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Found 27 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 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
  3. Yes I know. This goes 45 minutes and we all can't stand that! But bear with me. I love me a good 7 minute Velocity match, but I also love me a 45 minute title match, when it's good, and this is good. I know we live in a fast paced age and people can't sit down and concentrate on a piece of entertainment for 40 minutes anymore. But for me, it's basically like watching an epic movie that's about two men fighting to death. That is the strange fascination of wrestling, forever and always. With the way this is filmed and the slightly weird sound mix, it kind of feels like a movie too. They are wrestling in this bright ring surrounded by folks in colorful 70s clothes, and above them is only darkness. The action in this bout was kept extremely simple, and in a way the audience may have been the third worker in this match carrying the action, as the arena was just trembling with excitement to see Jumbo claim the title. I am not the biggest fan of either guy, and in terms of brilliant moves there wasn't much to see, as they kept the bout nice and simple, but the selling was spot on, and they painted the time in such a way that the match just flew by. Call me oldfashioned, but no amount of neck breaking suplex moves or daring stunts is as endearing to me as seeing a wrestling match that has two guys working a dozen variations on the most basic of holds. Then you watch as the match turns into this intricate struggle, with Bock making a one armed comeback by kicking the dogshit out of Jumbo's kidney as the audience gets nervous, and then Jumbo stepping forward and FEELING IT and just chopping away at Bock, and this match turns into this really intricate struggle. They were selling the moves in such a way that I felt any well placed blow at the right time could turn the tide, and Jumbo here puts on maybe his greatest performance that I've ever seen as he does this brilliant one legged comeback and then some of the best leg selling ever caught on film that you selling nazis really really got to see. Then there's of course the "travelling champ makes the local yokel look like he could take the title" trope but this wasn't that, this was Jumbo the hopeful japanese superathlete making minced meat of Bock while all the folks in the audience no matter their background will him on. Then add in a bunch of great 70s spots, awesome Cobra Twist, teasing of the Butterfly Suplex, Bock making use of the ring, epic blood, Jumbo having all these great rushes where it looks like he is kicking Bock into a smear, and outrageous finish that decides the match by a whisker, and you have yourself a classic. Beautiful beautiful bout.
  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 Southern Heavyweight Champion Nick Bockwinkel vs Jerry Lawler - Mid-South Coliseum 11/8/82 Title vs Hair No DQ match Nick Bockwinkel is at his sadistic best in this No Disqualification bout where Lawler has put his hair on the line against Nick Bockwinkel's Southern Heavyweight Championship. Lance Russell always lets us know that Lawler is a slow starter, but he picked one helluva night to have an ultra slow start. Bockwinkel absolutely creamed him in the first five minutes. It all began with Bock using the hair to maneuver Lawler into the and hitting him with a huge forearm sledge. After that, he just teed off at will and was getting in some great shots. One palm strike really messed up Lawler's vision and had him rolling to the outside. Bockwinkel was so relentless the ref had to pull him off. It is No DQ, but within reason and the ref needs to ensure the safety of both men. Just when you think, Lawler is going to lose his hair, he comes back with a headbutt that may have been a bit south of the border. Lawler does what he does best punch himself out of trouble. When he goes for some more testicular violence, the ref won't allow it. Lawler has to settle for the piledriver, but Bock puts his foot on the rope. Bockwinkel retaliates with his own punch to the netheregions. Bockwinkel works one helluva heat segment. He busts Lawler open underneath the eye according to Lance and his punches look great. He throws Lawler to the outside and bounces his head off the table and punches him so hard it sends him back into the third row. Everybody deserves a front row seat. Bock is the man! He tosses Lawler over the top rope on the other side. He sends Lawler face first into the metal post, which draws an audible gasp. It has to be mentioned Lawler is giving one of helluva selling performance. Bock wants the piledriver now that would be something. Lawler reverses and sends Bock into the ref. That weasel, Jimmy Hart, blasts Lawler with a foreign object, but no ref. Lawler kicks out at two. Lawler is absorbing Bock's punches and Lawler pulls the strap down. The crowd goes wild as Lawler starts rocking. Bock takes some huge bumps and Lawler looks great. It takes three flying fist drops for Lawler to get his first pinfall victory over the World Champion in five attempts! A little abrupt on the finish, but this an awesome fight. Bockwinkel checks the holds at the door and matches Lawler blow for blow. Lawler is a great seller and when it comes time to make that comeback, I am thinking there may be few better. ****1/2
