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Was there any chance of him going to Crockett after he was done with AWA? They were really crying out for a new top babyface in that time-frame (before Steamboat was back, before Luger and Sting were really main event material, as Dusty was winding down). Vince, because of his mindset, was never going to give Martel a main event run and turning and keeping him heel for so long when he was such an effective babyface seems counter-intuitive.

 

I know we shouldn't play "what if", but I imagine he'd have had a much bigger rep (back then) if he'd have had a feud down in JCP with the Horsemen (or whatever).

 

I'm just thinking of what he actually did in WWF and there *must* be a Martel vs. Shawn Michaels series out there right? They were feuding for a good while in 92, a curious and rare heel vs. heel feud (must be a specialty of Sherri's as she would instigate ANOTHER heel vs. heel feud with Col. Parker and Harlem Heat a couple of years on).

 

Also, are there no Martel vs. Hennig matches? I just had a look on youtube and the only things that came up were a Model vs. Mr. Perfect match from RAW in 93 and ... most bizarrely ...

 

Martel and Mr. Perfect vs. Jumbo Tsuruta and Haku (?!) from 1990.

 

I'm at the stage were more or less any Martel is intriguing to me, but THAT is is a very weird match, especially as both Perfect and Haku were in the Heenan Family at the time. I'm wondering if there's an AWA-connection thing going on for the local crowd.

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That tag match was at the WWF/NJ/AJ Tokyo Dome show that had Hogan-Hansen, Warrior-DiBiase, and Savage-Tenryu. Haku worked a lot for All-Japan on the native side in the '80s, so he'd have been treated as a babyface (as such). It's a fun enough little match, though not really Yearbook-worthy, and worked totally American face-in-peril style with Jumbo as the house afire.

 

Found this at Graham's site:

WWF @ Hamilton, Ontario - Copps Coliseum - January 16, 1989

Prime Time Wrestling - 2/6/89: Mr. Perfect fought Rick Martel to a time-limit draw

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Found this at Graham's site:

WWF @ Hamilton, Ontario - Copps Coliseum - January 16, 1989

Prime Time Wrestling - 2/6/89: Mr. Perfect fought Rick Martel to a time-limit draw

That match is available, FWIW.

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Was there any chance of him going to Crockett after he was done with AWA? They were really crying out for a new top babyface in that time-frame (before Steamboat was back, before Luger and Sting were really main event material, as Dusty was winding down). Vince, because of his mindset, was never going to give Martel a main event run and turning and keeping him heel for so long when he was such an effective babyface seems counter-intuitive.

I'm pretty sure Martel was still tied in/part owner of the Montreal office at the time, and his departure from the AWA allowed him to go back and be a top guy in that area, so moving to Crockett probably wasn't in the cards from his perspective. I have no idea if Crockett made any overtures to bring him in.

 

Once the writing was on the wall for Montreal would have been when Martel moved to the WWF and formed the Can-Am Connection with Zenk.

 

I'll have to look but the details (and, whether I'm anywhere near correct) will be in the Mad Dog/Screwjobs book. I may have absorbed that from skimming a part of that book...either that or I'm remembering some semblance of that conversation from his shoot interview some time back.

 

Or, I could be talking out my ass, but I don't think I am...this time.

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It was so odd seeing him work face when he was in WCW. I'd gotten so use to "The Model" gimmick, I didn't realize at the time that that may have been the only time in his career he was working heel.

 

Is there a reason he was out for much of '91? He's not on much TV and no PPV at all between WM 7 and Royal Rumble '92.

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Is there a reason he was out for much of '91? He's not on much TV and no PPV at all between WM 7 and Royal Rumble '92.

Martel was basically working part time at this point, being involved in real estate business at the same time. He stated in his shoot interview that he takes the blame for the whole Model not working out great because his heart wasn't 100% into wrestling at the time. Smart guy though, made money in wrestling to support his own business.

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My parents always used to comment on seeing Rick Martel in the late 70s when he was mainstay of the New Zealand scene. New Zealand's TV was pretty weak from what I've seen, but I wish we had some houseshow footage from those days.

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Flair/Martel vs Jumbo/Tenryu

 

A war between Jumbo and Martel over armwork to begin. Martel is really good at working from the bottom and trying to fight out. We get the same with Flair which doesn't look quite as good but is still fun. It culminates with chops in the corner by Jumbo and a tag to Tenryu. This gives us a chopfest with Tenryu getting the best of it and Flair retreating to the corner. Flair hit a shin breaker out of a headlock and Martel starts doing his great varied offense on the leg. Within a span of a minute hes doing leg yanks, stomps, elbows, kicks, a knee, and whatever else. But Tenryu counters only to get countered back and out into a ... Inverted deathlock? Is that what you call that, then a modified STF. It's amazing how much stuff Martel can just throw out like it's the smoothest thing in the world. Tenryu sneaks out again and makes the tag.

