Segunda Caida

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

Saturday, August 17, 2019

WWE Big 3: Lorcan, Gallagher, Gulak 8/4-8/17

So we got thrown off schedule by none of these guys having a match one week, and then a TakeOver happening last week, so we doubled up the weeks to bring you KING SIZE post worthy of these badasses.

205 Live 8/6

Oney Lorcan vs. Jack Gallagher vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Kalisto vs. Ariya Daivari vs. Tony Nese

ER: WWE is usually as good or better than most companies at doing fast paced juniors multimans, but I don't think this one came off as natural or organic as their best ones. This one had a lot of guys shimmying into position and some of the set ups looked off, but with some of the guys involved obviously there was going to be some gold. This was all about getting Oney to Summerslam (in the first match on the pre show no doubt), and here he looked like a guy who should obviously be at Summerslam. This had the regular problems of multimans, where we would get a great spot followed almost immediately by some kind of gaffe. We got a tandem submission where Lorcan basically had to hold his legs in place while nobody was holding them, but the spots were all a bunch of fun. Kalisto took a nasty bump PAST the announce table when then other 5 chucked him, Daivari was a fun opportunist and Gallagher bumped huge for him into the barricade, we got a dive train where Lorcan's unhinged flip dive was the star (and as is a rule in multimans, 4-5 people were entirely unable to catch Nese or Gallagher on their dives), Gallagher wasted Nese with a headbutt (but terrible agenting meant that Nese kicked out of it when there were literally 4 guys who could have broken up this pin instead), Nese athletically stumbled through this whole thing and it would have been much more interesting as a 4 man, but the whole thing would make an excellent 4 minute highlight package and that's not nothing. The important thing is Oney looking like a star while keeping guys like Gallagher and Tozawa still strong enough, and I thought this match succeeded in that.

PAS: This was a bunch of fun, although pretty flawed. Nese Nese'd it up for parts of this, just flipping and flopping around and setting up his dance moves. But I liked everyone else in this. This type of match doesn't work to Gallagher's strengths, but he had some fun multiman spots, and took a couple of nasty bumps on his head: that German suplex into the turnbuckles was way too sick for a spot which didn't mean anything in the match. Davari was almost Buddy Landelish in his stooging and cheap shotting and Kalisto and Tozawa had fun flying spots and move with real grace. I agree with Eric that there was enough awkward stuff to stop this from being a highly recommended match, but I enjoyed watching it.

Summerslam 8/11

42. Drew Gulak vs. Oney Lorcan

ER: Yes sir. This was what got me excited for this card. And there is nothing else that can happen on this card that will take this match away from me. This ruled, and was a killer showcase for both men. We were so excited seeing TAKA Michinoku doing quebradas on WWF TV 20 years ago, so excited for cruiserweight wrestling on our TVs, and now we have evolved to TV cruiserweight wrestling being two guys ripping at beards and punching throats. Look at the things we as a people can do. This was an unhurried unsanitized version of what these two can do, and it got to happen on (the undercard of) one of the biggest shows of the year, and that's a very cool thing. It was a tidy 9 minutes filled with a dozen cool ideas, and just made me want to see them match up a dozen more times. Gulak slams Lorcan into the ropes in a flat out sinister way, and is practically inventing cruel subs to try to trap him in. Lorcan's aggression is his double edged sword. He flies into everything with abandon, which allowed him to come so close to beating Gulak, but it also meant he lost to Gulak. These guys made me buy into everything they did, moves had consequences, actions lead to finishes. Gulak took on the persona of a big brother who picked on his little brother too long and accidentally pushed him over the edge, and it was great. The look on Gulak's face as Lorcan is grabbing him by the fucking beard and muzzle and slapping him was classic. Both read naked choke spots were great, with the first looking like a genuine finish as Lorcan is not close to the ropes, and Gulak drags the arm closest to the ropes back across Lorcan's throat. That they went back to it soon after and created an organic Lorcan false win showed they understand their characters and the match they were having 100%. I loved Lorcan flipping out of that rear naked and almost getting the "fluke" pin, everything they had done made that finish an absolute possibility. Lorcan's flying uppercuts are a thing of beauty, and I'm not sure I've seen someone just lean into them standing the way Gulak did. It's one of those spots that somehow made both men look tougher, Lorcan flying into Gulak and Gulak absorbing the shots but refusing to show ass. And the finish was great, with Gulak being drug into the ring holding onto the ring skirt for dead life, then at the earliest opening just punching Lorcan in the throat and hitting the neckbreaker. Lorcan's sell of his throat was palpable, and I just want to see these guys continue to crush every opportunity they're given.

PAS: This was really great and vicious, and very different from the matches these guys were having on the indies 4 years ago. I loved how nasty they have made the Gu-Lock, every time Gulak goes for it, it is fought like death. I was watching Nate Diaz fight tonight, and I loved how Gulak's striking near the end of this match resembled that, he would throw these flurries of sharp quick punches, and slaps looking for little openings to land something hard and solid, I loved how he overwhelmed the harder hitter with volume. Finish was great with Gulak looking like he was in deep waters, only to crack Lorcan right in the throat and finish him off, it looked like a fatality in a kung fu movie.

205 Live 8/13

Jack Gallagher vs. Akira Tozawa

ER: Just another typical WWE juniors match. You know, cool matwork, two guys landing stiff shots, and one of them busting open his head doing a nutso bump off the ringpost. That kind of WWE juniors match. And it was cool as all hell. Gallagher had some of his coolest transitions in this one, and I especially loved his slick escape from an early headscissors into an Indian deathlock variation. Gallagher's placement and timing were impeccable here, he always knew the right distance to throw his great dropkick, knew right where he had to be to properly counter Tozawa. Tozawa took a wild bump to the floor after getting booted over the top, hitting his head on the ringpost and then the steps and getting a cut on his head from it. Gallagher kept his attack simple, and I liked how Gallagher kept using his nice strikes to create distance for bigger moves (really liked him using that headbutt to the stomach a couple times to knock Tozawa back on his heels). Tozawa's tope was real nice, a true classic tope where he lead with his head, and I like that Tozawa has a couple of really cool great looking signature punches. The finish appeared to be setting something up with Kendrick (they haven't crossed paths in a year and obviously that's a match up I'd love to get more TV time), but did take away from what they had been doing: Gallagher went for a superplex and Tozawa reversed to a nice front suplex, hit the senton, Gallagher got his foot on the ropes, and Kendrick plausibly accidentally knocked it off. We'll see where it leads, but even in a vacuum I loved what they did in this match.

PAS:  I really liked this, Tozawa has really great looking offense, one of the better non luchadore topes in the world, killer senton, awesome Tenryu jab. He doesn't always have the best structure to his matches, so it is great when he has a maestro like Gallagher to work with. The crazy bump Tozawa takes to the floor where he busts his head open on the ringpost, was really cool looking, but the long ref stoppage to try to clean the blood did funky up the momentum of the match a bit. I get why that is their policy I suppose but it is hard to keep a pace. Gallagher always seems to have interesting finishes to his matches, and I liked the ambiguity of Kendrick knocking his foot off, leads to some interesting business in the future.

22. Drew Gulak vs. Oney Lorcan

ER: Let's just continue giving these two as much TV time as possible, and I guarantee they will become popular names off their work alone. This match is completely different from the match they had a couple days prior at Summerslam, opting to build directly off the finish of that match into this match. Gulak really came off like a modern day Finlay here, sadistically attacking Lorcan's throat after winning their last match with a punch right to the throat. Lorcan is really great at flying into things, so here he is crazily flying neck first into ropes and buckles and the announce table, with Gulak even pulling out a Finlay staple by slamming Lorcan's throat into the edge of the ring apron (not throat related, but I also like how Gulak uses another Finlay staple, bodyslamming Lorcan leg first into the ropes to weaken him). Gulak kept attacking with hard lariats to the neck, and by the end of this I was wondering if any WWE match had more lariats this year. Lorcan is an extremely exciting "working from behind" guy, and all of his comebacks were scorching. I liked how hot he came out the gates, dumping Gulak with a half nelson suplex and hitting his great cannonball dive to the floor, flying into Gulak with uppercuts, really showing his wealth of babyface charisma. It honestly felt like Lorcan was going to keep maniacally running headlong into Gulak until he either won or could no longer run, and that kind of die hard babyface is missing from wrestling, or bogged down in shitty wide eyed heavy breathing play acting. Lorcan's huge suplex from the top was an awesome moment, and I love how him throwing Gulak so far across the ring ended up benefitting Gulak, as he got launched close to the ropes a Lorcan had to struggle to get over to him. The finish is a slick variation on learned behavior, with Gulak using a chaos theory to instead roll into a dragon sleeper. Lorcan has now cleanly lost his two singles matches against Gulak, yet due to his behavior in these losses comes out looking as strong and threatening as ever. Time to keep this feud going, to our benefit.


PAS: This was totally killer, glad we get to see this guys match up in the era of weirdly long TV main events for cruiserweights. And these are two guys who can fill 20+ minutes together.  The opening burst by Lorcan was great, and I totally bought Gulak having to get nasty with the throat shots. The simple throw into the announce table was so much cooler with the pre-existing injury and Lorcan's selling. That top rope suplex was a huge near fall, and I thought Lorcan had the match. I loved the call back to the first match with Lorcan forcing Gulak to turtle up and eat strikes to the body, as opposed to what happened earlier in the week. Finish was really cool and Lorcan looks like a total badass passing out rather then tapping. I want Gulak to have this belt forever, he is just great at putting together cool unique championship matches.


ER: Well this was pretty great for a couple week's selection of matches, with both Gulak/Lorcan matches landing on our 2019 Ongoing MOTY List. I'm with Phil, Gulak as Champ Forever.


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Friday, August 16, 2019

New Footage Friday: Boogie Jam 1984

The Steamboat vs. Flair match from this show was available before, otherwise everything is new stuff.

Dory Funk Jr. vs. Tully Blanchard

MD: This was a good opener, not at all worked like I was expecting. Tully was so smart. It's almost comedic how hard he struggled to find anything to do other than to sit in Dory's headlock, which is one of the most boring things imaginable to watch. Sitting in that thing wouldn't have got him over. Getting knocked out of the ring and stooging on the floor though? Absolutely. If Dory's in there throwing forearms and European uppercuts instead, it's going to be a pretty enjoyable time and that's what this was. Tully on top wasn't as interesting mainly due to Dory's quiet selling but all of Tully's stuff looked good. The finish was smart and sufficiently pissed off the crowd which is what you'd want in a match like this.

