When the WWE Network was announced, I knew what I had to do. Sure, I wanted to do it. I was scared to think about it. At the end of the day, it was what I was born to do.
I am going to watch every Pay-Per-View available on the WWE Network in its entirety in order.
There are a few different reasons for tackling this arduous task that will take years (or even decades depending on my schedule AKA what my wife has planned for our future).
1.As someone who prides himself on knowing as close to everything about wrestling that there is to know, I am ashamed to admit that I have missed many shows over my lifetime. That needs to be rectified.
2.While I could just watch said shows, I am intrigued by the anthropological case study aspect of viewing the history of PPVs in order on the WWE Network…the way WWE wants me to see it. All of their edits, all of their mistakes/attempts to make shit better and all of their little tweaks to ensure that wrestling history runs through the WWE.
3.Beyond WWE’s fingerprints all over these shows, I want to relive legitimate wrestling history as I once did. Now that I am older, what trends will I notice? Who will I appreciate more? Who will I loathe? So many questions can be answered with every single show.
4.Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. This amazing resource is at my disposable. Why the hell not?!?
If you are familiar with the retro diaries that I have done for some old school PPVs in the past, this will be a little bit different. Instead of a meticulous, time-based breakdown, I am going to use chronological bullet points to travel through each show. There will be reoccurring segments, formatting and jokes, but everything you read is being transcribed from my sloppy handwritten notes as I watch each show. Sometimes, you will get analysis. Sometimes, you will get random observations. It is just for my own sanity and hopefully, for your enjoyment.
I look forward to taking this journey and I sincerely hope that, if you are reading this, you will follow me throughout this process. While you are at it, tell your friends, family and psychotic wrestling fans that comment on your CM Punk shirt in public awkwardly to read along as well.
Enough blabbering to set up the premise, let’s get into the meat and potatoes.
PAY-PER-VIEW NUMBER 1-NWA STARRCADE 1983: A FLARE FOR THE GOLD
Written on 4/24/14
-THE FIRST THING YOU SEE: No opening montage, video package or set up whatsoever. We are in the ring, baby.
MATCH NUMBER ONE: The Masked Assassins w/ Paul Jones versus Rufus R. Jones and Bugsy McGraw
-It is incredibly jarring to be less than 30 seconds into a show and already preparing to watch a match.
-Rufus R. Jones is dubbed “the Freight Train.” I doubt his promos are as entertaining. His ring work might be similar, though.
-Gordon Solie is on commentary with Bob Caudle. Looking forward to that.
-According to Solie, “Tony Schphony” is backstage. He isn’t the greatest ever for no reason.
-The babyfaces (Jones and McGraw) are jiving and dancing with every strike and hold they perform.
-Mid-match, the hard camera is bumped by the operator and they have to cut to a ringside camera. 1983 problems!
-This match already proves the prevelant theory in the old days of wrestling: the heels are the workers and the babyfaces are the charismatice showmen who sell everything like a seizure.
-Solie informs us McGraw has a B.A. in Business Adminstration. Vince McMahon would scold him for hours over that fact.
-Referee Tommy Young (who should be in the Hall of Fame) is the only athlete in the ring.
-The heels have been on offense for one of the seven minutes in this match thus far.
WINNERS: The Masked Assassins in 8:11 after a rollup on McGraw.
FINAL WORD: The “first match in PPV history” was a squash match with the squasher losing. What a start.
-We see Caudle and Solie discussing what is coming up and send it to Schiavone, who is sporting quite a head of hair. Some may say it is the greatest head of hair in the history of our sport.
-Schiavone talks in the babyface dressing room as Roddy Piper, Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat and others just walk back and forth, talking and hanging out like a giant event isn’t going on.
MATCH NUMBER TWO: Johnny Weaver and Scott McGhee vs Kevin Sullivan and Mark Lewin w/ Gary Hart
-The bell rings and Gary Hart and the ring announcer are still in the ring.
-Lewin and McGhee are both wearing black trunks, Weaver is wearing red trunks and Sullivan is wearing purple. If you squint, it looks like 4 Create-a-Wrestler templates are having a match.
-Weaver looks like an eldery bagger at your local grocery store that retired from police work, but gets anxious when he stays at home for too long. Plus, the extra money doesn’t hurt.
-Scott McGhee busts out an impressive wristlock counter. That is enough to be my MVP of the PPV thus far. This award will be given every PPV to the wrestler either surprised the hell out of me, entertained me in the midst of crap or legitimately earned it.
