The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems – 01.12.19
Gosh I love these. This week, some UK-themed stuff and maybe some Mean Gene collection tidbits. It’s all good.
Colliding with the Crippler
Billy Robinson v. Ray Stevens (09.13.81)
Back to the AWA we go, as they’re really mining Verne for content lately and I’m increasingly wondering why they don’t just start uploading more episodes of TV. Stevens literally runs away to start as announcer Mean Gene notes “the crowd has really been giving him heat tonight”. KAYFABE, GENE! Robinson threatens all kind of martial arts and then just slaps him in the corner, in a funny spot. So Stevens heads to the apron again and then tries a sneak attack in exaggerated fashion, which Billy obviously catches. Billy offers Ray a hammerlock as a peace offering, and then effortlessly breaks it and makes Stevens look foolish. Finally Ray knees him in the gut to curtail the tomfoolery, so Robinson decides to stop messing around and takes him down to work on the leg. Stevens, however, heads out for a cheapshot from the floor and runs Robinson into the ringside table before dishing out abuse on the apron. Stevens chokes him out in the corner, but Robinson gets all fired up with the comeback and sends Stevens flying with a right. Stevens hides in the ropes and won’t get up, so Robinson crawls over for a headbutt from his knees like JYD, and that prompts Stevens to get out of the corner. He boots Stevens to the apron and down to the floor, and returns some of the abuse dealt by Stevens earlier. Stevens heads back in and pleads for mercy, so Robinson offers a handshake of sportsmanship and of course Stevens turns on him. So Robinson beats on him in the corner, but Stevens reverses him into the turnbuckles and tries the Boston crab. Robinson actually bridges out of it in an amazing counter, and a backslide ends it at 13:14. What a fun match! 1 for 1.
Britain Versus Brisco
World Junior title: Les Thornton v. Gerald Brisco (09.13.81)
So this is the same night as the previous match, oddly enough, but we’re in Florida now. It’s some kind of 8mm footage and the audio quality is iffy and it’s heavily edited, but it’s not unwatchable or anything. They fight over a wristlock and Thornton grabs a handful of hair to maintain a headlock, until Brisco escapes with a kneecrusher. He tries the spinning toehold a few times and Thornton reverses to a cradle for two and slugs away in the corner. Brisco fights back and goes to work on the knee, then gets the abdominal stretch. Both guys tumble out of the ring off that and brawl on the floor, and Thornton suplexes him in back in for two. Brisco comes back in the corner, but Thornton takes him down with his feet on the ropes for the pin to retain. But then a second ref comes in and clears up the situation, so Brisco rolls up Thornoton to win the title at 7:00 aired. Alas, we follow them back to the dressing room, where the ref informs Brisco that if Thornton was using the ropes, that’s a DQ, so he retains the belt. HOWEVER, I decided to look up the history of the belt, and in fact Brisco was recognized as the champion after that show, and lost the title back to Thornton a month later. In case you were wondering. 2 for 2.
North of the Border
Duke Myers, Kerry Brown, Dynamite Kid & Great Gama v. Davey Boy Smith, Keith Hart, Bruce Hart & Robbie Stewart (10.09.81)
And we go up to Stampede in 1981 with the babyfaces working on Kerry Brown in their corner. Stewart goes up with an elbowdrop for two and whips Brown into the corner HARD for a cartoon bump. Davey and Bruce do some chiropractic work on Brown’s leg. And then we take a break and return at the FIFTY MINUTE mark with Stewart getting beat up in the heel corner. Apparently Stewart returned to the UK in 86 and was better known as Chic Cullen for the rest of his career, for all you UK blokes. Stewart fights back with a small package on Gama for two and a sunset flip on Brown for two, but the heels just blast him every time he gets a hope spot. Gama chokes him out on the top rope and baits the Hart brothers in, which allows DK to suplex Stewart over the top and to the floor. Heel ref Cedric Hathaway misses everything and the crowd is PISSED, chanting “We want a ref”. Bruce can take no more and explodes in with shots on the heels, but Kid gets a gut wrench and pounds away on him, just working super-stiff. Gama collides with Stewart with time running out, but the heels cut him off again and Gama backdrops him for two. Finally Stewart slides underneath and it’s HOT TAG Keith Hart and everyone just runs in and brawls. The heels all collide in the middle and Keith gets the patented sleeper on Gama, but the 60:00 time limit expires at 14:30 aired, which then turns out to be manager JR Foley ringing the bell 30 seconds early as Ed Whalen has a coronary. The heels cut a “victory” promo afterwards, and Dynamite tells them to bring four stretchers for the rematch next week and apparently another referee to make sure the babyfaces don’t cheat them next time. And the babyfaces reply in their own promo, as they want a NINETY minute time limit next week. Davey Boy is a literal teenager at this point and it’s like the squeaky voiced teen on the Simpsons cutting a promo. Gimme all the Stampede, WWE Network! 3 for 3.
