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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

2014 Ongoing Match of the Year List

10. Dean Ambrose v. Seth Rollins WWE Raw 8/18

PAS: About as crazy an ECW weapons brawl as you are going to get in todays wrestling. Ambrose has established himself as a nut job and this kind of all around the ring brawl fits his character perfectly. Rollins was fine as a cocky bump machine, but this was Ambrose as a more athletic Necro Butcher. Lots of little great moments along with the big nutty moments, I loved Ambrose catching the kendo stick and shit talking, Rollins ducking the rebound lariat and cracking him with enzigiri, the total car crash double bodypress. I could have easily see the match ending with that running powerbomb on the chairs, or on the in ring dirty deeds, or on the curb stomp on the table, although I didn't think the match dragged on like some indy matches. Finish itself was pretty unique and looked totally crazy, I guess they are writing off Ambrose for a while and this was a hell of a way to take a break.

ER: This really had the feel of a wild Necro vs. Jimmy Jacobs match. If WWE allowed blood for this type of thing this match really could have been legendary. I really loved all the escalations of things here. I dug the failed first attempt at the rebound lariat as I actually wasn't even thinking about it anymore when he actually hit it later on, and Rollins takes one of the best flip bumps ever off it. Usually you can see a guy really preparing for his flip bump, and it can look like a guy just independently doing a standing shooting star press instead of a guy getting leveled. Well Rollins looked like he got leveled here. And then he took the Dirty Deeds on the side of his head. All the stuff on the floor was nuts. Not only did they never fall into the "lead guy around by the hair" chasm, but man did they do some violent stuff. The crazy across two tables dive by Ambrose, and then the sick curb stomp on the table. How could it get worse than that? Well, only by doing one of the most visually stunning finishes to a WWE match I've seen. Rollins curb stomping Ambrose' head through freaking cinder blocks, with the cinder blocks crumbling and Ambrose' head getting buried in them was too insane. It's like they were watching old Jun Kasai matches and wondering "how can we fit this into a TV match?" Ambrose lying there with his head sunk into the rubble will not be a visual I forget any time soon. Wild match.


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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

MLJ: Atlantida Rising 15: Atlantis vs Rey Bucanero

Aired 2006-07-22
taped 2006-07-16 @ Arena Coliseo
Atlantis vs Rey Bucanero for the NWA World Light Heavyweight Championship

What the heck 2006 CMLL? Come on now. It's like you want the poor bastard to fail. Rey did fail, too. Not entirely, of course. He kept the Light Heavyweight title until May, 2009, which is a long time to keep any title, even an occasionally ignored one. He ended up rejoining Los Guerreros too, teamed with La Pesta Negra where he got to debut (or repackage at least) Zacarias. He won the NWA Historic Light Heavyweight Title and even as late as last year the World Tag Team Championship. From what I've seen though, he never really sustained the top-of-the-card success that this turn and the push that came along with it would have suggested. Frankly, I don't entirely understand the mechanics of how drawing and pushes work in Mexico, but I really don't think these two matches, the first with Ultimo Guerrero and the second with Atlantis, helped.

The first of the two, with UG, I feel comfortable blaming on the two competitors. It was a massive disapointment relative to the build, abrupt, lacking a lot of the necessary trappings of a successful title match, with selling that was absolutely not earned, big moments that felt anticlimactic and ultimately, a celebration that was enthusiastic but empty. A week or two after the match with UG, Rey was pushed out again, on TV, with a sudden and surprise change to win the NWA World Light Heavyweight Championship, what, if I'm not mistaken, was later on replaced with the Historic title that he won later in his career. If Wikipedia is correct, Atlantis had just won the belt from Wagner, Jr. Apparently he thought he was supposed to be defending against Niebla, and the "championship committee" or suitable CMLL equivilent, switched things up so he was defending against Rey instead. All of this lead to hugely entertaining chickenshit Atlantis antics. Unfortunately, we've got no idea if it led to the sort of classic title match that Rey probably needed at this point. They decided to show a mighty eight minutes of the match, bell to bell, with most of the clipping seemingly taking place at the start of the tercera.

What we got followed the UG match pattern for the most part. Two incredibly brisk caidas followed by a mostly unearned tercera. This time, though, it felt even more so because we're missing a chunk of it. The primera was basically just Atlantis, edgy due to the switch, charging at Rey and after a minute or so getting rolled up. It wasn't the worst sort of vulnerable heel champion moment in the world, but it's maybe not what Rey needed here, especially due to the clipping. The segunda being Rey hitting a quebadora and then running right into the Atlantida (even a great looking one) didn't help things.

The tercera made Rey look like a chump, Lizmark, Jr. look ineffectual as a second, the refs look moronic, and well, at the least, it let GdI get some of their heat back after the title loss, but not much of it. The clipping came in at a Rey superplex, which at least rationalized some of the selling for both wrestlers, maybe even more so than in the UG match, which wasn't clipped. They went back and forth with hitting and missing a few moves before Rey escaped another Atlantida and hit the Buca Storm. At this point, when he had the match won, UG pulled the ref out and in the confusion Atlantis hit a powerbomb counter with UG adding extra leverage for the win. What they actually did was fine, even the short primera since it played into the story of Atlantis not being prepared for the match. The fact that they clipped a match that already was set up to be sort of slight was a problem though. Maybe I just hold title matches in higher regard than the fanbase and the company do? I don't know, but these two matches, coming at so close a time together, really seemed like they should have been a way for Rey to put a stamp down and establish a tone for his tecnico run and that didn't happen at all.

