A Mark’s Eye View is a weekly look at some of the things that made me a huge fan of professional wrestling.
Randy Colley passed away on December 14, 2019. As one half of the Moondogs, Colley (known as Rex) was a familiar face on WWF television during much of the boom period. The Moondogs actually won the WWF Tag Team Titles in 1981. This was the team’s peak as they were used as jobbers to the stars during most of their run.
Colley was also an important part of another WWF tag team. The Road Warriors were the biggest and baddest tag-team around since their 1983 debut. When Vince McMahon was unable to sign the Hawk and Animal in the late 1980s, he decided to just create his own version. This led to the new team of Ax and Smash, also known as Demolition.
The team was greeted with scorn from fans who watched more than the WWF, because they were cheap knockoffs of the Roadies. Colley would play Smash. Even though he wore face paint, cut his hair, and shaved off his beard, fans recognized him. Chants of “Moondog” would follow as he walked towards the ring. Colley would be replaced by Barry Darsow.
Demolition would go on to become one of the greatest tag teams in WWF history. Their first title reign from 1988-1989 set a record for longevity that was just recently eclipsed by The New Day. Initially LOD ripoffs, a strong argument could be made they were better than the originals. Ax and Smash may have had a short run at the top, but they are still fondly remembered by fans of the time. (Their theme song is also one of the most recognizable of the era.)
This wouldn’t be the only time in wrestling where the sequel was better. In 1989, Ric Flair and Rick Steamboat wrestled their Holy Trinity of matches. Fans who compare the Kazuchika Okada/Kenny Omega matches to Flair/Steamboat clearly never saw the 89 series. As great as the matches for the IWGP belt were, they are a tier below what Flair and Steamboat did.
There is nothing I can say about Flair/Steamboat that has not been said already. The Clash of the Champions VI match has been scientifically proven to be the greatest match in pro wrestling history. Just the use of next level psychology alone is amazing. In the first fall, Flair shows he has learned from Chi-Town Rumble. The second fall sees the “Dragon” bust out a new move to get a rare submission victory. (He knows Flair’s weaknesses.) The third fall sees Flair take advantage of a weakened Steamboat, but Steamer anticipated this moment may happen and has a counter to the hypothetical situation. It is one of those matches that make you proud to be a wrestling fan.
It’s not strange that this set of Flair/Steamboat matches were better than the ones from the late 70s and early 80s. The two were more experienced, had better reactions, and were using the knowledge they had gained. The craziest thing is the early matches were pretty great already. Flair has even gone on record and stated the ’89 matches were far from the best the two had; they were just seen by more people.
The Empire Strikes Back is a rare case of the sequel being better than the original. Like most forms of entertainment, professional wrestling always redoes the things that have worked in the past. Sometimes it works, but rarely is it better. But every once in a while, fans see that magic moment when things are just better the second time around.
Next week: The year in review!