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WCCW Christmas Star Wars 1982 (25/12/82) – Review

WCCW Christmas Star Wars 1982 (25/12/82) – Review

The Dallas-based World Class Championship Wrestling – also known later as the World Class Wrestling Association – began to hit their stride in 1981, with an influx of new, exciting talent, ushered in by booker Gary Hart and included owner Fritz Von Erich’s son’s David, Kevin and Kerry. The Von Erich’s dominated, as all three showcased great in-ring ability and intensity, with the patriarch Fritz taking a backseat.

But what really caused the territory to catch on fire was the arrival of The Fabulous Freebirds – Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts. Brought in by Gary Hart, they had to be convinced first, as Dallas was not generally a place where one made good money. Originally babyfaces – specifically friends of David – that would all change by the end of Christmas Star Wars 1982.

Starting the previous year, Star Wars was one of the company’s biggest events, held on public holidays, including Christmas Day, and often took place – as this particular event did – from Reunion Arena. This review will not be of the entire card, as only select matches were aired on World Class television.

The broadcast kicked off with host and play-by-play commentator Bill Mercer discussing the matches that would be shown, including a bout to crown inaugural World Six-Man champions, and a battle royal for ten thousand dollars. Mercer threw to a pre-taped interview with David and Kevin, who explained they could not be involved in the round-robin tournament for the Six-Man Title because Kerry had his big match with Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Title. David and Kevin predicted victory for The Freebirds, and said they would like a shot at the belts in the future.

Match 1 – Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and David Von Erich vs. Iron Mike Sharpe, Ben Sharpe and Tom Steele (WCCW World Six-Man Title)

As ring announcer Marc Lowrance was about to announce the participants, Michael Hayes took the microphone and wished everyone a merry Christmas. He then informed the fans that due to weather issues, their usual Freebirds partner Buddy Roberts could not make the show. However, he and Gordy never back down from a fight, and will face their opponents a man short. At this, David came to the ring, and to the joy of the fans, Hayes and Gordy, he decided to substitute for Roberts.

The two big men of their respective teams – Gordy and Mike Sharpe – started off. Both men jockeyed and bulled each other around the ring. Hayes got a blind tag and worked over Iron Mike before David came in and hit a nice dropkick. David and Ben Sharpe exchanged blows until an uppercut from David won the skirmish. Ben came back with a slam but missed a kneedrop, which allowed a tag out to Gordy. He upped the tempo with some power moves, including a backdrop and a powerslam. Ben tried to get back into the match but The ‘Birds and David are like a well-oiled machine.

David hit a piledriver on Tom Steele but was too close to the ropes and allowed a tag out to Mike Sharpe, who with increasing vocals, hammered David until he slipped between his legs and tagged Hayes. Some more dancing flamboyant offense followed and Iron Mike tried to get a handshake, but got hip tossed out of the corner. However, a distraction enabled Mike to attack from behind.

Hayes took a lot of offense from the rulebreakers, with Mike trying to get the win with a bear hug and then Steele with a sleeper. Hayes finally got a break when Steele missed a flying knee into the corner. He tagged Gordy, but he almost took himself out with a shoulder charge into the corner and collided with the post.

Gordy avoided an elbowdrop from Mike and tagged David, which led to all six men getting into the ring, despite the efforts of the two referees. In the midst of the chaos, David shot Mike into the ropes and connected with a high knee for the three count. Post-match, during an interview at ringside with Mercer, ultimate babyface David relinquished his portion of the Six-Man Title for when Buddy returns. ~ **1/2

Match 2 – Kevin Von Erich vs. King Kong Bundy (NWA American Heavyweight Title)

Before the match began, Mercer explained that Bundy – initially a friend of the Von Erich’s – used them to get to the top ranks of professional wrestling before turning on them and aligning with Gary Hart (although at this point he is no longer under Hart’s employ). One can certainly see a pattern emerging here… This is a return match from a few months back, when Bundy lost his opportunity to become American Heavyweight champion to Kevin, and also lost his hair. Bundy had been the champion before losing to Fritz on June 4 in Texas Stadium, which was meant to be the patriarch’s final bout.

