Segunda Caida

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

My Favorite Wrestling: WCW Worldwide 10/1/95

Disco Inferno vs. Barry Houston

ER: Did you know that Disco once got a Goldberg-type security entrance? I sure didn't, but it happened here. His music played for awhile, and he wasn't coming out, and we cut to the back to see Doug Dillinger knocking on his dressing room door. The door opens and Disco is combing his hair in the mirror like Tony Manero, and then he breaks out a hilarious "Ayyyyyyyyy, I'm not done combin' muh hair ova heeya", and then he does some dancing in the mirror, and then we get the long walk of Disco from his dressing room to the ring, where he takes forever to fully undress (he is also wearing the Tony Manero white suit during this era) and the music has been playing for minutes on end and Rachel calls from downstairs "What are you watching up there?" and I yell back "I'm watching WCW and it's an extremely long Disco Inferno entrance obviously!" Barry Houston is always a guy you want to show up on TV, and this is no exception. The match honestly wasn't much, all Disco quickly running through some simple spots and winning with a swinging neckbreaker. But it really made me go on an outloud tangent about how Barry Houston should have got some kind of larger role somewhere. He was too talented to wind up where he wound up, as occasional WCW TV wrestler. He got a lot of WWF attention and I remember reading about him being in their Dory Funk dojo, he was a guy clearly on everybody's radar, who never broke through. Do we know why? Is Barry Houston the best non-Gambler surprise choice for SCI? I want answers!

Kurasawa vs. Scott Armstrong

ER: I love the idea that some WCW writer took a film class in college that showed Rashomon, and a few years later gave the newest evil foreign heel the name, presumably because he couldn't remember   the name Mifune. And my god I was in. to. this. Kurosawa was really cold here, and then explosive in the right moments. He oddly had a kind of Jake the Snake vibe, but replace more of the mind games with bullying. And Armstrong is a great guy to be a bully against, because he'll fight back believably and have nice babyface comeback punches. Kurosawa caught a crossbody that wasn't easy to catch, low around his knees, and then hoisted up Armstrong in one clean and jerk, really no help from Armstrong, just yoinked him up over his shoulder. Kurasawa hits a nasty shoulderbreaker, and it's a move he could have finished with. Instead he throws Armstrong into the ropes and catches him in a great Fujiwara armbar, and holds it for 7 seconds after the ref calls for the bell. There was something incredibly satisfying about seeing that shoulderbreaker set up --> Fujiwara finish.

Alex Wright vs. The Grappler

ER: I don't think I know who the Grappler is here. I think it might be Vern Henderson, but it could be someone younger. I don't remember Grappler as a regular, so it has to be someone pulling double duty. This is kind of messy, but they pulled out some things I didn't expect, and the crowd was amped for Alex Wright, which was fun to see. Also, Bobby Heenan kept making amusing jokes the entire match implying that 19 year old Alex Wright was wearing a hairpiece.

Bobby: "How do you think he keeps his rug on when he does those armdrags?"
Tony: "He's 19 years old! He's not wearing a piece!"

It was a genuinely funny bit they were doing. There are a couple cross ups in the match, at one point Wright just runs into Grappler and get tangled up as Grappler just falls over. But he whips off fast armdrags, gets incredible height on his nice hooking heel kick (crowd especially reacted to that), he  front suplexes Grappler onto the top rope in super impressive fashion, then plants him with a great superplex. It was cool that WCW gave Wright the shot that they did.

Goddamn there have been three commercials for Jade during this episode of Worldwide and I've NEVER SEEN IT and I now really want to make it a point to watch Jade. The 90s was filled with that steamy crime trash, and it's all bad and always makes me want to see more. And Jade was like the penultimate 90s trashy detective romance sleaze, and I know that I will be watching straight to video Jade ripoffs before I ever watch Bicycle Thieves or Tokyo Story.

Big Bubba vs. Johnny Drayton

ER: This goes about 40 seconds, and is the kind of beatdown that makes me proud that this guy was one of my childhood favorites. He was a big fat guy whose belly hung over his pants in the exact same way my dad's belly did, so Bossman to me looked like my dad as a big cool wrestler instead of as a smart, polite dentist. It makes me so happy that Bossman holds up. We've all liked a ton of things at various points in our life that do NOT hold up. I'm sure we've all enjoyed things within the past 5 YEARS that don't hold up today. So 38 year old me still enjoying a wrestler that 8 year old me enjoyed? That's a special thing. I am not familiar with Drayton, but he gets attacked pretty early by a grizzly and we don't recognize the body afterwards. Bubba throws some great uppercuts and a heavy lariat, hits that polo punch lariat you wanted to see, then absolutely STICKS Drayton with the Bubba Slam. You work a 40 second match, you work it like this.

Arn Anderson vs. Sting

ER: Arn is wearing a cool gray/black scheme that I don't remember seeing him in. Looks awesome. He comes out like the best version of "guy bringing cups to a cookout" meme, just raising his hands and apoplectic at the Worldwide crowd's boos. This feels like a really big match to have on Worldwide, and there's a ton of time left in the episode. Now, this doesn't wind up going 15 minutes. Pillman runs in and jumps Sting 5 minutes in, and then Flair comes out to run them off. But up to that point we get the greatness you'd expect, with Arn being someone you couldn't take your eyes off. He stooged and fell on his butt, traded Beat It punches with Stinger, dropped a great elbow onto the top of Sting's head, and the feeling out process alone would be something you'd be into. We even get the great spot where Arn goes for the DDT but takes a hard back bump as Sting holds onto the ropes. Sting hits one of his most joy filled leaping elbowdrops afterwards. He was like a kid jumping into his swimming pool at his already-deemed-kickass 10th birthday party.

We end the show with an absolute barnburner of a promo from Flair. Flair is up on the Worldwide stage with Sting and Okerlund (and they rarely did promos from the Worldwide stage this late, in fact I don't think I've ever seen it on Worldwide after this), begging Sting to be his friend. Sting doesn't trust Flair for a second and Flair is doing all of this incredible foot stomping and demanding Sting shake his hand, begging from his knees, jumping to his feet to have a fit that Sting won't shake his hand. Flair even tries to settle for a high five and Sting won't let him have it, and we fade out with Flair finishing one of his all time great moments in comedic timing. This was no hyperbole one of the best Flair promos I've seen, total megastar. He knew the right amount of seriousness, bombast, and comedy.


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Monday, March 18, 2019

WXW Ambition 3/9/19

This is the annual shootstyle show which WXW runs 16 Carat weekend. The quality of these show usually veers wildly, but it is always interesting to check out. This of course has an all time dream match Superfight, but I figured I would check the whole thing out

Rico Bushido vs. Veit Muller

PAS: Bushido has these really flamboyant kicks, they don't always land with the appropriate amount of thud, but they are flashy. His destiny should have been a guy carried by Masakatsu Funaki in a early PWFG show. Muller is another of the seemingly endless fash looking WXW guys. Their whole roster looks like they are about to burn down a mosque. Muller is able to get through the kicks and take him down with a nice judo throw, and hits some nasty body shots and stomps on the interior knee. There are a couple of other nice scrambles with Muller landing some nasty elbows and headbutts to the sternum, his offense was definitely less dynamic, but more painful looking. Bushido wins with a jumping enziguiri which didn't land full, but looked OK. Compact and fun.

Punch Drunk Istria vs. Danny Jones

PAS: This was pretty good too, mostly grappling, which was solid, with one really great taking of the back by Jones. We get one exchange of slaps which rang out, with Istria landing one on the ear and transitioning into a cross armbreaker for the tap. Too short to really get a great idea of either guy, but certainly solid.

Laurance Roman vs. Shigehiro Irie

PAS: Another short but solid match with Roman trying to wrestle with Irie and getting tossed around the ring. Irie does nice job of using his power here, and eventually smothers Roman with a choke. Really hard to get any idea of Roman who basically gets overwhelmed.

A-Kid vs. Chris Ridgeway

PAS: This was the longest and fanciest of the first round matches. Most of the Ambition matches feel like guys just sort of sparring until a finish, this was a match with spots. There were some cool ones, Ridgeway hits a high kick which A-Kid does a great crosseyed sell of. Ridgeway was really throwing heat.  Kid does a cool Minoru Tanaka armbar take down into a crossface, and Ridgeway hits some big chest kicks into a Fujiwara. The shortness of Ambition matches kept this from bloating and it was pretty good stuff. Wouldn't mind seeing more of both guys.

Punch Drunk Istria vs. Rico Bushido

PAS: I really liked this, much more mat work from Bushido then in his first match, and he looked perfectly content. He would do a bunch of really athletic pass attempts to try to get mount, while Istria would grab limbs and twist. He spent most of the match twisting the arm and working for a chicken wing. Finish was great with Bushido countering the hammerlock with an exploder and then hits a thrust kick to the stomach for a body shot KO.

ER: This was a fun bit of twisting, agree with Phil that the passes in this - which made up the bulk of the big moments - were fun and aggressive and it was neat seeing the risks taken. Bushido would roll in like an impatient Sakuraba, one time doing a shoulder roll and trying to come up with an arm, another time sliding in on his back which allowed Istria to shift his hips and affect Bushido's landing. We get several fun scramble moments, I really liked at the beginning of the match where Bushido accidentally fell hard out of the ring; I never know if things like that are planned or if that was a built in way to make him more aggressive, but either way I liked it. Istria kept looking like he would lock in something nasty about Bushido's arm or wrist, and I loved the surprise exploder with just a simple front kick to the stomach being the finish. Taking a big foot to the lower abdomen would surely put me down, and I thought it worked great as the finish here.

Shigehiro Irie vs. Chris Ridgeway

PAS: This was worked like a poor man's Vader vs. a poor man's Takada which is a fun match structure. Irie is eating his opponents up a bit in this tourney, so we didn't get to see as much of Ridgeway in this match as his first round. I really liked Irie's clubbing forearms, and the forearms to the back of the head are a hell of a finish. 

Yuki Ishikawa vs. Timothy Thatcher

PAS: An Ishikawa master class, the kind of all time performance we can expect from one of the true greats. Thatcher tries to hang on the mat but gets out thought over and over, and eventually just starts throwing big shots, he has the size advantage and is going for the KO before Ishikawa can wrap him up with a submission. Or he would use big shots to set up simpler submissions hoping to stun Ishikawa enough so that Ishikawa couldn't trade with him, but found opportunities to sneak in a body shot or a nasty chop to the shoulder blade. At one point he ties up Thatcher's limbs and cracks him with a headbutt. The finishing run was totally awesome, Thatcher slips out of a guillotine, gets mount and starts raining down big forearms, Ishikawa evades, grabs the leg and transitions from leglock to Fujiwara to leglock, to STF for the tap, everytime Thatcher would try to counter, Ishikawa would shift to a different attack, some of the coolest counter grappling I have ever seen, what a legend. Great, great match which is going to be in contention for a top of a MOTY list all year.

