Segunda Caida

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

Friday, January 11, 2019

New Footage Fridays: Gypsy Joe, Hara, Billy Robinson, Ray Stevens, Chic Cullen, Dynamite Kid, Bruce Hart

Billy Robinson vs Ray Stevens AWA 9/13/81

MD: The Ray Stevens Rule is as follows: No matter what wrestlers say about another wrestler, if the footage doesn't bear it out, we have to see it as suspect.

With every new (or more complete) Ray Stevens match, I hope to find some hint that proves every other Ray Stevens match I ever saw wrong. I never do. Yes, he's old. Yes, he's broken down from a life of bumping and partying and fast driving. Yes, there's so much we don't have. None of that matters. Why? Because we have other old, broken down guys and you can see it so clearly in the ruins of their movements. Why? Because we have old Flair, who idolized him, and while old Flair is heavily flawed, the remnants of wonder are still there. Why? because we have plenty of Stevens' partners, Bockwinkel and Patterson, and they are two of the most amazing 40-something wrestlers ever.

And you know what? He's pretty good here. He's pretty good at garnering heat in the beginning through stalling. He's pretty good at stooging for Robinson throughout. He's got some good back and forth punching. He's ok, decent enough, with his King of the Mountain segment. He takes a great beating, both physically and emotionally. I'd say a lot of the rest of the stuff he did on top wasn't very interesting, but he did manage a nice little headbutt to the gut out of the corner.

Unfortunately, he's in there with a far, far more memorable verison of Billy Robinson. This is Billy Robinson the master, Billy Robinson the trickster, Billy Robinson the super-over babyface in a territory that values the idea of wrestling skill more than any other. It's a Billy Robinson who is out there to make a fool of his opponent and then to fire back after he's kept out of the ring by him. He's great. He's larger than life. I've seen some great Billy Robinson matches, but I've never quite seen him so triumphant. He completely and utterly eclipses Ray Stevens in maybe the best Ray Stevens performance I've ever seen and you know what, unless you find me some 1960s footage, I don't think I ever need to see another Ray Stevens match. I've seen enough. He's not that great. Billy Robinson, on the other hand, absolutely is.

PAS: I enjoyed Stevens in this, he came off as a less sprightly Dick Slater, a tough guy who will oversell and stooge but still dish it out. Of course poor man's Dick Slater isn't an all time great wrestler, and it feels Stevens maybe a Sayama/Brody style lie. Any chance to see Robinson do his thing is awesome and he does a ton of nifty little twists and additions to the match. I liked how he got a little aggressive and ended up hurting his own neck, allowing Stevens to get some shots in. I also really dug how he worked his way into the Boston Crab reversal which led to the pin. This felt a little undercardish for a match between two such legendary wrestlers, but I liked what we got.

Davey Boy Smith/Bruce Hart/Keith Hart/Robbie Stewart vs Duke Myers/Kerry Brown/Dynamite Kid/The Great Gama Stampede 10/9/81

MD: Ed Whalen is the king of jerks. I knew when this was announced as a 20 minute clip, it wouldn't be a full match. It made me wonder just how long the original match actually was. This shows us about five minutes of shine early on, another ten of the finish, and a promo from each team. It's still a meaningful chunk of Stampede and well worth watching. The very worst thing about it was Whalen saying "hoo boy, I wish you could have seen that action!" or whatever when it came back. He was the asshole who decided to (litearlly) cut the tape!

Anyway, this was the Chic "Robbie Stewart" Cullen show, and how cool is the idea of that showing up on the WWE Network in 2019? The bits of shine we got were great, but also suffered from diminishing returns. All action, quick tags, just go go go in a way that wouldn't seem out of place today. There's no denying how workrate heavy Stampede was. I will say this though. The crowd was buzzing at the start of the five minutes and they weren't at the end, except for maybe when a groin shot was teased. It was great, but maybe too focused on one heel without enough teased even exchanges. They were pacing for sixty minutes but as five taken in a bubble, it was unsatisfying (but tasty) candy.

The heat was really strong, though a bit too focused on ref ineptitude/chicanery. Instead of them booing the heels (or even JR Foley), the crowd was shouting about wanting a real ref. I'm not sure what they went back with on this, but if it was something with Stu as a special ref, for instance, that's totally fine. In a bubble it was a bit of a shame because there's better way to get heat.

Cullen's a perfectly serviceable, very solid, brit wrestler in a lot of the 70s-80s footage we have of him. Here he got to shine as a highly sympathetic face-in-peril with some really great hope spots (including an absolutely lightning cross body out of nowhere). I'm guessing they put so much of this on him so that the Harts and Davey could be the ones to clean house at the end. There was a great moment where Keith (I think) rushed around the ring on the outside and just brutalized everyone in a mob scene.

The heels were more than capable in repressing Cullen. The tension kept getting ramped up because and in spite of the ref. The hot tag was well timed and hot. The babyfaces got to run riot on the heels to the crowd's delight. The finish was wonky and had to be hugely disappointing for everyone who just sat through 60 minutes, but I bet they all came back the following week anyway. Very fun footage, both ahead of its time and of its time in both good and bad ways, and it's a downright crime that all of this footage was cut and lost forever.

