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Stone Kold Stevie





First off, I must apologize for the delay on this second installment of my column. I know last week I promised another column sometime last week... which then became my column for this week... which then became very late. I think I'll actually settle into this schedule, so expect a weekly installment of Falls Count Anywhere around this time each week.

The reason why this issue was so delayed was because this was my first attempt at doing an actual match recap. After this experience, I have nothing but the utmost respect for anyone who does match recapping! WOW! Just recapping this one match took forever, although admittedly the match in question isn't a three minute Nitro/Raw special. But still it's quite an experience... and I hope I did a good enough job here for you to enjoy this match.

Anyway, we'll get into more regular content starting next week, but this week I wanted to discuss the subject of match psychology. What makes a wrestling match enjoyable or dramatic to watch? Is it the moves used during the match? Is it the story crafted by the competitors in the ring? I think it's a combination of elements blended together, and we'll discuss this in the context of a special type of match: The Iron Man Match.

The premise of an Iron Man Match is that the match runs for a certain amount of time, no matter how many pinfalls or submissions occur. The wrestler with the most falls to his credit when the time limit expires is the winner. One of the most famous Iron Man Matches to take place in American pro wrestling was the 60-minute WWF Title Match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. The story of this match was that neither Bret nor Shawn was able to score even one fall during the sixty minutes... but as the time limit expired, Bret had Shawn locked in the Sharpshooter. Unfortunately the officials asked Bret to relinquish the hold, and then the decision was made to restart the match under sudden death rules, where the next fall would decide the match. Shawn was able to nail two Superkicks and get the three count on the second, winning the WWF Championship!

Now certainly the match showed the tremendous amount of talent and fortitude each of these competitors had, and also (in my mind) foreshadowed the controversial end of Bret's WWF run... as certainly Bret was building a good case that the WWF was "screwing him" at every turn. But I felt that as good as the match was, it was marred by the lack of pinfalls in the match. If neither Bret nor Shawn could put the other down for a three count in sixty minutes, how could they ever put their opponent down in less than sixty minutes? Certainly after a time, wouldn't Bret and Shawn get so tired that just about any move would put them down for the three count? The lack of falls diminished the drama of the match.

After watching this match, I started thinking about how to book a good Iron Man Match and came to this conclusion. Drama would be generated if one wrestler was forced to work from behind. For example, what would you feel if Bret was able to gain a two or three fall lead early on in the match, perhaps in the first twenty minutes? Then Shawn slowly fights his way back into the match despite taking almost everything Bret can dish out, and works to a tie with ten minutes to go! At this point both men are so tired that a pinfall could come at any moment, when out of nowhere Shawn nails the Superkick with two minutes to go! Bret is desperate! Bret gets the Sharpshooter with thrity seconds to go! Shawn is fading... can he hold on until the time limit? Yes! Shawn is the champion! The boyhood dream has come true for Shawn Michaels!

Better? I think so.

Then I had the pleasure of watching another Iron Man Match which illustrated this point perfectly. At WCW's Bash at the Beach from 1992, a 30-minute Iron Man Match was held between the current U.S. Champion "Ravishing" Rick Rude and the #1 contender to his title Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. This was a non-title affair, but was one of the most dramatic matches I've ever seen! Let's go to the recap!

It should be noted here before we start that apparently at this time in WCW's history, coming off the top turnbuckle with a move (like Savage's elbow drop finisher) results in an automatic disqualification, but a move where both men are on the top turnbuckle is perfectly fine. This does play a factor in this match.

IRON MAN MATCH (30 MINUTE TIME LIMIT): "RAVISHING" RICK RUDE vs. RICKY "THE DRAGON" STEAMBOAT --- This match features a rare treat as we have Jim Ross on play-by-play and Jesse Ventura on color commentary. As Rude makes his entrance we are told that his normal entourage of Paul E. Dangerously and Madusa have been banned from ringside. Rude does his usual entrance shtick. Steamboat enters with his wife and son, referred to as "WCW's First Family". Rude briefly threatens Steamboat and his son, and as the bell rings to start the contest Ricky attacks!

