Throwback Thursday: NWA World Championship Wrestling (May 16, 1987), As Seen on WWE Network and Peacock

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This week Throwback Thursday heads back Atlanta to revisit a classic edition of NWA World Championship Wrestling, as seen on the WWE Network and Peacock, that aired 36 years ago this month!

 

The landscape of professional Wrestling changed forever on March 29, 1987, when the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) staged WrestleMania III at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan.

The event set unprecedented records across the board, from attendance (the disputed 93,173), to gate (more than $1.6 million), to pay-per-view revenue ($10.3 million).

WrestleMania III shattered all known records for professional wrestling and put the rest of the industry on notice. The World Wrestling Federation was the one, true king of the ring.

For Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP)—the recognized number two promotion in the sport—the overwhelming success of WrestleMania III was a death knell few could ignore.

To that end, days after WrestleMania III, Jim Crockett, Jr., and Rob Garner (JCP’s head of television operations) met with Jim Ross in a conference room at the William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport to discuss a partnership with Bill Watts’ Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF).

When talk of joining forces stalled, Jim Ross floated the idea of selling the UFW territory to JCP lock, stock, and barrel.

The proposed $4 million deal (twice the amount Watts had actually been seeking) would not only net Crockett the contracts to a talented UWF roster (which included Sting) but, more importantly, would give Crockett the contracts of some 120 individual television stations.

On April 9, 1987, Jim Crockett Promotions purchased Bill Watts’ Universal Wrestling Federation.

Though Crockett desperately needed Watts’ syndication network to better compete with the WWF, the deal’s heavy price tag included taking over Watt’s pricey office in Dallas, Texas, which Jim Crockett was more than eager to assume control of.

As this edition of NWA WCW hit airwaves JCP was preparing for the biggest, longest Great American Bash Tour yet. All involved were hoping that the added TV presence and exposure would garner better attendance. It was not to be.

In hindsight, the deal to acquire the UWF, coupled with the success of WrestleMania III, marked the true beginning of the end for JCP. The necessary managerial infrastructure needed to simultaneously balance both promotions and rosters was sorely lacking, both financially and creatively, leaving very little room for success.

History suggests that Crockett may have been better served by waiting for Watts to go out of business before purchasing any of the contracts. Jim Crockett, Jr., however, disputes that notion, noting that JCP simply didn’t have time to wait.

Unbeknownst to almost everyone outside the small tight-knit inner circle, Jim Crockett Promotions was running out of time and money at an alarming rate. The time was now, Crockett believed, to go all-in on a move against the WWF.

Without the move to purchase the UWF, JCP would not have survived the summer of 1987. It was, very simply, now or never.

 

 

 

The top story in JCP the week this edition of NWA World Championship Wrestling aired was the upcoming Great American Bash Tour ’87.

One of the major selling points of the 1987 Bash Tour was the debut of “WarGames: The Match Beyond”, set for July 4, 1987, at the Omni in Atlanta.

The ongoing war between Dusty Rhodes, the Road Warriors, and Nikita Koloff and the Four Horsemen (Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, & Lex Luger), to be settled in the first-ever “WarGames” bout, was the top story in the promotion at the time.

Now let’s head on over to the WWE Network on Peacock, hit ‘play’, and see how well this edition of NWA World Championship Wrestling holds up in 2024!

Edits for this edition of NWA World Championship Wrestling are not an issue on the WWE Network and Peacock. Context, meanwhile, is solid. Though the bulk of JCP’s TV of the era has yet to uploaded to the WWE Network or Peacock, nearly every past edition of NWA World Championship Wrestling, dating back to November 1985, is available for you to enjoy on the WWE Network and Peacock right now!

Some “Hidden Gems” events, like the inaugural Jim Crockett, Sr., Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament, are available on the actual WWE Network but are (unfortunately) unavailable on Peacock.

Oddly enough, this edition of NWA World Championship Wrestling is listed with a date of May 16, 2021, on Peacock, not May 16, 1987.

