The Search for a Hidden Classic, Attempt #2
The Search for a Hidden Classic, Attempt #2: WWE Hidden Gems Collection WWE Championship Match:
I mean in theory they did the work for me already right?
The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar(c)
We all know about the classic matches that theyíve had. From a brutal Hell in a Cell to what I think is the most shocking moment in wrestling history. But what if their best match actually took place in Finland at a WWE live event? I mean itís possible isnít it? They have great chemistry and maybe the lack of gimmicks helps them.
Turns out it didnít. This match is a throwback for a good portion of it. Lesnar is evasive at first and very hesitant to lock up with Undertaker. Heís ducking punches, locking up and getting thrown down, and stalling outside the ring a lot. Itís a weird sight based on how Lesnar has been treated the last few years in WWE. Lesnar takes control of the match and you get a slower paced slugfest. He doesnít control the match for long as Undertaker is always throwing punches whenever he has the chance. You get a ref bump, Undertaker kicks out of the F-5 and then teases a title changes a few times. It never happens and Lesnar cheats to win.
Iím not a huge fan of this. I loved the presentation, shot on one camera ringside with no commentary. It really feels like Iím sitting front row. Iím fine with the method that they took but it just seems like they kept it basic and then took it home with a ref bump and a few big moves. Lesnar also never should be a cowardly heel. This match takes place in 2003. In 2002 Lesnar beat the ever living shit out of the Undertaker inside Hell in a Cell. He shouldnít be afraid of the guy a year later.
WCW Championship Match:
Ron Simmons(c) vs. Vader w/Harley Race
Vader is awesome. Iím not sure how and when Simmons loses the title. So Iíve got a title match Iím not sure of the outcome of and a great wrestler in it.
They start slow with Vader being hesitant to lock up at first. He complains to the referee about Simmons and loudly says ďheís got shit on his hands.Ē I feel like thatís racist? Anyway Vader gets some offense in and then Vader proceeds to get manhandled. Heís getting clotheslined over the top rope, a bodyslam on the floor, going off the middle rope. The guy is bumping for Simmons. Simmons looks like a fucking monster in the opening minutes of this. Itís a sight to see because this is not how Vader matches go. After all of these bumps Simmons goes for a submission and Vader is screaming in pain. Fucking Vader is screaming in pain.
Vader doesnít cheat and regains control of the match. Vader than just brutalizes Simmons. You know how big Vader is. On two occasions he jumps and lands ass first on Simmonsí chest. Heís going full weight on his elbow strikes and is STIFF with everything else. Simmonsí comeback is probably the worst part of the match. It reeks of no selling as heís fine right away and moving fast. When Vader took control he still seemed to be in pain and had a recover time. Simmons is doing fine and trying to get the crowd pumped instantly. Just take things a little slower man. But his comeback rules otherwise. Heís fucking slamming Vader like itís easy. Then Vader catches him with a shoulder breaks and scores the win and the title.
Itís impossible not to like this. Two badasses going to war. Iíll say itís comfortably the best Ron Simmons match Iíve ever seen. Both guys took bumps for the other and it made for a war. The presentation is pretty cool too. Thereís one camera ringside for the whole thing. I think this is a house show but they were changing the title so they got a camera out there and put Tony Schiavone on commentary alone. I think this gets borderline classic status. I love a good big man fight. The pace was awesome and they both looked like the two toughest guys you were going to ever see. I just wish Simmons took a little longer to recover before his comeback.
1987 Jim Crockett Memorial Cup:
Brad Armstrong and Bob Armstrong vs. Tully Blanchard and Lex Luger w/James J. Dillon
Iíve been operating under the assumption that if a match looks good on paper there is a good chance that itís going to be great. Well Iím not really sure why this match was chosen for the Hidden Gems Collection. So it has to be good right?
I was right. This rules. The Armstrongs are the underdogs here and itís pretty clear that they are outmatched. But they get the upper hand early against Blanchard and they do everything in their power to keep Luger out of the ring. They cheat and it gets an amazing reaction. Theyíre making illegal tags, punching Luger as he stands on the apron, distracting the referee. They are not letting Luger get into the match because if he gets in there theyíre done. Tully is perfect in this role. Heís pissed off the entire time and bumps so well for them while only trying to tag Luger. The crowd eats up the lengthy control segment by the faces. At the 10 minute mark Luger finally gets the tag and enters the match for the first time. He outmuscles Brad Armstrong a couple times and then the place EXPLODES when Brad wins an exchange, dropkicks Luger, and sends him scrambling out of the ring in frustration.
