THIS RETRO BUSINESS: NWA Starrcade ’83 – A Flair for the Gold

With the advent of the WWE Network, I now have access to material I haven’t been able to see before, so…I thought I’d start reviewing as much of the programming as is humanly possible. I may have guest writers and commentary in the future. We’ll see where it goes.
Our first stop is Starrcade ’83: A Flair for the Gold.
Back in 1983, the WCW was called “NWA” or the National Wrestling Alliance. It featured such stars as Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Harley Race, Ray Fernandez (AKA “Hercules”) and Roddy Piper, to name a few. The NWA was struggling against the powerhouse WWF who was eating up territory with the rise of Hulk Hogan and Bob Backlund.
Jim Crockett Jr. decided the only way to compete with the WWF was to introduce a “super card” show that would be seen in large arenas as well as played, on closed circuit television, to large audiences who couldn’t make it out.
Like Wrestlemania, Starrcade would become the banner show for NWA/WCW until WCW’s demise in 2000.
The main feud was Harley Race defending the title against Ric Flair (already in his mid-30’s at this point). Race was nearing the end of his long career and Flair was looking to re-gain the title.
Let’s start…
We are LIVE from the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC! Lights! Pyro! Music! Um…lights, pyro and music? Anybody? Nothing?
Nope. It’s pretty low key. Not even an intro. Plain ring. Blue in the center with big, yellow NWA in the middle of it. Match about to get underway.
Bob Caudle and Gordon Solie are your announcers.
MATCH #1: The Assassins (#1 & #2) (w/ Paul Jones) vs. Bugsy McGraw & Rufus R. Jones
McGraw looks like Arn Anderson if Arn was a creepy old dude in a porn theater. I’m gonna get a shitload of heat for saying that. Dude was huge and knew how to wrestle. McGraw pounds on #1 for a while, slams him and eventually knocks him down. Tag to #2 and McGraw does a goofy dance with his knees. #2 looks confused and McGraw beats on him and tags in Rufus who hits some punches as well as one to the gut for two. Rufus gets a wristlock on #2 and tags in Rufus who continues the pressure. #2 manages to tag in #1 as McGraw just no-sells a bunch of attacks. #1 finally puts a wristlock on Bugsy until McGraw elbows out and locks his wrist. Tag to Rufus who wristlocks #1 and then dances with his knees. #1 tries punching Jones to the head but that doesn’t work and the Wristlock just continues. Jones hits some thrust punches and knocks #1 down. More punching until #1 hits an eye rake and tags in #2 who goes to work on Jones. Jones, however, fights it off and tags McGraw who goes to work on the Assassins. All four men get in the ring and it’s a brawl. #2 gets Atomic Dropped by McGraw and then #1 rolls him up for the pin.
WINNERS: The Assassins via roll-up
GRADE: D+. Just a terrible match with no artistry whatsoever.
  • Assassin #2 was Ray Fernandez but has been played by many other wrestlers. Ray would leave NWA in 1985 and sign with the WWF.
  • Rufus Jones would go on to wrestle in Puerto Rico and died of a heart attack in 1993. He was 60 years old.
Caudle and Solie talk, post-match.
We go to a VERY young Tony Schiavone who says that they will have interviews! Between matches! With wrestlers! It’s new!
MATCH #2: Johnny Weaver & Scott McGhee (w/ Angelo Mosca) vs. Kevin Sullivan & Mark Lewin (w/ Gary Hart)
McGhee and Lewin start with some back and forth and then tags to both partners after McGhee hits some beautiful, quick dropkicks. Criss-cross between Sullivan and Weaver who looks like somebody’s dad. Lewin is tagged in and it’s suddenly the battle of the Middle Aged Fathers. But that ends quick as McGhee is tagged in. He breaks a wristlock from Lewin but falls into a headlock. Sullivan is tagged in and Sullivan works on the arm and the two heels trade tags for several minutes as Lewin hits an Abdominal Stretch. McGhee reaches for a tag, dragging Lewin with him and the ref disallows it because of some tag rule. Sullivan and Lewin continue to work on McGee, punching on him and putting him into a nerve hold. McGhee finally gets out but Sullivan’s right on him. McGhee, however, sends him into the turnbuckle and it’s a tag to Weaver who gets the Oklahoma Stampede and pin but Lewin breaks the pin.Weaver tries a bulldog but Sullivan manages to counter it, shoving Weaver into the turnbuckle. Wristlock by Sullivan and Lewin as they double team Weaver and then Lewin hits a splash and gets a pin.
WINNERS: Sullivan & Lewin via Splash

Post-match, it’s a brawl. It ends with Lewin getting a foreign object from manager Gary Hart and nailing Scott McGhee with it.

