Tuesday, 15 March 2016

More Islanders; More Tito (and More Martel)

Strike Force v The Islanders (Philadelphia Spectrum, 12/5/87)

I've watched about seven Islanders/Strike Force matches over the last few days and man is it one of the more unheralded feuds of the mid-to-late 80s "golden age" of WWF tag team wrestling. Off the top of my head I think the only series from that period I'd definitely have ahead of it is the Rockers/Brainbusters series. A real staple of these Islanders/Strike Force matches is the awesome babyface shine segment. Martel and Tama are super energetic wrestlers and everything they do has such a spirit about it. I'm not sure you'll find many guys who get more fired up before punching someone in the face than Martel or bump off a dropkick with more zeal than Tama. I don't know if this is the best of the shine segments in a Strike Force/Islanders match, but it's pretty damn great. Haku is tough as nails and really makes the babyfaces earn their moments, Martel busts out a hurricanrana, Tito whips Tama around with killer looking armdrags, and of course Tama takes his nutcase dropkick bump by sailing out over the top and careening head first into a chair. Islanders have some really cool offence once they take over, like Haku's triple backbreaker and Tama's sky high double axe handle off the top rope (if Gorilla was on commentary you'd probably get a line about him literally being able to hang from the rafters). Again, the thing I love most about this series is the participants' willingness to change it up quite a bit even though they wouldn't always have needed to. I've watched tonnes of 80s WWF feuds and it's certainly not uncommon for the guys involved to run practically the exact same match in MSG as they run in Philly as they run in Toronto, right down the to same transitions and comedy spots. I don't even mean that as a knock, because they're wrestling in different markets in front of audiences that wouldn't have seen the match they had three nights ago. WWF never had ten hours of wrestling on TV every week in 1987. But that never stopped all four of these guys from trying something new almost every time out. They still have the great stock spots as well, though, like Tama's amazing face first slingshot bump (it's probably the best spot of its ilk in history) and Martel heaving Tama out the corner with some massive height. Tito's FIP spell was also great here. I said a few days ago that he's not as theatrical a seller as Martel, but I'm not sure there's much daylight between the two in that role. In fact, if pressed, I think I might slightly prefer Tito, if for no reason other than how impressive he is at subtle selling. At this point I'd pretty comfortably take these two teams over just about all of the more lauded WWF teams of the era like the Hart Foundation and British Bulldogs (and I guess Demolition, if you're someone who lauds them).

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