The SmarK DVD Rant for The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA (Part Two)

Reviews, Wrestling DVDs

The SmarK DVD Rant for The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA – Part Deux

Originally published on November 28, 2006

– So last time we covered the documentary and interviews of the first disc, and this time we’re hitting the matches on the second disc, which actually end up showing an interesting trend which I’ll get to as we go along.

The High Flyers v. Nick Bockwinkel & Ray Stevens (8/23/71)

This one is really only notable for Bobby Heenan joining Bockwinkel as his manager and changing his gimmick from pretty boy to brain in the course of the pre-match promo. However, I have to wonder who’s managing Bobby’s gigantic 70s muttonchops at this point? Did they later split off and manage Stevens as a solo act? I think Greg Gagne weighs less than Bobby’s facial hair here. Stevens attacks Greg to start, but Brunzell comes in quickly and cleans house with dropkicks. The heels regroup and do some quality cheating in the corner, but Bockwinkel misses a knee and Gagne goes to work on it. Over to Stevens, but he walks into a headlock, only to do a nice block of a dropkick with a giant swing. Gagne reverses that with a monkey flip, in mid swing, and brings Brunzell back in for a headlock as the announcer gets a wee bit too worked up for the action in the ring. Bockwinkel is continuously frustrated by Brunzell’s technique, so Stevens kicks him in the head behind the ref’s back and the heels take over and cheat like nuts. See, the classics never die. Back to Gagne, the house of fire, who hiptosses Bockwinkel for two. Brunzell kneelift gets two. Abdominal stretch, and they collide for the double count, but Gagne gets the tag and the sleeper. On cue, Bobby distracts the ref, who NAILS Heenan in a spot you don’t see often, and it’s a donnybrook.

(High Flyers DDQ Bockwinkel & Stevens, 8:16, **1/2) Good, formula, workmanlike tag match that showed how the heels helped set the template for teams to come later. Although it starts a trend on this DVD of showing how many different bullshit, screwjob finishes they could do over the years. Larry Hennig saves the faces from further beating, by laying an ASSWHOOPING on Bockwinkel and Stevens single-handedly. He was definitely a different worker than his son.

AWA World title: Verne Gagne v. Baron Von Raschke (7/13/74)

JIP on what looks like 8mm film stock, with the Gagnes providing commentary. Unfortunately this one begins another trend on the DVD, matches clipped down to nothing. Most of this is Verne fighting off the IRON CLAW~! and trying to get the sleeper. Greg calling this one within kayfabe sounds ridiculous, as they already broke it several times in the documentary. This is why they got left behind. The old backdrop suplex / “I lift my shoulder first” spot ends it for Verne. About 5:00 shown.

Pat Patterson & Ray Stevens v. Billy Robinson & Frankie Hill (5/20/78)

The idea here is that Patterson & Stevens are supposed to be facing a couple of jobbers, but one of them no-shows due to the airline strike and Billy Robinson takes the opportunity to beat on his hated enemies. The heels attack Robinson to start, but he’s pissed off and fires away with stiff forearms. He quickly finishes Stevens with a backdrop suplex into a backbreaker, which gets the first fall at 1:09. You never saw that kind of stuff at this point. Second fall sees Robinson bringing more awesome, as he bearhugs Patterson while hammerlocking the arm behind his back, and that’s another one someone should steal. However, he makes the mistake of tagging in Chief Jobsalot, who immediately gets schooled by Patterson and slammed for two. Back to Robinson, thankfully, who headbutts the arm in a crazy spot and yanks him around the ring with a wristlock. Then, to really make my jaw drop, he puts Patterson in a standing wristlock and does a forward roll while hanging on, taking Patterson with him and smashing the elbow into the mat as a result. Holy CRAP. Why was this guy not famous? Back to Frankie the heat killer, who again gets beaten down, but Billy saves the day and gives Stevens a butterfly suplex for two. Neckbreaker for two. Finally Stevens comes off the top with an intentional DQ to end the slaughter.

(Billy Robinson & Frankie Hill d. Ray Stevens & Pat Patterson, off the top rope — DQ, 6:20, **1/4) Nothing special as a match, but check out my man Billy Robinson bringing the offense that was 20 years ahead of its time! The heels beat Robinson down and then cut a wonderfully arrogant promo afterwards, acting like they won the match and declaring that they don’t have any competition now that Robinson is in the hospital thanks to them.

AWA World tag team titles: Jesse Ventura & Adrian Adonis v. Verne Gagne & Mad Dog Vachon

Jesse, in his pre-match promo, threatens to go in Verne’s backdoor and go down all the way to win. You tell him, Jesse. JIP at 15:00, which Vachon and Gagne trading off with backrakes on Jesse. Verne gets a hot tag and hits the heels with dropkicks, but tosses them over the top and gets, you guessed it, disqualified. About 4:00 shown, not enough to bother rating. And what is with all the damn screwjob finishes here?

