411's UWF on ESPN Classic Report 01.09.08
Posted by Ryan Byers on 01.09.2008
Brian Blair buzzes, Adam Bomb carries a giant ax, and Jimmy Valiant steals a baby. Depending on your tastes, those events will make this either the best or worst hour of wrestling that you've ever seen.
Believe it or not, after last night's foray in to the UWF, I am back for more. In fact, I even sat down and did a little bit of research so that we can place ESPN Classic's airings of Herb Abrams' UWF in to context.
First of all, I had several people ask me how and why the network came to air this particular wrestling promotion's footage. From what I understand, after the promotion folded, the rights to the UWF tape library came to be owned by a gentleman named Todd Okerlund. Okerlund runs a company named "Classic Wrestling," which also owns some of the old Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling footage. Okerlund's group has in the past distributed so-called classic wrestling footage to pay per view companies, and they are the entity responsible for licensing the UWF footage to ESPN.
Also, I was able to confirm that the first episode which aired last night consisted of matches from the October 29 episode of UWF Fury Hour, while matches on the second episode came from the October 1 edition of the show. I guess that answers the question of whether the shows will be airing in sequence.
Episode One (Footage originally aired as part of UWF Fury Hour on 10/1/90)
Match Numero Uno: Paul Orndorff vs. Rikki Ataki
Oh, Rikki, you're so fine. Orndorff looks great here, running the ropes incredibly quickly in the early going and tossing his opponent from the ring before sending him in to the guardrail. Once we return to the inside, Mr. Wonderful gets a dropkick and a vertical suplex for a nearfall before heading up to the top rope. An elbow from that position leads in to the piledriver, and Attaki is sent packing to "His hometown of Japan," as Herb Abrams puts it on commentary.
After the fall, "Dr. Death" Steve Williams hits the ring and gets in to Orndorff's face. They stare each other down for a bit, but Doc suddenly bails.
Match Thoughts: This was virtually identical to the Orndorff squash that aired last night, which is to say that it served its purpose well but isn't anything that I'll remember three days from now. Gotta love that piledriver, though.
After a commercial, Billy Jack Haynes cuts a promo. He says he's in the UWF to win. A novel goal, to be sure.
Match Numero Dos: Billy Jack Haynes vs. Spitball Patterson
Patterson actually has a height and maybe even a weight advantage on Haynes, but Billy Jack scores a couple of quick takedowns and dominates on the mat with a screwy version of a keylock. Spitball gets a rope break and mounts some offense with a flying back elbow, but the master of the full nelson responds with a German suplex. A second rope facebuster from Haynes also connects, and from there we go in to the nelson. That does it.
Match Thoughts: Last night, I mentioned that I Haynes' match actually surprised me with its quality, as I was expecting much less action out of the guy. Well, tonight we got the less action packed match that I was hoping for. Things picked up towards the end with Billy Jack's German (which looked great for the second night in a row) and his facebuster, but that doesn't change the fact that I nearly fell asleep during the centuries-long keylock that began the bout.
Now we're in "Captain Lou's Corner," which involves Lou Albano standing in front of a backdrop covered by ships' steering wheels. His guest is B. Brian Blair, who buzzes when he runs in to the camera shot and then runs down Dan Spivey. Apparently, Spivey threw a pitcher of water in to Blair's face recently, so they're going to have a match. Albano, ever the impartial broadcaster, says he's putting his money on Blair.
Match Numero Tres: "Dangerous" Dan Spivey vs. B. Brian Blair
Blair is a "fan favorite and a favorite of the fans" according to Abrams. Spivey kicks things off with a big boot and then slows the pace with a bear hug. The Killer Bee escapes but immediately runs in to a clothesline, which Spivey follows up with a tree slam. Blair reverses the ensuing gut wrench suplex attempt in to a back body drop. Dangerous Dan responds with a neckbreaker, though that maneuver only earns him a two count. Blair's third comeback begins when Spivey attempts a corner clothesline and runs in to a boot, after which B. Brian plants his opponent's face in to the mat. Before long we wind up on the floor, which seems to happen with alarming frequency in UWF matches. You know what else happens with alarming frequency in UWF matches? Non-finishes! Both men are counted out of the ring, and they're ultimately separated by wrestlers from the locker room.
Match Thoughts: Of the three UWF "main events" that we've seen on ESPN Classics thusfar, I'd rank this match at number two. It wasn't quite as dull as the Koloff vs. Koloff debacle we witnessed last night, but it lacked the bizarre choices of offense and overall surreal quality that kept me captivated during Cactus Jack vs. David Sammartino. All we had here was a fairly straightforward, unspectacular match with another one of the company's ridiculous finishes.
