Segunda Caida

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

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

AEW Dynamite Workrate Report 4/1/20

What Worked

-I laughed at Cody saying "Anna Jayy with two Ys for some reason"

-I'm a fan of amusing product placement, and having Britt Baker casually eating a chicken sandwich at ringside while trash talking Shida, leading directly to a KFC commercial, worked for me. We don't need to know where she got the sandwich, but we can be grossed out that she was kinda letting it just rest on the guardrail while Shida came over (these are people who clearly don't care about social distancing anyway, as there are 8 people at ringside and they all managed to be clumped together), but Baker just suddenly wanted a chicken sandwich while watching wrestling. My dad is a dentist who treats his daily food intake like one extended meal, so this felt like it captured my own individual view of dentists.

-Marko/Archer was a great use of both guys. Marko shouldn't be competitive against Archer if we're talking level playing field, and he was perfect as the guy making Archer look like a monster in his debut. Stunt took some brutal stuff, loved the release vertical suplex that sent him all the way across the ring, and that high angle flipping powerbomb finish was awesome. Tossing Stunt violently into the crowd would have been made better if there was nobody to catch him due to social distancing, but the whole presentation of this was great.

-Dustin on my TV is almost always going to make top side, and I was way into the Dustin/QT team. Dustin teaming with one of the promotion's scrubs against two identity-free cult members is good wrestling by me. I mean hell yeah, give me a fucking QT Marshall showcase against guys that QT *should* be showcased against. He's a good pro, hit a big dive down the stretch, broke out a sweet corkscrew senton that really landed hard, and had a couple nice double teams with Dustin (including the cool assisted suplex finish). Dustin worked like Dustin, so it was great. Love seeing him run hard into the ropes, slap cult members in the face, hit the - STILL - best powerslam in wrestling, all of it was good. 8 and 9 got in an appropriate amount of offense for what they're doing, this whole thing worked.

-Darby had another monster main event performance, really letting his lunatic superstar shine in a match with too much horseshit. Both of his dives into Guevara were pulverizing (why did the camera show Cody's not good dive instead of Darby's first great dive??) and his coffin drop off a pole was some classic Darby shit. Love this guy.

What Didn't Work

-Omega/Trent was one of those matches that kept winning me and losing me. I liked it when it was 80/20 Omega, felt like a kind of slow, dominant Omega win. And then when Omega was finally taking too long and Trent came back, stomped on Omega's hand and started working him over, I got really into it. I suddenly thought Omega's last couple weeks of sluggishness were being played into a match, where he was dominant but not necessarily capitalizing, and this time it might cost him. Even when Omega came back the match felt like it had a whole new energy, with Trent getting tossed hard into the guardrail and eating a great powerbomb into a support pole. I was hooked. But by the time it just turned into Trent taking a cross legged brainbuster onto Omega's knee and responding by getting up and hitting a tornado DDT, I was back out. I didn't love the end stretch as we got far too much of Trent selling offense by fixing his hair, and Omega selling offense by getting to his knees and peaking to see what time he should hop back up and hit a knee. I think there was a really good match in there, but I didn't love the direction they took it.

-All of the stuff that was supposed to purposely miss in the Shida/Jayy match looked really awful, clotheslines missing by two feet while thrown at 2/3 speed, a Shida enziguiri that missed even with Jayy completely forgetting to duck, and all of that followed up by Jayy getting one of the very ugliest backslides possible. I don't think there has been a Dynamite women's match without some disastrously ugly moments.

-Still not feeling Brodie Lee as the abusive father who angrily breaks a glass in a restaurant when the waiter brings his wife something she didn't order but she doesn't want to ruin the night by sending it back.

-They've been getting into a bad habit of letting the main events run way too long. It's the old 205 Live problem or the PWG problem where a tight 14 turns into a loose 23 and we get too many stops and starts and a bunch of shtick that goes on too long. Shtick is one of my favorite things in wrestling, but it's way tougher than it looks. Great shtick is integrated into the match by the personalities of those involved; bad shtick makes everything grind to a halt and all rules of the match get thrown out the window for the jokes. There was a really good 14 minute match in here, but I got to see a really long "working on material" match. Some of the bits work (I laughed at Brandi excitedly catching Cody's weight belt), a lot of it wore out quick.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tuesday is French Catch Day: La Petit Prince! Michel Saulnier! Pierre Roinet! Jacky Corne!

La Petit Prince vs. Michel Saulnier 1/1/68

SR: JIP with about 10 minutes shown. Apparently, Michel Saulnier was the Prince's maestro, so I guess that explains the Rey/Psicosis nature of their matches. This was similiar to their 1967 encounter but different enough to be highly enjoyable. It seems their movements got even faster. Just some beautiful stuff on display here. The rope running, the armdrags, the emphasis on basic headscissors and pin attempts between all that, Petit Prince solebutting Saulnier in the face when you least expect it… it‘s all highly enjoyable and make me excited for having their next encounter in full.

MD: The JIP Saulnier vs Petit match we get is very similar to the back part of the full match, just with a different camera angle on some spots (which is a relief, actually, because we miss some of the best spots with the longer one due to the art overlay, like the hang-on-to-a-hold-as-they-go-over-the-ropes spot) and some more comedy ref interactions. They obviously had their travelling act down but so did Rey and Psicosis and Flair and Magnum and it's hard to fault something that people would so obviously want to see again and again. Where it diverged it was pretty much the same idea, just with a different way of getting there or things in slightly different order, but it's not worth focusing too much on that.

PAS: The clipped version of this made it feel like the WCW Pro version of a Rey vs. Juvi match. They kept the big stuff and we didn't see some of the build and interstitial stuff you get in the longer match. I really love WCW Pro matches and thought this was a total blast. Prince is such a unique wrestler,  he is basically Gallic Rey Mysterio Jr. 20 years before Rey. It is pretty crazy that you had a spectacular guy working this style in France, and nothing really like it anywhere else and then it bounces up again in Mexico, its like the wrestling equivalent of Newtown and Leibinz both inventing calculus. Prince had a bit of nasty in him too,  that spin kick looked awesome, I also loved the Saulnier kickout which sent the Prince to the front row.

ER: This did have a touring match feel to it, but it's a good routine. I really liked the beleaguered referee in this one, a guy working practically as hard as Prince and Saulnier due to the unpredictable movements of both. The ref's timing had to be exact as it would be far too easy to get clocked with a boot when either man was doing a sudden back handspring or floatover. There was a lot of timing that was similar to ref spots in midget matches (one midgets kicks out and sends the other into ref's arms or onto the ref's back, midget runs behind back and through legs of ref), except these guys are moving at 3x the speed. I loved the spot where Prince is rolling through an armlock and both start to spill to the floor, the hapless ref keeping them from hitting the floor, revealing that Prince kept the armlock held during the entire struggle and begins rolling again. He even rushed perfectly between them at the finish to break up the action, and if his timing were any worse he would have eaten an uppercut to the ear. And you never knew when Prince would break something wild out like his spin kick. I didn't see that coming and it played great, and when they broke out those uppercuts at the end I thought that was important, showing that all of their hopping around and dramatic shove off kicks from the back could lead to some real blows being thrown.

Pierre Roinet vs. Jacky Corne 1/1/68

SR: 1 Fall match going about 15 minutes. That is like a studio squash compared to the average French match length we‘ve seen so far, but it‘s fine to get a condensed version. Roinet sure had a tough guy look, with his Ahab beard and flannel patterned trunks, but Corne was just walking through him during the wrestling sections of this. It almost made me wonder if there was some legit animosity there, because Corne even forcefully executed moves like a shoulder pin in a way that didn‘t look pleasant. When they engaged in their first strike exchange, Corne just clocked him with the european uppercut. Roinet doesn‘t get much in during the early phase besides a nice bearhug, which Corne quickly worked his way out of anyways. I was starting to suspect a squash, but then Roinet was able to get something going hammering at Corne with kicks and forearm smashes. Some disgustingly thudding shots here. Corne quickly went back to business and finished Roinet off with a rope assisted move that really feels like a heel spot but the fans didn‘t take offense. Short and it got good when it got violent. I guess this does a really good job of making me want to see Corne vs. A high caliber technician or Roinet getting revenche on his opponent, but the more logical explanation for this going short is that they had to keep room for the main event of this show which was Andre vs. Scarface.

MD: I insisted on this one as a palette cleanser for the two Prince vs Saulnier matches as it was the second part of the JIP show. I think I ended up with more sympathy for Roinet than any wrestler we've seen so far in this project. A lot of the heels we've seen so far were just outright villains. This guy held his own for the early going but got outmatched midway and started to resort to whatever he could, mostly frustrated illegal attacks while Corne was grounded, targeting the back or really just anything he could get. It'd work for a minute or so but then Corne would come back twice as mean and twice as mad. It ultimately ended as a mauling. Some of his stuff seemed promising, like a bearhug exchange where he'd toss Corne against the ropes and back into it, but it ended with a cannonball headbutt to the gut. He'd hit a dropkick but then miss the second one. Or he'd just stomp and kick and pummel and uppercut, but then Corne would come back and brutalize him. At one point, Corne won a strike exchange with a spinning kick that sent Roinet sailing out of the ring. When he came back in Corne just grabbed him and sent him out the other side of the ring. So ultimately this was a slight contest but an enjoyable exercise in mastery, brutality, and frustration.

PAS: This kind of nasty fist fight in very much my shit. Having this follow the Prince match is liking having an Ultimo Dragon match lead up to Ashura Hara and Takeshi Ishikawa beating the bricks off of each other. You might buy the tape for Ultimo, but its Hara who sticks with you. This match starts off like a violent Finlay squash, and then turns into Finlay vs. Regal as Roinet powered up and started firing back and was bringing as much heat and he absorbed early. It was a cool story as Roinet was outmatched but was going to go out on his sword. Those forearms he was landing had some concussive thuds and the corner exchange between both guys was pretty thrilling. Man was Corne a beast, Matt and Sebastian mentioned him chucking Roinet out of the ring, but they did mention his knife edge chop to the throat and the face, that was the kind of thing that would make Wahoo McDaniel cringe.