 

Jumbo beats the crap out of Martel til he hits a flash spinning crossbody off the second rope and tags flair in. Americans dominate for a bit but Jumbo comes back with strikes and out chops Flair again, hits a back body drop and Flair begs off. Tenzin in, chopping away, but Flair counters with a kick on another back body drop attempt. Martel hits a cool punch as Flair tosses Tenry into the corner and then tags in, clubbering on the back. Martel does some good and varied back offense. Flair hits a back suplex and forgets about the back to put the figure four on. Boo. Flair reaches for martel, gets the tag and he puts on a quick figure four. Tenryu lifts the leg up and forces a pin attempt which is neat sort of battle. Martel gets the tag, but flair eats a sloppy small package on a figure four attempt and we get a hot tag to Jumbo.

 

Big clearing house clothesline. Fight for a pile driver but Flair gets to the rope and they go back and forth for a sec til Tenryu hooks the sleeper. Flair REACHES for the tag in the sleeper andit's pretty great. Martel finally gets it and pummels Jumbo in the corner. Jumbo reverses a whip and Martel gets backdropped. Another HUGE clothesline. tag to Tenryu. Big double suplex. Another back suplex. Big back brain kick. A tag and a huge double strike off the rope.This sets up Jumbo hitting the pile drive but just for a two. Neckbreaker for another two. Tag in to Tenryu but Martel comes off the rope and nails a lightning forearm, then takes him from pillar to post and finally into Flair's knee on the outside.

 

Flair in. Big suplex. Martel in for the knee drop. And the story is really clear here. Tenryu is the weak link and Flair/Martel take over whenever he's in. If there's a secondary story it's that Flair plays dirtier than Martel and he finally gives in and they get on the same page. Flair assists the the Martel slingshot splash but just for a two. Martel hits a rib breaker and then sells the leg (awesome insertion) for a second as he hops to the ropes before hitting the huge Flying Body Press. Jumbo breaks up the pin and it breaks down. He hits his big knee on Flair who came in to leaving Martel and Tenryu in the ring. Tenryu gets the better of it with another back brain kick. Martel ends up outside and posted, then leaped upon and there is brawling outside. Tenryu gets in at the last second and that's the match.

 

Decent story. Fun work. Neat to see Flair and Martel team. It's not a super match but I'm glad I saw it.

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WWF/AJPW - Jumbo/Haku vs Perfect/Martel - 4/13/90

 

I have my doubts. If this was a super fun match I probably would have heard about it already, but let's go.

 

Well, if you ever wanted to hear Mel Phillips announce Jumbo, there you go.

 

Martel + Hennig is such a cool team, even the WWF heel versions. Haku is weirdly short. Martel and Hennig clear house with a double dropkick and a double clothesline before Hennig starts on Jumbo. Jumbo hits a boot out of the corner and Hennig does seventeen rotations on the sell of the big knee. It's nice to see Perfect bump for Haku too, big kicks and chops and the best shoulder breaker you will EVER see. Then a hugely high dropkick that gets another rotation sell. Double clothesline takes his head off, and he propels himself up so high for Jumbo's slam. Martel interferes to break up a stretch and Hennig takes over with strikes as the fans boo.

 

Double team punches and kicks int he corner. Then the snapmare/head whip which impresses the announcers. Clumsy punch block and a big slam to allow the tag to Haku who hits a huge kick. His stuff just looks awesome here. He misses the running sommersault senton and we get the drag to the corner and tag to Martel. Couple of slams and a bunch of quick elbows, but the difference in complexity between the offense Martel used in the last match and this one are nuts. He does hit a rana into a pin. Hennig does a bunch of punch/kicks as Haku tries to fight back but a boot rake ends that. Then we get the assisted slingshot suplex by hennig for two.

 

Martel tries for another rana and eats the top turnbuckle hard. Hennig breaks up the hot tag attempt though and this is a pretty good heat segment. Nice dropkick by Hennig but it's amazing how much both guys dumbed down their act. Double slam which leads to a well fought Boston Crab. Jumbo breaks it up and then does his hand raise thing. Hennig comes in and does a stretch of his own on Haku. Jumbo distracts the ref and Haku punches out but Martel jumps in and takes over. He hits a suplex and knee drop for at two count. Martel and Hennig are working really well as a unit. They do another hope spot where Haku fights back out of clubbers with a nasty blow but Martel rakes the eyes from the corner and then comes in as the ref is distracted. Haku gets his legs up on a second rope splash and they rush for the corners.

 

Jumbo clears house with a back body drop whip and slams on Martel and then Hennig. Then it breaks down with all four guys in. The heels get tossed into each other then eat a bit Haku kick and flying knee. Jumbo hits the Saito Suplex and gets the win.

 

Pretty good (And surprising) southern tag. Haku played a really good FIP and Hennig bumped well for everyone.

