Segunda Caida

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

NXT Halloween Havoc Live Blog 10/28/20

I know I usually write up AEW on Wednesday nights, but the Halloween Havoc gimmick worked on me. NXT roster (or the style?) is pretty dreadful at this point and I've been enjoying AEW's Wednesday product much more. But a good gimmick is a good gimmick and they suckered me in, so I'm hoping for the best! Shotzi was the perfect choice for host, and considering that I first knew her as a girl on a local Bay Area Saturday night horror movie show (Creepy KOFY Movie Time!), this is her returning to her true horror roots. 

I am, however, disappointed that Man Mountain Rock has lost a bunch of weight. I mean, good for him, there's a reason why Pig Champion isn't the coolest super fat guitarist anymore. 

Damian Priest vs. Johnny Gargano

ER: I was hoping for one of the truly stupid stipulation matches on Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal, and Devil's Playground sounds like it's just a No DQ Falls Count Anywhere match, depriving us of a blindfold match. The match had me and lost me and had me and lost me. The pluses were that Gargano is a better opponent for Priest than a lot of other guys Priest has been matching up with lately, as Gargano takes big high bumps for all of Priest's "Edge working as Test" offense. Edge's offense always looked terrible unless he was against someone who makes offense look good, and Priest is similar. Gargano's high bumps probably would have been enough to save this, and the big bumps continued all around ringside and the stage area. Johnny's big bumps into and over the stairs were my favorite, but they did a good job sprawling into tables and Halloween sets. Sadly, there was a lot of cool stuff that would have played great on full screen, but happened during picture in picture, like Gargano getting kicked straight through the side of a haunted house. Really thought this was pretty strong until the went too long. Priest can be a daredevil bumper, but there's no many times where he see him looking at his bump before he takes it, getting ready like a sprinter at the start of a race. And the longer this goes the more stupid little things there were, like Gargano hitting a sweet sliced bread on the ring steps, only to see Priest get up from that almost immediately. That, and played out weapons stuff like "holding trash can in front of my face waiting to be kicked" just has no real place in 2020 wrestling. Get more creative with weapon spots! I did love Shotzi cackling offscreen after Priest got tombstoned (literally) into a tomb, but then I wondered why someone waited so long to interfere on Gargano's behalf. If I was Gargano, and knew Ghostface was going to come out and attack Priest, I would be pissed that I had to take a 15 minute beating before the guy came out to interfere in a No DQ match. 

Pat McAfee is not very spooky, but he's better at promos that a lot of NXT people (maybe he can give Ember Moon some tips, as best I can tell based on her return promo a week or so ago it seems like she's never performed anything in front of any size crowd before) but you gotta get the new tag champs back on TV. And align them with a British guy who is not a nonce (they should take phones and social media away from Dunne and Burch just in case). 

I should have known WWE would go to their one nostalgia joke of "have name from past return for 10 seconds and do something somewhat resembling a thing they used to do when they were a TV personality". So they play Badstreet USA, and Michale Hayes gets out of a van looking nothing like a Freebird, and instead looking like a paunchy jazz musician from Eric Andre's band. 

Jake Atlas vs. Santos Escobar


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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Leduc! Quasimodo!! Arroyo! Chaisne!

Josef Kovacs vs Gaby Calderon 10/23/59

MD: We just get a couple of minutes of this but it tells the story. Kovacs is the Butcher of Budapest, a big stalking slugger who whales on his opponents. Calderon spent six months in the Orient and came back without shoes but with chops and throws. He gets his shots in, Kovacs shrugs them off, and ultimately he falls prey to a sort of spinning Atlantida whirlybird.

SR: JIP match with 3 minutes shown. Calderon with his unorthodox style is always fun to watch. And Josef Kovacs was a shaven headed tough guy in a singlet who could kick ass, which is kind of my favourite type of European worker. He worked over the judokas mid section with body section before hoisting him up in an Argentine Backbreaker, spinning round and throwing him like a sack of potatoes for the pin and that is a finish to match. 

Gilbert Leduc vs Quasimodo 10/23/59

MD: I think we've had this one before, a few years back, but we're seeing it in context now, with better VQ and a much better understanding of LeDuc. Remember, we saw Leduc selling and crashing up against walls in Le Borreau's debut as well. Obviously this is our first look at Quasimodo who they bill from America, weirdly enough. He's a different sort of monster, one that will remind you more of Dr. Kaiser than of the behemoths we've seen lately. Skulking, clenching his hands and his face at all times, slipping in gut shots, constantly going for nerve holds and throat shots, with unique, monstrous high spots, and fully immersed interactions with the ref and the crowd. Leduc sells big, both the horror of the nerve hold and ultimately the damage done to him throughout the match. Through much of the match he's able to come back big though, either out wrestling Quasimodo or utilizing the ref's interventions to get some revenge shots in. Midway through, Quasimodo hits his biggest bomb, a draping, over the shoulder, flip of Leduc that lands him throat first onto the ropes. After that, the fight is out of him. His other odd moves are a tombstone position lift that looks strange but painful and a cool arm trap lifting backbreaker. If that pendulum throat shot was the first big turning point of the match, the second is when Leduc jams another attempt of that tombstone position lift by flipping him and hitting some tombstones of his own. That puts him back in the match and they go much more back and forth down the stretch until Quasimodo gets disqualified, presumably for repeatedly attacking, and putting the nerve hold on, before Leduc reaches his feet. It all feels a little dodgy to me, which is probably the point. Cruel, french justice for the monster. This was more of a match but maybe less of a spectacle than some of the other monstrous matches we've seen. Leduc was excellent in it and Quasimodo brought a lot to the table too. Most of all, they were both fully committed to everything that was happening.

SR: 2/3 Falls match going about 25 minutes. It‘s motherfucking Quasimodo. Quasimodo was another Spanish worker with a deformed head. He came in wearing full on hunchback get up. In the ring he was quite a monster. Short guy who hopped around the ring like a gremlin. With monster heels you usually get them big and slow, I quite like the short and aggressive approach. Leduc was on fire here once again. I think he has a serious case for being the best worker around in 1959, not that we have a huge sample. Quasimodo loved the nerve hold, but that is not a detriment when you‘re fighting Leduc as Leduc struggles so hard against that particular hold and makes it meaningful. Quasimodo, aside from all the cheap heel stuff like choking and inside shots, had quite a few wrestling moves. He had this cool slam from a Japanese strangle hold and a sick looking reverse catapult where he whipped Leduc into the ropes. At one point he even went for a reverse bearhug, really ragdolling Leduc. Leduc had his usual slick wrestling moves and when the freak took it too far he tried to bite his ear off. The 3rd fall was really intense with Quasimodo working over Leducs throws and Leduc just clobbering him with those left-right elbows and whipping out a sick piledriver. Inspiring stuff and Leduc looked dead towards the end. I came in expecting this to be more like a silly freakfight, but I thought this genuinely ended up being a really good match. It‘s telling that a guy with a fucking Quasimodo gimmick could be a convincing heel then. 

PAS: I thought this was excellent. Quasimodo was a true old school wrestling character, but also a hell of cool worker. I loved how single minded he was attacking the throat, from his nasty looking nerve holds and strangles, to his electric chair catapult into the ropes, at one point he even palm struck LeDuc in the throat. LeDuc is a hell of a foil, we get to see the master of the headspin break out his headspin a couple of times, and when it came time to dish it out, LeDuc landed big bombs. I loved his combo elbow strikes, if we are going to have to have elbow exchanges in every wrestling match now, they might as well be cool combos like that. Built to a big finish and it was something that protected both guys, I am a Nightmare Freddy fan, but Quasimodo is by far the best movie monster in wrestling history. 

Yvan Doviskoff vs Delacour (jip) 11/20/59

MD: Two and a half minutes of this. Not a lot to see. I get the sense Doviskoff might be a good cog in a tag match, but we're never going to see him again so it hardly matters.

SR:2 minutes shown. Not much here but there was a pinfall happening after a running cross chop. Love the running cross chop as a finisher. 

Jose Arroyo vs Michel Chaisne

MD: One of the best stylist vs stylist matches we've seen. The first half had a lot of the hang-on-to-a-hold sequences that we're used to, with bigger spots in between, but there were slight evolutions and bits of self-awareness here. Things that might lead to a fall, like a powerbomb counter after two 'ranas, led to another counter and things kept going. In that front half, even after long sequences, they'd just throw themselves into the next with verve and abandon.

They'd move from body part to body part, often in response to what's happened to them. After Chaisne kicked Arroyo in the back to get out of holds twice, Arroyo went after the leg for a bit. After Chasine's long headscissors (including a victory roll back into it) worked his neck, Arroyo hit two neckbreakers and a bodyslam tombstone. After Arroyo hit a backbreaker, Chaisne followed up with whacks to the back, a side backbreaker, and a catapult back onto the knees.

Chaisne's selling was excellent throughout, both little things like touching his back after hitting his own backbreaker after eating Arroyo's, the dramatic things, like the way he'd fall into the ropes and just sit there, legs splayed after getting hammered by a huge forearm, and the cumulative things, as you could absolutely feel the exhaustion and desperation with each move in the back half.

There was a slow escalation of animosity and meanness and aggression. The percentage of wrestling vs strikes flipped as the match went on and ultimately went careening towards an absolute slugfest as they hit the 30 minute broadway. Just an excellent example of a stylist match at its best.

SR: 1 Fall match going about 30 minutes. This was another clean match. I certainly prefer this kind of TV booking where its mostly face vs. heel stuff and brawls with the occasional technico vs. technico dream match thrown in instead of dream matches all the time like it is now. This was another really good match. These are two tall looking guys so when they whip out fast huracanranas and slick reversals it all looks super impressive. It was the first time we see Arroyo in a clean match and it felt like a big step up for him. He‘s looked good going hold for hold before, but his bread and butter has been retaliating against vicious heels. Here he looked really good pushing the pace against Chaisne with some big neckbreakers, a piledriver and a nasty neck hanging submission. There was another great body scissors sequence here and a series of ranas that got countered into a spinning powerbomb. It slowly disintegrates into this long series of strike exchanges that is infinitely more compelling than the long strike exchanges you see nowadays as both guys look like they are clearly trying to get more shots in than their opponents. There‘s some big bumping and really good Mantell/Lawler style exhaustion selling with both guys cracking each other hard, really looking like they want to quit after eating some of those shots but their pride won‘t let them, until the time runs out.