-Bob Caudle talks about the rest of the card including “Carlos Cholon”. In 1983, no one knew who to phonetically write down names so people could read them correctly.
-Kevin Sullivan, facially, looks like Kevin Smith here.
-If you can trust what Gordon Solie just said, a football quarter is only five minutes.
-After a responsive tag from McGhee, Weaver either delivers the crappiest bulldog ever or Sullivan take the crappiest bulldog ever.
-Interesting double arm hold on Weaver from Sullivan and Hart. Oh my!
WINNERS: Mark Lewin and Kevin Sullivan in 6:41; Lewin pins Weaver after a top rope knee while Hart and Sullivan hold Weaver behind the ref’s back.
-Immediately after the match, McGhee dropkicks Gary Hart, but Lewin and Sullivan SPIKE McGhee. With a SPIKE! McGhee is bleeding buckets and it is the second match. Angelo Mosca enters to help, but gets SPIKED in the ARM.
-Lewin JUST RUBBED MCGHEE’S BLOOD ON HIS MOUTH. I am now a proponent of the PG Era.
FINAL WORD: The second match on a PPV ended with a full-blown crimson mask. Jesus, the 80’s were nuts.
-Caudle and Solie send it to Barbara Clarey, who interviews an entire family in the audience. Riveting.
-Schiavone is now in the heel locker room with the Brisco Brothers, Greg Valentine and Harley Race. Race cuts a wonderful, calculated promo and complains about being stuck in Greensboro on Thanksgiving.
MATCH NUMBER THREE: Carlos Colon vs Abdullah the Butcher
-The match hasn’t started and I already feel for referee Stu Schwartz.
-14 seconds into the match: Abdullah the Butcher stabs Carlos Colon in the throat with a fork.
-The crowd, who has been hot the entire show thus far, is completely unsure of what to do.
-2 minutes into the match: spiking and forking like Norman Bates.
-Colon bites Abby while he is a bloody mess. It is a Hep C party in Greensboro!
-I can honestly say zero wrestling moves have been executed in this match.
-Hilarious ref bump alert! Abby kicks Colon off of him onto the ref making the count. They lay there for a good 10-15 seconds until Abby goes for the elbow drop. Colon moves and poor Stu Schwartz is dead.
-Paul Jones? Or not?!?! What just happened?
WINNER: Abdullah the Butcher in 4:27 after Hugo Savinovich runs in and hits Colon while he has Abby in the Figure 4.
-I have never seen Hugo Savinovich not sit behind a table and speak words I don’t understand.
FINAL WORD: That was exactly like a TNA main event, but without the athleticism.
-Schiavone is in the locker room with Angelo Mosca, who has a bloody arm and the speech/looks of Brad Garrett.
-The highlights of the Mosca interview: Mosca is creepily into the youth of wrestling and the camera pans left to show McGhee sitting next to Mosca STILL BLEEDING PROFUSELY AND SEEMINGLY LOSING CONSCIOUSNESS. Medics?!?!
-Clarey interviews two girls in the crowd. They are literally checking to see how everyone’s travels were before the show.
MATCH NUMBER FOUR: Wahoo McDaniel and Mark Youngblood vs Dick Slater and Bob Orton Jr.
-The bell rings and then the announcer tries to introduce someone to the crowd, but the microphone goes out! The only thing we eventually make out is Dusty Rhodes. The camera doesn’t cut to show Dusty. The bell rings again 53 seconds later. We shit on Kevin Dunn, but this doesn’t happen on his watch.
-There is a sweet overhead camera angle above the ring. You normally only get that during a ladder match nowadays. It is really neat to see in a regular match.
-Because of the overhead camera angle, the ring looks like it has been through 15 War Games already. The show is 36 minutes in.
-I totally forgot about the stupid rule that says that throwing someone over the top rope is a DQ.
-Dick Slater has been really good so far, good enough in fact to becoming the NEW MVP of the PPV. A crisp Russian Leg Sweep and some charismatic mannerisms. Orton isn’t too far behind after an impressive backbreaker.
-The crowd hangs on every little movement in the ring. The pops for hip tosses and simple counters sound like TLC highspots. It is really refreshing.
-The referee reprimands Wahoo for complaining about the heels attacking Youngblood on the floor while he watches the attacks happen.
-Fundamental tag team wrestling here. Youngblood has played a good face in peril.
-There is nothing like hearing Gordon Solie say “suplay.”