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Garea/Martel vs. Fuji/Saito 10/17/81

 

 

This is from their t.v show .Albano's get up is unreal. This was a real fun tag. Garea and Martel have a nice fun shine segment working over Saito's and Fuji's arms. The heels get the advantage and work over Garea. Saito was real good here with Fuji working the stereo type schtick. His nerve hold was sold well by Garea. Martel gets the hot tag and he is on fire. Then he tags back Garea which made no sense but happens a lot in tag team wrestling. Martel is back in to more hot action. He goes to the top for a flying body press. In some awesome timing Fuji throws salt in his eyes as he lands on Saito. Saito easily reverses the body press for a 3. Their are new tag champs and Martel is selling the salt huge. In another nice touch Saito is dusting the salt off the match. If the match doesn't make the set, maybe the finish could go on as an extra.

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These are the Jumbo-Martel matches:

 

05/13/84 AWA Title: Jumbo Tsuruta vs Rick Martel (Title change)

07/25/84 Int'l Title: Jumbo Tsuruta vs Rick Martel

07/31/84 AWA Title: Rick Martel vs Jumbo Tsuruta

10/11/84 AWA Title: Rick Martel vs Jumbo Tsuruta

09/29/85 AWA Title: Rick Martel vs Jumbo Tsuruta (St. Paul)

 

I'm really fond of the 7/31/84 match, which did well in the DVDVR poll. The 7/25/84 match has some nice stuff, but isn't at that level.

 

The 10/11/84 match bubbled up in the past couple of years on Dan's 1984 set, which would also have the 7/25/84 match as well though Dan had tracked that down a while earlier. I think I watched the 10/11/84 match at some point after getting the set from Dan, but I'm really drawing a blank on it.

 

The title change seems to have some mixed view points. I really don't care much for it relative to the 7/31/84 match and the 9/29/85 match. Others like it a good deal.

 

The 9/29/85 match is one of those that is half surprisingly good, but half what you'd hope for after their prior matches. Surprising in the sense that it's well heated and they nail their stuff. Not surprising because they've worked together before, and tend by this point know their stuff. Lots of fun close to the series.

 

You kind of wish that AJPW brought Martel over in 1986 for an Int'l challenge where Jumbo got his pin back to close the books. Martel was back for the tag league with Zenk, but his push was less than what it would have been if he'd come in say earlier. Hmm...

 

03/10/86 Int'l Title: Jumbo Tsuruta vs Terry Gordy

03/29/86 Int'l & PWF & AWA Titles: Jumbo Tsuruta vs Stan Hansen

04/19/86 Int'l & AWA Titles: Jumbo Tsuruta vs Stan Hansen

05/24/86 Int'l Title: Jumbo Tsuruta vs Harley Race

07/31/86 Int'l & AWA Titles: Jumbo Tsuruta vs Stan Hansen (title change)

09/03/86 Int'l Title: Stan Hansen vs Jumbo Tsuruta

10/21/86 Int'l Title: Stan Hansen vs Jumbo Tsuruta (title change)

 

Not really time from July on, as the Tag League starts on the series after the October title change. April or May would have been best, or even March instead of Gordy since he had challenged on 10/29/84 and 06/04/85.

 

I don't recall if Martel kind of zoned out for a while after dropping the AWA Title. KHawk might know better. I know he showed up at Wrestle Rock.

 

John

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Martel also had a very fun match with Choshu in Japan in 1985, and a single match during the Tag League in 1986 with Choshu that folks generally liked as well.

 

His matches with Jumbo and Choshu reflect pretty damn well on Martel.

 

John

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Think he went back to Montreal after the AWA title loss, almost exclusively. He was part of the ownership I think.

 

He did have a non-title rematch in Quebec in the Spring of 86 with Hansen, which he won via pin, that was supposed to set up a title match. That match never happened as far as I know.

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I just want to preface this with that I am really appreciative that there is such a great resource here to help guide me through my wrestling watching as I try to catch up to all the great stuff everyone here has seen. That being said, I wanted not just to take in this knowledge, but also contribution. My contribution is the Rick Martel (eventually Tito Santana) vs The Islanders. Maybe, somebody has already pimped this, but not to my knowledge. I am pimping this as one of the best storylines in and out of the ring WWF ever did during the Hulkamania. This series was the series that really cemented Martel in my mind as one of the elite wrestlers of the 1980s and one of the best natural babyfaces of all time.

 

The Islanders vs Can-Am Connection -Superstars 6/87

 

The AWA had the Rockers, the NWA had the Rock N Rolls & Fantastics, WWF took their stab at the pretty boy babyface tag team with the Can-Ams. After two years of the Bulldogs on top, the female fans must have been certainly grateful.

 

Strike Force obviously turned out to be a better end game because you are substituting Tito Santana for Tom Zenk, but I actually believe the Can-Ams would have been a great act too. I mean if Valentine could wrestle matches basically by himself while Beefcake stood on the outside I think Martel would have been just fine.

 

The Islanders are still faces at this point, but have been wrestling more aggressively against fellow face acts like the Rougeaus and Killer Bees. Bruno fucks up worse than Heenan at Bash at the Beach when he says isnt this match where Heenan said he would unveil his new tag team. Vince was all like well Harley Race and Hercules are tagging later on tonight, damnit Bruno. Tama looks like one scary muthafucka. Haku actually looks pretty gentle, not intimidating at all and positively thin.

