Sunday, 22 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #11

Nick Bockwinkel v Chavo Guerrero (Houston Wrestling, 2/25/83)

This isn't the best match that's comeout of the NWA Classics service, but it might be the coolest find to me personally. Even the idea of a Bockwinkel/Chavo match is awesome; like a dream match I'd never even thought about before. This is non-title and more of a set up to a probably-excellent title match, but it's a great set up. Story going in is that Bock refused to give Chavo a title shot because he hasn't earned it. This is Chavo's chance to prove himself.  Bock is in smug bastard mode early on, breaking clean with a smile like this is about to be a walk in the park, then taking Chavo over with a couple hiptosses and a body slam. Chavo comes back with some hiptosses and a slam of his own, and I loved how he really threw Bockwinkel to the mat off the slam as a pretty clear "fuck you." Bock gives Chavo a ton in this. Like, other than the opening hiptosses and slam he fights almost the whole match from below. I guess you could argue he maybe gave a bit TOO much, but I thought it worked given the story of Chavo being out to prove himself/Bockwinkel taking him too lightly and paying for it. Chavo works the arm for the majority and it's all pretty great. Both guys are really good at working holds so it's never static (btw, Chavo Guerrero is a god damn offensive dynamo for 1983), and the segments where they come up for air and Bock almost manages to regain advantage are often terrific. There's one segment that kind of fucking blew my mind. Bock grabs Chavo in a bodyscissors, more in an attempt to contain Chavo for a little while as he shakes his arm out and tries to recover from the previous arm work, reeling back and using his weight to lift Chavo up off the mat and slam him back down again. He tries that a second time, but Chavo's hip to it and manages to use his own momentum to escape, instantly running to the ropes. He comes back and Bockwinkel has his legs up for a monkey flip, which Chavo takes, landing on his feet, and as Bock gets up he's instantly taken down with an armdrag. Bock kicks Chavo off from his back, but Chavo is already on his feet before Bock, so Chavo takes him back over with another armdrag. Bock kicks him off again, Chavo gets up quicker, Bock is taken down with another armdrag. The third time Bock kicks him off he manages to get back to his feet quicker, but Chavo does a nip up and Bock ends up walking straight into yet another armdrag, and this time Chavo keeps hold of him as he goes back to wrenching on the arm. It might not sound spectacular reading about it, but it was an incredible sequence if for no reason other than how picture perfect the execution was. The finish was great as well, and I loved Boesch's "he may have him here!" call of it. Actually I loved pretty much everything about this. These guys are absolute money and I hope the gods of wrestling geekdom are kind enough to give us the title match. 

Friday, 20 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #10

Midnight Express v Lanny Poffo & El Bracero (Houston Wrestling, 1/13/84)

You don't really need any more evidence as to why the Midnights were fucking awesome, but well, here's some anyway. This was only the second MX match to take place in the Houston area, against Poffo and Bracero who nobody really buys as having a shot at winning, and yet the crowd is nuclear and rabid for the Express to lose, like they've been acting like giant assholes here in Houston for ten years and not ten days. I think this Sam Houston Coliseum footage has solidified the Midnights as my #1 tag team of all time. They were always in the discussion, but man those guys were something else. Bracero is a short little lucha dude that has a bunch of neat little rolls and spins that he uses to flummox opponents. There's a Bracero/Tully match from 1981 up on Classics and it's like five minutes long and basically a Tully squash, but Bracero was just a ton of fun doing goofy stuff and moving around in weird ways to confuse Tully (and of course Tully was great at playing "what is this guy even DOING?"). He does that here and Condrey is especially funny in his reactions to it. I think I should watch more Lanny Poffo. He's someone I always like when he shows up, and he has a bunch of neat stuff to roll out. He does the bit where he has Condrey in a headlock and as Condrey tries to shove him off into the ropes Lanny just grabs a handful of hair, which of course the crowd eats up (and Condrey's reaction to it is great). Condrey and Eaton pinball around some and I could watch them do it all day, then they bail to the floor to regroup while Lanny and Bracero are doing backflips in the ring. I think it's about time I got my mitts on that Midnight Express comp.

Butch Reed & Ernie Ladd v Terry Taylor & Sonny King (Houston Wrestling, 7/6/84)

I'm always happy when Ladd footage shows up. He's big and gangly and pretty awkward in the way he moves, but it's understandable since he probably has less remaining knee cartilage than Ledley King. He's game though, and his awesome legdrop across Taylor's back looked killer. He was also responsible for some neat "little things" moments as well, like reaching up out of a headlock to try and grab a hold of some hair on the bald head of Sonny King. Old habits die hard, I guess. Reed was kingsized with his cheating and cheapshotting, choking Terry across the ropes, Tenryu-style kneeing him in the kidneys from the apron as Terry runs the ropes. He really reveled in the boos as well and even did a few Mr. Wrestling II-esque jigs to soak it all up. He also takes his headstand bump and really went above and beyond to make King look like a serious ass kicker (like sliding out the ring and falling flat on his face after a punch flurry). I'm not as down on Taylor as a lot of people that watched the Mid-South set even if he is pretty bland, but he felt like the least interesting guy in this. Really good match.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