At this stage, despite liking a lot of the matches I've had about my fill of 2006 for now. Depending on how long I can keep this up, I might do another sweep for the Perros del Mal stuff, including some of the back half of the year. For now, though, I've got one more match that feels sort of topical and that I liked a lot more than this, even if it had one less talnted luchador, and then I think I'm going to bounce back to 2014 for a while.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

2014 Ongoing Match of the Year List

33. Mark Henry & Big Show v. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan WWE Raw 8/18

ER: Well on paper this seems pretty much like a Segunda Caida-booked tag match. I was hoping for 5+ minutes of 4 giant bosses thudding and smacking into each other, and I got 7+ minutes of just that. Yes please. Henry was a monster here, and between this and the Rusev tease later on he had a heck of a night. Loved how hot he went out of the gates here, really lacing into Rowan with stiff shots and headbutts, and then dishing a Harperesque big boot to Harper himself. I exercise regularly and can hardly kick over my head, so watching a guy like Henry kick up that high looks amazing. Harper and Rowan are a great team and it's cool watching them work differently against two of the only guys physically larger than them in the company. Harper is always a bumper but usually it's off his own momentum when a smaller, quicker opponent moves out of his way. Here he gets physically tossed by Big Show and takes a wild bump over the top where I wouldn't be shocked to find out he didn't know up from down until he hit the ground. We get a cool nearfall with Harper booting Henry as he's about to deliver the World's Strongest Slam, woulda bet money on that being the finish. But it's awesome that it wasn't, as then we still get two Big Show punches leading to the Henry WSS finish. This delivered everything I wanted it to.

PAS: Henry and Show looked like such beasts in the beginning of this match, totally bumping around the Wyatts, that I thought it would have been improbable for them to back down even a little, I figured this would mostly be a fun power squash (after watch Lesnar v. Cena last night, that seemed possible), loved how they got the advantage on Show and their offense on him was nasty looking, including Rowans crazy looking bodyslam. The big finish run was super exciting, and I loved the punch, WSS combo finish. I love Godzilla v. King Kong matches, and this was a great tag version of that.


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Sunday, August 17, 2014

MLJ: Hijo Del Santo vs Blue Panther 6: Hijo Del Santo, Rayo de Jalisco Jr., Tito Santana vs Blue Panther & The Headshrinkers

1995-10-06  WWO Triple Power 2
Hijo del Santo, Rayo de Jalisco Jr, Tito Santana vs Blue Panther, Nikozuna, Wild Samoan (Head Shrinkers)

Ok, so this might have been at TRIPLE POWER 2, which was a joint UWA, AAA, and WWO show. Triple Power 1 had Doink The Clown, La Parka & Villano IV vs. El Hijo del Santo, Gran Hamada & Tito Santana so basically why the hell can't be Triple Power 1 that I'm watching? If that was Matt Borne as Doink, it's basically the coolest match ever. It was probably Keirn though. Ah well. Wait, I just checked the WON from the time because I couldn't find this show on cagematch. There's a Borne + Fuerza + Fishman match on Triple Power 2 and I bet that's on youtube too. I need to go watch that. I'll be back.

Yeah, so everyone go watch that Doink match. The primera wasn't so great except for the Solar vs Fuerza exchanges (unsurprisingly), but the rudos took over in the segunda and Borne was amazing as a fish out of water, just trying to figure out what the hell he's supposed to be doing and filling time and when Fuerza and he finally started to sync, it was pro wrestling beauty. The comeback was nothing to write home about though. Still, thing of beauty:

On to the match itself. For tecnicos, we have Rayo, Tito, and Santo. Nikozuna is Fatu, working a pre-Sultan Yokozuna gimmick, and from all indications Wild Samoan is Samu looking gaunt and mostly bald. They bill them with a Headshrinkers image in the pre-match introduction. Rayo I've seen back in the 80s. This was a very different setting however. The match was broader, more of a spectacle than what I'm used to. There's a sense of tightness and formula and, I'm not going to say sameness because that's not the right word, routine to a lot of the more polished lucha, the 90s AAA and the 00 CMLL that I've been watching. This feels a little more like the wild west which is both the interpromtional setting and the fact you have a couple of non-lucha guys in there, as well as Tito who is very much his own creature.

You know what? I want to talk about Tito for a bit. There are a couple of Tito Santana interviews online if you go looking for them. I talk about formula here sometimes, but Tito, more than any other wrestler I've ever heard talk or really watched in the ring, seems to believe in the sanctity of it when it comes to a wrestling match. He outwrestles his opponent. The opponent cheats or gets in a cheapshot to get an advantage. Tito sells. He makes his comeback. One. Two. Three. Shine. Heat. Comeback. If you were going to distill wrestling into its most primal form, it would probably be Tito Santana vs Tully Blanchard and it would be a hell of a match. Now that's not the only thing wrestling can be, of course, but there's a beauty in the simplicity of it all. Tossing him into a setting like this, where there were all sorts of other cultural nuances and then teaming him with Santo who was the epitome of a tecnico and Rayo, who felt here almost like a prototype in the tradition of the overblown tecnico like Wagner, Jr., looked to be fairly interesting on paper.

I'll be honest, though, for the most part, and even though this does follow a pretty straightforward A-B-A formula, Tito was just kind of there there. He had an exchange in the primera with Fatu and one with Samu in the segunda, but past a very nice dropkick nothing stood out. He did seem to try to put on some weird stretch plum submission in the tercera. That's not to say there weren't fun exchanges in the match, though. Fatu cosplaying as Yokozuna made for a great foil for Santo and it was nice to see. I hoping there's more of Hijo del Santo vs Monsters out there. I got the impression that Santo saw a wrestler like Fatu and just saw all of the opportunities in what he could do with him. The Headshrinkers also hit the best double clothesline I've ever seen, stiffing the heck out of Rayo's chest to get rid of him so they could take the segunda on Tito and Santo. There was a fun little comedy moment to end the primera with the rudos all splashing each other and the tecnicos jumping on top.

