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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

All Japan Motherload - Terry Funk vs. Masked White Dinguses

Terry Funk vs. The Asteroid - AJPW 10/29/80

ER: In which Bill Irwin wears his Super Destroyer mask and inexplicably works as THE ASTEROID; proceeds to get quietest crowd reaction during ring intros that you have ever heard. Match is JIP and we cut to a gassed Irwin holding a headlock on Funk. And for a match largely controlled by Asteroid this was fun, and got really good by the end when they're throwing great punches at each other. For his part, Irwin brought size, actual snug headlocks (and Funk is a guy who knows how to put over a nice headlock), and then finally throws down with Funk. Once Funk starts laying in the punches it rules and Irwin doesn't embarrass himself. The final two minutes are great with big punches, Irwin taking a nice backdrop, Funk trying to rip Asteroid's mask off, and then hitting a huge butterfly suplex on a large dude. No idea why Irwin thought being called The Asteroid was a cool idea.

Terry Funk/Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Jack Brisco/The Avenger - AJPW 4/27/81

ER: The Avenger is Moose Morowski, who is a name you read and go ohhhhhh yeahhhhh but really have no idea who he is/was. But that name seems like a name you've seen before, somewhere. It's possible he was a villain in some sort of Archie comics universe. Brisco seems thoroughly apathetic towards his partner. This match was all about Brisco doing Brisco-y things, which can be both interesting, unique, and entirely robotic and boring. Funk is hilarious trying to get Jumbo to crack before the bell, as Jumbo clearly wants to start but Funk keeps offering, and eventually Jumbo starts shoving Funk towards the apron. Funk's comic timing is great here as Jumbo would nudge him to the apron and right when Jumbo would turn around Funk would be back in offering to start the tag. Match is basically a bunch of leg work until Avenger taps to the spinning toe hold, while Brisco stands on the apron within reach, opting not to save him. Funk has some cool indian deathlocks and really hams it up spinning into them. Regarding Brisco being both unique and annoying, I like how he actually takes moves more realisitically (within a pro wrestling universe framework). This means no flat back bumps, more believable reactions; not going down on dropkicks but instead being sent stumbling, getting knocked sideways on shoulder blocks. It wasn't realistic in an MMA sense, but pro wrestling real, in the way prime Akira Taue would take offense. When he would do his amateur stuff it also looked really great, namely when Funk was trying to scramble for a tag and Brisco kept blocking him with a front headlock and wide base. It looked awesome. The negative is a lot of Brisco's stuff looks weak, or unfocused. He'll just grab a leg with no real plan, and then Funk just kicks him, with Brisco somehow not planning on Funk using his other limbs. And while sometimes his bumps off shoulderblocks looks more real, other times it just looks like him wussing out of them. He rolls away from Jumbo's a little too early, which makes it hilarious when Funk hits him flush with one directly afterwards. For his part, Avenger puts over Funk's leg locks GREAT, yelling and begging through his mask, screaming and putting over the pain. The guy was the most obvious sitting duck on the card, but at least he worked with what he got.

Terry Funk/Dick Murdoch vs. Big John Studd/The Asteroid - AJPW 11/80

ER: Big John Studd was maybe the weirdest guy booked as a giant. Maybe Big Dick Dudley. But Studd never looked much bigger than his opponents, and had a much more slender build than most of them. Here he looked the same exact size and build as Edge. It seriously just looked like Edge working bearhugs and entering the ring over the top rope. It says a lot about styles guys choose to work, as so often you'd hear Edge described as a smaller guy, but it was entirely because he had an awful flimsy moveset. Studd lumbers, clubs and works bearhugs while being the size of Edge, and people presumably bought him as a giant. It's always confused me. Even as a child I didn't understand what was supposed to be a big deal when Andre slammed him. He looked no larger than a couple dozen of the other guys in the WWF. The whole match was worked around Studd getting Terry and Murdoch in a bearhug. I'm a sucker for bearhug spots and you won't find many guys who sell a bearhug better than Terry and Dick. Dick is great regularly rearing back to punch but then getting squeezed back into submission. Terry is even better because he punches Studd right in the face a couple times in a way that Studd did not seem to expect. Funk really smashes him right in the eye, then throws some of the best body blows you've ever seen. And thanks to the internet, the world now has MULTIPLE Asteroid matches floating through its galaxy. The Asteroid does not look very good.  Neil Degrasse Tyson seems to think Earth is overdue to be hit by an asteroid, but thanks to this footage we already know that it actually happened 35 years ago, and we also know that it got deflected by Terry Funk doing the worst spinning toe hold he's ever done.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

MLJ: Dr. Wagner Jr., La Sombra, Rush vs Atlantis, LA Park, Volador Jr.

2015-08-28 @ Arena México
Dr. Wagner Jr., La Sombra, Rush vs Atlantis, LA Park, Volador Jr.

Match here at clarosports

As people who have actually been reading this from the start can attest, when I first got into lucha seriously, one of the things that drew me were the big trios matches of 2006. This felt like those. There you'd have Los Guerreros del Atlantida, with Atlantis as the turncoat veteran, full of attitude up against a combination like Santo, Wagner, Jr., and Mistico. It would go long, be super-heated, full of charisma and star power, and play with the conventions. It was special in a way that's sort of hard to reach with the weekly trios matches we see again and again. That said, I think I had some of that same feeling at the height of the Rush/Negro Casas feud last year. The Ingobernables were just coming together. Shocker was teaming with Casas and looking ten years younger. There was a real fire. It wasn't quite the same though. This, however, was.

Park and Wagner were going to pop a crowd, both here and for the anniversary show. Hell, they probably weren't even entirely needed as Atlantis and Sombra were probably going to pop a crowd just by themselves. The point is that they could have just let this match go and coasted on through or they could have let their egos drive and sold nothing and made their partners do all the work and just waved to the crowd. That wasn't the case at all. This was a hell of a match and it was a hell of a match because it was heated and because it played with conventions, circling the finishing pairing again and again before getting there, but it was a hell of a match, especially, because Park and Wagner added so much to it. The novelty of seeing Los Ingobernables finally face off against tecnicos is nice but the additional of two luchadores with such charisma and experience was a real shot in the arm.

