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Dan (And friends) watch the 80's Project AWA set.


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Hey there DVDVR people. So, I've recently been watching the AWA set with my friend Johnny (With also recently drop ins from my other friend Steven), and we are on Disc 4 but I wanted to post my thoughts on it, and what better place then here! I'll be posting my thoughts on matches by Disc, and then give a rundown of the entire project when we are done. I will be posting my rankings of the matches, in reverse order, for each Disc for dramas sake cause I'm that guy.

 

How I rank matches:

5 Stars: Best match ever. I have given zero matches 5 stars in my current ranking style.

4 1/2 stars: Legitimate Match of the Year Contender. High End Match I would recommend to anyone and everyone to watch.

4 Star: Great match, something I would recommend for fans of that style to watch.

3 1/2 Star Match: Good match, Something I might personally rewatch again at a later date, but nothing I think is essential viewing for anyone.

3 Star Match: Above Average Match: A match with good work and something I enjoyed, but didn't feel noteworth enough for me to really consider rewatching at a later date.

2 1/2 star Match: Average Match: It's... a match that exists, and there is either nothing overly wrong with it or it's strengths and weaknesses basically feel pretty even. 

Edited by The Man Known as Dan
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DISC ONE

 

16. Jerry Blackwell vs. Billy Robinson (12/3/81)- 2 stars, 4.0 out of 10. Match finished 128th out of 150 in the original project.

I had high hopes for this, and sadly they didn’t meet them. The legwork early and the Blackwell using arm drags stuff was interesting. But boy did this fall off as it went going, with a bad finish and inconsistent leg selling, First match I can’t view as “average” on the set, which is a sad case of missed potential.

 

15. The High Flyers vs. The East-West Connection (3/22/81) (Cage Match) 2 ½ stars, 5.0 out of 10. OG Finish: 33rd.

I do wonder if I would be higher on this if we got to see the actual shine. There are elements here that are really fun, with Gagne making a firey hot tag, but it has too many lows for me to put it up above average. The finish is some what nonsensical, as after a chain shot to KO Gagne Adonis rushes to the top of the cage for a splash, that misses. And I knocked this down a LOT over that nonsensical.

 

14. Big John Studd & Jerry Blackwell vs. The High Flyers (2/20/81)- 2 ½ 5.1 out of 10.  OG Finish: 77th

This is a match were I was more impressed with elements of the workers in this then I was of the match itself. Blackwell is a great stagger seller, a great asset at his size. Studd is actually mobile in this and his bearhug on Gagne makes Gagne look like a child. Brunzell throws a great dropkick and Bodyslams Studd in a holy shit spot. But, the match itself was Gagne getting Bear Hugs to diminishing returns, the finish was silly as one punch knocks out Blackwell, and this is more just a standard fair type of match.

 

13. Lord Alfred Hayes vs. Bobby Heenan (1/13/80)- 2 ½ stars, 5.2 out of 10. OG Finish: 110th

Fun manager vs. manager match, most notable for a fun heel performance from Heenan and Hayes one upping his heel tactics with his own. It’s a solid match of this style.

 

12. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Pat O’Connor (3/22/81)- 2 ½ stars, 5.3 out of 10. OG Finish: 144th

This is a match that made me wish 2 things. Number 1: We got more of the footage, though I do think it has a place on the set. Number 2: I wish we could see more O’Connor in his prime, cause he looks damned good for his age, and I imagine he looked much better when not in his 50’s. This has some fun ground work sections, very lively selling from Bockwinkel, and a basic heel grabs the tight finish. If I saw a full match it would probably be 20-30 spots higher on a finish list, but with what we have, I can only put it so high.

 

11. Hulk Hogan, Buck Zumhoffe, & Baron Von Raschke vs. Bobby Heenan, Ken Patera, Bobby Duncum (2/28/82)- 2 ¾ stars, 5.8 out of 10.- OG Finish: 103rd

Poor Zumhoffe in here to get his ass kicked and nothing else. Actually, fuck that, beat him up harder. But yeah, this match exists to give Hogan and Raschke hot tags, and get the heels over by having them cheat as much as they fucking can to get even more heel heat. It does it well, but it doesn’t move the needle much past slightly above average for me. Hogan is a fantastic hot tag, Von Raschke is an okay one. 

 

10. Greg Gagne vs. Super Destroyer Mark II (5/1/80)- 3 star, 6.4 out of 10. OG Finish: 89th

A few minutes cut from the opening. Destroyer is damn good with his arm work in this match, with a great looking shoulder breaker, whipping Gagne’s arm into anything he can, and even stretching the fingers out to get any damage that he can. I liked this match a lot in the first 2/3rd, and less as we hit the finishing stretch due to Destroyer either being winded or off base. Also, Gagne was a very solid fired up babyface here, and was super consistent with his arm selling, hitting shoulder blocks and taking the bigger bump due to his damaged arm. Distraction finish isn’t my favorite, but it didn’t really hinder the match to any real degree in my opinion.

 

9. Verne Gagne vs. Nick Bockwinkel (7/18/80)- 3 ¼, 6.5 out of 10.  OG Finish: 135th

Bockwinkel in this gets to show just how good he is at working the basics, but sadly it feels like he’s working the basics because it’s just about all Verne can do at this stage of his career. Verne isn’t bad by any means at these elements, adding a fair deal in the work on the ground in regards to his counter game. But the basicness of this match does limit it, as even though Bock is doing his best to make everything here count and play to the stadium crowd, it does feel a bit too slow for me. It was a real debate between this and the Gagne/Destroyer Mark II match, were I basically came to the conclusion while the high ends of the Gagne/Destroyer match are higher, the consistentcy of this match gave it the tightest edge.

 

8. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Billy Robinson (12/25/81)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.7 out of 10. OG Finish: 114th

A match that is compelling in it’s work at times and makes you think this could have been better at others. Some of the headlock work was very engaging. And other times it’s just Robinson sitting on it with Bockwinkel not doing much to counter out. There is some very good offense as we hit the closing stretch, including the fantastic Inside Out Backbreaker, but it only getting a 1 count didn’t feel earned, or felt like it was a mistake. The finish would did it’s job as a Dusty, but the camera angle makes the finish weird to me. I understood it on replay, but the hard camera doesn’t make it clear what occurred.

 

7. High Flyers vs. East-West Connection, (3/1/81)- 3 ½ star rating, 7.2 out of 10. OG Finish: 50th

This is a match with a clear purpose of building heat to the pay off match in this feud, and it hits all it’s marks in spades. The babyfaces control early, but not at a rapid pace, and the heels have to run outside of the ring multiple times, seemingly building to the Cage match coming in a few weeks. When the heels gain control for the 1st time, Ventura is obviously not the worker in the team with Adonis, but he gives a solid accounting of himself here, though Adonis is a bump machine at various points, throwing himself into his bumps like a crazy person. Gagne is solid in this match, if not spectacular, but Brunzell has fantastic fire to me, and while I’m not much of a “How pretty is your dropkick?” guy, it’s hard to argue against how nice Brunzells is. The finish, a double count out/double dq, while not the perfect finish for a match, succeeds in making me excited to watch them fight again soon, which makes it convenient that I know they have a cage match coming.

 

6. Tito Santana & Rick Martel vs. High Flyers (8/29/82) 3 ¾ stars 7.5 out of 10- OG Finish: 11th

A match that everyone got to look really good and a match that at the end of the day left me frustrated. And I don’t think any of my frustration came from the workers, but it all came from the people who put the match together for TV. It’s such a frustrating case of just taking out the wrong stuff. They open with 5 minutes of headlocks, which sounds boring, but Martel and Santana keep it engaging. That’s all well and good, but we don’t get to see the High Flyers actually figure out there counter game plan. Late in the match after working over Tito’s leg, Martel came in and they talked about how he also got his leg worked on… but we never saw that. So we lost not one, but TWO vital story telling elements of this match, and that is quite frustrating.
 

But I’m still ranking it high because the work between the four was very very good. Martel and Gagne did these fantastic rope run up spots during the headlock spot that were super strong. That tag transitions were super good overall. And the finish! Brunzell with the bling tag dropkick from hell! The good in this far outweigh my frustrations. But I still only have it 6 of 16 right now because of bad editing and it pisses me the fuck off.

 

5. Jerry Blackwell & Shiek Adnan Al-Kaissie vs. The High Flyers- 3 ¾ stars, 7.6 out of 10- OG Finish: 14th

This is what I was hoping for in a cage match the match against East-West would bring. Brunzell and Blackwell are fantastic in this match, Gagne gives a great performance, and Shiek looked much better then you’d expect. The only think keeping this from the upper end is we get less then 2/3rds.

 

4. Adrian Adonis vs. Jim Brunzell (6/28/81)- 3 ¾ stars, 7.6 out of 10. OG Finish: 86th

Jim Brunzell was really really good. That was legit my main note from this match. You think of him as the great hot tag of the High Flyers, or as a good worker in the jobber team of the Killer B’s, but watching him work big singles matches as a more traditional mat worker is a treat. He’s constantly trying to make his holds more damaging, he jumps on chances to keep the advantage like a pitbull, and I wish we got a larger window to see what he could have done as a singles, or the Mid Atlantic footage from 79-80 was available. Adonis takes some great bumps here, as well as some mediocre “way too big for the move” bumps, but I loved Brunzell in this so much, god damn.

 

3. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Jim Brunzell (6/11/81)- 3 ¾ stars, 7.7 out of 10 OG Finish: 71st 

A great example of how good Bock could be, and Brunzell was game to give a really good singles match on this night. The mat exchanges were really smartly worked, with Brunzell always winning them until Bockwinkel resorts to cheating. And every time momentum shifted in this match, it tended to be done quickly, especially Bocks transitions to offense. This is flat out my style of wrestling.

 

2. Greg Gagne and Super Destroyer II vs. Nick Bockwinkel & Bobby Heenan (10/3/80)- 3 ¾ stars, 7.8 out of 10: OG Finish: 72nd

Very Good tag match, arguably the top heel manager as tag partner match I’ve seen. Bockwinkel and Heenan really are the perfect combo to each other, to the point that I think they are just a legit great tag team in general, with Bock getting to get beat down early before finally gaining control when Heenan gets in the ring, to eventually set up the tag so Heenan can get beat down. Gagne once more looks like a fantastic babyface both working the apron, getting beat down, and making a really fun hot tag. Destroyer would be my “weakest guy” in this match, but that’s more a statement on how high the average level of work was in this one, as he was rock solid wanting to get his hands on Heenan. It’s a really fun finish, with the heels cheating to win, and the angle to follow sends the crowd home happy even with the heel victory. The stooging post match from Bock and Heenan almost pushed this to 4 star, but I think I can only really give the ratings for the match itself.

 

1. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Hulk Hogan (4/18/82)- 4 ¼ stars 8.5 out of 10. OG Finish: 96th

During the conversation, Johnny said that this match is like a Lesnar/Cena Summerslam match with the face and heel dynamic reversed, and I think that’s a great description. Bock is a masterclass here, selling perfectly all over the ring, doing anything and everything he can think of not to win, or even to gain a real advantage, but just to survive the bigger, stronger, and quicker Hogan. Hogan gives a very good Hogan performance, but this is a total Bock performance. The finish is an obvious Dusty, and we can have debates till the end of time on if they should have just given Hogan the belt (At the end of the day, I don’t think it mattered, as Hogan was gonna go to the WWF regardless), but in the context of just the match, I don’t care.

 

Disc Ending Notes

Wow, I really didn't agree with the conventional wisdom on this one at all. So, to voters on the original list: Anything you guys think I'm missing? I thought the Hogan/Bock match was by far the best match on the Disc, and it only finished 96th? The Cage match with the total nonsensical finish finished 33rd? 

Also, everyone has been holding out on me on Jim Brunzell, who is actively really good. 

Edited by The Man Known as Dan
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Disc 2

14. Ken Patera & Jesse Ventura vs. Hulk Hogan & Mad Dog Vachon (1/16/83)- 2 ¼ 4.5 stars OG Finish: 137th

Boy, the babyfaces in this match sure cheated a bunch. Like, Hogan and Mad Dog went to biting the opponents at least a half dozen times. Patera is by far the “Worker” of this match but didn’t have a high end night. Jesse didn’t do much of anything. There was a segment were Hogan worked Face in Peril, which should never be a thing, as he’s a real good hot tag and not an engaging seller TO the tag.

 

13. Jerry Blackwell & Ken Patera vs. Steve O and Dino Bravo (8/28/83)- 2 ½ stars, 5.4 out of 10. OG Finish: 129th

Blackwell and Patera take some great bumps, Bravo has some good punches, and Steve O is damn good at fighting out of a bearhug. Sadly, that might be where my positives of this match end. This just didn’t hit me in any real way, and it was hindered once more by a bad cut: We miss the heels gaining control of Steve O after a way too long stretch of babyface shine, which is really hindered by a commercial break costing us watching the heels take control.

 

12. Hulk Hogan vs. Mr. Saito (8/28/83)- 2 ¾ stars, 5.5 out of 10. OG Finish: 101st 

Good god this crowd. The match is nothing in a way, but they basically worked the match the way they had to with this crowd. Everytime Saito got any offense it was with absurd levels of cheating setting it up. But if Saito got long control in this match I think the crowd would have rioted. It’s good for what it’s going for, which is basically a squash match to a degree.

 

11. Hulk Hogan vs. Adrian Adonis (10/17/82)- 2 ¾ stars, 5.5 stars. OG Finish: 146th

This was a bottom 5 match on the set? I mean, it’s not a blow away, but this was a pretty good match, that I have no real complaints about it overall. It’s a good performance by Adonis who doesn’t take any “Okay, reign it in a little” bumps, and Hogan continues to be the Best Worst Face in Wrestling History.

 

10. Hulk Hogan vs. Nick Bockwinkel (4/24/83)- 3 stars, 6.0 out of 10. OG Finish: 69thth

How am I supposed to rank this match? This match is both interesting in the work (Though not nearly as good as the previous Hogan/Bock match imo), and infuriating in multiple different ways. I’m not opposed to ref bumps in matches, but this might be the worst performance from a referee I’ve ever seen. First he makes up a kickout that clearly didn’t happen (!!!), then he completely telegraphs not just 1, but 2 (!!!) ref bumps well in advance. And the Dusty Finish was atrocious. That took away from what had previously been

 

9. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Mad Dog Vachon (11/24/83)- 3 stars 6.1 out of 10. OG Finish: 97th

This match both features an example of why Vachon could be super fun but was also completely done. This is a match were th combined age of the guys in the match is 103, and it is kinda worked that way, especially due to Vachon not being able to take bumps. But he still has presence, and Bock can work around almost anyone and does a good job in this one to do so. This actually illustrates the miracle chemistry between Blackwell and Vachon, as Bock is a much more complete wrestler then Blackwell but just can’t put together a match nearly as good as those two.

 

8. Mad Dog Vachon & Verne Gagne vs. Jerry Blackwell & Shiek Adnan Kaissey- 3 stars, 6.2 out of 10. OG Finish: 83rd

Kind of a breath of fresh air, and it gave me exactly what I wanted out of this: A fantastic Jerry Blackwell performance, Mad Dog punching people, and Shiek and Verne also being there. Verne throws a good dropkick but doesn’t add much else, and Shiek just doesn’t add much at all.