Kevin gained an early advantage with a side-headlock takeover, which Bundy countered with a headscissors until Kevin escaped and connected with a dropkick. Bundy worked a hammerlock on the mat before Kevin came back with another dropkick, but the big man managed to get some distance before he could cop too much offense, and threw him to the outside. Bundy prevented Kevin from getting back in until he was hit with a shoulder block and a sunset flip from the apron.

With Bundy down on the mat, Kevin tried for the Iron Claw but it was blocked. Shortly after, a second Iron Claw was thwarted when Bundy’s foot made it under the bottom rope. The champion tried a top rope maneuver, but collided with referee David Manning, who was pulled into harm’s way by Bundy. As he checked on Manning, Kevin was grabbed and thrown over the top rope, a disqualification in World Class.

Bundy whipped Kevin into the corner and tried for an avalanche, but Manning pulled Kevin out of the way and awarded the match to Kevin. The two continued to brawl until Bundy was sent reeling from the ring with a dropkick. Bundy could have been disqualified for the top rope throw, but the official decision was due to Bundy using Manning as a human shield. ~ **

Match 3 – Ric Flair vs. Kerry Von Erich (Steel Cage) (NWA World Heavyweight Title)

Bill Mercer led into a video package highlighting what occurred the last time Kerry Von Erich challenged Ric Flair for the NWA World Title in Reunion Arena. With Flair’s chosen NWA referee Alfred Neely down on the mat, David Manning took over the officiating as Kerry clamped on a sleeper (or sleep hold according to Mercer). The bell rang and Manning awarded the first fall to Kerry, only to have it overturned by Neely, who disqualified Kerry. Kerry pinned Flair to earn the second fall, and in the third, both were disqualified by Neely, thus Flair retained the title. Before the commencement of the steel cage match for the NWA World Title, both Kerry and Flair cut pre-taped promos.

Flair made his way to the ring first, followed by Kerry, who had a tough time getting through the fans. Mercer explained that Fritz had uncovered evidence that Flair had tried to avoid this match, and had paid Gary Hart’s man The Great Kabuki bounty money, when he injured Kerry’s right knee.

Two officials were assigned for the match – David Manning and a special referee as voted on by the fans, Michael Hayes, wearing nothing but a pair of jeans. Before the bell rang, Hayes announced that due to the importance of this match, his ‘brother’ Terry Gordy would stand guard to prevent anyone getting in or out of the cage.

Kerry got the early advantage working on Flair’s leg. Flair tried to mount an attack but got taken down by a pin-point dropkick. Flair scored with some chops and punches in the corner before Kerry fought his way out and the champion flopped to the canvas. However Flair showed resiliency and scored with more blows and a kneedrop to the head.

In what would be a recurring theme, Hayes inserted himself into the match when Flair had Kerry up against the ropes and would not break, which caused Hayes to shove Flair away. Moments later, with Kerry punching Flair in the corner, Hayes again got involved. The more experienced Manning tried to cool the Freebird down. Notwithstanding, Kerry got a sleep hold on Flair which was countered into a suplex. Still, Von Erich was first up and hit a wobbly knee off the middle of the top rope.

Down on the mat, Flair was punished with punches to the head and an Iron Claw attempt which the champion thwarted with an illegal poke. Flair dropped Kerry across the top rope and got into a shoving contest with Manning and Hayes. Flair got a two count after an elbow drop and Kerry fired back with punches, before locking in an abdominal stretch.

Flair escaped, and then ate the steel wire on two occasions. Blood oozed from his forehead as Kerry used the cage as a cheese grater, but Flair came back with kicks to Kerry’s injured knee. Hayes again aggressively separated Flair and Kerry, to Manning’s consternation. Von Erich countered two attempts at the figure four and ran Flair again into the cage, but Flair again got the advantage by going after the knee.

The Nature Boy finally applied the figure four and after a lengthy spell Kerry reversed it. Now Flair’s knee is hurt and Kerry went after it. The champion tried to climb out and a full moon emerged over Dallas when Kerry got him down with his trunks. Moments later, Flair tried a move off the top but got caught in the Iron Claw. Flair appeared unconscious when Hayes – after conferring with Gordy – called for the bell and ruled that Flair’s foot touched the rope.

