Throwback Thursday: NWA Starrcade ’86: Night of the Skywalkers, As Seen on WWE Network

November 24, 2016 by Brock Allen

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Throwback Thursday on throws it back to a time when the National Wrestling Alliance ruled Thanksgiving. We’re taking a trip through the vault of the WWE Network to revisit one of the greatest NWA events of all time: Starrcade ’86: Night of the Skywalkers.

Taking place in the shadow of tragedy after Magnum T.A.’s near-fatal automobile accident outside Charlotte, NC on October 14, 1986, Starrcade ’86 was as much a cathartic show of support as it was the NWA’s Super Bowl event. On the strength of the first mainstream “scaffold match” (and Cornette’s hellacious bump) Starrcade ’86 became the highest selling pro wrestling home video to that point and was certified gold after selling more than 50,000 copies.

NWA/WCW Wrestling - The 'Skywalkers' Scaffold Match
Jim Cornette Fall in 'Skywalkers' Scaffold Match, NWA Starrcade '86

Surprisingly, context isn’t an issue as all previous NWA World Championship Wrestling editions for 1986, as well as all previous Starrcade events, are now available on the WWE Network.

NWA Starrcade ’86: Night of the Skywalkers (WATCH)
Date: November 27, 1986 – Location: The Omni, Atlanta, Georgia & Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina
Attendance: 14,000 (Omni, Atlanta, GA) & 16,000 (Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC) – CCTV: 47,000
Commentators: Tony Schiavone & Rick Stewart (Atlanta) & Bob Caudle & Johnny Weaver (Greensboro) – Interviews: Johnny Weaver (Greensboro) & Rick Stewart (Atlanta)

NWA World Heavyweight Champion: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair
NWA United States Heavyweight Champion: Nikita Koloff
NWA World Tag Team Champions: Rock ‘N’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson)
NWA United States Tag Team Champions: The Russians (Krusher Khruschev & “The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff)
NWA World Six-Man Tag Team Champions: “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes & The Road Warriors (Road Warrior Hawk & Road Warrior Animal)
NWA World Television Champion: “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes
NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion: Ron Garvin
NWA Central States Champion: Sam Houston


The show opens with Tom Miller in Greensboro, North Carolina introducing the national anthem. Next we head to Atlanta to check in with Tony Schiavone and Rick Stewart, who talk about the “Skywalkers” match to come, before going back to Greensboro to check in on Bob Caudle and Johnny Weaver, who break down the the gimmick matches in Greensboro. Caudle throws it to the ring where the participants for the first match are waiting.

Tag Team Match (Greensboro) (WATCH – 5:01)
Tim Horner & Nelson Royal vs. The Kernodle Brothers (Don & Rocky)

NWA Starrcade '86 on WWE Network - Opening Tag Team Match

The opener is a fast-paced, enjoyable tag team match that is a helluva lot better than either of the WrestleMania openers to that time. There are a number of good spots in the match and plenty of stiff action. It looks like Rocky Kernodle has the match all but one when Tim Horner reverses a rolling reverse cradle for the surprise three-count at 6:19.

WINNERS are Tim Horner & Nelson Royal (Pin, 6:19)

Single Match (Atlanta) (WATCH – 12:18)
Brad Armstrong vs. “Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin w/Precious

Though this match is slow at times, it features some very good wrestling and psychology. It’s Jimmy Garvin’s match for the most part. Armstrong makes a minor comeback with two minutes left, but Garvin cuts him off. Jimmy Garvin misses a crossbody from the top rope as time expires at 15:09. After the match Armstrong defends a Garvin sneak attack and knocks Garvin to the outside. Precious holds Gravin back as Garvin yells, “I can beat him, baby, I can beat him.”

NO WINNER declared (Draw, 15:09)

“Tag Team Grudge Match” (Greensboro) (WATCH – 32:08)
Shaska Whatley & The Barbarian vs. Baron Von Raschke & Hector Guerrero

NWA Starrcade '86 on WWE Network - Baron Von Rashke & Hector Guerrero

An old school grudge match, this one starts out fast and loose before the heels start dominating. Eventually Baron gets the hot tag and takes it to both Whatley and Barbarian. In the end, Whatley misses the running shoulder block in the corner which allows Von Raschke to land the elbow drop for the pin at 6:26. After the match Barbarian and Whatley beat the bejabbers out of Von Raschke until Hector makes the save.

