Wrestling Gold #4

 

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WRESTLING GOLD #4: NO MORE MR. NICE GUY
Offers fans an affordable and fun trip down memory lane.

Review by Mike Rickard II

Watching the Lawler/Flair match on RAW a few weeks ago got me thinking about how lucky wrestling fans are today (not to have seen that particular match because while both guys put on a decent match for two card-carrying AARP members; it was nothing special). Back when Harley Race wrestled in the WWF as “the King”, people would rant and rave about how great the guy was but there was no way to verify it for myself. When Dory Funk Jr. wrestled in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling with the Assassins, it was great to see the legendary NWA World Champion but his best days were well behind him. I often wonder what young fans think when they see a legend like Ric Flair or Jerry Lawler in action. Is it similar to seeing Muhammad Ali wheeled out and unable to form a coherent sentence? You’d never know the guy was the greatest of all time by seeing him today.

Back in the Jurassic Age when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and a young Mike Rickard watched professional wrestling, it was tough to learn anything about the elder statesmen who dotted every promotion’s landscape. If a promotion brought in an old-timer, they could tout him as a legend all they wanted but fans rarely had any way of verifying whether the guy was an aged veteran like Ric Flair is today or a fifty year old version of John Heidenreich. Magazines that maintained kayfabe might have a write-up about a legend like Harley Race but for every article chronicling the accomplishments of Harley Race or Bruno Sammartino, there were crafty veterans like Johnny Weaver, Swede Hansen, Don Kent, and Billy Red Lyons whose stories were harder to discover than Superman’s secret identity. What was a fan to do? Video was just in its infancy and publications like The Wrestling Observer and Pro Wrestling Torch were still on the drawing board. You basically had to rely on the announcer’s word or dig up an old school fan. Rare was your opportunity to see a match from yesteryear.

Thanks to video, fans no longer have that problem and they can travel back in time to see whether or not a wrestler has earned their reputation. Don’t believe how good the Nature Boy Ric Flair was? Pop in The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection and savor the majesty of “The Man” for yourself. Want to see what made the WWF great before Hulk Hogan? The WWE Hall of Fame 2004 has classic matches featuring all of the class of 2004 in their prime. And while the WWE has only skimmed the surface of the deep wrestling libraries they own, fans don’t have to wait for Vince to release more wrestling treasures. You don’t have to look far to find classic matches available at your favorite wrestling web site or video store.

Wrestling Gold Collection Volume Four: No More Mr. Nice Guy offers fans a look at some of wrestling’s best in their prime. Younger fans who think of a pipe cleaner performing bad raps will be awed when they see “Macho Man” Randy Savage in his prime. And for fans who wonder what Jerry Lawler is famous for besides chasing the Charlotte Hazes of the world, this DVD shows “the King” in all his prime.

Wrestling Gold Collection Four features thirteen vintage matches from various territories. What makes the DVD even more worth your time is the inclusion of Dave Meltzer and Jim Cornette. Both men introduce the matches and there is an alternate commentary where Meltzer and Cornette call each match.. Dave Meltzer, perhaps the greatest wrestling historian of all time and Cornette, arguably wrestling’s greatest manager (and one of its sharpest bookers) help set the stage for each match and provide fascinating tidbits and commentary on each wrestler. For example, during a Randy Savage match, Meltzer and Cornette discuss Savage’s evolution from 165 pound Randy Poffo to the muscular Macho Man of the WWF. Meltzer and Cornette aren’t afraid to share their opinions of wrestlers either. During the Bruiser Brody match, Cornette makes it very clear how he feels about Jose Gonzales, the man who killed Bruiser Brody and during a Jerry Lawler match, Cornette compares the promo abilities of the King to Ric Flair. Even if you’ve never heard of any of the wrestlers on this DVD, you’ll be familiar with them by the time you’re finished with the DVD.

Picture and sound quality are always factors to consider when you purchase a tape featuring older matches, While videotape has preserved decades old matches, it is vulnerable to the ravages of time. Unfortunately, this means that some classic matches may have been preserved on video but that doesn’t always translate to enjoyable viewing experiences. Whether you’re buying a bootleg on the Internet or a DVD such as Wrestling Gold, you don’t want to have to sit through two hours of static and garbled sound. With the exception of one match (The Sheik versus Andre the Giant) all of the matches are in fair to good video quality and you should have no trouble enjoying the matches. The audio quality is sometimes sporadic (especially the matches from the Memphis area) but nothing that should take away your enjoyment of the match.

