Segunda Caida

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Friday, July 01, 2022


New Dimension Wrestling 7/18/98

MD: This was a show at a racetrack with Chris Cruise and John Hitchcock announcing and Bruce Mitchell in the crowd. The announcing was as insider as it could get for 1998 as Hitchcock spent the whole night trying to pop himself and his friends. It was a moment in time, so there were crotch chops in about three matches but they still put on a good show overall. 

Ring Masters vs. Rikki Nelson/Colt Steel

MD: I'll move through this one quickly as there's a lot to cover here and I'm not outright skipping anything but Abby vs Ric Link (bloody but not much to it, no great Abby cutoffs and there's a better brawl on the card) and Iron Sheik vs Jimmy Snuka (coolest part was to see Sheik with his giant belly still able to do the club gimmick). Nelson could get great heat. Steel had some good looking takedowns and knees. They were working a gimmick where they were rivals that were teaming for the belt. Ring Masters came in on motorcycles and both kind of looked like Jimmy Jam. Crowd didn't want to back them but they were de facto faces and willing to bump. Colt and Steel were the sort of guys who could carry an indy when the big stars weren't there and this was pretty good accordingly but no one's reading for this one.

Ricky Morton vs. Manny Fernandez

MD: At one point this was supposed to be Manny vs Willy Clay and Ricky vs Sheik, because Snuka got there late, but they shifted things back when he arrived. That would have been morbidly interesting but this was far better. Manny based well and gave a lot early (he was going over). The heat was mostly a chinlock with cut offs but if you're going to do that to anyone in the world, Ricky Morton's the guy. Finish had shenanigans. Manny could have a pretty good ten minute match in 98 but I would have liked a bit more imagination when he was leaning on Morton.

Willow the Whisp vs. Surge

MD: The young guys match where they did everything under the sun. Cruise said that they'd be still watching these guys in twenty years so we weren't quite at the "Matt will be world champion and Jeff will be in a wheelchair" mindset yet. What's funny is that you can absolutely see who Jeff would be in Willow, just in the way he moved and in the dives and bumps, but Matt wasn't close to being who he would be yet. He instead did every move he knew, a bunch of stuff he wouldn't be doing in a couple of years, while Jeff's stuff (like the whisper in the wind) was more unique and would stay with him forever. This served its purpose, being spot after spot that let the announcers say that they weren't just a nostalgia act but on the cutting edge as well.

ER: This was so awesome. This was basically the exact kind of match all of us were hoping to see in 1998 when we traded tapes. When I traded for my first FMW tape around this same time, I was blown away by Hayabusa doing things no more crazy than what Jeff Hardy was doing here, only one guy was doing it in the middle of a literal Olympic swimming pool and the other guy was doing it in the pit area of a southern race track. I love these kind of brother vs. brother showcase matches, two guys who learned together and honed their impressively different styles, unleashing everything they know. Just a few years later we got a match with two under 18 year old Briscoes doing 2 count kickouts after top rope sitout powerbombs and that circle of life continued. I think this kind of match showed good reason why both Hardys sat so high up on DVDVR rankings, that for the time were based on matches that some people had seen live. Had I been seeing this kind of thing in rectory basements or bar backyards in 1998 I would have thought it was the best wrestling in the world, too. I think it was more than just big moves and moving from one spot to the next, as you can see the build and escalation throughout, the big guns coming out the longer the match went on. 

The Hardys were just a month or two away from actually getting wins on WWF TV, and now it's 25 years later and both are still in great matches (Their tag against Private Party earlier this year was one of my favorite TV tags of the year so far) but there's an undeniable melancholy to them still wrecking their bodies, no matter how much I love these two for doing so. Jeff was on the cusp of stardom, and here he is stumble walking his way down the bleacher seats looking no different than any VHS video you've ever seen of a teenage backyarder making a dramatic appearance around the corner of his friend's side yard while Mudvayne blared through someone's JVC Kaboom Box. Jeff brought yarder tendencies to the mainstream and became one of the biggest wrestling stars of the 21st century, 100% deserved. I also like how he still throws stomach kicks the exact same way as he did back then, and how Matt knew how to throw several great punches just as well in 1998. Matt had the kind of punches that made a bunch of us fall in love with worked punches. He has a tornado punch that catches Jeff under the chin, two perfect - and I mean perfect - fistdrops, and the longer this goes the more he starts unwinding his excellent overhand rights. 

