As many of you are aware, WWE Network is pretty packed with all sorts of content. And as you may also know, we here at Place to Be Nation love long term, in depth projects. So, as part of this initiative, JT Rozzero, Chad Campbell, Jason Greenhouse, Scott Criscuolo & Dan McGinn are starting in 1975 and are planning to watch the entire offering of the WWE Network chronologically. They have plotted their course and after watching each program, they will share their thoughts, notes and recommendations with our readers. So, settle in and enjoy this epic ride through wrestling history!
Run Time: 47 minutes
Card: The Spoiler vs. Jose Lothario
Great Kabuki, Magic Dragon & Checkmate vs. Al Madril, Brian Adidas & Bugsy McGraw
Kevin Von Erich vs. King Kong Bundy
JT: Kevin gets off to a strong start, working over Bundy’s midsection. Mercer was great here, explaining Bundy’s split from Gary Hart and how this is first match where he is managing himself. They also mixed in some nice claw teases with Bundy doing all he could to avoid the hold. In a nice spot, KVE kept trying to break free from a rear chinlock and eventually used his power to bridge up and lock in the claw. Bundy’s strategy was well executed too, doing whatever he could to lean and wear out KVE, utilizing both the chinlock and a bear hug. As far as ref bumps go, this was a pretty good one as David Manning went flying out to the floor hard. It was awesome to see Bundy get the win as he mixed in a little bit of cheating and a nice suplex to put KVE away. I am also impressed with how regularly the Von Erichs lay down here. I always assumed nepotism kept them almost undefeated, so seeing losses like this was a nice treat. This was certainly a worthy TV main event match. Honorable mention to the really spirited six man tag as well.
Chad: Kevin and Bundy got over a great narrative with the speed of Kevin vs. the size of Bundy. I liked how the Claw was used as a great equalizer here and Kevin found some really unique ways to apply the hold in order to neutralize Bundy. The finish was also really well done which hasn’t been the case for most of the tv matches we have seen in WCCW. David Manning takes a huge bump to the outside and Bundy decides to dump Kevin and then greet him with a suplex when he tries to come back in. This allows Bundy to gain the victory and look like he is destined for an Americas Championship match vs. Kevin in the future. Match rating: ***.
Jason: KKB and KVE get the duke from me. An excellent back and forth match from these two. Bundy was very light on his feet for such a big man. This was one of the better ring performances from a Von Erich boy. Bundy’s kicks and knees look pretty vicious. The crowd was super behind Kevin, but came up on the short end after Bundy’s awesome suplex to the inside to get the win.
Dan: Until proven otherwise, anything involving Kevin Von Erich is likely to be the best part of the show. The guy is so overlooked because everyone talks about Kerry and David but all I’ve seen him do so far is put on quality matches. He looks ripped here and certainly doesn’t appear out of his league against the bigger and stronger Bundy. He also can talk circles around his more heralded brothers as evidence by his big mouth, big belly comments prior to the match. Bundy holds up his end of the bargain as well using his power wear down moves to slow down the speedy Von Erich. This was a real treat in an otherwise blah show as far as matches went.
Scott: Easily the Bundy/KVE match, as there was some creative moves by Kevin, who’s been a little off with his TV matches so far. The battle went back and forth and Bundy moved very well for a big man. He seems smaller than when he arrived in the WWF a couple years later. Bundy went back to some heel tendencies, using that stupid NWA over the top rope rule to his advantage when the referee was also chucked over the ropes. Bundy has been one of the highlights of these early episodes and tonight was no different, even if he did look weird with white boots.
JT: Ric Flair was tremendous in his face-to-face with Fritz Von Erich. I love his impassioned denial of the bounty and this angle has fully delivered. Fritz calling him a moron got a chuckle out of me too. The way Fritz whines about how his son should be World Champion makes Kerry seem like a bit of a pussy though, I will say that. The fiery yelling at the end was awesome, as you could tell how badly Fritz wanted to rip him apart. Regardless, this was great across the board, mainly thanks to Flair carrying the ball. I am completely sold and invested in this match now.
Chad: Flair vs. Fritz was one of the best things I have ever seen in wrestling and Flair was the highlight of that spirited debate. Each man got their point across and displayed such passion and conviction into every word they were saying. Due to tape limitation, we don’t have a ton of Flair from his first NWA title reign but this felt like a signature promo from that time period and wouldn’t have looked out of place at all in Techwood Studios in 1986.
