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.