The SmarK 24/7 Rant – Shorties and Legends!
– I’m taking a break from doing the “dead wrestler roll call” portion of the new book because it’s getting too damn depressing writing about Johnny Grunge, so as a nice change of pace I thought I’d cover topics that I don’t usually rant on: The Shorties matches and the Legends matches. In this case, there’s a couple of neat Iron Sheik rarities up as of tonight, as well as some quality stuff on the shorties that I haven’t seen, so let’s see what we’ve got.
WWF World title: Iron Sheik v. Tito Santana. Yes, it’s an actual TITLE DEFENSE by the Sheik, only a few days before losing it to Hulk Hogan. This from January 21, 1984, in Philly. A girl at ringside has a sign reading “Tito Satana”, which probably isn’t the message she was trying to convey. Early reffing appearance for Danny Davis here. Tito, who is mightily over here, attacks and slams the Sheik to start, then clotheslines him with his head-dress and sends him to the floor. Sheik stalls and lectures the fans on a variety of topics, but heads back in and gets hit with an atomic drop, sending him back to the floor again. Sheik sells a back injury for a bit before heading back in. Sheik goes for the lockup, but Tito head-fakes him and rolls him up for two before taking him down with a headlock. He cranks on it with enthusiasm, dare I say almost Orton-like in his exuberance for the move, and then slugs Sheik down for two. He stays on the champ with a front facelock before switching back to the headlock again and controlling on the mat. Gorilla notes that you don’t become champ by accident. Unless you’re Men on a Mission, that is. Sheik powers up and they criss-cross into a Tito hiptoss, and back to the headlock again, so Sheik goes to the eyes. That works quite well, so Sheik starts pounding him in the corner and working on the back. Slam sets up a senton (!), which misses. Lucha Sheik! Tito comes back with a kneelift and they fight over a suplex, which Tito wins. That gets two, but Tito misfires on a splash and hits knee. Sheik goes right for the back again and hooks the abdominal stretch, and once again Gorilla rails against the evils of not hooking the left leg. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone hook an abdominal stretch to Gorilla’s total satisfaction, in fact. Tito reverses, but Sheik quickly makes the ropes. Sheik goes to the eyes again and slugs him down for two. Tito comes back with a sunset flip for two, and then reverses a slam into a small package for two. Tito makes the proper comeback, slugging him into a dropkick that puts Sheik on the floor, where he finds a chair. Tito goes after it, but Sheik shoves him into it, knocking out the ref. Tito hits the flying forearm, but the ref calls for the double DQ at 10:51, in a gross miscarriage of justice. If only someone could come along and avenge Tito and put that Sheik in his place! But who? This was some solid old-school stuff with the usual hard work from Santana and surprisingly good chemistry between them. ***
The Great Hossien Arab v. Antonio Inoki. From MSG in 1979, in the days before Hossien changed his name to the Iron Sheik. The Sheik attacks Inoki to start, but gets choked out on the ropes as a result. You’d think he’d learn not to wear that head-dress. Inoki turns it into the weapon, tossing him with it and then choking him out again before tearing it up and getting rid of it. Sheik tries an armdrag, but Inoki controls him with hiptosses into an armbar. Sheik escapes with a slam, but misses an elbow and Inoki goes to a kneebar this time. Sheik fights out and hits the chinlock, and that goes on for a bit. He goes to an abdominal stretch, but Inoki fights out, so Sheik suplexes him for two. Another try is reversed by Inoki for two. Sheik gets the gut wrench for two. Inoki with a sunset flip for two, and he holds onto the leg and applies an Indian deathlock, despite being Japanese. That’s just misrepresentation. From there he turns it into a bow-and-arrow, but Sheik goes to the eyes to break. He loads up the boot while Inoki sells the eyes, but Inoki blocks the boot and tries to undo the laces. Sheik fights him off, but a second try gets the boot off. Sheik, however, loads up the OTHER boot and kicks Inoki low with it, then uses the original one on him for good measure. Really, you can’t say it’s against the rules. Inoki starts bleeding, but dropkicks the Sheik for the pin at 14:03. Slow and kind of dull. ** Oddly, Inoki is announced as “the winner and still champion” and appears to be holding the WWF World title. I didn’t think that his title reign was ever recognized in the US…was that another title, maybe? I’m confused.