PAS:  This was pretty great stuff. I loved all of the neck work by Chaisne, including a rana into a side triangle choke which really should be stolen by Matt Makowski. The body vice by Arroyo had a bunch of nifty counters and moves out of it too. That piledriver by Arroyo was utterly uncalled for, the kind of thing which would be a finisher in an overloaded indy match, and is nuts that it was in a match from the 50s. Liked the big set of strike exchanges, which were so much cooler then the forearm and stare shit we get today. Just cool wrestling. 

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Monday, October 26, 2020

2020 Ongoing MOTY List: Bryan vs. Styles

12. Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles WWE Smackdown 6/12

ER: I thought this was tremendous. Two veterans that I have been watching nearly 20 years, going out and having their modern, middle aged, hard struggle version of the indy dream matches they had last decade. This was all of those ROH and IWA Mid-South matches with a veteran wisdom, and god willing they'll be putting on their version of this match in their 50s. It's cool getting to see wrestling feuds carry from early 20s to late 30s, seeing the beginning of that and the end of that, and wondering what's next. Bryan was a guy who could stake a claim as the best in the world in 2002, and Bryan is a guy who can stake a claim as the best in the world in 2020. Styles has also had years that far apart where he is in at least top 20 discussion, and I love that we're getting to see them work their thing. We have written this a lot in the past few months, but Bryan has been the very best wrestler to adapt to 2020, the weirdest era of wrestling in any of our lifetimes. He has embraced this odd era more in a way that few have, and has put on some of his career best matches. Since he's a guy specifically known for having a career filled with career best matches, that is even more impressive.

This gets a ton of time, as much or more than any of their indy matches, and they fill it well. Their standing exchanges are snug and take no shortcuts, and they don't cheat while working limbs or getting into submissions, always showing their work when they shift sequences. They both hit hard and keep close, not working a ton of breath into a near 30 minute match. Both were really showing off their gas tanks, and it made the physicality of this more impressive the longer it went. Styles started a golden brown and due to the pace and Bryan's stiff shots, kept getting redder the deeper we got. At one point he rolled across the ring to get to the floor away from Bryan, and he looked like a plump red hot dog on the rollers at 7-11. Bryan subtly sold knee work throughout the match, never making it the focus but always paying mind to it after hard landings or any move that required torque. He would rub it out, reposition it during standing lock ups, and adjust how he threw strikes without every resorting to any "ohhhh I can't go on with this bad kneeeee" selling.

They built through fought-over rope breaks, a standing strike exchange that didn't feel mechanical (both men throwing hard off rhythm kicks), and they kept managing to escalate the tone without things ever getting off track. It always felt like they were working to a satisfying end and it made things like Bryan's crossface come off big. Learned behavior moments like Bryan catching a Pele kick over his shoulder and turning it into a kneebar played like an Ishikawa/Ikeda feud moment, and Styles catching a running Bryan knee the way a luchador blocks a rana and turning it into a Styles Clash to set up the finish was an awesome exclamation point. I love how Styles hit it and polished him off with the flying forearm. Styles is used to Bryan's pluckiness at this point, he knew he needed something extra to make sure this guy stays down. A great match that would have played incredibly well with an actual audience, but stands on its own.

PAS: This was the last match of Bryan's awesome pandemic run, and he was one of the only wrestlers to adjust to the weird no-fans style. He embraced his inner Ishikawa and ramped up the violence and matwork, and the parts of this match that were focused on that were tremendous. Both guys viciously went after body parts, and really made the matwork portions of the match count. That is the secret to making a long match work: you are going to have matwork, and if you make that memorable, it is going to build to the final stretch well. There were a lot of nifty individual moments, I thought Styles reversing out of the LeBell lock into the calf slicer was nifty stuff and Bryan really sold the torn up ligaments. I also really liked the rana counter into the Styles Clash. I did think they abandoned the nasty violence to work a regular workrate finale, and while these guys are two of the best at that style, the first part of this match was so interesting and different that it was a little disappointing to see them work the last 7 minutes of a  Seth Rollins match.

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Sunday, October 25, 2020

WWE Hell in a Cell Approximately Live Blog 10/25/20

I think this show has a chance to have a couple big match deliveries, as Sasha/Bayley and Reigns/Uso both have strong on paper potential. Phil has a rare Sunday evening free so will also be sitting in and contributing to a couple cherry picked matches. And Jeff Jarrett is there? Jeff Jarrett is with WWE now? Is it weird I want to see Jarrett wrestling in NXT? 

R-Truth vs. Drew Gulak

ER: I don't follow the 24/7 title so I do not understand any of the Little Jimmy references that Drew Gulak is making. Does Truth have an imaginary child friend that accompanies him? I don't know about any of that. Is Drew Gulak bringing his Chikara mime training into the WWE where I don't want it? This is perhaps the most Chikara match I have seen Gulak work in WWE, and it's a bummer that it feels like he had those great silent era matches with Daniel Bryan and then opted to take him off TV. Now he's bumping for Truth's John Cena cosplay (which might also be a regular thing? Again I haven't seen 24/7). This looked like they would get the comedy out of the way right at the beginning and then work their way into a good match, with Gulak twisting Truth's ankle and dropping down with Indian deathlocks. But the Cena comeback jokes came really early into the match, and went right through to the end. During the straight faced moments of the match they had real nice chemistry, and that delayed sunset flip snare was pulled off by two guys who could have turned several cool sequences. I don't think we're ever getting that match though. 

Jey Uso vs. Roman Reigns

PAS: I think this ended up being a bit much. Samoan acting is more visceral than white boy acting, so this match was better than the super dramatic NXT matches. It came close, and I bought most of the emotional beats of this match, but it was really long and there was long sections of conversation and emoting and not a ton of wrestling. I also really need more violence in the Roman goes-too-far section of the match. That stair-assisted dropkick looked like something that Tommy Dreamer didn't cleanly hit in a comedy hardcore match, not something that showed Reigns lost his soul or whatever it was supposed to convey. I thought the spears looked great and Roman has a nasty guillotine, and that the finish worked well. It needed to be about 10 minutes shorter and Jey's white pants needed some blood for it to totally work for me. Afa and Sika at the end was awesome though, and I imagine this leads to Rock vs. Roman for the true head seat at the table which should be incredible. 

ER: Is this really the first WWE I Quit in five years? But I am not really enjoying this. I am not a fan of these Marvel battles where guys speak dialogue to each other before taking theatrical bumps and gnashing their teeth at the lights. If they were doing this on a windy green grass hillside cliff I could possibly get into it more. It does not work for me as pro wrestling, and it does not work for me as high drama. It was like they were doing a musical so the story took 5x as long to tell itself, ended up going way too long, and had too much dramatic build between each bit of wrestling. The spears were spaced well and I enjoyed things like Jey scrambling to choke Roman with the strap, but this dialogue thing is boring as hell to me. I don't think guys sound cool while barking one sentence "in a fight" platitudes. I think this stuff is really terrible, at least this presentation of it. I think I Quit match structure can already have a lot of lags and downtime, but they were dragging things down with dialogue AND I quit back and forth, which means we got a ton of lying around, far too much talking, and far too much of the ref asking if Jey wanted to quit every couple seconds. The only benefit of having this long slog of a match first is that the show still has plenty of time to recover. I liked the Wild Samoans appearance at the end and even though this match bored me to tears I would be undeniably excited by a Reigns/Rock match. 

Elias vs. Jeff Hardy

ER: I've been into comeback Jeff Hardy, and I'm fully into appreciating Hardy as an all time great at this point. But this kind of thing feels like a Raw angle and not something that needed to be on PPV. 

The Miz vs. Otis

ER: I really liked this and how it felt like a late 80s Saturday Night's Main Event match. They worked straight and that benefitted the match, and I loved everything after Otis's big babyface shirt tear. This was a strong Otis babyface performance. He ran into a Miz boot and looked tough as Miz was laying in kicks to the chest. But the wild man shirt tear Otis was him having the fun kind of breakout that will keep someone memorable and durable, like Jim Duggan. Otis hit a great spinning lariat and smashed into Miz, felt like a guy who would be getting huge potential reactions if we had crowds. It isn't hard to picture Otis catching on as a durable cult character with crowds, the same way Santino was but even more pushable as a wrestler. The Tucker turn could have gotten a surprised reaction from the crowd too, like or love where they go with it. This was pretty easily the best match so far on this show, but I hope we get something stronger. 

Sasha Banks vs. Bayley

ER: I am very very excited for this. For the past year plus Sasha has been one of the only people in WWE who actually makes me WATCH. She has had several stretches like this over her career, and has been a consistently great wrestler and character for the better part of a decade now. I think her work in this Bayley feud has arguably been the best of her career. And I liked this match and much preferred their method of storytelling, even if they didn't quite take things the direction I would have wanted. I liked the emotion and I liked a lot of the brawling and selling, but I didn't love the stretches where it became a propped up weapons showcase. When you actually fighting each other gets way more heat than making arts and crafts weapons, just go for the easier option of fighting each other. Sasha contributes the best parts of this for me, but they're a good pair. I loved Sasha's tope and her being crazy enough to get the back of her head whipped into a chair on a sunset flip. She's a CZW wrestler doing joshi drama and it rules. She gets trapped in the ring skirt in a cool way and is a strong enough salesman that the beatings she takes are always more convincing. All of the fighting was great, and all of Sasha's assorted meteoras looked awesome. But the prop set up slowed things unnecessarily, as a strong match was right in front of them with much simpler weapon usage. But Sasha was great at throwing herself face first into ladders and chairs, and her comebacks always played strong. The finish was great, with a Banks Statement around a chair a nasty worthy way to end a long title reign. Banks could honestly be the biggest female star in WWE history. I think she has great potential to break out on a big level. 

PAS: I thought had some very good moments, but ultimately went too long. It felt like a big time Indy wrestling stips match that didn't know when to end. They had a bunch of cool ideas and crazy bumps, and if they had picked four of them and built the match around those four moments it could have been awesome, instead they had twenty ideas and it kind of just kept going. I thought the finish of the match was awesome as was all of Sasha's double knee variations into parts of the cage. They undoubtedly took a ton of cool looking punishment, but at some point twenty five concussive shots with weapons just drags on.


