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Found 8 results

  1. AWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Bockwinkel vs Jumbo Tsuruta - AJPW Budokan 2/23/84 Special Guest Referee Terry Funk It had been almost four years since Giant Baba had won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Harley Race. While Jumbo had been challenging for the NWA World Title since the mid-70s, the pressure must have been mounting for him to follow in Baba's foot steps and finally win the big one. All Japan, NWA and AWA were booked in a tough position where the American promotions did not want to a Japanese wrestler representing them, but All Japan needed to prove to their fan base their ace was a legitimate world class pro wrestler. In 1984, it was high time for Jumbo Tsuruta to avoid the choker label and he did just that by pinning Nick Bockwinkel to win the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. He did Baba one better by actually finishing the tour with his reign intact and actually defending the championship in America. You see Baba spent a ton of money to cement Jumbo's status as the man by buying him this reign. In return, Verne got actually what he needed a gaijin transitional champion to go from ace heel Nick Bockwinkel to his prospective new hot babyface act, Rick Martel. Baba would use a similar model of gaijin (Hansen, Doc and Gordy) to transition titles among the natives. It was a win-win for everyone involved and of course the big winners were the Japanese faithful that were able to see their hero win the World Heavyweight Championship from Bockwinkel after being thwarted repeatedly by cheap finishes. The match starts with Bockwinkel trying to end the match early with a surprise cross body, but only gets two. Bockwinkel works an extensive arm work segment that is just awesome. Bockwinkel is wrenching Jumbo's arm in all directions, applying pressure with his head and knees (THAT IS A LEGAL KNEE TO THE HEAD, Terry Funk yells, which makes me chuckle). Jumbo is always struggling, teasing escapes, but Bock uses a multitude of nefarious tactics to keep him down. One of my favorite spots of the match was Bock's super slick double wristlock takedown into a rolling short arm scissors just really strong work there. Another fun spot was Jumbo trying to show Funk that he keeps getting pulled down by the hair only to be pulled down by the hair again. Jumbo finally is able to string some offense together in the form of an enziguiri into a high knee, but only gets one. Bock retreats and tries to go back to the arm, but Jumbo is rolling now with two piledrivers and a Thesz Press. The action is so hot and heavy that it spills to the outside. Bock unloads with heavy blows on the outside. Hey there is the 80s spot the head to head collision, but really does not lead anywhere in this match. I can't say I am a fan of that spot. Jumbo is throwing closed fists and ignoring Funk's admonishments. Jumbo will not be denied tonight and the crowd is pumped. Bockwinkel goes back to a top wristlock to get a nearfall, but Jumbo counters with a Russian Legsweep. Nice! It is bombs away from Jumbo with a variety of suplexes and he has the champion on the ropes literally as he has to use the ropes to break Jumbo's Boston Crab. The Japanese fans have seen this story before and usually it does not end well for their boy. Bockwinkel shoves Jumbo into Funk and if I was a fan I would be smelling screwjob and Bockwinkel hits two piledrivers and a bodyslam, but nothing doing. As usual, Bockwinkel chucks his opponent to the outside to buy himself some time. When it comes time to bring him in the hardway, Jumbo floats over and BACK DROP DRIVER! 1-2-3! Jumbo wins the World Title! This was an interesting story as you get the sense that Bockwinkel clearly sees Jumbo as a massive threat to his title reign. He tries to win quickly with a cross body from there he dictates the pace and tries to take Jumbo out via arm work. He is keeping Jumbo grounded and we find out why later in the match. Bockwinkel does not have a prayer in a bomb throwing match. Once Jumbo is able to break free of the arm work and establish himself, he just starts throwing everything at Bockwinkel to finally win the championship. The tease all the usual screwjob finishes (double countout, ref bump), but this time the fans get to home happy with Jumbo Tsuruta winning the AWA World Title. Jumbo's long term selling could have been better. Bockwinkel was awesome in this, cocky in control and desperate on defense. The feel good ending elevates the great work in this to a classic match in my eyes. ****1/2
