Segunda Caida

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

Friday, November 25, 2022


WWF House Show Maple Leaf Gardens 10/9/88 

1. Richard Charland vs. Scott Casey 

ER: Something about WWF Network on Peacock doing a big upload of several unseen Maple Leaf Gardens shows, and giving people a long-awaited glimpse at gassed up Scott Casey and Richard Charland, a man I once wrote about after seeing Rob Naylor call him the most nondescript wrestler ever. Charland is not the most nondescript wrestler ever, of course. That honor belongs to Ted Dibiase Jr., of course. Casey is GASSED and Charland  has almost the same torso, looking bigger. Not as defined, but bigger. I didn't plan on writing this much about Richard and Scott's bodies. Casey simultaneously works this as both a strong man and a fast undersized opponent. He knocks Charland onto his ass with a shoulderblock, but then works fast armdrags, but then gets out-knuckle locked. Charland draws actual heat by complaining about how much his hand hurt after Casey reversed that knuckle lock. Charland actually walked over to the ropes and showed off a small bruise on his hand, and I think I might really like Richard Charland as a worker. 

The Sean Mooney/Gorilla Monsoon commentary team is realll comfortable listening here. Gorilla is telling amazing stories about working in Canada and starts talking about a wrestling bear. There's a Yukon Eric story with a great punchline, and I fell out of my chair when Mooney asked him how he did against the bear and Gorilla matter of factly replied "Nobody beats the bear, Sean." Charland is great at working a side headlock and not letting for when Casey tries to push him off, occasionally unlocking it to quickly felt at the ref and crowd. When he does get knocked off he makes to leave the building, then walks back to the ring and gets brought in the hard with, landing right on his face. Segunda Caida is about to be adding Richard Charland to our "We're the Dumb Guys Who Like" display case. Tell me we have his singles matches against Haruka Eigen and Joe Malenko. Charland even takes a big bump over the top to the floor, then stalls around before coming in to slam Casey's knee and face into the mat a bunch. Scott Casey doesn't have great punches to comeback (his headlock punches looked good) and the bulldog finish is ugly, but it's the kind of ugly where it looked like a guy dragged a man down by the neck in a suddenly touch football game. Shocked by how much I liked this. 

2. Iron Mike Sharpe vs. B. Brian Blair

ER: Canada's Self-Proclaimed Greatest Athlete almost politely chastises the "small pockets" of fans who booed him, before going out to find a sign proclaiming him Canada's #1 Greatest Athlete and cutting off the ring announcer to show everyone the sign. Sharpe is incredible, running from turnbuckle to turnbuckle to show off the sign like Stone Cold cracking beers, even doing a dead sprint toward the turnbuckle the ring announcer and ref were standing in front of, sending them scattering. By the end of the whole routine the crowd is laughing and cheering for Sharpe, building to a real Iron Mike chant. It's 5 actual minutes of crowd work before Sharpe's opponent is even through the curtain. When his actual routine is finished, it takes forever for Blair to come out, long enough that the crowd gets restless. Sharpe wins them back immediately by doing jumping jacks and push-ups to stay fresh, then yells on the mic about what lousy treatment they were giving him. 

Sharpe taking over after two minutes with one big headlock punch, then another, and he hilariously uses the ref John Bonello as a human shield when Blair gets too fired up. Just two years later, Bonello would attempt to pay $5,000 to an undercover cop to use his wife as a human shield, but the crowd didn't know that Sharpe was actually in the right in 1988. Sharpe is good in control and great at stumbling around like a big goof for every in-road Blair makes. He gets caught in the ropes like Andre (though it doesn't really lead to anything) and staggers around after getting back racked, then comes up blinded and swinging at ref Bonello after getting his eyes raked across the top rope. Blair's finishing run is okay enough, but he's more interesting when he doesn't work like Brad Armstrong. Also, considering how BIG Sharpe sells every move ever done to him, it's almost startling how subtly he sells an atomic drop. If you were shown how he sells an armdrag, and then told the next move is him getting dropped ass first on someone's knee, you'd expect him to shoot up in the air like Yosemite Sam falling into the fire pit. Still, essential viewing for Iron Mike Heads (read: anyone with taste). 