ER: Man Tully is an all time great. I have always liked Tully, but as a kid I was more into Arn (possibly because he looked like a cooler version of my dad) and seeing what he pulls in the match it is just one more of a million points in Tully's favor. Tully is like Terry in this match, right down to the era-appropriate curly mop of hair. He handles Dory like a total pro and takes rote Dory spots and turns them into gold. Have you ever seen the side headlock -> rolled into a pin look as interesting and engaging as it did here? Look at all the small body movement struggle happening during these multiple side headlock pinfalls, shoulders twitching, hips hitching, feet pushing off the mat trying to find better leverage, the whole thing was amazing. We've all seen Dory grind a match to a halt with a headlock before action ever starts (just look at the Harley/Dory match that Phil and Matt suffered through last week) and this looked like Tully absolutely refusing to have an uninteresting match. Even when Dory misses a moment Tully is right there with an interesting follow up. Look at when Dory is being choke in the ropes, and Tully snaps the ropes to get Dory to recoil, but Dory doesn't move an inch. Well, Tully just flies right in with a hard kneelift without missing a beat. I mean I don't think anyone would disagree that this is one of the more fun and interesting Dory singles matches we've seen, and Tully is a MAJOR part of that, and possibly the only part of that. Tully stooged and bumped his way through all of this while Dory felt 1/3 committed at any given time. Tully made every Dory strike look like it sent him off balance, just constantly doing favors that weren't going to be paid back in any way other than a pinfall victory. I think this match should be viewed as a legendary Tully performance, and I don't think that's a bold statement.

Ernie Ladd vs. Rufus R. Jones

MD: I love watching Ladd work. He's lankly but uses every inch of his frame to get his message across. Forget working to the back row; you could see him take a bump from the moon. One of my favorite wrestling tropes is when a huge guy pisses off the crowd by consciously not working to his size on offense but cheating again and Ladd has that down as well as anyone ever. He eye-pokes, uses the object, begs off, etc. I don't think anyone in the crowd expected the Rufus win out of nowhere and it lit the place up.

Bob Orton Jr./Don Kernodle vs. Mark Youngblood/Wahoo McDaniel

MD: If there was just one person who we have relatively limited 74-84 footage of that I'd want more of, it might be Orton. We have so little complete of his tag team with Slater. It's obvious from this just how great a tag worker he was. The way he cuts off the ring and sets up double teams with Kernodle. The way he follows up a Kernodle power slam (a novel move for the time) with one of his own to create some sort of branding. The use of ref distraction. All good stuff. Also, he made it all seem organic and opportunistic instead of pre-arranged spots, especially his use of the ropes. That makes such a huge difference and it's decades lost to wrestling. It's virtually unimaginable in a world so polished.

This had double heat as a structure, so much heat in general. The fans being this into everything helped. The southern tag structure helped. Kernodle being enough of an ass to slap Wahoo across the face in the early going helped. Mark obviously wasn't Jay and all of his stuff looked a bit clumsier, but the crowd was going to cheer for his wardance anyway. Both hot tags were good, with the second one with a ducked double-team set up, great. The double chop finish was so simple but the crowd came absolutely unglued and it made it feel like the best finishing move ever. Just a really good old tag that never wore out its welcome.

PAS: There are few things I enjoy more in wrestling then Wahoo chopping the shit out of someone, and he had a really great opening run of lacing into Orton and Kernodle with both heels really flying for each shot. Both Kernodle and Orton are really great bumpers. Mark Youngbloods chops were pale imitations, although he was a fine face in peril, including getting slammed spine first into the guardrail, which felt like the kind of bumps some crazy fuck in GCW would take, not an 80s babyface.

Angelo Mosca Sr./ Angelo Mosca Jr./Junkyard Dog vs. The Great Kabuki/Ivan Koloff/Gary Hart

PAS: This had a little more Mosca Jr. then you would want in any situation. He has a rep for being one of the worst second generation guys ever, but he just looked kind of dull and all of the early heat was on Jr. Kabuki is always fun to watch, as is any JYD we get, but I wanted this to be crazier after the great angle which set it up.

MD: Mosca, Jr. was such a doomed project. That said, the fans were behind him because they would have been behind anyone in the world on this night, and it was pretty enjoyable watching Kabuki kick him. Mosca, Sr. and JYD were obviously great on the apron. In 84, that's generally where you'd want both of them (though with someone else in there as the third man). The use of Hart here was inspired: first coming in getting shots in on Jr., then later sneaking in his choke on Sr. to set up the second bit of heat, and finally getting his comeuppance in the final act to set up the hope spots, the comeback, and the triumphant finish.

This needed to be one thing, a build for JYD to get in and do his thing, and we got it basically twice with it working both times. This wasn't the sort of match that could carry a card by itself, but it was a fun mid-card attraction.

Greg Valentine vs. Dick Slater

MD: This is the best look at babyface Valentine we are ever going to get and it's well worth seeing. It's also an amazing look at 84 ace heel Dick Slater. With Flair gone for big swaths as champ, it was Slater that anchored things. Outside of one chinlock during the shine (which was made way better when he went seated with it), I really liked Valentine here. He was stoic, but had this amazing ability to just be still and let the fans build up their anticipation. Slater, on the other hand, did these big wind-ups which had the same effect just through a different avenue. I loved the contrast in their selling, something that was easy to see due to a few revenge spots (biting a wound, but more importantly, punches while the opponent is trapped in the ropes, slamming their head back into the cage). Valentine would acknowledge it, but Slater would just throw his body into everything. It created a firm distinction between babyface and heel.

Structurally, my favorite thing about this might have been how they tied the transitions to the use of the cage. They teased it early but didn't pay it off until Slater threw Valentine back into it with a cheapshot. The woundwork was good, and I liked Valentine's selling of his own headbutts given it. When Valentine came back, the cage got an assist for it. I liked the finish a lot, but wish they'd teased it earlier on with some leg damage instead of the chinlock. Great lost match with a great crowd.

PAS: I thought this was pretty awesome, pre-WWF Valentine is a big winner in the WWE dropping stuff on the network, between this and the Piper match we have had two new classics. So strange to watch Greg work babyface, but he does have nice timing, and there was a big "Let's go Greg" chant. The structure of this match was a pretty standard 80s cage match structure, but both guys bring extra to the table to make it stand out. Valentine is such a bruiser, and every one of his shots was 5% nastier then they needed to be. I loved the section where they are both on their knees, and Slater is throwing great jabs, and Valentine his hurling these overhand smashes to the neck. Slater has really fun Terry Funk cosplay with his selling, and does a great job of being "Dirty" Dick. There is a part where he is just smashing the back of Valentines head into the match, which felt just like the kind of line a scumbag bar brawler would cross. Finish was fun, although it did feel a bit like Greg was on his way out. Loved that we got to see this.

ER: I don't have a lot to add, this was just 20+ minutes of two hardasses beating each other around a cage, and Valentine is one of the meanest toughest dudes in wrestling history. His clubbing shots to Slater's body had to have left Slater bruised for the next week. Slater did a really fun Terry Funk approximation in this (I don't think as good as Tully's Funk approximate earlier, but one that was very appropriate for this match). I loved Valentine going after Slater's knee in unique ways, especially when he was on his knees and clubbed an approaching Dick right in his thigh, then his knee to drop him to his level. And the shots to the leg were even cooler to me because they didn't set up any extended legwork, they set up a *reason* for Valentine to continue making attempts at leg work, with his figure 4 attempt eventually leading to him being pushed face first into the cage and rolled up. Slater was really fun selling Valentine's hard shots, bouncing between rope and cage, I'll always love a stooge who hits hard. Valentine kept pulling out neat little tricks that others should steal, like when he had Slater on his back and grabbed both legs, Slater covers up, so Valentine leaps over him and drops a knee right on Slater's chest! The more Valentine that shows up further solidifies his legendary status. 

Assassin #2 vs. Jimmy Valiant

MD: Not much to say here, except for this. Jones, just in his reaction to Assassin #1 getting sent back to the locker room, probably extended the viability of the feud by another year. Talk about full commitment to what was going on. This was all sizzle, but after an hour long title match, that's fine. You watch a show like this and wonder how the territory wasn't doing way better than it was in 84. Then you remember that they just lost Piper and they were about to lose Orton and Valentine and that Flair was away every week and it makes a little more sense, but this crowd was just so good.


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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Ian Rotten Dropped His Last Dime Down a Wishing Well

Ian Rotten vs. Samoa Joe IWA-MS 4/8/05 -EPIC

JR:Have you ever seen Death Wish IV? The opening sequence, if I’m thinking of the right movie, is of a criminal doing heinous and criminal things, and then all of a sudden Charles Bronson shows up and fucking annihilates him. The criminal runs and hides and shoots desperately at him but Bronson just keeps coming, walking between the shadows in a dimly lit parking lot.

I think about this scene often, well, perhaps not often, but probably more often than anyone else. In it, Bronson, the ostensible hero, is filmed almost exactly like an 80s movie monster, this unstoppable and silent killing machine that we have been trained to fear. He is a grey haired Jason Vorhees. But we are rooting for him, because the actions of his victims are so awful.

There is something about Ian that reminds me of this. Not that his opponents are awful people or doing particularly dastardly things, but because he is positioned throughout these matches as a conquering hero, a dominant force, and yet the way he wrestles and works positions him as something other, something monstrous. He comes across as manically violent and almost inhuman in his disregard for safety, and yet there is something charming about him, with his tuft of blond hair and almost cherubic face, albeit one that is scarred heavily.

This match is somewhat uncharted territory thus far in this project, as this is the first time we are seeing a match in which the narrative is that Ian is essentially outmatched. The Hero match was in 2002 and before many of the matches that would make him well known nationally. The Tarek match was against Tarek. Here, we have Ian vs Samoa Joe in 2005, against a man at the height of his powers. It’s subtle, but the differences are noteworthy. Very early in the match, Ian opts for a slick counter into an arm drag, followed closely with a headstand escape. Perhaps I am projecting a bit too much upon the work itself, but I find these early earnest attempts almost heartwarming; for the first time, we see some effort from Ian to leave a positive impression upon his opponent. It’s as if he wants Joe to see him do things that most would think him incapable of. It’s an interesting choice narratively, as so much of Joe’s mystique is based in a practiced unflappability, but there is enough negative space after the sequence to make sure the crowd also notices the importance of it.

The early narrative is one of increasing desperation from Rotten, although he does it in such a way to come across as canny rather than outgunned. His earlier attempts at impressing Joe with his agility and creativity slowly and assuredly give way to things on the borderline of legality; dropkicks to a knee, a clear choke, a fishhook to break a hold. Each brings Ian a slight material advantage and a more than slight moral victory, as Joe is reduced to grabbing ropes for breaks, motioning for the referee to break the hold, and taking his time to shake out a limb or catch his breath. In some ways, Ian’s plan has worked: he knew what he was in for, while Joe did not.

