Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D, Sebastian, and other friends write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Sunday, June 26, 2022

The One where Eddie Goes to the Amusement Park: Top of the Card from NEW Six Flags Slamfest 6/19/22

Sammy Guevara/Tay Conti defeated Ashley D’Amboise/Flip Gordon

MD:  This was not the best use of my time on a Sunday morning but I had a whim, and the whim was to watch this show and after the Eddie match, I sort of felt committed, so here we are. Why not write about it. I was expecting Sammy and Tay to go for huge heat, even with the family friendly crowd, but they were slapping hands and smiling big. I have a feeling we're not going to see this Tay for a while, so one more look isn't the worst thing, given that she's about the most natural babyface imaginable. Flip goaded them into putting their AAA titles on the line and they did. Cagematch says Sammy and Flip haven't wrestled each other since 2017 and the story of the match was it being a brofest between the two of them while the women wanted to scrap. To be fair, some of it, mainly both of them managing to land on their feet after 'ranas or headscissors takeovers was pretty impressive and them rushing to hug after the fact fed into what they both currently are, even if it clashed a bit with Flip's goading. Within the context of the match, you get the sense they just couldn't help themselves. The only heat Flip got wasn't anything to do with Sammy but when he tripped Tay on the outside. Tay had one fairly complex exchange with D'Amboise and then the intricate counter-laden tandem finishing stretch and it was fine. What makes Tay interesting to watch isn't her execution but her enthusiasm and exuberance as she really just throws herself into everything. This had a few too many rolls into moves for me, but you also sort of knew what you were going to get. You can't fault the timing or the athleticism between Sammy and Flip. Finishing stretch was cutesy but again, that's part of the charm of the Sammy/Tay act right now. It'll get old sooner than later, especially in settings where they're not trying to get nuclear heat, but for now I'm not so old and jaded that it's not at least a little bit fun to watch them have the time of their lives. 

Eddie Kingston vs Brian Anthony - FUN

MD: Look, if someone wanted to go GREAT on this, I wouldn't argue, but some of that is seeing the novelty of sanitized Eddie. In 2022, we live in a special world where Eddie Kingston can co-main event a family friendly show like this, get probably the best reaction, and be a variation on himself that still feels completely genuine. Who could have predicted this? SC's last reviews with Brian Anthony are from Lawler matches in 09 and he's just been a lifer as top heel in this promotion. Kingston came down slapping hands and the first half of this was him beating Anthony around the ringside area like only he can. But, remember, this is a family friendly theme park show, so as he chopped him and walked around with him in a headlock, he was sure to slap hands with the crowd. The best part was when he tossed him to the back, rushed back to break the count, and went to get him. He tossed him back through the curtain, disappeared himself for a bit as the fans chanted Eddie, and then came back with a salad to toss in his face. The heel manager, Vito, interfered to set up the heat, which was ok. You have to appreciate Anthony, with nothing in his gimmick to call for it, going for the shoulder claw nerve hold as his main wear-down move in 2022, but Eddie sold it like you'd expect. When the time came, he came back with the exploder, ate some powder from Vito, dodged the double team attempt, and threw a blinded backfist for the win. Post match, he cut off his music, played nice with Vito, backfisted him too, and then tossed his shoes into the crowd in theme park Cryme Tyme manner. Sanitized Eddie. What a sight.

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Saturday, June 25, 2022

On Brand Segunda Caida: Tennessee Indy Grab Bag

Bryan Turner has been posting some great unseen or rarely seen southern indy wrestling, and we've been diving in over the past several weeks. Even cherry picking through the best stuff, there are a lot of things he's uploaded that jump out. Here are a couple that jumped out at me today. 

Yokozuna vs. Tatanka MECW 12/99

ER: This is the last recorded match of Yokozuna's career, recorded sometime in December 1999 (two months after Heroes of Wrestling). Yokozuna didn't work many matches in the three years after WWF, and considering that, the match couldn't be edited more painfully. It being the last match of his excellent career, he was obviously at his largest. Knowing that, you'd go into this match expecting a long nerve hold spot in the middle somewhere. If you were editing a match for time to air on local TV, that would be the couple minutes you edit out. Instead, this match is joined in progress for the duration of Yokozuna's nerve hold. From commentary, you get the impression that the beginning of the match was a lot of active Yokozuna work. We start with him already drenched in sweat and breathing hard, and don't get to see what got him that way. When they get standing, you can see Yokozuna still has real quick burst speed. He clearly needed constant rest, as he timed a Tatanka charge really nicely to send Tatanka crashing to the floor, and the entire time Tatanka was on the floor Yokozuna stood bent at the waist, hands on his knees, torso practically horizontal. But, when he had to shut something down or do a quick dodge, he looked surprisingly nimble. His strikes were really good. Arguably the best part of the match was Yokozuna throwing hard rights to brawl down the aisle at the end of the match. He built to his bumps well, with him not bumping (in the footage we have) until Tatanka hits a tomahawk chop off the top, but he takes two more after that one, the third rolling to the floor where this ended. You could tell that there was a great wrestler still in there who could have worked a several more years without the extra 150 pounds. Of course, it's much easier said than done for any man to lose my entire literal person in weight. I sometimes think of Yokozuna still in WWF through 2002, working a whole slew of matches with WCW guys that we never got to see. What a great wrestler. 

Barry Houston vs. Jarell USWO 5/23/03

ER: I believe this is by far the latest Barry Houston we have (and the latest listed match of his that I could find), and it's not exactly the swan song a Houston fan would want to see. Barry Houston is so unlike the Barry Houston you're thinking of right now, that there is a non-zero chance this was some guy using the Barry Houston Name in front of 40 people just outside Nashville. Houston is beefy here, like when Chris Harris showed up for a week in WWE, and he shows no signs of the wrestling ability that made him a cult favorite in WCW. Jarell (graphic reads Jorell but that reads like a Planet Krypton ass name and the announcers clearly call him Jarell then whole match), looks reallll green, and is wearing just khakis and a short sleeve plaid shirt, like he just came straight from his grandparents' anniversary party. Jarell's stomach is already heaving when Houston takes him over with a side headlock to start the match. Jarell has to think  about what move to do next after any move he does, he did bad version of a couple things I like; a bad Jumbo knee lift, and raking Houston's face across the top rope. It's better that someone attempt good wrestling than bad wrestling, if it's going to look bad. Houston has a nice back elbow and clothesline, although Jarell took a bad bump for the clothesline that was so "play wrestling" that it minimized the impact a lot. A chain gets involved and Jarell throws a couple punches somewhere over Houston's head and a few inches in front of his face. Houston's punches look better and have better form, but his were only half successful. One of them was an uppercut that landed somewhere around Jarell's upper boob. I'm happy that an unseen Barry Houston match showed up, but some secrets are better left untold. 

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Friday, June 24, 2022


Andre the Giant/Giant Baba vs. Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue AJPW RWTL 11/20/90 - EPIC

MD: Instead of reviewing this, I just want to list all the cool moments. At this point it'd been almost a year since Taue and Baba wrestled each other and Taue grew a lot in 90. He'd throw headbutts at Baba only to eat the brain chop. He'd come back with the palm strikes against the ropes and hit Baba with his own Russian Leg Sweep, only to piss Baba off so he hit him with one of his own. It had been a year (the last RWTL) since Jumbo fought Baba and the crowd buzzed huge when Jumbo tagged in. Early on, Jumbo put on the breaks so Baba couldn't get him with the big boot and Baba gave him a sort of "Aw, shucks" expression.

Then there was Andre, who only faced Jumbo or Taue a handful of times in his career. Taue tried to hit him with an enziguiri but could only get to the middle of his back. Jumbo tried to knock him over with a shoulder block and recoiled with as much over the top selling as I've ever seen out of him (it was warranted). Then Jumbo and Taue combined with a double jumping knee to trap Andre in the ropes but failed utterly to double suplex him. After the aforementioned Baba/Taue exchange, Taue was actually able to slam Baba, though he could have milked it more. Unfortunately, then Andre came in and manhandled him (being Taue!) like he was a child. Andre returned the favor from Jumbo's selling, recoiling from Tsuruta's punches and even going down (though he did toss him on the kick out), and then Taue ran into Andre's fist in the most glorious way possible. They finally got that double suplex, but on Baba, but he was able to ultimately survive the onslaught and tag Andre. Then Taue tried to waistlock him as he was going to German Suplex him and paid for it just like you'd expect.

See, all cool stuff. There was a pretty good match in there too, but that's a lot of cool stuff for a fifteen minute video and a ten minute match.

ER: Man this was awesome. This is the biggest bumping Andre performance of the 90s, and I'm not sure how far back into the 80s you'd have to go to find a match where he bumped more, but it's pretty far. It's amazing. To think, they aired the Andre/Baba RWTL '90 match against The Land of Giants, but their match against the Funks, this match, and the drool worthy Abdullah/Kimala II match all happened on house shows. This show was not officially taped, but was a house show the size of a TV taping, and obviously our intrepid cameraman saw how important this was. I'm so glad he did. I've gotten used to seeing inactive Andre performances, and seeing just how much he can add to a match with as little movement as possible, relying on body language and his incomparable selling and acting. There is so much to gleam from minimalist Andre, that seeing him get in and out of the ring multiple times and taking 4-5 bumps is downright shocking. When he and Baba entered the ring and I saw how Andre was pulling himself up onto the apron and climbing the turnbuckle rungs like a ladder to get the rest of his body upright, I assumed this was going to be a lot of Andre punching people from the ring apron. I've seen plenty of matches where just getting into the ring past the ring ropes looked like Andre pushing a boulder up a mountain, and I'm always excited to see how he can integrate his body's pain into a match. Instead, he made this into so much more. 

There were still great apron Andre moments, like the way he kicked at Taue's foot when Taue was breaking a submission, but I was surprised at how much Andre did in the ring. He worked really well with both Jumbo and Taue, and that first showdown with Jumbo felt special. I loved how Andre sold for Jumbo, how their first exchange went so much differently from their later showdown. When Andre squares off with Jumbo for the first time, Jumbo comes barreling in with a shoulderblock that hits a wall and sends Jumbo recoiling back into the ropes, and when he tries it against Andre just grabs him by the neck and face and squeezes, then blasts him with a headbutt. When a weaker Andre squares off with Jumbo late in the match, it's all about Andre's selling. I loved how Andre staggered around for Jumbo's hard elbow smashes. Andre is a man with somehow impeccable balance, who is able to sell as if he's a man with no center of gravity, always in danger of toppling over. Jumbo hits him with a couple elbows and sends Andre staggering, and Andre has to lunge for the ropes just to dodge Jumbo's big knee. The dodge does not deter Jumbo, and seeing that Andre is still staggered, he knocks him to the mat with a definitive elbow smash. It's wild to see Andre getting knocked down by a strike, and I couldn't even guess the last time it happened before this. 

