The weeks leading up to but not immediately before a pay-per-view are often some of the most exciting when it comes to the Hidden Gems spotlight on the WWE Network. When the curator(s) aren’t tied to a restrictive theme, that often leads to the doors of the vault being blown wide open and some substantive selections being brought out into the sunlight. This week is a great example of such a situation, as the full 150+ minute Jim Crockett Promotions event, Boogie Jam ’84 was just released onto the streaming service.
The DVD aficionados here at WDN will most likely recognize the name, as a marquee match from the said show (Steamboat vs. Flair in an epic for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship) was released via the Ricky Steamboat: The Life Story of the Dragon DVD set back in 2010. However, this Network upload marks the first time that the full, 7-match card has been made available for public viewing. With a steel cage match for the NWA United States Championship, a hair vs. mask grudge match and much more on tap, let’s not waste any more time!
Boogie Jam 1984
Location: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina
Dory Funk Jr. vs. Tully Blanchard
Ernie Ladd vs. Rufus R. Jones
Bob Orton Jr. and Don Kernodle vs Mark Youngblood and Wahoo McDaniel
Angelo Mosca Jr., Angelo Mosca Sr. and Junkyard Dog vs. Gary Hart, Ivan Koloff and The Great Kabuki
NWA United States Heavyweight Championship No DQ Steel Cage: Dick Slater © vs. Greg Valentine
NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Ric Flair © vs. Ricky Steamboat
Hair vs. Mask: Jimmy Valiant vs Assassin #2
We start things off with a trombone-assisted rendition of Star Spangled Banner. This obviously isn’t a needed inclusion but I’ll always credit WWE for uploading truly complete events and non-essential footage just adds to that kudos.
Things kick off properly with a true “old vs new” clash. While Tully wasn’t new to the business, (he started training in 1977) he was brand new to Jim Crockett Promotions, having started with the territory just one month before this bout. Dory Jr, on the other hand, was a 20-year veteran here and a former World Champion. As far as the match goes, it’s a bit of an oddity. The fans love Dory here (they’re genuinely rabid for him) but the styles of the two men don’t exactly mesh. Tully does his best throughout to play the heel and slow things down on offense but Jr’s offense is a rather slow, traditional style itself. So in essence, there’s lots of slow periods and pinches of stalling broken up by a slam, punches or a running back elbow (which is perhaps the most high octane move in the entire match). Things do start picking up in the home stretch when we get a little more of a frantic back and forth, but it’s all too brief before Blanchard counters a rollup and secures the victory with a hook of the tights.
C grade for a slightly ‘off’ clash of styles that is nonetheless extremely technically sound.
As we move onto our second match, we have a nearing-retirement Ernie Ladd squaring up with Rufus R. Jones. This paring had a run against each other on the JCP loop for a couple of months before Ladd headed back to Mid-South to finish up his a career with a brief (and fifth overall) North American Championship reign. This crowd appears to be incredibly hot for the babyfaces in general, as Jones gets another huge reaction.
This is a short contest, which may help the pace somewhat. Rufus uses very basic offense but Ernie sells everything with incredible energy (including a chop reaction that rivals The Rock being hit with the stunner) and even if Ladd is winding down his career here, it’s not made obvious as he lands a leg drop and misses a top rope splash that directly leads into the finish. With the hindsight of knowing that we have a 60-minute epic on our hands for this show, keeping this brief was probably the right call.
C- grade. While I do think that keeping this short was the right decision, that also means that I can’t rate it much higher than a very average grade.
Mark Youngblood and Wahoo McDaniel were the reigning NWA Tag Team Champions at this time, though this particular encounter with Don Kernodle and Bob Orton Jr. was non-title. They would lose the belts to Jack and Gerry Brisco on April 4th, before briefly regaining them just a little over 3 weeks later. It’s funny how we like to mock modern wrestling for its frequent title changes but my recent digging into historical records has helped me realize that it’s been prone to happen for a long time.
This tag-team exhibition starts with Kernodle doing his best to embarrass Wahoo in the opening minutes but the chief retaliates with a thunderous chop off the ropes to send his opponent running for lower ground. It’s worth noting that the crowd has been bursting with energy since the opening match and that shows no signs of slowing down here. Kernodle tries the new tactic of throwing fists, which initially seems to work but McDaniel eventually fires up with clubbing shots of his own. Wahoo eventually makes the mistake of being backed into his opponents’ corner and is beaten down both inside and outside the ring (including being thrown into the ring post).
