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: 46 minutes
Great Kabuki vs. The Samoan & Raul Castro – Handicap Match
Fabulous Freebirds vs. Gran Markus Dos & The Destroyer #1
Bugsy McGraw & Al Madril vs. Checkmate & Magic Dragon
Kevin Von Erich vs. Wild Bill Irwin
JT: I really wanted to go with the handicap match because I enjoyed it so much, but Kevin Von Erich vs. Bill Irwin was the best match on the card. They worked well together and the match ebb and flowed nicely. I like how Irwin also learned as he went, blocking a second head scissors takeover after KVE had hit one earlier in the bout. Irwin had a good showing and pushed KVE but he eventually got trapped in an abdominal stretch and took out the referee to draw the DQ. I wasn’t crazy about the finish, but they seemingly have plans for Irwin and needed to keep him strong. KVE gets the win in his return to the territory and Irwin stumbles off to regroup.
Chad: Nothing really inspiring in this batch of matches. Everything ranged in that inoffensive but uninspiring range. I guess I will go with the tag match that again dominated the middle portion of the show even though I thought it was vastly inferior to the tag we saw on the first WCCW show as you will see when we get to my Worst Performer award. If giving a star rating, it would be around **1/4 for me.
Jason: I’m going to go the opposite route as JT. I really enjoyed Kevin Von Erich and Bill Irwin, but the Kabuki handicap match is my choice. It only took four minutes to make him come across as the dominate mega heel of the company.
Dan: Nothing here really got my motor rolling but the lesser of all evils would have to be the finale between Kevin Von Erich and Bill Irwin. It was a flying head scissors party and you could really feel Irwin’s pain with his primal screams and facial expressions. He exhibited such agony when Kevin had him locked in place using only his chiseled legs. I was kind of shocked KVE didn’t go for the claw since the fans were begging for it all match, but I don’t see many matches end with an abdominal stretch so this was unique at the very least.
Scott: The Kabuki handicap match was so much fun and the main event was solid enough but I’m leaning towards the Kabuki match because it put him over as a monster heel. The tag match (in hype) should have been the match of the show but it underwhelmed.
JT: Everyone involved in the giant pull apart brawl. The crowd was rocking and it just kept going, with neither side willing to give in and back off. The locker room emptied and couldn’t slow it down at all. It was a great way to get the Freebirds into a hot feud early in the run and the fans certainly bought right into it. Great fire by all involved and the brawl had me ready for a big tag match down the line.
Chad: Michael Hayes is my choice. Knowing what is to come from his tenure in World Class, seeing him as this energetic babyface riling up the crowd in support of the Freebirds is quite the visual. The pull apart was awesome and was the only thing that breathed life into this show overall. Bundy looked like a huge bruiser and Bill Irwin is someone I usually struggle with in singles matches but he works well as a wildman companion with Bundy. This was captivating television and maybe the single best wrestling moment we have seen on this rewatch so far.
Jason: After watching Kabuki’s domination in the opening match, I didn’t think that could be topped. That was until the brawl between the Fabulous Freebirds, King Kong Bundy & Bill Irwin. After Hayes and Gordy were jumped by Bundy and Irwin prior to their scheduled tag match, I thought the Freebirds were done for. This was the kind of brawl that sells tickets and now has me invested in the showdown between these two teams.
Dan: The brawl for all between The Freebirds and the duo of Irwin and Bundy was easily the most exciting aspect of this entire show. It felt like there was genuine hatred between these two groups and the disruption gave us a sense of realism. In other words, this segment didn’t feel scripted. Pretty much right out of commercial fists were flying and even the heel team the Freebirds were facing were taking their swipes at anyone left standing. I love when the ring announcer instructed fans to “stay away from the ring please” and called for more help from the boys in the locker room. No power could keep them apart and much like our first show, this makes me want to see what happens next. I could do without seeing Bundy’s ass crack ever again however!
Scott: I have to say Great Kabuki was a beast during this handicap match, because usually Handicap matches are preserved for muscular guys or 500 pound fat guys but the mysterious Oriental went in and took out both these guys. Even with the unusual stipulation of eliminating each guy separately he swiftly took both guys out. Kabuki was one of those rare guys that legitimately scared me as an eight year old. This match was why. The brawl with the Freebirds and Bundy/Irwin was pretty awesome, but I give it to Kabuki.
JT: Watching Great Kabuki just pick apart two guys was much more fun than I expected. He just bounced back and forth and smacked them around like it was a movie scene. At one point he just flips away from the Samoan and takes Castro over with a neat body scissors. His overall presence was good too, even though he had Ron Jeremy’s physique. He was also able to force both guys to give up with his leg scissors drop. Nice performance for Arman Hussein’s protege.
