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).