 

Haku vs Martel starts off awesome with some great Martel offense: reverse cross body block and hurricanarana. Zenk comes in and does his usual blase stuff. My favorite spot of the match is Zenk telegraphs a back body drop and Haku kicks him with so much momentum he actually walks through it. At this point, Heenan comes out and distracts the Can-Ams.

 

The Islanders bum rush The Can-Ams whipping Martel head first into the steel post and doing their dreaded double standing headbutt. Tama whips Zenk to the outside and delivers the headbutt from the apron. The Islanders win by countout.

 

This was a wicked effective angle for TV. It immediately gives the Islanders a ton of momentum to have Heenan as their manager and to really beat up the Can-Ams. This gives the Can-Ams the first angle where they will be seeking revenge. The best part is that Zenk ends up leaving so the angle gets even better once Tito gets involved.

 

It was so well-executed that I actually wanted to watch the whole angle play out at MSG.

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Rick Martel vs Tama - 7/87 MSG

 

Zenk has departed the WWF and thus Martel has activated AWA World Champion mode. He says he would wrestle the two Islanders himself (in separate singles). Throughout this match, if you did not know any better it felt like it was of his really high end AWA World Championship defenses. Martel is such an offensive dynamo and Tama is trying his best to break it up anyway he can with underhanded tactics. Martel is looking for revenge for Superstars and that fire conveyed really well here. For those who have trouble keeping the Samoans straight (I think that is everyone), Tama is Rikshi's twin and Haku is unrelated and from Tonga much like The Barbarian.

 

Haku & Tama double team Martel to start, but he explodes with a double clothesline that gets the crowd going and sends the Islanders to the floor. Tama keeps trying to break Martel's momentum: putting himself in the ropes, pointing at his clenched fist, not giving him clean breaks, but Martel is too much to handle and eventually gets a hold of Tama's leg. They break up the leg work with some fun stuff as Martel outsmarts or outquicks (nice cartwheel, Martel) him at each turn to get him back into a toehold or leglace. The way Martel is working this with all this energy just makes it feel so pertinent that he win. Tama sells the knee work very well.

 

The one thing about wrestling barefoot you better not have sensitive feet. Eventually Martel lays a little too far back and Tama has the chance to lay some shots in. Tama still selling gets caught with a shinbreaker and Martel grabs Tama by the feet while he is holding the bottom ropes giving him the ol' heeve ho. This has been some really excellent stuff so far with Martel wrestling more like a World Champion than an upper mid carder in the tag ranks. Martel drops all his weight on Tama's knee before going into the spinning toe hold as he gives Tama his back that is enough to push him off and send him crashing to the floor. That was such a good transition spot.

 

Tama, still selling the knee, takes Martel and runs him headfirst into the steel ring post. Haku adds some shots for good measure. Tama hits his flying reverse elbow, but he is still selling and is frustrated with only a two count. Tama knows he needs to contain Martel's explosiveness slaps on a Vulcan Nerve Pinch. Martel hope spot is ended by a Tama knee lift who immediately winces in pain and tries for another cover off the knee drop. Much like Martel using a toe hold as his base, Tama is working the Vulcan Nerve Pinch. At this point, both guys are in such a groove that they still have me enthralled with their energy in the hold and another hope spot. This time Tama punches Martel in the face on his sunset flip. A Tama clothesline gets two and it is back to the nerve pinch. This time it looks like our French Canadian hero is fading. The Garden just wont let him die and a third time is a charm...Martel crashes and burns on his reverse cross body and now Tama is just relentless with the stomps and tosses Martel to the outside. He rams Martel's head against the apron. Martel just keeps coming. Haku now rams him headfirst into the ramp. This match is so fuckin good. Tama brings Martel in with the vertical suplex and Martel kicks out again. YOU CANT HOLD DOWN RICKY MARTEL!!!!

 

Martel ducks a clothesline and hits a kneelift on Tama. Tama with some more, but Martel is coming back with strikes. Tama bodyslam and misses the diving headbutt. Lefts by the southpaw, Martel and a back body drop. ITS RICKY MARTEL TIME, MUTHAFUCKAS!!! Tama begs off and Martel connects with the reverse elbow that sends Tama to the floor. Martel gives Tama a taste of his own medicine ramming his head into the apron. Now he jerks the ropes so that Tama does a belly flop into the ring. That was a frigging awesome spot. Tama is now tied up in the ropes and Martel does a running headbut to Tama's midsection. Haku helps him get out, but Martel catapults Tama into Haku. This only gets 2, surprisingly, great false finish. Martel reverses a crossbody into a pinning combination.

 

Martel celebrates like he just won the World Title. The dastardly Islanders double team and where is Tom Zenk?!?!?!? That coward. Islanders hit their double headbutt. The refs try to break up this mugging, but Islanders are relentless. Ricky, dont be a hero! You need to find a friend in arms to combat these nefarious Islanders.

