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MATCH REVIEW: Fabulous Freebirds vs Von Erichs (07-04-84)




Even if you weren't watching World Class in 1984, it's hard for this type of intense brawling to not make you nostalgic for the brawls of wrestling's past.

July 4, 1984
World Class Championship Wrestling
Independence Day Star Wars
Fort Worth, Texas
Badstreet Match 


It's pretty clear what we're getting when a match is billed as a street fight or any type of brawl in modern wrestling. Ultimately, the match will build to a huge spot with someone going through a table, landing on thumbtacks, or being set on fire, the crowd will chant, "Holy shit!", and we'll all go about our evening. It wasn't always this way, but when so much of the "personal issues" used to hype matches are so clearly just a way to fill time and are so transparently phony to even the least cynical among us, maybe it's hard for it to not be this way. It's hard to fault the wrestlers for this regression too much. When they aren't booked in meaningful, relatable situations, they have to go farther to manufacture the excitement they create by trade, working against the booking tide just as much as they work without it.

If we look at Duggan-DiBiase, the Doom-Horsemen match at Starrcade '90, or the Cactus-Sullivan vs Nasty Boys match at Slamboree '94, to name only a few, the best brawls of previous generations had a few things in common. The wrestlers dressed for a fight instead of dressing for a match to get it over as a departure from the norm. They also kept the match relatively short. The highspots were derived from taking actions that would normally result in a disqualification -- and the match continuing! -- or for the babyfaces finding ways to do unto the heels what is normally done unto them on a level playing field. So the best moments ended up as low blows, babyfaces using weapons, heels being isolated for babyface double-teaming, and all of that. Call it Wrestling Ice Cream for the fans that usually try to eat healthy, topped with plasma syrup to boot. 

The best thing about this match is the short duration. It's not the least bit convincing for a brawl with such ramped-up intensity to last thirty minutes. The longest matches in the classic view of what professional wrestling is are typically the most sportsmanlike wrestling encounters pitting evenly matched wrestlers with great stamina against each other. This is why brawling and cheating are called "shortcuts". Such things seem like Basic Wrestling Psychology 101, but they get lost when wrestlers, and those who produce them, stop thinking about wrestling with the "What if it was all a shoot?" mentality. To paraphrase Bret Hart, isn't it so much more fun to pretend that something as ridiculous as pro wrestling is deathly serious?

It's so much easier for wrestlers to have a great brawl when they are complimented by the aesthetics and setting. When most matches are somewhat scientific, a brawl is a big deal. When the wrestlers can avoid cheesy in-house productions in favor of popular music that everyone knows, as the Von Erichs did with their "La Grange" entrance here, the mood is more inviting and has more widespread appeal. When the wrestlers wear street clothes when they aren't wrestling, wrestling gear to traditional matches, and bandanas, jeans, and boots to a fight, it all means more and is more distinct. When weapons aren't conveniently placed around the ring, it's easier to buy the action. And when the brawl is over quickly, it's easy enough to suspend disbelief and question if we might have seen something legitimate. 

The idea that most fans ever thought wrestling was real was something I never took seriously, but I do think most fans, both then and now, want to at least find the possibility that this rivalry is real to be plausible because it creates a more fun viewing experience. Wrestling fans want to follow along, and they will, but those in wrestling have to lead them somewhere. The Freebirds and Von Erichs took fans on a five-year journey that certainly had good and bad qualities, hot periods and cold periods, but it was also a rivalry that defined pro wrestling in Texas for a generation of fans. This match, its setting, its action level, and its respect for its own mythology, is one of the reasons why.



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