Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D, Sebastian, and other friends write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Tuesday is French Catch Day: ANDRE~! Le Hippy! Batman! Gilbert Bernaert! Valois!

MD: Small programming note. We've been at this for two years now, having gone from the mid 50s until 1970. We're on the downswing now, more than halfway through, but with a long way yet to go. 1971 is a big year, for instance. Thanks to everyone who's been following along, making gifs, spreading the news, getting these matches to interested parties, etc. It's been great knowing that these matches have reached family members of the participants who had never seen their fathers/grandfathers wrestle, for instance, or to hear that current wrestlers are tuned in. We've watched well over 150 matches now, probably over 200 if you count the JIP snippets, and you can count on one hand the number of matches I wouldn't consider good or well worth watching. I don't think we had any idea the sheer level of week to week quality we'd be dealing with as we started to dig in. This week is a perfect example. I suggested looking at this one fairly early on, when we were still jumping around, because it meant we could cover both Batman and a wrestling hippy but we decided against it to do more obvious gems. But Batman's a hell of a wrestler. The Hippy's really good. Their opponents are brutal and violent. It's French Catch. Even the goofy characters tend to be great. Who knew? Well, everyone does now.


Batman vs. Cesar Leoni 9/26/70

MD: Another shorter match by the 50s and 60s standards. I'm not sure if this will be a trend moving forward or not. Good stuff though. The announcer gave some other name for Leoni, maybe Jean Mailhot? I don't see him elsewhere in the footage with either name though. Batman, despite being British, was billed from Cleveland which strikes me as a kind of funny Jerry Lawler connection. They went clean for the first few minutes, really right up until Batman's trademark roll through headlock escape. From there Leoni showed a brilliant mean streak, just grinding down on everything and throwing in nasty inside shots. Batman would come back again and again, including a beautiful series of fake outs and twists and turns to escape a hammerlock and some real fire on the floor after he foiled a King of the Mountain attempt. Finish had Leoni pull off the corner guard and do some damage with whips until it backfired and he ate a tombstone. Nice Batman showcase against a game opponent. Oh while we're here, unless I'm off on this, Batman ended up as an opera singer and actor, is still kicking, and is married to fellow opera singer Stephanie Blythe.

PAS: This was really fun. Love all of the counterweight takeovers and counters by Batman. He is just a super fun wrestler to watch, almost like a heavyweight version of Johnny Saint. I also thought his flash Fujiwara armbar was great and easily could have been a finish. Leoni got appropriately pissy and laid it in pretty hard when he had a chance, but this was all about Batman being an elusive and slick motherfucker.

Le Hippy du Ring vs. Gilbert Bernaert 9/26/70

MD: What can I tell you about Le Hippie Du Ring? He was a big Catweazle looking fellow. He had a tendency to stroke his beard. He came to the ring with flowers and he had a valet that we saw at the end that gave them back to him. He did one of the first Boston Crabs we've seen in this as a finish. You didn't want to hit him a whole bunch of times and get anywhere near the ropes because he'd dump you over. He could land on his feet on a flipping hammerlock escape. A gentle soul but you don't want to mess with him. Well, Bernaert, who was kind of a mean jerk, did want to mess with him and it went okay for a while, right up until the point that it didn't. One of my favorite things about watching these matches is that while there are spots, so often, there's just more organic wrestling where they're constantly trying for an angle out or over or around. At one point, Le Hippie got underneath Bernaert and took him over, but Bernaert hung on and ended up hitting a sort of flipping neckbreaker. Just organically. Anyway, these two were pretty good and while I don't think it had quite the internal narrative of the Batman match, it's still well worth a look, even if only to prove once again that in France, even the gimmick wrestlers could absolutely go.

