April 4, 2012
Never Hand Over
WWE 50 Greatest Superstars DVD (12/14/10)
Documentary Feature: The actual presentation featured stock footage comments from people such as Jim Brunzell, Ric Flair, Jim Cornette, etc., basically a bunch of people who aren’t with the company anymore. More recent comments were from Matt Striker, who came across as a complete company tool, and Santino Marella, who was talking IN CHARACTER about legends who he had no reason to talk about like he’s an expert on Nick Bockwinkel and Gorgeous George.
Since there are a crap ton of matches, I’m going to review these in bunches of three.
1) Lou Thesz vs. Argentina Rocca (Buffalo, NY) – 5
2) Jack Brisco vs. Dory Funk Jr. (Championship Wrestling from Florida) – NR
3) The Fabulous Moolah vs. Susan Green (Madison Square Garden 6/16/75) – 3
From my calculations, based on what the announcer said during the match about how Thesz beat Buddy Rogers, this has to be from early 1963. This is the first time I’ve seen a Rocca match and damn, he’s a hairy beast. I liked the gritty feel of this, the picture was old, the arena was dark, and only one camera shot it. I’m guessing this may have been clipped as well because title matches like this back in the day usually went about 30 or 40 minutes and this was only 15. Rocca was the showman here doing cartwheels and tossing in a headscissor takeover. Not entirely sure what purpose the Brisco/Funk match served as all we got was Gordon Solie and Jack Brisco narrating brief clips of the match. I can’t really give this a rating based on that fact. Pretty sure that Ben Stein has more inflection in his voice than Brisco did here. Is there any point in time where Moolah didn’t look somewhat haggard? This is so old that it even predates Howard Finkel in MSG. Green showed that she had a good handle on what she was doing, even dropped Moolah a few times right on her tailbone, which Moolah sold as if she was waving a smelly fart in some innocent bystander’s direction. Green jumping off the top rope was a terrible idea as she just killed herself on landing.
4) Gorilla Monsoon confronts Muhammad Ali (Philadelphia 6/2/76) – NR
5) Harley Race vs. Terry Funk (Championship Wrestling from Florida 2/6/77) – NR
6) Gorilla Mosoon vs. Andre the Giant – Boxing Match (Puerto Rico 9/23/77) – 3
Monsoon and Ali confrontation was another very short segment that started as a match with Monsoon against Baron Mikel Scicluna. Not a match and I’m not sure if it even built to anything. Again, as is the case with most Florida arena footage, we get the last few minutes or so. This wasn’t even actually from Florida, it was from Toronto. Nice to see Harley winning the title from Terry but like the Brisco match and the previous segment, I can’t give this a rating. The boxing match was a fun little novelty if nothing else. The ring is so small it looks like it’s about the size of the plastic toy ring you just bought at K-Mart so you can have endless matches with your Kofi Kingston and John Cena figures. The rounds were pretty short, maybe two minutes a piece and the punches were so telegraphed that even Stevie Wonder would be able to duck and dodge them. Most memorable thing for me in this was Andre knocking out Gorilla in a giant puddle.
7) Superstar Billy Graham vs. Dusty Rhodes (Madison Square Garden 9/26/77) – 6
8) Hulk Hogan vs. The Iron Sheik (Madison Square Garden 12/28/84) – 2
9) Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, & The Junkyard Dog vs. Randy Savage, Harley Race, & Adrian Adonis – Elimination Match (Madison Square Garden 2/23/87) – 5
I’m pretty sure the Graham/Rhodes match was on the awesome Dusty Rhodes compilation released about five years ago that we covered from top to bottom on the blog. Needless to say, it’s definitely one of the better matches of that time period. For a full analysis, look up the Dusty Rhodes DVD in our 2006 archives. Hogan dominated early with some wild suplexes and never let up. Nothing more than a glorified squash that only went about three minutes or so. I was kind of hoping this was going to be somewhat competitive but I guess not. Harley was just doing a phenomenal job of bumping around for everyone’s offense. Prime example being a wild 360 he did over the top rope and planting right into a chair. Aside from that, match was pretty non-descript. The co-elimination of Adonis and JYD was a bit confusing. Steamboat looked the best from the face team I thought and the crowd went completely crazy for his exchanges with Savage. I don’t think they had quite figured out the concept of this yet but interesting to see still.
10) Rick Rude vs. Ricky Steamboat (Madison Square Garden 12/26/87) – 6
11) Jerry Lawler vs. Curt Hennig (AWA 8/13/88) – 6
12) Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Ted DiBiase - No DQ Match (Madison Square Garden 12/28/89) – 4
Can’t hardly go wrong with Steamboat vs. Rude and this was no exception. Rude’s street sign tights were just completely awesome. Everything in this match was smooth from top to bottom, as would be expected from these two. Steamboat’s arm drags were a thing of. Rude worked over Steamboat’s back with what would later be called the Steiner Recliner. Strange to see Rude climb up to the top rope though. Problem here was that they were working so much on the mat that it was pretty obvious that they were going to go the time limit. Liked the nearfall exchanges towards the end. Still though, I think their a month later at Royal Rumble ’88 was better. Really weird to see Lawler working AWA TV in the Showboat Pavilion for the record. Not sure if I’ve ever seen these two wrestle each other but after this, I definitely want to see more Lawler vs. Hennig if it exists because this was awesome! Hennig matched Lawler punch for punch and move for move. Lawler, though, outdid himself in the bump department taking two crazy ass bumps from the apron to the concrete floor and ate a big plate full of steel ringpost. This had a complete gritty old-school grudge match feel to it and I loved it. Didn’t like the cheap DQ finish though. Can’t really see the point as to why the Roberts/DiBiase match was a no DQ match as they didn’t really do anything that might warrant them getting DQ’ed in a normal match. Jake spent the majority of this on the mat getting worked over by DiBiase. Didn’t buy the quick comeback from Jake either after getting beat down for 15 minutes only to take 90 seconds to hit the DDT. Felt like the match was stuck in neutral until the end.
