The SmarK 24/7 Rant for Hall of Fame / Legends: Tito Santana
– You know, one of the great things about 24/7 (among many) is that you can almost make your own DVDs. Like this month, as we get the Hall of Fame special on Tito Santana, and then a bunch of choice matches that I haven’t reviewed, kind of like DVD extras. I should note that Tito’s a guy I really didn’t appreciate until 24/7, because you get to watch a variety of phases in his career and the guy just doesn’t have bad matches and just goes out and does whatever was asked of him. That’s pretty refreshing.
First up, the Legends feature…
Intercontinental title: Greg Valentine v. Tito Santana.
This is the cage match for the title which I reviewed for the Inside the Steel Cage Coliseum Video, but let’s give it another go. This one also includes pop up commentary from Tito and Greg, which is hella cool. Complete and uncut, with entrances to boot. God bless 24/7. Tito drags Greg in to start and DEMANDS satisfaction from him, prompting a slugfest. Valentine runs for the door, but Tito rams him into the cage and tries to climb out. Valentine batters him down again, but Tito brings him down crotch-first and Valentine kicks him in the face in response. Hammer can’t send him into the cage, so he hammers him down with forearms instead and drops his namesake forearm. Valentine climbs, but Tito pulls him in again and climbs himself, only to get brought down on the top rope. Hammer slugs him down and follows with a shoulderbreaker, but can’t get out of the door. Tito hauls him back in and slugs away on the mat, but he can’t get out either. They fight in the doorway and Valentine goes down, but recovers and tries the figure-four. Tito kicks out of it and gets the flying forearm, but Hammer recovers first and drops him with a backdrop suplex. He follows with a stungun into the cage, and they slug it out before Tito eats cold, unforgiving steel again. Hammer to the middle rope for an elbow and he casually walks to the door, but Tito recovers and grabs the leg in time. They slug it out on the apron and Valentine falls into the cage…but Tito goes down as well on the delayed sell. Valentine tries to finish with the figure-four, but Tito boots him into the cage and tries to climb. Hammer follows him up, but gets rammed into the cage and Tito exits stage left to claim the belt at 10:25. You’d expect some blood here, but it was still intense and fun. ***1/2 Valentine, ever the sportsman, destroys the title by ramming it into the cage, giving us the classic redesign that lasted from 1986-1997.
WWF tag team titles: The Hart Foundation v. Strike Force
From November 7 1987, on an episode of Superstars. This one actually caught me totally off-guard in my mark days. Bret pounds on Martel to start, but gets dropkicked and armdragged as a result. Over to Tito for a double-team and back to the arm, and Anvil gets more of the same when he tags in. They slug it out in the heel corner and Tito holds his own, but Bret is there for the knee to the back, and Tito is YOUR Mexican-in-peril. Bret starts to work on the back, with a backbreaker for two, and the Harts trade off with some double-teaming in the corner. Martel gets suckered in and Bret chokes Tito down as a result. They toss him and Bret rams him into the railing, and back in Neidhart gets two. They cut of the ring and keep bringing Martel in to distract the ref. Demolition elbow gets two for Bret. Bret headbutts Tito down, but misses an elbow, then recovers with another one to save the tag. They keep with the cheapshots behind the ref’s back, but Tito reverses Bret into the corner for the trademark bump. Hot tag Martel and he slugs it out with Neidhart before dropkicking him and pounding away in the corner. Bodypress out of the corner gets two, but Hart saves. It’s BONZO GONZO and Strike Force double-slams Anvil, setting up the Boston crab for the surprise submission and the tag team titles at 9:12 as the crowd absolutely loses their shit. No twist ending there, and suddenly Martel had a finisher that was credible and over. Strong TV match. ***1/4
And then the standalone matches…
WWF World tag titles: Strike Force v. The Hart Foundation.
