AWA Superclash I (28/9/85) – Review

AWA Superclash I (28/9/85) – Review

By 1985, it was do-or-die time for companies like the American Wrestling Association. Vince McMahon made several big moves throughout 1984, and then on March 31, 1985, produced the first Wrestlemania. It was a commercial success for the company, with its combination of in-ring action and a bevy of celebrity involvement from the likes of pop star Cyndi Lauper and action television star, Mr T.

For several months, some of the remaining promoters – including AWA owner Verne Gagne – had worked together under the Pro Wrestling USA banner. It culminated in Gagne promoting a big spectacle called Superclash: Night of Champions on September 28, 1985. The event took place at Comiskey Park in Chicago in front of 20,347 fans (announced as 25,000). The live gate receipt was a matter of contention, with Verne claiming $200,000, while Jim Crockett believed it was actually $280,000 (more on that later).

The thirteen match card lived up to its tagline ‘Night of Champions,’ with only two non-title bouts.


Superclash 1985 Podcast Review (July 9, 2022)

Superclash 1985 opened with announcer Larry Nelson welcoming the fans and having a chat with Verne Gagne himself. Gagne also thanked the fans and Nelson labelled this as ‘the greatest night in professional wrestling history.’ Nelson not only had the enormous task of interviewing all the wrestlers before and after their matches, but also did the commentary solo.

Match 1 – “Mr Electricity” Steve Regal vs. Brad Rheingans (AWA Light-heavyweight Title)

Rheingans offered a handshake at the start which Regal oddly accepted, despite his cocky demeanour. An exchange of holds but Brad got the early advantage. He hit a monkey flip off the ropes followed by a deep arm drag. Regal tried to use cheating tactics, but Brad was ready for it and worked over the arm.

Rheingans fired up with a series of moves including a big atomic drop but his pin attempt was thwarted by Jimmy Garvin who distracted the referee. Brad punched Garvin but got rolled up by Regal, and with the help of the tights, lost the match. In the post-match interview, Nelson gave Regal an earful and called it a despicable act. ~ **

WINNER: Steve Regal

Match 2 – Candi Devine vs. Sherri Martel (AWA Women’s Title)

Before the match started, the cameras showed Rheingans bodyslamming Regal onto the turf. Nelson referred to Sherri as ‘sensational’ in a piece of foreshadowing. It takes a while for the bell to ring as Sherri refused to let the referee check her.

Finally the match began, and Candi hit a couple of arm drags before Sherri used the hair to gain an advantage. Candi was thrown between the ropes to the outside, which Nelson said is okay, but if they go over the top rope, it’s an instant disqualification (keep that in mind). Candi crawled to another side of the ring and snuck up on Sherri. She gave her a dropkick which sent Sherri over the top rope with no call from the referee for a disqualification.  

Sherri worked her way out of an armbar/wristlock combination and continued with some illegal tactics. Candi took a backdrop which was likely meant to be the very next move, as another attempt of a backdrop got countered into a sunset flip by Candi for two. Sherri came back with a big clothesline off the ropes followed by a vertical suplex before coming off the top with a dodgy splash for the win. Sherri whipped Devine with her newly won Women’s Title belt to give Larry his second aneurism for the evening. ~ **

WINNER: Sherri Martel (Title Change)

Match 3 – Mil Mascaras vs. Buddy Roberts (Mexican Heavyweight Title)

Mil Mascaras defended the IWA World Heavyweight Title (as opposed to the Mexican championship as it’s referred on the show), a title he took as his own after the International Wrestling Association folded in 1978. Technically a title match, but not for a belt that comes under any promotion or sanctioning body other than Mil Mascaras himself (meaning it’s unlikely to ever leave his waist).

In the early stages, Mil dazzled Buddy with a range of tricky holds and counters, which the Freebird had no answer. Finally, Roberts got into the match when Mil attempted a drop toe hold and Roberts gouged the eyes. Buddy used more illegal tactics, including choking Mil with a tag rope, and then hit an elbow off the second rope.