We have talked at length about Ian’s matwork throughout this series, but I don’t think we have devoted as much space to his strikes, which are sublime. I’m going to work under the assumption that they look good because he is actually just hitting his opponent very hard, but holy lord everything lands perfectly. There is a matter of factness to them all, this immensely understated violence, as though by not commenting on the stiffness of the forearm, by not giving it room to breathe, it somehow becomes more pronounced.

The match ends with this extended exchange of strikes, as it pours over to the outside and both men are counted out. As the bell rings and they announce a double count out, Joe I still putting his hands up. Ian takes off his shirt, hands at his sides. There is probably ten feet between them and it may be the most violent image I’ve ever seen.

PAS: This was more Methlab Futen, then Methlab BattlArts, but man alive did they deliver what you want out of this match up. The match didn't have a ton of matwork, but the matwork it did have a bunch of small moments of innovation which are traditional in these Ian matches. Joe tries to roll over with an Indian Deathlock, and Ian blocks it twice, by pushing at Joe's knee. When Joe finally rolls it over, Ian grabs a neck crank so Joe can't really rip at the knee. It is those kind of little reactions which is missing from all but the best mat wrestling.

Most of this match was on the feet and they were really pasting each other. The headbutt battle was both really stupid and really awesome. Joe cracks Ian with a headbutt, and Ian fires back, does a bit of a glassy "I shouldn't have headbutted a Samoan" sell, and says fuck it and just starts ramming him until they both fall down.

I am two ways on the count out, it is sort of silly to have a double count out in a fed like IWA-MS which basically has no rules, and it was clearly not what the crowd wanted to see. Still if you are going to do a double count out, this kind of Godzilla vs. King Kong rumble is the way a count out should be done. I loved Joe cutting off the traditional Ian post match "Introducing a Shriner's luncheon speaker" speech and threateningly demanding a rematch. It was a real minor tragedy we never got that rematch, it was set up great and would have been epic, it is up there with some of the all time great teased but never delivered matches.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Lucha Worth Watching: TOMK on Sangre Chicana vs. Satanico


So I started seeing grainy cell phone clips of Sangre Chicana v Satanico from Sunday on my feed and went looking for the complete match. Took me a while and saw stuff from multiple angles in the process. Sangre Chicana and Satanico are two of the greatest luchadors of all time and both are now way past their prime in their late 60s. Satanico is the older but has stayed athletic and working for decades. Chicana has looked physically shot for a while but in his fifties still had superstar charisma a punch, one or two athletic moves, neat reversals, some bumps and the feel of unpredictable violent motherfucker who will stab you with a broken bottle at any moment. He’s now 67 and this is his retirement hair v hair match. You want to see both of these guys in their prime, but once you’ve become emotionally invested in them you can’t turn away from watching them at the end.

Chicana comes out in a shirt and the mask he lost in the 70s. And Satanico just beats on him relentlessly with Chicana completely unable to make a comeback, gets dragged into the ring and pinned in a minute. A part of Sangre Chicana match formula is that he will eat a beating one-sided beating, but he’s now 67 and so this feels like an old man getting beat up on bus. Satanico continues to punch him and kick and bang his head into chairs & ring posts and Chicana needs his kids to help him remove his mask and shirt. He kind of looks at this point like the halfway point between Mr Donnie and Larry Storch. He was still imposing in his early 60s, looked like a guy who would stab you over a game of euchere, but now he looks like an ex-hippy who wants to forget that he stabbed someone for stealing his nitrous tank. Lots of old luchadors look worn down from time, Sangre Chicana somehow looks genial. All of this means when he does finally throw a punch to mount a comeback it is completely unexpected, cause you didn’t think possible. And goes straight to chair throwing. Satanico bumping for Chicana punches is really impressive cool stuff. Post second fall Chicana follows Satanico to the floor and has a gleeful look as he leaps out of ring to floor and leaping to floor looks like an amazing physical accomplishment for a 67 year old. Third fall is two old men punching each other and exchanging deliberate submission reversals. When first watched described it as “feel of two grandpas fighting in state fair parking lot where everyone is uncomfortable by old man violence but no one going to call police to break up.” And it’s about 5 minutes and what you want from this match, 2 old men attacking each other in way that feels uncomfortable because it is two old men. 

Super athletic buff young ref leaping around to do the two count near falls is kind of preposterous but totally works here. I bet 84 Kevin Von Erich refereeing a Fritz v Bronko Lubich match would have gotten super heated reaction. 

Post-match they do speeches putting each other the fans and the sport over and these are all time great talkers in that position. The drama of the post-match and retirement feels like something a newbie might get and enjoy. Otherwise, it is a ten minute match that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone who isn’t already heavily emotionally invested in the last 40 years of these two. It’s pretty ridiculous to write up a niche match that is only for the people who were going to go out of their way to watch this as soon as they found out it exists…but yeah those people will dig.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

RETRO TOMK: TNA Workrate Report 3/9/07

WHAT WORKED:

-Hey its Hector Guerrero. Cool. I've recently watched his Mid South stuff where the Guerreros represent Spanish aristocracy and Hector throws hot sauce in the eye of working class Hispanic Jose Lothario. Dundee/Lothario/Brickhouse Brown vs. Landel/Guerreros is pretty sweet. Chavo and Hector buy Jim Cornette off with golden pesos to help them against the RnR Xpress. Somewhere I have a tape of the Robert Fuller/Gordon Solie post Continental fed where Hector turns on Todd Morton by throwing hot chile in his eye. The whole period of WCW Worlwide when they brought in Hector to work against their green US juniors is pretty sweet. Hector rules. It's ridiculous that this fed has Bob Backlund and Hector Guerrero available and isn't running Bob Backlund vs. Hector Guerrero. This whole show was built around trios matches. Not well worked trios matches but trios matches. Those trios could have used veteran anchors. The only two things that draw in America independents are nostalgia feds and lucha. Vince Russo is an idiot and doesn't realize that it's MidAtlantic/Memphis nostalgia that draws. Instead Russo's brought in Backlund and Johnny Rodz. I don't think 70s WWWF nostalgia is a draw anywhere. If it was a draw it would be in the old WWWF territory and not Florida/Detroit/St.Louis TNA locations. I remember when WCW was in I think either the Omni or Charlotte and Russo brought out wrestling "legends" Tito Santana, and George Steele to no pop. Russo is an idiot. Still Hector is a guy who actually worked both St Louis and Florida.My guess is we won't get Hector wrestling and only get this one bit of mic work. But still: Hector Guerrero on the mic~! I've always liked Hector Guerrero on the mic. He's going to be added to the Spanish announce team. His little bit in Spanish hypeing the show was pretty solid and he's going to be a nice addition. I wonder if they'll ever have him turn heel on Moody Jack by throwing hot sauce in Jack's eye. TNA's Hispanic Legacy Foundation maybe the most carny bullshit charity ever. I was disappointed that they didn't put up a PO Box for donations.


WHAT DIDN'T WORK:

-Hey remember when Cornette explaining the booking and match making of the main events used to be one of the show highlights? He'd come out in front of the live audience and act as this surrogate giving the fans the matches "that they want". Now he's filmed in a backstage skit filling out the undercard with one stupid gimmick match after another.

-Hey remember when I used to write about how TNA should go to an all trios format? TNA was consistently putting out good trios matches on free TV. 6-Man tag is a good way to hide weak wrestlers. There are a ton of 6 man tag formulas. Formulas that allow for clean finishes without hurting anyone. Well this week they ran an all trios show and all of the 6 man matches were bad, none of them helped any of the participants. All of these felt like joined in progress segunda caidas. Roode, Young, Storm v. Lethal, Dutt, and Williams was just a mess where they couldn't figure out how to pace the thing to move back and forth between the stalling and the work..and it just felt all over the place. The main event was built around a goofy bait and switch, which never made any sense either. Why run the bait and switch? Was that supposed to add drama? Main event again just collection of stuff happening a ridiculous run in by AJ Styles, and then a really shitty "Please Don't Stop" everyone does big moves finish leading to a Abyss DQ ending. Watching that match made me not want to see any of the possible singles matchups ever. I guess in defense of these matches, 6 man format feels like it keeps guys from completely exposing themselves the way they would in a three, four, five way etc. But still, And well really not much to say about VKM vs. Serotonin. I mean that was just a squash. Even in a squash there is no reason to have Billy Gunn do the bulk of work in a match. So Raven has decided to give all these guys gimmick names based on 90s New Jersey indy workers? Tenay: "Win, loose or draw they get post match caning.Win?? When have they won? And draw???""

-Abyss is Crazy He's Snapped!!!---you can't have your crazy character snap. His gimmick is that he's crazy. He's been snapped for three years now. It's no longer shocking. "Oh no the guy who was institutionalized and wears a mask is acting nutty." Man this show was all about exposing the problems with the Abyss character. Exposing the stupidity of his moves, the poor quality of his acting and the poor quality of the writing of his character.

SoCal Val takes a nice bump on the Black Hole slam but seeing her take it just served to remind you that it's essentially a swing dance move. She's pretty tanned for a swing dance revivalist, as those girls tend to be paler than the palest rockabilly goth. But still that green dress and that color of red hair and watch Abyss lift her and swing her. Abyss is too small to be believable as Vince Vaughan but yeah he might make a fine John Favreu. Repackaging Abyss as swing dance revivalist might not be a bad move. It would also explain his little Charleston shuffle across the ring thing. I don't know if you could explain away his arm crossing as jazz hands. He would need a better tailored vest, too.

Christian really captured the right tone talking to Abyss about the loss of a father figure but watching Abyss try to do his mime of various stages of grief, reflection and anger exposed both the shittyness of Abyss and the stupidity of the writing. So around 92-93 I took a class on 18th/19th century melodrama. I don't remember a ton about the class and I think I probably failed it. I do remember that there was a piece of critical writing built on "a physical handicap theory of theatre" where every theatric genre is built on a handicap.. Tragedy is represented by blindness, comedy by deafness, melodrama by muteness and I forgot what form of theatre dealt with cripples. I do remember that the theory was taken seriously enough that people wrote about how the interest in mental handicaps in the 20th Century changed the nature of the stories at the center of theater/cinema. Really I've seen Gilligan get hit with a coconut far too many times to be able to read serious scholarship on 20th Century social breakdowns manifested by fears of amnesia as represented in popular culture. So I remember that and I remember the stuff about how early melodrama was built around hiring pantomimes and acrobats to avoid actors unions (similar to development of reality programming to avoid writers unions). Melodrama historically developed from pantomime and the issues that melodrama does and does not address can be traced to issues that can and cannot be addressed in mime. Mime is concerned with verbs, not adjectives, adverbs or nouns or some such. . And so I read a bunch on the issues that mime cannot deal with. Mime of course deals with the physical not the psychological. Mime is about things in the present tense not reflections on the past. Deals in the concrete not abstract, etc. The reason I remember this point is because I spent the entire semester filling my notebooks up with doodles of Red Skelton and Marcel Marceau being tortured in Hell as S Clay Wilson style demons demanded that they mime things that are impossible to mime. Elaborate drawings of demons demanding "Mime "I used to be virtuous", mime Drawings of Skelton crying at his inability to perform task of performing "art is difficult" in mime. Demon Mime formerly my father was an ambitious man but now he's resigned to life of toil Mime  My mother gave me an example of devotion and self sacrifice . These are things that are impossible to express though mime. Concepts such as virtue, or complexity of art backstories about relatives or characters reflections on the lot of relatives really can't be pulled off.

