The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems–That 70s Rant!

The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems- That 70s Rant!

Continuing on now into the wacky new era of “color TV”. Pff, what a fad.

NWA World title: Gene Kiniski v. Dory Funk Jr. (Feb 1969)

Once again, my personal connection to the match is that Kiniski was my dad’s next door neighbor in Maple Ridge, BC, when he was in high school. This is highlights from the Florida TV show, and Gordon Solie gives SPOILERS right in his introduction, telling us who won the match, and how! This appears to be shot on film and projected onto a curtain in the WWE offices basement or something. Joined with Funk getting a backslide for two, but Kiniski puts him down with a backdrop suplex. Funk with a backdrop for two as Solie notes that Kiniski beat Lou Thesz for the title in 67. Keep in mind that in the last batch, we saw Thesz as World champion in 1951 and even THEN he was well established in the role. Now that’s some longevity! Funk with a pair of bodyslams and he hooks the spinning toehold, but Kiniski fights him off, so Funk takes him down again and hooks it even deeper, until he wins the title at 3:14 shown. Funk jumping around the ring and celebrating is kind of surreal, given his usual stoic manner. Dory gives his victory interview with Gordon back in the studio, looking REALLY young and rocking a sharp suit and cowboy hat. Good action in the short clips we got and I love having these old title changes documented like this. 1 for 1.

“Bruno Battles a Caged Animal”

WWWF title: Bruno Sammartino v. George Steele (07.29.70)

This is a cage match from MSG, and we get bonus footage of the cage being assembled before the match, back when they had to secure each piece with what looked like chicken wire. Bruno goes CRAZY on George as soon as they get in, attacking him in the corner and chasing him around the ring to beat on him some more. I’m not 100% sure of the backstory here, but Bruno seems pissed and I wouldn’t want to be on his bad side. It’s kind of weird because George is much younger than we’d remember him as, and although the look and basic character is the same he’s playing a much faster-moving version of himself rather than the “Duh duh” simpleton he became. Bruno tries to walk out early, but Steele cuts him off, so Bruno ties him up in the ropes and just brutalizes him, stomping away on his face and choking him with his boot. Animal comes back and runs him into the turnbuckles, but Bruno manages to fight him off and hang him upside-down in the ropes and then gives him some cheese-grater action on the cage. George tries to climb out, so Bruno just hauls him down, with Animal taking an impressive flat back bump right from the top rope to the mat, and then Bruno PUNTS him in the head. Steele finally goes low to stop him and busts Bruno open, then rips open the turnbuckle and rubs stuffing in the wound. Steele controls for a while, but Bruno makes the comeback, beats him down again and walks out the door at 14:30 to retain. Lots of fun here. 2 for 2.

“A Moving Demonstration”

From Florida TV in 1972, this is a cool segment where Les Thornton, Danny Hodge and Bob Roop do an exhibition with a job guy and we get slow-motion footage of various wrestling moves like suplexes and judo throws while Gordon Solie explains them on commentary. Also, as a bonus, I believe one of the job guys, “Ali Vasari”, would be the super-green skinny kid who would later become the Iron Sheik. Just a neat little segment. 3 for 3.

“The Cowboy and a Texas Bronco”

North American title: Cowboy Bill Watts v. Terry Funk

From Mid-South TV in 1975, back when Watts mostly had hair. Watts whips Funk around and Terry of course takes a crazy bump in the corner off that. Terry works on the arm and drops a leg for two, but Bill fights back. Funk of course ends up in the ropes doing his clownish sell of it before falling to the floor. Back in, they slug it out in the corner and Funk wants a piledriver, but Watts backdrops out and makes the comeback with the powerslam for the pin at 5:24. Funk does the Curly Shuffle after the loss to really sell it. Not much to this one, and it’s particularly weird to see Funk going a random TV job near the height of his career. 3 for 4.