ER: Unfamiliar with both men, I saw the sinister bearded Roinet and thought he was going to murder Corne. What I didn't know was that Corne was one of the hardest hitting motherfuckers that any of us have seen in a ring. And sometimes, after getting knocked to his knees by another Jacky Corne combo, it looked like Roinet himself had no idea how hard he was about to get hit. There was one point where Roinet was on his knees buckled, right arm clutching at his ribs, and I thought he wasn't going to get back up. But eventually he got up and fired back, and it was one of the stiffest matches we've seen from this French footage. I still couldn't get over Corne's combos, as sometimes they looked like they wouldn't have much on them, but they landed flush. Corne doesn't have exaggerated wind-ups or punchy follow through, he comes in short and close and he gets incredible impact from such close range. His chops are among the best chops I've seen, thrown high up by the throat - much too high for my comfort - instead of to the broad of the chest, and they land quick and sharp. He had a body shot that was also a real scene stealer, used as the mic drop moment of a few exchanges, and between his chop and his left to the body it felt like he had enough for a 1-2 finisher. I love how this all broke down, loved Roinet's big bump to the floor and the way he threw himself into a hotshot for the finish, and especially loved Corne's violence which lead to our big slug out. 

SR: 1 Fall Match going 30 minutes. For some reason, they kept overlaying this match with classical music and paintings, which adds to the flair of what you are seeing. I honestly thought this was another borderline masterpiece that easily stands up to any other level of highly respected wrestling match we've known before. Sure, it‘s transparent that these two had their routine and their go-to spots, but you have to keep in mind that back then people couldn‘t rewatch matches and their previous match aired over a year before. This match was more ground-based and didn‘t have the same level of crazy elaborate spots the 1967 match had (although there were still a few spots that any modern audience would shit their pants at if two current workers pulled them off as clean and fast as they did here) but I think the best part about these matches is not the flippy shit they do but the way they will chuck each other hard to the mat with arm throws and headlocks. And there was plenty of that here. Saulnier really wanted to beat that fucking Prince this time and was grinding him down with headlocks and armlocks hard, which lead to some great subtle selling from the Prince as Saulnier was just wringing his head off. It probably says a lot about me that my favourite moment in all this was Saulnier catching the Prince with an extremely well timed and vicious looking headlock takeover in the middle of a criss cross running spot. Saulnier also has a really great crossbody. People probably won‘t like that none of their matches have a finish but I guess that was kind of the point.

MD: This was tremendous, providing real substance to the spectacle that we've seen with the JIP matches. After seeing the second JIP match, I was impressed, but I sort of wondered if what we saw was all that it was: a bunch of spirited, expert amazing spots, without anything to really ground it or give it meaning. I was already wanting to see both of these guys against bases instead of each other. I was worried about diminished returns watching three of basically the same thing though.

Then this match came and blew me away. The first twenty minutes are basically three extended hold sequences where Saulnier just hangs on no matter what Prince does. We've seen that as a narrative tool in a number of these more serious French matches but nothing like this. They just build it and build it and build it, weaving in more and more elaborate escape attempts and Saulnier either cuts Prince off or just hangs on no matter what. By the time they're going full blast for the part of the match we were more familiar with, that entire crowd badly wanted what the came to see, the lightning quick spots and acrobatic athleticism that they only had bits and pieces and tastes of for the first twenty minutes. That's the joy and the heartbreak of this footage. We don't have another full match between the two. Without this match, we would have never known that they set up that grand finale fireworks display with something so disciplined yet imaginative. Without another full match we have no way of knowing if it was something they always did or something just for this weird art special. But we're so, so much better off for having this match in full, so we swallow the unknown and be glad for what we have.

PAS: It is really cool that we get to see the unclipped version of their signature match. I remember when we would all get clipped NJ TV where we would miss the first six minutes of the NJ Juniors stuff and you always imagined how great it was. When we finally started getting unclipped versions later, it turned out the first five minutes of matwork in NJ Juniors matches kind of sucked. That is the opposite of what happens here, as we get the clipped section and it rules. Saulnier was a hell of flight grounder, and I loved all of the great work he did to keep the cork in the Prince. That grounded headlock takeover Sebastian mentioned was truly a thing of beauty. I also though the Prince was cool on the mat; his two big holds, the headscissors and the keylock were really great to watch. He would use his speed and athleticism to hold onto the holds, every time Saulnier saw some daylight, Prince would close the blinds. I do think it is a little weird that these matches seem to never have finishes, but it is hard to argue with the beautiful stuff we got. Excited to see how both guys work with other opponents.

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Monday, March 30, 2020

2019 Ongoing MOTY List: Ki vs. Masada

78. Low-Ki vs. Masada HOG 12/7

PAS: Stiff, compact brawl which surprisingly saw Ki get thrown around for much of the match. I can't remember the last time (if ever) I have seen Ki get eaten like this. He is a great bumper and really good with his timing, so it's a fun role for him. Masada jumps Ki early and roughs him up, including press slamming him throat first on the guardrail. Ki fires back with chops and some nasty 12 to 6 elbows, but he's mostly selling. I especially loved Masada's quebradora, it looked like it broke Ki's tailbone. Masada goes for the skewers, which gives Ki the opportunity to hit the Woo Dropkick and double stomp combo (and that double stomp looked like it might have broken Masada's collarbone) for the win. This is as close to Ki vs. Necro as we are going to get in 2019.

ER: This felt like the kind of match every promotion for the past 20 years has wanted Low Ki to do, but can't actually get him to do. Low Ki is almost always the smaller man in a match, and yet he rarely works matches as if he's a Rey Mysterio underdog. Instead Low Ki has gone into every match like he is 20 lb. bigger than any opponent. Low Ki opposite Da Hit Squad? Low Ki is now 300 lb. You know there have been promoters who wished he would take a beating for 90% of a match, if only because they themselves want to see Ki take an extended ass kicking. But Low Ki is a guy who works so credibly that there hasn't been a size difference yet that hasn't been able to close. And yet here he makes Masada look massive, and gets beaten around the building. Low Ki is one of the most inventive bumpers of all time, so seeing him get bounced and angled off tons of surfaces is great fun. Masada hotshots him on the guardrail, drops him with a quebradora, and fills in the spaces nicely with awesome kneelifts and uppercuts that knock Ki onto his heels. Ki is really good at taking a beating, selling that beating, but also being constantly active. Some guys take a move and then wait around until being picked up for the next move, but Ki is always actively selling something, and always taking any shot he can. If he's down holding his ribs and Masada is approaching with something new, Ki is going to try to punch him in the throat or get in at least one sharp knee strike if he's going to eat two. I loved how Masada's obsession with his death match ways is what cost him, as he tries to stab Ki with BBQ skewers which gives Low Ki the only opening he needs. Low Ki could not have landed more on Masada's chest with his match finishing double stomp, just quick violent revenge paying back a surprise beating.


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Sunday, March 29, 2020

2020 Ongoing MOTY List: Violence is Forever vs. Cornfed Beef

10. Violence is Forever (Kevin Ku/Dominic Garrini) vs. Cornfed Beef (Manders/Gnarls Garvin) BLP 1/18

PAS: This delivered exactly what you wanted out of this on paper. Four guys just wailing on each other with really violent shots. VIF has a dumb name, but man they lay it in, and they are perfect for these kind of sprint brawls (some one book me a Fuck-Its rematch already). Manders and Garvin jump them at the bell and give an old fashion Hit Squad wall ride to Ku, and it pretty much goes from there. So many punch and elbow exchanges in wrestling are cringe comedy, and these guys actually make violent contact with their shots. Manders especially is throwing spuds, and Ku threw this back fist/club combo which looked like it wobbled Garvin. It ended when it should have ended, and every bit of it was a blast to watch.

ER: Agree, you see this match on paper and this is the match you hope for. It's a tight 10 minutes that never settles down into tags, just all four throwing constant shots from the floor into the ring. They hooked me early when Cornfed Beef launched Ku into the wall, not even lawn darting him but instead press slamming him right into a wall and letting him drop. Oh, you guys are doing that? I see. I'm happy this never settled into a traditional tag, as much of the value was in who was going to get blindsided next. Manders and Garvin are a natural pairing, and Ku/Garrini are so tough that the format of everyone just throwing elbows and chops and kicks is just what the doctor ordered. You need a tough team to go up against a team like Manders/Garvin, to make it believable that they can stand up to being pinballed between the two. Garvin is great at using his body as a weapon, always looking to flatten guys. I like a guy who misses as big as he hits, and we get a great spot where Garvin splashes Ku as Ku is draped over the middle rope, and Garvin throws himself into it so hard that he winds up crashing to the floor; later, he flies off the top for a splash on Garrini and splats himself right into a triangle (which Manders breaks up by slamming Ku onto Garrini). Manders had several great shoulderblock variation, a guy who gets that all his non-strike offense should just be throwing his body into his opponent, but will also get dumped with a dragon suplex. This match had one of the only instances I've seen of a 4 way stand and trade actually working, because all four guys were absolutely lighting each other up with shots. We got some jaw rattling elbows and open hand chops and slaps right to the chest and neck, and after 10 minutes of action it was the kind of match that only made both teams look great.


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Saturday, March 28, 2020

WWE Big 3: Lorcan, Gallagher, Gulak 3/15-3/21/20

Drew Gulak/Daniel Bryan vs. Cesaro/Shinsuke Nakamura WWE Smackdown 3/20/20

ER: There's a chance this match was as long as every Smackdown match, combined, Gulak has been in since "leaving" 205 Live last year. This was good, but it felt like Nakamura was throwing the timing off a bit. I know why they didn't have Sami Zayn in the match, as they were building to a Bryan/Zayn singles match and part of me appreciates the distance that comes with having Zayn hold the belt, but Zayn in Nakamura's place would have fit so much stronger. Nak isn't someone who is going to go out and work hard every show (or, well, most shows), and you put him out there with no audience to play off? Yeah, he's not likely to show up. He barely showed up on Bryan's tope, leaning as far out of that thing as possible without moving entirely out of Bryan's way. He's better when it's just simply keeping Bryan away from Gulak, and that happens when Cesaro catches Bryan on a top rope crossbody and slams him with a backbreaker, drops him with a couple suplexes, and I like it more when Gulak and Nakamura get back in with each other. Cesaro and Nak working over Gulak was good, especially dug Cesaro's big flapjack into an uppercut. Nak actually takes a German from Gulak and we get a fun spot of Nakamura going for a triangle out of the Gu-Lock (but submission trading in WWE is almost guaranteed to come off underwhelming after I watched the entire WXW Ambition show yesterday), and I liked Gulak's discus lariat on him. The finish felt abrupt, with Bryan tagging in and getting a sunset flip on Cesaro, but I can't complain too much. Gulak is in an actual cool program and he couldn't be associated with anyone better than Bryan.

