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Show #176 – December 13, 2014

Podcasts, Pro Wrestling, Radio Show, Sports - by - December 14, 2014 - 18:46 UTC - Be first to Comment!

Pete and Tim talk about the Heisman Trophy, Lane Kiffin, the 49ers and the wacky last few weeks in the pro wrestling world, including the surprising career path of CM Punk and how Triple H became hated and then loved within a matter of weeks. Complete with mid-show garage door opening!!!!

History Beckons The Macho Man

Pro Wrestling - by - May 22, 2011 - 18:24 UTC - Be first to Comment!

Photo courtesy of the awesome guys at
Photo courtesy of the awesome guys over at “Where’s Randy Savage?”

For the longest time, people equated Randy Savage with Slim Jims.

Not saying there wasn’t anything wrong with that. It’s obvious that because of those commercials, it turned Savage into more of a recognized face all over the United States. Even being arguably the 2nd biggest name in the WWF during the 80’s behind Hulk Hogan isn’t enough some times. But for fans who grew up during the biggest pro wrestling boom in the country, Savage represented a rarity in the sport: He was as immensely entertaining outside of the ring as he was in it.

Randy Poffo died this past Friday after a car crash in Seminole, Florida, 20 minutes from where I spent two years with the Dunedin Blue Jays. He was 58 years old and was one of the greatest professional wrestlers ever, and arguably the greatest all-around performer in the history of the WWF.

It didn’t hurt that he was a world class athlete: He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds out of high school to play catcher, but a combination of breaks not going his way, injuries and the looming presence at the Major League level of some guy named Johnny Bench left Savage to leave baseball after four seasons, and he moved on to professional wrestling, getting his full-time start in 1975 (he had previously done part-time work with his dad during baseball offseasons). Being a second-generation wrestler after his father Angelo Poffo, Savage was given his ring name by Ole Anderson because he didn’t think the last name “Poffo” sounded like a tough guy.

So after a few years of Savage developing and not getting the pushes that his dad thought he deserved, him and his brother (“Leaping” Lanny Poffo, also dubbed “The Genius”) soon made their way to Memphis in 1984, catching on with Jerry Lawler’s CWA promotion. Savage immediately made a local name for himself with an infamous angle that saw him piledrive perennial fan favorite Ricky Morton through a ringside table (something that would become almost commonplace years later), and from there, he was inserted into a program with Memphis legend Jerry “The King” Lawler after turning on him, as well. His work in Memphis led to a memorable “Loser Leaves Town” match, one that was subsequently rated as a Top 15 match during the recent Death Valley Driver Video Review Memphis 80’s project.

His work with Lawler made him appealing to Vince McMahon, whose WWF had just had their first WrestleMania and were looking to expand their talent base. Although he wasn’t a big name on the territorial scene coming in, Savage was booked as a wanted client for many managers before making a choice that would define the rest of his career. Savage chose the then-unknown Miss Elizabeth to be his manager, and from there, his ascension to stardom began. Playing an egotistical maniac with jealousy issues stemming from anyone who looked at Elizabeth (something that would permeate their personal relationship together, as well), Savage quickly shot up through the ranks and defeated Tito Santana in a nefarious manner in February 1986 to win the WWF Intercontinental Title. He would then hold the belt for over a year, feuding with Jake “The Snake” Roberts, George “The Animal” Steele and, most famously, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.

After crushing Steamboat’s larynx with a ring bell shot from the top rope as he was laid across the guardrail at ringside, Savage put in a huge amount of preparation for what became known as WrestleMania’s greatest match at the time: The WrestleMania III match that saw Savage and Steamboat put on a clinic for the packed Pontiac Silverdome crowd in Detroit. After some help from Steele, Steamboat rolled up Savage on a bodyslam attempt to end the match in a triumphant manner with good defeating evil. Notably, the match was so great that Hulk Hogan was extremely mad that the two of them had that type of match just before his much-anticipated showdown with Andre The Giant (although if anything, it just kept the crowd rabid for the main event). As a sidenote, the match, as great as it was, ultimately led to the demise of Steamboat in the WWF. Hogan, still mad about being upstaged, used political pull to get his friend The Honky Tonk Man booked to beat Steamboat for the WWF title, leading Steamboat to head back to the NWA and have the feud of his career with “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.

For Savage, it meant that he had to start up his rise again, but his match against Steamboat opened up the possibilities of an incredible future, and with that, he actually started gaining some fans. He eventually became the #2 babyface in the WWF, feuding with Honky Tonk Man to try and win back his IC title. After The Hart Foundation jumped him after an IC title challenge, Elizabeth pleaded with Hogan to come out and save Savage in one of the more memorable angles in the history of WWF’s Saturday Night’s Main Event. Hogan ran out, helped destroy the Foundation and Honky, and formed “The MegaPowers” with Savage, a duo that would run roughshod over the rest of the WWF heels for the duration of 1987 and into 1988.

From there, Savage would have the pinnacle of his career at WrestleMania IV during a tournament for the vacant WWF Championship. After Hogan and Andre went out early, Savage fought through three hard matches on his way to a final with Ted DiBiase, who was wrongly given the title after Andre gave it to him. In another memorable match, Savage dropped the elbow for his first title, rejuvenating a fan base that had seen Hogan as champion for much of the past four years and might have been getting burned out. Savage would have an awesome summer feud with DiBiase that ended up seeing the two pair off with their respective tag team partners in Hogan and Andre. This would carry the WWF through the majority of 1988.

