Tito Santana vs. Rick Martel
Strike Force explode here, as the former WWF tag team champions collide. This is from April 1990 in Glens Falls, New York, three days after WrestleMania VI. Both guys have very 80’s haircuts here going into the 90s, but both can really go in the ring too. They obviously know each other very well and thus no-one comes out on top in the early exchanges. Tito eventually zones in on Martel’s leg, locking on a toehold. He starts really having the better of this, ramming Martel’s leg into the post. It’s a real display of aggression from Tito, and he has been relentless going for the leg. It makes this feel like there is an issue between them, which of course there was. I do enjoy a good blood feud. Martel takes over for a period, but Tito cuts him off while he is up on the top rope. Martel misses a crossbody but it only gets two for Tito. A big clothesline and back body drop connect, but Tito’s trademark flying forearm sends Martel careening to the outside. Martel gets his Arrogance perfume and sprays it in the eyes of Santana, behind the refs back. Santana is blinded and Martel gets the win. That was all Santana for the majority, he was really fired up and on form. A good match between two very talented guys.
Final Rating: **¾
Lord Alfred Hayes runs us through a guide to the WWF tag team titles and advises what is needed for success. We get highlights from the Strike Force-Demolition title match from WrestleMania IV. The full review of the match and show can be found in Volume #I of these books. There are also clips of the finishes from the two title switch matches between Demolition and the Colossal Connection. Finally, we go to SummerSlam 1990 and the Hart Foundation’s victory over Demolition. Not a bad little feature this, although it could have done without the porno music in the background and the over-the-top hammy analysis from Hayes.
The Rockers vs. The Orient Express
These two teams had some great matches over the years, the best of which was probably at Royal Rumble 1991. This one is six months prior to that, taking place in June 1990 at the Boston Garden. Both these teams could really go and were perfect foil for each other. This tape is in danger of having two good matches in a row! They don’t even wait for the bell as we go right into this at speed, with the Rockers causing the Orients to take a powder. Back in the ring, and Tanaka briefly takes over with some shots to the throat, but Shawn retaliates in kind. The tempo of the Rockers’ matches is always very impressive. They go full tilt when they are in control, and bump all over the place when they are taking the heat. The Orients were one of the few teams in the WWF who could match them. You just don’t see cohesive double teaming tag stuff like the Rockers used to do anymore. You really got the feeling that they knew each other’s every move and they were completely in sync. Sadly, it later became a lost art. A savat kick from Tanaka causes Jannetty to take a tumble to the outside, and Mr. Fuji hits him in the back with a cane. He does that spot in every Orient Express match. Jannetty always gets the brunt of it when these teams meet. The same thing happened at WrestleMania VI. The Express slow the pace and cut off the ring, grounding Jannetty in the process. He reaches for the tag but Tanaka nails Michaels off the apron before he can, and the Orients cut off the ring again. It is good formula tag wrestling. It is so easy in principle, but few teams were able to really master it and keep it entertaining. They have done a good job of that here, though they have had better matches than this. Jannetty and Shawn haven’t thrown themselves around as much as they did when they were really feeling it. A double clothesline results in a double down, and Jannetty finally gets the tag to Shawn. He is the proverbial house of fire, hitting a superkick, back body drop and a hard clothesline that turns Tanaka inside out. The action spills to the outside, and The Rockers beat the count for a count out win. A lot slower in places than you might expect, though the action was always decent. The non-finish was a letdown. Good, but these teams have had far better outings opposite each other.