ER: Magnificent match. As I was watching it I was thinking this might be the best shootstyle match this decade, and by the time the match was over I knew it was among the best shootstyle matches all time. This really stands proudly next to the best fake fighting has to offer, a fully exhilarating use of 15 minutes. This may be the most actual offense we've ever gotten from a Yuki Ishikawa match, which is a weird thing to be happening now that he's in his 50s. I always viewed him as more of a Fujiwara-like defensive wrestler, and here even when he's taking shots from Thatcher it feels like he's setting something up. And both guys to lay in some savage shots, with Ishikawa dishing out hard downward strikes to Thatcher's trap and collarbone (while tying up his head and arm) and we get a huge KO punch moment that was timed perfectly. Thatcher threw some chilling strikes, a gorgeous combo when Ishikawa pulls guard and Thatcher punches stomach while immediately following up with an elbow to the jaw, and several punches right to Ishikawa's neck. Strikes seemed like the only way Thatcher had any kind of advantage. His slaps landed harder, he threw more elbows, but almost all of them seemed out of desperation because Ishikawa was sending him regularly scrabbling for the ropes.

Ishikawa is so masterful here, turning any pass into a dangerous submission attempt, and turning every submission attempt into two other submission attempts, some at the same time! There were several moments where Thatcher looked about to tap, and I wasn't sure what specific hold at that moment was going to be the breaking point. Ishikawa looked filled with glee as he would trap Thatcher's leg, work an STF, pull an arm aside and start bending that while never letting up on his original hold. We get great moments of Thatcher desperately reaching for ropes only to have Ishikawa grab his reaching arm and start punishing it. This honestly felt like the most master class of all Ishikawa matches, improbably arriving in his 52nd year. I loved the aggression from both, with every strike thrown with the intention of opening up an opponent for a more dangerous follow up, and every sub getting worked as a possible finish. There are several years where this would have been the #1 match, and this is now two years in a row where we've been presented with a very difficult to beat MOTY contender very early in the year. If any matches start approaching this one for the #1 spot, we'll be viewing some class.

Shigehiro Irie vs. Rico Bushido

PAS: That last match is a nearly impossible act to follow. I appreciate how they tried to work a much more theatrical and flamboyant match, and while it didn't fully work for me, I think it was a smart choice. Bushido really leans into the Bruce Leroyness of his attack, lots of lightning strikes and wild kicks. Irie probably oversold some of the goofier shots which took me out of it. I did really like the finish, with Bushido leaping into a crazy choke, only to see Irie backpack bomb him on the turnbuckles. Bushido does this really fun concussion sell and falls right into the Kata Haji Me for the tap. Fun if not a little silly, and a fine finish to a nifty card.


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Sunday, March 17, 2019

2019 Ongoing MOTY List: Blue Demon Jr. vs. La Parka vs. Dr. Wagner Jr.

12. Blue Demon Jr. vs. La Parka vs. Dr. Wagner Jr. AAA 3/3

ER: This might be the oldest triple threat match that I've ever seen, every one of these dudes is in their 50s. Blue Demon is the baby of the match at just 52, and it's fascinating to me that Blue Demon only became a remotely interesting wrestler at the age of 50. He hit 50 and suddenly decided to start bleeding and bumping and it's one of the more bizarre career transformations we've seen. A lot of this is Parka and Wagner beating Demon around the building, ripping at his mask, busting him open big time, throwing sturdy as hell chairs off his face, throwing him into those same chairs, really killing him. Demon is somehow now a guy who takes a really great beating, again totally bizarre, but undeniable. He really draws some great tecnico sympathy here, and by the time he makes his big comeback I'm sitting here actually rooting for freaking Blue Demon Jr.! His tope into Wagner is truly a fantastic old guy tope. Now, this is AAA, so we need about a dozen more guys to run in for shenanigans. But when one of those guys is Rey Escorpion, you know the run in will feature enough potatoes to feed a Thanksgiving soup kitchen. Escorpion and Texano target La Parka (as well as any masked fliers dumb enough to try to stop them), with Texano throwing nasty bullrope shots and Escorpion punching him and beating him with chairs. Demon and Wagner brawl through the crowd and Wagner taps his own massive gusher. It's so wild to see these old dudes spurting blood and crashing into chairs, falling over the barricade onto concrete floor, while a half dozen guys get dispatched by two stiff maniacs who aren't even in the match. The whole thing is chaos and plays out like the best of 1995 ECW, but if everybody was as old as Terry Funk when he was in ECW.

PAS: This was a quality bit of lucha mayhem and is about as entertaining a match you can get with basically one good wrestler, although old man Blue Demon is really weirdly turning into a great brawler. It's like when Flair went to ECW and started taking all of these crazy garbage bumps, if Flair was a 30 year veteran who sucked, like instead of Flair it was Jeff Gaylord who turned himself into a cool garbage guy. This match made me excited to see Demon vs. Wagner mascara contra cabellera which isn't something I thought I would say. I dug Escorpion and Texano wrecking half the roster, while Wagner and Demon traded good looking punches and leaked all over each other. It is a good example of what a bloody half ripped mask can add to a match. Overbooked goofiness which shouldn't work but weirdly did.


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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Andre is Funky, the Bellhop's a Monkey

Andre the Giant/Jim Duggan vs. Kamala/Missing Link Houston Wrestling 9/9/83 - EPIC

ER: Phil and I are obsessed enough with wrestling that we write about it literally every day. But I can't even imagine how much more obsessed with it I would be if I got to witness something like this, live. If you needed any kind of proof that The Missing Link was a tremendous pro wrestler, this match is all the proof you need. Next time you get into one of those tired Missing Link arguments, those arguments that crop up regularly, direct naysayers to this match and laugh as their mouth physically shuts. This was a wild Missing Link bumpfest, quite the pleasant surprise, Dewey. Right from the beginning of the match he misses a charge in the corner and the ring physically moves. I mean a ringpost shifts a foot and the ropes flop for a second and everyone in the ring has a brief "oh whoa okay" and Missing Link doesn't fly so insanely into the buckles the rest of the match. Instead, he finds a dozen other ways to get tangled in the ropes on his way to bumping headfirst on the apron to the floor, or flying quickly over the top to the floor. This could dangerously lead the way down a Missing Link rabbit hole and I think I've already accepted that as I typing this sentence. Link does all these great pratfall bumps that felt like the same kind of excellent pratfall bumps Berzerker was utilizing a decade later, only there was no overlap in bumps. Link took some big ones to the floor, hitting a ton of points of contact on the way down, getting hung up stomach first in the ropes, clonking forehead to apron, tons of great bump shtick. The crowd was noisy as hell the entire time, child me probably would have been sitting there in stunned silence the whole time. Everybody else in this does what you'd want them to do. Andre is magnetic as ever, loved him working bearhug spots with Kamala, the wild Ugandan chopping at Andre's big dome while I marvel that Andre is still up to Kamala's collar bones as Andre is on his knees. This match is maybe 70% overhead chops and heavy bumps, with Missing Link dancing his way throughout the whole thing slipping on banana peels. Modern wrestling has nothing close to a match like this, and that's a problem.

PAS: This was totally boss. I love King Kong vs. Godzilla matches and this threw in Mothra and King Ghidorah too. It's pretty crazy to see guys as big and menacing as Kamala and Link working as pinball bumpers, but with Andre and peak Duggan it makes total sense. Link was great, just a total bump freak, and his headbutt is a great offensive move as well. I also really liked Kamala as a big hitter who could stand and trade with Andre at least for a bit. 83 Andre could still work at a quick pace, and the pushed pace is what made this so much better then the Andre/partner vs. Studd/Bundy tags I watched at the Oakland Coliseum as a a kid. Four huge guys hurling at each other with abandon, a hot crowd cheering every blow, what a spectacle. This was on the same show as the JYD vs. Buzz Sawyer match we reviewed a couple of weeks ago (along with Dusty vs. Bundy and II vs. Butch Reed, Jesus I need a time machine) and that has to be one of the great shows of the 1980s.


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Friday, March 15, 2019

New Footage Friday: David Von Erich, Race, Tor Kamata, Jumbo, Wahoo, Billy, Baba

Fritz Von Erich/David Von Erich vs. Harley Race Wrestling at the Chase 8/10/79

MD: This is a match that's been out there, but there's not a lot written about it, and it's nice to see it in context of an entire TV show. In fact, there's so little written about it that it's a bit hard to figure out what's going on. Obviously, this was all about getting David over. He was 21. According to the announcing, he'd already had a big draw with Race. The handicap gauntlet angle to it all seems a little weird because Fritz never makes it in, but that also plays with expectations. If I'm reading things correctly: there's more interest in the match because Fritz is potentially going to face off against Race. Everyone there had to expect Race to beat David so that they'd get to that point. It also allows for things to safely be non-title and protect Race. It makes him look big for taking the challenge and they can rationalize the finish by saying Race was looking past David to Fritz, etc.

The frustration of Race, as we've expressed before, is that everything he does looks so good. Every headbutt, gutwrench (not that he actually gets to hit it here), knee drop, underhanded shot. It all looks good. Race is a guy who consistently beat people with a vertical suplex in a time where that had started to become sort of rare and you believed it because everything looks great. He just gives up so much. Maybe it was his job to give up so much and maybe because his stuff looked so good, he had to hit less of it relatively, but you just want to see him beat the snot out of someone like David and obviously that's not happening. That's not to say David didn't look good and that some of his stuff, like those whole body stretch-overs to turn over Race's headlock into his own weren't really good and fairly unique, but I would have preferred Race take a little more of this, if only because I'm a bad human being at times when it comes to wrestling.

The finish was absolutely amazing. David catching Race off of the diving headbutt with the claw and Race bleeding all over the place. It was iconic. I realize they may have gone to that well again at some point, but it felt like the best thing that happened in wrestling in 1979. I would have 100% dropped money to see David get a title shot against Race. You would have too.

PAS:  I thought this was super impressive Race performance. David was as green as Kermit's dick, he honestly looked like a guy in one of his first couple of matches. Race totally made him look credible in multiple near falls, but also beat him good enough to really engender the crowd sympathy, there were some great looking headbutts and kneedrops. You can see why David was considered such a future star, although it feels very smoke and mirrors. I liked the idea of David insisting to go it alone, although it did rob us of Fritz vs. Race which would have been awesome. That finish was totally iconic, I love the idea of the iron claw as a total kill shot and Race leaking blood made it look like the most dangerous move in the world. What a perfect bit of business, and honestly I am shocked this isn't considered one of the great wrestling angles of the 70s and 80s, really shows how much of wrestling history is framed by availability.

