Segunda Caida

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

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Wrestling What I Watched in 2007 Pt. 2, by S.L.L.

Matt Sydal vs. Pac
ROH - 3/4/2007 - Liverpool, England

Pac's brand of flippy-floppery already pleasantly surprised me once last year against El Generico. Let's see if he can't do it again. He is in the capable hands of Matt Sydal, which should help his case. Sydal is in mid-heel turn here, which makes it all the better. Sydal turns up the dickishness early, including covering for a blown hurricanrana by standing around and looking like an asshole. He also busts out this ridiculous arm-trap-rolling-into-a-crucifix-pin thing that I really can't even accurately describe any better than that. Sydal sets up a top rope hurricanrana, leaps up, only for Pac to slip down underneath him, letting him gloriously crotch himself on the turnbuckle. Pac takes over with the flippy shit the kids love, and it is some choice flippy shit, to be sure. Pac goes up top for something, but Sydal comes to his senses, leaps up, and the hurricanrana doesn't miss it's mark twice. A shooting star press later, Matt Sydal is your winner. Boss match. This Pac feller is a pretty fun flyer, but the real story of the match is how good Sydal has become over the last year or so. He's still really sharp on offense, but he's just so well-rounded now. It really feels like he's up there with the best guys in America at this point, hanging on the notch below John Cena and Matt Hardy with Nigel, Finlay, Umaga, Jeff Hardy, and a couple of other dudes. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

Samoa Joe vs. Takeshi Morishima
ROH - 2/16/2007 - New York City, NY

A dream match between the internet's current two favorite balls of dough. It's kinda in vogue to hate on both of these guys right now, but I can't bring myself to do it. Well, okay, Morishima sucks at wrestling juniors. I think we can all agree on that one. But give him another heavyweight and he will mess you up right good. As for Joe, I think it is just your 2000 WCW syndrome redux, where a promotion is so utterly hopeless that trying to do anything worthwhile seems futile. He had a really fun match this year against Eddie Kingston in Fight Sports Midwest. His last match with Nigel in Liverpool is my MOTY so far. And he looks as good as ever here. He's still got it, but damned if you're gonna see it in TNA. Oh, well. Morishima's nose is bleeding. Again. It's not very manly looking. I suppose that's another valid criticism of him, but I don't know how much he can really do about it. It's like complaining that Khali is slow. It's true, but really, what do you want him to do? Is now really the best time to have a wrestler working a coke fiend gimmick? In his favor, he hits dudes hard, and has some nice athletic big man offense, as well as some nice "fat guy hitting you with his fatness" offense. And sometimes, he can combine the two, like the handspring splash, and the Thesz press, and the rolling ass to a sitting opponent. Really, Morishima suffers from a lot of the same booking apathy problems that Joe does. It's not so much a lack of effort on his part, in this case. But there's really nothing interesting going in the ROH main event scene, although Ages of the Fall may change that. But I don't really see Mori dropping the strap to Jimmy Jacobs. Maybe Necro Butcher, but Gabe had to be dragged kicking and screaming through the ROH vs. CZW feud. Gabe has certain (not particularly good) standards for the World Title scene, and it's kinda worked over the years in spite of itself because he had some really gifted wrestlers to work with. They still have a lot of really talented guys, but the only ones who seem capable of working that style are Danielson, Nigel, and Morishima. Morishima ran through both. Now what? Am I really expected to care about Morishima vs. The Hangmen Three? You know the drill here. Mori kicks out of the Muscle Buster, Joe kicks out of the backdrop, Mori struggles in the rear naked choke before finally going out. It's a bit rote, but you buy it from them. By the end of the year, you don't buy it from them anymore. But this was part of a nice little going away party for my interest in both of these guys.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Wrestling What I Watched in 2007 Pt. 1, by S.L.L.

