Ok, so between 1970 and 1985 World of Sport produced an amazing run of consistently excellent British wrestling built on unrivalled grappling, matwork, stiff striking and a dash of comedy and eccentric characters. Many of the faces of the style pioneered the likes of Fit Finlay and William Regal in their approach to perfecting a blend of European and US wrestling styles and watching WOS you can see many attributes in both men's work developing before your own eyes.
This thread will mainly revolve around me pimping a variety of matches and wrestlers who are unaccustomed to most posters on here and hoping to start up some discussion and introduce people to the style. Feel free to post and review your own match or recommend matches you think are essential viewing. I doubt it'll come to this but I might be persuaded to eventually work up a top 25/50 WOS matches which I'd update into the OP as a starting point for what people should watch.
A couple of starting points which I've seen discussed before as criticisms of the style which I find to be a little niave:
(a)"The lack of clear cut traditional 'moves' makes it impossible to get into the style"
Pretty silly IMO. Go into watching the style not expecting to be treated to what you associate with the US style and you should find yourself more immersed and appreciative of the unique style and setting. The rounds system as well as a relience on fairly basic moves to win a match will always be a drawback to people who are overexposed to the WWE/TNA/Indy movesets, but if you go in and give it a chance you can see the lack of clear cut 'finishers' only adds to the drama and story within a WOS match.
(b) "There's no storytelling, just endless grappling and matwork"
Bollocks. Whether its heel vs heel, veteran vs rookie, face/heel or a face/face match which gradually breaks down into a violent war there are plenty of stories and angles within a WOS match that ensure you're not just watching an aimless exhibition. Finlay and Jim Breaks vs a 17 year old British Bulldog or the famous Steve Grey vs Johnny Saint match where Smith looks on another planet to Grey are perfect examples of there being more to the match beyond incredibly slick grappling. Heck Steve Grey vs Clive Myers is one of the best Flair/Steamboat esque matches I've seen, whereby Clive Myers is the International phenom battling the hometown sensation for the title.
(c) "There's no US style attributes to hold my interest"
Again, a load of tripe. Whether its the comedy genius of Les Kellett rivalling that of Eddie Guerrero/Terry Funk, the immensely entertaining character work of Adrian Street (exotico gimmick) or 'Crybaby' Jim Breaks there's a ton of wrestlers who add some character work to their grappling to create a story/character dynamic. The likes of Marty Jones also employ a more violent brawling style that Regal and Finlay are known for, whereby grappling and matwork dominates the match but stiff striking and big bumps are also present throughout. The Johnny Saint vs Jim Breaks match where Smith bloodies Breaks's nose for a portion of the bout also acts as a dismissive argument to those who cite WOS as too clean/lacking in violence.
Anyways, the first few batch of matches will feature Finlay and Dynamite Kid. People new to the WOS style will hopefully find these matches more bearable to ease them into the setting as they're more a mix of British and US wrestling compared to most WOS matches: I'll spoiler tag my review so as to avoid making this an even greater wall of text. Enjoy!
1. Marty Jones vs Dynamite Kid, 02/05/1983
* Since this is the IWC and star ratings matter, this one is about ****1/4
2. Fit Finlay vs Marty Jones, 4/14/1984
Spoiler for Match Review:
Great match here. It was surreal to see just how athletic Finlay was in his transitions and bumping here, thankfully he still has his stiff pissed off side to him that we grew accustomed to post 2006. And Finlay with great bumping and athleticism as well as dishing out some disgusting headbutts =
The opening has some swank mat work and chain wrestling between the two. Jones has some really unique takedowns and grappling techniques and he has this gorgeous spot where he stamps on Finlay's left hand and drives it into the mat before grabbing both arms and locking in a submission. Jones also hit a beastly dropkick early on which had Finlay scrambling to check he hadn't lost a molar. They do a familiar spot where Finlay can't escape a hold and has his arm repeatedly twisted and pulled by Jones which he sells terrificly. Unlike modern grappling exchanges Jones is clearly established as the dominant grappler and Finlay constantly smacks the mat in anger and seeks to take advantage of any opening via headbutt or cleverly concealed closed fist punches.
Goes without saying but some of the strikes in this are brutal, Jones has some amazing european uppercuts and he rocks Finlay with one clean off of the mat and Finlay lays in one headbutt during a greco roman knuckle lock that looked filthy and should have caused an elderly woman to faint in disbelief. Also dug how Finlay resorted to his strikes during the lock ups after accepting he was being made to look foolish by Jones's skill. The finish to the 1st fall is actually one of my favourite spots of all time: Finlay has been slowly pissing Jones off with closed fist punches and cheapshotting as well as some taunting slaps and he reels off a quick succession of moves and launches Finlay into the corner before catching him in a sharpshooter attempt. Finlay then taps Jones on the back like a referee does which confuses Jones into thinking he's won the fall only to turn round into a ferocious forearm from Finlay. Finlay's arrogance gets the best of him though and Jones catches a quick backslide for the pin.
2nd fall is also good but not on the level of the 1st. Jones immediately goes for a quick pin and Finlay seeks about headbutting and kneeing Jones in the ribcage to start a comeback. He works over Jones nicely enough with some good holds before they exchange pinning attempts (some of which were very Lucha esque) and Jones manages to regain the momentum with some sweet strikes as well as Finlay getting too hot headed which ultimately costs him as he eats the turnbuckle at full force. Jones goes up top and hits a senton which looked brutal and apparently gets a warning, guessing there's no top rope moves in WOS (forgot about that rule). Finlay's manager is pissed off and seems to be calling for Jones to be docked the 2nd fall and when the ref refuses Finlay still selling the ribs walks off and gets counted out. Pretty standard finish for a non title match in establshing Jones as having proved himself against Finlay and getting Finlay some good heat, but it did kill my enjoyment a bit.
Once again, because star ratings matter: ****1/4-****1/2
3. Marty Jones vs Bull Blitzer (Steve Wright), 4/23/1986
Those three will be the 'introductions', I'll work on a couple of write ups for a couple more bouts which are entirely devolved from the WOS formula, aka 20 minutes of matwork and grappling mixed in with the occasional strike.