411's Buy or Sell Wrestling 8.25.13: Demolition, the Brain Busters, Marty Jannetty and More
Posted by Matt O’Connell on 08.25.2013
Were the Road Warriors really better than Demolition? Could Marty Jannetty really have been the breakout star of the Rockers? Do the Killer Bees get a fair shake? 411's Matt O'Connell and Michael Benjamin discuss all this and more in this week's edition of Buy or Sell!
Welcome back to 411's Buy or Sell: Classic wrestling edition! This is the column in which the greatest minds 411 has to offer don their stately powdered wigs and engage in the sort of mannered parliamentary debate that many would argue breathed its final gasp in time with Lord Palmerston's. It's much like 411's long-running Fact or Fiction column. The main difference is that BUY or SELL focuses on topics like pre-1997 mainstream pro wrestling, the U.S. Independent scene, Japanese Wrestling and pretty much anything else that isn't mainstream wrestling (WWE or TNA). This allows for these areas to get a bit more press and for you, our loyal readers, to learn even more about the sport of professional wrestling.
This week, our combative contrarians are none other than yours truly, "the Powerful Ploymath" Matt O'Connell and "the Oak Barrel Dandy" Michael Benjamin. Our theme this week is tag team wrestling, so let us hold on to the tag rope, splay open our palms, and reach out for Ricky Morton. It's time to Buy or Sell, folks.
The Killer Bees deserve more credit as one of the better tag teams of the 1980's.
Matt O'Connell SELL: The Bees were good, no doubt about it, and I do sometimes wonder why they get lost in the shuffle when people discuss the 1980's golden age of tag teams. But then I remember WHY it was a golden age of tag teams: because while there were good teams like the Bees, there was also an unusual number of truly legendary teams active at the same time. While the Bees were getting by at the time with above-average chemistry and a decent switcheroo gimmick, in retrospect they have to compete with the Hart Foundation, the British Bulldogs, the Road Warriors, Demolition, the Brain Busters, the Rock n' Roll AND Midnight Expresses, and even Brunzell's AWA tag team, the High Flyers. All told, the Bees were good, but they were cursed by a wealth of quality competition.
Michael Benjamin BUY: The Killer Bees were a very fun team to watch in my opinion. I enjoyed the gimmick quite a bit. They definitely blended in well with the direction Vince McMahon was shifting the company into as well. Masked Confusion is still one of my favorite bits. Anyways, the reason they're not remembered as fondly as they should be has a lot to do with the fact that they were never WWF Tag Team Champions. Of course Brunzell was an AWA tag team champion, but a run with the WWF titles would have cemented them a bit more, They had a few unsuccessful shots at them but weren't featured as prominently as a lot of other teams at the time. When it comes to what's going on between the ropes though, they should definitely be given more credit and mentions than many seem to give them.
Though the Road Warriors are frequently called the best tag team of all time, Demolition was better tag team overall than the Legion of Doom.
Matt O'Connell SELL: A lot of people would simply go with the Warriors, since Demolition was emulating them to begin with. The Warriors also had great success wherever they went, including the NWA, AWA, Japan and eventually the WWF. The Demos, however, stayed in the WWF, having a record-breaking (and still-holding) 478 day reign as tag team champions. In terms of match quality, I'd have to give the edge, slightly, to the Demos; by the admission of both teams, the Road Warriors relied on stiffness and sheer brutality while Demolition also wrestled more conventional matches. But, as much as I personally prefer Demolition, I believe I'm going to have to Sell based solely upon the success and legacy of the Road Warriors in so many different places.
Michael BenjaminSELL: It's hard for me to put Ax and Smash over the originals. First off, they were together for a fraction of the time the Road Warriors were and thus didn't have the tag experience of Hawk and Animal. They didn't earn nearly as many championships or accolades as the Road Warriors either. Sure, they were pretty great, but I never thought them to be as important as the Road Warriors and in the wrestling business, perception is everything. If we're ignoring the business side of the equation and looking at this from only their contributions in the ring, I'd still have to give the nod to the Road Warriors. I found their matches to be gripping and more physical. That's just the type of wrestling I prefer.
Given their awesome runs in both WWF and NWA, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard must be considered the best tandem in North America during the late 80's tag team boom.