Bobby Lashley vs. Slapjack

ER: Okay Bobby Lashley vs. SLAPJACK might be one of the weirder singles matches to land on a WWE PPV. Shane Thorne has never been on a WWE PPV, and hadn't even appeared on a TakeOver in four years. But here he is, debuting on PPV as Slapjack, and I think that is a kind of fun odd thing? It's a fun quick match, with Slapjack bumping around nice on Irish whips into the buckles and flies around for every Lashley throw. His comebacks were convincing and the big schmozz finish was used better here than the Hardy/Elias match. This was a nice palate cleanser and honestly the most interesting use for Retribution might be as a jobber stable. A stable of masked jobbers who all bump makes a ton of sense. Their faces are even covered so you don't have to see their shamed faces. WWE doesn't need revolution angles. They need 6-8 masked jobbers to flesh out their undercards and get fucking worked over by more interesting people. A dedicated crew of people who never win and nobody expects to win, bringing back showcase squash matches and 90/10 mildly competitive matches to establish new offense and alternate finishers. Do that and it will be a more successful idea than whatever Retribution ever leads to. 

Drew McIntyre vs. Randy Orton

ER: This was boring and not at all what I want from pro wrestling. They do not do this high drama wrestling as stage craft bullshit well, and it is infecting these shows. This show especially feels like ACTING has been featured far too much. They're taking advantage of the Our Town set up and getting a little bit too confident with their stage chops. This was slow and masturbatory and I couldn't stay engaged in any way. The end. 

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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Super Dragon is the Original Subliminal Subterranean Titanium Criminal Minded Swift SD

Super Dragon vs. Mike Quackenbush Rev Pro 9/28/02 - FUN

ER: I had higher hopes for this one, as it never really felt like a match, much more like a fun exhibition of moves and submissions. Now, I was kind of expecting a fun exhibition of moves and submissions - these are two guys with plenty of both - but this literally felt like an exhibition as there wasn't much happening between the moves. There was a lot of move, stand up, new move, stand up, submission, stand up, other guy's move. It wasn't bad, but Quack is someone who can string together a match really well and none of that happened here. Neither guy did their wildest spots (no big crash and burns to the floor), with the biggest miss being a Dragon corkscrew senton that would have missed Quack by a couple feet even if Quack hadn't moved. But the few subs looked good, Dragon hit a hard clothesline right into Quack's chest, Dragon got nicely spiked on a DDT for a nearfall. And Dragon's finishing run combo of a German suplex, rolled into a Blue Thunder Bomb, turned over into a piledriver? Well, that's a brilliant looked finishing package. However, that finishing package came literally after that spike DDT that got Quack a 2 count, and Dragon literally just stood up and hit all of those moves. So nearly everything looked good, but it had the psychology of a Smackdown vs. Raw video game match.

PAS: I agree, this didn't feel like it had much of a structure or process. I liked the early matwork, but when the got up off the mat they just did some stuff without any of it really stringing together in a sensible way. This was a tourney match, and maybe it would have been better if it had been a PWG or Chikara main event, just didn't feel like they put much thought into this match. 

Super Dragon/B-Boy vs. Bobby Quance/Jardi Frantz GSCW 3/29/03 - EPIC

ER: Big spot tag with some fun location specific structure, with Jardi and Quance are heels opposite hometown boys Dragon and B-Boy, leading to some heel in peril sections and our faces working like the bigger jerks. It's a fun tone for a stiff spotfest tag to take on, and I like all of these guys together. I miss this era of wrestling as these were all guys I got to see live a bunch so I have lots of memories associated with these lunatics. Heel Jardi was an awesome part of 2003, a heel proto-Matt Riddle with more of the stoner vibe and none of the MMA vibe, but all of the violent bump vibe. Quance was barely 30 matches into pro wrestling at this point, but it adds to his ring work. He doesn't hold back on hits or misses, and has that same kind of excitement that Blitzkrieg had. And since he's so new to all of this, there's a rawness to his misses and a desire to impress on things that don't quite work. When a move is supposed to miss, he goes through with it like he expects it to hit, which leads to several of his exchanges with Dragon look like something out of early Zero-1. Quance would throw an elbow that Dragon would kind of duck, and the off balance positions Quance winds up in make it look like he was never expecting anything to miss. It looks so much better than moves today that are thrown specifically to be reversed. Quance seems confused by the heel reaction from the crowd, but Jardi leans right into his role as deadbeat stoner heel who was getting high with his friends in the drive-thru before accidentally driving directly into a girl on a bike.

Dragon and B-Boy throw nothing but stiff shots, everyone gets kicked in the back at least twice throughout this match, Dragon comes up throwing hard slaps a couple times against Jardi, and both of them really start teeing off on Jardi in the corner. Frantz is a great punching bag and rag doll, and it's crazy he is the heel here as B-Boy drops him to his butt with a high left kick, plasters him with his running corner dropkick, and really gets folded in half several times. His comeback offense is cool, like his leaping top rope tornado DDT on B-Boy or his super impressive springboard rana on Dragon. There isn't too much selling in this one, but it doesn't really matter once they all start stringing together big spots. The match could have been different as there's some fairly engaging submission work earlier once B-Boy/Quance started against each other, but I like the big spots breakdown. Quance and Frantz hit stereo shooting star/450, there are some nice pinfall saves, Dragon hits an awesome top con hilo past the ringpost into Jardi, and the finish itself is really great: Dragon goes for a Psycho Driver on Quance, Quance lands on his feet and tries a low dropkick which Dragon leans out of, leaving Quance prone to an awesome B-Boy shining wizard. Dragon even dives onto the pin just to prevent Jardi from breaking it up. The match was a little scattered at times, but I loved the way it played against dynamics, and everyone involved did too much cool stuff.

PAS: Crazy spotfest tag matches aren't my favorite style, but I think this is about as cool of match you can have within that parameter. You have a ton of big spots hit pretty perfectly (the Frantz single jump springboard rana would be an all time legendary spot if hit on a bigger stage), counters and reversals that actually looked good rather then just dance moves, some actual drawn heel heat by Frantz and a whole ton of sick violence. B-Boy and Super Dragon are a tremendous team of violent asskickers, and they find lots of ways to kick people really hard in the face, and I loved Jardi winding up Super Dragon and then taking a Super Dragon sized asskicking. Jardi really got the crowd worked up, so they went nuts when Dragon started pushing his shit in. Quance was a little dry, but he had tremendous physical body control and looked really good mat wrestling with B-Boy. These matches can often go on too long, but I thought this ended right when it should have with the three count coming right at the apex of the crowd engagement.

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Friday, October 23, 2020


PAS: On one of my youtube dives, I discovered a youtube page for Monterey maestro El Ninja, with some super rare Monterey footage from the 80s and 90s, we will be digging more into it over the next couple of months, but we wanted to highlight a few of the biggest finds

Rolando Vera vs Benny Morgan CMLL 1989

PAS: Vera is a legendary figure, the first big Monterey star and a guy who trained Rene Guajardo, Blue Demon and Sugi Sato. He is in his mid 70s this match, but wrestled more like a guy in his 50s (which is the real sweet spot for luchadores). He had some really great looking flippy takedowns, sweeping the leg and sending Morgan ass over teakettle, he also did a really cool arm drag and dropkick. So much control of both his body and his opponents body. Have to give Morgan a bunch of credit for making a guy that old look that credible, and he had some nasty offense too, including an awesome flying cross armed chop to the throat. The finish submission was so cool looking with Vera pressing Morgan up with his legs and jerking his arm back down. Lets hope someday we get a French Catch style lucha drop, because prime Vera looks like it would be amazing. 

MD: Vera was in his 70s here but this was a lot more complete of a match than I was expecting. The first couple of minutes were more along the lines of the maestro exhibition I thought we'd see. For most of the rest of the match, Vera worked from underneath as Morgan took unmistakable but maybe not entirely egregious rudo shortcuts. Vera obviously wasn't at his athletic peak but he still threw out a flying headscissors and an up and over on an arm drag and a dropkick. He also took some fairly big bumps considering, including two off of these arm trap throws by Morgan. Where he shined the most was in the sheer fluidity of his manipulation of Morgan's body, though. Trips and throws didn't necessarily feel like spots but instead a careful and precise, yet wholly reflexive use of leverage. It didn't feel like he was teasing grabbing a limb to set up a throw two counters in the future, but instead that he was able to drift with the wind to whatever opening his motions caused. One of the major narratives of lucha watching is the understanding of what we simply don't have and the way they worked here made me wonder what the first fall of a title match when Vera was in his 40s instead of his 70s might have looked like.

El Ninja vs. Aladino Monterey 89?

PAS: Mascara contra mascara matches are the most meaningful matches in wrestling. Someones life is going to be forever altered and those stakes will elevate any match. Getting a previously unseen mask match is a real treasure, and while this isn't an all timer, it is a really cool match and a chance to witness history. El Ninja was a truly spectacular wrestler, he got tremendous distance on all of his bumps and dives, he gets posted and floats into the crowd like he was flying on one of those floating air compression machines in Vegas. He also hits two awesome dives to the floor, one a springboard back tope and a crazy regular tope where he goes vertical to the floor, I also loved his in ring back topes which set up the finish, he just levitates and lands with force. Aladino was more of an opponent, although he handled the bleeding and hit a reckless tope of his own. Finish never really felt in doubt, Ninja was clearly the better of the two and took a lot of the match, but that is a minor nitpick for a great piece of footage.

MD: I could have used a little bit more hate. Along those lines, it started off really well with Aladino bumping Ninja into the post on the apron twice. It never quite reaches that level again, except for one Ninja chairshot on the floor. That said, it had a lot of the other things you'd want from a mask match. Ninja's style is big and flouncy (except for his jumping front kick; that's solid), but it works because he throws himself into everything that happens. Aladino's a natural in that sort of setting, and not just because they're both basically wearing pajamas for gear. I wanted him to take a little more of the match (he really only controlled one other time due to a foul, mid-match and then was even for most of the finish). The struggle was believable. There was one point where Ninja was able to take back over because Aladino went too far over on a pin attempt and Ninja fell on him after the kick out. Plenty of dives, with the entire closing sequence being Ninja tossing himself backwards at Aladino dangerously. You get the sense that if any of those went wrong, it could have cost him big, which is exactly the sort of sense you want in a match with these stakes.

El Ninja/Tigre Candianese/El Dandy vs. Black Power/Negro Navarro/El Signo Monterey 91-92?

