends from “up north” will meet Gilbert, Ron Simmons and “Dr. Death” Steve Williams in a six-man match. If Flair’s team loses, he will not get a rematch for the NWA World Title. Has Flair really got two friends from “up north”, or has “The Nature Boy” been pushed to the brink of insanity?

 

January 21, 1989: World Championship Wrestling

Gilbert, Williams and Simmons come down to the ring with Missy Hyatt as cockily as can be. “Flair’s lost it! He really has!” Gilbert brags. “There’s no way he has those two with him. He can’t. They’re under contract!” he says as he laughs even louder. Then “Sprach Zarathustra” plays and “The Nature Boy” comes out with James J. Dillon. Flair pauses on the way to the ring and gives a twirl followed by a “Wooo.” Seconds later, two very familiar figures join him. Gilbert instantly loses his smile and his jaw drops. His face turns beet red and he starts screaming in anger. He then starts jumping up and down repeating “That’s not who you said!” over and over. But Flair had not promised any two wrestlers, merely two from “up north”. And the shock was felt not only by Hyatt and Hot Stuff International, but also by the Atlanta fans in attendance, those watching at home and even by the announce staff. “Oh my God, that is Ricky “The Dragon’ Steamboat!” Tony Schiavone exclaims. “And that is Terry Funk!” says a shocked Jim Ross. A very arrogant “Nature Boy” enters the ring with his two new allies. “No way, Flair! Not going to happen!” Gilbert says. Terry Funk ends this debate quickly, by slugging “Dr. Death” and an all out brawl ensues. Randy Anderson then calls for the bell. The babyfaces quickly clear the ring. Gilbert in furious protest signals for his men to leave, but Missy stops him. “Honey, if we leave, they win and Flair gets his rematch!” she pleads. Gilbert stops and sighs and reluctantly heads back to the ring. “Dr. Death” demands to start with Terry Funk, and “The Funker” happily obliges. Though both fantastic wrestlers, few technical moves are used here. It is an all out slugfest. Both hard headed and double tough, the World’s Champion and Funk, a former World’s Champion himself, go at it for several minutes. Williams finally makes a blind tag to Ron Simmons and after a forearm to the back, Gilbert’s army takes control. They work over Terry Funk as hard as they can. Gilbert conveniently comes in when he is down. But a missed dropkick allows Funk the chance to tag in Ricky Steamboat. And “The Dragon” comes in with full force. He chops Gilbert to high heaven, rivaling even Flair’s infamous chops. He then executes a scoop slam followed by a kneeling facebuster before tagging in Ric Flair. Flair lets out a huge “wooo” for the fans and goes to work on “Hot Stuff”. The faces work him over and get several close two counts, but going across the ropes, “Dr. Death” knees Flair when Randy Anderson’s back is turned. Gilbert is then able to tag in Williams who immediately charges the former champion. The tide turned, Gilbert and his men work over “The Nature Boy” something fierce. Determined to rid Flair of his chance at a rematch, they show no mercy. They use distractions and run-ins to prevent Flair from tagging out and double or triple team him when possible. Ron Simmons hits a hard powerslam and gets a very close two count. He the tags in “Dr. Death” who charges with a three point stance… but Flair ducks and “Doc” nails the turnbuckle, instead. Hurt, he slowly goes to his corner and tags in Eddie Gilbert, but “Hot Stuff” isn’t fast enough and Flair makes it to his corner, tagging Ricky Steamboat. “The Dragon” comes in with a vengeance, chopping and kicking Gilbert into oblivion. This prompts Ron Simmons to charge in, which in turn brings in Terry Funk. Soon all six men are in the ring. Steamboat hits a powerslam on Gilbert and quickly ascends to a top rope. Missy Hyatt tries to grab his legs, but James J. Dillon assures that does not happen. He dives and hits a just risen Eddie Gilbert with a cross body. Randy Anderson is in perfect position and Steamboat gets the 1-2-3 for his team. They then quickly throw out Hyatt and Hot Stuff International, Dillon enters and the three proudly have their hands raised by both Anderson and James J. as the crowd roars its approval.

After a commercial break, the victors go to the interview podium. “Terry, Ricky…” says a nearly speechless Tony Schiavone, “how did this happen?” “I’ll tell you, Tony.” Steamboat says. “Ric Flair and I go back a long way. Sometimes as friends, sometimes as rivals. But he has always had my respect. And the way he was being treated here with no one helping him made me sick. So when he called me, I knew what had to be done. And Eddie Gilbert, we’re gunning for you and your “family’. Watch out!” “That’s right!” Terry Funk says. “Ric Flair is a man’s man. And Eddie Gilbert, you’re nothing but a little twerp! And I’m sick of the way you and your cronies have been running your mouths and running over people these last few months. So when Ric Flair called me for help… well it was a no brainer. You’ll better watch out, because someone is getting their face smashed in!” “Gilbert, Williams, did you really think that I would run my mouth off if I couldn’t back it up?” “The Nature Boy” says. “I’ve now got two guys who will not back down to anyone or anything. Bring it on, “Hot Stuff’, bring it on!”

January-February 1989

 

All of a sudden, the entire wrestling world is talking about Ric Flair and his two new allies. No longer a pariah with no friends, Flair is determined to take it to Hyatt and Hot Stuff International- and in the process regain the NWA World Title. On the next episode of World Championship Wrestling, Eddie Gilbert and company respond to the previous week’s events.

“So, Ric Flair: You and Dillon pulled one over on us. Congratulations.” he says giving a golf clap. “But “Nat’, don’t expect the good times to last long. Not uh!” he says with a grin. “Because once again, your ego and stupidity have gotten in your way. I got the message from the front office saying you wanted to meet me and my boys against you and four partners at War Games in Chicago at Chi-Town Rumble. Well, I have accepted, Flair. Now, you may have convinced those two geezer friend of yours to fight on your side, but good luck getting anyone else. Flair, come February 20, you’ll are going down!”

This major announcement sends shockwaves throughout the NWA. As much as anyone hates to admit it, Eddie Gilbert is right. Ric Flair is not a man with many friends.

On the next Main Event, the feature bout is a World Tag Team Title defense pitting Ron Simmons and Rick Steiner, defending their gold against Sting and Lex Luger. Conspicuous by his absence, Eddie Gilbert let Missy escort the champs to the ring alone. The popular challengers put up a great fight, working great as a team just as they have done on the few other times they fought as a unit. Sting and Steiner, former partners, have some particular heated exchanges. Eventually tempers boil over and it is a free for all in the ring. Luger counters a Simmons clothesline with a back body drop, then nails Rick Steiner with a clothesline. Sting then locks on the Scorpion Deathlock and victory looks eminent. However, Shane Douglas storms the ring and causes a disqualification but saves the title. Sting and Luger fight him off for a little bit, but the three on two advantages turns to Hyatt and Hot Stuff’s favor. But then the crowd cheers. Ricky Steamboat and Terry Funk storm the ring and quickly turn the tide. In no time flat, Gilbert’s minions scat with Missy.

Afterwards, the two veterans shake hands with the younger stars and Ricky Steamboat takes the microphone. “Sting, Lex, I have something to ask of you. And it is big. First off, I would like to say you two men are two of the best wrestlers on the scene today. I have no doubt that you will both one day be World Champions, an honor even I have yet to achieve.” His face turns very solemn and he says this. “Now Lex, I know you have a past with Ric Flair and the Horsemen and that it ended bad. And Sting, you and Flair have had your differences. But gentleman, the Ric Flair you see now is not the Ric Flair of old. I would never associate with that Ric Flair. He is a changed man. Eddie Gilbert on the other hand is pure evil. So what I have to ask you is this: “Lex, Sting, will you join us for War Games?” The crowd cheers loudly at this request. After several seconds, Sting takes the microphone and says “Ricky, you’re right about me and Ric Flair. I didn’t like him from the moment I saw him. And when his buddies went north and Eddie turned on him, I thought he had gotten his just desserts. And maybe he did. But, in the past few months, “The Nature Boy’ has shown me a side of him that I never knew existed. He has nerves of iron. And I really believe he has changed. And don’t even get me started on Eddie. I knowfirsthand he is pure evil. So… yes, I accept your offer. Count me in for War Games!” Luger then yanks the mic out of Sting’s hand and says over the cheering of the crowd “Wait a minute, Sting! What the hell are you thinking? Don’t let Flair fool you. I rode with him. He’s nothing but dirt. The fact he got his comeuppance does not change anything to me. DON’T do this!” “Lex, listen. I know, Flair has done some downright rotten things, but I trust Ricky and Terry. They’re the best of the best and Ricky knows Flair as well as any of the Horsemen ever did. I say he’s changed and I want a piece of Gilbert in that cage!” replies The Stinger. “Sting…” Luger cannot finish his sentence and merely shakes his head and exits the ring in total disgust.