Really, though, Rayo vs Blue Panther was what stood out. Sure, Panther had a nice sequence with Santo early on, but we've seen that before we'll see it again. What I hadn't seen before was the level of stooging and comedy work he was able to pull together against Rayo, with ridiculous selling for butt bumps, even more ridiculous attempts to pull off a but bump of his own, where he ends up sailing over the top, and just extremely expressing selling and taunting from Panther. It was a breath of fresh air to see him break out of his mold a bit. In the matches I've seen so far, he really hadn't had to because he had Fuerza as a partner. Here, he almost acted as comic relief, which made for a great showing of versatility and range.

The finish was fairly unsatisfying but then this match felt like it existed in a vacuum, so that made it somewhat more forgivable. The tecnicos took the primera. The rudos took the segunda. In the tercera, chairs were bandied about and the comeback was decent enough, even if the camera missed Santo's dive. It ended with Fatu nailing his own partner by accident and then crashing into the ref for the DQ. A fun match, mainly for Panther stooging and Santo getting to work against a wildly different sort of opponent. If you're going to watch one match watch the Doink one though.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Uprising: Lucha Libre Workrate Report 8/9/14

More matches from the 5/18/14 show in Morgan Hill.

1. Los Campesinos vs. The Persian Dynasty (Kia and Cyrus)

I'm not sure I've seen either team here before (although I have seen Welsh indie pop band Los Campesinos before…), but I immediately appreciate that the show starts with the Persian Dynasty attacking Los Camps at the bell. No ring entrances, just brief intros. That's maximizing your short time! Good. Campesinos are called Numeros Uno y Dos. Not sure which Persian guy is which. One has a mask and the other doesn't. Camps wear full red and white body suits, and I think I've maybe seen the chubby one before. Match itself wasn't much to write about. It went about 6 minutes, nobody looked very good. The fed really pushes itself as lucha libre, obviously, but it's weird as most guys in the fed don't work anything close to a lucha style. It's pretty standard wrestling, only the guys wear masks most of the time. I mean…I guess Los Campesinos did dropkicks at one point, but they were kind of sloppy. Both teams were pretty sloppy in general. Persians controlled with bodyslams, Kia (I think) hit an ugly leg drop at one point, and some not good chops and wimpy elbows in the corner (but they kinda looked like the type of elbows that look really bad, but probably actually hurt the other guy). Kia hits a nice yakuza kick at one point. On the hot tag one of Los Camps does these goofy uppercut things, that I'm not actually sure what they were supposed to be, and the match ends shortly after with double sunset flips. Huh. This was not good.

2. Battle Royal!

Bunch of people coming out for this, with Ultimo Panda, Famous B, JR Kratos, both of the tag teams from above, Savanah Riley and another woman. Kratos immediately goes after a woman, which is a really odd thing for the biggest face in the match to do, considering there's at least a 120 lb. difference, and there are several actual males in the match. But yeah, good guy, you go grab that woman by the hair! The ring announcer also regularly states over the mic for parents to keep their children in their seats so they don't get hurt. Where would both the children and wrestlers be going during this battle royal that would involve children getting hurt!? This was a pretty standard battle royal (read: not interesting to live crowd or television viewers) with people wandering around until it was time for eliminations to take place. Pistolero tried bringing extra stuff to it by attacking women, and then women getting their revenge. Famous B also tried bringing some personality by hiding behind Savanah. Spot of the match was probably JR Kratos press slamming the other gal out of the ring onto one of Los Campesinos to eliminate her. So…I guess all the good spots involved men beating up women, which…yeah.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

ECW One Night Stand 2005 Workrate Report

Wow. This was 9 years ago. I guess without counting some of those weird 1997 Raws (also from Hammerstein) or that weird business where Tazz as ECW champion lost to HHH on Smackdown (which prompted some guy from back east to call into my college radio show at the time and rant about it for what felt like a very long 15 minutes), I think that most would agree that this is the first WWECW show. It's weird to think that this started a long, sad parade of ECW reunion nostalgia that is impossibly still being milked today on actual real television by a somewhat real wrestling company. I remember watching this show years ago when it came out on DVD, using the JBL commentary track which featured a drunk JBL throwing every ECW worker under the bus in hilarious fashion (and if you didn't think it was hilarious, maybe you would by the 8th time you heard one of his repeated jokes).

1. Lance Storm vs. Chris Jericho

Jericho is nerdily announced as "Lionheart" Chris Jericho, and is wearing his old tights and vest. Crowd is crazy hot for this, flipping out after an opening arm drag sequence. They also are so desperate to shit all over women that they immediately chant "She's a Crack Whore" at Dawn Marie, who decidedly looks nothing like a crack whore. Jericho levels Storm with a face high dropkick and this is starting really good actually. They're pretty good at working Storm ECW nostalgia spots (high dropkick, springboard back elbow from the turnbuckles) into the match with a more modern indy style worked in. Old ECW had a lot of exhibition style work, with guys doing their familiar spots without so much regard to segueing smoothly into those spots. One moment a guy would be taking offense, the next he'd be on his run of signature offense. Here Storm hits his long vertical suplex, but Jericho kicks his legs a bunch to try to reverse it, and when Storm runs up for his back elbow, Jericho dropkicks him on the way down. We do eventually merge back into classic exhibition style, and Storm's comebacks leave a lot to be desired here. His comebacks mainly just involve him standing up after taking moves, and then doing moves. Jericho plants him with a mean Tiger suplex and some nasty knees in the clinch, Storm just shrugs it off with a spinning heel kick. Jericho reverses a piledriver with a backdrop, Storm just pops up and hits a superkick. Jericho tries to glue this together, but Storm just wanted to hit all of his moves. He hit them all nicely, but his insistence on hitting all of his moves made the match mean less. Storm wins when Jason and Justin Credible interfere and Joey Styles hilariously starts using JR's Owen voice, talking about what a horrible shame it was that Storm had to win things that way, in what could possibly be his last match ever. Styles goes on for well over a minute. "Shame. Just a shame. Why did it have to be this way, Lance? You're better than this."

