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Guest Bruiser Chong
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Guest Bruiser Chong

I'm not referring to '80s stuff, but rather, most of the material from the late '70s and back. I see constant praise for guys like Bruno, but I've seen but a handful of matches from them that haven't made me keep an eye on the clock out of boredom. Perhaps I'm seeing the wrong stuff, but I just don't see the appeal of it. Growing up on early '90s WWF probably didn't help me, but if it's as great as it's supposed to be, those factors shouldn't matter. So sell me on it. Matches, territories, wrestlers. All that crap.

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Bruno occasionally had good matches, but he wasn't the best of that bunch for sure. I think stuff from guys like Backlund, Muraco and Pat Patterson tends to age far better, just because Bruno was a brawler and brawls have been done better countless times, but the basics of what makes wrestling good never change, even as the styles advance or regress.

 

I want to say more, but I'll chime in later here.

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Going through the territories:

 

ALABAMA

Best time period was 1987-1988 when Eddie Gilbert was booking and Paul E. Dangerously was the lead heel manager. They both worked together extremely well, and one of my favorite angles ever happened in this time period between Tony Anthony and Tom Pritchard. I've explained it a few times on the board, so I'll copy and paste what I wrote here:

 

* Continental 1988 - Tony Anthony/Tom Pritchard feud -- They ran an angle on TV where the Dirty White Girl came out and asked Tom Pritchard, the babyface of the feud, to come out as well. He wouldn't come out at first, because she was DWB's valet, and he had been warning her to stay away from him and she blew him off. He finally came out, and she took off her sunglasses to reveal a black eye. The normally stoic Gordon Solie freaks out and says they need to go to a commercial right then, but Tom says it's okay, and says he is speechless, but that they need to get her some attention. He starts to take her backstage to help her when Tony Anthony attacks from behind and drags him all around the arena with a bullrope around his neck! The babyfaces finally make the rescue. I believe this was from Eddie Gilbert's booking run in 1988.

FLORIDA

There's some good stuff here, but some of it may not be so easy to get into. This was considered the "model promotion" at one point, as Gordon Solie peaked here as an announcer and Jack Brisco was a great top babyface, but when Brisco got older, the model sort of fell apart and they kept repeating devil worshipping angles with Kevin Sullivan out of not knowing what else to do. You may like some of the 80s stuff more than me, though, just because they were constantly running angles, probably more angles with more frequency than any other group out there at the time. Pick up the Battle of the Belts shows (especially II with a near-***** Flair/Windham match) and I think the other two are a good sampling of the talent in the area as well. Footage of this is easier to find than you think, and the more post-1974 and pre-1982 or so footage you can find, the better, especially getting to see Dusty as one of the most over babyfaces of all time in his home territory.

 

GEORGIA

I'm a fan, but it's really uneven. Familiar faces tended to pop in and out a lot (Muraco, Piper, Freebirds, Jimmy Hart, Cornette, DiBiase, Flair, Lawler, etc) so this may be easier to get into for that reason alone. Lots of the booking sucks though, especially 1983 and after. Best TV match I've seen involved Flair and Garvin (if you like Starrcade '87, you'll like this, if not, you probably won't) from sometime in May of '84.

 

SMW

SMW is great, but make sure you're a fan of that Southern territorial style before you delve into it. Start with some of the others I've mentioned, especially Memphis and Mid South, and if you like those, see Cornette apply most of the same tricks later on.

 

MID SOUTH

This is as close to a perfect wrestling company as I think there's ever been. Go here for my general thoughts on what made the territory work and why I enjoyed it.

 

AWA

Meh. Some stuff is definitely worth seeing, but by and large, I really hate the AWA. If it's a Rockers v Somers/Rose match, you want it bad. If it's a Bockwinkel, Hennig, Hansen or Martel match, you want it. The booking sucks most of the time though, and they're dreadfully behind the times during the era where the most footage is available on tape. Find what you can from the 70s though, as I know you're a huge Bobby Heenan fan and you'll probably like that stuff even more, as most who've seen it say it's better than his WWF stuff.

 

ST LOUIS

Most of the matches tend to be joined in progress. There's a nice feel to the shows, and they're immaculately produced to make you feel like you're seeing something really big and important, but the TV is more of a brief overview than anything substantial from what I've been able to gather.

 

WWF

I doubt I have to do much in the way of explaining things here.

 

MID ATLANTIC

If you like a lot of mid 80s NWA that you've seen, you'll probably like the Mid Atlantic style, since the booking is pretty much the same style and there are lots of familiar faces (Flair, Steamboat, Piper, Valentine, Snuka, etc). Many of the TV matches here are also joined in progress, but they usually show the majority of the match and the heat for everything is off the charts! I think this is very easy to get into.

 

PORTLAND

Watch the AWA feud between the Rockers and Somers/Rose first. If you like it, check out Portland, because there's lots of Buddy Rose footage to be found. Piper also showed up there quite often, and there are some good Flair title defenses from that area. They also hosted guys like Curt Hennig, Dynamite Kid and Rick Martel, and there was a big emphasis on really long, good matches that were almost always shown in full.

 

MEMPHIS

I think of everything, this may be the easiest to get into, because it's flashy and over the top like the WWF, but the storylines almost always follow logic. They establish a group of core stars and stick with them over time. Lawler is probably the best American babyface there's ever been, honestly. I think you'll love the lunacy of Randy Savage in the DVDs you're getting soon as well.

 

WORLD CLASS

It was magic during the Von Erichs/Freebirds era and sort of fell apart after they ran the Dynamic Duo (Chris Adams and Gino Hernandez) as top heels and blew off their big feud. Lots of great tags and six-mans, and there's very little bad between 1983 and 1985.

 

You might also pick up some episodes of AJ Classics that feature some of your favorites going against opponents you're not so familiar with. You'll get a chance to see guys you like in longer matches in better video quality, and doing so will also expose you to other guys which can open doors for you in that stuff as well.

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I'm amazed the (W)WWF was able to draw what it did in the 70s since Bruno and Bob Backlund were probably the two most boring workers ever and between them they held the belt for most of the decade. I know Bruno had a big Italian following, but most of his matches are brutal to watch even by the standards of the decade.

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There was incredible brand loyalty, even then, with the WWWF, and if you wanted wrestling in that part of the country, that was pretty much your only option, since most of the other wrestling was happening in the South. I think in Bruno's case, he was benefitted by being put with guys who could really work most of the time, or guys like Graham who were so flashy that they could hold their own as a character on that level. They also had the benefit of running shows in an enormous market and promoting wrestling at Madison Square Garden, which made them big time. In Bruno's case, he was an Italian-American in an area dominated by Italian-Americans and was pushed as a good role model for children. Pedro was able to draw well later on as well, but pretty much every decision Capitol Sports (precursor to Titan Sports) made in the 1970s was based on ethnicity. In fact, one of the reasons Backlund was chosen as champion was because they wanted a non-ethnic whitey to fill the role. They also had their own world champ, which made them a bigger deal.

 

In Backlund's case, I personally love his working style and think he had loads of natural babyface charisma, but I'll admit that in the latter days of his run, he was probably dorky and behind the times because his entire act was so far removed from the pop culture of the time. In the ring, I really felt he delivered though.

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Some Backlund stuff is very bland and could be considered "boring." But for every match like that, he has excellent matches against Adrian Adonis (1/18/82), Don Muraco (9/21/81 & 10/17/81), Hulk Hogan (4/12/80). Definetly an aquired taste, but no where near as bad as most people have placed him.

 

I recommend either Mid South or Memphis as a start to Territory work in the 80's.

 

If you want to go back to the 70's, go the route of All Japan, which was working the NWA style in their big matches with a bit of their own flavor that would keep getting richer and richer throughout the years.

 

Tim

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He could defintely be very bland, but check out those matches I listed above, as well as 5/27/80 vs. Dusty Rhodes in New Japan to see a more fired up babyface. The Muraco match is a huge revenge/brawl match, so it doesn't have Bob locking on a hold for 10 minutes without working it a lot (which he did sometimes, but other times, he would be the master of working a hold and making it interesting).

 

Tim

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The match of his on the steel cage DVD is awesome, in no small part due to Bob actually showing emotion.

 

Pissed off Bob rules, which is why his crazy old man gimmick was so awesome.

Backlund/Patterson or Backlund/Hansen?
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