This match had a ton of time and used it well. They started by brawling fairly evenly, including a LA Park headbutt war with Rush, Wagner going for the dragon screw on Volador and failing, and Sombra and Atlantis bee-lining at each other. Ingobernables worked the numbers game and took the advantage, including Wagner taking off Park's belt to use it as a weapon like he's probably done a thosuand times. One thing they did really well here, both in the primera and especially in the tercera, was to logically keep the wrestlers not being focused on/beat on busy. That's a really important thing in trios matches and something that I think, on the CMLL main event level, they're pretty good at doing. You don't usually just get guys standing there waiting or having to be kept out by the ref, not in the really spirited beatdowns. Late in the match they drag Volador in, only to throw him right back out, for instance. Here, he runs in and got beat down. Anyway, Park dodged a CL in a double team, kicked Rush, dove onto Sombra, and let his partners lock in the Atlantida and hit the Backcracker for the first fall.

The segunda started out back and forth. There were, for instance, German Suplex wars between Rush and Park. That's probably my least favorite aspect to Rush's game, but at least he's good at visibly rolling through with them to make it seem like the impact is lessened. There were a few frustrating no-sells in the match, including Volador later on eating a corner move and then running right out with a superkick, but you have to sort of roll with those punches (or suplexes) in something like this. Park especially was going out of his way to make sure he looked strong against Rush, which makes some sense so early intot his feud. Eventually, after they really changed up the pairings (and with Sombra avoiding Atlantis; more on that later), the rudos took over. The heat ramped up here with mask ripping and Wagner beating Volador down the ramp. Rush was great in his role distracting Tirantes while Sombra undid Atlantis' mask. They finished it off with the corner Dropkick on Park and a double suplex on Atlantis.

Then the tercera was frankly nuts. Let me backtrack a bit. In a match that had a lot of great stuff, the best was probably the two bits of anticipation and payoff. The first was pure character stuff. Wagner, the world most charismatic ham, wanted to do his "too sweet" NWO/Bullet Club fingers in hand-touch thing with Rush. This is basically all he wanted in the world in this match. It's the older guy wanting to hang with the kids and Rush wanted to reciprocate. Sombra wanted nothing to do with this, wanting them to stay on task. He broke it up once or twice, and that made the moment where they finally have enough advantage that they get to do it so much better. Then when they really took over in the tercera after hitting a triple dropkick to a kneeling Park in probably my favorite spot of the match, they did the closed fist Ingobernables hands up in the air and it felt iconic.

The other anticipation and payoff was all about Atlantis getting his hands on Sombra. Sombra ambushed him early but after that refused to be part of any real face off. He was left out of the finish of the primera with the Park dive. When the rudos took over, he started ripping at Atlantis' mask but when the tecnicos came back, he absolutely refused to face off with him, rushing out to massive boos and then using his partners to ambush Atlantis to even more massive boos. It's not until the final comeback, deep into the match, (which was set up great by the tecnicos stopping another triple dropkick by pulling their opponents out of the ring), that he finally got his hands on Sombra.

From there, they circled around the finish, to the point that I think everyone watching thought once or twice that it wouldn't even be Sombra and Atlantis at the end of the match. It was just all out action (and this is where Volador's at his best, a cog in a trios machine, especially in a third fall like this). They cycled pairings in and out with false finishes that played with the expectations of people who watch the form week in and week out. It's stuff I probably wouldn't have picked up on two years ago but when you see it so often, like this crowd does, it allows for this sort of deviation from the norm that can really be powerful. That was even cooler to me than some of the specific spots, like Wagner hitting his spotlight ramp dive or the Park/Wagner superplex or Volador's diving rana on Rush.

They even circled one last time for the finish. Rush had pulled Tirantes' leg to break up Atlantis' cross-legged roll up pin (after Atlantis had kicked out of the split legged moonsault, for what it's worth). The very end of the match had Atlantis get Sombra up in the Atlantida, but Tirantes kicked by it. That led to a foul and what looked to be the Finish. Park, however, came out of nowhere to dropkick poor Tirantes to break up the pin (which was a balance with what Rush did before; this match was FULL of such parallels; just brilliant design in that regard by luchadores who really knew what they were doing). With Tirantes still recovering though, Wagner fouled Park and Sombra, in a second burst of heeling, ripped off Atlantis' mask and rolled him up for the win. What a blast of a match. It's going to be a fun month before Park and/or Wagner do something stupid to end it all.

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Digging in the Crates #2

Welcome to Episode #2 of the Digging in the Crates Podcast. Phil is joined by Kris Zellner as we add four more matches to the ongoing Schneider Comp, We also add some non-wrestling recommendations at the end.

Digging in the Crates episode #2

Here are some links to matches

Cactus Jack v. Tarzan Goto 10/5/95

Daisuke Ikeda/Takahiro Oba v. Kengo Mashimo/Makoto Hashi 10/24/10

Dean Malenko v. Bobby Eaton 4/27/97

Brazo Jr. v. Kortiz 9/24/14


The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar

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MLJ: Chilanga Mask X-Mas in August 4: Caifan/Avisman vs Ultimo Guerrero/Hechicero

2015-08-16 @ Arena Naucalpan
Caifan/Avisman vs Ultimo Guerrero/Hechicero
Match starts 2:13:13

I'm really high on this match too. I don't think it's as good as the Virus/Cerebro match, but it's one of the most fun tag team matches I've seen in ages. Avisman brought it down a bit in general. Maybe he was more constrained in the Virus match I've seen him in previously, but he didn't look nearly as strong here as he did there. The other three were really on their game though. Indy Ultimo Guerrero is the second best Ultimo Guerrero (the first being Bandit King Apuestas Match Ultimo Guerrero).

