Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Random Match Review: 8/15/17

GWF Light Heavyweight Championship Two Out of Three Falls: Lightning Kid [c] vs. Jerry Lynn – GWF TV Taping 12/27/91; Sportatorium

The WWE Network’s “Hidden Gems” section is quite the treasure trove of rare wrestling. Here, we have two pioneers of the cruiserweight wrestling style in the US. Jerry Lynn had a run as a cruiserweight division jobber in WCW, while the Lightning Kid rose to fame as the 1-2-3 Kid in the WWF. The WWF didn’t have a cruiserweight division, but Kid’s style gained him popularity, a Tag Team Title run and a shot at the WWF Title in one of the best matches on Raw ever.

Here, in late 1991 (the match aired on TV in early 1992), they weren’t big stars just yet. Lightning Kid won the Light Heavyweight Title in a tournament final over Lynn, with this being the rematch. This wasn’t just your typical Two Out of Three Falls match either. It was based around finishers, as Kid had to get his pinfalls off the Lightning Strike and Lynn could only get points via sleeper.

Kid was the heel and it showed early. The early exchanges were either even or saw Lynn gain the advantage. To turn the tide, Kid suckered him in and got a cheap shot. I always felt Kid was underrated as a heel. Not many people can play a good underdog babyface and unlikable heel. Lynn got the first fall in just under seven minutes with a sleeper that got a big pop. The finisher stipulation was both a positive and negative. Good because when those moves were used, the crowd reacted, but bad because not much else got a great reaction. The fans knew it could only end with two specific moves, so the other stuff was an afterthought. The score was evened with the Lightning Strike tombstone around ten minutes. Just as Lynn was nearing a win in the third fall, Scott Anthony attempted to interfere, but was thwarted. With him out of the way, Lynn used the sleeper to win the title in 13:02.

I enjoyed this match and thought it was good, but it certainly had some issues. For one, the 2 Out of 3 Falls stipulation is one that doesn’t work in short bursts. The interference didn’t feel like it was needed and the finisher stipulation was a slight hindrance. That being said, there was a fair amount to like here. Kid was a strong heel and did so without compromising his high octane offense. The action was good and the exchanges were crisp. All in all, recommended, but not required viewing. [***]

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Random Match Review: 8/15/17

NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Ricky Steamboat [c] vs. Ric Flair – WrestleWar 5/7/89; Nashville Municipal Auditorium
It’s widely considered the greatest trilogy in wrestling history. At Chi-Town Rumble in February, Ricky Steamboat won the NWA World Title from Ric Flair in an absolute classic. However, there was a ref bump, so it was controversial. Steamboat retained against Flair at Clash of the Champions VI in an amazing 55 minute 2 Out of 3 Falls match, but again, there was controversy since the referee missed Flair’s foot on the bottom rope.

This was the rematch to end all rematches. There were three judges to determine a winner if there’s a draw. Lou Thez, Pat O’Connor and Terry Funk. I loved the details of their entrances. Flair came out with a bunch of women by his side, while Steamboat was with his family. Very telling of both men.

In the opening minutes, there were some brutal chops thrown, with neither man backing down. Ricky went to work on an armbar and I marveled. Something so simple was used in perfect fashion and it completely engaged me. Their struggle on the mat and the exchanges all mattered. It was clear I was watching two masters. Since something as small as that worked so well, the crowd pops even bigger when they go for even the slightest of bigger moves. Ricky attempted the cross body a few times, but failed. Flair had it scouted and maybe Ricky was too married to it. With that, Flair took control and did the little things. He’d argue with the referee about a count, all the while leaning on Steamboat’s throat for added damage. I liked that the judges gave score tally updates throughout this. It made for a real sport feel, like this was boxing or something. Steamboat used an O’Connor roll, right in front of PAT O’ CONNOR. Not a bad way to sway votes.

More callbacks came when Steamboat tried the double chicken wing, which was how he won at COTC. He was, to that point, the only man to make Flair submit. Flair reached the ropes and then came back with some leg work. He locked in the Figure Four as the thirty minute mark was reached. It was Ricky’s turn to use the ropes for a desperate escape. Ric pounded on the leg, but he stopped to “WOO” and ate an enziguri for it. From out of nowhere, Flair reversed a slam into a pinning combination to win his sixth World Title at 31:31.

This worked as an epic conclusion to an all-time great rivalry. It had a big fight feel that is hard to duplicate. This had lots of energy, a wild crowd and everything they did mattered. No stone was left unturned. The things you may overlook at first had attention to detail paid to them. I think I prefer their COTC match and even may slightly like the Chi-Town Rumble outing better, but you can’t go wrong with any. [****¾]

Voting is now open for tomorrow’s match at strawpoll.com/9ay7fsz5