The SmarK Retro Repost – Wrestling Gold Volume 1

The SmarK Rant for Wrestling Gold Volume 1 – Busted Open!

– Oh, come on, you had to know I’d get my hot little hands on this set sooner rather than later. I’m having a hard enough time going through Meltzer withdrawl after the death of Eyada as it is, subscription to the WOL aside. Ten hours of Cornette & Meltzer doing commentary over classic Memphis and Texas footage? I’m THERE.

– You shouldn’t even need to ask, but I am reviewing the DVD version here and the video quality is mind-blowing compared to the shitty 6th or 7th generation versions of a lot of this stuff that I already had in my various comps. For me it was worth it to upgrade the quality of a lot of my Memphis collection alone. The cases DO look cheap and the production values are pretty much on par with what you’d expect from a company that’s running 20-year old footage from Memphis, but speaking as someone who used to spend hours trolling over obscure satellite channels looking for wrestling from Podunk towns during the bad period from 94-96, I’m used to pretty much ANYTHING in terms of bad-looking graphics and geeky ring announcers. Those who had dishes during that period probably remember the America One “network” and their nightly offering of months-old USWA, ECW, SMW and assorted two-bit promotions from the northeast like IWCCW. But I watched it all and LIKED IT, because I’m a wrestling fan, and that’s what we live for.

– For those not familiar with this series, the DVD offers you a choice of the original commentary, or Jim Cornette and Dave Meltzer doing “insider” commentary, and the choice is a no-brainer 90% of the time, as Dave & Jim offer an incredibly insightful and often hilarious alternate look at what was going on at the time and what became of the people. The sound mixing is VERY well done, as the sounds of the match aren’t lost at all or buried under the commentary track. The same can’t be said for the WWF DVDs, for example, where the commentary tracks on the WM15 and WM2000 DVDs completely overwhelm the in-ring sounds and sound very amateurishly done for a company who normally excel at production values. Kudos to the Wrestling Gold people for putting out a well-made product and fully utilizing the DVD format. My only major complaints is that some of the matches listed on the DVD sleeve are actually incorrect, and whoever handled the graphics didn’t exactly have a good grasp of wrestling and ended up with some big spelling goofs in the names.

– Sherri Martell v. Judy Martin. Case in point, as Martell is spelled “Martel”, which is a common mistake but would have been easily solved by having Dave check things over for them. This is VERY early in Martell’s career, in Memphis from the WMC studios, 82ish. Sherri dropkicks Judy and works a headlock, but Judy gets a suplex and stomps away. Legdrop, but a 2nd try misses and Sherri comes back. Standard girl stuff, including a weird kneelift type thing from Sherri. Judy backdrops her and gets a lariat to take over again. Sherri messes up her own lariat, and gets caught in a double chicken wing, but rolls forward and gets the pin at 4:24. ¾*

– Shawn Michaels v. Ken Johnson. Speaking of early in careers, Shawn was 20 here, with short brown hair. Again, WMC studios, 82ish. Johnson is a standard Memphis job guy. There’s actually a Ken Johnson who works shows here in Alberta and is a pretty decent worker. He fails to overpower Michaels, and Shawn pulls out the “flip out of a wristlock” sequence and grabs a headlock. Crossbody gets two, back to the headlock. Dropkick, back to the headlock, but Johnson suplexes out and stomps away. They slug it out, and Johnson wins that battle and gets a backdrop. Backbreaker gets two. Blind charge misses, and Shawn goes the Enemy Pummel, backflips off the top, and and finishes with two dropkicks and a powerslam at 4:18. That’s a pretty amazing finish for the time period. **