 

7. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Brad Rheingans (7/3/83)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.9 out of 10. OG Finish: 99th

Another fun little episode of “Nick Bockwinkel is insanely versatile” series this entire thing is so far. And Rheingans is a fun little counter for Bock here, as this is a fun little 10 minute draw to establish Brad as a challenger for Bock that does it’s job well. This isn’t gonna be a super high finisher, but it’s a match that hits all the points it was supposed to hit. Brad has some fun mat work, a really nice monkey flip spot, and Brad is game to give Bock good moves to work with. Good fun here.

 

6. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Rick Martel (3/13/83)- 3 ½ stars, 7.4 out of 10. OG Finish: 54th

Solidly good match between two guys I feel can do better. These two do seem like pretty perfect rivals for each other, as Martel is a fantastic working babyface and Bock is a masterful heel. Martel has some strong comebacks and sells like a champ, but my favorite part of this match was actually the King of the Mountain spot, were Bock just kept getting more and more confident and cocky during it. This is solidly in the good not great category for me.


5. Crusher Blackwell & Ken Patera vs. The High Flyers- 11/24/83. 3 ¾ stars, 7.5 out of 10  OG Finish: 26th

A damn fine tag match, with a really strong shine sequence with Gagne and Brunzell working over limbs damn well. The match does drop a bit during the heel control, which I’m noticing is actually a weak spot in Blackwell’s game, as Patera is stronger in that element. It’s a bullshit finish, but the type of bullshit finish I expect and don’t mind at all.

 

4. Crusher Blackwell & Sheik Adnan Kaissey vs. Baron Von Raschke & Mad Dog Vachon (Taped Fist Match) (3/13/83)- 4 stars, 8.2 out of 10. OG Finish: 31st

First off, Von Raschke and Kaissey play there roles in this very well, and that’s for two guys I had no expectations for. But this match is just Mad Dog Vachon punching Jerry Blackwell in the fucking face and I LOVE IT for that. We get some stuff I wish we had in this match, but unlike the Martel and Santana/High Flyers, it doesn’t bug me we missed it. Outstanding performance from Vachon and Blackwell, and I would assume this is a very safe bet for my top 25.

 

3. Mad Dog Vachon vs. Jerry Blackwell (Algerian Death Match) (5/22/83)- 4 ¼ stars, 8.8 out of 10. OG Finish: 19th

I would have been mighty shocked if you told me I’d watch a Mad Dog Vachon match at the start of this set and I’d be wishing it went 3-5 minutes longer, but here we are. This was a war. Between Blackwell cheating and having what would be an easy win after 3 major bombs early if not for the stip, to Vachon charging back with his amazing punches, to Blackwell taking an absolute shit kicking outside. 2 post shots that would make Nigel McGuinness blush. A chair shot around the head. Then we get back in the ring, and the ass kicking continues, finally finishing with a fucking top rope knee drop that was about as much of a shoot knee drop as possible.

 

2. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Wahoo McDaniel (8/23/83)- 4 ¼ stars, 8.9 out of 10. OG Finish: 4th

 So this is interesting because we watched this one twice, because on first viewing we completely missed the No DQ announcement. 2nd viewing was a big improvement, and I already liked it. This is a very grounded match in terms of how it’s worked, and it escalates into a no-nonsense brawl very very quickly. And this is a damned good brawl that tells a simple story very very well. Bock goes for every advantage he can get, using the No DQ stip to use chair shots and throwing Wahoo over the top. Really, this is a classic master of the basics, with a great advancing performance from Wahoo through a damn good blade job.

 

1. Ken Patera, Jesse Ventura, & Bobby Heenan vs. Hulk Hogan & The High Flyers (3/13/83)- 4 ½ stars, 9.0 out of 10. OG Finish: 17th 

God fucking damn man. A crowd that is on fire, wrestlers who were fucking pumped to be in there, and strong performances all around. Hogan is a lightning rod, Brunzell also gave a super energetic hot tag and Gagne was damned good, Heenan was a fucking masterclass in this, and I now totally understand why people would rate him in there top 100 wrestlers, Patera was a star all over this, and this is the best match Ventura was ever in, I’m sure. I can’t point out a flaw in this match and it’s strengths are so high. I assume this will be a top 10 contender for me.

 

Disc Ending Notes.

No real controversial notes, just really loved this disc. The Vachon/Blackwell chemistry is mind blowing, and I can safely be counted as a Vachon mark. 

Edited by The Man Known as Dan
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You dropped a lot here and I'll probably need a few days (as it's a long weekend) to get through all I'll want to cover. First, this is a great project. The AWA set was really a turning point in my wrestling watching as i got back into things in 09 and I really lament we lost the board and all the reviews we did. Most especially my Rockers/Rose+Somers cage match and Bock/Hennig broadway ones. 

A few notes to start based on your first disc thoughts.

I came into this having never seen Bock or Blackwell or Vachon. Others as well but those three stand out.

I saw Robinson/Bock there like an old married couple fighting. 

Brunzell's stock really rose with this project. He was one of my favorites. Obviously Gagne's did as well but he had a lot farther to go. That dropkick at the end of the Santana/Martel match is amazing. I'll post my ballot later. 

I am lower on the Bock vs Hogan and Bock vs Verne matches than almost all other Bock match because while he CAN give and give and give the whole match, as he does in those, he's so much better when he's doing other things. He makes them look great but it's frustrating. Obviously you differentiate between Bock vs Gagne and Bock vs Hogan so maybe I should look at the latter again. 

Additional watching that came together after the set below:

I'd also suggest watching Bock's Houston matches. I think they would have counted for the sake of the set because they were AWA title defenses but it's obviously a bit blurred as the Memphis ones don't count. 

As you go on, I'd also suggest watching the Hennig vs Bockwinkel match that was released on the Network. (Plus Andre vs Blackwell, which we just had clipped before). And the Andre/Hogan vs Heenan family match which is more complete on the network I think. That's pure AWA. We have dates and things for some of these here:

http://segundacaida.blogspot.com/2019/09/new-footage-friday-master-list.html

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1 hour ago, The Man Known as Dan said:

1. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Hulk Hogan (4/18/82)- 4 ¼ stars 8.5 out of 10. OG Finish: 96th

During the conversation, Johnny said that this match is like a Lesnar/Cena Summerslam match with the face and heel dynamic reversed, and I think that’s a great description. Bock is a masterclass here, selling perfectly all over the ring, doing anything and everything he can think of not to win, or even to gain a real advantage, but just to survive the bigger, stronger, and quicker Hogan. Hogan gives a very good Hogan performance, but this is a total Bock performance. The finish is an obvious Dusty, and we can have debates till the end of time on if they should have just given Hogan the belt (At the end of the day, I don’t think it mattered, as Hogan was gonna go to the WWF regardless), but in the context of just the match, I don’t care.

Here's a little preview of that match:

 

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1 hour ago, The Man Known as Dan said:

9. Verne Gagne vs. Nick Bockwinkel (7/18/80)- 3 ¼, 6.5 out of 10.  OG Finish: 135th

Bockwinkel in this gets to show just how good he is at working the basics, but sadly it feels like he’s working the basics because it’s just about all Verne can do at this stage of his career. Verne isn’t bad by any means at these elements, adding a fair deal in the work on the ground in regards to his counter game. But the basicness of this match does limit it, as even though Bock is doing his best to make everything here count and play to the stadium crowd, it does feel a bit too slow for me. It was a real debate between this and the Gagne/Destroyer Mark II match, were I basically came to the conclusion while the high ends of the Gagne/Destroyer match are higher, the consistentcy of this match gave it the tightest edge.

Surprisingly, WWE have uploaded the full match for free:

 

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13 minutes ago, Matt D said:

You dropped a lot here and I'll probably need a few days (as it's a long weekend) to get through all I'll want to cover. First, this is a great project. The AWA set was really a turning point in my wrestling watching as i got back into things in 09 and I really lament we lost the board and all the reviews we did. Most especially my Rockers/Rose+Somers cage match and Bock/Hennig broadway ones. 

A few notes to start based on your first disc thoughts.

I came into this having never seen Bock or Blackwell or Vachon. Others as well but those three stand out.

I saw Robinson/Bock there like an old married couple fighting. 

Brunzell's stock really rose with this project. He was one of my favorites. Obviously Gagne's did as well but he had a lot farther to go. That dropkick at the end of the Santana/Martel match is amazing. I'll post my ballot later. 

I am lower on the Bock vs Hogan and Bock vs Verne matches than almost all other Bock match because while he CAN give and give and give the whole match, as he does in those, he's so much better when he's doing other things. He makes them look great but it's frustrating. Obviously you differentiate between Bock vs Gagne and Bock vs Hogan so maybe I should look at the latter again. 

Additional watching that came together after the set below:

 

  Reveal hidden contents

 

 

I'd also suggest watching Bock's Houston matches. I think they would have counted for the sake of the set because they were AWA title defenses but it's obviously a bit blurred as the Memphis ones don't count. 

As you go on, I'd also suggest watching the Hennig vs Bockwinkel match that was released on the Network. (Plus Andre vs Blackwell, which we just had clipped before). And the Andre/Hogan vs Heenan family match which is more complete on the network I think. That's pure AWA. We have dates and things for some of these here:

http://segundacaida.blogspot.com/2019/09/new-footage-friday-master-list.html

 

Point by point for your notes.

 

I had a little Bock and Blackwell experience going in, but only a couple matches. Enough to know both intrigued me, and that Bock clearly was great. I had no experience with Vachon what so ever.

The Bock-Robinson match was pretty fun. Robinson in general was kind of a let down on this set for me, spoiler on the other matches I’ve seen with him. For a guy who was hyped as a great technical wrestler, boy he couldn’t sell a leg for shit. 
 

Disc 1 was the Jim Brunzell disc in a lot of ways to me. The Bock match was really good, and I was impressed with Brunzell, but I was more attributing that match to Bock with Brunzell being a good dance partner. It was the Adonis match that made me want to deep dive into Brunzells career, as I really enjoyed that match almost entirely from what Jim was doing. 
 

Bock/Gagne was a fine match, but didn’t jump high on my scale, but that Bock/Hogan match was something else. I’m not sure if it would resonate with you nearly as much as it did with me, but I can go into more detail on why that match stood out. As stated, it’s inverse Brock vs. Cena. Bock has been the king of AWA for about a decade at that point. Hogan was the new hot shit riding a wave of unprecedented momentum and popularity. But Bock is confident. He’s faced down tons of guys who all had been hyped as the next guy, and he’s turned them all back. Even in the prematch, Bock isn’t intimidated one little bit.

 

And then the bell rings, and Hogan just runs him over like he’s a squirrel trying to cross a highway and a semi truck came barreling in.

 

And it plays into what makes Bock Bock to me. I’ve came up with the analogy between Bock and Flair that the main differential as characters is Flair is a man who is all about false confidence and projection. He claims to be the best in the world but deep down he knows he isn’t. It’s why he has the Horseman, and why his matches consist of him getting his ass kicked a large portion of the time. Bockwinkel, on the other hand, KNOWS he’s the best wrestler in the world, even when he isn’t (in kayfabe, I mean). He’s always supremely confident, and when the faces get one up on him it usually comes down to in his head that they got lucky, but when he regains control his swagger gets back going as his confidence rises.

 

Which is why this match, specifically there first meeting, is special. Bock comes in confident, but rapidly realizes Hogan isn’t just bigger, or stronger, or faster. He’s just straight better. He never gets any offense that isn’t based on him cheating for control, and he can never hold control for long. He is an incredibly talented man trying to survive a Tidal Wave, but even an incredibly talented man is just a man. It’s also sold beautifully after the match, as Bock actively tries to dodge Hogan after this result, because for the first time in his entire career Bock fought a man he had no answers for.

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Let me find my write up for Bock for PWOGWE, which came too late to matter (though he did have a good showing).

What I love about him the best, maybe is that he always comes in with a gameplan. The first couple of minutes of every Bock match is great because he treats every opponent a little different.

 

A Case for Bockwinkel:

(I feel like it's a shame that people have already started voting. We just had a case for Michaels go up a couple of days ago and a case for Funk go up yesterday or the day before. We're in the final argument stage of things and parts of the jury are voting already. I'm going to try to rush this out then. I wish I could do try to match that great Satanico post, but no can do. It's a busy week, but here goes:)

There are so many things that Nick Bockwinkel did so well that it's hard to even know where to start. What I'd like to do, to begin, is list out his range, a number of roles that he was effective in playing, and that he was able to wrestle good to great matches (some all-timers) while achieving. This is in no order:

1. Bumping, stooging heel for aging legend (Vs Verne, Mad Dog, Crusher, Baron)

2. Bumping, stooging vulnerable champion for up and and coming Ace babyface (Vs Hogan)

3. Reluctantly cheered champion holding the line vs a foreign threat (Vs Al-Kassie)

4. Comedy kingpin with a bunch of goons vs Super-babyfaces (with Heenan family Vs. Andre and Hogan)

5. Heel champion Ace vs technical up and coming babyfaces (vs Rheingans)

6. Tag role of the same (With Stevens vs High Flyers)

7. Southern tag heel (w/Saito vs Gagnes or Hennigs, or High-flyers)

8. Confident heel champ vs established technical opponent (vs Martel)

9. Same as a heel challenger establishing said new babyface champ.

10. Vulnerable but dangerous heel champion against deadly brawler (vs Wahoo)

11. Travelling champ who underestimates local hero (vs Chavo)

12. Snobby outsider champ who DOESN'T underestimate local hero but has to have a number of varied matches with him without losing the title (vs Lawler)

13. Fiery babyface wanting revenge (crazy sprint vs Zbyszko)

14. John Wayne (vs Hansen)

15. Super technical in front of a Japanese audience (vs Funk and vs Robinson)

16. Aging, cagey veteran trying to survive against a young babyface slowly surpassing him (vs Hennig)

17. US Supermatch that has to end in a draw (vs. Flair)

18. Travelling heel champ stooging big for the local hero while staying credible (vs JYD)

19. Desperate heel up against monsters (the clips we have vs Andre or Ladd)

20. Very strong shorter match TV worker during the Showboat era (vs. Debeers)

And that's what we have from maybe 76-86, when he around 40 to just over 50. He spent decades of his career as a babyface. And there are more. I just picked twenty different in-ring functions that he had to do and had to do well, many of them calling upon different skills and talents, that involve someone actively wrestling differently. I could have given more examples of matches for almost every category too, with almost all of them being very good to great. That, to me is amazing. The only other people who would come close to this are #1 contenders, and almost all of those benefit from us having much more of their physical prime on tape or from working more broadly in multiple territories (though Bock, of course did. We just don't have a ton of that on tape; most of what we do is great).

He was able to accomplish this through deeply and thoroughly understanding pro wrestling and storytelling, through engaging the crowd, through knowing when to give and when to take, knowing how to maximize moments and momentum, to fully committing to his role at all times. He was incredible at portraying emotion in matches, jubilant when causing punishment and terrified when getting overwhelmed. He refused to let the crowd dictate what he was doing, but instead forced them into line with what was best for them and the match, adapting but never surrendering ("You're boring them Martel!" being my favorite single wrestling moment I've seen in the last five years, maybe?).

