Man, this was a Hell of a disc. It's always hard ranking all of these 80s projects when you start to get deep enough into it, and that's no different with this one, but everthing bar the last match is very likely gonna land top half by the end. Doubt I'll be able to plow through the rest of the discs like I did the last three since I'm back at work tomorrow, but I actually feel confident in being able to get this whole thing done before the deadline, which wasn't the case at all just four days ago.
Freebirds v Kevin & Kerry Von Erich (Bunkhouse Elimination Cage Match, 9/3/84)
- Man this might be the most frustrating match on the set, at least from a personal standpoint. On the one hand it's got all the bar fighting and guys smacking each other with cowboy boots and the general level of hatred that you come to expect from this feud, especially when it's the no holds barred blowoff in a steel cage. On the other hand it's got a serious lack of Mike Von Erich. No bullshit. He's injured and can't compete here, and for all the shit I've given him since he started appearing on the set, I thought this would've been better if it was 3-on-3. Reason for that is Kevin and Kerry whipping ass for the first six minutes the way they did was just too much for me. The Von Erichs have been a major talking point of this project. I mean, shit, it's the Texas set so obviously Von Erich brothers discussion is gonna be rife. A lot of it has revolved around them being "supermen" and not selling enough or sandbagging or whatever you want to call it. Some people think they're guilty of it more often than not, others accept the fact they were booked like The Jesus Children of Dallas, Texas with God on their side and the ability to overcome the odds at every turn or whatever you want to call that. I understand both sides of the argument, but for the most part I've been totally fine with the way they've been so strongly booked. I've already mentioned that there are times where I wish they'd let a heel work them over for a little while longer, but they've all been minor gripes and I haven't had any matches ruined because I think the Von Erichs are taking too much of the match. This one annoyed me, though. 3-on-3 I don't think it's much of a problem because that way the odds are at least "even" from the start. This starts off with 3 Freebirds against 2 Von Erichs, and for the first 5 or 6 minutes, Kevin and Kerry barely give the 'Birds a thing. They're not afraid to get plastered with a cowboy boot or thrown into a cage, but they pretty much shrug it off like it's nothing and go back to stomping tail. If it was the other way around with the heels giving the babyfaces nothing then I could at least begin to buy it, because they've got a man up and one of them is Terry fucking Gordy... but it's not and I found myself being a sad panda. Then the Freebirds finally manage to kinda take over and Gordy and Buddy completely murder Kerry with a fucked up crazy spike piledriver. I mean this looked like THE nastiest motherfucker of a piledriver. Kerry sells it like he's dead and actually has to be carried from the ring and I don't think we've seen anything like that up to this point in the set. Now Kevin's stuck on his own against 3 guys and I'm hoping we get to see the major ass beating that I wanted from the start. And we do... mostly. Kevin goes postal with a cowboy boot and swings at everything that moves, but before long he's getting worked over and THIS is what I wanted from this match. He gets double clotheslined right in the throat, gets whipped with a belt, hurled into the cage, the whole nine. I liked how they went on to the Hayes elimination as well. But the finish is... I don't hate it because there was no way the Von Erichs were gonna lose this and Buddy taking his third or fourth completely ridiculous crotching of the set is something I can always get behind, but it's an idea that's pretty cooky to begin with and doesn't get a whole lot better in execution. The whole match is just so frustrating. I won't rank it low or anything, but I doubt I'll have it anywhere near the best matches this feud produced, which is a shame because I was all ready to bust a nut over a feud-ender like this.
Iceman King Parsons v Chris Adams (10/8/84)
- Adams is still a pretty good dude at this stage, signing autographs and coming across as a guy that truly only hired Gary Hart for the good of his career and just wants to advance in THE BIZ without all the bullshit he's having to put up with from fans, other wrestlers, etc. He never had any ulterior motives; he just wants to be successful and win the World Title and Gary Hart's the guy that can take him there. It's everybody else that's overreacting and pushing him away. Iceman is one of those people, giving him shit before the match even starts as if Adams has "changed" while Adams just wants to shake hands and defend his TV title. Match itself is a good one, not too different from the Jake match where Adams wins the belt in that they're going tit for tat early, although this doesn't have the niggliness that the Jake match had in that both guys here are babyfaces. Adams is good at showing signs of frustration that he probably wouldn't have shown a year earlier, though. Finish is boss and a great way to further the stuff with Adams and Hart. Probably a top third match for me.