  • Mark Lewin was nearing the end of his career. He’d wrestle in Florida and do sporadic work in the business before retiring in 1998.
  • Scott McGhee would go on to wrestle in the WWF as a “Jobber to the Stars” before retiring due to injury in 1988.

Barbara Clarey is with family complete with a mother wearing a vest and a father with a camo hat.

Tony Schiavone is backstage with Harley Race who gives a promo heel says this is the last place he’d wanna be at any time in his life. Race says he’s been scouting Flair for the last few weeks and he’s gonna hit him in his weakest spots.

Ring announcer Tom Miller introduces the next match.

MATCH #3: Carlos Colon vs. Abdullah the Butcher
Solie reminds us that this match was “banned in Puerto Rico” which, apparently, means this was a mean match. Butcher beats on Colon in the corner until Colon starts fighting back. Butcher tries to use a foreign object but Colon intercepts it and uses it on Butcher who is bleeding all over the place. Colon hits several legdrops and gets a two-count. Butcher gets up and tries an elbow drop after the ref takes a bump and hits the ref instead. Colon works on Butcher’s leg with some elbows and then hits the Figure Four leglock. Butcher’s manager, Hugo Savinovich, comes into the ring on Butcher’s behalf (he had just gotten to the ring) and breaks the pin with an object. Butcher gets the pin.
WINNER: Abdullah the Butcher via cheating
GRADE: D+. Good to see Colon, though.

  • Carlos Colon would migrate to the WWF and make one more appearance.
  • Abdullah the Butcher would leave the NWA for five years for the WCCW and return to NWA in 1988.

Tony Schiavone is backstage with Angelo Mosca, who’s supposed to be a referee later on tonight. His arm is bleeding and he says he’d referee the match if he only had one arm. He says that the object that was used on him was dirty and only served to make him mad. He’ll get that Mark Lewin guy. Meanwhile, McGhee is next to him and he’s bleeding profusely and apparently asleep or dead. Mosca says that he thinks that Flair’s gonna be champion.

Barbara Cleary interviews more people about the “drive to the arena”. The fans she interviews are hoping Ric Flair wins tonight.