Everything had purpose. There are wrestlers, great wrestlers, who can string more-or-less unrelated chapters together so that their matches are better than the sum of their parts, so that they make a symbolic, thematic, more or less satisfying whole, but Bockwinkel was able to relate the chapters to one another so that he never had to do that. There wasn't that need for symbolism because the text stood on its own. It was finding the perfect moment to turn the babyface's offensive rush into a King of the Mountain heat segment, or how to start countering one bit of bodypart work with the opposite equivalent, and so on. There's no sixty minute match I've ever seen which tells so involved a story as Hennig vs Bockwinkel. I've never been satisfied with the idea that wrestling isn't a good medium for storytelling, because I've seen it. That match shows that it's possible, and not just over ten minutes but over sixty, and that it can be the most compelling thing in the world. He created stories that mattered to people, that resonated, that moved them, and he made it seem so flawless and so natural. There was so much variation, too. I can barely wrap my head around how he managed it.

And of course the fundamentals were there. He bumps around the ring like a pinball for Verne Gagne. His long-term limb selling is exceptional, and he had a way of selling fatigue from a long match in the finishing stretch like almost no one else. I believe that selling is the key to creating meaning in wrestling and it's hard not to watch his performances and think that he'd been through a war and that maybe, just maybe, he was going to lose that title (and if he did, the babyface would have EARNED it). His matwork was wonderful, holds and counters, perfect timing, great facial expressions and trash talk, and screaming in pain when he was on the wrong end of it. His strikes were snug. His offense was varied. He moved in and out of holds so well in the opening segment of a match; there was such flow to it. He cheated extremely well (and man was he a great southern tag heel), and as a babyface, he could both garner sympathy and swallow the heel alive with righteous fury. That's the thing. he's not just a smart worker. He's a total package. At age 45, he could still outFunk prime Funk, outFlair prime Flair and even, at times, outHansen prime Hansen. But, almost always, he only goes to that level when it makes sense to go there, when the value is there, when the needs of the match calls for it.

I don't think it's a big spoiler. He's my #1. There are amazing wrestlers on my list in the #2-9 spots, some of the most talented, skilled, brilliant, sound, varied people imaginable, with hundreds of great matches to prove their worth. I just can't imagine any of them in that #1 slot instead of Bockwinkel.

I'll rewatch Hogan vs Bock sometime soon. I don't think I revisited after seeing a lot more.

Edited by Matt D
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I doubled back and looked at that Hogan vs Bock match:

I had this at 129 in 2013 and that's probably a little too low. I still didn't love it. Some of that goes to what I was saying before. I think it's an amazing Bockwinkel performance with a very specific purpose in mind. I don't think it's a great match. Bockwinkel does everything in his power to get Hogan over as a superhero and a monster and a force. Part of that is going to things at the start that won't work, that we know won't work, that Bock (kayfabe) knows won't work, just so everyone can see them not work, so he can throw himself around as much as possible for Hogan. Where the match, as a match, shines, is when Bock reacts like a human being. He grabs a headlock off a clean break of Hogan's headlock in the ropes. Hogan then puts him on the top and slaps him. Bock's response? He gets a furious look on his face and leaps into Hogan's bearhug off the second rope. That's organic and human and real in all the ways the opening few minutes weren't. He gets his advantages through eye rakes, and there's a great moment where he breaks the bear hug with one and just lays in the ropes, exhausted. No one can sell full body exhaustion like Bock and that he does it so early into a match here just gets over the power of Hogan. Where the match lacks the most, even more so than the contrived beginning, is that Hogan's never in any real danger. 85-91 Hogan was a master of eating a beat down to make his opponent look like a threat so that it'd matter all the more when he hulked up and came back. Bock gets more offense in on him due to the eye rakes in the back third of the match, but you never get the sense he's doing any damage to Hogan. Again, that's probably what this match SHOULD have been to get Hogan over so big as a threat, but just because something's right and appropriate doesn't mean it makes for a great match in a comparative sense. I give it full points for achieving its purpose and doing it at least a little bit more interestingly than it could, but I don't think my initial placement was all that wrong in retrospect, though yeah, maybe a little. Great performance, effective match, not a great match.

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I've been trying to think of the right way to word my response to the Hogan Bock thing for a bit, but first, Disc 3 results.

 

13. Crusher Blackwell vs. Da Crusher (No DQ) (2/26/84)- ½ star, 1.0 out of 10. OG Rating: 139th

Holy Fuck what is this match. Fuck “Da Crusher” first off. No selling fucking everything, brings absolutely nothing to the table. Blackwell, god bless him, tries. He runs into the post so damned hard he moves the fucking ring. And the finish was legitimately pretty fun. But those 2 notes only give this a 1/4 of a star each, and, well, Fuuuuuuuuuck this match, and Fuck Da Crusher.

 

12. Crusher Blackwell & Ken Patera vs. Steve O & Buck Zumhofe (2/3 falls)- 2 ¾ stars, 5.5 out of 10.- OG Rating: 133rd

This is more an angle then a match, but it was effective at what it was going for. Blackwell is distracted from a confrontation with the Blackjacks, and O and Hofe take adventage to score a quick fall. But since this was non title, Blackwell and Patera are just content that once they gain control, they are just gonna fucking destroy the babyfaces until the ref ends the match due to excessive violence. I liked It better then the last Steve O and partner match, as it’s a much better performance by the heels and a match that hit its points quicker.

 

11. Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Billy Robinson (3/11/84)- 2 ¾ stars, 5.9 out of 10  OG Rating: 85th

This is my first introduction to Jumbo in America and one of my very first matches watching Jumbo in a long time. And I came away from this match much more impressed with him then Robinson. And I’m almost pretty happy I’m almost done with Robinson at this point, because he’s such a frustrating worker for me on this set. He has amazing technical sequences that leave me eager to watch forward and then… completely stops working around that. Mostly because he’s playing babyface, I assume, and I would most likely much prefer him as a heel. But it does detract from this match a decent bit. Furthermore, for a guy as talented as Robinson, the choice of having his back getting worked on all match, and selling even basic movement as painful, and then hitting Gutwrench Suplexes. And heavy lifting inside out backbreakers is something I’d be super critical of Seth Rollins for doing on a WWE PPV, so I have to stick to my guns and be critical of it from Robinson. It doesn’t help that the move that set up the back issue is set off by a pretty harmless looking fall to the floor, and that the work on the back wasn’t super inventive, and even the positioning on the backbreaker wasn’t ideal as it was more over the butt. On top of that, there seems to be a noticable fast count on the finish which didn’t make any sense to me. Frustrating match.


10. Rick Martel vs. Brad Rheingans (9/9/84)- 3 stars, 6.3 out of 10  OG Rating: 74th

This match had some work I liked a good deal, but between the camera cutting out at various points preventing us from getting a real feel for how the escapes were worked, in combination with the non-finish, I feel like I’m going to have to be lower on this match then I think it really was capable of. Incomplete match out of something that if we got a full version of I would be put higher. But I can’t be frustrated because this seemed to have just been shot by one random fan in 84 and that fan is a live saver.

 

9. Crusher Blackwell & Ken Patera vs. Blackjack Mulligan & Jerry Lawler- 3 ¼ stars, 6.8 out of 10. OG Rating: 57th

Mulligan throws a really good punch and has good presence but adds just about nothing else to match. But Lawler is fucking GREAT in this match at every point, and Blackwell FINALLY having some really strong offense with the Samoan Drop and falling headbutts, and Patera giving an admirable performance. The finish is lacking and it and a frustrating performance keeps this from really taking it to the next level, but it has me actively craving a Blackwell/Lawler match.

 

8. Jim Brunzell vs. Jumbo Tsuruta (3/15/84)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.8 out of 10. OG Rating: 65th

Fun match that kinda played it safe, which is a bit of a bummer, but also a match without any real flaws to point out. It’s just a rock solid story of a match worked safe that didn’t super play into Brunzell’s strengths, but showed that Brunzell can work in this style of match too. Crowd in Salt Lake was hot for him, and Jumbo worked what felt like was a standard match for him at this time (which is good). Not much more to add other then that everything.

 

7. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Curt Hennig (6/14/84)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.9 out of 10. OG Rating: 45th

This match to me is a pretty basic baseline good match. Bock does play vet being surprised by the young babyface pretty well, but Hennig doesn’t have much to bring to the table here. I get he’s supposed to be underdog babyface, but he’s kind of a sloppy bumper at points during this, and his offense, save for the one armbreaker spot that was legit good and a couple cool uses of the ropes, felt completely uninspired to me compared to the Martel matches I just came off of. This also felt like a good Bockwinkel performance, but not one of the best of the set.

 

6. Nick Bockwinkel, Mr. Saito, & Bobby Heenan vs. Blackjack Lanza & The Fantastic Ones- 3 ½ stars, 7.2 out of 10. OG Rating: 63rd

A pretty good though not as great spiritual sequal to the Heenan Family against the High Flyers and Hogan, this match felt like an exact clone stylistically, with actually a better heel team overall. But the babyfaces were not nearly to the tier as Hogan and the High Flyers to me, and the match was hindered by the AWA classic too early of a finish. Saito, Bock, and Heenan are a masterclass of what to do in a six man, and this is a masterclass.

 

5. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Rick Martel (12/8/83)- 3 ¾ stars , 7.6 out of 10. OG Rating: 66th

A really fun little match with a really shitty finish. Martel might be the best guy I’ve seen ever at working a headlock in a meaningful way, and this might be the best babyface performance on this set in a singles match not by Wahoo, and maaaaybe Brunzell. If I have one negative it’s that it felt like it ended just as it was really starting to get good.

 

4. Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Rick Martel (5/13/84)- 3 ¾ stars, 7.9 out of 10. OG Rating: 41st

This is certainly the best Jumbo match of the set, as Martel is a great opponent, and the small stuff in this match all feels big, which is probably one of the biggest compliments I can give a wrestler overall. Martel is possibly the best wrestler ever at making basic holds look as painful as possible, as he goes full effort to make Headlocks and Hammerlocks look like high spots, and I love him for doing so. Jumbo is a game opponent here, and I came away from this match liking both more then I came in. My initial debate was if this match was quite 4 stars, and I ended up putting it just below that level due to a finish that could have been better

 

3. Crusher Blackwell & Shiek Adnan Al Kaissey vs. Da Crusher & Greg Gagne- 4 stars, 8.0 out of 10. OG Rating: 18th

Wow, this really is a miracle match even more so then the Vachon match to me, though it’s 95% Gagne and Blackwell carrying this. Both are bumping like madmen, and Gagne spends almost ¼ of this match on the top rope looking for any way to hurt Blackwell. Great interference from Patera to get involved in any way possible, a fantastic hot tag from Gagne, and an awesome finish. Crusher’s punches are much sharper in this match, and Shiek is a trooper. It’s a match my gut said wasn’t 4 stars, but then I couldn’t come up with an actual argument against putting it there.

 

2. Rick Martel vs. Nick Bockwinkel (9/20/84)- 4 ¼ stars, 8.7 out of 10. OG Rating: 10th

A pretty great followup to my current number 1, though it couldn’t quite make it to that tier for me. This match is worked more like a marathon, were both men are pushing with everything they have to gain the win, resulting in both men being absolutely dead tired and looking for pinfalls at any minor thing they could. It’s clearly a great great contest, with two fantastic workers doing there stuff, but it isn’t quite at my super top tier.

 

1. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Rick Martel- (8/16/84)- 4 ½ stars, 9.2 out of 10 OG Rating: 28th

Fuuuuuuck yes. THIS was the clincher match for Martel for me. This is my fucking dude. Which isn’t to take anything away from Bock, who was great in this. But the biggest moment on this entire set to me so far 40 matches in was Martel getting pumped and basically telling Bockwinkel to fuck his King of the Mountain, you aren’t the King of this place anymore, I am now. Martel is the most full effort wrestler I’ve ever seen in the best way. He tries to make everything he does look big, and Bock is an amazing foil for anyone, let alone him. The finish isn’t amazing overall, but it’s not even close to a botched finish some of the others on this set has felt like to me. Overall, I loved this match, as it felt like the real changing of the guard from the Bockwinkel as King era to the Martel era, and I couldn’t be happier to, at the time of writing, to put it as my new No.1 match overall. 

 

Disc Ending Notes: This disc's description can come down to "Rick Martel was amazing". This is also been the best disc so far by a good deal imo.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think ot was Matt D who pointed out to me was what made Bock so great was he always has a plan and sticks to it. Its never the same plan and is totally opponent and match dependent. What is great about those Hogan matches is the story is Hogan is running roughshod over him from go so Bock can never get the moment to really get a plan going.

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  • 2 months later...

So, bumping this back up because I not only finished the project, I did a selected rewatch of 30 matches I wanted to re-evaluate, so my top 150 is done. I figure I will post the matches from bottom to top. I also want to note I LOVE this set, completely, and will be starting the Portland set shortly. 

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(126-150)

 

 

  1.  126. Leon White vs. Boris Zhukov (2/21/87)-  2 ¾  stars, 5.7 out of 10.: 123

  2. This is much more notable for the White as an upcoming hot babyface then it is a good wrestling match. It’s a good selling performance from White, and does some decent limb work. Zhukov is… there. 

 

  1. 127. Sgt. Slaughter vs. Col. DeBeers (12/13/88)- 2 ¾ 5.7 out of 10. Original Finish: 132

  2. This was a decent little brawl, but never really a blow away performance. The Combat Helmet spots were pretty decent, but there isn’t much here to really sink your teeth into.  

 

  1.  128. Curt Hennig vs. DJ Peterson (8/28/87)- 2 ¾ stars, 5.7 out of 10. Original Finish: 120

  2. This is a match more to establish Hennig’s ability to work with a clearly inferior opponent, and I thought he looked pretty good in this overall. Peterson works… very awkwardly, for lack of better term. He’s not bad overall, but he moves like someone not comfortable in a wrestling ring. He holds this back from the 3 star range, even with a solid finishing stretch. 

 

  1. 129.  Steve Regal vs. Buck Zumhofe (11/28/85)- 2 ¾ stars, 5.6 out of 10. Original Finish: 150

  2. ….. Soooo this was the worst match on the set by you voters? Y’all crazy. Like, I get it if you really hate stalling, but this was more then fine for me. I wouldn’t rate it good, but the work is solid enough, and Buck, as scummy as a person he may be, was solid here. Regal is a guy, but he stooges well which is the main thing he was supposed to do here, to set up him losing the belt. No way does this touch the utter shit that was any non Cage match The Crusha was in. 

 

  1. 130.  Hulk Hogan vs. Adrian Adonis (10/17/82)- 2 ¾ stars, 5.5 stars. Original Finish: 146

  2. This was a bottom 5 match on the set? I mean, it’s not a blow away, but this was a pretty good match, that I have no real complaints about it overall. It’s a good performance by Adonis who doesn’t take any “Okay, reign it in a little” bumps, and Hogan continues to be the Best Worst Face in Wrestling History.

 

  1. 131. Crusher Blackwell & Ken Patera vs. Steve O & Buck Zumhofe (2/3 falls) (4/15/84)- 2 ¾ stars, 5.5 out of 10. Original Finish 133

  2. This is more an angle then a match, but it was effective at what it was going for. Blackwell is distracted from a confrontation with the Blackjacks, and O and Hofe take adventage to score a quick fall. But since this was non title, Blackwell and Patera are just content that once they gain control, they are just gonna fucking destroy the babyfaces until the ref ends the match due to excessive violence. I liked It better then the last Steve O and partner match, as it’s a much better performance by the heels and a match that hit its points quicker. 