Antonio Rocca v. Lou Thesz. Talk about old school. The best that they can pin down is “late 50s”, which is good enough for government work. No idea if any title is on the line here. Now, I don’t know what the steroid situation was at the time, but both guys look pretty darn cut up here, so it’s obviously not a new development. They fight for a lockup to start, and Thesz takes him down with a headscissors, but Rocca quickly kicks out. Another takedown from Thesz, but Rocca kicks out again and now gets him down with a hammerlock. Thesz tries a flying mare to escape, but Rocca manages to hold on through the escape attempt in a nice move. They go back to the lockup again as the announcer talks about Thesz winning his sixth NWA World title from Buddy Rogers in Toronto and that this is actually for that belt. So rather than “late 50s,” that actually places this match between 1963 and 1966, probably closer to ’63 because the announcer made his title win seem like a recent development. Seriously, it took me like 10 seconds to piece that together using a title history and the commentary, and I’m HORRIBLE at that sort of thing. These guys get PAID to figure this stuff out. Things start to get heated, meanwhile, as Thesz takes him down with a headlock rather more aggressively than he started out and gets frustrated enough that Rocca turns him over for two. Thesz rams him elbow into Rocca’s face to stop him, and now the crowd is pretty much decided on who they’re cheering for. Thesz hides in the ropes, which is really interesting because I didn’t know he played heel before. Rocca wants another lockup, but Thesz ducks into the ropes again. Thesz shoves him down off the lockup and begs off again, but Rocca slugs him on the ropes instead of giving a clean break, and the crowd is getting really riled up at Thesz’s increasingly heelish behaviour. They do the test of strength and Thesz ducks into the ropes again before trying it for realsies, and they trade facelocks on the mat. Thesz turns it into a short-arm scissors, but Rocca rolls him over for two. Thesz escapes to the corner, so Rocca takes him down with a headscissors and adds a cartwheel for the fans. He goes to the headlock, but Thesz hides in the ropes again and then gives him a cheapshot behind the ref’s back. Slick. He keeps headlocking Rocca and hitting him with fists behind the ref’s back. I have new respect for Thesz’s dirty tricks! Rocca is so disoriented by Lou’s cheating that he gets taken down and pinned at 14:03. This was REALLY cool, as the match started with the crowd all 50/50 and Thesz completely turned them against him with some simple heel tactics, but nothing that actually violated the rules. Really fun old school wrestling, check it out. ****
IWGP Junior title: Ultimo Dragon v. Jushin Liger. From 1993’s WCW Japan Supershow III. Tony and JR are doing commentary, which is weird for a show from the Tokyo Dome. They trade wristlocks to start and take each other down for the stalemate in a nice sequence that’s well ahead of its time. Liger takes him down and goes for the leg, working his way into an Indian deathlock, to which he adds a facelock. Dragon fights out, so Liger dropkicks the knee and wraps him up in a standing figure-four. Dragon reverses to his own leglock, which he also turns into an Indian deathlock. Bridged, of course. He goes into a bow-and-arrow off that and transitions into a headscissors, but Liger reverses into the Rita Romero Special. JR starts going crazy with the football metaphors as Liger hits the Koppo Kick in the corner, then puts him down with the BITCHSLAP OF DEATH. He tries to follow with a flying forearm, but Dragon cartwheels out of the way and stomps him down. That had blown spot written all over it. Dragon takes over with a gourdbuster, into a dragon sleeper variation, but Liger fights out. Dragon goes to a rear chinlock. He heads up and blows a missile dropkick, but baseball slides Liger out regardless and follows with a crazy bodypress off the top, smashing his head into the ringside table in the process. Back in, they trade tombstone attempts and Dragon gets the move, then heads up and blows a diving headbutt. Are his boots covered in grease tonight? He gets two at any rate. Liger rolls him up in the corner for two, and Dragon gets his own for two. German suplex gets two. Liger comes back with a rolling kick off an irish whip attempt, and then powerbombs Dragon on the floor and follows with a swanton bomb to the floor. That’s badass. Back in, Liger gets a release german suplex for two, but the cover was too arrogant. Another palm strike into a half crab, but he releases and powerbombs Dragon instead. Liger goes up and gets a flying clothesline, but Dragon gets his own at the same time and Liger bails. Dragon follows with, what else, the Asai moonsault, and they head back in. Liger blocks a victory roll by dropping him on his face, but Dragon reverses a Liger Bomb into a rana for two. His own Liger Bomb gets two. Drop toehold into a cradle gets two for Dragon. Dragon goes up again, but Liger palm strikes him down and DDTs him off the top for two. Liger Bomb, but he doesn’t want the cover yet. They head up and Liger brings him down with a rana for the pin and the title at 20:09. Dragon was doing his best to set a record for falling off the top rope, but once they started hitting each other with crazy shit, it got great in a hurry. ****1/4
So there you go, yet another reason to get 24/7 if you don’t already. And don’t give me that “My cable company doesn’t carry it crap.” That’s what MOVING VANS were invented for. Sheesh.
Tags: Puroresu, WCW, WWE