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By Larry Goodman on 2008-06-08 15:46:12

The NWA’s “60 Years of Excellence” in Atlanta at Philips Arena came as a pleasant surprise on many levels.

The response from the fans was one of the best things about the show. They were extremely respectful of all the legends and showed surprisingly long memories. It felt like they were entertained by every match. Guys that have been off television for a while, like Sid Vicious and Sean Waltman, got surprisingly strong reactions.

The NWA has talent. The quality of the wrestling from the current generation performers was good to excellent across the board, and the fans enjoyed the nostalgia acts for what they were.

On Friday, Dave Meltzer reported tickets sales at 491 with 2400 free tickets out for the show. Apparently, most of those freebies got used because the crowd was 2500-3000 in a building set up for 6000.

As inconceivable as it seems, there was no induction ceremony for Ric Flair. My understanding from NWA Executive Director Bob Trobich is they somehow forgot. The NWA must have some mighty powerful stuff going on in the old unconscious in the aftermath of WWE pulling Flair from the show.

The show opened with a video message from Adam Pearce, the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Pearce said he had obligations to fulfill in Philadelphia (for ROH). He invited the fans to take a trip down memory lane, as the NWA’s thank you to Atlanta.

(1) Mike DiBiase beat Idol Stevens to retain the NWA North American Title in 5:45. The crowd responded to the DiBiase name. Both men looked in great shape. Stevens took over after a gutbuster and a rabbit lariat. When Stevens missed coming off the top, DiBiase mounted a fiery comeback. DiBiase went up top. Stevens got his foot up on his splash attempt, but DiBiase caught Stevens with an inside cradle for pin.

(2) Iceberg (with the Reverend) beat Shatter (with Jeff G. Bailey) and Mikal Judas in a three-way to retain the NWA Anarchy Heavyweight Title in 10:36. For a match that lacked name recognition factor, it got a very good response. The crowd got into three big, powerful men working stiff and hitting big moves. It was mostly three-way action rather than the usual deal where one guy gets taken out and the other two go at it. Shatter got the “Whoo!” chant by using the figure four. They did a massive three-way collision. Shatter and Judas teamed up for a double superplex on Iceberg. Finish saw Judas chokeslam Iceberg and try for El Crucifijo on Shatter. No go, as Shatter then catapulted Judas into a lariat on Iceberg. Shatter hit the PTSD (powerbomb) on Judas, and Iceberg pounced on Shatter with the Ground Zero splash for the pin.

Ricky O introduced Jim Cornette as the MC for the Hall of Fame inductions. Cornette said he had spent many long, bloody nights in the Omni in Atlanta under the auspices of the NWA getting his butt kicked by Dusty Rhodes and Barry Windman, but never the Road Warriors, except at Starrcade 86. “They didn’t kick my butt. They threw me off a 25 foot scaffold.” Cornette gave the fans a sneak peak of the 2009 Hall of Fame class by bringing out the first inductee, Paul Orndorff. The crowd was totally appreciative, as they were for every legend that followed. Orndorff talked about training under Eddie Graham being pure hell, and beyond anything he endured for football. Orndorff said the NWA would rise again, but they couldn’t do it without the fans. The first inductee was Nikita Koloff. He said one of his memories of Starrcade 86 was watching Cornette get thrown off that scaffold, but also getting in the ring with Ric Flair that night. Koloff mentioned Rhodes, Sting and Lex Luger, and said the NWA was his heart and soul in wrestling. Iron Sheik came out as the second inductee. Sheik said Georgia was his home and his heart. He thanked Ted Turner for bringing him to Georgia and blessed Gordon Solie. During his intro for Corisca Joe, mentioned that the Corsican Brothers were the world champions when the NWA was first formed in 1948. Cornette said none of them would be there if not for legends like Joe. The crowd popped when Cornette said Joe was 88 years old. Cornette made the case for the Midnight Express being the greatest tag team of the 80s. Not a difficult case to make. Cornette said the Midnights “synonimized” what the NWA was all about. Cornette said no team gave the fans everything they wanted from a professional wrestling match like the Midnights. Condrey said he always loved the fans even if he didn’t show it. Cornette asked the crowd if they wanted Bobby to talk one time. “Thank you, Jim. Thank you, Dennis. Thank you, everybody. Appreciate it“, said Eaton. That got a laugh. Condrey thanked his wife, Teresa for putting up with 19 years of his crap. Rich said Atlanta adopted him and here he was 31 years later. Rich said he was fortunate to catch the end of the time when rasslin’ was rasslin’. Rich thanked the wrestlers from previous generations that made his career possible. Abdullah came down the aisle with long time manager, John Cheatam babbling about his black specimen. Leading to…

(3) Tommy Rich vs. Abdullah the Butcher (with John Cheatham) was ruled a no contest. They brawled on the outside and bloodied each other up with the crowd loving every minute of it. Abdullah pulled out his fork and Rich’s bleached blonde hair was instant crimson. Abby stabbed referee D. L. Norris, who bled copious amounts of plasma. Rich then forked up Abdullah. At one point, Rich climbed on top of the ringside table and Abdullah tipped it over. They battled down the aisle. A second ref got knocked down. Abdullah used Cheatham’s cane on Rich and high-tailed it to the back. The crowd popped as Rich finally got in the ring. Rich told the crowd he didn’t get to feeling right until his head was busted up.

(4) Sean Waltman & Blue Demon Jr. beat Rob Conway & Carl Ouellet in 10:08. Waltman came out to the DX music and the crowd was right there when it came time for the “suck it.” Ouellet escaped from the Bronco Buster early. There was a lot of spit flying when guys took punches in this match. It worked with this crowd. Ouellet used power moves on Waltman. He got the tag and it was major heat on Demon. The crowd was surprisingly strong for Demon’s comeback. The hot tag led to Waltman nailing the Bronco Buster on Conway. Demon hit a killer tope on Ouellet for one of the biggest pops of the night. Waltman pinned Conway with the X Factor- a great finish that the crowd adored.

