Friday, August 15, 2008
Why We Watch, Exhibit O
Kids, it's time for Arabian Facebuster to take a brief respite from our award winning coverage of Larry Nelson's litany of indulgences, Rocky Mountain Thunder's clothesline delivering prowess, and the forthcoming 36 hour Teddy Hart documentary (produced by Ken Burns and coming this fall to a public broadcasting station near you) and bring you another installment of our tribute to professional wrestling's very best.
In this edition, we pay homage to the well executed face/heel turn (as opposed the abrupt/hastily conceived and seemingly baseless face/heel turn which continues to be a staple of today's whimsical sports entertainment programming, an unfortunate and lingering byproduct of the Attitude/Monday Night Wars era). The clip above also features a pantheon of "Why We Watch..." honorees -- Ric Flair, Tulsa Welding School's most famous dropout "Cap'n Redneck" Dick Murdoch, Mid South Sports, and the eventually to be inducted Ted DiBiase.
The premise here is rather straightforward (hence its beauty and lasting impact): Ric(k) Flair's in town to defend the NWA World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship against Ted DiBiase, one of the territory's top heels (and possibly the Mid South/North American Heavyweight Champion at this point in time). Dick Murdoch, DiBiase's trainer and mentor, feels slighted that he hasn't gotten a shot to wrestle for the world title. Instead of doing the admirable thing as far as kayfabe/storyline reasoning are concerned and challenging Flair for a match the next time he's in the territory or petitioning NWA President Bob Geigel for a shot at the belt, Murdoch decides to take out his grievances on DiBiase with a swift and violent beat down which causes him to gush buckets and buckets of that beautiful blood. Hoss Alert: In no condition to wrestle, DiBiase is helped to the back by top-territory babyface Dr. Death Steve Williams. Cementing his face turn, DiBiase emerges from the dressing room still disoriented and heavily taped up, with the blood seeping through his bandages, but refusing to forfeit his shot at the World Title.
The Flair-DiBiase match is an absolute classic and just a notch below Flair's 1989 trilogy with Steamboat and on par with his most talked about confrontations with Barry Windham during 1986/1987 as far as what I would consider Flair's best in-ring performances. They really "clicked" together in the ring. While the viewer is only given fragments of the contest, to the clip uploader's credit he keeps the hardest hitting, most pivotal sequences in tact and preserves the ebb and flow, back-n-forth nature of the action. Flair absolutely punishes his already wounded opponent with his arsenal of chops, stiff fists, kicks, suplexes, and tosses out onto the concrete floor of the Shreveport, Louisiana Irish McNeil Boys Club, all of it executed with a sense urgency, aggressiveness, and ruthlessness that you would expect from a ring technician the caliber of the DPITG (especially after what transpired earlier in the program) but that still makes you feel sheer elation as you watch him deliver it. Despite his raging head trauma, DiBiase is resilient, taking all that Flair can give and dishing out his own diversified, workman-like move set.
Seemingly on the brink of a world title, DiBiase attempts to again lock Flair in the figure-four. Flair makes a desperate counter by kicking DiBiase out of the ring, his head bouncing off the steel guard rail, knocking him unconscious. And then, in an act of heeldom so chickenshit that it makes fan agitating craftsmen like Tully Blachard and Gino Hernandez seem as diabolical as Krazy Kane or sneaky as Soldat Ustinov by comparison, Murdoch delivers a brainbuster to DiBiase's skull on the concrete floor. If I could travel back in time to 1985 right now and (a) wait in the parking lot after the matches and attack Dick Murdoch with metal pipe as he tries to unlock his vehicle; (b) buy a ticket to see DiBiase gain his revenge; or (c) prevent Larry Nelson from taking that first snort of cocaine, rest assured Arabian Facebuster nation, I would in a heartbeat.
My only minor quibble: the video editor went with some blowzy, quasi-inspirational schlock rock instead of the angular, nervy, cathartic sounds of Fugazi's "Cassavetes" or Wire's "Lowdown" as the accompanying soundtrack.
Enjoy one of the finest angles and matches in professional wrestling history.
Update 8/12/10: The original (music) video was taken down...so I have uploaded a high video quality version of the actual high quality match for you to marvel at.