August 31, 2023

AWA Bockwinkel vs. Hennig (11.15.86) review

AWA Bockwinkel vs. Hennig  




Hair vs. Hair  

Dump Matsumoto vs. Chigusa Nagayo  

This is a re-match from their 1985 classic where Dump beat the piss out of Nagayo, bloodied her up and then beat her. The sight of thousands of Japanese fangirls screaming and crying while Chigusa had her hair cut off was unbelievable. Just insanely good TV. The face losing the first match means they can do it again. Which is this match from November 7, 1986. Nagayo comes for revenge. Dump is her usual vicious self. She busts the referee open before the match starts. How dangerous is Dump? She gets a sword and tries to decapitate Nagayo. That’s how dangerous. The crowd are freaking out. As she stabs Nagayo with a fork this feels very close to being a riot. Chigusa bled buckets in the first match, it was a key element in her defeat. She bleeds heavily here too and makes a point of walking around ringside to show everyone how bloodied she is. Again, this is key in making the crowd rally behind her. The noises this crowd make when Chigusa is getting pinned for near falls are amazing. This scream that just gets louder and louder as the count continues. Dump’s whole “I’m gonna stab this bitch in the eye” routine gets so much heat. One of the seconds can’t stand it anymore and jumps onto the apron and Dump stabs her too!  

How bloody is Chigusa Nagayo? Well. This bloody. It’s the proverbial crimson mask. They re-do the finish of the first match with Nagayo beaten and laid out in the middle of the ring. The ref starts counting. Surely we can’t get a repeat? No, she’s up! Dump hits her in the head with a bin! She’s up again! Chigusa recovers and gets a cheeky roll up for the pin. Not the best of finishes as Dump kicked out. She’s naturally mad about it but she probably shouldn’t have busted the ref open before the match started. Just asking for trouble. ***¾  


The post-match, as with last year, is just as entertaining. Dump beats the ref up some more, then comes back into the ring and kicks everyone’s ass. Then she sits in a chair and DARES Chigusa herself to come and cut her hair, if she has the guts.  

We get a barber instead and they do a lovely job of styling it. Chigusa should have watched her von Erich tapes here but instead of joyfully shaving Dump bald she sits in the corner looking miserable. Maybe it’s giving her PTSD.  


November 15, 1986 (Aired on November 21, 1986) 


AWA World Championship 

Nick Bockwinkel (c) vs. Curt Hennig  

Bock turned baby but he’s a clever veteran, so he jumps Hennig from behind to wake the cocky prick up. Hennig has been slowly creeping up the AWA card and was tag team champion, with Scott Hall, earlier in the year. Commentary comes from Rod Trongard and James Blears, who do a cracking job of explaining stuff. Including cauliflower ears from headlocks. Bock and Hennig do a good job of starting slow and building. There’s a definite ‘feeling out process’ with a lot of headlocks but they’re not rest holds. Hennig fights like crazy to get out of them.  

There’s a prime example in here of how botches used to work in wrestling. They fuck up a hip toss, Hennig improvises into it being a ‘struggle’ to get him over. Switches positions and they go right into the next spot. It makes the hip toss look more legitimate. That Bockwinkel ‘fought it’ the first time. Hennig had to get more leverage.  


The concept of the match is Hennig growing in confidence, showing that he’s technically capable of taking on Bockwinkel and at the same time Bock having to fight against the ravages of time. Five years ago, Bockwinkel wouldn’t have trouble but now he’s the old dog and Hennig’s new tricks are an issue for him.  


Bockwinkel is four months into his fourth, and final, AWA title run. They’ve had to resort to him after the Stan Hansen debacle, where he refused to drop the belt because of his commitments to All Japan. Putting it back on Bock was a desperation move but he was a solid, reliable hand. Bockwinkel is 51 years old, at the time of this show, but his style doesn’t cause him many issues. He’s less than a year away from retiring. Perhaps suitably, his final match in AWA will be against Curt Hennig.  


Around 24-ish minutes into the match Bockwinkel pulls the tights for the first time. Before that moment, it’s a pure babyface match. Just two guys trying to outwrestle each other. They switch to Bock working the leg, versus Curt working the arm. Curt knee drops the arm, which is the first major error of the match as he hurts himself. We’re at 30 minutes. 


The concept of wrestling being a chess match is real. You start with lots of options about how to attack your opponent but as the match progresses you lose some. Not everyone works like this, but they should. You injure your leg, then certain things should be off the table. You get fatigued, certain things should be off the table.  


Comms start talking about Hennig’s career and how he’s never been up into the 30+ minute matches. They start debating his ability to work the remaining time, whereas Bockwinkel has done 60 minutes loads of times. There’s a feeling the match has abandoned the technical stuff and they’re just beating each other up now. Bock asks Larry Nelson how much time is left and we get a weird “37 minutes gone by” announcement.  


Bock hits the piledriver and Hennig just about drapes his leg over the bottom rope. I love that he leaves it over the rope afterwards, showing his exhaustion and Bock jumps on it, thus continuing the leg work from earlier. Oh, that’s just fucking tasty, baby. Because of the ring positioning, Bockwinkel can use the rope for leverage on the hold, showing his need to cheat to get the better of Hennig now.  


It’s interesting that Hennig, the less experienced man, switches his attention to Bockwinkel’s leg from the arm. Is it that, as a younger man, he has the capacity for change more or that he’s not got the concentration to stick to his original plan? It can be seen as a positive and a negative, depending on your perspective.  

Hennig is clearly the fitter of the two and he starts into stuff like chops and roll ups. Trying to discombobulate the elder man. Piledriver revenge from Hennig but they’re too close to the ropes again and Nick uses them to escape but interesting that Hennig can’t stay on the body part like Bock did. As if Bockwinkel is the more methodical of the two while Hennig takes chances where he sees them.  


Hennig goes back to the leg and Bock kicks him off, into the ring post. You’d better believe that’s a bladejob.  

Hennig is fucked, it’s a gusher. Made worse by Bock bouncing Curt’s head off everything he can. Bock is now brimming with confidence. Convinced he can put Hennig away now. The story of the match has changed to whether Hennig can survive to get a draw. Curt uses the Axe, his dad’s move, a few times and there’s no near fall, which is a bit weird.  


Bockwinkel gets in a sneaky little bladejob from the Axe but it’s nowhere near the blood pissing out of Hennig’s head. At one point Bock collapses face first and the ref counts a pin for one. That’s not how wrestling works ref! Three minutes left and now it’s Bockwinkel who’s holding on. A bloody Hennig just beats the shit out of him. Curt is still selling the leg.  

Hennig hooks a Figure Four leglock and the blood is ON THE CAMERA LENS. Bockwinkel is screaming and fighting the hold, knowing he just needs to last a minute. He’s pawing at the ref, begging for him to break it up. The count goes down to zero and Bockwinkel survives. 60:00 is up. The ref briefly freaks the crowd out by raising Curt’s hand but it’s a draw. Both guys are covered in blood. ****½  


Wow, they gave it both barrels here. The combination of the slow build, the bits and pieces of cheating, limb work, the blood at the end. What a fucking match. Post match we get a word with Hennig, who tells us he knows he has Bockwinkel’s number now. He’s coming for that belt, brother!  

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