MATCH #4: Chief Wahoo McDaniel & Mark Youngblood vs. Dick Slater and Bob Orton, Jr.
I look at Randy and see so much of his dad, it’s incredible. Tom Miller starts saying that there’s a guest but his mic cuts out. It comes back on and he brings out Dusty Rhodes, I guess. Rhodes is set to take on the winner of Flair and Race. McDaniel and Slater start out. There are puddles of blood all over the ring. Yikes. Wahoo tosses Slater out of the ring and he hops the ropes and walks over to Orton and taps him on the shoulder before getting back in the ring. Youngblood is tagged and he puts Slater in an armlock, then slams him. Slater counters with a nice Double Leg Pickup Pin Combo and gets two. Slater is dumped out again and the two heels complain to the ref that this is unfair. The ref counts instead. Slater is back in and goes for a test of strength but converts it to a Russian Legsweep. Orton gets tagged in and hits that Orton knee to the back and then hits a backbreaker from a press position. Snapmare and then misses an elbow. Youngblood chases Orton as he runs and tags Slater. Orton tags himself back in and hits a nice backbreaker. Slater comes in and hits an elbow off the backbreaker. He follows with a gut wrench and gets a two count as Caudle talks about “not hooking the leg” as if that’s the reason Slater didn’t get the three. Youngblood spills outside and Orton nails him, dropping his back on the railing outside. Youngblood gets back in the ring and Slater hits a punt in full view of Orton (heh). Orton in and puts Youngblood in a headlock. Crowd gets firmly behind Youngblood who breaks free and runs into a big boot by Orton. Orton locks the head again and then tags Slater. Youngblood gets out of the lock and reaches for the tag but Orton blocks him. Slater hits a suplex (called a “soo-play” by Solie) and then tries a piledriver but Youngblood counters and crawls to his corner. He reaches for the hot tag and Wahoo’s in, a house o’ Native America fire, taking out the heels with chops and Atomic Drops. He knocks Orton down with a Tomahawk Chop (called a “Tommy-Hawk Chop” by Caudle). Orton manages to trip up Wahoo and tag Slater who hits a Side Soo-play for two. Slater keeps pinning Wahoo but the situation does not improve. Slater tags in Orton and they hit a double elbow. Orton hits a hammer elbow and some knees and gets two. Wahoo counters, tossing Orton into the turnbuckle. Slater gets in and Wahoo and Youngblood hit double Tommy-Hawk Chops. Wahoo gets knocked out of the ring and Youngblood starts hitting dropkicks everywhere. Slater and Wahoo battle outside the ring. Youngblood tries a dropkick on Orton but Orton backs off. Slater and Orton put Youngblood on the top turnbuckle and Orton hits a Superplex and gets the pin.
WINNERS: Orton and Slater via Superplex
GRADE: B-. Not a bad tag match, though the ending looked botched.

Post-match, Slater goes off the ropes and hits Wahoo’s extended arm. Orton celebrates as the crowd gives him some heat. Youngblood tends to Wahoo who looks hurt.

  • Orton left the NWA for the WWF, in 1984, after capturing the NWA tag titles one last time.
  • Youngblood wrestled with the NWA for three more years before leaving for WCCW. He would return to the NWA in 1990.

Schiavone’s with Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat(!). Ric gives a rather subdued interview where he tells Race that he doesn’t know what kind of a match he’s in for but that he will be the champion when it’s over because “all the marbles are on the line”. Almost, Ric. He leaves, introducing Rickeh Thteamboat and Jay Youngblood who sounds fucking loaded as he praises Ric. Ricky gets in on the NPR vibe, too, and says they will be tag champs. Really. They will.

Barbara Clary is with Dusty Rhodes but the audio cuts out. When it comes back online: HISTRAH IS HERE BEBBEZ or something.

MATCH #5: Charlie Brown (challenger) vs. The Great Kabuki (champion) (w/ Gary Hart) for the NWA TV Title/Charlie Brown’s Mask
So, I guess Charlie Brown has to remove his mask if he loses but wins the title if he beats Kabuki. Kabuki sprays Green Mist as he looks at Charlie Brown who is, essentially, Santa Claus with a luchadore mask. He beats on Kabuki and knocks him out of the ring. The fighting gets back into the ring and Brown hits a foot to Kabuki’s balls. Ouch. Brown punches Kabuki and then hits a quick sleeper hold. Kabuki looks like he’s out so Gary Hart starts pulling on Brown’s leg, forcing Brown to break the hold. Kabuki tries to chop Brown but misses and it’s Sleeper time again. But Gary Hart places Kabuki’s leg on the bottom rope and Brown has to break the hold. Kabuki starts chopping at Brown and hits a nice Roundhouse, then the Claw. Brown dances around and breaks out, then hits huge backdrops but Kabuki ends that with a kick to the face. Kabuki hits a Claw off the rope and keeps it locked in for several minutes. Brown starts to regain composure and dances crazy again, breaking out of the hold. Brown tosses Kabuki in the corner and charges but Kabuki kicks him in the face again. Kabuki hits the top rope and hits another Claw. Brown goes flat on the mat and Kabuki nearly gets a pin. Kabuki lets go and hits a chop off the top rope, getting a two count. Brown starts headbanging again so Kabuki just chops him on the head and Brown goes down. Kabuki goes to unmask Brown but Brown won’t let that happen. So Kabuki starts in with punches and kicks. Brown hulks up and hits a forearm. Kabuki tosses him into the corner and charges but Brown moves and Kabuki eats turnbuckle. Brown hits an immediate hammer elbow drop and gets the pin.
GRADE: C+. Neat, quick match but didn’t really mean much.

