Segunda Caida

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

Friday, June 15, 2018

New Footage Fridays: Dandy, Shu, Takada, Kobyashi, Armstrongs and Horsemen

Bob Armstrong/Brad Armstrong vs. Tully Blanchard/Lex Luger NWA 4/11/87

PAS: This is pro-shot, with commentary uncut from the 1987 Crockett Cup. Really fun match structure with a long heel in peril section opening up with the Armstrongs working over Tully. You get a bunch of a close call missed tags, and cheating, much like you would if Tully was a face. Here though Tully is so loathsome that the crowd is enjoying watching him get screwed. Tully was so awesome here, I loved his fake test of strength, wild cheap shot swing, and he was great getting hoisted on his own petard. Really dug the Bullet of course, he has a ton of 70s babyface flourishes, knowing just how to egg on the crowd as he twists a wrist or throws a punch. His K-RATAY hot tag near the end of the match was class stuff. Loved JJ cheating too, what a smarmy prick he was, one of my all time favorite guys on the outside. He has the charisma of an ex-congressman turned pharmaceutical lobbyist.

MD: So we had this from out in the crowd with far worse VQ and we had a five minute clipped version that was on the official Crockett Cup video. This is pro-shot, with Tony announcing, and complete with great VQ, so we're covering it.

Generally, I'm wary of tag matches that lean too heavily towards heel-in-peril, but there are a number of things going on here that serve as mitigating factors. For one, this was part of a two day tag tournament, so there needed to be some variation in style and tone between the matches. Them doing a fun, face-heavy quarterfinal match here meant that they could lean further into the heat in other matches. Frankly, the crowd probably should have been burnt out and that they weren't was a real testament to the match. A lot of it is about the participants and the execution though. Bob and Brad are the folksy trickster family come up from the mountains, pure Americana. There's a charm to them that you wouldn't see in your mid-80s WWF face tag teams doing a lot of the same things. Tully is the king of stooges, who tries to cheat first and then deserves everything he gets. Luger's just oafish enough to fall for their tricks on the apron. JJ's always gold as the stuffy manager getting more and more infuriated and flustered on the outside. Of course, the heels are going over, not just here but in the next match too, so they don't need to be protected as much, while the guys coming in from outside in Bob and Brad likely do.

The execution being great helps. Tully is constantly trying to worm his way to the corner. There's nothing valiant about his fighting (even if it's still a little tough). Bob's 100% committed, charming in his cheating and crowd interaction. Brad's picture perfect, always exactly where he should be, including with a great shoulder spear cut off to a Tully tag attempt. When Luger finally gets in and shows off his strength, Brad shines with finesse in dodging and weaving and firing back, and the crowd comes unglued when Tully tries to take advantage only to eat a lightning quick missile dropkick. The heat is brief but the transition is good (JJ pulling down the ropes), Brad fights well from underneath, with a hot tag and awesome JJ-assisted double clothesline for the screwy finish.

Not brand new, not my ideal tag structure, but crystal clear VQ for a charming match with everyone playing their parts and a hot crowd. I'll take this over a Kane OVW match anyday.

Kuniaki Kobyashi/Norio Honaga vs. Nobuhiko Takada/Kazuo Yamazaki NJPW 3/19/88

PAS: Really heated interpromotional battle with Yamazaki and Kobyashi especially trying to rip and tear at each other. It opens with a stare down between both guys, leading to a Yamazki high kick and some very sharp ground and pound leading to both partners and a bunch of seconds separating both guys. Very well done subtle worked shoot, no wrestling reason to have seconds run in, so it conveyed the possible unprofessionalism without shouting it from the rafters. Takada then tags in and slaps on a kneebar, sometimes that guy is a dunce. Match has a bunch of those mini explosions between Yamazaki and Kobyashi, and by the end you really want to see those guys unload on each other (they don't appear to have a singles match after this, so sort of a weird tease which went nowhere).

MD: Going through these NJPW handhelds is a archaeological experience. As most of these matches have not been watched by the community as a whole, there's no telling what you'll get. We came across this one because it was adjacent to a Fujiwara tag vs Ron Starr and Scott Hall. Unfortunately, we only had a minute or two of that. In finding the match, however, I stumbled into this.