Taue/Andre was fun in a different way, as Taue is the young punk (I like how a young punk in All Japan is someone who has wrestled almost 500 matches) who boldly fires off shots against the biggest man in Nagoya. I thought the Taue enziguiri looked great, catching Andre in the base of his neck (Andre sold it perfectly, like he just got punctured by a larger than average mosquito), then throwing a couple of jumping knees into Andre's torso before sending Andre careening backwards into the ropes with Jumbo's help. Andre had a great look of panic while stuck in the ropes, and was freed relatively quickly so that Jumbo and Taue could try an ill-advised tandem suplex. I loved how Andre dropped to his butt to block the suplex, as it made the suplex look that much more threatening. Andre did not frequently wind up on the mat during his All Japan run (he winds up on the mat more in this match than in several other available Andre AJ matches combined), so him willingly dropping to the mat only made it look like Jumbo and Taue were *that* close to suplexing him. 

I know I'm focusing a lot on Andre, but I thought this was a tremendous Baba match too. Really, it was a tremendous Everybody match, but I digress. Baba had some fun small stuff with Taue to start, giving Taue a great oldhead "okay, okay!" look after Taue backs him into the ropes and chops him. He does a slick armdrag takedown of Taue and works the headscissors, then later breaks out a rolling ankle pick on Jumbo, rolling down Jumbo's leg from a hammerlock to force Jumbo's momentum forward. It's always weird fun watching first couple years matches from guys like Taue or Tamon Honda, as they have 100% different movesets than during their peak years, and it's barely like watching an early version of the same wrestler, it's more like watching a completely different guy. Taue does Jumbo kneelifts instead of big running kicks, hits Baba with a bodyslam/elbowdrop/legdrop combo that he completely dropped, even throws a great lariat that I don't remember him using past 1992. I loved their dueling side Russian legsweeps (a move that always looks like it might cause Baba to shatter), and how Taue and Jumbo pulled off the tandem suplex on Baba, then took turns seeing who could hit him with a harder lariat (jury is out, both Taue and Jumbo really aimed to wreck their boss). Taue has Baba on the ropes and keeps that energy when Andre tags in, and it goes terribly for him. Taue chops away on Andre until Andre has had enough, then just shoves Taue into the corner and triumphantly squishes him over and over again, whips him into Baba's boot, and then drops that elbow. You can see Andre digging that elbow into Taue's chest as he presses down on his sternum with his palm, making sure the punk stays down. Another 90s Andre classic.

Jerry Lawler/Brian Christopher vs. David Flair/Jim Cornette 3/31/2002

MD: There's a moment in here where David has Lawler backed in the corner and lays in some punches. He'd developed pretty decent ones at some point and Lawler might be the best guy in the history of wrestling when it comes to sympathetically taking offense in the corner. I've seen him as an old man build matches over the last couple of years just around that. Anyway, afterwards, Flair goes over to Cornette and eagerly asks if he did good before getting nailed from behind and stooging. That, right there, was probably David's ceiling, but it was a very effective moment. David looking for fatherly acceptance from Russo or whatever obviously didn't work, but a couple of years and a number of matches later, with Cornette in that role? That might have had some legs.

Having Christopher in there (and I have to admit, he sort of felt like 80s Greg Gagne, after he'd already had some success, teaming with Verne) makes you think that David's best was sort of as a poor man's version of him. Where he stood out the most wasn't trying to be Ric Flair but the slightly off-kilter stooging, just how Christopher was best as an over-the-top stooge. Still, he had a pretty decent cut off punch and got some heat with pile drivers. He also took a neckbreaker in an ugly manner. Bumping just wasn't his strong suit. It didn't need to be here, though, since Cornette carried a ton of weight: with the pre-course promo, with the super padded trunks, by trying to coach instead of wrestle until Christopher tossed him in, by getting shaken up and tagging Lawler hilariously, by using the powder and getting believable shots in on the outside. This was pretty close to the whole Cornette experience and the Lawler family knew how to get the most out of it.

ER: This was great, and really there was only one reason to think this wasn't going to be great, but it's a pretty important reason. That said, this is probably the most complete I have ever seen David Flair look in a wrestling ring. Flair is a complete unnatural ("The Unnatural" would be a really funny gimmick for someone like Renegade or Flair to have worked), a guy who looks like he's never moved athletically in his life, who always took the weirdest bumps while having no idea what to do with his body on offense. Here, more than any other awful David Flair performance I've seen, he knew exactly what to do. Before the match, Cornette got on the mic and talked a lot of great hyperbolic BS about how "David Flair is going to be the best wrestler of the 21st century!" And, you know, I gotta say there are nothing but fascinating matches from the last 100 matches of Flair's career, so maybe he was onto something Has anyone here seen any of the Puerto Rico, All Japan, or even remember if the TNA stuff was any good? Any lucky souls get to see Regal/Flair in South Carolina, taped as a Velocity dark match? I hate how I'm talking myself into seeing more David Flair. 

My favorite part of this was how everyone got to show off their right hands, and honestly, every person in this match had a good right hand. Lawler having a good right hand won't surprise you, and he used it well here (including blindsiding Flair with a right before dropping to his knees with a fistdrop), and Cornette at this point is someone who is established as having a great right hand. But they aren't the ones who throw the most punches in this match. We get two actual punch outs between Christopher and Flair, and they were good! They each showed a bit of light on two of them, but the form of Flair was what stood out the most. This was a man who, just a couple years before, did not have good form on ANYthing. And here he is throwing actual punches to the chin and jaw, not cheating by trying to throw them past Christopher's head or doing that weird Abyss punch where he sands the top of their head. David Flair was throwing actual worked punches in 2002, and they were good. He has a nice gutwrench slam and an even better pair of piledrivers, and you can color me impressed. He still looked like he couldn't really bump, taking a neckbreaker like a baby wiggling in his high chair to avoid the mashed carrots. Also, I love how Cornette was the biggest bumper in the entire match. Every piece of Cornette shtick was great, like tagging out to Lawler after getting punched around by Christopher. Cornette even took a big bump to the floor, and all of his big back bumps to sell punches were perfect. I always love how good Cornette is at bumping despite looking like, well, a guy who would be filmed berating a Wendy's employee.  

Low-Ki vs. Necro Butcher JAPW 5/19/07 - EPIC

PAS: This is honestly one of the great all time match ups in wrestling history. I am not sure how I had no idea they wrestled in JAPW in addition to the two IWA-MS classics the year before and the fun brawl a few years later in IWA-EC. Having this show up is like finding a new Santo vs. Casas or Lawler vs. Dundee match. Necro is really the perfect opponent for Ki: he is willing to meet his recklessness and stiffness with recklessness and stiffness of his own. Ki throws full force kicks to his head, and Necro responds with hard shoot punches to the jaw, just sick stuff both ways. FUTEN shit. There is a moment where Ki lands a double stomp on Necro's back and you can see his spine invert. Necro punches his way out of the Warriors Way double stomp and hits a crazy looking top rope rana. They do the thumbtacks spot with Necro getting Irish whipped and stepping on them with his bare feet. It is an incredible spot the first time you see it, but Necro went back to the well a couple of times with it. Still that is a minor complaint for an otherwise hellacious monster of a match.

MD: This was as good of a brawl-with-plunder 2000s match as you'll find, really, two guys who just threw everything they had at each other and did everything they could to prevent the other from doing the same. Violence and struggle from beginning to end. What made this better was that it was at St. Joseph's gym, with a priest obviously holding the keys to letting JAPW run there and getting to do the ring introductions in turn. So, he got to introduce Necro with his "Choose Death" shirt. That's as pro wrestling as you get basically. You can almost imagine Fat Frank reassuring the guy it was okay because Ki was going over so it was a parable about good vs. evil, with good overcoming the excesses of evil...or something. I especially appreciated the fight out of the Warrior's Way set-up because Necro had previously sort of sat around draped on the top rope for the double stomp. It was a great double stomp, but that had seemed a bit off given the match they were having. The fact he refused to allow such a thing to happen again was great and pulled me right back in. It was the sort of a match where the announcers and the crowd would go just as nuts for Necro taking the Cactus Jack plunge through a table as they would for something like Ki hitting a power drive elbow on the floor. Agreed with Phil on the thumbtacks spot, though it obviously worked for the crowd on that night and they used it effectively in setting up the finish. Necro probably went to that well as often as he did because it protected him in a loss.

ER: Athletically, these two couldn't be much more different. Low Ki has maybe the best body control in American wrestling history (I used to say "in wrestling history" but all of our unearthed French Catch footage kind of popped that balloon) and Necro Butcher wrestles like the proverbial bull in a china shop. It's one of wrestling's great juxtapositions, and they meet in the middle with stiffness. Necro takes so many kicks in this match, all to the body and head, and no matter how many times he punches back at Ki and sticks digs his fingers into Ki's mouth, nose, and eyes, those kicks keep coming. I loved Ki kicking Necro right in the eye, causing Necro to get stuck in the ropes like a death match Andre. Necro has a lot of fun ways to fight back, seems like he was always punching while off balance, from his knees, from his back, even hanging upside down. But I thought what set this apart wasn't just the stiffness, it was the way they each sold strikes and how they each fought for offense. A Necro punch is always a great thing, but when Ki slips out of a powerbomb and gets decked right after, Ki - limp bodied - bounces and flops down to the mat while hitting every rope on the way down, and that's just wrestling perfection. When Necro tries to powerbomb Ki into a table, Ki tries to fight out, making Necro fight against physics to re-lift Ki and finally drop to his knees with a powerbomb. when Ki goes for the Warriors Way, he tries to keep Necro in the tree of woe by grinding his boot into Necro's kneecap, causing Necro to reflexively punch up at Ki until he breaks. Necro getting run barefoot through the thumbtacks is a great way to set up offense, distracting Necro long enough to shotgun dropkick him through a table. Their stiffness was often used as a means to distract, not as a means to an end, and I think that's something that really elevates their feud to all time status. Monsta Mack's screeching Chicken Lady impression over every single awesome part of the match couldn't hold this one back. 