 

NWA World Championship Wrestling (WATCH)
Date: May 16, 1987 – Location: WTBS Studios, Atlanta, Georgia
Attendance: N/A – TV Ratings: N/A
Commentators: Tony Schiavone & David Crockett – Interviews: Tony Schiavone & David Crockett

IN POP CULTURE:
Number One Song: “With Or Without You” (U2)
Number One Album: The Joshua Tree (U2)
Number One on Television: Family Ties (NBC)
Number One Film in Theaters: Ishtar (Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, Isabelle Adjani, Charles Grodin, & Jack Weston)
U.S. President & Vice President: Ronald Reagan & George H.W. Bush

CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME:
NWA World Heavyweight Champion: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair (August 9, 1986, St. Louis, Missouri, from “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes)
NWA World Women’s Champion: Debbie Combs (April 10, 1987, Kansas City, Missouri, defeating Penny Mitchell to win fill a vacancy left after Bob Geigel’s Kansas City promotion withdrew from the NWA)
NWA United States Heavyweight Champion: “Russian Nightmare” Nikita Koloff (August 17, 1986, Charlotte, North Carolina, defeating Magnum T.A. to win the then-vacant U.S. Heavyweight title; this was a “best of seven” series that Koloff won four falls to three; the title was vacated on May 29, 1986, after Magnum T.A. attacked NWA President Bob Caudle; on September 28, 1986, Nikita Koloff defeated Wahoo McDaniel to unify the U.S. Heavyweight and National Heavyweight titles)
NWA World Television Champion: Tully Blanchard (November 27, 1986, NWA Starrcade ’86: Night of the Skywalkers, from “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes; this was a “first blood” match)
NWA World Tag Team Champions: “Ragin’ Bull” Manny Fernandez & “Ravishing” Rick Rude (December 6, 1986, NWA World Championship Wrestling, from the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson))
NWA International Tag Team Champions: The Road Warriors (Road Warrior Hawk & Road Warrior Animal) (March 12, 1987, Tokyo, Japan, from Genichiro & Jumbo Tsuruta)
NWA United States Tag Team Champion: VACANT (April 4, 1987; the titles were vacated after then-U.S. Tag Team Champion Dick Murdoch, who held the titles with Ivan Koloff, was suspended by the NWA for landing a brainbuster on Nikita Koloff on the concrete floor; the tournament, which kicked off on the April 25, 1987, edition of NWA WCW (currently unavailable on the WWE Network and Peacock), involved six teams, the New Breed (Chris Champion & Sean Royal), The Armstrongs (“Bullet Bob & Brad), the Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane), the Russian Team (Ivan Koloff & Vladimir Petrov), the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson), and Barry Windham & Ron Garvin; as this show aired only two teams remained, the Midnight Express and Barry Windham & Ron Garvin)
NWA World Six-Man Tag Team Champions: “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes & The Road Warriors (Road Warrior Hawk & Road Warrior Animal) (May 17, 1986, Baltimore, Maryland, from the Russian Team (Ivan Koloff, Nikita Koloff, & Baron Von Raschke))
NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion: Lazer Tron (Hector Guerrero) (March 7, 1987, Atlanta, Georgia, from Denny Brown)
UWF Heavyweight Champion: Big Bubba Rogers (April 19, 1987, Muskogee, Oklahoma, from One Man Gang)
UWF Television Champion: “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert (March 21, 1987, Universal Wrestling Federation, taped March 8, 1987, from Savannah Jack)
UWF Tag Team Champions: Sting & Rick Rude (April 12, 1987, Atlanta, Georgia, from Terry Taylor & “Gentleman” Chris Adams)

 

This week’s edition of NWA World Championship Wrestling opens with a still of the vacant United States Tag Team titles which, Tony Schiavone tells us, will be decided today in the tournament finals when the Midnight Express clash with Barry Windham & Ron Garvin.

This is followed by the standard NWA WCW open of the era.

 

Following the open we head inside the studio of WTBS where David Crockett & Tony Schiavone welcome us to the show. The pair hype this week’s U.S. Tag title match and put over the quality of the teams involved.

The two discuss the back story between the Midnight Express and the team of Barry Windham & Ron Garvin, who lost the U.S. Tag titles due to interference from the Midnight’s manager Jim Cornette on the December 13, 1986, edition of NWA Pro Wrestling.

The Midnight Express, Tony tells us, had a “workout” earlier in the day where David Crockett was able to grab a quick interview with their manger Jim Cornette. Tony then tosses to footage of that interview.

 

With an upbeat, smiling Jim Cornette sitting leisurely on the edge of the wrestling ring, David Crockett asks Cornette about his Midnight Express meeting Windham & Garvin in the finals of the U.S. Tag title tournament.