– Gino Hernandez & Tully Blanchard v. The Grapplers. This is from Tully’s Southwest Championship Wrestling, much like about 30% of the matches on this series. Gino & Tully were the FACES here against the hot new heel team of the Grapplers (although one is loath to call anything involving either Len Denton or Tony Anthony “hot” and/or “new”). Jim Cornette points out that the psychology as far as the fanbase was concerned was “Tully & Gino are assholes, but they’re OURS.” The Grapplers were the tag champs at this point, and I’m ommitting my usual references to titles involved unless it’s a major historical point. 99% of the time in this series, it’s not, so it’s pretty much an academic point anyway and thus I’m ignoring it. Gino & Grappler 1 do some grappling to start. Tully & Grappler 2 switch to fisticuffs, and the heels double-team Tully, allowing #1 to hit the chinlock. Tully bridges out and Gino comes in to clean house. He’s a house of fire as Dave relates a story about an angle involving pigshit getting SCW kicked off USA. Gino cheats behind the ref’s back and we’re clipped to Gino getting caught in the wrong corner. They touch on the long and nasty backstory of Gino’s death, but that would require two hours by itself. Tully comes in but eats an elbow and #2 clotheslines him for two. He works the back and gets two. Back to the chinlock, false tag results. Tully gets the real tag, and Gino dropkicks #1 while Cornette veers into a discussion of David Arquette (vis a vis wrestling going Hollywood and vice-versa, which stemmed from Gino on soap operas). Tully backbreaker gets two. Tully rolls #2 into Gino, thus doing the old Anderson brother sacrifice, and Tully gets the pin and the titles at 8:39. *** Tully, for those who know anything about the feud, shocks no one by turning on Gino immediately afterwards and beats the hell out of him with the belts. Dave is SHOCKED and/or appalled. Not that Tully would turn on his partner, but that he would do it AFTER winning the titles. “Man, that’s just counterproductive!” is the exact quote. Gino cleans house and turns himself into a monster babyface, but after only one major match he flaked out and left the territory for Dallas, where there was presumably better drugs via the Von Erichs.

– Gino Hernandez v. Tully Blanchard. Hey, it’s that one major match! This is the same one from the Tully shoot interview I reviewed, except that it’s not clipped all to hell and looks in better condition. Tully bails right away, pissing off everyone. Gino fires away, and Tully bails again. Tully takes over with a cheapshot, but Gino reverses him into the corner and Tully runs again. Back in, Gino elbows him into the ropes, Tully bails again. Back in, Gino elbow away and tosses him. Tully regroups. Back in, he begs off, but gets sent to the other corner. Gino charges and misses (of course) and Tully ties him in the ropes and pounds him. There’s a fascinating Texas history lesson going on in the commentary. Gino is busted open, and sends Gino out via a Flair Flip. Tully drops an elbow off the apron and we head back in, only to see Tully toss Gino into Lou Thesz’ lap. Tully rams him into the table and goes for a piledriver, but Gino backdrops out and dropkicks him to the floor. A shot with the ringbell opens Tully up. Gino is PISSED. Or high on coke. Probably both, actually. He sends Tully to all the turnbuckles and Tully bails to the ringside table. Cornette goes on a “Wrestling As We LIKED IT, By Gum!” rant, as Gino pounds away and bites at the cut. Big elbow gets two. Vertical suplex, but the Flying Shitty Elbow (a Randy Savage type elbow done with all the style and finesse of Jerry Sags after one too many beers) misses. And that was his FINISHER. Think about that next time you watch Test f*ck up a powerslam. Tully challenges the special boxer ref, gets punked out, and Gino gets a bodypress for the pin at 12:16. Much better with all of Tully’s heel psychology left intact (the shoot video version is about 5 minutes long, give or take), although the ring announcer somehow loses a minute when he announces the time as 11:20. I guess stopwatch technology has improved since 1984. ***1/2

– Bob Orton Jr. v. Adrian Adonis. Okay, this was SCW’s tournament final for their version of the “World” title, which ended up being about as viable as Fritz Von Erich’s version. Lou Thesz (spelled “Thez” in the pre-match graphics inserted by the Wrestling Gold folk) is there to present the belt, plus a REALLY old NWA World title from the 30s, back when it was about as big as a standard belt-buckle. Adrian works the arm to start, Bob responds in kind. They fight over a wristlock. Adrian hiptosses him and gets a FLYING HEADSCISSORS??? Holy crap. Bob reverses the headscissors, but gets hammerlocked. They exchange snapmares, and Adrian backslides him for two. Bob regroups and grabs an armbar. Adrian goes for the headscissors again, but Orton catches him, and Adrian rolls him up for two. Adrian goes back to the hammerlock. Bob gets overpowered, but monkeyflips Adonis off a criss-cross and grabs the armbar again. Adonis rams him into the corner, but Bob holds on like a bulldog. He turns it into a vicious pinning combo for two, and works the arm. Criss-cross again and Adonis hits an atomic drop for two. He goes up, but the splash hits knee. Orton drops an elbow and gets two. An Adonis rollup gets two, but Orton posts him, reopening a cut from earlier in the night. Orton methodically drops a knee for two. Bulldog is blocked by Adrian, but Orton sends him into the corner upside-down and takes over again. Superplex is blocked by Adonis, and they collide for the double-KO. Adonis hooks Good Night Irene, but Bob hotshots out of it. Back to the sleeper, reversed by Orton, and Adrian whips him to the ropes to escape. Bob cradles, and Adrian reverses for the pin at 14:47. Dave notes that they were on their best behavior to impress Thesz, and it shows with a technical masterpiece that you wouldn’t expect given how Adonis turned out later. ****