Buddy whipped Mil into the opposite corner, only to miss a running kick and got hung upside down. After a while the referee helped free Buddy, only for Mil to hit him with an interesting looking slam, followed by a flying headbutt off the ropes, but got caught with a boot to the head as he ran into Buddy in the corner. However, Mil recovered quickly and reversed a whip into the buckles into a back body drop followed by a flying bodypress off the top for the win. ~ **1/2

WINNER: Mil Mascaras

Match 4 – Greg Gagne, Curt Hennig & Scott Hall vs. Nick Bockwinkle, Ray Stevens & Larry Zybyszko

The AWA ‘establishment’ heels made some short and sweet comments on what they thought would happen. Then the babyfaces talk, with Greg looking like a moron in his Rambo gear. To his credit though, Greg used his interview time to put over partner Scott Hall, so new to wrestling he has yet to acquire a Cuban accent. Hall says a few words and Curt Hennig finished up to a great cheer.

The ring announcements for the match were made by Jack Brickhouse, the ‘voice of wrestling in Chicago’ and major league baseball commentator. As the resident announcer said, “he’s a gentleman that most people in states like Ohio and further east are not even aware he even called a major league baseball game.” Bit of a back-handed comment, this reviewer thought.

Mr Brickhouse gave a long monologue – which he initially said he wasn’t going to do – about how popular wrestling was on “Channel 9, three nights a week, for nine years…..” After finally announcing the heels, he got to the babyfaces and said the reason he’s here is “because this fella’s (Greg) dad (Verne) told me to come,” and then waxed lyrical about Verne.

Eventually the bell rang and we see a tale unfold of the experienced foxes against the young lions. Bockwinkle’s hubris got the better of him after a nice series of moves, when Hennig came back with the same sequence to surprise the former AWA champion. Curt shined against Zybyszko before tagging in Hall, who at this stage is used in short, sharp bursts, doing the most basic of moves.

After a desperate belly-to-belly by Larry on Hennig, the heels cut the ring in half. Curt takes a lot of punishment with the wily veterans using plenty of illegal tactics. He eventually tagged after a double down with Bockwinkle and Greg was a house of fire. All six men end up in the ring, which led to Stevens being whipped towards Hall, who scooped him up into a powerslam for the three-count.

This was a nice rub for Hall, giving him some experience against veterans and with Greg who played more of a support role, and Hennig the refined second-gen wrestler who took most of the heat for his team. ~ ***

WINNER: Scott Hall, Curt Hennig and Greg Gagne

Match 5 – Little Tokyo vs. Little Mister T (NWA Midget World Title)

Little Mister T was also Haiti Kid, who worked for the WWF when the real Mr. T arrived for Wrestlemania, and was accosted by Roddy Piper and Bob Orton on a segment of Piper’s Pit. As far as midget matches go, there was some good wrestling, particularly from Little Tokyo. They do an odd and awkward comedy spot, made even more awkward as by this point, the match has dragged on and the fans seem to be tapped out.

Tokyo continued with the side headlock and some strikes until T came back with a headbutt. After a couple of “butt-butts” (Larry’s words not mine), he missed a third and Tokyo took advantage. A backdrop and a double thrust chop off the ropes and Tokyo retained his title. ~ *

WINNER: Little Tokyo

Match 6 – Giant Baba, Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu vs. The Long Riders & Harley Race (Asian Six Man Title)

Harley cut the first decent pre-match promo of the show, and looked to be wearing Brad Rheingan’s USA jacket. Next we got the three Japanese boys imported from All Japan Pro Wrestling, and Nelson welcomed them to Chicago. Baba uttered an awkward “thank you,” before the ring announcer completely botched their names. This was a common trend when Japanese wrestlers came to America, as was the concept of this being a ‘Asian Six-Man title match,’ similar to the earlier ‘Mexican Heavyweight’ title bout.

Tenyaroo (their pronunciation not mine) is the young lion teaming with the two veterans, and as such takes most of the punishment in this one, while getting some opportunities to show offence. Race and Tenryu exchanged some chops before Tenryu scored with an enziguiri for two. Big cheer as Race came back with a slam and a piledriver. Plenty of offence on Tenryu by the Irwins until the cold tag is made to Jumbo. He hit a series of chops before a tag to Baba, who sent Wild Bill over the top rope with an Irish whip into the corner (no disqualification called).