MD: I am torn on this one. On the one hand, you get a long (~10 minutes) El Dandy FIP. On the other, it's only because of some of the worst heel ref stuff; we're not talking looking the other way or holding back a punch, but just outright ignoring blatant tags over and over again. But, on the first, that's the only way we'd get Dandy to stay in there instead of cycling through for an extended team beatdown, and Dandy had his usual great selling and some really good hope spots for a lucha trios. But man, the ref stuff was bad. But, it's lucha, and with lucha, the hot tag doesn't matter almost ever. It's not about that moment of tag, it's abut the moment of comeback and momentum shift. In traditional tag team matches, the tag is that moment. In trios, it often precedes the moment of partners getting to come in. That's what it does here and it works, so in that regard, the ref holding back tags is fine, because the mandate of heaven hadn't changed yet and it doesn't really matter if they're beating on Dandy or Dandy, Ninja, and Tigre, and if given the choice, I'd rather see more Dandy than not. With that in mind, the match's biggest problem was that we couldn't hear the crowd well. That meant we couldn't feel the full value of Dandy's efforts. Otherwise, all good. MDM was having fun in the opening exchanges, with Black Power especially entertaining. Ninja's act was consistently entertaining throughout. After the comeback, Dandy was brilliant at dancing between rudo raindrops and stooging everyone. Even the grainy VQ wasn't an issue because you could always tell who was in there and what was going on.

PAS: It is kind of odd, old man Negro Navarro is one of my all time favorite wrestlers, but I have never seen an amazing younger Navarro performance. Maybe he just got amazing in his mid 40s. The MDM are a legendary trios team and you can see parts of that in this match, although it never really hit anything more then average, Average lucha trios are really fun to watch though, and I dug this. Favorite moment was early in the match when Navarro grabbed some gum from the ref to give to Ninja for his stinky breath, such a beautiful moment of heeling, something I could see Dougie Gilbert doing. Dandy is always great and I love when he strarts uncorking his right hand. Cool this showed up, but the search for the pre-40s Navarro classic continues.

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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Fujiwara Family: BattlArts Project B Master Plan 1/21/97

Project B Master Plan

Shoichi Funaki vs. Ikuto Hidaka 

PAS: This was Hidaka's debut match and he comes in wearing already wearinf pressure bandage which tell something about the training at the BattlArts dojo. As you might expect this was mostly a squash, although Hidaka gets a big dropkick and super fast flip before being dispatched. Funaki is not the optimal guy you want to see beat on a rookie (I imagine Hidaka was happy he didn't draw Ikeda for his debut) but this was fun.

Naohiro Hoshikawa  vs. Alexander Otsuka

PAS: This was a styles clash with Hoshikawa representing MPRO against Otsuka's BattlArts style, and they really meshed those styles well I liked Otsuka refusing to run the ropes early, only for Hoshikawa to force him and crack him with a jump kick. There was also a fun spot where Hoshikawa throws these theatrical kicks which don't hit clean only to finish the combo with a soccer kick to Otsuka's face, that was a style I was taught in boxing, throw the first couple with speed and land the last couple with force (I was much better with the force then the speed). You come to an Otsuka match primarily for the suplexes and there were some corkers, we get his great hanging German, a blindingly fast high angle capture suplex and a dragon to finish it off which looked incredible, fast forceful and violent, one the greatest dragon suplexes I have seen, Otsuka was a marvel. 

The Great Sasuke/Gran Hamada/Gran Naniwa/Masato Yakushiji vs. Kaientai DX (TAKA Michinoku/ MEN's Teioh/Dick Togo/Shiryu) - EPIC

PAS: This is one of the all time great combinations of guys in wrestling history, just true magic anytime you get a KDX team against a group of MPRO babyfaces. This starts a little diffThis ierent then the traditional matchup with KDX jumping Sasuke's team before the bell and taking them on a destructive arena tour, tossing them into walls, Sasuke gets launched back first into chairs, Yakushiji gets bodyslammed on a table, after that KDX struts back into the ring triumphant. When the babyfaces appear we get some of the fast forward speed action that you would expect from these teams, everybody hitting everything with such grace and force, with just impeccable timing. Much of 2020 wrestling aspires for this level of grace, athleticsim and beauty but no one does it like these guys did it. Awesome Yakushiji performance, he really was Rey Jr., La Petit Prince level fast and agile, and had a perfect group of rudos to work with, He hits a whip kick in this match where he looked like he had super speed. Out of nowhere this match takes a turn, Naniwa get's his mask ripped and gets sliced by Togo and all of a sudden a waterfall of gore just streams out of his forehead (Shiryu looks like he got slammed into barbedwire with the blood on his back, which was all from Naniwa's head). It takes a real turn, with Naniwa getting his head wrapped and coming back triumphant, with no mask to get the win. It's crazy that these guys can still add that kind of wrinkle to their amazing formula.  

ER: What a match. My friend Charlie was over at my house to record a podcast episode, and when we were done he just wanted to hang out for awhile and decompress. He is as casual a wrestling fan as you can get, would never watch wrestling on his own, but always enjoys and immediately gets into it whenever I put it on. And are there really many better styles of wrestling at reaching across that aisle of casual fandom, than a vintage all cylinders MPro multiman? He took to it immediately, and how could anyone not? This is not really even a heralded Mpro multiman, but it's on the level of the greatest ones I have seen, and it is a match I seek out and love. At its heart it has a tremendous bloody fighting babyface Naniwa performance, and it had a tremendous dickhead heel performance from Taka. Everybody else added nothing but positive segments, we built to a fever pitch where guys were flying in and out like a chaotic fight in Enter the Dragon. 

There really isn't a misstep in the whole thing, a real tight 20 minutes that - like the best of this style - felt like a bottomless bag of tricks to pull from. The crowd brawl was a fun diversion and really set the KDX tone, camera cutting all over Korakuen to see them inflicting violence, as Sasuke gets thrown through chairs and has chairs thrown onto him, and Taka instructs everyone to learn from him as he bounces a chair off the side of Naniwa's head. Taka takes that attitude back into the ring as we settle down into pairings, and Taka is the guy out there kicking people in the head and really separating himself from the pack. As Charlie observed while watching, "Some of these guys are hitting a lot harder than the others." Taka especially targets Naniwa, not just smacking him down and landing everything harder than necessary, but every time Naniwa is down Taka just mockingly kicks at his head, just shoving Naniwa's head around with the bottom of his boot. And it leads to a tremendous moment where Naniwa stands up and just wastes Taka with a falling clothesline. Naniwa hits a couple of big clotheslines in this match, but telling Taka he wasn't going to take his shit anymore is one of those immaculate pure babyface moments. Naniwa gets his masked ripped right off his head and bleeds a gusher, all building to him spiking Shiryu with some great sitout gutwrench powerbombs (each one landing higher and higher on Shiryu's shoulders) for the win. Everyone had great moments in this, that shouldn't be a shock. Sasuke had big bumps into chairs and a couple of wild Sasuke dives; Yakushiji reminded me of how damn quick he was and how bananas his headscissor and armdrag variations were, the kind where as he's spinning you don't have any idea what direction either he or his opponent will fly. Everyone looked good, but adding in a huge gusher and triumphant Naniwa return (with big head bandage!) made this one of the greatest MPro multimans ever. It just happened in BattlArts. 

First Tiger Mask vs. Minoru Tanaka 

PAS: It was pretty crazy that the most pure shootstyle match on this card was an old fat guy in a puffy silver mask. This was excellent stuff, old tubby Sayama is my favorite of all Sayama's and he was a machine in this match, constantly coming forward, working the guard, trying to take Tanaka's back and using his hips and foot movement to stay away from Tanaka's kicks. I loved all of the fight for the chicken wing, Sayama really yanked on the neck and arm and kept adjusting to tighten the grip, and then whipped off a beautiful snap german suplex which landed Tanaka directly on the back of his neck, before finally sinking it in. Really cool stuff, one of my favorite Tanaka matches ever, and better then anything Sayama did in his first New Japan run.

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

PAS: My god is this match something. The utter reckless disregard for their opponents, the speed and athleticism of the attacks, the clever ways to mix in moments of true horror with moments of beauty.s. This was a battle of four all time greats at their absolute athletic peaks. All of these guys remained great wrestlers well into the 2000s, but their style slowed down a bit as they moved into their 40s and 50s. Here they are all in their mid 20s and the exchanges are so much faster and explosive without surrendering any of the chilling violence. The opening of this match is a great example of the brilliance of this style, Usuda and Ono have this lighting quick intricate exchange of kneebar counters, with Ono getting the advantage, which was quickly snuffed out by Ikeda running in and kicking Ono's head into the fourth row. A Sunday of skill and speed with a cherry of brutality on top. The match continues on that vein, with great exchanges by all of the participants, with all four looking great. Ikeda throws some of his classic crowbar lariats along with nasty kicks and some really good desperate leg selling, selling which was instigated by Ono throwing some of the nastiest leg kicks I have seen in either wrestling or MMA, you could see Ikeda's kneecap shift with each shot. Every move in this match was remarkable, just the force Usuda used to yank in a choke, or the wild reckless punch exchange between Ikeda and Ishikawa which looked like something out a Necro Butcher brawl, to Ono working Usuda's body like a heavy bag. Just perfection.  If this match happened in the 2010s it would be match of the decade material, and it was just another day in the office for the BattlArts boys.

ER: This was tremendous, exactly what I wanted from everyone involved. The MPro showcase earlier, followed by an excellent Tiger Mask/Minoru Tanaka match, felt like a difficult set to follow. But this delivered in an entirely different way, and I'm sure there haven't been many better straight hours of pro wrestling than these three matches. This match has no problem following those matches, as everyone here is in a mood to throw kicks and eat kicks. Takeshi Ono was not nearly as heralded as his contemporaries when these matches were actually happening. Ikeda, Ishikawa, Tanaka, Hidaka, Malenko, and Otsuka were the acclaimed BattlArts guys which didn't leave a lot of room for Ono at the time. Catching up and getting more shootstyle opinions into the wrestling web allows us to reevaluate and find new high value and joy in guys like Ono. Ono is a fantastic shootstyle wrestler, and one of the most compelling juniors wrestlers of the last 25 years. His wrestling instincts are great, he knows when to dramatically go in for the kill, knows how to milk drama out of rope breaks and knock down selling. Having he and Ikeda on opposite sides means you have guys on each side who specialize in kicking people in the face while breaking up pinfalls, and I think everyone in this match takes at least three kicks somewhere directly behind their ears. Ikeda gets his leg attacked and bent in painful ways, Ikeda and Ishikawa dragged things down into the gutter with a nose busting punch exchange, four absolute legends of shootstyle all working at top gear. 