The whole time you know that the Armstrongs really donít have a good chance at winning this match but they really make you root for them. With a few minutes left in the match there is a hot tag to Bob Armstrong and watching him clean house for a few minutes is a joy. Dillon gets involved (which in fairness the Armstrongs kind of had coming) when things break down and the Bob Armstrong goes down for the pin.
This is amazing. These two lovable underdogs that you want to win so bad. And watching Luger, Blanchard, and Dillon get pissed off is hilarious. I had limited context going into this match and they made me care about the outcome over anything else. I usually just hope that the ride to the end is good but within minutes all I wanted to see was for the Armstrongs to win. Itís a great match and they do the most basic stuff. I think there was one dropkick from the top rope. Other than that they were locking in arm bars and doing pretty simple stuff. But it was just so entertaining. I think I found one.
Stagger Lee and Cowboy Bill Watts vs. The Midnight Express w/Jim Cornette
There are a lot of great Midnight Express matches and a lot of them are against teams a lot more well known than their opponents here. Why else is this match added to the Hidden Gems? Iím not entirely sure of the context here as there is no commentary. I assume itís in the South somewhere and I assume the Midnight Express really deserve to get their asses kicked.
This is a blast but Iím not going to say classic. First off, you donít need any commentary when you have a crowd like this. Theyíre fucking electric. Within a minute the place is in a fever pitch. Watts throws these beautiful punches and has both Eaton and Condrey bleeding right away. From there the ass kicking that every living soul in that arena, and me because their responses are infectious, wanted to see. What I loved is that there were three or four points where it looked like the heels were going to take control of the match and every time Watts or Lee (who is Junkyard Dog in a mask it turns out) would cut them off with a beautiful punch to the face. The crowd eats it up and the selling from the Midnight Express is amazing. They seem half dead before they get their first offense of the match.
But of course they take control of the match eventually. And the build to the hot tag for Stagger Lee is really good. The crowd is again at a fever pitch. There is just the feeling of desperation from Watts and the crowd to make the tag. Now Iím going to have to give them some criticism. The crowd ate it up but the control segment on Watts was really just them switching a headlock a couple of times while he tries to crawl across the ring. Look at my review of the match above, you donít need to do a ton of stuff but I would like to see a little more than that.
Whatís weird here is you never actually get the hot tag. They make the tag but the referee doesnít see and then shit just goes crazy. Everyoneís in the ring and Cornette keeps getting involved. His attempts eventually backfire and Eaton (maybe it was Condrey) takes some powder to the face and the Midnight Express lose.
This is really good, the crowd is as good of a crowd as you will ever get. I loved the lack of commentary too because you just get to listen to the crowd. The beatdown early on was perfect. The control segment was OK, the crowd liked it more than me. The hot tag never came and things went wild for less than two minutes before a finish. Fun but not a classic. Also post match they make Jim Cornette wear a diaper (which the crowd also loves).
Mid-Atlantic Championship Match
Roddy Piper vs. Jack Brisco
I really havenít seen that many Piper matches. I know of Jack Brisco and I assume he has to at least be pretty good. On paper there isnít anything that is mind blowing that footage of the match exists. Iím going to assume there was a reason this match was chosen.
Piper is fascinating to watch but this isnít a classic. Youíve got a pre-match segment where Piper has stolen the belt and wonít give it back. He demands $10,000 to face Brisco for the belt. He does it and I assume heís going to be a chicken-shit heel for the match. Thatís not what we see. He does some heelish things (like an eye rake and trying to provoke Brisco) but for the most part Piper doesnít back down. Heís vicious and aggressive while still selling for him. The match might feature the best use of a headlock that youíre going to see. Brisco had one locked in and the longer it was locked in the more Piper would fade. He was desperate to get out and Brisco was adamant to keep it locked it. It looked good and it seemed to matter. It was an important part of the match, not a rest hold.
When Piper does escape his intensity really picks up. I was expecting him to start cheating but he really just takes the fight to Brisco with a few underhand tactics while heís in control. Piperís true character is shown when he gets in trouble. Brisco locks in a sleeper and seems set to win and then Piper cheats to escape the hold. His character reminds me of someone that fights on the streets, heís tough and heís going to win at any cost.
Piper is amazing here while Brisco does what he needs to do as the face. He doesnít show a ton of fire or personality but heís competent in what he does and the crowd liked him. Iím someone that should see more Piper matches and this works as an interesting character study on him and makes for a solid match.
I'm glad I found a really good match to set the standard. It's not going to be an easy one for me to find a random match and have it be better than that tag match. I liked most of what I saw on the Hidden Gems. And there were some matches that I had a tough time skipping. I regret not watching the Funk/Hart match from "Beyond the Mat."
The main take away from this review is to watch the Armstrong/Horsemen tag. Just watch it. If you like older wrestling even a little bit just watch it.