|Pro Wrestling Classics||
|by: Miguelito Fierro|
PRO WRESTLING CLASSICS RECAP - JUNE 18, 2000
Hello again, everyone! It is once again I, Miguelito, guiding you through another week's installment of Classic Pro Wrestling on ESPN Classic.
First, I wanted to take a second to thank CRZ for letting me have this little area of his website. It's always fun to be put into a spotlight, no matter how big or small that spotlight is. I appreciate the opportunity.
Second, I wanted to give a quick take on the world of pro wrestling today. It is an interesting time. WCW is down, but trying to make a comeback. I've been asked time and again, "Can WCW make the same type of comeback that the WWF has?" And my answer is an educated "probably not."
There are a lot of similarities. The WWF has now been on top for as many weeks as WCW was back in their prime. The WWF's product is stagnating, much as the nWo (and then the rest of WCW) did a couple of years ago. WCW is reinventing its product; the WWF needed its own reinvention to make a comeback. Everything is so similar; could we see the companies trade places again?
The problem in this argument is that the similarities are very different. While WCW did manage an 88-week win streak on Monday nights, they did so by only two or so rating points. The WWF has won a lot of these nights by three or four rating points. That is a HUGE number to come back from. Also, while the WWF is falling into a pattern, it is a pattern that is still entertaining. WCW's product was repetitive AND unentertaining, to the point that it drove viewers away. And then there's reinvention.
The WWF reinvented itself into a mature, adult product. It was something that people wanted to watch. T&A aside, the storylines were intriguing, the hero (Steve Austin) was complex, being both vile and admirable at the same time. On the other hand, what is WCW reinventing itself into?
As far as I can tell, WCW is becoming a two-hour long clusterfuck. Monday and Wednesday nights are becoming a series of swerves, run-ins, and heel/face turns. There is neither consistency nor internal logic to the storylines. There are no heroes that you want to stay and cheer, and there are no heels that one really wants to see be defeated. WCW is reinventing themselves into a product that can only shock and confuse their consumers.
But I can't totally rule out WCW's chances of making a comeback. Not because of anything that WCW is doing, but because of one big gamble the WWF is taking; moving to a different cable network. For more years than I can count, the WWF has had wrestling on Monday nights on USA. It is more than a standard schedule; it is an institution. The WWF is going to lose a lot of fans, who simply won't know where to find Raw is War once it moves from USA. There'll be a lot of fans that don't even know that they get TNN as part of their cable package.
WCW will have a major chance once this move happens. As viewers are trying to find out where the hell Raw is, they are going to come across the second hour of Nitro. If there is something interesting happening on Nitro, more than likely a large number of fans will stay there. If there's nothing to grab their interest, the fans will keep searching.
Bischoff and Russo will almost definitely have a show filled with swerves and face/heel turns and clusterfucks. But will that be different enough from today's Nitro to keep viewers? Probably not, but one can never be sure.
Okay, enough of that. Let's hitch onto a Magic Carpet Ride and head back in time to the mid 1970's. It is time for the Classic Pro Wrestling recap!!!!
ESPN Classics decides to pull a swerve on us this week. Instead of airing International Championship Wrestling, this week we will be treated to Big Time Wrestling, sanctioned by the National Wrestling Alliance (!!!). The change in wrestling organizations won't be as confusing as one might think. I'm betting there will still be more continuity here than in an average episode of Nitro.
In a weird moment of deja vu, I realize that Classic Pro Wrestling follows Classic Roller Derby. This is like the 1970's version of TNN Action Friday night. Substitute ECW on TNN and Roller Jam for these two shows. Could you tell the difference?
Bob Finnegan provides "highlights" of what we are going to be seeing today. Big Time Wrestling is apparently big into blue-screen map overs, but aren't very good at this type of thing. Bob (looking resplendent in his shirt with the XXL lapels) is superimposed over a match in progress. No one ever mentions the match in the background, however, so I won't either.
Today's card: Dory Funk Jr. -vs- ???. The Sheik -vs- "Sailor" Art Thomas. Ox Baker (!!) -vs- Blacky Gusman. Cowboy Frank Lane -vs- Crusher Verdue. Plus a six man tag team match and the return of Dick the Brusier. With such an action packed show, how can we not be excited? Let's get to the first match!
OOO! As we are going there, we are reminded to stay tuned for information on how to earn money for our club or school. Fund raising via pro wrestling. THIS IS THE 70's, BABY!!!!