 

  1. 132. Jerry Lawler & Greg Gagne vs. Riki Choshu & Mr. Saito- (5/14/88)- 2 ¾ stars, 5.5 out of 10. Original Finish 93

  2. Huh. This was an incomplete match that seemingly existed to make sure a lot of political figures in the wrestling scheme wrestling a super safe match. It’s more a cool thing that happened then a great match, or even a good match. Yeah, not much to say. 

 

  1.  133. Hulk Hogan vs. Mr. Saito (8/28/83)- 2 ½  stars, 5.4 out of 10. Original Finish 101

  2. Good god this crowd. The match is nothing in a way, but they basically worked the match the way they had to with this crowd. Everytime Saito got any offense it was with absurd levels of cheating setting it up. But if Saito got long control in this match I think the crowd would have rioted. It’s good for what it’s going for, which is basically a squash match to a degree. 

 

  1.  134. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Pat O’Connor (3/22/81)-   2 ½ stars, 5.3 out of 10 Original Finish 144

  2. This is a match that made me wish 2 things. Number 1: We got more of the footage, though I do think it has a place on the set. Number 2: I wish we could see more O’Connor in his prime, cause he looks damned good for his age, and I imagine he looked much better when not in his 50’s. This has some fun ground work sections, very lively selling from Bockwinkel, and a basic heel grabs the tight finish. If I saw a full match it would probably be 20-30 spots higher on a finish list, but with what we have, I can only put it so high.

 

  1. 135.  Larry Zybysko vs. Ray Stevens (5/30/87)- 2 ½ stars, 5.3 out of 10.  Original Finish 140

  2. Well, this was fun for the little of it we got. It did it’s job, Stevens looked solid, but we didn’t get enough for me to push it past this point.

 

  1. 136.  Lord Alfred Hayes vs. Bobby Heenan (1/13/80)- 2 ½ stars, 5.2 out of 10. Original Finish 110

  2. Fun manager vs. manager match, most notable for a fun heel performance from Heenan and Hayes one upping his heel tactics with his own. It’s a solid match of this style.

 

  1. 137. Jerry Blackwell & Ken Patera vs. Steve O and Dino Bravo (8/28/83)- 2 ½ stars, 5.2 out of 10. Original Finish 129 

  2. Blackwell and Patera take some great bumps, Bravo has some good punches, and Steve O is damn good at fighting out of a bearhug. Sadly, that might be where my positives of this match end. This just didn’t hit me in any real way, and it was hindered once more by a bad cut: We miss the heels gaining control of Steve O after a way too long stretch of babyface shine, which is really hindered by a commercial break costing us watching the heels take control. 

 

  1. 138. Mando Guerrero vs. Pat Tanaka- (6/12/88)- 2 ½ stars, 5.2 out of 10. Original Finish: 105

  2. This was some cool stuff but it wasn’t actually any substance to the match. It’s cool to see Tanaka and Mando do some of the cool spots, but it was just directionless, if fun. 

 

  1. 139. Big John Studd & Jerry Blackwell vs. The High Flyers (2/20/81)- 2 ½ 5.1 out of 10. Original Finish: 77

  2. This is a match were I was more impressed with elements of the workers in this then I was of the match itself. Blackwell is a great stagger seller, a great asset at his size. Studd is actually mobile in this and his bearhug on Gagne makes Gagne look like a child. Brunzell throws a great dropkick and Bodyslams Studd in a holy shit spot. But, the match itself was Gagne getting Bear Hugs to diminishing returns, the finish was silly as one punch knocks out Blackwell, and this is more just a standard fair type of match.

 

  1. 140. Col. DeBeers vs. Buck Zumhofe (2/23/86)- 2 ½ stars, 5.1 out of 10. Original Finish: 138

  2. This match was fine. I am starting to get over the Zumhofe act, for as little patience I had for it to begin with, and DeBeers has some moments of cool offense around not much else. Slightly better then the Garvin/Regal vs. Hall/Hennig match, but not by much.

 

  1. 141. Jimmy Garvin & Steve Regal vs. Scott Hall & Curt Hennig (11/14/85)- 2 ½ stars, 5.0 out of 10. Original Finish 142

  2. Well, Scott Hall is green as grass in this, but it’s only really noticable on the hot tag, Hennig over bumps, Garvin looks good, Regal is… there. This was okay.

 

  1. 142. Wahoo McDaniel vs. Curt Hennig (3/19/88)- 2 ¼ stars 4.8 out of 10. Original Finish: 106

  2. I’m coming to a startling realization that Curt Hennig might be a guy I’m just not big on to any degree. This is another match were Curt just feels incomplete and it lowers my opinion. I’m kind of sick of his “Bail to the floor like the worlds most uninteresting Larry Z” schtick. It eats up 2-3 minutes basically every match, but it doesn’t get him any of the heat. This also has a simply atrocious finish, and Wahoo didn’t really bring anything to this either. 

 

  1. 143. Michael Hayes & Buddy Roberts vs. High Flyers (5/23/85)- 2 ¼ stars, 4.8 out of 10. : 143

  2. Hmmmm. So, Brunzell is good (And this is his last appearance on the set, to my dismay), and I think the Freebirds give a solid accounting of himself, but Gagne was all over the place in this match, and the face control took FOREVER at times. It’s a weird match, that makes me wonder where the hell Greg Gagne’s head was at in 1985. Felt like he was constantly trying to make himself into a big deal, and has no interest in selling or taking a beating himself.

 

  1. 144.  Jerry Blackwell vs. Kamala (Bodyslam Challenge)- (9/28/85)- 2 ¼ stars, 4.6 out of 10.:  130

  2. Well this was a load of nothing. Which I’m not sure what I expected it to be, but this just wasn’t much. Kamala was there doing basic stuff, Blackwell was pretty good but not memorable. There is nothing structurally wrong with this, but it also does absolutely nothing at all to excite me. 

 

  1. 145. Ken Patera & Jesse Ventura vs. Hulk Hogan & Mad Dog Vachon (1/16/83)- 2 ¼  4.5 stars: 137

  2. Boy, the babyfaces in this match sure cheated a bunch. Like, Hogan and Mad Dog went to biting the opponents at least a half dozen times. Patera is by far the “Worker” of this match but didn’t have a high end night. Jesse didn’t do much of anything. There was a segment were Hogan worked Face in Peril, which should never be a thing, as he’s a real good hot tag and not an engaging seller TO the tag

 

  1.  146. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Curt Hennig (2/7/85)-  2 stars, 4.3 out of 10. Original Finish: 78

  2. Well, this is a pretty massive letdown. Hennig’s offense looks flimsy, they eat a bunch of time with some uninteresting offense, some not too great back work, And having a match this long go to a bullshit interference made it worse. My least favorite Bock singles match on the set by a pretty wide margin.

 

  1. 147. Jerry Blackwell vs. Billy Robinson (12/3/81)- 2 stars, 4.0 out of 10. Original Finish: 128

  2. I had high hopes for this, and sadly they didn’t meet them. The legwork early and the Blackwell using arm drags stuff was interesting. But boy did this fall off as it went going, with a bad finish and inconsistent leg selling, First match I can’t view as “average” on the set, which is a sad case of missed potential.

 

  1. 148. Wahoo McDaniel vs. Manny Fernandez (7/6/88)- 1 ½ stars, 3.1 out of 10. Original Finish:  145

  2. I have absolutely zero experience filming literally anything in my entire life. I am about 98% certain I could have shot this match better than the guy who did this. Like, there was some work to like here, just hard chops and what not, but you could barely see any of it all match. I took much more enjoyment watching this match with a guy who actually films wrestling and listen to him rant on it then I did the match. The work was good enough to possibly be good, but I simply can’t put it anywhere other then this low on the footage that exists. 

 

  1. 149.  Michael Hayes & Buddy Roberts vs. Da Crusha & Baron Von Raschke (6/13/85)- 1 ½ stars, 3 out of 10.  Original Finish: 149

  2. First off, I will go ahead and say Raschke didn’t really do anything wrong in this match. In fact, I don’t think any of Hayes, Roberts, or Raschke can be blamed here much. Baron is old and can’t do that much, but he tries hard. But Crusher… Oh the Crusher. Why are you in a wrestling ring. He can’t bump. He literally could not take a bump in this match, and it was clear as day watching. I hope to god this is the last of him on this set. 

 

  1. 150. Crusher Blackwell vs. Da Crusher (No DQ) (2/26/84)- ½ star, 1.0 out of 10. Original Finish: 139

  2. Holy Fuck what is this match. Fuck “Da Crusher” first off. No selling fucking everything, brings absolutely nothing to the table. Blackwell, god bless him, tries. He runs into the post so damned hard he moves the fucking ring. Fuuuuuuuuuck this match, and Fuck Da Crusher

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1 hour ago, The Man Known as Dan said:

So, bumping this back up because I not only finished the project, I did a selected rewatch of 30 matches I wanted to re-evaluate, so my top 150 is done. I figure I will post the matches from bottom to top. I also want to note I LOVE this set, completely, and will be starting the Portland set shortly. 

I'll be watching the Portland set soon too, so I hope you don't mind if I chime in on that stuff!

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  1. 101. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Mad Dog Vachon (11/24/83)- 3 stars, 6.1 out of 10. Original Placement: 97

  2. This match both features an example of why Vachon could be super fun but was also completely done. This is a match were the combined age of the guys in the match is 103, and it is kinda worked that way, especially due to Vachon not being able to take bumps. But he still has presence, and Bock can work around almost anyone and does a good job in this one to do so. This actually illustrates the miracle chemistry between Blackwell and Vachon, as Bock is a much more complete wrestler then Blackwell but just can’t put together a match nearly as good as those two.

 

  1. 102. Bobby Duncum & Billy Robinson vs. Jim Brunzell & Tonga Kid (4/21/85)- 3 stars, 6.1 out of 10. Original Placement: 100

  2. This is a fun, solid tag match that never came close to venturing into great, but was certainly above average. Brunzell looks good, that might have been the best Robinson we’ve seen on the set (Which is fitting as he’s a heel), and Tonga and Duncum brought something.

 

  1. 103. Bob Backlund & Bred Rhengans vs. Butch Reed & Larry Zbyszko (4/21/85)- 3 stars, 6.1 out of 10. Original Placement: 136

  2. And now for something completely different. Butch Reed and Bob Backlund’s only appearance on the set and our first chance seeing Larry. And this is overall a pretty fun matchup, though it has it’s awkward points. Some weird exchanges between Backlund and Larry, Reed’s strikes looking off and him doing some mediocre work in regards to some holds, but overall this felt like a pros having a decently fun midcard match. 

 

  1. 104. Mike Rotundo & Curt Hennig vs. Mr. Go & Larry Zybszko (5/1/86)- 3 stars, 6.1 out of 10 Original Placement: 126

  2. A bummer here, as this match had the worst type of non finish, as just when the match felt like it had momentum it ends on a double disqualification. Rotundo was… here for this, which is the summerization Rotundo of his career, Hennig and Larry Z look good and I came out wanting to find out more about Mr. Go who I thought looked good. But the non ending the way it was done brought no satisfaction. 

 

  1. 105 Crusher Blackwell vs. Masked Superstar (3/7/85)- 3 stars, 6.1 out of 10 Original Placement: 94

  2. I’m counting this as two matches, as this is a “If Blackwell wins he gets Kaisse for 5 minutes” special. And the usual response to that is easy: Face wins, Heel and Heel Manager beat down Face, Face makes comeback before heel wrestler interupts to lead to a bru-haha. And it does it’s job well, but it doesn’t go the extra length to make me rate this little section as highly as I liked, though it was fun 

 

  1. 106. Nick Bockwinkel & Ray Stevens vs. Super Ninja & Larry Zbyszko- (2/21/87)- 3 stars, 6.1 out of 10. Original Placement: 75

  2. Interesting match. 2 guys in this are great, 1 guy is good, and one is complete garbage. Fortunately the guy who is garbage isn’t in the ring that much, and most of the match is the fun story of the legendary tag team out heeling the heels, which is fun work, with Larry being the bump freak he is. It’s a weird match to rate, as I think the good was too rock solid to rate it low, but oof, Super Ninja was bad. 

 

  1.  107. Jerry Blackwell, Larry Hennig, and Tom Zenk vs. The Fabulous Freebirds (8/22/85)- 3 stars, 6.1 out of 10. Original Placement: 109

  2. A fun match with an absolutely sudden finish, and it’s a weird match to evaluate because the match fell apart at the Zenk hot tag. Which is a bummer as I was really liking the early stuff, as they build to the Blackwell/Gordy confrontation… but the confrontation never REALLY comes, as it feels like we got a mistimed hot tag by Zenk, and then they just rush to a finish within a minute. Larry Hennig never even gets into the match. This could have been a 3 ¼- 3 ½ if given 5 minutes, but it unraveled completely which took me out of it.

 

  1. 108. Midnight Rockers vs. Kevin Kelly & Nick Kiniski (12/27/87)- 3 stars, 6.1 out of 10. Original Placement: 127

  2. Okay, here is a weird statement. This was probably the best performance of Kevin Kelly’s career. He looks pretty fun in this with some good strength spots. And Shawn was solid in this match. Marty brought nothing, and Nick brought less then nothing. Another stupid 80’s DQ finish in a match that didn’t need one. Late 80’s AWA is not fucking good. 

 

  1. 109. Badd Company v.s Midnight Rockers (2/19/88)- 3 stars, 6.1 out of 10.  Original Placement: 102

  2. Kind of a bummer, honestly? Which can be more attributed to Badd Company just not being ready yet. Like the Rockers give a solid performance even though I have a distinct feeling like they are really ready to be anywhere but this company at this time. But it just really feels like Badd Company just aren’t there enough yet to have a match above “Pretty Good”

 

  1. 110. Bill Dundee & Jerry Lawler vs. The Original Midnight Express (10/30/87)- 3 stars, 6.1 out of 10. Original Placement: 37

  2. Man, I had high hopes for this match. It finished well on the original listing, and I was hoping this would kinda brighten up what has been a dark dark disk. It did not do that, at all. Randy Rose seems like a bunch of nothing special, Dundee didn’t wow me in this, and even Conredy and Lawler seemed to be steps behind I’ve seen them in the past. I wanted this match to break the doldrums of 87 and it just continued them

 

  1. 111.  Sgt. Slaughter vs. Boris Vuhkov (9/28/85)- 3 stars, 6.0 out of 10. Original Placement: 88

  2. This was a solidly entertaining match before the final 3 minutes. There Slaughter takes a good blade job over a fake foreign object shot, then takes a fantastic shot into the post (or a fantastic camera angle), then hulks up and Vuhkov gets to look like the only smart heel in wrestling in 1985 when he just runs the fuck away. I loved the finish, so it elevates it just to the above average camp for me.