I really liked how this was structured, and while a lot of the individual exchanges and spots and character stuff was good, that's what I'm going to focus on. I don't watch a lot of single-fall lucha, as a rule (not counting lightning matches/tournament lucha) but this match was very regimented in its different segments, and I thought that let it tell a very compelling story. Everything fit, even as if it would have been a three fall match. That could be what UG is used to, but it really showed you can let things breathe and have that sort of structure even in a one fall match and still have it seem natural.

Let me break it down. then. The match started with Guerrero vs Avisman with solid matwork. On another card, it might even stand out a bit, but here it was just solid. Guerrero showed more than he usually does in his home promotion, and Avisman was fine countering. They then moved onto Caifan and Hechicero, two guys who are so used to working with each other over the years, and it showed. High end stuff here, Hechicero wasn't playing heavy rudo, more of a cocky one, with good sportsmanship here. Lots of little leverage tricks building to trading suplexes and push ups, with Hechicero catching Caifan celebrating and Caifan coming back with one of the best headlock takeovers you'll see this year. Total one-upsmanship with moves traded, but it's early in the match that it really worked. So, two initial exchanges, one involving feeling out and the next involving one-upsmanship.

Finally, Caifan walked right over and smacked Guerrero on the apron and we had a funny moment of UG taking Hechicero's hand and coaxing him out so that he could get in and go after Caifan. They picked up the pace momentarily until UG sent Caifan out. He pulled Hechicero back in and they started doubleteaming, including a corner set up for the senton de la muerte. This is pretty much where a fall would come in a normal 2/3 falls match. Then we'd get the continued beatdown until the comeback, which is exactly what we do get. The rudos (and we'll keep calling Hechicero and Guerrero the rudos here even if it doesn't feel that clear cut) kept playing the numbers game. It wasn't all smooth and perfect but it was effective.

Unfortunately, the comeback spot wasn't so smooth with Caifan and Hechicero mistiming a lift up dodge in the corner. They recovered quickly into rudo miscommunication and a really strange double tope spot where Avisman took out Hechicero but Guerrero just moved out of the way letting Caifan wipe out. That led to some awkward chops back and forth, a reset into the ring, UG bumping out, Caifan following only to get tossed over the rail and the UG flying hip attack into the crowd. Fun stuff that let things switch over to Avisman vs Hechicero, with Avisman flying around a bit and getting the advantage. So to sum up again, we've got Feeling out, one-upsmanship, rudo beatdown, tecnico comeback, high flying tecnico shine.

Next is a reset to Caifan and UG and they start hitting bombs, including the goardbuster off the top, a great super bomb, and an armdrag off the top. All of these led to two counts and I would have liked them to have made use of the tag nature of the match and done some partner break-ups here instead of straight kick outs. That's my only real complaint though. After the bombs, we moved onto a lot of near-fall pin attempts by Avisman and Hechicero. We were into the finishing stretch now, the bombs starting that, and out of all the pins, Hechicero was able to lock in a rolling leg submission to take out Avisman. Caifan came in and he's worked this whole match very deliberately and just milked things in a good way. An exchange with Hechicero, worked just that way, led to a top rope rana and the pin. Guerrero came in for the final face off, which had a few near-falls, a big move or two, and ultimately, Caifan going for a desperate moonsault only to get knocked onto the top rope for the world's nastiest Guerrero Special.

There were a few rough patches, but everything felt like it was exactly where it should have been and to me, that made for a really fun match. It was just an example of what honed, meticulous lucha can be, the developed form executed by luchadores who do interesting things within it. Very fun match. Caifan is a guy who I think probably deserves more than what he has and I'd watch a Hechicero/Guerrero team any day. Fourth good match on a stacked show. I envy the people who were there live for it.

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV 8/14/15 Review

1. Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka vs. Toru Yano & Kazushi Sakuraba (9/21/14)

This kind of thing is refreshing after getting so many weeks of Okada WORKRATE EPICS it's just nice to see a couple old shooters be cocks to each other in a completely inconsequential match. I mean...I'd obviously always rather watch that than long Okada matches, but stay with me here. You watch this to see how Suzuki acts around Sakuraba, and in that regard it delivered. You had Suzuki (the the shock of nobody) pulling rank on Sak and bullying him a bit, and Sak was kinda playing a wounded child. Suzuki does bully better than just about anybody, and it all built to Sak locking on an awesome kneebar while Suzuki was tied up in the ropes, and I just loved Sak maniacally locking it on while Suzuki writhed on the apron. Nobody cares about what Yano did in this and as I type this I've already stricken most of it from my memory. I did dig the finish as Iizuka gets the claw and Yano cuts him off with a kick to the balls and a snug roll up. Afterwards Suzuki laughs and spits at the camera and does a great exaggerated Vince walk to show off how his hurt knee isn't hurt even though it's hurt.

2. Kota Ibushi & Tetsuya Naito vs. AJ Styles & Tama Tonga (9/21/14)

Dug a lot of this (well, I mean, Naito is...well you know), Ibushi is easily one of the best flippers who - like Styles did years ago - has transitioned nicely into using those spots as a heavy. Tonga is the best lackey in the Bullet Club and he really needs to be featured more instead of duds like Archer or Davey Boy. He moves really cool, bumps big and works way more stiff that guys like Karl Anderson or (obviously) Archer. Styles gets a little too hammy with the bumps here but he and Ibushi work great together and I really dig the Styles/Tonga team. Ibushi always hits his flying offense impossibly on point, and yeah, nice to see some fresh faces on this show. I don't think I can write up another Okada main event (which was why I skipped last week's show).

