Segunda Caida

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

Friday, May 22, 2020

New Footage Friday: WWF in Kuwait! WWF in Germany!

Rock n Roll Express vs. Smoking Gunns WWF 7/94

MD: This was basically everything you could have wanted from a random 1994 Smoking Gunns vs RnRs German house show match. Express played the heels and while I've seen that before, I'm not sure I've seen it too much against an over babyface teem significantly bigger than them. They opened up the bag of tricks to really put over their opponents, giving back with a lot of the spots that they had taken advantage of over the years and feeding, feeding, feeding like the pros that they were. For the most part the Gunns' timing was on (there were one or two moments towards the end that were iffier including Gibson having to practically shout to draw a ref distraction for an illegal switch and the finish), and even with the poor VQ, you can tell that they were able to use their size at the right times in the right ways to engage the crowd. It was one of those matches where you worry the heat would never come, but when it did it was great, full of hope spots and cut offs that played to the size and a call-back spot for the big comeback that really worked. If you told me this was the best match the Gunns ever had, I'd believe you and it feels like another tiny feather in the exceptionally large cap of the Express.

ER: I love Rock n Roll heel matches, and I love that the man responsible for the popularity of the undersized babyface in peril is the guy who is the heel against two men significantly larger than he. It's not like they suddenly work more vicious or anything, they just know the small things that make guys the ones to root against in a wrestling match, and they're smart enough about it the fans eventually ignore what their brains tell them about who should and shouldn't be the underdog. For the bulk of this match the only offense they got was a couple of kicks to the stomach, and they're able to expertly take the role of their own foils and show how great they can make the spots look. Gunns handle all these spots and even the ones typically done by a heel (mocking the smaller opponent during a knucklelock) works flawlessly off the strengths of Ricky playing a loudmouth undersize jerk. The Gunns never land with me as a tag team, and I'm not sure why. They clearly have an understanding of basics and their timing is strong, it's just never used in very interesting ways. And I think if they worked more often like this house show version of themselves, they'd come off better for it. Here they used their size to constantly get under the skin of the RnRs, and the RnRs used their deft knowledge of match layouts to craft fun spots around the weird dynamic. I loved the dropdown spot that ended with the Ricky and Robert colliding, and loved that even when they were in control doing their rolling leg grapevines, they were still getting driven crazy from the apron. The Gunns could have really benefitted from more southern tag training, and this made me want to go check out their WWF matches with the Heavenly Bodies.

MD: This is the match where Gerry Brisco choked Austin out for fun on his way back from the ring, but we don't see that. This wasn't long after the Jannetty heel turn but he's de facto face here. I vaguely wonder if WWF was a draw in Kuwait in 91, but he even got little chants. At any point in the 90s, you could drop Marty into a situation and he'd be a perfectly fine babyface, even in his sleep or drugged out of his mind. Austin, still having the Million Dollar Belt but now sans Dibiase and already Stone Cold, was more electric than not, with lots of jarring hand and head motions, just full engagement even with the heat. When they worked a grounded chinlock, he was entirely into it. When he targeted the back for a minute or two, everything was focused and credible and inevitable. Marty had a quick but spirited comeback but this was always going to be another notch in Austin's belt.

ER: (I don't think I've heard this Brisco story that Matt mentioned) I love night off Austin because he's not a guy who is boring while taking a night off. He doesn't have to do a lot, but he's classically trained and knows how to work a big crowd in small ways, an easy heel base to play off Marty's classic babyface. Austin is entertaining to me when he's just getting foiled by armdrags and dropkicks, a guy who entertains me by slapping the mat and kicking his feet in frustration while in a move. Jannetty is wearing that hype Jerry Estrada/Ultimate Warrior/Pia Zadora stage wear, tassels flying when he bumps (and he does take a big bump after getting tossed to the floor by Austin). This is all super simple stuff that these two probably threw together on the spot, and I love seeing the bones like that. I'll always pop for Austin draping his opponent over the ropes, and then running in with a missed attack. He finds so many fun ways to bounce on the ropes before getting flung to the mat, and I gotta imagine it was incredibly fun doing a spot like this for fans who had never seen it before.