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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

AEW Dynamite Workrate Report 10/21/20

 What Worked

-Wardlow/Jungle Boy was a decent enough muscle head vs. flyer match, maybe a 0.3 on the 2002 Brock scale. Wardlow is missing something with his offense that I can't quite put my finger on. He's a bit too polished, so doesn't have the joyful carelessness of a jacked up Power Plant guy, and he's missing aggression. Walking around and breathing heavily after hitting F5 variations doesn't quite do it for me. So this match hinged on Jungle Boy's comeback sequence, and that I liked. His forearms hit at least as hard as Wardlow (which really says more about Wardlow than JB), but the dropkick to the back looked good and the tope to the back looked even better. That tope is probably what got this up top. 

-With more practice, Kenny Omega's dancers could be almost as good as the fine Minnesotan dancers of Let's Bowl. 

-I could not be happier that AEW seems to have realized how fantastic Eddie Kington's weekly TV presence is and let him just scream into several microphones. The guy is great and you can tell anyone seeing or hearing him for the first time thinks he comes off like a major star. I am so excited at just the sheer potential of what they can do and how far they can do it with him. If you didn't watch Fenix/Pentagon and only listened to Kingston on commentary, you'd think it was an actual great match. 

-I watched a lot of bad dance routines masquerading as wrestling in the first 80 minutes of this episode, so I appreciated that Jericho and MJF at least did a bad dance routine masquerading as a bad dance routine. They obviously didn't have the chops of Bing Crosby/Donald O'Connor, but they knew the proper way to look into the camera while delivering a song's punchline and that goes a long way. The porterhouse ordering open felt far too similar to the Key & Peele Soul Food sketch for me to give it much credit, but I actually loved the bookended payoff of Jericho saying "we're going to have to send these back" after bluffing themselves into ordering rarer and rarer steaks. 

-Britt Baker's match lost the thread a little bit at times (a kick that was supposed to be caught wasn't, Britt's sling blade does not look great), but was more competitive than I was expecting and didn't overextend itself. KiLynn King bumped big for Britt's offense and got her face punched nicely into the mat on a curb stomp. A lot of AEW squash matches give their opponent way too much, or do something similar to Omega/Kiss where it's over in two moves. The finish of this was never in doubt but I liked the few openings that King got, and liked what she did with them. 

What Didn't Work

-Kenny Omega is an indisputable dweeb. Can't decide if commissioning someone to say "Broke the Meltzer 5 star scale" is worse than those Kurt Angle promos where he would talk about putting on a match of the year. 

-Thank god Eddie Kingston was on commentary during Fenix/Pentagon, because he was the only thing that could have made that pile worthwhile. You'd think Pentagon would be a little more inspired working opposite his flashier, more entertaining brother, but you would be wrong! I'm not certain I saw a single Pentagon kick that didn't show light, and the entire match was a full reset after every single move and kickout. The opening "I know my opponent" dance party looked lazy, like two people looking ahead to dance step 3 before they had completed step 2, so you had things like those garbage pinball attempts where the person pinning is already rolling themselves off before the person being pinned has even moved. Midway through Fenix appeared to brain himself doing a reverse rana off the top, just crunching straight down on his neck and head. It looked really really bad so things naturally got more disjointed after as it appeared they were stalling for time. Pentagon did a derpy rolling DDT that either shouldn't have been attempted or should have only been attempted if his brother could move, and so instead just looked like three separate blown spots. The home stretch was trash, just Fenix doing a big move for a nearfall, then rest, then both standing up, then Pentagon doing a big move for a nearfall. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, no consequences, no transitions, no interest whatsoever. Fenix hit a great tornillo, Kingston saved what he could. 

-I was not buying the "gritty fight feel" of Cabana/Page. This whole thing just felt all over the map. Both guys had moments of standing up from a strike with gritted teeth, you know, real cowboy shit, and a few seconds later Page would be hitting a standing shooting star or Cabana would be hitting a headscissors. They wanted to have a juniors match, then they'd want to have a war, then they'd want to do some nearfall kickouts, it all felt like pieces were pulled from different matches. The beginning had some "fast exchanges" that weren't fast, leading commentary to cover by calling Cabana "deceptionably" fast, which is not a word just as Cabana is not deceptively fast. I liked Page catching Cabana's stupid slow crawl through the legs spot and turning it into a pin, and Page's back bump to the apron was nuts (and completely wasted and unnecessary in a match like this, but I did like Cabana's follow up splash off the apron). Page's match finishing lariat looked like a finish, but man the flip portion of it is never going to be not dumb. 

-Tag scramble had some moments but was overall a big ol' mess. I am not sure if Marq Quen is a constant victim of bad catching or if he's just a man who is very good at diving one foot to the side of his opponent. I'm not sure if he's been doing super high tope con hilos onto concrete intentionally, or if I've been reading the move wrong and it's actually a flipping clothesline and I've just incorrectly been focusing on the future arthritis gifting flat back bumps on the floor. His shooting star press that always falls a foot and a half short falls a foot and a half short a bit later, so that might contain the answer. Things got really uncomfortable when Isiah Kassidy hits a guillotine legdrop that almost disconnects Alex Reynolds' head from his body. You can see his jaw snap over and his body goes stiff. Blade figures this out when he picks up his arm and realizes he's dragging a dead body. He drags Reynolds corpse into the corner and - a real pro - uses Reynolds' hand to tag in. But it looked like  nobody else in the ring knew Reynolds was out cold. He was motionless towards the corner with his legs crossed, people crashing into him on landings. Reynolds is a total nutbar, so the second he barely comes to he immediately goes into a sequence with Nick Jackson, which was really insane because the guy looked like he had no idea where he was. It was weird watching him move by pure in ring muscle memory and still manage to be a part of a three person sequence. You can't grade his execution but he hit his marks and that impressed the hell out of me. It was clear that he wouldn't have even been able to tie his shoes in his condition, and here he was taking a high knee in the corner and a bulldog. Silver and Reynolds were the saving grace here, and Butcher/Blade had some nice moments (I do like that suplex into knees), but the match got uncomfortable when nobody in ring or on commentary was acknowledging Reynolds was a dead body. Bad night for that to happen, after Fenix's near broken neck. 

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Le Big Chief! di Santo! Zarak! Lecomte! Le Petit Prince! Sanniez!

Jose Arroyo vs. Georges Gueret 10/15/59

JIP with about 5 minutes shown. These two totally have a long awesome main even in them. This was more of a preliminary bout, but we got to see an awesome Arroyo punch combo and Gueret kicking some ass.

MD: We get about six minutes of this, JIP. It's a good showcase of Gueret who's a heel again. A long headscissors by him to start, but he works the crowd in his cutoffs in it. At one point he does that thing where you put your thumb on your nose and wiggle your fingers. Arroyo doesn't get a comeback here after this, because Gueret goes to the eyes and immediately chokes Arroyo in the ropes, tying him in them and jumping on the ring ropes from the other corner which isn't something you see often. When Arroyo comes back it's with flurries of strikes and lots of begging off by Gueret. They go back and forth for the last minute or two, with Gueret launching nice cheapshots and clubbering blows, before ultimately having his leg taken out once or twice and eating the fall on a failed bodyslam. We didn't see a ton of Arroyo here but Gueret came off as well-rounded as ever.

Lino di Santo vs. Le Big Chief 10/15/59

SR: 1 Fall match going about 25 minutes. „Le Big Chief“ has to be the greatest previously forgotten name in this entire project. He was this guy built like a tank who came in wearing a Native American head dress. I‘ve grown to expect war dances and chops from guys like that, but that was not the case for Le Big Chief. Instead Le Big Chief was this absolute violent menace. Boy oh boy. Lino Di Santo can get surely, but the Chief was beating the bricks off of him in a way few other heels in this territory or anywhere else could. Fish hooking, head stomps, nasty kicks and knees, the Chief was dishing out the kind of beating you‘d expect in a Tenryu match. After watching this I‘d say the Chief belongs with Hashimoto in the dome. The Chief had really great looking bumps for Di Santos uppercuts and dropkicks and a neat spot where he flung backwards over the top rope, plus a really amusing moment where he did a no water in the pool dive into the ring, so there was style to the madness. Di Santo gets to have some moments but mostly he is there to take an uninterrupted 20 minute asskicking and then win on a shady DQ. You know they must have had bigger things in mind for this Big Chief, but this is the last we see of him. Talk about abject and inexplicable violence.

PAS: The Big Chief is certainly in the tradition of Wahoo McDaniel as far as American Indians who will kick the piss out of you. One of the craziest things about this project is seeing guys like this, totally awesome wrestlers who feel like all time greats and just pop up once or twice. I would gleefully watch an old school 8 hour comp tape of Big Chief matches, but this is what we have. No big chops, but punches to the back of the head, fishhooks, this kind of downward eye poke strike which looks like it would dislocate retinas. Really felt like Kurisu's mom must have visited a Reservation. The no water in the pool dive was a great high spot and let to di Santo getting in some licks, and I always love the Dragon sleeper stoppage finish. French Catch can be both spectacularly smooth and violently rough, often in the same match. This was more on the gritty side, and I love gritty.

MD: I enjoyed this. Le Big Chief reminded me a lot of Iron Sheik in his prime, just from his body type and bluster. I wouldn't say his stuff looked smooth by any means. A lot of it was clunky and unfocused, but he was relentless on offense and kept things moving. He'd brutally swarm Di Santo again and again and again. It meant that instead of being back and forth, this was built towards a lot of smaller Di Santo comebacks, most of which could be quite memorable with dropkicks and forearms and plenty of revenge. Chief was more than happy to stooge huge in these moments. He'd whip Di Santo's head to the ground backwards twice, but when it was his turn to take it, he'd get whipped all the way over the top. Never giving Di Santo a moment to recover got him plenty of heat, as did the usual bevy of low blows and a fake handshake. Past the missed top rope dive attempt (which is exceptionally rare in this footage, especially for the 50s), the most interesting thing about Chief was the way he moved Di Santo around. He'd whip him off the ropes by his head, or get under him to pick him up and move him and even used a bum's rush type redirection once. He set up his dragon sleeper finish by lifting him with a choke and tossing him into the corner. Everything's so polished and trained and spot-based now that you rarely get something that feels so rough and natural. It added to things. That sleeper ended the first fall and Di Santo couldn't answer for the second. When Chief went after him anyway, he almost caused a riot. There wasn't a lot pretty about this one but it got the job done.

