Segunda Caida

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

Sunday, April 21, 2019

MLW Worth Watching: Teddy Hart! Mance Warner!

Teddy Hart vs. Maxwell Jacob Friedman MLW Fusion #45 2/2 (Aired 2/16/19)

ER: Man I love Teddy Hart! I've always enjoyed him to some extent, sometimes because he does stupid things, sometimes because he's a great punching bag, but 2018/2019 Hart is different. This feels like the best version of Hart. He's always been great against mean brawlers, but now he IS a mean brawler. I think Hart is my favorite current puncher in wrestling, and mid 2000s Hart wasn't a guy I was watching to see punches. Now I want to see him throw punches and uppercuts more than I want to see him do moonsaults, and this match was a great showcase for both of those things. Friedman's whole deal isn't something I look forward to, but he's not a hack, and occasionally surprises me with a laugh. Here he and Hart did a posedown and when the fans booed him MJF hissed out a great "Are you kidding me??" through clenched teeth. Hart takes a great sprawling bump to the floor, bouncing himself off the guardrail, and we basically start with a long grounded MJF headlock, like 3 minutes, but I dug it. MJF was interesting working a side headlock (in fact he was interesting working all his holds this match) and Hart had cool things he would do to try and break it; fishhooks, trying to work his own cravate, going after the eyes, a bunch of nice things to fill a 3 minute headlock. The real money comes once they're on their feet, as that's when Hart can wallop MJF in the corner with a punch, then throw his whole body into an uppercut. Who would have guessed Teddy Hart would have a better European uppercut than Cesaro? I wouldn't have, but here we are. MJF and Hart come up with a real smart, real fun way to move into Hart's flipping piledriver, and I don't think I've ever seen the move set up this well. Hart is up top, and MJF catches him and starts throwing at him, Hart throws a few nice punches back (sitting on top turnbuckle throwing punches at a guy who is standing on the middle rope isn't an easy spot to throw from, and these looked good), and Hart gives MJF an enormous wedgie. Just a quick yoink and MJF drops to his feet pulling trunks out of his ass. And while he's doing that Teddy jumps off with his piledriver. Great spot, great set up. MJF worked over Teddy's arm nicely, really liked MJF's Fujiwara armbar and he was not someone I expected to work a nice Fujiwara armbar. He also robbed Teddy's rope leverage piledriver which feels like a move that makes more sense for MJF to use than current Teddy Hart. There was some unnecessary ref stuff that kept this from list, but I dug this a lot.

Mance Warner vs. Jimmy Yuta MLW Fusion #46 2/2 (Aired 2/23/19)

ER: This is Mancer's MLW debut and it's a fun showcase. He does a lot more cosplay here than I'm used to seeing from him, but if you're gonna cosplay he at least picks some good idols. He is billed from Bucksnort, TN and also dresses like Bunkhouse Buck, does a nice Tenryu chop/jab combo in the corner, and does the Arn fake punch/DDT spot on the apron. If a guy is gonna steal, stealing from Arn, Tenryu, and Buck show his head's at least in the right place. Yuta doesn't do a ton for me, but he's a nice Mance punching bag. Those corner jabs looked pretty gnarly, and there were some amusing spots around eyepokes (Yuta isn't the kind of guy who is going to sell an eyepoke for more than 1 second, so they're kind of wasted). Yuta hits a dive, Mancer takes a big bump into the guardrail, we get a nice headbutt from Mancer to cut off, and the best thing about this is easily Mancer's running knee shiver. Yuta leans right into it and Mancer throws a great knee to the side of the head. The follow diving lariat for the finish doesn't look nearly as good. Reverse the order of those two or really lace into Yuta with the lariat.

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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Matches from ACTION Wrestling 12/7/18

Michael Marshall vs. Chad Skywalker

ER: I really really dug this. Marshall is super fun and feels like a guy I should seek out more often. His wrestling style feels like Drew Gulak working as The Gambler, and anybody who finds themselves reading this page knows that's a pretty high compliment. I'm watching this in a crowded airport so couldn't hear very well (although I heard Dylan drop a Gus Sonnenberg reference after a nice Marshall shoulderblock) so I'm unsure of the rules, but there appears to be some Watts WCW at play: no top rope offense, over the top is a DQ, no closed fists, and it's a style that was derided at the time but is pretty refreshing now. Marshall hits all the basics really well, and he hits the stooge misses even better. There's a great bit of business where he climbs slowly up the buckles, facing the ring, lingering on the middle rope knowing the top is illegal, and by the time he jumps down to go for an elbowdrop Skywalker moves, then moves again when Marshall goes for a kneedrop. A good missed elbow or knee can be just as important as one that's supposed to hit. Both guys work real well as dance partners. I'd never seen Skywalker before but he added some nice flash within the match rule constraints, still showing off some athleticism without breaking the concept. There's a cool moment where Marshall upends him and Skywalker lands stomach first on the top rope, and later Skywalker goes inside out on a nice diving lariat from Marshall. Marshall moves really quick and hits offense real slick, but as I said it doesn't come off like a rehearsed step routine. It's not easy to hit a uranage backbreaker into a reverse STO, but he makes it come off like a violent act that Skywalker couldn't stop if he tried. The piledriver finish was an excellent exclamation point to end on, and I officially want to get Marshall on a MOTY list.

Fred Yehi vs. Arik Royal

PAS: This is a rematch of an earlier ACTION match, and comes after Royal cost Yehi a spot in the title match. Really fun structure with Yehi coming out really fast and dominating the first 5 or so minutes beating Royal all around the ring, stomps and chops and even chucking him off of the stage. It felt like an old fashioned walking tall babyface getting revenge. When the ref pulled Yehi out of the corner to check on Royal, Arik burst out of the corner with a huge tackle which upended Yehi, and a second low tackle which sent him to the floor. Then Royal dominated the next three or four minutes, with Yehi having a moment or two. Finish was super nasty, with Yehi missing a top and landing chest first right into the lip of the stage. That led to an injury stoppage, and Royal cementing his evilness by attacking the injured Yehi and powerbombing him through a table (a plastic table, which doesn't look great, if you are going to do a table spot, buy a wood table). Another fun match between these guys, who match up great, I imagine a gimmick blow off is coming and it should be killer.

ER: Love how these two match up against each other, and love how different this match felt from their previous ACTION match. Yehi jumps him to start and it’s fun seeing brawling Yehi. We get a lot of technical Yehi to start matches, him grabbing limbs and stomping feet and working waistlocks, here he’s all over Royal and Royal is always great as a guy who is unexpectedly overwhelmed. Yehi works a fast full body attack and tosses Royal with several low Germans. I like that the Germans weren’t high arcing, Royal wasn’t leaping up and back into these; they were a little messy, Yehi looking like he was struggling to get Royal over, as he should have looked. I love when wrestlers find clever ways to work within their surroundings, like when Darby Allin got chucked into the side of a balcony, or at an old Rev Pro show I was at (the SoCal one, not the British one) where Super Dragon would take his bump past the ringpost and fly into the wall right next to the ring. Here we get two fantastic uses of the venue’s stage, the first with Yehi and Royal brawling on it before Royal gets tossed off into the ring apron (and the camera was filming behind him so it looked like he got tossed 10 feet), and a major moment to end the match. Royal taking over is fun, as usually you see Royal still cockily cracking jokes during a beatdown, and here he is just no funny business, punishing Yehi for getting the drop on him. The tackle that allowed him to take over was an all-timer, just totally blindsiding Yehi and sending him flying in a wild direction, like some dumb teens filming themselves jumping over a moving car stunt gone wrong. Yehi looked like a skinny kid getting double jumped by a couple of fat kids on a trampoline. Royal’s diving shoulder tackle a moment later was sweet icing, just unceremoniously shoving Yehi to the floor with a thud. Royal controlled with a bunch of boot chokes, nasty stomps to the jaw, some moments where Yehi looked well rocked. And that finish! If you’re going to do a contour or stoppage finish, do something like this. Yehi starts making his comeback and goes for a dive, only Royal steps aside and Yehi topes chest first right into the stage. I watched this match on a plane on my way to see Yehi/Makabe and some guy sitting next to me (whom I didn’t realize was watching) let out a loud “OH!” I liked the postmatch, didn’t have the same problem with the table that Phil did. I kind of liked the visual of the hard plastic table collapsing under the force of the powerbomb. ACTION could really stretch this feud out over a couple different stip matches, and I’ll be totally cool with it.

Billy Buck vs. Cam Carter

ER: This looked like a match that would deliver on paper, and it totally did. This thing is only 10 minutes but the pace is so constant that they squeezed an absurd amount of action into the run time. There really wasn't much selling to speak of, and it threatened to devolve into move trading but I don'y think it ever got there, instead it just felt like two guys with good chemistry doing cool shit. I wish they had treated some things with a bit more weight (there was a nice running knee to the chin by Buck that everyone immediately moved on from, and an even better running knee from Carter that got moved past pretty quickly), but the action was cool. Carter (with Sky Walker confusingly on his tights, on a show that has a guy named Skywalker) hits a big dive into the crowd and is super quick (in a way that a LOT of these ACTION guys are really quick, they're like Dragons Gate guys but with nice strikes) and a grounded deceptively quick striker like Buck plays off Carter's style really well. I always think of Buck as a hard hitting ground guy, but then he always surprises me with cool agility stuff, like here he had a really slick rana that wasn't *quite* as impressive as that time we all saw Gran Markus Jr. hit a rana, but looked nice nevertheless. In a world where superkicks have been rendered meaningless, Buck knows how to throw a superkick with some punch, and his is good enough that you buy it as a finish (which got us a nice nearfall). Fans flipped out when Buck kicked out of a killer Carter powerbomb, and like I said by the time this was over I couldn't believe only 10 minutes had passed due to how much stuff I had just seen. Total hot sprint, great chemistry.

Slim J vs. Alan Angels vs. AC Mack vs. Ike Cross

PAS: This was a four way elimination match to crown an ACTION champion. It had some of the flaws inherent in four way, lots of guys having to disappear for a while, some contrived spots, but it had a lot of strong moments too. The match had a lot of very cool cut off spots, lots of guys running into huge spots, Angels flies into a Cross spinebuster, Cross cuts several folks off with big spears and there was an awesome spot near the finish where Mack cuts off a spear with a leaping pedigree. Slim J went out first which was a bit of a disappointment, he had some cool moments though including a great Hector Garza style corkscrew plancha. Angels looked good too as a cheapshot artist. The story of the match was Mack vs. Cross, they had a long singles section against each other to end the match, and I think that will be a great rivalry to build the main event around.