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Thursday, June 23, 2022

I Spent All Those Nights Just Trying to Take Gulak Home

Drew Gulak vs. Lince Dorado WWE Main Event 5/5/17 - GREAT

ER: "It's great to be here in the wonderful capital of California: San Francisco!" Gulak says to the Sacramento crowd, and that's the kind of stupid heel work I can always get behind. It's even better when you flip flop interchangeable Bay Area cities like San Leandro and San Lorenzo, but this is some good base level annoying stuff. This match played out like WWE was giving a tryout to some Chikara regulars, a 5 minute showcase for a contract. Gulak is an excellent base for Dorado, takes all of his armdrags and headscissors effortlessly, including a flawless knucklelock that ended with Dorado kneeling on Gulak's shoulders into a slick sunset flip. It looked as good as the first time I saw Rey do that same sunset flip, and Gulak is a great levelheaded Psicosis. 

One of the best things about Gulak's basing are his facials as he's clearly about to take an armdrag. As he's getting Dorado onto his shoulders, his face is the face of a man 100% confident that he's about to pull off his fireman's carry slam, then a face of utter shock as Dorado spins out of it. You never see the far off look of a man who is preparing to take a spot, and it's a layer that makes Gulak one of the best. Gulak's control is simple, hardly even throwing a strike, mostly just knocking him down and keeping him there with stomps. Dorado goes for a moonsault and Gulak catches him with a perfectly timed pair of boots, and for a spot you've now seen in nearly every Mistico or Volador match it sure looked great here. Gulak timed the thrust on his kick right as Dorado's chin was nearing his boots, and Dorado pinballed diagonally across the ring. But the very best thing in the match was Gulak setting up his match winning dragon sleeper. When Bill Dundee would lock on his sleeper, he'd use a nasty clothesline and just wrap his arm around the neck; Gulak does the inverse, running at Dorado with a back elbow that then hooks his arm snugly around Dorado's neck, then dropping to his back in the sleeper and sinking in the hooks. This might be the best set-up/execution of that dragon sleeper, sick stuff.

Drew Gulak vs. Akira Tozawa WWE Main Event 10/21/21 - FUN

ER: Drew Gulak piles up Ls against nearly every single person on the roster, but every few months he gets to have a fun 5 minute match and beat Akira Tozawa. I've written about at least four Gulak/Tozawa matches, and they haven't had a true banger yet, but they've settled nicely into doing 5 minutes of cool shit and I always like seeing them do cool shit against each other. Gulak always starts these matches off nice and smug, grinning as he locks in a tight headlock and throws a couple stiff elbow smashes, and getting brought back down to earth a bit when he lands a thudding chop and Tozawa hits him back with one just as hard. Gulak is always good at getting knocked down a peg, and I love how he angrily held his mouth and jaw after running into a high kick. Gulak sweeps Tozawa's legs off the top rope and locks in a sick crossface chickenwing (a really underused submission these days, and I'm sure there aren't many who can lock one in as well as Gulak does here). Gulak is good at taking all of Tozawa's offense, and I especially loved how pretzeled he got on Tozawa's extremely sunk in octopus. Tozawa is at his most fun when he's allowed to dig a little deeper into his offense bag, and I dug him hitting a Koshinaka-esque hip attack off the top and a front spin kick, two things he typically doesn't have room to use. Since Gulak is often on the losing end of things, I fully bit on a nearfall when Tozawa rolled through a bodyslam attempt. It would be very Gulak to get angry, try to throw a bodyslam in disgust, and get rolled up. But he obliterates Tozawa with a hard clothesline after Tozawa builds momentum off the ropes, and finishes him off with the old Kanyon Cutter. I'll still hold out hope for them getting a fully gelled classic, but I'll always be entertained by them finding new ways to fill 5 minutes. 

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

2022 Ongoing MOTY List: Necro Butcher vs. Finger Cutter

14. Necro Butcher vs. Blaine Evans IWA-DS 4/22

ER: Necro Butcher is back, he's got some weight back on him (though probably not the "285" he's billed at) and after working XPW's King of the Death Match tournament in California, it only makes sense that he'd work a man in Alabama who cut someone's finger off with bolt cutters. Blaine Evans is a man who looks like shaved head Alex Jones, and in his defense John Rare stabbed him with a box cutter before he cut off Rare's finger, and there were a couple of dozen people in attendance. This is Falls Count Anywhere, which seems like a redundant stipulation to have in a Necro Butcher match. He's obviously going to brawl on the floor, and I guess IWA Deep South didn't want any know-it-alls pointing out that Necro Butcher and a man who cut someone's finger off were violating the referee's count. Necro looks good, slapping Evans, hooking an arm around his neck after a nice drop toehold, holding onto a super right side headlock and refusing to let go. Evans doesn't have good strikes, but I liked how they built to him finally knocking Necro down by stomping his bare foot before hitting a shoulderblock. 

I wasn't actually expecting any big Necro bumps, but here the man is taking a big barefoot clothesline over the top to the floor, which rightly sends Necro into a rage. Necro throws headbutts, the same punches you remember, and chokes Evans with a ringside rope. At one point he chops Evans so hard that a seated old man who looks like Michael Berryman turns his head in disgust, first towards the sound, then away. Evans weirdly had bad strikes in the ring, but they kept improving the longer the two brawled on the floor. After a couple minutes of crowd brawl he's out here throwing nice punch combos, choking Necro against a wall, his chops get harder, and he even adds in a couple of really nice solebutts. He had some pretty nasty work on Necro's ankle, sweeping his leg and twisting it, stomping on it hard, and at one point I think forgets which ankle he was working over and starts in on the other one. Working the wrong limb is a pretty forgivable offense, as that just meant he was twisting and stomping both of Necro's ankles. The finish is lousy, a desperation inside cradle from Necro where it doesn't look like either man is pinning the other and an unconvincing ref count. But the finishes are almost always lousy in a match like this, the real money is in the journey, and this was a cozy journey. 

PAS: I really dug how this match started with like five minutes of mat wrestling. That has always been an underrated part of Necro's bag of tricks, and his drop toe hold with a hooking choke was one of the coolest things in the match. Evans wasn't anything special, but was a mostly fine opponent, especially when he realized he was in the ring with the Necro Butcher and started throwing with some force. The bad finish is the only thing which keeps this low on the list, but Necro is inexplicably back, and I really hope he can get involved with the ICW NHB group of guys. Necro vs. Krule, Slade, Justin Kyle or Isiah Broner would be awesome.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Angelito! Alami! Roux! Cavillier! Magnier! Zarzecki! Montreal! Delaporte!

Angelito/El Alami vs. Guy Cavillier/Andre Roux 9/3/73

MD: Tons and tons to like here. We haven't seen a lot of Angelito yet but he'll be in the footage more and more. This is, apparently, our only look at Alami and Roux (Roupp? Rouchet?) and both of them were very good. Alami was Moroccan and a fiery lightweight stylist with great rope running and some tricked out spots. And Roux is one of those "greatest wrestlers we only have one match of." He could go, could hit hard and lean on his opponent, but his stooging was top notch. The announcer called him the Rudolph Valentino of the Ring or something like that and he did have that Ed Wiskowki look, lanky with the world's most pullable mustache.

The other wrinkle was Babette Carole, the female referee and much of the match was build around the heels running circles around her with illegal double teams and then running into throws or shots from her. They'd end up in sequences during comebacks when they'd tag after every punch and get hot with one another and it led to a number of miscommunication spots in the corner or the ropes, some novel ones and some old classics. My favorite bit might have been Alami dragging Roux all the way around the ring by his mustache, but Roux mocking the quick kneeling exchange opening that guys like Ben Chemoul did only to get dropkicked in the face was a classic too. The pacing on this one was a bit better than usual too: we came in JIP but the falls were broken up at ten minute intervals in a thirty minute match which felt better than the usual long first fall we get. The heels took the first fall too (which was deserved considering how well they were cheating. Add in a hot crowd you get something that was better than the sum of its parts, which isn't always the case with these tags. Very good stuff.

Warnia de Zarzecki vs. Fred Magnier 10/12/73

MD: We get the last five minutes of this one out of thirty. It's been forever since we've seen Zarzecki and if I'm reading it right, he might be the bad guy here. Magnier was billed as a former legionnaire, the Mercenary of Catch. In a lot of ways, it felt like a 50s match in the back quarter, with a lot of momentum shifts and big shots and slams, just with, you know, a swimming pool for both guys to fall into. This actually answered one of the questions I had in mind: whether or not there were whole cards for these swimming pool matches or just a featured match. It seems to be a whole card which has to explain why the fans are elated for a big heel getting his comeuppance in the matches we've seen but not quite as elated as you'd expect: they'd seen it already earlier in the show! I wish we had this whole thing because the bit we got here looked good and it is our last look at Zarzecki. We'll see a bit more Magnier later. Oh, also of note here? The referee was Duranton's old valet, Firmin, in very Dastardly Danny Davis style, though he didn't do anything outwardly heelish despite the commentary suggesting the possibility as such. That guy got more heat than anyone else in all of the footage, so good to see him still employed.  

Mr. Montreal vs. Roger Delaporte 10/12/73

MD: I sort of answered my own question on why the fans would care about multiple swimming pool matches on the same card. This went the full thirty or close to it before anyone hit the water. They only teased it a couple of times but that's plenty of time to reset the clock in the fans' minds. Anyway, this was Montreal billed with his real name as well, Marcel Chaveau and Delaporte, who was 45 going on 75 here, looking ancient and moving gingerly at times (though how much of that was an act is anyone's guess; he was quick to attack when the moment presented itself). I liked this more than I was expecting as the first half were fairly tight and close up holds and the back half more scrapping and interacting with the ref. Delaporte was such a master. You had the sense that he could really stretch someone with small and straightforward things; it was how he'd turn Montreal's bridge on the reverse headlock right back into a cravat or the torque on an armbar. Meanwhile, when they were up and scrapping or he was laying in cheapshots, he always looked to the crowd first, always set the stage, always milked out the most possible resonance and meaning. Just a master, with Montreal more than game to hang with him. The whole match here had Firmin, once a valet, now a ref, getting involved more and more but really just the poor guy doing his job. Sure, Delaporte would take advantage but that's only because Montreal was taking liberties. Still, when the time came, he hit the water first, with Delaporte not far behind him. Obviously, Delaporte was limited by this point in his career but the man could do so much with so little. One of the best heels of the 20th century no doubt.