Tor Kamata vs. Tiger Conway Jr. Texas Championship Wrestling 9/10/79

MD: Did you guys know that Tor Kamata was a play on Torquemada? I didn't. I've seen a decent amount of him lately as well due to the 1980 AJPW footage. He's pretty much what you'd expect, a slightly more mobile Abby with slightly less presence, able to whip out those jump kicks and at least an attempt at a dropkick, and to get off his feet on bumps a bit more. The constant bowing went from being irritating to serene as he went over the top with it (and as Conway went full on 70s kung fu in mocking it). Tiger, as we stated before, is a guy that we're lucky to have learned a lot more about through Houston footage. That means we can place a match like this into a more proper context instead of just seeing it as a one-off. He was a great regional star, and in this match he manages to play a ton of different roles: fiery and taking it to Kamata with brawling, working from underneath, comedically mocking him, picking up the pace and flying, working around ringside using whatever he could get his hands on. All that and a great connection to the crowd too. I don't think this was an amazing find relative to some of the other things we watch, but it feels like another piece of that Conway, Jr. puzzle.

PAS: I really enjoyed this, I am sucker for a guy with a good throat chop, and Kamata was a perfectly fine guy for Conway to do his thing around. Conway is a great fired up babyface and gets plenty of chances to fire himself up. I thought the finishes to all of the falls were super cool, the diving top rope tope by Conway to win the first fall, the super unexpected diving top rope throat thrust by Kamata (was not expecting that guy to go to the top) and the tope to the back of the head by Conway, into the crazy over the top bump for the DQ. Conway feels like one of the true great flyers of the 70s and early 80s and has been great every time we have seen him. This isn't a classic like the Valentine match, but it is a bunch of fun.

Giant Baba/Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Billy Robinson/Wahoo McDaniel AJPW 10/17/80

MD: There are some things you learn almost instantly from this match. It's a crime there aren't a slew more Wahoo/Robinson matches out there. Wahoo/Baba is a more compelling pairing than you ever would have imagined: the dueling stylized chops are a thing of vicious beauty. In a match with Billy Robinson in it, it's Wahoo's nasty joint manipulation on Baba's hands that I'll remember six months from now. I've seen dozens of Jumbo/Baba matches by now, but Wahoo and Robinson really got the best out of them, highlighting two different types of intensity, with Baba grinding in and using his size and Jumbo bursting forth at high speed. Like I said before, Robinson and Wahoo worked so well together: the mauling of Baba's hand/arm was great, most especially Wahoo stepping on it so that it was outstretched for Billy to come off the second rope on it with a stomp. This was constant struggle with just enough over-the-top wrestling trappings to make it sizzle. Are any of the singles matches between Wahoo and Baba out there?

PAS:  This was a match that had some really fun parts with never getting out of first gear. Loved Wahoo vs. Baba, it felt a bit "greatest hits" for a matchup I hadn't seen before (cagematch has two singles which we can hope show up at some point), loved the chops to the hand, super nasty and a great way for a chopper to foil another chopper. Robinson always looks so smooth and he also really took chunks out of Baba's arm. I just wished this hummed a little more, it had great moments, but it just kind of finished without a big crescendo.

ER: There's a moment in this where Billy Robinson jumps off the middle rope onto Baba's wrist and Baba's weird long Nosferatu wrist sits there crooked in air and it's an incredible wrestling moment. Nothing else could have happened in this match, and I would have still been completely into it. We did get more of that, so that hypothetical was just a waste of your time, but goddamn that was a great spot. Robinson and Wahoo are a cool tag team who tagged a lot, that I haven't actually watched tag a lot. So seeing them work over Baba's wrist and punch him in his giant ribcage is something I wanted to see on a Friday night. I don't think I've see a Wahoo match where he he goes after a limb as aggressively as he and Billy go after Baba's weird long arm. This felt like more of a chillll house show match than a big classic tag with four huge stars, but every year, older and older I get, the more I really really like chill house show matches. There's a simple satisfaction watching big star minimalism, and it's a great end of work week bleary eyed view. Seeing Robinson snap Baba over with a headscissors just makes my week.

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

On Brand Segunda: Faarooq vs. Kama! Blue Panther as Rusher Kimura!

Faarooq vs. Kama Mustafa WWF Shotgun Saturday Night 6/20/98

ER: This isn't necessarily a great match, but it's a pretty damn cool match because it is completely different than the short match WWE structure that came over the next 20 years. This feels much more like a WCW match from this era, who had no problems throwing out "slugfest" style matches, and it didn't have any kind of WWE structure tropes (no extended consecutive run of offense from either guy, no chinlock spot to build to a babyface comeback), so the whole thing felt very foreign and unique. Charles Wright is a pretty frustrating wrestler. He was really big (6'6", 300+ lb.) and moved pretty quick, but never had a ton of thump to any of his offense. But this might be the best match I've seen him involved in. Are there actual good Soultaker/Kama/Papa Shango/Godfather matches, in particular singles matches? I can't remember any. Well, here's one. The movement and energy in this whole match was top notch. It was go go go but based around ass beating instead of "kewl moves" and that is the best kind of go go go. There were a couple lariats that felt a little light, but damn does Faarooq come off like a great southern regional babyface here, taking the strap down right as the match starts and working super aggressive. I loved how he whipped Kama around ringside with his belt, hit his nice flying shoulderblock to send Kama to the floor (which lead to a great moment where he missed that same shoulderblock off the top when Kama sidestepped him and smacked him on his way down. Kama works nice body shots and a hard as hell avalanche. Faarooq was a great babyface with the way he would always fight back to transition, but there were several moments where he wasn't a great opponent for Kama, tanking a couple moments with bizarre selling choices. Kama threw nice body shots in the corner and Faarooq didn't even budge for them; later Kama hits a mule kick to the stomach and Faarooq just takes a slow flat back bump from it, which makes zero sense from a physics standpoint. But there's a ton of other stuff that owns and keeps the whole match moving at a pace that WWF heavyweights just didn't often work. Loved Faarooq eating knees on a standing splash, dug a big time mid-ring collision, dug the brawl to count out. This was really good, and wasn't more than a few little things away from being great.

Blue Panther/Stuka Jr./Esfinge vs. Felino/Barbaro Cavernario/Luciferno CMLL 2/12/19

ER: This match had a kind of sloppy, disheveled charm that I really liked, feeling like a lucha version of an opening match All Japan trios that had a couple of the comedy old guys, and a couple young juniors. Blue Panther is finally starting to show his age. Others saw it earlier than I did, but at this point he isn't moving like a guy who is going to be doing three dives and a cool rana in one match. But I love this guy's scruffy face and smiling eyes, and I hope I get to see him be Rusher Kimura forever. Panther has the charisma and ability to be a great Rusher, and that's on display here. He had a fun sequence in the corner with Barbaro, making Milton Berle faces while taking punches, then yanking on Barbaro's hair before jumping off the buckles into a hair drag. He got tangled amusingly when working mat stuff, stumbling like a cute old man when finishing rollups, still working fun sunset flip sequences, and playing to the fans more than anybody. Mildly resurgent Felino is also a thing I really like. He was an early favorite when I started watching lucha 20+ years ago, and then some years later he became the most annoying guy in CMLL. Most annoying guy in a fed that has Volador Jr. is a thing that bummed me out, so I like seeing him work a little harder these last couple years, really ever since his sons gained some prominence. His shtick is a little better (teasing a shirt removal is always a win) and he shows he can still work a fun quick showoff segment, and I like that there's still something there. Barbaro really comes off like a star in matches like these, feels like a guy who will be as big a star as his body will let him. He's not doing splashes from the top to the floor anymore (right!?) but he is still a crazy man, and his fantastic corkscrew press through the ropes to the floor was an incredible looking dive that blows away any dive by Audaz or any of those more brazen fliers. Stuka is a guy who I think I rate higher than most, and I like him in matches like these, feels like a modern guy with late 80s lucha sensibilities. Esfinge hits a really big dive, we get an abundance of funny uncle in an Olive Garden commercial Blue Panther, and it all made me feel the way only lucha can make me feel.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Matches from Glory Pro 2/24/19

Tom Lawlor vs. Sharkbait

ER: Sharkbait is Anthony Gutierrez, a former MMA guy who was on a season of Ultimate Fighter, and Lawlor against other MMA guys has always delivered. Sharkbait is pretty raw, this was apparently his 30th match, but it's probably easier to thrive against someone who can work your own style. There are a ton of cool moments with he and Lawlor doing some inspired stand and trade, much more interesting than typical stand and trade as there is no timed rhythm to it, just awkward hard shots interrupting other awkward hard shots. I loved Sharkbait's hard kicks to the front of Lawlor's thighs and his snapped off inner leg kicks, and Lawlor would fire back with slaps, a hard chop to the neck, a couple of big heel kicks right to the upper ribs, all nasty looking stuff. There was a killer moment where Sharkbait jumped onto Lawlor to grab a guillotine choke and try to drag him to the mat, and Lawlor starts throwing hard as hell shots right into the ribcage until the grip is loosened, allowing Lawlor to muscle him up into a vicious vertical suplex. There are some moments where Sharkbait bites off more than he can chew (har har) almost murdering Lawlor with a standing Spanish Fly, but sometimes his overreach benefits the match, like when he goes for a standing shooting star and Lawlor shifts his weight so Sharkbait lands face to knee. This was a real nice, brisk 10 minutes, totally delivered what I was hoping for.

Eddie Kingston vs. PACO

PAS: This was the rubber match of a series between these two and my first look at Paco, who is kind of a white meat babyface highflyer. Fun opening fall with Paco getting a flash Code Red pin seconds in. Kingston then beats on Paco for most of the second fall and wins with a deep roll up. Paco jumps Eddie during the rest break and chop blocks his knee, and we get what we always want from an Eddie Kingston match, an injury sell. Paco basically turns heel in the third fall, working over Eddie's knee, refusing to break on rope breaks, etc. His offense wasn't anything special, but Kingston is magic at working a bum wheel, I loved how he threw his clotheslines, all arm because he couldn't plant on the knee. Paco gets a couple of near falls on nice looking short superkicks, but Kingston gets the win with a big flurry of backfist, backdrop, backfist. We get a nice post match with Kingston offering a hand to the youngster earning his respect, a meaningful hug, and then a Paco cheapshot. Kingston is so good at facially selling both the respect at the beginning and the hurt and fury over the cheapshot. Paco was fine in this, but this was Kingston doing his thing, and he does it better then anyone.

