The SmarK Rant For “Before They Were Famous” (SMW)

The SmarK Rant for Before They Were Famous (DVD)

– Not to be confused with the WWF’s “Before They Were WWF Superstars” DVD, this is basically part 6 in the Wrestling Gold series, featuring old Smoky Mountain Wrestling footage with “insider” commentary done by Jim Cornette & Dave Meltzer. The idea here is to focus on current WWF guys back when they were in SMW. As with the original Wrestling Gold series, video quality is hit-or-miss depending on the quality of the original source material, but Cornette is an anal-retentive video collector extraordinaire, so everything is pretty much looking as good as you’re ever gonna see it. I’m not sure about the sound because I only listened to the commentary track, but the box says Dolby Digital Mono, so I’ll take their word for it.

– The Headbangers v. Flash Flanagan & Chris Michaels. This is like 3 matches into the Bangers’ career after they unmasked. They were originally an indy darling team known as the Spiders before coming to SMW. Cornette relates a story about going to a then-unknown Marilyn Manson’s concert and then going home and talking the Spiders into unmasking and wearing dresses. Flash is a current WWF developmental guy, and Michaels is just one of those guys with potential who ended up being the wrong guy at the wrong time. The pretty boy side of things sends the Headbangers packing with a double-dropkick, and Flash earns his name with a tope onto them. Both Headbangers have hair at this point, which makes for a weird look. Back in, Flash climbs the ropes to break a wristlock, but Mosh monkeyflips him. Flash lands on his feet and Michaels comes in to work the arm. Hiptoss and back to the arm. Cheapshot puts Flash down, though, and the Bangers double-team for two. Thrash gets a powerslam for two as Dave & Jim discuss Vince Russo and the misfortunes of Chaz therein. Rockerplex gets two for the Bangers. Flash gets tossed, allowing Thrash to get a nasty lariat on the floor. When Flash staggers onto the apron, Mosh comes flying with a Jericho-ish springboard clothesline that sends both guys crashing to the floor. Yikes. Back in, the Bangers get a double-team gourdbuster and they pound on Flash in the corner. He small packages Mosh for two, but gets re-routed back into the heel corner and posted. They do the knucklelock-bridge spot from all of Arn’s matches, and Thrash gets crotched. Mosh comes in and gets a butt-butt in the corner for two. Flash tries to come back, but gets cut off with a sideslam. Thrash comes in for a double-team, but Flash bodypresses both guys and gets the hot tag to Michaels. Frankensteiner for Mosh, but the one on Thrash is “blocked” (aka f*cked up). It’s BONZO GONZO, and the Stage Dive finishes Michaels at 11:35. Good solid formula tag match. Bangers worked their asses off in front of their first big crowd. ***

– “Hollywood” Bob Holly v. Paul Miller. Yes, that’s bitter, cranky Hardcore Holly back when he weighed a buck seventy-five and had a mullet. This would be from 1992, long before Bob was even Sparky Plugg. Miller is just a guy. Bob works the arm, but gets bodypressed and backs off. Miller gets a sunset flip for two, but Holly pounds him back for two. He stomps away and gets a high kick, but misses a blind charge and Miller comes back with a dropkick for two. Holly finishes soon after with an insanely high missile dropkick, however, at 3:25. * Holly looked and wrestled totally different here than today. There’s also a funny story about Ricky Morton and Bob’s punches in here that Jim relates, as Morton wanted Holly to rear back and hit him in the face as hard as he could, in hopes of avoiding Bob’s stiff worked punches.

– Jerry Lynn v. Killer Kyle. From 1992. You know who Lynn is, Kyle is an SMW mainstay who did a Bubba Rogers gimmick. This is from around the time when Lynn & X-Pac were ripping up the indy circuit on a weekly basis. Hard to believe these days, I know. Lynn gets overpowered and misses a dropkick. Rollup is blocked, but Lynn gets a bodyblock for two. Kyle catches him with a tilt-a-whirl slam, but picks him up. Sideslam, but Lynn valiently slugs back before walking into a sidewalk slam for the pin at 2:32. Basic squash. ½*