Ooops, we also need to go to the actual opening sequence. Big Time Wrestling obviously didn't want to spend a lot of money here. We have an NWA logo with some really crappy disco music in the background, and that's it. No voice-overs or anything. Enough of this crap; where's the wrestling?
We come back from commercial to our first match (finally): Dory Funk Jr. -vs- Lenny Alvarez. As anyone familiar with 70's wrestling knows, the Funks were the shit. I saw Dory Funk Jr. wrestle about 10 years ago, and he was still WAY over with the crowd. It'll be interesting to see what his story line is here.
Funk with a headlock, into a takedown. The commentators, who go to great lengths to prove that they are Texan, bemoan Funk's recent NWA World title loss to the great Harley Race (who wasn't great at the time, but was well on his way). Apparently, the horrible thing about Race's win is that Race isn't Texan. Alvarez slaps on an armbar and takes Funk down. Both men break.
Funk moves back in. Alvarez grabs a headlock again, turn it into a hiplock takedown. Funk's shoulders are down, and Alvarez actually gets a one count! Funk never jobs, er, I mean that Funk is so dominant that getting a one count is a significant enough task for the commentators (who remain unnamed throughout the show) to actually stop talking about their God long enough to acknowledge that another wrestler is in the ring. Hogan would LOVE for these guys to call one of his matches.
Alvarez back with a headlock, until Funk nails him with a legdrop. Punch. Flying headscissors! (NO WAY!) Alvarez somehow reverses this into a headlock, and both men break their holds. Funk takes Alvarez down with a fireman's carry (!), then starts working on the arm. Commentators are setting up a Terry Funk heel turn and don't even know it!
Funk pulls Alvarez up, then nails him with a Russian legsweep! Funk misses a spot, then nails a butterfly suplex (!!). Funk comes off of the ropes and nails a running elbow drop for the pin after 5:27 worth of restholds! (Actually, that wasn't a bad match. It's just hard getting used to the slow pace of these matches.)
Horribly pathetic bumper that has to be seen to be believed. Imagine your tv set filled with a yellow background. In front of that background is a crudely drawn picture of a hairy fat guy (I don't think it is Mark Madden, but I could be wrong). There's a headline that says "Heavyweights Next." I will try to finish laughing between now and the next match. I mean, this is just plain HORRIBLE! I haven't seen such pathetic production value since the last episode of Thunder!
We are back from commercials and immediately see the Sheik's manager Eddy Drakeman taunting "Sailor" Art Thomas. Thomas shows he is either an idiot or doesn't understand the rules of wrestling as he turns his back on the Sheik (and the Sheik's flowing blond tresses) to try to get to Drakeman. The Sheik takes advantage of this and begins tearing into Thomas.
The unnamed referee gets Drakeman out of the way, then signals for the bell to get tonight's second match, The Sheik -vs- Art Thomas officially underway. However, when the ref turns his back to do this, Drakeman is able to slip the Sheik an international object. Sheik drives the object into Thomas' throat in clear view of the referee. Thank goodness for the relaxed DQ rule!
Drakeman gets on the ring, presumably to distract the referee again, when a BIG OL' FAT FAN (who may or may not be Mark Madden) comes out of the crowd and tries to pull him off! This is how incredibly over as heels the Sheik and Drakeman are. Talk about getting to a crowd! The Sheik comes over to see if he needs to beat on the fan, but security is doing a good enough job of that.
Sheik continues to put a hurting on Thomas inside the ring. Sheik is using the international object whenever possible. Sheik nails him in the throat. Sheik with a loaded right hand. Sheik with a choke. Sheik with a rear chin lock. Sheik again uses the international object to the throat. Thomas can now barely stand; Sheik takes advantage of this and hangs Thomas on the top rope.
But now somehow Thomas is making a comeback. Right! Bearhug! Thomas knocks Sheik into the corner, then Hulks up. Thomas charges into the corner with a right, but THE SHEIK THROWS FIRE INTO THOMAS' FACE!!! This is a stunning visual, too; somehow this scene hasn't deteriorated too badly on the tape. Thomas goes down like a brick, the Sheik covers, the referee finally decides to stop chatting with Blakeman, turns around, sees the Sheik covering, and makes the count. (Unknown time, somewhere around 5:00)
Another horrible bumper; I wish that my video capture board was working so I could put a sample of these up on my website somewhere. These are so hideous that they need to be seen to be believed.