Abyss isn't a good mime. He's a shitty mime. Every show he crosses his hands in front of his face and pushes against the invisible box that is holding him captured. Not once do I believe that either he's stuck in a box or that his character believes himself to be stuck in a box. He's an awful mime. He's such an awful mime that I think it has saved Russo from some of the criticism that Russo deserves. Russo has written a story built around Abyss having to be reflective about his past experiences with his father and his current loss of surrogate father. Even a good mime couldn't pull off the material Russo has given him.


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Monday, August 12, 2019

Eric Reviews Great Matches from AIW Absolution 2019, One Week After Phil Reviewed Them

46. The Production (Derek Director/Danhausen/Eddy Only) vs. 40 Acres (PB Smooth/Tre Lamar/AJ Gray)

ER: I was bummed by the non-match we got last time, and this gave me just what I wanted. It's no surprise that giving these guys time to do their thing was going to be fun as hell, and this was probably even better than I thought it would be. This was the first time I've seen The Production as babyfaces, and it kind of works because they have so many fun spots. 40 Acres work as a great heel stable, real showoffs with talent worth showing off. This was predictably all action, and the action was cool. Danhausen had this slick slingshot German, Derek was hitting cannonballs and sunset flip bombs, Only was throwing hard elbows and punches (and then getting hiptossed from the apron to the floor because my god), and we built up to a dynamite moment where PB hits the slam dunk onto Danhausen on the top rope while Lamar is hitting a huge tope con giro over him and into the obstructed view Director. I loved Danhausen scrambling onto PB, dug PB's big punch, and dug the plausible way they gave The Production the win.

PAS: These guys teased a match at JLIT, and I was amped we got to see a whole match. This was unsurprisingly great, I talked before about how the face/heel dynamic of this feud seemed off, but I take that back, the Production are great babyfaces and 40 Acres have a real nice heel charisma. Lamar especially comes off like a great super athletic dick, the wide receiver who does a six part dance routine after a six yard catch. He really rips off some awesome highspots in this match, including a crazy flip tope. Smooth threw a good looking KO punch, and threw around Only and Danhausen, and Gray was throwing heat. There was some superfluous stuff with Danhausen making guys eat beads and kicking them in the mouth, but man was this energetic, innovative, stiff, violent tag wrestling done well. All of these guys outside of Gray are AIW students I think, and the fact that they can deliver this is pretty impressive.

50. Philly Marino Experience vs. To Infinity and Beyond (Cheech/Colin Delaney)

ER: This is a big blow off tag match, which earns them some of its end run excess, but not all of it. This was rather different from their excellent May showdown, and I dug how this was a lot of TIAB cutting off the ring and preventing tags. Cheech and Delaney were stalking the ring with big confidence, always trying to slow things down and punishing mistakes. TIAB weren't necessarily breaking rules, but they worked like guys who had the answer key to the test and weren't being showy about it. Philly had some big offense (his tope must be like getting hit with a Yugo in a crosswalk) and I like how they kept him cornered and occupied. I love how the tope turned immediately into Delaney hitting the sliding German while Marino was still on the middle rope, one of several cool ways TIAB kept shutting down momentum. Delaney does some complicated things that don't read as complicated, they come off easy, like when he casually climbed up and over the ropes to hit an effortless springboard cutter on Philly. It looks like it should be harder, but again, Delaney looks like he has all the answers.

I didn't really love the home stretch, starting with Marino kicking out of an absolutely devastating Delaney tombstone off the middle buckle. I don't think there was much chance of anything else down the homestretch looking any more dangerous than that, and some wind got taken out of my sails on that kickout. From there the match didn't seem as organic to me. It felt like a series of resets and restarts, hitting a big move, taking a breather and then all getting up to try another move. Some of them were pretty nasty (the tag team vertebreaker on Marino looked neck snapping and lead to a nice use of breaking up the ref's sure to be 3), other stuff looked pretty stupid (Philly setting up a tandem "I grab him and you flip my leg and then I hit him" kind of move but really requiring Cheech and Delaney to move to specific spots to do it). PME deserved the big win, and they went out and have a big match, and a bunch of this match was primo. But I think that home stretch seemed too set-up heavy for wrestling with no props.

PAS: This was the climax of this feud with PME being the super over babyfaces getting one last shot at the heel champions.  It is a classic wrestling story and these are a pair of teams who can execute it to a tee. I have talked before about what a great classic heel team To Infinity and Beyond are, and this was a hell of a heel team performance, Colin Delaney is a such a smarmy prick, he had this great smirk on his face on the outside and gets such joy out of cheap shots and cheating.

There is this great spot early when Marino stands on the second ring rope to hold the ropes open for a Philly tope on Cheech, Colin slides into the ring on one side, and slides all the way to the other rope grabbing Philly's legs on the way out and just dumping him on his head. Just awesome stuff. During the heat section on Marino that follows, Marino is able to get loose and hit a springboard blockbuster, and Delaney just grabs his wrist after the impact to slow down the tag. You just don't see that kind of attention to detail much anymore.

I did think this got a bit kickout heavy at the end, and there were a couple of complex things that PME tried which didn't come off cleanly. It drops it a bit below their awesome May match in my mind. Still I loved this, and the big PME victory felt like a huge moment in the fed.

64. Matthew Justice vs. Joshua Bishop

ER: This is one of those matches where my opinion may shift depending on my mood while watching it, but I watched this with the bleary eyes that come after taking a 20 minute after work nap, and I gotta say the 1999 throwback worked for me. These two are crazy and I don't know how someone like Justice functions at a day job. I can only speak through my own body's experience, but there are days where work is a pain because I slept wrong, or I had my neck tilted while watching TV on the couch or something. I can't imagine taking some of the spills these two take and then a couple days later go "Well, time to put in a couple cosmetic body hours at the gym!" The idea of "letting your body heal" makes no sense to me after seeing them take these falls, because while they are doing a tribute to 1999, my body is still recovering from stupid sports things I did in 1999. How are these men able to do THIS!?

This was a series of crazy spots leading into more crazy spots, but if you're going to do a series of crazy spots well, these were absolutely crazy. There really is something taboo about unprotected chairshots, performed well after a time where "we all know". In 1999, we had a little plausible deniability. We don't have that now, so it really adds a big hit of crazy to a match modern match when they have multiple unprotected shots. Bishop looks really good even when he's not strewn bleeding on pavement (look how undeniable his lariat is that sends Justice over the top to the floor!), but he's also really impressive at handling weapons, getting good reads on doors, guardrails, chairs, a guy who makes nasty shots look nasty. Justice gets his body put through the ringer, like an early lawn dart into the crowd that just sees him land awfully on a bunch of set up chairs; later in the match he gets powerbombed from the ring onto a propped up guardrail at ringside, and that railing doesn't give a ton as Justice just sticks to it like a spider's web. I thought Barkley and Alfonso were great seconds who added to the match. Barkley was great at teasing a fall from the balcony (I wasn't actually expecting him to do it!), got brained by a thrown chair from Alfonso, and that chairshot set up a big spear through a door from Justice. Alfonso was a good presence, amusing tree of woe'd himself to set up a chair assisted dropkick for Justice, took a big bump getting thrown out of the ring, really was much more active than I expected. Bishop has great heel champ charisma, and Justice is a real diehard babyface, and that powerbomb into barbed wire was a suitable finish for their brand of crazy.

PAS: Justice comes out with Bill Alfonso to even the odds, and Alfonso is still pretty great as a garbage wrestling second. Bishop is clearly a ECW Superfan and was visibly thrilled. It is tough to run another match after flying off a balcony in the match before. You really can't do it again and it would be insane to try to top it. The presence of Alfonso really made this almost a tag match, with a lot of the big spots going to Alfonso and Wes Barkley, including Barkley getting thrown off the balcony and being speared through a door. We also got a lot more construction in this match than in the May match, which outside of the finish kept it pretty propulsive. Here they spent a lot of time setting up the big bumps and spots. They were really big bumps and big spots, but the intensity waned a bit. Still these are two crazy dudes, who are going to do crazy shit on a big show, and the elbow off the entrance ramp by Bishop and the Awesome bomb on the rail by Bishop stand up to any crazy shit you are going to see all year.

17. Eddie Kingston vs. Tom Lawlor

ER: This was a match I probably only could have enjoyed if it involved Eddie Kingston. He has a way of twisting moments that I've long tired of seeing into something at minimum interesting, and at best high drama. This is a great match-long collapse of Kingston, a match about twice as long as I'm used to seeing him in, and it plays out like Bad Lieutenant: King starts out in bad shape, and things only get worse the longer it goes. I like the desperation attacks King goes for at various points, throwing strikes at whatever part of Lawlor is closest to him, and lashing out at whatever part of Lawlor will buy him an extra second of recovery. Lawlor wears him down from go, and we build to our big centerpiece of the match, which is the epically long chop battle. If you told me you had just seen a match with an "epically long chop battle" and I needed to see it, I'd politely tell you to fornicate yourself and then go watch something that wouldn't curse my eyeballs. And this was a long chop battle. Probably too long. But Kingston is that old comedy note of a joke running so long it goes from funny to unfunny and back again. Kingston takes this spot through a real rollercoaster, he and Lawlor milking every minute of it, and the announce crew was great at talking about how neither man wants to punch because that would be admitting they needed an easy way out. Kingston is not ever going to be the guy taking the easy way out, and everyone knows that, and so this becomes a game of outlasting a man who will never do what is best for himself, just a guy who can't quit because of pride. I loved the twists and turns of the chop battle. I was there live for the Bryan Danielson headlock match (it was both good and bad), and Kingston did more interesting things here with a chop than Danielson did with a headlock. I loved when he dropped down to a knee before throwing one, loved how his arm kept getting more chopped out the longer it went, and I loved Lawlor calling him a pussy which leads to the strap down moment. I cannot think of another person in wrestling who would have made this sequence anywhere near as engaging. The backfists were maybe the meanest I've ever seen Kingston throw, loved how Lawlor timberrrred from them, and love how Kingston's match-long pride kept him from actually capitalizing on his sure wins. Lawlor eating a backfist but managing to fall on the arm, leading to a big sub attempt followed by trapped knees to Kingston's chest until he can't take any more and gives up the arm, was a fantastic finish. Kingston absorbed punishment and hard kicks and knees and called Lawlor a motherfucker like only he could. The nearfalls in this were great as I was standing on my feet thinking Kingston was actually going to get the belt after that first backfist. These two crafted a match that borrowed from other styles and other genres, but was clearly their own thing. And I don't know who else would be able to do this thing as well as they did.