– Dixie Dynamite v. The Dark Secret. This is a rather interesting matchup, as Mr. Dynamite would be Steve Armstrong under a mask, while The Dark Secret is his brother — green rookie Brian Armstrong, more famously known as “Road Dogg” Jesse Jammes. This is so early in Dogg’s career that he’s still moonlighting while with the Marines at this point. Bunch of armdrags and a superkick quickly finish at 2:33 for Dixie. Nothing here of note. ¼*

– Crash the Terminator v. Miguel Perez. Again, very early SMW as this is an “international match”, with both guys doing a guest spot from south of the border in hopes of snagging a job with the big leagues. It worked for one of them – Crash the Terminator signed with WCW a couple of years after this and joined the Dungeon of Doom as Hugh Morrus. A few years after that, Perez became a Boriqua. Stalemate to start. They work off a headlock and Perez gets an armdrag and dropkick. Jim & Dave put his career in perspective by noting that he had years of rampant success with Hurricane Castillo as one of the most dominant babyface tag teams in the lucha libre world, only to become most well-known as the “hairy-backed guy” in the Boriquas. That’s wrestling for ya. Perez flips all over the place in an amazing show of gymnastics for a 270-pound guy and comes flying off the top rope with an armdrag, but Crash quickly comes back with a top rope clothesline of his own. That whole thing was one big sequence and it was amazing to see. Crash backdrops him and hits the chinlock as Jim holds a running tally of “Guys with the most concussions”, of which Crash is definitely the leading candidate. First runner-up: Tony Mamaluke. I’d have to disagree with that – I think Sean Waltman is up there, too, but that’s a minor quibble. Powerslam gets two. Press slam, and he goes up for the moonsault, which misses. Perez pops up for a missile dropkick, and Crash bails, so Perez follows with a SPACE FLYING TIGER DROP! Holy SHIT! Kevin Sullivan & Nightstalker run in for the DQ at 5:01 before it get better. Damn. **1/2

– Kevin Sullivan & Nightstalker v. Brian Lee & Tim Horner. Brawl outside to start and Lee hammers Sullivan in the ring. Roll call: Kevin Sullivan you know, Tim Horner you might know from his NWA jobbing days. Brian Lee = Chainz = Fake Undertaker. Nightstalker = Bryan Clarke. Nightstalker sideslams Horner while Lee & Sullivan brawl. Horner elbows Nightstalker and they work him over. Nightstalker comes back and Lee gets caught in the corner and double-teamed. Sullivan grabs a piece of something from ringside and sneaks some shots in, but Lee clotheslines Nightstalker to come back. Stalker chokes him down and drops an elbow. Lee misses a charge at Sullivan, and Kevin cuts off the ring. Stalker gets an ugly gutwrench and a clothesline for two. Lee finally comes back with a flying clothesline, hot tag Horner. A huge brawl erupts as Dave chooses that moment to relate the Tale of Nightstalker v. Sid and how it made Clarke the butt of locker-room jokes for months afterwards. The Tazmaniac does a run-in, but hits Nightstalker by mistake and Horner gets the pin at 7:15. Eh. *1/2

– The Tazmaniac v. Robert Gibson. Speaking of which, it’s Tazz back in his non-badass days, namely 1993. Taz grabs a headlock, but gets dropkicked and bails. Cornette goes into some detail about Tazz’ first, unimpressive, tryouts in wrestling, which leads Dave & Jim to go into another of their discussions of what makes a good and bad gimmick. Tazmaniac = BAD GIMMICK, by the way. Cornette kinda sorta almost gives Paul Heyman props for giving Taz a good gimmick, but actual words of praise never quite escape his lips. Back in, they trade wristlocks, and Taz gets a suplex and stomps away. Cornette points out that if he did more of that and less of the caveman shit, he would have had a job with him longer. He hits the chinlock and works the back as Jim discusses his method of finding a gimmick for new guys: “What’s your name? Okay, that’s your ring name, and your gimmick is that you’re a wrestler. Now get out there.” He also notes that more curse-words are generally involved. I’m shocked and appalled. Taz charges into a knee, but gets a Northern Lights suplex. He goes up, but misses a senton and Gibson bulldogs him for the pin at 3:58. Nothing here, which is why Taz had a short stay in SMW. ½*

– And now it’s back to 1993 again, as Tammy Lynn Sytch makes her first appearance in the sport at 19 years old, playing a spoiled brat named Tammy Fitch who files a lawsuit against SMW in order to get more women employed. This led to her becoming a manager, and GOOD LORD is she hot at this point. You almost forget just what a spectacular hottie she used to be in the days before the crack and the porn.

