Segunda Caida

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

NXT Cocoa Beach Road Report 6/26

My wife and I were down in Orlando for a week for our anniversary and some how I convinced Chelsea to tag along with me to an NXT house show. This is the first wrestling show I have been to in years (outside of a lucha show in DC which was more of an art instillation), last time was Sami Callihan v. Fit Finlay in EVOLVE, and in my return I got to see Sami versus a much lesser Irishman.

The show was in a tiny National Guard armory and as a whole it really felt like the old ECWA shows we went to en masse back in the early 2000s, some pretty good matches, some really green wrestlers trying some things and some shocking bush league gimmicks. No great matches, but most were at least entertaining, and everything moved pretty quickly.

Uhaa Nation v. Axel Dieter

Solidly worked opener, with Dieter working over Nations arm with some fun Euro holds, and Nation doing a fine job of timing some exciting comebacks. Dieter is a weird guy to get signed, kind of tubby, not very big or dynamic. He is a guy I have seen a handful of times before and never really stood out, not one of the WXW guys I would have guessed would move on. Nation was fine here, but he did really stand out. He is a guy who has main evented in front of some pretty big crowds in Japan, but he wasn't commanding the room like I expected him too. He felt like someone who is still aways away.

Devin Taylor/Charlotte v. Lina Fenene/Cassidy

Lina is the Rock's cousin and is really huge. She is clearly pretty green still, but did a nice job working a big brick wall which the faces were trying to knock dow. She looks like a taller Patty LaBelle and I imagine that Patty wouldn't sell very much either. Charlotte has really improved her chops, which is very important for a Flair scion.

Bull Dempsey v. Mike Rollins

Bull Dempsey is basically working as 2009 Super Porky. Lots of comedy spots about being too fat to hit his moves. He had a really amusing spot where Rollins does a kip-up and Dempsey tries a bunch of times and fails, he also has a rope running spot where he loses his wind. Dempsey is a fine fake Super Porky, kind of like Brazo De Platino, and this seems like a gimmick with some actually legs. He was over, and amused Chelsea. I don't see why they just don't rehire Super Porky, but I enjoyed this. Rollins was terrible though, kind of reminded me of 1998 Tom Brandi. Nice hair, good body, sub Jim Powers in the ring.

Sasha Banks v. Blue Pants

Blue Pants is clearly an NXT inside joke I don't get. This was Banks working as arrogant heel champ who ends up wrestling someone they believe is beneath them. It is a classic wrestling match trope, and Banks is really good as Flair getting frustrated as Rocky King rolls him up. She totally gets her character, interacts with the audience well, and comes off vulnerable without hurting her character or looking weak. Banks felt big league in a way that most people on this show did not. Blue Pants isn't much and a better George South would have made this a better match.

Hype Bros v. The Mechanics

Shocked at how much I enjoyed this, really thought Mojo Rawley felt like one of the most ready to go guys on this show. His execution wasn't perfect, but he brought a bunch of energy to the match and worked perfectly as a meathead tag partner to Zach Ryder. Great working the apron, great as a hot tag and the doomsday device leg lariat thing they did was pretty cool. The Mechanics were baffling to me, they were basically a short B- version of a southern heel tag team, a homeless Death and Destruction, a sawed off Bad Attitude. I have no idea how they ended up in a WWE feeder system. One guy had Captain Roughneck on his trunks, and fuck that noise. Match would have way better if Hype Bros had Damien Wayne and Preston Quinn to work against, instead of their scab replacements.

Marcus Louis v. Angelo Dawkins

This was the only absolute stinker match of the show. Dawkins is a black dude who kind of has the body of a pretty good high school football linebacker three years after graduation who eats like he still is doing 2 a days. He does the James Harden cooking pot motion, and I think Lil B cursed this match. Louis is a French guy who spends the whole match doing nerve holds and making crazy guy faces. Long, dull, poorly executed, boring, a failure in every way a match can fail.