So it's late September, and there is much hyped wrestling from this year that I have not watched. In support of Phil updating his 2007 MOTYC list, I too shall watch a lot of potentially great/disappointing wrestling in the hopes that it favors the former over the latter. And because I can devote a lazy Saturday afternoon to the wrestling, I think I can devote it to reviewing the wrestling IN REAL TIME! Starting with....

Shuji Kondo vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima
AJPW - 2/17/2007 - Tokyo, Japan
AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Title Match

I have paid very, very little attention to puro this year. Last time I checked, the Voodoo Murders were the only reason left to watch All Japan. We shall see if that still holds true. We shall also see if Nakajima still displays the potential for greatness that he had when I last saw him. Nakajima fought his mentor Kensuke Sasaki in the build-up to this match, and he is psyched and ready to go for Kondo. His enthusiasm is infectous, as I too am ready for the Jap wrestling to the point that I have to struggle not to sound like I'm directly jacking Dean Rasmussen's writing style. C'MON GUYS! DELIVER THE GOODS! Slow start, as they feel each other out. Kondo does 70's style headlock control spots, which are fine, but I know why I like Shuji Kondo, and it isn't for his scintillating matwork. Nakajima gets fired up and dropkicks Kondo out of the ring. Kondo takes a breather, but Nakajima will have none of it, diving out after him. Kondo playing it safe against fiery babyface Nakajima is an interesting choice for him. It doesn't last, though, as he palms the back of Nakajima's head while fighting on the apron and dives off to drive his face into the guardrail. Kondo controls, while Nakajima gets off some shots on his arm to weaken the King Kong Lariat. Nakajima dropkicks to offense, and dives off the top rope to the outside with a crossbody. Back in the ring, he starts teeing off on Kondo's arm with kicks and knees, including a neat triangle jump kick off the turnbuckles. Kondo catches a kick and slams him for two, then hits the Lanzarse for two more. Kondo does a piledriver out of a Canadian backbreaker that may have been the most heinous head drop in All Japan since the NOAH split. And right on cue, this turns into a bad NOAH main event, as Nakajima Hulks up, and they both take turns dropping each other on their heads and popping up and kicking out of finishers and what have you, and the enthusiasm is sucked out of me. Nakajima wins. I lose.

John Cena vs. Bobby Lashley
WWE - 7/22/2007 - San Jose, CA
WWE Heavyweight Title Match

Lashley's remixed theme is a lot better. The original version always felt too small time for a main eventer, especially next to Cena. Crowd is overwhelmingly pro-Cena. This and the Orton match really screwed with the theory that Cena gets booed against faces and cool heels and cheered against genuine heels. He's getting cheered heavily against strict babyface Lashley here, and a month later, he'd be booed against straight-up heel Orton. I think it might just be a question of empathy with the characters. I normally wouldn't accuse Phil and Tom of overestimating Cena's detractors, but I think when you put Lashley, Umaga, Khali, and Cena himself on one side, and Orton, HHH, Angle, and Michaels on the other, there's something else that would likely attract the aging frat boys to the latter group, and it isn't face/heel alignment. Then again, the crowd is pretty into Lashley, too, so maybe it's just a really hot crowd. Very back-and-forth match. Cena dodges a corner charge and hits a pair of Protoplexes and the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Lashley escapes the F-U, however, and drops Cena with a powerslam off the ropes. Hot finishing sequence ensues, leading to a Lashley superplex being turned into Cena dumping him off of the top rope with an F-U for the win. Great, great match. Cena continues to solidify his claim to being the best in the world, and Lashley proved he can go when he really puts his mind to it. Apropos use of the respectful post-match handshake closes out the show. I know Phil has something written up on this match that he'll put up later. I can understand him not putting this in his top 25. Of all the big Cena matches this year, I've got it behind the LMS match with Umaga, the RAW match with Michaels, the first Khali match, and the Orton match from SummerSlam. It's not a high-end MOTYC. I'd believe there are 25 better matches this year. But it is a great match.