Steamboat quickly gets the advantage with a series of knife-edge chops. Rude is whipped to the ropes, and Ricky lifts him up and drops him into a gutbuster! Rude slumps into a corner clutching his ribs, and Steamboat charges in with a shoulder block. Ricky nails a couple of forearm shots to Rude's ribs. Then Steamboat makes like he's going to whip Rude to the ropes, but instead holds on to Rude's wrist, ramming Rude face-first into the canvas! Ricky lands a series of kicks and punches to Rude's midsection while he's down. When Rude gets back to his feet, Steamboat goes for an Irish whip... Rude reverses the whip and goes for a hiptoss... hiptoss is countered... Steamboat's hiptoss attempt is also countered, but Ricky takes over with a series of punches, again to Rude's injured ribs. Steamboat pressing the advantage by cinching in a bearhug from Rude's side, applying maximum pressure to the ribs of Rude, eventually pushing Rude into a corner. Steamboat lands two shoulder blocks in the corner, but on the third attempt Rude gets the knee up in Steamboat's face! Rude with a forearm to the head and an Irish whip, but his clothesline attempt misses... Steamboat gets Rude in a torture rack position and then slams him forward to the canvas, immediately locking in a bow & arrow submission move! Rude tries to reach the ropes for the break, but ends up using his other method to break the hold: the Greco-Roman thumb to the eye! Steamboat lunges for the prone Rude, but Rude gets his feet up and kick Ricky off... Steamboat bounces off the ropes and grapevines one of Rude's legs, then grabs both legs and slowly turns Rude over into a Boston Crab! Rude fights the submission hold, but can't break it... at one point Steamboat even pulls Rude up higher, so that it looks almost like Steamboat has the Walls of Jericho on Rude! Rude inches over to the ropes and finally grabs the bottom rope, causing the break. Steamboat lifts Rude off the ropes with a whip facebuster, and then runs the ropes and lands a BIG splash to Rude's back! Again, Steamboat presses the advantage with a series of knees to Rude's back. Rude makes it to his feet... and Steamboat nails two karate kicks to the ribs of Rude! A forearm and a chop allow Steamboat to get Rude in position for a vertical suplex, but Ricky actually drops his on his face in a reverse suplex instead! Steamboat drops an open-handed jab into the face of Rude and then goes for the cover... 1... 2... kickout! Rude to his feet, but Steamboat hits another chop! Rude slumps in a corner, and Steamboat gets a quick puch in before whipping him to the opposite corner. Ricky charges in, but Rude gets a BIG knee right into Steamboat's jaw! Steamboat staggers and falls, and Rude covers... 1... 2... 3! [Rude 1-0, 7:42] The crowd is stunned! Rude drops three fists into the face of the prone Steamboat before bringing him to his feet. Rude with a couple of quick kneelifts into the chest of Steamboat, and then he cranks up the Rude Awakening and NAILS it! Cover, and the three is academic. [Rude 2-0, 8:39] At this point, Steamboat is dead weight... Rude lifts him to his feet again and drops him with a Schmidt backbreaker! Rude climbs to the top turnbuckle and drops a HUGE knee right on the throat of Steamboat, and the ref calls for the DQ! [Rude 2-1, 9:39] Rude chooses to eat the disqualification just to do more severe damage to Steamboat! Quickly Rude brings the groggy Steamboat to his feet and rolls him up in an inside cradle... 1... 2... 3. [Rude 3-1, 10:11] Rude in complete control now, but Steamboat uses the ropes to regain his footing. Rude approaches, and Steamboat gets in a series of quick punches to the injured ribs of Rude! Punch, chop, Rude whipped into the ropes... but Steamboat drops the head too early, and Rude clocks him with a facebuster to the mat! Rude again drops a fist to the head of Steamboat, and then pulls him back to his feet. Steamboat with a desperation punch to Rude's midsection, but Rude rakes the eyes to regain the advantage. Rude snapmares Ricky over and locks in a camel clutch! Steamboat slowly makes it to his knees and crawls for the ropes, but Rude jumps down on Steamboat's back to stop that. Rude tries to do his patented hip swivel, but clutches his ribs in pain! Jesse: "What a gutsy attempt though, huh, Ross? To give every female the thrill of their life here, Rude (hurt ribs and all) tried to bump and grind to the best of his ability!" Rude drops a series of knees to Steamboat's back, and then locks in the camel clutch again. Ricky fights to his feet as the crowd chants "Steam-boat!" Rude up on Ricky's shoulders now... he tries to rock forward into a victory roll, but Steamboat falls backwards, slamming Rude to the mat! Steamboat up, and he runs the ropes... BIG splash meets the knees of Rude! OUCH! Both men back to their feet, and Rude gets the advantage with a series of kneelifts to Steamboat's chest... and then Rude takes Steamboat back down with a swinging neckbreaker reminiscent of the Honky Tonk Man! Cover... 1... 2... kickout by Steamboat! Rude forces Ricky's shoulders to the canvas two more times here, but can't get any more than a two count... so Rude drops a knee right into Steamboat's shoulder! Both men to their feet again, and Steamboat gets in some desperate chops which cause Rude to again slump in a corner. Steamboat charges in but eats the boot of Rude! Rude with a hammer blow to the neck of Steamboat... Steamboat gets in a quick chop, but Rude snapmares him over and locks in a reverse chinlock! Steamboat fights back to his feet and elbows out... Ricky runs the ropes, but Rude meets him with a kitchen sink kneelift which flips Steamboat completely over and back to the mat! Steamboat makes it to a corner and climbs back to his feet. Rude rams Steamboat's head into the turnbuckle twice, and then drags him to another corner and makes him eat turnbuckle! Steamboat with a desperate back elbow, but Rude with a thumb to the eyes again... and Rude nails a PILEDRIVER on Steamboat! Cover... 