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[1992-05-17-WCW-Wrestle War '92] Brian Pillman vs Tom Zenk

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Wow, nice match. Last time I watched this it did nothing for me, but it's held up really well. I wish they could have upped the aggression a little more, but as far as match layout and execution, this was really, really good. One of those matches that's easy to get lost in the shuffle and shouldn't -- everyone should see it.

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I think jdw made the comparison between this and Piper/Hart once, which is apt. Both are babyface matches that are really well-scripted. I think this is the better wrestling match, while Piper/Hart has more heat and emotion.

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Yeah, that's pretty much the comp I've made. Both smartly worked. This probably technically and highspot better, while Piper-Bret had the drama/setting/emotion/young gun going over cha-ching. I like them as examples that you don't have to be Liger-Pillman (as a comp to Pillman-Zenk) or Bret-Davey (as a comp to Bret-Piper) to be a good, entertaining, satisfying match.

 

I think in a yearbook setting where you get a vibe for good matches, solid matches, upper end matches... you also get a vibe for ones like these two where they're good-solid and hit a spot.

 

John

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I'd rather watch Pillman-Zenk than Pillman-Liger (US version) and Bret-Piper than Bret-Davey. But the snowflakes, fame and rep has always gone the other direction. So it's not an argument I worry about making. I'm just trying to get across that the nice thing about a yearbook is that you don't have to be as "great / famous / legendary" as those to be solid / good / entertaining / satisfying.

 

John

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This was pretty good for a babyface vs babyface match but I don't think it's as good as Piper/Bret. Most of that has to do with me not caring much for Zenk. He looked good but felt like Pillman was holding things together.

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The best single Zenk match I've seen. They worked extra-hard to make it something special. Pillman coming off the top rope only to get a big boot in the face is a great spot I've never seen before. Good near falls down the stretch, some surprising reversal, good intensity built up. Really nice indeed.

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Nice to have Jesse back on commentary after the substitutes Ross had lately. Can say this is the best Zenk match I've seen but felt it was more of Pillman's doing. They play nice with each other for a while but over time it gets testy. Fun to see them smacking each other around. Jesse was really trying to stir things up on commentary.

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Zenk seems like a natural heel with the way he carries himself here. They tell a good story early on playing off each other as former partners. After working on Zenk's leg for a stretch we get a nice run of high spots with Pillman eating a kick as he comes off the top my favorite.

 

***1/4

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Zenk is such a dork, with his mock surprise at the fireworks and the cheesy promo he cuts on Pillman to the camera. This had a slow beginning and I thought this was going to be another match I'd be the downer on, but they (or in another, more accurate way, Pillman) put something together that was pretty damned great. Good little reversals sequence leads to Pillman trying to slingshot himself into the ring and he gets caught in a Z-Man powerslam that's the first of several hot near-falls and the start of a LOOONG finishing stretch. But it never feels like 2.9s for the sake of 2.9s--just a bunch of hot and often creative false finishes. Love Z-Man losing a 3-count by failing to hook the leg, and then getting another near-fall when he does hook the leg but this time doing it too close to the ropes. Zenk still isn't really any good but this is neck-and-neck with Flair for his best match. Thanks of course to his opponents.

 

I can see how Jesse and JR's arguments over football could be infuriating to some, but I found most of it very amusing. I'm a fan of Jesse calling Ross out on some of his standard football talking points: "NOSE TACKLE?!" and taking shots at Miami of Ohio.

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This had some good stuff, although some of their ideas were questionable with the body part work being done, like Zenk's big boot when his leg had been worked over. But, that was counterbalanced with smart things like the powerslam counter, and the finish with Pillman outsmarting Zenk.

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WCW Light Heavyweight Champion Brian Pillman vs Tom Zenk - Wrestlewar '92

From the promo on Saturday Night, it seems like they were foreshadowing Zeman turning heel, but thankfully it would be Pillman trying heel and eventually forming the Hollywood Blonds with Steve Austin. I seem to like this match a little more than most, but happened to watch this one with my Dad. Whenever, I watch with someone I tend to be less critical and just have a more fun with it all. When your Dad is marking out for a crucifix pinfall attempt you can't help, but get more into it. Still, this is one of my favorite style of matches: the civil babyface wrestling at the beginning before tempers flare and it turns into a heated battle attacking injuries and going for the win.

 

At the beginning, they establish they are former partners and current buddies going for the same moves like dropkicks or a flying hammerlock at the same time. Pillman is one to finally let loose after Zenk gets a couple nearfalls with some wicked chops, which JR points out is legal, but Jesse says the tempers are starting to get best of them. Pillman executes his fluid drop toehold into some great leg work. He crashes and burns on a somersault intended for Zenk's knee. JR lets us know Pillman's back is previously injured. Zeman is pretty proficient at working the back over and the best he has ever looked in my opinion. We get some dueling psychology as Pillman is able get back on the knee, but Zenk hits an enziguiri for 2. The Boyd implores him to go back on the back, but Zeman misses a knee into the turnbuckles and Pillman takes him to school. They exchange a couple good slaps and my Dad has just been loving this action and finds Pillman really entertaining. I raised him so well. ;)