WINNERS are Baron Von Raschke & Hector Guerrero (Pin, 6:26)

Next see Johnny Weaver backstage who is trying to get an interview with NWA TV & Six-Man Champion Dusty Rhodes about his upcoming “first blood” match with Tully Blanchard. Weaver peeks his head into the locker room to see if Dusty will grant an interview. “I told ya, Johnny, not now, leave me alone. Get outta here and let it be. Leave me alone.” Weaver tosses it to Atlanta.

NWA United States Tag Team Championship – “No Disqualifications Match” (Atlanta) (WATCH – 43:46)
The Kansas Jayhawks (Bobby Jaggers & Dutch Mantel) vs. The Russians (“The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff & Krusher Khruschev)(c)

Though the stipulation is “no DQs” the match is anything but. Both teams work to bend the rules without being caught while referee Scrappy McGowan enforces all the rules and counts. In the end, it’s “Sue Baby”, Mantel’s whip, versus the Russian’s chain. Mantel whaps the Russians with the whip until Krusher waffles Mantel with the chain outside the ring. Krusher climbs on the apron and cracks Jaggers with the chain as Jaggers comes off the ropes, allowing Koloff to score the pin at 7:52 to retain the U.S. Tag titles.

WINNERS and STILL NWA United States Tag Team Champions, The Russians (“The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff & Khrusher Khrushcev) (Pin, 7:52)

“Indian Strap Match” (Greensboro) (WATCH – 54:16)
“Ravishing” Rick Rude w/Paul Jones vs. “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel

NWA Starrcade '86 on WWE Network - Rick Rude vs. Wahoo McDaniel

After Wahoo cracks a posing Rick Rude across the rear end with the strap the match quickly becomes the standard “strap” match, highlighted, though, by some rather intense fighting. Wahoo, who was undefeated in “Indian strap” matches going in, pulls Rude off the top rope, ties up his hands, and drags Rude around the ring. Nearing the fourth corner Wahoo fights off Paul Jones before Rude knocks “Chief”” into the last turnbuckle for the win at 8:13. Afterwards Jones and Rude pound on Wahoo until Hector Guerrero and Baron Von Raschke make the save.

WINNER is “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel (8:13)

Next we go to Atlanta where Rick Stewart interviews The Russians who rant and rave about everything from retaining the U.S. Tag titles to hating Dusty Rhodes to the upcoming “Bunkhouse Stampede” matches to challenging Nikita Koloff for the NWA World title should Nikita defeat Ric Flair.

NWA Central States Heavyweight Championship (Atlanta) (WATCH – 1:10:00)
“Superstar” Bill Dundee vs. Sam Houston(c)

This was a rematch from November 16, 1986 when Sam Houston defeated Bill Dundee in St. Louis in the finals of the Central States tournament. This match isn’t bad, but it’s not a classic by any stretch. This one ends after Dundee collides with the referee (good ol’ Scrappy) and Dundee hits Houston with Houston’s own wrestling boot, which Scrappy sees, for the DQ at 10:21. Dundee batters Houston with the boot after the match.

WINNER and STILL NWA Central States Champion, Sam Houston (Disqualification, 10:21)

“No Disqualification Hair Match: Paul Jones Hair vs. Big Mama‘s Hair – Manny Fernandez Suspended in a Cage Above the Ring” (Greensboro) (WATCH – 1:23:16)
Paul Jones w/Manny Fernandez vs. “The Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant w/Big Mama

NWA Starrcade '86 on WWE Network - Hair vs. Hair Match

A bloody, slow-paced brawl, this is a better fight than a match. In the end, Valiant gets a hold of Jones “knucks”, brains Jones with them, and scores the pin at 4:26. Immediately after the match Valiant shaves Jones bald while Manny slowly makes his way down. Manny gets free of the cage and beats down Valiant with the help of Rick Rude, nailing a brutal spike DDT. The heels escape as Wahoo and Von Raschke tend to Valiant.

