The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems – 01.31.19
OK, time to play catchup again. We’ve got FOUR battle royals and 2 Superstars dark matches to get through, so brew some coffee. Or just put in a Keurig pod like everyone else in the world does, whatever.
Over the Top Tag Team Turmoil
AWA tag team battle royal (10.21.84)
And who doesn’t love turmoil, especially of the tag team variety? So we’ve got Steve O & Brad Rheingans, Saito & Bockwinkel, Jim Brunzell & Tony Atlas, Steve Regal & Jimmy Garvin, Billy Robinson & Larry Zbyszko, Larry & Curt Hennig, Baron Von Raschke & The Crusher, The Fabulous Ones, The Road Warriors, and King Kong Bundy & Jerry Blackwell. That’s some pretty good star power in there. Usual mass of bodies slugging it out to start and the Bundy/Blackwell team beat on Hawk. Damn, that Bundy/Blackwell team against the Road Warriors would have drawn some money, I’d bet. Rheingans actually double-legs Hawk to the ropes and nearly gets him out, but Animal saves. I’m shocked Hawk even went up for him. It’s a lot of nothing with guys punching and laying on the ropes. Finally Steve Olsonowski gets thrown out at 7:30, which eliminates his team. Even Rod Trongard doesn’t have much to discuss on commentary and says as much. Brunzell gets thrown out by a Road Warrior and chases Paul Ellering to the back, which removes the Atlas/Brunzell team. And then Baron goes out at 9:35, and Animal gets put out at the same time, removing the Warriors, but he landed on the apron and so they go back in. Larry gets backdropped out but it’s dark and Rod can’t tell who it is. “Someone just got thrown out and he’s not happy about it!” The Warriors throw out Lane to eliminate the Fabs, but Steve Keirn dropkicks Animal out for real this time, and so both teams are gone. “All friendship ceases when you’re going for $100,000” notes Trongard. Well Bobby Heenan would certainly agree with that. Blackwell and Bundy take turns hitting Steve Regal with avalanches and Garvin seemingly eliminates himself for some reason. Larry hits the Axe on both Bockwinkel and Saito, but the Hennigs can’t get Nick out. Saito tosses Curt but he hangs on until Saito slugs him off to eliminate them. And then Bundy appears again and the heels try to put him out, but Blackwell comes back in as well to a huge reaction and saves. We get stereo avalanches on the heels and they both get tossed to give Bundy & Blackwell the win at 15:20. Odd to see Bundy as a babyface here. And after the win, they announce that the Road Warriors will indeed defend the tag titles against these two at the Thanksgiving show.
And then we get the promos for TV afterwards, as we learn that this was Bundy’s AWA debut, and Blackwell cuts a humble promo where he thanks Greg Gagne for backing him up after all the horrible stuff he’d done to him in the past. That’s a nice touch. And then we get another promo with Bockwinkel and Saito (which appears to be pre-production footage, with the cameraman counting Ken Resnick in). Bockwinkel cuts a funny promo about doing a 20 minute draw with Curt Hennig earlier in the card (“Some people have praised Curt for surviving with me for 20 minutes, but Curt might want to be a track star because all the Hennigs do is run from me”). And then more from Resnick, as he brings in Jimmy Garvin (also making his AWA debut), who explains that he indeed did eliminate himself because “his partner was a bum” and some guy in the audience was putting the moves on Precious. Then Larry and Curt Hennig do their promo, and Larry is super-proud of his son. Aw. Next up, Paul Ellering is blameless and his men are honorable wrestlers. Also, Hawk points out that Bundy & Blackwell are FAT. They’ve got more rolls than a bakery! Then Resnick signs off and we return with another interview with Blackwell & Bundy, as they start hyping the title match with the Warriors at the next show. Blackwell completely fucks up and throws out a challenge to “Bruiser Brody” before correcting himself to “King Kong Brody”, and then Bundy calls himself “King Kong Bundy” by mistake instead of “Boom Boom Bundy” so they probably would have had to scrap this interview anyway. I love that kind of behind-the-scenes stuff. 1 for 1 for the whole deal.
New Year’s Bunkhouse Brawl
Bunkhouse Brawl (01.01.87)
Off to the UWF with all the stars of the time, including young Sting, Rick Steiner, One Man Gang, Bill Irwin, Jack Victory, Terry Taylor, Angel of Death, Jim Duggan, Eddie Gilbert, Ted Dibiase, Terry Gordy, Steve Williams, etc. No commentary here and everyone is in jeans. Gordy & Doc eliminate each other and brawl back to the dressing room. Most of the early eliminations happen off-camera, robbing us of seeing Jack Victory, Iceman Parsons & Eddie Gilbert thrown out. Apparently you can lose by over the top, or blood. So you get ring announcements like “Hot Stuff Eddie Gilbert has been eliminated, he’s bleeding”. Like, way to rub it in, jerk. Dibiase and Duggan double-team Michael Hayes and beat on him with a boot, and Steiner gets busted open by Gang’s boot and he’s gone. Lots of people suddenly brawl out of the ring and we appear to be left with Dibiase, Hayes and Buddy Roberts. Buddy charges and gets backdropped out like a goof, and Dibiase wallops on Hayes with his boot until he draws blood for the win at 10:30. This was fun but the camerawork was atrocious. 2 for 2.