– Forward to 1994, as the Heavenly Bodies get into a verbal confrontation with the Bruise Brothers over Jim Cornette’s managerial services. Cornette gets sick of the Bruises whining, so he outlines the difference between “labor” and “management”, making sure to use very small words for the rednecks in the audience and the Bruises. They attack, so he suddenly changes his mind and takes it all back, delivering a very sincere and heartfelt apology for any offense he may have caused. Then of course he pulls out a handful of powder and tosses it in their faces. A HUGE, locker-room clearing brawl erupts and the teams fight all over hell’s half-acre, with a dozen jobbers trailing behind them all the way. Awesome stuff.

– Brian Lee v. Chris Canyon. From 1993. Yup, this is VERY early in the career of Kanyon. Jim suspects it might be his first or second match for SMW, in fact. Lee pounds away on him, and gets a big boot. Fistdrop gets two, and Lee picks him up. More punishment as Cornette drops yet another weird factoid: Kanyon was trained by MOOLAH. Lee finishes with a kneedrop at 1:59. Kanyon was just cannon fodder here. ¼*

– Louie Spicoli v. Chris Candido. From 1993. The commentary here is mostly a review of Spicoli’s rather sad and pathetic little life. Spicoli gets an armdrag series and Candido bails. Back in, Spicoli cradles for two. Backslide gets one. Rollup is blocked, but he goes up and gets crotched. Rana and Candido kicks away and gets a suplex for two. We hit the chinlock and that goes on a while. Spicoli rolls him up for two, but gets clotheslined. Candido goes up for a legdrop that gets two. Back to the chinlock. Louie fights back with a superkick and a leg lariat. Monkey flip in one corner, but Tammy hooks his leg in the other corner and Chris rolls him up for the pin at 6:12. Just okay. *1/2

– The Thrillseekers v. The Infernos. From 1994. The Infernos are masked jobbers, and the Thrillseekers are of course Lance Storm & Chris Jericho early on in their careers. This is Lance Storm’s US debut, in fact. Storm overpowers an Inferno and gets a bodypress. Jericho comes in, very energetic and pumped up compared to his more subdued personality these days, and gets his spinkick and springboard dropkick. Dave notes that Jericho was affectionately borrowing from Tiger Mask at this point 90% of the time. Delayed suplex gets two. Double-team clothesline gets two. Storm suplex and elbow get two. Jericho gets a clothesline, and both Thrillseekers come off the same turnbuckle with a double missile dropkick that finishes at 3:00. Now THERE’S a tag team finisher someone can steal. *

– The Gangstas v. The Rock N Roll Express. Big heat for the Gangstas. Gibson dodges New Jack, and Jack protests to Mark Curtis. He grabs a headlock, but the RNR use speed to frustrate him. Cornette uses this opportunity to slag New Jack and relates the difference between good murderous rage from the fans, and bad murderous rage from the fans. The difference is basically that one makes more money than the other. Jack keeps stalling. A lot. Cornette uses THIS opportunity to launch into his regularly scheduled anti-Heyman rant while Dave waits patiently for him to get it out of his system. Morton gets caught in the corner and destroyed. No shock there. Cornette goes off on a tangent about how great Ricky’s selling was, and how great he was in general, which leads into a discussion about the Rock N Roll Exress and their heyday. It’s not like the match is providing anything to talk about anyway. Morton is just selling like nuts, until he finally makes the hot tag to Gibson, who gets an enzuigiri on Mustafa for two. Dave & Jim discuss the Rock N Roll’s style of making short comebacks to sell their underdog status, and indeed Gibson gets the fluke win with a sunset flip at 7:51, proving their point. Not good. ¼* Rodney King-styled beatdown on Morton follows from the Posse. Cornette thinks that may have been a TAD beyond the bounds of good taste. No, I’d say New Jack’s post-match interview where he says, and I’m quoting here, “We’re not the niggers you want to be messing with”, is beyond the bounds of good taste. The beatdown was just over the top.