Another commercial break, which allows us a chance to see what demographic ESPN Classic is chasing with Classic Pro Wrestling. Let's see.... Apparently the audience is balding men who don't sleep well, own a small business, need car insurance, and like to burn their own audio cds. Hmmm.... Except for the business part, that's pretty much me. SCARY!!!!
We come back from the 3:00 worth of commercials to find Ox Baker -vs- (Squash-ee) Blackie Gusman. With a sigh of relief, I see that Blackie is actually a white guy. Wrestling wasn't know to be very racially-sensitive, especially back then. Fortunately, there are no horrible stereotypes in this show. Yet. As is normal, Ox Baker looks like Ming the Merciless on steroids.
Ox is apparently a face here. Apparently, he is feuding with the Sheik over the United States championship. (It would've been nice if they had somehow noted that the Sheik was a champion in the previous segment.) Anyone who battles the Sheik would get cheered here, so Ox is a face by default. Whatever he is, he is slow and boring. He was slow in the 80s, slow in the 70s... did this guy ever have ANY talent?
Unfortunately, anything worth watching is rare in Ox's matches. There's basically a lot of lumbering around the ring, waiting for the match to end. An Ox -vs- Kevin Nash match would be pure hell! Not that this match isn't. The crowd (all 30 of them) have given up on this match, and I just don't understand what took them so long. I gave up on it after Ox's first alleged wrestling move. Ox finally hits the heart punch (the most unrealistic finishing move EVER) for the pin. That was 4:35 of PURE RECAPPER HELL!!!!! Hopefully something from this commercial break will wash this foul taste from my mouth. (That bumper for a tag match sure isn't going to do it!)
Ah, we are finally back from the commercial break (another 3:00 on the nose) and ready for a six-man tag team match pitting Nelson Royal, Captain Ed George y Luis Martinez -vs- (not Zeus but) Zulu, John Davis and Bulldog Kent (with his dog collar). The big storylines behind this match are a feud between light-heavyweight champ Royal and heavyweight Bulldog, the emergence of the awesome Zulu, and the face turn of the Captain.
Royal and Bulldog start us off. The Bulldog tries to use power moves, but Royal qickly gains the upper hand thanks to his speed advantage. Bulldog tags out to John Davis. Royal immediately grabs Davis in a headlock, then tags to Everyone's Favorite Latino, Luis Martinez.
Martinez breaks out some Latin Heat on Davis. Headlock. Tackle. Tackle. Headlock. (Nice symmetry by Martinez.) Martinez tags to the Captain, who first asks if anyone has seen Tennille. Captain with a tackle. Headlock. (I see a pattern forming here.) Captain tags to Royal, who nails Bulldog with a right, then secures a headlock. Royal stomping away to "get more leverage," then he tags to Martinez.
Luis gets dragged into the opponent's corner. Triple-team beatdown! Zulu tags in.. BEARHUG!!! (Zulu is about 6'6", 270lbs of MAN. Any move by him deserves all caps!) The faces realize how awesome Zulu is, and immediately storm the ring to break the bearhug. Oh, well, why have something interesting happen in this match? Let's get back to the headlocks, I guess.
Zulu takes out Martinez with a LEFT. Out goes the Captain (love will keep him together, though). Zulu with ANOTHER BEARHUG! The faces are in to break it up again. Royal tags in and puts a headlock on Zulu. BELLY TO BACK SUPLEX by Zulu! ZULU IS THE SHIT!!! Royal breaks out of the bearhug, then tags in Luis. Luis hits a double-leg takedown on the big man. (!!!)
Martinez tags Royal, but Royal immediately gets dragged to the wrong corner. Zulu tags to the Bulldog, and we are right back to where we started the match. Bulldog with a headlock (there's a big surprise). Royal off the ropes with a flying headscissors! Bulldog trying to break out of the hold... Monkeyflip!! Flying head scissors!!!
Davis in to break up the head scissors. Bulldog hits Royal with a bodyslam, then a hotshot! Bulldog forgets to keep Royal in their corner, however, allowing Royal to tag in Oh Captain My Captain! Captain secures a .... Wait for it..... HEADLOCK! Bulldog tags to Davis, who walks right into a waiting headlock by the Captain.
Criss-cross off the ropes. Captain tags Luis, who NAILS Davis with a right. Davis comes over for a tag, but his partners don't want to mess with the Latino Heat and refuse to tag! Is this a swerve?
