Segunda Caida

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Saturday, March 30, 2024


Akira Taue vs. Ashura Hara AJPW 10/28/88

MD: This isn't long, but if I'm not mistaken, it might be the earliest Taue singles match on tape. And honestly? It wildly overachieves. I'm used to 89 and even into 90 Taue who is trying to figure out how to be Taue. This is not that guy. This is a big athletic guy trying to figure any of it out. And he's trying to do so against Hara who is stoic and brutal and ready to kill him. Taue hits a Thesz press right at the bell and the crowd ooohs. Great, effective start. The first two minutes of this are pretty sprint light, all building to Hara clocking him with the ring bell on the floor. Throughout this, Taue will throw chops and kicks and there really is the sense that he's learning in the moment, even from a purely kayfabe perspective. He's trying to figure out what angle to throw his strikes from, what technique to use, how to get enough mustard behind the kicks to actually impact Hara, despite his size and presumably strength advantage. It means that every four or five shots from him equals one of Hara's. It means that when he hits the hundred hand sumo slap in the corner and it doesn't register and he escalates to outright smacks across Hara's face, Hara is going to clean his clock with one massive retribution shot of his own. It means when he's able to score four or five kicks, Hara's able to cut him right off with just one off his own off the ropes, even if both of them will keel over after the fact. 

When it comes to the actual execution, Taue bumps big, most especially for the clotheslines at the end, but there is a sense of him telegraphing his stuff (especially the missed stuff) way more than it ought to. We get a great camera shot of Hara managing the same exact thing, a missed clothesline in the corner, with a lot more intensity and grace. I think, and this is just a guess, that Taue didn't know enough to get in his own way yet. He has some single matches with Taue over a year later, right as Taue was on his way out, and in those, he tries to fight from underneath and show fire and I almost see more of that here, naturally, against Hara. Watching the AJPW mainstays this early in their development is so interesting, because you can see all sorts of possibilities and realities that didn't happen. This Taue, one that was more than willing to run into Hara's open hand, and then throw his entire body right back at him, was a different sort of Taue than the one we'd eventually get.

ER: I can't get enough Taue, the man who took over as my favorite pillar sometime post-Misawa death and together we haven't looked back since. I just like how he moves and how he falls and how he sells on his feet. He's a permanently old man and this is the youngest I've seen the old man doing his thing, Akira Taue with the fluffed up city pop hair of All Japan Young Boys. Taue is an athlete who is clumsy in form and clumsy in fall in all of the best ways. He is in his first year - which means he has been thrown to the wolves for over a hundred matches already on the Kings Road schedule - and can barely budge the Hara the Tank. It's one of those fun reaction worthy young boy matches where a brick solid stoic badass in his 40s lets a young boy hit him as hard as he can while he barely budges until he shows him several times how to throw proper kicks to the ribs and butts to the head. Ashura Hara barely reacts to Taue's slaps and yet also feels the need to bash him with a ring bell a couple minutes in. Early! Taue sells slaps really well and Hara knocks him silly really well. He lets Taue kick him in the chest and back if it's hurting him he's wearing it all inside. He catches a kick when he decides to catch a kick - casually, like he was just throwing Taue's leg around with his buddy - and gets to his feet with an uppercut to Taue's left cheekbone. Taue absorbs all of Hara's clotheslines and kicks really well, and Hara literally just clotheslines and kicks him until pinning him. They all looked great and none of them looked clean. 

Fabuloso Blondy/Guerrero Negro vs. Stuka/Apolo Estrada CMLL 1989

MD: Three falls in fifteen minutes or so. Blondy was in his full glory, and Guerrero Negro, sans mask, seemed just happy to be there with him saluting along to the anthem. Tecnicos charged in immediately thereafter. I haven't seen a ton of Apolo Estrada but I like what I have seen. He's very charismatic and over the top in his own particular way. Blondy fouled him to lose the first fall but take over the momentum which is not something you see often actually. They focused in on his stomach and took the segunda after a solid beatdown. In the tercera, Estrada came back after shrugging Blondy into the post on a ram attempt on the floor. Nice pop for it. The fans were into these guys. He got some solid revenge on Blondy's stomach, too, which is again not something you see a lot of focus on. As they cycled through Blondy did a sleeper, which, again isn't usually part of the diction of lucha libra. Finish was fun with Stuka getting Guerrero Negro but Estrada missing a big leap off the top only for Blondy to get overconfident and rolled up. It was a good, over act and here was another look at it, brief, a little slight, but still enjoyable.

