Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Demolition Vol.1: Here Comes The Ax, Here Comes The Smasher

Demolition was comprised of long-time wrestlers: Barry Darsow (Krusher Khrushchev) and Bill Eadie (Masked Superstar). Khrushchev was a member of the infamous three man Russian team along with Ivan & Nikita Koloff feuding with the likes of the America's Team (Dusty Rhodes & Magnum TA), The Road Warriors and the Rock 'n' Roll Express. He was an NWA World Tag Champion in Jim Crockett Promotions before heading North to the WWF. Masked Superstar terrorized Georgia Championship Wrestling throughout the early 80s as a main event talent especially against fellow masked wrestler, Mr. Wrestling II. Masked Superstar main evented Madison Square Garden and other Northeastern cities for the WWF in the fall of 1983 as Bob Backlund's penultimate program as  WWF World Heavyweight Champion. With Eadie turning 40 in 1987, he took the younger Darsow under his wing and reinvented themselves as the monster, bruising tag team of Demolition. The Road Warriors were the biggest tag team in North America at the time with a Mad Max, post-apocalyptic look that comprised of face paint, leather, spikes and muscles on muscles. While Demolition was not as cut as Hawk & Animal, they were big, bad muthafuckas that took their face paint cues from everyone's favorite Heavy Metal Satanist: King Diamond.

This has led to many wrestling fans dismissing Road Warriors out of hand as rip-offs and poseurs. However, both teams were incredibly different in the ring. The Road Warriors were a runaway freight train of stiffness and action. They wrestled the majority of their peak as babyfaces and thus tended to run through big bumping heels like the Midnight Express, Freebirds and Four Horsemen. Demolition wrestled mostly heel and much more subtle working hard to get themselves over and their team. They worked hard to create a sense of struggle in their matches. Remember one of my biggest complaints of the Hart Foundation was the mechanical, exhibition nature of their matches. Demolition made these babyface teams earn their shine by using constant cut-offs and reminding the fans that Demolition could overwhelm that anytime with their size advantage. Thus when the speedy Rockers are flying around doing arm-wringers you can appreciate what they are overcoming an obstacle instead of Demolition letting them do it.

Now, there has been some fellow fans doing some great work breaking down Demolition after they had been written by the fanbase at-large as boring, stodgy WWF 80s power wrestlers. Their work can be found at the following link:  http://www.thehistoryofwwe.com/demolitionproject.htm.

I feel their praise for Demolition has gone overboard and we have discussed this together. They have are especially enamored with how great Demolition is at laying out their matches and how structure progresses through match to make both teams look better. I agree wholeheartedly that along with Bret Hart that Bill Eadie was the best ring general of the 80s WWF tag scene. However, structure does not necessarily beget great work.There has to be great execution and work to fully realize a great match. Too often, I felt Demolition would put in the bare minimum to execute that structure in the ring. Their double teams would be a lot of general clubbering with no real focus and their selling and bumping left a lot to be desired at times (there are exceptions like the Killer Bees match).

This blog only covers their first heel run, which I believe is when Demolition was at their best because being heels suited their style the best. Working monster babyface is one of the hardest roles in wrestling because how difficult it can be to show vulnerability and the tendency to eat your opponents alive. Demolition had a hard time adjusting to being faces in my opinion. As heels, they could roughouse throughout the match and during the shine and comback they would sell, but they did not have draw sympathy, which was more difficult for Eadie and Darsow.  They did have many great matches because Eadie has a very comprehensive grasp on wrestling psychology. But even with great psychology and structure, a match can still fall flat and Demolition was prone to that. Demolition is an interesting, dynamic team that adapted to their opponents and did not always tell the same story, but they like everyone had their flaws. I hope this blog helps people appreciate them more and see them for more than Vince's response to Road Warriors and rather as their own tag team that were Aces of WWF Tag Division from 1988-1990.

Choice Cuts from Demolition's First Heel Run:

WWF Tag Champions Demolition vs Hart Foundation - Summerslam '88
WWF Tag Champions Demolition vs Rockers - MSG 10/88
WWF Tag Champions Demolition vs British Bulldogs - MSG 7/88
Survivor Series '88
Survivor Series '87
Demolition vs The Islanders - MSG 2/87
Demolition vs Killer Bees  - Houston 9/87

The Islanders vs Demolition - MSG 2/87

Great match! Islanders started with some early doubling teaming to keep Demolition off balance. So that was not a Strike Force thing it seems that is something the Demos preferred to establish their strength and how babyfaces could still capitalize through superior teamwork. Ax/Tama have a good mat exchange with Tama getting the better of it. MSG seemed to dig the Islanders even though they were just a random ethnic babyface tag team at this time. This is the Demo's MSG debut. Haku begins to work on Ax's leg and some good babyface leg work follows. Lots of quick tags and follow up on Ax's leg that never drags. Tama tries to go toe to toe with Ax even in his weakened state that ain smart as he drives Tama head first into Smash's boot.

Smash throws Tama out to the floor hard. Tama takes the first of his two man-sized bumps when Ax whips him hard into the railing. The pugnacious Tama fights out of the corner and covers Ax only to pressed out to the floor in a fucking wicked bump. I am such an unabashed Tama mark at this point. What the hell happened to this guy?

Ax reverse elbow gets two and Tama bumped huge off that. Tama takes a wicked hot shot. Tama is a great face in peril and heel. I have feel bad he did not make it further. He kicks Ax, who sets too early and MSG is whistling. Haku is in and he is a HOUSE OF FIRE! Headbutts, Dropkick, big thrust kick DOUBLE HEADBUTTS! Tama high cross body only gets two on an Ax save. Donnybrook ensues, ref holds back Haku and Demolition Decapitation grabs the win for the Demos.

