Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Sunday, December 08, 2019

WWF In Your House #1 5/14/95

Sometimes you get in the mood to watch the 1995 King of the Ring, but then you just don't feel right watching the 1995 King of the Ring without seeing all of the qualifying matches. How could I enjoy the PPV without seeing what all of the competitors went through on their respective journeys? I couldn't. The first KOTR Qualifier happened on the very first In Your House, that's where we start, and really I can't think of a better place to start.

Bret Hart vs. Hakushi

ER: This is one of the more acclaimed matches from the early In Your House shows, and it makes sense that they'd want to start the show off with a solid memorable match, so sure you send Bret out there. He's the guy who could reliably start a show with a good 15 minutes, so you make him work twice and that's just smart booking on your premier "extra" PPV. Hakushi wasn't a guy who was at PPV status at this point, so him opening up the PPV is an impressive role to be put in. It feels like booking to the internet fans, before most of us had the internet. And the match is a little overrated; there are several moments of varying degrees of miscommunication, and I don't love the layout of the first half (Hakushi takes most of it and then Bret just takes over and takes the rest of it, before the hot extended finish). But this was a good match, and a match with a ton of smart memorable moments that deserves the attention it gets. Hart takes a classic bump chest first into the buckle that allows Hakushi to take over, and the finishing stretch is admittedly great enough to overlook earlier hitches. It all begins with a fantastic moment where Bret is firing back and taking over, his strikes look really sharp tonight, momentum is building, and then Shinya grabs his foot and generally makes his presence known for a third time. Bret takes a killer theatrical bump off the foot grab, really rolling all the way across the ring as if his shoelaces were tied together and he was forced to jog. And Bret responds by running back across the ring and taking out Shinya with a tope! What an all time great sequence. Hart occupies himself really well later on, when Hakushi hits a swank Asai moonsault and Hart tangles with Shinya until the big moment. Plus we get Hart hitting a vertical suplex from the apron to the floor, sending both of them crashing.  Hakushi had really pretty stuff, a perfectly placed top rope diving headbutt, big missed springboard splash, diving clothesline that fans cheered for, and he bumped big for Bret (including a cool flip bump off a lariat), and threw a bunch of great uppercuts. The finish had a couple good nearfalls, and a couple classic moments, so yeah I guess it's deserving of its status.

Jeff Jarrett/The Roadie vs. Razor Ramon

ER: Jarrett is wearing a garish Beetlejuice get-up, his '95 ring gear is truly among the worst. And this was also our WWF in-ring debut of The Roadie, another thing to entice the kids into begging their folks to shell out for another PPV. And they'd be getting their monies worth, because this PPV is an easy 2 for 2. Jarrett is great a getting overwhelmed by Razor, but the Jarrett/Roadie control segment was awesome. Roadie was throwing tons of elbowdrops, a big lariat off the middle buckle to the floor, good kneedrop off the middle rope, a fun debut. And Jarrett is a maestro of getting right into position on accidental cross up spots, colliding a couple times with Roadie to the delight of the crowd. Jarrett's offense never looked prettier, his dropkicks best in the business and his mannerisms making him the most punchable dude. Razor came off like the top guy in the company, Jarrett made the pace exciting, this was good.

They jump Razor after losing, and Aldo Montoya comes out to save Razor buts gets tossed fairly quickly over the top to the floor, and then Savio Vega debuts by coming out as an unknown taking all of that hero spotlight that Aldo Montoya desperately wanted to grab. Aldo Montoya, finally seeing his shot, flying down with a ton of heart and no plan. Tony Garea and Rene Goulet and security guards remove the unknown hero Savio Vega from the ring, and you can even see Montoya rolling back into the ring to check on Razor as Savio is lead out. "Yeah you missed what happened, I ran 'em off while you were recovering in the corner, took out both of 'em..."

And then they cut to a Sid package that prominently shows Sid just icing Aldo from several camera angles. And this is a fantastic video package, really making Sid come off like a total killer. Sid makes some of the best faces into the camera, his Psycho Sid music was a campily perfect take on a Harry Manfredini/Bernard Hermann score, and there were great shots of him blinking like a weirdo and then powerbombing big dudes like Bam Bam. This package would have probably made Sid my favorite wrestler had I seen this when it happened.

Mabel vs. Adam Bomb

ER: This was big man perfection. This was barely 2 minutes, all killer no filler, a great Bomb performance in a quick loss. A lot of guys could get pouty knowing they have to lose on PPV in under 2 minutes, but Bomb just took the opportunity to show off all his offense. Mabel is a total giant fat guy superstar, he starts the match squishing Bomb with an avalanche, then missing a full speed avalanche bump that shakes the ring. Adam Bomb goes on his big offense run, hits a big flying shoulderblock to Mabel's back - Mabel taking a super fast forward rolling bump through the ropes to the floor, crazy bump - which leads to a nice Bomb pescado. He is constant motion because he knows he has basically one minute to shine. He climbs to the top and hits a big shoulder tackle that Mabel takes his big back bump for. I mean this whole thing kicks ass. Mabel makes quick work on the comeback, hits his rolling heel kick hard into Bomb's stomach, and drops him with a full weight powerslam and just flattens him on the pin. This is how you do a two minute match.

Smoking Gunns vs. Owen Hart/Yokozuna

ER: Hot 5 minute tag, everyone on this show has been really great at making the most of their allotted ring time, it's given the entire show such an exciting pace. Everything feels nicely mapped out to a match's potential effectiveness. Owen tries to one up Bret by taking the same chest first corner bump, but Bret's earlier bump was better. Gunns look good, a couple nice double teams, big dropkicks, hard clothesline, a cool flying elbow; Yokozuna was a great monster, a great brick wall, but also does great vulnerable giant spots like running fast into the ringpost. The finish to this is sudden and violent. Bart misses a crossbody and flies hard into the middle rope and crashes fast to the floor, Cornette causes a distraction, and Yokozuna casually walks over and splats Bart's face with a legdrop. Bart is done.

Jerry Lawler vs. Bret Hart

ER: After the Hakushi match, Hart hopped off the apron and tweaked his knee, and ever since that all everyone has talked about on this PPV has been Bret's knee. And then Bret comes out for the match doing this really bad exaggerated limp, and Lawler is laughing and licking his chops, and then it turns out that Bret was just faking the whole thing to make Lawler thing he had an advantage. It's a fun easy story that they kept tending to throughout the evening, and it's far more interesting than just "Bret is having a second match". Lawler was so on point in 1995, maybe only Finlay from this era showed more on selling than him. He was so good at taking and putting over offense, really making Bret's punches snap, doubling over with several different ways of holding his stomach after taking a shot, and takes a really high backdrop. Hart drops him with a gorgeous Russian legsweep, nails the elbow, but Hart does basically no sell Lawler's big textbook piledriver, which is a spot I don't like. Hart was only down for 4 seconds or so, and then hit his own piledriver. These two are usually more clever at how to use a spot like that, this felt more like Kurt Angle laying out the match for them. There's a fun BS finish where the ref gets his leg tied up in the ropes because of Shinya, and then Hakushi sneaks in and lays out Hart. Lawler gets this perfect, super obnoxious pinfall on a now knocked out Bret, grabbing his legs and flipping over into a bridge like he was Yoshinari Ogawa. I do wish this one was longer - that we either got more time before the big Hakushi headbutt, or we got a surprise Bret rally after the headbutt - and these two were in a good groove before the interference. We only got 6 minutes and it was the first match on the card that felt like it didn't get the right amount of time.

Sid vs. Diesel

ER: Diesel is a guy who I think has aged really great over the past decade. Nash in general was far better in the ring than anyone was giving him credit for 25 years ago. He worked a lot of monster vs. monster matches, and he was really good at creating a King Kong vs. Godzilla feel. Sid had a ton of charisma and presence and that was underrated at the time too. This is what 14 year old me would have wanted from a battle of two giant badasses. Nash was a great babyface and really flew into Sid with big energy: Big elbows, big running lariat, huge leaping corner lariat, really made everything look like buildings falling into each other. Sid is not as exciting on control as he is at letting Nash crash into him, but he has nice simple clubbing forearms and axe handle shots, and holds an okay camel clutch for probably too long. But the big moments play real big, with Sid hitting a big powerbomb that they later say injured Diesel's elbow (featuring a hilarious moment where Vince lead off an episode of Raw shouting in full Vince voice "Tonight we'll check in on Diesel who is recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery!!!"), and Diesel comes back and hits a great one of his own. Tatanka runs in to eventually stomp out Diesel, but it felt like an appropriate finish for what we had been through. This was a real good battle of the monsters, two guys who in the match felt like arguably the biggest babyface vs. the biggest heel.

ER: The first In Your House was a super fun PPV top to bottom, not anything approaching a bad match on the entire card. It's a tight two hours with complementary pairings and everyone feeling like they were trying to put on a big show. There was nothing high level, but one of the highest floors throughout. Super recommended.


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Saturday, December 07, 2019

WWE Big 3: Lorcan, Gallagher, Gulak 2019 Catch-Up

ER: None of the three made any of the shows this week (feels like I've had to type a variation on that sentence every other week for the past couple months) which just gives me a chance to check out matches of theirs I missed earlier in the year. And there's still some gold to be found, so let's dive back into 6-8 months ago, which feels like 3 years ago.

Oney Lorcan vs. Jaxson Ryker WWE NXT 3/13/19 (Aired 4/3/19)

ER: Lorcan moving more to 205 Live kind of made me forget how much I love Lorcan against big brutes, and this match has been on my dream "Lorcan vs. Brute" match list. And it rules. It only goes about 5 minutes, but Lorcan is great at working these 80/20 matches, and Ryker focuses a really nasty attack to Lorcan's back and ribs. Every single thing Ryker brings to Lorcan is a hard attack at his torso, with a couple of pants shitting low running knees, a gutbuster tossed with absolute fury, even Ryker just dropping huge clubbing shots right into Lorcan's ribs and sternum. Lorcan fights at the bell with great chops but gets smothered easily, and this is a match after my heart as Ryker grabs a great bearhug. Lorcan is the outright best in the WWE at fighting out of a bearhug, really taking you through all the levels of pain before he starts grabbing at Ryker's beard, trying to break free by covering Ryker's nose and mouth, and finally building to grabbing that beard and punching Ryker several times in the face. Then we get that explosive Lorcan comeback we love, him launching his full weight into all his attacks, chopping that brute down, getting nearly horizontal with his flying uppercuts and adjusting the attack lower and lower and Ryker gets more and more slumped in the corner. Of course it all ends with a big chokebomb, and I would have liked just one Lorcan kickout before being put away, but this is a match type I wish we saw way more often.