13) Ric Flair vs. Bret Hart (Saskatoon, Canada 10/12/92) – 5
14) The Rock vs. Mankind – Empty Arena Match (Halftime Heat 1/31/99) – 6
15) Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock vs. The Undertaker vs. Kurt Angle (Smackdown 12/7/00) – 3
I reviewed Bret/Flair years ago in one of my first pieces for NHO and I haven’t seen it since then. Flair did not at all look on top of his game and felt like he was just sort of shuffling along. Bret, on the other hand, looked pretty fired up and helped keep the match together. A little spurt in the middle felt like they were going to kick it into another gear but they didn’t. Had ten minutes been cut off of the 30 they went here and there, this may have got a better score. I dug Bret’s superplex near the end of the bout. Not the best representation of either guy but with this being Bret’s first title win, I can see why they chose this. Halftime Heat was a special that took place at halftime of the Super Bowl in 1999. They may have done one the next year but I’m not sure. In the Rock/Mankind rivalry, this is probably the most forgotten match of the time, mainly because it’s so rare. The editing on this was pretty bad as they would brawl into a hallway then suddenly it would cut to them in a different location entirely. The main thing you got here was just them throwing punches all around the empty arena and hitting each other with different stuff. Rock brought some comedy to the match, such as answering the phone when they were fighting in an office and spitting popcorn at Mankind saying it was too salty. Ending was ridiculous with Rock getting trapped under a wooden pallate of kegs and the editing on it was equally as bad since I don’t know of a forklift that goes down in about a second, especially with that much weight on it. Curious as to why the four way match was selected as it was a complete mess from beginning to end. Angle got triple-teamed from the get go and then it broke down into what looked like rehearsed monkey-in-the-middle type punching spots. Eight minutes in and there’s interference by Triple H and Rikishi and of course Trips has to kill everyone with a chair except for Rikishi. Nothing good out of this at all.
16) The Undertaker, Kane, Matt Hardy, & Jeff Hardy vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, Edge, & Christian (Raw 4/23/01) – 5
17) Kurt Angle & Chris Jericho vs. Triple H & Edge (Smackdown 5/16/02) – 6
18) Eddie Guerrero vs. The Big Show (Smackdown 4/15/04) – 5
After watching the 8-man tag, it liked it a little better the second time around. There were parts that were completely chaotic, such as the opening brawl and the finish. There were things here that I though were really good, like the big back drop Trips took from Taker and Kane laying his usally mudane offense in really stiff. There were other things I didn’t like so much, such as the Hardys, Edge, and Christian getting very little ring time and the rather light chokeslam that HHH took. A fun match but not necessarily recommendable. Some interesting pairings on paper with the Smackdown tag and it translated into a rather fun little tag match. Angle hit some freakin’ awesome suplexes inlcuding the old belly-to-belly off the top rope. I’d like to see him try that now in TNA. As stale as I thought Edge felt in the last few months of his run this year, he looked really, really good flying and diving all over the place. The chair shot from Angle during an Edge spear was insane. Stuff like this makes me want to see more ’02 Smackdown. Eddy/Big Show was a very random choice but not a bad choice. Big Show looked about as athletic as a walrus here but nowhere near as bloated as he was during his ECW run in ’06. Eddie was so spot on with his selling, making everything bit of Show’s offense look great. I liked the little spot with Eddie hiding a wrench in Show’s boot and getting the referee distracted. The way this was laid out, you really felt like Eddie had no chance against Show and that’s one of the things that is great about this. Can’t say I’d recommend this but it was at least fun.
19) Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton (WrestleMania 22) – 6
20) John Cena & Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker & Batista (No Way Out 2007) – 7
21) The Undertaker vs. Edge (WrestleMania 24) - 6
I haven’t seen the three way match in years so I went into it with an open mind. The one thing I clearly did remember from it is that it was very short, only about eight or nine minutes. They busted out of the gate fast, pulling off a triple suplex spot mere minutes into the match. The spot everyone remembers from this match is Rey’s ringpost 6-1-9 but I bet most people don’t remember that he botched it badly. Thought the nearfalls were great and Rey winning at the end was to be expected since this was the whole Eddie Guerrero sympathy period. Tag match was another match here that I haven’t seen since the original airing I saw at the local sports bar. This was four top guys in the company at the time just going at it tooth and nail and I loved every minute of it. Never really was a big Batista fan but here, man, was he ever laying it in. Michaels was so great here, just bouncing around completely nutty for everything the opposition did. He took a hell of a gorilla press straight down to the floor. The finish kind of annoyed me, even after Taker took a Batista spinebuster, he was pinned clean in the middle by Cena after an F-U (now called the Attitude Adjustment). During the documentary segment, Matt Striker called Undertaker/Edge “one of the greatest matches of all time”. Personally, I find that to be a rather absurd statement. Even though the actual pace seemed a bit slow, it was still a fun watch. The story here was that Taker had never beaten Edge and both guys were undefeated at Mania. I dug the plancha from Taker. Did I just see Taker attempt Jeff Hardy’s “poetry in motion” move? Looked like he busted his hip on the apron on the way down. Thought the ref bump felt out of place. The climax helped get this over the hump as Edge tried everything – spears, TV cameras, interference from Hawkins and Ryder (wait, they had jobs then?) – but to no avail. The visual on Edge’s face after a nearfall off a spear was just tremendous. Finish sort of came from nowhere. Good match? Yes. One of the greatest matches of all time? Far from it.