Did you review the Steamboat singles match from the first WWF Set John? I have read through all of those posts before but it's been a long time. I ask because I really liked that match.
Didn't see this question earlier, Dylan.
Match #41 - 06/21/85 Greg Valentine vs Ricky Steamboat (14:20)
Taped: Madison Square Garden, New York
Aired: 06/21/85 MSG Network
Lots of Kung Fu Steamer early, which really isn't the best side of Ricky. Watching Ricky using sumo-style slaps to the chest isn't any better. I do like him using the neck snapper, which is just a throwaway highspot for him rather than 90% of the offense that Curt Hennig brings to the table in a certain match... but I digress.
Ricky dominates the first seven minutes, and mixed around some decent spots and sequences that pick the match up. There is a lot of stuff that's either boring or down right bad. I tend to blame most of it on the Kunf Fu nonsense since that's at the heart of much that's off. This just doesn't have the solid early base that Steamer-Bret did, where Ricky put aside a kung fu-centric work and instead controlled early working to his strengths.
Valentine in control starts great in playing off the transition spot: getting the knees up on a Steamer splash attempt. The knee drops to the gut are a sharp move, and the gutbuster had a nice feel to it. Dropping the hammer forearm to the throat for a nearfall comes across less as losing the tangent and instead simply taking an opportunity for a pin attempt because of how Valentine follows: a headbutt to the gut. Greg gives a sense of "taking what's there" as when Steamer sits up to sell the headbutt, Hammer gives him a nice brainbuster elbow right to the skull. When Steamer flops his back down on the mat, Hammer grabs the leg, ponders the figure four, seems to ponder the elbow to the leg to set up the figure four, but instead sees Steamer's wide open gut that he's been working over and drops a chunky elbow to it.
At this point, Greg could veer off from the stomach and bring the big guns and the figure four for all I care. He brought a more focused attack on a damaged body part here than The Brothers did in their entire match against the Rockers.
After a pin attempt off the elbow drop, almost as a feeler to see how much he's taken out of Steamer, Hammer does switch to working over the leg. In the end, unless Greg suddenly learns how to use The Claw, there's only so far he can go with the stomach. If they're going 30 minutes, then whip out the Ab-Stetch and other stuff. But they're not going 30 - they're going half that. Again, it has a nice "taking what's there" vibe. Ricky hurt the stomach after eating it on the splash attempt. It was there to attack for Greg, and he did. After the pin attempt Ricky was still on the mat at his mercy. When grabbing the knee rather than using the headbutt and elbow drop to the stomach previously, the hamstrings are wide open for some knee drives. It's there, it's open, it sets up his finisher, take it.
Nice tease of the figure four with Ricky grabbing a handful of blond hair for a small package to counter it. Ricky tries a little comeback, but Hammer gets a pretty theatrical counter press (Ricky makes it great by kicking his legs way up in the air), and then Hammer cuts him off with a nice punch to the gut then sends Ricky bumping to the floor.
The match half goes off the rails at the point. Other than a very nice brainbuster elbow that Ricky sells strongly, most of the time Ricky is out of the ring grinds the match to a halt rather than builds drama. He ends up wandering around the ring in a semi-zombie mode that reads better than it is on the screen. He fires himself up on the floor, and then the match resets with some major clubber-fu. *That* is well done as they go back and forth, but the point from Ricky going out until then isn't so hot in a match that's clocking in at less than 15 minutes.
As seen in the review of the first Backlund-Sarge match in Philly, I'm not adverse to a "face out on the floor and out of it" sequence, even if it takes a while to work through it. This one just didn't work until Ricky smacked the apron to show he was fired up.
The dualing fists-o-fury, which of course Ricky was going to win, was quite good. Greg really sells the shit out each of Ricky's strikes without bumping. It's pretty decent from there to the end, though they don't bring a lot of big guns. Ricky uses the press and a load of chop-fu for pin attempts, while Greg has a very nice backdrop suplex and some of his favorite elbow drops for pin attempts. The last tease of the figure four has a "take it home" feel rather than a dramatic feel, and it is take it home as they go right to the count out.
This is perhaps a third of a really strong match. The third being Greg's controlling section and the firery comeback up to Greg actually being counted out. Ricky's controlling section badly needs a re-write to moderate the Kung Fu shit. Then to be a really strong match, it needed to have Greg get back in the ring rather than be counted out, with them going another three or so minutes of near falls and actually have a finish. Both had more in the holster.
It's sort of worth watching. It's not the match one would hope for based on some of their other work in the WWF, and even together in the tag match. It starts off choppy, hits road bump late, then ends a bit too quickly and poorly. I wanted to like this a lot more, which is pretty evident by the pleasure I took from Greg's work while in control. But as a whole it just doesn't get there. Which is especially disappointing since this seems to waste a night when Greg was both game and focused on his work. The Toronto tag was a night where they delivered.
I'd like to see their Toronto singles match in 1985 if it exists.