Drew Gulak vs. Humberto Carrillo 205 Live 4/23/19

ER: A fun match, but another in a string of good 15 minute 205 Live match that would have been much better as a 10 minute match. These things are a little long in the tooth for the crowd to stay invested, and it's endlessly amusing to me that WWE is making crowds sit through two 15 minute cruiserweight matches before getting to the people they presumably want to see. Did any of us ever think we'd say stuff like "I like that WWE is giving TV time to the cruiserweights, but why does it have to be *this* much time?" Carrillo uses flippiness to frustrate Gulak early, and I dug the spot where Carrillo climbed all the way to the top of the ringpost and waved to Gulak on the floor, with Gulak yelling at him to get down from there. Gulak shows him who's boss by grounding things, working a cool figure 4 variation and really tangling up Carrillo's knees with his legs, really locking in leg holds so he can move Carrillo at will by leverage: either roll over with me or your knee will be popped out. Gulak works a nice armbar, and then a genuinely great ankle lock (catching the leg out of the air after Carrillo tried a spin kick). We spent so many years watching Angle just stand there like a doof holding someone's foot, and here's Gulak working different points of manipulation, really gripping the toes while twisting at the ankle, trying gamely to hold on while getting kicked in the face, and a killer moment where Carrillo rolls through to a convincing nearfall, leading to Gulak powering up with his core into a nastier ankle lock, never letting go. Carrillo hits a nice tope en reversa and a great missile dropkick right to the collarbones, finishing with a sunset flip bomb and the Aztec press. I really liked most of the stuff they did here, it just would have benefitted from lopping a couple sections off.

Jack Gallagher/Humberto Carrillo vs. The Singh Brothers 205 Live 5/21/19

ER: You come here for the Singh Brothers content, I'm gonna give you that Singh Brothers content. Tired of arguing with your friends about which Singh Brother is better? Tired of parties devolving into rooms split between Samir supporters and Sunil sustainers? Well, it's Samir. The answer is Samir. Samir cuts way low on a lariat, hits a great cheapshot on Gallagher for the floor that sets up a convincing false finish, takes a big chest first bump in the corner, just a cut above Sunil. And this match is worked at a nice clip, with the Singhs cutting Carrillo off from Gallagher, and the Singhs are good at fast bumps and roll up pins that looks like they might actually finish a match, and when Gallagher does get in, hits his great delayed vertical suplex and grabs a half crab, Sunil comes in with a lariat right to the back of his head. The match wrapped up oddly quick, like they suddenly realized they had to get the hell out of the ring in 20 seconds - and by now I am accustomed to these 205 matches going their full damn course. The better finish actually would have been the Singhs winning off outside interference and a roll up, the finish here (Carrillo hitting an ugly Aztec press) didn't really feel like it went with any of the story they were telling.

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Friday, December 06, 2019

New Footage Friday: WARGAMES!! Fuchi! Chavo! Finlay! Brad!

MD: There's a real Black Saturday feel this week with the unofficial (because when can WWE ever be transparent about anything? What other industry acts like this?) notice of the end of the Hidden Gem releases. It's rough and we're left on the hook for all those potential 83 Georgia Omni shows or more full Crockett Cups or 90s Dark Matches or maybe, just maybe the 91 WCW Omni shows, etc. That's not going to stop us though. The community is strong. New or rare stuff keeps popping up: lucha, 90s and 00s indies, 80s and 90s Japan TV and handhelds, a treasure trove of German footage, and we know there's always the possibility, any week, of new PR or old French Catch. We have a backlog. We have veins to tap. We are here for you. These posts are up by Saturday morning most weeks. They almost always have links to matches that you almost certainly have not seen. We'll tell you if they're worth watching and we almost always pick matches that are. We're not going anywhere. Follow along, post your thoughts, tell a friend who might be lamenting the neutering of the Network footage. We'll keep going until the well dries up and there's plenty of water to go around for now.

Masa Fuchi vs. Chavo Guerrero AJPW 8/19/83

ER: This starts with a dynamite 3 minute real time package, Fuchi already waiting in the ring with gorgeous swooped hair and a blue track jacket unzipped below his sternum. Fuchi looked like a super cool high school P.E. coach, or an average cool southern California pharmacist. He waits stoically in the ring while Chavo lightly jogs out, mariachi jacket and pants, yellow bandana holding down hair almost as cool as Fuchi's, shotgun shells crossing his chest. And the match itself was cool and tough, about 70% of it on the mat and building to some heavy thuds at the finish. The mat work was snug and linear, nothing flashy, but nice headlock takeovers and headscissors escapes, boots scraped against faces to defend single legs, and cool things like Chavo losing a surfboard on the roll over so just opting for punching Fuchi in the neck a couple times. We get my favorite camera angle on the pescado, filmed across the ring so that when Chavo makes perfect connection the two of them just get swallowed up beyond the other side of the ring. The count out finish was one of the more clever count outs, with Chavo getting back on the apron after the pescado, but Chavo being on the apron gives Fuchi the leverage to drop him down to the floor with a back suplex.

MD: This had everything you'd want from a 1983 AJPW Juniors match. They really took it to the mat early with sharp, sweeping counters and nothing that felt given or even fed. That spiraled into a heel/face dynamic as Chavo went for the cheapshots first. Fuchi fired back angrily. They escalated into some bigger bombs, and it all ended with a dive and a fairly novel yet still definitive count out finish, with Chavo putting the icing on top by trying another cheapshot only to get run off. Just about ten minutes bell-to-bell.

PAS: Pretty basic match with a couple of cool flourishes. Loved those overhand smashes by Chavo, just thudding nasty looking shots. I always enjoy Fuchi grinding a guy down on the match and he really has some punishing moments. The finish was really great with Chavo hitting an alltime great Pescado, only to get snatched off the ring apron with a backdrop suplex on the floor for the count out. Shortish match, and it wasn't an all time great match for either guy, but it is fun sometimes to see the minor works too.

Fit Finlay vs. Brad Armstrong CWA 12/3/95

MD: We have a lot of Finlay to watch in this German footage, and that's the best problem in the world to have. For this week we had to decide between two or three different matches of his. This one felt really novel and was highlighted further by a really nice twitter post he made a few years ago talking about how great Brad was as a wrestler and a human being. This is about 40 minutes worth of video with entrances, a flag ceremony, and music during the round breaks. We get a bunch of rounds, five or so, and lots and lots of meaty, meaningful, illuminating wrestling, but it does cut off before the end.

The face/heel structure is not what you'd expect here. This is probably the most significant heel Brad footage we have, I think, especially unmasked Brad. As good as he was as a meat and potatoes babyface, you always hear from wrestlers that his personality was larger than life and how it didn't transfer into the ring. Just because of who he was and his position within his family, he wasn't going to have the sort of chances to be a heel that Brian or Steve might have, but you get the sense he would have shined a lot brighter in that role and could have easily been a guy on the US title level, despite not being the biggest guy. Here, he realized the way the crowd was leaning early on and he went mean and pissy and didn't look back. He was quick to hit cheapshots, to rile the crowd, to argue with the ref, to have his second (Kauroff?) pull open the ropes so Finlay could bump through, and to feed for Fit.

Finlay was a badass babyface here, the sort of guy who would take a cheapshot, fire back, and then just dare the heel to come after him. He had a real, unmistakable connection to the crowd, one that he managed without pandering and without much changing who he was. At times, it actually hurt the match a little. There were moments where they could have prolonged his revenge on Brad thanks to the round breaks to get a higher payoff. and he stormed out of the ring to give him a beating instead. On the other hand, Finlay actively hulking up towards the end of the footage was both surreal and thoroughly satisfying. You'd expect that out of the way he continuously dismantled Brad's arm with the world's meanest armbar, sure, but not with an outright hulk up.

I wasn't as upset about the lack of a finish as I might have been otherwise because we did get so much action here and because you had a sense the direction everything was headed after that last comeback.

ER: Bruce Springsteen should go into the Pro Wrestling HOF just for the vast amount of wrestlers who have used Born in the USA as their entrance theme because they were the American wrestler in the match. And I thought the face/heel alignments were screwy as hell here, and didn't give me much sense at all of what heel Brad would look like. Outside of some moments in the first two rounds, most of this was Finlay clearly being the heel and being cheered anyway because he's Fit Finlay in Germany. But I really didn't care about face/heel dynamics because the work was simple, tough, and engaging the whole way through. We don't get a finish and there's a clip where I'm unsure how much we missed, but the runtime on this is long so we get a lot of bang for the buck. There were parts of this where I felt Brad was working more stiff than I've seen, but while Brad's work was obviously tight it was mostly Finlay selling like he was seeing stars every single time Brad dished out an elbow to the temple. Finlay is my favorite salesman in wrestling history, and every time he took a shot he would be stumbling, whipping his head back, holding his eye, feeling around for his opponent, falling into the ropes for support, everything he could do to make Armstrong look like a lethal weapon. Brad throws a snapmare the way they're supposed to be thrown and Finlay takes a snapmare bump the way someone is supposed to take a snapmare, and I love how it lead to Finlay finally refusing to go over, stopping Brad's forward momentum and dropping him with a jawbreaker.

Finlay is such a tremendous post bell asshole, just getting in every shot he can every time a round ended. I loved Finlay just pounding away at Brad on the floor, where you can here someone say "Don't do it, Finlay". Finlay takes a tremendous bump through the middle rope to the floor when Brad's second pulls the rope, and it's one of a zillion spots that Finlay clearly works out the physics on. There are tons of those spots in wrestling where a wrestler does Action A which leads to his opponent doing Action E, except most of the time we don't see anything that looks like attention being paid to B, C, or D. A guy hitting a tope but getting stopped with a chairshot will almost always look like a guy just running into a chair, because it's extremely difficult and dangerous to commit to a dive that is ending with you taking a chair to the face and falling painfully to the floor. Finlay is great enough to have a reason to run into the ropes, and then actually look like he was 100% committed to hitting that middle rope before it wasn't where it typically is. Finlay does all of the math on every one of his spots, making things that miss and WHY they miss just as important. Finlay got the most out of taking Brad's offense, and when he fights back it obviously delivers. Finlay throws a short left lariat that is so perfect that I wonder why Finlay didn't use a lariat as a finish. His armbar was fantastic even though Finlay isn't a guy I saw routinely work armbars, but the way he gleefully works to extend Brad's arm is fantastic, as is the way Brad sells it between rounds while I Was Made For Loving You jams over the PA. Some of Armstrong's best work in this match was done between rounds, like pleading to the ref for more time because of Finlay wrecking his arm after the bell. For all we know there's another 15 minutes of this match, but right here we got more total time with these two than all their other singles matches combined, and that's a special thing.