(5) Mike Quackenbush beat Ricky Vega with submission to retain the NWA World Lightweight Title in 8:31. They made the best of what was somewhat of a style clash. The crowd didn’t know Quack, but he’s such an awesome babyface that he got over fine. Vega (formerly Machete in TNA) overpowered Quack early. Quack popped the crowd with a flip dive. Vega came right back with a nice quebradora for a near fall. Vega took over. He hit a really nice snap powerslam. But he committed the cardinal sin of taking too much time, and busted his ass on a guillotine legdrop attempt. Vega cut off Quack’s comeback with a huge lariat for a close near fall and got another one with a sitout spinebuster. Vega tried to bring Quack off the top with a slam ala Flair. Quack rolled though, hit a top rope huracanrana and got the tap out with the figure four.

(6) Los Luchas (Phoenix Star & Zokre) beat the Naturals (Chase Stevens & Andy Douglas) and Real American Heroes (Joey Ryan & Karl Anderson) in an elimination match to retain the NWA World Tag Team Titles in 17:24. My favorite match of the night. Luchas were over with their flying. A healthy portion of the crowd seemed to know Naturals from TNA. Luchas were outnumbered by two heel teams, and they’re very appealing in the role of the underdog. Douglas interfered by grabbing Star’s leg. Zokre returned the favor on Stevens to set up a sweet double quebrada spot. But Douglas pulled the ropes down on Zokre and he took punishment from Heroes. Luchas were flying again with the hot tag when Anderson cut Zokre off with the classic spinebuster. Douglas hit a double underhook slam on Anderson and both Luchas piled on to eliminate Heroes at 8:25. Naturals got heat on Star, who managed to kick out of a top rope move by Stevens and make the hot tag. Luchas hit big doubleteams, and Naturals had to save each other. The Naturals had Zokre put away with the Natural Disaster, but Heroes ran down to ringside and Anderson pulled the ref out at two. As Stevens was distracted by Heroes, he stumbled over Zokre and both Luchas piled on for the pin. Naturals teased a break up after the match.

Ricky O said he had ensured that the 6-10 crybaby Sid Vicious would get some competition. O introduced the NWA Pro East tag team champions as Sid’s cannon fodder for the evening.

(7) Sid Vicious destroyed Playas Club (Davey Boy Bling & Juicy Justin Corino) in 3:54. The reaction to Vicious was pretty amazing considering how long he’s been out of the limelight. Fans treated him like the star of the show. Sid wrestled in a t-shirt and jeans. Sid was frightfully stiff, which was exactly what the crowd wanted to see. Vicious slapped Playas club silly. He gave Bling a variation of a whirlybird and wasted Juicy with a chokeslam and a cobra clutch slam. Vicious finished with powerbombs on both Playas. He took his shirt off, stacked them up, and made a one foot pin.

There’s more. Vicious gave Playas another set of powerbombs. A stretcher was wheeled out to ringside to cart Playas out. Vicious knocked Playas off the stretcher with lariats. The crowd chanted “Sid! Sid! Sid!” as Ricky O wheeled Playas to the back.

(8) Rock n' Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson) defeated the Midnight Express (Dennis Condrey & Bobby Eaton with Jim Cornette) in 13:45. Cornette said they weren’t being paid enough to continue to be nice and insulted the crowd. Cornette said the Midnights weren’t going to lay down for a couple of punks and there would be zero tolerance for “Rock and Roll” chants. Morton said it had been a long time since the two teams met in Atlanta, but it was going to be the same as it always was – a beating for the Midnights. In hindsight, this probably was not the match to put on last. There was no way the action could match what the fans had just seen. Some folks left right after Sid. The R & R were a step ahead at every turn. They did the deal where Midnights pumphandled Gibson’s arm, until he pulled the switcheroo and it was Eaton blindly working over Condrey. Midnights teased problems and Cornette had to play peacemaker, but as usual, it was all to lull their opponents into a false sense of security. Cornette grabbed Gibson’s leg and blasted him with the tennis racket. After brief heat on Gibson, they went to the finish: Morton got the sleeper on Condrey. Cornette tried to interfere, so Morton popped him. Condrey hit Morton with a chain. Morton kicked out. The R & R pinned the state-of-shock Midnights with double roll ups.

Cornette got a pop for saying he and the Midnights would never come back to Atlanta.

NOTES: Among the notables backstage were Jerry Jarrett, Pam and Bob Allyn, Gordon Solie’s daughter and son-in-law, NWA Top Rope promoter Mike Sircy and NWA Tennessee Champion, “Boogie Woogie Boy” Gary Valiant. Valiant gets a shot at Adam Pearce’s NWA World Title on the June 14 NWA Top Rope show in Lebanon, Tn…Bob Trobich said the NWA was definitely interested in returning to Atlanta, although not necessarily to Philips…They didn’t have a cover for Cornette’s tennis racket. It just so happened that Rick Michaels was backstage and had the tennis racket Cornette autographed for him back in 2001 during his visit to NWA Wildside in the trunk of his car…Former NWA Wildside wrestler, White Trash, was at the show. He’s starting a gig as a co-host in the 12pm-2pm timeslot on the ESPN radio affiliate in Nashville…Douglas said the reason Naturals are not working the same shows in Tennessee of late is because he’s cut back on his bookings for the time being…Video and audio clips from the event will be posted at Georgia Wresting History.

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