Author Archives: Madman Szalinski

6 Great Matches You’ve Never Seen: Part VI

by Jeremy Cundiff

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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.

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Yeah. Let’s move on before I laugh myself into asphyxiation.

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.”

billymays

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

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.

madman_szalinski@hotmail.com (and it works for Windows Live, too!)

See the match for yourself here!

Photo Credits:

Photo 1: youtube.com

Photo 2: en.wikipedia.org

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6 Great Matches You’ve Never Seen: Part V

by Jeremy Cundiff

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5. Bas Rutten vs. Koji Kanemoto from NJPW, October 26, 2002

Thank you for your bandwidth. I’m Madman Szalinski, wishing you all a Merry Chr-what? Oh yeah, that’s right. Christmas already happened. I’ll put videos of my presents up on YouTube someday. Well, whatever holiday is up next…New Year’s. Happy New Year’s. And oh yeah, we’re going to Japan to watch Bas Rutten do some professional wrestling. (And for all you workrate marks out there who haven’t busted one yet to this match, Daniel Bryan is in Bas Rutten’s corner.)

I love Bas. Not only as a fighter who has won many matches for many companies with many sets of rules, but as an entertainer. He has a great sense of humor and a rather down-to-earth personality about him. Bas has the mindset to succeed in this business. Problem is, he’s spent his whole life knocking people around with intent to kill. In pro wrestling, you’re not exactly fluffing your opponent like a pillow…but you must protect your fellow wrestlers, because all of you have to go out there and do it again the next week, or maybe the next night. None of you can do that if someone tries to show off and take unnecessary liberties in the ring, because that’s how people get injured. Bas Rutten understood that, I believe. And in Japan, the lines between work and shoot in the ring are so blurred, that the doors are not only open for an MMA fighter to make the transition to pro wrestling, there’s probably a piece of paper with an arrow drawn on it taped to said door. Bas’ colorful personality coupled with his in-ring ability made him a natural for puroresu.

His opponent for this match is Koji Kanemoto, also known as Tiger Mask III. No slouch. While he, unlike many of his fellow Japanese wrestlers, is actually not known for his shooting capabilities, he is known for being a good all-around worker, who was able to change his style as needed when age and injuries prevented him from working the light heavyweight style associated with the Tiger Mask gimmick. As he had been fitted with a shooter gimmick in recent times before this match, the setup made a lot of sense to me, who does not follow any Japanese promotions regularly enough to get the storylines, or even any of the commentary. It’s just a nod to how you don’t even have to know the language to be entertained by what you see in the ring.

The stage is set: a pro wrestler trying out being a shooter versus a shooter trying out pro wrestling. This should be interesting. It’s clear about a minute into the contest that Bas is not a worker. He’s an awesome wrestler, a tremendous athlete, and a very stiff striker. But he is not much of a worker. Thankfully, Kanemoto doesn’t give a fuck. Bas isn’t too much for selling either, although he’s not no-selling in a disrespectful “burying you for political reasons” way. It’s more of a “come on, we both know you’re going to need a pick axe to break that bone.” And again, thankfully, Kanemoto happens to have pick axes for legs and Bas has no choice but to sell some of Kanemoto’s offense as Father Physics whispered in his ear “sorry, sir, it’s the law.” That or Bas is selling just to see the look on people’s faces. “Frank Shamrock couldn’t do shit to this man, but Tiger Mask III just put him on his ass? WOWZA!” Roughly halfway into the match, the two begin to trade kicks until Bas briefly forgets that he can’t actually kill his opponent in this sport. Kudos to the ring crew for New Japan, any wrestling ring in America would have fallen apart and flown off into the crowd at that kind of impact.

On the ground, there are plenty of restholds. So many, that they don’t really rest…they just transition from one hold to the next, cranking for a second or two here and there on each hold. So I guess you can’t call them restholds, or not really holds at all as nobody seemed to keep anything for any period of time. It was just seamless transition on the mat. But at 8:41, things take a turn. THINGS TAKE A FUCKING TURN. You see, so far, we’ve been watching two men doing some bad ass moves in there. Bas Rutten is making a decent transition, if a tad green, from competition fighting to professional wrestling. Koji Kamenoto has been his usual self, reminding us why he once donned the Tiger Mask. Until 8:41. That is when Koji Kanemoto did this.

