With WrestleMania in the books, it time to go back to basics as we continue our search on the world wide web for the freely available gems of matches as WWE enters it’s annual downward post-WrestleMania spiral. This week, we return to the world of Memphis studio wrestling, and enter the Pacific North West scene for the first time!
J.R. Smooth vs. Kurt Angle (Power Pro Wrestling, July 24, 1999 – viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oV19dAYj1Q0)
We really are going back to basics here, with a good old fashioned studio wrestling show, with future WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi (as J.R. Smooth here) taking on a likely future Hall of Famer in Kurt Angle. Smooth’s Power Pro title is on the line here, and at the bell, Smooth goes to clothesline Angle, but he ducks and fires away with some shots.
Angle ducks another clothesline attempt by Smooth, before sending the big man to the mat with a forearm shot. Smooth rolls to the floor, as Angle joins him, with the pair trading blows in front of the commentary desk. Angle smashes Smooth’s head against the desk, then sends Smooth back into the ring for some more forearms to the head.
Smooth gets sent into the ropes and Angle hits a truly big back body drop on the champion, but Smooth gets back up and takes Angle down with a belly to belly suplex for a near fall. Angle ducks another clothesline off the ropes and connects with some more forearms, with a flying forearm sending Smooth to the mat once more. Another flying forearm gets Angle a two-count, as Angle takes Smooth to the corner for some mounted punches.
Angle follows up with a bulldog out of the corner for a near fall, before (unwisely) going for a DDT. It seems that a rookie Angle forgot that stereotype – all Samoans have hard heads! Smooth popped up immediately, as Angle hit another DDT, with similar results. A third DDT finally keeps Smooth down, as Angle gets another two count, before following up with a clothesline that Smooth flips inside out for.
Smooth’s entourage pops up on the apron to distract the referee, and the distraction sets up Smooth to grab his title belt, but Angle ducks the attempted belt shot, instead grabbing the title and drilling Smooth with his own belt. Angle then knocks Smooth’s entourage off the apron to allow for the pinfall attempt, which ends in another near fall.
Angle charges at Smooth in the corner but eats a back elbow instead. Smooth hits a headbutt on Angle, and covers him with his feet on the ropes – something the referee spots as he stops the count at two. Smooth then bodyslams Angle in the middle of the ring, before climbing the top rope, but Angle crotches him up top, and drills the champion with a belly to belly suplex off the top rope, and Kurt Angle secures the first title of his professional wrestling career!
You could tell that Angle was still very raw to the pro wrestling game here, as the majority of this match was made up of strikes rather than the grappling that would later define his career. Still, for a five minute developmental match, this was decent.
Doomsday vs. Spellbinder (USWA – September 14, 1997 – viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Shbwi37Sx6o)
Going back a little further here, with the last match from the United States Wrestling Association. This was marked on YouTube as being the last match in the company’s history, but I couldn’t find any dates to confirm this… but what I can tell you, is that Doomsday is the man who went on to appear for almost twenty years in WWE as Kane, whilst his opponent was at the other end of the spectrum, as Spellbinder’s televised WWE run was one-and-done, with a Wrestling Challenge squash match against Tony Devito in 1995 earning him some dubious honours.
Doomsday was accompanied to the ring by Billy Joe Travis, with Dutch Mantell providing commentary. Spellbinder’s wearing the same pants/singlet that he had for his sole WWE match, whilst Doomsday’s attire makes him look like a bad clone of Shredder from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Doomsday starts with a kick to the midsection of Spellbinder, followed by an uppercut, and a punch that sends his foe into the ropes. Spellbinder gets the upper hand with a bodyslam after sending Doomsday into the ropes, a trick that doesn’t work a second time as Spellbinder’s effort at a hiptoss is blocked, with Doomsday landing a neckbreaker instead.
After a few shots on the ground, Doomsday picks up Spellbinder and whips him into the corner, following up quickly with a charging clotheslines. Doomsday snapmares Spellbinder out of the corner, then drops a fist for a two-count. Spellbinder ducks a couple of clotheslines after being sent into the ropes, and takes down Doomsday with a spinning wheel kick.
Spellbinder then pounds away on Doomsday in the corner as the referee gets distracted on the floor dealing with Travis and Mantell. Travis gets in the ring and goes to attack Spellbinder, who ducks as Travis punches Doomsday by mistake, and Spellbinder gets a schoolboy pin for the victory.
Almost as soon as the bell rang, Mantell jumps on top of Spellbinder, and we see some triple-teaming after the fact. Jerry Lawler and Brian Christopher run in to even things up. Travis bumps around like a madman, while we see Doomsday just amble off into the sunset… before appearing in WWE weeks later as Kane.
As a main event, this match was just weird – clearly setting up something, but the demise of the USWA left us with a story but nowhere to tell it. Definitely not something worth going out of your way to watch.
Buddy Wayne vs. Bryan Alvarez (Portland Wrestling – May ??, 2000 – viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWcapNHzSN4)
After two shows in the Memphis area, it’s time to go to another “sorta” territory, with a match from the revived Portland Wrestling group. In reality, this promotion only shared a name with the group that Don Owens ran for over half a century.
This match comes early on in Portland Wrestling’s revival, and it’s teacher vs. student Light Heavyweight bout, as editor of Figure 4 Weekly Bryan Alvarez takes on Buddy Wayne. Alvarez is looking like he’s trying out for a boyband, topless with white trousers. Unfortunately, the lighting for this match is fairly poor, with just one spotlight above the ring, meaning that all four corners are pretty much invisible.
