Buddy Rose v Rick Martel (Portland, 4/26/80)
So I'm working my way through the awesome AWA 80s set right now, and I've just reached the point in that set where Rick Martel has clearly hit the level of a truly great wrestler (basically when he wins the World Title in '84). I mean, it's not like I thought he sucked before that. He didn't. It's just that he's on a set where Jerry Blackwell is launching himself face first into a cage every other minute and Jim Brunzell is hitting the greatest dropkicks ever and Nick Bockwinkel is being fucking GREAT in general, so Martel wasn't standing out quite as much. But then there was the Jumbo match and the amazing Bockwinkel matches, and now Rick Martel is right there with your Jerry Blackwells and Jim Brunzells of the world. This is from four years earlier, but fuck if he doesn't totally rule it here, too (to the point where I suspect I was selling him short for thinking he never got REALLY great until '84). Of course, so does Buddy Rose. Martel is a guy that's really awesome at body part selling, and most of this is built around him having his leg torn up. I don't want to get lost in hyperbole, but his sell job here really felt like one of the best I've ever seen. Buddy works it over for the duration of the first fall, and there's a great bit where Martel hits an atomic drop by planting Buddy on the bad leg before crumpling up in a heap. Buddy's sell of it on his end is Rick Rude levels of great, and Rick Rude is pretty much the God of atomic drop selling, so it's a doubly great spot. Martel tries to push himself up and out of a leg scissors, and Buddy lifts up his forearm, shows it to the ref' so he knows it's legal, and clubs Martel right in the kidneys. I thought that was cool as shit, and it's the kind of neat stuff Buddy ALWAYS does. When Martel comes back out to the ring for the second fall he's still hobbling, moving in to lock up really gingerly and trying to keep Buddy away from the leg. He takes over when Buddy goes to wrap the leg around the post and Martel just grabs his head and smashes that into the post instead. He starts working over Buddy's back at this point, and as great as Martel is at selling the leg, Buddy isn't far off with selling the back. He goes to slam Martel at one point and ends up clutching his own back like he just separated discs. When Martel works him over he always looks like he's struggling, never moving quite right or being able to put full weight down on the leg, and I love him hitting a backbreaker by dropping Buddy down across the good leg this time. Finish with Buddy bolting to the back after having the mask/wig pulled off would've been a fine non-finish on its own, but the crowd fucking LOSING it adds at least 4 and a half stars. Also need to show some love for Frank Bonnema on commentary. He's not quite Lance Russell, but I think when DVDVR put out the Portland set people will dig him. He's been pretty great on all of the Buddy Rose/Portland stuff I've been watching, and he certainly doesn't prattle on like a Rod Trongard. Anyways, this seriously fucking ruled.