Pitbull Gary Wolfe gets a weird payday for showing up in full Pitbulls garb to introduce a tribute to the fallen stars of ECW, and shockingly there aren't too many at the time this show happened. I wish I knew what song originally played behind this package (since I assume most music has been changed for the Network airings) as I really want to hear some Sarah McLachlan playing while they show slow motion clips of Big Dick Dudley flexing through clenched teeth.

2. Tajiri vs. Little Guido vs. Super Crazy

FBI comes out to an instrumental loop of No Sleep Til Brooklyn, and Smothers is awesome waving the flag and doing all his weird Smothers mannerisms. This show needs more Smothers in the ring, but I'll settle for Smothers at ringside. Full props to Tommy Dreamer for managing to get JT Smith a WWE payday in 2005. Mick Foley is absolutely horrible on commentary here, playing up a folksy late career James Stewart persona. "Aw shucks Joey, they're going to be doing a lot of moves I've never seen here, but I-I-I I'll just try to keep up, best I can." Actually, now that I think about it, he may be just mimicking Terry Funk. Re-read that sentence in Funk voice. That adds up. That awful commentary is a running theme throughout the match (and the show) "you know I've known Tajiri for 11 years and he's just the nicest guy you could imagine". Kewl insight. This match is really fun for the first few minutes, as every single person at ringside (Sinister Minister, Mikey Whipwreck, Smothers, Smith, Tony Mamaluke, Big Guido) all interfere at some point in the match, but it's actually done in a way that's integrated perfectly into the match. Big Guido goes to powerbomb Tajiri, gets low blowed by Minister, Tajiri sprays mist at Little Guido, Smothers runs in with karate and gets leveled with a superkick, Mikey hits the big top rope Whipper Snapper on the misted Guido, all the while Mamaluke and Smith keep Crazy busy by sweeping his legs on a rope run and crotching him around the ring post. Interference doesn't usually add to the match but I can't think of a way to better integrate 9 people in one match within 1 minute. Match as a whole is fairly short, at barely 6 minutes, which had to disappoint most. Tajiri looked somewhat lost at points and was kinda awkward getting into position for his offense, but Crazy and Guido were on point. Guido did some of his big silly bumps, and Crazy's stuff looked good, hitting some big moonsaults with heft (including a wild one off the balcony) and nasty seated dropkicks. Still, too short to mean much. Also, I couldn't tell if it was two unfortunate tongue slips, or if Styles was throwing out hack racial humor, but two different times in the match he distinctly said "soo-prex" after Tajiri threw a suplex. The first one could have been an accident…but twice in the same match?

3. Rey Mysterio vs. Psicosis

I remember a lot of people being disappointed in this match at the time, but the match was perfectly fine. If this was on WorldWide it would definitely make a WCW B-Sides comp. Psicosis takes some nutty bumps as you hoped he would, doing an insane guillotine legdrop off the top to Mysterio (who was draped over the guardrail), doing his trademark missed corner attack that ends with him dumped on his head, and taking a nice Cassandro bump, wrapping himself around the post and flying into some ladies in the front row, which Mysterio follows up with an awesome Thesz press from the top into the crowd. Psicosis also draws boos by locking on a headlock. I didn't put on my good hockey jersey to go out and see Mexicans do rest holds!

Then we get JBL and Angle coming out to plenty of boos and chants, JBL stiffing Gertner with a mean shove and kick to the ass, and RVD coming out and cutting the best promo of his life. He had a knee injury and couldn't compete which was tearing him up inside since this show was something he worked years to make happen. I mean, I fast forwarded through some of his promo, but it was about the most life-affirming promo you can get if you were ever an ECW fan. RVD showed actual real passion and it was nice to see. Joey Styles threatens to ruin everything with his awfulness: "Gotta love a shoot promo on live TV!!" Ugh. And then Rhyno came in and absolutely folds RVD in half with a Gore. The lights go out and while everybody hopes for a return of Midnight, Joey dorkily starts going "we blew a generator! We lost power!" Which naturally leads us into...

4. Sabu vs. Rhyno

…which starts out awesomely, with Rhyno hitting a big belly to belly and going to the top rope (for reasons?) so that Sabu can just brain him with a chair. Rhyno takes a massive bump off the top and Sabu hits a sweet chair assisted springboard dive. The whole match was pretty crazy, and both guys complemented each other nicely. Sabu threw a bunch of great right hands, tossed chairs at Rhyno's face and hit all the spots you'd want to see Sabu hit. Rhyno was a monster, not only taking all of Sabu's stupidity, but dishing out a bunch of cool stuff you don't remember Rhyno doing. I remember he had a nice piledriver and he really spikes Sabu with it here, but he also does a cool running yakuza kick on Sabu, and leans way into all of Sabu's stuff (including a bunch of neat Sabu legdrops and springboard stuff). Sabu throws Pee Wee into the way of a Gore and he takes it like a man, almost bouncing his neck off the bottom rope. At this point RVD gets in the ring in real awkward length jorts (not baggy, but not ironically short, just that horrible relaxed fit/above the knee jort style), white socks and cross trainers, limping horribly on his bad knee. I have to assume his knee is absolutely wrecked, or else it's the only time he's ever consistently sold a body part in his career. He comes in and actually works spots with Rhyno, including nuttily skateboarding a chair right into Rhyno's face and setting up a table spot for Sabu. Sabu drops a chair through Rhyno and the table just explodes, and this whole thing was a great spectacle. Awesome stuff that I have to believe is the best possible match that could have happened .

