Segunda Caida

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

Saturday, May 30, 2020

A Thorough Review of WrestleMania IX, 4/4/93

This is one of the more maligned WrestleManias in company history, but I'm not sure I've watched it with fresh eyes since renting the tape from the video store some time ago. Let's check it out?

It's great that this show was from Caesar's Palace in Vegas, and Vince just said, "Fuck it, make the entire show themed after the venue that is hosting this show." Like they just went for it, even though there would have been no way of knowing it was from Caesar's Palace other than them saying so. But it's great. The bright outdoor light is jarring and has the vibes of a mid-afternoon big arena county fair show. The seating arrangement was expertly set up so that 88% of the crowd had absolutely terrible sight lines, and the opening entrances were fantastic. There are a ton of large live animals, and having this many live animals (an elephant, a camel, llamas, birds, etc.) feels like the kind of insane risk that Vince would never take in 2020. Imagine a WrestleMania with the risk of an outdoor elephant rampage! There are also huge jacked eunuchs (we can assume) carrying people out, and they're so big that I have no idea why none of them weren't recruited into wrestling (unless maybe they were unmarketable because they had no testicles). Caesar and Cleopatra come out, and nobody even talks about how stacked Cleopatra was. Randy Savage gets carried out by the same eunuchs while being fed grapes by vestal virgin, and also telling some dude through gritted teeth to get the fuck off of him when said dude won't let go of one of Macho Man's jacket tassels. Heenan comes out riding backwards on a camel, and does 3 solid minutes of awesome "guy uncomfortably dealing with an animal" comedy, doing a ton of great stumbling and physical comedy in getting off the camel. He gets his toga yanked up (to reveal his big blue Jockeys) and acts completely frazzled while bickering with Macho and Jim Ross. This is a great start.

Shawn Michaels vs. Tatanka

ER: I think this is the one match from this show that gets mentioned in kind terms, and nobody even talks about how stacked Sherri is. And this is a really good match, with a really bad finish. The match got great at one point, with Michaels' performance in the first half of this ranking among his best 10 minute performances. Michaels has a way of bringing a distinctly Texas heel vibe to his best matches from this era, with genuinely funny physical comedy worked smartly within a pro wrestling match framework. There are some really fun sequences early, like Michaels flying off the top into a Tatanka armdrag and feeding perfectly into another short armdrag right after. Michaels had a sequence of bumps that was so damn fun, truly one of my favorite stretches of any Michaels match, when he takes his super fast flipping corner bump and lands on the apron, turns around and takes a flipping bump off the apron to the mats to sell a Tatanka chop. But my favorite part of the match is right after, when Michaels tries to get back in the ring five different times and every time he gets on the apron he gets tomahawk chopped, causing him to bump to the apron and back to the floor. Michaels played this so great, really factoring in the lousy sight lines and lack of screens at Caesar's Palace, so runs to every side of the ring to try to get in, runs up the ring steps, really lets every crowd member get to see his ass get knocked to the apron and down to the ground. He finally makes it back in by eyepoking Tatanka before getting chopped.

We got a really good section of Tatanka working over Michaels' left shoulder, and I wish they would have gone further with it. It's a cool two minutes of the match, but doesn't really get followed up on (even though Savage attempts to keep it relevant on commentary). Still, it leads to some cool moments, and they built it really well until the match changed course. It started with Tatanka hitting a leaping tomahawk chop on Michael's shoulder, and escalated a short time later when Michaels threw a clothesline and immediately came up holding that shoulder, then took an insanely great bump into the corner ringpost. I rewound a couple of times to see what he did, because he ran into the corner at high speed, and the sound of the clank made it seem like his shoulder should have been splintered into his body. It was some excellent sleight of hand. And while they didn't necessarily play into his hurt shoulder the rest of the match, Michaels clearly began using his right arm for big offense (including a nice diving clothesline off the apron to the floor).

There was a little awkwardness before the great end run, with Michaels getting a little too clever and Tatanka not quite seeming on the same page, leading to a couple spots that took too long to pull off and didn't look great when they did get pulled off, most notably the weird headscissors/rolling armbar/victory roll that they did their best to salvage). But the end run was what brought this back, as Tatanka looked like a guy who could win the IC Title, and the fans were clearly excited to see him win the title. Tatanka was really over at this point of '93, and every near fall got a bigger and bigger reaction. They really pulled the fans into this one, and Michaels couldn't have handled the big kickouts better, really nice timing to make it seem like he was narrowly escaping the loss. The finish was well set up, but the finish itself was so bad that it would have been impossible for anyone to make it work. We got the big Tatanka war dance, Michaels bumped all around for the tomahawk chops, fans were sensing the big win, and then Michaels did this great missed swan dive off the apron, crashing to the floor and almost into the ring steps. Ref Joey Marella counts him out and Michaels yanks him out of the ring to stop the count. But Marella never calls for the bell, so when Michaels gets back in and Tatanka hits the Papoose, we get the awkward moment of Marella waving the pin away, even though Marella was standing there in the ring while Tatanka hit the move. Fans are clearly confused, the announcers are confused, Marella went back into the ring way too early and should have either sold on the floor until Tatanka went for the pin, or called for the bell immediately. This was a terrible ending, handled terribly, a real set of two black eyes on what was otherwise an awesome PPV opener.

"What a bad ending to a great match" ~Macho Man Randy Savage, summing things up accurately

The Headshrinkers vs. The Steiner Brothers

ER: The Steiners' singlet game is incredible here. among the best of their Lisa Frank designs. Rick's especially is only missing acid dripping dolphins leaping out of purple waves against a neon blue sun. His singlet is all of the deepest, richest neon palm fronds. Scott's singlet looks more like a Trapper Keeper wearing Body Glove shorts, but that's only because Rick's is shining so brightly beside him. And this match also rules! It's a great match on paper, as Samu/Fatu are big guys who won't let the Steiners manhandle them, but the Steiners love manhandling big guys, so it's just the best kind of clash. All four of them had a bunch of cool stuff, and the match has one of the most career shortening deadly transitions I've seen. Fatu was really great at bumping for the Steiners (love the way he runs into a Steiner Line and bumps big but lands with heft), and Samu must have had some kind of bet going because I swear he does more back rake variations in this match than I've seen (at least in a match where they are actually delivered seriously and sold, I'm sure there's some yukfest indy match out there where someone does 70 back rakes before pretending to be eaten by an inflatable pool alligator). An island savage using his sharpened claws to deliver body rakes is awesome, and Samu's best were raking Rick from his clavicles down to his hips, raking hard down Scott's traps, and raking Scott across the eyes before popping him in the eye with a straight jab. So many spots I loved here, like Scott slamming Fatu's face into the mat only for Fatu to immediately pop up and hit a superkick (because duh, that head is impervious to slamming), or both Steiner's coming off the same top turnbuckle to hit tandem Steiner Lines that should have resulted in tandem torn ACL/MCL.

The spot of the match (and surely the spot of 1993 WWF, as not much will be able to top this) is when the Headshrinkers transition to control, and they are supposed to merely hotshot Scott. Instead, Fatu pulls down the top rope and Samu essentially launches Scott headfirst over the top rope straight down. We sadly don't get a camera angle from that side, but it's not the bump Scott prepares to take so the landing couldn't have been good. He clearly wasn't injured from it, but both Steiners came off as invincible at this point so just as conventional weapons could not kill them, neither could the world's most dangerous hotshot. Headshrinkers were a fun control team and they must have really assumed Scott was cool after that hotshot because they also deliver a (much safer) Demolition Decapitation! The Rick hot tag has the stiff clotheslines and big throws you'd want and expect, and the home stretch has a couple huge spots that didn't get executed 100%, but they're great spots. They really ramped the crazy when the Headshrinkers went for a Doomsday Device on Rick, but Rick caught Samu while sitting on Fatu's shoulders and fell to the mat with him for a powerslam. It didn't come off clean, but it's so crazy that it really shouldn't come off clean. Samu also bumps a little too early for the Frankensteiner finish, doing a somersault bump a split second before Scott had snapped it over, so the finish doesn't come off as cool as it should. Still, the match was fun as hell and delivered on the on paper potential.

Crush vs. Doink

ER: This one didn't really play like a WrestleMania match, but it played like a perfect Coliseum Video match, so even though it felt out of place on the card it was a style I liked. Matt Borne always had the best makeup fade as Doink, the perfect amount getting rubbed away to reveal his stubble, making him look like when Barney Gumble got hired to play Krusty. A big portion of this is Crush taking it out on Doink, kicking him around ringside, with Doink trying to stumble escape. It's a little sluggish, but Doink is a good stumbler so it works. A thing that does not work about the match is Savage on commentary. He was really on one and taking a long time to get to the point on every point he tried to make, and it got to the point where Heenan kept having to just jump in a talk over him to save him. Savage was rambling on and on about how it's harder to perform on the big stage and he was taking an age to get there, so Heenan just has to blurt out LOOK AT THAT! to just get him on another topic. That's the most noticeable moment, but it happens throughout. Doink goes on control by hitting a stunner over the top rope, Crush springing back nicely, and things got really good. Doink was allowed to come alive a bit, smiling a bit at the camera, all while hitting axe handles and punches off the top and middle ropes. His piledriver is fantastic and makes the match worthy on its own. It looks cool with the size difference, and Crush sells it well. I did wish it meant a little more to the overall scope, but alas. This is the match where we get the infamous Two Doinks finish, with Steve Keirn smashing Crush in the face with a mannequin arm and doing mirror comedy with Borne. I do like how the ref was bumped, with Doink throwing a hard back elbow, hard enough that it made for a convincing knockdown. Your mileage may vary on the finish. I liked the idea but thought they could have done more with it. Using Keirn just to hit Crush with a prop isn't very creative, and WrestleMania would have been a cool time to show off Doink's more vicious side and really make the attack on Crush hurt. Overall, a fun match.