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Thursday, September 20, 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. Matt Hardy v. Finlay WWE 6/19
8. Shawn Micheals v. John Cena WWE 4/23
9. Jimmy Jacobs v. B.J. Whitmer ROH 3/31
10. Solar 1/Mano Negra v. Negro Navarro/Black Terry Lucha Libre VIP 3/10
11. MNM v. Hardy Boyz WWE 1/28
12. Briscoes v. Ricky Marvin/Kontaro Suzuki NOAH 1/21
13. Bryan Danielson/Takeshi Morishima v. KENTA/Nigel McGuiness ROH 5/12
14. John Cena v. Great Khali 5/20
15. Mitsuhara Misawa v. Bison Smith NOAH 6/3
16. John Cena v. King Booker v. Bobby Lashley v. Mick Foley v. Randy Orton WWE 6/24
17. Briscoes v. Murder City Machine Guns ROH 4/28
18. Finlay v. Undertaker 3/6 WWE
19. Briscoes v. Kevin Steen/El Generico ROH 4/14
20. Colt Cabana v. Jimmy Jacobs ROH 2/24
21. Takeshi Sasaki v. Yuki Miyamoto BJW 3/14
22. John Cena v. Shawn Michaels WWE 4/1
23. Shinjiro Ohtani/Takao Omori/Kazunari Murakami v. Kohei Sato/Hirotaka Yokoi/Yoshiro Takayama Zero 1 1/19
24. Matt Sydal v. The Man Gravity Forgo PAC ROH 3/4
25. Davey Richards/Roderick Strong v. Jack Evans/Delirious ROH 4/14

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
Nigel McGuiness v. Jimmy Rave ROH 3/4
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
Chris Benoit v. MVP 4/10
Yuji Nagata v. Hiroshi Tanahashi NJ 4/13
Mitsuhara Misawa v. Takuma Sano NOAH 4/28
John Cena v. Great Khali v. Umaga WWE 6/4

7. Matt Hardy v. Finlay WWE 6/19

Matt Hardy has really developed a great TV match formula in the first half of the year. A batch of hot offense, he injures a body part, the heel works over the body part, Hardy does a great job of selling, and then he pulls out a flash win. It is pretty much a formula you can use with anyone half decent and have a good match. Hardy plays the role great, he is probably the best seller in the WWE outside of maybe Cena, and his offense is simple and looks good. When you plug a master like Finlay into the formula you are really going to have a treat. Finlay is spectacular here, going after the leg, everything he does is with force and violence and I am loving the indian death lock as a secondary finisher, maybe it is a shout out to Princess Paula.

13. Bryan Danielson/Takeshi Morishima v. KENTA/Nigel McGuiness ROH 5/12
This was a blow away main event of an otherwise crappy PPV. I have read people complain about Nigel just throwing lariats, but I am a Choshu fan, nothing wrong with simplifying what you do, if you do it well, and Nigel was killing people with lariats here, from all angles. Nigel's big match restarts are always fun, and I loved him coming back in with the taped up arm, and the jawbreaker with the bad arm was a great near fall. You kind of forget how good Danielson is, but he was amazing here. KENTA and McGuiness are two of his best opponents, and all of their interactions were great. The multiple reversal finish is a staple of indy wrestling, but Danielson may be the only guy who can really pull it off. The whole finish section with KENTA was completely awesome. The match wasn't perfect, for guys who trained together and work constantly KENTA and Morishima don't interact well, and the points where they were matched up were the weakest parts.