Oney Lorcan vs. Isaiah Scott 205 Live 3/20/20

ER: This was good, but really any Lorcan match given 10 minutes is going to be good. I was hoping this was going to be mostly Lorcan forcing Scott into working a Lorcan match, but Lorcan is too generous so I knew we would build to a long run of Scott match. So, it was going to be up to how well mapped out Scott's offense was and how nicely Lorcan ran into it. But I do get a little of what I want, as Lorcan grounds Scott in cool ways for the first long stretch. Lorcan can do a lot of interesting things around driving his knee into pressure points, fires off some nice chops and back elbows (I liked how Scott recoiled from the chops, turning his body away from them so that Lorcan had to open that chest back up to smack him more), and Lorcan starts focusing on the knee, starting with a mean dragon screw while Scott was coming back through the ropes. Now, there's obviously a problem when you opt to do focused limb work in an Isaiah Scott match, because there is next to zero chance that he will acknowledge that limb work in any way once he goes into Scott offense. And once Scott did start going on offense - and this is a problem I have with Scott matches in general - there's always a sense of inevitability. He's not great at making it look like his opponent is still in the match, he merely endures some offense until it's time to go into full Swerve mode. Lorcan upends himself on a Scott lariat, flies to the floor on a superkick, takes a Flatliner nicely, you know all the things that Lorcan is clearly great at doing. I wish things didn't feel so inevitable halfway through, but  just like that Gulak match up above, I can't complain about 10 minute Oney Lorcan matches.

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Friday, March 27, 2020


Rene Lasartesse/ Double Trouble vs. Franz Van Buyten/Scott Casey/Boston Blackie CWA 1992

PAS: Lasartesse vs. Van Buyten is an all time legendary feud and this maybe one of their last matches opposite each other. This is a really fun house show style six man tag. Van Buyten kind of reminds me of the Bullet as he has some really fun old man dancing, monkey flipping and armdragging. Lasartesse struts around the ring like a total dipshit and stooges great. Really enjoyed Double Trouble, they were a totally ok roidy tag team, sort of a heel High Voltage and they should have had a solid WCW Pro run. They even hit an assisted flip senton, which is a pretty big highspot in 1992. Lots of jazz and misdirection and hot tags, exactly the way you want to see legends showcased in their declining years.

MD: Watching this, I'm not sure what I'd rather see, late 92 Lasartesse vs Lawler, with both of them letting every little moment sink in or 92 van Buyten doing that headscissors (or step over) counter to the armlock vs old man Nick Bockwinkel. We've hit a point where we've seen that counter so many times that it doesn't quite have the same zing it did before, but if it was really so commonplace, why aren't people using it in matches today? Anyway, this was a tale of two matches. About midway through, with a lot of heat and antics, Van Buyten (who had played FIP very well for a lot of the first ten minutes, so well that the camera angle/video quality really wasn't a problem at all) and Lasartesse (who had played a chickenshit old heel during that time) both got tossed and it settled down into a 2 on 2 with Casey as FIP. It was still perfectly fine, with everyone playing their roles well, but we were here for the old guys so it was a shame to see them gone. It built to a pretty amusing spot with one Trouble tied up and the second one used as a battering ram, before the heels overdid it and everything got thrown out.

ER: When I saw the name Double Trouble I thought we were getting the two big fatties who worked WWF house shows in exchange for selling the Undertaker name rights. That said, I really liked them and yes they definitely seem like a team that should have showed up somewhere. They broke out fistdrops and flying headbutts and high legdrops, each took big bumps over the top to the floor, an unexpected Drive-By, set up a great spot where one of them got tied in the ropes and the other gets rammed HARD into his gut battering ram style and yeah these are probably the actual better Double Trouble team. I liked how the first half played as the old man Van Buyten vs. Lasartesse showdown, and the second half was our Double Trouble showcase (or at least a showcase for me). Van Buyten was still super spry in his early 50s and his early headscissors is downright majestic. Van Buyten had wonderful babyface energy and I adored all the mincing and posturing from Lasartesse, the whole thing was satisfying.

Caifan Rockero vs. Hechicero Poder y Honor 1/31/09

PAS: This is the earliest Hechicero match we have on video and we get to see him against probably his greatest rival in Caifan. This was really a treat, you could tell that they had kind of a touring match worked out, and this had all of the little beats you want from these two.  They had an opening llave section with a lot of very cool twisting leg locks, the rolling leglock submissions is a Hechicero trademark, and he breaks out a bunch of cool ones here. It build to a bigger near fall section with some cool arm trap slams, a big armlock triangle submission near fall by Hechicero and a nifty top rope springboard rana by Caifan. You could see that both guys hadn't fully developed their personas yet, there was a lot of mirroring that was cool, but didn't allow then to differentiate themselves, the way they would in later matches. It felt like what it was, two super talented young guys in a garage figuring their stuff out, our boy Rob Bihari dug this one out of his crate and it was really cool to see.

MD: This is a great little piece of history and I'm glad Rob posted it. We don't have a ton of pre-2010 Hechicero online. I wrote up their 2010 match almost five years ago when I was still figuring out lucha. That was a hair vs mask match with more intensity. This had a very different feel given the sparse crowd. Hechicero didn't forget they were there certainly, but this did feel a bit like a match in a bubble or an exhibition. They had all the time in the world and a thousand things to try. It made for one tricked out hold or interesting spot after the next. I think I preferred it once they picked up the pace because they were more actively trying to foil and counter each other there. Honestly, I think my favorite thing in the whole match was Hechicero feigning not knowing that Caifan had landed on the apron after getting hoisted over the top so that he could try to launch a sneak attack. It failed, of course, letting Caifan fly in, but the set up with Hechicero tapping his head and really milking it before going for the sneak attack turned a normal spot into something with extra wrinkles just like one of his tricked out submissions.

24. American Alpha vs. The Revival WWE 4/23/16

MD: It's a little bit hard to remember just how special those first run of NXT house shows were. They didn't get around to my part of the country until Fall of 2016, and by then, a lot of the match-ups and moments I had wanted to see before had been cycled out. Top of the list was probably American Alpha vs Revival. We obviously have a number of big matches between them, southern tags turned up to 11 style, but it's nice to see one on a smaller stage.

The first fall was basically all shine, super athletic with well coordinated, complex spots and reversals, with AA looking world class and Revival being just competitive enough to make it seem like Alpha earned it. There was a transition tease at the end (with Dawson swatting down Wilder's feet from the apron to prevent a German) which really stood out.

The transition was also the end of the second fall, a set up for a shatter effect so elaborate that it could have served as a finish in and of itself. The structure of 2/3 falls tags is always interesting to look at. We have so many from Portland specifically that there are great examples. I think my ideal is when the heels takeover at the end of the first fall and the babyfaces come back at the end of the second, with a reset and second bit of heat into the third, but having an extended shine through most of the first two falls and lean into the heat for the third was a fun (and very WWF/E) house show variation here. Alpha has enough stuff and Revival stooges well enough that it worked. There were a lot of little things to like too. Dash is underrated at working the apron. Dawson doing a twenty second set up for a slingshot suplex in 2016 is how you make a move matter. I don't care whether they were just playing along or not, the fan reaction to the ref missing the tag was just what you wanted, as was the Gable chant that followed and the pop for Jordan pulling down the strap (even if maybe you wanted a bit more for the actual hot tag pop). The crowd knew that what they were getting was special and unique. Glad it popped up now.

PAS:  This was a lot of fun, I could totally see going to an NXT house show and just being engrossed with what they were doing. I was really impressed by Jason Jordan in this match, what a bummer the ending of his career ended up being. He was totally explosive, almost like Doug Furnas with better amateur takedowns, some of the better popped hips on suplexes, a total treat to watch. The Revival have their shtick down, and are really good at filling time, which is a real skill for a heel tag team in a southern tag style.

ER: I have been to three NXT house shows and all of them have been great experiences, real high bang for my buck while being set in nice smaller venues (including a gorgeous old rock venue in the middle of downtown Sacramento). By the time I got to see my first NXT house show in 2016, neither of these teams was on the tour, and this match was better than any match I saw across three shows (with a War Raiders vs. Strong/O'Reilly match from 2018 being the closest competition). This felt like an actually fleshed out (and better) version of the fondly remembered Brain Busters/Rockers tags from 30 years earlier, without ever feeling like they were aping those matches. AA just felt like such a timeless classic babyface team, a team who moved so explosively that it felt like they could be responsible for getting casual fans excited about high dropkicks and tight armdrags and classic Morton/Jannetty style headscissors (that Gable himself doesn't even do anymore). Both of them - especially Jordan - had such pop in everything they did, and this is the kind of go go go I wish had caught on as a house style instead of the learned behavior horseshit we got instead. Gable was charismatic as hell, loved him hitting an axehandle off the middle rope on Dawson, rolling through and coming up swinging at Dawson on the other side of the ring; also loved him hitting a second headscissors on Dawson right near the opposite side of the ring and pointing at Wilder on the apron while before taking Dawson over. It was like he was waving to his buddy from the top of a rollercoaster. Both teams spent their time in control wisely, and Revival particularly feel like a team that can work an interesting 5 minute or 45 minute tag match on any given night. Down the stretch we even get a perfectly timed moment of Jordan finally getting a hot tag only for the ref to send him back to the apron and admonish him for not using the tag rope. This was such a good tag, and it felt like they had material they hadn't even worked through yet. These teams worked a ton of matches throughout the Carolinas, I have no doubt that all of them ruled.


