365 Wrestling, Day 19: Rockers vs. New Orient Express (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/19/91)

365 Wrestling, Day 19: Rockers vs. New Orient Express (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/19/91)

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

Like I said a couple of entries ago, I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Royal Rumble and watched them all. As a kid, that meant dad ordering the pay-per-view and watching it together.

So, here’s the thing. I remember ordering the 1991 Rumble. I remember the Rumble match. I remember Virgil finally decking Ted DiBiase. I remember Sgt. Slaughter winning the title. And while I’m sure I saw the opening tag between the Rockers and the Orient Express, well …

Sooo, we’re correcting that today.

You can watch this match on Peacock, by the way.

The Match

By this point, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty have been wrestling the Orient Express dating back to WrestleMania VI. That rivalry’s been going on so long that this is actually the second version of the Express to go against the Rockers. After Akio Sato left the WWF, he was replaced in the team by Kato — aka Paul Diamond, a former longtime partner of Pat Tanaka as Badd Company.

If you like double-team moves in tag matches, or exchanges involving all four wrestlers, then this is the match for you. I won’t spend time trying to recap it all; just go and watch, or rewatch, it for yourself. These two teams pack so much action, innovation and creativity into this match.

The finish is outstanding and worth a deeper dive. The Rockers set up for a Rocket Launcher on Kato, but Tanaka intervenes to break it up and Shawn crashes to the floor from the top rope. The Express isolate Marty, with Kato slingshotting him into a knife-edge chop by Tanaka. They go to repeat the move, but this time Shawn saves the day, decking Tanaka, who doubles over as Kato unknowingly slingshots Jannetty, who catches Tanaka in a sunset flip for the three count. With poorer timing or less talented wrestlers, this would have come off as clunky and overly choreographed. Good execution makes for a slick, seamless culmination.

Roddy Piper joins Gorilla Monsoon on commentary here and adds quite a bit, enthusiastically praising the skill, talent and athleticism of all four competitors. On the few occasions where the action slows down and someone gets put in a hold, Piper is quick to explain how the hold is effective and the strategy behind it. He does everything that an analyst on commentary should do, in my opinion…

Final Rating: 8.9

I definitely have never seen this match before, because the product produced by these four here is unforgettable. I loved this match. They go almost 20 minutes and I could have watched them battle for another 10.

Placement on the card can help, or hurt, a match. Putting this match first was the ideal spot, whipping an already eager pay-per-view crowd into a frenzy. It’s also worth noting how atypical this match was for WWF, especially in this era. A nearly 20-minute match, worked at this pace, with this many big moves and double teams and high spots just didn’t happen in this company, at least in this era.

Looking back, and seeing matches like this, it’s rather astonishing that the WWF never gave the Rockers a run atop the division. All four guys get their chance to shine in this match, but make no mistake, this is really a showcase for the Rockers. It’s celebrated as one of the best undercard matches at a Rumble, and for good reason.

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

What’s Next

We head down Mexico way.

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365 Wrestling, Day 12: Paul London & Brian Kendrick vs. William Regal & Dave Taylor (SmackDown, 1/12/07)

365 Wrestling, Day 12: Paul London & Brian Kendrick vs. William Regal & Dave Taylor (SmackDown, 1/12/07)

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

William Regal is an all-time favorite of mine. He can bust out some smooth technical wrestling, or throw down in a brawl. He’s shined as both a singles and tag wrestler, as a standalone character, part of a group, or in a henchman-type role. While he spent the bulk of his in-ring career as a heel, he did some fine work on the babyface side of things during alliances with Eugene and Tajiri that both led to eventual tag title runs. Within wrestling, there are few who are held in as high regard for their craftsmanship as the native of Blackpool, England, who was released from WWE earlier this month after more than two decades with the company.

Today, we’re taking a look at a match from SmackDown in 2007, where Regal teams with fellow Englishman Dave Taylor to challenge Paul London and Brian Kendrick for the WWE Tag Titles.

You can watch this match on Peacock:

The Match

London and Kendrick have been champs since the previous May, an eight-month reign that already had set the record as the longest run with the titles since they were introduced in 2002 following the first time WWE worked a brand split. They’ve crossed paths with the two Brits a few times before this, and notably in a four-team ladder match titles the prior month at the Armageddon pay-per-view that is worth watching (but not for the squeamish as Joey Mercury suffers a ghastly facial injury).

On this episode of SmackDown, Regal and Taylor approach the champs backstage reminding them this will be a straight-up wrestling match, with no ladders or other shenanigans.