Eric Bischoff and the Raw crew arrive, including future ECW superstar Gene Snitsky. Joey does uncomfortable and sad and just plain poorly delivered play by play as they walk to their seats. "There's Raw superstar Edge. I'm glad I didn't bring my wife tonight [long pause]. Because Edge is a wife stealer."

5. Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero

Well speaking of uncomfortable. Mick Foley immediately completely misreads the room "This is the match that never got to happen in ECW. The dream match that never happened because Bischoff lured both of them away. And now finally the fans get it and want to see nothing more" as the fans proceed to direct all of their attention to Edge in the balcony while chanting things about Lita being a whore for over half of the match. Seriously at any given screen shot about 2/3 of the crowd is turned totally away from the ring. Eddie is pro enough to get at least some of the fans to actually watch the match, and damn does he look great here. His mat exchanges are quick and powerful and he really snaps the fans into it by outstiffing Benoit on chops and grinding his boot over Benoit's face. Benoit bumps maniacally through the ropes to the floor on a missed charge and Eddie really seems pissed at the crowd. Mick and Joey really put over just how suicidal Benoit is after he does the diving headbutt, talking about his neck surgery and really putting over how he has a real death wish. Good grief. Thankfully they didn't point out the hanging vertical suplex he did earlier. Match ends fairly abruptly with Eddie tapping to the Crossface. Match was really weird. Eddie seemed genuinely pissed the whole match (and understandably so, if it was directed at the crowd), and purposely ground the match to a halt on a few occasions with chinlocks until the fans stopped chanting at Edge in the balcony. Things were short and didn't really flow, although Eddie looked really good and to a lesser extent so did Benoit. This is probably the most recent Eddie stuff I've seen since it originally aired (by recent I mean within 6 months of his passing) and his body is just shockingly freakish. He was freaking huge here and just looked like he had no flexibility whatsoever. Watching him take suplexes and bump was painful as it looked like he physically couldn't bend his spine or bend at the waist. I remember at the timing reading how riddled with injuries he was and how he needed time off, but damn 9 years of not rewatching him during that period really opened my eyes to just how bad off he looked.

6. Mike Awesome vs. Masato Tanaka

So this is a pretty famous match - I think - within the WWECW canon. People were pretty split down the middle on this one when it happened. Some thought it was incredible and that both men would be hired immediately by WWE, others thought it was a laughable collection of dangerous spots thrown together with no build-up that ensured neither man would *ever* be hired by WWE since they wouldn't want reckless workers like that on the roster. Both sides make sense. I certainly sided much closer to the latter at the time. The match has major flaws, and neither guy would have made sense in WWE as anything crazy they did in this match they would not be allowed to do in a WWE ring. JBL infamously mocked the match the whole time on commentary, repeatedly stating that Tanaka looked like his doorman, and after Tanaka had kicked out of several finishers started shouting at other people about what a badass doorman he had. But watching the match within the context of the show, within the context of the crowd, and keeping in mind who both men are in regards to their feud (which I'm sure many ECW fans would rank as a favorite from the fed) then I think the match totally and completely works. It's probably very hypocritical of me, as I've seen plenty of matches like this on the indies where guys kill themselves with no rhyme or reason, no selling, no build to anything, and then at some point the match ends because of a move that for whatever reason made a guy keep his shoulders down for one extra second. And I've hated all of them. Even while watching this match and enjoying two men try to cripple each other in the name of fond memories, I pictured some clown like Davey Richards doing a match like this, and I would certainly hate that match. But in the moment it came off more like a violent and entirely stupid (but awesome) IWA-MS match. If this match happened in front of 60 people in the back patio area of a rural bar, between two guys named Dick Nasty and Tony Sack, I'd be yelling at Phil to go out of his way to watch the Tony Sack match.

I've criticized plenty of matches that I thought were garbage, but worked for the crowd they were presenting to. This match could easily fit into that category. "Bad match, awful structure, crowd loved it." But I'm with the crowd on this one. Despite being unreasonable and selfish, I remember the complaints at the time about Rey, Benoit, Eddie, etc. not working "like they were in ECW". Rey was booed for doing his 619, Eddie didn't...I don't know, do any Malenko/Guerrero roll-up sequences? Whatever it was, fans were agitated that some guys looked like they were working the show like any old TV taping and not the GREATEST EVENT OF THEIR LIVES. Again, it's wildly unreasonable, and illogical. They had real wrestling jobs and would go on to those jobs after this show. So within context of this show, Tanaka and Awesome going out there and just completely destroying themselves for the crowd, for ECW, to try and get a job, to stick it to JBL in the balcony, whatever they had to prove I don't know, but they clearly pulled out everything within their abilities and threw it out there. And I thought it worked for that reason. Again, stuff that's context-dependant doesn't always hold up, but I can say I enjoyed this match more now than I did at the time. Granted, there were still moments I laughed out loud during the match, and I fully get why JBL was laughing about it in the balcony (his fake cheerleading and shock when they keep kicking out of stuff is still funny to me), but on this show, at that moment, with this guys, this was the best they could have possibly done, and they did more than they probably should have, more than anybody else on the card, and more than anybody probably needed. Within a minute or two of the bell Tanaka gets powerbombed from the apron through a table, head and shoulders first. Things get more ridiculous from there. Both guys get brained with chairshots, more tables explode in insane fashion, Awesome hits one of the nastiest gores I've seen, and then more tables explode. Awesome's knees had to be pencil shavings at this point, and he's still doing his big splash off the top and dives into the crowd. Tanaka's brains had to be mashed potatoes at this point (still unclear how he's managed to work more than most Japanese workers for the last decade) and he willingly takes every stupid powerbomb and finisher Awesome pulls out of the hat. Match ends spectacularly with another powerbomb from the ring through a table on the floor, and then Awesome ridiculously following up with a straight up nosedive of a plancha, just dive bombing Tanaka and coming in vertical. Ridiculous structure, none of the moves meant anything, both guys needlessly killed themselvs, but it was the perfect match for this show.

