Segunda Caida

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

Friday, September 23, 2022


MD: This last week there were a bunch of new MLG House Shows that showed up on Peacock, with never released matches on them. We plan on going through them now and again over the next several weeks/months.

ER: Would it have been too much to ask for Ted Dibiase/Koko B. Ware? Don't get me wrong, I couldn't be happier that we got Iron Mike Sharpe/Tommy Angel, but that one match is very conspicuous by its absence. 

WWF House Show Maple Leaf Gardens 9/18/88

Mr. Perfect vs. Jim Brunzell

MD: Hennig still had some remnants of Cool Curt here. No real holds. No real offense outside of punching, kicking, stomping, clotheslines, but there was a nice methodological way he went about things and he was definitely working the crowd. He also played king of the mountain a bit which is the most AWA thing ever. Brunzell is always competent but even Gorilla was ragging on him for not getting fiery enough soon enough. Hennig survived the dropkick by ending up in the ropes. Solid opener though Hennig wasn't quite established yet and no one bought Brunzell as a singles.

ER: Maybe I'm easy, but I thought this kicked ass. I love Cool Curt, and I thought this was a...well, Perfect...blend of late AWA Cool Curt and big bumping heel Mr. Perfect. It had a nice methodical build where Curt would just walk slowly, cockily around the ring, like someone with a back injury who couldn't bend down, or like someone holding something up their butt. This was barely 20 matches into Curt's Mr. Perfect run, and I love seeing early versions of famous characters, seeing what they were working on and what direction they were testing out, see what offense they were using that you know they wouldn't be using a couple years later. The build on this was strong, starting slow (slow enough to actually get a few Boring chants, in 1988 Toronto!) and leading to a great section of Hennig keeping Brunzell on the floor while he corncobbed around the ring, kicking Jim off the apron, punching him in the jaw, a long build with a great payoff of Brunzell fighting his way back into the ring and tossing Hennig to the floor (one of only "Hennig" bumps of the match). By the end of the match both guys were throwing legit potato shots to the face. I mean both guys were flat out slugging each other down the home stretch, and the Maple Leaf Gardens cameras give it this awesome "in the ring" feel where you could really see how hard these punches were landing. I don't think of Brunzell as a guy who punches people in the face, but he and Hennig had loaded fists that were cracking jaws in ways I wasn't expecting. Just look at how hard Brunzell was hitting Hennig with mounted punches, and how Hennig paid him back. No way you would expect that. 

Iron Mike Sharpe vs. Tommy Angel

ER: Canada's Greatest Athlete gets to pose and flex for his adoring countrymen, and I like this Sharpe/Angel pairing because it's a cool look at a mainstay WWF undercarder vs. someone who I think of as a perennial WCW job guy. Tommy Angel looks like the Cars' touring keyboard player and it takes Sharpe at least 3 or 4 minutes to finally lock up with him, and the more Sharpe goes for rope breaks and teases knuckle locks while WHOA WHOA WHOAing, the louder the fans get. It's house show beauty. This is all of the Sharpe greatest hits, and they all work. Everyone knows he's going to cheat when he backs up and begs off into a corner, the way he sells strikes verbally while mostly ignoring them physically, and they react when he runs headlong into arm drags. Sharpe is a big guy and a heavy bumper, and it's impressive that while he stalls a ton he can also be good at taking a big heavy bump and feeding quickly into another one. I think my very favorite piece of commitment from Sharpe is when he gets tied up in the top and middle rope like Andre, and after he manages to fend off Angel with a boot to the stomach he still demands the ref help get him untied. 

The commitment to do a silly spot like get tied up in the ropes and wailed on only works if it looks like you cannot actually get yourself untied from the ropes, and Sharpe understands that the bit doesn't really work if you just walk away after kicking your opponent off. No, this goofball who can't take a step without making noise understands that he is STUCK in those ropes, and him kicking Angel away only gives the referee time to help him finally do his job. Commitment to the bit is 90% of Sharpe's gag, so I always love seeing moments where he could have skipped a step but didn't. He's good at making Angel's nearfalls look like actual nearfalls, too: when Angel got a late match sunset flip there was a 50-50 shot that was going to be enough to walk away with a win, and Sharpe reacted like he knew those odds. For a guy who was mostly bullshit, Sharpe clearly understand what made that bullshit work, and how to pay that bullshit off. 

Brutus Beefcake vs. Ron Bass

MD: It's a new match and I thought maybe, just maybe, there might be some heat to it since it was after the X'ed out angle. Plus, Bass is more than solid all the way from 77 to 85 in at least a few territories. My professional review of this is that Beefcake maybe had one minute worth of viable stuff and then I literally fell asleep while watching it. We tend to find value in most wrestlers somewhere or another and Beefcake was over as a viable star with a connection to the crowd, but this was bad, at least the parts I can remember.