15. Mitsuhara Misawa v. Bison Smith NOAH 6/3

I was down right shocked at how much I enjoyed this match. I really loved Misawa in his matches against Sano and Sugiara. He plays the role of a broken down old Samurai trying to will his body into one more battle, he wants to pass the torch but no one will take it. It is a cool role, and he is incredible in it. Still its Bison Smith, outside of a 2001 match I saw live against Donovan Morgan, and some fun UPW tags with Luminous Warrior against Orlando and Marquis Jordan, he kind of always sucked. No real reason to think that broken down Misawa could drag him to anything. Boy was I wrong Not only was this good, it wasn't a great wrestler dragging a shitty guy to a good match (like Jacobs v. Whitmer or Cena v. Micheals), Smith was right there wrestling the match of his life. Misawa is overpowered early but uses his guile to injure Smith's leg. Smith does a pretty good job of selling this (I saw him fake a knee injury as part of an APW political play during the King of the Indies tourney, so I knew he could sell), but still is able to throw around Misawa. He press slams him from the ring to the apron, which was a totally crazy bump, and also hits some really great shoulder blocks, including a tope from the ring floor over the rail onto a seated Misawa, easily the best I have ever seen Smith look. Still this was all about Misawa's selling. They tease two countouts, one after the press slam to the ramp, and one after the tope into the stairs, and both times Misawa just lies there untill the count gets to 15 or so, then he takes this deep breath, and rejoins the battle. He wants nothing more then to lay down his sword, but something keeps him going. I also loved the finish, Misawa is able to catch Smith and reverse him into a second rope Emerald Frosion (which was the only sequence in this match which didn't look good), and then he pounces, he has been conserving his energy for this moment, and he just pounds on a weakened Smith, until he finishes him with a nasty elbow to the back of his head. Misawa is still totally awesome, but I don't think that it will translate well to his ROH stuff. Although if Misawa can have a match this good with Bison Smith, Misawa v. Joe should be insane.

16. John Cena v. King Booker v. Bobby Lashley v. Mick Foley v. Randy Orton WWE 6/24

You X division cluster isn't really my style, but when you replace interchangeable Sonjay Duttish guys with big hard hitting over heavyweights it can be pretty damn fun. Cena is the wrestler of the year, but he works well in long matches where he can sell and build to big spots, this isn't that kind of match so he really was incidental. Lashley was a monster here, chucking people around, taking big bumps and delivering an absolutely spectacular tope. Foley takes a couple of nice bumps and is over enough to not do a ton, I did love him throwing socko to the crowd and grabbing a chair to waste people. Booker and Orton were the only heels here, and were just awesome, Booker was just recking people with knees, and was the guy in this match doing the lions share of the work. Orton may the best wrestler in the world at timing big spots, and his countering of the five knuckle shuffle into an RKO was perfect. Finishing run was great, as all four guys stuff is so over, that all the near falls were big.

17. Briscoes v. Murder City Machine Guns ROH 4/28

Briscoes are guys with a pretty set formula, the formula is what it is, and you will tend to get what you get from it. The PPV tag against Sydal/Claudio was a pretty basic example of the formula. Some time killish stuff at the beginning, leading into some big crazy spots at the end, about half the time the match ends on time, half the time it goes a bit too long. If the formula is hitting on cylinders it can be pretty entertaining, but it rarely moves into excellent. What separated this match from you standard Briscoes match, was a load of quality bullshit by the Murder City Machine Guns. The first part of the match which is often the Briscoes weak point, was filled with a Shelly and Sabin homage to every cheap heat heel stooge in the book. All of that stuff got me into the match, so when they start with their big finish (and it was a great finish run) it wasn't just a collection of cool looking stuff, but I actually cared.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Rey Mysterio v. JBL by S.L.L.

Rey Mysterio vs. John Bradshaw Layfield
WWE - 5/21/2006 - Phoenix, AZ
World Heavyweight Title Match

"I could careless about wrestling and steroids, if that'll make them entertain me to the best of their ability, I say pass them the needles. The only thing I feel bad about in this whole tragedy, is no more Benoit matches."
-Bigaveli, a simple man with simple needs

When I first decided to review this match, my main impetus for doing so was the reaction I got from a small handful of people who's wrestling opinions I respect (by which I mean Patrick, pretty much) when I said that I thought Rey Mysterio was the best worker of 2006. I wasn't necessarily expecting people to agree he was the guy, but some folks seemed to think his 2006 was pretty lackluster. I don't know why. Rey gave me a lot of matches to point to as evidence of my claim - the series with Mark Henry, several matches with Finlay, the Orton match after Mania, the emotionally awkward but still really good matches with Chavo - but this was the crown jewel of Rey's 2006. I had it behind only the ROH/CZW Cage of Death match and the Benoit/Finlay bout from earlier on this very card as my MOTY for 2006, but it really doesn't recieve the same level of praise as those matches, and I really think it should. So in writing this, I hoped I could draw some attention to the match, and to Rey's 2006 in general.