1996 Yearbook Stuff (Han, Ikeda, Ishikawa, Ono's hair)

Volk Han v Masayuki Naruse (RINGS, 10/25/96)

This rocked. It's the kind of thing that people who're otherwise cold on shoot style could dig, because it has a pretty clear and discernible story to it. Naruse is eager and full of fire, but Han is Han. He is unbreakable, unflappable. Naruse literally somersaults free when Han tries to twist him into a submission attempt, but as awesome as it looks and as much as the crowd love it, Han is unperturbed. He'll keep doing his thing and eventually he'll catch Naruse in something you can't flip out of. Except Naruse keeps coming, and he even catches Han in the ribs with a palm strike. Then he catches him with a backfist. Han dismissively dumps him over the ropes with this amazing "just fuck off already" look on his face and picks up a yellow card for it, so Han is down to his last point. Naruse only needs to force one more rope break - or score another knockdown - and he's won. But Han is Han. I out loud said "look at that!" when Han catches him in the shoot bow and arrow, and part of me wanted Naruse to make it that extra inch to grab the ropes, but a bigger part knew he was already doomed. Han as this shoot style end boss is the perfect description. If you grew up on Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat or whatever then you'll know what it was like to get M. Bison or Shao Kahn's health down to a bare slither only for them to pull it out at the death. You were so close, but in the end what difference did it make? You'd just have to start over, anyway. That was Naruse. So close, but so far.

Yuki Ishikawa & Alexander Otsuka v Daisuke Ikeda & Takeshi Ono (Battlarts, 10/30/96)

What a fucking match. This felt like the best possible amalgamation of this kind of shoot style with US/southern tag psychology (with no downtime at all). Ikeda and Ono are an absolutely spectacular pair of bellicose cunts, constantly interjecting to break up submissions any time the other looked to be in any danger whatsoever. Ono has always been a belligerent shit, but his Vietnamese girl bun makes him look even more obnoxious. He's dangerous, though, like a skinny back alley fighter who takes on bare knuckle bouts for food scraps, then ends up laying out the whole police division sent to shut it down. Every Ishikawa/Ikeda exchange is exactly what you want out of these two. They punch each other in the cheek, throw headbutts with an audible *thud*, try to pull each other's limbs off, the whole lot. Otsuka is at his best chucking folk around and he dumps people on their head a bunch. There's one amazing bit where he can't take Ono's horse shit any longer and comes in like he's about to fucking murder him (and of course Ono taunts him even more). You can actually see Ishikawa and Otsuka getting more and more fed up with the apron interference throughout the match. They're not opposed to doing it themselves, but it really only happens as a response to Ikeda and Ono doing it first. It's a clear theme in the match, and it leads to the perfect payoff where Ono eventually bites off more than he can chew and Otsuka suplexes him on his neck, leaving Ishikawa free to twist Ikeda's arm into a disgusting enough position that he has to submit. I wouldn't hesitate to call this a serious MOTYC.

Monday, 16 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #9

Midnight Express v Magnum TA & Mr. Wrestling II (Houston Wrestling 1/27/84)

How awesome were the Midnight Express? The early part of this is just an absolute masterclass in pinballing and heels feeding themselves to opponents, seamlessly moving into position to eat punches and kneelifts while Cornette literally hides behind camerawomen so he doesn't get caught in the crossfire. There's something infectious about watching Mr. Wrestling II. His little jig, the kneelifts, the crowd chanting "TWO, TWO, TWO"; the guy looks like he's having a total blast. Watching the Midnights work a crowd into a complete frenzy is maybe even better than watching them get beat up. They're pretty much the masters of dragging the ref' out of position and cheating to the point of nearly causing a riot. Eaton starts a mocking "two" chant of his own at one point and that guy is the fucking greatest. Seriously, the heat for this whole thing is through the roof, every single fan in the arena living and dying with Magnum and II. It's been a few years now since I last watched the MX/Magnum-II match that made the Mid-South set, but as great as that was this one might top it. And the blowoff has been uploaded as well! I wonder if it's good.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

There's an Evening Haze Settling Over Mid-South, Starlight by the Edge of the Creek

Terry Gordy v Dr. Death (9/15/86)

In some ways this was one big Williams revenge segment. It still manages to feel like an actual contest, which I suppose is pretty impressive in its own right, but there's no doubt this is about Williams coming back from a previous Freebirds mugging and making Gordy pay for it. He takes the majority of the match, really wailing on Gordy and bumping him around the place. At one point he just starts biting Gordy's forehead and makes like he has to spit out a chunk of flesh, which was pretty gruesome. My main take on this feud is that it was two big hosses beating each other up, but this was more one big hoss beating up the other, while the "other" in the scenario is trying to hold on and not lose his title. There was plenty to like about it, but I'd say it's the weakest of the series (that either made the set or has been unearthed on NWA Classics).

