Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Eddie & Tajiri v Haas & Benjamin! x2!

Eddie Guerrero & Tajiri v Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin (WWE Smackdown!, 5/22/03)

Well, if this match does one thing, it reinforces that Eddie Guerrero was fucking awesome. If it does another thing it...well, this is an outstanding TV tag, and probably one of my favourite tag matches ever. When I first watched it however long ago I remember being blown away by Eddie reversing a leg sweep into a headscissors, and every time I've seen it since it still blows me away. He hits another headscissors on Haas at one point while springboarding off the top rope and taking Benjamin over with an armdrag. At the same time. He really brings the offence early, then he plays FIP after a cool transition sequence (Benjamin giving the assist on a sunset flip by hitting a blockbuster off the second rope was badass), and he's even better at fighting from the bottom. Seriously, this is a hell of a heat segment. He tries to hit the frog splash and goes flying into Benjamin's knees, and from there he has his midsection worked over. There's a couple spots where he really tries to fling himself across the ring to make the tag. Haas manages to cut him off both times, the second time drilling him hard with a nasty spear/takedown. Sometimes guys will try spots like those and you can tell that the heel was supposed to make the cut off, but the first time Eddie tries it here it does not look like Haas was expecting it (so credit to him for reacting, I guess). Tajiri is killer coming in off the hot tag, blasting dudes in the face and back of the head with kicks, hitting handspring elbows and looking vicious. For such a small guy, he feels like one of the deadliest ass kickers in wrestling history. Eddie continues to fucking rule it by selling the midsection all the way until the end. Not enough guys continue to sell the workover after the hot tag. Eddie is not most guys. His hiptoss that takes both him and Haas over the top rope looked insane, too. Finish is one of the best "Eddie lies, cheats and steals" finishes ever -- maybe the best. I love everything about this match.

Eddie Guerrero & Tajiri v Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin (WWE Smackdown!, 7/3/03)

Thought this was a step down from the previous match, but it's still pretty fuggin great in its own right. That match had Eddie as your offensive dynamo before playing underdog babyface; this has him as your hot tag/apron guy, and well...dude is a fucking awesome hot tag/apron guy as well. Some of his apron shtick is incredible. At one point he manages to extend the tag rope so he can stand square in the middle of the apron and shout stuff at Benjamin, and I have no idea what he did but I LOVE that spot. Hebnar turns around and tells him to keep hold of the tag rope, so Eddie shows him that he's already holding it, and Hebnar looks at him like "What the fuck..?" Crowd are 100% behind him the entire match are are itching for him to get in there, so they lose it whenever he comes in to make a save. Habnar has told him to stay on the apron about six times already and then he pulled that stunt with the tag rope, but what is he supposed to do, just stand there? Crowd know that he's getting more and more pissed and are waiting for him to let loose. He comes in, boots Haas in the head (or was it Benjamin? They look so much alike, you see. Which I'm assuming is why they persist on doing the switcheroo shtick behind the ref's back), sprints back onto the apron and holds the tag rope in the air for everybody to see. "Holding the tag rope! SEE?!" And the crowd come unglued and start a massive Eddie chant. Finish to this is actually clean, but it seemed a little mistimed and felt like half of an actual and finish and half of a set-up to the post-match angle, and I dug Eddie's horseshit for the finish in the first match more. How long did people boo Eddie for after this? A week? Two? Just give him the big belt already, shit.

I say shit like "if we were getting stuff like ________ today, I'd still be following current wrestling" a lot, but I know for a fact that if Eddie Guerrero was alive and wrestling in 2013, I'd still be following it right now.

They just don't make them like this any more.

Monday, 22 April 2013

I was Raised in Mid-South, I Been Working in the Town. I Been in Trouble Ever Since I Set My Suitcase Down

Rock 'n' Roll Express v Dirty White Boys (4/15/85)

So there's two RnRs v DWB matches that made the set. One of them is fucking awesome. This is not that match. This was decent and everything, but it was kind of run of the mill and that is just not going to stand out on a set loaded with as much good stuff as the Mid-South set is. Anthony complains about Morton grabbing the hair to take him over and the ref' has these hilarious "Wait...DID YOU PULL THE HAIR?!" reactions. White Boys pull the switcheroo shtick and the ref' looks around like "WAIDDAMINUTE!" Everything he does is so over the top and hammy; you get the sense he really wanted to be an actor in silent films growing up. Robert Gibson was in the ring for all about 90 seconds in this. He blows a headlock takeover the first time he's in, then post-hot tag he comes in long enough to have a belt wrapped around his throat for the finish, which, to be fair, he did take a nice snap bump off of. The May '85 match is where it's at with these teams, but this is hardly offensive to your eyes and there's certainly worse ways to spend 14 minutes.

