Segunda Caida

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

Friday, June 22, 2007

Phil's Ongoing 2007 MOTY List

1. Nigel McGuinness v. Samoa Joe ROH 3/3
2. John Cena v. Umaga WWE 1/28
3. Nigel McGuinness v. Takeshi Morishima ROH 4/14
4. Chris Harris v. James Storm TNA 5/13
5. Jimmy Jacobs v. B.J. Whitmer ROH 3/4
6. Samoa Joe v. Takeshi Morishima ROH 2/16
7. Shawn Micheals v. John Cena WWE 4/23
8. Jimmy Jacobs v. B.J. Whitmer ROH 3/31
9. Solar 1/Mano Negra v. Negro Navarro/Black Terry Lucha Libre VIP 3/10
10. MNM v. Hardy Boyz WWE 1/28
11. Briscoes v. Ricky Marvin/Kontaro Suzuki NOAH 1/21
12. John Cena v. Great Khali 5/20
13. Finlay v. Undertaker 3/6 WWE
14. Briscoes v. Kevin Steen/El Generico ROH 4/14
15. Colt Cabana v. Jimmy Jacobs ROH 2/24
16. Takeshi Sasaki v. Yuki Miyamoto BJW 3/14
17. John Cena v. Shawn Michaels WWE 4/1
18. Shinjiro Ohtani/Takao Omori/Kazunari Murakami v. Kohei Sato/Hirotaka Yokoi/Yoshiro Takayama Zero 1 1/19
19. Matt Sydal v. The Man Gravity Forgo PAC ROH 3/4
20. Davey Richards/Roderick Strong v. Jack Evans/Delirious ROH 4/14
21. Mitsuhara Misawa v. Takuma Sano NOAH 4/28
22. John Cena v. Great Khali v. Umaga WWE 6/4
23. Chris Benoit v. MVP 4/10
24. Nigel McGuiness v. Jimmy Rave ROH 3/4
25. Yuji Nagata v. Hiroshi Tanahashi NJ 4/13

Previously on the list
Necro Butcher v. Toby Klien CZW 1/13
Chris Benoit v. Chavo Guerrero WWE 1/16
BJ Whitmer v. Jimmy Jacobs ROH 1/27
Matt Hardy v. Ken Kennedy WWE 3/13
Samoa Joe v. Eddie Kingston FSM 3/17
Takeshi Morishima/Mohammed Yone v. Jun Akiyama/Takeshi Rikio NOAH 4/1
Undertaker v. Batista WWE 4/1

22. John Cena v. Great Khali v. Umaga WWE 6/4

This was the last of the really fun Cena v. Khali series, and they added in Umaga to throw things and bump. Cena is typically great at taking a beating, and at this point has a ton of stuff he can do with both guys. After trying for a month we finally get an FU on Khali (that isn't on a crash pad), it looked really great too with tall ass Khali taking a cool awkward bump on the move. WWE does monster v. monster teases really well. The matches usually kind of stink, but the battle royal staredowns or in this case 2 minute 3 way dances are almost always great. I loved all of the Khali v. Umaga stuff, and the Samoan Spike on Khali looked great. Honestly I don't think a singles match between those two would be any good, so it is probably better that Khali got moved, and they can save another face off for the Royal Rumble.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Raw Workrate Report 6/18/07 by S.L.L.

Raw Workrate Report 6/18/07
by S.L.L.

WHAT WORKED:

-The opening video package was all wavey and threatened to make me seasick, but the way they edited the limo explosion like the big spots from a PPV main event the following night was amusing enough to put it up here.

-The Mr. McMahon car bombing made this show interesting - if not necessarily good - by forcing this weird juxtaposition between the characters trying to play it all as a shoot while needing to push forward with the worked gimmicks and angles, and the crowd, seemingly more "inside" on this angle than any of the wrestlers, continuing to boo tributes to heel Mr. McMahon and otherwise reacting like this is an angle just like any other angle. A lot of my decisions on what did and didn't work this week are based on how well the performers coped with an acting task far, far beyond their abilities. With that in mind, you weren't going to find a much better execution of that sort of thing on this show than a backstage, pre-taped, Cryme Tyme comedy sketch where the punchline is the federal investigator walking in to question them. Nothing out of character, nothing that would come off as obviously "wrong" to the fans, ties well enough into the angle at large, and while not the funniest Cryme Tyme sketch, still allowed for a few chuckles. I don't know precisely how the scripting of WWE television works, but I have to assume whoever wrote this didn't write much of the other McMahon-centric stuff on the show, as this seemed almost out of place with all the other weird, Russo-esque worked shootery going on.

-So at some point between his disappearing from TNA and his return to the WWE, Jeff Hardy learned that if you are going to be sloppy and reckless in the ring, it's far more artistically satisfying if you sloppily and recklessly hurt your opponent than if you hurt yourself. Jeff Hardy has gone from being this comically loose dude who will work at half-speed and blow everything to being a guy who actually has really mean looking strikes and takes that same flippy indy offense and crushes people with it. The Whisper in the Wind originated as a spot used to showcase Jeff's athleticism. Here, he does it and it highlights that he is unafraid to hideously flip his body boots-first into Daivari's face. Daivari gives as good as he gets, and Jeff can always be counted on to eat other guys' offense impressively. But yeah, really weird how snugly Jeff works now. He didn't drop Daivari on his head with the sit-out gourdbuster like he usually does, but it still looked nastier than sit-out gourdbusters usually do. Post-match was great. Cade and Murdoch still working as faces, acting like it was the Hardy's who turned heel is a neat twist on the angle. Jeff responding by calmly pescadoing them mid-speech was choice. I wouldn't mind seeing those teams fight each other again a few million more times.


-Innocent romance angles in wrestling sometimes start out well, but they always end badly. Whether of not you liked Molly Holly as an uptight prude, it was a pretty frustrating end to the Spike/Molly star-crossed lovers angle. Jimmy Wang Yang and Amy Zidian were a cute couple, but if she didn't get canned, I'm sure it would've ended in disaster somehow. So as cute as I find the Santino/Maria relationship to be, I'm inclined to think it will end badly. However, for now, it's pretty sweet. More importantly, the implied Santino/Regal feud it's setting up should be fun. Regal switching up his gimmick to become a suave British ladies man trying to corrupt the sweet and innocent Maria, and trying to steal her from the modest-but-sincere Santino has potential both in and out of the ring. William Regal transforming into an evil wrestling Martin Fry is an angle I can get behind, even if the ultimate payoff to the Santino/Maria relationship isn't.

-The Foley/Umaga match - insofar as it was one - was fun, albeit something of a one-man show. I shouldn't expect semi-retired Foley in 2007 to be a worker the caliber of full-time wrestler Foley in 1995. The fact that he seemed a few steps slow here shouldn't be disappointing, but I really dug him in the Edge streetfight from the last Mania, so I guess I was expecting him to deliver against a vastly better opponent than Edge. I could say that he just needs weapons for a good match now, but one of the big things that stood out to me about the Edge match was how crisp all of his strikes looked. For a guy with a rep as an all-time great brawler, Foley's strikes have never been anything to write home about, but they looked really good in that match. By contrast, his strikes here all looked actively bad, which surprised me. Still, it's all besides the point, because this match wasn't about Foley offense, it was about re-establishing Umaga as a monster - something they've desperately needed to do - and it delivered on that. It does make one question the booking going into Vengeance, and the super-random main event therein, but Umaga killed Mick right good, and Mick can still take a beating really well, so I dug this.

-The Mr. McMahon car bombing made this show interesting - if not necessarily good - by forcing this weird juxtaposition between the characters trying to play it all as a shoot while needing to push forward with the worked gimmicks and angles, and the crowd, seemingly more "inside" on this angle than any of the wrestlers, continuing to boo tributes to heel Mr. McMahon and otherwise reacting like this is an angle just like any other angle. A lot of my decisions on what did and didn't work this week are based on how well the performers coped with an acting task far, far beyond their abilities. With that in mind, you weren't going to find a much better execution of that sort of thing on this show than Jim Ross's somber reading of the Skittles advertisement. JR was spot on this whole show, playing the guy who hated his dead boss, and rather than dishonestly praise him after his death, plays everything low-key and tries to avoid talking about it whenever possible. Lawler is feeding him lines to get him to make out-of-character responses to the angle and JR just blows him off like he was Art Donovan at King of the Ring '94 asking how much a wrestler weighed for the eight millionth time. Actually, that's probably a bad analogy, as JR's football worship would force him to hang off of Art's every word like it was the wisdom of Solomon. But you get the idea.

-For whatever failings Mr. Kennedy has as a wrestler, they don't seem to bother the viewers much at all. His last TV angle seemed to be setting him up for a face turn, so hearing the rather massive amount of cheers disappear when he re-established his heelness kinda seems like a wasted opportunity. On the other hand, I feel like a heel Kennedy makes more sense in the Cena era than a face one, and the fans booed him just as loudly as they cheered him. That's some pretty impressive crowd control. Interview was nothing special, but dedicating his career to Mr. McMahon seems like an appropriately kayfabey way for him to react to this.

-Main event was a fine little match, if unspectacular. Orton getting the clean pin on Lashley was surprising. WWE is a promotion that threw Batista in the doghouse by letting him wrestle in every World Title match on PPV this year. Promotion that threw RVD in the doghouse by letting him win his last match and send him off talking about his legendary career. Orton actually getting a clean win over the nigh-invincible dude seems more in line with the WWE's usual punishments than what he's had thus far.

-The Mr. McMahon car bombing made this show interesting - if not necessarily good - by forcing this weird juxtaposition between the characters trying to play it all as a shoot while needing to push forward with the worked gimmicks and angles, all while the crowd, seemingly more "inside" on this angle than any of the wrestlers, continues to boo tributes to heel Mr. McMahon and otherwise react like this is an angle just like any other angle. A lot of my decisions on what did and didn't work this week are based on how well the performers coped with an acting task far, far beyond their abilities. With that in mind, you weren't going to find a much better execution of that sort of thing on this show than Stephanie McMahon's main event promo, because she doesn't actually have to go out-of-character. Her gimmick is "Vince McMahon's daughter", so when she delivers a barely-contained emotional breakdown as promo, it actually feels real. It also gives you a chance to enjoy the juxtaposition of performer trying to work the crowd and crowd refusing to be worked fully. It is totally within character for Stephanie to react this way, and it is also totally within character for the fans to boo her out of the building as she bursts into tears talking about her dead Dad. This one skit is pretty much what they've been trying to go for with everything on every show this whole angle, but this is really the only situation where they can effectively pull it off.

WHAT DIDN'T WORK

-So I shouldn't be surprised with Mick being a few steps off in the ring, but after last week, I do feel properly surprised by his tepid micwork. The Mr. McMahon car bombing made this show interesting - if not necessarily good - by forcing this weird juxtaposition between the characters trying to play it all as a shoot while needing to push forward with the worked gimmicks and angles, and the crowd, seemingly more "inside" on this angle than any of the wrestlers, continuing to boo tributes to heel Mr. McMahon and otherwise reacting like this is an angle just like any other angle. A lot of my decisions on what did and didn't work this week are based on how well the performers coped with an acting task far, far beyond their abilities. Foley cutting an awesome promo last week about Vince having no friends, and then doubling back after his death to be apologetic really just makes him look insincere. Randy Orton calling him out on this feels like a face move, and Foley's wishy-washy response feels like this interview was scripted by Kevin Cook. King Booker comes out and accuses Lashley by virtue of his military training in an attempt to save this, and Lashley had the courtesy to not actually talk during any of this. Cena's promo was what it was. But I kinda feel like that actually makes it worse. Foley's worked shoot stuff looks insincere. Orton's stuff next to it makes him look like a face. Booker's stuff exposes how much better he is at pulling off this balancing act than them. Cena's stuff felt like a typical Cena promo, and seemed a bit out of place next to everything else. Lashley's stuff reminds me that this is all leading up to Lashley wrestling. Put together, this illustrates the flaws of how this angle is being executed pretty strongly.

-I'm not shocked that a World's Greatest Tag Team match was bad, but I am a bit thrown that it wasn't because of them. WGTT really should leave the flippy indy shit to guys who can actually do it, because when they work the amateur-style stuff they did here, they look a lot better. But for some reason, the WGTT match was dragged down by Paul London. I shouldn't have been surprised by old man Foley working at half-speed, but Paul London doing it was odd. I'm writing this two days after the fact, and my memory of the match is a little hazy in terms of details, but I basically remember Paul looking like he was working the match with the stomach flu. Maybe I just wanted to see more shoot takedowns.

-I know Carlito's gimmick is that of cool, unemotional guy, but if that's the case, you don't have him use all the superlatives to describe The Sandman. Cool, detached, unemotional guy does not read the same dialogue that Joey Styles does. I guess it was maybe supposed to be sarcastic, but Carlito just came off as bored.

-The Mr. McMahon car bombing blah blah blah blah blah......Jerry Lawler really struggled on commentary with balancing being a serious worked shooter with being a heel McMahon toady with being a generic strictly heel announcer. Jerry is one of the all-time great micworkers. He made crazy Memphis angles convincing all the time. He should be able to handle this. Then again, Foley's an all-time great micworker, and he's struggling with the material, too. Still, no excuse for him arguing that Trevor Murdoch didn't push Jeff Hardy's foot off of the rope when he was the one who pointed it out in the first place (and after they replayed him doing just that right before the Hardy/Daivari match). Or claiming that this was the first time Lashley and Booker had faced each other. The King ain't much on commentary, but his work here was sloppy even for him.

-Look, I like The Iron Sheik as much as the next guy, but enough already.

-One of the neater developments to come out of Vince going crazy and exploding is that WWE.com has actually become a site worth reading regularly. All the kayfabe pieces covering the angle have been really well-done, and fills a gap of kayfabed wrestling coverage that had been left unfilled for far too long. The flipside to that is that it makes me realize that the interview with the limo driver was a waste of airtime, and that it would have been much better suited to a WWE.com news update.

-The women's tag was good enough that I almost could have gotten away with putting it up top for extraneous reasons. Unfortunately, those were gone once I realized that the Richmond crowd was chanting for hometown girl Mickie James. If I had been correct in misinterpreting them as "HBK" chants during a Divas match, I'd pretty much have to put this up top. No such luck.