Terry Gordy v One Man Gang (9/21/86)

Was Gordy blading his head after opponents chomp on him a regular Gordy spot around this time? Because he does it again here and I can get behind that sort of grisly behaviour. I've really come around to Gang over the last few years as a super fun fat dude. He's a guy that, practically on a match-to-match basis, will take one completely ridiculous bump where I'm not sure if it's actually intentional or he's just fallen through the ropes and almost hurt himself. The ring ropes breaking in the middle of matches was a running joke going through the Mid-South footage, but this felt like an occasion where you could actually buy it happening. Meaty, bloody slugfest. Obviously I enjoyed it.

Terry Gordy v Dr. Death (9/28/86)

One thing about this feud, they managed to change it pretty exceptional from match to match. None of the matches that made the Mid-South set struck me as being transcendent the way the Texas Death Match that got put up on NWA Classics did, but they're all good and all let you look at both guys in different lights. This had Williams selling a busted up arm (courtesy of a pre-match double team by Gordy and Hayes) the whole match while Gordy worked it over, and it was pretty fantastic. Williams barely ever uses the bandaged arm and much of his offence is brutal looking short headbutts, usually from his knees, usually right to Gordy's cheekbone. There are a couple points where Gordy will sit around in an arm hold and not really do anything with it, but it's a minor quibble.

Mid-South Project

Friday, 13 November 2015

Lawler v Bockwinkel x2

Jerry Lawler v Nick Bockwinkel (Memphis, 10/25/82)

This feels like your "technical genius v brawling machine" match. Bock is the consummate World Champ who can grapple with anybody you put in front of him, while Lawler, though no slouch on the mat, is always going to come back to the fists. They know their bread and butter. They know what brought them to the dance. First five minutes are basically one extended top wrist lock segment, and it was GREAT. It really established Bockwinkel as being the better "pure wrestler" (for lack of a better term, I guess), the way he's in control for pretty much the entirety of it. I loved him during this part, just working the absolute hell out of a simple hold, milking it as much as possible, widening his base for leverage, really pushing and bending the wrist like he's trying to make Lawler's fingernails touch his own forearm, taunting Lawler along the way ("Come on, Lawler, it's a simple wrestling hold!"). Lawler's really good on his end as well, though. I'd say in general he's pretty comfortably at "very good" level as a mat worker. Like, people championing Lawler as a GOAT candidate obviously aren't pointing to his matwork as his main strength, but even with all the praise he's gotten in recent years (probably since the DVDVR Memphis set dropped, or at least that's when it exploded) it sometimes it kind of feels like his matwork gets scoffed at. But he was routinely good at it. He works this whole segment from the bottom, but he always makes it look like he's trying to escape or counter. He almost manages to reverse it, but Bock stands way up on his tiptoes to force it back down. Second time he comes even closer to reversing it, and this time Bock has to yank the hair to drag Lawler back down. Then at the third attempt Lawler manages to shake him by just throwing him around until Bock can't hold on any longer. It was a simple segment, but it was milked and interesting and didn't feel like time-killing. They touch on the "technician/brawler" dynamic again soon after this when Bockwinkel repeatedly rams Jerry's head into the turnbuckles, only for Lawler to come back and do it in way nastier fashion by throwing Bock backwards into the same turnbuckles. It was like Bock deviated from his strategy, got ahead of himself, and emphatically lost at Lawler's game. Last spell has the big drama you want in a World Title match, and Lawler going ballistic at the end with punches was incredible. I'm ticked that we're missing about fifteen minutes of the match, but that's more because why would you not want to have every second of a Bockwinkel/Lawler match? as opposed to the match being hurt all that much by the commercials.

Jerry Lawler v Nick Bockwinkel (No DQ) (11/8/82)

This might be the most violent I've ever seen Bockwinkel. Of a seventeen minute match he spends roughly fourteen minutes beating the living, breathing dogshit out of Lawler. Jerry gets hardly anything in in the way of offence. At one point he threatens to stamp on Bockwinkel's balls and Calhoun has to pull him back, but most of this was Lawler properly getting battered. Early on he even has to take a powder because he clearly was not expecting Bockwinkel to come out rampaging, but Bock is relentless and does not let up at all. I was actually expecting to see a King of the Mountain segment with Lawler trying to get back in the ring and Bock kicking him in the head, but no, he never even bothered with that. He just let Lawler climb back in the ring and knocked him around some more. He slams Jerry on the announce table, cuts his eye open with nasty little rabbit punches, then smashes his throat into one of the ringside poles. Lawler took is like a fucking basketcase as well and it looked absolutely brutal. Lawler's comeback of course ruled, and I loved him having to hit the fist drop from progressively loftier heights to keep Bockwinkel down. I had this as my #24 on the Memphis set, but I had no recollection of it whatsoever. It would almost assuredly be higher now. Great, great match, and a spectacular look at Bockwinkel being a vicious surly bastard.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

More Smoky Mountain

Heavenly Bodies v The Fantastics (No DQ) (9/5/92)