-Wahoo, who received the pop of the evening so far, gets a great hot tag, but peters out soon after.
-The Randy tendencies are so obvious in Bob Orton Jr.
-Mark Youngblood is a dropkick machine.
-The refereeing is LOOSE.
WINNERS: Dick Slater and Bob Orton Jr. in 13:53, Orton pins Youngblood after a second rope suplex.
-The heels are 4-0 and continue their roll when Slater and Orton viciously attack Wahoo’s arm on the apron post match. Slater and Orton are fantastic.
-Gordon Solie just cannot say Tony Schiavone’s name properly.
FINAL WORD: It doesn’t take a lot of flashy moves to get a crowd invested. Wahoo McDaniel can do it without doing much.
-Schiavone interviews Flair backstage. I really don’t like this quiet, subdued Flair promo. It is like watching a blond, permed Bret Hart.
-Schiavone now interviews Rick Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. They proceed to inflate Flair’s ego heavily and cut the most matter-of-fact promo ever. There was no inflection in their voices whatsoever.
-Caudle and Solie set up match highlights…NOPE! Clarey is backstage with Dusty Rhodes. More mic problems as the audio goes in and out on a Dusty promo. Boo!!! Was this broadcasted through GoFight Live?
-Dusty’s passion in the promo is only rivalled by Caudle and Solie trying to translate Dusty during the technical difficulties.
MATCH NUMBER FIVE: TV TITLE VS HAIR- Downtown Charlie Brown vs The Great Kabuki (Champ) w/Gary Hart
-Jimmy Valiant in a mask makes Hogan as Mr. America look like the Usual Suspects twist.
-Brown has choked and hit Kabuki with a chair 3 times and the match is still going on.
-Kabuki’s balls have been battered like Long John Silver’s fish so far.
-Apparently, the TV Title is only up for grabs for the first 15 minutes of this match that has a 60 minute time limit.
-Brown’s sleeper hold is going to work on me, if not Kabuki.
-Kabuki takes some really awful back body drops from Brown, who just became the LVP of the PPV so far. This award will be given every PPV for the person that sucked or bothered me the most.
-Forget Starrcade. This is Rest Hold-a-Mania!
-Wow…Kabuki jumped off the top rope to apply a CLAW HOLD on Brown. That is enough of this.
WINNER: Brown pins Kabuki in 10:35 after a running elbow to win the TV Title.
-Brown is never officially announced as the new champion. The commentators even mention that the time will have to be checked to see if the belt switches owners.
FINAL WORD: $5 Wrestling gets too much flack. That was catch as catch can compared to this.
-Caudle and Solie bring in a guy legitimately named Dude Walker, who isn’t a wrestler unfortunately. This local DJ says five sentences and the segment is over.
-Schiavone is with Race, Slater and Orton now. Orton and Slater just ooze cool evil. Meanwhile, Race reveals that his plan is to attack Flair’s neck during their main event. Brilliant strategy revealing that before the match.
-We are going to try this Dusty interview again. Dusty challenges the winner of the main event and he becomes the first person to pick Harley Race to win the whole evening.
MATCH NUMBER SIX: DOG COLLAR MATCH- Roddy Piper vs Greg Valentine
-Why does the bell keep ringing when other people are still in the ring?
-The first spot of the match is a neck test of strength. It is a great visual seeing two guys standing on opposite ends of the ring trying to pull each other by the freaking neck.
-Piper and Valentine are both wearing blue. Poor coordination.
-Valentine is a wonderful seller. His front flop is underrated.
-Valentine wrapping the chain around Piper’s eyes is wonderful, but the lack of a large video screen seemingly hurts the crowd’s involvement.
-Piper wraps the chain into Valentine’s mouth and around his nose and it looks awesome. We are five minutes in and this has already lived up to the hype.
-Piper appears to actually attempt to strangle Valentine via the turnbuckle. Eat your heart out, Justin Roberts!
-Valentine is busted open and the referee tries to step in and admonish in a No DQ match. I’m glad common sense was lacking even in 1983.
-The attacks of Valentine to Piper’s ear are very unique. The way Piper sells it is even better. The story of Piper’s balance being affected is outstanding and sells the brutality on another level.
-The crowd is totally invested and hot for Piper’s comeback. This is just a fight. I love it.
WINNER: Piper pins Valentine in 16:07 after a flurry of punches and wrapping Valentine’s legs with the chain.
-Solie gets legitimately confused about the title switching hands before he figures out that the match was non-title.
