The SmarK 24/7 Rant for Tito Santana Part II
– Hell yeah, let’s go with more Tito.
The Dream Team v. Tito Santana & Ricky Steamboat.
From April 21 1985, in Toronto. This was of course before the fateful cigar to the face that made Valentine & Beefcake into the champs. Interesting to note that Jimmy Hart is the manager of record at this point, not Johnny V, because Valentine was still the IC champion. Gorilla gets all his clichés in early, as this is a main event anywhere in the country and the crowd is literally hanging from the rafters. The crowd chants "Fruitcake" at Brutus, which I’m kind of surprised never caught on. Brutus hides from Steamboat in the corner to start, and they criss-cross into a hiptoss from Steamboat, and the heels bail. Back in, Dragon hits Brutus with the flying chop, into a shot from Tito, and then he whips Brutus into Tito’s knee. The faces double-team with an elbow and Tito rings Beefcake’s ears and rams him into the mat. Tito with the facelock and Beefcake backs off and gets advice from Valentine. I believe he said "Make sure to suck up to Hogan any chance you get".
Beefcake slams Tito and it’s over to Valentine, but Tito was playing possum and he fires away to send the Hammer running to the floor. The heels regroup and Valentine pounds away on Santana with forearms, but Tito fires back with a clothesline and then whips him into a chop from Steamboat. Tito with a headbutt to set up the figure-four, but Valentine kicks out of it and drops the Hammer. That gets two. Hammer with the shoulderbreaker and it’s back to Beefcake, who does his usual choking and punching to earn his pay. Steamboat gets morally offended as usual and thus distracts the ref, and Tito takes more of a beating as a result. Man, these are two guys who know EXACTLY how to milk every bit of babyface sympathy of a crowd. Beefcake knocks Steamboat off the apron for a dramatic sell from the Dragon, and then beats on him outside while Valentine abuses Santana in the ring. Back to the heel corner, Valentine holds an armbar on Tito and Beefcake comes in with a headlock, then accuses Steamboat of poor sportsmanship, which AGAIN draws Dragon in, but this time it backfires on the heels into a hot tag and Ricky is PISSED.
Chops for everyone and he suplexes Beefcake to set up a flying chop, into the sleeper. But Valentine nails him from behind to break it up, and they slug it out. And of course Steamboat goes down first, as Valentine adds a mean looking punt to the ribs and a gutbuster for two. Over to Beefer again and they double-team him in the corner, into an atomic drop from Valentine that gets two. They keep whipping him back into the corner and Beefcake adds a pretty nice clothesline, helped out by Steamboat’s ragdoll physics sell, and Valentine comes in with a forearm from the top. Elbow off the middle rope and he yanks Steamboat off the ropes to allow him the figure-four. Steamboat reverses for two and then tries for the tag instead of fighting from behind, because he’s SMART. The heels cut him off, however, and Steamboat again fights them off, and again it’s just enough to go for the tag instead of trying for the glory alone. Hot tag Tito and it’s the flying forearm for Valentine, but Beefcake saves at two. Brutus dumps Steamboat and they beat on Tito, but he comes back in with a flying chop on Brutus to get rid of him. Tito meanwhile gets the figure-four on Valentine and the crowd nearly RIOTS out of joy. Holy SHIT. Valentine gives up at 15:36 because otherwise I think the crowd would have rushed the ring and killed him. Man, Tito and Ricky could have been one of the greatest babyface tag teams ever. They shouldn’t have been, but they COULD’VE been. ***1/2 If you’re into the old school tag team goodness, check this one out post-haste.
Intercontinental title: Tito Santana v. Magnificent Muraco
From February 20 1984, this is Tito’s first MSG defense, nine days after winning it for the first time. They slug it out to start and Tito wins that one, then fights them off and slams him. Tito starts working a top wristlock as they fight for that one, which turns into a pretty entertaining battle of wills that you don’t see often, as Muraco tries to find the counter and Tito just keeps wrenching it in harder. He turns it into a hammerlock to keep Muraco from figuring out the escape, which turns out to be elbows to the head. Tito fires right back with his own and then takes him down to go into an armbar. Muraco finally breaks free with a kick to the head, and the crowd gives him some sarcastic applause, but Tito takes him right back down again with the armbar. And this time Muraco escapes with a knee to the gut, and a suplex for two, but Tito slickly rolls him into a small package for two. And back to the armbar. I’m starting to feel sorry for Muraco, actually, as he’s just getting outsmarted here.
Muraco headbutts out of it in desperation, and that works pretty well, actually. Tito is staggered, so Muraco puts him down with a Russian legsweep and then drops Tito on the top rope. Then he tosses him and starts to get his swagger back again, following him out and then dropping him on the steel railing. Back in, Muraco slugs away and Tito’s into the full-blown sympathy sell mode now, so Muraco chokes him down and follows with a slam. Kneedrop gets two. Back elbow follows, but Tito goes for a rollup and Muraco clotheslines him on the top rope to counter. Then he amps up the awesome by stealing Tito’s flying forearm and looking 100 times more badass in the process. Why didn’t he do that all the time? Another try, but this time Tito gets the real thing and Muraco gets his head tied up in the ropes and he’s counted out at 16:20. I’d have to call shenanigans on that shoddy call by the ref. Muraco was pretty damn cool. ***1/4
Rick Rude v. Tito Santana
From February 11 1989, in Boston. They’re using Sean Mooney as ring announcer for god knows what reason tonight. Rude wants the test of strength to start and Tito holds up surprisingly well there, actually winning thanks to Rude needing to stop for a hip swivel. He stomps on the hands and Rude backs off, so now Tito wants to initiate. But Rude grabs a headlock instead and that goes on for a while. Tito goes for the back to escape and slugs away in the corner, whipping Rude into the turnbuckles to work on it. He goes to a camel clutch and stops to mock Rude a couple of times, which is kind of out of character for him, actually. But indeed, he pays for his hubris by landing on Rude’s knees ball-first, and Rude takes over. Rude slugs him down and shows him how swivel, but the back is hurt. We hit the chinlock and Rude comes off the top with a forearm, and of course there’s always time to pose. Rude throws forearms, but Tito rams him into the mat and then misses a splash. Rude knees him down for two, but Tito reverses a suplex. Rude tries to slam Tito, but the back gives out and Tito is all over that. Rude takes his usual atomic drop and Tito follows with some shots to the turnbuckle, and Rude is just bumping all over now. Tito slugs him down and rings the ears, then starts kicking the legs to set up the figure-four. That’s pretty smart because Rude’s legs are clearly the weakest part. Rude gets the ropes and bails, but Tito tosses him back in and comes in with a sunset flip, which Rude counters for the pin at 16:41. Good, but not up to the level that Rude could work at that point, as there was a bit too much stalling and a slower pace. ***
But hey, all the Tito goodness is well worth checking out this time around, so no complaints here.