PAS: I would not have expected to see Brad Armstrong of all people step into a Finlay match and match Finlay shot for shot. Where the hell was violent asskicker Brad Armstrong for all of these years. Finlay of course is a master, his crazy bump to the floor was Jerry Estrada level insane, and I imagine a lot of the reason Brad Armstrong felt like Johnny Valentine was Finlay's selling. All of the armbar stuff was perfection, brutal violent bursar sack popping arm mangling, which Armstrong sells great. Cage match has this going to round 10, so we miss some real parts of the finish, but man alive what a treat to get what we get.

Devil's Rejects (Andrew Alexander/Tank/Rufus Black/Se7en) vs. Team Empire (Drew Delight/Rush/Ben Thrasher/Chunky Dragon) EWE 3/1/12

PAS: A music video for this match got uploaded on youtube a couple of days after it happened and I commented on the video asking them to release it in full. Seven plus years later it shows up!! Devil's Reject's Wargames are some of the coolest stuff that happened this century, and hardly anyone has seen them. This isn't at the level of the all time classics in 2006 and 2007 (and Tank was the only constant besides Rev. Dan Wilson) , but it wasn't a huge step below. The Alexander and Drew Delight opening five minutes is awesome, heated brawling, great punches and and some big cage bumps. Tank comes in and starts carving, and there is a nasty spot where Ben Thrasher gets the spike from him and drives it into his arm. Se7en is a huge guy and really good at menace, I am not sure why he never got a bigger role somewhere. The finish is crowd pleasing, although a bit lacking in drama. The babyfaces just take control, and Chunky Dragon lays into Alexander with knife edge chops and a pectoral claw until he gave up. Wargames is a great wrestling formula, all you kneed is some good brawlers willing to bleed, and that is what this delivered.

MD: Very good War Games. I liked the idea of Alexander cutting a promo to begin. It set the mood and was a good use of having the first guy in. It feels like the sort of thing CM Punk might do to make a sanitized WWE War Games work better. Honestly, Alexander was the highlight in this whole thing for me. I'm not sure how I'd feel about him in a normal match but he was a great receptacle for Delight's great punches, stooged and bumped around the ring, even late into the match, and then served as the big end center point where he lasted long enough to gain sympathy but finally surrendered in the face of little enough escalation (but an absolute sense of hopelessness) that you didn't feel TOO bad for him. They handled the momentum shifts well, balancing the new faces coming in and the fatigue/numbers game. I think this would have been better with a second ring as nothing really stood out once everyone was in. I was of two minds on some of the last quarter. They worked one big set piece with the figure-fours and the bat and while it was a little silly for a War Games match, it stood out and was memorable. It was hard to keep track of the brawling in the single ring and no single final transition stood out, but I kind of like how the babyfaces just slowly won the brawling war of attrition.

ER: I don't have a ton to add (though it feels like when I type that I then end up writing two full paragraphs), only that this felt like a genuine article WarGames, and that goes a long way in making me love a WarGames. This was not as great as earlier Devil's Rejects WarGames, but that is an insanely unfair comparison. If these were just 8 guys we'd never heard of and not a stable involved in two classic WarGames, this match would come off even better. Having watched the WWE WarGames within the month and now this one, though? There's no argument which way is better. I came away super impressed with Andrew Alexander, a great front to back WarGames performance that mostly required him to take a beating and be a wobbly kneed clown for Empire, and he did it magnificently. Drew Delight was throwing these great hamfists at his head, big round closed fists that were thrown with no style, just swung right at Alexander's forehead. The order of participants was staggered well, Tank coming in 2nd as a big wrecking ball was great, and even better because he was a wrecking ball with a spike. Tank threw a couple shots with the spike that made me jump, and I love how the inclusion of a spike has been so important to WarGames: You know that bringing a spike into WarGames will mean that your team will be eating a tong of spike, and I dig when a WarGames starts getting deeply into that torture. Everyone filled their roles nicely, bunch of big guys punching and bleeding a ton - and really what more is there? - and I loved Chunky Dragon as the final man. I've never heard of Chunky Dragon, and I assume I'll never see another Chunky Dragon match, but he was such a good fired up babyface tearing into the ring. He had real Michael McAllister energy to him, dug his big crossbody, loved all his hard chops. The finish doesn't necessarily peak anything, but I liked the burn at the end, of Alexander being held prone and trying to hold out as long as possible while getting punched and chopped, and finally accepting that nobody was coming to his rescue. When you hear your local indy is running a WarGames match, this is the level of quality you hope for.

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Thursday, December 05, 2019

2019 Ongoing MOTY List: Darby vs. Moxley

92. Darby Allin vs. Jon Moxley AEW Dynamite 11/20

ER: What a monster performance from Darby, really the only thing that could have made this better was Darby winning (and Darby most certainly should have won). This was not just a great Allin performance, but one of the best uses of "Allin's whole body is a weapon and sometimes that weapon is going to land, other times that weapon will miss its target and land terribly". Even before the bell we had Darby hitting a great bullet tope into Mox, Darby flying into the crowd attacking Mox, Darby getting smashed into the ringpost, and Darby eating a huge belly to belly on the floor. This was naturally worked with Moxley mostly destroying Allin, and Allin gets destroyed better than maybe anyone in 2019 wrestling. Allin flies off the top and bounces right off Moxley, we get a brutal spinning backbreaker, Allin flies into turnbuckles, a great beating. He starts making some inroads by going after Moxley's hand, and by the end of the match I was fairly convinced that Moxley had a messed up hand (if not, then I'm not sure I've ever seen Moxley sell an injury as well as he sold his hand after the match). We get some cool BS like Mox shoving Darby into the body bag that Allin brought out, plus more crazy Darby dives and a wicked Moxley lariat. The finish looked like it could have snapped Darby in half, and I love that Darby matches don't tend to end until something almost breaks him in half. Overall I think AEW has handled Allin fantastically and made him seem like a big deal, but this should have been his match to win. The fans want the Allin win, I want the Allin win, and if he keeps putting out showstoppers like this then it should be undeniable.

PAS This is my favorite Dynamite match so far, and they have really done a great job making Darby a star. I assume he will get a win at some point over a big name and it will be a huge moment. I was expecting some crazier shit when Darby brought out the body bag (Ethan Page really threw him around in a body bag in EVOLVE). I thought Moxley was pretty nasty on offense, although I would have liked to see him take a big bump or two. Allin is just a master at timing his comebacks and grabbing big near falls. The hand work was really cool too and a sensible way to give him a real chance to win.  I am excited to see where they go with Darby from here, I honestly think he should be the guy who beats Jericho, It would be a monster moment and really make a star.


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Wednesday, December 04, 2019

AEW Dynamite 12/4/19 Workrate Report

What Worked

-Opening trios would have had to be abysmal to feature the return of tasseled babyface Dustin and not make it up into the top part here, so obviously it's up here. Dustin and Guevara are really great counterparts in this one; they couldn't be more different as wrestlers and personalities, and that's perfect for something like this. Dustin works fast paced AEW style better than anyone in AEW, more than just sequences of moves, but with heart and sympathy in spades. Guevara is the perfect brat punk, and I love twerpy loudmouth heels and he's absolutely thriving in the role. Guevara's 630 looked fantastic, all the big spots from everyone looked sharp, they hit a nice sweet spot on runtime, real nice opener. This was actually an AEW match that I was hoping would go longer, but that could be me just wanting as much Dustin on TV as possible.

-Dark Order recruiting incels to join their cult is some pretty great stuff. It's important to show the cult leaders actively recruiting cannon fodder, and I dig the idea of Evil Uno as the powerful fat guy that internet fat guys look up to.

-Jake Hager has the round face and dim eyes of Hank Venture, acts like one of the silent gestating clones of Hank Venture, but now has the full speedsuit of Rusty Venture.

-Both big talking segments worked well as breaks in the wrestling action. Cody's was more traditional and although it's setting up a match I'm not very interested in, it at least took me more not interested to slightly interested. Jericho's was funny, and I like how he's able to play 100% to the crowd with references while immediately shutting them down any time they try to share the joke or reference with him. Making Luchasaurus an educated dinosaur is far more amusing than him just growling, and "Marko Stunt is small for any age" got a legit laugh out of me.

-There was an ad for Joe Pera Talks With You during the Daniels/Pentagon match, advertising the new season that starts THIS WEEK, meaning there was actually something of value during a brutally bad Daniels/Pentagon match!

-I am a sap for nostalgia, so I appreciate Chris Daniels honoring the memory of his Nitro appearance by again completely botching a moonsault.

What Didn't Work

-Guevara live blogging and eating a double superkick was a funny idea, though I don't actually know who he was trying to hit with that shooting star press. The camera was in tight and he clearly looked before leaping, but nobody was in sight when the cameras went wide. It's tough to make purposeful misses actually look like genuine misses on these complicated spots, but it certainly makes them better when it happens.

-Fenix vs. Trent was my least favorite kind of match in this style. Long set ups for payoffs that are immediately shrugged off to do more long set ups with payoffs that don't get paid off. The things they are doing are dangerous, and they sell them until they don't, but this was one step away from them just walking into position and waiting for the other to do a move. Trent has to wait an eternity standing "tied" in the ropes while Fenix climbs, points, yells, rope walks, and punts Trent...which of course just allows Trent to stumble into position to hit a lariat. The things they tried to chain together were silly, but most of the offense was not chained at all, just a series of guys waiting around for a dangerous move that wouldn't get treated as dangerous. Big piledriver? Won't stop Fenix from springing around seconds later; Trent eats a face stomp on the apron? That will be a distant memory in seconds. Trent hit a nice spear on the floor. I liked that, but this was trash.

-Nyla Rose squash was okay, but she really left Leva Bates out to dry on that knee off the top. Are people in AEW passing around old Scoot Andrews tapes are something? And they seem to be building multiple monsters in the women's division all at once, with Leva Bates as the only one who will seemingly sign up to fight them.

-I was excited for Statlander/Shida but this was not the best Statlander I've seen. I have no idea why she was so rolly and flippy but I thought all of those parts looked rough. And I really don't like the weird cult leader Brandi stuff. We already have a cult filled with chubby dudes in masks, I'm not interested in one lead by someone who was shown at home worried about her husband within the month.