 

After this, Pillman is ready to hit the finish stretch of big bombs and nearfalls. You can tell how much Pillman loved Puroresu because at this point in the US I would say he is the most Japanese-influenced. The Steiners are naturally Japanese-style wrestlers, but I don't feel like they went out there way to watch puro tapes where I think Pillman would watch them. This is speculation on my part feel free to confirm of deny. He definitely seems to wrestle in the mold of a New Japan Junior, matwork to start and high-octane finish. Pillman gives Zeman a ton of nearfalls with a powerslam, crucifix and a cross-body. Zenk is looking great from an athletic perspective. The leapfrog collision came off really bad and it seemed like they either were not committed to it or wires crossed. Like the intent with like minded partners thinking same thing, but poor execution. Then in the Holy Shit moment of the match that had my Dad and me going insane was Zenk caught Pillman coming off the rope with a big boot/savant kick. It was full extension of his leg and it looked wicked bitchin. After that badass move, Zeman feeling cocky goes for the missile dropkick to get the win, but Pillman side-steps him and jacknifes him for the win.

Pillman carried Zenk in this, but this is the most Zeman has ever contributed to a match. In the Flair match, he was the proverbial broomstick and Flair just plugged him in. Here Zenk was contributing cool spots like savant kick counter and his nearfalls during the finish run. The selling did leave a lot to be desired in this match, which did feel exhibition-y at times. Pillman is such a great fiery worker and knows how to lay out an exciting match , but these two matches he seemed more focused on offense sometimes to detriment of the match. Transition between the body of the match to the finish could have been better developed. Overall, still I enjoyed the match as strong offensive performances from both that kept you engrossed in the match at all times. ****

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Jesse opines that the winner of this one is the first man who cheats. I don't think either guy did anything illegal. Did Pillman shake hands at the end of this one? If he did, I missed it. You'd figure that was a guarantee but, unless I'm mistaken, Pillman just splits. Kind of a heel move there.

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This really dragged at first, but picked up in the middle about the time Pillman missed his somersault on Zenk's leg. Then business (and the crowd) started picking up, and the last eight or ten minutes really clicked. It's almost like they tried to tell the "former partners and friends wrestling cleanly" story, found it wasn't working, and decided to just go at it like any two opponents would, which turned out to be a very smart choice.

 

Thus match was very much influenced by the Japanese juniors, as you can tell by spots like the double missed dropkick, the superplex, and even Zenk sticking his foot in Pillman's face to counter his leap from the top. I've even seen swatted dropkicks turn into nearfalls, although I don't think I've ever seen one actually lead to a winning fall I'm surprised Zenk was able to keep up as well as he did in such a style, since Pillman's the one who's been spending his time wrestling Liger recently.

 

It seemed like they were teasing heel turns for each guy at various points. I'm not sure Zenk would have been much of a heel unless he was given a Model-type gimmick, which would of course have been a blatant ripoff of Zenk's former tag team partner Rick Martel. Maybe it's because I know that Pillman eventually had several successful heel runs, but he seems more of a natural in the role to me.

 

Okay, now to the commentary. It had its flashes, but it was never as good as the match itself, and that's mostly JR's fault. He seemed to get in a snit over "NOSE TACKLE?" and never really got out of it. I've said before that Jesse really shouldn't argue football with a diehard like JR, but in that case he was only saying what a lot of fans were probably thinking. Pillman's thin as a rail here; it is difficult to believe that he once played the same position as 350-pound William Perry. JR then repeats the old "They don't play much football in Minnesota" bit that he's tried before. News flash, JR: Jesse was one of the voices of the Vikings during this time, the same as you were with the Falcons, so don't make him out as not knowing what a football looks like; you just sound hurt because Jesse interfered with one of your standard (and overused) spiels.

 

The other major story Jesse tried to push was that one of the two would begin to cheat during the match to gain the advantage. It never really happened, which Jesse admitted himself several times, but JR not only specifically no-sold that notion (and admitted on the air that he was doing so, which was terrible form on his part), but did everything but warn Jesse to shut up and stop interfering with his broadcast or else whenever he brought it up. (You could hear the warning in his voice, in fact.) There were also several times when Jesse made perfectly good, solid points that JR petulantly refused to respond to, and the silence was deafening. To his credit, Jesse soldiered on, but I wouldn't have blamed him if he'd tried to give JR whatever the broadcasting form of a receipt was. Of course, JR would have liked that, since it would have meant he was flying solo, which is what he wanted anyway.

 

All of the booth pettiness wasn't enough to ruin this match, though. I hope we get to see a rematch at some point, because they really showed in the second half of this match that they can be as spectacular going against each other as they were teaming with each other.

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I liked Jesse trying to stir things up.  Despite the one major blown spot (crossbody) the finishing run was really good and I also prefer it to the Liger match.

And as an aside, JR mentions Lance Russell is on the hotline.  You have Lance fucking Russel and you man the hotline with him?  One of the best wrestling announcers of all time and he is on the hotline.  WCW had some genius types working there, let me tell you.

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