/21 February 2000
WWF Classics by Chris Brooker
Welcome to the WWF Classics recap. The finest that the early eighties had to offer with the all new WWF Attitude logo superimposed. Confused? You will be...
Before we get started I'd like to officially plug the UK Grappler plug on Yahoo. Why? Because I can and, dammit, now that I've got a column it's my God-given right to abuse it. It's all at Error! Bookmark not defined. and believe me it's going places. (Huh? Anyway, the link should be at the bottom of the column if no other place. ;-) - CRZ)
Anyway, back to Championship Wrestling. A notable lack of pyrotechnics and generic rock tracks take us to Vince McMahonand "Flyboy" Pat Patterson. No jokes about hair loss in this column, it's far too easy. The chemical brothers are more excited than usual this week. Why? In addition to a look at Salvatore Bellomo, Don Muraco and many other superstars of the WWF we have a Tag Team title bout. Perennial Japanese heels Fuji and Saito put the belts on the line against plucky Native American Heroes (tm) The Strongbow Brothers. It seems the Strongbows won the straps at MSG a few weeks before they were returned on a technicality. Tonight the controversy ends.
Vince takes time out to tell us "What an exciting matchup" that will be thought I'm sure he adds "Though we'll fill the rest of the show with generic squash matches..." under his breath. Anyway, down to ringside...
Once again, the ring announcer makes sure that no-one feels left out in his pre card spiele. I shudder to think how long his speech would be at a wedding. Maybe I'm just cynical. Maybe your average WWF fan of the era really wanted to know who the doctors at ringside are. Maybe they've got a cult following. Maybe next week I'll actually get this guy to say his name slowly enough that I can catch it. Anyway, onto the first match.
Salvatore Bellomo W/Sinister resemblance to Mike Rotundo V Tony Colon. When I say sinister I mean I would have sworn that was Rotundo out there. Maybe they're seperated at birth, not by much it would seem. For some reason Colon is pronounced Calone. Maybe the man doesn't want to be referred to as part of the digestive track...
Either way Colon jumps Sal in the corner as he goes through his pre match warm ups. And is all over him with punches, kicks and forearms. Whip to the far corner but Colon misses a charge that was not only blind but possible deaf and dumb too. Sal snapmares him over and stomps on his face. Bodyslam for two. Sal then takes him down with a headlock.
Rather bizarrely Colon pulls his hair and Sal just lets go. He manages to find a snapmare and neck snap to follow. He follows this up by grabbing Colon's legs and doing the traditional "Ask the crowd if I should jump up and down on his scrotum" spot. Of course, in those days the babyfaces never actually tried to castrate their opponents. He settles for a wishbone variation instead. Back to a vertical base and he batters Colon with forearms, cutting off his offensive burst. He then works on the leg setting up a half-crab. Much to my amazement this DOES NOT get him a submission.
Bellomo then snapmares him over again. Are they big on snapmares in Naples? A very crisp dropkick is followed by a jumping headscissors. Whip into the ropes and he (barely) catches Colon in abdominal stretch for the submission. (2:35) Mike Rotundo's maxi-me then celebrates with the Italian and American flags.
A submission to an abdominal stretch? Even considering the era that surprises me. In fact I can quite honestly say it's the first time I've seen that happen. Maybe I'm not as well educated in the business as I thought...
Straight back into the thick of things with Don "Not The Rock" Muraco W/ Capt. Lou Albano V Jerry "O". I begin to suspect that the "O" is short for "O please stop hitting me.." The eponymous "beach bum" chant riles Muraco so much that he actually steps out of the ring. Would someone please point out why that's offensive?
They lockup and Muraco strikes with a running powerslam and a kneedrop. He slingshots "O" into the bottom rope throat first and then slingshots him into the corner before drilling him with a Russian leg sweep. Patterson build Muraco's evil reputation by pointing out that he "Tries to hurt people in that ring." Talk about a revelation. So we're not watching croquet? Thank God someone pointed that out to me...
Muraco drops "O" throat first on the top rope and then tosses him to the outside for Lou to get his shots in. Pat produces another classic when he wonders aloud why Albano has never managed a world champion. Vince echoes my thoughts with a rather sheepish "Well, maybe the one..." and hopes that Ivan Koloff isn't watching. Jerry "O" drags himself in starts punching like Billy-o. Muraco casually no sells it and knee lifts him out of his boots before dropping him a snapmare and laying in with crossface forearms. Next thing you know "O" is getting a rather vicious tombstone piledriver (Before it was called tombstone..) and it's all over 123 style. (4:02) Don then gives "O" a bit of a slapping, no doubt for having a silly name.