At the 1989 Royal Rumble, Hogan would accidentally knock Savage out of the match, building tension between the superteam. Hogan had also enlisted Elizabeth’s service as a manager, pushing Savage over the edge with jealous, culminating in their battle at WrestleMania V, where Savage gave Hogan his best match in the WWF, although Hogan won out in the end. Savage’s 1 year, 6 day title reign would be the longest the WWF would see for almost two decades. After Savage teamed with Zeus (“Tiny” Lister, most notably from the “Friday” movies) against Hogan and his crony Brutus “The Barber” Beefacke, he went on to adopt the moniker of the “Macho King” after beating “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan for the “King of the Ring” title.

This led to Savage taking a downturn from his spot at the top for a while, only getting his shot at the top after The Ultimate Warrior won the title at WrestleMania VI in 1990. Savage got in Warrior’s face numerous times and wanted his shot at the title after the 1991 Royal Rumble, but after Warrior didn’t grant him his shot, he viciously attacked him and left him for dead before his match with Sgt. Slaughter, who had then become an Iraqi sympathizer. That shot led to yet another famous Savage WrestleMania moment, as after a couple of months of bickering back and forth with the Warrior, Savage put his career on the line in a match with the Warrior at WrestleMania VII. Much like his match with Hogan at WrestleMania V, Savage was widely considered to have worked a miracle with Warrior in their match, and after three epic tackles, took the fall and went off into the sunset.

But it was after the match that turned him back into one of the biggest faces the company had ever seen. After drifting away from Elizabeth after becoming “The Macho King” and taking on “Sensational” Sherri Martel as his manager, Savage came face to face with Elizabeth in the ring after Sherri attacked him. After Elizabeth pulled Sherri off of him, the two embraced in one of the most loving moment seen in a wrestling ring. Soon after, Savage proposed to Elizabeth during his time as a color commentator, and at SummerSlam at that year, they were famously married in of the cooler moments in WWF history.

Even though the two had made their “Match Made in Heaven,” old foe Jake Roberts stood lurking in the shadows, taunting both Savage and Elizabeth and trying to lure Savage out of retirement with the help of The Undertaker. Because of this, Savage kept going to WWF management to try and get reinstated, but to no avail. Soon after, in one of the most memorable angles in WWF history, Roberts viciously attacked Savage on an episode of WWF Superstars, and instead of pulling out his trusted python Damien to assist him in the humiliation, Roberts produced a friggin cobra out of his bag, which bit Savage in the arm deeply (although it was devenomized). With this despicable act, Savage soon would be reinstated by WWF President Jack Tunney and Savage would continue to feud with Roberts. Roberts even went so far as to slap Elizabeth after she begged for Roberts to stop the beatdown on Savage after their match at that year’s special pay-per-view “Tuesday in Texas.”

Savage would go on to take down Roberts in 1992, but he would once again have to fight off someone that had his eye on Elizabeth. This time, it was “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, who had won the belt at the Royal Rumble that year and talked about an earlier tryst between himself and Elizabeth. After producing doctored photos to enrage Savage, the two went on to have yet another awesome Savage WrestleMania match at WrestleMania VIII at the Hoosier Dome. Savage had his knee destroyed by Flair, but found enough presence of mind to roll him to win his second WWF title.

Savage would then go on to hold the title for a few months before the Ultimate Warrior was named as the #1 contender for the title, leading to a heated match at the first ever international SummerSlam in London. Savage would be attacked by Flair and Mr. Perfect during the match, leading to him losing the match by countout. He wouldn’t lose the title, but a few weeks later, he lost it to Flair after interference from Razor Ramon. This was supposed to lead to Savage and Warrior teaming up to face Flair and Ramon, but Warrior was fired before the feud got going, and Savage enlisted Perfect’s help as a way of getting back at Flair for holding him down. Their match together ended in a disqualification. Once Monday Night RAW started in January of 1993, Savage went back to his role as a color commentator, sometimes leaving his post to wrestle, primarily against Yokozuna and in Royal Rumbles. He would have a feud against Crush in 1994 that led to their WrestleMania X match in a famous Falls Count Anywhere match.

After Savage was unhappy with him not being used that much, he would then go on to WCW after a huge rush of talent switched over once Hogan moved in 1994. He would continue in his role as that #2 face, actually winning the WCW title four times and feuding with the likes of Flair, Lex Luger, Diamond Dallas Page and others. He would also join the nWo with Hogan in 1997, but his WCW time was not nearly as good as his WWF time. He eventually left WCW for good in 1999, returning in a cameo appearance in 2000 in a battle royal for one final chance at a WCW title shot. After that, he made a two-shot appearance for Total Nonstop Action in 2004, but left after he was unhappy with his standing.

Once Savage left professional wrestling, there was a long while where many didn’t exactly know what he was up to. Miss Elizabeth had died due to an overdose earlier in the decade at the age of 43, bringing up memories of their times together back in the WWF. Savage would marry a woman known as his high school sweetheart, Lynn Payne, in 2009. Lynn would be in the car with him two years later when their car crashed in Largo.

When Savage died, I got a text message from my friend Cole Garner asking me to rattle off my Top 5 all-around performers in WWF history. Savage immediately sprang to the top of the list, which coincided with notable DVDVR message board poster Dylan Waco asking if Savage was indeed the best all-around performer in WWF history. While guys like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and others are noted for all-around ability, nobody quite had that combination of impressive physical abilities and incredible talking skills that made Savage who he was. He had one of the most graceful and devastating finishers of all time, he was equally as great as either a face or a heel, and he could command the crowd with a wave of his finger.