You know, while Cornette basically wanted to recreate an 80s territory in a 90s world, this had more 90s-isms than I'd have expected, not least of which being guys making no bones about actually using the absence of rules to their advantage. Going through the Watts footage - and SMW felt like Cornette's version of Mid-South - it became clear that a tag match with a no DQ stip was going to be worked more or less the exact same as a regular tag. This was still worked within the boundaries of a regular tag, with one guy from each team being confined to the apron, but there were plenty of moments where someone would just go "fuck it" and set about someone with a weapon. Fulton picks up a title belt and actively waits until the referee is watching before he bonks it off Pritchard's head. He then grabs a pipe and in full view starts hitting folk with it. Later on Stan brings out a chain, wraps it around his fist and punches Jackie Fulton, blatantly chokes him with it, then waves it in front of the ref' because he knows he can't do anything about it. Cornette spraying a rag with something "medical smelling" is one of my favourite Cornette spots (first time I saw him do it was in Mid-South, shockingly enough), and it leads to an amazing post-match interview where he justifies himself by saying Bobby Fulton had a wound above his eye and Cornette was just trying to seal it so the match could continue, then Fulton keeled over and went to sleep because he must've been drunk. This was also for $20,000, and Cornette rolling around in the money like a total asshole was great.

Rock 'N' Roll Express v Heavenly Bodies (9/7/92)

Outrageously fun match. I had the biggest smile on my face during the first fifteen minutes. They get everyone fired up pre-match, first with Cornette's promo, then with Morton getting on the mic and saying, "We have rock...your ass off!" Crowd goes wild and Lane's eardrum's about to burst. Cornette asks for quiet for the sake of poor Stan, so naturally the crowd shouts even louder. Heat is through the roof and the bell hasn't even rung. They run through a bunch of the tried and true spots from RnRs/MX matches of yesteryear, like the blind armwringer spot that the guys in M-Pro did all the time. Then they do one I've never seen before (I don't think), with Morton and Pritchard running a criss-cross, Morton slipping out while Pritchard continues to run, and Morton throwing Cornette in the ring where he ends up bumping into a still-running Pritchard. Cornette then comes up with his jacket over his head blindly swinging the tennis racket. Once the Bodies take over they just pull the ref' every which way with Morton getting his ass beat and Gibson trying to interject. I love how Cornette booked Stan Lane's ear around this time. It's a constant heat magnet, and it's been used a few times as a go-to for babyfaces. Morton slaps him in the ear as a lead-in to the hot tag and Lane does this incredible sell of it, like he just got hit with a snowball. When Pritchard wallops Gibson with the tennis racket there's this genuine sense of panic and fury from the crowd, then he kicks out and they hit the double dropkick and kids and adults alike go fucking apeshit. Between this set and the NWA Classics service I've watched some killer tag matches the last few days, but this is probably the best of the lot.

Tim Horner v Dirty White Boy (9/19/92)

This was about seven minutes long and totally ruled. It's probably the best I've ever seen Horner look, actually. All of his offence looked great, from his dropkick to his airtight inside cradle. He's not the kind of guy you want as your top babyface (even if he has most of the tools mechanically), but he's more than fine in something like this. White Boy was mostly about the selling here, taking one incredible bump off a Horner punch that was serious rewind material. Ron Wright falling out his wheelchair at the end was absolutely un-fucking-real and literally made me laugh out loud. God damn is the Ron Wright gimmick phenomenal.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #8

Pretty Young Things v Pat Rose & Hans Schroeder (Houston Wrestling, 7/6/84)

I don't think I've ever seen Hans Schroeder before. If I have I certainly don't remember, which probably makes sense because he's wholly unspectacular and not all that memorable. He kind of looks like Rudi Voller, though I imagine if Frank Rijkaard spat in Schroeder's hair Schroeder would've punched him in the face. Pat Rose feels like a guy you've seen work a studio match in every territory from Alabama to Tennessee. Pretty sure I saw him work Flair in GCW at some point. It was probably...well, Ric Flair v Pat Rose, so, you know. This was very by-the-numbers, but I figured it would be and that's fine because, end of the day, it's still more Koko Ware. He was having a blast early on, shucking and jiving and hitting his amazing dropkick, then he plays face in peril and takes a face-first torpedo bump straight into a turnbuckle. Rose and Schroeder aren't particularly inventive in their workover -- it's mostly headlocks with punches that may or may not have been towards the region of Koko's throat. So Condrey and Eaton they are not. It's good that that's cleared up, I'm sure.

The Fantastics v Dutch Mantell & Tom Pritchard (Houston Wrestling, 7/12/85)

It's not really a contentious opinion at this point, but the Fantastics were every bit the world class babyface team the RnRs were. I think I'd say they were the more talented team when you combine the talent levels of the individuals, or at least that there's more of an even contribution from Rogers and Fulton towards their team being great than there is from Morton and Gibson. Basically, Rogers is as good in a tag setting as Morton (pretty much perfect babyface tag wrestlers), and if Fulton isn't clearly BETTER than Gibson then he clearly brings more to his respective team. Opening shine period was awesome in this. I guess you could argue it went a wee bit too long, but I loved how Rogers and Fulton came up with a bunch of different ways to piss off Mantell, who was outstanding in his stooging early on. They do the bit where Tommy has Dutch in an armbar and Fulton comes in, steps over Mantell (stepping ON him in the process) to go over and shit talk Pritchard, then as the ref' ushers him back out he steps over/on Dutch again. Like "oh, I'm sorry, I didn't see you down there." Dutch is fed up with Pritchard not pulling his weight and they get in a shoving match, so Rogers dropkicks Dutch in the back and flies into Pritchard. Crowd of course eat all of this up with a giant spoon. Mantell and Pritchard take over when Pritchard hits a nasty looking thrust kick to Fulton's jaw, and Dutch gets the full Arn Anderson point for shifting from stooge to surly bastard seamlessly. Pritchard doesn't really do a ton, but he's pretty fun and has great hair, like a frillier, blonde McEnroe 'do. Hugely entertaining match.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Smoky Mountain Wrestling!

