Monday, June 15, 2009

Macho Madness - The Ultimate Randy Savage Collection

Well, you can never say that I’m not dedicated. It’s now after 3AM (and will be after 4AM when I’m finished writing this) and after watching nine straight hours of wrestling, hyped up on NOS Energy Drink, I feel before I collapse out of exhaustion it’s my duty to see this through in one giant last burst of inspiration and review the entire set. We started around 6:30PM, took one break to grab food, and finished up not too long ago. It was exhilarating. Savage certainly deserved a career retrospective, and goofy, stilted hosting by Matt Striker and the lovely Maria aside, this was a nice and fitting tribute. Now, my brain, overloaded on caffeine and wrestling, isn’t working on optimum conditions and with the sheer volume of material to be looked at I’ll do my best to cover it succinctly but with the rich analytical styling you’d come to expect. Let’s snap into it!

Disc #1
1. Randy Savage vs. Rick McGraw - (Prime Time Wrestling July 9, 1985) - 4
2. Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat - (Boston Garden December 7, 1985) - 5
3. Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan- (Madison Square Garden December 30, 1985) - 3
4. Randy Savage vs. Tito Santana - (Boston Garden February 8, 1986) - 3
5. Randy Savage vs. Bruno Sammartino - (Boston Garden January 3, 1987) - 4
6. Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat - (WrestleMania III March 29, 1987) - 8
7. Randy Savage vs. Honky Tonk Man - (The Main Event February 5, 1988) - 4
8. Randy Savage vs. Ted DiBiase - (WrestleMania IV March 27, 1988) - 3
9. Randy Savage vs. Ted DiBiase - Steel Cage Match - (Madison Square Garden June 25, 1988) - 5

This being the first disc we watched, it’s the foggiest, also due to it being earlier stuff not strongly associated (and thus centered) with major, memorable storylines. The McGraw match, Savage’s debut in the company, would seemingly be a throwaway but actually scores decently as Randy’s a madman and abuses the hell out of Rick. There’s some nasty bumps on the floor, a prelude to the carnage he’d create in the years to come. It’s nice to see a Steamboat match that’s not the famous WrestleMania III bout. Ricky’s athletic, sells good, etc. all of the aspects that he’s known for. Savage keeps up his end of the deal but this is a house show match so they ran similar finishes all over the country and it lacks that extra spark as a result. The match versus Hogan from MSG falls to a similar fate, in terms of recommendable status, it’s the lesser of their three singles matches on the set so gets graded accordingly. They wrestled each other so many times that in their canon of work together this isn’t worth seeking out. The Tito match was a wasted opportunity, Savage fucked around a bit and didn’t seem focused, plus it was the same general structure and result of the earlier Boston match (versus Steamboat) so I docked it accordingly. The match versus Bruno is an oddity, barrel-chested Bruno is a gray-haired sight to behold, and sticks it to Savage, and its unique enough to get some bonus interest as a result. The Steamboat classic, its been discussed and analyzed to death, still spectacular, a breathtaking scene seeing two of the best in front of 90,000+ and a gem to anyone’s personal collection. The Honky Tonk Man bout was fun, it was in-front of a real hot Indianapolis crowd, in pure mechanics not the best offering, but made up for it in energy. The two DiBiase matches close out the first disc, the first, the finals of the tournament from WrestleMania IV is lackluster, both guys were gassed, etc. and I preferred the lesser known steel cage match, although even it isn’t the big blow-off match you’d hope to get between these two stellar workers.

Disc #2
1. Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant and Ted DiBiase - (SummerSlam August 29, 1988) - 5
2. Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan - (WrestleMania V April 2, 1989) - 5
3. Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan - (The Main Event March 22, 1990) - 4
4. Randy Savage and Sherri vs. Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire - (WrestleMania VI April 1, 1990) - 3
5. Randy Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior - (WrestleMania VII March 24, 1991) - 7
6. Randy Savage vs. Jake Roberts - (This Tuesday in Texas December 3, 1991) - 4
7. Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair - (WrestleMania VIII April 5, 1992) - 6

