Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Friday, June 01, 2018

New Footage Fridays: Brisco, Flair, ROBLEY, Hansen, Bruno, Baba, Idol, Race

Since the Network only dropped one gem this week (although it is a shiny one for sure), we supplemented this post with a couple of cool All Japan Handhelds from the deep well of cool handhelds unearthed by Pete.

Giant Baba/Bruno Sammartino vs. Harley Race/Buck Robley AJPW 10/8/81

MD: The video quality on this handheld is washed out to the point where Robley's trademark yellow shirt barely looks yellow. I'm not going to say it helps, but it is sort of cool to see Baba as this looming, giant presence in poor VQ. This had a ton of novelty. It's not every day you can see Race vs Bruno and even Bruno vs a guy as slimy as Buck seems rare.

If I'm reading the date right here, this was a few days after Bruno's retirement match with George Steele, him finishing up with his last commitment to Japan. I have no idea where this was on that tour, but he must have felt good about it because he was incredibly spry here. He looked like a wrestling machine against Race early on and when he was tagged in later, he was moving so quickly and bringing so much intensity that I had to check to make sure I wasn't on 1.5x speed. Everyone else looked good too, with Robley sneaky and mean, Race bumping and bringing down hammers, and Baba so good at utilizing his size for big, visual comeback moves, but this was the Bruno show. There's not much better in wrestling than watching a washed out, unearthed video of Bruno repeatedly deadlifting Robley from a grounded armbar.

PAS: I thought this was awesome, it isn't technically an all time great match, but for pure enjoyment it is just a blast. Bruno was off the charts in this, he was moving like one of those Shaolin guys CIMA is training, super fast armdrags, great powerful takedowns and reversals, the armbar deadlifts. What a bummer his retirement was, it is too bad he didn't just spend the next decade working UWA and CMLL cards. I really enjoyed the Race and Robley team too, they were nasty cheapshot artists in this, great looking sneaky jabs and elbows, both guys are master dirty boxers, they would always find a way to sneak in a shot. I told Eric we were reviewing this match, and he kept referring to it as "The Robley match" despite having three of the biggest stars in wrestling history, and it is kind of justified, Robley is a guy we don't have much of, but is kind of an American Kurisu, balding sleazebag who will just kick your ass, and he totally feels like he belongs with the all time greats.

ER: Hahaha it didn't even cross my mind to call this match anything other than "The Robley match". Buck Robley turning up on tape is going to be something I'm going to want to see. He's a great guy to turn up in All Japan, as Robley looks like someone who would be in Clint Eastwood's stock of character actors that he would bring along on movies, like Bill McKinney or Paul Koslo, like you'd see Robley turn up as a bartender in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot or as the camp cook in Joe Kidd. He had those narrow mean eyes and shabby muzzle, and looked like someone who would try to rip the nose off your face if he misheard you. If this match was a western and he was the star, then the fans would clearly be watching Buck Robley in: The Man Who Would Be Pinned. And he's awesome in this as Race's scrappy lackey (and would most certainly try to rip my nose off if he heard me call him scrappy), always flying in and dropping elbows on necks, dropping a knee right after Race drops a knee, running interference so Race could sneak in a punch to the eye, kicking Baba in the head to break up a pin, getting ragdolled by Bruno on a great bearhug, essentially wrestling as if he were a man starting a bar fight on Deadwood. He's a proto Necro Butcher who doesn't have the physical gifts or athleticism, so works messy and mean instead. Bruno had a fantastic hot tag here, one of my favorites in recent memory, running in quicker than a cruiserweight and just overwhelming Robley, Robley looking like a guy barely able to keep his head above water, Bruno just effortlessly muscling him around the ring. Bruno was working like if Danielson had packed on 40 lb. of muscle but still wrestled the same. His hot tag reminded me of WCW Finlay matches where he would work really fast for a minute to almost try and trip up his opponent. Bruno looked iconic here. I love a good bearhug and this was a masterpiece, looking like he could snap Buck in two, and Buck selling it like a panicked animal in a trap. Awesome find.

