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Greetings from The Booth!
With a little breather between the NFL Conference Championships and the Super Bowl (No, the Pro Bowl Games don’t count!), I thought I’d take my own break from football and go in a different direction this week. A few days ago, actor and athlete Carl Weathers passed away. Now, if that name doesn’t ring a bell, certainly Apollo Creed does. Creed was Weathers’ character in the first four “Rocky” movies starring Sly Stallone. You certainly remember him as the golf pro with the artificial hand in “Happy Gilmore.” But you may not have known that Weathers also played a year in the NFL, for the Oakland Raiders. So, in this edition of VFB, I revisit and rate those first four “Rocky” flicks that included Apollo Creed, from best to worst. RIP, Carl Weathers!
“Rocky:” Still the gold standard of the Rocky franchise. The great underdog tale of Philadelphia club fighter, and occasional “collector” for a Philly mob boss, Rocky Balboa. Balboa, through a chance series of events, is chosen to fight the Heavyweight Champion, Apollo Creed (Weathers) for the title. It would have been cheesy to have Rocky win the fight. Even Rocky knows he can’t win, but against all odds, goes the distance with Creed. Add another underdog, mild-mannered Adrian (played by Talia Shire) as Rocky’s reluctant love-interest, along with Adrian’s brother and Rocky’s best friend Paulie (Burt Young), a man beaten down by life, and aging trainer Mick (the great Burgess Meredith), and you’ve got a classic story. At the end of the movie, Creed says to Rocky, “ain’t gonna be no rematch,” to which Balboa replies, “don’t want one.” But you know there will be…
“Rocky IV:” I know it’s simplistic to think that a boxing match in the Soviet Union between an American and Russian fighter can bring about the end of the Cold War. But the great thing about movies is that we can suspend belief. Retired, but craving a comeback, Apollo Creed fights Russian super-human Ivan Drago in an exhibition fight. In the short-lived bout, Creed is killed, prompting Balboa to avenge his friend’s death by fighting Drago in the USSR. As the fight goes on, Rocky wins over the Soviet crowd, wins the fight, and his speech afterward melts the ice between the two Superpowers. An added treat in the movie is James Brown singing “Living in America” prior to Creed’s match with Drago.
“Rocky III:” This chapter in the continuing Rocky saga introduces us to Mr. T as “Clubber Lang,” a hungry and dangerous fighter who destroys all comers on his way to a title fight with Rocky. In this movie, we see a retired Apollo Creed, and the friendship that is developing between he and Balboa. In Rocky III, we see the death of Mick, when he suffers a heart attack after being pushed by Lang before the title fight. Lang wins the Heavyweight Championship over a distracted Balboa, but Rocky later wins the rematch when Creed agrees to be his trainer. Classic line from Mr. T in thr film: “My prediction…pain!”
Rocky II:” You just knew there would be a rematch with Creed, didn’t you? And predictably, Rocky wins Creed-Balboa II. In this film, we see the birth of Rocky’s son (with a full head of coal black hair, no less), with his wife Adrian going into a coma after the birth. Rocky’s training for the Creed fight goes on the back burner until Adrian emerges from her coma and simply says “win.” In the rematch, Rocky wins the title by avoiding a double count-out in the final round, something you are more likely to see in a pro wrestling match. Predictable, and probably my least favorite of the four “Apollo Creed” Rocky movies. It’s still head and shoulders above “Rocky V,” which is almost unwatchable.
There ya’ go. Might be a good weekend for a Rocky marathon. It’s either that or Pro Bowl flag football. Until next time from The Booth…YO ADRIAN!