We get a brutal Talk to the Audience segment with Todd Pettengill, with the added bonus of racial Asian humor with a couple plants. Pettengill is right in the thick of the crowd, with one distractingly hot woman who looked like Callie Thorne crossed with Kenny Lewis, beside Pettengill the entire time, WOOOOING in a loop, while a guy next to her who looked like Fat Seinfeld kept literally trying to edge her out of frame. It didn't appear that they knew each other but it did appear that he had bad ideas about personal boundaries. Another man just uncomfortably shove his way past Pettengill mid segment, looking like Weird Al if Al had become a copy clerk instead of a genius. Just shoved right past and walked in front of the camera with a slight shrug and look into the camera.

Razor Ramon vs. Bob Backlund

ER: Tough dynamic in this one. Fans are way into Razor to start, but Backlund is a never give up babyface. Fans are even chanting RAZOR to start, but then his beatdown on Backlund goes for a couple minutes and Backlund can't help be draw underdog babyface comeback cheers. But there appears to be a constant mix up with every bit of offense Backlund delivers to Razor, as Razor does two real late rotations on hiptosses, Backlund falls short on a dropkick that wasn't supposed to fall short, a clothesline lands weird and Razor clunkily falls straight over, everything looked a full step off and I couldn't tell who was at fault. But it confused the hell out of the fans as they were about ready to start cheering Backlund, then the the messy comeback just made them not want to root for either. Backlund does a cool chickenwing suplex and his impressive long delay atomic drop, but even the atomic drop falls a little flat as Razor falls on the landing and takes Backlund down with him. So not only is the crowd kind of silent at what is going on and confused about who they should be cheering, Razor wins with a freaking small package! Razor, the Bad Guy, with 40 pounds and height on Backlund, ekes one out with a small package. I couldn't believe it. He jumps up likes it a triumphant victory, even though his victory felt like Bob Backlund getting a small package on Razor. It's like that was supposed to be the finish (it obviously wasn't) and someone just said "Eh keep the finish and just let the other guy do it."

Money Inc. vs. Hulk Hogan/Brutus Beefcake

ER: This wasn't far off from being quite good, but it needed some things changed. It has a few fatal flaws, and it's a shame because it should have been an easy sell and a lot of the layout was smart. Hogan hadn't wrestled in a year, so his coming back was genuinely a big deal, and Beefcake had missed nearly three years with his face injury. I think the angle with Money Inc. immediately going after Beefcake's face was strong, and IRS's briefcase shot looked great. When you think of the kind of match build you get from WWE today, there's nothing that compares to the old school no brainer simplicity of this build. A huge star returning to the ring after a year, and - regardless of what you think of him as a wrestler - Beefcake coming back to the ring after a horrific injury. Heels immediately attack the injury, top guy returns, this is all slam dunk stuff. But the match ends up going way too long, a lot of smoke and mirrors, and another messy finish which was starting to be a problem on this show (up to this point nearly every single match has had a bad finish, whether poorly executed or indecisive).

This was a nearly 20 minute match that would have been far more successful edited down to 10. I thought Dibiase was strong throughout, especially his facial reactions to both Hogan and Beefcake. From the moment he walked to the ring in his resplendent white suit, he looked like a man who belonged, and I love how he was committed to being a heel and trying to purposely take shine away from the returning Hogan. Maybe my favorite part of the match was Dibiase jumping Hogan during Hogan's entrance, as Hogan was clearly going to soak everything up, but I liked Hogan's part of it too. Hogan basically worked this match like Jimmy Valiant, and that MAKES SENSE because Jimmy Valiant would know exactly how to work a match like this. So here's Hogan getting into the ring, dancing on the apron exactly like Valiant, and Dibiase puts a stop to it by jumping him. Now, of course, Hogan just runs him off and celebrates before the match anyway, and that's part of why I thought they were SO CLOSE to getting to something good, they KNEW what they had to do, and yet they made some bad choices. This match goes on long enough that the announcers are running out of things to talk about, and there are a lot of holds and a lot of moments with guys lying on the mat. This is not a good thing, especially with Heenan already trying to rein in Macho Man, and the match's stretches of inactivity lead to a Macho Man moment that is impossible to not laugh at. Ross and Heenan are in the middle of actually talking about something, and Savage just shouts out of nowhere "WHAT AN INCREDIBLE WRESTLEMANIA SOFAAAAAA" (he was saying "so far"). This match just didn't work, and this should have been the easiest match on the card to book. They must have known the finish was going to bum out the crowd, as after a bunch of clumsy stuff surrounding the briefcase (it looked like they couldn't decide to work Briefcase Blunder comedy spots or actually work stiff briefcase shots to the face), Hogan and Beefcake threw money to the crowd. This crowd is the first crowd in one year to see Hulk Hogan - still beloved by many - and you have to have him throw money to the crowd to get them to cheer? That is some desperation planning right there. And who would be happy with one of those "the guy I wanted to win lost but he's still celebrating like the loss isn't really a bad loss" finishes?

Todd Pettengill chats with Natalie Cole in the crowd while Real American blares and she puts over the money Hogan threw to the crowd as being real money. I don't know if she was working or not, and that's how you know Natalie Cole is legit. Was it real money? I mean probably. But why is IRS carrying around a briefcase filled with money? I just thought he had important documents in there. Why would he have needed money out there? Pettengill also interviews the CEO of Caesar's Palace, who talks for a VERY long time about the frankly uninteresting sounding relationship between Caesar's Palace and the World Wrestling Federation. I wonder why Todd Pettengill hasn't cut him off, because the man just keeps talking, and as I'm wondering when and how the cutoff is going to happen, Pettengill puts the guy in a headlock. What the fuck! It's like Pettengill couldn't think of any other way to make him stop and just jumped on him like a friendly drunk guy after a playoff win.

Lex Luger vs. Mr. Perfect

ER: Lex Luger gets a great entrance, flanked by four women in bikini thongs, an outdoor arena filled with 10 year olds in disbelief that they're seeing butts. They hold him mirrors with sparklers on them, and it seems windy for that. Luger poses for a really long time, and heel posing Luger is so much better than face posing Luger. Perfect gets a loud reaction for his entrance music and Luger's girls are walking out as he's walking in, and he jumps out of the way of one of them while making an ewwwwww face. Perfect just working a bit out here. And this match feels like it should have gotten a bigger reaction. Maybe it was half the crowd looking directly into the sun, or maybe they were burnt out from a day just spent out in the sun, or burnt out from the Hogan segment. But this is quiet. It is good, but feels like it should have been better, and there were some miscommunications that looked clunky. But it still should have gotten a louder reaction. Perfect is really smart and senses the silence, so starts playing to the crowd by working stiff and making some loud noise. He hits a super loud chop in the corner and laughs along with the crowds louder reaction, so he goes back to that in a couple fun ways. He hits another chop for the crowds approval, slaps Luger in the stomach off an Irish whip, and starts kicking him in the hamstring all around the ring.

Perfect's knee work was really cool, and it's a shame they didn't let that play into the rest of the match. As, Luger's back work was really cool, and it's a shame they didn't let that play into the rest of the match. Each had nice powerslams, Perfect almost wrecked his leg on a missile dropkick, Luger knows hot to take a catapult into the turnbuckles really well, there's a really fast rope running exchange with a slick Perfect leapfrog, a fun match. The finish is another bad one, with this cursed luck that others have had in that it's a bad idea on paper, and a poorly executed idea in reality. It was supposed to be a battle over backslides (that's not the part that sounds bad, battles over backslides should always be cool as hell), and Luger sets it up by swinging a full 360 on a missed clothesline. Except Perfect doesn't duck or anything, so Luger just spins in a circle and then they clumsily locked arms back to back. Luger gets one and Perfect's whole body is in the ropes, but Marella counts the 3 anyway and it stands. Marella has just been given the worst finishes possible, looking like a guy purposely trying to get fired for the duration of this PPV. We just had a match end where a ref ran out and reversed a decision, and then this happens. I guess no other refs wanted to take a killer over the top to the floor bump like Danny Davis did the match before. Oh yeah, Hogan fucking THREW a referee! Sure didn't do Perfect any favors. Luger salvages things some by blasting Perfect with the forearm after the match. I loved that KO forearm as a killshot.

Giant Gonzalez vs. The Undertaker

ER: This is the kind of thing I'm here for. I'm always gonna be about the freaks. At first the cameras totally blow this by filming right next to Gonzalez as he walks out, taking away the sense of scale. Finally they cut to the wide shot so you can see how high he is walking among the sea of fans. It's a real good Patterson-Gimlin homage. And I like this match, but I'm a sucker for this kind of thing. Gonzalez has some impressive visuals and I like his offense. He is not, however, a good seller, with big comical Wuh oh Wuh oh bug eyed facials like he's doing Don Knotts. So I like the big Gonzalez control segment, with him throwing big clubbing forearms. The clubbing looks good just because of that wingspan. He hits a big boot to stop a Taker charge, and hits a nice clothesline running out of the corner. My favorite visual is when he throws Taker to the floor, then follows, and the dude just steps from the apron down to the floor like he was navigating a slightly higher than normal step. He throws Undertaker into the stairs a couple times and Taker really slams hard knees first into them. When Taker makes his big comeback he's throwing his nice uppercuts, but it loses a little oomph with Gonzalez's selling. They go to the chloroform finish right away, and I think it's a smart finish that unfortunately came on a show that has had literally nothing but poorly executed or iffy or bad finishes. You don't want Gonzalez taking a ton of punishment at this point, and I thought Savage, Heenan, and Ross but over the danger of the chloroform well enough that a 10 year old would buy into it. Heenan is the one who gets it, as he knows to sell the visual of a rag over the mouth. He's the first one to go "What's that smell? What is that?" and cues the other two. Another weakness of Gonzalez, is that he does not act like enough of a bigfoot. He's yelling at fans to shut up, moving just too human. He needed to be more beast than man, and I am someone who is a fan of the muscle fur suit. I think the look is there, would have loved to see an even wilder beard. Gonzalez should have looked like an 8 foot tall Bruiser Brody. But it's a great moment when Taker comes back out to attack Gonzalez after being taken out on a stretcher. The fans flip out and he knocks Gonzalez off his feet with three flying clotheslines, and I would have been losing my mind if I was there. Also, there were a couple of biker goths in the crowd holding up a dot matrix banner that said "Rot in Peace Gonzalez" and they were yelling at the camera and looking pissed as Taker got stretchered out.

