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Rick Martel

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Martel who as a wrestler gained a lot of cred with me recently. Martel was a great baby face worker in the Steamboat, Morton vein. He seemed like a really smart worker who could tell a story in the ring. He was great at working a body part and working spots around it. From what I have seen of him in Portland, AWA, Japan, territories in Canada,WWF, and in his last run in WCW he could go. In Portland he had a match with Buddy Rose that I think is one if the greatest matches of all time . They had a great feud with one another. His team with Piper where he worked against Rose Army, and the Sheepherders produced some great matches.

 

In the AWA he got a run as world champ. His matches against Bock were some of the best matches of the 80's. I really loved that feud from a working perspective. He had other good matches with the likes of Gordy, Saito, Hansen etc. He even had one against Boris Zuchov which to me says a ton.

 

In Japan he had really good matches with Flair, Jumbo, Choshu. He also had really good matches with Jumbo in the AWA also. He went down to Memphis and had one heck of a match with Lawler.

 

In WWF he had a good run as one half of Strike Force. Their matches with the Islanders were fantastic. They also got some decent matches with Demolition, and Hart Foundation. He would eventually turn heel and develope the "Model" gimmick. He had a fondly remembered feud with Jake, and some show stealing matches with Tito.

 

In Canada he had some good bouts with Jimmy Garvin and Sheik Ali.

 

He made a big return in WCW and had fun bouts with Saturn, and Booker T.

 

Overall a really hard worker who has been in a lot of good to great matches.

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I loved his renaissance run in wcw. His matches in 98 against booker really stood out and that wasn't easy to do with such a stacked undercard. I think he surprised everyone with how much be had in him at that point, too bad that knee injury derailed it.

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too bad that knee injury derailed it.

I'll rephrase this : "Too bad Booker T and Stevie Ray are dangerous workers who don't protect their opponents, they fucked him up three times in a row (concussion, knee injury and finally neck injury) and ended an excellent comeback."

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Honestly? Having seen a lot of heel Martel, I don't think it holds a candle to his babyface stuff. I know people talk about Heel Hennig not being nearly as good as face Hennig but I think Martel is far worse off in that regard.

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He's in a book about the day John Lennon was killed, written by Keith Elliot Greenberg (who's written several WWE books in the past). Rick talked about working MSG that night, and that once he found out the news he knew that he was having his match at the time Lennon was shot. Afa told him the news and Rick sat at the bar with the heels and some fans, watching the news.

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After all these years, I still vividly remember Martel selling the pain from Fuji throwing salt in his eyes from the match where him and Garea lose the belts on the old history of the tag team championship CHV. As a kid, his sell job scared the shit out of me and I was convinced he was legit blinded.

 

Here it is

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Martel is pretty fucking awesome. Going through the AWA set, I thought he was really good in everything but didn't get truly great until the '84 match with Jumbo where he wins the belt. Then I watched the Portland matches with Buddy Rose from '80, and he sure as shit looked like he was already truly great at that point. Makes me think the pre-'84 Martel stuff on the AWA set was just overshadowed a bit by the awesome Blackwell stuff, the Bock/Wahoo match, Brunzell, etc, as opposed to my original theory (really good before '84, great after it).

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Martel is a rare case of a guy who's WWF tag work I really want to explore. I have liked the Strike Force I have watched in the last calendar year and the Martel/Garea. Seems like guy who probably has a lot more good performances than we know

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Speaking of Martel what matches that didn't make any of the 80's set are worth checking out?

Excluding 90's matches, Portland (because it will be on a set very soon) and WWF stuff in general....

 

 

There is a solid Hansen sprint from AWA, a good match v. Larry Z from Winnipeg, a solid match v. Jimmy Garvin, a good tag match with Hennig v. The Freebirds, another good Zhukov match and a good match v. Billy Robinson from Winnipeg.

 

From Montreal there are some things that might eventually make an 80's set including with Bravo v. The Roadies, another Garvin match, w/Bravo v. Sheik Ali/Jimmy Garvin, v. Sheik Ali. Possibly some other stuff I haven't gotten too.