They have a segment where Louis Valentine comes out and wants to dance with the ring announcer (who was getting sexually harassed by the scumbag fans all night) he get interrupted by Preston Cunningham Jr. who does the worst most implausible spoiled rich kid promo I have ever seen in wrestling (think about how much ground that covers) this would get laughed out of an ECWA Super 8 battle royal, I have no idea how something this yarder got past the curtain, just awful

Finn Balor v. Solomon Crowe

It has been so long since I have seen Crowe actually get a chance to spread out and work a match. When Callihan was in the indies he was one of the best wrestlers in the world. Really happy I got to watch him actually do his thing a little bit. Balor isn't my cup of tea, but he can execute his moves, and did a pretty good job selling his knee, which Crowe worked over really viciously. This felt like a second round US Indy tourney match, worked pretty simple, nice execution, nothing anyone will remember in six months, but very exciting in the moment. Crowe is still really good, I hope he gets a shot to do something.

Vaudvillians/Blake and Murphy/Chad Gable + Jason Jordan

Last time I saw Blake and Murphy they were dull faces, but I really liked them here as a sleaze bag pretty boy heel tag team. They do Heavenly Bodies way better then the Mechanics do Anderson Brothers. Vaudvillans have some fun shtick, and worked your car crash workrate spots really well. Gable is still a little raw, but is clearly going to be great. It will be interesting to see how an Olympic wrestler working as a junior (he wrestled at the Olympics at 185). Jordan is much bigger and already has a fun suplex based offense, he seems crazy strong as he was just deadlifting pretty big guys. Match had the most action of the night, and I enjoyed the pace after some slowly worked openers.

Fun overall show, missed going to live wrestling although I didn't miss wrestling crowds. Might actually be able to convince my wife to come to another show with me sometime.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

2014 Ongoing Match of the Year List

Kana v. Meiko Satomura Kana Produce 2/25

PAS: Super weird setup where the entire match was under a blue light and accompanied by guy performing on a Kokyu (a traditional Japanese string instrument), with Kana in weird face paint.  It had the feel of the kind of thing an Asian art museum would put on. I have a friend who works at Freer Sackler, I should pitch it to her as a traveling exhibit. Match itself was the quality we expect from this matchup. I love Kana as the Mickey Knuckles to Yuki Ishikawa's Ian Rotten, and this was the best BattlArtsy match of the year by far. I loved the nastiness of all the kicks and forearms, and the really cool jujitsu chokes that both girls worked into. The oddness of the presentation added to the feel of it, although it felt more like a cool novelty than an elite match. Still a total blast, and something I am going to really remember fondly at the end of the year.

ER: This was weird in a good, good way. I am a big Ali Farka Toure fan and the Kokyu style of play does not seem too dissimilar to his old African fingerpicking style. But this also wasn't TOO weird for me as sometimes I just don't care about commentary and will put on music as I watch wrestling on mute.   If you already listen to Tinariwen while watching wrestling then listening to a man play a Kokyu while watching wrestling won't seem too out of this world. This also feels like an appropriate match for Phil and I to review as we saw The Mountain Goats do a live score of a silent era Swedish film, we both dug the weird Jeff Jarrett/Dutch Mantel PBS orchestra match from the Memphis set, so watching two assbeaters get the live score treatment seems within our wheelhouse. And I think this totally works as both awesome match, and as weird performance art. As the action heated up as the match wore on, the Kokyu started playing faster and faster, and as I watched I noticed myself actually buying into the tension more because of it, getting more and more into each submission attempt. I wouldn't have even guessed I would actually be affected by a live score, yet there I was, totally buying into it. The match was as good as you would expect given these two, and I really loved Kana here. She had some badass reversals, like catching a Pele kick while falling back into a grapevined ankle lock, and even more killer catching a Meiko kick behind her back, and then ducking under it while still holding it to transition into a German. It looked like the first time you saw World of Sport and were captivated by their foreign movements. They wrench in all their nasty chokes and I loved the struggle for the finishing triangle. I would have dug this whole thing without the Kokyu, but I genuinely got more into it because of that. This was the coolest list fusion of art with asskickery.