WINNER is “The Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant w/Big Mama (Pin, 4:26)

It’s intermission time next. During the break we see a promo for the 2nd annual “Bunkhouse Stampede” with Nelson Royal explaining the history and rules of the match while highlights of Dusty Rhodes’ 1985 “Bunkhouse Stampede” win play. Next we see highlights of the”Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Cup” from April ’86 which The Road Warriors won over Ron Garvin and Magnum T.A.

“Louisville Street Fight – Pinfall or Ten Count Only” (Atlanta) (WATCH – 1:47:16)
“Hands of Stone” Ron Garvin vs. Big Bubba Rogers w/Jim Cornette

This is a personal, bloody, physical war. Near the end, with the referee down, Garvin hits a crushing pulling piledriver on Rogers. As Garvin recovers on the mat Cornette smashes Garvin in the back of the head with his racquet. Both men are down for the first ten count. Rather than a draw referee Tommy Young decides the first one up will be the winner. Bubba holds the leg of Young’s pants as Cornette takes out Garvin’s knee with the racquet, allowing Bubba to stand up and take the win at 11:52.

WINNER is Big Bubba Rogers w/Jim Cornette (Ten Count, 11:52)

NWA World Television Championship – “First Blood Match” (Greensboro) (WATCH – 2:04:11
Tully Blanchard w/J.J. Dillon vs. “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes(c)

NWA Starrcade '86 on WWE Network - Tully Blanchard vs. Dusty Rhodes, First Blood Match

Before the match Dillon tries first to put head gear on Tully before applying Vaseline, which the referee wipes off. Dillon gets in the face of Rhodes and earns an elbow for his troubles, cutting Dillon’s head wide open. At one point the referee, Earl Hebner, gets caught in the action before being hit with a suplexed Blanchard. With the referee down Rhodes splits Tully head with an elbow and punches. Dillon stops the bleeding with a towel and Vaseline and hands Tully a “roll” of coins which Tully cracks across the forehead of Rhodes, splitting “The Dream” wide open. The referee comes to, sees Rhodes bloodied, and calls the match at 8:40. Dusty is livid.

This marked the end of Dusty’s third and final NWA TV title reign at 79 days and the Tully’s third and final NWA TV title victory.

WINNER and NEW NWA World Television Champion, Tully Blanchard w/J.J. Dillon (8:40)

Skywalkers Match” (Atlanta) (WATCH – 2:22:02)
The Midnight Express (“Beautiful” Bobby Eaton & “Lover Boy” Dennis Condrey) w/Jim Cornette & Big Bubba Rogers vs. NWA World Six-Man Tag Team Champions The Road Warriors (Road Warrior Hawk & Road Warrior Animal) w/Paul Ellering

Jim Cornette Fall in 'Skywalkers' Scaffold Match, NWA Starrcade '86

The Road Warriors had just returned from a tour with All Japan as part of the 1986 Giant Series, where Hawk would suffer a broken leg about two weeks before this match. This one is a spectacle and it’s a fight, still shocking in many ways, but it’s not a very good match. In the end, both Eaton and Condrey get stuck under the scaffold, where the Road Warriors kick them off at 7:08 for the win. After the match the Road Warriors chase Cornette to the top where Animal and Ellering force Cornette over the side. Cornette falls, Bubba misses him, and Cornette screws his knees up for life!

WINNERS are NWA World Six-Man Tag Team Champions The Road Warriors (Road Warrior Hawk & Road Warrior Animal) w/Paul Ellering (7:08)

Next we see some classic highlights of the 1986 Great American Bash Tour used to hype the 1987 GAB Tour, before sending it back to Greensboro where, after a second intermission used to construct the steel cage, credits for the event roll. Soon enough it’s time for the third of four main events.

NWA World Tag Team Championship – “Steel Cage Match” (Greensboro) (WATCH – 2:49:36)
The Minnesota Wrecking Crew (Ole & Arn Anderson) vs. The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson)(c)

NWA Starrcade '86 on WWE Network - Minnesota Wrecking Crew vs. The Rock 'N' Roll Express

This title match is often ranked among the very best tag team matches ever, and between the red hot crowd, the masterful psychology, and the realistic action, it’s not hard to see why. Part wrestling match, part fight, this bloody war finds both the Anderson’s and the Rock ‘N’ Roll at their best, the Anderson’s as the methodical, sadistic heels and the Rock ‘N’ Roll as never-say-die babyfaces who get the dog spit whipped out of them and never give up. It becomes an all out brawl in the closing moments. Ole Anderson picks up Ricky Morton for a slam when Robert Gibson dropkicks Morton down on top of Ole for the pin at 19:02 to retain the World Tag Team Championship. After the match Ole and Arn beat up Morton and Gibson until they escape through the door of the cage.