ER: I thought this was fantastic, a well oiled modern extension of a classic M-Pro multiman, though I actually liked the multiman portion more than the singles match ending. They were doing this great crazy M-Pro match but with little cool southern wrestling touches, moments like AC Mack yelling from the floor (out of eyesight from Cross) "Don't worry buddy, I got your back!" while Cross is locked in a sub. M-Pro with southern character building is a cool niche to exploit and I was Slim J is an absolute great, he's the greatest successor to Rey Mysterio, but there are times when he seems even better than Mysterio. Here he's whipping off loony flying - that Garza corkscrew plancha had such a straight line and target that looked more like Dhalsim's drill attack than anything a human should be able to do - but also throwing the hardest strikes in the match. Slim was throwing full arm attacks at the head, like a smaller faster Vader bear attack strike, but also throwing these insanely powerful lariats with both arms. He's a total powerhouse who can lift guys and hit hard, all while moving like Baryshnikov. So, yes, the match suffers a bit when Slim is the first guy out. But the energy was there and we got some nice shows of Mack's timing, a little comedy when Cross no sells an Angels lariat (with Cecil Scott breaking out a well placed "Oh baby what is you doing?"), a couple crowd dives from Angels, Cross spearing Angels hard after Mack dodges, and a killer finish of Mack dodging spears from Cross until he perfectly times the combo breaker and hits the Mack 10 off a spear attempt. Mack worked a little more deliberate when it was down to he and Cross, and it felt like a bit too much of a comedown from the pace we'd been at, but the work was real good.

ER: ACTION is a great show every time out, I've never regretted watching a single one. Feds like them and AIW are some of the most exciting wrestling going these days. No shocker, we're throwing Yehi/Royal and the main event on our 2018 Ongoing MOTY List. This is a great wrestling product, and we'll continue supporting it.

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Friday, April 19, 2019

New Footage Friday: Paul Diamond, Liger, TNT, Hashimoto, Claudio, Navarro, Solar, Quack

Negro Navarro/Claudio Castagnoli/Mr. Ferrari vs. Mike Quackenbush/Solar/Kendo LLM 3/9/09

ER: This is something I've heard about for a decade, but have never seen, and now I have! And it is just what I hoped it was. It has a super satisfying build and the pairings I hoped to see, thought everyone was good at ramping up the intensity of the match. Just some maestro lucha straight outta Delaware, a state I think about less than at least 40 other states. At minimum I wanted some exciting Navarro/Quackenbush in spades, and we got a nice bounty of them; the whole match starts with them and far more time is devoted to them together than anyone else in the match, which is what I wanted. The pairing is playful but can turn painful in a blink. Navarro was looking spry as hell and it was great seeing him whip Quack's legs in a predicament and then clap his hands and break, like a magician doing a trick for you, and then repeating it to see if you can figure it out. Quack is a perfect dance partner for Navarro as he has a bottomless bucket of ideas and can execute them at any moment, and it was cool seeing them both executed and blocked. I loved a moment where Navarro was on his back, Quack grabbed his hand and immediately did a handspring off Navarro's chest, dragging the arm with him and setting into position; not long after Quack went to grab Quack's hand and Navarro immediately dropped it, dropping Quack in the process. There exchanges were what trippy lucha matwork dreams are made of. We didn't get to the Navarro/Solar section until 3/4 of the way through the match, really building to the longest running feud, and their short time together was pretty amazing. It's a match-up we've all seen many times but they appear to be doing their thing in double time, and I mean these are guys in their early 50s and we know that, but I don't think I've ever seen someone in their 50s move like this. The others in the match are nice complements: Ferrari is a husky boy who resembles no kind of sleek Ferrari that I've seen, but I liked what he and Kendo pulled off together; I thought Claudio was somewhat out of place - his strength is his work as a base and there weren't really fliers here - but there were rewarding moments with him; I loved a Navarro moment right at the end, going back to the theme of Navarro as Lucha Magician, where he comes in only to boot Solar in the balls, and then disappears by bumping backwards through the ropes to the floor, like he threw a flash bomb after a ball kick. Why do I suddenly want to see Navarro vs. Jarek 1-20?

MD: Big thanks to Rah for reuploading this after other things went down. We get two falls out of three here and while a lot of the narrative is sort of the sloppy indy affair you'd expect, that's not why you're here. This is about seeing Navarro work with an empty canvas and with a wholly receptive opponent. Quackenbush must of had the time of his life getting stretched. He was smaller and very flexible and totally willing to let Navarro bend him in any number of shapes. That his own stuff looked so good is a testament to both of them too. There were a few moments that looked just a little too cooperative (or involved excessive waiting) but in general, everything was way more fluid than you'd think. That's not a slight on Quack either. It's just that the stuff they were trying was so tricked out. The rest was ok. Claudio was deep into shtick at this point, flexing at every point. He worked a bit with Solar and it was ok with lots of armdrags, but really didn't have nearly as much time to breathe. Kendo and Ferrari were fine rounding things out. We had the segunda and tercera here and we probably missed a bit more with the others not having the primera. The rudo beat down towards the end gave me just a taste of the other thing I wanted here, Claudio and Navarro working together. Navarro's a ham too (though the world's most astute, dangerous ham) and you figure the two of them could have really done some fun stuff. We get a hint at it but no more. Watch this for Navarro and Quack, which felt twice as long as it actually went but in the best way.

PAS: Tomk and I went to this show live in 2009 (long road report which really pissed off a bunch of Chikara die hards here) and outside of a random bit of this showing up on a weird streaming site later that year and disappearing (that might be what Rah got his hands on) I hadn't seen any footage of this show. Really cool to revisit this a decade later. From reading our live review it looks like we actually get most of the first fall, and the third fall but miss the segunda. Some of the narrative issues Matt have had might be because of that. I loved Navarro schooling Quack, and we get almost 10 minutes of those guys rolling, sometimes Navarro's catch and release mat work bugged, here it worked great. He was showing this indy punk that he could tap him any time he wanted, so he would lock him up and let him out, just to lock him up again. In that second fall we don't see here, Quack gets the tap, which really helps the story. The taste of Solar vs. Navarro was incredible, just adderall fast which was nuts for so many old guys. Too bad Navarro pissed off Quack, as he would have been an awesome semi-regular in Chikara like Skayde or Saint, still not knowing what happened between them, I am always siding with Navarro.

Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Paul Diamond NJPW 7/18/93

MD: I wasn't entirely sure what to expect out of 93 Paul Diamond here, but he delivered. He could have been the third guy in a Kroffat/Furnas trio. He had some great junior acrobatics, including a cartwheel out of a monkey flip, traded holds well with Liger (though there wasn't a lot of chain wrestling though what they did was ok), and had great offense (this deep German, a slide through the legs from the outside in to a Northern Lights, what looked like a Casas seated dive off the apron, and a gourdbuster, plus this great kick in the corner), and mostly everything was smooth. For all the limb targeting they did, it could have used a bit more focused selling, but this was an overachiever of a back and forth juniors match.

PAS: This was a Diamond showcase match, and he really looks like a guy who could have had a Benoit/Guerrero/Malenko like run in the New Japan juniors division. He had some big time offense for this time period, his Northern Lights suplex looked great and his Casas senton off the apron got great height and distance. Liger is an all time master at working with a guys strengths, so maybe you need to see Diamond's Kido singles on the same tour to really get a sense of his potential, but this was a weirdo match up which totally delivered.

ER: The Paul Diamond showcase we've all been waiting for! Phil is right that Liger is great at showcasing any guy's strengths, a guy who will always have an interesting match with a young lion, a guy I saw try to do things with Blue Demon, a guy who is going to make a singles match work. And Diamond is a guy with cool stuff! More cool stuff than I realized! He kind of came off like a junior heavyweight Jerry Flynn. I dug how the crowd reacted to him cartwheeling out of Liger's monkey flip, liked the matwork as he's a guy I've never seen work the mat this long, hit two really nice lefty lariats, a cool hooking kick in the corner, a guy I've seen plenty of but felt like I was seeing something really different from him here. There were a couple awkward moments but overall this was a blast, and jeez does Liger take 2" of Diamond's height with his match ending Liger Bomb. He practically dropped Diamond vertically, and we're obviously happy that this exists. 

Shinya Hashimoto/Akira Nogami vs. Brad Armstrong/TNT NJPW 7/18/93

MD: I also had my doubts about this one (it fit into our weird match ups for the week), but I thought it really held up. Vega as TNT can be great or goofy depending on how deeply he leans into the shtick and who he's up against. Here it's perfect though, because Hashimoto's the perfect intersection of toughness and charisma. After a bit of anticipation by having Armstrong star the match against Hash, TNT comes in and it's great. They ran a couple of sequences of TNT controlling with cheapshots and martial arts punctuating with both guys missing spin wheel kicks and TNT doing his karate chop pose at the end. Finally though, Hash hits one and follows it up by mocking the pose with a middle finger payoff. Great stuff. About one third of the way in, Brad starts to work heel which is surreal but really enjoyable, with them primarily working over Nogami. It's a little nervehold-centric but with some good hope spots (including a headbutt flurry) built in. The hot tag's good, with another wrinkle of Brad and TNT cheating to take back over on Hash (including Brad's always awesome Russian Leg Sweep) before Hash comes back for the win. Good, measured stuff, making the most of the tag structure, including utilizing break ups instead of kick-outs. Post match, TNT and Hash clown around with the pose and middle finger again.

PAS: I really loved the opening section with Hashimoto and TNT, it was more Stan Lane martial arts then normal Hashimoto stand offs, but I thought it worked really well and I loved Hash doing the TNT pose and flipping him off. Still this was a Hashimoto match where Hashimoto is almost an afterthought. Most of this match was Nogami being worked over by TNT and Brad and Nogami isn't really a compelling face in peril, and TNT and Armstrong aren't doing many interesting things in control. It picks up a bit at the Hashimoto hot tag, but that doesn't last long before the finish. Fun oddball matchup, but I want more Hash.

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Even More 80s Christmas AWA

Jerry Blackwell/Greg Gagne vs. King Kong Brody/Masked Superstar AWA 12/25/84

ER: More nice tag formula, although Gagne got kind of swallowed up by Brody. Gagne was FIP for most of this with Blackwell getting a big hot tag, but the money match-up throughout was Blackwell/Brody. There was one great moment where Brody was firing up big boots right to Blackwell's forehead, with Blackwell leaning into them and powering through them while the crowd went nuts. Brody played monster well, and AWA is probably the Brody era that I have seen the least, but I thought he was a great fit here. Blackwell is also a guy who is a great babyface (which is also not the role I've seen from most of my Blackwell viewing).

