Tito Santana v Butch Reed (Houston Wrestling, 1/13/84)
I'm a big Tito fan and obviously a gigantic Reed mark, so this was one of the matches I got hyped for when it was put up on Classics. Their '87 WWF match was a pretty good 15 minute draw (well, I liked it), but this is really the match you want from these guys. I've watched a lot of Tito over the last few days and it feels pretty clear that he belongs in the same bracket as his babyface contemporaries like Martel and Steamboat. That's to say he was fucking awesome. He wasn't as theatrical with his selling as those two -- Tito's selling seemed grittier, maybe more "realistic" if you want to open that can of worms, but either way it was just as great. I suppose Martel and Steamboat played to the back row, while Tito was maybe a little more subtle. The one thing I think he has over both, though, is his babyface fire. That's one of those YMMV pro-wrestling terms that probably has different meanings to different people, but to me it basically means the intensity with which he teases and makes comebacks, and the conviction he shows while doing it. And well, I don't know if there are many babyfaces in US wrestling history that go after an opponent with more conviction than Tito, especially if he has reason to be pissed off. This wasn't the same Tito that tried to throttle Greg Valentine, but he was committed to everything he did and gave no quarter, which really created the sense of struggle that made a lot of this so good. Even things like the heel pulling the trunks to put the babyface in a pinning predicament while in a headlock felt fought over, rather than a simple spot that's been used to get a bit of heat since time began. It also gave us some awesome moments like Tito hitting a gutwrench suplex out of a front facelock, and Tito charging full steam into Reed only to be chucked throat first into the ropes. I'll always dig Reed hitting his killer fist drops and gorilla pressing dudes, but this was mostly a Tito showcase with Hacksaw as support act.