So I started Goodhelmet's SMW set last night. Well, I started it like three years ago and watched a bunch of the extras, but this is me starting it again and going through the main matches.

Tim Horner v Paul Orndorff (5/22/92)

Horner's mullet is the stuff of legends. There is no doubt in my mind that people in Knoxville talk about it the way people in Liverpool talk about Graeme Souness' moustache and Brazilians talk about Socrates' headband (I assume). At a glance, SMW is crazy heel-heavy at this point. Orndorff isn't a megastar, but he's certainly a "name" and he'd been a headliner in the WWF. They had Pritchard and Lane managed by the most recognizable person in the company in Cornette. Fuller and Golden had been kicking about the south for years and had that stint in the AWA (even if it was dying days AWA). You had Landel and Dirty White Boy. Mantell was there, even if I think it was mostly commentary. That's a pretty fucking nice lineup for a spin off territory based out of Tennessee. On the babyface side you've got Brian Lee, Tim Horner and Robert Gibson. They had the Fantastics, but the Fans without Rogers just isn't the same so it was really Bobby Fulton and his little brother. Dixie Dynamite and Danny Davis? Sheeeeeeit. They were clearly waiting for Morton and then they eventually brought in Smothers, but early doors there was a definite lack of notable/worthwhile babyfaces. Anyways, this was good. Horner is perfectly fine. He has good timing and his offence looks crisp and he gets fired up...but he doesn't really have any charisma. He's a pretty bland little guy, all in all. But hey, Orndorff was kinda badass in this! His strikes looked great and I was more entertained by him working as methodical Harley Race kneedrop clone than I regularly am by HHH, plus he was not afraid to show major ass and stooge for Horner early on. And I liked the finish as well. Match felt a bit out of place in 1992 wrestling, but Smoky Mountain as a whole felt like one of those "lost in time" things. It's part of its charm.

Heavenly Bodies v The Fantastics (7/11/92)

This is an impromptu match that kicks off after a Bodies squash, and it felt suitably hectic in the beginning. Did I mishear or is Stan Lane rocking the headgear because he has earache from the crowd noise? Every time they get on his case he clutches his ears and tells them to quieten down, so I'm assuming that's what's going on. If so: awesome. This was really solid and Jackie Fulton did an admirable job selling his knee being torn to bits in the absence of Tommy Rogers. Mantell on commentary implies that Jackie is a retard and I can already tell he's gonna be fun to listen to.

Heavenly Bodies v The Fantastics (Street Fight) (7/17/92)

The arena is suuuper dark and it's kind of hard to see what's going on, but this was absolutely wild. It's more of a handicap match with how much Cornette and his tennis racket get involved, so there are a bunch of moments where a Fulton brother chucks a trash can or a plank at him and Cornette has to scurry away. Pritchard was great in this with the way he'd stumble around like he's lost six pints of blood. He bumps like he's not actually taking a pro-wrestling bump and that he really got hit hard enough in the head with a cowboy boot that it sent him flying into the turnbuckle. At one point the Bodies and Cornette tie Bobby to the ring post and both Lane and Pritchard try to smother Jackie with a plastic bag. Someone gets hurled head first into a table, but the table doesn't break down the middle like it usually does and instead the person just goes all the way through and it leaves the table with a big hole right in the middle where they were bodily flung through it.

Heavenly Bodies v The Fantastics v Stud Stable v Danny Davis & Dixie Dynamite (8/8/92)

Fun 4-team elimination tag. Danny Davis was busting out a bunch of rapid matwork that I wasn't expecting. He would just grab a guy's head and yank them over and not let go, doing everything with a real snap. Dixie Dynamite was in for about twenty seconds. He looked not good and Mantell intimated that he, also, was retarded. I'm digging Pritchard using the loaded boot trick as a finisher.

Stud Stable v Rock 'n' Roll Express (8/8/92)

Yeah, this was the stuff. God damn are the RnRs over like crazy in Tennessee. The heat for stuff like the Bodies/Fans street fight was up there, but this is another level. Match is total southern tag formula and of course I loved it. Morton and Gibson run Fuller and Golden in circles early, Fuller and Golden take even with underhanded tactics and Morton gets busted open, Morton plays Ricky Morton for a little while, then hot tag and run to the finish. They're not reinventing the wheel, but it's the exact match the crowd want to see and all four know how to work the hell out of it.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #7

Butch Reed & Jim Neidhart v Mr. Wrestling II & Steve Williams (Houston Wrestling, 12/16/83)

