To a nicer guy, a thread couldn't happen. Buddy needs some reviews to get his just consideration for the 100 Greatest poll.
Rogers vs Lou Thesz, 1-26-51
The new Chicago footage is going to be a huge boon to Rogers, Thesz, Gagne, and O'Connor, at least. In Hooker, Thesz claimed you could tell how good a match he had with Rogers would be based on the result. If Thesz was winning, Rogers would dog it. If they were going to a draw, Rogers would work hard. Given the running time I'm assuming draw here, which suggests Rogers will be on his best behavior.
My favorite part about good Golden Age wrestling is how credible the matwork is. If you're not someone who enjoys matwork, this match is not going to be for you. Also you are bad and should feel bad. If you are a matwork aficionado, you're in for a treat. Most of the holds are more or less legit and worked as such, and even the pure show holds are used to give the appearance of looking for a submission or a pinfall rather than a time to just lay on the mat. Rogers and Thesz do not disappoint here. No fancy reversal sequences or lockflow-like changing one hold to another just to do it. Things like a headlock takeover are worked with much less appearance of cooperation. It's just two guys cranking on each other, looking for advantage or escape.
When the brawling breaks out - usually at Rogers' instigation - it's primarily sneaky little shots in the clinch or on the mat. Rogers working from underneath a headlock is a joy to watch. Rather than just lay there, he sneaks in these little punches to the spine, ultimately forcing Thesz to retaliate with a drubbing to Rogers' face. That draws the attention of special referee Jack Dempsey - who's quite good in that role, doing the job without attracting too much attention to himself - and Rogers uses the distraction to grab the trunks to roll up Thesz for the pin attempt. Whenever Rogers cheats, it's always something that is hidden from the referee but in plain view of the crowd. It's a very professional approach to heeling I really appreciate.
It's a Rogers thread, but I need to say some good things about Thesz, too. Obviously he's a master technician, but he's also skilled at working in his own roughhousing when the need arises. I'm a huge fan of his elbow, where he slaps his own fist to drive the elbow into an opponent. It works better when he's playing the heel - it just looks like he's trying to get away with something - but even when he's not it's a unique signature, something to set him apart from what everyone else is doing.
If I have a complaint about this match, it's that I'd like to see a greater sense of urgency from Rogers in the closing minutes. For the most part, he works the last two minutes like the middle two, while the champion Thesz is the one putting in extra effort to try to put away the challenger. Shouldn't that be the other way around? Still, for a match that goes most of 60, this one really moves, and keeps a steady pace throughout.