Mid-South Project

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Yeah, AWA Month

Buddy Rose v Marty Jannetty (10/18/86)

First half of this is basically all Buddy Rose horse shit. So naturally I pretty much loved it. He takes powders to the floor, milks the ten count, asks for a time out, wants a handshake, etc. Then he sort of cowers in the corner and covers his eyes, like if he can't see Jannetty then Jannetty can't see him. This of course is all bullshit to sucker Jannetty in, and when he bites Buddy just heels him in the balls to take over. Marty is a complete bump freak in this, at one point taking a kind of Slaughter bump in the corner and hurling himself out to the floor. He doesn't bleed like a lunatic like he did in the previous tag match, and in general this doesn't have nearly the same heat and hate and violence, but it left me with a smile on my face. For a guy that was "past it" in 1986, Buddy Rose sure does look like one of the best wrestlers on the planet.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

AWA Month?

Midnight Rockers v Buddy Rose & Doug Somers (AWA, 8/30/86)

This felt like a mid-80s lucha hair match, complete with the technicos wearing white tights to accentuate the blood streaming out of their foreheads. And it was fucking incredible. After a brief opening spell where Michaels comes out ahead of Buddy on a few exchanges, Buddy distracts the referee so Somers can ram Michaels into the post, and from there on out things just get more violent and bloody and awesome. The heat section on Michaels is really amazing here. Shawn is bleeding everywhere and Rose and Somers are just punching and kicking and elbowing and biting him in the open wound. Michaels is staggering around selling the blood loss, and literally any time he throws so much as a punch the place comes unglued urging him on to make the tag. Jannetty is pacing up and down the apron like a caged tiger, and there's a great bit where Michaels is stumbling over with his hand out, but Somers grabs him as he's about a foot away and starts laughing at Jannetty before elbowing Shawn in the head. Michaels' punches look about as good as I've ever seen them in this, and he throws all of them with a sort of recklessness, like a bloody and beaten kid that is fighting for his life against two sleazy old pricks. He's half dead on the floor at one point so Buddy gets the ref' to put the count on him. Michaels manages to scoot back in the ring right before the 10 count, and Buddy has this amazing "oh what the FUCK?!" reaction. The hot tag to Jannetty is as good a hot tag as you'll ever see. Crowd goes absolutely fucking nuts and Jannetty comes in swinging like a maniac, launching Somers into the post a couple times to bust him open while Shawn crawls around on the floor selling his beatdown. Then Sherri gets up on the apron to distract Marty long enough for Rose to knee him in the kidneys, and that leads to the Jannetty in peril segment. He gigs himself and bleeds even more than Michaels and Somers, and he comes across as being even more wild and desperate than Shawn, throwing blind punches like he's just hoping to hit something, but ultimately connecting with nothing. At times he seems downright feral, lunging at Rose and biting him in the forehead. Jannetty makes the hot tag by basically being lucky enough to collapse in the direction of his own corner, and Michaels comes in STILL selling the beating from earlier. Every punch he throws looks like it's being thrown by a kid that's been to hell and back, but he's come too far to stop now. He'll keep going even if it kills him. Match breaks down when all four guys get in there and start (or refuse to stop) mauling each other. Ref' gets knocked down, then Jannetty takes a crash test dummy bump out to the floor and Rose drops him ribs-first across one of those non-folding chairs. Jannetty is rolling around like his spleen's been ruptured while Rose and Somers beat up referees and try to murder Michaels back in the ring. The match is obviously tossed at this point, so the babyface locker room hits the scene to run off Rose and Somers, but Michaels isn't done and takes another crazy leap onto Somers on the floor. Whole scene is complete chaos, and there's even some blood spatter on the camera lens. Just an exceptional match. And it's my new working #1.

Monday, 15 April 2013

And More AWA

Stan Hansen v Crusher Blackwell (6/28/86)

This was what you wanted it to be -- two surly beefies plastering each other and bleeding everywhere, kind of like what I imagine a Clay v Bobby fight in Sons of Anarchy would be. Stan goes into the post early and does this great drunken stagger sell, wobbling around outside the ring before stumbling back in, right into Blackwell's fists. Blackwell is about as broken down as you might expect a morbidly obese man that bumped like he bumped would be, but he'll still throw some awesome body shots and let Hansen hit him in the face a bunch. Hansen takes off his boot and drills Jerry with it, too. Like, this was one of the nastier boot shots you'll see. Then a referee tries to get involved and take Hansen's boot away, so Stan fucking kills him. Why would you even try that? Hansen's post-match promo rules as well, and I'm sad that this is the last Hansen match on the set. Pretty fucking good way to go out, though.

