Tenta as Yukon lumberjack “Earthquake Evans” in a 1989 tryout match, with Slick as his manager!
I’ve long felt that John “Earthquake” Tenta is a tragically underrated “Big Man” worker, but, much like Haku, he’s had a bit of a renaissance as former Workrate Snobs like me have learned to appreciate what a hard-working big guy can bring to the table. I was gonna make a more varied list for a column, but I had enough for a full one of JUST Tenta, so here’s a random selection of fun or weird Earthquake matches! Watch him take on such luminaries as Paul Roma (back when he was trying out in a Lumberjack gimmick!), The Big Boss Man (with one hell of a power feat), Tugboat & Bastian Booger!
EARTHQUAKE EVANS (w/ “The Doctor of Style”, Slick) vs. PAUL ROMA
(WWF Dark Match, Sept. 20th, 1989)
* A bizarre “Before They Were Stars” bit, as Earthquake is a flannel-wearing guy from the “Northern Yukon” managed by SLICK, going against Paul Roma before his push. Roma’s in black and actually gets entrance music.
Standard “showing off your power” stuff to start as Evans tosses him back from some lockups. He easily shoulderblocks Roma down, but gets leapfrogged in an impressive leap by Paul, then HIPTOSSED. He works the arm, dodges a clothesline and aims for a cross-body, but gets caught. Shoulderbreaker and Evans just pounds him down, whipping him into the corner, where Roma sells it like he got thrown into a brick wall. Bearhug and a bunch more corner stuff, and Tenta is showing his inexperience with this basic nonsense. He misses a shoulder-charge and Roma comes off the ropes three times, then hits a HUGE dropkick right to Tenta’s forehead, bringing him down for two! Another dropkick and he goes up, but misses a cross-body and Evans drops a big elbow for three (6:58).
Very basic, slow-paced squash, with Roma actually looking like he was the one wanting a push- Quake had some very basic stuff and hadn’t amassed his later offense (Quake Splash, Powerslam) yet. They’d repackage both quickly, for the better.
Rating: * (pretty ordinary, slow-paced version of a squash with some mini-comebacks for Roma)
EARTHQUAKE (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. THE BIG BOSS MAN:
(Survivor Series Showdown 1990)
* This is a prelude to the Survivor Series, with the Hulkamaniacs’ Boss Man taking on the captain of their rival squad. Bobby Heenan, then feuding with the Boss Man, is on commentary and is immediately refusing to come down to ringside. Monsoon calls him out as a coward promptly. Boss Man, at around his slimmest here, robs us of a true FAT MAN STAND-OFF, but he’s at least 300 lbs. or so. I can see the fuck finish coming a mile away, as it’s an obvious waste to job either guy here.
Quake shows off the guns to start, but eats a headlock and a BIG right hand, selling it like nuts. Even Heenan marks out for that impact. Boss Man keeps using evasion and another punch, but gets caught- Quake slams him but misses an elbow. Boss Man chases Jimmy Hart in a fun bit, then avoids an avalanche and does the ol’ schoolboy trip, going up… and Earthquake FUCKING CATCHES HIM IN MID-AIR, which is an absolutely insane feat of strength. He hits his sweet overhead-grip Powerslam out of that. Boss Man sells it as a crippling blow, and NOW Heenan’s confidant enough to hit ringside (“Ya know, I just might go stretch my legs!”). Quake sits on him in the corner a bunch and Heenan adds some cheapshot slaps, but the ref is cajoled into letting both managers stay out to HUGE heat. Tremendous.
Quake hits the huge elbow and just steps across him and slaps on a bearhug, Boss Man selling it with mortal terror (like this “aw fuck gotta get out gotta get out!” look on his face). He scrambles, but soon fades out… but hits headbutts and bites Quake on the nose. In a neat bit, he hits an ear-clap, but loses his back as the accumulated damage is too much, and Quake pounds away, Boss Man actualy GAGGING in agony and arching his back like he’s been hit with a cattle prod. Boss Man gets skooshed in the corner, but with all this going against him, he gets the crowd behind him and starts fighting up- counter-punches! Quake catches a boot- Enzuigiri! Clothesline puts Earthquake in the “Andre Position”, and Boss Man hits a cross-body, slugs Jimmy Hart into the stratosphere, and runs again- but he’s back body-dropped over the top! Heenan puts the boots to him outside, leading Boss Man to get furious and chase him to the back, continuing their feud. Well you knew it wasn’t gonna be clean (11:59).
Okay, it was mostly “slow pounding” and bearhugs but fuck it- Hoss Matches are fun. Boss Man selling like a Cruiserweight and Quake catching him in mid-air are terrific spots- feats of strength are as cool as acrobatics when they’re legit like this. They’d use the same move at the actual Survivor Series, which I don’t remember.
Rating: *** (a lot of fun- both guys continue to be underrated in the ring, but I’m glad they’re getting more love these days)
Tugboat is kind of a sign that Vince was starting to run out of ideas, to me. I mean, a babyface TUGBOAT OPERATOR? And he’s just a big chubby guy in a striped shirt?