ER: I like Matt's Iron Sheik comparison for Le Big Chief, and I see it. I watched this and saw a Bad News Allen who actually delivered on his coolness potential. A lot of credit is rightly given to Big Chief's stiff ring work, but I came away impressed with his unique bumping and the way he would lean into all of Santo's strikes. di Santo didn't exactly need help making his strikes look good; when you elbow a man squarely on the chin, you are elbowing a man squarely on the chin. But I think we underestimate how uninteresting the fast flat back bump has made wrestling, and how that might be an actual contender for worst WWE stylistic change to make into an industry norm. di Santo brought the strikes, but I don't think they would have been anywhere near as interesting without some of Big Chief's spills. My favorite saw him take a forward bump and fall chest and shoulder across the bottom rope, but not linger on it for comedic purposes. I think that it's important he doesn't treat his bumps as comedic overexaggerated flourishes, as it's a very different vibe to take stooge bumps as stooge bumps while still treating the strikes as authentic. He pulls it off marvelously, utilizing the ropes in his bumps several times, finding neat ways to get his body to the mat after another gorgeous sky high di Santo dropkick catches him in the collarbones.    

Zarak vs. Jean-Pierre Lecomte 10/15/77

SR:1 Fall match going a bit over 10 minutes. Zarak was a British wrestler under a mask. It seems he was popular as he showed up on TV a lot, but he didn‘t quite have the same snap as the masked stars we‘ve seen in the 50s. That being said, he was a solid rudo in the vein of a Fit Finlay. Stepping on fingers and hitting a nasty piledriver. Lecomte was a balding guy with a mustache who was amazingly lithe and agile. He totally looked like dynamite cartwheeling around and running the ropes super fast. I dig any wrestler who looks like a PE teacher and is really athletic and Lecomte in this made me excited to check out his other sole appearance. At this length this was like a Nitro squash but it pushed all the right buttons for the time given.

MD: We're here for the Prince vs Sanniez match, but as a rule we watch whole shows. This is our first look at Zarak, who was a British wrestler under a mask. He's got an amazing heel swagger and strutting nature, and can base pretty well to boot. I'm not 100% sure about Lecomte but he might be the guy who played Der Henker (and maybe even Le Borreau) without a mask and as a spry, older Nick Kozak looking babyface. These guys were not small, but he launched into four or five cartwheels in the match, including one where he reversed course to dodge and grabbed a leg out of it which was really slick. There were definitely some marginal differences from what we were used to. There were more whips, maybe more ref intervention against the babyface (especially when he went for the mask), some of the armdrags felt different than what you'd see in the 50s, but the ebb and flow of Zarak getting ahead with cheapshots and Lecomte firing back big felt familiar. Pre-match, Zarak had taunted Lecomte with the universal, hands clenched up-and-down signal for the pile driver to Lecomte, and after some nice rope running (including that hip toss power slam that ends so many 50s falls), he hit a flip-up tombstone off the ropes for the win. Post match, he strutted and Lecomte got carted out on a stretcher. Wholly entertaining stuff.

Le Petit Prince vs. Albert Sanniez 10/15/77

SR: 1 Fall match going about 25 minutes. The Little Prince was 10 years into it at this point, but he could still seriously go. Sanniez was an athletic tecnico himself a few years earlier, it‘s quite interesting that he went from stellar tecnico to being a stellar rudo. This was like the worlds most athletic crowd pleasing house show main event you‘ve ever seen. It followed a predictable structure and had the old heel ref spots and what not, but the exchanges were so fast and intricate, the bumps so dedicated that you won‘t care. Sanniez was working this like Fuerza Guerrera, cheating from the get-go and coming across as pretty bumbling as he missed backhands and bumped like a maniac. He did show some glimpses of his past skillful persona and those exchanges were the highlights of the match. There was one exchange that lead into a flying short arm scissor that no one in the world now could pull off. It‘s been said before, but the speed that the Prince got on his stuff is a league of its own. Despite the mostly light hearted nature of the match the Prince ended up taking a big beating and being flung around (with a second in a blue jumpsuit who was also looking like a PE teacher and probably working the opening match that night catching him) before taking the finish in a classy fashion.

MD: Great showcase match for Prince. Sanniez was an admirable foil, quick with the cheapshots and hair pulls and bluster, able to mostly hang but always a half step behind in speed and finesse which only served to make Prince look better especially as he had to spend more than half the match working from underneath. Sanniez was able to cut him off effectively, often times having help from the ref. When it was time for Prince to get revenge, he got it big and entertaining. Lots of his flip-around go-behind up-and-over armdrags, some huge monkey flips, a tapatia, and probably my favorite spot of the match where he tied Sanniez up in the ropes and hit two charging headbutts, where on the second one, the ref who was trying to play interference got bumped dramatically over the top. Tail end of the match had some effective king of the mountain heeling by Sanniez, leading to Prince's final comeback and one of the best visual pins in a sunset flip you'll ever see as Sanniez was practically vertical. Huge spectacle with just enough substance to make it work.

PAS: This was maybe the most lucha match we have seen in this footage. We have the super athletic babyface flyer facing off with a bumping, stooging heel with a bit of Tirantes style ref worked mixed in. Prince is one of the most dynamic wrestlers of all time. He's remarkably fast and smooth with everything he does, but Sanniez is a hell of an opponent, getting huge height on all of his monkey flip bumps and eating all of the armdrags and headscissors perfectly. I really liked all of the king of the hill stuff near the end of the match, great way for the match to break down and add some nastiness to the proceedings. Cool stuff and any chance to see the Prince is a blessing.

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Monday, October 19, 2020

2020 Ongoing MOTY List: WALTER vs. Holland

26. WALTER vs. Ridge Holland NXT UK 3/7 (Aired 9/3/20)

ER: We're over 5 months into quarantine and they reveal that they've just been sitting on matches like this? Why?? They've been airing months of "classic" matches and they had this unseen tidy heavyweight collision the whole time? What else are they keeping from us? Whatever the answers, I'm glad we eventually got this little gem. There was no backing down here, just WALTER reddening Holland's chest with chops while Holland threw lariats to the side of WALTER's neck. WALTER makes a favorite wrestler decision of mine, to just try to wreck a guy's arm to prevent him from throwing so many lariats, and because Holland is more stubborn than most men it just leads to more ass kicking. These two rams kept colliding, and I got into it the longer they kept it up. WALTER was really cruel, dropping Holland with a back suplex on the apron, stomping Holland right on the neck when Holland tried to bridge out of some matwork, and they work the kind of match where even a bodyslam feels like a near finisher. Holland kept running into chops and a big kick, kept coming back with lariats to the neck, and I loved Holland powering through a WALTER sleeper to get him into a torture rack, then starts trying to put WALTER through the mat with a crazy overhead belly to belly suplex, big powerbomb, and an almost northern lights bomb. WALTER always comes off calm when he is starting to lose control, and appears to get more focused and tighten up his moveset. He doesn't take risks, throws in smart things like blocking a Holland lariat attempt, and just goes into this clubbing arms/sleeper mode. His uranage was awesome, and while I wish we hadn't gotten interference to lead to the finish, Holland quickly headbutting Wolfe out of the way only to eat a nasty high kick and lariat is a cool big man finish. So seriously, what other unseen matches are they sitting on?

PAS: Fun big boy punch out. This had more selling then most of your Big Japan matches of this style, more just two big dudes toughing it out than no-selling and making faces. Holland has real farm boy strength and looked great hoisting WALTER up for a monster Belly to Belly suplex. This wasn't a heavyweight jumping into a suplex, this was a big guy getting thrown. Great looking short headbutt by Holland, from a guy who definitely used that to drive a pint glass into someones cheek in Essex. I always like how WALTER breaks blood vessels and Holland was totally bruised up by the end of this, although he totally gave as much as he took. Short, simple, violent and effective wrestling.


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Sunday, October 18, 2020

Matches from CZW High Stakes II: Night Show 9/11/04

This show opens with a "Remember the Sacrifices" 9/11 flute instrumental memorial, showing fire fighters and ground zero extraction crews, segueing directly into a warning that CZW contains graphic and violent content because 2000s wrestling and (well, everything, for a few years) 9/11 had a strong bond. CZW even ran two shows on this day, the 3rd anniversary of 9/11, presumably to honor troops and first responders twice as much.

Super Dragon vs. Chris Hero - FUN

ER: For two guys who seem like they would have some real classic against each other, turns out they only had two singles matches. They had some tags opposite each other, but half of those included Davey Richards, so, you know. This one never really came together, and felt more like an assemblage of neat things both men do rather than a cohesive match featuring those things. You get your rolling wristlock exchange opening, your forearm exchange section, your suplex exchange section, and the momentum basically turned whenever either of them felt like turning the momentum. A lot of the greatest hits looked good: I'll always love Dragon's ringpost Cassandro bump, or Hero's running face wash big boot. You get hard Dragon short arm clotheslines, wrenched in cravats from Hero, a great German suplex spot where Dragon throws him after no selling an eyepoke, a Hero capture suplex that really folds Dragon, and a nice Dragon tope con hilo. But some of Hero's elbows actually don't look great, and the whole thing has a kind of exhibition feel throughout. It felt like they were checking off boxes rather than actually putting together a match. Moves got bigger, but since neither guy seemed to have much trouble getting back on offense, the moves never felt significant. Hero maneuvering through Dragon's limbs to get to the deathlock cravat was a slick as hell finish, and the whole thing would certainly make for a great 4 minute highlight video. But this was below what these SC favorites are capable of, and you gotta hold legends like these to a standard.

PAS: I agree that this was less then the sum of its parts. You are going to have some cool shit in a match with two wrestlers with a ton of cool shit, but I never felt it built to anything. I really liked Super Dragon stepping in on a flippy roll from Hero and just pasting him in the chops, and the Super Dragon double stomp to the head is one of wrestling sickest moves. Still that is a move which ended TARO's career and Hero kicks out at two and goes right back on offense. There was a lot of do-si-do reversals for a pair of guys who are normally bangers, and it did just kind of feel like it went till it stopped.

Sexxxy Eddy vs. El Generico vs. Kevin Steen vs. eXceSs 69

ER: I was about to skip this one, as the first several minutes were pretty bad, the kind of 2004 multiman wrestling that doesn't hold up and looks like guys carefully trying new moves and sequences. Eddy throws the absolute worst knee strikes I've seen, with his foot floating up and out behind him every time he did a knee, it looked like some kind of joke offense Rip Rogers would do to get heat (except I'm pretty sure they were just supposed to be actual kneelifts). Then we get one of those dive trains where most of the guys don't seem to know how to catch dives, and it was both a bad moment but also the moment of the match that started winning me over? I mean something about guys just hitting concrete and guardrails has a kind of unifying vibe to it. Generico does a tope con hilo and just lands on his feet without hardly touching anyone, Eddy takes a gnarly flight into the guardrail and crowd on an Asai moonsault, and my brain switched over into "I mean if they're going to kill themselves then let's see it."