Curt Hennig & Midnight Rockers v Buddy Rose, Doug Somers & Alexis Smirnoff (6/28/86)

Maaaaaan, these six-man tags from this era are so much fun. I could watch an entire set full of Buddy Rose six-mans all day long. I loved the Bockwinkel six-man, and I thought this was even better. Rose's antics early on are great again, milking taking the robe off and then flexing after slamming Hennig a couple times. He also does his first super fast rope running sequence of the match where he gets some serious height on a backdrop. It's pretty amazing how a guy that's built the way he's built can move around with that kind of speed. You watch Michaels do it in '96 and it's impressive, but not necessarily unexpected. Dude is all cut up and actually looks like an athlete. You see the Ultimo Dragon trainees running the ropes a trillion miles an hour and it's impressive, but they all look like athletes. Buddy Rose is not exactly the most athletic looking guy in wrestling, but god damn is he amazing at rope running sequences. And well, if you didn't get that from the Hennig sequence, then you'll get it from the Michaels sequence a bit later that ends with him careening straight into a superkick to the chest. They sort of tease both Marty and Shawn going face in peril, then Smirnoff catches Hennig with a MEAN big boot right under the chin. Hennig is really awesome as the FIP here, and he seriously looks like one of the very best wrestlers in the world at this point. He worked WAY stiffer in the AWA than he did in the WWF, and once again he's throwing some GREAT punches. There's a bit before the hot tag where he and Somers are just teeing off on each other in the corner. He'll also take a potatoing right back, and holy shit does Rose smash him in the guts with some brutal running knees. I don't think I'd ever seen Alexis Smirnoff before this, and he isn't great or anything, but he has a painful looking falling headbutt to the cheekbone and reels off a few corkers of big boots. All of the Blonds/Rockers interactions are clearly building to something big, and I am STOKED for the run of matches between them coming up. This just ruled.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Yeah, More AWA

Stan Hansen v Curt Hennig (5/31/86)

Well this was fucking tremendous, and definitely one of the best 10 minute matches I've ever seen. Before the match starts we get the pre-match greatness with Hansen destroying an injured Jerry Blackwell, then Hennig comes out and from that point forward he and Hansen just stiff the daylights out of each other. Match feels really reckless and unstructured, but it's reckless and unstructured in the best way possible. They're not just throwing shit out there willy nilly; it feels like an actual fight, and an actual fight really has no structure. Hennig's strikes have never looked better than they do in this. His punches land square in the jaw and temple (there's a close-up of Hansen trying to shift his jaw around during one of the moments where they aren't brutalising each other), his forearms and elbows look like they could cut you open, and at one point he hits a fucking mule kick out of the corner (didn't look like it connected great, but it was an awesome spot even for the idea of it). Hansen is of course Stan Hansen and fires back with what you'd expect. He might have the nastiest kneedrop in wrestling history, and he pulls his kneepad down and drops the knee right across Hennig's throat. There's a bit where Hennig is trying to force his shoulders to the mat for pin attempts, so Hansen just headbutts him in the eye. Hennig will score a flash nearfall off a cross body, so Hansen will chuck him to the floor and slam him across a row of seats (THAT fucking ruled). Hennig will then come back and punch Stan in the eyeball, and it's all just brutal and beautiful. That is the story of this match. Hennig throws absolutely everything he has at Hansen and Stan keeps finding himself on the ropes. He probably wasn't expecting Hennig to come at him like this. He certainly wasn't expecting Hennig to be able to match him brutal step for brutal step. I mean...who can match Stan Hansen at that? And it rules. Last few minutes are about as good as I've ever seen in a TV time limit match in terms of building drama. They really capture the sense that both guys are going all out before the time is up, and not knowing the result beforehand I was super into it hoping Hennig could pull it off. I'll probably have this in my top 10.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

STILL on the AWA Kick

Mike Rotundo v Doug Somers (5/1/86)

