SAMS Posted January 16 Report Share Posted January 16 I'm going to work my way through 1980, covering as many different promotions and styles as possible. If all goes well I'm going to try and continue this on and tackle the rest of the 1980s. This project will have an eye towards the GWE project and I'll try and contribute in those threads as I build up familiarity with these workers. Often in the match reviews I won't be giving detailed breakdowns of the action, as it would probably be as interesting to read as it would be to write, but instead I'll outline my observations in regards to specific performances or general comments on my likes and dislikes from a particular match. I will give star ratings for as many matches as possible but for clarity's sake, just know that I don't get too granular with the ratings until the 4 star threshold. So everything below that is grouped into tiers. For example 3 stars means it fell within the range of 3 stars and 3 3/4 stars. The reason for this is I just find it too difficult to separate quality at that level. Anyway, without further ado let's begin! JANUARY Date: 1980-01 (Month Only) Promotion: ICW Match: Ronnie Garvin vs Bob Orton Jr. Rating: ★ This is from sometime in January 1980 and is the earliest I’ve seen from either guy. The work between the ropes was solid enough from both men but the setting just screamed low rent and the commentary (which included Lanny Poffo) gave the impression that everything was inconsequential. They maybe had 10-15 people sitting at ringside and I can’t recall a single person reacting to anything that happened, including Orton nailing Garvin with a chain and drawing blood. The finish soured an otherwise inoffensive match as Orton’s manager blatantly tripped Garvin in full view of the referee to trigger a DQ and then Orton went straight to the chain, however he inexplicably tried to conceal it from the referee despite the match already being over. Pretty forgettable all round. Date: 1980-01-04 Promotion: AJW Match: Rimi Yokota vs Chino Sato Rating: ★★★ This kicked off with a bang as both made a beeline to the outside and Yokota took a nutty bump straight over into the front row seats. After this we settled in a bit with Sato mostly working from on top. Her offense was well targeted on Yokota’s leg and Yokota was doing a hell of a job selling it. There was a real sense of desperation from her to get out of the various holds and to the ropes. When she did get an opportunity to mount an attack it was lightning quick and her agility really popped off the screen. They lost their way a bit as they got into the second half of the match as it kind of felt like they were killing time waiting for the end and there was a little rally at the end as both tried to grab the win before the time limit expired. Overall I think I preferred Sato’s offense but Yokota displayed some awesome presence, athleticism, and absolute grade A selling during the first half especially. A key thing that stood out after having not watched much women’s wrestling recently, is how the manner in which women emote in contrast to the men lends itself to such an interesting dynamic. There’s a sense of disdain and even spitefulness in their actions which I think is absent from men’s wrestling in general which I really appreciated and was definitely present here. Date: 1980-01-04 Promotion: AJW Match: Jackie Sato vs Tomi Aoyama Rating: ★★★ Champion vs champion matchup here as Jackie is the WWW Singles Champion and Aoyama holds the Pacific belt. Much like how Lucha title matches are held up as more technical and with far less brawling, this match definitely had more that feeling compared to the previous one. Aoyama’s work on the arms and legs here was great, doing a brilliant job implying torque when she wrenched on anything and it really conveyed the pain she was inflicting. Her work on the leg was particularly important as Jackie’s arsenal consisted of a series of vicious looking backbreakers that she could potentially nullify. Both took to the sky more often as the urgency of the match built culminating in Jackie hitting a backdrop suplex on Aoyama. Think the idea was for Aoyama to kick the ropes and spin out but she under-rotated and landed right on her head. This fed into a double KO finish which felt a bit off as I’m not sure how you could reasonably say Jackie was out of it at that point. Wouldn’t have surprised me if the call was an audible considering Aoyama looked completely dazed after the head drop. Bit of a dud finish considering, but both showed off some delightful offense and Aoyama’s limb work in particular was satisfyingly focused. Date: 1980-01-04 Promotion: Houston Wrestling Match: The Spoiler vs Ox Baker Rating: ★ Ox Baker has an amazing look with big bushy mutton chops that meet up with his moustache and continues to droop down into a sort of mutton chop fu-manchu. It’s a shame that his in ring skills don’t match up to his facial hair game. Generally the match was worked around Baker trying to dislodge Spoiler’s mask or gripping him in a bear hug and the Spoiler applying claw holds. I think Paul Boesch was on commentary and he spent a LOT of time explaining the moves and how they were effective. This is a red flag to me that what the guys in the ring are doing looks like shit and needs camouflaging somehow. Definitely wouldn’t call this dynamic. Ended in a time limit draw. The most exciting part was the brief back and forth blows that came after the bell. Generally a pretty dull match. Date: 1980-01-04 Promotion: Houston Wrestling Match: Jose Lothario, Kerry Von Erich & Tiger Conway Jr. vs. Gino Hernandez, Gran Markus & Killer Brooks Rating: ★★ So for this event there were two rings placed side by side and clearly this match is the reason why. A man from each team is allowed inside each ring at a time, whilst the third acts as a floater or free man (like some