Been slacking on this after getting off to a good start, but with the All Japan list announced I figured I'd try and actually get this set finished and send a ballot in. Managed to finish the last 2 sets in time, so hopefully I can go 3 for 3. Took a break at the start of disc 3, but this is everything from the first two discs (C&P job, of course):
Kevin Von Erich v King Kong Bundy (5/30/82)
- I really dug this. Bundy still has the flowing locks and Kevin wrestles barefoot. It's worked with Bundy being the slower yet stronger guy while Kevin has to use speed and agility to combat it; simple stuff that people will have seen before, but it's done very nicely. Kevin has a great dropkick, btw. Awesome spot where they're in a knucklelock and Kevin escapes with pure SWANKNESS, hits an amazing dropkick, sends Bundy into the corner and charges in at a million miles an hour, only Bundy gets the knees up and Kevin, clearly not giving a shit about his own ribs, barrels into it and surely winds himself to shit. Looked real nasty. Finish is sort of sudden, but for a sub-ten minute match, this was a total blast and a great way to kick off the set.
Ric Flair v Kerry Von Erich (2/3 falls match, 8/115/82)
- Saw this ages ago and really liked it. This time I probably liked it even more. First fall is almost a shorter 1 fall Flair match all to itself and it's awesome. Kerry has some really nice ways to work holds, always making sure to keep them moving and active. There's a couple headscissor spots at the start that rank up there with my favourite early stages mat work in any Flair match ever. Think the fall goes 20 minutes and Kerry controls about 14 of them, and Flair's so good at gradually getting pissed off and niggly. There's a few moments where things sort of break down and Flair gets fed up working sportsman-like and they just start rolling around, and it seems all uncooperative and shit. Loved the spot where Kerry tries to take Flair over with an armdrag and Flair just refuses to go, stands still, shoves Kerry off and then picks him up by the hair and tosses his ass out to the concrete. Moments like Flair losing his cool are great in this actually, culminating in him going insane post-match and jumping over 6 people just so he can bite and tear at the pretty boy some more, like he's gone past the point of begging off stooge and will accept being punched around because he knows he'll get more than a couple licks in of his own. I love pissed off maniac Flair (he's only 33 or something at this point but I can't help but view Flair as a geriatric psycho now, whether it's 2002 or 1982 -- and I adore that). Match goes longer than 30 minutes, so it requires a pretty hefty ramble for me to note down everything I'd like to, but there's way too much great stuff in this. Should do very well on my list. If it doesn't land in my top 20 then this will be right up there with Memphis and Mid-South in terms of repeated love explosions in my pants.
Ric Flair v David Von Erich (10/11/82)
- David's out to hurt a motherfucker here after Flair put a hit on Kerry, and Flair's not giving a shit about being a sport early like was in the first Kerry match. For the most part this is 'by the numbers' Flair, but that's not a complaint at all. David spends a chunk of the first 15 minutes working Flair's arm after Flair barrels into the turnbuckle shoulder-first, and while David isn't as good at keeping holds interesting as Kerry, it's solid stuff and I'm always paying attention. When Flair gets on offence things pick up some more, and eventually Kerry hits the ring with his crutches in hand to give David support, and the final stretch is terrific as a result. So much to love, like David going for a diving knee in the corner and missing, Flair going RIGHT for the figure-four only to have it continually blocked, so instead he turns it into an Indian Deathlock, which I don't remember seeing from him before. Shortly after this David gets split open after a posting and Flair goes geriatric psycho on the cut, dropping knees, punches, ramming his head into the turnbuckle bolt, all that good stuff, and at that point I think "shit, Flair in World Class is fuckin' WORLD CLASS, BABEH!" Crowd is totally nutso for Kerry, and, when Flair decides he's had enough of his cheerleading shit and just starts stomping on the leg that was injured as part of the hit, they go CRAY-ZEE, man. David blasting Flair's leg with his own title belt and busting him open big time with a crutch is a great payback, both for himself and his brother. More Flair pouncing on sumbitches post-match because HE DON'T GIVE A FUCK and the Von Erichs are the bane of his existence and OH FUCK the last five minutes of this are ALLLLL THAT and a bag a chips. 12 stars.