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Thursday, March 26, 2020

All Time MOTY List Head to Head: Lesnar vs. Benoit VS. Honda vs. Kobashi

Brock Lesnar vs. Chris Benoit WWE Smackdown 12/4/03

This match has been recommended a couple times as a contender for the 2003 crown, and it's notable to me because of my personal connection to the match, and for how entirely different it may be viewed in 2020. Outside of WCW TV, we really haven't written up many Benoit matches since 2007, and I don't anticipate that changing. He was a favorite of mine for many years, and he's decidedly not a favorite of mine now, and that's only partly related to him being a child murderer. His style hasn't aged well for me in the past 13 years, similar to the Christopher Daniels effect. Daniels was one of my very favorite live workers and favorite workers period around '99/'00, and then a few years later I aged out of being interested in Daniels. In going back and watching Benoit matches, they don't hit me the same way they did when I was there experiencing them in real time. His limitations seem more glaring now, in the same way Daniels' limitations seemed obvious even by 2003. Also, to my knowledge Christopher Daniels is an upstanding citizen who has yet to kill his family.

Not by accident, Phil has reviewed at most four Chris Benoit matches since 2007, and I'm not about to ask him to start reviewing more now. But this match was suggested as a 2003 challenger, and it's an extremely important match to me and my pro wrestling fandom, so it felt appropriate that I would review it alone. This was actually the first big wrestling show I ever attended. When I was younger my parents wouldn't allow me to attend wrestling shows, so I didn't start seeing live wrestling until I turned 18 and began attending Bay Area APW shows. My dad actually went with me and friends to my first wrestling show (APW 1/16/99) right after my 18th birthday. He hated it, but wouldn't say so. He used to attend Cow Palace shows when he was a youth so was not yet fully ashamed at my level of wrestling fandom. The only name he really remembered was Pat Patterson, because he and his buddies had all called him "Fat Pat" while heckling.

In college, a friend of mine had a WWF ticket connection through the radio station, but that connection dried up from '99-'02 due to the insane demand. By 2003 demand had lessened enough that he was finally able to get us some comped seats. WWF's west coast ticket guy was Will McCoy, and he hooked up a tiny little college radio station with some great seats for several years - long past the time any of us were still attending college - and for that I am still thankful. When we showed up in San Jose to get our Smackdown tickets, one thing we were not expecting was Will McCoy hooking us up with 2nd row ringside seats. Radio giveaway tickets were always good, but nowhere near this good. Typically they would be lower bowl, same side as camera. Those were the less desirable seats, as it meant your unfunny sign had zero chance of ending up on camera. And yet here we were walking closer and closer to the ring, until we found our seats directly to the left of the announce tables. My god, was I excited.

At that point in time, my favorite wrestler in the world was Brock Lesnar. First run Brock Lesnar is STILL among my favorite wrestlers in the world, and by that point I was watching enough Japan and Mexico footage to be confident that Brock was the best wrestler in the world, period. And whenever I go back and watch footage I'm reminded of how undoubtedly inarguably correct I was. Plus, we all knew that due to the battle royal the prior week, we were guaranteed either a Brock/Benoit or Brock/Cena main event, both of which sounded great. We were all rooting for it to be Brock/Benoit, as Benoit had been a favorite of ours for far longer than Brock had been, the pairing seemed like a natural fit, and - this is big - it was a singles match that hadn't yet happened on TV. Midway through the show, once Benoit beat Cena, we knew we were guaranteed what probably would have been my literal dream match at that point in time. Three months later I got to see my next dream match, Brock vs. Eddie, but on 12/2/03 Brock vs. Benoit was the match I wanted to see more than any other. I was so excited that early in the match when they brawled near us on the floor, my friend Sean turned to me and asked "pretty into this one, huh?" When I asked how he could tell, he informed me that I had been jumping up and down with my arms in the air the entire time they brawled on the floor. I did not realize I was doing this, but I can say 17 years later that you can clearly see an idiot 22 year old near-sighted goober pogoing in place, arms lifted directly above my head, nearly the entire time they brawled on the floor. I was that excited to be seeing this match.

When we left we all thought it was one of the greatest matches any of us had ever seen live. Two months prior a couple of us had driven down to Tijuana to see El Hijo Del Santo vs. Super Parka, Mascara contra Mascara. The live atmosphere for that couldn't be beat (and I still hold out hope that Roy Lucier is going to randomly throw that match up on his YouTube channel some day, as I have not seen it since), but Brock vs. Benoit was the match I had been dying to see for months at this point, and we all felt so lucky that the match had been given every opportunity to live up to its on-paper potential. I watched the match on TV a couple days later, loved it again, and haven't seen it since.

The match benefitted from a strong, concise TV build. Benoit tapped Brock at Survivor Series, and Brock was pelted with You Tapped Out chants every time he appeared in the ring afterward. Brock was so dynamite on the mic during this era. I think people forget how often Brock cut promos, since Paul Heyman has been used almost exclusively as his mouthpiece for the past decade while Brock hops around behind him. In 2003 Brock was one of the most confident mic workers of all time, able to expertly manipulate and taunt crowds while coming off intense and unscripted. He knew how to shut down chants, while also showing a small amount of ass for those chants. The crowd saw Benoit tap Brock, and they wanted him to do it again, and Brock saying boastful hyperbolic things like "I will NEVER tap out to anything EVER again" was said with such undercutting pride that it thread the needle of "he's definitely going to tap" and "maybe he really WON'T ever tap again". In addition to Brock's jock hubris, we got very effective segments backstage from other wrestlers. The best job of selling this match may have actually been done by A-Train. There was a running gag during this era where Nunzio, assisted by Chuck Palumbo and Johnny Stamboli, was running a backstage gambling ring. Nunzio laid the odds at 3:2 Brock, because while Benoit had tapped Brock, Benoit had also worked a match against Cena already that night. We got a great shot of the chalkboard with every wrestler's laid bets, and A-Train comes into the room wanting to drop 10 grand on the match. And we got this simple, but perfect exchange:

Nunzio: "Alright boys, put 10 G's on Brock!"
A-Train: "No. I'm putting it on Benoit."

That's the kind of easy attention to detail that is completely absent from modern WWE programming. Portraying wrestlers with no allegiances to either guy, actually expressing interest in who wins and who loses. A-Train was aligned with Brock at this point, was on his team at Survivor Series, and this simple action of betting against the odds - and against his own interests - is the kind of moment I would be stunned to see on TV in 2020.

The match itself delivered exactly what I wanted, and watching it back it's still a testament to how great a talent Brock Lesnar was in 2003. Brock is obviously still a guy I am going out of my way to watch, and has been in some of the best matches of the decade since his return. But in 2003 he was even better, and he was doing it full time, and it was incredible. In hindsight this came off like an incredible Brock performance, and I get the sense he could have done this same match with Edge, Test, Shelton Benjamin, Rodney Mack, honestly anyone on the roster at that time. Benoit brought an intensity that others on the roster couldn't, a toughness that many others didn't project, and - most importantly - the fans believed he could beat Brock. For his part Benoit went at Brock like there wasn't a massive size difference, attacking with chops, a couple of big Germans, and a brutal diving headbutt. But Brock was The Terminator here. He came at Benoit with big swinging arms, brutal kneelifts, and threw him around at will (including a wicked hotshot on the announce table, and a German suplex that whipped Benoit's head disgustingly into the mat). Where Brock excels as more than just a great smashing machine, was his attention to small details. Brock knows how to make a big bump mean something (check out his explosive bump into the ring steps, as I cannot imagine someone crashing harder full weight into those steps), and he connects the dots on all of his smaller moments. There's a moment in this match that I love, and it's a spot we've all seen hundreds of times, where someone pulls down the top rope to send a charging opponent tumbling over. And Brock did that spot here better than I've ever seen it done. Nearly every time we see that spot, we see the guy pulling down that top rope and we see the opponent clearly seeing the top rope pulled down, and yet charge over anyway. What move were any of those guys doing? What did they have planned if the rope hadn't been pulled down? Were they just planning on awkwardly colliding? Well, just like that first time you saw someone actually try to take out an opponent's legs during a drop down, here Brock does every step of the spot perfectly. It's amazing when you see a common spot executed perfectly, reminding you of what a poorly set up crutch the spot almost always is. Brock busied himself excellently while Benoit was charging, looking like a sitting duck, Benoit charging in for a lariat, and Brock yanked that top rope down at the precisely CORRECT time, when it was too late for Benoit to stop, and Benoit takes an absolute gem of a fast dangerous bump to the floor. It seems like a small thing, performing the top rope feint correctly, but it's one of those moments - of many - where you see what an excellent pro wrestling brain Lesnar has. This is a guy who truly gets it, truly understands why moves are done and what they mean.

We get the great section where Brock hoists Benoit up for the F5 and accidentally, or not, bashes swings Benoit hard directly into ref Brian Hebner, and the fans get that visual tap out as Brock taps repeatedly to the Crossface while the ref is down. Brock survives, the ref doesn't see, Brock gets a chair, and wastes Benoit's knee. We then get treated to the debut of the Brock Lock, the greatest main event submission during an era where WWE was giving their main event guys submissions. This is an absolutely body damaging submission, with Brock not only bending that damaged leg around his traps, but sitting back into it so deeply that Benoit's body gets as contorted as a Peking acrobat. Benoit passes out from pain, Brock retains, and in a perfect meathead moment, Brock applies the Crossface to a passed out Benoit, making Benoit's free arm tap.

Honda vs. Kobashi Review


ER: This is not unseating Honda vs. Kobashi, but it's a fantastic Big Match Brock performance, and remains a favorite (if tarnished) live wrestling memory for me. The stuff with the referees was inconsistent in a way I didn't remember. Hebner goes down and Hebner misses Brock tapping, but then Nick Patrick runs out the second the match is over to save Benoit. It's annoying when a ref misses a finish, but even moreso when it's made clear that another referee has been watching the match and surely saw what happened. It also could have used more of Brock bashing Benoit's knee before the Brock Lock, but the hold itself was applied so painfully that a pass out finish was totally acceptable. This is still a great match, and if anything, it cements Brock's standing as a true all time great.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

AEW Dynamite Workrate Report 3/25/20

What Worked

-Even though some spots got a little too "oh right this is Jimmy Havok", this was probably the most I'm going to enjoy a Jimmy Havok singles match. Havok shakes Cody's hand and Schiavone speculated he was playing mind games. I thought Schiavone was making a joke about Coronavirus but no he was just implying "I don't think that handshake was sincere". But Havok had a nice right hand after the handshake, and that's something I don't typically get to write about Havok. Cody took a couple of nice upside down bumps in the corner, hit a decent dive and a big ramp run lariat into the ring, Havok spiked himself nicely on a couple of CrossRhodes, there was a bad Havok armbar (well I tried going a sentence without dumping on him, but he made the top side of the review and that's something).

