Wrestling Gold vol. 1:
Busted Open

I found the set at a good price and not only do I get great VQ Old School, I get easy review content. So over the next few months I'll be doing the series, I'll try to throw other stuff in the mix as well, but I make no promises.

Perhaps the biggest buzz on these discs is the alternate commentary by Jim Cornette and Dave Meltzer. It's interesting, but it doesn't make good wrestling commentary. It's like watching wrestling with your two smarkiest friends. They make very few comments on the match and what they do doesn't aid the suspension of disbelief at all. They do have good history and insight on the specific, but as wrestling commentary, it doesn't work. They don't even talk about how well the wrestlers are working together.

This edition also includes a Shawn Michales bio that is nothing you didn't already know and a fluff bio of Meltzer.

Judy Martin
v.
Sherri Martel

Judy Martin plays the heel with lots of strikes. This match is the youth and energy of Martel taking on the strength and experience of Judy Martin. Transitions come out of Martel's inexperience of Martin's cockiness. Martel wins when she gets a victory roll out of a waist lock. Quite good for what was essentially a throwaway "girls" match.

Shawn Michaels
v.
Ken Johnson

The rookie Michaels wins a squash that isn't even remotely competitive. This would be interesting for a fan of Michaels, but I'm not.

Gino Hernandez & Tully Blanchard
v.
The Grapplers

An exciting and well paced match. Both teams are traditionally heels but the crowd is solidly behind the Dynamic Duo (Hernandez/Blanchard). Both teams wind up doing a face in peril segment or two as well. There's Duo miscommunication early on as Hernandez tries to break a full nelson with a rabbit punch, but Grappler turns around and Blachard gets punched instead. The only thing I don't like about this match are Hernandez's spinny kicks, Dusty-esque elbows and overdone punches. After a bit more Duo problems Hernandez drives a Grappler into Blachard, knocking Tully off the apron and allowing Hernandez to get the O'Connor roll-up for the pin and the belts, but Tully decides that his belt would look better implanted in Gino's skull.

Post-match sees Gino recover from a Tully attack and then a Grapplers beat-down. A new top face is born. Ref Jack Howe makes this segment great by picking up the other tag belt (Gino's holding his aloft at the end) as if to hand it to someone before throwing it down out of frustration with the whole situation.

Hernandez
v.
Blanchard
w/ guest ref: boxer Ernie Shavers

This match, of course, is the fallout of the last one. I started to like this match, but there's a big problem. Blanchard works the crowd and ref as a heel, but Hernandez attacks Blanchard with the ring bell and bites his bleeding forehead. Shavers predictably punches out Tully for the Hernandez win. If you ask me, Tully looks a lot more sympathetic by the end.

Adrian Adonis
v.
Bob Orton

Before we start I want to clarify that this was before Adonis was adorable and before Orton developed a nagging arm injury. This match help those who don't understand the problem people have with these gimmicks realize why people hate Vince McMahon so much.

Lou Thesz makes an announcement that the winner will be a new World Heavyweight Champion and receive Thesz's belt that dates back to the National Wrestling Association days. Not only am I happy to see Thesz because I'm a Thesz mark, but I know that Orton and Adonis will make damn sure they don't have a bad match in front of him.

Adonis starts the match by going for a standing armbar, but Orton reverses and holds it in tight. Adonis begins to reverse that and they go to a clinching stalemate which Orton wins, showing his dominance in standing grappling.

Adonis has to back Orton into the corner to break the hold. As soon as Orton releases, Adonis sends him into the other corner and follows up with a beautiful flying headscissors, made all the more amazing by Adonis's definitely-not-a-junior physique.

Adonis holds the headscissors on the ground and Orton flails about trying to get out, all the traditional methods coming up short. When Orton does escape, he tries for a chinlock but Adonis simply rolls it into a hammerlock, establishing Adonis's superiority on the mat.

Orton makes it to his feet enventually and is then able to reverse the hammerlock into a couple of snapmares. A third snapmare is turned into a backslide by Adonis for two.

This is a wrestling match.

They circle again and Orton fakes a collar and elbow and gets a drop toehold that he floats into an armbar. Adonis armdrags out of it, and goes off the ropes. He tries to hit another flying headscissors, but Orton catches him, so Adonis gets a rollup instead. Simply put, a beautiful exchange.

They circle and Adonis takes Orton down with a hammerlock. This time he bases himself while lying on his side instead of kneeling, making it harder for Orton to force him to his feet. The downside of the position is that Orton can roll out of the hammerlock and then force Adonis to his feet. Orton whips Adonis into the ropes and a brief exchange leads to Orton hitting a monkey-flip and then grabs an armbar.

Adonis gets to his feet and runs Orton into the corner, but Orton holds on to the arm and drives Adonis down. Orton works his body over and gets a carny looking armbar/headscissors combo and a pain that looks painful for Adonis to kick out of. He does and he begins to slip out of the armbar, so Orton drives a knee into his shoulder.

