The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems – 10.09.18
As promised, we’ve got some SHOOTER themed Hidden Gems this week, although I’m not really sure what the tie-in would be. Dean Malenko’s birthday? Who knows. And of course, a special bonus at the end that people have been bugging me for.
NWA World title: Lou Thesz v. Wild Bill Longson (06.17.52)
From the always-dependable TEXAS RASSLIN’ archives, and I find these fascinating because I read about guys like Bill Longson in the history books and I’ve never had a chance to check him out. All I know is that he was the sort of chap you were not apt to fuck with, and apparently he invented the piledriver. So good for him. Longson was also one of the guys who claimed to be “World champion” in the 40s who then lost to Thesz during the process of creating the NWA World title. Of course Thesz was a pretty decent shooter himself, he said in the understatement of the century. They trade wristlocks on the mat to start and Thesz controls him on the mat, but Longson gives him some rabbit punches to kidney. The announcer is confident that the referee is onto his SKULLDUGGERY. Now THERE’S a word I need to start working in more. Longson pulls the hair and takes Thesz down with a couple of headlocks and rubs his fist into Lou’s face, so that prompts a break from the referee. I guess the ref is actually Ray Gunkel as a special treat tonight. They fight for another wristlock and Longson blatantly pulls the hair to take Thesz down, and then when the ref is watching for the hair pull, he rakes the eyes instead. I like that kind of subtle dickishness. Longson tries to charge in on Thesz and gets taken down, so he goes with the choking on the ropes and Thesz gives him some stiff uppercuts and gets the Thesz Press for the first fall at 8:00.
Second fall, and Longson starts going after the arm, so Thesz takes him down into a leglock and Longson makes the ropes. Bill reverses to his own leglock, and he actually undoes the shoelaces of Thesz’s boot and uses the tip of the lace to scratch Lou’s leg as a heat spot. Thesz wraps him all up like a pretzel to counter and rolls him over for two, but Longson gets a stepover toe hold and grabs the ropes for leverage as the old ladies in the front row lose their shit. Such simple, easy heat. And they milk that for a few minutes, with Longson pretending to put his hand behind his back repeatedly and then grabbing the ropes when the ref looks at Thesz. And of course he tries it one too many times and forgets to let go of the ropes, and gets caught. Thesz makes the comeback and slugs away on him, so Longson makes an admirable leap over the top rope to escape, only to have Thesz hit him with a baseball slide! Thesz dropkicks him off the apron on a second try, but knocks himself silly on the way down, and Longson hits him with the PILEDRIVER, twice, and wins the second fall at 15:27. And yeah, it was definitely a straight Orndorff style piledriver. That was quite the nuclear move in 1952. Even forty years later it was still deadly!
Third fall and Thesz blitzes him with dropkicks and finishes with the Thesz Press at 16:20, and that’s that! Looked like Thesz was legit injured and had to go home early there. Really enjoyed this one, great old-school heel heat from Longson. 1 for 1.
The Great Gotch
WWWF tag team titles: Rene Goulet & Karl Gotch v. The Rugged Russians (01.31.72)
From MSG in 1972, and the Rugged Russians are a couple of masked guys. I’m not familiar with them, but they’re called “Igor” and “Ivan” here, real names Juan Sebastian and Pedro Godoy, and apparently went by the name of Los Medicos (Uno and Dos) in Mexico and other places, and one of them (Godoy) was called The Golden Terror elsewhere. Also, they’re Rugged. Goulet works the arm of the one we’ll call Igor and that goes on for a while, but Igor pulls the flowing mane to escape, only to walk into a hiptoss and another armdrag. Over to Gotch and he holds Igor in a full nelson and does some slick counters to keep him from escaping, then takes him down with an armbar. Man, the more 70s Capitol Sports stuff I see, the more I wonder how audiences put up with this boring bullshit in New York for so long. Goulet gets his own full nelson on Igor, and Ivan comes in break it up and of course hits his own partner, So Goulet controls Ivan with, you guessed it, ARMBARS.