I’ll remember most what Savage did towards the end of his WWF career, as I was a bit young when he was neck-and-neck with Hogan to be at the top of the WWF. His program with the Ultimate Warrior and his feud with Jake Roberts were some of the more notable memories of mine, and I still remember that glaring red “X” on Superstars when he got bit by the cobra. Later on, I would look back on Savage’s career in other ways. He was a damn good color commentator (his riffs on Hogan and Warrior were great, as was his adoration for Hart and Perfect in their great King of the Ring 1993 match, where Savage was so impressed that he actually got in the ring and hugged Bret after his victory) and he took his job as seriously as anyone else, with his extensive attention to detail allowing him to shine like few others did.

He had an incredible run in the 80’s, and as far as pro wrestling superstars go, the only people who could be considered bigger than him in the United States were Hogan, Flair and Lawler, with him being better than Dusty Rhodes in the ring, but a sliver behind him on the mike outside of it. His style was incredible, and his use of “Pomp and Circumstance,” much like Flair’s use of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” became synonymous with his entrances. He was intense, gifted, hard-working and driven to succeed more than probably anyone else of his time. He knew what his gifts were and did everything he could to bring them out in himself, and because of it, he amplified each program he was a part of.

Probably the sourest part of the story was that since the inception of the WWF/E Hall of Fame, Savage was never inducted, supposedly stemming from bad blood between himself and Vince McMahon due to his departure from the WWF in 1994 and various other rumors (including him supposedly hitting on and/or hooking up with Vince’s daughter Stephanie, a rumor later found to be without merit), and now, with WrestleMania coming to Miami,Florida in 2012, there is probably no other place better than his home state to have his long overdue induction, even with The Rock being noted as the headliner and possibly overshadowing his accomplishments.

For me, I’ll remember Savage as one of the most gifted performers of a sport that I had followed ever since WrestleMania III, when I saw Hogan slam Andre and thought anything was possible. I watched Savage/Steamboat on that same VHS tape and didn’t remember it much at the time, but even with the numerous replays of Hogan slamming Andre, the fan in me appreciates the Savage/Steamboat match more and more each time I watch it: Two of the best wrestlers ever locking up in an epic feud-ender that had a crowd supposedly ready for Hogan go crazy for The Macho Man and The Dragon.

Before that match, he famously quipped that “History beckons The Macho Man, yeah!” Looking back on Savage’s own history, his career is something to be revered by myself and others. Another piece of proof that speaks to his greatness: In 2006, TNA wrestler Jay Lethal took on the moniker “Black Machismo” and did Savage’s mannerisms and voice to a T, even going so far as to take his elbow drop as his finish. When Savage was asked about it, he reportedly gave Lethal his blessing, having been flattered that someone went to those lengths to pay homage to his hero. Out of all the posthumous Savage remembrances, Lethal’s was the most poignant, writing a poem that touched on some of Savage’s most memorable catchphrases and revealing that Savage was his wrestling hero growing up.

While Lethal got to live out his worship of Savage, he was hardly the only one who loved him, and over the coming weeks and months, I will be happy to look at other people’s memories of the Macho Man, bringing back memories of my childhood and theirs. The professional wrestling community lost a true legend, and as his fans, we remember him as one of the best of all time.

Rest in Peace to the “Macho Man” Randy Savage, 1952-2011. We will miss you very much, but we will never forget you.

Dump or Keep? #2

Pro Wrestling - by - April 13, 2011 - 21:51 UTC - Be first to Comment!

We keep moving on down the random list with a big post, this time featuring a few matches that are faves among old time fans:

All Japan Women’s Wrestling – 8/15/1992 – IWA Championship Match – Title vs. Hair – Toshiyo Yamada (c) vs. Manami Toyota – KEEP

This is an odd match to start the list off with because while I’ve previously talked about Japanese professional wrestling, this comes from a Japanese promotion for WOMEN’S wrestling, and is from a time period where, to some fans, the women outperformed the men. Now, at this time in Japan, All Japan, which was covered in the first Dump or Keep and will be a staple going forward and New Japan, which will be in here a little bit as well, were the two major companies. New Japan was more of a showman’s type atmosphere where All Japan had the more traditional pro wrestling style.

AJW? Well, they were one of the most elastic styles ever. It started in the 80’s when a wrestler named Jaguar Yokota (more on her later on) came back after a trip to Mexico and brought the lucha libre style to the promotion. It promised matches would be at a faster pace and had the chance to be more dramatic, and while the matches themselves weren’t all like lucha matches, the style would allow the wrestlers to craft their own style around a lucha base, which is a much more interesting and exciting style than most. Matches saw everything from judo to karate to submission based wrestling included, along with aerial attacks and agility that would lead AJW into their best period, a four year run that goes from November of 1990 to November of 1994, starting at WrestleMarinepiad ’90 and ending with AJW’s biggest show ever, the Big Egg Universe show at the famed Tokyo Dome.

This match was a perfect example of what AJW had become: Toyota went at 100 miles an hour, running all over the place with dropkicks and high-flying maneuvers while also throwing in creative suplexes and throws along the lines of her trainer, Yokota. On the other side was her best friend and tag team partner in Yamada, who had a more ground based attack centered around her vicious kicks that she liked to throw, much like AJW legend Chigusa Nagayo (more on her in a minute, as well).