WINNERS and STILL NWA World Tag Team Champions, The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson) (Pin, 19:02)

Flair makes his way to the ring first. As Flair waits in the ring a music video airs of Magnum T.A. running on the beach and walking with his mother, along with clips of career highlights. The original tune, “Wind Beneath My Wings”, is replaced with rubbish, destroying the video’s emotional punch.

NWA World Heavyweight Championship – “Champion vs. Champion Match” (Atlanta) (WATCH – 3:14:41)
NWA United States Heavyweight Champion “The Russian Nightmare” Nikita Koloff vs. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair(c)

NWA Starrcade '86 on WWE Network - Nikita Koloff vs. Ric Flair, World Heavyweight Championship Match

Originally this match was to feature Ric Flair dropping the World title to Magnum T.A. but, in light of Magnum’s career-ending automobile accident, Nikita Koloff was turned babyface and put in the main event. The match itself, though over, is nothing to write home about. And while Nikita looks good, he’s extremely green and is being carried by one of the greatest of all time. Tommy Young goes down late and Nikita hits the Russian Sickle. Scrappy McGowan takes over and gets wiped out with a Sickle for a great ref bump. Young reenters the match and gets pushed down again and again for a double DQ at 20:12.

NO WINNER declared (Double Disqualification, 20:12)

Flair and Nikita continue to brawl after the bell. The ring fills up with heels and babyfaces as they try to break it up. At last Flair is dragged from the ring by the heels as the babyfaces subdue Nikita.

Schiavone and Stewart run down the highlights of the night before a music montage of the event runs to cap off the show.

Final Thoughts

In the wake of this event, the first NWA event to gross $1 million dollars, JCP were as close as they would ever get to making a legitimate run at the World Wrestling Federation. Over-expansion and poor business decisions in 1987 would slowly kill their momentum while the WWF would land the death blow the next year by counter-programming Starrcade ’87 with the inaugural Survivor Series.

Despite all that, Starrcade ’86, even with the lackluster main event, remains arguably the best of the 5 NWA Starrcade events. If you already subscribe to the WWE Network then check it out.

NWA/WCW Wrestling - The 'Skywalkers' Scaffold Match
NWA Starrcade '86 on WWE Network - Ric Flair & Nikita Koloff Brawling After Match

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On behalf of everyone here at WDN, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving with you and yours.

Thanks for reading and until next time, see ya at ringside!

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6 Comments left on this article...

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  1. Richard says:

    I don’t think Starrcade 86 is the best Starrcade by any stretch as the card was re-arranged due to the Magnum TA accident. In fact, this may be the weakest of the bunch.

    Starrade 83 was an 8 match card, headlined by Flair and Race in a cage. The show featured no less than 10 current WWE HOF talent as well as legendary guys like Wahoo, Kevin Sullivan, Mark Lewin and the Assasins.

    Starrcade 84 is a bit longer, headlined by the Million Dollar Challenge between Dusty and Flair. This show featured 7 HOFers, and a really fun Rick Steamboat/Tully Blanchard match.

    Starrcade 85 is the longest show of the period, with 12 matches. It features 8 HOF names, as well as HOG guys like The Midnight Express, Rock N Roll Express, Magnum TA, Nikita Koloff and Wahoo McDaniel. This is my favorite event, as it featured the infamous “I Quit” cage match and a great tag team cage match with the RNR Express beating the Koloffs.

    Even Starrcade 87, despite being perceived as a business failure, was a really good show. Featuring an astounding 12 HOF guys, as well as Rock N Rolls, Midnight Express, Nikita Koloff and Lex Luger. Flair regains the NWA title from Ron Garvin in a stiff steel cage match.