This might be the best Mike Rotundo singles match committed to tape. It's not blow away great, but Rotundo doesn't have a ton of stand-out singles matches, anyway. The bar isn't THAT high. I mean, Rotundo's a guy that's a solid hand and does things mechanically well and is fine enough in the ring, but I just don't really...care. Like, my brother is in high school and I've been roped into going to a bunch of fundraising events over the last few years. Now and again they'll run some Pop Idol/Stars in Their Eyes talent show horse shit. You know how those things go. Some kid will come out and knock your socks off with a teenage rendition of 'Heard it Through the Grapevine' or 'Old Time Rock and Roll'. Something you weren't expecting. Rotundo is not that kid. Rotundo is the kid that sings Rihanna or Jessie J. Sings it fine and everything, but there's a million people doing Rihanna and Jessie J renditions. Most of them blend together. Some will stick out now and again, but for the most part, once you've seen one, you've seen them all. There's no real reason to care. Tonnes of people can "sing fine and everything," you know? I'd rather watch the white kid in blackface singing 'Boom! Shake the Room' or the group of dancers re-enacting the 'Thriller' video. Half the time most of them can't even dance, but that's what makes it good. They have no compunction about making a complete fool of themselves for a laugh. Few years ago I sang 'No Woman, No Cry' with a bald woman in some rathole karaoke bar. I can't sing for shit. But I have no problem making myself look like an idiot when I'm getting free beer out of it. Bunch of 15 year olds looking like numpties doing the 'Thriller' dance probably aren't even getting free beer for it (well, this is Scotland, so they might), so obviously I have a soft spot for that. If I had a say in who won a talent contest, I'd pick the goofiest act first. Then I'd pick the best. Then Rihanna would be last. This right here is Mike Rotundo's 'Heard it Through the Grapevine'. It's almost certainly the most fired up I've ever see him, and at points he manages to convey an honest to goodness sense of anger. He works the headlock early, and he can normally work a headlock like your Rihanna and Jessie J impersonators can sing 'Umbrella' or 'Price Tag'. It's fine and everything, but plenty of guys work a headlock fine and everything. This time he really cranks the shit out of it, though. It's about the most hateful headlock you'll ever see Mike Rotundo put on someone. Doug Somers has been a lot of fun on the set so far. He's a guy that I've enjoyed any time I've seen him, but I haven't really seen that much of him. Every Doug Somers match I've seen has been a tag or six-man where Buddy Rose is his partner, and well, there's only a handful of guys in wrestling history that can team with Buddy Rose and not look like "the other guy" in that team. That's really not a knock on Somers; it's just that Buddy is Buddy...he's just that good. I'm pretty sure this is the first Somers singles match I've seen, and he was fucking awesome in it. He tries to put a halt to Rotundo's headlockery by hitting him low with a forearm, but he does it in a really sneaky and nasty way so the camera can't catch it (to be fair, Rotundo sells it great). Then when he takes over for real he just beats the shit out of him. Everything he throws at Rotundo looks like it'd hurt like a bastard -- the punches, the stomps to the head, raking his eyes across the top rope, ramming his head into the apron, jabbing him in the throat...everything. Somewhere along the way Rotundo winds up with a gnarly gash above his eye, and it was one of those Finlay/Benoit/Regal things where it could've come from about 14 different things. Rotundo is trying to get back in the ring at one point and Somers just keeps booting him in the skull, so Rotundo grabs his legs from outside, drags him over to the corner and wraps BOTH legs around the ring post. That allows him to crawl back in the ring, but Doug cuts him off again by cracking him with a fucking AMAZING headbutt to the cut. The close-up of Rotundo afterwards is incredible, all bleeding and drooling with his face twisted up like someone threw water on an oil portrait. I've seen people walk out of bar fight in Motherwell in better shape. When Rotundo makes his big comeback you actually buy him being pissed and wanting to tear Somers apart, and good grief will Doug Somers HURL himself into a backdrop! Seriously, watch this set and tell me he doesn't have an amazing backdrop bump. Finish is really good as well, with Doug begging off and looking for a time out, cheapshotting Rotundo when his guard is down and throwing him to the floor, then trying the suplex from the apron back in only for Rotundo to shift his weight and score the quick pin. Shockingly good match that I had almost no expectations for whatsoever (which might've helped it in the end). People should've stiffed Rotundo into getting pissed off more often. Never in a million years did I think I'd write this much about a Mike Rotundo match.

Buddy Rose, Doug Somers & Col. DeBeers v Nick Bockwinkel, Brad Rheingans & Steve Pardee (5/31/86)

