Sunday, 1 August 2010

DOUBLE A OF THE DAY #17

Arn Anderson, Rick Rude, Bobby Eaton & Larry Zbyszko v Sting, Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham & Dustin Rhodes (WCW Saturday Night, 2/22/92)

This is one of my favourite tags of all time. I talked a few days ago about how I'd seen the Clash XX multi-man tag compared to the RAW multi-man from 2/7/00 and that I didn't think the Clash match was anywhere near as good, but THIS is a terrific match, very similar in a lot of ways, and while I still think the RAW match is better, I wouldn't say there's a whole lot between them.

The first 10 minutes are STACKED with awesome stooging, babyface controlling and heel trying and failing to gain advantage spots. It's total southern tag formula, so you know how it goes; Mike from Somewhere-Between-San Antonio-and-a-Brothel, Texas calls it "runnin' up the score", and holy fuck do the babyfaces run up the score. There's way too much going on for me to talk about it all without going into play-by-play territory, so instead I'll comment on each of the heels and what they bring in the opening period. Although I can't promise I still won't ramble way more than I need to.

Larry Zbyszko: I guess Larry's a guy that's most well known for his stalling and stooging. You ask ten people on a wrestling forum what they think Larry Z does best and about 7 of them will likely say stalling. The other 3 will say he sucks because he spends minutes at a time "doing nothing". This is a match that goes 15 minutes and when Zbyszko's in there he's mostly bumping around and stooging. So there's not really any Larry stalling. What there is, though, is Larry bitching and complaining about stuff really loudly. "AW C'MON!", "SHUT UP!", "WHAT?!", "YOU SHUT UP!", "HE'S CHEATIN'!", and a bunch of other shit that just seems like a big muddle of obscenities and noise. And of course Larry bumping and stooging for everybody and their mother. Nobody "OOH"s when getting smacked around like Zbyszko, either. I also love how he gets in there with Steamboat and spin kicks him in the lungs. "THAT'S KARATE!"

Bobby Eaton: Eaton and Windham are the two that start this, and within about 30 seconds they manage to involve Arn and run through an awesome sequence of stooge spots -- Eaton tries to sneak up on Barry and cheapshot him, Barry sees it coming and backhands him in the face followed by a big right hand; Eaton whips him into the ropes, hits the deck so Barry jumps over him and is met when he hits the opposite ropes by an Arn knee; Arn holds Barry so Eaton can get his licks in, but Barry boots him in the face as he rushes in, elbows Arn in the teeth and snapmares him in the ring; double noggin-knocker and Eaton stumbles out of it into a flying lariat from Barry as Arn stumbles into the babyface corner where he does the spot he loves to do in multi-man matches and gets popped by all of the babyfaces, stumbling back out towards Windham where he eats a big right hand, bumps on his back, pops up only to fall flat on his ass, sliding into the corner with Eaton where he calls for a timeout. Seamless. All the while Larry's on the apron bitching and complaining and chewing the ref' out. I mentioned the spot Arn loves to do where he winds up in the babyface corner and eats a blow from everyone there, but Bobby takes it a step further in this, doing the spot twice, changing it up both times. The first time he does it he eats a different strike from each guy; a chop to the head from Steamboat, a taped fist to the jaw from Barry, a bionic elbow from Dustin, and then Sting grabs his head and runs along the apron with him so he can bump it off the turnbuckle. And Zbyszko's on the apron bitching and complaining and calling for a timeout. The second leads to the FIP transition; he wants a greco-roman knucklelock with Dustin, but Dustin has other ideas and does this neat armdrag variation which lands Eaton in the babyface corner; he eats a blow from Windham and Steamboat and then Sting runs him along the apron again so he can bump his head off the turnbuckle; from the corner, Dustin hip tosses him all the way into the opposite one and charges in for a headscissors takedown, but at this point Rude knows it's his cue and distracts the ref', so Arn runs along the apron and snaps Dustin down along the top rope. Dustin's a lanky big dude and doesn't really land with his throat across it, instead landing stomach-first, but he takes a bump out to the floor and obviously dickhead Zbyszko's over like a shot to blast his face off the guardrail. One of my favourite tag team transition spots, but this has the added greatness of Eaton stooging like a king beforehand and Larry Z cheapshotting someone afterwards.