  2. AWA World Heavyweight Champion Rick Martel vs Mr. Saito - AWA Winnipeg 4/24/85 Oh how I have missed RICKY MARTEL TIME~! BABY! WOOOOOOOOOO! While this is indeed a great match, we do not get to see that classic Martel fired up comeback, but what we do see is top notch. Mr. Saito is somehow I greatly enjoyed when I was watching AWA footage randomly like two years ago especially his tag team with Bock. I remember really liking this match and nothing has changed. This is probably the best execution of a fundamental wrestling match you will ever see. The beauty is in how basic it is and how they are taking their time to really put over the moves. The story of the match is power vs speed and they stick to it from beginning to end. Martel establishes the speed game early with armdrags, but Mr. Torture wraps him in a side headlock and uses the hair at will to keep him locked in. Martel is trying to his best to create movement to gain advantage and with a monkey flip and armdrag he finds his opening working the arm. They do two great things to keep us hooked in this match. Martel is constantly struggling and when he does get out of the headlock there is a ton of movement before Saito is able to wrap him back up in a headlock or Martel gets the armbar applied. Saito transitions to the middle of the match with an eyerake and looks for the sleeper. I believe Ron Trongard lets us know that Saito learned this from Bockwinkel, but has not perfected it yet giving Martel a chance. Way to protect the move, Mr. Announcer man! Martel sold the eye-rake great and he is awesome at the glassy eyed selling here in the sleeper. Martel finally forces Saito to take a header and it is partial Ricky Martel Time, but we do get a piledriver and when Saito is a pussy about it and puts his foot on the ropes Martel gives that knee a seat drop, which is my all-time favorite AWA spot. Martel hits a suplex and backbreaker to set up his slingshot splash (won him the World Championship), but he crashes and burns! Has his speed cost him the match? Saito is such a great offensive powerhouse rattling off the backdrop driver, Russian Legsweep and Scorpion Deathlock and just looks so fucking boss. In the moment of the match, Martel literally claws into the mat and pulls himself to the ropes. DAMN! That is commitment! Saito having beaten him down with power plays right into Martel's hand with a whip, which allows Martel to use his movement to quickly turn defense into offense with a springboard reverse cross body with the flash pin. I loved how that played into the power vs. speed dynamic with Martel turning the match at the snap of the fingers. It was a basic story, but everyone was totally 100% committed. Mr. Saito brought the badass offense, Martel crushed it in the selling department, they established a narrative early and followed it through to the end, great match! ****1/4
  3. AWA World Heavyweight Champion Rick Martel vs Nick Bockwinkel - AWA Winnipeg 9/20/84 WOW! Until the finish, I think this was the best match I have seen so far as part of my 80s watching and is definitely neck and neck with Flair vs Kerry from August of 1982. It featured some of the best selling I have ever witnessed in pro wrestling. It was not just from Martel. It was from both Martel and Bockwinkel. It felt like a war of attrition between the two best wrestlers in the world. It was a game of inches and they were both so good that it was just going to be the details the decided the winner. The small detail was Bockwinkel's nasty little short jab to the ribs. It was his great equalizer. Martel was so focused on his kneework that he would leave himself exposed to these quick punches and that eventually took their toll on Martel physically. The story really became who could overcome their injuries Bockwinkel with his knee and Martel with his midsection. Bockwinkel wrestled most of the match on his knees and he proves why he is one of the all-time best by selling his pain and desperation throughout the match. In this match, Bockwinkel tries to start the match hot and heavy, but he gets overzealous and hits a high knee to the turnbuckle. Martel just pounces on this mistake like in the Lawler match with toeholds and strikes relentlessly. Bockwinkel sells the agony of the holds in such an engaging way that you never lose interest. Bock and Martel trade blows within the toehold and when that does not go well for Bock; he hits a quick jab to Martel's midsection, which forces him off his body. Bock with JYD heabutts to Martel's midsection. Oh shit, this is my kinda match! He pounds Martel's side as best he can with his good knee. This is just dripping with struggle and urgency. Bockwinkel collapses in the middle of the ring while Martel writhes in pain in the corner. Holy shit! Bock uses the wrong knee on a knee lift and can't capitalize soon enough. Martel hits a kneecrusher! Martel is back to work with seatdrops so Bockwinkel just grabs him by his hair and punches him in the head. He forces Martel out of the ring and is basically working a King of the Mountain from his ass and it is awesome! Martel picks the leg and wraps it around the post. Have I gone to Heaven? Bock saves his knee by trying to claw Martel's eyes out. This was no normal eye gouge, he was getting in there. He puts Martel in a stretch where he can constantly maneuver him to expose