They do another Todd Pettengill talk to the audience routine, and while I think he handles it well considering, it's just something that's always going to be death. He asks a kid where he's from and immediately yanks the mic away and makes fun of him for not answering, but then talks to two frat guys in Motel 6 togas for an eternity. He also pie faces a 10 year old kid out of the way while he was talking to the two doofs. This kid was just trying to get through and they clearly had nobody blocking off the camera, just had Todd out there in the wilds without a net. Always a bad idea. No chance for upside, nothing but constant chances for you to look like a clown. Too risky. Nobody wants to be put in the position of possibly shoving a kid on camera.

Yokozuna vs. Bret Hart

ER: I thought this was great, although I wish it would have had basically any other finish. This was a finely crafted match between two good characters, Hart the fighting champion and Yokozuna the monster who had hardly been off his feet. Both guys were so good here, but they always had strong matches against each other. Bret's running dropkick to knock Yoko into the corner was such a good way to start, and I was continually amazed at how intense Bret was working while also being completely safe. Bret could have easily just worked more stiff to make up the size difference, but Hart is out here killing himself to work every move! It was really apparent when he hit his Hitman elbow off the middle rope and made it look great, but you could also tell that Yokozuna would have had no idea anyone had even touched him. This whole match was an exercise in Hart's impressive close up magic. Yokozuna's cut off spots were strong, with him just running full speed into Hart to send him flying, and later hitting a big lariat and a flattening legdrop. It was smart to set up a couple moments of Yokozuna steaming full speed into Hart, as those moments later in the match were used to stage Hart's comebacks, with Yoko missing a great chest first charge into the corner (a cool way of showing a man over twice Hart's size doing his signature bump) and later missing a flying hip attack the same way. The visual of Hart locking the Sharpshooter on Yokozuna's legs (legs that I can say with no hyperbole weigh more than I do) was so cool, and I wish we could have paid this off with a better finish. But instead we get salt in the eyes, quick pin, and you know what comes next.

I'm not going to defend the Hogan segment, because it sucks. I thought it sucked the first time I saw it (did not see this show when it aired, but later rented it from New Release Video in Healdsburg!) and it doesn't get any better now. The visual of a reeling and defeated Bret telling Hogan to take the shot was a bit too much. Hart was a real team player for even agreeing to do that and not rolling his eyes on camera. "Mr. Hogan, sir, I couldn't bring my wife to climax, please sir, could you make my wife cum while I go recharge with some Gatorade?" But the fans live exploded, every single person jumped out of their seat, and at least in the moment it felt like something that the live crowd really wanted. But I'm sure they would have leapt out of their seat had Hart pinned the monster, so I can't really give that reaction too much credit.

This show is much better than it has ever been given credit for. It 100% deserves criticism for a full night (afternoon?) of bad finishes. Every single match had a bad finish, whether that was intentional (making referees look like idiots in literally half of the matches in finishes that would disappoint any fan), or just poorly executed by the wrestlers, this was arguably the widest variety of terrible match finishes I have ever seen in one night of wrestling. You couldn't get this many bad finishes unless your goal was to run a card with the Most Bad Finishes record in your sights. But there was a lot of very fun wrestling on this show, and tons of memorable spectacle. And fun wrestling with memorable spectacle is never going to be something that I consider bad, let alone part of the worst WrestleMania of all time.


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Friday, May 29, 2020


Rene Lasartesse vs. Franz van Buyten Hamburg 9/19/84

MD: It's the contrast that makes these matches. Lasartesse is stagnation and Van Buyten is motion. Lasartesse is the immovable object controlling the center of the ring and Van Buyten is a dervish of momentum leaping in with blows. Lasartesse is entropy, the old regime drawing heat just by taking off his cape, reminiscent of death with his odd physique and how you can almost see his spine as he moves. He lumbers forward with measured steps and a certain inevitability. Van Buyten is energy, a representation of life and its perseverance, renewing and regrowing even in the face of unimaginable oppression. There is a cost to all things and thus Van Buyten is also prone to over-exuberance: Lasartesse is able to take over mid-match, turning a vaulting leap across the ring into a bump to the outside. Subsequently, he dissolves the ring itself, turning the corner into a weapon to pick apart Van Buyten's back. Even the bell calling for the end of a round can't stop his creeping assault. Van Buyten's comeback is spurred by a reversal to a tombstone, energy flowing through his body to emit almost spasmatic kicks to break the hold. His resurgence, even in the face of the healthier Lasartesse's consistent clubbering blows is the triumph of chaos and rebirth over unchanging order. The finish, where an out of control Van Buyten drives his body into Lasartesse, knocking him over the top and drawing the DQ, is yet another manifestation of its ultimate consequence.

SR: We had this before, but the version we had was black and white and like 20 minutes worth of clips. This gives a much more complete image of the match, and it‘s nice to have that. These two, at least in the 80s, had damn great chemistry together. This also has the advantage that it‘s 1984. While Lasartesse was already crusty and looking like your grandad, Franz was still a stud rather than an aging maestro. Aging maestro is cool, but stud is really compelling. This was fast paced but also had a lot of gravitas, with Lasartesse leaning in on nasty chokes and Van Buyten decking him almost immediately with resounding uppercuts. Van Buyten is incredibly compelling doing basic stuff. He makes the spot where he struggles for a snapmare to Lasartesse awesome like it‘s a real sport. He is also predicably great selling the inevitable beatdown where Lasartesse jabs him in the throat a bunch. One of the cool things that happens in these small arena 80s Euro matches is when the heel removes the turnbuckle pad, the fans will try to put it back up to protect the face. Lasartesse sure had people made as hell at him. We also get Lasartesse working over van Buytens back resulting in a typically great selling performance and some really fun Tombstone reversals.

PAS: Nifty match. I loved the early snapmare fight, Lasartesse is a great stonewall, refusing to go over and barreling forward like a Rhino. Van Buyten was at his prime and moving like a dervish. I loved the multiple in ring topes leading to the huge for an old dude Lasartesse bump. It is really cool that this feud has been unearthed in the last couple of years, and we get to see so many versions of it. This was one of the oldest versions and it was great to see Van Buyten with a fresh face.

MD: Familiarity and expertise drives this match. These two are old rivals, old enemies, archetypes. Lasartesse is the villain, a hamming, hammering Snidely Whiplash in the twilight of his years, still smug, still prideful. Van Buyten is evergreen, ever noble. Lasartesse is a master of utilizing space, of using the ring as a palette, always framed in the right place as he lays in his punches and chokes and stomps. Van Buyten is a master of using his own body, sweeping blows from every angle, throwing his full self into a dropkick or a bound back off the ropes, assisting the overall effect even with his prone form in a drag across the ring, arching his body either to invest the crowd in his attempt at the flag or attempt to pull Lasartesse off. And they're with him all the way. It all sort of devolves into an unsatisfying chaos in the end, but what we had before that was pure and distilled, a type of wrestling familiar and primal yet also alien to what many of us grew up with. We're fortunate that the world eventually became small enough that we were gifted it as well.

SR: Lasartesse was 63 years old here. Van Buyten is 50. You see a corpse-like Rene Lasartesse entering the ring and then you notice that this goes 30 minutes. But this was, honest to god, the best Piratenkampf I‘ve seen from 1991 so far. That is not to disparage the South and Wallace matches, but this simply stepped up to a different level of intensity. Lasartesse despite being barely mobile was still really over and to make up for his state van Buyten was super fired up. Lord knows why van Buyten was beating the shit out of Lasartesse worse than anyone else in 1991 so far, but I guess having a 2 decade long rivalry will make you do that as you really get the sense Van Buyten was going to finally put the pillow on his evil old bastards face. Van Buyten was smart enough not to sell a ton for his corpselike opponent and instead beat the shit out of him while scrambling away from any possible chain related awrygoings. Needless to say that didn‘t work out the whole match as Lasartesse acted very savvy and soon found his openings. Lasartesse did some cool chain related shit – raking the chain across the back, chain punching the kidney, but mostly he was about working over Franz with nasty punches and stomps. He throws his punches like a guy with no hip, just straight fists and uppercuts, he looks like his knuckles are hard as stone, and Van Buyten sells getting unexpectedly punched in the eye extremely well. I have no idea how but it builds to a really great crescendo with head stomping galore and some Kill Bill level nasty chain choking, and Lasartesse takes an incredible „I just blew the entirety of my legs out“ bump off the top. For some reason this one has a time limit and they do one entire damn minute of tugging on the chain with Franz balancing on the rope before the time runs out which feels like one of the definite excruciating spots in wrestling ever. After the match Lasartesse challenges van Buyten to another Piratenkampf and van Buytens response is to jump him and beat the shit out of him some more. There actually is the beginning of another Piratenkampf between these two at the end of the video so keep your fingers crossed that will drop eventually as I‘m totally on board for another 30 minute match between a 63 year old Lasartesse and a 50 year old Van Buyten because these guys are the absolute masters of this stip and they showed here that age won‘t stop them from killing each other.

Dave Morgan/Steve Regal vs. Anaconda/Terry Rudge Hamburg 5/6/91

MD: Chaotic southern style tag with clear roles that didn't settle in like it should have, in part because of the ref. Regal was the quick, technical youngster (a veteran in years but still around 21). Morgan was the tough veteran mentor babyface. Rudge was the grizzled veteran heel directing traffic. Anaconda was the traffic. They inverted it a bit by having Morgan play face-in-peril while Regal kept getting missed tags and coming in to allow for double teams, but the ref was consistently out of place which forced people to stand around too much. All the action was good and all the roles were played well. There were some good spots, comedy and otherwise, but it was all a bit too chaotic to make sense of at times. I'd be all for a Morgan vs Rudge match though. Those two seemed almost to be made for each other.

SR: It‘s a pleasure to see Terry Rudge go to work. Unfortunately, his partner was a pretty dull kick and punch type of guy and this match was marred by some confusing clipping going in. Thankfully, Rudge did almost all the ring work. Him vs. Regal is known quality and we also get to see him tear up Morgans leg a bit. That is about the one thing this had going for it as it even ends in a confusing fashion.