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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Smackdown Workrate Report 6/14/07

WHAT WORKED:

TKG: Regal v. Hardy was pretty great. Next week we get Finlay vs. Hardy and I'm hoping for a Taylor v Hardy follow-up after that. Used to seeing Matt Hardy and Regal in role of teacher taking green student by the hand on Smackdown, and it's a treat whenever we get a maestro v maestro match. Regal has his circa 93 babyface hair and was super spry while Hardy just leans into everything, throws his nasty back elbow and takes the vicious bump to the apron and floor. I wanted this to be a best of seven series.

PAS: I was loving all of Regal's rib work in this. How he modified his ringpost spot into a kick to the ribs. Every couple of seconds he would throw another elbow or a knee to the side. Hardy also just died on the Regal plex. I can't see him doing anything even close to this good on RAW, as he will probably be stuck in your 4 minute throw away 9:45 RAW matches with Morella or Cryme Time.

TKG: I guess best possible outcome is a Regal v Sandman series. Then again, WWE is back to doing cheesy 90s car destruction shit and I'd don't want to see those two get hurt in another Junkyard invitational.

TKG: Batista and MVP really match up well. The story on MVP is that he's a 35 year old guy who 40 year old Benoit has taken under his wing as a protégé. The story on Batista is that he's 39 year old guy who 38 year old Helmsley has taken under his wing as a protégé. Watching this match between these two protégés, I was struck by how much better Batista and MVP gel in ring then HHH and Benoit. Watching Batista v MVP made you want to try to track down their matches from 93 when they were both still young. Batista does power guy vs. scientific junior matches well and this really should be his signature match. Did Chono stiff JBL on pay at some point? "Chono made a career of nothing but that one boot, and he didn't do it as well as MVP". Did Chono work Texas? Did he and Tully soap a green Layfield up? "One day I’ll make them pay. I'll make them all pay".

PAS: Really MVP seems to have dropped a lot of his NOVA shit, and is just working with some bumps, punches and a big boot. It is too bad he didn't last longer in ROH as we could hear people bitch about how the WWE won't let him do any moves. I wonder if Benoit sat him down, and said "look son, all that fancy shit is fine for meaningless mid card, but you are working the main event now, simplify."

TKG: Flair v Edge was really fun. Flair isn't going to do lots of complicated intricate spots and so like the Benoit v Edge match, this was an Edge match that felt like an actual main event fight. This was so much better than any of the Edge v. HBK street fights. Edge looked like he was actually fighting when he was on offense and did nice job selling the leg. Flair takes the insane old man backdrop on the floor. Flair stomped and punched and chopped and sold when Edge fought back. And it's Naitch and Lil Naitch in the ring together again. They better fucking run Naitch/Lil Naitch v Finlay/Hornswaggle.

PAS: It is pretty amazing how Ric Flair can continue to look completely done, and then he gets a chance to work more then five minutes and it is fucking great. I loved Flair v. Carlito at Judgment Day but this was even better. Flair was lacerating Edge with chops, as he has gotten older he seems to be chopping harder. I also liked Flair cutting off the Edge in ring dive with a chop. Smackdown has gotten completely reamed in the draft, but I am excited to have a dilapidated roster force long Flair matches

TKG: London/Kendrick v. Deuce and Domino was a fine lil 7 minute match, but didn't really feel like a proper send off for the Smackdown tag division. I was hoping for something that built more before they get sent off to do three minute matches with WGTT and singles jobbing to Lashley or Snitsky to build Lashley/Snitski up for a title shot. This really was a short heel in peril section and then an end run and that's it. Deuce/Domino did nothing that looked bad but this wasn't much.

PAS: I liked the one end bump by Domino, but man alive I am not looking forward to Duece and Domino feuding with roided Mickey Whipwreck trainees. At least Deuce and Domino v. SAT's might have been amusing.

TKG: The four way cruiser match had some nice dives and Knoble and Moore look great working each other. Shame Helms was injured as, Davari really felt out of place in the 3 Count v Jung Dragons reunion match.

PAS: Shannon Moore looked really good here, the last time I remember seeing him actually wrestle may have been all those terrible Velocity Ultimo matches, but he looked really fluid and smooth, and he and Noble still have some muscle memory

TKG: I normally don’t have positive things to say about Edge mic work. But I kind of really liked his John Favreau in “Swingers” tongue tied awkwardness as he piled one meaningless metaphor on top of another until it all meant nothing.

PAS: I liked Regal heeling during his memorial speech, this whole thing would have been way better if everyone kept kayfabe. Jillian could sing Tuesday's Gone, MVP could wear an airbrushed RIP VINCE T-Shirt, Duece and Domino could talk about how this reminded them of the Birmingham church bombing.

WHAT DIDN'T WORK:

TKG: They couldn't get Mark Henry to read a poem? It's Mark Henry. He should be reading a poem. At first you'd think it wouldn't work with his new Ape gimmick but c'mon. JBL "Since the beginning of time Philosophers have asked 'How many monkeys hammering on typewriters would it take to write great poetry’ Well I'm not sure how many monkeys. But it only takes one intelligent giant black ape"


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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

SLL on Angle v Joe IRON MAN

Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle
TNA - 1/14/2007 - Orlando, FL
30-Minute Iron Man Match
for the #1 Contendership to the NWA World Heavyweight Title

I don't know why I thought it was a good idea to review this. Actually, I know WHY I reviewed this. I wrote something shortly before this happened about how I felt this really had the potential to be one of the all-time terrible matches, and how I kinda felt like I should watch it just because it was the kind of landmark moment in shitty wrestling that I didn't want to miss out on. I mean, the first match they had was supposedly so wretched that acclaimed wrestling scholar Kevin Cook saw it and spent the next few weeks declaring that pro wrestling was dead. That match went 15 minutes, and was supposed to go longer, but noted drug-free, perfectly healthy person Kurt Angle had to cut it short to avoid dying mid-ring. Add in the fact that Samoa Joe was going into this match with a bad wheel, and that this was a 30-minute match in a promotion booked by Vince Russo, and there was no way it could be anything less than dreadful. I mean, seriously, how does Vince fucking Russo go about booking a 30-minute Iron Man match? People don't want to see that for five minutes, nevermind thirty. 30-minute Iron Man match built as a dream match between two great workers seems like the antithesis of Russo booking. Doesn't make it good, but it does make it really out of the ordinary for Russo. I could maybe see him doing this as his version of the 30-minute Brian Pillman vs. Johnny B. Badd match, only instead of aiming it to ridicule a single wrestler, he was aiming it to ridicule his entire profession. And really, on the surface, he couldn't have picked a better match to do it with. The one upside it does provide is creating this meta-angle in my head of Samoa Joe being tasked with saving professional wrestling from the wily scheming of Vince Russo, which is pretty much the ultimate in smark-friendly angles, and is really more compelling to me than the "look at these guys have great workrate" plot the match actually had.

In the end, I never did see the match until just before writing this. Kevin Cook didn't have another e-heart attack, and no one really seemed to be heaping any strong praise or hate upon it, so I just let it go. Still, I said some stuff about the match, and I'm a guy who makes a lot of snide remarks about TNA and Kurt Angle while generally avoiding both like the plague, and people tend to like my stuff better when I write about things I hate instead of things I like, so I figured I may as well review it.

So I know WHY I did this. What I don't know is why the part of my brain that tells me not to waste my life watching awful wrestling matches didn't intervene before I could do it. Not sure why that little voice in my head that says, "Steve, you're doing two TNA reviews in a row? Wouldn't you rather watch some good wrestling?" didn't step in and stop me from watching this. And while I could be sullen and remorseful over this....well, actually, I am. But what are you gonna do?

So, yeah, the match. One of the hallmarks of Russo booking - specifically Russo booking anywhere but Attitude-Era WWF - is his constant need to remind viewers about how much less awesome what you're watching is than Attitude-Era WWF. Post-WWF Russo booking is all about taking existing promotions with existing characters and storylines and resetting them to late-90's WWF, otherwise he can't be "creative". Post-WWF Russo booking is all about telling viewers that the promotion stinks, but the good news is that it's becoming more like Attitude-Era WWF, so it will become good. So when Russo takes the until-just-recently dominant Samoa Joe and books him as the young, unproven underdog trying to unseat the dominant A-List wrestler who just got here from a bigger, more important promotion who rightly felt they didn't need him around, it's kind of surprising and not very surprising to me at the same time. On the surface, this is pretty much Russo's MO, but Kurt Angle wasn't even brought up to the WWF until a month after Russo left. Russo pushing Angle as better than TNA isn't really a Russo move in the strictest sense of the term. Angle's prime came in the time after Russo left the WWF and their profits went up while he proceeded to tank WCW. It's a period that Russo doesn't just like to forget, but actually outright denies the existence of. Now he's pushing one of it's big names as being bigger than the promotion he's booking. On the surface, that's an unlikely move from Russo. But it's not an isolated incident. Tom's written before about how the build-up to Lethal Lockdown mirrored the build-up to the Elimination Chamber match at New Year's Revolution '05. Maybe Russo pushing Angle as above TNA marks a shift in his booking. I've criticized Russo as being a booker who, like many others, found one successful thing and rested on it for the rest of his career. Maybe this is him moving in a new direction. Russo likes to criticize other bookers for lacking "creativity". He also likes to deny the existence of the WWF's continued boom after he left. Bringing in Angle and pushing him as a big star when his only previous big league experience never happened according to the booker means that Russo must be the one who made him a star. It's kind of ingenious in a really pointless, stupid way.

They don't just book Angle's character as dominant in terms of persona and legacy, he's dominant in the ring, too. Really, I'm not sure he was ever this dominant in the WWE outside of the Angle Challenge series. Kurt was always booked as guy with a rep for greatness who got "surprisingly" one-upped by his opponents. Olympic gold medalist who "surprisingly" would lose matwork exchanges with lesser opponents. Every single time. Kurt was booked as a great wrestler in much the same way Abyss is booked as a monster: by having the announcers say it over and over again, while everything Angle himself does shows the exact opposite. But here he's utterly dominating Joe for much of the match. Samoa Joe catches some shit for being booked as a tough badass while being a doughy guy with highlights, but he's bigger than Angle, he's successfully established himself as a badass tough guy within his context, he doesn't have highlights here, and fat guys have always been tough in wrestling. Point being that to book a creepy, misshapen, tiny guy who looks to be moments from a fatal heart attack at all times to be dominant over Samoa Joe is really screwy. I mean, at least Mike Graham was the promoter's kid. What excuse does Kurt have?

It's really rare that I enjoy watching the TNA crowd during a match. Enough has been written by myself and others about how irritating they are that I don't need to remind you. And I don't need to write more about how irritating dueling chants can be. I mean, even Rob Naylor hates them now. Rob Naylor! Think about that. But this was the first time I saw dueling "_____ Sucks!" chants. Really got the sense that this wasn't just TNA fans doing masturbatory "look at us enjoying wrestling" chants. The TNA fans, whether doing "Let's Go _____!" or "____ Sucks!" seemed like they actually had something to say, and this was the only way they knew how to say it. I felt there was actually a divide in the crowd between guys who liked Samoa Joe and felt Kurt Angle was fucking up their good time, and guys who liked Kurt Angle and felt that his greatness exposed Samoa Joe as a fraud. This really would've been a hell of a match to have a riot break out in the middle of. Tubby guys and scrawny guys awkwardly flailing away at each other. Bags of Funyuns and whole fried turkey legs flying all over the place. That would've shown Russo what the fans wanted.

Incidentally, if you're wondering what's actually happening in the match, you're wasting your time. When I first wrote about this match, I was hoping for a train wreck. I was hoping for Kurt dropping dead in the first five minutes, and Joe still having to drop 20-or-so falls to him before Russo runs out and shoot stabs him to death while Tenay shouts that this isn't in the script. Instead, it's just kind of boring. Samoa Joe tries, God bless him. He sells enough to make Kurt's strikes look convincing, and kind of makes me buy the tiny crippled dude owning him for most of the match. But this is a workrate dream match that's structured like Cena/Khali, but way less emotionally compelling and four times as long. Joe may or may not be capable of playing John Cena's role effectively, but The Great Khali is far, far better at being The Great Khali than Kurt Angle is. Joe is a guy typically booked as dominant, but I buy that he could be effectively booked as an underdog. I don't buy the comedy upper midcarder turned crippled midget as dominant monster. And at this point, Angle is really only slightly more mobile than Khali is. Phantom Lord bitched about Khali not being mobile enough to properly sell Cena's punches. Khali didn't do much more than flinch for Cena's punches, but Angle doesn't do much more than that here for Joe. And at least Khali has gigantism to blame for his inability to sell punches normally. Kurt's excuse is a series of neck problems he's too stupid to let heal and a severe drug problem. Do people still get on Angle's jock for being a great worker? If they do, I assume they're the same people bitching about Khali. I'm not about to declare Khali a superworker or anything, but at this point, I'm having a hard time arguing that he's a lesser worker than Angle. They're bafflingly working the same role in their matches, they're both crippled, they're both largely immobile, they're both incoherent on the mic, and they both have two matches they can work, one of which is a squash. The difference is that The Great Khali is a massive freak of nature, and actually fits his role, and seems aware of all of these things, and knows how to work within that. Kurt Angle is the Hollys' old "super heavyweight" gimmick being played straight, only without the crisp athleticism of Bob or the credible look of Crash.

Joe dives out of the ring for an elbow suicida and Kurt sells it by stepping back a little bit and letting Joe fall on his face. Did Kurt just watch a lot of Mike Graham matches and decide that this guy knew how to work? "Yeah, dives outside the ring aren't credible. If I step aside and let him faceplant before dominating the vastly more physically imposing guy with my shitty looking punches, that'll help people buy into the legitimacy of the match." Angle scores back-to-back submissions with the Ankle Lock. Joe doesn't get to reverse out of either of them even once. What a pussy. He's working as lightly against Angle as Cena would a few months later with Khali. HE'S PERFECTLY OKAY, FOLKS! Angle does a really neat sliding tackle into Joe's leg at one point, so he's got that going for him. It takes a good 20 minutes, but eventually, this becomes kinda fun. I think these two might have a better, shorter match in them, though I assume it wasn't either of the two shorter matches they actually had. But Joe sells his injured leg really well, and Angle has enough stuff to build a match around if he's not utterly dominating the whole thing for 20 minutes. But a long Angle match really exposes how bad he is. For a guy popular among moves marks, Angle sure doesn't seem to have a much deeper offense than Khali. He doesn't seem to execute it much better, either.