We get a long, fairly lame Heyman promo (with SHOOTS!) filled with a bunch of flat disses (yelling "Matt Freaking Hardy" at Edge, which Joey Styles points out is a SHOOT because Matt isn't even employed by WWE!!!!!!!!).

7. Dudley Boyz vs. Tommy Dreamer & Sandman

This was a chance to get more guys a payday, and it was fine for that reason. Sandman takes years to come out, which is certainly an accurate ECW throwback. The bWo comes out and Styles over laughs the whole time, worse than the absolute worst possible Jimmy Fallon bit. While the bWo are just walking to the ring, just normally walking to the ring, Styles literally says "This is the funniest thing I've seen in my life". This guy is terrible. We get Balls & Axl, The Impact Players (with Francine looking better than at any point during the original ECW), Spike Dudley comes out, Kid Kash hits a wild and awesome flip dive on about 10 people, Beulah makes her wrestling return, and people got hit with trash cans. At one point Bubba raked Dreamer's forehead with a cheese grater which is just the grossest. I don't know if it was worked or not, but Dreamer had tons of color and Bubba made it look great. God thinking about a cheese grater on flesh is just disgusting. Beulah and Dreamer have the most revolting hug I've seen, with Dreamer covered in blood and Beulah pulling away when it's over with blood caked in her hair. Yuck. Match ends with a flaming table spot, and then all the Raw and Smackdown crews get called out and there's a big schmozz. This is where JBL infamously roughed up Blue Meanie (even though it wasn't really caught on camera). Tracy Smothers stood out to me during the brawl as really looking like he was having a ball out there, jumping in and punching people at will. The crews get run off and Bischoff ends up alone in the ring with the ECW guys, but it's pretty anticlimactic as he takes a couple finishers but still gets to yell "Fuck ECW!" Really should have had him take more finishers, or not allowed him to look so fearless and never say die.


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Thursday, August 14, 2014

MLJ: Atlantida Rising 14: Dos Caras Jr., Dr. Wagner Jr., Lizmark Sr. vs Olímpico, Pierroth, Último Guerrero

aired 2006-07-22
taped 2006-07-16 @ Arena Coliseo
Dos Caras Jr., Dr. Wagner Jr., Lizmark Sr. vs Olímpico, Pierroth, Último Guerrero

I've worked on my context over time. I know way more about lucha than I did six months ago. I know way more about the people in this match. I know way more about CMLL in 2006. Etc. I'm still not watching this in full context. I sort of get the impression that Lizmark, Sr. showing up in a match in 2006 would make most people, in the moment, groan heavily. For me, though, it was a positive surprise because he's sort of a fresh and legendary face, and a good counter to Pierroth. Whether it be good or bad, it'd be a slightly different element at least. Really, Pierroth too, even though I hadn't been too impressed the last time I saw him, which was a year or two later, admittedly. I like the fact that he somehow ended up with the late era Paul Jones gimmick (with the PR twist) as the Commandante.

The match was pretty straightforward. A solid rudo beatdown, with UG, pissed off from his title loss, ambushing Caras as he came out, and Olimpico hiding behind the stage and really ambushing Wagner as he entered. UG was on fire, fighting with the crowd over a sign, going right after Caras' mask, taking it off repeatedly when the ref couldn't see it, just looking like a beast. Pierroth made himself useful by hitting Wagner a few times with his own belt. They finished the tecnicos off with a couple of submissions. Between falls, they kept on Caras while Wagner posed with a fan and a sign in the crowd. What a dick. The segunda kept the beatdown going. I do quite like how in lucha, you can just pick up your opponent and wait until your partner comes over and hits him. Sometimes it gets amusingly awkward as no one's paying attention or in position. GdI variation time as first they hit the leaping body splash (Olimpico version) on Caras and then after UG's catapult, Olimpico hit this awesome running  somersault senton on him as he's being held in the post-catapult position. It looked way better than Tarzan Boy's legdrop.

The comeback came when they went for the body splash again (after the huddle, those overconfident Guerreros), and Caras sidestepped it. Fairly fiery comeback with Wagner posing a lot and kicking the crap out of Olimpico after he ripped up the sign from before. Tecnicos took it with a Wagner power bomb and a really-nice-for-his-age somersault senton followed by a rana from Lizmark onto Olimpico. Tercera was back and forth with some stalling to keep UG and Caras apart, a pose off that was sort of lame, Wagner being Wagner, including hitting his big tope con giro and finally Caras almost hitting the body press on UG only to get fouled by a desperate rudo for the DQ from ref #2 after ref #1 counted the pin. This set up the mano a mano match the following week. Perfectly fine lucha trios match.

