By April of 1986 the AWA was in a state of resurgence thanks to a slot on ESPN (begun in September 1985) and a deep roster. WrestleRock ’86 (best remembered by most for “WrestleRock Rumble”) was by far the biggest event in AWA history. Packed with 15 matches featuring some of the biggest names to ever work the territory, and highlighted by Verne coming out of retirement “one final time”, WrestleRock ’86 drew more than 22,000 fans for a gate of over $300,000, outdrawing the Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Cup at the Louisiana Superdome the day before.
The event was not offered on Pay-Per-View or broadcast in its entirety on ESPN and was never officially released on Home Video. While there are several edits to the WWE Network version of WrestleRock ’86, the most glaring is the omission of the Rockers/Somers & Rose tag team match. The match was included on the Shawn Michaels: My Journey which could explain the omission.
Context here is atrocious. At the time of this writing only 9 other AWA programs from 1983 to 1988, including supercards, are currently available in the archives of the Network.
AWA WrestleRock ’86 (WATCH)
Date: April 20, 1986 – Location: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Attendance: <23,000 – CCTV: N/A
Commentators: Rod Trongard & Larry Nelson – Interviews : Ken Resnick & Larry Nelson
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
AWA World Heavyweight Champion: Stan “The Lariat” Hansen
AWA World Tag Team Champions: Scott Hall & Curt Hennig
AWA World Women’s Champion: Candi Devine
AWA World Light Heavyweight Championship: UNKNOWN
AWA America’s Champion: Sgt. Slaughter
The show opens with the national anthem sung by God knows who! After the anthem Ken Resnick interviews Brad Rheingans at ringside who says he’s going to win and that his injured knee is one hundred percent.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 1:48)
Boris Zhukov w/Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie vs. Brad Rheingans
Zhukov injuring Rheingans knee is the lone story in this one. This isn’t a great match but it’s not terrible either, and turned out to be a good way of starting the show. After Rheingans injures Zhukov’s knee Zhukov attempts a comeback when Rheingans hits a beautiful gutwrench suplex for the pin at 8:35. Afterwards Al-Kaissie and Zhukov attack Rheingans until he chases them off.
WINNER is Brad Rheingans (Pin, 8:35)
— “Midget Tag Team Match” (WATCH – 15:38)
Special Guest Referee: Gary Lumpkin
Cowboy Lang & Little Mr. T (Haiti Kid) vs. Lord Littlebrook & Little Tokyo
This is one of the best midget matches available on the Network. A solid, psychological wrestling match that keeps the crazy cartoon antics in check and the crowd interested throughout. These two teams work amazingly together and they even manage to avoid Professor Frink’s Death Ray at 20:43! In the end Cowboy Lang slings Lord Littlebrook around the ring with a scissor-roll for the pin at 10:02.
WINNERS are Cowboy Lang & Little Mr. T (Pin, 10:02)
— Singles Match (WATCH – 30:19)
Special Guest Ring Announcer: Chuck Lilligren
Wahoo McDaniel vs. Colonel DeBeers
DeBeers is the apartheid loving white supremacist of the AWA who has “no time for minorities,” while Wahoo remains the most famous and successful Native American pro wrestler ever. The story tells itself. As for the match, it’s part wrestling match, part fight, and not all that interesting. Wahoo starts throwing DeBeers out of the ring and eventually tosses him over the top rope for the DQ at 5:17 while the two fight at ringside after the match.
WINNER is Colonel DeBeers (Disqualification, 5:17)
The Midnight Rockers against Doug Somers and Buddy Rose edited from the Network version of this event took place at this time.
Next the University of Minnesota Athletic Director Paul Giel is introduced before Resnick tries to interview Buck Zumhofe at ringside. The idiot’s boombox, though, is too loud to make out what he’s saying save a few things here and there. Oops.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 40:05)
Tiger Mask (Mitsuharu Misawa) vs. “Rock and Roll” Buck Zumhofe (sub. for Buddy Lane)
Though Zumhofe is listed as the AWA Light Heavyweight Champion at this time in 1986 he is not the Champion at this event. Who the actual Light Heavyweight Champion is unknown. Try as I might I can not find any other records but the inaccurate ones already available online and in print. As for the action, it’s not bad for what it is, especially for 1986, but it’s certainly not a classic. After ten-minutes of solid wrestling Tiger Mask hits a top rope somersault on Zumhofe for the win at 11:00.
WINNER is Tiger Mask (Pin, 11:00)
Governor Rudy Perpich announcing “Verne Gagne Day” is edited out. Next we get a Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham promo at ringside talking about proving themselves in the AWA.