Man, Williams is chunky as hell here. I never realised just how much he leaned out over the following few years. First eight or so minutes of this are total heel in peril and I loved it. Williams has been wrestling about a year at this point and is pretty much all football tackles and three point stances, but the spots built around football tackles and three point stances are fun and it means we get Butch Reed taking headstand bumps off of shoulder blocks. We also get Mr. Wrestling II kneelift spots which means more Butch Reed headstand bumps. There's a great bit where Reed sends II into the ropes and drops to the mat, so II jumps over him and pops Neidhart on the apron, then turns around and kneelifts Reed as he's getting back up to his feet (and Reed bumps out to the floor. Reed's bumping was number one in this). The word I would use to describe II here is scrappy. He's scrappy in the way he uses the headlock to frustrate Reed, really grinding it and doggedly holding on when Reed tries to toss him away (Reed literally picks him up and tries to throw him away a few times). He's scrappy in how he fights off Neidhart despite being old and saggy while Neidhart his just a big slab of mean, raw meat. He's scrappy as a face in peril fighting from the bottom. Mr. Wrestling II is scrappy in this professional wrestling match. I like Reed's idea of taking a cheapshot being to straight up punch a guy in the back of the head, but it probably needed to look even nastier for it to plausibly drop a dude like Williams for the finish. Still, this was a blast and hopefully there's a Reed/Wrestling II singles match out there somewhere. There's no way that wouldn't be great. 

Friday, 6 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #6

Jose Lothario v Black Gordman (Houston Wrestling, 1/13/84)

This was basically eight minutes of two old dudes punching and bleeding. And of course it ruled. Kind of felt like the opening rudo fall of an apuestas match early on, but it soon turned into a street brawl with both guys throwing fists. I really hope we get a bunch of prime Lothario through this sevice at some point because fifty year old tougher-than-shoe-leather Lothario has been awesome. He threw one uppercut in this that looked a shade away from putting Gordman's nasal bone through his brain. Crowd heat for this is absolutely through the roof. Gordman sneaks in a few shots with a hidden chain, and the pop for Jose snatching it and using it himself is one of the loudest I've ever heard. Seems pretty clear that this is building to a big blowoff and holy shit do I want to see it.

Butch Reed  v The Barbarian (Houston Wrestling, 9/13/85)

I liked some of Barbarian's offence in this. He hit a killer powerslam, dropped Reed throat-first across the guardrail, and he's big and imposing enough that you could conceivably buy him throwing around a guy the size of Hacksaw Reed. He's still green as goose shit, but he certainly seems willing to be led along while holding up his own end. I don't remember a single thing he did as the Berzerker, but by '91/'92 he probably could've had enough about him to produce something decent with a guy like Bret Hart (someone else can do a 'Berzerker in WWF Project' if they like). There hasn't been a true knockout from the Reed footage yet (I'm saving the Tito and JYD stuff for after the semester), but he's been solid in everything and this was him leading a rookie to a nice ten minute contest, which is a side of him I don't really remember seeing before. He takes a few big bumps, with his crash and burn across the ropes off a missed crossbody looking awesome, and on the whole this was perfectly decently finely okay.

Dick Murdoch v Al Perez (Houston Wrestling, 10/11/85)

If the last match was Reed leading a serviceable rookie to a decent, competitive contest then this was Murdoch...basically doing the same. This was face v face, though, so more of a sporting affair. The early matwork wasn't mindblowing or anything, but it was solid. I kind of forget just how well Murdoch can work the mat since it's usually the brawling and punching and amazing shtick I think of whenever he's brought up, but he really is fun on the ground. There's a cool bit where Perez catches him with a sunset flip and Murdoch acknowledges it with a handshake and tilt of the head, then a few seconds later he returns the favour with an "anything you can do..." smirk afterwards. Perez throws a couple forearms rather than breaking clean, so Murdoch instantly goes "fuck it" and lays into him with elbows and fists. He reels himself back in again straight away - this is still a gentlemen's contest - but Murdoch isn't some pot-bellied stable hand and these young guys need to recognise. Finish did its job in making Murdoch look like a skilled veteran and Perez a guy that, with some more experience under his belt, might just end up being a stud (maybe in some alternate universe Al Perez is a sixteen times World Champion). And that's really all you can ask for.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #5

Hector Guerrero v Jose Lothario (Texas Death Match) (Houston Wrestling, 6/8/84)