Hayes and Manning continued their running argument, and to loud boos, aggressively pulled Kerry off Flair. As Kerry and Hayes had words, Flair attacked Kerry from behind. Flair choked Kerry down on the mat, which led to Hayes trying to break it up, only to get shoved by Flair. Losing his temper, Hayes decked Flair and tried to get Kerry to cover him, but he refused. Hayes again shoved Kerry and Manning before Gordy opened the door.

As Hayes went to leave, Kerry tried to reason with him, only to get kneed in the back, which in turn sent Hayes spilling to the outside. Thinking that Von Erich had hit his ‘brother,’ Gordy slammed the door into Kerry’s skull. Flair made a cover and Hayes counted three, despite Kerry clearly getting his shoulders up. Finally, Manning had enough and ordered Hayes to leave.

Flair took advantage of the head injury with continued punches and running him into the cage. Kerry came back with the discus punch but could not make the cover. After checking him several times, Manning called off the bout and awarded the match to Flair. ~ ****

Match 4 – Ten Thousand Dollar Pole Match Battle Royal

This was an unusual match which began with fourteen wrestlers, who could be eliminated by pinfall, submission, or being thrown over the top rope to the floor. Then, when it got down to three wrestlers, a check for ten thousand dollars was placed at the top of a pole. Most of the competitors were lower and mid-card wrestlers, with the exception of David Von Erich and King Kong Bundy.

Despite that, David was the first eliminated when he was put over the top rope, followed by Bundy after first surviving being pinned by several wrestlers who dog piled on him, and then moments later was dropkicked (poorly) over the top rope by Bugsy McGraw to a big pop. Eliminations then came thick and fast. Bugsy scored another elimination by pitching out Wild Bill Irwin, but soon after he too was put out by Mike Sharpe and Al Madril.

Brian Adias rolled up Magic Dragon, Madril put out Tom Steele, and then Madril went over thanks to Ken Mantel and Brian Adias. With three wrestlers remaining, the check was placed at the top of the pole. All three immediately took turns trying to get up the pole. Mantel was almost thrown out by Iron Mike, but he landed on the apron. Adias went up again but Sharpe brought him down and then threw him over the top rope. Mantel almost got there but was stopped, until he kicked Sharpe away and got the check to win the match. The future World Class booker did a super babyface interview with Mercer about how much the ten grand will help him and his family over Christmas.

The Verdict: It is impossible to give a full and complete review of Christmas Star Wars 1982, as only half the card was shown on television. However, we can rate it as a television episode. Obviously, history tells us that the NWA World Heavyweight Title match between Flair and Kerry ranks as an important one in the future of World Class. It was the spark that lit the feud between former friends The Von Erich’s and The Freebirds, a formula used repeatedly over the years to get a new heel over (a former friend of the family turning on them), but nothing worked anywhere near as good as this.

It was brilliant storytelling, going back to the Six Man Tag Title match, when The Freebirds – still babyfaces – are saved by David, who stepped in for Buddy Roberts and even won the day for them, before graciously giving up his one-third of the title. This made The Freebirds even bigger heels on reflection due to David’s selfless act. Seeds kept being planted throughout the cage match, with Hayes losing his cool in apparently calling it down the middle, until a misunderstanding led to Kerry’s crushed cranium, and the beginning of what is still regarded one of the greatest feuds of all time.

Interestingly, while they did show replays of the cage match finish, the final words at the end of the programme were to put over The Freebirds becoming the first World Six Man champions, and Ken Mantel winning the battle royal. At this point, they are not selling that the Von Erichs/Freebirds will be the long term plan moving forward. Obviously this would change very soon.

So in that vein, and strictly reviewing this for the actual episode and not revisionist history, the cage match – as far as the action and storytelling – were superb, with Flair not overshadowing a local angle despite being the World champion, as good bookers were able to do whenever Flair (or Harley Race for that matter) showed up to defend the title. The World Six Man Tag wasn’t shabby although it dragged a little; the American Title match was short but what was presented was good. The battle royal was filler, and how the crowd still had any desire to cheer at this point after the cage match was beyond me, although again, nobody could have foreseen just how much impact this would have on the territory.

Rating: ***1/2

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