Kevin Von Erich v Chris Adams (10/27/84)
- Adams is still working babyface here as well, but it was Kevin that he superkicked and left to Roberts and Hernandez not long before this as the first step towards the eventual heel turn. Match is only about 7 minutes long, but what we get is great. The early matwork is really good and there's more fun stuff from Kevin who I could watch pull tricks out all day long. Then Adams get pissed off and sucker punches Kevin off a clean break before cracking him with a monster superkick while Kevin's on his knees. Then he flattens him with a tope and things are shaping up to be one of the best matches on the set. Kevin scores a flash roll-up directly afterwards though, so it gets snipped before it really has a chance to reach the lofty heights it could've with double the time. Post-match is the final nail in the coffin for Adams as a babyface as Kevin makes an offer to him saying he's willing to bury the hatchet as long as Adams fires Gary Hart, but Adams is having none of it and blasts him in the back of the head with a chair. Match + post-match angle should leave this in the top half pretty easily.
Gino Hernandez, Jake the Snake & Chris Adams v Kerry Von Erich, Mike Von Erich & Bobby Fulton (10/27/84)
- More Jake ruling it. Actually the whole heel team ruled it here. Kevin was injured thanks to the Adams mugging earlier so Fulton takes his place. Would've like Rogers there instead of Bobby if we're gonna have a Fantastic showing up, but it doesn't really matter either way since Fulton's barely involved. Which is still a pity. Adams is pretty fuggin' great as your chickenshit heel that's afraid of what the Von Erichs might do to him after taking out Kevin. He's happy enough to get in there when his team have the advantage, but if it's a level playing field he's not as eager. Kerry's definitely the star of his team here; he plays a strong semi-extended FIP, is always a great house o' fire and brings the hatred for Adams after his treachery earlier. Mike was okay here as well. He does some goofy looking shit and doesn't sell very well, but you get the sense he's just as pissed off as Kerry over what happened to Kevin. Structure of a lot of the tags on this set have been really weird and this is another example. Not "bad" weird, just "unusual" weird. This starts out like your classic southern tag with the heels getting their asses handed to them before they score a breakthrough and one of the babyfaces gets worked over. Then Kerry makes the hot tag and in comes your house o' fire. That's classic southern tag formula. Here, instead of going to the finish, they work another three or four much shorter FIP sections before Adams eventually sneaks in a superkick while Kerry's in the middle of suplexing Jake (which I thought was a great finish). It did get kinda sloppy at points, but I think that's more to do with the participants not totally being on the same page with everything as opposed to it being a structural flaw. Anyways, whatever, this was good stuff and the post-match locker room promo was boss. Roberts is such a scum.
Terry Gordy v Killer Kahn (Texas Death Match, Special Referee: Kerry Von Erich, 11/22/84)
- I had seen this before and I pegged it as a top 10 candidate going into the set, and man does it still feel like a top 10 contender. I had never seen the post-match angle before and that just adds to its case. You know what to expect from these two. They just punch the shit out of each other and throw each other into ring posts and bite each other's bloody forehead. Gordy gigs himself HUGE and his body is practically covered in plasma by the end. Kahn does the spectacular bald dude blade job where he nicks an artery and the blood spreads all over his head and by the end it looks like he's wearing a red beanie hat. When I first saw this I really wished they had fought out on the floor for at least a little while, and I guess part of me still does, but that's really a small complaint. Kahn has the world's best crazy-man-screaming-kneedrop ever. Finish is a fitting finish for this feud as well. Texas Death Matches with the 30 second rest period is still something that I could do without, but again, small complain. Post-match is fucking awesome with the rest of Devastation Inc. showing up and Gordy and Kerry having to team up to clear house before they're stomped. Then Kerry offers Gordy a handshake and Gordy's a bloody mess and doesn't buy it so Kerry leaves and then Gordy gets on the mic and tells him to get his ass back in the ring if he's a REAL MAN with any fuckin' GUTS. Crowd are ready for Von Erichs/Freebirds RIOT IN THE USA part 2 until Gordy offers up a handshake and Kerry takes it and the place is in fucking meltdown. Holy shit this rules. Top 10, maybe top 5.