Cornette calls the U.S. Tag title win a Mother’s Day gift coming a week late before talking about how his “boys” had been in the ring early this morning.

Like any good sports team Cornette’s Midnight Express have trained and are heading into the final showdown in the “best shape of their career”. Cornette is “pleased with their progress” and evolution into the greatest tag team “that ever will be.”

Cornette then promises that Ron Garvin will be “embarrassed” on national television today. Cornette hopes that Garvin has his “best day” tonight and gives it his “best shot” because if not Garvin won’t just be beat (which Cornette says is a “foregone conclusion”) but Garvin will be embarrassed too.

After all of the things Ron Garvin has put Jim Cornette through, Cornette says, embarrassing and defeating Garvin tonight will be the “final revenge” to end Garvin’s career.

The Midnight Express will be U.S. Tag Team Champions, Mama Cornette will be “happy”, and “the whole world” will finally wake up to the fact that the Midnight Express are the greatest tag team that there’s ever been.

The U.S. Tag Team title belts, Cornette says, will only compliment that fact that the Stan Lane & Bobby Eaton “are already the sexiest athletes in sports”.

David Crockett wraps the interview and hypes the big U.S. Tag Team title showdown to come before we head back to David & Tony at the interview location who put a bow on the interview and hype the U.S. Tag Team Championship bout later in the hour.

 

Tony & David then turn their attention to the Sunday, June 7th card the The Omni in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tony notes that the NWA has the World Six-Man Tag Team titles, which are currently being held by Dusty Rhodes & the Road Warriors.

Other top teams include the Four Horsemen trio of World Champion Ric Flair, Lex Luger, & Tully Blanchard, who will face the returning Fabulous Freebirds in a six-man tag team match at The Omni on June 7.

The pair then set up and toss to a music video for the Fabulous Freebirds.

The video presented here features the “Bad Street U.S.A.” song. The original video, however, is actually set to Micheal Hayes’ cover of This Lizzy’s all-time classic “The Boys Are Back In Town” song, which can be viewed here.

The edited music video not only features footage of Micheal Hayes rocking out in the studio but the Freebirds doing their thing in the UWF.

WWE cleverly reedits this video, replacing studio footage of “The Boys Are Back In Town” with studio footage of “Bad Street U.S.A.” In fact, had David Crockett not mentioned anything about the “boys” being “back in town” one would never know that the songs were swapped unless they already knew otherwise.

 

Coming out of the music video Tony & David wrap the video and turn their attention to the Freebirds opponents on June 7, the Four Horsemen, and bring Horsemen manager James J. Dillon in for an interview.

What amazes James J. Dillon, Dillon says, is that two week’s ago he told the national television audience that the Four Horsemen dominate the world of wrestling, be it singles, two-on-two, six-man, or eight-man tag team competition.

The Road Warriors & Dusty Rhodes may be the World Six-Man Tag Team Champions but every time the Horsemen talk about challenging them for the titles the Road Warriors conveniently find themselves in Japan fighting for the International Tag titles.

Now all of a sudden the Freebirds are coming home and putting their names on the contract. It’s appropriate that the match is taking place in Atlanta, Georgia, Dillon says, because Atalanta is the Four Horsemen’s “home away from home”. Every week, in some form or fashion, the Four Horsemen are in Atlanta on WTBS on WCW.

Everyone knows that Michael Hayes can sing and Terry Gordy can strut and Buddy Roberts can do whatever it is Roberts does, but since the Freebirds “left town” the Four Horsemen have “moved in and set up camp”, and the Horsemen “don’t figure on leavin’.”

So on June 7 at The Omni we’re going to find out “how bad” the Fabulous Freebirds are because we already know “how bad” the Four Horsemen are.

With that Dillon walks off set as Tony wraps the interview and hypes the forthcoming U.S. Tag Team title tournament final before tossing to the next Peacock ad-break.

 

—Finals of the NWA United States Tag Team Championship Tournament (9:12)
Barry Windham & Ron Garvin vs. The Midnight Express (“Beautiful” Bobby Eaton & “Sweet” Stan Lane) w/James E. Cornette

Ron Garvin & Barry Windham defeated Ivan Koloff & Vladimir Petrov (the future Warlord) in the first-round while the Midnight Express defeated the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express in their first-round match.

