Re: Official Indy DVD Help Thread
Retro time, I guess.
Ricky Steamboat v Jimmy Snuka (All Japan Pro Wrestling, 6/3/81)
So, it would seem that I need to completely re-evaluate my opinion of Jimmy Snuka, because God damn, any time I find him on my screen from any footage pre-1985, I find myself smiling like a big goofy kid.
I was always under the impression that he was pretty awful, but he seemed to suffer from the "WWF syndrome" (think I'm gonna trademark that shit) when he went to, you guessed it, the WWF. The same thing happened with guys like Jim Duggan, Junkyard Dog, Butch Reed, Don Muraco, and from what I've seen of him from Memphis, the Honky Tonk Man - they're wrestling in a promotion that is probably the least "workrate heavy" on the planet, fuelled by the glitz and glamour of Hulkamania, and as such, almost everybody else would fall into "character driven" line. Duggan, the best brawler in the world in 1985, was content to yell "HOOOOOOOOOOOO, TOUGH GUY", wave an American flag and give a thumbs up. Junkyard Dog literally became a lethargic embarrassment, and was a far, far cry from the pro-wrestler that spearheaded Bill Watts' Mid-South territory's surge to greatness. Honky Tonk Man was given a gimmick that meant he could get away with doing almost nothing in terms of actually wrestling, and thus became completely atrocious. Snuka and Muraco... well, they fell into the exact same trap, and that was a "let's get high and be shit" trap. Simply put; very few guys that stood out in other promotions for their exceptional (or even good) wrestling ability just couldn't do the same in the WWF (which is probably the reason Ricky Steamboat never won the WWF title).
But in All Japan, Snuka has grown on me immensely. I watched the Real World Tag League final from 1981 about 5 months ago and loved it. Snuka was great in it, but I figured he was having a REALLY good day and that Brody - his partner - was carrying the load for his team. Then I realised it was ferakin' BRODY I was talking about, and Brody does NOT carry the load for his team. Ever. 5 months and a shit load of footage later, Snuka is a guy that strikes me as being underrated as Hell.
And he's great in this. Both are. It starts out with some really spirited leapfrog, headlocks and armdrag exchanges. Steamboat is the better wrestler, of course (Steambost > pretty much everybody, though), but it's actually Snuka that's keeping this one tight. Steamboat's basically 3 years into his career at this point, and while there's no denying his exceptional ability, it wasn't 'til mid-81 that he seemed to really click everything together and reach a level that was virtually flawless (maybe not so coincidentally, his two matches with Snuka happened in mid-81). With Snuka being the heel here, it makes sense for him to be controlling things anwyay, but he really comes across as a ring general.
I love how they use something as simple as a criss-cross spot to get people into things. They mix it up really nicely with leapfrogs and karate chops - both use them, and each guy's chop is over really well - but break it up with flying headscissors and headlocks. Really simple, yet really effective. The way they slow things down is perfect, too. Both guys are still hitting the ropes a million miles an hour, but this time they run straight into each other and knock themselves ouside the ring. Snuka does this really great sell where he stumbles back like he's legit KO'd and falls through the middle rope. Steamboat, on the other hand, apparently doesn't care about his well-being and takes a ridiculous fall, almost bending himself in half backwards over the middle rope before landing on his head on the floor.
Snuka botches a springboard coming back into the ring, flipping forward and landing on the mat, but he recovers really well from it. When the wrestlers in Japan botch something to that extent, the crowd laugh. It's not meant to be insulting like a "You fucked up" chant, but it often rattles the wrestlers, especially the gaijin. Snuka, instead of drawing a blank and meandering for a minute while he tries to get things back on track, composes himself then and there, and really re-establishes himself as a crazed madman by headbutting the living shit out of Steamboat. Steamboat juices, and the crowd are "oooohhh"-ing at Snuka again. I love shit like that.
Snuka is really amazing in his heat segment here. He does nothing fancy, but man does he ever establish himself as being an unstable lunatic. His facial expressions are cool as shit, almost Randy Savage-esque, and the way he bites Steamboat's head leaves a fucking AWESOME visual with the blood covering his mouth. Jimmy Snuka looks like a motherfucking cannibal, and it's probably the best thing ever.
The finish - or lack thereof - is probably disappointing overall, but I've become so apathetic to non-finishes in 1980s All Japan that it doesn't really bother me now. In all fairness, this is probably one of the better non-finishes anyway, because Steamboat goes postal and whoops the shit out of Snuka, hooking him up in a tree of woe and swinging and chopping at anybody that tries to stop him from killing a fool. Joe Higuchi takes his mandatory beating as well, and I marked at Steamer losing his shit and chopping him right in the fucking skull. THIS is the Ricky Steamboat I wanted to see at Wrestlemania III. Anybody that fucks with the Dragon should die in the name of Lord Steamboat, and Jimmy Snuka sure as Hell fucked with the dragon.
Awesome match. ***1/2