And then Chris Benoit iced his family.

I know it's cliche, but the old saying that nothing brings hard truths to the forefront like one of your all-time favorite pro wrestlers murdering his family and then committing suicide really is true. My view of this match hasn't really changed, but my view of other people's views of this match - and of Rey's 2006 in general - has shifted from "boy, those guys are dumb" to "boy, those guys are contemptable human beings who are indirectly responsible for an innocent seven-year-old boy being strangled to death by his own father". Well, I don't feel that way about Patrick, but you get the idea.

The criticism of Rey in 2006 tends to come in three varieties. One is the way his Title reign was booked. Not a particularly appalling claim, especially considering that the booking of his reign was really, really bad. Still, for reasons I can't understand, the poor booking of Rey's reign somehow became a criticism of Rey the wrestler. People actually try to counter claims of Rey's 2006 greatness as a worker by pointing out that he was booked poorly, seeming to suggest that the quality of Rey's matches directly affected how he was booked, as though every 619 and hurricanrana caused a pen to materialize from nothing backstage and start writing scripts under it's own power for Rey to get beaten clean in non-title matches by The Great Khali. Even putting aside the bizzare nature of the claim, it's a totally unique incedent in the history of people complaining about wrestling on the internet. It's the first time people have ever tried to directly tie together workrate and booking, and place all credit/blame for both on the wrestler. Lots of people have bitched about Vince McMahon's booking ruining wrestlers' workrate. This is the only time I can think of that bad booking resulting in (allegedly) bad workrate was laid at the feet of the wrestler, and it's really strange considering that the internet's favorites tend to be guys like Rey, Benoit, Jericho, Eddie, Angle, and other dudes who were booked shittily for large chunks of their careers, and were defended by the internet during those times. It's this weird anomaly in the modern history of wrestling, and I really don't get where it comes from. It sort of happened with Eddie (and Rey, by extension) during the last year of his life, but that was more of a MOVES~! thing that he caught flak for, while the bookers bore the brunt of the blame for the booking (which itself is kind of odd, since the Dominick stuff was apparently hatched by Eddie and Rey, and it all drew gangbuster ratings). But that's what happened with Rey, and I don't suppose I'll ever know why.

So while weird, the criticism of the booking has some logical grounding, even if it doesn't actually reflect on anything Rey did wrong in the ring. It's a stupid complaint in the form it's been used, but that's all it is. The other two big complaints with Rey in 2006 were that he was too small to be credible in heavyweight matches, and that he didn't wrestle the same fast-paced MOVES~!-heavy style he was wrestling a decade ago. It would be wrong of me to say that everyone who feels this way deserves to rot in Hell for eternity, or that the blood of Daniel Benoit is on your hands, but some of you deserve to rot in Hell, and the blood of Daniel Benoit is on several of your hands. This is all on Chris Benoit, don't get me wrong, but just as Vince McMahon and the wrestling business as a whole has taken lumps for pushing Benoit and others to be a certain way that would further their careers at the expense of their physical and mental health, so too have you people done, and so too should you be thrown under the bus for.