PAS: Regal and Rudge are two of the all time greats, and any bit of new footage from either of them is a blessing. We got a couple of fun Regal vs. Rudge exchanges, although much of the match was the heels working over Morgan. Anaconda was a big guy in overalls, possibly a lost WWF Hillbilly and kind of wrestled like that. Had some moments, but never really came together.

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

2020 Ongoing MOTY List: Sabre vs. Ospreay

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Will Ospreay RPW 2/14

PAS: I was pretty wary about this match. Ospreay is normally way too much for me, and a maximalist top British star vs. top British star match felt like heartburn was on it's way. This was certainly a big main event match, but I thought it was sensibly put together. It was going to be Ospreay's big shit against Sabre's slickness and they had a bunch of fun ways to tell that story. Sabre would slap on a bunch of nasty submissions to cut off Ospreay's momentum, but wasn't able to stanch every Ospreay attack. I really liked how Sabre countered the head tuck superkick, by slithering on to Ospreay's back and getting in hooks. Finish was exactly what it should be, as Sabre tries to put him out with a triangle choke, even landing some nasty elbows, but Ospreay is able to yank him to the top rope for a superbomb, back elbow to the head, and spinning neckbreak (all three of which looked nasty) and that is it. I was expected another five minutes of dramatic near falls, and instead it just ends when it should have. Really rare for a 2020 wrestling match.

ER: This was really great, one of those few times a year when the Segunda Caida circle overlaps with the Meltzer circle on our Venn diagram. I'm going to have issues with a lot of matches that get 30 minutes, and I don't think Ospreay is someone who has 30 minutes of material. However, I think Sabre is the best guy at fleshing out Ospreay's material, and together they make some cool music. Ospreay has some legitimately cool stuff, but there a lot of his matches I've seen have had a lot of cool dance stuff thrown out with little rhyme or reason. Sabre establishes a ton of cool reversals early in the match and makes Ospreay's trademark big spots mean something, and when Ospreay starts switching up his strategy and approaching trademark sequences differently so that they land, it just makes it all the more satisfying. I loved how Sabre connected dots on his submissions, and loved how adept he was at reversing Ospreay. These two work incredibly quick with each other, and when most guys work quick there tend to be a lot of steps that get skipped. But Sabre incredibly does not skip steps, instead is able to work super fast all while showing his work. Working this quick you wouldn't expect someone to reverse a handspring kick by catching the leg, dropping down with the ankle over shoulder, lock in a grapevine, bury a fist in the square of your opponent's back, then lock in your crossface; one of those steps (most likely the fist jammed into the back) will normally be skipped at the service of "work fast look cool".

But Sabre spent this whole match showing his work and not letting it slow him down once, and it looked awesome. I loved how quickly he was able to fly into things, like the way he leapt at Ospreay and landed in a fully locked in octopus, sinking it in as quickly and efficiently as I reach for my toothbrush. These two were like glue with each other, and when you move this fast it's super impressive to not slip out of something momentarily and then put yourself *back* into something, but I didn't notice any of that. This was all of Sabre's smoothest trippiest counters to Ospreay's flash, with Sabre baiting Ospreay into throwing out limbs and always capitalizing. Ospreay's comebacks were planned smartly and the learned behavior was really satisfying, so that once things start landing and he starts recognizing what Sabre is using as bait, starts realizing that Sabre is locking subs on from different angles, it's really fulfilling. I thought the nearfalls built nicely, and they all came off stuff that deserved to be nearfalls. My favorite was Sabre leaping onto Ospreay with a flying guillotine, hoping to drag him to the mad with the added weight of the leap, but Ospreay instead turning he weight to his advantage and shifting the momentum into a sick brainbuster. I had no idea who was winning this, and I love when a longer match like this is able to maintain that "either guy can win this at any moment" feeling throughout, while somehow not feeling like move trading, and not showing their hand.


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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

AEW Dynamite Workrate Report 5/27/20

I didn't watch one cool second of the PPV, and I'm late to the broadcast tonight because it was my mom's birthday. How old is my mom? 69. How many 69 jokes did I make while visiting my parents? Not a single one.

What Worked

-Dead Stock Stadium Stampede Champions shirts is a funny joke concept, liked Jericho's delivery throughout the bit.

-I also laughed when Schiavone said "Yeah well a lot of us are fans of Wilbur Snyder" because JR brings up Wilbur Snyder the same way my grandpa would tell me the same story every few minutes toward the end of his run.

-Matt Hardy moves like he can't really bend his knees, but I can't deny that he is busting butt in AEW. He looks a little slimmed down, he cracked Kassidy with his big punch, he's quicker, and I loved his moonsault that landed perfectly across Private Party and Janela. I would like it if Matt kept up this Barry Darsow gimmick of cycling through his different eras. We need some plaid tights.

-Lee Johnson is the Job King of AEW, and I now want to see him get more ring time than the majority of AEW guys I see. This guy did not have to take a German suplex on the top of his shoulders, and yet he did. This man is wrecking his spine on buckle bombs and then decided he would also take a powerbomb on his neck. Respect this man.

-Britt "Roll Model" Baker is wonderful. I wasn't sure if something was actually wrong or if she was just playing her role in last week's tag really well, but this is making me an even bigger fan of hers. Although she started her rules for being a role model at #3. Feels like I missed a couple of important ones.

-If they have to put Kip Sabian, Jimmy Havoc, Scorpio Sky, and Frankie Kazarian on TV this much, at least they all end up in the same match. Wait, WHY do they have to put these guys on TV this much?

-Good battle royal with several noteworthy performances. Dr. Luther is a signing that people made fun of, but I've always liked him. Here he threw some nice right hands to send Marko across the ring, then threw him hard and bumped bumped huge for a chokeslam to the apron. Sonny Kiss had some nice stuff opposite MJF and also bumped big to the floor. Really this match was filled with guys taking big elimination bumps. Daniels generously bumped a Stunt rana to the floor, Cabana got tossed, several people did decent "hanging by a thread" dangles, Luchasaurus really went after MJF's throat on a chokeslam, and I liked Luchasaurus' punches and high kick during his showdown with Wardlow (the sequence itself was dumb, with both immediately going through a slow delay stand and trade, but the shots looked good). This was a good battle royal.

-Dug the Inner Circle segment as AEW bringing in a bunch of fighters is a completely awesome thing. Turn this shit into Zero-1 and bring in modern equivalents to Sean McCully. Vitor Belfort needs to come back and just kick the shit out of Kip Sabian and Jimmy Havoc in a handicap match. Give me a bunch of MMA guys with under 5 pro fights and let them shoot punch the Best Friends in the face. Dr. Luther is nuts, let's see Tyson speed bag his big head. This should be awesome.

What Didn't Work

-Hikaru Shida is a master at making her opponents awkwardly get into position for her offense. She cannot go two moves without her opponent needing to scoot several feet into the correct spot. Look at all that stuff on the top part of this show! Everything made it to the top! Look at how tenderhearted I am, praising nearly an entire episode of Dynamite! But Hikaru Shida is very much not good.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Al Hayes x2! Jean Casi! King Kong Taverne! Ray Hunter Julio Gasparrini!

Al Hayes vs. Jean Casi 12/7/57

MD: Hayes stands out as unique. We have other technical, fiery, stiff-upper-lip Brits that we've seen, but Hayes takes it to a different level. First off, he's a stylist. In this match, he has an escape for everything, to the point where when Casi turns up the heat here, you can't really blame him. It's almost too much. It's overwhelming. Unfair. Hayes looks to be the most accomplished, unbeatable wrestler of all time here. Second, though, is that sheer sense of offense and surprise when his opponent does resort to cheapshots. He's more than willing to shove the referee in fury or just lay in the kicks in response. It's not about revenge. It's about furiously meted out punishment, as if sparing the rod would leave the older Casi sans a proper and required lesson. It's interesting to watch Casi get increasingly desperate with his holds, but the more he leaves convention, the easier it is for Hayes to escape. The slugfests are heated and spirited, driven by the mutual frustration, Casi for having to endure Hayes' inevitability and Hayes for being disappointed and offended by Casi's fall from grace.

PAS: We have seen other slick mat workers in this project, but Hayes is at another level in this match. He found cool new ways to escape everything Casi threw at him, lots of spins and relocations of body parts in that uniquely British way. Hayes would be locked in a hold, and then just adjust Casi's knee slightly to the left, or give a small twist to his ankle and then he would be free. Of course Casi lost his cool and started to throw and we get a classic Catch slug fest at the end, and Hayes could throw on his feet as well as he worked on the mat. So cool we get a nice look at such an iconic guy.

SR: 2/3 Falls match going a little over 20 minutes. Jean Casi sure has a weird figure. Huge, upper body, and spindly arms and legs. He came across as bony. He came across as a sort of old style fighter here. He sure was trying, but Hayes with his flashy technique gave him not much breathing room. Casi wasn‘t lost in the contest, but Hayes wasn‘t backing down. Casi got in a few good licks, but the deceisive manner in which Hayes ended the contest drove the point home that Casi wasn‘t on Hayes level at all.

King Kong Taverne vs. Ray Hunter 12/12/57

MD: Interesting, entertaining match. I think this was probably a better/more typical look at Taverne. He brought a lot to the table but hasn't been used how I'd like him. He could be, at times, amazingly quick and agile, able to do a lot of the moves of the day, just slower and bulkier. Here, against a clear, towering babyface, it was played for laughs for the most part, like when he does the headscissors escape on a top wristlock only to get dumped over the ropes. When he's in control, he's able to really sit on Hunter, using a combination of his girth (both to grind down and hide from the ref) and cheapshots (thus the hiding). What's most impressive, however, is how quickly he can bound across the ring for a rolling leg pick. He doesn't bump as big as we saw previously, but does get bodyslammed up and over once. All the while, he manages this really great character actor put upon mentality. You really believe that this monster is who he portrays. This was a lot of Hunter getting the best of him though, using his height and his reach, holds and counters and brave shots. Multiple times, he tells the ref to stop admonishing Taverne because he'd rather deal with it with his own two hands. There was a mini-story here, with Taverne going for the legs so much, sometimes getting the dive, sometimes having it blocked or dodged or countered, but Hunter ultimately selling. That led to Hunter catching him with bodyscissors out of one attempt and Taverne doing perhaps the greatest move of the 50s, that cradling lift-up and a massive forearm to knock him down. There was a decent amount of gamesmanship and dodging. Early on, especially, Hunter was getting Taverne riled and then capitalizing it. And there were a few nice bits of revenge where Hunter looked to the crowd before landing some sneaky cheapshots of his own. Ultimately, this built to Taverne getting rougher and meaner but getting outfinesseed for a really great counter into an airplane spin finish. I don't think the match did a great job protecting Taverne, but he probably wasn't the sort of wrestler who needed much protection. Hunter is pretty much an ideal Al Hayes partner and we'll get that at least once more. This is our last look at Taverne, however, so I guess we won't get that one great match of his against the right opponent I was hoping for, but this was fun for what it was.

