Thursday, 28 October 2010

DVDVR Memphis Set, Top 60: #55

Dutch Mantel v Jeff Jarrett (1/28/89)

The sub-15 studio match is pretty much the easiest kind of wrestling for me to watch these days. What's great about the 80s Project sets is that there's always going to be a bucket load of them on each one (well, each one from the US). Just straight up good guy versus bad guy in a studio full of loud wrestling fans. Simple as you like. As far as I'm aware, Jarrett had only been wrestling for a couple years at this point, but I always enjoyed him as a fired up babyface whenever he was on the set. Mantel is Mantel, which means he's surly and nasty and awesome. As far as 12 minute studio matches go, this is really good stuff.

Starts out with Jarrett schooling Dutch, hitting all of his stuff and getting the crowd behind him. Dutch has no answer for it and winds up bailing to the floor for a breather, trying to sucker Jarrett in, even offering to shake his hand because he's really a nice guy. He's misunderstood is all. Eventually he takes over with a knee to the gut, and Dutch is a beast on offence. I'll preface this by saying I barely remember a thing about most of the matches on the set two years after finishing it, but Mantel is just crazy surly here; maybe as surly a Mantel performance on the set. He kicks Jarrett in the face, drops knees between his shoulder blades, FLATTENS him with a short-arm clothesline, and then gets fed up with everything else and just starts trying to whip the skin off his legs with Shoo Baby. The DQ finish is even good. I mean, if you're gonna get DQ'd, do it by blasting someone in the face with a chair, right?

Definitely my favourite of the Jarrett/Mantel matches. I remember thinking their orchestra match was solid enough as well, but I had a hard time getting past the ridiculousness of the gimmick to concentrate long enough. It did have Dutch breaking a drum kit over some guy's head, so maybe it deserves a re-watch. Probably.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

DVDVR Memphis Set, Top 60: #56

Bill Dundee & Bobby Fulton v Bobby Eaton & Sweet Brown Sugar (11/15/82)

Sweet Brown Sugar aka Koko Ware was probably the ultimate "holy fuck, this dude was a million times better than I had ever thought" find of the set for me. I mean, Dundee and Lawler and Mantell were guys I was familiar with already, even if I wasn't fully aware of just *how* good they were, but Koko Ware was a guy I had seen in early 90s WWF that came across as utterly non-descript. Not great, not terrible... just... there. The Memphis set changed all that, and Koko was added to the list along with folks like Butch Reed and Hacksaw Duggan whose rep had been bolstered big time by the DVDVR 80s project - guys that most people remembered from the WWF as ranging from okay to decent-at-best. Well Koko isn't decent-at-best. Koko owns.

The Eaton/Koko team is also totally dynamite. I seem to like Stan Lane as a member of the Midnight Express more than most (this set turned me into a big Stan Lane mark and I refuse to believe he wasn't awesome no matter how shitty his karate was), but fuck, Eaton and Koko as the MX post-Condrey leaving would've been way too much fun. Both guys rule hard here. They start out early by stooging and bumping around like kings - Eaton's always been an amazing bumper, but Koko is right there with him. The moment of the match might be his nutso bump off a missed stinger splash in the corner, almost cracking his head off the post before going all the way over and landing out on the floor. Thanks to the camera angle it looks like he just hurled himself off a cliff. Once they go on offence Koko is just supreme as a cheapshotting little fuck. I love a good cheapshot in my pro-graps, and Koko rolls out a couple on Dundee here that are sublime. At one point he creeps up behind him and jabs him right in the ear... it really was beautiful.

Dundee's in a similar role here as he was in the #58 match; the skilled vet paired up with a green partner. Fulton's much better as a fired up rookie than Boyles is, though, so Dundee's content to let him do a chunk of the work. Boyles looked lost for much of the 6/80 match, slapping on random chinlocks and rolling out piffly strikes. Fulton is far more comfortable and eager to actually do something.

We don't get a hot tag here unfortunately, so I never got the Dundee payback I was hoping for, but it doesn't bother me too much when the finish we do get is as good as it is. It's not like someone gets folded with a Tiger Driver or anything, but Dundee chasing Jimmy Hart around the ring while Eaton and Koko hit a legit, honest to goodness double team finishing move on Fulton is satisfying enough to me. At this stage in my wrestling fandom I don't come to expect that sort of thing from a match in 1982, so I'm pleasantly surprised on the rare occasion I come across it.

This is several steps below the other Eaton/Sugar tag from 1982 that's on the set, but I had that one around my top 10 and thought it was incredible. There'll be more Koko Ware pimping as this project goes on, trust me.

