This might be a losing battle here, but anytime new/”old” stuff is on the WWE Network, I want to watch. Today it is AWA from 01/24/1988 at their taping home at the Showboat in Las Vegas. Don’t go looking for it on maps because the property became Castaways in 2000, closed in 2004 when I was living out in Vegas, and is now just a large empty lot.
Opener is Kevin Kelly and Nick Kiniski vs Jake Milliman and Van Van Horne: Kelly would go on to infamy as Nailz, and Kiniski claimed to be “Canada’s Greatest Athlete” at a time Gretzky won 8 straight MVPs. Kiniski hits Horne with a piledriver for the win, because Milliman was kind of like Lanny Poffo in WWF in that he was a job guy, but beloved enough to not be taking the loss in tags.
Billy Jack Strong, who is really just a generic musclehead from the late 80s, took on Tom “Rocky” Stone who I clearly remember as a WWF job guy from around this time. Strong totally no sells everything, and then hits a 2nd rope DDT that Rod Trongard the host called a “front piledriver”. Ok, whatever. Not even the finish, as he adds in a tombstone because he’s apparently a dick.
Graphic appears as they go to break: Greg Gagne is the most popular guy in AWA. What a shock, both a symptom and the disease.
Bill Apter is with Wahoo McDaniel, who talks about a past strap match and puts over Billy Jack Strong. Wahoo was actually the booker in AWA at the time of this taping.
Every promotion had its Soviet guys, and in the AWA it was Soldat Ustinov who spent 99% of his career in AWA from 1986 to 1990. Not the place to be. He took on the legendary Dennis Stamp, a beloved job guy best known for griping that he’s “not booked” in Beyond the Mat. Eventually Terry Funk had him be the ref for his match with Bret Hart that is shown in part in the movie. He is apparently still bouncing around to this day making appearances.
Our main event is a doozy: The Midnight Rockers challenge the Original Midnight Express (w/ Paul E) for the AWA tag titles. The Rockers had returned to AWA after being fired from WWF for partying too much in summer 1987 and a quick trip to the CWA. Michaels works over Dennis Condrey early and he falls out of the ring. When Randy Rose goes to help, Marty Jannetty hits him with an atomic drop on the floor. Crowd is very much into this which became more and more rare in the AWA as 1988 went along. Mick Karch wonders if Paul E owns another jacket. Michaels is hit with a backbreaker and the Midnights take control with solid double team offense. Shawn does the 360 off a double clothesline at one point. When he gets the hot tag to Marty, things quickly break down and there is an awkward ref bump. Condrey gets Jannetty in a full nelson but when Rose comes over, Marty pushed off with his feet into a lousy looking pinning combination, which gets 3 from a 2nd ref, probably to protect the titles if the Rockers left the promotion suddenly. But the Rockers did stick around in AWA until the early summer of 1988.
Summary: Apparently I like squash matches. The main event was a pretty good match but the finish was far too sloppy; Marty was just laying on Condrey and it would have looked better if he had rolled over the top a la Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 8 vs Roddy Piper. Still not a terrible show if you have some context for it.