And then they killed themselves! Generico was throwing heavy ole kicks in the corner, Steen started crushing people with suplexes, Generico dropped Steen disgustingly on the top buckle with a brainbuster, and then while I was reacting to that he dropped Sexxxy Eddy even more disgustingly with a buckle brainbuster! Steen attempted to cripple eXceSs 69 (presumably and understandably for his name) by throwing him overhead with a cradle suplex that dared Excess to bump on anything other than his neck. And the thing that started really getting me involved with this - other than potential death - is just how strong the crowd gets into Eddy. They really really want to see their guy beat these Canadians (they are all Canadians, but he's THEIR Canadian). You see, before the match, Eddy had done a strip tease for a barely legal girl, aggressively rubbed his dong on her, and then autographed her bare ass, so obviously he's a babyface at the New Alhambra. But the crowd really organically got into an Eddy win as the match went on, and I really like a crowd getting into a wrestler rather than rooting for a MOTY. Steen looked really awesome in this, delivering a ton of dangerous offense (kids never even piledrove their Wrestling Buddies as hard as he delivered a package piledriver in this match) with a smug look and teen acne, he hit a top rope gutbuster that should have shattered his leg, and Eddy kicking out of Steen's great moonsault was a genuine surprise. This was rough and bad, and then won me over. Eddy got the big win, and then everyone stood in the ring for a long time afterward congratulating themselves on what a great job they all did, and it was hilarious watching them all take curtain calls like they were all retiring immediately. 

Eddie Kingston vs. B-Boy - GREAT

ER: This was nothing but action, with both men throwing increasingly heavier and heavier shots, never going into overkill but ramping up the violence consistently. It was a chance for both guys to show off some deep offense wells, while never feeling like either guy was trying to get all their moves in. This was Kingston's first singles match in CZW (and probably the earliest Kingston singles match I've seen, since I haven't dove too far into his Chikara work) and it's so good. He and B-Boy slugged it out and Kingston is a slightly more raw version of his later singles work, but it's surprising (it probably shouldn't be) how confident and mostly formed his style was just 75 matches into his career. Bobby Quance is on this show, and he's a guy whose whole thing was "incredibly quick learner", yet Kingston didn't even have as many matches as Quance at the time of this match. Kingston talked a ton of trash while leaning into some mean B-Boy shots, both men throwing big running kicks to the face, both throwing hard follow through elbow strikes, and the quick pace lead to minimal down time without ever feel like they were rushing to get to another big moment. It looked like it was going to be a real B-Boy steamrolling, loved him kicking King around, bouncing a chair off his head on the floor, and Kingston is great at taking ringside beatings. I loved how King would make inroads, especially his blocked shining wizard cradle suplex, or when he caught a kick and used B-Boy's trapped leg to lift him up and plant him with a sitout powerbomb. BLKOUT gets involved, and I'm 95% confident that B-Boy murders Sabian with an electric chair driver. His head gets driven directly into the mat and his body goes stiff (before getting rolled out of the ring and out of our lives). We got a lot of Ultimate Warrior Actually Died rumors in the 90s, but the Second Sabian hasn't gotten nearly as much press. BLK Jeez is not the original Sabian, and you heard it here first. Kingston takes a ton of gross damage, like a brutal death valley driver and a blockbuster through some set up chairs, and the finish is a fantastic visual: B-Boy drops him in the corner with a chair over his face, lays a table over him, and then hits a running kick THROUGH the table into King's face. THAT is a kill shot finish, people. Kingston is a lunatic from taking something so unprotected, and you can even see B-Boy taking extra time in the corner to psyche himself up for putting his damn leg through a table. When the guy about to murder you is having second thoughts about murdering you, that's a weird vibe to bring to a wrestling match. And it ruled.

PAS: This had the awkwardness you might expect from Kingston still being green, but both guys have a ton of charisma and aren't afraid to throw heat. This is a fun role reversal with B-Boy in the later Kingston role of veteran beating on a young stud, and Kingston being an awesome Tre Lamar as the young outgunned cocky kid. Poor Sabian though. That electric chair drive landed on the crown of his head and must have knocked three inches off his height. That finish took a while to set up, but you can't quibble with B-Boy driving his foot through a table and through someone's face.

M-Dogg 20 vs. Bobby Quance

ER: Bobby Quance, as I mentioned before, is famous for being a pro wrestling natural, who moved on quick and left people wanting more. This match was basically the end of his career, with the announcement after the match that he was joining the Navy. And for a guy who never wrestled full time and worked less than 100 matches, he really did have a lot of polish. He looked even more polished wrestling opposite M-Dogg 20. Quance had a lot of cool grappling to start, trying to get wrist control standing, taking M-Dogg down while going for armbars, and M-Dogg actually appeared to be working a funny heel gimmick where he only did disappointing highspots to get under the crowd's skin. M-Dogg hit a springboard tomahawk chop, and kept locking on chinlocks for heat instead of following through on spots (like hitting a snapmare and stopping short from kicking Quance in the back, opting for a chinlock). I was getting plenty of entertainment out of M-Dogg pulling this bullshit - man who is only known for gymnastics refusing to do gymnastics - but the crowd didn't seem to care. And then, M-Dogg stopped caring as well. They went to the finish earlier than expected, felt like they were building to something a bit longer, and the match ended with an M-Dogg shooting star press that landed 2 feet short. That finish felt like somebody shit their pants and they had to immediately go home no matter what. 

Ladder Match: Nate Webb vs. JC Bailey vs. Chris Cash

ER: This had down time, but was much closer in spirit to Crazy Crusher vs. Hell Storm, which is the only logical way to judge a ladder match. That match was focused on impossibly stiff strikes and death wish bumps with no thoughts to safe landings, and that's what this was. It wasn't as pure as that backyard indy dream, but the vibe was there. There are some UGLY bumps in this one, the kind of things that could have easily crippled someone. The grossest moment was Webb dropping Bailey with a back suplex while Bailey had a ladder hung around his neck. The way Bailey gets folded up I honestly don't know how how he didn't break his neck. That's not the first time in the match I thought Bailey broke his neck, as the finish saw him take a burning hammer off the top of a ladder, onto a ladder that was set up between chairs. That's the perfect beauty of Canadian indy backyard spirit. Webb is super talented, a flyer with a crazy ideas, someone who could have been a super successful "straight" worked, but his willingness to do crazy things without thinking too hard about them makes him even more special. I didn't love Cash here, even though he took a similarly gross bump to Bailey's ladder around neck bump, he seemed to be slower on the draw in pulling off the crazy spots. Bailey and Webb were in there to take incredibly stupid bumps onto their heads or into piles of chairs, and Cash was the guy to pick up the scraps. This wasn't a clean match and there were some longer than needed set up times, but the heart and craziness was there and that's far more important.

Necro Butcher vs. Wifebeater

ER: This was a few big gross landings with not a whole lot in between, so it's going to come down to how much you like to see Necro take punishment. I like that quite a lot, so for me there was plenty here to enjoy. The bumps are what you're here for, and there were plenty of crazy bumps. They brawl through the crowd, Necro superplexes Wifebeater off the bleachers through a table, Necro gets powerbombed off different bleachers through a couple set up chairs, Necro eats a powerbomb through the merch table while some poor guy tries fecklessly to move the VHS and DVDs off the table first (he does not, meaning Necro lands right on a ton of VHS, the table eventually gets broken, VHS tapes everywhere). The set ups to a lot of these are kind of ugly. Wifebeater has a really difficult time both lifting Necro for moves, and appears to be deadweight while being lifted. If you're generous, maybe it comes off like they're struggling to prevent a move, like Misawa sandbagging a powerbomb. It isn't that, but if you're generous you could at least make that argument. It would be a good thing for someone to cover it up on commentary. In the ring Wifebeater snacks on sour cream Pringles, shoves thumbtacks down the front of Necro's pants before hitting a fistdrop on his groin, and then a gruesome inverted atomic drop. That kind of stuff is great, but there's a lot of time in between this stuff. Sure, some of that time is spent on punches to the head, but the whole match is pretty disconnected. The finish is a real cluster, with more tacks than I've ever seen on a mat getting poured out but not really used, then a glass pane getting set up between two chairs. Lobo is guest ref and kind of commandeers things, preventing Wifebeater from using a weed whacker, then taking far too long to open up some lighter fluid and light this pane of glass. Necro has to basically stall for 30 seconds and act like he can't lift Wifebeater for a powerbomb, and they stumble a bit when the glass is finally lit, but Wifebeater finally exploding through glass is a great finish. His back covered with rivulets of blood as he walked out looked even cooler. This is the kind of match that would make a killer 3 minute highlight video, and I'm okay with that.

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Saturday, October 17, 2020

Matches from Effy's Big Gay Brunch 10/10/20

Manders/Matthew Justice/Mance Warner/Levi Everett vs. O'Shay Edwards/MV Young/Billy Dixon/Joshua Wavra

ER: 8 man tags are a great formula, nearly impossible to mess up. It's a match structure that really only needs a couple of good wrestlers to work, and the rest can just be guys with 1-2 nice spots. The higher the % of good wrestlers, the better the formula works. There are roughly several hundred incredibly fun 15 minute NOAH 6 man and 8 man tags, maybe the peak of the non-lucha multiman style, but it's a match should always work. This one is on the low end, but it's a high floor match type. It had a disappointingly low amount of Manders and O'Shay (with them working a somewhat out of place moment where big Billy Dixon inadvertently knocks O'Shay off the apron and it leads to a minor argument) and Manders just being by far the least featured guy on his team. Seeing the brilliance Manders has produced with Big Twan  Tucker, Manders vs. O'Shay was the showdown I most wanted, and I don't think it happened at all. Outside of O'Shay I was unfamiliar with our babyface team. This match felt oddly built as a MV Young showcase, which is fine, he had some nice kicks, but was also the most "kickpad pro" which isn't something I wanted out of this. Dixon has a nice round shape and hit a cool Thesz press off the top for a good nearfall, and Wavra was someone who had no problem leaning into and getting bent painfully by a Mancer lariat. Justice and Mancer have the kind of charisma you want in a match like this, and Justice especially has that beefy Snake Pliskin thing that just connects. He takes a disgusting vertical suplex over the back of an open folding chair, hits a big man splash to pin Dixon, is part of a big dive train (that also includes a nice fast Levi Everett tope and Wavra tope con hilo), and knows how to fill downtime with brawling. Mancer hits his fakeout tope into several eye pokes, Everett hits a diving headbutt far across the ring, and they kept a strong pace going through 15+ minutes. Pace is maybe the most important part of a match like this, as there should never be downtime in a match with this many people. So while not everything worked and there was some messiness and poor balance of who got the most ring time, the pace meant that this always kept at least a certain level of enjoyability. 

