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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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FEBRUARY

Date: 1980-02 (Month Only)
Promotion: AJW
Match: Chino Sato vs Mimi Hagiwara
Rating: ★★

The first half of the match was Sato targeting Hagiwara’s leg. I liked her focused approach here but in general there wasn’t a lot to sink your teeth into. Throughout I would catch commentary discussing boxing, which I thought was completely random. Then when Hagiwara finally managed to mount a comeback, she got to her feet and settled into a boxing stance. Plot twist! This garnered a pretty strong reaction from the crowd, and I recall hearing that this was Hagiwara’s first main event. So putting my Sherlock hat on I’m deducing that she was a boxer turned wrestler. Working backwards then it would make sense for Sato to target the leg to keep Hagiwara grounded and out of her comfort zone. At one point commentary even described Hagiwara’s fists as “deadly weapons”.
Sato tried to match Hagiwara straight up with more of a boxing technique, and while she didn't get embarrassed, she certainly was uncomfortable.
I thought the clash of styles was really interesting and a unique(ish) way to lay out the match. When Hagiwara initially switched into her boxing stance it really popped the crowd, but as that portion of the match continued and Sato awkwardly fumbled her way through the energy started to die down. I think perhaps Sato wasn’t able to hold her own enough to keep that angle interesting or she should have gotten dominated to a greater degree.
Seeing as this was the main event, it felt a bit lightweight. I thought the way they went served for an interesting match even if the execution ultimately let them down.
Also a quick google search indicates that Hagiwara debuted in ‘78 and had no previous boxing career, so presumably it was merely a gimmick that she had adopted. Maybe somebody in the know can clear this up for me or maybe I completely misinterpreted the intention here.

Date: 1980-02-01
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Tatsumi Fujinami vs Steve Keirn
Rating: ★★

I think that both Fujinami’s WWF Light Heavyweight and Keirn’s NWA Junior Heavyweight belts are on the line here. Fought under NWA rules (hence the 2⁄3 falls stipulation)
The first half of the match is basically a write-off. Lots of dull matwork with Keirn mostly “working” the leg. Things only pick up once they get into some standing strikes. 
Fujinami ended up on the floor outside, then we went straight into Keirn working over an existing cut on Fujinami’s forehead, laying in a series of punches while Fujinami was in the ropes. The referee called for the bell and Keirn was DQ'd due to ignoring the ref’s count to break the hold
Fujinami does a solid job at selling the beating Keirn just gave him and he’s got a decent amount of blood pouring from his forehead now. The second fall is Keirn capitalising on his opponent’s weakened condition and going all-out, hitting all the bombs in his arsenal to put Fujinami away. However Fujinami will not be conquered and he pulls out a German Suplex into a pin to snatch the second fall and win the match 2-0. 
Presumably this positions Fujinami as the pre-eminent junior heavyweight in the world, holding both the WWF and NWA versions of the belt? Unless a Lucha or WoS titleholder is able to lay claim to that instead I think it would have to be the case.
This had a good second half but that first half was dull as ditchwater, dragging the whole thing down.

Date: 1980-02-05
Promotion: AJW
Match: Mimi Hagiwara & Chino Sato vs Tenjin Masami & Hiroko Komine
Rating: ★★

Masami and Komine were brutal on Hagiwara once they got her isolated. Their offense wasn’t flashy, mostly strikes and simple slam moves, but they were tagging quickly and just all over her. Sato had a really nice hot tag and just shot out like a cannon. 
Loved Masami’s press slams she laid in on Hagiwara. She definitely worked as the powerhouse of her team. The finish involved a sequence of moves between Sato and Komine which was really slick as they fluidly transitioned through a series of counters before Sato nabbed the pin.
I thought Komine was really good, but it was clear that Masami and Sato were the “captains” of their respective teams. I would say it was clear that Hagiwara lagged behind the other three in terms of skill, the poor execution she exhibited in her singles match with Sato resurfaced here.

Date: 1980-02-05
Promotion: AJW
Match: Yumi Ikeshita & Mami Kumano vs Nancy Kumi & Lucy Kayama
Rating: ★★★

Ikeshita and Kumano are “The Black Pair” and are the current tag champions. Their name just hits the nail on the head. The best way I can describe them is a couple of jackals. They did an awesome job patrolling the apron when an opponent was on the outside, waiting to attack when they attempted to climb back in. Honestly at points in this match I felt that there were more than just the two of them based on how they kept swarming. If you’ve seen baby spiders hatch and consume their mother, that was the closest comparison. Kayama was the poor soul here getting destroyed and she barely had a chance.
When Nancy Kumi was able to get in on the action I was really impressed with her. Her offense had serious weight and it looked really crisp. I would definitely be intrigued to see her in a singles setting.
The Black Pair dominated the first fall and, after their hellacious beating on Kayama, she couldn’t hold out any longer and was out for the count. The second fall carried on where the first left off until Kumi couldn’t take it any longer and rules be damned she was coming in to save her teammate. The ferocity of her attacks were able to disperse the Black Pair long enough to get one isolated, nail as many bombs as possible and steal the pin before the other could recover.
Pissed at losing the second fall the two women just stalked the opposite corner the entire break between falls. Kayama looked shaken up from the beating she had endured up to this point and as soon as the bell rang the BP employed their pack attack mentality with vicious intensity, pouncing on their weakened prey. The chaos spilled to the outside and I was sure we were heading towards a double countout, but lo and behold, the unlikely one Kayama was able to slip into the ring just before the count and sneak the victory. We have new champions!
The brawling during the third fall devolved into random chair shots and these really were feather light. I’m all for working safely, but if they are going to be so light with the chairs I’d rather they skip them entirely.
I don’t think I would go as far as saying this was a great match, but I am very comfortable saying that this was a great performance from the Black Pair. Just an excellent display of bully tag team wrestling. Their look combined with their style perfectly and they just seemed so at ease in the ring and in what they were doing. Really impressive.

Date: 1980-02-05
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Tatsumi Fujinami vs Dynamite Kid
Rating: ★★★

Maybe to some, but to me it was no surprise that Dynamite was an upgrade on Keirn here as he just brought more violence and intensity to his attacks which added a different dimension to the previous Fujinami/Keirn match.
Fujinami still has the same cut on his forehead and here it opens up much earlier and much more innocuously. Kid works from on top for the majority of the match with Fujinami trying for flash pins, which actually ends up being the finish. Kid misses a diving headbutt which allows Fujinami to mount an attack and he pulls off his patented bridge pin for the win and DK is furious. 
I thought in general the work was good, which pulled it up to a certain level, but there was no real clear sense of escalation or narrative development, so mostly just doing ”stuff” for twenty minutes before the finish which led to it feeling a little dry and lacking that extra je ne sais quoi to push it to the next tier.
Side note: I really hate that falling headbutt move that Dynamite Kid does. In general I hate diving headbutts but the one that both Kid and Harley Race do from a standing position is up there as one of my least favourite moves ever.

Date: 1980-02-05
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Jon Cortez vs Jeff Kaye
Rating: ★★★

Cortez once again is matched up against a heavier opponent in a catch-weight contest.
This was one of those high sportsmanship matches, leaning hard into the technical aspects, locking on holds and putting the onus on their opponent to find an escape. Several times they found themselves in a stalemate and we had a break and reset due to no advantage for either man.
I wouldn’t say that there was a lot of “comedy” but the tone was very lighthearted between the two. Cortez had his moments but these moments were mostly instigated by Kaye. It would be interesting to know if there was a significant difference in personalities of WoS wrestlers based on where they were from. Cortez was from the South (Dulwich, London) while Kaye was from the North (Yorkshire). Are more of the comedic guys from the North than the South? 
Cortez once again came back from a fall down to snatch the victory with two flash pins in back to back rounds. Generally I’d say that the pins come across as the “sloppiest” moves in WoS so far. The intricate mat work and build to the pins is so good that often the pins themselves feel a bit deflating and unsatisfying. This would be my biggest criticism of the style at this point.

Date: 1980-02-05
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Big Daddy & Kid Chocolate vs Mark Rollerball Rocco & Tony Walsh
Rating: ★★

I feared the worst considering Big Daddy’s reputation but I was pleasantly surprised. Not that he was good, but he wasn’t boring. The start had Big Daddy briefly dominate both Rocco and Walsh before tagging in Kid Chocolate, who took over and worked most of the match, before the final sprint run where Big Daddy could dominate once again.
Kid Chocolate played FIP for the first fall, in which I thought he did an excellent job as he just died taking offense from Rocco and Walsh. I was surprised by the number of suplexes thrown here, as it’s something I’ve basically not seen in WoS yet at all. However their more alien nature made them feel much more impactful than I usually think in other settings.
Finally after getting killed for a fall and a half, Kid Chocolate managed to tag Big Daddy for the hot tag and we had him just bodychecking his opponents into submission. Both Rocco and Walsh went above and beyond to make Big Daddy look like an absolute beast, just pinballing off of his body. After losing the second fall they refused to re-enter the ring and ultimately forfeited the match. 
I don’t think I’d want to watch Big Daddy in a singles match, and especially not a long one, but I can see why his gimmick was popular with the paying crowd as it is fun to see guys just get wrecked.

Date: 1980-02-08
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Antonio Inoki vs Stan Hansen
Rating: ★★★

I can’t get over how Inoki just looks like a cartoon character come to life. He has this massive head, including perhaps the most glorious chin in the history of wrestling, then he slims a bit with a smaller but still stocky torso, then his body mass seemingly disappears with his super slender legs and ankles. Honestly don’t think he would look out of place appearing on Cartoon Network on a Saturday morning.
Inoki’s strategy was to wear the big monster down and then keep him grounded and controlled. He threw out some left handed jabs to daze Hansen then the subsequent series of Indian Deathlocks and headlocks kept him subdued. When Hansen had his opportunities on offense he was far less controlled and opted to go for more high risk manoeuvres. These missed more often than they hit and allowed Inoki to maintain control. 
Hansen wasn’t necessarily working basic, but he had a certain simplicity to his approach, but the key with Hansen is his presence, which I think comes from his ability to move and work in a way most heavy/super heavyweights just can’t. Also, to state the obvious, his obvious carries “weight”; any clubbing blow, elbow shot and of course the lariat, come with extreme kinetic value. Inoki embodies his own kind of aura, and while that means I don’t find him as boring as some, I have to admit that how he works on offense is less than interesting, especially in comparison.
It was Hansen’s lariat that provided the victory, albeit from a countout. Inoki was hanging out on the apron and Hansen just crushed him with it. Somehow this countout victory warranted a title change which I thought was highly unorthodox but it importantly established Hansen as the immovable object, the great obstacle for Inoki to overcome.

Date: 1980-02-09
Promotion: WWF 
Show: All Star Wrestling

Just want to highlight the Samoans vs DeNucci & King match here which stood out to me for DeNucci’s attempted murder which was completely no-sold by all involved. After escaping a double team does he bee-line to his teammate for the hot tag? Does he fuck, he grabs the hammer for the ring bell and starts going crazy, nailing both Samoan’s with it. This all happened in full view of the referee who looked aghast as he clearly wasn’t prepared to DQ DeNucci here. Vince on commentary tried his best to divert attention away from this shit show before DeNucci mercifully returned the hammer to ringside. Absolute bonkers TV match that follows zero logic that I can think of. Highly recommend.

Date: 1980-02-13
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: John Quinn vs Caswell Martin
Rating: ★★

Mighty John Quinn grabbed the microphone before we began to state that his only reasons for returning to the UK was to defeat Big Daddy and to win the Heavyweight title and take it back to North America. Not so coincidentally the current Heavyweight Champion Wayne Bridges (no not the Chelsea player) was in the arena and he made his way to the ring before long. Words were exchanged before Bridges started disrobing. We had both men do their worst…to the other’s attire, before Bridges, topless but still wearing dress trousers, departed and we could finally begin our match.
This felt like the most “American” WoS match so far. Probably due to Quinn hailing from Canada. He comes across as the most heelish character and his in ring work reflected that well. Lots of hair grabbing, more strikes and deliberate punches to the face than usual (however the increased number of strikes may be a heavyweight thing). Here he was pretty dominant and his 5 stone advantage over Martin seemed to play into it.
Martin did feel like the forgotten man here. He had to take a backseat during the initial Quinn v Bridges standoff, then when the match got going I felt like his offense was pretty meh, he didn’t seem to engage the crowd (or me) and any reaction he garnered felt like residual heat that Quinn had built up rather than genuine support for him.
Quinn quickly racked up a verbal warning for attacking Martin between the bells, and pretty brutally I might add, and it looked like he was on his way towards a second before he ended up launching Martin over the top rope. It seemed like Martin landed awkwardly and he was unable to answer the referee’s count and the official decision was a KO.
Quinn wasn’t reinventing the wheel here with his heel work, but it did the trick, his offense looked really good and I definitely thought that he carried the match.

Date: 1980-02-13
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Bobby Barnes vs Mal Sanders
Rating: ★★

Bobby Barnes has the blonde hair, the rope, an undeniably punchable face and you know immediately this is someone to root against. When he took off his robe and I saw his multicoloured mosaic tights, it was a strong indication of his act (especially for 1980).
I’d say that this was a Barnes vehicle match. He controlled large portions of the first few rounds, with Sanders only able to grab a few brief hope spots here and there. We saw what looks like a patented Barnes spot, where he’s thrown but pops up with his hand raised, several times and I fear if I saw more from him that that might get old really fast.
I think that, at least in this match, there was a disconnect between Barnes’ gimmick and his working style. The flamboyant getup was a stark contrast with his stern demeanour, he almost was devoid of expression for the most part. Despite not loving the aforementioned roll spot, things like blankly staring at the referee, ignoring his count, while laying knee after knee into Sanders’ face I was super into. To put it simply, I liked Barnes, I’m just not sure if I would prefer him in a different gimmick that suited his style better. Will be interesting to judge this as I see more of him.
Sanders on the other hand I had higher expectations of. After watching matches with Cortez, Saint and Grey (granted they have higher reps) I was expecting the European champion, with the nickname of “Superstar” Mel Sanders no less, to display greater technical prowess and I thought he pretty much was a passenger in this match. He could have displayed some fire during his payback spots on Barnes or a little more oomph when bumping but he did neither.
Overall it was a bit bland for 2 rounds before everything kicked off in the third with Barnes going full tilt at being a shit head to Sanders. My issues with Barnes provided the ceiling while Sanders didn’t do enough to bring up the floor of this match.

Date: 1980-02-13
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Jim Breaks vs Young David
Rating: ★★★★

This is the third in a series of matches between the two with Young David (a 17 year old Davey Boy Smith) grabbing a surprise win over the veteran in at least one of the previous two. Coming into WoS pretty blind, this was the one matchup that I was aware of and I was eagerly anticipating it. This is my first look at Breaks, who has the highest of reputations, and a glimpse at an incredibly young British Bulldog.
This began as a slow burn with things on a gentle simmer for the first two rounds. It was roughly even between the two but maybe with the edge to Breaks, but the pressure began to build and build as Breaks increasingly started working David’s ankle. While that ankle work never resulted in a submission or fall, he managed to wear David down. David managed a phantom fall following a press slam (the referee counted to 3 but Breaks’ leg was under the ropes and the call was overturned by the MC) and this gave Breaks more motivation to torment the upstart and he switched his approach and relentlessly started to target the arm instead.
Over the next few rounds Breaks continued this strategy, continued to build the tension, and just ground David into literal submission. In the penultimate round he got what he was looking for and David was forced to give in, the damage to his arm just too much to resist any further. With only one round remaining David required a knockout decision for the victory, but instead of going for that killer blow he lulled Breaks into a false sense of security, feigning an injury long enough to lure him in close before rolling him up for the tying fall and the moral victory.
This didn’t have the all-round top tier technical work from a Grey vs Saint match, but I would point to this as a tour de force performance from Breaks honestly. I don’t want to take much away from David, but clearly Breaks was the driving force behind the match and David was along for the ride. However, credit where credit is due, he had the talent and ability to be carried to a great match, not just a good match, which can’t be said for just anybody.
Breaks was such a force of nature and personality. Breaks is such a force of nature and personality. It really was something to see him weave comedy, the back and forth with the crowd, the berating of Smith while he’s in holds, with the actual wrestling. It never felt like he was doing it for the sake of a laugh or purely for his character, but it had a purpose. He was doing it to gain the upper hand. It served the purpose of winning the match. That’s something I’ve rarely seen, even from the best and it really stood out here.
I’m unwilling to go too far in overrating this match too much given how little of WoS I’ve seen so far, but I can’t praise Breaks highly enough and if Smith was a bit more seasoned I could have seen this as a real classic. Thoroughly entertaining throughout.

Date: 1980-02-13
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Pat Roach vs Pete Roberts
Rating: ★★★

Pat Roach really is a big boy. His getup makes him look like a wrestling caveman. He definitely has the physical tools but I actually think that I preferred Roberts here. Roberts comes across like an accountant dressed up in wrestling gear. And his gear (a turquoise leotard with a lightning bolt down the front) just makes him look like a complete dork. But his selling was pretty sympathetic and I may have just preferred his role within this match. Roach has the size and presence of somebody you feel should just steamroll almost any opponent and it’s his job to walk that fine line in making it believable  that he might lose. Here I felt that kind of missed the mark a bit. The periods where Roach lost control felt a little contrived and I wasn’t buying that he was in any trouble. Ultimately Roach managed to dispatch Roberts with a press slam variation. Roberts’ timing in beating the referee’s ten count here was impeccable then his stumble into the ropes to sell the residual damage was really well done. Upon seeing this the referee called it and the decision was Roach by KO.
Pat Roach looks like a guy that could be amazing, I’m just interested to see how he harnesses the tools that are available to him. Often I think the hardest role in wrestling is being a super heavyweight matched up against someone smaller so I want to see him in more of these matchups to see how he handles them. Also wouldn’t say no to seeing him in a good old fashioned hoss fight either.

Date: 1980-02-15
Promotion: Houston Wrestling
Match: Tony Atlas vs Gino Hernandez
Rating: ★

Atlas continued his run through the territories being pushed as the hot new babyface. After popping up in Georgia and WWF in recent weeks (where they all leaned heavily into his Mr. USA title) Paul Boesch is doing the same in Houston, framing him as a classy example of what good ol’ hard work and exercise can do for you. Unrelated to this match but Vince interviewing Atlas on All-Star Wrestling had me in stitches as Atlas, in his thick Virginian drawl, kept talking about “Rasslin’” and I’m sure I could see a part of Vince’s soul die every time he heard it.
Atlas’ pre-match promo and bodybuilding presentation was interrupted by Harley Race, disgruntled that he had come all the way to Houston to witness this strip-tease. Atlas nonchalantly lifted Race in the air before gingerly plopping him back to the ground. So weird to see the current World’s Champion skulk off like a little boy who’s just been scolded by his nanny.
For the match itself, I don’t want to shit all over it but I thought things got pretty embarrassing, especially in the first fall. From what I’ve seen of Atlas so far in 1980, and due to the fact that he’s coming from the world of bodybuilding, I presumed he was pretty green at this point. However looking up his career his debut was in 1974 and he was wrestling pretty consistently for 6 years before this. If this is what he’s producing 6 years in, I fear that he’s pretty much unredeemable.
In fact, I was probably more disappointed in Gino, due to having higher hopes of his abilities based on his reputation and the flashes I’ve seen. He hasn’t been great so far in ‘80, but he’s probably been the highlight of Houston. Perhaps carrying Atlas to a compelling 20+ minute ⅔ falls match was a bridge too far for anybody. I felt that he went too overboard with his selling and it veered into goofy and that combination with Atlas’ terrible offense meant it basically descended into a farce.

Date: 1980-02-16
Promotion: PNW
Match: Buddy Rose vs Frank Dusek
Rating: ★★

It really is a testament to Rose that they got such an engaging first fall based entirely around him stalling. He was constantly on the move, trying to get in and then backing off when Dusek was crowding him on the apron. That constant motion was paramount in keeping things interesting and he even got the referee to break and crack a smile when, hanging off the ring post to get away from Dusek, his hands were ripped from the metal and he was sent tumbling to the concrete below.
Poor Frank really had one chance here to snatch the title and he blew it. Despite the stalling Rose made a mistake and Dusek was able to fashion his opportunity. He had the champion pinned but his own hubris had him break the pin at two and instead went up top for the exclamation point. We all knew that this wasn’t going to end well for plucky Frank here, unsurprisingly he crashed and burned and from then on any hope of him usurping Rose slipped away. Even winning the second fall via the Cobra Clutch just didn’t make me feel like Frank was going to pull it out.
Dusek actually got the victory but not the title, via DQ, when Piper came down to interfere behind the referee’s back. Bass, coming to defend his friend Rose, did the same, however this time in view of the referee and Rose was disqualified.
This was essentially an extended squash match designed to further the feud between Piper and Rose’s army. I don’t want to denigrate Dusek but I felt that this was a solid carry job from Rose and without the screwy finish this could have been something very good.

Date: 1980-02-21
Promotion: AJW
Match: Jackie Sato & Nancy Kumi vs Mami Kumano & Yvonne Jennings
Rating: ★

Large contingent of girls in the crowd for this and they were all hot for Jackie. Whenever she tagged in she garnered a crazy reaction. I was looking forward to seeing Nancy Kumi again, but preferably in a singles setting. However she’s tagging here again and disappointingly I felt that she faded very much into the background, and if this was my first time seeing her I wouldn’t have given her a second thought.
Mami Kumano was the standout here. She brought more energy and character but I thought her pairing with Jennings missed the mark as it lacked the verve of the original Black Pair partnership. Jennings in particular stuck out like a sore thumb. She brought a lot of what I would call “Americanisms” that seemed out of place. Sometimes bringing something different to the table can be a plus but here the more pantomime aspects of her working style came across as hokey considering the setting. Incidentally Kumano’s regular partner, Yuki Ikeshita was working a singles title match later the same night, hence this teamup.
The second fall, and the match, finished on a botched back body drop by Kumi on Mamano where she landed on her head. The footage cut out shortly thereafter, so perhaps there’s more tape I’m missing, but considering the medical attention she was receiving I wouldn’t be surprised if they called it then and there. 

Date: 1980-02-21
Promotion: AJW
Match: Lucy Kayama vs Yumi Ikeshita
Rating: ★

I believe this was originally supposed to be Aoyama vs Ikeshita, however Kayama was a last minute replacement for Aoyama due to injury. Things started pretty aimlessly until Ikeshita started targeting Kayama’s arm. We transitioned at the midway point to a hide-the-foreign-object routine which led to them brawling on the floor. Eventually the match was put to bed with Ikeshita nailing Kayama with a piledriver for the pin. In some classic camera work, we cut to pictures of commentary and ringside while the pinfall was occurring so we missed it entirely. Also the graphic on screen labelled the winning move as a “Filedriver”, which I presume had to be unintentional.
I wouldn’t be so low on this match if it didn’t last 25 minutes. At 10 or maybe 15 it would have been passable, but at nearly half an hour it definitely overstayed its welcome. I’m also having a real disconnect with Kayama. Nothing she has done has interested me and I can’t quite point to any unique quality that she has. Ikeshita was also disappointing as I thought a lot of what made her good in a tag setting was lacking here.

Date: 1980-02-22
Promotion: Houston Wrestling
Match: Tony Atlas vs Jerry Brown
Rating: ★

Atlas and Gino were verbally sparring before the match then Gino Pearl Harbours him from behind. Now at a disadvantage Jerry Brown jumped in to take control and from there the match began. Brown apparently also is a newbie to the territory. He’s sporting a brilliant bushy moustache and side parting. I was getting very strong Civil War era gentleman vibes.
I’ve noticed that when Atlas is FIP, he tends to mount his comeback way too early. If it had been a quick squash match but here all it did was serve to kill any heat that Brown had managed to build up to this point. To be fair, when Brown was able to have some consistent offense he showed off only the raw basics. He did some heelish stuff, a hair pull here, an eye poke there, but it was rudimentary at best, otherwise the best he managed to bust out was a simple wrist lock. This awkward back and forth went on for over 10 minutes before mercifully Atlas put him away with an overhead press slam.

Date: 1980-02-23
Promotion: AJPW
Match: Jumbo Tsuruta vs Dick Murdoch
Rating: ★★

I liked their opening mat exchanges and the first five minutes or so had both men struggle while in holds. However as the first fall went along they lost their way a bit and the momentum stalled. The pinfall on Jumbo came out of nowhere, and not in the good way, but I will say that Murdoch’s Brainbuster and transition into the pin was a thing of beauty.
The beginning of the second fall was the highlight of the match. Murdoch was on top, carrying over his control from the end of the first, and he really looked like he was laying his stuff in really snug. When Jumbo made his comeback to level things again it kind of just happened, was very brief, and lacked anything of note. Basically a move or two and Dick was down for the count. 
Murdoch took the third match, and won the title, when a top rope knee drop from Jumbo caused an injury to himself and Murdoch was able to capitalise with a spinning toe hold that he leveraged into a pin which I thought looked really cool.
I wish more of the match had been like the second fall. Murdoch gave a good performance, but I’ve seen better. Jumbo didn’t give a good performance and I’ve definitely seen better from him.

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MARCH

Date: 1980-03 (Month Only)
Promotion: AJW
Match: Tomi Aoyama & Lucy Kayama vs Yumi Ikeshita & Mami Kumano
Rating: ★★

Seems like Aoyama and Kayama are regular tag partners seeing as they actually have a team name (Queen Angels), despite the fact that Kayama holds the tag titles with Nancy Kumi presently, unless there’s been changes in the meantime. 
This came across more like an angle than an actual match despite getting through the full three falls. There was a ton of brawling on the outside and Kumano ended up getting bloodied around the nose at one point. The first two falls were pretty meandering despite the brawling, but once we transitioned into the third things really started to kick off. The Black Pair honed in on Aoyama’s leg and  the wrestlers that were surrounding the ring suddenly were coming in and getting involved, we had AJW officials in the ring getting smacked around by Kumano and Ikeshita and it descended into chaos. I was convinced that there was going to be a DQ finish or the match was going to get thrown out but somehow some semblance of order was restored and Kayama tried desperately to shield her partner from any more onslaught. The Black Pair were able to isolate Aoyama from her partner, and despite valiantly trying to fend them off with only one leg, they beat her down for the deciding fall.
There was so much outside interference here that it got a bit much. Aoyama fighting off both opponents was a solid highlight but the majority of the match, especially the first half was pretty average.

Date: 1980-03-01
Promotion: WWF
Match: Bruno Sammartino vs Larry Zbyszko
Rating: ★★★

Despite the raucous atmosphere and the nature of the feud, I would have assumed that this would be brawl city, but at least early on both men tried to work this as a straight up wrestling match, especially Sammartino. Zbyszko was overcome with his frustration as he was being outmanoeuvred and began veering more towards using punches and other strikes, but Sammartino stuck with the wrestling for the most part. I’m assuming the idea was Bruno not stooping to Larry’s level and trying to win the “right” way. 
Either way, in the earlier portions we got abdominal stretches and hammerlocks, which sapped some of the heat from the crowd (or at least from me anyway). When the transition came for Larry’s heat sequence it was a lot more punch/kick action, real meat and potatoes stuff, but the extended comeback from Bruno was what this match was all about. The build was slow but you could feel the tension rising and eventually Bruno just snapped and began unloading on Larry. The referee tried intervening, got clobbered by a wild Sammartino and there’s your match, disqualification.
It took the referee and a number of other wrestlers to come from the back to subdue Bruno who was apoplectic as Larry made his exit.
The finish here was great and Bruno’s selling and timing of his comeback was amazing but the first half where both men were trying to administer your standard wrestling holds felt at odds with the setup of the match. You could make rationalisations for it but I just felt that it was a bit odd.

Date: 1980-03-01
Promotion: PNW
Match: Roddy Piper vs Luke Williams
Rating: ★★

Rose’s Army had been calling Piper out for weeks and finally we got the hair match that was promised. This lasted barely five minutes but it clearly was more about the outcome of the stipulation than the match itself. 
Rose and Miller were handcuffed to the rigpost to start and Piper and Williams began with some good ol’ fashioned brawling. Eventually Piper wipes out the referee with a flying crossbody. Somehow a chair ended up in the ring and in Williams’ hands and BAM, Piper hit him with a Van Daminator!!!! Well, not quite, but a goofy looking dropkick sent the chair flying into Williams’ face so almost. Despite still being on the floor to the outside the referee was able to count to 3 and Williams is losing his hair.
Love how when Williams is getting his buzz cut all the faces come down to restrain Williams, and for some reason they are all topless but also wearing slacks. Which might be a perfectly acceptable fashion choice in Portland in 1980, who knows?

Date: 1980-03-05
Promotion: AJPW
Match: Jumbo Tsuruta vs Dick Murdoch
Rating: ★★

Here’s the title rematch with Murdoch now the NWF champion. In contrast to their previous match where I thought that Murdoch had the far better performance, here I felt that Jumbo came to play much stronger. He just seemed more engaged and this certainly was his best performance of the year so far. His offense had nice energy to it, looked really good and I liked how he sold when asked to.
Murdoch however didn’t have the same snap to his offense that you would expect and he was too happy to just sit in holds for my liking. Usually he’s a blast to watch when he’s working from on top, but here something was lacking. The turnbuckle bump he ate at the death was pretty brutal though and this allowed Jumbo to get him into a small package for the win. Also will say that the 1st fall was heavily clipped and we lost a few minutes in the rest of the match also which couldn’t have helped things, but with what we’ve got of it, it was an okay match but really had nothing special to it.

Date: 1980-03-07
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Gran Hamada & George Takano vs Mando Guerrero & Baby Face
Rating: ★★★

I came away from this match really not impressed with either Mando Guerrero or George Takano. Well, apart from Takano’s movie star good looks which apparently, and unsurprisingly, makes him very popular with the ladies. Gran Hamada and Baby Face however, when matched up against each other, were golden. Mando and George were awkward when they were in, and especially when matched up against each other, and Mando in particular really looked like a fish out of water.
His partner Baby Face was great though, he has a really stocky build and it’s a body type I feel like we don’t see as often nowadays. Similar to Hoshino, he’s like a pumped up baby with a grown man’s face. But despite the frame, boy can he move and the sequences with him and Hamada were a joy. He was also able to, in brief snippets, get across his character and display some solid charisma so I’ve got my fingers crossed that there’s more of him on tape coming up.
Hamada is much more subtle on the character front but in terms of workrate he takes the cake. He looked so smooth and fluid when he was flying around the ring and he got so much air on his back body drops that I’m sure he had snow on his boots when he came back to Earth. 
Hamada & Gorgeous George won it when Hamada took Baby Face out with a dive to the outside and Takano managed to hit a victory roll on Mando.

Date: 1980-03-12
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: John Quinn vs Johnny Wilson
Rating: N/A

Basically an extended squash match. This lasted three rounds but Quinn dominated the majority of it apart from some brief interludes where Wilson was able to get him a little flustered. The first two rounds also had some serious clipping.
Wilson was doing a sort of Tarzan gimmick (think he just wanted to wear leopard print tights) and I wasn’t impressed with him at all as both his offense and technical ability left a lot to be desired compared to his peers.
Quinn racked up two public warnings pretty quickly by continuing his assaults between rounds or when Wilson was caught up in the ropes but before he could actually be disqualified he nailed Wilson with a body check/forearm hybrid type move and gained the knockout victory.
The heat that Quinn is able to generate is a strong indicator that he’s the biggest heel in the country at the moment. McManus and Breaks don’t have any trouble getting strong crowd reactions themselves, but they are WoS mainstays so I think it’s slightly different here. Quinn won’t win any prizes for his technical expertise but his stuff always looks like it hurts and I’m enjoying his stint this side of the pond (what’s the term for opposite of Stateside?).
The match really was merely a prelude to the contract signing between Quinn and current Heavyweight Champion Wayne Bridges which was to take place in April but televised on Cup Final day in early May!

Date: 1980-03-12
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Mick McMichael vs Vic Faulkner
Rating: ★★★★

McMichael here was billed as “Popular” Mick McMichael, which I don’t recall from his last match, but I can see why he’s so popular. At first glance he’s somebody who could easily be overlooked. He’s big, but not impressively so, probably closer to plump. His build is maybe like a Buddy Rose if the fat looked more solid. However, despite his build and the preconceived notions that may come with it, he can do the technical stuff, especially to the general level required to compete in WoS. His matwork is crisp and he can get around the ring when he needs to, but the key I think is his impeccable timing, especially in regards to when to sprinkle in aspects of comedy into the match. He knows how to interact with the crowd; with the referee; and with his opponent to great effect. In this match he walked the line between cheating and not cheating (throwing punches and grabbing some hair etc.) without going overboard with it but also keeping it interesting and it not feeling like token work. 
Faulkner, for his end, was absolutely no slouch either as he definitely brought his fair share to the party. I thought he had a solid, well established character of that classic true sportsman but with a cheek to him that surfaces every now and then. Overall I thought this was a great example of two wrestler’s acts synthesising together extremely well combined with two excellent performances. However special mention for McMichael, who’s general schtick I find to be so effortlessly entertaining.

Date: 1980-03-15
Promotion: AJW
Match: Victoria Fujimi & Nancy Kumi vs Rimi Yokota & Seika Hanawa
Rating: ★★★

Matchup between the Golden Pair and the Young Pair. Throw the Black Pair into the mix and you can tell that All Japan Women have a real knack for coining unique tag team names.
Coming into the match I was really interested in seeing more from Kumi and Yokota but actually came away from it thinking, damn, I need to keep on the lookout for more Victoria Fujimi matches! I thought all four women brought something to the table, but the emotion and intensity, of which there was a ton, was really generated by Fujimi. I don’t know what Hanawa did to her but she seemed to hate her. There often is a point in a Joshi match where you have to finally zone out the screaming, but here there was an edge that actually elevated the match I feel and gave it another dimension.
Yokota certainly came across as the most technically sound of the four, and considering her reputation that isn’t a surprise at all, and I really liked how she would add extra flourishes from the apron when tagged out just to stay involved in the action, however unfortunately you couldn’t say the same for Kumi who I think faded into the background a little too much.
The biggest knock on the match was the incessant arena brawling. It seemed like they would run a mile just to weakly crash into the wall. The Fast and Furious runway scene comes to mind. And I think all it did was to highlight how empty the arena was past the first several rows. In the end they actually ran this sequence a third time which was purely so they could do a double countout for the finish. 

Date: 1980-03-15
Promotion: AJW
Match: Devil Masami vs Ayumi Hori
Rating: ★★

Masami is using the Devil moniker here, which I don’t think she was using earlier in the year, so not sure exactly when she switched. I’ve seen her billed as Tenjin later on however, so perhaps it was a back and forth thing?
I don’t have many thoughts on Hori yet, here she was fine, but nothing stood out. Masami however I think really showed off her selling chops. She was in a variety of head scissor holds at one point and I think her selling really stood out as both interesting and realistic. She’s also a wrestler who comes across better when you see her face as she displays so much through facial expressions rather than body language (at least that was the case in this match). 