sort of football/soccer training drill) and they are able to tag into either ring as they see fit. A bit of an unusual stipulation that I haven’t seen before, and to be honest I wasn’t a big fan of it. The fact that basically two matches were going on simultaneously made it hard to track what was happening, but at the same time, it also felt like wasted energy, as often one of the rings just had guys doing placeholder offense like you would see in a generic battle royal. Any kind of heat that built up was blown off once they tagged out and things kind of just “started fresh” when they tagged into the opposite ring. I think Gino did the heavy lifting for the heel team as Brooks and Markus felt like the biggest dead weights of the six men. He was definitely the most dynamic seller and could dish it out when required as well. He provided a certain verve that popped compared to everyone else. The match ended with the heel team blowing up on each other after Gino accidentally nailed Markus with a top rope knee drop. Markus took umbrage with this leading Gino and Brooks taking him out and leaving him a bloody mess. Presume this will line up some Markus v Gino/Brooks singles matches in the future. Nothing too offensive here and each guy got a few moments to shine but generally pretty forgettable. Date: 1980-01-04 Promotion: Houston Wrestling Match: Dusty Rhodes vs. Superstar Billy Graham Rating: ★★ ⅔ falls match for the Brass Knuckles Championship. I would have assumed that either man would be wielding brass knuckles or it would play into the match in some way but a brief Wikipedia search implies that over time this match ended up being more akin to a No DQ match and that’s closer to what we get here. Dusty is the champion. First fall has Graham targeting the neck, initially with some straight fingered jabs to the throat and then using the top rope as leverage to drive Dusty’s throat into the lower rope which was a fantastic visual. Dusty however mounts a quick comeback and grabs a flash pin after his patented elbow. The second fall was all about the bear hug. Graham works this hold better than I’ve seen others do it (Ox Baker earlier in the night for one), but a bear hug is still a bear hug and boring offense is boring offense. Dusty nearly springs free a few times but third time’s a charm and Graham gets the pin while applying the hold. The third fall and the match ends on a double countout. Graham tried to take advantage with some rope he got from under the ring but with both men out of the ring and brawling on the floor they were called for the countout. I have to say that Graham was more mobile and moved much better than I expected based on my previous glimpses of him and the most interesting part of the match was his neck attacks in the first fall. Considering it was a No DQ match, the referee did make a somewhat pathetic attempt to prevent the choking on the ropes but I’m getting the sense that all of Houston’s referees are about 105 years old so there was no hope for him there. Dusty brought what you would expect Dusty to bring to a match but it peaked early and never really got out of second gear. Date: 1980-01-05 Promotion: PNW Match: Buddy Rose, Sam Oliver Bass, Butch Miller & Luke Williams vs Roddy Piper, Rick Martel, Stan Stasiak and Dutch Savage Rating: ★★ This match was pure bedlam for the first five minutes or so. All eight men were coming in and out of the ring and the referee was having a hell of a time keeping everything under control. The entire face team each had their moments to come in and basically tee-off on a heel member and with Martel and Piper I knew what to expect and that’s basically what I got, but the big surprise here was Stan Stasiak. I’m sure I’ve seen at least one of his matches versus Sammartino in the past, but honestly I don’t remember anything from them, I just knew that I recognised his old timey hairstyle. Having said that, the fire that he displayed during his first stretch in the ring was off the charts and truly blew me away as I wasn’t expecting it at all. The heel team to their credit also didn’t hang about when they got the opportunity to isolate one of the faces. The Sheepherder’s in particular were brutal in their approach and instead of sitting in a resthold they went straight to a reverse choke hold or other offense that targeted the windpipe and just then backed off before the ref’s five count. As the first fall reached the 10-15 minute mark the match lost its way a bit. The face team were able to get some elongated heat on the heels, as they managed a carousel of false tags behind the referee’s back which I wasn’t super into and it kind of killed the momentum of the match. Each member would come in and grab the arm and start working it. So credit for a consistent team-wide approach but the arm work never felt like it was working towards a legitimate submission or to wear down their man, but just as a tool to keep the fake tag schtick going. The heels finally got ahold of Stan and went after his leg. Commentary noted that they’d injured it previously so it made sense and they wrecked it against the ring post and got the submission out of a Boston Crab. Weird decision to have Stan start the second fall (not sure if the loser of the previous one had to start the following) but he was moving very gingerly on his injured leg and tagged out immediately after Bass went for it again. I wonder why he didn’t tag out immediately or just have somebody else start the fall? It was pretty clear we were heading towards an expiry of allotted time as the countdown began from the ring announcer. Roddy played face in peril and this was the most invested I was in the match apart from the first 5-10 minutes of the match. Roddy’s selling was pretty good here and he sprinkled in a few fightback spots at the right times. I just wish that this segment had occurred earlier in the match