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Saturday, June 27, 2015

MLJ: Satanico vs La Familia de Tijuana 1: Atlantis, Black Warrior, Felino, Mr. Niebla vs Damián 666, Halloween, Psicosis I, Satánico

2002-08-16 @ Arena México
Atlantis, Black Warrior, Felino, Mr. Niebla vs Damián 666, Halloween, Psicosis I, Satánico

Satanico is the best. He really is. If we had more available, I'd only watch Satanico matches and this would be My Satanico Journey. As it is, we'll be spending another week and a day with him. "decadas80s90s2000" on youtube posted four of the five matches of Satanico/Infernales vs La Familia de Tijuana from August-October, which started with Satanico teaming with them and ended with a hair match with Damian. It's not the world's best wrestling but it's heated, was a good showcase for Satanico working with Averno and Mephisto, and, in part because La Familia's rougher edges, made for some fun matches.

This was the first. It was an atomicos, which CMLL doesn't seem to want to run anymore. I haven't seen too many, but my impression of them is that they lean towards being more spot heavy than trios matches. Two extra bodies mean quicker switches and more chaos. La Familia here was Halloween, Damian 666, and Nicho/Psicosis. Halloween (who was Ciclope in WCW and lost his match to Antifaz del Norte in 99) would change his look in the midst of this series, going from the dreadlocks to looking more like Nicho. Damian was two years younger than Satanico, to give you a point of reference (around 40 and 42 respectively when these matches took place). No surprises on the tecnico side here, just four guys who would probably be good in this setting (and ultimately were).

So, two things to really mention with this match. The first is that it was absolutely action packed. There were bodies everywhere. Some of it was really good. Some of it was a bit more chaotic as you got the impression that the tecnicos weren't used to working with these specific rudos. There were some massively huge spots. I'm going to gif some below. Felino's top rope to the apron rana was downright amazing, and Nicho's arm drag bump over the top wasn't bad either. I wish that CMLL would do some more atomicos. They're set up to do so right now with all of their factions.

Big spots, yes. The other story of the match was Satanico not quite being on the page with his partners. Some of that was him just being out of position when they wanted to do a triple team, forcing him to scramble to get there. That's a little thing but considering how smoothly he worked with GdI and Averno/Mephisto, it was telling. Satanico was so, so good at directing rudo traffic and that wasn't at play here.

More importantly, after some more miscommunication led to him submitting to the Atlantida, La Familia decided to take their loss out on him, beating on him in the corner. He'd dodge a corner dive and fight back, with Averno and Mephisto to even the odds, but la Familia would introduce chairs and ultimately destroy the other rudo side. My impression is that this got them suspended (I assume because they were working all over as Mexico's Most Wanted at this time?). It'd also lead to a trios title match a month later, which is what we'll look at next.

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New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV 6/26/15 Review

1. Tomoaki Honma vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (7/21/14)

The emergence of Tomoaki Honma "The Perpetual Underdog" is one of the better stories of the last decade of pro wrestling. It's neat to see a former death match guy actually work his way into a respected role in the largest company. I mean, it only took 15 years so maybe we just have a case of survivor bias here, but whatever the reason I'm happy for the guy. Match itself was a fun Smackdown match, with a finish that was never really in doubt nor even teased. Honma looked really great and I loved him taking it to Tanahashi before inevitably failing. The underdog character in wrestling is so good when done well, a guy who is good but just plain not as good as the top guys, and needs every single thing to go right in matches to pull out a win. I really like Honma's offense and energy, like how he makes Tanahashi actually duck on a lariat, blocking Tanahashi's strikes with his forearms, love his sad face as he realizes he's about to take a Dragon Suplex, like his fighting spirit without any sort of actual gameplan. Honma never really had a chance, but the match was fun an competitive. Though it is a little weird how Honma came off like a bigger star than Tanahashi here.

2. AJ Styles vs. Kazuchika Okada (7/21/14)

This was clipped to ribbons but what they showed was mostly good, outside of the poorly set up Bullet Club interference you knew was going to happen. Yujiro looked fine on the run-in, they're always just set up in the lamest ways. Either Red Shoes has to just ignore that it's happening and kinda hold his arms out going "Guuuuuuuys, cahmahhnnnnn", or we get the lame set-up here: Styles gets knocked into Red Shoes, Red Shoes proceeds to be knocked out or holding his stomach for the next 3 minutes. I get why nobody would want a horrible David Manning invincible referee, but goddamn do all referees have to be gentle little Faberge eggs? Red Shoes gets bumped into, does a backward roll, and is just OUT. It's human nature to roll through something and get back up, fine or not. I've tripped and fallen while running a few times, always immediately instinctively sprang right back to my feet before my brain could even process what had just happened. But all referees are required to have fragile little bird bones so doing a reverse somersault is tantamount to crashing your bicycle into a brick wall. It's just so lazy, and so damn bad. Which is a shame, as the work between Styles and Okada was very good. Styles always makes Okada's offense look better than it is, really throwing himself into Germans, splatting off the apron from Okada's top rope dropkick and getting obliterated by the Rainmaker. Okada looked better here than in most matches I've seen, his offense was clean and in some cases spectacular. His wild running crossbody into the crowd was unexpected and killer, and he at least cut low on missed Rainmakers and got really great bridges on his suplexes. So other than the lazily set-up and boring middle portion that happens in all Bullet Club matches, this was actually really good. Shame, that.