3. KUSHIDA vs. Ryusuke Taguchi (9/21/14)

A flawed but fun match with the strengths outweighing each guy's weaknesses. We had some issues of convenient selling and some funny build, but the overall story worked for me. I don't really love either guy's personality but something clicked for me. It's possible my White Russian is doing the clicking for me, who knows. But I got into the leg work vs. arm work aspect, loved KUSHIDA kicking the hell out of Taguchi's arm to set up the Hoverboard Lock (which really is a great looking sub) and Taguchi going after the knee to set up the ankle lock. KUSHIDA does a lot of handspring offense and he snaps off handsprings more believably than anybody else in wrestling. I'm not sure what that means, exactly. Because handspring offense is almost universally idiotic. It's like someone being the best at plunging a toilet that they clogged. Or somebody being really good at scraping the black parts off of toast that he burned because he doesn't realize that the dial on the breakroom toaster IS A TIMER. TURNING IT UP DOES NOT MAKE IT HOTTER, IT IS A FUCKING TIMER. It is a set of heated coils which stay heated for a set amount of time based on what number the dial is turned to, but this guy is really good at making his burnt bagel somewhat edible. They do some roll ups that are entirely goofy but I had fun with them, I totally bought into the Hoverboard teases and certainly thought a tap out was coming, loved moments of Taguchi scrambling for ropes, and yeah. This was fine. This was fine pro wrestling. My time did not feel wasted.

Post match and Taguchi does an interview where he keeps saying something translated as "Oh my and Garfunkel"....which is weird. Is it like when religious people avoid saying the Lord's Name so they say something like Oh My Land or Oh My Stars? Is he just being a silly goofball? He kept saying Garfunkel and it was equal parts amusing and confusing.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Paragon Pro Wrestling 8/22/15 Review

1. Hammerstone & Chamberlain vs. Mercurio Jr. & Ethan HD

H&C are now being called Murder By Muscle which I don't think they've been called before. The announcers are smartly and casually acting like that's always been their name. Man is this fed generous with title shots. Not really sure what Mercurio/HD did to earn a title shot, other than be a part of a fed who needs to have three title matches every episode. HD hits the cool old Erin O'Grady apron flip rana into the ring, and Chamberlain does a nice little SUWA bump off a Mercurio rana. Buuuuut this overall wasn't very good. It doesn't help the ending has some time standing still moments thanks to Mercurio. Hammerstone tries to save it the moment by just kneeing Mercurio in the balls. And I can't unsee H&C's weird matching/not matching trunks ever since Dean pointed them out.

2. Espiritu vs. Suede Thompson

This is Suede's debut and I dug him. He had a couple nice go behinds, some weird southpaw jabs, high cradles. He keeps things moving too and doesn't seem to get lost like some of these guys. Espiritu kinda stinks and is officially the worst and least subtle guy in the fed when it comes to getting into position for moves, but Suede drug this one out and made it work. I wouldn't mind seeing more of him.

3. Crash Test Cody vs. The Challenger

So, I'm not sure how good Cody is, but he's a guy I want to like. He's got a weird milky eye, looks like an old young guy, and his name is Cody. You'd think with the Crash Test moniker he would be a reckless bumper or something but you'd be a disappointed human if you thought that. Watch as he grabs a chinlock on the tubby masked Challenger. But CTC has nice running forearms and you just can't underestimate the character depth that one, weird, pigment free milky eye brings to things. Challenger wins and will certainly challenge other challengers in the coming weeks. It's a shame his backdrop finisher is not called The Challenger Disaster*.

4. Tyshaun Prince, Caleb Konley, Kevin Kross vs. Gangrel, Gentleman Brawler Eric Right & Mikey O'Shea

This coulda been so much more, but I guess it didn't overstay its welcome. Kross is the guy I wanted to see most in the match, so naturally he didn't get any time in the ring. We're building more Tyshaun/Gangrel long term PLANS which does not excite me. Konley is a perfectly fine chest out/butt out modern indie worker and I like Right more every match I see him. He leans into things and bumps big and throws a couple nice punches. That'll get you far with me. O'Shea finally does one cool thing with his fat by doing a pensive-but-still-fat cannonball off the apron into everybody. Fat being fat is always a win.

*Feels like a joke I've used before. If so, apologies, and feel free to tinker around with some joke-in-progress where Challenger ducks a clothesline, and how together we can call it a Dodge Challenger.

Warmest Regards, Eric.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

All Japan Motherload - Rusher Kimura/Giant Baba vs. Genichiro Tenryu/Jumbo Tsuruta - AJPW 12/8/84

ER: 1984 was Kimura's weirdest year, as he worked matches in NJPW, AJPW, IWE and Stampede. He hadn't been in All Japan since 1977. A few years later he would suddenly be an old man. But here he's back in town a month and he's the meanest motherfucker in a match with Tenryu and surly Jumbo. Kimura is pissed and goes right after Tenryu, and that pisses off Jumbo who goes right after Rusher. Rusher is thick chested and mean and he goes after Tenryu's throats with open handed chops, pulling at Tenryu's perfect coif and strangling him in the ropes. By the time Rusher hits a HARD lariat on Tenryu and then picks him up at the two count you know you're seeing something special. Native stopping his own two count against another native? You thought Choshu invented that shit but it was MOTHERFUCKING Rusher Kimura! Baba keeps giving Rusher all of these disapproving looks that are all GIF-worthy, but that doesn't stop Baba from doing his greatest ever big boot, launching it right under Tenryu's chin. Jumbo is permanently pissed throughout this, wanting his piece of Rusher, and after Rusher nails Tenryu with another brutal lariat everything falls apart, ring boys come in, Goro Tsurumi comes in with a kendo stick, Baba tries to hold back Jumbo and keeps looking back at Rusher shaking his head, Rusher ends up suplexing Baba (!). Every bit of this was fucking tremendous.

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MLJ: Chilanga Mask X-Mas in August 3: Guerrero Maya, Sr. vs Guerrero Maya, Jr.

Guerrero Maya, Sr. vs Guerrero Maya, Jr.
Starts at 1:46:08

Let's get the confusing bit out of the way first. Despite what Wikipedia will tell you, GM, Jr. is not Black Terry's kid. Earlier in his career, however, he feuded with him as Multifacético and I suppose Terry took a liking to him (or money, you know, one or the other, maybe both), and introduced him as Guerrero Maya, Jr. That's worked out pretty well for the guy. Or maybe he's just a nice guy and Atlantis took a liking to him too? Who knows.