-Valentine attacks Piper after the match, choking him out and beating the ref up. Ultimately…Valentine just leaves and Piper recovers in the ring.
FINAL WORD: This can officially be labelled the first great match on PPV. Highly recommended.
-Solie and Caudle recap the events of the match and we cut back to Piper swinging the chain around his head like a helicopter…in North Carolina. Petey Pablo stole from Starrcade 83!
-Tony Schiavone interviewing Ric Flair AGAIN. Race and Flair are going to be blown up before the main event just because of the amount of promos they’ve cut.
-Clarey is now interviewing Don Kernodle at ringside. What an awful mixture of words that was supposed to be a promo.
MATCH NUMBER SEVEN: TAG TITLE MATCH- Jack and Jerry Brisco (Champions) vs Jay Youngblood and Ricky Steamboat with Special Guest Referee Angelo Mosca
-Before Youngblood and Steamboat entered the ring, Jerry Brisco stood on the top rope for minutes. There was no reason to do this, but it was cool as hell.
-I will spend this entire match waiting to see if anything happens to make Jerry Brisco throw up.
-Angelo Mosca is refereeing in a PWI t-shirt. Good work, Bill Apter!
-Ricky Steamboat looks so out of place by being in such good shape.
-Jerry Brisco loves celebrating at any point for anything. Jack Brisco just loves wrestling.
-Michael Cole would never call “wrist cinch” or “key lock” like Gordon Solie just did in 30 seconds.
-Steamboat’s lift up counter (done with proficiency by Bob Backlund and John Cena) is incredibly badass in 1983.
-Mosca doesn’t take the pushing and prodding by Jack Brisco. This fairly allows the babyfaces to double team Jerry ad nauseam.
WINNERS: Jay Youngblood and Ricky Steamboat in 12:52, Youngblood pins Jerry after a Gorilla Press Slam by Steamboat of Youngblood onto Jerry.
-ANOTHER post match beatdown for the heels to get heat back. Mosca is attacked again, Youngblood is in the Figure 4. Thankfully, the faces actually get the upper hand again and we see a title celebration finally.
FINAL WORD: Ricky Steamboat had the best steroids money could buy in 1983.
-It is definitely the time in the show to hear Gordon Solie list the producers and directors and A/V people to stall while the cage is set up. The highlight is knowing Doug Dellinger was a camera man back then.
-We see Flair prepping in the back. I show 1 full hour left in this show and they keep mentioning the main event being minutes away.
-Schiavone interviews Charlie Brown, who is wearing unbuttoned jeans. He proceeds to yell, go crazy and kiss Tony Schiavone.
-Piper cuts an insane promo about ears. Steamboat and Youngblood cut a promo that will cause me to commit myself.
-LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG recap by Solie and Caudle. I don’t think they had the technology to lower the cage from the ceiling. Just a guess.
-The definition of stalling: Clarey interviews Dusty Rhodes with three homely women.
-I’m glad that, after two hours of a show, we finally hear THE NATIONAL ANTHEM. Sung by country “star” James Tiny Weeks, this was maybe the most interesting part of the show. The arena was pitch black except for a spotlight on the American flag in the rafters. The lyrics are slightly botched and the singing voice behind the anthem was definitely botched. He literally just screams the word “BRAVE!!!”
-Disco ball (from Planet Funk) shown as Also Sprach Zarathustra blasts in its entirety BEFORE Flair enters. One puny burst of pyro and Flair emerges from darkness. Not even the plethora of cops can prevent a woman from kissing him on the cheek.
-Harley Race enters to little pomp, circumstance or pop. He enters with only two officers whereas Flair had roughly ten. Without any entrance music, entrances are WEIRD.
MATCH NUMBER EIGHT: NWA TITLE STEEL CAGE MATCH- Harley Race (Champion) vs Ric Flair with Special Guest Referee Gene Kiniski
-I can finally see how King Slender from NES Pro Wrestling was based off of Ric Flair.
-It took entirely way too long to hear a WOOO, especially when it was underwhelming.
-Okay, Gene Kiniski is taking forever to do anything. Every pin attempt requires so much effort. He checks every shoulder like a freaking car inspection.
-I’m glad Flair sold with exaggerated “OH GOD!” screams even back then.
-Say it like Comic Book Guy: SLOWEST…PILEDRIVER…EVER. I think even my Swoggle Squad compatriot Rich could watch that one.
-This methodical pace isn’t boring, but it isn’t enthralling. It just is.
