Segunda Caida

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

Friday, May 10, 2019

New Footage Friday: Piper, Inoki, Blackjack, Mano Negra, El Brazo, Negro Casas

Antonio Inoki/Riki Choshu vs. Roddy Piper/Blackjack Mulligan NJPW 08/26/77

ER: Loved this. It was Piper's first match in Japan, and here he is the main event already looking like an absolute legend. Before the bell even starts us off he's stalking Choshu into the middle of the ring and looking like absolute trouble. The energy Piper brings to this is fantastic, just mauling Choshu every chance he gets with some of the best kneelifts and kicks, really looked like Sonny Corleone beating up Carlo. That he brings similar energy when opposite Inoki surprised me, immediately made me buy Piper as someone on Inoki's level. Piper was a guy I always enjoyed but I've never appreciated his ring work more than in the past 5 years. Piper has become one of my favorite ever in ring guys, and I think for too long he was regarded as more of a talker than a wrestler. His talking is obviously legendary, but at this point I think his ring work is even more of a selling point. Mulligan plays almost late career Andre on the apron, which is good as it's an effective use of him. He was on the apron a lot and you knew if Piper could get the action towards that part of the ring that Mulligan would be there with a few clubbing blows to the chest or a big shot, and he looks good as a guy who tags in to take out Choshu with a cool flying elbow and great powerslam, feels cool as gargantuan cowboy lurking on the apron. But Piper was such a megastar here, loved every second of him, loved him using Inoki's head as a full speed battering ram (and how that backfired into an atomic drop/octopus hold to end a fall), love his punches and his wild movement that he uses to sell strikes. The finish appears to be cut off and/or marred by a screen filled with kanji, but only a wang would complain about that.

MD: We have three or four matches with Piper from 77 and will go through them all in time. What stood out the most here was how fully formed he was. I always find the California footage we have with him somewhat unsatisfying. Maybe that's because of VQ or just how unmoored it is. We have such a scattering, some of it complete, some of it JIP, some of it with poor video or sound. Piper is the sort of guy that you have to see and feel. You have to see the big things and the small things. You have to hear his banter. You have to feel how the crowd is reacting.

Here he was just dogged intensity. Offensively he should have been paired with Hansen instead of Mulligan. He was just relentless, a swarming buzzard with ADHD (or coke, I guess?), peppering knees and elbows and fists. When it was time for him to give, he bumped and stooged, and contorted himself like no one's business for the octopus.

Despite what I just said, Mulligan was game too. I've liked almost everything I've seen out of him in the 70s. He had size and presence and just enough attitude. Inoki was triumphant. Choshu was fiery whenever he was allowed to make comebacks (and these NJPW tags have a bit more of a traditional southern, or maybe given the 2/3 falls structure, Portland feel than AJPW ones). Ultimately, we get a sense of where this was headed with Piper/Mulligan miscommunication but we don't get a full finish. Still, this is over fifteen minutes and you get the idea. Plenty of ideas, actually. Good, satisfying wrestling.

Bruiser Brody vs. Great Kabuki WCCW 6/7/81

MD: Brody was a guy who obviously got it. He understood how to sell himself. He understood how to manipulate a crowd. He understood how wrestling worked. It's not like you can honestly say that he didn't have a very strong grasp of professional wrestling and, past some arguable execution issues with his offense, that he lacked the ability to excute what he wanted to do.

The issue with Brody is that he so often used that knowledge to chose the worst, most self-serving path. Selling is the language of pro wrestling. It's how the story is told. Things can happen, but selling is expressing the weight and meaning of these things. So often, Brody would bump or recoil and then absolutely refuse to sell. This may have served him (especially in Japan) but it absolutely did not serve his matches, especially when he was the babyface, which he was a lot of the time. It makes them an absolute chore to watch.

This was different. Maybe it's because of the big scope of the match (and theoretically the big payday). Maybe it's because he was basically there to serve the Fritz (his boss) vs Hart aftermatch and how babyface-dominant that was going to be. Maybe it's because Kabuki is larger than life and not a normal competitor (even though he's significantly smaller than Brody), but Brody sold, a lot, as much as I'd ever seen him. As such, he became less of an impediment and more of a Hogan-type figure, one who could get sympathy from the crowd and build to these big, colossal comebacks. Yes, sure, Brody constantly tried to get shots in and, as such, made Kabuki always work for it, but that's different than always immediately popping up and winning far more than half of the exchanges. He bled. He sold. When it came time for his comeback boots or his huge dropkick that set up the finish, the crowd erupted. It was a big deal because he let it be a big deal.