I was definitely glad to see Olimpico back. He had been out with an injury apparently and his absence had been felt. I think in some ways he's everything I wanted Marco to be, though he does have the advantage of being a rudo which means he doesn't have to hit as many contrived aerial moves and can be more of an ass in general. He did have a great mix of size, presence, personality, and athleticism, though. For instance, he'll have a great stooging moment of teasing a handshake and forcing a hug to get a cheapshot in one moment, and then eat a big monkey flip or catch a dive the next. He had a ton of zing and agility moving around the ring during sequences but was still quite good at working the crowd and getting in his taunts.

Dos Caras felt almost exactly the opposite. He had the size and a sort of charisma, but it felt like he learned it out of a book or something. He'd do these pose offs that were stiff and empty. Really that summed up his crowd interaction in general. You'd get a spark now and again but most of the time it just felt robotic. There was a definite sense of physical awkwardness in his movements, too. I had the impression when he went to WWE that there really wasn't a buzz to him at all and I can see why. Still, up soon is his singles match with UG, so we'll see what he did there. I know that he turned into a wrestler I quite often like and at the point of writing this, right after his release from wWE, I'm itching to see him back in CMLL. I just don't think he made that transformation in 2006.

On the absolute other end of the charisma scale was Wagner.  I thought he was just an amazing force the first time I saw him. Now that I've seen more of him though, I think a little bit goes a long way. He had a tendency to make whatever match he was in seem less serious and more cartoony in a way that probably worked extremely well with the live crowd but hasn't aged well. It's the stooging when getting hit, or how he focused more on pointing out a sign than helping his partner. It's posing for three times too long before hitting a dive and making his opponent look like an idiot. The first time you see it and how engaged the crowd was, it seemed great. The third or fourth time, it starts to wear thin. I'm still excited when that music hits in a match I'm watching, but the cracks show up very quickly with him, even if they don't completely mar his performances.

Like I said, another fun match and one that was pretty effective in setting up a singles too.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Uprising: Lucha Libre Workrate Report 8/2/14

Another match from the 5/18/14 show in Morgan Hill. Still accepting bets on whether or not they'll ever show the Liger match from this card.

1. Pequeno Halloween vs. Octagoncito

Well, this was a let down. I'm not sure what happened, but it sure seemed like Octagoncito blew up real early, and because of that needed tons of downtime in between his spots. So there was a lot of lying around, and then an ungodly amount of time spent on getting into position for his spots. Even Rachel walked into the room at one point and said "wow that is one gassed mini". It threw Peq. Halloween off his game as he kind of had to overcompensate for Octagoncito's poor execution, and this caused both to look pretty bad at times. I'm not sure when it actually happened in the match, as things started out nicely with several minutes of fun matwork. But once it evolves out of that into bigger spots, things just fall apart. Octagoncito is heaving like he just did a triathlon. At one point they set up a rana off the top, and both men were on the top for well over 30 seconds. Halloween just sitting there while Octagoncito stood on the top rope next to him, each man punching the other, then just sitting there, resting. So much resting throughout this. I've never seen anything like it. To his credit, Octagoncito does pull off a real nice tope at one point. Later Halloween does the cool sliding splash to the floor and Octagoncito moves. But any time something remotely cool happens we get more lying around. No clue what happened here.

Also, since of course they only show one match per show, and rarely have a  match long enough to fill the allotted time, they showed some absurd "Revolution Replays" after each commercial break. But they weren't so much replays, as they were the previous two minutes of match that happened right before the commercial break, unedited. So you'd watch minutes 1-6 of a match, then commercial, then the replay back from break would just show minutes 5-6 again before rejoining the match. Hilariously bad. I mean, if you want to be a real lucha show you have to have horrendous editing, so they've already figured that out. Reminded me of the AULL/IWRG that was showing on LATV some years back, that would randomly just repeat an entire fall of a match in the middle of a match. They essentially did that here with the "Revolution Replays", so it really did feel like an authentic bad lucha TV broadcast.

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MLJ: Atlantida Rising 13: Rey Bucanero vs Ultimo Guerrero (Light Heavyweight Title)

taped 2006-07-14 @ Arena Mexico
Rey Bucanero vs Ultimo Guerrero (CMLL LH Title)

Best to bypass the drama here and set some low expectations. This match was a huge disappointment. In fact, it was probably one of the most disappointing matches I've seen in a long time. I'll talk about why later. There are other things I want to cover first, namely the backstory and some context. We'll start with some meta, though.

As best as I can tell, this is my fiftieth MLJ review. It's nice that it just happened to work out to be Rey vs UG as that's sort of a culmination of what I've been watching. In retrospect, it probably would have been a good time to finish the GdI stuff from 2006, but I'm going to run with what I have until the end of that year, which really isn't a lot, just, you know, more than I've actually done already. The cast of characters shifts a bit and that makes it worthwhile. After that I'm thinking of hitting something like 30 matches from the Rush vs Terrible series. I just don't know, though. I'd really like to explore another time period and 2009 is one where we seem to have a lot of matches, but it might be more practical to focus on Rush vs Negro Casas from this year, starting right after the Shocker hair match and culminating with the recent hair match. OR I might try to tackle the rest of the fantastic lucha 80s set. I think I petered out midway through disc 6 and while I just can't imagine getting a ballot in, since I'd have to rewatch everything in discs 1-5, there seems to be a lot of great stuff there and it'd also help build up my foundations for the 90s a bit more. Let me know if anyone has preferences in the comments. I guess I'm still a ways off anyway. Regardless, thanks for reading. We don't get a ton of feedback through comments, so I'm not sure if people are finding this enjoyable or not, but I know I'm definitely learning a lot and having fun with it. I don't think I could have picked any of these guys out of a crowd a year ago. I knew absolutely nothing about lucha. Now I know absolutely something about lucha. Maybe in another year I'll know something substantial. For now, we're just going to keep figuring it out together.