Matt O'Connell BUY: Definite buy, and I'm indeed basing this mostly on their ability to excel in both the NWA and WWF. It's no shock that a team as mat-based and tough as Blanchard and Anderson would find success in the NWA, but that they were able to be equally successful in the gimmick-prone WWF is rather surprising. They were not a special attraction like the Road Warriors or Andre the Giant whose aura could justify their success in many different promotions with their own styles. Instead, they were wrestlers, nasty, tough, and perfectly paired with one another. That they were able to come into the WWF without the slightest gimmick attachment -- something which even superb workers like Ted DiBiase and Curt Hennig failed to do -- speaks volumes about their ability as a tag team. Their gimmick was that they were the best tag team in the world, and they lived that gimmick.
Michael BenjaminBUY: Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard were simply untouchable during the late 80's tag team boom. There were plenty of teams that were very high caliber and deserve to be mentioned during any tag team wrestling discussion, but nobody did it better than Arn and Tully. They cut some of the best promos around at the time and backed up their gift of gab in the ring tenfold. Not only were they great wrestlers who could go in singles action, but they brought the best out of each other and their opponents every time they stepped into the ring. They knew their roles in the team like the back of their hands and worked the tag team formula just as good, if not better, than every team at the time.
Given his success as one half of so many successful tag teams, Arn Anderson should be considered the premier tag team specialist of the classic era.
Matt O'Connell BUY: Buy. Arn Anderson is some kind of tag team wrestling savant; you could probably put him in the ring with just about anyone and the team would have at least some level of success. Even his team with Paul Roma in WCW was far from the worst thing in the world, even if Paul was an absolutely unacceptable substitute for Tully (and he was). The point is that some teams become great because the team members are lucky enough to have chemistry with one another; Arn was so good at tag team wrestling that he could spontaneously share his own genius with others who weren't necessarily known for it.
Michael Benjamin BUY: Between The Minnesota Wrecking crew and his quick rise to prominence with Tully Blanchard by his side, I can't disagree with this sentiment. I've already mentioned above that I agree with Tully and Arn being the premiere tag team of the classic era. Add in the fact that Anderson was half of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew beforehand while quickly making a name for himself, I'd have to give him the nod here.
And now, a brief intermission before the switch. If you don't spend most of your time wishing you were drinking sherry in a hot tub with Steve Keirn, this video ought to get you there.
Some observers claim that if not for his personal issues, Marty Jannetty would have been just as big as Shawn Michaels, but he never really had the charisma for singles success.
Michael BenjaminSELL: Marty Janetty was a hell of a worker when he was motivated. I wouldn't argue the fact that he was just as talented as Michaels once upon a time. So with that said, we're pretending Janetty could control his demons and put them behind him for the sake of his career. If this were to happen, he would still be unable to obtain the success that Shawn Michaels enjoyed. The similarities stop in the ring. Michaels had a better look, more charisma, and was far better at politics than Janetty ever was according to a few books I've read. Obviously I believe that Janetty could have had a longer and more successful run, but I can't see him escaping the midcard or upper midcard.
Matt O'Connell SELL: Even if he had stayed clean, Marty was never going to be a singles superstar, at least not the kind demanded by the realities of mid-1990's pro wrestling. Maybe his combination of aw-shucks athleticism and truly breathtaking mullet would have given him a shot at Tito Santana's spot in the 80's, but the New Generation and the Attitude eras had no use for a Jannetty, even a sober one.
The are no great tag teams in today's mainstream wrestling landscape that could have competed in the classic era.
Michael Benjamin SELL: I don't think that's a fair statement. I think there are plenty of teams together right now that could have joined some of the legendary teams among the top of the ranks. You have The Usos, Brodus and Tensai (different gimmick), and The Shield from WWE. Those are just the teams popping up in my head right now. Until tag team wrestling is given a spotlight and a chance to be a marquee match on any card, no team will ever be given a the opportunity to put on the type of tag team exhibitions regularly that are needed to show their stuff. Tag teams aren't important now-a-days because they are a product of their era and environment. This is not the fault of the workers in my opinion.
Matt O'Connell SELL: While tag team wrestling continues to be ignored and abused on American television, I don't think that the quality or potential quality of contemporary teams is any lower. With such a heavy focus on singles success, though, a lot of guys who might well be amazing as tag specialists don't work as part of a team nearly long enough to develop the kind of rapport that creates tandem greatness. That said, I think the Usos would have been ten thousand times more successful in an era when being an athletic babyface team, flying through the air, or being Samoan could each get you over individually.
That's all for this week, folks. I'd like to thank all my readers, and my fellow 411 staffers that participated in this week's round of questions. I hope to see you all this same time next week for more 411 Buy or Sell: Classic Wrestling Edition.