Date: 1980-03-15
Promotion: AJW
Match: Jackie Sato vs Monster Ripper
Rating: ★★

Big title match here as Monster Ripper challenges Jackie for the WWWA Singles Title. Ripper had a huge presence and was the prototype for the Dumps, Bulls and Kongs of the world who followed her and she barely sells anything here, especially in the early stages. 
Despite Jackie’s popularity she hasn’t jumped out to me so far compared to some of the other women in the company. Here she was serviceable once again, but I didn’t think her working underneath this monster was particularly inspired. The best spot of the match was when she suplexed Ripper and her timing on the delay, the same thing Backlund does in his powerlifting spots, was perfect, getting across the effort and achievement of the act.
The thing that kind of killed the match was the finish. The Black Pair, I’m assuming underlings of Ripper, started attacking Jackie on the outside. This relentless beatdown was halfheartedly attempted to be stopped by the other women at ringside but to no avail. Ripper, after swatting a few of the women aside, gets back into the ring and wins via countout. My issue is that the outside interference was allowed despite how blatant it was. There was serious consternation from Jackie, the other women, and also on commentary, that this clearly was supposed to be controversial, but I’m not sure how such blatant interference could be allowed by the referee. Secondly, it was Ripper and the Black Pair up against at least 10 women, including Jackie. How this mass of wrestlers weren’t able to subdue 3 women is beyond me and speaks to a general incompetence or pure indifference from those trying to prevent it. There shouldn’t be hand wringing and there isn’t anybody to blame but themselves, because they got punked.

Date: 1980-03-15
Promotion: PNW
Match: Roddy Piper & Rick Martel vs The Sheepherders
Rating: ★★★

Since I last checked in on Portland it seems like the Sheepherders have had a run in with Martel because everytime he tagged in they were desperate to avoid him and went hell for leather bailing from the ring. Miller carried over his emotion from the hair match, despite it being his partner Williams who lost his hair, and he had a real nasty streak to his offense and specifically targeted Piper’s hair throughout the first fall. When Martel finally got his hands on Williams he was at his high stepping best and the energy in the building was through the roof and he took the first fall with a flying cross body.
Williams was stuck isolated from Miller for almost the entire duration of the second fall. Piper and Martel honed in on his left arm but I felt that this is where the match dragged a bit. Piper’s best attributes aren’t working a hold and he ended up doing a lot of that here. Martel was the same but he’s prone to yanking on a limb a little more often at least. Thankfully the transitioned into a FIP sequence eventually with Martel struggling to get back to Piper on the outside. The sequence where Williams finally got free was great as after tagging Miller he came in and immediately destroyed Martel with a reverse elbow thrust that looked absolutely brutal. They did the usual slow build to the hot tag and this is where Piper really showed his stuff as he was molten hot when he got in and it was easily the most fired up I’ve seen him. Unfortunately for him he bit off more than he could chew as he went for Miller in the corner and got blindsided by Williams from behind and they doubled him, draped him over the ropes and Miller from the top pulverised him into the mat to square things up. 
Things ended on a DQ as Rose rushed the ring with scissors in an attempt to cut Piper's hair. It’s sad we couldn’t get a clean finish here but they are pivoting towards another hair match between Piper and Miller this time so it makes sense from a booking perspective. Rose and Piper were great on the mic again post-match. Rose constantly reminds me of that child that thinks they’re smart, is happy to pipe up and say things confidently, but really are just so blissfully ignorant of how dumb they actually are. Beautiful stuff.

Date: 1980-03-20
Promotion: AWA
Match: Jerry Blackwell vs Dino Bravo
Rating: ★★

Bravo was good here, well at least far better than I remember him being in WWF. This match was all about Blackwell though. Seriously, is he the best bumping superheavyweight of all time? He sold being dazed superbly and when he was on offense it just looked like death. People often talk about valuing the ability to get a lot out of very little, well here Blackwell made simple things like a knee drop or a headbutt look and feel so impactful. Yes he has a huge amount of mass, but he used it so much more effectively than so many other men his size. Even a turnbuckle bump becomes a high spot when he’s involved. Truly amazing.
If this match had been an 8-10 minute sprint, instead of being extended to 15+, this could have been really great. As much praise as I’ve been heaping upon Blackwell, him sitting in an armbar for 4 minutes is not appointment viewing.
In the end Dino finished Blackwell off with a bodyslam (apparently winning $1000 in the process) before getting blindsided from behind.

Date: 1980-03-24
Promotion: WWF
Match: Bruno Sammartino vs Larry Zbyszko
Rating: ★★★

This is the first match of their series at MSG. During the first few minutes I thought that they were merely running back their match from the Spectrum as the sequences were extremely similar. They again played it straight up to start with both going for legitimate wrestling holds with Zbyszko repeatedly coming off second best. His frustration steadily grew before he flung an elbow, gained the advantage, and from then on we had a fight on our hands. The Philly crowd at the beginning of the month were HOT but this almost had the sense of a gladiatorial spectacle which took the atmosphere to a whole other level.
In the middle there was a long stretch where Bruno was sent to the floor and Zbyszko kept kicking him back to the floor every time he tried to re-enter the ring. I think if they’d shaved maybe 3 or 4 minutes from this section it would have done a world of good, but perhaps the peak later on would have been as impactful if they had. Either way once Bruno made it back into the ring Larry was just wailing on Bruno in the corner and you could just see the comeback brewing. Unlike in Philadelphia, Larry could see it coming this time and we had a chase. Three times they circled the ring and Larry would dive in and then escape before Bruno could get his hands on him. The third time however Larry was a little too slow and Bruno caught him as he was diving through the ropes. Once he had him he went hell for leather just beating down on him. The referee got caught in the crossfire and we had a somewhat foreseeable DQ finish. Bruno wasn’t letting up though and it took the referee and Arnold Skaaland several minutes to pull him away and allow Larry to retreat to the back.
I would say the Spectrum match and this were roughly equal but I did think that Bruno’s comeback here had a little more juice. The slow build to his comebacks is something I’m really enjoying as he doesn’t go over the top as some others do. I like Martel and I’m not calling him out, but as a contrast he is visually very LOUD in comparison.

Date: 1980-03-24
Promotion: WWF
Match: Andre the Giant & Pat Patterson vs Ken Patera & Bob Duncum
Rating: ★★★

After the emotional melting pot that was Bruno vs Larry, we needed a change of pace for the second half of the main event and that’s exactly what we got here. Much more lighthearted but not a drop in quality.
Frankly, this was the Pat and Andre show. Patera & Duncum are too good to be carried but they were merely tools here that were used by Pat and Andre to carve out their match. Pat had his little moments, flying out of nowhere at one point, diving between Andre’s legs and nailing Patera in the stomach, but wow, what a tour de force performance from Andre. For anybody championing him as a great wrestler, this is absolutely a  match that you can point to to show what he could bring to the table. 
Once Patera and Duncum had grounded Andre and they began using a nerve hold on his trapezius to keep him off his feet and I was concerned that the match was going to start to lose its way. But Andre was flailing about in the hold, selling the pain but also the struggle to escape, and when a man Andre’s size starts flailing about, it really makes an impression. He really guided this match throughout. He had amazing work on the apron, was constantly involved in the proceedings and when he was in the ring, he milked every action to the absolute maximum. I had such a blast watching this.

Date: 1980-03-24
Promotion: WWF
Match: Hulk Hogan vs Tito Santana
Rating: ★★★

This was a little firecracker of a match to send the paying customers home happy. Tito is the perfect opponent for Hulk at this time because his selling is good enough that he makes Hulk’s offense look great, but he also has enough offense himself that when he makes his comeback, or during his hope spots, it looks effective, legitimate and any selling that Hulk does doesn’t feel like a token effort.
On Hulk’s selling, I would say that this is the largest weak point. The selling isn’t quite there yet. It looks stiff and unnatural, or rather it doesn’t have that organic quality you want from good selling. But he executes everything else he’s asked to do to the money.
They didn’t reinvent the wheel here, you got what you would hope to get and they maximised their time really well. Hulk finally swatted the annoying Santana down with a huge suplex to take the win. Easily would call this a good match.

Date: 1980-03-25
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Johnny Saint vs Steve Grey
Rating: N/A

After winning their two previous bouts Saint agreed to this title match. The footage starts and we’re already at the start of Round 10, which is such a bummer.
These two continued where they left off back in January. Really amazing work, I’m not sure if the stuff in their previous match was sharper than what we saw here in about 3 rounds worth of footage, but this felt big. It had that title match feeling, a sense of epicness that I haven’t felt much in the WoS footage so far.
The thing that really stood out to me was, that while I think Saint is the more technically proficient (by a hair), Grey is the one you’re drawn to when you watch. How he sold on the mat is the best in WoS hands down. Most guys lie there, perhaps presenting that they’re composing themselves before they start again or whatever, but Grey is writhing around, his body is moving, it really seems like he’s hurting, not in the injured way, but in that push yourself through your threshold kind of way. He looked exhausted throughout and that just added to the drama of him clinging on to his lead and trying to overcome Saint and take his World title. Unfortunately for him, Saint came back with 2 falls to retain and keep Grey nipping at his heels for now. 

Date: 1980-03-28
Promotion: AJPW
Match: Terry Funk vs Ray Candy
Rating: ★★★

This match popped up in my match list and it’s Terry Funk in Japan, so yeah why not? Who’s he up against? Ray Candy?! Who the hell is Ray Candy? Well he’s nothing special, but this match was. Oh boy! This was Terry doing the hard sell. Sell sell sell sell. Nothing but selling. He made Ray Candy look like an absolute beast. He took three absolutely nutty bumps right through the ropes. He did a flat back drop right onto the concrete. Terry is a God. Of course his comeback was fire, the punches were lit and only Terry Funk can make a sloppy looking running press come across as an exciting finish. One of those stab in the dark matches that completely paid off. So happy I watched this.

Date: 1980-03-28
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Antonio Inoki & Tatsumi Fujinami vs Stan Hansen & Mike Graham
Rating: ★★

Nothing crazy here. The match was just an excuse to keep the two feuds simmering until the singles matchups. Fujinami had recently travelled to Florida and dropped the junior belt to Graham so there will be a rematch where he’ll undoubtedly reclaim it. Inoki & Hansen are also scheduled for their rematch imminently.
The initial Inoki & Hansen matchup was great. You could feel the buzz, but they pivoted away from that a bit too soon I felt. Fujinami and Graham were a bit clumsy to start but once the foreign team started upping the pace we really got going. First they managed to isolate Fujinami and really lay it on him in the corner and after that Inoki and Fujinami had to up their game. I thought Fujinami was really good from the midpoint onwards as he got battered taking the majority of the other team’s offense, and when it came to return the favour, it was he not Inoki who was the most intense and he showed off some real fire. Great example of this was him clocking Graham from the outside while on the apron at one point.
Inoki and Fujinami took the victory when, looking like Fujinami would tap out a second time to Graham’s figure four, Inoki was able to come in for a splash and grab the pin. Legal man be damned! There was nothing outrageously good here as they were merely trying to keep the fires cooking rather than doing anything to ramp up the heat.

Date: 1980-03-31
Promotion: IWE
Match: Higo Hamaguchi & Mighty Inoue vs Kengo Kimura & Haruka Eigen
Rating: ★★★

This was a 10 minute sprint. The pace never let up and all 4 men really stepped to the plate and delivered. I have no idea what the background for the match was, and while I’ve seen most of these guys in random matches before, I was still trying to keep up with who was who for the most part, but damn it was a lot of fun. If this is just the midcard, have I been sleeping on IWE so far?!? 
Kimura laid a plancha on Hamaguchi and I can’t tell if it was a shoot or real, but he was knocked out. Inoue came over and hauled him into the ring to avoid the count out, but he kind of just dumped him on the mat then headed back to his corner. At this point Hamaguchi’s lifeless body was just lying on the apron allowing Kimura and Eiken to just start stomping away. Eventually Inoue was forced to again come back over and this time he dragged Hamaguchi towards the middle of the ring. I repeat, he was not moving. He didn’t stir. He might have been dead for all intents and purposes. Finally we got the wrestlers from outside getting involved, the ref came over and got clocked by Eiken and there’s the grounds for a DQ. The chaos and indecision from everyone involved lead me to think that this definitely wasn’t planned, but it certainly was memorable. If they had just 3-5 more minutes to build on the foundation they had laid in order to deliver a more satisfying ending I could be pushed to go higher on this 100%.

Date: 1980-03-31
Promotion: IWE
Match: Ashura Hara vs Ryuma Go
Rating: ★★★

Ashura looks like a star here. He’s got the long hair, the leather jacket, his entrance has him coming down through the crowd, and he has this amazing moustache. Moustaches can either make you look like a creep or look like the man, and Ashura looks like the man. 
Ryuma worked on top for a lot of this, keeping Ashura grounded in a headscissors or a leg lock and the impetus was on Ashura to get to the ropes or counter the move with one of his own. It wasn’t exactly amateur wrestling style, but there was a lot more struggle for position and attempting to get holds and leverage than I’ve seen elsewhere at this time.
As the match wore on Ryuma grew stronger and Ashura looked like he was fading. In their strike exchanges he came off second best and he took a real beating. I think they made a concerted effort to make Ryuma look really strong here as I can’t remember him properly selling any move Ashura laid on him all match.
In the end Ryuma dumped Ashura onto a table at ringside and was DQ’d for a pretty sad ending
Ryuma wasn’t bad by any means. His offense was solid and he was technically sound. It may have been intentional but I thought his lack of selling was a negative for both him individually and also the match as a whole, whereas I was really impressed with Ashura. He managed to go through the whole match as basically second best but through his selling, which I thought was extremely good, he generated sympathy from me and I thought that he came off as more tough than weak after everything was said and done.

Date: 1980-03-31
Promotion: IWE
Match: Rusher Kimura vs Johnny Powers
Rating: ★

The IWE Title is on the line here. I realised just before the bell that I’d seen Powers in some terrible match with Inoki in the mid 70s and I feared the worst. Low and behold, those fears were well founded. I don’t know what to say about Kimura, he tried his best. His chops had fire and he was able to generate some drama at the end with his juice job and screaming in agony from the “Powers Lock”. But honestly, he just wasn’t good enough to fashion a good match out of Johnny Powers.
Powers, honestly, was a terrible wrestler. He had no authenticity. His offense was terrible, his selling was worse, I’m not sure he could even bump. Considering this was a title match I’m not sure how he even sniffed the matchup in the first place. Lou Thesz, in his mid-60s at this point, looked like he could beat Powers in a fight and the best part of the match that actually involved Powers was Thesz giving him a stiff forearm to break up his shenanigans with Kimura in the ropes.
Honestly just a terrible match. So disappointing considering the two that preceded it on the show.

Date: 1980-03-31
Promotion: IWE
Match: Nick Bockwinkel vs Kintaro Oki
Rating: ★★

Definitely wouldn’t call this a great Bockwinkel match compared to his other stuff. He and Oki seemed quite content to sit in rest holds for the majority of the first fall with Oki locking a short arm scissor on Bock.I will give him credit for attempting to show struggle, either by trying to wriggle free or doing the hand slap spot to indicate it’s losing blood flow. The fall ended with a phantom three count by Thesz which threw everybody off as he clearly only counted two and only he and Bock seemed to think it was three.
I think the second half of the match was far superior as Oki started to visibly gain momentum and Bockwinkel did a great job of putting him over. A series of headbutts drew blood and eventually just knocked him out for the equalising fall. The third fall began with Oki continuing to dominate and it looked lights out for the champion, but as soon as Bock dived to the outside and Oki followed for a quick brawl outside I knew the countout was coming and Thesz literally couldn’t have counted any quicker.
Really drab first half with lots of lying around in holds and Oki was a charisma vacuum in general. When Bock kicked into overdrive on selling for Oki to present him as the star things got a lot better but I think it’s clearly not a high point for him.

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Q1 Recap January - March

Lack of footage
There were snippets of footage for AWA, Mid-South, WCCW, UWA, Mid-Atlantic, SECW, SWCW and CWF but not enough to get a coherent view of what was happening in each promotion. 

Memphis
Memphis was cranking out solid, enjoyable hours of television on an hour basis and I was able to find footage for most weeks in this period. It suffers from only really having clips of arena show matches so we basically just have the TV footage. The year began with Jerry Jarrett feuding with Jimmy Hart’s stable which included Lawler and Jimmy Valiant (current Southern Heavyweight Champion), but this mostly played out entirely off TV. The same can be said for basically everything Dundee for the first 3 months of the year. He would have the occasional TV match and deliver some killer promos to promote matches with the likes of Sonny King in Louisville or the Mid-South Coliseum, but in terms of his presentation on screen, he seemed conspicuously adrift and disconnected from any of the major ongoing storylines. 
Considering Dundee was the biggest babyface in the promotion, when Lawler went down with a broken leg in early February (playing touch football), it was interesting that they turned Valiant face and leant on him as their main guy instead of looking to Dundee. Undoubtedly having Lawler on the shelf was a big blow to the product, but Valiant was killer in his new role and positively oozed charisma whenever he was on screen and in my opinion was their MVP through March. 
Elsewhere Billy Robinson was sending in some really nuanced promos from his home in Wigan after being taken out by the Assassins. These would be drip fed to the audience over several weeks building to his return, but again I don’t think he appeared in any official matches on television during his run with tag partner Ken Lucas and the footage we got of his arena matches when he did return disappointingly look like some of his worst work available.
Amongst all this Paul Ellering was promoted from joke contender to Valiant’s title before the injury to Lawler to the lead man in Jimmy Hart’s reshuffled stable and was heavily involved in both a run targeting the tag titles, with Ali Hassan, and again at Valiant’s heavyweight title.
The undercard and TV product was mostly built upon young upstarts The Gibsons (Rick and Robert), Ricky Morton and Steve Regal cycling through short squash matches or a mish-mash of tag matchups with the mid-card and main event guys as required. By the end of March however the tag division had a shot in the arm with the arrival of Dr D. Schultz & Dennis Condrey.
There weren’t any stone cold classic matches but their TV is like comfort food, perfect for consumption on a Saturday morning.

Georgia
Unlike Memphis, footage of Georgia Championship Wrestling is much more sparse and I believe that they ran an hour on both Saturday and Sunday, which I definitely wasn’t able to track down in full. But what it lacked in coverage it made up for in impact. Georgia feels like it has the most stacked roster of any promotion at this time with Tommy Rich, Mr Wrestling II, Kevin Sullivan and the Andersons (Lars and Ole) as the babyface mainstays. The heel side consisted of Austin Idol, Masked Superstar, Dutch Mantell, Baron Von Raschke & The Russians (Alexis Smirnoff & Ivan Koloff). However we had prominent storyline involvement and repeated drop-ins from NWA Champion Harley Race, Terry & Dory Funk, Dusty Rhodes, Ernie Ladd, Stan Hansen & Wahoo McDaniels. They even had Genichiro Tenryu delivering quality TV matches as one of their jobbers to the stars.
It wasn’t just the star power that was impressive however, it was how watching the TV felt like something was always happening. Angles were coming thick and fast and each storyline had multiple threads and multiple feuds would be overlapping at any given time. 
The main storyline thread revolved around Rich challenging for Race’s NWA Title and Race putting a bounty on Rich in return. Repeatedly on TV Rich would have his opponents gunning for him culminating in a match with Idol where the bounty was collected after he royally fucked up his leg. This resulted in the title shot switching to Mr Wrestling II, who himself was feuding with Masked Superstar over both Mr Wrestling II’s Georgia Heavyweight Title and Superstar’s Cobra Clutch Challenge. 
Further down the card, Dusty Rhodes and Terry Funk were engaged in an ongoing feud that had some awesome promos and some neat little TV matches. While being the biggest babyface across the Pacific, Terry here is a real killer and it’s so disappointing that their Omni match was only shown in clips as it looked absolutely brutal. Wahoo turning up was just the icing on the cake and he had his own quality squash matches.
Georgia feels like the elite TV product in 1980, was perhaps the best promotion top to bottom in the US, and I just wish that there were more than just clips of the matches from the Omni. My only complaint really about Georgia Championship Wrestling is that it is the worst culprit when it comes to shoe-horning the hyping of the upcoming arena events. It seemed like every promo had a guy awkwardly throwing out “Tomorrow at the Omni” in the midst of an otherwise heated delivery. Watching these three months has been the most interesting Harley Race has ever been, Tommy Rich has been a revelation and feels like a tippy top star, and finally Austin Idol, while a bit repetitive on the mic, clearly is a guy they trusted to drive multiple storylines and occupy large chunks of TV time.

Houston
Houston might be the biggest disappointment of the year. The NWA Classics footage looks just amazing but the match quality doesn’t justify the footage fidelity. From the smattering of matches available it seems like the shows revolved around Gino Hernandez as the top heel and champion with Tony Atlas being brought in and heavily pushed as well. The undercard had Tiger Conway Jr., who I had never heard of before but looks interesting and an ageing Jose Lothario who has a big reputation but hasn’t jumped off the screen as of yet. Otherwise there has been a string of guys like Mark Lewin, Killer Brooks and Jerry Brown who I haven’t been impressed with and the less said about Tony Atlas’ performances the better. The quality of what has been on offer from Houston has consistently been the worst all round.

Portland
Portland is a territory with a clearly defined top tier and those that revolve around the main event, then a big drop-off as you work down the card. Everything revolves around the champion Buddy Rose, his army of Sam Bass and the Sheepherders and their feud with Roddy Piper and Rick Martel which played out across a variety of match types from 10 man tag affairs, hair vs hair matches and title matches. Rose has been awfully impressive, pulling off engaging ⅔ falls title matches with the likes of Frank Dusek and driving the logical feud development with his involvement in Portland’s interview setup. Piper, without wowing necessarily from an in-ring perspective, has been on fire on the mic. It’s not that he’s been poor in the ring but it’s helped having him consistently team with Martel in their battle against the Sheepherders. 
I didn’t have much of a high opinion of the Sheepherders before I started on this footage, but they’ve delivered as a solid foil to Rose’s antics and Butch Miller in particular has stood out, both on the mic and in the ring. I think his match psychology has been really good and while his delivery on the mic is miles away from somebody like Piper, it’s certainly a case of liking what he’s saying instead of how he’s saying it.
Rick Martel popped up in the territory and definitely feels like the “workrate” guy but I’m still waiting for him to have that real classic performance so far with his NWA Title match against Race being his highlight so far.
Overall the presentation of Portland feels wholly unique compared to the other US territories. I’m not 100% certain here, but I get the sense that the footage here comes from their TV, but feels much more akin to ECW’s TV production with it merely being a representation of the goings on within their prime arena event each week. I’m keen to see how they continue to recycle through the existing feuds with such a thin roster but in their favour they have my new favourite referee in Sandy Barr. No other referee can get tossed from the ring and take that bump to the floor like he can.

WWF
The presumptive heavy hitter of the US scene, WWF really was leaning heavily on the Bruno and Larry feud through this first part of the year, and in many ways I’m sure until their Shea Stadium showdown in August. Their TV production was easily the most rote of what was available, consisting almost exclusively of jobber matches with the likes of Jose Estrada, Johnny Rodz and my personal favourite Mark Pole. Apart from WWF Champion Bob Backlund, they did have all the main guys appear however with consistent showings from Pat Patterson (Intercontinental Champion), Ken Patera and Larry Zbyszko. Alternatively they relied on almost weekly matches from The Samoans as they built towards their challenge of Tito Santana and Ivan Putski’s tag titles. In a vacuum the matches presented to the viewing audience was fine, but compared to what Georgia or Memphis were broadcasting, this was decidedly lacklustre. Hulk Hogan was also being featured prominently in handicap matches against jobbers as he steadily increased his unbeaten run.
They made up for it with the dynamite interviews and promos by both Bruno and Larry. They let their feud simmer on a low heat instead of burning through it in double time. Each promo built upon the previous and these guys could put their performances in this aspect up against anybody anywhere.
The MSG and Spectrum shows were where Backlund does appear and it seemed like he was merely running through a series of title challengers without really engaging in any angles or storylines. I guess it didn’t help in this respect that the promos we do have of him are pretty terrible across the board. His match with Patera was okay, I liked his Spectrum match with Duncum but wasn’t interested in sitting through two 20+ minute single matches against each of the Samoans. He’s undeniably over with the general WWF crowd, but it seems a waste to have him completely disconnected from the TV product.
Overall it feels like the WWF at this time are a distinctly middle of the road product with a fire feud that they can ride for a few months. Hogan’s build is by the numbers but pretty effective and the upper mid card of Patterson and Patera is incredibly solid. Otherwise things feel somewhat uninspired.

World Of Sport
This certainly is personal preference but for pure consistent in-ring quality, Joint Promotions were delivering the best product anywhere in the world from what we have on tape. It’s a travesty how little footage we actually have and also that what was presented on television to the viewing UK audience on a Saturday afternoon wasn’t entirely reflective of what was going on at the actual events, lacking the angles and violence of the house shows.
For my money the technical wrestling on show in the UK at this point was the cream of the crop with guys like Jim Breaks, Johnny Saint and Steve Grey at the vanguard. But the nature of the style ensured that technical competence trickled down the entire card, to the point that even an act like Catweazle had what I would call strong technical capabilities, even if I didn’t like his work.
As I said, angles were few and far between but the arrival of John Quinn from Vancouver was incredibly prominent on TV with him chugging through a series of matches on his way to challenging for the Heavyweight Title in April. Elsewhere the Breaks vs Young David trilogy concluded with a MOTYC calibre match and a similar series between Johnny Saint and Steve Grey concluded with Saint retaining his Light Heavyweight Title after two outstanding matches, including my frontrunner for the actual MOTY.
Overall I’d say that bang for your buck, World of Sport crams in more quality wrestling per minute of footage available. Up and down the card the matches are at worst fun and there are hidden gems galore. Personally, an emerging favourite is Mick McMichael and I’m heartbroken that he doesn’t pop up on tape again this year beyond the two matches I saw.

All Japan Women
Heading over to Japan I’ll start with the women. AJW feels like a Jackson Pollock painting. As if they are constantly throwing stuff at the wall and hoping that it emerges as something worthwhile. Sometimes it does, and some of my favourite matches so far have come from this promotion, but other times it falls completely flat.
Jackie Sato is the star, and she certainly has flashes where I see the appeal, but overall she hasn’t caught my eye at all. Rimi Yokota (later Jaguar) definitely has been an eye catcher, but it still feels like she’s not able to grab a match by the throat and elevate it all by herself. 
Just below Sato there’s a group of women like Tomi Aoyama, Lucy Kayama and Nancy Kumi who feel similarly inconsistent. At times they have done stuff that I’ve loved and other times they’ve been anonymous or outright bad in certain matches.
The heel side of the roster has Monster Ripper working a prototypical version of what Dump Matsumoto and later Aja Kong would do, flanked by a young Devil Masami (here Tenjin Masami) and the tag team of the Black Pair.
Everything comes across like a work in progress. Looking to the future I’m eager to see Yokota and Masami develop into what they become and more under the radar girls like Lucy Kayama show solid potential at times, but of the current crop the big standouts have been the Black Pair. Ikeshita and Kumano are a fully realised tag team and their in ring work perfectly reflects their gimmick. Ikeshita initially is more striking visually but I think it’s actually Kumano who’s the beating heart of the team and the driving force behind their better stuff. They aren’t immune to the issues I’ve mentioned regarding the other women but they’ve been the most consistent with the highest top end as well.

New Japan
New Japan’s first few months revolved around Fujinami’s WWF Light Heavyweight run, bringing in a series of challengers like Dynamite Kid, Steve Keirn and Mike Graham and Stan Hansen’s challenge of Inoki. Beyond that they were inclined to bring in luchadores from UWA with Gran Hamada and Babyface being the most prominent at this point.
New Japan has always had a main “gaijin” heel to pit against the big chin and Hansen is the example that transcends the stereotype. His matches with Inoki were decent here but his general presence imbued a unique energy to the live events. Fujinami was delivering solid to good matches when called on but I’ll admit I was somewhat underwhelmed with his singles matches up to this point, the best showing, and best overall NJPW match, being a tag event involving Hoshino, who I wish had popped up more often on tape.
In the general under/mid-card Riki Choshu pops up, already displaying his famous charisma, and I’m keen to see how he grows into the guy who faces Fujinami in their legendary series in 1983.
The New Japan footage has been the definition of solid but also has felt somewhat stale and lacked a certain type of emotional energy that I look for. 

All Japan
Speaking of emotional energy, what New Japan lacked, Terry Funk delivered in spades. Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta are the two main guys, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the most over guy in the promotion was Terry Funk, and I don’t think it was particularly close.
Jumbo had a number of high profile matches lined up through January and February against Billy Robinson and Dick Murdoch. Both of these matchups ended up being better on paper than they were in reality, but they were by no means bad. I think of the three guys, Murdoch came out looking the best.
Just as New Japan had their monster foreign presence, All Japan had theirs. Abdullah The Butcher had been an All Japan mainstay for several years at this point however they also had Bruiser Brody, who had a title match with Baba in late January and it was fascinating to see him essentially running the same gimmick as Hansen, and doing it a million times worse. There’s a lot of superficial similarities between the two, from their ring entrances, method of working etc., but the energy that translates through the screen couldn’t be more disparate. Hansen exudes violence and chaos, he embodies it entirely. Brody in comparison feels like Hansen cosplay. He’s playing at being this lunatic, this out of control entity and it misses the mark entirely.
To continue with direct comparisons, All Japan’s old-school house style presents problems too. New Japan lacks emotion but has pace and the matches are driven forwards by the participants for the most part. All Japan however feels far too meandering for the time period, with Terry Funk being the exception. His appearances on tape through March were limited but with the Champions Carnival underway by the end of the month there’s much more to come and he’s already delivered an absolute banger of a performance against a nobody (at least to me) in Ray Candy. As long as Terry’s around I feel like All Japan is in safe hands.

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Date: 1980-04 (Month Only)
Promotion: AJW
Match: Rimi Yokota vs Tenjin Masami
Rating: ★★

This was a Junior Heavyweight Title match. Yokota ended up outside early and the Black Pair, supporting Masami at ringside, were all over her. Yokota managed to scramble back into the ring and the referee actually paused the action so the other seconds at ringside could wrangle the two ne'er-do-wellers and escort them back to the locker room.
Once the match was back underway Masami channelled her inner Jerry Lawler (with a citrus twist) as she played hide-the-lemon with the referee, rubbing it right in Yokota’s eyes when he got the chance. I can usually take it or leave it with the hide-the-foreign object routine, as I’ve seen it done poorly more times than well. Here, other than the unusual fact that she was using a lemon, I didn't really enjoy it. By the time we actually got the two women going at it properly and we’d dispensed of all fruits, more than half of the match time had been eaten up. 
Both women seemed physically exhausted by the time we got to the final five minutes and it felt like they were spinning their wheels a bit. It wasn’t bad, just very directionless. It was clear we were heading to a draw, and even then the final minute was basically Masami slowly trying to get into the ring, so we missed out on any high level tension at the end to see if anybody could grab a late victory.
Not bad, but instead disappointing. It had more bells and whistles than it should have and each one I thought was an unnecessary distraction that actually made the match worse.

Date: 1980-04 (Month Only)
Promotion: AJW
Match: Lucy Kayama vs Mami Kumano
Rating: ★★★★

Now this was a great match. This was a fucking war. The first few minutes had them running through some holds, Kayama was chucked to the outside and we got the usual interference from the other women at ringside, they did the running spot where they disappeared into the back rows and rammed her into the wall and I was like great, here we go again. Then we finally got back into the ring for the restart and suddenly everything just jumped up a couple levels and it never dropped for a second.
First things first, Kumano might easily be the best heel in AJW at this point. I thought her partner Ikeshita’s singles match against Kayama was a dud but here Kumano proved that not only could she be great in a tag setting but she could deliver in singles as well. As a point of comparison, I think at this point in time, a contemporary like Masami is playing being a heel, while Kumano embodies it. She has the casual arrogance and that air of superiority that is important for the character that she’s portraying. The Masami vs Yokota match had an example of a middle of the road version of the hide-the-foreign-object routine, here they did an amazing rendition of it. For a good solid 8-10 minutes she teased it and I actually don’t think there was an object at all. In fact I wasn’t sure they were doing the routine at all. But there were murmurings from the crowd and the punch motion from Kumano was too strange to be a normal punch. I kept looking for her to pull it out or conceal it between strikes but I saw nothing. Then after a brief foray to the outside for a little brawling, she suddenly was wielding a very clear and visible miniature spanner, which she certainly wasn’t using before. I don’t know about other people but I thought the fake object into a real object worked a charm and she pulled it off expertly.
For Kayama, this was definitely her breakout performance for me. She made a simple hair-pull toss, that all the women in AJW do, look like absolute death. That moment when they returned to the ring early on and the levels suddenly jumped, it was these bumps she took that were the trigger. The audience immediately responded and they knew that they were gonna see something good. Secondly, boy does she have some moves. She had a version of the Bubba Bomb that looked great and she might have one of the best looking neckbreakers ever? How have I not seen her pull this out up to this point? I thought this was an excellent babyface performance from her as she was amazing selling; amazing bumping; when she got the upper hand she brought the intensity, the hatred, and she had those killer moves. Really displayed the whole package. I was incredibly down on her before but now I’m keen to catch her again asap.
Finally, this is the first match where I thought the outside interference actually did add a layer to the match. It was the most even between the heels and the faces. Both got involved, had their moments, worked to support their girl and it didn’t spill over into being overkill but instead was merely a little additional seasoning.

Date: 1980-04 (Month Only)
Promotion: AJW
Match: Mimi Hagiwara & Tomi Aoyama vs Yumi Ikeshita & Yuriko Kawagami
Rating: ★★

The more of AJW I watch, the more it feels like the house style could be described as “disorganised chaos”. Throw whatever at the wall and see what sticks because at least to my eyes there doesn’t seem to be much of a key formula or rhythm to a lot of the matches. When it all goes well it’s amazing, and when it doesn’t, well, it can be a bit of a shit show. 
This however wasn’t a shit show, or even bad really, but it was very scrappy. Ikeshita was easily the standout despite missing her regular tag partner and the one she got here, Kawagami, might as well have not turned up because she felt like a complete non-factor to me. Hagiwara threw out some new movez but she still feels some ways away from being a real player. Aoyama had flashes throughout but nothing that stuck in my brain. I don’t want to say it was a nothing match, but in reality it felt like a nothing match.

Date: 1980-04-03
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Tatsumi Fujinami vs Ashura Hara
Rating: ★★★★

I loved the way they presented this match. Shoot style exists so this would be a step down from that, but looking at it from a more pro-style approach, this is an excellent example of “if wrestling were real”. Everything both men did in the ring came across as real and felt like something either man would have done in a real fight. And boy did this feel like a fight. From the off there was chippiness between the two. There were slaps thrown, kicking the other man while he was in the ropes. This is by far the most engaged I’ve seen Fujinami. His matches up to this point have been good, his work has been good, he’s even bled before (twice!) but he exuded far more charisma than I’ve seen from him before. If this is the real Fujinami then sign me up. 
I don’t have much to say about the events of the match beyond both men beat the shit out of each other, Fujinami ate a ring post and ended up with a crimson mask, Ashura nearly stole the title with a crazy Senton Drop with a backflip into a pin move I’ve never seen before. Then Fujinami put the challenger away with a Picklock(?) which was a kind of headscissors but with Ashura’s arm pulled through. The main takeaway is the key fact that this was a great match with an absolutely electric atmosphere. Gold stars all around.