Yeah, I fucking loved this. Once again Buddy is just a master at getting people riled up, and I really thought he was the star of this. He does all his usual great shtick pre-match, correcting the announcer on his weight (he's 217, not 271!), slowly taking off his robe to a chorus of jeers, asking Bock for a one-handed push up contest, etc. When Bock bends over and tells him to kiss his ass, Buddy takes a wild charge and swing and ends up getting tossed to the floor. They do a bit where DeBeers takes a slingshot into his own corner and squashes Buddy's hand against the turnbuckle, so Sherri kisses his hand and some guy in the front row chucks a whole cup of beer at Buddy. Buddy's look of "what a fucking prick" is just outstanding, and for the next few minutes he actually milks having a cup of beer thrown at him (spitting as if some of it got in his mouth, wiping beer off himself, generally looking disgusted). I thought Bock was awesome in this, too. His babyface character is basically the same as babyface Ric Flair, where he'll cheat and make no bones about it, but he's still a scholar and a gentleman at the end of the day. He'll pull the hair, the ref' will ask him if he pulled the hair, and he'll straight up tell him yes. You won't see him wielding a barbed wire baseball bat shouting "I'll fucking kill you too, bitch!" at Melina. That would be uncouth, and certainly no way to treat a lady (how fucking psycho was Flair around that '06 hardcore run, btw?). You will see him poke someone in the eye if it'll gain him an advantage. That's all sport at the end of the day. There's a cool bit where he throws Somers into the babyface corner and goads Buddy and DeBeers into the ring so Brad and Pardee can double team Somers, but Brad and Pardee are a little hesitant to do anything. This is Bock's bread and butter, he's been doing it for years, but his partners weren't born on that side of the tracks; they're not exactly used to it. "Oh I dunno, Brad. We could get in trouble for this." It's like they're planning on stealing a Freddo (25p for a Freddo? Fuck off), but they're afraid the shopkeeper'll turn around RIGHT as they're about to put it in their pocket. I'd probably rather they went with one longer heat segment than two shorter ones to REALLY get the heat up there, but that's a pretty minor complaint. This was a blast. And someone tell me there's a Buddy v Bockwinkel singles match out there. Please God, make that exist.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Still Watching AWA

Midnight Rockers v Buddy Rose & Doug Somers (4/20/86)

Well this was just WAY up my alley. This set has had some really great tag wrestling on it, but this match has 3 of my favourite (and I'd argue that they're 3 of the best) tag wrestlers ever doing all the things I love in my tag wrestling. The heat segment on Michaels feels pretty abbreviated and kind of keeps this from being truly high end, but what we got felt like three quarters of a great match, and knowing what's still to come from this feud, I am perfectly fine with that. All the pre- and early-match bullshit fucking ruled here. Rose cuts off the announcer and tells him he weight 217 pounds, not 271, and Sherri tells him she's a manageress, not a valet. Then Buddy does the one-handed push ups and nip up and challenges Jannetty to do the same. Jannetty plays along and does both handily. Then Michaels gets in, does a backflip off the top rope, and challenges Buddy to do that. Buddy goes up top once, thinks about it and comes back down to psyche himself up. Then he goes back up top, but Shawn starts jumping on the ropes in the opposite corner and Buddy winds up getting crotched on the top rope. When they actually get to the wrestling Shawn and Marty control things by working the arm. Buddy Rose is not a slim individual, but holy shit can he run the ropes like nobody else. He does a rope running bit with Michaels and he's hitting each set of ropes like you'd see Shawn himself do later in his career, then he whips himself into an armdrag coming off the ropes at six hundred miles an hour! It looked fucking killer. Buddy and Doug take over after Buddy slingshots Shawn into the corner and Doug elbows him in the eye, and face in peril Shawn Michaels is definitely my favourite kind of Shawn Michaels. With more time to build we could've had ourselves a hell of a beatdown, but about 10 minutes in (to the match, which was only about 4 minutes into the beatdown) he makes the hot tag to Jannetty. Finish was perfect in that it had Buddy swiping Jannetty's legs while Jannetty was up top and Jannetty taking a nasty crotching (payback from earlier?), but not so perfect in that Shawn decided to jump Buddy on the apron rather than breaking up the pin right in front of him. But whatever, this was huge wads of fun and I cannot wait until these guys start hating each other to death and bleeding buckets.

Rick Martel v Harley Race (4/20/86)

I'm a bit conflicted. In some respects this kind of felt like two guys "doing stuff" for 15 minutes. But everything they did looked great, and if you're willing to accept it as a battle of two former world champions going right for the jugular, then this was a hell of a match. I mean, almost 15 minutes of guys going back and forth isn't my cup of tea, but they pace it really well and the transitions are good and it never quite gets into "your turn/my turn" territory...so I guess this is one of the better matches of its ilk that I've ever seen. Martel has been a total star on this set, but this was the Harley Race show. He throws some amazing headbutts here, including an awesome "fuck you" headbutt right to the nose off a clean break. He takes a couple huge bumps out to the floor. He busts out a bunch of great offence, like a shoulderbreaker (after Martel missed an elbow drop, which I thought was pretty cool) and a big back suplex. Harley is someone I'd been down on for a while a few years back, but I've enjoyed the majority of Race matches I've watched ever since the Texas set came out in 2011, so maybe it's time for a re-evaluation. Honestly, he's 43 here and isn't moving around like the guy he's in there with is 13 years his junior. Martel actually hitting his slingshot splash in a big match had me popping as well, because I don't think I've seen him do that once. There's a lot of "Martel was better than Steamboat" talk that's come out of this set. I'm not sold on that being the case (the gap is really not that big, though), but I do think he was the better offensive wrestler and better at working holds in interesting ways, so I guess a match loaded with big time offence like this is a fitting way to cap off his run on the set.

