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Charles (Loss)

[1999-04-11-WCW-Spring Stampede] Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko vs Raven & Perry Saturn

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This match never connected with me like it did many people. I do think it was very good, and I love Arn at ringside with Benoit and Malenko, running some great interference spots and keeping the heat strong. The double-team moves from both teams were excellent and this had great heat. But this also seemed like too much back and forth move trading with no real structure to it. They started the match with a hot finishing stretch which I guess is interesting but odd, then went into Saturn as FIP. Make no mistake, this was terrific and all-action. But it sometimes gets talked about as a throwback Southern tag which I don't really get. Really good, but I have just never seen the greatness.

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Some good stuff here but not great. This match does sort of anticipate the Smackdown six stuff and the early 2000s indie workrate style by a couple years so I can see why it got a reputation, and also why it's the kind of match likely to diminish with time. I can sort of see the southern tag comment, you have some long FIPs with comeback teases and the face shine in the beginning. Fun match and some cool stuff but nothing that stands out in the year, at least looking back.

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This was a modern take of a Southern tag. It's a match that wouldn't look out of place on a 2005 WWE show. Benoit/Malenko were a real good heel tag team with Arn as the manager. Benoit doing a diving headbutt on the steel chair is real tough to watch knowing what happened.

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Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko vs Raven & Perry Saturn - Spring Stampede 1999

 

Raven as a babyface is just weird, but the crowd was totally behind Saturn & Raven cheering them throughout and letting the Horsemen know they suck on multiple occasions. My favorite part of the match was its unique structure. They tease a finish stretch in the middle of the match. I really can't recall the last time I have seen that. It is actually a really neat idea. Instead of an endless barrage of nearfalls, you have a hot sequence, but then one wrestler/team slows the pace back down to reset. It is definitely an interesting idea. I loved the continuity of both teams. Raven and Saturn were all about the double teams early to establish themselves as a real team. Saturn whipped Benoit into Malenko on the outside. It was a short babyface shine, but it was fun. I loved the transition with Malenko and AA beating down Raven. Raven was definitely the better choice for FIP than Saturn as we see later. I liked the Horsemen heeling it up using the ref as a great prop to get heat and just some wicked strikes on Raven. Saturn's hot tag is cutoff by a Malenko right. Again, we get some nice double teams like Saturn crossbody on Malenko on Raven's shoulders and Malenko's dropkick into a Benoit German Suplex. Malenko applies his Cloverleaf, but Saturn makes the ropes and AA is besides himself. Saturn hits the Death Valley Driver, but Benoit uses his diving headbutt to break it up. Now we move back into a FIP segment on Saturn, who is total shit at selling and hope spots. Even this lame FIP segment can't kill this crowd as they keep clapping for Saturn. Raven gets the hot tag and he moves pretty well and hits some nice strikes. The drop toehold into the chair takes out Benoit, but Saturn crashes and burns through a table. We are down to Raven and Malenko. Evenflow DDT! AA and Lil Naitch (right at the start of that angle) have a conference and The Enforcer leaves a chair on Raven's head and Benoit hits an unprotected diving headbutt. FUCK! Stuff like that really leaves you shaking your head and Benoit busts himself over. The Horsemen pick up the win after hot sequence. Replace Saturn with someone who was actually worth a shit and this maybe have been an all-time classic. Tony was marking out about the return of tag team wrestling and I can't blame him there is too much great stuff not to enjoy this match. The Horsemen Trio (Anderson was awesome in his role and should have had an extended run as a manager) were great heels and Raven/Saturn had some good double teams. The two hot sequences and interesting match layout is enough to recommend everyone watch this to see how they feel about the layout. ***3/4

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Really cool start with a Horseman sucks chant and everyone showing some great intensity before locking up. I had forgotten that this wasn't for the tag titles. The structure of this was weird but I was appreciative of that having watched a lot of wrestling over the past two days. The nearfalls and double teams from the face side at first settled down with the Horseman taking over with an assist from Arn and some double teaming of their own. The work over Raven was done really well with the hint of bias from lil Naitch creating an overcoming the odds narrative for Saturn/Raven. Saturn tags in and has a good house of first sequence with a big pop when Arn gets popped. Horseman are able to take over on him though and again the match slows down with the heels in control. Fun match about the difference in pace. Benoit and Malenko aren't doing uninteresting things when on top but it does take a more methodical tone. Raven does a really good hot tag and again the match amps up with Raven doing his chair spots with Benoit. Saturn wipes out through a table on the outside thanks to Arn who has been a force in this match as a manager. After an Evenflow, Arn physically rolls in forcing Robinson to admonish him. However, Arn was clever enough to place the chair on Ravens head and we get a disgusting diving headbutt from Benoit for the win that leaves him bloody. I have always enjoyed this tag for having high octane moves with a southern tag structure of the double FIP and heel cheating. This held up really well for me. ****

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The Horsemen were the heels for those keeping score. Did I just really like a Raven match? A rare occurance for sure. Equally rare and very interesting was the structure. They didn't just have a double FIP but had a full on false stretch after the first one. The lengths of all the different stages of the match were spot on. Long enough without dragging. Benoit did a diving headbutt onto a chair that allowed his partner to get the pin. I was expecting him to put his arm out to take the impact but no. Heading straight to concussion city. It's the kind of thing a stupid man might think logical to do, so made sense from that perspective.

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This was a lot of fun. I don't think I'd call it a great match, but at the very least it's great by 1999 WCW standards. Everyone's touched on the odd match layout already, and in the end I liked the fact that they were willing to change the formula up a bit. Arn was a terrific manager, not just the way he got physically involved but the way he put over the in-ring action. Charles Robinson hit the right note as a very subtly biased ref, without beating it over your head or detracting from the action. Raven looks good here--for a guy I was absolutely dreading going into this Yearbook project based on others' thoughts on him, he may well stand out as the '90s' most pleasant surprise of them all. Not everything he did was a home run to say the least, but I can't say that I ever found him boring. The ending is ridiculous and cringeworthy and maybe the single biggest impediment keeping this at very-good-not-great levels. Still, a fun time with great crowd heat.

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