The first match features “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. “Ravishing” Ric Rude from the Mid-South Coliseum. Both wrestlers are in their prime and Savage is simply amazing to watch. From the beginning of the match, you can see the qualities that got him noticed by Vince McMahon- his charisma, cat-like agility, and tremendous physique. The match plays out old school as Savage mounts an early offense only to be distracted by Jimmy Hart and easy pickings for Rude. Savage recovers and lands his patented flying axe handle (in an interesting note, Savage slips up while trying to climb to the top rope and the announcer cleverly points out that Savage is still wobbly from the beating from Rude). The match ends when King Kong Bundy lays out Savage with brass knuckles and Rude steals the pinfall win.

The Sheik vs. Andre the Giant. This historically important match was part of Andre’s first foray into North American wrestling. The match was held in Maple Leaf Gardens where the much hated Sheik was coming off of a seven year undefeated streak. Fans were eager to see the Sheik get his but the Sheik won after throwing fire at Andre and Andre not being able to continue the match. It was a short match with commentary by Meltzer and Cornette who noted that the Sheik’s manager the Grand Wizard was so over that he appeared in several territories as various heel managers.. Promotions would fly him in to work his magic on the microphone. Nuggets of information like this really enhance your enjoyment of classic matches, especially if you are seeing them for the first time.

Pampero Firpo vs. Jeff Doney- A two minute squash match with U.S. Champion Pampero Firpo quickly disposing of the jobber with a claw hold. Firpo has an afro that rivals that of the Wild Samoans. A forgettable match but if you’re dying to see Firpo in action, this is for you.

Bruiser Brody & Scott Casey vs. Kelly Kiniski and the Spoiler- Casey handles the bulk of this tag team match using leglocks to frustrate the Spoiler and Kiniski (yet another son of a world champion whose career languished in the shadow of his father). Two things to enjoy about this match- watching Bruiser Brody throw a dropkick and the cowboy announcer who uses clichés that would make Jim Ross blush “He’s got more moves than a checkers player” and “He’s wound more tight than an eight day watch”. Despite the cornucopia of clichés, the announcer does a good job of calling the match by himself and putting over the action. Brody wins by pinfall on Kiniski after a kneedrop.

“King Kong” Bundy & “Ravishing” Rick Rude vs. Jerry “The King” Lawler & “Macho Man” Randy Savage. While Savage and Lawler were involved in a heated feud, they put aside their differences to go after Bundy and Savage. This tag team match is wild from start to finish. Again, Savage is in his prime here and he is simply amazing. He jumps over the top rope like it’s a puddle and he delivers an airplane spin that is so fast that you actually believe the move is something to fear. The match is worked straight out of Tag Team Wrestling 101. Savage and Lawler dominate at first but the heels gain the advantage and begin working Lawler over like a guest at Abu Ghraib. Finally, the match degenerates into a four way battle where Savage goes nuts and lays out the referee. Lawler and Savage destroy their opponents as Lawler lays into Bundy with a folding chair the size of a couch and uses the brass knucks on Rude.

Chief Jay Strongbow vs. “Bulldog” Don Kent in a Shark Cage Match. This match proves that Wrestlecrap existed long before the Rock-n-Wrestling Era and WCW Uncensored. This match features two wrestlers locked inside a cage. Unfortunately the cage in question doesn’t surround the ring, it surrounds the wrestlers. Remember those shark cages you see in National Geographic specials where a diver is lowered underwater and then surrounded by sharks? Some promoter got the crazy idea that fans’ lives would never be the same after seeing this match. Thanks to the hard work of Strongbow and Kent, this match is watch-able but you have to question the intelligence of anyone who would let two guys wrestle in something comparable to the size of a phone booth. The match ends by interference when Mark Lewin comes out and chokes out Kent long enough for Strongbow to escape the cage.

Austin Idol vs. Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Another wild Mid-South match which features action by the feuding Idol and Savage. Both wrestlers look stone chiseled and Savage continues to showcase his tremendous athleticism. He starts the match by Pearl Harboring Idol with a crutch (in the storyline, Idol had figure-foured Savage’s manager and real-life father Angelo Poffo the week before). Savage continues to cheat and find inventive ways to sneak the crutch past the ref’s attention until Idol makes a Superman comeback, counters an atomic drop by Savage and applies his Las Vegas leglock. Idol wins the International Title by submission.