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Look familiar?

I swear I’ve seen this spot before…

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How about now?

Dead serious, that’s exactly what it looked like. Watch the tape of this match, then go dig up the Sharmell/Jenna match and fast forward to that spot. THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE. Koji Kanemoto, a man who had been going toe-to-toe both on the ground and on their feet with Bas fucking Rutten, was now reduced to slap fighting with all the technique and intensity of a six year old girl whose brother just fed her favorite Barbie to the dog. At this point, I had to pause the video. My wife thought I was dying and it took five Brawny paper towels to get all the Kool-Aid off my monitor. I finally quit laughing and hit play on the window to finish the match, and Koji quickly went for a triangle choke within a second or two afterwards in order to make people forget what the fuck he just did. Bas powerbombed the shit out of him, dead lifting Kanemoto from the mat while in the hold, and we all went back to watching two bad ass guys do their thing. Pretty good match-WHAT THE FUCK BAS JUST KICKED HIM IN THE HEAD WITH BOTH FEET AT THE SAME TIME!

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I thought that move only happened on Power Rangers.

You know what…just watch the match. It’s obvious why I put it in this list by now. Bas Rutten in wrestling. Against Koji Kanemoto. And Koji SLAP FIGHTS THE MAN. If that isn’t a great match, then there is no such thing.

Next week, we end this series with a bang. And by bang, I mean something other than an exploding ring match. DDP being involved is a possibility. I’m Madman Szalinski, and in the words of New Jack…”yes, I’m under the influence right now, and I’m not givin’ a fuck. I gotta do a show tonight, catch a red eye, fly to Atlantic City, then go over to Detroit, then go home and lay down, and let my girl suck on my thing-thing.”

See the match for yourself here!

I refuse to post a link to that Sharmell/Jenna debacle. You know where to find it.

Photo Credits:

Photos 1-3: youtube.com

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6 Great Matches You’ve Never Seen: Part IV

by Jeremy Cundiff

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4. Lord Steven Regal vs. Bill Goldberg from WCW Monday Nitro, February 9, 1998

Thank you for your bandwidth. I’m Madman Szalinski, and I had no bandwidth for almost two weeks. I ain’t going to lie, we couldn’t pay the cable bill on time. Obviously, we got it reconnected. So it’s back to business as usual this week, with a stiff encounter that just flat out wasn’t supposed to happen.

WCW in 1998 was the beginning of the end. At the least it was the end of WCW, and at worst it was the end of wrestling’s last boom period. To date, wrestling never recovered from the deaths of WCW and ECW. The “inVasion” storyline was Vince’s way of letting everybody know “if you compete against the WWF, this is what I will do to your corpse after I kill you.” Can’t say I blame the rest of the world for not wanting to compete. But before WCW died, it fought with everything it had. One of its most powerful weapons was Bill Goldberg, and to be honest he should have been the guy that pulled WCW out of the rut.

Bill Goldberg was homegrown, straight out of the Atlanta Falcons into the WCW Power Plant, and then straight into our television sets. Growing up, I was a diehard WWF fan through and through, and only watched a couple of Nitros through the entire Monday Night War. But I still knew what the NWO was, and I knew who Goldberg was. I knew what the jackhammer was, and I knew what the spear was. I never saw a single Goldberg match until 2003, during his WWE run, when I looked up old matches of his and I found this.

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He did this for four seconds, by the way.

So yeah, Goldberg was all man. But so was Lord Steven Regal. We all know him as a snobby Englishman, or at least a stereotypical one. And he was still one then, too. (Modern fans may know him as William Regal, changed upon his WWF debut as to not confuse him with Steve Austin. Can’t make this up.) But while Goldberg was a powerhouse of an athlete, Regal was a hooker straight out the British carnival scene. Goldberg can hold a man over his head for three seconds, but let’s face it…the Giant kind of let him do it. Regal was used to guys who weren’t going to let him do it; Goldberg was not. How was Goldberg going to fare against a guy who wasn’t so willing to compromise?