Ric Flair vs. Jack Brisco GCW 4/7/84

MD: I think we were all hoping for another dump of multiple matches, and maybe even expecting at least a few, but if you're going to get one match, a 20 minute unearthed GCW Brisco vs Flair NWA Title Match is a good way to go.

It was Flair as heel champ against a legendary technical babyface, so you know exactly what to expect coming in. Let's face it. By 2018, with the amount of footage we have at our disposal, the old Flair adage is spot on: "Learn to Love It." You know what you're getting from Flair, so come in looking for the positives and be prepared to forgive the negatives. In short, enjoy and take in what unique elements are you going to get from the specific opponent and setting and lean into what we know Flair does as well as anyone: work from underneath during the first act matwork (ignoring the fact that none of it will ever matter for the rest of the match), hit his stuff (and he had more stuff at this point of the 80s than he would later) well, and have a hot finishing stretch that the crowd would be 110% into.

As such, I was pretty happy with this. Brisco had won a TV tournament (over Sweet Brown Sugar and Brad Armstrong) to get the shot. He was working TV as a tweener-heel, refusing, for instance, to give Brad extra time to prepare for the finals after he took an errant shot from an angry Hawk during his semi-final match vs Horner. Unfortunately, he wrestled this as a total babyface. That first act consisted of a nasty headlock and a short-arm scissors, which is one of my favorite holds in general. Brisco kept rolling with it as Flair tried to get out. Good stuff. Like I said, Flair had more offense for his mid-match control here than he'd have a few years later, including a killer neckdrape over the top rope. Brisco did his part, selling well both here and especially in the stretch. The finish was this great cradle/roll up (really, almost a crucifix) reversing a fired-up hiptoss attempt, which was something so good it's crazy Flair didn't use it more in later years. So, as far as basic Flair match grading goes, this hit all the marks really well.

Where it excelled was in the little things. That early headlock allowed a tease for the shin-buster, which was paid off late match when a far-more-tired Brisco would go back to a headlock. Flair then hit the shin-buster and got the figure-four for a finishing tease. The transition to Flair taking over was beautiful. Hebner stopped a Brisco punch in the corner (one that was well deserved as Flair had gone to the dirty breaks first) and Flair got a knee in. Normally, it'd be iffy, because a lot of the heat ends up on the ref, but Flair was savvy enough to follow it immediately with a shoving match with Hebner. In later years, the ref stuff, while always getting a pop, tended to be detrimental. Here, it ensured the heat would stay on him and not Hebner, even as he took over on Brisco. It's small things that would get homogenized later, like Flair making sure to raise his hand as he reached the top rope, as if he actually intended to hit a piece of offense instead of just getting tossed off because it's what the fans expected.

Again, I was hoping for multiple matches/surprises, but if they can manage to post something at this level every week, I'll be happy.

PAS: For a guy who I completely adore it is hard to get excited about unearthed Flair gems. So much of his stuff has been available and picked through over the years, that I would really only be excited if he was against a idiosyncratic opponent. While there isn't much Jack Brisco footage out there, I kind of get his gist. Despite some subdued expectations I did enjoy what both guys brought to the table. I am a total mark for a short arm scissors, and I loved Brisco using that rolling short arm scissors as a control method, rather then just sinking in a headlock or leglock. The match really got rolling when it turned into more of a brawl, both guys have great looking punches, Flair chopping downward shot to the nose is a true classic shot and it looked like he really watered Brisco's eyes with it. That finishing cradle roll up was really awesome looking and such a cool flash pin, really great way for a heel champ to win clean, while still making the babyface look good. Neat match, although the fact that they have this footage is probably the most exciting part of it.

Austin Idol/Stan Hansen vs. Tiger Mask 2/Jumbo Tsuruta AJPW 8/28/87

MD: Good ten minute match. I thought Idol brought elements you don't always see in AJPW to the table. Occasionally, he was there as a random, chaotic element while Hansen was doing his thing, stalking around ringside with a chair getting a cheapshot in. When he was directing traffic, however, it was more of a southern tag. There was a significant section where they were controlling Jumbo by working his arm and that was all Idol. He was practically forcing Jumbo up for moments of hope only to pull his hair to get him back down. I'm not sure the fans were buying it and the eventual hot tag wasn't as hot as you'd hope.