Date: 1980-04-03
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Gran Hamada vs Baby Face
Rating: ★★★

I was eager to see these two matched up 1v1 and I was not disappointed in the slightest as this was an awesome technical display. The moves between the two were slick and fluid and when they went airborne they showed off how high flying can have impact and look like it hurts. I can’t believe how much air Hamada gets on his back body drops! Obviously this gives him the ability to nail the over rotation and then land on his feet move he does so well. The finish was a bit of a cluster fuck, even if it was intentional, as Hamada got the Victory Roll for what looked like a two count, then after a few seconds of confusion, the referee raised Hamada’s hand and claimed it was a three count and declared Hamada the winner. After the Lou Thesz debacle at the IWE show I’ve had enough of these phantom three counts. Anyway, both of these men will pop up on tape in Mexico soon so I’m looking forward to that.

Date: 1980-04-03
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Stan Hansen vs Antonio Inoki
Rating: ★★★

This is the rematch after Hansen won the NWF Title from Inoki in February. Back then Inoki’s strategy was to keep Hansen grounded, whilst here it was to work over the arm. He went for a number of different arm breaker attacks and whenever he was able he’d throw a kick or two at that left arm of Hansen. Hansen’s approach? Be a beast and maul Inoki until he can no longer fight back.
They kept the pace pretty high and kept the sitting in holds to a minimum. Inoki can’t resist a leg lock or two, but I think the strategy of working on the arm pulled him away from his usual formula and to the match's benefit.
Obviously everything in a Hansen match works towards a Lariat, and here he once again was able to nail Inoki. It sent him to the outside where Hansen followed. Unlike their previous encounter Inoki was able to get the upper hand and he went to the top and nailed him with a pretty sweet looking knee drop which absolutely stunned the big man. Climbing back into the ring he was set upon by Inoki, who hit a suplex and was able to get his shoulders to the mat long enough to seal the pin and regain his title.
Decent match, but this was probably the upper limit of what these two could do together, mostly due to the limitations Inoki brings to the table.

Date: 1980-04-04
Promotion: AJPW
Match: Jumbo Tsuruta vs Terry Funk
Rating: ★★★

Terry is often described as the Gaijin babyface ace of All Japan but I wanted to see how the crowd responded when he matched up against somebody like Jumbo and it was pretty clear from the start, and throughout the match, that Terry was, in fact, the fan favourite between the two and he generated far stronger reactions at various points.
I think they spent far too long on the mat-work portion of the match, and what they did was rather poor. It felt at times that they were completely out of sync and it was hard to figure out what they were going for at various points. Things picked up a lot in the final 15 minutes or so when they just started throwing bombs at each other and we had a strong stretch where things reached a fever pitch. Ultimately they ran out of time and we had the predictable time limit draw.
Funk really stood out between these two as he just about did everything you’d want a wrestler to do better than Jumbo here: selling, bumping, facial expressions, great offense. Jumbo’s offense, especially his slam and suplexes, are great but that’s about the only thing he was able to match Terry on. There are glimpses here and there that I find promising but I think it’s obvious, especially when matched up against such a great babyface like Terry Funk, that Jumbo isn’t the kind of guy who’s inherently lovable. I think he could be likeable and obviously he wasn’t a heel that was looking to be disliked, but he didn’t have that loveable quality. Instead I feel like he works best when he leans into being more smug and more entitled. When he transitioned into his Grumpy Jumbo phase it was these qualities more than anything else that really solidified his persona. He was fighting to retain his top spot, he couldn’t believe that these young guys were trying to usurp him and those were the defining characteristics of late Jumbo. Either way, in 1980 he was still more of a bland generic babyface than any clearly defined character and I think it would have served him well if he’d leaned into those aspects of his personality sooner.

Date: 1980-04-10
Promotion: AJPW
Match: Terry Funk vs Rocky Hata
Rating: ★★

This was more like Terry Funk-lite. We got a bump through the ropes, some stiff strikes to Hata’s chest, Terry revving up his boxing schtick, but he never turned things up to 11. Rocky looked like a serviceable hand but came across as pretty generic and in the end Terry locked on his spinning toe hold for the submission. This, however, was just the prelude to Abby’s attack on Funk with a chain. He wrapped it around his neck and choked him for a good 3 or 4 minutes as the young boys looked on, pathetically useless. Eventually Dick Slater came from the back to save him but Terry was already busted open and spent the next 5 minutes writhing around, fighting his friends, and generally playing up the traumatised act.

Date: 1980-04-10
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Tony St Clair vs Rex Strong
Rating: N/A

JIP in the third round. St Clair is the plucky babyface against the big brute of Rex Strong. Strong doesn’t really match his moniker apart from being big. He has a giant bald head with wild hair coming off at the sides. This match wasn’t one for technicality, as it appeared they dispensed with that entirely by the time we joined the match. Round three was essentially St Clair hitting uppercuts. Strong meanwhile based his entire offensive strategy around hitting punches where the referee couldn’t see. He ended up with two public warnings before all was said and done.
In the fourth St Clair got caught in a backbreaker submission and things were all tied up before he sealed the match in the fourth with a dropkick followed by a leg drop. 
Strong was merely a cheating big guy here. The foil against which St Clair could work. St Clair was clearly popular, he looked pretty good, but there wasn’t enough meat on the bones here to make any strong judgements. I’ll look out for him again in the future.

Date: 1980-04-11
Promotion: Houston
Match: Gino Hernandez vs Gary Young
Rating: ★★

Why is a guy like Gary Young working a ⅔ falls match that lasted more than 20 minutes? Considering the ingredients involved, this could have been a far sight worse, but it ended up being really watchable (damning it with faint praise), and I would attribute that almost exclusively to Gino.
Gary Young wasn’t offensive by any measure, but he literally did nothing that stood out to me. This was essentially a broomstick match for him as he clearly led the entire match. I perhaps would have liked Gino to be a bit better on offense, he feels a bit light at times, not in terms of execution necessarily but in terms of substance. 
Early on was cagey and had a deliberate pace. Gino was desperate to stay in or near the ropes as much as possible. As the match progressed he was able to carve out offense for himself, position Young properly so that he could do some nice bumps for him, and orchestrate a few nice spots. The pace, while slow, never dragged, but there wasn’t any point where I was really drawn in either.
Honestly, I think this was a pretty good performance from Gino. I’ve been underwhelmed to say the least with the standard of Houston so far and I need to see Gino in against some better competition.

Date: 1980-04-12
Promotion: AJPW
Match: Jumbo Tsuruta & Tiger Toguchi vs Terry Funk & Dick Slater
Rating: ★★

The only guy who seemed up for this was Terry. When he was throwing bombs Jumbo looked good, but otherwise there wasn’t much to separate him from Toguchi or Slater. Slater spent a little too much time overselling for my liking, ended up being too goofy and this often disjointed the flow of the match.
Terry didn’t do anything crazy here, but he was constantly involved, the match’s high points were all exclusively to do with him, whether working the apron, matched up against Jumbo or Toguchi, or merely running interference to help out Slater. 
This ⅔ falls match resulted in a double countout for both teams. Not much more to report. Enjoyable enough to watch, but completely forgettable and ultimately just a throwaway match.

Date: 1980-04-12
Promotion: WWF
Match: Bob Backlund vs Hulk Hogan
Rating: ★

This had some really frustrating moments and a stupid finish. Commentary just wouldn’t shut up about Backlund’s college football career and in general they were so annoying which was a major contributing factor to my negative viewing experience. Also there’s a Hogan interview about the match that they mess up and decide to show after the match instead of before for some reason. 
This match was so static. For the first 15 minutes or so we had a lot of Backlund sitting in a side headlock keeping Hogan grounded to the mat and there wasn’t much effort in working these holds in an interesting way. Hogan, I didn’t think was good here at all, but also I don’t think he had much of an opportunity to show much either. Sitting in a side headlock gives sparse options in terms of selling, especially if you’re a heel. Every time he did have a spot where he looked to be getting momentum Backlund would cut him off. Not an issue per se but these moments were brief and resulted back in a static headlock again. I will say that Hogan has a terrible hammerlock that barely looks like it’s being applied and something I’ve seen when he was working on TV also. 
The action picked up as we headed for the finish with both guys selling extreme exhaustion and finally we got some actual wrestling moves. Backlund may be one of the best at selling power spots. Twice he deadlifted Hogan off the ground while in an arm hold and these were easily the highlights of the match. 
Hogan does an airplane spin and Backlund feels the need to return the favour. This time they fall to the outside, Backlund goes for the airplane spin again but this time he dumps Hogan on the apron before falling to the floor. All Hogan has to do is roll back into the ring and he grabs the countout victory.
I would say this had a pretty abysmal first 15 minutes combined with terrible commentary that was a major detriment to the match. It was definitely the worst showing from either guy so far in 1980. With such an annoying, goofy finish you end up with a match I would be extremely hesitant to revisit any time soon.

Date: 1980-04-12
Promotion: WWF
Match: Bruno Sammartino vs Larry Zbyszko
Rating: ★★★★

This is more like it. After what I’d call a dud of a title match we get the resumption of the best feud of the year and I’d say this was easily the best of their series since the inaugural TV match between these two.
Any chance we were going to get an exchange of wrestling holds to start this one off was blown out the water right away as Larry jumped Bruno as he was entering the ring. Larry had the ascendancy, laying in the boot until Bruno caught him downstairs with a stray leg and Larry was down. Now that Bruno was able to gather himself it was on and he went after Larry with a vengeance. This was all kicks and punches but it was all extremely visceral. To even call them kicks would actually be doing a disservice. With Larry prone on the ground Bruno was lining up some serious punts to his head.
They went back and forth a bit but all the while it was Bruno steaming forwards, the force of nature that Larry was attempting to fend off. At one point Bruno tumbled to the floor and I loved how after that, the entire time he was beating on Larry, he would pause to sell the lower back, constantly holding up, visibly favouring it, which allowed Larry the time to sell each punch individually and allowed the match that time to breathe.
We had some sick turnbuckle bumps from both guys, Larry got wrecked into the railing and then he had had enough and he grabbed a chair. I wondered whether we would see it, and yes we did, lunging to take Bruno’s head off he whiffed with the swing, got the ricochet off the ropes and it came flying back into his face. Bruno grabbed the chair and just launched it at Larry’s head and he was out. The referee completely disregarded the flagrant use of the chair by Bruno and seeing Larry is out for the count declares Bruno the winner.
This was heated from the off, had lots of action, never had a dull moment, and even the quirky ending I liked, because Larry got obliterated with a chair, twice! I liked their previous Spectrum match and the one at MSG, but I was fearing that this feud was stalling somewhat if they had continued further in the same vein. However both previous matches clearly had escalation towards Bruno losing his gasket at the end, leading to this kind of match, so in context they made perfect sense. I’m just glad they were able to execute something like this so well.

Date: 1980-04-13
Promotion: UWA
Match: Gran Hamada & Satoru Sayama vs Perro Aguayo & Baby Face
Rating: ★★★

I loved that we got to see more of Hamada’s rough edges here. Right at the beginning we saw him trying to work Aguayo who was having none of it. He strolled to the outside ignoring Hamada, who was trying to goad him back in. Eventually Hamada just spat at Aguayo, which is something I was sure I’d never see from him.
Sayama sure had some moves and they were flashy, but he felt out of sync with the other three, who all seemed very comfortable with what they were doing in the match. Two examples would be the finish to the first fall where Hamada got the pin on Baby Face and Sayama came off the top to finish off Aguayo, however he missed the roll up and then awkwardly took an age to lock on the submission and it all came across a bit weird. The second would be when he hit his patented backflip move in the corner against Baby Face after a series of other flashy moves and we got a strong reaction from the crowd. He tagged in Hamada, who then goes and effortlessly one-ups him by pulling off a brilliant sequence with both Baby Face and Aguayo simultaneously which lasted at least 5-6 moves. Yes, that also had some flash, but it also felt organic.
Both Hamada and Baby Face built upon their impressive showings in Japan earlier in the year with awesome performances here. I was so blown away by their versatility even within this one match. Both guys had a great sequence together here where they were exchanging arm drags and flying around, but throughout the match, especially when matched up against Sayama, Baby Face was bringing the heat. His strikes were very stiff and it was a straight up beatdown. For Hamada, he was trying to keep things kosher for the most part until the third fall where he blew his gasket and he just went off on Aguayo. His headbutts were nasty and he really brought the intensity as well. When I think of Hamada I don’t think of brawling, but he proved that he could do it here no doubt.

Date: 1980-04-16
Promotion: CWF
Match: Bob Backlund vs Antonio Inoki
Rating: ★★

Backlund vs Inoki…in Florida! Really interesting to see both men in such unusual surroundings. I’ve seen essentially zero Florida so I have no idea of the house style, so I was looking forward to seeing the crowd’s reaction to this.
I actually really liked the opening matwork here. The pace was snappy with both men trying to gain the advantage, but as things went along things got choppier and the pace slowed down. Inoki especially was consistently just going for static holds, and once he locked them on, there wasn’t much intention to make them interesting and the fact he consistently kept going back to these spots didn’t give any sense of escalation. 
One of the best spots of the match was Backlund’s deadlift spot out of an arm scissors. After placing Inoki onto the turnbuckle he gave him a slap and Inoki bumped massive for it in a way I’m sure he wouldn’t have back in Japan and it brought the house down. The biggest however, was Bob’s piledriver. Even just setting it up the crowd murmured with excitement and as we all know, Bob delivers a great piledriver. Considering the reaction it felt like a finisher and in context ended up feeling wasted as there was still roughly 10 minutes of the match remaining.
Backlund ended up winning here, to rapturous applause, after Inoki threw him over the top rope. Out of all DQ finishes, the over-the-top-rope one has to be the stupidest. Both men were bewildered by the call and you could visibly see the referee explaining to them the rule and commentary was doing the same for the viewing audience. I guess it’s an easy way to ensure the finish saves face for the two champions, but honestly it’s just the laziest finish possible when you’re trying to keep two people looking strong. Anyway, the crowd didn’t seem to care.
This often bordered on good, however I think it may have been a case of two men with styles that were too similar. Both work on top and were the aces of their promotions, and that struggle felt disjointed here and they couldn’t get into sync. It was especially prevalent in the middle chunk as it seemed that they just got in each other’s way and they couldn’t find a rhythm that was really working.

Date: 1980-04-18
Promotion: AJPW
Match: Terry Funk vs Abdullah The Butcher
Rating: ★★

Can’t say this was good but it definitely was a spectacle. Both guys were pouring blood by the end of it. There was no messing around and they got right to it off the bat. Abby can barely sell a thing but with Terry shrieking like a banshee throughout it was never less than compelling viewing. After the inevitable double count out they even had to cut away because the ensuing attack on Terry was too violent to be shown. This is exactly what you would expect a Funk vs Abby match to be and it was a whole lot of fun, if you don’t mind a bit of blood.
I thought Terry Funk was great, as usual, but Abby here was a bit too static to give any real sense of threat or drama, so in a sense it did feel a little bit like two guys getting together to bleed in a ring.

Date: 1980-04-18
Promotion: AJPW
Match: Giant Baba vs Jumbo Tsuruta
Rating: ★★★

The master and his apprentice. These two finally matched up as the Champions Carnival was drawing to a close and I was keen to see them clash, however 15 of the 30 minutes were clipped unfortunately. 
This was the most engaged I’ve seen Jumbo and the dynamic here was fascinating. There were some bits where they got stuck lying around on the mat but for the most part they gave a good back and forth and I loved the little teases of each guy pushing things a little too far and going overboard. An extra slap here, a stiff punch there, but it never escalated beyond that. The dynamic of their relationship played into how they approached the match and it added an interesting, unique flavour.
Jumbo desperately tried to clinch the win at the end as he refused to release a Spinning Toe Hold, but Baba wouldn’t submit and time expired while he was locked into the hold.

Date: 1980-04-19
Promotion: CWA
Match: Bill Dundee vs Larry Latham
Rating: ★★★

Easily the best TV match from Memphis and most likely the longest. Definitely the only one I recall exceeding the 10 minute mark. For some reason Dundee was extremely serious going into this one, against your random jobber he usually had a more easy going vibe. 
This was an exceptional performance from Dundee. He made Latham, who I thought was the least interesting member of the Blonde Bombers, look like a legitimate threat. Latham’s punches did look great but Dundee sold Latham’s offense like a champ. Earlier on Latham worked the arm, then Dundee between his own offense would sell that arm. Later on Dundee missed a knee drop and Latham began targeting that, then Dundee began constantly selling the knee, including pulling out of a body slam attempt because of it. Definitely a great example of limb selling and a good example of when to switch up and logically begin to sell a different limb. 
Dundee’s seriousness here I thought added an edge too, he clearly was very aware of Danny Davis at ringside, and his desperation to steer clear of that corner just added to the threat that he posed.
Despite the aforementioned leg selling, Dundee managed to dig deep and hit a cross body off the second rope and steal the pin and he scarpered pretty quickly before Farris could make his way to the ring and outnumber him even further.
It was really good to see Dundee in something substantial. With Lawler out with a broken leg I would have thought it would be Dundee picking up the slack, but at least from the footage I’ve seen, he’s kind of been drifting while Jimmy Hart’s stable and Jimmy Valiant have been the main show so perhaps this is a turning point for him.

Date: 1980-04-21
Promotion: WWF
Match: Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood vs Tor Kamata & Bulldog Brower
Rating: ★★★

Wow this was shockingly good. I just wanted to check out Steamboat & Youngblood because it seems like footage of them in ‘80 is scarce and this is their MSG debut but damn, they worked their asses off here. Really glad I checked this out.
There have been some great babyface selling performances in ‘80 up to this point but Steamboat popping up kind of puts everyone else to shame in comparison. Mention should go to the Martels and the Brunos of the world, but I would say only Terry Funk could really hold a candle to this. Steamboat here made Kamata and Brower look like absolute killers and it was clear they were just throwing shit at him. He was bumping around, he timed his comebacks superbly, he threw in a couple hope spots, there was delayed selling, I mean, he just ran the gamut of everything you would want really. Youngblood was no slouch either when he came in and the two of them were just an injection of energy into the WWF tag team division. I need to know how long they stick around because apart from Patterson & Andre, who were always going to be primarily singles competitors, I can’t think of another tag team that can match them as a whole.

Date: 1980-04-21
Promotion: WWF
Match: Pat Paterson vs Ken Patera
Rating: ★★★

I thought that this dragged on for the first 10 minutes or so. They worked some hold exchanges and Patterson took the lead with an armbar but nothing was grabbing me. I do love how when Patera does his version of begging off, it’s not a sign of weakness but instead a projection of his arrogance. He gets into the ropes, turns his back to his opponent and dismissively waves his opponent away. It’s a real “we’re doing this on my terms” dick move and it fits his character perfectly as going down the more snivelling route would show too much weakness for him specifically.
Patterson was sent to the outside and they tried to milk this for all it was worth with Patera constantly kicking him back to the floor. Finally, after several minutes, they got back in the ring. At this point Patera locked on the Bear Hug and this is when the match came alive. Patterson flipped a switch and from hereon in it was a masterful performance by him for a variety of reasons. Firstly, this Bear Hug, with Patterson lifted off the mat, looks much more impactful than when they were doing the standing cuddle version, secondly, Patterson sold this like death and then began the slow burn comeback. When he finally got loose and began wailing on Patera the place was on fire. Patera’s selling was so spot on, there’s big bumps sure, but I think he aligns it with his strong man gimmick to a tee.
At the death we had a referee bump which led to the win for Patera. The woozy referee was on the wrong side of the action and missed Patterson resting his leg on the ropes and Patera got the pinfall victory. As far as fuck finishes go, this one I didn’t mind at all and now Patera gets the much coveted gold.
If the first half of the match had been the same standard as after the Bear Hug, this would have been a real classic. From that point onwards I thought both men delivered top tier performances and I just wish that there had been more substance in those first ten minutes or so.

Date: 1980-04-21
Promotion: WWF
Match: Bruno Sammartino vs Larry Zbyszko
Rating: ★★★★

Their arena shows have been building on each other beautifully and they’ve ranged from very good and at times verged on great. I think that this might be the best one yet and all it needed to solidify its classic status was blood and a stronger finish.
Zbyszko jumped Bruno at the bell and he was like an attack dog right from the off. Larry’s stomps haven’t looked better as there was a crispness and a viciousness that I think may have been missing before. This match also gave Larry the opportunity to explore his in-ring character work. Considering he was on top for so much of the first half having blindsided Bruno, he had time to gloat, goad and taunt a prone Bruno and I thought he did this masterfully. My only issue with this part was that when Bruno ended up on the floor to the outside, I didn’t find it engaging at all for Larry to keep kicking him off the apron. In contrast to later on when the roles were reversed and Larry sprinkled in some stalling when getting into the ring, this constant delay of the action was quite boring. 
The switch of momentum occurred on a flailing kick from Bruno that caught Larry down low and Bruno was in the ascendency from then on. After getting battered to the outside one too many times Larry took his sweet time in returning and this kind of stalling I thought was really effective. Larry’s character again really shone through and the whole time Bruno was frothing at the mouth to get Larry back in the ring.
Once action finally did resume it was a pure beatdown. Larry couldn’t get anything going and it was just Bruno laying in those kicks and punches for all they were worth. Finally Larry had had enough and he took his ball and went home. 
The finish obviously wasn’t decisive, but I’m sure their next matchup is at Shea Stadium, so it makes sense to leave things on a cliffhanger of sorts. Overall I thought they managed to reach a strong peak early and really never dropped that standard for the whole match. The crowd were on fire for Bruno and those moments where he played up to them generated such amazing responses. It wasn’t on the cards but if this had been the blowoff and they had committed to a decisive finish, it very well could have been a MOTYC. For what it was it wasn’t that far off anyway.

Date: 1980-04-24
Promotion: AJPW
Match: Giant Baba vs Terry Funk
Rating: ★★

This unfortunately got cut short just when it started to heat up when Abby came down to mess with Terry, then Slater got caught in the crossfire with chalk in the eyes. Whilst Funk was rampaging after Abby, The Sheik suddenly appeared at ringside to get some stabs in on Giant Baba. So ultimately the two participants of the match ended up splintering off into mini scuffles with whoever they were currently feuding with.
This was cruising along as a pretty generic mat-based match until Terry took one of the craziest bumps I’ve ever seen, and it looked all the more impactful cast against the backdrop of a pretty slow paced match up to that point. He went for a running high knee and completely missed, ricocheted hard over the ropes and landed full blast on the small of his back against the ring apron. I think even Joe Higuchi was concerned for him as he re-entered the ring but without missing a beat he was back in the action, taking another hard bump against the turnbuckle and suddenly the match was alive. Baba started targeting Terry more deliberately, repeatedly going for Abdominal Stretches before Terry managed to turn the tables and he was applying the Spinning Toe Hold when Abby appeared.
Just another in a long line of examples of Terry Funk being amazing. He’s yet to appear in a classic match this year, but he has been an uber consistent performer who I don’t think has delivered a dud yet.

Date: 1980-04-24
Promotion: AJPW
Match: Jumbo Tsuruta vs Abdullah The Butcher
Rating: ★★

Very straight laced performance considering it was an Abby match. We had some actual wrestling lock ups at the beginning and the most outrageous thing that happened was Jumbo getting dumped onto a table!
I was almost hypnotised by the deep scars in Abby’s forehead. The skin must have been made of paper mache at this point and everytime they showed his face I was certain that blood was going to start oozing out of those creases any second. In the end it looked like Abby, going for his second elbow drop, was going to seal the deal before Funk came from the back and tripped him allowing Jumbo to steal the win. I think Abby had been leading the Champions Carnival on points, but this took him out of the running for the Final.

Date: 1980-04-25
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Riki Choshu vs Ryuma Go
Rating: ★★

This was a preliminary tournament match for the MSG league, the precursor to the IWGP and finally the G1 Climax. These guys had a nice little sprint and it was awesome to see Choshu in action this early in his career. His previous match was against Hansen, so it was hard to tell how high up the totem pole he really was at this point in time, considering it was essentially a foregone conclusion that he would lose. But here he was against somebody on his level and it was clear he was already pretty far along as both a wrestler and a star in the eyes of the fans. His charisma is clear to see and there were a bunch of tiny little things he sprinkled into the match that made it interesting. Need to see more of him.

Date: 1980-04-26
Promotion: CWA
Match: Sonny King vs Ricky Morton
Rating: ★

I didn’t really care for this at all. Felt more like two guys scuffling about than a professional wrestling match. They spent a lot of time prone on the mat trying to lock on holds with neither one able to gain any advantage. The most notable events were King taking his sweet time to break holds or get to his feet when they ended up in the ropes. Ended up in a 10 minute time limit draw which was far too long for the match they had laid out.

Date: 1980-04-26
Promotion: PNW
Match: Buddy Rose vs Rick Martel
Rating: ★★★★

Damn I missed the hair match between Piper and Rose. Here Rose is already wearing that mask with the wig attached to keep the fans from seeing him bald.
This was all about the targeting of body parts. Rose showed off some nifty rope running moves before taking Martel down to the mat and from there it was a clinic in targeting his leg. I loved how intermittently Rose would pull the mask up to show his face and every so often they would tease Martel getting a grip on the mask, but the whole while he was in complete control, just working over that leg. Eventually, after being locked in a leg scissors and getting it rammed against the ringpost several times Martel had to succumb to a Single Leg Boston Crab. When he returned after the break with a massive limp, it made perfect sense.
From here on Martel’s selling of the leg was excellent. At first it looked like he couldn’t even walk on it. He barely made it back into the ring and as the second fall started you knew that Rose was going to target it for all it was worth. After a few close escapes Rose finally managed another take down and all looked lost for Rick, but while getting his leg posted once again he managed to turn the tables and ram Rose’s head into it as well. From here we had a long sequence of Martel repeatedly coming down from the ring, breaking the referee’s count and beating down on Rose on the floor. As time went on he sold the leg less and less and eventually was able to lift Rose enough to ram his lower back into the post as well multiple times. As they transitioned back into the ring things went from Rose targeting Martel’s leg to Martel turning the tables and targeting Rose’s back instead. He nailed a backbreaker a couple times, even switching to using his stronger right leg for the second delivery, and eventually Rose went for a body slam and couldn’t take the weight on his back. Martel then did the same and put Rose away to tie things up.
The third fall was pretty brief but essentially worked entirely around them getting caught up in the ropes and Martel slowly peeling back the mask until eventually he dislodged it. The Sheepherders had made their way down to the ring and they were able to cover his head with a towel before anybody got a good look and he raced to the back, essentially forfeiting the match by countout.
I loved Rose’s offense throughout his heat sequence in the first fall. Playing with the mask, milking that gimmick, and the crispness with which his attacks worked over the leg. Then this was all paid off by Martel selling the hell out of that leg for the entire second fall, but that sequence from the start of the second fall until he was able to post Rose that first time was truly amazing. We didn’t get a clear finish, but obviously they are drawing out this mask/wig angle and we got ¾ of an absolutely killer match regardless. Both guys were on top of their game and I’m incredibly excited for a full scale blowoff.

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MAY 1980

Date: 1980-05 (Month Only)
Promotion: AJW
Match: Tenjin Masami, Monster Ripper & Chabela Romero vs Rimi Yokota, Nancy Kumi & Jackie Sato
Rating: ★★★

This was such an easy watch and the 20 minutes absolutely flew by. The heel team of Monster Ripper, Masami & Romero were able to use their big power spots liberally against the smaller face team. Not having to carry an entire singles match, Ripper’s role as the monster of the promotion worked much better I felt. The big bumps and her general schtick translated better in small snippets throughout the match. She was supported well by Masami, doing a lite version of the same thing. 
Yokota worked the first fall mostly as the FIP and I thought her bumping here was excellent. All six women were crisp and none of them were behind the pace at all. If I had to choose a standout I would say either Monster Ripper or Masami, but I thought each of the six women delivered to some degree.
Not to bag on her, but considering Jackie Sato is the biggest face in the entire promotion, I’m just not seeing it from her matches. She doesn’t do much that stands out as special compared to the other girls.
Really fun match that was good from bell to bell.

Date: 1980-05-01
Promotion: AJPW
Match: Jumbo Tsuruta vs Dick Slater 
Champion Carnival 1980 Final Match
Rating: ★★★
Link

Dick Slater is wearing an eye patch over one eye due to taking that powder shot from Abby before. Jumbo and Slater worked this in the classic NWA style with all that entails. The opening stretch had some mat work and working for position. It was fine but nothing to rave about. Then Slater took a big bump to the outside which was the catalyst for the pace to pick up. From that point onwards they worked at closer to sprint speed and the bombs started flying. I liked this much better and they never let up until the last. In the end Jumbo won it with a picture perfect German Suplex.
I really enjoyed Slater doing his Terry Funk cosplay and Jumbo I thought was really bringing it, especially late on. This wasn’t a stone cold classic by any means but I thought they delivered for a tournament final.

Date: 1980-05-01
Promotion: AWA
Match: Greg Gagne vs Super Destroyer II
Rating: ★★
Link

We’re missing the first 5 minutes of the match. Lots of cheating from the Super Destroyer combo of he and Heenan, as to be expected. Heenan was constantly angling to get in a cheap shot wherever he could.
I thought Greg was pretty lively here. His offense had energy and Destroyer made his offense look really good. Considering Greg’s size though, I thought the level to which Destroyer bumped for his shoulder checks was a bit too much. He must outweigh Greg by a solid 70-100 pounds and there’s no way he’d be getting bounced that hard by that type of move.
I loved both how Greg locked on his sleeper hold and how Destroyer hit his clothesline. They both almost let the man go past them before catching them by the neck. It gives a bit more of a whiplash effect that I thought looked really good.  
Destroyer was nailing move after move on Greg at the end (this also was a bit much as these were pretty killer moves and Greg seemed to be handily kicking out of them) then Super Destroyer 3(!) came out for the distraction, allowing Greg to send him face first into the turnbuckle (wicked bump here as it really snapped back his neck on impact) and get the pin. Considering how much punishment Greg took in the minutes preceding this, a single turnbuckle bump putting Destroyer II away felt a bit cheap in comparison as he didn’t roll him up or hook the leg at all on the pin.
Nice little match that I thought showed both guys in a positive light and highlighted a lot of their strengths but I thought Super Destroyer made Greg look a little too strong at points. 

Date: 1980-05-01
Promotion: AWA
Match: Nick Bockwinel vs The Crusher 
AWA World Heavyweight Title Match
Rating: ★
Link

Looks like another title match between these two and I have to say that this was pretty rubbish. Bockwinkel tried admirably to work over the Crusher’s hand but it wasn’t sold well and it forced him to use some left-hand only offense that just looked like shit. As they built to the finish both Bockwinkel and Heenan were pinballing all over the place to build some drama but The Crusher is almost glacial in his movements and this was dead in the water. In the end Crusher ran Bockwinkel into the ringpost and was disqualified. Chalk this up as another terrible DQ rule that I’m glad I haven’t seen often. This was entirely skippable.

Date: 1980-05-02
Promotion: AJPW
Match: Giant Baba & Jumbo Tsuruta vs Terry Funk & Dick Slater
Rating: ★★★★ ¼ 
Link

You could tell from the opening minute that Terry came to play here. His energy levels were through the roof and he was pulling out all the spots. I think Funk’s performance here might be my single favourite performance of the year to this point. This was only 16 minutes, but that gave them the opportunity to work at an increased pace without any chaff.
Slater & Funk were really in sync and I thought Slater was on his A-game also. This match obviously wasn’t a blood feud and was probably more of an exhibition type deal so I felt the more comedic, goofy elements of Slater and Funk’s tag teaming worked really well in this setting. It’s incredible how over Funk is in Japan, at one point Baba got him in an Abdominal Stretch and the crowd began a LOUD Terry chant.
Jumbo did a great job playing off of Terry’s antics and when it came to exchanging blows he didn’t hold back. His uppercuts were particularly vicious and while he wasn’t the standout I thought this was a very good performance from him and he definitely seemed to have more bounce in his step than usual.
I just wish Giant Baba looked like he gave a shit honestly. Everybody else really seemed pumped for this and Baba just seemed like he was going through the motions. I’ve been really underwhelmed with him so far. He’s supposed to be the ace of the promotion and the top guy and he really doesn’t come across as special to me, even in how they present him. There haven’t been many instances where I felt like guys were going above and beyond to sell for his stuff, so apart from his alien-rific body, he doesn’t stand out to me.
I can’t overstate how amazing Terry was here, just dominating the tone of the match and controlling the whole flow of events. Everybody seemed to take their queues of him and he delivered in terms of great offense, selling, bumping and the tiny intangible things too. Truly top tier stuff.

Date: 1980-05-03
Promotion: PNW
Match: Rick Martel & Roddy Piper vs The Sheepherders 
NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Title Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Rating: ★★
Link

Much like their previous matches the first fall here was Williams getting isolated and Martel and Piper working over the shoulder. I wasn’t particularly enthralled to see the same thing again and I don’t think that they did anything very interesting in terms of actually working the arm. However, I did like the fact that this constant work actually led to the fall, as Williams eventually just relented as he couldn’t withstand the pain any more. Yes, the work wasn’t that good, but having a constant focus on the arm ending up with an actual submission is good match layout regardless, so credit where credit is due.
The high spots of the match were probably Piper’s hot tag in the second fall and Martel’s in the third. This showed both off in their element and I wish they had more opportunities to work in this manner. The second fall ended on a strange count as it looked like it might have been broken up before the count of three. The finish saw Sandy Barr take a really crazy bump right over the ropes of an accidental Martel dropkick, then Barr counted both Williams and Piper for pins simultaneously. After some deliberation the decision was made to hold up the tag belts once again.
There were flashes in this for sure but the structure didn’t do it for me. Everytime I see Miller hit his reverse elbow I love it even more; Piper, when he’s allowed to go into a frenzy, is a joy to watch; and Martel really does have moves galore, but they weren’t able to harness these elements here into something that I found really satisfying.

Date: 1980-05-09
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Tatsumi Fujinami vs Chavo Guerrero 
WWF Junior Heavyweight Title Match
Rating: ★★★
Link

Here we had another challenger attempting to dislodge Fujinami at the top of the junior heavyweight mountain. 
This match had a nice flow, moving from crisp matwork and struggle for holds at the beginning, then Chavo managed to catch Fujinami with a Romero Special, Fujinami escaped and returned the favour with a bow and arrow hold of his own, then we transitioned into a more strike heavy portion of the match. The technical work was good, it looked organically uncooperative and they didn’t spend too long on any one thing in particular, then when it came for the rough housing, both gave as good as they got, with some solid stiff strikes from both men. 
Chavo legitimately looked like he could pull off the upset, nailing some killer bombs near the end, before Fujinami nailed him with a bridged German Suplex. They were working towards a series of tope’s but both men had the other’s scouted and their moves were abandoned mid-flight each time.
My only gripe would be that I would have preferred a more overt narrative through the match, but that’s more of a personal preference than anything else.

