The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems – 08.08.19
This week’s theme should be obvious.
NWA World title v. WWF title: Harley Race v. Superstar Billy Graham (01.25.78)
Off to Florida’s “Superbowl of Wrestling” in 1978 with a batshit crazy title unification match right away. We get footage of the press conference hosted by Eddie Graham, as well as Gordon Solie’s giant lapels. But we can be SURE it’s 1978?
Yes. It’s confirmed.
We also a promo with both guys beforehand, as Race is sick of “flamboyant BS” from people such as Graham. So Graham rips off his paisley shirt and flexes at Race, who remains unimpressed. The actual match was apparently plagued by intermittent rain in the outdoor stadium. We’re joined with them fighting over a wristlock, and Race slugging him down and hitting the piledriver. Race with a gutwrench, but he misses a diving headbutt and we’re clipped to Graham getting the bearhug to win the first fall at what was apparently 40:00 in. Both guys go over the top to the floor and Race suplexes him back in for the second fall. Race with the sleeper as Graham is busted open late in the match, and he drops knees and gets two. Race with another sleeper, but the one hour time limit expires at 6:30 aired and we’ll never know who the best World champion is. Unless one promotion buys the other, BUT HOW LIKELY IS THAT LOL? Not much to rate here, but how often do you see this kind of thing? You should probably check it out if you can somehow find this stuff on the Network once it leaves “Recently Added”.
NWA World title: Harley Race v. Jack Brisco (08.12.78)
Also from Florida TV in 78, although this is more film footage without commentary. Brisco attacks in the corner and immediately tosses him over the top rope, but the ref clarifies that it’s no DQ so the match continues. Back in, Race rakes the eyes and goes for a facelock, but Jack powers up and maneuvers Race into a pinning position a couple of times. Race goes back to the facelock, but Jack powers out and slugs away in the corner to make a comeback, setting up the figure-four in the middle. Race reverses right away, so Brisco literally kicks him in the ass to break and follows with a backdrop suplex, as both guys are down. They slug it out with time running out and Race goes with the ol’ thumb to the throat to win that, but he goes up and Brisco slams him off, for two. Brisco with a really nice dropkick and another figure-four, but Race makes the ropes right away, so Jack keeps coming with a small package for two. Backbreaker gets two. Cradle gets two, but time expires at 9:55 aired and it’s a 60:00 draw. Even the 10:00 shown was a hell of a match and is well worth checking out. ***1/2
Harley Race & Bill Watts v. The Brisco Brothers (10.08.74)
More from Florida, as this will no doubt be a drastically different Brisco Brothers match than the one I reviewed on ROH TV yesterday. Also, Bill Watts and Harley Race might be the most grizzled tag team ever, unless we swap out one of them for Johnny Valentine or something. Jack runs wild on both heels with slams and Gerry works the arm of Race, allowing the Briscos to double-team him in the corner while we do some rapid cuts. Must be a young Kevin Dunn in the booth. Over to the Cowboy, who gets a facelock on Gerry, and then Race with a suplex. We cut to various points in the heat on Gerry, but he makes the hot tag to Jack and Watts IMMEDIATELY cuts him off with an elbow to the gut. That’s pretty great. Race works him over with a suplex and a bunch of falling headbutts for two, but we cut to Gerry running wild on both guys. I feel like the ref is losing control of this situation. Gerry gets an atomic drop on Watts and Jack comes in with another hot tag, but Watts cuts him off AGAIN and Race hits a diving headbutt onto him in the heel corner. Race wants to finish, but Watts demands to be tagged in again and he gets the pin at 7:35 aired while Gerry fights off Race in the other corner. And then the heels lay out both Briscos to wrap things up. Man, that went pretty bad for the babyfaces. Watts was a hell of a heel here. **1/2
NWA World title: Harley Race v. Ric Flair (11.14.80)
From Mid-Atlantic, and this appears to be highlights from a match shot with deteriorating film stock. Once again, thank god the WWE Network is here to preserve what they can before this stuff disappears forever. Very heavily clipped as Flair tries a sleeper, but Race takes him down and drops knees on this throat to take over. Flair comes back with a suplex and fights out of the corner, but both guys collide and Race bumps to the floor. Back in, Flair goes up and gets slammed off, but Race misses a headbutt and Flair makes a comeback with the figure-four. Race apparently escapes during a cut, so Flair works on the knee and Harley’s trunks get pulled down in the process, while the cameraman zooms in on his ass crack in disturbing fashion. They slug it out and tumble to the floor, and Flair comes back in the ring and hammers on Harley with elbows, then shoves the ref for the DQ at 6:00 as both guys are bleeding all over. Ric walks out with the belt, but it was not to be that night. I found it really hard to watch with the crappy video and jump cuts, but it looked like a hell of a match.
Coliseum Video outtakes (10.01.87)
Andre the Giant, Harley Race and Frenchy Martin visit France and see the sights, and we get outtakes as they blow lines and Andre goes on a rant about kicking Napolean out of his tomb and take it over for himself. Man, I wish they’d dig up more stuff like this and put it on the Network.
Harley Race v. Junkyard Dog (10.23.87)
From Paris, with Andre as the special guest referee. Despite being a heel, Andre of course gets a massive babyface reaction from the crowd. Harley remains a heel, because I’m assuming France is still touchy about the whole French Revolution thing and dislikes royalty. I mean, get over it, right? Well, it’s the French, what are ya gonna do? More notable: This is the first time I can remember “Grab Them Cakes” actually making it onto the WWE Network. Dog punches Race to start and Andre immediately warns him about illegal fists, and then he tosses Race over the top and Andre chastises him for that as well. Back in, Dog rakes the back and Andre also warns him about that. GOOD. He’s clearly breaking rules and cheating! Finally Andre pulls him off Race to prevent this nonsense, and Race drops an elbow for two. Race with the chinlock as the crowd chants something that I can only assume is “We surrender”. Dog fights back with headbutts and Andre prevents that as well because he’s actually doing his job as referee, and they fight on the floor. Race rams him into the table and Dog no-sells that, and then gets a cheapshot back in the ring. How does this idiot not learn his lesson? Race comes back with a piledriver and Dog no-sells that as well, so Race goes to the ropes and Andre has to prevent Dog from attacking a man in the corner. Dog headbutts Race into the ropes and slugs away with more illegal fists, and Race falls to the floor. Back in, Dog finally does a legit move with a Russian legsweep, but Andre is busy making sure he hasn’t dropped any illegal weapons elsewhere in the ring and can’t get there in time to count. Race with the chinlock and Andre keeps asking “Do you give up?”, at which point 15 people in the front row reply “Yes! We give up!” just as a reflex. And they’re the security team, too! They fight to the floor again and Dog no-sells a shot to the railing, but Race cuts him off with a knee to the head on the way into the ring. Andre is an awesome referee, actually counting at a speed that a normal human being would count. Dog makes the comeback with more illegal fists and Andre lays down the law again, tough but fair. Dog with another headbutt to put Race down and Andre GLARES at him, and Dog gets the Thump but Andre has had enough of his shit and won’t count. Why would you antagonize the Giant? THE MAN TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THOSE HEADBUTTS! Race with the belly to belly and his own headbutt, but he wisely ASKS first and then does the move. So then Dog does his own headbutts and finally Andre has had all he can take and just kicks him to the floor and counts him out at 14:35. Good, the man was a no-good cheat and got actually exactly what he deserved. And then he gets helped to the back by Outback Jack and SD Jones for one final humiliating end to his night. So yeah, this was unspeakably awful. -***