This was really good, bordering on great, because even though they aren't father and son, they wrestled the match like they were. It had a very personal animosity that ran through it in a way that a lot of bloody matches can't quite reach, an undertone that was cased in pride. In fact, were it not for a few flubs that stood out more than normal flubs and one or two really questionable layout decisions, it might be one of my favorite matches of the year. It doesn't quite hit that level, but I think it's still worth looking at.

On a show with pretty spectacular matwork, the opening stretch stood out for being different. There wasn't really anything showy in what they did, but it was intense. Jr. was wrestling like he had a chip on his shoulder, and Sr. responded in kind, wrenching limbs like he was trying to hurt his opponent, not maneuver him. There was a lot of wrenching and more fevered reversals. Jr. would get a leglock on and just punch at the knee. When he lost the hold, they ended up reset, head to head, staring. There'd be headbutts and chops here, and then a transition into Jr. taking over.

He managed this just by being more aggressive, going to kicks and mask ripping first. This is where we have some of the flubs. He tossed Sr. into the corner but had to delay and then awkwardly run in a different direction as he didn't bounce back out for the facebuster. At point he seemed, if not lost, then surprised by the direction Sr. ended up moving. It wasn't played as an old man being stubborn and struggling so much as just a momentary confusion and misfire. Other than that, though, the beat down was very gripping and brutal. They hit the floor, and then Jr. tossed Sr. over the rail into the crowd. He slammed him into a wall, used a trash can as a weapon, and tossed him into a chair. By this point, Sr.'s mask was a bloody mess and Jr. leaned into it, biting the wound in a way that you couldn't even imagine if you're just familiar with his bright and shiny throwback tecnico CMLL work.

The transition and comeback were absolutely effective and paid off the build. Jr. had celebrated with some jerks in the front row and was certainly taking his time with Sr. That led to a big moment as, when he went for a senton in the ring, Sr. got his feet up in a nasty looking spot. He started to rip Jr.'s mask but, in a moment that felt fairly unique to the match and to the "relationship" between the two, Jr. ran, delaying the comeback's gratification. It really did led to a moment that felt like a father chasing his errant kid who knew he was in big trouble, about to give him an old fashioned beating. When Sr. caught him, that's exactly what happened. He ripped at the mask, including putting his feet on Jr.'s shoulders and yanking, dragged him around by it, and got revenge spots, tossing him over the rail into the crowd and using the chairs as weapons. I like how well protected the chair shots were. They were plenty effective without guys having to kill themselves. By the point Jr. made it back to the ring, he was a bloody mess too, and this comeback segment ended with Sr. just crushing him in the corner.

That's when things got goofy. They segwayed into some armdraggy sequence with the sole goal of getting Sr. out of the ring so Jr. could hit a tope on him, equalizing the selling so that they could head towards the finish. The back half of that is okay. That's how these matches work. The front half was frustrating though. After ten minutes of bloody, personal, beatings, the last thing I want to see is some collaborative, do-si-do partner spinning. There were plenty of more organic ways to get Sr. out of the ring that would have fit not just the match, but the specific point in the match a lot better. It brought things down in my mind because it took me out of the match.

They made it back in the ring and traded some falls and moves on the way to the finish. I'm not 100% sure what they were going for with it. There was a slight ref bump, which was followed by a Jr. Cheapshot kick. It wasn't a foul, though, not anywhere close to being a foul, and I think that's what it was supposed to be due to the ref distraction and the fact that Sr., once he recovered, followed up immediately with a low blow, which the ref did see. Given the way the match had shaped up, that would have made a lot of sense if Jr. had either fouled with his kick or attempted to do so and was blocked. As it was, I didn't think it entirely worked as a finish.

This had some forgivable miscommunication early on and some far less forgivable rough patches towards the end, but everything else was great as they really captured the personal feel of the match and Maya, Jr. showed versatility I hadn't expected out of him. Another match on this stacked card well Worth seeing.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ring of Honor on Destination America 8/19 & 8/26/15 Review

1. Silas Young vs. Dalton Castle

Awesome little TV match, one of my very favorites since I started watching their weekly TV. Castle jumps him at the bell with headbutts and punches and it's clear right away these two just work real well together. Castle bumps big taking an awesome Jerry bump that didn't feel set up from a mile away, really felt integrated into the match nicely. He also bumps big into the railing and later takes a great tumble over the top, tackling Young. Young actually works more like an asshole here, as opposed to working like Chris Sabin...which I suppose is just working like a different kind of asshole. More backrakes, less flips. Both men move really well in there and everything was laid out great, nice build and logical progression. One of the eunuchs takes a big bump, and postmatch Young wants a stip added to a future match where HE gets possession of the eunuchs if he wins. I love it. Castle kept taunting him with flamboyance and it drives Young mad with seething passion. Him demanding the eunuchs is so obvious. He's accepting a dare that nobody at all was daring him to do. "Okay guys, FINE, I'll take the eunuchs." It's like Lindsey Graham saying he'd spend a night in a rest stop men's room if he wins any primaries. Nobody else is asking him to do it, clearly just a guy offering to do it. Silas Young's character makes so much more sense if you think of him as a closeted gay man.

2. Will Ferrara vs. Moose

They do the tale of the tape and Kevin Kelly actually says "No mention of heart, though". Ugh. This is the best I've seen Moose look, so this accomplished what it set out to do. He's still kinda sloppy and still seems lost, but the offense he chose to do worked, and he did neat things like take a spike tornado DDT on the floor. Plus the all white gear looked brilliant.

2. Young Bucks vs. RPG Vice

***NOTE: I'm not sure what happened to my write-up of this match. It got gone. It once was, but no longer is. Long story short, did not love it. Rocky Romero is horrible. Romero working schtick is unbearable. Bucks had a couple nice cut off moments, notably cutting off Trent during his apron ass hattery. Match went too long, Bucks weren't as violent and twerpish as they can be.


