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#1 Dylan Waco

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 02:44 PM

Toward the end of the latest Wrestling Culture podcast on Funk, Flair and Lawler, I started to think about other U.S. based workers who I would put in the absolute top tier. The three names I keep coming back to are Stan Hansen, Buddy Rose and Nick Bockwinkel. I have talked about Rose many times and will probably go on another Hansen kick soon, but for now I want to talk about Bock. Bockwinkel is a guy I have been up and down on over the years. I had always been impressed by his very best matches, but I also saw him as a guy who could grind a match to a halt very quickly and never really considered him on the level of a guy like Flair when it came to touring/ace champ work. After watching for the AWA Set and seeing other things like Bock's stopovers in Stampede and Memphis I really started to think he was someone pretty lateral to Flair on that score (I know Will hates his All Japan stuff, but I haven't seen enough of it to form a real opinion). In a sense I think Bock combines the things people like about Bret Hart, with the things people like about Ric Flair and adds a lot of little touches in between. Matt D has been really impressed with him in the AWA watching and I think Matt's points about Bock's versatility, bringing different things to different matches and opponents, and always having a logical method of attack are dead on. Bockwinkel was a great tag wrestler which is something that doesn't get talked about enough. Excellent at building heat, milking spots, delivering on the big bumps for the face comebacks and hope spots, et. Also his face work was really great. I don't think anyone needs to be convinced on Bock the heel, but as a face he had this great quality to him and it almost felt like the fans relished their chance to finally cheer for the guy that had respected for so long. Recently tomk made the point that Bock as touring champ in "action" matches is not really a strength and perhaps that's true, but I suspect Bock as a studio wrestler is underrated and in many respects superior to something like "Flair v. George South in fifteen minute, near fall fest." On another level Bock is similar to Funk. Both guys were outstanding wrestlers years after what would be considered the peak physical years of the average athlete. In Funk's case this was helped by altering a style dramatically and reinventing himself for different settings. In Bock's case? We really have no clue, because no one has really talked much about what is out there from Bock before the 80's. I always assumed it was more of a retooling for Bock than a reinvention but I don't know that. Like Lawler Bockwinkel became synonymous with a territory after a guy who defined the territory passed the torch. In the case of Lawler he got a real rub from Fargo. In the case of Gagne? Well I'm not sure we can say the same. Despite that Bock is the ace you think of when you think AWA and it is hard to envision 80's AWA without Bock in the spot he was in. In any event I would like this thread to be used to: 1. Compare Bockwinkel to other all time greats. Where does he stack up with the best guys from the States? From Japan? The 80's? Et. 2. Talk about his relative strengths and weaknesses as a wrestler. 3. Look at him both in context to the AWA Set/Khawk's sets and in his role as a touring champ for that company. This is not to say those are the only things that can or should be discussed but those are three things I'd like to hear peoples detailed thoughts on. On my end I will also use this thread to look at Bock matches that I either haven't seen before or didn't make the AWA Set. It's doubtful I will look heavily at Memphis or All Japan, but the Mid-South and Southwest matches I might post links to and comment on. I will look for as much 70's Bock as I can find. The point in doing this is get a bigger picture look at Bockwinkel. Right now I'd see him as a strong top ten contender, I want to see if more footage puts him into a "lock" position in the top ten or even higher.

#2 Dylan Waco

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 03:08 PM

Two matches I watched last night when I first started thinking about doing this:

Bockwinkel v. Buck Zumhofe - 11/79



This is Bock in studio setting and that is a setting where I think he is underrated. Really liked some of the studio matches of his I watched during the AWA project, but this wasn't one of them given the time frame. This goes about six minutes and was absolutely outstanding. I like Zumhofe more than most (i.e. I don't think he's terrible) and he was fine here working underneath, but this was just a great Bock performance. He works control with a headscissors for the first portion of this and uses it in a really aggressive way. Story is that Buck works really hard with several nifty escapes and Bock keeps cutting him down. Bock gets more and more aggressive and after Buck gets a brief advantage and takes over on his arm with Bock really bumping around nicely, he snaps and goes into "I've had enough of this shit" mode crushing Zumhofe with stiff shots, hitting two guillotine stile knee drops and then piledriving him for the finish. If this had taken place two months later I would have argued for it on the AWA Set in some capacity. We get to see Bock working a hold in a really interesting heel fashion, bumping and giving some credibility to an undercard babyface, and then doing the appropriate thing by putting him in his place before he got too much in. Really good match of it's sort.

