Golden Age of Wrestling
|by Miguelito Fierro
Hello again, everyone. 'Tis me, Miguelito, once again here to give you a glimpse of what you missed by *not* watching ESPN Classic's "Golden Age of Wrestling." For those of you not familiar with the show, every week ESPN Classic airs an episode of a pro wrestling show from the 50s, 60s or 70s. This isn't a highlights package; this is the original show as it was broadcast so many years ago.
As with most shows, this week's show was recorded at the Marigold Arena in Chicago (which probably means our matches are sanctioned by the NWA this week). We open with an interview with Billy Gills. Gills and Johnny Gilbert are the "G Men", one of the more popular tag-teams at this point. "We are still gunning for that team that I talked to you about some time ago, the team of Volkoff and Case. I understand they've been saying some things about us around here." Gills chats with our commentator for awhile; the gist of the interview is that they want a match with Volkoff and Case. And then we go to commercial. CrashTV!
ESPN Classic does tend to put a lot of frequent ad breaks in this show. But then they make up for by having each commercial break last a long, long time. I'll have to figure out someday just how much of this hour is actually used up by commercials.
We come back from commercial just in time for our first match. Ring announcer Leaonard Sterling informs us that the National Wrestling Alliance is indeed sactioning these matches. First up tonight: Hans Hermann -vs- John Paul Hennig. Remember, at this point of time in pro wrestling history, anyone not from the USA is probably a heel. And that is true here. Though Hennig doesn't seem to be that big of a face...
Top wrist lock by Hennig, but Hermann breaks it up with a shot to the ribs. hammerlock, but Hennig takes him down with a leg scissors. Shot to the Hennig's head to break it up, and Hermann is back to his feet. Headlock by Hermann, Hennig tries to throw him into the ropes, but Hermann holds on by the hair! Hermann with a fist to the top of Hennig's head. And again. But that just ticked off Hennig. Hennig is coming out in a boxing stance, and Hermann is backing the hell up. Very effective heel tactic here; the crowd is already booing Hermann's cowardice. The ref (to his credit) makes Hennig open up the fists.
Hennig with a headlock, but Hermann pulls him down by the hair. On the mat, headlock by Hermann. Referee is checking... Hennig slides out, hammer lock! Hennig applying the pressure, Hermann is crawling completely around the ring to try to break it. Hermann to the ropes, ref asks for a break. Ref wants a clean break, but Hennig stomps on Hermann's arm! Hey, a face isn't supposed to do that!
Hermann comes up favoring the arm. Backing up, still favoring the arm. Lockup, Hennig twists the arm, hammerlock. Hans tries a blind swing with his free arm, ducked, now Hennig has BOTH arms tied up. Hennig drops Hermann to the mat, never letting go of the hammerlock on the 'injured' left arm. Hennig stomping on the injured arm, but Hermann gets to the ropes. Ref asks for a break, Hermann sneaks out and is choking Hennig! Ref gets the two apart, and now Hennig is back into the boxing stance. Hermann throws a right, then backs off again. The fans are getting tired of THAT.
Lockup, into the corner and Hermann is all over him! Right! Right. Whip into the corner, and Hennig bounces out and onto the mat. Hermann picks him back up, strong Irish whip into the other corner. Hermann goes to stop Hennig, but the referee grabs Hermann's foot(!!). The fans LOVE that; Hermann not so much. Hermann gets free, and stomps Hennig anyway. pulls Hennig back up, that wasn't a good idea as Hennig Irish whips Hermann into the ropes. Right hand by Hennig! Another! Into the corner, they are calling a spot! Hennig hip tosses Hermann out of the corner. Drop kick. Another! Hennig ties him up in a surfboard! The ref is asking, and Hermann gives it up! Your winner by submission is John Paul Hennig. And now ESPN Classic has to pay some bills!
Wouldn't you know that we get back just in time for our next match? Is that convenient or what? Our next match is one that Chicago fans were dying to see, as NWA Midwest Heavyweight Champion Johnny Kace battles Jim Hady (non-title). Lockup, into the ropes, both men back out. Hady and Kace have been battling for a while. Hady, the face, is chasing Kace's title. Kace refuses to give Hady a title-shot, so we have tonight's non-title match. Crowd shot, check out those nifty blazers!!
Feeling out process here... Kase with a top-wrist lock, and takes Hady down. Kase with a standard wrist-lock, again takes Hady down. Kace with a top wristlock, but Hady reverses into a hammerlock. Down to the mat, Hady turns this into a three-quarter nelson. Kace's shoulders are down, we get a two count. Hady puts Kace's shoulders back down, another two count. Kace makes it to the ropes, and we get a clean break.