We now settle into an extended period of Orton and Kernodle taking turns to wear down the now-bloodied veteran Wahoo while the crowd is chomping at the bit to see the younger Youngblood make the tag and McDaniel giving bursts of effort to make that happen but repeatedly getting worn back down. When Mark finally gets in there, he’s practically invincible and the crowd blows the roof off of the place. He dances around, bouncing off of the ropes and taking the fight to Orton who barely manages to survive the onslaught. We get a false comeback though as the heels use nefarious tactics to regain the advantage and Youngblood is now in peril. Things eventually break down outside (including a brutal spot where Youngblood is draped over the guardrail) and Wahoo gets involved for a bit of a fracas. The villans manage to maintain control until a clothesline is missed and Mark falls back into the tag. Wahoo cleans house and the champs rebound with a double team for the victory.
B- grade for building up in all of the ways that a tag team match should while having a hugely invested crowd.
We get a straight cut after the tag champions exit to our 6-man attraction where manager Gary Hart (last seen alongside Kernodle and Orton in our previous bout) teams up with Ivan Koloff and The Great Kabuki to battle Angelo Mosca Jr., Angelo Mosca Sr. and Junkyard Dog. Presumably, the elder Mosca is the main rival for Hart here. Mosca Sr. was in the last year of his full-time career at this point at 47 years of age. Jr., on the other hand, was only 2 years into his. Granted, his career didn’t last long overall anyway and never took off.
We’re hot out of the gate with this one, as the crowd explodes for every high impact move that Mosca Jr. lands. Of course, once Kabuki gets the momentum thanks to a thrust kick, Gary Hart is all too happy to get involved. And that’s pretty much the story of this bout. Hart is careful to only get in the ring for brief periods when his opponents (with Jr., in particular, playing the role of sacrificial lamb here) are vulnerable but avoids the action altogether when the action gets the slightest bit hairy. Things come alive when JYD finally gets into the match and then Sr. decides he wants some of the fun. This backfires though when all 6 men pile in and Hart uses the distraction to choke the elder Mosca with wrist tape. I think we can all see what this is building to. But first, Kabuki and Hart take turns in attacking Sr.’s eyes. All 3 then take turns in the ring. Of course, the manager starts getting a little too cocky and ends up getting caught as the faces have fun getting their hands on someone usually untouchable and Angelo Jr. finishes things off with a top rope body press.
C grade for a simple story with a hot crowd that featured very little actual wrestling.
I’ve always been a fan of steel cage matches, but in modern times, I will admit that the gimmick has lost a lot of its luster. That’s why watching this bout between a babyface challenger in Greg Valentine and a heel champion Dick Slater was particularly refreshing. Thanks to being given enough time, things start slowly and steadily build towards a gritty, bloody brawl with copious use of the cage mesh. I will admit that seeing Valentine as the good guy less than four months since his epic “dog collar” battle with Roddy Piper at the inaugural Starrcade is slightly jarring and he does play a better heel. But still, the crowd are behind him just like everybody else this evening, so the dynamic works fairly well all things considered.
Back to the contest in question, and there’s just something about two athletes attacking each other with an intense ferocity until both are battered, bloody and beaten that just has a guttural impact on me. And this is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Both Greg and Dick give it their all until both can barely stand (and in fact, don’t always manage to) and give the impression that they were in a stamina-sapping war that may not have lasted long but it still took their all. The end comes when Valentine makes one final last-ditch effort to apply the figure 4 leg lock, only to get round into the steel cage by the well-placed boot of the champion. Greg crumples to the floor and Slater managed to scramble into the pinfall for the win. And with that, Greg Valentine is just about ready to begin a highly fruitful tenure in the WWF.
B grade for an intense, gruesome fight that would have been perfectly at home on a pay-per-view at the time, let alone on a glorified house show.
Here we are at what is effectively the main event of the show. Yes, it’s technically the semi-main event and this card is named after one of the men in match number seven but let’s not kid ourselves that this is almost certainly what the vast majority in attendance bought a ticket to see. And really, can you blame them? This is Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and while we may still be around five years away from their timeless trilogy, these two men had done battle for various belts since the 70s and always torn down the house. The people knew this was a big deal and boy, did the match delivers in spades.
Now, as tremendous as this contest is, I will admit that it somewhat falls into the trope of making it obvious that we’re “going long” when basic moves like a headlock are held for significant lengths of time. I knew the result of this going in. But even if I didn’t, the very deliberate pace for pretty much the first 20 minutes or more make it fairly obvious what the plan is. I guess I’m saying that it takes you out of the moment slightly when the structure going forward is so transparent.
