The first couple discs had their moments, but looking at the listing for the entire set I get the sense they'll be two of the "weaker" discs. Disc 3, however, was great and TERRY FUNK and STAN HANSEN are THE PRO-WRESTLING, MOTHERFUCKER. The top end of my ballot changed pretty regularly going through this disc, too.
Ric Flair v Jumbo Tsuruta (6/8/82)
- Liked this better than the first match and is currently my #4. Jumbo is rocking the plain black trunks like he would for the rest of his career and generally seemed like a guy ready to step up and win the belt, which isn't really the vibe I got in the '81 match (although it isn't something I can really explain). Thought the first 15 minutes were decent enough, but more middling than anything else and I was about ready to be disappointed with this match (it's the only Flair/Jumbo match I hadn't seen before). Then things pick up huge and the second half is pretty fucking great. Flair's figure-four spot in this gets CRAZY heat with the "TSU-RU-TA" chants. Jumbo's rolling out a bucket load of stuff to put him away and the crowd are biting on pretty much all of it. They do a piledriver on the floor spot that was pretty unnecessary in that it was basically blown off straight afterwards, but it does lead to a great double count out tease that I thought for sure was going to be the finish. Really strong second half makes up for a first half that I thought was kind of disappointing, and I'm assuming that'll be enough to keep it in the upper third.
Mil Mascaras v Jumbo Tsuruta (7/30/82)
- Well this wasn't what I was expecting. It did start out like I figured it would with them working the mat, and I was kind of digging that part. Mil refusing to be put in a Boston crab was cool as shit and what they were doing was keeping me interested enough (this is the most I've enjoyed Jumbo's matwork so far -- I haven't really found him to be compelling at all in that respect before now). Then their inability to create any sort of advantage gets the better of them and they start slapping each other around, and that leads to them spilling to the floor and trying to gouge each others' eyes out and shit. Jumbo bleeds big time, there's MASK RIPPING, and a bunch of trainees (including Misawa) try to separate them both while Jumbo keeps bleeding everywhere. Match gets thrown out at this point but they eventually manage to talk the ref' into letting them restart it, and as soon as he does they just start punching each other in the face some more and Jumbo's getting everything all covered in blood. Everything before the riot breaking out was fine, but the restart is what shoots this up a bunch of spots.
Jumbo Tsuruta v Harley Race (8/1/82)
- I enjoyed this quite a bit more than I expected to. I watched it late last night when I was pretty tired, and I figured I'd go to sleep right after it...if I didn't fall asleep half way through. The first half or so was fine enough, but then Jumbo gigs himself and Harley starts headbutting the open wound, and well that gave me a second wind that carried me through half of the disc! Match from the point of Jumbo's blade job on is really good stuff. I'm not much of a Harley fan and Jumbo hasn't really set my world on fire up to this point, but I thought this was the strongest Race performance so far and the last few Jumbo matches have started hitting the sweet spot. Finish is sort of weak, but it's at least clean and did catch me off guard. Jumbo's running lariat takedown thing was fucking awesome looking in this, btw. Harley takes a killer bump off of it as well.
Terry Funk v Stan Hansen (9/11/82)
- Well this was really good stuff, naturally. Out of control, lots of great punches, stiff as shit, ring girls getting wiped out because YOU CAN'T TAME THE WILD ANIMALS, Hansen absolutely killing a substitute referee with a lariat, so on and so on. These All Japan crowds are just nuts every time Terry shows up on this set. Actually they're nuts any time Stan shows up as well, but Terry is getting extraordinary babyface heat that the top natives have been unable to match. Only instance (up to this point) of Jumbo getting the kind of reaction Terry gets is down the stretch of the second Flair match. Baba/Hansen was nuclear but that was as much Hansen as Baba. No other babyface is getting these kinds of reactions. Terry launching a chair over his head (while facing the crowd) and Stan catching it and hurling it back while Terry is looking for another chair to fling is enough to propel this into the top 10. Everything else keeps it there.
Harley Race v Giant Baba (10/26/82)
- Maybe I just caught this at a reeeealy good time, but shit, I thought it was shockingly enjoyable. I mean Baba/Race is not a match-up I'm a fan of. Their second match on this set is (or was, rather) my favourite of all their matches and that's probably gonna be in my bottom fifth at the end. Basically, I was not looking forward to watching this. And well, I wouldn't call it a great match by any stretch of the imagination, but the early stuff never made me want to lean on fast forward, and I'll be damned but I totally dug Harley in this. He eats Baba's big boot like a king, does this falling headbutt off the apron to the floor that looks like a plunge into oblivion (thanks in part to the camera angle), takes another great bump off a running lariat takedown thing (I don't actually know the name of it), eats a totally unprotected ringpost bump head-first, and his diving headbutt at the end is just about the craziest diving headbutt I've ever seen. It's like he's piledriving himself from the top rope onto Baba's face. I've got this at #7 (!!) right now and I'd be utterly shocked if I don't wind up liking it WAY more than... I don't know, everybody?