Jason: Without a doubt, Fritz and Flair by a mile. Flair’s great denial about paying off the bounty hunter was incredible. Fritz was a force of nature counter while countering Flair. Fritz did a great job putting over the value of the NWA championship. Anytime one of the Von Erich boys have something to say, they should have the old man deliver it. Thanks to this war of the words, I’m 100% on board for the Flair and Kerry match. Easily five of the best minutes so far in the adventure.
Dan: Fritz and Flair definitely take the honors tonight. Fritz was legitimately irate at Flair’s comments and when he retorted with his “moron” tirade, I literally jumped from my chair. Does he want justice for his boy being shelved by Flair’s conspiracy? Oh hell yeah! I loved how Fritz says the champ makes no sense and that the evidence that he has would hold up in any court of law. Meanwhile, Flair goes on his usual rant about being rich, sexy and the best wrestler on the planet and that he shouldn’t have to put his life on the line in a cage. Both guys score As for their passionate promos. What a far cry from the cuddly Fritz hunting duck with his sons from one episode ago.
Scott: Well anytime Ric Flair is on anything, I’ll always vote for him. His promos are awesome and his blatant refusal to admit he paid the bounty on Kerry Von Erich is pure Flair. He and Fritz had an awesome back and forth interview leading up to the Flair/Kerry cage match. Fritz showed a lot of emotion and I wish this was done more often. The performers in the six man tag team match worked very hard, but Flair (who has to cut promos on different opponents all over the country) puts over the storyline as only he can.
JT: Jose Lothario and Spoiler had a spirited little affair. I didn’t care much for Spoiler last week, but he was more on point here and did a decent job working the arm and also mixing in some classic heel tactics. Jose showed good fire as always and his selling and comebacks were well timed too. Lothario is just a well seasoned veteran that knows exactly how to work a match, especially in this setting.
Chad: Brian Adias impressed me in the six man tag. I thought that was another good match that was barely eclipsed by Kevin vs. Bundy for MOTN. Adias looked good throwing a nice dropkick and having some quick offense and on the flip side, he took the offense from Kabuki’s team well especially the ending knee off the top rope from Kabuki.
Jason: The teamwork of the heel unit in the six man tag takes it here. We already knew Kabuki was an incredible worker going solo and the team of Checkmate & Magic Dragon have been impressive in tag matches. Put all three of these men on the same team and you have one bad ass team. Honorable mention goes to King Kong Bundy. I wasn’t expecting him to be as good as he was in the ring this early in his World Class run.
Dan: I can’t believe they spent a whole segment on the referee situation for the Flair/Von Erich rematch in the cage. That easily could have been explained on commentary at some point but we had to have an awkward chat with two guys who have no business being behind a microphone. Glad to hear that Michael Hayes will be involved and if I’m not mistaken, that will grow into something quite significant to the company down the road. It just seemed like an odd choice of direction on an otherwise tightly put together program.
Scott: The referee segment was solid but I’m surprised that it wasn’t rehearsed better as David Manning sounds like a mumbling idiot. Does anybody in this promotion besides Fritz and Gary Hart know how to talk into a camera?
JT: Poor Brian Adias. WCCW’s premier job boy, it seems.
Chad: Not much in the way of disappointments this week so I will do two quick hits, 1) The finish to the opener was lame with a countout based on both guys being on the ropes for a ten count. 2) Gary Hart delivered a promo and I was excited to see him, but then Hussein leads down Kabuki’s crew.
Jason: The Spoiler still hasn’t done anything for me. His holds are weak and his selling is pitiful.
Dan: Wow the Spoiler sucks! Also a double countout with both guys on the apron and the ref has to explain the rules to two veteran competitors as if it’s their first time in the ring? Inexcusable.
Scott: I’m disappointed we won’t see Jay Saldi’s honest athletic commentating, but the Cowboys were battling Washington for the NFC East.
JT: Farewell Jay Saldi, you will be missed; Jose Lothario signing autographs in the ring before the match was a cool touch; Jose is also the Mexican Brass Knucks champion and looks like he has Indianapolis Colts tights on; The interview with the referees was well done and again a very realistic take on storylines, including probation and fines for promoters and the board working hard to determine the best referee for a major match; Magic Dragon’s coat is something special; I love the idea of a six man tag tournament and they push it strongly right out of the gate; King Kong Bundy taking control of business with Gary Hart is great; Kabuki’s body shape always catches me off guard; Al Madril continues to excel in tag settings; I enjoy all the random championships that Bill Mercer tosses out during these matches; Bugsy McGraw wasn’t nearly as annoying this time around, probably because he was hidden on the apron and his promo before the match was pretty good; I like how they specifically explain why Kevin Von Erich did not put his title on the line in this matchup; Kevin’s attire really doesn’t leave much to the imagination; “Oriental” Count: 1
Chad: I guess Jay Saldi is gone now? Spoiler and Lothario had a really good showing and I would have liked to have seen them stretch out the match to 10-15 minutes. Mercer annoyed the hell out of me in the Manning/Bronco segment constantly cutting off each guy and then asking Manning who won the referee vote right after Manning said Hayes did. Bugsy has toned down his act and his attire for this episode and I was thankful on both ends. I am confused with Bundy’s interaction with Hart. Is he still aligned with him or not? I can’t stop putting over the Flair and Fritz face to face and think any wrestling fan should seek it out.