SR: 1 Fall match going a bit over 20 minutes. Last time we saw Taverne, he a quasi-face going after Delaporte. Now, he is fighting tall, handsome Ray Hunter. Taverne being shorter than Hunter kind of makes the King Kong name pointless. This was more of a standard heel/face heatmongering match. With Taverne doing a convincing job looking mishappen and evil. He had some pretty fast takedowns and dropkicks for a big guy. This was also the most I‘ve enjoyed Hunter. He ditched the Baba chops and just kept retaliating against Taverne, who made him eat some nasty boots in return. Houseshow-ish match, but I had fun.

PAS: I really enjoyed this, kind of a WARish heavyweight fight full of cheap shots and grinding. I wasn't a big Taverne fan last time we saw him, but I dug him here, lots of cool sugar holds, where he would grind down Hunter with a choke or an armbar. Hunter landed some fun hammerfists and forearms. There were a couple of awesome counters too, Taverne's lift out of the bodyscissors into a forearm should really be stolen by ever indy power wrestler, and Hunter flipping out of a wristlock to an airplane spin. Really cool stuff.

Al Hayes vs. Julio Gaspirrini 12/12/57

MD: This was a great piece of business. Gasparrini was no match for Hayes, not really, and had to take most of his advantages by going to the eyes or going low, but ultimately, he stayed in it a lot better than Casi did. He was another emotive Italian with great expressions on selling. He was more aggressive with his chain wrestling, however, and that made the first few minutes a joy. Instead of just locking in a hold and having Hayes escape, he kept on him, trying to counter and move to the next and Hayes still managed to win most of the exchanges, but he had to work for it a lot more. That, of course, showed us something in Hayes. He wasn't just an escape artist but could really take it up a notch against an opponent that was going to go with him. Maybe it's because we have such a personal connection to him, or because the other two versions/memories we have of him are so different (the one 70s match against Veidor where he is an arch heel and as a pompous but lovable announcer), but I've found him really remarkable to watch. The Casi match might have been more theatrical and more of a slugfest with cleaner lines and deeper frustration, but this was just as good and differently nuanced, as Gasparrini brought different things to the table and Hayes responded accordingly. There were so many things to see, not just his quick powerbomb, but step up monkeyflips or hooking a throat with his own foot to escape a hold, or how he'd work three positions to ultimately criss-cross his legs around an arm to escape, or the closing legwork, with a wrenching single leg crab and the water pump drop down that finished Gasparrini off (maybe the first actual submission we've seen?). Al Hayes, the unstoppable force, was not something I expected in watching these matches but he's pretty undeniable.

SR: 1 Fall match going a little under 20 minutes. I didn‘t expect to see so many Hayes matches in 2020. Gasparrini managed to mount a bit more offense than someone like Jean Casi. It still wasn‘t a ton, though. You can tell Hayes was a class above most wrestlers and liked to sho off. Who can blame him. I like that his style is distinctly British while retaining a judo touch. He had some ridiculously smooth movements here. Gasparrini was game to go along, but didn‘t do a ton more. He even quit the match just before he could get something going against Hayes near the end

PAS: Gasparrini had the mustache and manarisims of a quasi racist Italian stereotype in a fifties Ragu commercial "Who-a burned all a the meatballs."  He was mostly a foil for Hayes to show off, and he show off he did. I loved his fast snap mares and how he would flip out of Gasparrini's attempted receipts, the finishing submission was total class as well. I would like to see Hayes in something a bit more competitive then these two matches, but it is fun to watch him dominate too.

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Monday, May 25, 2020

Matches from EVOLVE 142 12/7/19

Full Show

Colby Corino vs. Sean Maluta

ER: It always felt like the best possible Colby Corino ceiling was going to be "peak Jimmy Jacobs" and he's clearly working strongly in that direction. This was a straight match worked like a street fight, both guys working aggressively. There are some things that can still be tightened up, but he works quick and has a lot of strong ideas, and already feels really good at thinking on his feet and running through a deep bag of size appropriate offense. The two had a real nice brawl with Maluta hitting hard with chops and Corino throwing stiff kicks and nice punches, executing everything snug. These two craft interesting, engaging sequences around thing that should be treated that way. We get an awesome struggle over a vertical suplex, and a few sequences that don't wind up where I think they're going to. Corino has a nice whipping kick, cool standing cannonball, and his brawling looked good. He's definitely a guy worth seeking out at this point.

117. Eddie Kingston vs. Anthony Gutierrez

PAS: I love Eddie Kingston beating on guys. Gutierrez is an MMA guy, and pretty fun when he sticks to that, although he will delve into bad topes and questionable standing shooting stars. But Sharkbait is a great bumper, and he dies like Pat Tanaka on clotheslines and German suplexes. There was a fun near fall on a tight triangle which Eddie breaks by biting, and an incredible body shot combo in the corner by Eddie which he flows right into an STO. These guys had a couple of other matches which I need to get my hands on, it's a fun match up.

ER: I thought this was awesome, a terrific Kingston-as-Hashimoto performance, giving Sharkbait tons of paths to victory while absolutely killing him with his shots. Kingston hit some real monstrous stuff here, and some of the best moments came when Gutierrez would catch him unexpectedly. Kingston is such a perfect opponent for someone like Sharkbait, and I would have been entertained if this was just several minutes of Kingston eating leg kicks. Kingston is a guy who clearly has a ton of material at his disposal *just* for selling leg kicks, really feels like a guy who can have a compelling match even if you gave three restrictive challenges within a match. I loved seeing Gutierrez land kicks and the occasional knee, and the way Kingston raked his eyes to get back to control and land big chops. Every big move Kingston landed looked like death, from that big time STO, to a nasty 1-2 combo (that could have easily finished the match) northern lights bomb and DDT. Gutierrez took both of those moves as painfully as possible, really stuffing his neck on the DDT. I actually liked Sharkbait's tope, even if it didn't land hard I think the point was that Kingston was not expecting a tope and so it at least threw him back into the guardrail. So Sharkbait stuns him by throwing his whole body at him and then immediately lands one of his hardest strikes of the match, an elbow that shifts Kingston's jaw. It felt like a smart way to set up a big strike. Reversing a big cocky King powerbomb into a triangle was a smart play, but once he did a light slingblade I wanted Kingston to murder him with a backfist, and he did! I loved how these two paired off, Kingston really feels like the obvious best guy in wrestling to do modern Different Fight matches.

106. Timothy Thatcher vs. Arturo Ruas

PAS: Ruas is an amateur wrestler and ju-jitsu black belt who is a WWE signee. I have no idea how he will do in the WWE system but he is pretty fun working an Ambition/Bloodsport style worked shoot match with Thatcher. There was some pretty slick grappling here, I loved Thatcher stacking Ruas guard and going for a kneebar, only to get countered with kimura. There was some really powerful thumping body shots, and Ruas had a cool upkick and german suplex. It reminded me a lot of the Thatcher vs. Ishikawa series. Ruas isn't close to Ishikawa's level as a wrestler, but he is clearly a high level grappler and it was fun to watch Thatcher craft a wrestling match around that.

ER: This was definitely the most I've seen Ruas on the mat, and I think the match benefitted from that. I have a love/hate relationship with his capoeira, as some of the strikes can look cool and land from weird angles, but those same strikes can often force time to stand still a little bit while his opponent figures out where exactly they're supposed to stand to take this strike. I guess you could say that some of his strikes need to get to the point a little quicker. This is almost entirely on the mat and cooler for it, and yes it really does come off exactly like something on an Ambition or Bloodsport show. Thatcher really goes for that kimura, and we get the kind of grappling that just comes off absolutely exhausting. I appreciate that they weren't going for flash, but instead showing all of the effort that goes into just neutralizing your opponent. I loved when Thatcher was slowly making progress up Ruas's body, had his legs tangled in a grapevine and was pushing past Ruas's torso like he was going for a Regal stretch, and we get that slight shifting of body weight that allows Ruas to sweep immediately into guard and roll into an armbar. They kept the striking brief, limited to some Thatcher uppercuts and a big slap, and I liked Ruas popping up on his shoulders from the mat and hitting Thatcher with an upkick enziguiri. Ruas took advantage with a nice German (though I preferred Thatcher's big hip pivot belly to belly earlier in the match) and thought that Thatcher immediately reversing into a kimura was super logical considering the format. The finish felt a bit too jittery and Ruas left a few too many seams exposed, but the bulk of this was really cool.


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Sunday, May 24, 2020

WWE Big 2, For Now? Lorcan, Gallagher 5/17-5/23/20

Oney Lorcan/Danny Burch vs. Ever-Rise (Chase Parker/Matt Martel) NXT 5/20

ER: This was a total mugging for Lorcan and Burch, and a fun one. You knew it was going short just because of how quick Burch was running through everything. But they didn't let the increase in speed affect execution, and if anything it made it feel like Burch was running harder into everything he threw. This was a quick and economical beating, with hard edge of fist punches and a great leaping kick right to Parker's teeth in the corner. Lorcan is the hot tag and doesn't drop the beat, using his expected big energy burst to throw nasty uppercuts and finish things with his missile launch horizontal flying uppercut. The only role for Ever-Rise here was to kick their asses beat, and they took a fine ass beating.