This has some fantastic spots and some pro wrestling culture that only those of us who were up to our eyeballs in green board would ever understand. Matt is just tossing off moves like he's flipping through a CAW list, and damn does he make it work. He's just casually tossing out a high lift hotshot, Michinoku driver, middle rope legdrop, and missing a top rope springboard moonsault while Chris Cruise is talking about what a great wrestling fan Mike Lano is. Let me tell you, as a Bay Area wrestling fan who had Mike Lano's gigantic sweatpants-covered ass bent over in my direction far too many times as he took intrusive photos at an indy show, I miss those days of making fun of that dude and his huge ass. Jeff is a total lunatic, breaking out things that most of us just weren't seeing in 1998. He lands a superfly splash right on Matt's head and it was 100% on fucking purpose. This man didn't slip and land on his brother's head, he intentionally leapt onto his face. They duplicate a Rey Mysterio spot and make it look as good or better than Rey, when Jeff gets alley-ooped onto the top rope, sticks the landing with no hands, and flips back into a corkscrew moonsault. Some goober on commentary actually drops a JUSTIN Thunder Liger when making a comp to Japanese wrestling. I had to skip back multiple times to hear a Justin Thunder Liger reference in the wild. I remember my friend dying when he was showing his now ex-wife some Liger matches 20 odd year ago, and her asking where the other guy was. "The other guy?" "Yeah. If this guy is Juice, where's Thunder Liger?" Jeff does a big Sabu flip over the top off a chair, crashing them both onto grass, and Matt hits a gorgeous Asai moonsault, landing perfectly vertical with Jeff's chest. After Matt wins, he turns to the camera and says "I'm getting way too old for this," and it plays with the same wistfulness and past begets present wisdom as Johnny Knoxville hopping and limping and laughing through crash footage from 20 years ago.

Fantastics vs. Bushwhackers

MD: An inversion of the classic feud, though this was Jackie and Bobby with no Tommy. I don't know if I've ever quite seen this version of Bobby, in a red full body suit with dark hair and a complete stooge. He came down to the ring with a huge Buff Bagwell style hat and cut a promo about how they were northerners from Ohio and so on. Then the Bushwhackers came out and talked about southern pride, so that was an aesthetic choice. It did draw "Yankee Scum" chants. First third of this was them running a spot and the Fultons running out to get heat, including apparently taking Bruce Mitchell's chair. Then they did the longest "pumphandle my own partner's arm" spot I've ever seen. I was curious if the Bushwhackers would throw back at all to previous iterations of this match up but if anything, they went the other way with the Fantastics stooging to the utmost. It was still a lot of fun to see once but I'm not sure I'd ever have to see it again. 

Craig Pittman vs. One Man Gang

MD: If this was a no DQ and they let it go, it could have been pretty great actually. Pittman was a replacement for Tony Atlas who was the only no show on the entire card. Probably a big step up in 98 too. After the entrances and the push-ups there wasn't much to this in the ring, with the best part being Pittman taking Gang down. Once it spilled out though, it became a pretty great brawl, with tables flying and a brief time in an enclosed cage-like area by the racetrack. they were just laying in chair shots one after the next at one point. It kind of made me wish that Pittman had gotten a 98 ECW run.

ER: After seeing the mildly amusing ways that OMG stalls for time in the first two minutes of this match, I was not expecting this to devolve into such a spirited ringside brawl. I know how much of a fan Matt is of stalling bullshit era John Studd, so I would have expected more love for Gang demanding Pittman remove his belt before starting the match, lest it be used as a weapon. Gang himself devolving things into a weapons brawl a couple minutes later is the kind of dumb heel stuff I love. Just the visual of Gang - the largest man in Concord, NC at the time of this match - demanding an even playing field is great. Pittman hit his peak as a pro wrestler in 1997, when he returned to WCW TV working a much more overt heel style. Due to his military background he spent most of his career with that hanging over him as a babyface, but his punishing style fit so much better as a heel. I can only imagine how well he could have integrated that into Inoki's early 2000s New Japan. 

When this spilled to the floor we got some fun bits of magic, including both Pittman and Gang taking bigger than expected bumps on grass, Pittman spilling painfully over the announce table (Chris Cruise getting upset about his spilled drink in the process), Gang bumping painfully over a chain link fence, and both delivering some hard and some not hard chair shots that still looked painful. Gang even hit Pittman with the metal bar of a camping chair, which I don't think I've seen. I particularly liked when the referee tried to get Gang's chair away from him, and Gang held it up for him to take, then just punched him in the stomach. They punch their way to the exit, Pittman torpedo headbutts Gang in the back, and a shirtless fan holds Pittman back from attacking further. 