The New Breed and the Armstrongs ended in a time-limit draw on the May 2, 1987, edition of NWA WCW, knocking both teams from the tournament, turning this second-round bout into a championship final.

This match, featuring arguably the greatest tag team of all-time (the Midnight Express) and two of the greatest singles wrestlers of all-time (Windham and Garvin), is one of the best tag team matches you’re going to find on the WWE Network and Peacock.

Things are even to start, with Garvin and Eaton trading holds, before Windham lands a fist to Eaton from second rope. Windham evades the typical dirty tricks from the Express as Stan Lane enters the fray.

Windham and Lane swap momentum back and forth before Windham slowly gains the upper hand on Lane and Eaton, grounding both with arm bars before Garvin tags back in.

Garvin and Eaton collide in the center of the ring, giving Lane the opening to ground Garvin with a side headlock. Garvin fights out and flings Lane across the ring with a wild hip toss as we head to a mid-match Peacock ad-break.

Coming out of the break the heels are in control, with Eaton riding Garvin with a side headlock. Garvin is sent to the floor where Windham is quick to watch his back and prevent and dirty tricks by Lane or Cornette.

As the fight simmers down at ringside Garvin backdrops Eaton on the concrete floor before trying to renter the ring. Eaton stops Garvin, whose legs become wrapped in the ropes, allowing Lane to drop the hammer on Garvin.

The midnight Midnight Express control Garvin, employing quick tags, double team maneuvers, and a number of dirty tricks, preventing Garvin from making the all important hot tag to Windham.

Windham, believing he’d received the tag from Garvin, jumps into the ring to battle Stan Lane. As referee Teddy Long escorts Windham from the ring the Midnight use the opening to cheat yet again.

Eaton & Lane continue to dominate the action, scoring a slew of near-falls and fighting off Garvin’s hope spots before Garvin somersaults his way our of enemy territory to make the hot tag to Windham!

Windham takes the fight to Bobby Eaton, choosing to batter the snort out of Eaton rather than pinning his man. Lane tags in and he and Windham trade shots in the corner before Windham gets the upper hand as we head to another mid-match Peacock ad-break.

Windham is still in control as we come back from break, dropping Eaton with a massive superplex from the second rope before Windham, moments later, misses a splash off the top rope that injures his knee and turns the tide in the Midnight’s favor yet again.

 

The Midnight Express once again dominate the action, this time taking the measure of Barry Windham. Soon enough Lane has Windham grounded with a modified camel clutch as the fans chant for Barry.

The Midnight Express work over a game Windham, nearly putting Windham away with a variety of double-team maneuvers as we head to another mid-match Peacock ad-break, after which the Express are still in control.

The Express throw everything they can at Windham but can not keep Windham for the three-count. Then, out of nowhere, Barry rolls out of the way of an Eaton elbow drop from the top and crawls his way over to Garvin for the hot tag.

Garvin is a ball of fire as he enters, dropping both Lane and Eaton before flooring Eaton with a headbutt. But as Garvin covers Eaton for a near-fall Cornette belts Windham with his tennis racquet on the floor!

All hell breaks loose then as Lane pulls Garvin to the floor. As Lane holds Garvin for a racquet shot from Cornette, Windham reenters the match and crushes Eaton with a stiff lariat before hurling the referee to the floor and going after Cornette.

But as Windham jumps to the floor Cornette gloms Windham with the racquet. Cornette tries to blast Garvin but hits Lane by mistake!

With Lane out of the picture Garvin chases Cornette around the ring and into the waiting arms of Windham, who cinches in a sleeper hold on Cornette.

Windham grinds away on the sleeper, putting Cornette under, as Eaton drives Garvin into the near corner in the ring. As Garvin rears back to blast Eaton, though, Stan Lane thumps Garvin with a chair, knocking Garvin out!

As Garvin falls an exhausted Eaton puts an arm over Garvin. Lane, meanwhile, dashes around the other side of the ring in search of the referee, whom he rolls into the ring as Windham releases the sleeper.

Windham tries to crawl over Lane as the referee begins to count but Lane holds Windham’s foot, enabling the three-count at 19:01, earning the Midnight Express their first (of an eventual three) NWA United States Tag Team Championship.

WINNERS and NEW NWA United States Tag Team Champions, The Midnight Express (“Beautiful” Bobby Eaton & “Sweet” Stan Lane) w/James E. Cornette (Pin, 19:01)

 

Following the three count Windham lands a running right hand on Lane and makes the cover only to discover that Bobby Eaton has already pinned Ron Garvin to with the straps.

