The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems – 05.28.18
“The Dark Side of Royalty”
Jerry Lawler v. Mean Mark Callous – 10.08.90
This is from the USWA, and obviously we’re very close to Callous jumping ship at Survivor Series. This is appears to be part of the tournament for the vacant USWA Unified title. Callous gets a clothesline out of the corner to start as the announcers explain the labyrinthine tournament format, where Lawler won a separate round-robin tournament to gain a first round bye in THIS tournament. Callous slugs him down and gets a legdrop for two, and a backdrop gets two. Lawler punches his way back and gets a rollup, but the ref is busy with Bruno and doesn’t see it. Callous hits the flying clothesline for two and goes to the chinlock, but Lawler pulls down the strap and makes the comeback. Callous accidentally decks the ref, who calls for the DQ at 7:02. Lawler advances and went on to win the title in the finals. I know, I’m shocked too. 0 for 1.
“Vader Strikes Back”
WCW World title: Ron Simmons v. Big Van Vader – 12.30.92
Now THIS is a true hidden gem! From the Omni in Atlanta, just after Starrcade 92, when Bill Watts finally decided to pull the plug on Simmons. I’ve only ever seen the finish. No idea if the full thing ever aired, but Tony is doing commentary and it’s shot with a single camera at ringside. They do the test of strength after some stalling by Vader, and they slug it out in the corner and head to the floor. Simmons slams him out there, where there’s no PRETTY BLUE MATS, and Vader stalls again for a while he sells the back injury and Harley Race gives him a motivational speech on the house mic. Back in, Simmons beats him down in the corner and powerslams him for two. He goes to a chinlock and stretches Vader for a while, but Vader escapes and gets a butt splash for two. Vader fights back with a suplex and goes up with a clubbing blow from the middle rope, and follows with an avalanche and big splash for two. He goes to the chinlock, but Simmons comes back with a spinebuster for two and a powerslam for two. He tries a shoulder tackle and Vader throws him to the floor as a counter, but Ron comes back in with a backdrop suplex for two. Another shoulder tackle, but this time Vader catches him with a shoulder breaker and pins him to regain the WCW title at 12:43. I bet Ron only had one word for that result. Anyway, this was decent enough for a point, but there really wasn’t much to it. 1 for 2.
Terra Ryzing v. Brian Armstrong
This is an otherwise super-rando match from the Disney tapings in 1993 that happens to be HHH v. Road Dogg. Armstrong is dressed and works like he’s trying to be Brad, and Terra appears to be channeling Lex Luger at this point in his young career. Armstrong works the arm, but Ryzing dumps him with a faceplant and drops elbows on the back. Ryzing goes up with an elbowdrop and tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, then wraps up Brian with an Indian deathlock to finish at 2:49. Both guys were still figuring out the sport at this point, to say the least. 1 for 3. Bobby boldly predicts that Terra Ryzing will be a big star in the 90s. Yeah, just not for WCW.
“Thunder meets Heat”
Jushin Liger v. Eddie Guerrero – 10.01.95
From The Main Event in 1995, and the graphics list him as “Jushin’ Thunder Liger”. It’s not short for “Jushing”! They trade wristlocks to start and do some slick reversals off that. Liger with a surfboard into a bow-and-arrow hold, but Eddie rakes the eyes to escape. Eddie escapes a monkey flip, but Liger takes him down with a victory roll, so Eddie gets a flying headscissors and they head to the floor. Liger hits him with a pescado and we take a break as RAW rolls on. Back with Eddie working the leg with a kneebar, and gets a fallaway slam into a bridge for two, and back to the knee again. This allows Dusty to proudly work in “inverted stepover toehold”, which he learned from “Garden Sully”. “Gordon Solie?” clarifies Tony. “No”, says Dusty, “Sully…Garden.” OK then. Eddie with a powerbomb for two and he moves into the Gory Special, but Liger reverses into a sunset flip for two. Liger with a backbreaker for two. Powerbomb gets two. Eddie with a slick rollup for two and he goes up, but Liger follows him up for a superplex that gets two. German suplex gets two. Eddie escapes the brainbuster and hits his own, and the frog splash finishes at 10:11. Quite the deal for a random Main Event! 2 for 4.
“Taming of the Extreme”
Rob Van Dam v. Chris Jericho – 02.03.96
It’s funny hearing Joel Gertner doing a straight-laced announcing job and also looking skinny. This is Jericho’s ECW debut and also early on for RVD. Rob does some tumbling and hits a crossbody for two, and they trade spinkick attempts before Rob gets a dropkick and a suplex for two. The crowd is just so unimpressed by RVD at this point, booing all his stuff because of the WCW stigma and “pretty boy” reputation. Haha, dummies, a year later and you’ll be eating out of Rob’s hand for all the same stuff. That’s why ECW crowds always annoyed me. Jericho wraps him up with a complex submission hold on the mat and gets a dropkick for two. Rob dumps him and follows with a dive and the crowd is like “Oh, that’s so cool, NOT.” Back in, Rob with the missile dropkick and springboard legdrop for two. Standing moonsault gets two. Jericho blocks the split-legged moonsault as the crowd continues being a bunch of disrespectful assholes to RVD, who is clearly working his ass off trying to win them over. Jericho comes back with a powerbomb for two, but Rob gets a tombstone and finally tells off the crowd. He goes up and Jericho follows him and dropkicks him to the floor and follows with his springboard dive, which he kind of fucks up but the crowd forgives him. Mostly. The crowd continues completely turning on the match as they fight to the floor and Rob hits a moonsault off the railing and they still won’t cut him a break. Jericho gets a chair and we get what I believe is the debut of the Van Daminator, and then Rob hits a crazy inside-out splash onto Jericho on the floor. Back in, that gets two. Jericho drops him on his head with a back suplex and follows with the Lionsault for the pin at 10:57. Fuck all the disrespectful shitbags in the arena for this match. They were working HARD and the crowd was too busy trying to be above it all. 3 for 5.
