Segunda Caida

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

2018 Ongoing MOTY List: Fujiwara Tortures a Tiny Tub

52. Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs. Gota Ihashi Choshu Produce 7/10

PAS: Ihashi looks like a Japanese Josh Gad and gets straight up mauled by our boy Fujiwara. Ihashi isn't afraid to throw hard slaps, and really puts Fujiwara over, flopping like a fish on headbutts, and screaming in agony when Fujiwara is twisting him about. There is a great spot near then end, where Fujiwara gets a leglock reversed into a cross arm breaker (Fujiwara totally fed him, I think I could have even pulled off that mat reversal) and Fujiwara gets pissed and mangles Ihashi ankle, so he could take his back, then unloads some nasty slaps, and a gross headbutt before finishing him off with the Fujiwara armbar. Fujiwara is ageless, he comes off as big a badass here as he did in 1986.

ER: Neither of us had seen long time DDT worker Ihashi before, and not only is the guy a nice chubbo, but he's officially great because he's also like 4'7". Fujiwara has never struck me as a super tall guy, and he's over a head taller than Ihashi. What a little tank! Ihashi rushes Fujiwara at the bell and Fujiwara catches him immediately in a can opener, and holds it until the ref finally forces a break, with Ihashi screaming the entire time. Fujiwara works for the armbar that he coincidentally shares a name with, and Ihashi dishes out a bunch of headbutts to punish him. The headbutts weren't very good, for a guy who seems like he throws a lot of headbutts. They were those Big Show style headbutts where he just headbutts the back of his own hands a bunch. The wind up is good, but his hands just cover too much ground and it looks to obvious. Grabbing a guy's head with your hand and headbutting it is a good look, just as Funk grabbing a guy by the back of the head to wind up a punch always looks great, but you have to be a little sneakier with your close up magic. Anyway, Fujiwara takes a bunch of them and completely saves them, by not selling them at all. And in the moment of the match, Fujiwara casually walks to the ring apron, gingerly unwraps the padding from a ring bolt, and then headbutts it a couple times. Yep, that's what you're in for Ihashi. Ihashi bumps around for Fujiwara, fires in some nice shots and some good grounded palm strikes, but it was all in the name of getting steamrolled by a near-70 year old legend. I liked how Fujiwara treated him after the match, showing him respect, shaking his hand, and then raising his bum wing (which Ihashi sold great).



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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Mess of Masa Saito

We needed more then one RIP post for this legendary asskicker (we have some cool HH's we are reviewing for New Footage Friday too) so I thought I would dig around the internet and review a couple of his cooler oddball moments.

This is a studio match, which starts with Saito and Sato (a paintless Great Kabuki) jumping Porkchop Cash and Bubba Douglas before the bell. Graham and Keirn come out to make the save and  Paul Bosch (who I guess was vacationing from Houston) starts an impromptu match. Really energetic quick scrap, with Saito and Sato really being a high workrate heel team and Masao Hattori running around like a Japanese Jimmy Hart. Graham puts on a figure four on Sato on the floor and they have a double count out. Post match they jump Graham and Keirn and then attack and beat the crap out of Hiro Matsuda who was doing guest commentary. Sato, Saito and Hattori come off as such a disruptive force, just tearing through the whole roster, I would love to see more of them as an act. 

Awesome short TV match. Dundee is the greatest studio wrestler of all time, he is a master of finding five different cool variation on a short match. This was about three minutes of super agressive takedowns and scrambling. This is the most Olympic I had ever seen Saito look, as he was just shooting in and throwing Dundee, including a spectacular looking dragon screw (earliest time I can ever remember that move) and a great head and neck throw. Dundee meanwhile was super fast in escaping and using his speed to get advantages. Jimmy Golden was seconding Saito waving around a handful of cash, and Ron Fuller runs out and pops him leading to money flying everywhere. Really would have liked to see what these two could do in a longer match, but this was a fun taste. 

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Monday, July 16, 2018

My Eyes May Grow Dim, But Shinya Hashimoto is My Gibraltar I am Trusting in Him

Shinya Hashimoto/Masa Saito vs. Vader/Great Kokina NJPW 1/31/90-GREAT

ER: This is juuuuuust about too much hoss to be contained by one ring. It's sad that one month ago we could have bemoaned the fact that half the participants had passed. And now? Well, at least these four larger than lifers crossed paths several times. What a fun tag with great contributions from everyone. Vader in Japan was such a great before the bell shit stirrer, really setting up hot tags before introductions had even been done. And I love how Hashimoto took it to Vader, catching him in the gut with a kick on an overzealous charge, hitting a big vertical suplex right away, tossing him with a judo throw (and I loved Vader blocking that throw a couple times) and going after his arm. You knew it wouldn't last, but I liked that early aggression. Vader pays him back later by standing on Hashimoto's face until Hashimoto gets up with a bloody nose. I really loved Kokina here, a nice size complement to Vader, but quick in different ways and with a very different big man arsenal. I liked fired up babyface Masa Saito. We get a lot of stoic badass Saito, because arguably nobody in wrestling history reads visually as more of a badass that Masa Saito, who looks like he could take a baseball bat to the sternum and not blink. Kokina has a bunch of fun heavy offense and moves real quick, and I loved him punching down Saito leading to a classic babyface comeback. Kokina was moving around a ton, throwing headbutts (standing and falling), nice strikes, big bumps (I always love his banana peel slip bump), and both monsters were great at getting the monsters-to-most-men openings, Vader especially made every opening look like a gift. At one point Vader swung so low on a clothesline that Hashimoto ducked, that Hashimoto's counter attack came with the relief of narrowly avoiding a car accident. Saito gets smooshed a bunch, but it makes his redemption more fun, including a big lariat that Vader generously bumps to the floor. There was next to no chance I was going to be disappointed with this lineup.

PAS:  This match was basically a hybrid monster movie and western, Mothra and Godzilla invade a town and the two biggest swaggering badasses come in and take them down. Is there a cooler tag team in wrestling history then Shinya Hashimoto and Masa Saito, two charismatic dudes built like bourbon barrels who are smoother then a rapids stone. I loved Masa Saito getting himself amped up to slam Kokina, he tries once, fails, lands some big chops, tries again, fails, pumps up the crowd, and finally finishes the job. If the Intrepid challenge ended with Masa Saito slamming Yokozuna I might have actually watched the footage the Network put up. I did think the finish was a bit easy for such a monumental task, and this was more a fun crowd pleasing tag, then epic orgy of violence, but it certainly pleased the crowd.


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Sunday, July 15, 2018

WWE Extreme Rules 2018 "Safely Behind Live" Blog

ER: So we gotta get this thing over and done with before Sharp Objects comes on, as Rachel can really only be expected to put up with so much. These were not demands verbally stated by her, these were just things mentally understood and recognized by me.

Sin Cara vs. Andrade Cien Almas

ER: Nice to see Almas running it back on the opening opening dark match of the PPV while the "WWE Universe is still filing in", according to Graves. Was the result of the Smackdown match earlier this week at all in question? There's a problem that Almas takes offense very well, which leads to him giving more offense to guys like Caras, who he really should be running through. The Smackdown match was super fun, but it was also supposed to be a showcase for Almas (to get him ready for pre-show matches I suppose?), so it can Almas doing every big piece of his offense to impress the crowd, but also working a competitive match, so it came off like him having to pull out all the stops to beat Sin Cara. They do a little bit of playing off their Smackdown match, which I was hoping for (even though the crack 7 man announce team doesn't seem to know they wrestled each other on Smackdown), like Almas throwing Cara into the barricade on a dive (nasty spot to happen so early in a match) and Caras slip out the back on the double stomp to the apron. Almas took all the lucha stuff really nicely, took arm drags smooth, bumped generously to the floor, saved that headscissors spot, etc. Cara ate his more impactful offense nicely, so everything they did looked really good, and they bounce off each other nicely, but at the same time the match didn't have a lot of teeth. I did like Almas depriving the fans of a dive spot and instead doing my favorite couple pose in wrestling, with Vega. But this felt like something that was crafted to be a showcase for each guy, separately.

Tables Match: New Day vs. Sanity

ER: Interesting that there's a tables match on the pre-show, as I don't remember many "extreme" matches on the main card when I looked at it earlier this week. We did get a really good Cara/Corbin chairs match on a pre-show before. Perhaps this upcoming PPV is going to be more about the extreme enforcement of rules? That kinda sounds more appealing to me. And this whole match doesn't really work. Everybody in it kind of works equal, which isn't very interesting when you have guys like E and Dain in there. A tornado style match should in theory lead to more chaos and a nasty brawling atmosphere, but instead they opt to do doopy double and triple team spots that require a lot of waiting around and unsatisfying payoffs. That powerbomb/double stomp was very much not worth it. I also prefer past tables matches that I've seen, where the tables were just already set up on the floor, as we get a bit much unnecessary table set up. We just don't get a lot of meat in this match, and it would have been far more interesting seeing them all fight in a normal trios than what we ended up getting. There were a couple nice "going through a table" teases, but this whole thing kind of neutered everyone. Underwhelming.

Matt Hardy/Bray Wyatt vs. Bo Dallas/Curtis Axel

ER: This match feels more pre-show than the two pre-show matches, but I can't deny that I'm digging it more than the two pre-show matches. The B Team are working like a perfectly fine Rougeaus, with stalling bullshit, sneaky shots (loved Dallas kicking Hardy in the head on the apron) and crowd baiting stuff when the cameras might not even be on them (caught Dallas blowing a snot rocket from the apron on the edge of my screen). Wyatt works my favorite performance of his in who knows when with nasty things that like cut-off headbutt on Axel, or stomping fingers when Axel is getting to his feet, but also some nice little selling moments. When Axel was stomping his gut in the corner, Bray did this really nice sell getting back to his feet, pulling up on the top rope the way a guy with a sore as hell core would, even holding his belly while he stepped to the apron after tagging Hardy in. Axel has nice stomps, but I loved Wyatt's dedication at bringing attention to them. I do think the ending was a bit sudden, which made this feel kind of like the first half of a really good match, but I really enjoyed what we got.

Finn Balor vs. Baron Corbin

ER: I do not care much at all about this much, but I definitely think Corbin's look is a step up. I still can't believe we ever get hair matches when balding dudes opt to shave their head. I'll be there within a few years I'm sure, and I'm definitely going to challenge someone before it happens. You just know  Killian Dain is going to show up on some random Smackdown with a shaved head and it'll be a huge waste. Viktor, too. Imagine the month of promos building up an inevitable "must be forced to finally shave head" match between Corbin and Viktor? I don't think Balor has enough strumph behind his offense to look very good against Corbin, and I don't think Corbin is good enough to make a match with Balor compelling. Corbin is at least wrestling aggressively, throwing decent corner lariats, and running after Balor; and I like how Balor is getting caught and punished every time he goes up top, but the finish doesn't do any favors for anybody. I was just getting into the story of Corbin cutting off all attempts at Balor getting ahead, and we get just a small package finish. I have nothing invested in these two, but I don't see how it helps either.