ER: As a 2/3 fall match, I loved how this was laid out and loved how Kingston handled everything in the match. I didn't think PACO looked great, certainly not a guy I'm going out of my way to watch, but I love seeing what Kingston can do with anybody. I'm not sure who would be an uninteresting Kingston opponent for me, he's a guy like Necro Butcher who even if I strongly dislike his opponent, I'd still be interested in that guy I hate getting worked over. I dug PACO getting a flash code red to immediately take a fall, then love Kingston effortlessly working him over in the segunda. PACO has pretty lousy offense in the segunda (ugly rana, spinkicks that are light as air), so it was great seeing Kingston shrug off some questionable strikes with an eyepoke here and a few palm strikes there, holding a vertical suplex for a long while, king of the body language and showing PACO that. Now PACO actually gets interesting in the third fall, as he chop blocks Kingston immediately after getting pinned, and as Phil says we finally get what we paid for out of a Kingston match: Kingston selling a limb. PACO's offense appeared to actually get better as he got meaner, as all his stuff in the third fall looked far better than his stuff in the second fall. But, I'd much rather see someone bouncing their shins off Kingston's head than making him do all the work on a half-assed rana. Kingston selling his knee is great, not showy, just not forgotten, with cool touches like not being able to complete moves with full power, and not even able to lean in for a good pinfall due to also holding onto his bad leg. Lesser wrestlers would have made a big production out of those moments - if they acknowledged them at all - but Kingston always hits the right notes. I liked some of PACO's targeted attack, working the half crab and kicking Kingston's knee out at the perfect time when Kingston was going for a backfist. It did irk me how much damage PACO was able to take. I'm wholly unfamiliar with his prior work, but nothing he showed me in this match made me think he should have been able to stay in a sustained war with Kingston. I was especially annoyed at a moment where he hit knees on a frog splash attempt (where I thought the match should have ended) and just hopped up after almost getting pinned to hit a superkick. But Kingston must have felt my irritation through the screen (two weeks later) and immediately decides to ice this punk, throwing backfists and a major back suplex to end him. Wrestling isn't going to be as good without Eddie Kingston around.


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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Pro Wrestling Revolution Road Report 3/9/19

ER: Jun Akiyama has been wrestling for 27 years, and he decided to work his first ever match in the United States on a Saturday night in San Francisco high school for a lucha fed that doesn't have any actual lucha on it. Why not? We hit up Papito on the way down, me, Tim Livingston, and our friends Sean and Jason. A good crew for a wrestling show. Papito is this great Mexican place owned by a French guy who makes fantastic food. I foolishly had a late lunch, so just sat there sipping sangria and munching chips while Tim got shrimp tacos, Sean got a pork/duck meat combo, and Jason got a great big burrito. I was jealous, but it was my choice and being gluttonous at 38 isn't as fun as it was at 21. That chorizo hamburguesa with queso fresco, avocado, and caramelized onions was staring me in the face on the menu, tempting me with greasy memories. But eating that close together would have had me feeling like total trash through a 3 hour show, so I sad eyed my way through it. We got to the show a little late, and then there was a very long line for being 20 minutes past listed door time. Our saint from above, our friend Brian was inside having come from a different direction, SAVING four other seats. This show was genuinely PACKED and that move probably got him a couple aggressive stares. It was loud as hell throughout a large portion of the night, real cacophonous gym with a full crowd, lots of air horns.

We got there late from dinner and the long line in, so we missed a 6 man scramble match. Our friend Brian - who had saved FOUR seats through a 20 minute late start time AND a full match - when asked about his opinion of the scramble match, wrinkled his nose and narrowed his eyes, and tilted his head a little. A wordless, unimpressed dismissal of six men's nights' work.

Papa Esco/El Dinamita vs. Viento/Rey Leon

ER: This was a perfectly fine tag. One of the tecnicos comes out to Sweet Child of Mine which is one of those cheesy things that means your brain is wired to become of professional independent pro wrestler. Papa Esco is a fun fat guy with a singlet that even says Fat Boy. He has a good fat guy build, nice and sturdy, bald head and big beard. He's not mega fat, but he looks like someone left Monsta Mack in the dryer a little too long. Viento appeared to be the better of the tecnicos as far as fluidity, but he was also in there more with Esco, who is the much better base. Dinamita was really clumsy during some sequences, especially poor at taking offense (which is not a good sign from a rudo), but Esco is really good at taking armdrags, has that great chubby base pendulum style bumping down. This was fine. Esco is one of the PWR homegrowns that I like, so was at minimum hoping for a decent showcase for him, and got it.

Puma Negro vs. Sonico vs. Arkedy Federov vs. Matt Fury

ER: Matt Fury was originally supposed to be Jungle Boy, but due to the week's circumstances Jungle Boy was obviously not here. I didn't catch the name of his replacement, but he was a black flier who my friend Sean kept referring to as "athletic" and wasn't sure why Jason and I kept giving him a hard time about it. He didn't repeatedly refer to Federov as "hard working" so the likely scenario is that Sean doesn't know sports code. Fury got good height on some things and hit a pretty spectacular springboard shooting star press into the entranceway onto everyone, but felt like he put more thought into ways to do high leapfrogs instead of transitions. My favorites in the match were Puma Negro and Sonico. Federov was okayish, but had some really clunky set up on indy offense. There was a moment where he did some awful 9 step set-up kind of move, grabbing an arm, dipping opponent back into a backbreaker, pulling them to feet before locking into a pumphandle, you know one of those moves that needs someone to be perfectly still while you do your 9 point pre-check before dropping them on their face. But Sonico was a real pleasant surprise, a guy I'd love to see again around here. He got real high height leaping off the ropes for ranas and had a really great fast dive. Puma Negro was an Arkangel type rudo, had a nice stiff arm southpaw lariat just like Arkangel's, good base for Sonico's ranas, had a cool sunset flip variation. Federov ends the match with an awful waffle that looked super dangerous. Overall this is what you'd like from a 10 minute 4 way.

Nicole Savoy vs. Heather Monroe

ER: A 13 minute match that probably would have been much better off settling in around 9. Monroe showed a ton of charisma and personality during her ring entrance, really looked like someone who owned the ring and would be a great heel. Once the match started that completely vanished. The way she was stalking the apron and dismissing the crowd during her entrance felt like the kind of confidence that would immediately translate to the match, but the bell rung and she was completely silent. The middle of the match was a long Monroe control segment that was easily the most quiet the crowd got all night, and her stuff didn't look great. Savoy's moments where much better, nice high kick, even better German, tough fisherman buster, big tope (that Monroe caught nicely) but Monroe took way too much of this. It's only a matter of time before Savoy is in NXT, and she's super easy to root for, but the structure of this was all off.

ER: We had an ongoing bet over how long the intermission would go. I had 33 minutes, I laughed at Tim's guess of 25 minutes. To my shock they ended up coming back right at the 25 minute mark. I HATE intermissions, while begrudgingly understanding their purpose, and PWR's intermissions are filled with incredibly loud music blared into a cramped gymnasium. If I sound old, I genuinely don't care. So I leave to stretch my legs and in the hallway I run into Roy Lucier. Roy has been the true MVP of the online wrestling community these past few years, as he's been uploading a wealth of rare and unique wrestling footage in easily searchable categories, at an incredibly fast pace. Old tape traders seem like they always get along when meeting, and he and I got to chat for a good 20 minutes. He told me about a few things he's recently received that are VERY exciting. We even talked about saving it for Christmas because some of it is a gift that has been seen by very few of us. Talking about wrestling with people is fun, real glad we bumped into each other, been a long time coming. You'll be seeing plenty of Roy's uploads written about by us over the next several (!) years.

Tajiri vs. Super Crazy

ER: This feud was pretty important to late teens me, really was some of my absolute favorite stuff at that time and really worked as one of my gateways to wanting to see more and more wrestling from Japan and Mexico. It was cool seeing them run it back now that both are in the back end of their 40s, and this felt like a fun take on the familiar Tajiri/Crazy matches only done by guys in the back end of their 40s. The speed wasn't going to be there, but the ability to work a crowd was there and they knew what they could get by with. Tajiri was getting good reactions just stalking the ring, and he amusing worked the match like a Repo Man match. Tajiri kept going for headlocks and it was pretty great, due to their expert veteran timing. It really could have killed a crowd, as the buzz would be building, fans would start loudly anticipating a Crazy comeback, and right when the comeback was about to happen Tajiri would trick him into a headlock again. Every time the crowd reaction would get louder before the headlock, before Tajiri would quiet them. Tajiri doesn't do fast roundhouse wheel kicks or high kicks anymore, but instead threw a few nice front kicks, just pushing off with a couple stiff kicks to Crazy's chest or chin. Crazy is definitely chubbier these days, but he still gets the exact same height and rotation on his spinkick, hit a moonsault off the middle that looked just like a moonsault of his from '99, and even missed a moonsault off the top that had some of the absolute best arc and grace of anyone to have ever done a moonsault. His form is still that impressive. The finish was really fantastic as the ref gets briefly bumped, and in that brief moment where the ref isn't looking, Tajiri swings off Super Crazy with a cool armdrag...and mists Crazy while midair in the middle of the armdrag. Great visual.

Jun Akiyama/Ultimo Dragon/Misterioso vs. Vinny Massaro/Colt Stevens/JR Kratos

ER: So before the match they ran around passing streamers to ringside fans, and then promoter Gabe got on the mic and explained to the crowd how to throw streamers, and I think it comes off pretty silly to do a quickie "okay Japanese wrestlers only know you respect them if you throw neon garbage at them". Akiyama does come off like a boss during his ring entrance, wearing a large robe, clearly a guy who felt like a big deal to people (actually many in the crowd) who had no idea who he was. But damn if those streamers didn't look cool during his ring introduction (poor Ultimo was a Japanese man who was apparently shown zero respect, streamers for Akiyama only. We felt bad for Ultimo). Bay area indies have been kicking around "Border Patrol" teams since at least the mid 90s and I'm thankful as hell we don't get any bad "build the wall" shtick from Stevens and Kratos. Vinny is in for a lot of this and the fans are way into Akiyama, which felt great. This wasn't going to be some wild match, it was going to be worked like a NOAH house show match, which was just fine, all that was needed. The rudos worked over Misterioso nicely, especially loved a long full arm lariat from Vinny, and a big release snap suplex from Kratos (a snap vertical suplex, but he let go so Misterioso flew across the ring, looked great). Akiyama came in on two occasions, laid in some nice knees including a great leaping knee into Stevens, and you knew we were getting at least one exploder. They mix it up and don't just go straight for the finish when he tags in the second time, and we even got a cool surprise nearfall from Stevens. I would have loved to see the reaction if Akiyama got pinned. But of course that wasn't REALLY going to happen. This was a perfectly fine crowd pleasing main event, and nothing more, and it didn't need to be.

ER: I've still yet to see a GREAT match from PWR, and they've been around for at least a decade now. But this was a packed house, a genuinely sold out show, with a crowd that stayed loud and invested throughout the whole card. That's a special thing.