 

This is a strong WWF MOTYC for 1987 and I think I might vote it over Savage/Steamboat right now. This is truly an incredible match on par with Martel's AWA matches against Bockwinkel, Saito and Jumbo and a real testament to Martel's natural babyface charisma and his relentless work ethic. This did not feel as segmented as so many 1980s WWF matches, but a true struggle where they constantly mixed in hope spots with their sound psychology. I can not wait for the next chapter in this feud. ARRIBA!

 

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Rick Martel vs Haku - 8/87 MSG

 

Both Islanders play King of the Mountain and won't let Rick Martel into the ring. Ricky is like two can play at that game and goes to back to bring out Tito Santana! STRIKE FORCE, BABY~! This angle has been excellent and the addition of Tito as Martel's partner due to Zenk's departure only makes it better. Gorilla explains that during of the Islander's 2 on 1 muggings of Martel, Tito made the save from the Spanish Announce Team. After a great 3 year run anchoring the upper midcard, it only made sense to use Tito in a new capacity as he stil something to give as a major babyface player. The British Bulldogs were withering in the face of injuries, so by pairing the recently AWA World Heavyweight Champion and recent WWF Intercontinental Cheampion made Strike Force an instant babyface superteam. The Islanders started off as their establishment feud with the Hart Foundation & Bulldogs wrapped up their feud. Strike Force went over the Hart Foundation to establish themselves as the number one babyface tag team only to drop the titles at Wrestlemania IV to establish Demolition as the lead heel team. Man, I miss this Vince, just really simple, but highly effective booking.

 

In the summer of 1987, Rick Martel is my pick for the best wrestler in the WWF. As I mentioned in the last match, he is working as if he is still the AWA World Champion, who is hot at the heel's underhanded tactics. Martel & Haku begin the match off hot with a BIG Martel cross body block. Martel just starts throwing hands because he aint gonna take it, anymore! My favorite aspect of this match is the sense of struggle as both men are constantly attacking each other, but not in a way that is hapahazard or chaotic. One examples is early when Martel sets early for a back body drop and Haku pounces leading you to think Haku will capitalize, but Martel cartwheels out of a Haku back body drop and hits a hurricanrana, which he punctuates with some punches to Haku's skull.

 

When Haku takes over, he does have to work very hard to keep Martel because Martel just wont stop moving forward. He uses a chinlock effectively and follows up with a back suplex. However when Haku gets a bit careless and gives Martel that separation by Irish WHipping him into the corner, Martel responds with reverse cross-body off the second rope. That is the story of this match, Haku has to stay on top of Martel. One lapse in Haku's offnese and Martel will explode. In a desperation maneuver, Haku grabs Martel's trunks and throws him out of the ring. Martel seems more pissed that hurt on the outside. Haku brings Martel in the hard way with a vertical suplex. Haku misses his second rope headbutt and here comes the signature Martel left and Martel is on fire. Martel gets cocky trying the rana again, cardinal wrestling sin, Haku dumps him headfirst onto the top turnbuckle for his infraction. Haku with a diving headbutt only gets two and he drapes him over the second rope to choke him. Tama hits the prone Martel with a chair. In a rare WWF mistake, we actually miss the pinfall as we focus on the proud Tama. Tito rushes to the ring to make the Islanders pay for their transgressions and ensure Martel's safety as he actually does a stretcher job off the chair shot. They have put some serious heat on this feud and have really built their first tag encounter well. I am sitting here twenty five years in the future and I can not wait for the first Strike Force vs Islanders match.

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Strike Force vs The Islanders - 9/87 MSG

 

Holy shit! How has no one ever told me of this match before. This match was an instant classic for me and currently one of my favorite matches. Before the match (shown on MSG Classics), Mean Gene shows a clip from Superstars where Tito gets assaulted by the Islanders due to him saving Martel from an earlier attack. So it is now personal between all four men. They do not wait for the formal ring introductions as Strike Force storms the ring and KATIE BAR THE DOOR BECAUSE THERE IS A PIER-SIX BRAWL A BREWIN!!! Islanders bail and Heenan leaves his hand on the apron and Strike Force stomps each hand. Then Martel brings in Tama the hard way who does a belly flop into the ring. A Martel dropkick send Tama over the top rope. I am loving every bit of this and so is the Garden.

 

Tama asks for time out, bitch please. Martel ducks a corner shot and he levels him. They set up the arm bar as the base of their attack with Tito coming off the ropes with an elbow to Tama's elbow and then swiftly knocking Haku off the apron. Tito leapfrogs over Tama and then turns around leveling Tama with a clothesline. Tama breaks up the armbar with headbutts and he tags Haku in. Haku promptly misses his big elbow. Time for him to play pinball for Strike Force. Once again, the armbar is the base with Martel using his speed. This is the best face shine sequence I have seen save for the MX/RNR Wrestlewar '90, which is also wicked fun.