AWA World title: Verne Gagne v. Nick Bockwinkel (5/10/81)

This is mainly about Bockwinkel’s awesome pre-match promo, as again the match itself is clipped to nothing. This was notable for being Gagne’s “retirement match”, thus making him the first person to retire as champion, but of course he came out of retirement several more times after this to invalidate the whole notion. Decent action shown, as Verne backdrops out of a sleeper for the pin with about 5:00 shown.

AWA World tag titles: Jesse Ventura & Adrian Adonis v. The High Flyers (8/30/81)

Hey, this was my seventh birthday! Who the champions were is not exactly made clear here, as they were forever holding up and re-contesting titles in the AWA. The pre-match promo makes it sound like the Flyers won the titles from the East-West Connection in this match, but the commentary seems to indicate the opposite, and the Flyers don’t even win this match! Again, just clips, as the Flyers turn the tables and cheat behind the ref’s back. Soon it’s a donnybrook and the heels take over, with Adonis getting a bulldog and clothesline on Gagne. Another is reversed and it’s hot tag Brunzell. Piledriver gets two. Adonis routes him into the corner and Ventura works the arm, but misses an elbow. Back to to Gagne, but the heels give him a spike piledriver in the corner to retain (regain?) the titles. Seemed about ***.

AWA World title: Nick Bockwinkel v. Hulk Hogan (04/82)

This is not only another famous screwjob, it’s clipped to nothing AND the wrong match to boot. Bockwinkel chokes him out and fires off knees, but Hogan comes back and rams him into the turnbuckles. Suplex gets two. Big boot and legdrop get two. Heenan breaks up the count with a foreign object, but Hogan uses it to get the pin and the title. But not really, as Verne returns the title to Bockwinkel two days later, thus screwing over the paying customer yet again. Only about 3:00 shown. I think the match they intended to include was the Super Sunday one, where Hogan won the title and it was immediately overturned due to a DQ, thus triggering a near-riot with the fans who had taken all they could take.

Jesse Ventura v. Baron Von Raschke (3/16/83)

Another quick clip job, as we’re joined about 10:00 in. Jesse is working the arm, but Baron drops an elbow for two. Backbreaker gets two. They slug it out in the corner and it’s claw time, but fight out for a double DQ at 4:00 shown. I think this was included more for Jesse’s interview than anything else.

Hulk Hogan v. Mr. Saito (8/28/83)

This is listed as a handicap match against Saito and his manager Mr. Hatori, but it’s not. Hogan gets a suplex and Dr. D runs in for the DQ at 1:00 shown. Good lord. This leads to a fired-up promo from Hogan afterwards, which is the point of showing this, I guess. Still, we’re at three screwjobs in a row and counting.

The Road Warriors & Paul Ellering v. The Crusher, Larry Hennig & Curt Hennig (1/13/85)

This was probably really good, but again we’ll never know because they clip the shit out of it and we’re JIP at 10:00 in. Curt saves his father from a beating in the corner and takes one himself, and Animal gives him 3 backbreakers and gets two. Ellering comes in, but Curt rolls him up for two. Hot tag to Larry, who pounds Ellering into jelly and brings in Crusher for the big brawl. Curt manages to dump both Warriors, as Larry holds onto them, leaving Crusher to finish Ellering. 5:00 shown, not enough to rate. Seemed pretty good, though.

Buddy Rose & Doug Somers v. The Midnight Rockers (12/25/86)

Holy crap, it’s a full and uncut match with a clean finish! Although again it’s the wrong one, as this is the non-title cage match from Christmas of 86 when the documentary focused on how awesome the double-bloodbath match from Las Vegas was. Or they could have even showed the title change. But it’s complete, so I’ll take it. The Rockers win a brawl and make the heels eat cage, as Rose starts bleeding fast. Shawn sends Somers into the cage and busts him open, too. They bring him into the corner for double-teaming,and Marty stops to send Rose into the cage for fun. However, this allows Rose to retaliate and send Marty into the cage as well, although trying to follow up by going to the top proves to be a bad idea for Buddy. Marty rams his head into the corner post of the cage and gets two, but Rose goes low for two. Marty keeps slugging and gets two, but then picks him up and wants to give out more pain. Powerslam gets two on Somers. Shawn comes in with the flying elbow for two, and he also picks up Somers. We get some cheesegrater action by the Rockers, but Somers goes low and Rose catapults Shawn into the cage to draw blood. Shawn taps an artery, almost as though he and Marty had been indulging in some sort of strange, blood-thinning concoction before the match. But that’s crazy talk. Rose gets two as Shawn bumps around. Piledriver gets two and now it’s Rose’s turn to be sadistic and pick him up. Somers sends Shawn into the cage while Sherri puts some quality badmouth on him. Shawn gets more iron in his diet and Somers follows with a suplex. Rose chops him down for two and drops him on the top rope. They choose to pick him up again, but Shawn slugs back from his back and fights his way up. Hot tag Marty, and a powerslam gets two on Somers. Rose tries to run out of the cage, but Marty follows him up and drags him back in, then comes off the top with a bodypress to finish Somers.

