Sunday, 18 March 2012

Six of the Best; Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Welcome back grapple fans, last time we looked at the iconic match that made both Mark Rocco and Marty Jones big players in the UK mat game. So how did they do after that? Well they both left the British title scene behind and moved on to world titles at Heavy Middleweight and Mid Heavyweight respectively. This was really the icing on the cake that proved they could deliver the goods against any opponent they may come up against. But obviously they couldn't wrestle each other all the time, what was needed was some occasional spark to liven things out of the the non title match gloom. Marty had the perfect opponent waiting for him at Mid-Heavyweight; we shall look at that legendary series next time. However this week we welcome back someone missing from the UK scene for a while. The Dynamite Kid was in Calgary building a reputation as a stellar worker, and was easily ranked by no less an authority that Stu Hart as "The man who made the most money for Stampede Wrestling." His icon status was still a way off though in the early eighties and between matches for Stu and his trips to Japan to build the biggest legacy of his career with Tiger Mask he had to time to fly home and put in a few favours for old friends like Mark Rocco and Marty Jones.

This is one of those favours, a late night booking while visiting parents. It features numerous things that had become hallmarks to their styles, but equally the changing approach in British wrestling from week to week booking, who wins wins with no consequence or reason and TV matches do not matter to, I-have-to-watch -next-week-to-see-what-happens-booking. And they did, a 1981 card from Cleethorpes Memorial Hall would undoubtedly mean a match from one of the six with a possible import like Dynamite or Bret Hart. Hard to think that my local wrestling hall was in the best in the world, but for artistic impact and legacy nothing beats Cleethorpes.

So seconds away . . .

The state of the art chain wrestling that starts this bout could not last for long. To much heat to be had and to much story to tell. The shared qualities of Rocco and Dynamite are already showing not long after the bell, Dynamites not-far-from-heel persona that carried him through his occasional visits gave him a reputation as a tough guy who would stand up to bullying in the ring. There was no way Rocco could out manoeuvre him in the story of this bout because Dynamite would just hit harder, very well then  Rocco shall have to hit harder to. None of their matches from this period are what you could term slow. This one has the chain wrestling start and the easily riled Rocco is swift to move onto the dirty tactics, heat getters true but there for a purpose. The story of the Rocco Jones matches where that Jones was susceptible to Rocco's attack, the story of these matches was that Dynamite was willing to cheat to win as well, which would serve him well in his occasional matches with Marty Jones as he had to turn full on heel to be able to put together an entertaining match. What is interesting is that they do announce the Kid as the World Junior Heavyweight Champion, a title he was not to win for another three years, or maybe they meant the Stampede Mid-Heavyweight title which Stu made up when Dynamite couldn't take the NWA belt from Nelson Royal. Anywho, back to the match. Kent does mention his trips to Japan claiming that Dynamite would be wrestling Antonio Inoki, which I don't think he did but I am sure he woudl have gone out of his way to make the boss look this good. Kent would of course been struggling to fin Japanese names familiar to UK fans, before the days of video and tap trading what you saw is what you got. it was another four seven years before anyone ever saw any WWE in the UK and another nine before WCW made it to these shores on TV. We thought what we where seeing was the best in the world because we where told so. Looking back now the commentators where not far wrong. Certainly we had some of the best workers, but would these matches work in Japan? Yes. North Carolina? Possibly. Memphis? Probably not. In fact Dynamite was once asked to go with Davey to Memphis for a series of matches after impressing Jerry Lawler and Jimmy Valiant in the All Japan Real World Tag League Tournament not long after this match. Dynamite replied, "I am not being funny Jerry but have you got anyone as good as the boys there because we can't do the same things with them as we can with these guys." Tape does exist of one match between The Bull Dogs and the Rock N Roll Express that would be Dynamites only venture into Southern style wrestling, even then it was in the AWA.

Going into round two tempers are at fever pitch and Dynamite hits out. Rocco in response heads to the top rope, this is slightly bizarre to see Dynamite, the man who brought high risk to the WWF hampered by the rules of Mountevans, thankfully referee the venerable Max Ward is oblivious enough to proceedings and let them go. Rocco gets his first public warning as he gigs away at Dynamite to get a cut going, a desperation move on Rocco's part. The pay off has to come though and dynamite heads into his comeback with a vicious looking posting . . .

The fact is British fans where not used to seeing faces be this tough. Dynamite was used to giving more to get a response in both Calgary and Tokyo so when he came home and wrestled the same style in front of UK fans it truly was something special. Even the top faces where gentleman, but Dynamite a heel everywhere else but here, knew how to get his hands dirty. Max Ward's interest in the cut above Dynamites eye is a potent warning of things to come. However the first fall comes out of nowhere after Dynamite is back on the defensive he produces a series of moves that are now world famous, Diving Head butt, posting, Belly to Back in a crisp series worthy of the legend.  And that is it, rather disappointingly, Dynamites cut is to bad to continue, yeah of course it is. Anyway, it protects Rocco, gives Dynamite the upper hand for when he comes back, if he comes back, and you have a ready made feud. If only he wanted to come visit his Dad while we have this hot angle by accident . . .  what's that you say you're coming home? Are you doing anything Friday?


Slap and tickle before the bell you say? Why why not Sir, and we are off and running. If anything this one is even stiffer, and judging by the hair a little before Dynamites famous shaven headed 1983 WWF Jr. Heavy tittle win. A title both men would hold. So we are off and running straight away, cheating, back drops stiff postings just where they left off. The disadvantage to these matches from a promoters point of view was how conservative it made everything else look. How could they compete? Rocco never took a step back neither did Dynamite and they where wrestling each other for what was essentially fun, they where helping each other out so they went hell for leather every time. But when you are wrestling for £15 a night why would you risk everything? Of course everyone can get carried away. Dynamite seems to forget the rules for a moment and delivers a beautiful series of floor attacks which gets him his first public warning. In Round 1. This is going to get hard fast. Things build to a crescendo in round two as Rocco piles on the punishment, first getting a public warning for his trouble, his second in round two, before building up to the double suplex finish that has the fans oohing and ahhing as no one had ever seen anyone get dropped on the top rope before but then would have thought of that bump before?

So the first fall is Rollerball, the Maniac, the Mean Machine Mark Rocco. A man with so much personality needs many names. The legit stitches shown off by Rocco go to show tough the six had made the British game at this point. The Dynamite comeback features the missed posting defence that cause Rocco the stitches in the first place, again showing his incredible resilience and lack of fear, much needed when Dynamite drops knees like that. Crowned with a now everyday Belly to Back suplex Dynamite shows his viciousness. Leaving Rocco in a bloody heap on the floor is a good way of being forgiven for leaving. Hopefully the Rock can do the same to John Cena. The vicious assault continues as Dynamite heads for the finish taking Rocco with him. His NJPW finishing sequence is of course illegal here but he uses it to good effect and puts Rocco away with a side suplex to seal the deal and set up the rematch should Dynamite come home.

These matches where of course few and far between. As good 'Ole JR stated on Legends of wrestling this week. Promoters hate having a big blow off because they feared a dip afterwards. When Bill Watts built towards the Superdome shows that made so much money for Mid South, he factored in there would be an inevitable drop off in interest and would have to start rebuilding programmes. 

So to add some suspense we shall look at that match another time, but next week we get to see one of my all time favourite feuds, one I got to see in person and lead me to be the wrestling fan I am today.

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