3. Katsuyori Shibata vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (7/21/14)

Shibata is a little dry, and we had a goofy ass dated headdrop exchange in the middle, but overall this was fine. I liked the sit down interview with Shibata as he explained how he hadn't fought Nakamura in 10 years, and how different each of them were then and now. That does make it kind of weird that NJ would waste a match-up like that on a G1 tourney match, but it did make the match feel like a bigger deal. Nakamura was great during this, flying face first into Shibata's kicks, posting himself nicely, getting dumped by suplexes and setting up all of his runs nicely. Shibata always feels like a guy I want to like but always leaves me somewhat cold. I also cannot fathom how Nakamura hasn't become some sort of internet crossover gif meme at this point. How have I not been bombarded by gifs of Nakamura doing his Mick Jagger Start Me Up moves with "Haters Gonna Hate" stamped across it in large white letters. Feels like a gif that would be posted by tons of people who had no idea there was even pro wrestling in Japan. His fucking finger guns and hip shakes before hitting a series of knees have me in stitches. Nakamura always has this drunken master aura to him, this weird slithery controlled sloppiness that is wholly unique. Which was in stark contrast to Shibata's grown up young boy dropkicks and half crab style. The dopey no sold headdrop exchange was clumsily out of place, and it's a shame as Shibata's spill looked brutal, but then he just popped up and a disgusted, eyerolling "yuck" involuntarily dropped out of my mouth. I did love the battle over Nak's Bom-Ba Ye's and Shibata's Penalty Kick. Nak's BBY off the middle rope looked good, and the finish PK the Nak took flush looked brutal. The execution for everything was really great, and while the order that things weren't put together wasn't all my cup of tea, this was still plenty good.

Nothing blowaway great this week, but one of the overall better episodes as the ring work was all really good, just didn't always have great match structure to go along with it. But an hour of good ringwork is still plenty entertaining even if it doesn't result in any classics.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

MLJ: Oro, Jr. vs Metalico [mascara contra mascara]

Aired: 2014-08-10
Taped: 2014-08-10 @ Arena México
Oro Jr. vs Metálico, mask vs mask

4) Oro Jr. vs Metálico, mask vs mask by thecubsfan

This is not a good match. It's the worst mask match I've ever seen on a stage like this. I might even call it the worst big match I've seen on a stage like this. I had been intrigued enough, mainly by Metalico's rudo work in the last trios, to take a look at it. I am a fool. I've been watching big matches out of Cavernario and Titan, both of whom weren't that older than Oro, Jr. and the difference is just striking. Frankly, the difference between the two of them and Metalico, who has years and years more experience than they do, is striking.

A few things to set this up. Oro, Jr. had his father Plata out with him. Metalico had a cool shiny Darth Vader like over-mask. The cat ears definitely look goofy on him as a rudo even if it was look that sort of worked as a tecnico. This was a Sunday show at Arena Mexico. Without doing more research it doesn't look particularly special. They just stuck a mask match on it, fourth match out of six. It's way down there on the poster (which Cubs posted).

That's about where this match deserved to be. Being at Arena Mexico, the crowd was more behind Metalico than Oro, Jr., who I don't think they buy into fully as a tecnico to root for, even if they were inclined to root for tecnicos in the first place. Metalico had more history with them, but he also had this sort of crazy charisma. He was a little too energized by being a rudo and would react to things very broadly. It was sort of endearing in its own way. AND they kept showing his loving mother in the crowd. The flip side was that he had maintained too much of his tecnico offense once things got going.