EARTHQUAKE (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. TUGBOAT:
* It’s time for my favorite kind of match- the FAT MAN STAND-OFF!! So this is in the midst of the huge Hogan/Quake feud, with Hogan finding a new buddy in Tugboat- Fred Ottman, who was then struggling to get over. It’s pretty clear in retrospect that he was one of the weaker “Hogan Buddies”, being a little too silly. I mean, Hillbilly Jim was in the same role, but Hogan had OTHER friends, y’know? With Beefcake on the shelf around this time, you’ve got this guy and his dorky hat & striped shirt acting like a big star.
We start off with the best reason for two fat guys to fight each other- IMMOVABLE SHOULDERBLOCK SPOTS! Roddy Piper on commentary notes how interesting it’ll be for Earthquake to finally go up against someone close to his own size. They do that spot three times, which is rad, but Earthquake hammers him with a clothesline this time, completely flattening Tugboat and then standing on him. Well Tugboat earned that, just standing there all “try it again!” on him. Quake hits a jumping belly-kick and another clothesline, as Piper talks about the strategy of the super-heavyweights not using evasive moves or doing moves quickly, but “They hit so HARD…”. He asserts there’s never a move wasted as Quake uses headbutts to control, but Tugboat reverses a whip and hits an avalanche in the corner!
The fans go all “TOOOT!” or whatever, but I never understood why they made THAT Tugboat’s catchphrase- it just sounds like they’re booing him. Unless that’s actually what they’re doing- this gimmick is dumb. Weak clothesline (more like a “running push”), and Quake ends up in the “Andre Position” in the ropes. Tugboat pounds away, but Jimmy gets on the apron like a good heel and Tugboat chokes him, lifting him until he’s STANDING on the top rope, and Quake grabs the megaphone and clobbers him for the DQ (3:23). Earthquake drops elbows as the fans look to the entryway to see if they can spot Hulk Hogan, but alas- Tugboat’s on his own, and Earthquake hits the Vertical Splash.
Rating: *1/2 (Kind of a nothing bout, only hitting a bit of offense for each guy before it was over)
Mike Shaw was a good Fat Man Wrestler who could bump like nuts, but unfortunately… he looked like this.
EARTHQUAKE vs. BASTIAN BOOGER:
* HELL YEAH ANOTHER FAT MAN STAND-OFF!!! Mike Shaw as a goofy comedy heel putz (in his filthy-looking grey undies & titty-straps) up against Earthquake in the a renewed failed babyface run. Booger is noticeably shorter, and has a ponderous belly compared to Quake’s more… athletic-fat look. A nice illustration of the proper way to look like a Monster in wrestling.
Quake shoves Booger off a couple of times, and Booger hits my favorite part of any Fat Guy Match- RUNNING NO-SOLD SHOULDERBLOCKS!! Quake runs diagonally to throw Booger off and hauls his fat ass down with a falling clothesline while his inset promo is calling out Ludvig Borga at WrestleMania X (Borga got hurt and left the WWF; Adam Bomb replaced him and got squashed). Big legdrop hits, but an avalanche misses- Booger actually knocks him flat with a clothesline of his own, then does a sassy dance and hits the least-devastating legdrop a 350-pounder could ever hit. Another one and a splash get two, but Quake hits a punch, lands that avalanche, then literally hauls Booger up into Powerslam position and WALKS around with him before landing a monster one. Holy shit, that dude was seriously fucking strong. Big elbowdrop and we’re done- those beautiful stomps and the Running Vertical Splash ends it (2:58).
God I love fat guys slamming into each other, lol. Earthquake no-selling shoulderblocks and hitting a casual POWERSLAM of all things on Booger was terrific. I miss matches like this in today’s wrestling. Nowadays a fat wrestler is like… Chuck Taylor or Chris Jericho. More 400+ pounders, damn it!
Rating: *1/2 (great, fun squash)
EARTHQUAKE vs. PIERROTH JR.:
(Wrestle Association R, 16.01.1994)
* Another strange WAR match, this is when John Tenta was going through the promotion. And his opponent is Pierroth Jr., most famous to American fans for his strange, short run with the WWF as Cibernetico’s partner- one of Vince’s reactions to WCW kicking his ass was to grab whatever luchadores he could find and go “See? Look at these guys- Lucha SUCKS!”. Or something. I dunno, that’s how it always came off to me- like he was trying to discredit it. Because he certainly didn’t TRY with either guy. Pierroth’s a flabby guy in black trunks and a yellow & black harlequin mask- he took his name from an unrelated ’50s wrestler, and was a big star at this point in Mexico, holding several top titles.
Tons of stalling to start, then Pierroth comically tries to hurt Quake, who just smirks and tosses him around. He easily resists some shoulderblocks and a slam, hitting his own and an elbowdrop for two. Pierroth’s “I’m shitty but I demand you cheer for me!” act seems to go over well, but Quake tosses him out of the ring when he goes for a pin off a missed elbow, leading to another huge stallfest. Earthquake hits his dropkick, teases climbing the ropes, then wins a test of strength one-handed, but misses a charge and takes shots until he finally falls down for two. But he just hefts Pierroth off again, and hits a shoulderblock and a falling clothesline of all things for the three (8:22).
Rating: DUD (Damn, that was just a comedy squash, with almost nothing sold by Earthquake. oh well. WAY too long for what it was, too- just stalling before Pierroth lost easily)