-Darby worked a match, obviously Darby is gonna be on the top side. Sabian and Penelope were fun foils for him, with Kip flying back on the John Woo dropkick and bring there to get flung by Darby on one of his sky high armdrags. Penelope tied Darby up nicely from the floor and it lead to a great whipping springboard kick across Darby's face. I loved the misdirection that played into Darby hitting his excellent tope, a nice bit of timing capped off with a perfect dive. I don't think I've seen him use the ankle pick to trap someone in the Last Supper pin, and I dug it.

-Brodie Lee holds his silverware like a convict.

-I'm a fan of whoever did the caricatures of the roster at ringside, but they needed to be driving tiny convertibles and holding tennis rackets.

What Didn't Work

-I thought the wrestlers in the audience was a nice touch last week. It was fun to hear guys talking trash and rooting on the matches. There was a chop in the Inner Circle tag last week where a chop didn't hit flush, and I heard someone go "Nope!" That's fun. Empty arena is just tough to get into.

-Jake Hager's theme music seems like it was written for someone else, and I'm sure we wouldn't have to go back more than a month on his Twitter feed to find him retweeting someone talking about how hip-hop isn't "real music". That and his weird patchy brown face tan made it look like he was wearing a prosthetic nose.

-If you're going to make Brodie Lee into the abusive father who red face screams "IS IT TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR ONE NICE EVENING!?" after his kids sneeze or accidentally drop a fork, you gotta have him go out and absolutely murder QT Marshall. What is QT doing even getting in one bit of offense? Lee can't go out there and do slingshot sentons that mostly miss. He needs to go back and watch some unprofessional Bradshaw syndicated squash matches.

-There was plenty I liked about the Guevara/Omega match, but the tone felt a little all over the map, and a lot of it felt like a real sluggish Omega performance. It also felt unnecessarily long, but that could be because so many big AEW matches are go go go that this one just felt like they were going slow just to go long. Omega seemed especially sluggish after the first commercial break, running at half speed and just dropping to the mat without his trademark derpy spring. Sammy did a running thread through the match attacking Omega's hand, and I liked the ways Guevara went after the hand. Some of Guevara's best shots where when he was going for an armbar and trying to get Omega to unclasp his hands, just punching at Omega's hand. He never went over the top with it and almost always used it to get out of a jam. He even resorted to biting that hand down the stretch. But Omega never really seemed to notice nor care, which fit nicely with his limp body language over the rest of the match. The final third of the match picked up nicely, we got a great Guevara dive, and several V Trigger knees from Omega. The first couple looked so-so, but the one he did to set up the OWA looked finisher worthy itself. Guevara came off way better than Omega in this whole thing, and I thought Omega's selling for Guevara's offense was flat at best, nonexistent at worst. This should have been better, and would have benefitted from being 15 minutes instead of 23.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Gilbert Leduc! Zarzecki! Di Santo! Allary!

Gaston Maujean vs. Guy Cavillier 5/30/57

SR: JIP with about 6 and a half minutes show. Cavillier is a weird looking guy in leopard trunks. He seems to have a freakish wingspan and a big head. The much shorter Maujen mostly beats the piss out of him. It almost has the flair of a rookie beat down because Maujean kind of blows off Cavillier's attempts at offense and continues to slap and stomp him like a bug. Cavillier had one really cool armlock takeover. Despite mostly taking a beating here, he manages to secure the win when Maujean eats a nasty upkick.

MD: At first glance, and this was admittedly not much of one, Cavillier was the least impressive guy we've seen so far. At the very least he had the worst uppercuts. Good wild clubbers though, and some strikes that were actually unique in a positive way. Some. A lot of what he did seemed like trudging through molasses, and when Maujean took over, he really brutalized him, to the point where you have to wonder a bit (which at worst is just good believable wrestling, right?). Even the iffier of the matches we've seen so far had some cool stuff, like Cavillier's takedown where he trapped Robin's arm with his leg off the ropes, or the finish which had a dire back body drop into a kick off and deep pin. I'd have to see more of Cavillier to really tell, but I don't think we have more to see.

Gilbert LeDuc vs. Warnia de Zarzecki 5/30/57 - EPIC

SR: 1 fall match that goes a little over 30 minutes. This was face vs. Face, not something that you saw on TV much. It felt a bit like something you‘d see in 70s AJPW, two guys doing some nice stuff in a long quality contest. Because it‘s France they do really try to take each others heads off with european uppercuts here and there and once in a while a guy will eat a nasty kick or elbow in the middle of an exchange, but they play nice all the way through. The wrestling was classy with both heavyweight looking guys busting out cool flying headscissors and working hard. Leduc is introduced as a world champion, while he didn‘t show a ton of charisma, he looked like a classy worker, and his escape where he headspins out of an armlock is spectacular. There was some excellent bodyscissors work and a handful of fantastic rope running exchanges that you would‘ve bought as plausibly ending the match. One of my favourite spots in old euro matches is the hip throw where the other guy has his arm behind his back and lands on his shoulder in nasty fashion, it‘s so simple but brutal looking. The match also had some of the more elaborate double leg nelson work I‘ve seen, which is one of the coolest old school holds. Great finish, too.

MD: This was excellent. It was a hard hitting technical match with a number of holds worked in and out of with extended "hanging on" spots. LeDuc was the de facto favorite as the Frenchman (my favorite bit of applause was when he hung on to a leglock while de Zarzecki was taking his face off with his foot repeatedly) but the match was worked cleanly and they'd begrudgingly give de Zarzecki applause for a solid counter.

The mid-match bodyscissors by de Zarzecki was one of the best sequences of its kind that you'll see (and we'll have a direct comparison in this week's other match too). The struggle as Leduc tried to escape and was slammed around the ring was perfect and they completely got me on a 'hope spot' out only for de Zarzecki to catch him again on a leaping pin attempt. And how he got out? It was that same sort of cradling lift up that we've seen previously, but this time instead of turning it into a slap, LeDuc just clobbered his skull with a forearm.

They then followed it with a bunch of mean strikes and a kip up that was reversed by an 85% complete Code Red. This is the sort of stuff that just happens in these matches, almost as commonplace. To great effect too. Here's a sign of how into this the crowd was: they count along with the ref to the ten count after LeDuc clobbers de Zarzecki with an Andre the Giant style knee to head crusher. I don't think we've quite seen that in any of this French footage so far. The match keeps building and building, escalating to this really cool LeDuc waistlock pick up into a submission with a leg behind the head that he seasons by peppering de Zarzecki's skull with lightning fast kicks and rubbing his face on the mat. The inevitable escape gave us our first French footage Boston crab. Then the whole thing finishes with an amazing flip up 'rana-attempt-into-an accordion powerbomb finish. Just top notch stuff. I feel like we get to say this every other week but this is one of the best matches we've seen.

PAS: Apparently LeDuc was the master of a La Toupie which is his headspin counter out of a headscissors, and it was awesome to see him break that out a couple of times to big acclaim. He also broke out the headspin when he put on the headscissors, and there was this great moment early when Zarzecki brick walled the attempt only to get smashed with an upkick. So many cool counters and reversals in this match, and also more chippiness then we see in the match next week. It breaks down multiple times including some really nasty forearms as ways to counter out of holds, and LeDuc doing some nasty smashing of Zarzecki's wrist and grinding into his face. Felt like Zarzecki was a bit of a dance partner in the LeDuc show,  but man is it a great show, and I am excited to watch much more of him in this footage.

Lino Di Santo vs. Michel Allary 6/7/57 - GREAT

SR: 1 Fall match going about 27 minutes. Well, seems we have hit a friendly stride in the French TV year, because this was another clean, fair contest. Maybe even the friendliest match so far, because not a single forearm smash or European uppercut was thrown until about 25 minutes into the match. This wasn‘t as good as the match between Leduc and Zarzecki the week before, but it was a neat match in it‘s own right: you had the theme of grizzled, older looking Lino di Santo trying to deal with his young, athletic opponent. Lots of good technical work throughout as we know it from the French grapplers. The key moment came when Allary locked in the short arm scissor and Di Santo, after trying several one armed deadlifts was unable to escape. Di Santo looked mentally defeated at that point, he tries to hit some uppercuts, but is too worn out. One of the coolest uses of such a simple hold I‘ve ever seen. Di Santo narrowly avoids defeat, sinking in a double leg nelson and hitting his brutal neckbreaker, but Allary has him on the ropes soon. In the end, Di Santo was able to survive just long enough until the time limit runs out. I‘m not sure whether this match had a 27 minute time limit or something, but it seems complete enough. This kind of „young, good looking guy gets the rub by going to a draw against a veteran“ is a staple of European wrestling, and Di Santos performance made it very worthwhile.

MD: Weirdly similar to the last match, worked friendly, with another long bodyscissors spot with a similar, but not as good, rope-running escape, and that same waistlock pick up into a submission with a leg behind the head but without some of the cool flourishes LeDuc utilized. Some of this was just too similar to be a coincidence even if I can't figure out exactly what was going on. This one suffered from LeDuc vs de Zarzecki being so good and so comparable, but picked up big in the last few minutes, with some great dead-arm selling by Di Santo (even as he was trying to throw forearms) and some big spots like a leaping 'rana and two killer Rude Awakenings.

PAS: I am a huge fan of the short arm scissors, and this had some of the niftiest short arm scissor work I can remember, with Allary really locking in this super tight scissors and DiSanto trying multiple methods of counter before finally maneuvering Allary into the ropes,  his arm is so numb that he can't even hit forearms which was a cool bit of selling. Much of this was solid technical wrestling although I don't think either guy did much to distinguish themselves amongst the pool of great French technical wrestlers (it's a great pool though, that is no dis). I did love the jumping rana into a kind of triangle. So much of this French footage has been on the shoulders of great heels, so naturally a face versus face match like this is going to miss a bit of spark, although the work was still very good.