-Absolutely cero quĂ­mica between Daniels and Pentagon, Pentagon so lazy and sluggish he can't even bother to make his kicks touch any part of Daniels, but at least he kept with the running theme of the night and made Daniels hang on the ropes for awhile before doing something that sort of connected. Never on the same page, this was B-A-D.

-Janela/Moxley came off pretty flat, really capping off a dull 2nd hour of Dynamite. Big DDT on the ramp, tope, put him through a table, didn't really matter as Moxley never acted like he was taking damage. Not that a lot of Janela's stuff looked very damaging, so I guess maybe Moxley worked him properly? Moxley looked twice the size of Janela and looked like he hit twice as hard, so maybe this was the right way to work this? Still dull as hell though.

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Tuesday, December 03, 2019

IWTV Worth Watching: Quackenbush Atomicos

Mike Quackenbush/Razerhawk/Thief Ant/Green Ant vs. Cornelius Crummels/Sonny Defarge/Hermit Crab/Cajun Crawdad Beyond 7/3/19

ER: I really do like Chikara Atomicos matches, but the best ones tend to include Quack, because he's clearly the guy running the show. And I'm not sure even with practically two decades of training guys that he's even come close to getting one guy up to his level of Atomicos match director. Quack looks like the best of the 8 here, and is treated as such. He also mostly pairs off with Cajun Crawdad, which is smart because that guy is probably the least of the people in this. I've never seen Crummels or Defarge, but they are obviously Chikara through and through, wearing suspenders and bowlers and shockingly not riding a bicycle with one large wheel to the ring. Seeing this kind of person in Chikara is just expected, in the same way that unicycler casually rolled past a group of friends and I as we were leaving a Portland restaurant, and nobody had to say anything. Razerhawk has breakout potential. He's super small but really flies around that ring, his ranas and headscissors and big ringpost bump already look ready for actual lucha, and his flying around was easily a highlight here. Hermit Crab seems like the best of the rudos, bringing some professional basing and hitting heavier than the others, but he and Crawdad - outside of both being dressed somewhat like crustaceans - don't have a ton of team chemistry; they are similarly sized but don't really gel, and that's possibly due to Crawdad's lack of experience. Crummels had some nice running strikes, both Ants hit pretty spectacular dives, and the big move chaining ramped up more impressively than I was expecting. Quack is that maestro, like Bruce Lee directing traffic during fight scenes, and he's smart about giving guys chances while not letting them get too far over their heads. His segments were great, I dig his short palm thrusts to make space, loved him trying to make Crummels' shoulderblades touch, really hope this guy isn't actually going to hang it up after this year.

Mike Quackenbush/Mick Moretti/Cabana Man Dan/Lucas Calhoun vs. Logan Easton LaRoux/Eel O'Neal/Killian McMurphy/Alan Clayball Flying V 9/14/19

ER: I am a sucker for vets vs. young guys, and this is mostly that. LaRoux is certainly a vet, but the rest of his team is made up of two very new rookies and a guy with under 100 matches, so he's the guy leading some lamb to slaughter. And this was overall another fun Quack atomicos, but one that was shaping up to be something special before hitting the backloaded comedy and then rushing to the finish. You traditionally start something like this was the good feelings and comedy, and if it's going to be there I'd much prefer it to start than as a late match breather. Here our beginning sections were so intriguing that I had no interest in seeing any comedy, just wanted them to keep building and see how they could peak it. Well, we never really got that peak. But I loved the beginning. Quackenbush works 4 layered minutes opposite Eel O'Neal, a wrestler so new that he somehow has less Twitter followers than we do. He's a tentative rookie and they work a rookie acceptable headlock takeover/headscissors sequence, with Eel eventually handspringing out of the headscissors. But then Eel gets to show some personality, gyrates oddly into Quack, unzips his wetsuit gear while making eyes at him, and then Quack gets to pay him back for his insolence by rushing him with a tight single leg, muscling him into a pendulum and smacking his head against the bottom buckle, and the work a cool sequence where Quack is pushing off Eel's ankle with both feet while Eel tries to pull him to his feet. Their exchange started out as a basic student/teacher exchange and built to something more interesting over 4 minutes. And the match finished with them squared off again, and Quack absolutely shaking him with a superkick before eating a LaRoux cutter. I like Moretti as he always does a couple impressive acrobatic flourishes and lands heavy on crossbodies, and CMD is a certified pro who is good at working fast exchanges that make these things go. I like the bites everyone is taking, like how the pairings are ramping up, but then we gotta hit comedy. Silly strike exchanges, group headlock, tandem overplayed axe handles off the apron, stacking 4 people in the corner at once, that kind of stuff. It isn't terrible and they kind of cut right to the finishing stretch after, but it easily could have just been left out. That kind of thing robs us of time that could be spent on pairings we didn't get, but it's also expected.

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Monday, December 02, 2019

Monday AIW: 200th Show 11/2/19

CPA vs. Wes Barkley

PAS: Not sure what the point of CPA is. He doesn't seem to be doing the clip-on tie gimmick anymore, and now his gimmick seems to be middler at a local comedy club. There was some OK stuff with a knee injury, and I like Wes, but undercard singles match isn't what he does well. CPA goes over with a facebreaker on his bad knee, and I am perplexed.

Danhausen vs. VSK

PAS: What is it with crappy three initial wrestlers going over cool AIW regulars on this show. Danhausen is a great tag guy, but as a singles wrestler he is a little too concerned with trying to get over his memes. Still his actual work was pretty good, while VSK seemed to over enunciate every action, and his offense seemed to be all complicated ways to drop a guy on his own knee. They do some thing at the end where Danhausen drinks a White Claw, and spits at Derek Director, and yadda yadda. Tik Tok wrestling stinks.

Zach Thomas vs. Wheeler YUTA

PAS: Thomas is pretty fun to watch, he is a big kid who bangs away. YUTA is pretty dancy and the dancy YUTA parts of this match aren't great, although Thomas looks pretty good throwing fast armdrags. When the match settles down to Thomas throwing bombs and YUTA avoiding him and using his speed it gets fun. I really liked the couple of times Thomas just hurls his body into Yuta like a fullback trying to open up a hole.

Lee Moriarty vs. Alex Shelley

PAS: I was absolutely dreading this when I saw it on the match list. Moriarty is a guy with a tendency towards swing dancery and Shelley is the all time maestro of that style. While this match certainly had more than it's fair share of somersaults and dipsy dos, it had some other stuff which made it watchable. Shelley actually worked pretty stiff, and did a nice job as a pissed off veteran against a young guy, and Moriarty did some nice arm work leading to some big Fujiwara near falls after some pretty La Mistica's. I still don't think I would recommend this match, but I liked it way more then I thought I would, and it is Shelley's best match since coming back to AIW.

65. Bitcoin Boyz vs. Bear Country vs. To Infinity and Beyond vs. 40 Acres

PAS: This is what I came here for. The AIW four way tag match is pretty much a guaranteed blast every time. This is almost all new teams for this format, so it cements my belief that To Infinity and Beyond are the glue of this match structure. Fun structure here with two teams of beasts (Bear Country and 40 Acres) and two bumping heel teams (TIAB and Bitcoin). There is a fun spot early where Colin Delaney stumbles in between a face off between Bear Country and 40 Acres and ends up getting smashed by all four dudes. AJ Gray has really leaned into fucking people up and I am here for it, when I first watched him he was more of a thick highflyer and now he wrestles more like shorter Stan Hansen. Bear Country are a fun indy version of the War Raiders, perfect for this kind of match as they can hit their big dude spots and not have to put a full match together. Bitcoin Boys are neat, two tiny opportunistic little jerks who absolutely get obliterated.

ER: Love this. At this point I'm going to be shocked whenever AIW runs a 4 way tag match that doesn't wind up on our MOTY list. And this one has Eddie Kingston on commentary, which is such a beautiful combination of the very best things that it would be like In N Out also becoming a dispensary. Kingston talks about how he thinks Cheech is an ugly dude, compares him to Giant Baba, drops gems like "What is Delaney gonna get powerbombed for the fifth time?" or "He probably learned that from Quackenbush. So did I. Doesn't mean I use it though." Kingston loves this kind of chaos and the glee in his voice while the chaos is happening just makes me enjoy my favorite match structure even more. We get some great sequences and set ups all throughout, too many to mention. Bitcoin Boyz are super new, and they fit in nicely by bumping big (Taylor takes maybe the bump of the match when he gets tossed over the top, tries to hang on, and basically falls down the ring steps and winds up 15 feet away from the ring; at the same time Mikey was taking a cutter from Delaney into a Cheech German suplex that landed him on his neck and shoulders), Delaney and Cheech continue to run everything - my favorite team in 2019 - and here's Delaney getting crushed by everyone bigger than him, then coming back and working nutty spots on Cheech's shoulders (ducking  a Smooth clothesline that sends Smooth to the floor on a low bridge), then flipping over (baaaaarely) when Mikey hits a crossbody off the top while he is still on Cheech's shoulders. AJ Gray was out here murdering folks with lariats, PB punched Boulder right in the face, Boulder hits his cool powerslam/powerbomb combo on TIAB, the dive train lands big, it all rules. And The Duke is out there, you know he's gotta take a shot that allows him to sell better than anyone else in the match. He eats a punch on the floor and then sprawls perfectly into the guardrail to hold himself up. After the match he even gets into it with Ted Dibiase, and AARP Dibiase throws a great punch and then a shockingly gorgeous Russian legsweep while holding Duke in the million dollar dream. Another AIW show, another great 4 way tag.

49. Manders vs. Big Twan Tucker

PAS: This was the rubber match of my favorite indy series of the year. The first match is still the best, as it was totally out of nowhere, but this ruled too and these guys have some real chemistry. Tucker has an awesome intensity which is hard to teach, when he comes out it feels like some shit is about to pop the fuck off, and Manders is a perfect foil for that as he is unwilling to do anything but charge into the abyss.  Both guys only have one speed. There is a hilarious moment on commentary when Eddie Kingston mentions that Twan was trained by Johnny Gargano and Manders was trained by Tyler Black and I just imagine how horrible that battle of the trainers would be. Loved Manders breaking out Twan's elbow combos early, only for Twan to fire back and smash him right back. There is another great moment where Tucker has Manders in the corner and he unloads with a 10 punch combo to the body, working his kidneys like a heavy bag. Twan also has some awesome strength spots,  including snatching Manders mid air during a three point stance clothesline spot attempt. I did think Twan's rana out of the corner may have been a bit too cute for this match, but it was a big pop.  I think this may have gone a couple minutes long, as it is hard not to get a bit gassed working their pace. Still what an awesome collision, I love both of these guys unconditionally.