While it seemed like two styles that wouldn’t mesh that well, their relationship as AJW’s reigning tag team champions, along with Toyota wanting to get her hands on single’s gold, led this to be one of the best “sprint” matches ever, as both wrestlers went at each other without much interruption for 15 minutes with some pretty insane nearfalls down the stretch, leading to Toyota coming up with the victory following her Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex. After the match, Toyota tried to convince Yamada not to have her head shaved, and was actually held back by other wrestlers before Yamada calmly accepted her fate at the hands of the clippers. The two hugged after the head shaving and went on to be one of the most successful tag teams in company history, being the stalwarts of a tag division that saw perhaps its best battles over the next two years. This is also the match widely regarded as the start of all the “Manami Toyota: Superworker” talk that would make her one of the most highly regarded pro wrestlers not just in AJW, but in all the world for the 1990s.

UWF-i – 5/8/1992 – Exhibition Match – Nick Bockwinkel vs. Billy Robinson – KEEP

While both men were in their 50s in this match, both men are also still highly regarded as two of pro wrestling’s toughest ever. Robinson was well loved in Japan during the 70’s and into the 80’s as well, working against the top native stars like Giant Baba (AJPW) and Antonio Inoki (NJPW) and put on superb technical bouts using his catch wrestling. Bockwinkel was a long-term American Wrestling Association champion, wrestled in Japan during the 80’s against AJPW legend Jumbo Tsuruta, and formed the best tag team of the 1970’s with San Francisco’s own Ray Stevens. They were managed by none other than Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.

UWF-i was a Japanese “shoot-style” wrestling promotion, where combatants were based more in grappling and striking as opposed to theatrics. This was right up the alley of these two veterans, who took their 10 minutes to show that even in their 50’s, they could still go. While not on the level of some of their better matches in the 70’s and 80’s, it’s a great reminder even now that pro wrestling is a bit more than pyro and production values. Of course, this exhibition ended in a draw, with Robinson landing his patented butterfly suplex just before the time expired for some added drama. A good introduction to what catch-style wrestling is all about.

WWF – WrestleMania VIII – Intercontinental Title – “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (c) vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart – KEEP

This or his 1983 Dog Collar Match with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine from the first ever Starrcade is Piper’s best match. Two men who knew each other since Hart was rolling around in his dad’s “Dungeon” in Calgary, they came together as friends with aspirations of winning on wrestling’s grandest stage. While the earlier Toyota/Yamada match was an exercise in tenacity, this was an exercise in gamesmanship. Both men took shortcuts to get ahead of the other simply because they knew each other so well, and once things opened up with Hart trying to outthink Piper and Piper using his hot temper to gain an upper hand, the match got pushed from good to great. In the end, Piper had Hart right where he wanted him after busting him open and was ready with the ring bell to put the match away after the referee got knocked down, but whether it was all the fans in the Hoosier Dome or a sudden change of conscience to win “the right way”, Piper went for his sleeper hold instead, only to see Hart counter with a roll-up that would become synonymous with The Hitman for the remainder of his career: He walked up the turnbuckles to the top rope and pushed himself backward, with the momentum locking him down on top of Piper’s shoulders as the ref counted three, giving Hart his second IC title and Piper his best match in a WWF ring. Of course, the two friends would make amends after the match, with Piper presenting Hart with the belt and raising his hand in victory. If the WrestleMania X ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon is the best IC title match in WM history, this runs second.

NJPW – 11/22/1985 – Bruiser Brody vs. Dick Murdoch – DUMP

This one hurts because I love Dick Murdoch and Brody can be good when he’s with a wrestler who will force him to sell. Murdoch is one of those people. HOWEVER…even with these two having a wild brawl, I can’t keep it because some jackasses thought it was a good idea to do English commentary over the match and drown out the crowd noise with their incessant babbling. They kept promoting the “Wrestling World Newsletter” and one guy cut promos against posters who didn’t agree with him, I guess. Meanwhile, Brody and Murdoch are killing each other and bleeding all over the place, and I can’t enjoy it thanks to these dumbasses. Go do this crap somewhere else.

AJPW – 1/28/1989 – British Bulldogs vs. Dean and Joe Malenko – KEEP

At this point, I’m not even sure The Dynamite Kid can feel his back. Having threw it out several times to the point where it would leave him debilitated and in a wheelchair, Kid decided that instead of treating it, he’d take more drugs to kill the pain and still be able to wrestle. This would lead to matches like this, where he still bumps and does a lot of his bigger moves, and I watch hoping that it’s not the match where he almost kills himself. Meanwhile, Dean and Joe Malenko were built for an All Japan midcard tag team match much like the Can-Am Express of Dan Kroffat and Doug Furnas, who ruled as AJPW’s best foreign undercard team for the early 1990’s, having one of the best tag matches ever in 1992 with Kenta Kobashi and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi. The brothers had an unmatched technical background, and Dean turned in a fantastic performance here.

While this gets to be like an exhibition at times (the teams pair off with two or three minute segments, tag out, do it some more, tag out, and then work a finish), the work is very good for the most part and the intensity and stiffness allows the crowd to get into it. The Malenkos try to tear apart any limbs the Bulldogs will offer them, while Davey Boy overpowers and Dynamite out-intensifies. These matches in the late 80’s also cemented Joe Malenko as one of wrestling’s lost greats, having really toiled in obscurity in random federations throughout the 90’s and into the 2000’s whereas brother Dean went on to fame in the United States during the same time frame. Four guys not from Japan meet in a Japanese ring and tear things up for 20 minutes. Can’t really beat that.

Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre – 2/26/2005 – Dos a Tres Caidas – Mistico vs. Ultimo Guerrero – KEEP

It was about this time that Mistico became Mexico’s biggest draw, wowing fans with moves not seen since the glory days of Rey Mysterio, Jr. in the early 1990’s, where he and a whole host of wrestlers like Eddy Guerrero, Art Barr and Juventud Guerrera put AAA on the map. Now known as Sin Cara in the WWE, Mistico’s month of February in 2005 was a great example of what he was capable of in big match settings, as this match was a result of an earlier tag match that saw Mistico team with a recently turned Dr. Wagner, Jr. against Guerrero’s Los Guerreros del Infernales and his partner Rey Buccanero. Mistico and Wagner won that tag match, and now Mistico had to ward off a very mad UG in order to save face in the follow-up match.

