Sunday, 25 March 2012

Six of the Best; Out of Towners

Moving away form the last Japanese obsessed edition we can now head back to Europe for our next instalment of Bus Man's Holiday. By the early nineties Dave Finlay had built a reputation for hard work and heeldom that had moved beyond these shores. Like Dynamite, Jones and Davey Boy he to was now a NJPW regular. His greater regular touring income though came from the NJPW affiliated Catch wrestling promotion of Austria, owned by former AWA champion Otto Wanz. The promotion had been a holding post for wrestlers from all over the world for years. Its annual tournament attracted huge crowds and hungry competitors from all over the world. This tournament taking place in 1990 featured another Wigan graduate Steve Wright who liked the place so much he got married and brought up a family and son future WCW star Alex Wright later to be the ill advised Berlyn. By this point Dave was well respected in the UK and now without a TV deal he was looking for work elsewhere that would eventually lead him to WCW and the WWE as an in ring talent and producer. However lets head back a few years to when Sting was just getting the big push, Hulk Hogan was still eating vitamins saying prayers and starting his downhill slide into WCW.

As mentioned before Steve was a classically trained British wrestler and it shows in the opening exchanges here. He was also a huge fan favourite as heard in this clip. Dave was still the ultimate heel. The Mount Evans style rules in CWA meant some more European style wrestling, the referee's whistle is blooding annoying though. The change in culture is to the size of audience, everything seems more deliberate than in a UK hall, but its clear that as for getting sympathy for the good guy Dave is the man. He makes everything look great and as hard hitting as it is supposed to be. Steve for his part wrestles a very straight up match in an English style. The slow motion with sound things are awesome and WWE should bring them back soon. What does surprise me is that no one bothered to put commentary on this, I guess the moves call themselves. This is a very good example of doing more with less, if the audience do not need that much to get the going why do it? This audience clearly love their interaction, all Dave has to do is play the inferior cheat to get over.


In fact Steve cheats more than Dave does. Cheating is popular in Austria apparently. As are incredibly slow three counts. The rules do have a little more leeway, but even Dave can't get away with beating up Steve between rounds. As the crowd erupts after the pile driver, its easy to see how Dave may prefer this to chasing Jushin Liger round the ring all night in Tokyo. This style of more through less meant a much longer career for him and when he finally did die his hair blonde it was with good reason; a for a long overdue push for a world wide company in WCW and then the WWE. Skull Murphy by contrast never really did much outside of the UK. He was however handed someone to wrestle who, as discussed last time, had a major influence on professional sports. Like Saturo Sayama before him Akira Maeda was sent to these shores for seasoning before his main event push in NJPW began. To get the bout into super over territory, Maeda is billed as Kwik Kik Lee, brother of Sammy Lee (Saturo Sayama), confused yet? This wonderful piece of jingoism was at least positive jingoism. Not far from “they all look the same”, but let us digress. Kwik Kik, and I love how Kent Walton tries to sell that as his real name, was on a tour that would proceed his push and subsequent falling out with the management in NJPW, Skull was the rising heel star, sounds like good ingredients lets take a look;


Skull, the shaven headed tearaway, (talk about do what it says on the tin) is somewhat over matched here in striking, but has the edge in submission. As the introductions and opening exchanges prove, Akira is over like gang busters. It was quite odd that while in the states the Japanese characters where always portrayed as heels in the UK they where often portrayed as the good guy, basically because they brought in something different. Their high skill sets where used to put more into a match and that demanded them to be cheered. The shout and stall tactics of the heels kept the pace slow enough to keep the moves special as Skull employs here. Clearly Skull's counter work is exemplary, but he never really got chance to show it that much. His job was to get people riled up and that's what brought him to the dance, so why change? The age old tale of the heel getting slowly frustrated before breaking out into a full on rule breaking extravaganza. This was controlled by the always vocal Peter Zachash, one of the most recognisable referees in the UK. I always liked his no nonsense style which made things much more realistic. The stalling continues which builds the tension of the match to frenzy, but we are not at frenzy stage yet. This contrasts so deeply with NJPW it is hard to see what Maeda is getting out of it. There the slow burn style didn't really need heels or faces, the story lines where not about revenge, always competition. Still different styles require different approaches and more experience anywhere is useful. Maeda's kicks are something different though, pretty stiff for the time, Skull takes them with aplomb. The over the top rope bump leads to Skull showing his agility with the suicide dive to the inside that backfires. The climax to the round brings the first public warning for Murphy, usually a sign things are going to heat up. In the big face/heel confrontations the crowd loved guys who would give as good back as they got, as seen with Marty Jones and Dynamite, Akira had learnt this lesson well.

Akira showing no mercy uses the ropes on Skull's injured arm, the classic turn-about-is-fair-play angle that drove a lot of the top line matches at the time. Though Akira to understood comedy could go a long way, the legs splits hold was a favourite of Les Kellet and older grapplers. This subversion of it raises a laugh but asks the interesting question; how much better prepared where Japanese wrestlers of the time? Well with Karl Gotch hitting you with a stick every time you did something wrong, very well prepared indeed. The Steamboat like flying chop, leg lariat back drop combination is enough to get a pin. Usually in British matches the story was always a series of moves rather than one big finisher. Skull and Marty Jones where in the process of changing that culture with their submission finishers. This helped story telling because as in this match Skull is working the neck so he can hit the Gator finisher. He does and it ends the fall. This reasoning behind certain moves came from the submission story telling style of the Wigan wrestlers and harks back to the original days of catch as catch can. A submission meant the end and a decisive result. Murphy argues with the crowd to get counted out. This really doesn’t happen often enough in my opinion. Sadly the booking of some matches reach surreal levels of ineptitude, but it did protect Skull's image some what.

Next time there will be one more round the world trip from Bus Man's holiday, and the last six of the best for a while. Thank you though for sharing some of my favourite stories from six of my favourite wrestlers. The time after the next time we will head back into the deep dark mists of time and watch more of the evolution of how Saturday afternoons should always be.

Have a good time, till the next time.

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