Royal tags in and takes Davis down with an armbar. Dropkick, but Royal ain't no Hardcore Holly. Luis back in. Suddenly, the address to write for fund raising information is shown on the screen. This keeps me from seeing the Bulldog finally tag in. I was half-tempted to call World Wide Sports' phone number and see who is the proud owner of the number now. But it is 6:40 in the morning, and I can't find my phone.
Bulldog is now all over Martinez. Tag to Zulu!!! BEARHUG!!! Zulu is THRASHING HIM LIKE A RAG DOLL! Royal comes off the top rope with a double axhandle to break the hold.
Tags for both teams; Captain and Davis are now the legal men. Things are breaking down, however, as five of the six combatants hit the ring. This just could be WCW, because we now have a CLUSTERFUCK!!!!
Finally, the ring clears to just Zulu and Royal. Guess who has who in a bearhug? I'll give you one hint; while Zulu is 6'6", Royal is only around 5'10". Another cluster emerges as the faces try to break the hold. Somehow we end up with just Royal and Davis in the ring. Apparently, the referee is okay with these two being the legal men. Royal hits a bulldog to finally put an end to the insanity. (11:45)
After another three minutes of commercials, we go straight to Cowboy Frank Lane being mauled by The Crusher (from Calgary, Alberta Canada, but NOT accompanied by Dawn Marie, who may well have not been born yet).
Crusher is all over the cowboy, much to the Texas' crowds chagrin. Crusher is using a ton of takedowns, including hip tosses and armdrags. And no headlocks so far!
You know, if the crowd has to cheer for a heel, why not have it be the Crusher? Crusher has about 1000 times the talent as Ox Baker, and he has a look that could get him over as a face. But instead Ox is shoved down the fan's throats while the Crusher does all the hard work. Some things never change, I guess.
Crusher catches a dropkick in the face as Lane tries a comeback. Crusher giving a clinic in ring psychology by taking the time to argue with ringside fans. He is also slowing down the tempo of the match, recovering from the dropkick, AND pulling an international object out of his tights. Brilliant! Crusher nails Lane, then quickly hides the object back in his tights.
Crusher pulls Lane up, then punches him right in the throat! Crusher again has the international object. Loaded right takes Lane to the floor! Lane back in, and nails a right hand! Lane trying a comeback. Right. Right! Crusher nails a loaded right to regain the advantage. Crusher acts like he puts the object back in his tights, but actually keeps it in his hand. The ref checks his tights, doesn't find anything, and lets the match continue. This kind of thing delights me to no end!
Lane finally staggering back up. Crusher with a knee off the ropes. HIGH back body drop. Crusher tries to grab him, Lane with an eyepoke! Suddenly, Lane's on fire. Right. Right. Roundhouse right! Kneelift! Chop in the corner (WOOO!). Lane sends Crusher into the corner, follows it with a dropkick (!!!). Hiptoss! It's all Lane now. Flying head scissors! Lane tries for a second flying head scissors, but the Crusher dumps him on his ass.
Crusher grabs Lane in a bearhug, then spears him into the corner. (OUCH!) A second time! Crusher covers, and that'll do it. (7:33)
You know, that was actually a damned good match. The slow pace takes a couple of minutes to get used to, but the psychology of the match more than made up for it. Commerical and hoorribly ridiculous bumper time!
And now for our main event: Dick the Bruiser -vs- ??
As I said last week; if the commentators can't be bothered to say the name of the squash-ee, then I am not going to bother typing it! It's a jobber; that's all we really need to know. The Bruiser looks like a skinny Dino Bravo! That's pretty cool! And the referee looks like little Richie Cunningham!
The Bruiser notices that Ernie "Cat" Ladd is at the commentary booth, so Bruiser invites Ladd into the ring. This is fresh off of Ladd's heel turn (which proves that two shows from two different wrestling organizations can provide more continuity than WCW these days). Brusier, being the babyface that he is, wants to give Ladd some payback. But Ladd ain't having none of that; the Cat walks away.
Bruiser is all over the jobber. The commentators finally realize they haven't said the name of tonight's victim; it is Fred Fargo. Ring announcers refer to the Bruiser as "The world's most dangerous man" and I start looking for Ken Shamrock in the crowd. Instead, I get the Bruiser jumping off the top rope (!) and nailing Fargo with a stomach stomp (!!) for the pin.
And that's all that we have for this week. Hopefully next week ESPN Classic won't slip in a show from another organization. Whatever they do, I will be there to fill you in on the details! And, as always, feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.