Final Rating: **¾
Dusty Rhodes vs. Greg Valentine
This match is also on the Fan Favourites tape. I would imagine this one will be plodding. Dusty is charismatic but Valentine was Mr. Boring by this era, this being from June 1989. This is not long after Dusty’s WWF debut, and his attire is pre-polka dots. A shoving match is won by Dusty, and a bionic elbow drops Valentine first time. Dusty proceeds to wear ‘the Hammer’ down, but misses an elbow drop. Tony Schiavone calls this a “heavy hitters” match, which is commentator speak for fat guys clobbering each other? Rhodes gets out of a chinlock and they go toe-to-toe in a blistering exchange of shots and punches, before Dusty hits a standing dropkick to win that particular contest. Dusty looks to put on the figure four, Valentine’s own finisher no less, but he gets cut off before he can. It is probably a good job, because his legs are too fat to put it on anyway! Valentine tries to put the move on himself, but Dusty rolls him up for a near fall. Hayes continues to talk utter nonsense, saying that Dusty is someone who dedicates himself to going to the gym and getting in shape for big matches… Lord Alfred Hayes: liar. A long chinlock segment from Valentine induces apathy, and both guys are sweating profusely now. Schiavone puts it down to the heat of the building, but I put it down to their collective blubber. Jimmy Hart climbs the top buckle as Valentine has the ref distracted, looking to hit Dusty with the megaphone, but Ronnie Garvin comes down to prevent it. The distraction allows Dusty to roll Valentine up for the three. That was not as bad as I thought it would be. It felt like a contest, and while it was slow, it was always solid.
Final Rating: *¾
Jake Roberts vs. Akeem
We have a profile on Jake Roberts, and this is the first of the two matches he is featured in. This comes from Binghamton, New York in June 1990. Jake is wearing some gaudy bloody tights; they look like Hawaiian shorts. Akeem briefly overpowers Jake, but Jake is too quick and nearly gets the DDT, causing Akeem to high tail out of the ring. Jake goes for an armdrag and Akeem takes it, and as I have said before; he shouldn’t be taking moves like that. He devalues his size and makes himself less of a threat. Another example here, as Jake has a routine armbar on, and Akeem screams in agony like Kelly Kelly. I appreciate the efforts to bump and sell, but he picks the wrong moments. He does later use his size to good effect to take over on Jake, with Slick taking the opportunity to choke Jake out while the ref has his back turned. Some of the little things that Jake does are what makes him a master of ring psychology, even if his athletic and technical side weren’t always that great. An example is when he takes a hard posting into the corner, and bounces out on his knees, calling the ref over and grimacing in pain, suggesting that he might be close to no longer being able to compete. It’s a clever touch and it adds to the realism. Akeem bumping the short arm clothesline does not. Akeem bails and we get a count out win for Roberts, who gives Slick the DDT for good measure afterward. Not much of a match. It wasn’t particularly bad, it was just nothing.
Final Rating: ½*
Jake Roberts vs. Ted DiBiase
So the next match in the Jake profile is against perennial rival DiBiase. This comes from December 1989 in Ontario. Gorilla comments that Virgil is a “shady looking character”. I am sure that has nothing to do with the fact that he is black, hey Gorilla? The story here is that Jake has just come back from a career threatening neck injury caused by DiBiase, and that it could be a focus for DiBiase and Virgil. It’s a cagey start, with DiBiase bailing every time Jake mounts some offense, especially when he goes for the DDT. There is rather too much stalling, but the commentators alleviate the boredom somewhat by discussing what a tosser Virgil is and speculating about where DiBiase got his money from. Jake then chases Virgil around the ring, but when he gets back inside, DiBiase drops a first on him. He targets Jake’s injured neck with an elbow, and takes control. Another nice touch from Jake in this match, as again he calls the referee over, this time while he is on the mat selling the neck. He flags up that the neck may be an issue and to keep an eye on him. It’s clever stuff that adds to the story. While the psychology and story is very sound, this is really slow and has been for the whole match. It’s slightly boring. DiBiase grinds away for an age with a face lock, and he puts added pressure on it intermittently. Gorilla and Mooney talk about how Jake perhaps came back from his injury too soon and that some doctors said he should never return. The neck has been very much the story of this whole match. Jake finally mounts some offense with a neckbreaker of his own. Jake hits his usual sequence of go-home moves, but he doesn’t forget to sell the neck, resting in between and holding the injured body part. So often you see guys forget all about the selling once the comeback begins, but Jake was always great at not doing that. Virgil gets involved, so Jake takes him out, but he recovers in time to stop Jake hitting the DDT. That of course leads to a DQ victory for Roberts. Jake DDT’s Virgil after the match and DiBiase runs to the back. Unfortunately, it’s another shitty finish, which makes three in a row. You would think on a profile of Jake, they would show at least one match where he hit his super-over and deadly DDT on a wrestler to win a match, rather than just on two managers. Despite the strong story, the action was plodding and this felt a lot longer than it was.
