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.

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