instead of at the end when it already felt like the match had slipped away from the face team. Ultimately, with only a minute remaining, we got all eight men in the ring for a final climax before time expired giving Rose’s army the win 1-0. I loved the first 5 or so minutes then the pace dragged down and the faces just got too much control over the match and didn’t do enough interesting things with it. We all know that Rose was the key man in Portland but Piper really stood out here as the huge deal. I had my issues with the match but as a dip my toe in the water match, it’s gotten me excited to work my way through the rest of the Portland stuff. Date: 1980-01-08 Promotion: AJPW Match: Giant Baba & Jumbo Tsuruta vs Billy Robinson & Dutch Mantell Rating: ★★ A lot of this match, especially when Robinson in there, was worked in the old-school matwork style. He definitely made a concerted effort to come across as a very “sporting adversary”, constantly moving away from his man when they were in the ropes and declining to attack Jumbo when Mantel had his arms pulled back from behind. They also played this aspect up on commentary as well. With this in mind I thought that Mantel worked as a good foil for Robinson, as he brought a much more standard US flavour, didn’t seem particularly interested in, or able to, trade holds with Baba or Jumbo, so instead when he was in the ring the pace quickened and we got a lot more strikes. Jumbo vs Robinson was a bit tired, but we got some light hearted comedy when Baba entered the fray. They ran a sequence with Robinson backed against the ropes and he was able to block Baba’s chop. Later on we got the reverse and Baba blocked Robinson’s punch. This irked Robinson and once again the tone switched with him ramping up the aggression. Jumbo managed to generate this response later on as well, giving Robinson a little slap to the face as he was backing away from the ropes triggering a rampage of strikes. In the end we all knew that Mantel was gonna be the one going down, the question was how. Ultimately he got caught by Jumbo, he and Baba double teamed the leg and we quickly transitioned into a Boston Crab with Baba running interference on Billy. Job done, let’s go home. Pissed off Robinson was easily the highlight of the match. Jumbo, when he wasn’t working on top against Mantel, I thought was a little uninspired. Date: 1980-01-09 Promotion: Joint Promotions Match: Giant Haystacks & Mighty John Quinn vs Honeyboy Zimba & Dave Bond Rating: ★★ Another first here as I hadn't seen a World of Sport match before. Giant Haystacks was billed as 6’11”, which is Charles Barkley levels of height inflation. He works a bit like a homeless man’s Andre the Giant, but I can’t argue with how over he is with the crowd. Incidentally I’m sure Giant Haystacks is one of a literal handful of wrestlers that my Mum could name off the top of her head, indicating his relative cultural impact in the UK at the time. Another note is that the team of Zimba and Bond were referred to by both the ring announcer and on commentary as the “negro team” which I found incredibly jarring. I feel like this is something that would have been completely unthinkable by the late 1980s on national television, but I guess here we were only 2 years removed from Viv Anderson being the first black man to play for England so maybe that explains it. Anyway, this was a super fun match. It never dragged at all, even if it never elevated to anything particularly substantial. Not sure if the arena/ring was mic’d up unusually well or if the crowd were really that into it but the atmosphere was incredible. Quinn, both after the first fall and after the match, grabbed the mic from the announcer and generated volcanic heat, spouted on about how he and Haystacks were going to go undefeated and that this is what he returned from North America for. I don’t know his history in the UK, but the crowd were so good at reacting to him literally opening his mouth. All I have to say is that iIf all WOS matches are like this then watching them will be a breeze. Date: 1980-01-09 Promotion: Joint Promotions Match: Catweazle vs Steve Peacock Rating: ★ I ended up going back to watch this as I couldn’t resist checking out a Catweazle match. Along with Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Kendo Nagasaki, Catweazle was the only World of Sport name that I’d heard of, and he does have some reputation. I like comedy in wrestling but I’m not a fan of comedy wrestling and this decidedly is that. I’ll admit I found a large portion of the act entertaining, and I’m sure most would on first watch, however I feel that it would have diminishing returns the more times one saw him wrestle. The crowd certainly were very into it for what it’s worth. If comedy is your thing then this is definitely worth checking out at least Date: 1980-01-09 Promotion: Joint Promotions Match: Jon Cortez vs Tommy Lorne Rating: N/A We only get the first 3 rounds here. Jon Cortez has the moves, but it definitely feels like he’s wrestling to get in sync with Lorne here for the most part. There’s clearly times where he tries leading Lorne into a sequence and they fumble it. Ken Walton on commentary mentions that Cortez has been away from wrestling for a while, so perhaps it’s a little bit of rust on his end, but I get the sense it was more of an ability failing on Lorne’s part. Things got a lot more interesting as Lorne’s irritation grew at being out-wrestled and his style became much scrappier. Even then, Cortez had his number, dishing out a series of nice looking strikes to prove he could mix it up as well when required. That’s as far as we got before the tape ran out. Date: 1980-01-09 Promotion: Joint Promotions Match: Mick McManus vs Jackie Turpin Rating: ★★ Jackie Turpin looks like 80s era Freddie Mercury while McManus looks like the creepy uncle who can’t quite accept that he’s getting