The interesting booking is what keeps this match on my iPod. Normally, a 2/3 falls match in Mexico follows a pretty predictable formula. Heels take the first fall to establish dominance and put the baby faces behind the 8-ball, baby faces make comeback in fall number two to send match to the deciding fall, and then it’s anything goes to determine a winner. Here, the booking is tweaked to make Mistico look resourceful and take advantage of UG’s overzealous nature. Mistico goes for one of his patented dives in the first fall and wipes out, leaving UG an easy opening to finish him off. But when he rolls him in, Mistico tells the referee that he can’t go on, waving his hands in the air. The referee looks to tell UG that he can’t continue and call the first fall for UG, but instead, UG takes Mistico up to the top for his moonsault slam for what he thinks is a 3 count and an opening fall win, but is instead disqualified for not heeding the referee’s decision.

So Mistico gets checked on after the first fall by the doctor and after getting an okay (somewhat), UG starts the second fall off going to town on Mistico. Now, Mistico makes his comeback, but once again, the booking puts it over the top with Mistico taking a superbomb from UG, only to see UG land awkwardly on his right leg. As the doctors check him out, Mistico remembers what UG did to him in fall one and goes after him, readying to finish him off, but UG recovers in time to inadvertently knock the ref down on a quebradora (tilt-a-whirl) attempt. Mistico slides out, quickly pulls off UG’s mask to stun him, and then rolls him up into a small package long enough for the ref to come to and count three.

Lucha libre matches are usually traditional and by the books, but this was not really by the book at all and it made the match stand out even more. Mistico had steadily climbed the ranks to be one of Mexico’s best, but here, he really turned in a performance that turned him into Mexico’s best babyface.

ECW – Hardcore Heaven 2000 – Tajiri vs. Steve Corino – KEEP

Tajiri had made a name for himself as a flashy, maniacal ass-kicker who could knock someone’s lights out with one kick. Meanwhile, Steve Corino had made a name for himself as a pompous, arrogant jackass who had Jack Victory as a lackey and just enough wrestling ability to get by. That meant that when these two met at Hardcore Heaven in a grudge match after Corino and Victory turned on Tajiri, it was a simple formula: Corino was going to get the ass-whooping he had coming to him by the man who deserved to give it.

But Corino decided that even with that story coming in that it needed a bit more…so he got hit with a brainbuster on the entrance ramp, rolled off the stage and smacked his face on the concrete. One giant cut later, Corino’s bleach blond hair was red. Tajiri took aim at the cut, hitting Corino with kicks, chairs and tables, only to see Corino turn the tables (literally) and mount a run late in the match. However, Tajiri took the aforementioned table and hit Corino with a flurry of strikes, finishing with a buzzsaw kick that knocked Corino out to the point where Tajiri could double stomp him through the table, just for good measure. There were some lulls and a couple of goofy parts (Corino blatantly holding a chair up to his face so Tajiri could dropkick him for starters), but this is a fun match that serves as a reminder that sometimes blood can add a lot to a match, even if the match isn’t that important in the first place.

AJPW – 8/19/1989 – Geni’ichiro Tenryu and Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Jumbo Tsuruta and Kenta Kobashi – KEEP

I love Jumbo Tsuruta. Just going to make the note now that every match of his will be a KEEP. No way it couldn’t be. In this match, he destroys young Ogawa while giving fans a good bit of the Tenryu/Jumbo war that had been going on for the last year. Kobashi hadn’t really caught on just yet, and only when he joined Toshiaki Kawada and Mitsuharu Misawa in the generational war the next year did he start that spunky fireplug act that would turn him into one of Japan’s most beloved wrestlers. Also, you see that Jumbo would give Ogawa just a little bit to show that he wasn’t completely worthless before destroying him, showing that Jumbo knew that in order to help build someone, he could make them look at least good for a little while before putting him away. That’s how wrestlers are supposed to be built up.

AJW – I want to say 1983, maybe 1984 – Crush Gals (Chigusa Nagayo and Lioness Asuka) vs. Jaguar Yokota and Noriyo Tateno – KEEP

FUN FACT: When trying to find the date for this match, I typed in “Crush Gals Toteno Yokota” in Google and saw this link that I did for 411Mania way back when. Pretty funny.

Yokota was the #1 wrestler for the company, the “Ace,” if you will, and this is fresh off her return from Mexico I had mentioned earlier. Tateno would later see some fame as one half of the Jumping Bomb Angels (they wrestled in some WWF matches during the 80’s) and it’s no secret that the reason she’s in this match is because she was one of the few that could keep up with three of the greatest women wrestlers of all time. It was also a nice contrast between the lucha stylings of Jaguar and Tateno against the more martial arts based offense of the Gals. This match is all of about 8 minutes, but there is NO…PAUSE…WHATSOEVER. They literally just whip each other around and fly all over the place, throwing out double teams and throws like they were on 2-for-1 specials, but unlike other spotfests that were all about throwing moves without anything to them, they made the moves mean something with kickouts and reversals for that time. The Crush Gals would get the win with the pin over Toteno, part of their rise to the top of the company that they would carry throughout the rest of the 80’s.

That will be it for now, with another group coming in the next day or two.