Oney Lorcan/Danny Burch vs. Ever-Rise 205 Live 5/22

ER: This is the best of the three (!) different matches these teams have had, with Ever-Rise having their best control segment and it feeling the right level of competitive. Ever-Rise are still a weird team to be in WWE as there is a team nearly exactly like them, with maybe a +/- 5% difference in talent, in every single indy fed in the country that draws 150+. They are a professional team who work matches no different than a tag team you see on almost every indy show you attend, and that is fine because you usually leave your local indy satisfied with that teams' match. I get the sense that just like those same tag teams all across North America, they can work heel or face depending on the night. But this is good, and I like how they focused their control segment around neck work. Parker does nice little things, his stomps are really good, and I dug how both he and Martel threw elbow strikes to the neck, and both bits of offense they did were neckbreaker variations. The Samoan drop/flying neckbreaker combo was a good nearfall, and Lorcan came real close to missing the save, really diving in from the floor with fingertips extended. We already got one match this week where Lorcan and Burch ran these two over, and it was cool to see the two of them work no less aggressively on offense, just allowing more room for Ever-Rise. Burch threw a nice german suplex and cool lariat, and Lorcan's chops and uppercuts sounded loud as hell in the PC. This felt like a WCW Saturday Night tag, and you know that's a good thing.

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Saturday, May 23, 2020

BattlArts Action-B 4/24/98 + 5/10/98


Masao Orihara/Takeshi Ono vs. Mamoru Okamoto/Masaru Seno

The Orihara and Ono weren't really BattlArtsy, but they were a total blast to watch. Seno starts off with a nice forearm, but then gets totally blizted, face kicked, dumped on his head with a Michinoku Driver and carried out of the ring. Orihara then taunts Hijikata at ringside, until he gets in the ring. He and Okamoto have a moment or two, including a german suplex, but they get worked over too and Okamoto gets powerbombed and pinned, post match they beat both guys up some more including a spiked piledriver. Fun squash which establishes Orihara and Ono as total dicks.

Alexander Otsuka/Mohammed Yone vs. Daisuke Ikeda/Katsumi Usuda-GREAT

The best BattlArts tags are this alcheminical mix of shootstyle and pro-style. This match strayed a bit too much into prostyle and missed that high level. Usuda kept throwing big demonstrative headbutts, Yone came off the tope rope, Ikeda was more rope running and less full on murder bot then I prefer him. There was of course still a lot to love in this match. Otsuka was absolutely slaughtering people with suplexes, including a head and neck throw into a choke for this finish. Any combo of these guys in a tag is going to be great, but this missed that absolute peak.

Yuki Ishikawa vs. Carl Greco

This was an absolute classic, as good as their more well known 1998 match. Greco was basically BattlArts version of Ken Shamrock, and he may have even been slicker on the mat. These are the two most skilled grapplers in BattlArts and they are rolling, grabbing necks, ankles and knees and twisting. Greco has one of the best tendon locks I have seen, he grabs it super fast and really looks like he is shredding tendons. There is some great stuff with Greco taking Ishikawa's back and squeezing a body lock and Ishikawa countering with foot lock. There is some really nasty striking too, some nasty body shots and ground and pound by Ishikawa and an awesome spin kick by Greco. We all know how great Ishikawa is, but the more I watch Greco I think he is a hidden all-timer too.


Masao Orihara/Takeshi Ono vs. Mamoru Okamoto/Ryuji Hijikata

Another fun Orihara and Ono tag as they beat on some lower card guys. Again there wasn't much BattlArts flavor to this, outside of Ono trying to take everyones heads off with kicks. There was some looseness to what Okamoto and Hijikata were throwing, and you can tell why they were slotted where they were. I did like them double stomping Ono, that guy is so skinny that you almost expect their boots to go through his body.  I am excited to check out Ono and Orihara against guys higher up the ladder.

Alexander Otsuka vs. Katsushi Takemura

Takemura is a NJ young guy and gets taken to the woodshed by Otsuka. Otsuka is a great guy to take apart a rookie, and he dumps him on his head with some nasty suplexes, including turning a trapped guillotine choke into a no protection DDT, and high angle piledrive. Takemura gets a nice German of his own, but this was mostly an opportunity to watch Otsuka unload.

Daisuke Ikeda/Gran Naniwa/Yone Genjin vs. Carl Greco/Ikuto Hidaka/Yuki Ishikawa

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, May 22, 2020

New Footage Friday: WWF in Kuwait! WWF in Germany!

Rock n Roll Express vs. Smoking Gunns WWF 7/94

MD: This was basically everything you could have wanted from a random 1994 Smoking Gunns vs RnRs German house show match. Express played the heels and while I've seen that before, I'm not sure I've seen it too much against an over babyface teem significantly bigger than them. They opened up the bag of tricks to really put over their opponents, giving back with a lot of the spots that they had taken advantage of over the years and feeding, feeding, feeding like the pros that they were. For the most part the Gunns' timing was on (there were one or two moments towards the end that were iffier including Gibson having to practically shout to draw a ref distraction for an illegal switch and the finish), and even with the poor VQ, you can tell that they were able to use their size at the right times in the right ways to engage the crowd. It was one of those matches where you worry the heat would never come, but when it did it was great, full of hope spots and cut offs that played to the size and a call-back spot for the big comeback that really worked. If you told me this was the best match the Gunns ever had, I'd believe you and it feels like another tiny feather in the exceptionally large cap of the Express.

ER: I love Rock n Roll heel matches, and I love that the man responsible for the popularity of the undersized babyface in peril is the guy who is the heel against two men significantly larger than he. It's not like they suddenly work more vicious or anything, they just know the small things that make guys the ones to root against in a wrestling match, and they're smart enough about it the fans eventually ignore what their brains tell them about who should and shouldn't be the underdog. For the bulk of this match the only offense they got was a couple of kicks to the stomach, and they're able to expertly take the role of their own foils and show how great they can make the spots look. Gunns handle all these spots and even the ones typically done by a heel (mocking the smaller opponent during a knucklelock) works flawlessly off the strengths of Ricky playing a loudmouth undersize jerk. The Gunns never land with me as a tag team, and I'm not sure why. They clearly have an understanding of basics and their timing is strong, it's just never used in very interesting ways. And I think if they worked more often like this house show version of themselves, they'd come off better for it. Here they used their size to constantly get under the skin of the RnRs, and the RnRs used their deft knowledge of match layouts to craft fun spots around the weird dynamic. I loved the dropdown spot that ended with the Ricky and Robert colliding, and loved that even when they were in control doing their rolling leg grapevines, they were still getting driven crazy from the apron. The Gunns could have really benefitted from more southern tag training, and this made me want to go check out their WWF matches with the Heavenly Bodies.

MD: This is the match where Gerry Brisco choked Austin out for fun on his way back from the ring, but we don't see that. This wasn't long after the Jannetty heel turn but he's de facto face here. I vaguely wonder if WWF was a draw in Kuwait in 91, but he even got little chants. At any point in the 90s, you could drop Marty into a situation and he'd be a perfectly fine babyface, even in his sleep or drugged out of his mind. Austin, still having the Million Dollar Belt but now sans Dibiase and already Stone Cold, was more electric than not, with lots of jarring hand and head motions, just full engagement even with the heat. When they worked a grounded chinlock, he was entirely into it. When he targeted the back for a minute or two, everything was focused and credible and inevitable. Marty had a quick but spirited comeback but this was always going to be another notch in Austin's belt.

ER: (I don't think I've heard this Brisco story that Matt mentioned) I love night off Austin because he's not a guy who is boring while taking a night off. He doesn't have to do a lot, but he's classically trained and knows how to work a big crowd in small ways, an easy heel base to play off Marty's classic babyface. Austin is entertaining to me when he's just getting foiled by armdrags and dropkicks, a guy who entertains me by slapping the mat and kicking his feet in frustration while in a move. Jannetty is wearing that hype Jerry Estrada/Ultimate Warrior/Pia Zadora stage wear, tassels flying when he bumps (and he does take a big bump after getting tossed to the floor by Austin). This is all super simple stuff that these two probably threw together on the spot, and I love seeing the bones like that. I'll always pop for Austin draping his opponent over the ropes, and then running in with a missed attack. He finds so many fun ways to bounce on the ropes before getting flung to the mat, and I gotta imagine it was incredibly fun doing a spot like this for fans who had never seen it before.

MD: It's very weird to see Bret post-Mania 12. He doesn't show back up on TV until October, past an interview or two. It's even weirder to see him with actual announcing talking about his loss. This was a curiosity to me, because I thought Snow would leap at the chance to wrestle Bret in a setting like this and would try more things. He really doesn't. It's very by the books, but in a way that no one did better than Bret. I assume this had to do with the heat more than anything else because Ross and Hayes don't shut up about it. Instead, Snow leans into the shtick, complaining about the hair before using it himself, then it's a lot of chinlocks and headlocks, with eyerakes and hair pulls for cutoff. The timing's good, with them never sitting in anything for long. Some of the actual cutoffs with Bret trying to escape the headlock look pretty wild and gritty. There's one great eyerake (the main point of transition to heel control actually) off of the side backbreaker (here the first move of doom attempt) that was creative. I like how Bret couldn't therefore hit any of his big moves until he fought free and then he hit all of them at once. Snow let himself get spiked off of a caught leapfrog to set up the Sharpshooter, but that was about the biggest bump he took. This was just a match instead of anything special.

ER: I was way more into this one than Matt was, and thought it was a great heel Leif performance. In fact I would wager than no man among us has seen better "He's pulling my hair" mannerisms than what Leif gives us here. This man goes to Shinsuke Nakamura levels of ropes work to show just how hard Bret Hart yanked his hair. I was dying at Leif practically dropping down into a full back bridge just to show how criminally Bret was yanking his shag. And so of course it's perfect when he exclusively starts yanking Hart by his hair. I thought the headlock spots were really good. Hart is someone who knows how to work a headlock, both sides of it. Hart is really good at being in a headlock and shoving someone off, and he's good at holding onto a headlock when getting shoved off. I loved him trying to shove Cassidy off a side headlock, Cassidy going to the hair and maintaining that headlock, and both skidding to the mat with Cassidy locking it on even tighter. It's two pros working a match with hardly any moves or highspots, all headlocks and lock ups and eye rakes, and it all worked. It felt like the kind of match you'd see Lawler work against Doug Gilbert on a handheld, and Cassidy was a really great Doug Gilbert, because the few moments that needed someone with speed and agility lead to a couple of physical exchanges you wouldn't see from Dougie. The finish was logical and tight, with Cassidy lured into a speed game and baited into doing a leapfrog, with Hart slightly slowing down his momentum to catch him instead in a sidewalk slam and quick tap sharpshooter.