Date: 1980-05-09
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Antonio Inoki vs Stan Hansen 
NWF World Heavyweight Title Match
Rating: ★★
Link

Another match in their long running series and I have to say that each of their matches has undoubtedly had that big match feeling.
I can’t pinpoint what I thought was lacking here but it just didn’t grab me. I think there may be an issue here pitting two guys who work styles that involve little selling against each other. Hansen probably sold considerably more than Inoki here anyway, which is strange considering the matchup. I don’t find Inoki offensively boring and he has moments that I like, but there is something lacking with him, at least in terms of delivering an enjoyable satisfying match.
In the end Hansen was kicking the shit out of Inoki on the ring apron and the referee got in the way. A typical DQ finish and Hansen stood tall despite the blood rushing from his forehead. This series has been decent, but I would like to see them matched up against different moving forwards. So fingers crossed the next match is the decisive blowoff.

Date: 1980-05-09
Promotion: Houston
Match: Gino Hernandez vs Sicodelico 
NWA Texas Heavyweight Title Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Rating: ★
Link

I’ve never heard of Sicodelico before but apparently he’s the brother of Mil Mascaras and Dos Caras. Gino was accompanied to the ring by Gary Hart.
They worked some Lucha spots into this and the first fall had some fun moments that flowed into each other well. I wouldn’t say I was a fan of either guy’s offense here, it was incredibly light and co-operative at times. The most impressive thing was Sicodelico’s selling, both after being posted during the second fall and then later during the break between the second and third. He definitely went above and beyond in indicating his weakened state and his woozy sell job was excellent. He even went so far as to intentionally botch a jump back into the ring, falling flat on his face.
Otherwise this was incredibly lacklustre and any good will Gino had built up with me earlier in the year is running out as he continues to have dud after dud with a variety of opponents.
Gino was disqualified for some reason after repeatedly breaking up his own pins of Sicodelico and then after the final bell rang Mark Lewin stormed the ring, clearly continuing an ongoing feud between the two men.

Date: 1980-05-10
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Mick McManus vs Bob Anthony
Rating: ★★

The crowd were certainly not that interested in this match and neither was I. This probably was the worst WoS match this year that wasn’t a comedy match and Bob Anthony may be the worst worker to appear on UK TV screens. I don’t want to imply that he was awful but he was all arms and legs, there was a point in the second and third rounds where his selling bordered on the ridiculous, and he just looked like Bambi on ice at times. I did like the finish with him selling the knee after a botched knee drop but otherwise there wasn’t much to highlight really. I expected more from a veteran like McManus as well. He did his thing and his forearms looked really good as expected, but he looked like he was merely going through the motions and displayed only an ounce of the character he showed in his previous match.

Date: 1980-05-10
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Pat Roach vs Gil Dalibar Singh
Rating: ★★★

This was a real slow burn with the early portion based around Singh matching up against the slightly bigger Roach. The body checks and forearms that Roach was used to taking men down with were being rebuffed by Singh and it was getting under his skin. Finally as the rounds wore on, his physical advantage began to take its toll and Roach began to get more success with his power game and it gave him the first fall.
Singh was not to be walked over though and he dug deep and fought back. He took Roach’s forearms and replied with those of his own and gave almost as good as he got. I found him throughout to be positively endearing for someone not presented as an outright babyface type.
As things got to the final round the decision was in the balance and I couldn’t tell if they were going to go for the draw or if Roach was going to sneak it 1-0. He was going for the outright victory but Singh was able to use his momentum against him and leverage him into a pinfall to get the tie, which certainly was a popular result.
I said previously that Roach looks like a wrestling caveman and this time I’m going to double down and say that he wrestles like one too. Yes he does technical things, but he exudes that primordial simplicity. His offense here, especially when he was in full flow really was an awesome sight and it was a lot closer to what I was expecting from him than what he showed in his previous match.

Date: 1980-05-10
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Wayne Bridges vs John Quinn 
Heavyweight Title Match
Rating: ★★★

This was the main event from Wembley Arena and was televised on the same day as the FA Cup Final.
Considering this was billed as 15 rounds, they barely made it through 5, but it was an extremely solid 5 rounds of wrestling. It never reached the peaks of a classic title match, and in honesty, probably wasn’t even the match of the night, but both men started at a quick, intense pace and carried that through until the final bell.
This had an interesting match structure with Bridges winning the first fall and Quinn, as the heel, having to make the comeback. Quinn was dead set on bending the rules to breaking point, earning his first public warning after just one round (attacking Bridges during the round break) and collecting his second in the 5th by continuously attacking his grounded opponent. 
Things looked to be in the champion’s favour after going 1-0 up and he was cruising through the 4th however the tables turned when Quinn started targeting Bridges left eye with a series of palm strikes and surreptitious punches behind the referee’s back. Quinn destroyed him throughout the 4th round before picking up the equalising fall and the continued assault resulted in a surprising blood stoppage in the 5th, giving Quinn an upset victory and the title. In the post match Big Daddy emerged from the back, seemingly setting him up as a challenger for Quinn down the road.
Quinn continued to be a heat magnet and a solid hand in the ring. We were never going to get a technical classic here, but his striking offense always looks good and when he’s really taking it to his opponent he really comes off like he’s battering them. Bridges had his moments and was perfectly fine here, but I don’t think he added anything to this match that somebody else couldn’t have done and this was certainly a “Quinn match”. Credit to his selling though, each time he was beat down between rounds he ensured that he looked vulnerable and the crowd were certainly behind him 100%, roaring to life whenever he gained momentum. 

Date: 1980-05-10
Promotion: WWF
Match: Bob Backlund vs Hulk Hogan 
WWF Heavyweight Title Match - Philadelphia
Rating: ★★★
Link

This was really very good. Easily the most I’ve seen Backlund work from underneath as Hulk took basically all of the first 10 minutes. First he used his strength advantage to get Bob on the back foot and then strategically worked to keep Bob grounded with a series of arm bars. He used leverage and his own weight to make a reverse Hammerlock look interesting and Bob got in a few hope spots of his own with flash pin attempts to pop the crowd.
Eventually Backlund managed to gain a foothold and produced some consistent work on Hogan’s leg for a few minutes. Hogan’s leg selling may have been a bit awkward but it was consistent and did a good job of showing some vulnerability and highlighting Bob’s offense. I really liked his desperation attempt to get a scissor takedown with only 1 leg, which was unsuccessful, but was a genius idea considering he was on the back foot and knew that in a stand up challenge in that moment that Backlund would easily take him down. 
Things started to even up as Backlund wasn’t able to keep working on the leg and Hogan’s best chance came when he locked on the Bear Hug. I think Hogan’s version is one of the better ones, as he’s able to really lift Bob off the ground which highlights their size difference, and in general Bob is one of the better Bear Hug sellers, as he allows his arms to float around instead of being too static and limp. Finally Backlund popped off a few punches (which he’d held off using earlier), broke free and a series of dropkicks sent Hogan over the ropes. Hogan got his leg caught on the bottom rope, leaving him suspended upside down while the referee continued to count him out and Backlund took the victory.
Unusual match structure for Backlund, but this made Hogan look even more of a legitimate challenger as he had a very strong early period working over Backlund. The escalation was organic and natural, and while this never built to a grand climax and had a somewhat limp ending, this was very solid and presented both men in a very good light. 


Date: 1980-05-10
Promotion: WWF
Match: Ken Patera vs Ivan Putski 
WWF Intercontinental Title Match - Philadelphia
Rating: ★★
Link

This was Patera’s first defence of his newly won Intercontinental Title. 
Putski was really able to sweep along the crowd and they were behind him 100%. His flailing punches injected fierce energy into the early stages and capitalised on the raucous crowd. This was pretty fun throughout but Putski is limited to mostly punching, and his only “move” per se, seems to be a series of punches out of a side headlock, something he went back to repeatedly throughout. Patera was pinballing all over the place to make Putski look great and his only real big counter was the Bear Hug, which was pretty meh to be honest.
They went to the floor for the finish, with Patera playing possum on the timekeeper’s table, then pulled Putski to the outside. He nailed him with a series of vicious strikes before blasting him with a folded up chair. This gave him the opportunity to pounce back into the ring and seal a count out victory. Putski was none too pleased about eating some steel and came back firing and Patera was forced to scarper from the ring.
Putski’s energy prevented this from ever dipping into boring territory and Patera was really game to play his role in selling for his opponent, but neither man displayed enough credible offense and overall it lacked enough substance to be a truly good match.

Date: 1980-05-13
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Johnny Saint vs Zoltan Boscik
Rating: ★★★

I was really interested to see Saint matched up against somebody other than Steve Grey. Here he was paired with Hungarian (but naturalised British as Ken Lofton loved to say) Zoltan Boksic.
The first 3 rounds are worked at an extremely exhibition-y pace. Basically Saint was toying with Zoltan and humiliating him with holds and reversals galore. Every once in a while Zoltan would get peeved enough to throw in an uppercut or some other strike, but then they would settle back into the same rhythm.
Saint was repeatedly looking for the Surfboard while Zoltan tried to lock in an Octopus Hold. Finally in Round 3, against the run of play as it were, Zoltan managed to get his hold on and grabbed the first submission and the lead. Being 1-0 down brought Saint to life a bit and there was far more urgency in his attack The holds were more intense and he quickly was able to pull off the Surfboard he had been eyeing up and tied things up. However, following this round break Zoltan was deemed unable to continue and Saint picked up the TKO victory.
Saint clearly has all the moves and he was showing off everything in his arsenal early on. From what I’ve seen he clearly has the ability to put together a 4 star match every time he steps into the ring. This first portion of the match however was just too much of them going through the motions. Zoltan would get annoyed intermittently, but that irritation would fade too fast and at moments the hold reversals and transitions appeared to be a bit too co-operative, made more obvious by the lackadaisical pacing. As the bout wore on I was less and less enamoured with Zoltan as the flaws in his offense started appearing, but when he kicked the urgency up a notch things were far better and this period, along with the work by Saint after the first fall were easily the highlights of the match. 

Date: 1980-05-16
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Stan Hansen vs Dusty Rhodes 
MSG Series 1980 Match
Rating: ★
Link

This was a pretty nothing match. We started off with Dusty’s usual schtick for the crowd, and after some perfunctory opening hold exchanges they ended up brawling in the crowd. Dusty was posted and ate a Lariat on the floor. When he tried to get back in he ate a second Lariat to the back of the head and then was counted out. This was quite short and I don’t think either man showed anything we haven’t seen before or really anything that shows them off in their best light either.

Date: 1980-05-16
Promotion: Houston
Match: Gino Hernandez vs Mark Lewin 
Best Two Out Of Three Falls With Gary Hart In A Shark Cage Match
Rating: ★
Link

Mark Lewin is very over here with the crowd and it’s bizarre seeing him as a face when every other time I’ve seen him he’s been a wild man heel. They took an age to set up the cage then, once it had been fully suspended, Lewin attacked Gino from behind and from that point Gino barely got anything to work with for most of the first two falls. Mark was actually the first to get busted open, a pretty obvious blade job that Boesch passed off as an old wound opening up, but he just chopped his way through all adversity and grabbed the first fall. Mark’s offense was essentially just chops, some of which looked really good and some that looked terrible. He tried a straight fingered jab once in a while, but any move that relies on finger strength solely is a negative in my book.
Gino followed suit and was opened up after being posted multiple times but he somehow snuck the second fall with a knee drop off the ropes. Lewin’s lack of selling effort and ability was concerning to say the least while Gino felt was far far too weak as he worked from underneath nearly bell to bell. He was committed to bouncing around for Mark but considering he’s the main heel in the promotion he doesn’t come across as a legitimate threat and his pinfall in the second fall came across as flukey and entirely unearned.
The crowd were hot for this coming in and it felt like the energy slowly dissipated as the match wore on. It was interesting however how there was a major pop for Gino getting crotched on the ropes, perhaps it was a popular spot in Houston around this time, and it actually ended up being the deciding fall.
After the match Mark got his hands on Gary Hart, but only for a short while as he was attacked by Gino from behind, they ganged up on him and locked him in the cage instead. The whole thing felt incredibly underwhelming and Gino and Hart didn’t seem to get any kind of comeuppance at all.
Gino has the tools, but he hasn’t quite put it all together yet, and he’s being asked to lead basically every match he’s in. Mark I would be quite happy to not see wrestle again.

Date: 1980-05-17
Promotion: PNW
Match: Rick Martel vs Buddy Rose 
NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Title Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Rating: ★★★
Link

Martel is the PNW champion and it seems like I didn’t realise that he had already won the belt before their previous match. Seems like he won the belt in late March (not on tape). This may be the loudest that I’ve heard the Sports Arena and they were really behind Martel, unsurprisingly.
In the first five minutes Martel was using a side headlock consistently. While in the hold things got a tiny bit dull, but they punctuated that period well with blocks of intense action before settling back down again. The transition from Martel on top to Rose was so-so, with Martel going for what looked like a Spike Dudley style bulldog off the ropes, but Rose managed to convert it into a backdrop suplex. Then he put him away with a Billy Robinson backbreaker.
The beginning of the second fall was easily the best portion of the match. Rose immediately started targeting the lower back of Martel with kicks and clubbing blows, even posting him on the outside at one point. The viciousness of his attacks was much needed and it was logical for him to continue targeting the back considering he won the first fall with a backbreaker. Martel’s comeback was nice, his offense always looks good, and of course he’s a top tier fire guy. He nailed Rose with a suplex, then did an amazing bounce off the ropes into a forearm smash that sent Rose for a loop. The finishing touch was using the sleeper to knock Rose out.
The third fall was fine but lacked a bit of substance. Martel looked to have the sleeper on Rose for a second time but the Sheepherders came down and laid Martel out for the DQ. The post match action ratcheted up the intensity and easily surpassed the in ring action that preceded it. The Sheepherders had a NZ flag and nailed Martel right in the throat with it a couple times and he sold it like death. Any angle that involves somebody getting their throat attacked always seems to hit for me as it just comes across as super gruesome. Roddy Piper flew down to the ring too and we got chaos as all five guys were whizzing in and out of the ring. If you’re gonna do a fuck finish, then you might as well get your money’s worth of post match quality.

Date: 1980-05-19
Promotion: WWF
Match: Bob Backlund vs Ken Patera 
WWF Heavyweight Title Texas Death Match - MSG
Rating: ★★★★
Link

Finally we get the rematch that they had been building towards since January and this time around Patera is also the IC champion. I have my reservations on having the two top title holders match up, potentially leaving the rest of the card lacking, but it obviously provides a huge main event, especially considering the inconclusive end to their previous match together.
Billed as a Texas Death Match, which in a 1980 WWF context merely means it’s a no DQ match. There was no pretence at all about delivering some scientific wrestling as this was essentially two guys throwing bombs at each other for 20 minutes straight. They went right to the brawling from the off before we transitioned into the middle stretch where Backlund nailed a HUGE atomic drop. Patera taking an Atomic Drop from Backlund might be one of the best examples of two wrestlers executing a signature spot. Backlund has a great Atomic Drop but it looks just that much better when Patera is the one taking the bump. And here he nearly clears the ropes and ends up several rows deep. Backlund then hit his patented Piledriver, which looked amazing as always, while Patera countered with a Bear Hug, a Full Nelson and some massive body slams.
I really liked the finishing stretch as Backlund, opened up earlier from a nasty beatdown by Patera using the title belt, returned the favour by posting Patera. Patera then went for the kill by bringing a chair into the equation. He struck Backlund from the outside as he clambered back into the ring, but once inside Backlund turned the tables and clobbered Patera in the face a couple times for a crazy two count!?! A flying cross body off the top however sealed the deal for Bob. 
For the finish both guys were gushing blood and this inclusion of blood and the intensity of the belt and chair shots pushed this up a level. I thought the opening brawling was a bit by the numbers, especially considering the match stipulation. Bob was decent, but I thought this was driven by Patera no question. Disregarding the fact that he was a heel, is it crazy to say that he could have done an equally good job as Backlund as the top guy in the company? I feel like as a total package he’s probably a little better.
The crowd had major heat and the pop for Backlund’s victory rivals the reaction Bruno was receiving in his matches against Larry but I think I would have preferred a little more violence in the earlier stages. This was revving at a solid 7/10 for 15 minutes with a 9/10 finish, but dipped below the standard for outright greatness for the majority of the match. I think in the context of 1980 WWF this would have stuck out by a mile; every bit the epic main event they were going for..
 
Date: 1980-05-22
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Bobby Barnes vs Bob Anthony
Rating: ★★

We’re missing the first round for this. Bob Anthony, after looking absolutely shit the last time I saw him, has improved leaps and bounds in the meantime and was able to deliver a pretty good performance here. He still had a few awkward moments but his strikes looked far crisper and his transitions between holds was really good at points. Bobby Barnes, sporting a shorter haircut than he did previously, showed again the qualities I liked from the last time I saw him. He had many moments here where he was just a little shit but maintains a sort of Anton Chigurh-eque blank expression while he’s doing it. 
Anthony took the first fall in the second round with a neat little bridge pin, however as Barnes was desperately looking to make a comeback in the final fifth round, Anthony went for a knee lift and injured it colliding with Barnes’ head and couldn’t meet the referee’s count. A poor finish I felt and a cheap way to switch things around to give Barnes the win at the last, but a neat little match from both guys who I felt came away looking good.

Date: 1980-05-23
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Stan Hansen & Dusty Rhodes vs Tatsumi Fujinami & Bob Backlund
Rating: ★★
Link

The US invasion continued with the WWF crew arriving as well. Dusty and Hansen were the odd couple considering their match opposing each other only a week prior and this was worked around their complete lack of compatibility as a team. 
Backlund, due to his incredibly unique style, sticks out in this setting, even among a majority US collection, but within the New Japan setting it feels fresh and the crowd certainly seem keen to see more of him. His matchups with Hansen were interesting and mostly had him befuddling Hansen with escapes from any of his hold attempts. My main issue with Backlund here is that I don’t think he’s as good a technical wrestler as he thinks he is, and he mostly just moves his limbs around real fast and then spins out the way. My favourite matchup amongst these four guys was Hansen and Fujinami and that’s certainly a match I would be keenly interested to see. The size disparity works really well and Hansen was just pounding on him. Fujinami would do a great job working from underneath against this monster.
Before long the cracks began to show as Hansen accidentally nailed Dusty with a Lariat on the apron then, in turn, Dusty accidentally hit an elbow drop on Stan. Things eventually boiled over and they ended up going all out with Hansen posting Dusty. Backlund and Fujinami looked on bemused before Hogan and Andre, sporting a stylish man bun I must say, followed suit and started attacking Backlund and Hansen respectively. It must have been a sight to see for a Japanese audience in 1980 to see this many gigantic foreign wrestlers in the ring at once, and these are some big dudes no doubt.
Ultimately this ended in a no contest. The match didn’t have a lot of substance, but was an interesting spectacle for how long it lasted and the post match logically leads into a few upcoming bouts.

Date: 1980-05-23
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Antonio Inoki vs Hulk Hogan
Rating: ★
Link

It was very interesting to see how Inoki tried to tackle this giant. Hulk had the better of the early stages using his raw strength and power advantage, manhandling Inoki around the ring. Everything was pretty rudimental but it bluntly got across the intended effect. Eventually Inoki unloaded some stiff leg kicks to get the big man off his feet and Hulk was reeling. 
Before they could really get going though Hogan ran Inoki halfway across the arena towards a lurking Hansen and they went ahead and double team posted him with a ball shot. Dusty ran down to chase Hansen and Hogan off before he and Inoki shook hands.
I was into how they worked the first five or so minutes but this just didn’t have enough meat before the shmozz took over and we got the DQ. 

Date: 1980-05-24
Promotion: CWA
Match: Paul Ellering vs Bill Dundee
Rating: ★★

A really fun match. This is the best I’ve seen Ellering in singles competition as his attempts at exchanging holds looked less choppy than I’ve seen before, but it must help to be opposite a guy like Dundee. It certainly was Dundee carrying the show and this is back to back TV matches now where he’s delivered a banger performance. He walks that line between showing enough vulnerability and being a credible threat and he does it perfectly. When he wants to go for his offense it looks legit, and for Memphis at least, he’s one of the better mat wrestling guys and he’s a top tier seller. 
In the end it looked like Jimmy Hart was going to get involved to take Dundee out after a referee bump, but Sonny King came down and just carried Hart backstage allowing Dundee to roll Ellering up for the win. Clearly Ellering (still Heavyweight Champion) is coming up against King and they are involved in some form of ongoing feud.
Finally it feels like Dundee is getting more involved in events and his TV output has jumped up dramatically. However, it’s sad that the Memphis footage has slowed to a trickle as we move towards the summer.

Date: 1980-05-24
Promotion: PNW
Match: Buddy Rose & The Sheepherders vs Rick Martel, Roddy Piper & Dutch Mantell 
Best Two Out Of Three Falls Six Man Tag Team Match
Rating: ★★★
Link

There’s a certain slapstick quality to the comedy up in Portland that is wholly unique to the area and often is driven by Rose and his character. This six man tag sowed the seeds of discontent within the Army while sprinkling in some good old fashioned flag humour.
Mantell was the main FIP and Martel and Piper were merely used as powder kegs that exploded intermittently. They brought the intensity and the fire, but each maybe had only a couple minutes in the ring as the legal man. It was really Rose that was the rug that tied the room together here, wilfully refusing to tag in early on to annoy the Sheepherders, messing around with the NZ flag between falls to piss them off some more whilst also directing the action in the ring. For example, for the first fall, Rose was the one to pull Mantell from the ring, post him in the corner and then reminded Williams not to pursue him out on the floor to ensure the count out victory.
The second fall ended with both Williams and Rose caught in Sleeper holds, with Williams being left unconscious for the entire break before the beginning of the second. The final had Sandy Barr distracted, allowing the Sheepherders to nail Piper in the head with the NZ flag as it looked like he might take out Rose with another Sleeper.
There was a lot of post-match around setting up an upcoming Coal Miner's Glove match etc., but it all tied in and was part of the attraction. Perhaps not the best match bell to bell, but the whole presentation was solidly delivered and the ongoing feud between The Army and Martel and Piper is going along swimmingly.

Date: 1980-05-28
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Jim Breaks vs Al Dennison
Rating: ★★

The first two rounds are clipped. The third was Breaks trying to get under Dennison’s skin before succumbing to a flash pin, while the fourth was similarly brief, with Breaks immediately levelling things up with the exact move he fell to in the previous round. However, Breaks' performance in the fifth might just be the best round performance to date in 1980. Between rounds he was able to send Dennison flying from the ring, somehow without anybody noticing, thus injuring his arm. Dennison pleaded with the referees to not stop the fight and the whole time Breaks was being a real shit stirrer, trying to get the bout thrown out. Once things did get underway, Breaks knew he was dealing with a one armed man and ramped up the dickishness. He was prancing around the ring slapping Dennison in the face before getting him up for a Breaks Special and dumping him arm first onto the ropes. Things all looked peachy for him before Dennison grabbed him by the ear to buy some time and he ultimately survived the round. Breaks called for the match to be stopped before the start of the following round and tried his best to get cheap shots in whenever he could, picking up two quick public warnings, but it was Dennison with a surprise double arm submission that snatched the victory.
Dennison was fine here and a good foil to Breaks. However his big spots mostly revolved around weird strength moves that defied physics. Especially at the end his injured arm was able to power out of an attempted Breaks Special in a way an arm just shouldn’t. Breaks however, taking things pretty lightly for the first few rounds, ramped things up in the fifth and delivered an honest to God amazing performance from that point on. The match was just a bit short and it would have been better if Dennison had had some better offense to hold up his end.

Date: 1980-05-28
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Marc Rocco vs Pete Roberts
Rating: ★★★★

Roberts once again wore his Super Destroyer outfit. He really needed somebody to have a word in his ear about how awful he looks in that getup. Does he have no loved ones who care about his well being?
This was a catchweight bout with Rocco giving up just under 2 stone as the Middleweight to Roberts’ Heavyweight. But for those unfamiliar with Roberts, he is a heavyweight in the same way that Bret Hart is a heavyweight.
Both men displayed some tight hold exchanges, going back and forth with escapes and counters. But this had a lot more weight to it than something like Saint vs Grey. They sprinkled in a few more strikes early on as well. Little by little Rocco started needling the referee and curtailing the rules, and it only took until the second round before Ken Lofton observed that Roberts appeared to have been pushed to the edge and he upped his aggressiveness in kind to counter Rocco’s antics. Things were pretty even for three rounds but Rocco was clearly pushing the limits more and more, getting at the referee and trying to gain that edge.
Rounds four and five were all Rocco as he threw caution to the wind and just went all in on taking advantage. He picked up two public warnings and it didn’t slow him down a jot as he relentlessly went after Roberts after hold breaks and whenever he was in the ropes. Roberts seemed to injure his leg at one point and Rocco honed in like a shark, and his attacks while Roberts was in the ropes were very much solely focused on that appendage. I liked Roberts’ selling of the leg throughout. He never went overboard with it, but it was very clear that he was favouring it and that it should very much be a target for Rocco. Rocco, after twice nastily slamming Roberts into the ropes leg first, flipped him over and submitted him for the initial fall.
It didn’t look like Roberts had a chance in the final sixth round and it appeared more likely that Rocco would get disqualified than pinned, but as the way these things usually go, he took advantage of Rocco missing an (illegal) splash from the top, got him up for a slam and pinned him to pull out a draw.
These guys just came and delivered 25+ mins straight of really really good wrestling. We had the requisite matwork and general “wrestling” stuff, but they also brought the chippiness. Rocco was a general twat and it had the physicality you want when tempers flare. Not what I would call an all time classic but excellent performances from both guys and now Roberts just needs to get some new threads. Seriously.

Date: 1980-05-28
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Marty Jones vs Dave Bond
Rating: ★★★

This is actually the first match on the card so should have started with this. Dave Bond was wearing a bodysuit similar to Pete Roberts and looked equally ridiculous. The production crew must have been confused too as the television graphic actually labelled Bond as Pete Roberts, and it’s safe to say that they look nothing alike.
This really did feel like a watered down version of the Roberts/Rocco matchup that followed, with Bond in the Rocco role and Marty playing Roberts. Lofton was immediately highlighting Bond’s penchant for rule bending, something I don’t recall from when I saw him in January, so this might be a more recent change of tact for him.
I wasn’t really into Bond’s forearm strikes, as they felt a bit rabbit-y and short to me, but a prominent part of his arsenal was using the headbutt and these looked far more effective, and one in particular sent Jones sprawling into the ropes and I thought for a moment we might actually get some blood hardway. In contrast, Jones’ forearm strikes were a more significant part of his attack and they looked pretty beefy for a light heavyweight.
The main narrative was the subtle disregarding of the rules by Bond. He would ignore certain break calls by the ref and definitely late on would repeatedly try and grab a hold while his man was prone. He and Jones, as early as the second round, were clearly not fans of each other, and the open hostility between the two simmered throughout.
The final round with both men at one fall apiece developed into a slugfest of sorts, but it didn’t feel like the escalation required for such a long bout and the finish felt a bit anticlimactic with Bond merely having Jones in a hammerlock. The standard of work here was really solid throughout and it never dragged for a moment, but this for sure felt like the first match in a subsequent series between these two, which would allow things to boil over nicely, not that I know if anything of the like actually happened. Jones showed flashes, but was a bit subdued considering the needling he was getting from Bond and I think that he has more to offer than what he showed here.

Date: 1980-05-30
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Bob Backlund vs Hulk Hogan
Rating: ★
Link

Wow, this had some terrible moments. At the beginning Hogan enticed Backlund into a test of strength spot and it came across like two children performing at a school play in front of an audience of disapproving parents. They pulled things together a bit during the middle portion and had an admittedly nice sequence where they quickly transitioned between 3 moves resulting in Backlund getting the upper hand and emerging with Hogan in a headlock. This might have been the high spot of the match and got the biggest pop from the crowd by far. And when a headlock is the high spot you know you’ve gone awry somewhere. 
Back to the bad spots though: at one point Backlund went for a reverse neckbreaker and they got their wires crossed something fierce, and Backlund visibly had to reposition Hogan a couple times just to make sure he was even facing the right way to take the move. Later, Backlund hit a backdrop suplex as a counter and Hogan immediately went for a pin out of it. By the time they did a rope run collision spot ¾ in, I think the crowd knew that this was unsalvageable. Mercifully after 20 minutes, while in another headlock, Hansen emerged from the back and chased Backlund away. Hogan attacked the referee for “reasons” and got DQ’d. It all felt like a monumental waste of time to be honest.

Date: 1980-05-30
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Stan Hansen vs Andre The Giant 
MSG Series 1980 Match
Rating: N/A
Link

This is part of the ongoing MSG Series tournament. The television graphics weren’t even gone from  the screen and they were already rolling around on the mat. This didn’t last long at all before they bailed from the ring and started brawling in the crowd, leading to a double countout. It looked like Hansen ducked out after flinging some chairs at Andre but Andre was able to goad him back into the ring and we had them throwing full-size tables at each other (which must have been a bonkers spectacle for those in attendance) before the other wrestlers finally descended upon the ring to break things up.

Date: 1980-05-30
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Antonio Inoki vs Tatsumi Fujinami 
MSG Series 1980 Match
Rating: ★★★★
Link

A mouth watering MSG Series matchup here and they did not disappoint. This had that big fight feel you would want and right from the off they shook hands and then Fujinami nailed Inoki with a stiff kick to the leg to set the tone. Without veering over the line Fujinami certainly was the aggressor, and Inoki had to stave him off and keep him contained. They worked at a furious pace and the intensity was reaching a 10. It wasn’t long however before Inoki upped his game to match Fujinami and put him in his place when he started outright tattooing him with some vicious palm strikes right to the face then later on an awesome looking headbutt planted Fujinami firmly in the ropes.
Fujinami looked to have the opening he was looking for as he sent Inoki through the ropes and he immediately set off to hit his tope. He hit it cleanly and found himself alone in the ring. Instead of going for the countout victory however he instead swung for the fences with a plancha on a prone Inoki. The camera didn’t catch the impact but seemingly he missed it as this time Inoki was the first to his feet and back in the ring. He caught Fujinami on the apron as he was clambering back onto the apron and hit a huge backdrop suplex, keeping Fujinami’s shoulders to the mat long enough for the three count.
I really loved all of this. Inoki so far has had some okay performances, specifically against Hansen, but he hasn’t looked as much of a star as he did in this match. After he hit that headbutt on Fujinami he just stood there and preened like only Inoki can and the crowd were lapping it up. Fujinami, for his part, set the tone for this match and was perfect in his role. If this had a tad more time I definitely could go higher on this match as we barely got over ten minutes of action here, but what a ten minutes.

Date: 1980-05-31
Promotion: PNW
Match: The Sheepherders vs Rick Martel & Roddy Piper 
NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Title Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Rating: ★★★
Link

Poor Luke Williams. Every time these four were matched up Martel and Piper would brutalise his left arm and this was no different. The structure of this match was very similar to their previous bouts against each other but I thought here Martel and Piper did a far better job of working the arm and keeping the momentum flowing. A lot of this was all about the man working underneath trying to get a tag, and in the first fall that was mostly Miller. Interestingly enough though, this time around the Sheepherders sussed out a weakness on Piper as he had a bandage around his left leg beneath his usual knee pads, and once they swooped in on it, it was lights out for Piper and he couldn’t fend them off.
Piper was forced to submit in the first and thus was then forced to begin the second. The Sheepherders were confident in their ability to continue their strategy and it looked to be working pretty well for them early on. Piper’s selling of the leg was good, but what really worked for me was Piper’s “offense is the best defence” strategy that was completely in tune with his character. Knowing that they were going to target his leg, he went on the offensive with frantic punches and kicks in an attempt to fend them off. Ultimately he was able to make it to Martel and he had a few monster hot tags in this. Martel and Piper didn’t sway from their own strategy of attacking Luke’s arm and this paid dividends in this fall when he was eventually posted by Piper and then Martel furiously wrenched on a hammerlock to get the submission, not relenting until well after the bell had gone and Sandy Barr had insisted he break the hold.
Much like how Piper was forced to start the second fall injured, Williams was forced to start the third and he looked in really bad shape. I was pretty sure we’d see Rose at some point, and wouldn’t you know, just as Martel had Williams in the sleeper, he came crashing off the rope with the flag pole and accidentally nailed Williams right in the noggin’. Despite striking his own man, Piper and Martel took the victory which I never fully understood. But this was all about the post match. Miller hadn’t seen the indiscretion, but was apoplectic when he heard from Barr what had happened. Rose feigned ignorance, but eventually the jig was up and he laid in a few more shots on a corpsing Luke while he still had the chance. Furiously Miller rushed him and we had ourselves a brawl with Rose bumping all over the place for him. Rose’s Army had finally imploded and we now pivot to Miller vs Rose down the line. All the while Luke bled buckets out onto the mat (I’m pretty sure he had Piper blade him, which resulted in such a deep cut).
This was definitely the best of the tag matches between these four as they brought together all the elements that I thought worked in their previous matches and shaved off the stuff that didn’t. Piper having the injured leg was a nice touch which likely will play a factor down the line, the consistent arm work on Williams was the best it’s been, and the finish with Rose blowing up his own creation was the only way this could have gone down.

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JUNE 1980

Date: 1980-06-05
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Bob Backlund vs Tatsumi Fujinami
Rating: ★★★
Link

This is the best I’ve seen Backlund work an opening mat exchange. He and Fujinami were struggling to gain advantages in holds and he was able to do away with the usual faux-amateur stuff that I don’t think he’s very good at. There was a nice sequence where he had one of Fujinami’s legs and was trying to get the other to take him down and Fujinami did a great job of maintaining his balance on the one leg and brushing Backlund’s advances away at the same time. Eventually Bob had had enough and just wrenched Fujinami to the mat using his free arm.
This was set up to be a real classic, but I think they both settled into their comfort zones a little too much during the middle portion and we got headlock city. This can usually be dull as dishwater but they did well to keep this engaging, however it definitely wasn’t my preferred route for them to take this match.
The finish however was a major comeback as the desperation kicked in. We had suplexes and reversals and it felt like any move could be the finisher. Fujinami dropped Backlund with a beautifully savage Gut Wrench Suplex but Backlund endured and, after a little tease, flung Fujinami with a Butterfly Suplex for a near fall. In the end Backlund was able to do an O’Connor Roll into a bridge to put Fujinami away.
This was an okay match bookended by an excellent start and finish. Backlund showed some of his best work to date and Fujinami continues to impress. I thought this could have been great if they committed to a bit more escalation in the middle third, but for an exhibition of sorts, they definitely delivered.