PAS: Hippy did have a really great Hippy look, you could just smell the patchouli and body odor coming off of both him and his valet. Hippy worked a bit like Batman with really great escapes and armdrags, anyone is going to pale a bit next to Batman in a direct comparison of that style though. I did love the leg pick into a nasty Boston crab for this finish. Bernaert was a game opponent, although outside of the neckbreaker counter Matt mentioned, I don't remember a ton of standout moments. Good Hippy showcase though, I hope he shows up some more

Jean Ferrer vs. Frank Valois 10/31/70 - GREAT

MD: This one slipped through the cracks as I had thought we had covered all of the Andre matches previously. This is a nice look at him at a crossroads, between the wrestler he was against Scarface or Van Buyten very early into his career and who he'd be a couple of years later in IWE as he leaned more and more into the giant aspect as opposed to just being a very large Catch wrestler. The tricky part with that is that as he became more competent and more comfortable, it was a little hard to justify the match length here. They did a good job of delaying Andre's first bit of boiling over. He started wrestling, with top wristlocks and counters for things like Valois trying a standard wristlock, and it led to Valois going first to punches out of breaks or even slaps. That didn't end well for him. Then they rationalized some more time with Valois really going inside sneaking in punches on headlocks or just mauling Andre's nose. While that chipped away at Ferre a little, it also did not go well for Valois. The most crowd pleasing stuff here was when Andre had really gained control and was working the bodyscissors and repeatedly slamming Valois onto his posterior within the hold. He also had maybe the best looking atomic drop I've ever seen to further the damage. When it ended, it felt like an inevitability and a mercy even if Valois really did do everything he could. Andre was such a force by this point that he probably did need to have matches that looked a little different than this, even if he could absolutely still work a more technical style.

PAS: 1970 Andre is a hell of a discovery. Matt is right, he is working more like classic Andre than super tall Gilbert Cesca. Of course Andre working as Andre is one of the coolest things in wrestling history. Valois is a game opponent, he had a really nice headlock and punch to the jaw. The Andre bodyscissors slam is not an Andre spot I had seen before, but feels like it should have been a classic part of his shtick. It does go a bit long for the amount of juice that Valois had, but this was still one of the earliest matches for one of the all time greats, so what a treasure to get to watch it.

ER: Valois was a really fascinating guy. There aren't many people who have shared the ring with Jean Ferre and shared the stage with Jean-Paul Belmondo. Valois was a popular Montreal wrestler who wrestled many years in Europe. He acted on the stage and in several French films, and was also instrumental in bringing Andre into pro wrestling, taking him to IWE, even acting as his business manager for Andre's first several years. There are records of their matches together from 1966 France, all the way through 1973 WWWF. These two had history and they obviously had a touring program together. There are probably few men in history who spent more time with Andre the Giant. 1970 Andre is fascinating in his own right, as he's a large man but feels like only that: A large man. He doesn't yet look like a GIANT, he doesn't move like a giant, he's more like a smaller Big John Studd at this point of his career. Valois works this by throwing cheapshots at any opportunity, always acting like the kid with glasses who can't be hit whenever Andre is about to throw strikes. He has no problem begging off and then grabbing a single leg takedown, or rubbing his palm across Andre's eyes and nose. 

But Valois also bumps great for Andre's puppy with big paws offense, like when Andre threw his butt back to break a waistlock and Valois sold it like a Cro Cop liver kick, or the impact that shook Valois' body when Andre yanked him by both arms into a chest bump. Imagine being on the receiving end of a young Andre's European uppercuts in the corner, how many things can go wrong when a young guy that size is throwing worked strikes at your neck (Andre, for his part, appears able to throw perfectly worked uppercuts that read heavy), or trusting that his atomic drop isn't going to rearrange your old man spine. Andre moved like a normal man in this match, working strong wristlock exchanges, and I loved how Andre grabbed a waistlock and rolled backward into a body scissors, a far more technically adept way for Andre to get into that body scissors than I'm used to seeing. The only time Andre really "felt" like a Giant was when he hit the turnbuckles. The sound the ring made when Andre hit those buckles is the sound of a ring almost tapping out. 

Labels: , , , , , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hard to believe that it has already been 2 years of 'Tuesday is French Catch Day'. I have appreciated every single match posted.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Max said...

Same here. I always look forward to Tuesday.

3:47 PM  
Blogger maskedoutlaw said...

This footage was a major find as most of these wrestlers were not available on film before

7:24 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home