ER: Beefcake did look mostly bad on offense, and I'm pretty sure every single punch he threw landed somewhere past Bass's head. Whatever match there was, was made by Bass occasionally cutting Brutus off. Bass had a nice big kneelift and I liked how he popped Brutus in the eye with the handle of ol Betsy. Gorilla was already setting up the lawn trimmers vs. spurs hair vs. hair match that was still 4 months away, so that was kind of cool. It feels like we should have had more interesting Ron Bass matches from his WWF run.  

Powers of Pain vs. Bolsheviks

MD: It's always weirdly fascinating to see the Powers of Pain as a babyface act. The best part of it is always Barbarian doing sort of a primal scream with his arms out as part of a comeback or demolishing guys. They tried to make a real match out of this, which was a mistake. Barbarian let Warlord work most of it, not tagging even when you'd expect him to. Bolsheviks' only credible offense was shots off the second rope from behind as the ref was distraction. Part of me thinks that Barbarian could have had a singles babyface run but this wasn't quite meshing and it makes sense they do the double turn so soon after.

ER: Haters piled onto Gorilla Monsoon's commentary, but I think Monsoon spending 5+ minutes talking about the haircut choices of all the wrestlers in this match was perhaps the only thing that made this worth watching. It all started with Monsoon considering adopting Warlord's haircut as his own, since he "doesn't have much on top to work with any longer" and humoring Mooney's requests to also get a tattoo. "And Nikolai over there can't seem to decide whether he wants hair or wants to be completely bald," just really going through the benefits of a pronounced horseshoe vs. keeping two days of growth up there. It's bizarre to work this match in such a bland "these teams are equal" style, and more bizarre to have Warlord in there for the bulk of the match. The fans only really came alive during PoP's entrance and the match finishing Warlord powerslam/Barbarian diving headbutt (and Barbarian really flew 2/3 of the way across the ring on that headbutt), but the best parts of this were probably Zhukov's excellently timed axe handle into Volkoff's head, and Volkoff's fun bump over the top onto the ring announcer's table at the finish. Beyond that, enjoy marveling at how bad Warlord's kicks and stomps look. 

Jake Roberts vs. Rick Rude

MD: Sometimes it comes down to what they're trying to accomplish. Here, they wanted their cake and to eat it too and it wasn't nearly as good as if they just stuck to the path of least resistance. Rude was excellent here, every reaction just great. More than solid at leaning on Jake. He ducked the short arm clothesline early and took over for most of the match. The underlying story was that he'd pull down his normal tights for the Cheryl Roberts ones when Jake wasn't able to see, so you figure they're building to Jake finally seeing and then going nuts for a comeback right? Well that doesn't happen. They work it towards a more conventional comeback, then a ridiculous ref bump (he somehow got squashed *under* the DDT). A Rude Awakening got Rude a phantom pin while the ref was out, and then a quick roll up Roberts finish. It's only after the match when Rude doesn't care anymore that Jake sees the tights and rushes back in with Damien (the ref gets the snake in the chaos instead). By that point, Jake had already won, so while it's great for Rude to get menaced by the snake and all for the insult, everything would have been so much tighter and more visceral if they kept it within the confines of the match. Hell, have Jake lose it from seeing the tights, come back, get DQed for not letting up on Rude, and THEN bring the snake out to get over on both Rude and the ref. While the match was going on, there was a real sense of anticipation and build over a guy's tights of all things, so it's too bad that it didn't come to fruition. 

ER: Matt is spot on about this match and the one thing I want to add is more emphasis on just HOW stupid that DDT ref bump was. The referee just DOVE underneath the DDT before Jake executed it, and there is just zero reason for any person to do what the referee did in that scenario. I have never seen this done, and after seeing it here there's good reason for that. Jake grabs for the DDT, referee literally dives onto his stomach in between Rude and Roberts, Rude takes the DDT onto the ref. The physics of it don't even begin to make sense, the referee's motivation doesn't make sense, it just looked like a man who was actively trying to get another man to land on him. This referee was clearly a pervert who would see a woman readying herself to sit down on a chair, and then slip underneath real quick just so she would briefly sit on his lap. Derelict behavior. 