Date: 1980-06-05
Promotion: NJPW
Match 1: Andre the Giant vs Seiji Sakaguchi 
MSG Series 1980 Semi Final Match
Match: 2 Andre the Giant vs Stan Hansen 
MSG Series 1980 Semi Final Match
Rating: N/A
Link

The tail end of the MSG series had these three men all tied on 32 points trailing the leader Inoki (35 pts). For some reason Andre and Sakaguchi had to face off first and then the winner would go against Hansen, then that individual would challenge Inoki.
Sakaguchi tried his best but he was dwarfed by Andre and, apart from one hip toss where he got him on the ground and vulnerable, this was all Andre all the way. Sakaguchi is a big man and he looked like a baby compared to Andre, who shrugged off a diving knee drop from the top to do away with Sakaguchi with his big boot and splash.
Andre taking down Sakaguchi while having a Full Nelson locked on drew audible gasps from the crowd as it looked like he was going to crush him and tear his arms from his sockets.
After dispatching Sakaguchi, Andre was immediately met with Hansen rushing the ring. The referees tried to maintain order and start the match in an official manner, but these two were already getting it on and eventually the referees relented. This lasted just over 3 minutes or so but the spectacle of these two going at it really is a sight. As they tumbled to the outside and continued brawling, the sheer scale of humanity on show was clear to see. Hogan came from the back and blindsided Andre, allowing Hansen to dive back into the ring to secure the countout victory. Then they scarpered through the crowd with Hogan trailing Hansen like a little puppy dog which I thought was amusing.

Date: 1980-06-05
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Antonio Inoki vs Stan Hansen 
MSG Series 1980 Final Match
Rating: ★★★★
Link

Well this was unexpected. I said for their last match that I thought that was the best they could do, and here I was proved wrong. This didn’t last too long, and a large part of my enjoyment of it came from the post-match action, but this was a good performance from Inoki and perhaps Hansen’s best performance of the year to date.
Inoki knew he was up against a beast and he was deliberately aggressive in going after Hansen. Once in the ropes he got in a sick headbutt which opened up Hansen early and then he worked on keeping him grounded and under control. Even when they were tied up grappling over a leg hold, he was laying in some nasty looking kicks right in Hansen’s face.
Hansen always feels like a caged beast you need to make sure doesn’t break free, but here more than ever it felt like whenever he got some offense in it looked like curtains for Inoki. Hansen’s reputation is for stiff shots, but strangely I’ve found him somewhat light (at least compared against himself) so far this year. Here that certainly wasn’t the case. His knee drops were visibly jarring to Inoki and he was far more rough with the referee than I remember him being before. This foreshadowed the key moment of the match where he lined Inoki up for the Lariat but Inoki had enough time to duck and the referee behind him took the full force.
Now that the pesky referee wasn’t in the way any more, Hansen thought it was time to take Inoki for a stroll. They disappeared into the crowd, only to emerge with Inoki on Hulk Hogan’s back and Hansen’s bull rope tied around his neck. They got back into the ring and the double beatdown began. This wasn’t looking good for Inoki and a few young boys started crashing the ring to save their boss. Then Dusty made an appearance and lasted all of five seconds before he also was gushing blood. Hansen was just teeing up the young boys for Lariat after Lariat and these were absolutely crushing each one in turn and made him look like a complete animal. Finally Inoki was freed from the rope and all together they were able to repel Hansen and Hogan from the ring, all the while the fans were launching seat cushions into the ring. It was bedlam of the best kind.

Date: 1980-06-07
Promotion: CWA
Match: Bill Dundee & Toy Boyles vs Wayne Farris & Larry Latham
Rating: ★★★

Boy this was frenetic. Dundee was a one man show, whizzing all over the ring. He was breaking up pins, dragging Boyles over to their corner for the tag, on offense he was controlling either one of the Blonde Bombers and at times both of them at the same time. Boyles was basically a prop here, used to give Dundee a partner, but Dundee was directing him the whole way and there wasn’t much to say about him really.
The Blonde Bombers were having some synchronicity issues and they ran two separate spots where Farris inadvertently ended up attacking Latham. The first was weird as it involved a rope running sequence. Farris got involved for seemingly no reason and it just ended up with them colliding which I didn’t care for.
After 10 minutes the Bombers were finally able to get Boyles isolated and diffuse the dynamo that was Bill Dundee. As they slowly worked him over Dundee was getting more and more frustrated and he began venturing further and further away from his corner. This brought the referee’s attention and thus directed it away from the Bombers and the action in the ring. As Dundee got caught up with Davis at ringside the Bombers were able to hit a Spike Piledriver, which they actually botched the timing of terribly, but either way when they hit it, it did look like it could have paralysed Boyles, so job done there I guess.
Things didn’t stop there however and we had 10+ minutes of extras. First, despite winning the match, the Bombers weren’t satisfied and continued to work over Dundee and Boyles. Dundee eventually had blood just pouring from his face and they left them sprawled as they mouthed off to Russell about how they deserved the title shots that Dundee was getting.
We went to commercials and when we returned Dundee was hot. He wanted them back in the ring and a 1v1 match. Davis turned up to jaw back and Dundee just grabbed him, flung him into the ring and proceeded to absolutely destroy him. I mean, Dundee just starts teeing off on this manager. The punches are savage and he’s getting obliterated. The Bombers arrived and gained the numbers advantage again. Eventually Eddie Marlin got in the ring to try and help but got chalk/salt thrown in the eyes for his troubles. Then Jerry Jarrett got into the ring and he was swarmed by the Bombers too. He did manage to get his belt off and started swinging it violently to send his attackers fleeing and finally things calmed down.
This was a really chaotic angle with an unusually strong escalation of violence, especially for TV. Dundee looked great here. He looked pretty great during the match but they lost and he was beaten down afterwards however the fire he displayed when he came to generated that heat back from the crowd and his assault on Davis was truly memorable. The Bombers then came in and beat down on him some more so that they would get their heat back. Really this was great booking to position everybody perfectly. Dundee looks legit, the Bombers don’t look weak but instead dastardly. One of the best segments on TV all year no doubt.

Date: 1980-06-07
Promotion: PNW
Match: Buddy Rose vs Butch Miller
Rating: ★★
Link

Butch was super over with the crowd after his recent turn against Rose. This was a bread and butter affair with Rose a bumping machine, diving all over the place for Miller’s offense. Miller went fast and strong to start and didn’t let up at all throughout the first fall and ultimately wore Rose down to get the first pin.
Rose came back some in the second and managed to dish out some offense of his own and the equalising fall came from him using the ropes for leverage while Sandy Barr was unsighted.
The third fall was cut short as they ended up brawling outside and both were counted out. Miller got posted and sprung a gusher. He returned the favour to Rose who got colour too. They wouldn’t stop brawling and we had multiple guys from the back come down and try to tear them apart.
I loved Rose’s bumping here and again you could see him pulling the strings throughout, however this ended up feeling a bit one note and I think to an extent highlighted Miller’s weaknesses within a straight up singles setting. We didn’t get a fully fleshed out final fall and the brawling after the match wasn’t intense or substantial enough to make up for it.

Date: 1980-06-12
Promotion: AWA
Match: Nick Bockwinkel & Bobby Heenan vs Greg Gagne & The Crusher
Rating: ★★
Link

The Crusher is over like wildfire here despite moving like a mummy. They work towards a hot tag later on and it takes him a solid five seconds to get into the ring after receiving the tag.
Bockwinkel & Heenan did a lot of three stooges slapstick to start the match, getting worked over by their opponents and generally getting embarrassed. Greg Gagne was pretty agile and his matchup with Heenan was probably the highlight of the first half.
Later on Bockwinkel & Heenan decided to get serious and they managed to corner Gagne and brutalised him with a foreign object and we had a lot of missed tags between Greg and Crusher by the referee due to distractions from the heels.
Once Crusher finally got the hot tag he was able to clean house and swing the momentum. In the end Greg got the Sleeper on Bockwinkel and Crusher was able to run interference to keep Heenan away enough to secure the win.
Bockwinkel felt a bit like an afterthought in this match. Considering he was the champion he came across more like the 4th man here. Not necessarily in terms of quality, but in terms of presence. His team's output was dominated by Heenan and his bumping. Matched up against either Greg or Crusher he would pinball all over the shop and was involved in most of the banana skin moments. Gagne was solid for what you’d want from his role, but I don’t think he looked to be anything special, and Crusher (voted Wrestler of the 60s we are informed by Okerlund) was just a warm body. 
The structure let the match down too as Heenan & Bockwinkel had most of the comedy spots early before changing tone and working more nasty later on. Already seeing them fall on their faces I think worked against them and lessened the impact of that later work. If they had reversed the ordering it would have worked much better, nasty stuff early then move onto them getting their comeuppance. 
Solid match but nothing here to write home about. Amusing to hear Gene Okerlund use the term “Sports Entertainment” in 1980, unless this was dubbed after the fact, which certainly is a possibility.

Date: 1980-06-21
Promotion: PNW
Match: Roddy Piper vs Rip Rogers
Rating: ★★
Link

Rogers is part of Rose's new Army after the split with the Sheepherders and Rogers definitely has been doing his Ric Flair homework. He’s got the same hair and moves eerily similarly around the ring. He has energy though and brings the fight immediately to Piper. He forced Piper into a defensive position early which required him to sell and from that, his comeback meant all the more for having had to work from underneath. Rogers wasn’t scared of heights either, taking off from the top rope to the outside a couple times, and in these Portland rings it looks like a long way down.
When Piper got on offense he had his usual faux-boxing routine but he laid in some other nasty looking shots too. One particular knee lift looked like it legit could have concussed Rogers.
Unsurprisingly Rose found his way to ringside, distracted the referee and Piper, then managed to hand Rogers a foreign object, which he in turn nailed Piper with from behind for the 1, 2, 3. 
Pretty short match but for 6 minutes of action they did a really good job. I was impressed with Rogers on my first viewing of him as he seems to have a lot of the tools you want from a heel. He can beg off, but when he’s on offense it doesn't look light at all, and he could bump too when asked. Interested to see where he goes from here. (Retroactive note: Looks like he disappears entirely following a multi man Loser Leaves Town match)

Date: 1980-06-21
Promotion: PNW
Match: Buddy Rose vs Butch Miller 
Lumberjack Match
Rating: ★
Link

The most interesting part of this was Rose’s mad dashes to try and get away from the action. Early on he tried rolling out of each side of the ring only to get pushed back in. Later on, when he found himself on the outside, it wouldn’t be immediately clear that he was gonna try and do a runner, then at the last moment he would take his chance, but obviously he was doomed to fail with so many wrestlers surrounding the ring.
Rogers and Rose tried to pull the same trick they pulled on Piper earlier on in the night, but this time Piper was a lumberjack, and he wasn’t gonna see Rose win so cheaply. The foreign object got prised from Rose’s hands and it ended up with Miller who used it himself and he did away with Rose.
My biggest issue here was that I don’t think Miller is very good as a singles wrestler, and I really don’t think he’s that good as a face either. This has been a heated feud and Rose turned on The Sheepherders and bloodied up his partner Williams, but he seemed pretty content here to do his weird head bobbing/body spasm thing instead of taking the initiative and going on the offensive early while Rose was trying to escape. The pace was way too slow and too often Rose would be prone on the mat while Miller stood there looking around at the crowd trying to generate a reaction. This was certainly more Bushwacker than Sheepherder, and it definitely hurt the match.

Date: 1980-06-22
Promotion: AWA
Match: Giant Baba vs Super Destroyer II 
PWF Heavyweight Title Match
Rating: ★
Link

Okerlund announces Baba’s height as 7’2”, which is a classic case of height inflation when Bobby Heenan across the ring, who I think of generally as a small-ish guy, can’t be more than 4-6 inches shorter.
Super Destroyer does some of his biggest and exaggerated bumps here. Literally anything that Baba did resulted in a massive bump. There really wasn’t a lot of offense from either guy to speak of so the whole match seemed to revolve around Destroyer bumping hard to create the effect that Baba was laying a beating down on him. At points it did make Baba look really strong, but considering that was all this match had to offer, it got old real fast. 
Baba consistently looks like someone who thinks the match is a dress rehearsal. He always is going 50-80% speed of what he could probably do and I got the sense that the reason Destroyer was bumping so hard was because he didn’t trust Baba enough to do anything else.
After a pretty basic match, which maybe topped out at 7 minutes, Baba hit the big boot (this however did look pretty brutal I’ll admit) and that was all she wrote.

Date: 1980-06-22
Promotion: AWA
Match: Nick Bockwinkel vs Jumbo Tsuruta 
AWA World Heavyweight Title Match
Rating: ★★★
Link

Whereas Baba looked like he couldn’t give a shit in his match, Jumbo looked extremely motivated to capture Bockwinkel’s AWA Title. Jumbo was mostly on the offensive and Bockwinkel really didn’t have many stretches of offensive control but I loved how he sold here for Jumbo, pretty understated, exhaustive selling that worked really well in context.
Jumbo here really seemed to be able to connect to the crowd, likely that they were cheering more for Bockwinkel to lose than for Jumbo to win, but he was able to harness that energy to generate strong reactions at several points. 
This didn’t have any real standout moments to speak of but I thought it was solidly entertaining bell to bell. By the end Jumbo had beaten down Bockwinkel to the point where he had him pinned multiple times over, however an errant hip toss had incapacitated the referee and he wasn’t able to count the pin. Just when I thought they were going to do the classic reverse with Bockwinkel stealing it at the last, the referee actually gave Jumbo the win as he saw Heenan interfering in an earlier pin attempt. The finish felt a little cheap, but to be expected if they weren’t going to have the title change hands. 
Baba was actually on commentary and early in the match I’m certain he and his co-commentator had discussed that in this match specifically the title would change hands on a DQ. They seemed very confused by the finish as they waited for Okerlund’s official announcement that in fact Bockwinkel had retained the title.

Date: 1980-06-25
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Marty Jones vs Young David
Rating: ★★★

Semi-final match for a tournament called the “Combat Challenge Shield”. Not sure the importance of it but the winner of this round would face Marc Rocco in the final. The footage joined at the beginning of the second round.
David has improved leaps and bounds over the last few months. The second round here had him working on top and it certainly didn’t feel like the veteran was leading him in any way. David had the wristlock applied and they spent the entire fall working around Jones trying to escape in various ways with David being too fast and being able to consistently reapply it. In a swerve however, Jones was able to catch David out at the last and roll him up for a flash pin just before the bell to take a 1-0 lead. Out of the 5 rounds broadcast here, this was by far the best with David looking incredibly comfortable and at ease in the ring.
The middle four rounds had Jones mostly in control and things kind of fell away. Jones is a guy with a strong rep, so I was looking forward to him cropping up in my match listings, but he really hasn’t jumped off the screen for me so far and this match was no different. I’m not sure whether David should have been more combative when working from underneath but Jones’ offense throughout this period didn’t grab me at all. The best spot was them both going for a shoulder charge and Jones wiping David out.
They worked a raucous pin sequence at the end of the fifth, where each man tried for a pin and the other countered, going back and forth for perhaps five or six attempts before finally David caught a bridge and got the equaliser. That set up a final sixth round and this for sure made up for the somewhat dull previous rounds. They upped the pace with both men going for that victory and a path to the final and they teased a number of different finishes, from countout on Jones after getting sent flying over the ropes, to David potentially grabbing another flash pin. All the while it seemed like Jones was in the ascendancy, so any offense here David got in felt meaningful. But it wasn’t to be and while David valiantly attempted to capture that winning fall, he left himself open to a sit down pin for Jones.

Date: 1980-06-25
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Marc Rocco vs Mal Sanders
Rating: ★★★★

This is the other heat of the aforementioned Combat Challenge Shield tournament. Rocco, being the GB Heavy-Middleweight Champion, outweighed Sanders, the European Middleweight Champion, by 1 ¾ stones and was the favourite going in.
The first round was a showcase for Sanders, allowing him to work some escapes off of Rocco’s holds. Rocco was reasonably well behaved early on but it only took him until midway through the second round before he began his antics. Rocco really had an ability to rile up a crowd. This was the same crowd as the David/Jones match and they were pretty quiet throughout that one apart from the high spots. Throughout this match they were consistently loud and a lot of that had to do with Rocco. As per usual he would bend the rules, often getting in extra shots when he should break or when his man was grounded, and his offense really looked brutal considering they were usually simple kicks or knee drops. 
Over the next few rounds he built up a series of unfair advantages with these attacks and picked up his first public warning. Eventually Sanders had had enough and he retaliated and really showed a lot of fire, enough to justifiably earn a public warning of his own as he unleashed a punch right at Rocco’s throat. Sander’s really started going at Rocco and the crowd were going mental in support of him. His performance here was miles better than when he matched up with Bobby Barnes earlier in the year and would justify his “Superstar” nickname.
In the fourth round Sanders was able to capitalise on his momentum and catch Rocco in a pin, going 1-0 up, and backing him into a corner with only two rounds to go. The fifth round had Rocco continue pushing the limits, picking up his second public warning after a series of late shots, and he really was on the brink of a disqualification. Sanders at one point sold a late elbow drop onto his back like absolute death and this extra damage he was accruing illegally looked like it would surely give the round to Rocco. Instead of merely winning the round and tying things up, a desperate attack by Sanders allowed him to get caught and Rocco literally spiked him into the mat with a devastating Piledriver for the KO victory.

Date: 1980-06-27
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Ryuma Go & Kintaro Hoshino vs Bret Hart & Keith Hart
Rating: ★★
Link

Admittedly I only watched this match to grab another look at Hoshino and to catch a glimpse of early Bret Hart but I was pleasantly surprised with what was on offer. Apart from Bret and Owen, the other Hart brothers don’t have much of a reputation to my knowledge, but Keith looked pretty decent here. He and Bret worked a generic heel team style but they hit all the checkmarks and I would describe them as shockingly competent. 
Hoshino was a bit sloppy at times and it seemed like he was moving faster than his little legs could carry him, but when he nailed a move, he really nailed it. His dropkicks looked incredible and he hit one particular backdrop suplex on Bret that had a crazy high angle. Unfortunately Bret completely no-sold it and the Hart Brothers ended up back on top almost immediately. This was probably the enduring flaw of the match; that both Keith and Bret didn’t know when to sell and when to get back in the ascendancy and it led to a few weird moments from a psychology point of view.

Date: 1980-06-29
Promotion: IWE
Match: Haruka Eigen & Strong Kobayashi vs Isamu Teranishi & Mighty Inoue 
IWA World Tag Team Title Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Rating: ★★★
Link

Basically a 20 minute sprint. The action came thick and fast but I couldn’t really decipher any rhyme or reason to it. The best stretch had Inoue and Eigen going at it, just slapping the shit out of each other, and I really loved Inoue’s bonkers series of standing Senton’s to Kobayashi to win the first fall.
Fun fast paced match but too haphazard to be anything other than merely good. The finish with outside interference causing a count out victory felt a bit flat considering in this case the tag belts were vacant and this was to determine the new title holders.

Date: 1980-06-29
Promotion: MLW
Match: Jimmy Snuka & Ray Stevens vs Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood 
NWA World Tag Team Title Match
Rating: ★★★★ ¼ 
Link

Stevens & Snuka had won the titles from Steamboat and Youngblood a week or so earlier at a Mid-Atlantic show so the faces were trying to regain their lost titles.
The early portions were very drawn out, punctuated by brief explosions of action. Steamboat and Snuka didn’t even lock up until a few minutes had passed, but the tension kept growing and the crowd were losing their minds. This felt like a BIG deal. Once the action got underway they did a rapid fire rope running sequence and Steamboat got the upper hand with a body check. They brought the pace back down for a minute or so before it exploded to life once again. The entire first half of the match was an extended shine for Steamboat and Youngblood and it was an excellent example of making a heel in peril sequence work. Their offense had spark, they tagged frequently and effectively but most importantly they were working hard.
Finally the heels made the tag and gained some control, while their manager (Gene Anderson) caused distractions for the referee. From here we ended up with two separate FIP sequences. The first had Youngblood being worked over hard before he managed to get to Steamboat for the hot tag. After a flurry of action he had a golden opportunity to tag back out but instead made the mistake of going after Snuka in the opposite corner. This allowed Stevens to blindside him and they gained the numbers advantage again. We built again to a hot tag, this time with Steamboat suffering, and Youngblood came roaring in, wiping out both Stevens and Snuka. He had things firmly in control but they just couldn’t put the champions away and before I knew it the house lights were up and the match had ended. Curfew time limit draw and the champions retained.
I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say that Steamboat and Youngblood carried this match. Snuka was serviceable but I can’t recall anything in particular that Stevens did throughout the entire match. When they were on top their offense looked great, a mountain of various chops and dropkicks, and they injected considerable energy into these sections. When they were being worked over, both guys were able to sell the shit out of their opponents' attacks, they created enormous sympathy and it really engaged me throughout. Really an example of elevating what could have been mediocre into something truly substantial.
While Steamboat was excellent for most of this match, I thought that Youngblood was the absolute star here. Steamboat often is credited with being perhaps the best babyface of all time, well here I think Youngblood shows off why he could potentially have been even more of a “pure” babyface than Steamboat. He had a certain verve in his movements and personality that made him incredibly endearing and so far I’ve found watching him so rewarding, it’s a real shame that he died so young.
Perhaps with a better champion team this could have been an all time classic, but Steamboat and Youngblood are making a push for being the best tag team of 1980 (granted it has felt like a pretty paltry year on that front).

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Q2 April - June

Interesting to note that as soon as April concludes footage seems to fall off a cliff as we head into the summer. I’m not sure whether this is a quirk of what was filmed/preserved or the fact that most promotions wound down during the hotter months. The WWE Network has all the episodes of All Star Wrestling from this period, but Georgia TV is far choppier than earlier in the year and Memphis essentially disappears for all of May and June apart from a few Dundee matches. This isn’t specific to the US either as All Japan Women and All Japan both see a drop off during the same time period, interestingly in contrast to New Japan, who were boosted from an influx of touring WWF stars and Dusty Rhodes.

Memphis
Memphis started off with a bang in April with Paul Ellering usurping fan favourite Jimmy Valiant for the Heavyweight Title, the Blonde Bombers and Gibsons had - the first of many I presume -  concession stand brawls, and an actual Jerry Lawler sighting in June! The aforementioned dark period was only intermittently pierced by the occasional emergence of Bill Dundee matches on TV, but he definitely made the most of them, as Dundee’s showing in Q2 far exceeded his showing for Q1 and makes a good start in backing up his reputation of being an all-time TV worker.

Georgia
Georgia suffers from the same footage issues as Memphis but to a much lesser degree. There’s enough meat on the bone to follow some of the storylines and to make this a solid period of time for the promotion. They concluded the Race/Rich/Mr Wrestling II/Austin Idol interwoven feud around the World and Georgia Heavyweight Titles. As the months progressed Idol would slowly lean more and more into becoming, at first a tweener, and then a fully-fledged babyface, without really losing much of what made his character work as a heel. I’m not certain whether this was real or fabricated, but his face turn coincided with the death of his brother, and if true then perhaps his tenure as a heel at this time was untenable due to how the crowd would react to him. Either way he made the turn work and the crowd were fully behind him by the time we got into early June. Elsewhere the slow build of the Dusty Rhodes & Assassins feud carried through these months, ultimately leading to Dusty and Ole Anderson teaming up (these two seem to have SERIOUS history between them so this came across as a big deal, even if the reasoning for why Ole ended up being the one chosen wasn’t exactly clear). The origin of this feud also went right over my head as I assume it occurred on TV that I haven’t seen, but nothing the Assassins do really interests me as they come across as dinosaurs from a bygone era at this point. But I know where this is heading, so I’d say overall it was worth it. 

WWF
The WWF has no TV footage issues, but house show footage trickles to almost a sliver. I came across a TV news sports wrapup discussing the Zbyszko v Backlund WWF Title match in June, with the anchor displaying almost eye-rolling levels of dismissiveness, but for all of June that’s it for WWF. Throughout this period the Bruno/Larry feud was still in full swing and they delivered legitimately great matches in both New York and Philadelphia, but obviously everything was building towards their showdown at Shea Stadium in August. Patera took over as Intercontinental Champion in April after defeating Patterson and solidified himself as a WWF workhorse at this time, regularly showing up on TV and every MSG and Spectrum show they ran throughout the summer, which culminated in an excellent match (even if I didn’t see it as an all time classic) with Backlund at the Garden. In terms of TV I would have to say that the MVP was probably Johnny Rodz of all people. For a JTTS, he has a clearly defined persona and consistently delivered the most engaging matches amongst a sea of uninspired squash matches, including a pretty solid bout with Patterson in late June. The standout moment however was either Backlund shitting the bed in what might be the worst match of the year with El Olympico, or the surprisingly fantastic arm wrestling segment between Tony Atlas and Ken Patera. Backlund’s “exhibition” match with Olympico is surely a black mark against his whole year, and probably his career, because I can’t think of many great wrestlers who put together something so unbelievably trash. It really has to be seen to be believed. The Atlas/Patera arm wrestling match though was fantastic. Everything about how they executed this was perfect. Atlas was invested, Patera played his role superbly, even Vince on commentary added a whole bunch to the proceedings and it is an excellent way to transition into their Shea Stadium match down the road. Just check it out (WWF Championship Wrestling 1980-6-28).

Portland
Portland was going pretty strong throughout this period. Rose was still milking the mask angle, teasing it out bit by bit as the months rolled along. Martel managed to capture his Heavyweight Title during this time, solidifying him as the top babyface in-ring, while Piper remains an absolute star on the mic. The main feud however is still Rose’s Army vs Piper and Martel, and while it’s difficult to maintain heat when you’re just rotating the same five guys, they have done a pretty decent job here to ensure that things stay somewhat fresh. But I will admit I was happy to see them pivot with The Sheepherder’s turn - at least from a story standpoint. In terms of work I think the Sheepherders were far worse as faces than as heels.
Overall Martel was great in the ring, but I think he still had some ways to go to fully realise his potential. He didn’t really contribute anything on the mic either, so relied heavily on his association with Piper. Rose continued to be a little shit stirrer and he backed it up with what I think were very good in-ring performances, even if I haven’t seen any all-time stuff as of yet. Sheepherder matches always seem to have some kind of ceiling, but at least they aren’t afraid to bleed, which appears to be pretty common across all of the Portland footage, so at least they had that going for them.

Japan
There’s almost nothing of note with AJW, so not much to sink my teeth into really. Mami Kumano’s stock continued to rise with me after her excellent match with Kayama in April but that was about it.

AJPW started really strongly with the conclusion to the Champions’ Carnival and Jumbo and Dick Slater delivered a very good final match. Terry Funk however was the star man, delivering excellent performance after excellent performance against basically everybody he went up against. In fact I don’t think I’ve even seen a middling Terry performance in 1980 so far. The highlight was definitely him and Slater vs Jumbo and Baba in early May which I was absurdly high on and has no current comments in its thread. I believe All Japan went on a tour of the US at some point after this, which would explain the complete lack of footage from May onwards, as Jumbo and Baba pop up in the AWA in late June.

New Japan, sort of by virtue of having the most footage, laid claim to promotion of Q2. They, like All Japan, had their annual tournament and despite having an obvious outcome (Inoki victory), had participants ranging from a young, plucky Riki Choshu, to Hogan, Andre and Backlund from WWF, to Dusty Rhodes, junior star Fujinami and of course Stan Hansen. The final itself was excellent with Inoki and Fujinami putting on a MOTYC. In addition to this they began April with IWE stars crossing over, including Inoue, Teranishi, and Ashura Hara, with the latter delivering his own classic match with Fujinami. The Lucha influence within New Japan was also far more entertaining than what All Japan had to offer, as Gran Hamada, Babyface and Chavo Guerrero were a far better option to the Mil Mascaras types All Japan were trotting out. In fact, All Japan’s reliance on “monster” acts, for lack of a better term, like Sheik and Abby, provided far less appeal to me on a match to match basis than the imported talent that New Japan were able to bring in.

World of Sport
I’ll briefly touch on WoS, as they essentially continued in the same vein as they began the year. Jim Breaks’ excellent run against Young David bled into a feud with a man on the other end of the age spectrum in Al Dennison and I really wish they had found someone else to pair Breaks with as this felt like a waste of his talent. John Quinn scored an upset victory over Wayne Bridges (again not the football player) at Wembley for the Heavyweight Title and continued his strong showing on this side of the Atlantic. The breakthrough act (at least in terms of my viewing) was Marc Rocco. He didn’t pop up at all before April but went 2 for 2, delivering what were in my view 4 star matches both times he made tape.

Final thoughts
I only brought myself to watch Houston three times throughout Q2, all three involved Gino Hernandez, and all three were disappointing. Not always Gino’s fault, but I do think he was being asked to carry too much as champion at this point. 

The most Mid Atlantic I’ve been able to watch so far has amusingly all been from Toronto. Steamboat and Youngblood have popped up enough to demonstrate their strong claim to be the best tag team of the year and it’s incredibly unfortunate that while we are able to see someone like Roddy Piper thrive in what should be relative obscurity in Portland, we have hardly anything from Flair from this time.

Tony Atlas was my vote for the most random multi-promotional push of Q1. For Q2, that surely had to be Mark Lewin. He showed up first in Houston, bizarrely as a face, but then in what I believe is his main character, he was being heavily pushed on TV in both SECW and Georgia (and who knows where else) as a maniac, true to his moniker, and backed by the “shady” Mephisto. Lewin’s gimmick doesn’t have much traction with me and I’m very down on his in-ring work, so I’ll be happy if his pushes subside by Q3.

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July 1980

Date: 1980-07 (Month Only)
Promotion: AJW
Match: Jackie Sato vs Mami Kumano 
Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Rating: ★★

This was an excellent performance from Jackie Sato. Easily the best she’s looked all year. Kumano as well gave a fine heel performance, however this match overall was dragged down by everything surrounding it.
The ring was surrounded by a number of other wrestlers, including Monster Ripper, Kumano’s partner Ikeshita and Tomi Aoyama, a key babyface in the company. The heel wrestlers seemed to have carte blanche to do basically whatever they liked at any time. The second fall finished with Monster Ripper hauling Jackie into a Fireman’s Carry and then lugging her around the outside of the ring while the referee counted her out. Kumano had a long stretch where she was using a small screwdriver as a weapon. There was an attempt to conceal this weapon for the most part but in the end the referee got a bit too nosey for his own good and ended up getting a swift jab in the throat from it. How is a referee supposed to work under these conditions? Is he just supposed to continue like that never happened? He should have called his union. Anyway, if he’s got no authority to enforce any of the rules then what’s the point of having them, or having a referee for that matter? Why should I care about a rope break during a submission if there’s really no reason for anybody to release the hold? Why should we even have the match if a group of wrestlers can just haul one competitor outside the ring and contain them there to be counted out. Just feels a bit wishy-washy to me and it denigrates the whole match.
Ultimately if this booking strategy was to make Jackie look like a superhero, overcoming insurmountable odds, then to a certain extent it was a success. The non-heel wrestlers on the outside were next to useless in preventing her from getting gang attacked and she managed to pull out the victory anyway. The stretches she had on offense were intense and impactful and she pulled out a wide variety of throws that just looked great. Kumano spent a great deal of time annihilating her with the screwdriver and she sold the shit out of it, especially when she got hit in the hand. Later on when they targeted her bandaged leg she sold the shit out of that as well. There were men in the crowd who were so incensed with the heel antics that they actually tried to get involved and there were small girls crying, so clearly the crowd were having a strong visceral reaction to the action in and around the ring, but for me as a viewer, I wish that they could establish the boundaries a bit more and then heels doing heel things would feel a bit more meaningful.

Date: 1980-07 (Month Only)
Promotion: AJW
Match: Monster Ripper & Yumi Ikeshita vs Rimi Yokota & Ayumi Hori 
Best Two Out Of Three Falls Tag Team Match
Rating: ★

Not much meat on the bones here as the team of Monster Ripper and Ikeshita pretty much dominated. Yokota and Hori had a few hope spots, notably getting a double figure four locked on, but ultimately they succumbed in two straight falls. Yokota was nimble on her feet and caused a bit of trouble here and there, but her team were no match for the sheer mass of Monster Ripper and Ikeshita was not above using tin cans and buckets as weapons to brutalise her opponents. This was pretty one note and wasn’t a good showcase for Yokota and particularly Hori, who was essentially a non-factor, but the heel team came out of it looking very strong which probably was the intention. 

Date: 1980-07 (Month Only)
Promotion: AJW
Match: Jackie Sato, Lucy Kayama & Nancy Kumi vs Mami Kumano, Yumi Ikeshita & Leilani Kai
Best Two Out Of Three Falls Six Woman Tag Team Match
Rating: ★★

There was a bit too much clipping throughout which obscured the flow of the match and seemed to occur whenever there was a major change in momentum. 
The Black Pair are great at overwhelming their opponents with bully tactics and creating chaos at multiple locations simultaneously, causing the referee to miss things like tags on a regular basis. Early on they swarmed Kayama and Kumi and they needed Jackie to come in and clean house, which she did impressively with a series of thudding big boots.
So far in July Jackie has looked significantly better than earlier in the year and that continued here. Her offense had some real snap and it looked like she was driving her opponents through the mat with some of her throw variations.
Lucy Kayama played FIP for the whole of the second fall and the beginning of the third and she was excellent here too, the whip with which she took her opponent’s offense made it look fantastic and when given the opportunity she managed to pull out a few of her beautiful neckbreakers. 
Leilani Kai was big and brutish and her splash attempts are a spectacle to be sure. When she tried a second and whiffed, she didn’t recoil to protect herself at all and really took that bump full on which was seriously impressive to see. The match structure felt a little too haphazard to really play up the strengths of the Black Pair so their heeling felt diminished due to this and it never felt like they ever actually had any of their opponents in a really bad spot to play up the threat, but that could have been due to the clipping.
Fun little match littered with good performances, but definitely ended up being less than the sum of its parts.

Date: 1980-07-02
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Johnny Mantell
Rating: ★★
Link

Pretty short match but my first glimpse of Fujiwara at this point. I would describe both men's approach as measured and things never got out of second gear. They started by struggling over a series of basic holds and Fujiwara consistently would go back to the arm to control Mantell on the mat. Every once in a while Fujiwara would uncork a disgustingly violent punch which looked awesome and this was the trigger for Mantell to get out of his comfort zone and up the ante as well and he dished out some pretty neat looking punches of his own. In the end Fujiwara got caught by Mantell who levelled him with a really dangerous piledriver variation. I mean, Fujiwara landed right on his head with seemingly no cushioning at all. And that was all she wrote.

Date: 1980-07-04
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Riki Choshu vs Umanosuke Ueda
Rating: N/A
Link

Ueda doesn’t look to be more than your generic brawler type. He broke out everyone’s favourite move, the Nerve Hold, but Choshu bumped hard for his strikes and had enough zip on his own to make this watchable. They tumbled to the outside after 5 mins or so and Ueda grabbed the chair. After a chair shot or two on Choshu he wrestled with the referee for a moment over the chair before sending him flying and we got the DQ finish, then a flock of other referees hit the ring to contain him and prevent him from beating on Choshu any more.

