The Wrestling Classic: Brody, Hansen and The Funks Magical Mystery World Tour

I never really wanted this column to become a play by play column.

I didn’t want to sit in front of my laptop screen and write down move after move after move in an attempt to dissect and review some of the best matches of the 1980s. However, at times, my preparation for these columns has been little more than that. Sure, I’ve spent time then weaving a narrative or adding flavour to what would otherwise be a tedious list of holds and slams, but sitting with a pen and paper in hand was not my primary desire when I chose to explore a list of matches, the majority of which I’d never watched before.

Halfway through this match, I threw away the pen and paper.

Wrestling is all about characters and stories, with the moves much further down on the list of importance. If you want to know what move Brody hit after nailing a piledriver on Dory Funk Jr., the video link is at the top – with the four names on the marquee (so to speak), you are guaranteed a match worth watching – one that, at only 12.30 on the clock, will barely eat into your free time on your day off. I just wanted to enjoy four of the best wrestlers and characters of the past thirty years batter each other senseless in front of a baying crowd of Japanese wrestling fans.

The fact that the ending is a let-down is also something that shouldn’t dissuade you from this. I mean, I did feel deflated by it. Endings like the one in this match were ten a penny in Japan during the 80s – maybe I’d been spoilt by Snuka and Brody’s clean victory over the Funks from the previous year. However, the finishers don’t always matter as much as the story told on the way; all four men make up for a poor finish by delivering an interesting and engaging story along the way.

You could argue that it is the obvious ‘David vs Goliath’ style story, and you’d probably be right; but in the hands of Funk, Funk Jr., Brody and Hansen, it just feels so much more than that. There is no wasted motion, every move matters and the crowd are hot throughout. Hansen is more than apt enough of a replacement for Snuka – I was surprised by what I saw from Snuka last time; I know what to expect from Hansen.

Brody and Hansen dominate throughout, as they should in these circumstances. From Brody’s casual slams to Hansen’s high knees to the face, both of the big men use their size to their advantage, ragdolling the two Funks around. This puts The Funks, especially Terry, in a position where they excel; fighting from underneath. There is arguably not a man who can play the underdog as legitimately and engagingly as Terry Funk. He is a scrapper and the crowd response to every perceived comeback, even though it inevitably leaves Funk down on the mat at the hands of another Brody/Hansen elbow or dropkick. His individual attacking of the knees of his opponents as they attempt to pick him up off of the mat is one of the highlights of the match – if he is going down, he is taking one of them with him.

The contrast between Dory and Terry makes Dory more palatable than he would be in singles action in my opinion. The rugged, hot-head meshes well with the crisp technician, and at times in the match, Funk Jr. shows that he can match strikes with the best of them, rocking Brody with elbows and European uppercuts. The biggest pop still comes from the teased spinning toe hold, a move that Brody is desperate to stop, a nod to how over and dangerous it was perceived by the crowd in attendance.

Hansen is also one of the wrestlers I most enjoy working tags, as he eschews the normal expectations of tag wrestling, with the heel heat building to the hot tag, by just bulldozing through whoever gets in his way. Dory Funk Jr. in particular is victim to this, Hansen barely giving him a chance to get into the ring before continuing the beatdown he was doling out on Terry.

The sympathy for the underdogs is ratcheted way up by the use of Hansen’s knee to bust open Terry and another strike which busts open Dory. From this point onwards, it feels like the Funks are just fighting to survive, but they go down swinging, Terry and Hansen in particular swinging for the fences when standing in the crowd. A lariat at ringside does for Terry as he ends up a mummy wrapped in streamers, leaving Dory at the mercy of Brody and Hansen. This is where the one black mark of the match is earned, as Hansen lariats a Brody-held Dory, whilst also nailing the referee who just happened to be standing really close to the two men upon impact. Another referee enters the ring, and for shits and giggles, Hansen starts to roughhouse him as well. This referee decides that he has had enough, throwing the match out on a DQ and awarding the match to the bloodied and beaten down Funks. Not content with this decision, Brody and Hansen spend a few minutes beating down wrestlers at ringside just to further assert their dominance and ‘couldn’tgiveafuckery’. I never believed that Brody and Hansen cared that much about winning the tournament anyway.

