Thursday, 22 May 2014

Old AWA Set Stuff

I never finished the AWA set in time to get a ballot in. Shit, I never finished the AWA set, period. But I started watching it again a few days ago and came across some things I'd written from almost two years ago, mostly about the matches from the start of the set. I never posted them here at the time, so I'll do it now, twenty two months down the line.


Bobby Heenan v Lord Alfred Hayes (1/13/80)

Yeah, this was a super nifty way to kick the set off. Hayes has some pretty killer looking right hands, and the tricky Euro holds looked cool, which has more or less sold me on watching that other Hayes match that's online somewhere. I dug how this was basically two shitheads trying to outshithead each other. Hayes doesn't try to hide the fact he's cheating any chance he gets, but this is Heenan he's choking with his singlet strap and blatantly punching in the nose, so the crowd are all for it. Then Heenan returns the favour and they just tear into him. Heenan on top for a bit longer would've made me an even happier camper, but eh, what can you do? Surprised Heenan didn't bleed all over the ship or take at least one bump directly on his neck, but he KOs two dudes with the one chair shot in the post-match (fucking ruled) so I guess I'll take that as an acceptable trade-off. Can't imagine this cracking many top 50s (although I've watched all of the first two matches so far so I don't really know shit about shit), but I'm glad it got repped on the set and I doubt it'll be scraping the barrel at the end.


Big John Studd & Jerry Blackwell v High Flyers (2/210/81)

Brunzell is just about fucking with Kevin Von Erich for the 'Dude With the Best Dropkick of the 80s Project' award. Jerry Blackwell is pretty much unfuckwithable for the 'Fat Dude With the Best Missed Fat Dude Splash of the 80s Project' award. Those two are a couple guys I was really looking forward to seeing a whole lot of on this set, and this was a fine way to introduce them. This is probably the best I've ever seen Studd look, which doesn't seem to be something I'm alone on. He has pretty slow and clumsy looking elbow drops, but eats a big slam and crumples Gagne's spine with a nasty looking atomic drop, so I can deal. The way he stands around looking goofy at the finish is kind of...uh, goofy, but I did dig the way he just sort of stared at his hands like "WTF did I just do?" Final five minutes were really good and seemed plenty hectic. I get the sense there is going to be performances from everybody here other than Studd that'll end up blowing this away, but this is perfectly good, middle of the pack stuff.


East-West Connection v High Flyers (3/1/81)

I liked the Gagne/Super D v Heenan/Bock match more, but this is sitting #2 right now, and obviously my second favourite tag match on the set so far. Totally digging the double FIP structure of these tags as well. When I watched all of that 2002 WWE a few years back for the WWF/E Poll the Smackdown! guys did the same thing, only in a more "workrate-y" kind of way. In terms of guys doing a bunch of cool looking shit in that kind of setting, I'd much rather watch Adonis fly around like a lunatic than Angle suplex everybody 15 times (although I wasn't really getting the sense Adonis was just bumping like a nut for the sake of it here, which he did tend to do now and again). As surprised as I was by Studd's performance in the last match, I was even more surprised by how much I liked Jesse here. He's a guy I don't think I've ever actively liked for an entire match in the past, but this went around 20 minutes and I don't remember thinking he sucked even a little bit at any point. The spot where he just hoists Gagne up into an Argentine Backbreaker (is that what it's called?) like a ragdoll only for Gagne to use the ropes to flip himself back over and use that momentum to end up in a pinning situation was great. And there's an awesome Indian Deathlock spot between Greg and Jesse. Finish is what it is, but Jesse yanking both Adonis and Gagne over the top in order to both break the sleeper and possibly convince the ref' it was worthy of a DQ was a really fucking cool spot. And Brunzell continues to be awesome, dropkick and all.


Nick Bockwinkel vs. Pat O'Connor (3/22/81)

This was short and probably won't make it out of my bottom 30 at the end, but I always dig watching Pat do his thing (and it was hardly a bad match). He looked pretty fuggin' spry here (he's even older than Verne was against Bock, but I thought he was moving around like it was the other way around), and there was one takedown in particular that looked real quick and slick. Still, while I probably enjoyed Pat working opposite Bock in this more than I did Verne working opposite Bock in the 7/18/80 match, it was still Bock I kept finding myself drawn to. The way he grabbed this half-assed headlock after breaking the sleeper hold as if he was merely trying to keep a lid on things for a minute just so he could get his shit together was such a cool little moment.


East-West Connection vs. High Flyers (Cage Match) (3/22/81)

Well God damn, Adonis is THE motherfucking pinball bump freak psycho in this! He takes, like, four lunatic bumps in the ten minutes we get to see, and I'm pretty sure he's bounced his head into every side of the cage within the first two minutes. The missed dive off the cage at the end was completely spectacular and had me losing my shit, but that upside down bump in the corner was totally nuts as well. That shit'll tear your shoulder up in a hurry. I pretty much loved this. Adonis' bumping was definitely my favourite part (even if it bordered on silly at a few points), but Jesse held up his end well again and the Flyers continue to rule it. The vampire in me kind of wished we got a better shot of the blood, but that isn't really a complaint I can toss at the actual match. I'm probably going to end up overrating this because of Adonis' bumpfreakery, but fuck if I'm going to feel bad about that.


Nick Bockwinkel vs. Jim Brunzell (6/11/81)


So, again, I end up ask myself why I never really "got it" with Bockwinkel. I don't have an answer to it, either. Watching this first disc I get the sense we've barely scratched the surface with him on the set, yet I've already completely turned the corner on him. He just seems like a guy I absolutely should've dug long before coming around to him now. Well whatever, I thought this was a blast and featured my favourite Bock performance in a singles setting so far. Loved the leg work. The way he goes after a limb, he doesn't look like a pro-wrestler trying to slap a hold on another pro-wrestler -- he really roughs you up and gives everything a real raw edge. He's really Finlay/Regalesque in that regard, which again makes me wonder why I was never sold on him. Brunzell getting some payback by wrapping Bock's leg around the post is a great receipt, and the finish was pretty unexpected. Seriously, who has the better dropkick, Brunzell or Kevin Von Erich?


Adrian Adonis vs. Jim Brunzell (6/28/81)


Man, Brunzell is fucking awesome and this set is already worth the $45 just for turning me onto him. I've still got a couple singles matches to go on the disc, but I'll be surprised if this doesn't end up as my highest ranked singles after the first disc is in the books. Match kind of feels like it's split into two halves, with the first being the duelling body part work and the second being about both guys having a semi-extended run on offence after the initial spill to the floor (which kind of serves as the bridge). I suppose the body part work in the first half gets dropped in the second half, but Brunzell goes back to the leg almost in desperation enough times (like repeatedly punching Adonis right in the hamstring, which was awesome) to remind you it was a focal point earlier on. I did think the second half was a step down from the first, but on the whole I really dug this. And Adonis really looked like he was yanking at the tights at the end. No half-hearted cheating here.

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