“A Starla in the Making”
Starla Sexton v. Malia Hosaka – 12.21.98
So this is a very young Molly Holly, with her natural blond hair and generic tights, and she’s looking pretty damn fine here. She controls Hosaka with armdrags, but gets put down with a spinkick and choked out. Mike Tenay goes on a tangent about Akira Hokuto giving birth to a baby who might end up being the next big star in the sport, but we’re 20 years later and I haven’t heard about Kennosuke Sasaki getting into the sport at all, so I don’t think so. Sexton gets some generic comeback offense, but Hosaka gets an inverted DDT for two. Rana gets two. Sexton gets a victory roll for the surprise upset at 4:36, however. I think if Nora came up today in NXT she’s be a huge star based on her look here and workrate, actually. 4 for 6.
From OVW in 2001, as Mark Henry cuts a promo about his charitable work, but manager Kenny Bolin and his crew interrupt, including a lawyer who is doing a Macho Man impression. So Kenny demands that Henry turn over all the money he collected for charity because Bolin is still technically his manager, but Henry decides to attack instead. Although after Henry gets rid of all the goons, some unknown kid with a flat-top haircut runs in and destroys him until Brock Lesnar and Shelton Benjamin make the save. And of course the mystery kid was the Prototype, aka John Cena. 4 for 7.
The Hurricane v. AJ Styles – 01.26.02
From Velocity or Jakked or whatever the D-show was at this point, back in 2002. Hurricane gets a clothesline and hiptoss to start, then a flying headscissors for two. AJ comes back with a brainbuster for two, but he misses a blind charge and Hurricane gets a blockbuster out of the corner. Styles with a superkick, but he misses a shooting star press and the Vertebreaker finishes at 4:33. Nothing much to this, but frankly I’m shocked AJ didn’t get a job off it. 5 for 8.
Albert v. Bobby Rood – 10.19.02
Another one where I had no idea this was a thing that happened. This is definitely Velocity because there’s screens by the TitanTron. We’re also in the classic GIANT FIST era of Smackdown. Maybe FOX will bring it back? Albert pounds on the rookie Rood in the corner, but he comes back with some kicks to the knee until Albert puts him down with a backbreaker. Running splash in the corner and Albert works the back. Rood slugs back, but Albert lays him out with a forearm to the neck and catapults him under the ropes for two. Albert with a neck vice, but Rood dropkicks the knee, so Albert powerslams and then goes up for a pump splash, which misses. Rood fights back again with a DDT and goes up with a missile dropkick for two. Finally Albert puts him down for good with a big boot at 4:36. Hey, Rood was game and Albert gave him tons of offense. 6 for 9.
“Seeds of Lunacy”
William Regal v. Dean Ambrose – 07.01.12
This is from the final vestiges of FCW after it became NXT about a month earlier. Might even be the final show. Regal goes after the arm to start and grinds his shin into it. This is shot in HD, but it seems like it’s done in a weird framerate that’s kind of off-putting for some reason. Maybe it’s because it was done digitally, I dunno, but it bugs me and it doesn’t look natural, like the “soap opera effect” on newer TVs. Regal goes after the fingers like he’s Marty Scurll and then puts Ambrose on the mat and stretches him to teach him a lesson. Regal throws knees and follows with an exploder suplex to send Ambrose to the floor. Regal follows and smashes his hand into the stairs, then steps on his head and traps the hand in the stairs before torturing him further. Remind me not to anger Mr. Regal. We take a break and return with Ambrose sending him into the post as he finally gets some offense. Ambrose uses the delay to try and pop his shoulder back into the socket, and he slugs away on the mat and biels him out of the corner, then pounds on Regal’s ear with some vicious palm strikes. The bottom turnbuckle got pulled off while Dean was outside, so he puts Regal’s ear on it and smashes his boot into Regal’s head a few times, causing Regal to bleed from the ear and that’s pretty nasty. Regal can’t regain his balance and the trainer tries to tend to him, but Regal suddenly hits Ambrose with the POWER OF THE PUNCH so clearly he’s not giving up. What an awesomely timed spot that was. A swarm of referees come in to try and stop the match, but Ambrose wants none of that, and finally they call for the bell at 13:50. Ambrose continues calling Regal a pussy for staying down with a mere ear injury, and he puts him in his own Regal Stretch, but Regal calls for a truce. And then asks to be put out of his misery, so Ambrose obliges and nails him with a running knee to the ear to put him down once and for all. Holy shit this was great, although sadly there was no final payoff to this. 7 for 10.
Quite the collection of rarities this time around! Nothing I’d call “bad” in these, either. That wraps up another Hidden Gems session, unless I decide to go back and do the Legends Battle Royal, which I probably won’t.