Monday, 25 October 2010

DVDVR Memphis Set, Top 60: #57

Randy Savage v Austin Idol (5/7/84)

Yeah, this was great. I seemed to be one of the few that thought the Savage/Lawler Loser Leaves Town match was pretty disappointing, but I was a big fan of their other matches and I came out of the set with an even higher opinion of Savage in general. The Savage section on the Extras discs rocked the house as well. I wasn't all that familiar with Idol before the Memphis project, but I wound up liking him a lot by the end of it too. This is as simple as can be, nothing fancy at all, but I'd sure as shit take guys these days working matches like this over whatever it is Tyler Black and his buddies are doing.

Starts out like many a heel Savage in Memphis match starts out - Savage stalling for time while people get all riled up. His old man is on the floor constantly running distractions whenever the situation calls for it, and that's sort of a theme throughout the match: Idol's fighting an uphill battle, because any time he gets something going, old man Poffo is there to create an opening for Savage, usually so he can cheat. First big instance of this comes when Idol's manhandling Savage on the floor, and Pa' distracts the ref' long enough for Savage to crack Idol with the title belt (I don't recall which title they were fighting for now).

Savage's strikes were as good as I've ever seen them here. Awesome looking jabs, bionic elbows to the head and neck, flying axe handles; all looked clean and nasty. Memphis was a territory that seemed to have this rep for being all about good punches and not much else. That turned out to be a crock, but holy fuck was the good punches part still true. Lawler, Dundee, Mantell, Savage, Gilbert... them's some good pro-wrestling punches.

Idol's comeback is pretty Lawler-esque in its "punch me in the face all you want. I'm fucking you up whether you like it or not"-ness. Dudes with bleached blond hair turned bright red (or orange, depending on the amount of peroxide) getting punched in the face and walking tall IS pro-wrestling. Savage giving up and just trying to run away is great, as is the reaction to Idol catching him. "You're MY bitch now, boy!" Crowd goes wild, all is good in the world.

Finish pays off the whole "Savage always has an out as long as his daddy's there" deal as Idol has him set up for the figure-four (which he calls the Las Vegas Leg Lock or something, which is boss), and Angelo gets up on the apron so he can draw Idol away long enough to toss something to Savage. Once Savage nails him and shoves something in his tights you know it's game over. You don't get up from the foreign object, son.

Like most of these matches, I remembered next to nothing about this, but it got a nice amount of time to build (almost 15 minutes), two guys playing their roles well, and a finish that I found satisfying to boot. Savage was tonnes of fun here as well. It wasn't a "Savage show" like the tag match at #58 was a Bill Dundee show, because Idol was perfectly good in his own right, but Savage was especially great and most of the best stuff came from him, I thought. I had their rematch ten spots below this, but I'll watch that again once I'm done with the top 60.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

DVDVR Memphis Set, Top 60: #58

Bill Dundee & Tony Boyles v Wayne Farris & Larry Latham (6/7/80)

This was the match that solidified Dundee as the king of the studio match for me. It's only the fourth match on the entire set, but watching it for the first time when I got a hold of it, four was enough. I had already seen some of his arena matches, like the '85 LLT with Lawler, but the way he'd bust out a bunch of new tricks for every studio match was cool as shit.

This is pretty much the Bill Dundee show. It's total old school southern tag formula with the 'veteran and rookie team' dynamic on the babyface side, and Dundee is kingsized as the veteran of his team, stomping ass and taking names. Boyles isn't offensively bad or anything, but he throws really shitty looking strikes and... well he's not very good, either. Still, one should look at that as a positive, because it means we get even more Bill Dundee stomping ass and taking names. At one point he runs the length of the ring and slide tackles Latham right in the face. Nigel De Jong would be proud.

Boyles is the one to play FIP here. He's no Ricky Morton, but the Bombers do a nice enough job of working him over. It's nothing spectacular, mostly of the punch/kick brawling variety, but it doesn't matter because Bill is always doing something to keep it interesting; running around the ringside area to kick the shit out of a weasly manager, jumping to his partner's aid when things are looking especially rough, never content to stand still and let the match pass him by -- you really get the sense he's desperate to whoop someone's tail and protect his partner. Finish is botched, but I always sort of liked it as some bastardised spike piledriver thing. The post-match is really good too, with Dundee punting Latham in the head and taking a gang beating for his troubles.

Dundee was a huge find for me on this set. In some ways even more so than Lawler. This isn't the best Dundee match on the set, nor is it the best tag match tag match or even studio match, but it's something you can show to someone that's never seen Bill Dundee wrestle before as a taster of what he can do. It's also an interesting look at the future Honky Tonk Man, who I thought looked better in Memphis than he ever did in the WWF. Maybe it was the hair.