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Monday, June 20, 2022

AEW Five Fingers of Death: Week of 6/13 - 6/19

AEW Rampage 6/17

Darby Allin vs. Bobby Fish

MD: I'm pretty sure that, having not been super familiar with either of them, I've got more time for singles Fish than for singles O'Reilly. It probably comes down to styles. Fish is more apt to just tear you apart in a corner or toss you around outside while O'Reilly is going to do more stuff. It's not even bad stuff, but it's kind of refreshing to see a guy who will just try to dismantle you instead. It's hard not to appreciate the dragon screws into the guardrails, for instance, as something that'll hurt an opponent three ways at once, even if it's something that probably won't make it into a highlight package. He also had a great bit in the picture in picture where he verbally and tauntingly directed a camera to get in closer to see him punishing Darby. That's the kind of thing you'll see Negro Casas do now and again and not much of anyone else. Darby, meanwhile, and we know this, is unique in the company as someone who takes and takes and takes, has hope spots that are big, devastating, mutually destructive bombs, and then will mount a comeback or sneak a win at any moment. No one else in the company is doing that and it's a company which probably has slightly more sameness than differentiation. That he's able to make it work with huge bumps, visceral selling, and picture perfect precision on his comeback spots makes him a transcendental talent when if any of those things were lacking just a little, he'd end up a guy that was trying too hard. Here it works. Fish took the brunt of the match, survived Darby's big moments of comeback, had some great continuations of one move into the next when the first didn't work, and ultimately got outslicked on a banana peel due to Darby's resilience and technique. Both guys came out of this looking good (though I didn't love O'Reilly's hamming in the post-match).

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Saturday, June 18, 2022

RIP Vince

Vince McMahon vs. Ric Flair WWF Royal Rumble 1/20/02

ER: With the news of Vince McMahon and the McMahon Family's swift and sudden death, I thought it would be a good time to write about Vince's best match. While I do remember this era, it's mostly stuff I haven't watched since it originally aired, so you'll have to forgive me that I didn't recall Vince - at his absolute MOST juiced - in a street fight feud with Ric Flair over the ownership of WWF. Flair bought Shane and Stephanie's stock? Sure, who wouldn't trust Ric Flair to provide capital in a transfer of stocks. Doesn't seem so bad in retrospect. It also really feels like leaving good money on the table for Flair to return to WWF for the first time in 10 years, his first appearance since the last ever episode of WCW, as a man who now owns HALF of Vince McMahon's company, bought out right from underneath him...and then two months into this they're already at "Street Fight". Flair's first match in WWF in a decade, is in a feud with the oldest man in the company, STARTING that feud with a Street Fight. Imagine the two of them instead in the Rumble Match itself. You have two 50-50 owners of the company, who are ALSO both former Royal Rumble winners. 

Had the 2002 Rumble match featured Vince McMahon and Ric Flair chasing after each other and not focusing on any other soul in the Royal Rumble, Undertaker and Austin eliminating everyone but getting a real kick out of seeing McMahon and Flair Andy Capp their way through the middle of it all, it could have been better than 1992. Just picture the looks Austin would be capable of giving as he considers whether he wants to eliminate McMahon himself, or let Flair hit him with a 10th chop in the corner. Neither of them had to win, you just could have had them chaotically interrupt the middle of it, and then have them drag each other to elimination. There's enough action going on around them that they would get to peak their interactions in between easily hidden rest breaks, when the attention goes back to Austin or Undertaker. We got robbed of several months of odd couple interaction before a big payoff with two genuine weirdos, because we just go right into a Street Fight challenge from Flair. It takes a bit of luster off your No Holds Barred match six months later when you start with a No Holds Barred match. 

But it turns out nothing actually matters because we got something better than all of that. This was a match that managed to play exactly how you would have expected it to play out, while also exceeding every possible expectation. Flair takes the first bump of the match bouncing across the ring as if Vince was Andre the Giant and, well, Vince *is* pumped full of an ungodly amount of horse testosterone and *does* look like a physical freak. More importantly, he hits Flair so hard with a shoulderblock that it looked like he was using Flair to jam his shoulder back into the socket. Some of their strikes look okay, others look way better than they should. Vince throws a kick to the stomach the way you would throw a kick to the balls, but it's actually a good stomach kick. Vince throws a way better chop than you'd think a partially trained man in his mid 50s should be able to throw, and when he sells several stiff Flair chops by crossing his arms across his chest and running in place on his tip toes, he looked like the world's most jacked John Tatum. 2002 Vince was all about making his offense look as real as possible by doing it real as possible. Vince hits a lariat so fucking hard, that it's like he was cosplaying as JBL vs. Guy Who JBL is Pretending Looked at Him in the Shower. 

The weapons stuff isn't as interesting as the actual stiff ring work, but the sign and chair shots are thrown with bad intentions and they make a nice vehicle for getting Flair bloodied. And once Flair is bloodied, that's when we get Vince throwing full Terry Funk right hands as hard as he can at Flair's forehead, AS Flair is leaning against the barricade. Vince McMahon is throwing full force punches maybe two feet away from some fan's head. That's a pro wrestling visual right there and if I was the owner of the company I would have those punches still in the Raw intro 20 years later. After getting his head punched right next to fans, Flair takes a painfully real bump into the ring steps right in front of his children, then gets body slammed in front of them the way Stan Hansen would bodyslam Rusher Kimura. And then, something unexpectedly amazing happens. 

Vince McMahon is a guy who is famous for being so far in the bubble that he is at minimum a decade behind popular trends, while also being forward thinking enough to build the biggest wrestling company in history. Here, Vince shows how ahead of the trends he can be, when - in 2002 - he takes a selfie with a bloodied Flair, stealing Reed's gigantic camera to take the selfie. This was a camera with all the accessories, like he was a ringside photographer, and this man leaned in for a selfie with a hemorrhaging Ric. Next level Vinsanity. 

Back in the ring, Vince has startlingly good form on his ankle locks, drops knees on Flair's ankle, and punches Flair back to the mat any time he sits up. Flair has not wrestled a match in almost a year at this point and he is getting punched in the face multiple times by his new boss. Wrestling is unexplainable to anyone who doesn't have some kind of mental disorder. McMahon takes so much of the match that you wonder if Flair is going to come back at all, or just win by total banana peel, but Flair's late comeback is great. He punches Vince in the balls and takes a ton of chops on the floor, and back to back it's easy to notice one problem with Vince's excellent crybaby John Tatum selling of Flair's chops: It really leaves him nowhere to go creatively when he actually does get hit in the balls. Vince went so big on the chops, but only sells the low blow by rolling to the floor holding his groin. The low blow would have been the time for a Vince bug-eyed gulp, a bit of a Sabado Gigante look right into the camera. Modern WWE matches are nothing but reaction shots, and we needed a big Vince reaction shot here. It's possible his selling was appropriate and he doesn't feel the same kind of pain in his chemically shriveled testicles that you or I would feel. It also turns out we don't need the ball selling, because Flair smacks Vince in the head with a TV monitor and Vince takes one of his greatest all time bumps, flying backward over the announce table ass over crown, legs in the air as he dropped. Flair beats his ass around ringside, gets his daughter to take a picture of the two bloodied old dogs, throws a great mule kick at Vince's crotch, and brains him with the steel pipe that lead to Vince's downfall, and does an applause worthy Flair strut before sinking in the figure 4. This was better than the best possible Flair/Vince match, the perfect clash of old man ego and carny showmanship. It's too bad both men are dead. 

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Friday, June 17, 2022

Found Footage Friday: MISAWA~! FUCHI~! SLAUGHTER~! BUNDY~! GANG~! PG-13~! DOUGIE~! TN VOLS~!

Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Masa Fuchi AJPW 3/24/92

MD: For the first 4/5th of this, Fuchi really had Misawa's number. He started out by bullying on the mat, so Misawa stood up, but he pressed him into the ropes to lay in shots. Misawa started to fire back as he would, so he picked at a leg and never looked back from there, spending the next ten-plus minutes just dismantling a limb as only Fuchi could. Every time Misawa started to come back, Fuchi would cut him off with a quick kick to the knee. He kept it moving and interesting too, using a tree of woe followed by a dropkick, a shin-breaker onto a table on the outside, and an STF. The fans were behind Misawa and took serious umbrage every time Fuchi went too far. He couldn't quite put him away, but I like how Misawa couldn't use his first choice of moves to come back. He couldn't hit a suplex so he had to shift to a DDT, that sort of thing. A lot of the comeback and stretch was about him just grounding Fuchi and hurting him however he could. I wouldn't have minded Fuchi getting a nearfall towards the end, but this instead portrayed a much clearer and cleaner momentum shift and that was probably a story worth telling in and of itself.

ER: If the idea of Masa Fuchi savagely attacking Misawa's knee for 15 minutes sounds appealing to you, then you are going to love this match. I don't know who out there would be reading Segunda Caida and also not be into Masa Fuchi punching someone's knee as if were pizza dough, but I'm sure they're out there. I don't think there are that many wrestlers who can make 15 minutes of leg work as interesting as Fuchi, and I think a big part of that is the pure joy Fuchi derives from it. This is not a man mechanically working over a limb, this is a man who is doing his favorite thing in the world and is unable to hide that it is his favorite thing. All of the work before the leg work was really good, with Fuchi locking in a super tight side headlock and Misawa dishing out sharp elbows whenever he had some space. But before long Fuchi is kicking Misawa with some downright evil straight kicks to the inside knee, throwing low dropkicks that are clearly aimed at the patella and not the lower thigh, and you can see Misawa starting to flounder. 

There is an amazing spot where Misawa misses an enziguiri, and Fuchi hops in place with his arms extended, knowing he has a sitting duck, before connecting with one of his own. It's the closest I've seen to a native All Japan wrestler pointing to his head after out-thinking his opponent. Fuchi does some brilliant work around the turnbuckles and ringpost, placing Misawa in a tree of woe and DIGGING his elbow into that knee, then dropkicking it some more for good measure. When Fuchi drags him to the ringpost, I'm not sure I've seen a man slam a leg more gleefully into a ringpost. Fuchi even takes a running start to do it! Fuchi slams Misawa's leg into the post like he's trying to slam his front door as hard as possible after an argument with a neighbor. I like how the legwork affected Misawa's abilities to perform some of his offense, making him adjust his offense to use more leverage throws and just try to flatten Fuchi out to stop him. That knee does not stop Misawa from hitting a top rope elbow suicida and a big frog splash, but the man took all that damage and if he wants to hammer his kneecaps a little bit more on a house show, who am I to judge? 