  • Brown was really Johnny Valiant and would return as Valiant in 1984.
  • Kabuki would wrestle for WCCW and then Japan for most of his career. We will see him later on in this review archive in a one-time appearance for the WWF…

The boys in the booth talk about Roddy Piper. Solie is going with Piper as the winner of his match.

Schiavone is with Slater, Race, and Orton who sounds like his son. They brag about beating up Flair.
Barbara Clary is with Dusty Rhodes again who says he wants to be “Threetimeswurlchampinagin.”
MATCH #6: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. NWA United States Champion Greg Valentine in a Dog Collar Match
This…was weird. Both guys were attached to each other, with a huge chain, which was connected to their necks by collars. I’m already wincing. The two men pull at one another. Why don’t they just run at each other? Piper gets a majority of the chain and nails Valentine with it. Valentine gets control of the chain but misses when he gets to swing at Piper. The two men go nose to nose and exchange punches left and right. They back off again and Piper gets part of the chain and uses it to whack Valentine, then attacks him in the corner. He pulls Valentine to him and punches him and Valentine goes down. Valentine fights back, using the chain as knuckles, and punches Piper in the head. He grabs the chain and wraps it around Piper’s eyes. Piper counters and wraps two lengths of chain around Valentines nose and mouth. He punches Valentine with it then wraps the chain around the corner post and chokes Valentine by pulling on the chain hard. He pulls Valentine to him him and then busts Valentine open! Holy shit…that looks like it hurt. Valentine counters and chokes Piper. Piper rolls out of the ring and this gets dirty. Valentine whips Piper who grabs a chair, making Valentine let go of the chain. Piper fights back and Valentine punches him in the ear. The ref takes a bump but manages to separate the guys. The fight spills outside again as Valentine tosses Piper into a set of chairs. Piper’s cut open as well and tries to get back in the ring but Valentine just boots at him. Valentine drags him in with the chain and continues to work on the ear. There is blood all over the mat as Valentine continues to pound on him and then tries one of those soo-play things but Piper fights out of it. Valentine pins for two after regaining the edge, then hits a Hammer elbow for two. He tries to go to the ropes but Piper yanks the chain back and Valentine falls. Piper is ALL over him now, punching and then stomping away. He grabs the chain and continually punches him with the chain and then whips him on the top of the head with it. Piper wraps his fist up with the chain again and belts him in the face. Valentine comes back, punching at Piper’s ear. But Piper fights back and he’s not letting up. Piper decks Valentine and Valentine grabs the chain and chokes Piper then collides with him on a running attack. Valentine tries a pin but gets nothing from it. Valentine drives a knee into Piper’s side and then continues to punch at Piper’s head. Valentine tries another suplex and so does Piper who, eventually, hits one. Both men are down. The ref counts and both men get to their feet. Piper gets tossed into the corner and comes out charging but flies right into Valentine and a Sleeper. Piper, however, breaks the hold, falling backward. Piper gets up but Valentine hits an elbow off the ropes. He goes for another but Piper pulls him off the ropes and uses the chain to beat the snot out of him, then uses the chain to hook the leg and gets the pin.
WINNER: Piper via pinfall
GRADE: B-. Jesus. Brutal. Mick Foley would have been proud.
Post-match, Valentine attacks Piper and uses the chain to punch and choke the shit out of Piper. This was just vicious as fuck. Piper suffered a legit injury to his eardrum during this match and lost fifty percent of his hearing. Valentine is finally pulled off and Piper rests.
  • Piper signed, the following year, with the WWF as their top heel.
  • Valentine signed, the following year, with the WWF after this match.

Solie and Caudle talk about the match and how deadly it was.

