Rick Rude v Ricky Steamboat (Ironman Challenge - Beach Blast, 6/20/92)
This is a straight up terrific match; maybe the best of a straight up terrific year. I can never really stick to one guy as my pick for the best in WCW over the course of '92, always going from Rude to Arn to Steamboat and back, but I had a feeling that watching this match for the first time in years would put Rude over the top... and I think it does. This isn't a Rude carry-job, or anything close to it, because Steamboat is Steamboat and he does what he does, but Rude's selling over the course of half an hour here is just spectacular and Rick Rude circa-1992 is definitely one of my favourite sellers of all time. Right at the bell Steamboat fucking wastes him with a rib breaker and from that point on Rude is off the charts great with the selling of the ribs. First 7-8 minutes are basically all Steamboat working the ribs. Steamboat's a guy that knows how to sell the ribs - match vs Tully from Starrcade '84 has Steamboat doing a rib sell job and it's one of my favourite sell jobs ever - and Rude no doubt knows this so he's all "fuck it, I'll sell these ribs like *I'm* Ricky Steamboat." He doesn't sell with the intention of getting sympathy like a babyface Steamboat would, obviously, but he hangs his arm down by his left side and takes these short breaths like he's working with a cracked rib. A lot of it is subtle, not Steamboat-like theatrical or anything, but even with 5 minutes to go you can tell he's not right. I love the spot where Rude will try his gyrating hips but can't manage it because of an injury. He does it against Dustin on that episode of Worldwide where his lower back is putty and he can't even stand up straight. He tries it here shortly after taking control but he can barely manage to straighten his body and buckles in pain. Later on he decides against that pose and just flexes his right bicep instead. He can barely lift his left arm above his head because the ribs are fucked, so he won't bother trying it. There's a ton of great little touches like that from Rude in this and it's awesome stuff. I'm a big fan of the first few falls here. They come in quick succession and didn't quite have the impact I remembered them having, but it's still a great sequence. The first fall is really abrupt, but Steamboat totally leans into getting kneed in the face and it comes off looking suitably nasty. It's basically the first time Rude's been able to do a single thing in the way of offence up to that point. Jesse on commentary makes the sport analogy, and as an Arsenal fan who's had to watch his fair share of games where they'll dominate a team and wind up conceding a goal from nowhere, I thought that first fall was a great "against the run of play" spot to give Rude the lead despite the opponent's pressure. Him coming off the top with a knee is another great spot. He knows he'll drop a fall via DQ, but he's willing to sacrifice one because he knows it'll work for him in the long run. Rude is a guy that's great at working at a snail's pace, and him just grinding Steamboat down because he has a comfortable advantage makes sense. He's got a pretty big bag of tricks when it comes to keeping lengthy holds interesting, too. The sleeper spot towards the end is one of the better extended sleeper spots I've seen, and that's in no small part due to Rude's effectiveness at keeping it interesting on his end. Rude's also a big fan of the spot where he and his opponent will fight over a Tombstone and we get a great one here. I've basically gone on about how good Rude is in this the whole time I've been talking about it, but Steamboat really is as good as you'd expect here as well. He's fired up when he needs to be, sells like you want him to sell, has a few awesome desperation spots, etc. There's a great moment where he's just tied the score and goes total Wrestlemania 3 on Rude, just bombarding him with quick roll-ups and pin attempts. This is basically everything I wanted it to be and held up as well as I was hoping. If the Steiners/MVC match is as good as I thought it was the last time I saw it then I'm about ready to tag Beach Blast '92 the best PPV ever.
WCW 1992 Project