Now to the actual match, where Regal and Taylor play the heel role quite well as a pair of rugged wrestlers with technical skill. They spend the first few minutes feeding into the fast-paced, occasionally high-flying offense of the champions. London and Kendrick have a major size disadvantage and tag frequently. Note the sequence with three straight tags and immediate attacks off the top targeting the back of Regal, punctuated by a London double stomp.

Current fans of WWE are used to sweetened crowd noise by now but it’s become the norm for the blue brand for years. It’s off-putting to hear these big oooh’s and ahhh’s during the hot tag by Kendrick and finishing stretch, while all the fans on camera are sitting there, silent and passive. Regal reverses a cross body by Kendrick into a pin attempt for a convincing near-fall, and shortly thereafter, Kendrick catches Regal in a backslide for the sudden victory. The facial expressions and mannerisms of both challengers selling this sudden and crushing loss are pretty great.

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

Final Rating: 5.0

There’s plenty of good talent in this match and while there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing, there’s also not anything to make it really stand out, either. That said, itt’s something to go back and watch WWE television that is 15 years old and watch a product that looks and feels pretty much the same as the current stuff.

What’s Next

We take a step into the world of joshi.

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365 Wrestling, Day 9: Fabulous Ones vs. Moondogs, Anything Goes (Memphis, 1/9/84)

365 Wrestling, Day 9: Fabulous Ones vs. Moondogs, Anything Goes (Memphis, 1/9/84)

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

There were several different promotions that ran in the area, but when you think of Memphis wrestling, you’e probably talking about the Continental Wrestling Association, when Jerry Jarrett (Jeff’s dad) split away from Nick Gulas.

If you’ve never seen 1980s Memphis wrestling… it’s wild, y’all. The CWA held weekly shows at the Mid-South Coliseum every Monday, and hyped them on TV that aired live on Saturday mornings. Having a major arena event once a week allowed all kinds of creative leeway and wild matches. Win or lose, the story could continue the following week. The TV show often got crazy, with uncontrollable brawls fairly common.

Today, we visit Memphis for the first time (but definitely not the last) in this series, to watch The Fabulous Ones, Stan Lane and Steve Keirn, take on The Moondogs in an Anything Goes Match from January 9, 1984, in the Mid-South Coliseum.

The Fabulous Ones were paired together in 1982 and got an immediate on-camera endorsement from Memphis wrestling legend Jackie Fargo. That propelled them to huge fan favorite status, along with some video packages that, viewed with a modern eye, fall in the so-bad-they’re-good category.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

This type of gimmick would have had the opposite effect today — making Lane and Keirn either a comedy act or huge heels. In Memphis in the 1980s, though, it worked. Making several stints in the promotion, they held tag titles on 17 (!!!) separate occasions. Then again, rapid-fire title changes also were rather common in Memphis, especially with the aforementioned weekly shows at the coliseum.

Now to the match, which you can find on YouTube, or, I’ve embedded it below:

The Match

There were several iterations of the Moondogs through the years, but we’ve got the two main ‘dogs, Moondog Rex and Moondog Spot here. Whatever the combination, the Moondogs always had the same basic premise: rugged-looking dudes with shaggy, bleached-blond hair, cut-off jeans, and a propensity to brawl. The ongoing battle between them led to this match, where anything goes and the referee (Memphis mainstay Paul Morton, Ricky Morton’s dad) doesn’t even step through the ropes, instead remaining ringside.

The Match

Ever seen a wrestling match touted as a huge grudge match, but where the participants start out with basic, traditional wrestling like a collar-and-elbow and a headlock? This… is not that type of match. Rex and Spot jump the Fabs as soon as they reach the ring and a wild brawl ensues. The end result is a variety of wrestling that would make the philosopher Hobbes proud: it’s nasty, brutish, and short. Lance Russell announces an official time of eight minutes once the decision is rendered, and a couple of minutes of footage are trimmed from what is accessible.

What’s here, though, is a hoot from bell to bell. There’s a sense of urgent viciousness and, combined with liberal use of the weapons, the heat is palpable and the Memphis crowd loves every minute of it. After Rex fails to rotate on a backdrop into the timekeeper’s table and just smashes his face into it, Rex brings the heavy wooden table into the ring as another element of plunder. The chaos and carnage continue until the Fabs grab the signature bones of the Moondogs from manager Jimmy Hart. A couple of clubberings with the bones sends the Moondogs fleeing for the exit, and a 10-count by the referee cements victory for the Fabs.

Final Rating: 6.1

This is a lot of fun while it lasts. The intensity of the brawl would be very difficult to sustain in a longer match. This match also provides a fine snapshot of the wild and woolly atmosphere of Memphis wrestling during its heyday in the 1980s.

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

What’s Next

A modern twist on one of the great score-settling gimmicks in wrestling — the dog collar match.

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