the ribs to his rabbit punches without the ref seeing. Martel punches to the knee to get out of it and kicks the leg out from under him. Yep, I died and have gone to Heaven. Martel rides high and Bock applies a body scissors, but his leg is so fucked up he can't hold him. They knock heads in the middle of the ring and it is time to hit the finish. Martel goes for the kill first, but misses the reverse cross body from the middle rope. Martel fires through Bock's offense and it looks like he has more gas in his tank. Slingshot splash EATS KNEES! THOSE RIBS! OW! The selling is tres magnifique. They work through a barrage of nearfalls with neither having enough to put the other way. However, the ref gets bumped, Mr. Saito is able to throw salt in the eyes of Martel who has Bockwinkel dead to rites in the Boston Crab. 1-2-3!?!?!?!?!? Bock wins??? After much deliberation, the belt is returned to Martel. I fucking hate that finish. I don't care if it is babyface or heel, it is just stupid bullshit. It is definitely worse when a babyface wins, you get the pop and then rob people. Still even letting the people see Martel get pinned and not lose only hurts the moment when he will actually loses the title. The finish is the only thing that keeps this from *****, but fuck if this is the tenth best match of the AWA in the 80s, I am in for quite treat! This was fucking tremendous. Small critique would be that they just had one or two more highspots down the stretch to take the drama level to the next level. I am thinking a Bockwinkel sleeper and maybe a piledriver or two. It does not have to be an AWA Jumbo match with a ton of highspots, but a couple more would have been enough to overcome my least favorite finish ever. Enough negativity because this is my favorite match so far. It is a master's class in selling and should be absolutely mandatory to be watched by all wrestlers young and old in the industry today. ****3/4
  4. AWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Bockwinkel vs Jeff Jarrett - Mid-South Coliseum 5/4/87 One of my favorite genre of matches is the veteran champion up against the overmatched, but zealous young lion. It is a match when done correctly that everyone wins. The young lion will look strong in a competitive loss and the champion reminds us why he is indeed the champion. I can't think two better people to really excel in this match type. Due to footage limitations, Bockwinkel is the veteran champion. That's the lens we see Bockwinkel through. Yes, we have 70s footage with him & Ray Stevens as the tag champions, but the majority comes from his excellent 80s run in the AWA as the elder champion wrestling youngsters like Martel and Hennig. Now for the modern fan, it may seem a little strange why Jeff Jarrett would be perfect in the role of plucky, young babyface. Early on his career, Jarrett actually had a shit load of babyface charisma. Where it all went, I have not a clue. At 1987, we are very early on in his career. If we got 1987 Bockwinkel against 1991 Jarrett, we could have got something really special, but as is it is a really good match in this genre. Jarrett is a late substitute for Lawler and Lance sells this as a huge opportunity for the young Jarrett. They both play their roles excellently. Bockwinkel gets his way early and seems like this will be a blowout, but Jarrett starts getting that movement going. Bockwinkel, ever-calm, breaks Jarrett's momentum by going outside of the ring. Bockwinkel is always ensuring he is dictating the pace. In the turning point of the match, Bockwinkel rams his shoulder into the turnbuckle. I loved how Bockwinkel subtly sells it. He uses the ref to buy some time and stands so that the bad shoulder is away from Jarrett, but Jarrett is here to win and he quickly gets a top wristlock. Bock tries to buck him off three times, but it is no use. Jarrett is tenacious. They work some fun reverse hope spots for Bockwinkel getting out of a hold, but being flustered making an uncharacteristic mistakes that allows Jarrett to go back to holds on the arm. Lance starts selling the idea of a massive upset unfolding before our eyes. Bockwinkel and Jarrett trade blows in the middle of the ring. Watching this footage, you would think that Jarrett would have been one of the best babyfaces of the 90s or at least a great star for the 90s, just a great fired up wrestler. Jarrett goes up top for the missile dropkick, crashing and burning and Bock rolls up him up for the win. Bockwinkel was at a point that he did not need that strong of a win and he really gave a strong performance in terms of elevating Jarrett. Jarrett kept it basic, but he told a strong story from his move selection and body language. He tried to press his advantage, high risk means the rewards may be big, but more often than the house wins. ****