For Pete’s Sake
NXT UK title: Pete Dunne v Mark Andrews (06.08.17)
This appears to be another NXT house show taped for the Network. Pete had just won the title from Tyler Bate but he was already over huge here. Dunne goes for a wristlock and some guy actually yells out “SMALL JOINT MANIPULATION!” Quit stealing my gimmick! He takes Andrews down and splits the fingers, then wraps him up in a leglock until Mark makes the ropes. Andrews comes back with armdrags, but Dunne goes back to the arm until Andrews flips out of a sunset flip and dropkicks him. Dunne goes for the wristlock and snaps the wrist with a clever Indian deathlock-style move, then viciously bends the fingers again. Andrews goes to the ropes and Dunne yanks him back by the hand and stomps the fingers, but Andrews snaps off a rana to put him on the floor. Mark follows with a tope and rolls into a cradle back in the ring, and then double-stomps him. Running knee into a northern lights suplex and standing moonsault for two. Andrews throws forearms and the ref instructs Dunne to get his hands up, but Dunne just ignores him and then WALLOPS Andrews with his own forearm. What a nice touch! Andrews with a headscissors for two out of the corner, but he charges in again and gets wrapped up in SMALL JOINT MANIPULATION as Dunne works on the hand and stomps on his face. Andrews fights back again and reverses the Bitter End into a rana for two. He misses a springboard and tries a DDT, and then counters the X-Plex into a stunner. Andrews to the top, but the shooting star misses and Dunne just nails him with a forearm and finishes with the Bitter End at 9:39 to retain. This was a damn good match that I’d recommend checking out, although the handheld camera might give you motion sickness. 4 for 4.
Now, onto some classic Mean Gene from the collection on the Network. Most of this I’ve seen, but here’s some that I haven’t, which highlight how great he was.
Larger Than Life Personalities (08.02.80)
From the AWA, as Gene interviews Andre the Giant, who claims to have never lost a match. LIAR! Andre kind of mumbles through his lines, but Gene just reacts like he totally expected everything being said and presses on. Gene compares hand sizes with Andre, and then Andre covers his face and chuckles good-naturedly. Then we move forward a bit, as Andre is a bit heavier with longer hair, and claims to have spent $67,000 on airplane tickets in the last year alone. He shows off his size 22 boots and says he was offered a spot with the Washington Redskins, but turned it down because he prefers to do things on his own. Then another promo with Andre, who walks into the frame by covering up the camera and then stepping over to Gene. They do the shoe comparison again, with Andre’s boots now size 20 (and Gene’s size 9 now a size 10) and Andre gives Gene his custom jacket, which looks gigantic on Gene, duh. Wonderfully charming stuff.
The Consummate Athlete (02.27.82)
More from Gene in the AWA, this time interviewing Nick Bockwinkel and Bobby Heenan. Okerlund gives the usual praise for the champion, and Nick calmly replies “Everything you have said is correct.” Bobby then goes on a hilarious rant about how Gene has trouble dressing himself in the morning because he doesn’t have much to work with, and calls Rick Martel “a French butler”.
The Body’s Bombshell (12.30.83)
This is notable for a couple of reasons. First up, we get two takes of the promo, but more importantly, this would have to be the last promo from both Mean Gene and Jesse Ventura before they both showed up on WWF TV that week. Anyway, Jesse announces that his new tag team partner in the “Far East and West Connection” is Mr. Saito, and Saito presents Jesse with a kimono. “That’s a nice smoking jacket!” declares Gene, and Saito gives an offended “That’s no smoking jacket, that kimono!” and then breaks a board with his head. Gene’s reaction to this bombshell announcement and board breaking is of course AMAZEMENT. And then we cut to an earlier take, with the same beats but different verbiage from Jesse and he’s kind of tripping on his lines and trying to remember his points. They do the same gag with the “smoking jacket” and Saito tries to break the board, but it proves too hard for his head. And then they all crack up and end the interview while walking off laughing. Amazing.
Champions and Champagne (01.23.84)
So this is the famous post-match interview after Hulk won the WWF title in MSG, with Andre pouring champagne over his head (which according to the Observer at the time was setting up a Shea Stadium match between them in the summer that never happened), and then we get another promo later with “Ruth and Pete Hogan” and their thoughts.
Talking to the Stars (02.18.85)
Gene talks to various celebrities after The War to Settle the Score (and why isn’t THAT on the Network in some form?). First up, Hulk gives his usual coked up promo about his war with Piper. HE’LL DIE FOR ROCK N ROLL, BROTHER! Cyndi Lauper gives her thoughts in her ridiculous accent. And then speaking of ridiculous, Mr. T is here for Hulk, because he like good CLEAN wrestling. None of that dirty stuff! Gene is doing god’s work holding this circus together and summing it up. And then we get Andy Warhol (“It’s just so exciting I don’t know what to say” he notes in a monotone) while Gene presses on keeps summing up the storyline. Joe Piscopo randomly stops by and talks about how “the girls wrestling were pretty hot”. And then 80s rock icon BILLY SQUIER, who is pretty awesome but kind of walked away from the music scene at the end of the decade. And then Roddy Piper comes in, wearing a towel after a shower, and cuts a blistering promo on Gene while Danny DeVito hides in the corner. Tremendous work from Gene here.
Preparing to Make History (03.15.85)
So with Wrestlemania looming, Gene stops by the gym where Hulk and Mr. T are working out, and T accidentally knocks out the poor guy holding the sparring gloves. “How is this man, Hulk?” Gene asks, and Hulk casually goes “He’s going to be all right” while basically dumping his dead body out of the ring like a sack of garbage. And then Hulk cuts his promo while T goes nuts in the background like Ultimate Warrior. Hulk is concerned because he keeps paying for sparring partners and T keeps knocking them out, brother! Next up, Gene visits Billy Martin in a bar and they discuss the Wrestlemania main event, of which Martin will be the guest ring announcer. And then we finish with Gene interviewing Liberace, which is about what you’d expect.
Of course, there’s also the stuff you’d expect on here, like the Gobbledygooker and Cream of the Crop and Who Are You To Doubt El Dandy?, but that’s all stuff we’ve covered to death. Gene was one of a kind and a huge part of my childhood, and most of our childhoods, and it’s still fun watching him work today. RIP.