Friday, 14 March 2014

"Just Remember: I'm the One Your Mamma Warned You About." -- Jake Roberts

Jake Roberts v Ricky Steamboat (WWF, Boston Garden, 8/9/86)

So I watched this match about four years ago for maybe the first time ever and totally loved it. Except I think got the date wrong back then. I'm not sure whether they were running this feud in Philly a bit behind where they were running it in MSG or other markets, but I think these two had been feuding for a few months by now (started at the 5/3 Saturday Night's Main Event when Jake DDT'd Steamboat on the floor and broke his head), yet this feels like a match you'd get early on in a series. Steamboat doesn't seem to want to murder Roberts here, but I'm pretty sure there were matches that happened before this where he comes out at the bell and goes crazy on Jake, you know, like Jake was a man that put him in the hospital. Fuck it, I don't know. This match is still the biscuits either way. I love all of Jake's early "blocking" of Steamboat's karate. Steamboat's karate always looked kind of crummy, but it was treated as a big deal and fans bought it as such, so Jake getting his arms up and neutralising it felt like a great game-plan. And the crowd was reacting like it was too, which is what really matters, I guess. Plus Jake does a bunch of slimy self-satisfied grinning and strutting because he has Steamboat's number. Monsoon and Hayes go on about it at length like a pair of senile old dudes in the home playing armchair quarterback. Steamboat eventually makes his breakthrough (dug him feigning to go high anticipating Jake's block, then going to the exposed midsection) and of course the place pops huge, and you see something like that and you realise how great Jake Roberts was at crowd manipulation. "Jake was a master psychologist" is one of those talking points that has been floating around forever and it's been repeated by smarks and wrestlers alike, but really, the guy just GOT this shit (said by the soon to be senile old dude in the home playing armchair quarterback). Second half of the match gets even better. Steamboat is building on offence and has Jake retreating, but he gets ahead of himself and karate chops the ringpost (accidentally, obv). Jake works it over for the next stretch, and Steamboat selling a body part and emoting is the best Steamboat of all. Jake is really awesome at working the hand/wrist in nasty ways, too. He bends it around the ring post, smashes it into the barricade, stomps on the fingers, wraps it up in the ropes, etc. Booking at the finish is a bit iffy, though. Steamboat seemed to get landed with that shit a lot. Like, how many times was Steamboat on the receiving end of a heels' visual pinfall while the ref' was bumped? Felt like a shitload. Still, this held up like I hoped it would, and it's the kind of match I could see having an outside shot at my top 10 when DVDVR get to the 80s WWF redo.

Jake Roberts v Randy Savage (WWF Saturday Night's Main Event, 11/29/86)

Gene does a pre-match promo with Jake where he quivers at the sight of Damien. Ventura: "Was Okerlund holding a microphone or a vibrator?" Vince says nothing. This is another match I've been a huge fan of for years. It's basically a ten minute sprint between two guys that will cheat and play dirty and make no bones about it. Early on they basically try and out-dickhead each other while going a hundred miles an hour, grabbing hair for leverage on headlocks, throwing cheapshots, etc. As the match goes on the crowd start to get firmly behind Jake, though. Jake doesn't necessarily behave any better as a result, but the longer it goes it's Savage who's the more likely to act like the asshole. He's also petrified of Damien and eventually decides to grab the bag and chuck him under the ring. The DDT had to have been one of the most over moves in the company at this point (I don't think any other finisher was getting its own chant), and I dug how they teased it a few times throughout the match. Savage in general was always great at getting over a sense of desperation, and he made it seem like avoiding the DDT was even more imperative than avoiding being strangled by an honest to goodness python (and he made that seem pretty fuckin' imperative). When he grabs Liz as a human shield, you wonder whether it's Jake or the actual snake he's more afraid of (which is why Savage was king). I'm not sure which Hebnar brother was reffing this (I think Dave was the chunkier of the two, so I'll go with Dave), but whoever it was takes two killer bumps at the finish. Second one was fucking spectacular as he practically almost piledrives himself onto the announce desk at ringside. Super fun match.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Touchin' Down in Memphis, Gonna Find Some Blue Suede Shoes