Terry Funk v Bruiser Brody (12/7/82)
- I was really interested in seeing how this would hold up, because it's always been my favourite Brody match and at one point I probably would've had it in my top 10 favourite matches, period. I don't think I'd still have it *that* high, but I did still love it and can't imagine ever finding a Brody match I like more (and despite the fact I really don't care for Brody, there's a few matches involving him that I do like a lot). I'd *maybe* go to bat for his performance in this being the best he's ever given, but that'd require more thought than I'm bothered about giving and...well fuck all that because this is still all about Terry Funk being a fuggin' BOSS. Brody doesn't seem as bothered about taking a great deal of the match and actually bumps around and sells quite a bit more than usual (his sell job of Terry's low blow is probably the best piece of selling I've ever seen from him), but he works on top for roughly the first half and it's Terry's performance working form the bottom that's really spectacular. Brody just goes around kicking him in the ear and Terry stabs himself in the eardrum or something because he bleeds like a fucking freak. He convulses and sells the shit out of this and he is just covered in blood. Then comes the low blow and eventually he takes over by grabbing Brody's head and, after building up about 20 feet worth of speed, rams his head into the post, breaks a table over his back and starts jabbing him in the chin. Crowd is going crazy at this point and when Hansen hits the scene there's a clear "oh man, shit is about to go down" reaction. What's great is that he doesn't get involved right away, so Brody and Funk get another few minutes to go at it. Eventually he does step in, which was always going to happen anyway, and then Dory shows up and it's time for another riot. Terry hurling chairs in the ring like a psycho is a top 3 moment of the set. So is Brody getting Dory to stop punching him by pulling his t-shirt over his head and Dory continuing to swing wildly even though he can't see anything. Fuck it, this is my new #1.
Stan Hansen & Bruiser Brody v Giant Baba & Jumbo Tsuruta (12/9/82)
- This had a hot crowd and there's a GREAT moment where Jumbo does something to piss off Hansen and Hansen stares at him with complete contempt, but it didn't do a whole lot for me otherwise. They did a bunch of stuff and I guess the pace never really lulled, but it felt choppy and never had much structure or discernible story to it. Hansen is God, though.
Giant Baba & Jumbo Tsuruta v Harley Race & Dick Slater (12/13/82)
- Slater is a guy that I generally find pretty disappointing, but I had seen this before and remember thinking it was one of the more enjoyable performances I had seen from him. I wasn't really digging the stuff early on (which is something I've always kind of had a problem with when watching early 80s AJ), but things soon pick up and Baba starts playing FIP (!), and this shoots up a bunch of spots on my list. Really liked Harley and Slater unloading with a stack of offense, and Baba makes everything look nastier just for the fact he's so lanky and...well, you know how he is -- he's a big awkward dude with a square body and if you lay into him enough it'll start to look like he might be in serious danger of actually dying. The miscommunication spot between Harley and Dick leading to the finish looked pretty telegraphed, but at least the finish is clean. Mileage may vary depending on how much enjoyment you can get out of Baba.
Genichiro Tenryu v Kerry Von Erich (4/7/83)
- Tenryu working Kerry's claw hand was boss (more Von Erich opponents on the TX set should've worked the claw hand). Would've liked Kerry to have sold it as a bigger deal, although him just yanking Tenryu into a headlock and stretching out the fingers as some respite from Tenryu repeatedly stomping on his hand was a cool piece of selling. There's nothing about this that I thought was bad, and unlike some matches I'll probably put above it, it actually held my attention the whole way through (I suspect Tenryu's presence had something - or a lot - to do with that), but for the most part it was all pretty basic and inoffensive stuff that doesn't catch fire other than a few instances. Basic is fine. I like basic. But I know what's to come on this set and "basic and inoffensive" won't cut it.