Cassandro vs. Sonny Kiss

PAS:  So awesome to see Cassandro get a showcase match in the US like this. He is really a guy that should have been used by indy promotions for years, but I can only remember this and a IWA-MS Ted Petty spot. Kiss is a guy with impressive individual spots, but a lack of connective tissue, and Cassandro can provide that. Cassandro is 50 now, and you can tell all of the hard falls over the years have taken a bit off his fastball, but he still goes damn hard in this match, doing an awesome flip tope, taking some bumps on the concrete and even winning with a top rope victory roll. Kiss is clearly thrilled to be working a legend and also tries really hard. For a second this felt like this would turn into a nasty brawl, which would have brought it to the next level, but it was a good showcase match for a guy truly deserving of a showcase.

ER: It really is nuts that American indy Cassandro wasn't more of a thing, and I consider myself lucky that he was the top Lucha Va Voom guy (meaning I got to see him work CA a few times). But even old man Cassandro feels like someone who should be getting spots on indy shows (and would be an actual draw to those shows). I like Sonny Kiss but he's a guy who fits great into a trios, less so into a singles. That said, this felt like the most natural pairing on the card. I could have seen him against Still Life, Allie Kat, or Effy, but the most famous exotico of the past 20 years vs. the current most broadly seen exotico felt like something you couldn't pass up running. There were a couple odd moments, like Cassandro hitting a heavy crossbody but then staying down to sell for so long that Kiss just pinned him, but there was a ton to love here. Both are good at taking the others' offense, like Kiss snapping over for Cassandro's still quick armdrags, or the expert way both caught each others' dives. The two dives we got were great, with Cassandro's excellent flip tope sending them into folding chairs my favorite move of the show. But Kiss hits a nice tope that Cassandro totally absorbs, sending them both spilling back toward the entrance. I, too, got excited once they started brawling on the floor, and as Kiss comes after Cassandro on the floor Cassandro just ole's Kiss face first into a chair! I didn't see it coming and it looked like the kind of trick Cassandro could use to send a mugger into the side of a building. We don't get the violent crowd brawl that they hinted at, but the stuff in ring was fun. I loved Cassandro's pageant rope walk armdrag, and Kiss hits this awesome handspring axe kick while Cassandro is laid out over the turnbuckles, just a heel coming down hard right in the breastbone. Cassandro's victory rolls (the normal and avalanche version to finish) looked great, Kiss had this cool splits landing into a sweeping kick (basically all the splits landings Kiss does amaze me every time), and I'm so happy we got this. It was a lot of fun, and it's a match that's been long overdue. 


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Friday, October 16, 2020


 El Hijo Del Santo/Mr. Atlas/Porthos vs. Negro Casas/Willy Cortez/Tahoma Kid - EPIC

MD: It's 2020 and we're the guys watching blurry lucha from ages ago. There are ample opportunities to figure out who the other guys are (past Cortez of course) but it's beyond me. They're all serviceable and enjoyable enough, even with some fun armdrag moments, but this is Santo and Casas and that's all you really need to know. They worked the mat. They threw themselves into the rope running. They gave each other a spirited and feisty hand slap of rivals after an exchange. Santo fought the world. Casas was everywhere at once during the beatdown, just a vulture picking at bones, diving in again and again. We miss the comeback but get the finish, where Santo stumbles on the senton/tope in a way that I'm not sure I've ever seen before but no one cares much once he goes diving past the turnbuckle. It's always great to see them and even a bit novel to see them anchor a local trios like this. They may have been running this sort of thing all the time but we only have so much of it so we're grateful for every new example.

PAS: Negro Casas comes into the ring with a top rope backflip, which I think places this match in the late 80s or early 90s, but it is hard to tell. I imagine Casas and Santo just did this kind of thing multiple times a week, come to a town and serve as the anchors of a trios match with locals. It isn't the kind of thing which normally made tape, so it is awesome that we get a window into what that looks like. Everyone else in this match were solid journey men, Porthos had a nice dropkick, Mr. Atlas had a fun signature bump etc. Santo and Casas of course are all time greats and they showed why. Loved the first stand off the most, with Santo putting on a front face lock and them working cool spots around it, both guys were at their athletic peak at this point, and the stuff that would be cool 10 years later a little slow, was done with real speed here. We get the senton/tope combo from Santo and some nice brawling on the floor. These guys came to town and delivered their show.

ER: Santo/Casas is one of the greatest matchups in the history of wrestling, two dance partners impossible to critique whenever they're paired. It's one of the most inventive and innovative pairings, moving in ways I've seen wrestlers duplicate but never as well. The Santo/Casas exchanges in this match were among the greatest I've seen from them (two men with nothing but greatest) and evokes the same brightness as the best of the unearthed French Catch. The movements are really breathtaking, and the fans reacted like they were seeing the greatest tumbling act at a circus. I love Casas back flipping into the ring, because he's been great in so many different ways using so much different athleticism that he somehow surprises you every match no matter the era. The pendulum roll throughs and monkey flips and snap armdrags and fast dropkicks are all gorgeous. Santo does more cool floatover takedowns than I've seen in a match before, each one different and each one using differing body physics. But by the Segunda it's Casas holding Santo up in the corner just so he can continue kicking his ass. And boy does Casas kick Santo's ass, throwing bull body punches at the face and chest and then lifting Santo back up into position again. The other guys were no slouches either, and I was especially a fan of Willy Cortez, had a loudmouth Mocha Cota/Karloff Lagarde Jr. vibe to him. With quick hard attacks and bumps that make the tecnicos look like superheroes. I thought this was all fantastic, the greatest kind of lucha, that offered more than just some of the the best sequences from the greatest luchadors of the past 40 years. 

Jerry Lawler vs. Eric Embry USWA 7/21/91 - GREAT

MD: Glorious Embry performance here. It's a masterclass in hiding the chain, including using his mouth multiple times to do it, made all the better by the fact it's an actual chain. Despite that, my favorite bit is when he plays hide the pile driver, getting the ref distracted by fans complaining about the chain and sneaks one in. Lawler eventually drops the strap and gets his revenge, though they go an extra loop around as he misses the fistdrop. That lets the ref get in on the act as well and everyone goes home happy (but Embry of course). Perfect Memphis BS made better by the small and intimate setting. I'm not sure the mouth stuff would have worked as well in an arena.

PAS: This was Lawler really taking a backseat and letting Embry cook. This was mainly an early 90s feud so we don't have the MSC arena footage, but from what we have Embry is up there in the top tier of Lawler opponents. They are very similar wrestlers, Embry is like Lawler if his sin was stiumlants instead of young girls (or in addition to young girls, I don't know what Embry was up too, but I am sure nothing good), and this is a very heel Lawler performance, hiding the chain, sneaking a piledriver, riling up the crowd. Lawler was there to take the cheap shots and come back huge. The strap drop was a monster moment and Embry really flies around the ring for the big comeback. It's cool to watch small club Lawler like this. I imagine the Memphis Lumberjack match between these two this same month was a monster, but watching them riff is really fun too.

ER: I always view Embry as a stooging extension of Dutch Mantel. Lawler/Dutch is an all time great pairing, and Lawler/Embry makes a great pairing for the same reasons. Embry has a harmless scumbag vibe that plays well to these great crowds, and is a type Lawler can strongly play off. Embry stalls with a hidden weapon but does it more like a bleacher bum than Mantel. Is Eric Embry the best possible Brooklyn Brawler? I think we finally got there. Lawler's comeback is one of my favorites I've seen of his in a while (and I watch a lot of Lawler matches), a great mix of fiery and funny perfectly executed. You can tell the strap is coming down and watch it build, and the timing on it is so perfect and joyously followed with him rustling up his own hair like a Three Stooges fight. His run of punches are as good as those punches get, really knocks Embry's block off. We build to a wild finish with Embry bumping a tough old man ref (I don't know him so somebody outshine me with you knowledge). That old man ref comes back and he and Lawler pinball Embry back and forth with increasingly great punches. The slow build pays off the finish so well, gives us a match that would warm your fandom if you were there live. 

Yuki Ishikawa vs. AKIRA Kana Produce 6/17/12

MD: The last Ishikawa we saw for NFF was a far off camera shot. I get the notion that wrestling needs lots of quick cuts if you're close up and in HD. I don't believe it but I at least understand it. Obviously, that's not the case with the close-up limb manipulation magic of Ishikawa and we're better off that this is up close and personal. You get all the little detail work from him, including the way he splays his fingers to get just a tiny bit more leverage on a hold. AKIRA is a game opponent who can both hang on the mat (not win, but hang) and as a lot of cool flourishes he loops in. There's one funny moment in this (where AKIRA goads him on the outside and Ishikawa teases a dive) and one hilarious one (where AKIRA goes to the top so Ishikawa scuttles back and sits cross-legged, only to give the biggest surprised/horrified face as AKIRA dashes at him with a low dropkick). Ishikawa damages the arm early with a pumphandle, and does some fun stuff like an Octopus. AKIRA targets the leg more as the match goes on, including with a bunch of dropkicks to it. They escalate to striking and then a couple of bombs, before AKIRA damages the arm more on a top rope splash(!) but manages to snag a small package at the moment Ishikawa was set to capitalize it. This never got too serious, but it was a grab bag of variety and fun.

PAS: Post prime Ishikawa is really amazing stuff. He has been an occasional wrestler for a decade or so, but pretty much every time he has popped up it has been class. AKIRA is also a guy who has been more of a part timer for almost his entire career, and this was a really cool style clash I had never thought about before it happened. AKIRA is a really slick pro-style mat wrestler and it was nifty to watch that clash with the Fujiwarsism of Ishikawa. Yuki is always find nifty ways to insert moments of violence, he breaks an armbar by punching AKIRA right in the bursar sac, and takes control on the mat by punching AKIRA hard in the forehead. I loved the silent comedy face Ishikawa made on the low dropkick, and AKIRA's superfly splash looked awesome, more wrestlers should be using a simple top rope splash rather then just trying to flip and spin a bunch. 

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