ER: Yeah these are two guys I seek out at this point, but I've yet to see them look quite as good against others as they do against each other. They have real chemistry and really bring out that something from beyond. Manders throws the Twan elbows and that is a mistake as Twan lays them right back in, then tenderized his torso with a punch of great corner punches all fired at the body. The chops land hard, shoulderblocks look like they would put most cars up on two wheels at least for a bit, Twan hits a boss Thesz press, there are a few huge slams and suplexes, and I actually like the Twan rana. These two were both just eating every nasty slam and strike and then getting up for more, and I liked how the rana shifted things from just another big slam into something that distracted and sort of threw off Manders. The Twan spear is iconic, and these two really can't do wrong against each other.

PME vs. Dr. Dan/Parker Pierce

PAS: PME has really mastered the art of the old school southern tag, and while Dr. Dan and Parker Pierce aren't close to the top heel team in AIW (no diss as AIW has an amazing tag division), but this is great stuff. Really reminds me of a Rock and Rolls tag against a fun random heel team like Jake Roberts and the Barbarian. You can just plug and play. Pierce is a blast in this, some real hard shots, a great spinebuster and even a hook kick. Dr. Dan has some fun stooging and takes his one horrific bump per match (dropping off the top rope through a table). PME had some fun wrinkles in their formula including some nifty stuff with the legal man and how that effected their near falls. I hope PME keeps these titles for a long time because there is a seemingly endless batch of fun teams to match them up with.

Erick Stevens vs. Matthew Justice

PAS: Meathead ECW brawl which is something Justice is adept at. Goes way into overkill as you would expect, but we do have some big stunts, including a spear through a door, an avalanche death valley driver through a table, tons of head drop suplexes and a spot where Fonzie lays a half a dozen chairs and pieces of doors in front of Stevens face for a coast to coast dropkick. There were 10+ times this match probably should have ended, and it eventually lost me a bit. Still a fun spectacle, and Stevens gets to cross this kind of match off his bucket list.

58. Eddie Kingston vs. Tre Lamar

PAS: This is Eddie as old man Tenryu which is a really great Eddie look. He works over Lamar and makes the kid earn his stripes. He does all of the parts of the Tenryu shtick well, the contempt, the grudging respect, the panic when things aren't working out, and finally the determination to finish the kid off. I liked Lamar in this a bunch too, he hit and run well, and really timed the big moves well. I especially loved the double stomp near falls, with Kingston rolling around the ring in pain and Lamar shocked in disbelief.

ER: This feels like the kind of tough match that Kingston can have in his sleep at this point. I love domineering Kingston, because few guys are better at being domineering in a ring in 2019, and I don't know if anyone is as good as Kingston at being the domineering guy who starts to lose control. I love him stalking the ring, knowing Lamar's moves before Lamar is throwing them, always there waiting with a big chop. And I love once Lamar starts getting a couple over on him that Kingston's big mouth keeps getting him in trouble, like when Lamar comes up a little light on a running knee and Kingston calls him out on it, only to then eat a much harder running knee. Kingston sells that kind of stuff like a god, going loopy and grabbing a muscle memory double leg from the ground, even selling a nerve twitch in his neck from yelling. I did think Lamar came up a little tentative in spots, unnecessarily physically moving a standing Kingston into a spot to take something from the apron, and he was a beat behind hitting the enziguiri after a Kingston backfist (I was already not going to like him hitting immediate offense after taking a backfist, so it really should have looked devastating). But Kingston must have sensed my dismay as he decided to just throw backfists until Lamar stays down, and I am fine with that.

Nick Gage vs. Joshua Bishop

PAS: I thought this was a fun performance by everyone in this match although the match itself was a little disappointing. I don't think Gage is a great wrestler, but he really has a presence and means something in way few wrestlers in the the world mean something. Bishop getting the win over Gage feels like big moment in his career. It is tough to work a big stunt show like this after Stevens and Justice pushed it to 11; no chair shot or table bump is going to mean much after that explosion. Wes Barkley was great on the outside, he took the two biggest bumps in the match, and was Jimmy Hart level annoying.


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Sunday, December 01, 2019

IWTV Worth Watching: Jimmy Jacobs! Jeremy Wyatt! Shotzi Blackheart! Journey Pro!

Jimmy Jacobs vs. Jeremy Wyatt Journey Pro 5/9/19

ER: This was a pure title match, and I liked a lot of what they did, but thought it also went on too long and the Pure stip felt like it took away from things at times. Now, the payoff was because of the Pure rules, and it was really cool, but we took awhile getting there. These are two vets who know how to work an interesting match, and this was all about Jacobs having to hold back on his punches. We have always been big fans of brawling Jacobs, but this really shouldn't have had that much of an effect on his style. He couldn't punch, but can still elbow the hell out of Wyatt, and apparently even grab him by the balls. That doesn't seem super pure. Jacobs punches early and loses one of his 3 allotted rope breaks, and later we go through a long melodramatic portion where Wyatt is daring Jacobs to punch him, and Jacobs ponders his fist and whether or not it's worth losing another rope break. It was a little bit much in a match that had already had two stand and trade sections with both guys throwing elbows to the jaw. And Jacobs *does* throw that punch and it is very much not worth it, as he loses a rope break and the announcers aren't even sure if it was a closed fist or not. If you're going to work something like that into the match, you gotta deck the guy. It paid off when Wyatt got Jacobs into a nasty crossface with his neck bent back over the bottom rope, and Jacobs couldn't break the ropes because he wasted it on that punch. So the finish was cool, but it took a lot of time going through things to establish that. But when we weren't getting wrapped up in plot we got to see Jacobs throw a fantastic snap suplex, Wyatt throw a couple nice vertical suplexes of his own, Jacobs running quick into Wyatt's boots, and some cool sharp left-right elbows from Jacobs. I was expecting a little more from this, but overall liked what we got.

Shotzi Blackheart vs. Kenny Alfonso Journey Pro 9/26/19

ER: This gets a little long, but has a lot to love. I'll always root hard for Shotzi; she was one of the background babes on a local Bay Area TV station's Saturday night horror movie show, and from the time she started in Bay Area indies she always showed a no fear attitude and full confidence, two things that will keep her floor high. And this match had some of her best stuff that I've seen. The opening mat exchanges impressed me, like she's started integrated World of Sport stuff without needing Alfonso to sit there waiting for his arm to be taken. She worked a kind of hybrid Quackenbush WoS style and while it wasn't perfect it's something that I think suits her. She kept going after Alfonso's arm, and it lead to a nice moment where he went for a handspring and fell because his arm buckled. I don't love the rehearsed strike exchange stuff, and there was some stuff that looked a little too dance-y, but Shotzi also broke out a couple big suplexes, including dropping Alfonso with a dragon suplex and then locking in a cattle mutilation, and a fun battle over a vertical suplex. Less dance-y strikes, more cool mat stuff, this is an evolving Shotzi and I'm into it.

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Saturday, November 30, 2019

WWE Big 3: Lorcan, Gallagher, Gulak 11/24-11/30

Smackdown 11/29

Drew Gulak vs. Mustafa Ali

ER: "A rivalry that really heated up when Drew Gulak did a PowerPoint presentation on Twitter" is something that's going to sound just as stupid to future generations as it does now, yes? This match goes maybe 3 minutes - pretty dumb on a 2 hour show with only 4 matches - but is fairly meaty for the short runtime. Gulak is back to shaved head and is sporting some cool as boots, and he aims to make the most of his ring time (and the way things have been going this might be all the ring time he gets this month). Gulak looked sharp in control, backed Ali with hard chops, worked a nice single leg crab, and hit a wicked one arm powerbomb when Ali jumped to the middle buckle (he really flung him too, really great). Gulak made Ali's kicks look like a million bucks, and the match had an actual good use of a superkick that made for a plausible nearfall even just 2 minutes in. Sub-3 minutes is almost always going to be unfulfilling, but Gulak made the most of his time.

205 Live 11/29

Jack Gallagher vs. Angel Garza

ER: 14 minutes of Gallagher on my TV on a Saturday morning is just not something I'm going to complain about, but I am really not a fan of the way Garza transitioned to comeback throughout the match. The bones of a killer match were there, with Garza working over Gallagher's stomach and Gallagher being the one to try to keep him at bay with cool strikes. You don't see a lot of stomach work, but Garza was clearly targetting Jack's stomach, setting up a big dropkick to the gut in the corner, dropkicking him again in the stomach on a missed Gallagher crossbody, and in maybe the coolest moment of the match breaking out a slingshot gutbuster. Gallagher hasn't been done many favors with the way he's been portrayed. He's the guy they use as a heel or face depending on what's convenient that week, and throwing a pasty British guy into the ring for almost 15 minutes in Alabama is the kind of thing that has been leading crowds to root for matches to end. Gallagher is diligent and eventually wins them over, but it is not easy. And I think part of that is because almost all of Garza's comebacks are structured to come immediately after taking a big move from Gallagher. This was the worst use of the Gallagher standing thrust headbutt (he has a nice one early in the match where he rains it down on Garza while trapping him in the corner), and he lays that headbutt in, causing Garza to bounce off the ropes and hit a superkick. Obviously that is one of the worst trends in go go go wrestling, where a guy can take a move that has always been used for a nearfall, but this time the momentum from getting headbutted really hard makes him bounce off ropes and throw a kick. Maybe there's a way to make a spot like that work. I'm sure Finlay could find a way to make it work. But I don't think I've seen it work. Gallagher does win the people over when he kicks Garza in the face on a corner dropkick and begins landing stiff windmill punches. The windmill punches were hitting hard enough and landing quick enough and overwhelming Garza enough that the folks in Birmingham couldn't help but make a little noise. But Gallagher got crippled by another lazy transition: Late in the match Gallagher leaps onto Garza and tries dragging him down with a guillotine choke, shifting weight, gradually seeming like it could work...but Garza just gets choked for awhile and then hits the wing clipper. Oh. The layout only seemed to work to the match's detriment, and the worst version of a 50-50 match is where one guy responds to a big move immediately with a big move. This had the chance to eclipse their better, shorter match from a couple weeks ago, but alas.

