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I watched the Garea/Martel title losses vs the Moondogs and vs Saito/Fuji. Martel was really over in both, enough that poor Garea got outshined in the Moondogs match. The Saito/Fuji match is legitimately very good. The Moondogs match has way too long a shine though the tandem armwork is a lot of fun. It had the stronger hot tag too, but the loss vs Saito/Fuji was better at just about everything else. The shine's good but a reasonable length. Garea really gets the fans behind him as FIP. Saito looks unsurprisingly great but Fuji could still go better than you'd think and the finish is awesomely timed. Worth tracking down and checking out.

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Who is your avatar, Matt? Bobby Davis?

Gold star, Kelly. I did a screen grab from a (still Prince) Curtis Iaukea match on youtube. So far as avatars go, I'm fairly pleased with it.

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The last match before I complete my Strike Force Blog...all good things must come to an end.

 

AWA World Tag Team Champions High Flyers vs Rick Martel & Tito Santana - 8/29/82 St. Paul

 

These four guys go balls to wall for 15 minutes struggling to score a victory. It is two babyface vs babyface teams where neither team plays a subtle heel that you would often see in face vs face matches. It actually feels like puro in that way, it is a pure competition to see who is the best. The beginning of the match is very focused on Strike Force working over the High Flyers with headlock. I would say Martel is the better of the two in working the headlock. These are some really fast-paced headlock sequences. Martel/Gagne go through a wild headlock/headscissors exchange that would challenge anyone's cardio. You really get the feeling right out the gate that both teams are focused on picking up the victory. Santana, unlike Martel, is a little more content to sit in his headlock. Gagne tries working a crossface on Santana to break it up and feels really heated. Once Martel gets back in, he will run up the ropes and in order to do side headlock takeovers. Martel rules! They work some sequences in between these headlocks, but everything is very focused on the headlocks by Strike Force, which I like the concentration. At this point, we get a clip and now the High Flyers change the focus from headlocks to some really wicked leg work that is bitchin'. Gagne drops a knee on Tito Santana's knee and does his inverted deathlock (Gagnelock?), which looks pretty wicked given how he is applying it. Brunzell follows up with a figure-4 and then a spinning toe hold. Eventually, Santana kicks out and finally Martel gets in, but we find that Martel is selling his knee, which we must have missed in the clip. One last time for the Strike Force Fans, "IT'S RICKY MARTEL TIME, MUTHAFUCKAS!" but he is cut short because he hits a backbreaker, which hurts his own knee! Killer. Martel tags Tito and Gagne dodges this dropkick. This may sound weird. But I marked the fuck out for that. The force that Tito threw that dropkick and how quick Greg moved out of the way. Gagne hits a shinbreaker on the ailing knee of Santana and then applies Spinning Toe Hold. Martel gets the tag and runs through some more offense punctuating with a backbreaker. Tito back in with a wicked cross-body and he rattles off a ton of moves, but Gagne grabs the GAGNE CHOKE! Santana snapmares out and hoists Gagne up, but unbeknowst to Tito, Gagne tags Brunzell. Then Brunzell hits the most HOLY SHIT dropkick on Tito. He dropkicks him right in the head for the win. That was the best damn dropkick.

 

I think any match that can make you mark out for a missed dropkick and a dropkick is a pretty damn incredible match. The story of this best match to prove you were best tag team in the AWA. It was wrestled clean, but that does not mean they wrestled like nancy boys and were polite. They were out for the victory. The tenacity shown on the headlocks and leg works was enthralling. The home stretch was one of the best with Martel's knee going out, Flyers going back to the legs, Tito rattling off moves, before the Mother of All Dropkicks. I don't want to say this blows all WWF tag team matches out of the water, but it does makes most of them look second-rate. This is an excellent showcase on how to work a heated face vs face match without any subtle heel tactics.