Date: 1980-07-05
Promotion: PNW
Match: Buddy Rose & Ed Wiskoski vs. Butch Miller & Luke Williams 
Best Two Out Of Three Falls Tag Team Match
Rating: ★★
Link

Looks like Rip Rogers was the unfortunate soul who got kicked out of town during a recent elimination tag match between this group, so Rose’s Army is currently just Rose & Wiskoski.
The first two falls built around Williams playing FIP and Miller constantly being away from his corner to make the hot tag. This was either because he was distracted, but mostly due to getting attacked from both inside and outside the ring. These kinds of spots can sometimes be a bit hokey and there’s no real reason for the partner to miss the tag, but here it felt far more natural and it held up the match psychology they were going for.
In the first fall Williams was finally able to get to Miller and his hot tag was pretty good. After a brief flurry of action he took Wiskowski down and got the first fall. In the second however they were able to isolate Williams and he was never able to get free with Rose eventually running interference and wiping out Miller, allowing Wiskoski to hit a brutal diving headbutt off the top for a well earned equalising fall.
In the third things could have gone either way until Wiskoski had enough and brought a chair into the action and got himself disqualified. Didn’t love the finish, if you’re happy to lose via DQ then why not get the chair at the beginning of the match? It didn’t feel like he was driven by desperation or his team was about to lose, it kind of just happened. The post match beat down on Miller however was very intense to the point that one fan even got involved with Rose, so that made up for the weak finish to some extent.
This was my first look at Wiskoski in the ring and his headbutt was great, but he fell a bit flat in other areas. His selling and bumping in particular were far too cartoony I thought but he seems composed on the mic and he and Rose are an interesting pair going forwards.

Date: 1980-07-10
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Riki Choshu vs Bret Hart
Rating: ★★★
Link

This was very surprising. For a mere ten minute match this had some real grit and I thought that these two matched up extremely well. For such a deliberate, methodical worker like Bret, he did have some quite extreme bumps, especially when they came in the corners. These two worked it pretty even for the first couple minutes, exchanging some snappy hip tosses before they let loose a bit and we just had them punching each other for a good five minutes. Slowly Choshu gained more and more control and it was slipping away from Bret. Choshu started pulling out the big guns, starting with a Butterfly Suplex, leading to a great looking Brainbuster and finally he latched on the Scorpion Deathlock for the inevitable win. Really fun match for the allotted time and both these two look very good already despite being so early in their careers.

Date: 1980-07-10
Promotion: AWA
Match: Nick Bockwinkel vs Dino Bravo
AWA World Heavyweight Title Match
Rating: ★★★
Link

AWA hasn’t really delivered so far this year but this was really great stuff. Initially Bockwinkel had control with a series of side headlock takedowns and he did a fantastic job at grinding on Dino’s head. Then the general timing of Dino’s escape attempts and reverts back into the hold kept things ticking along nicely. When it was time for the momentum swing Dino went for the leg. His leg sweep takedowns were consistently clumsy looking but Dino was single minded in his focus on the leg and Bockwinkel sold the hell out of it. He attempted a comeback of his own and ended up going knee first into the turnbuckle and Dino had no hesitation and went right back to that leg for spinning toe holds, a single leg boston crab and even a figure four. Whenever Bockwinkel had the chance to get to his feet he was limping around like crazy and that leg just looked incredibly vulnerable. Bravo, in terms of match psychology, did all the correct things but those little extras that raised everything up all came from Bockwinkel and he gave a masterful performance.
This had the feeling of a nice slow burn and they were building to a great finale before we had just a terrible finish. Bravo got dumped to the outside and then came back firing. We had a number of near falls before the final three count by the referee BUT Bockwinkel’s leg was on the rope. Bravo thought he’d won the belt and grabbed it from Okerlund before heading to the back. The referee immediately realises his mistake and gestures for the match to continue, Okerlund on the house microphone calls Dino to return but he no shows and finally the referee is forced to count him out and Bockwinkel gets the win. Winning a match because your opponent didn’t realise the match was still ongoing is the definition of cheap, and no matter how good the match was up until that point I can’t help but have a bad taste in my mouth with that finish.

Date: 1980-07-12
Promotion: PNW
Match: Rick Martel vs Ed Wiskoski
NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Title Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Rating: ★★★
Link

Ed got to stretch his legs here with a singles title match. They worked this around Wiskoski retaining control around a front facelock hold. Martel repeatedly hit offensive moves but Wiskoski would keep that hold locked on. Eventually Martel managed a second big suplex to dislodge himself from Wiskoski’s grasp. They built to that relatively simple spot so well that it had much more impact than it should have had. Martel took control and started the beatdown on Wiskoski. His selling was still goofy, especially when he was holding his back, but I’m coming around to his bumping style, at least here it felt effective. Martel was going for the kill but got caught in a side headlock which Wiskoski reversed into a backdrop suplex setting up his diving headbutt for the first fall. I’ll repeat that his diving headbutt looks really good and feels like it’s worth being a no doubt fall ender every time.
Martel really went after the back in the second fall, which definitely carried an air of desperation as he was in a 1-0 hole. Often it can feel like a given that the face will make that comeback, but Wiskoski did such a good job here that I felt like he came across really strong and as a pretty legitimate challenger. Every time Martel lost some of that control you feared it could be the end for him but after a few near falls he pulled out a beautiful Hurricanrana into a pin to level things up.
Conspicuously Rose had been in the dressing room the entire time and hadn’t made an appearance so if we were going to have a screwy finish you would have assumed he’d turn up, but here it was all Ed. Yes, Martel wasn’t able to get the clean pin on him, but I thought as far as cheating goes, this was a really good example of how to try it. Martel was on the offensive with a series of dropkicks and Wiskoski surreptitiously dragged Sandy Barr into the line of fire on one attempt, sending him sprawling to the mat. In the confusion he was able to lay out Martel and it appeared that he would have had him for the pin. Unfortunately Barr was privy to Ed’s tactics and disqualified him for the pull. Wiskoski didn’t get away with it but it conceivably could have worked. Cheaters are gonna cheat, but at least be sneaky with it and I felt that this was justifiable.

Date: 1980-07-13
Promotion: IWE
Match: Mighty Inoue & Animal Hamaguchi vs Spike Huber & Rocker Brewer
Rating: ★★
Link

IWE is starting to feel like a travelling circus. The team of Huber and Brewer are hard to describe. Rocky Brewer’s hair made him look like he was auditioning for the role of Simba in the Lion King Broadway show. It was cut terribly and had an awful yellowish tinge to it. His work wasn’t offensive but he did nothing for me. Huber on the other hand had a good look. He was well built and looked like any number of generic white meat babyface types that got strong pushes in the US throughout the 80s. However, I hated everything that he did in the ring. His facial expressions, his selling, his offense, how he moved around the ring. Just hated it. These two really dragged the match down for me.
On a more positive note, I thought that this was an excellent Mighty Inoue match. He’s consistently been a bright spot in every match he’s appeared in so far and I feel like I should seek him out more. I absolutely love his offense. The rolling senton he does is great and at one point he hit a dropkick and then seemingly ended up turning it into some kind of backlip, as if hitting the kick gave him extra propulsion and nearly sent him the full 360. For someone with his portly build, seeing him hit some of these moves is a sight to see.
Unfortunately this also had a dogshit finish with Inoue looking to hit a suplex over the ring apron but with the referee distracted Gypsy Joe came out of nowhere and levelled him with a long wooden plank. Cheap win for the foreign team and a real downer. If this wasn’t for Inoue I would have despised this so much.

Date: 1980-07-14
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: John Quinn & Giant Haystacks vs Pete Roberts & Johnny Wilson
Rating: ★★

This was a competitive squash. Neither Roberts nor Wilson had any real joy against Haystacks and while they teased gaining the advantage against Quinn at points he never was in any real trouble. 
Quinn and Haystacks isolated Wilson and the first fall in the first round had Haystacks splat him with a splash. He spent the remainder of the match recovering outside of the ring, leaving Roberts to fend for himself. 
Roberts showed off a lot more Judo offense here, probably because this was never going to be a match of exchanging wrestling holds really. Either way there were a lot more chops being thrown by him. Didn’t help him much as Quinn quickly dispatched him for the straight fall victory
Former heavyweight champion Wayne Bridges emerged after the bell to challenge Quinn to a rematch which Quinn ignored. Simple match but was entertaining enough.

Date: 1980-07-14
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Al Dennison vs Jim Breaks
British Welterweight Title Match
Rating: ★★

Dennison is the champion here after a title change back in June that wasn’t televised. We get the whole 12 rounds of this in their entirety.
The first half was almost exclusively worked around Breaks trying holds and Dennison using his “extraordinary” strength to negate this tactic. This worked by either powering out of a hold Breaks had applied or by simply refusing to allow them to be administered in the first place. This I thought was extremely limiting as it made Dennison (a man clearly in his 50s at this point) look simply invulnerable. He didn’t really have any other aspects of his work to make up for it either as when he was asked to generally sell a move he was poor at that and when he was actually on offense, his working of holds was very basic.
Finally in the 10th round, after already jumping ahead with a submission, Dennison took a tumble to the outside and appeared to have injured his left arm, the same arm that severely hampered him in May. Dennison actually was very good selling the injured arm there and he was equally as good here. Now that there was a clear weak point for Breaks to hone in on, the match sprung to life and the final 3 rounds or so were far stronger. 
Breaks I feel struggled to give an outstanding performance, but more due to the limitations within which he was confined. He had to work against the Strongman gimmick that Dennison was portraying and it involved a lot of standing around and selling Dennison overpowering him. He continued to sprinkle in little things like “accidentally” knocking Dennison with his boot or knee as he headed to his corner between rounds but Dennison’s offense just isn’t dynamic enough to warrant any significant selling and he in turn wasn’t able to go all out on the attack himself until the end.
This was pretty staid for 80% of the match before a good finishing run but Dennison dragged this down and especially considering this went the distance (it ended 1-1) I felt it was far too long for somebody of his calibre.

Date: 1980-07-14
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Terry Rudge vs Lenny Hurst
Rating: ★★

I think Terry Rudge was the last of the heavy hitters of World of Sport left for me to see and my first impression was that he looked like notorious British criminal Charles Bronson, or at least Tom Hardy’s version of him. 
It was billed as an “International” contest, which I read as an exhibition, but international due to Lenny Hurst being billed from Jamaica. I would say that this was a particularly measured match. Something I would have expected to see more in some grainy black and white footage from the 1930s. They leant, almost to the extreme, into the “wrestling” aspect. Lots of working the arms or the hands. Hurst for his part had a couple of excellent head scissor takedowns to gain his control.
Slowly things got a little bit more frayed and Rudge very occasionally would do something untoward. Hurst couldn't fight back the tide and Rudge got the first fall with a slam, then put on the afterburners and really laid things on heavy as we headed into the final rounds. Rudge grabbed Hurst’s arm and began pummeling him with forearms to the chest and every time Hurst fell to the mat he would cling onto that armhold, allowing him to legally lift him up and continue the beating. He couldn’t put him away in the penultimate round, but Hurst looked in really bad shape during the break, and Rudge continued with the same tactic in the final round as it seemed like we were marching towards the inevitable. I really liked this as it felt like a war of attrition that Rudge had comfortably won, but Hurst had a late flurry, was able to break free, knocked Rudge to the mat and then did an ass-backward cartwheel and some funky jumps before pinning his shoulders to the mat for the equaliser. So I went from really liking how the match was progressing towards the finish to hating the actual finish. Nothing against Hurst, but I thought his role as outmatched underdog heading to a loss was more compelling than the random babyface comeback out of nowhere that we actually got. The beating Rudge had put on him was so consistent and lasted so long that the comeback felt completely unearned, his offense during the actual comeback was easily the worst stuff he’d dished out all match and it didn’t feel like Rudge would have succumbed so easily. Disappointing. 

Date: 1980-07-15
Promotion: IWE
Match: Strong Kobayashi & Haruka Eigen vs Mighty Inoue & Animal Hamaguchi
IWA World Tag Team Title Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Rating: ★★
Link

The return match after Kobayashi and Eigen stole the titles in June. I’m embarrassed to say that it took me this long to realise the context of these matches, with Kobayashi and Eigen as a sort of invading force from NJPW. It was mentioned on commentary here and a quick background check on Cagematch backs this up as Kobayashi for example worked primarily in New Japan throughout 1980 and only popped up sporadically in IWE.
In terms of the match itself, the first fall was the longest, with both teams vying for control. The problem was that each tag that was made seemed to break up the flow. Somebody would be caught in an armbar or something and you think that there’s going to be a tag so they could double team and continue control, but they would break away just as the tag was being made and we would have to start fresh. Or the one in the hold would manage to tag and again we would get a reset. It really made it feel choppy and as if we weren’t really building towards anything. I guess you could say that Eigen and Kobayashi had the better of Hamaguchi and eventually they had beat down on him enough to get the first fall, but it wasn’t particularly earned in my view.
The second fall was all too brief, with Eigen receiving an Airplane Spin to get the quick equalising fall. Then in the third Kobayashi went for the chair and inadvertently plastered the referee with it. This might have been the best spot of the match and Kobayashi really swung with force and the referee took it like an absolute champ. You could see him tense his neck for impact and then gut through the pain before calling for the bell. Good on him.
Kobayashi and Eigen seemed to think they’d managed to escape with the belts, but the referee made the decision to switch them back to Inoue and Hamaguchi, again I’m not sure if this was a match stipulation or something the referee announced on the fly.
The match was watchable enough but completely forgettable. The match back in June with Teranishi instead of Hamaguchi was far better despite the even worse finish that had.

Date: 1980-07-16
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Kintaro Hoshino & Osamu Kido vs Bret Hart & Keith Hart
Rating: ★
Link

Wanted to watch some more of Hoshino and it was interesting to see him in contrast with his partner Kido. Every time Hoshino came into the ring he brought an extra colour, some added personality to the proceedings that Kido just didn’t. There wasn’t enough of Bret here as most of it was Keith being isolated by his opponents. He had some periods where he inexplicably no-sold or merely forgot to continue selling, which undercut a lot of Hoshino and Kido’s offense, but when Bret was in, his offense looked really crisp. There just wasn’t enough here to be anything more than a brief interlude as we ended up with a double countout after around 8 minutes.

Date: 1980-07-18
Promotion: AWA
Match: Nick Bockwinkel vs Verne Gagne
AWA World Heavyweight Title Match - Comiskey Park
Rating: ★★★
Link

Thought that this was excellent and only dragged down by the obvious clipping which lost us roughly a quarter of the match.
To start both men struggled over simple holds designed to wear their opponent down. Bockwinkel grabbed a standing arm hold and later on Verne countered with a surfboard. But both men did an excellent job, both when giving and receiving these holds, in adding little touches, like an extra tug or yank, to ramp up the leverage and keep things interesting. The fact that they made such simple moves compelling over a sustained duration is testament to these two.
Slowly Verne began to build momentum and take more control, sending Bockwinkel into the turnbuckles on two fantastic bumps and Bock resorted to ducking out the ring more than once to regain his composure. The final time he did this it appeared like he was merely playing possum and he wrenched Gagne to the mat and posted his left leg. Gagne’s selling here was spot on, as he took his time outside the ring, visibly steeling himself knowing that he had to re-enter the ring and continue, now less than 100%. Bockwinkel unsurprisingly targeted the leg immediately and continued this tactic to the end. 
Verne threw out a few flash pin attempts that a man in his 50s really shouldn’t be able to execute as well as he did and he hit one of my favourite moves, the bounce off the ropes into a forearm smash, that sent Bockwinkel for a loop. They were both able to get across the sheer impact on moves like this.
Despite the leg injury you could feel that Gagne was gaining momentum once again and I was waiting to see if Heenan would make an appearance, but even when Gagne locked on his sleeper hold he held back and Bockwinkel was lights out handing the championship back to the boss.
The story they delivered was simple but executed fantastically. Just wish that we hadn’t had the clipping but hey, can’t have it all.

Date: 1980-07-19
Promotion: PNW
Match: Roddy Piper vs Jesse Barr
Rating: ★
Link

Little undercard match to give Jesse Barr some spotlight. He’s the son of Portland referee Sandy Barr, probably why Dutch Mantell was refereeing this one. 
From an execution perspective, this was somewhat terrible, but narratively there was a lot to like here. Things started nice and calm, they tried out some technical wrestling, and Piper being the veteran here, probably had the upper hand. But as things progressed Barr got more and more offense in, a monkey flip twinged Piper’s knee and it seemed like this wasn’t going to be the breeze that Piper thought it would be. Despite being the hometown boy and the referee’s son, Piper was clearly the overwhelming fan favourite and it was Barr who was the one to up the aggression levels. 
A fight over a headscissors saw them tumble to the floor, where I think Barr picked up an incidental cut on the back of his head, and after Piper checked on him and went to re-enter the ring Barr just blindsided him to try and take advantage. Ultimately his tactic didn’t take him to victory but this was definitely not a clear cut victory for Piper and most likely was set up as a way to raise Barr’s estimation in the fan’s eyes.
I liked some of the narrative twists, and Piper was incredibly giving here, but I think they went a bit too far. After Barr pushed the limits, and especially after being attacked on the outside, the notoriously fiery Piper should have laid the smackdown and finished things off right then. Instead we got some more 50/50 stuff before a pretty inconclusive roll up pin to finish. It wouldn’t have been so bad if Barr wasn’t evidently so green. His execution on moves was way off and I think it was obvious that Piper was leading him literally from spot to spot. His awkward facial expressions didn’t help either. 

Date: 1980-07-19
Promotion: PNW
Match: Buddy Rose, Ed Wiskoski & Fidel Cortez vs Butch Miller, Luke Williams & Jonathan Boyd
Best Two Out Of Three Falls Six Man Tag Team Match
Rating: ★★
Link

My first look at Boyd. He came out with a killer hat and jacket combo. Black with gold trim and a massive boomerang. That look must have gone down like gangbusters in 1980. Unfortunately when he took off the jacket and hat he looked like a crazy man from a trailer park who happened to own a singlet.
This was another example of the Sheepherders falling flat to me as faces. I appreciated that they kept some heelish elements to their work, indicating that just because they turned on Rose they weren’t suddenly completely different people, but they don’t inspire any real emotion or energy in me when they wrestle. In fact it was Boyd who looked the best on their team, as he at least had some oomph to his attacks.
The best part was Rose bouncing around like a maniac for Boyd in the second fall and the heels generally being vicious on the outside when opportunities arose and I thought that the mask switch at the end between Rose and Wiskoski to steal the final fall was an interesting twist.
Ultimately though there were too many nerve holds and claws from both Cortez, Wiskoski, and even Rose. Slow pace. The in-ring work was generic, had a slow pace and nothing really stood out. 

Date: 1980-07-25
Promotion: IWE
Match: Animal Hamaguchi & Mighty Inoue (c) vs Rocky Brewer & Spike Huber 
IWA World Tag Team Title Cage Match
Rating: ★
Link

I was willing to give Spike Huber another shot, and in a cage no less! But he was probably even worse here than he was last time. I don’t think he delivered one move that didn’t look like absolute shit, he didn’t seem to have any real sense of timing but he was game to get thrown into the cage, so I’ll give him that.
I thought Hamaguchi and Inoue actually gave good performances here. Inoue tried really hard at the start to sell a beating, getting clobbered for around 10 minutes before he finally tagged in Hamaguchi. Hamaguchi throughout the whole match had the role of clearing house and these were by far the most enjoyable parts of the match. I thought Inoue’s selling was good, but he wasn’t working with much at all. 
I found it hilarious that every time Huber came in to break a pin up Hamaguchi would totally no-sell it, as if he had as much distaste for Spike as a wrestler as I have. 
All four guys eventually get colour, Rocky looked the best because the red clashed so magnificently with his orange perm.
I know Japanese fans are reserved, but it was eerily quiet for the most part, only bumping up a few notches nearer to the finish. But for a cage match and the main event of a show I would have expected far more.
In this particular case, the cage I probably wasn’t a means for excessive brawling, but more of a way to keep Gypsy Joe on the outside. BUT he turned up a third of the way in anyway and merely handed a 2x4 through the metal links. They then hid that 2x4, during a no-DQ cage match(!) and Brewer, after using it to choke Inoue briefly, managed to drop it between the cage and the apron to the outside like a doofus and they couldn’t use it again for the whole match.
I liked the champions but they were really working against the tide here. Good Lord.

Date: 1980-07-26
Promotion: PNW
Match: Roddy Piper vs Jonathan Boyd
Rating: ★★★
Link

Face vs face matchup, which can be hard to do, but they pulled it off really well. Boyd took the more heelish approach, pushing the boundaries of the rules more, so in the end it wasn’t too straight laced. Early on they went for the standard hold exchanges but slowly it got more chippy and both Boyd and Piper got heated.
Boyd really impressed me here. Much more than he did in the six man tag partnering with the Sheepherders. Both he and Piper were very giving in their selling and when delivering offense it looked really good. Boyd had a nice looking punch and a certain bounce around the ring that made his movements feel dynamic. Plus he sprinkled in little things like kicking out into Piper’s face while they were tangled up on the mat, or showing off after escaping a head scissors that I enjoyed.
Piper had a bad back coming into this, and apart from a Bear Hug spot they didn’t touch on this really, so perhaps they could have played that up more. But otherwise I can’t really find any faults. I think it was probably clear that we were heading towards the time limit draw, but both guys were really going for it, and unlike those situations where you can tell they’re playing up the drama of reaching the time limit, here it just felt like two guys fighting and the bell just happened to go and they had a lot more in the tank.

Date: 1980-07-26
Promotion: WWF
Match: Larry Zbyszko vs Ivan Putski
Rating: ★★★
Link

Little over five minutes in total but absolute non-stop action. Putski was a madman here. He looked coked off his tits before the match even began. Even before Larry had even made his way to the ring. And once the match did get underway he went full steam at Larry and just battered him for 3-4 minutes. He was a complete powerhouse and his stuff looked like it was killing Larry. 
This certainly was a match where the commentary added value. These are the usual duo for the Spectrum shows at this time but I’m not sure either man knows much about wrestling at all, but I found that endearing here and they put over Putski big time.
Larry unhooked the corner turnbuckle pad and lured Putski in. He brained him 4-5 times to gain some measure of control, or so he thought, but Putski fired back and Larry had to bail. Putski did a crazy gorilla style chest thumping thing before chasing Larry around on the floor and grabbed him in a bear hug through the ropes. He wouldn’t relinquish and Dick Woehrle had to call Putski for the DQ. With Larry going into his match with Bruno and Putski being notorious for not eating pins, this match couldn’t really have finished any other way but they seriously delivered for something that looks like a throwaway match on paper. Larry got a slimy win and riled the crowd up before his showdown with Bruno and Putski looked like a killer in there to leave the crowd happy.

Date: 1980-07-26
Promotion: WWF
Match: Bob Backlund (c) vs Ken Patera
WWF Heavyweight Title Title Match (Special Referee: Gorilla Monsoon)
Rating: ★★
Link

Much like their Texas Death match at MSG, there was no pretence of scientific wrestling here. Bob was eager to get going and Patera wasn’t even able to get his trousers off before he was being thrown to the ground and punched in the face.
The match itself was a by-the-numbers Backlund vs Patera match. They hit the right beats and did the usual moves, which is good, but nothing here was particularly special or memorable. What was interesting however was Monsoon’s involvement. The track record of special guest referees is not good but here Monsoon equipped himself very well. He definitely wasn’t shy of getting involved, but he didn’t overstep any boundaries and his general size allowed him to wade in and break up things that other referees usually can’t. He also pushed the pace of the match along as well, doing things like dragging Patera back into the centre of the ring instead of allowing him to languish on the apron. 
Overall I just didn’t think that the amount of offense Backlund dished out warranted the extent that Patera was selling. If he was going overboard selling a body part I might be more forgiving but he was doing the generic exhausted sell-job, and I don’t think Backlund had done enough to warrant that response. Then the finish was a bit confusing. I guess Patera just didn’t see a path to victory so chose an alternative route than being pinned, but he grabbed a mic stand from ringside and clobbered Monsoon in the head with it for the no-doubt DQ. It sets up some issues between Patera and Monsoon, so perhaps there’s a match there upcoming, but choosing to lose so obviously feels a bit dubious to me and definitely not satisfying.
Generally a good-ish match, with a solid referee performance, but both men have done better this year by a long way.

Date: 1980-07-26
Promotion: WWF
Match: Andre the Giant vs Hulk Hogan
Rating: ★★
Link

Really fascinating interview with Andre before the match. They talked about his diet, travel schedule, exercise routine (or lack thereof), and his opinion of the wrestlers over in Japan. Watching late 80s WWF they put over Andre as this unbeatable entity, the Eighth Wonder of the World etc., but he’s often in comedy matches and clearly not at his peak. I didn’t watch it in real time so I knew that it wasn’t long before he started using a walking aide and of course passed away. So these kinds of emphasis always went a bit over my head. But going back through the footage and seeing how different territories presented him on a month by month basis has given me a far greater appreciation for him. Increasingly he does come across as this unique entity. Occasionally his offense looks more Giant Baba than Stan Hansen, but the promotions, and Andre himself, do an excellent job of conveying his raw power, the struggle any wrestler in the world would have with even trying to compete with him, and ultimately, the futility in even trying to gain a victory over him. And it doesn’t come across like a shill either. Looking at Andre in context it’s self evident, of course he would be this unbeaten legend, he’s MASSIVE!
Anyway, to the match. I thought that Andre and Hogan worked this excellently. They had a brief staredown to start. We know Hogan’s a huge guy, but seeing Andre tower over him in both height and stature really is a spectacular visual. The work is simple but effective. In contrast to the Backlund/Patera title match, where Monsoon always looked like he had things under control, it never seemed like Dick Woehrle would be able to control these two behemoths. Andre controlled for the most part, but Hogan managed to get the transition with some nice stiff kicks to the gut and it felt organic. He couldn’t contain Andre for long though and seeing that he was going to be on the receiving end of a corner splash, he pulled Dick into the line of fire.
After some deliberation it was announced that Hogan was DQ’d. He’s aghast, but I’m not exactly sure why. As things were building towards the Shea Stadium show it made sense that they would do a DQ finish here, but I wasn’t crazy about this ending. It was blatantly obvious that Hogan pulled the referee, so I can only assume he hoped that it would be Andre who would be DQ’d for attacking the referee. But it was too obvious and left the finish a bit flat. Otherwise I actually would have liked maybe 3-4 more minutes on this, as I think they still had a ways to go before they needed to transition to the finish and the match was ticking along nicely. If it had a better finish and was a tad longer this really could have been something intriguing.

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August 1980

Date: 1980-08-XX
Promotion: AJW
Match: Yumi Ikeshita vs Rimi Yokota
Rating: ★★★

Firstly, these shows surely had one of the coolest ring mats of all time. It was dark blue with a vibrant flower design and what I think were palm tree leaves in the corner. Very striking indeed. I may be mistaken but all these matches came from their Guam tour of late August.
Ikeshita is the current All-Pacific champion coming in, but I’m pretty sure that this was a non-title match. I felt that they told a really compelling story here. Yokota is improving month on month but Ikeshita is willing to stoop low and do what it takes to win, plus she had the numbers advantage with Masami roaming on the outside and willing to interfere when it mattered. Yokota brought it to Ikeshita to start but a few cheap shots gave control to Ikeshita and she started working at grinding Yokota down.
Yokota had a moment where she ducked a lazy punch and countered with an Abdominal Stretch, and for a minute or so she had swung the momentum, but it was clear that unless she was willing to fight fire with fire she was going to come off worse. Ikeshita began focusing on the leg very intently, locking in a figure four and then a series of other leg holds. She benefited from Masami knocking Yokota’s hands away from the ropes and some incredibly lenient AJW refereeing, and was able to keep up the attacks on the leg for a considerable portion of the match.
Sometimes the outside interference works against these AJW matches, but here the involvement of Masami worked really well. She didn’t do too much and it felt like Ikeshita was maintaining the advantage mostly on her own merit, and especially during the home stretch, it was only in the desperate moments did Masami really interfere. 
The turning point was actually Ikeshita introducing a foreign object into the fray. This seemed to be the catalyst Yokota needed to dig deep and something snapped within her. She fought back, got hold of the object herself and then laid waste to Ikeshita, Masami and even the referee (at least the leniency went both ways). Finally Yokota was upping the aggression and doing what she needed to overcome her opponent and things were far more 50/50 as things rolled towards the finish. 
Once the countdown began it was clear we were heading for a draw, but the way they worked this I thought was perfect considering the finish here. Yokota, just within this match, grew a lot and changed her approach when required and Ikeshita still came off as a badass but clearly she knew that this was a close call by the end.
Sometimes it definitely goes overboard, but the weak referees and the constant numbers advantage the heels have in the promotion does stack the odds against the faces, but when they execute well and the face is able to succeed, it does deliver in a unique way, so I think that’s something to look out for in AJW’s booking approach moving forwards.

Date: 1980-08-XX
Promotion: AJW
Match: Lucy Kayama vs Wendy Richter
Rating: ★★

Pretty sure there was some clipping in this match and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re missing about a ⅓ of the action.
This was at its best when Kayama was ragdolling for Richter’s offense. I’ve probably seen Richter before, but it would have been many a moon ago, but here, as a young 19 year old no less, she looked pretty good. Her offense had some real snap and grit to it, which was a perfect combo for the more lightweight Kayama. 
The problems arose when Kayama tried to get on offense. The matchup between the two highlighted the size difference, and it was clear that Kayama wasn’t going to make any inroads trying to match up on power. However, I didn’t think she really did anything that varied from her usual approach and it made everything she threw at Wendy look weak and inconsequential. Wendy certainly didn’t gobble her up or anything, but the dominant finish, which saw Richter submit Kayama with a backbreaker hold, kind of felt like Kayama got buried. But I think the issue lay in Kayama’s offense rather than Wendy or the booking.

Date: 1980-08-XX
Promotion: AJW
Match: Lucy Kayama & Nancy Kumi (c) vs Leilani Kai & Wendy Richter
WWWA Tag Team Title Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Rating: ★★

This was a match that had a few bright spots and then was weighed down by some substantial flaws. If I start with the positives, Wendy Richter again looked impressive. After watching Monster Ripper do her beast-mode impression, I find it hard to believe that Richter couldn’t have been put in that exact spot and done a far better job. Yes, her selling and bumping isn’t quite there yet, but when she’s in control she looks great and I think her feel for when and how to do heel “stuff” hits that sweet spot you want, which is impressive for someone so young. In contrast, Leilani Kai’s general facial expressions and actions are just too over the top. Secondly, Lucy Kayama at points can show some extreme babyface fire which I love, but again, up against these two much bigger girls she feels way too slight to hold her own. I like her offense in general, but it works far better against somebody closer to her side. She was FIP for large portions of this, and really instead of generating sympathy, it made me feel more like she was the weak link of her team.
Kai and Kumi felt more like periphery figures. Kai was decent enough, but the aforementioned goofy stuff she did I wasn’t a fan of and she didn’t bring anything particularly great to the table from a technical standpoint either. Kumi had moments that I liked, and her hot tags had some oomph, but too often she ends up getting shunted to the background in these tag matches when I think she’s able to grab more of the spotlight.
They really spluttered to the finish as there was some bollocks with the referee. At one point he grabbed Kumi in a Full Nelson, allowing Kai to get a free shot (which she missed and clocked him instead). So he suddenly was a heel referee? Well there wasn’t any sign of that at any point earlier in the match, so I found that incredibly confusing. Kai & Richter began arguing with him persistently for the next few minutes as the action continued, and he went back to refereeing in a more neutral manner, then things went off the rails entirely as they disagreed with a call he made and decided to just lay him out. One ring posting later and he was covered in blood and calling for the DQ. Pretty shitty finish to be honest that just made no sense to me at all.
One shout out to the crowd. It was fun seeing such a non-smarky crowd. Just like in the previous Kayama v Richter match, they really cheered for the faces and booed the heels which created a really fantastic atmosphere.

Date: 1980-08-XX
Promotion: AJW
Match: Nancy Kumi & Jackie Sato vs Leilani Kai & Mami Kumano
Rating: ★★

So similar to the previous match in terms of how they approached things. Kumano subbed in for Richter, which felt pretty much like for like, even if Kumano wasn’t quite the physical presence that Richter was, and I guess Jackie was a bit of an upgrade on Kayama. But again, stylistically very similar. 
Consistently we don’t get any opening shine sequences in these tag matches and the heels just gain the advantage and beat down on the faces from the get go. Here was another example when they went overboard with the heel outside interference and getting the numbers advantage. They came into the ring punitively and without consequence so it begs the question, why bother ever staying outside the ring if you can just gang up on the two faces knowing that the others at ringside will stand by and do nothing and the referee is basically a counting mannequin?
Kumano once again was so fun to watch. She injected a viciousness to all of her actions and she has impeccable timing on her forays into the ring from the apron to break up pins or prevent her opponents from gaining any advantage.
Jackie, when she decided to go on a run, has enough “stuff” that she can really put together some impressive sequences - the finishing stretch in the 3rd fall being one of them. However overall this match was marred by being overzealous with the outside interference, which ruined things a bit. The crowd again were so fun as they popped for everything with a childlike wonder. 

Date: 1980-08-XX
Promotion: AJW
Match: Devil Masami vs Chino Sato
Rating: ★

This was disappointing. I was hoping a straight singles match with Masami would deliver something good, as she strikes the most interesting figure while at ringside, but this was a lot of nothing. There wasn’t anything obviously bad, but this essentially was just 10 minutes of stuff happening before Masami hit a random suplex and got the pin.
They worked this by far the most “straight” out of all the Guam matches I’ve seen so far and the crowd clearly were less into it as they weren’t clear on who they should be cheering or booing. They also didn’t weave an interesting narrative either. I couldn’t tell if there was any story here. They didn’t focus on any limbs, Sato didn’t work to overcome a more formidable foe. It was just a series of moves before a finish that kind of came out of nowhere. Very boring and very skippable.

Date: 1980-08-02
Promotion: PNW
Match: Buddy Rose & Ed Wiskoski vs. Rick Martel & Roddy Piper
NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Title Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match (vacant)
Rating: ★★★
Link

With the Sheepherders leaving the territory the belts were held up and after a tag team tournament the final two teams were these two (at least they said there was a tournament. Match listings don’t indicate anything of the sort.). 
The first fall was all about keeping Piper isolated. They did a great job of teasing the hot tag with Wiskoski holding Piper in a body scissors and Piper inching his way across the mat towards Martel. Again and again Rose and Wiskoski were able to thwart these attempts until the last when Martel came in molten, unloaded on Rose and Big Ed, and finished Rose off with a Hurricanrana into a pin.
They started the second fall as a mirror image of the first. This time Piper and Martel isolated Rose and consistently got him in a side headlock with a variety of interesting takedowns to maintain control. An overzealous dropkick attempt by Martel however changed the tide and Wiskoski and Rose really honed in on the back and relentlessly wore Martel down. A particularly devastating looking backbreaker put him away to level things at one apiece.
The compromised Martel had to start the second and once again they built to a hot tag, this time with Piper flying out the gates with fury. This spilt out to the floor and all four men were counted out amidst a wild brawl.
Back up at the interview area, Don Owen announced that due to the no-decision, a rematch would be set for Tuesday. A no time limit, no DQ match with other wrestlers around the ring. When Rose went for Owen things absolutely erupted and again we had chaos with everybody beating down on everyone with Don Owen and Dutch Mantell in the middle. This perhaps was the best non-wrestling segment they’ve had in Portland all year. The wildness of this brawl was off the charts and felt organically unhinged.
For the match itself, I thought it had a very nice story but how they worked towards telling that story was a bit limited. I really enjoyed the focus on Martel’s back, but something like using a body scissors to tease the hot tag in the first for example, isn’t the most interesting visually, and there were a few things like this which give the match ceiling of sorts for me.

