For this edition of Cinnamon Toast Punch (everyone’s favorite accompaniment for those cold Pop Tarts that you wolf down every morning before work) I am pleased to bring you ten (count ‘em … ten!) selected matches from WWE’s recent “History of the World Title” DVD. Let’s hope some of these matches have held up over time … unlike the milk in your fridge that expired weeks ago.
1) Best of Three Falls Match: Pat O’Connor vs. Buddy Rogers (Chicago, June 1961) – 7
2) Ric Flair vs. Magnum T.A. (AWA Superclash ‘85, 9/28/85) – 5
3) Ron Simmons vs. Vader (WCW, 8/2/92) – 5
4) Human Cage Match: Ricky Steamboat vs. Vader (WCW Saturday Night, 10/16/93) – 5
5) Jeff Jarrett vs. Booker T (WCW Bash at the Beach 2000) – 4
6) Chris Jericho vs. The Rock (WWF No Mercy 2001) – 6
7) Rob Van Dam vs. Triple H (WWE Unforgiven 2002) - 7
8) Kurt Angle vs. The Undertaker (WWE No Way Out 2006) - 8
9) Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton (WWE Smackdown, 4/7/06) - 8
10) John Cena vs. Chris Jericho (WWE Survivor Series 2008) - 5
Ok, so I was a bit timid going into this first match. My main thought was that it was going to be a slow, prodding match with a very silent crowd and it was going to be on film. Well, I was wrong. It looks like the footage was taken from the original television broadcast and has held up quite nicely. Right out of the gate, O’Connor blasts Rogers with a hard fucking elbow to the ear and that pretty much signals that this will be a hell of a fight. O’Connor wrenches the shit out of Rogers’ left elbow with a spinning arm lock, similar to Terry Funk’s spinning toe hold. First fall ended with Rogers catching O’Connor charging into the corner with a hard boot. Damn. The third fall is where things really started to get good. Rogers’ fatigue selling was awesome. Just the way he rolled around on the match while facially selling everything was something that some of today’s workers could take notes from. He sold O’Connor’s bodyslams like his back was broken. The finish saw O’Connor miss a dropkick and landed in the ropes with Rogers getting the pin. Really, really good match that should be an example of how to properly sell everything. Next bout was outdoors at the Comiskey Park, the same venue the Rogers/O’Connor match took place at, and isn’t nowhere near as full. They kept a good pace but didn’t really work any harder than they had to. The match was based around submission work which each guy applied. There were a few spots with some brawling outside the ring, including a spot where Flair got busted open. The crowd seemed deflated, almost to the point of exhaustion. Looking at the card for this show, it’s not hard to figure out why, they had to sit through 13 matches before this one. I think had this been a loud, molten crowd somewhere down in the Carolinas and not a rigid, bored crowd, it would’ve benefitied the match much more. There was a nice ground sequence where they reversed each others roll-ups much cleaner than RVD and Jerry Lynn ever dreamed of. Magnum using Flair’s figure-four to try to win the match was a nice touch but really didn’t lead to anything. All in all, a pretty mailed in performance by both guys.
Simmons/Vader is the infamous title switch where Bill Watts put the title on Simmons at a WCW house show. Eventually, footage of the match was shown on TV but here, we get the full match. Vader wasn’t selling Simmons’ weak-ass kicks and punches at all. Vader had been this dominant force throughout 1992 and noboby thought Simmons had a chance in hell of winning the belt, due to the fact he had been in the upper-mid-card for most of the year. Simmons tried a sunset flip late in the bout which Vader countered by just sitting on his chest. The match itself wasn’t very long, just over ten minutes and moved along at a nice pace. Simmons was on defense for most of the match but got the suprise pin after a big powerslam and the crowd went apeshit. Afterwards, a bunch of dudes such as Tom Zenk, Barry Windham, and Van Hammer came in to celebrate with Simmons. Zenk jumped around like he was trying to dodge traffic and had a feigned ridiculous smile on his face. I saw the phrase “human cage” on the DVD insert and my mind immediately thought wrestlers standing on each others shoulders. However, it turned out to be nothing more than a fancy name for a lumberjack match. After that, I saw the words Vader vs. Steamboat and I thought “Sweet! That’s gonna be a good match!” Well, I was mistaken in that department as well. Don’t get me wrong, Steamboat’s facial sells were great when getting hit with Vader’s tree like forearms and ham hock sized fists. Much like the match with Simmons, Steamboat’s offense wasn’t registering on Vader at all. The crowd was deflated, the wrestlers on the outside got into numerous squabbles (as is the norm for every lumberjack match), and Tony Schiavone seemed very sedated. All of this added up to a less than memorable encounter that went 15 minutes but felt like 40.