3. Blue Blazer vs. Steve Lombardi 

MD: Watching this felt like watching an episode of AEW Dark with Excalibur and Taz. Obviously, it's kind of the other way around, but still. Monsoon went on about how he found a mask backstage once and hated wearing it, suggested that Mooney get in the ring with him to better call the action, positively expressed how much Lombardi learned from Terry Garvin and Pat Patterson, and compared Blue Blazer to Killer Kowalski because of their constant motion. The match itself was ok. My most recent Blue Blazer comparison point was his tryout match which was just a lot of noise. This was worked pretty much as you'd expect but they worked in some fun spots, like Blazer getting caught backwards in the ropes on the way back in to get clubbered. It was more or less exactly what you'd think, but unlike the tryout match, had some build and payoff and Blazer worked the crowd well both in his shine and from underneath.

ER: This was the weakest match of the show so far. Lombardi works like a more boring version of Charland and Sharpe, Owen works like B. Brian Blair without any kind of personality or fire. Lombardi really looked like a swarthy foreign heel during this era. He looks like Tiger Jeet Singh. Meanwhile, Gorilla is calling out Jesse Ventura for stealing every mannerism and article of clothing directly from Superstar Billy Graham. Mooney tries to laugh it off and Gorilla says, seriously, "I was there, Sean." This is a literal GREAT commentary duo. Owen has some individual things that look nice, but he's so dry about connecting anything, just has no flow at all. His leaping kneedrop looks good but he never strings anything together, and he goes to chinlocks more often than any babyface ever should (hint: no babyface should do a chinlock). The best thing Owen does in the match is a great version of the Bret chest first turnbuckle bump. He hit the buckles really hard, and I love how Gorilla explained that Lombardi whipped him into the corner so hard that Blazer didn't realize how close to the buckle he was, having no time to go in back first. He also takes a nice bump halfway across the ring when Lombardi holds onto the top rope to block a monkey flip. Blazer's belly to belly to set up the finish looked great, but then he won the match with an ugly ass Superfly Splash. It never makes me feel good to be a low voter on Owen. 

4. Bad News Brown vs. Koko B. Ware

MD: I've been spending a lot of time with 1986 Brown wrestling the UWF guys and Inoki in NJPW, primarily as Steve Williams' second fiddle and the guy directing traffic, so this was a little jarring. It's one of the better WWF Brown matches I've seen, very back and forth but with transitions that were believable and made sense. Both Brown and Ware are guys who really knew how to milk something, how to create a big visual, how to get the most out of the anticipation. Early on, that would be Brown letting Ware get one up on him but with only one move at a time, and they built to where Koko was able to string 2-3 together. That's not much different than having a superheavyweight who needs 3-4 shots to get knocked down instead of one, just more complex and created a similar effect. As the match went on, Koko would really play to the crowd before hitting a shot to the breadbasket or tossing Brown off the top, and Brown would take a big pause after bumping himself ridiculously after an errant headbutt. For a guy with such a tough guy rep who might be difficult to work, Brown wasn't afraid to look like a fool. He knew exactly how far to go and exactly what he needed to do to get his heat back. I found that true of his NJPW stuff as well, that he understood his role and his place, knew when to put his foot on the gas and when to let off.

5. Randy Savage vs. Dino Bravo

MD: If this was the only 1980s blonde-haired WWF Dino Bravo match you saw, you'd come off thinking that he was probably a pretty good hand for the run and it might be interesting to see him against Tito or Duggan or whomever else. He was in Canada, in the main event, up against Savage, going for the title. That meant that he put a little extra oomph into everything he did and threw his head back a bit more on each shot. He fed with some extra effort and seemed more engaged while in the holds. He hit both the pile driver and the side slam and didn't spend forever in a chinlock or bear hug. This was part of a two match series where Bravo won here with a count out and Savage would win later in the month. Savage kissed the belt as he handed it off before the match, but the finish was all about Savage going after Frenchy Martin (who had interfered once or twice) and Bravo coming out and shoving Liz. Savage tended to her, going so far as to carry her to the back, and Bravo, gloating, took the count out win. Post-match he held up the title belt while Savage focused on Liz, a nice bit of character considering Savage kissed the belt and basically ignored Liz at the start of the match. It was only a mid-level Savage title defense and the crowd didn't seem particularly up for Bravo until the end when he was holding up the belt (a terrifying image, really), but it was a top-tier WWF Bravo performance, for whatever that's worth.

6. Hart Foundation vs. Fabulous Rougeaus

MD: The Rougeaus had a corny but kind of hilarious promo with Jimmy Hart earlier in the night about deflecting to America. Then, before this one could start, Brother Love was introduced as the special referee and had a long monologue. The idea was that it'd go on so long that the tension and pressure and heat would build so that when Neidhart grabbed the mic and went nuts, the fans would erupt, but I don't think it entirely worked. The match was the dirty ref special. Slow counts. Fast counts. Most importantly, he completely ignored the double teaming, so it was almost all heat on Neidhart and the Rougeaus were great in making the most of it. The hot tag was tremendous with Jacques cutting of a Neidhart comeback and it looking like the heat would continue, him gloating in front of Bret, and then Neidhart sort of spasming the rest of the way there in a sudden motion and Jacques stooging to high heaven with his reaction. Beautiful stuff. They eventually tossed Love and a second ref came in to count the three after the Hart Attack. A pretty unique match for the WWF at the time, and it stood out more because of it. The Rougeaus were meant for this sort of thing.