 

All good things must come to an end and while the ref's back is turned, Tama comes off the top rope with an illegal forearm on Tito to set up the heat segment. Tama hits a wicked reverse elbow. The Islanders do all the good stuff: double teaming, choking with the tag rope, and false hot tag. Haku hits a monster superkick, but Tito kicks out at two. Haku goes for the kill with a SOMERSAULT SPLASH, but misses. TITO MAKES THE HOT TAG!!! THE GARDEN EXPLODES! ITS RICKY MARTEL TIME, MUTHAFUCKAS!!! He is one man wrecking crew, but as he has Tama in a pinning predicament Haku blasts Martel with the ref distracted. Haku vehemently chokes Martel with his foot.

 

Tama had Martel scouted on his reverse cross body. Martel has been watching his share of film too and avoids the second rope headbutt. The ref busy with keeping Tito out of the ring allowed Haku to hit Martel with a headbutt and throw Tama out to get the pin.

 

I loved this match. It was bell-to-bell action with great face/heel dynamics. When you have watched the whole angle progress you just couldnt wait to see Strike Force manhandle The Islanders that is what you get in the outset. The Islanders are no slouches in the offense department and really work a solid heel tag team. They could be a bit more vicious and there were times they were, but this is late 80s WWF so given the circumstances it was good enough. Santana and Martel are two of the best babyfaces of all time and holy shit is Rick Martel a MONSTER hot tag. I have this as my favorite 80s tag team match topping the Bulldogs/Dream 2 Out Of 3 Falls SNME match.

 

 

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Strike Force vs The Islanders - 10/87 MSG 2 Out of 3 Falls

 

Strike Force try to start off early, but the Islanders are wary of this and bail. Bock is on commentary again and does not know what to make of it when Gorilla posits that The Brain maybe in drag somewhere in the building. Neither do I, Bock. Was there an angle at the time? There is obviously the Weasel Suit, but I know nothing of drag. Anyways, Strike Force starts off hot with Strike Force controlling the action. They use a headlock as a base in this match. Tito hits a pretty sweet Thesz Press that only gets two.

Haku catches Martel with a back suplex while in the headlock shades of Mr. Saito. Tama and Haku do some double teaming on Martel. Martel is a lot better than most WWF babyfaces in working underneath by mixing in hope spots. He tags in Tito who immediately goes in for the kill with the Figure-4. However, the Islanders break it up.

 

Haku sends Tito crashing to the floor and as pay back attacks Tito's right knee. THIS AINT MEXICO, HAKU!!! Tama follows this up by stomping the left knee.

 

This leads to a continuity problem the rest of the match as Tito & Haku are on the same page with the right knee psychology, but Tama works over the left knee. The knee psychology is sound and refreshing in this match up. Tito maybe a bit better at selling than Martel as he is really milking this injury. The Islanders are really relentless making this a very dramatic segment. Martel gets fed up with this, but inadvertently allows The Islanders to hit their double diving headbutt to pick up the first fall.

 

There should be a short respite in between the falls, but the Islanders want to keep the full court press on Tito's knee. So Martel stands over the fallen, hurt Tito challenging to take both the Islanders on at the same time. It is just a great visiual and I am a total sucker for things like this as it is such great drama.

The second fall is wicked short as they work on the knee briefly before Martel reverses a cradle attempt for Strike Force to even it up. THE CROWD ERUPTS!! The babyface cheating is justified by the Islanders being total assholes constantly blindsiding Tito and Martel throughout the build-up. They do same angle during the respite.

 

Haku just slaps Tito around a bit to start. At this point, Gorilla notices the leg discontinuity, he claims that Haku is the one who fucked up by going after the right leg even though Tito had been selling the right leg. But like most Americans, he was accustomed to left side work so did not notice that Tito was selling the right leg. The Islanders go for the kill with the double headbutt, but Thou Shalt Not Hit The Same Spot In The Same Match In America.

 

ITS RICKY MARTEL TIME, MUTHAFUCKAS~! THE GARDEN IS ROCKING!!! Backdrop, strikes, reverse crossbody. Haku thinks he has Martel, but YOU CANT HOLD DOWN RICK MARTEL and he moves out of the way causing Tama to send Haku crashing to the apron and Martel to get the reverse sunset flip victory. STRIKE FORCE WINS!!! Martel does his usual I just won the World Title celebration!

 

I would say this is below the September tag match, which just had so much more action and really showed how much Strike Force wanted to pummel The Islanders. I liked the drama with Tito's knee, but it just felt a little too compressed. Plus I would have liked a little bit more definitive ending like a Boston Crab or cross body block to really put Strike Force over. That being said, they had the Garden with them every step of the way. This series has had incredible heat. This would be my WWF Feud of the Year and best Tag Feud I have seen from 80s WWF. This is just really classic stuff and just a great representation of why Martel was a such an incredible wrestler in the 80s.

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I am a HUGE fuckin fan of Rick Martel....I would count him as one of the most underrated guys EVER...

 

He had some decent matches with Savage as well as a very good little match vs. Marty Jannetty at the 1990 Survivor Series showdown.

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From what I've seen of AWA to the end of 1985 so far, Rick Martel is one of the 4 or 5 best fired up babyfaces I've seen.

 

In fact, I am finding it hard to think of people who are actually as good as that when fired up for their comeback. I'd put Martel ahead of Hogan for it.

