GCW: The Last Battle of Atlanta (10.23.83)
GCW: The Last Battle of Atlanta
October 23, 1983
One of the most sought after matches in wrestling history that had never been released to the public – until earlier this week by the WWE Network. This is a match without commentary and all we have are hard camera shots with the occasional zoom in and out on the action. I WILL ADMIT – I know very little about the Tommy Rich versus Buzz Sawyer feud in 1982-83 Georgia Championship Wrestling. I know it was a very bloody feud that lasted a year and a half, but I do not have much knowledge as to the why’s of the feud and the angles that made it so memorable for so many people. I do have footage of that era of GCW and will be recapping that at some point in the future.
With all of that said, I would like to do a recap of the Last Battle of Atlanta match and some of the extras that go along with it to maybe help me understand this feud a little better.
- Cage Match: Tommy Rich vs. Buzz Sawyer
This isn’t just any cage – this cage has cyclone fencing over the top, but it doesn’t look sturdy enough to be called a roof per se or a platform to walk across like in the type of match that this match supposedly was the inspiration for: the Hell in a Cell. Sawyer’s manager – a blonde-haired Paul Ellering – is suspended from the ceiling of the Omni in a shark cage to prevent him from getting directly involved. If Rich wins, then Ole Anderson gets his hands on Ellering inside the cage. No referees inside this cage. Two men walk in, one man walks out. As his name is called out, we can see that the roof of this cage isn’t very high or sturdy, as Sawyer is able to pull on it flatfooted on the mat.
Sawyer backs Rich up against the ropes and goes to punch him, but Rich ducks out of the way and Sawyer punches the cage. Rich tries to do the same bit. Sawyer ducks, but Rich is quick enough not to punch the cage. Rich starts throwing elbows and misses one thus nailing his elbow on the cage. This gives Sawyer the opening to start wrenching the elbow in the ropes. He grabs a wristlock and bites on Rich a little bit. The stepover armbar is applied. Rich has to go low to get a break from Buzz. When Sawyer recovers, he throws Rich into the cage to open him up. Sawyer works the cut and throws Rich into the cage a few times. That is already Dustin Rhodes at Wargames 92 amount of blood on Rich’s face. Rich low blows Buzz again to get a break. Sawyer lays in some more blows though on Rich’s forehead, but then Rich punches back. Just a perfectly timed comeback punch there. Sawyer walks into a boot in the corner and gets thrown into the cage to bust him open. Buzz headbutts Rich in the gut though and starts grinding Tommy’s face on the cage. IT’S LIKE PUTTING YOUR FACE THROUGH A MEAT GRINDER~! Rich comes back with a piledriver out of nowhere. He punches Sawyer in between throwing him into the cage. Buzz buries a knee into Rich and gives him a piledriver to cool him down. Sawyer goes back to the cut and runs Rich into the cage. He delivers a backbreaker to Rich for 1-2-NO! They trade fisticuffs from their knees and fight up to their feet. Rich chokes Sawyer down, but misses a flying fist drop. Sawyer puts Rich up against the ropes and goes for it all with a crossbody block, but Rich moves and Sawyer collides with the cage. Rich sends Buzz into the cage a few more times and covers him for 1-2-NO! Two more times into the cage! Rich covers him and gets the three-count. (12:07) This was a situation where it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. I think it’s a great cage match for it’s time. Lots of blood was spilled, it did feel like two alpha males who hated each other battled it out, and this felt like just a sampler of what these two are made of. I didn’t mention the crowd during the recap. They were with Tommy on every move and cheered him on with every blow. Just awesome. I can just imagine what this would be like with cameras around ringside with closer shots of the guys inside the cage and Gordon Solie working on commentary really getting into the heat of the moment calling this match. Overall, I enjoyed it. Magnum TA versus Tully Blanchard from Starrcade 1985 still remains as the greatest cage match of all time though – at least in my opinion. ****¼
- Cage Match: Ole Anderson vs. Paul Ellering
