The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems – 09.20.18
Back to the actual “hidden gem” theme this week after a couple of weeks of weak Mae Young Classic-related matches. This week’s theme: Hispanic heritage!
The Fighting Fifties
Rito Romero v. Danny Savich (08.26.52)
We’re back to 1952 at the Sportatorium in Dallas, and this is a 2/3 falls match featuring the Mexican legend who lends his name to the Romero Special. The referee helpfully explains the rules of wrestling in great detail to the men, at which point Savich pops off with a cheapshot on Romero. Savich has wacky rainbow tights, and the announcer explains the backstory: A local manufacturer of gear came by with samples of all the colors and materials available, which were in the form of a sample pair of tights mixing them all together like a crazy quilt. So Savich saw the sample and said “That’s exactly what I’m looking for!” and had several pairs made exactly like them. Savich may also be the only human being more hairy than Iron Mike Sharpe, looking Dan Hedaya as a wrestler. Romero works a headlock on Savich for a while, but Savich takes him down with a sleeper until Romero flips him over and pounds him out. Savich runs away for a bit and then takes him down with a leglock. So Savich puts one leg under the ropes and a lady at ringside LOSES HER SHIT and goes to ringside to yell at the referee about it. So Savich argues with her to draw some heat, and Romero makes a comeback with dropkicks, but Savich batters him down and wins the first fall at 7:51. The announcer calls it a “piledriver” but the context here was Savich piledriving his forearm onto Romero’s head, not the move that came to be known by that name.
Second fall and Savich works a wristlock and rabbit-punches the kidneys behind the ref’s back, which is some nice old-school cheating I can appreciate. Savich throws some chops in the corner, but Romero gets the mounted punches in the corner until Savich tosses him and works the neck in the ring. Apparently he’s building up to the “Diamond Drill Twister”, which sounds pretty goddamn badass, whatever it is. Savich hangs him in the Tree of Woe, but Romero has had enough and fights back, throwing Savich to the apron and running him into the post before following with an enzuigiri and a rollup for the pin at 15:18.
Third fall and Savich takes him down and works a hammerlock on the mat, wrapping his own leg around the arm to really wrench it in. Apparently stepping on someone’s hand is illegal, though, and the ref breaks it up. What is this, Creampuff Championship Wrestling? I thought this was TEXAS, with real men and tough guys! Romero comes back with a full nelson and runs Savich headfirst into the turnbuckles. Savich bails and Romero dropkicks him off the apron and the referee is AGHAST at the flagrant disregard of the rules on display from Romero here. Back in, Savich offers a truce and agrees to stop cheating, but then turns on Romero and throws him out of the ring anyway. He LIED. Well I never! They slug it out and Savich uses the DIAMOND DRILL TWIST, which is basically twisting the neck. Well, I’m gonna admit, I’m disappointed with that payoff. And then he ties Romero’s neck up in the ropes and pulls on his feet until the ref calls for the DQ at 25:00. I guess trying to strangle your opponent is too “dangerous” for supposed tough Texans. That was a pretty cool visual, at least. Fun little old school match. 1 for 1.
Demolishing the Competition
Demolition v. Tito Santana & Mil Mascaras (08.28.87)
Well this is kind of bananas. This is from a Sam Houston Coliseum house show featuring the nightmare commentary team of Bruce Prichard, Duke Doherty & Mike McGuirk. For extra wackiness, Tito and Mil are seconded by Jose Lothario. Ax pounds on Tito to start, but he gets a crossbody for two and the babyfaces double-team Smash and work the arm. Tito tries another crossbody, but Smash catches him and pounds away in the corner. Ax gets a back elbow for two, but Mascaras comes in with a splash for two. Mascaras gets the heat in the corner and actually sells a couple of moves, so obviously he’s going over in the end. Ax misses a headbutt and the babyfaces hit a double dropkick, but Tito gets tripped up for some reason. I think that was supposed to Fuji doing it, but he forgot and Tito did the spot anyway. Mascaras hits the double forearm on Ax and Tito comes in for the flying forearm, but this time Fuji remembers to trip him up and that’s a DQ at 6:10. Aha, so Fuj fucked up the finish and they had to improvise, I see! Anyway, this was AWFUL. 1 for 2.
