Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Whiskey & Wrestling 500!

500 posts! I did a W&W 400 entry for the 400th post, so I'm keeping up traditions for this, the 500th post, six and a half years after I started this blog. Six and a half years! That's longer than my entire high school life! And they thought I wouldn't amount to anything. Here's some humble pie to you, Mr. Campbell, ya baldy wee prick. Never doubt this boozehound!

Like with the 400th post, here are four of my favourite matches of all time.

'Macho King' Randy Savage v Ultimate Warrior (Career Ending Match) (WWF Wrestlemania VII, 3/24/91)

One of the best pieces of melodramatic pro-wrestling soap opera nonsense ever done, from pre-match to post-match and everything in between. This just feels like a huge deal from the very start. Warrior eschewing his usual sprint to the ring for a deliberate walk, the tentative beginning, the crowd heat -- it's big time. Savage was amazing in this, to the point where it feels like one of the best performances ever in a WWF ring. You know he's responsible for the layout, which was great, but it was everything else he did that ruled, all the little touches and movements. His reactions to Warrior shrugging off blows, spitting on him out of belligerence, the way he bides his time and capitalises on Sherri's interference. He fought like a man whose career was really on the line, even trying the throat across the barricade spot that he used to injure Steamboat way back, which was an awesome callback. Warrior isn't great or anything, but I thought he held up his end fine, even if he was still only the third best participant in the match. I loved the bit where he caught Savage coming off the top and just dismissively stood him up and slapped him. It was one of those matches where even he, this nutcase from another universe who talks to space deities, saw the gravity of the situation. Warrior kicking out of the multiple elbow drops annoys some people and I get that, but the way it happened here didn't bother me if for no reason other than it led to wild beady-eyed Randy Savage facial expressions. Warrior making his comeback and hitting the gorilla press and big splash...only for Savage to kick out; it was like your modern day WWE epic, except fresh and organic. Plus that leads to Warrior asking Kang and Kodos for guidance, threatening to walk out because his gods have abandoned him in his greatest moment of need, and that is legit one of my favourite spots in any match ever. It's completely ridiculous and goofy as anything, but I love it. I also loved how Savage jumping him only served to piss Warrior off, snapping him out of his trance and giving him the sign he needed. His gods hadn't left him. It was just their way of telling him his job wasn't done yet. Trial by adversity! Or, you know, whatever. AND I've always loved the finish. It's a moment that's stuck with me ever since I was a kid. I remember watching it and just being flabbergasted that Warrior was so casual about it. The way he hits the shoulder tackles, Savage completely dead on his feet, one foot on the chest, arms raised, back on top of the mountain. Then of course there's the post-match, which has one of the most iconic moments in WWF history. Sherri, who was a phenomenal she-devil all match, puts the boots to Savage while even Heenan thinks it's all a bit too much ("Sherri, come on, he tried his best!"). All the stuff with Elizabeth, grown-ass adults weeping in the crowd, it's Vince's perfect vision of sports entertainment. And on this night he nailed it all ends up.

Kerry & Kevin Von Erich v Terry Gordy & Buddy Roberts (Badstreet Match) (2/12/88)

This is what World Class was great at. There was a bunch of tags on the DVDVR Texas set that felt pretty ragged, not necessarily unstructured but certainly more back and forth with frequent momentum swings, rather than your traditional southern style tag in the Rock n Roll Express/Midnight Express vein. It didn't hold me back from liking those matches, but it maybe held me back from loving them. I'm a fan of the traditional southern tag structure, and the World Class take on it was a little messy. Sometimes that worked, though. Throw a couple Von Erichs in with some Freebirds and give them a leather belt, something special was gonna happen. World Class excelled at the ten minute bar fight. You knew straight away this was gonna be wild because Kevin was actually wearing boots for a change. He kept them on for about five minutes before taking them off and hitting people with them. Gordy was also rocking gigantic makeshift kneepads that looked like things a carpet fitter would wear. This was one of my favourite Gordy performances because he worked like a big surly bastard and just smashed guys to bits. He really walloped Kerry with a chair, suplexed him on the floor and generally wasn't in any mood to let the Von Erichs take over the match (as was their wont). There was this great bit where he hit a piledriver on Kevin and sat there cackling like a maniac afterwards. Kevin obviously potatoed everybody and whipped them with belts and bonked them with cowboy boots. At one point he nailed Gordy in the head with a belt buckle and you could tell by Gordy's reaction ("oh, motherFUCKER!") that it stung. Finish isn't great, but if you're gonna throw out a Badtreet match for being too out of control then I suppose this ticked all the boxes.