Also, Rachel came into the room during the end of the match and asked "Wait, when did Corbin lose a hair match?" See?? She gets this whole stupid wrestling thing.

Asuka vs. Carmella

ER: The concept of a wimpy manager locked in a shark cage over the ring is a wrestling concept completely foreign to Rachel. When was the first instance of this stip? Anyway, the match is fun and I like that Ellsworth is like me in any stealth video game, having the ability to get active at the very worst time. Drop a chain in front of the ref and escape the cage while Carmella is indisposed? That's exactly me rushing out into the middle of four converging guards in a Metal Gear game. I don't know why Ellsworth's legs are done up like a Steven Tyler microphone stand, but I love how it lead to him being hooked and upside down on the bottom side of the cage. Great visual spot they set up. I was VERY surprised by the finish, and again felt like we got robbed of a second half of match, like we just got the first half and then skipped to the finish. I've gotten that same damn feeling in all three main card matches. Carmella took a nice bump into the railing, our trusty Extreme Rules ring crew is fun getting kicked around by Asuka, love how quickly he bumped to the floor for her. I've really been enjoying Carmella as a character, so I like that she keeps finding ways to get the upset against Asuka, but it feels - again - like we got robbed of half a match.

Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

ER: I am ENTIRELY OKAY with how this played out, mainly because these are two guys I was not excited about seeing in a singles match on a Sunday night. Low blow and a really nice Kinshasa? Yes, please. Randy Orton returns (I hadn't actually noticed that he'd been away) and makes me happy that I typically watch these "behind", as I'm able to magically skip ahead to the next match. I did look like Orton came back as a heel, by attacking Hardy, but I bet it's going to turn out that he's just a lame lone wolf. If I'm going to watch Orton, it should be as a heel, because, well, watch Orton for 5 seconds.

Cage Match: Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens

ER: This starts nice and hot, with both guys taking big bumps into the cage. I liked Braun running face first into the cage on a missed avalanche, and all the early-seeming finishes tonight in every single other match made me totally buy into Owens winning with the frog splash in 2 minutes. Owens is really good at those rolling cage bumps, getting repeatedly tossed into the cage and rolling down the side to the apron. Graves puts it over by saying it's like having a cheese grater run over your body, which works. Braun is missing all the stuff that's supposed to miss with nice violence; both of his missed avalanches looked rib breaking. I liked the stuff around the handcuffs, liked the caught chokeslam, liked the inevitable cuffs breaking spot, and was blown away by how damn quickly Braun ran up the top of the cage. It did highlight the only glaringly stupid thing of the match, which is Owens' two instances of ultra slow movement. His slow crawling to the cage door earlier was eye rolling, and his slow cage climb was lame. But Braun running up to the damn top of the cage in near record time (especially if we divide it into weight classes for comparison sake) and throwing Owens off the top were a couple of nice match ending moments. Owens took a hell of a dive there. I AM going to sound like a broken record here, but this also seemed to end way early. Normally I'm not one to be begging for matches to be longer, but this isn't all even a match length problem. Instead, everyone just seems to be working the wrong match for their allotted time. They've all started at least promising, they've just all had record skip stops to the finish. I wonder how long it's been since we've had a big table bump off the top of a cage?

Team Hell No vs. The Bludgeon Brothers

ER: I like this match-up on paper, mainly because Bryan feels like a really fun opponent for both of these lovable cosplay doofs. They've lost so much steam with these bad outfits and silly name, but they're both really good at working scrappy small guys. Bryan knows how to dial it up, and all his kicks on Harper look good, while all of Rowan's offense on him look good. Kane comes out somewhat hilariously in a walking boot, and if there's one thing I was hoping for in a Kane match, it's a match where Kane was working much slower than usual. Harper takes out Kane's good leg with a nice looking kick, and AGAIN I think I'm very not that crazy, as this cuts right past a Bryan FIP section leading to any kind of Kane comeback, and goes right to the finish. Who the hell is agent for this show?? I'm hoping someone is laying out all the first halves, and someone else was supposed to handle all the back end work and just completely procrastinating on it and just cutting straight to the pinfall. Kane goes down, Bryan hits Yes kicks, Rowan hits a spin kick and then we get the pinfall. Is my Network feed just skipping ahead because I'm behind, and I'm not noticing? This is bad.

Roman Reigns vs. Bobby Lashley

ER: Lashley throws a decent suplex early, but I like how they're playing this match with Roman getting a long control segment. Crowd is trying their best to not get into the match and come up with chants, but Roman isn't getting rattled and is instead doing all these great puppy dog eyes looks at the crowd as he continues beating Lashley's ass around the ring. Roman is taking his time and the pacing works for the tone. He breaks the slow pacing just once, to run into a nicely timed and quick Drive-By, and the pacing makes Lashley's comeback look more explosive. Roman does his corner clotheslines with a great smug face, and flies into Lashley's bigger pieces of offense (the huge high rotation powerslam and the big man crossbody). Lashley does have fun offense though, a good powerslam will take you far, and there's something I still like about a big man doing an axehandle. And then Bobby shows was an absolute nut he is by taking a HUGE bump over the top to the floor, getting backdropped past the reach of the ropes and therefore not going over slow. He looked like he reached for them on the replay, but that was a Hamrick level bump right there, done by someone weighing 260. The bump felt and looked even more violent than the Owens bump off the cage, and it felt more shocking because I don't think anyone was expecting it to be that rough. The way these finishes have been coming so unexpectedly, I fully bought into the Superman punch finish, but glad it wasn't the finish. Roman doing a full victory lap to run over Lashley was a nice touch, and getting belly to bellied over an announcer's table was nice punishment, and the finish with Lashley cutting off a Reigns spear with his own short spear, was nice, and I like how Lashley played the finish. It's cool to see guys excited that they won a tough match. This match made Lashley look like an actual guy to watch, which has not happened for him so far this run. This is easily the best match of the night so far.

Extreme Rules: Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss

ER: I've really been loving the matches between this whole group, and this one is another that is fun right out of the gate. Alexa goes for weapons right away, gets one kendo stick shot in, leading to Jax catching the next one. And then we get a real amusing Looney Tunes spot with Mickie (arguably greatest 2nd in the WWE the past year, she's been so damn great) grabbing weapons frantically for Bliss, with Nia catching all of them when Bliss tries using them, and throwing them into the ring. It was an awesome way to load the ring up with weapons, actually incorporating the weapons thrown into the ring into actual spots. It lead to actual character moments happening instead of everything coming to a complete stop while someone looks for and then throws a half dozen things into the ring. And the eventual beatdown on Nia is a good one, with Alexa eventually getting to use all those weapons, and Nia herself running into some hard shots (ramming herself into the chair in the corner was especially nasty). Mickie is spectacular on the floor with her swooped over hair and Frankenhooker skirt, and she always takes such a great beating from Rousey. That's kind of a lousy thing to be good at, but I think James has helped keep Rousey's status high so far more than maybe anyone. When James finally gets even more involved, you know it leads to Ronda jumping the rail and dishing out a beating. Mickie flies into the barricade a few times, pelvis first into the apron, and then takes a hard as hell looking Death Valley Driver variation in the ring. I like the ways they attacked Nia, with Alexa hitting her in the kneecaps and thighs with a chair, and the finish looked believable enough. I did want a few more minutes of match, but the match didn't feel as abbreviated as most of the rest of this card. You just give me Rousey/Bliss and Nia/Mickie and I'll be a happy camper.

Rusev vs. AJ Styles

ER: We get a couple big bumps early from each guy here, and I'm happy to see Rusev finally get back towards the top of the card. Styles is good at punching up his offense whenever he's against a bigger guy, and I like that we have two guys with good looking submissions. The Calf Crusher is my favorite sub in WWE, but Rusev makes the clutch look really strong. Offense looks good from both guys, the Styles sliding punched looked knockout worthy, and Rusev's belly to belly on the floor landed with a gross thud. Love the false finishes we get with Rusev kicking Styles in the side of the neck with his always good roundhouse, and Rusev selling that damn Calf Crusher with his leg buckling during the clutch. Love a big man selling a limb injury. Rusev kicking out of the 450 was a big moment, and holy hell did Styles aim to erase Aiden English's face on that baseball slide dropkick. I was hoping for a Rusev win here, but Styles is a good champ and they had a good match.

***Okay, here's the thing, I don't want to watch the Iron Man match. But let's see how my evening goes. If Rachel gets a phone call from her sister or something and I'm left with some extra time, sure, I'll give it a shot. But I don't have time to watch 30 minutes of match that might feel like 60 minutes before Sharp Objects, and don't feel like breaking it up into parts. If I'm watching 30 minutes of guys I don't like, I'm diving all in baby!***


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Saturday, July 14, 2018

CWF Mid-Atlantic Worldwide Episode 149

Episode 149

Ethan Alexander Sharpe/Cain Justice vs. Michael McAllister/Nick Richards

ER: This starts out as a fairly genial, crowd pleasing house show match, the kind where you can see it continuing this way and being a match where Cain and E# show ass the whole match, or one that has a turn in the middle with the heels finally taking it to our 90s Create-A-Wrestler-Singleted duo. So we start amusing, with Sharpe not getting anything rolling, and we have fun house show moments like Richards booing Sharpe from the crowd. I should note that I also really love not just the Chapel Hill crowds, but the giant mural on the wall that often shows up in shots; front and center is a little girl smiling and reading a book, but she's wearing something bright white, and the design always tricks my eyes into thinking it's a big white beard. So this girl looks like Black Jesus holding a giant tome, or Grady from Sanford and Son. It brings joy every time I see it. Anyway, match gets really fun once Cain and Sharpe isolate Richards. Those two are so good at working a crowd like this, and Sharpe keeps adding fun new simple offense that fits his personality (the wind-up elbow drop that ends with him posed over Richards is a keeper), and his 12-6 elbows while standing over a seated Richards looked nasty. Cain throws a bunch of nice kicks, makes me laugh by sticking out his foot for Sharpe to tag in, and always impressed me with how quickly he can get from the ring out to the floor. I also like how he kind of cockily rubs his belly while trash talking opponents. Once you see it you can't unsee it! McAllister trips on his hot tag, so makes up for it by pasting our heels with forearms, hard lariats, and a big back elbow. Sharpe misses his KO uppercut, really swung hard for McAllister's jaw, and Cain makes the cutter look like a worthy finish. Fun match.

