FLYIN’ SOLO #10
BULL CURRY vs. JOHNNY VALENTINE (Houston Wrestling 06/20/69)
With three falls packed into less than twenty minutes, this certainly isn’t the technical clinic that Baba and Destroyer had three months previously, but, the pacing and layout is really well done and the match is boatloads of fun. You can count the actual wrestling moves in the match on one hand, Valentine’s extended headlock sequence, and, the takeover that he uses to surprise Curry for the first fall. The headlock stuff is worked very well, so it isn’t boring in the least, especially with the way that Curry sells the way that it’s wearing him down, and the takeover works as a surprise spot that Curry isn’t prepared for. The rest of the match is a straight up hateful brawl, with fists, furniture, and blood (and Valentine’s reaction to getting busted open is amazing), with the ref finally having to throw the whole thing out when he realizes that he doesn’t have a prayer of being able to restore any sort of order. If not for the obviously primitive production values, one could easily get the impression that this is from 15-20 years later.
KEVIN VON ERICH/DAVID VON ERICH/KERRY VON ERICH vs. MARK LEWIN/THE SPOILER/GARY HART (Houston Wrestling 09/21/79)
The first fall is worked in the vein of a Southern tag match, but without the stuff that makes it so much fun. Lewin and Spoiler work over Kerry in their corner, with Kevin and David frequently trying to run over and save him, only for the ref to put them out. But, there’s no obvious cheating by the heels, and nothing as far as any sort of story goes. Kerry finally tags in David, who gets pinned in short order by Lewin after he and Spoiler do a double lariat. They may as well have just had the ref miss the tag and let Kerry drop the fall. The second fall starts off well enough, with a nice mat exchange from Kevin and Lewin, followed by a fun sequence by Spoiler and David, setting aside David goofing up the crisscross and drop-down spot. The fall is more balanced, with the Von Erich boys getting to control things, but, the work is pretty much the same as the first fall. Lewin realizes that he’s in pretty big trouble and tries to tag out, only Hart won’t tag in, and David pins Lewin a minute later after a splash. The third fall is too short to accomplish much, although it does have the payoff of Gary finally getting into the match, when it seems like David is about to be finished. David makes his comeback, the other two boys take out Hart’s backup and Hart is easily finished with the sleeper. It’s a fun match to watch, but, it’d have been nice to see them try to tell more of a story than in the last five minutes of the match.
NICK BOCKWINKEL © vs. CURT HENNIG (AWA World Heavyweight Title - AWA 11/15/86)
If you’re a fan of matwork, then this isn’t something you’ll want to miss. They spend most of the first half of the match on the mat, working simple holds like a headlock, pro-style armbar, head scissors, and short arm scissors, but, not once are Nick or Curt lazy about it. They show that they’re putting everything that they have into working the hold, and conversely, the hold is put over in an appropriate manner. Nobody thinks that Curt will give up to a simple headlock, especially in a match of this importance, but, Curt does a fabulous job of showing how much the hold is hurting him. There are a few other smart touches sprinkled throughout the first half of the match, other than the matwork, such as Curt getting up a knee to stun Bockwinkel after finally escaping a headlock, and Nick taking a shoulder bump into the post not long after getting out of the short arm scissors.
The second half of the match is more in-tune with the times as far as the pacing and the bigger spots go, but, Curt and Nick work just as well as before. Curt tries to use his speed to his advantage and tire out Nick, and, while it certainly has an effect on Nick, his facials are great and he takes an awesome bump from Curt’s dropkick, he still has it in him to keep going. Nick has learned a few shortcuts in his thirty-one years in the business, and isn’t shy about using those when he sees an opening, he bounces Curt’s head off the stairs, and uses the ropes for some extra help. Nick gets a pin broken up by Curt getting his foot on the ropes, and Nick just strolls over and drops down on the exposed leg. It doesn’t have any effect long-term, but, it’s a nice example of how much of a ring general Nick is.
Honestly, the only altogether odd looking thing here is the blood, and even that works in its own way. It’s not clear exactly where or now Curt gets opened up, but Nick sees him bleeding and takes full advantage by punching at his cut, and bouncing his head off the ring apron. It’s not very becoming of a match that’s based around wrestling but it’s hard to fault Nick for taking advantage of the situation. It’s also not clear if Nick gets busted open himself, or Curt just bleeds onto him when he makes his comeback, but, either way, Curt punching away at Nick works as a revenge spot. The only thing that this one-hour draw is lacking is a real tease of a finish, Nick had lingered long enough in the figure four when it’s announced that there are thirty seconds left, so, why would he suddenly give things up when he’s so close to being saved by the bell? Curt letting go of the hold to try a pin, or maybe one last dropkick or one more try at using the Axe for a close two count as the match closes out would have been worked better than just staying in the hold.