The end of the footage I watched (which I wasn’t able to link to, unfortunately) shows the Funks receive their award – both victors in a literal and moral sense of the word. However, looking at their faces, and the destruction that Brody and Hansen caused, it is a victory in name only.

The Wrestling Classic: The Kid vs The Tiger

divingdk1

There is only one match-up that is considered of sufficient quality to end up on the list three times, spanning matches both in Japan and in the United States. When I was first entering into the world of online wrestling, it was the feud I was told to check out – Dynamite Kid and Tiger Mask.

My Dad was the first person to actually introduce me to Tom Billington, as he had made his name wrestling for World of Sport in the UK before heading to the US to chance his arm in the big leagues of the WWF. Tiger Mask was the first iteration of a character I had come to know better during the time that Koji Kanemoto wore the mask – Seiji Sakaguchi arguably being the best Tiger Mask, however (a statement I can’t really debate – Tiger Mask IV is awful, and Tiger Mask II went on to bigger and better things away from the mask).

What made this series of matches particularly of interest was that they were being played out in different territories across the world within days or weeks of each other; Japan getting a match or two, followed by the WWF. With a particularly strong link between New Japan and the WWF in 1982, a lot of cross-promotional activity took place, the shining light of this partnership being the Kid/Mask matches. Naturally, the different desires of the two fans meant matches that were the same on paper, but very different in execution. Madison Square Garden got just over 6 minutes, Tokyo received closer to seventeen; WWF stuck the match fourth on the card, New Japan, in a semi-main event spot; MSG got high octane action, the likes of which they had probably never seen, NJPW got an Observer Match of the Year.

Between the matches there is truly no comparison – if you have the time and the ability to watch one of the matches, head to Japan. It is the first match of the three on the list, and it is definitely the best of their outings in 1982. Left with only just over six minutes in the WWF, what they offer the Madison Square Garden crowd is only a pale imitation of what happened nearly a month earlier in Tokyo.

Sure, there are moments that pop up in both matches – an extended leglock by Dynamite Kid, a rolling nip-up out of a headscissors by Mask – but even in their similarities, differences are abundant. The leglock spot is extended in Japan, a frustrated Dynamite Kid trying his best to ground the more superior high-flyer as best he can, whilst the nip-up spot is for the crowd is one for the cameras in the US, but leads to several vicious kicks to a downed Kid in New Japan.

The spots that we see in the Japanese match-up are that little bit more exciting, that little bit sexier, that little bit more dangerous. Rather than simply a teased dive by Mask, bodies are flying everywhere – backbody drops launch men over the top ropes, dives across the ring are missed and Mask finally nails a dive over the top to the excitement of the audience in attendance. With no time to head to ringside in America, we don’t get the glorious sight of Kid giving up with matching fancy moves with Mask, chucking the masked wrestler to the outside and planting him with a big suplex.

Even though it falls short compared to the Japanese match, it is easy to see why the match from Madison Square Garden got the response it received and is still considered a pinnacle match. During a time period when tape trading was limited to a select group, the world wide web didn’t exist and access to wrestling from around the world relied on having contacts in the right places, people just didn’t get the chance to see this high-octane style of wrestling. This show was the MSG debut of both Dynamite Kid and Tiger Mask, and the card had started off with matches involving Tony Garea and Killer Khan, and would follow this match with bouts such as Swede Hansen vs Salvatore Bellomo and a tag team midget match. Next to some of the other wrestlers the crowd in New York would see, Tiger Mask and Dynamite Kid felt as if they had come back from the future to show what wrestling could be like. The crowd are audibly and visibly impressed throughout; moves like the Kid’s gutwrench suplex, Mask’s spinning toe-hold and even the missed diving headbutt that leads to the finish just had an impact and crispness that would live long in the memory for any audience member who had the chance to see the two men in action.

The differences between the two matches are neatly summarised in the finishes themselves. A missed headbutt leads to a diving moonsault press finish for Mask in America. However, in Japan, Mask lifts Kid in a gutwrench suplex from the ring apron before dropping him in what is effectively a no-support side tombstone. The finisher is the same – a diving moonsault press – but like everything in the matches, it is all about the journey taken.