 

I realise I need to see more face Lawler.

 

Martel is also really superb at selling submission holds.

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I know its blaspemous around here, but I dont think Lawler holds a candle to Martel...but I am not a huge Lawler fan at alll (heel Lawler bores me to death with those chain segments)...face Lawler is much better, but still not my cup of tea.

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Put me down in the "Id rather watch Martel than Lawler" camp. I need to watch some more Lawler, but I would say I have watched equivalent amounts of the two and I prefer Martel.

 

WWF World Tag Champs Strike Force vs The Islanders - Philly 12/87

 

These guys could not have a bad match if they tried. Now, this was not nearly as heated and part of that may be they ran most of the angles at the Garden thus the Philly crowd was not as revved and the wrestlers are wrestling this as a normal match rather than a grudge match. The opening sees the Islanders jump Strike Force for a change but Strike Force is able to ram them into each other to establish control. Martel busts out his hurricanarana early to wow the crowd. Tama takes two big bumps one off a Tito dropkick to the floor and the other is his patented belly flop back into the ring. I love that bump. They tease a Martel heat segment. Strike Force works over Haku's leg in ways that would make the Rockers jealous as it never enters heel in peril territory just good babyface shine fun.

 

Tama breaks up a figure four attempt, which these atrocious announcers call a new Strike Force move (they called Haku Sika once and one guy could not pronounce Tama's name). Haku hits Tito with repeated backbreakers while Tama lays the bad mouth down. Tito is such a great face in peril and this does not compare to their other heat segments, but it is still well-done to make you want to see the Martel. Heel miscommunication sees Tama clotheslining Haku and Tito gets the hot tag.

 

Here comes Martel, baby! Martel takes out both Islanders and tags Santana back in. Tito hits the Flying Burrito on Tama and gets him in the Figure-4, but Haku breaks it up. Only to have Martel sunset flip Haku for the win.

 

This was more of a fun match than the more substantial earlier encounters. I would still say these are better matches than the majority of the WWF tag matches I have seen so far. I am actually pretty disappointed how short-lived Strike Force is. I was going to watch the Demolition series and that's about it in terms of notable matches. Strike Force had the potential of being one of the best babyface tag teams of all time.

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WWF Tag Champs Strike Force vs The Bolsheviks - SNME 1/88 2 Out of 3 Falls

 

Only in pro wrestling would 300 lbs communist sympathizers be managed by a street wise black man. I just love that pairing as Slick is going on and on about how Gorby paid him a visit to talk strategy.

 

This is way better than I expected and in fact one of the better SNME matches I have seen. I have never watched Bolsheviks in action. I have seen a couple Volkoff matches and I have seen one Zuhkov match against Martel in the AWA, but I was not expecting. They worked a really well-done sprint with everybody getting a chance to shine including Vince who is obsessed with the size of Boris' head. The beginning was perfectly done with Strike Force using frequent tags and quick pinfall attempts to discombobulate the Pinkos. Tito gets a two from a cross body. Once the Bolsheviks are able to get a hold of Tito they take over with their rough and tumble style. A back suplex gets two for Boris. Tito is able to juke n jive around the Bolsheviks to get the hot tag. Martel makes quick work of Zuhkov with the Boston Crab to take the first fall.

 

Strike Force connect with the double dropkick and Martel commits the Cardinal Sin of Wrestling by trying to apply the Boston Crab again. Volkoff breaks it up this time. Now Volkoff shows off his nifty offense with a nice gutwrench and a huge over the head backbreaker. Volkoff is a massive dude. I always seem to forget that. Martel is much better at doing hope spots than Tito. Volkoff drops Martel throat first across the rope and a big kneedrop gets two. They bash heads and it is a race. ARRIBA! It is a Dropkick Fiesta!!! Flying Burrito gets broken up and Volkoff accidentally hits Zuhkov with Slick's cane.

 

Strike Force just keeps rolling in the great matches as the pull the best Volkoff match out of him in this action-packed sprint.

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WWF Tag Champs Strike Force vs Demolition - WM IV

 

Strike Force looks like a bunch of chumps following that entrance by Demolition. Demolition is my next target, but I get started a little bit out of order by watching this match to keep up with my Strike Force groove.

 

The most disappointing Strike Force match so far as the Bolsheviks looked a lot better than Demolition. Instead of playing speed against power, Strike Force played up the idea of doubling up their moves as a way to keep Demolition off the balance. I just did not think shine was as good because even the Bolsheviks sold and bumped better than Demolition did for Strike Force. The transition was really well-done with Smash catching Tito in a bearhug and sort of falling back so Ax could catch him in the throat.