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Portland - Martel vs Wiskowski - 2/3 Falls - July 12, 1980

 

Buddy is sent to the back at the beginning. They start with a cool criss cross I haven't seen before where Wiskowki falls vertically and Martel runs over him the long way before going down into a Wiskowski headlock base. Martel hopes out with rope running and a headscissors but crashes hard into the ropes/corner on a body press and Wiskowski puts it back on. Second hope spot is rope-running, two leapfrogs and a sunset flip but Wiskowski kicks out and slaps on a headlock takeover and another headlock. Third hope spot is Martel turning it into a top wristlock but he ends up in a headscissors. He headstands out, but Wiskowki is right on him in the corner. He dismantles Martel for a minute and then goes for a suplex but Martel counters with a front facelock and reverses it into a suplex of his own. Wiskowki hangs on to the facelock though and Martel sells it huge. Martel gets back to his feet but Wiskowski is grinding the hell out of the headlock. This is slow steady stuff, a lot of jockeying for position. Martel hits another suplex but Wiskowski doesn't let go. It's almost like a reverse cravat here. It's a little dubious, selling-wise, but it's really just hanging on and I'm generally okay with it, especially because on the third one he finally breaks it and takes over for a moment with a backbreaker. Martel puts his head down and pays for it, but reverses again soon after and fires away on Wiskowksi in the corner. Martel puts on a headlock of his own but gets a back suplex for his trouble. Ed goes up to the top rope, hits the swandive headbutt and that's the first fall. Basic but well-worked stuff. Good heel-driven first fall.

 

Ed starts the second fall with a full on cravat. Martel bodyslams out but sells his head and back. Ed gets up selling his own back, just enough for Martel to fight back against the ropes. He's still groggy enough that Wiskowki recovers, punches him down and puts on a leaning chinlock. Martel fights out and goes for a cross body block but gets caught and slammed and knee-dropped. Wiskowki covers but Martel gets both knees up and claps them on his head, taking back over. This is pretty back and forth. Martel beats on him a bit and goes for another cover but this time Wiskowki does the head clap. Martel reverses a pile driver. They do some more stuff. Martel puts on an abdominal stretch. Wiskowki flips out of it. This has a lot of action but none of it means all that much. Martel finally targets in on the back. Wiskowki goes for a sort of lame dropkick, gets caught and Martel puts it into the crab but Wiskowki gets to the ropes. Sandy bar steps on him since he's only touching it and Portland is weird that way but he pulls himself back. Wiskowki gets an eye poke in, tosses Martel into the corner. Martel reverses it, hits a 'rana into a pin and that's the fall. This wasn't what I'd call a great fall.

 

The come out quick with the third fall with Martel getting the advantage and a few near falls. Wiskowki does a roll up out of the corner, with tights but just gets a two count. Martel does a couple of weirdly missing dropkicks the second one hitting Barr in a weird but kind of interesting visual. Then Wiskowki hits this great elbow on Martel while he's on all fours then hits a headbutt off the second rope onto the back of Martel's had. While he's going up, Barr calls for the bell saying that he was pulled into the dropkick. Martel retains the belt.

 

This had good action at times and some good storytelling here and there but ultimately, I don't think it was a great match, just like I don't think that Martel vs Race from the very end of 79 was a great match. The Rose matches absolutely are. I think that says more about Rose than Martel in 1980.

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That High Flyers vs. Tito and Martel tag is all about the babyface offence. That really is one of the best face vs. face matches you'll ever see.

The last seven minutes or so they showed of their first match in July is also like that.

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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."

 

in one of his shoots he did say Booker T was dangerous & unsafe to work with however he actually said his knee injury was caused when Saturn threw him over the top rope during a triple threat, it had nothing to do w/ Booker T

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Dylan, I think we were trying to do a more apples to apples comparison with the Model vs Mr. Perfect. Perfect has the Hart matches and Santana matches. The Model has the Santana matches, but without seeing more I don't know if he has another series to sort of match Perfect two for two. The Model does seem to be the more consistent of the two in the ring, but both were breaking down quite in a bit due to steroid and health issues.

