Rick Rude v Dustin Rhodes (Worldwide, 5/30/92)
This match... I've watched this four times in the last 3 weeks and it's just about my favourite thing ever. I already spoke about one awesome Rude performance earlier today, but this was even better and is on par with the very best I've seen from that year. Don't want to sell Dustin short, because he's great in his role, but this is Rude working against a young fired up babyface and he's pretty much perfect at it. Starts out with Dustin frustrating Rude, backing him into the corner and taking his time breaking, Rude yelling "Get him back!", Dustin taking him to the mat with a hammerlock after Rude tries and fails to shake it. Dustin settles into working the back soon enough, and while there's a few moments where it seems like he's maybe struggling for ideas, Rude is always there to feed him. Dustin was already a Hell of a wrestler in 1992, but working at the kind of pace Rude loved to work at wasn't really his strong suit yet, so he seemed content to let Rude dictate some things, and if anything that's a sign of how good *Dustin* is as well. Rude's selling through all of this is superb. It's not the kind of thing I can really do justice to by talking about it; you kinda need to see for yourself how he'll react to being punched in the kidneys or thrown into the turnbuckles to really appreciate it. Transition to Rude in control is a good one. Dustin's been working a camel clutch for about a minute; he's comfortable, even jacking Rude's own gyrating hips taunt, and twice he's managed to shut down Rude's attempted escape by jumping and "butt bumping" down across his lower back. Third time Rude has it scouted, waits until Dustin jumps off his feet and turns around with the knees up, Dustin coming down hard and basically crotching himself. Right after this Rude hits an inverted atomic drop, and while I don't think that's ever actually been treated as a move that specifically targets the balls, you can see the intent of it here. Rude's selling continues to be six shades of awesome, trying his gyrating hips shtick and buckling over unable to do it because his back's totalled. There's this one spot where Dustin's in the corner throwing punches and a big bionic elbow, and Rude's sell is just... there are no words. Seriously. Dustin's a guy that's always great at teasing comebacks and firing back with hope spots, but Rude's cut offs are ridiculously good in this. Dustin going for a monkey flip in the corner and Rude shoving him half way across the ring, Dustin rolling so far back he winds up dazed back on his feet before being mowed down by a clothesline (Dustin taking the inside-out bump to boot) is a great spot, but Rude just dropping to his knees and driving a forearm into Dustin's nads is a fuggin' ACE cut off spot. Poor kid's balls can't catch a break. Final big transition keeps bringing the business with maybe the best struggle over a tombstone that I've ever seen. It's a spot I've seen a few times over the last couple weeks as I've been watching all this stuff, but when Dustin reverses this and plants Rude it feels like a HUGE moment, and the nearfall is as big as it should be. Last few minutes are all about Rude being on the ropes and Dustin inching closer and closer to scoring the upset. Even Medusa gets her licks in. I've seen some great cheapshots today, and Medusa roundhouse kicking Dustin in the chest after he goes flying over the top rope on an airball cross body attempt is up there with the best of them. And watch Rude set up the bulldog... "Where the fuck did he go?" This is a phenomenal match. These guys are phenomenal. 1992 WCW is PHENOMENAL, son.
Ricky Steamboat & Shane Douglas v Jushin Liger & Kensuke Sasaki (Philadelphia, PA, 12/29/92)
I usually hate handhelds. The arena footage on the Mid-South set I actively *love*, but for whatever reason I can never seem to watch a handheld and come away from it thinking I wouldn't have enjoyed it more if it was on TV. I don't know why that is exactly, but there you go. This, however, proves to be an exception, because I've watched it twice now and I've had no problem thinking "Holy fuck this rules!" Both times. A big part of that is down to the fact that, with a handheld like this, you can see what Ricky Steamboat's doing at all times. Usually if you've got Steamboat in a southern tag that goes 20 minutes, ideally you want to see him playing face in peril. He's as good as anybody that's ever excelled in that role, and if you're like me, you could watch Steamboat sell a beatdown 'til the cows come home. One thing you never hear much of, though, is that he's an amazing apron worker as well. It's obviously not something you're going to see a whole lot of on TV anyway, since the focus is on the guys *in* the ring, not the guys around it (generally speaking, of course), but when a camera captures the entire ring area, you really get a sense of Steamboat going the extra mile to make people care about the match, even when he's not the one that really needs to be doing that. Don't read that as him being an egomaniac that wants the focus on him all the time, because I don't think someone would watch this and get the sense he is, but the general point is that Steamboat is fucking kingsized and is a huge benefit to a match just by being a part of it. You've probably guessed that Douglas is the one mostly playing FIP here, and while he isn't Ricky Steamboat, he's really good in the role. ECW Shane Douglas doesn't do anything for me 90% of the time, but underdog babyface Shane Douglas seems to be his calling as a wrestler. Steamboat does get his chance to take a whipping, though; briefly at the beginning and then briefly at the end after the numbers catch up to him post-hot tag. His first little "run" is like a lemon Warhead - short but mighty sweet. Sasaki wastes him with a spinebuster initially, and Steamboat's sell of the damage for the next few minutes is amazing. Best part is him leapfrogging Liger and selling the back the instant he lands, like the vibration shooting up his spine is immobilizing him, turning around into a Liger cross body. I really like Liger in this; he's super over and has a bunch of high end offence for the era, and best of all he isn't afraid to kick people in the face. There's a spot towards the end where Steamboat is collapsed against the ropes and Liger rails off 6 or 7 nasty kicks to his face and chest. The Philly crowd are in total "We Want Flair! WHOOOOOOO!" mode on the night, and the entire front row section facing Liger react like it was Flair himself throwing the kicks. Sasaki's good enough in his role as the more powerful and business-like of the two, sort of the steak to Liger's sizzle, but there's a few times where he'd randomly start working a different body part than the one that had been targeted for a period beforehand. They go to town on Douglas' leg for a stretch, and Liger even slaps on a figure four (crowd totally loves this), but then Sasaki, for whatever reason, decides he'll sit on a Boston Crab and start working the back. It's not like the match goes to shit because of him, but Liger seemed to be by far the better of the two here. And as hectic finishes go, this was as good as what had come before it. Great, great match, with the added bonus of seeing Steamboat ruling it like you don't get to see very often. Literally.
WCW 1992 Project