I won’t go as far as to say that this is the best match of the year, given that Flair, Ricky Morton, Stan Hansen, and Jumbo were all in their peak years as performers, but, these two were able to put on a performance that worthy of standing right alongside the four of them. ****1/4
BOB BACKLUND vs. GREAT SASUKE (BattlArts 11/23/98)
The clipping in this causes some problems, such as not being able to see what allows for the change in control of the match, but, what is shown is fun in a sort of sideshow Carny way. It’s nice to see that Backlund isn’t completely lost when he’s out of his element, and, it’s strange (in a good way) to see him fight a little dirty and crotch Sasuke on the ropes, and then belt him off the apron. Sasuke is at his surliest best when he pulls Bob into the center of the ring only to try to ground and pound him. The short arm scissors makes an appearance so that Bob can do his trademark escape, but, they don’t go to it right away, they draw things out for a bit to build up anticipation to it. And, when Bob finally does pull it off, Sasuke is right there to keep attacking Bob’s now weakened arm.
The finish is a bit out of nowhere, but it’s not bad. Sasuke misses his back senton and Bob takes advantage with the crossface chickenwing to tap him out. The idea of Sasuke being stunned from the missed senton makes sense, but, with Bob’s arm being worn down (including a post shot not long before) it’d have been nice to see them try to cast some doubt as to whether or not Bob could actually put it on and keep it on.
STEVE AUSTIN © vs. CHRIS BENOIT (WWF World Heavyweight Title - WWF 05/29/01)
This is probably the peak of Austin’s 2001 heel run. He sells, stooges, and takes pretty much every bump that he can in order to put Benoit (who was already wrestling on borrowed time) over as much as possible. Austin gets a few things in here and there, but, he doesn’t get a meaningful run of offense until almost the end when he starts to go after Benoit’s taped up ribs. And, Benoit is the one who actually sketchy here as far as the selling goes, he’s fine when Austin is actively working him over, but when it’s time for him to start a comeback, he just starts throwing chops and kicks, without any sign of lingering damage. Yes, it’s the biggest match of his career, in his hometown, but, you’d think that taking two suplexes into the announce table, the spinebuster, and Austin’s ugly excuse for a Boston Crab, would have some sort of cumulative effect. But, for the most part, the match is Austin getting chopped and suplexed from one end of the ring to the other, and, Benoit is at his most intense, and fired up, best.
The thing that most people will probably remember from the match is the ten-count German suplex spot. It certainly doesn’t say much about the move when Austin takes ten of them, and still wins, but, there is a thread of logic behind it. Austin had been doing a relatively good job of staying out the crossface, Benoit’s early attempts saw Austin easily get the ropes to break it, and, when Benoit thought he’d stunned Austin enough with the superplex, Austin was still quickly able to crawl to the ropes. So, Benoit decides to just go for broke and suplex Austin so much that there’s no way he’ll be able to get to the ropes. But, Benoit probably could have accomplished the same thing with half the number of Germans, and, it’d have been nice to see him try to get a pin first, before going right to the crossface. The distraction from Vince and cradle from Austin for the finish is fairly typical for WWF TV, but, this is one time where it works. It gets them where they need to go, without making Benoit look weak or stupid. He’d thoroughly dominated the WWF Champion in pretty much every way, and, he only came up short because of interference and a handful of tights. ***1/2
RICOCHET vs. WILL OSPREAY (New Japan 05/27/16)
Honestly, this is probably the best Ricochet match that I’ve ever seen. He finally sheds the skin of being ‘The Flippy Guy’ and shows some real personality by heeling things up. Spots like the backbreaker, the Gory stretch, and the stiff shots to the back show that Ricochet is actually trying to accomplish something, by keeping Ospreay grounded, and one only needs to look at the way Ospreay sells after he surprises Ricochet with the reverse rana on the floor to see how well that idea worked out for him. Ospreay hitting the DDT after the missed 630 would have been a great finish, but they go to it a minute later with Ospreay hits his springing stunner, and it’s not like it takes everything and then some to keep Ricochet down. The way they lay the strikes in almost makes this look like Regal/Finlay, rather than a simple tournament match. If Ospreay chooses to stick around NJPW, it’d be nice to see this turn into a full-blown feud.
There are also more than a few annoying things to see here: the opening tumbling routine is just as annoying as anything that can be seen from Dragon Gate. Ospreay’s need to seemingly do everything as flashy as possible looks like he’s taking his cues directly from Dragon Kid, and, Ricochet cleaning up his act makes it even more noticeable. The blatant, and audible, spot calling makes them look like they belong on pre show matches, rather than the biggest juniors tournament of the year, and two wrestlers as experienced as them should know better. The teased double ring out, which actually worked really well for the first eighteen seconds of the ref’s count, is ruined by them going from looking all but dead, to being totally rejuvenated. However, all of those issues could be cleared up relatively easily by them, and if Ricochet can keep performing like this and leading the match, then they could easily have a match that’s actually worthy of all the attention that this one is getting. ***1/4