1. Bloodbound Warriors (Grey Wolf & Red Scorpion) vs. Briscoes

Never seen Bloodbound Warriors before, but they appear to be shortish God of War or Warhammer cosplayers, but they've clearly committed to it and instead of making gay-intensive Vines they've focused it into pro wrestling. Grey Wolf is covered almost entirely in red body paint, which is confusing. He's also not very good. Mainly he staggers around selling for Jay, so it's not like he got to do a whole lot, but his staggering wasn't very good. Scorpion has a big HGH belly and was much better. He had a couple nice press slams and I like a good press slam. Mark took a head first press slam over the top off the apron, takes a wild bump into the railing, and later got flipped over the buckles to the floor. Mark was a maniac in this. Jay hits a wild tope on Wolf, both guys kick the hell out of Scorpion (with Mark hitting a huge pump elbow off the top and Scorpion getting dumped on the back of his head with a clothesline). This was really fun. I'd actually like to see BW back, just because they seem a bit different from some of the ultra super serious workers we usually see.

2. Donovan Dijak vs. Roderick Strong

This worked! Checking my pre-match predictions, and yep, I was in the "this won't work" camp. But it worked. Dijak has a ways to go, his "reeling" especially looks horrible. And since this match had plenty of strike exchanges it also had plenty of him reeling and just...looking stupid while waiting to be hit. He can break out some impressive fast sequences (his 360 pump kick looked killer) but doesn't have any of the little things yet. He could get there. Roddy has had a great year and looked good here. He smartly built the match up to some good nearfalls that tricked me. Truth actually had some of the only good stuff I've seen from him. There was a really nicely timed spot where Roddy jumps over potential Truth interference while on the apron, and then Dijak belts him. The timing in this was spot-on throughout. Really solid stuff. Dijak just needs to figure out what the hell to do with his body and face while waiting to be hit.

3. Future Shock (Adam Cole & Kyle O'Reilly) vs. Addiction

Frankie Kazarian's vest is ridiculous. It's trying soooooooooo HARD you guys. It's like he went into Spencer's Gifts and bought every single patch they had, then ironed them onto his vest in a super organized fashion. They run the full gamut of "bands who are well known enough to sell patches at the mall", so he's got the Rolling Stones on his shoulder and The Beatles on his back and Led Zeppelin on his side. Hey, man. I'm a man. A man with a vest. I am definitely a man who has patches of bands that every human listens to. So many inches of vest are filled up with these personality-free patches, all of them placed on the vest as properly as possible. It is truly a vest that was workshopped by moms. It might as well be one of my mom's old appliqué holiday vests, like the Christmas one with felt gingerbread men and candy canes. It's that awful. Except my mom loved her holiday vests. She had all of autumn and winter covered: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. They spoke to her personality and she would still be wearing them today if that damn Stacy and Clinton didn't constantly put them down on What Not to Wear. They've ruined the vests for her. Frankie Kazarian's vest tells me nothing about him, except that he has zero personal taste of his own. His vest looks like it was decorated by a 45 year old man who is in charge of decorating teen bedrooms on sitcoms. "Looks like that back wall could use another rock & roll poster, Gary."

And the announcer calls The Addiction the "World Tag Team Champions of the World". Why is this a thing? I'm pretty sure Corino called them this a couple weeks ago. The Ring of Honor Pro Wrestling Champions of the World of Ring of Honor Pro Wrestling.

And this match bleeeeeewwwwwww. For a guy who is known for his cold, bland, robotic execution, Daniels sure does execute a lot of things horribly. He's like one of those replicants from the show Humans who is at the end of his shelf life, so the muscle memory is there, he's just really horrible at doing all of his programmed commands and sometimes ends up lost in the forest, his A.I. caught on a low hanging branch. Here we get really awful thigh slaps, overshot moonsaults, clunkily moving into position for offense, all really bad. He did a slow tortured walk to try and catch O'Reilly on the ropes that was the just the worst community theater Frankenstein's Monster walk you've seen. At one point Cole/O'Reilly do a shitty legsweep/clothesline combo on Daniels and no physical connection is made by anybody. So you have three bodies all moving to their own beat, with Cole whiffing a legsweep, O'Reilly whiffing a clothesline and Daniels back bumping to nothing. If one segment could tell the story of the match.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lucha Underground Episode 39: UltimaLucha - Part II Review

Tomk joins us again for the season (and hopefully not the series) finale.

ER: I hadn't thought about who would be replacing Vampire since he'd be wrestling tonight, but my heart dropped when I saw Schiavello sitting there. He's a guy who I think can be decent but gets too blustery, wrapped up in shoehorning his awful catchphrases, and never builds to anything because from the beginning bell he's already screaming at 10. He comes off like a horrible Hawk Harrelson type.
TKG: This was first time listening to English language commentary and yikes, I’m sticking with Hugo. I did eventually re-watch the show with Hugo commentary and they should just really have Hugo comment the shows and then use some sort of translation bot for the English version. Hugo did an exceptional job calling Mundo v Alberto which was a real old school match and plays to him being knowledgeable about that type of match and match strategies. He really got over the Alberto blindness and how that would allow Mundo to do stick and run offense and meant that Alberto had to work more close range stuff, did a bit on how the potential of a tweaked leg would effect Alberto’s work and another bit on how a weakened arm might effect Mundo’s strategy. I don’t know if this reflected any of the actual in ring work but it made the details of work seem important, like you should pay attention to nuance that may not actually be there. Also Hugo understood the whole old school psychology of face spanking heel girl. Matt Striker called that spot like a guy raised on ECW. Hugo understood the Dusty trope where spanking a woman is understood as being an appeal to audience not to engage in domestic violence. Even if a woman slaps a man multiple times, a true man should never strike a woman…a “gentleman” knows to spank her instead. Hugo tearfully pointed to Dusty in the sky and said that Alberto spanked Melina like a “caballero”.