Orton brings it to his feet where Adonis backs him into the ropes and Irish whips him. This time Orton gets a shoulder block, two shoulder blocks, but a third attempt puts Orton on the receiving end of a reverse atomic drop and a two count.

Adonis tries a splash from the ropes, but Orton gets his knees up. Orton makes it to his feet first and hits an elbow drop for two. Adonis tries the O'Connor rollup for two and Orton lays in strikes, targeting Adonis's head wound from a previous match.

Adonis turns the tide by throwing off Orton during a cross corner charge but a cross corner whip is reversed and Adonis flips into the turnbuckles. Orton sets Adonis up for a superplex, but Adonis fights off and comes off the ropes with an axe-kick.

They run the ropes and collide. Both men make it to their feet at the same time and a wild swing by Orton gives Adonis the chance to get him in the sleeper hold.

Orton escapes by diving into the ropes, both men are nearing the end of their reserves. Adonis gets his sleeper again, but Orton reverses it. It works because Adonis just tried the hold and it's been established that Orton is superior on his feet.

Adonis throws him off and it works because the sleeper is his hold. Orton tries a small package and Adonis reverses it for the pin. It works because Adonis is better on the mat.

Simply put, a great match. The lack of commentary even may have acted as an aid to the work. Why couldn't they just put the tournament on the DVD and forget the rest?

Bruiser Brody
v.
Abdullah The Butcher

These two have a rather listless crowd brawl that's joined in progress and ends out of nowhere and is no different from any number of garbage indy brawls, even if the two participants are capable of better. I guess the people putting this together figured they needed something to bring down the wrestling fans and please the vampires who were bored by all that boring wrestling and psychology.

Larry Zybisco
v.
Scott Casey

We join the match in progress during a standing stalemate that Zybisco works around and turns into a headlock. Zybisco is not in stall mode here and he grinds away at the chinlock making it look painful. Very good back and forth with Casey's power going against Zybisco's skill and treachery. Casey gets a sleeper but Zybisco takes it to the corner where he hits the double-leg into a rope-assisted pin.

Post match Blanchard comes out to congratulate Zybisco and Eric Embry comes out to complain about the pin. Zybisco protects his win by attacking Embry and the heels take out the faces until Stan Hansen shows up.

Jerry Lawler
v.
Bob Sweetan

Apparently Lawler was the innovator of the twenty-minute promo, only he called it "a match". Painful Memphis stall-o-rama that makes me wish evil things on Lawler, so I guess it did work in terms of getting Lawler heel heat.

Terry Funk & Ivan Putski
v.
Hernandez & Blanchard

This match is more of an angle that was probably included so the people who put the DVD together could include Funk's name on it. It predates the earlier Blachard/Hernandez matches on the tape, as the team never reformed.

What little of the JIP match is here isn't bad. Funk accidentally bumps Jack Howe and you see Howe almost call for the bell, but decide against it. He pulls Funk off a trapped-in-the-ropes Blanchard but Tully takes them both out.

The ensuing brawl sees Ricky Morton make an unofficial three count on Blanchard. The Dynamic Duo then take Morton out until Ken Lucas makes the save. Obviously this was meant to transfer the title feud from Funk/Putski to Morton/Lucas.

Dick Slater
v.
Mongolian Stomper

If you ask me, this match is all about the Stomper. He's just a tall guy with an atletic build and taped up ears, but every movement he makes looks unhuman. Stomper uses a clawhold, but his grotesque facials make it seem so much more. You believe Stomper is a monster because he acts like one, using a body language you just don't see. Despite this being a cage match with the face going over, a post-match brawl suggests that the issue isn't settled. Good cage match brutality. I need to see more Stomper.

Bruiser Brody
v.
Nick Bockwinkle

This match could be great. Brody is willing to work with Bockwinkle, so you know it should be great. Throw in Lou Thesz as guest ref and Bobby Heenan in Bockwinkle's corner and nothing should get in the way of a great match.

Unfortunately, two things do. Editing gets in the way as the match is joined very far in progess, so much so that both men are selling fatigue. Also, politics get in the way, so instead of an ending Bockwinkle just picks up his AWA belt and goes home.

What's there only serves to add to the dissapointment.

Overall thoughts:

The Orton/Adonis match is worth the price of the tape alone. There's also plenty of good-to-great stuff with the only lowlight being Jerry Lawler (I'm not going to even suggest that Sweetan deserves blame for it as well).

What impressed me most overall is Jack Howe. Normally I'm of the opinion that the refs should barely be seen, but Howe actually aids the matches he's in, few refs do. Well, few refs notably add to the match in a visible manner, perhaps there are refs who add to the match that I don't notice. If that's the case, they're even better.

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©2001 by the author