PAS: Great example of a formula southern tag, and what a great formula that is. Both Cain and Ethan are great as shit stirring heels. Cain can really stir up a crowd, and is great at flipping the switch between bumbling and vicious. He had some great kicks and stomps. I really dug McAllister's hot tag, he tripped going into the ring, but makes up for it, by throwing some really spudsy clotheslines. I also really dug McAllister's STO which planted Sharpe on Cain. Hargraves Community Center crowds are the best in wrestling and it was fun to watch them do this dance in front of this crowd.

Aric Andrews vs. KL3

ER: Andrews has some facial scruff back and there's no sign of that ponytail wearing smooth faced weirdo who was hanging around CWF for several months pretending to be Andrews. And I'm sorry to KL3 and his family, but Andrews needed a TV win like this. We get GOOD Andrews, dropping high elbows down across KL3's neck, knocking over ref Charles and pointing at Charles to watch it, hitting a great classic kneedrop, holding those hands over the head and then bringing that whole body into a crunch as his knee drops onto KL3's temple, and finishing things off with a couple of big uranage slams. Sinister Aric Andrews is back, and he's got that Golden Ticket!

PAS: Total squash for Andrews, and he looked good, that knee to the temple was brutal. KL3 looked awful, his 15 seconds of offense had no impact at all, including one of the worst kicks to the stomach I can remember, he also bumps really awkwardly on the Asphalt Spike. I am all for Andrew's squashes, but KL3 needs another couple of months in the training center before going back on TV.

Chapel Hill Street Fight: Arik Royal vs. Snooty Foxx

ER: I'm already well beyond hyped just watching the entrances of both men. Royal entrances are maybe my favorite in wrestling (and I'm the guy who writes about Metalico), a real crowd worker. I remember a Norm MacDonald story where he worked the WHCD while Clinton was president, and after his set he was backstage eating a pickle. Clinton comes in and works the room, one person at a time, saying something different to each person, and gets to Norm, shakes his hand and says, "I see you have a pickle" and keeps on going to the next person before Norm can even process what was said. It's not groundbreaking stuff, but it's a person to person unique touch. So Royal goes around the ring, he's waving his big Duke flag (so I know Phil is into this, big Duke supporter, not their sports teams, just their general vibe), he's getting into it with individual fans, mocking one guy with baller motions, making bug eyes at a little girl, purposely whiffing a high 5 with an even smaller kid, making fun of a woman's hair, simple making the rounds stuff you can tell he loves. Snooty comes out and it's night and day, people are overjoyed just to slap hands with him. The fans in Chapel Hill treat Snooty likes he just showed up at the cookout thrown in honor of him finishing his tour of duty serving our country. It's the best.

And this brawl totally delivered. Both guys brought it and were able to work a full 30 minute match without any drag, all while giving us a detailed site map of the Hargraves Community Center. And the cool thing about this brawl was that I dug the in-ring stuff as much as the wild crowd brawl. If it hasn't happened already, this just might be the official Snooty Foxx coming out party. Dude is here, he keeps getting better, and I get the feeling crowds anywhere would have been going bananas for him. Royal stalls to start, leading to Foxx rushing him with a hard forearm shiver, slingshots him into the ring, and then puts on a show by hitting turnbuckle 10 count punches on him all around the ring. Foxx has genuinely great 10 count punches, which is by far one of the hardest punches in wrestling to perfect. Snooty even hits a super early powerslam, with a great battle over whether Royal would slip out of it or not. We go through the crowd and it's all good stuff, love these two hitting each other hard in front of kids, Royal gets tossed through some chairs and kids are running up trying to touch him, merch table gets messed up, and you know we're going to go outside. They fight up on the trailer they use to haul the ring, and it should be noted that Cecil Scott and Smith Garrett were really great on commentary for the duration of the match, but really excelled during the outdoor portions. "Pretty sure we're getting shoplifted while we're out here, not for nothing." "That's a sturdy 1983 vehicle too, that thing is hard as hell" "That's the heartbeat of America right there." "So here's a recap, Arik Royal just hit a child with another human being." Royal throws Snooty off the flat bed just right into the huge crowd of fans that had gathered around. Foxx looked like he was stage diving, just a low fast dive right through a bunch of people, totally crazy looking. They both take great bumps into the fence around the baseball diamond, Royal finds an old hose and does some great chokes on Snooty, even drags him back into the building with that damn hose. Snooty takes a great beating, eats a couple shots with a shovel that Coach brought in, gets one of Coach's batting helmets busted over his head, and we should also note that Royal is someone who understands how to dress for a street fight. I want an action figure of "Street Fighter Arik Royal", complete with Duke flag. Snooty's comebacks are all excellently spaced out, and we get a great near fall that ended with Coach diving onto Redd Jones with his whole body to stop the count. Snooty clearing ring on the All Stars was primo fan stuff, taking them out with a huge dive off the top, hitting his nice one armed spear (so many guys would make that look trash, and he makes it look like a kill shot), and Royal gets perfectly in position to take a top rope bulldog face first into a chair. You know the knux come into play, and while I wish Snooty really waylaid Royal with the final blow, both sold it perfectly. Awesome, awesome match. These Chapel Hill shows are always a big ol' bank full of money. They're the heartbeat of America.

PAS: This is the way wrestling used to be, hot crowd disinterested in seeing MOTY candidates, instead totally invested in watching a beloved babyface beatdown a group of cheating jerks. Foxx is an all time great ticket seller, as he has packed the crowd with his entire neighborhood, there are multiple black ladies in their sixties who might be Snooty's great Aunt. Royal is world class at firing up the crowd too, taunting kids, stealing folks hats, talking trash, one of these days a drunk cousin of Snooty is going to take a swing at him. The Duke flag is a classic troll move, but the batting helmet signed by Coach K is another level. Of course that Coach K signed batting helmet gets busted on Snooty's head. The outside stuff was really great, I loved Snooty getting his head slammed in the truck door, and both guys really flew into all the fencing. Arik Royal tossing Snooty into a 4 year old girl could have gone badly, but instead it ended up being great. Everything didn't land as cleanly as you would hope, Snooty is still clearly early in his career, but the old school heatseeking greatness of this match made up for any execution issues.

PAS: We put the street fight pretty high on our 2018 MOTY List and added the tag match to our C+A Cain Justice

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Friday, July 13, 2018

New Footage Friday: Aoyagi, Kurisu, Kobayashi, Hoshino, Regal, Brookside

Masashi Aoyagi/Masanobu Kurisu vs. Kantaro Hoshino/Kuniaki Kobayashi NJPW 1/4/91

PAS: In a better and more benevolent universe Kurisu and Aoyagi would have had a long worldwide run as a tag team, brawling with the Moondogs in USWA, pounding on the Rock and Rolls in SMW, bleeding with the Infernales in CMLL. We didn't get that run, but we do get to see them against a fun undercard NJ team. I really dug Aoyagi in this, he really ran off some fun kick and punch combos and threw some great spin kicks. Kurisu actually spent a lot of the match selling which was a different look for him, we did get some awkward chair shots and I loved his hulking up when Kobyashi started headbutting him. Ending fell a bit flat, but I did like the post match brawl a bunch.

MD: I liked the change of pace here. This was pretty structurally sound, actually. It was strange to see Kurisu in something straightforward. Hoshino and Kobayashi attacked from the get go. They controlled using the numbers game. When he could isolate, Kurisu would fight back with his toughness and meanness. He'd get quasi-hot tags to Aoyagi who would then be one and only one thing (kick-based karate guy) but as much of that one thing as humanly possible in demolishing his opponents. I like it when he sneaks in the insult to injury kick to the butt. I'm easily amused. Then the numbers game would allow Hoshino and Kobayashi to take back over. Honestly, I think my favorite part of this, even more than the kicks and chair shots and headbutts and chaos as it all broke down at the end was the glimpse of camaraderie between Kurisu and Aoyagi after we've seen them kill each other in the past.

ER: This was not the match I was expecting, and I like that. As Matt said it's a more straight forward tag match, although we do get a Kurisu chair beating (that leads to a nice moment with Hoshino using the chair back on him), but the thing that surprised me most was the aggression from Hoshino and Kobayashi. Hoshino is always a fun ball of energy, but usually his job is to come in, pump his arms a bit, and then get wrecked. Here he's fired up the entire time and really fights back, and I was just expecting him to be demolished by Kurisu, not Kurisu selling for two juniors. I love how Kurisu no sells chairshots to the head as if he was Samoan, and I absolutely loved Aoyagi in this. Aoyagi had to have kicked Kobayashi in the back of the head in at least three different times throughout the match, hitting a cool spin kick, and even better axe kick, and I love how it all built up to Kobayashi catching a big spin kick in a great looking spot. I loved this new look at Kurisu, him stomping around, kicking in the guardrail, selling, really these handhelds have dramatically increased the amount of Kurisu we have out there. The finish is bizarre and pretty stupid, with Kobayashi breaking up the pinfall literally the entire 3 count, and the ref just counting 3 anyway. But the post match was great with a fired up Kobayashi ripping off Aoyagi's gi, and both teams showing nice camaraderie. I love that little tiny Hoshino is the person we've now seen Kurisu be perhaps the most generous in the ring with. Something we'd not have known without some guy recording wrestling with a no doubt giant camcorder.

Keiji Mutoh/Sting vs. Akira Nogami/Hiroshi Hase NJPW 9/21/91

MD: I see this as sort of a palette cleanser for us, a good counterbalance to the other two matches this week. It felt like a modern WWE dark match after Raw where the top babyfaces team up against some game heels. You have to love the commitment from Muta, who is 110% engaged with everything going on, and even from Sting who has a sort of over the top hero-in-a-world-he-did-not-make vibe. What'll stick with me the most are the two big spots though, Muta getting absolutely crunched due to the recoil on a powerplex and then Sting flying high on a splash with Muta actually rocket launching him out of the corner. If you don't love the ridiculous rapid-fire facebuster bulldogs or the serene handspring elbow followed by the Stinger Splash to set up the finish, I'm not even sure what to tell you. Sometimes wrestling is Kurisu jabbing a chair in your face and sometimes it's this, but it can all be great.

