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.

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