It's a momentous day. If you'd told me five years ago when I started a blog that it'd still be going in 2015 and I'd have written 400 entries for it I'd have laughed in your adorable face. I mean, only about ten people actually read this, but fuck it. To celebrate such an occasion I watched a few of my favourite matches ever. This might be the most positive entry Whiskey & Wrestling has ever seen. Raise a glass, brothers and sisters. Drink deep this night.
Bobby Eaton & Sweet Brown Sugar v Dutch Mantell & King Cobra (Memphis, 7/19/82)
Fuck sake, what did Eaton do to Mantell? Dutch wants to get at him in the worst way and spends the first few minutes intermittently sprinting around the ring area trying to grab him. Did Eaton wax Dutch's back hair while he was sleeping? Apparently Dutch and Cobra have had beef in the past, and they do this great spot where Dutch accidentally pops Cobra with a punch, teasing some dissension while Eaton and Koko jump around like goobers trying to instigate a fight. Then Dutch and Cobra run across and punch the two of them all over the ring. Eaton and Koko are sooooo the greatest Midnight Express that never was (wonder how many times I've said that over the course of the last 400 posts). The heat segment on Mantell was fucking terrific in this. Obviously Eaton's only willing to get within eight feet of Dutch if he's sure Dutch can't punch his face, and when he's satisfied enough that that's the case, holy shit does he unload with the offence. Crazy powerslam, a Demolition-style assisted elbow drop off the second rope, awesome looking running clothesline, and there's one bit where he and Koko take turns dropping about ten elbows in a row while the ref' tries to keep a lid on Cobra. Koko is just working the absolute hell out of the apron here. I don't think he stays in the one spot for more than five seconds. At one point he runs over to the adjacent corner and climbs the ropes so he can shit talk Cobra and a section of the crowd at the same time. I thought Dutch yanking Eaton clean off the middle turnbuckle by fucking lassoing him was wild enough, but Koko absolutely hurling himself over the top rope to get away was truly insane. Just an awesome tag match.
Dick Murdoch v Afa (WWF, 10/22/84)
100% Dick Murdoch masterclass. He basically runs through every bit of shtick he has and it's completely fucking awesome. It's a total broomstick job. Like, Afa throws a few headbutts and no-sells getting hit in the head. That's pretty much...yeah, that's it. Everything else is Murdoch being God. He cowers in the corner the first couple lock-ups when he thinks Afa's about to hit him, then when it's his turn to break clean he takes a swing. Afa of course moves so Murdoch is on his knees in the corner begging for his life. Then he gets some distance and calls Afa a cave raider. "One more time, you cave raider! One more time!" You know, as if it's Afa who's pushing his luck. He has so many ways to put over Afa's granite-hard head. He elbows him in the head and sells his own elbow, blocks a headbutt with his forearms and sells the forearms, punches him in the head and sells the fist, headbutts him and lays himself out, then Afa throws his head into the turnbuckle and he stumbles all around the ring before falling outside. Then he voluntarily headbutts the turnbuckle a bunch of times to show that his head is hard as well and ends up knocking himself out. His punch drunk, face forward bump with his butt sticking in the air is amazing, like a Hanna-Barbera character who's fallen asleep standing up. The atomic drop sell is absolutely unreal. I couldn't do this justice with words, so I won't even try. He works the majority of the match from the bottom, but his spurts of offence rule as well. He throws Dick Murdoch punches, chokes Afa with electrical cable, then undoes a tag rope and chokes him with that as well. At one point he grabs a 40 from under the ring and bonks Afa on the head with it! His reaction to Afa being unfazed when he rams his head into the mat. Just...man. I'll stop now because I'd be here for ages trying to note down everything he does, but I loved all of it. I mean, you could probably say Murdoch made it all about himself and worked AROUND Afa rather than work WITH him, but Afa's rubbish so what can you really do, you know? Not a great match, but an out of this world performance and a perfect example of someone carrying a limited opponent by basically working the match around some strength of said opponent (or sole thing opponent brings to the table, since I'm not sure you can actually credit Afa complying with the 'Samoans have rock hard heads' trope as a strength).