Midnight Express v The Fantastics (12/25/84)
- You know me, you know I loved this. This is the first real classic southern style tag that I can think of on the set so far. There have been lots of tags that have felt like variations of the formula where guys are tinkering with stuff and switching up the layout here and there, but this is the original and these teams are masters of it. It's been a while since I've seen a Condrey-Eaton MX match, but this really made me want to go back and watch everything they did on the Mid-South set again. I had forgotten how much of an awesome mean fucker Condrey is. He really abuses Rogers here; he hits the ropes at one point in what seems like preparation for an elbow drop, then he just causally drives all the wind out of him with a nasty double stomp. And man, those kneedrops right to the Adam's Apple. They're probably a receipt for Rogers insinuating that Eaton and Condrey might be gay a little earlier. The 'Fantastics think Midnights might be gay because they hug it out' spot is always fun since Rogers and Fulton are the ones wearing tiny pants and bow-ties and top hats and throwing candy canes out to the crowd pre-match. Rogers is an all-time great face in peril and the crowd are just going bonkers for him here. Finish has them blowing their stack some more and this should land high on my list.
Gino Hernandez, Jake the Snake & Chris Adams v The Von Erichs (12/31/84)
- Kevin fucking HATES Chris Adams and Adams HATES being the subject of some psycho Texan and his fucked up fury and I LOVE this fucking match. Kevin has been tremendous as a dude showing absolute seething hatred for his opponent all the way through this project. He leaps across the ring before the bell and tries to rip Adams' head off for doing what he did to him a few months back and Gary Hart in his incredible sweater almost gets run over in the process and Adams has to bail just to save himself while Kerry and Mike try and restrain Kevin before this whole thing gets tossed out before it's even begun. Hart is awesome trying to cool Adams down, "This is a TITLE match. It's about money... MONEY!" Match almost feels like a hybrid of an early 90s All Japan six man and your traditional southern tag. Kevin and Adams aren't necessarily your Jumbo and Misawa in terms of hierarchy or "team leaders" (although I guess you could argue they are, certainly in Kevin's case), but it's their beef that's the main "sub-plot"; the fact it's for the titles being the "main plot." Mike is your skinny young Kobashi who's been feuding with Jake and is keen to prove a point that he DOES deserve that rookie of the year plaque Roberts smashed to pieces (we'll ignore the fact he's just not very good). Roberts is a scummy bastard so I guess he's your Fuchi. Kerry and Gino don't really have any long-standing feud to tie them to the other two, but they don't need one because Gino's a third of the champs and Kerry's a fucking Von Erich for chrissake. That writes itself. The "southern tag" aspect is pretty obvious. It starts out with the Kerry/Gino match-up before briefly moving onto Roberts/Mike. So I guess we've got a lucha trios aspect to it now as well. Adams comes in and we unfortunately don't get Kevin in to match up with him, but Kerry gets back in instead and winds up getting superkicked in the fucking teeth so I can make do with that just fine. Adams misses a diving headbutt so Kerry grabs hold of his leg and THEN tags in Kevin, and Adams is like a rabid animal caught in a trap while Texas loses its collective shit for Kevin finally having the chance to get at Adams. We're only five minutes in at this point and the match already fucking rules. Adams wants NO part of that and manages to tag in Jake, but Kevin doesn't give a shit and wants to tear Adams a new one. This leads to a stretch of Kevin in peril where Adams has no problem getting involved provided there's no danger of Kevin mounting any offence, and any time Kevin fires up with a hope spot, especially when it's against Adams, the heat is just off the page. Adams is really good as a meddling little shit all the way through this and it's probably my favourite performance of his up to this point. Great moment where Kevin is firing back on Jake and Jake makes the blind tag to Adams, but Kevin spots him coming and when Adams realises the blindside is a no go he hops back out and lets Jack jump him instead. This is also one of the better Von Erichs in peril segments on the set so far. All of Kevin's hope spots get crazy heat and he's STILL trying to fuck Adams up; even when he has the chance to make the tag his hot-headedness costs him because he just wants to get at Chris. Hot tag has Mike so fired up he almost faceplants himself coming in the ring, and this is where they start to get jazzy with the structure. They don't work straight to the finish like they probably