The next episode of World Championship Wrestling opens with an announcement that the National Wrestling Alliance and James J. Dillon were unable to reach an agreement and that they wish Mr. Dillon all the best in his future endeavors.

War Games and Chi-Town Rumble are on the horizon, but before that is an upcoming Clash of the Champions in Cleveland, Ohio. Several matches are announced today for the show. Amongst them, Shane Douglas will defend his World Television Title against Sting. Rick Steiner and Ron Simmons are to defend the World Tag Team Title against The Varsity Club.  

Later on in the show, Barry Windham wrestles the much larger Ray Candy in a U.S. Title defense. A behemoth man, Candy is a formidable challenge to any opponent. However, after Candy misses a turnbuckle charge, Windham counters with an iron claw. Candy fights it the best he can, but in the end Windham grounds him with it and gets the pin. Afterwards he is interviewed.

“Barry,” Tony Schiavone says, “we know you must have thoughts on what went down with your two good friends Sting and Lex Luger on this week’s past Main Event.” “Well Tony, that would be an understatement.” Windham says. “Yeah, they have both talked to me, neither man pleased with the other and both wanting to know my stance. And after much soul searching, I’ve reached this conclusion: As you know, last year Ric Flair tried to recruit me to join The Four Horsemen- more than once. Well, I refused. My dad taught me better than that. And then he brings in Eddie Gilbert. And the two caused me a LOT of trouble. And then Gilbert turns on Flair. Thing is, a long time ago, Flair and my father used to be friends. And my dad always told me this business did real strange things to men. Now I will never understand what went through Ric Flair’s brain the past few years that made him do half the crazy things he did. But, I have been watching his actions closely… and I really think he has changed. Lex, I know you don’t trust him and I respect your judgment. However, Sting and I differ, and I expect you to respect us in turn. So I here and now tell everyone that at War Games, I will be the fifth man on Ric Flair’s team!” As the crowd cheers its approval Windham closes by saying “And Gilbert, watch out, because I’m gunnin’ for you!”

Not surprisingly, tensions run very high leading up to the Clash. “Dr. Death” and the rest of Gilbert’s men continue to successfully defend their gold. Gilbert vows that “Come War Games there will be hell to pay.” The two factions are involved in very heated matches and interviews. Kevin Sullivan swears that come Clash of the Champions, The Varsity Club will control the World Tag Team Championships. Finally, Lex Luger has taken to completely shunning his former best friends Sting and Barry Windham, declaring that they are no better than Flair and Gilbert and that from now on “I’m on my own.”

February 15, 1989: Clash of the Champions V: St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

The last major event before Wrestle War, the Cleveland Convention Center is packed with fans awaiting tonight’s big matches. Hyatt and Hot Stuff International has two big title defenses tonight, as both the World Television and the World Tag Team Titles will be up for grabs. Moments before his title match, Sting is interviewed by Bon Caudle.

“Sting,” Bob Caudle says, “tonight is a huge night for you. You are taking on one of your former manager’s, Eddie Gilbert’s, top men, Shane Douglas, for the World Television Title.” “That’s right, tonight the Stinger gets his shot at gold. And I don’t plan on disappointing. Eddie and I go a long way back, and I know what to expect out of him. He’s trouble and he’s dangerous. But, I’ve learned a thing or two about protecting myself. And Douglas, you come out here and call yourself the NWA’s franchise player? Well pal, you’re looking at the franchise of the NWA. Prepare to get stung, Shane. Owwww!!!” Sting yells to finish the interview.

The challenger makes his way down the ring to massive cheers. Then the champion comes, escorted by both Eddie and Missy to a not surprising round of boos, bothering him not one bit. The bell rings and champion and challenger go at it. Sting makes it clear early on he has come to fight, taking it to Douglas from the get go and controlling the bulk of the match. No slouch by any means, Shane Douglas defends himself well and puts out a good chunk of offense as well. But, he never seems to quite be able to take the momentum away from Sting. About five minutes into the match, Rick Steiner comes down to ringside carrying a white box. He joins Eddie and Missy and merely observes the action. Sting sees the trio and looks nervous, but figures he has little choice but to ignore them and hope for the best. A few minutes later, he reverses Douglas attempt to throw him into the turnbuckles from the opposing corner. Douglas hits them face first, and Sting hits a Stinger Splash right on before Douglas can even turn around. He then yells to the crowd and looks over at Douglas’s entourage practically daring them to come in… but they do not stir. He then sets the Scorpion Deathlock in. Douglas struggles for several seconds, pleading for his allies to help him… but they do not move. Finally able to take no more, Douglas submits to the roar of the crowd.

Nick Patrick presents Sting with the World Television Title while Eddie, Missy and Steiner enter the ring-Gilbert with a microphone in hand. Steiner goes and checks on Douglas who angrily pushes him away. “Why didn’t you help me, jerks?” he angrily asks. “You were right there and you left me for dead!” “Shane calm down.” Eddie Gilbert says. “And Sting, you listen, too. Shane, you’ve been saying that you are the NWA’s franchise player. And Sting, so have you.” The new champion is staring at his former mentor very strangely, now. “The fact is, you both are great wrestlers and both have every right to that name. Now Shane, I didn’t interfere because I wanted the best man to win. Tonight, that was Sting. But it just as easily could have been you. You have to realize what the Stinger and I have been through. Now Sting, I used to manage you. And we also won the UWF World Tag Team Championship. Then I lead you and Rick to the straps. So what happened? I’ll tell you what happened,” Gilbert says tapping his head, “your brain got poisoned, that’s what. You listened to fools like Bill Watts who told you I was using you. Let me ask you Sting “How did I use you?’ Thing is, I bring people greatness, Sting. Titles, money, cars, women, the whole kit and caboodle. Rick, give that box to Sting.” Steiner obliges and hands Sting the box. “Now Sting, you don’t have to open that tonight. But look at it in the back and think it over. And come War Games ask yourself if you really want to take on wrestling’s first family; your family. Gilbert and his crew leave, Douglas, apparently satisfactorily assuaged, joins them as they leave. Sting stares in wonder as the announcers question whether Gilbert did in fact get to him or not.

A few matches later and it is time for the main event World Tag Team Title match. The Varsity Club comes down to the ring first, both looking extremelysmug. Then the champions make their way down, escorted by Eddie and Missy. Once they get into the ring, Kevin Sullivan takes the microphone.

“I got news for you Gilbert, a big surprise!” he says. “Oh yeah, what’s that?” Gilbert says not the least bit concerned. “Well, Eddie, remember that contract we signed for this match? You should have read it a little closer. I signed for my team, The Varsity Club. As manager I can do that.” “So?” Gilbert asks. “So, you should’ve specified which two members you were facing. You see I did a little recruiting. And after hitting all the major universities, I went back to an old hot spot. You see, I was kind of down on Michigan after this doofus here let me down.” Sullivan says pointing to Rick Steiner. “But now I realize I got a bad pick off an otherwise healthy tree. Allow me to introduce, Mike Rotundo’s partner for the night, the University of Michigan’s own, SCOTT STEINER!”

And sure enough, The Varsity Club’s music comes back on and outcomes Rick Steiner’s younger brother, wearing his own Michigan wrestling trunks and head gear. Upon seeing Scott, all of Hyatt and Hot Stuff angrily react, but Rick Steiner gets particularly distraught. “Scott, you can’t do this! He’s evil! He’s the devil! Please I’m your brother!” “Shut up, Rick!” Scott Steiner yells at his brother. “I’ve been asking you for months to help me get in the NWA and you’ve done nothing for me. Then I get one call from Kevin… and it’s all done!” Not wanting to wrestle, Rick Steiner starts to leave the ring, but Ron Simmons grabs him. “Look Rick, I know you real hurt right now, but we the World Champs. You can deal with Scott later. But start tonight by beating some sense into his ass. … Damn!” After hesitating for several moments, Rick reluctantly agrees.

