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.

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