Bockwinkel/Stevens v. The High Flyers



This is Heenan's debut with Bock/Stevens or at least his tv debut. Very much a match to get over Heenan as a dastardly prick and The High Flyers as up and comers who can hang with the big stars. To that end the heat segments are very abbreviated, but I think they make sense in the context of what this match was trying accomplish. Bock was working as stereotypically heel here as I've ever seen him, bumping big for the babyface offense, cutting off the ring and really working cheap shot after cheap shot. Almost all of his offense consisted of chokes and punches/kicks. There is one really impressive sequence with Stevens/Gagne where they go from a blocked drop kick, to a giant swing, to a Gagne modified headscissors escape which was really sweet looking and had the announcer freaking out. Pretty good match, with a non-finish to set up an angle. This worked as a way of making The Flyers look good and it makes you want to see more Bock/Stevens which is too bad because there is little to none out there.

#3 Ditch

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 03:09 PM

I think the thing holding Bock back from much GOAT talk is how little footage there is of the first 2/3rds of his career. The guy debuted in 1955 and was 52 when he dropped the title to Hennig. I love me some Bock, but are there enough great matches in the ~10 years of footage to put him in the absolute top tier?

#4 soup23

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 03:23 PM

Haven't seen enough Bockwinkel to have one definitive opinion but I did enjoy his stuff that made the All Japan set. I watch the Buck Zumhofe match and enjoyed it quite a bit. First part of the match is essentially Bock working a hold, Buck finding an escape, rinse and repeat, but Bock did enough interesting little things to make the submission holds look really tight and threatening. Buck to his credit also had some good escapes. I especially liked when he stretched out Bock's legs and then got punched in the gut and Bock decided to put on a headlock instead of the head scissors to prevent that from happening again. Second half is Buck firing off some offense and Bock reeling but Buck misses a dropkick and immediately Bock goes back to the neck area he was working on but this time with high impact knees. Bock then hits a piledriver and that's it. Really great tv studio style match that told a wonderful story in 7 minutes.

#5 Dylan Waco

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 03:28 PM

I think the thing holding Bock back from much GOAT talk is how little footage there is of the first 2/3rds of his career. The guy debuted in 1955 and was 52 when he dropped the title to Hennig. I love me some Bock, but are there enough great matches in the ~10 years of footage to put him in the absolute top tier?


That is another purpose of this thread - can we point to enough to get him into that absolute top tier? Most of the people I know who grew up on the AWA see him that way already but that could just be the "he's our guy" thing....or it could be that he was that fucking good.

Having said that.....

I want to say Bock was on the AWA Set in 38 or 39 out of 150 matches. He had another ten or so matches that were nominated but missed the cut (to this end it's notable how many of his matches made the cut out of the total that were nominated - that's a very good ratio). Lots of good Bock performances in matches that were too heavily clipped to include on the Set or matches like Bock v. Jake Milliman which give you a different glimpse at his talents but were too short to include or even nominate seriously.

That's just 80's AWA.

We have Bock in AJPW, Southwest, Calgary, Mid-South and Memphis. Some of this has been watched/talked about more than others. All total Bock probably has nearly fifty matches that have appeared on 80's Sets up to this point. There are things on youtube that didn't make those sets, fall outside of the relevant time period, et. There is a lot of Bock out there that can be discussed and looked at and there are guys who people put in top tens based on runs of a similar length (Bret, Eddie Guerrero, Buddy Rose, et).

#6 Dylan Waco

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 03:57 PM

Bockwinkel v. Verne - 2/10/79



I really enjoyed this match because the atmosphere was great and there was a ton of fun offense for the period, but my god did Verne eat it alive. We are missing about two or three minutes of this, but it's nearly complete and in the fifteen or so minutes that are shown Verne is in peril for maybe a combined three minutes....maybe. He basically kicks the shit out of Bock throughout and while there are some really awesome big Bock bumps and Verne's offensive work is interesting and dynamic, this was way to one sided to be a great match. On the other hand I really liked the little runs Bock had, particularly the bit where he just grabs Verne by the throat and runs him around the ring because he's fed up with his inability to hang with him on the mat. I also loved the way Bock would sink his body lower and lower on the piledriver attempts. Really subtle, but really got over how big the move was at that point in the match. Over the top rope spill looked good and Heenan almost bleeding out post match was insane. This is the sort of match that I would probably argue for on a "70's Set" even though it wouldn't place well on my individual ballot at all.

