Segunda Caida

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

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Finlay! Gilmour! Mercier! Mitchells! Pellacani! Bout!

Jean Bout vs. Liano Pellacani 2/15/57

MD: I'm exceptionally high on this. It's my favorite match out of the lot so far. Very straightforward contest where you have an absolute master in Bout vs. an uncouth scoundrel in Pellacani. Bout stood out in a sea of great talent. He reminded me a bit of the promise of Dean Malenko fulfilled, an unassuming looking wrestler who started out cool and collected but that could light up with righteous fury when wronged. He had, however, this sort of physical charisma that tied it all together.

It wasn't enough that he'd do a hip toss. He had to hook you deep with his leg and whip his opponent around. It wasn't enough that he did a mare. He had to bridge up to torque his opponent like you've never seen. His dropkick? Angled up and in to come up at a chin. A headlock escape? He'd flip his way out somehow. Monkey flip? Low and deep and tight to make it a head bump. That's before he unloaded, too. When he went at his opponent in fury, it was with fists and forearms, jumping knees and charging knees. When it was time to finish a fall, he did it with two slams and the punctuation of driving his opponent's head into his own knee like a deranged modified shoulder-breaker. Then he sold the knee which made it matter all the more.

Pellacani was just as committed, quick to go to a hundred shortcuts, ranging from hairpulls to biting to those all time great resounding clubbering blows. He espoused a wicked frustration but instead of making him sympathetic, it made the crowd loathe him for tarnishing Bout's exquisite wrestling. I've never seen a crowd go from relatively apathetic to trying to set a guy on fire so quickly. Then, as Bout made comebacks and punished Pellacani for his crimes against art, the fire transferred from the exploding cigarette projectile back into the crowd. The banana peel finish was something you'd see a lot later in the UK, an unfortunate stoppage due to an overzealous blue-eye and a lucky, tenacious villain. This was absolutely excellent, the middle point between technique and ingenuity and character and story and fierce fighting, and everyone should go out of their way to see it.

SR: 2/3 Falls match over 30 minutes. Really heated, intrigueing piece of TV. Pellacanis birthplace is listed as Italy, and supposedly he won the heayweight title of Europe at one point. I cannot stress enough how awesome it is to get a long glimpse at workers like this. Bout is a stoic babyface, and he really dominates with athletic wrestling ability typical of French wrestlers. Pellacani has no real answer but to clock him with thudding forearms. While Pellacani didn‘t show much wrestling, pretty much anytime Bout had him in a hold he would scurry for the ropes, but he was absolutely bumping his ass off, really good pinballing performance. By the second fall Bout was really making minced meat of Pellacani, throwing punches, dropkicks to the face and cranking a nasty sleeper, all of which the crowd loved. By the end Pellacani looked overwhelmed and was taking frustrated swings at the crowd who threw lit cigarettes at him. It looks like another 2-0 blowout like other 2/3 Falls matches we‘ve seen so far, but then a huge, potentially crippling apron bump happens and things turn around. Really in our modern world apron bumps have become so meaningless that the way they put it over here stands out as really memorable, and what a ballsy move to go from Pellacani being outgunned to going over.

PAS: This was really fucking great, I loved the story of this, with Bout as the slick tough wrestler and Pellacani as heater. Early stuff with Bout landing these cool judo throws was dope, and Pellacani was just crushing Bout with hard forearms, some of the better clubs I think I have ever seen. French matches often break out into slugfests and I loved how Bout got more and more violent as it went on, his choke sleeper looked like something that would end an MMA fight, and I loved how he mixed in body shots and headbutts. 95% of strike exchanges in modern wrestling look like crap, and every strike exchange in 50s French wrestling is incredible. Loved the pair of big bumps to the floor, the first one taking over all three guys, leading to a pretty heated brawl on the floor. The second has Bout taking a big backdrop right on his tailbone on the ring apron for the ref stoppage. Add another pair of awesome guys to the list of new wrestlers we are discovering with this footage.

ER: Another week of Catch, two more guys I've never heard of who are apparently total legends. The setting for this is great, and the crowd really stood out to me as different from other Catch crowds we've seen. This really felt like more of a working class crowd, which added to an actual real fight atmosphere the longer the match went on. We've seen matches in front of men in suits and wives in coats, we've seen matches in front of a more kid friendly studio audience, but this crowd felt like it was filled with guys who all had bread or produce routes. Late in the match when Bout and Pellacani spill over the top to the floor and take the ref with them, things get heated as hell, and you can physically see that this was absolutely real to these fans. Pellacani threw these great clubbing shots that seemed to keep landing harder as the match went on, and he also bumped wildly for Bout. Bout didn't need help looking like a killer, but Pellacani certainly helped. Bout had a really great sleeper and one of those great upward angled dropkicks, and we get some big slow release Argentine backbreakers for good measure. This is maybe the least "pretty" match we've seen so far from French Catch, and instead it was memorably ugly.

