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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

MY 100 UNAPOLOGETIC FAVORITE WRESTLING MATCHES

Scott Steiner was right...



#96: Lex Luger © versus Brian Pillman, NWA U.S. Title Match – Halloween Havoc, October 28, 1989

Art imitates life, and vice versa. Yeah, next, I should tell you all something you don’t know.

Whether anybody buys it or not, wrestling embodies the characteristics of theatrical art. Characters major and minor must all make their marks to craft an engaging story. How many matches have featured great individual performers who didn’t possess the chemistry to make a winning combination?

Hence why I hate the overused term, “carry.”

Come on, wrestling fans, we toss it around constantly.

“Such-and-such ‘carried’ John Cena to a great match.”

“Ric Flair could ‘carry’ anyone to a great match.”

Look, Scott Steiner doesn’t get many things right. But when he reminded Triple H that “It takes two people to have a good match and two people to have a shitty match,” he nailed it right on the head. I mean, just dead-on.

When people see a good Lex Luger match – and even I’ll admit, you have to really know where to look – they often overlook Luger’s share of the credit.

Luger and Brian Pillman pulled together a match I could watch dozens of times over at Halloween Havoc in 1989. Pulling that off really didn’t take much. Both men knew their roles in the play, and knew how they needed to mesh to pull off something of quality. Luger had “the look” and pulled off a fine combination of narcissistic – do I REALLY need to explain my word-choice here when it comes to Luger, or do we all get the reference? – and cowardly heel, with just a touch of skill of his own. Pillman looked like nothing short of a higher-flying Ricky Steamboat here with an innate knack for psychology and selling that made Luger look like a million bucks and bought Pillman the crowd’s “underdog” vote.

The timing, the pacing – it all showed why the U.S. Title, held here by Luger, was on a level with the WWF’s Intercontinental Title: it was held by some of the best wrestlers having some of the most sound matches on the entire card. Putting Pillman in contention for the belt launched him far enough.

But this match made a statement for another reason: it sold Pillman as someone who could beat someone of Luger’s caliber. Keep in mind, at this point, Luger wasn’t far away from a big world title reign after Ric Flair left the company in 1991. So really, Pillman was in there once again showing he could go with the big main-event stars.

Pillman got the better of enough of the opening sequences to start making just that point. However, Luger got the better of Pillman enough times to keep him looking strong, instead of overwhelmed. Give credit once again where it’s due to Jim Ross for making both men look like a million bucks on commentary. He doesn’t skimp on getting over Luger’s raw talent and potential, or Pillman’s heart. The end sequence saw Pillman miss a splash, Luger drop Pillman’s throat across the top rope, then slide over for a clean pin. Immediately, Luger makes Pillman look fantastic by vacating the ring immediately looking thankful to still have his title.

“Whew! That was too close,” you can almost hear Luger thinking.

Give Pillman this, as well: he knew pacing. He knew when to bust out his high spots as much as he knew when to chain wrestle. He knew how to keep the crowd involved. He knew how to make each spot mean something.

For telling a David-versus-Goliath story, these two made great dance partners. Few people come to mind when I think of people who can get that kind of story over as entertainingly as Pillman could in his prime. Rey Mysterio is the very first name that pops into my head.

But of course, it takes two to tango. More importantly in this case, it takes two people to have a good match and – well, I won’t repeat it. Scott Steiner deserves his moment.


2 comments:

Malibu Sands said...

Great post...I love this match, agree that they both deserve credit for making it happen, and think that it has stood the test of time well.

As you know, Luger really had his working boots on 1989, having very good to outstanding matches with the likes of Steamboat, Pillman, Windham, and even Tommy Rich at that Clash where Flair got plastic bagged by Terry Funk.

And you're right about how this whole feud with The Total Package elevated Pillman in both the eyes of the fans as well as the booking brass...he got paired up against Flair in early 1990 including a memorable TBS Saturday night championship match a week or two before the Wrestle War PPV -- and got a couple month run with the US Tag straps.

Again, great post.

Levi White said...

I want to eat your bald ass raw you delicious faggot.