 

  1.  112. Curt and Larry Hennig vs. Nick Bockwinkel & Mr. Saito (11/8/84)- 3 stars, 6.0 out of 10 Original Placement: 82

  2. Fun match, and a cool glimpse into the Axe, who looks fun in this. The most compelling part of the match was the face control, as there leg work was sharp. But Saito and Bock were much less engaging here then they were against the Fabs, and Curt is kinda awkward off the hot tag, and while I’d really like to see Larry slugging it out with Blackwell, he still feels limited at this stage. Fun, but not reaching my higher reaches.

 

  1. 113. Manny Fernandez, Teijho Khan, & Soldat Ustinov vs. Robert Gibson & The Top Guns- (6/12/88)- 3 stars, 6.0 out of 10. Original Placement: 98

  2. So, 2 out of the 6 of these guys sucked (Ustinov and Khan), I didn’t see enough of Jon Paul (Worst ring name ever, by the by) to have an opinion, and Gibson was mailing it in. But the six man tag formula saves this, as Fernandez was damned good here, and full credit to Rice doing everything he possibly can to escape this shithole territory. He didn’t succeed, when less talented people did, but full credit for trying. 

 

  1. 114. Cactus Jack Manson & The Rock n Roll RPMs vs. Chavo, Hector, & Mando Guerrero (12/13/88)- 3 stars, 6.0 out of 10. Original Placement: 131

  2. This is the definition of a match that had one job, and it succeeds at that job: Get the crowd excited on a 10 match show without over staying it’s welcome. The RPM’s in particular did next to nothing, so I can’t judge them at all, but the Guerrero’s were fun, and Cactus Jack takes the beating well even if he has no idea what to do when he’s on offense.

 

  1. 115, Wahoo McDaniel & Tom Zenk vs. Manny Fernandez & Larry Zbyszko (2/7/89)- 3 stars, 6.0 out of 10. Original Placement: 148

  2. This is a firmly fine match that never really felt like it was threatening to move higher on my scale. All 4 guys get to look competent, but nothing on this match ever felt like it was anything other then “Standard Tag Team Match with Standard Tag Team Formula.” It’s solid, but remarkably unmemorable.  

 

  1. 116.  Mike Rotundo & Barry Windham vs. The Fabulous Ones (4/20/86)- 3 stars, 6.0 out of 10. Original Placement: 124 

  2. This is a weird one, as I like the Fabs, and I think they do a good job here as heels, especially Kiern, but Rotundo and Windham take waaaaaay too much of this matchup, and don’t do anything of interest with it. Windham might be the critically acclaimed guy I “get” the least. Maybe that will change ith future footage, but it’s notable to me at present. The work was solid enough but this should have been more in the 3 ½ range at minimum instead of a 3.

 

  1. 117.  Sherri Martel vs. Debbie the Killer Tomato (7/26/86)- 3 stars 6.0 out of 10. Original Placement: 147

  2. This was pretty fun, Sherri actually looked pretty damned good here in general, and the mat exchanges were pretty good. I can safely say I enjoyed this but wasn’t in love with it.

 

  1. 118. Wahoo McDaniel vs. Curt Hennig (Indian Strap Match) (11/28/87)- 3 stars 6.0 out of 10.  Original Placement: 84

  2. This is another case of a pretty fun but overall forgettable Wahoo performance (Forgettable because it’s solid but not a special performance from him), and Curt is solid, but unspectacular. Shitty finish that drained the heat, and a god damned Greg Gagne fucking save please end me. 

 

  1. 119.  Hulk Hogan vs. Nick Bockwinkel (4/24/83)- 3 stars, 6.0 out of 10.  Original Placement: 69

  2. How am I supposed to rank this match? This match is both interesting in the work (Though not nearly as good as the previous Hogan/Bock match imo), and infuriating in multiple different ways. I’m not opposed to ref bumps in matches, but this might be the worst performance from a referee I’ve ever seen. First he makes up a kickout that clearly didn’t happen (!!!), then he completely telegraphs not just 1, but 2 (!!!) ref bumps well in advance. That took away from what had previously been

 

  1. 120.  Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Billy Robinson (3/11/84)- 2 ¾ stars, 5.9 out of 10. Original Placement: 85

  2. This is my first introduction to Jumbo in America and one of my very first matches watching Jumbo in a long time. And I came away from this match much more impressed with him then Robinson. And I’m almost pretty happy I’m done with Robinson at this point, because he’s such a frustrating worker for me on this set. He has amazing technical sequences that leave me eager to watch forward and then… completely stops working around that. Mostly because he’s playing babyface, I assume, and I would most likely much prefer him as a heel. But it does detract from this match a decent bit. Furthermore, for a guy as talented as Robinson, the choice of having his back getting worked on all match, and selling even basic movement as painful, and then hitting Gutwrench Suplexes. And heavy lifting inside out backbreakers is something I’d be super critical of Seth Rollins for doing on a WWE PPV, so I have to stick to my guns and be critical of it from Robinson. It doesn’t help that the move that set up the back issue is set off by a pretty harmless looking fall to the floor, and that the work on the back wasn’t super inventive, and even the positioning on the backbreaker wasn’t ideal as it was more over the butt. Frustrating match.

 

  1. 121.  Boris Zhukov vs. Wahoo McDaniel (Russian Chain Match) (8/29/87)- 2 ¾ stars, 5.9 out of 10. Original Placement: 108

  2. This match very much doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, and it’s to it’s benefit. Wahoo knows how to work stiff and sharp with a chain, and it helps raise what would other wise be a forgettable match. 

 

  1. 122. Hulk Hogan, Buck Zumhoffe, & Baron Von Raschke vs. Bobby Heenan, Ken Patera, Bobby Duncum (2/28/82)- 2 ¾ stars, 5.8 out of 10. Original Placement: 103 

  2. Poor Zumhoffe in here to get his ass kicked and nothing else. Actually, fuck that, beat him up harder. But yeah, this match exists to give Hogan and Raschke hot tags, and get the heels over by having them cheat as much as they fucking can to get even more heel heat. It does it well, but it doesn’t move the needle much past slightly above average for me. Hogan is a fantastic hot tag, Von Raschke.

 

  1. 123.  Col. DeBeers, Larry Zbysko, & Doug Somers vs. Greg Gagne, Curt Hennig, & Jimmy Snuka (7/26/86)- 2 ¾ stars 5.8 out of 10. Original Placement: 112

  2. A steep drop off from the previous 6 man, but a good performance by Hennig helps keep this match enjoyable, and this is the least offensive Greg has looked in a while. The heels are fine here, but the heel beatdown on Greg feels like it goes a bit too long for my liking. 

 

  1. 124.  Greg Gagne vs. Curt Hennig (5/30/87)- 2 ¾ stars, 5.8 out of 10. Original Placement: 60

  2. Well this sure was Curt Hennig working the bosses son. It’s a match in vacuum I’d like this match to establish an up and coming babyface challenger for the new heel champion. But man… it’s fucking Greg Gagne in 87. This was more depressing then anything. The work is too solid to not put it at this range, but I feel lower on this then I could b. 

 

  1. 125. Col. DeBeers vs. Jimmy Snuka (2/21/87) (Glove on a Pole Match)- 2 ¾ stars, 5.8 out of 10. Original Placement: 141

  2. This match isn’t amazing. Between these guys, it was never going to be amazing. But it also succeeds at something I didn’t think they would accomplish, and make this quick, and to teh point in the best ways. It knew what it was. It didn’t try to be anything that it wasn’t, and that is actually to the matches credit. It’s not a blowaway, it’s not even good, but it was a painless viewing experience that I can appreciate

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1 hour ago, Matt D said:

I suggest watching all of 78-81 Portland footage instead. I think most is on YouTube. You only fully get the brilliance of Buddy Rose when you see how he carried the footage week to week.

Honestly, that is also heavily on our hit list too. But our plan was to watch through all the DVDVR 80's sets and we just picked the one that interested me and John the most when we aren't watching 90's Joshi and Gabe era RoH (Expect a thread about that Gabe era RoH shortly...) But we both want to hit 70's Portland too before the 2026 GWE.

 

1 hour ago, Smelly McUgly said:

I'll be watching the Portland set soon too, so I hope you don't mind if I chime in on that stuff!

Please feel free! Hell, it's kind of a running joke that we might want to see if anyone else actually wants to make a ballot from Portland, so we can make the "Unofficial" listing since it never actually got one.

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76.  King Kong Bundy & Crusher Blackwell vs. The Road Warriors (11/22/84)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.8 out of 10. Original Placement: 118

Well this was a much more fun hoss fight then I expected. This match doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t need too as it’s a bunch of big men hitting each other hard. Hawk is really good in this, though there were some weaker moments on selling from Blackwell.

 

77.  Stan Hansen vs. Nick Bockwinkel (4/20/86)- 3 ¼  stars, 6.8 out of 10. Original Placement 28

Okay, these are the things I can say definitely about this match. I loved Bockwinkel in this, full stop. He was fantastic at literally everything. And I loved elements of Hansen in this. But he also took me out of this and turned what I thought could have been a 4 star match and turned it into a 3 ½- 3 ¾ star match with a couple things that bugged me. First, Bock works over the arm regularly and Hansen at no point sells the arm in any real way. Second, after Bock locks in his sleeper and almost puts him out, he goes back to offense almost immediately looking no worse for wear. And that’s kind of my problem with this match in a nutshell. It felt like Hansen as it went on was hindering what could have been an awesome match, and it’s somewhat of a bummer for me. It’s still clearly really good, but it steps short of great for me. Upon further rewatch, I’m just going to be blunt: This match feels somewhat sabotaged by Hansen, who seems to be working this in a way to protect himself as much as possible. That, or him and Bockwinkel are completely 100% just not on the same page. There are some good moments, but hte match is just worked waaaay too safe. The story Bockwinkel wants to tell Hansen seemingly isnt on board for. This match is on the short list of most disappointing matches on the set for me. 

 

78.  Buddy Rose, Doug Somers, & Larry Zbyszko vs. Steve Pardee, Mike Rotundo, Jimmy Snuka (4/17/86)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.8 out of 10.  Original Placement: 91

This is memorable for me specifically because of the heels, as this is a fantastic Rose, Zybyzko, and Somers performance, especially off the hot tag to Rotunda. The face team here is fine, but they don’t really do anything to elevate this to the next level. 

 

79.  Crusher Blackwell & Ken Patera vs. Blackjack Mulligan & Jerry Lawler (3/4/84)- 3 ¼ star, 6.8 out of 10.  Original Placement: 57

Mulligan throws a really good punch and has good presence but adds just about nothing else to match, and probably detracting more from it then anything. But Lawler is fucking GREAT in this match at every point, and it kinda carries it for me. On top of Blackwell FINALLY having some really strong offense with the Samoan Drop and falling headbutts, and Patera giving an admirable performance. The finish is lacking and it and a frustrating performance keeps this from really taking it to the next level, but it has me actively craving a Blackwell/Lawler match. Upon rewatch, I actually agree with my first assessment. 

 

80. Bobby & Jackie Fulton vs. Destruction Crew (11/18/89)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.7 out of 10.  Original Placement: 134

Huh, I thought this was pretty damned fun honestly. The finish was pretty shit, but I thought the Fulton’s were fun here, and there were a lot of fun stuff here overall. What could have been a pretty mediocre base level tag did enough interesting things (A nice powerslam and an Oklahoma Stampede by the Destruction Crew, the awesome double team senton by the “Fantastics” which keeps this match in the above average category. 

 

81. The Road Warriors vs. The High Flyers (3/28/85)- 3 ¼  stars, 6.7 out of 10. Original Placement: 58

While this wasn’t as frustrating as the Saito/Bockwinkel match, this is back to back High Flyers matches I was really high on until Greg Gagne got into lower it down a good deal. The Roadies look like a legit good heel tag team here, and I now wish we got more of this stuff and the Georgia heel work, as I’m very impressed with them. And Brunzell, who is on his way out with only one more match on the set, was his usual self being a total highlights. And….. then you’ve got Greg who gives a pretty horrid hot tag at the finish, barely got worked in his stretch to be face in peril (Which I am noticing it as a trend right now, as it fucks over the system), and I am starting to wonder if the Gagne love from this set was almost too much of a swing, cause he’s been pretty meh since his apparent injury in 84.

 

82. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Boris Zuhkov (8/30/86)- 3 ¼ stars 6.7 out of 10.  Original Placement: 113

This was a surprisingly good performance from Zuhkov to go with the obviously good performance of Bockwinkel. Zuhkov isn’t amazing by any means, but does some things that are actually super interesting and fun in this match, like the leg slams into chops, and his Full Nelson being used to slam Bock into the turn posts. The finish is good and clever, and I generally had a good time here. 

 

83. Rick Martel vs. Boris Zuhkov (Cage Match) (11/14/85)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.7 out of 10. Original Placement: 62

Rick Martel was in the ring with 2 stiffs in this match, and the fact this match is even in the ballpark of “Good” is a testament to how good he was. But the ref by former a former Winnipeg Jets GM was a performance to made it clear he was a former Winnipeg Jets GM and not a, you know, referee. Zuhkov is along for the ride that Martel is taking him on, and Martel is taking him on a pretty good one, but the finish is borderline nonsensical as the ref shakes the ropes so Zuhkov falls then fast counts. The awful finish dragged this kicking and screaming down out of the 3 ½ range and I am annoyed about it.

 

84. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Billy Robinson (12/25/81)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.7 out of 10. Original Placement: 114

A match that is compelling in it’s work at times and makes you think this could have been better at others. Some of the headlock work was very engaging. And other times it’s just Robinson sitting on it with Bockwinkel not doing much to counter out. There is some very good offense as we hit the closing stretch, including the fantastic Inside Out Backbreaker, but it only getting a 1 count didn’t feel earned, or felt like it was a mistake. The finish would did it’s job as a Dusty, but the camera angle makes the finish weird to me. I understood it on replay, but the hard camera doesn’t make it clear what occurred.

 

85.  Nick Bockwinkel & Mr. Saito vs. The High Flyers (3/7/85)- 3 ¼ star match, 6.6 out of 10. Original Placement: 40

A fun match, but to be blunt, this was a weird case were it felt like Gagne was clearly the weak link. When the heels were working over Brunzell the match was aces. Legitimately made me think it might get to 4 stars at points. And then then Gagne got in and it just fell a pretty significant degree with Gagne dominating Bockwinkel. It felt like Gagne thought this match was about him, while the rest were trying to tell a different more complete story. It’s still good but it’s a frustrating good.

 

86. The Nasty Boys vs. Rock n Roll Express- (4/16/88)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.6 out of 10. Original Placement: 73 

This was a lot of fun, and the Nastys looked a lot better in this then I’d expect them to look in 88. The Rock n’Roll’s are pretty good in this (Duh), but it’s more memorable to see the Nasty Boys doing everything they can to make good on this chance to work with some great workers.

 

87. Wahoo McDaniel vs. Manny Fernandez (12/13/88) (Strap Match)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.6 out of 10. Original Placement: 80

This was pretty good, but felt pretty typical strap match esq to me. To the surprise of nobody, there were some good strikes, and some damn good blade jobs. But it just does nothing that pushes it into something I felt was memorable overall. 

