The 1988 Bunkhouse Stampede has an interesting back story with regard to the WWF/Crockett war on two fronts. This was Crockett’s 2nd PPV, the first being ’87 Starrcade which was foiled by Vince counter programming the first Survivor Series. The Stampede was in January 1988, same night as WWF’s first Royal Rumble, a different kind of specialty battle royal. This event was also held in Nassau Coliseum, where Crockett had started running events. There was a great show there in November 1987, so there was hope of making hay in the NY market. Why they created such a “southern” card, I’ll never know. Also, telling people the correct time of the show would have been nice (PPV said 6 pm, show started at 7 pm, and the tickets said 8 PM)
Our hosts are Jim Ross and Bob Caudle, and Tony Schiavone is the freaking ring announcer for this and I bet he wanted to strangle Caudle in his sleep. The opener is TV Champ Nikita Koloff facing Bobby Eaton w/Jim Cornette. The heels stall by hugging early and we get underway. I love the Midnights, but holy hell this might be the worst opener in the history of PPV. Only redeeming thing is vintage Cornette outside with the trash talk. The entire 15 minutes was Eaton holding Koloff in an armbar or chinlock or side headlock. They literally do nothing until they announce 30 seconds left in the match, which is a concept I HATE because it’s very distracting and takes me out of the match and usually telegraphs the ending. We get a draw: Stan Lane comes out to help beat down Nikita, then photojacks the shot of Ross and Caudle post-match flexing in the background in a funny moment. “What a match” says Bob Caudle, who will go ahead and put over any crap you have. Meanwhile, referee Dick Kroll walks into the shot between Caudle and the camera in a total Amateur Hour moment.
Kroll is the ref for the match for the WESTERN STATES Heritage Title between champ Barry Windham and Larry Zbyszko (w/Baby Doll). Yes, they are defending this belt in Nassau County, NY. This belt exists as an excuse to put a title on Windham, and for potential tours of Texas down the road as “Western States” refers to the old Amarillo territory of the NWA. The title would be a running joke with me and one my friends to this day as it is for many others I’ve seen online. This match had a lot of mat wrestling, but better paced than the opener. Windham would have an outstanding 1988 and this was a decent start, even though he has yellow trunks with the “Strike Force” lightning bolt on them. Is he joining up with Martel and Santana? Tune in to Superstars! Anyway, after Windham misses a top rope elbow, all I can notice is Larry’s near atomic wedgie. Bad trunk sizing, dude. We get reversals of a whip out of the corner, and Dick Kroll takes the ref bump. While he is down only briefly, this allows Baby Doll to slip Larry a high heel shoe and he hits Windham in the face with it for the title. Just think: Arn Anderson will beat Hulk Hogan in about 8 years doing the same thing. As Larry preens with the belt, I see behind him that musician Sting is playing the Coliseum on Feb. 7. Wrestler Sting was in a dark match on this show, teaming with Jimmy Garvin to beat the Sheepherders.
The network version jumps immediately to NWA Champ Ric Flair vs Road Warrior Hawk in the ring, post-introductions as graphic says this is most complete form possible. Oddly, Dick Kroll is our referee AGAIN in this one. Flair bumps like crazy here, wearing the purple gear tonight. Two press slams by Hawk, then a standing dropkick which is a move I will always mark for. Hawk sells none of Flair’s offense for about 9 minutes until Flair gets a nut shot. News flash: Flair actually gets a double axe handle from the TOP ROPE, then starts working the left knee. Flair gets the figure four, engaging the crowd, before Hawks turns it over on him. Flair: “Ah my leg! Ah! Jesus Christ!” Flair goes up again but is slammed off the top as two successful moves by Ric off the top would trigger the apocalypse. He whips Hawk into the corner, and Hawk bounds off with a clothesline and gets the referee on the follow thru and knocks him out of the ring. Jeez, Dick Kroll was bumping for the business on this night. Ric gets clotheslined over the top (a DQ if ref saw it under NWA rules), and he gets posted and runs the blade. Powerslam and a superplex by Hawk, who is really working hard in this match. JJ Dillon is in with the chair to Hawk to no effect, ref still out BTW. Flair then gets Hawk in the head with a chair, ref is back but Hawk kicks out! Ric breaks out a….delayed vertical suplex??? What? Hawk no sells, which prompts a scared Flair to resort to the chair for the DQ. Lousy finish, but a really fun match as 1988 Flair got the most out of everyone.
In a bizarre move, they run credits mid-show as they stall for construction of the cage. Bunkhouse Stampede rules: Wrestler eliminated when thrown over the top of the cage, or out the door. Gee, I wonder which of those two options will occur more. This match was popular in the South, but unknown to this Long Island audience. Our combatants: Dusty Rhodes (who qualified via wild card, and of course is the booker at this time), Arn and Tully, Road Warrior Animal, Lex Luger, Ivan Koloff (in 1988!), the Warlord and the Barbarian. This was very hard to follow as JR himself said on commentary, too many close up shots with quick cuts and not many wide shots to get a big picture idea. Because it’s 1988, only two guys in the match don’t bleed: Barbarian and Luger. Koloff is up with Dusty at top of cage and Koloff is knocked out that way. Dusty is bleeding from his arm, but don’t worry he’ll gig his head later. Warlord and Animal go out the door together in a rather gentle fashion. Arn, Tully and Lex all go out the door at once, making me wonder WHY DOES ANYONE HANG OUT NEAR THE DOOR? So we’re left with Dusty and the Barbarian, who doles out two top rope head butts. Very little heat for this finish, as the bloom was coming off the Dusty rose in ’88, even as he declared it would be his last year as an active competitor and he wanted to go out with a bang. They climb the ropes, Dusty gets two atomic elbows and gets Barbarian out for the win. The trophy is a giant boot and don’t laugh, disparaging the boot is a bootable offense. This is not the same boot used in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, as this one is much cheaper looking.
Summary: This show is pretty bad, only has nostalgia value for the one appearance of the Western States Heritage Title on PPV. First match is dull, last match is a mess. The Flair match is good and maybe Hawk’s best singles match ever for what that’s worth. Even if you really love Dusty, don’t bother watching this. The rest of 1988 on PPV is going to be better than that.