Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Wrestlemania III

I stuck this on the other night as I was doing stuff for work. I wound up doing little work and actually watched the whole show over the course of a few days. I thought about watching Starrcade '87 to compare the big WWF and Crockett shows from that year, but then I realised I am a grown adult with a job and a dissertation to finish so maybe I'll just drop the idea and revisit it at a later date. Just think how much time I could waste writing about pro-wrestling if I'd finished my degree the first time. Oh well. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery.

Can-Am Express v Bob Orton & Don Muraco

Nice fun little opener. With more of a heat segment this could've been what the hipsters call "a ***1/4 affair," but as is we got plenty of neat babyface shine. The Can-Ams mostly work the arm with arm-wringers, a few quick tags and your hiptoss/armdrag takedowns. Orton thinks he's shaken Zenk, but Zenk keeps hold of the arm and drags him back to the mat face-first. The double monkey flip was cool, Orton's bump over the top looked good, and I liked the finish with Martel hitting the crossbody as Zenk crouches behind Muraco for the schoolboy trip. Doesn't top Rockers v Haku/Barbarian for under the radar Wrestlemania tag openers, but I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up being one of the three best matches on the show.

Hercules v Billy Jack Haynes

Herc's HGH gut is wild. It's not quite at that point where it's super distended and blocky, but he is absolutely juiced to the gills and somehow makes Billy Jack look natural in comparison. This wasn't great or anything, but I expected it to be a bag of shit and it wasn't that either so...happy days? Hercules absolutely slabbered Haynes with a clothesline early and that set up a spell of back work, which Haynes sold pretty well for a minute there. He was hunched over and it gave him so much bother he couldn't even suplex Herc. Herc wasn't amazing on offence or anything, but he did hit one big vertical suplex that he really threw himself into, almost turning it into a brainbuster. The post-match beatdown was a touch nastier than I remembered and Billy Jack blading was something else I'd forgotten. You kind of grade these 7 minute matches between guys who aren't all that good on a curve, and for what it was I thought this was fine.

King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo & Lord Littlebrook v Hillbilly Jim, Haiti Kid & Little Beaver

Imagine being a midget wrestler. Yahoos like Hillbilly Jim picking you up like you're a literal child and condescendingly patting you on the head. You're either a goofy comedy act or a psychopath that bites people in the arse (Hornswoggle). Sometimes both (Hornswoggle). I'd have taken my shit to Mexico. That said, Little Beaver absolutely deserved to be squashed like a grape. If nothing else Bundy should be commended for treating him like an equal! What did he expect? You slap Bundy's keister and keep pushing his buttons you better believe he'll react. Raylan Givens said it best: "Y'all go poking the bear and it's his fault when you get bit."

Harley Race v Junkyard Dog

King Harley and Queen Moolah. I could see Harley being an okay king. Hard but fair. Firm but not inflexible. Maybe not loved by the people, but in time I could see them coming to at least accept him. Moolah, though. Like Cersei Lannister with none of the good parts (...youthful exuberance?) and all of the worst dialed up to eleven. Call me a fool, but I thought this was pretty fun! Again, it only lasted a few minutes, but it was a highlight reel of old man Harley Race bumping. He faceplanted on a missed headbutt off the fucking apron to the floor, took an over the top rope bump where he hit his face on the apron, conked JYD with a falling headbutt that did more damage to himself (as a black man JYD has a four inch cranium, obviously), took his signature flip bump from the apron back in the ring, even gave us the slowest Flair Flip in the corner you've ever seen. He knew he had four minutes and he was going to make it count. I say this probably once a year, but I ought to do a mini-deep dive on Race. I'm pretty confident that his stuff in Japan does nothing for me at all, but his post-world champ run usually delivers the goods.

Rougeau Brothers v Dream Team

I watched this three hours before writing about it and I didn't remember a thing that happened other than the Beefcake turn at the end. I actually forgot it even happened until I went to Wikipedia to check how long the next match lasted. The Rougeaus are a fun babyface unit, Valentine is great and Beefcake can be fine so I'll assume it was watchable, but that's honestly all I have. It was short. Things happened. Blanks must be filled. You can do it.

Roddy Piper v Adrian Adonis

I've got a lot of time for Piper dropping Springsteen lines in his pre-match promo. "No retreat, baby, no surrender!" Tell'm, Hot Rod! I loved every second of this madness. The crowd are red hot for the whole thing and I loved Piper flinging Jimmy Hart all around the ring early on. He flung him into then onto then damn near through Adonis, whipped them both with a strap, people were going ballistic. Then Adonis took over and I'm a fan of him playing to the exotico gimmick by raking Piper's back and chest. Piper's punch drunk selling ruled and he managed to throw in his GOAT-level eye poke. Adonis and Hart celebrating prematurely after Goodnight Irene, Beefcake morphing into The Barber right before our very eyes (don't know why he was actually out there, don't really care), Adonis smashing himself in the face with a big fuck off pair of shears, the old carny trick of smacking a guy on the neck to wake him up from a sleeper hold, the post-match head shaving, Adonis audibly shouting "WHAT THE FUCK?!" when he sees his reaction in the mirror, I loved all of it. One of the most fun sub-ten minute spectacles in WWF history.

