Arnold Furious: Not content with releasing Most Unusual Matches as the 5th Coliseum Video, the folks at the CHV offices decided to do another one for release #39. An early foray into a celebration of the ‘gimmick’ match. I think gimmicks are generally there for two reasons. 1. To finish off or complicate existing feuds or 2. To keep the kids interested in a long show that’s full of mat wrestling. The second of which is surprisingly important. I remember as a child loving the concept of wrestling but getting more excited by a gimmick match. The mathematical equation being something along the lines of Wrestling + Anything Else = Awesome. So I loved any and all gimmick matches as a youngster, although that’s no longer true.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Randy Savage (c) vs. Bruno Sammartino
From early ’87, this is a Lumberjack match. Mainly so Savage can’t run away from Bruno, although he still attempts it and keeps getting thrown back in. One of the ‘jacks is Ricky Steamboat, ahead of WrestleMania III and THAT match, so you know he’s eager to get involved. This is a perfect role for the veteran Bruno, as wrestling Savage requires little to no effort. Savage covers for everything with his selling and energy. As with all lumberjack matches, the heels beat on the face and vice versa. Eventually Bruno throws Savage right out to Steamboat, and you can feel how eager the fans are to see that match. Bruno hooks a bearhug but Bundy jumps in for the DQ. Everyone spills in for a huge brawl at the end, allowing Savage to do a runner. Savage’s athleticism combined with Bruno’s popularity made for a hell of a contest. But then in 1987 Savage was having great matches with everyone.
Final Rating: **
$50,000 Tag Team Battle Royal
If you’re eliminated then your partner is gone too. We’re in MSG in October 1986. It’s a mass of humanity. Bulldogs, Harts, Studd & Bundy, Dream Team, Killer Bees, Sheik & Volkoff, Islanders, Rougeaus, Moondogs and the Machines make up the participants, along with a few jobber teams. Moondogs last about five seconds. There’s a tonne of rope hugging and no space for anything exciting to happen. Battle royals generally suck, as a rule, at least until the numbers start to dwindle. We spend four minutes clearing out the two jobber teams (FOUR MINUTES!) and that’s followed by another long dead spell with no action. Sheik being backdropped out is the first high spot in the match. The Bulldogs and the Harts eliminate each other, thus killing any interest I had in the match. I would have had them tagged as the last two teams but I guess neither team needed a win. Surprisingly it’s the Machines who create the best spots by running comedy with the Islanders.
Final Four: Bundy & Studd, the Dream Team, the Machines and the Islanders. Beefcake is thrown out, proving himself to the be the proverbial weak link on his team. The big Studd & Bundy team toss the Machines leaving them against the Islanders. Tama gets murdered with the Avalanche leaving Haku to take a 2-on-1 beatdown, but Bundy accidentally knocks Studd out and the Islanders win. There was a decent spell in the middle but literally the only interesting moments in the match were the eliminations. Everything else was kicking, punching and rope hugging, which is why Battle Royals tend to stink.
Final Rating: *
Texas Death Match
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Harley Race
The fans would have been salivating over this two years earlier, but Race rapidly deteriorated during his WWF run. The “unusual” aspect is the “Texas Death Match” gimmick. The one thing Race is still good for is brawling, so they go that route and it’s a fun match. It does pain me to see how slow and deliberate the former NWA champ is though. He almost misses a headbutt and needs to hold the ropes to deliver a stomp. He does run through an array of brutality on Hogan though. Headbutts and stomps to start then a piledriver and a gutwrench suplex. But you can’t wear Hogan down. During his initial four year run, that was true regardless of opponent. He never got worn down. He just absorbed abuse and then made the big comeback. It’s a credit to Hogan during this era that he still retained that popularity considering his act was to recycle the same match over and over again. And like Flair, Hogan could essentially work ‘his’ match with anyone. Unfortunately, Harley sells like a old man suffering from piles. They don’t spend much time exploring the gimmick of the match. They use chairs around ringside but they’re padded, which takes the edge off the impact somewhat. Harley brings the title belt in and they try and work a spot where Race dives off the top onto it, but they mess it up. Hogan waffles him with the belt for the pin. Race did everything he could to try and hang with the champ. In a way it was cool to see, but at the same time sad, because he just couldn’t keep up anymore. Still a spiffy little 10-minuter for the MSG crowd to enjoy.