Yes it was a squash and "O" had nae chance. At least The Magnificent Muraco can string a few moves together and make it a little interesting. What's the opposite end of the scale? Well... how about....
Israel Matila V Swede Hanson W/The fashion plate of wrestling, REM's favourite manager and Andy Kaufman's good buddy Classy Freddy Blassie. Swede looked huge to begin with. Then I realised that not only was he stood on the bottom turnbuckle during the introduction but his opponent is a right short-arse too. Swede, or "The Big Rebel" as Vinnie calls him, looks big and mean in a Kurrgan from Highlander kind of way. As this match progresses you may realise that this is in fact his best move. He also happens to be wearing a pair of Andre The Giant's tights that seem to have shrunk in the wash.
Lockup, to ropes and Swede gives Matila a clean break and an evil grin. They lockup again and Swede reaches over a reverse hammerlock-type manouvre. Israel pushes him into the opposite corner and there's another clean break/evil grin combination. The third lockup sees Swede forgo the clean break in favour of hitting Matila with a chop so limp-wristed that's it's an insult to Flair. David Flair in this case. He follows up with a selection of forearms and a kneedrop for two. Thrust to the throat. Headbutt. Punch. Ho hum, the fast forward button is a great temptation. Suddenly Matila gets an offensive flurry in striking with a barrage of punches. He whips Swede into the corner and charges in. Unfortunately he can't seem to decide whether to clothesline him, knee him or kick him. Consequently he bangs crotches with him. Not so much tremendous offence as tremendously offensive. He then whips Swede into the ropes and puts his head down. Knee lift by the big man followed by a knee drop for the pin. (3:11) but it felt like hours rather than minutes. Swede was appalling. Mind you, he may have just been leaving out his quebradas, huracanranas and shooting star presses to make it into a match that Vince can do play by play for. How considerate...
No time wasted in bringing on Jose Estrada & Tony Russo W/ All Japan jacket and no blood ties to that other Russo V "Pre-Perfect" Curt Hennig & "Prepubescent" Eddie Gilbert. It's Gilbert and Russo to start and Russo immediately powers Eddie into the corner, bringing him out with a hip-toss that flies him half way across the ring. He then tries the same from the opposite corner and manages to turn Gilbert's counter into an armlock. Eddies counters with an impressive heads-scissors move and take him over again on the mat. Eddie slips out of the back door on a body slam attempt, hits one of his own and then gets two from a cross-body.
This leads to stereo tags and Hennig controlling Estrada with a series of armdrags. Estrada grabs a headlock and shoulderblocks Hennig down when he comes off the ropes only to walk into a Perfect cross-body for 2. He manages to punch Hennig into his corner and the two jobbers take turns to punch, kick, forearm and elbow Hennig for several minutes. This ends when Curt hits an impressive Monkey Flip out of the corner on Russo and rolls back through to lay into him with punches. Hot tag to Gilbert who comes in and immediately hits the flying forearm out of nowhere for the pin on Russo. (5:23). Eh? Where did that finish come from? Did Eddie suddenly remember that he left the gas on? Nonetheless there's a good sized pop for the winning team. Solid matches, crowd's behind them. Why did they not get a run with the tag titles? Answer later in this recap...
Once again it's time for Rogers' corner. Once again Vince states that the views of Buddy Rogers are not necessarily those of Titan Sports. Does that mean I'll get some controversy this week?
"The Original Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers is joined by none other than "Playboy" Buddy Rose w/ The Grand Wizard of Wrestling and two young women that are suspiciously light on eye shadow considering it was the '80s. "Real Naitch" wants to know what makes Buddy Rose tick? Rose ignores the chants of Fatso and points out that he's never worked a day in his life. He lives the high life, he loves Las Vegas, he cleans up at the gambling tables and one of his 'gals helpfully adds that Buddy "knows how to press all the right buttons". Obviously a reference to his prowess at the slot machines.
Rogers then invites Rose and his two charming "Rosebuds" to attend the Playboy gala's battle of the sexes. I have no idea what he's on about but Rose gladly accepts. Wizard concurs saying that whatever makes Buddy happy makes him happy. Presumably this means that eating lard makes the Grand Wiz happy...
Back to the ring for Rocky "The Most Electrifying Seed In Sports Entertainment" Johnson V Charlie Fulton. Lockup, to the ropes, clean break. Lockup, to the ropes, clean break. Fulton grabs a headlock, manages to shoulderblock Rocky down after he's pushed into the ropes but runs right into a hiptoss. A pair of armdrags later and Fulton begs off. Lockup again and Fulton takes Johnson down with a headlock but Rocky deftly nips back onto his feet. Test of strength sees Johnson show off his Ali shuffle, break free, flip over, nip up and take Fulton off his feet with a top wristlock.