British Bulldogs & Tito Santana v The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis

This was alright. Bret looked motivated to get his ten minutes on the card and took a couple big bumps, including his sternum-first turnbuckle bump. Dynamite also yanked him about five feet off the canvas by the hair and I always cringe when he does that. Danny Davis entered the match twice, threw two kicks, grinned, tagged back out, and got more heat than anyone all night. Davey Boy finally running rampant on him was sort of terrifying in one of those Steiner Brothers murdering enhancement talent ways. Perfectly solid six-man.

Butch Reed v Koko B. Ware

This is an honest to god dream match of mine, but four minutes on a Wrestlemania midcard isn't the same as twenty minutes in the Sam Houston Coliseum. We got some great punches, TWO awesome Koko Ware dropkicks, a big bump over the top from Reed, and then a double dropkick from Tito and Koko as Reed STEALS one with a handful of tights. Reed was probably past his best in '87, but I still want to believe there's a Reed/Santana match on a Boston or MSG card that's as good as their Houston match. What are we if not dreamers?

Randy Savage v Ricky Steamboat

I'd gone back and forth on this for years. I always wanted more hate, I wanted blood, I wanted Steamboat to throttle Savage. It had always left me underwhelmed until about a decade ago when I watched the entire feud. Context helped it and so did that interview that was an extra on the Wrestlemania 3 DVD or whatever, with Steamboat talking about this being his last chance at the belt, how he'd come back from injury and let his temper get out of control and how it never got him anywhere. It might've been a convenient way to get out of someone bleeding in the blowoff to the big blood feud, but if nothing else it worked and added the layer that made it all click. I'm not sure I'd still call it a top 10 match in WWE history, but it's a great match. The main takeaway I had this time was that they built the hell out of this thing. It wasn't like it started out with no heat. People were into it from the start, as you'd expect. But by the end, even with the phantom heel pinfall and the fact they never COMPLETELY pulled the trigger on that clean win, the place was molten hot. Hebnar was gassed out of his mind towards the end and people were just losing it for every roll up and nearfall. It had lots of cool little throwbacks to the major points of the feud. Some of them I wish they maybe did a bit more with, like Savage working the throat and Steamboat playing up those moments where he'd turn loose, but I thought things like the nearfall off the finish to the Toronto match and Savage going for the bell came off great. Even Savage coming out and moving Elizabeth as far away as possible from Steele touched on the history. I suppose they could've done more with that brief bit of arm work. I'd maybe have liked for them to do away with a bit of the back and forth so Savage could have a longer stretch on top. I'll never love that phantom pinfall. It didn't really matter, though. What they gave us was an exceptional bit of pro-wrestling and one of the more iconic matches the company's ever had.

Jake Roberts v Honky Tonk Man 

Pretty by the numbers, but Honky was effective as a heat magnet around this point so at least the crowd were into it. Jake threw some okay punches and took a nice bump into the guardrail, while Honky did the Terry Funk teeter-totter spot in the ropes and shook his hips to rile folk up. I don't know if Jimmy Hart is terrified of snakes or what, but he sure wanted no part of Damian post-match. If it came to a fist fight between him and Alice Cooper, my money would be on the Colonel (for some reason I totally forgot Gorilla would always refer to Jimmy as that. "The Colonel Jimmy Hart." Was that just a Gorilla thing or was it an actual moniker he used in the WWF?). 

Killer Bees v Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff 

Also by the numbers, but we got a Jim Brunzell dropkick so you take the five minutes of by the numbers. Compromises and whatnot. Volkoff singing the Soviet national anthem pre-match is always great because people will start flinging rubbish at the ring and it never gets anything but crazy heat. I also love how Slick came back out to the ring with his clothes all torn up after the Tito mauling from earlier.

Hulk Hogan v Andre the Giant

I've always liked this. Hogan's had better matches built around bodyslamming a larger opponent, but he has every single person in that stadium on strings and if nothing else it's certainly a spectacle. I thought it was worked smartly as well. Andre is nearly immobile so he's mostly clubs, headbutts and a bearhug. He uses the clubs and the bearhug to work the back, which they establish as a story point early when Hogan fails to slam Andre the first time. The bearhug isn't riveting or anything, but they never lost the crowd and the reaction for Hogan fighting back from the brink is special. The headbutts were my favourite, because when they connect they're sold as being devastating. Then when they miss they're sold as being devastating. The first time he misses he headbutts the turnbuckle and it gives Hogan an opening. Andre cuts him off after a brief flurry, but they establish a way out for Hogan. Avoid the headbutt and maybe you can use it against him. The second time they escalate it as Andre headbutts the post, and that's really Hogan's inroad. I guess they backtrack on that idea when Andre backdrops Hogan on the concrete (well, that was the intention. It didn't come off great), but Andre was groggy from then on out. Everyone goes ballistic for Andre being taken off his feet, then more ballistic for the slam, then EVEN MORE BALLISTIC for the legdrop. It's one of the defining moments of Hulkamania and a cool way to cap off one of the most successful wrestling shows there's ever been.

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