The primera was okay. It was really what it should have been. Unfortunately, what followed made that a negative, not a positive. Lucha, especially apuestas lucha, is about the build up and the pay off. The primera was the build and it was a build meant to put sympathy on Oro. Metalico ambushed him from the start. He tossed him around the ring and into the guard wall on the floor. He shot down Oro's paltry attempts to come back, stomped the hell out of him, and finished it off with a leg submission (with a nice belly shot to open Oro up so he could get it on).

So far, so good. Now the trick would have been to build to the come back, pay it off, and lead into a dynamic, action packed, fall-heavy, spot-heavy tercera. That didn't happen. The segunda started with more beatdown. Then, Metalico started pulling on Oro's mask, which I get was the signal to come back. Instead of anything actually violent or spirited, this mainly consisted on some rough (in a bad way) rolling suplexes and his really goofy fireman's carry slam finish. It's a really bad finisher and was the tiniest period to punctuate the tiniest sentence of a comeback. Oro just had no idea how to make the emotion work.

The tercera wasn't much better. Metalico did too much tecnico stuff with flipping and roll ups and waht not. He had some good stuff, like catching Metalico on a leapfrog with a samoan drop (very good transition back to offense for him), but they couldn't make it mean anything. They ever ran a second heat segment here, with Oro's dad trying to lead a chant to spur the eventual comeback and it was paced and paid off all wrong. Things that should have meant something felt hollow. When they eventually hit some dives, they barely even sold them. They just moved on to the next thing.

I'm not sure if the finish was clever or a screw up, which says a little about me, I'll admit, but more, I think about the match. Oro's big submission was a rolling arm bar, and he went for it multiple times with his ring positioning horrible the first few. Metalico ended up in the ropes, and maybe it was a brilliant and novel storytelling device: the young tecnico hitting his move, but the match being so close that he can only get it too close to the ropes until he finally hits it in the middle of the ring! Just given the way the rest of the match went, I can't really give them the benefit of the doubt.

Eventually, he did get him in the middle of the ring with it and Metalico was forced to tap. They kept showing his mother after he unmasked and he took it with enthusiasm and grace. He came off way more gallantly than Oro did. A high stakes match with two heat segments and two comebacks should just be more gripping than this. Not good.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ring of Honor on Destination America 6/24/15 Review

1. Roderick Strong vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Well this was...disappointing. I love Nakamura, and Strong has been on a real nice tear the last year +, but this just didn't gel. A couple of Strong's knees looked nice, a couple of Nak's knees look nice. But they did too much of that obnoxious fast slow fast big match indy style, where we're rushing all around, but then suddenly we're both sooooo tirrrrred and we're hit hitting each other with forearms using the lasssst strength in our boddddddies.......but then we're up and running and we're doing moves where we awkwardly drop each other on our own bodies instead of the mat!! I didn't like it. I've seen so much Strong that I've liked lately, and this felt like him wrestling like the Strong I have not liked. Loved Nakamura flying face first and getting turned inside out on Strong's flying kick, but all the moves dropped onto knees looked crummy, the fast slow fast got tiring, and they just didn't click. I still like both guys, it just didn't work for whatever reason.

2. Gedo vs. Michael Elgin

This was short but I liked it plenty. Elgin has maybe too much offense, could probably trim that up a bit, but I liked Gedo peppering him with jabs and trying to avoid big bombs and throws from Elgin. I wish there was some more Gedo offense as it was mostly him sticking and moving and trying to dodge Elgin offense before Elgin just kinda goes on a run to the finish. Elgin hits a brutal back elbow, and his powerbomb into turnbuckles, then seated was nice. The corkscrew senton seems a bit silly for him, not just compared to his power offense but within the context of this match. But his power stuff looks good. I wish I could have got at least one Gedo fistdrop though. It's like Modern English not doing "I Melt With You". I shit you not, Modern English played "I Melt With You" twice in a row when they played my college town. They literally played it, people loved it...and then they immediately played it again, and people flipped out even more. What's that about highspot overkill?