Well, take a look at this match and find out. I don’t need to tell you who wins, because you should already know. Goldberg won every single match he was in up until the infamous cattle prod incident. He also won those matches very, very easily. So easily that many fans believed Goldberg only knew two moves: the spear and jackhammer, since these were the only two moves he needed to put away many of his opponents. Steven Regal was expected to be another one of these easy wins for Goldberg. He was not.

For reasons unknown to this day, Steven Regal just didn’t want to play nice. Some stuff he didn’t sell, and some stuff he just looked back at Bill and said “ninja please” before going right back at him. Now, this is the part where I tell you why this match went on my list. Goldberg went along for a while, just doing what he was trained to do, but when it became clear that Regal wasn’t worried about pesky little details like “workrate,” Goldberg began to do what nobody thought he could do—he wrestled.

Goldberg used more moves in this match than I think he used in pretty much any other match he had during his entire undefeated streak. Goldberg was being shot on, and he shot back—all without injuring anybody. And while Regal did sandbag the piss out of him during the finish—after a few stiff corner shots, which he followed up by simply allowing Goldberg to reverse a whip into the corner, then spear, jackhammer, pin. Even though he tried to sandbag during the jackhammer, it did him no good—it looked to me like Regal was trying to counter the move by wriggling free and intentionally landing on his back anyway.

The point is, Goldberg won and went on to storm WCW, becoming one of its final homegrown stars. Regal got fired for actually doing some good in making himself and Goldberg look like real wrestlers who just wrestled for real, and went to the WWF soon after. There he was asked to do such things as kiss Vince McMahon’s ass on live TV and sample Tugboat’s whistle in his theme music.

Most people might not think of this as a great match. It’s full of miscommunication, has more sandbags than a levee, and it’s honestly one of those albino dalmations—lots of missing spots. But I rate a great match on how entertained it makes me over what period of time. And honestly, seeing Steven Regal try to stretch a rookie and then seeing that rookie fight back before winning the match, going on to become one of the biggest names of his generation, gives me a lot of entertainment for the short six minutes or so the match lasted. And that’s why I gave it this spot on my list. I know nobody’s really seen the match, but that wasn’t the part I was worried about convincing you of. Maybe watching it and seeing some real wrestling for a change will help persuade your opinion.

Next week, I think I’m going to actually find a great match that even I haven’t seen. To do that, we might have to take a trip to Japan. I’m Madman Szalinski, and in the words of The Iron Sheik, “fakk the tomorrow.”

 See the match for yourself by clicking right here!

Photo Credits: youtube.com

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6 Great Matches You’ve Never Seen: Part III

by Jeremy Cundiff

3. Blonde Bombers vs. Jerry Lawler & Bill Dundee from Memphis Wrestling (1979)

Thank you for your bandwidth. Last week, we looked at some puroresu cruiserweight action on a WWF show. Interesting enough. Well, today we’re going all the way back to 1979. The ’70s were such a wonderful time, filled with quaaludes and sideburns. Everyone’s shorts rode up their crotch and nobody cared. An afro almost guaranteed you would get laid, and the groundwork was being laid in professional wrestling for a radical change—although, like many sports promotions and leagues, it would be years and in some cases, decades, before the effects would be felt all across the board.

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Exhibit A…an Atlanta Hawks jersey.

Professional wrestling always had its share of gimmicks and carnies, but for the most part it had been centered on athletes working in the ring. While there were flashy personalities, some with elaborate ring entrances, when the bell rang you could rest assured that everyone in the ring knew what they were doing. But as we all know, the same thing won’t work forever when it comes to having a paying audience. Throw the explosion of television into the mix, and it was clear: the formula either had to change, or adjustments had to be made to accommodate for the television cameras. The fans no longer wanted to see plain old fashioned wrestling. They wanted some flair, no pun intended, in their action.