#7 goodhelmet

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 04:39 PM

Out of those 39 matches, it will be interesting to see where all of the Bock matches end up. Some will end up Top Five/Ten for sure like Bock-Hennig and Bock-Wahoo. To compare, Lawler had 9 of the Top 10 (including the Top 5) and 17 of the Top 20.

#8 Dylan Waco

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 05:04 PM

Out of those 39 matches, it will be interesting to see where all of the Bock matches end up. Some will end up Top Five/Ten for sure like Bock-Hennig and Bock-Wahoo. To compare, Lawler had 9 of the Top 10 (including the Top 5) and 17 of the Top 20.



If early voting/comments are an indication I would guess Bock has a good shot to appear in at least half of the top ten and half of the top twenty. I would be very surprised to see many of his matches in the bottom third. I also think at this point he is the least polarizing of the guys who have multiple appearances on the set. The one possible exception to that is Rose/Somers and The Rockers who were paired together in an all time great tag feud for a year straight. I also think it's worth noting that Lawler (who I would rate above Bock), had nothing close to Rose/Somers v. Rockers feud to compete with on the Memphis Set.

When all is said and done I think the only person who has a shot at competing with Lawler's top of the heap appearances on a set is Buddy Rose in Portland.

Bockwinkel v. The Great John L



50's Bock. Very fun match. Comforting to see Bock with the towel here as it shows long term commitment to gimmick. The grappling in this is a shit load of fun as both guys sink in grabbing holds in a flash and wrenching them in in really interesting ways that would seem abnormal in today's wrestling universe. I really loved how John L kept going for these shots to Bock's face from underneath and Bock was swatting them away with annoyance and seemingly getting more and more pissed as the match went on. John L was like a precursor to Chris Colt here, with tons of douchebag cheating spots that he would do right in front of the ref. Loved the spot with him working the leg lock on Bock with Bock's legs in the rope for extra effect. This had an up tempo, but it didn't feel like guys running through shit and it had a very good performance from both guys.

Bockwinkel v. K.O. Matt Murphy



More 50's Bock. Really short match, but fun stuff as Murphy tries to roughhouse Bock out of the gate and this turns into a fast paced, studio brawl, with Bock match the challenge the bruising vet and dispatching him quickly with the Octopus after winning the punch exchange. Another different look at Bock as the young face working the mean spirited, bitter old man, brawler.

#9 Dylan Waco

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 05:55 PM

Bockwinkel v. Wahoo - 6/83



About 9 of 15 minutes are shown and a chunk of that is Bock being annoyed when Hogan gets a grandiose mid-match entrance so he can sit in Wahoo's corner. Hilariously this ends on Heenan interference anyhow. Decent match, mainly used as a set up to further both of Bock's feuds with both men. Nowhere near the level of their classic that made the AWA Set. This does feature one of Bock's tumbling bumps and those get me every time, but over all this is disappointing in the sense that you expect so much more out of these two.

Bockwinkel v. Frank Lane - Battle of The Belts

Total disaster scenario as a Hurricane keeps Martel from the building so they sub him with Frank fuckin Lane of all people. Alright match but you could tell Bock didn't want to be there. Finish was fucking hilarious. Best part about it was Bock's entrance.

Bock/Stevens v. Dick The Bruiser/Crusher - 6/30/73



This is heavily clipped and it's a Crusher/Bruiser match so you know it's not going to be good going in, but I still find it watchable which is really a win. Bock was clearly the best guy in this. Lots of big bumps for the face offense and I thought the little things he brought during the brief control bits were good. More of an interesting match to watch than anything.

#10 ohtani's jacket

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 06:35 PM

Were you as high on The Destroyer as the rest of us when his Classics stuff started circulating? What about Harley? On the podcast you mentioned Mysterio Jr. How far off the top tier is he?

#11 Dylan Waco

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 07:02 PM

Were you as high on The Destroyer as the rest of us when his Classics stuff started circulating? What about Harley? On the podcast you mentioned Mysterio Jr. How far off the top tier is he?