3. Kazuchika Okada & Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Trent Barretta) vs. AJ Styles & The Young Bucks

God, Phil is going to murder me for writing up a fucking Rocky Romero match instead of any number of things he has saved in Drafts. But I actually dug this match....and I think I kind of really like The Young Bucks, which either makes me a complete asshole, a total chucklehead, an ironic contrarian, a contrary Iranian, or a person with poor taste in wrestling. Wrestling is absurd bullshit in most of its forms, and I often don't care for comedy in wrestling, but sometimes there exists some sort of parody that is so on the nose and amusing that it just clicks for me. I'm thinking Chris Hero's weird Chris Divine tribute run in NOAH that no NOAH crowd understood. Bucks seem just a slight tick different than Chuck Taylor brand comedy, and it's all the difference in the world. There's a smug shrug about them, where instead of appealing to the crowd with their bullshit, they just do their bullshit to entertain themselves, because they can. And what's great, is they cut off others' bullshit, to do their own bullshit, which is awesome. Barretta was doing his stupid ass apron spot where he runs around yelling before hitting a disappointing slingshot move (I had blamed Chuck Taylor as a poor influence on him before, but here he did it again with no Chuck in sight, so the blame for shittiness is all on Trent now) and as he goes through his whole "crowd hype" routine, one of the Bucks waits until the very end to superkick him. It would be like letting Scotty get all the way to the end of the Worm before superkicking him out of the way. It's like they read my mind. "Ugggh, gotta wait for Barretta to go through all of his dance steps before hitting this.......thank you. Thank you, Bucks." If you're going to buy into the absurdism that is standing forearm exchanges or rope running, then you may as well buy into a fucking stuff piledriver with a springboard 450 sitout assist. That kind of overkill takes things to a sort of practical performance art, where you look like a clueless asshole for even criticizing it. It's like criticizing the Stooges lyrics or Ratt's song titles or early 80s Italian "Escape From New York" ripoffs. They are exactly as they appear to be, and they don't give one shit. Over the top offense like that is a wonderful thing for a heel tag team to do. It comes off like the cockiest shit in the world when it hits, but the set up is so long that it provides natural opportunities for babyfaces to gain momentum. Their superkicks don't look great, but they're treated essentially as tantamount to slaps, so they don't need to be good. You start thinking of them as more of an insult as opposed to a killshot, and their matches suddenly get even better. Superkicks while Styles is about to hit a Styles Clash? Awesome insult to injury spot. So yeah, whatever the Bucks did in this match worked on me to insane degrees. They hit the right notes which is not what I was expecting.

As for the others, Styles worked well with Okada who looked about as expected. I liked Styles putting in little things like front kicking Okada's arm when he went for the Rainmaker. Romero has been working on his spit takes which are done well, but really feels like something a heel should be doing. Add in a Bucks spit take where one of them spits in the others face? License to print money. Barretta has plenty of bad traits, but then he'll bump like a lunatic (see him getting suplexed into the buckles by Styles) and toss out some offense with surprising impact. My opinions on him switch constantly within a match. I was not really excited for this match at all, but ended up really loving it, even with its flaws. Seemed like they had a goal in mind, and they met the goal. I'm kind of stunned at how much I loved the Bucks. I can see every single argument in the world against them, and I can see myself hating them the next match of theirs I see, but this shit worked.

This was easily the best show they've aired since being on DA. Really smooth hour of wrestling right here.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

MLJ: Dragon Lee vs Virus/Casas 3: Dragon Lee, Fuego, Oro Jr. vs Metálico, Skándalo, Virus

Aired: 2014-07-27
Taped: 2014-07-27 @ Arena Coliseo
Dragon Lee, Fuego, Oro Jr. vs Metálico, Skándalo, Virus

Dragon Lee, Fuego, Oro Jr. vs Metálico... by thecubsfan

Well, this is match that Dragon Lee and Virus just happen to be in. Most Trios matches have some sort of singles focus, some issue. Sometimes there are multiple issues. Sometimes the issue really is one faction and another. A lot of times, though, like I said, a single focus. In those matches, the other wrestlers play their roles. Sometimes, they get to shine; sometimes they shine too much. Sometimes, like in this match, I wish they had a chance to shine some more.

