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 the booking of Gary Hart, the new arrivals 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)

Before the bell, Michael Hayes wished everyone a merry Christmas, and informed the fans that due to a travel issue, Buddy Roberts couldn’t make the show. However, the Freebirds never back down from a fight, and will take the match a man short. At this, David Von Erich came to the ring, and to the joy of everyone (except the heels), he will fill in for Roberts.

This was a see-sawing battle with both teams having their moment to shine. Michael Hayes in particular took a lot off offense before he tagged out to Gordy, only for the big man to collide with the ringpost. 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.

A straightforward opener but a good one, and plants the seeds for the big angle later on. ~ **1/2

WINNERS: David Von Erich, Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy

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

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. Commentator Bill Mercer explained that Bundy was a former friend of the Von Erich’s before choosing to turn on them. A lot of that going around….

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. ~ **

WINNER: Kevin Von Erich

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, both Kerry and Flair cut pre-taped promos.

Due to all the shenanigans – including the alleged paying off of The Great Kabuki by Flair to injure Kerry’s knee prior to this bout – a steel cage match was made with two officials assigned. The first was lead official David Manning, and the second was Michael Hayes, as chosen by the fans. Terry Gordy also stood guard at the door.

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.

Flair naturally was cut open by the wire, which Kerry used like a cheese grater on Flair’s forehead. Flair came back with kicks to Kerry’s injured knee, which elicited another overly aggressive response from Hayes. Flair tried to climb out, but Kerry pulled him down by the tights and applied the Iron Claw. Flair appeared unconscious when Hayes – after conferring with Gordy – 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. ~ ***1/2

WINNER: Ric 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.

With three wrestlers remaining, the check was placed at the top of the pole. It was down to Brian Adias, Iron Mike Sharpe, and future WCCW booker, Ken Mantel. After Adias was thrown out by Sharpe, Mantel managed to climb the pole despite the efforts of Sharpe, and retrieve the check. ~ *

WINNER: Ken Mantel

The incident that kicked off one of the best feuds in wrestling history

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 Erich’s/Freebirds will be the long term plan moving forward.

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