 

Wrestlemania III

 

Top Faces - Hogan, Piper, Steamboat, Jake The Snake, JYD

 

Top Heels - Andre, Savage, Adonis, Honky Tonk, Harley

 

Wrestlemania IV

 

Top Faces - Hogan, Savage, Jake The Snake, Warrior, Steamboat

 

Top Heels - Andre, DiBiase, Rude, Honky Tonk

 

Wrestlemania V

 

Top Faces - Hogan, Warrior, Jake The Snake, Beefcake,

 

Top Heels - Savage, Rude, Andre, DiBiase, Perfect

 

Wrestlemania VI

 

Top Faces - Hogan, Warrior, Jake The Snake, Piper, Beefcake/Bossman?

 

Top Heels - Rude, DiBiase, Earthquake, Perfect, Savage/Bad News/Martel?

 

Wrestlemania VII

 

Top Faces - Hogan, Warrior, Jake The Snake, Bossman

 

Top Heels - Slaughter, Savage, Martel, Perfect, DiBiase/Taker?

 

I don't want to get bogged down in the difference between a No. 3 heel and No. 4 heel, but I wanted to show was Steamboat's movement (top act to on the precipice of falling into the midcard mire) and where Martel could have fit in 1988 and going forward. Bear in mind, Martel took off the last half of 1988 after Demolition "injured" him so I don't know if that was a real injury or just vacation. In a perfect world, Martel would have taken Beefcake's spot, which I think we all agree could have led to great stuff with DiBiase and Perfect down the line. Now, would have politics let this happen, I am guessing not. There was no way you were going to leapfrog Hogan & Warrior and hell when you break it down like this, you cant really leapfrog Jake The Snake as he is really underappreciated as the top mid-card babyface act of the late Hogan era. Then on top of that Hogan loved using Beefcake to wrestle his winter feud (see DiBiase and Perfect) to establish Beefcake in single mid-card. I think Martel would have been stuck pretty low on the totem pole. Looking at Summerslam 1989, the Martel/Santana feels like the third biggest angle on their behind Hogan/Savage, Warrior/Rude, which have been why Martel going heel was the best long-term move for Martel. As he did wrestle Beefcake throughout late 89/90, which is actually a decent mid-card run, before slotting into a number 3 role with Jake The Snake and then steroids bust happened.

 

Stylistically, Rick Martel as a number 3 babyface in the vein of a more traditional babyface would have kicked ass, but I don't think he could have gotten ahead of Snake & Beefcake rendering to the point where he may have actually slipped into a jobber role. So they either could have pressed on with Strike Force, but booking gets in the way of this too as Demolition, Hart Foundation and the Rockers were babyfaces! Santana as a heel sounds awful. So it seems reasonable that Vince realizing Andre was declining and that the heel roster was in way more flux than the babyface roster that turning heel was the best use of Martel. Santana strikes me of a Steamboat. If Steamboat stayed, I could have seen him used in a tag team doing well and then getting shunted down the roster to put people over.

Martel did have at least one great match w/ Bret Hart that aired on Prime Time Wrestling in 1989, it was a 30 minute time limit draw that I recently watched from 24-7 & it was a tremendous match.

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Things change in 93-4 because Heenan and DiBiase leave and I don't think either of them are properly replaced. Yokozuna is clear top heel, but things are pretty thin behind him. First half of 93 Money Inc are still around, then you've got Lawler, Shawn and now you're really reaching. DiBiase comes back in 94, and even though he's retired comes back as a "big bad", but by this point there's no real "big four" any more, the roster is too thinned out.

93 to me looks like:

 

1. Yoko/Fuji/Cornette - clear #1

2. Jerry Lawler - established as despicable heel on commentary, then programmed with Bret for half the year

3. Shawn Michaels - de facto #3 here as IC champ

4. Nobody in particular, and nobody is there or lasts the whole year. At different times it could be Luger pre-face turn, Money Inc (who I'd bump ahead of Michaels), Doink, Bam Bam, Ludvig Borga or even The Quebeccers.