It's striking to see how well Tiger Mask II would, even in 1987, make sure not to get swallowed alive by Hansen in a way that his peers couldn't always manage. He'd reverse a whip or drag him to the corner in a way you wouldn't expect. Best moment of the match was probably Hansen having enough of his kicks against the ropes and taking him down brutally for punches and headbutts. Still, whenever I watch these 80s Hansen matches I wish they were just a few percentage points more collaborative. There's a spot where TMII reverses the whip on the outside into the rail and Hansen chases him back into the ring. TMII sputters out with a few kicks that Hansen ignores. If he had eaten a dropkick instead, popped up and goozled him again, it would have meant more. Likewise, after an assisted slingshot splash on Hansen, there's just a kickout by the ropes. If this happened in, say 1987 JCP, there's a far higher chance the kick out would have sent TMII flying out of the ring, which would have been a much better visual. You never want wrestling to be overly cooperative, but sometimes a little bit of working together goes a long way.

PAS: I am a bigger fan of uncooperative Hansen then Matt. I agree he doesn't work with his opponents very well, but I think there is something viscerally thrilling about how he makes everything feels like an jagged fist fight. My favorite spot in the match is where TMII is whipping out a kick combo, and Hansen just grabs the leg and violently double legs him, and starts wildly pounding on him. The Universal Heartthrob was more of a bit player in this, but he was fun running around and cheap shotting folks, I loved Idol but his real strength is with his connection to the crowd, and this is a crowd who doesn't care about him. Jumbo vs. Hansen is a match up which is a little underrated by fans of All Japan, but I always enjoy how Jumbo stands up to Hansen's stuff, he is an ace and he will not be enveloped.

ER: Uncollaborative Stan Hansen is one of my favorite things ever, I love that when you're getting your shots in on him there's that feeling that your luck could run out at any second and he would just walk through your shots to maul you. I love when he walks through shots to attack, and love when he starts to subtly sell shots like a giant gorilla shot with a tranq dart. He'll run through a punch or a big chop or a lariat and you can tell it hurts and he slows and staggers a bit through clenched teeth, all while continuing to move forward. Earned shots against Hansen are the best, and I loved the spot where Hansen chases TMII. If you pissed off that grizzly enough to get him to chase, it means that you've gotten to him; reversing that whip and then the ensuing chase might have ended with Hansen walking right through kicks to get his mitts on him, but I thought it established a very early vulnerability that doesn't always happen. Hansen always feels the right amount of generous to me, which makes runs of offense against him very special. Once Jumbo tags in and slaps him a few times he seems like a guy who could presumably be tangled with. Idol is the tour's "new white Hansen tag partner", and you could probably make a pretty excellent comp of all the random Americans who were brought in for a tour or two to primarily team with Hansen. Idol doesn't work the crowd at all, which is a shame as the unearthed Rip Rogers footage shows that you can bring your sleazy flash Memphis persona to AJPW and make the fans connect with you. Maybe it wouldn't have felt right in the match, but it would have been interesting to see. Anyway, we got to see him scrape the bottom of his boot over Jumbo's face before grabbing an arm, and that's pretty great in itself. I liked the "not clean" breakdown of this tag, there weren't a lot of pretty moments, whenever offense would be done to Hansen he would kind of thrash like a child trying to avoid a bath, and I like the frustrated "Fuck it I'm just getting the bullrope and choking someone" finish. Also, it should always be noted, these handhelds make Hansen matches even better, as you aren't really sure where he's coming from, and then out of the corner you see a chair fly through the air, and then a bullrope whip through the air, and it's like when Bugs would see the Tazmanian Devil approaching and just stand there watching as trees get toppled and animals get stripped of their fur. Hansen is the greatest.

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Blogger Unknown said...

Kris Zellner posted the leadup tv to that Flair/Brisco match a week or two ago like some kind of smark psychic, bless him. Flair used that wrestler's guillotine finish a couple of times and it is a spectacular out of nowhere spot. Always looks legit, always looks smooth as hell. Definitely should've kept that one in the repertoire.

12:41 PM  

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