Terry Funk v Stan Hansen (4/14/83)
- This was really tremendous stuff and the first match that feels like it could land in my top 20 at the end. I mean Jesus Christ these two are just MADE to wrestle each other. This starts out slower than their last match in that they're both clearly tentative, whereas before they just went peddle to the floor and tried to kill each other right from the jump. They circle each other, Terry throwing little jabs as if to dare Hansen to get in close while not wanting to make the first move himself. Of course Hansen picks his spot and manages to sneak in a slap, and Terry's look of "motherfucker...I swear to God" while Hansen has this cocky grin on his face was TOO glorious. Hansen controls most of this, generally by beating the ever loving shit out of Terry, while Terry fires back with brief flurries of offense. Crowd loses its absolute mind ALL THE TIME. It's a perfect dynamic. Hansen is an out of control freight train of violence and hatred. THIS bastard cannot be killed. Terry is insane and does not give two fucks. He's too proud, and probably too stupid, to stop fighting even though what he's fighting cannot plausibly be fought. Stan Hansen will have to kill Terry Funk before Terry Funk stops fighting. Terry Funk has no problems dying as long as he takes Stan Hansen with him. THIS IS THE BEST PRO-WRESTLING EVER. Match is already through the roof, but when Terry starts going for the spinning toe hold things shoot up to eleven. Hansen is doing everything in his power to keep Terry away from his leg, but Terry just keeps coming and coming and will not be denied. Hansen breaks the first attempt by punching Terry directly in the eye and that leads to a punch drunk Terry bleeding all over Stan every time he goes back to the leg. Stan is covered in Terry's blood by the end. Terry could not care less and is DETERMINED to break Hansen's leg. He's a Funk and he WILL spinning toe hold the shit out of you no matter how often you crack him in the face. Doesn't matter if it's a smart move or not, it's just what he does. Would a shark stop trying to eat your limbs if you kept kicking it in the face? Well I've never been attacked by a shark so I don't know for sure, but I'd assume the answer is 'no'. Great moment where Hansen shoots him in for the lariat only for Terry to drop down at the last second and go right back to the spinning toe hold. Then Higuchi gets bumped to the floor and MORE Hell breaks loose. First Hansen picks Terry up and drops him nuts-first on the top rope, and Terry's sell of this is just otherworldly, running into the crowd like a rhino that's...I donno, like a rhino that's just been hit in the balls. Hansen then grabs the bull rope, wraps it around Terry's neck and literally starts dragging him around the floor before hanging him over the top rope. I have never seen anybody sell this spot like Terry does. I mean this is just morbidly amazing. It honestly comes across less like two pro-wrestlers carrying out a pro-wrestling angle and more like one man legitimately trying to inflict death upon another man. At this point Dory hits the scene dressed like Waylon Smithers and actually manages to clear Hansen off, and if the match hadn't been thrown out already then I guess this served as the "end". Post-match Terry is stumbling around half dead covered in blood, and there really are no words. Number one and Hansen might wind up being my favourite wrestler ever after all of this.
Terry & Dory Funk v Stan Hansen & Bruiser Brody (4/20/83)
- God damn Terry is great in this. Dory plays FIP for a spell and it's fine and everything, but Terry getting the hot tag and everything from then on out is where it's at. As soon as the tag is made he goes right to town on Brody's leg, and there's a great moment where he batters the knee with Brody's own boot. Terry winds up blindsided not long after this and that leads to him playing FIP for a while, and Terry is just so much more compelling in that role than Dory. I thought the non-finish was pretty deflating here, more so than just about any other up to this point. The fact it's a non-finish doesn't bother me, because I was expecting that anyway; it was the timing of it that bothered me. Felt like it was really starting to get good when it ended. That said, Terry saving Dory from being lariated out of his boots by diving at Hansen's legs and spilling out to the floor was a great spot. Both guys rolling around on the floor, covered in streamers and punching each other in the face was so awesome. Disc 3 has been by far my favourite disc so far, and there's a lot of stuff in this (Terry Funk) that'll push it up past some of the earlier stuff.
Jumbo Tsuruta v Bruiser Brody (5/26/83)
- Brody "working holds" for 20 minutes is not the Brody I want to see. I mean I generally don't want to see much Brody anyway, but I've actually had very few problems with him on the set so far. Not surprising that this and the second Dory match are my two least favourite Brody matches on the set, since both have long spells of shitty-at-worst, pedestrian-at-best matwork. This kind of environment is way too civilized for Brody to be interesting. Well it's civilized until the end when they both bleed and Jumbo starts choking him with a chain, but the blood wasn't flowing like a hideous river and thus didn't appeal to my vampiric nature like the second Brody/Dory match did. Both matches were pretty fucking dull, but I'm ranking them on a bloodletting scale and this is a distant second. Which means it's going low, brother.