The young boy Tenryu gets tagged in and after a slam ate a clothesline by Bill. All six men ended up in the ring until Baba hit a big boot on Wild Bill and won the match. Bill went wild on Larry Nelson at ringside who then berated them back saying “you didn’t get the titles!” ~ **

WINNER: Giant Baba, Jumbo Tsuruta and Genichiro Tenryu

Match 7 – Jimmy Garvin w/Precious vs. Kerry Von Erich (WCCW Texas Title)

In the pre-match interview, Kerry dedicated this match to his brother Mike, who was in hospital recovering from toxic shock syndrome, which almost killed him. Precious got in Kerry’s face before the match, to which Nelson called her “a baby rooster.” Loud squeals when Kerry removed his robe. With the exception of the Road Warriors, Kerry appears to be the most popular on the card.

Garvin bailed out of the ring after getting hit with two drop kicks and tried to ambush Kerry in the ring while he was distracted by Precious. However, Kerry ducked a wild right and delivered an atomic drop followed by a discus punch and made a cover, but Garvin got his foot on the rope.

Garvin regained control which the camera missed due to focusing on Precious (one of a number of bad production errors on this show). Von Erich rolled to the outside to catch his breath only to be berated by Precious. After taking up most of the referee’s count, Kerry tried to get back in, only to take another running knee. Garvin called Precious to distract the official, to where he blatantly threw Kerry over the top rope. Larry wondered whether this match was under AWA or NWA rules (which wouldn’t matter either way as they both had the over-the-top-rope rule).

Kerry fired up and got back in with a sunset flip. A sneaky knee by Garvin offered only a brief respite, as Kerry immediately came back with a couple of discus punches. Garvin begged off in the corner, but Kerry came at him with the Iron Claw, which Garvin blocked. Kerry released the hold when they got to a standing position and whipped Garvin into the opposite buckles and tried a running shoulder tackle but missed and hit the post (a spot repeated a few times throughout this event).

In a finish out of nothing, Garvin got crotched on the top turnbuckle and crumped to the mat where Kerry got the win. Precious again got involved, and Garvin attacked Kerry from behind, only to fall victim to the Iron Claw. In the post-match interview, Kerry stated, “I think I’ve found a new home, and that’s Chicago.” Such wholesome guys these Von Erich’s…. ~ ***

WINNER: Kerry Von Erich (Title Change)

Match 8 – Ivan Koloff, Nikita Koloff & Krusher Kruschev vs. Baron Von Raschke, The Crusher and Dick The Bruiser (NWA World Six Man Title)

The babyfaces comments are cut from the version this reviewer watched so it’s straight to The Russians for their thoughts. As they are introduced, the camera finds a “Kill the Commies” sign. The babyfaces jumpstarted the match and a brawl ensued before it settled down with Crusher and Krushchev. After that exchange, Ivan is already bleeding!

Baron gets a tag and found himself briefly in The Russians corner. “Four wrestlers and not a hairy head among them,” Larry pointed out. A shoulder block doesn’t budge either of them, but when Nikita tried a second time, Baron motioned for The Claw, which Nikita avoided. Ivan tagged in but got hit with a backdrop and a knee off the ropes before a tag to Dick the Bruiser.

Baron managed to apply The Claw, and when Krushchev tried to make the save, he was crotched on the top turnbuckle by Crusher. Nikita was cut off by Bruiser, and the fight spilled out onto hapless Larry’s announce table. As all this mayhem is going on, the camera misses Ivan pinning Baron. A loud “bullshit” chant rings out, so it must have been by nefarious means. But, we may never know…. ~ *1/2

WINNER: The Russians

Match 9 – Kamala w/Sheik Adnan Al-kaissie vs. Jerry Blackwell ($10,000 Bodyslam Match)

Sheik Adnan is back, and that he is bringing surprises to the AWA, including Kamala. Nelson tried to move on, but Adnan cut him off in Arabic (probably). Blackwell said if Adnan even thinks about sticking his nose in his business, he’ll cut the damn thing off!