Round ‘Em Up
Texas Roundup Match (05.12.91)
This is the Texas USWA’s version of a Royal Rumble, with 12 people at 60 second intervals. So we start with Bill Dundee against Dog of War, and Bill works the arm and slugs him down. Next up is EL GRANDE COLLOSSO, who is more accurately El Grande Jobber. Dundee fights off both heels for a bit, but Gary Young comes in to save and the babyfaces run the heels together. Next up, the Boogeyman, who is a Japanese guy with a Jason mask. That is some LAZY character design. Nothing happens with him and Nightmare Danny Davis is next in and he gets choked out by the awesome force of EL GRANDE COLLOSSO. Dr. Tom Prichard is next and he immediately tosses out Collosso, so we’ll never know who he was. Private Terry Daniels is next and does nothing. Eric Embry comes in and tosses Daniels immediately as Boogeyman gets thrown out by someone. Prichard puts Davis out and Jeff Jarrett comes in and cleans house on everyone, as Gary Young goes out. Embry and Prichard double-team him and El Grande Pistolero is next in to even things up for the heels again, but we take a break and return with Robert Fuller as the last guy in. Embry, Jarrett and Fuller all fight to the back and they’re gone, and Bill Dundee clotheslines both geeks out to win the match at 11:21. The announcer is like “What has happened to Embry, Prichard and Jarrett? I have no idea, but I guess Dundee wins.” Now there’s a ringing endorsement! 2 for 3.
The Grand Royale (01.16.11)
From FCW, this is a different concept, as everyone starts on the floor and you have 30 seconds to fight into the ring and if you don’t make it into the ring, you don’t participate in the battle royal. And then the winner of the match gets a title shot. Once again, they have all this FCW footage with all their current main eventers in early roles and they’re just SITTING on it! Oddly, this match is shot in 4×3 standard definition instead of the usual 16×9, and I’m not sure why. WWE had already gone HD by then and all the other Florida footage on here is as well. Usual battle royal stuff here with guys like Brad Maddox, Jinder Mahal, Hunico, Seth Rollins, Xavier Woods, Richie Steamboat, Roman Leakee, Bo Rotundo, and others. Roman gets tossed out by Calvin Raines, ironically, and various other guys get thrown out in nondescript manner. Seth Rollins gets tossed by Xavier, who weighs a lot more at this point. We end up with Reigns, Xavier, Bo Rotundo and Lucky Cannon. Obviously only two of those guys panned out into anything. In fact, Calvin Raines (kind of) lost his gimmick name to Roman and I believe left the business entirely, although I’m not sure one has anything to do with the other. Anyway, Cannon throws out Xavier and Rotundo, but Raines throws him out to win at 11:00 and earn a title shot at Mason Ryan later in the evening. Lucky him. The 30 second battle at the beginning was a neat twist, but the rest was just a battle royal. 2 for 4.
A Hint of Machismo
Razor Ramon v. Tito Santana (06.29.92)
HOLY COW. It’s a dark match debut for the Bad Guy from a Superstars taping, complete with long tights but otherwise the same gear. Oddly, it sounds like they tweaked the music used by El Matador into what became Ramon’s iconic theme, specifically the drum beat. Tito goes for the wristlock and works the arm, but Ramon makes the ropes and does some stalling with the fans. Tito goes back to the arm and controls with the armbar after a dropkick, but Razor tosses him and beats on him outside to take over. Back in, Razor with a chokeslam for two. Next up, we get the surfboard, as he starts in one direction and then points Tito at the hard camera instead. Uh oh, better send him to NXT. Tito fights out and Razor kicks him in the nuts in a well-timed spot, and then drops the leg on his crotch for some further punishment. Razor stops to pose and goes up, but that gives Tito a chance to get his knees up and make the comeback with the flying forearm for two. Even in this role, Tito is an amazing fired up babyface. Finally Razor rakes the eyes and goes up again, but misses an elbowdrop this time, and Tito comes back with a flying bodypress, which Ramon rolls through for the pin at 11:15 with the help of a handful of tights. Good effort from both guys here, although I’m surprised they didn’t let him pull out the Razor’s Edge right away because it would have instantly gotten over. 3 for 5.
Straight to the Moon
Relampago v. The Mercenary (07.20.92)
This is getting close to the final beta form of Max Moon, although Finkel has trouble pronouncing Relampago, which is “Flash of lightning” in Spanish. He actually says something like “Relentico” instead. Konnan’s wearing the actual Max Moon gear at this point, just before getting fired and screwing it all up. Relampago does the high-flying gymnastic stuff and we get a comedy spot with the Mercenary missing a charge and getting hung up in the corner, which gives Relampago a chance to fix his boot straps. Mercenary with some choking in the cornerbut Relampago does a nice flying wristlock escape and sends Mercenary to the floor. Back in, the rolling clothesline and a flying clothesline finish at 5:28. There was some very basic lucha libre stuff worked in here, but it was mostly a bore. 3 for 6.
So, some hits and misses this week, but always fascinating to watch. I will say, I wish they’d dig deeper into the non-TV footage aspect, like showing the interviewers chatting with the director or the wrestlers before and after promos, because that’s the stuff that really fascinates me. Back when I had my giant C-Band dish in the mid-90s, I’d watch hours of raw feed footage of reporters in the field or other stuff like that, and it’s always super-neat.