As people gain access to more and more wrestling from every conceivable territory and time period, I can see why the shine is off the apple with regards to this series of matches. It no longer seems special. There were other wrestlers around this time that offered simile, if not better, in terms of high flying and fast-paced action. It no longer has the ‘unique’ feel it once had. All are valid arguments, yet even if you were only subjected to the ‘Greatest Hits’ version that the two juniors offered an excited Garden crowd, it isn’t too difficult to see exactly why it endures today as a match worth watching amongst a torrent of awesome wrestling from the 1980s.

The Wrestling Classic: Bruiser Brody and Jimmy Snuka vs The Funks

Back in the mists of wrestling time, the AJPW Real World Tag League during the 1970s and 80s stands out as an exciting treasure of quality, yet one that always feels somewhat out of reach. I remember reading about the big Japanese tournaments when I was much younger, using several of the dedicated New Japan and All Japan wrestling sites to pour over tables of G-1 Climaxes, Champion Carnivals and World Tag Leagues. However, even in the world of Youtube and Dailymotion, footage feels more sporadic than it should be – that, or I’m just clearly looking in the wrong places.

Looking back, it is clear to see why I was excited by the prospect of the Real World Tag League. The names just leapt off of the page. Even in the 1981 version of the tournament, where there are a reasonable selection of names I’ve no knowledge of, teams involving wrestlers such as Genichiro Tenryu, Baron Von Raschke, Larry Hennig, Harley Race, The Sheik, Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta don’t even make the finals of the event. Year in, year out, some of the biggest, meanest and best in wrestling would turn up to show their best in the land of the rising sun.

Considering the quality of the Japanese wrestlers entering, they didn’t have it all their own way. Indeed, in the first four tournaments, the Funks had equalled the best Japanese team, Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta, in winning two tournaments. The potential for a best out of 5 decider was there, but for the arrival of one other team from the US – Bruiser Brody and Jimmy Snuka – a team that was always going to put this initial oligopoly to the test.

Indeed, it was the two American teams who ended up contesting the final. A double countout had seen neither Baba and Tsutura nor Brody and Snuka come out on top, whilst The Funks had fought the Japanese team to a time-limit draw earlier in the tournament. By my research, rather than the final being a final, it was the last match of the whole tournament, with either team potentially able to win. Brody and Snuka were on 10 points, Baba and Tsuruta on 11, The Funks also on 11. Anything other than a win wouldn’t be good enough for the team of Brody and Snuka.

Just by watching the ring entrances, Bruiser Brody and Jimmy Snuka were an enticing prospect. As a man who watched late 80s VHS copies of WWF Wrestlemanias, the Jimmy Snuka of the early 80s is a frightening concept. Rather than the shuffling parody, cheap pop that he became, the guy blended power and athleticism into an attractive package. Accompanying him to the ring was Brody, a man who looks like Damien Sandow as much as Luke Harper (the popular opinion), another man who surprises with the amount of athleticism he posseses within a rugged, powerful physique. This is the first full match I’ve ever watched of Brody – his percieved style not really interesting me for whatever reason – and I was genuinely looking forward to the prospect. To top it off, Stan Hansen resided in the corner, ready to get involved if the action in the ring broke down.

Even The Funks are a surprise. My peak wrestling viewing never encountered Dory Funk Jr. in any way, shape or form, whilst the admittedly entertaining carcass of Terry Funk bumping about an ECW and WWF ring was the main opportunity I’d had to see the man from El Paso. I’d managed to rectify that somewhat in the last few years, enjoying Terry in Memphis and the NWA as a whole, but never in Japan. Dory Funk Jrs run in 1984 NWA (….see 1984 Year in Review posts….) hadn’t exactly excited me, if I’m honest.

Unsurprisingly though, the match is gold. Any match that is flagged up as the best of the decade shouldn’t really surprise me, but having an opportunity to see a prime-era version of Terry and Snuka, whilst also seeing Brody and Funk Jr. bringing the fire, makes the match eminently watchable.Funk may be a fair way from his ‘middle aged and crazy’ period, but he is already at least a little unhinged, never more happy than when he is going toe to toe with the big brawler Brody. Terry’s selling is also completely on-point, making the Funks de-facto babyfaces, even though the Japanese crowd can’t help but be impressed by the team of Brody and Snuka.