King Kong Bundy vs. Sgt. Slaughter USA Pro Wrestling 8/22/97

MD: I have a lot of faith in Eric's ability to write this one up, but a few things did stand out. Slaughter was billed as the new WWF Commissioner and a 5-time World champion, which is pretty interesting math. Just having the WWF title one time is impressive enough and it's not like being a former US champion isn't, in 1997, more impressive than having the AWA America's Title or whatever they made for him. Bundy, in a back and forth in the ring, said that people were saying he got the commissioner's position in an unsavory way, which feels quite timely actually. They led off with a good battle over a top wristlock. I was kind of disappointed Bundy didn't end up pulling the hair because with guys of his vintage/era/style, I want that Studd-like dissonance of the huge guy resorting to cheating. Sarge got an advantage but hit his signature corner bump to the floor which looked particularly good onto the Newark ballroom carpets. From there, Bundy basically leaned on him with one hope spot until Sarge pulled him out, rolled back in for the countout, and rolled right back out to toss chairs at him until he retreat away. I'd call this a very competent Bundy performance. He'd interact with the crowd and mock Slaughter with a salute and even moved quickly once or twice when it meant something. The brawling on the floor was pretty good which was a little disappointing because they could have done more with that. Anyway, let's see what Eric has to say.

ER: It is true that I'm the one who pushed to include this match in NFF this week. Slaughter wasn't exactly working a ton of dates by 1997 and the idea of him working a Holiday Inn conference room in a year where his only other match was a long PPV match against HHH was far too compelling to pass up. I also loved Bundy's pre-match mic work, deftly tossing off two major insults in two sentences, one taking down the city of Newark and the other a sly takedown of Slaughter. Every heel is going to insult the local town, but some insults are better than others, and Bundy grabbing the mic to say, "I come from SOUTH Jersey, GOD'S country, not this god forsaken nuclear wasteland NORTH Jersey." That would have been a perfect win on its own, but following it up by implying Slaughter did morally ambiguous acts to earn his WWF Commissioner job was pleasantly unexpected. 

The match played well to each of their strengths, with Slaughter backing up Bundy with nice right hands and doing his best to stick and move. A year ago I wrote up a transcendent WWF fundraiser show from 1992 that was among my favorite things I watched all of last year. This was a show that was unlisted in official WWF records, with a Berzerker/Sgt. Slaughter match the main selling point for me. I was shocked that Sgt. Slaughter did his signature bump on that show, a show that was only being recorded by some dad with a camcorder. Well, here we are 5 years later and Slaughter - nearly 50 years old - is taking that bump as fast and dangerously as ever, crashing and burning across the unpadded Newark Holiday Inn carpet. Slaughter's corner bump is often majestic, and the one he takes here is one of the greats, not even accounting for age and venue. It's a nice turning point in the match, with Bundy keeping Slaughter down for a bit (and Slaughter taking a nice brick wall bump for Bundy's back elbow), and I liked how Slaughter hit three shoulderblocks on his comeback, knocking Bundy down on the third but missing a big elbowdrop to give the control back. I also agree with Matt the the floor brawling was really good and they easily could have done a couple more minutes of that and sent the fans home with a truly memorable main event. Bundy took a nice ring posting and they threw a couple of those rigid hotel ballroom chairs at each other, ending with some nice chaos before a post-match highlight reel makes me want to see some 1997 Cousin Luke matches that I didn't know existed. 

Doug Gilbert/PG-13 vs. One Man Gang/TN Vols (Reno Riggins/Steven Dunn) MECW 1999

MD: If the last minute or two went a little different this would have been just about everything you could want from a 10 minute match. Gang felt like an attraction and got to knock around JC Ice early, with Jamie doing sort of an Akeem dance mock and then paying for it. Midway through the ring broke and they used it to beat Dunn to a pulp. They had a ref distraction to miss the hot tag to Gang, and Dutch Mantel was on commentary so that was fun. The hot tag was good but it went to Reno instead of Gang which was the cardinal mistake in the match. I thought they might do a little bit more heat and turn it around and then have Reno tag Gang but he just came in. There was also some interference around the finish that was probably unnecessary and Dunn made the pin as the illegal man, which was what it was. Plus, the match could have used just a little more Doug. All nitpicks though because what we did get really did work both for me and the crowd. The finishing sequence was brutal with the Vols doing a double slingshot belly to back set up into a facebuster and then Gang hitting the 747. Pretty much an all time way to put a guy away. It's kind of exciting to think what other matches like this will turn up as Bryan Turner keeps going through his tapes.

ER: A very fun match, pretty much exactly what anyone going out of their way to watch this match would expect, only with a truly confounding ending that goes completely against what the entire match was building towards. It started out a bit shaky, with Wolfie having to do all the work to cover up all of the work that Steven Dunn was not doing. PG-13 are two guys that could work a great armdrag bump against the Invisible Man, so it's no shock that Wolfie is able to cover for Dunn. I swear, Dunn does the loosest, ugliest sliding legdrop I have ever seen. The camera angle didn't help, but I don't think there was a single angle you could have shown that legdrop to make it work. The match everyone (me included) wanted to see was Dundee vs. Gang, and Dundee did his usual chop suey cartwheel routine that ends with him being laid out by Gang's nice clothesline. That was the pairing I was most excited to see, but the best pairing of the match was easily Reno Riggins and Dougie. The two had the best punch exchange of the match, and Doug sprinted like a crazy man into an armdrag, and then took two insanely high backdrops. I didn't realize Dougie had Todd Morton backdrop height in him, but doing it twice in one match shows that it sure ain't no fluke. I dug the PG-13 heat segment on Dunn, choking him with the snapped middle ring rope and repeatedly getting the ref to get Gang back on the apron (nice work by the referee getting actually physical with the mammoth Gang). Gang got sent back out to the apron three of four times, and it was clear the entire thing was building to Gang, unleashed, decimating PG-13, Dougie, and the man wearing ICP paint on the floor. Wolfie sets up the hot tag in wild fashion by vaulting up to the top rope (remember, no middle rope) and whiffing on a corkscrew moonsault. It is unfathomable that Gang wasn't the hot tag here, no matter how decently Riggins handles a hot tag. I wanted to see Gang flattening everyone, no matter how strong the crowd was chanting for the Vols. Ah, nevertheless. 

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Thursday, June 16, 2022

NXT UK Worth Watching: Brian Kendrick vs. A-Kid!

Brian Kendrick vs. A-Kid NXT UK 1/18 (Aired 2/27/20) (#81)

ER: I have a feeling that whenever I get all caught up on NXT UK (which will likely only happen when the program ceases to exist, giving me an actual finite endpoint), I'm going to look back on the days of Ohno and Kendrick's tours as the true salad days of the brand. I don't think that's a contentious statement, and through the first 80 episodes (and a few TakeOvers) there are several regular UK roster members that have become real favorites of mine, far more than I assumed there would be when starting this project. Ohno and Kendrick really felt like they took a lot of the UK regulars out of their comfort zones, but they also have the skills to not just make the UK guys do new styles of match, but a different kind of match really suited to their abilities. 

Kendrick and A-Kid were a cool pairing that I wouldn't have thought to ask for, but I'm glad we got. A-Kid's biggest strength is his fast matwork and quick attacks, and Kendrick is a guy who knows how to do cool things against that and with that. Their fast early exchanges were really good, starting with a hard Kendrick shoulderblock and going through some quick but snug work, A-Kid working Kendrick's arm and Kendrick always finding crafty reversals, and A-Kid surprising him with a slick armdrag and dropkick. Things really pick up when Kendrick starts working a disgusting cravat, locking his knuckles around Kid's windpipe. Kendrick is really great at keeping a thread going through a match, and great at making opponent's offense look meaningful. 

It's always tough to say what my favorite part of any given Kendrick match is, because he's so good at taking familiar spots and making them work slightly different. A great example in this match was when A-Kid grazed Kendrick on a fast tope and spilled deep into the entranceway. It was really light contact and shouldn't have been sold as offense, and Kendrick instinctively notices that. Instead of selling the tope, Kendrick sold the bump he took from the tope and sold pain in his arm and shoulder from earlier. Not many wrestlers have the ability to think on their feet like that, and it's just one thing that makes Kendrick stand above. Kid hits a nice heavy high crossbody, and Kendrick faceplants hard on Kid's La Mistica, really making it look like Kid could come away with his arm. Kendrick is probably the best rope worker on the roster, as he's so great at working submissions around ropes and making distance to the ropes part of the drama in smart ways, and his escapes and struggles to get to the ropes really validate opponent's submissions. The home stretch is hot (but the whole match was worked at this pace, so it was really more a culmination of everything), with Kendrick cruelly leaping from the floor to grab the top rope, knocking Kid crotch first on the top and then hitting a great butterfly suplex. When Kendrick locked in the Captain's Hook (my favorite submission in wrestling) right after, I thought Kid was sunk. Instead, Kid somehow works in a springboard DDT and Kendrick absolutely spikes himself on it. NXT UK improbably became my favorite weekly wrestling show, and it was never better than when Ohno and Kendrick were there.  

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Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Blue Collar Battle: TL Hopper vs. Duke 'The Dumpster' Droese

TL Hopper vs. Duke Droese WWF Superstars 7/13/96

ER: As much as it pains me to say,  this Blue Collar Battle did not quite live up to my (possibly, likely) foolishly high expectations. That's probably on me. There's a chance I was the only one going into Duke "The Dumpster" Droese vs. Toilet Lid Hopper with raised expectations, but I think that's just because I will always side with the working man. This is Toilet's debut, and while the match itself felt a bit short, it was good. The match didn't let me down. I think what actually let me down was the fact that Vince was on commentary yet he seemed to derive no sort of joy from watching a dirty plumber fight a dirty garbageman. I have no doubts that at some point in his life, Vince McMahon has paid money to watch an actual garbageman fight an actual plumber to the death in his home office, and I guess I was expecting a bit more perverted sicko energy from him. Mr. Perfect was sitting in with him and was setting up some very obvious Vince jokes - the kind that make him melt - and Vince just wasn't biting. 

"You know Vince, I bet Hopper has all of his moves numbered. All two of them. Number 1 and Number 2." 

"Yes. Yes, I suppose you're right." 

"I mean Vince, how ironic is it that the plumber's first match in the against the DUMPster?"

"Yes. Yes, I believe I see your point."