Kabuki was extremely effective in his role. His cut-off kicks out of nowhere looked great, despite the size difference. They didn't use the cage as a weapon, but he did use it as a prop, allowing him to ropewalk for chops (including the one that Brody bled after) and to help fly off the top. I immediately want to see ten more Kabuki cage matches out of this. If Brody let himself be this wrestler more often, despite whatever he might have thought or what insecurities he might have had, he would have been even more of a star than he was.

The post-match stuff with Fritz and Hart was everything you'd want. They honored the stipulation down to making sure that Hart had to wear his suit jacket for it, and despite attempts at chicanery, Fritz beat the snot out of him and embarrassed him. Everything you'd want, with Fritz' awesome Three Stooges eyepoke to cutoff Hart's attempts at underhanded eye-rakes once and for all the ridiculous cherry on top.

PAS: Really surprised to see Brody work from under for so much of the match. I am used to seeing Brody eat, here he was mostly the meal. Kabuki is great, does such an awesome job of conveying weird mystery, the spinning around, the walking the ropes, the whole package, he isn't a big guy, but you buy him dominating Brody. Loved the big cutoff dropkick by Bruiser, and the couple of killer superkicks by Kabuki. Very satisfying pro-wrestling.

Atlantis/Negro Casas/El Texano vs. Mano Negra/El Brazo/Gran Markus Jr. CMLL 11/10/94

ER: Dang this was great. Look at that rudo team filled with varying degree of chubby boys! And the chubby boys are all total asskickers which means this is flat our guaranteed to rule. Mano Negra was really king scum here, just assaulting the tecnicos with some of the best knees I've seen, throwing nice whipping kicks and short fast punches, really felt like he was always threatening to show up and kick somebody in the legs even when he wasn't in the match. Negra was such a vicious powder keg in this - and I've mostly seen late 90s/early 00s Negra, who I liked - that I really need to see as much younger Negra as possible. His performance in this match made him feel like one of my potential favorite luchadors ever. My favorite moment in the match was when Atlantis finally made his comeback against Negra, and Atlantis is pasting him with shots on the floor, and Negra selling that beating really felt like an all time wrestling moment for me. If we were making a 10 minute compilation of my favorite moments, I think Negra eating those fists gets on. He went through such a great tonal shift during what was a very quick beatdown, starting out standing tall and just crumpling with each shot, until he's not even lying on the floor, just uncomfortably leaned into the ringpost, struggling to somewhat stay on his feet but wanting no more of Atlantis. Usually if you see a wrestler conveying "guy who talked to much shit and immediately regrets it with ever punch his face takes" it has more stooging, more flair, more flourish, but here it just looked like Atlantis finally beat the shit out of him and Negra sat there hoping he wouldn't come back.

Brazo impressed the hell out of me too, really liked him on the mat picking ankles and grabbing wrists, not someone I remember being a guy who I cared about on the mat, and really Brazo was awesome at everything he did here. There was a moment on the apron that I've never seen before, where he's holding up his arm to show the ref that he's not about to cheapshot...and then with his arm held up in the same position he just runs his elbow right into Atlantis' head the second the ref can't see. Brazo always felt like the least Brazo to me, this whole match he was clearly a Brazo worth knowing. Markus is a big ol' chubby boy and threw hard punches and looked like a real wrecking ball every time he was in. This was a flat out excellent rudo team. The tecnicos really just had to show up to get cheered, and they did! Texano kept really impressive pace with fast rope running, Casas always does one thing in every match that only feels like a Casas thing (here I loved him bumping backwards neck first into the bottom rope), and Atlantis got his big fired up tecnico moments. I loved all of this.

MD: This is a pretty crazy technico side. Texano right off of his 61st Anniversario show hair loss to Ricky Santana, Negro Casas, and Atlantis. The first half of this was a rudo showcase though. There's not much better in wrestling than a good rudo beatdown. This was in the two refs era and that distracted a little bit but in general, it flowed exactly how it should have with cheapshots and doubleteams and ring control. Both Brazo and Markus have these great thundering elbow smashes. Casas has all of the charisma of today but three times the physical prowess and he all but flies across the ring when hit. The comeback went from heated to fluid shtick quickly in the best way and I liked the pin out of nowhere because you don't necessarily see that as a match ender all that much.

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