Bruno was a scary grandpa in 1987- he still looked more dangerous than many of the roided-up wrestlers.
Welcome to more Dream Matches! This time, I found a super-unusual bout from 1987 with latter-era Bruno shoring up a six-man match against some of the nastiest heels in town, and a look at Baby AJ Styles as an indie nobody in WCW, teaming with Air Paris against Jamie Noble & Evan Karagias! Also, did you know that one half of Well Dunn once fought MANTAUR? This all-time Dream Match was for the lucky 26 fans who watched USWA in 1997, and will be reviewed for you here in this very column! Also watch the death of the Big Bully Busick gimmick, and Bill Goldberg demolish one half of the Master Blasters (no, not that one).
ELIMINATION TAG MATCH:
THE HONKY TONK MAN & THE HART FOUNDATION (Bret Hart & Jim Neidhart, w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. BRUNO SAMMARTINO, TITO SANTANA & JAKE “THE SNAKE” ROBERTS:
(WWF TV, Sept. 1987)
* Hahah, now THAT’s a random six-man! Honky’s the most hated heel in the business with his IC Title, and the Harts are also the champs, while they’re up against the Living Legend (Bruno, not Larry), Tito near his peak, and Jake on his way up. Bruno & Tito are in blue, Jake & Honky in red, and the Harts in pink & black. The Harts start shit, but Jake clears the ring with Damien immediately. This is from one of those “Scott’s Wrestling Collection” sets on YouTube.
Three solid minutes of the heels complaining to start, and Honky bails on starting with Bruno promptly. Instead, Bret starts with Tito and takes a great bump running into the knees. Tito kicks his ass and Jake hiptosses him, but he bails on the DDT (Lord Alfred assumes it’s a suplex coming). Crowd is just all over Bret for that- this is heated as hell. The Harts double-team Jake, who’s now flailing all over the ring, working his ass off to put their stuff over. Honky points at Bruno and drops the fist on Jake like a good chickenshit, and Jake is just DRAGGING himself up trying to fight back, but Honky beats him down for two. But Honky drops his head- kneelift! Jake still can’t get up, but he dodges a charge in the corner- boxing jabs! Short-arm clothesline! He signals the DDT, but gets dumped and goes for Jimmy- Honky blasts him with the megaphone and Jake gets counted out (9:48). Good job by both guys.
Honky has a go with Bruno, but wisely hangs out right in his corner so Bruno’s immediately gangbeat by the Harts on the apron, and Tito gets sent away when he tries to help. Neidhart whups on him and the heels choke him using the tag rope. Neidhart finally hits the corner trying an avalanche and Tito’s a “Hot Tamale!” according to Craig DeGeorge (or Johnny V, I dunno). He gets a great cross-body on Bret for two, and Bruno knocks the Anvil out when he yanks Tito off by the leg- the Harts try a double-team, but Tito ducks under them, Bruno drags Neidhart out, and the Flying Forearm finishes Bret at (13:39)! In the studio, Monsoon takes a collect call from the Brain (“Only Heenan would call collect- what a mark!”).
We return Joined In Progress, with Tito getting tripped by Jimmy- Anvil tying him up for three (14:34). Clipped to Bruno hurt and Honky distracting the ref, so Jimmy readies the megaphone… and accidentally blasts Jim for the three (15:14)! We’re down to Honky & Bruno! They criss-cross, but Bruno psyches him into putting his head down again, and clobbers him with the knee- three-count (15:34 shown)! The fans get sent home happy regardless.
Rating: *** (Actually a very fun little match- mostly stalling and character bits, but Jake did REALLY well selling in his segment and got a hot comeback, the heels cheated for all their falls, and the faces all played games and tricked them to counteract that)
If AJ’s thinks the THE GAY COMMUNITY’s thoughts about him are something, he really needs to avoid YouTube comments about Karagias.
AJ STYLES & AIR PARIS vs. EVAN KARAGIAS & JAMIE NOBLE:
(WCW Thunder, Feb. 14, 2001)
* And now for a look in the very late, LATE era of WCW, with Baby AJ Styles as a generic indie flippy nobody, acting as backup to Air Paris, an indie guy who never really became anything in the business. He’s so minor I literally did not think of him once between WCW’s death and this review right here. After doing some exhaustive research (translation: I asked the blog on a Saturday night), I’ve determined that at this point Styles was nowhere near a name nor an indie darling- just some random guy from NWA Wildside. Karagias & Noble were teamed up after losing their stables- “3 Count”, the boy band gimmick, was the peak of Evan’s career (unless you count the angle where he was molested by Cougar-era Madusa). Paris has HORRENDOUS gear- just blue tights and a tank-top (like jesus dude, invest in your gear), while Styles is in red shorts. Karagias is in the Boy Band cargo pants (which is perfect for the gimmick) and Noble’s in generic indie guy blue tights.
Tenay gives the low-down on this newbie “Styles” kid- a 23-year old entering his third year in the biz with his own version of the Shooting Star Press. He & Noble do some good counter-wrestling, with Styles backflipping off the middle rope off a whip, and the kids get stereo backdrops, then backdrop Paris onto Yung Count on the outside! Karagias comes back with his WCW Power Plant stuff, but Paris hits a sit-out spinebuster as I’m suddenly nostalgic for this early-2000s indie style offense. Drop toehold into AJ’s somersault senton as they’re pinballing off Evan, but he just slugs AJ when his back is turned. Noble whups his ass out there while Evan distracts the ref, and the Sidewinder gets two- Paris has to save. They double-team him repeatedly, Karagias getting two off a snap-powerslam. Noble hits a Northern Lights suplex and a surfboard, Paris repeatedly saving, but Noble & Styles collide on cross-bodies.