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Friday, November 29, 2019

New Footage Friday: Finlay, Brookside, Dundee, Smothers, Nishimura, Inoki

Antonio Inoki vs. Tracey Smothers NJPW 4/17/89

PAS: Fun if bizarrely laid out match. Smothers (in full Southern Boys regalia, which in hindsight, jeez) jumps Inoki at the bell and takes 5 minutes of this 6 minute match, including powering up a seemingly sandbagging Inoki to put him in the tree of woe. Inoki fires back with some punches and a nasty koppo kick for the pin. One of those things that is crazy that it exists, and who wouldn't want to see the Wild Eyed Southern Boy and Inoki greco grapple?

ER: Ever since Matt sent me lists of what was on this motherload of Japan handhelds, Smothers vs. Inoki was one of the main matches that jumped out. The potential classics never seem to be the ones jumping out at me, it's always the potential weird, or the unique pairings. And the pairings don't come more unique than this. This was basically the final month stretch of Inoki as an active worker, and for some reason he spent a bunch of it wrestling singles matches against guys like PN News, Ron Starr, Maxx Payne, and this match against Smothers. I'm unsure why Inoki decided to work singles against a bunch of guys who were lower card gaijin, but I like it. I love it. And Smothers - confederate flag trunks and all - really gets to run the match. He slams Inoki in the corner with an Oklahoma Stampede, works go behinds, throws kicks at Inoki in the corner - seemingly trying to mime the exact way Inoki throws kicks, which looks odd when worn by Smothers - and tries to do the Backlund lift out of an Inoki armbar (he tries to lift Inoki up a few times, both of them looking extremely painful, while Inoki just stays planted on the mat holding that armbar), and really this is almost entirely a Smothers show. Until, I guess, Inoki decides that the festivities are over, as he punches Smothers (with Smothers taking this big exaggerated bump onto his shoulders, flipping over to his stomach) and then hits a cool rolling kappo kick. I wish we had every late career Inoki vs. gaijin match, but I also have no idea how we have this one.

MD: As we all know, Inoki faced off against challengers from all around the world to gain his status as the greatest martial arts warrior alive. This is an odd and short interlude in that storied career, where he faces off against the elusive and dangerous Wild-eyed Southern Boy for about five minutes. I'm a big fan of 92 heel Smothers, and this feels a little like a prelude to that, as he really takes it to Inoki without hesitation or remorse or really common sense. There are two moments in this where he just tries to power him up as if he was Bob Backlund or something, right at the beginning when Inoki didn't want to go up for a slam, and then later on when he tried to deadlift his way out of a grounded armbar. Anyway, there's a few minutes of him kicking, slamming, and trying to contain Inoki with chinlocks before he gets fed up and beats the snot out of Smothers, before knocking him out with a rolling kick. A fun four minutes that could have been a legitimately good ten, maybe. Maybe.

Superstar Bill Dundee vs. "Pretty Terrific" Bobby Blade MWA 12/7/96

PAS: All shtick main event, which of course is great, because Dundee maybe the greatest shtick worker ever. Blade is a perfectly fun dance partner (and the guy we have to thank for the footage), but Dundee could (and I am sure did) work this match with a local car dealer. Lots of fun punches, a great spot where Dundee makes Blade run the ropes for a long time, and a nifty fight out of a chinlock. Great chance to check out touring indy Dundee formula.

ER: This is money before anything even happens. Just soaking up the 1996 Kentucky fairgrounds vibes of this whole show and realizing it's the kind of special pro wrestling that can't exist again. People are too self aware in a post internet age, but this is the real mainlined winter weather fairgrounds indy wrestling. There are big puffy NFL jackets, Dundee comes out to Frankie saying Relax, "Pretty Terrific" Bobby Blade is one of the most delicious and delightful names in wrestling history, Blade is wearing those specific-to-Tennessee/Kentucky-wrestlers zazzy pattern tights w/ matching top w/ fringe sleeves (like the hand me down version of Jamie Dundee's weird similar outfits, only his had shoulder accessories), and then....well, then Bobby Blade hands his ring gear and lightheavy title to a man clad in head to toe denim, cigarette poking out of the side of his mouth, long feathered hair inspiring jealousy I didn't know I had contained in me, and a full desire to spend the entirety of this match standing directly in front of the tripod cam, one knee slightly bent, throwing out that skinny denim butt vibe until a man in a button up American flag shirt comes out and tells him to fucking kneel or something. And then the man in denim turns and looks over his shoulder, directly into the camera and also your soul. The match itself is obviously less important than the aesthetics of the pro wrestling - I am convinced anybody who was going to enjoy this will have already known they were going to enjoy it before any pro wrestling exchanges had taken place - but also important because it's Bill Dundee. And they work a shtick heavy match, Blade's manager getting involved and getting chased off, Dundee getting a stick and chasing him to smack him, and it ends with Dundee throwing some nice punches, then hopping effortlessly up to the middle buckle to win with a crossbody. The second the 3 is counted three men - one wearing overalls - immediately stand wordlessly to their feet and proceed to quickly beat traffic to the exit as a man over the PA lets the fans know that they should feel more than welcome to talk to wrestlers from this show, if they happen to see any of them standing around; and if you bring 5 people to their next show a month away, well then you get in for free. Should I be reviewing every single full show that Bobby Blade puts up? I think I should.

Fit Finlay/Robbie Brookside vs. Osamu Nishimura/Michal Kovac CWA 8/10/97

PAS: This was really freaking great. This was Finlay mid WCW run kicking huge pallets of ass. Brookside was right there with him showing a nasty streak I hadn't seen from him before. This was worked like a standard southern tag, with the streetfight parts only coming in at the end. Finlay and Brookside really work over Kovac, who has a nifty comeback to finally get the tag. Lots of great little Finlay moments in this match, he adds an extra shove to a Brookside superplex, and he cuts off a Nishimura run by palm striking him directly in the nose. Loved the finish with Finlay applying a choke using the ring ropes, which Nishimura has tap out to. Really clever use of the streetfight stipulation, total joy to watch, and I need to see all mid 90s CWA Finlay.

MD: This was a street fight tag, which basically meant that the heels could swarm and repeatedly cut off babyface hope spots. It ended up as bit of a tecnico/rudo situation where Finlay and Brookside were able to take full advantage while Nishimura and Kovac struggled to stay in it. The good news is that Finlay and Brookside were absolutely able to fill the time with compelling and brutal stuff. Brookside, in this incarnation was a 98 Chris Jericho with slightly better offense: over the top theatrics, loud and annoying. Honesty, with Finlay coming into WCW just about when Jericho kicked the heel turn into high gear, I wonder why he didn't suggest Brookside to be part of his act.

They had a bunch of simple but mean tandem stuff, and while they weren't always quite on the same page, they got there quickly enough. Finlay's so good that he could be a half step behind on something and still catch up with twice the impact of most guys in the end. The coolest bit was probably Finlay whipping the leg around from the apron to spike Brookside's superplex, and the second best maybe Brookside running across the apron to forearm Kovac after a corner whip, but it was all good. Nishimura and Kovac didn't have to do a lot as they were mostly working from underneath, but when it was their turn, they hit everything picture perfect. I could have used just a little more revenge in the last third but this was ultimately a good chaotic match that still had form and build.

ER: Loved this. This was during that weird year and a half break between Finlay's WCW stints. It's like they brought this mulleted madman in to just bruise and break Regal's face for a couple months, then we didn't see him for 18 months. And to the shock of nobody he was just hanging out back in Germany bruising and breaking everyone else's face. Finlay and Brookside are a helluva team here. This is the stiffest work I can recall from Brookside, and their teamwork was genuinely great, with Finlay adding touches that I've never seen. Finlay has done more unique little things in a ring than maybe anybody I've ever watched, and it's a main reason he's always right towards the top of my all time favorite wrestlers. He is someone who never rests and is always thinking of new ways to tighten up all facets of pro wrestling presentation. At one point Brookside is going for a superplex on Kovac, and from the apron Finlay helps muscle Kovac over. It made so much sense, and is one of those things that felt so obvious after I saw it. I have never seen anyone else do this, and Finlay made it seem like the easiest way to lend a hand to your partner, without even throwing an illegal strike. Finlay is the man constantly making me go "why hasn't anyone else thought of this!?" His wrestling mind is brilliant. He and Brookside really take Kovac apart, and they aren't any nicer to Nishimura. Brookside clocks him right in the back of the head early, and Finlay slugs him right in the eye later. Brookside looks like the greatest in ring version of Edge here, adding a ton of personality to his stiff work, frequently rubbing the crowd's nose right into his and Finlay's dominance. I loved the small but important uses of the street fight stip, like Finlay choking Nishimura with the tag rope or the insanely brutal finish of Finlay trying to murder Nishimura by strangling him using the top rope. This was as good a Finlay performance as we've seen, and it seems like our Catch YouTube hero is just going to continue supplying us with more gold.

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Thursday, November 28, 2019

Coliseum Video Thanksgiving: Rampage '92

ER: In what has become somewhat of a Thanksgiving tradition, my friend Josh is over on a brisk Thanksgiving day, the heater in the house is turned up, and Josh brought a bag of Coliseum Videos with him (as well as TWO full pies. I'm looking at YOU Pear Cardamom). We randomly grabbed one, and the choice was the EXTREMELY great looking on paper Rampage '92. We pop it into the VCR, and it turns out Rampage '92 has an Old West theme! Sean Mooney is in a old west town like he's in Mad Dog McCree and he shoots a man! Some bronco buster talks trash to Mooney and Mooney just turns around and shoots him! Twice! This tape is going to be great.

Razor Ramon vs. The Undertaker

ER: The fans are weirdly not into this one, but it's really fun and low-key awesome. The slugfest spots all look good but get no reaction, and the two seem to noticeably ramp things up to win the crowd over. Taker takes a bunch of big bumps, missing a high leap elbow, dropping hard on his tailbone for a legdrop, takes a lariat to the floor, and in the coolest moment of the match gets absolutely launched off the top when going for the rope walk. Ramon evens breaks out a chair - stealing it from a security guard! - and bashes Undertaker in the kidneys! And that wasn't a DQ I guess! Gorilla really puts over Taker eating a chairshot to the kidneys, and this is SUPER important because it actually makes Razor Ramon's abdominal stretch make sense!! Ramon goes for a chokeslam which is some nice hubris, only to get reversed, then Taker goes to chokeslam him again and Ramon does a cool escape by using the ropes. And then he just says fuck it and walks out and gets counted out. He knew when to fold 'em, and I respect that.

Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart

ER: I can't get super excited a match between these two, they've matched up a lot, but this is a very fun version of their touring match. When these two weren't such total cocks to each other and were generous in the ring with each other, they really did match up nice. Bret is insanely crisp in this match, every strike, every shoulderblock, every elbow, every clothesline, they all looked amazing. Shawn doesn't bump theatrically here, he bumps HARD. There are two different ridiculously fast and hard bumps, one off a simple shoulderblock, the other off a gorgeous diving lariat to the back of his head, and the two were just like chocolate and peanut butter, perfect complementary parts. Sherri is at ringside and an absolute treasure, cutting promos constantly, looking like a wrestling character in a John Waters movie. This was basically the best era of Michaels, before too much ego took over. He was a really fun heel and made for a fun act with Sherri. And I liked his big heavy bumps, liked his strikes thrown with dickhead aggression, does cool running knees, nice backslide, just a good pro wrestler. He was a like a tighter John Tatum, easily the best iteration of him. I thought this match-up was played out when it started, but they really were satisfying opponents, and this was one of the tighter matches I've seen from them.

40 Man Battle Royal

ER: This is just beautiful. And this is an entirely DIFFERENT battle royal than the infamous Berzerker 40 man. This is worth it just for the entrances, as everyone comes out single file and at LEAST 15 people in this are total pasty nobodies. Some of the nobodies (Rick Johnson? Dublin Destroyer?) actually have decent looks and builds but went absolutely nowhere to my knowledge. There are future names like Glen Ruth, and what's cool is that we don't get exclusively jobbers getting eliminated early. In the other 40 man the opening was so great, with Kerry Von Erich just hiptossing every single jobber to the floor immediately, while Berzerker stomped them all in the head. Well in this 40 man, a lot of the jobbers stay in really long! Guys like Jerry Sags and IRS get eliminated before half of the nobodies, and I thought that was pretty awesome. There are plenty of great moments, like Knobbs trying an honest to god shoot takedown of Bret, and Bret completely stuffing it and dropping a full force knee to Knobbs' chest. I swear to you. Glen Ruth and Duane Gill make the final 10, and they pair off in a way that says "Maybe nobody will notice us if we just punch each other". The final 4 is brilliant, as it's British Bulldog, Bret Hart, and THE BEVERLY BROTHERS! Obviously they don't win, but they both get to eliminate Bret! Bulldog smokes them, icing the cake by press slamming Beau into Blake, and it rules. The format of this battle royal was so good, such a unique look with 40 guys shoved into the ring at the same time

Rick Martel vs. Tatanka

ER: The match itself is simple, the chops looked good, it was somewhat dull, but it always amazes me how into Tatanka everyone was. There was some of the power of just WWF telling this guy is someone worth rooting for, but fans also really took to Tatanka. And yet he was never given any kind of title run. Fans were way into him though, and that's cool.

The Beverly Brothers/The Genius vs. Legion of Doom/Paul Ellering

ER: This is an honest shock to me, as I had NO idea that Paul Ellering worked any taped WWF matches, and no idea The Genius was still working taped matches in 1992. I'm blown away right now. Ellering looks in great shape and is just wearing black trunks and boots, but The Genius is wearing a FULL black body suit with neon yellow GENIUS written multiple times down the leg, and a gigantic superhero G on the front of the suit. He looks like he's wearing LA Park's gear, but with GENIUS instead of bones. I have NEVER seen this version of The Genius. I can barely even focus on the match because The Genius is just standing there in a dayglo bodysuit. But what I am able to see of the match, is obviously super fun. The Beverlys and LOD both get to throw big powerslams, and Mike Enos is a tremendous stooge the entire match. You'd think that with Genius on his team, that Genius would be handling stooge duty, but no! Here's Blake Beverly getting shot into the ropes by Hawk, Blake holding onto the rope to stop his momentum before posing to the fans, and then getting leveled by Hawk. At another point Hawk is chopping Beau in the corner, and Blake charges at Hawk from the apron to break it up, Hawk chops him, and Blake just takes a huge banana peel back bump from the apron to the floor. It looked incredible. Animal is our fun hot tag, sending Beau flying with a backdrop, tossing a nice dropkick at Blake, dropping them both with a DDT, big clothesline, another powerslam, and then LOD uses the Rocket Launcher as their finish!!! Genius gets the Doomsday Device post match, but they win with the Rocket Launcher!!

Tito Santana/Virgil vs. Money Inc.

ER: Dibiase comes out wearing the all white Million Dollar Man suit and he looks downright resplendent. His all white trunks/kneepads/boots look amazing. Tito and Virgil get separate entrances and I'm not sure why that is so funny to me. And Dibiase is a real star in this one. He avoids Virgil, so Virgil has to do a blind tag cheat to get in the ring at the same time as him, and when he is finally forced in with Virgil he works real tough, nice punch combos and a big boot to Virgil's stomach, but is also generous with bumps. He and IRS are great cheaters, cutting Tito off from Virgil, and it's just a great formula. Tito is obviously going to be a great FIP, and Money Inc. are giving leverage assists to each other from the apron, constantly keeping Tito from making the tag. The crowd is hot for Virgil's eventual hot tag but it's kind of flubbed (he throws a couple of off balance lariats and gets a little crossed on the ropes) but the crowd is still into it. The match does not end great but it easily had the strongest build of any match on the tape. I don't think I've seen as much end of career Dibiase and this was a real nice showing for him.

Repo Man vs. Randy Savage

ER: This one is pretty active, even if 90% of the action seems to be axe handles. These two kind of walk around ringside and in the ring exchanging axe handles, and it's not super interesting but it's not bad either. This was World Champ Savage, and babyface Savage always gave up a ton of offense in matches. So here we get Repo controlling things with chokes and a nice flying lariat, nice side suplex, a real look at the Repo Man's offensive game. You knew Macho Man was coming back right in the final 30 seconds, but the elbow he hits is gorgeous.

The Berzerker/Papa Shango vs. The Undertaker/Ultimate Warrior

ER: I really really liked this. It was pretty much just what you would want from this match. It was a fast 8 minutes, which meant that nobody got exposed (anybody know what is considered the best Shango/Kama/Godfather match? I can't recall ever seeing a match with him and thinking "now THAT'S a keeper", but they must exist, right?), and everybody could go go go, and they did. Berzerker/Warrior was a genuinely fun match up, and Warrior busted ass in this, as did Berzerker (I guess I had assumed that would happen though). Berzerker bumped all around for Warrior as if he was Savage or Flair, and Warrior ate a big boot really nicely. I mean Warrior looked pretty bad throughout, and he looked so much smaller than Berzerker that it looked weird that he was shoving Berzerker around. But his energy was there and that's important in a match like this. Shango and Taker were more background characters but the money was in the Warrior/Berzerker showdowns. Another match where you can say with no argument that Berzerker worked harder than anybody else in the ring, really a super generous opponent, took his requisite 3 bumps to the floor. Considering all four of these guys weren't considered "workrate legends" during this time, this match was a blast.

ER: This has easily become one of my more anticipated wrestling traditions, and it helps that we've randomly chosen good tapes. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Lucha Underground Season 4 Episode 17: The Moth and the Butterfly

TL: Oh my God, the opening cinematic with Aerostar telling Melissa he's seen the end of everything was extremely bad. Cringey bad. Like the SNL guest who can't read the cue cards off camera bad. Melissa had to have been fed every line she said. Aerostar, bless his heart, is doing what he can with this.

XO Lishus/Joey Ryan/Ivelisse vs. Paul London/The White Rabbit/El Bunny

ER: The return of Mascarita Sagrada to LU can only be a good thing, and Killer Kross finally makes a TV match, a fun late addition to the fed. This was a jump up from last week's trios match. The Rabbit Tribe is a fun stable and the mix of London/Sagrada/Kross is a twisted WAR team that totally works. Sagrada vs. XO Lishus was not a match I realized I wanted, but damn was it fun as hell as it was happening. Paul London bumps around for Ivelisse as well as any man in the fed has, a nice recovery for her after a sloppy performance last week. We got a huge London dropkick to the floor and a Sagrada stopped momentum dive to Ivelisse that somehow looked good. And they did a fun thing all match long by having Kross glower from the apron, with it practically a known conclusion that he was just going to end things the moment he stepped into the match. He did, and they finished on an awesome visual, Kross choking out Joey Ryan with a mandible claw, wearing gimmicked gloves with bloody fingers, like he was gouging into Ryan's esophagus.

TL: I'm stoked to see what Kross does here as the White Rabbit. Mascaita and Paul bring it more often than not, but Kross is here to be brooding and explosive (supposedly). The London unitard/powder white face paint combo is the right kind of weird. Ivelisse getting the hot tag here was certainly a choice. XO LIshus and Sagrada paired off somewhat nicely, and Sagrada just in general came off really well here. One of the better examples of his size not being played up as something of a detriment. I agree that the match-ending mandible claw visual was awesome, and shows how presence and intent goes a long way. The stuff surrounding this was fine, but the Kross payoff was about as good as it's gonna get. It's so weird that they bring him in now with only a few weeks to go and he goes over that strong, but my thought is they take the trios titles...and then the company folds? Sigh.

Killshot vs. Son of Havoc

ER: So I forgot what had been going on between Killshot and Son of Havoc, or if they even had anything, but Striker tells me this is a big match so I'll go with it. They did work it as if it were more important than the #1 contender's match last week, so maybe this is a big deal. They use way too much sound sweetening, but there was good stuff here. Son of Havoc hits a big tope and he's always landing too close to the Temple steps, and I could see these two stepping up and having a fun mask match. They felt like they had big match formula down in a good way here, even if I don't like some of their offense.

TL: Seeing Strickland as Isaiah Scott now in NXT allows him to show off some more personality but the offense still doesn't work with me yet. He needs to tighten things up a bit, and this match doesn't bode well for two guys who like to try stuff that come off incredibly choreographed. And while this did have hints of that, they didn't try to do as much as I thought! It at least had good intentions, and I thought for sure there was going to be a few spots that got too cute. This was fine. And now we get to see it again as an apuestas. THAT'S probably going to be when they get too cute and I yell and scream, but whatever.

TL: Moth gets some promo time and looks way more comfortable in pre-taped segments than with a live mic. Reklusa is a great wrestling name for Chelsea, too.

