Greetings grapple fans. A mix of Meltzer’s 80s favourites this week, with a little of Crocket wrasslin’ and some native vs. gaijin All Japan tag action.
#012 – NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Ric Flair (c) vs. Barry Windham (JCP Crockett Cup’87, 11-04-1987)
The obvious criticism of Flair has been that he always wrestles the same match over and over again. Whilst the first and second matches in his Windham trilogy of five-star matches did have a number of variances due to the shifting role of Flair as champion (touring territories to Crockett/WCW headliner), this is mostly a condensed version of the second match. Given that was my favourite match of the first ten (and seems my lack of a five-star rating for it clearly, and probably understandably, puts me in the minority) that means this is a very good match, but the weakest of the three between these two exceptional workers. The finish sees Flair do the O’Connor roll reversal and handful of tights to win and essentially end their feud.
Windham would eventually turn heel and join the Horsemen himself a few months later, a part of the version of the stable most commonly referred to as the best incarnation, with only the original really coming close, and the one that was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame for whatever that’s worth. That heel run also seemed to be the beginning of the end of Windham himself ever ascending to a consistent top-line performer himself. When Windham was at his best, like he was through all these three matches, he was fantastic. But those levels of performance became increasingly infrequent as the 80s wore on and became even rarer in the 90s. Whilst he did win the NWA title in 1993 it was placed in secondary importance to WCW’s world title and it was a transitional reign for Flair to reclaim.
Would I give it five stars? No. As previously stated, this is the weakest of the three Flair-Windham matches, but still a very good match in isolation and worth a watch if you’ve never seen it before.
#013 – Real World Tag League: Genichiro Tenryu & Toshiaki Kawada vs. Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy (AJPW, 16-12-1988)
A great example of a team featuring a top-tier face and an up-and-coming prospect facing off against a bullying heel team, as Kawada brings a whole lot of energy and bravado but not yet the required skills and experience to completely stand his ground against the brutally stiff Hansen and Gordy. The two parts of the match tell that story extremely well, as Kawada tags in all guns a-blazing and gets some good shots in that leave his opponents staggered but, unfortunately for Kawada, affronted that this upstart would inflict such damage at their expense.
Eventually, Kawada’s willingness to engage these two big burly brawlers leads to his downfall as he attempts to take Hansen out of the equation whilst Tenryu and Gordy battle in the ring, and Hansen just decides to try to wrench Kawada’s knee from him and beat him over the head with it. Whilst he and Gordy, picking up the slack on the Kawada attack whenever Hansen felt like tagging into the actual match itself going on in the ring, never quite achieve full detachment they do render Kawada incapacitated from the in-ring action. Tenryu unwittingly finds himself in a handicap match going forward, and the match becomes a back-and-forth clash as Tenryu desperately tires to find the small opening to claim victory whenever possible, but the overwhelming odds eventually become too much for him.
Would I give it five stars? Not quite. Everyone plays their role perfectly and I can again understand why others would disagree and give this one full marks. I wasn’t the biggest Tenryu fan based on the 2000s stuff I saw, his age affecting his movement and I always found him stony-faced and hard to care for in his matches. Maybe that’s a misremembering of what he was doing, but here he’s in his physical prime and plays the heroic leader very well. Hansen is what he always is, and Gordy is maybe the most appropriate tag partner he ever had after Brody. All Japan tag matches are fantastic examples of taking elements of the traditional tag team match formula of other promotions (opening flurries, double teams, outside brawls, prolonged heat, limb work, hot tags, wild free-for-all finishes) and tweaking them or re-ordering them that makes the tag team match feel fresh to those who may be fed up with the to a North American three-act traditional structure.
#014 – Jumbo Tsuruta, Masanobu Fuchi & Yoshiaki Yatsu vs. Genichiro Tenryu, Toshiaki Kawada & Samson Fuyuki (AJPW, 28-01-1989)
Unfortunately, I have not been able to get my hands on this one. If anyone knows where I can find it then please let me know and I’ll update the blog and podcast series accordingly.
Would I give it five stars? N/A.
Next time: It’s time for the matches that some may consider the greatest collection of matches ever, and Meltzer himself would probably refer to the gold standard until the Okada-Omega matches of 2017 and 2018. But we’re a long way away from that, and so next week’s blog will be the four (yep, there were four) Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat matches from February to May of 1989 that all got the perfect score from Meltzer. If I don’t give at least one of these matches five-out-of-five I’d have to just be a contrary jerk, right? Well, you’ll have to read it to find out…