Simmons and Rotundo start off, the challenger grinning profusely at The Varsity Club’s deception. Ron Simmons wipes his smile off though with a stiff right hand to the jaw. Rotundo retaliates and the two go at it. Simmons gets the best of the exchange but Rotundo recoups with a fireman’s takedown. He works Simmons over a bit then tags in Scott Steiner. The bigger Steiner brother comes in and shows that he, like his older brother, also has great technical prowess. He takes it to Ron Simmons then tags back in Mike Rotundo, who winds up on the wrong side of a hip toss. Simmons then tags in Rick Steiner, who takes out all his anger and aggression on his former partner, hitting a barrage of suplexes and clotheslines. He tags Simmons back in and after a double clothesline beats Rotundo down harder. Rick is tagged back in, but using his incredible skills, Rotundo is able to turn a Rick Steiner headlock into a Russian leg sweep and he tags back in Scott Steiner. Rick Steiner gets back up just in time to have his baby brother circling him. Rick begs him to back off, but Scotty merely taunts him, fake lunges twice before a real one the third time. He takes Rick down then lifts him up for a hard belly to back suplex. He hits two more then tags in Rotundo. The challengers take advantage of the hurt and heartbroken Rick. They use their array of scientific holds and suplexes and intense double teaming to wear the champion down. The Varsity Clun gets several two counts and looks to be on the verge of winning the gold. Scott puts his older brother in a bear hug and seems to all but have won it. Rick stops breathing for a second and Randy Anderson checks his right arm. It goes down once… twice… but Rick gets it up at the last second. The crowd cheering him on, a first for Rick Steiner, he shakes his hand and finally starts to punch Scott. Ignoring the referee’s warning, Rick punches to weaken the hold, then headbutts Scott till he is free. In desperation, Scott grabs Rick and throws him into the ropes, but Rick reverses and nails Scott with a hard Steiner-Line. He then crawls over and tags a fresh and ready Ron Simmons who comes in with a vengeance, beating Scott Steiner with all he has. Mike Rotundo charges in and “The All American” gives him a hard punch for his efforts. He goes off on both challengers then grabs them by their hair, pauses for the crowd’s cheers- something he has not heard directed towards him in recent months- and rams their heads together. He then throws Mike Rotundo out the ring and works on Scott Steiner. After a minute he is ready to put him away. He throws him across the ring and attempts to catch him for a powerslam, but Scott slides out from his arms over his shoulders. The two criss-cross a couple of times with each dodging a clothesline and then out of nowhere Scott leaps up puts his legs around Simmons’ neck, falls back and flips Simmons. He then hooks his legs from behind. Having anticipated this, Kevin Sullivan grabs Rick Steiner’s legs so he can’t make the save and Mike Rotundo puts the boots to Eddie Gilbert. Three seconds later and Hyatt and Hot Stuff International has lost their second title of the night. Randy Anderson presents Mike Rotundo and Scott Steiner with the World Tag Team Title belts as Kevin Sullivan embraces his men. The three leave their defeated opponents in the ring to lick their wounds. Though not the wrestler on record pinned, Rick Steiner is clearly the most distraught of the bunch.

February 1989

On the last World Championship Wrestling before War Games, there remains a very important, unsettled question: Where do Sting’s loyalties lie? In an effort to get to the bottom of the situation, Ric Flair’s team is interviewed.

“Gentleman,” Jim Ross asks, “you are on the verge of a huge match; War Games and the Match Beyond. But I have to ask you, “What about Sting?’ “What did Rick Steiner hand him at the Clash?’ “And will you still use him as your fifth man?’” “Jim Ross,” Ric Flair says, “let me first say that though we didn’t always see eye to eye, from the moment Sting first called me out, I knew he was something special. He has that rare spark. And though he has a history with Gilbert… so do I.” he says with a bit of a chuckle. “And my loyalties are rock solid. I trust Sting 100 percent and he will be on our team.” “But where is he then?” asks Tony Schiavone. “Where is Sting?” “Tony,” Barry Windham replies, “you have to realize that 1) Sting, like all of us, is a busy man. He has things to do. And 2), yes he has a lot on his mind. But Sting would never not keep us out of the know… especially with something as important as War Games brewing. He’s not that kind of guy. He called me right after the Clash and told me that everything was fine and that his heart and mind were on the straight and narrow. And I believe him.” Ricky Steamboat throws in “I trust Sting totally. He is a good man and a true warrior. He will be there for us at Chi-Town Rumble.” “That’s right, Ricky.” Terry Funk adds. “And I’m just about to explode waiting for the chance to get in the cage and kick some of Eddie Gilbert and his henchmen’s tails. The mere mention of those jerks makes me want to puke!” “That’s right, Terry, that’s right.” Ric Flair says patting the living hardcore legend on the shoulder. “Well folks there you have it.” Tony Schiavone says. “We’ll see you in Chicago for the Chi-Town Rumble and War Games live and on pay-per-view.Don’t miss it!”

February 20, 1989: Chi-Town Rumble

It may be a cold night, but every fan in the UIC Pavilion is definitely feeling the heat tonight. War Games, the most dangerous match in wrestling is about to be unleashed.

Earlier on, Hyatt and Hot Stuff International is interviewed. They are all very wound up before this epic match. “Gentleman,” Bob Caudle asks. “You are about to go into the most dangerous match in wrestling. I’d like to ask you your thoughts, and more specifically about recent developments at the Clash, specifically Sting and Scott Steiner.” “I’ll tell you this:” Ric Steiner says. “Scottie, you broke mom and dad’s heart. Turning on the family like that! Mom is crying herself to bed every night for the last five nights. I’ll beat some sense into you if it kills me. But tonight, I am taking it out on Flair and his three cronies!” “Three is right.” Eddie Gilbert says. “Because regardless of any of the boo hickey they tell you, tonight Sting is coming home to the First Family, to Hyatt and Hot Stuff International. It’s going to be 6 on 4!” “THE MOST DANGEROUS MATCH IN WRESTLING! With methe most dangerous man in wrestlingThe WORLD’S HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION! Bob, I am gonna tear them all limb from limb!” “Dr. Death” says with extreme rage. Ron Simmons just looks in the camera and shakes his head and says… “Damn!”

Shortly before the main event, the camera goes to the backstage area and stops in front of Sting’s locker room. In a trash can right outside it, the white box Rick Steiner handed him is opened and empty.

The 8,000 strong in attendance are waiting with baited breath for War Games to begin. The rules are announced before the match begins. Two members from each team will start out and wrestle for five minutes. Then there will be a coin toss and the winning team will have a new man enter. Then two minutes later the other team adds a man. This continues every two minutes until it is five on five. Then the Match Beyond begins. Breaking with previous War Games matches, all team members will stay in the back and come down as the five and two minute intervals expire as opposed to all ten being at ringside for the whole duration.

Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” hits on the loud speaker and Rick Steiner makes his way to the ring, looking to vent some frustration. Then Ricky Steamboat comes down. Steiner charges him, but “The Dragon” meets him with a barrage of chops and takes the advantage. Steiner’s volatility does him no good against the seasoned “Dragon”. He does manage to gain his composure after a few minutes and adds some offense of his own. Tony Schiavone announces to the fans at home that Hyatt and Hot Stuff International has won the coin toss. At the five minute mark, a horn goes off and outcomes Shane Douglas. The self-proclaimed “Franchise” charges to the ring, smacking his lips at a 2-1 on the likes of Ricky Steamboat. He is met with disappointment, however, as Steamboat more than adequately defends himself with chops, kicks and elbows, not succumbing to his momentary handicap. Two minutes later, the horn again signals and Barry Windham charges down to even the score. Showing all the rugged tenacity of his father, the son of Blackjack hits the ring with a vengeance and takes it to Eddie Gilbert’s thugs. Two more minutes go by and “The All American” comes out next. A heavy hitter, Simmons presence makes the three on two decidedly rough for Steamboat and Windham. Gladly using this advantage, the heels take control. But when the horn blows next, they see they have to deal with the craziest of the ten competitors as “The Funker” charges to the ring, throwing fisticuffs at anything that gets in his way, nearly hitting Steamboat, only catching himself by a hair and then issuing an apology which “The Dragon” happily accepts. Then the horn blows once more and outcomes the World’s Champion. “Dr. Death” enters and shows just why he is the World’s Heavyweight Champion. He uses an array of street fighting and wrestling holds to hurt his three opponents. He grabs Barry Windham and slams him head first into the cage. He then kicks Terry Funk in the gut and gutwrenches him. Ricky Steamboat is dropped with a hard clothesline. Hyatt and Hot Stuff exchanges a group high five as the horn rings again. Ric Flair approaches cautiously seeing he is entering a none too pleasant situation. The World Champ hesitates by the door, with all four eyeing him. He fakes entering a few times before finally doing so for real, and meets an approaching Shane Douglas with a patented Ric Flair low blow. Ron Simmons then gets a punch in the face and Rick Steiner a hard chop. “Dr. Death” is about to pounce on him, but he gets a hard slap on the back and then an elbow from a now recovered Ricky Steamboat. Flair’s shrewdness in waiting allowed his teammates time to recover and regain the momentum… but then the horn blows once more and Eddie Gilbert charges the ring for what he knows is the last official handicap of the night. He bee lines for Ric Flair, hitting the five times former World Champion with several quick punches. Everyone is now waiting with baited breath for the horn to blow for the eighth and last time. And finally after a very long two minutes, it does. And Sting comes charging out… wearing a red robe and tights with yellow flames on them! “Oh no!” Tony Schiavone says. “He went back to Gilbert!” “He’s even wearing red and yellow face paint.” Jim Ross adds. Sting disrobes and climbs in the ring, his “opponents” cheering and grinning and his partners looking shocked and dejected. Sting yells “Owwwww!” at the top of his lungs. He then runs full speed up to Eddie Gilbert and kicks him right in the stomach! The crowd roars as they realize Sting has indeed not sold out after all. The Match Beyond is on and both teams fight like there is not going to be a tomorrow. “Dr. Death” is beating every one in his site. He and Sting have a particularly violent exchange, only ending when Rick Steiner attacks Sting from behind with a forearm. Ric Flair attempts to make Eddie Gilbert submit with a figure four, only to have Shane Douglas stomp on his head, breaking the hold. “Hot Stuff” returns the favor to “The Nature Boy”, causing Barry Windham to intervene for his teammate. A minute later, “Dr. Death” manages to lock Terry Funk in a vicious neck lock, causing Funk to scream out in immense pain. He comes within an eyelash of getting a submission, but Sting is able to make it over to them and force the break just in the nick of time. The fighting continues unabated. Terry Funk recovers and he and Sting slam “Doc’s” head into the cage, busting him wide open. In the other ring, Ron Simmons is duking it out with Ric Flair, who chops him into Ricky Steamboat, who then lifts “The All American” up and locks him into a double arm chicken wing. Simmons screams out in pain. His comrades all try to help but are headed off by their opponents. Ric Flair detains Gilbert, while Sting takes it to “Dr. Death”. Rick Steiner can’t get past Barry Windham and Terry Funk has by now proceeded to take Shane Douglas’ head and rub it against the cage like he is grating cheese. Faced with either submission or a broken arm, Ron Simmons finally quits, giving the babyface team a very hard earned victory. After the smoke clears, the faces exit the ring together and embrace on the outside as Hyatt and Hot Stuff International tends to the injured Simmons as the pay-per-view comes to a close.

February-March 1989

The ramifications for the Chi-Town Rumble are felt immediately. It is announced that in a month’s time at the next Clash of the Champions in the Louisiana Superdome, that “Dr. Death” Steve Williams will defend the World’s Heavyweight Title in a rematch against “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Additionally, Sting will defend the World’s Television Title against his former mentor, Eddie Gilbert.

On the next World Championship Wrestling, Sting successfully defends his title against Rip Morgan, making the young New Zealander submit to his Scorpion Deathlock. He then explains his decision at the pay-per-view. “It goes something like this: The Stinger knows what Eddie Gilbert is all about. Yeah, he talks a great game. But he is no good. Eddie Gilbert is out for one man and one man only and that’s Eddie Gilbert. He thought he could lure me back into his fold. Well, he was wrong. I stand by my friends and I don’t repeat past mistakes. And Gilbert, come Ragin’ Cajun, you’re all mine! Owwww!” he energetically yells to the cheering crowd.

A week goes by and then to everyone’s surprise, Ric Flair comes down to the ring making a surprise appearance. “Please, if I may, I want Eddie Gilbert to come down here. You have my word, I will not touch you, I just want you to witness this. Come on “Hot Stuff’!” Sure enough, with Shane Douglas for back up, Eddie Gilbert comes down and enters the ring. “Alright, what do you want Flair?” he asks. “Well Gilbert, it goes like this: At the upcoming Clash, I want to regain my World’s Title. And I know both you and Missy are going to be in Williams’ corner. So I went and got myself someone to be in my corner. In fact, he is an old friend of both of ours.” Gilbert and Douglas both start laughing at this. “Oh right, Flair, get off it. You’re not getting me with that same old line of malarkey again! I know that worthless old manager of ours is contracted “up north’ and will no more be in your corner at the Clash than Jimmy Hoffa. So let’s get this over with. You got some other schmuck from “up north’ to watch your back. Come on, bring him out!” Ric Flair responds with a crocodile grin and says “That’s where you’re wrong, Gilbert. I haven’t got anyone from “up north’. In fact, he is from down south. Or more specifically… Mid South!” The crowd cheers as Gilbert’s jaw drops. Seconds later, “Hot Stuff” starts screaming “bloody murder” as he sees who is approaching. He throws a punch at Ric Flair, but “The Nature Boy” blocks it and hits one of his own. He gives one to Douglas for good measure and in seconds he and his new ally are going at it with Gilbert and Douglas. They shortly clear the ring of the two heels and Gilbert is screaming at the ring at the top of his lungs swearing vengeance. While in the ring, Ric Flair and “Cowboy” Bill Watts stare down at him.

Part VI

Things have never been more hectic in the NWA. Not only is Ric Flair getting set to challenge “Dr. Death’ Steve Williams in a rematch for the World Title, he has gotten Williams’ mentor, “Cowboy’ Bill Watts to stand by his side. Sting, having just made it clear to Eddie Gilbert he had no intention of rejoining his stable is getting set to challenge his former mentor. And what will come of the feud between Rick Steiner and his younger brother, Scott, who has taken Rick’s spot in Kevin Sullivan’s Varsity Club?

March-April 1989

On the next World Championship Wrestling, The Varsity Club defends the World Tag Team Titles against Michael Hayes and The Junkyard Dog. Two skilled ring veterans who are no strangers to one another, the two former enemies work surprisingly well together. At one point, Michael Hayes sets Mike Rotundo up for looks like will be a finishing DDT while JYD keeps Scott Steiner at bay. However, Kevin Sullivan jumps on the apron and distracts Nick Patrick, while a large blonde man with a mullet storms the ring and nails the Freebird on the back with a steel chair. He then exits, and Patrick turns around. Seeing Rotundo covering Hayes, he makes the three count.

Afterwards, The Varsity Club is interviewed. “Folks, first off, I want to congratulate Mike and Scott on a great, clean victory. Good job men!’ Sullivan says clapping. “And now I want to introduce to everyone here, the newest member of The Varsity Club, from the University of Georgia, ‘Dangerous’ Dan Spivey!’ “Thank you, Kevin.’ Spivey says. “And Mike, Scott, I am so happy to be on the team. I know I will contribute great things to The Varsity Club and we will be the NWA’s top squad!’ “That’s right, Dan!’ Scott Steiner says. “And Rick, you and Simmons have a rematch against me and Mike at Ragin’ Cajun. Big brother, get it through your thick skull; your days of being the top Steiner brother are over! For months I begged you to get me in the NWA and you kept making excuses. But, not Kevin.’ he says as Sullivan nods with a twisted smile. “He got me in right away. And not only that, he took me right to the top. Watch out Rick, your time is done!’

Later on, “Dr. Death’ defends the World Title against Kendall Windham. The U.S. Champion’s younger brother fights with all his heart, but he is simply outmatched by “The Good Doctor’. Williams uses his power and skill to pound Windham into the ground, finally finishing him off with his Oklahoma Stampede. After the pinfall, he picks his fallen opponent up and hits a hard gutwrench suplex on him. Ignoring Tommy Young’s warnings, he then gorilla press slams him, then kicks him for good measure.

After the match, he, Gilbert, Shane Douglas and Missy, go for an interview. “So Flair, you think you pulled some great coup, bringing back Bill Watts?’ Eddie Gilbert says. “Well guess again, Ric! That old coot couldn’t deal with me three years ago and he is even less capable of dealing with me now. Hyatt and Hot Stuff International is bigger, stronger and more talented and powerful than we’ve ever been.’ And pointing to Williams he says “And if you think this man will show you any mercy… well…’ he says with a slight laugh. “Bill,’ the Word Champion says, “let’s get one thing straight. I do NOT appreciate this stunt you’re pulling. Showing up in Ric Flair’s corner against me, your best protŽgŽ? How dare you? After all we’ve been through. If you think, I am going to show you any mercy for old time’s sake, well think again! Look what I just did to that little runt in the ring, there. That could be you Bill, that could be you!’ Missy Hyatt then chimes in “Watts, go back to your nursing home where you belong before it’s too late. That’s free advice from your old pal, Missy.’ “Well said.’ Shane Douglas states. “And Terry Funk. You thought it was funny to use that cage like a cheese grater on my face at War Games? Well old man, come Clash of the Champions, you’re all mine. Enjoy the next few weeks, cause come April 2, your being put out to pasture!’ “And Sting, don’t think all this is distracting me from you. Better call some local morticians in New Orleans and arrange a jazz funeral, cause you’re being put out to pasture!’ Gilbert says concluding the interview.