ER: I thought Brother Love's time killing was more engaging than the Rougeaus, and somehow more confident, and this might be the earliest I've seen WWF do a full heel ref slow count match. I'm sure there's a famous one I'm forgetting, but heel refs weren't something they were doing until the Attitude era a decade later. I love how every single match to this point had at least one Canadian in it, but Bret and Owen were the only two Canadian babyfaces out of all of them. Well, Iron Mike Sharpe was a heel that got a ton of laughs, and the laughs are what's going to be remembered on the drive home so I guess he should count. I'm with Matt that this is the exact kind of match the Rougeaus excel at, their perfect role. Jacques and Bret are a great match, that's no secret. This has little things you don't see a lot, like the way Bret dropped the Hitman elbow onto the back of Jacques' neck on a dropdown, to Anvil playing the face in peril to Bret's hot tag. Brother Love cheats so much for the Rougeaus that Gorilla says that Helen Keller would be doing a better job. And, sure, to be fair, Helen Keller was a bad referee based on all available footage, but it felt like an unnecessary cheapshot to bring up her early territory work. There's a reason she got out of wrestling and into public speaking and activism, we don't need to throw dirt on her grave. Bret's hot tag inverted atomic drops really crushed some balls, and when Hart Foundation threw Brother Love out of the ring, Love looked like he was really resisting being thrown. It didn't really help him, he flew really fast through the middle rope to the floor holding the middle rope. Great bump. 

7. Haku vs. Hillbilly Jim

MD: This was taped for international Wrestling Challenge but it has one of the absolute best Monsoon-isms I've ever heard. "Hillbilly’s biggest problem in this match is making mistakes... That’s Hillbilly’s big fault. That’s been his big fault in his career: Making mistakes.” I wish there were more places in my daily life I could use that. The match itself was okay. Between this and the Hogan match that we saw previous, it's striking just how credible Haku's offense was. He had graduated from being King Tonga and out of a tag team and was put over with the win over Race as he was on the way out for surgery but between how tough he really was and how dangerous he presented himself in the ring, it's a shame they couldn't have found a way to push him even higher. He could have held down a role like that if presented in that manner.

ER: This wasn't great, but man was Gorilla tearing into Hillbilly Jim hilarious. I agree Gorilla, the ones who make mistakes are the ones who don't succeed. He even talks about how Hillbilly Jim isn't smart and never goes into a match with an actual strategy or plan. Sure, Haku may be the one in the match with a crown, but to Gorilla, Hillbilly Jim was a royal fuck up. Jim overpowered Haku on a long knucklelock, Haku threw a dropkick right under Jim's chin. Haku outpunched him but I did like Hillbilly's comeback right hands after Haku was ripping at his face. Haku is really good at being run head first into turnbuckles, Jim missed a high elbowdrop, Gorilla commentary far and away the highlight (and has been entertaining in literally every match). 


8. Honky Tonk Man vs. Ultimate Warrior

MD: A rematch for the IC title. It went a few minutes before Honky Tonk Man used the guitar and got DQ'd. Warrior caught it as he kept swinging it at him and smashed it. I think they had some longer matches with more heat and a build up to HTM getting his comeuppance but this wasn't one of those. Warrior was over and the fans were pretty happy anyway though.

ER: I liked this a lot more than Matt and thought it was a great use of, and great showing for, Warrior. It was a 4 minute sprint with no down time, and everything that was supposed to look violent did. I thought Warrior's right hands looked good (better than Honky Tonk Man's all match), and press slamming Honky back through the ropes into the ring came off a lot better than that spot usually looks. Warrior went hard into the buckles on a missed avalanche to give Honky a stretch of control, and I liked Honky working over Warrior's ribs with a megaphone shot and boots. Warrior's big comeback had a couple of great spots, including one of his best flying shoulderblocks, torpedoing right into Honky. The DQ finish was gnarly. Honky Tonk's guitars looked heavy and he blasted Warrior right in the stomach with a full shot. Warrior's chest was fully open, leaning in the ropes, and that shot had to HURT. I get why Honky Tonk got the hell out of the ring right after. 

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