Dump or Keep? #1

Pro Wrestling - by - March 31, 2011 - 23:46 UTC - Be first to Comment!

New-fangled post idea: I took the 170 or so professional wrestling contests I had on DVD that I had downloaded over the years and I uploaded them to my brand new computer that has 500 GB on it. I then decided to compress them all into a video format that could play on my iPod, and now, I spend my free time on my lunches watching a match or two. Then, to make sure I’m keeping the matches I actually want on my iPod (to conserve space, these ARE video files, after all) I choose to either dump or keep them due to whether I like them enough or not. Reasons for keeping matches range from everything including historical value, a favorite wrestler, video quality or it being a fantastic match. Of course, us wrestling fans all have different tastes, so it’s a matter of opinion, and hopefully ours match up. So without further ado:

All Japan Pro Wrestling – 3/31/96 – Champions Carnival – Kenta Kobashi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa – DUMP

This match is a fine one (although people who loved All Japan in the 1990s would feel this is about a Top 300 match or so…) but considering I have a lot of other AJPW matches on the docket, I felt that I could keep this out without feeling too bad. There isn’t anything that special to it, as Kenta was trying to establish himself among the upper tier that Toshiaki Kawada and then Akira Taue had broken into, but there were some video issues near the end of the match that kept me from enjoying it…plus, I feel like it was cut off at the end. As good as these two are, I’m sure some of their other, more acclaimed matches will find their way onto the iPod.

AJPW Puroresu TV – 2/14/05 – DUMP

Not much of anything here in preparation for the big February 16 show that includes Kawada defending the Triple Crown against Satoshi Kojima. Kojima would win the belt in a very good match (although many believe it could have been a lot better had Kojima stepped up a bit down the stretch) and then would go on to become the only wrestler to hold both the Triple Crown and the IWGP Heavyweight Title at the same time when he beat former tag team partner Hiroyoshi Tenzan four days later in a match that went 5 seconds short of the full 60 minutes. The fact I wrote more about the events following this TV shows you how much I wanted to keep this bad boy.

AJPW – Triple Crown – 7/28/94 – Mitsuharu Misawa (C) vs. “Dr. Death” Steve Williams – KEEP

In a booking decision that AJPW had used many times before (Most notably in June of 1990), the idea of keeping an alluring victory over the company ace (Misawa) as the #2 guy in the company (Kawada) chased him really was a great way to expand the suspense of whether or not Kawada could take him down. In the greatest men’s singles match I’ve ever seen on June 3 of that year, Kawada made his most fervent push towards being level with Misawa six weeks after winning the Champion’s Carnival, pushing Misawa to the limit in a 36 minute masterpiece that ended only when Misawa brought out a move that was made infamous 3 years earlier after Misawa nearly injured Akira Taue with a misused Tiger Driver, a vertical-drop variation of the move that was dubbed the “Tiger Driver ’91”.

Williams himself had his biggest moment in an AJPW ring three months before this match in the CC final against Kawada, putting on the match of his life while pushing Kawada to his own limit, cementing himself as the #1 foreigner in the company as Stan Hansen had been phasing himself out of the main event picture. The reason? He had learned the deadly finisher of AJPW legend Jumbo Tsuruta, the backdrop suplex, and had altered it to land at a higher angle, making the opponent fall either on the back of his neck or the top of his head. He debuted it almost a year prior to his match with Misawa, and it turned into one of the most dangerous moves in AJPW, if not the most dangerous.

The story of the match is pretty simple: Misawa needs to avoid what became to be known as the Homicidal Backdrop Driver to have a chance against the former Oklahoma football star, and if he takes one, he best make sure he stays away from a pin attempt. After about 20 minutes of back and forth action, Misawa went for his patented rolling elbow, and in one motion, Williams ducked, wrapped the arms and dropped Misawa with the move, knocking Misawa senseless to the point where he rolled out of the ring. Williams recovered, grabbed Misawa, rolled him in, but couldn’t get the pin due to Misawa being able to recover just enough, which then led to a nice couple of minutes where Misawa did everything in his power from getting out of the way of the move again, only to fall to it and take a final pin, giving up the title to the foreigner.

The booking was simple: Williams wasn’t on Misawa’s level when it came to standing in the company (even though he had been successful as a tag competitor with Terry Gordy), but because of the Homicidal Backdrop Driver, he had an equalizer like few others in the company as it was a guaranteed game-changing move. A lot of AJPW fans didn’t like that Misawa ended up dropping the belts to Williams as opposed to Kawada nearly two months earlier, but some semblance of satisfaction was resolved when Kawada beat Williams for the belts that October in another great match, although not as good as their CC final. Kawada fans would get their wish for a Misawa pinfall in June of 1995, however, in a tag match that has been called amongst the greatest matches ever, if not the greatest. Williams’ fantastic 1994 continued here in a match somewhat overlooked in the gamut of great TC matches.

WCW Monday Nitro – 12/28/98 – Booker T vs. Fit Finlay – KEEP

1998 was a pretty good year for Nitro undercard matches, as Booker T had split from Stevie Ray and guys like Fit Finlay, Mike Enos, He Who Shall Not Be Named and others were having a great run at opening up Nitros, Thunders and PPVs. This match was a prelim to see who could get a run at the World TV Title (back when it semi-meant something) and Finlay brought his stomping boots to this one. Booker was pretty game and it was apparent that he was coming into his own as a singles competitor, and he brought a lot of athleticism to the table with his sidekicks and his leaping forearms. The real surprise was him standing toe-to-toe with one of the stiffest guys in the company and landing some great shots, including probably the best lariat he ever threw that probably caught Finlay by surprise. Booker also had a great missile dropkick that finished, a move that at the time worked for him because as he was so big, the impact of the blow could really knock someone for a loop. Booker would ride this into a 1999 run that included a US title go, and then in 2000, finally won the big one before going on to WWF/E as a strong hand. Finlay would take some time off after a bicep injury, but then returned almost 6 years later to become a great wrestler in his own right at the age of FIFTY-FOUR.

