1. Ernie Ladd vs. Bruno Sammartino - 3/1/1976 - 5
2. Ernie Ladd vs. Haystacks Calhoun - 11/17/1975 - 4
3. Ernie Ladd vs. Greg Valentine - 2/1/1984 - 3
4. Ernie Ladd vs. Gorilla Monsoon - 1/12/1976 - 3
5. Ernie Ladd vs. Andre The Giant - 4/26/1976 - 4
6. Ernie Ladd vs. Jose Lothario - Taped Fist Match - 12/25/1981 - 3
7. Ernie Ladd vs. Bob Backlund - 10/23/1978 - 6
Ladd was phenomenal at being able to emote, be it in his legendary interviews, to in the ring, etc. Whenever Bruno eats a shot he has a way of dramatically falling to the mat that's reminiscent of a collapsing boxer. Ernie has the swagger and size that you can (even if only temporarily) believe he stands the chance of pulling out the upset in MSG. Ladd misses a big splash off of the top that allows Sammartino to capitalize and get the win. A nice way to save some face for Ladd, as, although on the losing end of things it was his own mistake and not a loss suffered of Bruno's doing.
Haystacks has a variety of real great strikes. The first thing I noticed was his jab, but later, he busts out some clubbing forearms and surprising body shots. Calhoun starts bleeding from the forehead and once the Big Cat smells blood he goes in for the kill. Ladd almost ran over the diminutive ref like a freight train as he gathers momentum for a giant flying shoulderblock that knocked Haystacks to the floor for a countout. Next, the most recent match on this profile, from some sort of NWA tournament from what I gather. Valentine's working stiff, no surprise, and after not being able to go toe-to-toe striking with him Ernie relies on a poke to the eyes. Ladd's selling at this point is undefinable, never seen anyone quite grimace and gesticulate as such, somewhat reminiscent of an elderly man getting caught by a sprinkler. He's heavier here and lost much of his pizzaz but is still an asset. A lousy finish where the referee inexplicably ties himself up around Ladd's arm so when Ernie throws a shot the referee gets pushed aside so he calls for the bell.
Next bout between the Big Cat and Gorilla felt like some sort of Caveman Games contest. These two just met in the ring and started hurting each other with most of the battle coming at close quarters. Ladd's unorthodox selling is again on righteous display as he shakes wildly like a 92lbs. geriatric in need of a blanket. Gorilla's ugly mug is great for pro wrestling -- his face looks like something you'd find in an NYC alley. Monsoon gets busted open and Ladd targets his forehead which is now an estuary leading the ref to toss the match out. Ladd versus Andre largely delivers on what we'd expect from such a battle of behemoths. Andre actually looks in pretty great shape here. Usually pressure holds look silly and outdated today but watching Andre clamp his big mitts on someone's neck and squeezing you fully believe. Andre undoubtedly has some of the most visually impressive headbutts. Ladd finally gets some offense in after Andre gets his hand stuck in the ropes and Ernie gets all predatory like a hyena or your Uncle serving as girls soccer coach. Ernie rolls out of harm's way during a huge Andre splash and takes off to the back getting counted out. It's been a joy seeing Ernie work and create in the ring but couldn't they have found at least a few matches with decent finishes?
There's two rings pushed together similar to the old WCW Fall Brawl set-up which I didn't realize others had done that concept back as far as '81. This was for the NWA Brass Knuckles Championship (love to see WWE put out a DVD compilation for that belt). Ladd's got an Andre-level afro but Jose's hair looks like a BK Big Fish dragged through an oil spill. This is all about the punches and Lothario is light on his feet and spry for a guy that looks like he survived a whaling accident. Jose wins after a flying punch off of the top and celebrates like he'd just won the lottery or was a Cincinnati-area girl that got negative results on her HIV test after fucking Andre Hart.
For people that don't understand the hype behind Backlund watch him here have this huge crowd in the palm of his hand. Bob's tiny green trunks seem to be perpetually giving him a wedgie -- hope that didn't chafe. These guys couldn't look or be more different which creates a great dynamic as a match-up. Bob's smart and targets Ladd's legs dragging him around by those tree trunks, torquing the ankle like I once dreamt I did AJ Lee's nipples, and cinching holds. Ladd heaves Bob up and slams him like he was tossing a bag of mulch. Little known fact about Backlund is that he actually held the WAR Six-Man tag belts with Scott Putski and Warlord beating Fuyuki, Jado, and Gedo. Hell, while we're throwing out random, useless trivia, did you know PWI ranked Justin Credible as the #6 wrestler in the world in 2000? Let's all just take a moment to point and laugh heartily. Final stretch and the crowd's gone molten hot and almost combust when Backlund hits a really cool atomic drop for the clean victory. Now that was more like it! Overall, while the match choices may have been suspect, this was a fun journey into history and gives us a glimpse of what made Ladd great.