365 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.
Brad Armstrong is a wrestler’s wrestler. He’s celebrated within pro wrestling for his high level of skill in the ring, and seen as one of the prime examples of an extremely talented wrestler who never received a real chance.
It’s hard to believe that, this November, it will be 10 years since Armstrong’s death.
For this installment of 365 Wrestling, we take a look at one of his matches in a rather unique environment: against Ricky Morton for IPW Pro Wrestling in Asheville, NC, on January 23, 1996.
You can find this match on YouTube, and I’ve embedded it here:
This match happened a couple of months after the closure of Smoky Mountain Wrestling, where Morton and Armstrong were both top guys. They’re working here for IPW Pro Wrestling, which is running its 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.
The commentators present this as a good, clean wrestling match between a pair of fan favorites. Instead, we witness the tale of the slow, subtle, decline of Morton’s ethics to end up the full-blown heel. Moreover, Morton completes this transformation in less than 10 minutes, taking one shurtcut after another. Midway through the match, 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 for the eyes. Meanwhile, Armstrong’s frustration builds.
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. The sudden result is underscored by the referee making the three count at a much quicker pace than other pin attempts — a longstanding pet peeve of mine when it comes to wrestling.
Final Rating: 5.8
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. This is a fine example of a good, solid, well-worked wrestling match. Everything that happens has a purpose. 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. The finish left me lacking. It feels like these two were waiting for the 10-minute call and just wrapped up as soon as possible.
Lucha libre steals the show on pay-per-view.