There were two moments of ‘Oh yeah, now I remember…..’ as I watched the match. Firstly, Dory Funk Jr. is hugely over – the fans seemingly loving nothing more than a technically sound, balding, Western Grandpa. The second surprise came when Funk Jr. wrestled Snuka to the floor and slapped on the spinning toe-hold. A move that is all but extinct in modern wrestling gets a huge pop, a legitimate belief that if Brody doesn’t get into the ring to stop it, we could be looking at a third Funk Real World Tag League victory.

The core of the match sees Brody and Snuka controlling tempo, with the odd big spot thrown in. It was never going to be balls to the wall action, but each big spot is built nicely to, allowing each big spot to stand alone and be an important part of the match. A Snuka springboard splash into the ring is a particular highlight, only to be outdone by Terry Funk nailing a flying body press to the outside. Unfortunately, this begins the downward spiral that would ultimately cause the Funks victory.

Terry and Brody brawl at ringside, heading into the crowd. Brody gets the better of Funk, but all this seems to do is enrage Terry, who makes it his singular goal to force his first down Brody’s throat. Another tumble to the outside leaves Funk vulnerable, and a huge Stan Hansen lariat puts him out of the match.

From there, Dory is in danger – yet, he still fights back, kicking out powerfully from several pin attempts and even locking in another spinning toe-hold. The numbers game ends up being too much though, and a Brody knee to a downed Dory is enough to give Brody and Snuka the Real World Tag League.

Not content for this to be the end, a brawl breaks out before the presentation of the trophy can take place, Hansen throwing his weight around against the fallen Funks. To a large pop, Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta hit the ring to clear off the tournament winners, busting Hansen wide open in the process. What is most notable about the aftermath of the match is the fire of Tsuruta, hitting anything that moved.

As a match, this sets or moves the bar of my expectation for every wrestler involved. Either they showed more than I’ve ever seen from them (Snuka) or they impressed on a first viewing (Brody). Well worth a watch – no thrills, just good old fashioned wrestling.

Next time on The Wrestling Classic, I will be looking at the world of the Cruiserweight as a young wrestler from the UK collides with one of the best masked wrestlers to enter the puroresu ring.

The Wrestling Classic: Memphis Madness

To start this week of The Wrestling Classic, I’ll let you in on a little secret.

I’ve never been to America.

I’ve never really wanted to go to America. New Orleans interests me, but as a balding nearly-30 man living in the UK with limited cash at his disposal, my desires to travel don’t tend to extend very far. As I grow older, my interests might change, but for the time being I don’t expect to set foot on American soil any time soon.

To make it worse, my geographic skills are limited. Sure, when I was younger I was passable at picking out place on a map, but not anymore. I couldn’t point out Memphis on a map, and the only time I’ve ever heard of Tupelo before was in a Nick Cave song – a particularly good one, but no real indication of the quality of the place as a holiday destination of choice.

With that said, the world of Memphis Wrestling is something I’m a little more knowledgeable about, a DVDVR Best of Memphis DVD compilation allowing me to indulge in the world of Jerry Lawler, Bill Dundee and Dutch Mantell, amongst many other giants of the wrestling world. Arguably a promotion that relied more on sizzle than the steak of wrestling, the fans in Memphis filled out the Mid-South Coliseum week in, week out to watch some of the best wrestlers in the US at the time. CWA may not have the reputation of the NWA, Mid-South or WCCW, but they offered some of the best and most memorable angles and matches of the early 80s – a true dark horse of the territory days.

When spending time delving back into the annals of wrestling history, a modern fan would probably be surprised (and spoilt) by the amount of tag team action that was often highlighted on the cards of many a promotion. Tag teams drew arguably as well as some of the bigger singles names and the feuds were just as intense and violent as those seen at the top of the card, and would even often involve the big singles names on a much more regular basis than a thrown together main event on Raw.

Seemingly to confirm my suggestion that Memphis was often more about the sizzle than the steak, the two matches that have ended up on the top 100 list I’m working my way through seem to be more about the shenanigans around the match than the match itself.