 

88. The High Flyers vs. The East-West Connection (3/22/81) (Cage Match) 3 ¼  stars, 6.7 out of 10. Original Placement: 33

I do wonder if I would be higher on this if we got to see the actual shine. There are elements here that are really fun, with Gagne making a firey hot tag, but it has too many lows for me to put it up above average. The finish is some what nonsensical, as after a chain shot to KO the faces, Adonis rushes to the top of the cage for a splash. And I knocked this own a LOT over that nonsensical finish. Upon reviewing the match, I ended up liking it a lot more, even if the finish did somewhat lose me. Adonis does bump well, even if he over bumps here and there, and Brunzell is pretty good.

 

89. Curt Hennig vs. Wahoo McDaniel (9/12/87)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.6 out of 10. Original Placement: 90

This was a good first half of a match that ended, thus turning the match more into an angle then a match itself. Which is real bummer, as I liked the direction it was heading. The story was basically Hennig trying to outwrestle the vet, and Wahoo being to seasoned for any of that, and whenever it was a strike exchange Curt got completely out classed until he had to pull out his roll of dimes. Good building block match for the feud, but can’t put it too high by itself. 

 

90. Verne Gagne vs. Nick Bockwinkel (7/18/80)-  3 ¼, 6.5 out of 10. Original Placement: 135

Bockwinkel in this gets to show just how good he is at working the basics, but sadly it feels like he’s working the basics because it’s just about all Verne can do at this stage of his career. Verne isn’t bad by any means at these elements, adding a fair deal in the work on the ground in regards to his counter game. But the basicness of this match does limit it, as even though Bock is doing his best to make everything here count and play to the stadium crowd, it does feel a bit too slow for me. It was a real debate between this and the Gagne/Destroyer Mark II match, were I basically came to the conclusion while the high ends of the Gagne/Destroyer match are higher, the consistentcy of this match gave it the tightest edge. 

 

91. Larry Zbyszko vs. Nikita Koloff (11/18/89)- 3 stars, 6.4 out of 10. Original Placement: 125

Pretty fun performance from Larry here, as well as a better babyface performance from Nikita then I was expecting. Nothing in this match is worked particularly inventive, but it hits all of it’s marks well. Larry Z is still a heat magnet, no matter how small scale AWA was getting at the time, and getting something good out of Nikita here was a fun send off to the set. 

 

92. Rick Martel vs. Brad Rheingans (9/9/84)- 3 stars, 6.3 out of 10. Original Placement: 74

This match had some work I liked a good deal, but between the camera cutting out at various points preventing us from getting a real feel for how the escapes were worked, in combination with the non-finish, I feel like I’m going to have to be lower on this match then I think it really was capable of. Incomplete match out of something that if we got a full version of I would be put higher. But I can’t be frustrated because this seemed to have just been shot by one random fan in 84 and that fan is a live saver.

 

93. Buddy Rose & Doug Somers vs. Jesse Hernandez & Leon White (5/1/86)- 3 stars, 6.3 out of 10. Original Placement: 107

I appreciate stuff like this making the set. This was on here to establish Somers and Rose as sleazy mother fuckers (and that they are), and build up Leon White as a force (and boy is he) and it does both those things in spades. Also, this match led me down the Jesse Hernandez rabbit hole, as he must be the most obscure wrestler on this set, which was fun. Fun little match for doing exactly what it needed it. 

 

94. “Jammin” Mitch Snow vs. “Cool” Curt Hennig (10/30/87)- 3 stars, 6.3 out of 10. Original Placement: 119

The AWA: Please think we are cool, for the love of god, we can’t fill up high school gyms anymore. As much as “Jammin” came across as a total nerd by just being “Jammin”, this is actually pretty fun, with the highlight of the match being Snow outworking Hennig on a ground exchange and literally shoving him outside the ring when he went for a rope break. It’s a basic “Heel Champ vs. Local Babyface” thing, and it does it’s job decently well, but not overwhelmingly so. 

 

95. Mr. Saito vs. Curt Hennig (3/28/85)- 3 stars, 6.3 out of 10.  Original Placement: 53

This match continued my frustration with 85 Hennig while also giving me signs of improvement over the massive letdown of the last Bock match. This goes almost 20 and the majority of the time Curt is on offense something just doesn’t click, but there is a notable improvement in the last third. Saito is a rock in this match, and is clearly a guy who is pretty good, and the biggest highlight of the match was his Suplex on Curt to counter a Headlock that looked sudden. My best description is this was somewhat uninspired, but above average overall. 

 

96. Crusher Blackwell vs. King Kong Brody (9/30/84). Original Placement: 121

3 stars 6.2 out of 10. Well, this was much more fun then I was expecting. Blackwell is just turned face and is showing this is a perfect role for him and the crowd is fucking HOT! This is hindered by losing the finish, but a bloody Blackwell putting Brody on the defensive is good shit. 

 

97. Mad Dog Vachon & Verne Gagne vs. Jerry Blackwell & Shiek Adnan Kaissey. (4/24/83) Original Placement: 83

3 stars, 6 2 out of 10. Kind of a breath of fresh air, and it gave me exactly what I wanted out of this: A fantastic Jerry Blackwell performance, Mad Dog punching people, and Shiek and Verne also being there. Verne throws a good dropkick but doesn’t add much else, and Shiek just doesn’t add much at all.

 

98. Curt Hennig vs. Greg Gagne (6/12/88)- 3 stars, 6.2 out of 10. Original Placement: 95

Oof, Greg. Like, he’s fine in this match, but during it it just set in that this company is really trying to make this tax attorney looking dude into a major babyface while WWF and NWA were built around Hogan, Savage, Flair, and Steamboat the time. It’s a fine match, with good leg work and good leg selling, but it’s all leading the (you guessed it) double count out finish making this entire thing feel meaningless. Limits how high I can put it, though both guys looked solid. 

 

99. Buddy Rose & Doug Somers vs. Scott Hall & Curt Hennig (5/17/86)- 3 stars, 6.2 out of 10. Original Placement: 117

I liked Somers and Rose in this, and Hall played his role fine. I am realizing I really don’t like Curt Hennig as a face in peril. He always has the cartoonish overbumps, which is a bummer.  His tag to Hall was great, and I wasn’t super opposed to the finish, but between tons of control for the faces followed by a very mediocre face in peril sequence, this match left me decently cold.

 

100. Buddy Rose and Doug Somers vs. Greg Gagne & Jimmy Snuka (9/20/86)- 3 stars, 6.2 out of 10. Original Placement: 111

This is a case of good heels and mediocre babyfaces. The heels stooge really well, they have a decent control segment, and the match ends in one of the more eye roll worthy DQ finishes on the set. Gagne doesn’t piss me off and Snuka only kind of pisses me off though, and I did enjoy it,.

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51. Wahoo McDaniel vs. Curt Hennig (12/27/87)- 3 ½ stars, 7.3 out of 10.  Original Placement: 38

The match this feud desperately needed. Everything else has felt like they didn’t want to give you everything so they can get you to the next show. Which this one kinda did too, but it didn’t skimp out with an interference or blatant DQ finish (Yes, it was a double countout, but I’m cool with “The two guys hatred spills over and results in the match breaking down” finishes). Wahoo can barely move around at this point, but he still has the mind clearly, and while Hennig’s jumping around for chops were past over done for me, he still has the most interesting control we’ve seen from him, and the match overall delivered in spades. Hopefully we’ve got more of this type of match left in the company at this point. 

 

52. Ric Flair vs. Magnum TA (9/28/85)- 3 ½  stars, 7.3 out of 10.  Original Placement: 24

This is a rock solid Ric Flair match, which is something some people view as a solid 4 star type of match, and it tends to not be for me. Little stuff others love about Flair matches simply don’t carry to me. Flair takes his fantastic irish whip into the corner and flip bump, but he does it so often it just… doesn’t grab me like it should. And in a large scale that’s my problem with this match. I’ve seen it before. Magnum is a good Flair opponent, and a very good wrestler, but this match didn’t wow me me past “this is a really good match”, and really good to me isn’t great. I like this match, but it never got over the hump.

 

53. Buddy Rose & Doug Somers vs. Midnight Rockers (4/20/86)- 3 ½ stars, 7.2 out of 10. Original Placement: 47

This is a real fun time, with a great opening stretch, were there was a long extended babyface shine. At other points on this set, the long babyface shine frustrated me, but it felt really solid on this one. Rose is a bump machine, and Michaels also does some crazy stuff in this one here. Really enjoyed the intro to this feud. 

 

54. Nick Bockwinkel, Mr. Saito, & Bobby Heenan vs. Blackjack Lanza & The Fantastic Ones (9/9/84)- 3 ½ stars, 7.2 out of 10. Original Placement: 63 

A pretty good though not as great spiritual sequal to the Heenan Family against the High Flyers and Hogan, this match felt like an exand clone stylistically, with actually a better heel team overall. But the babyfaces were not nearly to the tier as Hogan and the High Flyers to me, and the match was hindered by the AWA classic too early of a finish. Saito, Bock, and Heenan are a masterclass of what to do in a six man, and this is a masterclass. 

 

55. Stan Hansen vs. Curt Hennig (2/1/86)- 3 ½ stars, 7.2 out of 10. Original Placement: 52

First Hansen we get on the set, and it’s a pretty good showing from him and, imo, a great showing by Hennig. Curt takes a good kicking and fires back with some sharp punches. Hansen is a really strong monster in this, but Hennig feels game to go after him strongly, and survives all of what Hansen throws at him. The finish is typical 80’s bullshit, but I think it’s a good one, as Hennig gets his neck caught in the ropes in what should be an awkward to set up way, but he does it so quickly that it looks only mildly contrived even in slow mo. Save for one Hennig over bump (There’s no reason to take a jumping bump of a kick to the chest to counter a back body drop attempt Curt), this was rock solid.

 

56. High Flyers vs. East-West Connection, (3/1/81)- 3 ½ star rating, 7.2 out of 10. Original Placement: 50

This is a match with a clear purpose of building heat to the pay off match in this feud, and it hits all it’s marks in spades. The babyfaces control early, but not at a rapid pace, and the heels have to run outside of the ring multiple times, seemingly building to the Cage match coming in a few weeks. When the heels gain control for the 1st time, Ventura is obviously not the worker in the team with Adonis, but he gives a solid accounting of himself here, though Adonis is a bump machine at various points, throwing himself into his bumps like a crazy person. Gagne is solid in this match, if not spectacular, but Brunzell has fantastic fire to me, and while I’m not much of a “How pretty is your dropkick?” guy, it’s hard to argue against how Brunzells is. The finish, a double count out/double dq, while not the perfect finish for a match, succeeds in making me excited to watch them fight again soon, which makes it convenient that I know they have a cage match coming.

 

57. Jerry Blackwell vs. Col. DeBeers (Ladder Match (11/27/86)-  3 ½ stars, 7.2 out of 10. Original Placement: 68

First of all, this might be the weirdest match on the set. It’s a Ladder match in 1986, between a 450 pound man and an evil south african racist who twirls his mustache all the time, and it is refereed by Billy Robinson and has Japanese commentary. None of those sentences should exist with each other. But this match not only exists, but it’s actually good! First of all, I wanna know who sold them that ladder. I sell ladders for a living. Our most heavy duty ladders we sell have a “Do not pass this weight” limit of 375. And those ladders are made out of steel, and this one seems like it was made out Wood. And it during the match supports both DeBeers and Blackwell, which I’d estimate at 700 pounds of weight. Ladder, you the real MVP.

 

But yeah, this match is actually a really good, simple version of what Ladder matches were originally meant to be. It’s not a stunt show, it’s a brawl using the ladder, with a couple of big bumps from DeBeers off said ladder. I enjoyed this a good. 

 

58. Curt Hennig & Greg Gagne vs. Nick Bockwinkel & Ray Stevens (6/13/85)- 3 ½ stars, 7.2 out of 10. Original Placement: 64

Hey everybody, the Curt Hennig I was excited to watch work was here! This is amusingly a match were I came away with 2 conclusions. Number 1: We finally got a glimpse of what Hennig was on his way to being, as he was damned good here. Number 2: I am over Greg Gagne. Now, this wasn’t the worst performance from Gagne I’ve seen in 85. But it feel like he’s flat done as a high end worker here. Bock also gives your traditional really strong Bock performance, and Hennig plays an amazing face in peril once Gagne’s goofy one is done. Fuck Finish, but an acceptable fuck finish.

 

59. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Rick Martel (3/13/83)- 3 ½ stars, 7.1 out of 10 Original Placement: 54

Solidly good match between two guys I feel can do better. These two do seem like pretty perfect rivals for each other, as Martel is a fantastic working babyface and Bock is a masterful heel. Martel has some strong comebacks and sells like a champ, but my favorite part of this match was actually the King of the Mountain spot, were Bock just kept getting more and more confident and cocky during it. This is solidly in the good not great category for me.

 

60. Larry Zybysko vs. Nick Bockwinkel (11/27/86)- 3 ½ stars, 7.1 out of 10. Original Placement: 70

This is a strong continuation for this rivalry, with fun background to build to this. This is a rare match were Bockwinkel actually gets outshone a bit. Larry Z bumps around masterfully, his offense is painful looking and to the point, and he looks great here. 

 

61. Greg Gagne vs. Larry Zbyszko (July 87)- 3 ½ stars, 7.1 out of 10. Original Placement: 104

This is a fun little discovery, with Larry working a Greg match in a very Larry way. It’s almost all technical wrestling, which works and both are good at, with Larry Z being a star, but Greg with one of his better performances on this set. 

 

62. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Brad Rheingans (7/3/83)- 3 ½  stars, 7.0 out of 10. Original Placement: 99 

Another fun little episode of “Nick Bockwinkel is insanely versatile” series this entire thing is so far. And Rheingans is a fun little counter for Bock here, as this is a fun little 10 minute draw to establish Brad as a challenger for Bock that does it’s job well. This isn’t gonna be a super high finisher, but it’s a match that hits all the points it was supposed to hit. Brad has some fun mat work, a really nice monkey flip spot, and Brad is game to give Bock good moves to work with. Good fun here.

 

63. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Larry Zbysko (2/23/86)- 3 ½ stars, 7.0 out of 10. Original Placement: 79

This is short and pretty damned sweet. It’s very very basic. Larry gets the shit kicked out him, the ref takes a bump, Larry crotches Bock on the ropes, and gets the pin with his hands in the ropes in 4 minutes. That’s the base description, and makes it sound like I’m not high on this match. But I actually kind of loved it. I’m not sure how high I can put a 4 minute match like, this but man I loved it. Larry is a fantastic heel, Bock is surprisingly an amazing babyface, and the finish works in large part to the monumental bump the ref took making Larry grabbing the ropes buyable as something he’d miss cause he got knocked loopy.

 

64. Wahoo McDaniel vs. Manny Fernandez (10/15/88)- 3 ½ stars, 7.0 out of 10.  Original Placement: 48

After the Curt/Lawler match it’s nice to watch a match that knew EXACTLY what it wanted to be, and this match was definitely that. It’s chops, solid armwork, and some blood to lead to the finish. 

 

65. Nick Bockwinkel & Ray Stevens vs. Curt Hennig & Larry Hennig- (4/24/85)- 3 ½ stars, 7.0 out of 10. Original Placement: 122

This was a super fun match, with arguably the best Curt performance I’ve seen on the set. Larry looks supe fun, and I came to appreciate Larry a lot as this match went on. Bock manages to be a fantastic dick (shock of shocks) in this as well, with Stevens looking solid, if nothing.