Fit Finlay/Ian Gilmour vs Guy Mercier/Alan Mitchells 9/25/80

SR: 2/3 Falls match over about 25 minutes. Browsing through hundreds of French matches, and just out of nowhere a 22 year old Dave Finlay pops up in what is maybe his first ever televised match working like a seasoned veteran heel. Pretty cool. The saying about European tag wrestling is that they didn‘t quite know how to do it, but this match had pretty much the kind of structure you want: Fun babyface shine segment, followed by a heel beatdown before a series of cut offs before a comeback succeeds and then a finish. They fool you a bit here by doing a really long shine with the heels making several attempts at starting the beatdown and being cut off, but in the end the structure is there and even the 2/3 Falls formula is integrated well. This was a bit more holds and takedowns based and less about armdrags and ranas, similiar to what we know from British wrestling, but don‘t be fooled the pace in this match was lightning fast. These guys really do an absurd amount of stuff even in a long match, but everything is executed effortlessly. Guy Mercier is a former European champion and legit Greco roman wrestler with a look and aura that just screams tough old man, and while there wasn‘t a ton of extended wrestling in this match he looked like a classy worker. It speaks for the creativity of these old workers just how much they could do with moves like a body slam or hip throw. Finlay also did this cool thing where he misses a big splash in about the first minute of the bout and spends the next few minutes scurrying away while the faces twisted up his leg and launched him into the ropes. It didn‘t pay off in the long run, but it was a fun bit of selling to make the opening minutes more interesting. Once the heels got something going after what felt like 15 minutes of highly entertaining bumping and stooging, they basically focussed on getting the faces to the corner and stomping the crap out of them. Really simple and effective stuff that made me wish modern workers paid more attention to making simple things like a stomp look good, because Finlay had damn great looking stomps here. Another layer to the match was Michel Saulnier, who was grey and a referee by now. The match had some heel ref antics and comical amounts of babyface retaliation against Saulnier, while that is something that can ruin a lot of these Euro matches it was actually executed in a really fun manner here. The thing I loved most how delighted the fans were at the trick the heels used to get a pin here. No hard feelings, it‘s all good fun in France.

MD: Thankfully, we're lacking familiarity because in this case, I think it would breed contempt. We had a combination of heel in peril and a heel ref that made himself the center of the show. I had no problem with the 80s WWF heel-in-peril style as a kid, not until I saw a lot of it to evaluate. The first time I saw a heel ref doing his antics in lucha, I was probably delighted.

This was fresh enough to still be delightful. Gilmour was the star of the show, charismatic and bold, a real villain who knew just how to be the center of attention at all times. Finlay came off as his muscle, Otis to Gilmour's Lex Luthor, Chumley to his Tennessee Tuxedo. He was in there to bump and stomp and hammer, but it'd just be a few years later that he'd be playing Gilmour's role with Princess Paula at his side.

What they did here wasn't bad by any means. They filled time well. Everything hit, with a lot of it being complex and compelling. Mercier and Mitchells were very good and Gilmour was somehow everywhere at all times filling the screen. The heels got their comeuppance in satisfying and amusing ways during the long shine, but you kept waiting for the switch to flip while watching. Not every bit of wrestling has to follow the same formula but when the faces dominate for the first 2/3 of a long match even good work tends to tire you out.

PAS: This was primarily noteworthy for our earliest look at Fit Finlay. He had a real explosive athleticism about him here, he actually remind me a bit of Dynamite Kid, which isn't a comparison I would have made before. The speed he got up to the top rope for the missed splash was really noteworthy. Gilmour isn't a guy I had heard of before, and he was really great as the Alpha of the team, he didn't do a ton of really noteworthy individual spots, but he really could fill the screen with his presence. I agree with Matt that we could have really used more of a Southern tag structure, this was a lot of the babyfaces on top, and an occasional fire back by the heels. I did really enjoy Mercier taking his shots at Saulnier, I wonder if that is an old feud being dredged up, we have a ton of Mercier in this footage, going all the way back to the 50s so it will be neat to see a big sample size of his career.

ER: When the neverending pile of French Catch was discovered, it never actually crossed my mind that FIT FINLAY would turn up in the footage. Finlay is arguably my favorite wrestler of all time, a wrestler responsible for really taking my specific brand of fandom to a new level. He set such a high standard of quality execution and time management that I'm not sure I could name 5 people better. I've never been disappointed in a Finlay performance, ever, and I have watched an absurd amount of Finlay. But the thing is, before now the earliest Finlay match I've seen is probably from 1985 or '86. For me seeing Young David, 5 years earlier than I ever have, was tantamount to us getting to see 1968 Andre (which was at least 3 years earlier than any prior Andre footage we had). So here's this young man with a buzz cut, already showing a shocking amount of polish for someone so young. Part of me was looking forward to Finlay looking like a not very good wrestler. I've seen hundreds of instances of Finlay looking like an all time great wrestler, I wanted to see a green as grass Finlay who had flaws. But this motherfucker was apparently good from go. He's different than the Finlay I would later love, but even if *this* was the best he ever got in the ring, he would still clearly be an awesome wrestler. I loved Mercier locking in the Santo headscissors and the absolute arms waving feet stamping panic that Finlay sold it with, loved the big bump he took off the apron when Gilmour got run into him, loved his wild missed splash early off the top (which I believe is the only time I've seen him attempt any kind of splash off the top), and it was amazing to see him throw his all time great bodyslam with the exact same motion and follow through that he would still be using to perfection 30 years later. The match had other joys, including kids and adults squealing with glee every time Saulnier would physically get involved, or the fact that maybe 60 total awesome uppercuts were thrown over the length, or the young French version of Sean Young in a ship n shore blouse being briefly interviewed before the match. But this match got bumped up this early in our review process for Young David and it's just insane how much he was already delivering.

La Complète et Exacte French Catch

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Anonymous SR said...

To be fair, Finlay had his first match in 1974 at the age of 16, so he was a 6 year veteran at this point.

4:41 AM  
Blogger Bremenmurray said...

Very interesting match

7:43 AM  

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