It is announced that the winner will get a $10,000 check.  After Kamala is introduced, Adnan cut pretty much the same promo he did with Nelson, and then wanted the crowd to be silent to sing the Arabian national anthem (not sure Arabia is an actual country, but made up of several countries if this reviewer’s geography is correct).

This is pretty standard big-man fare, particularly hampered by a body slam ending the match. So there’s a lot of chops, kicks, headbutts and things of that nature. Kamala held the advantage until Blackwell came back with his own punches and headbutts, and then floored The Ugandan Giant with a clothesline followed by a splash.

After some more back-and-forth, Blackwell blocked a chop and then out of nowhere hit a slam to win the bout. Adnan assaulted Blackwell with the scabbard of his sword, and then stole the check from matchmaker, Wally Karbo. Two job guys come out to try and help Blackwell, including one that appeared to be a young Rick Steiner. Finally, Von Raschke made the save with the help of a baseball bat. ~ *

WINNER: Jerry Blackwell

Match 10 – The Road Warriors w/Paul Ellering vs. The Freebirds w/Buddy Roberts (AWA World Tag Team Titles)

The sound system strained to pump out Badstreet as The Freebirds came out in Confederate facepaint to mock The Warriors. Nelson asked Gordy where he got the facepaint, and Gordy responded it was none of his business. Hawk and Animal arrived and brushed right past Nelson and into the ring, where they cleared out Hayes and Gordy.

After some stalling the match got officially underway. Hawk – or The Hawk as Nelson called him – roughed up Gordy who quickly made the tag to Hayes who got similar treatment. “Hawk and Animal don’t like to do anything but fight. Everything else is boring to them,” added Larry, who continued to pontificate about where The Freebirds got the facepaint, for some reason.

The Roadies overwhelm the Birds in typical Roadie style. Even Gordy was hesitant to get into the ring at one stage. In a oft-repeated spot, Gordy went shoulder-first into the post. Hayes got in some offence, and double-teamed Hawk to nice effect. Hayes hit a slam and looked to finish it with a move off the top rope but The Hawk caught him with a press slam. This caused Hayes to land near his corner so he made the tag.

Gordy and The Hawk clashed heads, and finally Hawk got the tag to The Animal who nailed Gordy with a series of elbows followed by an atomic drop and a powerslam off the ropes. Hayes made the save and all four are in. Buddy Roberts tried to get in but was pulled off the apron by Paul Ellering, who in turn got hit with a steel chair to the back of the head.

The Hawk went outside to help Ellering as The Freebirds tried to double team Animal but failed. Animal press slammed the three hundred pound Gordy and hit a powerslam on Hayes. Animal knocked down Gordy with a flying shoulder tackle and made a cover as the referee was distracted. Hayes loaded his fist and came off the second rope and nailed Animal in the back of the head. The referee turned back around and registered Gordy’s cover and called for the bell. 

“Can it be, that The Freebirds have somehow won the Tag Team championship of the world?!” The announcement was made that a title change had taken place as The Freebirds took off with the belts. Larry Nelson pondered about what had just occurred when he was joined by Verne Gagne. Verne called for the “sports vision” to provide a replay. Apparently, the people in the truck had no idea what he was talking about, which left Verne waiting awkwardly for something that was not forthcoming. This bit was edited out, and in the next shot, The Road Warriors exited with the belts. ~ ***1/2

WINNERS: The Road Warriors

Match 11 – Sgt Slaughter vs. Boris Zhukov (AWA America’s Title)

From everything I have read, the AWA America’s title was especially created for Slaughter. Sarge got mobbed coming to the ring as he passed out small American flags to the kids. Zhukov tried a jumpstart before the bell and the slugfest was on. Zhukov was run shoulder first into the ring post for the third time of the night. Slaughter went after the injury with repeated blows on the outside before going back into the ring.

A fan handed Slaughter an American flag which he used like a matador, and caught Zhukov charging in like a bull with a kick to the midsection and some more right hands before kissing the flag and returning it. However, Zhukov reversed a whip into the corner, which sent Sarge flying over the top rope to the outside (no disqualification).