– Bruiser Brody v. Abdullah the Butcher. Well, Thesz WASN’T in attendance here. JIP in the midst of their usual brawl, as the ref gets wiped out in short order. Brody kicks away and a second ref takes one for the team. Out into the crowd and they head up the aisle and stab each other with some shards of wood. They head up to the stage and choke each other down. Brody grabs a chair and the whole thing is just kinda called off at 5:12. ¼*

– Larry Zbyszko v. Scott Casey. Remember that spelling gripe? Well, I guess it’s understandable for this match, but Larry IS a pretty big star. They weren’t even in the ballpark, though, going with “Zibisco” as their attempt at phonetic spelling. 10 points for effort, minus several million for style. JIP as they fight over a wristlock. This was the last gasp for the Southwest promotion, as they did a failed interpromotional war with Ole Anderson’s equally-dying Georgia promotion. Casey was a big star in SCW, but ended up being out of a job when the promotion got swallowed up by the Von Erich empire and eventually finished his career as a jobber in the WWF, 40 pounds heavier. Casey gets a dropkick, but Larry grabs a headlock. Dave scares the shit out of me (and Cornette) by rattling off exact figures for the Shea Stadium show (paid and actual attendance, plus money figures) off the top of his head. Casey escapes with a backbreaker and side salto, for two. Larry knees him and tosses him. Fun fact: Larry’s insane push in the AWA was not only due to loyalty, but because he was married to Verne Gagne’s daughter. So HHH is just following a great tradition in wrestling: Doing the boss’ daughter. Makes you wonder if Chris Benoit would have become a World champion by today had he gone along with the others and married a Hart sister instead of waiting to steal Kevin Sullivan’s wife. Casey regroups outside, and Larry keeps pounding him. Casey reverses a suplex and comes back, reversing a slam for two. Double underhook suplex and neckbreaker gets two. Sleeper follows, and Larry can’t escape. He falls into the ropes, then pins Casey in the corner at 7:03, triggering a big brawl as Tully switches from Texas to Georgia in the process. *1/2

– Jerry Lawler v. Bob Sweetan. This was the battle of the piledriver. Bob Sweetan is very, very ugly and Jim Cornette spends the entire match telling us just how ugly he is, as only he can. Sweetan could have played Shrek, ya know? This is a few months after the Kauffman deal. Lawler stalls FOREVER to establish himself as a heel in Sweetan’s home territory. Sweetan was the booker, and I’ll give you one guess who he booked as the #1 babyface. Of course, calling Sweetan a babyface would give babies a bad name. Unless you’re talking about babies who are fresh out of the womb, before they’ve even had the placenta cleaned off them. Lawler stops to lay down the law over the mike to waste more time. The sound quality of the PA system is sadly lacking, so we can’t hear what he’s saying, forcing us to look at Bob Sweetan’s horrifyingly ugly visage in the meantime. Into the ring, but Lawler won’t lock up. FINALLY they start, and Lawler bails. They do a chase and Lawler stops to gab again, complaining about the refereeing now. Only, finally a lockup, but now Lawler lodges another complaint with the ref. Lawler grabs a headlock, but Sweetan punches out and Lawler bails and bitches about the closed fist, despite using one himself a few seconds prior. Cornette is in his glory teaching Lawler 101 on the commentary and breaking down all the minute details of Jerry’s heel act and why it all works. Back in, Sweetan stomps him and goes for the piledriver, but Lawler gets on his bicycle and waits him out, then complains that in Memphis, the piledriver is illegal. Of course, the crowd gets on him for that. Back in, but Lawler has had enough of Sweetan’s tactics and takes a walk. Okay, finally another lockup, and Lawler punching and going to the eyes. Fistdrop misses, Sweetan goes for the piledriver, but Lawler blocks it and complains. Sweetan works the arm as Cornette explains the psychology of Lawler’s exaggerated selling. This match should actually be required viewing for up-and-coming young heels, and I bet it IS in OVW. Lawler gets pissed and slugs away, and indicates a piledriver is coming. Sweetan of course backdrops out. He comes back with an elbow for two. Another gets two. Backdrop suplex gets two. Another gets the pin, but Lawler’s foot is in the ropes. Well, not really, but Lawler is the kinda guy who can convince the ref of exactly that sort of thing, so the match continues for about another 10 seconds as he quickly steals the pin (using the ropes, of course) at 14:47. Sweetan gets pissed and piledrives him after the match, and Lawler takes about 14 bumps off the one move and sells it like death. Match was a lesson in heel psychology, but I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy without the commentary from Cornette. ¼*