 

66. Stan Hansen vs. Sgt. Slaughter (Bunk House Match) (3/9/86)- 3 ½ stars, 7.0 out of 10. Original Placement: 51

This was pretty short but also sweet. It’s a go go go brawl, that never really threatens the great border but is solidly good. Hansen was really good, and Slaughter was… more just average good. Slaughter has been modest down note for me, not because he isn’t good, but because I was hoping he’d be great. 

 

67. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Curt Hennig (6/14/84)- 3 ¼  stars, 6.9 rating. Original Placement: 45

This match to me is a pretty basic baseline good match. Bock does play vet being surprised by the young babyface pretty well, but Hennig doesn’t have much to bring to the table here. I get he’s supposed to be underdog babyface, but he’s kind of a sloppy bumper at points during this, and his offense, save for the one armbreaker spot that was legit good and a couple cool uses of the ropes, felt completely uninspired to me compared to the Martel matches I just came off of. This also felt like a good Bockwinkel performance, but not one of the best of the set.

 

68. Mike Rotundo vs. Doug Somers (5/1/86)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.9 out of 10. Original Placement: 67

This started slow as hell, and picked up significantly the later in the match we went. Rotundo on offense is every bit as bland as you’d expect him to be, but Somers looked god damned great in this match and brought it back into the above average category BEFORE Rotundo got busted open hardway, which added a solid level to this indeed. It’s basically a more fired up Rotundo face performance away from being on my “good” match tier but sits comfortably at 3 ¼ to me

 

69. Jerry Lawler vs. Curt Hennig (7/16/88)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.9 out of 10.  Original Placement: 12

This match is… frustrating. Curt Hennig once more has no idea what to do on control, and is completely directionless. And I don’t understand it. Lawler takes a big bump and hits his head on the floor. Then Curt posts him in the corner. And then Curt works over… the midsection. And I just don’t get it. Hennig leaves the set a total mystery to me. It feels like he’s just a completely incomplete wrestler that has some amazing qualities but doesn’t think things through as well as you would expect. Lawler was good in this, but it didn’t feel like he was 100% in. 

 

70.  Jerry Lawler vs. Curt Hennig (2/19/88)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.9 out of 10.  Original Placement: 59

The first 10 minutes of a really good 25 minute match, that then ended randomly, suddenly, and terribly. The work was real solid, and it was a classic Lawler performance with Hennig as a great opponent for him, but the finish hinders it to the point I can’t put it past just below good. 

 

71. Stan Hansen vs. Sgt. Slaughter (2/23/86)- 3 ¼ stars , 6.9 out of 10. Original Placement: 30 

An ever so slightly worse version of the last time these 2 locked up. Which I might actually like more if we were closer to the ring, While this match did have a better selling performance from Slaughter it didn’t have that high impact feel the last one did, so just slightly lower on my ballet. 

 

72. Crusher Blackwell vs. King Kong Brody (No DQ) (10/24/84)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.8 out of 10. Original Placement: 115

I’ll get the stupid finish out of the way: Brody pinning Kaisse was dumb, but it’s Brody, so whatever. But the work in this? The work in this was great, and Blackwell was about as over as you can get post Hogan and they were loud in support. This match didn’t reinvent the wheel in a lot of ways, but it told the story it needed to tell: Blackwell is a tough mother fucker and he’s going to eventually destroy the Shiek. I was kind of dreading these matches, but they were super fun.

 

73. Buddy Rose vs. Marty Jannetty (10/18/86)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.8 out of 10. Original Placement: 60

I’m starting to see why AWA was having problems in 86 and it has nothing to do with the talent. Another terrible even by 80’s style finish damages what was other wise a really good contest. Marty looks really good and takes a god damned crazy Flapjack bump, Rose stooges like a champ and makes Marty look outstanding. Fun, by the ending made it feel flat.

 

74. Nick Bockwinel & Mr. Saito vs. Verne & Greg Gagne (4/21/85)- 3 ¼ stars, 6.8 out of 10.  Original Placement: 76

This was a lot of fun, and a much better match then I kinda thought it would be, and it’s because Verne, to his credit, gave the heels some stuff when I didn’t expect him to. You knew going in that Verne and Greg were probably winning because it’s the AWA, of course they would, but this was a fun match that did everything I wanted this match to do. Bock giving a very good Bock performance (as always) and good stuff from everyone has this solidly above average.

 

75. Jim Brunzell vs. Jumbo Tsuruta (3/15/84)- 3 ¼  stars, 6.8 out of 10. Original Placement: 65

Fun match that kinda played it safe, which is a bit of a bummer, but also a match without any real flaws to point out. It’s just a rock solid story of a match worked safe that didn’t super play into Brunzell’s strengths, but showed that Brunzell can work in this style of match too. Crowd in Salt Lake was hot for him, and Jumbo worked what felt like was a standard match for him at this time (which is good). Not much more to add other then that everything.

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And now in countdown form... 50-41

 

50. Greg Gagne vs. Super Destroyer Mark II (5/1/80)- 3 ½ star, 7.3 out of 10. Original Rating: 89

A few minutes cut from the opening. Destroyer is damn good with his arm work in this match, with a great looking shoulder breaker, whipping Gagne’s arm into anything he can, and even stretching the fingers out to get any damage that he can. I liked this match a lot in the first 2/3rd, and less as we hit the finishing stretch due to Destroyer either being winded or off base. Also, Gagne was a very solid fired up babyface here, and was super consistent with his arm selling, hitting shoulder blocks and taking the bigger bump due to his damaged arm. Distraction finish isn’t my favorite, but it didn’t really hinder the match to any real degree in my opinion. On second rewatch, I agree with my writeup but think my rating was waaaay too low. This was my 90th, and is bumping up to just into my top 50. 

 

49. Paul Diamond vs. Pat Tanaka (11/18/89)- 3 ½ stars, 7.3 out of 10. Original Rating: 87

God damn Paul Diamond, I didn’t know you were actually pretty good. I expected Tanaka to be good here, but Diamond was always just “the other guy” when he teamed with Tanaka, and seeing them broken up and Diamond getting a chance as an actual notable babyface is odd, but he really seems to fit into the role very well. This match was worked with a lot of heated striking and really strong bumps. The DQ finish isn’t good, but this was shockingly good imo, a real great showing for the two. 

 

48. Ken Patera & Brad Rheingans vs. Badd Company (3/25/89)- 3 ½ stars, 7.3 Out of 10. Original Rating: 49

Huh, I didn’t expect Ken Patera and Brad Rheingans to look like a legitimately really impressive tag team. They are kinda goofy at times with their movement, but I think it fits them perfectly. And this was a fun babyface shine, with some solid work on Rheingans. Brad in particular gets some really cool offense and hope spots, doing amatuar wrestling manuevers into roll ups and a cool throwing powerslam. Patera is super fun in this as well, as he’s more mobile then you’d expect, and has charisma about him still. Really fun match and one of my last additions to my top 50. 

 

47. Little Tokyo & Lord Littlebrook vs. Cowboy Lang & Little Coco (7/18/85)- 3 ½ star. 7.3 out of 10. Original Placement: 115

Hot damn, this was a good fucking time. And I will note, these guys are legitimately good wrestlers, with especially Tokyo and Lang giving great accounting for themselves here. The comedy in the match wasn’t “Ha, look at the little people” it was heel miscommunication spots and I think the match benefited from being taken more seriously then you’d expect. It’s also a match were I can’t really find any faults in it other then the preconceived notion that it’s a midget match and it excels at all the things it’s going for. A hugely pleasant surprise, and I want to know who exactly didn’t put this high because I see no reason not too based on the work. I actively want to find more Little Tokyo work from this.

 

46. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Col. DeBeers (4/17/86)- 3 ½ stars, 7.4 out of 10. Original Placement: 55

DeBeers is good in this match, but this is a total Bock showcase, and he is GREAT in this. His leg work was strong, and he does a great job putting over DeBeers as a legit threat to him. Bock also mixes in some great strikes in this as well and keeps me compltetly engaged. Not a strong enough performance from DeBeers to push this super high, but I certainly enjoyed this.

 

45. Col. DeBeers, Buddy Rose, & Doug Somers vs. Nick Bockwinkel, Steve Pardee, & Brad Rheingans (5/31/86)- 3 ¼  stars, 7.4 out of 10. Original Placement: 92

A damn fun, out right good six man here which featured fantastic performances from Rose and Bock (duh), but everyone else looked good in there roles too. It’s pretty quick and to the point, but I came away from this match higher on literally involved. Martel was great at ringside with this, and her and Buddy Rose is one of the best managing combos I can recall. 

 

44.  Nick Bockwinkel vs. Curt Hennig (12/25/86)- 3 ¾ stars, 7.5 out of 10. Original Placement: 16

This was a …. Frustrating match, but a match I can’t take away from the ring work overall. It’s a followup of an all time classic and while it didn’t hit the heights that match did, it was on it’s way to that 4 star range, before a particularly shitty eye roll worthy finish went down. The finish was designed more to justify the eventual Hennig heel turn, and I think it did it in spades, but it still detracted from this match a good deal. 

 

 43. Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Rick Martel (5/13/84)-  3 ¾ stars, 7.5 out of 10. Original Placement: 41

This is certainly the best Jumbo match of the set, as Martel is a great opponent, and the small stuff in this match all feels big, which is probably one of the biggest compliments I can give a wrestler overall. Martel is possibly the best wrestler ever at making basic holds look as painful as possible, as he goes full effort to make Headlocks and Hammerlocks look like high spots, and I love him for doing so. Jumbo is a game opponent here, and I came away from this match liking both more then I came in. My initial debate was if this match was quite 4 stars, and I ended up putting it just below that level due to a finish that could have been better. I then bumped the match on rewatch, as the Jumbo/Martel chemistry didn't hold up as well as I'd hoped it would. 

 

42. Crusher Blackwell & Ken Patera vs. The High Flyers- (11/24/83) 3 ¾ stars, 7.5 out of 10. Original Placement: 26

A damn fine tag match, with a really strong shine sequence with Gagne and Brunzell working over limbs damn well. The match does drop a bit during the heel control, which I’m noticing is actually a weak spot in Blackwell’s game, as Patera is stronger in that element. It’s a bullshit finish, but the type of bullshit finish I expect and don’t mind at all.

 

41. Jerry Blackwell & Shiek Adnan Al-Kaissie vs. The High Flyers (Cage Match) (4/18/82)- 3 ¾ stars, 7.6 out of 10. Original Placement: 14

This is what I was hoping for in a cage match the match against East-West would bring. Brunzell and Blackwell are fantastic in this match, Gagne gives a great performance, and Shiek looked much better then you’d expect. The only think keeping this from the upper end is we get less then 2/3rds.

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40-31

 

40. Ric Flair vs. Nick Bockwinkel (1/17/86)- 3 ¾ stars, 7.6 out of 10. Original Placement: 21

This match is both really good and pretty frustrating because the work is really really good from both men, obviously, but losing the first 10 minutes hurts the context. Bockwinkel gets to look like a beloved babyface who is the crowds “Guy” at this point, and Flair is game for it. If we had the first 10 minutes, this could be a top 15 match for me. But we don’t. And thus, it’s more a top 50 contender for me then top 25.

 

39. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Rick Martel (12/8/83)- 3 ¾ 7.6 out of 10. Original Placement: 66

A really fun little match with a really shitty finish. Martel might be the best guy I’ve seen ever at working a headlock in a meaningful way, and this might be the best babyface performance on this set in a singles match not by Wahoo, and maaaaybe Brunzell. If I have one negative it’s that it felt like it ended just as it was really starting to get good. But a strong match.

 

38. Adrian Adonis vs. Jim Brunzell (6/28/81)- 3 ¾ stars, 7.6 out of 10. Original Placement: 86

Jim Brunzell was really really good. That was legit my main note from this match. You think of him as the great hot tag of the High Flyers, or as a good worker in the jobber team of the Killer B’s, but watching him work big singles matches as a more traditional mat worker is a treat. He’s constantly trying to make his holds more damaging, he jumps on chances to keep the advantage like a pitbull, and I wish we got a larger window to see what he could have done as a singles, or the Mid Atlantic footage from 79-80 was available. Adonis takes some great bumps here, as well as some mediocre “way too big for the move” bumps, but I loved Brunzell in this so much, god damn.

 

37. Stan Hansen vs. Sgt. Slaughter (2/2/86)- 3 ¾ stars, 7.6 out of 10. Original Placement: 39

This match is an interesting one, because this is a fantastic performance by Hansen, mixed with a so-so one from Slaughter. Hansen does everything he can to make this great, including a shocking great armwork segment, and even hits a big dropkick. The problem is Slaughter drops the armwork in terms of how he hits the moves. It’s not quite a Robinson/Jumbo situation, as Slaughter does shake his arm out after moves, but it still is a demerit to the match. That said, this is much better then that Jumbo match because Slaughter was a better version of Robinson in that one, but more importantly, Hansen was MUCH better then Jumbo here. Hansen working over a limb is something I want more young wrestlers to watch. God it’s a treat. I can’t put this match in the 4 star range, but Hansen easily gave a 4 star caliber performance. 

 

36. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Rick Martel (3/28/85)- 3 ¾ stars, 7.7 out of 10. Original Placement: 25

This match has footnotes that frustrate me, but at the end of the day it doesn’t frustrate me enough to bump it past here because these two are just masters of there craft. The Figure 4 work in this was outstanding, and the finish was clever. Sadly those 2 things didn’t play into each other perfectly, and Martel’s leg selling was a tad bit spotty, as it knocks it points that could have gotten it to that 4 star range.

 

35. Tito Santana & Rick Martel vs. High Flyers (8/29/82) 3 ¾ stars 7.7 out of 10. Original Placement: 11

A match that everyone got to look really good and a match that at the end of the day left me frustrated. And I don’t think any of my frustration came from the workers, but it all came from the people who put the match together for TV. It’s such a frustrating case of just taking out the wrong stuff. They open with 5 minutes of headlocks, which sounds boring, but Martel and Santana keep it engaging. That’s all well and good, but we don’t get to see the High Flyers actually figure out there counter game plan. Late in the match after working over Tito’s leg, Martel came in and they talked about how he also got his leg worked on… but we never saw that. So we lost not one, but TWO vital story telling elements of this match, and that is quite frustrating.

 

But I’m still ranking it high because the work between the four was very very good. Martel and Gagne did these fantastic rope run up spots during the headlock spot that were super strong. That tag transitions were super good overall. And the finish! Brunzell with the bling tag dropkick from hell! The good in this far outweigh my frustrations. But I still only have it 6 of 16 right now because of bad editing and it pisses me the fuck off. 

 

34. Nick Bockwinkl vs. Curt Hennig (3/7/87)- 3 ¾ stars, 7.7 out of 10. Original Placement: 27

This was a great continuation but not finale of the rivalry, with a finish that makes sense. It’s not a high end Bock/Hennig, but it’s a great sampler to continue the feud. None of these matches save the “big one” have really jumped into my elite category, but all have been damned good. 