I’m not trying to say that the old style of wrestling is bad. I love the classic style of hooking and shooting, real wrestlers doing real moves. I just understand that there has to be an entertainment aspect to the business as well, otherwise we wouldn’t be watching pro wrestling…we would be in a gymnasium watching an amateur wrestling meet. There has to be some sizzle with the steak, whether it be in the flamboyant personalities that were developing at the time…the Billy Grahams and Ric Flairs of the world that were a direct contrast to former champions such as Lou Thesz and Frank Gotch, who were nothing more than no-nonsense grappling masters…or it be in the content of the wrestling itself. With the advent of broadcast television, wrestling was no longer a big-city arena sport: it was now in the homes of any American with a big enough piece of metal attached to their roof. Now, these wrestlers had a much larger audience than those who were paying for straight-up wrestling: they had to wrestle for every single person who might be flipping through the channels and come across their match.

I believe that when wrestling began to be heavily televised outside of its local markets in the 1960s and 1970s, it began the slippery slope that morphed the business into what it is today. Vince’s national expansion in the 1980s was nothing more than a capitalization on a trend that had already begun: an attempt to make professional wrestling more secular and more appealing to a broader audience, for the purpose of television broadcast. The territory system was not built to compete with television. I believe the writing was on the wall well before Vince Sr.’s death, and this match, awesome as it is, was the sunrise of one era and honestly, the sunset of another.

Memphis Wrestling was one of the hottest territories of its time, and survived well into the national expansion of Vince McMahon’s WWF. One of the reasons I believe it did so was because of its refusal to rely on the flamboyant gimmicks and showmanship that the Northeastern territory did, and instead stayed true to the gritty action in the ring. In their own way, Memphis Wrestling (at the time booked by Jerry Jarrett, father of Jeff Jarrett) was able to stay fresh without changing their product and at the same time, revolutionized professional wrestling as we know it. One way was to take the action somewhere that nobody had ever taken it: to the fans.

Jim Cornette wrote about this match a few years back. I included a link to his commentary to give you more insight on the match, and how it came to be. A combination of a shitty talent pool and really bad ticket sales led Jarrett to go for broke, making a very bold and brash decision to put the Southern Tag Team Titles on two midcard wrestlers who had just been paired together a few weeks before: Wayne Farris and Larry Latham. You may know them better as the Honky Tonk Man and Moondog Spot. Anyways, in Tupelo, Mississippi, a wild brawl of a match ensued where the two youngsters upset the champions, Lawler and Dundee, to win the titles.

That, my friends, is when all hell broke loose.

Lawler and Dundee, the faces in all of this mind you, began to viciously pummel the Bombers (who were the heels, remember) after the match as the television broadcast began to fade to black, going off the air.

billymays

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

You hear somebody yell, “get that camera down here, we have a hell of a fight!” When the video returns, we see the four men, bloody, brawling with one another through the concession stands of the arena. Food is thrown everywhere, bodies are mangled, and a ten-gallon jug of mustard meets its fate against the wall, missing the head of Latham by centimeters.

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“Mustard everywhere!”

Everyone who tried to get in the way got served. The tape was re-aired the next day, and the fire was started. According to Jim, this match was the reason he bought a VCR. The tape was passed around more than a doobie in Barack Obama’s dorm room, and a dwindling Memphis territory had new life. Also, I know that when you watch that brawl, three letters come to mind. I’ll give you two consonants and a vowel. If you need a hint, I should smack you.  This match reeks of ECW, at a time when Paul Heyman hadn’t even bought his first cell phone yet. Because they weren’t invented yet. And neither was “hardcore,” until this fateful night.

So why don’t we remember this classic match? Because Jerry Jarrett went to the well once too often, using this same brawl through the arena two more times in the next two years. (Think about that. Three arena brawls in three years and it overexposed the territory. ECW would run three arena brawls a NIGHT.) The fans were numb to it, because they had seen it all before.  This was where the hardcore, deathmatch style was born. On a tour from Japan, Atusushi Onita participated in one of the brawls. When he returned to his home country, he soon founded FMW, the first hardcore deathmatch wrestling promotion. This led to the American counterpart, ECW. Today many promotions either feature or are centered around hardcore wrestling and well, why the hell would you have a reason to care about this match I’ve shared with you? So what, Jerry Lawler tried to throw a jug of mustard at somebody. Now, you can look up a million matches with barbed wire, staple guns, fire, thumbtacks, or any other weapon you can think of.