Date: 1980-08-05
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Johnny South vs Ringo Rigby
Rating: ★★★

South was sporting the most unfortunate combover and looked like somebody’s 45 year old librarian dad had just rocked up to the ring. While both men weren’t afraid of pushing the boundaries of the rules, South certainly had the edge in taking liberties. He repeatedly got in a cheap shot or an attack after the bell but without it feeling calculated like a Rocco, Breaks or McManus. 
This certainly was pretty excellent for about two rounds. Rigby showed off his quickness, and he certainly had the advantage, being the lighter man by a good 2 stone. Despite the weight disparity he was able to get the early lead and whenever he was in trouble would find some clever way to escape or turn the tides.
Things kind of lost their way in the middle part as the chippiness from both men increased but it felt more and more that Rigby faded. South was doing the right things but he didn’t have the force of personality to get it across to the crowd in the way I think he intended and they were unusually muted at times. But things never went completely off the rails to dampen the match too much.
The final round picked up as South increasingly went for broke to level things and Rigby had enough in the tank for a final flurry and a neat sequence at the end had him drill a few nice forearms before getting a diving rolling cradle for the 2-0 victory. 

Date: 1980-08-05
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Pat Roach vs Tony St Clair
Rating: ★★★

St Clair was the British Heavyweight Champion, but he was outweighed by the far larger Roach by nearly 5 stones. Despite this he was able to go toe to toe with the big man and the first few rounds were pretty scientific. They teased some more hard hitting spots, including a shoulder charge collision which they called back to repeatedly throughout, which gave the impression that St Clair wasn’t going to be steamrolled.
Eventually Roach looked like he was going to make some headway using his power as he sent St Clair into the turnbuckle with such force he almost disintegrated. A huge shoulder check and a second whip into the corner made it feel like a pin was inevitable, and it was, but it was St Clair, able to use Roach’s momentum against him, who rolled him up for the first fall of the match.
Things were nip and tuck over the next few rounds but St Clair pulled out some more power moves of his own, hitting a few European Uppercuts, and meeting a shoulder charge from Roach at its apex and nailing him in the face. It felt like a 2-0 victory was more certain than Roach levelling things up. It wasn’t to be however as they got tangled up in the ropes and St Clair ended up twisting his leg, having it caught between the bottom two ropes, and he was unable to continue, handing the win to Roach.
The finish was a bit of a wet blanket but Roach’s trainer, Dave Dynamite, carrying St Clair to the back like a little baby was quite amusing. These injury finishes are quite common in WoS, so they don’t feel too much of a let down as they are part of the fabric of the style. St Clair comes across as technically competent but I’ve found him pretty bland so far. His work doesn’t have enough flash to overcome his lack of charisma as well. Roach is a guy I increasingly wish they just booked like Brock Lesnar, or at least Big Daddy. He’s such a big guy and looks like he could legitimately smash his opponents into dust, but they are very restrained and I’m yearning to see him let off the lead a little and annihilate someone. Here he did some excellent timbeeeeeer selling of some St Clair dropkicks to the face that really put over the impact of the moves.

Date: 1980-08-06
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Tiger Gil Singh vs King Kong Kirk
Rating: ★

Lasted just two rounds, and definitely that was enough. King Kong Kirk is pretty portly, to put it mildly, and he has a penchant for nerve holds. Last time I saw Singh he was up against Pat Roach and put on an excellent display. This time however I think the odds were stacked against him with what he was given to work against. Kirk really was a perfect example of a immobile fat boy with no selling or bumping ability. Presumably his entire gimmick revolved around being a bit of a dick. Either way, by the time he was body slammed for the first fall I was ready for this match to end and mercifully he retaliated with a sneaky attack after the bell and the referee disqualified him straight away. Wahey! 

Date: 1980-08-06
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Jim Breaks vs Al Dennison
Rating: ★

This is the third matchup between these two and this, by far, had the most comedy with Breaks really hamming it up as he repeatedly ran into the brick wall that was Dennison. The fact that Dennison’s entire gimmick seems to revolve around no-selling is getting tired really fast. I didn’t particularly like him in the previous two matches, but here it felt even worse. Breaks was trying his best - the sell jobs he did on some of Dennison’s punches, sending gobs of spit flying on each strike, were pretty excellent, but he couldn’t get anything going because Dennison would always cut him off. Then the transitions that did occur were essentially nothing events, one would just need to reach out and grab the other’s head and that would be it. There was basically no struggle for holds.
This was a one fall match though, so Breaks playing possum with an injured knee allowed him to catch Dennison by surprise and steal the match and mercifully it was all over, still lasted a solid 20 minutes though.

Date: 1980-08-08
Promotion: Houston Wrestling 
Match: Chavo Guerrero vs Twin Devil #2
Rating: ★★
Link

Short and sweet. Chavo was impressive, coming out the gates with a nifty headscissor takedown. As the match wore on Twin Devil #1, hanging out at ringside, became enough of a nuisance that El Halcon had to come out to level the playing field. I didn’t think too much of either Twin Devil - they seemed pretty limited. However I loved the spot where they switched behind the referee’s back and he was none the wiser because they were twins. It was to no avail though as Chavo finished the new Devil with a Hurricanrana into a pin.

Date: 1980-08-09
Promotion: WWF
Match: Tatsumi Fujinami (c) vs Chavo Guerrero
WWF Junior Heavyweight Title Match - Shea Stadium
Rating: ★★
Link

Back to back for Chavo here as he challenged Fujinami for his Junior Heavyweight Title. I thought the work here was perfectly fine but it certainly felt like a by the numbers affair for these two. The high spots that normally get the blood rushing fell a bit flat here as something like Fujinami’s dive to the outside felt small as he just flung himself into the wide expanse of Shea Stadium. The best moment of the match was Fujinami delivering an aeroplane spin and then selling the dizziness himself which I thought was excellent. Otherwise it was a bit dull for what it was, which I’ll admit could be down somewhat to expectations coming in.

Date: 1980-08-09
Promotion: WWF
Match: Andre the Giant vs Hulk Hogan
Shea Stadium
Rating: ★★
Link

Now this was something that projected better within the large space that was Shea Stadium. In the end we had a ref bump, Hogan slamming Andre (7 years prior to WMIII), then Andre getting the win with a slam of his own, followed by a splash and a second referee came flying out of nowhere to count three, even though it seemed like Hogan kicked out at 2 and a half.
The footage I watched had Michael Cole and Mick Foley commentating over the archive footage and it would be an understatement to say that it was a little distracting. I thought the match highlighted some of Hogan’s flaws at this time, as he too often resorted to rest holds like a bear hug instead of doing something interesting. But I did think that this was a pretty excellent performance once again from Andre. He’s shown multiple times this year already that he can make what he does look big and look threatening. When he lays the hammer, even on a guy Hogan’s size, it has weight, both physical and metaphorical. I don’t really like his splash, especially when he misses as he always lands on his knees to break the fall, but moves like his headbutt to his opponent’s back really hit the mark for me.

Date: 1980-08-09
Promotion: WWF
Match: Ken Patera (c) vs Tony Atlas
WWF Intercontinental Title Match - Shea Stadium
Rating: ★★★
Link

Tony Atlas was hot to start this. Even as Patera was making his way to the ring Atlas looked like he was frothing at the mouth to get things started. Was the entire build to this revolve just around the arm wrestling angle they did on TV? Because if there was more to it then I missed that. But Atlas seemed very aggrieved.
We got a nice shine sequence to start as Atlas flew at Patera. Yes his offense doesn’t look amazing, but you could tell he was working extremely hard and he was getting a mega reaction from the crowd. Patera was selling the shit out of everything Atlas threw at him and this whole section was gold.
The transition to Patera gaining control was a bit weak but what he did do on top made up for it. When he wants to, Patera can pile it on. His power slams always look fantastic and the one he delivered on Atlas here was no different. They also worked a neat spot where Atlas pulled out a sleeper from his bag of tricks and Patera managed to utilise the ropes, by diving between them, to clothesline Atlas.
The finish was essentially them brawling to the outside and Patera not getting back in time. This wasn’t good. Less for the fact it was a count out but for the execution. If both men had continued their wild brawl outside it would have made more sense, but they wanted to give Atlas the win without giving him the title, so it couldn’t be a double countout. Timing this to make it look great is hard to do and here it felt like Patera was kind of loitering on the apron waiting to be counted out.
Patera continued his extremely strong year with a very good match against somebody I’ve been extremely down on in Atlas. But I wouldn’t say this was a carry job at all, as Atlas was visibly putting forth the effort and it was mostly off his back the reaction they were getting from the crowd. His energy and animosity against Patera before the match even started set the tone and he knew how and when to play to the crowd.

Date: 1980-08-09
Promotion: WWF
Match: Bruno Sammartino vs Larry Zbyszko
Steel Cage Match - Shea Stadium
Rating: ★★★
Link

Finally we reach the blowoff. The climax to a feud that has been ongoing since January. The moment Bruno steps into the cage, kicks Larry through the ropes and then sends him head first into the steel truly is a cathartic moment. The problem is, where do you go from there? There was a chance that this could have just been a Larry beatdown for the entirety, which would have gotten old fast. Luckily, after Bruno kicks Larry’s ass for several minutes a low blow turns the tide.
Bruno eats some cage as well and there’s a little more back and forth while a turnbuckle covering inadvertently comes loose. Zbyszko saw his moment and Bruno went arm first into the exposed buckle and Larry had his path to victory. Bruno was down for a looong time while Larry stomped on him intermittently before going back to the well and drilling him into the buckle a few more times. At this point Bruno’s arm looked a mess and he was cradling it intently, however he was able to turn things around and then Larry went face first into the buckle. A few more postings and Larry was busted open. Bruno rubbed salt in the wound with a few more kicks and Larry was a beaten man. Bruno called for the cage door to be opened and he had time to turn around, look Larry in the eye, give him some choice words before veering round to victory.
I’ll start with the finish, which I thought was fantastic. It’s hard to fashion a satisfactory ending to a feud, especially one as heated and personal as this one, but the look on Larry’s face as Bruno steps through the door was sumptuous. Just a perfect facial expression to get across his patheticness in that moment, defeated but still retaining the bitterness that started this whole thing. Bruno, to his credit, played his role well also. The consistent selling of the arm, even as Arnold Skalaand tried to raise it in victory, put over the savagery of the match.
My problems stem from how the action could feel very static at points. The big spots - Larry flying into the cage, Bruno going into the buckle, Bruno pulling Larry off the top and sending him crashing to the mat - played off very well. It was the intermediate moments that were lacking. After Bruno went into the buckle the first time, he was selling the arm, but he was lying face down on the mat for an age without moving. Perhaps he was trying to blade the arm and was trying to be subtle about it, but it wasn’t compelling. Larry was roaming around the ring and laying in some stomps and there was no movement from Bruno until he was ready to continue the match. The same could be said for most of Larry’s offense actually. I thought how he was delivering it was very good, but other than clasping that injured arm, Bruno wasn’t budging. I wouldn’t say he was no-selling, but rather he wasn’t reacting to them at all, which I felt took the sting out of Larry’s attacks and blunted the match in that facet.

Date: 1980-08-09
Promotion: PNW
Match: Rick Martel (c) vs Buddy Rose
NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Title No Disqualification Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Rating: ★★★
Link

Two really good falls bookending a subpar one. Rose’s mask by now was really looking worse for wear, with more than half the original wig gone and it was completely frayed at the edges. Early on Rose did his usual stalling, but added in a few nice touches like turning his back to Martel in the corner and started to pray (at least that’s what it looked like to me). Martel got his own back in the end with a late flurry and his signature Hurricanrana into a pin got him the first fall. 
The second fall was pretty pedestrian. I liked Martel’s focus on the back but it didn’t really go anywhere and lacked any intensity or grit. Ultimately, after having gotten barely anything in for two falls, Rose dumped Martel balls first onto the turnbuckle for the equaliser.
I really loved Rose doing the Ali shuffle to start off the third fall, full of confidence and bravado after winning the previous fall. A few wild punches that missed their mark was enough though for Martel to gain control and in the end he did unto Rose what he himself had delivered earlier, and unceremoniously dumped Rose balls first onto the same turnbuckle for the decider.
Rose’s antics are always entertaining, but often his heat sequences can feel a bit sparse. Here, when he did get on top, he didn’t do anything that made me feel like Martel was in any real jeopardy, which was disappointing considering that this was a no DQ match. The callback and mirroring of the two fall enders in the second and third was a nice touch and the highlight for me was the tease of Martel pulling Rose’s mask off. They eked that one out as Rose was applying a claw type hold to Martel’s stomach and they got over halfway, revealing the natural dark brown hair Rose had underneath. However, ultimately that reveal would have to wait for another day.

Date: 1980-08-15
Promotion: MACW
Match: Jimmy Snuka & Ray Stevens (c) vs Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood
NWA World Tag Team Title Match
Rating: ★★★

A TV match. I think Steamboat & Youngblood took like 80% of this match but it was all high energy, their offense was fantastic, and when it did eventually become time to sell, sell they did.
Early on Ricky was matched up with Stevens, and this was easily the worst part of the match. Steamboat was quite happy to just sit in a side headlock on the mat. Stevens looked like a random jobber who splurged on USA wrestling gear, but he was actually a pretty good bumper. Once Snuka came in though it seemed like Steamboat came to life and they ramped the pace WAY up. Steamboat had a couple instances where he got way above Snuka’s head before twisting down and taking him over for a side headlock which was an impressive spot. 
The pace continued to be fast and frantic when Youngblood came in, and again, when he was matched up against Stevens they seemed to settle things down, perhaps because they knew he’d blow up sooner rather than later if they didn’t. It looked pretty certain that the faces were going to regain their lost titles, but Snuka was able to break up their powerslam into a splash double team finisher, which ended up being their best chance. Stevens managed to grab Youngblood’s leg and take him down, tag in Snuka, who then launched off the top rope and crushed Youngblood’s leg. Jay writhed in pain and absolutely killed it with the selling, which they got over even more with Steamboat’s reaction. He shoved the referee out of the way (leading to a DQ) and went wild on Stevens and Snuka before they bailed.
Snuka and Stevens were serviceable but again the faces stole the show. Here Steamboat really shined, especially once he matched up with Snuka. His offense looked great and he certainly looked considerably younger with his moustache shaved off. He even had some excellent hand selling thrown in there for good measure during the, albeit brief, heat segment. For a TV match this was excellent.

Date: 1980-08-22
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Stan Hansen vs Seiji Sakaguchi
Rating: ★★
Link

During the introductions Hansen was wearing this cool animal skin type cloak, as if he had come straight off a Western film set. He was itching to get going, even to the extent that he whipped his bullrope in the direction of the flower girls and knocked the bouquets out of their hands. It wasn’t long before he could wait no longer and he was right in there tussling with Sakaguchi before the introductions were complete and Sakaguchi was set.
Sakaguchi was big enough that he could sort of handle himself. He fought off the initial rush and managed to establish some semblance of control and order. That is until they ended up to the outside where Hansen posted him and followed up with a kind of snappy Lariat that donked his head against the post once again. Hansen smelt blood and they rolled back into the ring. A whip off the posts set Sakaguchi up for a brutal Lariat that almost beheaded him and then Hansen went ahead and delivered a second one just for good measure. Sakaguchi pinned clean in the middle of the ring - I’m so used to random non-finishes that it was refreshing to see somebody go over so strong.

Date: 1980-08-22
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Bob Backlund (c) vs Antonio Inoki
WWF Heavyweight Title Match
Rating: ★★
Link

This was a real mixed bag. They spent the first 10 minutes of the match not doing much at all, just the generic things you would expect from a Backlund/Inoki match without anything unique. Other points had some real awkward spots, with a terribly contrived collision spot that comes to mind, as well as a botched Enziguri from Inoki that completely missed its mark but Backlund sold it anyway. Finally the finish was really weak. I think that it was supposed to be a countout win by Inoki. Cagematch has other ideas but that had to be it. They were brawling to the outside and Inoki, seeing Hansen and Larry Sharpe making their way to the ring, dived back in, then the bell rang. 
However, there were some minor snippets of excellence that raised this up somewhat. While I wasn’t a fan of Inoki on offense here or Backlund’s selling, the reverse of both was pretty good. Backlund, around the midway point, hit a Butterfly Suplex on Inoki that flung him halfway across the ring. He followed this up with what might be, and I don’t believe this is hyperbole, the greatest Piledriver of all time. This looked like it killed Inoki and the crowd believed it too. What I loved is the lengths Inoki went to sell the damage this caused him. For a solid 2-3 minutes all he was concerned with was his head and neck. He rolled to the outside, he gathered himself, he even headbutted the ringpost to shake the cobwebs away. From that point onwards every subsequent move that Backlund hit, or teased to hit even, the crowd were fearful as Inoki was vulnerable, more vulnerable than I recall ever seeing him before. And for that 5 minute stretch, this was really excellent.

Date: 1980-08-22
Promotion: Houston Wrestling
Match: Tony Atlas vs Ivan Koloff
Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Rating: ★★
Link

This match would best be described as solid. I think mostly that can be attributed to Ivan, despite his over reliance on a nerve hold to Atlas’ trapezius. I was dubious coming into this, seeing that Atlas was going to be in a ⅔ falls match, and to a certain extent I was proved right. All the fire and energy that Atlas showed at Shea Stadium was completely absent here. While Koloff was diving to the outside to stall, playing up his loaded elbow pad and generally showing a lot of character, Atlas sure did feel like a passenger here until the finish. Every time Koloff was outside the ring or doing something that wasn’t engaging his opponent directly, Atlas would just stand in the middle of the ring and do nothing. He didn’t try and play to the crowd at all, and we’ve just seen that this is something he could do. Considering Paul Boesch was playing this up as the main event, I find it surprising that he seemed so unmotivated.
The finish itself was both good and bad. We got a “wild” brawl, which resulted in multiple referees and other wrestlers coming down to the ring to break things up. Koloff was bleeding a ton by this point which was a cool visual. But I found the double DQ a bit farcical. The whole match Koloff had been angling to use his loaded elbow pad. Finally Atlas tore it from him and used his own weapon against him. The referee tried to intervene but Atlas clubbed him in the head for his trouble (considering the age of the referee Atlas should have been reported to Age Concern for this). The referee, after coming round, tried to award the fall and the match to Koloff but then he decided to shove the referee down as well. The referee decided to change his mind again and award it to Atlas and AGAIN Atlas clubbed him in the head. If Atlas was the face here, he was coming across like a bit of a dick. I guess they were trying to convey that he was so heated and in the moment that he was throwing haymakers at anything in his path but a) it didn’t feel like he wasn’t that fired up anyway and b) the action wasn’t that intense. So it felt more absurd and comedic than what they were going for.
Overall, Koloff definitely felt like a solid in-ring hand who led Atlas through what seemed like a tricky match type for him but there were a few wayward steps from both a booking and execution standpoint.

Date: 1980-08-23
Promotion: WWF
Match: Larry Zbyszko vs Ivan Putski
Texas Death Match - Philadelphia
Rating: ★★★★
Link

Larry tried to jump Putski at the bell but Putski was having none of it. From this point on it was a desperate struggle for survival for Larry and he barely made it out alive.
Putski has the perfect Mafia movie face and he carries himself like he could have doubled for Joe Pesci. The way Larry urgently attempted to create space between him and Ivan made it feel like this could have been a mob hit. Putski had the necessary intensity on offense, that was never a weakness of his, but it takes somebody with Larry’s selling prowess to really convey that in a way that elevates him. Here Larry did such a perfect job, you got the sense that he was in real fear that he’d suffer some grievous bodily harm. Then the transition to Larry getting some heat was perfect. Backing away into the corner, a desperate lunge connected with the most beautiful low blow you ever saw, and Putski went down like a ton of bricks. I liked what Larry was throwing at Putski after this, but Putski had some deficiencies himself on the selling front and it wasn’t long at all before a retaliatory kick below the border swung things back in his favour. A bear hug and some more brawling on the apron occurred before the finish - Larry sneaking the pin whilst using the ropes for leverage. I have to say that Dick Woehrle fast counting the three gave me HUGE heel vibes from him, but Putski didn’t bat an eye.
I really loved this for the most part. Ivan knew how to throw down and the crowd was absolutely electric throughout. In fact some of the shots of the fans, maniacally calling for Putski to beat down on Larry, were some of the most engaged fan reactions I’ve seen to date. If Putski had had the ability to show some more vulnerability during the heat stretch, this might well have been a stone cold classic.

Date: 1980-08-23
Promotion: CWA
Match: Bill Dundee vs Tommy Rich
Rating: ★★★

This is a prime example of how you can overcome a lack of narrative through sheer effort and determination. Dundee and Rich were both really good workers at this point, so they obviously knew what they were doing in the ring, but this didn’t have a strong narrative thread running through it that I could discern. 
This was part of some tournament to determine the Number 1 contender for the Southern Heavyweight Title. Rich and Dundee were both faces and recently had been partners of sorts, but my context is pretty hazy here. Face vs face matches are hard to pull off at the best of times, and usually the best ones lean heavily into workrate, which is exactly what they did here. I don’t want it to seem that workrate is a dirty term here, but they really conveyed the effort each guy was putting in to win. This match lasted just over 10 minutes but felt like 20, in a good way. I was pretty exhausted just watching it due to the frenetic action. 
A wayward knee or shoulder caught Dundee in the groin and Tommy capitalised on the situation with a sneaky cradle for the win. Russell was appalled and Tommy Rich let him have it. In Georgia Rich had proven that he was not only wildfire in the ring, but also on the mic, but just as a babyface. Here he proved he could deliver as a heel as well. Some guys can deliver a quick cutting promo in 30 seconds or a minute. Not many guys can go on for 4-5 minutes without it feeling like they’re filibustering. Here Rich was pure fire, laying into everyone including a still injured Lawler on commentary and got some genuine heat when he pushed Lawler to the floor. Amazing post match sequence that just added to a pretty great TV match.

Date: 1980-08-23
Promotion: PNW
Match: Buddy Rose vs Mike Popovich
Rating: ★
Link

Don Owen was looking for somebody to pull double duty tonight due to Martel’s departure until some seemingly random guy popped up on the apron. Mike Popovich seemed to have been a college football player who had been training at Sandy Barr’s wrestling school at the time. Despite admitting that he’s very green, Owen reluctantly agrees to put him in with Rose. 
Considering this was Popovich’s first or second match ever he looked very competent, so credit probably needs to go to Rose here. It was obvious that the narrative was that he was going to be far better than Rose expected and cause him a heap of trouble, but I thought Rose worked this far too weak for my liking. He was always going to work mostly from underneath, but he barely had any moments where he displayed some cutting edge or used his nous or experience to gain an advantage and show that he was the champion for a reason. Whether this was because of Popovich’ limitations and they didn’t trust him to sell those kinds of sequences I’m not sure.
In the end Rose had Popovich outside and Dutch Mantell (the referee here) grabbed Rose by the mask to pull him off and Rose then decked him and then ravaged his knee leaving him sprawling. The attack on Savage was decent enough, but I’m not sure exactly why Mantell needed to go for the mask to trigger it and I thought they could have gone in a different direction to reach the same conclusion.

Date: 1980-08-23
Promotion: PNW
Match: Roddy Piper vs Ed Wiskoski
Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Rating: ★★
Link

A twenty minute match where it felt like they only had enough stuff to do to fill half that time. They kind of went to Wiskoski attacking Piper’s injured throat, but then went away from it. They kind of went to Piper injuring his leg, but they went away from that. Piper usually is pretty excellent at selling vulnerability in these moments too, but I wasn’t buying it here. The best moment was Wiskoski getting into it with a crowd member at ringside then hitting his excellent diving headbutt on Piper to tie things 1-1 then grinning cockily at the fan’s direction afterwards.
The finish had Rose involved as expected, tripping Piper to allow Ed to grab the fall, then we had a post match beat down on Piper that left him completely bloody which was pretty good. Okay match but way too belaboured and bloated for what they had in their locker this evening.

Date: 1980-08-29
Promotion: Houston Wrestling
Match: Gino Hernandez vs Bruiser Brody
Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Rating: ★★★
Link

I really feared the worst when I booted this up. I’ve been pretty down on Houston in ‘80 and the last time I saw Brody he was stinking up the joint in Japan.  I will say though that this really worked for me. Gino and Gary Hart as a duo did a good job in the first fall to work the numbers to their advantage and allow Gino to steal the fall, and Bruiser generally pancaking Gino the rest of the time was good stuff. Bruiser’s offense looked very good here. He had a nice punch, good clubbing blows and he looked motivated - non-stop movement and no downtime. When Gino managed to find an opening, Brody was also willing to bump for him as well.
My favourite sequence was the finish of the first fall, where Bruiser slammed Hart’s arm into the turnbuckle, which distracted Brody long enough to allow Gino to jump him from behind and grab the pin. Then during the break Hart, injured from the attack, was being helped to the back and Bruiser came over and perfectly timed a chair shot to his back as he was doubling over in pain from his arm.
Markus, Gino’s partner at this point, came down and his interference was integral to the final two pins, both times using a foreign object in his mask to try and take Brody down. The first took him out but gave away a fall via DQ. The second backfired and we got a double head bump between the pair which gave Brody the win to a massive pop from the crowd.
This peaked in the first fall but it never fell away too much afterwards and while I wasn’t a massive fan of Markus’ involvement, at least it was kept to a minimum and the work the two guys put in throughout the body of the match really was good stuff.

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  • 2 weeks later...

September 1980

Date: 1980-09-03
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Steve Grey vs Ken Joyce
Rating: N/A

We only get the final two rounds and little over 5 minutes of this match. Ken Joyce seemed to have a number of years on Grey at this point and I found his constant heavy breathing distracting as it blared through my screen. Grey had some fantastic little moments but this was tragically brief.

Date: 1980-09-03
Promotion: Joint Promotions
Match: Marc Rocco vs Bobby Bold Eagle
Rating: ★★

Bold Eagle was running an American Indian gimmick and his working style matched with that - the war dance etc. I can’t say that he was particularly good here, as there were some clear missteps where he whiffed on a move or two, but he also demonstrated some ability, for example executing a beautifully smooth leg scissor takedown at one point.
This match however was driven by Rocco, as he continued to get massive heat from the crowd and he knew how to play to them perfectly. He sprinkled in some fantastic stalling sequences, especially when Eagle began doing a foot shuffle or something “unusual” with his upper body, and this garnered great reactions from the crowd and kept the match ticking along nicely.
On two separate occasions though he attacked Eagle between rounds and either they didn’t give him a public warning or they neglected to announce it, which seemed bizarre. And as the match wore on the crowd seemed more interested in cheering against Rocco than cheering for Eagle, popping for an error of Rocco’s rather than any offense from Eagle. This created a strange atmosphere and the final two rounds or so came off somewhat deflating because of this.
Rocco picked up the 1-0 lead after a devastating tombstone piledriver but the ref was forced to call the match in favour of Eagle after Rocco’s eye opened up and his vision was impaired due to the amount of blood.

Date: 1980-09-03
Promotion: AJPW
Match: Harley Race (c) vs Giant Baba
NWA World Heavyweight Title Match
Rating: ★★
Link

Baba really came to play here, but that should be to be expected when you’re challenging for the World’s Title. His offense hasn’t looked better at any point throughout 1980. His chops had some zip and all of his strikes felt like they carried weight and had some impact. The issue comes from the pacing, which is glacial, and Race working underneath for what feels like 90% of the match. They go and go and Baba is getting pin attempt after pin attempt that you don’t buy as match winners, until finally he hits a running neckbreaker drop (which did look amazing) for the win. The crowd went crazy and you can see just before Joe counts the 3 he hesitates slightly and the crowd can sense it but they don’t believe it, Baba was actually going to win - a beautiful moment.
Looking at the big picture, I think this was more a failing in execution than in structure. They kind of went for all the right things but it didn’t come together in a truly satisfying way. But Baba got his big win and delivered his best performance of the year to achieve it.

Date: 1980-09-05
Promotion: AJPW
Match: Harley Race & Austin Idol vs Mil Mascaras & Dos Caras
Best Two Out Of Three Falls Tag Team Match
Rating: ★
Link

Fascinating to see the Austin Idol types in Japan as they always seem so out of place. The work was fine during the first fall, if quite boring, the second fall was a clusterfuck as Idol and Caras got their wires mixed up and then they just sleepwalked their way to the double countout to finish. Way too long for what it was and I don’t think any man here came out of this looking better for it. 

Date: 1980-09-05
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Antonio Inoki, Tatsumi Fujinami & Kengo Kimura vs Stan Hansen, Pete Roberts & Tony Rocco
Best Two Out Of Three Falls Six Man Tag Team Match
Rating: ★★
Link

I’d never heard of Tony Rocco before, and I spent a solid portion of this match trying to figure out if he was related to Marc Rocco, I couldn’t find anything online to corroborate that. I wouldn’t say he was good but he had a certain unhinged quality that I found endearing.
There was a strong sense of hierarchy in this, which was not surprising, but there haven’t been that many six man tags this year so it hasn’t been as prevalent. Rocco was bottom of the totem pole for the foreign team while Kengo propped up the Japanese team, but while Rocco had his moments in the sun, poor Kimura felt like cannon fodder merely served up for Hansen to Lariat over and over again.
I think I would have preferred this if it had been a straight one-fall match, as the pin breaks did seem to sap the momentum the match had built up, but the action was constant and there were some nice flourishes throughout. One had Roberts containing Fujinami in a headlock and then went to tag in Hansen and Fujinami, knowing that he was in for a hellacious beating if that happened, desperately struggled to release himself from the hold which I thought went a long way in re-establishing the threat that Hansen portrayed. Another occurred during a breakdown with all six men on the outside. With Inoki and Kimura tied up with Hansen, Roberts and Rocco were able to double team Fujinami. Roberts held Fujinami in a full nelson and Rocco was laying in some absolutely brutal punches right into his face.
They also held off on not only the Hansen/Inoki face-off, but Inoki’s entrance into the match full stop until well into the first fall. This allowed the match to have time to percolate somewhat, the crowd were warmed up and then when he did come in he got a massive pop. In general considering that this was a vehicle to push the upcoming matchup between the two, it did an excellent job of building anticipation for that bout in my opinion.
The second fall, with Hansen getting disqualified was confusing, I wasn’t exactly sure what the call had been but assumed it had been a countout of some sort, but at least we got the visual of Hansen laying Inoki out with a particularly devastating Lariat beforehand. The footage unfortunately clipped the final minute and the deciding fall.
Overall this always had the underlying feeling that it could descend into chaos at any moment and probably was more fun than good, but sometimes that’s enough.

Date: 1980-09-06
Promotion: MLW
Match: Angelo Mosca & Ric Flair vs Great Hussein Arab & Greg Valentine
Rating: ★★★
Link

Angelo Mosca apparently was a Canadian Football League star and here, when matched up against Valentine, he looks like a big deal. The crowd were rabid for this, as they always were in Toronto, and they were popping for Angelo. So working on top against Valentine I was pretty impressed considering I’d never heard of him before, but then when Great Hussein (aka Iron Sheik) came in, the warts were exposed. But I’d say that this presented Hussein in an equally bad light.
In fact, I’d say Hussein was the worst man involved. He didn’t do much in the way of selling and I hated his approach to bumping. He’d get a clubbing blow to the back of the head and then would stand up right, spin around, and take a back bump instead of collapsing to the floor face forwards as you would expect.
It was Flair and Valentine who carried this match though, and while I enjoyed this quite a bit, more than anything it just made me want to watch their singles matches together. Valentine was great as I said, making Angelo look fantastic, and he was great matched up with Flair also, but Flair was an absolute workhorse here. For almost the entire second half of the match he took over, working a phenomenal FIP sequence with several excellent hope spots, and after he finally managed to get the tag out, he was only on the apron for a minute or so before he came in for a hot tag of his own and that was excellent as well! Most of what we see from Flair is him working to stay over, and I’ve hardly seen much of him working to try and get over (not that he wasn’t already a big star here), but I think there are subtle differences and he definitely came across as more aggressive here and proactive compared to the well known travelling champ style match he’s famous for further into the 80s.
By the time this wrapped up Flair was a bloody mess, but he had enough in the tank to take Valentine down with a backslide and the crowd went crazy. 

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Date: 1980-09-06
Promotion: WWA
Match: Dick The Bruiser (c) vs Nick Bockwinkel
WWA World Heavyweight Title Match
Rating: ★
Link

It’s no wonder some of these territories went under if they were trotting out main events like these. I had to check Bruiser’s age as he looked to have a solid 20 years on Bockwinkel here, but in reality he was only 5 years his senior. Poor Bock tried his darndest here to try and whip together something decent, but Bruiser honestly seemed like he no longer had the physical tools. He couldn’t bump, he certainly didn’t sell, and his comeback was made up of just generic punches. Bockwinkel was incredibly active during the heat, rabbit punching Bruiser in the kidneys and then bumped his ass off during the finish, but they had already lost me early on as I just don’t see how Bruiser, at this stage in his career, could be a viable champion or main eventer unless you were purely watching through rose tinted nostalgia goggles. On top of all that they did a terrible ref bump/DQ finish to put a pebble turd on the shit sundae.

Date: 1980-09-07
Promotion: AWA
Match: Nick Bockwinkel vs Super Destroyer II
Rating: N/A
Link

I only got the finish for this but what an excellent 5 minute snapshot of what both men could do. Bockwinkel began on top and sent SDII to the outside, on which he took a great looking bump, flying sideways through the middle ropes. Afterwards, Bockwinkel turned SDII’s mask around, effectively blinding him, so he decided enough was enough, the mask went flying through the air and the comeback was on. SDII hit a vicious reverse elbow and then a Guillotine (sort of like a delayed Lariat), which looked amazing and got a big 2 count. SDII’s comeback continued and Bockwinkel showed off his fantastic back bumps into the turnbuckle, which he also executed superbly during his match with Dick the Bruiser the night before. Eventually Heenan, with his hand wrapped in a cast, was able to blindside both SDII and the referee, and clobbered SDII in the head to give Bockwinkel the unpopular victory. 

Date: 1980-09-09
Promotion: AJPW
Match: Giant Baba (c) vs Harley Race
NWA World Heavyweight Title Match
Rating: ★★
Link

Definitely a step up from their match earlier in the month and certainly worked at a faster pace. Race jumped Baba to start and nailed a piledriver to set the tone but a missed headbutt turned the tide and Baba was able to take control. His offense consisted mostly of chops, and while people vary on their opinion of these, they don’t do much for me. On the outside a chair got involved and eventually Race was posted for some blood spillage. Back in the ring Baba began the final stretch run and he really went all out for this defence. A big boot got an excellent near fall, with Race barley getting his foot to the ropes. A follow up running neckbreaker didn’t quite work as well, due to Race visibly shifting his body closer to the ropes after the bump, telegraphing the rope break. Baba then hit a pretty gnarly jumping piledriver which Race was forced to kick out of and then Baba got desperate - he climbed the ropes, a jarring image and certainly got a strong reaction from the crowd, and then tragedy struck. Race was on his feet and the champion was in no man’s land. He got knocked off the top and was crotched on the top rope, allowing Race to roll him up for the pin and to regain his lost championship.
The faster pace was very welcome and I did find the idea of the finish interesting. You could tell Baba was very keen to put Race away and the concept of him going for something risky and out of character to do so gave the finish a nice twist. However I do wonder, if you take a step back and see how this frames Baba from a big picture perspective, whether it made him come across like a choker. This was his first defence of the title and ultimately he didn’t have a cool enough head to get the job done. I’m not sure whether this paints him in the best light as the top guy in the promotion, even with all of his history behind him.