Buddy Rose & Doug Somers v Leon White & Jesse Hernandez (5/1/86)

Aw fuck this was great. Buddy is just ridiculously awesome here and I can't imagine someone watching this and not getting a kick out of his antics. Match is basically all about Buddy and Somers being run over by Leon while trying to come up with ways to take him down. They all fail. Buddy spits on him and tells him to kiss his ass, so Leon is pissed and wants a piece. Buddy charges him with a shoulder tackle and gets floored. Somers comes in, charges him with a shoulder tackle, same result. They both charge him with a shoulder tackle, both get floored. Crowd eat this up like you'd hope. Buddy goes a different route and tries to take him down with a top wristlock, but Leon is too strong and just chucks him off. Somers comes in, goes to the top wristlock, gets chucked off. BOTH go for a top wristlock, both get chucked off. Crowd eat this up like you'd hope. Then Buddy takes his nutty through the rope bump where he lands on the back of his head on the concrete, and the crowd eat this up like you'd hope. Whole opening spell with Rose and Somers stooging around is just awesome and pretty much a perfect example of how to get a crowd rocking. I don't think I've ever seen Jesse Hernandez before, but you, I and everybody else can tell he's enhancement talent based on his ring gear alone. When he gets tagged in Rose and Somers isolate him immediately, and this is exactly what they needed to crack the code. The key isn't to take Leon down, it's to go AROUND him. Go after the jobber, not the linebacker. Finish is fucking great. Buddy has been riling Leon up the entire match, so lil' Vader is like a caged bear now that he's stuck on the apron. Buddy and Somers will draw him in, then they'll double up on Hernandez while the ref' tries to get Leon back out. Buddy walks up and slaps Leon across the face, and that's all he can take, chasing Buddy around ringside while Buddy tries to throw furniture around as roadblocks. Back in the ring Hernandez has no one to save him, so Somers hits his suplex (which is his finisher...kind of a weak finisher, granted, but a finisher nonetheless) for the win, and to add the cherry to the cake Rose jumps back in and hits an elbow drop just because. Ton of fun.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Still AWA

Nick Bockwinkel v Larry Zbyszko (2/23/86)

As an overall "segment" this is only about 8 minutes long. Bell to bell I don't think it goes even 4 minutes. And it completely ruled. Zbyszko is amazing in the pre-match, complaining about the ref' and refusing to compete unless they get a different referee out there, then tossing the "up yours" when he gets his way. Crowd absolutely detests him and the match hasn't even started yet. Bock comes running out and jumps him, and for the next few minutes he just beats the living shit out of Larry while the crowd erupts. He chokes him with electrical chord, stiffs him with forearms, and Larry takes an insane bump out to the floor off a dropkick. In practically any other match ever that would be the craziest bump of the match, but a couple minutes later the ref' fucking DIES off the nuttiest ref' bump you've ever seen. I mean, this referee is tiny and he gets fucking hurled through the ropes and I don't know how he didn't break his neck, because he lands head first on the concrete. Larry winning by crotching Bock on the ropes with his one and only offensive move of the match gets riot level heat, and Bock is already looking as great as an ass-kicking babyface as he has as a heel.

Stan Hansen v Leon White (3/13/86)

Well shit. I figured this would be good, but I didn't expect to come out of it thinking it's a top 15 contender. And well, there's some great looking stuff still to come, but this was awesome and sitting in my top 10 right now. It's not quite as slugfest-y as one or two of the matches from Japan; Leon's eye doesn't get clubbed out its socket, but they still hit each other like they are who you think they are. This is built more around body part work though, and it's some great body part work, especially from Hansen. Leon controls early by working a headlock, and he really WORKS it. He even does a fucking step over into a cartwheel before dropping down and going back to the headlock at one point. He really cranks and squeezes it, and Hansen always looks like he's fighting to get out of it. He'll grind his forearm across the bridge of Leon's nose and just kind of try and grab bits of his face to rip at. When he takes over he grabs a nasty wristlock, then he starts bending Leon's fingers and that leads to the awesome FINGER WORK segment. Hansen is just a nasty bastard here, trying to rip Leon's fingers apart, stomping on his hand and smashing it into chairs and ring posts. Finish is the sort of unhinged brutality that a bunch of your classic Hansen matches have. Leon charges him in the corner, but Hansen moves and Leon flies into the turnbuckles, and as he's bouncing back out Hansen fucking drills him with an absolute crowbar lariat. It wasn't quite on the level of his lariat to Kobashi in '93, but it wasn't far off. This was excellent.