Noble tries a tombstone, then a rana, but Styles hits a BIG Powerbomb to come back. Paris finally gets the hot tag, but he’s nowhere near as good as Styles, just hitting a clothesline and an inverted FU to Noble. Noble gets a German when he tries to pound on Karagias, AJ saves, and Evan knocks him out and hits a Springboard Plancha! Paris tries a superplex, but gets caught in the Doomsday Device- 1…2… and Karagias yanks Noble off to pin-steal! But Noble responds in kind, and AJ can finally break up the pin. Paris superkicks Noble, but gets dragged outside in a headscissors. Karagias hits a 450 Splash on AJ, but gets dragged out by Paris, who then FACEPLANTS Noble, who was trying a pescado. Styles gets up to the ropes and does a HUGE Shooting Styles Press to the floor, but only hits his partner! Yung Count sandwich AJ with brutal dropkicks on the floor, sending him flailing, and a Springboard Dropkick/Powerbomb finishes him at (12:42).
Like, holy shit- I was here to sass, but this was a hell of a match, with a bunch of green kids pulling out all the stops and trying to impress a bored crowd in a dying company! Really amazing stuff from Styles in particular, as he just GETS it- flailing around on selling, hitting tight offense, doing good strikes, etc.- he had a snap and precision to his moves that you just can’t teach, and he’s only a baby here. Karagias is kinda funny, as he’s obviously steps below everyone, but at least has a character and they know how to bounce off of him so nobody gets embarrassed, and he can hit his cool flippy moves if he has enough prep-time for them (you’ll notice his flips don’t take place from running or aggressive starts like those of the others, but from steadily getting into position).
Rating: ***1/2 (actually loved a lot of this)
Remember the masked fat guy? I don’t!
TANK vs. STEVEN DUNN:
(USWA, April 12 1997)
* OMG, one half of Well Dunn wrestled MANTAUR and I’m just now hearing about it?!? So Dunn (Steve Doll) was just a “named jobber” in his WWF tag team with Timothy Well, but stuck around in USWA after the fact, and here’s the former Mantaur showing up in the early form of the Truth Commission. He and the Commandant were soon gone- Tank only barely made WWF TV. He’s a short, squat, burly guy with a mask and the green tight t-shirt & tan khakis of his stable. Dunn’s in black with a yellow “broken heart” symbol on it. It looks like there’s about 20 people in this studio.
Dunn takes it to Tank right away, ducking a clothesline and doing a leapfrog but taking a hiptoss after trying his own like a doofus. Tank misses a falling headbutt and takes some shots for two, but goes to the eyes and pounds away. An avalanche and seriously plodding punches follow- he hits a chinlock and finally misses another avalanche, but goes to the eyes again… then runs into a boot thrice trying more avalanches like an idiot. Like, switch it up, you dunce! Dunn clotheslines him down, then hits a full bodyslam of all things. That scintillating offense is all it takes to bring in the Truth Commission for the DQ at (3:55). Dunn’s buddies back him up and chase them off, but when the babyfaces walk through the door, the Commission snags Bobby Fulton and kick his ass.
Tank was just… not good. A combination of plodding, mistimed and honestly very “light” and delicate work for a guy who was super-fat and should have been wrestling like Earthquake (or at least Typhoon). And with his size and lack of ability you’re left with Dunn doing basic clotheslines and punches with not a single wrestling hold.
Rating: DUD (terrible match- Tank had nothing and Dunn just hit ’80s offense)
SID JUSTICE vs. BIG BULLY BUSICK (w/ Dr. Harvey Whippleman):
* One of Busick’s last appearances, as he takes on the new Hot Shit wrestler, Sid Justice. Oddly, Busick has Sid’s future manager in his corner. Busick & Whippleman give Mike McGuirk shit, demanding some “real competition” for Bully, blowing smoke in her face, and SID answers the call.
Sid IMMEDIATELY charges in with a giant shoulder tackle in the corner, then hits the single greatest One-Armed Chokeslam I’ve ever seen in my life. Powerbomb and we’re done (0:36). Man, who did BULLY piss off? His four-month run goes on a bit after this, but he was obviously done as any kind of an act here.
Rating: 1/2* (literally a three-move match, but HOLY SHIT what moves!)
BILL GOLDBERG vs. AL GREEN:
(WCW Monday Nitro, Aug. 31 1998)
* I like to think Nash got his old partner on the Master Blasters a job. I mean, it was as part of the “Rick Fuller Division” of WCW, but work is work, ya know? Nash is on commentary to talk smack, and points out Green was his original partner (he forgot Master Blaster Iron!). Green’s not very tall, but like Iron, has that Scott Norton look of being a squat powerhouse. The Nortonian black & grey singlet just makes the comparison even more apt. Hopefully he knows how to sell, though.
Green attacks before the bell like a good victim, Goldberg awkwardly no-selling (almost like Green wasn’t expecting him to do that) until just LAUNCHING him across the ring, then hitting the Bretkiller Kick. Back body drop & powerslam, but Green wusses out of the Spear and bails to the incredible disappointment of the crowd. It’s actually pretty funny watching them shame him, but he lures Goldberg into an attack… but is again stuffed and his shit no-sold. He’s rammed into the post, but just comes back in the ring by slugging away. He tries a sleeper, but Goldberg shoulder-throws him, SPEAR SNAP JACKHAMMER, and we’re done at (2:18).
A very awkward match- almost one of those ones where the guy isn’t expecting Goldberg to do the “monster act” and just gobble him up, so he tries stuff and Bill just starts arbitrarily no-selling it, and they’re kind of a mess, confusedly walking around. They’d have been better off letting Al get in some power moves and then have Goldberg pop up and kill him- THOSE are the fun Goldberg squashes.
Rating: 1/4* (disappointing version of the Goldberg Template)