— Tag Team Match (WATCH – 55:03)
Mike Rotundo & Barry Windham vs. The Fabulous Ones (Stan Lane & Steve Kern)
The guest ring announcer’s introductions have been nixed so I’ve no idea who it is. The Fabulous Ones had lost their first-round match to The Fantastics at the Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Cup event in New Orleans the day before this, for those wondering. This is one of the better matches of the night, in my opinion. It’s an old-school tag that features great psychology, timing, and action that could have fit perfectly on a JCP show. In the end Lane sets Rotundo up for a piledriver when Windham comes off the top with an elbow smash to the head. The illegal Windham then makes the cover for the win at 14:05.
WINNERS are Mike Rotundo & Barry Windham (Pin, 14:05)
— Singles Match (WATCH – 1:13:47)
“Bulldog” Bob Brown vs. “Giant” Baba
This is the worst match on the card. Period. If you’ve never seen “Giant” Baba wrestle this is not the best way to be introduced to him or his work. At any rate, after a few minutes of plodding action Baba hits the big boot on Brown for the pin at 5:42.
WINNER is “Giant” Baba (Pin, 5:42)
Next we get a ringside promo from Harley Race. Race says he’ll prove he’s the absolute best and says that AWA Champion Stan Hansen is next on the list, “The List of Harley”.
— “Battle of the Ex-Champions” (WATCH – 1:23:25)
Special Guest Ring Announcer: Dick Jonckowski
Harley Race vs. Rick Martel
This is another very good old-school match steeped in psychology hurt only by the tiring fans. After more than 15-minutes of back and forth action they both end up going over the top rope to the floor for the double count-out at 17:34, a finish the crowd was not happy with. After the match the two battle outside the ring.
NO WINNER declared (Double Count-out, 17:34)
— “$50,000 10-Woman Battle Royal” (WATCH – 1:45:57)
Special Guest Referee: Stu Voigt
1) Joyce Grable, 2) Kat LeRoux, 3) Leona Vachon, 4) Rose Divine, 5) Taylor Thomas, 6) Despina Montega, 7) Misty Blue Simmes, 8) Sherri Martel, 9) Debbie Combs, & 10) AWA World Women’s Champion Candy Divine
For those who enjoy battle royals this is a pretty decent match, but it’s far from a classic. The story is the Divine/Martel feud which builds to the end. Trongard confuses Divine and Combs for the entire match. It comes down to Martel, Combs, Divine, and Grable. Martel dumps Combs (not Divine) while Divine eliminates Grable. Divine thinks she’s won the match when Martel, who had been on the outside, reenters the match and knocks Divine out for the win, and the $50,000, at 7:35. Afterwards Rose and Somers celebrate with Martel with all three demanding title shots.
WINNER is Sherri Martel (7:35)
A 10-minute intermission is edited out, as is the introduction of the guest ring announcer for the next match. Also, Larry Nelson, who I’m no fan of, joins Rod Trongard for the remainder of the show, which was where ESPN picked up the Live action.
— AWA America’s Heavyweight Championship (WATCH – 1:59:53)
Kamala w/Skandor Akbar vs. Sgt. Slaughter(c)
Slaughter is one of the most over people on this entire card, which is saying something. The match itself, though, is lousy, and that’s being kind. As over as Slaughter was when he came out the crowd is dead for the match. Slaughter finally makes a comeback and looks to be close to winning the match with the cobra clutch when Akbar gets involved for the DQ at 9:43. After the match Slaughter whips Kamala and Akbar with Akbar’s whip before telling the fans he’s glad to be back in Minnesota and leading three kids through the Pledge of Allegiance.
WINNER and STILL AWA America’s Heavyweight Champion, Sgt. Slaughter (Disqualification, 9:43)
There’s a bit of editing here. Hall and Hennig’s promo, The Long Riders’ motorcycle entrance, and the introduction of the guest ring announcer are cut. Prior to the start of the match Scott Hall is awarded a “most popular wrestler” award from Pro Wrestling Report.
— AWA World Tag Team Championship (WATCH – 2:16:29)
The Long Riders (Bill & Scott “Hog” Irwin) vs. “Big” Scott Hall & Curt Hennig(c)
This was the high water mark for The Long Riders as Scott Irwin would tragically pass away from a brain tumor on September 5, 1987 at the age of 35. The story in this one was Hall and Hennig looking for retribution after The Long Riders attacked and injured Curt Hennig. The match itself isn’t all that bad and has its moments where the psychology and pacing click. The standout in this match is Hennig who just looks amazing throughout. Things break down in the end which allows Hennig to hit Bill Irwin with a beautiful missile dropkick for the pin at 13:03 to retain the titles. After the match Scott Irwin attacks the champs with the “loaded” motorcycle boot. Hall and Hennig tell Larry Nelson that if The Long Riders want a fight “they’ll get one.”
WINNERS and STILL AWA World Tag Team Champion, Scott Hall & Curt Hennig (Pin, 13:03)
Scott LeDoux tells Resnick that he’s “comin’ down on you, Zbyszko, like a thousand tons of Idaho potatoes!” We also have yet another ring announcer who isn’t identified.