 

 

I think you can make a case for DiBiase being THE main bad guy in 94-95: Programmed against Undertaker, throwing numerous goons at him. Fake Taker, IRS, Kama, Bundy. Manages Bam Bam against LT. Then manages Sid against world champ Diesel and Shawn Michaels, two of the top 4 faces. Responsible for beloved faces Tatanka and 1-2-3 Kid turning heel.

 

After that I'd go

 

2. Owen Hart - feuds with Bret all year in 94 before settling into a top uppercard heel spot in 95

3. Jim Cornette - has the Camp Cornette stable with top heels Yokozuna, Owen Hart and British Bulldog

4. Jerry Lawler - still a heel fixture. Works program with Piper in 94, then is thorn in Bret's side for much of 95

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Thinking back on this, the idea of there having to be four is probably quite arbitrary and is being driven by the analogy. There could be three.

 

Back in the 70s and early 80s, they always had the 3 wise men, Albano, Blassie and Grand Wizard. For all intents and purposes, they played the "anchor" roles I've outlined and there was a CONSTANT conveyor belt of heels coming through from each of them.

 

To an extent: Heenan replaced Grand Wizard, Slick replaced Blassie and Jimmy Hart replaced Albano (tag specialist). We think of Heenan as the number 1 manager, but the others did bring threats against Hogan. Slick brought the Twin Towers. Hart brought Earthquake (and Dino Bravo! lol). There was also Mr Fuji but he is mostly an undercard manager until Yokozuna.

 

There are all niggling specifics though: in general I think the broader point still stands ...

 

It's more useful to think about WWF from this timeframe in comic-book terms with a superhero taking on a rogue's gallery than it is to think in terms of "number 1 heel". Some super villains are more prominent that others, some are one-shots, some are constants.

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I'm bumping this to pose the question again: what is the best heel WWF Martel match? The ones that might come to mind first are underwhelming, sometimes damningly so (like the 20 minute broadway vs Bret and the Michaels match). He had a long run with Santana but it feels like a lot of those didn't actually make tape just because they were on the wrong loop at the wrong time. Any thoughts?

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20 minutes ago, Matt D said:

I'm bumping this to pose the question again: what is the best heel WWF Martel match? The ones that might come to mind first are underwhelming, sometimes damningly so (like the 20 minute broadway vs Bret and the Michaels match). He had a long run with Santana but it feels like a lot of those didn't actually make tape just because they were on the wrong loop at the wrong time. Any thoughts?

Assuming only singles matches, I'd say probably the Blindfold match (not really joking). Did he have any matches with Tito Santana post-Strike Force break-up that could be in the conversation? Or you know what, maybe the match vs. Razor Ramon for the vacant IC title on Raw in 93.

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On 7/6/2018 at 4:08 PM, El Boricua said:

Assuming only singles matches, I'd say probably the Blindfold match (not really joking). Did he have any matches with Tito Santana post-Strike Force break-up that could be in the conversation? Or you know what, maybe the match vs. Razor Ramon for the vacant IC title on Raw in 93.

That's actually what Loss and I came up with too. It seemed so outlandish that I bumped this.

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I came up with 5 that I feel are at least pretty good, though admittedly I'm a big Martel mark:

vs. Terry Taylor 2/19/90 WWF MSG

vs. Tito Santana 4/4/90 WWF Glens Falls (forget where it aired)

vs. Roddy Piper 5/13/90 WWF Challenge

vs. Jake Roberts, Blindfold Match 3/24/91 WWF Wrestlemania VII (which yes, I honestly think is excellent)

vs. Kerry von Erich 1/31/92 WWF MSG

 

Obviously your mileage may vary. I don't think any are on the level of his face stuff, but I enjoy them all pretty well.

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I thought his MSG match vs Brutus was good when I watched it on whichever Coliseum Video on the Network.  He even goes over during a time they were pushing Brutus reasonably hard in late 89.

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