From now on, “Dr. Death’ approaches every match with more fire and zeal than previously seen. Hell bent on setting an example, he not only beats his opponents during matches, he insists on beating them without mercy after he wins. Ivan Koloff, Johnny Ace, The Italian Stallion, Ranger Ross and a slew of others all face the hard hitting hand of “Doc’. On an episode of World Wide, “Cowboy’ Bill Watts and “The Nature Boy’ are interviewed.

“Bill, first off let me welcome you back to the wrestling world!’ Bob Caudle says. “Now what brought this unlikely alliance between you and Ric Flair?’ “Thank you, Bob.’ “The Cowboy’ responds. “Well, it’s actually pretty simple. Even though I’ve been out of the rasslin business the past couple of years, I’ve still kept up with it regularly. And the NWA has always had a special place in the ‘Cowboy’s’ heart. And when I saw Eddie Gilbert make his return about a year ago, my heart jumped. And seeing what he has done since then brought back way too many bad memories. And when he got ‘Doctor Death’ to join up with him… well it broke my heart and made me sick. Physically sick. I mean ‘Doc’ is like a son to me. But that being said, Steve, you may make callous threats towards me, but just because I’m a little over the hill doesn’t mean I can’t still throw down with the best of them.’ Clenching his fist, he says “You get in my way and I’ll show you just how much I belong in a nursing home. And ‘Hot Stuff’ I highly recommend you steer clear. Highly recommend it!’ “Bob Caudle,’ Ric Flair says, “I knew I needed the best watching my back. And there is no one rougher, no one tougher and no one who possesses more grit than ‘Cowboy’ Bill Watts. Williams, at Clash of the Champions, Ric Flair becomes six times World’s Champion! Wooooo!’

As the Clash grows closer things intensify even more. The Varsity Club is given a chance at adding to its title collection as “Dangerous’ Dan Spivey is given a United States Title shot against Barry Windham. “Dr.  Death’ continues his rampage against his opponents.

On the Main Event before the Clash, Terry Funk wrestles Jack Victory. Though Victory is the larger man and has the ever cunning Paul E. Dangerously in his corner, he cannot match the skill and tenacity of the legendary Terry Funk. Dodging a turnbuckle charge then laying into Victory with a series of rights and lefts, “The Funker’ slams his larger opponent, then piledrives him for the victory. After the match, he gives his take on his upcoming match against Shane Douglas.

“So that little runt thinks he can put me out? Does he not realize who I am? What I’ve been through? So I grinded his head against the cage. ‘Waaah” Funk says mockingly wiping his eyes. “Look at this head.’ he says pointing to his scarred forehead. “You don’t think I’ve had it grinded against metal? I’ve been stabbed, hit with brass knucks, slammed with ring bells and chairs, set on fire, and about a thousand other things. But you don’t hear me whining. Douglas, you may have talent, but I don’t think you have the stomach for this industry. Maybe you should consider another profession. But don’t come mucking up mine!’

April 2, 1989: Clash of the Champions VI: Ragin’ Cajun

How fitting that “Cowboy’ Bill Watts would make his major event return at the Louisiana Superdome, a venue where he promoted so many top notch cards. And this jam packed lineup is destined to go down with some of the best that the Crescent City has ever seen.

The action starts with the now familiar tune of “Hot Stuff’ blaring from the Dome’s loud speakers. “Hot Stuff’ Eddie Gilbert comes down looking proud as a peacock with his “better half’. Then the Television Champ’s music hits and the crowd starts cheering. Sting, the NWA’s new franchise player, comes down taking time to give fans fives as usual. He enters the ring and stares down his former manager who returns the favor. The bell rings and the two circle one another. Finally they lock up. Sting outpowers Gilbert then kicks him in the stomach. He then lifts him over his head and slams him. He screams to the crowd as Gilbert crawls in reverse to the corner. “Hot Stuff’ then slowly gets up and as Sting approaches, he pokes him in the eye. Gilbert then goes to work on Sting, biting, clawing and kicking his ex-charge. He is in control until a missed clothesline, which Sting counters and turns into one of his own. Sting then returns Gilbert’s favor from earlier, turning up the heat on “Hot Stuff’. After a hard hip toss, Sting throws Gilbert from opposing turnbuckles and attempts the Stinger Splash, but Gilbert moves out the way at the last second and Sting hits hard. Gilbert turns this to advantage and works the champ over. A minute later, he hits the Hot Shot and makes a nonchalant cover, with a wide grin… but Sting kicks out at two! A frustrated Gilbert starts kicking away at Sting. He picks Sting up, slams him down and climbs to the top rope. He comes down with a double arm fist smash, but Sting counters with a punch to the stomach. Both hurt, Gilbert seemingly recovers first and tries a dropkick, but Sting dodges it. Now recovering, Sting picks up the pace and takes it to the challenger. Sting grabs Gilbert by his hair and slams his head into a turnbuckle ten times while the crowd counts with glee. Gilbert once again pokes Stings eyes. After taking a second to catch his breath, he moves to throw Sting into the opposing turnbuckle, but Sting reverses and this time hits the Stinger Splash dead on. He then locks in the Scorpion Deathlock. Gilbert holds on for a bit, but realizing the inevitable, gives it up.

The next match is for the U.S. Title. No strangers to each other (Windham actually helped train Spivey to be a wrestler) the two have a very competitive match. Spivey is the stronger of the two, while Windham is quicker and has more skill and experience. Control flip flops back and forth. After stunning Windham with a big boot, Spivey attempts a bulldog headlock, but Windham pushes him off and Spivey falls down. Windham then counters with a lariat and gets a close two count, though Spivey throws the U.S. Champion off him. The match continues until both are thoroughly beaten and bruised. Spivey sets Windham up for a one shoulder power bomb, but Windham is able to turn it into a small package and pick up the win.

Not happy with his loss, Spivey and manager Kevin Sullivan attack Windham and proceed to beat him down. The crowd cheers as Lex Luger charges to ringside, picks up a chair and clears the ring of The Varsity Club. The cheers grow even louder as “The Package’ picks up the microphone. “Barry, you and I go a long way back. And while I can’t agree with your decision to side with Flair, I realize that doesn’t change the fact that you are a stand up guy. And no matter what, we will always be friends.’ Windham, still on the mat, nods with a smile. “Come on champ, let’s go grab a beer.’ Luger says offering Windham his hand. Barry grabs Lex’s hand and Luger lifts him up, then drops him with a hard clothesline! “That bastard!’ Jim Ross yells. Luger then gives a pompous smile as he picks up the steel chair he brought to the ring. Windham pleas for mercy, but to no avail. His former best friend pounds him mercilessly, until he stops moving. He then kicks him a couple of times for good measure before finally leaving the ring. Windham has to be helped out on a stretcher.

The World Tag Team Title rematch comes next. Coming down with just Missy, Ron Simmons and Rick Steiner look determined to recapture their gold. But Mike Rotundo and Scott Steiner are equally determined to keep it. Rick Steiner wants to start off with his brother, but has to settle for Rotundo. “A wise move, keep him frustrated.’ Jim Ross comments. The match is as expected, filled with great technical wrestling and hard hitting. Both sides of course try to take short cuts whenever available. At one point Ron Simmons hits a hard powerslam on Scott Steiner forcing Mike Rotundo to come in and make the save. Simmons then tags in Rick, who does a number on his little brother. He hits a hard Steiner-Line then barks to the crowd. He then connects with a belly to belly suplex and gets within centimeters of a three count. Frustrated, he rams his brother’s head against Ron Simmons’ boot and tags “The All American’ back in. Simmons then attempts to throw him across the ring, but Scott is able to reverse and hits his now named Frankensteiner on Simmons, though is too hurt to try for a pin. Both struggle to their corners. Simmons is able to tag in Rick, who stops The Varsity Club exchange by slugging Mike Rotundo right before Scott can reach him. He then starts pounding on his younger brother, but Scott blocks the punches and starts swinging back. Mike Rotundo then enters the ring and attacks Rick, prompting a Ron Simmons entry. As Teddy Long tries to restore order, Rick Steiner backs his brother into a corner and starts pounding away at him. But he fails to notice Kevin Sullivan hand Scott a chain. Scottie nails Rick with it and tosses it back to Sullivan. Long having just sent the illegal men back to their corners, makes the pin and the champions retain their title.