I like Beyer, but have not watched him in years. I was never as high on him as his biggest fans, but who knows if that would change now. I like Harley, but I don't think he's on the level of these guys. His best matches are great and he is a guy that has a great "throw shit to the wall and see what sticks" approach in random matches which makes them entertaining even when they aren't great. But I don't like Harley the way I like the guys mentioned in this thread. Point me to matches to prove me wrong and who knows?

I think Rey is a top tier guy. Best TV match wrestler of all time, good against huge variety of guys, and even with time missed for injuries has a very substantial run to his credit.

#12 Tim Evans

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 07:04 PM

Just got the AWA set so I'm looking forward to seeing Bock in the AWA. I liked his Memphis stuff but the Mid south matches were pretty bad. Especially the one with JYD. Dylan, what did you think of Bock vs Jarrett?

#13 Dylan Waco

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 07:05 PM

Just got the AWA set so I'm looking forward to seeing Bock in the AWA. I liked his Memphis stuff but the Mid south matches were pretty bad. Especially the one with JYD. Dylan, what did you think of Bock vs Jarrett?


I honestly have no recollection of Bock v. Jarrett. Maybe I will put that in the too watch pile.

#14 Ditch

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 07:25 PM

The more Race I see, the less I can understand the case for him as a GOAT candidate. Is he even top 10 as a worker in the "old-school NWA-style" camp? Certainly isn't top 5 for that group, let alone for all other styles. Not particularly impressive on the mic or a big draw. He's a hall-of-famer and could well be top 50 all time, but not a serious candidate for GOAT. Bock absolutely smokes him in-ring and on the mic.

#15 Matt D

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 07:28 PM

I'd like to see some of the Bock babyface work before I say too much. I also realize I've been fed mostly top notch Bock stuff and not the dregs. But I can give a preview of sorts of that eventual longer post, with but a few examples now and more later. This is going to be completely through my filter of watching wrestling, which judging from the comments I've seen is wildly different from a lot of you. I care way more about what wrestlers do and why they do them and how they do them and range and being able to go into a match and take a random minute stretch and see if it makes sense, and whether or not they do things for the sake of doing them or if they make sense in the context of a match. I care way more about what a wrestler does than if he has great matches.

I will say this. I've already seen a variety in Bock that I can't say I've seen in Flair, more versatility in heel Bock than heel Flair. He plays a LOT of different roles, but they're all believable and all him. He is a very character driven wrestler. I also feel like there is far more thought to what Bock does in the ring than Flair. Flair definitely has a few different matches (the studio one vs the up and comer, for instance), and a lot of those, I've seen Bock do as well, very well. I think so many of the Bock matches on the AWA set have felt very different. When we hit the JCP set, will that be the case for Flair?

They're both very good at working a hold and working from the bottom of a hold, making it entertaining. Both have GREAT facial expressions. Both interact with the crowd very well. Bock for instance sold the Weasel chants in a way I've never seen a Heenan charge do, and the use of the boring chant is one of the most brilliant things I've ever seen in wrestling. It's just an awareness. He knows what's going on. He knows how to maximize the moment.

Bock often does this whole body selling as a match goes on, which i like way more than Flair's late match getting-his-stuff-in. I think Bock is better at foreshadowing and building things in matches and between matches.

Flair has the legwork to build to the figure four which is a nice built in piece of a match that will make sense every time out, and he's good at it, but Bock switches things up a lot more. A good chunk of his matches have the KOTM spot, but it's usually done very logically and early enough in the match that it isn't just lazy. That he can use so obtuse an element in logical and heated ways is actually sort of impressive.

So far, Bock has shown some really great sense of tag work and timing, but I haven't seen enough Flair tags lately.

Flair might be a bit above in the energy and manic bumping, but Bock is pretty good at that too. Flair wins on "ACTION" but Bock holds up way better than his reputation would say.

I don't know, Dylan. You've seen a lot more of both guys than I have (though I've seen a lot of Flair in my life). What do you think Flair does better?

EDIT: Earlier in the note Tim L said that the big problem in comparison was that we didn't have a ton of footage of Bock in his prime, but I'm talking about what I've seen of Bock in the 80s. I'm comparing 80s Bock vs 80s Flair and there's a lot with Bock that I like more.

EDIT #2: I'm also mainly looking from an in ring standpoint, not about drawing or about "Being the champ." Overall presence. WON HOF PLACEMENT, or whatever. I'm looking at the matches i've seen, though I admit I only have the high end stuff from the AWA set to look at, but there's SO much you can learn about Bock from those matches, so much.