-The overhead camera misses what appeared to be a Tombstone/Neutralizer by Race. Awesome.
-I don’t think anyone told Kiniski that a cage match is inherently No DQ. He pulled both Race and Flair off one another to the point where the other combatant could punch away.
-Flair is bleeding. That means the match just got good. And a real WOOOOOO! Here we go!
-Every piledriver is so safe. I’m not going to lie: I don’t like it.
-Flair just cracked Race’s neck like he was Steven Seagal.
-I want Gene Kiniski to go away. He is way too involved in this match. Congrats, Charlie Brown. Gene Kiniski is the new LVP of the PPV. Meanwhile, Harley Race looks like he dunked his head in a bowl of spaghetti.
-Kiniski just held Flair’s hand to try and open it for punches. Did no one smarten him up?!?! This is the same guy that held the world title himself, right?
-Flair slaps on the Figure 4 in the center of the ring and the overhead camera catches it. That just made this match feel so important…and like a Tony Scott film.
-Race reverses the Figure 4 and Solie says it is only the second time he has seen that happen. I hope he was prepared for a lot more of that.
-KINISKI IS PULLING RACE’S HAIR TO GET HIM OFF OF FLAIR!!!!! Can another referee eject the current referee?
-Thank God Kiniski just took a bump from a headbutt. No matter how exaggerated that bump was, it didn’t redeem him. Besides, it led to the end of this match.
WINNER: Flair pins Race in 23:00 after a crappy crossbody from the top rope to win the NWA Title.
-There is still 20 minutes remaining in this show.
-This officially becomes an Angelo Mosca-heavy show as he comes into the ring to celebrate with Flair and a FOUR COLORED FLASHING GRAPHIC appears to announce that “Ric Flair New World Heavyweight Champion”.
-Ric Flair’s wife…awkward!
-I think the crowd is chanting “NEW” at Ric Flair?
-SO many people have already left according to the wide shot.
-Flair’s promo is good, but leads to this question: how many greatest nights has Ric Flair had in his life that weren’t family related?
FINAL WORD: A good and brutal match that was hindered by a stupid ref and 30+ years of wrestling advancement.
-There is 12 minutes to go?!?! Call this the Anti-Climax!
-Schiavone speaks to Flair backstage. Flair manages to put all of his friends over as the champagne comes out (which surely didn’t suck for Flair’s open wound.) Dusty enters as the party pooper and reminds Flair of his future challenge, but is largely ignore.
-That previous sentence was surely not the last time in this process that Dusty Rhodes and pooper will be in the same sentence (besides this one).
-Solie and Caudle again, now merely blabbering to kill the rest of the show.
-Clarey is with Harley Race. Her intro to interviewing him: “Harley, I’m sorry.” What a journalist. There is awful static on this entire promo, but Race again owns the promo.
-Back to Flair with Steamboat and Youngblood. How has nobody run out of things to say? Were they required to fill 3 full hours?
-Flair drinks the first of 421 beers that night and Steamboat and Youngblood cause me to flatline.
-One more time with Caudle and Solie. They provide 3 minutes of nothing and then…BAM!!!! They are cut off and cheesy rock guitar is played over Flair’s entrance and brief highlights of the main event.
THE LAST IMAGE: Ric Flair
THE WRAP UP
FINAL MVP of PPV: Still going with DICK SLATER. I knew Piper, Race, Valentine and Flair were awesome, but he thoroughly entertained me with my expectations in the gutter.
FINAL LVP of PPV: I cannot reiterate GENE KINISKI enough.
MY FAVORITE MATCH: Roddy Piper vs Greg Valentine
MY LEAST FAVORITE MATCH: Charlie Brown vs Kabuki
WWE HALL OF FAMERS IN ACTION: 11 (Abdullah the Butcher, Carlos Colon, Bob Orton, Jimmy Valiant, Greg Valentine, Roddy Piper, The Briscos, Ricky Steamboat, Harley Race, Ric Flair)
DEARLY DEPARTED IN ACTION: 6 (Assassin #2, Rufus Jones, Johnny Weaver, Wahoo McDaniel, Jack Brisco, Jay Youngblood)
FINAL THOUGHT: For the first PPV on the list, I was entertained throughout. Sure, stuff wasn’t necessarily how it is today and some things were hilariously off kilter tech-wise, but chalk that up to 1983 being 1983. MULLET RECOMMENDS
NEXT TIME: Starrcade 1984. Please leave Gene Kiniski at home.