Friday, 5 April 2013

More AWA

Rick Martel v Terry Gordy (August '85)

Ok, cards on the table, I must not have been paying a whole lot of attention during the intros, because I don't remember hearing that this was a TV time limit. Maybe if I did hear that then before long I'd have guessed they were working towards a 15 minute draw...but I didn't. With the benefit of hindsight I can see why people figured they were working to the time limit, but when it finished my first thought was that this was a great first 15 minutes of what would've been an awesome 20-25 minute match. Gordy is maybe on the back foot for a bit too much of it considering he's Terry fucking Gordy and just, like, punch him in the face already, but Martel's a guy that's great at varying and working holds while he's in control. Gordy eventually takes over with a big sidewalk slam, and he goes back to that three times as a way to cut Martel off. When he tries it the fourth time Martel flips all the way around and out of it, and from there he starts to make his comeback. Final minute or so is really heated, and I wish we got to see a no-time limit version of this, because it looks like a hell of a match-up. I dug this a lot.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

More AWA Ramblings

Butch Reed & Larry Zbyszko v Bob Backlund & Brad Rheingans (4/21/85)

I really dug this a bunch. I've spoke about it before, but Butch Reed would be my favourite wrestler of all time if Eddie Guerrero never existed, so I'll pretty much enjoy anything he's involved in no matter what, but I honestly thought he and Zbyszko were a pretty awesome heel unit in this. There have been a lot of good regular tags on this set so far, and a few great ones, but I've never gotten the sense any of the heel teams have really tried to whip the crowd into a riot the way the some teams would in Mid-South or Memphis. There's been good heeling, no doubt, but nobody has seemed to really go rampant with the cheating or act like COMPLETE assholes (in the regular tags, anyway. Kaissey and Blackwell in those cage matches are a different story). One some level this might be about as close to a Midnight Express mugging to this point. Zbyszko busts out all kinds of great offence here, including a wicked swinging neckbreaker, a shoulderbreaker that Backlund sort of took on the top of his head (like a headbreaker, then...maybe?), nasty Dennis Condrey-esque kneedrops in the corner, and he and Reed roll out a swank double slam. There's a bit where the ref' is trying to get Rheingans back onto the apron and Reed and Zbyszko are choking and stomping and raining down knees on Backlund in the opposite corner. Felt like something you'd see Eaton and Condrey do to Ricky Morton; all that was missing was a Cornette. Reed works a couple cool bearhug spots with Backlund here. First time he puts it on, Backlund cocks his fist back like he's gonna pop him, but Reed squeezes tighter and Backlund drops the arm. Then you see Bob slowly trying to get his own arms inside Reed's to break the grip, eventually managing it and hoisting Reed up into a bearhug of his own. Reed gets out of it by just headbutting Bob in the nose, and when Reed goes back to the bearhug a bit later Bob finally breaks it by headbutting him right back. Backlund as face in peril is a role I'm not used to seeing him in, but he was really good here. His take of a Reed clothesline is goofy, but he always looks like he's trying to tag out and he's a guy that will never sit idly in holds, so things like the bearhug or a chinlock don't feel resthold-y. Rheingans isn't in there much, but he hits a nice gutwrench suplex on Zbyszko and really cranks a headlock early. I actually wish he got to do more once he got the hot tag, and Bob coming back in so soon after being beat on for 10 minutes was a bit of a letdown, but I've dug Rheingans any time he's shown up on the set. I'll probably be a/the high voter on this, but I'm a shameless Butch Reed mark and I liked this a ton. So fuck it.

Crusher Blackwell & Sgt. Slaughter v Sheik Adnan Kaissey, Masked Superstar & King Tonga (Cage Match) (4/21/85)