would have in Mid-South or Crockett; instead Mike hooks Gino in a sleeper, but Gino makes the tag to Adams who catches Mike unawares and then WASTES him with a superkick. Adams has thrown a billion nasty superkicks on this set and this one is right up there with the best of them. He just glows with self-satisfaction after it and Kerry and Kevin are scrambling around the outside to see if their little brother's teeth are still intact. Kerry gets the tag shortly after this and things start to get a little messy, but you forget all that when they run the finish. Mike and Roberts wind up back in the ring together and they do this cool spot where Mike whips Jake into the corner and ducks down like he's ready to give him a backdrop (think Flair coming out of the corner spot). Jake doesn't take the backdrop and leapfrogs over Mike instead, and as Mike's turning around Jake plants him with the DDT. The crowd reaction for the DDT is a total "Oh shit, this might be over" deal and Kevin's reaction to it on the apron is much the same. Jake gets cocky about the whole thing because he figures this one's in the bag and starts shit talking the Von Erichs over in their corner. He points to his chin as if he's daring one of them to hit him, and of course it's the Von Erichs so someone is gonna fucking hit him. Sure enough Kerry decks him and Jake is out on his feet stumbling back, falling over Mike who takes advantage of the whole situation and just rolls him up with a school boy. Great, great match and the POP for the title switch is a motherfucking POP. What's even better is Kevin realising it's over and that he can't be restricted by the confines of a wrestling match anymore and just starts punching the shit out of Adams again. Also gotta give it some extra extra points on top of the other extra points for Adams getting right in the camera and shouting "OUTSIDE INTERFERENCE! WHAT ABOUT THE OUTSIDE INTERFERENCE?!" This is looking like another top 10 match.
Midnight Express v The Fantastics (1/11/85)
- Aw Hell this was awesome too. I'm not quite sure whether I prefer this or their Christmas Day '84 match, but both will land high. They're not really similar at all which makes it even better. The first match had Rogers playing FIP like a king and Eaton and Condrey ruling it hard working him over. This one has Fulton playing FIP, although Eaton and Condrey still rule it hard as ever. Fulton's a guy that can annoy me in that role sometimes and isn't on the level of Rogers in general, but I thought he was really good here. This one goes about 5 minutes longer than the first match and the early stages here has Rogers ripping it up like nobody's business. The MX have truckloads of double team spots and shtick, and we get to see some of that with Rogers. Thought he and Bobby were the stars of this, actually. Rogers for the pre and post FIP stuff and Eaton for just being Eaton in general. He takes a shoulderblock bump here that is ridiculously great, not in that it's a huge bump, but in the way he sells it like his entire body got jarred before landing face first on the mat. Different finish from the first match here, too. Might wind up ranking this side by side with their first match because both were equally great, but either way it'll be high.
Kerry Von Erich v Chris Adams (1/11/85)
- Really good sub-10 minute back-and-forth match. Adams seems to have added this ram-like headbutt to the gut as part of his arsenal since the heel turn and I'm definitely a fan of it. He catches Kerry coming off the ropes at the start with it to cut him off before Kerry can really do anything, and then he waffles him with a superkick and does a front flip like a cocky sumbitch. There's a few really cool spots, like Adams hitting another tope and Kerry clocking him with a fist while Adams is on the top rope sending him flying out onto the floor. Also liked how they used a duelling sleeper hold spot as well. Post-match has the first appearance of the One Man Gang and this was another strong match on a super strong disc.
Ric Flair v Terry Gordy (1/11/85)
- Pre-match is tremendous. Billy Jack Haynes comes out with Sunshine and challenges the winner but Flair could care less about him; he's more interested in Sunshine. He gets on the stick and talks about how she's basically the only chick in Texas that he hasn't been able to bang (he had googly eyes for her in the Adams match as well) and that if she lets him have one kiss she'll ache for the Naitch. She lets him have his kiss and then she slaps him right in the face and Flair's reaction to it is great. Actual match was just a step down from their first match on the set for me, but this time Gordy's working pure babyface and Flair's working like Flair. Interesting finish to this. It wasn't executed terribly well, but it was a nice idea. Flair continues to bring the greatness every time he shows up.