On to Rey vs UG. This match was a big deal even though it came fairly quickly after the turn. I don't think I've done a very good job getting across the background that Rey and Ultimo Guerrero had, and some of that is because I didn't have a great sense of it until recently. As we saw last week, In 2000, the two of them were handpicked (kayfabe-wise) by Satanico to be his Nuevo Infernales and had a lot of tag team success in the years following. They kicked Satanico out in 2001 and formed Los Guerreros del Infierno with Tarzan Boy. They kept winning titles. They came in second in 2002 (during the Smackdown Six era) in the WON tag team voting. I think at some point UG really surpassed Rey as a main eventer, maybe even from the get go. They weren't called the Infernal Buccaneers after all. By the time of this match he had held the Light Heavyweight title for over three years. When Atlantis joined Los Guerreros and they changed the name, Rey really became the odd man out.

The point is that there was a lot of history and weight behind this match, and quality aside, it felt like a big deal. There was pyro. KeMonito was at ringside and doesn't it say so much about lucha that the presence of a blue monkey mascot can actually make things feel MORE important? There was a section of the crowd with Rey's name spelled out on their shirts. As far as I can tell, this was the debut of the remix of We Will Rock You that Rey came out to, which only added to the broken friendship feeling of the match. The crowd was hot the entire time. I'll admit that the seconds have me a bit confused. Rey had Tigre Metálico and I'm not even sure who UG had. I think there was some sort of junior team associated with Los Guerreros but I'm not quite sure.

It was trying to track down the answer to that question which lead me to what I want to talk about next, actually. I'm sure almost everyone who's reading this knows about thecubsfan's luchablog, but I can't stress enough how useful a resource it is. Not only is he the guy who posted so many of the matches that I watch here, but you can go back through the archives and get a really good sense of the progression of some of these matches and the context surrounding them. The matchfinder on the site is an absolute godsend. My spanish is "three years of high school" level at best so a lot of what I'm coming up here with guesswork and every bit helps. The point is this: in trying to track down the seconds, I found this post that he had written RIGHT before the match back in 2006, and I found it to be a really worthwhile bit of context and suggest people check it out before watching. It's very interesting to see the comments, from the time, of someone who had a personal stake in this match, especially considering how distanced I almost have to be from all of this, eight years after the fact.

This is all some of the most in depth build I've given any match, which is a shame, since there's just not much to talk about in the bell-to-bell action. It was a title match and a grudge match all at once, but it felt very, very slight. I'm used to things like short segundas. I'm used to short primeras in trios, too. Title matches are usually at least slightly different. Here, though, there was very little in the way of matwork and feeling out. The primera went 2 minutes. The segunda went 2-3. Ultimately, that meant that when they started to sell the big moves in the tecera, nothing really meant anything. There was no real heat. There was no real comeback.

Eric talks a lot about how current title matches have no rhyme or reason to their tercera caida, how there's a lot of hit big move-fall down, repeat, and what not. This had a lot of that, but without the build of the first two falls, you're not even really sure why they're falling down. They didn't earn the level of selling they were giving the match. There were reversals, like Rey catching UG on his corner senton, or him blocking the reverse superplex (Guerrero Special), but they weren't quite clever enough to make up for the rest of the match. Just as an example, the finish was just a mess. Rey blocked the Guerrero Special the first time, right? Immediately thereafter, he hit his Buca Storm for two. Then he went up to the top, got crotched and got hit with the Guerrero Special this time. He kicked out and immediately rolled up UG for the win. So, nothing happened to him between the first and the second attempts except for that he hit one of his finishers. What made it so Guerrero, now weaker from eating a finisher, could hit it? Are we supposed to think that it was all a ruse so that Rey could score the flash pin? In a title match, where he pretty much had the advantage, he'd eat his opponent's finisher as a ruse? I don't think nearly that much thought was put into this to begin with.

In fact, it's hard to even raise much ire about the match because it's so slight and ephemeral. There's not enough to grasp here to even complain about. In the end, the crowd was into it, extremely so at points, and the victory felt like a huge celebration. It wasn't a good start at all to Rey's reign though and for a match years in the making, it was wildly disappointing.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

2014 Ongoing Match of the Year List

Dean Ambrose v. Randy Orton WWE Smackdown 8/8

ER: Ambrose matches always have this cool sense of urgency to them, not like he's trying to end them as quickly as possible, but that he has an endless amount of energy and he's required to burn through all of it over 15 minutes. Here he's like some glorious combination of Finlay and Roddy Piper in They Live. He never lets Orton rest and tries to fill every moment with work, and just when Orton thinks he has him down Ambrose leaps back in and tries to get him to wear the fucking glasses. The ringwork is just constant and really manages to do go-go-go without ever bearing down on overkill. I love little things Ambrose sneaks in like forearm rakes across the eyes, and lace scrapes, and the way he takes the turnbuckle bump chest first like Bret Hart. I like the way these two fit together as they always hammer home how slow and methodical Orton is, but Ambrose doesn't let anybody stop and think for a second. Really a classic example of one guy keeping the other off his game.

PAS: I really agree about the pacing issues Eric talked about. Orton can sluggish up a match if he gives in to his worst tendencies, but Ambrose isn't a guy who is going to let a match lay there. He is a guy that almost makes me want to get the WWE app, because you know he did three cool things during the commercial. I especially loved him ripping at Orton's ear, but there was a bunch of little cool things like that. Didn't really have any problem with the finish as it was a nasty beatdown and dumping the drink on Ambrose is exactly the kind of thing you would do to him if you whopped him in a street fight. Lumberjack match is a pretty lame stip, Ambrose v. Rollins in almost anything else would be better.


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