Monday, 31 October 2016

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Most Random...

...Stan Hansen opponent of them all?

After our Mike Miller party the other day I got an itching to check out some more All Japan randomness. Who made the biggest oddball appearance during a Champions Carnival? Who IS Texas Terminator Hoss? Buddy Rose v Buddy Lee Parker in 1991??? What the fuck? I also wanted to watch some Hansen, so here I am killing two birds with one stone.

Stan Hansen, Eric Embry & Scotty the Body v Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue & Mighty Inoue (All Japan, 8/28/90)

How about that for a gaijin team! You just knew straight away that Hansen was gonna rule in this. It's not unusual that you'd see him go for someone before the bell, but this time he wraps the bullrope around Taue's neck as he gets in the ring and swings him around the place, then paces back and forth during the intros shit talking in unintelligible Texan. Him and Taue then proceed to have a mini battle throughout the match. Hansen hits him extra hard (after throttling him early), then Taue takes a cheapshot and Hansen hits him extra EXTRA hard, including whacking him with a chair. Embry looks a lot like Jimmy Garvin at this point, but if he's hitting piledrivers like he is then he can look like whoever the hell he wants. Levy is such a random dude to pop up in an All Japan six-man, but he was a pretty fun douchebag. He took a few big bumps, including one where Taue launched him clear over the barricade into the crowd. I wouldn't say I'm a fan of him or anything, but I find him much more enjoyable in his pre-Raven days than as Raven, who is fucking terrible (though I admit that's mostly because I loathe the character in ECW).

Stan Hansen v Dynamite Kid (All Japan, 3/23/91)

I forgot Dynamite was still working in '91. For the longest time I just assumed he'd packed it in after Survivor Series '88. He looks a bit rough here, with his thinning hair and Mike Miller moustache, like an ex-copper in a BBC drama who spends all his time down the boozer. He didn't work like he was completely broken down physically, though I imagine he would've been close to it. I actually liked him a lot in this. Most of his offence was headbutts and a jawbreaker (so still head-based offence), but I thought it was cool how he'd regularly sell his own head after delivering blows. I liked how Hansen sold for him as well. Gone were the days of Dynamite Kid v Tiger Mask being a money match-up, but the people still remembered and Hansen treated him like he'd been a big deal once upon a time. He never gave him TOO much, never bumped too big, but made it look like those headbutts were taking their toll and that Dynamite was still dangerous. I guess the match was kind of built around Hansen trying to grab Dynamite and beat on him in close quarters, while Dynamite tried to stay out of his reach, looking for openings to pick his shots. There was one bit where Hansen threw him to the floor and went straight out after him, but Dynamite was still fresh and instantly rolled back in. Hansen was unamused and had a kick out at the guardrail. For the follow up later, when Dynamite wasn't in any shape to roll back in, Hansen broke a chair over his back. Hansen remembered. Hansen always remembers. This was about eight minutes tops and I enjoyed it a bunch.

Stan Hansen v Barry Horowitz (All Japan, 5/14/93)

This was pretty much exactly what you want in a two and a half minute Stan Hansen v Barry Horowitz match. Barry rushes him at the bell with a couple dropkicks and there's an "oh man is this guy nuts?" reaction from the crowd, because there is no way Hansen won't make him pay dearly for that. Barry goes up top, Stan grabs him, much bodily harm is inflicted. Hansen mauling ham n eggers is one of my very favourite things in wrestling. There's almost nobody better at it (is there anybody?). He punts Barry in the spine, smashes furniture over him, pulls down the kneepad and hits a kneedrop to the beak, wastes him with the lariat, leaves. Like a force of nature. Arrive, destroy, cease. He passes one woman in the crowd on the way out, and her face while she curls up next to the person beside her as Hansen swings the bullrope above her head says one thing: thank god he's gone. She survived Stan Hansen. Barry Horowitz did not.

And Once More We Return to Puerto Rico

Ricky Fuyuki v El Rebelde (July 1987)

I didn't care too much for this, but there was some clipping going on in there at points and that sort of took me out of it a bit. You'd have them going in one direction, then there'd be a jump in the tape, and the direction would shift pretty abruptly. I also thought it was worked a bit strangely in that they had a fairly hot opening, but then Fuyuki would make his comebacks and in the back half of the match they started working in nerve holds and armbars. Felt kind of arse backwards. I don't have a clue who El Rebelde is and a quick google search is proving fruitless. He was inoffensive enough, I guess, if not very compelling. Fuyuki got real good a couple years after this, but he wasn't at that level yet as a singles wrestler and it showed. If nothing else he was versatile, and it's neat to see him work in this setting. He certainly wasn't afraid to get thrown out and roll around in the dirt.

Carlos Colon v Hercules Ayala (Texas Death Match) (7/18/87)

This probably could've done with being trimmed by five minutes or so, but it's easily the best Ayala performance so far, and one of the best Colon performances. Purely from a selling perspective I thought it was his best, actually. He's not as expressive a seller as Invader, being more about conveying gritty toughness than sympathy-garnering, but his blood loss selling in the back half of this was truly outstanding, and at times made the beating he was taking pretty harrowing. It's also the craziest blade job he's done. I mean dude is an absolute mess by the end of this, blood streaming out his forehead, his face and chest covered; it was horrifying. In the last few minutes he keeps trying to stand up and fight, but he's out on his feet and Ayala just keeps battering him with punches and stomps. The visual at the end with Colon lying there lifeless as Ayala punches him in the head was like something from a horror movie. He's already dead, just let it be over! I'm still not really sure how good Ayala is, but I get the sense he's at least someone who's easy to work with. He did a lot of nasty shit in this, including choking Colon with the edge of a table and then jumping on said table while it was placed over Colon's face. I also liked him using Colon's own tricks against him by going to the figure four, and that led to Colon breaking it by heeling Ayala in the balls, which is probably the best escape from a figure four I've seen. These two have a barbed wire match coming up and I'm looking forward to seeing how Colon exacts revenge, because if there's one thing about Colon it's that he'll exact revenge in the grizzliest ways possible.

Terry & Dory Funk v The Road Warriors (9/20/87)

Funk was in total crackpot mode again here, him and Dory coming out to the ring to 'Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys' (fucking amazing), swinging his chaps and picking fights with fans, being absolutely HAMMERED with trash from all angles. His crazy Puerto Rico run is honest to god one of my favourite things ever in wrestling. He's just completely out of control any time he shows up and doesn't give a shit about anything. I don't think he could get away with it anywhere else. This feels like a pretty big dream match on paper, but other than Terry I didn't think anybody was particularly good in it. Hawk wasn't quite sandbagging folk, but he wasn't really in any mood to be selling. That actually led to a few cool bit where he got super pissed off and just started DRILLING Dory with chair shots. I mean Dory is lying there like a wee old homeless man and Hawk is trying to snuff him. The Roadies aren't too hip to Terry's shtick either and don't play off it very well. Terry will go upside down in the corner and Hawk will stand there waiting for something to happen, when Terry clearly wants Hawk to go over and MAKE something happen. Terry gets his clock cleaned and stumbles punch-drunkenly into the Roadies corner waiting to be dinged by Animal, but Animal doesn't really want to play ball so Terry has to go find someone else to play with. Post-match Hawk is swinging a chair around like a lunatic and there is no way I'd want to be anywhere near him while he does that. I'll take every second of Terry in Puerto Rico I can get, but this was pretty disappointing.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Hansen v Colon - The Final Chapter

Stan Hansen v Carlos Colon (Cage Match) (3/14/87)

How great was Stan Hansen? It's not like his rep needed a boost or anything, but I think this series shows him in a light we never really got to see him in elsewhere, at least not to the same extent. When I think of Hansen I think of that whirlwind of redneck fury, the guy who shows up, wreaks havoc, then leaves. He did all that in Puerto Rico, but over the course of this feud he progressively started to show ass like I've never seen before. This is probably my favourite of his Puerto Rico performances, because he got to be both those guys: the Hansen we all know, but also the Hansen who was prepared to just cut and run. There's a discussion going on at PWO right now about selling in the broader sense of not just selling pain or how much something hurt, but selling a character, a wider situation -- a reaction from the wrestler that's supposed to convey an emotion and in turn elicit a reaction from the crowd/audience/viewer. Well, Hansen was amazing at all of that here. It might honestly be his best selling performance ever, in that broad, all-encompassing sense. First half of the match is more of a straight up brawl, with guys getting their face raked against the cage, forehead biting, bleeding, everything you'd come to expect from a cage match in Puerto Rico. Colon is just all over Hansen, jumping off the ropes with headbutts and punches, so Hansen punches him in the dick to take over. Like the last match he's only on top for a little while before Colon makes his comeback, but this time you get Hansen hitting a kind of desperation lariat to Colon's forehead, and afterwards both guys are left lying in a bloody heap. Then Colon goes after the leg, and the back half of this is just phenomenal. I've never seen a better build to the figure four. Everything Colon does is geared towards putting on that hold, while Hansen decides he's had quite enough of this and simply wants to be gone. Everything HE does is geared towards escaping. The best thing he can do now is get out of there before Colon breaks his leg. Colon is relentless and won't be denied. Hansen's offence is basically limited to pot shots to try and create some distance, but they're the stiffest fucking pot shots you'll see, whether it's a punch to the temple or a knee to the face. If he can't get out the door he'll try and scramble up and over the cage, and I really can't stress how amazing he was at putting across how desperately he wanted out of there. While selling the damage to his leg. Colon deserves credit for all of this as well, because if Hansen is gonna run for his life then the opponent better make it look like it's warranted, but man was Hansen unreal here. The bit where he takes off his boot and tries to bludgeon Colon with it was amazing on its own, but the fact he just tried to run out the door afterwards made it stick out all the more. It's Hansen. He just wellied somebody with a cowboy boot. And now he's running away?! That right there should tell you the kind of badass Colon is. Fucking hell this was great.

Wendi Richter v Monster Ripper (Cage Match) (June 1987)

What chance have you got trying to follow Colon/Hansen? This was actually a pretty fun scrap, but I was still on a high after the last match. Monster Ripper is Bertha Faye of WWF fame and she managed to seem fairly imposing and dangerous in this. She drops big legdrops and sold Richter's stuff okay. Richter was giving off some Mayumi Ozaki vibes only not in insufferable ways. Some of her offence looked rough, but it was frantic and at points it felt like she was just trying to claw herself free of Ripper's GIRTH. I actually liked the finish as well, and because this is Puerto Rico I fully expected someone to get chucked down a stairwell post-match.

