Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What the Chuck?! Fight or Die

This week I caught Walker, Texas Ranger as he goes undercover in a prison to expose a fight ring in 1999's 9th episode of the 8th season, Fight or Die!  Basically, evil entrepreneur Warden Kyle (Charles Napier) and his vicious lieutenant Traction (Marshall Teauge) run an inmate fight league that's broadcast to the internet from Arkansas' CopperHead prison.  Being from Texas, Walker, partner Trivette and Ranger Gage can go in with solid covers as cons and guards to uppercut the top off the whole thing after prisoners and another undercover cop have been killed during the brutal matches.  King of the prison circuit is Dirk Savage aka Hammer (Frank Shamrock) who's already bagged 5 bodies inside.  There's also mountain of a man Whitelaw Lundgren, (phew, sweet names in this episode) played by The Macho Man Randy Savage (Wrestle In Peace).  Walker goes in first and is immediately thrown into solitary confinement so the prison crew can check out his background.  The Chuck opens his shirt and starts shadow boxing, doing elbow out push ups (aw come on, Chuck!) and ab crunches for days until it's time to hit D Block where The Pit awaits.  Bunked up with fellow fighters Munger and Stout (Richard Norton and Tony Brubaker), Trivette as a guard and Gage as a cocky inmate show up and they begin to piece together their case.

Walker and Gage are thrown into the cage to battle it out with cons using Vasoline, slo-mo, jump spinning back kicks and arm bars on their way to a final showdown with Hammer.  The Total Gym must work as Chuck is looking pretty solid here pushing 60.  When Walker spares Lundgren's life, The Macho Man gives him his respect and some advice, don't take it easy on Hammer!  Large businessman King (Cliff Emmich) shows up and talks Warden Kyle into building up Walker and Gage so they can get more views and cash from the internets.  When the final fight is reached, it has to be to the death to appease the blood thirsty audience.  Hammer throws them for a loop when he wants to fight Gage and Walker on the same night which means someone has to die.  Gage goes down after a plethora of flying knees but Walker jumps in and punches, kicks and jiu-jitsu's Hammer.  With the authorities alerted and en route, Traction and Kyle figure on killing everybody and covering it with a riot story.  Lundgren saves Walker from getting deaded with a shotgun blast and then the inmates and guards melee in a hail of batons and full mount followed by punches to the face!

Oh man what a jacked and stacked episode, in front and behind the camera.  Series veteran Michael Preece had already directed blocks of Dallas, McGuyver and Hunter before helming Fight or Die on his way to 70 episodes.  Writer Gordon T. Dawson started off in the wardrobe department before graduating to writer, producer and second unit director under Sam Peckinpah on 5 consecutive films like The Wild Bunch and The Getaway.  Dawson would pen 25 episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger.  Guest villain Charles Napier is known to action fans for his portrayal of Murdock in Rambo: First Blood, Part II and has over 200 acting credits to his name while Marshall Teague played karate fighting henchman Billy in Road House ("I used to f*ck guys like you in prison!") and is a real life badass having served in the military, worked in law enforcement and was a kickboxing champ.  Teague would play several different characters on Walker over it's 10 season run and reunite with Chuck on the 2005 flick The Cutter.  Frank Shamrock is a pioneer of Mixed Martial Arts and a former UFC champion.  Always in great shape, I think he only had a shirt on for one scene in the episode and even that was a hoodie vest left open.  What can you say about wrestling legend, Slim Jim spokesman and rapper The Macho Man Randy Savage?  He's always fun to watch because remember, he's a chameleon!  Richard Norton was a karate champion turned stunt man and actor, appearing in several early Norris films and 11 eppies of Walker while Tony Brubaker has over 250 credits to his name and appeared in among other things, Action Jackson and attended Carl Weathers night!  As if that weren't enough, the slimy promoter played by Cliff Emmich looked familiar because he was in Best of the Best 2 in the bar scene with Dae Han (Simon Rhee) talking about Houston.

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