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Monday, March 23, 2020

It's Reached Top Speed and I'm Getting Inside of Tony Halme

Tony Halme vs. Masahiro Chono  NJPW 8/6/92 - VERY GOOD

ER: Unique layout for a big singles match, and this was a big singles. This was the main event of the very first night of the '92 G1, the 4th and final G1 match of that night. 1992 was one of the years they did a single elimination tournament for G1, which is kind of a shame as it left a lot of killer matches on the table, but also gave us matches we hadn't seen at that point like Arn Anderson vs. Steve Austin, or this match. I put myself in the shoes of the fans, and the single elimination style really adds to the drama of some of these matches. Imagine being so excited for Masahiro Chono to attempt a repeat G1 victory after taking '91, and then being met with him taking a complete one sided 10 minute drubbing to start off his '92 bid. The bulk of this match looked like Chono had no actual shot at beating Halme, OR getting any kind of offense. Halme was landing body shots at will, and Chono was selling the way I would be selling after taking one shot from Tony Halme. The match was in danger of being stopped several times, with Halme punching Chono's guts into the mat and then waiting for him to get back up before doing it all over again. At one point it appears the ref even throws out his own rulebook, giving Chono a 10 count that Chono clearly will not beat, so the ref just stops the count while Chono rolls to the floor! *I* know the end result of the '92 G1, but I'd never seen this match and I actually thought they were going to have Chono get decimated, then think of some reason to DQ Halme after the fact so that Chono could continue. And that's where our story finally turns, as Halme goes out after him and ends up accidentally throwing a lariat to the ringpost, leading to Chono working over his arm and shoulder until he gets the win. Halme sold well and apparently likes to swear in English, as he was dropping Effs and Son-of-a-Bitches all over the place while Chono went after the arm. The structure of this was so cool and odd, you can see a Lesnar match worked this same way. Halme absolutely owned Chono for the first 8-10, and then the last few minutes were entirely Chono working for the same sub, Halme basically slowly drowning with no hope for survival. I loved how Chono slowly set up the STF, the way he slowly worked into it made it seem like a huge deal once he had it locked in. And I love that Halme basically wasn't going to tap to the STF, so Chono shifted quickly to an armbar. Weird layout, but it definitely worked off the charisma and character of these two.

Tony Halme/Brad Armstrong vs. Hiroshi Hase/Keiji Muto  NJPW 2/13/93 - VERY GOOD

ER: The Halme/Armstrong team is like the Kane/Danielson tag with an actual great Kane. And really this whole match would have been better with nearly anybody else in there other than Muto. And, thankfully, Hase does the lion's share of the work, and the match only benefits from it. Armstrong and Muto start, and it's all headlocks baby! Muto works a couple so loose that he keeps losing them, but it's all headlock takeovers and lying on the mat in a headlock. There's a chance this match had a clip, and brother I have no clue what could have been clipped because we got Muto lying on his side aplenty. Thankfully Halme and Hase got in there, because their long section was great. Halme had real charisma at this point, beyond being "imposing Aryan man", as he was really great at building to big parts and milking small parts. He knows when to throw big body blows and how many to throw, and can work a compelling match based wholly around wrecking Hase's spleen. Seeing Hase in action against the much larger Halme was cool, as after getting pummeled by fists the size of his head he uses his amateur grappling and muscles Halme down to the mat, and Halme is smart to not go down right away for the takedown, so we really got to see Hase dragging him down. But most of this was Halme pummeling, and then Brad comes in and the Brad/Hase stuff is great! Hase aims to rip Brad's leg off with a beautiful drop toehold, but after getting cut off from Muto for too long with some big Halme moments (a lariat off the middle with Brad holding Hase, a massive powerslam) we get a big hot tag.....and Muto hilariously comes in and starts working more headlock takeovers. This fucking guy. It all builds to him hitting an okay handspring elbow on Brad, except Halme totally steals his thunder by running the length of the apron to lariat him right after. The breakdown is cool with Hase catching Brad up top and hitting a superplex (both men on the top rope) and Halme getting run into the ringpost hard on the floor after trying to catch a Muto pescado that falls short (great ringpost bump, believable enough to keep him out for the finish), and Hase makes quick work of brad with the uranage (back bump edition) and northern lights. This was overall really good, but literally any other native would have turned in a more interesting performance than Muto.


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Sunday, March 22, 2020

WWE Big 3: Lorcan, Gallagher, Gulak 3/8-3/14/20

Brian Kendrick/Jack Gallagher/Mike Kanellis/Ariya Daivari/Tony Nese vs. Oney Lorcan/Danny Burch/Tyler Breeze/Isaiah Scott/Kushida 205 Live 3/13/20

ER: There is some weird 205 curse where none of the guys know how to lay out even the most normal gimmick match. This is a match with 10 guys ranging from Capable to Actually Great, and I have no doubt it would have been much better had they just worked a standard 5 on 5 match. Instead it is an elimination match, and 205 Live just cannot do gimmick matches. Some of the worst matches I've seen on the show have been normally cool things like No DQ matches, where the guys force themselves into a format while seemingly intentionally playing against their strengths. And this match would have at least been amusing had I gotten a graphic that said "205 Live vs. NXT: Playing Against Their Strengths". Also, you book a weird invasion elimination match, and you make the team representing 205 Live the heels? I don't get it. There's nobody in the building anyway, you aren't playing to any fans, why wouldn't the home team at least be the good guys? I would have been interested in people like Kushida and Lorcan coming in and working like invading assholes, but that would be something that would mix it up a bit, and this needed to be a dry elimination match.

I don't know what it is with most elimination matches, but we always get plenty of guys eliminated due to things they would normally never get pinned by. So obviously you know this match had a ton of roll up and small package finishes after someone took 0-1 moves. It is the way of the elimination match. Most of these guys disappear without making any kind of impression: Kendrick goes down to a late small package after being almost entirely uninvolved in the match, same thing for Tyler Breeze; Kanellis had a great showing last week, goes down to a quick roll up this week; Nese had one of his most interesting showings in awhile teaming with Kanellis last week, here he gets put down quick. There were some nice individual moments, but nothing that added up to anything close to a good match. Burch turning and hitting a headbutt on the interfering Sunil Singh looked cool, and we at least got a tiny bit of Jack Gallagher showcase. Gallagher hasn't been on TV for 3 months, returns sporting scrimshaw tattoos (I'm not really one to judge tattoos; I don't plan on getting any more beyond my Violent J left shoulder tattoo and my Shaggy 2 Dope right shoulder tattoo, but I will say that scrimshaw clipper ship ink on a pale body looks much better than a Blue Lives Matter looking ass neck tattoo), but even then his return is more of a cruel tease do to the match layout. He goes at it with Lorcan (which is actually a criminally unseen pairing, with no singles matches and only sparse interactions in a couple doofus matches like these) but it gets shut down quick with a cool Gallagher rolling elbow. Gallagher also took a great backdrop bump to the floor, but really wasn't in there long. This all felt designed to be a Kushida/Scott showcase, but I'm not really buying what those two are showcasing. This match was another example of breaking something that was already fixed nicely. Nobody came out of this match looking good.

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Saturday, March 21, 2020

WXW Ambition 3/7/20

Daniel Makabe vs. Kevin Lloyd

PAS: This was pretty fun. Lloyd was technically solid, if a little dry. I liked his gator roll, and he seemed able to keep moving and attacking. Makabe threw in some cool shit, including his trapped leg German suplex, which he made seem plausible in the context of the match, and the finish was great as he countered a kneebar into an indian deathlock choke combo. Pretty much what you want from an opening match in a tourney like this.

ER: I thought this was really good, a nice scrap to open the show. This was all movement, and I liked their movement. Once they started tangling this looked like a matter of when not if for Makabe, as he was constantly moving on submissions that Lloyd hadn't even thought about yet. At one point it looked like Makabe was attempting several submissions at once, locking on a calf crusher while tangling up the rest of Lloyd's body in legs. But Lloyd was always capable of a surprise, and I loved that hyperextended heel hook he sank in that sent Makabe lunging for the bottom rope with both arms. Early on Lloyd whipped through a super fast gator roll that looked like it could have snapped a neck, and it was movement like that making this one so memorable. The fight over the trap leg suplex was great, with Lloyd working through various stages of blocking before getting slowly dumped for a nice 8 count. And it was cool that Makabe didn't run right at Lloyd with strikes right as he got up from that suplex, instead coolly taking him down and tapping him with a nasty rear naked crossface. Great start to the show.

Chris Ridgeway vs. Vincent Heisenberg

PAS: Heisnberg is pretty big and outside of one throw basically is kind of a large training dummy for Ridgeway in this match. Pretty quick match which ends with Heisenberg eating a bunch of slaps to the ear and a kick to the head. Maybe two minutes at the most.

ER: I'd never seen Heisenberg before, and I can only imagine a Heisenberg gimmick worked on the American indies instead of, you know, an actual German man named Heisenberg. No doubt there was someone working a Walter White gimmick on some mudshow, with white briefs and the Heisenberg hat as their ring gear (okay I just talked myself into that gimmick). I like how these Ambition shows can be used as a way to introduce guys, as Heisenberg got blown out here but I can easily see him coming back next year and advancing. He's a big guy, got some WALTER vibes from him, but also thought Ridgeway would get the win even earlier with that heel hook. The head kick looked like something that would finish, and I like how Ambition keeps quick finishes in play, makes each move in a match feel more dire.

Rust Taylor vs. Tyson Dux

PAS: This had some stuff in it I really liked, and some stuff which looked pretty bad. Taylor is a So-Cal guy who was fun in the last Ambition, and had some nice spinny takedowns and submissions. I especially thought the finishing leg trap Rings of Saturn was really cool looking and he put it on super fast, felt like something Rey Hechichiro might pull out. Dux is pretty jacked and had some good looking takedowns and amateur mat stuff, but also threw a terrible looking elbow smash and weak clothesline, it totally took me out of the match. There is no need for bad looking pulled NJ shit in a tourney like this. More good than bad, but the bad was bad.

ER: I really liked this match! I do think there were a couple moments that got a little too pro style, but thought Rust's selling was strong enough that he made those moments matter. I thought the way he sold strikes and the convincing way he made it to his feet after knockdowns added to those moments, although I can see someone else making those moments feel cheesy. There were some great moments here, with my two favorites being Rust unrolling Dux's arm over his shoulder, really hyperextending his elbow, and Dux heeling him in the thigh to get Rust to break; second favorite, was late in the match when I was positive Rust was going to finish with an armbar, and Dux swept his legs with a killer grapevine. Also, Dux looked like a shootstyle Ron Perlman here, and that just made me like this even more.