Barbara Clary is introduced but Tony Schiavone responds instead. He’s with Ric Flair. Wahoo McDaniel is with him. Flair says that the guys who beat McDaniel will pay. Also, he wants Race to throw everything at him but the kitchen sink. Wahoo talks up Flair and how he’ll beat Race.
Barbara Clary is interviews Donald Kernodle who talks up Sgt. Slaughter and roots for Flair.
MATCH #7: Jay Youngblood & Ricky Steamboat (challengers) vs. Jack & Jerry Brisco (champions) for the NWA World Tag Team Championship with Special Guest Referee Angelo Mosca
Jack Brisco starts with Ricky Steamboat. It starts slow with both men backing away from the other’s moves and stalking one another. Jack tags in Jerry but Steamboat locks his ankle. Jerry immediately tags Jack back in. Steamboat hits a beautiful armdrag after an arm lock. A tag is made to Jay Youngblood/Jerry and he reverses a slam into a snap mare, then tags Steamboat who goes up top and hits Jack’s arm. Youngblood does the same and they get a one count. Steamboat gets back in and takes out Jack and then beats on Jerry. Jack tags back in and hits the kneedrop, putting Steamboat in a headlock. Steamboat gets backdropped after some running and nearly gets pinned. Jack has Steamboat in a reverse bearlock. Steamboat gets to the ropes and runs at Brisco who hip tosses him and hits the Key Lock. Steamboat lifts him up and side suplexes him! Wow! Steamboat gets up and makes a hot tag to Youngblood as Jack tags Jerry. Youngblood chops him and tries a suplex but Jerry reverses and hits one instead. Tag to Jack and the Briscos hit a double shoulder tackle. Tag to Jerry who hits a nice suplex and gets two. Mosca hits a slow count and Jerry complains. Mosca shoves him down and tags are made. Steamboat hits a chop on Jerry and tags Youngblood and a Double Chop is made. The two men tag in and out as Jerry gets slammed and then Steamboat slams Youngblood on top of Jerry and it’s over.
WINNERS AND NEW CHAMPIONS: Steamboat & Youngblood
GRADE: C+ for what it was.

Post-match, the Briscos attack the faces and Mosca interferes, getting beat up himself. Steamboat makes the save and the Briscos are tossed out of the ring. Mosca hands them the belts.

  • Jay Youngblood would tour the South Pacific and wrestle in Australia for the next two years. In 1985, he ruptured his spleen during a match and, while being treated for the injury backstage, had three heart attacks and passed away. Youngblood was only 30 years old.
  • Jack Brisco went to the WWF in 1984 and then promptly left the same year he joined them after one match. He lived in Florida, running a body shop and passed away, in 2010, at the age of 68 due to complications from open heart surgery.
  • Jerry Brisco, like his brother Jack, went to the WWF in 1984. He also stopped wrestling after one match. Following his in-ring action, he worked as a booker and road agent for the WWF.

Solie runs the credits to show us everyone who worked on the show tonight as Steamboat and Youngblood pose and celebrate for the crowd.