old. You would be forgiven for thinking that his jet black hair would start to smudge off as soon as he got into a headlock. McManus seems to be one of those veteran guys who’s got his list of patented spots and way he likes to go about business and you can kind of plug his opponent into it. I found his work on top to be really compelling. He’s a nasty little shit, he’ll punch you when you least expect it, he’s constantly pushing the limits of the rules and it feels like the real match is between him and the referee to see whether he has the balls to actually disqualify him. While I liked McManus’ offense, it felt like he was on top for too long. Turpin here was the hometown boy, actually hailing from Leamington Spa, and you wouldn’t know it as the crowd were dead as a doornail for the majority of this. I got the sense that Turpin was a bit green but still there was little to no response for any of his hope spots. McManus was also less than giving when he was selling, which seemed to lessen the impact. The match ends with McManus receiving his second warning for shoving Turpin over the ropes after the bell for the second fall. So while the score was 1-1, Turpin is the victor by DQ. Date: 1980-01-11 Promotion: AJPW Match: Jumbo Tsuruta vs Billy Robinson Rating: N/A We have the majority of the first fall here clipped. Title on the screen indicates that 32 minutes have already passed and the video is 30 minutes long so here we go, 60 minute draw. This is really the first time I’ve got to see Billy Robinson really let loose with his offense so far in 1980. He has such a variety of moves, especially when viewed through this AJPW setting that it jumps off the screen. He destroys Jumbo with a series of strikes, a double arm suplex and a backbreaker for a near fall before Jumbo flips the script and comes right back to put him away for the first fall. I can’t speak on the whole fall because we don’t have most of it, but it felt a bit unearned for Jumbo to just push aside the flurry of offense he had just taken and be able to take that first fall. Billy takes a running knee to the shoulder to start the second fall and he really oversells it, and I mean this as a compliment. He immediately dives to the outside to regroup and this gives Jumbo the opportunity to target the leg for the remainder of the fall. I thought Billy’s selling throughout this fall was really good. He ramped it up to get over the severity of his shoulder injury early, then dialled it back as needed to fit in with the allotted time required for the second fall, which coincidentally he secured with another series of offensive bombs. The third fall was basically a scramble. There was just under 10 minutes remaining and Jumbo really made a dash for the win to start. Billy injured his own knee on a backbreaker attempt and we had some struggle over a figure four leading to the expiry of time. If we had the first fall I might have been able to rank this as GOOD, but Billy definitely stood out here with both his offensive execution and his great selling during the second fall. Jumbo kind of felt like a blank canvas without anything truly memorable to point to. Date: 1980-01-11 Promotion: Houston Wrestling Match: Gino Hernandez vs Kevin Von Erich Rating: N/A We don’t get the finish here as the match is clipped due to what I believe is a TV curfew. Kevin shows off his athleticism as he nails a huge dropkick and a jumping elbow drop that gets wow’s from the crowd. Gino again is a fun watch. His selling can be a bit goofy and I continue to be put off by his PS2 era pixelated hair style, but he’s an engaging worker. We didn't get the full match but they worked at a solid pace, both guys were able to show off their stuff. I will say that the transition from Kevin to Gino on offense was a bit sloppy. But Gino has been the best thing about Houston so far in 1980. Date: 1980-01-11 Promotion: Houston Wrestling Match: Mr. Hito & Mr. Sakurada vs. Jose Lothario & Tiger Conway Jr. Rating: ★ We get a classic USA vs Japan vibe here with JJ Dillon managing the heelish foreigner team. Will quickly point out here that there was a fan in the front row sporting a glorious emerald green Lucha mask. I would say that Tiger Conway Jr. jumps out as the most dynamic of the four workers overall. At least he displayed more energy and had some nice looking punches. The heel team were happy to sit in arm holds but at least they tagged frequently and displayed more overall cohesion as a team. We had two referees for this match. It’s something I’ve seen before but I can’t remember where, perhaps in a JCP match? Presumably it’s so that underhand stuff that a single referee would miss doesn’t get missed here. Speaking of referees, Houston wheeled out two veritable geriatrics here with a combined age of what must have been pushing 150. The older looking of the two got down to count the pin for the first fall and I honestly was surprised, and a little relieved, that he managed to get back up again. The Japanese team jumping the faces before the bell for the third fall was about as good as this got as once the fall got underway properly the pace slowed way down once again. Tiger looked to have the upper hand before getting smothered 2 against 1 and JJ Dillon’s team came out the victors. The final pinfall felt very flat, and really the takeaway was that the heel team was just better. No real heel shenanigans outside of some minor referee obstruction or hair pulling. Date: 1980-01-12 Promotion: WWF Match: Bob Backlund vs Bobby Duncan Rating: ★★★ Had such a blast watching this. This was a simple, meat and potatoes match. Backlund came in hot and jumped Duncum before the bell, got an extended shine before eating a quick jab to the throat for the transition, there was little bit of heat on Bob before they traded back and forth leading into the finish. The genius here is that Backlund didn’t oversell. He’s