Checkmate & Magic Dragon v Al Madril & Jose Lothario (10/12/82)
- Magic Dragon is stinky and has piffly offence and does a retarded superkick thing that RVD would laugh at, but Checkmate is so fucking weird and great. He moves around like a crab and does this thing from time to time where he'll curl up in a ball like it's a "defensive position"; imagine an armadillo or hedgehog curling up to protect itself. It's cool as shit. He also HURLS himself at people, like a mini-torpedo trying to headbutt your pancreas into the sixth row, and if he misses he continues hurling himself right out the ring. I wish Checkmate was my mate. Madril and Jose are perfectly fine as the babyface tandem, and I was expecting this to be a regular southern tag, but instead they have one big-ish FIP section and then trade shorter heat segments after that as they build to a time limit draw. Won't be a match that finishes high on my ballot, but I dug it and Checkmate is your mother's lover.
Checkmate & Magic Dragon v Al Madril & Bugsy McGraw (10/26/82)
- This is more "fun" than the previous match, although probably not technically "better". Some of the early comedy stuff with Bugsy and Checkmate is realy good. Bugsy's character is that of a "man child", in that he's mentally retarded or some such. Or he has Peter Pan syndrome and doesn't "grow up". I don't know. He actually reminds me of a really bubbly Buzz Sawyer, in that he's nuts, but not nuts in a menacing "I'll fuck your face with this screwdriver" way; nuts in a goofy, happy kinda way. Dragon isn't as stinky in this, and I actively enjoyed some of the stuff he was involved in here. There's a spot near the end where he eats a big overhand chop from Madril, takes a flat back bump and pops right back up with a nip-up, right into another overhand chop. There's also a do-si-do spot between all four that I dug as well. And this match has the clean finish that the last one never. Neither are high ballot placers for me, but a solid southern tag with a big of comedy and shtick thrown in does me fine.
Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy & David Von Erich v The Sharpe Brothers & Tom Steele (12/25/82)
- This won't finish remotely high for me at the end, but I'm glad it's on the set for two reasons. The first is that it's an awesome Michael Hayes babyface performance on a set chock full of sleazy Michael Hayes heel performances. He's really great as the FIP in this, never content to let the heels' offence (read: chinlocks, largely) become dull, always fighting and looking for the hot tag. The heels are alright in their role, and Mike Sharpe is an amusing stooge, but Hayes is the one keeping things interesting during the heat segment. The second reason is that it's a great lead-in to the Flair/Kerry cage match, and of course the Freebirds heel turn during it. They're over like crazy as faces here and to see one of the Von Erichs, due to the friendly relationship they have with the Freebirds, step into what would otherwise be Buddy Roberts' slot due to him being unable to be there, then to relinquish his third of the title belt (this is for the World Six Man Titles) out of the goodness of his ol' heart, really sets the stage for the heel turn later and puts it even more over the top as a shocking moment. Could've done with it being an extra just fine, but either way I'm glad it's here.
Ric Flair v Kerry Von Erich (Cage Match, 12/25/82)
- I've seen this a number of times over the years and there hasn't been one time where I've felt like it's really grabbed me. I'm not sure what it is that sort of turns me off, though, and that's frustrating. The fact Hayes is the special referee and he and Manning (the other ref') are almost getting in each others' way at times still takes me out of it from time to time, but I think Hayes is largely very good in his role. He gets "a little too rough for a referee" at times, but you get the sense he's trying to keep this as fair as possible and be as impartial as he can, pulling Kerry away like he'd pull Flair away (sometimes by the hair). Then as the match progresses things start to get away from him and he eventually loses his cool completely, as does Gordy who's the key keeper, and at that point he loses it and stops giving a fuck, walking out on the match as public enemy number one. It's a great angle. The actual match is also great, but something about it bugs me, and like I said, I'm not quite sure what it is. The first 7 or so minutes seem to have an odd sort of layout, and there's some parts here and there that I'm not a fan of, but on the whole there's much more to like than dislike. Once Flair gigs himself (looks like he takes the blade to his head twice in the space of 30 seconds) things pick up big time, and the final minute or two with him pouncing on Kerry like a rabid dog are great. Also love some of his desperation spots, like being on his knees and headbutting Kerry's bad leg just to create some space. Also like the finish, with Kerry refusing to quit and wanting to keep going because the World Title is on the line, only for his body to give out on him after everything he's sustained (NASTY cage door shot from Gordy being one thing). I prefer their 2/3 falls match, and right now this is behind both that and Flair/David, but I still see it finishing failry high at the end.
Terry Gordy v Kevin Von Erich (1/10/83)
- Short, intense little fight, but more of a taster of what this feud will bring than anything that'll finish terribly high. Kevin's really good as a super pissed off dude that's going to bite and claw at this bigger bruiser, and him always going for the Iron Claw because it's the fuckin' CLAW and everybody goes down to the claw at some point was a nice touch. Gordy getting fed up with it and blasting him in the nuts was great, too. Finish is what it is, but there's no way any of these guys are going down clean yet.