PAS: Really fun nicely paced tag match. Teaming with Sting seemed to light a fire under the ass of a sometimes lethargic Mutoh (who was rocking the orange Mutoh tights with Sting facepaint.) I loved the double dropkicks and Sting pressing and throwing Mutoh at their opponents. Sting is a guy who got tarred with the 90s smart fan bias against muscle dudes, but he is a super entertaining wrestler who nearly always brings something special to matches he is in. There was a bit of sloppiness, but energy can overcome a lot of flaws. Enjoyed Hase a bunch in this, I always love when he shows off his greco throws, Sting is a big guy and he gets tossed around with suplexes, by a guy 50 pounds lighter then him, and it is all core strength.

Lord Steven Regal vs. Robbie Brookside WCW 1993

PAS: What a fascinating bit of footage to bubble up on youtube. This is an hour long Powerplant sparring session worked almost completely on the mat. It is pretty unique because it isn't a match meant for an audience (unless it's Dave Sullivan and briefly Tony Schiavone), it is instead a test of endurance and technique. They decide to grapple for an hour in 90+ degree heat to see if they can, and it is pretty cool that we get a chance to see it 15 years later. Regal is such a joy to watch on the mat, I especially loved his constant limb control, in headlocks, headscissiors, pin attempts, he was constantly grabbing an arm to tighten control, he would also really attack limbs when he was countering out of Brookside's attacks. Brookside was a bit flashier, you could see the WOS inspired fast counters, to Regals more grinding approach. I especially loved all of the work they did out of Brookside's bodyscissors, just both guys having a bunch of different ways to add spice to a basic spot. While there was a bit of quick roll ups near the end of the match (counted by guest ref DDP, who just jumps in the ring at about the 15 minute mark and starts reffing), this didn't really have any sort of build, it was just two master grapplers, grappling for an hour. The most unique match that has shown up since we started New Footage Fridays for sure, and a really great bit of errata to be able to see.

MD: Regal occasionally tells the story of arriving to the US in 93 and having no idea how to work a 6 minute TV match, not even fully understanding the concept of what was being asked, because they used to go an hour every night. It's hyperbole on both ends, but that doesn't make it any less of a joy to watch him fill time for an hour.

There's a lack of build towards climax but I was never bored throughout. Here Regal really holds advantage for a good chunk of it, moving in and out of holds, always grabbing for the next limb to reestablish control but never quite focusing long enough on any one part for Brookside to rationalize long-form selling. He, on the other hand, has flashy counters and what ultimate end up as hope escapes, before finally taking over about 35 minutes in. Regal sells as loudly and emotively as if there were thousands of people out there and not just six or seven. Occasionally it picks up with forearms and uppercuts or whips, but it always goes back to the competent but theatrical grinding.

The long period of pseudo-heel control followed by a revenge-laden limb manipulation comeback reminded me a little of the long Bockwinkel matches we have. The difference is the stakes. Everything feels earned but nothing matters to an iota of the level of, let's say the Bockwinkel-Brunzell broadway we have. I think it gives a very good picture of what a genuine 60 minute Regal performance might have looked like, though. I didn't have much doubt before and I have even less now.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Matches from EVOLVE 106 6/23/18

ER: This show opens with a potentially unintentionally hilarious vignette with Jarek 1:20 outside of the Los Angeles Wahlburgers restaurant, saying he "first discovered" Wahlburgers in Philadelphia, and has since eaten at locations in Detroit, New York, and now LA. This motherfucker DISCOVERED this mom and pop burger joint, I assume in much the same way that I discovered Planet Hollywood in my teens, and then discovered Claim Jumper in my 20s. Keep that information under your hats though, I don't want my discoveries to get too well known. Inside the restaurant he barters with a waiter to give him a free chocolate shake if he successfully pulls off a magic trick and guesses the guy's card. The waiter commits to nothing whatsoever, repeating several times that he'll "see what he can do". Jarek does the trick, the waiter responds with the greatest possible reaction a card trick can get (which is nodding and going "Oh, yeah, that's it."), and then walks off.

Then, in a moment of pure brilliance, Jarek turns to the camera and says "I'm a man who gets what I want."

Holy shit.

Imagine Ric Flair, a man who cut dozens of promos celebrating his wealth and lifestyle, clearly a man getting exactly what he wants. Picture Flair, instead of boasting about bagging ladies on his jet, picture him smugly bragging about boosting a guy out of a $7 chain restaurant milkshake with a completely dead eyed straight face. It's fucking brilliant.

I have seen hardly any Jarek. I don't know if he's a goof or if the wink was implied. I really, really hope the wink here was implied.

Darby Allin vs. WALTER

PAS: This is everything that people were saying the Draganov and David Starr matches were. The pinnacle of WALTER laying in an asskicking to a spunky underdog. Darby is tremendous in this, he takes some uncalled for bumps and gets his chest turned into hamburger, but he also has a real sense of when to mix in comebacks and has really credible offense for such a little guy. The hand work was class stuff Darby hurling WALTER's hand into the ringpost violently was great, as was the ground and pound punches right to the knuckles. I loved how he used it as a last gasp counter and attack, if nothing else was working he could bang at the hand. I thought WALTER's selling was really good here too, his hand was fucked, but he wasn't going to let it stop him from chopping Allin's chest into gazpacho or slapping his eardrum into ribbons. There are some really awesome individual spots here, Darby going for an in ring tope and WALTER shotgun head-butting him out of the air was an awesome King Kong vs. Airplanes spot, I also loved WALTER countering the coffin drop with the Kojira clutch. These are two of my favorite guys to watch, and this felt like both guys apex performances.

ER: What a breathless fight, with Allin taking far more damage that you think would be possible, and WALTER practically getting bored by dishing out a beating. There are only so many ways you can violently throw and strike a body, and around the 10 minute mark WALTER has appeared to have used up all of the ways he knows how to violently throw and strike a body, so just keeps doing the same thing. He chops Allin to the mat a dozen or two times, throws him insanely far with a beal, basically just picks him up a bunch and drops him. Allin's body should crumble, but I love the way he hangs in there and the way he spends the whole match essentially being chased down a hallway and gets his licks by knocking over bookcases and trashcans. WALTER is great at showing all the little ways Allin is a pest to him, all the little moments that leave him briefly unguarded. The stuff on the floor was so great, and Allin exploits every opportunity WALTER leaves him, knowing he'll only be able to attack for a second or two before he's thrown again. Allin attacks him from the apron and pounces on him like Westley jumping on Fezzik, gets splatted on the ground, but then catches a WALTER kick and throws his knee into the post, then with zero hesitation throws WALTER's hand off the post. Allin's zero hesitation was just at its apex here, watch him get rolled out on a kickout and spring immediately into a tornillo crossbody (bouncing off the bottom rope). It was done so fluidly and without missing a single beat, yet looked totally natural. WALTER is fun in how he both takes and blocks Allin's offense, like when he just stays in place for a big Allin crossbody, and Allin just bounces off like he hit the ringpost again. WALTER takes a couple Allin roll-ups really nicely, whips himself over fast on the Santito special, and Allin attacking WALTER's hand was really exciting, just punching away at it and clonking his head off it while WALTER screamed. Something tells me WALTER could get his hand lopped off and he'd probably insist on finishing the match, probably by smacking someone a bunch with his stump. But seeing Allin work that hand gives him a possible finish, and I like how he keeps on it and keeps at EVERYTHING, going with a hanging guillotine and working an armbar, and you get the sense that WALTER just ran out of things to do, got his hand run over, and Allin's tenacity lead to him stealing one. WALTER's big Gojira Clutch always looks like he's really cutting off air, and the Coffin Drop is both a fun move AND a great way for WALTER to reverse, and the roll up from there was a nice payoff. These two absolutely killed it, and there were a dozen cool moments that neither of us mentioned. I keep saying that Allin is one of my absolute favorite guys to watch, and I'm going to enjoy him for as long as I can, which just doesn't seem like it's going to be many more matches. But, I've been thinking that for awhile and somehow, Darby endures.

Timothy Thatcher/Tracy Williams/Anthony Henry vs. Chris Dickinson/Jaka/Dominic Garrini

ER: A good match with good performances from a bunch of guys I obviously really like, that doesn't quite gel into a list worthy match. It's probably better than a few things on our 2018 list, but didn't quite feel list considering who was involved. But it's still well worth seeing if you like these guys anywhere near as much as I do. I love how Catch Point started as a group of fit mat grapplers and has now evolved into a stable of thuggish brutes. They're all meaty guys who complement each other nicely without having the same style, with Dickinson working as a modern crazy-eyed Buzz Sawyer, Jaka as tae-kwon-do Kimala, and Garrini with his growing collection of strikes. This whole thing was a great scrap that went by quick, a lot of quick tags and fast action. We got a great babyface performance from Henry, tons of energy and ran into a lot of nasty shots from Catch Point. Thatcher was a great simmering badass, throwing hard shots and muscling guys down to the mat. I think Garrini is behind Jaka and Dickinson as he still shows moments of hesitation in the ring, but he has a couple of absolutely nasty pinfall breaks here that are awesome, landing a spine altering double stomp on Thatcher's back and coming in with an axe kick later, also love his double handed chop to the neck (feels like a Jaka strike, and I like the idea of teammates lifting from each other). Jaka has a bunch of offense and strike combos, and I like his simple attacks like slapping guys in the back with both hands or big throat thrusts. He doesn't necessarily have KO strikes, but his strikes are pesky and constant. Dickinson has really turned into one of my favorites in the world, just a completely hateable charisma and explosive ringwork; every time he charges into the ring he looks like someone charging out the front door of a douchey club to fight someone on the sidewalk. It's a specific charisma that nobody else has and he's awesome. Love him using a vicious powerbomb to break up a hold, love that heavy enziguiri finisher, just a real great bully. If you like these guys, you will definitely want to watch this match.

Joey Janela vs. Austin Theory

ER: Evolve doesn't run as many shows as they used to, and really the only on paper matches that interested me on the show were the two up above there. But I figure I should at least check out a couple title matches, and I don't remember Janela working Evolve before so that's kinda fun. I don't think the match was great, but the crowd was really hot for it and that made it come off really well. Janela is a fun worker but a little sloppy, and Theory works like a lesser Matt Sydal from 2005. There's a lot of that split second hesitation before Theory does offense, and other stuff that basically requires his opponent to leap at him before doing something. It's like when HHH couldn't do a move without reversing an Irish whip. There were some big things I liked, like Janela's big tope and that nasty Death Valley driver on the apron, but Theory isn't too interesting in the ways he transitions back to offense, as he just takes big moves, kicks out, and then does some improbable offense back. Janela hits a package piledriver for a big nearfall, moments later Theory is giving him a TKO off the top rope that requires Janela to climb up onto his shoulders all by himself. I thought Penelope's involvement was kind of clunky, and Theory going for the belt to have Penelope grab it from him felt like a hack Smackdown finish and not something that should change a title on a guy's debut show. But the crowd was amped and Janela clearly has charisma. I don't have a ton of use for Theory and Priscilla's act, though.

