Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard v Barry Windham & Lex Luger (NWA World Championship Wrestling, 4/23/88)
This is the rematch from #13 and is probably a top 15 all-time US tag for me.
Their Clash match is about ten minutes shorter than this, and in that you had a ton of big stuff being brought out, like the DDT, slingshot suplex and spinebuster all in the one short FIP section. This goes about 20 minutes and has a lot more time to build to what they're going for. Not to say the Clash match was too short to build to anything special (because it's excellent), but this is really about Windham losing his patience with Luger and joining the Horsemen, which is a story you ideally need more than ten minutes to tell.
First part of this has Tully being isolated with Windham and Luger practically toying with him, letting him get near Arn in the corner only to drag him back into the middle of the ring, tossing him around with armdrags, laying into him with punches, etc. Luger's not really much of a factor, though; it's mostly Windham and Tully doing their thing and it rules. Love the spot where Tully hits the floor to take a power, resting his arm on the bottom rope, so Windham just grabs hold of it and drags him right back in so he can go back to twisting away at it. There's also time for Arn to get clocked with two big right hands, and one of them results in maybe the best punch drunk stagger sell in Double A history.
Windham's the guy that goes into FIP mode first, this time taking the shorter heat segment in a reversal from the Clash match. The first few minutes had Barry making a weasley little shithead his bitch; now we get to see Windham selling a beatdown - two roles the guy's a master in. The first few minutes also had Tully and Arn - more so Tully - stooging and bumping; now we get to see Tully and Arn working over a babyface - two roles both guys are masters in.
I really love Tully, by the way. Arn's a guy I've spoken about plenty in this project already (obviously), and will continue to speak plenty about as it continues, but the last few days have really made me remember how great Windham and Tully were. Tully's so great at working last ditch cut-off spots in tag matches, doing simple things like making the tag to his own partner and then sprinting over to the babyface corner and standing directly between Windham and Luger so Barry can't make the tag, or immediately dropping Barry with a drop toe hold so Arn can come in and pick his spot, and these are things you would think are standard spots in tag matches, but they're the little touches surprisingly few people bring. Tully does, and it adds so much.
While Windham in peril was the meat of the Clash match, it's Luger in peril that's the meat of this one. Luger isn't as effective a seller as Barry is in general, but I honestly think he's a guy with an unfair rep as a shitty worker (well, before, say, 1992), and he's great as the main FIP here, selling his ass off for everything the Horsemen throw at him, constantly showing desperation in trying to crawl over to Windham for the tag every chance he gets. He's got no problem bumping into concrete and the guard rail, either. There's a great moment where Tully puts him in a figure four, and after it's broken Luger tries to stand up and get to his corner only to collapse in a heap, his leg completely buckled, trying to claw his way to the corner instead. Looked cool as shit.
As good as Luger is as the babyface, Tully and Arn are even better at working him over. Tully in particular is such a cheapshotting little fuck. Awesome Double A shtick spot in this, too, where he does his knucklelock into pinning predicament spot with Luger getting the shoulder up the first time, and instead of Arn being able to force the shoulder back to the mat like he normally would, Luger just powers up and turns it into a greco-Roman knuckle lock, and that draws the little fuckhead in to punt him in the ribs. Arn's facial expressions totally make it, shifting from an expression of "What the fuck is this?" as he can't force the shoulder back to the mat, to a look of "Oh, FUCK, I am so screwed!" as Luger works his way to his knees. He knows what's coming and he makes sure everybody else does. Someone should make a 3 hour music video of Anderson's shtick and put it on youtube. Both he and Tully are so great at antagonising Windham on the apron, too. I watched the Horsemen documentary yesterday and Tully would talk in kayfabe about how they never really cheated as opposed to using manipulation to get the referee or whoever it may be into a position where they could use that as an advantage, and while it sounds like some carny bullshit promo for the DVD, you watch this and think "shit, these guys are amazing at making you believe they're manipulating people to their advantage."
The eventual hot tag to Windham leads to one of my favourite in-match angles ever. Windham's been standing on the apron dying to get in for about 8 minutes at this point, so he obviously cleans house as soon as he gets it, but at the very second the tag is made you see Tully kneeing Luger right out the ring. As soon as he gets the chance he's right out there after him to post him, and now it's more or less down to Windham and Windham alone against Tully and Arn, which is a fight he can't win. He'll look to his corner for the tag... but it never comes. JJ's over screaming in his ear "I told you he wouldn't be there" and the result is Barry SHOCKING THE WORLD by turning on Luger, taking his head off with a lariat and joining the dark side. Terrific finish to a terrific match.
There's a handful of real high end US tags that I haven't seen in years, and there'll no doubt be more showing up on future DVDVR 80s project sets, but right now I can't think of too many that go ahead of this. Everybody brings a shit load to what's going on; it's not like there's two or three guys there busting their asses while the fourth is "just there" or whatever. Best match I've watched for this project yet. Go check it out.