Kurt Angle goes up 3-2 and time expires while Joe has Angle in the Ankle Lock. God, they're not even working in the WWE, and Kurt still has to work WWE workrate-style matches? Joe got Angle to tap once in this match to the Rear Naked Choke, but as time runs out, he instead he goes for the shopworn WWE Workrate "wrestler attempts his opponent's finisher" spot. Why? There's 30 seconds left. Kurt's not going to tap to a lesser Ankle Lock in 30 seconds. Kurt can't even make people tap to his own Ankle Lock in 30 seconds. He has to let Hardcore Holly reverse it 80 times before he can get the tap. But Kurt has two matches that he can do, and the other is a two-minute squash. Kurt can't wrestle Joe's match. I thought going into this that he could meet Joe half-way with his usual "Clash of the Titans" type "epic" match, but apparently he's too frail to go toe to toe with him. So Kurt wrestles his WWE workrate match, but gives up almost nothing, bumps as little as possible, sells as little as possible, and leaves Joe to work for two. So it's Cena/Khali booked as a 30-minute WWE Workrate style match. One guy can definitely go, one guy definitely can't, they're booked as workrate equals, and it brings the better guy down to the other's level, leaving you not particularly psyched up to see either of them again. I was predicting "Hogan and Savage vs. The Alliance to End Hulkamania"-level badness here, and it really wasn't nearly that bad, but it may have been more depressing. Next time I'll listen to the voice in my head and review something I like.


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Sunday, June 17, 2007

SCHNEIDER SEVENTIES SATURDAY SPECIAL: Three Giants with Lee Benaka

Three Giants: A retrospective by Phil Schneider and Lee Benaka

PAS: So Lee stopped by and he was intrigued by all the Andre The Giant I got recently, so we watched the amazing Andre v. Inoki match, and we decided to compare that with the best of Big Show and Khali.

LB: Giants in wrestling are always slightly tragic to me. People who are that huge are eventually going to end up with health issues as they age and possibly even premature deaths due to their genetic conditions (Andre the Giant) or a combination of genetic conditions and performance-enhancing drugs (Big John Studd). Or they may just suck at wrestling (see El Gigante). Speaking of El Gigante, I was lucky enough to see one of Ric Flair's title defenses against El Gigante at the UIC Pavillion in Chicago in the mid-1990s, back when Ric had the bad haircut. I don't remember the match as being very good.

Focusing on Andre, Big Show, and Khali seems sensible as Big John Studd was a borderline giant and didn't have any amazing matches that I can remember. And El Gigante, as I mentioned, sucked. There are a few other wrestlers who may have looked like giants when matched up against the right opponents, such as Blackjack Mulligan versus Kevin Sullivan or Ernie Ladd versus, say, Nelson Royal. But they were never consistently billed as giants throughout their careers and looked more like huge guys rather than freakish giants.

And the huge guy v. freakish giant dichotomy comes into play when looking at the best of Andre, Big Show, and Khali. Big Show, at least in his WWE incarnation, looks to be more of a big guy than the genuinely freaky looking Andre and Khali. Big Show as the Giant in WCW did have more of a freaky look going with the Andre-esque afro and the facial expressions. And of the freakish giants, Andre and Khali present quite a contrast. Andre seems huge in every way, especially his head, hands, and gut, whereas Khali has a taller and more slim build with seemingly unbendable stick legs and a disproportionately broad chest. Khali's face is indeed freaky, though. But enough giant ramblings, on to the matches....


Andre The Giant v. Antonio Inoki 10/7/76

PAS: Seeing highlights of this match was the impetus for getting all this Andre, and it is as great in full as it is in highlight form. They set this up by showing the end of an earlier match where Andre loses by countout by missing a headbutt against the post and crushing his dome. This is the rematch and really feels like a big match.

LB: The missed headbut into the post spot was amazing and resulted in a rare (to me) Andre bladejob. It's too bad that spot wasn't used more, but obviously it was for special occasions and very effective as a result.

PAS: They open with the national anthems of France and Japan, the Japanese anthem is really sad sounding, it is kind of a mix of stereotypical Oriental music, and a mournful country ballad, like if the Carter family wrote music for the Mikado.

LB: It was touching seeing the determined athletes' faces superimposed against their respective flags during the playing of the anthems. It looked as if they were really moved by the music.

PAS: Inoki spends a lot of this match playing possum, picking his points. His offense isn't particularly impressive, but he really knows when to do everything. Meanwhile Andre is so agile that it blows you away, he is taking armdrag bumps, flying headscissors, and bumps to the floor. It was like Jerry Estrada injected gigantism instead of heroin. Both of the other matches were worked around the giants dominating and the smaller faces using their wiles to pull out a big victory. Here Inoki uses his wiles to dominate most of the match, with Andre getting more and more frustrated, at one point he even attempts a flying body press and crashes and burns. Watching Andre miss a body press is like watching the Hindenburg falling out of the air. Finally Andre loses his temper with the tricky little guy and just snatches him and slams him on the table for the count out win. Both guys come out looking super strong, Inoki does everything right, he can compete with Andre, but the Giant can end a match any moment and proves it by crushing Inoki at the end.

LB: In a lot of these 1970s Andre in Japan matches, he is accompanied to the ring by a rather tall dumpy handler who interferes in the matches once in a while. If you are accompanying a giant to the ring, you should not be about as tall as he is. It would be better if you were a midget, or better yet, four midgets, with one of you perched up on the giant's shoulder as he walks to the ring for a match (at least El Gigante got that one right).

Inoki's selling was interesting to me, as he did so stoically with a slight grimace and a look of concentration as if he were devising a new strategy to get the better of Andre. This was quite a contrast to the exaggerated bumps of Eddie Guerrero against the Big Show and the great facial expressions of pain by John Cena against Khali. In fact, I would compare Andre's bumping to Guerreros, consistently going the extra mile to make Inoki's offense look great. And it wasn't just Andre's bumping, but also his frustrated expressions and jeers at the crowd that made this match electric. My favorite spot was the dueling bow and arrow submissions where Inoki gamely tried to get Andre hoisted up onto his knees and then Andre successfully carried out the lucha spot. And the pedigree was awesome.

This appeared to be the finals of some tournament, because after the match ended with Andre slamming Inoki onto the edge of the table (ouch!) outside the ring and then tossing around some ring attendees, Inoki was lifted on a mat and dumped into the ring to receive a large trophy and lots of oil (alcohol?) being slathered onto this back and shoulders.

Big Show v. Eddie Guerrerro 4/15/04

PAS: Show is the biggest of the three giants, but may be the least intimidating. I think that has a lot to do with both Andre and Khali having gigantism. The giant heads and facial features really make both guys look terrifying. Meanwhile Show just looks like a big normal guy. Eddie was so amazing during 2004, one of the best years any wrestler has ever had. He used a similar strategy to Inoki, but is so much more expressive then Inoki is. It seems weird to see a Giant work a body part, but Shows arm work was really great, I loved grabbing the shoulder muscle and crushing it with his hand. He looked like he was going to rip the shoulder right out.

LB: This was a fun match that made me sad that Eddie is dead. The match was mostly Eddie bumping wildly off of the slowly stalking Big Show. There was one spot toward the end of the match when the Big Show took a big flip, which was followed up I believe by the frog splash for the win. Eddie's cheat-to-win hijinks were fun and also kind of sweet and innocent. I expected Eddie to brain the Big Show with the wrench from under the ring, but instead he threw it to the Big Show to get the referee on this case, and then jumped the Big Show with a great flurry of punches while the Big Show was being reprimanded. The only classic giant mannerisms the Big Show adopted was a roar as he delivered the big chops to Eddie in the corner, but other times he sported a sh*t-eating grin as he beat up Eddie. A sh*t-eating grin does not make me think, big scary freaky giant.

John Cena v. Great Khali 5/20/07

PAS: Cena may be the most impressive performer in any of these matches. Khali is so much worse then either Andre or Show, but this match is comparable to the other two and it really is all Cena's doing. Cena made him look like a total killer. Just taking giant bumps on all of the moves. They weren't Hennig or Micheals style athletic bumps which are all about the bumper, they were the kind of whiplash bumps that make the guy applying the move look powerful. Eddie flew around more for Show, but Cena is great at kind of floppy legged KO selling. Cena is also amazing at timing all of his comebacks, as the crowd went nuts for the catch of the chop, and the shoulderblocks, the finish was real great. I don't know about Khali tapping out in the first match, but they set it up really well. I get the sense Khali may be unable to take a bump, so kicking the stairs into the knee, and landing a legdrop is devastating enough to buy the STFU being put on. This was the best of their three singles matches with each other, with SNME being a squash, and One Night Stand having such a dumb finish. Part of the greatness is really seeing the spots for the first time, Khali's spin kick is a holy shit spot the first time, not particularly good looking the second.

LB: I'd have to go with Andre being a little more impressive than Cena just because perpetual-motion lucha Andre was so much more impressive than barely mobile Andre. But Cena was great making the match here, with Bret Hart-caliber whiplash-into-the-corner spots. Catching the chop was campy but fun, almost as good as the block of Baron von Raschke's claw where the opponent tries to turn the claw on the Baron and the Baron sells fear of his own hand. I thought the set up to the finish was good and impressive that Cena was able to get the hold on a guy of that size. It also made me think that perhaps Khali was not an invincible monster but rather had some pointed weaknesses where all you had to do is soften him up a bit and then get him down, and he could be put out. Khali's freakishly disproportionate giant body supports that theory, I think.


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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Phil's Ongoing 2006 MOTY List

1. Chris Benoit vs Finlay WWE 5/21
2. Jun Akiyama vs Masao Inoue NOAH 4/23
3. Negro Navarro/Villano 4/Villano 5 v. Dos Caras Jr./Heavy Metal/Solar 1 AULL 11/2
4. Rey Mysterio vs Randy Orton WWE 4/4
5. Chris Benoit v. William Regal WWE 10/8
6. Necro Butcher v. Super Dragon PWG 9/2
7. American Dragon Brian Danielson/Samoa Joe/B.J. Whitmer/Adam Pearce/Ace Steele/Homicide v. Nate Webb/Chris Hero/Claudio Castognoli/Necro Butcher/Eddie Kingston ROH 7/15
8. KENTA vs American Dragon Bryan Danielson
9. William Regal vs Chris Benoit
10. Briscoes vs Austin Aries/Roderick Strong ROH 8/12
11. Chris Benoit vs Finlay WWE 5/3
12. Finlay vs Rey Mysterio WWE 3/20
13. Chris Benoit vs JBL WWE 4/11
14. American Dragon Brian Danielson vs Nigel McGuiness ROH 8/12
15. Low-Ki v. Necro Butcher 12/16
16. Meiko Satomura vs Kyoko Kimura Sendai 12/3
17. Homicide vs Necro Butcher 5/13
18. Chris Benoit vs William Regal WWE 5/8
19. KENTA v. Matt Sydal ROH 11/4
20. American Dragon Brian Danielson vs Samoa Joe ROH 8/6

Previously on the list

-El Hijo Del Santo vs Perro Aguyao Jr. 8/25
-Ric Flair vs Mark Foley- WWE 8/20
-American Dragon Brian Danielson vs Nigel McGuiness ROH 4/29
-Mistico/Negro Casas vs Averno/Memphisto CMLL 4/15
-Chris Hero/Necro Butcher/Super Dragon v. Samoa Joe/B.J. Whitmer/Adam Pearce ROH 4/22 -La Mascara/El Hijo Del Santo v. Blue Panther/Tarzan Boy CMLL GDL 1/1
-Rey Mysterio v. Mark Henry WWE 1/15
-Damien Wayne v. Sean Denny NWA-VA 5/6
-Meiko Satomura v. Aja Kong Sendai Pro Wrestling 7/9
-L.A. Park/Marco Corleone/Johnny Stamboli v. Dr. Wagner Jr./Dos Caras Jr./Lizmark Jr. CMLL 5/19
-Sadico v. Terry 2000 AULL 9/13
-Rey Mysterio v. Finlay 9/5
-Yuki Ishikawa v. Hiroyuki Ito Big Mouth Loud 5/4
-El Hijo Del Santo/Negro Casas/Mistico v. Atlantis/Black Warrior/Ultimo Guerrerro 8/4
-Low-Ki v. Necro Butcher IWA-MS 4/1
-Rey Mysterio/Bobby Lashley/Chris Benoit v. JBL/Finlay/Randy Orton WWE 2/23
-Samoa Joe v. Necro Butcher IWA-MS 1/12
-Minoru Suzuki vs. Yoshiaki Fujiwara Big Mouth Loud 3/22
-Juventud v. Kid Kash WWE 1/3
-A.J. Styles v. Matt Sydal ROH 1/14
-Samoa Joe v. BJ Whitmer ROH 1/14
-Chris Benoit v. Randy Orton WWE 1/24
-Shadow WX/Mammoth Sasaki v. Abdullah Kobyashi/Daisuke Sekimoto BJW 1/27/06
-Finlay v. Chris Benoit WWE 1/30 -HHH v. Big Show WWE 2/13
-Finlay/JBL v. Lashley/Chris Benoit WWE 2/16
-KENTA/Takeshi Morishima/Mohammed Yone v.Kenta Kobashi/Yoshinobu Kanemaru/Tamon Honda NOAH 2/17
-Undertaker v. Kurt Angle WWE 2/19
-KUDO & MIKAMI v. Yoshiaki Yago & MIYAWAKI Chikara 2/24
-Milano Collection AT/Skyde v. Claudio Castagnoli/ Chris Hero Chikara 2/26
-Finlay v. Bobby Lashley WWE 5/8

15. Low-Ki v. Necro Butcher 12/16

These two matched up earlier in the year, in a match that was pretty fun but kind of one sided, with Ki just killing Necro. Here it was way more even, as both guys brought sick amounts of asskicking. This was worked under KO or submission rules and it actually reminded me a lot of the classic Yuki Ishikawa v. Daisuke Ikeda matches. Similar pacing with Ki unloading brutal kicks to the face and body, and Necro fighting back with headbutts and punches. Necro's punches were great, he just wastes Ki with some of the best bodyshots I have ever seen in wrestling, I almost expected Ki to spit blood, he also throws a great lead left hook. This had more chair stuff then those matches had, but with the pacing and brutality this really was the closest to classic BattlArts we had in 2006. I have seen a bunch of Necro over the years, and he has done some horrific things to his body, so it is pretty amazing that he can still shock you. The Ki double stomp with Necro's chest laid on the top of the chair, was a top 10 Necro Butcher bump, and think about what the implies. Plus Ki throwing a stiff chop to the balls was nastier then a thousand light tube shots. Necro's selling was spectacular too, at one point he sells a kick to the face by lying on the mat and swatting at imaginary flies. He does a ton of little things well too, shaking his head, opening and closing his hand to get blood flowing, gripping his elbow and shaking his arm after getting bealed on a chair, leaning over and breathing deeply to sell exhaustion. Ki was fun in this too, he takes a bigger beating then he often does, and I love the little Abby screams he has added before his big moves, still this was a Necro show, and he really looks a step above Ki.