As Perfect was setting them up I kept expecting Vince's pervert growl to rise in response, until he was throatily yelling "ONLY in WWF can you see these two absolutely vile men roll around in shit and filth. Look at the stains on their clothes! Oh GOD you can smell them. You can SMELL how POOR they are!!! Look at their hands! Look at them! Look how dirty their fingernails are, it's disgusting!" 

Hopper runs into a couple of brick wall shoulderblocks and pinballs back across the ring, eats a big Droese bodyslam and then dodges a corner charge. Droese is really good at missing charges into the turnbuckles, and Hopper goes to work on Droese's back with hard knees and a nice backbreaker. I love when Droese lowers the straps on his work-required lifting brace. It's a great pro wrestling spot and he clearly understands the timing of a strap removal, and it's impossible not to smile when he whips those straps off before going for the Trash Compactor. Hopper slips out the back and throws another knee into Duke's lower back, then sends him down the drain with his brainbuster. As Hopper grabs his trusted plunger Betsy and places it over Droese's nose and mouth, furiously plunging his orifices, Vince can hardly muster an "Oh my! Can you believe that? No!" Two jesters dressed up as their millionaire boss's favorite working class punching bags in an attempt to cheer up that sad boss, but he was just too sad. Rest assured, on his way out of the arena Vince turned down a homeless man's request for change, telling him, "Well, I don't know about that. Perhaps a job would be in order." And as he walked past his chauffeur without making eye contact, he smiled. 

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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Lamare! Duranton! Bouvet! Cohen! Josef el Arz! Black Shadow!

Ted Lamare vs Robert Duranton 7/26/73

SR: 1 fall match going a bit over 20 minutes. We've seen so many stoic French wrestlers, that Duranton with his flamboyant mannerisms looks like The Rock in comparison. Lamare has thickened up since we last saw him, but he was still a decent wrestler. This started with Lamare outwrestling Duranton in fun ways and then builds into a slugfest. Duranton really liked his boxing stance and kept throwing punches which made him a bit more interesting than the usual heels. Loved the little punch combo he threw towards the end. I enjoyed these guys trying to take each others heads off with the uppercuts and the finish was memorable with Lamare going headfirst into the steel ringpost and bleeding. I thought Lamare needed to show a bit more fire or at least make another comeback rally to make this really good but it was a fun look at the heavyweights from the time period.

MD: Duranton did change with the times. He was 46 here and went from being a bodybuilder sort when we first saw him in 1958 to a Gorgeous George takeoff with the valet, to whatever he was now, sort of a flamboyant gladiator boxer who didn't actually do much boxing. He'd more get an advantage some other way and then do some strutting and shadow boxing. Though he was still full of antics (grabbing the ref's leg while in a hold, flailing about while getting spun around, etc), I miss the valet. I bet the crowd did too. Still, he could get heat and could still hit hard at times. Lamare was a game opponent. We hadn't seen him in a while but he reminded me here a bit of a Frank Dusek sort, meat and potatoes, no nonsense, technically sound, able to lock in a hold and keep it throughout escape attempts. He was a serious and punishing straight man, a disappointed stern uncle, to Duranton's over the top antics. Duranton received plenty of comeuppance but not the final, definitive sort, instead slamming Lamare's head into the post and winning by counting and then getting out while the getting was good. This is probably more interesting as another match in Duranton's collective works than anything that would stand on its own.

Georges Cohen/Gerard Bouvet vs Josef el Arz/Black Shadow 8/20/73

MD: This deep into the footage, we don't see too many wrestlers that we haven't seen before. That's true here but Bouvet is someone we'd only seen in a JIP singles match, so it's nice to see him in something lengthy. He paired up well with Cohen, quick and savvy, with strong, engaging selling, and some big spots with cartwheels and dropkicks. El Arz and Black Shadow are one of the more interesting bad guy pairings we've seen and I don't think I've given them enough credit so far. A Lebanese 44 year old and a black American 27 year old former football player (called, by the announcer, James Linton, who I haven't been able to find out a lot about), they were able to get a lot of heat. Some of that might have been just from who they were, but a lot of it was in how they wrestled. They had gotten down the pattern of double teaming in the corner > heel on the inside admonished by the ref > heel on the outside used the distraction to attack illegally > babyface partner tries to get in > double team again as ref is distracted by him > repeat the process. I know that doesn't sound novel but it was still a process being developed over these years and this is probably the best I've seen it in the footage overall. They also fed and bumped all over the ring and Josef especially was a great striker, with some nasty gut shots. Some of the tags were too easy but they did have to cover 30 minutes and the hot tag in the last fall did feel pretty hot and led to some satisfying crowd brawling, creative tandem spots, and the finish. This was good both as our first major look at Bouvet and maybe our best look at the Josef/Shadow team.

SR: 2/3 falls match going about 30 minutes. You won't be surprised to hear that the first fall of this had some amazing smooth exchanges and fantastic body control by Cohen and Bouvet. Not much matwork, just throws and rope running, but executed really sharply. The heels were hard nosed and tough and soon did a number on the faces cutting off the ring, but the faces kept retaliating. Same story as all these French tags, really. I liked El Arz who seemed to have some solid wrestling skill and Shadow had good stomps and stooging. It was a solid effort but there are so many amazing French tags that it takes a bit more than that to be memorable.

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Monday, June 13, 2022

AEW Five Fingers of Death: Week of 6/6 - 6/12

AEW Dynamite 6/8

Casino Battle Royale

MD: I went and looked back at some of Eric's AJPW Battle Royal write ups to see how he's handled them in the past, because who has the first idea how to write about battle royals? I'm not even sure if I want to call them battle royals or battle royales here (the promo material AEW put out all has the "e" so we're going with that). For the record, Eric has traditionally run through the narrative of them in a way that I'm actually more apt to do with a regular match than he is. 

Instead, let me go with this. As a kid, the joy of things like the Royal Rumble and Survivor Series, as well as just your random Coliseum Video battle royals was seeing guys that don't usually interact get a chance to interact. In 1991 WWF, that's because how stultified the roster pairings were. Barbarian and Bret would be married for six months on house shows. Warlord and Davey Boy would feud for the entire summer (and a bit of spring and a bit of fall). Did you want Davey Boy to interact with Flair? Or Dibiase? Tough luck. And probably not with Bossman or Duggan either. Battle royals broke down those silos.

On the other hand, AEW gives us weird match-ups all the time. Maybe it's not as much as some people might want, but you never know what you're going to get Wednesday afternoon as that last match or two added to the card. But the roster is still huge and face vs face and heel vs heel matches are at least a little bit rare, though less so due to rankings and tournaments.

So then, what did this give us? Fenix and Dante jousting, Takeshita going after everyone on the roster since he has no programs. Darby and Kingston having a moment of swiping at each other. The fun Archer/Nese moment that reminded me of Larry Z teaming with El Gigante in Battlebowl. Lee and archer having a faceoff. Then there were the established plot beats: Team Taz up against Dante; Garcia and Kingston fighting and then Garcia waving Hager down with Yuta, when he came in, charging right right into that mix; Darby and O'Reilly continuing their fighting from the PPV. And some of the new plot beats: Andrade and O'Reilly working together ("Amigo!"); Swerve swerving both Lee and Darby. They maybe had a few too many people in the ring a bit too long and when they started eliminating guys sometimes the marks came too quick on top of one another (missing Kingston and Garcia going out together and Hager going out immediately thereafter was a problem). Andrade felt like a deflation of a surprise, especially as he wasn't winning the thing. If he had won, it might have been different. To be fair, the crowd didn't seem bothered by it. If you go back a few months, it's impressive that O'Reilly and Yuta worked for the crowd as the last two, with O'Reilly definitely boosted on paper due to his Owen tournament performance and beating Darby clean on PPV. Yuta drew chants down the stretch, the second most over guy past Kingston (who drew chants AGAINST Darby, which is saying something). There are some inherent issues with the structure of the Casino format when it comes to timing things like new wrestlers getting their shines and eliminations but this primarily gave me what I wanted, Ricky Starks interacting with a lot of wrestlers I don't usually get to see Ricky Starks interact with.

AEW Rampage 6/10

Eddie Kingston vs. Jake Hager

MD: At times this felt a bit like Kingston was wrestling John Studd, not in what Hager did necessarily, but in how desperate Kingston was to get that exploder. He went for it three times, paying for it each time, including right at the start, before finally hitting it, which turned the tide of the match and opened Hager up, ultimately, for the backfists. I haven't seen Hager in any focused performance in a very long time. He just doesn't get singles matches often. Here, he worked well as a big, bullying goon, with the match being as much about cutoffs on Kingston as anything else. He was quick to get a driving knee up, but also to lean on Kingston with one so that he could paintbrush him in a way you don't really see. Or he'd just shut Eddie down and toss him halfway across the ring. The other half of the equation was Kingston's openings: grabbing a crotch during one of those knee grinds, drawing Hager in by giving him his face to punch so he could poke the eye. And of course Eddie's selling to give everything Hager did weight and meaning. I swear he sold getting tossed to the floor between the ropes more than probably anyone else in wrestling sold anything this week. As that's not something people usually sell, the grimace of pain all over his face really stood out. Maybe Hager being used so sparingly helped here, but he does seem like someone who brings a lot of raw potential for the table in any match so long as someone can make use of it. Kingston absolutely could.

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Friday, June 10, 2022


Cirujano de la Muerte vs. Emperador Panamanian Lucha 1988

MD: I'm not sure if anyone else is keeping up with the vein of Panamanian lucha we've gotten over the last year but we'll be sure to revisit it now and again. This was a mask match that dropped recently and it was bloody, heated, minimalist, and at times a little odd in ways that's right down our alley. Cirujano de la Muerte, being the Surgeon of Death, had the traditional medicinal wrestler white mask look. He reminded me of the Assassin or Dream Machine in some ways. He had pretty solid strikes that came from interesting angles and once he ripped the mask and really got going on Emperador, used an object to high effect. He also had a way of stooging on his bumps and strutting around the ring like a chicken to get maximum heat. I'm a fan. Emperador, in his eventual comeback after getting bloodied up, had a novel sort of running, jumping hammer shot, but otherwise, his strikes weren't as good. Still, he ripped at the mask and worked a wound and the crowd went nuts when he got the objects and started to get revenge and made the surgeon's white gear red. It was short lived though, as Cirujano smashed a bottle over his head and went back on him as they moved towards a finish, an out of nowhere 'rana.  There were a copy of spots in this, coming occasionally at slightly odd angles like Cirujano's strikes did, but for the most part this was straightforward woundwork the whole way through. Post-match continued the antics as Cirujano got what was coming to him. A match like this isn't for everyone, but to us, it's timeless and effective and beautiful. Now if Emperador just had slightly better punches.