Boris worked over Slaughter with mostly illegal moves, as well as a stun gun (probably not named that yet). Boris hit a “backbreaker” (swinging neckbreaker) for a two, and then stomped Slaughter until he ended up on Larry Nelson’s table. A great camera shot is shown of Nelson valiantly trying to call the action as he lost his chair and almost his monitor.

Boris tried a piledriver on the outside but got backdropped. The referee was very liberal with his ten count. Zhukov tried a top rope move but got press slammed. Slaughter followed up with a back elbow, a drop kick and a backdrop. Slaughter went for a telegraphed running clothesline but Boris pulled the referee in front of him. Slaughter attended to the referee as Boris loaded his elbow pad and tried a sneak attack. It was thwarted, but Sarge was caught in the face moments later and blood ensued.

Zhukov continued to go after the cut with punches and then shoved the referee to cause the disqualification. He continued the assault until Slaughter hulked up and chased him away. Slaughter cuts a very patriotic promo, and said he had declared war on every foreign wrestler. USA! USA! ~ *1/2

WINNER: Sgt. Slaughter

Match 12 – Ric Flair vs. Magnum TA (NWA World Heavyweight Title)

Of all the many title matches on the show, this was undoubtedly the most important. Magnum promised to take the title, as all it will take is one belly-to-belly to get it done. Flair said he won’t allow Magnum to do anything he doesn’t want to do, and will walk out of Chicago the champion.

Referee Larry Lisowski went through pre-match instructions. Both men traded holds and counters, neutralising each other’s offence. Magnum got a deep hammerlock on Flair who broke it by backing him into a corner. Magnum got the better of an overhand wristlock into an arm bar. Nelson brought up an interesting topic that got coverage in the magazines of the day, about the possibility of a unification match between the NWA and AWA World titles.

The challenger scored with a hip toss off the ropes, followed by a dropkick and a press slam to cause Flair to beg off. Flair’s stall worked and gained him a breather. He landed a knee out of a collar-and-elbow and lit Magnum up with some chops. Magnum came back with a backdrop and worked back on the arm. Flair attacked the ribs to break the hold and threw him out, but Magnum got right back in with a flurry of punches, but then missed a dropkick.

Flair kept up the offence and felt confident after hitting a big knee drop to the head, followed with a double-underhook suplay for a two count. Flair disputed the count and then locked in an abdominal stretch. Flair played with the referee by using the tights for illegal leverage, and when Larry went looking, Flair pulled the hair, until finally Larry made him break.

The champion showed more frustration with the official. Flair snapmared Magnum and measured him for another knee drop but missed. Big pop when Magnum slapped on a figure four. After a struggle Flair made it to the ropes. Magnum dragged him to the middle and tried the figure four again, but Flair kicked out with his foot to avoid it.

Flair tried a vertical suplay but couldn’t lift Magnum, who gives Flair one of his own for a two count. Magnum almost pinned Flair with a backslide. Flair stopped a series of punches with an eye poke. “Can’t find ‘em if you can’t see ‘em.” Magnum got thrown to the outside and Flair rammed him shoulder first into the post along (again!).

Flair trapped him in a hammerlock and used the rope for leverage. Lisowski caught him again and made him break the hold and they get into some banter. Lisowski threatened to throw the match out, Flair responded that he could get him fired. Magnum is put in an armbar on the mat for a long time and Flair continued to use the rope illegally.

Flair suddenly tried to cradle pin Magnum who powered out of the attempt. Flair tried to up the tempo with chops and punches and then tried a whip into the buckles but Magnum reversed it and caught him in a sleeper. Magnum hit a slam and tried a splash but Flair got the knees up. Flair scored with a shinbreaker and transitioned into a figure four. After a while Magnum turned it over but Flair made the ropes.

Magnum got the better of a punch and chop exchange and then Flair tumbled over the buckles after an irish whip. Nelson thought that should be an over the top rope disqualification, but Lisowski thought otherwise. Flair gets juiced after being run head first into the post and then repeated punches to the forehead.