PAS: This is big match, main event Eddie Kingston which is about the best thing in wrestling in 2019. These guys were clearly trying to work a King's Road All Japan match and pulled it off, although it was a bit more '99 AJPW than '94 AJPW which I would have preferred.  The long chop section in the middle achieved its goal for sure, and it was performed about as well as that spot can be. Kingston is amazing at selling a chop, gritting through pain to fire back, and refusing to back down, and Lawlor was right with him. It is a spot I don't like, but it did deliver. Opening feeling out section was really great, I love the little shootstyle beats that Kingston added to his game the last couple of years. Finish run was epic stuff, Kingston obliterating Lawlor with backfist, but being too beat up to jump on the pin, and I loved Lawlor hanging on to the arm after eating a suplex and leading in to those sick knees to the head and the armbar stoppage. It felt like AIW was building to an Eddie win, although losing in a match like this really doesn't damage you. I wonder where they go from here with him, if he is indeed retiring in a couple of months. Kingston and Lawlor as a Walking Tall tag team against Bishop and Barkley will be a lot of fun, but it feels like he needs another big story act to finish up his run.


ER: All of these matches are on our 2019 Ongoing MOTY List. This should not be much of a surprise.


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Sunday, August 11, 2019

WWE Summerslam 8/11/19 (Not at ALL) Live Report

ER: I've had an unexpectedly long, very much trash day, so am not *really* in the mood to go through this show. But it's good to commit to things, so forgive me if I do not commit to watching some of the matches I'm unexcited for while battling the now-unusable WWE Network.

Drew Gulak vs. Oney Lorcan

ER: Yes sir. This was what got me excited for this card. And there is nothing else that can happen on this card that will take this match away from me. This ruled, and was a killer showcase for both men. We were so excited seeing TAKA Michinoku doing quebradas on WWF TV 20 years ago, so excited for cruiserweight wrestling on our TVs, and now we have evolved to TV cruiserweight wrestling being two guys ripping at beards and punching throats. Look at the things we as a people can do. This was an unhurried an unsanitized version of what these two can do, and it got to happen on (the undercard) of one of the biggest shows of the year, and that's a very cool thing. It was a tidy 9 minutes filled with a dozen cool ideas, and just made me want to see them match up a dozen more times. Gulak slams Lorcan into the ropes in a flat out sinister way, and is practically inventing cruel subs to try to trap him in. Lorcan's aggression is his double edged sword. He flies into everything with abandon, which allowed him to come so close to beating Gulak, but it also meant he lost to Gulak. These guys made me buy into everything they did, moves had consequences, actions lead to finishes. Gulak took on the persona of a big brother who picked on his little brother too long and accidentally pushed him over the edge, and it was great. The look on Gulak's face as Lorcan is grabbing him by the fucking beard and muzzle and slapping him was classic. Both read naked choke spots were great, with the first looking like a genuine finish as Lorcan is not close to the ropes, and Gulak drags the arm closest to the ropes back across Lorcan's throat. That they went back to it soon after and created an organic Lorcan false win showed they understand their characters and the match they were having 100%. I loved Lorcan flipping out of that rear naked and almost getting the "fluke" pin, everything they had done made that finish an absolute possibility. Lorcan's flying uppercuts are a thing of beauty, and I'm not sure I've seen someone just lean into them standing the way Gulak did. It's one of those spots that somehow made both men look tougher, Lorcan flying into Gulak and Gulak absorbing the shots but refusing to show ass. And the finish was great, with Gulak being drug into the ring holding onto the ring skirt for dead life, then at the earliest opening just punching Lorcan in the throat and hitting the neckbreaker. Lorcan's sell of his throat was palpable, and I just want to see these guys continue to crush every opportunity they're given.

Apollo Crews vs. Buddy Murphy

ER: Damn, I thought this was really cool. On paper this didn't do much for me, and it got ended after just a few minutes with a big boss Rowan run in, but I liked what they did with their allotted time. They knew that had 4 minutes to make an impression, and they did! Murphy attacked at the bell with a running knee, making me think it was actually going to be a 5 second match, and the rest played out like a cool Worldwide match. Crews got a couple big throws and showed off his leaps, we got a couple cool things on the floor like Crews getting run into the steps and Murphy hitting a big flip dive, and with that opening knee the whole thing felt like it could end at any time. That's a cool vibe for a match with essentially no stakes. I would actually like to see more of this. And by that I mean more of these guys, making unimportant matches feel important. More guys on the roster should actually work like it matters.

Alexa Bliss/Nikki Cross vs. Iiconics

ER: Damn, not only is Colin Delaney better than a large % of WWE's active roster, but now Alexa Bliss is robbing the Buzz Lightyear aesthetic? Give Delaney the run he deserves, you cowards. But I think this match had a lot to like. Iiconics are like a really great WoW team, with similar WoW wrestling ability. I genuinely get excited to see them when they come out, and don't really care that they don't always look great in ring. They entertain me. This match had a couple nice nearfall saves, and Royce catching Alexa's boots in the corner only to get sent absolutely wobbly with an elbow was a fantastic moment. I thought Royce's crumple sell was the best, and the whole spot worked because it was an appropriate sell for the strike. This was quick, fun, and made me appreciate what the Iiconics bring to a telecast even more.

Becky Lynch vs. Natalya

ER: I do not fucking care that they are in Canada, it is flat out bullshit that Natalya gets trotted out there entering AFTER the champ. Being Canadian is the one thing Natalya has going for her in this one, and I fully respect this Toronto crowd not giving one shit about Natalya being born thousands of miles away. If WWE actually got self aware and turned Natalya's insufferable nature into her onscreen character (I mean, intentionally), it could actually be good. If we are going to be plagued with Natalya, use her natural unlikability. And I liked this! I didn't really love the finishing stretch, as it was essentially just both getting put all the way into submissions and screaming a lot because they are all the way into a submission, but then just getting out of them and putting their own full submission on. Lynch gets put in a sharpshooter for the better part of a minute, and reverses it by just locking in the Disarm-her and not acknowledging any of the actual work that she's been through. I had a hunch this stip was going to be hard to actually pull off, but it worked better than I thought it would. The work getting to the finish was fun. I liked Natalya's turnbuckle sharpshooter, the superplex looked great, I liked the work around the arm, and thought they moved interestingly into submissions (like Natalya catching Lynch's kick in the corner to slam her leg into the mat). There was a weird moment where Becky was in a sub while her feet where completely hanging off the ring, and another where she was flat out crawling down the side of the ring in a sub, but the ref wasn't breaking the hold. This wasn't No DQ, right? There are still rules. Those kind of things bugged me in the match, but the match still delivered stronger than I was expecting. Toronto fans are sellouts for eventually rooting for Natalya. How low can you get? I understand pride in your country, but have a spine, Canada.

Goldberg vs. Dolph Ziggler

ER: For some reason I knew they would nail this one. And I am a total rube, because I actually fully bought into that opening match superkick. I don't know why, that just felt like something that could happen, and I dug it. This was worked exactly how it should have been: a couple superkicks, a spear for the ages, big Jackhammer, and Dolph hilariously talking shit after the match to his own detriment. These kind of pieces really liven up a card, really give us a different mix of energy, and this was an easy win.

Ricochet vs. AJ Styles

ER: I cannot remember the last match involving these two that I enjoyed as much as this one. This was incredibly fun, innovative, and economical. It took a simple story of Styles taking out Ricochet's knee, while Ricochet fought through not only that bum wheel but also attempted to fend off Gallows and Anderson. And it worked great! Styles does some nasty things to the knee, and Ricochet hops around that ring on one leg like he was Zack Gowen. AJ would kick his leg out and Ricochet would spill out spectacularly but fight back valiantly. I really liked Ricochet's aggression, made him come off real tough and AJ was good at taking advantage of opportunities. The one legged springboard crossbody was a coconuts thing to pull out, and I liked when Ricochet would deliver a kick but then have to deal with his knee going out. Ricochet made all of AJ's offense look finisher worthy; I don't know if I've seen anyone snap his neck like that on AJ's fireman's carry drop on his knee. The finish was wild, with Ricochet ducking and diving and kicking Anderson/Gallows away, only for AJ to catch his dragon rana and plant him with the Styles Clash. This was super effective, and was able to have a match filled with back and forth action without it ever feel like move trading. This card has been delivering on best case scenarios so far.

Bayley vs. Ember Moon

ER: Man I thought this ruled, too! There is something in the water in Toronto tonight, as I have seen several people on this card now have their most interesting matches in ages. Everybody looks like they're trying to stand out on a card filled almost exclusively with singles matches, and so far, everybody is doing just that. Moon was throwing heavy strikes, kneeing Bayley in the back, jamming her knee in with a bow and arrow, did cool things like break a Boston crab by striking at Bayley's leg,  hit a nice big rana off the top and followed it up with knees to the face. Moon looked like someone that should have a belt, and Bayley had her tightest performance that I can remember. Bayley had a match against Ronda earlier this year that I adored, and I think Bayley has looked sloppy as hell ever since. But I liked her here. The top rope Bayley to Belly was cool as hell, and it was a nice follow up from her nice superplex earlier in the match. And she kept throwing nice cut off strikes throughout, hitting a sharp elbow to the back of Moon's head, stopping a tope with a forearm, focused one shot attacks to stop Moon's flurries. This was another match that over delivered, a sentence I should have just been copying and pasting by this point.

Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens

ER: No time, no time, no time.

Trish Stratus vs. Charlotte Flair

ER: So if my continued use of the word "overdeliver" hadn't convinced you yet, not a soul among you would have guessed this match would be as entertaining as it ended up being. Trish has only a few matches over the past year, and certainly not enough ring time to think she could have a fun 15+ minute match. This was about as miracle match as you can get, and it's great that someone would work this hard to go out in what is probably the best singles match of her career. There were moments she moved a little slower than someone more active, but I thought she did great overall. She added a few painful bumps (loved her big back bump off the buckles to the floor, no non-wrestler needs to be taking drops like that), and she brought big match emotion to something that could have been a real mess. Charlotte handled the match incredibly well, finding the exact notes to hit so that this was not only a successful retirement match for a legend, but it never looked like she was working elderly Baba. Trish didn't get spared for being a non-regular, but Trish has always been good about leaning into everything (remember, this is a Finlay trainee we're talking about here!). The powerbomb turned into a rana off the top rope was an awesome moment, thought Charlotte looked so cool climbing up top with her entire face obscured by the body of Stratus. Stratus got to shine and took a bunch of bumps, Charlotte got to help a WWE legend shine while looking no worse for wear, the whole thing should NOT have worked this well. Full respect for both for putting this together, fuller respect for Trish for going out on top.