I love my old school mat wrestling. I love to see two guys who can work in the ring. But sometimes, yes, I love to see two guys get so pissed off at each other that bare hands just don’t get the job done. I love a good brawl. Done right, and done sparingly, a good street fight can work wonders all around. This match made Farris and Latham stars overnight, and it shot a boost of adrenaline into a crashing territory. This is the first hardcore match I can think of, and it’s a very good flashback to yesteryear. But between the brawl itself and its broadcast on television, and its subsequent taping to be traded, this match also opened the floodgates, for better or for worse. Nothing can be done to go back and fix it, we can only move forward. Except for this series. We’re allowed to look back.

Next week, I’ll think of something else to shock you. There’s so many great matches throughout history, and so many of them right under our noses. Until then, I’m Madman Szalinski, and in the words of Jumpin’ Jeff Farmer…….”Yup.”

See the match for yourself here!

Also see Jim Cornette’s piece on this match here!

Photo Credits:

Photo 1: fineworkshops.com

Photo 2: wikipedia.org

Photo 3: youtube.com

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6 Great Matches You’ve Never Seen: Part II

by Jeremy Cundiff

2. Taka Michinoku vs. The Great Sasuke from WWF In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede (1997)

Thank you for your bandwidth. Last week, you asked me for a great match you had never seen and I gave you Sid vs. Vader. For those of you who didn’t run screaming, this week I’ll be rewarding you for your loyalty. And if you’re just tuning in, this is the second of six installments where I dig up classic matches that nobody remembers seeing. Today, we go from 1996 in the WWF to 1997, and it’s going to look like a whole new world. For those of you who don’t remember…the first image is the WWF in 1996.

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WWF entryway and ring from 1996

Then came 1997…

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WWF entryway and ring from 1997

This was only a nine month period, by the way. Within another nine month period, we would have practically a new company, as everything from the Raw theme to the WWF logo itself would change drastically. I got to say that to a young kid like me who spent his entire childhood watching the old red, white and blue roped product, only to hit junior high and see the WWF grow up with you, turning from a family-friendly cartoon into a cutting-edge rock music video…I really don’t care how badly I am butchering English grammar. The WWF was fucking unrecognizible from one side of the transition to the other, and I got to have a front row seat for the greatest time to be a wrestling fan. It really was another Golden Era.

But not everything was a resounding success back then. For every Steve Austin, The Rock, Mankind and D-Generation X…you have Brawl For Alls, Billy Gunn King Of The Rings and you have WWF Light Heavyweight Championships. Not all of it worked. One day I’ll rip the Brawl For All out of its own rectum in a separate article, and I know someone else will already have the ‘biggest disappointments of all time’ covered somewhere down the road. But out of all of those things I just mentioned, the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship should have not only worked…it should have flourished. It was the hardest of the three to fuck up.

In the summer of 1997, the WWF and WCW were on a hot streak that was so hot, we’re still finding pieces of molten metal to this day from the trail that the business left during that period. Every time we see Ryback squash somebody, a piece of history flies off into the crowd. One of WCW’s biggest draws was one of its smallest…its cruiserweight division. Rey Mysterio Jr. and Eddie Guerrero are the two who acheived the most success outside of WCW, but it’s not like they had a bunch of scrubs to work with: Chris Jericho, Ultimo Dragon, Psychosis, Juventud Guerrera, Alex Wright, any Mexican luchador you can think of who wasn’t signed long-term to AAA or CMLL, and many more. And while two 240-pound men can put on a mat wrestling clinic, and pack it with tons of drama and action…let’s face it. There are things a smaller wrestler can do that the big boys just got to give up and go home on. And these men would follow up such high-flying offense with a power move to equal. Chris Jericho would powerbomb your ass, pick you up off the ground, powerbomb you again, then bounce off the ropes and hit you with a springboard moonsault. You know…I think Kurt Angle is one of the best of all-time, but I don’t see him pulling off a springboard anything. (Well, given his track record wth the 450, I predict that if Kurt Angle tries to springboard anything, he will just headbutt his opponent so hard they shit themselves.)