Bret Hart/Virgil vs. Ted Dibiase/IRS WWF 8/16/91

MD: This came out of nowhere. They started running this matchup in July, with Duggan sometimes teaming with Virgil. It's still very early in the Dibiase/IRS pairing. We don't have a ton of them with Sherri so it's fun to see it. Super hot crowd and you can hardly blame them as there was always something to look at here. Just having Sherri out there meant that there was a constant reaction to everything that was happening. That meant lots of attempts to interfere which didn't come to anything but drew the eye (and the fancam) to holding her head during a double noggin knocker, to taunting every single person in the arena when Dibiase and IRS finally took over. I almost can't comment on some of Rotunda's holds because the cameraman was more interested in seeing what Sherri was up to. There was a long, long shine here with a couple of false calls on the heels taking over but some very fun stuff, like Bret feigning an eyerake from the outside from IRS (that never happened) which let Virgil unload on Dibiase illegally and this great bit where Virgil did an arm wringer to IRS and then Rotunda's fist right into Dibiase's face. I'm sure I must have seen that spot at least a few times but it felt new to me. The heels had to work three times harder (and dirtier) than the babyfaces to get anything which, I suppose, made the fans care all the more when they finally took over. There was a ton of heat for it at least. Bret ended up taking maybe 80% of this match though Virgil seemed plenty competent when he was in there. Finish was probably what people usually got around this time, with Virgil, almost, almost getting to triumph over Dibiase only to have it stolen out from underneath him (by a loaded purse). Summerslam was just around the corner though.

ER: I have bad taste in wrestling, so this kind of thing is the kind of new match that excites me. I love seeing new WWF pairings from this era, matches that didn't exist in any other form. They ran this tag on a few house shows leading up to Summerslam '91, the peak of Virgil's career and Bret's first singles match title win. Other than these few house show tags, Bret and Virgil rarely associated. Both babyfaces, both careers on the upswing, both in wildly different places one year later. Virgil's World Title Challenge the next year would be by far Bret's shortest match of his first World Title run. This is our lone Bret/Virgil partnership on film and it's a really good tag match, and every person in the match is really great at their role in the match. Bret gets loud crowd sympathy out of getting out of a long chinlock, Dibiase reacts perfectly to a hot tag, IRS works faster and hits heavier than later Money Inc., and the timing of everything is pinpoint. 

But this is a Sensational Sherri. Whatever single Montreal man snuck their camcorder to horsily record Sherri's every single movement at the importance of anything else on the show, was correct to do so. Regardless of the intentions of a lone Quebecois cameraman probably named Edouard, this camera belonged on Sherri. This was one of the hardest working, entertaining, constant motion and broad breathless interaction that few managers in history could replicate. Sherri works an incredible and active manager role with the best looking legs of her life, running around the ring to stop and rub specific fans' faces in it, shouting specific encouragement to IRS or Dibiase in between interacting with fans, physically interact with all four men in the match multiple times ranging from big to small ways, all while adding to the match by getting the crowd more invested in the match by also being more invested in her. She is incredible to watch. It's like she's acting a big scene out for her own biopic; an incredible confident performance that is bigger than any TV performance. You put this performance of hers in any territory and she is a megastar. 

This is a gem of a tag. Every participant did a leaping punch off the middle or top buckle, and any match with jumping or falling punches is going to be a house show gem. But this is a Sensational Sherri match, a match I'm not sure I've seen anyone work better. That it plays like a documentary scene about a Great Manager due to our French New Wave handheld with swirling squeals of in the red crowd noise makes it a wrestling match that should be referenced going forward. 

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