superman and it’s a question of when and not if that he’ll pull through. When he’s working on top he lays in his moves hard and fast, including a nasty looking piledriver where he even gets himself airborne and I’m surprised Duncum doesn’t legit have a broken neck. When he takes the heat his selling is subdued. Yes, he’s under the cosh but he’s still Bob Backlund, he’s still the champion, he’s not going down that easy. They go back and forth before Backlund ends up bleeding from just above the eye. Now it’s time and he begins the comeback and the crowd go ape shit. He’s up and wailing on Duncum but strangely the referee jumps in the way to break things up. Did I hear a bell? Things die down a bit and it’s announced that due to the drawing of blood Backlund loses the match but obviously retains the title. Real let down of a finish to be honest, considering how much fun the match was. I presume that this had something to do with the sporting commission in Pennsylvania, but I’m not sure. Beyond Backlund’s performance here I think it’s worth noting how the general presentation made such a positive difference. The Spectrum crowd were wild, with several horns being let off at various points, Vince was giving it all on commentary, and even little things like how the referee would count pins really fast just pushed the match along at breakneck speed. Everything just combined for a somewhat exhilarating watching experience. If it wasn’t for the bullshit finish I could be pushed to go 4 stars for this. Date: 1980-01-12 Promotion: WWF Match: Hulk Hogan vs Tito Santana Rating: ★★ This was a real quick one and got the job done. Hulk’s brawn matched up against Tito’s speed and technical skill. Early on Tito was able to get the upper hand, his arm drags forcing Hulk to take a couple breathers on the outside to collect himself. This is the first time I’ve seen Hulk challenged so far in the WWF, as his TV performances up to this point have had him destroying jobbers, often two at a time in handicap matches. As Tito continued to keep Hulk under general control Hogan went for the eye rake and from there it was good night. The finishing stretch lasted a couple minutes but once Hogan reversed the momentum there was no coming back. Tito kicked out of a few leg drops, even avoided a third before eventually falling to the Hulkster following a running collision with the turnbuckles. Date: 1980-01-12 Promotion: PNW Match: Harley Race vs Rick Martel Rating: ★★★ Race comes into the territory to put over the new kid on the block. Martel worked over Race’s arm for the majority of the first fall, keeping him grounded. I liked the fact that he was constantly working it, wrenching or yanking on it every minute or so, just to keep it interesting. Race wasn’t bringing much when he was underneath, however he did come alive when it was time to dish it out. His brief run on offense had him basically unload his entire arsenal of moves, including a running high knee that looked like it killed Martel. This just worked to emphasise the importance of Martel’s strategy of keeping him grounded at the start to avoid the danger that he posed. The second fall had Martel pushing the pace more to come back from the deficit. He went toe to toe with Race and managed to latch on the sleeper to tie things up. I know that it’s not as unusual in 1980, but I loved that a “generic” sleeper was a fall finisher here. Plus the whole deal of Martel having to wake up Race by undoing the effect of the sleeper is just something you never see any more. The sleeper made a comeback in the third fall, first as a transition to the outside to eat up some clock, then as a false finish with Martel having it locked on Race as time expired. Really strong match. There was a little clipping in the third fall and I think the first fall was perhaps a little long but Race really put over Martel, putting him in good stead for the rest of his stay in Portland. Date: 1980-01-13 Promotion: AWA Match: Lord Alfred Hayes vs Bobby Heenan Rating: ★★ No idea of the backstory to this but presume it’s a manager vs manager match. I believe Heenan was managing Bockwinkel at this time and considering Hayes’ trajectory over the next few years on WWF television, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t an active full-timer at this point. Heenan, as ever, was a heel, but Hayes wasn’t above a little bit of chicanery himself, highlighted by the fact that he used the ropes as leverage for the winning pinfall. Heenan played up being the more incompetent of the two in terms of in-ring skills while Hayes showed off a little bit of his catch moves and displayed a pretty awesome looking punch. The match didn’t last long but it was a fun watch and definitely didn’t outstay its welcome. Date: 1980-01-18 Promotion: NJPW Match: Stan Hansen vs Riki Choshu Rating: ★★ 5 minute squash match to build Hansen before his match with Inoki the following month. Hansen’s in full “tornado” mode here from start to finish. We do get a brief moment where Choshu is able to string together a couple moves and you can already see the charisma and the connection with the crowd. I’m not sure if he’s still in young lion mode or slightly more established but his hair cut would indicate he’s very early in his career here. Either way, Stan didn’t like that one bit. He flung Choshu off the ropes and the big boy nailed him with a dropkick! From then on Hansen just abused him on the outside, laying in strikes with the padded part of his arm. Choshu got some colour before he’s mercifully pinned but this was all about Hansen and the carnage that he left in his wake. Bring on Inoki! Date: 1980-01-18 Promotion: NJPW Match: Tatsumi Fujinami & Kantaro Hoshino vs Dynamite Kid & Steve Keirn Rating: ★★★★ I’ve seen some Fujinami from 78-82 before and I remember there being a bit of a disconnect for me, so I’m hoping this watchthrough