ER: I really loved all the action we got here, and came away super impressed with all of these Stampede babyfaces. Matt did a tremendous job of laying out the joys and frustrations, the ebb and flow, the reasons Ed Whalen can suck it, so I can just focus on how much I loved literally all the action. I have seen hardly any Chic Cullen/Robbie Stewart and he came away from this match looking like an all time great babyface. He was super fiery and fun on offense, loved his piledriver on Kerry Brown. Brown is a big guy and Stewart really looked like he had to strain and muscle him up to hit it, which only added to it for me. Also loved him hyperextending legs and threatening to drop his head to groin, and when the match quickly became him as the FIP it was as good as any FIP work we've seen. He bumped big (look at that grisly suplex over the top to the floor that Dynamite gave him!) and his small stature and teen idol feature hair made him come off like "The Cute One" in a boy band. But I thought all the babyfaces looked great. Apparently Bruce Hart throws the best elbowdrops this side of Hansen, really fast and full weight, and Bruce worked really violent in general, also hit a mean elbow off the top, and came off like a cool asskicking babyface. He always looked vicious when he would come in, and his viciousness made Stewart come off even more sympathetic. Davey Boy looked exactly the same as Dynamite, same size and look, even moved the same as Dynamite. He came in and hit a great jumping headbutt and later in the match Dynamite did one exactly like it. Davey Boy had these long arms and I thought he did a great job every time he tried to save Stewart before being sent back to the apron. Keith wasn't in as much but he also looked good in limited time, hitting a cool dropkick right under the chin. The heels were at minimum serviceable and it was great seeing Gama kick Stewart between the eyes, they all looked good bullying Stewart around. Dynamite was a clear standout for the heels, bumping huge to the floor off a miscommunicated dropkick, dropping Stewart with suplexes and a great high kneelift, and that killer suplex he hit to the floor, and his always strong strikes to a prone opponent (he hit this awesome falling lariat/fistdrop on Stewart that someone should steal). Preaching to the choir, but obviously it is a major crime that so much of this footage is completely gone. What we have here is gold.

Gypsy Joe vs. Ashura Hara AJPW 2/4/82

ER: I love an early 80s AJ garbage brawl, and this one felt like we had a cool layer of "is this FOR REAL!?" Gypsy Joe is almost 50 here and is a total savage, with William Murderface hair and a cinderblock forehead. He has a bunch of great strikes that all seem to land hard, probably because his strikes all land hard. Hara is no pushover, obviously, the dude played professional rugby through his athletic prime (weird he wasn't a Schneider guy earlier) so he's going to hit hard and absorb a beating. Hara surely threw some meaty chops, but Gypsy Joe looked dangerous. Hara would hit him with a shot and Joe would just stare at him and hit him back a couple times, harder. Joe had sharp uppercuts and these whipping shots to the the head and back of neck, and clonked Hara a bunch with headbutts from his big flat forehead. Hara kept getting pissed off and they played it like Joe was being unprofessional, so Hara kept going to the floor for chairs and he absolutely blasted Joe with a couple shots, getting that great Japan seat popping visual as it flies off Joe's head. But you know Joe gets that chair and hits Hara in the face with it, right with the fucking edge, then chokes him over the bottom rope and keeps bouncing Hara's head off it. You knew this wasn't likely to get an actual finish, but who cares as this had all the charm you wanted and even more of the violence than you could have expected.

MD: We've been doing this since May or so. I will admit I get some real enjoyment when I find something I know Phil or Eric will love. This one was totally down Phil's alley and we had to rush it to the front of the pile. It's an iconic Gypsy Joe performance. He's been in all sorts of spatterings of matches over the years, but this feels absolutely iconic. It's violence that doesn't stop and that goes on for a few more minutes than you'd expect. It takes one of my least favorite tropes, the idea that someone would just stand there and brace himself and take a chairshot, and somehow makes it completely and utterly believable. It's not about some sort of manliness or some sort of obtuse turn-taking when Joe braces himself in the corner and awaits the chair to come. It feels more like inevitability, like he somehow how knows this is his fate and his lot and all he can do is weather the storm. The affront offends him and he answers in kind, but he has seen the hopelessness of life and knows that all any one person can ever do is to meet it head on. Or it's just a fifty year old taking unnecessary chair shots. What do I know? It's still a really cool find.

PAS: This two are frequent dance partners (I remember an awesome IWE match between the two from 79, which I have to find and review now, and they matched up a bunch in AJ during this time), and there is no mystery to why it is a great match up. Both guys are willing to dish out and receive grim and grizzly amounts of violence, Joe walks forward and eats these sicko chair shots to his head and shoulders, and Hara absorbs some brain melting headbutts. Joe may have the most unprofessional and violent looking headbuts this side of Kurisu and he wallops Hara with them, along with a nice tasting menu of his famous lung flattening chops. Of course we get a double count out, but it would seem silly for this to end in a pinfall, of course it ends with both guys wandering around in the stands bleeding and hurling things at each other.

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