Caudle says that Flair and Race are next and there will be an intermission probably because they need to build the damn cage.
Backstge, Flair paces back and forth, waiting for the match to start. Meanwhile, Tony Schiavone has the new NWA TV Title. He goes absolutely nuts. The same goes for Piper who enters the room and yells. His ear looks ugly with blood oozing out of it. Youngblood and Steamboat join him, too.
Caudle and Solie yack for minutes on end and then go down to Barbara Clary who has Dusty Rhodes with a bunch of fans who all think Flair’s gonna win tonight. Then Rhodes talks about himself. Dusty says he picks winners and then says that he won’t tell anyone who’s gonna win.
Tom Miller introduces James “Tiny” Weeks as he sings the National Anthem for some reason. Shouldn’t this have been sung prior to the beginning of the match? “Also Sprach Zarathustra” plays as the steel cage is lowered from the ceiling.
MATCH #8: Ric Flair (challenger) vs. Harley Race (champion) in a Steel Cage Match for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship
I’ve heard this match is notoriously bloody. I cannot imagine how these guys survived without getting some sort of blood disease since it’s already all over the mat. It starts with a few snap mares and headlocks by Flair who gets tossed into the ropes and Race hits a knee but misses a headbutt. Flair does a patented “woo!” and hits a headlock yet again which goes on and on…and on…and on. Holy crap. Race grabs Flair’s head and hits a suplex to get out of it. Flair goes for a slam but Race falls on him and nearly gets a pin. Race drops a knee and then chokes him against the ropes with a knee. Race slams his head into the turnbuckle and then hits a Piledriver but doesn’t cover. Race continues on Flair, hitting an elbow and then pins for two. Race hits a swinging neckbreaker and gets two again as the crowd tries to pump Flair up. Race continues to stomp on Flair and then tosses him into the cage, face-first. Race slams Flair and gets two again. Flair punches Race, fighting back but Race hits a headbutt and takes back control. Race starts tossing Flair into the cage as Flair is finally busted open. Flair fights back again as Solie starts warning of the danger of “that blood, that life-giving fluid” which just sounds really creepy. Flair tosses Race into the turnbuckle and and then throws him into the cage. Flair hits a knee drop as Race is busted open. Flair hits a piledriver and pins but Race kicks out. Flair hits a suplex and gets two. He starts chopping Race and then uses the fence to knock Race down. The ref gets in Flair’s face and shoves him and Flair shoves him back, arguing about that. Flair tries attacking again but Race grabs Flair and grinds his face into the cage. The ref pulls him off Flair, so Race tosses Flair into the cage at the other side. Both men punch at each other but Flair gets the best of it and hits the elbow. He starts punching away at Race as the crowd begins to buzz. Flair is beyond bloody and hits a side suplex, then goes for the Figure Four. Race taps…but this was before tapping was a thing so that doesn’t count. Race gets to the ropes and the hold is broken. Race tries a suplex but Flair falls on him and gets two. Race and Flair get to their feet and Race hits a headbutt, then climbs the second rope and hits a headbutt. Race covers and gets two. Race hits a nice suplex and covers but, again, gets two. The ring mat is splattered with blood as Race pounds away at Flair and drops a knee. Race throws Flair into the cage and then chokes him with his boot as the referee just physically pulls Race off him by the hair which is amusing. Race goes for a suplex but Flair reverses it and hits one of his own. He misses an elbow, however, and Race hits Flair with a headbutt but the ref gets part of it and falls to the mat. Flair climbs the ropes and hits a body splash and gets the win.
GRADE: B+. This was an impressive battle despite the slow pace and minimal style.
Post-match, the dressing room comes out to celebrate with Flair.
  • Harley Race with wrestle with WCCW, AWA, and Japan for the next three years before signing with the WWF in 1986.
We get some post-match analysis and an interview with Tony Schiavone. The rest of the faces spray him with champagne as Dusty congratulates Flair and says he wants the title.
More interviews with other stars and more analysis by Solie and Caudle.
That’s it.
OVERALL: I’d say this was interesting to watch. I’d say B- because the show was long with a LOT of downtime and some boring matches. However, these guys battled in the ring and it wasn’t nearly as theatrical as the WWF’s early stuff. Some of the early WM shows were boring as hell.


  1. Although my memories have faded through the years, I remember sitting and watching Ch. 39 (an independent UHF channel in Houston) )on Saturday nights. The promoter was a guy named Paul Boesch and the host of the show was none other than Mr. Jim Ross.

    Both men brought Houston and the Gulf Coast region into the Universal Wrestling Federation as well as the National Wrestling Alliance. With those two alliances in place, we saw the likes of Andre The Giant, The Missing Link, Hulk Hogan, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, The Lovely (Miss) Elizabeth, Steve “Dr. Death” Williams, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Ted DiBiase, “Nature Boy” Buddy Landell, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Ric Flair, Jim Cornette, Terry Fuink, The Fabulous Freebirds, Junkyard Dog, KoKo B. Ware, and countless others.

    UWF was eventually bought and disbanded by Jim Crockett back in '87. Boesch then arranged a deal with the World Wrestling Federation to hold the organization’s brand of wrestling in Houston, a change from the city’s longstanding run with the NWA and the UWF.

    I miss those days of wrestling SO much … back before it became “big business”.

  2. Great memories, Quentin. I grew up with the Prime Time Wrestling WWF show on USA back when they were doing the matches of the week. Great stuff.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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