Right before the main event, Shane Douglas is ready for the match of his life. Like his stablemates in the previous match, he is escorted by just Missy Hyatt. Douglas knows that if he can beat Terry Funk one on one, his claims to the title “Franchise’ will be extremely legitimized. But this does not prove to be an easy task. Over the hill or not, Terry Funk is still one of the toughest, meanest and most talented men in the business. He takes this opportunity to give his younger opponent a well deserved wrestling lesson, easily controlling over 75% of the match. Douglas gets in what he can, but seems too green to be on Terry Funk’s level. After hitting a superplex, Funk sets Douglas up for a piledriver, prompting Missy Hyatt to jump on the mat and distract Nick Patrick, who demands she get down. At this, Eddie Gilbert storms to ringside and jumps on the apron. Funk goes over to him and threatens to clean his clock if he doesn’t get down. Gilbert responds “OK.’… then throws a fireball in Terry Funk’s eyes! Blinded and in pain, Funk swings wildly around the ring. Shane Douglas, ever the opportunist, uses this opportunity to hit his Pittsburgh Plunge and get the upset pin. He is congratulated by Missy and Eddie with hugs as Terry Funk writhes on the ground in pain. EMTs have to help the hardcore legend back to the dressing room area.

Finally comes the eagerly anticipated rematch. In an unfamiliar role, Ric Flair comes to the ring first as challenger with “Cowboy’ Bill Watts in his corner. He is shortly followed by “Dr. Death’, escorted to the ring by both Missy Hyatt and Eddie Gilbert. “There’s no way, Gilbert wouldn’t be at ringside for this one.’ Jim Ross comments. “No chance in Hell.’ While no words are exchanged, “Dr. Death’ gives the “Cowboy’ a death glare, though the ever bold cowboy refuses to turn away. Then Randy Anderson rings the bell and the two competitors lock up. Emotions predictably run high. Hard punches and chops are exchanged throughout the match. Once while running across the ropes, Eddie Gilbert grabs at Ric Flair’s foot. This causes the needed distraction, allowing “Dr. Death’ to ambush the challenger and regain the advantage. Incensed, Bill Watts runs after Eddie Gilbert, who runs away. Eventually, Watts gives up and resumes watching the match. Williams hits Flair with a three point stance and attempts the Oklahoma Stampede, but Flair is able to slid out and hit Williams’ head against the turnbuckle. He then clips “Doc’, causing him to scream in pain. Flair gives a sadistic grin and then targets the champion’s hurt knee. After a few minutes of this, Flair fights off a Williams’ comeback attempt and locks in his patented figure four leg lock. Williams screams in pain, but will not give up. His face turning red, he looks on the verge of passing out. Flair gets a series of two counts, “Doc’ just managing to get a shoulder up each time. Having seen enough, Eddie Gilbert grabs a chair, runs in the ring and nails Ric Flair with it, causing a disqualification.

This causes, Bill Watts to storm the ring and attack Eddie Gilbert. This time he catches him and pounds away unmercifully on his hated rival. But this doesn’t last long as all the other members of Hyatt and Hot Stuff International storm the ring attack the “Cowboy’. Rick Steiner nails him with a belly to belly suplex and they all then kick him. Sting and Ricky Steamboat storm the ring, but being outnumbered with Windham’s and Funk’s injuries, they are quickly disposed of. Things look bleak for Bill Watts. Eddie Gilbert gives a sadistic laugh and hits his Hot Shot on Watts. He then calls for Ron Simmons and Shane Douglas to “hold him for me’ and picks up the steel chair. Relishing the moment, he nods his head to let all the fans know just what is coming. He then swings the chair… but at the last second “Dr. Death’, takes it from him, causing the crowd to come alive! “What the hell are you doing, Steve?’ an incensed Gilbert asks. “You’re taking it too far, Eddie! You’re taking it, too damn far!’ an equally incensed “Doc’ yells. “Don’t get soft on me, ‘Doc’! Don’t get soft!’ Eddie screams as spit flies from his mouth. He pushes the World’s Champion, who promptly pushes him back. The other members of Hyatt and Hot Stuff International step in between the two as the show goes off the air.

April-May 1989

The next episode of World Championship Wrestling features a recap of the Clash. Things are very uncertain right now in the NWA. It is announced that Terry Funk’s medical condition is still unknown at the present time.

Lex Luger wrestles Bucky Seigler and tears the unknown jobber apart, making him submit to his human torture rack, then refuses to release the hold for several seconds afterwards. The “Package’ then explains his heinous actions of days earlier.

“You know everyone’s been asking me since the Clash ‘Why Lex, why? Barry Windham was your friend.’ Yeah, some friend. I went to bat for him for more times than I can count, and he just goes and sides with Flair? And I’m supposed to tolerate it? I don’t think so! Lex Luger is an elite class in this industry. And now he travels alone. No friends and no more of the fans. Barry, I am not nearly through with you. Soon that U.S. Title will be mine once more.’

Later, “Dr. Death’, still accompanied by Eddie Gilbert, wrestles Randy Rose. Though a competent wrestler, Rose cannot resist the onslaught as “Dr. Death’, who seems to be venting more frustration than ever before, really works “Ravishing’ Randy over hard. After finishing him off with the Oklahoma Stampede, he hits a series of hard suplexes before finally tossing his vanquished challenger’s motionless carcass down.

Afterwards, all of Hyatt and Hot Stuff International gather for an interview. “You have a lot of questions to answer.’ Jim Ross says. “First off, what on God’s green Earth possessed you to throw a fireball on Terry Funk?’ “Ross,’ Gilbert responds, “let’s get one thing straight, I don’t have to answer to anyone for my actions. Funk is washed up and needed to get out of this sport. I did him a favor. And I’ve now firmly established this man’ he says pointing to a smiling and nodding Douglas, “as the NWA’s new franchise player.’ “And as far as Bill Watts goes, old man you got lucky. But don’t count on it again.’ “That’s right.’ “Dr. Death’ says. “Bill, I got nostalgic in that ring. It made me soft. That was a mistake. Eddie has been great to me and done things for me you or anyone else never could do. You get in The First Family’s way again and I will not be there to help you.’ “Speaking of family,’ Rick what do you have to say about your little brother pinning you at the Clash?’ Ross asks. With a very angry look in his eyes, Rick Steiner says “Scottie, you crossed the line. Hitting your own brother with a chain? Well, I am going to teach you a lesson, little bro. I am here and now challenging you to a match. One on one.’ “And Ric Flair, guess what?’ Missy Hyatt says. “You had your rematch and you blew it. So toooo bad!’ “That’s right.’ Eddie Gilbert says with a laugh as all his men join in. Ron Simmons then shakes his head and after several seconds says “Damn.’

“Dr. Death’ continues his winning ways- and after match beatdowns. But, on subsequent NWA programming, it is announced that the NWA Championship Committee has been meeting and will make a decision regarding Ric Flair’s contender status on the next World Championship Wrestling.

When the next episode rolls around, it is announced that the NWA Championship Committee has met and reached a decision. Due to the inconclusive way the main event at the Clash of the Champions ended, a rematch will take place between NWA World Champion “Dr. Death’ Steve Williams and former World Champion “The Nature Boy’ Ric Flair at the NWA’s next pay-per-view, Wrestle War 89. Additionally, since Williams’ manager, Eddie Gilbert, purposefully caused a disqualification to keep the title from changing hands, this match will have the disqualification rule waived, meaning if Steve Williams is disqualified, Ric Flair will win the World Title.

Later on Barry Windham is interviewed about the occurrence at the Clash and Lex Luger’s subsequent challenge. “You know, I really thought I knew Lex.’ Windham says shaking his head. “I really did. Turns out, I didn’t know him at all. I knew he was upset after Sting and I agreed to help out Ric Flair, but I figured he would come around and things would go back to normal. Boy was I wrong. But Luger, you made a mistake. A big mistake. You crossed me. And I don’t take kindly to that, not from you, not from anybody. So Lex, you want this?’ he says pointing to the U.S. belt. “I accept your challenge. We’ll do it in Nashville. And come Wrestle War, you’re gonna wish you had never made it. Bank on it!’