Friday, 28 October 2016

You May Call Me a Rover, I Have Rambled Around, but I'll Quit My Roamin' When I Get to Mid-South Town

Ted DiBiase & Terry Taylor v Michael Hayes & Buddy Roberts (Country Whipping Match) (10/12/86)

Lots of nasty choking in this. The belt whippings looked plenty stiff and all, but the Freebirds were really swinging guys around like they were doing the hammer throw. I completely blanked on DiBiase having yellow trunks at any point in his career. They're not quite as dapper as his white Money Inc. trunks, but they're not a million miles off it. Buddy Roberts has grown his hair out a bit and it's amazingly fluffy with incredible bounce. He's really fun in this kind of match because he's obnoxious enough that you want to see him constantly get lashed, but he's also a believable little frenzied bastard when he's on offence. At one point Taylor whips him clean in the face with a belt and Roberts looks at him like somebody is gonna get strangled soon. Taylor takes another crazy throat bump here, this time into the guardrail, so that's twice in a few days I've seen him do something reckless like that. I'm wondering if unprotected throat bumps weren't a regular thing with him. This wasn't really up there with the best country whipping matches on the Texas set; it was more of a regular tag where the participants were allowed a belt to smack people with, but I dug it.

Ted DiBiase v One Man Gang (11/18/86)

Nice TV main event. Gang moved around so well in this, hitting the ropes with some real speed (well...haste), taking a couple snap bumps, and his splash looked like it knocked all the air out himself when it missed and knocked all the air out of DiBiase when it hit. The one he hit off the middle rope looked pretty great. Some fatties will try to break the impact a little by putting their knees down first. That's a perfectly reasonable thing to do as a wrestler, especially if you're 400 lbs and don't want to break the ribs of the person taking it. But now and then you'll get something like a Jerry Blackwell splash or a Vadersault where it looks like the guy on the mat got absolutely crushed like a grape. This wasn't full on squashed kidneys material, but it did look real good. As did the running splash he hit before it, which DiBiase took while lying on his front. I assume DiBiase added the dropkick to his arsenal after he turned babyface, because I don't remember him hitting a single dropkick in all of the heel DiBiase stuff on this set or the NWA On Demand footage.

Terry Gordy v Dr. Death (12/26/86)

These Gordy/Williams matches are starting to blend together a bit now. This feels like it might be the weakest of their matches, but it's hard to tell since it's literally been years since I watched some of the others (I wrote about their 6/86 match in January 2012). Most of this was made up of Gordy working the bearhug, and it was alright and everything, but after watching the Texas Death Match from the Houston footage you can't help but want them to maul each other rather than work a bearhug. I did like Williams' late bursts of offence, especially the piledriver (which Gordy sold by crumpling in a heap when Doc tried to Irish whip him), and his shoulder tackles are always really good. You know Gordy will bump big for all that stuff, too. Finish was kinda shitty and I could've done without Ross constantly going on about how champions in the UWF are athletes who don't go around posing after matches, but this was fine.

Mid-South Project

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Tenryu's Been Down to the Bottom of a Whirlpool of Lies, Ain't Lookin' for Nothin' in Anyone's Eyes

Genichiro Tenryu v Mike Miller (All Japan, 1/9/89) - SKIPPABLE

So, Mike Miller. I'm almost positive this is the only time I've ever seen him. The name certainly didn't ring a bell, but then maybe he was/had been semi-prominent elsewhere and Mike Miller was a pseudonym. I've watched enough obscure 80s wrestling that I figured I'd at least recognise him from somewhere if he was getting gigs in All Japan. "Who is Mike Miller?" I wondered? "Did he do anything other than this tour of Japan in January of the year 1989?" My interest was piqued. Then I saw him and did not have a clue. Cagematch tells me he debuted way back in 1977 and wrestled in Portland, Florida and Stampede for a while, which is news to me. He's a tallish, lumpy dude with one of those wispy goatees that's all chin. I'm not really sure what was going on with the hair. It was like a mullet with a bowl cut on top, sloped bangs at the front. He did some okay stuff, though! Some nice punches, raking his wrist tape across Tenryu's eyes, a big club to the bridge of the nose. Tenryu gave him like 80% of the match as well. He'd throw a big chop or hit an enziguiri that Miller would take these goofy delayed somersault bumps off of, but then he'd end up right back on offence. That was the thing with Tenryu. He's one of the best ass kickers in history, but you rarely saw that side of him against the odd foreigner coming in for a few tour dates. In my own selfishness I wish Tenryu would be less selfLESS sometimes and just crowbar the fuck out a white boy.

Genichiro Tenryu & The Road Warriors v Jumbo Tsuruta, Yoshiaki Yatsu & Shunji Takano (All Japan, 3/8/89) - GREAT

Man this was fun. I guess you could say it's mostly spectacle, but I'm a stone cold sucker for a big pro wrestling spectacle so of course I was going to be into this. Crowd just LOVES them some Road Warriors and pop huge for everything they do, big "HAWK-OO" and "AN-I-MOO" chants in broken English. Meanwhile, everything Jumbo and Yatsu did earned them jeers (Takano was exempt from this for whatever reason). Animal flung Jumbo and Yatsu around with gorilla press slams like they were children, which was pretty impressive considering Jumbo and Yatsu are no small men. Hawk was far more involved in things than Animal and seemed to really be enjoying himself. He never sold a ton and at points it looked like he maybe ran out of ideas for things to do, but he got crazy hops whenever he left his feet -- flying shoulder tackles, a jumping fist drop and even a missile dropkick off the top rope. Tenryu's exchanges with everyone were awesome and the crowd were 100% behind him. He shreds Yatsu's chest with chops, has a contemptuous staredown with Takano before cuffing his jaw, and any time he and Jumbo get close to one another sparks fly. At one point Jumbo knees Tenryu in the head as Tenryu is trying to step through the ropes, and that leads to a short heat segment with team Jumbo working the cut. From that point forward Tenryu ramps the stiffness up six notches and just creams people. The lariats, the Adam's apple chops, everything; all done with a little extra force. Honestly, this is probably only GOOD level without the crowd, but unless you watch it on mute I'm not really sure that's much of a criticism. I mean, you can't have a spectacle without the crowd, right? So you get GREAT and like it.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Tenryu's Just a Lonesome Cowboy, He's a Little Bit Over the Hill. He Shoulda Quit this Thing a Long Time Ago, but I guess He Never Will

Genichiro Tenryu & Rocky Hata v Terry & Dory Funk (All Japan, 12/2/77) - GOOD

Pretty sure this is the earliest Tenryu match I've seen (might've seen some clips from Texas, but that seems unlikely and even then I doubt it would've been a full match). He's younger in this match than I am currently, which is just mind boggling because it's Tenryu and hasn't he always been forty six years old? I don't know how long he's been back in Japan at this point, but he's been wrestling for about a year and I guess if you're gonna give him a showcase then it might as well be against his trainers (there's something just RIGHT about Tenryu being a Terry Funk trainee). Tenryu and Hata, kitted out in their rookie garb, got to do more in this than I'd have expected. There's a semi-lengthy spell in the first half where they work the headlock on Terry, and Terry is a master of keeping a headlock interesting so it was a pretty nice stretch. There was one bit where Terry, still in the headlock, hit a shinbreaker on Hata, who sold it by keeping hold of the headlock on the mat while making sure he was stretching his leg out and grimacing at the same time. When Terry wasn't trying to free himself from the headlock he was rolling out some nice offence, especially his gut wrench and vertical suplexes, and at one point he hit a nasty dropkick right to Hata's face. Tenryu never punched anyone in the jaw or booted them in the eye, but he threw a couple meaty chops and got to bulldoze his way out the corner to a big pop. It was pretty surreal seeing him come in at the end to save his partner and take a back step when Dory went to cut him off. If this was WAR he'd have punted Terry in the liver and sent Dory back to the ranch for his horse shit.

Genichiro Tenryu & Toshiaki Kawada v Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (All Japan, 8/29/89) - GREAT

1989 was a pretty special year for Tenryu. I'd say he put it all together as a worker in '88, but in '89 he had the even bigger performances and even better matches. My favourite Tenryu year is still 1993, because that year you had the WAR/NJ feud and it's the best in-ring feud of all time and Tenryu was incredible in all of it, but in '93 he was a little older, a little more broken down, and it feels like he knew this and altered his style a bit to adjust. By that point he'd perfected his grumpy old bastard persona and came across as a massive star, so he didn't necessarily need to do as much stuff in the ring. Like, you'd never call him a "workrate guy" or whatever, and it's not like he just coasted on charisma alone, but he was able to preserve his body better (evident by the fact he wrestled until he was 66...even if it was pretty rough at the end there). And WAR was a company that was more about the lumpy guys potatoing each other rather than the head drops or King's Road epics. In '89, as All Japan was pretty deep into shaping the style Misawa and co would move forward with, you got to see Tenryu be a miserable bastard and hate everyone to death while ALSO working the longer, bomb-throwing epics. He was great at it, and it really gives you the best of both worlds. Of course he and Jumbo just want to kick each other up and down the place. There were a bunch of times where one would be in the ring and the other would be on the apron, they'd start shit talking, and then whoever was on the apron would come in and Wada would be like "fuck sake, AGAIN with you two?!" At one point Jumbo was so pissed off he sort of swung his arm as Wada tried to grab it, and it wasn't as if he intended to smack him or anything, but Wada got caught in the face and wound up with a bloody nose. There was no malice in it, just an over-boiling of his temper at the time. Jumbo didn't acknowledge it; didn't even know he'd done it. He just went on with the match, knowing full well that it wouldn't be the last time Tenryu came for him. Kawada was a bit  of a strange animal around this period. He wasn't quite a junior heavyweight, but he was kind of in that grey area between junior and fully fledged heavyweight while still playing understudy to Tenryu. It means he does a bunch of moves off the top rope, like cross bodies and even a diving sunset flip, but he still hits hard and often. His tights were supreme as well. They looked like something Tommy Rich would wear in his F.B.I days. Match was missing that one big hook to really make it stand out from the pack, but if "these guys do not like these other guys and they're gonna lay into each other" sounds like a narrative you can get behind then you'll very likely enjoy this.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Welcome to Mid-South. Try to Criticise Us for How We Live and then Go Do the Same Things That We Just Did

