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[1979-02-19-WWWF-MSG, NY] Bob Backlund vs Greg Valentine

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WWF Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund vs Greg Valentine - WWF MSG 2/19/79

 

This is the last major match I have left to review in one of my all-time favorite series of matches. I have seen this before and remember loving it. This is the one hour draw. Instead of taking notes, I will review the match in 20 minute intervals.

 

First twenty minutes: You would never know this match is going to a draw given the pace they cut in the first twenty minutes. No this is not Flair/Steamboat, but they don't telegraph it in the least and work as brisk as usual. Valentine is such a great opponent for Bob because he makes him earn everything. Bob's base hold of choice is the side headlock and they do some really fun work in and out of it. Like when the Hammer looked to counter it the first time by grabbing a leg this led a monkey flip. The next time Backlund dropkicked him and TIMMMMBBBBAAAAAAHHHHH! When Valentine would just touch Backlund's legs the crowd would gasp because they thought the figure-4 was imminent. Valentine hit some really hard shots to Bob's midsection and really was laying in it as to be expected. Backlund missed his second dropkick. Valentine got a nice bow and arrow on Backlund. Next up was a nice full nelson exchange with Backlund busting out the wheelbarrow into the full nelson, which was nifty. Then followed up by the short arm scissors exchange no deadlift, but a nice rolling short arm scissors. The twenty minutes end with Backlund in control of the arm. Really strong first twenty minutes with the story being that these are two very evenly matched opponents. Backlund definitely had the upper hand in this tit for tat beginning as shown in the full nelson and short arm scissors exchanges. Even after twenty minutes, it still feels like they are feeling one another out, but it is not boring in anyway. Just two pros trying to find what sticks. After the short arm scissors, Backlund has Valentine in the armstretcher so going into the next twenty minutes, we will see if Backlund can maintain this advantage and what Valentine will do swing things his way and when will he go for the figure-4?

 

Second Twenty Minutes: Really amazing back half here. Lets get the 20-30 minute mark outta the way. Backlund does his rowing spot and then drives his heel into Valentine's face and seemingly has the match in hand when he knocks heads with Valentine and that sends him to the floor. He never really recovers after that unfortunate incident. Valentine bodyslammed him in and went to Short Arm Scissors. I really like the short arm scissors, but this one did drag until the awesome Backlund deadlift high spot. Backlund hit a shoulder tackle, but Valentine uses his momentum against him to throw him out. Now we go to school. This is the all-time best heat segment on Bob. Valentine kicks the shit out of it. Wicked forearms on the apron. He brutalizes him on the apron. Stomping on him, choking with the boot, just kicking his ass. He starts pounding that leg. You know what that means. Figure-4 attempt is reversed into the small package, but Valentine was relentless on the leg and got a really nice single leg crab. Really cool Backlund escape sees him contort his body that he tabletops Valentine. Backlund THROWS Valentine on that vertical suplex. Incredible. Backlund cant hold Valentine, love that spot. Valentine big elbow and right back to the leg. Really compelling stuff in those last ten minutes. You never see Backlund get his ass whupped and Valentine looks totally dominant. Backlund is selling great, but also has great hope spots. Going into the last twenty minutes it really comes down to can Valentine get the Figure-4 applied and what the hell does Bob have to get himself out of this huge hole.

 