No DQ: Marty The Moth Martinez vs. Mariposa

ER: This was great, easily one of the best LU matches in this cursed season. I think we'll have to do an actual ranked Season 4 Top 10 matches list when we're done with this. There's a strong chance that I won't have anything from this season on our MOTY List, and there has been strong representatives from the other 3 seasons. There were many reps from season 1, several from season 2, less in season 3, but none so far 17 episodes in to season 4. This came damn close, a really fun and violent brawl with Mariposa taking a cruel beating and firing back with some inventive comebacks. We built up to a couple of very strong nearfalls, more effective than anything I can remember this season. Martinez really beats her up, and I think it actually worked better because they have been presented as having a weird relationship for their entire time in LU. They've established that we could really expect these two to treat each other however, so the intergender thing worked for it. Mariposa took a great beating and bled, got slammed into walls and even powerbombed on the floor! Her comebacks were logical and violent, at one point burying Moth in about 15 chairs, all throwing hard at him, and late in the match she punts him right in the balls as payback for his shot to the crotch at the beginning of the match. I get the Reklusa interference (and love the name too) but I was enjoying the match so much that I was hoping they'd build to something more special for a finish. But this was good, and the postmatch beating Marty gave her felt edgier than LU has felt in awhile. Fans are super hot for the Moth/Pentagon title match, and even though Pentagon is probably the guy I'm least interested in watching on this current roster, I am now foolishly excited for that match.

TL: Oh HELL YES. MORE CHEERLEADER MELISSA. Low key, she's been one of the best match for match performers in the show's history, and I'm stoked to see her get a showcase match here. The start was great, the headbutt from Mariposa, the low blow, the vicious beatdown and mask ripping in the corner by Marty, Mariposa flying into the stands and then SHE BLEEDS ON THE CHAIR SHOT. And then Martinez whips her headfirst into the table like a goddamn madman and this has my attention pretty easily from the get go. Marty then powerbombs her into the grate and then sits out on the floor with it; a sequence that looks kinda blah in other matches, but because of the carnage on the outside so far, really fits in as Marty dominating her early on. They're going for it and it's like they woke this show up a bit. And then the madness of that chair pileup spot during the Mariposa comeback, and Vampiro literally jumping for joy as Mariposa rains down two dozen or so thrown chairs on Marty. I can't get over how much this rules, to be honest. When she set up the chair, I thought she was gonna go crazy and hit the Kudo Driver through it, but the Samoan Drop was nasty as all hell, too. Amazing near falls in this match on her two attempts. Then Marty retains with Pentagon's Fear Factor to retain after Reklusa interference to rub it in. Spectacular stuff, an absolute burst of energy on a show that has long needed it, easily the best match this season. Mariposa remains one of my favorite wrestlers in the history of the show, and even though for whatever reason they didn't give her much to work with in-ring, she absolutely crushed it every time she was given an opportunity to shine. Marty is gonna die for us in the Cero Miedo match (let's be honest: he ain't topping Vampiro from the first one) and that will be fun but man, even without spoilers, it's easy to see how things are going to end up. Five more episodes to go...

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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

2019 Ongoing MOTY List: Ohno vs. Bate

11. Kassius Ohno vs. Tyler Bate WWE NXT UK 10/5 (Aired 11/14/19)

ER: This was pretty fantastic, and a real masterclass performance from Ohno. This was a long match, at 25 minutes one of the longest WWE matches of the year. But Ohno is one of the best time fillers in wrestling, and his attention to small details and effective delivery in the biggest moments continues to keep him one of my all time favorites. Ohno can work the mat, he can deliver trippy sequences other people can't, he can work a big bomb throwing stretch, he can really smash a guy and really pump him up for babyface comebacks, and has no problem talking a bunch of trash. Ohno comes off as confident as anyone I've seen in a ring, someone who never even seems like he's thinking of the next spot, who often makes his match progression seem effortless and instinctive. He broke out some tricks that I could watch over and over, stuff like grabbing Bate by the arm and pressing in on Bate's inner knee with his boot to force him down, neat standing exchanges around abdominal stretches, or when he worked a cravate with Bate completely off the ground (with such a size difference that it made it look like Ohno was choking out a doll in his Baby Bjorn) before snapping him right down to the mat, sending Bate absolutely flying and crashing after lifting out of the Tyler Driver, burying a sick knee into Bate's guts on a corner charge, and just lighting up Bate with kicks, elbows, punches, literally every single shot. Ohno was such a bully and such an asskicker that it almost made it implausible that Bate could come back from it all. Ohno looked like he was aiming to win by count out when he kicked Bate's head clear out of the ring. But I like how Bate hit harder the longer the match went on, really trying to bridge that gap. We've seen so many awful stand and trade strike exchanges this year, and here's Ohno and Bate punching each other in the face, Ohno trying to fake him out by going high (Ohno had successfully faked Bate on a few moves throughout the match) and getting popped for it. Bate hits a torture rack airplane spin which looked downright freakish due to the size difference, like a Superman was growing into his strength and realizing he could lift his father for the first time. Not many guys can make me excited for a 25 minutes match these days, but Ohno is one of them.

PAS: I have been watching Chris Hero matches for about 20 years now, and he continues to deliver in new and interesting ways. He is probably the most formally inventive wrestler of the 2000s. He constantly tweaks his approach, not just by adding cool moves but by switching up his approach. And I love his new approach, where he tries to prove his wrestling superiority only to snap and try to knock someones head in. I loved how the size difference was used here, Ohno was able to manhandle Bate in some really cool ways, and that hanging Hero's clutch was truly disgusting. On the other side of it Bate was able to hit his power moves, but had to really convey struggle. Bate lifting Ohno into a German suplex after failing early, by using every ounce of his strength, was so much more impressive then big guys flying around the ring for little guy throws (that was always one of my few problems with Vader, he needed to sandbag a bit more). Clearly we need to go back and watch the NXT UK Ohno because he has been hiding in plain sight.


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Monday, November 25, 2019

WWE Big 3: Lorcan, Gallagher, Gulak 2019 Catch-Up

ER: No 205 Live this week, no sign of our guys this week, and it feels like we've seen much less of our guys ever since Smackdown started on Fox. A sign of bad things to come. BUT there is still 2019 stuff from these guys that we haven't seen, and this gives us another chance to dig back and find potential gems.

Oney Lorcan vs. Cedric Alexander WWE 205 Live 3/12/19

ER: Great stuff from these guys, a cool slow burn tournament match that built nicely to the biggest parts but didn't race through them once they got there. The first half of this is cool, the whole thing could have been worked with no ropes, a lot of the action based around holds or strikes. Even the running attacks didn't really need the ropes, as it was just both guys using the large ring to build whatever momentum they needed. Lorcan lands chops and uppercuts, Alexander throws back chops of his own and a couple kicks, Lorcan hits a hard lariat and works a waistlock and abdominal stretch, and the whole thing is very contained but very engaging. By the time they're using the ropes it feels like the match has taken off into the next plane, and I especially liked the swinging flatliner Alexander hit. I thought both guys were really good at busying themselves while waiting for attacks, like the way Alexander stumbled to his knees while Lorcan somersaulted off the top, then ran back to nail the blockbuster. The nearfalls felt earned, a lot of things that could seemingly end things, that blockbuster and the fought for half nelson suplex, but also Alexander's cool STO on the ring apron with a quick snap Michinoku Driver back in the ring. Lorcan kept working slaps and uppercuts, and I really dug how Alexander would buckle for them, though that also made the actual finish come off a little sudden. Still, I thought they built this whole thing real nicely, one of the 15+ minute 205 matches that I think really worked with the runtime. So many of those long matches just feel too long, but this felt like they were actually working the proper back and forth for the time.

Men's Battle Royal WWE Worlds Collide 4/4 (Aired 5/1/19)

ER: This was a good battle royal that really didn't have much of Gulak, eliminated within the first third. He was a guy worth watching while he was in it, with he and Riddle going at it one of the big highlights of the this. They even cosplay Ken Shamrock/Don Frye on the ring apron, something I've not seen in a battle royal. But then Gulak was eliminated by someone. Maybe Steve Cutler? Possibly Steve Cutler. But there was other fun battle royal stuff. Brian Kendrick never even took off his leather jacket (and yet lasted much longer than I expected for a man my size who didn't bother to get fully into gear), Riddle was the obvious megastar here but was eliminated by unexpected final 4 guy Saurav Gurjar, and Dijakovic looked like a teetering oaf but got punched into extinction. But there was also some trash! After having Gurjar take out Riddle, they had Tyler Bate eliminate him by...picking him up, walking him slowly over to the ropes, and then just tossing him over. Gurjar put up no sort of struggle during any part of this. A man 100 pounds smaller than him just picked him up, walked him across the ring, and tossed him. It was one of the lamer things I have seen in a battle royal. And while I liked parts of the Strong/Bate survivor battle, it went too long, and had FAR too many moments of one guy getting tossed over the ropes, dangling, only to have the other guy just walk away. Bate is just swinging, Strong just slowly walks across the ring. It's like a Kane cage match  I was at live, where he opened the cage door, stepped down to the bottom step, grabbed a chair without stepping one more step for the win, and went back into the cage to use the chair. This was on a show that was just two battle royals, the other with all women. The women's battle royal was better, with nice showings from Bianca Belair and Jessamyn Duke and a far better knowledge of how to build to neat battle royal moments. But this wasn't bad.

Jack Gallagher vs. Humberto Carrillo vs. James Drake vs. Mark Andrews WWE 205 Live 5/14/19

ER: This didn't have enough pairing off, and spent too much time trying to work a 3 way instead of working their natural 2 on 2 hand they had been dealt. And this whole thing was spent mostly showcasing Drake and Andrews at the expense of Gallagher and Carrillo, and that's not what I wanted to see. Gallagher was even the guy kept on the floor, who couldn't get in the ring because of a tough game of King of the Mountain. Seriously, Gallagher was the little kid who kept getting brushed aside, and he should have been running this thing. There was even a moment where he was fighting up top and then just had to sit on the top buckle leaning out of the way, so other people could fight around him. Our boy was made to look like a clown for much of this, and I didn't dig it. Carrillo was really good at making Drake's and Andrews' offense pop, Andrews ate a wicked facebuster into the apron, and all of the flying looked good. By the time Gallagher was actually allowed into the action, he broke out the umbrella senton and hit an awesome falling meteor from the top (like Mr. Fuji's great finisher only insanely off the top rope), Carrillo's twisting moonsault off the top looked great...but then Gallagher dispatched of everyone in cool ways and got to look like the ultimate chump by getting rolled up. They made some odd choices in this one, paired off funny, and really seemed to showcase people in the reverse order that they should be showcased. The action was enjoyable and quick, and that does count for a lot, but I wanted something different from this.

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