Big Bossman vs. Jim Powers

MD: This was for International Challenge so we might have had it before but it's found, if not new. It was very good too, with Bossman really asserting himself, and Powers trying to get shots in but getting cut off. Bossman had a ton of presence, jawing with his opponent and the crowd, shrugging off Powers' stuff, giving him just enough to keep up hope. Finally, Powers was able to knock Bossman back, stagger him, finally dropkick him into the ropes. When he went to finally knock him down, Bossman caught him in the slam and dropped him. This was balanced just right for what it was trying to do. Another point: yes, Monsoon spent a lot of the match giving Powers grief for trying too much power stuff against a massive opponent, but what he accomplished by doing so was making Bossman look big and forboding and unstoppable or at least very difficult to stop. He didn't make Powers look great, but Powers wasn't supposed to look great; Bossman was. He tore apart Powers' strategy but not the reality of what we were watching. It was because of that reality that he was tearing it apart. Just something to think about as we deal with grumpy announcers who manage to bury just about everything but themselves these days. Monsoon, believe it or not, was better than that here.

ER: Boss Man was so good. He really didn't have to give Powers a single thing here, and while he didn't give him anything big, he still treated literally every strike as something that he actually felt, something that at minimum moved him. Boss Man is so much larger than Powers, but I love how much offense he set up by being the one in motion. Powers wasn't sticking and moving so much as just moving, avoiding various Boss Man advances and sneaking in a punch. Boss Man would charge in and get punched in the face, and was so good at selling that a Jim Powers punch to the face would hurt even a gigantic man. Boss Man's timing and speed were so impressive, that when you combine that with high end physical selling it really makes a super worker. Not many were better at just putting the palm of his hand against their teeth and showing pain. Powers never had a chance in this match, but Boss Man made him look like someone who could at least leave a mark, and he did it while also making the middle rope nearly touch the apron when he threw all his weight over it and Powers. That finish run Boss Man Slam timing is the stuff of legend. 

Hulk Hogan vs. Haku

MD: Hogan was between his series of matches with Dibiase and with Bossman here. Haku had recently enough been made King. This was "War Bonnet" Hogan and Heenan was at ringside. It was a one off but it's a fairly unique house show match up. It's been a while since I saw the 88 Hogan act. It has a lot going for it: the reverberation at the start of Real American to get the crowd buzzing, the ridiculousness of the helmet but it also working as a prop to keep things different, and maybe some overall freedom since Hogan didn't need to be in title matches.

Hogan gave Haku a ton here. He wiped out both Heenan and Haku with the helmet pre-match (with a great Heenan bump and him being disheveled for the next fifteen minutes), but then got swept under by a bunch of Haku shots. Having not seen 88 Hogan for a bit, he was excellent working from underneath early, constantly crawling and scrambling back as he recoiled from the shots, retreating so as to try to create some space. Then, when he came back later, it was with a lot of hair pulls and cheapshots. It's all what you'd expect someone like Buddy Rose to do in that situation, but Hogan was a face. For all the talk of whether he was a bully or not, his physical actions here were very "heel coded" but they were also incredibly over with the crowd. He had three or four little hulk ups/comebacks in this but was cut off due to either Haku getting a shot in or Heenan interfering. They went into deep chinlock/sleeper land but they worked in and out of it at least a little bit. The finish, which had Hogan getting the helmet from Heenan and hitting the legdrop with it on his head felt pretty iconic for the time. I'd say overall this felt relatively fresh due to the unique opponent and showed at least a little reinvention for Hogan.

ER: Hogan vs. Haku from the SNME a month after this match was actually the first Hulk Hogan match I ever saw, and also the first episode of SNME I ever saw. I have basically no original memories of that match, but it's cool seeing an earlier, much better version of that match here. Hogan working from underneath is a much more interesting Hogan. Heenan is great at spacing out the distractions to keep Haku's control rolling, from his opening side flip bump after getting nailed by the helmet, to getting knocked off the apron with a punch, to coming in right at the finish and getting punched into the ring trying to get the helmet to Haku. Heenan may have been the best ever at using the ropes to facilitate his bumping. Haku's strikes looked a lot better than Hogan's, and I loved all of his trust kicks and big swinging arm attacks. Hogan had some nice stuff too, and I really missed his elbowdrop when he mostly dropped that from his offense by '89. Dropping two nice elbows and starting a third, only to wave it off and just scrape his boot across Haku's bridge is a great spot (whether it's heel-coded or not). His running elbows and clotheslines look light as hell but Haku gave them a lot of heft with his bumps. I think the best part of Hogan working underneath was it forced him to use speed, and it was cool seeing him move around real quickly here. His little blocks and reversals were really good, like early on when he blocked a 1-2 combo and threw punches of his own, or when he went with a Mongolian chop (!) after blocking a Haku strike later. This is a fully fleshed out, much better version of their SNME match the next month, and it's kind of amazing how different that Hogan was from this Hogan. 

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