I love that as soon as Ellering is freed from his shark cage that he immediately goes to check on his meal ticket Buzz Sawyer. Ole gets in the cage and battles Ellering in his street clothes. He is all business punching Ellering and throwing him into the cage. Ellering rips both of Ole’s pant legs as he falls down from one of Ole’s punches. Ole is punching this guy so hard that he sells his hurting hand. With that blonde hair, I hope Ellering bleeds a little bit here. Okay, he does. This is just all Ole until Ellering finds his moment to strike with an inverted atomic drop. Ellering takes over with his own punches and throwing Ole into the cage. Ole backdrops away a piledriver and comes back on Ellering with clubbing blows. When Ellering tries to fire back on him, Ole just takes him down to the mat. Ole throws Ellering into the cage and stomps him from the middle rope, but then Ellering counters a toss into the cage and Ole eats the steel. Ole avoids a legdrop (because who does a legdrop after getting thrown into a cage unless you’re Hogan) and punches back on Ellering culminating in a headbutt. Ole jumps on Ellering and gets the three-count. (9:26) Right after the bell, JAKE ROBERTS jumps in the ring and chokes Ole down with a belt and beats him to a bloody pulp! Paul Ellering joins in on the fun for a bit. They get the heck out of there though when Ronnie Garvin and Pez Whatley are near. I felt this overstayed it’s welcome and felt a little unnecessary. This night should have ended with Tommy Rich standing tall – bloody, but tall – and instead we have an angle with Ole Anderson. If you wanted to do this angle, you could have done it on another night. For what it was, it was another violent and crazy cage match. Shorter level of intensity though. ***¼
EXTRAS (from WWE.com)
- Tommy Rich vs. Buzz Sawyer – (Georgia Championship Wrestling, 2/6/82)
The NWA world champ Ric Flair has joined Gordon Solie for commentary. This is JIP with only about two minutes left. Buzz is in total control beating Rich in the corner and smashing his face off the turnbuckle. He throws Rich to the floor and Rich pops right back in the ring to catch Sawyer in the breadbasket. Sawyer tries getting back at Rich, but misses a corner charge. Rich punches on Sawyer until he begs off in the corner. They start running the ropes and leapfrogging each other until they COLLIDE in mid-air. Both men are exhausted. Sawyer gets up on his feet first, but misses a flying splash. Rich covers Sawyer and that’s when Kevin Sullivan appears to attack Rich. (2:06 shown) As they look to do a number on Rich, mild-mannered Jim Garvin comes down for the save and pushes Sawyer down from the top rope. The heels bail out and Garvin checks on his pal Tommy to close out the clip. Really good stuff here.
From Georgia Championship Wrestling, 7/2/83. Freddie Miller interviews Tommy Rich. Good grief, that toupee. Rich talks about the bounty Larry Zbyszko has put on Tommy’s head. Killer Tim Brooks and Buzz Sawyer’s names are mentioned as hired henchmen to take him out. However, they couldn’t get the job done. They show us a clip from a recent house show where Tommy Rich and Buzz Sawyer brawl on a stage behind the crowd. VERY wild stuff. We switch over to a promo from Buzz Sawyer. He talks about a match taking place in Albany GA on July 7. It’s great how the love from the crowd helps keep Rich getting back up when he’s down on the mat. When the Maddog is done with him, there ain’t nothing that will pull him up. Awesome.
From Georgia Championship Wrestling, 10/22/83. The description says it aired a day before the Last Battle of Atlanta, but that doesn’t seem right. Where is Tommy Rich supposed to be at for this promo? Are we supposed to believe this is his house? He’s got plants everywhere and a weird Japanese doll thing sitting next to him? C’mon. Tommy has his head all bandaged up. Looks pretty bad. Anywho, he’s not been on TV because he promised the NWA there would be no more confrontations between him and Buzz Sawyer until he got the match he wanted. He tells Paul Ellering that he shouldn’t feel left out because there’s a little something in it for him as well.
More from Georgia Championship Wrestling, 10/22/83. Ole Anderson stops by to introduce a clip from the president of the NWA Bob Geigel. The NWA has decided to sanction a final encounter between Tommy Rich and Buzz Sawyer. Because their former matches have been so devastating, the NWA had to be called in to handle this. It will be a match to end all matches between the two, says Geigel.
Final Thoughts: I feel like this match will certainly have its proponents and opponents as the overall opinion is very divided. Of the comments I’ve read, I would say the match has at least a 65% favorable opinion. Most of the negative feedback has been that it’s too punchy-kicky and not enough wrestling, but this is a fight. You wouldn’t grab too many figure-four leglocks in a real fight. Anyways, I’m a big fan of this. I do think if you don’t like it the first time to give yourself a day or two and watch it again. That’s my two-cents. Anyways, this gets a thumbs up from me. Give it a shot.
Posted on September 7, 2016, in NWA and tagged Buzz Sawyer, Jake Roberts, Jimmy Garvin, Kevin Sullivan, Ole Anderson, Paul Ellering, Pez Whatley, Ron Garvin, Tommy Rich. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.