Ric Flair v Terry Gordy (2/4/82)
- More great Flair. He's definitely been my favourite guy on the set so far. I imagine the layout here would be exactly the same if Gordy was a full-blown face and Flair was working full-blown heel, and Flair would bring all of his dirty little cheapshots and then he'd go fuck some guy's wife. Gordy's not a full-blown face, though. He's one of the three most hated men in Dallas, and thus Flair is the de facto babyface. He works this totally clean, and the crowd are 100% pro-Flair, chanting "Go, Ric, Go! Go, Ric, Go!", popping for spots like his desperation sleeper hold (which looks fuggin' awesome, the way he just leaps at this big curly motherfucker and tries to choke him out) that would otherwise be a *heel* desperation spot. He and Kerry even give each other a little signal at the start that lets you know they're putting their own rivaly on hold, even if it's for this night only, because the Freebirds are the common enemy right now. So yeah, it's basically worked the same as it would be if the roles were switched, but it still turns out perfectly. It's another reason why I love Flair Formula. Short compared to most Flair title defences, but these shorter matches are just as great in their own right and this was a blast. Every Flair match so far is at the top of my very early ballot. I know for a fact there's tonnes of great stuff to come, but I'll be sad once he goes.
Kerry Von Erich v Michael Hayes (2/7/83)
- I thought this was the least of the Von Erichs/Freebirds singles matches in the heel turn fallout, but there's plenty to like here. The early stages has Hayes constantly breaking up the action by bailing to the floor and frustrating Kerry, more or less refusing to do anything because he has a pretty good idea what'll happen if he does. Also goes the longest of the brothers/'birds singles matches and I thought things got a little... not "dull" exactly, but the middle part of this didn't grab me like the entire Kevin/Gordy match, although that was a short little fight whereas this has some duelling/revenge legwork. Liked the spot where Kerry kicked out if a pin attempt by putting the claw on Hayes' stomach. Things break down post-match and Gordy and Hayes try to piledrive Kerry on the floor, so that brings out Kevin and he wants to kill someone. Won't finish high for me, but not remotely close to being bad.
Kerry, Kevin & David Von Erich v The Freebirds (Lumberjack Match, 2/18/83)
- Aw fuck this was great. I had seen it before and dug it a bunch, and I did the same this time. There's two FIP sections in it, but they manage to capture an aura of a big fight really well and the Freebirds are great at dragging someone into their corner and triple teaming them. Kerry takes a monster bump through the ropes at one point, too. Wish I could remember more about this because there was some really great stuff. Finish has some nice payback, and as a "taste of what's to come" this is a Hell of a taste.
David Von Erich v Buddy Roberts (3/18/83)
- Aw fuck this was great too, best of the three Von Erichs/Freebirds singles matches on the disc. I generally think David's fine and everything, but here I actively really enjoyed him. You can tell Buddy's the one leading this in terms of laying it out, but David plays his part perfectly and definitely seems to be coming into his own at around this time. I imagine he'll only get better from here. First five minutes are all David, controlling by working the arm in neat ways. Then Buddy eventually takes over and just punches and elbows and boots David in the head. He's a great little pissed off menace, really cranking in the headlocks, and David is good at firing back out of them. Clean finish as well, which the other two brothers/birds singles never had. Post-match is the greatest, too. This, the lumberjack match and the Flair/Gordy match are all pretty much interchangeable on my ballot so far, but I thought all three were a blast.
Ric Flair v Kevin Von Erich (4/1/83)
- I was really looking forward to this and it did not disappoint. I sometimes see people talk about how Flair's '89 is the best year any wrestler's ever had and then someone will jump in and pimp his '83 and '85 as being as good if not better, and while I do think Flair in '85 is better than Flair in '89, I had never gotten the impression '83 Flair was close to '89 Flair (well, maybe I did at some point, but after watching Flair's '89 again, no sir). Seeing him work World Class in '83 so far has been awesome, though, not to the extent where I'd start talking up '83 Flair as being better than '89 Flair, but because it's so different. This is a "short" Flair title defence by Flair title defence standards, but between this and the Gordy matches, I'm remembering how great the shorter Flair defences are. This is also one to show the "Flair works the same match over and over again" folks, because this is not the sort of match you'll see Flair work over and over again. I really hope Cal gets a hold of this soon because I honestly can't for the life of me see someone watching the first disc and then this match (and then the rest of the disc) and come away thinking Kevin isn't a fucking great pro-wrestler. Kerry and David being uninteresting or whatever; I don't agree at all, but I suppose I can see where he's coming from because "uninteresting" is a taste thing and fair enough with that. But Kevin rules so hard and this is a great, great match. Psycho post-match Flair all bloodied to shit repeatedly screaming "IT'S MINE! IT'S MINE!" is what makes Flair Flair.