Back to Gotch and he slugs away on Igor and slams him for two, then throws Ivan around the ring and hits both Rugged Russians with headbutts as they beg off and run away and generally don’t appear to be particularly rugged in any known sense of the word. Also, these Russians are played by Latinos, so I feel like this wrestling thing might not be entirely on the up-and-up. I mean, I guess if they were Cubans you could at least have the commie tie-in. If you tell me that Randy Savage was not in fact macho, I’ll lose all faith in humanity. Finally they cheat and get some heat on Gotch and one of them pins him with, like, a stomp to win the first fall at 16:11.
Second fall and our communist pinkos (are we still allowed to call them reds or commies or pinkos? I feel like that’s OK because they’re godless heathens who are out to destroy the American way of life and THAT’S NOT OK. USA! USA!) attack Gotch, but he fights back while I’m pondering Russian relations here in the age of sensitivity, and finishes one of them with a twisting neck hold at 20:52 to even it up.
Third fall and the Russians continue begging off and then attack Goulet from behind like the cowardly commies they portray on TV and work him over in the corner. The ref tries to stop them and gets tossed down, and that’s a DQ at 24:00 because apparently everyone was as sick of this match as I was and they just wanted to end it. 1 for 2.
Oklahoma’s Favorite Son
Danny Hodge & Jos LeDuc v. Pak Song & Toru Tanaka (11.12.74)
Off to Florida for this one, which means the weird filmed look, like it was shot on 8mm. We’re joined with Hodge getting worked over by Pak Song’s deadly stomach claw, and of course Hodge is the shooter in question here. LeDuc comes in to save and pounds away on Song with forearms, and we’re clipped to later in the match as Song holds the deadly Vulcan nerve pinch on LeDuc. Tanaka comes in with more of the same nerve pinch, and Song chops him down, but we’re clipped to Hodge getting the hot tag and destroying Song with right hands. The heels double-team him, but he rolls up Tanaka for two and then gets the abdominal stretch before everyone collides and Hodge falls on top for the pin at 6:18. Not feeling this one either. 1 for 3.
Nobuhiko Takada v. Athol Foley (08.12.83)
From Stampede Wrestling, as Foley is the storyline son of longtime manager JR Foley and hails from “Cesspool, England” according to Ed Whalen. Sweet burn there. Foley was a funny character who was portrayed as the rich kid who got into wrestling because of his “dad” and then constantly screwed it up, kind of like David Flair but played for laughs. Takada is of course the future badass shooting machine who founded UWFI and PRIDE and led indirectly to UFC taking over the world. Foley, with the world’s dumbest mohawk (“Hairstyle by the Wee Willie Winkie poodle parlor”) controls with basic stuff and then Takada blasts him with a headbutt and goes up, but Foley backs off. So he gets a suplex and goes up again with a missile dropkick and Ed Whalen is deeply into this Takada kid. Takada with a front suplex and rolling bridge for the pin at 2:20 shown and Whalen is loving this guy. Takada looked like a STAR here. It was fortuitous timing on Takada’s part, as New Japan sent Tiger Mask over for a tour and Takada was along as a young boy to do jobs, but Mask got injured on the tour and Takada took his place on the TV taping and got over as a result. 2 for 4.
And from shooters to…well, I dunno…call it a continuation of last week’s theme, I guess.
HHH v. The Undertaker (10.06.18)
Yes, we’re off to Australia for the main event of SUPER DUPER POOPER SCOOPER SHOWDOWN. Renee Young’s mind is BLOWN seeing Hizzoner Kane making his entrance. That’s why we can’t have nice things. I was hoping we’d at least make it to the match before someone said something stupid. God bless Renee Young but she’s barely an improvement over Coachman at this point. That’s not a high bar to clear. So this is the LAST MATCH EVER between HHH and Undertaker, until the tag team match next month, of course. So I mean, TECHNICALLY correct, but come on! This isn’t even the first last match ever between them, since the last match between them was supposed to be the last match ever. And I doubt this will be the last last match ever, even if we’re not counting the tag match. This is no-DQ because why not. I’d make fun of HHH and greying beard but for those who follow me on Facebook, I’m of course not one to talk.
