Figured it was time I dusted this off again. I've barely watched any wrestling at all over the last few months, but I finished disc 1 of the All Japan 80s set this morning and finally finished the first disc of the 1993 yearbook, so I might be getting back into the swing of things.
Jumbo Tsuruta v Dick Murdoch (2/23/80)
- Noice start to the set. Thought the first fall was a really good "laying the groundwork" fall that set up some interesting "plot points". Jumbo is like a gnat at a barbecue that just won't go away, and Murdoch has these great toothless grimaces and signs of frustration at not being able to do anything without Jumbo grabbing hold of his arm and yanking away at it. Mostly feels pretty "70s" with the matwork, but I dig 70s style matwork and there was some great instances of it here. Love Murdoch's mini-piledriver from a seated position when Jumbo tries to escape a headscissors. Second and third falls build on each other, but neither of them last more than 5 minutes, which doesn't really do the initial 17 minute fall justice by giving it the big payoff it deserved. More people need to take a page from Dick's book and just start punching people right in the fucking neck. Man Murdoch is the greatest. Finish is cool as well, and pretty unexpected to boot. I don't think I've ever seen that kind of submission/pinning combination before.
Dick Murdoch v Jumbo Tsuruta (3/5/80)
- Holy shit is Murdoch the fuggin' MAYNE. Tonnes of great Dickie moments in this, like CRANKING on this nasty looking armbar while punching Jumbo in the kidneys, begging off into the corner so he can kick Jumbo in the nuts (don't think you actually see the kick, but Jumbo sells being hit in the balls), the trademark "just got my teeth knocked out" selling, etc. Murdoch was a little more aggressive in the first fall here than in the first match, pretty much adopting Jumbo's strategy of going after the arm. I probably enjoyed the opening fall of the first match better, but I'm leaning towards this being the better match as a whole. Things felt way more niggly here -- they never flat out smacked each other in the face as much in the first one. Second and third falls are still fairly short, but I kind of felt like they were more "complete" as opposed to being left wanting a little more. They also play off some ideas from the first match, like the neck work and one guy maybe getting a little too aggressive in the second and third falls. Another really cool finish here as well. I'll wind up re-watching some stuff at the end when I'm trying to come up with a ballot I'm relatively happy with, but at this point I'm thinking I'll stick both Murdoch/Jumbo matches side by side, because I don't think there's much at all between them.
Jumbo Tsuruta v Dick Slater (5/1/80)
- This is definitely on the re-watch pile. I've tried to watch it five times in the last week and four of those attempts failed because I was either too tired (I usually watch this stuff at night before I go to sleep), or because of some distraction that took me out of the match completely. Last night I stuck it on again and then some other shit happened about half way through and naturally I got distracted. But I figured if I didn't finish it last night then I never would, because that's just how the world works. Besides, I was a big fan of this a few years back, so it probably deserves a proper watch. Plenty to like about it even if one is only half paying attention, though. Slater does lots of little Terry Funk-esque things (some of his facial expressions, some touches he adds to his selling) and really hurls himself into an over the top rope bump, which looked way crazy. He also comes into this with a big bandage over his eye, gets some big face heat, and there's a great moment where he's trying like an absolute motherfucker to make Jumbo submit to a spinning toe hold while Jumbo repeatedly boots him in his bloody eye just to shake him. I imagine I'll like this a good deal when I get around to giving it a proper watch.
Giant Baba v Harley Race (9/4/80)
- I thought this was fine enough, but not anything that'll finish high at the end. Race is your touring NWA Champ and is clearly working as NWA Champ coming into the "territory" to make the local guy look as good as possible. As a result he basically bumps around and eats a ton of Baba's offence for the duration. Some of it feels a little contrived, though, and it's really one-sided, especially given the finish/result. Still, I tend to kind of like Harley bumping around in general (not really a Race fan but if I can dig anything about him it's that), and he takes a few really nice ones here. Baba's chops look about as good as I've ever seen them in this too, and so do his big tomahawk things to the forehead (really looks like he's putting a lot of force behind them, jumping off his feet and coming down with a big swing of the arm). There's one moment where Harley just seems to toss out a piledriver as a transition which seemed sort of stupid and out of nowhere - and probably a decent example of why some folks aren't Harley fans in the first place - but for the most part this struck me as really solid-if-unspectacular stuff.
Giant Baba v Harley Race (9/9/80)
- Much better rematch; fairly short, plenty intense. Harley jumps Baba right at the bell this time around and his early flurry of offence lasts longer than basically the entirety of his offence in the first match. He still works most of this from the bottom, bumping around, bleeding, eating all of Baba's offence, but you get the sense this one's a little more even and that Race has a point to prove after losing the belt the last time out. Run to the finish is good here as well, with Baba busting out everything he did in the last match, except this time Race keeps managing to hold on. Finish seemed a little weird initially, but the more I think about it the more I kind of dig it. Thought this was bordering on really good stuff.