The finish is what keeps this out of the top 10. This was worked KO or submission, so it was fine that Ki won with the flying triangle, but if you are going to end a match like this on a submission, you really should tease submissions more. All the near falls in the match were worked around 9 counts, at no point did anyone even try for a submission outside of the finish. Also I had just got done watching a bunch of WEC and when KI put on the triangle I kept thinking he needed to move his leg underneath his own knee and pull Necro's head down to cut off the blood. I just came off like a flat finish for such an awesome match. Still this was another match to add to the amazing resume Necro put together in 2006.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Smackdown Workrate Report 6/7/07

What Worked

TKG: Michael Cole’s pervy starter stash looks like it has the potential for Tony Schiavone perv stash level greatness.

PAS: Boogeyman has been a ridiculously protected guy, and it is pretty weird to see him totally squashed like this. Still I love me some asskicking Mark Henry, and crushing a protected guy like this really establishes him as a guy who can't be stopped. It feels like they are writing off Little Boogeyman, which is kind of a mistake, if you are bringing in a celebrity midget, you need a secondary midget to feed him to, set up the Hornswaggle PPV match.

TKG: Really felt like Henry was protecting Little Boogey on the splash which kind of hurt it too. Part of me thought they were writing both Big Boogey and Little Boogey out of show, but there is a Boogy shirt poll on WWE.com (http://poll.wwe.com/boogeyman3/ vote #4) so I assume they are just sending Boogey to RAW or ECW. This really felt like jobbing a guy out of the territory.

PAS: It is about time that Orlando has a good juniors spotfest. I haven't seen Davari in a while and it looks like he stole all of Vince's roids. He really looked too big to be in with skinny guys like Kendrick and Jamie Noble. I assume Kendrick and London are getting split up, and London will get switched to RAW and fired. Kendrick v. Chavo look like they could have some really fun 7 minute TV matches.

TKG: Yeah London/Kendrick are going to be split. This was advertised as cruiser match, so they've been demoted from tag wrestlers to cruisers. London grew the greatest pro-wrestling Mexican facial hair in the history of Mexican pro-wrestling facial hair. He saw the writing on the wall and was hoping that the international branding was going to still happen and he might get traded to Latino brand. Unfortunately European house shows didn't draw and doesn't look like he's got much of a future. Knoble is dragged out of the attic and given new trunks. I think the trunks had the Smackdown “S” on them...so his new gimmick is "Smackdown branded wrestler". Knoble and Jimmy Yang wrestle together like two guys who trained together and everything was super smooth. I don't think I've ever seen a Chavo v Kendrik match before but Kendrick gets the pin on Chavo and their sections together absolutely ruled.

PAS: Benoit v. Edge was pretty great, really based around both guys taking crazy bumps into the turnbuckles. I am not a huge fan of Steiner style killing of suplexes, but the triple verticle into the triple German is a really cool near fall set up. The finish was pretty terrible, Edge's spear blows and doesn't look like it should put anyone down, especially someone who has been semi-protected like Benoit.

TKG: These two had a really good cage match a couple years ago where they worked match like a heated cage match instead of the usual WWE spotfest cage match. In general Edge's problem is that when left to his own devices he wants to wrestle those spotfest matches. It never looks to me like he's actually FIGHTING to BEAT his opponent, he’s instead fighting to get to spots. Matches have this real IC title feel. But you put him against Benoit and it's a FIGHT. That spear was a super flat finish.PAS: Matt Hardy v. Deuce and Domino should have been a lot worse then it was. Hardy is on a pretty untouchable streak right now, I am assuming at one point he worked a handicap match against T.C. Brimstone and the Rambunctious Bobby Barnett in OMEGA, so he probably has some experience working these kind of turds. I hadn't seen Cryme Tyme in a while, but watched this weeks RAW, and I think both Deuce and Domino are worse then the lesser Cryme Tymer, and Michaels is hurt. It is funny though, both can kind of do one thing, Domino can take nice out of ring bumps, but can't bump in ring or execute offense, Deuce has stiff offense and can of eat stuff but often looks completely lost in the ring. Hardy is good enough to work a match around the couple of things that they can do.

TKG: I don't think Deuce can actually eat stuff. Kendrick was able to control both guys and carry them to watchable singles matches. London was able to get something out of Domino in the ring in their singles. London let Deuce do too much in their singles and that was a fucking mess. Neither Kendrick or London were ever given the burden of trying to carry both guys simultaneously. Two on one really requires that Deuce and Domino double team and do timing spots.. They were completely unable to do that and looked lost waiting for shit to happen but Matt Hardy and the cameramen did a real yeoman's job keeping this from ever falling apart. Matt turning his Tanaka stunner bulldog spot (which I hate) into a bulldog/lariat when Domino was out of position kind of ruled.

PAS: MVP v. Batista was way better then it had any right to be. Batista seems like a guy who works really well with NOVA generation guys, as he a good series with Kennedy too. After watching this, I really want to see him work the Miz, see what he can do with the cream of the crop. MVP seems to be culling the stuff he does, and getting simpler, which should only help him. The kicks to the head have gotten pretty good looking, and both of them were sold huge. I also liked all the early boxing stuff, although he needs to snap his jab, rather then just stick it out there. Batista can time him, come over the top and catch him with a right hand.

TKG: For Nova guy, MVP was less iNOVAtive then usual. For guy who criticized AJ Styles, Batista has similar problems. Batista can work from bottom, or from top but really can't work even. The NOVA guys allow him to work from top, then they take control through short cuts and then they attack hard. Same formula used with Kennedy. I think part of the advantage of this formula is that on some level one of the things Batista does better then people give him credit for doing is selling. This formula allows him to sell for chunks. The two more evenish guys slugging it out, trading doesn't allow for that. That may not be a good explanation. Whatever, this is formula that works well with Batista.

What Didn't Work

TKG: "As I walk through the shadows of death...ashes to ashes dust ". So Vince's attempt to play insane consists of him doing bad impression of Duvall in the Apostle? I guess evangelist would explain the cheap looking aqua suit. Ashley offers to drycleam that suit? That suit doesn't need dry cleaning. So there was a thread on the DVDVR board about the relative advantage and disadvantage of scripted v unscripted dialogue in wrestling. The whole argument misses the point that wrestling is a show with badly written scripts and non-professional actors. Now I like Italian neo-realism as much as the next guy. But I don't speak Italian so may not notice if the non-professional actors can't read their lines well. It might also be that Neo-Realism is built around stories of lower class existence, and non-professional actors may be able to get across the lower class life of a Boogey Woogey Man, the son of a plumber or working class existence of Anderson Brothers...but current US wrestling isn't about poverty and working class struggle. Vince is wealthy and Edge is playing a high roller. All of the WWE wrestlers are presented as " WWE SUPERSTARS". Anyway the backstage stuff with Vince was embarrassing by porn acting standards. Vince and Austin had a good rapport and knew how to play off each other. Vince has no rapport with anyone here, sub-community theater.

PAS: I am not signing on with the love for current crazy Vince. His crazy Southern preacher stuff and Bob Backlund facials come off really hackneyed. The opening section was really hurt by how bad Edge is at these interviews. Vince does come off better when he has a more polished performer like Ashley to work off of.

TKG: So I'm watching a good MVP promo and distracted by his lil cheap looking fake gold hoop earring. The MVP gimmick requires MVP to have at minimum fake diamond earrings.

PAS: "Your voice sounds like Rosanne Barr singing the national anthem?" That was seventeen years ago, is JBL scripting Diva snaps now?

TKG: Someone needs to tell JBL what “gentrify” means. Every show he refers to a wrestler “gentrifying”. He consistently uses it to describe developments of the younger wrestlers. “Week to week we watch the gentrification of__________ (Miz, Kennedy, Batista, Edge as champ, MVP, etc”. Gentrification isn’t a synonym for development. If JBL was working a redneck who misuses word gimmick it would be one thing but JBL worked for “business”news channel CNBC, a FOX “business analysis”show. It’s embarrassing.


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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Schneider Seventies Saturday: Andre the Giant v. Seiji Sakaguchi 3/19/74

Andre the Giant v. Seiji Sakaguchi 3/19/74

At the end of an NJ classics DVD we watched last week they showed highlights of what looked like an awesome Andre the Giant v. Antonio Inoki match. The wonderful thing about being a wrestling fan in 2007 is that you see highlights like that, you can jump on the internet and for 20 bucks get 6 Andre the Giant in the 70's and 80's DVD, and they will be at your house a week later. This is the first 70's Andre I have seen (outside of I like to Hurt People)and Christ on the Crucifix is he awesome.



The match opens with a ton of standing hold reversal, almost like standing matwork. Sakaguchi and Andre working counters and reversals around standing wristlocks and headlocks. They do this great sequence with Sakaguchi trying to hiptoss Andre and Andre countering into a abdominal stretch. Sakaguchi has really great execution on basic things, great looking headlock, great looking overhand wristlock, great looking punches and chops.

I have been watching a bunch of Khali v. Cena match ups in the last couple of days, and while watching this Andre doesn't really remind me of Khali as much as he reminds me of Cena. Both guys strengths lie in their ability to realistically make their opponents look great. Andre is taking punches and chops from Sakaguchi and the way he whips his head back and steps slightly backward, it looks like Sakaguchi is just killing him with shots. Andre also takes really simple bumps well, flying hard into the turnbuckles on irish whips, flipping over big on armdrags.

They breakdown into a brawl at the end, with Andre's second pulling Sakaguchi to the floor, I don't know who that guy was (although he was way too tall to work as an Andre second) but he does a great sell where he gets hit and his combover flops off. Andre and Sakaguchi brawl on the floor and Andre is throwing trainees left and right like The Thing in a Fantastic Four comic. When they finally get broken up he struts around the ring with his arms raised yelling "I am the winnah" in an amazingly dickish way. I never thought about Andre as Tully, but I wanted to punch him in his mutant head.


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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

WWE One Night Stand Review

Rob Van Damn v. Randy Orton

TKG: What the fuck? This was shockingly good. The whole finish line stretcher stip is stupid but this was shockingly good. RVD is known as a guy with really shitty looking offense who isn't good at selling but is good at taking huge bumps and pointing to himself. And they run a match where he does lots of offense and lots of selling. And his offense looks good. All of his kicks and forearms look good. His punches don't look good but they don't look awful either. RVD is a guy whose offense looks loose and horrible even when he's shoot potatoeing his opponents. He's a guy whose offense looked loose and awful in All Japan, looked embarrassing in ECW. This is his last match in the fed and he decides now is the time to learn how to work good kicks? It was absolutely shocking. I mean RVD has been in some good matches in his career, but I can't think of any other one where his offense contributed to their goodness. He still isn't good at selling. He isn't good at glassy eyed concussion selling. Better than Michaels but still isn't really good at the facial selling. The RVD blows huge spot because of concussion was cool. As you expect RVD to blow a huge spot, then get up and redo it, so him staying down was totally unexpected. Orton is a guy who will eat a bump well and is good at selling. His post-posting crumple sell was pretty great and almost a flaw in the match. As kind of hurts the match when the guy with the "concussion" gimmick isn't selling as well or as big as the guy who's working "healthy" guy gimmick.

PAS: Yeah I was amazed at how good this was, Orton has some of the best timing in wrestling, and the counter of the rolling thunder into a powerslam was completely awesome. Not only did RVD's kicks look good, he seemed to be throwing a bunch of variations I hadn't seen before. His little short knee to the face was awesome. The somersault plancha to the floor is a completely nutty spot, and really should have ended the match. Ending a stretcher match with the "tricky baby face hits the turnbuckles after the heel” strap match finish is really crappy. WWE has a tendency to get too clever with gimmick match finishes, RVD is leaving the fed, have him stretchered out. The Pain Killer on the floor post match, does feel like something that should send a guy out of a promotion though, fuck was that crazy.



New Breed v Originals

TKG: Ehh this really wasn't much. This felt like a really mediocre semi-main on a Jack Sabboth card. I'm from DC, and having a straight edge guy dap drunk ass Sandman just isn't believable. Whose idea was it to start this off with Monte Brown and Tommy Dreamer exchanging holds? They really shouldn't be exchanging standing switches and doing mat reversals. Not so much because it doesn't fit with their gimmick but just that they can't pull it off. Sandman was a lot of fun in this, taking giant bumps running around trying to cane people, trying to break stuff up, and just running around recklessly. But this was really a solo performance by him. This really needed Wayne the Convenience Store guy to help hold it together. Sabboth would have been smart enough book him in this.

PAS: Sandman isn't a peer of C.M. Punk, he is an older guy. I don't remember irritating straight edgers when I was in college lecturing guys 15 years older then them. Jac Sabboth wouldn't run this without blood, it would have had New Jack and everyone in it would be either drunk or high. I kind of like sober Sandman, but sober Tommy Dreamer is pretty useless. I do like them filing an injunction to keep Team 3-D from yelling "get the tables" and then having C.M. Punk and Tommy Dreamer do it. I still think the WWE made a mistake buy not bringing in Dances and Little Snot and giving them the tag belts. Those two as "ECW originals" would have been awesome

Hardys v. Worlds Greatest Tag Team

PAS: I dunno whether ladder matches have just past me by or something, but I thought this was completely ass. Benjamin and Haas both looked really awkward and tentative, and the Hardy's seemed to be taking house show ladder match level bumps. I really don't understand why World's Greatest Tag Team suck so bad, you figure both guys are good athletes, with amateur backgrounds, is there any reason they are both so much worse then the Miz?

TKG: The thing is it’s not just that they're bad wrestlers. Kurt Angle is a guy with a great amateur pedigree who doesn't get wrestling. But it’s not just that I don't think Haas or Benjamin know how to put a match together. Haas and Benjamin are guys with athletic backgrounds whose athletic stuff doesn't look good. They look unathletic. The Benjamin improv blown spot save looked better than the stuff that he hit cleanly. Haas and Benjamin linking arms and then doing the rolling Hotshots spot was just painfully bad. I kind of liked the comedy spots built around tossing ladders at Haas, and maybe this match needed more comedy. This stank.