 

33. Buddy Rose & Doug Somers vs. Midnight Rockers (1/27/87)- 3 ¾  stars 7.7 out of 10.  Original Placement: 15

We finally get a standard tag team match between these 4, a year after the first one, and I really appreciate this match a good deal. It’s a match that starts a little slow, but picks up significantly as the match goes on into some big spots, and it feels like it could get up to 4 stars in the right setting, but I just have minor flaws that keeps me from elevating it. Unlike most matches in the series, there are down moments here that just don’t keep me quite as engaged as I’d like. Marty’s face in peril is solid, but low end for the Rockers, and his hot tag at the finish isn’t amazing. And, I have to say, Michaels just eats so many big spots that it hinders the match for me. Dude eats a DDT, Piledriver, Superplex, and Inside Out Backbreaker all within a minute, and kicks out of each. Felt overkillish to me, though not so overwhelming it took me completely out.

 

32. Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Rick Martel (9/29/85)- 4 stars, 7.7 out of 10. Original Placement: 13

This was really really good, but I’ll start with some minor complaints. Jumbo gets his back worked over early and does no selling of it. You can make the claim the springboard on the finish shouldn’t work on Martels bad leg, though, I’m more willing to buy it as it was a desperation move. Okay. Now the good stuff. And the good stuff is great stuff. Probably the best limb work on the set, with some outstanding work on offense from Jumbo and more evidence to the pile for the “Rick Martel might be the best babyface ever” pile. Martel fires up like a champion, pumping himself up on the outside during what would usually have been the King of the Mountain spot. Jumbo plays a great heel here, much more comfortable being an outright dick then he was in his first stop. Really loved this. On rewatch, while I enjoyed this, I feel like my initial rating (4 ¼, 8.8 out of 10) was solidly too high, and I wonder if I rated it on desire to like Jumbo (which I do, actually), but it’s still what I would describe as a baseline great.

 

31.  Nick Bockwinkel vs. Jim Brunzell (6/11/81)- 3 ¾  stars, 7.7 out of 10. Original Placement: 71

A great example of how good Bock could be, and Brunzell was game to give a really good singles match on this night. The mat exchanges were really smartly worked, with Brunzell always winning them until Bockwinkel resorts to cheating. And every time momentum shifted in this match, it tended to be done quickly, especially Bocks transitions to offense. This is flat out my style of wrestling.

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26-30 (Going by 5's the rest of the way because I love literally each of these matches to varying degrees

 

30. Original Midnight Express vs. Midnight Rockers (12/27/87)-  3 ¾ stars, 7.8 out of 10. Original Placement: 37

Hot damn, where the fuck were this OME in the last match? They look absolutely fantastic here, as this feels like it would fit in with the Rockers/Rose and Somers feud seamlessly. Shawn Michaels has been absolutely amazing on this set and he’s a total highlight here once again. This is, however, a match were once again Marty doesn’t do much. But he doesn’t detract from the match in any way, and the other 3 more then carry this. The finish being a bit wonky does keep this out of my 4 star range, but it came damn close.

 

29. Rick Martel vs. Nick Bockwinkel (7/19/85)- 3 ¾ stars, 7.8 out of 10.  Original Placement: 43

Middle of the pack Martel. vs. Bockwinkel match. Which means it was very good. The closer camera angles were fantastic overall, and Martel and Bock are such utter pros, I could watch them work against each other 100 times. Martel and Bock specifically are masters at fully commiting to every little thing, whether or not it’s going to be countered or not, and it makes every match between them super enjoyable. The weird finish does bump it down a bit, but not excesively so. This is the last match between these 2 on the set and I wish there was 20 more.

 

28. Stan Hansen vs. Leon White (3/13/86)- 3 ¾ stars, 7.8 out of 10.  Original Placement: 36

Well this was a damned blast, and is a fantastic little carry job. Which isn’t to take away from White’s performance, as for someone that green in the industry he is fantastic here, as the headlock stuff feels good and the arm selling is great. But this is Hansen taking a talented but green worker and getting something pretty great out of him. Hansen fighting out of the headlock in different ways was good, and his hand work was fantastic, and perfectly Stan Hansen. 

 

27. Greg Gagne and Super Destroyer II vs. Nick Bockwinkel & Bobby Heenan (10/3/80)- 3 ¾ stars, 7.8 out of 10. Original Placemnt: 72

Very Good tag match, arguably the top heel manager as tag partner match I’ve seen. Bockwinkel and Heenan really are the perfect combo to each other, to the point that I think they are just a legit great tag team in general, with Bock getting to get beat down early before finally gaining control when Heenan gets in the ring, to eventually set up the tag so Heenan can get beat down. Gagne once more looks like a fantastic babyface both working the apron, getting beat down, and making a really fun hot tag. Destroyer would be my “weakest guy” in this match, but that’s more a statement on how high the average level of work was in this one, as he was rock solid wanting to get his hands on Heenan. It’s a really fun finish, with the heels cheating to win, and the angle to follow sends the crowd home happy even with the heel victory. The stooging post match from Bock and Heenan almost pushed this to 4 star, but I think I can only really give the ratings for the match itself. Upon rewatch, this match more then holds up, and is exactly what this match and angle should have been. I don’t think I can justify moving it up, though I am tempted. I think it’s fine right where it is.

 

26. Jimmy Garvin vs. Rick Martel- 3 ¾ stars, 7.8 out of 10. (3/7/85)  Original Placement: 81

I’ll just be blunt. This match had me the moment I realized Big Bertha was Baron Von Raschke. Like, I was in hook line and sinker. And it made me realize with finality I do view matches like this, and by extension the Heenan tag and Hogan/Bock matches earlier in the set (which I feel like I am significantly higher on then others who would bother to review AWA in the 80’s) higher then many others. And I feel it comes down to this: I mentally reward matches that take simple concepts, or niche styles of wrestling and nails them out of the park. And I think it has a large part due me being younger and watching wrestling growing up in a different era. Because as time goes on matches like this, matches like Heenan & Bockwinkel vs. Super Destroyer and Greg Gagne, and matches like Bockwinkel vs. Hogan just don’t happen anymore, and it’s largely based on this idea that has been prevalent that these matches, matches that are built around a heel manager, or are matches that are the babyface dominating the heel champion and driving the crowd wild, or in this case a match built around good work with Baron Von Raschke out cross-dressing to counter Precious, and just a good title match built around the interference spots, have a ceiling, and are somehow lesser. And this match made me realize, that through that process, matches like this, that are super good at telling there story (Which this match clearly was) get completely lost to the shuffle because it wasn’t striving to be an all time classic. And I hate it. I fucking loathe that mindset, as it’s just as much to blame for the mindset that led to modern wrestling were shit like this doesn’t exist anymore. It’s a fatal flaw to rate all wrestling matches on a scale that has only one goal, and this match, to me, is evidence why.

 

This match in a lot of ways is basic, but does every single thing it set out to do. The early going is dominated by Martel, who, as Martel does, looks fantastic at making everything look good. The only flaw I have for this match, I will admit, is that after some damn good Martel legwork, Garvin doesn’t do a particularly great job of selling the leg. That said, as someone who was already engaged in the match, it took me 30 minutes after the match to realize this flaw, which means I can’t knock it as much as I usually would because it simply was not noticable to me during my viewing. But once Garvin gains control, I think he does a good job building heat, with Von Raschke getting his shots in and counter acting Precious. The leg selling does bump this just below 4 stars to me, but I had a blast watching this. 

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25.  Rick Martel vs. Harley Race (4/20/86)- 3 ¾ stars, 7.9 out of 10.  Original Placement: 42

As someone who is not a big race fan, this was one of the better Race performances I’ve seen imo, as he wrestles a more or less 50/50 style and doesn’t fall into the bad habits I usually associate with Race. Oh, and he’s working with Martel, who is fucking amazing. So that helps. The transitions on offense is the main thing I’m gonna think about this match, as literally all of them were very good. Race throws one of the best jumping knee attack I’ve seen, specifically for Harley, and Martel is always great as the fired up babyface here. Super good time here.

 

24. Mr. Saito vs. Rick Martel- (4/24/85)- 4 stars, 8.0 out of 10. Original Placement: 23

Really fun match between two pros here, though it doesn’t feel like they were swinging for the fences. This didn’t feel like a match that had been built too for a long while, but more a match between two guys who are very good having a match they could run many times if needed. And it’s a really good version of that. Saito and Martel both hit big shots, theres some good arm and leg work on the match. It to me is the very lowest end of great.

 

23. Crusher Blackwell & Shiek Adnan Al Kaissey vs. Da Crusher & Greg Gagne (Cage Match) (3/25/84) Original Placement: 18

4 stars, 8.0 out of 10. Wow, this really is a miracle match even more so then the Vachon match to me, though it’s 95% Gagne and Blackwell carrying this. Both are bumping like madmen, and Gagne spends almost ¼ of this match on the top rope looking for any way to hurt Blackwell. Great interference from Patera to get involved in any way possible, a fantastic hot tag from Gagne, and an awesome finish. Crusher’s punches are much sharper in this match, and Shiek is a trooper. It’s a match my gut said wasn’t 4 stars, but then I couldn’t come up with an actual argument against putting it there.

 

22. Jerry Lawler vs. Kerry Von Erich (12/13/88)- 4 stars, 8.1 out of 10.  Original Placement: 9

Exactly the war I hoped it would be. Two all time great punchers doing all time great punching and registering the punches to an all time great level. Every punch feels huge, and I love it. Every shot feels like a giant blow, and Lawler in particular takes some massive bumps for Von Erich here. I will say I did not love the Piledriver no sell, and the finish does lower it ever so slightly for me, but it’s still a legit top 20 match on the set for me. On rewatch, the main note I have on this match is I absolutely love elements of this match and despise other elements. The Piledriver No Sell is bad. The ref bump early during the “Give Kerry a visual pinfall” is bad. The finish is why these companies were dying. There even is a stretch were Lawler is “putting the object back into his tights” while the ref is staring at him. But the Kerry/Lawler punching exchanges are awesome. At the end, this match falls a bit on the sword, as it’s great stuff is indeed great, but the other stuff is actively a big enough problem I can’t put it in that tier. 

 

21. Terry Gordy vs. Rick Martel (August 1985)- 4 stars, 8.1 out of 10. Original Placement: 46

Now this is more like what I hoped to have from the Freebirds, as Gordy was fucking game for this match, and Martel is Martel, which means he’s amazing. This is a pretty short time limit draw, but everything in this match made me wish I could buy a ticket to see the rematch. Martel dominates by using his technique, but Gordy gets some great moments to show his athleticism, with a sunset flip and a Crossbody. The shine goes on for a while, but Martel is a master at making every little thing he does engaging and painful looking at every turn, and it shines through in this match something fierce. Finally, when Gordy gains control, he just starts hitting major bombs, so even though his control doesn’t last tons of time it feels like he majorly put Martel on the defensive. This match also had some of the best execution of some moves I’ve seen on the set (Martel’s Crossbodys looked like actual damaging moves) or in some cases, ever (Gordy’s Sideslams looked devastating). The Time Limit Finish at Martel getting the big man over a Vertical Suplex felt earned, and god damned I want to buy a ticket for the rematch. I’m almost shocked I’m giving this match the rating I am, but I loved this match. Upon rewatch, my thoughts didn’t really change at all. Perfectly executed match for the goals the match clearly had.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Can someone PM with details on how to get this set?  A buddy of mine grew up on AWA and is getting divorced and this seems like it would make a good house warming gift for his new place.

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  • 4 weeks later...

20. Stan Hansen vs. Crusher Blackwell (6/28/86)- 4 stars, 8.1 out of 10.. Original Finish: 20th

If you know who Jerry Blackwell and Stan Hansen are, and you heard they were wrestled each other, this is the exact fucking match you’d want to see. It’s punching, great registering to great looking strikes, and blood. And it’s so damned cool to see these two guys work, and they are such a great pairing for one another. The finish is pretty 80’s bullshit, but it’s 80’s bullshit that doesn’t really bug me much. On rewatch, my estimation of this didn’t change much, other then it doing enough for it to pass up the Gordy/Martel match. It’s still a great damned war, but it feels like they left too much in the tank for it to get the ranks these guys could, in theory, hit.

Fun fact: I watched this match with my friend Johnny. We both ranked this match as the 20th best match on the set. And, as shown above, this match finished 20th. So, there you have it. 20th best match on the set.

 

19. King Tonga, Masked Superstar, and Shiek Adnan Kaissey vs. Jerry Blackwell & Sgt. Slaughter (4/21/85)-  4 stars, 8.3 out of 10. Original Finish: 7th

Well hot damn, this is a match I will remember for a long time. The finish is amazingly done, and this feels like a career performance out of Tonga, and a very very good one out of Superstar (possibly the best of his career? I need to see more high end Superstar stuff). Blackwell gives one of his best performances on this set (I don’t think he was quite as good as he was in the Algiers Death Match, but it’s in the ballpark), and Slaughter looks good in what is admittedly a small role. Just a fantastic old school tag match that the Cage is more a prop for them to work around to make sure the heels can’t escape the babyfaces. The top rope splash finish is absolutely bonkers, easily best finish on the set. On rewatch, I’m slightly lower on this then I was on previous viewing while still enjoying it a great. 

 

18. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Larry Zybysko- (7/11/87)- 4 stars 8.3 out of 10. Original Finish: 32nd

This was a damned good finale to this angle, with Bock completely giving Larry his comeuppance. It’s a fantastic performance from both sides, and this is close to the 4 star range, but falling just short for me. Upon rewatch, while I still don’t think I can give this match 4 stars, I did enjoy it even more. It’s hard for me to argue this match isn’t just about perfect as a “comumpance match”. I view this as match that fits right in with my 7.8 “Basically perfect in a match style I have a hard time giving 4 stars” position, but one of the top 5 finishes on the set puts it as my current highest rated match not to hit 4 stars for me.

 

17. Crusher Blackwell & Sheik Adnan Kaissey vs. Baron Von Raschke & Mad Dog Vachon (Taped Fist Match) (3/13/83)- 4 stars, 8.4 out of 10. Original Finish: 31st

First off, Von Raschke and Kaissey play there roles in this very well, and that’s for two guys I had no expectations for. But this match is just Mad Dog Vachon punching Jerry Blackwell in the fucking face and I LOVE IT for that. We get some stuff I wish we had in this match, but unlike the Martel and Santana/High Flyers, it doesn’t bug me we missed it. Outstanding performance from Vachon and Blackwell, and I would assume this is a very safe bet for my top 25.

 

16. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Hulk Hogan (4/18/82)- 4 ¼ stars 8.5 out of 10. Original Finish: 92nd.

During the conversation, Johnny said that this match is like a Lesnar/Cena Summerslam match with the face and heel dynamic reversed, and I think that’s a great description. Bock is a masterclass here, selling perfectly all over the ring, doing anything and everything he can think of not to win, or even to gain a real advantage, but just to survive the bigger, stronger, and quicker Hogan. Hogan gives a very good Hogan performance, but this is a total Bock performance. The finish is an obvious Dusty, and we can have debates till the end of time on if they should have just given Hogan the belt (At the end of the day, I don’t think it mattered, as Hogan was gonna go to the WWF regardless), but in the context of just the match, I don’t care.

On rewatch, nothing of my opinion on this match has changed. This is a masterclass from Bock, his 2nd best performance on the set. I also disagree strongly with the "Bock does stuff that obviously won't work" critique. Like, maybe the test of strength? But everything else is him trying to find a weakness and failing. 

 

 

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