This is your 7 quid a month right here. Phenomenally great match. I was pretty much in shock watching it, partly because I never expected it to be THIS good; partly because Hector Guerrero is basically Eddie Guerrero. Seriously, Hector is sooooo like Eddie. It's almost surreal. Early parts of this are a bit like a lucha maestros match with the nifty give-and-take matwork. Hector is playing by the rules, extending his hand in acknowledgement of Lothario's skills, but he has this little grin that tells you he's being disingenuous. Jose has done this dance often enough and knows as much himself. Eventually Hector loses one too many exchanges and turns it into a fight, headbutting his way out of a standing bow and arrow and ramming Jose into the post. Even Hector getting pissed and snapping is reminiscent of Eddie, like in the Smackdown! match against Rey where Eddie finally drops the charade like you knew he would and just brutalizes Rey instead. This service has done wonders for Jose Lothario's rep as a worker (you know, among internet wrestling fans that go crazy for newly discovered 80s footage, which I'm sure means a lot to him). It's pretty clear the guy is one of the best punchers of all time and he throws some absolute CORKERS in this. There's one you can actually hear above the crowd heat and even Boesch on commentary pops for it. Guess who Hector sells the punches like? Fuck, he even hits a gusher like Eddie, bleeding all down his chest after a few seconds like Eddie at Judgment Day (though not as horrifically). Finish and aftermath is so awesome. Hector and Jose have been feuding together up until this point, but Chavo has been off in Japan and came back only to get caught in the middle. Earlier in the show he does an interview with Boesch where he says it's not his fight, but Hector is still his brother and he'll be in his corner. Then he gifts Boesch with a jar of hot sauce, straight out of the Guerrero family kitchen. At the end they do the double KO/"first man back to to his feet wins" bit (seems like a staple in Houston, because that's a few times I've seen it now), but the ref' gets bumped and doesn't see Chavo fire the whole jar of hot sauce right in Lothario's eyes. Boesch is disgusted post-match when Chavo calls Lothario a half-breed and not a true Mexican, then suspends both him and Hector. I imagine this would've made the Mid-South set if it had been available in full. If it had I'd have had it top 10.

The Guerreros v Jose Lothario & Al Madril (Houston Wrestling, 7/20/84)

Nah, fuck it, they're the same person. Somehow they are. It's not just that they look identical - the way they MOVE is identical. This was 1997 chickenshit Eddie Guerrero in 1984, basically. And of all the matches I've watched so far I'd say this is probably the most straight up fun. So, so fun. Edd-- I mean Hector and Chavo are outstanding here; unreal shticking and stooging and it's all done at a rapid pace. Lothario is more or less all punches and old man sympathy selling but my god is he great at both. There's one bit where he takes on both Guerreros with rights and lefts while Hector and Chavo fly around and the crowd are going ballistic. It was amazing. He also hits one uppercut on Hector that is honest to god maybe the best punch I've ever seen thrown in a wrestling match. Finish was executed kind of poorly, but the idea was good and that's usually good enough for me. Absolutely loved this. And will someone give Hector Guerrero the career comp treatment?

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #4

Butch Reed v Magnum TA (Houston Wrestling, 8/31/84)

Man, I love how Ernie Ladd has settled into the role of Butch Reed's makeshift agent, with his pristine polo and slacks like the business of winning the North American title is to be conducted before setting off to the country club. He played hardball on Sonny King being guest ref', and like all good agents he eventually got the deal that was best for his client. He maybe could've told Reed the 'B' and 'U' were missing from his 'BUTCH REED' trunks, though. I liked this, but it probably could've done with a few minutes trimmed off. The early parts with Magnum controlling are fine; he has nice armdrags (lost count of the number of times the commentator said 'beautiful' in this match. Beautiful armdrag, beautiful dropkick, beautiful hip toss. Everything was beautiful) and it's solid babyface control stuff. Then Reed takes over with an aaaawesome high knee and he really busts out the offence for a few minutes, including a great looking suplex from the apron back in ('beautiful suplex'). I love Reed to death and he's one of my three favourite wrestlers ever, but I think a fair criticism of him is that he sometimes got a wee bit chinlock happy. And he got a wee bit chinlock happy here. Crowd absolutely lose it for Magnum's comeback, but man did he love the hip toss in this match (they were beautiful hip tosses, though). You think, "okay, here comes the big belly to belly" and then...another hip toss. Match kind of got a bit ragged at the end as well, but overall I dug this well enough and I will never complain about new Butch Reed in Mid-South footage.

Monday, 2 November 2015

The Weird and Wonderful World of Random Teams in a Tenryu Fed

Genichiro Tenryu, Ashura Hara & Ultimo Dragon v Jim Duggan, Kamala & Jerry Estrada (SWS, 6/16/92) - SKIPPABLE

Holy hell, would you just look at that outsiders team. Has there ever been a more random mash-up of wrestlers? A jovial Glens Falls caveman, a Ugandan cannibal and the Mexican Keith Richards. This...wasn't very good, but it had its moments and you know, how am I not gonna watch a match with Tenryu AND Jerry Estrada in it? I never even dared to dream something like that existed. Jerry looked fairly sober in this, which sort of disappointed me. He was the best guy from his team, though. Duggan was in full on "HOOOOOOO" mode, chest puffed out with hands high on hips, but nobody in the crowd felt like playing along. I always feel a bit sorry for guys coming into a Tenryu fed for the first time, because unless they've wrestled Flair or Garvin or Wahoo they've probably never before been chopped like they'll be chopped in a Tenryu fed. Hara chops the painted stars off Kamala's tits and I do not think Harris expected to be hit like that.