No Rope Breaks: Shane Strickland vs. Matt Riddle

ER: A match where both guys really killed each other with some spots, and were rewarded with a finish that nobody could really like. Strickland has definitely improved over the last year. Just a few years ago I thought he was one of the worst guys getting regular work on the indy scene. His striking has tightened up a bit (there was an honest to god really good punch in this match, popping Riddle's jaw on the floor). But a lot of his big offense really only works against a hyper athlete like Riddle, who is really great at getting into position for complicated stuff. Riddle can move like liquid, and I don't think Strickland could pull off some of the suplexes or transitions without someone like Riddle to pull the weight. There's a Saito suplex that Strickland hits that appears to be almost all Riddle, though Riddle does a great job of making it look plausible. I didn't think Strickland's arm work looked good, but he impressed me in ways that he never has before: he had a nice lariat, a sly catch of Riddle's Pele kick (which I think is a Riddle spot that doesn't always look great, so Strickland catching it was a nice play on that), and most importantly I was impressed with Strickland's snarling intensity. He carries himself very confidently and jawed with fans in a way I haven't seen from him before, and it made him come off far more interesting as a character. The finish set up was too obvious by a mile, as both men clearly adjust positions 90 degrees on a suplex so that Strickland gets tossed towards the ref, who Riddle then accidentally KOs. Eventually they brawl to the back, no cameras though. Strickland gets into it with guys backstage, they all come out, Strickland hits a big dive on everyone that doesn't feel like it fits into this match, and Riddle locks in the Bromission but apparently that KO'd ref was the only ref Evolve has. Nobody is satisfied with this finish, and the overstuffed aspect of all of it took away from the parts of the match where these guys were stiffing the hell out of each other. The No Rope Breaks stip didn't really lead anywhere interesting. There was a lot of good here, and it was harmed by some things that weren't really their fault, which is a shame.

ER: Well, WALTER/Allin is a slam dunk choice for our 2018 Ongoing MOTY List, with Phil and I going back and forth on just how high we should place it. What a front to back excellent match that was a real testament to how good those two are right now. It could have easily looked ridiculous, as WALTER is such a Terminator that having him lose to Darby could have easily looked foolish. They crafted an excellent match though, one of the best of the year.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

My Favorite Wrestling: WCW Worldwide 5/30/98

Johnny Attitude vs. Disco Inferno

ER: You wouldn't think you could get farther down the pecking order than Johnny Attitude, but that guy holds wins over The Gambler, Barry Horowitz, and Lenny Lane. That's right, LENNY LANE. Horowitz and Gambler might be lower than luchadors around this time.  Disco is face here and several moms and children in the audience do some disco dancing and I don't remember him as a beloved face in 1998. And you know who I'm wrong about? Johnny Fucking Attitude. He comes off like a 0.9 Bull Pain here, with a hard back elbow and full force running shoulder blocks, big ass powerslam, really cool body shots in the corner (plus he wears black gloves, and wrestling punches look impossibly cool when performed while wearing black gloves). He's a big guy and still makes Disco look good (though Disco worked nice hard stomps to the chest and dug in on contact moves) misses a big elbow off the top and bumps big for a Disco flying shoulderblock and runs face first into a Disco back elbow. Johnny Attitude looked like the queen of the fucking neighborhood in this match, totally turned me into an Attitude fan. Disco plants him with a great piledriver to win, and really this isn't far off from being a Worldwide classic. Maybe Attitude started to suck when he shaved his head bald? Here he had the cool mullet with baldspot, which is infinitely cooler. I believe most of the Attitude I've seen was from 1999, when he had the shaved head, so we might have a lost WCW superworker here...will do future investigation...

Jerry Flynn vs. The Cat

ER: Flynn would have been a bigger deal if he had turned that mullet into a crew cut earlier. Yeah, I know literally one second ago I was saying Johnny Attitude was better with a mullet. But Johnny Attitude wasn't going to be accepted by fans as "a guy", so he might as well have some character, and a mullet is more character than a shaved head. Jerry Flynn was good, a good heel, a good 5 o'clock shadow mug, nice kicks, nice positioning, nice kneedrops, no problem leaning into kicks; Flynn was good and his looked played too much like a Canon Films karate villain in a pre-irony/pre-nostalgia TV world. And this match is a good one. The Cat tried out a couple kick combos and Flynn knew how to make them look good. Cat had a nice springboard and the match ending Feliner looked like something that should end a match. Flynn positioned himself really well for Cat's offense, missed his own offense with aplomb (with a big missed elbowdrop, a nice missed chest-first charge into the corner), and a nice kneedrop to the temple. I wonder how much of Flynn's team with Finlay exists on tape?

Damian/Ciclope vs. High Voltage

ER: Damian is so skinny here it's insane. He's super slender and isn't wearing faceprint, and looks like Pablo Marquez (in build and in general appearance). And this whole match rules. It's surprisingly competitive and they never come up for air, so the fans are into it the entire time. Damien gets a nice run of offense after ducking some Kaos Klotheslines, hits a nice spinning heel kick, gets caught on a crossbody but gets a nice nearfall when Ciclope dropkicks him over. Ciclope lands a nice stiff missile dropkick and it's great seeing HV bumping around for the luchadors and not treating them like flippy Mexicans. But any generosity paid by High Voltage gets paid in full by Damian and Ciclope. We got High Voltage weirdly working a mat game by targeting Ciclope with half crabs and a snug if not charmingly clunky STF. High Voltage stock is going way up with me lately. I always weirdly liked Rage's early 2000s NJPW run, and liked the premise of Kaos tagging with Eaton for a bit, but I've been enjoying them a lot lately. Kaos was even doing cool little things in this match like missing low on back elbows and a lariat, a cool stop-momentum powerslam, all nice. Oh, and we got to see some crazy suplexes, as if Rage was just ad libbing ways to potentially shift a man's spinal column.

At one point Rage lifts up Damian in the most flat out pornographic, tender embrace. He lifts Damian up for what I think is going to be a bearhug, but ends up cradling Damian with both hands clasped under his buttocks. They pause there, in that accidental seeming embrace, making eye contact, Rage refusing to admit that he accidentally started holding him by his butt, cradling him like a lover he's about to lay on a bed. You give me 5 chances to open up a random page of any 70s Viva magazine, and I bet you one of those 5 will reveal a couple holding this same position. Is this the suplex version of that thing where someone misjudges a handshake and ends up punching someone in the boob while someone has a half hug on them? But Rage is gripping under those buns, and - if you want a sweeter visual - and it's almost as if now Damian is Rage's child, pulled sleeping from the backseat of the family auto, asleep after a long day driving back from grandma's. And Rage lifts him out of that backseat, and Damian isn't totally asleep, but he's tired and likes being carried by his father, who he heard adults sometimes address as Mr. Robert Rage. But then, his short but hulking gassed out dad named RAGE just throws him over his head, as far as he can! Yeah, Rage held Damian seemingly accidentally under the buns, and then said "No. I can still make this a suplex!" Maybe even briefly thought, as he was propelling Damian by the buttocks, future merch sales flashed through his head as time stood still, picturing shirts and Slim Jim style commercials where High Voltage yells "Make it into a SUPLEX!"

He tosses Damian FAR with this butt throw, and then, does the exact same thing the exact same way with Ciclope. I played in a few jazz combos in college, and a jokey trope I always heard was that if you play a brown note during a solo, go back to hit that sour note another time or two, make any know it alls in the crowd think that it was your intention to squawk right there and also there. It always felt like the only carny trick I was ever taught. I'd love to think that Robbie Rage was also taught this jazz con, and after chucking Damian across the ring he thought, "Well, better do it again, to this other guy, and also more dangerously close to the ropes." I love this little match! Skinny Damian taking splatty backdrop bumps High Voltage's big springboard Doomsday Device lariat, a tough Kaos press slam and powerslam, and of course, that one special moment we all got to share.

Super Calo vs. William Worthy

ER: Worthy is not a guy I remember at all, and before he was introduced (already in the ring) I just assumed Ice Train's original run went WAY longer than it actually did (before they weirdly brought back Ice Train during the promotion's death years). Worthy is smaller than Train, but muscular, and looks good. He makes Calo look really good, whips himself really fast into a sunset flip and goes over hard and low on the match winning top rope headscissors, also misses a big elbowdrop with great height. I want to see more of Worthy. Also, how many singles matches was Super Calo winning at this point? I had never heard of Worthy before this match but I figured "eh he has a good build and some symbol on his tights, probably a guy who is going to beat Super Calo in a singles match."

Brian Adams vs. Bobby Eaton

ER: This doesn't even go 2 minutes, which is a real damn shame. Because for less than 2 minutes, it was really fun. Eaton throws some big punches, Adams drops a nice legdrop (which Eaton actually shifts to bring the leg closer to his throat), Eaton almost gets his teeth kicked on on a huge Adams big boot (Adams was raising it right as Eaton was ducking and the toe of Adams boot swung up about 2" away from Eaton's swinging down face, could have been realllllllly ugly) and hits a nice powerslam, but that's it! What a drag, feels like it suddenly got the call home, but it's a taped show so who cares how long they run? This could have been so much more, and they cram a lot into a very short runtime, but under two minutes in a main event? Get out of here with that.


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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

2018 Ongoing MOTY List: Blanchard vs. Hogan

56. Tessa Blanchard vs. Kiera Hogan Impact Wrestling 4/26 (Aired 6/14/18)

ER: A kind of out of nowhere fun No DQ match, a nice peak for the so far quietly quality women's division that Impact has been putting out. Rosemary, Taya, Su Young have all been putting on nice weekly performances, and Tessa has been coming off great in her few appearances. She looks like a real bitchy old money mean girl, like a modern pro wrestling version of Joan Collins on Dynasty. This is a quick paced match that makes good use of the No DQ stip by using stiffness and bumps instead of wasting time setting up complicated props spots. They make everything look good, nice ramp fighting, hard dropkicks, hard elbows, tough stomps, a big Saito supple from Tessa, neck cranked on an abdominal stretch, nice DDT from Hogan, and a big finish with a twisty facelock onto a chair. I've enjoyed several Impact women's matches this year, and this feels like the best of the bunch so far, and something I hope they keep excelling with.