Buddy Landel vs. Tully Blanchard

MD: This went 30 and I think there was a high spot at the 20 minute mark and another around the 25 minute mark, but it was still pretty great. They spent a huge chunk of this just trading toeholds with each other, one guy taking down the other, jockeying for positioning, working the escape and then turning it around, up and then down, but never really shifting to rope running. Instead, there were little flourishes like leaving the ring or the head games of a clean handshake or jawing with one another. All of the takedowns looked smooth but competitive and it had a title match feel, leaning even further into that mat-based style than usual. I'm honestly surprised that Landel wasn't stooging more because he was more than capable but maybe Blanchard, who was more of a de facto babyface than anything else, didn't want to play into it much. He did one strut at the beginning but that was about it.

When they did pick up the pace, it was just for one spot that would clearly gave Landel the advantage for the last third. Tully taking out his own leg in the corner looked great, and his selling was spot on as he tried to punch his way back on one leg at times, and otherwise survive the figure-four and continued toeholds. It led to a moment where Tully's leg gave out and he dropped Landel on his own head and on Landel's all at once and both guys sold the impact all the way to the roll up out of nowhere finish. It wasn't the match I was expecting, but in a lot of ways it was just as good if not better.

ER: I thought this was excellent. Tully barely worked post-WWF and any time he would show up anywhere he would look like he's barely lost a step. The only weird thing about retirement Tully is that seeing him was such a rarity that his appearance would always turn him babyface, so we had these weird glimpses of a natural heel working babyface-by-default matches once a year in front of 100 fans and occasionally 3,000 fans every 10 years. It's a weird career and I've yet to be anything but impressed by retirement Tully. This match has to be the peak of what I've seen. This goes an actual 30 minutes and I loved it. It's as minimalist as you can get, but the up close camera work really benefits two guys who are great close-up workers, making a match with hardly any "moves" into something special. Also, we should take a second to appreciate how great Buddy Landel's hair looks here. Usually you don't see such healthy well-conditioned bleached hair, which only lends credence to Buddy really being all natural. 

This was a mat-based match and would have fit right in on the Muga card Tully worked a couple years prior. The stooging was kept shockingly sparse. I say "shockingly" because when you go into a 30 minute main event on a card utilizing a 1/2 mile stock-car track as a backdrop, you'd be right to expect a lot of bullshit. The bullshit was quick and always built the match a bit more, usually it was something as simple as a long hold finally broken up in the ropes, and Buddy rolling to the grass to throw a chair down in a little micro-tantrum. There wasn't a ton of crowd work although both guys were in tune with the crowd. No, the bulk of this was leg work and it was tight, focused and entertaining leg work with interesting interludes. It was a match filled with great small moments, like Buddy Landel's punches or Tully running right at Buddy's leg with a straight kick. Both sold the work well and never skipped steps. Tully was a bastard about how he attacked the leg - kicking it in the ropes, even swinging at it with a clothesline from his knees - that when Buddy turned the tables he dialed it up even more. 

I loved Buddy working a toehold and egging Tully on, getting Tully to throw punches from his back while Buddy kept asking for it right in the chin and pulling his head back. Tully's missed running knee into the buckles looked really nasty, and his staggered selling and unreliable base was really compelling, still swinging at Landel but a step slower. Landel had some classic asshole stuff when he he knew Tully was wounded, even doing a hilarious bit where he held an Indian deathlock while smoking an invisible cigarette. For a match that had basically a couple physics-based Tully armdrags as the major highspots, Tully's knee buckling on a suplex and turning into a spike brainbuster was a helluva a thing to happen. The spot was so crazy that whoever edited this tape showed the brainbuster in slow motion three straight times right after it happened. And yet, Tully and Buddy sold it so perfectly that these dudes might have just meant to do that crazy damn spot. I can sometimes be a high voter on heavyweight minimalist wrestling, but I watch a match like this and can't help but think of all those Ric Flair/Terry Taylor matches that so many people loved on the 80s Watts set, and I know that those matches felt like a weak version of Blanchard/Landel. 

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Blogger Bremenmurray said...

Blanchard/Landel superb match

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I rank Tully over Flair & Taylor. No offence.

6:31 PM  

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