WCW Fall Brawl ’95 – US Title #1 Contender Challenge Match – Flyin’ Brian vs. Johnny B. Badd – KEEP

Brian Pillman is one of the most enigmatic wrestlers in history: A former CFL player and member of the Bengals, Brian took a shot at pro wrestling and was a gifted natural, showing off great athleticism and a penchant for bumping. As the years progressed, he became a showman of sorts, and his work led to the formation of the Light Heavyweight division in WCW, where he feuded for over a year with Japanese legend Jyushin “Thunder” Lyger. After the division fell through, Pillman was in limbo until him and “Stunning” Steve Austin, who was in limbo himself, came up with the idea for The Hollywood Blondes, a team that got themselves over by sheer hard work and determination, earning them tag team title runs and main events with the biggest names in WCW at the time.

But after Steve Austin was fired by FedEx and Pillman was left yet again without anything to do, he had been saddled as a nobody with the arrival of Hulk Hogan and Friends, being relegated to the lower end of the card once again and being forced to carry stiffs to decent matches. The booking team at the time gave him possibly the nadir of those decisions: Carrying Johnny B. Badd to not just a 20-minute draw, but to add on 10 minutes more in an overtime period to fill time. While Badd wasn’t outright bad (heh), he still wasn’t someone who had any business going 30 minutes, but there he was, being asked to go 30 minutes.

So Pillman, in a giant middle finger to the booking team, ended up showing how much of a team player he was by taking Badd with him on a ride to a great match, and one of the finest examples of someone getting over on sheer willpower alone (something Pillman had gotten used to). While the first half of the 20 minute draw period was a normal back-and-forth match, the last 10 was a wild ride of spots that had the crowd standing and cheering, something that nobody expected for the last 2 minutes, let alone 10. Then, with the overtime period upon them, the two threw out every big move they had, with a mid-air meeting on a cross body attempt seeing Badd fall on top and take the win from Pillman.

Pillman’s reward? He joined the Four Horsemen, made his “Loose Cannon” persona, blurred the line between fake and real on live television, went to ECW and almost pissed in the ring, and then after an accident, messed up his ankle so bad that he had to get it fused into a fixed position before succumbing to an undiscovered heart condition at age 35, two years after this match.

It’s sad to think that a match like this that was so inspired was followed by that series of events, but the world of professional wrestling is like that sometimes. Sadly, the bad stories have outnumbered the good in recent years.

WCW Thunder – 3/16/01 – Jason Jett vs. Cash – DUMP

Jason Jett was a wrestler who didn’t care that WCW was in the crapper: He used his month with the company to put himself in position to be seen elsewhere, but unfortunately, nothing came of it, and he became a non-entity. Meanwhile, Cash was Kid Kash, someone who got over in ECW and had a bit of a following. He was also a bit late to the part with WCW, and it took him a few years of roaming TNA and the indy leagues before he found a temporary home in WWE, where he won the Cruiserweight belt and got a decent push.

Oh, the match? There were a lot of cool spots, but it didn’t flow together that well. Both of them tried really hard, and the effort was definitely there, but in the end, it wasn’t that noteworthy of a match.

Ring of Honor – October 2005 – Kenta Kobashi and Homicide vs. Samoa Joe and Low Ki – DUMP

After being the most dominant force in the biggest indy federation in the United States, Samoa Joe had himself one of the most unique opportunities ever: He got to face one of the biggest stars in the history of Japanese professional wrestling in Kobashi in a singles match. That match drew rave reviews and made Joe one of the biggest names in the United States, and it’s also seen as his peak as a pro wrestler. The night after, he teamed with a former enemy to face Kobashi and his biggest rival at the time in Homicide. The match was clipped down in the video which is why I dumped it, but I think the full is out there and is a pretty good match. Kobashi’s arrival in ROH drew the biggest crowds ROH had seen at the time and it made for a fantastic atmosphere, which only added to his matches with the company and made it bigger in the eyes of fans worldwide.

That’s it for now. More to come soon enough!

“The Wrestler”

Movies, Pro Wrestling - by - January 28, 2009 - 04:42 UTC - Be first to Comment!

If we are lucky enough in life, our jobs will be something that we enjoy doing. It’ll be something that is beneficial to us financially, emotionally and personally. It will be something that doesn’t feel like work, but at the same time, the hard work and energy that is put into that job would make us feel good about what we’ve done. That basic premise is the thing that distinguishes a man who loves going to work and the man who’s doing what he can to get by.

But what happens when your job is essentially both?

As a professional wrestling fan for 20 years, I have been an avid follower of an athletic exhibition whose competitors willingly destroy their bodies for the love of the business, but for the most part, they are doing it for very little money, or in some cases, none at all. When you ask a professional wrestler why he does what he does, the answer is usually the same every time you ask it: They do it because to them, there is nothing better than hearing the crowd react to whatever they do. The high they get from the energy of the crowds they perform in front of is the balancing positive act that supposedly cancels out the negative aspects of a business that has destroyed countless lives, and has sadly ended others.

