Weekend Wrap-Up: Matsunaga! Otsuka! Dibiase! Freebirds! Casas Family vs Ola Blanca '97!
I watched wrestling this weekend. Here it is:
Alexander Otsuka vs Mitsuhiro Matsunaga (BattlARTS 11/09/1999)
This is probably the most Segunda Caida-y match I've ever watched and I'm amazed it's never been on the site before. It's been out there (being on the 99 Yearbook, for instance), but doesn't seem to have gotten a ton of talk over the years. I'm watching this at the prompting of PWO's Elliott, who just covered it with Stacey on their podcast. Check it out. While I enjoyed this as much as they did, I had a slightly different take on it (and I'd insist that people watch it before getting spoiled by my take. You deserve to be surprised):
So Matsunaga comes down to the ring, sword in hand, terrifying the businessman-laden BattlARTS crowd, attacking the seats, and knocking one guy out of his chair and onto his ass. He's full of bluster. Otsuka comes down and immediately begins killing Matsunaga with a multi-front attack. He leads with forearms, chokes him with his own belt, posts him on the outside, gets revenge for the furniture by tossing him into the chairs, bites his burgeoning forehead wound, and brings him back in to suplex him. If life was a video game, Otsuka would be a create-a-wrestler who was the recipient of some sort of cheat code that gave him full attributes in every area. All of this is brutal and highly uncooperative. The suplexes are borderline deadlift. At one point on the outside, Otsuka slams his own forearm into the metal while trying to post Matsunaga and he just shrugs it off and keeps going. He's a force of nature. At this point, he wasn't even playing to his distinct advantage by going to the mat. He's just a force of nature.
What can Matsunaga do in the face of this? Really only one thing. He goes full Memphis. They reset and he garners a handshake. He makes a clean break. I'm expecting some wonderful bit of heeling at this point. What I'm not expecting is a fireball followed by minutes of hide the object with a giant "Asiatic Spike." That's what we got and it was glorious. He's up against this wrestling dynamo and he basically sheiks him as the only possible equalizer.
Otsuka quickly becomes a bloody mess. When he comes back, it's because he's able to duck a shot and lock in one of the world's most dramatic abdominal stretches, key because it locks up basically all of Matsunaga's limbs. How does he follow it up? With the god damn craziest flip dive to the floor, just because he had to check off that one last pro wrestling attribute he hadn't shown off yet. It turns his comeback into an impassioned hope spot though as he does as much damage to himself. Matsunaga's able to take back control, still utilizing his object, which builds to an even bigger comeback where, of course Otsuka gets the spike, which is absolutely perfect retributional pro-wrestling. His revenge is swift, bloody, and decisive. And this is a truly special match.
Ted Dibiase vs Terry Gordy (Steel Cage)/Ted Dibiase vs Michael Hayes (Steel Cage Country Whipping Match) (UWF - 10/17/1986) NWAOnDemand
The latest gem from NWAOnDemand. We'd had the cage match JIP, but this is the whole package: pre-match mic-work to set things up, the cage match, the crowd buzzing afterwards as Ted heads to the back and then comes back out, the whipping match in the cage, and then post match backstage promos (including some pre-post interview moments that serve as outtakes). Thirty-two minutes of great Watts-style wrestling.
This is the penultimate encounter of the Freebirds vs Dibiase/Doc feud, which also included some really great Doc vs Gordy matches and the awesome Hayes vs Doc cage match, which people need to sign up for the service and see if they haven't yet. Doc is supposed to wrestle Gordy here in the cage but Ted claims that they injured him. I assume he's on a Japan tour instead. Hayes wants them to give the match to Gordy but Ted takes it for himself, even though he's booked right after in the whipping match.
The cage match is pretty much everything you'd want it to be. Gordy, like always, is an absolute beast in using his body mass to control the match. He uses the ring, and in this case, the cage, so well, bullying Dibiase around, fighting out of the corner, using the turnbuckles as weapons. He has such a natural physical presence. Dibiase, on the other hand, is such an ideal mid-south babyface, a triple tough brawler who can take punishment, who can and will sell (both his back to Gordy's offense and ring utilization, and his face from the sheer power of Gordy's blows), but that'll come back with his fits and guts alone. I had never realized until watching this match that the true, absolute point of Dibiase's signature fistdrops is to work over a bloody wound. They're amazing here.
In the end, he escapes to the back with the win and the belt, causing Hayes to rant and rave and the crowd to buzz elatedly for the few minutes before Born in the USA comes back on and Dibiase makes his way back out for round two. This is simple, straightforward, and effective. Hayes wants to steal back the belt and escape the cage and whatever punishment he can muster is just to allow enough space to manage that. It (along with the fact that Hayes is seen as much as a manager as anything else) helps rationalize how a worn down (and ambushed) Dibiase can fight back. Every time Hayes gets a real advantage, he goes for the belt. Every time he does, Dibiase recovers and battles back. It's short, sweet, and effective and leaves the fans buzzing and happy, all preparation for the Gordy vs Dibiase blow-off match on Halloween night.
The post match Gordy promo is a horrorshow of blood and fury. It's great to watch on its own and very cool to see the few seconds of him getting ready to talk in the "outtake." Just classic stuff all around.
Dr. Wagner Jr. & Silver King vs. Felino & Negro Casas (CMLL - 5/9/1997)
Here's another one that was bouncing around but that just got uploaded in a more complete form. This is "sangre contra sangre," the Casas family vs the Sons of Dr. Wagner, and there's a lot of pomp in this version of the footage. There's a video recap to set it up, pre-match promos, shots of the family, Bestia Salvaje in a wheelchair carted out by Black Warrior for some reason. It all feels like a big deal and is a cool presentation.
The match itself is very solid but not quite as good as the other ones I watched. Here's something it has going for it, though: Negro Casas is always brilliant, but when you give him specific things to work with, he can take them so, so far. Here he has the family situation and Felino to protect, but he also has a gaping wound on his knee. Wagner and Silver King are absolutely game rudo bases, both of them going the extra mile, Silver King with his over the top expressions and Wagner by making sure to take wonderfully overdramatic bumps into the crowd to make sure everyone is paying attention to him.
Structurally, this has a few fun wrinkles, with both Felino clowning the rudos and a full heat segment and comeback/elaborate rudo cut off in the primera. There's maskwork and revenge maskwork, more beatdown heat into the start of the segunda that culminates with a fiery Casas finally recovering enough to burst into the ring to save his brother and a finish which keeps the feud going by making the Casas brothers look strong even as Wagner outsmarts Felino.
Oh, and like just about every Casas match I ever see, he pulls out something I haven't seen him do before (that doesn't mean he hasn't done it before, just that I hadn't seen it in the hundreds of matches I'd seen with him). Check out this little rope running exchange with Silver King:
Very fun novelty that felt special; definitely a good way to spend a half an hour.
Now I need to get back to watching Lucha Underground S3 so we can catch up before the show comes back in a month or two. We're lagging because of me, not Eric.