Hello! It's good to be back here this week on Cageside Seats with another edition of WWE Network Deep Cuts. This week, we're featuring all sorts of weirdos and hooligans, legends, Hall of Famers, solid veterans. All sorts are welcome to the Deep Cuts party.
I was going to tell a story about this time I directed CM Punk to a child who clearly idolized him and was just dying to meet him, and he was all annoyed about having to meet her, but that's pretty much the whole story, so I won't bother. Let's get on with it!
Previous Deep Cuts: April 9 / April 16 / April 23
Jose Lothario & Al Madril vs The Checkmate & The Magic Dragon (WCCW #43, 10/14/82)
World Class from about 1982-84 or so might be my favorite wrestling promotion of all time. I wasn't really alive for it (I was born in '82), but going back, I have a tendency to get sucked into the shows, rivalries, and promos, which doesn't always happen when watching old wrestling that I didn't grow up with. For whatever reason, World Class does that for me.
Checkmate was "The Welsh Wizard," Tony Charles, a respected veteran craftsman. Here, you get to see him do some fine professional wrestling with both Lothario and Madril, who could hold their own indeed. This isn't a spectacular tag or anything, but it's a very nice look at the early 80s WCCW vibe that doesn't focus on the Von Erichs, Freebirds, Iceman King Parsons, or Gary Hart's guys.
The final couple of minutes are super hot, but the highlight of the match for me is Madril getting a hot tag, grabbing Checkmate in a headlock, and then just punching him in the face 15 times in a row. Magic Dragon would die in a plane crash in 1987. At the time, he was training Kenta Kobashi. Dragon was just 31 at the time of his death.
Lex Luger vs Ricky Steamboat (WCW The Great American Bash 1989)
‘89 Luger is legitimately one of my favorite heels ever. Look, I'm not arguing that Lex wasn't carried by the likes of Flair, Steamboat, even Brian Pillman that year, but he also had a pretty killer match with Michael Hayes, of all the damned people, and that was before he turned heel, which he is here. Luger was great as a dickhead heel who didn't really want to fight. The perfectly sculpted body, the ego, and the cowardice. He scoffs here at this being a no-DQ match with Steamboat, threatening to bail if Ricky won't waive the no-DQ clause. In a rasslin first, Steamboat agrees, because he wants the shot that bad, and Luger pulls the first psychological move here.
In the ring, his great athleticism and power meant Luger really did have a ton of potential. He never lived up to it, and in the end, he used his body as his main drawing card with promoters, which is fine. Plenty of guys have done that. Sid, for instance, kept getting jobs even though he never approached being as good as Luger was at his best. And this match shows Luger at his best, and it's without question the best role for him. As a babyface, he was just a little bland, and felt too much like a wannabe Hulk Hogan. There was something about him that was easy to dislike, and he understood how to work that side, too, taking some of the traits of the NWA's top heels of the time like Flair, Arn Anderson, Barry Windham, Tully Blanchard, and so on.
Steamboat, obviously, is Steamboat, and that means he is awesome. He chops the hell out of Luger in this match, but the real beauty is in Steamboat's selling. Nobody sold punches like Steamboat. Few can say they sold anything as well as he did, in fact. Damn it, Steamboat is brilliant in this match. Dig the clothesline sequence in particular, and Steamboat's reactions. So great.
I really love this match. The NWA was just so red hot in ‘89. There was absolutely no comparison in their product and the WWF's. It's like comparing Waylon Jennings and Keith Urban.
Sabu vs Pat Tanaka (ECW Hardcore TV #45, 2/21/94)
Sabu and Tanaka have about as much chemistry as you might expect, which is little, but it's a fine watch. Sabu at the time was a truly revolutionary wrestler on the American scene, and one of the big reasons that ECW (still Eastern Championship Wrestling) started gaining momentum. There was really nobody else like him; in many ways, even Cactus Jack paled in comparison to Sabu's reckless disregard for his own safety, plus he seemed even crazier than Cactus, because he just didn't speak. So there was a cool air of mystery about him, an unpredictability that even Jack didn't have.
Tanaka was a solid professional wrestler best known for his time in tag teams with Paul Diamond, first as Badd Company in Memphis and the AWA, and then as the Orient Express in the WWF, with Diamond under a hood as Kato, following Akio Sato's departure from the team. This isn't the best representation of 1994 Sabu, but it's something different to look at, at least. It kind of feels like a match between two distinct individuals, if that makes sense. They're not really on the same page, but both good enough to scrape out a decent match together.
Macho Man Randy Savage vs Diamond Dallas Page (WCW Spring Stampede 1997)
You gotta make sure you watch Randy Savage walking backstage before the match with Miss Elizabeth. "SLIM JIMS FOR EVERYBODY!!!" Also notable: Page's pre-match interview with Mean Gene, which includes Kimberly, recently outed as Page's real life wife by Savage and Liz, which kicked the rivalry into high gear. Kimberly has a good closing line, so Gene tries to end the interview, but Kimberly pulls the mic back for a worse closing line. Gene knew. That's a pro.
This was the start of a big feud between Savage and Diamond Dallas Page, which legitimized Page as a main event player in WCW and elevated him to the top level. It was also voted the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Feud of the Year for 1997. While that's just PWI and all, it really was one of the best feuds of the year, and had a fine argument as the best. These two would later meet at The Great American Bash, in tag team matches at Bash at the Beach and Fall Brawl, and Halloween Havoc.
The seemingly popular idea today is that DDP never deserved to be a top guy in WCW, but that's hogwash. Page busted ass to get to that level, and he was getting the sort of reactions that warranted a move up the card. He steadily worked his way there. Then Savage stepped in and helped him make his real mark.
Was Page a "true" world champion? No. But guess what? Neither was Dusty Rhodes. Rhodes was a short-term babyface champ twice, but he never got to actually run with the ball. Relative to their times, Rhodes and Page were about the same guy, good enough to win the title, but not good enough to actually carry it, which isn't a bad thing to be. The same could be said of a lot of guys. There may have been a point, I think, where Page could have carried the belt for a bit, but that point was in mid-1998, and by then, Goldberg had taken WCW by storm and was a true phenom. It's no coincidence that the most intriguing and best defense of Goldberg's title reign was against Page at Halloween Havoc, either. But they didn't do it then, and with a good reason, since Goldberg was the only hope against the WWF's momentum.
This is a no-DQ match and also Page's first pay-per-view main event. In a rarity for 1997 WCW, the commentators (Schiavone, Heenan, and Rhodes) fully call this match, because this is the last match of the night, and it's nothing to do with Hollywood Hogan or Sting or whatever, and they do a tremendous job telling the story of the match with the wrestlers delivering on their end, too. Savage appears the experienced main event veteran who has been to this stage countless times, while Page is the scrapper trying to prove he belongs at this level. Heenan in particular does the thing he could do very well: put someone over without being overbearing about it, his most underrated trait as a commentator. And the story continues well after the match, too, keeping the feud hot. Great stuff all around in this one.
Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit vs Los Guerreros (WWE Rebellion 2002)
These guys wrestled a ton in 2002, and always delivered, because all of them were really great. When the worst of four guys is Chavo Guerrero Jr, you're in good shape. This is from one of the UK pay-per-views, which never got much US play, so perhaps you are not familiar with this match. But it's another great one in the series of great tag matches for Paul Heyman's SmackDown! Brand from late 2002. There's not even much to really say about it. It's Angle, it's Benoit, it's Eddie, it's Chavo, they have a match, get plenty of time, and tear it up.
Watch and discuss! What's the best of these five matches? Is it Sabu-Tanaka? If you say yes, you are possibly high.