Segunda Caida

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Bordes! Zarak! Gonzalez! Gomez! Asquini! Mercier!

MD: We're in the 80s now, believe it or not. There's still quite a bit of footage to go. I think after we're done, I'll make yet another list that puts things in chronological order with our reviews and use that to fill in the gaps of other things that may have popped up outside of the collection. Good news for the 80s is that Sebastian has gone through most of this footage. I don't think he's been living and breathing this stuff as much as I have, so you'll get a different take on things. Which is good, as you'll see below, as I'm always a little uncomfortable being the only take on these matches. Go check out his blog which is consistently great.

Walter Bordes vs Zarak 3/1/80

MD: With the help of youtube's handy translation function I figured out a few things here. The first is that Bordes had been trying to beat Zarak for a bit but was always stymied. The second is that he had learned either through a trip to the US or just through research about the wonders of the strap match and in order to finally defeat Zarak, challenged him to one here. They even had Petit Prince guest commentate for a moment to explain it to the audience. For a minute there, I got pretty excited about it, but Zarak, rogue that he was, refused and this was just a standard match. At one point, Duranton (I think) came by with his dog and the entire production team cared more about the dog than the match. I was actually pretty high on this one and I saw more of an underlying story both in Zarak's strength vs Bordes' speed and technique and fire and in Bordes getting himself in trouble by going for Zarak's mask (or even his boot laces) later in the match when he had an advantage. This was such a heated rivalry that he lost his cool. I don't think Sebastian has it right that it ended in a DQ, but instead a time limit draw leading to the eventual strap match that we don't have. Zarak had used, mid-match, a sort of running headfirst charge which knocked Bordes off his feet. In his final comeback, Bordes started using them as well which popped the crowd huge but he missed and hit the ref for his second or third attempt at it. Again, I think it was just a warning as then the fans counted down to the bell a half minute later.

Zarak impressed me more here too, not necessarily for what he did (which was all good), but for what he did differently from when he was Batman. He worked this like he was Der Henker or one of the many masked headsman we've seen so far, with just a bit more of his theatrical panache and flair in just little motions of his hands. It's funny to think how so many of the masked wrestlers were headsmen. I'm not sure if that is a takeoff of the first, successful one or something more ingrained in the culture, in as how we had the Spoiler and Midnight Rider and Outlaw and whatever else here in the States. But I always reward a wrestler who's able to adapt in his style and mannerisms with a different character and Smith-Larsen absolutely did here. This is one of Bordes' best babyface performances too, as there was more built in animosity than usual. Some of his bumps were spectacular, flying sternum first into the corner (Even breaking the ring at one point) or out of the ring or into the crowd.

SR: 1 Fall match going a bit over 25 minutes. Zarak was a big, towering guy in a mask. It fascinates me how much masked French wrestlers look like luchadores. This Zarak guy didn‘t work like a luchador (he was a British guy, in fact), but he seemed like a decent worker. Bordes had entered the maestro portion of his career at this point, and he had quite good looking mechanics. The early portion of this was Bordes putting a hold on Zarak, Zarak powering out and Bordes really flying across the ring. Bordes even flew into the crowd like Spike Dudley later in the match. The problem with the match was that they seemed to have no ideas for a story or such, so it was your typical series of retaliation spots. Zarak had some nice punches, a knee drop to the throat and one point just kneed Bordes in the balls, but wasn‘t terribly interesting as a character. The worst thing about the match was that it ended in a stupid DQ after they ran through a series of nearfalls.

Jose Gonzalez/Pedro Gomez vs Bruno Asquini 8/14/80 

MD: Maybe as perfectly structured a tag as we've seen on the set. And we're in 1980. The long first fall with comedy with Saulnier as the ref and feeling out (with a stylist advantage) early, into the first round of heat with Saulnier missing all sorts of double teaming, a brief comeback, a second bit of heat leading into the pin and the second fall, the real hot tag and comeback and stylist win, and then a high octane, imaginative and celebratory last fall with those multiman spots that are so much fun. I don't think I could have laid it out better.

And of course, everyone, from the wrestlers to Saulnier to Couderc (shouting "Save the cameras!" late when Mercier was chasing Gomez around the ring). Gonzalez is a true hero of the footage, the successor to Inca Peruano, stooging, creative, dramatic, hard hitting, incredibly fast in feeding and bumping and in holds. He's great a putting a little twist on something normal, going high low on clubbers instead of just straight on, that sort of thing, and of course more than willing to bump himself into the ropes and choke himself. This was our first look at Gomez and I thought he was excellent chain wrestling with Asquini. Otherwise, he didn't stand out as much but he took everything clean and worked well with Gonzalez. Aqsuini, of course, is spry, probably second or third best for what he was to Carpentier and Ben Chemoul on the set, but with a patina of age and grump to him. And Mercier is the perfect all arounder, able to do the headstand twist, hard shots, a fiery comeback when he tosses one after the next into the corner. I may be more sympathetic to the Saulnier stuff than others because we know him so well and he's so small and still able to bump and plays his role well. Here, I don't think too much of the heat ended up on him. Some of the last fall stuff was new too, a couple of spots where they made one heel pin the other and counted. This didn't have the long holds of the 50s but it was much more refined from years and years of working out the style to a point which feels quite ideal to me.

SR: 2/3 Falls match going about 25 minutes. I love that France has a litany of South American rudo bases available. Structurally, this was exactly like something you‘d expect to see in Arena Mexico or Monterrey. The thing that the French crew has going for it in 1980 is that these guys are old and rugged now but still doing all the ridiculously fast armdrags. Asquini is balding and dumpy looking here but has just a beautiful dropkick. Mercier didn‘t do a ton besides hitting some great looking arm drags and stiff uppercuts, but he had a nice airplane spin and impressive old man strong military press. Gomez & Gonzalez looked good during the opening wrestling portions. Unfortunately, the rudo beatdown went a little long and they seemingly didn‘t have it in them to make up for it with a ferocious finale, although the rudos were dedicated to miscommunication spots. There was also some ref bullshit in the match, although the refs mannerisms were amusing and thankfully it never took center stage. I could see someone who has never seen French pro wrestling before digging this.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Blogger Bremenmurray said...

Zarak is Dave SmithLarsen and is married to international opera singer Stephanie Blyth.Started as a UK Pro Wrestler but now lives in Pennsylvania

9:52 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home