Unfortunately, my best Bock reply is a Vs Flair one, and I understand that I have certain disputed points in my Flair pov that I'm not yet ready to confront. I'll say more in a few days, certainly, and I'll pick out matches like Dylan is doing and gladly at that.

I'll say this: I've seen even more Bockwinkel since then and I feel even more strongly about the things I think he did well.

#16 ohtani's jacket

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 08:21 PM

The more Race I see, the less I can understand the case for him as a GOAT candidate. Is he even top 10 as a worker in the "old-school NWA-style" camp? Certainly isn't top 5 for that group, let alone for all other styles. Not particularly impressive on the mic or a big draw. He's a hall-of-famer and could well be top 50 all time, but not a serious candidate for GOAT. Bock absolutely smokes him in-ring and on the mic.


I would say that first of all you'd have to work out whether he was one of the very best from his era, because I think a lot of the GOAT arguments ignore more than they consider. Don't even get me started on best in the world claims. If someone watched all of the available footage from everywhere in the 70s (and this should be possible in the future when the 70s yearbooks are released) and then came away with the conclusion that Harley wasn't top tier I could understand that, but if they think he wasn't one of the best simply because somebody had a better match with Baba or Jumbo I think that's a bit weak. I don't think he was that bad on the mic during his run as champ and he sure drew in New Zealand. Maybe I'm getting a bit defensive because the last Harley I watched was the Hogan feud which is excellent.

#17 Ditch

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 08:24 PM

It's not about whether Harley is great; he was. It's whether he was a best of all time in the world caliber... which I think he clearly wasn't. Capable on the mic, sure, but is he even top 100 as a talker? Likewise, he drew well in some areas, but is he top 25 as a draw in terms of big gates and improving business? Are there *not* 25 better workers? If he's not top 25 in some aspect he can't possibly be in the discussion for GOAT.

#18 ohtani's jacket

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 08:38 PM

If he was one of the best during his era then he's at least a contender for the GOAT, which is more meaningful in my eyes than finding a winner. In fact, I'm more interested in whether a guy like Race was the GOAT up until that point rather than "all-time." And you can talk anybody up or down in terms of all-time calibre. I could talk Jumbo down as a talker or list 25 workers that were better. We could all start praising the fuck out of Harley today and tomorrow he'd be an instant candidate. A year ago nobody was talking about Bock like they are now, so I find that a bit arbitrary. Anyway, I should probably start a Harley thread instead of derailing Dylan's project.

#19 Dylan Waco

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 11:41 PM

Bock/Stevens v. Red Bastien/Billy Robinson - 11/73



This is a 2/3 Falls studio match and a hell of a tv match from the period. I'm not saying this would blow anyway away now, but this was basically a workrate tag by the standards of the era, but with each team having clearly defined roles and a heat section to temper the pace. You could critique some of the babyface work and there was one awkward moment from the heels, but over all I can't imagine anyone watching this and not thinking it was impressive given the circumstances. The babyfaces brought almost all the strong offense in this, but that was sort of the point of the match and for the 70's this had some pretty great looking offense. The heels held up their end well by bumping for the big offense, reacting well to the spots and doing a really good job when in control. Cheating, cutting off the ring, punches, eye gouges as cutoff spots, Bock clinging to people from the guard to isolate them, cheap shot slaps to the face during the KOTM spot, pretty nasty looking stomps, et. The heels weren't going to win on style points, but again that was sort of the point of the match. Two falls straight, with the faces using the flashy work to win, but I came out of this thinking all four guys put on good performances. I know there really isn't much Bock/Stevens out there but you can tell they were a good compliment to each other and a good team even based on the little bit we have. This would make a 70's set.

#20 Matt D

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 11:46 PM

Bock is being reevaluated not due to some sort of whim or fad but because a lot of people have watched a lot of Bock they've either never seen before or never seen all at once before. I feel like Race already went through a "being watched" stretch like that a few years ago and the end result was the current prevailing "Race as Angle" mindset, that probably is a bit harsh, but not entirely unwarranted either. That came from something, namely people watching matches. It'd take another bunch of matches that people hadn't seen being assembled in one place for a lot of people to watch or at least a general shift in our community's mindset as viewers to create another reevaluation of Harley, I think.




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