Kerry Von Erich, Chavo Guerrero & Iceman King Parsons v Terry Gordy, Michael Hayes & Buddy Roberts (Penalty Box Match, 4/29/83)
- Stip is interesting to say the least, and while I guess you could argue that it wasn't used *that* well, I thought this was tremendously fun and right now the only match I liked more was the 2/3 falls Flair/Kerry match. The 8-man tag I watched last night for the Double A of the Day has an opening babyface control segment that I drooled over endlessly, and most people here know that a southern tag with a high end opening stretch is my kind of thing. Well, this had a terrific opening stretch. This is the first Gordy performance on the disc that I was blown away by. I know there are Gordy performances on this set that are outstanding, but this one I had never seen before and he was just a crazy close-to-3000-lbs bump and stooge freak. It's also the first Hayes performance that's blown me away. The Christmas '82 match had a totally great Hayes babyface performance, but this is scuzzy heel Michael Hayes at his very best. He takes one Flair flop type bump off a Kerry punch that is utterly glorious. Kerry continues to be the shit and how both he and Hayes have reps as shitty workers when there's a trillion Kofi Kingston and John Morrison sigs on the internet is ridiculous to me. The general consensus amongst the people watching this set is that it's a decent-good match and nothing more, but this was absolutely up my alley and, much like the Flair/David match that others are lukewarm to, this pushed all the right buttons. And CHAVO, motherfucker!
Kevin Von Erich, David Von Erich & Iceman King Parsons v Terry Gordy, Michael Hayes & Buddy Roberts (5/13/83)
- It's going to be a bitch trying to seperate all these six-man tags at the end, but fuck if they aren't all great. This one has David playing FIP and you can already see how much he's improved since the set started. Some great 'inches away' tag teases here and Gordy continues to bump like a king. There's a great spot where Kevin rams his head off of Iceman's, and Iceman is unphased since he's black and all balck wrestlers obviously have hard heads, but Gordy does the best dizzy stagger sell ever. I'm loving Roberts so far, too, cheapshotting little fuck that he is.
Jimmy Garvin v David Von Erich (5/27/83)
- Solid match, although it seemed more like a nice intro to Garvin that anything that'll finish high on my list at the end. He has some immense knee drops, right to the head and neck. They also manage to capture an aura of hatred pretty well here, and there's a great spot where David has Garvin tied up in the ropes and he's just waffling him with a bunch of right hands. Finish isn't far short of terrible, though. I've got no clue how anything they did would warrant a double DQ, but oh well.
The Von Erichs & Iceman King Parsons v The Freebirds & Jimmy Garvin (Elimination Match, 5/27/83)
- This ruled. I came in expecting a Survivor Series type elimination match, but instead it's just a crazy battle royale where you can be eliminated by pinfall and submission in addition to being tossed over the top. Gordy going so early was disappointing, but it was an awesome pile-up, I gotta say. Soon enough they settle into a long Kerry/Kevin v Hayes/Roberts "match" and it's just a total brawl for the most part. I am also beginning to fucking love Hayes. What a stooge. Kerry's elimination here is awesome, as he tosses Hayes to the floor, but Hayes goes through the ropes as opposed to over them so he's not actually eliminated. Kerry and Kevin whip Roberts off the ropes, but Hayes sneaks round and grabs Roberts' foot just as the Von Erichs are going for a double dropkick, and then Hayes climbs up top and blasts Kerry. Actual finish is also really cool, even if you can see it coming a mile away. Kevin Von Erich can sure as shit skin the cat, btw. This was awesome and so far it's in my top 5. Still enjoyed the penalty box match more, though.
Terry Gordy v Kerry Von Erich (No DQ, 6/10/83)
- Another short little fight, this time with both guys having taped fists and throwing some great punches. I liked this a little more than Gordy/Kevin from January, and while it won't finish particularly, there was still lots to dig about it. Kerry hits an awesome desperation dropkick at one point, almost jumping right from his knees and catching Gordy right in the chin. Gordy continues to sell the Von Erich's fired up comebacks like no one else, taking an awesome bump off of a discus punch where he sort of winds up doing a headstand while his legs are resting on the top rope. Hilariously placed commercial break before the finish (you get to see everything that happens, it's just that they go to the break and when they come back all that's left is literally 5 seconds of action. It's like they decided to take a commercial right before the pinfall for whatever reason). I dug this.