Hady is the hunter here, he gets Kace in another hammerlock, and takes Kace back to the mat. Hady is putting the pressure on, pushing the arm as far up as he can. (This is great psychology here, though it is hard to describe without pictures.) Kace getting back up, bodyslams Hady. Picks Hady up and puts him back down. Kace picks him up and really digs in a rear-chin lock. And we go to a suck-ass Visa commercial. That REALLY sucked; I was just getting into that match!
We get back at the same point we left. Kace is really sinking in the rear chinlock; fans keep accusing him of choking Hady. Suddenly, though, Hady reverses the chinlock into a hammerlock. Right into the ropes, though, so we get a break. Both men up, Kace grabs a handful of Hady's hair and uses that to pull Hady into a side headlock. The fans are starting to get all over Kace; CLASSIC heel tactics here! Kace adds a punch into the hadlock. Into the ropes, Kace puts him down with a tackle. Into the ropes again, another tackle. Kace goes to the ropes agin, but Hady is ready and pulls him down with a wristlock! Into the hammerlock again! The fans are already on their feet!
Hady working the arm again, and I notice that we are more than 5 minutes into this match. When the action is hot, the time goes by fast. Why do WWF matches have to be less than 2 minutes nowadays? Kace gets back up, Irish whips Hady into the ropes. BIG back body drop. But Hady is back up, and once again takes Kace down with a hammerlock! Hady is controlling the match; Kace is getting more than a little frustrated.
Both men back up, Kace drives Hady into the corner. Ref asking for the break, but Kace decides to sneak in a few rights. OH MY GOD! Kace just threw Hady over the TOP rope! That isn't supposed to be legal! The ref is out to check on Hady, who actually didn't sell that very well. Hady back in, Kace hits him twice then throws him over the top rope on the other side of the ring. (HA!) Hady back up, shoulder into the gut coming through the ropes to get back in. Three rights puts Kace down. Hady tries for a cover, but only gets two. Hady with a front face lock, Kace reverses it into a hammerlock, HADY reverses that into his own hammerlock, and we go to commercial again! DAMN! This match is ruling old-school style; why is ESPN Classic mocking me this way?
On the plus side, this commercial break allows me to look out the window, where I notice that it is snowing a hell of a lot right now. (I am in Denver, CO.) No wonder it got so damned cold in here!
FFWD past the commercials, and Kace is trying to figure out how to get away from Hady's hammerlock. Hady is making the mistake of allowing Kace to his knees. Kace fires away with two rights, but Hady just stands up and puts more pressure on the rear wristlock. Kace still trying to punch out, but now Hady is punching the injured right arm! Kace finds his way to the ropes, cheap shot by Hady! Hey, a face isn't supposed to do that!
Kace is up, and backs into the corner. Kace is cowering, Hady looks away (Idiot!). Kace takes him down with a double-leg trip, cradling, pulling the trunks, two count. Tries again, ref is checking for the trunks, asks for the break. Kace chokes Hady instead. Kace slams Hady's head into the mat, now picks him up and is rubbing Hady's eyes across the top rope! To one corner, now back the way they came. I love this old-school heel stuff! Ref trying to get the two men apart, Kace with a quarter-nelson suplex (almost a DDT). Two count. Kace covers again, punching Hady in the stomach as he does so. Hady won't stay down for more than a 1-count, but Kace is doing damage with the rights to the stomach.
Hady back up, and now he corners Kace. Hiplock out of the corner. Hady almost kills himself as he hits a flying headscissors in the opposite corner. Kace is trying to escape the headscissors, but Hady keeps him on the mat. The commentator once again puts over Kace as the Midwest Heavyweight Champ; Good Ol' JR should pay attention to how a commentator is supposed to refer to a champion.
Kace finally breaks out of the head scissors, and starts choking Hady. Slamming Hady's head repeatedly into the mat. Into the ropes, tackle takes Kace down. And again. Going for a third time, but Kace is ready. Kace goes for a monkeyflip, but Hady drops down! Kace's shoulders are down, and the ref counts. 1-2-3!!!! (14:20) The challenger pulls off the upset, and gets a win over the champ! The crowd is going nuts, but now the referee walks over to Kace and raises Kace's hand! The ref ruled that Kace got his shoulder up, while both Hady's shoulders are down. REW... it didn't look that way to me, but hey, I'm just the recapper.
Another commercial break, and then an interview with Karl Engstrom. Engstrom has a hard time with this interview, because the crowd is still booing the decision from the Kace/Hady match. Basically, Engstrom and our un-named commentator use this interview to bash women, which apparently was an acceptable thing to do back then. Whatever.
We go from this 'interview' to the ring, where we see someone wearing a moose head on their head. What is this, mid-80's WWF? Oh, no, sorry, it is Big Moose Cholak. Cholak takes on the chauvinist Karl Engstrom for what will probably be our last match. Cholak is HUGE. He is announced at 350, which is almost definitely an exaggeration. But Cholak probably comes in close to 300, which is still probably 50 pounds heavier than Engstrom. Not surprisingly, the man with the moose on his head is the heel. Fortunately, Moose takes off the moosehead before they lock up.