Rock 'n' Roll Express v Dirty White Boys (5/11/85)

Remember when pro wrestling crowds used to adore a team like the Rock 'n' Roll Express? The RnRs, with their tassels, rockstar tights, dodgy mullets and lazy eyes. The most babyface of babyfaces, revered in a time when wrestling was simple and Steve Austin hadn't beat his boss's brains out with a bedpan. This is one of the all-time great wrestling crowds, because they despise the heels and are absolutely blistering for the babyfaces. I'm not the first person to say this and I'm basically echoing a friend of mine who's been talking him up for ages, but Tony Anthony was really, really good. He and Denton were a great pair of scuzzy, filthy hillbilly bastards in this, like Reggie Ledoux's distant cousins. They distract the ref' and beat on Morton in underhanded ways, but you buy them as a team who can seriously kick somebody's tail when they need to. Like when they take over with Denton just crushing Morton with a lariat. There was no cheating or foul play with that, Morton just took his eye off the ball and Denton made him pay. The RnRs were pretty special for a while there. They'd come out and do all sorts of cool spots, many of which have been cribbed and modernised to some degree since, but there's something about Morton and Gibson doing them that just feels authentic. I loved the early parts built around the greco-roman knucklelock in this, with Morton coming in, crawling under Gibson's leg and popping Denton in the stomach, then Anthony coming in to try the same only for Morton to be waiting to kick him in the head as he's on all fours. And Morton is still timeless as a face in peril. He reads the crowd better than most people ever could, knowing when to start firing back to get them as loud as possible, then get cut off to break their hearts and make them a little more rabid for that hot tag. The finish kind of stunk, but people went schizo post-match, and you can't go wrong with a Mid-South crowd going schizo.

Mid-South Project

Monday, 24 October 2016

NWA Classics 24/7 #16

Butch Reed v Terry Taylor (Houston Wrestling, 5/11/84)

Man this was good stuff. I figured I'd like it because it's Reed and I'll like pretty much anything with Reed, and Reed v Taylor for thirteen minutes in 1984 was probably always going to be no worse than decent, but they worked in so much cool stuff that I never expected to see. Reed was never better selling for punches than he was for Taylor's in this. He has some great weeble-wobble moments, does a Terry Funk-esque pirouette before falling flat on his face, goes jelly-legged trying to stay upright; just so much fun eating Taylor's shots. Terry is wearing a neck brace so when Reed takes over you get some awesome clubbing to the neck, a big swinging neckbreaker and a hotshot across the top rope that Terry took without putting his hands up at all (looked brutal). Then Reed starts working the brass knucks hidden in the trunks shtick. The crowd are just all over him and he's popping Taylor and biting his forehead, then throws him out to the floor and challenges someone in the crowd to get in the ring in Terry's place. There were always pockets of fans in Mid-South/Houston that wouldn't take to Terry and boo him while he was still babyface, but they got 100% behind him here and they were molten for the comeback. The finish was rubbish, but everything up to it ruled. Every time I figured they'd settle things down and maybe Reed would work a chinlock or Terry would stop throwing amazing punches, they shut my mouth by continuing to bring the awesome in interesting ways. Totally ace and basically everything I could ask for out of a midcard match with no storyline implications. I would've had this top 50 on the Mid-South set. 

Sunday, 23 October 2016

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming for Some 80s Lucha

Negro Navarro, El Texano & El Signo v Lizmark, Tony Salazar & Alfonso Dantes (8/15/86)

It's nice to see Navarro was a bruiser as far back as '86. He's definitely more surly now, though, with the shaved head and cantankerousness that comes with age. The whole primera was basically one long gang beating inflicted upon the tecnicos by the Misioneros. Navarro actually seemed relatively content to let Texano take centre stage during this, so Texano seized the opportunity and punched many faces. Speaking of bruisers, btw: Tony Salazar. It was up to him and Lizmark to turn the tide for his team, and while Lizmark did it with grace and finesse, Salazar just bulled folk around like a rhinoceros. Some of Lizmark's offence was pretty awesome in this, especially when he had the Misioneros running round in circles bumping into each other. Signo might've been the most fun during those segments. He's the shortest and stockiest so he was like a little bowling ball knocking down pins. Dantes wasn't great in this, but he had a few moments. He took a double gut buster from Navarro and Texano in the tercera and sold it like it punctured his lung, and he had one nice semi-lengthy exchange with Signo, even if it came AFTER the rudo beatdown in the primera, which seemed a wee bit backwards structurally. I'd like to see Navarro hitting the mat from around this time. He got surlier with age, but I'm wondering if he didn't also become a better mat worker. There doesn't appear to be a whole lot to compare with.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

More Puerto Rico, More Hansen v Colon

Stan Hansen v Carlos Colon (2/28/87)

Another incredible match between two guys who can do no wrong together. One of the things I really love about this series - and there are many - is how they build upon previous matches in fairly obvious ways (they don't mess around with the "learned psychology"), while adding layers to the overarching story every time out. In their first match Hansen jumped Colon at the bell and went on a big run of offence, so in the second match Colon made sure it was he who got the early start. He learned quickly that you can't let Hansen get settled. It worked for him in the second match, so he does the same this time. Except this time he goes at him even harder. Hansen gets almost no respite in the first six/seven minutes and can't even take off his chaps. He fought much of the bullrope match on the back foot, but he's on defence for even more of this, practically fighting the whole second half from his back. I think it's time we talk about Colon's headbutts. He has some great headbutts. His punches can sometimes look a bit like they're with the heel of the hand, but his headbutts are always forehead square on forehead. There was one awesome bit during this early stretch where he dragged Hansen out the ring and just started battering his head off the stage. It was a real mauling, and a position we rarely see Hansen in. The transition to Hansen going on offence was really great. He takes Colon down with a double leg and tries to roll him up with the feet on the ropes, which is pretty crazy in and of itself because when the hell do we see Stan Hansen resorting to that inside ten minutes? but when the ref' calls him on it Stan just blatantly drops the knee on Colon's balls. What's also great about that is the fact it'll lead to a revenge ball shot later on, because this is Puerto Rico, and in Puerto Rico no good ball shot goes unpunished. Hansen's only on top for a little while before Colon takes over again, and this is where we get the next building block of the feud. They tried to kill each other with the cowbell in the last match, so now Colon thinks maybe if he breaks Hansen's leg he'll finally be rid of him. Both guys were really awesome during this stretch. It starts with Colon throwing a few kicks to the leg to sort of create some distance, then Hansen misses a high knee in the corner and a knee drop on the canvas, so Colon zeroes in on it and makes it his one point of attack for the rest of the match. Hansen's selling ruled. He's always dangerous because of who he is, but he's wounded with his back to the wall and that makes him even worse. At one point he disappears limping into the crowd, and as Colon goes out to look for him you hear a shriek from a pocket of fans as one of those non-foldable chairs comes flying at Colon. Another thing I really like about Colon is how tenacious he is. That's probably something WWE commentators have said about a thousand wrestlers over the last few years, but I can't imagine many of them capturing a sense of tenaciousness like Colon. He's a street brawler and he'll do whatever he needs to to survive, like biting Hansen's fingers or blatantly grabbing the ropes while applying the figure four. He's in there with Hansen after all; sometimes you need to take liberties. I thought the finish was a tiny bit flat, but the build to Colon finally putting Hansen in the figure four was great, coming a little closer each time with Hansen getting more desperate in fighting him off, and you knew the place would go apeshit when it was finally locked in. I might have four Hansen/Colon matches in my top 10 by the end of this.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Finishing Puerto Rico Disc 3

Stan Hansen v Carlos Colon (Texas Bullrope Match) (1/6/87)

There was pretty much no way this could live up to the hype I had for it. I first heard about the Hansen/Colon series - specifically this and the cage match - a few years back, but I held off on watching it because I knew there would be a Puerto Rico set eventually. I'd never read an actual review of this match because I wanted to go in fresh when I finally got to see it, but it was hard to miss the general point that it was great. Then I saw the lead-in matches and the hype only grew. I'd built this up without ever having seen it. It was unfair, because it couldn't possibly live up to what I'd made of it in my head. But then it did. And it was god damn incredible. I don't remember ever seeing Hansen take this much of a drubbing. I know Colon is the boss and everything, but Hansen really gave him a ton, and Colon certainly made the most of it. I mean, if you're going to beat on Stan Hansen for extended periods of time then you better do it like you mean it, and Colon did it like he meant it. It felt like whatever Colon had tapped into was beyond anything Hansen ever expected. He knew Colon would bring it, just not like this. I don't think anybody expected him to dominate, but there were points where he did just that. Colon had an answer for everything, and Hansen was phenomenal playing off it. At one point he even grabbed the referee's leg to keep himself from being dragged out the ring, and as the ref' was on the mat trying to scramble away Colon took Hansen's head and rammed it into the ref's boot. There was one sequence in the match that encapsulated the whole story. Hansen had touched three turnbuckles and was about to touch the fourth, having dragged Colon around the ring with him to get this far. Colon, in the opposite corner, wraps his legs around the bottom rope and holds onto the bullrope for dear life. It turns into a tug of war, Hansen trying to push forward, Colon trying to drag him back, the crowd at total fucking melting point. This is probably where a friend of mine would drop a Dragonball Z reference about Goku doing the Spirit Bomb or something. I mean these people are just living and dying with every single thing Colon does. And he eventually succeeds. They all do, Colon and his people, by yanking Hansen back and staying alive in the match. The scene after it, with Colon lying in the corner utterly spent, Hansen cussing out the world with his blood-coated face, the crowd going bananas...that is the motherfucking pro wrestling. I also loved how this was a gimmick match where the gimmick carried tremendous weight. They punched each other and headbutted each other and bit and scratched and tried to gouge each other's eyes out, but they absolutely slabbered each other with that cowbell. If one guy got within rage of the other, they were getting dinged in the head. If the cowbell wasn't on hand, they were getting strangled with that bullrope. The rope wasn't just a means of keeping them tied together -- in those guys' hands it was a weapon, and it got used again and again. They actually reached a point towards the end where I thought the drama might've peaked and they wouldn't be able to get it back for the finish, but they shut my mouth with the finish they did do. It was perfect. Look at that crowd. That is drama. And this is my new #1.