Genichiro Tenryu, Atsushi Onita & Bam Bam Bigelow v Chris Jericho, Vampiro & The Warlord (WAR, 7/17/94) - FUN

Like this is any less random. This is probably the most I've enjoyed Chris Jericho in a long time. Going through the '96 yearbook he's been super spotty and his offence looks pretty bad most of the time, but he does everything with a kind of reckless and sloppy stiffness that I figured might at least lend itself to a Tenryu fed. Sure enough he recklessly flung spin kicks at peoples' heads, and if nothing else the guy always tries to make a compelling contest of it so the exchanges with Tenryu were really good. Tenryu made him look killer. Tenryu also made Vampiro look halfway passable for a minute there, which is like pissing in a plastic bottle and managing to convince someone it's a thirty year old single malt. Tenryu is pretty much the master of making much lower ranked guys who on paper have no plausible shot of hanging with boss look like they could actually hang with the boss (sometimes he might even be TOO giving in that respect). I wondered if this was the match Jericho talked about in his book where he accidentally rings Onita's bell, and yeah, he Lionsaults him right in the face and Onita's lights are definitely out.

Genichiro Tenryu, Takashi Ishikawa, Ashura Hara, Koki Kitahara & Ricky Fuyuki v Riki Choshu, Tatsumi Fujinami, Hiroshi Hase, Osamu Kido & Takayuki Iizuka (New Japan, 2/16/93) - EPIC

Epic match, chock full of hate and bad intentions and pretty much everything else you want out of something like this. It's 2/3 falls and goes 40 minutes, so everybody really gets a chance to strut their stuff and there's a million awesome moments as a result. First fall is pretty even Stevens, but we do get an extended beatdown on Fujinami where the WAR guys just tear into him and work over his KIDNEYS. Fuyuki cheapshots him from behind and team WAR paint a bulls-eye on the lower back; Kitahara rifles off a bunch of nasty kicks, Hara and Ishikawa are a couple of school bullies and they stomp him like a discarded cigarette, and Tenryu naturally punts him up and down place. Couple amazing Tenryu moments in the first fall. Hell, my favourite part of the whole match might be when Iizuki strolls up to him and, with NO FEAR, slaps him dead in the face...and FUUUUCK does Tenryu just fucking beat the motherfucking shit out of him. I mean this was straight up HARROWING. Finish to the first fall is great, with Ishikawa turning his attention away from Fujinami so he can beat up some other pussy boy (think it was Iizuka...was probably Iizuka) and winds up getting clipped by a pair of enziguiris. He manages to absorb them and stay on his feet, but Fujinami's already tagged out and Choshu's ready to steamroll somebody. Ishikawa ducks the first lariat, but Choshu keeps on truckin' and as Ishikawa turns around he gets fucking blitzed by a follow up lariat. I'm talking paraplegia-inducing. Second fall has just as much brutality, but you also get to see guys like Kido and Hara, who were quieter than some of their teammates in the first fall, really shine. Kido is just spectacular down the stretch, Hell bent on ripping someone's arm out the socket, and even though he doesn't score a decision, he winds up taking Tenryu out of the equation late on. That leads to an AWESOME moment where Choshu, like a fucking BOSS, just randomly decides to get in the ring and walk over to the WAR corner so he can stomp on Tenryu a bunch of times while he's in the process of having his arm bandaged up. Felt like a real "So I haven't hit anybody in a little while. Well fuck that" moment and it was why that guy is the best. A bunch of other great shit happens, but I'd be here all day if I tried to touch on all of it. Honestly feels like one of the best multi-man matches ever -- I thought it was fucking with pretty much all of the multi-man matches on the New Japan 80s set and I had two of those in my top 5 with another just outside it. The New Japan/WAR feud is the fucking pro-wrestling.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Sunday, 1 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #3

Terry Gordy v Steve Williams (Texas Death Match) (Houston Wrestling, 2/6/87)

Well I'll be damned. It's been a while since I watched Williams or Gordy in a non-All Japan singles match setting, but this was fucking tremendous and might be the best US singles match either guy ever had. You used to hear a lot on WWE commentary about guys having "no wasted motion." Michael Cole would say it three times every Chris Benoit match. Half the time I'm not even sure he knew what he meant, but if Michael Cole, in some weird alternate universe, happened to commentate on this match I could absolutely imagine him banging on about no wasted motion. Everything in the first few minutes is fought for. The collar and elbow tie-ups actually look like they're struggles for dominance, like a pair of white rhinos butting horns. Then Gordy spikes Williams with a DISGUSTING piledriver - like, this is one of the absolute nastiest piledrivers you'll see - and it turns into everything you want in a Texas Death Match. This might be my favourite Williams performance ever, with his dead on his feet selling being particularly awesome. Both guys hit gushers in this but oh my days does Terry Gordy go full Eddie Guerrero with the blade. He is a fucking mess after half a minute. At one point he tries to hit another piledriver and the blood pouring from his head turns the back of Williams' yellow trunks bright red. I usually hate the "pull opponent up from pin attempt" spot, but it worked better here than just about any other time I can remember. When Gordy does it it obviously leads straight to Williams making his comeback (and Gordy getting opened up), then Williams does it in return and roars like a fucking wild gorilla and the crowd just ERUPTS. It was very awesome, unlike pretty much every other instance of that spot. At first I was kind of whatever on them doing a draw at the finish, but then they threw a curveball and I changed my tune. Williams falling through the ropes at the end and staggering back to the locker room in a stupor was perfect. Just an amazing, violent bloodbath of a match. Might've finished top 10 on the Mid-South set had it been available at the time.