365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

The original plan for this January 23 entry was to watch an I Quit Match betwixt Terry Funk and Eddie Gilbert from the very early days of ECW in 1993. I don’t want to speak ill of The Funker (a top-10-of-all-time talent, in my opinion… at minimum) or Gilbert, who I also enjoy, but I just couldn’t get through the match. Call it circumstance, call it bias, call it a sequence of unfortunate events, but I found myself waving the white flag on the 30-plus minute video despite repeated attempts.

And so, like Kansas City in Super Bowl LV, I punted. In searching for a replacement entry, I stumbled upon this match pitting Ricky Morton and Brad Armstrong against one another in singles action. I’ve written before about how unique matchups appeal to me (like this one and this other one), and I certainly don’t recall many instances where these two met in singles action.

You can find this match on YouTube, and I’ve embedded it here:

The Context

Morton and Armstrong previously were some of the top talent for Smoky Mountain Wrestling, which closed down in November of 1995. Armstrong actually dropped the SMW Title to Tommy Rich during the final set of shows. As the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, Morton and Robert Gibson were fixtures in Smoky Mountain for most of the promotion’s 3 1/2-year run, winning the tag titles there 10 times. Based on my research, Armstrong hadn’t wrestled much since SMW closed its doors, while Morton had spent most of his time working for the USWA in Memphis but also spending some time in Germany.

Here, they’re wrestling for a promotion called IPW Pro Wrestling, the first — and, as it turns out, only — event held under that banner. This event happened at O’Sullivan’s, a bar in Asheville, NC. Al Getz, a longtime manager and commentator in the Southeast and Friend of the Blog, ran this show. If you enjoy this project, you definitely want to check out his current efforts at Charting The Territories.

Morton’s long been celebrated for his skill and ability inside the ring, and he’s still very active on the independent scene, even making a few appearances for All Elite Wrestling and busting out Canadian Destroyers like that’s just a thing 64-year-olds do. Armstrong, who died in November of 2012, has long been celebrated within wrestling as an extremely gifted and highly underrated talent.

The Match

This is promoted as a good, clean wrestling match between a pair of fan favorites and instead becomes the tale of the slow, subtle, decline of Morton’s ethics to end up the full-blown heel. A beloved fan favorite for the vast majority of his career, Morton completes this transformation in less than 10 minutes. It starts when Morton has Armstrong backed into a corner in a lock up, then delivers a short knee to the midsection. They tie up again, and this time Morton delivers a slap rather than make a clean break. Mere moments later, Morton is bending every rule he can and breaking some. He pulls hair. He manipulates the fingers of Armstrong, then stomps on his hand. He goes after Armstrong’s eyes. Meanwhile, Armstrong becomes exceedingly frustrated.

Brad makes his comeback shortly before the 10-minute call, and shortly after, it’s all over, as Morton sweeps Armstrong’s legs out from under him, folding him up for the pin and putting his feet on the ropes for the assist. It’s an abrupt finish that leaves you wanting more, and the suddenness is underscored by the referee making the three count at a significantly higher pace than other pin attempts — a longstanding pet peeve of mine when it comes to wrestling.

Random Thoughts

— You would be hard-pressed to find a more intimate setting for a match than this bar in Asheville. This added to the “rare find” feel for me when I initially found this online.

— The lead commentator (Chance Williams, aka Steve Martin from NWA Wildside, in a nugget of information provided by the esteemed Mr. Getz) does a good job mentioning how IPW doesn’t have a 20-count when wrestlers are outside the ring. Such little twists to differentiate one promotion from the others are always a good idea.

Final Rating: 5.8

This is a fine example of a good, solid, well-worked wrestling match. Everything that happens has a purpose, and everything that both guys do means something. I think it’s definitely something young and new wrestlers should check out, particularly how Morton cuts off multiple attempts at a comeback by Armstrong and does so simply and effectively to halt Armstrong’s momentum. Had the match built to more of a finish, the rating would have been significantly higher. As it is, it feels like these two were waiting for the 10-minute call and just wrapped up as soon as possible.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

Lucha libre steals the show on pay-per-view.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.

3 thoughts on “365 Wrestling, Day 23: Ricky Morton vs. Brad Armstrong (IPW, 1/23/96)

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