So it's been about three months since I've written anything for this thing. That's because I haven't watched shit in three months. But now I'm being told by a bunch of people to watch all these great Shield matches that have been happening, and so I figure I might want to ease myself into the whole pro-wrestling again before I do that. And Memphis has always been one of my go-tos for easing myself back into the whole pro-wrestling. So, Memphis:

Rock 'n' Roll Express & Bobby Eaton v The Moondogs & Jimmy Hart (Memphis, 7/25/83)

Seeing the RnR's and Eaton teaming together is a bit like listening to Fear of Music or Speaking in Tongues if you pretend that David Byrne never left to pursue a solo career and instead went on to front yet another insanely great band. A band that eventually would become the mortal enemy of Talking Heads. Managed by a real asshole like, I donno, Liam Gallagher or something. It's almost surreal seeing Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson on the same side as Bobby Eaton, but it's cool either way. I mean, this wasn't great, but it's like ten minutes long and look at who's in it. You know it's watchable. First thing I look for in a manager pulling wrestler duty is how ridiculous he/she looks during the match. Cornette would always look like a total goober with his gigantic pasty diaper straitjacket thing. Remember when Heenan teamed with the Islanders at Wrestlemania 4 and he wore a fucking K9 training suit and looked totally outrageous? I haven't seen a match that Jimmy Hart actually wrestles in in forever, but I think I can remember him always looking like a real numpty with his ring attire. Pretty sure he'd always change it up a bit to fit with his partners for the evening as well. He's teaming with the Moondogs here, so he comes out wearing dungarees that are all cut up at the bottom and he looks like a meth cook that Boyd Crowder blew up in a caravan. I'm a firm advocate of that sort of behaviour. Whole match is basically built around one of the babyfaces getting a shot in on Jimmy while Jimmy tries to stay as far away as possible. So you know how big the pop is when he runs face first into a Bobby Eaton left hook. And it's kind of worth it just for that.  

Koko Ware v Tommy Rogers (Memphis, 10/27/83)

Koko Ware might be one of my ten favourite wrestlers ever at this point. I've probably written that before, but I drink a lot and don't remember. It's no less true, though. He was the biggest surprise of the Memphis project for me (I knew Lawler and Dundee were good, just not quite HOW good (I've probably written that before, too)), and I even had this in my top 30 for the set. Rogers is another guy that's fucking awesome and an all-time level babyface, but he looked kind of off at points here and this really felt like a showcase for Koko Ware's surliness. Does he have the best brainbuster ever (probably asked that before)? He doesn't hit a single dropkick in this (he might have the best dropkick ever, and I KNOW I've written that before), but he does hit two brainbusters, both a bit different, and both super nasty looking. First one drops Tommy all awkward on the side of his head, and the second one looked like it'd break his spine with the way he almost overshoots it initially (like he's going for a regular vertical suplex before thinking "fuck it, I feel brainbustery"). Rogers can't take all of Koko's surliness and tries to slow things down by going to toe holds, which I guess makes some sense, but wasn't that compelling. How could it be when there are other periods of the match where someone is actively being dropped on their skull from several feet? Eventually Koko kicks Tommy in the head some and Rogers gets the bigger picture, so no more toe holds. Then we get a rubbish ref' bump and the finish is...well, what can you do? I'm not even sure you can call any wrestler "underrated" at this point, because there's bound to be a few circles in a corner of the internet somewhere advocating any wrestler you can think of, and I know Koko and Rogers have been pimped, but if nothing else these guys are really great at the pro-wrestling and way better than a TON of guys that have a bunch of praise heaped on them. "Koko B. Ware was just a chubby dude with a parrot and Tommy Rogers was a poor man's Ricky Morton." Yeah, well, so's your ma.