By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
The Fabulous Freebirds © vs The Steiner Brothers 11/1/89
NWA World Tag Team Title Match
For a team that would go on to be one of the greatest teams of all time, the Steiner Brothers didn’t break into the sport together, but had signposted their potential as tag wrestlers from the outset. Rick’s debut in 1985 would end up seeing him become a protégé of Buzz Sawyer alongside tag team runs with Sting in UWF and Eddie Gilbert in the NWA. Similarly, Scott’s time spent in Memphis in 1988 would see his own title reigns alongside Billy Travis. It wasn’t until the middle of 1989 that the brothers even began to tag together; less than half a year later, they were world champions.
That is not to suggest that things were all smooth sailing en route to the gold. At Clash of the Champions VIII, the involvement of Robin Green at ringside cost the Steiners a match against the reigning champions, the Fabulous Freebirds. A further loss to Doom at Halloween Havoc seemed to have halted the Steiner Brothers’ progress, yet the controversial finish at the Clash meant that the Steiners were eventually booked into a rematch on an episode of WCW Pro; a rematch that they would eventually make the most of.
With Rick still playing the ‘idiot savant’ gimmick, his muttered words pre-match seemed to suggest that the Freebirds would be defeated without Green at ringside this time. That his promo was better than Scott’s said a lot about the younger Steiner’s advances on the microphone over the following decade.
Considering the Freebirds weren’t the force they had been five years ago, with Jimmy Garvin no real replacement for either Terry Gordy or Buddy Roberts, they had perhaps surprisingly managed to make their first run with the NWA World Titles last almost a full half year. However, a sense of staleness within the act had crept in more noticeably in the past year and even though they maintained a tougher edge than the revamped version that saw them positioned as glam rockers in the 90s, the time was right for the belts to leave their waists.
The initial exchanges saw Scott outwrestle both of the champions, whilst Rick decided that biting Garvin’s arm was the more appropriate offense. As the fans chanted that the Freebirds were ‘sissies’, the heels finally managed to isolate Rick in their corner, with a big left hand from Hayes in particular dropping the older Steiner with some force. The Steiners may have been more technically sound and stronger, but the Freebirds had more ring experience, experience used to manipulate the situation to allow them to pitch Rick over the top rope behind the referee’s back.
A belly to belly suplex eventually allowed Rick to make the tag to his brother just as Woman headed down to ringside in an attempt to distract the Steiners. Coming back from advert, that appeared to be exactly what she achieved; Scott was left laying at ringside after an assault by Hayes. As Woman continued to saunter around the ring, Scott would be on the end of a Hayes sleeperhold that kept the challenger effectively grounded. Hayes even managed to hit his finisher, the DDT, but Scott showed enough wherewithal to roll to the outside before Hayes could capitalise, much to the Freebirds’ frustrations.
As the Freebirds continued to try and wear Scott down, Garvin would use a cheapshot to stop a potential tag as Scott almost walked his way to the corner whilst in the midst of a camel clutch. Finally, a telegraphed back body drop allowed the hot tag to Rick and Hayes was in immediate trouble as he was dropped with a Steinerline and an overhead belly to belly suplex. The finish was hindered somewhat by a sloppy leapfrog by Rick that caused a visually ineffective collision. In the supposed confusion, the referee was distracted long enough to allow Garvin to try and come off the top rope onto Rick as a powerslam had Hayes pinned. Rick dodged, leaving Garvin to drop a knee on Hayes and allow the Steiners to win the NWA World Tag Team Titles.
Not only did this signify the start of a golden era for the Steiner Brothers, it would be the first of two times that a Freebirds title reign was ended by the boys from Michigan. Hayes and Garvin must have been sick of the sight of them by the end.