The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems – The Dark Side of the Ring Edition
So yeah, the WWE Network continues trying to cash in on the zeitgeist with three new additions, featuring matches associated with the Dark Side of the Ring series. Which doesn’t air here in Canada, by the way.
To Tame a Madman
Texas Death Match: Fritz Von Erich v. The Sheik (02.28.77)
From the NWA Texas territory TV show, the precursor to World Class. We’re joined with Fritz putting the stomach claw on the Sheik, but Sheik uses an international object from his back to break. So Fritz puts the full head claw on him, but now Sheik makes the ropes while a teenaged Kerry Von Erich shows up on camera cheering his dad on. Finally the Sheik escapes and uses a microphone on Fritz, but Fritz slugs away on him from his knees. And we take a break as RAW rolls on! Back with the continuing struggles of two aging promoters as they roll around on the mat. “Von Erich the master of the claw, The Sheik the master of…devilishness.” Strong words from Bill Mercer. They collide and both are down for the count, so the fall is a draw. So the first one to get up is the winner and it’s just insane heat for these two senior citizens laying on the mat and trying to sit up. So Kerry comes in and dumps water on Fritz to revive him, then tosses the bucket at Gary Hart to chase him off. And both guys are literally on the mat for MINUTES struggling to get up, and of course Fritz wins the race and wins the match at 9:35. Sheik drinking the nasty waster off the mat is grosser than any bloodbath would have been. This was pretty disappointing based on their usual matches. 0 for 1.
The Battle with Brody
Texas Death Cage Match: Bruiser Brody v. The Great Kabuki (06.07.81)
So this is from Star Wars ’81, portions of which were previously uploaded to the Network. Should Kabuki lose here, Gary Hart has to face Fritz in the cage. Kabuki has white gear tonight, which is the only time I’ve ever seen him wear that. Kabuki threatens some martial arts and Brody boots him away and beats on him in the corner before adding a slam. Kabuki superkicks him into the corner and chokes him out to take over before going to the ARMPIT TICKLE OF DOOM and another superkick to put Brody down. Kabuki goes for the door, which is apparently a way to win this Texas Death Match in a cage, but Brody hauls him back in while Gary Hart and Fritz get into a slapfight outside. Kabuki with the nerve hold, but Brody fights free and pummels him on the ropes. He tries for the door, but Kabuki runs him into the cage and does an Undertaker ropewalk into a chop, which manages to bust Brody open. Ah, THAT’S why Kabuki is wearing white pants tonight. Kabuki starts working on the cut and superkicks him down, but he goes for the door and Brody throws a surprise dropkick from behind to send him into the cage! Brody makes the comeback with a giant slam and drops the Brody knees, then hangs him in the tree of woe and walks out the door for the win at 10:03. Classic Brody stuff here. 1 for 2.
Fritz Von Erich v. Gary Hart
So now Fritz gets Gary in the cage and proceeds to destroy Hart’s tux and strip him down to his underwear before applying the claw to put him out of his misery. Give Hart credit for taking one for the team there.
And from there, we get another rarity, a complete episode of Texas Championship Wrestling, from 10.27.80! This was another precursor to World Class, with all the footage though to be long gone, but this appears to be from an original tape sent to the station.
Taped from the Sportatorium.
Your host is Boyd Pierce.
Killer Tim Brooks v. Ted Heath
They fight for the lockup and Heath gives him a cheapshot in the corner, despite being a babyface. So then they do it again and Brooks tries his own, but Heath dodges him and goes to work on the arm. Brooks reverses the hammerlock into a wristlock, but Heath takes him down with a headscissors and goes back to the arm again. Things suddenly get wacky as Brooks suddenly grabs a dog collar chain from the corner and attacks with it, but the ref stops him and he runs away and stalls outside. So Heath grabs the chain and chases Brooks around with it, and now he goes to work on the leg as time is rapidly running out on the match. And then Brooks just blocks a splash and drops a knee for the pin at 13:27. There was nothing to this one and the finishing sequence was weird. 1 for 3.
The Jackal v. Brian Blair
The ring announcer notes that Bulldog Brower was injured by David Von Erich and is unable to appear, and the crowd CHEERS. So this masked geek takes Bulldog’s place against a very young Blair. Brian works a headlock and works it and works it. The Jackal gets a cheapshot on the ropes, but Blair goes to a facelock and tries for the mask. I don’t think the Jackal is anyone, but Jackal was one of the alter egos of Gary Hart. This guy is built differently and has hair, though, so it’s not Gary. The Jackal holds a chinlock and Blair tries to pull up the mask to escape, but Jackal comes back with a slam, and then misses a legdrop. Blair gets an atomic drop and goes up with an elbow off the middle rope to make the comeback, into the abdominal stretch cradle for the pin at 11:59. Another yawner. 1 for 4.
Bruiser Brody v. Stan Stasiak
I had no idea Stasiak was still a thing at this point. Brody chases him to the floor right away, but Stasiak goes right for the heart punch. Brody smashes the arm to counter, so Stan goes to the nerve hold. Brody slugs out of that predicament and then stomps him down in the corner and Stasiak bails. They fight on the floor, and Brody brings him back in, but misses the big knee. Stasiak slugs away in the corner, working on the knee, and then punches him out with a conspicuous object for the pin at 4:28. Bit of a surprising result to a decent hoss fight. 2 for 5.
Bruiser Brody, Fritz Von Erich, Kevin Von Erich & David Von Erich v. Stan Stasiak, Gary Young, Pak Song & Gino Hernandez
OK, so this is an elimination match, with the first man eliminated having to leave Texas for six months. Young works a headlock on Brody, but David comes in and goes after the arm. David gets caught in the heel corner and Gino gets some abuse on him, but Kevin gets a tag and cleans house to send Gino running away into the arms of Gary Hart. Actually, looking at Gary Hart’s hair and beard here, I think he was actually the Jackal earlier in the show. Pak Song uses some martial arts on Kevin, but the Iron Claw turns the tide and finishes the fall at 4:00, which sends Song out of the state for six months. We take a break and return with Brody beating on Gino in the corner and then killing all three heels by himself. Kevin comes in and misses a splash, however, allowing Gino to take over and choke out Kevin on the ropes. So then Fritz just walks in with a belt and lashes Gino, but everyone fights on the floor and WE ARE DESPERATELY OUT OF TIME with no finish to the match at 6:43.
Wow, not a lot of great wrestling this week, but some incredibly fascinating rarities. You have to love it.