1... 2... KICKOUT AT 2.5! Rude drags Steamboat to his feet and gets him in position for a tombstone piledriver... Steamboat fighting, and actually flips Rude completely over so that Steamboat now has the tombstone piledriver on Rude... and NAILS it! Cover... 1... 2... 3!! [Rude 3-2, 17:38] Both men are dead on the canvas. Steamboat staggers to his feet first, and tries to drag Rude to his feet... but Rude leans back and hotshots Steamboat into the top turnbuckle! Rude rolls out to the apron while Steamboat slumps in the corner. Now Rude climbs to the top turnbuckle once again, and both Ross and Ventura question the intelligence of this move with Ricky now only trailing by one fall... Steamboat makes it to his feet and punches Rude, causing him to lose his balance and straddle the top turnbuckle! Steamboat climbs to the top now as well... and takes Rude over and down with a MONSTER SUPERPLEX! Both men down, but Steamboat gets to his feet first... he's really groggy and can't find Rude at first, but finally sees him and drops for a cover... 1... 2... KICKOUT! Both men back to their feet. Steamboat misses a short clothesline and turns... and there's a double clothesline taking both men down! The ref starts a count on both men, and at 5 Rude lays an arm over Steamboat... the ref starts to count as Rude slides over Steamboat so his back is on top of Ricky's chest... 1... 2... Steamboat BRIDGES OUT! Ricky turns Rude up and over into a backslide... 1... 2... 3!! [3-3, 20:22] It's tied! Both men quickly back up now... and Steamboat takes over with a series of punches and chops! Steamboat with an inside cradle now... 1... 2... kickout! Rude to his feet, but Steamboat sweeps his legs and flips over into a jackknife hold! 1... 2... KICKOUT! Both men suddenly moving quickly now! Steamboat runs the ropes and NAILS a cross body block! 1... 2... KICKOUT! Rude quickly counters with a chin crusher! Both men are down! Rude gets up first, and lifts Steamboat to his feet... and drives Steamboat's face into the mat! Rude pulls Ricky up again... and another facecrusher takes Steamboat down! Rude pulls Steamboat up, and nails a third facebuster! Cover! 1... 2... kickout! Rude pulls Steamboat to his feet... scoop slam! Rude drops a fist into the face of Steamboat, and covers... two count only! Rude drags Ricky to his feet again, but Steamboat takes over with some desperate chops! Rude staggers, but quickly rakes the eyes again... Rude with a hammer blow, and then a WICKED short lariat! Rude takes a moment to pose again, but can only flex his right arm, as his left side is too injured... Jesse once again notes Rude's guts for attempting to please the crowd despite his injuries and fatigue. Rude brings Steamboat to his feet, and hits a double open-handed thrust to Steamboat's throat! Steamboat staggers and falls to the canvas! Rude places Ricky's neck on the second rope and starts choking him! Ref counts and Rude stops at 4... Rude pulls Ricky to his feet. Steamboat with a desperation punch, but Rude hits a series of forearms! Rude begins to set up the Rude Awakening again... but Steamboat fights it! Steamboat spins it around, and Rude goes for a short clothesline... which misses! Steamboat buries an elbow in Rude's gut... and NAILS Rude with the RUDE AWAKENING! Cover! 1... 2... Rude gets a foot on the ropes! Steamboat with rope-assisted kneedrops into the gut of Rude! Steamboat pulls Rude to his feet, and takes him over with a vertical suplex! Cover! 1... 2... KICKOUT! Steamboat takes Rude down again with a backdrop! Cover... 1... 2... kickout! Steamboat back up with a chop, but the Irish whip is reversed... and as Ricky comes off Rude locks in a sleeper hold! Rude jumps on Steamboat's back to increase the pressure! Steamboat fighting, and tries to break the hold by ramming Rude's head into the top turnbuckle! But Rude holds on... Steamboat tries it again, but Rude will not break the hold! Steamboat starts to fade... Ricky now staggering slowly toward the ropes, but every time he tries to reach for the ropes, Rude kicks Steamboat's arm down! It's down to the last two minutes now! Steamboat slumps to the canvas, and Rude starts cranking on the sleeper! [90 seconds remaining] The crowd is stomping in unison and chanting "Steam-boat!" The ref checks Steamboat's eyes to see if he's out. [60 seconds remaining] The ref holds up Steamboat's arm and lets it go... it falls about 2/3 of the way down before Steamboat holds it back up! Ricky powers back to his feet, but Rude still has the sleeper locked... Steamboat uses his feet to climb up the turnbuckles in the corner, and pushes off... landing on top of Rude! He has a leg hooked! 1... 2... 3!!! [Steamboat 4-3, 29:25] The crowd completely loses it! Rude is desperate, and both men begin moving quickly! Rude with a short clothesline! Cover... 1... 2... kickout! [30 seconds remaining] Rude takes Steamboat down with a shoulder block! 1... 2... kickout! Another shoulder block! 1... 2... KICKOUT! [15 seconds remaining] Rude grabs an inside cradle! 1... 2... KICKOUT! Rude scoops up Steamboat and slams him!! [5 seconds remaining] 1... 2... KICKOUT!! The time limit expires!!! Steamboat wins!! Steamboat wins!! Steamboat wins!!!