Rick Rude: In some ways Rude and Sting are the centrepieces of this; it definitely seems that way when Rude gets introduced for the first time, the crowd "oooh"ing like they know shit just got real, Heyman stroking his phone and laughing like a maniac, "Whatcha got NOW, then?". Crowd is totally nutso for Sting and want nothing more than to see him tear Rude a new one, popping HUGE when Dustin points to Sting on the apron. "You want THIS guy?", and boy do they ever. Anderson's in like a shot, talking trash to Dustin. "Fuck Sting, let's see what YOU'RE made of, BOY!" Heyman doesn't want Sting in there either, up on the apron trying to talk it down; Rude's his main guy and he can't risk having him square off with the number one contender to the World Title a week before SuperBrawl. Rude's belligerent as all shit, opening the ropes for Sting, goading him into a fight and at this point the "We Want Sting" chants are out of control. Dustin finally obliges and the rest of the Dangerous Alliance are trying to talk Rude out of it, Heyman back up on the apron again, but I'll be damned if you can hear anything they're saying over the crowd losing their shit. Even Zbyszko's drowned out. Like Anderson, Rude has a few bumps that he loves to do, and nobody sells their rear end like Ricky Rude. His sell of an atomic drop is the best in history; there's two here, a regular and inverted, and words seriously don't do either of them justice. He also takes a ridiculous ass-first bump off a back body drop that I don't recall seeing from him any other time. That's all the Rude we get in this stretch, but holy shit did it rule.

Arn Anderson: I'm sure some people will read these Double A of the Days (assuming anybody actually bothers in the first place) and think I'm being really hyperbolic with all the praise I throw Arn's way, and I guess that's to be expected given the fact it's already been established I have a massive broner for the guy, but to me he's easily one of the best tag workers of all time and his performance in this is legitimately outstanding. I've spoken in great length about Arn's shtick and how he has a ton of variations since I started doing these plenty of times already, but not only is he a guy with tonnes of shtick variations for all situations, he's a guy that has some shtick he'll only bust out against certain opponents. One of those opponents is Ricky Steamboat. Rude holding the ropes open for Sting is going to win the "Can This Motherfucker BE Any Cockier?!" sweepstakes every time out, but Arn's mocking bow before lobbing a wad of spit at Steamboat is never going to be far behind (sometimes he'll wipe the sweat from his forehead and flick it at him, so now we've got variations of situation-specific shtick... next week he's an X-Man). Arn/Steamboat is a match-up that's always going to be at the very least good, and shockingly enough the Arn/Steamboat exchange is good. As soon as Steamboat gets in Arn backs into his own corner, trying to draw Steamboat into a mugging. Steamboat doesn't fall for it so Arn has to go it alone. Arn's first attempt at getting an advantage ends with him on the floor, Steamboat attempting a roll-up as Arn holds onto the ropes, pointing to his head because he's too smart for that, and of course you know he's going to turn around and eat some karate. It's an Arn spot you see a whole lot, but the good thing about knowing Arn's shtick, on a personal level at least, is that I know it's coming and I mark for it every time. His second attempt doesn't prove to be very fruitful, either, taking a spin kick to the gut and selling it like you want Arn Anderson selling being spin kicked in the gut. I already mentioned Arn coming in and trash talking Dustin during the Rude/Sting confrontation, but there's a spot at the end of the Rude/Sting exchange that is total Arn brilliance. Rude's managed to back Sting into the corner; this prompts a gang rape, but Sting manages to fight back and work his way out; Zbyszko's made the blind tag and tries to jump him from behind, but Sting hoists him up and gorilla presses him, and Eaton then hits the ring and winds up taking a gorilla press of his own. As this is happening Arn is on his way in to blindside Sting, notices Sting has seen it and quickly ducks back out onto the apron, wagging the finger and pointing to his head, "Doesn't he know I'm smarter than the average bear?"