We get the big posture to start as the announcers are all BIG FIGHT FEEL, although the true big fight was later in the night. Taker quickly tries Old School but HHH blocks him and works the arm and the ring mic makes it sound like guns are going off or something. HHH goes up with his own Old School attempt, but Taker slugs away in the corner and works the arm and then gets the Old School. Given how these two look, the old school in question is probably the single-room schoolhouse from Little House on the Prairie or something. They’re old, is what I’m saying. Taker with Snake Eyes, but HHH USES THE KNEE for old time’s sake and clotheslines him to the floor. Shawn runs him into the post and HHH takes over on the floor and whips him into the stairs as Taker takes the most leisurely bump possible into them. DX sets up a table and Kane chases them off. Back in, HHH with a neckbreaker for two. Facebuster gets two and the front row chants “This is awesome”. Um, why exactly? Because they’re 8:00 into a house show main event and selling like it’s 40:00? Back to the floor and Taker whips him into the timekeeper cage and preps the announce table, but HHH fights back and they battle into the crowd. Slowly. Always slowly. Taker chokes him out with a cable and the announcers yell “OH MY GOD!” like this is some shocking development we don’t see on TV every week, and they meander further into the crowd and then head back to the ring, where HHH catches him with a half-assed dropkick on the way in before walking into a big boot. HHH heads back to the floor and we’ve had a whole lot of nothing going on for 15:00. So it’s back over to the table and Taker boots Shawn off the apron as the poor guy is taking the best bumps of the match. Back in, HHH hits him with a chair, but now Kane gets involved and Shawn superkicks him onto the table and HHH puts him through it with a gentle elbowdrop off the apron.
Back in, HHH grabs the chair again, but Taker chokeslams him and this would be a perfect time to just wrap this up so everyone can go home and watch NCIS or maybe whatever Nathan Fillion is doing this fall, and the tombstone gets two. So then Taker just knocks out the ref for no adequately explored reason and beats on HHH with a chair as the announcers go through all their clichés. STEEL ON FLESH. “This is sickening to watch! It’s horrific!” the announcers note. I love shoot comments that aren’t supposed to be shoot comments. A second ref joins us as HHH comes back with KICK WHAM PEDIGREE for two and I see they’re doing the big near-falls now except at half-speed and with 2 minutes between each one. HHH puts the chair around Taker’s neck and jumps off the middle rope onto it for two, but Kane saves by pulling out the second ref. You can see they’re trying to do a smoke-and-mirrors main event but this isn’t working at all and Taker is too old and broken down to pull it off. So HHH gets his trusty sledgehammer and Taker gets a chair, and it turns out that sledgehammer beats chair in rock-paper-scissors-sledehammer-chair. And then UT catches him…slowly…with the gogoplata, but there’s no ref anyway. And then HHH chokes him out with the sledgehammer and everyone is out. Shawn and Kane come in for more interference and Shawn goes flying over the top as he continues taking all the bumps for four guys. HHH grabs the sledgehammer, but HHH tries the Pedigree and Taker backdrops out and goes for another tombstone. Shawn breaks that up with a superkick and HHH hits him with the hammer, and the superkick into the KICK WHAM PEDIGREE (aka the SECRET PLAN of 2012!) finishes at 27:31. I’m so glad that Shawn and HHH finally got the chance to beat Undertaker with that combo. The positive: Shawn Michaels, 8 years into his second retirement, still is a hell of a worker. As for the rest, if you like to watch senior citizens laying around the ring and selling in the midst of a 30 minute self-indulgent wank at a government sponsored sold stadium show, I heartily recommend this one! It was everything we were expecting and less. ½* And then they do the big celebration before Taker and Kane turn on DX and put poor Shawn through the announce table. “From the ultimate show of respect to the ultimate betrayal!” Could this mean the return of the Ultimate Warrior? TUNE INTO CROWN JEWEL TO FIND OUT!