Impressive, been a while since we've seen Rocky II pull off any moves like that. Fulton attacks with a barrage of forearms and tries for a monkey flip out of the corner. Rocky lands on his feet and hits a pair of textbook dropkicks. He then cinches Fulton into an over-the-shoulder backbreaker into a torture-rack type move. Needless to say Fulton taps out in rapid fashion. (2:26) A squash again, but thankfully done the right way. Watching stiffs like Swede Hanson stumble around the ring makes me realise that Rocky was way ahead of his time.
Anyhow, back to the ring.
This following contest is scheduled for one fall and it is for the World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship. Remember when I wondered why Hennig & Gilbert never had a run with the tag straps? Could it be because they weren't an easily identifiable ethnic stereotype? Cynical of me eh?
Anyhow, the champs Mr. Fuji & Mr. Saito W/Capt. Lou Albano are somewhat anxiously awaiting the arrival of Jules & Chief Jay Strongbow W/Massive Headdresses but without the rest of the village people. Albano in particular seems to be on the verge of a stroke. The crowd are extremely hot for this one, especially when it comes to throwing bits of garage at the heels. How juvenile is that?
Jules and Fuji start off with Jules ducking a punch and landing one of his own, much to his foe's dismay. He then reverses Fuji's irish whip into the corner and hiptosses him out. Jules then whips Fuji into a backdrop and bodyslams the completely flappazed Tag Champ twice. Saito tags in and the Strongbows then use a succession of quick tags to work over his arm. He finally gets some offense in on Jay but gets caught out when he slides through his legs and chops him down for a near fall. Tag made to Jules who also chops him down for two. Jay comes in and catches Saito in a sleeper which brings Fuji in for the save.
Fuji begs off and catches Jules with a low blow. At least I think it was a low blow. For some reason Jules is holding his thigh and selling it like he was stabbed with a screwdriver. Vince mutters something about "A lethal martial arts blow" and is suitably embarrassed. Saito tags back in and gets near falls from a kick and a Russian legsweep. Tag is made and Fuji collects a near fall from a martial arts thrust. The crowd chants "Let's go Jules" and he manages to tag in Jay. He then proceeds to practically decapitate Fuji with a knife edge chop but runs out of steam and is cut down himself. Tag is made to Saito who proceeds to stomp the proverbial mudhole in him and gets a near fall. He then whips Jay into the ropes who catches him with a Lou Thesz press out of NOWHERE for the clean pin and we have new champions.
The crowd goes haywire. The Albano cam is in shock. Mr. Fuji in particular is so disturbed that he winds up managing The Berserker ten years later.
Meanwhile the jubilant new champs are nearly mobbed by the crowd and Double-P nips down from the booth to get a few words. The answer to how it feels to be champions at last? "Now we can go home.." That's a little harsh. I mean, it's great to see them wearing some titles but to be thrown out onto the streets as motivation? Enjoy your first night back in your own beds lads.
And that concludes this week's WWF classics recap I...
Hold on, there's more? Why would anyone try to follow such a heated bout? Wouldn't that just drive the heat out of the building? Yep, every last degree of warmth...
We go back to the ring for Pedro Morales V Baron Micel Scicluna. The crowd is utterly burnt out. As a result, this match is greeted by a combination of indifference and out and out dissatisfaction. Not that these two fellows gave them anything to get too excited about. After about five minute of grappling that was passe in 1980, nevermind now, Morales pins Scicluna with a backslide? Following a superheated title bout with a nonentity of a bout like this? Why? Why? WHY?
Still, time for this weeks big winners...
The Good: Rocky Johnson and Don Muraco demonstrating the way to use actual WRESTLING moves in their squash matches. Wonder if I'll get to see them lock up in the coming weeks... The Tag Title bout was enjoyable and the crowd was overjoyed to see those dastardly foreign heels dethroned.
The Bad: Swede Hanson's name suited him as he displayed all the ability of a large root vegetable. Why was that last squash even allowed to happen? It really cooled the end of the show off.
The Ugly: Sal Bellomo's uncanny resemblance to Mike Rotundo. Pat Patterson's inability to engage his brain before he opens his mouth. The whole "Lethal martial arts blow" fiasco.
Overall? This week's was the most enjoyable Classics show I've seen for a long time. Curious? Write to your local TV station. Write to the WWF. Write to anyone that will listen. DEMAND WWF Classics at least once a week. It's good for the digestion...
So till next time, don't forget to read The Brooker Man on Monday (or now! - CRZ) and I'll be right back here next week.