The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems–02.28.19

The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems – 02.28.19

And Black History Month wraps up with another four eclectic choices!

The Cat and the Sailor

Dusty Rhodes & Dick Murdoch v. Ernie Ladd & Sailor Art Thomas (12.16.72)

Off to Chicago for this one during the glory days of the Texas Outlaws, with filmed footage but no sound. We’re joined with Murdoch holding a facelock on Ladd as Dusty comes in and clowns on him before running away. Dusty as a cowardly heel is a weird thing. Murdoch tries a headlock on Art Thomas, who does the Flexy Lexy pectoral dance in response, and Dusty comes in and pounds away with elbows before going to a bearhug. Thomas reverses to his own. So if you’re watching this match on the Network, you might notice that the framerate is kind of wacky, like it’s 24 FPS played at 30 or something, making it look like an old silent film with jerky and stuttered motion. Anyway, Murdoch gets a cheapshot on Ladd in the corner and pounds away on him, but Ladd gets all fired up and Murdoch goes flying. Ladd with the bearhug, but we’re clipped to the Outlaws double-teaming him in their corner again until Thomas comes in with a double-team bearhug with help of Ladd and Murdoch goes flailing to the mat again. Back to the bearhug and now the babyfaces double-team Murdoch in their corner, and Thomas goes to the bearhug AGAIN while Dusty tries to sneak in and get up to no good. And then Ladd switches to his own bearhug on Murdoch as I’m sensing a theme. Cut to the Outlaws working Thomas over in the heel corner as Dusty drops elbows on him and they celebrate. But the match continues? The lack of sound and restricted camera angle makes it a little hard to follow all the time. Thomas fights back and Ladd gets the hot tag, and he’s just great in that role. Big boot for Murdoch and he gives both Outlaws a tree slam, but they double-team him in their corner again. Ladd fights back and makes his own comeback as Thomas refuses to tag on the apron for some reason, so Ladd hauls him in and turns on him, allowing the Outlaws to finish him off at 11:44 with elbowdrops. That one could have used some commentary, but Ernie Ladd is still great and you never see the heel Dusty Rhodes on here. This has gotta be the oldest Dusty footage on the Network. 1 for 1.

Thunder in the Omni

Cowboy Bill Watts & Thunderbolt Patterson v. Ole & Gene Anderson (06.24.77)

Oh baby, it’s GEORGIA CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING! Another one filmed on 16mm but at least there’s a little bit of sound. The babyfaces manage to beat on Gene, but Ole hits Patterson from behind and the Wrecking Crew takes over. Watts comes in and slugs it out with Ole Anderson in a veritable metaphor for the territory wars, and falls on top of a slam attempt for two. Gene saves and gets a cheapshot to take over on him. It’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA and the Andersons just mercilessly double-team Watts until Thunderbolt can take no more and cleans house on them. Ref gets bumped as Patterson pins Gene, so Bill counts it himself and they claim the tag titles, but I don’t think that’s gonna stand. So Ole hits Watts with a high knee to the back from behind to knock him out, and Gene forces the referee to count the pin at 5:50. Good old school slobberknocker here. 2 for 2.

From Calgary to New York

Big Daddy Ritter v. Jimmy Neidhart (05.11.79)

This is another piece of tape that looks like it’s hanging on by scotch tape and chewing gum. So we’re in Stampede early in the careers of both JYD and Anvil, and Neidhart is the plucky babyface at this point in his young career. Neidhart misses a blind charge and Ritter works him over with a loaded glove and gives him a vicious noogie with it. Ed Whalen is suspicious of that glove for some reason. Ritter rakes the face with the loaded glove and chokes him out repeatedly, setting up the Thump, but he picks him up at two. Another one finishes at 4:22 aired. Nothing to this one. 2 for 3.

The Spirit of Competition (08.01.98)

Now here’s a real rarity, a workout match between Booker T and Craig Pittman from the WCW Power Plant in 1998. I didn’t even know Pittman was around at that point. This isn’t really a match as such, as they’re just working for takedowns and doing some Greco-Roman workout moves with each other.

And now, a couple of special requests from recent NXT shows that also happen to line up with Black History Month…

Keith Lee v. Dominic Dijakovic (NXT 02.27.19)

I really hate Dijak’s new name. Keith Lee’s theme is pretty boss, though. Dijak grabs a headlock but can’t overpower Lee, because duh. Lee is, as Gorilla Monsoon would say, a mass of humanity. And then they trade cartwheels, which is pretty amazing in itself. Dijak tries a rana, but Lee blocks him, so he does a monkey flip instead and Lee lands on his feet. This is a big dude to be doing that shit. Dijak brings the slaps and Lee just laughs it off, so he throws forearms instead to take over and Lee gets madder before finally hitting him with the POUNCE. Dijak fights back with a superkick and chokeslam for two, but goes up and gets smacked on the way down, and a two handed slam gets two. Lee charges and lands on the apron, so Dijak throws elbows and then boots him to the floor and follows with an Asai moonsault, because why the hell not? And then both guys collapse and get counted out at 6:51. Well that’s disappointing. This was a HOSS FIGHT and I give it the manly rating of…

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Keith Lee should probably be on the main roster tomorrow.

North American title: Johnny Gargano v. Velveteen Dream (NXT 02.20.19)

Should I write two endings to this match review, too? Johnny takes him down with the wrestling but then hides in the ropes when Dream gets the advantage. They trade armbars and Gargano takes him down with a hammerlock for two. Dream flips out of the armbars and slaps him out of the ring, so Gargano regroups and thinks it over. Back in, Dream cranks on a headlock and plays some mindgames before hitting a double axehandle for two. Dream works the back in the corner and pops to the top rope, but Johnny trips him up for a nice bump from Dream, and goes to work on the neck. Low dropkick gets two. Gargano throws some chops in the corner and follows with a neckbreaker for two. Gargano does some nasty twisting and stretching of the arm and rolls him over for two. You can’t say Patrick Clark isn’t flexible. Gargano sends him to the floor with a Flair Flip and stops to pose, then puts Dream on the railing and throws chops just for his fanbase in the front row. Back in, Gargano with an abdominal stretch, but Dream fights out with a spinebuster and makes the comeback. He puts Gargano on the floor with a clothesline and follows with a double axehandle to the floor, but Gargano blocks the wacky DDT. Dream gets a fameasser instead for two. They fight for a superplex, but Gargano takes him down with a Flatliner for two. They slug it out and collide in the corner for the double down, but Dream fights back on the apron and threatens a death valley driver before Gargano hits him with a dive instead. Back in, Dream with the wacky DDT for two and he goes up to finish, but misses the big elbow and Gargano superkicks him for two as they’re suddenly going 100 miles an hour. Back to the top and Dream wants the top rope driver, but Johnny elbows him in the head until Dream hits the move anyway and gets two. Dream back to the top and Johnny escapes to the floor and suckers Dream in for a superkick, then sends him into the stairs and follows with a suplex on the ramp for one big devastating series. Back in with the slingshot DDT, but that only gets two. Gargano throws forearms, but walks into a superkick and then this Dream with a lariat on the rebound anyway. DiY superkick is escaped, so Johnny gets another superkick, but the Dream gets the death valley driver for one last shot, and the Purple Rainmaker wins the title at 20:40. Kind of weird to only have Gargano hold the title for a couple of days in real time, but they’ve built up enough goodwill that I’m willing to see where they end up with it. This was easily Takeover quality and a great way to end the night for me. ****1/4

So that’s February! Who knows what crazy footage they’ll come up with in March.