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Monday, March 11, 2019

2019 Ongoing MOTY List: Ringkampf vs. Irie/YUKI ISHIKAWA BABY!!

2. Ringkampf (Timothy Thatcher/WALTER) vs. Shigehiro Irie/Yuki Ishikawa WXW 3/7

PAS: I have been beating the drum for someone to bring in Ishikawa and have him work this new generation of mat guys, ever since he moved to Canada. For some reason the first fed to do it is all the way over in Germany, still here he is, and it is marvelous. Thatcher is clearly a guy who grew up on BattlArts and he fits right in like a glove, every time he and Ishikawa match up they never stop adjusting and countering and moving, there are some really dope counters in this match, at one point Ishikawa suckers Thatcher into an omaplata by initially attacking his arm and it was the kind of cool mat wrestling even the best of the new generation can't pull off. There is a section near the end, where Ishikawa tries four different arm attacks, each countered until he finally locks on a seated Fujiwara which WALTER has to break up.  WALTER and Irie are your big thumping meatheads, they have some big slugfest sections with each other, and some nifty exchanges with Thatcher and Ishikawa as well. I loved Ishikawa liver shotting WALTER from the mount, only to get swatted King Kong style from the ground by WALTER's catchers mitt. Finish run focused on Thatcher vs. Irie, which was good stuff and left plenty of Thatcher vs. Ishikawa meat on the bone for their singles match. Ishikawa's body looks a little older, but he doesn't seem to have lost a step in the ring. I loved that this happened, and loved how it turned out.

ER: In one weekend Jun Akiyama wrestles in the US for the first time in his 27 year career, and Yuki Ishikawa wrestles in Germany for the first time in his 27 year career. I have no idea why now, for either of them, but I'm overjoyed I got to see the former in person, and the latter at all (with presumably a couple more matches on the way including the dream singles match vs. Thatcher). This tag was a ton of fun, I love seeing WALTER up against a pair of guys sturdy enough that they won't make me eyeroll when they come back against that beast. We've all wanted to see Thatcher/Ishikawa match up ever since that became a possibility (jeez Thatcher's trip to Canada was probably over two years ago at this point) and these two absolutely delivered against each other. I was live for every exchange between the two, especially when Thatcher came right out and hit Ishikawa harder than Ishikawa was throwing. Ishikawa with both hands gripped behind Thatcher's neck, forcing his shinbone into Thatcher's throat was not something I expected to see today, but I'm happy I did. Irie is a big meaty son, like a less snacky Yutaka Yoshie, and Thatcher was a cruel cruel man going after Irie's joints, twisting hard at his ankle, and I dug all Irie's stuff opposite WALTER. From the first moment those two slammed into each other and didn't budge on a shoulderblock, they had me. I mean good lord WALTER yanking Irie's leg around before dragging it into a disgusting single crab, and we even got a couple big time belly to belly suplexes. Some of my favorite stuff in this was based around moves that never ended up happening, and the struggle around them, like WALTER trying to powerbomb Irie but Irie holding that back of WALTER's legs with all his might to prevent it. And I dug that Irie got to pay back all of Thatcher's joint manipulation by absolutely throwing down some Vader style swinging arms. You could really see Thatcher's head get rocked a couple times, then  goes down to the body and it all looks great. Irie really could have been the odd man out in this but he slotted nicely with three varying degrees of legend, and this delivered what anybody could have possibly wanted.


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Sunday, March 10, 2019

WWE Fastlane 3/10/19 Adjacent-to-Live Blog

Shinsuke Nakamura/Rusev vs. New Day

ER: Lana's got a cool new shoulder length 'do, though it's styled a bit too triangularly. This is kicking off the pre-show, and was treated as such when it got the smaller square of screen during a Roman Reigns promo vid, and the smaller screen on a cutaway to Miz talking with his dad and Shane. Rusev and Nak cut off Wood's tag to Big E well enough, but nothing flashy or very interesting. This feels like a house show match, without the charm of a house show match. Rusev and Nak are complementary partners, but they don't do a ton more than stop action here and Nak just always seems lethargic. I liked Woods' missile dropkick off the top, and Big E has the greatest standing splash in pro wrestling history, with no close contenders coming to mind. Finishing stretch gets betters when some interference from Lana adds intrigue to a nearfall, and both Rusev and Nak bump to the floor to set up Woods hitting a flip dive, which they catch and powerbomb him on the floor. But as a heel team both of these guys seem completely uninterested in making things interested, and it's rare that the crowd is this quiet for the very first wrestling action they're seeing, but there it is. This match got plenty of time to do something, but this wasn't it. Pre-show matches don't typically feel this low energy.

Shane McMahon/The Miz vs. The Usos

ER: Shane is actually plenty good at doing things like armdrags and has a nice Russian leg sweep, because he throws his body entirely into the move, guy is pretty fearless with landings. His stuff only really falls apart whenever he thinks his strikes look good. The second he starts throwing strikes in matches it looks like a bad White Collar Brawlers bumper. I'm not sure who decided to start the evening's action with these two tags back to back, but it feels like someone is specifically trying to highlight how poor Rusev and Nakamura are in their current roles, as the Usos immediately step into a cut off the ring situation and work a far more interesting match with the same formula. Shane is a really fun FIP for them and there's a great moment where the Usos shoot him into a rope running sequence with one of them forcing Shane's movement with a dropdown, leading to him eating a lariat the way someone would eat a good spear. Miz has a spirited hot tag that the crowd is hyped for, even coming in with a springboard axe handle, and ends it with him doing a big plancha off the top onto both Usos. I'm not sure I've seen Miz do either of those things, and he's clearly playing to the hometown crowd and they love it. We go into the run that feels like the finish, and Usos are really good at bringing the match back from those moments to get more heat. The whole match builds to a ridiculous spot where Miz is on the mat and an Uso is slumped in the corner, with Shane and the other Uso on opposite buckles. Uso and Shane jumped at the same time and I guess it was supposed to look like Shane intercepting him out of mid air? It looked like two guys trying to avoid each other at the last minute, and then not sure what either was supposed to be selling upon landing. They both kind of held their balls and kicked their legs. It might have seemed spectacular on paper, but it came off confusing and overly thought out in execution, took away from the finish for me. I don't care about, nor do I understand the Shane turn, so I FF my way through. From what I did see, I'm amused that Shane appeared to tighten up his strikes for the first time since his comeback. He threw a couple of closed fist body shots to Miz that were better than any strikes he's thrown in an actual match the past year.

Mandy Rose vs. Asuka

ER: Really excited about this one even though I'm not sure it can deliver to my expectations. I've seen them both (especially Mandy) have such strong house show work, and that doesn't seem to come through nearly as often on TV. I know there's a good match to be had here though. But I fully dig how they start this, doing some quick mat reversals and some nice stuff around a waistlock, ending with Mandy locking in a nice octopus hold that Asuka reverses into an even better octopus. They don't bring many strikes into it until 4 minutes in, thought that was cool. Though once they do get to strikes Asuka comes up too short on what's supposed to be a big knockdown high kick, so that was awkward. Mandy has a couple really nice knee strikes, a great high knee early in the match, and a nice moment with Asuka missing her hip attack and getting hung in the ropes before eating a knee. Finish was a little sudden but had a nice set-up that felt like a Finlay agented spot: Sonya had lifted up the ring skirt at ringside to get a kendo stick from under the ring, and Mandy got reversed into the ropes, slipped on the ring skirt that had been gathered into the ring, and then got to her feet just in time to eat Asuka's heel across the right side of her face. The finish didn't really feel built to, and the match was a bit underwhelming, but the finish was great. They even do a slo-mo replay at the end that felt like the first time you saw Misawa rearrange Kawada's face in slo-mo with an elbow, seeing Asuka's boot turn Mandy's face into a rubbery Jim Carrey expression.

Kofi Kingston vs. Cesaro/Sheamus

ER: This was an angle, not really a match, and the fans hated it but in the way that will make them cheer louder for Kofi when he actually gets his big singles match. So it wasn't very exciting for me to see a 2 on 1 beatdown, and the fans didn't want to see it, but it felt like something that would at least advance the angle. I did like when the crowd was chanting This Is Boring, Cesaro said, "No, this is OVER!" before going for a pin.

Ricochet/Aleister Black vs. Chad Gable/Bobby Roode vs. The Revival

ER: I've been so hyped for Revival this past year, Dawson especially might be my favorite WWE male to watch right now. I like how this turns into both Revival and Roode/Gable working over Ricochet, really wish that would go on for the duration, it's a fun layout you don't often see from a triple threat tag (which is a clunky concept). Ricochet snaps off a nice headscissors and after that it's all him getting worked over. Dawson has a great back suplex, does nasty things like tear at his nose, Gable comes in and snaps Ricochet's arm around by trapping it in his ankles and dropping a knee on it. Gable bumps big for an Aleister front kick, though I think Roode might have been the weakest choice for guy to take all of Black's hot tag offense. I dug the sequence of Gable rolling through the chaos theory German before Wilder hit a top rope splash onto Gable; Black totally made the sequence by flailing all four of his limbs wildly as he was going over for the suplex. WWE guys are almost always really great at setting up those runs of chain smoking offense, where one guy hits a move only to get up and get hit by someone else's move. They aren't easy to naturally layout but someone there must be great at doing so. However, I don't think they're good at all at setting up big spots involving EVERY member of the match. I hate when a match like this devolves into the moment everyone is waiting around for, grinds things to a halt too much and the spot always looks too prepared. Ricochet hits a wild as hell dive over the ringpost, but I think that 6 person spot (Dawson getting rana'd to the floor onto everyone) peaked the match awkwardly and made the finish coming shortly after come off flat.

R-Truth vs. Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Samoa Joe

ER: What a bunch of dirty dogs, telling me I was getting more Mysterio/Andrade and instead getting another multiman. I actually got the push notification from WWE telling me "Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio kicks off the pre-show!" so I am not sure what kind of last minute call got made or what angle I blew past. The whole things starts off as a pretty great Joe showcase. He was really turning it on, loved his tope onto everyone, his corner chops looked brutal, and his headbutts looked great. Joe appears to be working at 2006 stiffness levels and I know it won't last, but it looks great while we're getting it. Rey is getting as high on offense as ever, and it makes no sense. His hang time always looks so damn elegant, and he makes implausible stuff look effortless, like giving a leaping rana to Andrade and Truth at the same time. My mind blows wide open when I suddenly realize that we've never seen Mysterio or Joe oppose one another until the past couple months. I'm watching them work, watch Joe take a great tornado DDT off the side of his head, and just thinking about what natural dance partners they make...and realize we've only ever even seen them dance together three times, all from the past couple months. Some nice moments down the stretch, Andrade had a gorgeous tornillo to the floor, Vega got involved and you know it was good because she lost an earring, and a lot of the ringwork looked good, but I again thought it could have used more build, and could have gone through a ton more nearfalls.

