Friday, 25 June 2010

Funk, Rock 'n' Roll & Russians

Watched a bunch of random stuff last night. I'll hopefully get some thoughts on all of it down eventually. Depends on how drunk I wind up being. Which means I'll probably never get thoughts on all of it down. Here's this for now:

Terry Funk v Jumbo Tsuruta (All Japan, 6/11/76)

The last time I saw this I thought it was a sure fire candidate for the best match of the decade. A few years later... I dunno, maybe my tastes since then have changed even more than I thought they had. I still think it's really, really good, and in some ways I still do think it's one of the better matches of the decade, but this time around it struck me as a total Terry Funk show, which was more interesting to me than it was breathtaking. Not in the sense that Funk's performance was merely an interesting one, lacking in anything that would make it a special one; but in the sense that the match as a whole was more interesting to me than it was breathtaking (like it used to be). I should probably preface this by saying that I always preferred Jumbo to Funk. I mean, I always enjoyed Funk, but Jumbo was like a top 5 all-timer for me. Nowadays, I'm not so sure. Watching Goodhelmet's Funk set, even just a disc and a half in, I can see myself coming out of it (LOL at the idea of me ever actually finishing it) thinking it's Funk that's the top 5 all-timer. As for Jumbo... well, I've sorta lost the love I used to have for him as a worker. Still think he's brilliant, and I probably always will, but over the last couple years he's slowly gone from a guy in my top 5 to a guy that's "only" in my top 25. All of that said, I'm not going to use this, a match three or four years into Jumbo's career, as a basis for discrediting Jumbo. Not at all. Instead, I'll use it to praise Funk, because he's pretty excellent in it. It's 2/3 falls, and the first fall is mostly built around Jumbo working an armbar. Some people will knock it for there not being a proper payoff, but it seemed to me like he was using it as a means of frustrating Terry, who would manage to escape it only to be taken down with an arm drag and put right back in it. I like the 'spunky underdog frustrates champ into making mistakes' dynamic in general, though. There's a few minutes of clipping, but it's not enough to take you out of the match, and it's early anyway, so I can't imagine anything important being chopped. I like the finish to the first fall -- Terry's had enough of this armbar nonsense so he tries to pick up the pace. Except that's the opening Jumbo's looking for and goes for broke with a succession of roll ups, finally keeping him down with a sunset flip. It's a simple fall. Jumbo doesn't really do anything other than work around and armbar, but Terry's awesome at gradually showing more and more annoyance, and the final sequence where he's running back and forth while Jumbo orchestrates the whole thing is really well done. Like Jumbo's poured the marbles and Terry's trying not to slip on them. Second fall is much shorter, but Terry comes out visibly agitated. He's feigning throwing these little slaps to Jumbo's head at the beginning, more to wind Jumbo up than anything else, but before long he's dragged him out to the floor and ramming him into the ring post. You could see the frustration building in the first fall and you're thinking "He's Terry Funk. He's a crazy motherfucker. He's gonna snap at some point..." He doesn't quite "snap", at least not to the point of trying to suffocate young Jumbo with a plastic bag, but he's letting his frustrations out, at least. There's really only one outcome of the fall after that. Final fall is even shorter, but it's your "all-in" fall and it's good, albeit a little disappointing perhaps. Some of the touches Terry adds are really magnificent, though, like selling the landing of a leap frog as if his lower back buckled. Finish is pretty nasty with Funk turning around after the aforementioned leap frog and seeing Jumbo running at him at full steam, so he goes for a quick improv and hot shots him across the top rope. I can't say this "isn't as good as I had remembered", because, honestly, I couldn't really remember anything about it - other than loving it at the time - but I do think it's something I can now point to as a match that made me think about how good the early Jumbo stuff really is. It's unfair to criticise *him* personally for "not doing all that much" given the fact he's still, by and large, a rookie at this point, and Funk's practically good enough for two anyway... but I'd like to go back and see how some of the other big Jumbo singles matches of the decade hold up. If they don't... well, I can't see old man Jumbo elbowing people in the face ever getting old, so there's always that.


Rock N Roll Express v Ivan Koloff & Krusher Kruschev (JCP, 7/9/85)

Terrific match, and another stop on the "RnRs Go From Territory To Territory And Tear It The Fuck Up" tour of 1985. They had an excellent year, and this is probably the stand-out match. Don't get it twisted, though - Koloff and Kruschev bring their working boots and them some, too. Koloff's especially awesome, bumping and stooging, looking foolish and back-pedalling to no real success when the RnRs are on offence, yet being nasty as can be when he's dishing a beating to a pretty boy. Kruschev turns in one of his better performances; everything's simple, but when he's standing with his fist cocked, waiting for a dazed Robert Gibson to turn around so he can clock him on the jaw while women are SCREAMING, you can't really argue its effectiveness. I thought the second - and I guess "main" - FIP spell on Gibson dragged a little in points, though. I usually don't hate David Crockett on commentary, since I tend to get a kick out of commentators that are clearly huge marks for everything going on (Piper's probably my favourite of that ilk. Actually Piper's fuckin' awesome on commentary. Like a six year old that's just inhaled a family sized bag of Skittles), but he was pretty woeful during this and certainly didn't help things when the action started to lull. Maybe if it was just Schiavone and Magnum it would've been easier to listen to (I'm fairly sure it would've, actually). Or maybe if it was Gibson that took the first - and much shorter - stint as FIP and Morton took the longer beatdown then I wouldn't be complaining. Who knows? I'd be interested to see how many US tags from the 80s went longer than this, because right now I can only think of the Final Conflict cage match from Greensboro and that Lawler/Mantel v Dundee/Landell Texas Death Match from Memphis that went three billion falls. Even then, it seems the only version of the latter we're going to get is the clipped up one on the Memphis set. Might be something for the pro-graps historians. Anyway, this is still floating around my "Top US Tags Ever" list, even if it's not quite as high as it used to be.

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