They start with a lock-up, with Buddy Wayne getting a headlock on Alvarez, but a decision to move it into an arm wringer backfires as Alvarez quickly reverses it. Wayne gets to the ropes easily for a break, then goes back to the headlock and armwringer combination. Alvarez switches it into a headlock, only to be taken into the turnbuckles by Wayne, where Buddy Wayne punches away at Alvarez, who then gets whipped hard into the opposite corner.
Buddy Wayne chops Alvarez in the corner, but his attempt to send Alvarez into the opposite corner once more is foiled as Alvarez reverses it… and the lights go out! Alvarez apparently gives Wayne a few chops, then takes him head-first into a turnbuckle as the lights come back up. Another whip into the corner follows, and Alvarez continues to light up Buddy Wayne’s chest with chop after chop after chop. Wayne responds with an eye poke, as he takes Alvarez to the corner to deliver some forearms.
Wayne sends Alvarez into the ropes again and we see a big back body drop that gets a two count for the veteran. Alvarez gets whipped into the ropes again, and this time Wayne locks in a sleeperhold, but Alvarez manages to escape the hold by picking up and drilling Wayne to the mat with a side suplex, before giving Wayne a taste of his own medicine with a whip into the ropes and a sleeper of his own, but a donkey kick gets Wayne out of the hold pretty quickly.
Wayne picks up Alvarez and rams his head into the top turnbuckle, before we see a snapmare and a random crowd shot for some reason. The action resumes with Buddy Wayne climbing to the top rope, but he changes his mind and goes back into the ring and drops the first on Alvarez instead.
Buddy Wayne again shoves the referee away as he’s trying to unload some more punches on Alvarez. Wayne whips Alvarez into the corner, but Bryan gets his feet up, and takes Wayne down with a bulldog for a quick two count. Bryan sends Wayne into the ropes and connects with a corkscrew back elbow that only gets him a two count, as Wayne cuts off Alvarez on the top rope. Wayne shoves the referee aside again as he goes up for a superplex attempt, but the referee pulls Wayne down to the mat, before blocking a punch attempt and punching Wayne himself. One senton bomb off the top rope later, and Alvarez gets the win.
Aside from the finisher, this was really a “heavyweight match between two smaller guys”. That’s not to say that this was bad, but the fact that Bryan was being beaten on for the entire match, and only got the win once the referee punched out his opponent in the end made neither guy look good.
Adam Firestorm vs. Dr. Luther (ECCW – August 24, 2001 – viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYqUHYmEPGA)
We wrap up this series of reviews with another match from the Pacific Northwest, and a rather poignant one for myself. We’re going north of the border to Surrey, British Columbia for a bout from ECCW, an ECCW title match, in fact, as Dr. Luther defends against Adam Firestorm.
The match opens with a lock-up, with Firestorm taking the early advantage with a headlock. Luther lifts up Firestorm for a back suplex, but Firestorm flips out and lands on his feet, before bounding off the ropes for an exchange that ended when Luther swatted away a cross body attempt. Luther punches on Firestorm in the corner, and whips him into the other, with Firestorm taking the buckle chest-first as his attempt to mount the buckles doesn’t quite go to plan.
Luther snapmares Firestorm out of the corner and then kicks him in the lower of the back, before taking him around the corners of the ring, dishing out some stiff chops in the process. Firestorm gets whipped into the corner and this time is able to use the ropes to vault over an onrushing Luther, following that up with a leapfrog, before catching a dropkick attempt and slingshot into the top turnbuckle.
Luther kicked out of that cover, and flattened Firestorm with a clothesline. He takes Firestorm into the corner and pulls Firestorm’s own t-shirt over his head and starts chopping the exposed chest of the New Zealander. Luther sends Firestorm into the corner again, but this time he uses the ropes to vault up into a headscissor position, before using the ropes to help take Luther down to the mat.
Firestorm charges into the corner with a back elbow on Dr. Luther, but Luther reverses another Irish whip attempt, and this time catches Firestorm’s vaulting efforts, but it’s Firestorm who ends up on top, as he turns a wheelbarrow suplex attempt into a bulldog on Luther for a near fall. Luther reverses another Irish whip into the corner, and as Firestorm staggers out of the corner, Luther connects with an enziguiri to the back of the head.
A bodyslam followed by an elbow drop gets Luther a two count, whilst a butterfly suplex gets a similar result, leading to a frustrated Luther chewing out the referee. Enraged, Luther whips Firestorm hard into the buckle, sending him crashing to the ground on impact. After taunting the crowd, Luther nails Firestorm with a back suplex.
Another whip into the turnbuckle follows, but Firestorm reverses, only for Luther to backdrop him outside. Firestorm lands on the apron, but after a few shots Luther drops him neck first, sending Firestorm to the floor. After a brief recuperation period, Firestorm flips over Luther’s back into the ring, and counters a tiltawhirl backbreaker attempt by turning it into a crossbody for a two-count on Luther.
Firestorm ducks a kick but Luther connects with a big boot for a two-count, before clubbering away with some forearms with Firestorm trapped against the ropes. Another Irish whip sees Luther connect with a belly-to-belly suplex for a two-count, as Luther goes back to the “whip him into the corner” routine, but Firestorm gets a boot up and follows up with a spinning wheel kick into a cornered Luther, then a bulldog. Firestorm connects cleanly with a Quebrada for a near fall, then again with a huracanrana into a pinfall attempt.
Another whip into the ropes by Firestorm is reversed, but Luther gets taken to the mat with some headscissors. Firestorm waits to go for another huracanrana pinfall attempt, but Luther catches it and connects with a powerbomb, then an Alley Oop flip to drop Firestorm neck-first across the top rope, before hitting a bridging German suplex for the win.
A pretty good match (even if I am biased); they threatened to lose the crowd after the early rope vault spot went awry, but by the end not only had Luther and Firestorm won the crowd back, but they had them believing that the result could have gone either way.
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