Invader I v Jason the Terrible (1/17/87)

Like the first Colon/TNT match, this was saddled with the unenviable task of trying to follow Colon/Hansen. This is also Invader working a straight wrestling match with armbars, arm wringers and standard babyface hope spots, which isn't quite the same as him bleeding and brawling and throwing guys down stairwells. It's not really fair to criticise something for not being what you wanted it to be, but it is what it is. Still, Invader is Invader and I'll take what I can get. I'm not sure who Jason actually is under the mask, but he moves okay for a big dude even if he's not the most compelling in control. His big cross body looked a bit Bray Wyatt-ish, at least. Chicky Starr running around ringside being a nuisance reminds me that we've got an Invader I/Chicky match coming up on the next disc. I bet it's good.

And so we come to the end of disc 3. With three Hansen/Colon matches (one of which being my current #1), Terry Funk's rodeo of crazy, a couple stellar Invader I brawls and yet another really good Colon/Abby fight, this was a truly phenomenal four hours of wrestling. It might be the best single disc of any 80s set so far.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Welcome to Puerto Rico, Terry Funk AND Stan Hansen!

The Invaders & Mil Mascaras v Terry Funk. Dory Funk & Ron Starr (12/18/86)

"The possibilities with that Terry/Starr tandem are endless. Maybe Dory will be okay as well." That was what popped into my head when this match came up on the screen (I don't really comb through match lists for these 80s sets, preferring to go in blind so that when something like this shows up I get all giddy like a superdork). You see that team and on the opposite end you have three guys in masks, two of whom are wearing identical gear, and you can't help but expect to see Terry Funk lose the rag at some phantom babyface tag shtick. Ron Starr has been a waaaay more fun stooge than I ever would've imagined (you know, from those whole two Ron Starr matches I'd seen before watching this set), but he's not quite Funk. I expected him to be good, and he was, but this is Terry Funk in Puerto Rico so naturally I'm gonna be drawn to him first and foremost. And of course Terry was great. It's like being in Puerto Rico let him cut loose his chains and be as much of a screwball as possible. He wants a boxing match with Invader to start, and obviously he loses, but the sell and face-first bump he takes off Invader's right hook is just beyond words. They also do the bit where Invader rams Terry's head into the turnbuckle a bunch, then when he stops Terry keeps rocking back and forth, head bouncing off the turnbuckle, until big brother comes in set him right. Dory was fine enough, mostly as the recipient of the early babyface shine, taking a few really cool Ted DiBiase-ish bumps off Invader's double chop, but when you look at that heel unit he's not the guy you want in there the lion's share of the time. I would've liked to have seen a longer FIP spell and a proper finish, but I'll take absolutely everything I can get of Terry Funk watching Puerto Rico. You'll hear no complaints from me that this made the set.

Stan Hansen & Chicky Starr v Carlos Colon & Huracan Castillo Jr. (12/21/86)

How about Stan Hansen and Chicky Starr for a dream team you never dared dream of. Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid if the Sundance Kid was a cheapshotting little weasel bastard (I mean, he might've been). Chicky was a really fun toady in this, relying on Hansen to bail him out at a couple points but never being above fouling someone when Hansen wasn't on hand to offer immediate assistance. It led to a great payback spot later when Colon double punted him in the balls, and really, nowhere else does revenge ball shots like Puerto Rico. Huracan Castillo Jr. is the guy I thought was the commissioner or something from the last Hansen match where Stan kicked the shit out of him. I don't know whether he actually is the commissioner or not, but I certainly never recognised him before as the same guy from Los Boricuas. He mostly works the apron, but towards the end he gets into it with Chicky and bites him in the forehead a bunch. I loved Colon's comeback in this, untangling himself from the tree of woe position and cartwheeling over to save Castillo from a Hansen/Chicky mauling. Hansen wrapping the bullrope around Colon's neck and hanging him over the top rope was pretty wild as well, and it all goes towards setting us up for the bullrope match, which is next on the disc. I'm hyped.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Of Course it's More Puerto Rico

Carlos Colon v TNT (11/15/86)

This probably wasn't done any favours coming after some absolute corkers on the disc. It's hard to top Invader/Perez or Colon/Hansen, you know? That said, this wasn't trying to be either of those; it was a short TV match and if nothing else a fun look at TNT, the future Savio Vega. He was really game in this, threw some nice uppercuts to the throat and leveled Colon a couple times with big thrust kicks. He headbutts Colon at one point and I'm wondering if Colon has been doing a Fujiwara-ish hard head gimmick this whole time where it's pointless trying to headbutt him, because he just stares at TNT like he's a dummy before throwing a headbutt of his own. They're treating TNT's cobra clutch as quite the death kill here and it leads to the grizzly post-match visual of Colon lying KO'd and foaming at the mouth, which coincidentally is another Fujiwaraism.

Carlos Colon v TNT (11/27/86)

One thing about Colon that I haven't really seen brought up yet is his unselfishness as top dog/ace. You watch that Abby match where Colon slaughters him for twenty minutes in isolation and you might get the impression he would just guzzle guys, especially when you consider Abby's status, but that's very much an outlier. He could've easily taken more of this match given the fact Rivera is in his first year as a pro, but he was on a mission to make TNT look legit. This was one of those matches that started out okay and built and built and before you knew it you were watching something really damn good. TNT is still pretty raw around the edges, but for a guy who hasn't even had a full year of working under his belt he handled himself well. He has lots of energy and bumps big, especially off of backdrops, and he will absolutely take your head off with a superkick (he hit two in this as Colon was running off the ropes, and they both looked brutal). He also hits a lot of chops and uppercuts to the throat and he isn't above flat out choking a guy. Structurally he was in control for most of this, working the arm for a bit early on, then Colon would make sort of mini comebacks. But TNT would always find an answer, whether it was through shutting Colon down with a superkick or eventually going to the cobra clutch. When Colon hooked in the sleeper hold around midway through it looked like it was only a matter of time before he'd win, but TNT found an answer to it and worked his way back on top. When Colon cartwheeled and got the crowd going (and boy did they go) it looked like he'd finally go on that big run and put the match to bed, but again TNT managed to regain control. By the time it spills to the floor and they brawl to a no contest it feels like TNT has solidified himself as a genuine threat. He had plenty to do with that himself, but Colon really gave him a ton and went the extra mile to push him over the line.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Welcome to Puerto Rico, Stan Hansen

Stan Hansen v Carlos Colon (10/12/86)

And now for a look at a completely different kind of crazy person. Where Terry Funk is unhinged and liable to do something nuts at any moment, he IS pretty goofy. It doesn't mean you should be any less wary of him, but you can laugh at him sometimes (just make sure he doesn't notice). Hansen...there's nothing funny about Hansen. There are no goofball antics with him, no instances where you go, "that guy's a maniac, but it was funny that time he got his pants pulled down and bounced around bare-arsed." He's just a whirlwind of chaos and violence and there's no building up to it. There's no simmering, no bubbling below the surface before it erupts. It's front and centre for everyone to see the second he hits the scene. And it's infectious. The way he carries himself, his demeanour, everything about him sets off everyone else around him, to the point where the whole arena ends up rabid. It's like when one dog on the street starts barking. It sets off the neighbour's, which sets off the other neighbour's, and before you know it every dog on the block is howling. That's what Hansen brings with his presence. It's a chain reaction of palpable fucking craziness. I'll be honest, my expectations for this feud were through the roof, and that was before I'd gotten a handle on how good Colon was. After those Colon/Abby matches they were even higher. The best brawler of all time coming into THIS territory, working against the ace...of course I was expecting something special. And fuck, how about this for a place to start? Hansen was so amazing in this. He takes out the referee inside half a minute, then wraps the bullrope around Colon's neck and swings him into the ring posts. Security literally have to follow Hansen around the ringside area because he's kicking barricades and getting in fans' faces and generally being a madman. He breaks a foot stool or something over Colon's head and jabs the broken corner of it into his face. Hansen's energy is seriously something to behold. He never stops; it's just constant crazy. At one point he picks up one of the many pieces of garbage lying in the ring, shows it to the crowd like "thank you for this crushed up Coke can, I'm now going to stab your hero in the head with it" and stabs Colon in the head with it. Colon's selling through all of this was great as well. He's fighting the odds from the very beginning and at times it feels like all he can possibly hope to do is slow Hansen's momentum rather than actually gain an upper hand. But the more he does stop the momentum, the more he can chip away at him. Every time Hansen loses control, it takes him a little longer to regain it. Stan sold that cumulative damage in a way that made it look like Colon's attacks were mounting up, and it made everything Colon did feel truly earned, because Hansen never gave him anything easily. It all got the crowd behind their boy even more, so by the end they're just losing their mind. When he finally managed to take firm control - after a good old kick in the balls - it was like he'd climbed a mountain, despite the mountain trying to throw him off at every turn. Then Al Perez had to come and spoil his party. Awesome first installment in this feud. I'm ready for everything else these two did together.

Invader I v Al Perez (Street Fight) (10/26/86)

This is the best thing Al Perez ever did in his career, right? This was another awesome wild brawl, right on the level of your crazy Jim Duggan Mid-South alley fights (in a lot of ways this is probably the Puerto Rico equivalent of Duggan/Sawyer). It's becoming trite to say it at this point, but holy fuck was Invader great. This had all the blood and face-punching and nut-punting you'd expect, but Invader's selling holds it all together. Maybe that's doing a bit of a disservice to Perez, because he was really good in this and I'd be shocked if he was ever better, but Invader in this kind of match is one of the surest things of the 80s. The progressive toll of Perez's shots, the blood loss, the desperation he puts into his comebacks, with his running punch and double thrust to the throat -- it was all awesome. He has the crowd eating out the palm of his hand as well, the way he beats on his chest when it's time to REALLY kick somebody's butt and the crowd responds by going mental. Perez tried to throw him over the side of a stairwell and he was literally hanging over the edge of this drop by his legs while the crowd were screaming and losing their minds, and this is Puerto Rico so you know it's plausible that he might actually fall. Then he came back with a chair and the people were right there with him for every shot, and of course he threw Perez down the fucking stairwell because every single fan in that building would've done the same. And what is Invader I, if not a man of the people?