Pentagon, Blue Panther, Psicosis & Fuerza Guerrera v Octagon, Rey Misterio Jr., El Hijo del Santo & La Parka (AAA, 6/18/95)

It's been ages since I've watched any AAA trios (or 8-man tags). It was through AAA that I first started getting into lucha, with things like the Gringos Locos/Santo feud, Rey/Psicosis and Rey/Juventud. I guess it's pretty cliche now, but I was familiar with those guys, so like a lot of people at the time they were my gateway. There isn't a ton of AAA I'd have much interest in re-watching now, but there's some stuff I've watched recently enough to know it's still for me. I'd like to watch the 3/95 trios again to see how this compares with it, but this still feels like one of the best matches AAA ever had. The tecnicos were unstoppable in that primera. Park's footwork and preening had Panther tangled up in the ropes and Fuerza scrambling to keep up. Santito took on all comers at once and made them all look foolish, especially Fuerza who we know was never, ever above playing the fool. Rey was a jumping bean. Octagon...well, Octagon mostly kept out the way, but when he did take centre stage he never balked. You don't get much matwork in a 90s AAA trios/8-man; it was a promotion having a red hot run built on flash and highspots from Pena's creations. I guess that's why a lot of it doesn't hold up quite so well today, now that we're at the point where the highspots have been topped by things more audacious, but sometimes you get a match where everything just clicks and it's not the highspots themselves that draw you in. This had some real bite to it, so all the tecnicos' flash in the first caida felt like it was intended to either humiliate or hurt. Rey Jr. wasn't just running guys in circles for the sake of it, he was doing it to let them know they couldn't keep up. The rudos couldn't handle him and Rey was letting everyone know it. "The spots had substance" is one of those blanket terms you could apply to anything to explain why it made sense (I'm positive I've used that line plenty of times before myself), but this really felt like it had more to it than your standard AAA trios. You had the highspots, you had the flash, but it was the way they held it all together with the animosity that elevated it. That animosity of course led to the rudo beatdown, because there was only ever going to be so long before they'd had enough. There aren't many better beatdowns in a AAA trios than this. Psicosis was determined to cave Santo's skull in with a chair, Fuerza was fouling everyone he could and Park was made to pay big time for the early grandstanding. And when Panther finally got his hands on Misterio, little Rey couldn't bounce away from that ass beating. When the tecnicos make their comeback we get one of the best Santo rampages you'll ever see. He went fucking berserk on Psicosis, hammering him with a chair then wrapping it around his head and throwing him into the post. The cherry on top was the dive train, with Psicosis' utterly insane tope suicida being the pick of the bunch. If you had me come up with an all time AAA top 10 this would definitely be there.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara v Super Tiger (UWF, 9/11/85)

I don't remember if this was their best match together, but all of them were great so I guess it doesn't really matter. I did remember Fujiwara being incredible in the whole series, and yeah, he was incredible in this match. I wouldn't necessarily say it was a carry job, but Sayama was there to kick hard and full force kneedrop Fujiwara in the head. Other than that you watch this for the Fujiwara. Their dynamic was always pure striker v grappler. That was the thread running through all of their bouts. Fujiwara doesn't want to stand up with Sayama, and why would he when he's the grandmaster of submissions? Sayama has quick feet and isn't in Fujiwara's league on the deck, so he has no reason to want to take it there. It's the simplest shoot style dynamic you can get (behind the Ikeda/Ishikawa "smash each other in the brain until we forget basic motor skills" dynamic, I guess). Fujiwara does a few feints early on and the crowd picks up on this by chuckling, which I love because it's Fujiwara being a carny and everyone appreciates that. He then takes Sayama down and completely dominates him. Sayama cannot do a thing and Fujiwara knows it. The half crab is one of those dogshit early shoot style holds that would often bring a match to a halt, but watch Fujiwara work it in this match to completely opposite effect. He works the kneebar initially, transitions into the crab, uses his own foot to kick Sayama's other leg out as he's trying to alleviate pressure. He leans back on it and MAKES Sayama try and fight out. When they go back to the kneebar - another hold that could be lifeless - Fujiwara makes a point of covering his face with his free hand because he knows Tiger will try and kick him to get free. Sure enough Tiger tries to heel him in the face, but Fujiwara has it scouted. It's that attention to detail that makes him the king. After about ten minutes of this Sayama finally scores a knockdown, then hits a jumping kneedrop with his entire body weight coming down on Fujiwara's head. When Fujiwara gets back up he forces Sayama into the corner and motherfucking cracks him with a closed fist, and things only escalate from there. Sayama's kicks are thrown with more venom and when they connect Fujiwara is feeling them. He isn't catching them like he was at the start, they're getting through his defence and dropping him for 8 and 9 counts. Fujiwara throws headbutts and Sayama rubs his head and looks at Fujiwara like he would love nothing more than to cave his face in. Finish is typical Fujiwara. You let your guard down for one second, leave yourself open even a little, he'll make you pay. Nobody is better at the out-of-nowhere submission than Fujiwara. This was a master at work and I now feel like I need to watch this entire series all over again.

So there we have it. Whiskey & Wrestling's 500th post. Here's to five hunner more!

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