  6. AWA World Heavyweight Champion Rick Martel vs Nick Bockwinkel - AWA Winnipeg 3/28/84 This series of matches really speaks to the praise given to Bock about having a different match everytime he goes out. In the first match of this Winnipeg series, it felt like Martel really kicked some ass and established him as champion, which was critical in his nascent going up against The Man. In the second match, you get the classic. Martel starts on fire, but Bock works himself out of a jam and both men are left gasping for the finish line. Now in the third match, which must feel like Bockwinkel's last shot, Bock is fired up and extra no-nonsense. He starts the match on fire, there is really no shine and he immediately goes into King of the Mountain, which is an interesting tact. It establishes the tone of the match that Bock feels like his back is up against the wall and he is here to win. At this point, Martel is going on a year as champion so everyone buys into him so he does not need to start off red hot. In fact that change of pace really differentiates the match from the standard shine->heat->comeback->finish. Of course, Martel eventually does gets his licks in once he backdrops out of the piledriver and we get what looks like a shine with Bock falling prey to armdrags and Martel's quickness. Bock shows why he is a wrestling god by picking the ankle and turning it into this awesome 1/2 deathlock, 1/2 chinlock submission. When Martel powers out, Bock immediately finds a way to apply the figure-4. Again, it all plays into Bockwinkel will not denied tonight and Martel needs to elevate his game. He does in the form of wicked punches to fight off the figure-4 and a piledriver to level the playing field. Bock just keeps coming now with back drops and knee lifts, but he can't keep Martel down. The finish is actually pretty anticlimatic as it is just a Martel back body drop, but Bock was in the ropes, but ref still counted. Bock blasts Martel and sends him over the top rope, weird finish and oddly protective of Bock. I liked this because we got to see Bockwinkel on offense for the majority of the match, which is different from the other Martel matches. However, I don't think it was as good as the others in the series. There was just no real strong hook that kept me invested throughout the match and then finish really did nothing for me. Most people would dream of having a match this good, but for two legends like Bock and Martel this just another day in the office. ***3/4
  7. 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
  8. I think Choshu is a pretty great matworker, this might not be *the* match to showcase, more of a mat-heavy match that showcases why Choshu was so great in general. I loved how Bockwinkel stepped on Choshu's left leg while holding his right, that's the kind of neat detail work you want to see from him. Choshu's repetead counters to Bockwinkel's takedown attempts were awesome, completely shutting down an opponent's attempts at offence is something I love but you rarely see in wrestling. Bockwinkel countered Choshu's Scorpion Deathlocks by pulling his hair and using everything he could, Choshu countered Bockwinkel's Figure Four by chopping away at him and pushing him off, it was good stuff and the shots we got were all good looking, both Bockwinkel's knees and Choshu's chops looked vicious. The build to the Lariat is great but unfortunately it is followed by the ~cheap 80s finish~ (I don't mind that the finish wasn't clean but that it was lazily done and didn't add to the match). At least the post-match brawling was fun. ***1/2
  9. AWA Southern Heavyweight Champion Nick Bockwinkel vs Jerry Lawler - Mid-South Coliseum 10/18/82 Let's see if this Jerry Lawler is all he is cracked up to be. I have seen a handful of Lawler matches from the 80s and they have been very good to great and am looking forward to watching him in detail. I figure much like how I started the Von Erichs off against the best. I should start Lawler off against the best, Nick Bockwinkel. Bockwinkel is master chessman in the ring and understands the use of strategy in pro wrestler probably better than any pro wrestler in history. Everything he did in that ring was internally consistent with what happened previously and what he wanted to happen that was to ensure him retaining his belt. The previous week at the Mid-South Coliseum, Bockwinkel challenged for Lawler's Southern Title and won it! In the interim, he defeated Otto Wanz for the AWA World Heavyweight Championship, quite a week for Bock. However, this match is just a rematch for the Southern Championship. Lance Russell informs