Mark Henry v. Kane

PAS: Nothing spectacular, although worlds better then the ladder match. Henry takes amazing bumps on the top rope clothesline and the chokeslam. The lumberjack stuff was pretty fun, as I loved everyone being scared of Kane and Henry throwing off five guys. Still Kane kind of stinks, and while I like the bearhug as a finisher as a concept, he really needs to make it more dynamic, throw the guy around a bit or something, as it looks like a rest hold bearhug which ended a match.

TKG: He's done bear hug into bridged pin on Raw years ago, it’s a cool way to mix up the bear hug. Also for match that starts with a back posting and ends with a bear hug, it kind of needed some spots where Kane sold back pain. The undercarders as lumberjacks who didn't want to mess with these hosses was amusing. Hey, Balls Mahoney still has a WWE job!! Made me kind of feel sorry for Benoit who was positioned between Val Venis and Stevie Richards..."this is what the fed thinks of me?" . I mean it's nice that he gets a PPV pay day but still. Stevie Richards preventing Miz from interfering made me really want to see a Stevie/Miz program. Overenthusiastic Val was also a ton of fun. I assume he was trying to audition for role as manager/second after the draft. And I don't get the Chavo/Dykstra interference at all. Bobby

Lashley v. Vince McMahon

TKG: Someone needs to teach Umaga how to catch a dive as he blows catching both Lashley and Shane. This was deadly dull. I mean shockingly boring. Most of the match is a three on one with Lashley eating a beating. And he eats a beating by just lying there and eating offense. He needed some comebacks, something. Instead he just laid there and ate offense. Lashley has some energy behind his own offense but this was a match built around the offense of Umaga, Vince and Shane. Umaga is a guy with some nice stuff, who can work stiff. But this wasn't worked with Luger beating up face so JJ Dillon could get a pin. Match wasn't laid out to make Umaga's offense look strong while Vince looks sneaky. Umaga's offense was no more deadly than Vince's choking spots or Shane's tribute to backyarders. Their was no real hierarchy of what offense is deadly vs. what is just stinging, all kind of equal which left it all equally flat. So long sections of flat offense on a guy who just laid there. Boring.

PAS: Yeah Lashley really needs to work on wrestling from the bottom. If you contrast that to Cena taking beatings from Khali and Umaga, you can really see the chasm which separates the two of them. Vince wrestling in the shirt kills me, he must me in a bad way, still he did have nice eat of a spear for a sixty year old guy who is probably dying of cancer.

PAS: Man does Ron Simmons look like All In the Family era Sherman Helmsley.

Candace Michelle v. Melina

PAS: It really looked less like a pool full of pudding, then a pool full of refried beans with sour cream on top. We have written tons about how up and down the card people are working really stiff in the WWE, especially compared to the traditional style. Nothing illustrates that better then Melina throwing Johnny Valentine level forearms to the back and face in a pudding match against a Playboy model. Pudding match Melina was working stiffer then WWF Vader.

TKG: Not just stiff forearms and elbows but a really deep choke too. "One Night Stand where the only rules are no rules." I remember liking the build to spots in Candice Michelle's Wet N Wild match so reason to believe that she could work a good garbage match again. Pudding isn't exactly a bed of thumbtacks or a four corner of death box filled with glass and mousetraps. It's not even a table. But same principle. As once both women were lubed up they brawled outside of what otherwise would be bed of nails trying to throw each other into it. Could of used a fall from a higher height but the attempted suffocation leading to tap out was a good garbage finish.

Batista v Edge

TKG: JBL reminds us that this is Florida and that there have been lots of great cage matches in Florida. This wasn't worked like a Championship Wrestling From Florida cage match. This was worked like a WWE bloodless feud ending spotfest cage match. Perfectly fine by the numbers WWE style feud ending spotfest cage match. Not a high end one but unobjectionable. The thing is those matches are usually run on your television show. They're TV main event matches, not really PPV main event matches. You run that type of bloodless feud ending spotfest cage match on PPV and it’s a midcard Venis vs. Rikishi match.Main event PPV cage match needs t be built around heat not spots. This was a lot better than their last PPV match. I really liked the colliding spear shoulder tackle spot and the match really picked up after that. But it really felt like a television main event, or a PPV midcard match.

PAS: I kind of liked some of early Edge attempts to escape, but this was a really nothing match. The finish was pretty stupid. This was a show full of really poorly thought out creative finishes, this finish, the stretcher match finish, the finish to the main event. Really the only finish which worked at all was the drowning tap out finish in the pudding match.

Great Khali v. John Cena

TKG: The whole he's only been submitted but never been pinned set up for this was kind of goofy. And this may have had the least heat of any of their match ups. All of Khali's back elbows look great as Cena really is tucked into them. Cena did a nice job selling for all of Khali's stuff and kept the pace moving. And the big Cena bump from rope to floor was set up nicely but this really was the least of their matches. You could see them telegraphing the Brian Lee v. Tommy Dreamer big fall spot from the moment they started to climb the crane. It's a spot that the WWE has done again and again. And well Brian Lee actually took a giant fall, whenever the WWE does it they have an obvious crash pad. They never figure out how to film the crash well, either. Someone seems to think that the way to disguise the giant mattress is to put lots of stuff (pipes, wires, etc) on top of the crash pad. But the end result is guy takes a fall, lands and all the stuff around him bounces in the air. The bumps into the pudding look more awkward and nastier. Maybe they should have put the bowl of pudding on the crash pad, as refried beans bouncing and flying everywhere would be a better visual, made for a nastier looking bump and a more humiliating finish.

PAS: Cena really has a formula for working Khali now. They have really great spots, catching the chop, the elbow counter of the FU, the spinning kick. Still by the third match you can really see the formula. Cena takes some huge bumps here, but then outside of the ring brawling did feel a little prop heavy, and this really could have used some blood. The crash pad was shot especially bad here, as you could really see the bounce.

TKG: Not just shot poorly but miked poorly as you could also hear the springs bounce. Pudding splash might have drowned that out too.


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Monday, June 04, 2007

Smackdown Workrate Report 5/31

What Worked

PAS: Opening tag was pretty great. MVP may be the guy getting your interweb (and to be fair it is hard to hate a guy who got into wrestling by watching Dean Malenko matches in jail) push, but it is pretty clear that the Miz is the better guy on that tag team. Miz's elbows to the back of the head were nasty, I saw Lauzon v. Miller I was buying Hardy's concussion selling. Hardy has been doing the head injury thing on Smackdown for a while (his head seems fine on RAW), he does it really well, but I question the wisdom of doing mid card Nowitski, when Micheals is doing main event Nowitski on the other brand.

TKG: Miz clearly the worker of the team but I still think it’s ridiculous to have the announcers really play up “Miz getting serious, no longer fun and games”. Miz actually has really hateable “life is all fun and games” charisma. Maybe they’re doing some type of accumulated concussion booking thing, where Matt is still young and so can take more blows to the head then a guy who was in the biz longer..

PAS: The midget match was actually a lot of fun, they really kept enough crazy shit going on, that you never were able to get bored. Midget Muta Mist was awesome, and I loved the role reversal with Finlay under the ring. Face Finlay with his rabid little buddy should really get a run with the belt.


TKG: The mic work by Finlay and Boogey setting this up was nice too. This was all about lots of spots and stuff going on, not a lot of wrestling. All the comedy spots and heat spots were legit funny. Made me want to see them do the wrestler/mini tag. Made me want to see WWE try to go all AAA with a wrestler/mini/woman/exotico eight person tag matches. Do they have anyone to play a female boogey and an exotico Boogey? I guess you could bring back Jackie Moore and OJ. Female Irishwomen, exotico Irish? Well there’s Kiley Mclean and I’ve seen early Mid South Irish Sean O’Michaels. Would Vince be willing to go all old man fey?

PAS: Duece and Domino are really the most embarrassing thing in the WWE. Utterly cornball gimmick done badly, and possibly the two shittiest in ring guys in the whole fed. In a fed full of ugly faced women Cherry may be the ugliest, she looks Trinity gruesome, and that is with a ton of pancake makeup, I don't want to see the horror below. Still they kept them out of the ring, and the other four have a really nice rhythm built up now. I assume this is Taylor's last televised match, and he went out on a nice note. This is a fed full of guys doing cravates, but Taylors is a true thing of beauty, and he took a big out of ring bump. You got to love the WWE for putting old ass Dave Taylor back on TV even for a while.

TKG: It wasn’t just the cravate but the set up to the cravate. Regal's rapid fire strikes to either Deuce or Domino in the corner were pretty cool two. But this was mostly about the Regal/Taylor vs. Kendrick/London stuff with Deuce and Domino just getting in the way. I assume that both teams will be broken up in the draft. I wish they could’ve had their last hurrah’s without Deuce/and Domino there.

PAS: I thought Kane v. Henry was perfectly fine. Kane can't do a ton and Henry seems to be working off ring rust a bit, but Henry has nice punches and a great looking powerslam. Constant Zybysco stalling is an amusing way to set up a lumberjack match, although I don't think it really fits his gimmick.

What Didn't Work

TKG: I was calling for more mid card guys to get mic work last week, and Finlay and Boogey got little bits encouraging their minis. But then there was Deuce and Domino doing really corny fake Eric Von Zipper and fuck that was bad. They’re worried about the draft sending them to Korea? Aw man they should draft away Domino and then feud Deuce and Jimmy Wang. Venis moves to Smackdown steals Deuce’s Cherry, turns her into his rollergirl and the combination of that with Domino being drafted away leaves Deuce distraught.

Deuce: “My best buddy was sent over to fight the gooks, and you get to stay here and party living the good life, pretending to be a cowboy. “
Yang: “Hey there buckaroo he was only drafted to RAW, not Korea. “
Deuce doesn't believe Yang since he can't get USA netork with his rabbit ears.

So they’re not just guys in some sort of Doo Wop revival retro-greaser scene but they are actually greasers from the fifties who were taken by time machine to Smackdown? The whole idea of doing a draft kind of makes no sense at this point. Matt Hardy wrestles as a singles on Smackdown and a tag wrestler on RAW. Lashley is on both Raw and ECW. Khali moved back and forth with no explanation. What’s the point of a draft? Draft used to be a good device to feed HHH new meat. RAW wasn’t very good at building faces, Smackdown was…you send top non-Undertaker face to RAW to feud with Helmsley and you send the guy Helmsley has already chewed up to Smackdown where he turns zombie heel and has a minor feud with Undertaker. Currently RAW is anchored by face Cena and Smackdown is more or less anchored by heel Edge (with Batista as top face). Cena needs heels, Edge needs faces. Does Smackdown really have heels to send over? I mean the reason they brought over Edge was because they didn’t have a top heel ready. Does RAW have faces to send over to feed Edge? Cena is your top face, DX was the secondary face. Both members of DX are injured, and fuck the reason Edge was stoked to be sent to Smackdown was to be away from DX. I guess I could see sending Henry to feud with Cena, and you can always turn Kane heel…I don’t know what you do with Batista post-Edge feud, maybe he can be turned heel and sent over. But I don’t see any real benefits of a roster shake up.

PAS: The Venis fantasy booking is a really great idea, maybe Venis could wreck his car too, and spray paint it “Now I busted both your cherries.”

PAS: Who decided to give that woman's match 6 minutes? It actually felt longer then the Lawler v. Race 60 minute match we watched the same day. When they describe Michelle McCool as an ex- Academic All-American who used to be a elementary school teacher it makes me sort of sad. I mean most of the Divas would have ended up doing catalogue modeling and soft core porn, they were pretty much doomed no matter what. You get the sense McCool might have ended up having a normal life, good job, husband who loves her, couple of kids. Instead she has a life threatening eating disorder, and is stuck in a dystopian hell whole performing teleplays based around the twisted sexual fantasies of a guy dreaming about impregnating his daughter, serial killers wacking off their three foot cocks, and jamming crushed leaves in passed out women.

TKG: Kane v Henry had some nice spots but never fully came together. The match was supposed to set up a lumberjack match and so was built around Henry continually rolling to the floor and Kane loosing by count out. That all makes sense, except their really are two reasons for the roll to floor spots. 1) To slow down match. Opponent has the momentum and so wrestler rolls to floor to slow down the match. 2) To rethink strategy. Rolling to the floor to slow down the high speed offense of Kane makes no sense, doing it to change strategy requires that when you come back into the ring you change your strategy. JBL and Cole keep on talking about how cerebral Henry is and how “the monkey is using his brain”, but Henry rolls to the floor regroups and comes back with the exact same strategy.

PAS: Man was that final promo spot stinky. Batista seems vaguely embarrassed to be there, and Edge "scared" faces are cringeworthy. JBL is usually real good at putting over people on commentary, buy him talking up Finlay, London/Kendrick, MVP, even turds like Kane, but he can't pull off Edge as an all time great. Hell Edge isn't Ric Flair hell he isn't even Christian at this point.


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Saturday, June 02, 2007

SCHNEIDER SEVENTIES SATURDAY: LAWLER V RACE 12/77

Harley Race v. Jerry Lawler 12/10/77

You don't hear this match mentioned along the classics of American wrestling, but I think this maybe as good as any long Flair title defense, and is the best Harley Race match I have ever seen. Race is great here but this is a Jerry Lawler match, he looks on another level here, like he should be the guy touring with the belt.

The opening part of the match was built around Lawler grounding Race with a headlock, you don't really think of either guy as a matworker, but they ran through some spectacular reversals and counters.

Lawler really controls large sections of this match and it actually exposes a bit of a flaw in what Race does. Race has a big arsenal of athletic bumps, and he is backflipping and diving on all of Lawlers early punches. This is a sixty minute match, when he is twirling on a punch in minute five, it doesn't mean as much when he does it in minute fifty. Lawler in contrast is really amazing at long term selling, his bumps really are much bigger as the match goes on, and he is spectacular at digging down for one last shot.

One of the things I have noticed in watching Jerry Lawler matches, is he is a master at building to a big spot in a match. Race keeps cutting Lawler off with headbutts to the belly, after four or five times, Lawler dips back and kicks Race right in the face when he tries it. It is a great big of in match strategy, and is awesome because they set it up for so long.

Of course one of the great things about any Lawler matches is the punches, and they are amazing. Jabs, uppercuts, straight rights, hooks, punches on his knees, punches from the mount, diving punches, jumping punches. Lawler has more variety on his shots then anyone, ever, and they all rule. Race also has great punches, but he never goes toe to toes with Lawler, all of his shots are kind of sneaky. He also throws some amazing headbutts, just killing Lawler with a standing headbutt on a rope break, and his diving headbutts look like he crushes Lawlers orbital bones. What makes the diving headbutts so great too, is that Race misses it the first couple of times he tries it, so when he lands it, it looks even more spectacular.