MD: It's very weird to see Bret post-Mania 12. He doesn't show back up on TV until October, past an interview or two. It's even weirder to see him with actual announcing talking about his loss. This was a curiosity to me, because I thought Snow would leap at the chance to wrestle Bret in a setting like this and would try more things. He really doesn't. It's very by the books, but in a way that no one did better than Bret. I assume this had to do with the heat more than anything else because Ross and Hayes don't shut up about it. Instead, Snow leans into the shtick, complaining about the hair before using it himself, then it's a lot of chinlocks and headlocks, with eyerakes and hair pulls for cutoff. The timing's good, with them never sitting in anything for long. Some of the actual cutoffs with Bret trying to escape the headlock look pretty wild and gritty. There's one great eyerake (the main point of transition to heel control actually) off of the side backbreaker (here the first move of doom attempt) that was creative. I like how Bret couldn't therefore hit any of his big moves until he fought free and then he hit all of them at once. Snow let himself get spiked off of a caught leapfrog to set up the Sharpshooter, but that was about the biggest bump he took. This was just a match instead of anything special.

ER: I was way more into this one than Matt was, and thought it was a great heel Leif performance. In fact I would wager than no man among us has seen better "He's pulling my hair" mannerisms than what Leif gives us here. This man goes to Shinsuke Nakamura levels of ropes work to show just how hard Bret Hart yanked his hair. I was dying at Leif practically dropping down into a full back bridge just to show how criminally Bret was yanking his shag. And so of course it's perfect when he exclusively starts yanking Hart by his hair. I thought the headlock spots were really good. Hart is someone who knows how to work a headlock, both sides of it. Hart is really good at being in a headlock and shoving someone off, and he's good at holding onto a headlock when getting shoved off. I loved him trying to shove Cassidy off a side headlock, Cassidy going to the hair and maintaining that headlock, and both skidding to the mat with Cassidy locking it on even tighter. It's two pros working a match with hardly any moves or highspots, all headlocks and lock ups and eye rakes, and it all worked. It felt like the kind of match you'd see Lawler work against Doug Gilbert on a handheld, and Cassidy was a really great Doug Gilbert, because the few moments that needed someone with speed and agility lead to a couple of physical exchanges you wouldn't see from Dougie. The finish was logical and tight, with Cassidy lured into a speed game and baited into doing a leapfrog, with Hart slightly slowing down his momentum to catch him instead in a sidewalk slam and quick tap sharpshooter.

MD: This was amazing. It's five minutes. They don't touch until 4:30 in, but out of all of these Kuwait matches we have, this has the most heat by far. Backlund stalls and throws a fit and demands a handshake and hides in the ropes and Savio gets more over than anyone else on these shows by playing off of it, pointing and waggling his finger. They run about 1.5 spots before the roll up which just makes the crowd erupt. Just beautiful crowd manipulation.

ER: This really was great. This Kuwait tour gave us the Butch Miller singles match we wanted, and now it's giving us deep cut Bob Backlund in ways I've never seen him before. I don't think of Bob Backlund being around and wrestling when I think of 1996 WWF, but it's great. This is several minutes of Bob Backlund circling the ring, considering getting into the ring, briefly rolling into the ring to restart the count, and then circling the ring. He walks down the aisle, comes back, can't seem to understand why the fans in Kuwait aren't more excited for him. Now, the ring was on an elevated platform in the middle of this stadium, meaning there were a couple of steps from the entrance aisle up to the ringside area. And sadly, Backlund does not just spend several minutes doing the Harvard Step Test on those entrance steps. The best thing about this Kuwait footage (not just this new footage but the 80s stuff we've also reviewed) is how much the old stuff works on these fans. It's fun watching guys in a WWF ring essentially work like they're a 55 year old years removed from active ring time vet working a local high school. I could not believe how loudly the fans reacted when Savio played possum and got a small package. This was the best version of seeing a Honky Tonk Man match live at the fair in 2000 (I saw that).