Naturally, when your competitor is doing something different and making money at it…you have to do the obvious and copy the bastard, or come as close as you can to copying him without breaking the law. So Vince McMahon did the smart thing, and introduced the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship. Vince then did the dumb thing and booked the worst fucking tournament ever to crown the inaugural champ. This tournament was the worst of all time. At least until Survivor Series 1998. Want proof? Let me give you the first round brackets. Aguila, known better as Essa Rios, defeats Super Crazy in a botchtastic clusterfuck of a match I remember watching live on Monday Night Raw while Jim Cornette, on commentary, blasted the fuck out of it because both guys were sloppy as piss. While some people like to call him an old fogey set in his ways, you couldn’t argue with him watching this match. It was pretty bad. The rest of this thing? Eric Shelley over Scott Taylor, Brian Christopher and Flash Flanagan. Jerry Lynn was advertised to be in one of the opening matches, but something tells me the weed wore off right before the pen in his hand touched the paper because he never did show up for that first round match. Way to add prestige to your brand new title by having one of the best talents in the division ditch your tournament before the first round.

Oh, and Devon Storm lost to the eventual winner, Taka Michinoku. Taka Michinoku…now there is a man with some talents and abilities. A man that, honestly, you could watch walk into a new company in a foreign country, win a belt, and not question it because let’s face it, the guy can wrestle. But nobody in the WWF knew that. Only one of those guys had ever stepped foot in a WWF ring before this tournament in Scott Taylor, and he was perennial enhancement talent up to this point.

Well, I take that back. Two of them. Because in July, Taka Michinoku made his WWF Debut against…THE GREAT FUCKING SASUKE. That’s right. Pick the brick up that just fell from under your chair. Taka Michinoku wrestled Great Sasuke on a WWF pay-per-view. In 1997. But wrestled isn’t the word for it, more like kit-foo’d.

takamichinoku

Kit-foo means “kicked the fuck out of.”

And that was this match. Kicks, kicks, flying kicks, flying moves, grappling, holy shit slap, kick, slap…and then they stopped playing around, and began to really tear into one another. At one point I wondered if maybe one of them owed the other money, or if Taka ate the last piece of sushi at lunch, possibly Sasuke screwed his sister and this was a precursor to the Val Venis pee pee angle…I don’t know, I just want to know why these two got in the ring, worked for two minutes, then mutually agreed that they would begin to stiff and shoot until either they died or the FBI sent riot troops to protect the crowd from the shockwaves when these guys hit each other. I thought I saw the ring ropes themselves cower in fear at some of the kicks Sasuke was landing.

Look this match up. I won’t post .gifs or stillshots of this match (other than the one above) because they won’t do it justice. No matter how high the quality or the framerate, I cannot articulate this match to you with neither words nor pictures. Stiff, stiff, stiff. No restholds necessary for these two, despite going fifteen minutes. Plenty of dives to the floor. Taka does a springboard plancha to the outside and gets so much airtime on his jump, I thought he was going to check a faulty lightbulb while he was up there. He had to have died a minimum of three times in this match, and still kicked out on rigor mortis alone. After it’s all over, Taka eventually does the job to Sasuke…who poses briefly, and then it’s back to the locker room and back to reality for the WWF fans.

Daniel pointed out to me that yes, these two did have a second match on Raw the next night after this match. Strangely enough, Taka lost yet again making me wonder who was supposed to win that belt in the first place. If it was Taka, making him lose his first two matches really hurt the credibility of the title in my opinion, particularly in such good matches. Taka needed to have a match of this caliber where he WON. They just needed to pay Sasuke whatever they needed to pay him to  job this match. If they had, perhaps the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship would have been so much more prestigious that instead of the afterthought that the title had become (in less than two years, Gillberg would be your damn LHC) it might have gotten the dignity it deserved. This match should have been the showpiece for the WWF’s Light Heavyweight Division. If you had told the 12 year old me watching this match that there was an entire division with titles just for guys this small who did this stuff, I’d swear to never watch a heavyweight match again until the next week on Raw.

So…why don’t people remember this match? Because it was Calgary Stampede, a throwaway show with only one match: the ten-man tag featuring The Hart Foundation versus the makeshuft tandem of The Legion of Doom, Goldust, Ken Shamrock, and Steve Austin. The only reason this shit even sold tickets and pay-per-view buys was the fact that it took place in Calgary and the place went apeshit for the Harts. They also went apeshit for this match as well. I think this match was a treat for the smart fans of Canada, and possibly the smart fans in America as well. If this pay-per-view had taken place in, say, Pittsburgh or Kansas City…I highly doubt we would have gotten such a good match. This pay-per-view was meant to put the Harts over and make everybody a ton of money for going black and pink for a day. A lot of stuff got overlooked, including the WWF Championship itself.