Stan Hansen v Carlos Colon (11/9/86)

A step below their first match, and I guess it kinda sort of maybe feels more like feud progression than a fully formed match, but fuck it. It's these two, and it was good, and it was very different from that first match. This time Colon jumps Hansen at the bell, and in one of the few occasions I can ever remember we get Stan Hansen very much on the back foot to start a match. Colon busts him open and throws his awesome headbutts while Hansen tries to rid himself of his chaps and jacket. It's this kind of thing that makes me think Hansen is the best to ever do it. If you've seen one Stan Hansen match then you've seen him beat the crap out of somebody. If you've seen several Stan Hansen matches then you've seen him beat the crap out of several somebodies. He might be the best ever at that particular aspect of pro wrestling. But his selling and ability to show vulnerability or, in those rare instances, even fear; those are the things that really put him over the top. I hadn't watched any Hansen outside All Japan in ages, and that was never an environment where you were likely to find Hansen outright begging off or borderline stooging. But he wasn't afraid to here, and Stan bastarding Hansen asking for a bit of reprieve made Colon seem like a badass in his own right. There was some dueling limb work in this, and it didn't last long or anything, but I liked how it came about. First Colon goes for a high knee in the corner and hits the turnbuckle, so Hansen jumps on this opening and goes after the leg for a little bit. He soon drops it in favour of throwing Colon into a fence and mushing his face into it, but it was cool while it lasted. Shortly after this Hansen tries to lariat Colon on the floor, but Colon moves and Hansen lariats the ring post, so Colon works the arm for a short spell, wrapping it around the post and bashing it off the dugout. That doesn't last long either, but both felt like examples where an opportunity presented itself for one guy to inflict some extra damage on his opponent, before eventually going back to the more attractive option of beating his head off something solid. Hansen kicking the shit out of the commissioner post-match ruled as well. I don't remember ever seeing him lariat somebody while they're on all fours, but he did it here and of course it must've sucked being on the receiving end of that.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Welcome Back to Puerto Rico, Terry Funk

Carlos Colon v Abdullah the Butcher (9/20/86)

Might be my favourite Colon performance yet. At first I figured this was going to be his Jerry Lawler performance, where he starts slow, gets beaten up for a while, then cartwheels (drops the strap) and makes his big comeback while the crowd goes nuts. And in a sense that's what we got...but at the same time it was much more than that. The first half was all Abby, jabbing Colon in the throat with a pencil, throwing big headbutts, biting Colon's forehead open and generally dominating. Then Carlos made his big comeback, complete with cartwheel and crowd going nuts. And THEN he went full caveman on Abby, and I've never seen Lawler blatantly punt a guy in the balls - repeatedly - or attempt to scalp someone with his teeth like Colon did here. He was rabid; not quite as savage as he was in the June match, but he was out for blood and wouldn't be satisfied with a mere trickle. Abdullah ruled on the back foot. Some of his weeble-wobble selling before finally going down was Blackwell-esque and he really milked his bumps for everything they were worth. It's one thing to go down for a leaping headbutt, but it's another to time it so that the crowd goes full on badger shit when it happens. In true Abdullah fashion, though, you could never count him out. He's always hiding a fork or a plain old jaggy stick somewhere, and this time he had Gary Hart with him so that made him even more dangerous. Case in point: we reach peak Puerto Rico level when Hart hands Abby a shiv and Abby STABS COLON IN THE DICK! I couldn't believe it when he did that. When Colon went and stood over him I thought, "he could stab him in the dick here. Wait...surely he wouldn't do that." But then he did! He actually stabbed him in the dick and I outright shouted "holy shit he stabbed him in the dick!" This match-up has delivered every time out, and there haven't been two that follow the same pattern yet (other than the pattern of blood and stabbing), which blows my previous "these Abby/Colon matches all probably have a similar formula but it feels like they'll throw just enough different wrinkles in there to keep it fresh" theory to bits. This was completely different to the June match, which was completely different to the March match, which was different to the very first match on the set (complete with post-match riot). And I think it's time I stopped comparing Colon to guys like Lawler or the Von Erichs or any other territory babyface mainstay. You can draw parallels, sure, but I've seen enough of him now that I think he absolutely stands on his own. This wasn't Carlos Colon doing a Jerry Lawler. This was Carlos Colon doing a Carlos Colon. And I hope he doesn't change for anybody.

Terry Funk v Carlos Colon (9/21/86)

If comic books are to believed, and I see no reason why they shouldn't, there's probably an alternate universe somewhere/sometime in which Terry Funk only toured Japan once every few years, and the majority of his peak was spent on the island of Puerto Rico. Don't get me wrong, I love Funk in Japan as much as the next guy. He had a ton of great stuff there. But imagine those Funks v Abby and Sheik matches happening in Puerto Rico? Imagine Funk getting to wrestle Carlos Colon or the Invaders or even Hercules Ayala every week? I wonder what kind of names they could've brought in with the drawing card of a former NWA World Champion being there full time. Fucking hell, never mind Abby and the Sheik, imagine Funk v Hansen happened in Puerto Rico?! A man can dream, I guess (those Funk/Invader matches from the early 80s are Holy Grail material at this point, btw). This is the final of the Universal Title tournament, which Funk reached by somehow getting past Windham and Martel despite literally wrestling parts of those matches with his pants down and/or a wooden chair around his head. His pre-match interview was incredible here. He calls Puerto Rico a giant pig farm again, says Colon is a yellow coward pig, then says he knows how to speak in a foreign language the crowd will understand. "Oink oink," he says, while you take a second just to thank the wrestling gods that we've been blessed with Terry Funk. Savinovic uses his sleeve to wipe his face of Funk's spittle so Funk just outright spits on him and this match is twelve stars before anybody's even gotten in the ring. This was actually a slightly more subdued Funk performance than his last two. Maybe it's because it's the final for all the marbles, but he was a little more businesslike. We still get some awesome shtick early on, though. This time he tries to back pedal from Colon and trips up over his own discarded chaps, then he takes a Flair Flip in the corner before seamlessly moving straight into his seesaw bit in the ropes as Colon peppers him with punches. Pretty soon he takes over, and as usual he goes to the piledriver outside, this time doing it on the stage. I'm a dork for guys working a chinlock and pulling the referee out of position by grabbing the hair, then using the other hand to blatantly choke while the ref' is looking out for more hair pulling. We got that here, and Funk even makes the hair pulling look like he's trying to give a guy a permanent bald patch. I'm not the first person to bring up Terry Funk's selling, but man is Terry Funk great at selling. He takes a punt to the balls (he did it to Colon first, so it was warranted) and it may be the best sell of a ball shot I've ever seen, and he even tries to turn it into a distraction spot by feigning a ruptured testicle so he can grab a foreign object. His sell of the figure four, while in the hold as well as afterwards, is really awesome as well. Nobody throws headbutts on jelly legs like Terry Funk. Not quite up there with the Windham and Martel matches, but it's good and something you won't regret watching.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Welcome to Puerto Rico, Terry Funk

Invader I v Ron Starr (9/19/86)

Wonderful match, with one of the most unfortunate, annoying clip jobs imaginable. What we have is a pre-commercial stretch that's awesome and a post-commercial stretch that's even better, but at some point in between then Ron Starr ends up tapping an artery and not seeing that middle portion of the match is one massive kick in the nuts. The pre-commercial stretch is way more tentative than the stadium match, but they traded the wild brawling for a really cool slow build. This is a title match, not a street fight, so they actually have to adhere to a rule or least for a while. Invader goes to the hip toss early and Starr eventually counters one with an STO, but his control is always short lived as Invader keeps finding ways to come out on top of exchanges. I loved the bit where Starr blocks a few punches in the corner and Invader slowly backs up, refusing to engage him any further, staring him down with contempt. The coolest spot during this part was when Starr went for his DDT, really throwing his hips into it, but as he's about to fall back Invader slips out and takes him over with a slick hammerlock takedown. They go to the commercial break at this point, and I don't know how much we miss exactly, but when we come back Starr's Rambo vest has been torn off and the blood's flowing freely, so you know you want to see what led to that. Everything after the break is amazing, though. Almost right away Starr throws Invader out to the floor, and I have no idea who she is or why she was there, but some woman comes over and smashes a chair over Invader's head, then casually walks away as fans pelt her with trash. Invader hits yet another gusher and this might be his best selling performance yet, struggling to his feet before collapsing into a cluster of seats, staggering around selling the blood loss. It's a truly exceptional sell job, from a guy who makes lying on the floor bleeding utterly compelling. When they went into the finishing run I was thinking it was going to end the same way as the street fight, but they went another few minutes after that and everything they did felt like the last gambits of two warriors destined to die on the battlefield. The selling, the desperation, the nuclear crowd heat -- this was just tremendous stuff. And I loved the decisive finish, with Invader's attempted cross body being that one bridge too far and Starr caputalising with his DDT, the crowd in near shock. I think I'd already take Ron Starr over a bunch of his more highly pimped peers (I mean, I've never seen a Dick Slater performance I enjoyed more than Ron's in this or the street fight), and Invader is undeniable at this point. If we had this in full I could see it being my outright #1, but even as is it'll still go high.

Terry Funk v Barry Windham (9/19/86)

So, in one of my more shitheaded moments, I had Terry Funk at #11 on my PWO greatest wrestler ever ballot. After watching a fair chunk of Terry Funk matches the last couple months, #11 now feels at least twelve spots too low. He was absolutely incredible in this, just having the time of his life coming into Puerto Rico and doing a greatest hits of Terry Funk shtick. In the first few minutes he gets Flair Flipped in the corner and tries to yank the nearby cameraman off the apron, then he nearly falls out the ring running the ropes and picks a fight with another cameraman at ringside, who of course runs away like a sane person. He launches a wooden chair in the ring out of frustration, but Barry is cool as ice and plucks it out the air with one hand. Eventually Funk takes over with an awesome transition. He spits on Windham and bails to the floor, and as Barry chases him out Funk grabs him and rams him into the post, then hits two piledrivers on the floor. I don't know if he pointed to his head afterwards like he was smarter than everyone else, but it was one of those moments where you knew the crazy guy wielding the branding iron had been around the block a few times. Barry is great selling the ensuing beatdown and Funk is clearly having fun being in a territory where it's not as frowned upon to mule kick someone in the balls. When Windham takes over again he gets his revenge by hitting a couple piledrivers on the concrete, and Funk then spends the rest of the match on the back foot doing something amazing every thirty seconds. Windham was already super great in 1986 and this isn't even remotely a carry job, but it's really Funk being Funk with Barry playing along. Terry is so great at setting things up here, usually stringing multiple comedy spots together seamlessly. Barry rams his head into the turnbuckle as the crowd count to ten along with him, then Funk grabs the ropes in a daze and staggers over to the adjacent corner, so Windham follows him over and does it another ten times. Then Funk comes out the corner rocking back and forth as if Windham is still bonking his head off the turnbuckle, like the motion has been permanently seared into his muscle memory. At another point he punch-drunkenly falls out the ring and tries to crawl away, stands up with a chair wrapped around his head, then gets stuck trying to climb back in the ring because the chair won't fit through the ropes. It may honestly have been the hardest I've laughed - like genuinely, heartily laughed - at a spot in a wrestling match ever. There was about fifty other things he did that ruled, too. He fell into the laps of pensioners at ringside, recklessly fell headfirst out the ring in an almost reverse Buddy Rose bump, went for a neckbreaker but ended up only hurting himself because Barry was holding onto the rope (and you could see Funk set it up by forcing him over to the ropes as he was about to do it), did an AMAZING double pirouette off a punch that Simone Biles probably stole for a floor routine, and in his post-match interview he called Savinovic a pig and Puerto Rico as a whole one giant pig sty. I'd seen this match before years ago, but I really didn't remember a whole lot about it. Turns out it was grade A awesome. Who would've thought?