us early that the piledriver is legal in this match because Bockwinkel being a world traveller is more accustomed to the piledriver being legal and he used one last week to win the Southern Title. He claimed he had forgotten it was illegal. So in this rematch, the piledriver is legal. Lawler teases the piledriver early sending Bock scurrying. Bock also had a trouble with Lawler's famous stinging right. I loved Bock's selling of it and Lawler does have one of the best punches in history. Bock grinds the match to a halt with various holds to try contain the fists of fury of Lawler. Lawler lets us know he ain't just a pretty punch. He had some neat reversals for Ol' Tricky Nick including reversing a bodyscissors into a Boston Crab. I will admit the beginning of the match was slow and surprisingly unheated. I was used to Texas where literally every Von Erich spot was cheered. Lawler is shoved into the ref and this gives Bock the opening he needs to hit a piledriver and finally mount some offense against Lawler. Lawler is a mighty foe and he pulls the strap down to the roar of the crowd and fires off some wicked punches that staggers Bock. The guy in the front row signals for the piledriver or for the old lady next to give him head it is hard to tell which. Lawler is happy to oblige on the former, but Bock tucks tail and crawls away. Bock gets an uppercut that sends Lawler tumbling over the top. KING OF THE MOUNTAIN! Bock ain't letting him back in and is finally kicking some ass. Bockwinkel preps for the piledriver, but Lawler backdrops and hits a PILEDRIVER of his own! Lawler can't capitalize. Bockwinkel is convulsing looking for the bottom rope and pulls himself out. They now do reverse king of the mountain where Bock is always trying to get out so Lawler comes up with some really inventive ways to keep him like a bodyslam from the apron and a running fist to the side of Bock's head on the outside. We of course get the patented Lawler fist drop. Just as Lawler looks to have this one sewn up, Bock headbutts him in the midsection, double legs and uses the ropes to pin Lawler! HIGHWAY ROBBERY I TELLS YA! The match started slow, but they built to a fever pitch. I loved Bock's strategy of keeping Lawler on the outside and then it reversing once Lawler was in charge. Great use of the piledriver to be the transition between those two segments, ****
  10. High Flyers vs Nick Bockwinkel & Mr. Saito - 3/7/85 All these great AWA matches and I have not even watched one Bockwinkel in the lot. God I love the AWA! They had great characters, brawls and technical matches. After all those bitchin' cage match brawls, this is exactly the break I needed with a fantastic pure tag team match. Who better to watch than the High Flyers, Bockwinkel and "Mr. Torture" Mr. Saito. A little background, the Road Warriors are now the tag team champions and I was informed that Brunzell and Gagne were injured for most of 1984. The High Flyers have been a tag team for about 12 years at this point. Comparatively, Bockwinkel lost the AWA World Championship in 1984 and has not been able to regain it from Martel even though he has had multiple chances and Bockwinkel and Saito are a relatively new team. After Heenan's departure, Saito became Bock's running buddy. The winners of this match become the number one contender. This is just a great fundamentals based tag team match worked by experienced veterans. Bockwinkel takes the shine as the Flyers work the arm. Bockwinkel is great at selling and the Flyers are moving in out thus it never gets boring. I liked Gagne's kneedrop on arm and Brunzell just stomping on the arm. These three have been wrestling each other since 1973 so the High Flyers know Bock's tricks and there is no love lost here so Flyers have no problem being a bit chippy with Bock. Bock gets nasty going for the eyes and bullying Brunzell into Saito. Saito kicks ass with some wicked chops and nasty biels. Saito can't get Scorpion Deathlock and settles for a standing figure-4. Bock pushes with his foot on his ass and Gagne is pissed. Bockwinkel comes in with a inverted Deathlock. Loved Bock raining down the forearms only for Brunzell to fire up with awesome punches. Bock holds on for dear life to Brunzell's foot until Saito comes in to yank him over.Larry Nelson's righteous indignation was perfect. Saito tags in and applies a Boston Crab. Bock stands on Brunzell's head. I love it. The ref keeps catching them which causes the break. Bock & Mr. Torture move to the bearhug and some of the best bearhugs sequences ever made great by Brunzell fighting back and the false tags. On the second false tag, Gagne sells it perfectly and the crowd is pissed! It really builds the tension to the hot tag. Love Gagne tagging Bock at one point during this. It is fundamentals-based, but still chippy. The last struggle within the bearhug where Brunzell just loses it and goes for the eyes and punches Bock while in the bearhug and Bock trying to hang on is awesome. Saito crashes down on Brunzell