Chad: Great Kabuki has a rep at points of someone that could go at times in Japan but dogged it in the states. I myself have seen him put on a nerve hold for an infinite amount of time that had me pondering my existence as a wrestling fan. The opening handicap match was entertaining enough and more importantly, it didn’t overstay its welcome. I also thought it did an effective job of keeping up the mystique of Kabuki.
Jason: After watching him on the prior show, I thought Al Madril was just a flash in the pan. He’s an incredible tag team wrestler. He and Bugsy McGraw have a clash of styles, but Madril seems like he could be the Billy Gunn of any team you throw him in. Great offense and babyface charisma from Big Al.
Dan: I’m surprised that Kabuki didn’t need the mist to beat either one of the two stiffs he was in the ring with. Poor Samoan continues to plummet down the mountain. I am also flabbergasted as to how awful a talker Kerry Von Erich is. I know it’s hard to follow Ric Flair, but that interview was painful and awkward just like the first time I met Scott.
Scott: The crowd being so hot for the Freebirds even though they weren’t Texans was such a surprise considering what was on the horizon for them in the coming months. They were just as over as the Von Erichs were in that moment with the brawl and the match itself. Also credit to Bundy and Irwin as heels to pass the face heat off to the Freebirds. I was also surprised Al Madril didn’t get a haircut, he looked like Darth Vader.
JT: I probably shouldn’t have had many expectations at all for the big tag match, but I thought it would be better than what we got. After Bugsy McGraw did some comedy, we got some awkward work out of everyone. I mean, the crowd stayed hot, because it’s what they do, but I just couldn’t get into this one and based on the hype earlier in the night, I got myself a little to up for it. Madril’s hair didn’t help things.
Chad: I raved about last show’s tag match and this had three of the same guys in there…and Bugsy McGraw. I can’t think of anyone in wrestling history where I have really gotten behind and appreciated a low mental capacity babyface and this was no exception. The crowd may have been chanting “Go Bugsy go” but I wasn’t at home.
Jason: I was pretty pumped to watch Bugsy McGraw in the ring, but he turned out to be nothing but a comedy act. Sure he’s got great charisma and the crowd is super behind him, but his ring work came up pretty stale. He’s the weak link of his team with Al Madril.
Dan: This whole show was kind of a disappointment though neither one of the tag matches delivered the mail in my opinion. Couldn’t get behind the featured tag after the “armadillo” defense routine ran its course. Bugsy was fun for about two minutes and then I wanted to throw him out of the arena myself. And the Freebirds won in a squash but that match was pretty pedestrian though it must have been hard to follow that epic brawl prior to the match. Better days are ahead for Hayes and Gordy.
Scott: I have to agree with JT that the tag match was pumped up like crazy and although the crowd was hot at points, nobody really did anything in the ring. It was a lot of dancing around and slaps, kicks and punches with the occasional suplex. Madril’s high cross body wins the match with his crazy hair flopping in the breeze. It had a lot of energy, but there wasn’t as much substance as there should have been with all the hype.
JT: Great Kabuki’s mask is certainly something special; Jay Saldi informs us that Kabuki is undefeated in handicap matches; Kabuki’s green hands are also very interesting; I find it funny to have a guy in a mask have such a basic name; I loved how they came back from break in the middle of Bundy & Irwin beating the piss out of the Freebirds and it led to a hot wild brawl; Gran Markus Dos remains a ridiculously great name; The fans were really into the Freebirds; The Birds finished with a nice spike piledriver; Hayes had a great line, saying Bundy “looked like a washing machine”; Kerry Von Erich sounded and looked like a Will Ferrell character during his sit-down interview; They are doing a great job building the Flair/Von Erich match up; Checkmate is the European Champion apparently; Saldi calls Bugsy’s warmup a “Three Stooges routine”; Saldi informs us that Kevin Von Erich had been touring the US over the last few weeks and this is his return match; A fan in the crowd had a sweet “& I Do It My Way” trucker hat on; Von Erich was in really great shape and used his powerful legs at multiple times; Usage of “Orient/Oriental” count: 2
Chad: Interesting new backdrop for the opening of this show with Mercer and Saldi doing the introduction. The Samoan continues to be pretty inept. The Freebirds have their red gear on and look awesome here. I gushed over it earlier but that pull apart was so great. Bundy had to keep hiking up his pants. Kevin Von Erich looks odd to me with his flesh toned tights and wrestling barefoot. Checkmate still was rocking the gimmick off turtling up and pouncing on his opponent but he was mimicked by Bugsy in the tag match.
Jason: I am really digging the announce team of Bill Mercer and Jay Saldi so far. The get over every storyline and provde an excellent recap of the show before they go off the air. Kabuki’s mask is scary as hell. His body scissors and leg scissors drop were pretty impressive. Much like last week, when you give Michael Hayes a microphone, he delivers an awesome promo. King Kong Bundy needs a better belt, as we got a little plumber’s crack action from the Atlantic City native. If there was a doctor from the Dallas area missing a prescription pad during this time, chances are Kerry Von Erich swiped it. Man, he was doped up on something during his sit down interview. After watching David Von Erich stink up the joint last week, Kevin came through with a great match with Bill Irwin. The ref bump followed by a DQ on Irwin made sense, as it protects both men. Irwin is in a hot tag feud and Kevin is a member of the first family of World Class. I need to take some classes at the Al Madril School of Mustache Growing. That is one sweet stache he has. History was made as Magic Dragon and Checkmate took their first loss as a team to Bugsy and Madril.
Dan: Has a joke been made yet about Al Madril looking exactly like Mr. Kotter? Welcome back, welcome back welcome back! If not, have you ever see both men in the same room? I didn’t think so! Terry Gordy wearing red and silver was a bizarre choice. I get he wanted to match his “brother” Michael but it just looked odd. Probably not the best decision though I also wear a great deal of sweatervests so consider the source. Kabuki got two guys to submit without applying a submission hold. He basically drove a pair of knees into the canvas and his opponents just gave up on the spot. You don’t see that too often. Finally, Ric Flair, in case you were wondering… The game is over!
Scott: Jay Saldi seemed a little more comfortable at the broadcast table with Bill than in our first episode. His commentary almost sounds like he’s doing a football game which made it even more fun. I’ve heard King Kong Bundy called a lot of things, but a “washing machine” is one I’ll always remember. Hussein’s whistle was almost as annoying as say, Jimmy Hart’s megaphone. Kerry Von Erich barely had his eyes open during the sit-down interview. Did that guy ever NOT take drugs? I always loved WCCW’s heels because they were always so sloppy and grizzled, like good heels should be. One thing I will enjoy during this stretch of early 80s wrestling is the crowds, and all the trucker hats that would eventually make a comeback. The WWF at the time must have been the only company that didn’t use a blue canvas. Maybe the blue canvas is cheaper. That body scissors roll around that KVE does is so absurd. I will also echo JT’s sentiments about the awesome use of “Orientals”. Such heels of the world.
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: We took a clear step back from our last episode this time around. While the last installment had a great Ric flair sit-down interview, this episode featured a shaky one from Kerry Von Erich. The build to that match has been strong, but Von Erich just struggled too much on the mic to get that segment across well. The in ring action was just OK this week and I thought the handicap match was the most fun overall. The anchor tag didn’t do it for me this week either. I did love the pull apart brawl and thought that was the best segment of the show. Final Grade: 3.0/10
Chad: Solid show but not as good as the last offering from WCCW. Still, nothing was awful and the centerpiece pull apart was classic 80s episodic wrestling at its best. This is the type of show that shows when a promotion is strong. Nothing was great in ring here, but even on the “off” weeks, the action and storylines progress enough that the viewer is looking forward to the next program from the company. Final Grade: 4.0/10
Jason: Kabuki, Kevin Von Erich and the brawl were all impressive, but this show lacked a lot as a whole. I’m excited to see more from Kabuki and the feud between the Freebirds, Bundy & Irwin. In addition the Kerry Von Erich and Ric Flair feud is heating up, so that should be a fun ride as we continue our World Class adventure. Final Grade: 3.5/10
Dan: Kevin Von Erich and the brawl with the Freebirds, Bundy and Irwin definitely carried this lackluster outing by Fritz and the gang. Nothing earth shattering though nothing truly awful either besides poor Kerry. And not to be a “maskist” but I just have a hard time getting behind any of these generic masked wrestlers. I feel like you see one, you see them all. Two things keeping me going though is the eventual Flair/Kerry encounter and Bundy & Irwin’s trip down Badstreet. But until then, we have to settle for this. Final Grade: 3.0/10
Scott: This show didn’t have as much sizzle as the first show did, probably because there was no Flair and the Kerry Von Erich interview was cringeworthy. The matches were solid but not as good as last week. The brawl with the Freebirds was awesome as they bring something fresh to the promotion that wasn’t there before. Overall not as good a show as our first one. Final Grade: 3.5/10