On the Main Event, The Varsity Club meet The Road Warriors in a World Tag Team Title match. Hell bent of being tag champs once more, Hawk and Animal come at Rotundo and Scott Steiner with a vengeance. But The Varsity Club holds its ground and refuses to be bullied, a very rare characteristic for opponents of The LOD. Nonetheless, the Warriors are able to take control. Taking it to Scott Steiner in the corner, Hawk ignores Teddy Long’s warnings and continues to pound away on the champion. Long grabs Hawk’s arm and not thinking, Hawk, throws Long down hard. Steiner uses the opportunity to head butt Hawk and attempts a gutwrench suplex, but Hawk blocks it throws Steiner against the ropes and hits a powerslam. Hawk calls for Long to count the pin, but Long hold his back and insists he is too hurt. Finally giving up, Hawk picks Steiner up, but he turns it into a small package. “Miraculously’ healed, Long makes a very quick three count, giving The Varsity Club the win.

After the match, Bob Caudle interviews The Varsity Club. “Bit of a fast count there, won’t you say?’ “Don’t invent stuff Caudle.’ Kevin Sullivan replies. “That count was on point.’ “Exactly. Done at a perfect speed.’ says Mike Rotundo. Scott Steiner then adds  “Trust me, we don’t need a fast count to beat The Road Warriors just like I’m not going to need a fast count to beat you, Rick. That’s right, ‘Big Bro‘ I accept your little challenge. You and me, mano a mano, in Nashville at the Music City Showdown. We’re going to find out just who is the biggest and best Steiner brother once and for all.’

It is announced on an episode of World Wide that for the Barry Windham vs. Lex Luger U.S. Title match that former United States Champion, Nikita Koloff will officiate. “Nikita will keep Luger in line, bank on that.’ Jim Ross states on World Wide after the announcement is made.

Later on World Wide, Eddie Gilbert takes on Ranger Ross. Gilbert mocks the former Army Ranger with a sarcastic salute before the match. Not amused, Ross takes it to Gilbert with fisticuffs. He gives a great effort, but is outmatched by the talented and shrewd “Hot Stuff’. Gilbert hits his Hot Shot and fixes to pin Ross… but before Randy Anderson can hit three, Terry Funk storms the ring and proceeds to beat the daylights out of Gilbert. Funk punches “Hot Stuff’ and rams his head against the turnbuckle while Missy Hyatt shrieks with terror. Funk then hits Eddie with a series of punches and elbows. Seeing an opening, Gilbert slides out the ring into Missy’s arms. The two frantically make haste as Funk chases them to the back.

After a commercial break, Terry Funk is back in the ring with a microphone. “So Eddie Gilbert thought he could put me out to pasture? We’ll ‘Hot Stuff‘ think again!’ he says to the crowd’s roaring approval. “I may be over the hill and half way down the other side, but this old man has at least one maybe two good years left in him before he decides to retire for good. And Gilbert, I just got through talking to the NWA Executive Committee. I have a few friends on it, you see. And guess what? On May 7 at Wrestle War, you get to take on me!’ Funk says to almost deafening cheers.

With the stage set for a spectacular pay-per-view, things have never been more chaotic. Brother meeting brother, former best friends going at it, mentors managing against old protege’s, Music City Showdown is shaping up to be an event to remember.

The main event of the last World Championship Wrestling before the pay-per-view features “Dr. Death’ defending his World Title, by himself this time as Eddie and Missy are not present, against a very familiar opponent, the former leader of the Fabulous Freebirds, Michael “P.S.’ Hayes. Always a colorful character, Hayes comes to the ring dancing, doing a great rendition of the moon walk as Williams stares him down. After disrobing on the second rope, Hayes faces “Doc’ and the match starts. As the two know each other quite well, neither is really able to greatly surprise the other. Hayes, for all his antics a very skilled wrestler and a seasoned veteran, gives Williams one of the best fights he has had in a few weeks. He lays into the champion with a series of rights and lefts then signals for the DDT. But Williams blocks it and lifts Hayes up and throws him against the turnbuckle. He then charges him and does not let up afterwards. He hip tosses Hayes, connects with the three point stance shoulder block then takes it home with the Stampede.

After the pin, he picks an out of it “P.S.’ up and sets him for the gutwrench suplex. But right before he can execute it, Bill Watts storms the ring and pulls “Doc’ off his vanquished challenger. An irate Williams pushes Watts, who, showing no fear, shoves “Dr. Death’ right back. The two bullheaded Oklahomans get in each others faces and start screaming at the top of their lungs. “What’s the hell’s wrong with you, Bill?’ an irate “Dr. Death’ asks his mentor. “What the hell’s wrong with me? What the hell’s wrong with you, Steve? What has gotten into you? Beating your opponents half to death like you have been doing?’ “Really? You are really defending, him over me? Michael Hayes?’ “You’re damn right I am, ‘Doc’. Damn right I am. No matter what his and my past may be, that does not give you the right to try and maim him. Gilbert has warped your brain! Do you not remember that just two years ago he broke your arm?’ “Ancient history! Bill, Eddie has done more for me than anyone. Including you!’ “Really? Has he?’ “Yeah, he has!’ “Steve, Eddie Gilbert is a liar, a user and a snake. He only helps those who he thinks can benefit him. The minute he thinks you are no longer of any use to him, he will throw you away like garbage.’ “That’s ridiculous. He got me the World Title.’ “Yeah, well let me ask you, ‘Doc’, what percentage of your cut does he get?’ This question flusters “Dr. Death’ a bit. “Just think it over, Steve. Sting got it right, and I hope you do to.’ “Cowboy’ Bill Watts then leaves the ring while “Dr. Death’, visibly shaken by his mentor’s words, stays in the ring and ponders to himself even long after the camera quits rolling.

May 7, 1989: Wrestle War 89: Music City Showdown

Over 5,000 are packed into Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium to see what will undoubtedly be a historic night. Rarely have so many grudge matches, so many different scores to be settled, been on the same pay-per-view.

In a rare brother vs. brother match, Scott Steiner comes down with his manager, Kevin Sullivan, Rick with Missy Hyatt. Eddie Gilbert is no doubt preparing for his later encounter with Terry Funk. Rick gives Scott a cold stare down which the younger Steiner brother ignores. The bell rings and the two circle each other for about a minute, daring the other with their eyes to make the first move. Scott finally does, diving at Rick, who quickly counters with a takedown. Scott reverses control and Rick counters his reversal. Finally, both pop up and resume the stare down. They lock up again and this time Rick turns around and nails a belly to back suplex. He gets up and pounds away on Scottie. The match is a combination of great amateur type wrestling, hard hitting power moves and punches. Several times emotions get carried away and Tommy Young has to intervene. Having worked Scott over for several minutes, Rick attempts a Steiner-Line, but Scottie ducks and charging Rick, hits a hard clothesline of his own. He then throws him across the ropes and executes a superb Frankensteiner, getting a close two count. Sensing victory, he picks Rick up and hoists him on the top rope. He then climbs up himself and sets his elder brother for a belly to belly suplex. But “The Gremlin’ won’t go easily. He blocks several attempts and starts punching away at his younger brother. He manages to hit a headbutt right on Scott’s nose, grabs him, and swinging himself around, nailing a belly to belly suplex of his own. Though stunned as well, he manages to cover Scott and get the pinfall.

For the U.S. Title match, Gary Michael Cappetta announces “Everyone, please welcome back, the special guest referee, wrestling legend, ‘The Russian Nightmare’ Nikita Koloff!’ The crowd roars as Nikita comes down to the ring. Having taken an indefinite sabbatical from wrestling to take care of his sick wife, Mandy, the beloved Nikita is still a crowd favorite. Challenger and champion are then introduced. Nikita offers his hand to Barry Windham who happily accepts and shakes it. He then does the same to Lex Luger, who just gives Nikita a cold stare. The proud Russian just shakes his head. He then goes over the rules with the two competitors and rings the bell.

Windham and Luger start off with a test of strength. Windham holds his own, but is outmatched by the more powerful Luger. Taking advantage of this mistake, Lex does his best to take the champ out early. But the consummate athlete, Barry Windham will not be an easy victim. He quickly recovers and gains control. As these two know each other quite well, neither can really pull any surprises on the other. Luger tries to bend the rules several times, but Nikita Koloff, no stranger to Lex Luger, will not let it fly. Later on, Windham manages to put Luger in the iron claw. “The Total Package’ is able to reach the ropes, but Windham will not break. Insisting on calling it down the middle, Nikita demands a break and eventually pulls Windham off Luger. This causes a yelling match between the official and the champion, Nikita pointing at his striped jersey saying “I am in charge.’ Luger takes the opportunity and hits Windham with a cheap shot running elbow from behind. This gives him control and he uses it to his advantage, really working the champion down. He hits a hard clothesline and then attempts a powerslam, but Windham is able to slide out and once again applies the iron claw. He then throws Luger across the ring for a lariat set up, but the challenger dodges it and hits a clothesline of his own. He then hoists Windham up for the human torture rack. The proud Texan champion holds on as long as he can, but eventually has no choice but to submit. Luger sadistically tries to keep it on longer for good measure, but Nikita Koloff promptly pulls Windham off him. Luger gets in Koloff’s face and it looks like they are going to go at it. But “The Package’ relents and backs down. Nikita then hands Luger the U.S. belt, and with a disgusted look, raises his hand in victory.