As Stan Lane pulls Eaton from the ring and Cornette sleeps the sleeper off we cut to a Ric Flair vignette.

 

Set to Ric Flair’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” entrance theme the music video/vignette features some of Flair’s favorite promo lines and a footage from bouts against variety of top babyfaces. Following the video we head to the final Peacock ad-break of the show.

 

We return to the interview location after the break, where Tony & David put a bow on the incredible tag team bout we’ve just witnessed.

Tony then brings in the new United States Tag Team Champion Midnight Express, sans a still groggy Cornette, for a post-match interview.

“Sweet” Stan Lane starts by talking about how many hours Lane and Bobby Eaton have trained and the miles they’ve run in pursuit of the U.S. Tag Team titles. Now, Lane says, the titles are theirs.

Lane runs down Ron Garvin, adding insult to injury, before noting that they didn’t with the straps in some coliseum or dome on a big show, they won them right here on Superstation WTBS in front of “80 million-plus people”.

The U.S. Tag Team Championship belongs to the Midnight Express and nothing can stop them now. There’s only one place left to go, the “pinnacle”, and that’s the World Tag Team titles.

The fans can clap and chant like “morons” but they can never deny the title that they won on national TV. Lane turns to Tony and all but demands that Schiavone congratulate the Express on winning the titles, with Eaton shoving his fist in Tony’s face.

Stan Lane then rips the microphone from Tony’s hands and calls for the fans to take pictures of them before David steps in and calls for a replay of the finish so the fans can see the truth of what truly happened.

Lane agrees, calling himself and Eaton “two Christian athletes” who won the straps “fair and square”, and we see a replay of the last few minutes of the match.

 

Following the replay Stan Lane rips the “low class” Barry Windham for having the nerve to put his hands on their manager Jim Cornette.

Just then a tired, gassed Cornette, calling himself a “macho kind of guy”, enters the scene and begins to rant about how easily his Midnight Express defeated Garvin & Windham to claim the gold.

Cornette says he warned Garvin earlier in the show to have the best night of his life or be “embarrassed”, and that’s exactly what happened tonight. Garvin threw everything he had at Cornette and the Midnight but Garvin and Windham didn’t win the belts.

Cornette says he and the Midnight “burned” Ron Garvin, cost Garvin the $1 million prize at the 1987 Crockett Cup, beat up Garvin’s brother Jimmy, cost Garvin & Windham the U.S. Tag title straps, and then beat he and Windham in the finals of the tournament tonight.

Now Cornette’s “revenge is complete” and Garvin’s career is over. Maybe, Cornette suggests, Garvin can get a job selling used cars or get a gig at new wave hair salon before he and the Midnight depart the interview location.

 

Tony and Dave wrap the interview and put over the U.S. Tag title bout before David calls for yet another replay of the final minutes of the tournament final to see how the Midnight Express stole the titles from Ron Garvin & Barry Windham.

This time the replay is in slow-motion with David and Tony providing insight and context to the footage as we watch it.

As we watch the last moments of the replay Tony quickly wraps the show and sends us to the credits to bring this week’s edition of NWA World Championship Wrestling to a close!

 

Final Thoughts

This is, as usual, an exciting, fast-paced, action-packed edition of NWA World Championship Wrestling!

This is, to be sure, a rare show for JCP with only one match taking place. Lucky for us the match is one of the all-time great televised tag team title matches of the era!

On top of that we get a pair of nice music videos for the Freebirds and Ric Flair as well as a pair of Jim Cornette promos that masterfully tie the hour-long story together. Oh, and Stan Lane’s obnoxious promo at the end of the title match is one for the ages as well!

So what are you waiting for? If you haven’t seen this instant-classic hour of JCP action, or it’s been a while, you owe it to yourself to seek out this classic edition of NWA World Championship Wrestling right now on either the WWE Network or Peacock and enjoy the ride! Who knows, you may end up liking it, and that’s never a bad thing!

Already subscribed to the WWE Network on Peacock? Then you can relive this all-time classic edition of NWA World Championship Wrestling right now or experience it for the very first time! As always, let us know what you think in the comments section below!

For pre-WNN editions of Throwback Thursday, click here!

 

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