One of the most important stables (at least in the world of CWA) at this time was Jimmy Hart’s First Family, a stable designed with the sole intention of destroying Jerry Lawler, Memphis’ favourite son. Part of this stable included the team of a pre-Honky Tonk Man-era Wayne Ferris and Kevin Sullivan, ridiculously ripped for a man who would appear to more closely resemble a hobbit during his time in WCW during the mid 90s. They were the AWA Southern Tag Team Champions (a title, strangely enough, defended in CWA due to the NWA connections) at the time, their masterful reign having lasted a grand total of one day (and due to only last another 48 – title reigns were passed around like chocolate in CWA). In a rematch from the night before, they met the team of Bill Dundee and Dream Machine, wrestling’s very own version of Laurel and Hardy at least when it comes to their respective sizes.

In my time watching Dundee, it is very rare that he puts anyone over outside of Lawler, so for the heels to retain the title, a screwy finish abounded. Sure enough, Jimmy Hart interjects himself to save his team, causing the DQ finish. It is the aftermath of the match that writes all the headlines after what had appeared to be a fairly forgettable match (though Dundee does play a very good face-in-peril). Jerry Lawler hits the ring to save the face team; The Nightmares (another team from the Hart Family) nullify his arrival; Dutch Mantell hits the ring to even the numbers. Before we know it, the wrestlers are in the bleachers, throwing each other up and down stairs and over chairs. We’ve already seen that promotions weren’t averse to a bit of violence and blood, but this is arguably ground-breaking stuff – this is hardcore over a decade before it was popularised in the mainstream wrestling world. Lawler himself is even sent head over heels tumbling down the steps, a man who has never been afraid to make his opponent look like his equal.

Unfortauntely, compared to this second angle winging its way from Memphis, this seems to get lost in the shuffle. The Tupelo Concession Stand Brawl was an event that I’d heard spoken about in magazines, usually accompanying descriptions of brawls involving the Public Enemy and, later on, The Dudley Boys. I had no real clue what the reference was until I popped in the DVDVR Best of Memphis set and was face to face, on Disc 1, with a huge brawl that wouldn’t have looked out of place twenty years later.

The original Tupelo Concession Stand Brawl also included Bill Dundee and Wayne Ferris, Jerry Lawler and Larry Latham their partners respectively. Seemingly as a way to give the fans something to go home happy about after the face team lost the tag team titles, a mass brawl broke out at the concession stand. Condiments were thrown, tables were brandished as weapons and Bill Dundee battered anyone standing with a mop. How can you top such an act of wanton destruction and violence?

You invite the Japanese.

Atsushi Onita, in particular. One part of a successful tag team with Mr Fuchi in CWA during 1981, they met the team of Ricky Morton and Eddie Gilbert in a two out of three falls match (two teams who had been feuding over those magical AWA Southern Tag Team Titles). The end of the match saw interference from Tojo Yammamoto, the manager for Fuchi and Onita, as he threw salt in the eyes of Gilbert allowing the Japanese team to pick up the third fall and the victory. Fuchi, Onita and Yammamoto don’t have long to celebrate, as an irate Morton grabs the ‘Japanese Fighting Stick’ (…a kendo stick) off of Tojo and begins to wail on the two men and their manager. The brawl is on!

What surprises me even now, watching it several years after my first time seeing it, is how violent it is. It is a brutal brawl, four wrestlers and a manager blasting each other with anything that isn’t nailed down. The other surprising element is how long it goes – every time it feels as if things are finally back under control, another man comes flying in with a trash lid to light the spark once more. Even owner Eddie Marlin gets involved, and gets a bloody shirt and a couple of whacks for his trouble.

Click on the Youtube link and give yourself ten minutes of pure wrestling violence that was far ahead of its time. It has been argued that this was the birth of hardcore wrestling as a concept in US wrestling, and when you watch the video, it’s a point of view that is hard to argue against.

Next time on The Wrestling Classic, we take our first trip to Japan for an All-American Tag Team clash.

The Wrestling Classic: Pat Patterson vs Sergeant Slaughter

As with any piece of writing, it is always the first words that are the hardest – setting the correct tone, grabbing the reader’s attention, thinking of witty pun or two for the laughs. Even the title is always a bit of a struggle, but here we are for the first in (hopefully) a long line of The Wrestling Classic, bought to you by myself, Liam Byrne. The fact that I chose to name my column after a poorly received WWF PPV Card from 1985 in itself is a worry, but my column will strive to be like the Junkyard Dog, emphatically winning the tournament (…by countout) rather than like Nikolai Volkoff, squashed in nine seconds and sent back to Russia.

First column, first opportunity to share my wrestling credentials and history. I’d like to be the man who could pinpoint exactly when my first childhood wrestling experience was, as some people can, but as early as I can remember, wrestling was just a part of my life. The TV shows, the videos, the action figures, the computer games – there was never a point in my life where wrestling was not a big deal. One of my earliest memories was a show on Eurosport (a UK/European sports channel) called World Superstars of Wrestling, which was just dubbed New Japan tapes. Thus, my first real wrestling heroes were Jushin Liger, Shinya Hashimoto and Tony Halme, entranced as I was by his lack of mobility and general wrestling skills.

WWF was also my go to promotion, the promotion that I have always had the largest affinity for. However, growing up in the Attitude Era of wrestling, I had opportunities to enjoy WCW and ECW at times, whilst also broadening my range to include UK Indy wrestling and other Japanese wrestling that was available online. At University, US Indy wrestling such as ROH and Chikara also got some time (and money) spent on them, as good a way as any to spend my student loan, a debt that is still crippling my finances as we speak; worthwhile to see the rise of some of the great stars of today as they ply their trade in WWE.

However, my interest in wrestling began to wane, as it does for many, as I got older. Opportunities to invest my time in other pursuits that seemed more appropriate to a man of my age and arguable academic nature meant that wrestling got pushed to the back. Sure, I’d still read results, but the time needed to devote five hours of TV watching (more on a PPV week) just to keep up to date with the WWE just wasn’t there. It looked like my love for wrestling was dying out, buried under the general weight of living and growing up.

God bless the IWC for rejuvenating my interest. The 80s Project, a territories DVD creation project on the Death Valley Driver Forum website turned my head towards vintage and classic wrestling, encapsulating not only the US, but Japan and Mexico. Here were finite feuds and storyline, unencumbered by some of the more idiotic reasons given for two men to want to settle their scores within a ring. Here was a wealth of new ‘stars’, men who never quite made the cut when WWF decided to take over the US wrestling world – guys who shone in the small towns dotted around the Memphis and Texas circuit, but didn’t have that star quality that McMahon envisioned as the future of wrestling. Here was an unadulterated view of wrestling history.

This is what I hope to offer in The Wrestling Classic. I aim to hark back to the halcyon days of the 1980s wrestling scene, covering some of the biggest matches, stars and territories, covering a multitude of promotions and even countries. What stands up to the scrutiny of the modern audience? What made these matches and feuds ones that live long in the memory? Who are some of the forgotten men of wrestling as the landscape changed and the wrestling world shrunk and narrowed whilst simultaneously exploding across the screens of people around the world?

The focus of my writing will chronologically follow a selection by Jeff Bowdren of the best matches of 1980s that has appeared recently in a number of different places – as a minimum, at least. With such a rich tapestry of content available online, a collection that is growing every day, there will also be opportunities for tangential columns which should allow me to trumpet the stars, matches and feuds that may just have slipped off of the radar.

Pat Patterson vs Sergeant Slaughter (05/01/1981)

One of the things that excites me most about this project is the ability to rediscover old matches that I might have already seen in my own time, but to learn more about the surrounding feuds, wrestlers and promotions around that time. A perfect example is the match in question for today’s column; Pat Patterson vs Sergeant Slaughter in an Alley Fight from 1981. I’ve seen it before, know that it is a worthwhile way for any wrestling fan to spend twenty minutes of their time, but this is the first chance I’ve really had to look at the feud leading up to the big match.

Pat Patterson had first entered a WWF ring in 1979 as a heel, wrestling under the tutelage of The Grand Wizard. A WWF North American Championship title reign evolved into the apocryphal (at least in WWE history) Intercontinental Title Tournament in Rio De Janeiro, leaving Patterson high up the card as the guy who held the second belt in the company at the time. Even with the support of the Grand Wizard, he was unable to defeat Bob Backlund when it mattered most, when the WWF World Title was on the line. Following an attempt to have his contract sold to Captain Lou Albano, Patterson turned face and would spend the majority of his time in 1980 feuding with Albano and his charges, the Wild Samoans.