ER: It's always a joy to find stuff like this. We have some full territory documentation of several 1988 territories, and then you get something from Panama that looks comparable to other stuff from that era while also looking somehow influenced by nothing. You can't really tell who they learned on, and it reveals a lot about how a lot of this is just knowing when to hit your beats and pace the momentum. Both throw their signature strike in a way you haven't seen anyone quite replicate, Cirujano throwing a hooking jumping right hand, and Emperador throwing a variation on the Baba chop. Nobody else throws a Baba chop, nobody else has quite the same hopping headbutt delivery as Carlos Colon, nobody throws a punch like the Crusher; these two have their own strikes, that might not be as good as those others', but they are different and I always like that. Cirujano had an all time great dance taunt. It was part chicken dance, part merengue, just a flawless combination. It's like Paul Lynde doing Jagger. If Jeff Jarrett had learned this dance taunt instead of just aping the Fargo strut, he would have been the biggest heel in Memphis. Emperador has some fantastic stumble selling, rolling and bouncing into and off of the ropes, like a standing Red Bastien gag, theatrical but really great body movement. There's mask ripping, a fucking bottle of chianti used as a weapon, a real good crowd brawl that sends people running (including a great dad running off with a little boy under each arm), and a mirthful unmasking. Love it.  

Tracy Smothers/Chris Michaels vs. Well Dunn Brandenburg, KY 2000s

MD: Some of my favorite wrestlers are the ones that are always on, always in the moment, always engaged. Terry Funk, Negro Casas, Nick Bockwinkel, Eddy Guerrero 97-on, Eddie Kingston. There are those guys and then there's 2000s Tracy Smothers, the guy who breaks the meter. There's not a moment of this match, including the period before and after it starts, that he's not engaging, engaging with his partner, with his opponents, with the ref, with the crowd, with the ring announcer, with his valet, with the laws of physics. He engages so thoroughly, so constantly, so dynamically, that he invokes wrestling to one of its highest possible degree, he engages with a reality of his own making and forces us to watch. That's a bit different than drawing us all into a shared reality where we toss away, for a time our suspension of disbelief, but it's certainly fun to watch nonetheless. 

I'm not sure if the crowd believed any more than usual on this night, but they certainly felt something, and he didn't give them a second to catch their breath long enough to think about any of it. He was constantly and consistently jawing with the fans (almost causing one guy to charge the ring simply because Smothers called him old repeatedly), trying to trick the ref with phantom clap tags, frustrating the crowd by trying to start a babyface clap when he was clearly a heel, bumping off of his opponent's offense and taking an extra bump just for the hell of it, hugging Michaels when something went his way, taking a powder after feeding like a champ when they didn't, from the first moment he walked out, to the finish where he got his comeuppance after using an object, to the post match promo putting over their next appearance at the next show and getting his heat back almost instantaneously by teasing the crowd that there was more to come. Michaels and Well Dunn played their parts, but you could have sent him out alone with a mic or with a broomstick to wrestle and he would have move hearts and fried brains just as soundly.

ER: This was pure heaven. Tracy Smothers has an act that makes me laugh at things I've seen him do a couple dozen times, playing some of the oldest hits in wrestling and always playing them with passion. Tracy is the angry southern Iron Mike Sharpe, and I'd hope you know that is a high compliment of an excellent character. Mike Sharpe did some of these routines in opening matches in the Northeast for a good decade, and Tracy takes it and ups the anger and violence and death threats. It's beautiful. This is Tracy stooging, stalling, and aggressively pointing fingers at every person in attendance. He gets into it with an old man, threatens to punch an "old hag" in the face, threatens kids, anything but actually lock up. This is a match where Tracy does more fake tag hand claps than I think I've ever seen in a match. Tracy Smothers holds a good crowd in a small rundown Kentucky building in the palm of his hand for 15 minutes, and I don't think he did any offense other than a handful of well timed (and loaded) punches. 

I like Well Dunn a lot, and I like Chris Michaels, but this could have been Tracy with literally any three wrestlers on the planet and been the exact same show. A team like Well Dunn is almost wasted in a role like this, because this was a role any green babyface team could have pulled off. Tracy was the ultimate in-ring safety net in a match like this. There is a lot of Not Wrestling and it is all Very Entertaining Wrestling. Tracy takes a couple of big bumps, one on a noggin knocker on the apron, others just bumping for punches, one just because he didn't realize Steve Doll was behind him. The match built to a great Rex King hot tag where he lays out Smothers and Michaels with consecutive hard clotheslines, and does his awesome hooking heel kick in the corner. Tracy's valet distracts King and Smothers blasts him with a loaded fist, then does the most hilarious and ridiculous pin, sitting down on King's chest and flexing his biceps, leaving himself wide open for King to steal the win. The post-match is great, with Smothers and Michaels blindsiding Well Dunn with a great loaded fist (Smothers) and an excellent superkick (far and away the biggest piece of offense in the match), then some classic Smothers mic work. When Smothers ends the night saying "I got a major surprise for you on the 8th. Somebody's gonna DIE!" you know that's the good stuff. 

John Cena/Rey & Dominik Mysterio vs. Roman Reigns/Usos WWE 8/1/21

MD: This was just last year, but it's found footage to us. It's a little amazing how conservative this was structurally, very Tito Santana, more so than you'd expect out of a Strike Force tag even. Rey started, teased Cena coming in but ate a cheapshot. That meant he had to handle things himself and when it came time to tag, he tagged Dominik. They hit a double team, but Dom got stuffed by the Usos pretty quickly and then played face-in-peril for most of the rest of the match.

Reigns came in sparingly, but I really liked how the first hope spot, where Dominik tried to fire back on him, was less about him potentially getting the tag and more about him daring to show defiance. There was a real sense of hierarchy there that almost never plays so well in WWE. As the beating continued, he got his reps in against the Usos, with some subsequent hope spots better than others (the one where he kicked them both over the top from a prone position was pretty dubious). Meanwhile, Cena and Rey worked the corner as well as you'd expect. Cena wasn't going to be in for more than a couple of minutes, but he was still having a blast out there. After the hot tag, Cena played the hits, though there was a pretty inexplicable ref bump that didn't feed into anything. I wouldn't call the structure of the match lazy so much as it was distilled and set up to hype the crowd as much as possible to see the attraction. It was still a little weird when you think about it, because in a babyface Andre trios, for instance, he'd do more in the first third and wouldn't be saved all for the end.

ER: I really liked this, and I think it's another piece of evidence that Dominik is an underrated worker. He's not ever going to be his father, but that's a dumb statement because no other wrestler is his father. This whole match settled down pretty quickly into a 12 minute Dominik vs. The Usos match, and I thought Dominik was just as good as the face in peril as the Usos were at bumping for him and preventing his tags. I liked how Dominik stood up to Roman on the apron, and how that got him an immediate headbutt that lead to his next 12 minutes of trouble. Everyone in the match had main event house show timing down perfectly, with Dominik really good at getting *this* close to Cena's reaching hand before an Uso would get him back to the corner, or a great moment late in the match where both Usos gets bumped to the floor and Dominik begins his slow crawl to his corner. Roman was great on the apron as his cockiness turned to frustration and his frustration turned to panic, yelling at both Usos to get up off the floor to stop the tag. Jey eventually ran in and dropkicked Cena and dragged Dominik by the leg back to their corner. 

It's all house show timing, but the timing needs to be there or it just feels rote. I don't think this ever felt rote, I think they teased it along really well and the crowd just wanted to see Cena the longer Dominik took a beating. When Dominik did finally make the tag it was explosive, making me feel a nostalgia for Cena that I didn't realize I had. I didn't actually know Cena worked any house shows last year, just thought he worked Roman at Summerslam. Seeing he worked 15 matches - all house shows and dark matches save Summerslam - was a surprise, and after years of hearing every male in the building loudly boo him, I loved hearing everyone cheering for him like they were little kids. 

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Thursday, June 09, 2022

2022 Ongoing MOTY List: Takanashi vs. Shiryu

9. Masahiro Takanashi vs. Chon Shiryu Choco Pro 1/22

SR: I'll start by talking about the problems with this match. It was a bit silly, a bit too long, and there was some sloppiness mostly caused by them wrestling on this pillow mat where you probably don't have good footing. Aside from all that, it was a really good match and another case for Takanashi being the one good big match worker in Japan. Starts with some nice grappling, but they soon move to the meat of the match. Takanashi's vicious matwork vs. Shiryu's awesome Jackie Chan moves. Shiryu really knew how to bounce around that little room and those windows. The back roll handspring through the window was just awesome and so were all the diving kicks and stomps. Takanashi's style is a mix of sadistic Fuchi leg stretches and innovative stuff that works like using the stool on the leg. As I said there is some sloppiness and the match goes a bit long, but they both sold their butts off, built really well to some big spots and kept me enthralled in the match the whole way, there was never a moment where I said "fuck this" which is quite rare for 2022 wrestling.

PAS: I thought this was completely awesome, it had a very Yard Call vibe. You have this oddball setting, a padded mat in what looked like a day care center or elementary school, but two guys who are committed to using that odd setting in awesome, creative and sensible ways. Takanashi is a vicious fuck, just driving Shiryu's knees into walls, windowsills and even a sink, and then putting on these sick cranking holds and leglocks. Meanwhile Shiryu is jumping around this room like Iko Uwasis, leaping in and out of windows, putting on a choke using a support beam, hitting a code red into a wall. This was a match with ten things that made me gasp and nothing which made me groan, can't ask much more than that.

ER: This match feels like the best possible evolution of mine and my high school friends' specific backyard wrestling style, a style which was developed after two very important Life Events: 1) All of us watching Fully Loaded '98 and flipping out for the Hart Dungeon match, and 2) My friend Steve and I discovering a back room in our school's gymnasium where they were keeping old wrestling mats and other junk. Originally our school gym was designed to have several classrooms in the outer perimeters of the building, but many of those rooms just got turned into junk storage. The day we found the unlocked room with mats and too many props was the day we founded the RWF (Redwood Wrestling Federation, with Redwood being our school's name), with our style peaking when we also found out where the school stored the high jump crash pad. That's what lead to us doing nothing but dangerous highflying off the gym stage, ladders, basketball hoops, and hand railings. It also implausibly lead to our "club" getting our picture in the yearbook. I don't remember ever officially registering our club, because it would have been very difficult to explain "oh yeah we found this unlocked room behind the gym with a bunch of junk in it, and we started hitting each other with all of the junk, and then when the room was locked we found a way to keep breaking into that room. No, to our knowledge nobody in any kind of authority position knows that we do this. Yes, we also broke into the room with all clothing donations to look for vintage running shorts."