– D’Lo Brown v. Steve Armstrong. Speaking of the Gangstas and their flunkies, their first permanent flunky was a chubby CPA who wanted to be a wrestler so badly that he travelled all over the south setting up the rings with a card-carrying KKK member in order to pay his dues. True story. Steve works the arm and reverses a suplex for two. He gets an octopus (!) and D’Lo retreats. Knucklelock spot and Armstrong gets a clothesline for two. D’Lo comes back with a spinebuster and legdrop for two. Hotshot and he stomps away, but Steve clotheslines him and gets a backdrop. Gourdbuster and flying clothesline look to finish, but the Gangstas run in for the DQ at 4:31. As promised, D’Lo looked vey green here. ¾*

– Boo Bradley v. Cactus Jack. Boo later became Ballz Mahoney in ECW. I don’t know what happened to this Cactus Jack guy. Cactus hammers him in the corner and gets a kneelift and neckbreaker while Jim relates the whole backstory to the Boo v. Jack feud. Boo bails, and Jack follows with the apron somersault. Back in, Boo slugs away and uses his shirt to choke him out. Jack misses a charge and Boo goes up and misses a headbutt. Jack elbows the shit out of him and a Cactus Clothesline bumps the ref. They fight out for the double-countout at 4:26. ½*

– The Rock N Roll Express v. Eddie Gilbert & Unabomb. For you morbid types out there, this is essentially Eddie’s final match. Unabomb went through a variety of bad gimmicks before settling on Kane. Dave notes that he was a dream for the WWF, because he was “Sid Lite – all the size and power, none of the bad attitude”, which is why they kept pushing him. Stalling to start as Morton tries to plan his strategy. Unabomb overpowers him, but they double-team him and he bails. Back in, RNR double-teams him for two. Stalling follows. Gilbert goes next, more stalling. Morton rolls up Gilbert, but gets clocked by Unabomb. He pounds Morton in the corner, as does Gilbert. Hot tag Gibson, but Eddie pulls down the top rope to get rid of him, and the heels double-team Morton to draw a DQ at 7:01. All stalling. ½*

– Ricky Morton v. Al Snow. Snow steps into the shoes of Gilbert at this point, as Cornette was amazed that Snow had been in the business for 12 years and had never been on TV outside of some work in Memphis in 1982 when he had an afro going. Snow slugs away and they do a chase, which Morton wins. Snow desperately bails into the arms of Unabomb. Back in, Unabomb gives him brass knucks, and he KO’s Morton and tosses him. Back in, stomping and choking follow. Morton rolls him up for two. Sunset flip gets two. Backslide gets two. Pinfall reversal sequence gets two for Morton. Snow boots him down and hits a suplex, as Morton does a delayed bladejob from the brass knuckles and Snow proceeds to pound on the cut. Legdrop gets two. Morton fights back, but gets powerslammed. Snow stomps a mudhole, and gets a high kick series in the corner. Good stuff there. Morton breaks a chinlock, but misses a charge in his usual dramatic fashion, nearly flying into the front row. Snow gets a uranage for two. Scissors rollup gets two. Morton cradles for two. Snow goes to work on the leg and gets a spinning backbreaker. Snow misses a spectacular springboard moonsault, which actually had a cool name that eludes me at the moment, and Morton makes the comeback. He pounds away in the corner and Snow goes for the knuckles again, but this time irony rears her ugly head and Mark Curtis gets bumped, but Morton gets the pin anyway at 11:24. That was a weird finish. HELL of a TV match, though. ****

The Bottom Line: I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as the Wrestling Gold set due to the squash-o-riffic nature of a lot of the matches, but I loved SMW a lot and this is a really neat chance to see a lot of the current stars in their early days before steroids and bad gimmicks.

You can pick up Before They Were Famous at Amazon for cheap, and I’d say it’s worth the money for fans of old-school attitude. There’s more SMW coming in June from VCI, and the next volume looks much better (and bloodier).

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