A house show/handheld match with three or four intercessions from the seconds in order to keep competitors apart raises red flags immediately. This was a boiling pot of a match, one that in another setting might have frustrated me because it never quite boiled over, even after Yamazaki and Kobyashi finally got their hands on one another. As an unearthed handheld though, the anticipation is palatable and satisfying. It's a shame we don't have another match full of payoff though.

El Dandy vs. Shu El Guerrero IWA Japan 6/23/94

PAS: Rob Bihari continues his killer upload streak with this IWA Japan HH from 1994. El Dandy is an all time great, and like most luchadores has a pretty limited number of on tape singles matches. Shu El Guerrero is a guy who worked most of his career in the UWA so his tape footprint is pretty small, very cool that this showed up. It is more of a nifty discovery then a great match however. It feels like Dandy and Shu trying to work a Puro Juniors match then importing a lucha match. The opening matwork could have used some more llave, I have seen both guys work maestros matches and they can be electric, this was more armbar/kneebar stuff and sort of dull. There were some very cool suplexes by Dandy, and a nice tope, but I wanted this to be more. Still who would have thought this was something we would ever get to see?

MD: Hyper-competent mat-driven exhibition lucha in Japan with guys we're always glad to get more footage of. I don't think we have more than a handful of Shu singles matches. I question the logic of working ten minutes of primera caida title match matwork in front of a crowd that's come to see Yukihiro Kanemura and Shoji Nakamaki in a barbed wire barricade chain match, but (I pause here wondering if Phil will let me get away with the "who am I to doubt" line? I decide against it) the crowd was quiet but appreciative, especially once the pace picked up towards the end.

ER: I didn't actually know before this that Dandy had worked Japan, so it's cool seeing him in that environment, even if this environment felt pretty icy. And this never felt like more than an exhibition of moves, but it was a 21 minute exhibition of moves and both guys showed a pretty deep offense pool. But moves - no matter how nice - done deep in the vacuum of space, and I'm pretty sure Matt is right about people watching these two do a series of sunset flip variations while silently waiting for barbed wire. Also, the crowd had just watched a Joe Gomez match. I can't think of many WCW workers I care less about than Gomez. But IWA and those other early 90s death feds were always a cool variety bag, you'd get young American indy goofs, a couple old American guys, shamed native guys ousted from their original fed, just a cool mix. On paper if you knew you were watching a card with Dandy, Dick Murdoch, Headhunters, and a barbed wire chain match, you'd probably be pretty stoked.

But the crowd was silent until towards the end, and as great as some of the stuff looked here there really wasn't much of an interesting story to the match. It was pretty much Dandy breaking out a bunch of great looking pin attempt rollups, and Shu doing his cast canon of power offense. There were a couple clunky moments and a re-done spot, but also a lot of truly great looking stuff. The main problem with the match was that they essentially worked the same level the whole match, which is impressive, but you need peaks and valleys. This was move trading without much rhyme or reason given to moves after the kickouts. Dandy hits 7 or 8 awesome roll up variations, including one of the absolute fastest wheelbarrow rollups I've ever seen (I rewound that spot three times) and the smoothest possible crucifix roll through, but he was doing them from beginning to end with all of them getting the same exact 2 count until one got a 3. Dandy hits a fantastic lawn dart dive over the top, and I absolutely loved a spot with Shu doing a big surfboard and Dandy upside down in the surfboard reaching out both of his hands for the ropes. Shu always comes off as heavy and impossibly solid, like a guy who doesn't look cut but looks like he's made out of stone, like Masa Saito, and alot of his power offense lands with a big thud. Dandy was young and lithe here and his roll ups are among my favorite of any wrestler. They are always so economical and look entirely physically sound, love how snug he keeps his legs to his opponent, love the aesthetics of his legs locking perfectly into place over his opponent's arms. Really I can only think of Hijo Del Santo as someone with tighter roll-ups, but Dandy's could be better. So we get 16 minutes of a 21 minute match, and if you had seen some of this in GIF form I bet it looked like a banger, and while it was never boring at all, it just didn't play out. Still couldn't be happier that it got uploaded.

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