PAS: Eric really comes up with some oddball recommendations, no way I would ever watch a Impact women's match with out him nominating it, but this was fun stuff. Blanchard works really stiff here, as the veteran who wants to punk out the rookie. Loved her running elbow with Hogan in the ropes, she really tenderized her kidneys. That spinning facelock into the chair seems like it would look stupid 99 times out of 100, but it looked like it might have knocked all of Hogan's teeth out.


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Monday, July 09, 2018

2018 Ongoing MOTY List: Park and Rush Unleashed

3. LA Park vs. Rush CMLL 6/22

PAS: This was about as grimy as it is going to get in the cathedral in 2018. Nobody even goes into the ring for the first 10 minutes or so, with Rush getting powerslammed into the chairs and Park taking a rude awkward bump right on his calves into the seats. It honestly looked like he may have hurt himself, but the undead don't die and a minute later Park is wasting Rush with a huge tope. Bestia comes down and decks the ref with a chain for the DQ on the first fall.

Second fall had some really fun stiff beatdown stuff from Rush with some really rude kicks and stomps, we get another ref bump (ref was getting pounded in this match) and a martinete on Park.  Bestia comes back with a framed poster, Rush is about to smash the poster when he gets waylayed with huge Park spear, which felt like the out of nowhere car crash in Children of Men. Park then smashes the poster on Rush's head opening up some cuts on his back, Park then just lays in this huge beatdown, with some sharp punches which were clearly trying to bust Rush open hardway (Park was clearly pissed we only got back blood) and finally just starts smashing Rush's head into the mat like he was an ape trying to open a coconut. He starts whipping Rush with a cord, punching officials, smashing him with a stretcher. Eventually one of the officials has to fireman's carry Rush out of ringside, while Park is basking in his glory, hurling beers at fans and talking mad shit, we get an apuesta's challenge and consider me AMPED!!!

ER: This felt like a giant surreal jump in the feud, to see Rush and Park doing their Rush and Park thing in Arena Mexico for CMLL. The whole match was wild, with both taking nasty spills into chairs (Park gets backdropped legs first into them and Rush gets thrown hard onto them), Park getting buried in chairs, an old man actually thinking Rush was going to throw a plastic popcorn bin right at his head, Rush successfully hitting Park with this bin (which looked like a hard plastic yellow milk container) but Park absolutely bouncing that container off Rush's head, Rush gets a large umbrella broken over his back, big brawling, ref's getting pulled in the way of offense, Park hitting a big dive, Rush eating all of Park's heavy shots, Bestia punching a ref in the face, just all of the exact things I was excited about when their CMLL feud started. And it's all in the first fall. Park is unleashed in the segunda and breaks a picture over Rush's head, starts staring down security and a doctor, attacking the commissioner, attacking Rush with a stretcher, things devolving to Edgar just counting both guys out to end it and get the hell out of there. The only reason other matches in their feud might seem more grimy is because this is merely a cleaner venue. This was a fight and a spectacle no matter where it happened. Their CMLL feud has taken some odd turns so far, and while I thought it was a mistake to put them opposite each other in matches every single week, they easily show that if they're given the right platform (i.e. let us show how much we hate each other) then they will put on a freaking show.


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Sunday, July 08, 2018

New Japan Pro Wrestling: G1 Special in San Francisco 7/7/18

ER: I loosely considered going to this event, just because it was an hour away, but the card wasn't too interesting to me and the prices were way too prohibitive (Tim said the cheap seats were like $60, which - even if that's not true - fully prevented me from even looking further into attending this show), but I'm not someone with a very active social calendar so once I found out this show was airing on television, I figured I can spare the time to watch it. We were at a BBQ earlier, came home and it was literally 4 minutes in, figured it was a sign that I had to ruin the rest of my evening.

Sho/Yoh/Gedo/Yoshihashi/Rocky Romero vs. King Haku/Tama Tonga/Tanga Loa/Chase Owens/Yujiro Takahashi

ER: I like that they start with Haku, but it's pretty silly to have him bumping around right out of the gate for Yoshihashi. But this whole match isn't too interesting. Barely 5 minutes in and Takahashi is settling into a chinlock, which should absolutely NEVER happen when you have 10 guys in a match. Rocky Romero threw some light shoulderblocks, Gedo threw nice punches, Haku dishes a nice old man piledriver, Haku's kids were hardly in it snd they would have been the best parts of the match, Sho/Yoh had a decent double team section, but this was super short and the definition of inconsequential.

Minoru Suzuki/Zack Sabre Jr/ vs. Tomohiro Ishii/Toru Yano

ER:  I have next to no use for Yano, which is a shame as he really muddles up the works here. I love Sabre but seeing him do his thing against Yano is just the least interesting opponent. Things get better once Ishii is scraping his boot all over Suzuki's face and head, but their opening forearm exchange is uber uninteresting. Sabre comes up with a couple fun ways to block Yano's horseshoe, but this match also feels super inconsequential. Everything has so far felt like guys goofing off until it's time for the finish, which is a terrible way to start a show. Maybe there were people there live that were super excited to see Yano's schtick (he does clearly have fans), but I would feel majorly ripped off at this point.

Marty Scurll/Hangman Page vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi/KUSHIDA

ER: When you see two straight clunkers, and the next thing you hear is "Coming up next, Marty Scurll", that's when you know that you've made a series of awful choices in your evening. We were at a BBQ later, and that was okay, and now we're here and this is less than okay. This whole show feels like a house show, with wrestlers who don't understand how to make a house show interesting. WWE house shows are some of the more interesting and fun shows I've been to, and these guys all seem to think they're really charming and can survive on coasting, but most guys on this show actually have really awful schtick. I think Page and Scurll's schtick is "our offense hits really poorly" then they're actually really good at it. Page's shooting star shoulderblock off the apron is a top contender for Dumbest Wrestling Moves Ever Performed. Page's early 2000s indie offense finishes things, and this show is a heaping crap pile so far. Matches have all ended abruptly and without much interesting happening, an easy 0 for 3 so far.

Jeff Cobb vs. Hirooki Goto

ER: I have higher hopes for this one, and it delivers early with some nice shoulderblocks and one of the flat out coolest belly to belly suplexes any of us have ever seen. Cobb catches Goto, spins around a couple times to find his angle, ducks down into a deep squat, then throws him straight overhead. There's some crazy strength involved here, and it looked awesome. Cobb also takes a nice posting on the floor, and I'm into this. Cobb keeps things interesting, breaking free of a Goto headlock to hit a nice impactful dropkick, nice leaping forearm in the corner, and a cool swinging Saito suplex. Goto has some early 2000s indie offense of his own, and there are many guys in modern New Japan who feel like Ric Blade, just dropping guys sloppily onto his own knee or clotheslining someone stupidly into his own leg or slamming his leg in a car door to own the libs or some stupid shit. I liked the Cobb running wild portions of this, and the Goto control segments where much less interesting. This was still the only thing worth watching so far.

Sanada/EVIL vs. Young Bucks

ER: We run through a lot of crowd pleasing stuff early, a spot where each legal man knocks the opposing partner off the apron, a series of missed elbow drops and sentons, a four person submission, just a bunch of guys working a series of bits. I wish Sanada and EVIL were a little more aggressive while beating down the Bucks. Sanada is a guy I like but he seems a little tentative here. Nick is super smooth in all his work around the apron, but the NJ guys seem a little slow on the timing spots. We still get the timing stuff delivered, there's just a little hesitation. I like Sanada's dragon sleeper giant swing, that's a great spot, but he's arriving to his mark too early to take Bucks' spots and it's pulling back the curtain on this seeming like too much of a moves exhibition. Still I like Nick using a big rope running flipping crossbody to take out EVIL on the floor. Nick is also good at leaping into EVIL's German suplexes and take a big silly fireman's carry/sit out powerbomb, taking it all flat backed so it really landed with a dull thud. The superkicks to the ref were done well, there were a couple nice saves down the stretch, this was a good enough match, but the structure and pacing could have been better.

Bushi/Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazuchika Okada/Will Ospreay

ER: A not bad tag, with a few guys who are bigger than this tag, and everybody kind of works this the same way Misawa might take off a tag 4th from the top at a non-major show. The key is that most people are working this show as very much a non-major show. Ospreay has come off like a big deal recently and comes off pretty low-tier here, as he's primarily matched up with Bushi, but he should be way higher on the card than Bushi. Naito throws a couple nice kicks, and Ospreay takes Bushi's stuff with a nice snap. All of these matches feel like they're taking place a half hour into an episode of Friday Night Smackdown, but specifically a Smackdown match that's worked by people that aren't appearing on an upcoming PPV, and are given orders to not show up the upcoming PPV.

But we're getting a lot of Eddie Trunk commercials.

Dragon Lee vs. Hiromu Takahashi

ER: I'm shocked that they aren't constantly referring to this as the new generation Rey/Psicosis, seems like an easy get that JR would go to often. And we start with a wild Lee rana from the ring to Hiromu on the apron, and follow that up with a fast Lee tope. You just kind of have to decide whose offense you like more and root for the match that way, because there are going to be several times where you're annoyed that someone bounced back to his feet too quickly. Takahashi breaks out some crazy stuff, hitting hard on dropkicks, launching an especially nutty dropkick off the apron, then hitting the big standing senton to the floor. It's a greatest hits collection, but the crowd is a greatest hits crowd. By the time the two of them are trading big German suplexes, I don't care anyway. "These are restaurant quality suplexes, I assure you," says JR, and nobody has any fucking clue what he's assuring us of. You'll care even less about the forearm trading, but Lee will fly stupidly into the turnbuckles off a suplex. The match reaches full retard status when Lee bounces Takahashi headfirst across the mat on a package suplex, I mean literally headfirst, bounced off the mat. Doesn't matter too much, he won a minute later, off of what looked like one of the weakest moves of the match. That appears to be the New Japan way. "Do a bunch of dangerous shit, win with a weak lariat or a light backbreaker."

Juice Robinson vs. Jay White

ER: This works out of the gate because both guys are cool getting thrown violently into the ring barricades, with Juice especially flying hard into it. White needs someone willing to violently throw themselves into things, or else his whole being does not work, but luckily Juice appears to be this guy, throwing himself into the turnbuckles on a suplex and is good at taking a beating. Juice has a broken bandaged up left hand, and he's a southpaw, so we get a lot of stuff with White being a dick and going after the hand. On the floor and Juice takes a nice bump into the post, and then eats a nasty snap suplex into the barricade that actually knocks JR out of his seat, and that leads to Josh Barnett getting into the ring. White plays it nicely and both JR and Barnett are weirdly swearing on commentary, but White was hilarious acting like a smug prick for knocking over JR. Getting another 19 count out spot is a bit much on the same show (there was literally one in the previous match), but Juice is killing himself to make this match work, and White's cold heel demeanor is working off it. The stuff around Juice's left hand is a little too hokey though. Normally I'm a big fan of an injured taped up body part unable to be used, and the hell opponent using that to his advantage, but they integrate it a couple of really clunky ways using Red Shoes (Red Shoes acting too broad and hammy on a spot? Weird), it all could have been stronger. We do get a couple good nearfalls, and it was nice seeing Juice get the win. It was pretty easily the best match on the card so far, but there has also been a lot of very bad wrestling on the card so far.