Earthquake Ferris vs. Brian Knobbs AWA 12/25/86

ER: Ferris was the football coach or wrestling coach or P.E. coach or some kind of sports coach at the high school my girlfriend from like 20 years ago went to, and every year he would run a wrestling benefit show for the school. The year I was dating her I went and saw Greg Valentine, saw Sabu, her parents sat through a pro wrestling show and had zero respect for me, it was fun. And guess what, this rules. Brian Knobbs is just a couple months into his career here, and looks like a spitting image of Bridget Everett. Ferris works a couple of really fast cool armdrags and drops Knobbs with a big body slam. Knobbs talks trash about how fat Ferris is. Ferris is more of a bump machine than I remember, especially loved this massive missed elbow drop. Knobbs had some of these weird and violent, almost World of Sport movements on some of his attacks. He drops a super quick knee on Earthquake's leg, and does these great slashing attacks to the arm, started wrenching the arm he was attacking around the ropes. He really brought a more violent attack than I was expecting. I might need to do a rookie year Brian Knobbs deep dive. Ferris shows nice spunk on his comeback, hitting this sky high avalanche, just throwing arms back and diving in with nothing but belly, way high up. Then he gets Knobbs up in an airplane spin (The Ferris Wheel!!!) which leads immediately to a quirky splash finish. This match was fun as hell. When you're grinning your ass off and loving the 1986 melted candle body fat boy wrestling, you tell 'em Eric sent you.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

On Brand Segunda Caida: Barry Houston

Barry Houston/Todd Morton vs. Terry Funk/Bunkhouse Buck WCW Saturday Night 7/16/94

ER: This was such an incredible idea that I'm quite frankly an idiot for not writing about something like this sooner. This is a pretty spectacular "What if Segunda Caida booked a random WCW tag match" lineup right here. And this is one of the greatest Barry Houston showcases we have, a long tag match that is essentially an extended Barry Houston beatdown with some nice comebacks. Todd Morton is in only for about one minute, still working his Ricky Morton underling look with his Morton mullet and bandana boots. Morton comes in, takes a couple shots from Buck, takes a great backdrop bump because that's what he does (this one doesn't have his usual height, but it takes a flipping bump the way Jannetty takes a clothesline and it's amazing, never seen a guy take a backdrop like this before), and then eats a nasty Funk piledriver. That's all we see of Morton. The rest of this tag match is Buck and Funk destroying Houston. Houston was just so damn good at eating a beating, he relegated himself to a career of eating a beating. He gets a couple fun mini comebacks, the rolling prawn hold was a solid nearfall, but it's so much of Funk and Buck just manhandling him. The whole thing starts with him eating a lariat right in the back of the head and goes downhill from there. Buck and Terry are so damn mean here, Funk just tosses him around and his a hard bodyslam, Bunk slams him and stomps his head, Houston takes two huge back bumps from the ring to the floor (landing with a real slap), Funk and Buck hit loud chops and slaps, Funk hits a hard shoulderblock, freaking powerbombs Houston on the floor AND gives Houston a nasty DDT on the's a freaking massacre. The finish of this is bananas: Funk drops True Man Barry Houston with THREE straight piledrivers. And Barry Houston takes a piledriver as well as ANY man who has ever taken a piledriver; Houston always whips his legs and knees towards the mat instead of keeping his body stiff like most. It really creates the illusion that his neck is snapping, just looks absolutely stomach turning. It's the perfect example of how his gift is his biggest curse: Picture Terry Funk voice saying "Barry - I like that name, sounds like my name - Barry, I remember how well you can take a piledriver. Tonight you're gonna help us out by taking three of 'em." Each one looks better than the last, and this video has a whole highlight reel after the match showing Houston taking 8 different nasty bumps. This is the match that secures Barry Houston a place in the eventual Segunda Caida Hall of Fame.

Barry Houston vs. Steve Austin WCW Worldwide 8/6/94

ER: Man this was a savage beating. Whereas the Funk/Buck tag was a total asskicking that saw Houston get a couple nice comebacks, this was 3 minutes of Austin showing just why he's an all timer. Houston gets not one split second of any kind of offense against Austin, this is just a freaking bear attack. Houston barely got a chance to breathe throughout this as Austin just fired on him the entire time. Austin backed Houston into a corner and threw a fantastic right hand to the jaw and an elbow that really used his whole body. Really every single thing Austin did in this match was with his whole body, looked like he was throwing all of his weight behind every shot. It was 3 minutes of Austin just being the meanest bully, doing everything so explosively. He drops a great knee, throws great body shots, and then does some of the meanest legwork I've seen. He spends the last 2 minutes just yanking and stomping and doing incredible butt drops on the inside of Houston's knee. The amazing thing was all of Austin's attacked looked completely worked, it didn't look like he was just stiffing the shit out of Houston, but I don't think it's possible for anybody to throw worked shots that look better than any of Austin's here. The leg work was great, every shot to the inner knee was brutal, and the stump puller figure 4 that he finished with was disgusting. God bless Houston and all he's done, but my god was this the Stunning Steve Austin show. This man was never not a star.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Low-Ki Started Popping Like It Was Legal

Low-Ki vs. Volador Jr. IWC Legacy 4/14/19 - FUN

This was the main event of the most indy wrestling of the four competing lucha feds running in Denver at any one time (There was a different show in town running at the same time with Zumbido in a granite warehouse).  This was a weird show, at one point or another this was supposed to be a supershow with IWC guys working HOG wrestlers, then they had listed CIMA and OWE wrestlers, Darby Allin, Priscilla Kelly, Ricky Martinez and Shazza McKenzie. We actually got Jimmy Havok working the local fake Raven in a garbage match, Bram working a three way with a tubby Puerto Rican and guy billed from Austria working an anti-sugar gimmick (he has I Kicked Sugar on his tights, and after taking a bump says "I need some Stevia"), there was a lucha tag with one local luchador teaming with indy luchador Septimo Dragon and another local luchador teaming with Australian indy wrestler Mick Moretti.

The main event was listed as Low-Ki vs. Laredo Kid, which is on paper a way better match, instead we get Ki vs. Volador who is surely a bigger star, but also a guy who is going to mail in a match like this. Ki comes out with Selena De La Renta and she is awesome heeling it up on the mic, insulting the crowd, telling all the Mexican men they are disappointing in bed and all the white guys that they are raising ugly children. Ki worked this as an over the top rudo, we got to see a great in-ring double stomp, and an awesome sell of a tope where he goes back first into the stage. Volador wasn't doing much, and he really leg slaps on his kicks. Got to love Ki refusing to put over Volador Jr. in a event space in Denver, they do the same finish as the Fenix MLW match with Selena pulling off Volador's mask and Ki rolling him up. They do a bunch of post match mic work, including Volador hilariously challenging Ki to Cabellera contra Cabellera, and Ki jumps him, only to get superkicked to the floor. Ki is a superstar, and any chance I have to see him live I'll take, but I would have much rather seen him with someone who would give a shit.

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Monday, April 15, 2019

2019 Ongoing MOTY List: Kingston vs. Shire

3. Eddie Kingston vs. Thomas Shire Heavy Metal Wrestling 3/1

PAS: I had never seen or heard of Shire before, but holy hell what a first impression. He is a Dory Funk trainee, and he works a MUGA style, a lot of hard Euro uppercuts, simple powerful throws and solid matwork. Kingston is Kingston and he comes in to put over local guy, and they beat the every living shit out of each other. Lots of cool little Kingston grace notes, after the first big uppercut Kingston goes to fire back, but has a delayed reaction little stumble into the ropes, totally puts over the heat Shire is throwing, I also loved near the end of the match when Shire puts his hands behind his back to eat a chop, King just thumbs him in the eye. Kingston was really vicious in this, chops to the throat, punches to the liver, really hard and hot forearms, Shire gave as good as he got with just teeth rattling uppercuts, including one to the back of Kingston's head and one into a diving Eddie which looked like KO shots. We had some back and forth strike stuff, which normally I hate, but both guys selling really elevated. I really loved this, Kingston is really peaking right now, and Shire feels like he should be booked everywhere.

ER: This was tremendous, and rather unexpected. I had never heard of Thomas Shire before this, and "Dory Funk trainee" just makes me think we're getting Kingston working Adam Windsor. Instead we get Kingston working someone who is much more like "full potential reached" Jack Swagger + best possible Dory Funk Jr. That kind of sounds really uncool and unappealing, now that I type it out, but it really isn't. It's freaking great. At one point the commentary says the match is like All Japan happening in south Texas, and that's not a terrible description. Kings Road Kingston is great, one of the few guys to actually do justice to the appropriated style, and this is probably the finest Kings Road Kingston performance I've seen. Shire was no slouch either, and even though this was a lot of Kingston throwing mean as hell elbows and chops to the chest and neck, Shire's comebacks were integrated perfectly at just the right moments, always capitalizing on moments where Kingston started to treat him like a chump. The Kingston torture moments were great, with him breaking out a nice bulldog off the middle buckle (which set up a nice visual comeback for Shire later), big powerbomb, a wicked swinging fisherman's buster that is one of the cooler things I've seen this year, a jawbreaker to the BACK of Shire's neck (not sure I've seen that before), an awesome moment where he suplexed Shire and hit a boss lariat when Shire had the gall to fighting spirit his way back at him. But Shire is a big strong guy - long lanky legs and a bulked up torso - and he always has the power to surprise Kingston. King goes for another bulldog off the buckles and eats a big uppercut on his way down. Shire drops him with a German and sets up a dragon suplex, and when Kingston fights out of it Shire just snaps him over with a trapped arm German. Shire even hits this insane deadlift Karelin throw that looked downright back breaking. As Phil said, the back and forth and the tradeoffs were so good, played perfectly into the ebb and flow of their personalities, that every exchange just clicked. This was a real special find, the kind of match I watched and then wanted to watch again the next night. Shire is now a guy I'm going to actively seek out, and Kingston is somehow throwing out career best performances in his retirement year. Everyone needs this.


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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Lucha Worth Watching: CMLL Unexpectedly Stretches Out

Blue Panther/Black Panther/Blue Panther Jr. vs. Misterioso Jr./Puma/Tiger CMLL 7/10

ER: What a smokin' trios hidden in the middle of a Tuesday night Arena Mexico show. For whatever reason they get a ton of time to do their thing, and they make some real cool use of that time. The primera is long and is entirely on the mat, easily the most matwork I've seen in a CMLL match in a couple years, totally cool and unexpected. Most of the time is taken by Panther and Misterioso, as the respective maestros working a bunch of longform leglocks. CMLL just doesn't let matwork stretch out like this any longer, and it was awesome seeing these two work holds, and work in little moments, like Panther getting his leg twisted but you see him start to wedge his free foot in between Misterioso's knees and it leads to him sweeping and cleanly picking up Misterioso's ankle. They go to a couple standoffs and then go right back to attacking legs, the crowd getting more and more into it the longer these two stay in the ring. I cannot recall a recent CMLL match where the same two guys held court longer than this (over 6 minutes) to start a match, and I loved it. BP Jr. comes in to do some more leg lock and Indian deathlock battling with Tiger and ties him up with a cool inverted stretch, part cruceta, part making his shoulder blades touch.

Rudos weren't messing around in the segunda and jump Panther familia and gleefully kick their black and blue asses around the ring until they were black and blue. Panther Jr. takes a few bumps over the barricade, Tiger throws a full beer at BP (who ducks), just a fun mugging around the ring as if Misterioso was a battle hardened general shouting "beat the crap out of them and don't let them roll on the mat with our legs!" The tercera is a continuation and much more of a modern lucha tercera, but better. It never devolves into big move 2 count kickouts, instead jamming in a ton of partner saves which is infinitely more interesting. They kept ramping it up and the crowd got louder with every save. We had a couple false finishes and a couple peaks; you watch enough formula Arena Mexico trios matches and it's obvious when something is doing something a bit differently. Panther Jr. hits a couple dives, Misterioso wraps himself around the ringpost on a great bump, crowd gets super hyped for the elder Panther matching up with Puma and Tiger, really the tercera felt like a whole CMLL trios in itself. Cool vibe with several things out of the norm for this kind of trios, and I smiled the whole time as they kept going and the fans kept getting more rabid for Panther.

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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Long Road Report to Hell 4/4/19, Show #3: MLW Rise of the Renegades

TKG: Bloodsport ends and we head into town for MLW. Originally this was scheduled to be LA Park v Rush and the thing I was most excited for. That wasn't happening. This was a long TV taping and had the real rhythm of a TV taping (angle followed by long showcase match, angle followed by long showcase match, angle followed by long showcase match ) and that rhythm eventually kills you. 

PAS: Hindsight is 20/20, but we probably should have just gotten a good dinner somewhere, rather then two long, expensive Uber rides into the city for this show. When we got these tickets we thought we were out of luck for Bloodsport and didn't want to fly to NYC for two shows, once we got Bloodsport tickets this became a mistake

ER: This show sounded like an excellent idea at the time. We had a gigantic gap in our schedule due to Bloodsport selling out sooner than we anticipated, and wanted to fill it with wrestling. WWN tickets at the same time were like $80, MLW tickets were $20. Easy choice was easy. In hindsight though we should have just had dinner and then rolled the dice on whatever was playing at White Eagle. Getting to Queens and back was a nightmare, and MLW didn't really book any interesting on paper match-ups. MLW has a several guys I really like, and they were all matched up against guys I don't care about. So we drive into the city and it's weird because in California the uber drivers never shut up. You go to the airport and you know you're going to be talking about the new elimination diet you're food allergic driver is starting for the duration of the trip. In NY they're nearly completely silent, so this driver had to listen to us talk about the tremendous hit our music collection will take if we were to cancel 60s rockers the way we easily cancel guys like Ryan Adams today when we find out what scummy dudes they are. Wrestling too. Tom talks about how many different musicians beat up Tammi Terrell. And soon, the talk turned to Ferriday, Louisiana and Jerry Lee Lewis. Phil talks about how Jerry Lee essentially killed two wives, with a "Ferriday's Most Famous Son" police report saying the women died from falling down and hitting their hit too many times. Then Tom tells an incredible story about early 90s Jerry Lee tax troubles, and how he had a 900 number grift that Tom actually called, and to milk the time of the call Jerry Lee had *known stutterer* doing the call intros!! Our driver sat in silence as Tom went into an extended "Now if-a you'd like to he-he-he-hea-hear Jerry Lee tell a story about E-e-e-el-ell-elvis then press 1, and uh if-a you'd..." I was in stitches. Phil tipped the driver handsomely.

Brian Pillman Jr. vs. Maxwell Jacob Friedman

TKG: Maxwell Jacob Friedman? Not Maxwell Jacob Goldstein? It was MJF and not MJG? We must have watched 30 matches of his and no one corrected me all the times I yelled “Don’t want drama, don’t want none” and “Hey 8ball says your mouth says no but your body says stick me”?

PAS: We came in during this match and headed to the bathroom and got situated, so weren't fully settled and focused on this. Both guys are fine, but this was mostly a set up for the six man later in the show. Pillman does look exactly like his father and I am happy to have a Pillman back in my life.

ER: We got there a little late and missed an Ariel Dominguez match which is a drag. He's a fun tiny babyface underdog in a gi. And like Dominguez, Pillman is a guy I like, who I haven't actually seen in a match I really like. This seemed to have a nice pace but as Phil said, we showed up as it was starting, used the restroom, found a place to stand (and I went over and pet Mr. Velvet in between peeing and finding a spot), so I only caught glances until the finish.

Jacob Fatu vs. Barrington Hughes

TKG: Fatu, Samuel, and Simon Grimm are working some kind of paper bag passing international brown solidarity heel team gimmick. MLW likes to use vintage managers and semi disappointed that Armand Hussein isn’t out explaining this. Is Armand Hussein still alive? 2019 Arman Hussein would be awesome ridiculous move. Fatu squashes the huge Barrington Hughes and the heel team bury him under either a balaclava or their team flag. Hughes is super obese guy from Florida so him getting knocked down is always scary.

PAS: Fatu is really explosive and fun to watch. No idea why they would fly in Hughes from Florida just to get squashed a couple of times, that guy is two airplane seats minimum, you might need to buy him a whole row. They are really burning through that venture capital cash in dumb ways.

ER: I got excited for Fatu's music as he's a Bay Area guy who had big early impact and clearly looked like a guy who would get national opportunities. He also had a great match against Boyce Legrande which was arguably my favorite match for Phoenix Pro Wrestling, the local group Tim Livingston and I do commentary for. And then the Caramel Colossus comes out and I'm stoked for a BIG big boy battle. But since it's a Hughes match, it only goes 1 minute. Hughes has really only worked 1 minute matches for MLW (other than their bad WarGames match) so I knew it would be too flukey that I would be there live for his first actual match. Jesus, give me 4 minutes of this dude working a tubby match and I'll get it on our list. Little did I know that we'd be seeing like 7 segments of Hughes getting jumped by Fatu's stable throughout the night. Phil and I were dying the next day talking about MLW buying 3 airplane tickets to fly Hughes up to just get jumped by Fatu's gang. I mean Hughes is gigantic, gigantic enough that you not only have to buy him 3 tickets, but they have to be tickets in an extra leg room seat, which can cost considerably more than other tickets. Just a wild use of $$ there. We saw so many obese dudes get jumped by Fatu's gang by the end of our time at MLW. It got absurd. I would have cried laughing if Hughes had shown up at the late night AIW show just to get jumped and rolled over slowly with kicks. Would have made me even more of a fan.

Rey Horus vs. Ace Austin

TKG: This was a long long showcase match. I think Ace Austin is working a “close up magic” gimmick and does lots of stuff built out of headstands. First juniors exchanges were fine and felt like they could have had a fun lightning match but then they try to a strike exchange section, and a throws section and a mask removal section and a finisher exchange section. This felt like had way more sections than needed and no one had any idea of how to move from one to the next.

PAS: This was a long singles match from two guys who clearly can't put together a long singles match. Maybe if either guy was with a veteran who could control the match and work around their spots it might have been OK, but we didn't have that guy and it suffered.

ER: This match felt so long. Starting from the time we walked to breakfast, we'd already been up and about for 9+ hours, and this thing was long enough that I assumed they were going to Mordor. Horus is good with a base like Steve Pain or flying in for trios spots, but god I did not need to see 20 minutes of him working on material. Austin is a guy I haven't seen much of, and then oddly saw the next day on the subway taking up a seat while women were standing, and he had some fun material and some unique body movement, but his shtick didn't work in an epic singles. The match already felt long when Phil managed to have enough time to get in four different and spaced out "How long IS this match?" riffs. The best was "How is Rey Horus vs. Ace Austin going to be the longest match we see this weekend!?"

Low Ki/Ricky Martinez vs. Mr Grim/Hollywood ?

TKG: I think this was Ki and Martinez v Grim and maybe Hollywood Shuffle. Guy had Hollywood on his pants and he was beaten into realizing that there is always work at the post office. I was pretty sure his name was Hollywood Shuffle but also thought MJF was MJG. Of the squashes on the show this was best as Ki squashes are always going to be nasty. They do a post match angle with the Fatu, Samuel Simon team burying Ki under cloth.

PAS: I think this might have been Ki turning face, as he was arguing with Salena De La Renta coming down the aisle and it looked like Ricky Martinez abandoned him before the Contra beatdown. Hard to turn someone face after this brutal of a beatdown. Ki ko's Grim with the first blow and ends up opening up Hollywood's jaw so he could break it with a punch. It seems like Ki's MLW run is based around his unprofessional rep, and he KO's Grim like he was Mace Mendoza or Elax. This was fun, but man what a waste of Ki, I kept hoping they would announce a cool Ki match, and when they didn't I was hoping for a surprise Ki match, and instead we just got a fun squash.

ER: Love Tom going for a "There's always work at the post office" joke. He didn't do that while we were watching the show. He sat on that one so as not to risk either of us stealing his Hollywood Shuffle joke even though Phil and I are going to be the two people who would have laughed at a Hollywood Shuffle joke. And I knew they were going to screw us like this. Segunda Caida might be the collective biggest Low-Ki fans in the world. We've probably brought more attention to the Low-Ki/Rey Mysterio match than JAPW brought to the Low-Ki/Rey Mysterio match. But the whole time leading up to the event, matches with everyone else kept being announced, and Low-Ki kept being announced as merely "appearing". We all knew that meant we'd get a 3 minute Low-Ki squash and not a Low-Ki match for our list. We can't have nice things from MLW. Luckily Low-Ki is a great guy to beat up a couple no names in a squash, you know he's not going to finish the match without at least a couple noteworthy moments. Here his double stomp landed so hard my stomach hurt (although my stomach also had two IPAs and a heavy mac and cheese still hanging out in it so...). Bummed we only got like 2 minutes of Salina De La Renta, too. She's my favorite manager in wrestling today, and I was excited to see how she works the crowd live when the cameras aren't on her. Sadly I saw barely any of her.

Myron Reed/Rich Swann vs. Jimmy Yuta/Lance Anoa'i

TKG: I don’t think I’ve ever seen Reed before but really liked him as cocky guy who wants to hit his stuff on opponents and runs away from getting hit.

PAS: This was pretty good. Reed and Swann seem to be work a heel Black Lives Matter gimmick which is problematic, but they were a fun heel team, cutting off both faces and feeding their comebacks well. Anoa'i seems kind of superfluous in a fed pushing Jacob Fatu so hard if they aren't going to be teaming or feuding.

ER: I've really liked all of the Reed matches that have been on MLW. He brings a lot to job work, getting the best matches in MLW out of guys like DJZ and Kotto Brazil. Brazil kind of has a natural smugness to him, can't really put my finger on it, but always felt he would work much better as a heel (and he does), so this is a heel team with a ton of potential. Here he's an overlooked heel who now uses what had been used as flashy babyface comeback offense (like all of his awesome cutter variations that he would hit as a dramatic "3 point tying shot") as awesome sneak attack cheap shot flashy offense. He literally ran in at one point with a match turning cutter from the entrance ramp, and it looked even more spectacular as we were standing in the corner to the side of the ramp, so we couldn't see his starting point. We just saw Reed suddenly bursting into frame with a great cutter. I agree with Phil that it's weird having Anoa'i as a semi featured role while Fatu is getting a major heel role. It's like they purposely wanted to avoid teaming up the Samoan guys but really Anoa'i would be more effective as a monster Samoan in that angle than teaming with a dud like Yuta.

Minoru Tanaka vs. Daga

TKG: This was my favorite match on the show. These are two guys who know how to put together a complete singles lucharesu match, know how to put the lucha in the puroresu, know how to put the puroresu in the lucha, understood lucha in a real traditional sense, and understood the puroresu style before all of the Choshu and ”shoot” Inokiism was stripped from it. Really felt like a complete match where transitions between the mat work, strikes, and dives and back all made sense, didn’t feel like they were just done to check off boxes. And everything done on high, high level. Felt like it needed some type of stakes instead of just being two guys thrown together to give it some sort of added meaning. Like a championship, or if this was part of the MSG G1 show (people would have praised this highly if it were on MSG show). Best match on show but still thought it was weird match to throw money at….I don’t know. Also possibility that overrating it as response to Rey v Austin match.

PAS: I thought this was good, although I think I liked it less then Tom. Daga is a guy who is inspired by people inspired by Minoru Tanaka so there was nice synergy in the match up. Tanaka is pretty low on the list of BattlArts alumni I would be excited to see live, but he still can throw out some tricked out counters and submission attempts. This was also pretty stiff, although with added leg slaps. I agree it felt a little exhibition-y, but its shining competence was really needed at this point of the show. 

ER: Tom's enthusiasm helped me get into this one more. I think he was so insulted by the Avengers length Austin/Horus match, really Daga is a not as good Minoru Tanaka, and on the car ride back to White Eagle we talked about BattlArts alumni we'd want to see live less than Tanaka. Came up with, probably Mohammed Yone, consider Viktor Krueger but decide it would be cool to say you saw Viktor Krueger live, and maybe Tsubo Genjin. But Tanaka was a major part of my 2000-2001 wrestling fandom, I guy I actively sought out and remember being super excited for his first CMLL tour as Heat (which was disappointing and in retrospect the beginning of me drifting away from him as a worker), and that still means something to me. He was a real pro here and it was cool to see how hard even the lesser BattlArts guys hit in a live setting. You see guys like Rey Horus or MJF and then you see Tanaka throw a sidekick to Daga's chest and you're like "oh right, the BattlArts." This was a really fun match and felt like it was at a good spot on the taping, which I can't say for a lot of other things. Daga hit a great dive at one point and Tanaka really hurled himself into the railing off it, probably the best dive we saw at this show. Some of this really isn't my style of choice anymore, but it was a nicely done version of that match.

Dynasty (Alexander Hammerstone/Maxwell Jacob Friedman/Richard Holliday) vs. The Hart Foundation (Brian Pillman Jr./Davey Boy Smith Jr./Teddy Hart)

TKG: Is this the first time I’ve seen Teddy Hart live? This can’t be the first time I’ve seen Teddy Hart live? He comes across as a giant fucking bigger than life character in person wearing insane sparkles carrying his Persian aloft. A star from a different universe than our world cotidiano. Pre-match me and Phil bet on how many moonsaults he will do and when in match he would fake a knee injury. He only did two moonsaults but both done in the thrown out way only he does them, and he tweaks his arm near the end and angrily works at restoring feeling in hand, popping arm back into place. Anyways, superstar. Pillman had an injury angle early in the show and so match started 2 on 3 with Pillman eventually running in to make injured guy comeback save. This was at its best when Hart Foundation were kind of working as walking tall babyfaces in a tables match. Hammerstone I thought was amusing as heel powerhouse who just isn't as strong as face powerhouse. Him being challenged into dueling delayed vertical suplexes with Davey Boy Smith really got that whole thing over.

PAS: This was my favorite match of the show. Hart and Davey Boy work the first part of the match like Teddy Hart vs. Homicide with Teddy in the role of Homicide. They bumped all three heels around the ring with super stiff shots and for a while it looked like a fun squash match. The Dynasty got some big comebacks and Teddy took some big bumps. The spot where Hart hit a Doomsday Destroyer while leaping off the back of Hammerstone was maybe the craziest spot we saw all day, and we saw some crazy shit. Enjoyed this thoroughly, and Teddy is pretty much a must see guy at this point, really wish he worked Bloodsport.

ER: This was definitely my favorite match of the show. We were all pretty much in awe of Teddy Hart. The guy is a total megastar. He looks like if Colin Farrell had a hip hop producer character in Spring Breakers, coming out in a spectacular turquoise and purple glittery sequined jogging suit with match tank, leaving him and the ring covered in glitter which has been a theme of our day that Bloodsport sadly didn't honor. He was carrying Mr. Velvet which is weird live but we did get to see him placed on the turnbuckle. This was a really action packed garbage brawl with Teddy throwing the best punches in wrestling today, fans making fun of Hammerstone for looking like Jericho (although at least looking better than current Jericho), Davey Boy looked like a great powerhouse opposite him, we got a cool Pillman triumphant run-in, MJF did an actual funny spot when Holliday called for a tandem suplex and MJF had a great facial reaction that said "Man I'd rather not, my neck is still dead from an earlier bump" and the delay caused him to get suplexed. The ringside brawling was really intense, and Teddy did a bunch of great "popping my arm back into the socket" material right in front of us, into the barricade. The match was a tables match that didn't waste a bunch of time on table set up and didn't waste time teasing a bunch of table spots. They set up one table, and had a cool finish through it. Excited to see how this plays on TV.

Josef Samael vs. Ace Romero

TKG: I looked it up and sadly Armand Hussein has passed. I kind of liked Allen Martin as a manager. Is Allen Martin still alive? 2019 Allen Martin managed Contra would be an awesome ridiculous move. Samuel has heel Persian boots with exaggerated hooks on toe making him kicking an obese man low seem like he might get under the pannus to do some real damage.

PAS: Barrington ambled out to make the save and got beaten down for a second time, and this Contra war on the obese continued, really felt like they should have booked Simon Grimm vs. Fallah Bah or Big Slam Vader for continuities sake.

ER: We were trying to come up with more obese guys they can bring in, which highlighted the dearth of big fat guys on the indies right now. I like Romero a lot but this was more fat guys getting rolled over slowly with group kicks. I did enjoy my conversation with Tom about how a kick to Romero's groin would have no effect due to how his belly hung low enough to cover his genitals. Tom - without missing a beat - explained the physics of Samael's effective hooked boots ball kicking.

Gringo Loco vs. Puma King

TKG: This was true lucha and I will always take lucha over lucharesu. But this was lightning match lucha…and I could’ve watched it go on for another ten minutes happily. Gringo Loco’s hair was the most spectacular hair on a weekend of spectacular hair.

PAS: This had a couple of moments of real transcendence,  Loco is a elite level Lucha base, and they had some really great fast exchanges. When it got away from that into more extended runs of offense for either guy it got less special, still it had those moments. Loco is a long time favorite of mine and I was excited to see him live.

ER: Glad I finally got to see Gringo live. He's a favorite of the blog and a real artist, reminds me of watching Skayde matches for the first time. He'll throw in some World of Sport style handsprings but break out one of a few different headscissor variations, a cool cross ring cutter, can do great dives and catch dives great, and yes Tom is correct that his Mania week hair was spectacular. Crowd was a little tired so Puma's shtick didn't work as well as it typically does, but I thought this match was a nice pace and should also play well on TV.

Mance Warner vs. Sami Callihan 

TKG: These two work a two disgusting guys brawling indifferent to ref who DQs them early. Lots of spitting and snot rockets early. Kind of like imagine a Joel Goodhart booked Henry O Godwin v. Bastion Booger brawl. Holy fuck how awesome would Mark Cantebury v. Mike Shaw for Goodhart have been? Aww fuck. Back to actual match in front of us. Warner and Callihan beat each other around ring. Pretty early in the match they do the wearing chairs like necklace spots that I thought dragged down the Jay v Parnell match. After bitching about those spots earlier, those spots worked surprisingly well for me here, some of that is when in match they were used and some of it is these guys are playing such cartoonish caricatures that them obliviously not taking chairs off their necks works. Would Bastion Booger or Henry O Godwin prioritize taking a chair off their neck? No, of course not. Why would they? Two guys who wanted to beat each other up.

PAS: This was a day in which we watched a lot of brawling, this was solid violent stuff, but was overshadowed in my mind by the violence proceeding it, and the horrific stuff still to come. Callihan and Warner both bring a bunch of energy to what they do, and the execution was fun. Finish with the Hijo de La Park and Martinez run in, and crazy guy team up, served its purpose, but the whole match felt a little like they were working towards a run in.

ER: This was the kind of match that played great live and up close. They guys spent most of the match on the floor and when these two are on the floor somebody is going to get hit hard. They brawled over near us a bunch and the shots look so much meaner 7 feet away that through a TV screen. Seeing hard chops to the throat live is just cooler, and we got the added bonus of them trying to wrap beer cans around each other's head. The spitting stuff is gross, but damn hitting a guy in the side of the head with the EDGE of a beer can looks like it would instantly bust someone open. These guys really hit heard and Mancer is a cool MLW addition. The stuff around a chair was really nasty, and we get a ridiculous moment of a tombstone piledriver through a chair that had been set up. It got a 2 count, and this marks the first - but not last - time of the day we would see a piledriver through a chair get only a 2 count. Still, match was a fine asskicking.

TKG: Airwolf v Rey Fenix starts and we decide that we don't want to miss the AIW opener, so we pour one out for Jan Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine and leave.

ER: I make a "manager as Alex Cord with an eyepatch" joke but it gets minimal reaction. I silently assure myself that nobody heard it and that's why it got no reaction.

PAS: This show ran really long which was kind of a bummer, we came to see LA Park, and didn't get that chance, but I didn't want to miss any of the AIW show and we really made the right choice.

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Friday, April 12, 2019

New Footage Friday: Fuchi, Liger, Bock, Hansen, Savage, Piper, Magee, Dibiase

Nick Bockwinkel/Stan Hansen vs. Dick The Bruiser/Crusher AWA 3/4/84

PAS: This is what we would expect from a Bruiser and Crusher tag in the mid 80s. They aren't going to bump, they aren't going to sell, they are going to eat their opponents alive and the crowd is going to dig it. It is funny to watch Hansen, an immovable object at eating up his opponents run into the irresistible force of Dick the Bruiser, at one point Bruiser no-sells an eye rake. Bockwinkle is unsurprisingly great at pinballing around the ring. Ref seems to blow the finish as they run the Heenan interference spot twice and he just throws the match out. This was a fun example of a hot tag, but I wouldn't exactly call it a good match.

MD: I'll take any new ten minute Bockwinkel match I can get. This we only had clipped before and it's immediately interesting because it's Bockwinkel teaming with Hansen with Heenan managing them both. I can't remember any other scenario where Heenan managed Hansen. It went pretty much as you'd expect with Hansen meeting them head on and Bockwinkel bumping around the ring for them. By far the best part of this was Hansen brawling with Da Crusher which made me think that they could have had a hell of a singles match even this late in the game.

ER: This is my kind of gem right here, two guys closer to 60 than 50 just punching their way through two great opponents for 10 minutes while the crowd loses it. Bockwinkel is great flying around for Crusher and Bruiser's punches, and it's awesome seeing Hansen not selling and punching through their offense...while neither of them are selling and punching right through Hansen's offense. Crusher moved really great for an old guy, especially loved his leaping stomp off the middle rope, and fully agree with Matt that a Hansen/Crusher match could have been great. Crusher throws big meaty balled up fists to Hansen's head and Hansen throws these vicious 12 to 6 elbows whenever he could. We got a stomach claw, elbowdrops, Captain Kangaroo haircuts, and something that I would have ranked unconscionably high on an 80s set.

Roddy Piper vs. Randy Savage WWF 12/13/86

MD: I hadn't been aware that they ran these in November/December of 86, let alone that one made tape. This a handheld from fairly far away but Piper and Savage work so big that you're never in doubt of what's happening. This was the same card that Dynamite hurt his back but you'd never know it from how hot the crowd was. Piper was immensely over here and they fully believed that they could get a title change. We've gotten three or four new Piper matches during the last year and every one's only raised his stock. This is no exception. He was exceptional at milking a moment, of containing this wild, manic, unpredictable energy but holding it in to let it charge and build so that when he released it, it would be to the greatest possible effect. He understood his audience and had this way of doing things that no one else would do to keep them engaged. I loved the opening flurry (including the eyepoke) which was really all to set up him holding the ropes open so Elizabeth could leave. By the time he landed a few more blows and hit a bulldog, the entire crowd was chanting his name. Obviously Savage was going to meet his manic energy mid-way. Some elements of this, like the two count teases, I liked more than what we got later with Steamboat. There was more pause to them, more struggle, more of a countering element instead of a choreographed dance and I think that made the crowd buy into them and care all the more. Obviously you would have wanted this to go longer with less of a BS finish but what we did get was worthwhile.

PAS: This was a pair of guys who push the pace, pushing the pace. Goddamn is Roddy Piper awesome, the opening flurry of punch combos knocking down Savage so he could open the ropes for Elizabeth is such a flex, I am going to whoop your ass and be chivalrous to your lady. Savage's dive to the floor is still one of the prettiest dives in wrestling history, looks better then some thing with fourteen twists and turns. For a BS finish, this was a clever one, with Savage bailing out of the ring, Piper chasing him, catching him and fireman's carrying him up the steps in a cool bit of strength, only to dump him in right as the ref counted Piper out. These guys really match up well  (they had a whole different house show run in 1990 which I wouldn't mind seeing) and I am really happy that it showed up for us to see.

ER: I thought this was really great, with an expected house show non-finish but a non-finish that was super clever and continued the violence. Both guys did all the things these guys do, extremely well. The more we see of Piper the more there is an argument for him as the best WWF worker of the 80s. Savage is one of the guys that would be his competition. I don't know if some of Piper's stuff would look as effective as it did here without Savage bumping for him. Savage's bumping here was fast and violent, but organic, and never looked like he was showing up Piper with his bumping; the bumps looked like a natural reaction to Piper's big shots. Macho Man had some great shots too, and his big wind up punch with one leg up, free hand grabbing his opponent's head, is one of my favorite punches in wrestling. Piper had an absolutely incredible kneelift in this match, one of the only kneelifts I've ever seen where someone looked like they threw their whole body into a move, and it looked tremendous. The finish was one of the more spectacular non-finishes I've ever seen, with Savage getting launched to the floor and Piper retrieves him in manly fashion, and walks him back up the ring steps in a fireman's carry, getting counted out while throwing Savage in. That's such a great BS finish. Piper saves his best punch of the match for the ref, and we understand. I loved this!

Ted Dibiase vs. Tom Magee WWF 12/7/88

ER: More evidence that WWE has been catering this series to a bunch of weird internet fans, or course they go weird on us and upload a Tom Magee match, only it's a Tom Magee match that nobody knew even existed. Now we know that there are seemingly two Hart matches, I don't think anyone ever talked about a Dibiase match. Here it is and really, it's not bad. Magee looks far more clueless in his available All Japan matches, here he looks like someone that 7 year old me would get excited to see on a weekly basis. He was a muscular guy who did handsprings, that was pretty much my brand then (if you missed my love letter to Mark Young, same thing). This was Dibiase crafting a solid match around a limited opponent, as we all assumed it would be. Dibiase sets up some unfuckupable moments where he either runs into a Magee limb or aims his own limb at where Magee is running, and the fans respond really well to Magee. Magee is a stiff, his selling is a kind of Great Khali teetering while swinging arms, but Dibiase keeps the sequences simple and keeps his timing in check so it works. Magee handspringing out of a rolling clutch attempt was really cool and he had a decent back elbow, and this was a great Dibiase performance making Magee look like someone who was a threat. I wish we had audio for a large portion of this, as the crowd reactions to Magee would have been cool, but this was a fun find nonetheless.

Jushin Liger vs. Masa Fuchi AJPW/NJPW 1/28/01

MD: Really glad that Phil came across this one. Fuchi has a clear and distinct size advantage over Liger, so much so that it can be the narrative of the match. That's not something you always see with Fuchi and lets him bully in a slightly different way than how he usually bullies an opponent. So that's your big picture. Liger would use his speed and savvy and never-say-die attitude to fight back but ultimately get cut off until a reversal and dive on the outside that lead them towards the finish.

On a micro level, you get stuff like the immediate start of the match, where Liger, disadvantaged on a lock-up, climbs the ropes to win it, only to add insult to injury by slapping Fuchi. Fuchi's response? Staring, fixing his hair, and walking right over to kick Liger in the gut so he can slam him hard twice. Fuchi's cutoffs were generally reversal based and expert. I don't know if it was because of how colorful his opponent was or the fact he had the luxury due to the size advantage, but he played to the crowd a bit more than I was used to. I loved the varied holds he used here, be it the crossface into the STF or the cobra clutch over the knee, and the openings he found, like when he worked on Liger's midsection using the ring as a prop based off of a hold leaving Liger vulnerable to some nasty elbows. Liger was great working from underneath but still confident enough to give Fuchi so much. When he stole the match with at Casita at the end it still felt earned because of the damage he'd absorbed.

PAS: This was the only matchup between the biggest All Japan Juniors star of the 90s and the biggest New Japan juniors star of the 90s. It was on an All Japan dome show so it was appropriate that it was Liger working a Fuchi match rather then the other way around. We get some classic Fuchi torture, as he grinds out a crossface, twists Ligers limbs with a brutal leg stretch and even steps on his stomach. We get a couple of cool Liger comebacks including a big dive, but Fuchi retakes control and dumps Liger on his horns with some really violent back suplexes. Finish was Liger escaping by the skin of his teeth as he reverses an Irish whip into a leg trip and a Magistral for the pin. Liger wins but it felt more like an escape then a triumph. 

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Long Road Report to Hell 4/4/19, Show #2: Josh Barnett's Bloodsport

PAS: We really blew it by not pre-buying tickets early, Bloodsport sold out before we could buy some tickets and I assumed we were out of luck,  but the wrestling gods smiled on us and I was able to grab three seats on StubHub for half the face value.

ER: We got to go to lunch after Family Reunion and before Bloodsport, plenty of intriguing options within pleasant walking distance. We landed on a burger place that started playing Hootie upon us being seated, and Tom told a great story about an unearthed Pete Buttigieg "Dave Matthews Band in a Post 9/11 World" that is either impossible to believe or a bit with real legs. On the walk back we pass Mr. Brickster on his way to the PATH and he's wearing a full Pac-Man screen suit with a LEGO bowtie, and our day of gushing about Brickster gains strength upon refueling. A line was already 25 deep for Bloodsport when we left, and we come back to a sardine packed White Eagle. Thank god for these assigned seats. It would have been a real shame if we had missed this. We'd never done a Mania week before (I went to some WWN shows when they played San Jose in 2015 but the week wasn't as crazy filled with events then), and had no idea some things sold out so much earlier. Phil casually mentioned as we were walking to breakfast that he had found 3 seats to Bloodsport, and from the second we were seated at our 2nd row seat I was so glad we were there live.

TKG: After Family Reunion we go get food and I see some tall guy on the opposite corner walking from PATH in pleather wrestling gear but without a roller bag, and loudly start with, “Look at that greasy haired fat faced wrestling fan, spent his money on his cosplay leather” or something like that. Eric goes “yeah that’s Davey Boy Smith Jr.”

Dominic Garrini vs. Phil Baroni

PAS: Baroni is pretty great at getting heat from the crowd, he was always a hatable sleaze as an MMA fighter and that translates really well to riling up an indy wrestling crowd. I liked this a bunch with Garrini having some nice sprawls to try to get Baroni on the mat, and a brutal finish with Baroni full force punching Garrini in the face. Dom was really going to prove his insanity later in the evening, but letting a MMA fighter with 11 KO wins, punch you full force in the jaw may even be nuttier then some of the bumps he took in the I Quit match.

TKG: Baroni poses and yells at audience “Yeah this is steroids” and neat as I expected Barnett’s vision to be RINGS but instead it was PRIDE. Was trying to explain Baroni to Eric, and couldn’t remember if he was a teen tanning or teen bodybuilding champion or both but the point is he is guy who totally embraces being a Long Island Teen Tanning n. Bodybuilding star, this match was all him doing the same “I’m better than this” shtick that he does in his actual MMA matches and potatoing Garinni. Garinni impressively built a match around that while eating potatoes. If Bloodsport can get some Tony Khan money Baroni/Malignaggi v Berto Bros in Tampa could be super amusing.

ER: I obviously knew Baroni from early PRIDE and UFC shows, and his name on the card excited me for the exact reasons we got here, and I didn't even know about the teenage tan 'n' bodybuilding stuff. He comes out, grinds on a woman, flexes, talks about his steroid bod, and then punches someone. Later, he came out as a second and yelled out tips while eating a PowerBar. Felt like we also could have used Matt Serra yelling tips to Pete Drago Sell. I like gi Garrini, it's a look he should pull more often. This was a quick taste but it delivered and set the tone for the show, really made me happy to be there live and so close to the action. I would have loved to see Garrini control more, threaten another tap (and he did get a cool armbar reversal), but the finish was the kind of fireworks people wanted: Baroni decked Garrini with a right hand for the near KO and then went for a mocking pinfall, then planted him with another to stop the match (after getting a nice dramatic 9 count as Garrini struggled to his feet). Baroni certainly didn't look like someone who was holding back on his KO punch, and agree with Phil that in retrospect taking to straight shots to the jaw may have been Garrini's craziest move of a day with several contenders.

JR Kratos vs. Simon Grimm

PAS: Kratos is a Nor-Cal guy who worked a couple of matches in this style in the late lamented PREMIER fed, but I wasn't expecting this to be as good as it was. It was basically Grimm using his technique to try to minimize Kratos power advantage, there were some especially nasty elbows to the back of the head and ear, and some big slaps. The final mat scramble was pretty great with Grimm lifting up in Kratos's guard and raining down elbows, and Kratos transitioning into a head and arm choke. Loved the finish with Grimm using a schoolboy to grab an armbar, Kratos doing a Hughes lift for a powerbomb and wasting him with a brutal jumping forearm smash. I think this was better then any of the matches on last years show and it was only the second match.

TKG: This came out of nowhere and fuck that finish was beautiful. Kratos does the thing you want in pro/shoot hybrid match where he makes the pro-wrestling spots look as nasty as the legit spots.

ER: Kratos is primarily a Bay Area guy and is pretty popular around here, so no matter what kind of match we got I knew Phil would be touting him as my boy. Technically I was there for some *really* early Psycho Seth stuff, too, possibly even his debut way back in 2002, so this was a Bay Area represent match. Once Tom realizes both are APW guys he excitedly wonders if we might have gotten a triple threat with Moondog Moretti at one point. Seth could have crossed paths with Moretti but I think Kratos started too late. And this is weirdly seeming like Kratos' best wrestling style, as I loved his stuff in Premier and his performance in this match more than any pro style match I've ever seen from him. I thought this was great. It was a match that on paper was maybe the least match on the card, and it wound up being my 2nd favorite match of the show. I thought all the working parts were cool, dug how Grimm controlled the stand up striking (at one point he hits an open handed chop to the neck that made me scoot my chair back) with Kratos controlling more of the ground striking. Kratos had some cool takedowns including a couple where he yanked Grimm's arm through his legs and flipped him. Kratos did a good job minimizing Grimm's ground striking, maneuvering to spots where Grimm had no power, and both had some slick armbar attempts. I particularly liked Kratos pushing at Grimm's locked hands with his free boot. The jumping forearm finish was arguably the nastiest finish we saw all day, in a day filled with some nasty finishes. I've seen Kratos matches that were supposed to end in a KO stoppage that didn't really work. This worked so well it looked like Grimm would need to be helped out, and Kratos lifting up Grimm's lifeless body in case another move was needed for a stoppage was a sick touch.

Davey Boy Smith Jr. vs. Killer Kross

PAS: Another pretty great match which I didn't have big expectations for. They opened up with some kick boxing with Smith throwing some pretty heavy leg kicks. Kross would throw heat and did a nice job of scrambling into positions, much more competent at this then I would expect from TNA fake Batista. This is right in Davey's wheelhouse and he had some really slick takedowns and his final deadlift suplex looked great. Heck of a big boy punch out, and this show just delivered up and down the card.

TKG: DBS comes out in the shorts he wore underneath the tear away pleather pants. I remember DBS in some twitter thread agreeing with Kim Duk about an older credible style that NJ doesn’t do anymore. And thinking “hmm I wish DBS actually worked that style”. And here he is doing it and it is so much more impressive than anything else ever seen of him. This really felt like what he should be doing.

ER: Amazing that we saw DBS in the wild wearing a completely different set of ring gear while out and about. You see a guy walking the streets and taking the train wearing giant baggy pristine white vinyl pants with dog bones all over them, you assume that he's just wearing his gear and didn't feel like taking a roller bag. Then he comes out in trunks and you realize he just has custom walking around dog bone vinyls. But damn would I be so much more excited for DBS matches if he just wrestled like this guy every show. Tom turned to me right after the finish and asks "What other Davey Boy do I need to seek out?" And I responded with a non-word like "Ehhhhhhhhhhh". DBS looked like an absolutely fantastic roller and grappler for the duration of this, and the way he muscled Kross around the mat was really impressive. He really looked like he was moving a human sack of concrete at times, both guys really working the struggle. DBS even tried locking on a shoot Sharpshooter out of a scramble which was a great moment. Both guys threw nice leg kicks, Kross had a couple great Saito suplexes and DBS set up the finish with a bomb hardway backdrop suplex, drags Kross' body to the center and got the tap on a crossface. I thought some of the standing slap exchanges went too long, even though they all paid off nicely, and the throws and rolling totally overdelivered.

Masashi Takeda vs. Jonathan Gresham

PAS: Takeda is a guy who started out in Style E, BattlArts, FUTEN and U-Style before he decided to grotesquely scar himself in death matches, so he was very comfortable doing worked shoots. This was a middleweight fight and worked at a much faster pace then the rest of the show. Gresham is really skilled on the mat, and he kept moving to improve his position, while Takeda would have these almost acrobatic leaps into submission attempts. The match changes dramatically when they both spill to the floor, which opens up Takeda (honestly a sneeze might open up Takeda at this point), we get some very aggressive stand up with Gresham aiming hammer fists and slaps to the open wound and Takeda moving forward, finish was great with Takeda landing a flash knee KO. Really energetic stuff and a nice contrast with the previous match.

TKG: I've watched enough Fedor to know if a guy is made of scar tissue you should try to open that up immediately to get the stoppage. They tease a fall to floor once or twice before actually doing it and not sure how I felt about it. I liked the first match having a DQ for touching ref, Promotion establishing its own unique rules....maintain them. But once got back in the ring it got right back.

ER: I actually didn't remember Takeda as a Tamura guy. He's been a grimy death guy for so long. Is Jun Kasai an Anjo trainee? Takeda comes out and Tom asks "So this guy is a death match guy?" Takeda takes off his shirt. "Yep, that's a death match guy." Gresham's performance in this match really highlighted what a colossal disappointment that Orange Cassidy match that started our day was. There was Gresham generously letting a guy take 100% of a match with his shtick, totally thankless work, here he gets to work several cool can openers and throws down with Takeda and looks like a total badass. They made really good use of rolling to the floor (guys had been broken up while getting to the edge of the ring before this, but nobody had rolled out mid-move) and they really hit the ground hard when both took a tumble. Gresham looked really talented on the mat and I'd love to see that pop up more in his matches, and at one point he was throwing trapped hammer fists to the side of Takeda's head that were among the nastier shots of the show. The finish is the real nasty business with Takeda stunning with a strike, then rushing in with a brutal knee for the instant stoppage. That knee, man. Show was absolutely bananas at this point. We were literally sitting in our seats giggling.

Chris Dickinson vs. Andy Williams

PAS: Williams looks like a Peaky Blinders extra, and Dickinson comes right out into him and they wildly throw for a minute which really fired the crowd up. Williams gasses right after that and they move pretty quickly to the finish with Dickinson getting a choke. Short match, but the first minute was really electric.

TKG: Two guys volume punching with no defense till they couldn’t volume punch anymore is always going to be a winning formula. Two heavyweights doing it always is going to get a crowd riled up.

ER: I flew out here from California, but it's pretty cool they flew Williams in from Branson. And I somehow only found out after this weekend that Williams has been a guitarist in Every Time I Die for over 20 years, which is information that would have been much cooler to me in the early 2000s. And I think Phil and Tom are underselling this one as I thought the coolest stuff in the match came after the big throwdown opening. The throwdown is obviously cool and something we hadn't seen yet, but then you got Williams muscling up Dickinson for a powerbomb, and later a sic gutwrench that looked like it was going to be a ganso bomb, plus Dickinson throwing disgusting shots to Williams' ear and back of his head, and the finish was another classic: Dickinson works his way into a backpack choke with Williams gamely gets to his feet with Dickinson locking in the choke further. Williams knows it's locked in and does a forward roll as a desperation escape, but it doesn't work and just opens him up the rest of the way for Dickinson to lock in the choke. The final choke was a great visual as Williams spits out his mouthguard a bit before tapping, felt like the guy in Casino whose eye starts to pop out when his head is put in a vice.

Frank Mir vs. Dan Severn

PAS: Short exhibition, with Mir grabbing an arm pretty quickly for a the tap. Mir didn't show much in his pro wrestling debut, would like to see if he could provide a bit more spark with an opponent not in his sixties. Severn still looks awesome though, someone should sign him as a troubleshooting ref or something.

TKG: Not at all sure what happened here. This was weakest match on show where never made it to the next gear. Post match Mir says he’s getting into wrestling to take out Lesnar and turn Lesnar into the first pro-wrestling in ring death.

ER: I really liked what we got here, but wanted at least a couple more minutes. The finish felt a little sudden, but the work within was good. Severn is 60 and looks the same as he's looked for the last decade plus, body still looks exactly the same, and it looked cool when he dragged Mir down into a north south choke and gator rolled him. I really liked the maneuvering from both guys while Mir is trying to lock on an armbar or triangle, Mir trying to shift his hips and Severn trying to power up with his legs and advance. The heel hook finish looked really good and the application felt natural, I just wanted more stuff before we got there. At minimum, I thought it was awesome being this close to Severn.

Hideki Suzuki vs. Timothy Thatcher

PAS: This was much closer to a MUGA match then a shootstyle match, which works perfectly to both guys strengths. Suzuki is so great at switching speeds, he will deliberately shift into position, only to snap a limb or flip into a submission.  Just everything in this match was applied so tight and twisty and every shot was thudding, Suzuki stomped Thatcher in the head and it looked like he was smashing a grape to make wine. The backbreaker/double underhook suplex finish by Suzuki was just super impactful. Between this and the Ishikawa match, Thatcher is having a monster 2019.

TKG: This wasn’t shoot style at all, this was just super tight mat wrestling and was my favorite match on the show. There was a couple enziguiri, a spinning toe hold, a bow and arrow, a desnucadora, etc...but all of them were sold meaningful. Thatcher's sell of the early toe hold and just his selling throughout left a real impression. We get so used to reversal of reversal wrestling that we forget how exciting changes of momentum can be in match where both guys are actually fighting for control, fighting to apply moves. Just lots of dramatic changes in momentum that crowd almost treated like finishes and two guys who looked completely committed to what they were doing.

ER: On paper this was the match I was most excited for this weekend, and it totally delivered everything I could have wanted it to. It would have been cool just seeing Suzuki's first and only match in the states, but having it actually live up to being the banger we all wanted was extra special. This was the most airtight match of the show, and one of the meanest MUGA matches we've seen. The headlocks and grappling alone would have made for a great match, seriously Suzuki's headlocks look like something that would pop a head right off a pair of shoulders, and it was fascinating being up close and seeing him work exchanges. Phil mentioned how Suzuki will deliberately shift into a position or move a limb to set up something different, and there are a bunch of cool examples of that here, like Suzuki trapped in a sub but moving Thatcher's calf higher up on his own thigh, which then provides him space to turn, which shifts pressure. We get moments where he digs in an elbow before passing, or applies pressure with his palm to Thatcher's knee, or smacks Thatcher in the shin. By the time Suzuki threw a stomp to the back of Thatcher's head, kicked him in the jaw, and hit a Rockette kick to the chest, they could do no wrong. Thatcher gets a nice gutwrench (love how Suzuki sold it with his arms out, like he was getting nerve pain shooting down his fingers), and when Thatcher locked in a side headlock to hit a Saito suplex I said "Uh Ohhhhh" aloud. Sure enough, Suzuki hammers down with his elbow and drops Thatcher with a backbreaker. Suzuki has done more for legitimizing the backbreaker than any wrestler I've seen. His looks like a genuine finisher and the move is actually treated as seriously as the name sounds. Great match, whole card would have been completely worth it if this were the only watchable thing we got. Instead the match had to set itself apart from a totally great show, and it easily did.

Josh Barnett vs. Minoru Suzuki

PAS: This was a match that felt like a main event. Barnett is such a hard man, and everything he did had some real force to it. First fifteen or so of this were pretty perfect as Barnett brought Suzuki back to PWFG as they were really twisting and pulling at limbs and landing big time knees, forearms and slaps. There is a little nonsense with a ref and a chair on the outside, which really felt like Suzuki taking unnecessary match short cuts. I really liked the finish of the match before the restart, and I thought it built nicely to the five more minutes, but you really need to do a finish if you are going to do a five more minutes. Going to another draw really took some steam out the match. Excellent main event for an all time great US Indy show, but I dug other stuff a bit more.

TKG: Barnett’s current look is ridiculously cool. He looks like Kurt Russell’s bad ass cousin and this match felt like main event wrestling. Everything the two did together was as good as you wanted and all the shoot near fallsish stuff, teased submission, teased going to close to the edge etc were as dramatic as anything you were going to see in wrestling. And the eventual escapes had folks on the edge.The show was excellent top to bottom but the semi and the main were the matches that really got you caught up in the drama of false finishes and changes in momentum, the pop of “is this gonna end it?”….being able to feel that drama again. Years of the goofy cliché 2.9, “one, two, nooooo” followed by three minutes of bug eyed Shawn Michaels faces "How did that not do it?, what will it take to put him away? Where in my reserves will I find what it takes?" almost killed the idea that false finish can have any emotional value. At this point I just treat it as a stock lazzo bit to fill time. Was great to experience drama of false finishes again. They work to a 20 minute draw and the crowd was excited as ending with two guys just swinging for fences while crowd counted down. I watched UWF and PWFG and have no problem with a draw finish. They did the five more minutes and it all fell apart, as they went into octopus and fighting spirit shtick. Either do the draw or do the Fujiwara guy taking a hellacious beating slips in a sub for the win. But going into horseshity overtime, hurt the match. Still this was an amazing show top to bottom and left me on a real high.

ER: This one had a real special atmosphere, with Barnett looking like the flat out coolest version of Jaime Lannister, and Suzuki bringing an impossible amount of charisma to a small room. Barnett looked leaner, more intense, and in better shape than any year during his long MMA run, and it was awesome seeing Suzuki immediately snap back into limb twisting savage. Barnett is even wearing his Inoki Genome pads, so we got a decades in the making interpromotional shootstyle war here! And there's not an easy move made in the match, everything is a fight, and by the end they both looked to have lost about 5 lb. of sweat. This was all ankle snapping heel hooks, sunk in headscissors, elbows yanked up to ears, knees driven into chests, twisted bodies trying to scramble out of chokes, and rained down palm strikes and elbows. At one point Suzuki had one of Barnett's legs grapevined, was controlling his wrist, and was shoving Barnett's free leg up towards his shoulder. Suzuki looked like he was a one man drawn & quartered machine, and it made me literally jump out of my chair and look around to make sure everybody else was seeing what I was seeing (which is in full view of the camera, my expression looking like a rube shocked by a magic trick). Honestly the match could have ended on that sub and it probably would have been stronger for it. Obviously we go past that, and get rewarded with more nasty shots and yanked limbs, but also lose some of the steam and magic that had been created. When we went to a bomb throwing countdown, I was fine with them ending on a draw (even though I was hoping Suzuki would feint his way out of the throwdown and get a last second tap with a heel hook). And the draw did lead to an undeniably great moment, as the crowd is chanting for 5 more minutes, and Suzuki looks like he's having none of it, rolling his eyes he quiets the crowd...and then calls for 5 more minutes. It was a great moment. But not really as great if we knew that it was just going to lead to another draw. The New Japan-ness of the restart didn't help, but it also didn't negate the genuinely great majority of the match. Flat finish or no, this was a tremendous live experience. It flashed in my head at one point that Suzuki might take the night off a bit, but this was among the hardest worked matches I've seen from him all decade.

ER: This should go down as a top show of the year contender, an absolutely thrilling 2 hours of pro wrestling. We put FIVE of the matches on our 2019 Ongoing Match of the Year list, and that seems like a near impossible mark to beat.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

WCW Worldwide 8/22/98

Saturn vs. Mark LaRoux

ER: This must be an early Lash appearance as I don’t remember him being called Mark LaRoux. It’s usually a tough draw when you pull job duty against Saturn, and LaRoux earned his payday here. Saturn, the guy doing high arcing half nelson suplexes at noon on Sundays. Hard clothesline, that suplex, and the best death valley driver in wrestling, this was quick.

Bobby Blaze vs. Brian Adams

ER: This is a full Adams squash, Blaze gets nothing whatsoever, but Blaze makes all of Adams big slams and backbreakers look good. Adams has his big tilt-a-whirl backbreaker which looks good, drops a nice leg, hits a big press slam into a gut buster, all of it looks good. But Blaze is good enough that we could have had an interesting match. Really the best thing about this was Vincent as Adams’ second. That guy was a great hype man and knew how to carry himself with braggadocio, proud to be the bottom rung on the nWo ladder. When Adams went for the press slam Vincent came running around the ring holding both his arms up, like he was sitting on the sidelines when Steph did a no look pass leading to a Klay 3.

Jim Powers vs. Mark Guthrie

ER: Man Mark Guthrie? I had no idea how many randos WCW was using around this time. This must have been right before the next crop of Power Plant guys came through. Guthrie has a real bad dirtbag kid mullet, looking more homemade than styled, the kind of cut that was looking dated in 1995. Powers tries to bring energy to this, hits a nice shoulderblock, decent kneelift, good enough powerslam. This was another short one, kind of a dull couple weeks of WCW syndie TV here. We need a little help on this episode.

Roadblock vs. Mike Sanders

ER: Roadblock heard my plea and answered my prayer! I barely recognized Sanders here, he had a shaved head and wore a plain black singlet. I guess with Sanders and LaRoux showing up here, we ARE in the period were new Plant guys were getting called up. Roadblock works a fun squash, throws a big lariat and hits a big powerslam, misses a huge elbowdrop off the middle rope (really crashing the landing), and he does cool stuff like sticks his knee up in the corner when Sanders tries to ram him. The rope flip moonsault is nice and squishing, always a finisher I love. After the match some dad with a bad mustache is angrily booing Roadblock, but…was he cheering for Mike Sanders? That’s weird. Cheer Roadblock, he’s an awesome big fat guy!

Los Villanos vs. Doc Dean/Manny Fernandez

ER: So, you know by now, this is not THEE Manny Fernandez, but I do like this Manny Fernandez leaning into the camera on his entrance to say “I’m back, baby!” Another fan is doing the “We’re Not Worthy!” bow to the Villanos as they come out, and I now want to meet that man. It’s always going to be a fun watch when you spot a Villanos tag in the wild where you're practically guaranteed their victory. Doc and Manny didn't have ZERO chance, but I'VE never seen either of them pull a win, and we've at minimum seen Villanos beat Disorderly Conduct. So we get to watch a match where the Villanos are showing off their offense and getting to act like the bigger team, like the bullies, and it's a rare WCW treat. Villanos threw a bunch of nice lariats and it's cool seeing them control a team that aren't other luchadors. It's not a total squash as Manny has a brief quick run where he shows off a tight 5 seconds of material, but you want this because it's the Villanos main eventing a taping and cutting off the ring on a couple white guys as the babyfaces. The Doomsday Device crossbody was a great finish, with Manny strongly missing an avalanche chest first, and I thought it was cool that they opted to do their finish on the larger of the two opponents. Nice flex that they earned.

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