Kerry Von Erich v Chris Adams (2/8/85)
- I liked this even more than the 1/11 match. It gets a bit more time and they whip out a bunch of nifty spots again, plus I liked the finish to this one more, too. Pace and layout is still similar to the 1/11 match. Really starting to dig Adams as a smarmy heel now, especially when he starts doing front flips and hitting topes; you get the sense he's doing this stuff because he thinks he's the flashiest motherfucker around and that people should be jealous of it. Not that I haven't enjoyed Adams as a face or anything, because I have, but heel Adams is where it's at.
Kerry & Kevin Von Erich v Gino Hernandez & Chris Adams (Lumberjack Match, 2/22/85)
- Man this feud rules. This is another one of those matches where the layout is pretty weird, but there's just such a reckless feeling to just about everything that these guys have been doing that the choppy structure ends up working. It's becoming redundant saying Kevin is great at bringing the hate, but shit, Kevin is great at bringing the hate. This had 4 spots that I thought were fucking great. The first comes right at the beginning -- Kerry whips Adams into the ropes and hits the mat, so Adams, instead of jumping over him and hitting the opposite side, does a fucking front flip over Kerry and superkicks him square in the jaw as Kerry's getting up to his feet. Adams' self-satisfaction afterwards is your cherry on that cake. Second spot is a Kevin favourite. That dude is seriously not afraid to jump full on into some guy's knees, and when he comes off the middle rope for a splash here, Gino lifts his legs straight up and winds up driving his feet right into Kevin's throat. Looked nasty as Hell. The other two aren't quite as spectacular, but I don't recall having seen them on the set so far and fuck it all because this feud is just great. Probably a top 25 match.
Midnight Express v The Fantastics (3/8/85)
- I've got this as the "weakest" of this trilogy by a little, but all three matches are awesome and as strong a triple shot you'll find on the whole set. This was longer than the first match but shorter than the second, and we get Rogers in peril again with Bobby Eaton doing a powerslam-backbreaker combo that was too cool for school. Also has one of the best nearfalls on the whole set at the end. I'm gonna start a Mid-South project soon and the matches between these teams are near the top of the re-watch pile.
Gino Hernandez & Chris Adams v Kerry & Kevin Von Erich (Texas Tornado Match, 3/22/85)
- Step down from their Lumberjack match, but this felt as chaotic and crazy as I wanted it to. Adams brings back the slingshot here, though, and his slingshot really kinda sucks. Think I also spotted the old guy in the blue shirt who lost his teeth for Kevin that time, and sure enough he was going crazy again which I found inexplicably hilarious. This'll probably land somewhere around the middle.
Chris Adams, Gino Hernandez, Kamala, Rip Oliver, One Man Gang & Dr. Death v The Freebirds & The Von Erichs (3/5 falls, 5/5/85)
- Well this is taking place with two rings and is pretty much a total clusterfuck, but as far as total clusterfucks go, this was entertaining enough. Got hard to follow things at points, though. I mean the camera angles were pretty bad for the most part. Thought Kevin was really good, probably the best guy in the match. His crazy diving spear thing at the finish was cool as all shit. Post-match angle helps this big time, though. The winner of the deciding fall gets a new Cadillac so Adams and Gino take a chain and smash the windshield to pieces and Kevin and Kerry want to murder them. The Von Erichs standing around the fucked up car reminded me of the scene in The Hangover where they're stuck in the desert after having given up 80 grand in casino chips and Phil and Stu are cursing and "SHIT"ing this and "GOD DAMMIT"ing that. Kevin and Kerry are Phil and Stu while Mike is Alan saying "SHOOT" instead of shit and "GOSH DARN IT" instead of God dammit. It was pretty adorable. Unfortunately this'll be the only match on the entire disc that isn't a good shout for the top half of the entire ballot. Still, one out of 15 ain't half bad.