(Midnight Rockers d. Buddy Rose & Doug Somers, Jannetty bodypress — pin Somers, 17:19, ****)

AWA World title: Nick Bockwinkel v. Curt Hennig (5/2/87)

Again, I think they wanted to show the one-hour draw from ESPN, but someone picked the wrong match and they went with the title change instead. This is actually presented in full, which is the first time I’ve seen it that way outside of the finish. Larry Zbyszko arrives at ringside in a mullet and tuxedo to challenge the winner, which establishes his presence there. Despite this being a “supercard,” the arena is embarrassingly empty, maybe a quarter full. They work off a lockup to start, and Hennig fights off a few attempts at a wristlock, so Nick gives him a slap. Hennig tries headlocks, but Nick keeps countering. Hennig hangs on, however, and they trade slams before Hennig goes back to the headlock. Bockwinkel counters out with hiptosses, but Curt keeps going to the headlock, annoying the crowd. They slug it out, won by Hennig, but he goes for a massive charge and hits the post on the way out. Back in, Bockwinkel goes to the armbar. A hammerlock into the corner sets up another armbar. Hennig fights out, and Bockwinkel goes back to the armbar again. Kneelift gets two and Nick is back on the arm again, this time with a short-arm scissors. Hennig fights up and kicks him in the knee, giving him a new target to focus on. Spinning toehold into a figure-four follows, but Bockwinkel makes the ropes. Back to the leg, but Nick slugs him down for two. Simultaneous punches put both down and Bockwinkel recovers first, surviving a chop and whipping Hennig into the corner for two. Curt comes back with a sunset flip for two. Atomic drop gets two. Bodyblock gets two. Rollup gets two. Axe gets two. Piledriver and standing dropkick get two. Bockwinkel is nearing death, but makes the comeback with a lariat out of the corner. He follows with a backdrop suplex, as the story gets really screwed up here thanks to the fans. The idea is supposed to be that Hennig is the cocky young star who throws everything at the aging champion but can’t beat him, and thus the fans rally behind Bockwinkel and are thus outraged when Zbyszko hands Hennig a roll of coins, allowing him to KO Bockwinkel and win the title after all his scientific wrestling doesn’t work. However, since Hennig was perceived as the bigger star at this point, the fans actually side with Hennig and his title victory draws a massive pop.

(Curt Hennig d. Nick Bockwinkel, hard currency — pin, 23:34, ***1/2) They actually wanted to overturn the decision like they usually did, and in fact stripped Hennig of the title right in the ring after the match. However, fans turned on that move so decisively and loudly that I think they just decided to give in and let him keep the title instead.

AWA World title v. WCCW World title: Jerry Lawler v. Kerry Von Erich (12/13/88)

This is course the main event of SuperClash III, the most nightmarish political fiasco in wrestling history, and that’s saying something. Kerry, being a total moron, catches his blade on his robe while taking it off and cuts the hell out of his forearm, leaving poor Lawler to improvise right away. Lawler is clearly playing heel in this match, which never made sense to me. Kerry sends him running with a punch. Back in, Von Erich clotheslines him twice as Lee Marshall notes that he has a cut on his right arm. Of course, the cut is clearly on his LEFT arm, but to be fair keeping left and right straight is asking a lot of Lee. He’s probably the only announcer who needs to check his underwear to remember his own name when doing the introductions for the show. Test of strength, which leads to Kerry hitting Lawler with a discus punch for two. Lawler comes back and slugs him to the floor, but Kerry gets a discus punch from the apron. Slingshot splash misses, however, and the King knees him down. Piledriver is no-sold by Kerry, and another discus punch gets two. OK, you can spin around before you punch someone, we get it. He tries the claw, but Lawler fights him off and slugs him down for two. Kerry gets a piledriver for two, as the ref is bumped already. To the floor, where Von Erich punches the post by mistake. Back in, Lawler does his brilliant Phantom Foreign Object routine, which draws crazy heat and merely requires that he pantomime pulling an unseen piece of metal out of his tights, thus giving the same punches extra credibility. Kerry starts bleeding as Lawler drops fists from the middle rope, but Kerry catches him in the claw. Kudos for Von Erich’s epic blade here. The claw sequence goes on way too long,until Lawler reverses him into the post and then slugs him into oblivion before going back to the “foreign object” again while pounding on the cut. The crowd actually cheers him for this. Kerry makes the comeback and gets two off another discus punch, but when he reapplies the claw, the ref stops the match.

(Jerry Lawler d. Kerry Von Erich, ref stoppage due to blood, 18:23, ***) They were trying for epic, but epic is “Kerry Von Erich loses too much blood and passes out,” not “Kerry Von Erich loses a lot of blood and the ref stops the match while he’s in control of it.”

The Pulse:

Although the DVD is well worth the purchase for the documentary alone, the matches on the second DVD actually drag things down a lot. Featuring heavily clipped matches and endless screwjobs, this is actually a pretty poor cross-section of what the AWA represented. Where’s the matches from SuperClash? Or Stan Hansen winning the AWA title from Rick Martel? Or Freebirds v. Road Warriors? Or even something from the later years to show where they had fallen to?

It’s too bad that the bonus matches couldn’t equal the documentary in terms of quality, because that would have made this a must-own set. As it is, it’s merely very good.