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/12 August 2000
WCW Classics by Mike Regan





This week it's a look at three of the "young lions" according to Dusty Rhodes. This week we see three men who were primed to dominate wrestling until tragedy struck. Of couse, Dusty never elaborates on this, so I'll have to:

Nikita Koloff, whose wife died of cancer.

Magnum T. A., whose career was cut short by a car crash.

And Tommy Rich, who, um, there's gotta be something. Oh yeah, he wrestled a PPV match in Philadelphia (as we'll soon see).

Anyway, let's get rolling, with the match that hit me like a left to the solar plexus when I saw it listed on Turner South's web page:

From Halloween Havoc '89:
Tommy Rich vs. The Cuban Assassin

By the way, I doubt that Tommy Rich is reading this, but if you are, you may want to skip this match report. Just a suggestion.

Why?! Why this match?! Out of hundreds of possible matches from PPVs, why is this one the first to appear on Classics? Why is this match picked to be our first taste of Jim Ross announcing? Why is this match our first look at long-time referee Nick Patrick? And why is Tommy Rich on this salute to young lions? Rich is known for two things; being one of the worst world champions in the days before Vince Russo, and for being a big drunk. And this is his "big comeback" which failed to amount to anything other than the birth of Big Josh, and a stint in the York Foundation. On the other hand, this match is a beautiful intro to a long-time wrestling tradition: the hostile, babyface-hating, Santa Claus-booing Philadelphia crowd. Tommy Rich works on the arm of the Assassin (David "Fidel" Sierra, last seen as one half of the "Barrio Brothers"), and the crowd erupts, against Tommy. They boo Tommy unmercifully, even getting a "Tommy Rich sucks" chant going. Good ol' JR does his best to ignore the building tide of hatred towards Rich, and hype that year's Starcade and it's top secret revolutionary format (it was the Iron Man tournament, and it bombed). Assassin cheats to take the advantage, leading JR to question his amateur credentials (I did not make that up). Rich finally gets the win with his finisher, the Thesz press, and the crowd boos. It was a blah match, but it is perversely fun to see the WCW equivalent of "Kill the Clown" (ask the Rick about it, or don't).

And it's on to the second match:

U.S. Title cage match:
Magnum T.A. vs. Wahoo McDaniel (champion)

March 1985

This match is from the murky period where the Goergia and Mid-Atlantic territories had merged, but had no national TV between them (The WWF was airing on TBS at this time). McDaniel is a despised heel (they never explain why, but apparently he did a lot of evil things in the preceeding months). I should have mentioned this last week, but when Jim Crockett signed Magnum, he received a push that would make Goldberg blush. Week in, week out, he would win squash matches in roughly twenty seconds with his belly-to-belly suplex. They start with a little wrestling, but one kick to the groin by Wahoo is all it takes to turn it into a brawl. And the crowd is seriously into it. Wahoo dominates with his one move, the tomahawk chop. (Memo to Scott Keith: I have discovered the true opposite of Canadian Violence and it is Wahoo McDaniel, who actually stomps his foot when he chops.) Suddenly, Magnum hits the belly-to-belly out of nowhere for the pin and the U.S. Title. And the crowd erupts. I had forgotten just how over Magnum was.

Dusty incoherently rambles about Nikita Koloff. Since Dusty refuses to make any sense, I'll tell the story of Nikita's 1986 face turn. Magnum was on the verge of a main event push when he suffered career ending injuries in a car crash. Nikita was quickly turned face and put in Magnum's spot (getting World title matches, and having Dusty leech off his popularity). At Starrcade '86, Nikita went to a double DQ with Ric Flair, leading to:

NWA World Title Match; No Disqualifications
Nikita Koloff vs. Ric Flair (champion)

February 1987

Ahh, nothing like Dusty Rhodes booking, which is built on two things: screwjob endings and the complete obliteration of Ric Flair's credibility (which makes it a lot like Eric Bischoff's booking, and Hogan's, and Nash's, and Russo's). Let's see the Dusty-books-Flair checklist and see if this match stacks up:

Face no-sells Flair's chops: check.

Face no-sells Flair's piledriver: check.

Flair begs for mercy while Face poses: check.

A crappy non-ending that pisses off the crowd and destroys Flair as a credible champ: of course. In this case, Tully Blanchard runs out, and he and Flair double-team Nikita outside, leading to a double-countout. Then Dusty runs out and the two Horsemen get splatted. And Nikita winds up with the belt after Flair runs retreats. I don't even remember how he got the belt back.

Add it all up and you wind up with Ron Garvin as World Champ (because he was the only guy willing to return the job to Flair). See Dusty destroy a company with his magic pencil.

Next Week: Rock and Roll Express vs. Midnight Express. That will kick ass, but I wonder who will play Ricky Morton.

Till next time, this is the WCW Classics report.

Mike Regan
[slash] wrestling

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