Home Stretch: In-fucking-credible. The last thirty minutes of this match is just amazing pro wrestling. Backlund is not going down without a fight. Valentine has Backlund in a leg lace as he tries to set up for the figure-4 and he just starts drilling him in the back with kicks and then pulling at anything he get his hands on. Valentine says fuck this and goes for the figure-4 and Backlund keeps kicking him off. Backlund is just lunging at Valentine out of desperation, but is crashing and burning. This is a battle of wills. Valentine goes for the figure-4 and Backlund repeatedly kicks him in the face. Valentine goes for Backlund's big atomic drop, but Backlund blocks and sends Valentine flying out. BACKLUND SELLS THE LEG! Valentine is crawling in and Backlund scurries over and headbutts him in the midsection. Valentine grabs Backlund by the hair and rams into the apron, but he is so spent, he falls into the ring! Backlund misses the splash and then Valentine eats knees on the splash! Backlund sells it! THIS IS SO FUCKING AWESOME! Backlund butterfly suplex, but he is on jelly legs. Vince posits that Backlund's legs maybe injured that's why he collapsed on the suplex attempt. Ya think, Vince? Awesome slugfest with Valentine falling right on his ass and Backlund teetering on his feet. Loving this selling of fatigue. Each wrestler is having these bursts of energy and then will lose it. Valentine puts his foot on the ropes and Backlund SEAT DROPS on that leg with all his weight. Now Backlund looks to give Valentine a taste of his own medicine and try to win with the figure-4. BUTTERFLY SUPLEX! That burst of energy fades and he cant capitalize. Now Valentine has burst of energy and grabs the leg starts to wrench against the bottom rope. Backlund trips him up, but Valentine kicks him square in the face. He brutalizes him with forearms and Valentine runs into a wicked knee. TIMMMMMBBBBAAAAAHHHH! BACKLUND LEG DROP! KICK OUT! Valentine hangs out for dear life to the top rope to avoid the Irish Whip and leads to the ab stretch. Ok, that was a bit of a letdown. The Hammer reverses it and punches him in the stomach. I love Valentine. Backlund back to butterfly suplex into a SWEET Valentine drop toehold. Valentine back to the Indian Deathlock and finally looks to get figure-4 , but Backlund hooks the bottom rope with all his limbs. Valentine hits an ugly (selling the fatigue) suplex, but it is fitting in this war of attrition. Valentine is frustrated and he pushes the ref. BACKLUND GUTWRNECH SUPLEX! Valentine gets his foot on the bottom rope. This is Valentine's match to lose. Not many people can say that against Bob. HUGE SLUGFEST! Backlund backslide! Valentine is trying everything and eats a punch coming off the middle rope, header into turnbuckle. Kicks Backlund hard into midsection. Valentine is desperate and frustrated and Backlund is determined, but exhausted. They knock heads again. Figure-4 again, but small package. Wicked slugfest again in the 60th minute! These men are GODS! Valentine collapsed into Backlund and PILEDRIVER~! As time expires.

You will be hard pressed to find a better 30 minutes in pro wrestling history than those last thirty minutes. The first twenty minutes are solid. The 20-30 minute stretch keeps this from being a strong Greatest Match of All Time, but this is safely a ***** because of those last thirty minutes. Battle of Wills is how I sum it. Backlund's leg selling is incredible. Valentine is a God on offense. What makes this match extraordinary is the selling of fatigue and how they incorporate bursts of energy. You gotta two beasts slugging it out in the 60th minute! Best Backlund match ever and maybe the best Valentine match ever! *****

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Anticipation was high for this one in a while. Been searching for links, DL files and dvds containing this footage for a long time, and I resigned the possibility that I would never watch this, however I finally got hold of the match and it did not disappoint. The first 20 minutes was exceptional. It was built around great reversals, fantastic grappling and submission holds. All memorable spots like Backlund constantly locking Valentine in the full nelson after he escapes causing Valentine to head to the outside to tremendous heat. Not only that, Valentine did a great job in that regard too, as well as cutting off Backlund with his knees to the sternum. Then the match kinda hit a lull. Some good grappling, again but however, it really wasn't all that interesting. So the pacing in that regard suffered, slightly. However that last 20-15 minutes was utterly fantastic. Great urgency shown. Awesome counters and reversals. Backlund and Valentine hitting some big bombs like Backlund's sweet suplexes. It many ways, it has the flaws of Angle/Lesnar Iron Match - great first half, dull 20 minutes, great ending - but it exceeds it in many ways also. Great match. ****1/2

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