He's too small. Jesus Christ. The internet spends a decade whining and crying about how talented young cruiserweights like Rey, Benoit, Eddie, et al are being wrongfully held back in favor of untalented heavies like Hogan and Nash. Hogan and Nash fade away, the cruisers get moved up the card, and now Rey Mysterio Jr. is TOO SMALL. Well NOW you tell him. Rey Mysterio is the heavyweight champion of the world. You've been waiting for this for a decade, you finally get it, and now he's too small. Can't you people ever be happy you got something you wanted? Benoit was champ, Eddie was champ, Rey was champ, C.M. Punk IS champ, Triple H hasn't been champ in 2 & 1/2 years, Hogan and Nash haven't held major World Titles in 5 and 7 years, respectively, WWE is running 10-15 minute matches on free TV pretty much every week with regularity, Finlay is a main event staple, John Cena is putting together one of the greatest years of work in recent memory, and he's the guy getting the big superstar push from the company, WHAT DO YOU WANT? Could you please pick an unreasonably ambitious demand and stick with it? Because you got your last demand several times over, and suddenly it seems you don't want that anymore. Maybe we could put a few more 7-year-old kids in the grave while you decide. It's okay, take your time. It's not like that'll inconvenience you in any way.

He doesn't wrestle like he did in 1996 anymore. Well, no shit, Sherlock. If you wrestled that way in 1996, you wouldn't be wrestling the same way in 2006, either. No one would, and you shouldn't be thinking less of him for not trying. It's not like there's only one way to have a good wrestling match. A while back, when word got out that WWE was "banning" a number of big, flippy, high-flying moves, a bunch of people got cheesed off because they thought it would prevent the cruiserweights from having good matches. "It would take away what makes the cruiserweights unique". Because when I think of "unique" wrestlers, I think of an entire division of guys working the exact same style of match ad nauseum. Really fucking unique. "All cruiserweights are flyers" was an obvious bullshit talking point when it first appeared in the WCW Cruiserweight division. It's a decade later, and people are still buying into it? Oh, and Rey's a luchador, and luchadors are only high-flyers, too. That Blue Panther, what a spot machine. So Rey doesn't wrestle like he did in 1996 anymore. So the fuck what? Is Rey's 2006 style invalid just because his 1996 style was valid? Only one style of wrestling is good? You need to do moonsaults to be a great worker? Fuck, Rey still does lots of high-flying shit. In the Orton match, he did AJ Styles' stupid Asai moonsault DDT thingy about a million times better than Styles ever did. He busts out a bunch of flying offense in this match. The big difference offensively is that he's no longer dashing about the ring from spot to spot to spot anymore. His wrestling is a lot slower paced now, and there's a bigger emphasis on selling for his opponent, but a surprisingly large chunk of his offense is still there. But no, he's not wrestling EXACTLY THE SAME as he did in 1996, so it's no good.

So Rey was booked poorly, is tiny, and isn't wrestling at the blinding pace that he was when he was a decade younger. So what? He was always booked poorly (by smark standards, at least), always tiny, and is still really great working a different style. He has incredible babyface charisma, still has great offense, sells really, really well, and is masterful at playing the underdog. He's as emotionally compelling of a wrestler as there is. What more do you want out of him? The criticism of 21st century Rey is a hybrid of Rey changing with the times, Rey not changing with the times, and Rey being at the whims of the bookers just like EVERY WRESTLER EVER. If I'm reading it all correctly, Rey needs to be 6'0", 255 lbs., jacked to the gills, dashing about the ring at light speed, busting out really, really high-end flying offense, and booking all of his own stuff. It's an impossible request, but since these folks aren't willing to reconsider it, I guess what they're asking for is for Rey to kill himself trying to do it. If we're really lucky, he'll take down Angie, Dominick, and Aaliyah in the process, just like any great worker would. They say you can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but I guess some people would rather not be pleased at all. But if you actually like wrestling, if you're willing to accept more than one style of wrestling, and are aware enough of wrestling's fakeness to not mind Rey as the teensiest World Heavyweight Champion of all time, Rey Mysterio's 2006 was dynamite, and this was the highlight.