This is my favorite Demolition match so far and really reinforces how good the Islanders working both babyface and heel. Tama took some huge bumps and both Islanders had great offense throughout the match. Demolition were great for playing antithesis of the Islanders with all their strength and they worked hard to put over the Islanders moves and in turn Tama bumped huge for Demolition makes the Demos look like monsters.
Demolition vs Killer Bees - 9/87 Houston 2 Out Of 3 Falls

Before I rave about this match (just the first two falls), Pete Doherty is the fuckin worst commentator ever.

This is the greatest Killer Bees match I have ever seen and I have watched way too many Killer Bees matches. This may be Demolition's best match as well, but it is still to early to tell and I hope they have better matches. On top of all this, I think the first fall is greatest heel in peril tag I have ever seen. I think it is a bit overstated that WWF tag matches were done in a heel-in-peril style. They usually had a normal babyface shine and any babyface limb work was perfunctory and short-lived. It is not the crux of the match and the face in peril is usually as long if not longer than the babyface shine. This match is heel in peril through and through and really well-done. The hook of the match is that Bees have managed to injure Ax's knee finally exposing a weakness to the seemingly indomitable Demolition. As Ax is struggling to tag Smash, you are happy to see Demolition finally writhe pain.

The match begins as most Demolition matches do with concept that Bees have no chance on their own against Demolition. They have to manage to get a member of Demolition in their corner so they can do frequent tags and double teams. They are leveraging their speed advantage into double team moves. Demolition use a lot of cheating to parlay that into power moves. There is a real sense of struggle from the beginning. One team is not dominating the other rather they are jockeying for position. Ax keeps grabbing a front facelock and Blair keeps relentlessly pounding away at his knee. Finally Ax's knee gives out and the Bees just go to town on Ax's knee with all sorts of double teams, stretches and holds. Ax is desperately trying to get to Smash, but there is no sympathy to be had for these brutes. Blair goes for coup d'grace: figure-4. Smash sensing the end is nigh makes the save. In the confusion, Blair eats knees on a splash attempt and Demolition go up 1-0 in a great first fall.

Ax tries to avoid starting the next fall even though he won the previous fall so Brunzell brings him in the hard way. Ax is able to tag out, but as Smash comes in he performs an atomic drop on Blair, who tags Brunzell while being hoisted up. Blair collides with Ax and Brunzell dropkicks Smash to win the second fall. It is all knotted up.

Brunzell goes after Ax's leg again forcing him to tag out. This has really rendered Demolition into a one person team. Smash is able to get his boot up so that Blair wipes out. This sets up the Blair heat segment. This is great illustration of Demolition doing their bare minimum. The heat segment mainly consists of Demolition doing frequent tags to slap on the vulcan nerve pinch. It is not like they are using this hold to contain Blair. They should be pressing the advantage more instead it feels like killing time. Smash takes the Bret Bump into the turnbuckles and Ax misses an elbow. Has Bill Eadie ever hit an elbow? Brunzell is a small campfire as he only gets two with his dropkick. As he is running the ropes, Ax hits Jumpin Jim with Fuji's cane and that's all she wrote.

If the match just ended after the first fall it would go down as one of lost classics. The second fall was actually perfect as the Bees deserved to win the first fall and got it all knotted up. The third fall was a bore and just dragged. As Meatloaf says Two Outta Three Aint Bad.
Demolition vs Billy Jack Haynes & Ken Patera - 11/87 Boston

This is definitely nothing for you to go out of your way to see as the Pride of Oregon & Richard Simmons Clone do battle with Mr. Fuji's Demolition. Patera really should have stuck with the bleach blonde hair. The key difference in this match from other Demos matches is that like the Powers of Pain match where these two strongmen do not need to double up their moves to gain advantage over Demolition. In fact, during Haynes' hot tag you see him dominating both members of Demolition. Part of me thinks this pretty foolish as Patera and Haynes were just mid-carders (Heenan & Patera angle may have been hot I am not too familiar with it.) whereas the Powers of Pain were being pushed as the Demolition's arch rivals.

There were two heat segments. The first one on Haynes was nothing much. Patera showed very little in the way of offense. Demolition went after segment. Haynes has some decent power moves, he could be better in a different setting I have watched none of his Portland work. Billy Jack struggles to get on his dreaded full nelson and then all four men end up in the ring. The referee calls it a no contest. Ax goes to town on Patera's arm with cane. Haynes managed to grab the cane and fend off the Demolition sending them packing.

Pretty run of the mill, blase match. Demolition just working the midcard teams before their eventual ascension to the No. 1 Tag Team spot at Wrestlemania IV.
Team Hart Foundation (Hart Foundation, Islanders, Demolition, New Dream Team & Bolsheviks) vs Team Strike Force (Strike Force, British Bulldogs, Rougeaus, Killer Bees & Young Stallions) - Survivor Series 1987

I knew this match was well-regarded, but I had no idea what outcome was. I can not believe the two bottom feeding babyface tag teams were the winners. More so, I cant believe the match was booked around the Young Stallions being booked as the stars. There was no reason before or after to understand this book decision as Strike Force and British Bulldogs continued to be the preeminent babyface tag teams for the near future with the Rockers, Hart Foundation and Demolition ending the next year as the top three babyface tag teams. Odd booking aside, this was a really fun match. They did not really try to weave a story, but it was action-packed and they busted out some pretty cool moves. The only story, I really noticed was the resiliency of the Young Stallions. Just because the Young Stallions were booked as the stars, does not mean they wrestled well, mind you. They were the worst wrestlers out there. Notably, Jim Powers was being a huge pussy for not taking the hotshot on 2 occasions.

The match started off with Martel/Volkoff tearing it up shades of how good their SNME match would turn out. Volkoff looked like a monster Tito hit the Flying Burrito to get the pin on Boris. Ax came in and did his usual Demoition bit. They establish the nature of the gimmick with tons of quick tags that keep the action fresh. One notable exchange was the chop exchange between Haku/Dynamite, where the hell was that in their matches. Everyone is hitting all their stuff with a lot of intensity. The Stallions get worked over a little bit. Jacques gets the tag, but crashes and burns on a reverse cross body and Ax gets the pin. The Stallions get crushed by a Neidhart backbreaker/Haku flying chop. The Valentine adds a sweet shoulderbreaker and a vertical suplex (he throws him more than slams him back). Dino Bravo hits like the best gutwrench suplex ever and they still cant pin the Stallions. Demolition becomes fustrated and gets themselves DQ'd by pushing the ref. Bret crushes Dynamite with a piledriver and cant get the pin. The heels just cant buy a win. Tama/Martel have a great exchange as usual, but Martel applies his Boston Crab too close to the heel corner and Neidhart clobbers him. Santana makes a similar mistake on a pinfall attempt and gets whacked in the big of the head by a Bret elbow and gets pinned!?!?!??!?!? That was the first sign something fishy was up.

Now there is a long Stallions heat segment with Valentine that is pretty decent because Valentine stiffing shitty wrestlers is always fun. Powers refuses to get dropped across the ropes properly because he is a mega-pussy. The match gets clipped here and we miss the Bulldogs getting eliminated. According to one review, I missed a Bret backbreaker into a Tama knee and other general awesomeness. Disappointing. When we come back, the Stallions are still getting beat on, so it appears as if you missed nothing even though you missed the number 2 face tag team being eliminated. Valentien goes for the figure-4, but Roma gets a sunset flip (blind tag) for the win. For shame, as the New Dream Team were the best workers. Though Hart Foundation and Islanders have been working pretty friggin well also. The Killer Bees have been non-existent and Young Stallions have sucked but been the crux of this match.

The Bees begin and Brunzell hits a pretty sweet high knee. Roma is back in to be the face in peril. Islanders start busting out their offense and look great. Brunzell is working offense for the faces, Stallions on FIP duty and Blair on the apron, just where he should be. smile.gif This is the best Brunzell has looked in the WWF. Roma gets the first bit of offense for the Stallions with a fist drop on Bret Hart, but that is short-lived with Bret hitting a suplex on him. Islanders again rocking it in the ring. Brunzell is in with the Hitman. He has the Hitman to be slammed. Tama dropkicks Hitman to get him on top of Brunzell, but Brunzell rolls through for the pin. At this point, I was in shock because I expected the top 2 heel teams to easily vanquish the two babyface jobber tag teams.

Islanders jump right on Brunzell to press while they still can. Islanders do a little too much vulcan nerve pinch, but Haku works in a shoulderbreaker and they are doing their best to keep Brunzell in their corner. Stallions get a quick powerslam, but Islanders are able to overwhelm them again. Blair gets tagged and swarmed (pun intended). Islanders always press their advantage. Wicked reverse elbow by Tama. Tama misses a big elbow, the key weakness of all 80s WWF heels. Brunzell, hot tag, double noggin knocker, DROPKICK~! Haku saves. Brunzell attempts sunset flip on Tama and Blair with mask jumps over and gets his own sunset flip to complete the upset. Brunzell puts on his mask too outside as they celebrate. MASKED CONFUSION~!

On one hand, the Stallions looked awesome by surviving and resilient because they got beat on mercilessly. But they only got in like two offensive moves and they sucked in the ring. Bees showed up half through the match and it was the best Brunzell looked in the WWF, but none babyfaces aside from Martel looked all that great. This was a great showcase for the heel teams as they had a ton of offense and really worked crisp and efficient. It is crazy to think in one years time there would be an utter dearth of heel tag teams and an overabundance of babyface tag teams. I went in with high expectations and it was a bit of a let down. It was action packed and 30+ minutes flew by which is a credit to the teams, but it lacked a great story to really make it classic. It was a great fun, action blockbuster.


Ax vs Ken Patera - 2/88 MSG

The Pro Wrestling Only Dream Match - 6 years after its expiration date. smile.gif I was pleasantly surprised by this match. They cut a very good pace and it was well-worked. It was not spectacular, but it definitely was not a snoozefest. I felt Ax bumped better here than he had in most of his Demolition matches. Patera started off hot and really never let up. Patera was pretty good working Ax's arm early. Fuji played "I'm not touching you! I'm not touching you!" with his case eventually this incensed Patera enough for to follow onto the floor. I thought this was going to be the transition spot, but curveball Patera runs Ax into the post and railing. The real one was Patera running into Ax's boot and then Ax going after Patera's cast arm. Fuji helped out with a couple cane shots. Patera locked in the full nelson, but Fuji distracted and Patera decked him. Here comes Smash! Walking Disaster! Ax blindsides Patera for the win. JYD makes the save.

It is weird that Patera was feuding with Heenan, but wrestling Demolition. Patera's stock was clearly falling. The wrestling landscape had changed so much and he just could not really adapt. Demolition was on the upswing and about to become the No. 1 Tag Team in the WWF from 1988-1990. It was no brainer for Ax to pick up the duke. This was a solid match from two pros.
Demolition vs "Not Yet Fabulous" Rougeaus - Boston 3/88

This was touted as one of the better Demolition matches, but it did nothing for me. I would say the Islanders/Demos was a much better early Demolition match. At first it seems like Demolition will overwhelm the Quebecois, but miscommunication opens up some double teaming by the Rougeaus. Jacques is able to get a double wristlock on Smash. Raymond gets a high cross body to a dead crowd. Ax starts stomping Raymond. Ax grabs a front facelock and Raymond starts ironically chopping down Ax with some blows to the knee. His name is Ax. An attempted monkey flip cots Raymond and the heat segment begins earnest and it is a snoozer. Outside of a Fuji cane shot, it is just some cranking on Raymond's neck; it doesnt help that Raymond is the bland member of his team. Vertical suplex by Raymond and missed elbow by Smash gets Jacques in there, but at this point the crowd does not care about baby face Rougeaus. Jacques slaps on the Boston Crab in Boston and still no pop! How shameless can you get? smile.gif Ax with a big boot and then a double clothesline gets the duke for the Demos.

This was described as a mugging of the Rougeaus, but it felt like the usual tepid Demolition affair. I never felt any sympathy towards the Rougeaus and they demonstrated no pluckiness. The Demolition as lumbering giants just was not menacing at all. In the Islanders match, the Islanders made Demolition seem like monsters because of their urgency on offense and Tama's bumping. Demolition feels like a team that may only be as good as their opponents.

Brazil vs Portugal Tonight! Good thing it is a soccer match! :)

WWF Tag Champs Strike Force vs Demolition - WM IV

Strike Force looks like a bunch of chumps following that entrance by Demolition. Demolition is my next target, but I get started a little bit out of order by watching this match to keep up with my Strike Force groove.

The most disappointing Strike Force match so far as the Bolsheviks looked a lot better than Demolition. Instead of playing speed against power, Strike Force played up the idea of doubling up their moves as a way to keep Demolition off the balance. I just did not think shine was as good because even the Bolsheviks sold and bumped better than Demolition did for Strike Force. The transition was really well-done with Smash catching Tito in a bearhug and sort of falling back so Ax could catch him in the throat.

This match would have been a lot better if Martel was the face in peril because he would added more dynamics and really made Demolition earn while Tito was just content to sell Demolition's power based offense. Demolition was really just using some bland stuff when they could have added some more outside the ring steel railing or post attacks, maybe some Fuji interference, some more double teaming. Tito connects with the flying burrito and makes the hot tag to Martel. Martel gets the short straw as he quickly puts Smash in the Boston Crab. Then we hit end game where Tito knocks Ax out of the ring with the Flying Burrito and then attacks Fuji. Fuji tosses the cane into the ring for Ax to smash Martel in the head. While Tito is preoccupied with Fuji, Smash falls on top to win the Tag Titles. It is a perfectly good finish, but they should have set up Tito's anger towards Fuji better by actually having Fuji participate in the match earlier.

Overall, a very disappointing end to Strike Force's title reign. Now I have found title switch matches are generally lackluster as are big supercard matches. So maybe when I watch April MSG match I will see a more game Demolition than the one out there that dragged down Strike Force.
WWF Tag Champs Demolition vs Strike Force - MSG 4/88

Demolition reminds me a lot of Hart Foundation very structurally solid, but very uninspiring. Hart Foundation is still better to watch because Bret is way better on offense, bumping and selling than these two dudes. My biggest problem with Bret was his super segmented match structure where it would be shine->>transition->heat->transition->finish and outside of the transitions there would be no real sense of struggle. Each team was just playing ragdoll for each other. That was very much the case in the Wrestlemania match between the two. I will say it did get a bit better in this match. My theory did not come to fruition a Martel heat segment did not lead to more hope spots and a more sense of struggle. He did manage to get one more in than Tito, but it was not exactly a fight.

The babyface shine segment sees Strike Force overwhelming Demolition with double teams and quickness. They isolate each member. The best spot of the match is early on with Martel slapping Ax into the Boston Crab within first minute while Tito held Smash at bay with forearms, but eventually Smash saw opening due to the ref holding Tito back to hit Martel. Demolition just cant bump. It looks like they have trouble falling down. Ax took a front flip bump off a arm wringer, so I will eat my words. The Strike Force is using the arm bar and wrist locks as their base.

Ax uses the Hart Foundation stock transition the blind strike while the face is running the ropes. We get a Martel heat segment, but it is nothing much. Hey, but the Demos listened to me as they take Martel to the outside and he is driven into the apron. There is some decent lower back psychology. Hot tag to Tito, who runs the two Demos into each other. FLYING BURRITO!!! Fuji on the apron, Martel & Ax going at it, Fuji hits Tito with the cane on a figure 4 attempt.

I would say this is right with Strike Force/Hart Foundation matches. It is a bit underwhelming, but it peaked early. All four guys were keeping things moving and establishing that Strike Force was the better pure team and would win a fair fight. Even initially, Strike Force was besting Demolition's power offense because they were the better technical wrestlers before the blindside on the rope run. It took underhanded tactics and brute strength for Demolition to win. It is a great story that has just been told better. I have hope for Demolition.
WWF World Tag Champs Demolition w/Mr. Fuji vs The British Bulldogs - SNME 4/88

Demolition is going to encrust Matilda in chrome and mount on their Winnebago when they drive to the Grand Canyon. Seriously, what the fuck? The Wyatts need to listen to some Barry Darsow to really get crazy down.

This is a nothing match to re-establish the Bulldogs as the number one babyfaces as Martel was going to take a vacation and their go around the horn to establish the Demos is the Heel Ace of the tag division. The interesting part may be the foreshadowing that Bulldogs may break Demos from their mold Dynamite was going to force his will on the match. This felt like a real struggle with each team looking to give very little to their opponents. Dynamite was the face in peril and took a backbreaker before Davey Boy came in and showed he could match power with Demos. The story seemed like Dynamite would get in a bit over his head, but Davey Boy was the Demos equal in power.

Endgame was Matilda chased Fuji to the back. They broke Fuji's cane leaving Jesse to lament the welfare of Fuji and they attacked the Demos with cane. The Bulldogs sure did have a temper. This is the second match where they have grabbed a manager's weapon and attacked their opponents. If they are going to win the titles back they are going to need to keep their composure under stress. I think they need Capt. Lou back to guide them to their second championship run. They never were the same without him. Thats what happens with two British hotheads cant keeps their act together. Heard the Demos/Bulldogs MSG is bitchin as all hell and really looking forward to a great Bulldogs match. Outside their work with the Dream Team, I dont feel like they have gotten there.
WWF World Tag Champs Demolition vs Strike Force - Primetime Wrestling 6/88

This match is just a backdrop for the killer angle that writes Martel off. The match was basically laid out the way the earlier matches have been. Strike Force has needed to double up on their moves to gain the advantage. Demolition can not gain the advantage by sheer size so they back Tito into the ropes so Fuji can jab him the ribs. Tito takes a lickin but keeps on tickin to hit the Flyin Burrito. Martel is clicking on all cylinders before a Boston Crab attempt left him prone to being buffeted to the outside. Smash smashed a chair across the back of Martel's head and hit him with Demolition Decapitation. I didn't think this elicited the level of heat it should as this quite the heinous attack, but maybe I am biased as a Martel fan and Strike Force fan. The stuff with Demolition never got out of first gear, but it does not make me any less disappointed that we are nearing the end of the road for Strike Force. The last match is against the Brainbusters at Wrestlemania V. Nothing is forever.
WWF World Tag Champs Demolition vs Powers of Pain - Philly 7/88

This is before the Demos face turn so the Powers of Pain are actually babyfaces here. The double turn was a smart move as the Powers of Pain were not that charismatic to be babyfaces and the Demos were already getting face pops. Weird start to this match as Demolition is announced 3 times and takes 3 minutes before their music hits. Crowd gets a little restless.

The one thing I really like about this match is that in every Demolition match so far, the babyface team has to double up their moves to gain the advantage on Demolition. In this match, Demolition has to double their moves to overwhelm the Powers of Pain. Other than that, it did not totally suck, which was a plus. Outside of Barbie nearly wiping out on a second rope elbow, he was by far the best wrestler in the match. Each time Demolition would do their stomping attacks, POP would counter that with their own power moves. Barbie hit a sweet clothesline. The Artist Formerly Known As The Masked Superstar hit a swinging neckbreaker on Barbarian. Barbarian was surprisingly effective in the FIP role, I mean you don't have much choice when you partner is the Personification of Suck, The Warlord.

Barbarian starts to mount a comeback and the crowd actually responds, but he charges and his shoulder meets the post. Smash in an incredibly awkward move decides to stretch the other arm. Dude all you had to was take the injured shoulder and slam it against the post. Some chinlokcery follows and Smash runs into the Big Boot of the Barbarian. If this was WCW circa 1998, this match would be over, but it is not. It is 1988 WWF and He's Hardcore! Smash's heart don't pump kool-aid. But he is disoriented enough for Barbie to make the tag and lamest hot tag ever follows. Crowd does not give a shit about the Warlord and his awkward offense. They brawl to the outside and everyone gets counted out. Powers of Pain get their heat back by Irish Whipping Ax and Smash into each other.

Demolition needed to use double teams to overwhelm the POP, which was about the only interesting nuance. The match did not suck, but it is nothing I will ever watch again. I do think this matchup of teams will be better once the double turn happens.
WWF Tag Champs Demolition w/Mr. Fuji vs The British Bulldogs - MSG 7/88

If you told me, "Sleeze, there are going to be 3 extended heat segments in this match and you will like it" I would have said "Dont apply to work for Miss Cleo." But shockingly enough I liked this match a good deal. I would say it is one of the better Demolition matches, just falling short of Summerslam '88 match and about even with the Islanders match. This match really encapsulates what is said about Demolition forcing their opponents to work for their offense. There is a real sense of struggle and urgency in this match that you do not find in the Hart Foundation and Bulldogs matches. The beginning of the match really felt like four titans just blasting each other to get the victory. The Bulldogs controlled the more powerful Demolition by using wristlocks but were not afraid to throw some bows at the Demos. The Demos never just lay down and took the offense they made sure to get their shots in to let the Bulldogs know they were still there. Davey Boy ends up going to the outside and then getting run into the steel post. Ax gets a little lazy here with vulcan nerve pinch. Davey Boy was prone to an attack and would have liked to see Demolition press their advantage. When Davey Boy elbows out of a chinlock, Ax gives him some shots for good measure and then Davey Boy punts him on a telegraphed back body drop. It is little things like that convey a sense of struggle.

Dynamite in and he and Ax miscommunicate on a clothesline and he hits his snap suplex, but he gets hit in the back of the head by Smash while running the ropes. His back gets ran into the apron and he becomes the Face In Peril. Smash suplexes Dynamite back into the ring. Dynamite with a wicked clothesline and here comes Davey Boy. Davey Boy hits one of his impactful dropkicks, but gets the back body dropped and again becomes the face in peril. The Bulldogs just can not sustain any offense against the powerful machine known as Demolition. Demolition is eating them up, but the Bulldogs are putting up more of a fight and are not just mailing this one in like the rest of 1988. At one point, Davey Boy just starts throwing shivers and actually gets a nearfall on Ax. It feels like a fight. Smash's backbreaker gets two. Smith gets his feet up in the corner. Dynamite in and he gets a wicked clothesline and a wicked flying headbutt. He takes the Bret Bump in the corner. It feels like the Bulldogs are wrestling like individuals and Demolition wrestles like a team and thats why the Bulldogs can not sustain offense. Davey Boy mows down Demolition by himself. He gets his running powerslam and the ref just stops counting at 2 and the crowd goes bonkers thinking the Bulldogs have won the title. The ref goes to break up an Ax/Dynamite fight only to get clobbered off camera. Smith has Fuji by the collar (better than the time Fuji just no sold all of Neidhart's punches) and Rougeaus come in and hit him with the cane allowing Demolition to pick up the victory.

The Rougeaus interference set up the Summerslam match, but was there an rhyme or reason to it? This match more so than any other WWF tag matches felt like a fight, but again I wish Demolition would press the advantage in their heat segments. If they did that, I think I would rate them among the best of all time. I loved the sense of struggle the constant little shots each team gave each other. Another interesting thread that was woven through the match was that Demolition really wrestled as a team and the Bulldogs wrestled as individuals. You would often see one Bulldog attempt to overwhelm both members of Demolition because they got the dug into early hole by the heat segment. They could not escape from this vicious cycle. Since most tag matches have maximum 2 heat segments by drawing out to three it really demonstrated how the first heat segment can cause a perpetual cycle of the babyface team having to fight underneath.

I may just start coming around to heel Demolition that being said I still have not seen a good babyface Demolition match.

WWF Tag Champs Demolition vs The British Bulldogs - Wrestlefest 1988

There was one key difference in this match and the other Demos matches I have seen. Bulldogs did not need to double up on their moves in order to gain the advantage on Demolition. Now Davey Boy is pretty much as big as Demolition and you just cant stop Dynamite from coming so this feels more like a Bulldogs match. However, I liked the Bulldogs better when they were spot machines. It seems like ever since Dynamite's injury in late 86/early 87 they were never the same. This match starts with Smith trading power with Smash and doing the Stampede roll to get wrist control. Dynamite gets dragged to Demos corner and Ax pounds away, but Dynamite fires back ultimately Ax over powers Dynamite. I like more definitive heel transition spots as I think they should be the hook of the match. The Demos are at their best when they are focused and with no limb they just stomp aimlessly. I did like Smash coming out of Dynamite small package attempt by popping Davey Boy. It was just reaffirming that Demolition was still in control and you cant do anything about it. Dynamite hits a reverse elbow out of the corner and tags Davey Boy. No dropkicks, no suplexes, where's the Davey Boy I used to know?

In very uncharacteristic fashion for Demolition, Davey Boy is able to beat up both members at once by himself including an awful back body drop on Ax. He tags in Dynamite and hits one of my favorite double team moves: Davey Boy press slams Dynamite so he can headbutt his opponent. This one looked awesome and the dead crowd finally woke up. Thats the Bulldogs I used to know. Ax saves, Fuji on the apron and it is the cane shot we all know that is coming.

Demolition let their guard down and let the Bulldogs work their match, but a 1988 Bulldogs match sucks for the most part. It is usually a tame shine segment, a lame Dynamite FIP and a not so game Davey Boy comeback. I do not like Demolition's offense especially when it is unfocused and that is the only part of this match that resembled the normal Demos match. I know the MSG match is well-liked so I will give that a shot.
WWF Tag Champs Demolition w/Jimmy Hart & Mr. Fuji vs Hart Foundation - Summerslam '88

This is a battle between the two best in-ring generals of the WWF Tag Division: Ax & Bret. However, Bret proves that his will is indomitable and this is most definitely a Hart Foundation match, but surprisingly it is their best match I have seen so far. Demolition's trademarks of their opponents needing to double up, their early strength advantage, aimless beatdowns are nowhere to be found. Instead they are replaced by Bret and Anvil having their way with Demolition until Bret runs his shoulder into the post giving Demolition a focused attack.

The beginning of the match is only interesting insofar that it sets the mood that the Hart Foundation is in control and the Demolition have no strength advantage. Anvil eats a knee while running the ropes ala the heel Hart Foundation. That is a short heat segment, before Bret's shoulder eats the post. Bret is a great sympathetic face in peril as the Demolition is relentless on his shoulder. This is the best Demolition control segment so far because their focused attack and being very active in it. Bret gets a clothesline for the false hot tag and then a boot to the face on a charge. Anvil is hot tonight! He dropkicks and slams Demolition at will clearing them from the ring. In my favorite spot of the match, Bret slingshots Anvil over the top rope onto Demolition on the floor. Anvil gets a running powerslam for 2. They do the Anvil slingshot into the corner and that only gets 2. A Bret backbreaker gets 2 and Ax saves. Fuji is on the apron and takes about 7 Anvil blows without flinching until Ax can finally hit Bret with Hart's megaphone. Way to make Anvil look like a chump, Fuji.

Besides Fuji no-selling all of Anvil's punches, this was way better than I expected because I always thought Summerslam '90 match kinda sucked. The beginning could have been helped by using some of Eadie's touches. However, the heat segment and the stretch were all very entertaining and worked well. So far this was the Anvil's best performance.

I did not see Jimmy Hart's turn on the Hart Foundation. Whats the deal? Who dumped who? Jimmy Hart was not managing the Rougeaus yet so it was not exactly a double turn. Also seems weird that Hart Foundation were totally non-existent between Wrestlemania IV and Summerslam '88, but I guess the best way to turn someone face back then was give them a layoff so people could forget all the dastardly things you had done.
WWF Tag Champs Demolition w/Jimmy Hart & Mr. Fuji vs Hart Foundation - 10/88 SNME

This match is more of a backdrop to really kickstart Rougeaus/Hart Foundation feud in earnest around the horn while Demolition works against the Powers of Pain. It is very similar to Summerslam match only in low gear and a generic heat segment. Anvil controls early with a vertical suplex after some double teaming from Demolition. Bret does well for himself for about minute before he falls prey to the awesome might of Demolition. Bret is the best babyface worker that Demolition has faced in terms of selling and Bret gets the Demolition offense over that way. Hot tag to the Anvil, who is as I expected a pretty good hot tag besides the low-flying dropkicks just stick to power moves. He hits his running powerslam, but it gets broken up. Fuji & Hart on the ring apron while the Rougeaus sneak out. Fuji gets decked by Bret and sells. Anvil has Jimmy by the collar, but one of the Rougeaus tosses the meagphone to Ax who nails Anvil for the win in the confusion.

Not a match to go out your way to see, but it does kickstart the number 3 tag team feud with Rockers/Busters and Demolition/Powers Of Pain at 2 and 1. Finally the tag team division looks healthy again after a pretty dismal 1988.

Marty worked damn hard for that headlock. :)

WWF Tag Champs Demolition vs The Rockers MSG 10/88

This is the compressed version of the RnRs vs the Russians (well without the babyface title change) as this is one of the better speed vs power tag matches, but it is not just that. Demolition being outquicked is only one part of their match formula. The other is that the babyface always have to double up their moves. I love Smash barking "Stay in one place!" to Marty. It might be the most Darsow has ever added to any of his tag matches. I do like the wrinkle of Demolition matches where it does seem like from the outset that all the babyface teams will overwhelmed immediately only for face teams to find an initial way around it. In this case, it was the rapid arm work as they trapped Smash in their corner. They really made sure to move as quickly as possible. The crowd was really going bonkers for this and this was just a month before Demolition's babyface turn, which really shows how fast the Rockers got over. Marty does a quick FIP, but the real fireworks start when Shawn crashes and burns to the floor when Ax holds down the top rope.

Demolition demonstrates a real singular purpose in attacking Shawn's lower back with the Boston Crab, sledges and bearhugs. This is the part of the match, which was psychologically sound, but I agree with Soup was missing that extra something to put this in the all-time classic canon. What is so great about the Rockers is that their is not a huge gulf in talent between the partners. Shawn's FIP is as good as Marty's hot tag. Now we see that Rockers are not only keeping Demos outbalance with quick work, but lots of doubling up of their moves: double dropkicks, double slams, double clothesline. Rockers look like they are going to get the pin, but Ax breaks it up. Ref detains Michaels and Smash carries Marty over to be punched in the face by Ax for the pin.

This has all the usual Demolition motifs: babyfaces initially overwhelmed, they use their speed & double team moves; heel transition spot; Demos beatdown; go home. This is definitely the best Demolition match because the Rockers are best suited for this role even though Tama outbumped both the Rockers in his match. Demolition is just there on offense. It makes sense, but it does nothing for me. The Rockers being on offense was definitely the more entertaining parts of the match. Demolition as babyfaces just seem like it is going to be weird.

The Brits never had much team spirit

Team Powers of Pain (Powers of Pain, British Bulldogs, Rockers, Hart Foundation& Young Stallions) vs Team Demolition (Demolition, Brainbusters, Rougeaus, Bolsheviks & Conquistadors) - Survivor Series '88

I am glad there were only two matches done in this style because I have to say I am not a huge fan. I think they are both very good matches given the circumstances, but there is just too much action and not enough story. In the '87 match, I was trying to separate my issues with the style and give a positive review in spite there was a lot of sizzle, but little steak. I will say this match improves on that match as the storylines are much more interesting highlighting Demos/POP & Busters/Rockers as the next big feuds and the Impossible Dream Team of the Conquisatdors.

This was the Rockers & Busters first real big chance on a WWF stage and they really shine by differentiating themselves immediately from the WWF wrestlers. Right from the outset, the Rockers are pushing their speed element as how they will over come the stereotypical bigger guys with the Bolsheviks. Then Tully comes in and immediately starts pinballing off the babyfaces. Then when Tully has to face the prospect of Barbarian, he just struts 'n' strolls over to tag Volkoff. Fuckin Demolition aint gonna stooge for you.  smile.gif Who gets the first real face in peril segment: Shawn where he delivered his typically great performance and Marty got to play the hot tag on a Conquistador. You could get a taste as a WWF fan what you were in store for with this new explosive team. After Zuhkov eliminates last year's Cinderella the Stallions, Shawn is able to prove he is the better wrestler pretty much overcoming him with ease, before tagging Marty in for a slingshot sunset flip to eliminate the Bolsheviks. Eventually the Rockers and Brainbusters erupts into a donnybrook that causes both teams to be eliminated as they fight to the back. This set up the hot feud that would take them through the first quarter of next year. The match was showcase for the Rocker's speed and selling and the Busters' bumping and stooging.

Before we get into the other two overarching storylines of the match, I just wanted to talk about everyone else. The long-standing rumor is that the Rougeaus (#3 heel team on the depth chart) were eliminated early to avoid Dynamite doing unspeakable things to Jacques. Based on Bret Hart's recent visit on the Steve Austin show, he admitted Dynamite was a prick willing to take liberties in the ring. In this match, he was able to get his hands on the Rougeaus and nothing seemed stiffer than usual. I would say a clothesline he gave Tully was even stiffer. The Bulldogs were one team that gave kind of an uninspired performance. It was just a lot of offense, but none of it had any meaning and it just became a blur. Of course, they were on their way out having wrapped up putting Demolition over and with no future it explains their meandering performance in this match, but because of how long they were in there it just dragged for me. If you are a action-mark, Bulldogs were probably your favorite team in this match, but for me they did not give me any reason to care about them. The Hart Foundation were in a similar boat, but they not as showcased plus Bret is a way better seller thus was willing to give the heels a little bit. One of my favorite random moments from this match was Barbarian was coming out of an FIP and dissed Anvil by not tagging him and tagged Marty. It had me laughing. I liked the finish to Bret's elimination where he German suplexed Tully, but could not hold him and pinned himself. The Bullodgs finish was pretty good as well with Dynamite crashing and burning on a diving head butt attempt. These two teams provided great action, but without a storyline motivation were just kinda there.

On the heel side, the Rougeaus did not get to show much due to their early elimination. 'Ol Nik looked great in this match busting a nice spinkick twice. Volkoff is not some great lost worker because he was a really solid hand that had a couple high spots hit them well and knew how to lay in his strikes. I definitely like Volkoff after seeing him a couple times. I do not get the Bolsheviks elimination of the Stallions as that could have a great way to give the Busters a good victory instead of the Bolsheviks who were going nowhere. Though maybe it was to make the Rockers look better.

Much like the Stallions & Bees, the Conquistadors played the role of the jabroni team that no one thought would make it. Difference was I got sucked into rooting for the Conquistadors mostly due to Jesse's commentary. It is these two average looking goofs in all gold costumes with generic lucha masks constantly making mistakes but somehow always withstanding all this babyface offense. Jesse & Gorilla were amazed by their resilience. They always were the guys that kept slamming their babyface to close to the wrong corner causing them to take a hot tag, but they never did get pinned. Hell one of them attempted a somersault senton from the second rope, which was the high spot of the match. Now the reason the Conquisatdors stayed in were because after the Powers of Pain heel turn they wanted a team to put the POP over, but I would have lost my shit if they gave the Conquistadors a couple spots before biting dust due to some Fuji interference and a Barbie headbutt.

Now the major story arc of this match is Demolition vs Powers of Pain. Demolition was the only heel team early on that got any offense in as they cutting off people, but their partners would lose the advantage. That is a Demolition hallmark. Barb and Smash went toe-to-toe for a bit. Smash tags out to a Conquistador for takes Barbie's big boot. The Ax vs Warlord encounter has a much bigger feel the commentary puts it over, the crowd erupts and the wrestlers are excited. Demolition double teams, but here comes Barb with a huge flying shoulder tackle. Barbarian had this strange penchant to headbutt a heel back into the heel corner letting him tag out. Barb does a little FIP, which is better than Warlord, but still nothing special. Finally we are down to Demolition & Conquistadors vs the Powers of Pain. Warlord posts his shoulder early and Demolition targets it, but Fuji keeps jumping on the apron so as to give a cane shot, but it would be in the plain view of the ref. So Demolition ignores him and the commentators are like that kooky Fuji. Smash goes to run the ropes, but tumbles through the middle rope not because he is a klutz, but because he has been sabotaged by Fuji. Demolition gets counted out, but Ax is hot at Fuji. Fuji has the gall to push Ax away with cane and when Ax turns his back he gives him a wallop. However Smash is back up and tosses him to Ax who bodyslams him and the crowd erupts and babyface turn completed. POP ignores the Impossible Dream Team of the Conquistadors and helps Fuji up and brings him to their corner. Fuji trips a Conquistador and a Barbie falling headbutt gets the win for a big pop. Heel turn in progress. smile.gif Demolition returns to clear the ring and the crowd pops for them I don't think it will take much to complete POP's heel turn.

The angle seemed random mostly likely due to me having not watched the TV. It made sense that Demolition was clearly over ought to be turned face, but it seemed strange that Fuji was just all of sudden hopping up on the ring. If they wanted to do the Fuji/POP in cahoots, why not just have Fuji trip Ax or Smash. I do not think it was the best way to turn POP heel, but the bodyslam was definitely effective in turning Demolition babyface. I will probably never watch this match again as it is wicked fuckin' long, but there is plenty of action and story telling to recommend it to be watched once.
Massive kudos to Demolition they were the preeminent tag team in WWF from 1988-90. There is no tag in the post-1984 WWF/E that can claim that reign of dominance. They had a gimmick that fit the time period well, played the characters well and delivered in the ring enough so that fans were willing to buy them as the top team. Yes, they laid their matches out well, but great structure is not great work unto itself.

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