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[1980-01-12-Portland] Harley Race vs Rick Martel (2/3 falls)

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I received my DVDVR "Best of the 1980s Portland" discs from Will.


This is disc 1, match 1. (I hope it's alright I'm posting about it here. This will have "match spoilers".)




The announcers are cooing over the NWA belt.


Rick Martel is given a glorious shine by Harley Race. If you like arm bars, this the match for ya. Referee's Sandy Barr's red outfit seems straight out of a 1970's JC Penny's catalog.


There's a great spot where Race goes for a gutwretch suplex and Martel reverses it. Later Martel catches Race on the top rope and flings him "12... 15 feet across the ring" (according to the announcers).


They explain the arm-bar obsession on commentary: "Why is Martel concentrating on armbars? He's giving away weight."


Note: Portland crowd in 1980 dresses like a Brooklyn crowd in 2016.


Race escapes from an armbar by dropping Martel across the top rope. We get Harley Race delivering a piledriver. We get the falling head butt from Race. He takes control. Eventually, Race wins the first fall with a big suplex.


The second fall has Martel returning the piledriver favor. Race gets the foot on the ropes. What a ring veteran!


There's a great elbow smash by Martel on Race. Falls two ends with Martel putting Race in a sleeper and knocking him out.


There's an incredible moment after this where Martel has to decide whether to do the "right thing" and wake up Race. Referee is threatening Martel if he doesn't do it. So eventually Rick gives Harley Race a judo chop to the neck and awakes the champion.


Third fall is a time-limit draw.


Good match. Martel was massively over with the crowd and Race not only made Rick look great, but he's a lot more fun to watch than I remembered. His facials after the sleeper wakeup were fantastic.

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I love Rick Martel and I can already tell this journey is going to add on to that. I thought this match was really good! Race probably could have done a better job selling the left arm during the second and third fall (especially with all the concentration on it from the first fall), but that's a minor complaint to a really fun match here. Martel is really over and I agree with the fun moments noted above and Race's reaction coming out of the sleeper. Great way to kick this off - pumped for a deep dive into Portland! I love Rick Martel's firery left arm haymakers in this match! He really looks like he's going to pop that left arm off of Race at some points.

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This was a solid, fun match. You had to know (without the benefit of hindsight, wikipedia, etc.) that Martel had no shot going in, but Harley makes him look great and the Portland crowd is hot for their guy. Nothing groundbreaking, but there were a bunch of sequences that I enjoyed - Martel's deep arm drags (a la Ricky Steamboat), Harley the ring general stooging and finding the ropes at the last second to get out of dodge.


I laughed at the "wake up" spot after the sleeper ended the second fall. What a goofy pro wrestling trope. It's something we laugh at but would be embarrassed if a non-fan was in the room. Race was great acting punch drunk and wild after the karate chops of rejuvenation. This ends with a time limit draw in the third.


All-in-all, excellent start to the set (I know I'm late to the party). I'm working my way chronologically through the 80s now. I caught Martel in Strike Force and as "The Model" growing up, so I've not seen most of his run as a top babyface in the early-mid 80s. I look forward to his run in Portland and then the AWA. I'd call this ***1/4.

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