Kofi Kingston vs. Randy Orton

ER: I'm sure they did just fine.

Bray Wyatt vs. Finn Balor

ER: I thought this was fine, although it might have been a tough part of the card to be put on. I have no real dog in this fight, but I dug the weird Bray Wyatt head lantern, and the match itself was short and sweet.

Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins

ER: My god Paul Heyman has hit 1.0 on the Sorrell Booke scale. The fact he isn't in a white suit means that he has failed every single boy in the back, and every one of those boys has failed him. And this match? Yes yes yes yes YES! What kind of sweaty sorcery has consumed Brock Lesnar, having excellent singles matches with Finn Balor and Seth Rollins in one calendar year? This whole thing ruled, and it wasn't just Brock. Seth threw everything he had at him, and the quantity over quality approach worked, while his ragdoll crumpling body after suplexes was perfect. Lesnar was great at being vulnerable here, he made superkicks interesting and bounced his head off the mat several different ways while taking curb stomps throughout. When he went on offense he looked powerful in a different way than normal. His Germans looked faster and thrown at a lower angle than they typically are, and his rollthroughs after them were smooth as hell. Brock is great at working non-weapon objects into a match, things like angrily removing his gloves, or even running full speed into the ringpost, or even better catching Rollins on a dive and running him as hard as humanly possible into the ringpost, he knows how to integrate available objects in really cool ways that always make a match feel different. I think Brock is fantastic at selling and moving in a way that nobody else in wrestling does, the way he stumbles around and takes non-canon WWE bumps that aren't just fast flat back bumps, it makes all of his matches even more unique than they already are. He took spills for Rollins and always stumbled into taking Rollins' sometimes questionable offense in such a way that he looked beatable. The layout of this was so good, easily the best Rollins match of the year (and probably the best Rollins match of the past three years). I thought this was excellent.


ER: Well, I did a little personal editing to skip past a couple things that didn't interest me, but had I watched them and they were awful, I still would have loved this show. This show started with a great Gulak/Lorcan match and finished with a great Brock/Rollins match, and kept me entertained the entire time in between. This was an awesome show, one that on paper looked flat out bizarrely stuffed with almost all singles matches. It would have been very easy for this show to feel overly same-y, yet I thought everyone on this card did a great job of filling a different niche. Great time all around, great card.


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Saturday, August 10, 2019

NXT TakeOver: Toronto 8/10/19...Everything Except...

ER: So I was unable to actually watch this as it was actually airing, but I always look forward to big NXT shows (no matter how much I've been dreading their main events the past year) so I figured I would watch as much as possible tonight before getting sleepy, then finish the rest tomorrow before Summerslam (and then do Summerslam)!

The Street Profits vs. Kyle O'Reilly/Bobby Fish

ER: I thought a lot of this was pretty boneless and emotionless, big parts feeling like O'Reilly especially were some kind of automated driverless wrestler, just mechanically running through spots in really unattached ways. But Montez Ford brought some actual personality and freak athleticism and salvaged a match that felt too long. Ford seems to glide sometimes and it's cool to see, watch him hit a neat kip up and standing moonsault, super graceful tope con giro, and an absolutely great top rope splash for the win. People had moments in this, liked some Dawkins cut off spots, liked O'Reilly kicking Dawkins in the inner thigh, but a lot of this felt a little phony and I couldn't match the crowd's appreciation.

Io Shirai vs. Candice LeRae

ER: This was up there with the most I've ever enjoyed Shirai in a singles match, but I really didn't like LeRae and thought she kept screwing up the pacing and doing terrible drama. LeRae leads off with a terrible double leg takedown and everything else seems about as out of place from there. She was really obnoxious about immediately getting into position to go back on offense, right after taking a KO move. She takes a nasty 619 to the back of the head, and she sells it by standing up immediately, bounding off the opposite ropes, and hitting a tope tornado DDT; later she eats a huge German suplex and sells it by getting immediately to her feet and waiting patiently in place for Shirai to bounce back off the ropes to run into LeRae's obvious offense. It made things pretty uninteresting to me, and creating drama by merely taking a big move and having it not affect you, is not drama in any way. Shirai hit some of the meanest stuff I seen from her, a crazy double underhook backbreaker, Spanish Fly that landed hard, wrenching LeRae around with a backbreaker, but none of it ever felt appropriately absorbed by LeRae. LeRae's emotion and fighting spirit and selling were all over the map, and even though the match had some fantastic moments and a more grown up Shirai performance (still overshooting that genius moonsault though), but Candice kept taking me out of things.

Velveteen Dream vs. Roderick Strong vs. Pete Dunne

ER: This gets a fun personalized Canadian entrance, with what appears to be the Raptors dance squad coming out and jamming to The Mountie's old theme song (a personal favorite) before throwing it to the Dream's entrance (who comes out in Canadian red and white). And I had a blast with this match. I t was a really great showcase for Dream and Strong, and Dunne was also in the match to mostly add stupid offense but also take exciting offense. They kept up a really insane pace for the duration of the match, without anyone getting crossed up or standing around waiting to hit their marks. This had some pretty impeccable layout, with nobody really having to get up and hit a spot right after taking a beating because that's what the layout dictated. Three ways are difficult to pull off, because you need to get it into singles action a lot of the match but also believably get the third man out of the ring during that time. Most 3 ways a guy just rolls to the floor after taking a fairly standard move and then disappears for 4 minutes. Here we had regular involvement from the 3 players with nobody feeling like they got in the way.

Strong really stood out like a big deal to me. Funny thing is, he almost always does. Strong has been consistently great for probably a decade now and it's still somehow surprising to me when I watch another great Strong performance. I don't think this thing works as a Dream/Dunne singles or as a 3 way with somebody other than Strong. He kept peppering this match with big backbreakers and suplexes, big kneelifts, and appropriate bumps and selling for his opponents. Dream really seemed to benefit from being in their with Strong, as Strong took every axehandle like a gunshot, went down hard for every long arm lariat, and seemed to be orchestrating every car crash spot involving all of them. Dream has really great body movement. He's not a very large guy, but he throws his most simple attacks with such unique movement and flexibility that he comes off like Mr. Fantastic. There was a stretch where he whipped off a couple great punches, threw a couple weird straight arm lariats, hits a Rockette kick, the way he rubber man bounces out of the DVD, and he gets such great stretch from his limbs that it makes him look like he could catch you with a strike no matter where either of you are standing in the ring. Some of the spot set up is brilliant, like Dream slithering away from Dunne only to get his legs grabbed by Strong, who crotches him around the ringpost; or Strong running around dropping both with back suplexes on the apron and barricade; or Dream hitting that big elbow all the way across the ring during a tree of woe spot. The big moves hit big, and they even did some stuff that comes off silly during 3 ways but I think was elevated here by Strong. Really the only thing I thought looked bad was whenever Pete Dunne would try to do any strikes. I don't know why he thinks his slap fight girly hands look good, but he looked like he was defending himself from a backseat big brother attack than stand up to Dream and Strong. Those little flimsy slaps need to be dropped immediately, and his bad punches when trying to fend of Strong should literally be in the running for worst strikes thrown in a major company. My god. The finish stretch was hot as hell, loved Dream hitting the DVD only for Strong to throw him over the top rope and hit a big backbreaker on Dunne, only for Dream to rebound right back in with the big elbow. This was the match I needed after the first two.

Mia Yim vs. Shayna Baszler

ER: This never really clicked with me. They chose a couple of interesting directions to take, with both gals going after arms, but none of the arm stuff ever actually went anywhere interesting. I liked some of the exchanges, and some of the actual moves, but the selling seemed like it was part of a different match than they actually wound up with. It was kind of odd. Yim set up a spot where she kicked Baszler's arm in the ring steps, and Baszler sold her arm the rest of the match...but Yim weirdly skirted the arm several times. There was a spot where she set up the Code Blue off the tope rope, and specifically trapped Baszler's arm in her knee crook, and I'm thinking "Oh man that's an awesome arm break spot that I've never seen! Flipping over and using her own weight and momentum to kick the arm work up another level!" And then she just did the sunset flip bomb and went for a pin and I was left wondering why they even bothered paying attention to her clearly setting up a focus on the arm during the move. Shayna kinda did the same thing in a way, establishing an attack on Yim's arm (leading to the great spot of her stomping the posted out elbow), but it's not uncommon for Shayna to establishing arm work to then making it easier for her to sink in a choke. So I was expecting that, but then also thought it didn't make as much sense within this match. Not only was she then doing rear naked chokes using the arm that Yim had been working over, but I would have liked to see her punish Yim for having the balls to even come after her arm. And was anybody else expecting the Horse Girls? They made such a big deal about Yim taking out and injuring the Horse Girls, that surely that meant they were going to come out and do something, so I was amused when that never happened. But I was still left so confused about why they never really cashed in anything they actually set up before or during the match. I have no major complaints about the ring work, it all looked fine, though perhaps the obvious silence of the crowd during much of the match was a sign they weren't sure what was happening either. At one point Yim yelled at the crowd to get into it, and the quiet that came after couldn't have felt good. Even right after that when she hit a nice dive, it merely got scattered polite applause. It feels like this is a frequent NXT TakeOver criticism I use, but...It felt like these two have a good match between them, and this had the potential parts of that hypothetical good match, but this wasn't it.


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Friday, August 09, 2019

New Footage Friday: Harley Race, Briscos, Fujinami, Aoyagi, Flair

Harley Race/Bill Watts vs. Brisco Brothers CWF 10/8/74

MD: Watts was a little too "Thumb-throat-y" but he was the most interesting part of this match. I haven't seen much early 70s heel Watts. I always picture him as the standing tall older babyface, or maybe the athlete one before his heel turn. Here he and Race paired off well, a couple of thick goons, though the end with Watts wanting the pin was a little weird. I liked how the momentum shifts worked here, with the Briscos getting relatively hot tags but not being able to turn the tide. The threat of the thumb was pretty great, especially towards the end when Watts kept going for it and getting countered. One thing that really shines through in this stuff is how over and revolutionary the diving headbutt off he ropes was. I think, despite what Race has said in interviews, I'd always taken it for granted until this footage dump. Anyway, it's better to get a match full of cuts where you can still get so much of the narrative and the ebb and flow than not to have the match at all.