I didn't spend all this time talking about what the Dangerous Alliance were doing during this opening 10 minutes because the babyfaces were crap and being carried - that isn't the case at all. It's just that those 10 minutes are as spectacular as they are largely due to the heels being out of this world great.

The big performance on the *babyface* side comes from Dustin. Already mentioned that he's the one playing FIP here, and a good Dustin face in peril section is a good fucking face in peril section. Dustin's one of the best ever in the role, always keeping things interesting, never content to let things peter off. He gets his leg worked over in this, and he's tops at selling it. He'll use the ropes to drag himself back up to his feet, limp and hop around, fire back off of one leg, just great stuff all around. There's one moment where he's fighting back against Zbyszko, laying three boots with the right leg into the gut, but then he throws one with the left, which is the leg the DA have been picking apart, and afterwards he grabs it and crumples up in a heap. I love nifty little subtleties like that and it was cool as Hell.

As good as Dustin is, though, I'm not done talking about Arn.

The first ten minutes has comedy stooge Arn, but everything after that is calculated hitman Arn. Countless examples of Arn being nasty as can be. First time he tags in (after they gain control, anyway) Ross calls him one of the most sadistic athletes in WCW, and just as he says that Arn is raking his boot laces across Dustin's face and flattening him with a DDT. His reaction to Sting breaking up the pin is great, looking at him with his arms outstretched like "Hey, man, what's up with that? That ain't cool." Any chance he gets he doesn't hesitate to throw a dirty cheapshot or dish an assist to a team mate, coming in and stomping Dustin's knee while Eaton has him in a figure four or pulling Eaton's arms to give him some extra leverage when the ref's attention is elsewhere. We also get another trademark Arn double noggin-knocker spot with Dustin kicking him off as he goes for a figure four, Arn flying into his corner and careening head-first into Eaton. I love Arn shtick that you can see coming, but when he busts out something from nowhere that you're not expecting - and better yet something you've never seen any other time - it's a big collector's item for the Arn connoisseur.

This is actually a match I'd show someone if I were trying to highlight how good Arn is in a tag setting, not just in terms of what he brings to the table as a character, but as someone that knows *exactly* how to work a tag match. You watch some tag matches and you'll see guys trying to work distraction spots or phantom tag spots and they either don't come off very well or they put the referee in a position where he looks incompetent. There's a spot in this where Arn and Eaton do a switcheroo behind the ref's back, but Arn loudly "claps" his hands so the referee *hears* a "tag". You can't call what you can't see, but can you call what you hear? It's blatant cheating, but it at least gives him a case. The ref' sees this and questions him about it, and Arn takes the opportunity to walk along the apron to ask the crowd for support, throwing his hands up like he's done nothing wrong. I don't remember who the ref' was on the night, but he knows this is his cue to give Arn a talking to so someone - in this case Eaton and Larry - can work a cheating-behind-the-referee's-back spot. Steamboat knows the score here, too, coming over and trying to get the ref' to turn around and see what's going on, this way the ref' has to turn his attention to Steamboat and send him back to the corner so Eaton and Larry can continue to cheat some more. Sting also knows the score and comes in to break the double team up. Arn spots it and knows it's his cue to point the ref' in Sting's direction, who heads over and sends *him* back to the corner as well, and that lets Eaton and Rude go to work on the leg some more. Everybody I mentioned there could probably work this kind of match in their sleep, but Arn's a puppeteer and everybody is dancing to his strings.

This is just an exceptional tag match. It's pretty much your perfect lead-in to a PPV with overlapping feuds and a mutual hatred between two teams, so you don't have to give away too much before the big event because what you *do* give away is just the right kind of taster you need. Your babyfaces are as good as you'd expect, but Christ almighty this is a masterpiece from your heels and you want every second of it.

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