Final Rating: **½
Texas Death Match
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Harley Race
Now this is just bizarre, as they show another Texas Death Match from Boston Garden and bill it the “re-match” even though this took place the week beforehand. Why would you show two almost identical matches from the same tour? It rather exposes the business model of running a match around the horn and tweaking it before showing it to the fickle New York crowd. They do many of the same spots as the MSG match and even in the same order, which is business exposing stuff. Hogan’s shine includes a chair shot at ringside. Race’s heat includes a foreign object shot and a piledriver, followed by the gutwrench suplex. The only real difference is that Hogan’s selling is better. Maybe he wasn’t so concerned about looking weak and getting sympathy in Boston. New York was the big venue and he was less inclined to draw sympathy there. Also Race is less exposed and sticks to doing what works. Sadly the finish is identical, EXCEPT, Hogan doesn’t mess it up in this match. It’s weird they felt the need to include both matches as the finish is EXACTLY the same and most of what precedes it is too. However this is the better match as Harley looks in better shape and they don’t blow anything. I’d seriously question why the MSG match is on the tape though. It’s a weird decision all round.
Final Rating: ***
Hercules vs. Billy Jack Haynes
This is a chain match, where both men are strapped to each end of a chain. It’s not like the strap match variety where you touch turnbuckles to win, but has a similar set up. Herc and Haynes had dozens of matches in the WWF, and yet somehow this didn’t create a familiarity or allow for improvement, as they were all pretty awful. Herc spends most of the match bashing Haynes with the chain. If I was to present a play-by-play it’d just be that sentence copied and pasted over and over again. After about seven minutes, and one bladejob, Haynes gets a low blow and bashes Herc with the chain, again and again. Herc gets colour and it’s way better juice than Haynes’ gig. They do have one nice spot where Haynes gets the full nelson, but Herc charges him into the corner and knocks him out on the buckle. That would be a finish, for me, but Herc opts to tie Haynes into the ropes with the chain and pin him that way. Blood and finish aside, the match was torturous. At least the run-on booking made sense, as this match came about because of Herc smashing Haynes with the chain after their “Battle of the Full Nelson’s” match at WrestleMania III. Which, in case you hadn’t guessed, is appalling.
Final Rating: ¾*
WWF Women’s Tag Team Championship
The Glamour Girls (c) vs. Penny Mitchell & Candace Pardue
Leilani Kai and Judy Martin were sharks in the shallow women’s talent pool of the 80s. I’ll give the challengers points for pacing, as they make quick tags and have some nice counters. Pardue is a ginger though, and that’s hugely off-putting. The match almost feels Japanese as it’s so fast and has a load of counters and double-teams. They have a great spot with a double Irish whip reversal with the heel and face colliding instead of the standard heel/heel collision. The Glamour Girls clearly fear Penny Mitchell and her massive thigh muscles, and so isolate rusty midget Pardue. The crowd are audibly bored, which is a pity because it’s a decent match, but they’ve basically run heat for too long and killed it. You might wonder why this is included as an “unusual” match. Well that’d be down to the finish where the Glamour Girls position the ref and Judy hits a POWERBOMB for the win. In 1986! If you lose the boring heat segment on Pardue this was really quite the match. But then the Glamour Girls were good enough to keep up with the Jumping Bomb Angels so you’d expect them to have decent matches with energetic workers.
Final Rating: **½
Best Beasts of the WWF
I don’t think Coliseum has quite gotten the hang of this. The title of the tape is “Most Unusual Matches” so on said tape we get a load of clips of the various animals that inhabit the WWF Universe. Like Damien, Frankie etc. There is no match to speak of and it kills the flow the tape had going. Everything from here on out is a waste of time.
