FLYIN’ SOLO #4
KEVIN VON ERICH/DAVID VON ERICH/ICEMAN PARSONS vs. MICHAEL HAYES/TERRY GORDY/BUDDY ROBERTS - WCCW 5/18/83
As fun as this is, it’s impossible to shake the feeling that they ought to be able to do much better. Maybe I’m just expecting too much out of Hayes, Parsons, and the Von Erich boys, or maybe they’re being held back by the match being a straight trios match, and not getting much opportunity to cut loose. But whatever the reason, this is much more fun than it is good. The extended stalling at the beginning certainly doesn’t help, especially after such a hot opening with all six brawling all over the ring. It made sense for the Freebirds to take a powder, but it went on for too long.
There are tons of fun moments and smart touches to the match, the Freebirds were great with their stooging, even Gordy (although the way Kevin was laying in the punches, he probably did have his bell rung a bit). They also did a great job getting over the claw, Hayes much more than Gordy. The control segment on David is broken up into two categories Gordy and Roberts bring the work, and Hayes brings the heat, and all three did their jobs well, but it was hard to watch Hayes when he actually had to do something in the ring. David’s selling wasn’t bad nor was it great, but it was passable for the most part. His best moment was when he wound up running into Buddy, and took an almost Hennig-like bump. There were also a couple nice spots from Kevin, his fireman’s carry counter to Buddy’s armbar was clever, and a funny spot where he hurt his head giving Gordy a headbutt, so he used Iceman’s head instead.
Even some of the things that seem a bit odd wind up working in their own way. The most glaring thing about the match is David’s hot tag, which comes when Kevin drags him into the corner to tag. It seems more like something Hayes would do for Buddy, but it works as a revenge spot, for the several instances David had made it to the corner on his own, only for Hayes to distract the ref and cause him to miss the legal tag. The finish falls also falls into the same category. Buddy cheap shots Iceman with a punch from the apron and Gordy gets the pin, it looks like the Freebirds stole the win, but, it was the Von Erichs who got the melee going in the first place by jumping into the ring after Iceman’s tag. There’s no doubt there were things that could have been improved upon, although it may unreasonable to expect, given the abilities of everyone involved. ***
MICHAEL HAYES/TERRY GORDY/BUDDY ROBERTS © vs. KEVIN VON ERICH/MIKE VON ERICH/FRITZ VON ERICH (WCCW Six Man Titles) - WCCW 5/6/84
Hey, it’s that better match that I thought the Freebirds/Von Erichs had in them. It’s probably safe to say that the relaxed rules are the main reason for it (the only rule is that they had to tag in and out, and even that wasn’t enforced too much). I somehow doubt that the addition of Mike to the mix was the reason for the improvement, Fritz very well could be, given the grumpiness he brought to the mix. It’s clear that this is going to be crazy right away, when Gordy starts hurling chairs into the ring before the match even starts.
This is insanity right from the start, and while they do occasionally follow the one rule, the insanity never completely lets up. What makes it work is that it’s controlled insanity, unlike the scramble matches of early ROH where there’s ten different things going on at once. It’s got that believable brawling (just look at Kevin’s face after he goes a few rounds with Gordy), smart touches, and nothing that takes anything away from the good stuff. They’re smart about using their wardrobe to their advantage, Hayes can’t wrestle very well, but he’s good at using his boot to wallop Kevin in the head, and Roberts also joins in, using his belt buckle as a weapon. Fritz also makes use of his own belt by whipping Hayes (and also whipping the crowd into a frenzy). The Freebirds are, once again, good with making the claw look like death, Kevin initially telegraphs it, and Hayes smartly sees it coming and blocks it. Hayes isn’t able to stop Fritz, and when Buddy tries to help, Fritz has a dual Iron Claw. Hayes actually bleeds from it, and it disorientates Buddy enough for Kevin to catch him with the flying body press for the win. The only thing that this is obviously lacking is any sort of in-match story. The Freebirds and Von Erichs had been feuding for nearly eighteen months by this point, it’s obvious that they don’t like each other, so this really needed a little something more to put it over the top. Again, it’s better than the May ‘83 trios, but it’s another case of something being more fun, and exciting, than it is great. ***1/2
RIC FLAIR/OLE ANDERSON/ARN ANDERSON vs. PEZ WHATLEY/ITALIAN STALLION/ROCKY KING - JCP 6/22/85
The work here is very simple, but simple and effective often go hand in hand, and this shows that. The Horsemen all stooge and sell for Whatley’s punches, but when it turns into a melee with all six, the Horsemen easily get control. From here, the match is as simple as it can get. At first, it looks like the target is going to be Stallion’s arm, but then they switch to King’s knee. They mostly just take turns holding the leg in place so that someone else can climb up the ropes and jump on it, they change it up a few times with Ole’s half crab. Not once does it get boring, there’s always something going on, be it the attempted amputation, baiting in his partners to distract the ref, or Flair telling Magnum (on commentary) to pay attention because this could be in his future.
Their work is far from complicated, but it works thanks in part to Rocky’s selling. He’s as good as done, and he shows how much he knows it, with his desperate attempts to get free and tag out. What also makes it work is the mean streak from the Horsemen. They don’t care about winning as far as having their hands raised. If Rocky is unable to leave the ring on his own power, then they feel that they’ve won. Flair’s figure four isn’t just the finish. It’s a mercy killing. They could have easily finished off Rocky long before, but they wanted to make a statement, and they did just that.