Harley Race v Kevin Von Erich (6/17/83)
- This was seriously awesome and as good as anything I've ever seen Race involved in. He's not someone that generally does much for me at all, but he's willing to bump and stooge around for Kevin here and he goes above and beyond to make him look great. That said, Kevin does enough by himself to look great with one of the best sell jobs I've ever seen. I honestly can't think of anyone off the top of my head that does a better job selling the arm than Kevin does here. Totally amazing. I'm going to do a countdown for this once I've finished it and ramble quite a bit about the top 50, so I'll talk about this in more detail down the line for sure, because no way I can see this dropping very far.
David Von Erich v Jimmy Garvin (6/17/83)
- Well this is probably the most disappointing match to me so far. Their last match seemed like a nice taster of what would come in a rematch, but I came away from this thinking the starter was better than the main course, and not only that but their first match seems like the kind of 10 minute match I'd enjoy even more on a re-watch, while I have no interest in going back to this one. I thought they had some neat ideas, but so much of the body of this felt like it was going nowhere and sort of meandered. Finish is better than their first match, which wouldn't be hard, but still nothing that'll help this in the end for me. I mean, this isn't bad, but shit, when you've got a set this deep with great shit, the stuff that's "only" pretty good will slide down the pack.
The Von Erichs v The Fabulous Freebirds (7/4/83)
- Crowd is totally and outrageously MOLTEN for this. I had seen this on the Gordy set before and I thought it was great then; definitely holds up as being so. It's 2/3 falls and there's a great story of the Von Erichs being insanely hot headed and the Freebirds using that to their advantage. Some great moments where they manipulate things and use it to distract David Manning so they can cheat and all that good stuff. Of course this just pisses the Von Erichs off more and more and it almost costs them more than once. I continue to love Hayes and Gordy. I mean, Gordy was always great, but Hayes has been a big find for me on this considering he's a guy I liked before for his stalling and stooging and generally being a total cock, but he's been awesome on the set up to this point. Roberts is a sneaky little dickhead and sort of the Tully Blanchard of the team. That comparison is mostly limited to the roles they both play, though, because they don't wrestle much like each other for the most part. Not typical southern tag formula either with the start reminding me of a really heated Lucha feud almost. Working number two right now and it seems likely to stay in my top 10. And this disc rules SO fuckin' hard.
Terry Gordy v Chris Adams (7/15/83)
- Won't finish particularly high, but this was solid and a nice set intro to Adams. Match goes about 9 minutes, and it does have a chunk of it spent in a headlock that isn't terribly compelling, but when it's good it's real good. Gordy's sell of the first superkick is sweet as Hell, and the finish is great.
Kevin Von Erich v Jimmy Garvin (7/18/83)
- Loved this. It's 2/3 falls and some of the mat work in the first two falls is fucking terrific by 1983 US standards. Felt almost like I was watching some redneck shoot-style at points. Kevin has an AMAZING bag of tricks, btw. Someone called him the redneck Regal and I find that very apt, not just because he's got tonnes of neat stuff to do on the mat, but because he's always rugged as Hell and stiff, and on top of that he's freakishly agile. Crazy great improv on a top rope sunset flip in the first fall and the finish to the second fall looked NASTY. My working #6 and holy fuck could I watch this again and again.
Kevin Von Erich v Jimmy Garvin (7/25/83)
- One fall contest this time. Not quite as good as their last match, but this is still some quality pro-graps. More redneck shoot-style that blew my mind. Garvin has super nasty looking knee drops. I love him trying to run away at the end, not to the point where he'll get counted out or lose the match and the title, but just so Kevin can't fuck him up anymore. I seem to recall one spot in this that had me reiwnding more than a few times but I'm blanking on what it was specifically. Real good match, though.
Buddy Roberts v Iceman King Parsons (8/8/83)
- Also 2/3 falls. I was really tired when I watched this, so I guess I could watch it again once I've got through everything else, but this was still good even if I was on the verge of falling asleep. Match is sort of built around Roberts' head gear, and Roberts look like a crazy little pit bull on offence at times. He doesn't execute stuff as "cleanly" as some people, but it all looks really painful and vicious. Parsons' answer to Roberts' cheating is great and Hayes takes a nutso bump off the apron at the end when he comes out to protest. Probably a middle of the pack match by the end, but there's plenty to like here even if I would've liked it more had they gone with one guy having more of an extended run of offence at some point.