  5. AWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Bockwinkel vs Jerry Lawler - Mid-South Coliseum 1/1/84 Watch this match for Lawler comeback! Like right now! Fast forward past the nine minute top wristlock! Watch Lawler unload a feverish can of whoop ass like I have never seen before! I was infected with his energy and was cheering as wildly as if I was in Mempho on New Year's Day 1984. Unfortunately, a 30 second spurt of unadulterated awesomeness is not enough to make a match excellent. The one knock you hear murmured about Bock is he will sit in a hold. It is hard to describe his nine minute top wristlock as him sitting idly, but it was not exactly exciting either. You can only do so many test of strengths and failed armdrag escapes in nine minutes before even the most old school fan will become bored. Thank God for Lance Russell! Who was just stupendous on this. Let me just digress into the modern product and apply lessons of the past on the modern product. Bockwinkel trash talks Lawler in the top wristlock saying he can't wrestle. Russell says that is a lie that Lawler is a perfectly fine scientific wrestler, maybe not at the level, but he does not possess in technical acumen he makes up for in determination, heart and one helluva right. Where the hell is this presentation with Cena?!!?!?!? Lawler is literally on commentary! Why does he not extol Cena's virtues stronger? When HHH was cutting his knees out from under him and encouraging the fans to chant "You cant wrestle" at the top babyface. Where was the entire company to say this is a boldface lie and even if it is true, Cena makes up for it with hustle and fight! Jesus! It did not have to be this way, WWE! Eventually, Lawler uses quick repeated armdrag attempts to escape the interminable top wristlock. Of course they cut to commercial and we miss Lawler kicking Bock's ass. In total, we get about 20 minutes of a 32 minute and 9 minutes of it was top wristlock. Who the hell produced this match? Bockwinkel and Lawler are giving a master class of selling in the last 10 minutes of this match. Bock is staggering using the ref to recover and finally crowds Lawler to get a kneelift. Bock is hitting these kneelifts just to keep Lawler at bay. Lawler hits a cross body and Bock presses him out to the floor. Bock is dazed and just tosses Lawler into every hard object and now both men are worse for wear. Lawler is about ready to make his comeback, but it is just a tease he knocks Bock on his ass, but he is so out of it that he falls on his. Damnit, all this selling is making up for that top wristlock. Bock sends Lawler into the ref hard. Jerry Calhoun took some serious punishment in this match and throughout his career. Bock gets a wicked eye gouge and looks to capitalize, but Lawler is pissed! What ensues is just one of the most awesome punch combinations in the history of the pro wrestling! Watch it! Bock punches the ref in a daze. Lawler floors Bock and counts his own pin. The ref calls for the bell and raises The King's hand and it is a massive pop. I hated that finish in Kevin Von Erich and hate it here! What is worst they don't reverse it immediately! Watch it for the comeback and the selling, but this is not a great match. ***1/2
  6. AWA World Heavyweight Champion Rick Martel vs Jerry Lawler - Nashville 10/12/85 Ornery Rick Martel is awesome! He seems totally pissed that he is even in this match in a really good way. He is just pissed off from the start. it is a really cool dynamic for the usual white meat babyface to play a heel. It is not like he is bad person. He is just having a shitty day and it shines through in the match. So he is more prickly than usual, it allows the fans to be decidedly pro-Lawler without Martel compromising his character. Lance Russell and his partner really play up his unwonted behavior. In addition, it makes for an excellent match and really Rick Martel best match as a heel I have ever seen. This is a very good Lawler performance, but I think Martel carried the day in this one. After failing at achieving the world championship in past efforts, you see Lawler has really put a lot of pressure on himself to win this match. Right from the outset, you see Lawler going for three different types of pinning combinations to keep the champ off balances and when Martel does give Lawler a clean break, Lawler punches him right in the mouth and goes for the pin. Lawler is here to win the title and nothing else. I love that focus. Martel is on edge and the fans chants for Lawler really gets under his skin. Martel tries to fire up and Lawler just makes him look foolish. So Martel kicks The King's leg out from under him. Martel works a masterful match around attacking Lawler's leg, which the announcers note that he had a severe injury that caused Jerry to miss most of 1980. Lawler does a great job of selling Martel's torture of the leg, which includes a variety of stomps, strikes, toeholds and a figure-4. Lawler is kicking him off, but Martel is using closed fists and the hair to relentlessly attack the leg. When Martel misses a seat drop, Lawler fires up, but he has to fire up on one leg. While the punches