Cholak spends the first 60 seconds or so of the match berating the fans at ringside. Finally, he tries to catch Engstrom, but Engstrom gets out of the way. 21:10. Engstrom gets too close, though, so Moose starts kicking the crap out of him. Engstrom catches Moose's hand out of self-defense, and grabs a hammerlock. Moose quickly fights out of this. Into the corner, and Moose is roughing him up. Engstrom reverses, starts driving the shoulder into Moose's considerable belly. Irish whip, Moose hits the corner hard. Irish whip o the other side, and Moose moves the ring when he hits the turnbuckles. Moose suddenly remembers that he doesn't have to take this shit by someone that small, though, and brushes Engstrom aside. Moose goes to the ring apron, then reaches in and grabs Engstrom in a headlock. And we go to put even more money in ESPN Classic's pockets!
We are back from commercial, but only the ring announcer is in the ring. HUH? Here's the announcement... Ah, the referee counted Cholak out of the ring (2:05). Engstrom is the winner. Well... that pretty much sucked! Hey, the Moose gets the stick! "Why'd they stop the match for? I can't believe that. Who won that match? I won the match. I strangled 'em! Why? When I beat the heck out of him? How could that be? What are you talking about? I beat a guy any way I can beat him. Smash him and kill him. So what they do? They're against me over here. The referee. I beat the guy fair and square. Your winner right here. When I pulverize the guy, smash him to bits and they disqualified me. I won the match, everbody can see that. I don't care who they feed me, I can beat any man in wrestling today. 365 pounds and no one can touch me. ...." Moose starts rambling at 100 words per minute; I can't type that fast! "The people that seen the bout know that I am the winner. Because I killed this guy, he can't even defend himself. They know the Moose gets screwed once in a while."
Moose starts challenging everyone in the arena! That can't be a good idea; fortunately, security is good in the arena. Moose walks off, still arguing with the crowd. Engstrom, who is pretty woozy (way to sell that, Karl!), now gets some love from the stick: "I'm here to prove it or disprove it, whatever the case may be. I think that in a match where there is, say without a referee, where each man takes his best, I feel that he would come out second best. I would wrestle him any type of match he would like to wrestle, Texas Death Match, a match without a referee. Just until one man cannot come out ot answer the bell." Engstrom goes on to put over the Moose, which is kinda cool. Engstrom's point appears to be that he thinks he can beat the Moose, and wants to find out for sure. Not a bad interview, but nowhere near as good as Cholak's. The Moose Rules!
Amazingly enough, in that segment we ended up with 0 minutes of match and 7 minutes of interview. What is this, Raw?
Maybe so; we come back from commercial break for Yet Another Interview, this one with Ricky Cortez. "I would say that every man here is a very good wrestler. Now that I am here in this country, I intend to beat everyone here to. I would like to say to the people, I am one of the few sportsmens left in this business. I obey the rules and don't believe in following anybody. I believe that, with the tactics I use, as fair as they are, I'll be the champion soon." The commentator dares to question Cortez on this, implying Cortez might be one to bend the rules on occasion. Cortez does a double-take, then says: "Well, there has to be two sides to this question, you see. I wrestle according to the rules, it's my opponents who usually break the rules, you see. And by doing that I sorta get angry, staying within the rules I still defeat them. You understand that? The people see that I wrestle fair, the referees see that I wrestle fair. It's only a few misguided people out here who think I use unfair tactics. You can understand they are probably mentally ill." HAHAHAHAHA!!!! Damn, Ricky Cortez is awesome. He may be the greatest heel ever!
Holy crap, they are going to try to fit in one more match. We have Cortez (getting a nice round of jeers) taking on Hank Lane. Lane looks like a jobber; he is a beanpole, where Cortez actually has some muscular definition. The bell rings and we have a collar-and-elbow tie up. Cortez forces Lane into the corner. Cortez with a boot to the gut, then a snap mare out of the corner. Lane up, and takes Cortez down with a snap mare. Back up, lockup, into the ropes, Cortez with a shot to the eyes. Gotta love those Fair Tactics! Lockup, headlock by Lane. Into the ropes, Cortez takes him down. Bodyslam. Another. Cotez covers, but pulls lane up at 2! Cortez picks up Lane, another bodyslam, this time Cortez accepts the three count. (4:05, VERY time compressed thanks to ESPN Classic. We got to see MAYBE a 90 seconds of the match). I am pretty certain that Cortez did quite a few somethings to Lane between the toss into the ropes and the two bodyslams. Unfortunately, we'll never know what REALLY happened.
Anyway, that's all the show that we have for this week! I'll have my Wrestlemania thoughts sometime tomorrow on my Wrestling blog. If I don't see you there, then I hope you join me next weekend for another recap of the Golden Age of Wrestling!
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