I apologize for once again dipping into the well of Fan Faves and Hidden Gems. I have done so for two reasons: first, because I have such a long list of suggestions from TJR readers, many of which are matches that I have not seen or do not remember well. Second, because this is a busy week for me, I just felt like watching a bit of wrestling. I hope you don’t mind. Let’s tuck in!
I have had to skip a good many recommendations, in order to get to some matches that did NOT involve the following: Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels, Chris Benoit, or The Undertaker. I’ve already covered a lot of matches involving these men, and I may very well go back to them but I decided for now to offer something different. I am trying my best to track and record everyone's suggestions. I appreciate them, and your patience as I happily wade through them.
RVD vs. Christian - Sept. 29, 2003 – Raw - Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship
Almost 11 years ago. Eleven! When I think back to what I was doing in September of 2003, it seems a lifetime ago, yet both of these men are still (somewhat) on the roster today. I like Christian’s beefier look (though this was pre-Wellness Program). Rob Van Dam looks slightly, um, less beefy (I guess this was pre-cheeseburgers). They get right to the violence, much to the crowd’s drooling delight. Jim Ross always adds a polished professionalism to the moment, by indicating that we’ll see this match in its entirety because they’ve had their final commercial break. I love that! He always knew just when to insert a bit of reality.
Speaking of reality, this match gives us insight into Christian’s recent injury-ridden years. He’s well known for ladder matches, and this one is no less brutal. He takes a LOT of nasty bumps. What a main event for Raw! RVD pulls out some interesting moves, including an unexpected long-held military press. That being said, this match also reveals Van Dam’s lack of flow. He seems to take more of a set-up-high-spot approach to the match, which comes off looking less fluid. This is a tightly-woven spot fest though, and both men showcase a lot of athleticism and resilience.
The time flies. I bet it would have been a blast to see live, and these fans are standing the entire time. For the viewers at home, we have the benefit of J.R. and The King talking only about this match – not the story between RVD and Christian, nor the story between anyone else – it’s all about the Intercontinental Championship. It is made to feel like an important title, and a big deal. Do you remember how it ends? It’s a fitting finish.
Thanks to Tony Kegger for recommending this.
Brain Busters vs. Hart Foundation – August 28, 1989 – Summer Slam
And now for something completely different. Step into the time machine with me, to the second Summer Slam event. Instead of some artsy Photoshopped graphic to advertise the show, we have the Mega Maniacs (Hogan and Beefcake) vs. Randy Savage and Zeus, except they’ve been painted by old ladies taking a night class because their husbands are always on business trips. Art like this gives me nostalgia goose bumps, because I have such fond memories of renting Coliseum videos from the store, and watching them over and over until I’d memorized the commentary.
This is the opening match, a non-title bout which strikes me as odd (why not just put the titles on the line, give it a sense of importance?). I was never a fan of the Brain Busters as a kid, and had only read about Tully and Arn in my treasured copies of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Once I finally got to see them wrestling in the WWF, I didn’t get what all the hype was about. Now, I understand that anyone who’s come from somewhere else must contend with The WWE Effect, that is, the dumbing-down of one’s wrestling and neutering of one’s personality. I can only count the recent rare cases of The Wyatt Family and The Shield as wrestlers whose gimmicks and talents have been preserved somewhat (though that’s coming from NXT; I can’t speak for their pre-NXT work).
Question: when wrestlers like Bret Hart and Ricky Steamboat left the WWF, did Vince McMahon tear up the sheet music and burn all copies of their entrance themes? Because when both men returned in their elder years, their entrance songs were crappier versions thereof. WAIT: I just researched it, and was very intrigued to learn that Steamboat’s original WWF music was called “Sirius/Eye In The Sky” by Alan Parsons Project. Dang, that simple guitar line was EXCELLENT. Understated and cool, even-tempered like Steamboat. So perhaps the usage rights ran out? I don’t know how these things work. And to add insult to disappointment, Steamboat embraced “The Dragon” name more literally, which meant he needed more oriental-sounding music I guess? Horrendous. And the Hart Foundation’s music really stood out in their era, also simple but well-suited to Bret’s “Hitman” persona. Sunglasses, leather jacket, excellence in execution. It looks like Bret’s theme was a home-grown WWF original, penned by Jimmy Hart himself – then updated with in-house composer Jim Johnston, who does most of the entrance themes, and updated Hart’s tune when he returned a few years ago. BAD MOVE, JIM. If Bret insists on maintaining that scraggly mane of hair and wearing the grampie jorts, then at least let him have the dignity of his original music. Oh, the humanity!