Hulk Hogan & Billy Jack Haynes vs. Hart Foundation & Danny Davis
This is from April 1987, so Hogan is the biggest star in wrestling. The gimmick being the 3-on-2 match. Not that any of the heel team is a threat to Hulkamania. Haynes becomes the latest in a long run of midcard faces to suck up to Hogan. He even wears matching yellow trunks. Davis had officially turned heel and become a wrestler just a few months beforehand so his angle is hot enough to draw the WWF champ into it. They predictably run heat on Haynes. Danny Davis occasionally makes it more interesting by strolling in and kicking nonchalantly at him before tagging out. The rest of it is generic stuff. No tag switches, positioning the ref (something Bret excelled at) or the old missed tag. Hogan gets the hot tag, creams Anvil and legdrops him for the win. The majority of the match was Anvil vs. Haynes, which is as bad as it sounds. The Hogan vs. Bret section was way too short. Danny Davis sure brought a lot of heat to his matches, but not much else.
Final Rating: *½
Bunkhouse Battle Royal
It’s very rare the term “Bunkhouse” makes it into the WWF, because that was an NWA staple. This rarity took place at Boston Garden in January 1987. There are 20 guys out there and they’re all wearing street attire. Lanny Poffo takes it to the extreme by wearing a suit of armour. NWA gimmicks, WWF style! Greg Valentine is wearing pants and a vest like a schoolboy who’s forgotten his kit. There are an assortment of wrestlers who wouldn’t be out of place in an NWA Bunkhouse match like Rotundo, Orton, Slater, Blackjack Mulligan and Don Muraco. You can see some who are unprepared though. Fuji is wearing a blazer. What the hell was he thinking? Jimmy Jack Funk injures his hand trying to punch Poffo and his helmet. Scott McGhee picks up an injury as he goes out and leaves on a stretcher. Selling the drama! Even when there is none. Like all Battle Royals, the ring is too full for most of the match because there are 20 guys all getting in each other’s way. Even as the numbers start to thin out, there’s still no action. Bundy is naturally a favourite due to his size and he generally bosses the match by hanging back and eliminating anyone that comes after him. Final Four: King Kong Bundy, Blackjack Mulligan, Corporal Kirchner and Pete Doherty. Yes, the ‘Duke of Dorchester’ made it to the final four. He even throws Kirchner out to make a laughing stock out of the whole thing. Bundy suckers him into climbing the ropes and then pushes him out. Pete just isn’t used to being involved at the finish of matches. He grabs a chair and comes after Bundy allowing Mulligan to throw him out and win. So they booked a 20 man battle royal with the sole purpose of getting Pete fuckin’ Doherty over enough to have a feud with King Kong Bundy? Which really does beg the question; who did Bundy piss off in 1987? He got stuck in with midgets at WrestleMania and a feud with the Duke of Dorchester inside four months of the year. That’s a “nailed Stephanie McMahon” level of de-push. The match is awful but the bizarre finish almost makes up for it. Blackjack Mulligan might seem like an odd choice but seeing as he was Big Machine at the time, it makes sense. He was a big star under the hood and having a street clothes match allows Big Machine to become Blackjack Mulligan.
Final Rating: *
Koko Kid & Little Louis vs. Billy the Kid & Little John
And we round out the tape with the midgets, continuing the WWF’s almost criminal inability to end their tapes with a useful match. The match is a standard in wrestling, at least in the 70s, where midget tag matches were all over the place. It consists largely of comedy with heel miscues and chase sequences that are one Yakety Sax short of a Benny Hill sketch. The finish involves actual biting of midget ass, which is niche porn market, before babyface Koko rolls up the bitten Billy for the win.
Final Rating: ½*
Summary: Holy shit, this tape is all over the place. Quite why you’d select two almost identical Hogan matches and put them back-to-back is anyone’s guess. Likewise, TWO Battle Royals on the same tape. Another smorgasbord here, as everything after the women’s tag is garbage. Even More Unusual Matches does have flashes of brilliance though, and at times it’s quite enjoyable.