are finding their mark, he is hesitating because of the bum wheel, which makes him miss a fist drop and Martel pounces on the leg again. Love it! Martel misses on an elbow drop. Lawler is up and it is now or never! HE PULLS THE STRAP DOWN! Martel is great at rocking back for The King's huge punches in the corner. Lawler goes for a running fist, but runs into the ref. Martel wants the spinning toehold, but comes away with Jerry's boot. He wallops him! Lawler kicks out. Now he has the boot and clocks the champ. The ref sees that and DQs Lawler. THWARTED! BULLSHIT! I did not love the finish for quickly Lawler was able to recover and hit Martel with the boot. They were better off having Lawler duck Martel, get the boot and clock Martel. Lawler sends the crowd home happy by hitting a charging Martel with a boot. Besides the finish, this is a hellacious championship match. One of my favorite championship matches, I have seen in a long time. Lawler wants to win so bad early, but Martel takes advantage of a weakness and Lawler has to mount a classic comeback, but a series of unfortunate circumstances means the World Championship is just outside his grasp again. Martel's performance here is awesome! Just great character work conveying himself as a frustrated wrestler that just wants to get this over with, but has a tough time early on and then is just relentless on Lawler's leg. I have the No DQ match with Bock over this, but just by a hair, great, great stuff! ****1/2
  7. AWA World Heavyweight Champion Jumbo Tsuruta vs Nick Bockwinkel - AJPW Osaka 2/26/84 This is the oft-forgotten about rematch from the same tour that Jumbo initially won the title. There is a reason it is forgotten, it turns out. I had every intention of rewatching Jumbo's title victory, which I really liked, but I just selected the Jumbo vs Bock match from February 1984 without paying much heed. In retrospect, the fact the match was in Osaka and it did not begin with a Jumbo cross-body should have told me I was watching the wrong match. In my defense, Terry Funk was also the special guest ref in this match, which added to the confusion. If you ever wanted to see how Bockwinkel did in a spotfest well now we know because this was just all over place. Now understanding this was the rematch does at least explain Bockwinkel's aggression from the outset. He had a challenger's mentality. I love that about 80s matches. It is not married to the babyface/heel dynamic, but instead lets the circumstances dictate people's strategies. The majority of Bockwinkel's matches you will see are him as champion. He is calm looking to execute his strategy, but he is not the aggressor. He is waiting for the opponent to make the mistake. As the challenger, he can't afford the same luxury and he needs to take it to Jumbo. Bock is content in the early part to control the head and whenever Jumbo looks to break he grabs some hair. He rams Jumbo's head into the turnbuckle twice, but Jumbo gets wise on the third attempt and shoves him off. To preserve his advantage, Bock hits a quick piledriver, but too close to the ropes and Jumbo powders. At this point, they seemingly just trade moves willy-nilly. It is all action so it is entertaining don't get me wrong, but does not leave a lasting impression. Jumbo hits his high knee, his Thesz Press and gets revenge with a piledriver of his own. Bock hits a sick drop toehold (Im such a mark for that move) and even puts Jumbo in his Boston Crab. We get a short King of the Mountain and Jumbo fires up (take that Jumbo haters!) and the crowd is rocking now. Jumbo puts him in the Boston Crab! Bock gets a quick uppercut to the balls. At this point, the match actually gets really good and is of the caliber that I have come to expect of their matches together. Bock chucks him out and then hits a brainbuster. Bock is finally showing some emotion and he is incensed. Throws him out again, now into the post, he beats him down on the apron, but Jumbo's leg gets caught in the ropes and he relentlessly stomps it and Funk has to pull him off multiple times. Bockwinkel applies the figure-4; Jumbo is fighting and they tumble to the outside. Bock won't let go and gets an Indian Deathlock. Bock tries to make it back in the ring and Jumbo pulls him down for the double countout. Really weird finish. It makes total sense when they pull that shit with Flair or Bock as the champ forcing the double countout. Jumbo as the babyface pulling that shit is just weird. Did they really need to protect Bock? Bock had been champion for years in Japan, I don't think a couple clean jobs would hurt him. Plus, Bock did not even get the belt back so there was no rematch to protect. The stretch run was really, really good, but the rest of the match was all over the place with each one not really taking time to sell (Jumbo was selling better than Bock). I have seen plenty Jumbo vs Bock and this is the least of their matches to me. ***
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