I reviewed the tag match in my in-depth SummerSlam ’88 review, originally scoring it a “6”, but revised it here as the match has some flaws. Savage and DiBiase carry the workload, Andre isn’t capable nor does much of note, and Hogan seems there (per usual) to mostly grab the spotlight. The meltdown of the Savage/Hogan friendship provided some quality viewing, I think I liked the feud’s build more than its payoff. The WrestleMania match lacks the punch you’d expect, Savage busts his ass, but Hogan’s on autopilot and this benefited from historical significance as its saving grace from an embarrassing score. I liked the feel of the following match better; Buster Douglas is your goofy guest enforcer, etc. but it’s also a disorganized, ultimately empty overall effort. Douglas running to the back mid-match during an extended rest hold sequence seemed to be the point where I realized nostalgia was the only thing keeping this afloat for me. The aftermath where Douglas “punches” Savage, and I use the term loosely, as the first shot was obviously a phantom blow, was laughable. The mixed tag is an eyesore, just like the disgusting blotch on Dusty’s stomach. For me it’s one of the darkest moments in WrestleMania lore. The match versus Warrior blew me away. I’ve never thought much of Warrior, as a wrestler, nor as anything else, outside of a schizophrenic douche, but this was his optimum performance, surpassing the more pimped match versus Hogan at WrestleMania a year previously. His performance is more natural, working against a great villain in Savage, and stamina-wise he was at a career best I’d imagine, going toe-to-toe with the always 100MPH Savage for 20+ minutes. I can’t think offhand of a Warrior match I’ve enjoyed more. The match versus Jake is kind of a letdown, as the feud was so hot, but they blow through the match quickly, keeping a hot pace, but finishing too fast leaving me feeling unsatisfied. The aftermath, with Roberts being ultra creepy, making Elizabeth (who’s fabulous throughout the three-disc set) beg and plead, is unsettling and great, but that doesn’t help the match’s score any. The last match, I know I’ll take some heat for, doesn’t do a ton for me. I hope I’m cognizant enough to explain my position sufficiently. My issue is Flair is best as a heel bumping around and begging off for a good guy. Here, he’s in control almost exclusively, and Savage is more subdued here than anywhere else on the set to this point, and as a result the match brews but never boils over into what should have been a molten-hot epic. The backstory was great, Flair accusing Elizabeth of having an affair, etc. but the hatred isn’t as palpable as you’d think, and the interference with Hennig, etc. just further makes things murky. Flair’s legendary timing and energy, showcased best in his NWA days, sadly isn’t displayed prominently here.

Disc #3
1. Randy Savage vs. Shawn Michaels - (European Rampage April 19, 1992) - 6
2. Randy Savage and Bret Hart vs. Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels- (Worcester, MA July 22, 1992) - 5
3. Randy Savage vs. Yokozuna - (RAW February 28, 1994) - 6
4. Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair - Lifeguard Match - (Bash at the Beach July 16, 1995) - 4
5. Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair - (Nitro January 22, 1996) - 4
6. Randy Savage vs. Diamond Dallas Page - Falls Count Anywhere Match - (Great American Bash June 15, 1997) - 7
7. Randy Savage and Sid Vicious vs. Kevin Nash and Sting - (Bash at the Beach July 11, 1999) - 3

This disc looked really interesting on paper and delivered in large part. The first match was quite good. I figured since it wasn’t a big show the performances would be at least partially phoned-in, but they brought it for the lively European crowd, and did some great near-fall sequences, etc. The following tag match was slower-paced than most stuff on the set, but it felt right, Flair seemed confident and more relaxed here, and it was nice seeing the animosity between Bret and Shawn developing right before your eyes. I’ve been on a kick lately of trying to convince people of Yokozuna as a bit of an under appreciated super worker, he bumps big and moves great for a guy of his size, etc. I’ve never had much evidence to support my claim, only having access to some of his more well-known bouts, but this hidden TV gem is one of the true treasures of the set. Yokozuna looks great in this, keeping up with the sparkplug that is Randy Poffo, and I’d suggest this to any non-believers. The next match, from a pay-per-view that took place on a legitimate beach, is something of a curiosity but not much in terms of actual quality wrestling. Flair tries, but you’ve got wrestlers at ringside (ala a lumberjack match, but given the circumstances, adorned in hideous tie-dye shirts, thus they’re “lifeguards”) and a mass of sunburnt humanity (as well as people swimming in the ocean in the far background) that really distract and detract from this one’s impact. The TV match isn’t much more enjoyable, Flair and Savage both take respective gnarly floor bumps, but it’s the sort of rushed, lousily-scripted match that dotted the Monday Nitro landscape and left me feeling as meek as referee Pee Wee Anderson’s pee wee. The match with DDP I adore, hadn’t seen it since I watched it live back then, remembered it being hot, and it definitely still holds up. It was a crowd brawl before they were passé. The intensity is consistent, the bumps and shots brutal, and the brawl into a nearby picnic area where Savage gets hit with a potted plant, barbeque grill, and slammed through a picnic table will always have a special place in my heart. The last match of the set, wow, not a good closer; Savage looks grotesque, extremely more muscular than ever before, totally gassed out on a chemical cocktail of astronomical proportions. Sid is just awful, I mean, I keep unbiased when I review, hence “never handing over”, and tried to look at his work objectively but its just strikingly obvious how little depth and range he has. Holding Sting in a chinlock, Sid chews gum, looks around bored and uninterested, clearly doing a terribly shitty job convincing me he is, in fact, holding another man against his will in a hold. His range of expressions during sells are about as limited as his current employment prospects. Would you like fries with that?

Damn, I’ve just spent nearly twelve-hours, almost a complete, full half-day working on this gigantic Randy Savage project. I feel like I just did cocaine with Randy and Elizabeth, leading to letting Savage repeatedly drop elbows on me from off of the headboard while I railed Elizabeth from behind. That must be the lack of sleep and proper nutrition speaking. Dig it!

No comments: