Segunda Caida

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

Friday, January 22, 2021


MD: The handheld nature of this one let us really hear the crowd, and they were super into this. The makeup of these wrestlers and this feud meant that there was so much anticipation for almost every exchange; just a constant feeling out process that got the fans ready for the payoff of the actual contact each and every time, which almost never disappointed. Whenever one of the NJ guys would switch in, the fans switch the chant for them like clockwork. The first minute or two was really fun as Fujiwara controlled the center of the ring and drew people in however he could (including a slap punch in the corner) and then just dominated on the mat. Lots of brutal kicks from the other two UWF guys and a healthy amount of Koshinaka getting tossed around. Towards the end, the NJ team figured out they could hold an advantage with some teamwork but it broke down pretty quickly into a chaotic and violent scene.

PAS: New Japan versus UWF maybe the greatest in ring feud in wrestling history, and it is a real mitzvah to get another installation. Unsurprisingly I loved Fujiwara in this, swaggering badass who is so slick in the way he counters attacks by all three New Japan guys. Fujiwara and Fujinami tragically never had a singles match during this period, but they were incredible dance partners, and had some very cool exchanges here. Maeda really ramps up the violence in the end of the match pinning Fujinami against the ropes and winging kicks, including a headkick which felled him like an oak tree. Love Akira starting the 10 count with the rent, felt like the kind of taunt Alan Iverson might do. Finish was a wild breakdown and the crowd was going bonkers. Great stuff, super glad it showed up. 

MD: It's been a while since I watched any 2013 lucha even though that was probably the height of my writing about it here and this was a mix of comfort food overlaid with maestros. The Rafaga vs Gallo pairing wasn't much (and good on Solar for clapping for them from the apron; nice guy) and Cavernario and Stuka went all out with their primera pairing but for less than a minute. The primera then was therefore all about the five minutes we got of Solar vs Navarro, which had all of the charm and skill you'd want out of these two in this setting. About half the time, it shifted to a close-up, high quality camera shot which really let you see what was going on. My favorite bit was early on when Solar hooked Navarro's arm with his legs and took him over into a cross arm breaker and Navarro responded by waving his hand in a "Yeah, that was so-so, I guess" sort of manner. Cavernario wasn't in much here but whenever he was he brought a ton of energy and motion. He let Solar catch him head-on to set up the finish and post-match everyone posed together. Hopefully we get more like this soon.

ER: This was really fun, and I loved some of our HD camera angles that we got. I always love seeing Solar and Navarro play their hits live, as they never play them exactly the same. Most of the highlights of this were Solar/Navarro, and while I wish we had gotten actual significant Stuka/Navarro and Barbaro/Solar interaction, I loved all of our maestros. Solar broke out a few tricks that are super impressive for a guy in his late 50s, and I thought he was excellent at playing into Navarro's subs. Like Matt, my favorite moment came when Solar totally caught Negro, flipped him halfway across the ring with a leg drag, and Navarro sat there on his butt, doing a 50-50 ehhhhhh shaky hand. I love the way they tangle their legs, and each knows the right amount of pressure to apply to not slip out of holds and made them look strong. Stuka and Barbara looked really exciting when they were in. Barbaro came off hyper and fun (and skinny!), and Stuka's rana, handspring headscissors on the floor to Rafaga, and his match finishing torpedo splash all looked great. I love nearly every Navarro/Solar match I see, but I think I like this format more. It gives the two maestros natural breaks while keeping the match centered around their work. We get some entertaining sideshows, and seeing brief flashes of them working with their younger new partners, then they come back to escalate their own personal 30+ year battle. 

PAS: Solar vs. Navarro is something we have in numerous variations, but it is cool to see a 2013 version pop up with both guys in their 50s not in their 60s. There is still some athleticism in their exchanges, not just pure skill, grab an arm, grab a leg spin counter, reverse. They always have a new wrinkle or two in their game, although here this really felt like a them doing their thing for a different audience. Everyone else in this match was fine, and Stuka Jr. has one of the great top rope splashes of all time, but this was getting to watch two Jazz greats noodle away and that is a pleasure.

Shigeo Kato vs. Diablo Mumejuku Pro 2/5/17

SR: By god, is Segunda Caida the Shigeo Kato superfan blog now?! Diablo is a guy who is also around for a really long time, he was a +20 year veteran in this match. This was the best Diablo match I’ve seen, as it is a bloody brawl, which was worked exactly like how a bloody brawl should be worked. Kato was a part time wrestler at this point and for a guy who was a skinny ratboy in his heyday, he seemed to have no muscle mass at all here, but he could still go like a wrestler. Really loved how he just stomped on Diablos face during the opening brawling portion. Then an exposed turnbuckle comes into play and Kato is soon bleeding all over the place. Katos selling was a millions bucks here as he looked to be hanging on by a thread (maybe he was also legit blown up) . I’m not going to pretend Diablo was brilliant, but he knew exactly what to do, punch the cut and waffle Kato with a chair out of nowhere. There’s an actually great Figure 4 Leglock spot and the ending felt appropriately murderous. Not gonna see these guys are superworkers, but I respect them for producing a match like this even with little athletic ability. Proof that structure is everything.

MD: Nice focused brawl. I have no idea who these guys are. Kato took it to Diablo early, working the mask. I loved the ref bump where Diablo caught Kato's kick and spun it into the ref's groin. High comedy there. After that, he landed a low blow on Kato and pulled the corner guard off and just unloaded on Kato. Once he got him upon with his chain, the woundwork was incredibly on point. He got a lot of value rubbing his head against the top rope, more than you'd think, but it felt pretty nasty. I liked Kato's hope spot where he went to the top and shouted woo just to get thrown off. He finally took over by taking out Diablo's leg, though they went away from it before long and Kato shouted out "Brainbuster!" like he was pointing into the stands for a home run and then couldn't hit it. A for bloody effort though. Lost focus towards the end but some great woundwork and it didn't wear out its welcome.

PAS: I thought this was cool shit, a couple of guys who have been around for a long time, beating on each other like veterans do. All of the stuff with Diablo and the chain was sick, there was some real thump on those punches, and his opening a cut punches with the fist would have made Harley Race proud. Kato had good fire as a bleeding old guy coming back with vim and vigor, and really took it to Diablo in the early going. I want to see all the variations of this feud, really feels like something a territory could work around the horn for months.

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Thursday, January 21, 2021


Ryuichi Sekine vs. Kotaru Nasu

PAS: FUTEN is the ultimate in all killer no filler wrestling. This was so good, and the kind of thing which would completely stand out if it happened today, and was a 9 minute opener, overshadowed by the shinier stuff to follow. Nasu is a Style-E guy and Sekine is a K-Dojo trainee, but they can do FUTEN, nasty kicks to the body and head, and slick takedowns and submissions. Nasu was a little smaller and a little slicker, and Sekine was throwing hotter heat. Sekine goes for a Finlay roll only for Nasu to sneak out with a choke, but is able to hit it later and it felt like a bomb. Lots of moments where I felt a finish was coming, but it gets switched up. Both of these guys are still wrestling and I wonder whether this is something they are still doing.

Satoshi Kajiwara vs. Braham Shu

PAS: This wasn't it. Shu had some nice kicks to the chest, but outside of that this wasn't particular FUTEN style. Kaikwara actually does a lionsault and then puts on a kimura, and Shu spends most of the match choking with his wrist tape before he finally gets DQed. Not what I get FUTEN for. 

Takuma Sano vs. Katsumi Usuda

PAS: Two all time shoot style greats. I wasn't aware these two had matched up before I got this show, and while it isn't an all time classic (Sano seemed to have slowed down a bit at this point) it had a lot of what I loved about both dudes. Usuda really dominated early picking apart Sano really cracking his arms and legs. Sano started slow but when he got rolling he took him out with this brutal run of offense  winning an elbow exchange with brutal multiple hard elbows to Usuda's head, a sick looking released german suplex, solebut to the gut and a head kick for the KO. Felt like Usuda let a fighter with KO power hang around too long and paid for it. 

Great Sasuke/Yuki Ishikawa vs. Fujita Hayato/Manabu Suruga

PAS: Two delicious slices of toasted bread with a piece of rotten baloney in the middle. In the early sections of this match Sasuke seemed to playing along, throwing kicks and grappling, scrambling for kimuras etc. We had a great Ishikawa vs. Hayato section, Hayato didn't work a ton of FUTEN but man he was perfect for this style, scrawny little shit who just threw reckless dickish head shots, like Takeshi Ono's even more assholish younger brother. The sections with Ishikawa had some Ishikawa vs. Ikeda vibes, with Hayato headhunting the old man, and Ishikawa fighting back. Then Sasuke has to get on his bullshit, he hits a suplex on Suruga and does this super long comedy spot where he keeps telling the crowd he is going to hit his Randy the Ram elbow, it literal takes him two minutes to go up for the elbow, which he misses and planks on his head so Hayato and Suruga can kick him in the but. The match recovers a bit at the end, as they have a nifty finish run, but man that was just such a bummer, I love Sasuke, but man fuck Sasuke. 

Hikaru Sato/Kengo Mashimo vs. Daisuke Ikeda/Takeshi Ono - EPIC

PAS: This was really excellent, not at the absolute peak of FUTEN tags (which are as good as anything in wrestling ever) but only a small step below. This is one of the matches of Takeshi Ono's career (according to Cagematch, it's Japan there are so many micro indies, that he could still be working weekly) and the last one we have on tape, and it is a hell of a capper. FUTEN tags have a certain formula, where they build and build to a big one on one match up at the end. Here we really get two of those, first Sato and Ikeda brutalize each other with punches to the face and sick headbutts, Sato is right there driving his forehead right into Ikeda and eating a huge clubbing lariat to the head and some gross kicks. At one point they are on their knees throwing straight rights. Just when you figure that is going to be the crescendo, Ono and Mashimo tag in and they go at it. Mashimo is a big guy and it is really a power versus speed striking battle, with Ono peppering him with sharp shots and Mashimo landing bigger thudding stuff. At one point Mashimo hits a leg sweep which looks like it sliced off Ono's legs at the knee. It doesn't get much better then when these matches ramp up, and I kept getting more and more hyped as they killed each other. Just the best.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Paradigm Pro: UWFI Contenders Series Episode 5 Finale

Ron Mathis vs. Akira

PAS: This wasn't really a UWFI match, more of a highspot sprint. It had some nice stuff in it, like Akira landing a gross Low-Ki double stomp and some big high kicks. He is a fun Minoru Tanaka style shoot junior in this garage BattlArts. Mathis had some fun throws, but was almost doing comedy spots at the beginning.  For what this was it was fine, it was pretty out of style though. 

ER: Yeah the Mathis comedy at the beginning really threw me, come off like something we didn't need worked into this series. Felt like the wrong vibe to bring, maybe would have played better in front of a crowd. But every minute of the match was stronger than the minute that preceded it, so it's hard to dislike a match that keeps getting better and ends with the best stuff. There were a bunch of exploder variations, and one of the commentary guys called one of them "a real sack of shit toss" which made me spit coffee out a bit. The throws got pretty big by the end, and I liked Mathis leaping onto Akira with a guillotine. I thought Akira's bridging reversal of the guillotine was fantastic, and his leaping double stomp into Mathis's chin was disgusting, one of the great spots of the season. 

Big Beef vs. Austin Connelly

PAS: I am into Connelly. He does relentless really well, and comes right at Big Beef, only to get rudely and violently rebuked. Some of those forearms that Beef threw were Vader on Cactus level of concussive. For a second I didn't buy Connelly getting off a suplex, until I saw the size of his thighs. He looks like he could squat a mobile home. Quick and violent seems to be a Connelly special, and he is a guy I want to see more of. Beef hits appropriately hard, and I think him versus Hoodfoot could be great.

ER: I couldn't wait for this one after Connelly's last fight and Beef's performance all season, and this delivered. Connelly is a nut, and I buy into the way he keeps popping up and charging in until he can't. I'm not sure how sustainable it is for his career, but I love it! He rushes Beef and runs right into a boot and a powerbomb, and that kind of thing keeps happening. His throw was really impressive, and his ability to eat shots is even more impressive. Beef cracks him across the face and jaw with some vicious forearms, There's also some awesome post match body wrecking, with Connelly running down Beef and laying in full arm forearm shots just as hard as he took, and then Beef powers Connelly up and runs him back to the ring to dump him disgustingly with a powerbomb on the floor. Another season 1 highlight from these two. 

Lexus Montez vs. Bobby Beverly

PAS: More of an angle then a match, Beverly does a Fuerza handshake gimmick at the beginning and catches Montez with a couple of his Saito suplexes. Montez is able to bully him into the ropes and hit some shots and the ref does an quick stoppage. There ends up being a locker room brawl setting up Hoodfoot vs. Beverly in Terminal Combat which is five minutes of UWFI rules and then a hardcore match, which on paper seems kind of silly. I needed Montez to land harder stuff for me to buy the stoppage even if it was supposed to be fast.

ER: Yeah none of this worked for me. The referee is wearing a mask so I can only assume it's Steve Mazzagatti under there, because this stoppage was bad, and looked bad. I get the angle, but you need to actually play up to the angle and "bad stoppage" is just about one of the least interesting angles around. Nothing Montez did looked like it warranted a stoppage, his Superman punch just looked like a bad avalanche, and his match stopping slaps were arguably the worst strikes we've seen during this 5 episode UWFI rules run. If not worst overall strikes, then definitely the worst strikes used as justification to stop a match. My grandma really hated my beard, and would always tug on it and give my face these little slaps when she saw it, and those slaps looked harder than the slaps that stopped this match. If a match is going to be used to further an angle, you have to actually a) sell the angle convincingly, and b) make the angle interesting. The match this leads to sounds cumbersome at best, but the execution that got us there was even worse. 

Chase Holliday vs. Jordan Blade

PAS: This was pretty good stuff, with Blade showing their skill on the mat, including pulling guard with a jumping kimura, only to be caught with some big shots when they stood up. There was a nasty short hook which dropped her, and a big spinning back elbow for the KO (better then Holliday's first spinning back elbow, still not as good as Akira's or Broner's). I liked Blade a lot, and this was a better Holliday performance, excited to see more from both. 

ER: I thought this was a nice little snack. I really liked Blade's tie up matwork, her guard seemed really difficult to pass and she had really dangerous upkicks, and strong use of her legs in general. It looked like she had a good plan and I really liked her heavy knees to the ribs while standing. Holliday's worked back elbow finish looked good, and I dug how Blade sold it. 

Aaron Williams vs. Matthew Justice

PAS: I like Justice's fish out of water gimmick in these shows. It was cool how this match kept threatening to spin out, before being brought back in. Williams was fun shit talking on the mat, as he was clearly the more skilled grappler, and I loved his body shot/hook combo which sent Justice to the floor. I thought the buckle bomb and death valley driver were a step too far away from the style for me, but those finishing KO grounded knees were nasty looking. Post match Justice calls out Josh Barnett, which would be a big deal if they could actually deliver. 

ER: This landed a bit short for me. Justice is a "main event" worker I really like, but this didn't have the main event season ending heft that a lot of Justice matches come with. I do like Justice as fish out of water, challenging any Pride or UFC vets in an open challenge (how much could it cost to bring in Gerard Gordeau or Zuluzhino?), but I wanted more out of the last fight of the season. There were several individual things I liked, like Justice breaking a guillotine by trying to drop Williams back of neck first over the middle rope, and those nasty match ending knees from Justice. I also liked Williams talking trash ("I'm gonna get my shit in too!") and his triangle attempt. I thought the dvd was worked in as well as you can work something like that into a shootstyle match, but yeah I'd rather not see it. 

PAS: This is the end of season one, and I think overall this was a successful experiment. Not everything worked on every show, but everything was kept short, and I can digest a four minute failure pretty easily. This introduced me to a bunch of wrestlers I want to see more. Isaiah Broner, Hoodfoot, Austin Connelly, and Jordan Blade being people I hadn't heard of and have left big fans, and there is a whole second tier that I am excited to see more. We are in, and will cover Season 2 for sure.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Drapp! Vignal! de Lasartesse! Duranton! Rene Ben! Daidone!

SR: 2/3 falls match. We get about 40 minutes. Unfortunately, the third fall seems to be missing. Then again, it seems before we only had the 1st fall of this match. This was a tremendously entertaining affair, mostly thanks to the heel supertandem of Lasartesse/Duranton. These two had to be the most pompous tag team in all of wrestling at this point. There‘s certainly no two wrestlers who embody the „nasty european“ type like they did. Every moment of the match was characterized by their mannerisms, outrageous bumping, and vicious tactics. Not to disparage the faces in this match. Vignal is another very solid wrestler, who really makes his uppercuts and dropkicks look great, and Drapp is of course great, but this was one where you couldn‘t take your eyes off Duranton and Lasartesse. Durantons diva like antics and struts were especially spectacular. They also had Durantons valet with them, who at one point confronts the ring announcer and gets the shit slapped out of him with policemen jumping into the scene in an awesome moment. He gets involved in the match more and eventually thrown around like his big boys in the ring. Gotta say, Lasartesses knee drops have to be among the best ever in wrestling. He just drops right on their throat. No idea how he doesn‘t kill the guy. Too bad about the missing ending, because this felt as fresh as anything in the last 60 years.

MD: First, sorry but this one can't go up, at least not in full. Our archivist friends have a minute of Couderc swiping at the valet online that's frazzling any attempt at it. I tried. I'm sure I'll work it out eventually and someday you'll have that to look forward to. We're still going to talk about it to keep the historical record up. Duranton and Lasartesse are a natural pairing, with the valet looking after both. In a lot of ways Lasartesse (billed as living in the US now with a love of chewing gum) as a larger version of Duranton. It creates a sort of big dog/little dog vibe with Duranton giving us his best, most entertaining performance yet, craven, cowardly, cheap-shotting, just completely over the top. There's a spot where he gets caught in the stylist corner and dives through their legs to make a tag, which if done by the good guys, would have gotten adulation instead of jeers and laughs. He draws a ton of heat, not just from the crowd, but also from the other wrestlers. At one point, Vignal sacrifices a chance at the advantage to go after him on the apron because he had such a great trash talk game. We haven't really seen that so thoroughly in this footage so far. Lasartesse utilizes his size and reach advantage so well, including just leaning on guys or taking them over with his headlock suplex. He has that lead heel way of always fighting back, even when he's getting clowned, which is one of those things you'll see in guys like Ultimo Guerrero that subconsciously gets over their toughness and primacy to the crowd. They have some good double team stuff including a tandem backbreaker and their finishing move of a power body slam followed by a knee drop off the top. Vignal had spent the last few years in Canada and he's older but fiery, with a lot of great striking comebacks and bits of punishment that the crowd gets behind. Drapp's less of a factor ring-time-wise but he has a few good escapes as always. Narratively, there are a couple missed opportunities for limbwork control and hot tags, but no one really cares because it was all so entertaining and heated and they got to see the heels pinballed around and the valet used as a projectile weapon in the end.

Rene Ben Chemoul vs Giuseppe Daidone 3/10/61

MD: At this stage of the footage, it's always good to see wrestlers we're familiar with because it helps reaffirm what we've learned so far and because some of these guys have become favorites already, but that probably pales a little to the chance of seeing some new historical figure for the first time. Daidone, for instance, is a guy we don't know a ton about, but one thing we do know about him is that he lost his beard against Blue Demon in Mexico City in 1955. If you're going to know one thing about a guy, that's a hell of a thing to know. That probably colored how I saw him here a bit. He was a base and a heavy for Ben Chemoul. While he had great looming presence and really laid in knees from a few different directions and was quick to lean on Ben Chemoul or keep him down with repeated hairpulls, he was really there to make his opponent shine. And did Ben Chemoul ever shine here. He got to show off all of his great escapes and takedowns. He'd have these three or four motion set-ups (either a point or a feint or a roll or sometimes the combination of the three). Instead of hairpulls, he'd use facewipes to keep holds. Everything he did was a combination of small leverage set ups and big visual payoffs. Stuff we've seen out of Ben Chemoul before, like his torpedo in the corner, was over the top great here. They used repetition well, either with a rule of three full nelson smash in the corner or to set up the finish by having Daidone crush him with a corner whip only to get reversed on the second and go sailing into the crowd to set up the count out. Stylist vs stylist matches will always be fun but a stylist vs a solid base match is always going to shine up the babyface best.

PAS: Chemoul has such a charm to him, he comes off really likable, and Daidone is a nice foil for that charm. Chemoul actually brings the nasty first with a bunch of sick looking leg scrapes across Daidone's eyes. Daidone wasn't as flashy as some of the heels we have seen before but hat some good looking forearms and stomps and was a good dance partner for Chemoul's fanciness. He also took a big enough bump to the floor that I bought the countout finish, which is to his credit. Chemoul is one of the real high end guys in this footage, and this was a nice addition to his dance card. 

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Monday, January 18, 2021

NXT UK Worth Watching: Barthel! Aichner! Mark Coffey! WALTER! Mustache Mountain!

Marcel Barthel/Fabian Aichner vs. Trent Seven/Tyler Bate NXT UK 1/13 (Aired 1/30/19) (Ep. #27)

ER: This was great, probably the best UK tag match so far. This was a more successful version of the GYF vs. Mustache tag from TakeOver, with all the fat trimmed out and nothing but action remaining. This is half the time of that tag and really hits the target. The first 2/3 of this felt like a great early 90s WCW tag, with no overly long heat sequence or too long shine. It had quick tags and constant momentum changes, making it feel more like a Brainbusters/Fantastics match, which is a great thing to see in modern wrestling. Barthel is really great at getting into position for offense, and that's important against someone like Bate who goes through a lot of "same moves in the same order" offense. The quick tags by both sides made this match feel more epic than it probably was, as I was shocked it was only a 13 minute run time (felt longer, in a good way). Aichner and Barthel control with cool suplexes and body scissors, both Bate and Seven get runs at wild hot tags (I really liked Seven running wild with a DDT, snapdragon, big lariat, and Bate going wild with a no hands running plancha to the floor), and they did a great job of ramping up the crazy. 

The teamwork from Barthel/Aichner is excellent, and they're smart about using Bate's actual best strength: running into painful offense. My least favorite parts of Bate matches is when everyone has to line up to take his offense in a specific order. I never like when guys selfishly derail things like that. But he has a real gift for taking some stupid bumps and crash landing his body in very unselfish ways. There was an awesome moment here when he went to do his Ray Stevens shoulder spring into the ropes, except he springs directly into a Barthel enziguiri. Bate has a way of committing to these spots that I truly admire. It always surprises me, because when he does his own offense there is always him waiting for guys to make sure they're in proper position; but when the plan is for him to intentionally miss a tope or something he just does that tope the exact same way he would have done it if someone were catching him. So he flies into that top rope and just catches Barthel's boot between the eyes, and it looked so great I was hoping it would be the finish. Bate's willingness to die at some point of a big match always makes it more annoying when he comes back with his planned comeback, but again, Barthel/Aichner are great at taking fast offense (it's not easy to plausibly take that rolling double kappo kick but GYV and these two make it look good). The finishing stretch is hot, and while I wish Barthel and Aichner would have won (Mustache Mountain is already established and I'm really not sure losses would hurt them at this point, the others have far more to gain with a win), this whole thing was great action. 

Mark Coffey vs. WALTER NXT UK 1/13 (Aired 2/6/19) (Ep. #28)

ER: NXT UK is great at delivering on these compact ass kicking matches that get out of there before any of the violence is deemed pointless by repetition. If two guys are beating the hell out of each other, you really only need several minutes of it, as the longer it goes the more redundant the damage becomes. WALTER debuted in ring last week, crushing Jack Starz, and I like how they sent him out the next week against someone much closer to his size. A WALTER squash is plenty fun, but seeing him trade chops and clotheslines with another big guy is much more fun. Coffey does cool things with his control, and I think a lot of his offense hit even harder than WALTER's. Coffey's chops can't come close to matching WALTER's, but his body punches sure as hell hit harder. Coffey also throws hard kicks to WALTER's back, stomps his calf to set up a chinlock, works in and out of a snug back stretch, and a truly great elbow smash to WALTER's jaw. Having a big meaty opponent gives a nice canvas for WALTER's offense, big strikes landing hard across a broad surface. He drops Coffey with a nasty backdrop on the apron, throws loud chops in the corner, hits a nasty running kick, and stretches Coffey over the top rope by jamming his boot underneath Coffey's chin. More chops, uppercuts, clubs to the chest, both guys really dealing, all of it heavy. Match ends a little simply, with a WALTER dropkick and powerbomb. It wrapped things up a little neatly, but I much prefer the match wrapped up neatly in 6 minutes than seeing 10 more minutes of chop exchanges. This is one of the harder hitting NXT UK matches we've gotten so far, here's to more!


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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Another Year With Nothing for Brian Kendrick to Do

Brian Kendrick vs. Che Cabrera WPW 5/29/14 - GREAT

ER: This was weird, as it had some odd wrestling show/strip club emcee doing live over the crowd play by play, so when the bell rang we got "This is going to be a great match, folks. I think we're going to see a lot of technical wrestling here tonight!" in just about the most "Come on let's give this gal a hand." Not long after a woman in the crowd yells out words of support for the "Guatemalan Beast" and Cabrera replies that he's Cuban. That's a bold assumption for a woman to assume Cabrera was Guatemalan. But this match was pretty awesome, in a weird tiny room like those early Revolution Pro shows. Cabrera is a guy who has been on the SoCal indies for quite awhile, but hasn't broken through to bigger indy shows. He's stocky and powerful and a nice guy for Kendrick to play off. Kendrick looked really great here, flying into the ropes off throws, running hard chest first into the buckles, purposely ties himself up with the ref to break a waistlock, all cool stuff. His dropkicks and sliding kicks all landed hard, all of it had snap. Cabrera hit knees on a wayward moonsault, but had a couple pretty big slams down the stretch, really good match up.

ER: Unfamiliar with Seville the Thrill before this, but he's a local undersized loudmouth heel, and I will always enjoy small loudmouths in wrestling. He gets into it with the crowd the whole match, including taunting a couple of guys in the front row who are at least 3 times his size. This starts with a lot of really well done juniors wrestling, quick mat exchanges with roll throughs and kickoffs that felt almost lucha maestro style. The strikes really smack loudly in the Santino garage with nice chops from both, hard elbows from Kendrick, and two nice yakuza kicks from Alvarez. What's funny is he threw those kicks the exact same way Kendrick throws his, except those kicks weren't really as much a part of Kendrick's offense then. The body movement is exact, and it's a great looking kick. There's a great moment where Seville throws Kendrick to the floor and then has people move for a dive, then just gets out of the ring and tosses Kendrick back in. It's a spot I enjoy any time I see it, but here it's even better as the guys he made move were those giant aforementioned fans. Seville standing in the middle of two big goons and still talking trash makes me like him even more. Couple disjointed moments down the stretch, but still played out like a nice juniors stretch run, and while Seville may have been the reason for a couple of hitches, he always followed it up with something I liked (like his cocky pin straddling Kendrick while pinning his hands), and the sliced bread is academic. 

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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Fujiwara Family: RINGS Astral Step 3rd KAMUI 9/14/91

ER: Last RINGS show we got a cool pre-show video showing all of the combatants warming up in the arena, and this time we get a couple of Maeda trainees (there is a chance they are known guys, but I'm at the age where I am not going to be recognizing every Japanese young boy on sight) doing a demonstration for the crowd on what strikes are allowed under RINGS rules. It's presented like two flight attendants going through the machinations of how to apply your oxygen mask or use your seat as a floatation device, but instead showing how to legally use palm strikes, upward elbow strikes to the cheekbone, and soccer kicks to the haunches. 

Mitsuya Nagai vs. Herman Renting

PAS: This is a rematch from an earlier show, but was a way more killer version. I got the sense that this was both guys figuring some stuff out. It starts tentative, but gets nasty quick with Nagai trying to behead Renting with a soccer kick. Renting responds with a soccer kick of his own later, and some very cool takedowns. Nagai hits this somersault enzigiri which was the single coolest spot of RINGS so far, before Renting is able to take him down and choke him out. Cool energetic fight that got me more excited about future RINGS undercards. 

ER: Yeah this match was a huge step up from their opening fight from the last show. The highlight of that match was Nagai missing a spinning heel kick that would have rearranged Renting's face, and here Nagai got to hit a version of that kick. Before that awesome kick (a rolling kappo kick that connected with a real hook), this really kicked up to a new level when Renting checked a hard Nagai kick with his bicep, and Renting goes full wartime beast mode and demanded Nagai kick him harder. From there this was intense as hell, with hard fought rope breaks and big swinging knockdown attempts. Renting really made me buy into his psycho kamikaze routine, and Nagai tried to stay measured while being more careful with his hard shots. The finishing stretch of knockdown to rope break to knockdown was really exciting. 

Willie Peeters vs. Bert Kops Jr.

PAS: Peeters continues to be super entertaining, both guys had some really impressive throws, full hips, big tourque high air. That was pretty much the extent of what Kops could do, but they looked cool. He also hit a body shot or two that looked good. Peeters also had some great looking shots, including a cool moment where he gets thrown by Kops but comes up with a slick little uppercut to catch him. Peeters also put him down in convincing and nasty fashion. This was pretty long for a RINGS match and at one point Kops tweaks his knee, I think with a minute or two shaved this is a hidden gem. Even at its length it was entertaining stuff. 

ER: I thought this was exciting as hell, I thought it really turned into a big time movie fight. This was long for the big swings and throws they were taking, and it sustained the craziness for a longer time than most are capable. We had a ton of cool moments, like a GIFable 3 seconds of them going Low Ki/Red when Peeters misses a convincing front spin kick and Kops dodges 2 inches away from a follow up right cross. Kops fights for and gets a bunch of really impressive lifts where he really sticks with them until he wears Peeters to the mat. Kops had some annoyingly persistent strikes, at one point it looked like he kept targeting Peeters' hip with kicks right to the bone. This kept evolving into such a slugfest, and the finish came off insanely violent. Peeters hit Kops with this quick 5 strike combo that looks kung fu deadly. It was like Peeters hit in his 5 pressure points ending with a knee right to the mouth. Peeters even has this great expression on his face afterward, this real "Why did you make me kick your ass like that?" tenderness. If Shawn Michaels was able to pull off Peeters' face, body slumped over the ropes after getting the match finally called in his favor, it would have been way better than I'm Sorry I Love You. 

Dick Vrij vs. Ton Van Maurik

PAS: This goes five three minute rounds, which you know, why? I like both of these guys and you could clip this to a fun 7 minute match. Van Maurik bullies Vrij into the ropes and strafes his body with knees and body shots. There is a fun spot where they fall awkwardly to the floor. Vrij nearly beheads van Maurik with a high kick, which really should have been the finish, but they go another round and a half and end things with a C- armbar. I have liked how RINGS kept it tight and fast on previous shows, this one has started to feel the bloat. 

ER: I really do not like rounds in my RINGS. I think the breaks in between are too long, and I would much rather see my fighters get out of a bad situation with cunning, rather than end things with a clock. I think RINGS matches can really benefit from some short length, and I think a long match like this needed more of a flow and no round breaks. This had a lot of these two doing things I liked, it all just felt too broken up and stretched out. All of the knockdowns looked good, and Vrij showed a kind of tantrum heel here in certain parts, like a frustrated teen athlete who gets frustrated at being shown up and shoves a ref. Phil is right, this could have really been a throw down if the time was cut in half, but this felt like a bad use of two cool personalities. 

Akira Maeda vs. Willy Wilhelm

PAS: This was pretty nifty with Maeda opening by catching a Wilhelm kick and spinning into a big snap german suplex. Wilhelm controls the middle of this, hitting some big judo throws and trying for submissions, including a deep single crab for a big near fall. I liked Wilhelm no-selling the Maeda body kicks by slapping his fat belly like Kamala. The finishing rush by Maeda was super impressive, he hits a cool low kick into a head kick, and a spinning kick which looked as nasty as the one which cut Fujinami, before ankle locking him for the tap. 

ER: I thought this was two really great characters telling a really great story, loved this as a showdown. I've been really getting into Wilhelm as a RINGS heel, he's like a Dutch take on Scott Norton. He's an Olympic judoka working a Crusher iron beer belly gimmick, and it rules. I loved last show when their intro video showed all the fighters warming up and sparring, it only showed Wilhelm sitting in the crowd with this arms crossed over his belly, talking about how he's going to beat everyone. He's cocky and kind of a wrecking ball, and Maeda is this cool stoic figure who had the right strategy and stuck to the plan. Viewing these '91 episodes of RINGS as a season, I really like the Maeda bad left knee as a returning theme. We've seen promos every show where he's getting his knee iced or rubbed down or taped up, and now I can't take my eyes of Maeda's left knee in matches. 

Wilhelm makes a big show of being too large to absorb Maeda's strikes, trying psych out Maeda by requesting Maeda target his stomach, and Maeda sticks to the plan and keeps hacking down that tree. Wilhelm was smothering early, walking through strikes to hit nice judo throws, working (the right) knee over with a great single crab. Is he targeting Maeda's better knee because Maeda is really hurt? Or was it just the leg he happened to grab? But it keeps getting harder to walk through the strikes, because Maeda was not psyched out. And soon Wilhelm isn't walking through strikes, he's absorbing strikes. I love how Wilhelm begins to realize what he's done, you can see these leg kicks really affecting him, and Maeda is able to land an insane German suplex that absolutely dumps Wilhelm. He starts landing harder kicks as Wilhelm is becoming a slower and open target, and nails him right in the thigh with a hard kick and sneaking in his surprise left high kick. The final submission was a terrific shot, Wilhelm trapped in Maeda's leg lock and stretching out as long as possible, still not near the ropes. This was some great RINGS storytelling in an awesome match. 

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Friday, January 15, 2021


Joan Ballard vs. Jean Noble 9/14/56

MD: We sat on this for half a year, but when the Chicago archive posts something, we have to watch it eventually. This has no sound but you guys have been watching empty arena matches with jump cuts for the last year so that shouldn't slow you down too much. If I have them figured out right, Noble's the heel here and she'd eventually have the Yulie Brynner bald gimmick. Honestly, I think this could have been a 20 minute attraction match in 1956 France and it would have gotten over with no one blinking an eye. That's a testament to how hard they were hitting and the sort of stuff they were doing. Noble snuck in the cheap shots when the ref was out of position and had those leg dives off the ropes on breaks that we've seen a lot out of desperate French heels. Ballard had a lot of revenge holds, most especially a rolling leg nelson, though worked as more of a nelson and less of a face-grinder. They hit hard, though it's interesting that they went down on almost every blow. No being staggered or stand up striking. Every shot led to a bump and I need to go back and look at other women's matches from this period to see if that was a conscious difference in how they were trained to work. The crowd seemed fairly reserved, though it's hard to tell without sound, but they definitely deserved some heat and adulation, whether they got it or not. 

Red/Steve Corino vs. Damaja/Doug Basham PCW 8/31/02

MD: This was the second round of the Russ Haas memorial tournament. Stryker (Teacher/Commentator Matt Striker, I think, in this case) had "suffered an injury" in the first round and Corino was a surprise partner. This was structured exactly how you'd want a ten minute tag in a middle of a one night tournament to be. The Corino surprise, though it didn't get a huge pop or anything, created almost an artificial addition to the shine, which combined with how good Red's stuff looked meant it didn't need to be so long. That meant they could lean into a double heat. Red's size made all of the heels' power moves look all the more potent, which again added value per time to the first half of the heat. At one point I almost thought this was setting up Corino refusing the tag and going heel on Red, even though there was nothing in the match itself other than how long a couple of minutes of beating on Red felt to make me feel that way. It wasn't usually the role he was cast in but Corino, once he got in, really understood the timing of working from underneath and the proto-Bashams worked well as a unit with blind tags and cut offs. The comeback was crowd-pleasing and didn't wear out its welcome before the Bashams again utilized Red's size to dramatic effect for the finish. Nice compact package here.

ER: The more Bashams I go back and watch, the more they feel like one of the best tag teams of the last 20 years. They really didn't get widespread hype during their WWF run, but watching them now while comparing them to literally any current WWF team and they feel so far ahead of the pack. Here I thought their tightness as a team shone because Corino looked pretty bad (until the final 30 seconds of the match). Basham has the great thinning tight curls mullet and beard, which gives him a cool late 80s Terry Funk vibe, and I loved his delivery of big clotheslines and his corner hip check. He's smart about when to stay out of the way (like when he saw Corino was behind on timing, so Basham did this sudden weak kneed sell so he wasn't just standing there like a goon waiting for Corino), and his timing with Damaja is strong. Red is a great guy to showcase their offense, getting wasted by clotheslines and flying high on a flapjack, and they're strong at selling Red's offense. Damaja threw an awesome right hand that seemed to wake Corino up for the finishing stretch, with he and Red both running wild, Red landing a great tope con giro, Corino throwing two really great overhand rights before being taken out, and Damaja laying Red out with an awesome Baldo bomb. Basham and Damaja had only teamed a dozen or two times at this point, and they already looked like a perfect pairing. A reevaluation of their WWF run would be a really fun project.

SR:  Hiroshi Watanabe is a PWC guy who has been around since at least 1995, along with Sanshiro Takagi. He was a talented wrestler but way too short to ever receive a push. Thankfully, he stayed around long enough until a tiny offshoot indy arose that would give him the opportunity to shine in long matches. Mumejuku is as if a bunch of aging geeky wrestlers who all agreed that matwork and 70s style moves are way better than 2.9999s and elbow exchanges, all got together and started a promotion. This was a really stretched out match with everyone involved hitting the mat for a good 15 or so minutes. You don’t see this kind of extended pro style matwork much outside of lucha anymore and it was very refreshing. It basically felt like MUGA mixed with llaves. Watanabe was the standout by far, going from doing holds to bald head comedy to unexpected bridge ups and escapes, hitting a really nice dropkick and awesome well-timed Robinson backbreaker. He is one of the few guys who can pull that kind of throwback style of and not feel phony. Konaka Pale One is an indy guy doing a yoga gimmick meaning he does some freaky contortions, and he has a wonderful little matwork section with Watanabe. Hideya Iso is the guy who looks like a mini-Yatsu and he is solid. Yasushi Sato is apparently in his 50s, but he looks good here. The finishing run was built around Sato throwing cool suplexes and doing leg grapevine moves. There are some really intelligent spots, and Sato is actually able to make me give a shit about things like a russian leg sweep, and the constant build to his finishing hold was really cool. Whole match felt very antithetical to the current landscape which is very welcome, and I hope this channel drops more stuff like this on us. 

MD: Long, tricked out, hard worked Japanese indy tag. It more or less worked in a three act structure, the first being matwork and pairings where each guy got to bring something to the table: Konaka Pale One (despite neither acting or working like a ghost) carried a lot of this and looked great throughout, including a nice rolling arm scissors early and more elaborate things later on. Iso and Sato weren't as smooth but the former used his weight advantage well and the latter brought a lot of energy. Watanabe had a bunch of well-received comedy bits with his bald head. The second act had Konaka and Sato fed up by said comedy and while it was still worked mostly back and forth to start, they took more and more liberties and ultimately seized an advantage. The third act was Watanabe and Iso coming back with some huge bombs and then Sato returning the favor, with Konaka doing damage around the margins. It all led to a series of grinding stretch attempts turned into modified Russian leg sweeps until Sato was finally able to lock in the hold he wanted for the win. I can't tell you much more about this one except for that it was good and you should watch it.

PAS: Man Sebastian can dig them up. Never heard of any of these guys, and I am in all on all four. They open with nearly ten minutes of mat wrestling and they keep it interesting, which is a total unicorn for 21st century wrestling. The finishing run had cool moves without overkill and a sensible build to a sensible finish. Watanabe hits a great backbreaker, Sato has a Hondaish delayed German and I loved how Sato worked the whole match to set up that trapped arm abdominal stretch, including hitting trapped arm Russian leg sweeps. I don't know why all Japanese wrestling stopped being stuff like this and to find it we have to dig deep deep into the internet.

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

2020 Ongoing MOTY List: Bryan vs. Corbin

39. Daniel Bryan vs. Baron Corbin WWE Smackdown 5/1

ER: I really liked the Corbin/Gulak match last week, and this was even better. This was all about Bryan going after Corbin's leg - not to do any kind of Sell The Leg match, but with a cool MMA strategy of targeting one part of the body to pay dividends the longer a match may go. Bryan had to land at least 20 leg kicks in this one, and all of them were winners. He starts with an early low dropkick that was so precise, and Corbin is a really underrated bumper for those kind of strikes. I loved all of Bryan's leg work, a nicely twisting kneebar and a real firm grapevine on the legs. Bryan is so good at keeping those types of holds locked snug, and knows better than almost anyone just what position to hold them in to make it look like tight leverage is being applied. I really liked his ropes escape from a Corbin front facelock too, backing into the ropes and slipping his head out before going back on the attack. Bryan's leg kicks were the steady motorik drumbeat of the match, and Corbin filled in the melody by sneaking strikes where he could. I liked his mounted punches after catching a leg kick, a nice straight right hand while trash talking, some 12 to 6 elbows, and a nice body shot after being separated by the ref. I thought his Boss Man tribute offense was integrated into the match in interesting ways. He hits a 'round the ringpost clothesline, but when he goes back to hit another one Bryan catches him with a cool diagonal tope; Bryan hits his awesome corner dropkick, but when he goes for another that's when Corbin hits a big time Boss Man slam. You see these moves thrown out often with no relation to each other, only a guy doing something he saw on YouTube, and I like how they instead established some easy and productive cause and effect stuff. I had figured this was not going to get a clean finish, but we got a lot of match before the DQ, I liked the ladder shot that drew the DQ, and thought Bryan's spill into a bunch of ladders was rough stuff.

PAS: This was a real hidden gem, Corbin is a guy with an interesting background (Golden Gloves boxer, Submission fighter) who doesn't really wrestle interestingly, but we saw flashes of it here. Nasty punches to the temple, a good looking front face lock takedown, some good looking mounted elbows (a spot which is very hard to look good). Empty arena Bryan was one of the few wrestling treasures of the post COVID world, and he really starched Corbin with every shot. I liked the leg work a lot too, and I also really dug him losing the string a bit and stomping Corbin in the head after all of the trash talking, nicely combined both parts of Bryan's wrestling persona, the technician and the hot head. Could actually see placing this really high with a real finish section, but what we got was very good.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Paradigm Pro: UWFI Contenders Series Episode 4

ER: Paradigm put on a better show last week than AEW did, so we're dedicating the Wednesday night slot to Paradigm this week. Better show gets written up fresh the next week. 

YOYA vs. Don't Die Miles

ER: I liked the standing portions of this a lot more than the grounded portions. I especially liked how we started, with Morales getting a quick German and then a nice flying knee. Later he snuck in this cool hooking kick to YOYA's chin that I think should have at least gotten a knockdown. They have a lot of points to work with in these matches and they hardly ever get used, instead moving right on from the best looking strike in the match. But I thought a lot of the ground work looked bad, especially the striking. YOYA had mount and was throwing little slaps off Miles' arms, and half of them weren't even making contact with the arms. I thought Miles fighting for a fireman's carry looked good, but stuff like that kept taking a backseat to unconvincing YOYA takedowns or a standing slap sequence that went too long. I liked the finish, with YOYA hitting a Saito suplex and holding on to slip on an armbar, but for a guy supposed to be working an "in over his head" angle, I thought Miles showed far more poise. 

PAS: I liked how frantic everything was, this approximated one of those insane WEC Banatamweight fights with tiny guys just going after everything a million miles an hour. Really liked the open 20 seconds with the Miles suplex and big knee, and Yoya is so small that even a small guy like Miles can throw him in interesting ways. I thought some of the stand up exchanges were really bad, you can do fast hands stuff and have it look effective even if it isn't stiff, but this looked like two guys swatting flies. Finish was cool, and I would be into a little dudes shoot division, but I am not sure overall this entirely worked.

Tommy Kyle Dean vs. Janai Kai

PAS: Both wrestlers have Tae Kwon Doe black belts, but unfortunately this felt more like half speed dojo sparring then a competitive wrestling match. Felt like they were practicing rather than fighting and the KO shot either missed entirely or was the victim of a bad camera angle. 

ER: Yeah this really didn't feel like an actual match. This felt like two people playing a fighting game only neither person knows the button combos so 80% of the fight is high right kicks. Occasionally you get lucky while button mashing and come out with something cool (like Dean's leg scissor takedown and Kai's heel axe kicks to break the follow up kneebar), but the kicks all looked like two people practicing distance rather than trying to hit each other. The fast front spin kick by Kai into the KO hook kick by Dean had great form, but agree that it either missed by a foot or made totally silent connection. Either way, it fell flat as a finish, but it only makes sense to miss the finish kick since none of the other kicks seemed to land. 

Robert Marytr vs. Jeffery John

PAS: The start of this match didn't do a ton for me, felt a little formless and the shots weren't doing much. Then John hits a gross sounding headbutt, which Martyr sells like a MMA fighter who is dropped, including trying to take down the referee. Martyr is able to get his bearings, grab kind of a half choke and takedown, and land some sick Pride stomps to the back of the head for a KO. Great finish run will go a long way, and love Martyr as a guy with fun realistic knock out selling. 

ER: This was fun, thought it picked up early with a great Martyr knee, and that headbutt that downed Martyr was a great moment. I loved Martyr's selling, fully bought into it, thought he looked legitimately loopy and I love a well used/well done ref takedown spot. The stand up didn't always look great but I liked how both guys were using head movement and it lead to some interesting stuff. The finish was real sick, with Martyr fighting through the cobwebs and getting a real mean choke, looked like the kind of thing a big brother locks in way too hard after he catches his annoying little brother in his room, and the stomps to the head for the stoppage looked sick. 

Hoodfoot vs. Isaiah Broner

PAS: Tremendous atmosphere, really felt like a West Oakland fist fight between two of the baddest guys in Fruitvale. Loved all of the pissed off shit talking and mean mugging. There are basically three moments in this match, they come together throwing, and Broner grabs Hoodfoot and throws him down. They get back up again exchanging and Broner drops him with a sick short hook. They go at it again and Hoodfoot hits a fast Saito and two big swinging forearms to the head for a KO. I loved all three moments, I kind of wanted one or two more - this was maybe 2 minutes long - and it could have been a killer 3 and half minutes. I wanted Broner to get to his feet after the Hoodfoot KO, even if only to get dropped again. Still I adore Hoodfoot as a guy with one punch KO power, and he really brings something special. And I'm really into Broner too, just a pair of badass looking tough guys. I would totally be into running this back again. 

ER: This really did have a great feel to it. A lot of these matches have been fun, but they can feel a little faceless. This felt like two big personalities having a big showdown, and most importantly: These were two guys I *wanted* to see fight. Any fight has the potential to be a good fight, but I love a fight where I just want to already SEE the guys fight. Hoodfoot has become a fast favorite of mine, and Broner has a great look, great vibe. Last week we had one of my favorite sub 3 minute matches, and now we have one of the great sub 2 minute matches. This is the kind of stand and trade I can get behind, as they just start swinging arms and seemed fine to keep that up until either of their Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot heads popped off. I bought into Broner getting the potential upset, and loved how the had him drop Hoodfoot first, loved that advancing short hook he cracked him with. Hoodfoot's Saito suplex is really great, like the fast kind of backdrop drivers that Kobashi used to take right on his head, and I love how he wasn't messing around and got right to throwing those forearms. I wish we got twice as much as we did, and I don't think it honestly would have taken a ton more for me to want to add this to our MOTY List. Run this back, let 'em go 5 minutes, then let 'em take over the indies. 

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Tuesday is French Catch Day: INCA PERUANO! Araujo! Corne! Laroche! Czernieski! Guguliemetti!

Jacky Corne/Roger Laroche vs. Jo Czernieski/Giacomo Guguliemetti 12/9/60

SR: 2/3 falls match going about 35 minutes. Jo Czierneski & Giacomo Guguliemetti, now those are names. The Corn/Laroche had a bit of a feeling of a junior partnered with a heavyweight. Corn was working some impressive smooth takeovers early on and Laroche kept it a little bit more solid. I’d say Czernieskis beatdown was easily the highlight of the match. He would ground people with nerve holds and then work over their kidneys with stiff blows and stomp on their hands. I also totally didn’t expect Laroche to take a big spill between the ropes and basically suicide diving into nowhere to set up a further heat segment on him. As usual, there was a ton of asskicking going and I thought it built to a very good match overall.

MD: Another strong, long tag. There were a few structural things that we've seen a lot lately, like the heels utilizing consistent and repeated holds and the faces firing back or a comeuppance spot with the heels tied up in the ropes including a catapult where one's tossed into the other. That's interesting to me because Corn hasn't been on the scene for a while. Hearing the announcer say he hadn't been on TV for 18 months when we don't have him in our footage for that exact period of time is a real reminder just how complete this footage is and makes me feel closer to the crowd and the scene in general. I wouldn't say that Guguliemetti and Czierneski stood out in the sea of foreign bad guys we've seen, though the former, an Italian, had a memorable lanky appearance. They used a stranglehold and a nerve hold respectively and stooged as appropriate. The best stuff here was after Laroche wiped out to the floor on a running tackle in the second fall and how relentless they were in demolishing his back. Corn managed to get back in at the start of the last fall (though again, they just haven't figured out the timing of a really good hot tag; I think sometimes we've seen visiting Brits manage it, but not the natives) and he really is a great total package of wrestling and fiery slugging. I liked how Laroche did get some revenge here, but just for a minute or so, in and out, as he was still selling. He never put himself at great risk and because of that, Corn was able to secure the win.

Inca Peruano vs. Al Araujo 12/30/60

SR: 1 Fall Match going about 25 minutes. Al Araujo may be Spanish or Portuguese, who knows. Gotta love France for giving away matchups like this. This was pretty much a sprint with both guys doing a mix of cool wrestling, unique bumping and beating the living shit out of each other. I would‘ve liked to see these two hit the mat a little longer, as they had some super swank stuff going on, but soon Peruano was stomping on Araujos face and punching his stomach. One might call this a 1960s spotfest as they move really fast from one thing to another, but I can tolerate a spotfest when the spots are fresh and there is a ton of gritty fighting as seen here. Al Araujo looked pretty fantastic here, his wrestling was spot on and when he took a beating his retaliations were violent as hell, and I loved all the backbreakers and holds he broke out. He also had this great vertical arm lift into dropping the Inca straight on his wrist. I really dug how both guys kept kicking the wrists from a standing position, and of course Inca Peruano was whipping out cool stuff left and right, including some really swank headscissor work. There was also a nice sense of progression, as some things would be repeated and then countered. This is our last lengthy singles match appearance from Inca Peruano and the only real match we have from Al Araujo, it‘s sad but this match certainly serves as a good highlight reel for their stuff.

MD: Peruano is nothing short of amazing. Obviously, we've seen him a few times now, but without the context of everything we've seen so far, I think it's hard to fully appreciate him. When we first started watching this footage, everything seemed amazing. Now that we've gotten a sense of it all, everything continues to seem excellent but Peruano, himself, continues to seem extraordinary. He's probably the single most talented person in the footage, or at the least up there with Catanzaro and Ben Chemoul and Pellacani and Le Petit Prince (and.. and... I know). He almost reminds me of Negro Casas with his combination of heatseeking and innovation and drawing outside of the standard box while being able to hit hard and stooge well and do all of the fundamental things well.

I thought we were out of Aruajo matches but this one had been mislabeled. Aruajo is a great foil for Peruano, almost a mirror image in some ways, though he'd probably stand out more against a less innovative opponent. He hits as hard as anyone and has maybe the best 'rana we've seen, but Peruano is simply impossible to keep down for long. He's almost too good at escaping holds and grinding down on Aruajo from every angle. Aruajo locks in some great stuff like a cavernaria and a tapitaia but Peruano is just too slippery and he's back to being dominant again, sneaking in cheaty counters and cheapshots on pinfalls before long. Peruano makes up for that by stooging dramatically in the most-crowd pleasing manner possible. The total package makes for pure entertainment.

PAS: This was incredible, what a performance by Inca, and Aruajo being there every step. Inca does five impossible things before breakfast, attacking at odd angles, finding a dozens ways to roll someone up you have never seen, throwing big shots and taking a bunch of bumps to the floor. All of the attacks on the wrist where super nasty, and I have never seen that wrist lift slam before, what a nutty spot that is. This felt like a tremendous lucha title match, all the skill of  Negro Casas vs. Atlantis,  but 15% stiffer. Which is all you can ask for in a wrestling match. All of the opening exchanges were great, and all of the final run bombs exploded the way you wanted them to. Another stone cold all timer from French Catch.

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Monday, January 11, 2021

NXT UK Worth Watching: Devlin! Aichner! Barthel! Banks! Modfather! Mandrews!

Fabian Aichner/Marcel Barthel vs. Flash Morgan Webster/Mark Andrews NXT UK 1/12 (Aired 1/16) (Ep. #25)

ER: NXT UK is really good at putting on 80/20 matches that feel the right amount of competitive even though you know one side doesn't have an actual chance of winning. This is a 10 minute match that feels more like 5, and that is a very good thing. Aichner and Barthel are great at bumping around for the much smaller Webster and Andrews, and they do so without looking like complete goofs, with their biggest bumps coming from surprise ranas or missed attacks. Barthel flies wildly over the top to the floor because of Webster misdirection, Aichner goes for a pop up powerbomb on Andrews and gets caught with a rana, Webster hits a similar rana (and I love Webster's rana) on Barthel, all bumps from the bigger guys make sense. And in between those bumps they lay total waste to the flyers. Aichner is a real asshole who will just blindside either one of them with an elbow strike while they're on the apron, and they pull off cool double teams that focus more on the move impact than on the cleverness that bogs down so many tag team double teams. 

The heels isolate Webster and it leads to a fun Andrews hot tag (with an assisted 450 splash), and I felt like our babyface team got the exact right amount of offense. And I think the punishment by the heels as a response to that hot tag was excellent, and really my only issue with the match was with Andrews kicking out of what looked - to me - like a match finishing brainbuster and going back on offense almost right after that kickout. It was a gorgeous spot, Barthel tossing Andrews off the top, with Aichner catching him vertically and dropping him with a brainbuster. It's not the kind of move someone should be running around immediately after taking, but alas. Aichner makes damn sure Andrews sells on the floor to take him out of the save, picking him up for a spinebuster and just running him as hard as possible into the guardrail. Their actual finish is as good as that brainbuster, with Barthel lifting Webster up for a powerbomb and Aichner hitting a flying back elbow off the top to put that powerbomb into motion. This was one of those performances that immediately made Barthel and Aichner look like either the best or 2nd best team on the brand. 

Jordan Devlin vs. Travis Banks NXT UK 1/13 (Aired 1/23/19) (Ep. #26)

ER: There was plenty of this that I wasn't a fan of (the opening strike exchange, any time Banks did his fighting spirit faces before fighting back, sometimes improbably), but there were too many sicko stiff shots and big moments for me to deny how much I dug this. Devlin isn't perfect, but he knows how to craft different match types depending on his opponent, and that kind of thing makes you really stand out in modern wrestling. Really this is the match that should have happened on TakeOver, and was much better than Devlin/Balor. I'm sure the return of Balor to the UK got more eyeballs than a Travis Banks match, and you need something eye popping on your first big special, so I get it. Still, build your brand a little bit and put on this match. To their credit, they worked it like it was a big TakeOver match, and that won me over in spite of some of the excess. I was ready to write it off after the first couple minutes, bad strike exchanges and uninteresting crowd brawl, but I snapped to attention when Banks hit a big Thesz press off the barricade they pretty much had me after that. Devlin hit this sick hammer fist shot to the side of Banks' head and I liked how Devlin missed a stomp on the ring steps that slowed him down just enough to eat a high kick to the eye. Devlin always leans into kicks and he took so nice thumpers to the chest from Banks. 

Devlin's sudden Spanish Fly off the apron to the floor was really surprising, as we didn't get the prolonged choreographed fight on the apron, and that made it feel like Devlin made a snap decision to do something crazy and attempt to injure them both. Devlin is a guy who can fit a ton of highspots into a match while always making them feel like part of the match, never like a guy trying to get his shit in, always to the service of the match. When he caught Banks with an in ring Spanish Fly I thought it would have made for an awesome flash finish, so while I didn't love when Banks used his fighting spirit to get up and immediately lariat Devlin, I at least appreciated how much Devlin ate that lariat. His big flipping bump actually felt borne out of the lariat, and often those big flipping bumps feel removed from the move that caused them. Devlin eats knees on a moonsault better than maybe anyone, always making it look like he's hitting that moonsault and doesn't actually know he's about to land face first on knees, and that kind of in ring honesty lifts a match like this so much. I liked how they handled the double count out finish, as the tumble to the floor looked good and it actually helped both stay strong (instead of an appeal to parity), and while I'm not sure where they go with the feud after this match, I really liked what both brought.


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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Paradigm Pro: UWFI Contenders Series Episode 3

Big Beef vs. Crash Jaxon

PAS: These are a pair of big dudes who both lost their first match, and this was a fun Beef showcase. Jaxon had a moment or two, but mostly was eating big shots including a nasty stunning slap, and a couple of big suplexes including a nasty German, plus a wrenching powerbomb for the KO. Jaxon is a good foil for these matches, his size makes it really impressive when he is dropped. 

ER: Beef comes off like a real bulldozer under these rules, and I love watching it. Jaxon threw some iffy looking kneelifts (the first two he did I had no idea what they were even supposed to be until commentary called them knees, just looked like a silly little leap), but he certainly hung in there to take some gnarly strikes from Gnarls. Beef backed him up with a right hand, and landed some nasty crossfaces on the ground. I dug Jaxon trying to stuff a suplex attempt so it wound up looking like Beef dropped him with a leaping Flatliner. Beef's clubbing forearms to the back really echoed and the shoot powerbomb for the win looked really cool. 

Hardway Heeter vs. Chase Holliday

PAS: Heeter comes in to Waiting Room so the old DC punk in me is on his side. Holliday has a medal which he puts on the line in the match. They tried a bit too much here, seven suplexes in a three minute match is total overkill. I actually liked some of the non-suplex stuff a lot, Heeter had a nice jab to the body and the coolest thing in the match was Holliday's jumping knee, but then they just went back to suplexes (none of which looked great). Finish was pretty bad too, with Holliday trying Goodrich elbows which didn't land well at all.

ER: Before he had his first match, I noticed Heeter standing around me during a SUP show during SCI 2019 weekend. I thought he had a cool look, jacked dude with glasses, strong beard, rocking no shirt under a vintage jean jacket. Coming out to Fugazi just adds to all that cool. I'm with Phil, in that the suplex stuff did not work for me at all. It wasn't even that I thought there were too many (there were), but most of them were set up in the most pro wrestling way. If you're going to set these things up with one strike that almost connected, why not just do other pro wrestling finishers? Let's see a bad stomach kick to set up a twist of fate, or maybe someone can wait around bent at the waist to take an axe kick. I like the parts where they were keeping each other at bay with strikes, like Heeter's great jab to the body, or Holliday's swarm of open hand strikes that allowed him to get in close. But just throwing a strike and then hitting a vertical suplex, with no fight whatsoever? I'm sure I could have been into this more if there was some decent struggle, instead of guys taking wrestling suplexes. I much rather would have seen them work around Holliday's early match grounded front chancery and build to his great running knee as the finish. Instead we got Goodridge elbows that all looked like Holliday was trying to rub off one of Heeter's nipples. 

1. Austin Connelly vs. Lord Crewe

PAS: This was my favorite match of the series so far (it's either this or Hoodfoot vs. Flash from Episode 1). Connelly wrestles this like you might imagine Buzz Sawyer would have worked UWF. He charges Crewe, swarming him with wild shots and a Karelin lift which wasn't hit clean, but in a cool way. Crewe peppers him with kicks and slaps and Connelly just keeps moving forward, landing a big slap to the ear and a second big Karelin lift. They exchange big shots until Connelly gets dropped to his butt, with Crewe following up with a nasty sliding elbow for the KO. Whole thing was super intense scrap with constant forward movement.

ER: This was so great, genuinely in the conversation of greatest under 3 minute matches ever. Connelly is billed as a crazy man, and he ran in with no defense the entire time, scrambling for takedowns like an animal (commentary laughed at him using Groundhog Style, which is great), and Crewe just threw full arm strikes the whole time. Connelly threw him with a Karelin lift that Crewe sandbagged (Connelly still got him over) and later muscled Crewe over with a waterwheel suplex. But Crewe just picked this guy apart, throwing more landed strikes in 2 minutes than we've practically seen in this entire UWFI series so far. He was just smacking Connelly above the ear, in the temple, in the mouth, in the forehead, any direction Connelly turned there was an open hand to greet him. Crewe threw a couple nice high kicks whenever Connelly was stunned, and ran in with a sliding elbow for the finish, and all of it looked great. These guys were total maniacs, really showed what kind of special exchanges are possible in this format. 

YOYA vs. Akira

PAS: I liked this a lot too, YOYA is really tiny and it allows Akira to pull off some pretty cool shit throwing him around the ring. Akira is normally a death match guy, but pulled off some slick shit here, including a monkey flip into a cross arm breaker and Indian death lock choke combo.Akira also landed a sick headbutt to break a leg bar, a crazy running back elbow and a koppo kick. YOYA was really fast and used hand speed and some leaping submission attempts. Finish was sick with Akira doing a lifted keylock suplex into a keylock submission which looked like it ripped out Yoya's shoulder. There was a pretty lame run in post match by DD Trash setting up a future tag match outside of UWFI rules, but the in ring part of this match was cool.

ER: This was a lot of fun, and they had a ton of ideas, although I'm not sure we needed every single one of their ideas. I think my problems were more with layout, as YOYA took a ton of hard shots that each counted as a knockdown, and I just did not buy his big comebacks down the stretch. 125 lb. is really small, making that 65 lb. weight difference far greater. I'm under 160 and the idea of me taking knees in the face and being on "Bambi legs" and taking more of the same for 5 minutes, followed by me getting a couple throws on someone weighing 225 lb. sounds laughably implausible. YOYA had some really cool stuff that really worked, and his sliding rolled through kneebar by far one of the coolest things we've seen on the UWFI shows so far. But Akira unloaded so many tricks on him for so long, and I'm not sure I would have bought those throws at any point of the match anyway. 

There were several different pieces of Akira offense that I thought were the end of the match, like YOYA shooting in for a takedown only to meet a perfectly timed knee to the chin. That happens a minute in, and I can't get too excited for a wicked spinning backfist several minutes later, no matter how great it looked. The finish was at least the most disgusting part of the match, and I was genuinely scared for YOYA's elbow, shoulder, and arm. When Akira yoinked YOYA up into the keylock I thought that was the finishing submission right there. I didn't expect him to THROW him by that same arm and then keep the hold applied! Disgusting finish, though it's kind of wild that the 125 lb. guy absorbed more punishment in this match than anyone in any match so far. 

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1. Lord Crewe vs. Austin Connelly Paradigm Pro 1/6


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Saturday, January 09, 2021

WWF 305 Live: Crush! Booger! Viscera! Kane! Big Show! Undertaker!

Crush vs. Bastion Booger WWF Raw 6/28/93 - GREAT

ER: This is great for what it is supposed to be great at. They're a week out from the Stars and Stripes Challenge, and Crush is being lightly built up as someone who could potentially be the one to slam Yokozuna. On the way to the ring Heenan is the one to point out that if ANYone in the WWF had a chance of getting Yokozuna on his tiptoes, it would be Crush. Vince and Savage weren't talking about it, so Heenan bringing it up unprovoked about a good guy felt like something kids would have noticed. And the match story is simple but effective, with early hard shoulderblocks neutralizing each other, and Crush twice unable to lift Booger into a fireman's carry. Doubt was cast on Crush's lifting ability, and there's a great moment where Booger crushes him on the floor with a killer avalanche into the ringpost. Booger works a long gross bearhug that Crush fights out of by jamming his arms down into Booger's prominent titties, while Vince and Savage go on and on about how bad Booger smells and how disgusting his hump is. The man's hump is admittedly off putting, it's a really stupidly effective dumb gimmick. We get some great moments of Booger being a large heavy man, and I genuinely can't tell if he was sandbagging intentionally or not. He barely gets over on a backdrop, kind of rolling and flopping off Crush's back, and then Crush actually goes for a vertical suplex but doesn't get him quite vertical and ends up in sort of a half bodyslam. Intentional or not, it's effective at putting over the denseness of Booger, and Crush is strong enough at selling that he comes off strong for just shifting him. The finish is really great as Crush gets fired up and hits three straight bodyslams on Booger for the win, with Vince flipping out the whole time that Booger is 450 pounds, only 100 pounds less than Yokozuna. The fans recognized that too and it made Crush come off like a genuine babyface threat. 

Undertaker vs. The Big Show WWF Raw 5/3/99 - FUN

ER: Pretty stunning that the first ever meeting between Undertaker and Big Show happened on a random episode of Raw, and wasn't even announced ahead of the episode. That's crazy. They really had no idea what to do with Big Show, judging by his character arcs over his first few months. This is a short match with a quick finish, as Undertaker punches Show into the corner and climbs the turnbuckles, only for Show to drag him down with a nice bearhug. Undertaker rolls to the floor and Paul Bearer hands him ether to dump on his elbow pad. I always love when ether or chloroform gets involved, mainly because the commentary has to say things like "You smell that? It smells like ether!" and I suppose if you're around pro wrestlers long enough on the road you may eventually learn how to identify the smells of chloroform or ether. Taker locks on a sleeper and hooks the ethered pad around Show's face, which is a cool spot to bring down a giant. Oh but this is the middle of 1999 so Undertaker just gets a baseball bat and fucking breaks it over Big Show's face. Why not just jump him before the match and bash him with the bat, why wait the 2 minutes? The bat spot is totally preposterous, as the bat just explodes over Show's head, cutting Undertaker around the jaw and busting open Big Show's forehead, swelling his eye. There was a lot of ridiculous weapons stuff during this era, but Russo realllly loved the implausibility of full force baseball bat shots to the head.

Viscera vs. Kane WWE Backlash 5/1/05 - VERY GOOD

ER: Outside of the weird racist/misogynist Trish/Viscera angle (Viscera slaps her ass and is promised sex upon Kane's demise, Trish calls him - among other things - a "chicken eater" when he fails), this match was a blast. Kane is outweighed by almost 200 pounds so works more as the fast undersized guy. They run into each other nice and heavy, Kane drops fast cruiser elbows like he's Waltman or something, and even hits a nice legdrop with good height. The standing exchanges look good, and even though Kane usually hits light on flying offense, he dialed up the crazy and hit a flying shoulder tackle off the top to the floor. Viscera bumped big, ring shaking back bumps, nice job running into the ringpost, all of it felt very King of the Monsters. We even got a fun spot where Trish ran after Kane with a chair but got blindsided by a Lita cane shot, sending Trish and the chair flying. These two have matched up several times, and this match made it clear that there could be a really good match in there somewhere. I could also see this being their peak, but this was real good.


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Friday, January 08, 2021

New Footage Friday: All Japan 12/2/96 Handheld

 AJPW 12/2/96

PAS: This was the tail end of the 1996 RWTL, and only a couple of days before the apex of All Japan Tag Wrestling. We saw two pretty great warm up matches for our finalists.

Masao Inoue vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru 

MD: Spirited opener that played up the size difference and highlighted Kanemaru's athleticism. Inoue based well early, as Kanemaru stayed on his arm, did some tricked out chain wrestling, and flew at him from every direction. You were really just waiting for Inoue to catch him and he did, selling the arm still for a bit before really putting the oomph into his mauling. Kanemaru was so spry that he could land on his feet at any moment and he had some hope towards the end, including a well-worked for slam before missing a leap off the top and getting crushed. They made the most of this.

ER: AJ openers were always so much more interesting than NJ openers, as you really got a sense of these guys growing, and the fans were always ready to get excited at the slightest hint of an upset. Kanemaru was someone who really got to show a lot in openers (for a few years) and I really dig the AJ slow burn hierarchy. Kanemaru surprised Inoue with a lot of flash, including really sending him flying into a guardrail on a dropkick. He doesn't skimp on his missed offense, always missing as if he thought there was water in that pool, and I like the little victories that fans react loudly to. Like here, Inoue hits his falling clothesline and then rudely palms Kanemaru's face on the cover, then gets launched off when Kanemaru throws all of his remaining strength into a kickout. It was like Yokozuna kicking out of a Macho Man pin and the crowd was into it, sensing a Kanemaru surprise. Inoue acts incredulous to the ref, but then folds Kanemaru with a hard back suplex and pins each of Kanemaru's arms to the mat, not taking cocky chances this time. 

Tsuyoshi Kikuchi/Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Satoru Asako/Maunakea Mossman 

MD: This was a fun quasi-juniors tag. Mossman definitey shined here with a lot of dynamic stuff, but it was almost too much or too varied. He had the kickpads and the kicks, a bunch of holds, a couple of throws, and a splash off the top. You wanted to see him focus in more on one thing, maybe. Kikuchi continued his run in this footage as a class A cruiserweight bully. When he finally got fed up and intervened to save Ogawa, he just laid in a beating and refused to leave the ring as if he was Hansen or something. Asako and Ogawa were fine though Ogawa, despite working from underneath and having a good connection with the crowd, didn't show signs of being fully developed as of yet.

ER: This felt like two different matches, and I liked both matches, but I wish we could have seen either the last half of the first match, or the first half of the second match. The first half is really neat, with Asako and Mossman working over Ogawa's knee. Asako especially goes off on that knee, really wailing on it with stomps, elbow drops, knee drops, just landing on Ogawa's knee with his body. Asako and Mossman were making quick tags and I was really getting into this AJ juniors southern tag. But once Ogawa rolled to the floor, Kikuchi came in and just beat the shit out of Asako, and then never really left (even though I don't think he ever tagged in at any point). From there, there was nothing more acknowledged about Ogawa's leg, and this became Kikuchi as Hansen, always kicking someone's ass. Ogawa was the afterthought of the match, getting his knee worked on and then stepping aside for Kikuchi, but I thought Ogawa was really great at taking offense. He was whipping himself into the mat on little things like drop toeholds, and his ability to take offense made Asako/Mossman look like a real team. Mossman had a lot of cool stuff, loved how his long kicks always found their mark under chins, and his top rope splash was awesome. His splash focused less on hang time, and was more like a low line drive, getting to the landing point quick and painfully. I also really loved his moonsault feint, as he head fakes a moonsault to get Ogawa to roll out of the way, then nails a Vader bomb instead. Ever since seeing that Zero-1 match where Kikuchi spends 10 minutes literally pretending Hoshikawa's hard strikes weren't bothering him in the least, I've been scared of Kikuchi, looked at him in a whole new light. He comes off like a real bully and feels like he would have no problem taking several Mossman kicks if it lets him land one brutal elbow smash. Also, I really like the Kikuchi/Ogawa finish of a Kikuchi elbow smash into an Ogawa inside cradle, very aesthetically pleasing and Ogawa was right there to catch Mossman as he was falling from the elbow. 

Tamon Honda/Johnny Smith vs. Giant Kimala/Jun Izumida 

MD: Another good, but slightly weird showing from the Kimala/Izumida team. They had great offense, including that same side tandem double elbow drop, a torture rack drop, and an assisted tree fall headbutt, but I swear they worked towards a quasi-hot tag again. Honda knew exactly what he was and how to make the most of it. He was formidable but also hugely entertaining in his exchanges with Izumina. The crowd was into Smith but he was too quick to rush to the next thing. It was a big deal that he suplexed Kimala and he diminished it by not milking the moment at all. That was just the way he was working this one.

ER: A little aimless, but aimless in that fun way where I can just zone out and enjoy these dudes for 15 minutes. I love the Kimala/Izumida team, always love the big hot Kimala tags they build to. The start of the match is really great, with Honda throwing a side headbutt to Izumida's stomach as he was coming off the ropes, then going right into the two of them using their oversized melons to clonk each other. Honda throws a great spinning heel kick (on one leg, Booker T style) that I don't recall him using that often, and I liked how he and Izumida kept going back to different headbutt attacks throughout the match. I liked Honda's never-give-up falling headbutts, where he'll just keep faceplanting until one finally lands, juxtaposed with the super violent Kimala/Izu team headbutts, Kimala throwing Izumida down into some hard landings. I agree with Matt that Smith is from that Dynamite Kid school of hit your awesome looking offense and move right along to your next big of awesome offense. It doesn't make the offense look less cool, but it sure makes the offense mean less. The snap suplex on Kimala should have been the big spot of the entire match, but he was already moving on to a nice elbow smash and cool top rope elbowdrop less than 10 seconds after. The All Japan roster had so many different guys at this point who knew how to properly lead up to their biggest offense that you'd think someone would take him aside and tell him to let things breathe a little. Kimala's hot tag was as awesome as ever, and I think his avalanche is one of the greatest in wrestling history. He doesn't leap into it, it's just this super impactful sudden stop. I love the same side tandem elbow, love his rolling senton and heavy splash. I'm so happy we've gotten so much more Kimala/Izumida footage, since they were frequently edited off TV. 

Giant Baba/Rusher Kimura/Mitsuo Momota vs. Masanobu Fuchi/Mighty Inoue/Haruka Eigen 

MD: First, you'll be glad to know they didn't work this one exactly the same as the last. They did repeat a dive tease but who cares as it was funny both times. That's not to say Momota didn't carry things for his side, because he absolutely did, and whenever he was in there it felt like a real match. You watched this and there was no reason to to think a singles match between him and any of his opponents wouldn't have been very good. Kimura, at this point, has to hold the record for getting the most out of the least, right? He occasionally sold his shin and ambled around the ring no-selling mostly everything else and the fans ate it up. I wish I knew what Kimura said post match for any of these.

ER: I really loved the old man trios we reviewed a couple weeks ago (same teams, from the 8/20/96 show), and while this was fun I don't think it was nearly as good as that match. The comedy hit better in that match, and there was an actual cool story thread throughout of the rudos working over Rusher's leg. This didn't have any real threads, and was much more of a time killer, but I like watching these guys fill time. Rusher looked like he was getting legitimate laughs out of his teammates by shaking his head in silly ways to show Fuchi how impervious to pain he was. Baba looked like he was laughing into the turnbuckle and Momota had to lean over the ropes to hide his face. I don't know if I've ever seen any of the old man competitors actually break, but this looked like they were actually having a hard time holding it together for Rusher's antics. I liked Fuchi's fearful selling and him getting backed up in the corner by the crazy Kimura, only to find that Inoue and Eigen had walked to the other side of the ring to avoid tagging in. 

I'd really love to see a serious Momota/Eigen singles from this era. We have evidence that Momota could still go as late as 2009, but Eigen is a guy who seemed like he was a super spry 50 year old still (loved his rolling before the initial lock up with Momota) but purposely played things down. He's a guy who has a lot of genuinely great shtick so I get why he took things easy, but looked at the nice knife edge chops he was throwing to Baba and a few other sequences, I with we got an actual serious old man Eigen run. Fuchi is a bastard as always, throwing a few kicks at Rusher's face and later breaking up a pin by scraping his boot on Rusher's ear. We got the Eigen spit take spots, including my favorite where he and Momota exchange hard overhand chops and Eigen hits Rusher on the apron with his spit. Also, for a 47 year old just a few months away from retirement, Mighty Inoue's rolling senton literally looks better than any modern wrestler's rolling senton. His form and aim on that move are pure elegance. 

Stan Hansen/Takao Omori vs. Dr. Death/Johnny Ace 

MD: Perfectly ok match hurt by my expectations. A lot of this was Hansen or Williams coming in and breaking up holds and it felt like it kept building to a real encounter between the two of them but never quite got there. Williams had his usual mid-90s manic energy and Hansen could still turn it up, including hitting a double dropkick with Omori at the end, and he certainly cut off and leaned on Ace well. But when you see this match on paper and come out of it realizing that most of the heavy hitting (and it was good heavy hitting) came from Omori vs Ace exchanges, something probably went wrong. Both Williams and Hansen had great presence though, of course, especially in the little moments like Ace, on the top rope, having to punch Hansen, on the floor, in order to clear enough space for the double team finish.

ER: I'm with Matt in that the match feels like it's building to that big Hansen/Doc showdown, and that doesn't happen in the match, and the match is lesser for it. The confrontation comes to a head AFTER the match, which is probably their best interaction of the match (though I do love Doc breaking up a pin by yanking Hansen by the hair out to the apron to elbow his throat). After the match Hansen is leaving, then turns around to swing his bull rope at Doc, which leads to both egging the other on, before Hansen decides to leave again. Doc gets up on the turnbuckles closest to Hansen's exit aisle to raise his arms, and Hansen cannot abide. He runs back and knocks Doc off the ropes, Doc gets tangled, Hansen swings at photographers and ring boys, and the crowd reacts louder to this than anything in the match proper. I don't think we are alone in thinking the match didn't live up to expectations, as the crowd is much quieter during this match than during any of the prior matches on the card. They only really woke up during the finishing stretch. But that's not to say the whole thing wasn't enjoyable. Omori and Ace did hit hard, and Hansen made his pinfall breaks count (nobody breaks up a pin better than Stan Hansen). I loved Omori's heavy as hell elbowdrop off the top, and was wowed at the speed Hansen and Omori shot Ace into the ropes for a tandem shoulderblock. Ace had that speed where you could tell he wasn't fully in control of his body, Hansen using that Andre pulling strength on him. Plus, the Doomsday Device finish looked like it came a couple inches away from killing Omori on a house show. So while we didn't get a big batch of dynamite like I wanted, if this match established the floor, it's a nice high floor. 

Mitsuharu Misawa/Jun Akiyama vs. Gary Albright/Sabu  

MD: Peak Sabu doing peak Sabu stuff in AJPW against Misawa and Akiyama. The match turns on a dime a few times, going from a mostly grounded affair into Sabu flying all over the place or Albright tossing people around. The stuff you're going to remember here is Sabu leaping off of Albright's back, poetry in motion style. Sometimes it works, like a huge kick to the face in the corner. Sometimes it doesn't, like the missed moonsault that set up the finish. Sometimes it really, really doesn't, like when Sabu flies out of the ring and lands hard on the guardrail. The fans knew what they were getting and they were happy to get it. It never really comes together as a match, but is that actually what you're looking for when you watch this one?

PAS: Sabu and Albright are such a legendary oddball team, what a way for Misawa and Akyama to warm up for the RWTL finals, face these two weirdos. No chairs for Sabu to use in AJPW so he just keeps using Albright's back as a launching pad, including one springboard dive where he landed ribs first on the guard rail with a crunch. Misawa and Akyama kind of took a backseat to the wackiness, although I loved the Freestyle takedown and ride exchanges between Jun and Albright. We get a couple of sick Albright suplexes including one which dropped Misawa right on his head (always a bit tough to watch with hindsight). More of a spectacle than a match, I almost would rather see Albright and Sabu against a team with a bit more color. Misawa and Akiyama are great, but I bet I would have dug their Hansen and Omori match more. 

ER: Sabu is as incongruous to Kings Road style as anyone, and throwing a wrench into their style is always fun (for the hits and misses). My only gripe is that I wish Sabu had thought of some more interesting ways to insert his offense into things, but I also liked how Akiyama wasn't someone who was going to wait around during overly long spot set-ups. Kings Road worked so well because of the impeccable timing of its best wrestlers, and some of these Sabu spots require a lot of stand still time. Stand still time is not something we typically see in this era of All Japan, and it's weird! Akiyama treating them realistically made these spots work within the framework, and lead to some of the best moments of the match. I loved Gary Albright getting into tabletop position several times during the match, using his refrigerator shaped torso to boost Sabu. I'm honestly shocked they didn't incorporate Albright's unreal throwing strength and have him launching Sabu like a projectile. Sabu takes some rough spills, no more rough than landing stomach first on the guardrail after Akiyama casually walks out of the way of his triple jump plancha. The missed triple jump moonsault (again off Albright) to set up the finish was just as nuts, and it easily could have lead to an even worse landing. Albright is so cool, nobody else in wrestling like him. I loved him and Akiyama working the mat, ending with Akiyama throwing 8 or so nasty elbows right to the face. They build throughout the match to Albright throwing Misawa, Misawa wisely scrambling for the ropes every time Albright tries to get the underhooks in, and it's an awesome moment when Sabu hits poetry in motion on Misawa and Misawa stumbles out of the corner into that Albright belly to belly. They tease that Misawa is going to get dumped with a dragon suplex (on a house show!) but compromise by merely getting dropped vertically with a German suplex. I agree with Phil that Misawa/Akiyama were a bit too stoic for the oddball gaijin team, and I'm positive I would have loved their match against Kimala/Izumida even more. That's the true handheld gem. 

Kenta Kobashi/The Patriot vs. Toshiaki Kawada/Akira Taue

MD: I really enjoyed this. It caught me off guard as Kobashi caught Kawada almost instantly with a Tiger Suplex and followed up with a power bomb on the floor. That set the stage for a control-driven match as opposed to a back and forth one, with three clear segments before they went into an extended finishing stretch (though one where the Holy Demon Army controlled for the most part, building off of Taue's presence and what went before including the fact he was the one guy not to take an extended beating) about 2/3rds the way through. Kawada did fight back for the hot tag and they immediately crushed Kobashi basically the same way Kawada was crushed (huge suplex + move on the floor). It also meant just a minute or two apart were Kobashi's chops in the corner on Kawada and Kawada's rapid kicks on Kobashi which just felt paralleled and correct. I would have liked to see Patriot more involved in the early beatdown on Kawada, but when he did get a hot tag from Kobashi he came in fiery until Taue targeted his injured arm. Solid selling for the rest of the match from him, especially down the stretch where he was fighting valiantly with one arm. The stretch itself was pretty measured with a couple of big break-ups and one big kickout but nothing that took me out of the match. Taue targeting the arm once again to open Patriot up for the killing blows was good stuff. One Taue and Kawada got full advantage, they were just amazing spoilers. Nothing could kill a wrestler's forward momentum than Taue imposing himself upon him. Just a good focused, lost main event.

PAS: Interesting variation on a classic main event tag. Mitsuhara Misawa to the Patriot is about the biggest talent downgrade I can imagine, but Patriot was fine here, especially for a guy who was a focus of the finish run. Really liked the Kawada vs. Kobashi sections, it is a different vibe then Kawada versus Misawa, but Kobashi's flourishes work well as a foil for Kawada's grimacing ass kicking. I loved the exchange they had when Kobashi came into to try to break the Kawada arm bar, with Kawada waving off the two initial chops, only to cut Kobashi off with a big kick when he tried for more momentum. I also enjoyed Taue taking Patriot apart at the end. He is like a slow moving avalanche, it isn't going to hit you fast, but you will end up buried underneath it all.

ER: I really really liked this match, and it really felt like the best Patriot performance I've seen. Now, while it's true that there were 27 or so guys I was more excited to see on this show than The Patriot, a good performance is a good performance. We don't get many limb work matches in All Japan, and I thought Patriot got his arm tore up nicely and sold it the entire way through. The match started very surprisingly, with Kawada nearly convincingly 2 minutes in after a tiger suplex and powerbomb on the floor, and for almost the first 10 minutes of the match the only offense Kawada gets is throwing some kicks at Kobashi from his back (classic Kawada, selling being only on muscle memory fumes, still annoying the fuck out of Kobashi by kicking him in the eye and back of the knee). Kawada gets to pay Kobashi back with a ruthless as hell backdrop driverWhen Taue makes it in they eventually single out Patriot, and begin coldly and methodically wrecking his protected arm. Taue is wrapping the arm around the ropes and kicking at it, and Kawada is really mean to it. 

My favorite part of the match is Kawada so fixed on taking apart Patriot's arm, that while Taue and Kobashi are fighting on the floor, and somebody gets thrown HARD into the guardrail off camera, Kawada doesn't even bother glancing over to see who hit the rail, he's too busy kicking Patriot's arm as hard as he can, ripping off the protective brace, and stomping on it (Taue casually walking back into frame confirming it was Kobashi hitting the rail was a fantastic moment caught by our cameraman). I was really impressed with Patriot's arm selling, especially when he was making his comebacks, never once slipping and doing a move that required both arms. He was also a super strong presence throughout the match on the apron, and I love a great apron performance. He's great at getting tied up by the ref as Kobashi is getting double teamed, and he has a few fired up moments where he is dying to get in that ring and you can hear the fans buying into it. Taue looked as great as ever, playing into Kobashi's quirks (I hate those Kobashi equalizer spots where he takes a snake eyes to the buckle, powers up, takes a chokeslam into the buckle, powers out, gets dumped with a German suplex, powers up, but then Taue has to sell a lariat for longer than Kobashi sold anything), and Taue's destruction of Patriot for the finish was violent as hell. There are a couple really great nearfalls, like Patriot getting saved after a backdrop/nodowa otoshi combo, and barely kickout out of a hard Taue nodowa otoshi while Kobashi was nowhere close to save him. Loved Patriot trying to punch Taue afterwards and Taue just pump kicking right through it, before slamming the door shut with a final nodowa otoshi. 

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