With all of that said, these 60 minutes are still absolutely tremendous. Both men know how to slow things down without making things tedious for the audience. They may grab hold, but it always feels like the one on the receiving end is trying to fight back. Steamboat, in particular, is fantastic at providing sudden, high octane moments that pop the crowd and serve as peaks to contrast against the relative valleys of the slower-paced, more amateur styled wrestling maneuvers. And by the time we’re into the last 20 minutes, the pace picks up. Ric starts bouncing around like a pinball, doing all he can slow down his adversary as he builds momentum and seemingly closes in on his first world title victory. It’s worth noting here, that fresh off his victory at Starrcade ’83, Flair is still technically a face. He doesn’t play an outright heel here. But the crowd are behind Steamboat a lot more than they are the champion. That makes sense but it’s in the closing stretch where the dynamic becomes just a little more clear cut as Flair tries his best to stall and delay, hoping to just hold on. I will say, that the ending moments are a little bit let down by the timing as the challenger doesn’t even start climbing to the top rope for his finishing blow until the last 10 seconds or so, meaning that it’s blatantly obvious that he won’t have time for the deciding pinfall when he attempts it. The crowd are electric for this final sprint of 10 minutes or so, so I’m not blind to the fact that the story told worked extremely well on the night, but I’m here to review the work as a whole and I have to say that it was just a little bit clunky right at the end. Plus, there’s no denying that a time limit draw (no matter how epic) will always take the wind out of the sails and this is no exception, however minor.
Following the declaration of a draw, Ricky takes the decision well and hands the world championship title belt back to Flair. They shake hands and exchanged words which we can’t hear. So at least for now, the champion is remaining on the light side, more or less.
B+ grade for a tremendous, well-paced “broadway” that’s just missing those finishing touches that put it on par with their all-time classics five years later. Maybe it was the lack of a clear face vs. heel dynamic all the pair were still affecting their chemistry even after all those years but either way, it’s still something that I would recommend people go out of their way to watch.
And finally, with time very rapidly running out on the video, we have our “main event”. I may sound a bit harsh here and I understand that the event itself was named after Jimmy Valiant but this hair vs. mask bout doesn’t hold up very well to the previous pair of encounters. Yes, the crowd are extremely happy to see Jimmy (but then, they’ve been just as boisterous for the rest of the night too). Considering that Dusty Rhodes is also involved in this by bull-roping himself to the Assassin’s manager Paul Jones, perhaps I’m not the only one who felt that this needed a little more sizzle added to the steak. The cameramen seem more interested in following Rhodes once the bell rings, to the point that whoever is in the truck finally figures out that a split viewpoint may be for the best so that people can see what’s going on in the ring.
Admittedly, that isn’t much as this is all extremely basic, which is pretty much par for the course with Jimmy Valiant. He starts strong, only to eventually get waylaid and bloodied. Finally, when Assassin #1 makes a mistake, Valiant comes back like a house of fire and quickly gets the pinfall. The crowd goes wild and Jimmy claims his opponent’s mask. Jones quickly bails his charge out after the de-masking both the babyface still has his victory and we’re done for the night.
C- grade and I feel like I’m being generous. I know the argument can be made that the crowd were into this but the same can be said for every match on the card, so I don’t think I can keep using that to excuse something that is very blasé and this was exactly that. It also doesn’t help that the cameramen were far more transfixed on Dusty Rhodes attached to Paul Jones rather than the action going on in the ring (as I mentioned above) and it took quite a while for the production team to correct this. It also doesn’t help that it followed three impressive bouts.
Overall Video Grade
B grade. This was a show that started a little plodding but then steadily built up. I think my grades say it all. I gave 3 matches on this card a B- or better grade and one of those takes up more than a third of the 156-minute running time. When a glorified house show has a strong tag match on its undercard and a great old school cage match alongside a 1-hour epic between 2 legends of the business as part of a triple bill, that has to count for something, right? A must watch from me.
Thank you for reading, as always. It’s good to see Hidden Gems finally get a proper home on WWE Network 2.0 (even if the new layout is still being very steadily populated). Today’s gem addition will see the classic 1986 TV special from Jim Crockett Promotions, Superstars on the Superstation added to the streaming service. With the 90-minute show including 3 major title bouts, it’s quite the major deal and the spiritual successor to Turner’s Clash of the Champions extravaganzas. If you’re a fan of the period but have never caught this before, take a look in the Hidden Gems section of WWE Network later today! Once again, thanks for reading and see you around.
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