Your finish was a little weird for a touring champ ending. Flair would often end his draws on defense, escaping with his belt at last minute. Race is on defense at this end of this match too, but Lawler almost throws too much at him. You don't get the sense Lawler was moments away from winning the belt, it almost more like Lawler doesn't have enough in his arsenal to finish Race.


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Friday, June 01, 2007

Unbreakable PPV report directors commentary- by S.L.L.

Unbreakable Revisited: A Review in Review

So this is my second shot at being an online wrestling critic of some note. My previous attempt came as part of a DVDVR-esque weeklyish collection of reviews put out by members of the late, lamented Happy Wrestling Land message board. It lasted precisely zero issues, falling apart before the entire board just kinda died off. To the best of my knowledge everyone involved in that project save for Spunk and Patrick are dead. But anyway, the point is that I'm still counting it as a wrestling critic gig because I actually had a review written for the first issue that was never put out, and now that I've got a new gig, I find that I still have it saved on a flashdisk. It was written in the Fall of 2005, and so I figure it's really outdated, especially since it's a review of TNA's "Unbreakable" PPV, and TNA is a promotion that my feelings for have changed rather sharply over the last year and a half. So to celebrate this occasion, I thought I'd dust it off and see if I couldn't try to square the cautiously optimistic S.L.L. of '05 with the bitterly cynical S.L.L. of '07. For the first time ever on the internets, here's the debut review that wasn't but I guess now kinda is, with director commentary about what I fucked up on.


TNA "Unbreakable" PPV
Orlando, FL - Impact Zone - 9/11/05
A Review by Steven L. Lerner

So far, so good.

I'm really not sure how it happened. Somehow, this promotion has been booked by Vince Russo, been built around Jeff Jarrett as it's top star, has made some of the most boneheaded programming decisions in modern wrestling history, and has done so with perhaps the goofiest name ever for a wresting promotion. In spite of doing almost everything wrong that they possibly could have over the last three-odd years, not only are they still here, they have a regular time slot on a widely distributed cable network, they're receiving positive reviews from the smart mark crowd, and Dixie Carter has just announced the company has broken even for the first time in it's history. I'm assuming the cause of all of this has something to do with gumption and elbow grease. That and the inverse ratio of TNA's popularity to Jeff Jarrett's screen time. Either way, it got me interested enough to actually buy this PPV.

LOL @ TNA breaking even. My Samoa Joe fandom must've been blinding me to reality. Obviously, Vince Russo's most recent tenure as booker pretty easily disproved that "inverse ratio of TNA's popularity to Jeff Jarrett's screen time" bit. One of the big things that stand out to me from this review is how quick I was to jump on the "Jarrett sucks" bandwagon, when in hindsight, I really should've known better. Actually, I should clarify that. I don't think I ever really felt that Jarrett sucked, just that he didn't merit a spot as the centerpiece of a promotion. I always really felt that any complaints people had about Jarrett would go away if he was brought down to an upper midcard spot. But the point is I bash Jarrett a lot in this piece, and it was unwarranted to a large extent. Also, in hindsight, it's really obvious that TNA's continued success has fuck all to do with gumption and elbow grease, and everything to do with Vince Russo's remarkable ability to fail his way to the top.

"This event is dedicated to the Unbreakable spirit of the American people." Word.

Pretty much, yeah.

"This is TNA: the new face of professional wrestling." Because when you think of the new face of professional wrestling, you think of Kevin Nash.

Man, I had no idea at the time that Nash was going to end up being the company's best long-term investment. I was waaaaaay off on this one.

Opening video package is narrated by a guy doing a Howard Cosell impression, who uses the word "smashmouth" as a noun.

Why did anyone ever think that David Sahadi was good at this shit? This didn't have the TNA Griot babbling about a new era of gladiators or whatever. Maybe that kind of overwrought verbal masturbation was what sold people on this stuff. People praising Sahadi when they really mean to be praising the Griot makes sense to me.

3 Live Kru (The Truth, Konnan, & B.G. James) vs. The Diamonds in the Rough (Simon Diamond, David Young, & Elix Skipper)

The Diamonds in the Rough is probably the most preposterous gimmick I've seen in a while. Elix Skipper was a prominent figure in the X-Division and Tag Titles scene for a while. David Young wasn't much in TNA, but was a big star in the NWA's most prominent territory of the past few years, has a decent look, and a credible power offense that would make him a solid midcard hand in any promotion in the world. Simon Diamond is the guy you bring in when you really need an ECW alumnus, but all the good ones are in jail. By what standard does Diamond qualify to be the "coach" to "turn around the careers" of Skipper and Young? In any work of fiction, you need some kind of internal logic and consistency so that you can have certain fakey stuff be believable while other stuff is not. I can deal with the internal logic of B.G. James being a young, cool kid from the street. I can't deal with the lesser member of a tag team with Johnny Swinger being in any kind of a position to give people advice. Konnan's opening spiel! Road Dogg's opening spiel! Together at last! Match is solid southern tag fare. Diamond manages to irritate me by doing the Dark Agents slap to Skipper to inspire him. Again, I can buy Akitoshi Saito doing it to Masao Inoue to remind him that he's facing Misawa and Ogawa for the GHC Tag Team Titles. I don't buy Diamond doing it to Skipper to fire him up for lesser New Age Outlaw, lesser Filthy Animal, and lesser partner of lesser New Age Outlaw. Konnan makes me happy by countering The Matrix into an inverted DDT, before hitting the Random Task Driver '05 and the K-Factor to take the win. Better than you would expect from this bunch. Not actually good, but better than you'd expect.

Saying that Killings was in any way lesser than Billy Gunn was a really baseless insult, and I probably just wrote it to make that joke work. Also, the line really should have been "Simon Diamond is the guy you bring in when you really need an ECW alumnus, but all the good ones are in jail or dead". At this point, unemployed ECW alumnus are really lucky to be in jail. But everything I said about the Diamonds in the Rough gimmick holds true. Maybe the crowd wouldn't know or care about David Young's main event run in NWA Wildside, but he was a muscular dude who beat on people. It shouldn't have been that hard to make people care about him. And Skipper wasn't good or anything, but he was established in TNA by that point. Now both of those guys are gone. Fucking TNA thought they weren't cut out to be on their roster. TNA is the company that made a big deal later on in this very show about Matt Bentley announcing that he wouldn't jump to the WWE. This is the company that gives steady work to Lance Hoyt. LANCE HOYT. Lance Hoyt is good enough for the TNA roster, but not Primetime or The Messiah of the Spinebuster? Yeah, great job "turning their careers around", Simon. I mean, the "crappy wrestlers careers are rejuvanated by wise mentor" angle never works out well, but in TNA, it really seems to be a kiss of death. That was basically the original concept for The Acolytes, and it didn't quite work out, but they still got a million chances after that before Simmons got old and retired and Bradshaw got the right gimmick and had greatness beaten into him by Eddie Guerrero. Simon Diamond and Shane Douglas turned their charges' careers around so they were facing the exit, and none of them save maybe for Skipper were more useless than Lance Hoyt.

Even putting real life aside, Simon's on-screen attempts at inspiring his followers were comical at best. At least Shane Douglas had a legacy. Not a really good one, but at least a bullshit one that they could con their fans with. What's Simon's legacy? I think when I wrote this, it didn't occur to me that Simon Diamond was the former Lance Diamond. I factored David Young's Wildside success into my case for him, I probably should factor in Lance Diamond winning the second Super 8 tournament, too. You could use the logic that Wildside was at least an NWA affiliate, while ECWA wasn't, but realistically, TNA fans probably would be more likely to know about the Super 8 than Wildside. The flipside of that is that those fans probably didn't give a shit about the Super 8 until 2001 when Low-Ki won and effectively started the new wave of U.S. indy wrestling. And really, it wasn't long after that that ROH came along, and they (along with, to a lesser extent, TNA itself) rendered the Super 8 obsolete. So even factoring all of the Lance Diamond stuff in, it boils down to him being the winner of an obsolete tournament from before it even became notable in the first place. And that's assuming people watching know all of this. I've actually seen Lance Diamond matches, and I don't take him seriously. Why should casual fans? His rep isn't even good enough for the brainwashed TNApes. If they gave the gimmick to Ace Darling, would anyone notice?

But to the TNA riff-raf, Simon Diamond was a midcarder in ECW at a time when ECW was made up entirely of midcarders. Scotty Anton and "The Clap" were bigger stars in that scene than Diamond. Did he even get an offer from the WWE when they re-started WCW? Fucking Roadkill is still in OVW. Angry Amish Roadkill is more of a believable "wise mentor" figure than Diamond. How low do you have to go to find the guys who could benefit from the wise words of Simon Diamond? Chilly Willy? Chris Chetti? Angel of Da Baldies? Simon slaps Elix Skipper in this match like he's Inoki transfering his Toukon power to someone, and it just comes off as sad and confusing. Who's going to buy Simon Diamond as Inoki? I didn't even buy him as Akitoshi Saito firing up Masao Inoue. In a way, the long-term booking of this angle was actually pretty sensible. Two successful wrestlers are taken under the wing of a "wise Mentor" who really isn't, their careers fall apart, and they get fired. That's the kind of worked shoot angle that Russo would never dream of running, because it's too logical for his tastes, and it's still a stupid idea overall, but for a meaningles angle that hurts everyone involved, it was executed perfectly.


Either way, Konnan countering The Matrix into an inverted DDT was a pretty cool spot. Konnan's last few years in the ring were pretty good. He's no Pierroth, but he did a fine job of turning up the volume in spite of his extremely broken down body. And of course, this all led to the 4LK split, which was the only really compelling angle TNA ran while I was watching it regularly aside from Jarrett trying to bring Sting out of seclusion and The Dudley's chasing AMW the first time. I mean, they fucked up the blowoff for all of those feuds pretty badly, but still, that was pretty much the only compelling stuff they were running at the time. I'm a smark by definition, and TNA's inability to produce matches I want to see will prevent them from making me a fan. But I like sports entertainment, I like goofy schtick, I like angles as long as they're DONE WELL. The knee-jerk defense that Russo and his supporters use to dismiss his critics is that they're smarks who only care about workrate, and who don't realize that most fans don't care about that, and only care about "entertainment". Putting aside the fact that I find good matches to be entertaining (I wouldn't like them if they weren't), I find good angles to be entertaining, good interviews to be entertaining, and have criticized promotions for lacking those things. Problem with Russo isn't that he focuses on extraneous non-wrestling stuff. Proplem is his extraneous non-wrestling stuff is crap. Scott D'Amore wasn't a drastically better booker than Vince Russo was, but he did create a few angles I cared about and enjoyed watching. For a guy who dismisses the notion that fans want anything shy of "entertainment", Russo sure isn't very good at creating it.

They show a pre-show segment where Monty Brown, Jeff Jarrett, and Jeff Hardy all make challenges for the NWA World Title at Bound for Glory. Of course, this is all negated a week later when Jarrett wins the belt in Canada and Nash is given the first title shot. Oops.

I shouldn't have really held this against them. Anyone who started watching with the TNA show wouldn't have known about this, and anyone who had been watching before then wouldn't have cared. Then again, a month later, Nash would have a convenient heart problem, so maybe it wouldn't have been a bad idea to run Jarrett/Brown regardless.

Roderick Strong vs. Austin Aries

Hearing former HSN pitchman Don West go on PPV and name drop Ring of Honor is one of the stranger things I've heard recently. West is actually a pretty solid color guy. He seems to actually know what he's talking about for the most part, and does a good job getting over the simple psychology of the match: these guys are stablemates in Ring of Honor, but they're about to start getting national TV exposure in TNA, so they both need to impress the management with a strong showing here. It's not terribly deep, and neither is this match, but it's just as solid. Basic mat wrestling to start before Strong starts making with the backwork, hitting a backbreaker and holding on to press slam Aries back first into the turnbuckle in a really hurty spot. Aries starts to make a comeback, but Strong cuts him off with a nice dropkick. Then we get the chops, and by this point it's apparent that the match is structured to show off Strong's...er...strong points for those who haven't seen him before, which seems like the smart thing to do with this match. Aries uses the strike exchange to hit his lefty forearms and a swank pair of lefty lariats to regain control of the match. Roderick gets this wacky Angle Slam into a backbreaker, and hits a gigantic gutbuster and a really sweet Yakuza kick for a nearfall. He tries for a Boston crab, but Aries blocks it, so he hits a slingshot instead. His tequila sunrise attempt is countered into a go-behind, as Aries dropkicks him into the turnbuckle and forgets his back hurts long enough to hit the Brainbuster and a 450 splash for the win. Aggravating brainbuster aside, Aries is a guy I largely like, but rag on because his work lacks a sense of structure needed to take him to the upper tier of great workers. That wasn't a problem here. Not a great match, but a very good one that served it's function perfectly, giving Aries the strong win going into the Spike TV show and making Strong look like a legit contender in defeat.

When I wrote this, I don't think I was really up-to-date with my ROH watching. Aires having his act together had squat to do with TNA, because he apparently had his shit in gear by summer '05, and was really the guy holding together C.M. Punk's title win.

The only thing about this review that I regret more than all the shots at Jarrett were all the shots I didn't take at Mike Tenay. Part of the reason that I find Don West so easy to like in spite of his flaws is how genuine his feelings are. It was reported a couple months back that the TNA booking crew had a meeting that Don sat in on, and they were reading some negative feedback one of their PPVs got on the Observer website. All of the wrestling guys were deep in denial over it, but that's expected. I'm used to wrestling people lying to themselves about the merit of their works. I mean, WCW's been out of business for six years now, and Vince Russo STILL thinks that giving David Arquette the WCW Title was a good idea. But Don West also thought the comments were crazy, and actually went so far as to claim that they must've been the writings of a WWE shill. Wrestling is a carny business, and it's one where the people working in it often get worked by their own cons. Them getting conned by their own routine isn't surprising. Home shopping TV shows seem like a carny business, too, but one where the conmen are more self-aware. I'm sure Don West sold a lot of stuff that he genuinely thought was cool, but I figured to a large extent, his enthusiasm was a show he put on. I assumed he was a really convincing salesman more than a guy who was genuinely amped up about Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards. But apparently he is legitimately excited by TNA, so his over-the-top enthusiasm for what he's calling is really convincing not because he's putting on a great show, but because he really, honestly thinks Petey Williams and his sick flip piledriver are the most awesome things ever. And it's especially easy to see when contrasted with the commentary of Mike Tenay, who can barely contain his hatred for TNA's audience and the world in general. I mean, I never really thought that having crappy taste in pro wrestling would actually benefit your performance in it, but there you go.