The rematch, from MSG, November 24 1987. Gorilla revises history yet again, getting all worked up because the Harts never won the belts fairly in the first place from the Bulldogs, as he notes that he was "sitting at ringside, calling the action." In fact, Vince McMahon called the match, so Gorilla’s just a LYING LIAR. Anyway, Martel and Bret trade slams to start to show parity between the teams, and Bret gets a cheapshot and pounds on him in the corner. Martel leapfrogs over Bret on a charge, and however, and armdrags him until Bret bails to regroup. Over to Anvil, so Tito comes in and they fight for the lockup. Tito wins a slugfest and grabs the headlock, and they actually do a nice little wrestling sequence before Tito goes back to the headlock. They switch off to Martel and he gets a sunset flip on Bret, but Bret does his reversal for two. Martel goes back to the headlock and grinds on it in dramatic fashion for the fans, and Tito comes in with an elbow off the middle rope and switches to a facelock. He goes into a cradle for two and then back to the headlock, but he’s too close to the Hart corner and Neidhart beats him into a quivering mass of refried beans. We hit the chinlock and Tito slugs out, but Anvil slams him and then misses an elbow. Bret cuts off the tag and elbows Santana down, then adds a straight kick to the gut, but hits boot on a blind charge. Hot tag Martel and he dropkicks both Harts, but Neidhart pulls the top rope down and Martel is the official face in peril. Neidhart pounds away on the floor and back in for the chinlock from Bret, but Martel fights up. Neidhart slams him and Bret comes in with the middle rope elbow for two. Snap suplex gets two. Martel comes back with a rollup for two, but Bret whips him into the corner and chokes him out. Oddly, Bret’s hair is getting dryer as the match progresses. They slug it out in the corner and Bret goes down, but it’s a false tag to Tito. Martel fights back one more time and whips Anvil into Bret, and it’s hot tag Tito. Flying forearm to the Anvil gets two, but Bret saves. Double clothesline for Neidhart sets up the Boston crab, but Bret saves again and it’s BONZO GONZO. The Harts meet in the middle and it’s another crab, but now Bret gets the megaphone and draws the DQ at 20:36. The Harts get all excited and put the belts on, but c’mon, that was pretty obvious. It took about 15 minutes to go anywhere, but it ended up OK. **1/2
Intercontinental title: Randy Savage v. Tito Santana
From MSG, April 22 1986. This would be a rematch from the MSG show on March 16 that I previously covered, and it’s a no-DQ match now. Savage slaps Tito and then runs behind Elizabeth, which is just hilarious mindgames on his part. And of course, he jumps out and blasts Santana as a result, flying to the top for the axehandle, which Santana blocks with a punch to the gut. Tito stomps away and the crowd is just going crazy for it, until Savage bails…and someone throws a drink at him. It’s one of those crowds, I see. Tito throws him into the front row and hits him in the face with a chair, but Savage reverses him into the post. Lord Alfred thinks they were close to a DQ there, although they clearly announced it as no DQ. Back in, Savage stomps him down and pops up with his flying axehandle, for two. Gut wrench suplex gets two. Clothesline gets two. Macho chokes him out on the mat and gets two, but Tito fires back with a mule kick from the mat, forcing Savage to throw him out of the ring. He grabs a chair, but Tito fights back and rams Savage into the chair, but Savage gets a cheapshot on the way back in. They fight for a suplex and Tito turns it into a neckbreaker, but Savage gets two off it. He throws a knee on the ropes and Tito bails, but now the Macho Man gets his chair and swings wildly, hitting the post instead. Tito again kicks it away, but Savage goes to the top and tries the axehandle to the floor…and lands on the chair. OOOOOOOOOOOH man. That was awesome. Back in, Tito slugs him down for two and fires away on the mat. Savage tries to run, so Tito jumps off the apron and forearms him down, and they fight over to the announce table and back in. And now Tito goes up, hitting a flying elbow and setting up the figure-four. Savage goes to the eyes in classic fashion and heads out to get advice from Liz, but then catches Santana looking and pounds away. They brawl on the floor and Savage goes into the post and we’ve got a bleeder! Savage does a punch drunk sell on the way into the ring, and Tito makes the comeback and he’s all over the cut. Savage slugs back, but Tito has the advantage of winding up the punches like Popeye, thus generating more force according to the laws of wrestling. And the ref goes down, just as Tito gets the flying forearm. They slug it out and Tito slams him, still no ref. Tito goes to revive the ref and Savage attacks from behind, but Tito rolls him up for two, reversed for the pin by Savage, with a handful of tights, at 12:15. An absolute lost classic, must see brawl. ****1/4 This had everything — great brawling, chairs to the face, crazy bumps, Macho cheating in every way possible, and a hot crowd.
Intercontinental title: Tito Santana v. Greg Valentine
And finally, we go back to Tito’s first reign in 1984, March 31 in Philly to be exact. Tito starts on the arm, and dropkicks Valentine into the corner. Tito goes to the headlock, but Hammer escapes with a hiptoss, only to see Tito come back with a series of armdrags to put him on the floor. Back in, Tito goes to the headlock, but Valentine escapes with a knee to the gut and starts going to work on the ribs. He suplexes Tito onto the top rope and goes for the figure four, but Tito fights him off. They slug it out to a big reaction and now Hammer backs off and then catches him with an elbow to the head. Hammer starts working the legs now with an Indian deathlock. Tito fights back and goes with a headlock, but Valentine turns it into the kneecrusher to put him down again. Back to the leg and he stomps Tito out to the floor, but Tito fights back in. He quickly takes Greg down with a single-leg, but Valentine puts him down with an atomic drop and drops the hammer for two. Another one off the middle rope misses and Tito fights back, ramming Greg into the mat to trigger a slugfest. Tito rams him into the turnbuckles and it’s a Flair Flop from Valentine, so Tito stomps away and makes the comeback. Ear-ringer and he goes up with a flying stomp, then follows with an atomic drop…but that hurts the knee. Oh, nice touch. And now Valentine sees that and moves in, but Tito takes him down and stalls for time with a side headlock. That’s a weird place to go from there. Valentine fights up, but Tito gets a cross body off a criss-cross for two. Greg backs off, but Tito takes him down and goes back to the headlock again. Valentine escapes with an atomic drop and follows with a butterfly suplex for two. Kneedrop gets two. Hammer starts working on the leg again, holding a kneebar until the "20:00 time limit" expires at 16:48. Since when do IC title matches have 20:00 time limits? And that wasn’t even close to 20:00 anyway. Well, the headlocks make more sense now, at least. They would have better matches later on. **1/2