and Gagne is losing his mind breaks it up. Brunzell scurries through Bock's legs. GREG GAGNE HOUSE OF FIYAH!!! Smashes Bock's head into the turnbuckle. Great movement and energy with Gagne flying around and the heels bumping big. Repeated kneedrops to Bock's back. Gagne is totally focused on Bock's back and Gagne applies Boston Crab. Brunzell is incensed posting Saito's leg. There is a tug of war between ref and Brunzell and the ref. So the ref misses the Boston Crab. Gagne crashes down on Bock twice on the ropes. Nasty kick to the midsection and wicked forearm to Bock's back. Greg is kicking ass. Things are slowing down. Brunzell in, dropkick and a beauty into the figure-4! Saito saves! Brunzell tries for the cover. Bock finally tags out and Brunzell has the presence of mind to immediately tag out to Ggane. Perfect psychology by Brunzell! GAGNE CHOKE! Saito throws Bock a foreign object and Bock blasts him. Bock throws the salt into Saito's eyes by accident. Gagne leg scissors roll up wins the match for the High Flyers! When you think of an ideal tag match with shine->heat->finish and strong face/heel dynamics and snug work this is it. There is nothing absolutely spectacular about this in terms of one specific spot or unique thread of psychology, it is just perfect execution of formula and making sure to do all the little things. Gagne is a great hot tag. Brunzell is trying so much harder here than the Bees and he is great at face in peril. Bockwinkel and Saito are a consummate heel tag team. My one complaint is they let the action cool a little too much before the finish, but overall they delivered a great old school tag match. ****1/4
  11. AWA World Heavyweight Champion Rick Martel vs Nick Bockwinkel - AWA 8/16/84 Martel versus Bockwinkel has all the makings of a classic championship series that has been overlooked due to AWA not being a sexy territory until a resurgence of interest from the AWA DVDVR project. I have watched a couple of their matches in the past, but I can't remember which ones so I am basically starting fresh. Six matches made the AWA set, but I will be starting with the three highest ranked ones and when I have more time, I will go back and watch the other three. The first match we see is the first match to make the set since Martel has won the title from Jumbo Tsuruta and is being contested in AWA hotbed, Winnipeg, which seems to be a popular place for where we get a lot of AWA footage from. At first watch, I was a bit underwhelmed by this match, but upon watching the rematch the next month also from Winnipeg, I realized this was intended to be a first match in a series match and in that context this is excellent. It whets your appetite, but leaves you very hungry for more. That's why I was underwhlemed, because I was left hungry and did not realize they would feeding me a heaping helping of double bitchiness with a side of fantastic selling in the rematch. The most important thing about this match is that it established Bockwinkel's most effective counterpunching strategy: the quick jab to the midsection. He uses this to great effectiveness in the rematch and it serves him well here. They start the match off with a bang with a wicked double cross body collision that Martel wins. Martel decides to focus on Bock's arm and Bock tries to cheat as best he can to turn the tide, but Martel is relentless. During one of his tries, Bock rams the bad shoulder into the turnbuckles, OW! When Martel goes for a kneedrop to the arm, Bock gets a quick fist to the ribs and throws him out. They are just teasing king of the mountain as Martel fires up. I love how he gets back in the ring by rolling around to avoid Bock and then nailing him. I love how they treat getting back into the ring as a disadvantage and Martel has to use his speed and intelligence to avoid being attacked upon re-entering. Again, Bock gets that short jab, but can't consolidate with the piledriver instead Martel gets his own. Bockwinkel goes back to the short jab to the ribs and this time it sets up his sleeper. He takes a header into the top turnbuckle. Martel looks to set up for his dive by working the back, Heenan gets up on the apron, but Bockwinkel ends up running into him. Martel tries to take advantage to hit slingshot bodypress, but eats knees. Bock immediately tries a pin, but only gets two. I love the idea! Bock hooks on his patented sleeper, but the Survivor Series 1996 finish does him in. As a standalone match this is very good, but as a place setter for the awesome rematch, this match is a great one. Martel looks awesome here using a combination of technique, speed and intelligence to get the best of Bockwinkel at every turn. Bockwinkel has to rely on cheating, experience and his short jab to set up his big bomb, the sleeper. It really made for a cool story that they really escalated to the next level in the September 1984 Winnipeg match. ****
  12. 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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