Monty Brown and Kip James have tension backstage. Kip is angry about Brown's challenge to Jarrett. Brown is angry about Kip's green velvet trunks. Oh wait, that's just how I felt.

Brown: "APOLLO! LANCE HOYT! YOU WIL FEEL...THE POOOOOUUUUUNCE!"
James: "MIKE CAMPBELL...AIN'T GOT SHIT...ON ME!!!!"

Mike Campbell was a Happy Wrestling Land regular who was beloved for wearing purple pajama pants. He didn't really do anything of interest other than that, and like most of the guys from HWL, has disappeared off of the face of the earth.

Lance Hoyt & Apollo vs. Monty Brown & Kip James

This match has the odd psychology of Brown and Kip having heel miscommunication, while Brown simultaneously works face-in-peril (heel-in-peril?). It also contains Lance Hoyt, the largely annoying big man who's over huge at the Impact Zone allegedly because he buys drinks for a lot of the regular fans. How carny can you get? Hoyt throws punches like the Rock, winding up like Michelle Pfeiffer in "Married to the Mob" while poor Monty has to stand there like an idiot. He also has a tattoo on his lower back - which no man should ever have - and doesn't know how to properly take an Irish whip into the corner. He's the shittiest guy in a match featuring Billy Gunn, so I don't see any other way a crowd could get behind him without booze being plied on them. Kip tags himself in and throws actual good punches to reclaim the advantage for his team. We get the double knockdown and double hot tag, and Apollo is perfectly fine as house afire. Brown posts Hoyt on the outside, and holds Apollo in the ropes for Kip, but Apollo dodges and Kip nails the heel miscommunication punch on Brown, setting up an Apollo superkick for a nearfall. Brown tosses Kip out of the ring and gets THE POUNCE!!! for a win. This was good enough that I can forgive the fact that Lance Hoyt was in it. Not sure when Billy Gunn learned to work, but he was looking pretty good his last month or two in the WWE, and he looked fine here. Brown has a future if TNA doesn't muck things up for him. Apollo exists. Lance Hoyt does too, unfortunately.

I don't know if getting a WWE gig after TNA lost interest in him really counts as "TNA mucking things up for him". If it does, you might argue that TNA mucking things up for him will save his career in the long run. I once wrote around this time that TNA needed to book heavily around Joe and Monty because they were the only "home-grown" heavyweight names they had with real company ace potential. Two years later, Brown is gone and Joe has been beaten into indifference. I mean, Marcus Cor Von vs. John Cena would be way more interesting to me than anything they could do with him in TNA, and would be a feud with the potential to draw big, but from an objective standpoint, TNA is still run by a bunch of apes if they thought they could afford to drop Monty. And yet, Lance Hoyt is still employed.

Traci interviews Team Canada. Between this show and the first two iMPACT! shows, TNA seems to being doing a good job of keeping backstage promos short and to the point. I mean, this interview wasn't anything special, but at least it wasn't anything special for two minutes instead of twenty.

Well, they re-hired Vince Russo, so it's not like this was going to last. To be fair to Vince, Impact had a pretty fair amount of unbearably long backstage segments before he came on board. Really, pretty much every skit from the "Jackie Gayda has a secret" angle were unwatchable, and any interview conducted by Jeremy Borash is too long by definition.

Chris Sabin vs. Petey Williams

Sabin flips, flops, flies, and generally exposes the business until Williams dodges a top-rope plancha and splats him into the guardrail to take control. Williams has an extended control segment that forces me to take a coffee break so I don't pass out. Williams gets ragged on by some people for having a goofy finisher. I don't see it that way. The Canadian Destroyer isn't that much more unrealistic than your average hurricanrana. But it's the only thing he has. I'm just sitting through this, waiting for something to happen so that I can actually write something about this match besides rote play-by-play. The best I've got is his sub-Rock sharpshooter. Seeing as how that's now the official move of Canada, you'd think the Canadian could actually apply it reasonably well. Guys from Memphis always have good punches. New Japan Dojo grads can usually throw a mean dropkick and apply a decent Boston crab. OVW alumni can inject copious amounts of HGH into their bodies with the best of them. If you can't apply even a reasonably good-looking sharpshooter, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to take you seriously as captain of Team Canada. So yeah, Williams has an extended control segment despite having no interesting offense aside from his finisher. Williams bronco busts himself crotch-first into the second turnbuckle, allowing Sabin to hit a really boss looking crucifix powerbomb into the opposite turnbuckles. Sabin tries for the Cradle Shock, rams Williams' head into the turnbuckle a few times to get him to let go of the ropes, but has to release it when Williams gouges his eyes. This blinds Sabin, causing him to almost Cradle Shock the ref, but realizes his mistake and lets him down, officially making him the smartest man in wrestling today. He walks into a kick, and Williams sets him up for the Canadian Destroyer, but Sabin counters it into a Cradle Shock for the win. Williams was on offense for almost the entire match, and he didn't even use his one good offensive move. Awful, awful match. Sabin is limited, but has his moments, even here. Williams is just wretched, probably worse than Lance Hoyt. Matt Bentley makes his return post-match, laying out both guys and demanding an Ultimate X match and Bound for Glory. Take that for what you will.

The good news is that TNA would only run this match again 200,000,000 times after this. I think one of them was even good!

How anyone defends Petey as a good worker is beyond me. I hate Chris Sabin less than a lot of people, but Williams is irredeemable. Who's defending him at this point? He's not really a spot machine. He's not a MOVES~! guy outside of his finisher. His execution is crap. He's got jack for psychology. He's not really charismatic. The man has a finisher and NOTHING. Is that enough for some people?


No DQ Match:
Sabu vs. Abyss

James Mitchell's hair is threatening to over take his micwork as his most impressive asset as a manager. He also seems to have some minor booking power, as he turns the match into a No DQ affair on the fly during the opening interview. Surely this will reflect poorly on Larry Zbysko's tenure as commissioner. Or not. What does reflect poorly on TNA - aside from usage of one of wrestling's most illogical clich?s - is their decision to match up two guys who both use knock-offs of "Kashmir" as their theme music. Say what you will about Sabu, his willingness to take the most idiotic of bumps - even after all these years - can still be endearing. This match is pretty aimless brawling until Abyss overhead belly-to-belly suplexes Sabu through a table on the outside. Having not seen a lot of recent Sabu, I don't know if he's smartened up a bit, but in this match he seems to be building extended segments around the setting up and performing of elaborate garbage spots. Traditionally, the one of the big "Sabu match" flaws has been the haphazard execution of these spots, the traditional example being an opponent having to be knocked out cold while Sabu finds a table, sets it up, puts the opponent on it, climbs to the top rope, etc. In this match, elaborate garbage spots are built as active segments. In the previously mentioned segment, Sabu had Abyss down on the outside. Sabu began to set up a table, which had a leg break in the process. Abyss recovers, and waylays Sabu from behind. Abyss sets up another table, this one standing properly. Sabu recovers, and brawls back into the ring with Abyss. Sabu gets the upper hand, and Abyss gets tied up in the ropes. Sabu charges, and gets thrown overhead through the tables. Instead of a passive spot that lets Sabu show how darn hardcore he is, he instead gets to show it in the context of an active struggle, letting it blend in with the match as a whole. The match wasn't much more than average, but reasonably likable stuff if you're into garbage wrestling.

I've come to terms with the fact that wrestling theme music is a dead artform, but you think they could at least try.

I'm not a guy who's going to make big cry faces over the WWE firing Sabu, but when he left TNA, Abyss - in my mind - went from being a decent big man to being one of the shittiest wrestlers on TV almost overnight. And the one TNA show I'd seen before this was the one where Sabu got that really fun ladder match out of Malice. I guess it's easy to be a convincing monster when you've got Sabu to bounce around for you. It's not athletic bumping designed to be asthetically impressive. It's kinda like Cena's whiplash bumping, but really it's more like shoot bumping, as you get the sense that Sabu is actually killing himself with pretty much everything he does. Did we ever get Sabu vs. Khali? If given any sort of time at all, Sabu vs. Tyson Tomko would be a TNA match worth seeing.


The announcers wax philosophical about what a jerk Sean Waltman is for no-showing tonight. It's a legitimate gripe, but then one could also point out that they were dim enough to rehire Sean in the first place. At this point, that's not far removed from hiring Sid in terms of forehand knowledge about how flakey a guy is. And of course they're keeping him around, because disappearing for a few days before randomly showing up at the house of a complete stranger is truly a symbol of the unbreakable spirit of the American people.

They've since re-hired Vince Russo, which makes re-hiring Waltman look like hiring Cena.

Jeff Hardy vs. Bobby Roode

Jeff Hardy comes to the ring wearing a delicious candy coating that presumably melts in your mouth and not in your hand. By the way, if anyone out there knows why Jeff Hardy is a "charismatic enigma", or for that matter, what a "charismatic enigma" is, I'd be slightly interested to know. Though really, I'm probably better off not knowing. Not to mention that Hardy Boys fans are like the Chuck Pahalunik fans of the wrestling world, and spending even the slightest amount of time around one may cause your innards to corrode in a desperate attempt at escape. Roode is thoroughly vanilla, but fairly inoffensive. He looks good enough doing a heel control segment on Hardy in a Canadian Brad Bradley sort of way. Hardy blocks a suplex and ducks a clothesline, and Roode turns him around to...nail him with a Hadoken Fireball? Ah, Hardy was supposed to do a leg-catch enzuigiri but...didn't. Anyway, he regains awareness long enough to hit it, and it turns the tide in Jeff's favor. Jeff attempts the Swanton Bomb, but Petey Williams runs out and hooks his leg with a hockey stick to crotch Jeff on the top. Hardy and Roode fight over a superplex, which ends with Roode doing the Kurt Angle "pop up after a move and hit a top rope belly-to-belly" spot. Jeff manages to fight off the pair of Canadians, but Son of Jarrett shows up to bust up Hardy with the hockey stick, allowing Roode to score the win. Another acceptable match, goofy botched enzuigiri aside. Not sure it really needed two run-ins, though.

It's pretty weird how fast Jeff went from being less than useless here to being really, really good again now. I mean, I probably made a bigger deal out of the botched leg-catch enzuigiri than I really needed to, but he was terrible during this period of his career. Really looked as bad as anyone on this card - Petey, Hoyt, and Raven included - and now he's been in one of my favorite matches of the year with his brother against MNM at the Rumble, did his part in the only ladder match I've given a shit about in about six years at Armageddon, and has generally held his own in singles matches despite his sit-out gourdbuster '91. But here he stunk.

Bobby Roode was the competent one in this match, and even back then they were talking about how he would become a break-out superstar post-Team Canada. The problem, of course, is that he's really, really bland. His strengths are his tough guy look and his in-ring competence, which makes him ideally suited for a role as the enforcer of a stable. Maybe he could get by as a solo act if he had a manager to act as his mouthpiece. TNA is kind of set apart from the WWE by their abundance of managers and heavyweight tag teams. None of them are particularly good, but they're there. Roode being paired with a sufficiently charismatic tag team partner would be ideal. Barring that, pairing him with a manager to do the talking for him would suffice. It would stink, but it would be a step in the right direction. A sign that the guys behind this at least get how wrestling works. Instead, they gave him a T&A manager. Wrestling fans' standards are low enough that Traci Brooks can work effectively as T&A, but it really does nothing for Roode. If he had a big future ahead of him in '05, he sure doesn't seem to have one now.

The Naturals and AMW don't like each other. Natural A talks about AMW's "obsession with winning the belts", because it's real unusual for a wrestler to want to win a title. Then again, this was a Vince Russo booked promotion once.

See, THIS is why they got fired. This is the promo they should've cut when Russo came back, instead of all that stuff about Shane Douglas building them back up to be Tag Title contenders. Everybody knows titles aren't important. Obsession with winning titles in lieu of making "clever" drug jokes and trying to fuck your siblings is lot more heelish in a Russo promotion than a D'Amore one.

Four Way Elimination Match
for the NWA World Tag Team Titles
The Naturals © vs. America's Most Wanted vs. Alex Shelley & The Incredible Disappearing Waltman vs. Team Canada (Eric Young & A-1)

TNA does the NOAH thing of booking all the title matches for the end of the show, which warms my heart. Shelley is wrestling by himself tonight since Waltman had a poker game with Sid, Ultimate Warrior, & Tadao Yasuda. Jimmy Hart is referred to as a Hall of Famer, but off the top of my head I only know of him being in the WWE Hall. Weird little inferiority complex showing up there. Members of the Candido family are in the audience, presumably pulling for either the team Chris managed or the team that won the tournament named after him. The Naturals and AMW are big beefy white tag teams who I could imagine being successful in early 90's WWF feuding with The Natural Disasters and Money Inc.. The Impact Zone is small enough that you actually get to hear Jimmy Hart yelling over the megaphone, offering such sage advice as "Kick out!". As I've noted elsewhere, I tend to like four-ways with tag rules. When done right, you get a nice cross section of a company, and can advance (or at least illustrate) a couple of different programs. This isn't as good in that regard as most ROH Four Corner Survival matches, but three of these teams are tied up in the same feud, and Shelley's just trying not to get killed. Not that he does a very good job of it. Team Canada beats Shelley down for a while until Johnny Candido jumps the guardrail and gets tagged in so he can throw some laughable clotheslines and get pinned. So Alex Shelley has to wrestle by himself when his partner doesn't show up, and gets eliminated when someone who wasn't in the match got pinned. Truly a test for even the least breakable spirit of an American person. So now James Storm comes in and starts beating on A-1 until he's attacked from behind on the outside by Young. We get a Southern tag segment with Storm working face-in-peril against Team Canada, with The Naturals standing around on the apron trying not to get involved. It is the logical strategy for a multi-man elimination match, but then, that's why I prefer single elimination rules. Storm leapfrogs over a corner charge by Young and hits a superkick, taking Young down so he can tag in Chris Harris. Harris is a house afire, but burns out after A-1 breaks a hockey stick over his back while he was trying to do something of a suplex variety to Young. Young cradles him for a pin, and the champs attack. The Naturals' offense is a bit more dynamic than the other teams in this match, including Natural A doing a facebuster in Natural B's knee (B's knee! HAHAHAHA!). Team Canada tries to hang for the final stretch, but they're a stable of really bland white guys with really bland white offense, so I can't be bothered to care. On the other hand, I did manage to muster up enough interest in The Naturals to finally be able to tell them apart. Andy Douglas busts out a nice high knee during a truncated face-in-peril segment, and Chase Stevens throws nice punches during a truncated house afire segment. Team Canada tries something from a Doomsday Device position, but Jimmy Hart cheats to win by crotching Young on the top rope. The Naturals recover and hit the Natural Disaster to win, but could they hit it on the Natural Disasters? Tune in to Superstars next week to find out! Also, The Mountie! And the debut of Razor Ramon! This match was good, I guess. But really, you don't need to devote this much time to it. I've done it twice now and I feel like a bitter nub of my former self, reduced to making lame jokes about Bret Hart-era WWF. The Naturals are good, though. Keep an eye out for them. Next Saturday. Promotional considerations paid for by the following....