Shiryu and Takanashi are much more innovative and clever than a bunch of 16 year olds doing WWF finishers on old wrestling mats, but the inspirations are undeniable. It's set in a pre-school classroom with kids' achievement diplomas on the wall (and a banner with the AEW logo featured on it. Is AEW a Choco Pro satellite affiliate??), and it's nothing but prop comedy used to inflict actual pain. Takanashi has some of the wickedest knee work in wrestling, stretching Shiryu's knee joints with submissions and then battering them about the room: He hits a front suplex onto a countertop, runs him knee first into walls, drops him knee first onto windowsills, and at one point just picks him up and drives those knees into the mat. He makes incredible use of a child size table, smacking it into Shiryu's knee and using the table to lock in a figure 4 type submission (think Greg Valentine adjusting his shin guard, but instead using a small table). Shiryu has his own cool repertoire, immediately winning me over when he does a fistdrop to Takanashi's back (then claims it was a palmdrop to the ref), but is soon doing wild things like a slick back roll handspring through an open window and locking on a triangle choke while dangling from an I-beam (which gets reversed into a dragon screw). Shiryu has cool offense that he can pull out unexpectedly, and also works in several spots involving the windowsills, even selling his painfully worked over knees by not being able to complete some moves after jumping to the windowsills. A lot of this should not have worked, but instead managed to be an excellent mix of "modern Japanese wrestling" and "two brothers pushing together their beds to use them as a wrestling ring".

MD: I've only dabbled a bit in ChocoPro during the pandemic, as opposed to watching it religiously or anything. My general image of it, if you were to have one image seared onto your brain, would be Suruga running across a wall like I did in the back stairways of my high school twenty-five years ago. When you think about it, though, so many of the norms and tropes in pro wrestling have to do with the inherent possibilities of the environment. The ropes came first. The way to use them came second. The turnbuckles came first. Figuring out how to climb them or use them as a weapon came second. Here, they have a room. There's a beam, a window, a wall. This match felt like the culmination of being in that room for a couple of years and having matches where they added one bit of experimentation after another, with this finally putting it all together. What made it all work was the commitment from all parties, both wrestlers, the announcer, Brooks shouting advice to his partner, the rest of the watchers verbally reacting, Suruga as one of the top comedic physical presences of our time willing to do anything necessary as ref. You're going to look for strings twice as much as usual when you're watching a match in an unusual environment. It just takes you out of your comfort zone. Here though, you could hardly see them at all.

And, of course, the work would have been good anywhere in the world. It was enhanced by the use of the environment and bringing together all of those imaginative elements, and yes, it would have fallen apart if they didn't act like they were completely believing every moment (nothing was really taken for a lark, even when they used Suruga as a platform). Things were sold, both physically and emotionally. The first third of the match, after the feeling out chain wrestling, was Shiryu targeting Takanashi's back to high effect. Maybe his selling could have lingered a bit more (which is my other criticism as after the long and very well done legwork that makes up the meat of the match, the finishing stretch sort of shrugged it off for big shots and a bigger playground dive), but the transition was great. All of the dragon screws were great but I liked the first one the best as it was all about Shiryu needing to use his environment (hanging from the rafters here to get more height) and Takanashi taking advantage of that extra bit of danger. What made all of this work so well was that they were concerned not about tearing down tropes and norms, not in being deconstructive for the sake of it or to open up creative shortcuts in hitting big spots (no reason to name names here), but in using the building blocks of pro wrestling as a base to use their environment to create something new and meaningful.


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Wednesday, June 08, 2022

NXT UK Worth Watching : Ohno vs. Starz!

Kassius Ohno vs. Jack Starz NXT UK 1/18 (Aired 2/26/20) 

ER: I watched and wrote about this match a couple years ago without having seen much other NXT UK, I was just seeking out Ohno and Kendrick matches. I had never heard of Jack Starz when I first watched his Ohno match, but that was two years ago and before I had watched over 80 episodes of NXT UK. So now, I have...essentially still zero idea who Jack Starz is. Sometimes he's on NXT UK, most of the time he's not. He shows up, loses quickly, and then comes back 15 episodes later. So of course Kassius Ohno is going to come into town and give Starz his longest match (to this point) in NXT UK. This is only a 5 minute match but it's just about the most complete match you can get in 5 minutes. Ohno is so great at Ric Flairing himself through Yorkshire and making it seem like anyone can beat him, while also demolishing those same people. He is so good at finding plausible ways to be pinned by 170 lb. Brits, and then punishing those Brits for almost beating him. 

I liked the way Starz fought in close with Ohno, tripping Ohno up during his multiple kip ups, foiling him with a wristlock, getting a snug crucifix nearfall, and countering a rolling elbow with a tabletop trip to take Ohno out at the knees. He also wasn't afraid to sneak in uppercuts when he could. I couldn't really tell if Starz had nice uppercuts, but due to the height difference they looked nice as he had a perfect shot under Ohno's chin. But, as many of these NXT UK appearances have gone, you knew that eventually this was going to be about Ohno wrecking some guy. And I like how Ohno almost acted *offended* by getting occasionally outsmarted by Starz, so kept his punishment swift. Starz went for a handstand in the corner, Ohno considered the situation, then just kicks at Starz' hand, keeping his boot there to grind his fingers. Ohno rips at Starz' arm and bends him around by the wrist and fingers, still leaving some openings for Starz to come back, but working quick toward the finish. I loved how Ohno sank in the Kassius Clutch (a trapped arm cravat) and just basically won the match by sheer size. He doesn't make it pretty, he just taps Starz because he can.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Saulnier! Cabrera! Renaud! Genele! Falempin! Ramirez! Batman! Gonzalez!

Michel Saulnier/Pedro Cabrera vs. Teddy Boys (Guy Renaud/Bobby Genele) 6/7/73

MD: This is a runback of a match we saw and loved in 71, and it was still certainly top notch juniors tag action. This time it was in more of a studio style setting and just one fall. Genele was an all time jerk and Renault could work super smooth, very fast, very complex exchanges with Cabrera and Saulnier, the sort of stuff that makes you look at Malenko and Guerrero and realize that things weren't all that novel, just forgotten. They wrestle pretty clean for the first ten minutes and then less than clean but with the stylists coming out on top again and again for the next ten. Every time it starts to really pick up on a heat level, they come back. The last ten has more considerable periods of control by Renault and Genele, including some great tombstones by Renault and just as good, if not entirely different, cheapshots by Genele. The hot tag, therefore, does feel rather hot and the comeback fiery. It's all good stuff, but it's stuff we've seen a chunk of. This is one of those matches where if you'd never seen any French footage, you'd be absolutely blown away but it serves here more now as just more evidence of what we already know: the standard quality of the work in French juniors tags was absolutely exceptional.

Michel Falempin vs. Paco Ramirez 7/19/73

MD: We get the last four and a half minutes out of an almost 25 minutes match. Good action with plenty of heat. Ramirez was billed as Andalusian, unless I'm mistaken, and had a gimmick where he wanted to be a matador but ended up wrestling instead. We'd seen him team with Batman before but he was working rougher here. He hit hard with some big corner whips, using his size. Falempin, of course, was one of the Celts with Jean Corne, and the crowd was behind him and his comebacks. There were a couple of near-falls I bought but they were primarily to make sure someone landed on the ref in the kickout before a quick rope running sequence led to the actual finish. We haven't seen a ton of high cross body blocks in the footage and Falempin put a bit of extra oomph into his here. Shame we didn't get this whole one.

La Batman vs. Jose Gonzalez 7/19/73

MD: We've seen Gonzalez a few times now, but it's been hard to place him alongside guys like Peruano/Montoro/Tejero/Viracocha. I'm not saying they're all interchangeable, but we usually see them in tags so it takes a few matches for a guy to stand out. Gonzalez, however, does stand out. He's one of the best stooges we've seen in the footage, up there with Delaporte and Bollet, with Bollet's energy when it counts. Early on, when Batman was winning holds, he'd whine and wheedle and retreat to sell. He's the sort of guy who'd ask for a handshake and then kick you in the face twenty seconds later and then go to show off a bicep to the crowd like he had performed a feat of strength. He also had a high dropkick and some good rope running and, in the last big comeback spot missed a charge towards the ropes and ended up choking himself in them. Batman looked a bit smoother than last time I saw him, hitting cartwheels and dropkicks clean. He had a great sense of timing, of playing to the crowd, of knowing when to make a big comeback shot matter, of getting tit-for-tat revenge spots that would lead to a big pop. He was technically sound but a big showman as well, probably up there with Wiecz/Carpentier and Ben Chemoul towards the top of the stylists we've seen along those lines. This match was good on its own but important personally in solidifying Gonzalez' strengths to me. We'll see him a few more times before the end. 

ER: Gonzalez is great. He has the straight posture of Richard Harris with the face and hairline and mustache of John Astin going on 70s game shows without his piece. We've gone through a lot of hairstyle phases in the last 50 years, but the one that doesn't appear to be coming back is for balding dudes to just grow their remaining hair long. Watch any cop drama from the 70s and you'll find a dozen different example of male pattern baldness with every one of them coping with it in different, increasingly wild, ways. Combover ridicule no doubt lead to bald men mostly accepting their fate, but few bald men are brave enough to let their remaining strands grow and fall where they may. Maybe the acceptance is more of a French thing, as the Rick Rubins of the world are hard to find, and Jose Gonzalez understands that. He has a kind of combover but his attempts are not serious. He is not Charles Nelson Reilly or George Kennedy, starting his part just above his ear. No, Gonzalez just kind of sweeps his remaining top strands to the side and lets the rest of it hang long to his shirt collar. I think his hair really adds to the smug buffoonish way that he takes bumps, and he bumps great for Batman. Gonzalez took a big bump over the top after getting dropkicked in the back, and took a phenomenal bump when he missed a torpedo charge and wound up trapping his own neck in the ropes. Batman had one of the coolest cartwheels I've seen, done with Gonzalez at point blank range. Alex Wright used to kick guys in the head all the time when he did a short arm cartwheel, and Batman just defies physics as he avoids Gonzalez. I enjoyed watching this in the bathroom at work. 

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