Final Rating: *
Brutus Beefcake vs. Haku
I have watched Haku carry much worse workers than Beefcake to half decent and watchable matches, so this has the potential to be alright. Haku famously had a big falling out with Beefcake after a match when Bruti complained he was too stiff, so Haku dangled him in the air by his throat in the showers. I wonder if it was after this match? This comes from August ‘89 in Fresno, California. Beefcake was probably at his peak as far as his stature in the company, co-main eventing SummerSlam 1989 alongside Hulk Hogan against Randy Savage and Zeus. Haku starts strong, but Beefcake turns the tables, and a knee lift send Haku to the outside. Well, I say knee lift. An arthritic 90-year old would have been embarrassed by it. At best it was a “slightly lifted leg in the direction of the face”. Haku takes over in the ring, utilising martial arts moves as well as biting and chokes. A nasty looking shoulder breaker gets a two count. Beefcake powers out of a chinlock, but Haku knees him in the back. Actually it was more a Randy Savage “up the arsehole” special. Both guys have heavy legs when it comes to knee related offence today. We have a striking trade, which Beefcake wins, until Haku goes to the eyes. A slam hits the mark but an elbow misses, and Beefcake delivers a trio of slams of his own, presumably because he doesn’t know any other moves. That is evidenced when they make an absolute bollock of a back body drop, and it becomes a “double fall over”. Beefcake shrugs off the error and locks in the sleeper hold on Haku. Heenan comes in to stop it, so Beefcake goes for him instead. We have a DQ win for Beefcake. Yes folks, another lame finish, the fourth in a row. Why don’t they ever pick matches that have finishes on these tapes? Beefcake uses his big scissors to threaten Haku and Heenan after the match. Hey, so that is where Sid got the idea. That match was a sloppy waste of time.
Final Rating: ¼*
Manager profile now, and Queen Sherri is the focus She delivers a terrible, loud, shouting promo that makes no sense. I rate Sherri highly for effort and ability to enhance the quality of a match, but she was bad at promos.
Ted DiBiase vs. Shawn Michaels
This is from Shawn Michaels’ hometown of San Antonio, Texas, and took place in April 1990, a few weeks after WrestleMania VI. This should be excellent. DiBiase is always very good against smaller guys, and Shawn is, well, Shawn. Michaels was still primarily a tag wrestler at this point and thus the ring savvy DiBiase is on top in the early going with a pair of arm drags and a hiptoss. Shawn uses his speed to hit a flurry of dropkicks and some armdrags of his own, causing DiBiase to take solace outside. It’s a great start. I will be amazed if they can keep this tempo up though, but if anyone can it is these two. DiBiase tries to slow Shawn down by going to the arm, but the Rocker is too quick, and hits another quick combo, taking DiBiase down with a side headlock. DiBiase fights to the ropes but is taken down with a shoulder block. DiBiase attempts a hip toss but it gets switched and we are back to the headlock. This is superb, absolutely electric. I enjoy Gorilla burying his son Joey Marella, who is refereeing the match. Of course, no-one in kayfabe world knows they are related. DiBiase keeps trying to escape the headlock by going for a pin, but he hooks the tights in the process, so Marella pushes them back over. Gorilla is furious that he put his hands on the wrestlers. DiBiase hits a few hard chops and telegraphs a roll up attempt, but gets caught with a dropkick and we go back to the side headlock again. They are working everything out of this hold, and it has been very effective so far. Back to the corner and a few shoulder charges from DiBiase, who then kicks Shawn in the face to take him down. A barrage of fist drops are followed by choking. DiBiase has great conditioning but he looks exhausted after that opening few minutes. Shawn doesn’t, and he 360s a clothesline impressively. Still, DiBiase was far too good for the midcard position he got stuck with. Ok, he had a run near the top in 1988 and flirted with the WWF title, but he was very much entrenched in the midcard by 89/90. It is a shame because he had a great gimmick and was always good