Terry Funk v Rick Martel (9/20/86)

Fucking hell, Terry Funk in Puerto Rico might be one of my favourite wrestlers ever. It's like Walt Goggins in Sons of Anarchy or Timothy Olyphant in Archer, where they show up for an episode or two and just absolutely steal the show (man I miss Justified). This was another incredible Funk performance, maybe even better than the last one. The whole first half is basically one big Terry Funk comedy stooge showcase. He slaps Martel before the bell and runs away, so Martel elbow drops Funk's cowboy hat and Funk's chaps fall down. He gets back in the ring and wants a boxing match, so Martel obliges and Funk ends up throwing midair punches before falling flat on his butt. He climbs the ropes, but he's unsteady up there and just falls and crotches himself on the top rope, and I cannot possibly describe his sell of this. I couldn't do it justice. Everything Funk does in this first half is designed to make him look like an idiot and it was god damn beautiful. People at ringside laugh at him so he starts throwing chairs into the audience! I never noticed the safety net in front of the crowd so when he threw the first one I expected a fan to literally be killed. Then he grabs the security guard by the scruff of the neck and threatens to ding him, but this is motherfucking Puerto Rico and security in Puerto Rico aren't scared of shit, so Funk backs up apologetically. Then he threatens a fat guy in a green t-shirt instead. He almost falls out the ring running the ropes again, so Martel pulls his trunks down and Funk obliviously walks around with his bare ass out. When he eventually realises he's been humiliated (again) he picks another a fight with the fat guy in the green t-shirt. Concluding that his current strategy is getting him nowhere fast, he takes over by changing tact and luring Martel into that dreaded false sense of security. He breaks clean a few times and applauds Martel's efficiency at working the headlock, but as soon as he gets his chance he goes to the low blow. At this point he takes all that anger at being laughed at and directs it at Martel, piledriving him on the grass, choking him with a chain, throwing him into stacks of chairs. When Martel comes back we get more of Funk walking around with the chair over his head, but this time they turn that into an utterly insane spot with Martel piledriving Funk on the floor with the chair still around his neck! In very un-Terry Funk-like fashion he barely sells this and basically goes straight to the spot where he gets his head/chair stuck in the ropes, but I'm astounded they did a spot like that in the first place. I mean, you know Funk is a lunatic, but wow. I also love how Martel can't hit his slingshot splash even in Puerto Rico. In fact, I loved all of this. All of it. I'd put it a hair below the Windham match, but it still ruled and I want to see every single thing Terry Funk ever did on this glorious island.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Onto Puerto Rico Disc 3

Invader I v Ron Starr (Street Fight) (8/17/86)

If ECW had ever ran a baseball stadium show, this is about how I imagine it would've went. This was ECW before ECW was cool, baby! And it was awesome. They basically brawled all over the stadium, from the infield to the dugouts, through the crowd and into the stands, on top of what looked like a stage set up in the middle of the field, then eventually into the ring. There were bits where they'd end up disappearing amid pockets of fans, then Starr would reappear by running away as Invader tried to chase him down and throw stuff at him. It was like one of those cartoon scuffles where all you'd see is dust and flailing limbs, passing through one end of a building before reemerging from the other as you hear furniture crashing in its wake. I really haven't seen much of Starr, but he was great again in this and he's been one of the best guys on the set. He brawls, he bleeds, he bumps and stooges, and he isn't afraid to jump off the top rope and land balls-first across someone's knee. Invader continues to absolutely rule it in everything he's in. This was one of the rare occasions where his opponent actually out-bled him, but his selling was still outstanding and the way he fires back with strikes like it might be his one last chance of survival is always awesome. I understand why it's the case, but he really feels like one of the most underrated or least talked about great wrestlers ever. Last few minutes had guys getting whipped with a weightlifting belt, punch exchanges while both guys were on their knees (which led to Invader hitting his double chop from a kneeling position, and of course it was tremendous), nasty post shots and double knockdowns where they both just recklessly clattered into each other. And I don't have any problem at all with the finish being what it was. This was badass.

Super Medico v White Knight (9/19/86)

On the one hand this had some really good stuff. On the other hand both guys were wearing identical ring attire and I couldn't tell who was who. I *think* Medico was the tecnico. The crowd were super hot for whoever the tecnico was, anyway. They popped huge for his punch flurry - and good grief what a fucking punch flurry this was - and they rallied behind him when the rudo took over. The rudo - I assume White Knight - was a bit chinlocky, but he hit a nice vertical suplex and his top rope elbow was first class. I may re-watch this if Boricua's history thread on PWO sheds some light on who's who (and maybe some backstory), but as it stands I still liked it well enough. Those white masks were absolutely dapper, btw.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Puerto Rico Disc 2 is in the Books

Invader I v Eric Embry (June 1986)

Yep. This delivered. Maybe the two MVPs of the set so far, and it met the lofty expectations such a match-up creates. Where has Eric Embry been all my life? I have no recollection of him being THIS good in Texas/USWA. He was phenomenal in this, though. Invader beat on him to start, with big clubs to the chest and an awesome flurry of punches while Embry pinballed all over the place, both inside the ring and outside. And of course Invader kicked him in the balls, because Invader kicks everyone in the balls. Embry would futilely try and crawl away, then he'd beg off and plead for mercy, but Invader would just smash his face into the canvas. This whole first spell was great, basically. But then Embry takes over - through questionable means, obviously - and the match goes up another few levels. In the previous Embry matches he worked mostly from the bottom and/or tailored his offence around cheapshots and brief flurries. This time it was like he'd reached his breaking point and all he wanted to do was beat Invader all around the building. He hits him with a chair, throws him into the ringposts, rams him into a big blue garage door, then piledrives him on a table, which is bonkers for 1986. Some old moo moo-wearing lady in the crowd even tries to take a kick at him. His headbutt off the middle rope looked great, but his falling headbutt from a standing position looked even better, like the Ted DiBiase fist drop of falling headbutts. He really lives up to that Mr. Piledriver moniker as well by absolutely drilling Invader with a jumping piledriver (in addition to the crazy one on the table). Invader bleeds through all of this and Invader taking a bloody beatdown is pretty much can't fail at this point. He is so, so good at it, with his jelly-legged selling and his wild lunges as he's trying to make desperation comebacks. They do a big double knockdown reset spot that Embry really leans into, and that serves as the catalyst for Invader's comeback, which was spectacular. As soon as he chucks Embry out to the floor everyone in the building goes nuts because they know it's payback time, and sure enough Embry pays in blood. The last stretch with both guys trading last-legs punches and punts to the balls and throwing each other into chairs and barricades was out of this world. I think this went about twelve minutes bell to bell and it was truly exceptional. Everything that was promised and my new #1.

Abdullah the Butcher v Victor Jovica (Chain Match) (July 1986)

Man, Abby attacking Jovica with a fork before he's even taken his executioner's hood off is a heck of a visual to start a match with. Pretty sure this is the first time I've seen Jovica wrestle. He was mostly okay and he bled like a maniac. Like, dude is absolutely covered in blood after three minutes. Abdullah ruled yet again. He was a nasty bastard when he was throwing chain-wrapped fists and whipping Jovica with the chain, and at one point he even threw in a dick punch for good measure. He was really at his best when he was wailing in pain, though. Jovica would punch him in the ribs and choke him with the chain and Abby would squeal and snort like a dying pig. This also had a really cool finish. They would sort of trade "nearfalls" in the sense that each guy would touch three turnbuckles then be cut off just before touching the fourth, going back and forth a bit with that for a few minutes. Then Abby looks like he's put Jovica down for good, but at the last second Jovica yanks the chain up between his legs and Abby goes down shrieking in agony. Even the Butcher will go down to that old chestnut.

The Invaders v Los Pastores (8/2/86)

For a tag team I would never have thought of years ago as being a "workrate team," the Sheepherders could cut a real pace when they wanted to. I mean, they don't do a ton of stuff, but this was fairly lengthy and they went absolute hell for leather all the way (I don't have anywhere close to a complete picture of the Invaders, but those guys being able to work at this pace isn't surprising at all). The early shine period was a hundred miles an hour, the Invaders going after Luke's arm and working constant quick tags. There were some cool bits where Luke would make it over to his corner only for Butch to be jawing with a section of the crowd, thus missing the chance to tag, or maybe he would tag but the ref' would be distracted by the other Invader. It all got Butch Miller ranting and raving on the apron. When they eventually take over the pace doesn't dip, so we get a nice, frantic heat segment on Invader I, which was a cool change of pace from Invader III playing FIP. The last few minutes were pretty great as well. They do another semi-extended run after the hot tag with guys brawling in and around the ring, and there's an awesome spot where Invader I tries to hit a double bulldog, but the Pastores pick him up and crotch him over the top rope before hitting a spike piledriver. I think the match gets thrown out at this point but we get another few minutes of brawling and Invader III wrapping handcuffs around his fist and clocking folk. The Pastores trying to break Invader I's arm with a flag pole at the end looked brutal as well. Really good tag. It had your traditional southern style structure, but it still managed to feel plenty hectic even before things broke down at the end (then it felt REALLY hectic).