 

This match would have been a lot better if Martel was the face in peril because he would added more dynamics and really made Demolition earn while Tito was just content to sell Demolition's power based offense. Demolition was really just using some bland stuff when they could have added some more outside the ring steel railing or post attacks, maybe some Fuji interference, some more double teaming. Tito connects with the flying burrito and makes the hot tag to Martel. Martel gets the short straw as he quickly puts Smash in the Boston Crab. Then we hit end game where Tito knocks Ax out of the ring with the Flying Burrito and then attacks Fuji. Fuji tosses the cane into the ring for Ax to smash Martel in the head. While Tito is preoccupied with Fuji, Smash falls on top to win the Tag Titles. It is a perfectly good finish, but they should have set up Tito's anger towards Fuji better by actually having Fuji participate in the match earlier.

 

Overall, a very disappointing end to Strike Force's title reign. Now I have found title switch matches are generally lackluster as are big supercard matches. So maybe when I watch April MSG match I will see a more game Demolition than the one out there that dragged down Strike Force.

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WWF Tag Champs Demolition vs Strike Force - MSG 4/88

 

Demolition reminds me a lot of Hart Foundation very structurally solid, but very uninspiring. Hart Foundation is still better to watch because Bret is way better on offense, bumping and selling than these two dudes. My biggest problem with Bret was his super segmented match structure where it would be shine->>transition->heat->transition->finish and outside of the transitions there would be no real sense of struggle. Each team was just playing ragdoll for each other. That was very much the case in the Wrestlemania match between the two. I will say it did get a bit better in this match. My theory did not come to fruition a Martel heat segment did not lead to more hope spots and a more sense of struggle. He did manage to get one more in than Tito, but it was not exactly a fight.

 

The babyface shine segment sees Strike Force overwhelming Demolition with double teams and quickness. They isolate each member. The best spot of the match is early on with Martel slapping Ax into the Boston Crab within first minute while Tito held Smash at bay with forearms, but eventually Smash saw opening due to the ref holding Tito back to hit Martel. Demolition just cant bump. It looks like they have trouble falling down. Ax took a front flip bump off a arm wringer, so I will eat my words. The Strike Force is using the arm bar and wrist locks as their base.

 

Ax uses the Hart Foundation stock transition the blind strike while the face is running the ropes. We get a Martel heat segment, but it is nothing much. Hey, but the Demos listened to me as they take Martel to the outside and he is driven into the apron. There is some decent lower back psychology. Hot tag to Tito, who runs the two Demos into each other. FLYING BURRITO!!! Fuji on the apron, Martel & Ax going at it, Fuji hits Tito with the cane on a figure 4 attempt.

 

I would say this is right with Strike Force/Hart Foundation matches. It is a bit underwhelming, but it peaked early. All four guys were keeping things moving and establishing that Strike Force was the better pure team and would win a fair fight. Even initially, Strike Force was besting Demolition's power offense because they were the better technical wrestlers before the blindside on the rope run. It took underhanded tactics and brute strength for Demolition to win. It is a great story that has just been told better. I have hope for Demolition.

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WWF World Tag Champs Demolition vs Strike Force - Primetime Wrestling 6/88

 

This match is just a backdrop for the killer angle that writes Martel off. The match was basically laid out the way the earlier matches have been. Strike Force has needed to double up on their moves to gain the advantage. Demolition can not gain the advantage by sheer size so they back Tito into the ropes so Fuji can jab him the ribs. Tito takes a lickin but keeps on tickin to hit the Flyin Burrito. Martel is clicking on all cylinders before a Boston Crab attempt left him prone to being buffeted to the outside. Smash smashed a chair across the back of Martel's head and hit him with Demolition Decapitation. I didn't think this elicited the level of heat it should as this quite the heinous attack, but maybe I am biased as a Martel fan and Strike Force fan. The stuff with Demolition never got out of first gear, but it does not make me any less disappointed that we are nearing the end of the road for Strike Force. The last match is against the Brainbusters at Wrestlemania V. Nothing is forever.

 

Strike Force vs Brainbusters - Wrestlemania V

 

This was a very bittersweet as it was a well-executed end to Strike Force, but I am sad to see them go. The story is rust of Strike Force versus the fluidity of the Busters. Some early flashes of synchronicity dispel this notion as Strike Force gain the upper hand on Arn & Tully including Martel tagging Tito out of a headlock and Tito coming into bulldog Tully. Some team should rip that as a stock spot as it really does demonstrate good synchronicity. This included all the good Arn & Tully standard spots: Martel punching his way out of the Heenan Family corner, the double dropkicks, double figure-4's, Arn taking the Flair press slam off the top rope. Give these two teams 20 minutes on World Championship Wrestling and we would have had one for the ages. However, a miscommunication seeing Tito hit Martel with a Flying Burrito and this led to dysfunction. At this point, you could see how fluid Arn & Tully were at containing Tito. When Tito did break free, Martel walked away coldly. An Arn spinebuster and spike piledriver out Tito out of his misery. Martel cuts your basic heel turn promo about how Tito was riding his coat tails and he was carrying him. If anything good comes from this, it is the Martel vs Santana feud that I have never really watched.

 

This is the type of match WWF really excels it. It is a match that is entertaining but really well laid out in advancing a storyline in such a way that the Brainbusters are propelled to the No. 1 Heel Tag Team spot and Martel's heel turn and the upcoming Santana feud is treated as a big deal.

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