Episode Two (Footage originally aired as part of UWF Fury Hour on 7/6/92)
Match Numero Uno: "Dynamite" David Perry vs. Viper II
We appear to be in a large high school gym, and neither man gets a ring entrance. Perry hits a nice standing dropkick, which the announcers claim that he "learned in the streets." Yes, the standing dropkick has long been a staple of urban gang warfare. Viper works a headlock after that, but Perry reverses it in to a side slam for a two count. A nice looking butterfly suplex follows, and an idiotic camera shot catches Viper telling Perry to get ready for a clothesline. Sure enough, "Dynamite" is Irish whipped and clotheslined. He quickly regains control, hitting a hiptoss and another kick to secure the victory.
Match Thoughts: I have no clue who Viper II was under his hood, but he turned out to be a pretty decent little job guy, as Perry was clearly the greener of the two and was being walked through the contest by the masked man. Though he didn't contribute much to the structure of the match, the handful of offensive moves that Dynamite executed looked good, so I guess that I can give him some kudos as well.
Match Numero Dos: The Nightstalker vs. Johnny Kidd
For the uninitiated, Nightstalker is Brian Clarke, who competed under that moniker before becoming Adam Bomb in the WWF and Wrath in WCW before wrapping up his career under his real name as one half of Kronik. He does basic big man stuff throughout the match, with big boots and chokes leading in to a flying shoulderblock before we head to the floor for a bit. Nothing of note happens there, and a chokeslam finishes things.
Match Thoughts: I primarily associate the Nightstalker gimmick with the legendarily bad match that Clarke had against Sid Vicious at the Clash of the Champions, so I go in to all of his matches from this era with rock bottom expectations. Given those expectations, this match was a perfectly acceptable two minute affair.
Match Numero Tres: Helmut Hessler w/ Kevin Casey vs. Jeff Husker
Helmut mauls his opponent right out of the gate, though Husker does manage to get some nice looking armdrags and an atomic drop. Hessler responds with a big knee and the good old stun gun, after which a powerslam gets him a two count. Blatant choking abounds after that move, though Husker gets another hope spot courtesy of a sunset flip. Helmut immediately rebounds and goes in to the chinlock, after which he hits a big boot. Husker completely no-sells it and looks like he's getting ready to mount a huge comeback beginning with an intense shoulderblock, but Hessler shrugs it off and drops him with the world's weakest sidewalk slam to pick up the three count.
Match Thoughts: These men reminded me of the complaint that I made about David Sammartino last night. Though both of them had some decent looking offense, they seemingly had no clue how to string it together in to a match that made sense and optimized the crowd's reaction. This was most clearly evidenced by the finish, in which Husker no sold a big strike in such a way that it looked like the guys were getting ready to trade huge moves back and forth. At the end of the day, though, that spot lead nowhere but to the anti-climatic pinfall.
"Boogie Woogie Man" Jimmy Valiant cuts a promo on a man who he calls Colonel Red. Apparently, he took Red under his wing for ten years, only to have the Colonel bring the Koloffs in to the promotion to attack Boogie. Maybe it's just me, but I wouldn't be surprised when a guy named "Colonel Red" started associating with Soviets. All kidding aside, Valiant showed some pretty damn good fire here as he did throughout his career.
Match Numero Cuatro: Viper II vs. Jimmy Valiant
Wow, two Viper II matches within thirty minutes? What did I do to deserve this treat? Jimmy appears to weigh no more than ninety-five pounds at this point in his career, and, during his entrance, he knocks a fan over before stealing another woman's baby and doing a lap around the ring with it. After the bell, he French kisses the referee and continues to posture for the fans, who go wild for Boogie. After several minutes of playing around, Valiant applies a sleeperhold, winning the match literally seconds after the offense began.
Match Thoughts: If you love sleeperholds and crazy old men attempting to snatch children away from their parents, this was the match from you.
Tonight's offering from ESPN Classic was certainly a mixed bag. The first episode aired wasn't spectacular, but it was just as good as the opening episode last week and could've been the first half of an unoffensive hour of grappling if they followed it up with a show featuring a moderately interesting match. Instead, there was a massive dropoff in quality between the two episodes, as perhaps the only thing worse than early UWF is mid-to-late UWF. Everybody wrestling in the second half of the hour came off as though they should've been on a fly by night independent show in Alabama, wrestling in front of thirty people. They shouldn't have been on anything approaching national television . . . or even local television. My only hope is that, going forward, we see a lot more of 1990 and a lot less of 1992.