by Jeremy Cundiff
Thank you for your bandwidth. I’m Madman Szalinski, and I’m just about done with this shit. By shit, of course, I mean this six-part series on great matches that might be a bit obscure. First, I’d like to go over the five matches I’ve already chosen, along with the main reasons for doing so:
#1: Sid vs. Vader (WWF IYH 10, 1996)
#2: Taka vs. Sasuke (WWH IYH 16, 1997)
#3: Blonde Bombers vs. Dundee/Lawler (Memphis, 1979)
#4: Regal vs. Goldberg (WCW Nitro, 1998)
#5: Bas vs. Kanemoto (NJPW, 2002)
#1 was chosen due to the extreme effort by both participants. For a matchup of two big men, moves were used that defied logic it seemed. I knew immediately when I started that I would be including this match for my list because I knew it was an overlooked match due to the main event, and that it exceeded many expectations coming into the opening bell.
#2 was chosen because of the historical significance, and the quality of the match itself. There’s no question, we had Taka Michinoku and the Great Sasuke in there, they both could be hungover and shitting Yoohoo, and still put on a three star minimum. I just didn’t thnk they’d ever be able to do it in America. This match, in my eyes, was much higher than three stars. This was a major shift in the WWF, and it was the first time any WWF fan had ever seen cruiserweight action like that. Another no-brainer to me.
#3 was chosen for, again, historical significance. The match itself was standard 1970′s Southern ‘rasslin. The Bombers weren’t the seasoned veterans we came to know them as (Honky Tonk Man and Moondog Spot) and I’m willing to bet they weren’t ready for what was going to happen that night. The brawl post-match, where the bare-plywood-for-walls concession stand got ripped apart, was where the true gem shined. Again, for a hardcore brawl, it’s tame by 2012 standards (unless you’re a mark for mustard.) But in the big picture, this match was actually very well done and even though I don’t like what it did to the business, I appreciate the entertainment value it gave me. So it was in.
#4 isn’t so obscure, I don’t think. Several people know about that match, and it’s been reported about more than once that Regal was intentionally shooting. When I first heard of the match, it was on Armpit Wrestling’s legendary listing of backstage fights. The following quote was straight from this list: “Regal could lead a dead man through a believable sequence, and I believe that’s what he was trying to do here. However, Goldberg flopped around and looked like an idiot.” I don’t know who wrote that, but dude…we didn’t watch the same match. Regal shot on Goldberg thinking he was going to kill the Goldberg myth once and for all. Goldberg came back and used more moves in one match than he had pretty much his entire career up to that point. While it was clear that Regal did prove the experience factor, Regal still got his ass beat (and countered cleanly a few times). Goldberg showed everyone that he COULD wrestle. It wasn’t just that he only knew two moves, but those two moves seemed to work for him. Hey, nobody is going to argue that Bret Hart knows more than five moves, but the Five Moves of Doom seemed to work for him, right? This match was chosen for the shooting, and the outcome.
#5 was the encompassing definition of what it took to make this list. The action was beyond expectation, the match was entertaining, and I never heard about the match to watch it before. I’d heard that Bas Rutten, one of my few favorite MMA fighters, had worked for New Japan. I found the match and watched it, expecting a Bam Bam/LT type match-up where only the most fundamental basics of pro wrestling would be used. What I saw was Bas and Koji telepathically agree that if there was a script, they didn’t need the motherfucker. And of course, there was this.
So…the final video was kind of hard for me. I spent a week doing nothing but watching and searching YouTube like a Deep Web bot. I had included a big man contest, a hardcore brawl, a cruiserweight match, a worked shoot and a shoot shoot. I wasn’t sure what else to do. I was this close from just pulling a bait and switch, doing some M. Night Shyamalan shit and rambling about how “any match you haven’t seen before that entertains you is number six.” Fortunately for you, I’m not retarded and I found this.
6. Earl Caddock vs. Joe Stecher (Madison Square Garden, 1920)
This match is OLD. So old, it predates every promotion in existence today. So old, it predates the modern preconception of a wrestling promotion. It’s so old the copyright on the footage expired. This is one YouTube match that won’t be in danger of getting taken down anytime soon. But I wouldn’t wait forever to go watch it.
You want to know what you’re watching? Real wrestling. THIS, my friends is what professional wrestling forgot. These two aren’t showboating, although their personalities and characteristics are distinct. They are completely focused on the ring and what’s at stake inside of it. And that’s another thing. They’re not superstars or performers, or even talent. They were real fucking wrestlers doing real fucking wrestling. Nobody in that crowd questioned the “workrate” of these guys. They knew what they were getting was real. And there is some debate as to whether or not this match was worked. Remember, this was 1920 and Kayfabe Commentaries didn’t exist yet. There was no way of knowing for sure. Nobody wrote that shit down. And you know what? THAT’S FINE WITH ME. I don’t need to know everything going on in the locker room to enjoy pro wrestling.
Was it a shoot? A work? I don’t know, but you don’t fake the effort these guys put on in the ring. You might not see a shitton of bump taking or many Irish whips to the ropes for that matter. But you will see two guys legitimately scrapping with each other on the mat, clawing for the championship that was on the line. And to let you know how wrestling has changed, the match ended in two hours (video only shows around 25 minutes.) The length of an entire episode of Smackdown or Impact, being just one match, no commercial breaks…yeah, we’re getting robbed. Oh, and the finish? A leg-scissors and wristlock combination. The leg-scissors was a common finisher for this guy. His opponent wouldn’t submit, so he turned him over and pinned him.
I also saw Jiu-Jitsu rear mounts in there, I saw armbars and toe locks, I saw punches and I saw elbows. I saw a real wrestling match that entertained me greatly, with moves I haven’t seen for a long time in the ring. I knew these were two guys who could finish this match, and then beat the shit out of every man in that building who dared say something. I’d love to see a group of Marine thugs in Syracuse try to tackle one of these two on the street. You just know watching these two that they could shoot on virtually ANYBODY in the business today, and nobody could stop them. Legit tough men, with legit grappling skills, trying to get paid and get respect. Not show-offs or prima donnas who couldn’t wrestle, so they learned how to get beat up by the men who truly could. Now, don’t get me wrong…I am not disrespecting those men at all. Shawn Michaels is one of my all time favorites and he sucks worse at shooting than Dick Cheney. But I’m saying that pro wrestling needs legit wrestlers, tough men who can wrestle, in order to be taken seriously again. It needs men like these two, who knew how to cater to the fans or how to rouse them, yet understood that it began and ended IN THE RING. That’s what matters to those casual fans, the total marks, the smart marks, and overall to me as well.
And while this might have been a World championship match…neither Caddock or Stetcher were considered close to “the best in the business”, not then nor now. That’s the thought I wish to leave you with.
I’m Madman Szalinski, and in the words of Teddy Hart…”All that really matters is I took three hours of your day where you didn’t have to think about your bills, your pains, or your worries. You got to live in a reality called professional wrestling. Don’t let it die, my friend.”
Now that this massive piece is finished, what the hell should I do next? Any comments, suggestions or death threats? There’s a comment button right below me, so feel free to give me an idea of what you’d like to see me do next (or tell me how I did with this effort). And if you’d rather do it privately, I’m sure there’s a link to my e-mail somewhere around here. Again, below me.
firstname.lastname@example.org (and it works for Windows Live, too!)
See the match for yourself here!
Photo 1: youtube.com
Photo 2: en.wikipedia.org