A little later, Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff’ hits and outcomes Eddie Gilbert with Missy. He has a very determined look in his eyes as he knows he is up against a true legend. Then the Nashville crowd goes crazy as Terry Funk is introduced, striding to the ring. The bell rings and Funk has to chase Gilbert around. “Hot Stuff’ goes in between the ropes and Teddy Long doesn’t let Terry Funk get to him. “He’s in the ropes, Terry, he’s in the ropes.’ says the increasingly questionable Long. Funk reluctantly relents, and waits for Gilbert to come to him. Eddie starts to, but then goes back to the ropes again. He does this another time, then yet again. At that, Funk has enough and storms past Teddy Long. But Gilbert, ever the trickster, meets Funk with a thumb to the eye. He the goes to work on his half blinded and hurt opponent. Showing just how sadistic he can be, Gilbert throws him over the top rope while Missy “distracts’ Teddy Long, though it was fairly obvious the competitors were still in his eyesight. Gilbert takes the ring bell and slams it in Funk’s face, then throws him into the barricade, following up with a bodyslam on the floor. All Teddy Long does is issue the slowest ten count on record. Finally Gilbert tosses Funk back in. Sensing victory, he throws Funk across the ropes and sets him up for his Hot Shot… but Funk counters with a Thesz Press! He then starts punching without pause on his opponent. Teddy Long starts to admonish him, but seeing the look in Funk’s eyes, he realizes that is not the best idea. For the rest of this match at least, Teddy Long decides calling it down the middle is the best approach. Funk picks Gilbert up and lays in to him with every move he knows. Not concerned so much about the win, “The Funker’ makes “Hot Stuff’ pay for trying to end his career. Funk puts Gilbert in a sleeper, but the ring savvy Gilbert counters with a jawbreaker. With a blood lust of his own, Eddie once again takes it to the beloved legend. He nails a hard suplex. Then mocks the crowd by saying “The fat lady’s about to sing.’ He then throws Funk across the ropes and sets him up for  a back body drop… but Terry Funk sees it coming and jumps on Gilbert, setting him up for the piledriver. Gilbert tries to block it, but to no avail. While he could clearly pin Gilbert, that isnot on Terry Funk’s mind. He stands still over “Hot Stuff’ for several seconds, then picks up one of his legs. “I know what’s coming now!’ Jim Ross exclaims. And sure enough, he executes the legendary Funk spinning toe hold. This instantly awakens the dazed Gilbert, who screams out in pain. Funk waits a second to bask in the glory, then reapplies it again. He then does it a third time. At this point, Gilbert’s face is as red as a beet. Funk does it a fourth time, and at this Eddie can take no more and submits. Teddy Long calls for the bell, but this does not stop Funk from giving Gilbert a fifth spinning toe hold for good measure. His hand is then raised as Missy goes to check on her man. Funk walks back to the dressing room while the Music City faithful cheer him on.

It is finally time for the event everyone has been waiting for. “Sprach Zarathustra’ hits and “The Nature Boy’, escorted by “The Cowboy’ hits the ring. Flair knows it is do or die time. Then “Hot Stuff’ plays once again and the World’s Champion comes down with both Missy Hyatt and a limping Eddie Gilbert.

When he gets to the ring, Williams demands the microphone. “Eddie, get out!’ he says. Gilbert has a shocked look on his face. “What?’ he responds. “You heard me! Now! You, too Missy, it’s all over!’ With a furious look on his face, Gilbert approaches Williams, but Bill Watts cuts him off. “You can do this the easy way or the hard way, boy!’ the angry “Cowboy’ screams. Tommy Young tells Gilbert he must abide by Steve Williams wishes. Reluctant and pouting, he and Missy head back to the locker room.

Tommy Young then calls for the bell and the main event is on. Flair and Williams each give the match of their lives. Flair knowing he has to prove he still has it, Williams wanting to show he is a worthy World’s Champion. Both as technically sound as can be, Williams relies more on power, Flair on his conditioning and cunning. The challenger purposefully tries to make the champion chase him more to wear him out. At about the twenty minute mark, “Doc’ has Flair in a chin lock and is trying to break “The Nature Boy’ down. All of a sudden, Gilbert along with Shane Douglas, Rick Steiner and Ron Simmons storm out from the locker room area. “Throw me out will he?’ says an irate Gilbert. “Well I’ll show them. This one’s not gonna have a clean finish!’ “Cowboy’ Bill Watts stands between them, though he knows he cannot realistically stop all four of them. Thankfully, he does not have to. Sting, Ricky Steamboat, Terry Funk, Barry Windham and Nikita Koloff all come running out and divert the interference. With a five on four advantage, the babyfaces make sure Hyatt and Hot Stuff International never gets near the ring or the “Cowboy’. They are forced back into the backstage area. Terry Funk takes this opportunity to get a few more punches in on Eddie Gilbert and gives him a nice swift kick in the rear end as he forces him to the backstage area. The match continues and Flair regains the advantage. Slamming Williams down, he puts his feet on the ropes for leverage as Tommy Young makes the pin, but Bill Watts angrily throws them off. “What are you doing, Watts?’ Flair angrily screams. “You are in my corner!’ “None of that crap tonight!’ The “Cowboy’ responds. “We’re getting a clean winner.’ “Dr. Death’ takes this opportunity to roll Flair up from behind and almost gets a three count, Flair only getting a shoulder up at the last moment. The two continue to go at it, but Flair’s strategy starts to take hold. He has purposefully laid off “Dr. Death’s’ legs and not tried for the figure four. He wanted to keep Williams on his feet and moving. And his strategy has paid off. The champion is running out of gas. Flair takes it to him, delivering a barrage of hard chops to “Doc’s’ chest. He screams out “Wooo!’ and then attempts to throw Williams to the opposing turnbuckle. Williams reverses, but Flair flips over the turnbuckle runs to the next ring post and climbs to the top rope. He then dives on Williams and hits him dead on, knocking the wind out of him. Tommy Young makes the count, and three seconds later, Ric Flair is now a six times World’s Champion.

The crowd roars as “Sprach Zarathustra’ plays. Tommy Young hands Ric Flair the belt and raises the new champion’s hand. “Cowboy’ Bill Watts then enters the ring and he and Flair stare at each other for several seconds. Finally, Flair offers “The Cowboy’ his hand, and Watts happily takes it. Then “Dr. Death’ walks over and champion and former champion shake hands. Bill Watts raises both their hands simultaneous as the fans in Nashville show their approval with claps and cheers. Finally, Watts helps an exhausted Williams to the back as Jim Ross comes in to interview Ric Flair.

“Ric, congratulations.’ Ross says. “You just tied Lou Thesz for six World Titles.’ “I know, Jim, I know. But let me tell you. It wasn’t easy. Hats off to ‘Dr. Death’. He was a helluva World’s Champion. Everyone give him a round of applause.’ The Nashville crowd happily obliges. “That was probably the toughest match of my life. And I know ‘Doc’ and I will meet again, but in the meantime I plan on…’ All of a sudden, Flair notices Terry Funk, who stops to nod to an exiting Bill Watts and “Dr. Death’, approaching the ring and pauses. “Well, look who it is. Terry Funk!’ Funk enters the ring and the two embrace. “Congratulations, Ric. Congratulations! I knew you could do it!’ “Thank you, Terry. Thank you so much!’ Flair says. “And I gave it to Gilbert good, didn’t I? Did you see that? I kicked him right in his ass!’ “The Funker’ proudly boasts. Flair laughs and says “Terry, you did wonderful. I owe all you guys; Sting, Barry, but especially you and Ricky. I was up the proverbial creek before you two came along. Terry, if you ever want or need anything, just say the word. It’s done.’ “Well Ric, actually there is something. I know I’m over the hill and all, but the old ‘Funker’ still has a little steam left in the engine. I think I proved that tonight.’ Ric Flair nods. “And I was wondering if… well… I’d like the next shot at there World Title!’ The Nashville crowd roars at this prospect. Ric Flair lets out a chuckle and responds, “Well Terry, honestly, I wasn’t expecting that. It’s like this…

But wait… that’s another story.

The end…?

 

Written by

Creator, editor and semi-sorta-retired original author of Rewriting The Book, husband, father of three, gamer, lover of 90's MTV animation.

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