The Pride of Puerto Rico
WWWF title: Pedro Morales v. Blackjack Mulligan (03.15.71)
Hey, someone was just asking about why they don’t feature Pedro more, and here he is! So this is from MSG, naturally, and people are MAD at Mulligan and throwing garbage at him before the ring announcer can even do his intros. We get a great piece of business from Blackjack as he does a whole gag where he tells the ref to check Pedro’s tights, and then goes into his own tights for a weapon while he’s checking. However, the front row then immediately screams at the ref and Blackjack freaks out and has to start the routine again. Fantastic, I love stuff like that. I know this will sound trite and obvious, but holy SHIT is young Blackjack a dead ringer for Barry Windham. Blackjack takes a few swings with his (allegedly) loaded glove and misses, and has a tantrum about that, so Pedro takes him down with an armdrag and the crowd goes APESHIT. For an armdrag! Pedro takes him down again and Blackjack complains of hairpulling and other cheating, and then goes for his tights again and gets caught by the crowd. Finally he gets the phantom weapon out and hits Pedro in the throat, then makes it disappear again before going to a nerve pinch. After massaging Pedro’s shoulder for a while, the champ fights out and makes a comeback, slamming Blackjack with ease. That was pretty damn impressive power. Blackjack strays back to his tights again and he’s starting to remind me of Chuckie on Sons of Anarchy. You know, pre-amputation.
Blackjack works a knucklelock and the MSG crowd is just raucous trying to get Pedro going, and he responds with a headlock to take over again. Blackjack goes for the hair and Pedro keeps grinding on the headlock to stop him, but Mulligan slams him and Pedro fires right back with his own and goes to a chinlock. Blackjack escapes and teases going for the weapon again, this time getting it loaded up fast enough to put Pedro down with a shot to the throat. Mulligan gets another loaded punch in the corner and follows with a backdrop for two, but he thinks that he’s won and celebrates. Pedro dropkicks him from behind, and goes up to finish with a flying butt splash at 14:12 to retain. The crowd of course loses their minds with happiness at this result. Like, if you wondering why Pedro was champion in 1971, watch this crowd reaction when he wins. It’s like Hogan winning the title in 84. Blackjack is great, Pedro less so, but this was hard-worked and enjoyable. And I’m a sucker for the Jerry Lawler phantom foreign object routine. 2 for 3.
WCW Cruiserweight title: Rey Mysterio Jr. v. Super Calo (09.23.96)
So is a REAL rarity – a dark match from Nitro! I didn’t even know WCW saved these! Rey takes him down and they exchange leglocks on the mat to start, but Calo gets a powerslam and stomps away. Nerdy note: The sound mix on this is amazing, with what appears to be a discrete surround mix and great details in the crowd mic. Maybe Nitro was always mixed that way and we just couldn’t hear it because the announcers were talking over everything, but I’m pretty sure the real shows were much more muted. Calo beats on Rey outside, and they head back in, where Calo misses a top rope senton and Rey comes back with a flying rana and monkey flip. Springboard headscissors puts Calo on the floor and Rey follows with a quebrada. Back in, Rey drapes him on the ropes and goes up with a guillotine legdrop for two, and a springboard moonsault for two. Calo comes back with a powerbomb for two and goes up with a moonsault that misses and looks like it blows out his elbow on the way down, and both guys are out. Calo has a whole conversation with the ref about how his elbow is messed up, and Rey quickly finishes him with another moonsault at 6:20. The finish was a disaster because of an injury to Calo, but what a rarity this was! 3 for 4.
Now this is what I’m looking for in my “hidden gems”! Actual rare matches that aren’t just “TV matches we haven’t seen in a while”. More of this, please!