This match bears more than a few resmblances to Eddie/JBL from two years prior. I suppose that shouldn't be surprising. JBL challenging for the Title held by an undersized Latino champion. Said champion working way bigger than he is. The difference there is that Rey is noticably smaller than even Eddie was, and spends a lot less time on offense, accordingly. Really, in many ways, this match resembles something out of Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!. JBL is HUGE next to Rey, and his style is so theatrical and taunt-filled that you just want Rey to hit the start button and send him flopping to the mat with a big uppercut. JBL is also very different here than he was in 2004. Eddie/JBL was all about Bradshaw as the super heavyweight working cowardly heel against the light heavyweight babyface. Here, JBL is in control of the match more often than not. The match has something of a "what will it take to put him away?" bent to it, but both men are such amazing personalities that you totally buy into it. Some stupid people get the idea that when a wrestling cliche is criticized the way the "what will it take..." match is, or 2.9-fests, or whatever, it's a strict criticism of the cliche. It usually isn't, though. It's usually a criticism of the mindset that turned it into a cliche. Rocky Romero vs. Austin Aries in the midcard of a lesser ROH show probably doesn't merit a "what will it take..." story. Rey vs. JBL does, and they do it spectacularly.

As great as this match is, it almost seems like the wrong match to use to highlight Rey's great 2006 run. Not that there's anything wrong with what Rey is doing here, but this is really JBL's match. Over the course of three years, Judgement Day seemed to inadvertently become the JBL showcase PPV. We watched him develop from the game but clearly in way over his head JBL who fought Eddie in 2004, to the more confident JBL proving himself as a ring general against Cena in 2005, to this match, where he's really established as a complete wrestler, doing everything right in the ring in terms of offense, selling, psychology, and having total command over the audience. As much as I loved watching him at this point, it seems kinda fitting that he would retire within the week. This was him at the peak of his abilities. He had nowhere to go but down. I mean, the dude did the best version of the Three Amigos ever. When Eddie died, everybody took something from his bag of tricks to pay tribute. Chavo did the Frog Splash, which deteriorates over generations like a video cassette. Rey took the babyface comeback shimmy, which doesn't have quite the same punch to it that Eddy gave it. Shawn Michaels took the DDT out of his opponent's finisher counter, but doesn't seem to know quite how it works. Chris Benoit also nicked the Three Amigos and did it alright. And Homicide took all of the above, and none of it really meant anything coming from him. But JBL took the Three Amigos to use as a heel taunt, and did it better than Eddie ever did. I guess a lot of that is due to JBL just having a really gorgeous vertical suplex. He takes his opponent over in a perfect arc, swinging them 180 degrees into a vertical position and falling straight back while keeping his feet planted and maintaining that hold, all in one clean motion. Perfect. Then he does two more and does Eddie's dance in the most perfectly tasteless awkward white guy manner possible.

Then there's Angie at ringside. The presence of a face's family member at ringside is always a great angle for a heel to exploit. JBL aims this match squarely at her. There's the direct moments, like JBL beating Rey against the guardrail by her, then feinting to attack her, too. Or getting the upper hand over Rey in the ring and taking the available opportunity to blow kisses to her. But a lot of this match is designed in a more general sense to have JBL choosing to humiliate Rey rather than simply beating him. Like JBL nailing a Clothesline from Hell and opting to go for the KO finish instead of a pin. It's kind of an odd thing to see in a WWE match, and it's strategically wonky, but JBL is overconfident and he wants to make Rey look like a chump, and he puts it in that context and it makes perfect sense.

But I don't want to take anything away from Rey by praising JBL. It may be JBL's match, but Rey's performance is as strong as we've come to expect from him. It certainly helps that he wore white to highlight his greusome bladejob. Aside from slowing his pace and focusing more on selling, the other big development in Rey's work over the last decade is the introduction of a kicker offense. I'm a guy who thinks it's pretty much impossible to be a great worker without being at least a good striker, but Rey had pretty much nothing in terms of strikes prior to his WWE run. I mean, I'm sure he had something, but nothing stands out in my mind. Did he even do dropkicks? Anyway, WWE main event style is one of the most strike-heavy match styles there is, and pretty much any big babyface comeback in any style requires strikes. Rey learned to kick giant dudes in the knee really hard, and it gives him a bit more depth in terms of what he can bring to the table in a match.

