Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Down the 80s WWF Midcard Rabbit Hole

There's just under a month left before ballots are due for the PWO Greatest Wrestler Ever project. I feel like I've got a pretty decent handle on everything bar 70s/80s World of Sport and modern day indies (I doubt I'll bother delving very deep into the latter), but I wanted to go back and re-watch some individual guys for a refresher. One of those guys was Greg Valentine. That led me to the Greg/Tito feud, which in turn led me to scouring dailymotion for some semi-obscure 80s WWF midcard footage for who the fuck knows what reason. I found some cool stuff, though (and how great was the Greg/Tito feud? Jesus).

Rick Martel v Tama (MSG, 7/25/87)

Man, I fucking love Tama. It's been so long since I've watched him that I guess I almost forgot why, but this reminded me. Everything he does is just packed with enthusiasm and energy, like he really loves being there and getting to do what he's doing. Martel is of course awesome and I love HIM even more every time I get to see new footage of him. Both guys ruled in this. Starts out hot with the Islanders double teaming Martel, but Rick comes back and takes them both out before settling into working over Tama's leg. I dug that portion a bunch because it was always chippy, Martel is another guy who does everything with a ton of energy, and Tama was always trying to create space while selling great. Tama tries to get out of a grapevine by continually yanking Martel's hair and pulling at his face, so Martel repeatedly punches him in the mouth. Tama is Samoan so naturally he has to do nerve holds, and nerve holds are rarely ever compelling, but I thought they got about as much out of this as they could, primarily because Tama makes maniacal facial expressions and drools over himself while applying it and Martel sells it by really stretching out his shoulder to get some feeling back into it. There was one cutoff spot where Tama knees Martel in the guts as he's coming off the ropes, and he even sold the early leg work by clutching the knee! It might not sound like much, but how often do you associate that type of selling with late-80s WWF midcard acts (although off the top of my head they did have a pretty stacked midcard, so I might be full of shit on that)? Final stretch after Martel makes his comeback is pretty awesome. Tama has some fucking Nate Robinson-level hops, just flinging himself around wildly off Martel dropkicks and taking an AMAZING face first slingshot bump from the apron into the ring. Match was a total blast and now I will make a point of watching the Islanders/Strike Force feud in its entirety.

Rick Rude v Koko B. Ware (Boston Gardens, 5/7/88)

When did Rick Rude really put it together as a worker? Based on the Warrior match from Summerslam I'd guess he had by mid-'89, though that match almost certainly had some Pat Patterson wizardry involved. If nothing else he seemed more comfortable here than he did in World Class, but then I don't think anyone would argue he was a complete wrestler in Texas anyway. Either way I liked him a lot in this. At times he'd slow the match down to a crawl - he did that when he was at his peak as well - but he was far more natural in his heat-garnering during the workover. His dedication to shitheaded behaviour was pretty inspired, actually, really winding up the Boston City sweat hogs. He has the absolute best sell of an atomic drop in history and I always love it when he does his gyrating hips pose while selling a previous knock, so of course I loved him combining the two by taking the atomic drop, cutting off Koko, gyrating his hips and realising his coccyx hasn't quite shifted back into place yet. Koko frustrates him early by ducking and dodging and imitating the swiveling hips (with Koko adding his own "flapping wings" spin), and Rude gets so annoyed he bails out and threatens to strangle the parrot! There honestly isn't a whole lot to this match; it's pretty bare bones, but it was really enjoyable to me and feels like one of Koko's best WWF matches.

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