Have we even started this match yet? This is not at all indicative of how much caffeine I’ve had today. Okay, watching wrestling now.
Hmmm, interesting. Tony Shiavone wonders himself why the titles aren’t on the line, and Jesse Ventura explains that The Brain Busters weren’t the champs when the match was signed. Then he tries to heighten the drama a bit by saying the Hart Foundation will drop down in title contention if they can’t win this match, or be bumped to the front of the line if they win. Who knows where this decision came from – since we now live in an era when title matches get thrown onto a card 15 minutes prior – is it because of the Internet? I feel too old to sort it out. Speaking of old, The Brain Busters was a terrible name, and it didn’t help that they both looked like your uncle. Wrestlers need to be at least one of these things: strong, scary, cool, sexy, talented, or hilarious.
But you know what? These more mature eyes are seeing the Brain Busters in a different light. They go a long way towards making Neidhart look good. It’s really an old-fashioned pro wrestling match – no amateur grappling, no martial arts, no aerial moves, and nothing extreme – and so the only tricks are the tricks of wrestling itself. Psychology! Bumping! Selling! Facial expressions! Industry terms that I have no business dropping, but they’re the only words I feel can describe what these guys are showing us.
I’m not sure it was the best choice for an opening match, but for how much the crowd loves the Harts, and how much they hate Bobby Heenan at ringside. But the longer this match goes on, the more The Anvil looks like a beast, and The Hitman like a superstar. The wrestling uncles are pretty darn good. They were just barely showcased during all those 4-minute matches on Wrestling Challenge, and now I also see how brilliant it was to add Bobby Heenan to the mix.
Thanks Darryl Stewart, who is also my purveyor of interesting wrestling-related articles and hard-to-find match footage.
TJR Reality Week Results
Before I make the big reveal, I’d love to solicit your opinions on what kind of theme weeks you’d like to see us do here at TJR Wrestling. As you may have already heard, John Canton is soon celebrating his 5 years of recapping Raw, so I look forward to what he’ll do to commemorate the occasion. But beyond that, I’m sure we as writers would love to embark on other jointly-written or variations-on-a-theme. Send us your thoughts, using an form of social media!
Thank you all for reading our reality show pitches a couple of weeks ago. I was hoping for a bigger turn-out in terms of voting, but perhaps limiting the voting to Disqus or Twitter hindered that (and apparently these things quiet down shortly after WrestleMania for a while). It honestly doesn’t detract from what a blast I had writing my pitches, and reading everyone else’s. It was a pretty decisive victory for Matty J. Douglas. Here is his winning pitch for a WWE reality show. Congratulations Matt!
Deadliest Warrior: WWE Dream Matches Realized
Have any of the TJR faithful ever watched Deadliest Warrior? If not, here’s a short synopsis: This former Spike TV program would pose simple questions like what if a Spartan fought a Ninja, or what if the Yakuza were to take on The Mafia, or even what would happen if a zombie hoard faced a vampire coven, who would win the fight? They would explain the history behind each competitor, gather tangible data like effectiveness of each warrior’s weapons/shields through real simulations, and then feed the results of those simulations into a computer which would use that data to tell us which warrior would come out on top in a fight.
Imagine the same technology and the same general concept being used to give us a show that would pose and answer the questions wrestling fans have always had like what if Hulk Hogan fought John Cena? Who would win in a battle between The Rock and Shawn Michaels? Jake The Snake vs. Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler vs. Mr. Perfect, Rey Mysterio vs. Ricky Steamboat, CM Punk vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, all these matches are possible with this show and this technology.
I would definitely tune in on a weekly basis to see a team of experts, scientists, doctors and of course wrestlers discuss the legacies of both theoretical competitors, illustrate their strengths and weaknesses, test out the damage that each would be able to do in their prime, and plug it all into a simulator to give us a 10-15 minute animated match between wrestlers we will in most cases never see wrestle each other. The scientific slant on a look into the history books is enough of a draw to me, but seeing them put on an animated simulation of the bout at the end would be icing on the cake. The impossible can be made possible with this reality show!
Thanks for reading, and I hope to write about Daniel Bryan next week. Looking forward to the research! Tweet me @kickyhick or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss these two matches, comment on this series of columns, or offer ideas for theme weeks. Happy May 2-4 to my fellow Canucks (May Run to those of you whose region calls it that, ya weirdos).