1. Johnny Mundo vs. Alberto El Patron 

ER: I really liked most of this match, but the ending was a pretty loud fart noise. I don't think anybody wanted the return of Melina, and he's never able to hit The End of the World very well. He always lands really hard on his hip while his shoulder sort of grazes his opponent. So Melina with a week belt shot combined with finishing on the least impactful move of the match, made for a pretty sour note. Still the first 90% of this was really good, with both guys taking turns getting tossed into railings and tables, Mundo tightening up his punches more than normal, AeP trying to rip Mundo's arm off, AeP getting dirt thrown in his eyes, tons of fun stuff. After the horrible finish we at least get more of Mundo getting tossed violently through things, with a nasty spill through chairs and then the payback revenge shot through a window. Melina was terrible throughout as Mundo bumps through chairs and she screams "No! Nooooooooo!" through tears, as if Mundo hadn't just been taking nasty bumps like that over the previous 20 minutes. Then we get that played out wrestling spot of a man spanking a naughty misbehaving woman, and Striker ups the ick factor with "I'm gonna rewind THAT on my DVR I can't TELL you how many times!" Yeesh. Coulda cleaned that one up in post.

PAS: I thought the handful of dirt as Mr. Fuji's salt was pretty great. I thought all of the wrestling exchanges in this were pretty good, feels like the kind of thing which would steal a WWE PPV if they were given some time. I didn't care for Mundo as a face in this fed but he has been pretty strong as a heel. Thought it was weird for Patron to immediately get his comeuppance after losing, felt like that could have been saved for a hypothetical next season. Also not sure why Mundo is squirting blood like that right before your garbage match.

TKG: I really dug this. I’m so used to current generation of workers only knowing how to do heel runs from face WWFSNME style, that really cool seeing these guys do more of a Memphis thing which less about face giving chase and more about face standing off semi amused but wanting to get things started. The whole use of blindness to set up heel run and the slow recovery from that blindness, also felt super Mempho. I think I accepted flimsy chain being sold as death as being Memphisy too. I have positive feelings about Melina as being useful. I’ve seen Melina enough times live where she seemed to have real sense of when match had crowd and when was losing crowd that she knew when to lay back and when to egg on fans. I’ve also seen her Puerto Rican role as second to Davey Richards where she was kind of an Albano style manager who did both the mic work and the actual emoting for worker who couldn’t do either. That said, Mundo isn’t a Wild Samoan or Davey Richards, he needs a more Gran Wizard/JJ Dillon type second and not sure if Melina is up to that.
2. Pentagon Jr. vs. Vampiro

ER: Vampire looks exactly like the fat bald bloated zombie on the boat, from the opening scene of Zombi 2. I assume that just shows Vampiro's loyalty and dedication to being on the El Rey network. I thought this was awesome, blew away all expectations for it. I'm not going to get into the Master reveal because really I don't care, because the match itself delivered for me in ways I wasn't expecting. This was a nasty violent W*ing brawl and Vampiro as immobile gorehound worked great opposite the vicious Pentagon. All the garbage spots built nicely, the spills into tacks and light tube remains were nasty, Pentagon punching Vampiro in the side of his bloody head was a helluva visual, and Pentagon did other neat things like just ignore Vamp's punches that whiffed. Pentagon gushing blood through his torn mask was crazy (maybe not as crazy as Striker ranking Vamp ahead of Terry Funk in terms of brawling. His comparison to Abdullah was at least physically accurate), and then we flaming table spot with Vamp on fire for way too long while the extinguisher guy was way out of position, just a nutso appropriate finish.

PAS: Pretty shocked that they would go full IWA KOTDM on TV like this, I like Vampiro theoretically but I have never enjoyed him in ring, and the fact he is willing to take this level of beating after multiple neck surgeries is pretty nutty. I would have liked to see this be the only brawl on this show, but if you are going to take it to the next level this is how you do it. Add Vampiro to Cage, Mack and Hernandez to guys who had career performances on this show

TKG: I don’t understand people’s confusion or surprise about the finish. I think I texted Phil several weeks earlier predicting that Vampiro was Pentagon Jr’s master, it seemed obvious to me. I’ve watched a lot of Kevin Sullivan/Raven/Who is higher power wrestling angles, this is how those end. I’ve watched plenty of Golan-Globus action movies, this is how those end. My wife watches the Steven Moffatt Dr Who episodes, this is how those end. It seemed obvious that they were doing the master makes student bring the monster back out of the domesticated master in order to beat the master at his most monstrous. I’ve always thought of Vampiro as second rate Chris Champion and whole angle probably makes a lot more sense if you think of it as Yoshi Kwan forcing student to transform Kwan back into Sinn. Champion also has time travel experience which would maybe add more depth to child is the father of the man stuff.  Vampiro coming out looking that bloated also screamed  “this match is setting up Vampiro with Penagon Jr v Vampiro’s evil twin Pogo the Clown with The Altar Boy in a no-rope Caribbean spider-web tag-match on some California XPW tribute indy”, so of course they were coming out as partners.

3. Aerostar vs. Fenix vs. Big Ryck vs. Jack Evans vs. King Cuerno vs. Bengala vs. Sexy Star

ER: Plenty of fun spots in this one, and I didn't have to flip out over Sexy Star winning. I really would have bet on her winning this thing. She looked predictably terrible here, but she wasn't in tons so it wasn't much of an issue. But that does highlight the main problem of the match, which was almost immediately they went to 5 people disappearing all at once, while two people work in the ring. That means at some times you had people selling on the floor for 5+ consecutive minutes, which is just ludicrous. I know a lot of it won't be captured on camera, but at least brawl around the floor. So there was a lot of stupidity wrapped around having 7 people crammed into something essentially worked as a singles match. But a lot of the spots worked and overall that's what counts. Evans took a couple of bumps to the floor, Aerostar hit his enormous cliff dive splash onto everybody, Cuerno just annihilated Bengala with his tope, Ryck crushes Sexy Star with a urunage (not long after taking one of the uglier and improbable ranas from her), and yeah this delivered about what I was expecting. They could have had more false finishes but they decided early that they were mostly gonna have 5 people selling around the ring and less dramatic saves, but whatever.