A smart man would have paid The Great Sasuke whatever he asked for to do the job to Taka. I don’t know if the plan was for Taka to become the first LHC all along, but if it was, they did a shitty job of making us think he was a credible champion right out of the gate with this match. He made us believe he was a tremendous wrestler and he would never give up, that he had a fighting spirit and was somebody we all should rally behind. But those are qualities of a championship CONTENDER. Those aren’t qualities of somebody you want to put the belt on initially. If this was the route they wanted to go, they needed to put the belt on the only other person they seemed to give a shit about pushing in the Light Heavyweight division…Brian Christopher. Problem was, he was a half-ass worker from Memphis who, quite honestly, couldn’t hang with the Japanese or Mexican workers or even the American high flyers. If you don’t remember, he was Jerry Lawler’s son, and they all but told you this on TV because fuck it, had to get him over somehow.

So this thing was kind of doomed from the start, as they had to make everyone look like a credible contender all at once, and there’s only one belt you can give to a guy. Nobody knew who these guys were, and all they knew is they were good, but when we saw them the first time they got beat. Some more effort into pushing who you had, or at least going out and paying the money for a little bit more, could have went a long way. Oh well, at least we got to see a kick ass cruiserweight puro match in the WWF. And that’s awesome with me.

Next week…I’m not sure what you’re going to get, but whatever it is, rest assured it’ll be awesome. It’s a surprise. Hey, maybe you could leave comments and suggestions to me as well. I like to incorporate other people’s opinions into my work, it’s how you become a better critic. I’m also curious to see what people think of my work so far. So please drop me a line. We have a comment button for a reason. I’m Madman Szalinski, and in the words of Jim Cornette…”if you wanna know what a guy looks like with bald hair, tell me first so I can book him in a hair match and sell some tickets, k? Thank you, fuck you, bye.”

See the match for yourself by forking over $94.99 to Amazon for a VHS tape because YouTube hates us.

Photo Credits:

Photos 1-3: youtube.com

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6 Great Matches You’ve Never Seen: Part I

by Jeremy Cundiff

1. Sycho Sid vs. Vader from WWF In Your House 10: Mind Games (1996)

Thank you for your bandwidth. I’m Madman Szalinski, and I’m not here to bore you with the details about me. I’m a wrestling fan too, and particularly an old school one at that. Not that I can’t enjoy a good X division match like the rest of us, but I loved the old days. To start off, today I am introducing a six-part piece on forgotten gems in wrestling history…matches that should have stood the test of time, or at least gotten their own YouTube meme or a mention on Botchamania. Some were on shows nobody ordered, some are on tapes nobody can find and some we just…forgot. But that’s what I’m here for. For the next six weeks, I’m going to take you back to the past…like that one nerd.

Let’s jump right in with a match that’s not exactly 5 star material…but given its participants and the circumstances the end result was, dare I say, well above and beyond expectations.A little bit of backstory for you going into this one. We’re a month removed from SummerSlam, where Vader and his push were soundly defeated by the tandem of Shawn Michaels and douchebaggery. If I, as a 12 year old diehard HBK fan at the time, knew how Shawn had acted backstage legit…I could have turned out a WCW fan instead. But anyways, Vader had just lost a WWF Championship match he was supposed to have won. So, obviously, there was no master plan for him at this time. I wonder how thrilled he was now about leaving WCW and Japan. Meanwhile, Sid was fresh off a midcard victory over The British Bulldog, and he too was in a position where there was no master plan for him. As you may or may not remember, Sid came into the WWF in July 1996 to replace the Ultimate Douche-WARRIOR in a big six man main event, because Warrior no-showed a ton of events that may or may not have had to do with his dying father. So, what do you do with two big power guys that have nothing to do? You stick them into a match together and pray one of them isn’t Ted Arcidi.