Cody vs. Kenny Omega

ER: I appreciate the pomp, love Cody coming out in this grade school Roman cape, accompanied by Brandi and some lesser thans to carry him to the ring. His act works best with Brandi, and even if she's not great at ringside like Zelina, her presence can still be strong. It's great to see Cody doing totally shithead things like pulling her in front of him so Omega doesn't finish a dive. We get a lot of brawling on the floor, and it's pretty good. Guys have been taking nasty throws into railings tonight, feels like those things aren't tied down in any way. Juice in the prior match looked like he was bursting through them like the Kool Aid Man. But Kenny brings in a table and my god does it look incredibly painful when he does a flying double stomp to Cody. I was digging it up to this point, but they lost me with some of the trading and overkill, seems like Omega really wants to make his big thigh slap knee look as weak as possible, he throws it out so often and it can look great, but it never feels like a nearfall move anymore. You get nice bits of stuff, like a big flip dive from Omega and a nice headscissors, but I'm sick of stuff like trading dragon suplexes. Almost 20 years ago when I was sitting at home playing Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 and blowing off classes, the dragon suplex felt like a move that nobody could possibly even survive, let alone kick out from.

A ladder gets involved and I like some of the fighting around the ladder, liked the ladder used as a prop that you could get slammed into, but the climbing stuff didn't work for me, even though the two craziest spots in the match all happened because of them climbing that damn ladder. Cody's superplex  off the ladder was a thing of beauty, and I liked how we forgot about the table still sitting out on the floor, unbroken, waiting in position. I definitely could have done without the involvement of Red Shoes and his acting abilities, and they made sure all the worst elements of that dude were on display for the final 10 minutes. And I still cannot stand the one-winged angel, the fact that when an opponent looks like he can be put away Omega needs to go "Cool but let me try to bury my head inside his ass for a bit first", and as I'm talking about how stupid the move is, Omega does something far more violent and powerbombs Cody from the ring "through" the table on the floor, but the powerbomb falls a little short and Cody basically bounces off the table and straight to the floor. I enjoyed the drama with Brandi putting her body in front of Cody's to stop a V-Trigger, but really could have done without some last minute elbow trade offs. The underhook piledriver looked good and is far more plausible than burying your head in someone's ass until they're vertically up on your shoulders, but it was fine. The match went long and to their credit it didn't feel too stretched out. Behind Juice/White it was definitely the best of what's left.

ER: Well I'm not bummed at all that I didn't pay money to see this live, but the presentation was simple and nice, and at least the final 3 matches felt like the workers were treating this like a big show. A few of the big stars were there but clearly didn't show up, and I think I like that Juice match because of that. We get a bunch of guys taking the night off, and Juice shows up and throws himself wildly through guardrails and into suplexes. An awesome performance, with some unexpectedly fun Josh Barnett threats right in the middle of the match! NJPW bringing in Barnett to work a series would be more interesting to me than most of their options. But I genuinely loved the beatdown to close out this show. That was arguably my favorite thing we got to see. Tama Tonga is awesome and one of the more underutilized guys on the roster, one of the NJ guys I actually go out of my way to see. Tama and Tanga looked great dismantling everyone, and even though he's 60 Haku has an undeniable presence and looked intense while stomping guys out. Haku would be an awesome addition as the third man in trios, and I'm really curious to see some high level Tama matches, see how he can step it up with the big opportunity.

So, overall I wouldn't recommend the show. But the big singles matches all delivered (and even though I got bored with Lee/Takahashi, I guarantee most in attendance got exactly the Lee/Takahashi match they wanted, so good for them) and the show ending angle couldn't have been hotter, so it was a show that definitely got better as it went on.

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Saturday, July 07, 2018

2018 Ongoing MOTY List: Suzuki vs. Nomura

15. Hideki Suzuki vs. Takuya Nomura BJW 6/20

PAS: This is pure uncut shootstyle, no baby laxative here. No rope running, just hard BattlArts style asskicking. Suzuki is really great and grounding a guy with strong amateur wrestling, while Nomura has more of a martial arts base. There was also a cool hierarchy thing going on, with Nomura trying to take down the more experienced grappler. This was really technically solid, but had plenty of flash. The spot where Nomura goes to the eyes so he can put on a crossarmbreaker was some Yoji Anjo/ Takeshi Ono shootstyle dick god stuff. I also really dug Suzuki on top, as he was loosening Nomura up with slaps, and then threw one huge illegal punch that looked like it might have smashed Nomura's eye socket.  Loved the finish too, with Suzuki basically trying to Jason Elam Nomura's head, I loved how on the second kick, the ref didn't even stop the fight, everyone just ran in.

ER: I really liked their 2016 series, which was very early in Nomura's career, and the early matches were basically a big bully steamrolling a young boy in entertaining fashion. Now the young boy has a couple years under his belt, he's filled out a bit, and has some nice confidence. It was exciting seeing Nomura overwhelm Suzuki a couple times and really make him back up and cower. Nomura was really pitbull intense on the mat, but even when his arm is getting bent at terrible angles he still looks disturbingly calm. At one point Nomura gets a full extension armbar, and Suzuki panics a bit and tries to unwrap Nomura's legs, can't, so starts shifting and rolling and winds up in a pretty nasty crossface with his arm still extended, but eventually gets out. Suzuki is a huge beefy guy and it's impressive to see Nomura hold his own, trying to finesse while Suzuki tries to just power his way through. I loved Nomura getting a tight keylock and Suzuki just starting slight maneuvering without use of his left arm; he's resigned to the fact that that arm ain't useful at the moment, so he is just shifting weight and working to escape. Nomura is tenacious and we all knew this was building to him getting popped, and boy does he. Nomura lands a great German suplex and has Suzuki on the ropes, but eventually Suzuki lands in top position and hits a gross punch right to the hinge of the jaw, a total dead eyed dick move. Suzuki opts for the finish of Kurisu/Jado, hitting a high kick and then letting tension mount as Nomura is on all fours, essentially waiting to be decapitated. Suzuki lands two nasty punts, no more match is needed.


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Friday, July 06, 2018

New Footage Friday: Can-Ams, Kikuchi, Kobashi, Aoyagi, Kurisu, Steiners, Eaton, Enos

PAS: Pete from PWO drops another awesome batch of HH's including another Can-Ams vs. Kobashi/Kikuchi match, so despite the Network pooping out another turd, we get a great week of New Footage.

ER: Phil is an old crank, and let me say that for people of a certain age, Lex Luger slamming Yokozuna was a big deal. Preteen me loved seeing and hearing about all the different athletes from different sports, all wanting to slam Yoko. I loved that they got a tiny jockey to give it a shot, the whole thing made it seem to me that pro wrestling was a lot bigger deal than it actually was. I still remember how excited I was when Jim Duggan knocked Yoko off his feet in a match, and as we didn't have cable I actually went over to my grandparent's to watch the aircraft carrier showdown. I think a full upload of the Intrepid footage is something that would be extremely exciting to people who are currently age 31-37, and absolutely not interesting to anybody else. Phil's not wrong for being unexcited for uncut Intrepid footage, but it ain't for him.

Dan Kroffat/Doug Furnas vs. Kenta Kobashi/Tsuyoshi Kikuchi AJPW 6/1/91

PAS: This is a previously unseen precursor to their all time legendary match a year later. It doesn't reach the highs of the 1992 match (few matches ever really do), this had many of the elements that made that match so special. Kikuchi is an all time great face in peril, he takes huge bumps (the doomsday device DDT here is especially grotesque), gets his body bent in sick ways (both Can-Ams were trying to touch his heel to his head in Boston Crabs) and times his moments of hope and counters perfectly. Kobashi is a tremendous hot tag too, he has such a variety of big and great looking offense, and while I have sometimes found that tiring in singles matches, it is great in a tag format. Can-Ams have some really impressive tag offense, Furnas may not have been a complete wrestler, but man was he an athletic marvel, and when he starts throwing those monster dropkicks and ranas it is something special. The final set of near falls in this match really had the crowd rocking, and only the ref blowing the finish and counting three, when it clearly was two, keeps this from that rarefied air of top AJPW matches. Still what a discovery to unearth

ER: What a spectacular discovery, maybe the most fun tag match to get unearthed in the last year, four super creative guys all flourishing, really feels like these guys have enough material to work 45 without the match ever seeming long. From the beginning Kroffat is working the match with an immediacy that makes it feel like the match is going to be an under 10 minute burner, but they keep that energy up for 20 minutes. As I was watching this I kept thinking "Man I'm really impressed with Kroffat in this match..." then a second later "Man I'm really impressed with Kobashi in this..." and then "Man I'm really impressed with Kikuchi in this..." Sometimes when watching a match I'll be internally ranking who I think is having the best performance in a match, just automatically. And this match had me flipping out because everyone was in the running for best in the match. Kobashi is a guy we've all seen enough of at this point, but seeing him as the fired up hot tag protecting his buddy is reinvigorating, and it was a kick watching him toss off big Saito suplexes and unhinged lariats (one sees him spill into Kroffat's legs right after landing it and following through). Kroffat and Furnas were insane athletes, and here Kroffat is moving as quickly as I've ever seen him, all of his chops and strikes have this fast snap, and all of his cool kick combinations landed with precision. Kroffat threw one big crescent kick that landed fresh right across Kikuchi's chin, landed hard on a senton, was always where energy was needed. Furnas - as Phil noted - is not really a complete wrestler, but is a super fun wrestler in this setting. He has world famous power, and it's so cool to see his deadlift throws, and in a great spot he caught a Kikuchi crossbody and shifted his weight enough to show he had caught him, and then quickly planted him with a belly to belly.

