Monday, 11 June 2012

Oh when the Saint . . .

So it’s been a while; this partly due to my commitments at Bomcast, and partly due to my diligence in watching lots of lovely DVD’s from the fine people at Rudo Reels and Smart Mark Video. These things of course feed into one another. So when I left you all hanging I was going to break down how All Star became dominant and left Joint in its wake. My watching of Smart Mark DVD’s has led me into re-watching a lot of Johnny Saint. His performance at Chikara’s Chikarasaurus Rex last year (at the age of 71 I may add) was incredible. This was partly down to a red hot crowd in Reading, Pennsylvania who adored his match with Johnny Kidd, but also the incredibly knowledgeable and respectful fans of South Philly. They always loved their wrestling. They just liked their blood and guts as well. And so it was that in a place where Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho and Rey Misterio broke the US market wide open for pure wrestlers Johnny Saint and Johnny Kidd reinvigorated their somewhat dormant careers, with the help of Mike Quakenbush and Colt Cobana . So where does this fit in with how All Star broke the Saturday afternoon mould? Take a look at this.

This is late eighties and classic All Star presentation; a catch weight contest between two of the top drawing cards in the country. Something Joint would never have done. Brian Dixon ensured that the TV was there to support the live gate not replace it. He built feuds in the arenas from feuds he had going for him on TV. The episodic cliff hanger format that was pioneered by Bill Watts presented with an original twist. The pre-match interview favoured Dave Finlay, always ahead of his time. The subtle and down played reply by Johnny Saint belies an incredible voice that if you listen to his Art of Wrestling Podcast is both insightful, funny and warm. What really paid of though is what happens between the ropes. The short format three minute rounds, championship style, kind of cuts into the flow, but the bell goes and we have the classic roles of heel and face played out. Dave’s stall and taunt tactics give a nice pace to the match, his minimalist style goes against the grain of Johnny’s all action outings. The Sandman (a technical wizard if ever there was one) once recounted how Dave, then working as a road agent for WWE, didn’t like a match because someone had taken to many bumps. He then proceeded to have a one bump match to prove his point. Everything makes sense.

And of course with Dave being full on heel, Johnny can relax and go on being viciously effective full on face, something the Philly fans did not see. Note the torque on the whip at 1:26. Of course Dave has not really evolved his style much in the ring over the years. He has just got more vicious. His chilling promo for his Ring of Honor match with Roderick Strong at Border Wars attests to which basically boiled down to “Finlay’s coming” attests to that. Paula of course always attracted white hot heat from the crowd, but its Dave who seals the deal in the ring; the bemused heel chasing ghosts and of course when you get frustrated resort to punches. Punching was so looked down up on and was almost an instant DQ in the British ring because rules still mattered. Throwing a punch was enough to get major heat and Dave’s perfect hidden deliveries. So the story goes on; the heel gets mad so the face gets even madder. This is Johnny’s downfall as he slips into the Celtic Cross.

Round four brings us back to action Johnny sells the Celtic Cross very believably, as with much of everything he did; his usual matches against smaller opponents where usually affairs of escape and defence, he had plenty of chances to seal the submissions and pin falls so when he really got hit with something big he looked perfect. Moderation is the key after all. The escape and release style resurfaces as Johnny hits his second wind. Simplicity is the key as Johnny takes down Dave Finlay with a School boy. As Kent Walton rightly says “all done with speed”, in fact the only thing missing from Chikarasaurous Rex was Kent Walton’s commentary; however he was mentioned in passing. I would have dearly loved to have heard him commentate on the singles match. The other issue of this time was camera presentation. The low camera shot from the side of the ring was something new, but it also helped impact of each moved to be presented in a much more hard hitting way. What is also amazing is that the one big bump of the match happens so late. These two men had the crowd oohing and ahhing without leaving their feet that often. This says a lot for their ability. Doing the most with minimal effort, this had an impact on their careers in that both are wrestling to a very high level twenty five years later. There is a somewhat anti climatic ending to the bout which manages to achieve a lot and could only happen in a British ring. Dave keeps his heat as a heel and his dominance as a larger man; Johnny retains his heat as a face by losing in less than perfect circumstances. Everyone’s a winner. Certainly All Star fans where. Joint fan’s not so much. They had to deal with this.

Which would you rather watch? I shall at this point give a shameless plug to those folks at Rudo Reels, not for any other reason other than they are supportive of wrestling, offer great value and give incredible service. I strongly recommend their download service which can build your collection cheaply and effectively. A word of warning though it’s addictive. I’d start with their excellent Luche Libre sampler which has some mid nineties classics and shows the growth of AAA, EMLL and the careers of Rey Misterio, Psycosis and La Parka and is free. Have a good week, till next week.

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