Sunday, 25 May 2014

Lawler v Mantell x 2

The Loser Leaves Town studio match is sandwiched in between the No DQ and Barbed Wire matches on the Memphis set, but even though the LLT is dated as a week after the no DQ I think the LLT happened first. Maybe it was an issue with air dates and taped dates. I watched the LLT first, anyway.

Jerry Lawler v Dutch Mantell (Loser Leaves Town) (3/27/82)

Dutch's promo and challenge to set this up is great. He hates Lawler from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head and Memphis isn't big enough for the both of them, so he wants a match for all the marbles right there on TV -- winner gets the belt and the loser buys a bus ticket out of Memphis. Lawler of course accepts, and Lance is Lance in making it seem like a huge deal. "On TV? Are you crazy?" Match itself has a real feeling of unpreparedness to it. In big matches sometimes you get the sense the participants have had time to work out a gameplan. Sometimes they appear tentative, like they're sizing things up or waiting for the opponent to play into that gameplan (that sounds like something from a kayfabe documentary or some shit but whatever). This isn't that. This is just pure adrenaline, on-the-fly punching the shit out of each other and both look exhausted after five minutes. It's the kind of exhaustion you get when you're sitting there minding your own business, just having a beer watching the ball game and the next thing you know you're in a bar fight. They've just walked into this and it's been balls to the wall from the get go; they haven't been able to pace themselves. Lawler nails Dutch with an absolute corker of a punch here as he's coming out the corner; one of the best I've ever seen him throw. Dutch is also great at getting himself in position for the spot where Lawler will get a running start on the floor and pop the opponent half hanging out the ring. Mid-match bullshit with Dutch rules. He feigns sincerity and wants to team up now, because why should he and Lawler beat each other's brains out when they could both go after guys like Hart and the Midnight Express? Lawler is hesitant at first, because why wouldn't he be? but Dutch talks him around. And then bang. Lance: "Aw, c'mon. Dutch!" Lawler was great as always here, but Dutch carried this, from talking Lawler into accepthing the title/LLT stip in the first place, to realising he might've made a mistake, to conning Lawler into buying into his truce, to taking advantage and beating him senseless. Then to top it off he walks away with Lawler's belt. Memphis was maybe the king of taking an angle and match and putting it together into one seamless package, and this is an awesome example of that.

Jerry Lawler v Dutch Mantell (No DQ Match) (3/22/82)

This was #4 on my Memphis ballot, and on re-watch it was every bit the top 5 match I remembered. Lawler comes out the blocks swinging here and Dutch has no answer to any of it. Lance drops the classic "Lawler is usually a slow starter" line, but Dutch stole his title and Lawler is in no mood to fuck around. First five minutes are all Lawler. He throws Jerry Lawler punches and at one point almost catches Dutch out with a sunset flip. Then Dutch grabs a chair and fucking javelins is at Lawler's leg, and if that isn't just about the best transition spot in history then I don't know what is. I'm not sure if he meant it or not (Lance wonders if he never tried to launch it at Lawler's face...), but Dutch goes after the leg either way. He only really focuses on it for a few minutes (though he does go to it as a cut off after a brief Lawler comeback), but it's alright because he drops it in favour of smashing Lawler's face into the ring post a buncha times instead. This was some Austin/Angle Summerslam '01 shit right here. I mean, fuck, Lawler will fearlessly fling himself face first into ring posts. Dutch also blasts him in the teeth with a wild chair shot (he swung it like you'd swing a baseball bat, basically, and Lawler barely protects himself on it). I actually thought Lawler's comeback looked like it came a bit too easily, which is weird considering he's probably the best comeback guy ever. I mean, after six or seven postings, a chair shot to the face and a piledriver, it felt like he just kind of went fuck it and that was that. Normally he'll milk the shit out of it before dropping the strap. Not that the crowd never lost their mind anyway, but still. Like, if this was Michaels kipping up in the same situation then you know be outrage. But fuck all that because the last few minutes are amazing with both guys lighting each other up and Lawler getting revenge with a chair shot of his own. Mantell pinning Lawler clean as a whistle shocks every person in that arena as well. When the biggest complain of this match is that the big comeback spot didn't feel quite as well built to as other big comebacks from the master of the babyface comeback, you know you're onto something pretty great. This might be a top 20 match of the decade for me.

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