Ricky Steamboat v The Sheik (12/9/80)
- Pretty sure I've seen this before, probably on the Steamboat set. This is likely a bottom of the barrel shot for me, but I always get a kick out of Steamboat losing the rag and trying to stab someone. Whole match is more or less both guys trying to stab each other, actually. They bleed, they stab, they bleed some more, etc. Sheik doesn't look as menacing as an Abby or Brody, but it's pretty awesome to see him stumble around like a zombie trying to grab hold of a fan while everybody scatters. Him trying to bite the ref's face was also terrific. Match itself goes about 5 minutes, but then there's the post-match with Steamboat continually trying to maul The Sheik while Sheiky tries to climb up the balcony, either to get away from Steamboat or so he can scare some more people. He succeeds in both regardless, so I guess it's a win-win. I'm a fan of crazy out of control brawling. This was crazy out of control brawling 101. Not necessarily *awesome* crazy out of control brawling, but crazy out of control brawling nonetheless.
Billy Robinson v Nick Bockwinkel (12/11/80)
- Hell of a match; felt like a real struggle the whole way through, nothing necessarily tricked out in terms of matwork, but everything is fought for and some of it seems like an early 80s All Japan equivalent of Battlarts. There's an especially awesome fight over a figure-four towards the end where they're both twisting and cranking at each others' legs in order to create some kind of opening or reversal. Also gotta love Bock getting fed up being on the losing end of mat exchanges and just slapping the fucking taste out of Billy's mouth (even though it was technically Billy that "struck first"). Most impressive thing to me is probably the fact that it goes half an hour and there was never any point where I felt like they were getting "exhibitiony". They even do a stand-off spot that actually felt organic, which sort of blew my mind. And holy shit does Billy have an awesome, super-speedy little roll up in this. I was as surprised as Bock seemed to be when he pulled it off. Just great stuff all around and the first match (pending a re-watch of Jumbo/Slater, I guess) that struck me as a good shout for the overall top 40. Granted, this is the first disc and I've been way off on things like this more times than I could count, but still...this was the shit.
Terry & Dory Funk v Giant Baba & Jumbo Tsuruta (12/11/80)
- So I thought this had its moments, but I definitely didn't think it was anywhere near as good as I thought it was when I last watched it. Terry's pretty great the whole way through and has some really good exchanges with both Jumbo and Baba, but Dory just kind of floats along and rarely does anything I find myself taking notice of. I like how he'd casually sidestep a dropkick, like such shenanigans are beneath him, but there's never any point where it seems like he actually *cares*. About anything. His expression never changes, even when they run an in-match angle towards the end where Terry sacrifices himself to save Dory and Dory has to fend off both Jumbo and Baba. Terry is selling the motherfucking shit out of this by convulsing on the floor before fighting his way back onto the apron so he can make the hot tag, all fired up like a lunatic shouting for Dory to reach the corner ("I'M HERE FOR YOU, DORY!"), but as much effort Terry puts in to making it seem like a big deal...you just don't get the same from Dory. You don't really get the same from Baba and Jumbo either, which is a shame considering how hard Terry's trying to get this over, but Jumbo is at least good at getting pissed off and chippy. I've written in the past about how Dory getting this rep as a great "technical wrestler" that was better than Terry confused me, and this isn't about to change my mind. Honestly, I'd put Terry *so* far above Dory it isn't even funny. Match goes about 45 minutes and has some nice stretches with one team in control, but on the other hand there's an awful lot of stuff that just meanders and isn't very interesting at all. And the finish is kinda crap to boot. Probably bottom 10.
Ricky Steamboat v Jimmy Snuka (6/3/81)
- So by this point in my tenure as a wrestling supernerd I've watched a decent amount of early 80s footage involving Jimmy Snuka, yet I still find myself surprised at how juiced to the absolute motherfucking gills he seems to be. Like, all the time. Steamboat is all cut up like Rambo as well, but Snuka is on another level. I thought he was pretty entertaining in this, though. I had seen it before a couple years ago and remember coming away from it then thinking much the same, although I probably liked it as an actual match more the first time. And a lot of that entertainment came from Snuka doing something goofy and mildly unnecessary, so maybe it was entertaining for the wrong reasons? Who knows. He's got some awesome Randy Savage-esque facial expressions though, all zonked out and crazy like. There's a great moment where he starts biting Steamboat's forehead and comes up sneering with his teeth all covered in blood. He's quite the bump machine too, although some of the bumps were pretty silly -- he takes a running over the top rope bump post-match that was hilarious. His face plant off of a fucked up springboard was also spectacular. Steamboat is Steamboat and is always going to do something at least worthwhile, but for the most part it's Snuka that I find myself being most interested in here...for better or worse. Steamboat snapping at the end and trying to choke Snuka to death was pretty cool, but I don't recall anything happening beforehand to necessarily warrant him chopping Higuchi in the head. Bottom half, most likely.
Ricky Steamboat v Mil Mascaras (8/22/81)
- I was still half drunk when I watched this so I guess it could do with another go around at some point down the line, but I liked it either way. First fall was really nifty; lots of neat stuff on the mat and there wasn't any point where I thought it was too exhibitiony. Thought it was really cool that they never threw a single strike the whole time. Didn't think the second and third falls were as good as the first, and the finish is kind of cack, but this was totally inoffensive pro-graps that had some nice highs. Maybe it'll come off even better when I can see straight. I have the whiskey shakes right now too so I'm not writing anything else.