In similar fashion, Sergeant Slaughter’s early days in the WWF saw him side with The Grand Wizard and battle often with champions across the card; from Backlund to the now-IC Champion Pedro Morales and even a couple of matches against the WWF Tag Team Champions (Rick Martel and Tony Garea). He was always competitive, with many of the matches ending in Double DQs, Count-outs or draws. Slaughter even found time to have a couple of matches against Patterson, often with his hand held high in victory in the end.

The Pat Patterson vs Sergeant Slaughter match was the culmination of a feud that began in the late months of 1980, all centring around one move; the Cobra Clutch. Slaughter has put up $5000 of his own money to any man who was able to break the hold. Patterson, now pulling double duty as an announcer, voiced his disapproval of Slaughter, querying that he did the challenge on a man who was beaten down. The following week, a fresh jobber was unable to break the hold, leading to Slaughter offering out Patterson to the tune of $10,000.

You can hear the utter disgust that the crowd feels for the bully that Slaughter is, almost to the point where it is too difficult to hear him over the venom of the crowd. It is no surprise when the calm and considerate Patterson feels he has no option but to get involved and try and break the dreaded manoeuvre.

After Black Demon walks before the Clutch challenge can even begin, Slaughter slaps Patterson across the face and the challenge is on! The challenge angle is almost as great as the match – we’d heard that Patterson had been studying the move and he pushes off the top turnbuckle to land on Slaughter; flips him over his back; runs Slaughter face first into the top turnbuckle – yet still Slaughter holds on. Just as it appears Patterson might break the hold, Slaughter knees him in the stomach and attacks him with a wooden chair, busting him wide open.

(As an aside, Slaughter actually feuded with Andre the Giant between the time the angle took place and the Alley Fight match – often losing matches by Countout).

Violence begat violence as the matches the followed between the two often saw DQ finishes. Referees in particular seemed to be the issue for both men, often being seen to be surplus to requirements in rendering a decision (Indeed, if you have the WWE Network, you can see a previous match in the feud where the referee is dealt with by both men, leaving them to continue brawling around the ringside). With no clean finishes and referees deemed an unnecessary addition, the Alley Fight match was signed – a fight with no rules and no referee, a chance for Patterson to finally get revenge for the embarrassment that Slaughter had caused him throughout the previous months. Not surprisingly, this feud ending brawl was to take place at Madison Square Garden, the home of the WWF.

As if the crowd were in any doubt who they should get behind, Pat Patterson even chose to rock an ‘I Heart NY’ t-shirt. The first punch of significance sets the tone for the fight, a careening shot from Patterson blasting Slaughter’s hat off of the top of his head. Unsurprisingly, the first few minutes of the match have Patterson destroy Slaughter, booting him several times with the cowboy boots and even taking off his belt to strangle the Sergeant – a cathartic release for both Patterson and the crowd. Only an eye rake, heel 101, allows Slaughter to take control.

Having watched the match for the first time in many years, what really stands out is how little Slaughter controls the match. He hits Patterson with some brass knuckles, throws him over the top rope…and nothing much else. But that is the point, I guess. This is the chance for the audience to vicariously get one over on the bully that is Slaughter, the man who has trumpeted long and loud about how much better he is than all the guys in the ring and the people in attendance.

The finishing stretch is visually impressive, a slingshot by Patterson sending Slaughter into the ring post, Slaughter’s forehead exploding and blood saturating his white top almost instantly. Several ring post shots, a cowboy boot blast to the face and repeated boot shots on the outside leaves the Grand Wizard no choice but to throw in the towel. Even then, Slaughter is still holding on, trying to fight back, strong booking to leave both wrestlers all the better for the finish to the match. You could argue that Patterson’s viciousness almost makes you feel sympathy for the Sarge…almost.

Would I recommend digging this out to have a look at? Definitely. The angle shows the power of a well run submission angle, which makes it a shame that these angles don’t play out any more (and when they do, they don’t really work). Don’t expect a five star classic with moves, moves, moves, but do expect a well told story with an exceptionally satisfying pay-off.

Next time on The Wrestling Classic, we will be heading off to Memphis for a double header as we look at the role of important role of condiments in the world of wrestling – not to be missed!