Monday, 18 October 2010

DVDVR Memphis Set, Top 60: #59

Stan Hansen v Austin Idol (Bullrope Match, 10/3/83)

One thing I had forgotten, somehow, was how good the menu music on these discs is. 'Everybody Wants You' segueing into Stan Hansen bludgeoning someone with a cow bell is just too awesome.

Not entirely sure where I read this, but apparently Austin Idol liked to work loose, or just didn't like to work overly stiff; don't remember how it was worded, but you get the idea. The fact he's in a match where dudes huck around a big thick rope and a cow bell with Stan fucking Hansen makes me smile to no end. "Work loose? Not overly stiff? Fuck your mother."

Thought this was a pretty choice little brawl; blood, big punches, etc. Hansen is way more stoogey here than I had remembered, stalling like crazy at the start, eating Idol's blows like a champ, Terry Funk-ing himself face first into the ring post after going outside for a breather (Idol's swinging him around with the rope with which they're attached). Everything he does gives off this aura of recklessness, whether he's the one throwing crazy punches and swinging the cow bell, or he's trying to get away from Idol swinging the cow bell. Everything. Like some big redneck wrecking ball you do not want to fuck with.

Finish probably would've come off way weaker if Idol wasn't doing his damndest to make it look like he was putting up a huge fight to keep Hansen from touching the turnbuckles. But this is a Stan Hansen specialty, baby. He doesn't lose bullrope matches. Unless the ref' screws him, evidently. Other than the Eddie/JBL match from the '04 Great American Bash, I'm blanking on any other truly 'very good' level bullrope matches. Eddie/JBL was fucking awesome, and this isn't as good, but it's ten minutes of Hansen and a bullrope and a cow bell and a bloody forehead. And Jimmy Hart has the most ridiculous outfit in history. Deserves an extra star and a half just because.

Friday, 15 October 2010

DVDVR Memphis Set, Top 60: #60

Alright, so way back at the start of 2009 I started a project where I was gonna talk about every match from the DVDVR Memphis set that had come out the previous year. The forum I started it on was a small one, and I mostly decided to do it in the first place so other posters there would think about picking up the set as well and watching all of the stuff, because it was awesome and all that good shit.

Then I did what I usually do and got sidetracked for whatever reason and never finished it (although I got a few folks to pick up the set, so mission accomplished, I guess). Then the same forum started a greatest WWF/E Match ever poll and I put the Memphis project on hold again. Well, that project finished a couple months ago, and I swore I'd get this done after that got done, so I'm back to finally finish what I started.

Also haven't been able to get motivated enough to watch anything and write about it for a little while, so I figured this would be a good way to back into the swing of things since I've seen the whole set already and had a blast watching it the first time around. Won't bother talking about the entire 125 matches that are on it, since I already covered most of them last year, but I'll work my way through the top 60 I had at the time I sent in my ballot to the DVDVR crew, re-watching it and talking about each match. Then at the end I'll re-watch some other stuff and come up with a new top something-or-other to see how they compare, because just looking at my list now some of the picks seem kinda WTF-like. Anyways...

#60: Jerry Lawler v Kerry Von Erich (9/17/88)

This was a part of an AWA card that got shown on ESPN Classics a few years ago, so there's a bunch of stuff about the NBA playoffs and the NHL draft in the info bar running along the bottom of the screen. I found that really distracting during some of the matches when I first went through the set. I lost count of how often I read about Jason Kidd not getting hit with a flagrant foul. Still, this was good. Thanks to Loss on PWO putting up all of the Observers from 1988, one is reminded that this same unification match (Lawler was AWA World Champ, Kerry WCCW World Champ) happened a bunch of times, and not once was there a decisive finish. I'm not sure which installment this was, but I get the sense the crowd saw it coming.

Starts out with both guys being all apprehensive like, sort of going tit for tat, but you can tell they don't care much for the other guy. They exchange clotheslines and Kerry plasters Lawler in the face with a pretty wild one. I can only assume he was fucked up. Things break down some when Lawler backs Kerry into the corner and throws the first punch of the match, which Kerry no-sells like a rube and follows up with a discus punch. Lawler shows him how you're supposed to sell that shit, at least. From there it's all more or less built around them both throwing big punches. Doesn't even need to be said that Lawler throws immaculate pro-wrestling punches, but he cracks Kerry with an uppercut here that is just glorious, even for him.

Post-match has some back and forth on the mic about who should be the unified champ and all that jive. Of the two Lawler/Kerry matches on the set, I remember thinking this was definitely the weakest, but I'm struggling to remember a whole lot about the other one this far down the line... so we'll see.