The Jarrett/Booker match was set up by Russo during a work/shoot promo (don’t know if it was a work or a shoot, although coming from the mouth of Russo, we’ll never know) that pretty much buried Hulk Hogan. This was typical early-to-mid 2000’s Jarrett … lame crowd brawling, sticking his arm up in the air to kick out of a fall, and shitty punches. Jarrett busted out a piledriver on the announcers table in a random spot. Umm, ok. This also had Russo’s dirty fingerprints all over it … blatant rule-breaking in front of the referee, ref bumps, and a goofy ending. Booker really put forth a good effort but it was negated by Jarrett’s laziness. I enjoyed Rock/Jericho for the most part, however, there were two things that really troubled me. First, a completely random spot with Rock giving Jericho a Rock Bottom through the Spanish announcers table. I think that was put in there just because someone in the back realized “Hey, we don’t have a table spot in one of our main events! Let’s throw a random one in here just for the hell of it.” Second, Stephanie McMahon, looking like a skanky go-go dancer from a bygone era, interfering in the finish for no utter rhyme or reason. The best part about that was when Jericho lunged for her, she ducked, slipped off the ring, and smashed her face into the apron. Other than those two items, the match was really fun. Jericho definitely made the jump from mid-card to main event with his performance here, selling Rock’s limited offense to the best of his ability. Didn’t care much for the finish as I think Jericho would’ve been better served to have won with one of his big moves instead of a lame facebuster on a chair. Rock wasn’t selling any damage on offense at all, not even a well-placed grimace.
Even though I’m a huge RVD fan, even I will admit that he was very sluggish during his last days with WWE. However, I would go so far as to say that this match is one of his top five WWE matches. His offense was clean and crisp and his selling was top notch. He took a hard bump on the floor after missing a somersault dive over the top. HHH bugged me on RVD’s big comeback, constantly bouncing right back up like a rubber dodgeball after RVD would hit a move. RVD got in a kinda sloppy flying forearm over the top rope late in the bout. The standard offense from Trips was made to look phenomenal by RVD whose selling, both physically and facially, as I mentioned before, was top notch. The finish was your standard heel HHH finish circa 2002-04, complete with a telegraphed ref bump. If you’re wondering what I’m referring to, just cue up any HHH match from that era and tell me that a ref bump, Flair, and a sledgehammer don’t come into play in every single one of his matches. Undertaker/Angle has been pimped as one of the best bouts of WWE 2006 and I couldn’t agree with that statement more. The first 15-20 minutes was built around ground work between the two. During one of the sequences on the outside, Angle caught Taker in the ankle lock and didn’t let it go until the ref was near 10. And, unlike the table spot in the Rock/Jericho match, the Angle slam through the Spanish announcers table here didn’t feel forced, instead in fell right in line with what they were doing at the time. It also led to a great tease of a count-out where the ref got to nine and Angle stopped his count. This is where things started to ratchet up as Taker reversed Angle into the steps and landed throat first on a piece of a table after hitting the steps. Great sequence where they reversed each others submissions about three times. Every time Angle would slap on the ankle lock it built more and more drama as to if Undertaker would tap or not. There was one major screw-up where Angle attempted to execute a belly-to-belly suplex from the top rope but instead dropped ‘Taker right on his shoulder. Great finishing sequence where Undertaker had Kurt in a triangle choke and after Kurt’s arm dropped twice, he rolled up the Undertaker in a pin for the win. Great match.
The match from Smackdown was Mysterio’s first title defense since winning it at WrestleMania 22. I’m sure most of you reading this remember Rey’s lackluster run with the belt during the spring of ‘06 but you may not remember this particular match. Orton was on top of his game, delivering sick offense like a Domino’s driver and wearing Mysterio out with trademark chinlocks. Mysterio held his own, executing a springboard senton and a ringpost 6-1-9 before that move became stale. Mysterio ate two sick dropkicks, with the first one sticking out more since he took a hellacious bump to the floor. Mysterio got a couple good nearfall segments that got the crowd pumping. Orton’s staggering sells during the closing moments of the match were fantastic and Rey got some serious height on a springboard leg drop, to which Michael Cole referred as “dropping the dime”. I never want to hear Michael Cole use that reference ever again. This is a match that you should definitely go out of your way to see as it impressed the shit out of me. Closing out the matches I’m reviewing from this set is Cena/Jericho from Survivor Series 2008. This was Cena’s return from yet another neck surgery and Jericho focused the majority of his offense on Cena’s neck region. Cena was selling the cumulative damage well and was getting a move in here and there but the match was all Jericho. There was a good nearfall where Cena hit an F-U for a very close two count. Both guys seemed to be playing it safe here. Jericho applied a modified Walls of Jericho hold where he had a knee on the back of Cena’s neck. Honestly, not really much to see in this match unless you want to watch 15 minutes of John Cena selling like a dead fish and Jericho walking around. Big crowd pop for Cena hitting a second F-U for the title win.
Of the matches I’ve looked at from this set, it’s definitely a mixed bag. I chose these particular matches because either I haven’t seen them at all or I haven’t seen them in a long time. Definitely go out of your way to see anything I rated “6” or above at the top of the article. Gotta say though, I’m glad I rented this from the library and didn’t fork out 25 bucks. Perhaps you should do the same.