Ted the Wrestling Bear vs. Gene DuBois. I’ve always heard of wrestling bears but never seen one until this match (from the 1950’s I believe) where Ted the Wrestling Bear battled Gene DuBois. DuBois toyed with the muzzled bear throughout the match, selling snapmares by the bear, and occasionally goading the bear into attacking referee Teddy Thomas. After what seems like forever, the bear gets DuBois’ shoulders down and the ref makes a quick three count. Hopefully this will be the only time I will ever have to watch a bear wrestle (although Heidenreich, Nathan Jones, and Lita could pick up a few tips by watching this match).

Tommy Rich vs. Rick Rude (Mid South Coliseum). Wrestling historians will forever debate why Tommy Rich won the NWA World Title from Harley Race (albeit only holding the belt for less than a week) but there is no doubt that Rich was wildly over with the fans during the early years of his career. As Cornette and Meltzer explain during their introduction to the match, both men were at a crossroads in their career. Rich’s star was beginning to fall while Rude’s was only beginning to rise. In Rich’s corner was Tojo Yammamoto while Rude had Jimmy Hart and valet Angel in his corner. Rude dominates much of the match until a ref bump enables Jerry Lawler to come out and deliver a double noggin knocker to Rick Rude and Angel, allowing Rich to get the pinfall win Not a great match by any stretch of the imagination but something you would expect to see on any mid-card. .

AWA World Champion Nick Bockwinkel vs. Jerry “The King” Lawler (Mid South Coliseum) The announcers do a terrific job setting up this bout between American Wrestling Association World Champion Nick Bockwinkel and challenger Jerry “The King” Lawler. Bockwinkel is portrayed as a scientific wrestler (albeit a heel one) who prides himself as the superior technical wrestler to Lawler. The match starts off with Bockwinkel controlling the pace by using scientific holds to thwart Lawler’s title ambition. While the match is edited, there is no problem following the action (video editors on other wrestling tapes should consider how this tape cuts out footage without throwing off the match’s rhythm.). The match then moves on to Lawler staging a comeback using brawling techniques. Bockwinkel then regains control using a combination of heelish and scientific moves. Finally, Lawler makes his Superman comeback and just lays into Bockwinkel. He backs Bockwinkel into a corner and unloads on him with punches, much to the disdain of the referee who tries twice to stop Lawler, both times, getting knocked on his ass by Lawler. Finally the referee tries to restore order again, only to inadvertently catch a punch from Bockwinkel. Lawler lands his patented fistdrop and gets the pinfall win but in a screwjob finish worthy of Dusty Rhodes, the referee announces that Lawler has won by disqualification (why the referee didn’t disqualify Lawler after intentionally being thrown to the ground by him is never explained. A good match but the screwjob ending was like getting food poisoning after a delicious meal).

Randy “Macho Man” Savage vs. Austin Idol. In this rematch from the previous Savage/Idol bout, Idol takes quick control of the match and dominates from early on until the match spills outside. Savage grabs the International Title from ringside and blasts Idol in the head with it; busting him wide open (Savage is excellent at making it believable that he could hide the belt from the referee. Watching him on this DVD, you can see that he had already mastered the art of playing a heel). Savage proceeds to administer a professional beating on Idol until Idol stages his Superman comeback. Savage misses an elbow drop from the top rope and sells a leg injury which Idol capitalizes on. Idol starts to work over Savage’s leg but is distracted by Angelo Poffo who tosses a foreign object to Savage. While the referee is distracted by Poffo, Savage blasts Idol with the foreign object and gets the pinfall win.

“Pretty Boy” Bobby Heenan vs. “Cowboy” Bob Ellis- After weeks of Heenan interfering in Ellis’ matches with Heenan charges Blackjack Mulligan and Blackjack Lanza, Ellis won a match with Heenan. In an angle that has been repeated ad naseum. Heenan enters the ring on a crutch, complaining of a recent knee injury that will prevent him from wrestling. Heenan lays into the audience and Ellis as the referee ponders whether or not Heenan has to compete. Heenan then attacks Ellis with a wildly swung crutch and misses. Lanza and Mulligan attack Ellis but he fights them off and administers his bulldog headlock to both of them, laying them out. Heenan leaps over the top rope and is counted out (after a twenty count). An oft repeated angle but executed perfectly by Heenan.

The DVD features nice production values and graphics. While it’s nowhere near the level of WWE, it doesn’t have to be. The matches are what make this DVD something to consider for your wrestling library. And while there are a couple questionable selections on this DVD, the majority of the matches are truly wrestling gold. Even if you’ve seen some of these matches, the commentary by Cornette and Meltzer is reason enough to drop a few bucks for this DVD. Pick yourself up a copy of Wrestling Gold and take an enjoyable trip down memory lane.

 

Copyright © 2005 Derek Burgan. All rights reserved.