PAS: Clipped matches like this always hurt the completist part of my brain, but it was good to see youngish Harley and Bill Watts. The Briscos are really expressive sellers, and they make every thump by the heels look devastating, the heel control section of this felt pretty violent. The diving headbut was nasty, Jerry was basically convulsing after Race hit it. Fun bit of footage, but it made me wish we had more stuff from this era more complete.
 
Harley Race vs. Jack Brisco CWF 8/12/78

MD: We get the first five minutes and the last five minutes of this and the first five. The first five were nothing at all, Harley controlling with a front facelock and barely any moving in and out of it. They were going long and it showed. If we had more if it, it probably would have built to something meaningful, but the cut hurts this badly. The last five building to the time-limit draw were stellar though, everyone drained, parched and exhausted, with Harley selling exactly the way a vulnerable champion at the end of his rope should. The fans were hanging on every moment with Brisco fiery and determined. We've seen this a thousand times, but at this point in the 70s, maybe they'd only seen it a hundred. It's a shame that we don't have more of this but at least the network has given us some glimpses of Brisco the challenger.

Ric Flair vs. Harley Race Mid-Atlantic 11/14/80

MD: Every time we get to see 80 babyface Flair, it kills me we don't have more real footage. This is sputtering moments of film, but it tells a story. You can see a match chained together. Like a lot of Flair matches from this period, you see him do some things (here, namely, the double axehandle to the leg hanging over the top rope and his standing knee) that you wish he hadn't dropped later in his career. Part of me thinks that at the end of the day, Flair was a better face than he was a heel, especially the heel he ultimately became. This is just the stuff I wish we had, a super over babyface Flair working in front of the same molten crowd week in and week out.

Masashi Aoyagi vs. Tatsumi Fujinami NJPW 12/3/93

MD: Most of this was enjoyable but it really misses the oomph at the end. It was a lot of what you'd expect, Fujinami biting off more than he must have expected, with Aoyagi an endless whirl of kicks. I liked Fujinami's desperation as this went on, first with the barely latched dragon screw, then just chucking him out. When comes back, it's a temporary respite because Aoyagi isn't about to back down. The end was the world's most effective chinlock. Fujinami just decides to choke the hell out of him with it, which lets him put on the dragon sleeper. It fit the tone of desperation but I think I wanted something at least a little more elaborate.

PAS: This was a really fun scrap. Fujinami is such a bigger star then Aoyagi (outside of Segunda Caida of course) that is surprising to see Aoyagi take so much of the match. Aoyagi really blitzes him throwing a variety of wheel kicks, front kicks, knees and nasty body shots, really overwhelming attack which Fujinami seemed unprepared for. I liked how Fujinami fired back and showed he could stand and trade too, and the dragon sleeper was a great finish. Sort of minor Aoyagi, but had the freneticism which he was so good at bringing.

ER: This felt like a better version of the lame 90s Randy Savage match structure, where his opponent would take the entire match and when it was time to go home he would just hit a bodyslam and flying elbow. This was Aoyagi absolutely wrecking Fujinami with kicks - and some of these kicks were hard even for Aoyagi - while Fujinami absorbed and waited for Aoyagi to kick himself out, and then the dragon pounced. There were some kicks that Aoyagi threw to Fujinami's thighs and hamstrings that - had I been given the choice between those kicks or a baseball bat - would make me consider the baseball bat. I'm pretty surprised Aoyagi was as dominant as he was here. Fujinami was one of the biggest names in the fed, Aoyagi was certainly not, and Japan wasn't really the place where an undercarder could suddenly waste a main eventer. Aoyagi gives so many nasty shots, and I love how valiantly Fujinami stood with them, and loved how he slowly crumbled from them. There were moments where he sold as if he was slowly losing function of every limb that was being attacked, and it ruled. When Aoyagi starts to slow, and Fujinami's body starts screaming at him to stop rope-a-doping it into dust, Fujinami attacks quick and aims to put this thing behind him. I don't love the match structure where one guy takes 85% of a match and the other decides to just finally finish things, but it helps when the 85% is filled with Aoyagi being awesome.


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Thursday, August 08, 2019

On Brand Segunda Caida: Non-WCW Barry Houston

Barry Houston vs. Primetime Daryl D 1998?

ER: So this was great. It appears to take place in some kind of food court, goes about 6 minutes, and has some great bumps (one of them accidental!) from both guys. Daryl D is most famous for being the corrections officer who got MVP into wrestling during his incarceration. He also has "I Wanna Sex You Up" on his tights. That's a choice in 1998, and confusingly, Barry Houston has "I Adore Mi Amor" on his. But this match is all about the bumps, and it rules for that. Houston starts us off with a sky high backdrop bump and a big spill to the shopping mall floor, but Primetime ends up accidentally outdoing him. There's supposed to be a missed corner splash, and Primetime misses...but the top rope breaks and sends him tumbling ass to elbow hard to the floor. My god that could have been bad. Houston kills time by bringing him back in and hitting a great delayed vertical suplex, and with no ropes they decide to spill to the floor (Primetime looks to take another hard - intentional - bump to the floor, but the camera mostly misses it). We build to some really fun floor brawling, and you don't get to see a ton of food court bumps, so this is special. Houston sets up some kind of moveable condiments station or trash kiosk (like a presentable square thing that can comfortably house two trash cans, so people don't have to see trash cans), goes to whip Primetime into it, but gets reversed and goes flying into it the way Raven would fly into guardrails. Houston rules. There's also a big bronze statue of a rhinoceros in this food court for some reason, and Primetime gets tossed right into the horn. Houston had a bunch of nice punches, both guys get counted out, great punches continue, I leave after getting exactly what I wanted and more.

Barry Houston vs. Scott Taylor WWA 8/20/98

ER: Man these WWF Dojo shows looked cool. How often did these run? I remember reading about the WWF Dojo guys in WWF Magazine, but some shows in Salem were not going to be seen by mine teenage eyes. Only the fans in Massachusetts were getting to see those Glen Kulka and Shawn Stasiak matches. I would have to wait. And I'm not sure I ever would have made the connection had I not actually seen them working a match, but Scott Taylor and Barry Houston were very similar wrestlers. Both were great at making opponents looked good, had an excellent command of basics, and had cool offense when allowed to show it. Those things are all pretty general, but they really did wrestle similarly, with the difference being that one of them was a year away from being a huge star and the other was not. Both throw nice punches, both throw nice lariats, both take hard suplex bumps, they are the pointing Spider-mans. Taylor really was great. I'm not much of a Scotty II Hotty fan (though obviously all hats off to him making millions) but 97/98 Taylor had really matured into a great wrestler. Here he eats a big lariat and bumps to the floor, and shows off a couple of really great suplexes. Early on he hits a nice pumphandle, throwing Houston right over his head, but the gem of the match is him catching a hard Houston lariat and turning it into a trap arm belly to belly. Honestly it looked far more like something Tamon Honda would do than Scott Taylor, but nobody thought Tamon Honda was cool during this era either so obviously we were all just idiots. Now we are idiots with better opinions.


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Wednesday, August 07, 2019

2019 Ongoing MOTY List: Kingston vs. WALTER

20. Eddie Kingston vs. WALTER Progress Wrestling 7/6

PAS: If Eddie Kingston is retiring this year, he is going out as the best wrestler in the world. This is another absolute corker and exactly what you want from this match up on paper. Kingston is going try to stand up and fist fight with a bigger stronger guy, and going to fail in a spectacular way. This is a perfect combination of a guy who chops super hard, and a guy who sells chops better then anyone. They have a chop exchange, like every other indy match ever, but in this one Kingston does this incredible delayed sell of the chop, he rears back to crack WALTER and all of the synapse in his body collapse. I loved how both guys adjusted their normal offense as they got deeper in the weeds, Kingston can't drop WALTER with normal backfist, so he switches up to a fucking spinning straight punch, and instead of the slap down German, WALTER slaps down one arm and does a head and neck suplex which straightens Kingston's toes. I really loved this, heavyweight professional wrestling at its absolute best. Don't go Eddie, don't go.

ER: I like the different Kingston approaches to matches depending on his opponent. Here he comes in like a guy who knows odds are not on his side against a opponent who outguns him in nearly every category. WALTER hits harder, he's bigger, and he's got less injuries; Kingston is going to stand with WALTER, and Kingston knows more than anyone that is likely a losing gambit. Kingston's selling was great here - great enough that it seems almost too obvious to bring up - and I loved all of his reactions to WALTER's chops. I love when the pain hits him at different times, love when he crumbles and feebly slaps at WALTER's leg to keep him at bay, love him playing possum since he knew he was at WALTER's mercy at a couple points, love him wiggling his fingers to get some feeling going in his arm, love how he holds back midway through a chop as his shoulder flares up, etc. WALTER crushes as WALTER will crush, caving Kingston with chops to the chest and kicks to the head, and is right there when King starts throwing brutal backfists (not sure if intentional, but I loved that when King threw three backfists the third was lighter than the other two, like he used up "the good backfist energy" on the first two) and a brutal rolling elbow (arguably the nastiest shot of the match). The finish was pretty sick, Kingston getting tossed right onto his head and shoulders with a savage trap suplex, then floating over to sink in the choke on an already out King. I didn't love King getting thrown rudely and violently off his shoulder and popping up to hit a lariat, felt a little too on the nose 1999 All Japan (and the suplex was arguably the meanest part of the match up to that point, though little did I know what the finish would be), but that was really the only time that kind of moment was used, so the restraint actually made the other nasty throws mean a bit more. Kingston is the best in the world in 2019, the master of a competitive and timely match.


2019 MOTY MASTER LIST


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Tuesday, August 06, 2019

On Brand Segunda Caida: Bill Irwin in WWF (Non-Goon Edition)

So Bill Irwin is a guy I've been digging a lot lately, and I had planned on writing up all of his matches as The Goon. But then I noticed three separate appearances he made with WWF - two Before Goon and one After Goon - and that kind of stands out. Were these tryout matches only televised? It's odd for an established guy to just work occasional one off matches with a major fed without having some kind of deal. But, here we are. Three non-Goon WWF Bill Irwin matches, and they are all genuine gems:

Bill Irwin vs. El Matador WWF Mania 1/16/93

ER: I love these kind of oddities. Here we get a territories battle between two guys who would have never crossed paths. I don't know why WWF brought in Irwin for a 1 shot debut at the age of 38 (we already established they also brought in and pushed Pierroth at 38, which makes me - a 38 year old man - still feel viable) but it's a fun match. Tito works armdrags and hiptosses, Irwin takes a couple surprising bumps. the first is off a do-si-do hip toss, where they keep reversing each other until Irwin is tossed over the top to the floor. Later Irwin gets plastered by the forearm and falls butt first out the bottom two ropes to the floor. Irwin always has a couple surprises, from something little like a short jab, to something unexpected like a slingshot splash. The finish is cool too, with Tito hitting the forearm to the back of Irwin's head, almost like a slash attack. Irwin would not appear on WWF TV for another 3 years.