On paper, most modern fans would look at this match and go “psh, I don’t see Kevin Steen’s name anywhere on the card.” But for those of us who remember, let’s delve into it. Sid was never a guy you looked to for classic mat wrestling. He’s not considered a good worker, if a worker at all. However, there are two things that Sid brought to the table. One was high impact power offense, and the other was impressive athleticism. While Sid just about never puts any effort into doing anything in the ring, on the rare occasion he does you can see the natural ability. In this match, you get to see both his power and his athleticism. Not only is Sid throwing his (and Vader’s) weight around with a bodyslam or two that actually look pretty decent (considering Sid was about 315 lbs. and Vader 450 lbs.), but you get to see the master of the squirrels whip out many of his common moves such as the crossbody from the top rope…

…wait. Pause the tape.

Sycho Sid hit a top rope crossbody on Vader. What? Next you’re gonna tell me Sid is going to hit him with a sunset flip…

…gee tee eff oh.

Honestly, these screenshots don’t do these moves justice. When Sid hit the crossbody, Vader didn’t just go, “GUFFAW!” and fall down like Jackie Gayda after a can of Four Loko. He caught Sid with one arm and held him for a few good seconds prior to slamming him to the mat. The sunset flip was very impressive as well. And when Sid wasn’t pretending to be Shawn Michaels (who was sitting right there at ringside doing commentary by the way) he was doing just that: slamming Vader like Onyx. Of course, Vader was returning the shots too. While these guys might not be Misawa and Kobashi mixing it up with their punches, this match has a little bit of a quicker pace than most Sid matches. And given that Sid is the runt of the two, I believe that means it’s possible that smaller, faster wrestlers actually slow Sid down, and he works at his quickest pace when facing a larger, slower opponent. (Please don’t prove me wrong by posting a link and saying “SEE? SID AND MABEL FROM 1995!” It’s Mabel and it’s 1995, it shouldn’t even count in the record books).

The point is, Shawn Michaels did his usual entertaining commentary and got to watch Sid pull some pretty acrobatic stuff, while Vader reminded everyone why Shawn didn’t want to take that ass whooping from him. There weren’t many slow points. The match was quick, but not so quick it required both men to stop and take a chinlock breather. The ending was cool, if not expected for a match with a Jim Cornette protege. Sid won after some botched chicanery, and went on to face Shawn in November at Survivor Series 1996, where he took the WWF Championship and the NYC smark crowd was pleased. I believe this match is proof they didn’t know what they were doing, because if the plan was Sid and Shawn all along, they should have used the commentary to push Sid’s agility and possibly that Sid was using Shawn’s style a little bit to piss him off while he sat watching at ringside. Or Vince just didn’t care because everybody was watching WCW at the time anyway. As for Vader, he did a metric shitton of nothing for the remaining two years of his WWF career, at which point there was nothing left to do but hit Japan on cruise control, his American career in shambles thanks to the abrupt derailing of his monster push. So, this is what I consider Vader’s final match in North America worth remembering until In Your House: Final Four next February. Then, that would be the end of his relevancy in this country…and that sucks ass from a straw with ten holes in it.

Either way, it’s a hell of a match that nobody remembers because it’s 1996 and the main event of this pay-per-view was a Shawn/Mankind brawl where Shawn hit Mick with the backdrop suplex off the top through a table on the floor. If you like seeing two big guys beat the crap out of each other while a skinny guy tries his best to make himself relevant throughout the match, then this will be about sixteen minutes of paradise for you. For the rest of us who just like wrestling…this is a good power match with two talented big men, with some pretty good surprises and not a great deal of filler. Oh, and Shawn Michaels on commentary.

Next week, I’m going into the future…one year. 1997, a wonderful year to be a wrestling fan…unless you were Brian Christopher. Why? Because you would be sitting backstage, watching the match I’ll be featuring next week and asking yourself “WHY did I sign up for this light heavyweight shit again? I’m going to be working with one of THESE guys?” Trust me…it’s a classic. I’m Madman Szalinski saying so long, see you next week (if not sooner), and always remember, in the words of Tony Givens…”Work to the left, you poorly trained fucks.”

See the match for yourself by clicking right here and here!

Photo Credits:

Photos 1-2: youtube.com

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