Flair almost got pinned on another backslide and then Magnum hit the belly to belly, but Flair’s leg wiped out Lisowski. Magnum tried to roll up Flair, who in turn used Magnum’s tights to hold him down and steal the victory. Flair berated Chicago and Magnum confirmed that Flair used the tights and that it wasn’t over between them. ~ ****

WINNER: Ric Flair

Match 13 – Rick Martel vs. Stan Hansen (AWA World Heavyweight Title)

The ‘match’ was chaos from start to finish, as Hansen threw a chair in the ring and brought in the cow bell and pummeled Martel who was already in the ring. Martel was thrown from the ring and they fought amongst the fans, which scattered like it was a bad day in the Budokan. The two traded blows until the referee took off and the bell rang, no doubt a disqualification.

Instead, Hansen and Martel returned to the ring and continued the match like nothing had happened, so everyone let it go. Martel got a sunset flip for two and Hansen booted him in the head. Martel dodged a Hansen charge into the buckles and delivered a slam. Hansen immediately choked Martel and they rolled around the mat scrapping at each other.

Right back out of the ring, Martel got posted and hit in the head with a plastic chair. Hansen got a steel chair and waffled Martel with it, but then got a shoulder in the gut. Rick got the chair Hansen dropped and repeatedly hit him until the referee called for the bell – again! Hansen led Martel toward the dugouts with his bullrope as fans screamed in panic. Martel fought back and even slammed Stan on the wooden boards the wrestlers used to walk to the ring.

The two continued to fight in the dugout, as Verne and Karbo tried to separate them. The announcer officially decreed this a double DQ.  ~ *

WINNER: No Contest

The Verdict: Superclash 1985 is not a terrible card, but I found it a bit hit and miss. The standout for me was the NWA World Heavyweight Title bout between Flair and Magnum, which in the end made for a better advertisement for Jim Crockett Promotions, who provided said match. The AWA World Tag Title bout was entertaining from start to finish, although marred a bit by the unnecessary bait-and-switch finish. Kerry Von Erich was very over and had another stellar match with Jimmy Garvin to add to the stuff they’d done already in World Class.

The main event was the biggest disappointment. I didn’t expect a whole lot from the bodyslam match, or some of the others like Slaughter/Zhukov, or the midget bout. But the AWA World Title match between Martel and Hansen only goes a few minutes to a double disqualification (although the action for those few minutes was good).

We had a few matches with over-the-hill veterans; Ray Stevens had little to do in the six man against the AWA young guns, and Crusher and Bruiser were awkward in their six-man against the Russians. However, you do get some young Curt Hennig, as well as Scott Hall, a relative newcomer to the business. There were some production flaws with the cameras missing a few key moments, the missing ‘sports vision,’ and the pre and post match interviews got repetitive. I must say though, Larry Nelson did a great job under the circumstances doing solo commentary on top of all the interviews.

If we’re looking outwardly, this was not a show that I think would have bothered Vince McMahon, if this was to be the AWA’s answer to Wrestlemania. The quote I provided from the ring announcer describing Jack Brickhouse as a regional sportscaster was in no way going to impress anyone who saw Wrestlemania with Cyndi Lauper, Mr. T (the full grown one), etc. Of course, the emphasis from the AWA was always wrestling, but in 1985, we’re getting close to the era of wrestling pay-per-view, which needed to be more glamorous.

As mentioned in the introduction, there was a discrepancy over the live gate receipts, with Verne apparently saying $200,000, and Jim Crockett Jr saying $280,000. In an interview with, former AWA announcer Ken Resnick said: “Having been in the AWA (and) around the Gagne’s, any dispute about the house for that Comiskey Park show was not the first disputed gate that had been talked about in the AWA…sometimes payoffs turned out to be much less than the talent thought they were going to be.”

According to the Wikipedia article for Superclash 1985, several JCP wrestlers were pulled from AWA events and some shows had to be cancelled altogether. It does quote Tim Hornbaker’s brilliant book National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly that Strangled Pro Wrestling, only I couldn’t find it in my copy. However, in Hornbaker’s more recent book Death of the Territories, he wrote that Verne and Crockett smoothed things over and on a combined show on December 29 at the Meadowlands, Martel dropped the AWA World Heavyweight Title to Hansen. So apparently, the relationship between AWA and JCP continued on a little bit further.

Overall Rating: **1/2