MD: This was amazing. It's five minutes. They don't touch until 4:30 in, but out of all of these Kuwait matches we have, this has the most heat by far. Backlund stalls and throws a fit and demands a handshake and hides in the ropes and Savio gets more over than anyone else on these shows by playing off of it, pointing and waggling his finger. They run about 1.5 spots before the roll up which just makes the crowd erupt. Just beautiful crowd manipulation.

ER: This really was great. This Kuwait tour gave us the Butch Miller singles match we wanted, and now it's giving us deep cut Bob Backlund in ways I've never seen him before. I don't think of Bob Backlund being around and wrestling when I think of 1996 WWF, but it's great. This is several minutes of Bob Backlund circling the ring, considering getting into the ring, briefly rolling into the ring to restart the count, and then circling the ring. He walks down the aisle, comes back, can't seem to understand why the fans in Kuwait aren't more excited for him. Now, the ring was on an elevated platform in the middle of this stadium, meaning there were a couple of steps from the entrance aisle up to the ringside area. And sadly, Backlund does not just spend several minutes doing the Harvard Step Test on those entrance steps. The best thing about this Kuwait footage (not just this new footage but the 80s stuff we've also reviewed) is how much the old stuff works on these fans. It's fun watching guys in a WWF ring essentially work like they're a 55 year old years removed from active ring time vet working a local high school. I could not believe how loudly the fans reacted when Savio played possum and got a small package. This was the best version of seeing a Honky Tonk Man match live at the fair in 2000 (I saw that).

MD: Happy Triple H 25th Anniversary everyone. Here at Segunda Caida, we celebrate to the proper level, a ten minute match with Bushwhacker Butch from Kuwait. I'm watching this one because Eric is and either it's solidarity or this is what we do to one another. This was round one of the tournament. Hunter would go on to lose it in the finals against Ahmed, all a couple of weeks before the curtain call, so he was still high on the rise. Despite what I just said, Hunter's a guy who pays attention, who always paid attention. This was the match that immediately followed the Backlund/Aldo match, and Hunter, up against a 52 year old Butch in a place scorching hot enough that one of the first thing we catch in the match is Hayes saying on commentary is that they need more water, is going to go with what just worked. That meant lots of early ducking out of the ring and lots of nose-related stooging, though some of that might not have played to the back row given the size of the crowd. Butch was game and focused, quick to engage by adding to the ref's count or throwing out a Yeaaaaah. This is basically the best Hunter, right? Stooging, pretty selfless in getting his opponent over, really leaning into the mannerisms and crowd interaction between moves when he takes over, even selling the nose post-match. They weren't really into Butch's hope spots but they definitely booed on the cut offs. Hayes and Ross were fun on commentary going on about Sheepherding and talking about seeing Ali in the Superdome together. This was probably the best conventional ten minute match these two could have in 96, but I wouldn't have wanted to follow Backlund vs Vega.

ER: This is really exciting, as this may be the only Butch Miller singles match to exist from his long WWF run. Matt was running through matches from the Kuwait Cup that suddenly showed up, and I said we obviously had to do Butch vs. HHH, as I always enjoy HHH matches when he's in there with a vet that can actually lead him through some simple things. This is the kind of dumb rarity that I love, where we get a Butch Miller singles match in WWF past the point that most people even realized the Bushwhackers were in WWF. The Bushwhackers are super weird to still be around in 1996, and a Bushwhacker singles match just wasn't something that was happening on WWF shows. I love that kind of thing. And this really is a Hunter to celebrate, as not only do we get an insanely late era Bushwhacker singles match, but it goes 12 minutes! I love it. Hunter stooges for good headlocks and comedic nose ripping, and is a good sport for Butch. Butch seems to occasionally move or fall in a totally unexpected way, and Hunter played off that really well. The fans were more into Butch than you'd think they'd be, and that played into some of the fun here. Hunter ramps up the bumps as the match goes on, and peaks things with his roll up the turnbuckles and back down bump, and Butch starts taking fast back bumps as Hunter fires back. Hunter was super giving here and it made for a really fun old guy match, and I couldn't get over what an oddity it was that Miller was still on the roster. I wanted to see a stiff arm lariat from him and eventually got that too. I'm glad we spent time on this.

MD: What a weird match-up. I get that WWF was less calcified in 96 than it was in the late 80s or early 90s and that this was a foreign tour so it was about using what guys they had, but these teams didn't exactly make sense on paper. While a big chunk of this was Yankem and Vega, it was really all about Backlund and Yoko, especially Backlund interacting with Yoko. Backlund as a heel was so manic and wild, just completely bonkers, and him charging at Yoko and immediately retreating or rolling from one side of the ring to the floor on the other side is tremendously entertaining. Just watching Yoko on the apron or interacting with Savio makes me think that they should have turned him earlier. I don't think there was ever a spot for him as the Attraction with Taker in the company, but he had that mix of timing, agility (even a year or so before this), and unmistakable charisma. It was there in the way he leaned on the turnbuckle while the heels were stooging and stalling in the beginning of the match and how he spun around slowly so Savio had to run around him with their hands raised in the end. Just an incredible presence, even in the heat and even as he had put on so much more weight.

ER: Yeah this was all about the Backlund/Yoko showdowns. Backlund was back on his Kuwait bullshit, this time even running into the crowd and mixing it up with actual Kuwaiti soldiers! I laughed every time he would charge at Yoko only to retreat the second he got next to him, the whole thing felt like something Candido would do on an indy show. Charge at the big guy, bump yourself to the floor to get into it with more fans. Yokozuna was enormous here, getting towards the end of his WWF run, but he was still so good. I don't think he had the same charisma as immobile Andre, but Andre was the best at emoting and projecting danger while being immobile. Seeing Yokozuna work the apron and almost rib Vega and his opponents in little ways was a fun side of him that would have played well on TV. I'm pretty sure I've never seen he and Backlund cross paths, two World Champs going at it, both not exactly in their prime but with the skills and muscle memory to make this worth it. I also love that the whole match is Backlund running distraction, flailing arms, butt sticking out, eyes wild, and it all builds to the Yankem/Yoko showdown. And Yoko hilariously just plants Yankem with the Samoan drop, slowly gets back to his feet, and drags him over to the corner for the banzai drop. I loved Savio leaping onto Yoko's back in celebration after the match, Yoko not even acting like a full large grown man is on him.

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

If Shinya Hashimoto Plays With Love it Can Bring Tears My Dear

Shinya Hashimoto vs. The Great Oz NJPW 5/17/92 - GREAT

ER: Hash is one of those guys I love so much, that I love seeing him against weird opponents as much or more than seeing him in legendary matches with legendary performers. Funk, Lawler, Hansen, they all have legendary feuds and opponents, but I love seeing those guys opposite weird guys. Hashimoto vs. early career Kevin Nash is weird, and I am here for it. Nash is a guy who got a bad rap from the Scott Keiths of the world, but time has been kind to him. Here he's raw and, well, green [*reminder to come up with funnier Oz joke before posting*], but brings big presence and an early career willingness to try new things. It's fun to see early career offense that gets abandoned, and the Great Oz of 1992 does a couple things that were already distant memories by the time 1993 Diesel rolled around. You get great stuff like two burly guys slamming into each other with shoulderblocks, but I also loved how Oz didn't let himself get picked apart too much by Hash. Oz obviously had size over him, but Hash was remarkably fast (look how quickly he gets to his feet or rolls to the floor) and hit harder. I've seen a lot of Green Giants get eaten alive on Japan tours, suddenly finding themselves in a place where they don't speak the language opposite a guy who smells blood, and they can wind up looking like real doofuses. Here, when Hash throws some hard chops and kicks, Oz responds with possibly the only high kick of his career. Not a big boot mind you, but Oz throws a sweeping high right kick to the left side of Hashimoto's head, total K-1 legend. We get great leaping elbow drops from both men, Oz breaks out a weird bulldog (not traditional style, done more like the way Kelly Kelly would do a bulldog, which is weird to see from a 7' guy), and I loved the double DDT finish. Hashimoto spikes DDTs like few, and the nearfall off the first DDT was a gem, didn't think Oz would kick out of that one. He does not kick out of the one that follows.

Shinya Hashimoto vs. Hubert Numrich NJPW 11/2/97 - FUN

Numrich is a German K1 guy and this was a mixed fight. Hashimoto is my favorite guy to watch in these kind of matches, as he can usually find something interesting to do with a big MMA lug. Numrich was no Gary Goodrich or Tony Halme though, he was really obviously pulling his shots, and it was tough for Hashimoto to go down to pitter pats. I did really like the nasty Judo throw into the stiff side headlock for the tap, but that barely kept it out of Skippable territory for me.


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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

AEW Dynamite Workrate Report 5/20/20

What Worked

-Ten makes his Dynamite debut and his offense looked better than Moxley's. I liked his spinebuster, I liked his shot to the back of Moxley's head while Moxley was weirdly touching Aubrey Edwards' face, and the post match arm breaking angle looked good.

-I wouldn't have had money on MJF being the best squash match worker in the company, but here we are. AEW is filled with big guys who worked slow paced squashes while making dumb faces at the camera, or top stars who work way too competitive with bad structure. Here, Blackface MJF (MJG?) knows how to leave Marko openings by being cocky, and his established goofy selling works really well when used to mock Stunt's ineffectiveness (like when he sold a sunset flip by hammily waving his arms and bugging his eyes - the way he typically sells a sunset flip - only to reveal he was in no danger of going down). The shoulderbreaker looked great, him catching Marko in the ring skirt and missing a hard axe handle to the apron looked great, and he took a fantastic bump into the ring steps. I look forward to MJF matches now, which was not a thing I used to do.