Nobuhiko Takada v Shinya Hashimmoto (New Japan, 4/29/96)
Pretty much the perfect Tokyo Dome main event. Pretty much the perfect sub-15 minute match. Pretty much an incredible piece of pro-wrestling. Hashimoto is just the master at this kind of match. Everything he does builds drama, whether it's a stare, a grimace, or a kick that shatters ribs. He was phenomenal in this and it's one of his finest performances. Takada in this setting is a different beast from shoot-style Takada. Takada dogging it and lying around in kneebars can get to fuck, but this Takada is gravy. There's one bit where he kind of sits in a half crab and has the facial expression of someone flossing before bed, but other than that he was fairly unimpeachable in his role, and he does bring an air of legitimacy that fires the atmosphere into the clouds. I remembered this having more of a duel limb work story, with Hash going after Takada's leg and Takada going after Hash's shoulder, but I never noticed it as much this time. It was still there, but Takada's leg was more of a subtle piece of the story while Hash's shoulder was a centerpiece. Hash's selling of gradually being broken down by Takada's kicks was really something. Just about everyone in Japan for the last 10/15 years has tried to do the "gritting it out"/selling through toughness bit, but nobody has ever managed to do it like Hashimoto. Not a single person in wrestling history. This has a couple of my favourite spots from any match ever. Early in the match Hash catches Takada with a leg kick, and Takada does this amazing delayed sell of it to set up that little sub-plot (that's not one of the spots I was talking about, but it was awesome and sets one of those spots up). First spot comes when Takada has Hash on the ropes, literally, as he's peppering him with big shots while Hash tries to pull himself back to his feet. Takada won't let him out though and keeps swinging kicks, so Hash just blasts him in the guts and Takada crumples like he got lanced. Later on he has Hash rocking with kicks to the shoulder, the leg, body and head. He's going full pelt trying to put him away. He shoves him back a little to create a bit of distance, then he gears up for a big home run KO, but as he throws the kick Hash ducks down and just cuts Takada's standing leg in half with a low sweep kick. Crowd goes completely fucking ballistic. The brainbuster at the end looked like it compressed Takada's spine, and the pop for the tap out is exactly what the match had been building to. New Japan was undeniably Shinya Hashimoto's house at this point in time. It didn't really need confirmation, but I guess him having the big belt again provided it.
Eddie Guerrero v Big Show (WWE Smackdown!, 4/15/04)
I love this match to death. I love everything about it. It's maybe my favourite monster v underdog match ever, and I also think it's genuinely one of the best. Both guys were really awesome here. When I wrote about Show/Sheamus from HIAC 2012 a few days ago and I said that I never really thought of Show as a guy that managed to incorporate his size and general giganticness into a killer beatdown. Like, in terms of massive brick shit houses that can throw regular-sized people around like bags of potatoes, I wouldn't put him in the same bracket as Mark Henry. He was great in that Sheamus match, though, and he was even better in this. I don't remember him coming off as such an unfuckwithable presence before. It helps that Eddie was on some next level underdog babyface shit, but it takes two to make something this good. All of Show's arm work looked amazing. He hoists Eddie about eight feet in the air with an arm wringer and then holds him up there, applies a one-handed armbar while squeezing the rotator cuff with the other hand (his hand covers the entire shoulder), stretches Eddie out by wrapping him in a hammerlock around the turnbuckle bolt, drops massive elbows on the shoulder joint, headbutts the arm; just a bunch of awesome stuff. Eddie was as scrappy as I've ever seen him here. All of his hope spots where things you could see someone doing in a real fight against a massive man trying to pull your arm off. You can't do much when you're the size of Eddie against a guy the size of Show. You can't pick him up. You can't take him down. You can stomp on his toes, though. You can yank his chest hair out (THAT fucking ruled). Grabbing a wrench from under the ring and stuffing it in Show's boot as a distraction is such a cool Eddie Guerrero thing to do. Show is so great at pleading his case to the ref' as well. "That's not mine! I had nothin' to do with that!" Eddie unloading with a barrage of punches while Show's guard was down felt like Sting going fuck it and laying into Vader after being pummeled for ten minutes. Finish is great. Ref' gets bumped and Show grabs Eddie for the chokeslam, but Eddie kicks him in the plums and then drops him with a DDT and Frog Splash. I've watched a few corkers of WWE TV matches recently, but this might be the best of the lot. I'm not totally locked into the idea that it's the best Smackdown! match in history, but it is waaaaaay in the discussion.
Here's to four hunner more!