Segunda Caida

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Ben Chemoul! Bordes! Lagache! Grelha! Saulnier! Renault!

Brief programming note: I've updated the Master List. It should be easier to search for a wrestler, or, once we get past the first year or so, to see things mostly chronologically. Feel free to share it widely and reply if you think we have any name or date or anything else wildly wrong.

Rene Ben Chemoul/Walter Bordes vs Pierre Lagache/Grelha Le Portugais 7/17/72 

MD: This isn't my favorite Ben Chemoul/Bordes match. It was one fall, which is often a plus but this was a long fall without a lot of drama and having the heels take a fall might have actually helped here. You can't judge these French matches against southern tags. It's a different thing in a different place from a different time in front of a different crowd with a different style. It becomes less about transitions and the tension between hope spots and cutoffs and the build to comeback then and more about ebbs and flows and how compelling the action is. It's about the engagement of the wrestlers with one another, the engagement of the crowd, the struggle of the holds, the cleverness of the spots, the personalities and skill and snugness.

Some of that worked out here, but some of it didn't. Lagache comes off as a smaller Bernaert to me, capable, able to base during fast action and for acrobatic escapes to holds, with the right put upon and sour attitude, especially in how he interacts with his partner and the crowd. He was fine. I wasn't overly impressed with Grelha (Maybe Grella?) though. He had the look right, a sort of caveman Mocho Cota (not quite Barbaro Cavernario unless he was the drunken mall Santa version of him). He'd bump over the top eagerly, would stooge well, occasionally had some good clubbering or stomping, but it just wasn't enough. The commitment wasn't fully there, the offense wasn't interesting enough, and he was too low on the overall weirdness scale. I've seen Lagache team with N'Boa against Ben Chemoul and Cesca and Grelha here was no N'Boa, at least not on this night. He paired better with Ben Chemoul who had a bit more theatricality in what he did and there were a couple of fun and unique spots like a catapult into the ref or Ben Chemoul and Bordes tying his hair into the ropes to trap him. In the end though, the stylists probably took too much of this and were never quite in enough danger. The one time the bad guys took over was due to drawing a public warning with blatant cheating and I liked that, and in some ways, it did set up them getting DQed at the end for running out of chances, but this either needed more drama or more shtick over all.

Michel Saulnier vs Guy Renault 10/9/72

SR: 1 fall match going about 25 minutes. They wrestled for a big golden trophy in this, and damn the wrestling here deserved a trophy. Beautiful beautiful match. Saulnier is certainly making an amazing case for himself with every appearance. The wrestling didn‘t have the kind of flips or whackiness like the more attention-drawing catch, but their movements were poetry in motion, each throw and running sequence executed to perfection. It‘s really amazing what you can do with armdrags, headlock takeovers and headscissors and varying them slightly. They worked all these really fast throws and ran the ropes, then settled it working control segments building to more elaborate counter sequences, then back to throws and rope running, all seamless. Just the kind of ebb and flow structure you want from a mat classic. Saulnier seemed to overwhelm the taller Guy Renault initially, so Renault worked a segment controlling him with a headlock which has to be one of the greatest headlock control segments I‘ve seen in a long time, maybe ever. Renault started hitting Saulnier with these flying headbutts and drew some boos from the crowd, then Saulnier fired back with a tope of his own that knocked both guys down and felt truly epic. Saulnier made beautiful comebacks and went for broke when it was time to hit european uppercuts. Tempers flare a bit with guys ending up in stalemates and in the ropes and taking offense, but they kept working a clean match but amping the stakes building to the eventual conclusion. These two really looked like masters of the style here, never a slip up in anything they did and they worked this with such a pace that I have serious doubts any two workers in the world right now could rival them. Great great match, every once in a while I go back to check in on French Catch and end up being immeasurably happy that we have this stuff.

MD: This was a title match for a European Super Lightweight title. It felt more special for it and for the fact that Renault's wife and kids were at ringside. They cut to them a few times, though the kids didn't seem super interested and the wife was spoken to fairly deep into the match when Saulnier was grinding his face into Renault's cheek on a hammerlock. Renault was billed a Teddy Boy and was bigger, but he wrestled this more cleanly than we'd seen him in the past. While it got intense at times, it did have that traditional title match feel.

And for the first half of it, I got a little worried we jumped the gun on the 1972 MOTY as it was really sharp action, holds worked in and out of, just excellent stuff. They'd build to faster and faster spots and more and more complex escapes and then fall right back into the hold. That included a lot of fast pin exchanges and rope running, high level stuff of the sort that felt novel with Savage vs Steamboat if only because people hadn't seen Saulnier vs Renault. Some of these were put together with clever and meaningful bookends that utilized repetition in a way you don't usually see in this footage. They may have actually overdid it a bit because it was somewhat evident that they were low on gas by the midway point. At that point, there were some leglocks by Renault that weren't nearly as compelling as what they had lead with. They both picked the pace back up and got a lot chippier in their shots by the end but it was a title match worked clean and it never quite boiled over, instead ending on a series of quick pin attempts. Still this was very, very good and fairly different to what we've been seeing at this point in the early 70s.

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Blogger Bremenmurray said...

Authentically compelling match between Saulnier/Renault.Both men have come to fight

8:12 AM  

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