Jason: So long Jay Saldi. We hardly knew you. Jose Lothario: Mexican Brass Knucks Champion… and Baltimore Colt? Everything about Bugsy McGraw still annoys me. Did he not get the red trunks memo from his teammates? Can he even read a memo? His tights looked like something you’d find on a painting in a doctor’s office. Brian Adidas has a great look, but I’m not expecting much from his as far as wins go. Fritz has some enormous ears. I needed a smoke and cold shower after the Fritz and Flair segment.
Dan: Boy oh Boy Mercer needed a color commentator. Yikes! We miss you Jay Saldi. Gary Hart saying that he can’t lose and smells so sweet is easily going to give me nightmares tonight. So is he with Bundy or not because that segment was kind of perplexing. Until further notice, I’m going to refer to anyone who tags with either Madril, McGraw or both of them as the “Lovable Losers.” Flair saying that he is “a very busy man and that his time is money” is such a douchebag thing to say in real life but amazing in the world of pro wrestling. He must have a staff meeting with that stonewalling receptionist over there at Ric Flair Enterprises. I can’t say enough about that crazy ref bump by Manning. I wish Earl Hebner or PeeWee Anderson went over the top rope once in a while.
Scott: Since when was Jose Lothario a Baltimore Colts fan; Bill Mercer begins his run of various facial hair combinations; Bronco Lubbich is French? I never knew that; Clearly Fritz never told these babyfaces that their promo skills were fairly horrible; Bugsy McGraw thought he was Billy Graham…NOT; As good as Mercer is, he’s struggling to just say that it’s a six man tag team tournament, flubbing the words constantly; After wearing what seemed like women’s shoes in his last match, Bugsy McGraw is wearing regular tights/boots; I want to visit the Isle of Man, which by the way is a real place, not a fancy way of saying “parts unknown”; Fritz Von Erich had the coolest combination of sports blazers
Consensus Best WWE Network Match to Date: Pat Patterson vs. Sgt. Slaughter (Madison Square Garden, 4/6/81)
Consensus Worst WWE Network Match to Date: Ivan Putski vs. Baron Von Rashcke (Madison Square Garden, 6/27/77)
JT: Not much to complain about with this installment. The opener was a fine little appetizer but what followed were two really good TV matches and a very classic face-to-face showdown. I also liked the way they pushed the six man tournament and drew the lines in the sand. Bundy’s push rolls along with a strong main event win and a promo that established where he currently stood. The hour flew by and they packed some really important stuff in. We are quickly approaching the huge Von Erich/Flair match and this show did a great job of hard selling it to the fans. The only thing missing was my boy Jay Saldi. Pour one out. Final Grade: 7/10
Chad: Awesome show! Good matches, storyline advancement, and one of the best things you will see in wrestling in this calendar year with Fritz vs. Flair. Really strong showing for WCCW as everything seems to be coming together for the end of the year. Final Grade 8/10
Jason: A very decent 47 minutes of TV. Fritz and Flair stole the show. Do yourself a favor and watch that segment! Bundy looked great during his in ring debut on the Network. Kabuki and Al Madril continue to be two of my favorites in World Class. No Freebirds? No problem! Final Grade: 7/10
Dan: Loved the Flair/Fritz stuff and it does set the table nicely for our eventual clash for the World Heavyweight Title. I did enjoy the main event with its contrast in styles in addition to the fact that I’m becoming a major mark for all things Kevin Von Erich. Bundy looked great too establishing himself as the real dominant force in the company. Unlike my colleagues, I do think the card suffers without the Freebirds so I look forward to seeing more involvement by the greatest rock band in the world. Also, please get the Spoiler off my screen! Spoiler Alert: that guy blows! Final Grade: 6/10
Scott: This was a fun show, one of the best so far. The roster does look very limited at this point, but the matches are still entertaining. KVE wrestles his best match thus far with Bundy, but the highlight for me was the awesome back and forth between Flair and Fritz to get ready for this big NWA Title match. I missed the Freebirds energy on this show, but the WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION made up for that. Final Grade: 7/10