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I've really becoming a big Martel fan in the past couple of years, after watching some of his Portland stuff, and revisiting his WWF work. I only knew him as 'the Model' before that, and I have to agree with Matt that he is a much better babyface than he is a heel. In fact, I was really disappointed with his heel stuff, and didn't think he did anything interesting in that role at all (although he did work shtick wonderfully in the blindfold match with Jake). Great tag worker, very explosive off the hot tag. Sometimes felt he went a bit too 'big' with his selling. I really like his tag team with Roddy Piper- loved the way they'd out-heel the heels.

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I know that Martel/Buddy match shoe is talking about and it is outstanding and possibly Buddy's best singles match. But the 8/2/80 Rose/Wiskowski v. Martel/Piper match might be even better and is one of the best tag matches I've ever seen

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Speaking of Martel what matches that didn't make any of the 80's set are worth checking out?

Martel's matches vs. Jumbo in Japan with Rick as AWA champ are very good. Martel also had a match with King Tonga in Montreal from 1984 that I put on my 1984 set that is decent.

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Martel had at least one match with The Natural (Don Callis/Cyrus) in IWA Winnipeg that I remember being pretty good. It was from 1996 so it pre-dates the 1998 comeback which was a I surprise to me. For some reason they aired IWA Winnipeg/WFWA shows for several months back in 2000-2002 here in Thunder Bay. The best stuff was Callis doing commentary over Jericho/Benoit and Liger/Ultimo from Super J Cup 95 and a Gedo/Jericho(IIRC) match from WAR.

 

Callis vs Jim Brunzel in what looked like a parking lot show was really good too.

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Martel had at least one match with The Natural (Don Callis/Cyrus) in IWA Winnipeg that I remember being pretty good. It was from 1996 so it pre-dates the 1998 comeback which was a I surprise to me.

Martel was supposed to come back to the WWF with Callis as the Super Models, and turn on Callis, at least that what he said in his shoot interview. Then something didn't work out and Martel ended up alone in WCW instead.

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Honestly, while the 4/26 match is excellent, I thought the rematch from a week later was practically just as good. Both are pretty different, too.

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Martel had at least one match with The Natural (Don Callis/Cyrus) in IWA Winnipeg that I remember being pretty good. It was from 1996 so it pre-dates the 1998 comeback which was a I surprise to me. For some reason they aired IWA Winnipeg/WFWA shows for several months back in 2000-2002 here in Thunder Bay. The best stuff was Callis doing commentary over Jericho/Benoit and Liger/Ultimo from Super J Cup 95 and a Gedo/Jericho(IIRC) match from WAR.

I remember us getting that show. It appeared very randomly and then it was gone. I wondered if they were trying to get a live show here but once it fell apart they just stopped showing the TVs here.

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How was Martel thought of by the smart fans / hardcores back in the day? Doesn't seem like he always had a rep as a super worker, but I'm not sure why.

He was always thought of as a good wrestler but the questions more revolved around how he compared to Flair and Hogan, who were larger-than-life in the role of World Champion. That clouded how some viewed him and his reign at the time.

 

Most started to pay more attention to his reign when Bockwinkel didn't get the title back within a few months and it appeared he was going to be around to stay as champ for a bit. At that point, he began getting booked against guys like Jim Garvin and later Michael Hayes. Both were solid challengers to Martel and they had good quality programs, but both guys giving Martel trouble (winning non-title matches, "winning" the title with help or an object and having the decision reversed later, before Martel getting a win in the blowoff, as examples) took away from Martel's reign some as well. Backlund was booked similarly with the WWF but it worked to enhance Backlund's reign rather than detract from it. Backlund slayed more monsters, if that makes sense.

 

Looking back at his opponents over the course of his title reign, you see a lot of guys that were not thought to be "serious" title contenders anywhere else until they met Martel. Garvin, Hayes, Zbyszko (a mid-carder in the AWA from 84 through probably mid-86), Mr. Saito (primarily a tag team guy), King Tonga and Boris Zurkov come to mind. The programs were much better IMO with Martel struggling some with each of them, but nobody thought that any of those wrestlers would be a quality challenger to either Flair or Hogan in that time frame. I don't think Martel being booked to dominate them in a one-and-out fashion would have helped and the AWA certainly did not have enough wrestlers on board to make that feasable anyway in terms of booking their Champ.

 

It's much easier to look back on Martel's reign with appreciation for the matches and programs he was in than it was to appreciate them at the time.

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