Bill Irwin vs. Duke Droese WWF Superstars 3/16/96

ER: Oh, so...this was great? This was really great? Is Duke Droese actually great and people haven't told me about it? This was during the era when I was not watching wrestling, so I have blindspots throughout (when I started playing catch up 20 years ago I wasn't running through Superstars episodes from a couple years prior to do so), but never remember hearing anyone talk up Droese. Droese fires off hard and fast straight right hands to start, and absolutely nothing was skimped on. Droese's punches looked great, he keeps a good base on his chops so he can throw them fast and cutting, lands boot on kicks to the stomach, even clonks Irwin with a hard trash can shot behind the ref's back. This whole thing was pretty relentless and Irwin hit back just as hard as he was being hit, hit a diving headbutt WAY too far across the ring, scraped his boot across Droese's face in nasty fashion, hit a full extension pump kick that didn't seem like it would reach (he started way early as Droese had barely come off the ropes) and yet it landed clean, clubbed him hard in the back of the neck, oh, AND Irwin takes a crazy high speed Harley Race bump to the floor. Irwin gets whipped in, flips backwards to the floor, hits the apron just about headfirst and then spills to the floor. Irwin took some great bumps in his first two WWF matches (three years apart), so we can only hope that he's the curly haired bump freak that WWF lost when they sent Berzerker on his Viking funeral. This whole match was an excellent pairing. It was a total hidden gem, just the tastiest peanut butter/chocolate combo, and it ruled.

Bill Irwin/Kit Carson vs. Mark Henry/D-Lo Brown WWF Shotgun 2/21/98

ER: The third and final of our "Bill Irwin" matches in WWF, odd guy to only be bringing in for occasional job duty. If that's all they wanted I'm sure it would have been easy to offer him full time work. But it's also weird for them to bring in a guy in his mid-40s for job duty, so I don't know what to make of these scattered Irwin appearances. But I do know that WWF talent has looked fantastic opposite him (which again makes it weird that he wasn't used full time, but this Irwin ouroboros is confusing) and that's what matters. This match is basically about the asskicking team of D-Lo and Henry. D-Lo was a mean dude here, and everything he did landed hard. Hard punches, back elbows, and the best lariats I've ever seen him throw. We get this awesome sequence of Irwin getting ahold of D-Lo's left arm and wrenching it, leading to D-Lo rattling his teeth with a right back elbow, unspooling his arm from Irwin (like he was rewinding a Rainmaker), and nails him with a short arm lariat. Hell yeah. This was early in Henry's TV time with the company, and he had just joined the Nation a month before, so he was green but clearly had the goods. I loved his brick wall stuff, big man elbowdrop, and two humongous slams. His powerslam finish is great, and a huge arc Henry powerslam topped by a D-Lo splash is a great team finisher. This made me want to go watch a bunch of D-Lo/Henry tags.


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Monday, August 05, 2019

Monday AIW - Absolution XIV 8/2/19

Big Twan Tucker vs. MJF

PAS: This was pretty much fait accompli when MJF made it an impromptu Loser Leaves Town match to start. Twan brings a lot of energy to his matches which is really his big strength. MJF isn't a guy I am going to miss, he is so OTT with everything he does that he comes off hacky. His pantomiming surprise when Twan fires back is a bit much for the last row of a sold out arena, much less a small show like this. His execution looked fine, and he did put Twan over huge for his big moment. Twan is on quite a roll, and I will be interested to see where he goes from here.

The Production (Derek Director/Danhausen/Eddy Only) vs. 40 Acres (PB Smooth/Tre Lamar/AJ Gray)

PAS: These guys teased a match at JLIT, and I was amped we got to see a whole match. This was unsurprisingly great, I talked before about how the face/heel dynamic of this feud seemed off, but I take that back, the Production are great babyfaces and 40 Acres have a real nice heel charisma. Lamar especially comes off like a great super athletic dick, the wide receiver who does a six part dance routine after a six yard catch. He really rips off some awesome highspots in this match, including a crazy flip tope. Smooth threw a good looking KO punch, and threw around Only and Danhausen, and Gray was throwing heat. There was some superfluous stuff with Danhausen making guys eat beads and kicking them in the mouth, but man was this energetic, innovative, stiff, violent tag wrestling done well. All of these guys outside of Gray are AIW students I think, and the fact that they can deliver this is pretty impressive.

Mance Warner vs. Jock Samson

PAS: This was Bunkhouse match, which was basically worked as a two on one plunder match. I don't get how Warner's Ryan Gosling Drive Satin Bomber jackets work with his hillbilly gimmick. Some fun spots, including Warner throwing students, the referee and a fan into Samson and the Duke. Duke isn't afraid to take sick chair shots, and he took a couple of doozies here. I was amused at them stapling a $100 bill to Warners head, that was probably more then either guys payout for this. Finish was suitably crazy with Warner throwing Samson through two door with the Duke getting smushed in between.

Swoggle vs. John Thorne

PAS: Joey Janela had transpo problems so Thorne put on his old gear and has a pretty violent comedy match with Swoggle. It had a yarder feel but as kind of a compliment. Guys landed awkwardly into things, chairs bounced off heads weird, Thorne top rope double stomps Swoggle which looked like it might shoot his liver out of his asshole. Thorne took a couple of really bad shots in this, he is pretty nuts for working this kind of match last minute. Not sure why you run a weapons brawl between a midget and the retired promoter, in between a bunkhouse match and an I Quit match, but it was weirdly entertaining.

Dominic Garini vs. Tim Donst

PAS: These guys had a great brawl last month, but this veered a little too much into geek show territory for me. This lacked some of the intensity of the Garini vs. Bishop match from Mania weekend, this had a lot of wandering around and setting up gross out spots like Donst trying to rip off one of Dom's toes with pliers, or Dom putting a baseball cap full of thumbtacks on Donst's head. Garrini took a couple of nasty headdrops on a board which wouldn't break, and I kind of liked the callback to the lighter fluid spot from Slumber Party. Donst submitting before he got skewered worked as part of his heel character, but fell a bit flat as a finish. Definitely a spectacle, but the least of the Dom garbage matches I have seen.

KTB vs. Louis Lyndon vs. Wheeler Yuta vs. Lee Moriarty

PAS: Solid four way, with KTB being the highlight. He is a guy with several big spots who works stiff so he is perfect for these kind of matches. He breaks out his Samoan Drop two guys while tossing the third spots which is nutso, and he breaks up a dragon sleeper with an Asai moonsault. Moriarity takes some big bumps, but his stuff with Lyndon and Yuta got a little dancey. There are multi-man matches on almost every AIW show and this was pretty in the middle.

PAS: The Duke comes out and intros his new team the Bitcoin Boys, only to be interrupted by Bunkhouse Buck who cleans house with great punches and a swinging belt. Fun surprise, I can imagine how hard I would have marked out if I was in Cleveland.

Zach Thomas vs. Nick Gage

PAS: Thomas is one of the students that they are really pushing, he has a barrel chested build and has some nice power offense. He clearly was amped to work a Nick Gage death match and really sells out. The match opens with Thomas recklessly topeing right into a swung chair. This is a spot we see a lot but rarely this nastily. Much of the match has Gage working over Thomas, with Thomas firing back with big throws and slams, often into contraptions. There was a bit of construction which is always a problem in these matches, and Gage matches aren't really my thing. Still this was a good version of that Gage match, and I am on board to watch more of Thomas

Philly Marino Experience vs. To Infinity and Beyond (Cheech/Colin Delany)

PAS: This was the climax of this feud with PME being the super over babyfaces getting one last shot at the heel champions.  It is a classic wrestling story and these are a pair of teams who can execute it to a tee. I have talked before about what a great classic heel team To Infinity and Beyond are, and this was a hell of a heel team performance, Colin Delany is a such a smarmy prick, he this great smirk on his face on the outside and gets such joy out of cheap shots and cheating.

There is this great spot early when Marino stands on the second ring rope to hold the ropes open for a Philly tope on Cheech, Colin slides into the ring on one side, and slides all the way to the other rope grabbing Philly's legs on the way out and just dumping him on his head. Just awesome stuff. During the heat section on Marino that follows, Marino is able to get loose and hit a springboard blockbuster, and Delany just grabs his wrist after the impact to slow down the tag. You just don't see that kind of attention to detail much anymore.

I didn't think this got a bit kick out heavy at the end, and there were a couple of complex things that PME tried which didn't come off cleanly. It drops it a bit below their awesome May match in my mind. Still I loved this, and the big PME victory felt like a huge moment in the fed.

Matthew Justice vs. Joshua Bishop

PAS: Justice comes out with Bill Alphonso to even the odds, and Alphonso is still pretty great as a garbage wrestling second. Bishop is clearly a ECW Superfan and was visibly thrilled. It is tough to run another match after flying off a balcony in the match before. You really can't do it again and it would be insane to try to top it. The presence of Alphonso really made this almost a tag match, with a lot of the big spots going to Alphonso and Wes Barkley, including Barkley getting thrown off the balcony and being speared through a door. We also got a lot more construction in this match, then in the May match which outside of the finish kept it pretty propulsive. Here they spent a lot of time setting up the big bumps and spots. They were really big bumps and big spots, but the intensity wained a bit. Still these are two crazy dudes, who are going to do crazy shit on a big show, and the elbow off the entrance ramp by Bishop, and the Awesome bomb on the rain by Bishop stand up to any crazy shit you are going to see all year.

Eddie Kingston vs. Tom Lawlor

PAS: This is big match, main event Eddie Kingston which is about the best thing in wrestling in 2019. These guys were clearly trying to work a King's Road All Japan match and pulled it off, although it was a bit more '99 AJPW than '94 AJPW which I would have preferred.  The long chop section in the middle achieved its goal for sure, and it was performed about as well as that spot can be. Kingston is amazing at selling a chop, gritting through pain to fire back, and refusing to back down, and Lawlor was right with him. It is a spot I don't like, but it did deliver. Opening feeling out section was really great, I love the little shootstyle beats that Kingston added to his game the last couple of years. Finish run was epic stuff, Kingston obliterating Lawlor with backfist, but being too beat up to jump on the pin, and I loved Lawlor hanging on to the arm after eating a suplex and leading in to those sick knees to the head and the armbar stoppage. It felt like AIW was building to an Eddie win, although losing in a match like this really doesn't damage you. I wonder where they go from here with him, if he is indeed retiring in a couple of months. Kingston and Lawlor as a Walking Tall tag team against Bishop and Barkley will be a lot of fun, but it feels like he needs another big story act to finish up his run.


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