RIC FLAIR/TULLY BLANCHARD/ARN ANDERSON vs. BARRY WINDHAM/LEX LUGER/STING - JCP 4/16/88
Here’s a combo that you can’t go wrong with, Flair and Barry in the same ring is like Milk and Cookies, it’s all good! The match is laid out similar to the previous Horsemen match, with the babyfaces starting off hot and heavy, and then a long control segment by the heels. In this case it’s Barry and Sting having their way with the Horsemen, until Luger drops his head too early and runs into a DDT from Arn. The Horsemen aren’t as focused with their control segment as they were with Rocky. They don’t try to hurt Luger by taking out his arm or leg. They just try to hurt him in general. Flair and Arn slam him into the corner, Flair has some fun with him on the floor, they choke him with the ropes, and take turns holding him in place for kicks and punches. Luger’s selling is even pretty good too, you’ll probably never mistake him for Ricky Morton or Toshiaki Kawada in that department, but he does a good job at getting over the beating.
Even Luger’s stupid no-sell of Flair’s vertical suplex to start off the run to the hot tag doesn’t take anything away from the match. Barry makes up for it, to an extent, soon after the tag when he misses a flying lariat to Tully and goes sailing over the top rope. He puts it over appropriately and counters Tully’s attempted suplex into the ring to maintain control in a believable way. There were probably better finishes than Dillon slipping Tully a foreign object to KO Barry, but it makes sense in the vein of the Horsemen needing to resort to that in order to keep Barry down. ***1/2
ALEX SHELLEY/AUSTIN ARIES/RODERICK STRONG vs. JOHN WALTERS/JIMMY RAVE/MATT STRYKER - ROH 6/10/04
It’s clear that these guys all understand the workings of the tag match formula. It starts with the babyfaces in control, then comes the heel control segment with several false tags, the face in peril makes hot tag, and the breakdown for the finish. Where this falls flat is in making the individual parts of it work. It’s akin to knowing how to cook something as far as knowing what’s all in the dish, but not knowing how much of each ingredient to use, the right oven temperature, etc. Look no further than the opening stretch, between Rave and Walters coming off their loss to GenNext the month before in the eight-man tag, and GenNext busting open Stryker with the chain before the match started, they should have been ready to go to war and fight. They’re not. Rave and Walters take turns showing their technical prowess by working over Strong’s knee, and doing it in a ho-hum manner with basic step over toehold.
The heels aren’t a whole lot better when they’re in control, Aries is clearly the best of them due to his explosive execution and working over Rave’s back and midsection, which paid off when he tapped him to the Rings of Saturn, but he wasn’t good enough to compensate for his teammates. They’re tactics for getting heat are doing various contrived double teams while the ref has to spend far too long jawing with Walters and pretending not to see what’s going on. There’s the triple powerbomb they spent too much time setting up, and the slingshot to big boot, to springboard senton. Rave’s false tags were a nice touch, but the crowd didn’t really seem to care too much when the ref was putting out Walters, most likely because GenNext weren’t doing much to give the crowd a reason to care. Then again, Rave wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire as face in peril. Rave just causally fights off both Aries and Strong in the corner, and avoids Shelley and makes the tag himself. They seem to take the idea of the match ‘breaking down’ a bit too much to heart, Stryker’s fatigue from his blood loss was a nonissue, and Rave tagged himself back in before too long and looked to be finishing off Strong with the Crossface before Aries intervened with the 450 and Rings of Saturn. It was good to see Aries trying to make things that happened previously in the match relevant, and he was easily the standout of the match, so it’s not too much of a surprise that he wound up as champion.
CM PUNK/ACE STEEL/JIMMY JACOBS vs. ALEX SHELLEY/AUSTIN ARIES/JACK EVANS - ROH 10/15/04
While this is certainly an improvement over the 6/10 match, it’s still not exactly good. The heels don’t use any ridiculous triple teams this time around, but they still seem to have a problem with making an extended control segment interesting, despite having two of them in the match. They leave behind the crowd popping spots, which is a good start, but they don’t bring a whole lot to make up for it. They’ve got some good stuff, like Aries cheap shot to Traci Brooks to distract Punk and start working him over, Shelley’s skull crusher to Punk, and a nice revenge spot when Aries and Evans do a variation on the Demolition Decapitation, which is something that the babyfaces had done to Evans before. But, spots like that are exceptions, not the rule, there’s a lot of stuff like false tags, and choking behind the ref’s back, which is great for getting the fans behind Jacobs and Punk, but it goes on for so long that it ceases being interesting. Main event or not, this probably didn’t need to go more than thirty minutes, they could have easily cut out a good ten minutes of the GenNext control segment and it wouldn’t have made a huge impact on the match.
The babyface control segment on Evans probably shouldn’t have outdone both of the heel segments, but it does, and it’s easily the best stretch of the match. Evans had shown before his uncanny ability to take a beating, and Punk, Steel, and Jacobs all do a good job putting the hurt on him. Jacobs is the obvious weak link for his team, but even he looks good when he does his jumping stomps to a prone Evans. Punk going over was the obvious finish, with him going into a title match and GenNext having won the eight-man on 10/2 against this team (with John Walters), and Steamboat counteracting Strong’s interference to allow Punk to give Aries the Plunge was a good enough way to get there.