Sasha Banks/Bayley vs. Nia Jax/Tamina

ER: Boss Hugg would have been such a great name for the tag team, they were this close but they went and fell on their face with their actual name. And this starts off plenty good. Tamina is less offensive than normal, and every quick tag in to Nia is Fia. Tamina would handily carry the brunt of working over Bayley, then Nia would come in and plant her with a powerbomb, and get right back out. I would have liked them building more to Sasha coming in, think they should have had Bayley miss a couple tags first. Tamina is so damn lumbering while taking offense, she moves like she's wearing a suit of armor. Then they go for a spot where Tamina backdrops Sasha into a Nia Samoan drop, but Tamina whips Sasha WAY too fast into Nia and the spot gets wrecked but Nia saves Sasha from a vertical landing, so that counts for something. I did like Tamina's missed charge into the ringpost, so that's something, and Bayley hitting a tope onto everyone looked great, even though it crossed my mind that was the 4th time that near exact thing had happened, and the 3rd match in a row. That's not helping the freshness feel of this show, which has very much underwhelmed so far. I would mess with a Nia/Beth Phoenix feud though. Aw shit, Natalya is involved in it. My sails appear to no longer have wind in them.

Kevin Owens vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Mustafa Ali

ER: Fans are naturally acting like puds because they aren't getting Kofi/Bryan on this specific show, but they're clearly building to that, so it's annoying when they try to tank a different match when they will eventually get what they want anyway. It's like they're turning on Ali even though they were all in Ali's ass like 3 weeks ago. It's this obnoxious thing where the loudest fans in these situations are the ones who think WWE is somehow screwing them and not pushing their favorites, but Kofi is a guy they've been officially flipping out for now a month. People clearly dug Kofi before, but none of these people were clamoring for Kofi to get a long singles run with 8 star matches against Bryan before that. They were shown Kofi was worth getting behind, and then started acting like they somehow weren't getting what they wanted, while thinking they're making a demand against authority, who actually agrees with what they think they're rebelling against. It makes no sense. Anywho...

Bryan's demeanor in these scraps really is incredible, guy leers around the ring and looks like someone with no time for bullshit. Ali is doing his best in a dumb situation and takes an insane bump off the top, looking like he falls forever before hitting the floor. Crowd appears to be less shitty after that. This match obviously would have been much more interesting if it was a singles match between any two of these guys. We've had one singles match on this show and it feels like one of those indy shows that are nothing but 6 man scrambles, and 3 way tag matches. The pacing is totally screwed because every match feels like a variation on the same match. There's plenty of actual great looking stuff in this - Ali hitting a 450 to the freaking apron, Owens almost damn dying flipping too fast on a tope con hilo (and almost smashing his face into the announce desk), Ali bumping his way into shutting the fans up and hitting a big ass high arc Spanish Fly - but the triple threat stip kept taking me out of the match. There's a wild sequence down the stretch where Ali gets shoved off the top and basically does a moonsault landing on his feet to the floor (my poor ankles would be at 90 degree ankles best case scenario), then Bryan misses a leaping knee off the apron, and Ali hits a wicked tornado DDT on him, Bryan whipping super fast into it. But it felt like the actual finish came too quickly after that, felt like Bryan was back in the ring too quick after what felt like a big moment. Him kneeing Ali out of the sky looked like something that should definitely end a match though, so no complaints about what finished, but plenty of complaints about how we got to there.

Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch

ER: Charlotte's boots are sick as hell, probably my favorite thing on the show so far. The maroon and gold scheme doesn't go with her magenta gear, which means Charlotte just needs to get herself some damn maroon and gold gear! Maroon is an underutilized gear color (he says, without taking even one second to think about it). And this match was great. Lynch comes out limping and Charlotte mocks her and spends the whole time going after Becky's leg, and it's the best stuff. There are a bunch of nasty short spills that Becky is forced to take, and they do some shots that look like they came straight out of BattlArts, no joke. Little things like Becky kicking at the side of Charlotte's knee from her back, or Charlotte kicking at Becky's knee while standing over her. Honestly it felt like Ikeda vs. Ishikawa in parts, and I realize how stupid I can come off saying that. Charlotte practically dumps Becky onto her head hitting a sliding tackle into her knee, and I'm all in on it. Becky fights in with little cornered animal attacks, Charlotte takes a big bump off the top, and the thought of a figure 8 seems even more exhilarating since Lynch's has had her knee smacked around for a week. Naturally we get a Ronda run in, giving Becky a nasty as hell punch while about to maybe get tapped, giving Becky the win and the Mania appearance. I'm thankful as all hell I remain purposely oblivious to Ronda Rousey Online Activity, so I'm going to also assume that she hasn't done anything stupid this week on the internet. So saying that, I absolutely love her shitty smirk and bad eye makeup as she stands in the corner, and I could see this match being the best match at Mania.

Baron Corbin/Bobby Lashley/Drew McIntyre vs. The Shield

ER: I'm just not caring about this one too much, and that's too bad because Shield trios were my absolute joint in a not too distant past. I don't care about the Shield anymore. It's over. The McIntyre/Roman moments felt like they should have been better, and the crowd is really quiet the whole time. This has been a pretty suck crowd almost the whole night, honestly. It gets better when Dean hits a really nice elbow off the top to the floor, there's a big powerbomb, and they work some decent crowd brawling stuff which was at minimum a welcome change of pace to the cold ring work. Fans do eventually get really into this and there are big spots, a great Roman spear on the floor, McIntyre going through an announce table, and the crowd really loves getting to see all three Shield guys get Corbin alone in the ring. The match eventually came off like a success but it never grabbed me. Maybe my mood was down because I think the PPV almost entirely underdelivered compared to my (reasonable) expectations. This certainly wasn't a bad match, but it felt like it should have been better.

ER: This was a kind of disappointing PPV. That seems kind of harsh, because I don't think there was anything bad on the card. But there wasn't a lot that moved the needle for me. I really got into Becky/Charlotte, even the Ronda finish (even though I still wished there was more match before Ronda), but the rest felt like it had a good amount of nice moments, but not great matches. Felt like a high potential card going into the night, but I don't think this was my fault.

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Saturday, March 09, 2019

Undercover Lover That's Daisuke Ikdea's Heart Now

Daisuke Ikeda/Gran Naniwa/Mohammed Yone vs. Yuki Ishikawa/Carl Greco/Ikuto Hidaka BattArts 5/10/98 - EPIC

PAS: This was an elimination trios match with some pretty crazy teams. On paper you would think this would come down to a big Ishikawa vs. Ikeda showdown, but Ishikawa is weirdly the first guy eliminated, getting dumped over the top rope. We do get some really great Ishikawa moments first, including him dumping Naniwa square on his head a couple of times, blasting Yone in the ear with a slap and having a cool section versus Ikeda with all you would expect from a taste of that match up. With Ishikawa out early we get to see a lot of the other guys match up with Ikeda and it is pretty great stuff, Hidaka tries a bunch of flipping submission attempts only to homicided by an Ikeda clothesline, landing directly on the top of his head. We get a great Greco vs. Yone and Ikeda section, with Greco being an absolute marvel, whipping off incredibly slick submission counters on Yone. Unfortunately,  there is nothing worse then executing a beautiful submission hold when Ikeda is waiting on the apron, as Ikeda tries to drive his foot and knee through Greco's skull every time he has an opening. Totally fun to watch Greco fight against the odds, an oddball set up for a match which totally works.


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Friday, March 08, 2019

New Footage Friday: Destroyer, Abby, Finlay, Fish, Navarro, Roadblock, Vilano III

The Destroyer vs. Abdullah the Butcher AJPW 5/23/80

PAS: This match had been on the schedule for a while, and it obviously has larger significance with the Destroyer's passing yesterday. Destroyer is such a legend, that any new chance to see him wrestle is a treat. I really loved the push and pull of this match, Destroyer want's to wrestle a Destroyer match, lock ups, a big butt drop on the knee to set up the figure four etc., and Abby wants to drag him into an Abby match with blood, bumps into chairs and head severing elbow drops. Destroyer keeps getting battered and bloodier, until he says fuck it and goes to war and we get a double count with Destroyer chocking Abby with a chair. Not a ton of Destroyer bloody brawls, but when it breaks down, he shows he can hang in this atmosphere just as well as he can on the mat.

MD: I've been pushing this one for a while and it just happened to work out that it was at the top of the list the day after Beyer died. I'm glad for the kismet even if saddened by the overall situation. There is generally a joy to Destroyer matches, a sort of whimsy. He was a wrestler who was exceptional at his craft, just a wizard on the mat, but that was also so confident in his own abilities and his presence that he allowed himself to emotive and even comedically vulnerable in a way that added to the match and did not detract from it.

And here we get an entirely different side of him. The first half of this match has him trying to solve the problem of Abdullah, and more power to him because he decides the way to go is with repeated figure-four leglock attempts. The back-half, however, is a straight-on headbutt war. I'm pretty certain he loads the mask in there to even the odds, but regardless, the two of them just go at it. It's not at all what you'd expect and it's at times unrelenting and triumphant. There's one headbutt where he staggers Abdullah, which is as good a comeback moment as you'll see. This is Abdullah in AJPW in 1980, so obviously it devolves further, but it does so with blood and metal and escalation.

That this vivid image, a bloody yet valiant mess of a masked man choking out an absolute monster with a chair, is now how I am going to remember the Destroyer is simply a testament to how great he was at so much else.

ER: I must point out that Phil sent me a text saying we were writing this match up WELL before news of Beyer's passing, which would have felt like a coincidence if he hadn't also been sending me a bunch of Airwolf texts the past several weeks. Destroyer is a guy who has been criminally underwritten by us, and I'm not just saying that because he passed, but because he's clearly a guy who is as much as Segunda Caida Guy as anyone. It's a lame observation, but I just love the way he moves in a ring. He has a bunch of his own Finlay type moves, the kind of things that come off so natural but obviously must be way harder or else we would see them more often. I love early on how he takes this big (but safe and smart) bump to the floor, Abby chucking him down the length of the ring and Destroyer bumping out to the apron to the floor; later on Abby does something similar and Destroyer grabs the ropes at the right time to effectively stop it. He's really smart at leaving those kind of breadcrumbs in a match. There are not many things I like more in wrestling than Abby dropping elbows, I love the way he angles his elbowdrops, love the degree they land, love when he charges in and misses his big killshot sliding elbowdrop, love them all. They're really smart about pacing them out so they still feel strong, and throwing in the missed shots at the right time to give Destroyer a chance to go back in control. By the time it devolves into headbutt exchanges I'm in love. One of my favorite matches ever is Destroyer and Killer Karl Kox (under a mask) doing just think, and I love the visual of these two locked in and just clunking heads together. The red color scheme on Destroyer only adds to the visuals of this wrestler pushed too far, this man dragged down to Abby's level, and him finally grabbing a chair and smacking him with it was great. I'm confident you'll be seeing a lot more Destroyer on these electronic pages.