Scotty Davis vs. Mike Bailey

PAS: Davis was the guy on the last Ambition card I wanted to see more of and this was a fun striker versus grappler match. Bailey was pretty much just kickboxing and threw with the appropriate level of snap and force. Davis has an amateur background and had some cool catches of kicks and big throws. Liked the finish a lot, with Bailey rocking Davis with slaps, until he gets his arm caught, Davis flips him traps his arms and elbows the shit out of his ribs for the tap.

ER: This ruled. This is the easy front runner for best 3 minute match of the year. I had to check at least twice to see if I was accidentally watching this in 2x speed, as both guys were throwing super fast kicks that gave us some cool near misses and just as cool knockdowns. Bailey as the unhinged shootstyle kicker is the Bailey I love, the guy who's out there throwing out sick spinkicks that are so ace that they look fully plausible in a worked shoot setting. Both guys were working super fast, Davis eating kicks but turning them to his advantage, and he did a couple high speed throws that really added to the Low Ki/Red feeling of this one. If you're making a comp of killer 3 minute matches, this one would have to go on there.

Ethan Allen vs. Luke Jacobs

PAS: These guys are your next generation of Brit-Wres children, and this was a rematch of a pimped match from Tetsujin. I appreciated the stiffness of this, but this is the kind of over emotive juniors shootstyle, which I didn't love when Takada and Yamazaki did it in the 80s and don't really love here. Both guys made a lot of faces and did a lot of gesturing and hammed it up in a way this type of wrestling doesn't need. I thought there was some cool stuff: Allen had a nifty spot where he blocked a slap with a kick, and then landed a second kick with the same foot. Everything they did had some force, and was reasonably well executed, although in a way which felt laid out rather then organic. I get why this match got such good reviews, but it wasn't for me.

ER: Very surprising that there has never been a Chikara worker named "Sofa King" Ethan Allen, but there's the idea just waiting to be taken. And yes the performative selling in this was real painful, really took me out of the match and felt totally out of place with the vibe of the show. It feels like there's always a match like this, on a show like this, and it just wasn't the time to show of your dramatic selling chops. There were some really cool moments that got put on pause, taking an immediate backseat to some charley horses getting rubbed out and some realllllll emoting. Couple nice suplexes (including a cool suplex out of a guillotine from Jacobs), a freaking screwdriver piledriver, and some other nice stuff thrown away in favor of having all the ham.

5. Daniel Makabe vs. Scotty Davis

PAS: This was dope, I loved how Makabe went for a shoot early and Davis just stuffed him and gator rolled him twice. Really established Davis as the superior wrestler, while Makabe would have to depend on his submissions. Davis is really explosive landing some great takedowns including a vicious standing gator roll which really should be his finisher. He hit an awesome Tazplex, and he is pretty slick on the mat too, he really slipped in a gogoplata perfectly. It was cool to watch Makabe outclassed like this, Davis really dominated him for most of the match, and seemed to have an answer for everything Makabe would try especially early, with Makabe pulling out this cool flash submission slipping in a figure four choke when Davis went to slam him. I loved the idea of him working from behind only to find a flash opening for the tap.

ER: This was great, super explosive and a fun surprise seeing Makabe kind of bullied and overwhelmed at points. Makabe is deceptively big compared to a lot of his peers, so even against larger guys like Eddie Kingston or Thomas Shire he holds his own. So seeing the smaller Davis bulldog his way into quick takedowns and forced rope breaks. Makabe is super crafty and good at setting traps and I love how they established that his submissions were always going to be a threat. I wasn't expecting the fun strike exchange, filled with hard body shots. Sometimes the strike exchanges on Ambition really interrupt the shootstyle feel, but here they were scattered and skilled while also a little messy, that it made it feel like things were just breaking down more. Davis kept sneaking in body shots and finding gaps, but then Makabe had this great left hook right under Davis's ribcage. Makabe also really is becoming well known for taking hard rolling bumps off suplexes, really fearlessly getting chucked onto his shoulder. The finish is my absolute favorite finish of the year, a real highlight reel worth sequence. Davis rushes in for a takedown and Makabe goes up and over, and I was dreading Makabe getting taken down right on top of his head. But Makabe goes all Rumina Sato all over Davis's ass and brings him down hard to the mat with a hanging figure 4 choke, locking his leg even tighter when they hit the mat. What a fantastic finish, perfect for the story they laid out, executed as effectively as possible. Loved it.

Chris Ridgeway vs. Rust Taylor

PAS: This was pretty fun, I liked all of the leg fighting, with both guys rolling for kneebars, wasn't as fancy as some of the matwork we have seen in this tourny but it was plausible and well executed. The stand up was mostly cool too, although I HATE forearm exchanges in shoot style matches, I did like how Ridgeway popped Taylor with a solebutt to the gut after the exchange though, and Taylor suckering him in and countering with front kick to the chin was cool too. They really had the right four guys in the semis and this was a worthy match.

ER: I was not a fan of a lot of the stand up, as it felt constructed too much of timed combos with ducked strikes that missed by a couple feet, left-right-right-block-duck, all of it looked really mapped out. But I like both guys, so naturally there were going to be several strikes that looked good, loved Ridgeway's big sinking kick to the stomach and Rust just popping him with a straight boot, and I liked how Ridgeway built up to his big elbow to the stomach as part of his big final flurry.

2. Daisuke Ikeda vs. Yuki Ishikawa

PAS: I was trying to temper my expectations for this match. It has been nine years since their last singles match and both guys are in their 50s and those are a hard 50 years. WXW got the boys back together again though, and they did their fucking thing. This was an Ikeda vs. Ishikawa match with all of the horrific violence that promises. This follows the familiar formula, with Ishikawa the superior ground wrestler, and Ikeda the runaway semi-truck with chainsaw wheels.

Ishikawa of course is not content to just try to ground Ikeda, although he has some super slick submission attempts including a head and arm choke/straight armbar, this is not a monkey show and he is going to stand in the pocket and fire. I loved how they started with a pair of forearm exchanges, until they said fuck that New Japan noise, and commenced to landing straight punches to jaw and foreheads. Both guys ended up with pretty gross contusions on their foreheads from the punches and headbutts, and we also were treated to some nasty kicks to the head. Ishikawa landed maybe the nastiest strike I can remember from him with a wheel kick to the head from the ground. Ikeda of course was throwing KO shots including a spin kick to the temple which was the killing blow. I loved Ishikawa trying to fight his way to the feet after the KO, and then selling like he didn't realize he was counted out (or he might have been legitimately unclear where he was, you can never tell with these guys). It was what I wanted it to be, and I wouldn't be shocked if somehow in 2030 they come back and do it again.

ER: Wow. I'm with Phil. I came into this with tempered expectations, because yeah, they're both over 50 and neither work full time schedules, but they clearly take this feud importantly. We're lucky for it.  They've been doing this for over 25 years and they haven't matched up in 9, and here they act like they're never going to work another match again. This is one of the stiffest matches of the last decade, and it was filled with potential or worthy finishes. This had a real They Live feel, with a sense of humor occasionally shining through as they gave each other long lasting joint and jaw and back pain. Ishikawa is an all time punching bag, and Ikeda aims to break his hand bones on Ishikawa's face. But Ishikawa is always one limb away from a win, that Son of Fujiwara spirit always hiding in the room. This was all about just how much punishment Ishikawa could endure in the hopes of dislocating a shoulder. And Ikeda keeps ramping up to one of the absolute meanest beatings he's ever dished out. And think of the ground that covers! I love when Ishikawa gets baited into striking, as he almost always gets the short stick, but it never stops him from trying to land that one perfect punch to the chin, that one elbow to the neck, that one melon clonking headbutt. The problem is, a lot of the time Ikeda is perfectly content eating a Yuki elbow if it allows him to punch Yuki right in the face. And again, Ikeda punched face. And kicked face. There was this odd thread of humor running throughout, as the beating became so mean and Ishikawa showed such strength, that it became an almost uncomfortable battle between the T-1000 and the T-800.

Ishikawa looked done on several occasions, but he kept rising from the rubble and try to work his way in close enough to grab an arm. But Ikeda rang Ishikawa's bell with kicks, cruel downed shots, hard kicks to the shoulder, a couple of different head kicks that sent Ishikawa down in such a heap that I thought for sure that was it. And that was before Ikeda starting punching Ishikawa as hard as he could right in the forehead. We get a long run of Ikeda looking like he was trying everything to bust Ishikawa open with his hand and head, throwing harder and harder headbutts and keeping those punches coming. Ishikawa locking Ikeda in a nasty modified triangle. Ishikawa had one of Ikeda's legs grapevined and had his shinbone pressed firmly into Ikeda's throat, while trapping and hyperextending Ikeda's right arm. It was a damn fine mousetrap and I thought Ikeda was toast. Ikeda's dramatic escape from the submission was about as high drama as wrestling can get. Ikeda freed his leg and made some space, and him finally extended a leg into the ropes was perfect. Ishikawa has his own high drama moment, fighting valiantly back to his feet after a brutal spinkick right under the chin, something no man should stand up against. Ishikawa made me think 3 different times during that 10 count that he would make it back to his feet, before finally collapsing at 8. These two have such a weird romance, and let's at most keep our fingers crossed for a 30 year reunion match in 2024.

13. Daniel Makabe vs. Chris Ridgeway

PAS: This was pretty cool and worthy final to a great overall tournament. Really liked Ridgeway laying in his stuff, these are two of the better body shot wrestlers around and they were really banging at the kidney, liver and ribs. I especially love Ridgeway's short elbow to the body, really looks like it pulverizes the guts. Really great finish run, with a slick series of submission counters one after another, until Makabe ends up on top with some nasty elbows to the neck and a cattle mutilation variation for the tap.