in the ring. He could have and should have been WWF champion. Back to this, and Shawn shows fire but DiBiase is in complete control now, and he throws Shawn to the outside and drops him throat first over the railing. A suplex back inside gets a two. The crowd are really getting into the pinfall attempts. DiBiase now puts on the headlock, but Shawn fights out before his arm drops three times. A piledriver attempt is blocked by a back body drop, which DiBiase takes perfectly, as always. Double clothesline and both men are down. DiBiase gets to his feet first and hits a slam, but he wastes times posing to the crowd and misses an elbow drop. Atomic drop from Michaels and a clothesline as he gets a head of steam, then follows up with a dropkick, swinging neckbreaker and a high crossbody block from the top for a two count. Virgil interjects himself and Jannetty gives chase, with DiBiase wiping him out with a clothesline in the ring. Jannetty is happy to fly all over the place even when he is not involved! That would become a Shawn staple in later years. It breaks down with everyone in the ring, and the Rockers hit a bunch of double team moves on DiBiase and Virgil, and it ends as a double DQ. Christ, another non-finish! Mike McGuirk announces it as a double count out, which is pretty ridiculous considering everyone was in the ring. Was she sat scratching her ass and dreaming of Lex Luger instead of watching or something? Finish aside, that was fantastic, and the 15-minutes simply flew by. A great example of just how good DiBiase could be and how good Shawn was going to become.
Final Rating: ****¼
The next segment is Power & Glory lifting weights for five minutes, while figuratively jerking off over how good they are. It looks and sounds like bad porn.
Dusty Rhodes & Sapphire vs. Macho King Randy Savage & Sensational Queen Sherri
Oh no. They did this exact same match at WrestleMania VI and it was a big pile of shit then. I don’t need to see it again. This is a few months after that match, in June 1990 from West Virginia. The camera man doesn’t even try to hide the fact that he is focusing on Sherri’s tits. He zooms right up close and the camera just sits there with them filling up half of the screen. A bit of subtly man, please! Albatross Elizabeth looks like a complete tool with a load of yellow ribbon in her hair. She looks like a badly wrapped and poorly concealed Christmas present. Dusty spits in Brother Love’s direction, like a heel. It is Hogan’s fault. Guys come into the WWF, watch him do his thing, and all of a sudden everyone is acting like a tool. The early exchanges between Sapphire and Sherri leave a lot to be desired. Sapphire makes some of the WWE Divas of the future look like world class workers. The highlight of this so far has been Dusty pulling Sherri’s skirt up and showing off her ass, while she is fully bent over and wearing a thong. The director pulls away, he has more moral fibre than the camera guy. I would comment on the action, but NOTHING has happened. Brother Love accidentally hits Sherri during a fracas on the outside, and Savage gets mad with him. Dusty takes advantage of the miscommunication and locks a sleeper on Savage back inside, only from Love to break it up by nailing Dusty with Sherri’s loaded purse off the top. It is a blessing that Sapphire has barely been in this. Oh Christ, here it comes… The finish sees the usual breakdown, and while the ref is distracted in the corner with Dusty and Savage, Sherri goes to hit Sapphire with her loaded purse. Elizabeth comes in and grabs it off her, nailing Sherri with it. Sapphire covers for the win. See, that comes from hanging around with Hogan too much as well. He clearly rubbed off on her while she was accompanying him to ringside. She picked up bad habits! Rotten match. It crawls above a DUD for Sherri’s ass and that alone.
Final Rating: ¼*
Summary: The tape lacks in star power without Hogan or Warrior, it was more the upper mid-carders comp, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of it was filler, but there was some decent stuff and then a classic between Michaels and DiBiase. That match went a long way towards “making” Michaels as a solo guy, and having people see him on a different and elevated level. For that alone it is worth seeing.