Date: 1980-09-09
Promotion: EMLL
Match: Andre The Giant & Cien Caras vs Alfonso Dantes, Herodes & Sangre Chicana
Three On Two Handicap Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Rating: ★★★
Link

Easily the best handicap match I think I’ve ever seen. Andre was a tour de force here and it was a delight to see him work this formula against some better workers than WWF jobbers on All Star Wrestling. Poor Cien Caras was merely a warm body here as Andre’s partner but what really pushed this over the top was Sangre Chicana’s performance. Dantes and Herodes were good, but pretty nondescript and I’m not sure I could tell you which was which, but Chicana, from before the match even began, really stood out. He did his best to show a confident front, peacocking to the crowd and sticking his chest out at Andre, but as soon as the big man made any move towards him he would back away or flee without a second's hesitation.
Yes, this ultimately was just a comedy match, but it was thoroughly entertaining, and certainly the most logical comedy match I can recall. None of the spots seemed contrived, they worked this like you would expect a real contest against Andre to go, and the three rudos really worked their behinds off to put over the challenge of fighting Andre.

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Date: 1980-09-11
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Tatsumi Fujinami (c) vs Tony Rocco
WWF Junior Heavyweight Title Match
Rating: ★
Link

Pulled out of a tag setting, where he could merely act as a garnish to the main action, Rocco really flailed here as a singles competitor. The point of cycling through these foreign challengers for Inoki and Fujinami is for the native Japanese audiences to see “their” guys overcome these formidable opponents. It’s not exactly the same as WWF’s monster of the week formula, but there’s a strong similarity. The key however, is that the challenger appears credible or threatening. I know this wasn’t Rocco’s debut but seeing as he was challenging for the title he needed to either have some real credit built up with the audience already or they needed to establish said credibility early on in the match. The first problem is that he has this portly physique, which starkly contrasts with Fujinami’s trim athletic build, and a smushed up face that looks like a candle that’s been left in the sun too long. So from an aesthetic point of view, he was already struggling. Then the match started and you could tell these two had ZERO chemistry with each other. It was awkward and clumsy and they appeared to blow a few of the early matwork spots. Fujinami switched to taking control and grabbed an arm hold for what felt like forever and that was it, any threat that Rocco could have presented was extinguished. He looked like a chump and then he was being dominated like a chump.
The final stretch had some nicer moments from both men, but it was a classic case of too little too late for me. Neither man had wrapped themselves in glory up to this point and I feel like they were both happy to finish up when Fujinami hit a victory roll for the win. The work was bland, literally a mashup of spots you would have seen in any other New Japan match at this time and it went on way too long at a tick over 20 minutes. Really not much to recommend here at all.

Date: 1980-09-11
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Antonio Inoki (c) vs Stan Hansen
NWF Heavyweight Title Match
Rating: ★★
Link

I was well on my way to thoroughly enjoying this match. Without the manic outside action of the MSG Series Final in June, I’m quite certain there is a ceiling to what these two could do, but they haven’t laid an egg yet and consistently deliver satisfying matches. The usual dynamic played out here, with Inoki trying to solve the puzzle of Hansen, going for his arm early with some standing armbars, and then taking him down to apply a short arm scissor hold. The problem was that if Hansen got free then there would be trouble. And wouldn’t you know, he broke the hold by getting to the ropes and he was on top of Inoki in a flash with a series of vicious elbow drops and a big body slam. 
I liked Inoki’s early attempts to target the arm, but Inoki, in all his matches, seems intent on just running through his signature spots, which means he transitioned from the arm to the leg by applying the Indian Deathlock. It’s a move that always gets a pop, but it made no sense to switch tactics when the previous one was working to such an extent and just indicated poor psychology on his part in my opinion.
What really threw me off though was a clearly blown pinning spot where either Hansen zoned out or he couldn’t see/hear the referee. I couldn’t see properly because the camera was zoomed in so close, obscuring the referee, but it appeared that the referee had to just stop counting at 2, then after maybe two or three more seconds Hansen finally kicked out. The crowd seemed as confused as me and from that point onwards I was checked out unfortunately. 
Inoki did hit a Johnny Gargano style Spear through the ropes that I legitimately popped for but the finish, with Inoki sneaking into the ring before Hansen to snatch a count out victory, felt really cheap and a nasty Lariat to the back of the head didn’t make up for it. This could have been very good, but it just had too many warts.


Date: 1980-09-12
Promotion: Houston Wrestling
Match: Gino Hernandez (c) vs Mark Lewin
NWA American Heavyweight Title Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Rating: ★
Link

This was everything I feared going in. Gino was with Gary Hart, and while I’ll give him props for being active, I found it mildly infuriating how easy it was for him to interfere, as at times it seemed like the referee was wilfully ignoring him.
Mark Lewin was undeniably over like gangbusters and the crowd were primed and ready to explode when he won the first fall early, however my issue is that it was literally only a few chops to the head and Gino was out for the count, not even a token leg twitch when he ate the pin. The second fall had Gino on top, but utilising a nerve hold instead of anything actually interesting. This went on for about five minutes and after another Gary Hart distraction Gino came off the top with a very blah looking forearm and Lewin was similarly out cold.
Lewin had his hands full dealing with both Gino in the ring and Hart outside of it, and I appreciated that they were consistent with this narrative thread throughout. Lewin ended up chasing Hart, tearing his jacket and choking him with it against the turnbuckle pillar. Unsurprisingly, Lewin was so distracted that he forgot that the referee was counting and ended up losing due to the countout, while a basically unconscious Gino (having been taken out by the Shanghai Sleeper earlier) won on a mere technicality. I get that this is the point, Gino picking up the cheap win, but it was more due to Lewin’s absent mindedness than anything Gino did. An argument could be made that Hart’s constant annoyance was the catalyst for Lewin’s actions, but it certainly wasn't enough of a reason to justify it for me.

Date: 1980-09-13
Promotion: PNW
Match: Roddy Piper (c) vs Buddy Rose
NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Title Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match
Rating: ★★
Link

It’s a real shame that we don’t have footage of the Tuesday shows, as we missed Piper winning the title and likely don’t see the upcoming Loser Leaves Town match between these two either.
The action here was good, but it really felt like it was designed purely to build to the aforementioned LLTM. Rose was masterful at stalling and playing to the crowd, as they rained down chants of “Bye Bye Rose”, then Piper put him under with the Sleeper to take the lead. Rose really came out of the break hot and heavy, posting Piper almost immediately and then working over the cut, resulting in half of Piper’s face becoming just covered in blood. Piper showed the necessary resilience though, his comebacks here really had some electricity, and when he nailed the O’Connor Roll for the straight falls victory the place erupted. 
As I said though, this didn’t really feel like it was about the match at hand. Despite winning, Piper was on a rampage, after the bell, and it took 3-4 other wrestlers to subdue him, all the while back in the interview area, Rose was trying his darnedest to back out of the upcoming LLTM to no avail.
Great heat, maybe Portland’s most raucous crowd of the year and a great build to the final blowoff.

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Date: 1980-09-19
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Tatsumi Fujinami vs Johnny Londos
Civic Gymnasium, Takaoka, Japan
Rating: ★★★
Link

Despite the middle aged physics teacher vibes, Londos, from the opening exchange, came across as infinitely more legitimate than Tony Rocco ever did. He grabbed the upper hand with a nice headscissor takedown and then proceeded to control Fujinami for the majority of the match. Things seemed pretty much on the up and up until Londos started sprinkling in a few choke holds, but he never overstepped the mark into full heeldom. His strikes, especially the ones sharply thrust into Fujinami’s throat, looked devastating and overall I’d say Fujinami was a bumping machine here, making everything Londos connected with look like gold. 
The match as a whole didn’t quite reach the 10 minute mark, and I think Londos took 80% of it, which in the end hurt the match. He wasn’t as skilled bumping for Fujinami as Fujinami had been for him, which lessened those moments where Fujinami did try and make a run. Ultimately, when Fujinami snatched the victory with a nifty backslide, it didn’t feel as earned as it potentially could have. I wish this had been given 5-8 more minutes and been a bit more even, then this could have been a real classic.

Date: 1980-09-19
Promotion: NJPW
Match: Pete Roberts & Stan Hansen vs Riki Choshu & Seiji Sakaguchi
Best Two Out Of Three Falls Tag Team Match
Civic Gymnasium, Takaoka, Japan
Rating: ★★
Link

This ended up being a Hansen showcase through and through, and I’m not sure whether that was a good thing or a bad thing for the match. On the one hand he looked excellent, coming in to bail out his overmatched partner time and again and generally dominating both of their opponents. However, it also completely neutered Sakaguchi and Choshu as potential threats. They did actually manage to grab the first fall, capitalising on a brief moment Hansen had his hands full on the outside. In a one fall match this might have worked better, but over three falls I never got the sense that they would have been able to secure any kind of victory that didn’t feel unearned.
The one time Sakaguchi gave as good as he got against Hansen, Hansen came back with a flurry of blows that gave the impression he was legitimately pissed. Not sure if it was a stiffer than expected kick to the face that set him off and he needed to blow off some steam, but Sakaguchi had no response at all to the brutality. The leveller was Hansen taking Sakaguchi’s head off with two Lariat’s unsurprisingly. Clipping for the third fall made it hard to follow, but I think Sakaguchi ended up getting counted out less than a minute after the restart.
Decent action and it helped heat up Hansen even more (if that was possible) for the rematch against Inoki later in the month, but I wouldn’t say it did any of the other three guys any favours.

Date: 1980-09-22
Promotion: WWF
Match: Bob Backlund (c) vs Harley Race (c)
NWA World Heavyweight Title / WWF Heavyweight Title Match
Madison Square Garden, New York City, USA
Rating: ★★
Link

Definitely one of the more traditional style matches that have popped up this year. Probably shouldn’t be too surprising considering it was a big NWA Heavyweight Title match (even if it was in the wrong promotion). 
I remember listening to an episode of the Titans of Wrestling podcast where they referred to this match and some frustrations with how Backlund ate up the majority of the match, leaving nothing but morsels for Race during the 35 minute runtime. Is this a wrong analysis? Not really. Backlund really does take almost the whole match. For the first portion he controlled almost entirely through the use of a series of headlocks and headlock counters. Any time Race looked like he was going to mount a comeback of any kind, Bob just cut him off. However, is this really a problem in the match? A bit of a wishy-washy answer, but honestly I’m not sure. It certainly isn’t the match I would have wanted to see between these two, but again, as was pointed out during that podcast episode, it certainly seemed like the kind of match the crowd in attendance wanted to see. Every near fall for Backlund got a huge response, as they were clearly desperate for him to defeat Race. Looking through this prism, while the match wasn’t fantastic by any means, it definitely was a success. Despite the length, I was engaged throughout, it didn’t seem to drag at any point and I did really think that the final sequence, with both guys bleeding and slugging it out, worked excellently as a spectacle.

Date: 1980-09-22
Promotion: WWF
Match: Andre the Giant vs Hulk Hogan
Special Referee Gorilla Monsoon
Madison Square Garden, New York City, USA
Rating: ★★
Link

Unlike his involvement in the Backlund/Patera title match, Monsoon’s presence here felt like a distinct negative. He was a big enough guy to handle these two behemoths, but I would have much rather seen these two slug away than being called on every minor rule infringement. One thing’s for sure, Monsoon was not shy in sticking his nose in the action.
When the match was Andre and Hogan wailing on each other, it was fantastic. The problem was that you either had Monsoon diving in and breaking the flow or a long slew of Bear Hugs from both men. I appreciate that the holds were integral to the psychology of the match, and especially the finish, but long stretches of Bear Hugs are never going to be interesting to me.
After targeting Andre’s back for the majority of the back nine, Hogan got him up for a slam and then, going for the another, his back gave out (due to Andre’s own focus on Hogan’s back) and Monsoon was down there in a flash to quick count Hogan, who similarly to the Shea Stadium finish, looked like he kicked out before three.
Hogan is no Stan Hansen, but I think these two had an Andre/Hansen 09/81-lite match in them. It might just have happened here, but it had too many things going against it.

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1980-09-25
NJPW
Kengo Kimura (c) vs Tatsumi Fujinami
NWA International Junior Heavyweight Title Match
Hiroshima Prefectural Gymnasium, Hiroshima, Japan
★★★★
Link

Going in I didn’t realise that it was in fact Kimura who was the champion and the title at stake was the NWA junior heavyweight title, not the WWF one. Kimura has been so absent from the NJPW footage (at least in terms of what I’ve watched) that I had to double check he wasn’t an incoming IWE guy like Ashura Hara, as he appears most prominently in my memory from tags in that promotion, but no he was a New Japan regular. Either way, he apparently defeated Bret Hart recently for the vacant title.
There were large portions of the first half that I wasn’t in love with, but the action was so frenetic that it never dragged. Fujinami came in with an injured hand and it took Kimura until the 20th minute to even attempt to attack it, after which Fujinami immediately threw a stiff right hander to Kimura’s mid-section and then blew off the work for the rest of the match. However, this was such an interesting match to watch and believe that it is truly significant. It came across decidedly different to what NJPW had presented up to this point. It wasn’t a stark departure, but stylistically it felt off compared to other New Japan matches, specifically the Fujinami matches. There was far more struggle and far less token working of holds beyond a few headscissor spots. There was slight chippiness to start before the competitive juices overflowed at the finish. After a light simmer for ten minutes or so we had a frantic burst as one stiff kick brought about a retaliatory receipt and then both guys were flailing at each other in a vicious kick exchange. 
Both men displayed some character too, and clearly they were showing off how they had their opponent well scouted. The best example being when an early Dragon Suplex attempt from Fujinami elicited a naughty finger wag from his Kimura.
The finishing stretch really tied this up nicely, as they brought the energy up to 10, and at one point they had to give up using the hard camera as too many in the audience were standing up and blocking the action. Fujinami crashed and burned hard on a dive through the ropes and Kimura was busted open from the ring post. Back in the ring both were bleeding and thoroughly exhausted. Kimura made a final desperate attempt, climbing the ropes, however Fujinami caught him with a dropkick and he was down. The problem was Fujinami had nothing left either. Both men lay prone on the mat as the referee counted them both out for the double KO finish. I don’t really know where they go from here, but it feels like they elevated Kimura with this match. Fujinami felt like the better man, but Kimura hung with him every step of the way and the double KO finish put over him really strongly. I will have to wait and see how this progresses.

1980-09-25 
NJPW
Antonio Inoki (c) vs Stan Hansen
NWF Heavyweight Title Match
Hiroshima Prefectural Gymnasium, Hiroshima, Japan
★★★
Link

Not his best match of the year but perhaps Inoki’s best performance. Hansen came in with more of a standup attitude than you normally see, breaking clean from the ropes early on which drew a wry response from the crowd, but when he did get his offense in, Inoki showed glimpses of vulnerability that broadcast the notion that Hansen might be in with a real chance of overthrowing the champion tonight.
Inoki himself had a couple big highlight spots on offense, first a nifty rebound off the middle rope to extricate himself from an arm hold and then rolled Hansen into an arm hold of his own that I popped out of my chair for. The second had Inoki meet Hansen’s Lariat attempt with a Lariat of his own. It didn’t take Hansen out for long, and in fact Hansen was the first on offense, but it negated Hansen’s biggest weapon and certainly surprised him. Oh, and finally Inoki laid in a nasty stiff chop right into Hansen’s throat that to his credit he ate like a champ and moved on, but it legitimately looked like he was discombobulated for a moment.
In the end Inoki was able to use Hansen’s late aggression against him and grab a backslide for the win and then toppled Hansen out of the ring post match for the decisive victory. My feeling that this might be the (temporary) end to this pairing seems to be true as I think Inoki pivots to facing Hogan more as the year winds down.

1980-09-30
NJPW
Fan Appreciation Super Fight
Kengo Kimura (c) vs Chavo Guerrero
NWA International Junior Heavyweight Title Match
Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan
★★
Link

Well it didn’t take long for Kimura to make tape again as he defended his title on this super show of sorts. I like both of these guys but I was mildly disappointed with this. I think it’s clear that they could have produced something much better than what this ended up being. Nothing was bad, but I feel like it was less than the sum of its parts.
Kimura mostly controlled Chavo early on using a variety of chicken wing and arm holds but applying pressure onto the back with his head or feet. It wasn’t until Chavo bust out a few aggressive uppercuts that things really started kicking into gear though. My issue, I think, was Kimura’s approach. Despite being the champion, when he was matched up against Fujinami, the narrative was quite clear, as Fujinami was the company’s clearly defined No.2 (I feel comfortable putting him above Sakaguchi at this point). He was still fighting to overcome Fujinami, even in a match where he was actually defending his own title. Against Chavo that narrative didn’t exist and he couldn’t rely on Fujinami to lead the way. As champion here I feel like the onus was on him to set the tone and he came across as far too passive, letting the match pass him by and hoping that it would come together as something compelling in the end, instead of actively doing something about it. 
Also, considering how good Kimura looked coming out of that match against Fujinami, it would have been a fantastic opportunity to further solidify him with a clear win here. But I’m not sure about the politics of Chavo coming in and doing the job so maybe that was never on the cards, but the double countout finish with Kimura literally clinging onto Chavo to prevent him getting back into the ring made him look incredibly weak.

1980-09-30
NJPW
Fan Appreciation Super Fight
Tatsumi Fujinami (c) vs Ron Starr
WWF Junior Heavyweight Title Match
Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan
★★★★
Link

For the first ten minutes or so this seemed like a nice little showcase for Fujinami to do his stuff and that Starr was a capable enough canvas to not have to be carried along for the ride. However at the midpoint Starr took over and he really got his hands dirty here. It almost followed an extended shine -> heat structure which I thought worked really nicely. 
Fujinami’s shine had him handling the bigger Starr with a number of headlock takedowns. If Starr showed any sign of gaining an advantage Fujinami would merely turn on the afterburners and blitz him into submission and we went back to the control. Eventually Starr had enough and resorted to bending the rules, in this case with a sneaky hair pull or two, then he grabbed an arm and went to work. His arm work here was fantastic. I think he had at least three variations that he used over a several minute stretch, the best being a simple arm bar that he really yanked up on, giving the impression he was seriously wearing Fujinami down. Once they were both standing, Starr continued the beat down with vicious strikes and clubbing blows before they transitioned to the slug it out finale. 
Fujinami’s win, with a surprise Dragon Screw and a flash transition into a deep Full Boston Crab, wasn’t a surprise, but the dual exhaustion selling by the end felt really earned and the little peaks that they built to down the stretch, like Fujinami’s tope or Starr hitting a Brainbuster from the apron gave, this a somewhat epic feel. Two absolute bangers back to back for Fujinami to close the month.

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1980-09-30
NJPW
Fan Appreciation Super Fight
Bob Backlund (c) vs Stan Hansen
WWF Heavyweight Title Match
Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan
★★
Link

Immovable object vs unstoppable force, but in the worst way. The early arm work by both men didn’t go anywhere, meaning the first half was essentially just filler, and I just had the impression that they constantly reached points where they had no idea where to go next. 
Both men were used to overwhelming their opponents and willing them into submission. For Hansen this would be an eye rake or something, Backlund usually just retaliated enough times until his opponent stops attacking and allows him to take back control. Here it kind of felt like a child with two toys, smashing them into each other again and again without rhyme or reason. 
However, Hansen blinked first, taking a high knee, and we had our first point of real vulnerability. I’ll admit the finishing stretch redeemed this somewhat. Bob followed up with one of his beautiful piledrivers (all the more impressive hitting it on a guy Hansen’s size) and we finished up with a mad flurry on the outside, including a couple wild Lariat whiffs from Hansen, one of which clocked the ringpost. I believe the official decision was DQ on Hansen for throwing Backlund over the railings. I’m not sure I’ve seen that finish before and wasn’t aware that this was a rule in New Japan. Is this their equivalent of the NWA over-the-top-rope rule? Anyway, I hope that these two work out the kinks for Hansen’s upcoming run in WWF.

1980-09-30
NJPW
Fan Appreciation Super Fight
Antonio Inoki (c) vs Ken Patera
NWF Heavyweight Title Match
Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan
★★★
Link

Both gave a ton in this match. Patera, great at being the dick heel; that jock bully, also knew when it was time to turn tail and beg off. Sometimes his penchant for big bumping worked against him, as it did at points here, but in the broad strokes it got the desired effect across.
Patera opened this up with three massive body slams. Usually these were reserved for humiliating jobbers, but Inoki ate the brunt of these here. Patera trash talking the whole way was gold. Eventually he followed up with a Bar Hug, and this is usually where a match would fall off, but not here. Here is where Inoki shone. Instead of just standing there and taking it, you could see he was enduring the pain but trying to remain calm, calculating his method of escape. He tucked his hand in on the one side and slowly worked it in before suddenly going for the break. He wasn’t free for long as Patera locked the Bear Hug on a second time, but again, Inoki kept his cool and managed to free himself enough to get to the ropes. What I really loved is that while he was in the hold he went to great efforts to steel himself and his expressions. His focus was on escaping the hold, however once free he leant hard into selling the back, doubling over to stretch out the lower back and gingerly moving about the ring which I thought was incredibly effective selling.
As they transitioned into the finish it was Inoki in the ascendancy and Patera switched to begging off and selling big. He lulled Inoki in and then sent him to the floor outside where he laid him out with another body slam. Inoki didn’t oversell this, but instead took his time to re-enter the ring. He circled around, coming across like a film action star, milking the moment and building towards the big crescendo. A flash tope back into the ring took Patera by surprise and it wasn’t long before he was felled by the Enziguri and tumbled to the outside. He survived one Octopus Hold, but a flurry of offense by Inoki set up a second, and Patera was too far from the ropes and that was lights out for him.
I really enjoyed Patera’s performance here, he did exactly what he should have done and at exactly the right times. But this is a great example of Inoki being Inoki and that being perfect. When it was time to just be a star, Inoki certainly had that in his locker in a way few guys ever did. He oozes cool and that sense of entitlement that I can only assume comes from actually being the boss. Sometimes it works against him, but in big moments, it often is an incredible talent to be able to rely on.

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Q3 Recap July - September

WWF
WWF’s Q3 revolved around their big showcase at Shea Stadium, headlined by the blowoff between Bruno and Zbysko in a cage, but also including New Japan talent like Inoki and Fujinami and was a pretty decent show, including perhaps the surprise match of the night in Ken Patera v Tony Atlas. While this event concluded Bruno and Zbysko’s feud, it was only a single chapter in the ongoing one between Hogan and Andre, as they battled it out not only in New York, but also in Philadelphia and on TV too. This thing had real legs and while they weren’t out there delivering classics, their matches were pretty good and matching against Andre, with him mostly holding his own, really did elevate Hogan even more in the company hierarchy.
Zbyszko added to his growing list of great matches in 1980 by delivering two bangers with Ivan Putski of all people. The Spectrum match in August gets a lot of plaudits, and rightly so, but their earlier one in July in the same arena deserves some love too.
This period also saw the debuts of a few heavy hitters like Rick Martel and Sgt. Slaughter. While Martel had come in fresh off headlining shows over in Portland, it didn’t take long for him to get lost in the shuffle in New York, failing to wow in his TV singles matches (granted that is hard to do) and getting shunted pretty quickly into the tag team scene. In contrast Sgt. Slaughter arrived as a fully realised character. He seemed completely at home in his new gimmick and struck an imposing figure during his series of squash matches to start this WWF run, finishing jobber after jobber with his Cobra Clutch.
Finally, we have the World Champion. Backlund appeared on the big shows, but he consistently felt completely disconnected from everything else that was going on in the company, and apart from his feud with Patera, I can’t remember any real memorable thing he’s been involved in. His only TV appearance at this time was when Harley Race showed during the build to their title vs title match. 

Memphis
I’m glad we got more Memphis TV through this period, even if it wasn’t as comprehensive as what we had in Q1. There’s still Jimmy Valiant in the title picture, and we still have Bill Dundee filling in the gaps where necessary, but this stretch saw Paul Ellering leave the promotion (but not before an absolutely bonkers segment where he did sock puppet ventriloquism that really needs to be seen to be believed (19th July episode). Jimmy Hart filled the hole in his stable with Killer Karl Krupp, an interesting character, who was decent on the microphone but pretty bad in the ring. We also saw the tentative return of the King, with Lawler first battling Hart and then taking Krupp out during a cast match which put him back on the shelf for a few more months. 
On a more positive note, “Dr” Bill Irwin turned up in late August, and while he was lacking as a singles wrestler, his partnership with Gypsy Joe added another team to a burgeoning tag division in Memphis. They were probably the best heel team they had, displaying some real viciousness and tenacity during their matches that I appreciated. Eddie Gilbert also made his debut, and ended up holding the tag titles with his father, and right at the end of September we also caught our first glimpse of Koko Ware (not rocking the B. at this point), but he already had a cool look so I’m excited to see where he goes.
No doubt the star of the show was Tommy Rich though. In Georgia he was babyface supreme, but here he had done a complete 180. Following an excellent TV match with Dundee he ragged on Lawler and cemented the turn during an electric promo with Russell. His excellence in this role has carried through up until the end of September, delivering good TV matches and fantastic promos, displaying his versatility as a performer. The only thing Rich really is lacking from 1980 is a solid arena match on tape.

Georgia
Speaking of Rich, this is the last we saw of him in Georgia. In July he was building to a title match against Race and they pulled out all the stops, laying things on real thick, to the point of bringing his mother out and showing off his baby pictures on TV. I’ve heard his mother makes another appearance in Memphis, and considering he’s a heel up there, I can’t wait to see that!
Terry Taylor came onto the scene and quickly picked up some hardware in the form of the TV title and they let him get his nose stuck in a lot of pies further up the card as the months continued on (which I’ll get to later). The Georgia title picture was a weird one. It really felt completely absent from the footage we have. It went from Von Raschke to Steve Keirn to Dennis Condrey, but I have no idea how or when these changed hands.
The key angle and feud that fueled this part of the year however was Dusty vs Ole Anderson. This thing kept gathering new life as the weeks went along as more and more guys got added to the mix. Initially Dusty was feuding with the Assassins (for reasons that are unclear to me). Things reached an impasse and he reached out for a partner, somebody to fight alongside him and wouldn’t you know, Ole answered the call. Everybody told Dusty that  this was a bad idea, that Ole wasn’t to be trusted and that this was going to go sideways. Dusty wouldn’t hear of it and the matches were signed. Unsurprisingly, Ole did in fact turn on Dusty, and in a steel cage no less. We have clips of the show and things looked like they were on the verge of a full scale riot. In the following weeks Dusty faced Ole. Lars, aghast at his brother’s actions got in on the action and we got brother vs brother. Dusty was somehow ran out of town and was restricted to wrestling only in Ohio until he “returned” with Bill Watts, under a hood, as Uvalde Slim. Later on Kevin Sullivan, Terry Taylor and even Stan Hansen got pulled into the fray for the faces, and then Terry Funk re-emerged as Ole’s latest ally by the end of September. This was a fantastic angle and delivered quality content for weeks on end with no signs of slowing up at this point.
Finally, Terry Taylor wasn’t the only debutant in Q3, they saved the best for last with the Freebirds turning up in the latest episodes of Georgia Championship Wrestling. Their TV matches didn’t necessarily match the hype, but their initial presentation was perfect, from their skills on the microphone to their entrance music, and they came across as the biggest deal in wrestling. They were new - they were it. I’m curious to see what their first program is (if we get to see it at all) but Hayes and Gordy alone feel like they’re worth the price of admission.

Portland
The biggest issue with Portland is just the lack of Tuesday show footage. We missed the departures of both Rick Martel and Roddy Piper, and I believe at least two title changes as well. The Saturday footage was very good, and Portland continues to be excellently booked considering the talent pool of the promotion, but now more than ever it felt like the Saturday stuff was merely used to build to and hype the Tuesday events, the best example being the final Rose v Piper showdown before their Loser Leaves Town match.
After the Sheepherders turned face and then subsequently left the promotion Rose was required to retool and the version of Rose’s Army with Rose, Wiskowski, Cortez and Rip Oliver do feel a step down somewhat compared to the “original” version we were introduced to at the start of the year. On the face side, we finish the month of September with the cupboard pretty bare, leaning heavily on Jonathan Boyd as the biggest hitter, flanked by rookie Mike Popovich and an ageing and injured Dutch Mantell, who we’ve seen more often as a special referee than an active wrestler. It wasn’t a surprise that they introduced Lightfoot and that Jay Youngblood is coming down the pike soon enough to bolster that side of the locker room.
We saw the climax to the “Rose in a mask” saga, with Piper finally wrenching it from him, revealing the dark brown hair underneath and concluding the narrative arc that had been percolating from basically the start of the year. From a booking standpoint I think Portland did an excellent job here to keep things consistently interesting despite the somewhat shallow talent pool. My only complaint really would be that it would be nice to see Rose’s motivations pivot slightly from merely trying to run everybody else out of town so he can control the Northwest. I think they need another hook at this point.

All Japan Women
The American contingent were far more prominent than they had been before, with Leilani Kai popping up in both July and August, Jackie Sato solidified herself as the main babyface of the company with the booking in both blocks of footage I saw positioning her far and away at the top of the Japanese babyface crew in a way I didn’t really feel earlier in the year. 
The company’s highlight I think was the Guam tour in August. From the beautiful ring mat, to the increased matchup variety due to the aforementioned influx of new Americans - it was a fun ride. 
The biggest surprise was Wendy Richter. I’ve used a Reddit thread as a guide of sorts to figure out what I’m watching and to get some additional context, and they were incredibly down on Richter during this tour - I couldn’t be more of the opposite opinion. Her stuff looked credible, she came across as a monster compared to the Japanese women, and I don’t see how she wasn’t essentially doing an upgraded, more interesting version of Monster Ripper’s gimmick. I’m really hoping I get to see more of her in either the US or Japan soon.

All Japan
All Japan suffered from the same lack of footage they had in Q2. I’m far less interested in their imported Lucha talent compared to New Japan, so there’s a few random tags that I skipped over, but it really was slim pickings. What we were left with was really just the two NWA Title matches between Race and Baba, neither of which were real classics.

New Japan
New Japan however continued its strong run with both availability of footage and match quality. Fujinami was on a real tear in 1980 and he wasn’t slowing down any time soon, in fact, he only seemed to improve as the year wore on. Even Inoki, II think, has been on a good little run, as his Hansen matches have delivered for the most part and his star aura is still very much intact at this point and doesn’t look like it’ll be on the wane any time soon. Their talent imports haven’t been perfect (Tony Rocco comes to mind), but I saw pretty great matches from the likes of Londos and Ron Starr and I thought that even a young Bret Hart had good showings, demonstrating embryonic aspects of what I like about him later on. All the while they seemed like they were capable of elevating their in-house talent like Kengo Kimura, even if I wish Choshu had been more prominently featured.

World of Sport
Finally the Dennison/Breaks matches are over with. By the end of this I was desperate for Breaks to pivot to somebody else (in fact I had reached this point by June even) and Dennison just kept getting worse and worse. I can’t believe he was so consistently featured on TV.
It felt like there were more bad performers in this period with Eagle, King Kong Dirk and Giant Haystacks getting TV time (in addition to Dennison).
I got my first look at Terry Rudge though who I know people are really high on (I found it hard to develop a strong impression after the single match I saw) and we got good matches from Pat Roach and newbies (to me) in Johnny South v Ringo Rigby.
World of Sport is a real tricky one to nail down and summarise due to the fact that they didn’t really air angles. So it’s the most “sports”-esque among the promotions in the sense that we often get seemingly random matchups and the narratives are usually confined to those single matches.

Others
IWE didn’t have much, but they trot out my new least favourite wrestler in Spike Huber. His partner Rocky Brewer wasn’t much better and they are both in strong positions for a lot of my “worst of” categories by the year's end. I would like to see more of Mighty Inoue though.
Houston obviously had to have the bad Mark Lewin/Gino Hernandez match, but decidedly over delivered with a Gino v Bruiser Brody offering which I was pleasantly surprised with. They sorely need some more heavy hitters to come in and take some of the burden off Gino though. I know I’ve been down on Houston all year but I’ve seen what’s available in the upcoming years and I’m excited by a lot of the match listings, so I’m going to persevere in the hope that I follow it on an upswing.
AWA and Mid-Atlantic are still sorely lacking in footage. It’s all the more frustrating because the Mid-Atlantic matches in particular that do pop up are so fun, you know there’s a wealth of gold just lost in the ether.

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October 1980

1980-10-03
AWA
Nick Bockwinkel & Bobby Heenan vs Greg Gagne & Super Destroyer II
Winnipeg Arena, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
★★★
Link

Seems like the Weasel Suit angle was still going strong as Bock and Heenan refused to wrestle with the stipulation on the match, even if it risked a suspension. The promoter ended up lifting the stipulation to get the match going.
The tag matches in the AWA feel far closer to the ones you’d find in Portland than to any other promotion. They always seem to have that extended shine sequence and the faces utilise referee distractions to a far greater degree than, for example, any tag matches in WWF/E that I can remember. Here Greg and SD2 were liberal in attacking Bockinkel when the referee wasn’t looking and repeatedly manipulated Heenan into coming into the ring and drawing the referee’s attention. The key early on was that Heenan himself was desperate not to get in the ring, especially with SD2. This left Bockwinkel on an island by himself and it was only after Greg whiffed on a dropkick attempt that the heels were able to gain some measure of control.
Their heel’s advantage was Heenan’s arm in a cast. We’ve seen this ploy before but it is effective. Greg in particular sold any strike like absolute death and Heenan was feeling pretty confident in himself at this point, but of course it wasn’t to last. He found himself face to face with SD2 and this time he couldn’t turn and flee.
Momentum swung back and forth for the remainder of the match and I felt like the referee was going to have a heart attack with all the cardio he was getting in, running from one corner to the other, counting the guys on the apron for interfering, then diving across the ring to try and count pinfalls, it was dizzying to be sure. In the end Heenan’s cast was the difference maker and he caught SD2 in the head while he attempted a slam on Bock and it was lights out. The faces managed to get their heat back though by returning the favour (SD2 shoved something into his mask and went on a headbutt spree) and wouldn’t you know it, Heenan ended up in the weasel suit anyway.
Greg wasn’t bad here, but he didn’t add anything in particular. Bockwinkel, considering he’s the top heel and a recent champion at this point, I thought came across a bit too weak. I know the formula is to have that strong start from the faces, but he was cooked after just one or two moves. The big standouts to me were Heenan and SD2. Heenan just keeps impressing me every time I see him. His bumping ability is spot on. He’s always working, even when he’s on the apron. He can milk the crowd and he’s always exuding his character. It is really wonderful. For SD2, he’s just so good. He’s a big imposing guy, but he moves so nimbly around the ring. That agility doesn’t impact his presence or power either, plus he’s an excellent seller and bumper. I just don’t think there’s anything he can’t do.

1980-10-03
AWA
Dino Bravo vs Jerry Blackwell
Winnipeg Arena, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada