Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tag Teams Back Again: US Express, Sheik & Volkoff, Dream Team (WWF, 1985)

Hey yo Stud Muffins & Foxy Ladies,

This blog is the written companion piece for the podcast dubbed "Tag Teams Back Again" I did with Titan of Wrestling & Jobber-Lover, Kelly Nelson on 1985 tag team wrestling focusing on the championship teams of the year: The US Express, Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff, and the Dream Team of Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake. Click the link below to hear our melodious and dulcet voices discuss the awesomeness of The Hammer!

If you like this, also check out my blog about Greg "The Hammer" Valentine and his singles and tag exploits from 1985-1990:

The Hammer Swings Down
I always preferred the Golden Globes 

WWF World Tag Team Champions Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff vs US Express - MSG 5/20/85

It is the Fashion Plate vs. The Captain in this Wrestlemania rematch at Madison Square Garden. USSR #1, Iran #1, USA hock-ptooey is always awesome. Albano with the All-American, white meat babyfaces was definitely an odd pairing, but Windham and Rotundo were over like rover. Barry Windham is just damn good at pro wrestling. I was hoping there was a way he would play face in peril and be the hot tag and they did it! On the opposing team, Sheiky Baby is underrated at wrestling. He is such a great cowardly villain, but when he gets on offense he has enough to seem credible. Sheik and Rotundo starting off with some amateur wrestling was great and wished it went longer. Rotundo took most of the shine, but Sheik kept it entertaining: bowing on his knees to try to buy time or when it may venture into heel in peril he created movement with his somersault bump. Volkoff came in and Windham hit such a beautiful sunset flip, but missed on a dropkick which gave the Axis of Evil chance to begin double teaming. Sheik hits his usual abdominal stretch and awesome gutwrench suplex. Windham blocks Sheik on a suplex and in the struggle delivers one helluva suplex that had Gorilla popping. Windham is dazed, but makes it to Rotundo for the lukewarm tag, who hits a pair of dropkicks, but get cut off by double teaming. If you want something done, you got to do it yourself so Windham bashes Sheik's brain's into the steel. Sheik is busted. Hot tag to Windham, who is hitting anything that moves and has the Garden rocking, baby! Windham is working over the cut with punches and BULLDOG! Katie Bar the Door there is a pier-six brawl a brewing. It spills to the outside where Windham gnaws on the cut and Rotundo punches Blassie. They call it a countout victory for the US Express, but that is suspect at best. Windham rocked this match selling and then being his own hot tag, which really whipped this crowd into a frenzy. What I came out of this thinking is that I really want to see Windham vs Sheik singles street fight. The brief hot finish stretch vaults this into the above average good territory. ***
The Dream Team w/Jimmy Hart vs Tito Santana & Ricky Steamboat - MLG 4/85

This match sure lived up to the hype and may be the best Beefcake performance I have ever seen. This match was all about tempo. Santana was in his red-hot feud with Valentine who had broken his leg and taken his title. The crowd was molten for that angle. The babyfaces worked their entire end in an up-tempo, fired -up fashion. The Dream Team knowing they could not match this attempted every trick in the book to break their momentum and work a real grinding style. This led to a really good match.

Early on Steamboat and Santana have a hot shine sequence with Beefcake and Valentine just bumping all over the place for them. I have been down on WWF Steamboat, but he was pumped for this match just flying around the ring. You know that Tito is going to bring the hate with his fists balled up. Beefcake and Valentine do their best to stall and break this momentum, but at first there seems like no end to this onslaught. Until, Tito goes for the figure-4 on Valentine, who grabs his trunks and hits a knee in the midsection. Once he hits a shoulderbreaker he consolidates the advantage for the Dream Team and grinds the match to a halt. They work on Santana with some double teams and Valentine slaps on an arm bar. Tito is almost able to make the tag, but Valentine knocks Steamboat off the apron and then Beefcake comes around and beats on Steamboat. The crowd was just eating this all up. The Beefer gets cocky and goads Steamboat. Tito is able to crawl past Beefcake and get the hot tag to Steamboat. IT IS BREAKING LOOSE IN TORONTO! Steamboat with his best hot tag I have seen. He unloads on both the Hammer and the Beefer with karate shots. The crowd was losing their shit for this. Steamboat grabs the sleeper hold, but Beefcake with an eye-rake. Valentine and Steamboat have a good exchange until an eye-rake does Steamboat in and Valentine consolidates with a gut buster. I preferred the Steamboat FIP is a better at selling and the Dream Team really unloaded with double teams and offense. Valentine starts to warm him up for the figure-4, but Steamboat knows his way around the figure-4 and grabs an inside cradle. Steamboat fights out of the corner and is able to Tito. ARRIBA! Double noggin knocker. Tito drops Valentine with a right. Flying Burrito to a huge pop! Beefcake saves. Melee ensues. They are double teaming Tito and Steamboat flies off the top onto Beefcake. Tito blocks Valentine's atomic drop and applies the figure-4 for the submission victory. ARRIBA! Wooooooooooooo, I am out of breathe after that one.

This is babyface wrestling 101, folks. Steamboat and Santana gave maximum effort and I bet it is real easy when you have a crowd as hot as this one at the Maple Leaf Gardens. The Dream Team wrestled a smart match to ensure constant heat throughout the match as they built not one, but two really hot tags. In some of those double FIP AWA tags, the first hot tag is not all that hot, but in this match that Steamboat hot tag is just as red-hot as the following Santana one. Beefcake actually wrestled pretty well here and was not as awkward as usual. The Hammer is going to clog the lane every time and make sure that babyface earns every shot. This up there with the Bulldogs match as one of the best WWF Tags of the 80s.
WWF Tag Champs US Express vs The Dream Team - Philly 9/85

I am glad I went back and watched these two Dream Team matches because they could contend with the Islanders as my favorite heel tag team in 80s WWF. I will say one of the disappointments of Valentine sticking in one promotion for so long is that we did not get stuff like Valentine vs Windham one on one at length. Also, what I do not understand is why Beefcake seemed to suck so hard in '86. I mean Valentine barely let Beefcake wrestle in Wrestlemania II. He wrestled pretty decently in these two matches. He is still only the fourth best wrestler in these matches, but he is not sucking out loud.

I loved the start to this match as the Dream Team jumps them and a melee ensues. The Windham/Valentine exchange makes me want that singles match so much. The faces send the heels packing. Valentine & Beefcake true to form work smart and try to break their momentum. We get Windham/Valentine proper and the two minutes we get is awesome. Valentine stops the runaway freight train with a knee lift. Beefcake loses this advantage and we go to Heel In Peril with some arm work. I actually think Beefcake sold this pretty well and Rotundo worked pretty well in this segment. The US Express even hits a double dropkick (way better than Rockers one) on Beefer. Beefcake works Rotundo to his corrner and he blind tagged Valentine, who came off the top with a sledge onto Rotundo. Valentine suffocates Rotundo and is relentless on his legs and Rotundo sells pretty well. Rotundo is good at working some strikes in his hope spots in the corner. I dig Dream Team double whip into the corner. We hit the front facelock for a while. I will say the Valentine drop toehold to prevent Rotundo from making the tag is one of the best of those kind. Windham and Valentine get back into it. I just love how chippy this is. Valentine hits his shoulder breaker. I dig the shoulderbreaker I think someone should incorporate it in their moveset, but it is weird for Valentine's moveset. Valentine gets kicked off by Rotundo on his figure-4 into his corner so he can tag Beefer. Rotundo and Beefcake knock heads and The Hammer throws the Beefer on Rotundo and it is a close two! The crowd lets out a collective sigh of relief. But Rotundo escapes and hot tag to BIG BARRY!!! I love how Windham steps through his punches. He hits Valentine with a bulldog, but Valentine KICKS OUT! Now that's a death sentence for a babyface. Windham goes for the second bulldog, but Beefcake puts "Luscious" Johnny V's hair product in Barry's eyes. Valentine hits an elbow to seal the deal. I love how Windham is writhing in pain while he is being pinned, perfect selling.

The other match is definitely the better workrate match and the front facelock stuff does drag, but Windham & Valentine are really excellent. I wish they would some of that beginning melee stuff in other matches it gives matches a more heated feel. I thought this is one of the better title switches I have seen.

WWF World Tag Champions Dream Team vs Tito Santana & Pedro Morales - MSG 11/25/85

Anytime Valentine and Satana have a chance to hook it up whether it is in a tag or in singles, you know you are going to watch something special. There is just so much heat and urgency to their work. The beginning is great with Valentine and Pedro going hard body shot for hard body shot with Pedro winning. Morales I think only contributed left hands, but they were all great. Valentine was stooging and hitting TIMBAAAAAHHHHH early. Valentine and Santana tease figure-4s and the Garden is rocking for Tito with big Tito chants. I love Tito opening up with rights on Valentine. Valentine tags out but the story remains the same for the Beefer. Valentine is outside hugging Johnny V while Beefcake gets his ass handed to him. Double noggin knocker. They start to vere into heel in peril with arm work on Beefcake. There is an awesome game of chicken between Valentine and Santana over Morales going for a Chickenwing/Half Nelson pin that Valentine wins. Valentine comes in and just rocks Pedro with wicked elbows that send him tumbling through the ropes. When it is time to get mean, nobody is better than the Hammer. Beefcake is in and hits the Sleeper, which is the best they he can do. Jesse and Gorilla both are surprised this is in his arsenal as it ends up becoming his finish. Pedro crawls to his corner, but Valentine distracts the ref so he can't see the tag and then when the ref sends Tito back they toss Pedro over the top rope. That is some well done chicanery. Beefcake applies a spinning toehold when Pedro kicks out, Beefcake immediately tags out and Valentine wastes no time flying over to knock Santana off the apron and Valentine obilterates Pedro with a right elbow. Valentine goes for the Figure-4, but Pedro as one last burst of energy and makes the tag to Tito. Tito is such a great pissed of house of fire just hitting anything that moves and applies the figure-4 to Tito. Katie Bar the Door a Pier-Six Brawl is a brewing as Valentine deliberately attacks Tito triggering the disqualification.

I love Valentine in this period so much. He is totally selfless in getting the other team over, but at the same time does not necessarily need to cheat to take over. Sometimes, he is just going to hit you really hard in the mouth. I love the urgency of everyone's actions involved with great cheating thrown in by the Dream Team. The shine and hot tag were both excellent as to be expected from always lively Tito Santana. The finish leaves a lot to be desired, but that's the 80s for you. ***1/2


WWF World Tag Champions Dream Team vs Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff 
Championship Wrestling 12/17/1985

In this rare heel vs heel match, nothing terribly exciting happens even though I think Valentine vs. Sheiky Baby would be a ton fun as a singles match. Dream Team play de facto babyfaces using generic arm work as the base of their strategy. First Beefcake falls prey to Volkoff's headlock. Beefcake's punches are even worse when viewed next to Valentine's. Valentine and Sheik finally square off and Sheik busts out the dropkick for the TIMBAH bump. Sheik hits a gutwrench suplex and applies the Camel Clutch, but The Hammer saves The Beefer. Valentine looks for figure-4, but the world's weakest donnybrook breaks out for the double disqualification. You know the whole match was weak when the highspot is Sheik hitting a dropkick. Nothing really happened. Surprising lack of cheating for heel vs heel. Don't waste your 8 minutes.

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