brings more of his greatness to the surface. His partner Hoshino looks like an overgrown baby with tiny legs sprouting out of his stocky torso. This contrasts so starkly with Fujinami who is one of the most proportional wrestlers I’ve ever seen. Keirn, who I’m unfamiliar with, is the NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion and works more as the “heavy” to Dynamite’s speedy approach. The first fall was unsurprisingly at its best when Fujinami and Dynamite were matched up but also Fujinami did some great work on the apron, his frustration growing as the gaijin team were able to isolate Hoshino. The finish actually had Fujinami get caught up in a double team himself and falling to a Dynamite diving headbutt. A pindrop could be heard in the arena. Interestingly this was generally a very quiet crowd. I’ve read before about the differing crowd demographics at each Japanese promotion, but I can’t remember what the composition of the New Japan one was supposed to be at this time. It felt very high brow, like a theatre show rather than a wrestling show, especially compared to the AJW crowd from earlier in the month. Second fall has Fujinami flip the script and nails a brainbuster on Kid. One note I had was that Hoshino nailed Keirn with a very stiff dropkick and when Keirn and Kid worked him over while tied up in the ropes later on, I couldn’t help but feel that they were giving him a receipt for that. Just feels like something Kid would do. The finish to the third, and the match, had Fujinami using his tope to clear the ring and set up the 1v1 with Hoshino and Keirn. Hoshino went for a cross body off the top rope. Keirn catches him in mid-air and nails him with a shoulder breaker for the win. I’ve seen it multiple times before, but it’s been so long since I’ve watched a Fujinami match that I had forgotten, but his tope is surely one of the most exciting moves in wrestling, and particularly in 1980. Even as he revs up to deliver it you can sense the electricity in the crowd and the velocity he generates as he zips through the ropes, truly extraordinary. The match overall was kind of “you-get-what-you-expect” from Fujinami and Kid. Hoshino however was a nice surprise. He packs some punch and is really agile for a man with his body composition. Keirn was definitely an afterthought here. Date: 1980-01-19 Promotion: PNW Match: Buddy Rose vs Stan Stasiak Rating: ★★ Stan has really been a bit of a revelation for me in Portland so far. For somebody who looks like they could be your Grandad he really was charismatic. He’s not gonna wow anybody with moves (like at all) but generally I think his facial expressions add that extra flavour to his actions and they really get the crowd on his side. And boy does he have a good punch. Probably to be expected from somebody whose signature move is the Heart Punch but when he gets Rose into a headlock and then lets one go it really looks beautiful. Rose on the other hand does a great job of just being a smarmy little prick. He’s not subtle but he doesn’t go overboard either. It was things like after losing the first fall to the Heart Punch, complaining to the referee that the punch skidded off his chest and actually got him in the throat or nonchalantly hitting a knee drop off the ropes between falls, like a child trying to get away with something naughty behind the teacher’s back. It adds a little variety, oozes character, but without coming across like a caricature. The match itself was a great deal of fun. Stan stuck Rose in a toe hold for too long during the first fall and the footage I watched didn’t have the third fall but I had a whale of a time with what we had. Date: 1980-01-21 Promotion: WWF Match: Bob Backlund vs Ken Patera Rating: ★★ Backlund, unsurprisingly, works on top for large stretches of this match. The early portion had him working either a headlock or the arm, and his row-the-boat motion when on the arm is a great example of Bob’s trademarked goofiness. This was also a spot that he went back to three separate times, which definitely got stale. Vince on commentary is playing this up as Backlund’s wrestling acumen vs Patera’s strength. This then gets flipped as Backlund, while in a headlock, is able to hoist Patera off the ground and just plonk him on the top rope. When I was in primary school, we used to play-fight in the playground during break. There would always be that one kid that, no matter what, wouldn’t take any “damage”. Somebody punches them and nothing. A kick? Nothing. They would take move after move and just power through them until they pissed everybody off and we stopped playing. That is Backlund. He’s the goofy kid who always thinks he’s the main character, thinks he’s Superman. In regards to Bob, it’s not strictly a criticism, just an observation, but he absolutely forces his opponent to earn their time on top. Back to the match, after a somewhat pedestrian first half, things picked up on the back nine. Bob countered a headlock with an Atomic Drop that Patera sold like pure gold and was probably my match highlight. Patera actually looked like he might be able to steal it at a couple points, once from a bear hug that transitioned into a pin and the second when they collided mid-ring and Patera fell onto Backlund. Backlund rarely taking a 2 count has been beaten into the ground at this point, and it doesn’t bother me most of the time, but I feel like he could have milked one of these for a near fall, instead we got two 1 counts. The match ended as a draw after a referee bump. Patera locking the Full Nelson on Backlund with the referee down provided the impetus for a rematch as Patera can point to having the match won. Finally things descended into chaos with wrestlers coming from the back to break things up. Overall I was a bit disappointed in Patera to be honest, Atomic Drop sell aside, he didn’t offer much. But I know that these two have