So going through this set, it's become pretty obvious that Jerry Blackwell is one of the all-time great "big men" in wrestling history. As far as morbidly obese bump machines go, I think there's an honest to goodness case that he's better than even Vader. He's also the motherfucking God of cage matches. This isn't quite as wild and insane as the two Blackwell cage matches that are my working #s 1 and 3 -- it's worked more like a standard tag/handicap match that happens to be in a cage. I like the out of control violence and carnage of the other two more, but the Reed/Neidhart v TA/II cage match from Mid-South was worked like a standard tag that happened to be in a cage, and that's practically a "desert island" match for me, so it's not like I'm completely opposed to the concept. And it's not as if they don't still use the cage well, anyway. Bill Eadie/Masked Superstar might actually have been my favourite guy in this. Like Backlund as face in peril, Eadie isn't a guy I think of as a stooge machine, but man was he fun as a bumping stooge here. Blackwell and Slaughter ping him around with punches in the babyface corner, and Eadie winds up almost doing half a Flair Flop into the cage, bouncing back off and splatting down on the mat. He and Blackwell had a singles match the previous month that ended after a double clothesline, and they play off that again with another awesome double clothesline spot. Tonga was pretty great in this as well, winging a few badass kicks right under the chin, biting open wounds, falling on Blackwell with an awesome headbutt, and at one point he takes a loony no-hands bump straight into a side of the cage. Both Slaughter and Blackwell take a turn being worked over, and I love how great Blackwell is in the role of face in peril considering how amazing he was as a heel a couple years before. He takes a face-first splat into the cage and pinballs all the way to the opposite side of the ring. A man that's built like he is should not be able to do the things he does. I mean, you don't get as many psychotic Blackwell bumps in this as you do in the previous cage matches. In a sense I guess that's taking away maybe his biggest asset, but the guy is a really good face in peril and fired up babyface, so it's cool to see him fight from underneath and start USA chants from the apron. Finish might be the best finish on the entire set, as Jerry Blackwell is a 400+ pound man and he absolutely KILLS Adnan with a fucking splash off the top rope. Seriously, that shit was insane, like a Volkswagen Beetle being dropped off a forklift on top of someone. Hell of a match. Feels like more of a top 30 match than top 10 to me, but I've enjoyed a lot of stuff on this set a TON, so that says more about the quality of things I prefer than anything negative about this match. And again...that finish. Good golly Miss Molly, that finish.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

AWA Set Ramblings

I'm trying to get back into the swing of things with the AWA 80s set right now. I've been able to finish every other one in time to get a ballot in and I don't plan on stopping with this one! I'll probably talk about a bunch of this stuff in the next few days/weeks/whatever. Maybe.

Mr. Saito v Curt Hennig (3/28/85)

Okay, so, does Mr. Saito rule or what? I've been watching the Saito matches on the AWA set recently and he has been fucking great in everything, to the point where I want to dig out the New Japan 80s set and watch every Saito match on it again. He was totally kingsized in this, doing all sorts of stuff you see in a million pro-wrestling matches but only way better than most pro-wrestlers ever do them. He really snaps into armdrag bumps with amazing speed, which looks awesome considering he has 12 necks and is probably made of granite (seriously, what an absolute brick shithouse Mr. Saito is. And not some roided up HGH brick shithouse, either). He throws a couple great hiptosses in this, and it's not the first match where he's done that. Hiptosses tend to look like moves where the guy taking them is flinging himself around for the guy doing them, but Saito really tries to launch you when he does them, and because he throws you forward as opposed to upwards it looks like he's actually using momentum to carry it out. He starts out the match being schooled by Curt, so he pulls a Fuerza and offers up the handshake because he's really a nice guy and he can appreciate the ability of a young wrestler. And well, nobody is buying it and they know exactly what'll happen if Hennig accepts the handshake. But after every exchange Hennig wins, Saito congratulates him and offers a handshake, and once or twice he even bows in acknowledgement. Maybe he IS really a nice guy. Hennig finally accepts the handshake and it takes Saito approximately quarter of a second to boot him in the gut. Curt was pretty awesome here as well; he was probably as good in the match as Saito, it's just that I'm on a Saito high so I'm marking out for the stuff he's doing more than I am for the stuff Curt's doing. Your garden-variety nerve hold is something that can look SUPER crummy when neither the applicant or recipient is willing to work in it, and I'll be honest, if Saito didn't look like he could rip a phone book in two with his bare hands I wouldn't really be buying this on his end...but Hennig totally makes up for it by fighting out of it from the bottom. He screams like it actually HURTS, and when he manages to make it to his feet he stands up on his tiptoes to try and use his height advantage to alleviate the pressure. And then he punches Saito in the face to break it. Good grief the punches. This had fucking AWESOME punches. One of the common talking points about AWA Hennig going through this set is that he threw great punches and it sucked that he never did/got to do any of that in the WWF. And really, he threw great punches in the AWA. I'm a guy that doesn't really have any issue with over-the-top bumping in my pro-wrestling, but in the WWF Hennig would get a bit too cartoony with it even for me. Crazy bumper, but maybe a bit too goofy. It seems the goofiness might've been something he added when he got to the WWF as well, because he takes a fucking LUNATIC corner bump in this where he flies about 8 rows deep off a missed shoulderblock, and there was nothing cartoony about it. Final couple minutes rock, with Hennig rolling Saito up in two perfect sunset flips for nearfalls that I 100% bit on (thought for certain the one out of the corner was the finish), and Saito drilling Hennig with an absolute corker for a punch at the end (and then he puts his feet on the ropes just to be sure). I thought this was great, and it's just outside my current top 10 (54 matches in).