— “10-Round European Rules Match” (WATCH – 2:35:00)
Special Guest Referee: Larry Hennig
Larry Zbyszko w/Go the Ninja vs. Scott LeDoux w/Bob Lurtsema
This one is more MMA than boxing and is arguably the best “boxing match” I’ve seen on a major card. Zbyszko takes over by round three while LeDoux all but knocks Zbyszko out in the fourth round. At the start of the fifth round a bloody Zbyszko goes to the floor where he rams LeDoux into the post for the DQ at just 16-seconds into round five. Afterwards all hell breaks loose. Ninja attacks LeDoux before being chased off by Hennig. Zbyszko then beats the bejabbers out of LeDoux with nunchucks until Larry “The Axe” drops Zbyszko with a big right hand. Larry Nelson interviews LeDoux who says Zbyszko didn’t have the guts to stand and fight and that next time he’ll train for two guys instead of one.
WINNER is Scott LeDoux (Disqualification, :16, R5)
— AWA World Heavyweight Championship (WATCH – 2:54:00)
Nick Bockwinkel vs. Stan “The Lariat” Hansen(c)
On his way to the ring Hansen beats up Larry Nelson, who sells it like a clown, while Bockwinkel comes to the ring with a bull whip. This is hands down the match of the night, a stiff, physical fight that sees both men shine. The only problem with the match is that it feels rushed; as soon as it gets going it’s time for the finish. The referee goes down and Bockwinkel looks to have Hansen on the ropes. As the referee gets to his feet, however, Hansen dumps Bockwinkel over the top for the DQ at 10:13. After the match the two fight until Hansen heads to the back and Bockwinkel tells Larry Nelson it’s not over.
WINNER is Nick Bockwinkel (Disqualification, 10:13)
An intermission to construct the steel cage has been removed.
— “Tag Team Steel Cage Grudge Match” – If Gagne & Snuka Win, Verne Gagne Gets Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie in the Cage for 10-Minutes (WATCH – 3:10:42)
The Barbarian (Jim Nord) & King Kong Brody w/Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie vs. Greg Gagne & Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka (sub. for Jerry Blackwell) w/Verne Gagne
Replacing the “injured” Blackwell (most likely a failed physical) this marked the very first match for the late Jimmy Snuka in the AWA. Blackwell not being in the match rendered it nearly meaningless since Blackwell/Brody was one of the big programs at the time. Focus instead turned to Verne getting revenge on Al-Kaissie. It’s a stiff, bloody bout, though, with Brody and Barbarian beating the snort out of Snuka and Greg Gagne. The match breaks down near the end with all four men in the ring and everybody getting wiped out. Eventually Brody dropkicks Barbarian by mistake and Snuka scores the pin at 11:34. After the match Brody and Barbarian fight Gagne and Snuka from the ring to the back.
WINNERS are Greg Gagne & Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka w/Verne Gagne (Pin, 11:34)
— “10-Minute Steel Cage Grudge Match” (WATCH – 3:25:43)
Sheik Adnan Al-Kassie vs. Verne Gagne
This isn’t much of a match. Gagne runs Al-Kassie into the cage on the outside, splitting him wide open, before they fight for a few minutes in the ring. They botch the first attempt at the small package finish before finally getting it right at 4:04 for a Verne Gagne win. Afterwards Gagne tosses Al-Kaissie from the cage before telling Larry Nelson that this is “truly my last one”, with this match giving him more pleasure than any of his previous matches.
WINNER is Verne Gagne (Pin, 4:04)
— “Tag Team Steel Cage Match” (WATCH – 3:32:56)
The Road Warriors (Road Warrior Hawk & Road Warrior Animal) vs. The Fabulous Freebirds (Jimmy Garvin & Michael “P.S.” Hayes)
There’s a story going around that this match didn’t go on last but happened before the other two cage matches. Judging by the clock on the wall, that’s pure rubbish. This match was indeed the final match of the night. This marked the second to last AWA appearance of both the Road Warriors (their last was at the April 28, 1986 Rage in a Cage event in New Jersey) and “P.S.” Hayes (who would work SuperClash III), as well as Jimmy Garvin’s final AWA appearance. This one isn’t even close. The Road Warriors are in control for virtually the entire match and win after Hayes clubs Garvin by mistake with brass knucks at 7:17. After the match the Road Warriors continue to beat down the Freebirds.
WINNERS are The Road Warriors (Road Warrior Hawk & Road Warrior Animal) (Pin, 7:17)
As soon as the final bell rings the Metrodome empties as if someone pulled a fire alarm! The Road Warriors leave the ring as the Network version of WrestleRock ’86 fades to black.
Unfortunately the AWA could not maintain the momentum gained from this stacked, 4-hour event and by the end of 1986 were in worse shape than ever before.
Issues with Stan Hansen, the continued departure of talent, and their old-fashioned approach to TV would all contribute to the rapid decline of one of wrestling’s all-time great promotions.
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Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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