“Andre the Giant Feat of Strength”

More from Mid-South, in 1976 this time, as Andre breaks a “steel” bar, and then lifts a “2000 lb” weight. You know it’s on the level because it’s got “2000 lbs” painted on it, and there’s strenuous quality standards that you have to meet before you can paint that on there. Some might be skeptical that a piece of metal the approximate size of a traffic cone could violate the laws of physics like that, but I feel like I’m not quite that cynical. 3 for 5.

“McMahon Interviews Muhammad Ali”

That title is pretty self-explanatory. There’s actually a match here, as Ali was preparing for his “legendary” fight with Antonio Inoki and Vince Sr. was promoting the closed circuit airings in the US, so they got Ali to come on WWWF’s TV shows and do an exhibition in Chicago with wrestler Buddy Wolfe for ABC’s Wide World of Sports, with Verne Gagne as referee. Oh, and Freddie Blassie is managing Ali so this is already about as batshit crazy as you can get for one of these. As you’d expect, Ali is wearing full boxing gloves and Wolfe is trying to wrestle him, but the whole thing was a complete work as far as I know. Ali throws some shots and Wolfe tries to take him down. Second round sees Wolfe slightly more successful, weathering the punches and actually getting a backbreaker for two (you know, like you’d see in a real fight) but Ali escapes the round. Round 3 and Ali takes Wolfe down with a side headlock and goes back to throwing jabs while Wolfe sells like a wrestler and hides in the corner. Round 4 and it turns into a complete donnybrook, with cornerman Dick the Bruiser now getting involved as everyone brawls and they throw out the match due to excessive shenanigans at 11:00 total. Nick Bockwinkel comes into the ring to cut a promo on Ali afterwards, and then Vince McMahon interviews Ali so he can do his promo about the Inoki match, and it’s a crazy heel promo about how he’s the greatest boxer or wrestler in the world because Freddie has been teaching him the DIRT. This was nuts on every conceivable level. 4 for 6.

“Inoki Faces the Lariat”

World Martial Arts title: Antonio Inoki v. Stan Hansen (08.17.79)

Holy cow, off to Stampede in 79 for this one. 16 year old Diana Hart presents Inoki with flowers as Ed tells the tale of Japanese matches having a 61:00 time limit because you apparently get an extra minute to finish things off if needed. OK then. Hansen (who looks exactly the same as he would for the next 20 years) tries to clubber him, but Inoki quickly takes him down for a legdrop and throws a series of armdrags to keep Hansen off his feet. Inoki works the arm while Ed explains that Inoki is here on an exchange program, with himself plus Seiji Sakaguchi and Tatsumi Fujinami doing the tour of Canada and I’m assuming the future Bulldogs and a couple of Harts going over to Japan. Talk about a win-win, regardless. Hansen manages to get a chinlock on him, but Inoki slams out of it for two. Hansen tries an elbowdrop, but Inoki mule kicks him to block in a nice counter and goes to a leglock. Stan pokes the eyes to escape and follows with a piledriver for two. Inoki slugs back, but Hansen goes to the eyes, so Inoki come back with a dropkick and bridges out of a piledriver attempt. Stan tries again and Inoki flips over into a backslide for two. Enuzuigiri and he goes up with a flying knee to finish at 9:10. Good match! And the crowd was really into Inoki as well. 5 for 7.

“Battle of the Nature Boys”

Buddy Rogers v. Ric Flair (11.22.79)

And we finish this set with the only match we could possibly end with – the only documented meeting of the two Nature Boys. Video quality is of course incredibly suspect, but still, DAMN. It’s just 5:00 of clips of the match, but the crowd is super hot for it and Flair seems notably energized. Rogers bleeds all over the place and they’re bumping and selling for each other like crazy until Tommy Young gets bumped out of the ring and Flair gets the figure-four. Rogers finds a foreign object and KOs Flair to escape, and apparently wins by countout. Frankly I’m shocked Flair didn’t lobby to lose clean to him. Obviously this is worth watching once for historical value alone. Seemed like a great match, too. 6 for 8.

Next time: Off to the 80s and the match that inspired this entire “Hidden Gems” concept!