better stuff coming later in the year. Date: 1980-01-22 Promotion: AJPW Match: Giant Baba vs Bruiser Brody Rating: ★ It’s really interesting to see Brody and Hansen running such similar gimmicks simultaneously in Japan. Brody gives off more of a weirdo vibe than menacing. Hansen always exudes violence whereas Brody is just the guy you’d move away from on the bus. I will say that I liked Brody’s knee drops and he bleeds well. His selling however is pretty atrocious. The closest he came was kind of cradling his head while walking around real fast. I can’t say I was more impressed with Baba here either though. Because Baba works so light he kind of needs somebody who sells well opposite him and here that wasn’t the case. Also, when he was working underneath (which was a lot of the time here, especially when he was getting choked out with a chain) he was pretty static and I don’t think he did a good job of garnering the necessary sympathy or getting across any sense that he was under threat. Often I think he can get away with it because he’s Giant Baba and that means something to the fans, but it was a miss here. I can’t even remember the result. Date: 1980-01-22 Promotion: WWF Match: Bruno Sammartino vs Larry Zbyszko Rating: ★★★★ Zbyszko finally has cajoled Sammartino into participating in a scientific exhibition match. It only lasts 10-15 minutes but they pack a lot into this time frame. Every time Larry tried something Bruno had a counter. Every time Bruno got the jump on Larry, he released the hold. Bit by bit you could see the frustration in Larry growing. When Bruno opened the ropes to allow him back in after he had tumbled to the floor it was the final straw. In a fury he viciously assaults Bruno, flings the referee out the ring and lays Bruno out with three chair shots, Bruno bleeds profusely over the floor and we’re done. Such a well packaged segment that is enhanced by the pretty amazing promos each guy had delivered leading up to it. This has to be the early frontrunner for best feud of 1980 no question. Date: 1980-01-25 Promotion: Houston Wrestling Match: Tony Atlas vs Maniac Mark Lewis Rating: ★ I think this is Atlas’ debut in Houston. Lewin plays up the Maniac moniker by twitching a lot. Lewin’s offense revolves around similar style chops and finger jabs to the throat that we saw Billy Graham use on Dusty a few days earlier. And well, it all looks pretty shit. Atlas is super expressive with his body movements when he’s on offense. Not a compliment. He looks like an overgrown child “playing wrestler”. Either way, his beatdown on Lewin, and he really is allowed to beat down on him, puts him over incredibly strong with the crowd. Lewin tries to use a foreign object but Atlas turns the tables. In the struggle Lewin ends up flying over the top rope and Atlas takes a DQ loss. The match puts Atlas over super strong but a flat ending to a pretty poor match Date: 1980-01-19 Promotion: PNW Match: Roddy Piper & Rick Martel vs The Sheepherders Rating: ★★★ Portland really loves a heel in peril sequence. A large chunk of the first fall had Piper and Martel completely control Williams using a series of headlocks. Honestly, it was a little lacklustre but things started picking up when the Sheepherders gained control and Miller specifically made a strong impression. I really liked how the Sheepherders consistently integrated choking into their offense. It doesn’t need to be an extended stretch or really lead to anything in particular, as it didn’t here, but by blatantly adding in stuff like this it adds a bit of authenticity to their heel work; being a heel vs playing a heel. Specifically Miller had a nasty move where he forced Piper into the ropes and then yanked it back, pulling the ropes straight through Piper’s throat and sending him flying across the ring. In the deciding fall Williams showed a sliver of vulnerability to the lower back and Piper and Martel really jumped on it. After Martel had hit a backbreaker and PIper had hit an atomic drop, I thought it was all over but things quickly spiralled out of control with Miller sending the referee flying over the top rope, Rose interjected himself into the events and Piper got his ear worked over pretty badly. We get an interview with the referee afterwards and he’s decided to keep the belts and the championship is vacated. Martel gives one of the best promos I’ve seen from him and Piper just put the cherry on the cake as, right in the middle of a usual Piper promo, he turned to look at Martel and disturbingly said “I don’t think I can hear anything”. That subtle change of tone added a level of verisimilitude that you rarely get from a wrestling promo. Really good stuff. The match itself delivered while not quite being great but I’m pumped for the rematch. Date: 1980-01-28 Promotion: Joint Promotions Match: John Elijah vs Smith Hart Rating: ★★ John “the Bear” Elijah is from Walthamstow and his hobby is the study of evolution! Amazing stuff. The poor ring announcer seemed to be going a bit senile. For two of the three falls he got the round number incorrect and ditto for the final result. Hart is one of the Hart brothers and at first glance he seemed pretty unremarkable. In the first fall he basically got nothing and when he did try something offensive, in this case a flying crossbody, he got caught and slammed for the first fall. He seemed a bit like a fish out of water and they did play up that this was his UK debut, so perhaps that was the intention and he did grow into the bout as it went along. He was decidedly more underhand than Elijah. Getting in a punch behind the ref’s back at one point, taking advantage of Elijah’s sportsmanship at others, and generally, without going overboard, coming across a bit more like a brat after being so thoroughly handled in the early stages. Elijah finished him off with some sort of sideways bearhug variation. It was nothing to brag about but if this is the middling stuff for World of Sport then I have high hopes for the top tier stuff to come. Date: 1980-01-28 Promotion: Joint Promotions Match: Mick McMichael vs Brian Maxine Rating: ★★★ This was a middleweight matchup. Maxine was being talked up as a reformed “heel”, he clearly had a reputation for blowing his lid and they had this narrative thread simmering throughout as he didn’t resort to outbursts in situations he would have done previously. So I found out that the senile ring announcer from the previous match is John Dale, Promoter of Dale Martin promotions which is under the Joint Promotions umbrella. He makes another gaff here after the first fall as he clearly has no idea what he’s supposed to be announcing and somebody from the crowd shouts out “You should have watched the match!”