JBL struggles to keep his balance as Rey cuts the big man down to size. There are two really effective ways for heavyweights to sell for juniors. There's the Jun Akiyama method, where you basically no-sell everything until the junior really starts bringing the pain, or wears you down enough, or scores a lucky shot that knocks you loopy. And then there's the JBL method, where the heavy is vulnerable to the junior's offense, but good luck trying to get any of that offense in. JBL spends much of this match toying with Rey, but his carelessness ultimately costs him, as it so often tends to do in these situations. As he starts to lose control, he's quick to lose his temper. A powerbomb gets countered into a hurricanrana, sending JBL into the ropes for the 619. JBL dodges the incoming West Coast Pop, grabbing Nick Patrick (who had been excellent throughout the match, I should note) and pulling him in the way. The momentary confusion allows JBL to hit his powerbomb, but it takes a while for Charles Robinson to hit the ring and start counting, and Rey kicks out at 2 as a result. JBL blows his stack and socks Robinson in the face before rolling outside to get a chair. It's too little, too late, though, as Rey dropkicks it into his face, sending JBL back into the ropes for another 619. Landing out of position for the Frog Splash finish, JBL caps off the match in a suitably Punch-Out!!-esque manner, staggering to his feet, only to flop back down in position, as Rey comes off of the top with the Frog Splash and Nick Patrick recovers in time to count the pin.

Chavo rushes the ring to celebrate, Angie smiles and claps and blows her husband a kiss, Eddie Guerrero is avenged, good wins, evil loses, God is in his heaven, and all is right in the world. Honestly, if the whole Eddiesploitation thing was fazed out after this match, I wouldn't really have had a problem with it. I long ago learned to accept that wrestling is classless, I fully expect them to exploit dead wrestlers when they find it advantageous. Here, they actually used it well. In a lot of ways, this could really be seen as the blow-off to the Eddie/JBL feud. That feud never really was properly blown off in Eddie's lifetime. Angle got involved in the Smackdown cage match, and Eddie went off to feud with him while JBL fought Taker. After his death, JBL re-ignited the feud in a sense. His feud with Rey - as well as his preceding feud with Benoit - was built up with JBL cutting promos about how he beat their dead pal. After beating Benoit, he got to talk about how he was going to beat "third amigo" Rey. And of course, there was his brilliantly disingenous "admiration" of Eddie, with him playing up their association as something he found honorable, while dismissing the value of his actual friend. If you have to exploit a dead guy, that was a great way to do it. If they had ended it there instead of running the same basic angle with Eddie's actual wife and nephew as the dishonest hangers-on, that would've been nice, but them's the breaks. Still, Bradshaw's last few months as an active wrestler were a tour de force, and this was the best way to wrap it up.

And now, by the time I finally get around to finishing this, Rey is back, and still looking pretty sharp. Of course, now seeing someone who had been out that long and injured that many times look that sharp feels more than a little sinister. Then again, all wrestling feels more than a little sinister right now. WWE looks like a slow-motion video of a vampire disintegrating when exposed to sunlight. ROH is hyping matches based on wrestlers getting concussed. Japan is soulless. Misawa barely has two fuctioning brain cells to rub together. CMLL and AAA are in the unfortunate position of being in Mexico. TNA is in the unfortunate position of being TNA. The most entertaining thing in wrestling today is watching it flail wildly under the harsh scrutiny of Congress and the news media. If you told me when this match took place that in a year-and-a-half, Henry Waxman would be the best babyface in wrestling, I'd have laughed in your face. I'm still laughing, actually, just for different reasons. The power of the work is so strong that I don't expect any of the offending parties - those in the biz and those defending the biz alike - to actually learn anything from this experience. I mean, if Benoit killing his family didn't teach them anything, I can't imagine Congress will. But I do enjoy the chaos, and watching their world fall apart around them should be fun. Petty? Selfish? Probably, yeah. But it's not like I'm hurting anybody.

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