I think this is the only show I've seen from them where they booked all of the title matches last, so fuck that. I've also since found out the NWA started up their own Hall of Fame, the first class of which consisted solely of Jimmy Hart.

TNA paying tribute to the guy they carelessly murdered by giving his girlfriend a ham and having his brother make a fool out of himself on PPV probably isn't as low as any of the stuff the WWE did following Eddie's death, but it feels like it should be.

Man, The Naturals. They chose the worst possible time to get fired. Like I said earlier, one of the very few stylistic differences between TNA and WWE is TNA's decently sized roster of managers and heavyweight tag teams. None of the managers are any good, and most of the tag teams aren't good, but The Naturals were boss. Bound for Glory the next month had the recently dethroned Naturals taking on the recently throned/heel turned AMW in one of the hidden great matches of 2005. They were pretty consistently the most watchable guys in the promotion other than Samoa Joe, but they got de-pushed and Russo booking doesn't do any favors to anyone. I compared them to various early-90's WWF teams because I grew up watching that stuff, and it's a style that's pretty much died off since then, so when I saw The Naturals and AMW tie it up for the first time, that was my frame of reference. The WWE hasn't really had a solid division of heavyweight tag teams for some time, and that was maybe the one thing TNA had over the WWE. They still have the division, but the Dudleys at their career low-point, New Age Outlaws Mk. II, and a neutered Homicide isn't really going to impress me next to rejuvanated Hardy Boys and London & Kendrick. I mean, I like the Bashams and all, but they're really a poor substitute for The Naturals. And even with the WWE having some good tag teams, I can't really forsee them hiring The Naturals. Then again, I'd have thought it would be less likely that they'd hire Cassidy Reilly, and they almost signed Matt Bentley. They did sign Frankie Kazarian and Trytan. If those guys can get WWE contracts, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that The Naturals would. At the very least, I'd hope they show up in IWA:M-S in some capacity. Ian will take pretty much anyone.


See the first thirty minutes of Bound for Glory FREE! Not a bad promotional tactic, provided the first thirty minutes are Jarrett-FREE! I'm not sure I get the logic of having your Wrestlemania/Starrcade/Wrestling World show so soon after your major network premiere. Of course, I don't get the logic of building said show around a Jeff Jarrett/Kevin Nash match, so clearly logic isn't being taken into consideration.

Jarrett is better than a pre-show match. Jarrett/Nash was a stupid idea, but I really should give Jarrett more credit than that. Also, as we all learned from the Kurt Angle debacle, the more TNA people watch, the less likely they are to buy their PPVs, so maybe rolling out their big show so soon after they got the Spike show wasn't such a bad idea after all.

"The Franchise" Shane Douglas - at this point closer to Jack in the Box than McDonald's - interviews Rhino about the upcoming title match. Douglas talks about Rhino challenging for the "prestigious NWA World's Title". Not so extreme are you now, Shane? Rhino insults the WWE and threatens Raven while wobbling back and forth and making me seasick.

Seriously, fuck Shane Douglas. He may have been as bad of a backstage interviewer as Borash. And he was never remotely close to McDonald's, and I don't even like McDonald's that much.

Mike Tenay runs down the tale of the tape, along with some bullet points on the match, which is always a nice touch.

Raven's Rules Match
for the NWA World Heavyweight Title
Raven © vs. Rhino

We make with the foreign objects shots early on, including Rhino getting busted open nice with a pizza cutter. They seem to be working the storyline of Raven being more familiar with this match type and thus having the advantage, though how a Raven's Rules match is so radically different than the standard rules of the promotion that Rhino was champion of is beyond me. The match almost immediately devolves into a sub-WWE Hardcore Title match, as Rhino picks up a "7500 pound" beer keg (courtesy Don West), and proceeds to hit Raven with it. The keg makes a sound like a steel drum and bounces when it hits the ground, so I guess that's the weight of the keg itself. Then again, there's more than one person on this show I can envision drinking 7500 lbs. of beer before they went on the air. On the plus side, Rhino has some good punches that I never really noticed before. He makes a comeback and they seem to be working the match as Raven the Weapon-User vs. Rhino the Striker, which is an interesting route to go with this. Rhino kicks a garbage can into Raven's face, and Raven is nice enough to hold it in place for him. Don West says that he held it "for protection". This probably isn't a spot you want to direct attention to, Don. Rhino misses a splash and lands on a chair, allowing Raven to brawl his way back to control. Raven sets up the drop toe hold into the chair, but Rhino charges and facebusts him hand-first into the chair. This is becoming real embarrassing real fast. Raven's follower Cassidy Reilly comes down, and the ref tries to eject him. The ref is too distracted trying to prevent a run-in in a match with no disqualifications to see that Raven is pinning Rhino. Don West sez, "This is brutal, folks!". On that, I agree. We're into the final run, and this can't end soon enough for me. Jeff Jarrett runs in (to the disinterest of the referee), and just sorta stares at Raven with the belt in his hand. Before he can decide whether or not he actually wants to hit him with it, Jeff Hardy runs in (ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!!!!!!) and swipes it away. Thoroughly distracted by Hardy's brightly colored plumage (for attracting mates), he falls prey to the Raven Effect. Rhino attempts one of his own on Raven, but Raven counters it. He hits the move himself, and mercifully, the match is over. Unless there's something particularly painful that I've blocked out of my memory, this is the worst match I've seen this year. I watched it so you won't have to. You can thank me later.

It's been a year-and-a-half. Anyone who I could've saved from watching this match has probably seen it already, and anyone who hasn't seen it isn't going to. I feel like I've failed, as this was a really horrendous match. I walked away from this thinking that Raven was the worst wrestler in the world. There was probably someone worse, and there was probably a worse match, but I'm not sure who or what that would be. The nonsensical overbooking here would be exceeded earlier this year by the Sting/Abyss title change, but this match still stands out in my mind as a disaster of epic proportions.

It does seem kind of obvious to me now that it was Lance Hoyt who emptied the 7500 lbs. of beer into the gullets of the Impact Zone audience members


Main Event:
Three Way Match
for the NWA X-Division Title
Christopher Daniels © vs. A.J. Styles vs. Samoa Joe

Well, at least they have their priorities straight in terms of main event placement. Samoa Joe main eventing a PPV for a nationally broadcast wrestling promotion makes me smile. Christopher Daniels' robe makes him easily the most fashionable man of the night. That thing is boss. The wrestlers get introduced in ring, which is another nice touch for big matches. Opening stretch of the match is built around Joe and Styles punking out Daniels so that they can wrestle each other instead. They open with the goofy comedy bit of Daniels yelling that nobody's gonna take his gold, so Styles and Joe bounce him back and forth with forearms. They take turns kicking him in the back ("let me show you how it's done...") before Daniels pops up and chews them out some more, only to be Totally Eliminated and taken out of the ring. One of the big stylistic flaws of three-ways that usually causes them to suck is the need for a wrestler to be unconscious on the floor for a long time while the other wrestlers have "their turn". This match doesn't do that, which would probably make it the best three-way in history. After Daniels is taken out, Styles and Joe start wrestling each other, but Daniels actually recovers reasonably quickly, and tries to get back into the match, at which point Styles and Joe knock him back out. Samoa Joe - who, if I haven't mentioned lately, is the best wrestler in the world - is monstrous as usual. He doesn't look particularly weaker against the juniors of the X-Division than he does against those of ROH or the rest of the US indy scene. He just lays into Styles with these kicks, and Jiminy Crickets, is it ever brutal. He busts out this gruesome overhead belly-to-belly that I don't remember seeing him use too often, and it just folds Styles up like an accordion. Styles dies for your pleasure a lot in this match. Daniels tosses him over the top rope and he just splats on the floor. With Styles dumped on the floor, Daniels now becomes a bigger part of the match, getting bursts of offense in on both opponents. As it is, they're only bursts since there really aren't any stretch runs in this match. But again, that's because everyone is moving in and out so fast, as opposed to the "my turn, your turn" extended control segments that plague most three-ways. Samoa Joe busts out KENTA's leaping Yakuza Kick and it's as great as you'd think it would be. Daniels and Styles do some of the flippity floppity stuff that everyone complains about on the outside. None of it hits, and they keep landing on their feet. So they decide to just punch each other in the face a bunch, and I'm trying to figure out when Styles learned to throw good punches. My train of thought is interrupted by Samoa Joe doing a FUCKING 280 LBS. TORNILLO PLANCHA and taking them both out! Holy shit indeed! Samoa Joe starts murdering the fuck out of the two little guys. He attempts a Muscle Buster on Daniels, but Daniels rakes the eyes and Styles climbs up to start brawling with him. So, Joe takes lemons and makes hot fiery death by just hurling them both off onto the mat. He beats the shit out of them before hitting the Muscle Buster proper on Styles, but Daniels runs in to prevent the Choke. He attempts a belt shot, but Joe catches him and powerslams Daniels into the next dimension. Joe snatches away the belt, but the ref tries to get it away from him. Joe wins the tug of war, but allows Daniels the opening to enzuigiri the belt into his face, effectively taking him out for the time being. Daniels hits the Best Moonsault Ever on Styles, but Joe recovers just enough to break up the pin. Daniels hits him with the Last Rites, and sends him to the floor so he can finish off A.J.. Daniels sends Styles off of the ropes, but telegraphs a back body drop and Styles boots him in the face. A.J. leaps off of the ropes and hits that stupid moonsault inverted DDT for a nearfall. A Daniels superplex leaves both men down, and Joe makes his way back in for a pair of nearfalls. Joe charges Daniels, but Christopher dodges and Joe goes careening through the ropes to the floor. Daniels moves to end the match, and attempts the Angel's Wings on A.J., but Styles blocks it and counters into a pinning combination to become the FIVE-TIME, FIVE-TIME, FIVE-TIME, FIVE-TIME, FIVE-TIME NWA X-Division champion. Meltzer gave this *****, which is absurd, but this was still a great match. I've heard more than a few people say that the first half was good, but the second half not so much. I've seen this a couple of times now, and I'm really not sure where this is coming from. This match is actually pretty strong throughout. You'll all want to see this.

I stand by all of this. Granted, it's been two years since then, and there was a three-way on a SmackDown in November between Batista, Booker, and Finlay that I think has overtaken this in my mind as the best three-way ever. But the rest of this stands. A.J.'s punching shouldn't have been a surprise to me. He was a Georgia babyface. Georgia babyfaces throwing good punches shouldn't be a surprise to me. Styles has this rep as a flippy-floppy-sucky dude, and it blinds you to the fact that he's a Georgian first and foremost. Also, that rep is semi-undeserved regardless, but still, even with the flippy shit, he's a Georgian at heart. I shouldn't be shocked by his ability to mix it up with Daniels and Joe.

And now, I proudly present the return of...

The Food Based Rating System

Ah, my food based rating system. How I've missed you. Not that I'm likely to use you regularly again, but it is good to see you.

The Trophy Full of Steak-Ums goes to...
Samoa Joe. Like I said when I nominated the match over in the Best of 2005 thread, there's no way the main event would have been as good as it was if Joe wasn't there to reel Daniels and Styles in. His glorious beatdowns on both of them - tornillo plancha included - were the highlight of the night. This wasn't a MOTYC, but it was a joy to behold regardless. I would give Joe the lion's share of the credit for that. At this point, I would pay to see the man sing showtunes for three hours.

Absolutely true at the time. It's a shame the Joe backlash came around just in time for him to leave ROH, as it basically made the haters right to a large extent. Hard to care about him in TNA now. He doesn't seem to care much himself. His last few months in ROH and his match with Eddie Kingston tell me he's still got what it takes, but damned if he's gonna use it on TV.

The Iron Cup Full of Brunswick Stew goes to...
TNA Creative. Thanks for making the X-Division match the main and keeping Jarrett out of the ring, but did we need him to do two run-ins? Did the Tag Titles match have to be elimination style with the best working team staying out until the end? And why tease Brown/Jarrett/Hardy vs. Raven when you're gonna have Jarrett win the belt and have Kevin Nash become the first challenger? TNA suffers from having a booking team that still has a pretty even good idea/bad idea ratio. They're much better off than when it was leaning heavily towards bad ideas (it's first year or so of existence), but fortune rarely favors the OK.

The Iron Cup Full of Brunswick Stew was kinda nebulous. It was sort of a "middle of the road, but in a notable way" award, usually going to either someone who both did well and fucked up during a show, or a lesser wrestler who turned in a better than average performance, or a good wrestler who turned in a somewhat underwhelming performance. Again, didn't need to bash Jarrett here, and as it turned out, fortune has favored TNA despite them becoming far less than OK, so I guess I got that wrong.

And the No Soup for You Award goes to...
Everyone but Rhino and Cassidy Reilly who was involved in the Heavyweight Title match. Rhino actually tried. He wasn't good enough to carry this on his own, but he tried. Reilly was involved in a major logic gap, but he himself didn't do anything offensive and was gone almost as soon as he came. Everyone else - from Raven, to the ref, to the announcers, to the others who ran-in, to the propmaster who brainstormed the bouncing 7500 pound keg - should hang their heads in shame. Almost makes me glad Jeff Jarrett is the champ again. Almost.

Jarrett is a million times better than Raven. I don't know what my deal was there.

Aries vs. Strong and Hoyt/Apolo vs. Brown/James were good. The main event is worth going out of your way to check out. Nothing else here is really worth watching. TNA still has a lot of problems, and really isn't even close to being as good as SmackDown!. Still, for a company built around a roided up blonde guy of questionable talent who only gets pushed because he's related to the promoter, I'm digging this a lot more than RAW.

Unfortunately for them, RAW replaced their roided-up blonde guy with a less roided-up brown haired guy who's way better than any of the guys TNA replaced their roided-up blonde guy with. I think my review of the show holds up, but the promotion sure as hell didn't.


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