TKG: Maan, I'm a fan of the Destroyer and am pretty sure there is another match between these two that I dug a ton and he just passed, but this match left me empty. Abby normally brings more structure to a match and this felt like it could've been Destroyer working this match vs anyone. A good chunk of this is Abby bumping rudo missing stuff as Destroyer evades him. It's not Rayo doing Ole spots as rudos tumble. And Destroyer has neat evade moves, especially liked the spot where Abby wants to take it to the streets and goes to toss Destoryer out of ring only for Destroyer to land on apron (real early in match), and Abby is a fun rudo tumbling....and then the final AJPW no finish out of control brawl, doesn't feel that out of control.

Dos Caras/Canek/Villano III vs. Negro Navarro/El Signo/El Torre Infernal UWA 10/31/92

ER: This is not an important match, not a spectacular match, but a match I instantly swooned for because I actually had no idea we would ever get footage of ROADBLOCK working Mexico, The Towering Inferno himself (which is a GREAT name for a giant fat gringo in lucha), the man with some unexplainable gaps in his pro wrestling career, but someone who managed to have stays in Japanese garbage feds, big lucha feds, and the biggest company in wrestling for several years. He's an odd footnote who probably should have been a bigger deal, the classic "if you were born 10 years earlier" kind of guy, but also a tall fat guy during an era when Vince still loved tall fat guys, but apparently didn't love Roadblock. He would have had to have been on their radar, so perhaps there's a semi-interesting story about why Roadblock never went north? Anyway, Roadblock is a fun towering inferno in the center of this very standard match, bullying much smaller men into corners, missing elbowdrops to give them comebacks, falling into fans in the front rows during tecnicos comebacks, takes his mammoth bump over the top to the floor in spectacular fashion, and somehow gets to pin one of the biggest stars in lucha history TWICE. There are better wrestlers in the match, but they couldn't possibly have the presence of El Torre Infernal. Villano III had some wonderful athletic moments, loved how high he stood in the air before delivering a monkey flip; and we got some great Misionarios moments, with my favorite being Negro Navarro getting armdragged to the floor and taking that smooth feet first through the ropes to the floor lucha bump, causing him to give El Signo a baseball slide dropkick. But this was about The Towering Inferno, who looks like a truth giant while getting his hands raised by the tiny ref. There are other Roadblock UWA matches, and I will be reviewing those, obviously.

TKG: They line this up at the start with Roadblock v Canek, which makes sense as you expect the big spot to be Canek bodyslamming Roadblock. And Roadblock's a guy who you always loved as the guy in a match built around "can an opponent with a power offense lift this big motherfucker" (Luger opponent setting up Luger v Giant). And it's bizarre cause that Roadblock v Canek match up never seems to be as heated as it should be. On the other hand every Villano v Roadblock and every Roadblock v Dos Caras interaction is fire. Should also be said that Navarro starts out matched with Dos Caras and Villano III starts with Signo and Navarro seems more fired up when working Canek and Signo with Caras. Signo pulls out a fork or some type of foreign object way early in first fall and him thowing blows with the shank is violent but also kind of out of place. Roadblock as bumping big rudo is fun and yeah it's a shame he didn't get a longer big run somewhere.

MD: Did we know that Roadblock was in WWC in 1991 as well? I didn't. Also, he'd been wrestling since 87? Trained by Larry Sharpe too? All of these are things I did not know. Look, I liked his presence here. A lot of times when you get bigger guys in lucha, they're short but fat, your Brazos or whatever. Even Kraneo is only billed as 6'1". Sometimes you'll get a really tall guy who isn't fat like Thunder or Marco Corleone. Rarely do you get a towering guy like Roadblock and it was a nice visual to see him up against everyone else. You got the sense that the Missionaries were glad to have him in their corner and to sort of use him as an element to shape the match around. So, I liked that, and yeah, I wouldn't mind seeing him more, both here and in Puerto Rico. But yeah, this was pretty sloppy all around and not just Roadblock. Villano III looked great. Roadblock had, as I said, a super presence. Things even sort of built to a fun moment where he faced off against Caras that was better for the anticipation than the actual payoff. That's all I've got though. Still, I'd see more if there is more.

Bobby Ocean/Drake Evans vs. Bobby Fish/Fit Finlay IYFW 5/18/12

MD: Good, grounded local indy tag match. I've seen less Bobby Fish than you have, but I was at least somewhat happily surprised here. He lost focus a little bit at points, relative to Finlay who was casually laser-focused (casually everything actually; more on that in a moment), but his stuff looked good and appropriate and I have no qualms.

Finlay was great. Completely nonchalant while still being as violent as ever. The targeted offense to Evans' leg was nasty, especially the bodyslams into the ropes. If you're going to have a smaller ring, use it. I loved how he crossed his heart in front of the ref to show that he had made the tag when he had not and how he just encroached into the ring later on when there was no chance at all that he'd get away with it. There was a hint of mischief there that you'd see much earlier in his career but not in his WCW or WWE runs.

This was structured well enough with a double heat and a couple of relatively hot tags for the crowd size. The babyfaces were fine and played their part well enough. The time limit restart was weird and unnecessary and hurt the flow a bit but overall, it was fun to see Finlay in this setting, a setting which probably did Fish some favors as well.

ER: I really liked this, and thought it was a tremendous Finlay performance. The bulk of this match was Finlay beating Ocean and Evans around the ring, and he looked as good here as he ever looked. It's truly amazing how he was able to come back after several years and still look like the best guy in the ring, age be damned. This was among his very last pro wrestling matches ever (you know, unless he decides to show everybody how he's the best AARP eligible wrestler in the world any day now...) and his skill level is still just off the charts, one of my absolute favorites, a guy who I always love seeing control a wrestling ring. There were a lot of gems from his indy run (and seeing Finlay/Thatcher live is a cool feather I get to wear in my cap) but I also really liked matches like this against guys you hadn't heard of and would otherwise not check out. Finlay sports a WCW era singlet and beats these two like he was working a WCW syndicated show. You're obviously going to love him dropping a knee to Evans' temple, doing a big butt splash right onto the inside of his knee, throwing the hardest short arm clothesline in wrestling, stomping on Evans' hand when it was lingering on the mat for too long, and slamming him leg first into the ropes. My favorite little Finlay moment was Evans reaching out for a hot tag and Finlay kicking his arm. Fish was fine enough as a generic indy kicker, and I dug he and Finlay cutting off the ring. Really this whole match was like 90% Finlay/Fish in control, and you couldn't get much of a feeling for Ocean or Evans until Evans late match tag in. That said, both were professional and handled their end of things well. I especially liked Ocean doing an across the ring leap for a hot tag, and really liked Evans' hot tag offense: he threw a couple of hard stiff arm lariats at Finlay's clavicles and hits two really nice spinebusters, and that's easily enough to make me like a guy. We get a goofus 15 minute time limit bell out of absolutely nowhere (and also only 12 minutes in) that leads to a clunky restart, and things would have just looked so much better had they just done the 2 minutes post restart without any kind of stoppage in between (obviously), but no matter, this whole thing was still a ton of fun and a great look at what a total badass in his mid 50s could still do on ANY card.

TKG: Being a Finlay tag partner is thankless, because Finlay is so fucking sharp that I'm just going to end up watching him on apron while you do whatever you're doing. Finlay always getting ready to break up pinfalls even when he never does was my favorite Finlay on apron move. Finlay bodyslamming Evans into the ropes was nasty as fuck but also Evans really made it look like his leg was fucked. It is so great that we have this.

PAS: This match was posted on Bobby Ocean's youtube page, which is a great thing about 2019 wrestling, we get a chance to see one of the last matches of an all time legend like Finlay because a random dude decided to aim his Flip video at the ring and post it on youtube 7 years later. Finlay and Fish were a really fun heel team, dominating most of the match working over Evans's knee, with some classic Finlay offense, loved all of the slams into the ropes, it is such a simple move and so brutal looking. I also loved his butt drops on the knee and nasty indian death lock. We did get a nice pair of hot tags, and I dug Evan's spinebusters. I agree with Eric and Matt that the restart was really unnecessary, but otherwise this was a blast and new Finlay is all we could want.

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Thursday, March 07, 2019

On Brand Segunda Caida: Henry Godwinn vs. Bret Hart! Hansen & Vader vs. The Headhunters!

Henry Godwinn vs. Bret Hart WWF Action Zone 6/25/95

ER: This was great, a really fantastic Bret performance. I know it's kind of boring to like Bret, but I don't think the "has the same formula match" criticism is very fair as he was really great at working in cool moments and crafting things around new opponents. Godwinn is a big burly dude who more than holds up his end, really running into Hart with power and playing into Hart's own story build. Anybody who says this is a carry job is fooling themselves. Hart is working really fast in this and bumping big, taking three different nasty bumps into the buckles during the match (a fast one back first that look like it shook the ring, his classic chest first bump that he sold by crumpling beautifully to the mat, and a great turning point bump where he went into the ringpost shoulder first), but works everything here explosively, and Godwinn meets him. Dug all of Godwinn's strikes when Hart was foolish to go toe to toe with him, and loved Hart's nice headbutt to counter to big man. Hart even does a great crossbody off the ropes that he didn't always do, and a cool double clothesline spot that actually looked like two guys getting rung up on a clothesline. Bret goes after Henry's knee in cool fashion, and I like some of the ways Henry sells it, pushing up hard off his knee when he gets off the mat, and a great moment where he kneedrops Hart and immediately regrets it. And when Hart hits the ringpost we get a lot of Henry angrily wrenching in armlocks, all simple stuff but really effective in the match. Hart's comeback absolutely slays, with him hitting a huge lariat to send Godwinn over the ropes to the floor with a massive bump, with Hart immediately flying into him with a plancha and some of his best punches. There were so many simple things done so well in this match, the way Hart runs Godwinn in the ropes for a prawn hold but Godwinn holds on tight, sending Hart ping ponging fast across the ring. I loved this whole damn match, and now I'm really curious who were the potential bad dance partners for Bret.