So, there goes disc 2. Where disc 1 felt like a cool novelty and a set up for what's to come (the dearth of pre-'86 footage had plenty to do with that, tbf), along with some fun guest appearances and a lengthy NWA Title match, this is the disc where it felt like we'd well and truly arrived in Puerto Rico. And I loved every single second of it. This was an awesome, loaded disc, with my three favourite matches so far and twelve of my current top 15. There wasn't a single match on this disc that I didn't like on at least some level. Wild crowds, wild brawls, blood and guts, southern style tags, Memphis trappings, and even a scaffold match that ruled. And disc 3 looks like it's gonna be even better! This is Puerto Rico, motherfucker. Let's never leave.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Colon v Abby Part 4! It's Puerto Rico!

Invader I v Bruiser Brody (6/15/86)

This was about as simple as you could get structurally, with one major momentum shift and both guys basically splitting the match down the middle in terms of who worked on top. I thought it worked perfectly well for them. The beginning consists of Brody beating Invader all over the place with Invader juicing and selling the blood like Invader does, though he doesn't hit an uber-gusher this time out. He tries to make his comebacks and he's his awesome scrappy self, but Brody fights through the blows and keeps on moving forward. Then Invader THUMPS him in the plums and Brody does this amusing sell where he walks around in a circle holding his nether regions before falling into a flat back bump. That's your one major momentum shift. Brody isn't great at selling, but he does give Invader the whole second half of the match; or maybe Invader TAKES the whole second half in spite of Brody wanting to be Brody. Actually, that's probably unfair to Brody, honestly, because he was decent enough in this, at times even pretty good. There's a great bit where he swings wildly and tries to grab Invader but Invader ducks away from it all and hits his double chop to land Brody on his keister in the corner. I'm not even sure that was an intentional bump -- I think Invader might've caught him off guard and legit rocked him. Eventually it spills out into the crowd and Invader chases Brody off with a chair in hand. Invader then gets hoisted up on fans' shoulders and paraded around the stadium like a king, which ruled. I enjoyed this. Even if it was kind of weird watching it knowing what would happen a couple years later.

Carlos Colon v Abdullah the Butcher (6/15/86)

I'm not really sure where to start with this one. I honestly don't think you could do this match anywhere other than in Puerto Rico. It starts out with them being a bit more hesitant, not trying to claw each other's face off straight away. I love how Abby backs Colon into the ropes and that entire side of the crowd are in uproar the instant Abby reaches down to his boot. The ref' is actually pretty great here, constantly checking to see if Abby hasn't pulled a fork from somewhere, really putting across how much of a menace he is. They throw a few headbutts, trade some strikes...then Colon gets a pencil from who knows where and stabs Abby in the eye! He's just digging this pencil into the eye, trying to gouge the eye out with his fingers, biting the eye. For the rest of the match it's basically Colon punching and biting and stabbing Abby while trying to rip his eye out and Abby just takes all of this and sells the crap out of it. At one point we even get some blood splatter on one of the ringside cameras. I actually started to feel sympathy for Abdullah the fucking Butcher because of the monumental fatboy shitkicking he was taking. This was like the time Token got fed up with all of Cartman's racist horse shit and just kicked fuck out of him on the Christian Rock Festival stage, except this Cartman is a psychopath (or more of a psychopath) who stabs people with a fork and Token kicked fuck out of him for twenty whole minutes. And the crowd eats it all up! The doctor comes in to check on Abby, Abby pushes him away because he will not die, so Colon goes back to punching him in the eye and smashing him with a wooden chair and standing on his head! Abby throws maybe six strikes the whole match. The rest of it is Colon abusing him. Relentlessly. There was one bit where Colon was peppering him with fists against the ropes and Abby was almost convulsing on his feet, bouncing off the ropes as if they were the only thing keeping him upright. I'm not sure how good this actually was, but it was one of the most engrossing, borderline-disturbing matches I've seen in ages. Maybe ever.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Another Day, Another Puerto Rico Entry

Carlos Colon & The Invaders v Abdullah the Butcher, Ron Starr & Chicky Starr (4/26/86)

Man, this disc just keeps cranking out the hits. I thought this was an outstanding sprint and the second best match I've watched so far. The first half is a long babyface shine period and it was really excellent stuff. Invader I punts Chicky in the balls about thirty seconds in and every exchange between them makes me want to see that eventual blowoff even more. Ron Starr was on some Arn Anderson shit here, going from awesome stooging bump machine to stone cold killer after the heels take over. He hits a GREAT high knee, a bunch of suplex variations, a big running bulldog, viciously chokes Invader 3, and he and Chicky do the Beverly Brothers/World's Greatest Tag Team 'leapfrog onto opponent draped over the ropes' double team, which is never not a cool spot. Abby ruled yet again and I cannot believe how much fun he's been on this set. He just keeps getting better and better, doing something new in every match that I don't remember seeing him do before. This time he gets tangled up in the ropes Terry Funk style while Colon punches him, then later on he grabs Invader 3 by the mask and repeatedly headbutts him. He picks him up and body slams him onto the top rope, holding him in that position so Ron and Chicky can choke him and dig him in the ribs. Invader I's two-handed chop to the throat is such a good signature strike, the way he really springs forward and extends the elbows like he's trying to crush a guy's trachea. I liked how it was teased early that he'd end up being worked over, only for III to immediately rush over and drag him back to the babyface corner to make the tag. Crowd comes unglued for Colon's hot tag, and I like how ultimately it came down to him and Abby duking it out in the ring while the Invaders and Starrs brawled almost all the way into the dugout. Post-match Abdullah must've thrown a kilo of salt into Colon's eyes and I love how the ref' sold like he got caught in the crossfire. This is really my kind of wrestling.

Invader III v Chicky Starr (Scaffold Match) (May 1986)

Well damn. I never thought we'd get another scaffold match on the level of Dundee/Koko from the Memphis set, but this was a pretty fucking tremendous scaffold match. They also took it in a totally different direction from Dundee/Koko. That was mostly about shtick and Dundee using the tricks he learned working the high bar in the circus to scale and move around the platform. It was a little whimsical at times with some comedy thrown in. They never exactly beat the shit out of each other, because who in their right mind would want to have an actual wrestling match, never mind a full on brawl, up on a scaffold platform? Invader III and Chicky Starr, that's who. This started out a bit tentatively as you'd expect, with Chicky begging off and showing fear at being all the way up there, but pretty soon he gets busted open and it's like the blood forces him to cut loose. He knows that if he doesn't step up he might actually die, because that scaffold platform is HIGH and the guy he's on it with wants to throw him off it. Some of the stuff they did was batshit crazy. I've never seen anyone hit a dropkick in a scaffold match before, but sure enough Invader hits his all-time level dropkick and Chicky bumps himself almost to the edge of the platform. Invader hits a big vertical suplex, then they fight over a body slam at the shaky scaffold's edge and it's genuinely one of the most intense moments in a wrestling match I've seen in a while. I mean, if that goes wrong they are fucked. Chicky prematurely celebrating might've been a bit dumb, but Invader hanging on and dragging himself back up was impressive and Chicky's bump at the end was insane, like Batman dropping Sal Maroni off a balcony.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

They do the Tag Wrestling in Puerto Rico, Too!

Rock 'n' Roll RPM's v The Zambuie Express (3/29/86)

Another fun RPM's southern style tag, though I liked this one more than the Greer/Kent match. This had a better heat segment on Lane as well, primarily because the Zambuies had some killer fat guy offence and Lane bounced around admirably for all of it. There was one weird bit early on where Muhammad kind of stood with Davis in a headlock waiting for something to happen with Akeem and Lane, but for the most part he and Akeem threw their ample weight around and tried to squash folk. Davis hit another couple great looking dropkicks and I bet the pop at the end would've been thunderous. The camera literally shook and people were going ballistic for the RnRs, which took me aback a little because I had no idea they were so over.

The Invaders v Chicky & Ron Starr (3/29/86)

The Invaders have been really good on the set so far, but this is the first chance to see them work a tag together that didn't involve barbed wire and buckets of blood. They're pretty great at it. All of the early babyface control stuff was good, especially the way they'd work the arm and make quick tags, everything looking super smooth and crisp. There's also the running story of Invader I having beef with Chicky Starr and Chicky wanting no part of him. Invader III plays face in peril here. In the awesome match with Embry he was mostly about the big offence, but he was strong fighting from the bottom in this. I don't really have a ton to say about this specifically since I watched it a couple nights ago, but you had a good babyface team against a good heel team and it resulted it a very good tag match. That's about the bare bones of it.

Rock 'n' Roll RPM's v Eric Embry & The Crusher (3/29/86)

This is the final of the tag title tournament the last couple matches were from, and a hell of a final it is. This was reeeeeal good and my favourite tag so far. Eric Embry was fucking excellent yet again -- he's someone I kind of want to do a deep dive on at some point now. He comes into this with a bandaged up head and the badage gets torn off inside about a minute, and the cut the bandage was there to protect is opened up again less than a minute after that. There are a few times later on where that cut comes back to hurt him, like when he hits a headbutt on Davis and sells it like it did as much damage to himself as it did his opponent, which I thought was pretty damn cool. He was also the main recipient of the babyface shine early on and I about lost it when he got fed up and just booted Davis in the nuts (he does it again towards the end and Hugo on commentary assures us that, despite Bobby Jaggers telling us it was a kick to the midsection, it was definitely a boot to the "testicle area"). We get a bit of double FIP action in this as well, and the long heat segment on Davis was really awesome. Crusher is a bit of a stiff and miscues a few things a little, but otherwise he's fine throwing kicks and big knees. Embry doing his thing is enough to cover for him, anyway. I loved him tripping over as he came in to try and prevent the hot tag. I loved him selling exhaustion on the apron. I loved his piledriver. I loved pretty much everything he did in this match. I also loved the finish, and the crowd go absolutely apeshit for it as well. Like, the place is rumbling, the camera shaking, people in the crowd jumping around hugging each other. And then Embry assists his valet post-match in piledriving Wendi Richter after he and Crusher ruin the RnRs' title presentation. Long live Eric Embry.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Forks, Barbed Wire and Blood. It's Puerto Rico

Carlos Colon v Jos LeDuc (Barbed Wire Match) (2/22/86)

I love how everything in Puerto Rico is just so much more NASTY than everywhere else. No other wrestling territory does disgusting close-ups of someone getting barbed wire sawed into their face like Puerto Rico. I fucking love this promotion. In true Puerto Rican fashion this had someone bleeding from their forehead inside the first minute and a half, and then about twenty seconds later we get our first close-up shot of Colon digging barbed wire into the cut on LeDuc's head. LeDuc was pretty fun in a Luke Williams sort of way, like how he'd take a punch and bump either back or throat-first into the barbed wire. He takes over with a kick to the balls, which is another Puerto Rican staple, and that leads to a truly grotesque spot - complete with close-up camera shot - where he jams the barbed wire in Colon's MOUTH. I don't know if Colon popped a blood capsule or bladed his mouth like a complete fucking crackpot, but there was a bit later on where he was drooling bloody saliva while LeDuc tried to garrote him with a line of barbed wire. I wouldn't call this a great match by any stretch, but it was a spirited brawl with a few pretty gnarly spots thrown in, and nobody works the barbed wire like they do in Puerto Rico.