PAS: Some big spots here but didn't flow as well as some of their better multi man matches, I think 7 guys is just too many, and Sexy Star is the poops. Also Fenix, Aeorstar and Bengala all fill the same role in a match like this,there is a certain number of spots for your face high flyer and having three of them in the same match makes it hard for any one of them to stand out.

TKG: I guess this was fine Xdivision/WWA cruiserweight multi-person clusterfuck. I think it was hurt by them working little guys v Andre structure with Big Ryck instead of working any face/heel structure. And for the most part you had heel King Cuerno matched up with heel Evans, face Bengala matched w face Sexy Star, and face Aerostar matched with face Fenix. It felt like it weakened everyone’s character.

4. Texano vs. Blue Demon Jr. (No DQ)

ER: "Everything you've ever known about lucha libre comes from this guy", Matt Striker, when talking about Blue Demon. Yeesh, what fucking lucha do you watch, Striker? Well, at least all of this was kept short. This had some pretty weak weapons shots are what we saw earlier in the night. Nothing in this was memorable or interesting.

PAS: Blue Demon is the wrong guy for this role, Santo would have been awesome as a the delusional lucha legend who refuses to believe his time is past, Universo 2000 would have worked, or hell use a Villano. Demon just can't deliver anything in the ring, and can't pull off this match. Still I do like Chavo and the idea of lucha families joining, just wish it was Chavo uniting with Brazo De Oro.

TKG: So I guess if I want to say the first match was Memphis tribute, second W*NG tribute, third WWA tribute, then this was an attempt to do an Antonio Peña AAA one. Maybe that’s the genius of Peña, it’s not so easy to do a watchable “overbooked immobile old guy v semi mobile roided out youngster with a couple of hungry local indy guys doing interference & bumps” match. Or maybe it’s just that Blue Demon sucks. Weren’t the guys from Lucha Libre USA involved in this thing? They used Tinieblas Jr as a fun chickenshit heel. Tinieblas Jr  would’ve also been perfect in this role and I imagine would not cost much.

5. Mil Muertes vs. Prince Puma

ER: Awesome match, easily the best non-gimmick singles match in the promotion's history. If they end up never coming back for a second season they will have at least gone out with a bang. Both guys brought out the big guns and hit some pretty spectacular stuff. Puma was nuts in this, taking so many of Muertes' things right on the side of his face, crashing spectacularly on the missed dive into a chairshot, blasting through rows of chairs, but then also hitting all sorts of quirky kicks from impossible angles, and at one point managing to deadlift Muertes up into a big suplex. A real pull out all stops performance from Puma. Muertes leaned face first into everything, hit a couple wicked powerslams, delivered one of the best spears you'll see, really played off Puma nicely. This was just a real high end main event that really did feel like a big deal. Great way to go out on Season 1.

PAS: Yeah this was what you would hope a clash of the titans main event would be. Both guys were kept super strong and Puma dies in this match, if he was going to lose his belt he was going to go down hard. I am not sure about Puma throwing suplexes when he is working monsters, but that deadlift was nutty strength so I bought it. Muertes might be top five wrestler for 2015, would hope Mesias will do something cool in AAA if we don't get a season 2 this year.

TKG: LuchaUndergound has kind of quietly found a way to make their title matches feel like a big deal. They’re not “lucha title” matches, these are matches filled with outside brawling. It’s also a fed where every match has outside brawling, so they can’t do the easy WWF move of having irish whip into steps be a way to make title match feel more important than undercard. But they manage to make the title match feel like it’s a different thing than rest of card. This is a card where lots of matches were about the violence, Alberto trying to get revenge and hurt/humiliate Mundo, the “cero Miedo” match was about the violence. The title match wasn’t personal, felt like it was about winning the title. Match with three sections. You had early floor brawling section with the idea that Muertes is more dominant on the floor and then the in ring section where Puma is the more dominant, and the post table spot section where Muertes better able to hold his own in ring. I liked all three sections and the face/heel as well as big/ little stuff that they were able to pull off in all of them. Also liked how the sections were connected/flowed together. Often with matches with clear sections you can make up fake falls in your head, ie “this is mat section, this is where mat section now over, this is the section where they’re working a body part and now that’s stopped”. That wasn’t the case here, really some of the cooler stuff in the match was the way they transitioning from one section to the next. I really liked the big table spot being used as a NOAH dome show title match apron spot instead of as a finish. I don’t think ever seen that done before.  It’s a match I’ve now watched several times and enjoyed a little bit more each time. And while yes it is a real satisfying match for a promotion to end with, this was a wrestling supercard that really felt like it built up a bunch of strong faces to challenge new heel title holder. Muertes has to give Puma a rematch, has to give Drago a title shot, Fenix has the one win over him and the gift of the Gods, Alberto is done with Mundo, and of course what happens when the Mil Muertes the king of death meets the man with zero fear. It was a satisfying ending and teased a neat new season.

ER: Final video package was really good, although earlier Dario unlocked Matanza so casually that I'm wondering what suddenly made him rush and scramble away. I love the little coda it gave to all the major players.

TKG: I loved Fenix driving off in his Pontiac Firebird. Immediately wanted buy the whole set of non-existent Lucha Underground Matchbox toys  and then to take son to local hobby store and ask him if he wants to work with me on the non-existent” Drago Dragster” or the non-existent “Mil Muertes Hearse”  Kustom Model Car Kits.   Or more likely buy the hobby kits first, get frustrated with glue and tiny parts and then buy the matchbox ones to make up for it.

PAS: I liked the finishing video package too, although I think the entire Matanza, Dragon Azteca, Black Lotus stuff is super dumb. Cuerto is a fun enough actor to mitigate it a bit, but the whole thing is super corny, Black Lotus is sub-porn acting level and the angle makes no sense if you think about it for more then a second.

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