Stan Hansen/Vader vs. The Headhunters AJPW 12/4/98

ER: What a silly little match. All Japan were such weirdos, having this strange contempt for deathmatch and shootstyle indies, but still occasionally using them to give us oddball matches. All Japan has always delivered weird fat guys though, and it's one of my favorite things about them. The Headhunters are two famous fat guys, two giant brothers who hit insane flying moves which immediately turned their knees into powder. But they turned that early fat guy buzz into an improbably long career, both of them long outlasting Hansen and Vader and somehow still wrestling today. I love All Japan bringing in these goofs for the RWTL, and even more I love Vader and Hansen refusing to actually believe that these two are in the RWTL. This is about as quick and tidy of a squash as you're going to see in AJ, with the Headhunters getting almost no offense, and the only offense they do get (a nice avalanche) is promptly ignored. No, this is Hansen and Vader having a contest to see who could drop a meaner elbow on two tubs wearing curly toed boots. Vader hits a standing splash right across A or B's (which is the smaller one?) collarbones, all the elbowdrops are GIF worthy, the fat Headhunter takes a fantastic bump over the rail and into the crowd after getting his butt kicked around ringside, the fat one misses a big senton off the middle rope, and 4 minutes in Vader blatantly signals at Hansen to wrap this thing the hell up, hit the lariat so we can go home. It's a weird match to have happened, it was treated like a weird match as it was happening, and you know it's special because how often - really - do we get 4 guys this large crashing into each other in a wrestling ring?

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Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Quick Fast We Reflect Like the Sky Be Blue True, FUTEN Saga Continues

Futen 12/19/10

PAS: This is a FUTEN show which sort of slipped through the cracks when I was reviewing all of it back in the day. It isn't new exactly, but it is new to Segunda Caida.

Taro Nohashi vs. NARITA

PAS: Man if you don't watch FUTEN for a while, it can be pretty jarring to get back into this world. Nohashi is a MPRO guy who worked as a mini-Shinzaki, but that isn't what he is doing here, here he is taking his head and smashing it violently into another persons head. NARITA works like a kickboxer, throwing punches and kicks and they look pretty great, more fast then really powerful. They are however powerful enough to bust up Nohashi mouth so it looks like he is brushing his teeth with ketchup. There are some real moments of brutal greatness, including Nohashi thrusting the back of his head into NARITA's face to break a german suplex attempt, and a cool punches vs. headbutts finish run, with Nohashi's head being the victor.

ER: Killer opener, just give these Futen lunatics 6 minutes to open a card and they got nuts. I'd never seen NARITA before, but early on he's throwing evil hammer fist blows to the top and back of Nohashi's head, and essentially he had me at hello. NARITA was punching the way I hoped Suruga would have punched later in the card, really teeing off on Nohashi's face. Loved all the stuff Phil mentioned with Nohashi using his head - literally - to even things out, thought NARITA threw some really great low angle rolling German suplexes, and the matching ending half crab that Nohashi locked on was disgusting (I kept clenched jaw waiting for one of NARITA's bones to snap out of his ever bending leg). Setting the tone for a Futen card can't be easy on the body, but these two did it.

Mitsuya Nagai vs. Kazuki Okubo

PAS: This was basically two guys exchanging thick kicks and working leg locks. Nagai is a crowbar from way back but it is really hard to stand out throwing hard kicks in FUTEN.  Okuba was fun in U-Style, but never that dynamic. These were hard, but we got Ikeda on deck. Solid stuff, but nothing which passes the high bar FUTEN sets.

Kengo Mashimo vs. Rui Hiugaji

ER: I thought this was pretty great until we hit a sort of amusing rough patch down the finishing stretch, but even that was redeemed by how both men handled it. Mashimo is a total legend in Futen and throws some deadly kicks and knees, really feels like this is headed towards being a Futen squash. Then Hiugaji catches a leg and drops into a kneebar, and suddenly we have an opening. Mashimo does a real nice job of selling his leg, and we get a couple cool moments where he's in the middle of a kick flurry only to have his knee buckle under him, allowing Hiugaji to pounce again. Both guys really try to take a couple years off the other with nasty brainbusters, Mashimo hits a killer Saito suplex, and Hiugaji pays him back later by absolutely launching Mashimo with a German suplex that flips him over and lands him right on his forehead!! My god!!! The awkwardness comes with Hiugaji takes an eternity to lock in a figure 4 (after seemingly getting confused by how to lock one in), and ends up locking in one of the weakest submissions ever seen in Futen. Mashimo redeems it by repeatedly pointing out his lousy application and laughing about how terrible Hiugaji's figure 4 is. The criticism was certainly warranted, and Mashimo took a potentially ugly situation and made it work. I liked Hiugaji's fighting spirit during the finish run, as Mashimo kept putting him down with high kicks and then standing by as Hiugaji fought slowly back to his feet. I wish Mashimo would have really put some extra mustard on the final couple kicks, but I liked the finish overall and dug what they did with the layout.

PAS: Mashimo was really great at throwing those thudding Hashimoto baseball bat wheel kicks to the stomach, and he hit a couple of nasty ones to the temple. I also dug his hooks to the ribs, I imagine Hiugaji had some really troubling urinations for the next week after this match. Hiugaji seemed a bit out of his element, I liked the german suplex, but that figure four was pretty embarrassing and he never delivered the heat he needed to, you got to hit a guy back if he is strafing you like that. It picked up at the ending, and got pretty fun, I agree with Eric if you are going to do a KO finish in FUTEN, you had really better come close to actually knocking your opponent unconscious, it's like doing a blood stoppage in lucha, that guy better need a transplant after the match.

Manabu Suruga vs. Makoto Hashi

ER: This was kind of a Futen version of a modern indy moves match, with more strikes trading than moves trading (but still some moves trading). Makoto Hashi is one of the weirder guys to come up through the AJPW system. He's a big lumpy boy with his waterbed body and hot dog lips and 1 minute haircut and hatred of foreheads, and he was always somehow the 4th man on the totem pole who also happened to headbutt people. Futen really gave him the chance to open up and unleash violence, and he really comes off like a total sadist. Here's a match where he busts his own head open by swinging it as hard as he can at Suruga's forehead, repeatedly. They abandon the matwork fairly early in the match, and things take an entirely different turn when Hashi dumps Suruga brutally with a Ki Krusher type driver. The long home stretch is these two smacking each other, and Suruga really throws some of the sharpest and fastest kicks, blasting Hashi in the chest and legs, really swinging. He also weirdly overworked his punches, like he was some Lance Storm type who was going to verbally take pride in throwing punches that don't crack an egg, and it's weird because he's doing it to a man who broke open his own head smashing it against things. Fucking PUNCH that dude in the face!! I liked a lot of the strike breakdown here, and loved Hashi's backfists, these hard awful fists pounding right into Suruga's neck. This all felt like a more interesting version of the current New Japan bomb fests.

PAS: Hashi in FUTEN was such a shooting star, he had 16 matches there, and we only have seen five (and there are some killer stuff we haven't seen, Hashi vs. Ikeda, vs. Mashimo teamed with Mashimo vs. Ikeda/Ishikawa, looking at FUTEN results is a form of masochism). He arrived in FUTEN after years of NOAH undercard stuff where he was only sporadically featured, and made himself right at home, driving his lumpen head violently into the faces of fellow wrestlers. Hashi headbutts are more violent looking then the headbutts that put Shibata into a coma, it is really hard to watch in the best way. Suruga is very competent and is a great B-Side for a Hashi geek show. He really whips kicks into the knee and it does a great job of slowing the match down and injecting some real danger into the match. Great stuff, the kind of thing FUTEN did regularly but would dominate 2019 MOTY posts if it happened today.

Daisuke Ikeda/Katsumi Usuda vs. Yuki Ishikawa/Takeshi Ono

ER: It's crazy that this tag (and this show) has been just sitting out there not being reviewed on this site. This is another classic battle of violence, divided into 3 Acts: Ikeda and Ishikawa torturing each other, Ono and Usuda torturing each other, and the super amusing Act 3 that is just Ikeda and Ishikawa breaking up nasty submissions. Ikeda and Ishikawa have the weirdest friendship in wrestling. I mean, I assume they are friends. Is it more weird if we find out they hate each other, or if they're best friends for life? I love their dynamic (strong opinion there), love how Ikeda looks absolutely unbeatable for long stretches, and how Ishikawa is the ultimate punching bag who can turn things on an instant. Ikeda and Ishikawa is never not a fun mess, and I love our later period match-ups between them; both have this beleaguered, tired intensity, doing the dance again, Ishikawa eating leg kicks and doing his insane strategy of eating two kicks to the chest only to catch the third, Ikeda getting his joints bent horribly by kneebars. But I was really excited for the Ono/Usuda portions of this, loved the cold Terminator precision from Ono. Ono locks on submissions quicker than maybe any man in wrestling history. The way he quickly sweeps Usuda's legs and a split second later had both of Usuda's arms wrapped tightly behind his back was a thing of beauty, and I don't think I've ever witnessed a faster or more efficient octopus hold applied by anybody. Usuda lingers for a second and suddenly Ono just has every single limb tied up and being stretched in a different direction. Both guys keep getting locked into nasty holds, Usuda tying up a few awesome figure 4 leglocks, the most shootstyle figure 4s you've seen, and our home stretch is an absolute blast of comedy and violence. Ono and Usuda are locked in eternal kneebar struggle, and Ishikawa keeps trying to knock Usuda loose while Ikeda is knocking Ono loose. Neither man wants to break, but the older guys force them to, except for the times that these savages just keep holding on and refusing to break. Ishikawa is dropping knees on Usuda's head, Ikeda is headbutting Ono, neither one wants to break, and it's great. We get moments of Ishikawa and Ikeda looking at each other while their wards are giving each other knee injuries for life, like "what more can we do here? We raised monsters!" It was the kind of tilt we don't usually get in these wars, and I thought it worked great.

PAS: This felt like a parejas match with normal partners Ikeda and Ono and Ishikawa and Usuda which was an interesting twist on this matchup. The main dance partners were still Ikeda vs. Ishikawa and Usuda vs. Ono and they were all some great dances. FUTEN tag matches usually build to these long one on one battles of attrition, surprisingly Ikeda vs. Ishikawa was used at the set up battle to the final stretch of Ono vs. Usuda. The Ikeda vs. Ishikawa sections were unsurprisingly stellar, with both guys hurling horrid abuse at the other. The final Usuda vs. Ono waltz was great too, a great mix of slick submissions and big KO shots. I loved their first exchange with Usuda trying for the Fujiwara Boston crab counter, and Ono just stomping him right in the head. Usuda was able to find openings to slip in and crank submissions, while Ono would throw them on with blistering speed. Ikeda and Ishikawa would just wander in and break submissions in the nastiest way possible, at one point Ikeda headbutts Ono right in the back of his head to break up a submission, Ishikawa is dropping shin bone to the nose kneedrops. It has to totally suck to lock on a submission in a FUTEN tag. Every one of these matches is a treasure.


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