With a rebranding to make this more of a general ‘wrestling I’ve watched recently’ style column, I’m back with a selection of three matches that I have checked out over the past few days. We go back to 1990 to see Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior team to face Mr Perfect and The Genius, Maximo fight the evergreen Negro Casas, and an IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title match between Jushin Liger and Naoki Sano from 1990.
Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior vs Mr. Perfect and The Genius (WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event 27/01/90)
This week, I’ve attempted to dip back into the 1990 Yearbook set that I acquired a few years back. Whilst a wonderful collection of wrestling, my attention span is less than useless, meaning I flitted around, picking it back up from time to time and making limited headway. I’d left off at about the end of January, so decided to start watching against from this headline match at January 1990’s Saturday Night’s Main Event.
On paper, the heel team looks horrifically outmatched by the team of Hogan and the Warrior, and to be fair, there isn’t really much hope for Perfect and The Genius to pick up a victory in this match. However, in the past SNME, The Genius did defeat Hogan by countout, so stranger things have happened.
The match acts as a chance to further the Hogan vs Warrior feud leading up to Wrestlemania 6. With both guys being faces during this time period, the tension had to be built via miscommunications rather than full on brawls/attacks (due to the fear of turning one of the wrestlers face, most probably). The big guys control the early going, with Mr Perfect bumping like a pinball for any offense that comes his way. In some ways, it is not too dissimilar to the way Shawn Michaels bumped for Hogan many years later, even to the point where we see the turnbuckle flip bump that got Michaels a lot of negative response. Still, since it was Perfect, people tend to excuse him what might be seen as overselling from other guys.
It is only through the use of the Genius’ scroll that the heels get any real offense, Hogan taking a shot and then having to play face in peril. We even see Mr Perfect perfectplex Hogan, but in a bizarrely booked moment, grabs the refs hand at two and decides to tag out to the Genius to allow him the chance to get the pinfall. It keeps the Perfectplex strong, but just makes Mr Perfect look like an idiot really. Unsurprisingly, Hogan begins to fight back, makes the hot tag to Warrior and the bad guys are vanquished in pretty short order.
At this point in time, it is often the real subtleties that stand out in terms of storytelling. Hogan gets the pinfall with the legdrop, though he tags himself in to allow himself to get the pinfall when the Warrior is gearing up for his big splash. This little touch plays nicely into the idea of Hogan’s ego, and after Perfect/Genius attack the victors, Warrior then lands a clothesline on Hogan as he attempts to fight off the attackers. We get a face to face staredown, and the crowd goes crazy. Whilst it could be argued that the match is one big angle to ratchet up the attention for Hogan vs Warrior, it is fun in its own way. The fact that The Genius was over enough as a gimmick to be put into a number of matches opposite Hogan is fairly impressive as it stands.
Maximo (c) vs Negro Casas (11/01/2015)
I’ve been using the match guides provided by the Cross Arm Breaker blog recently to see what I’ve missed in terms of the best matches out there in 2015. In their January guide, they recommended this match, so I decided to give it a look. I’ve seen a lot of Negro Casas and can’t help but be impressed by the quality of his output, yet have seen very little Maximo.
Casas is 55, yet his knowledge of how to ‘make’ a match work means that he hasn’t really lost much of a step as he has grown older. He is always worth watching, and his ability to work the crowd with little touches means it is difficult to take your eyes off of him for any prolonged period of time. Maximo is an ‘exotico’ (a male wrestler who appropriates feminine style/mannerisms in their look and offense), so you already have a built in clash of styles – the grizzled veteran versus the flamboyant pretender. Maximo is the CMLL World Heavyweight champion, so although titles aren’t as important in Mexico, he isn’t someone to be laughed at.
The match is built around Casas’ brutal attack on Maximo’s knee from the get go. Throughout the whole match, there aren’t too many big spots, but they aren’t necessary when you have a man such as Casas working his magic in the ring. The first fall is short, as Maximo gets no real offense and Casas destroys the knee, locking in an STF for the submission and the primera caida. The assault continues in the second fall, with Casas not only attacking the leg, but often mocking the limping Maximo. It is a rush of blood to the head that proves Casas’ downfall though, as a missed charge at the ropes sees him hit with two clotheslines and wrapped up in a small package for a three count.
A doctor appears at ringside to assist Maximo, only for Casas to attack Maximo whilst the doctor is trying to attend to the injuries. The last fall is much more even in nature, as the attention of the doctor seems to allow Maximo to use his leg a lot easier than he was in the second fall. A more cynical person might question the selling, but that is up to the viewer to decide. Maximo hits two simple, yet effective, dives, whilst Casas almost get the victory with a La Magistral cradle (one that had been avoided by Maximo, playing up its effectiveness). As Casas went to go to the top rope, Maximo kissed him, allowing him enough time to compose himself and land a top rope armdrag for the victory.
The match is very good, yet not great. The match weakens a little when Maximo is on offense, and there are questions about the credibility of a finisher that relies so heavily on the use of his legs to spring to the top being used when he has had the knee attacked so viciously throughout. Still, as a way to see a man in his fifties put on a clinic of how to work a limb, you could do much worse.
Naoki Sano (c) vs Jushin Liger (31.01.1990, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title match)
Sano had won the title from Liger the previous year, and this was Liger’s big chance to try and win the title for the second time. I’d seen Sano for the first time in a previous edition of this column, and had enjoyed what I’d seen. As for Liger, he is probably one of the main reasons I’m a wrestling fan today.
This match has been talked about for years, and I can definitely see why. What starts off as a fairly ordinary NJPW Junior Heavyweight match gives way to an all-out destruction of Liger by Sano. With early use of the piledriver outside the ring and a tombstone piledriver when they are both back in, Sano takes control and doesn’t really let go for the next eighteen minutes.
What follows is a vicious beatdown by the champion, as he rips Liger’s mask almost clean off, busts him wide open and just continues to work him over. Liger has the occasional hope spot, including a dive to the outside, but it is Sano who leads the majority of this match. At times, Liger is face down on the mat, barely looking as if he is still alive, let alone able to get back into the match. He leaves puddles of blood wherever he goes, and struggles to mount any real offense. Sano uses a range of different suplexes (German, Tiger, Dragon) to attempt to put Liger away, but he is only ever able to get a nearfall from these pinning attempts.
There are a few spots that look blown, though rather than detract from the match, they seem to further emphasise the struggle Liger is facing to get back his title. One of these spots sees the tide turn, as Liger reverses a back suplex into a pinfall (though it does look very awkwardly completed), before following up with a German suplex of his own and a sitout Liger Bomb for the victory and the title. In the aftermath of the match, Liger throws down the title in disgust, seemingly frustrated at Sano’s attempts to rip the mask off. Liger leaves, slapping a member of the roster who is at ringside (not sure who) as he makes his exit.
Some criticisms of this match linger on the length of Sano’s assault, though I don’t find too much an issue in that. Arguably, my biggest concern is the lack of offense required by Liger in the end to defeat Sano. He has very little offense, yet is able to pick up the three count. This could be just me nitpicking, as the match easily sits up there with some of my favourite matches of all time.
As I’m not 100% about the legality of CMLL and NJPW videos going up on the blog, I won’t link to either of the last two matches. However, they are easy enough to find on any streaming website of your choice.