-Arn has a sweater vest with Cody's bad logo on it!! Not a surprise that a talking segment with Arn and Jake is going to work. They aren't quite as quick as they used to be, but there are still going to be some great pull quotes when you let these two talk for a few minutes. I particularly liked Jake - boiler stretching buttons - accusing Arn of "looking a little thick".

-Wow, I really loved Fenix/Cassidy. This was one of the greatest Fenix performances of the past year, and I did not expect him to work so great as Cassidy's foil. He played into early match comedy (that was limited nicely to just the first minute or so), and him kicking and headbutting turnbuckles felt like a well done vintage Super Porky opponent spot. The rest of the match he worked really vicious, loved his big springboard legdrop, loved him doing little things like kicking Cassidy in the temple whenever he was on the mat too long, his nasty baseball slide dropkick, and thought his timing was super tight. Perhaps most importantly, he made Cassidy's offense look really dangerous, and the way he took a tornado DDT and a diving DDT was worth the cost of admission, and that was before he got dropped hard with a air raid crash. He really knows how to spike himself and make it look like a guy getting spiked. The Kip Sabian stuff at the end was dumb, but the match itself was incredibly fun.

-Hardy/Guevara was good, even though I think it went a little too long. I especially liked the first part of the match with Sammy eating a beating on the outside. Sammy is really good at flying into objects. He can make a spot like getting pulled into the ringpost a couple times look really nasty, and he flies into guardrails more enthusiastically than anyone else in AEW. Matt Hardy has been moving quicker since debuting in AEW, not sure if his body healed up from not being used often over the past year or he's just really going full effort in AEW, but the energy is good. Sammy's comeback segments were fun, loved his payback by smashing Hardy's face into the ringpost. Things did feel a bit too back and forth and I would have preferred a match without so much "stuff", but they worked like a main event and it came off mostly well.

-The endzone brawl was a cool visual and nice change of scenery, and it may have been the most interesting work from Hangman Page in a couple months. I love guys running in from long distances, and him doing a 100 yard dash to run the length of the football field - but not in a funny joke payoff spot - is something I can get behind. They've gone for laughs so many times in their big brawls that the whole thing worked because things that could have been silly - Page being on the other side of the stadium for some reason and needing to run at full speed to save his friends - was played straight. Page throwing hard right hands when he finally arrived didn't hurt.

What Didn't Work

-Not sure the last time I saw three straight dives end with three straight bodies flying directly into the ground, but somehow six men managed to whiff on catching Fenix, Cabana, and Cassidy, all in under a minute. After Fenix tope con hilo'd to the floor, I took stock of Jimmy Havoc, Kip Sabian, and you just know having all the worst guys on your roster out there was going to result in them all botching the one job they had.

-Had high hopes for this one, as I think a tag format is a much smarter way to use the women, rather than the messy 4 ways they always throw out there. And I think this was not far from being on the top side of the page, but fell a little short. I thought the long Nyla control segment was really good, with her straight leveling Statlander with a big pounce to start her control. Stomping her head, kicking her to the floor in the neck, dropping a nice legdrop, nice slow heel control. It also played to Britt Baker's strong apron work, as Britt is really good at making shirt collar tugging faces and not rushing to tag in. The match dipped when Shida and Statlander made their comebacks. Stuff looked sloppy, Shida stuff comes up light, but it's not bad. Shida makes up for weak offense with energy and charisma, and it does close up some of the gap. I liked when Baker finally had to tag in, thought her stumbling control and stooging with Statlander was good. Match had some miscommunication, but I could see this tag being run back next week and being actively good. And I couldn't see that happening if this was just a 4 way.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Mann! Montourcy! Black Salem! Pellacani!

Tommy Mann vs. Claude Montourcy 10/17/57 - GREAT

PAS: Another week, another pair of awesome guys I have never heard of. Pretty classic French Catch heavyweight style match, with some really cool matwork a nasty cheating heel, and a finishing run full of violence. We even get a countout finish off a big bump, which seems to be a finish used a lot. I like well done formula wrestling, and this was very well done. Montourcy really works over the arm, including a great spot where he climbs Mann's back to clasp an arm. Mann is a guy with stiff cheapshots, and he had especially good looking uppercuts, landing right in the mandible. He looked like he was going to dislocate's Montourcy's jaw. The finish bump by Mann was a pretty big one, and I liked how he sold his arm like he cracked his forearm on the chair.

MD: Despite being billed as American, Mann is definitely British. He was on Benny Hill. He's a stocky grizzled, hard-nosed character and we're lucky to have any footage of him. Montourcy is a quick and fiery (when pushed) French babyface. I had some concerns in the first few minutes as the chain wrestling seemed okay but not particular dynamic relative to what we've been watching, but then Mann forearmed him out of nowhere and everything was okay once more. Mann either really understood or adroitly adapted to the crowd. Much like British rules, you have to chain your offense together in French Catch. If you knock someone down, you can't then go in and lock in a hold if bodily contact was broken and it wasn't all one movement. If you do, the ref will break the hold. Mann, however, kept going for unattached chinlocks, getting big boos each time. It's one of those things that probably wouldn't have worked in front of any other crowd of any other era but it made him reviled here. This turned into a good mix of slugging blows (including Montourcy affronted comebacks and bits of revenge) and punishing holds; Mann was especially good at turning one hold into the next as Montourcy shifted positions. Given the length of these matches, there are generally a lot of momentum shifts, which makes each individual comeback somewhat less memorable then it might be in a shine-heat-comeback formula, but there was a beautiful stepover (with the leg hooked every so slightly under the arm to give the flipping torque) cross-arm breaker with the leg clapping down over the face repeatedly, that really got the crowd up, including the Martian at ringside. Anyway, things escalated to some bumps out of the ring and a countout/TKO that protected Mann well enough while putting over Montourcy. We'll see the latter a few more times but Mann only once more I think.

SR: 1 Fall match going almost exactly 20 minutes. Tommy Mann was a British grappler who was looking quite lumpy and aging in this, while Montourcy is a slender young technician. Odds that this was gonna turn into a brawl were high, but they engage in some quite good grappling. It soon became apparent Montourcy would have the upper hand, so Mann decided to crank up the viciousness with nasty forearms and clubs. Really liked his backbreakers and the finger bending that he did which is exactly what you‘d expect from a crusty old veteran carny. Montourcy was slick as hell and looked like one of the better workers around. Predictably good match.

Jacky Corne vs. Rafael Blasco 11/29/57 - FUN

MD: This was something. We just get ten minutes of it but Blasco, who is a Spanish Light Heavyweight who I don't think there's any footage of but this, is an amazing striker and just pounds the hell out of Corn. He has this high torque twist out into a forearm or a punch that's brutal and he does it again and again. He also picks Corn up and charges him into the corner multiple time. Corn is a fighter as always and comes back to the crowd's delight, but ultimately it's too much. I liked the gamesmanship here: when Corn was coming back, Blasco tossed him out; when Blasco used the same tricks too many times, Corn was able to dodge away or deflect, but really this was all about the strikes and how much heat Blasco was able to generate from the crowd.

PAS: I am not going to complain about a match where a guy brutally punches another guy until the towel gets thrown in. It was pretty one-dimensional, but that is a hell of a dimension. The rainmaker into a punch was really cool, and it is fun to see how many 50s French Catch guys have cooler Rainmakers than Okada.

SR: About the ending of what looks like a pretty heated match. Mostly Blasco beating on Corn with nasty forearm shots until his corner man throws in the towel. Blasco also really likes a move where he puts Corn in a japanese strangelhold and spins him around like a Rainmaker. I would‘ve liked more Blasco as he came across mean and tough but this is his sole appearance.

Black Salem vs. Liano Pellacani 11/29/57 - GREAT

MD: Pellacani is one of the greatest heatseeking villains we've seen. Remember, he's the guy we saw someone throw a lit cigarette in one of our first matches. Here, he's not just facing Black Salem, but the ref and the crowd and the world itself. Ultimately, what that means is that we don't necessarily have a great match, but we do absolutely have an amazing performance. Salem was fairly big, with a great headbutt and some questionable strikes (kicks especially) and and throws/holds. He reminded me a bit of King Kong Taverne, where he could do the moves of the day, but not nearly as smooth as others. I get the sense that some of the technical masters we've seen could walk him through a really interesting match. That's not what Pellacani was there for though. He was there to enrage everyone in the crowd, especially the lady wearing the giant cross that may or may not have been a nun. Oh and the guy that pounded him when he was on the apron at one point. And the ref (though that was worked) who kept kicking him in the head repeatedly when he wouldn't break a hold. With almost every heel we've seen, there's a Tully-ian moment of at least trying to wrestle before going to the cheapshots. Not with Pellacani. He rushes right in at the bell and never looks back. If the ref hits him to break a hold, he makes sure to kick Salem in response. He jaws with the ref or the crowd as a distraction so he can lunge in at his opponent. When he hits something he's happy with, he'll do a little strut or a finger motion with a smug look on his face. Sometimes he even feigns contrition, as if it was an accident. And his shots all look nasty and brutal and sound even worse. Pellacani was truly the best at being the worst.

PAS: Pellacani continues to be great. You really don't need much on the other side, he is going to throw those big shots and try to fight everyone in the audience. He has some real shoulder separators for forearms, and knows just when to cool a crowd down and to heat them up.  I enjoyed Salem, his stuff didn't always land but he timed his stuff really well and that headbutt was class. I also like the spin kick, it didn't always land great but it looked cool.  Pellacani was the story though, he is really an all timer.

SR: With a name like Black Salem, you hope for some kind of esoteric mat wizard, but this turns into a brawl pretty much from the get go with Pellacani barraging Salem with his stiff forearm blows, punch combos and thudding kicks. Black Salem fought back with good looking dropkicks and big headbutts. Pellacani looked good in the Takashi Ishikawa role of psychotically potatoeing a guy, at one point he even started doing these stiff low kicks. Also liked Pellacani taking swings at the audience which gave the whole thing a vibe like something was about to break out. Pretty short at about 15 minutes and felt like it could have been more. Atleast we got a rough looking end sequence leading to the pinfall.

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