    • Brock Allen says:

      I agree, Richard, that Starrcade ’86 has its flaws, and I am in no way arguing that it is THE best of the 5 NWA Starrcades, but it is one of the best in that each match, aside from the opener, every match was a meaningful match that was flushed out on TV for some time prior to the event. In reality, Magnum’s accident only shuffled a small portion of the card. I’m not going to hold that against the event, considering what they ended up producing in the end. The event may not feature a ton of WWE HOFers but it does feature at least 9 Pro Wrestling HOFers. Either way, I agree that it’s not the best, but considering the situation they faced after the accident I think it’s a pretty good show full of great talent and action, despite the main event, which is the only thing that really holds this event back in my eyes.

      Thanks for reading Richard and taking the time to leave a comment. As always, it’s greatly appreciated. Have a good one!

      • Richard says:

        It has it’s flaws for sure, but I remember being REALLY invested in this show, because of Magnum, Dusty, Nikita and the Horsemen. As much as people may have complained that Dusty always booked himself in big matches, how many times did he actually win? Hardly ever. Sadly, this was Tully’s last hurrah as an important singles star.

        The Scaffold match was a letdown, primarily because of the Road Warriors. I’d seen the Midnights and RNR Express have good scaffold match way before this. But still fun to watch now.

        Funny to see Ronnie Garvin on the undercard here losing to Bubba, and a year later he’s in the main event as NWA World Champion.

        The tag team title cage match is great fun, and easily compared to the Revival matches today. I was surprised when the Andersons didn’t win, but obviously they were already planning to bring Luger in as a Horsemen. The Starrcade wins by Flair and Tully, plus this match perfectly setup Ole’s exit.

        These were really, really fun times. Thanks!

        • Brock Allen says:

          I couldn’t agree more in respect to Dusty. He never won the World title at SC ’83 or SC ’84 and never really won all that many big matches when push came to shove. He put a helluva lot of guys over. I know the “Bunkhouse Stampede” matches get thrown around but if that’s all there is to throw then there’s not much ammo in the gun, if you ask me. And yes, this being the last real triumph for Tully in the NWA is a shame. Oh what could have been.

          I can’t really put my finger on why the scaffold match was a let down but I tend to agree that the Road Warriors were probably the reason. Cornette has said he pushed for the RNR to be in the match but that the Road Warriors would bring more eyes, so that was that. In the end, I would rather have seen the RNR/Minnesota Wrecking Crew cage match anyways.

          And yes, how strange it is to see Ronnie Garvin doing the job for Bubba in 1986 and dropping the World title to Flair the next year. I can still hear the chops those two hit on each other, Flair and Garvin, that is. Any time anyone told me wrestling was “fake” I asked if they’d ever seen a Garvin/Flair or Flair/Funk match. Great, great matches.

          Thanks again for reading, Richard. Take care!

          • Richard says:

            Compare Dusty to Hogan. Obviously Hogan wasn’t the booker, but he was in Vince’s ear no doubt as to how his character was handled. But would Hogan losing at Wrestlemania after Wrestlemania? I don’t think so.

            Dusty created Starrcade and competed at 5 of the first 6 events. Dusty was 2-3 in those events. One of those loses was a tag team DQ win over the heel Road Warriors, a team Dusty had too much sense to have lay down for him. Hogan competed at 9 of the first 10 Wrestlemanias. He went 7-1-1 during that time with only one pinfall loss, and a DDQ to Andre.

            It was a different company (obviously) and a much different mindset, but Dusty was much more focused on getting multiple guys OVER as opposed to just himself. Dusty was (arguably) just past his prime by the time Starrcade begins to take off in the mid-80s.

            Tully could have been a potential NWA Champion, but I think he was seen as too small. He was perfect for NWA, as opposed to AWA. But with Flair, it just wasn’t gonna happen for him.

            The Garvin/Flair matches were always stiff. Good stuff. Ronnie was an underrated worker, but lacked true charisma.

            • Brock Allen says:

              You’re absolutely right about Dusty Rhodes, Richard. Even when he paired himself with other tag teams, like the Road Warriors, it had less to do with getting himself over than understanding the rub he could give to a young tag team. Is there another top NWA star that lost as often as Dusty did on the big stages? It’s an interesting question. Your comparison to Hogan is an apt one.

              And you’re so right about Tully. He may have been too small but he was such a great heel that I think he would have been a perfect NWA Champion. We both know that babyfaces didn’t last long as World Champions and Tully would have been a great heel to chase.

              Thanks as always, Richard. Have a good one!

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