Carlos Colon v Abdullah the Butcher (March 1986)

Well, I loved this. Abby has been hugely enjoyable on the set so far (there's a bonus Abby v Al Perez match and Abby is an AMAZING bastard in it), but this time he really blew me away. On the surface it doesn't feel like he works a whole lot differently in PR than he did in Japan or Texas or wherever else he popped up. He still has the fork. He still bleeds. He more or less still has the same offence, with the elbow drops and the thrusts to the throat. But in PR it all feels like it's done with a little extra piss and vinegar. His thrusts and kicks are a little quicker, his elbow drops a little meatier, his headbutts a little stiffer, and on top of that he seemed to add a bunch of other mean looking shit to his repertoire. The close-up camera shots make all the fork-stabbings look even more nasty than usual, but there are times where, if the fork isn't close to hand, he'll just start gouging peoples' eyes or biting their ears (and I cannot stress enough how much the camera work adds to the ghoulishness of it all). In the Perez match he stabbed Perez in the head with the fork, then he whipped out a bag of salt and threw it in the cut! It was crazy. And man, some of his facial expressions in this were awesome. There was one bit where he was using the bottom rope to try and strangle Colon, while biting the middle rope and staring out at the crowd all bug-eyed and demented. Colon really is the perfect Abby opponent. I've seen Abby matches where his opponent will let him do just about whatever he wants, and it can lead to Abby doing a ton of fork shtick and not a whole lot else. There's no real urgency to what he's doing. When he's not made to work for it, it's not nearly as fun. Like, I get that Abby is a horrible creature who stabs people with cutlery just because he wants to, but it's better when you get the sense he's resorted to the fork because maybe he feels like he needs to. Colon makes him work for it, and when Abby pulls the fork out the boot it feels like he needs it to weather Colon's assault. That the ref' managed to actually grab it and take it from him this time, which led to Abby needing to find another way to take control, was another one of those cool wrinkles in this match-up. It's also a match-up with a ton of great payback spots. Abby takes control by punting Colon in the balls, so later on Colon punts Abby in the balls right back (though this is PR, where everybody punts everybody in the balls). Abby had his fork confiscated early in the match, but later Colon pulls out a fork of his own and stabs Abby in the stomach, then towards the end Abby somehow produces ANOTHER fork and carves up Colon's forehead. Eventually the ref' takes a crazy bump to the floor and Colon and Abby brawl around the place for a while before there's a Dusty Finish, which then leads to more brawling and stabbing. I had an absolute blast with this. Loved it.

Rock 'n' Roll RPM's v Don Kent & Dan Greer (3/29/86)

Nice, short, southern style tag. I'd never seen Greer or Kent wrestle before, but Kent was part of the Fabulous Kangaroos team that I kinda wish we had some footage of (or maybe we do and I just haven't been made aware of it yet). Greer apparently lost a hair match not long before this but instead of going fully bald he decided to keep his ridiculous rat tail ponytail. The RPM's were a pretty fun second-rate RnR Express here, with Lane playing Morton and Davis playing Gibson. Davis' running dropkick was awesome, just blasting Greer who took a big bump into the corner. We've had southern tag formula on the set already, but this is the first time it's been presented in its purest/most Americanized form. It wouldn't have looked out of place as a Great American Bash tour opener, for example.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Still Watching Puerto Rico

Carlos Colon & Miguel Perez Jr. v Los Pastores (January 1986)

This was your traditional southern style tag with a Puerto Rican twist. By that I mean there was no real babyface shine at the beginning. Instead, everybody just brawled in and around the ring before it eventually settled into a Perez Jr.-in-peril segment. Colon was great working the apron during this. Like, really great. I'm a total mark for guys making it look like they're desperate to get in there and save their partner or generally start wrecking the heels' shit, and that was Colon in this match. At several points he decides he's seen enough and comes in and headbutts someone, which then prompts the ref' to try and get him back out so the Pastores can work some double teams on Perez. It wasn't always smooth, but it worked, and if anything the ref' not always being in perfect position added to the tumult. We saw Colon in a few different roles on disc 1, but this is the first proper look at him playing genuine hot tag. Shockingly enough it's another role he's good in. It's a shame the dubbed over commentary drowns out the crowd a bit because there's no way they wouldn't have been molten for the cartwheel upon entry and the extended stretch of babyface offence afterwards. And that's the second Puerto Rican twist. Rather than going straight to the finish after the hot tag - or even working back and forth for a spell - the whole last stretch is basically Colon and Perez wringing out every bit of comeuppance on the heels that they can. The Pastores bump and stooge, the babyfaces exact revenge, the crowd go home happy. Fun match.

Kamala v The Invader (2/22/86)

For a six minute extended squash, this was fucking tremendous. I'd seen a couple Invader matches before watching this set, but I had pretty much zero recollection of how good he may or may not have been. This is his second singles match on the set, though, and I already feel comfortable saying he's one of the best blood loss sellers I've ever seen. Kamala basically chops him in the head for the entirety of this and Invader just bleeds and bleeds and bleeds. By the end he's an absolute mess, but the selling is what really does the blade job justice. Sometimes guys will hit a total gusher and visually it'll look gruesome, but they don't really sell it to put it over the top. Like, they don't do anything differently than they would have had they not been bleeding all over the place. If you're a bloodthirsty vampire like myself then the blood alone is usually enough to keep you happy, but you'll appreciate it when someone goes the extra mile. Invader goes the extra mile. He stumbles and staggers, can't quite stand up properly, tries to fight back, but it's an uphill battle when he's losing blood like he is. The more he loses the weaker he becomes, the less he can put behind his blows, and on top of it all Kamala is relentless. Kamala was actually really fun in this as well. He's mostly about throwing chops, but he shows some vulnerability when Invader makes his brief comebacks and at one point he licks up some of Invader's blood Pirata Morgan style. I might end up overrating this on the final ballot, but it felt like one of the best matches of its ilk I've seen in a long time.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

How I've Missed Thee, Puerto Rico

Chicky Starr v Invader I (1/6/86)

This was like two thirds of an awesome match. The fact it's not the whole of an awesome match isn't so much the wrestlers' fault; it's more the dreaded JIP/clipping and booking of the finish that hurt it. We're joined in progress with Chicky beating on a bloodied Invader out on the floor, almost doing a hyperactive, Nick Bockwinkel-esque King of the Mountain bit. Invader is stumbling around bloody, beating his chest to rally the crowd - and motherfucker do they rally - but Chicky keeps rolling out and cutting him off. When Invader manages to make it into the ring Chicky just chucks him right back over the top rope, with Invader's bump hitting an 8.6 on the Randy Savage scale. People are hucking all sorts of garbage at Chicky and Chicky is amazing in the way he prances around in the face of it all, just absolutely reveling in this contempt. Chicky working an armbar after the early shellackings is a bit of a downer, I guess, but he makes sure to lift Invader's head up with a handful of hair to show the crowd his bloody handiwork. I think we get a commercial break just prior to Invader's comeback, which is annoying, but man does Invader know how to work a comeback. He adds just the right amount of desperation and frenzy into his shots, half staggering backwards after one connects, then leaping forwards again like he's putting everything he has left into the next one. He hits this awesome looking two-handed chop to Chicky's throat and the crowd erupts and...then Chicky bails. Literally gets out the ring and runs away. And there's your count out, folks. On the one hand it's a pretty deflating finish considering it looked like things were about to get REALLY real, but these two have other matches with higher stakes on the set, so I'm gonna look at this as something to set the table for what's to come. And it was a damn fine table-setter.

Invader III v Eric Embry (1/6/86)

Okay, this was the WHOLE of an awesome match. I honestly haven't seen a ton of Eric Embry. He was all over the last disc of the Texas set where he was really fun, and I remember loving the Lawler match, but he was playing scuzzy-looking-yet-easy-to-get-behind babyface in that. This wasn't that Eric Embry. This was Eric Embry being the biggest shitbag imaginable. He was so great in this. It was like he made the conscious decision to try and annoy people with every single thing he did. I loved all of his early stalling, very deliberately calling the referee over to tell him there was some hair-pulling going on, refusing to properly engage Invader until he's good and ready, making obnoxious whiny faces even John Tatum would scoff at. Even when he was selling he'd be making faces that made you want Invader to hit him again, only this time a little harder. Then when he was on top he'd pat himself on the back for everything as if it was a victory unto itself, like when he grabbed Invader's mask and used it to yank him into a headlock, whooping at the crowd because this was obviously something worth celebrating (of course he shit himself when Invader got out of it two seconds later). In the back half of the match there's a spell where Invader works over his leg, and even though the leg work gets dropped eventually it doesn't stop Embry from selling it right through to the end. Invader might not be Liger or Pierroth in terms of masked wrestlers expressing themselves through body language, but he has some killer offence. His dropkick looked awesome, he does this cool wishbone spot where he headbutts Embry in the stomach to stop him from sitting up, he does a super slick roll-up, and down the stretch he was throwing out all sorts of cool stuff. The stretch run actually felt like something you'd see in a Ric Flair title defence, with Embry playing the Flair role of trying to hang in there while Invader pushes to put him away. Every move Embry kicks out of ups the heat a little more, then he spills out to the floor, dazed and confused, and Invader screwballs him into the barricade with a bullet tope. Great, great match. The best on the set so far.