. There was more comedy here than in previous matches; McMichael got caught in a splits hold that he clearly doesn’t have the flexibility for (McMichael is a husky boy to say the least). Later on he apparently steals one of Maxine’s pet moves and scouts Maxine dropping to the mat during a rope running weave sequence and plops himself down beside him to take the piss. Another had McMichael throw a headbutt, dazing himself in the process and agreeing with Maxine that they wouldn't be doing any more of that. The end was a bit of a damp squib as they collided during another rope running sequence and the collision rendered McMichael incapacitated due to a “dislocated shoulder”, giving Maxine the win. The newly reformed Maxine declines such a win and instead it’s determined a no-contest. I thought overall this was a really good match. They sprinkled in the comedy at the right times without doing too much, there wasn’t any down period at all and Maxine did a good job of straddling that line between face and heel that I thought he was successful in what he was aiming for. Date: 1980-01-28 Promotion: Joint Promotions Match: Jon Cortez vs Peter Lapaque Rating: ★★★ This is a mixed weight match, with Cortez giving up 3 stone (42lb) on Lapaque. I get the sense that in these types of matchups, the lightweight is the more skilled and they’re going up a weight to test themselves. And that is exactly how they worked this, Lapaque didn’t work how I would imagine a heavyweight to work necessarily, but the way the match developed it was clear that Cortez wouldn’t be able to get the upper hand with strikes, and any time he tried they were brushed off a lot easier than in the reverse. Cortez perhaps had the better of the match before the first fall, but any rolls or moves he got in ultimately ended up with both men in or near the ropes thus precipitating a break. Lapaque took the first with a sunset flip and from there it seemed like Cortez had the uphill battle. He tried more of the aforementioned strikes but it seemed like the match was slipping away before a nice little rollup against the run of play tied things at one apiece, then a beautiful dropkick followed by Cortez folding up Lapaque took the match entirely. Date: 1980-01-28 Promotion: Joint Promotions Match: Johnny Saint vs Steve Grey Rating: ★★★★ ¼ Saint is the World Light Heavyweight Champion and Grey is the British Lightweight Champion and apparently Grey has a recent victory over Saint so the formbook is in his favour. I’ll admit that there was just too much going on to give a blow by blow account of the action, but essentially Saint had an arm/wrist hold for the majority and no matter the intricate reversals or escapes that Grey attempted, Saint was always able to maintain that hold. They maintained a relentless pace basically from bell to bell, with counter following counter and any time they stayed in a hold it was being worked for what it was worth. Saint grabbed the first fall, he baited Grey into false security by curling up into a ball in the centre of the ring, and from then on Grey was desperately trying to make up for the lost ground. His attacks became more high risk and this got him in hot water as he missed a knee drop and Saint immediately targeted his leg. At this point I was really caught up in the match. I truly didn’t think Grey could make it back from 1-0 down, his leg was being ravaged and a 2-0 clean sweep by Saint just seemed a foregone conclusion. Grey began to look more and more worn down however miraculously he managed to sneak pinfalls of his own in consecutive rounds in the 6th and 7th. His victory now sets up a title match the next time they meet, I don’t want to go overboard seeing how little of WoS I’ve seen so far, but I can’t praise this highly enough. Saint surely had the moves, but I did find Grey a little more compelling throughout, but they both brought enough to the table no doubt. This surely is the best match of 1980 so far and WoS is really showing itself off as being a style that has an incredibly high floor. Obviously I haven't seen enough to judge the high end yet and how high that goes, but no match so far has been less than thoroughly entertaining. Date: 1980-01-29 Promotion: SWCW Match: Tully Blanchard vs Wahoo McDaniel Rating: ★★★ There’s a brief Wahoo promo beforehand that indicated some previous between these two. Tully assumes he’s competing against El Texano, but right before the bell Wahoo makes the switch and Tully is not apoplectic. This was a quick 8-10 minute sprint. It was great fun just watching both guys lay their stuff in and everything both guys dished out looked really good. I was surprised by how good Tully was this early. He had the chickenshit heel thing down pat and his bumping was insane. Perhaps he went a little overboard at times but it was no less than dynamic. Eventually he’d taken enough of a beating and he took his belt and went home to give Wahoo the countout victory. Great short match that delivered on what it was trying to do. 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