Friday, 2 March 2012

FA Cup Final Day

Welcome back to the blog that's had well 16 hits so far. Well gotta start somewhere.

Today we head out to down to Walthamstow (and 1972) for a a double title day, one the FA Cup, but first the things that really matter. The British Light-Weight title and belt, to be fought over ten, five minute rounds, with two falls, submission, a knock-out or a disqualification to decide the winner. On your left in the blue corner, from Bradford a very young looking defending champion, Jimmy "Crybaby" Breaks. Interestingly never announced as such, his ring name was earned for his reputation of throwing a strop when things where not going his way. In the red corner from Manchester, the challenger Mr. Johnny Saint. Saint in his trademark terrible 70's hair cut which thankfully morphed into a short back and sides by his iconic 80's run. This matched the footballers who where to do battle later on in the day after this pre-taped title match aired.

Cup final day throughout the 1970's and into the '80's was without a doubt and event of epic televisual proportions. Cup final specials abounded, but it was important to wrestling; for one day of the year it would be bumped out of its usual 4pm slot, and secondly it would have the biggest possible audience. Quite frankly cause there was naff all else on. 3 Channels, two showing football, not only football but THE SAME GAME. Enough to make you heave, anything is light relief after or before that. So, over to Kent.


The fact this wasn't the main event blows my mind. As Walton points out later in the commentary Joint Promotions tended not to put title matches on TV, quite sensibly that would hurt the live gate. With closed circuit TV not available yet, no TV equipment of their own to film it (everything was brought in), and no way of disseminating the title matches to their audience in a fee paying manner they had to protect their best stuff. Of course that would also take investment, something British wrestling promoters wouldn't get the hang of for another 40 years.

There is the obligatory title defence hand shake (everyone did this face or heel) and we are off. Breaks does slowly build up to the whining, cheating and cry baby tactics but up till then its what the good people of Walthamstow had come to see a good classical contest. 

At 2.50 in this clip we start to see what Breaks was all about; arms submissions. The Crybaby character was all well and good for selling tickets but it couldn't work in the ring without something vicious to back it up. Jim wanted to win and he wanted to win with the Breaks special, a modified folding arm lever that looked supremely vicious. The only people who have seen tried copying it since are long time rivals in the well trod "stealing the finisher" gimmick of Saint himself later in this match and Steve Grey. Most recently Bryan Danielson attempted it on Johnny Saint at the King of Trios in 2009 yes folks 2009. Johnny Saint has been wrestling that long, and still is. At 72.

Anyways back to the match. Things are going swimmingly for Jim. He starts controlling before losing his grasp on the escapology specialist. The story of this match was quite similar throughout the seventies for a heel champion. He loses cleanly and in humiliating fashion to a well fancied challenger and so has to give up the title shot at some point. The championship advantage of course did not occur under Mount-Evans rules, the belt changed hands on DQ or CO, so it made draw finishes much more useful. Both guys where protected and future rematches would be down the line. But more on the finish later.

Jim Breaks was by this time into his third reign as British Lightweight Champ. As he held it a record ten times we can safely call it "his" belt. A quick flick through the title reigns shows an interesting trend; he always dropped it to wrestlers who where on their way up to different things. The two most notable names on that list being Johnny Saint, soon to be worlds lightweight champion on the retirement of George Kidd and The Dynamite Kid himself on his way to being arguably the greatest British wrestler of all time.

As a fan the one thing I couldn't stand about Breaks was his constant chatter with ringside fans. It drives you up the wall, just as it should of course. The stress in the commentary is the 2-0 win for Saint in the none title bout, this gave a real idea that he could knock off the champ, and the advantage of presenting wrestling as a real sport. Something Ring of Honor do better than anyone at the moment. The momentum then is with the challenger, at 5.35 the temper starts to fray and so we get the tantrum with a well placed handkerchief from a well meaning fan that couldn't have been more appreciated by Jim I'm sure.

From a title perspective Breaks' long and continuous reigns matched a slate of champions from the wrong side of the tracks each promoted differently so as to make sure they meant something different to each division. Breaks was the sneak thief heel who got away with it. By contrast the fans would at least respect Mark "Rollerball" Rocco even if they knew he cheated, but he could go with the best in a straight wrestling style to.All of the champions where top notch for match quality as Saint proves, at 9.45 even Breaks comes out of character with a wry smile to applaud the acrobatics.

Clip three brings the first and what turns out to be the only fall of the match. What happens next is what really stands out for a match of this era. Baring in mind this match was shown on a Saturday morning with the kids off from school, there is a fair amount of blood. First there is the vicious side of Breaks trying to exact revenge on the Saint nose. Then Saint's retaliation for the big pop as Breaks has his nose broken again and bleeds profusely before Breaks snaps and heads out to hurt Breaks with the big bump to the floor. What is remarkable is that both these bleeds appear to be blade jobs.  

The finish of course protects the champion and would lead to another title show down the line for the unfortunate Saint who was 1-0 up when there was a TKO. A nice shot though from the crowd at Jimmy's unprotected skull. The Mutoh Scale was not in effect back then but this wasn't to bad in comparison what my Dad called the "Billy Howes Effect" which was how much Billy Howes could make Kendo Nagasaki bleed on a National TV.
So there you have it grapple fans, the title picture in 1971, but Johnny Saint was going to move onto bigger and better things. If you can't have Great Britain why not go for the world?

Oh yeah Leeds United beat Arsenal 1-0. Given the Leeds (inventive but violent) and Arsenal (boring and violent) sides of the time it was safe to say this wouldn't be the only blood on a May Saturday afternoon.

Have a good time, till the next time.


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