MD: Happy Triple H 25th Anniversary everyone. Here at Segunda Caida, we celebrate to the proper level, a ten minute match with Bushwhacker Butch from Kuwait. I'm watching this one because Eric is and either it's solidarity or this is what we do to one another. This was round one of the tournament. Hunter would go on to lose it in the finals against Ahmed, all a couple of weeks before the curtain call, so he was still high on the rise. Despite what I just said, Hunter's a guy who pays attention, who always paid attention. This was the match that immediately followed the Backlund/Aldo match, and Hunter, up against a 52 year old Butch in a place scorching hot enough that one of the first thing we catch in the match is Hayes saying on commentary is that they need more water, is going to go with what just worked. That meant lots of early ducking out of the ring and lots of nose-related stooging, though some of that might not have played to the back row given the size of the crowd. Butch was game and focused, quick to engage by adding to the ref's count or throwing out a Yeaaaaah. This is basically the best Hunter, right? Stooging, pretty selfless in getting his opponent over, really leaning into the mannerisms and crowd interaction between moves when he takes over, even selling the nose post-match. They weren't really into Butch's hope spots but they definitely booed on the cut offs. Hayes and Ross were fun on commentary going on about Sheepherding and talking about seeing Ali in the Superdome together. This was probably the best conventional ten minute match these two could have in 96, but I wouldn't have wanted to follow Backlund vs Vega.

ER: This is really exciting, as this may be the only Butch Miller singles match to exist from his long WWF run. Matt was running through matches from the Kuwait Cup that suddenly showed up, and I said we obviously had to do Butch vs. HHH, as I always enjoy HHH matches when he's in there with a vet that can actually lead him through some simple things. This is the kind of dumb rarity that I love, where we get a Butch Miller singles match in WWF past the point that most people even realized the Bushwhackers were in WWF. The Bushwhackers are super weird to still be around in 1996, and a Bushwhacker singles match just wasn't something that was happening on WWF shows. I love that kind of thing. And this really is a Hunter to celebrate, as not only do we get an insanely late era Bushwhacker singles match, but it goes 12 minutes! I love it. Hunter stooges for good headlocks and comedic nose ripping, and is a good sport for Butch. Butch seems to occasionally move or fall in a totally unexpected way, and Hunter played off that really well. The fans were more into Butch than you'd think they'd be, and that played into some of the fun here. Hunter ramps up the bumps as the match goes on, and peaks things with his roll up the turnbuckles and back down bump, and Butch starts taking fast back bumps as Hunter fires back. Hunter was super giving here and it made for a really fun old guy match, and I couldn't get over what an oddity it was that Miller was still on the roster. I wanted to see a stiff arm lariat from him and eventually got that too. I'm glad we spent time on this.

MD: What a weird match-up. I get that WWF was less calcified in 96 than it was in the late 80s or early 90s and that this was a foreign tour so it was about using what guys they had, but these teams didn't exactly make sense on paper. While a big chunk of this was Yankem and Vega, it was really all about Backlund and Yoko, especially Backlund interacting with Yoko. Backlund as a heel was so manic and wild, just completely bonkers, and him charging at Yoko and immediately retreating or rolling from one side of the ring to the floor on the other side is tremendously entertaining. Just watching Yoko on the apron or interacting with Savio makes me think that they should have turned him earlier. I don't think there was ever a spot for him as the Attraction with Taker in the company, but he had that mix of timing, agility (even a year or so before this), and unmistakable charisma. It was there in the way he leaned on the turnbuckle while the heels were stooging and stalling in the beginning of the match and how he spun around slowly so Savio had to run around him with their hands raised in the end. Just an incredible presence, even in the heat and even as he had put on so much more weight.

ER: Yeah this was all about the Backlund/Yoko showdowns. Backlund was back on his Kuwait bullshit, this time even running into the crowd and mixing it up with actual Kuwaiti soldiers! I laughed every time he would charge at Yoko only to retreat the second he got next to him, the whole thing felt like something Candido would do on an indy show. Charge at the big guy, bump yourself to the floor to get into it with more fans. Yokozuna was enormous here, getting towards the end of his WWF run, but he was still so good. I don't think he had the same charisma as immobile Andre, but Andre was the best at emoting and projecting danger while being immobile. Seeing Yokozuna work the apron and almost rib Vega and his opponents in little ways was a fun side of him that would have played well on TV. I'm pretty sure I've never seen he and Backlund cross paths, two World Champs going at it, both not exactly in their prime but with the skills and muscle memory to make this worth it. I also love that the whole match is Backlund running distraction, flailing arms, butt sticking out, eyes wild, and it all builds to the Yankem/Yoko showdown. And Yoko hilariously just plants Yankem with the Samoan drop, slowly gets back to his feet, and drags him over to the corner for the banzai drop. I loved Savio leaping onto Yoko's back in celebration after the match, Yoko not even acting like a full large grown man is on him.

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