Kikuchi was at his best here, at his most fighting spirit, able to crack you with an elbow and almost steal pinfall victories the whole time, and catching a mean beating from the Can Ams. His timing is always so good about going for roll-ups that you always buy them as possible match enders. We built to a lot of great saves and some big moments, the fans really getting understandably whipped up. I have no actual idea how Kikuchi survived the top rope DDT, it looked like a move where we should have been saying "Oh whoa footage of Kikuchi's final wrestling match finally got found", but both teams were just so good with saves and building nearfalls that Kikuchi just must have used the adrenaline from having not just died to ramp up his performance even more. The finish, clearly, is a damn shame. I'm sure the match was ending shortly anyway, but man what a shame. Wada calls for the bell on a pin that clearly gets saved by a diving Kobashi, and then it's one of those awkward situations where there's a language barrier and everybody keeps wrestling. What a bummer of a momentum killer to a match that still manages to be a straight classic. This match is right around the top of the best handhelds we've seen uncovered in the last year. A real find.

MD: What a find. The match we have between them is one of the best AJPW tags of the 90s. I personally like it more than some that are more touted. A lot of that has to do with Kroffat's oozing character and near memphis-esque grounding of things.

Botched finish aside, this was a blast. Obviously, I wish we had it pro-shot because Kikuchi's expressions and Kroffat's swagger were two of my favorite things about the match we had, but we're just lucky to have it at all.

There are a bunch of highlights, but what stood out the most were Kroffat and Kobashi going at it full intensity to begin. It's one of the best opening exchanges to a tag match you'll ever see. Add in a loose narrative of the Can-Ams taking more than not, with multiple fairly hot tags and an incredibly hot finishing stretch with believable kick outs underpinned a bunch of 2-count partner break-ups and even the botched finish really can't take this down too many notches. 

Masashi Aoyagi vs. Masanobu Kurisu NJPW 9/21/91

PAS: This is the second Kurisu vs. Aoyagi match unearthed from Pete's treasure trove of HH's. I thought their February 91 match was kind of a puro indy scum version of Necro Butcher vs. Samoa Joe, this was kind of like the later IWA-MS rematch, still great, still violent as hell, but lacking some of that kinetic energy. They actually start by feeling each other out a bit, before it breaks down. Kurisu lays in some of his trademark off putting stomps and headbutts, and he really crushes Aoyagi with some of his side of the chair shots. Finish has Aoyagi ripping off his gi, and throwing a bunch of big spin kicks until he lays Kurisu out for good. It never totally broke out into a riot, which is what you want from platonic ideal of this match, but I certainly enjoyed it and was jazzed that it showed up.

MD: I liked this as a second Kurisu vs Aoyagi datapoint. I'd only seen the first match in the run-up to watching this, but that was immediately iconic, both in the Aoyagi mad rush to begin and in the virtual stabbing Kurisu gives him with the chair. Still, that match was like lightning and it always interesting to see if it can strike twice.

This was fairly validating in that regard. While it may not have had the same level of raw violence as the first one, there were some different elements I enjoyed. I liked how Aoyagi started far more gingerly and carefully. It didn't help him but it added some variation and a sense of strategy. Kurisu was still the same descending fog of chaos. He chokes people as well and as believably as anyone I've ever seen. When Aoyagi would sell not having any wind, you more or less believed it as legit.

What I liked best was the comeback though. The spin-kick out of nowhere in order to counter a brutal beating was La Fiera/Sangre Chicana level of great. It was just one of those moments that really and feels like pure payoff, especially, in this case, because I wasn't expecting it after the last match. 

ER: Love that this showed up, anything to add to our pile of both Kurisu and Aoyagi, and even better when it's against each other. Here we get a glimpse of evil goatee Kurisu and he takes nothing but hard kicks in the early parts, enough that I don't know how he's going to make it back into the match. But oh, right, it's Kurisu, so he finally catches a baseball bat kick to the chest and loads up one of the greatest headbutts you've seen. The kind that's so hard that he has such heat on his forehead afterwards that he keeps checking it, positive that he's cut himself open. And then we get to the real plain leveler of Kurisu, when he grabs a chair from ringside. Kurisu - much like Necro Butcher after him - is a true artiste with a folding chair. Necro's specialty was his precise aim in chair throwing, Kurisu's is in the fine art of landing a chair into the side of someone's neck. He does this, several times, and you can tell when Kurisu is pulling his chair shots, and he's someone with a great worked chair shot. Some benevolent soul needs to bring us an LA Park vs. Kurisu Chairman of Wrestling match. There were a dozen worse vanity matches at the most recent Mania Weekend shows, surely someone recognizes what a draw Park will be, and what an...additional expense Kurisu would be? Kurisu kills Aoyagi with chair shots, including a masterpiece with him leaping off the ropes. Once his chair is taken away he just goes on to stomping neck. I really dug Aoyagi's gi removal as a Hulk up/Lawler strap move, and his standing spinning heel kicks were great. Kurisu was super smart about selling them, as you can tell one was supposed to be the finish but Aoyagi kicked low and swung into Kurisu's arm, so Kurisu just got up and let Aoyagi spinkick him in the head again, so the finish looks better. Awesome.

Steiner Brothers vs. Mike Enos/Bobby Eaton NJPW 2/16/94

MD: It's a joy to get to see Eaton do his thing like this. For 94 Eaton, there was an extra bit of oomph to it all, including a big bump over the guard rail off an apron dive by Rick and a near tragic attempt at letting Rick reverse a Doomsday Device into a belly to belly.

It's the nuts and bolts stuff that stand out. Enos is a little flashier but past his opening handshake with Scott, every single thing that Eaton does has meaning and serves the purpose to get the Steiners over as faces. It's perfectly distilled tag team wrestling which is somehow more enjoyable for the setting.

Otherwise, this is pretty much everything you'd want out of 94 Steiners in a 10 minute match. Scott has his matwork shine (including a nasty STF). They do a big, perfectly timed spot with Rick plowing through everyone. Rick's a wrecking ball. Scott's a machine. Enos and Eaton are the foils who can take their stuff and grind them down for the last comeback. Past the crazy botch (which the crowd loved because of Enos' unwitting posturing after the fact, so it more or less worked anyway), this was spot on for what it ought to have been.

PAS: Puro Bobby Eaton is the best, he had a couple of tours of New Japan (including a tag run with our boy Tony Halme, which is true dream match material). He has a bunch of experience working with the Steiners and there are bunch of fun moments, I especially loved the early amateur scrambles with Scott, which he breaks up with one of his classic uppercuts. Nothing I love more then Rick Steiner clotheslines and he has some great ones here, including a great one off the apron which sends Eaton into the front row. I liked Enos trying (and failing) to match Rick suplex to suplex. I didn't mind the doomsday device counter, it wasn't cleanly hit but it looked devastating.

ER: This is really fun, and for a show that wasn't taped these guys all take some nice spills. Eaton takes a hard Scott lariat over the top to the floor, then moments later takes a big bump into the crowd on a lariat. Enos goes toe to toe with the Steiners and keeps getting shown up in amusing fashion, challenging Rick with a huge powerslam and getting upended by one moments later, trying to get underhooks on Rick, who easily adjusts and hurls him with a belly to belly, Enos tries to muscle Scott into a top wristlock and Scott flips both Enos and Eaton. Enos' meathead charisma really helps this in unexpected ways. It's a neat combo and we've seen a few Eaton/Arn tags against the Steiners, but Eaton with Enos is like a more fun version of Eaton and Kenny Kaos. The Doomsday Device belly to belly suplex counter is just a nutso spot to even attempt, that you can't really criticize it for not working out (since nobody got killed). A few years ago a friend criticized Rick Rude for not hitting a clean kneedrop in a cage match, but it's a freaking kneedrop off the top of a cage! To hit it cleanly would have meant certain death for Piper. The move was crazy to try, but Enos gets some laughs by prematurely celebrating, which turned the spot into a dangerous - but saved - stooge spot instead of a botched dangerous spot. Awesome stuff, great action for a match that wasn't taped.

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Thursday, July 05, 2018

Low-Ki Straight From the Ave of Trinity

Low-Ki/Homicide vs. Samoa Joe/Jay Lethal ROH 5/7/05 - EPIC

PAS: This was an impromptu main event, and a total balls to the wall sprint. Everyone in this match is throwing the kitchen sink. This version of the Rottweilers was one of my favorite acts, with Ki in full asskicker heel mode, Homicide as a psycho and the great Julius Smokes on the floor. Joe was great in this era too, and he is throwing huge bomb. All time great hot tag where he wastes Ki with an STO and hurls Cide to the Bronx with a belly to belly. His muscle buster gets cut off though, and he eats a huge double stomp while being draped in the ropes. The finish is an all time brutal classic, with the Rotts debuting the double stomp/cop killer combo which really looked like it might have crippled Lethal. I think I may have missed this match in 2005, but I loved it, four guys close to their peak unloading on each other for 10 minutes, great stuff.

ER: I'd never seen this match before, and it's a crazy twist ending because for the last 13 years I didn't realize I have been watching Jay Lethal's ghost. I don't know how he did not die during a couple moments of this match. Lethal's all-timer of a beating is the important meat to this match, with Homicide and Ki keeping Joe on the floor and murdering a not-able-to-legally-drink Lethal in the ring. Joe and Lethal jump them to start and hit a couple of huge dives into the entryway, but it soon settles down into Lethal getting demolished, which gives us our great Joe rampage. Joe is an absolute ball of energy here, and that corner charge STO slam was something in that era that always looked like it would knock a guy out, or knock a guy's teeth out, or both. Ki taking Joe offense is always going to be spectacular, as there's nobody maybe in wrestling history who has the body control Ki has. Joe crushes him and Ki goes superballing across the ring, and Homicide was a nice explosive bumper around this time too. Joe was such a force of nature around this time, that it's a testament to 2005 Ki and Homicide that they look like equals and not just like tiny guys who Joe has to sell for because that's how it's done. I love how they take Joe out of the match and the palpable tension when you realize they're going to wreck Lethal. Lethal gets a couple nice non-dying moments, loved his big falling clothesline to Ki, showing he was contributing more than just his own lifespan. Julius Smokes was distractingly great on the floor, just being the absolute worst annoying little brother, just teasing a fully beaten down Lethal. Smokes had his baseball bat and kept raising it up and bringing it down with violent axe blows, but not actually touching Lethal. Then he started treating Lethal's head like a cue ball, lining up his cue shot with the bat like he was the Hustler, about to take out Lethal's eyeball. It really felt like he was the annoying brother in the backseat, and his parents were yelling at him to not bother his sister, and he was going "I'm not even touching her!!!" It was amazing. The finish is disgusting, and Lethal looked like he would have a permanent kink in his neck after having it stomped and driven straight into the mat, just a wild and violent 10 minute match, totally what you'd want with these four in this era.


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