– Terry Funk & Ivan Putski v. Gino Hernandez & Tully Blanchard. More SCW from 84. JIP as the Dynamic Duo work Funk over. Tully piledrives him and drops an elbow for two. Gino suplex sets up the Shitty Elbow for two, and Terry tosses Tully. Tully bumps the ref on a shoulderblock, and Putski is fists and fire. Tully tries to slam him, but Putski falls on top for the pin at 3:07. This was your standard TV match. 1/2*

– Dick Slater v. The Mongolian Stomper. This is a cage match, although calling the thing around the ring a “cage” is a dubious proposition at best. Bob Sweetan is YOUR special ref. Most fans who watched Stampede will already know The Stomper quite well, as he was a huge draw for Stu Hart for years on end, as Archie “The Stomper” Gouldie. JIP as Stomper rams Slater to the cage and applies an iron claw. You know, if these heels knew anything about chemistry and/or metallurgy, they’d study something even more devastating, like a stainless steel claw or a cobalt claw. Hey, they could even study the very rare but extremely dangerous nickel-cadmium claw, which is less powerful than other clawholds but can be periodically recharged for up to five years. Back to the cage, and the claw. Cornette relates the classic tale of the Stomper’s inner-ear gimmick. Basically, Stomper had an “inner ear condition” which required him to wear head-gear at all times. See, he had his special weakness like the guys in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out — normally he was unstoppable, but if the crowd made too much noise, then he’d become disorientated and would be prone to babyface comebacks. It’s a very rare medical condition, I hear. So of course he’d be beating down the hapless babyface, only to have the crowd make huge amounts of noise in order to throw him off, and the good guy would then take advantage and get the win. That’s a completely brilliant gimmick and I wish someone would swipe it because fans today are still basically stupid and will believe anything that they WANT to believe if it means acting like a moron is part of the deal. I mean that in the nicest possible way. Slater suplexes out of the claw, but Stomper chokes him down and hashbrowns him on the cage. Back to the claw, which gets two. Slater fights free and stomps a mudhole, and sends him to the cage to draw blood. Cornette lets us know how old manager Don Carson is, again as only he can. Slater goes up with a flying stomp, but Stomper goes low. Slater blocks a stomp, drops an elbow, and rams Stomper into Sweetan. Stomper pulls his boot off (which I guess was loaded), but Slater gets it and pins him at 9:17. Heel beatdown results. A surprisingly watchable brawl. **

– Nick Bockwinkel v. Bruiser Brody. Lou Thesz is YOUR special ref, and his shirt looks like something I would have worn in my misguided junior high years. Picture Pablo Picasso doing his version of a ref shirt. Nick holds Brody down with a headscissors. Brody? WRESTLING? He fights out, but Bockwinkel sledges him down for two. Brody no-sells and goes to a bearhug, but Bobby Heenan makes a nuisance of himself. Bockwinkel goes back to the headscissors. Brody makes the ropes and bails. Back in, Bockwinkel pounds him, but it’s Brody so he ignores it and hulks up. He tosses Bockwinkel, and pounds him on the floor. Back in, Brody goes up with a shoot off the top, for two. Bockwinkel bails, and back in, Brody tries to finish with a slam, but Heenan trips him up. He gets the FLYING KNEEDROP OF HIDEOUS DISMEMBERMENT (and people said HOGAN had a lame finish), but Heenan saves. Brody pulls him in and whoops some ass, but that’s a DQ at 9:25. Brody was game, but wasn’t exactly up to doing a scientific classic with the champ. *1/2

The Bottom Line: An average collection of early-80s stuff completely rejuvenated by Cornette & Meltzer’s awesome commentary, adding extra perspective and history to everything. I didn’t even know most of the stuff they were relating, so this made for some darn interesting viewing on my part. I’d recommend getting the whole set, but if you only want one, I’d put this one about second on the list.

Check them out via www.wrestlinggold.com if you’re interested.

Next up: Volume 2 – The Maim Event!