ER: This didn't play for me quite as well as some of the other things both men were involved with that weekend, but it's a strong pairing and obviously they were going to bring some tricks. Ridgeway gets more momentum behind his slaps, and I like how they establish that he can work through Makabe's slaps while Ridgeway can shut down Makabe with slaps and advance. Ridgeway also advances with some nice leg kicks, a tool that Makabe doesn't really utilize. Makabe's strengths are similar to Yuki Ishikawa's in the prior match, his ability to weather some strikes just to attempt to grab an arm or a leg, and you can see the success in that as he grabs a nice armbar after rolling from back control, and even winds up fighting over heel hooks. Both of them twisting at each other's ankles was my favorite part of this, as Makabe had a cinched heel hook, Ridgeway gave Makabe's ankle a twist, and immediately it was as if Makabe said "Oh cool you want to see that?" and showed his twisting was superior. All of the rolling looked really good and it was tough to predict who would come out on top, both have plenty of escapes that lead to actual subs. They also seemed to be really smart with audibles, like when Ridgeway grazed Makabe with a kick to the stomach, Makabe didn't go down and instead sold it like you would sell a grazing shot to your stomach, by holding your guts and going "Oooooooooo". And while he was holding his guts Ridgeway hit him with a bigger kick. I liked the body shots from both; Ridgeway's short elbow is a strike I really fell in love with after all these WXW shows, but Makabe's short left hook under the ribs is a great weapon. Makabe is really smart about changing up his game throughout a tournament, which might be why we keep seeing him getting booked to go through all of these tournaments. He knows to keep enough tricks the same to give opponents and fans some muscle memory, but he does a great job at branching off into other directions. His cross legged cattle mutilation (following nasty elbow strikes to the side of the neck) was a great suffocating finish. At this point, dude needs to start bringing all his tournament trophies to the ring with him.

ER: This was top to bottom my favorite Ambition show, and we've had positive things to say about all of them. Was that helped by putting one of the all time greatest singles matches together as the semi-main? Of course it was! But we added three matches from this show to our 2020 Ongoing MOTY List, and a couple others weren't far behind. The highest recommendation.

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Friday, March 20, 2020


Shinya Hashimoto/Col. Brody/Wojtek Polanski vs. Franz Schuhmann/Dave Taylor/"Herkules" Greg Boyd  CWA 7/8/89

MD: This was a lot of fun. It felt looser than a normal tag, like how falls come more easily in a Survivor Series match. I've been veering away a bit from Col. Brody in all of the new footage we've gotten and maybe that's been a mistake. He was pretty engaging and dynamic here. This was a relatively unique setting for Taylor and he was more of an energetic babyface than I'm used to, but he played the role well. I loved the hair-pull/mustache-pull spot at the start especially because I thought the latter would come out of the headlock but they delayed it for just an extra moment. Hashimoto was cartoony in the best way. It's a shame we only had a little bit of him vs Taylor but, for the setting, it was just what you'd expect. The shift in wrestling norms because of how much they were trying to fit into a short period of time was a little jarring, but I'd certainly like to see a few more of these.

PAS: Really fun heel team here, Polanski is a guy I hadn't seen before, but was a big mustachoed bruiser with good clubbing forearms, Brody had good shtick too, and Hashimoto is an all time great. He is hamming it up a bit, but we do get an awesome spin kick to the gut and some big chops. Taylor as a big time babyface tag wrestler was nifty, he was a super versatile wrestler who could do a lot of different things. I loved his double monkey flip, an awesome Tommy Rogerish spot. It felt like they packed a lot in 10 minutes, and could have used some time to stretch out, but I really enjoyed it.

ER: This didn't do much for me. All the quick easy pins made it feel like a joyless version of an All Japan battle royal, where if someone fell onto their back they were automatically pinned. In this match it didn't matter what put them on the mat, if anything at all caused them to fall on their back, they were toast. There were small pleasures to be found, sure. I'm not sure I've ever seen Hashimoto work so silly, hitting a great spinkick under Taylor's chin and then giving us some "Look at my Japanese karate" poses after, including a karate crotch chop? Dave Taylor was a fired up babyface and I really wish we could have devoted this time to a Dave Taylor singles match against any one of the heels. Taylor had an awesome moment in the turnbuckles where he tied up Brody with a body vice, Brody breaks it, and Taylor grabs a headscissors and flings Brody over the top to the floor. Brody is a guy I'd like to see more, as he plays - in size and shape - exactly like Col. DeBeers, but without the stooging bumps. He's got a great big mustache and we get a fun bit of Taylor really gripping those handlebars before being scolded by the ref. Wojtek Polanski looked like a gassed Santa and has the most Polish wrestler name possible. Sadly, we don't have much footage of him, as his helicopter crashed when the Polish pilot got hot and decided to turn the fan off.

MD: This was a really good TV match to further the feud and set up Stacy Colon being in Eddie's corner at a bigger show. Despite that and despite the fact that there was a pretty sparse looking crowd which the audio mixing muted even further, they went really big. We're talking early tope, springboard placha, suplex from the apron to the floor that Candido shouldn't have been taking, missed flipping senton off the top big. Big. Primo was 21 and had been wrestling for a couple of years but not everything looked super smooth, but he had the right idea in general. Candido was great, very giving before his cut offs and perfectly sound in weaving in the bigger 2003 spots and stooging just as much as he should against this particular opponent and not a bit more. I love how he worked in a blatant low blow just because he was wrestling in PR and that was the language down there. My favorite spot in this was probably Colon's big moment at the end where he blocked a powerslam off the ropes (which was the move that gave Candido a fairly early advantage) and hit a standing tornado DDT (which is something he got jammed on in the corner earlier) was a nice little callback/payoff. I thought Tammy was excellent here, both in being completely engaged and supportive on the floor and her reaction to finding out Colon's sister was going to be involved in the rematch, but Candido had the best line when he griped that Colon was ruining his "happy, happy home."

PAS: Candido is really the guy you want in 2003 to lead a green highflyer through a match. We get Chris in his Terry Funk pants and he isn't full Funk but does his share of bumbling and bumping. I especially liked the tailbone bump to the floor off the rana, and I imagine much of Primo's big spots would look much worse if there wasn't a consummate pro there to run interference. I think we would have been better off with a little more brawling and shtick and 20% less moves, but 2003 Primo clearly wanted to do ROH.

ER: I love the YouTube thumbnail for this, which looks like someone interrupted Candido and Sunny while they were at lunch. Watching Candido in his final couple years is a real bummer, as he seems kind of on auto pilot but then seeing him in the ring on auto pilot it was clear he had a lot left. He had all of these sequences down pat and clearly lead this from bell to bell. Eddie was really young but had a nice left hand and some fearless lean into spots, and I would have liked to see him utilize that left hand a lot more. Candido bumbling around from that left could fill an entire match, but Candido opted to fill it with a lot of offense. Candido wastes Eddie on an early powerbomb (kinda surprising he'd go to that so early in a match), drops him with a couple Germans, hits a great tope, and Eddie flies into everything. Eddie had some real big misses, including a corkscrew moonsault to nothing and running headlong into a Candido clothesline. Sunny was the one really on fire here, she had every single ringside move nailed, had a perfectly timed spot where she yanked Eddie's legs, jumped into the ring to break up a pin by rubbing the ref's face in her chest (even though it looked like the ref was just expecting her to grab his arm, funny if she opted for face to boobs as an audible), and shrieks advice to Chris. Candido splats nicely on bumps, peaking with a huge bump over the top that lands him right on his ass on the hard ground. This made me curious about what other dad bod era Candido gold might be out there, as I've really only seen him in IWA and TNA, didn't even realize he was working Puerto Rico. Stick around for the Sunny/Chris promo after the match (where that YouTube thumbnail came from) to watch them work an amusing comic heel promo.

Andrew Alexander vs. Shaun Tempers Empire Wrestling 2/10/14

MD: For the most part, this was the sort of chain match that you hope all chain matches are and only about half ever become. There was no corner touching. It was pinfall or submission. The blood came early as Alexander wasn't about to put up with Tempers' antics. The chain was teased with big whips at the start but then used immediately thereafter and used often. They had some clever spots but nothing that took you out of the idea that they were trying to hurt each other, including a chain assisted running plancha which actually made for one of the most believable dives ever, as Tempers had nowhere to go. There couldn't have possibly been a cleaner heel/face divide with both wrestlers acting appropriately, with Tempers getting advantage through a lucky reversal or distraction. Unexpectedly, I didn't love Alexander's punches. They felt pretty out of place in a match where everyone was using the chain as a weapon. Not a big thing in the grand scheme though. The finish was maybe a bit much too, with a ref bump, a couple of phantom pins, and interference that would have made more sense in context, but the chain assisted neckbreaker and Alexander's spastic selling were both picture perfect for the match.

PAS: These GA Indy feds really know how to run gimmick matches, we have reviewed some great War Games from this area and this is an old school dog collar match done right. Alexander takes it to Tempers early and opens him up, with Tempers able to get some advantages through viciousness and dastardliness. They never got too fancy, with a couple of big spots, Alexander doing this great counter of a posting attempt, and the dive Matt mentioned working great. Mostly this was just old fashioned chain assisted violence, and while I agree they probably didn't need the gaga at the finish, that neckbreaker with the chain was a killer finish. At some point I need to just do a giant deep dive into GA indy wrestling.

ER: This was great, and while watching it dawned on me how entirely absent this type of match is from the current wrestling landscape. There is a major absence of matches involving one man hitting another man with fists and choking him with a big chain. We added a great dog collar match to our 2020 MOTY List, but that was very much a blown out 2020 indy epic masquerading as a dog collar match. That match felt more like the multi stipulation Hacksaw/Sawyer match than "merely" just a dog collar match. At the other end of the spectrum we have death match wrestling making a curious head poke into mainstream acceptability, and yet nobody out there is just running a straight up dog collar match. This cuts out all the bullshit, no touching corners, just touching fist to face and wrapping that chain painfully around your opponent. Alexander really felt like a guy working a dog collar match in 1986, as he had great punches (left AND right hands), an awesome kneelift, took a gigantic fast bump over the top (even crazier when compared to Tempers much more sane bump to the apron later), and hits a bonkers no hands dive over the top as a fantastic late match highspot. There were some unnecessary shenanigans at the end, a ref bump and a ball shot and a stopped ref count when he notices Alexander came out of his collar, but the finish itself was excellent. After the ball kick from Tempers, he wraps the chain tight around Alexander's throat, and the panicked selling from Alexander was so good that it made me question just how anybody would have actually known if that chain was too tight or not. Tempers gives him a vicious Rude Awakening, snapping that chain wrapped throat over his shoulder, and Alexander does a great convulsive sell during the pin. This really captured the feeling of classic dog collar matches, the kind of match that looks even better now than when it happened.



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