When the horrible acts committed by Chris Benoit occurred in 2007, those of us who were “smart” to the business knew that for all accounts and purposes, Benoit had basically done this to himself. Over a 25 year period, Benoit had injected himself with so many steroids, pills, painkillers, and other body debilitating substances that when he looked at his life on that fateful day before killing his wife and son before eventually killing himself, that he saw nothing right in his world. That even by destroying his body for the sake of a business that consumes and spits out even its biggest stars as it struggles to thrive, in the end, it didn’t matter for him. It was the idea that the positives of being in the ring and hearing the pop from the crowd was simply a self-fulfilling prophecy: In the end, they could cheer for you as much as they wanted to and as loud as they wanted to, but in your head, it was never enough. You always wanted more.

That is the pitfall of a business that is construed by many of its most avid followers (such as myself) as a piece of art. It’s an intricate soap opera, sure, but when you pick it apart and look at it piece by piece, you realize exactly what goes into it that allows us to view it as art. “The Wrestler” is not only the film that allows us superfans a chance to view wrestling as art within a different medium, but it reminds people that for the fleeting moment that you feel at peace in the world, that something around you is crumbling.

To me, Mickey Rourke’s performance goes beyond the normal boundaries of what acting is all about. For all the talk that Heath Ledger has gotten for his role as The Joker in “The Dark Knight,” it is Rourke whose life-mirroring role should get not only more press and more notice, but should GUARANTEE him an Oscar for Best Actor.

There is something about somebody who is committed to his art. Remember that Rourke’s major downfall in HIS career was that he got sidetracked by a bunch of side projects that derailed a life that was supposedly on the fast track to stardom. It would take him almost 20 years to find a role in a movie that would get him noticed again, in Frank Miller’s “Sin City.” It wasn’t the performance that brought him all the way back, but what it did was get him on the right track towards being what he might have been in his prime.

This role was something that Rourke absolutely embraced. In order to act like a professional wrestler, you literally have to be one, because to be a professional wrestler in real life, you have to know how to act. Rourke did everything in this movie basically to a “T” when it came to depicting an aging, broken down professional wrestler. Psychologically, he was somebody who absolutely loved being out there in front of the fans and soaking in their adoration. Physically, he knew that even at his advanced age, he had to look the part. He took numerous painkillers, he injected steroids, and he bleached his hair so that he resembled what he was at his peak: A man on top of the professional wrestling world, making tens of thousands of dollars and selling out arenas everywhere.

That’s where the happiness stops, and that’s where the brilliance begins.

Rourke took every bump in this movie, including a graphic hardcore match with cult favorite Necro Butcher. Everything in that locker room after the match, where doctors basically traced out a road map on his body full of scars, scratches and puncture wounds, and I’d even bet the throw-up was all real. Rourke understood that in order for people to truly get what he was feeling and what he was trying to portray that he had to go all in for this role. People need to remember that Nic Cage was the guy who was originally supposed to play this role. One viewing of the movie will make you realize he never could have done what Rourke did.

Rourke’s Robin Randinski (Randy “The Ram” Robinson is his stage name) was full of dichotomies that are pretty cut and dry; you can tell them as soon as you watch the movie. His relationships inside the wrestling world are many and good, but he can’t keep up even two outside of it that would be worthwhile to him. Even falling for Marissa Tomei’s Pam (Cassidy is her stage name) shows that he doesn’t want Pam as much as he wants Cassidy. All these relationships that are blurred between stage and the real life…never would the two meet. Randy wanting Cassidy could happen on the most platonic level, but Robin and Pam would never work. Neither of their stage personalities can allow it to happen.

Even the most basic, loving relationship between a father and daughter is the hardest thing ever for Rourke, as his daughter Stephanie, played by Evan Rachel Wood, does what she could to keep even a sliver of love in her heart for him…but when he goes back on a promise as soon as she gets comfortable, it takes away all her will to even fathom being around him. It’s a short, biting performance that is very well done on both ends, especially once Rourke realizes he had messed up what should have been a sure thing.

The end will be talked about because of its ambiguity, but what should be remembered from the end of this movie is that Rourke’s character decided vehemently to love the wrestling world above all else, sacrificing his daughter and the woman he “loved” for the sake of feeling happy. Do we feel happy for him? Do we try and relate with him trying to figure out the different aspects of his life? Do we even respect him as a person?

To me, the answers to those questions don’t matter. What matters is that the movie itself paints the picture of a man striving to relive the times that made him happy, and that everything else around it was simply platonic. It’s a weird, disturbing path that pro wrestlers take. They live for the time they come down that hallway and go through that curtain. In the movie, there are so many shots taken from behind Rourke as he walks through hallways and through doorways that he starts to have flashbacks to his glory days. He always looked for happiness in some way or another. He tried everything he could, but in the end, it was the thing that gave him
those scars and a heart attack that made him happiest. The adoration of 50 fans in a gym, 500 fans in a VFW home, or 20,000 in Madison Square Garden at his peak allowed him to be happy, even if it cost him everything else in his life.

The movie isn’t for everybody, but to me, it represents everything that I know about wrestling presented in the most real possible form outside of viewing it in real life. It shows that you have to be either amazingly strong or amazingly stupid to lead a life of a professional wrestler. There is a scene where Rourke is buying drugs from a steroid-injected, musclebound wrestler and he asks him to show him the big guns. That scene alone shows you enough to make people realize what happens in professional wrestling behind the scenes: Here’s the image we want you to portray, but do you have what it takes to do it? Should you have what it takes to do it? Should you do it at all? For Randy “The Ram” Robinson, it was his decision to let Robin Randinsky’s life go awry that allowed “The Ram’s” life to prosper. In the end, there isn’t a thing he would do the change it, but to us and to the most important people in his life, perhaps he should have.