Exciting, isn't it?

I wrote the end of the match that way because I wanted to communicate to you, the reader, how much I was marking out at the end. Despite the fact that this match proceeded just like I had envisioned above, I completely lost it when Steamboat reversed that sleeper into the pin to take the victory... and Rude's quick desperate attempts to get a tying cover in the final thirty seconds was an amazing touch as well!

But I hope this shows you how a well crafted psychological match can cause even the most knowledgeable fan to suspend his/her disbelief. Really, there was not a lot of extreme high impact wrestling... I think the biggest moves in the match were the piledriver and the superplex. It was all about the psychology... could Steamboat come back after being hit by Rude's finisher early and falling behind by two falls? That's where excitement is generated... I mean, go back and look at the recap again. Did you notice that Rude and Steamboat had the crowd stomping and chanting during a three minute long sleeper spot? A sleeper spot!! Will wonders never cease?

I won't recap this match here, but there was another Iron Man style match I saw, this one coming from Japan. A few years back, there was an interpromotional war between two of the bigger women's wrestling federations in Japan, All Japan Women's (AJW) and the JWP promotion. One of the big matches during this feud was a little match called Thunderqueen, where a team of four of AJW's best and brightest tangled with four of JWP's top talents on JWP's home court with a 60-minute time limit. AJW went up early 1-0 on a surprise cover, and then JWP had to battle back to tie it up. The story of that fall was that because each team had four members, it was virtually impossible to get a cover because someone from the other team would always come in and break the count! To make matters worse, Dynamite Kansai (the top gun on JWP's team) has a finisher called Splash Mountain... this move sets up like Scott Hall's Razor's/Outsider's Edge, where you hold the opponent up in a crucifix-like position, but in the Splash Mountain you drop the person into a sit-down style powerbomb! Devastating! The only problem is that the move takes a LONG time to set up, much like the Outsider's Edge... so once the JWP team isolated Kyoko Inoue (AJW) in the ring and completely beat her down, Kansai would start setting up the Splash Mountain... but no matter how her teammates tried, someone from AJW would be able to clip the knees of Kansai and stop the move! This went on for a while before (I think around the 40-minute mark) the JWP team was able to get organized and charge the AJW corner just as Kansai set up the Splash Mountain... the crowd could feel it, and when Kansai NAILED that Splash Mountain and got the tying fall, they just went BALLISTIC!!

Another aspect of the exciting match is the near fall... notice that the closer the ref gets to counting three, the bigger a reaction comes from the crowd at the kickout. Rude and Steamboat use this to perfection in this match, waiting to 2.5 and even 2.7 at some points during that match... causing the crowd to truly believe that almost any move could get a fall! If you go back a couple of weeks on Raw is War, look at that title match between HHH and Jericho... you'll see some amazing near falls there. HHH has become quite an expert at timing his kickouts to just barely beat the three count, and that somewhat jaded WWF crowd suddenly "oohs" and "aahs" that HHH could be beaten. Heck, go back even farther and you'll see that through good use of near falls the crowd became convinced that TAKA Michinoku had a chance to beat HHH for the title!

Well, that's it for my lecture on match psychology and how it relates to the "mark out" factor of a match. I hope you enjoyed it, and I encourage you to e-mail me if you have any thoughts about what we discussed here. And if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend you check out that Iron Man Match between Rick Rude and Ricky Steamboat, as that is one of the best matches I've ever seen, and I was still enjoying it even through the third and fourth watches while getting the recap together!

Next week, we'll settle into the normal groove and go through the latest matches from the WWF, WCW and ECW as well as the matches I'm watching on tape. Together perhaps we can truly find wrestling nirvana...

Stone Kold Stevie

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