The issue here is Metalico vs Oro, Jr. I've seen Metalico as a tecnico; he was rudo here (more on that in a second). I've never seen Oro, Jr. but he comes from a big wrestling family. He was 21 or so here, I think. Both he and Metalico had just been in the Busca cibernetico a month or so before, but neither had made it far. That's where the issue came from. Oro had apparently hurt Metlicao on a dive and after coming back, Metalico teamed with him but had fell to some miscommunication and he had gone rudo over it.

I don't remember a whole lot about Metalico as a tecnico. He's been wrestling for twenty some-odd years so the experience level difference between the two is severe. This was, as far as I can tell, his first time as a rudo though and he relished in the role. Maybe it was because he was hanging out with Skandalo but he was opportunistic, gloating, and downright scummy as a rudo here. He seemed to be enjoying himself quite a bit.

He had plenty of time to enjoy himself too. The first 2/3 of the match was a beatdown. Oro had charged up the ramp as Metalico came out and got himself clocked for his trouble. The rudos didn't look back. Once they got Oro into the ring, they knocked the other tecnicos off the apron and started on him. It was one move after the next with a lot of stomping, kicking, and mask-ripping in between. Oro did a pretty good job as a sympathetic face in peril, actually. Given the nature of trios matches with far more cycling in and out of the participants, you rarely get to see a tecnico just sell for so long in that role. The rudos looked good in the beatdown too, but there was, maybe, as always, a bit too much Skandalo groin based offense; here he seemed to get everyone involved, focusing more on the set ups. The best of that was him putting Oro in Shattered Dreams position so Metalico could come flying in with a knee. Shortly thereafter, they tossed Oro out and obliterated the other tecnicos for a minute or two, ending with a Virus submission on Dragon Lee and a Curtain Call by Metalico on Oro. Between falls, Oro ended up with a new mask since his was so tattered by the violence.

Two fun moments from the beatdown (now having gone into the segunda). One: This match had no commentary so we could hear the fans better than usual. One guy, and only one guy, was chanting Virus and Skandalo pumped his arm along with it from the apron which was amusing. Shortly thereafter, Metalico walked around the apron to stomp on Dragon Lee and actually tripped over him, which popped the crowd. He followed up on this with either feigned or actual fury and it fit into the character he was playing well.

Anyway, I was actually really digging the match at this point. I like opening technical exchanges as much as the next guy and I think for a while CMLL was really overdoing the ambush/beatdown start for matches (and this match might have been from around that time actually), but there is a good emotional hook to it, especially when there's an actual issue and even more so when there's one tecnico getting beat on. That said, the comeback has to live up to it and I don't think this one did. Oro got beat up some more but eventually got free enough to run out of the ring. Virus gave chase (and why I'm not sure since usually they'd just let another tecnico come in), ran into an apron rana from Dragon Lee, and the comeback was on. Oro was able to get some revenge, even starting to undo Metalico's mask while his partners ran interference, but it wasn't all that heated.

It needed to be more heated too, especially because Metalico was going to squirm away with the victory. He utilized a ref distraction (due to Virus) and tossed his mask at Oro. The ref saw it and the rudos took the win. Dragon Lee didn't really show me much here, but I think I'm going to go and watch the Oro vs Metalico apuestas match that this was building to. I was intrigued enough for that. This is already going to be a 20+ match project. What's one more completely unrelated match right?

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

PREMIER IX 6/7/15 Review

These guys run a couple hours away from me, but I've never checked them out live. I saw they put up a live stream of their most recent show so figured I would check out the goods.

1. Dom "The Bomb" Vitalli vs. Will Cuevas

Had never seen Vitalli before and mostly liked what I saw. I've also never been too impressed by Cuevas, but he had some nice stuff here, including some tight knees to the ribs and some mean right hands. He does get kind of lost when doing any sort of 360. That seems to be a Bay Area wrestling thing, doing some tornado Misawa elbow and getting lost halfway through your spin. Jeckles always does the same damn thing. Vitalli was really impressive about misses, really committed to a big missed elbow off the top and some charges. I like that kind of detail. Things kinda fall apart at the end with too many moves requiring one guy shoving another guy into ropes, but I'm game to see more of these two.

2. Buddy Royal vs. Joe Graves

Feed must have cut off during this one as most of the match is completely skipped over. Too bad, I was excited to see more Graves. Loved his quick cartwheel to avoid a low Royal dropkick, but that was sadly all I saw of the match :(

3. Gabriel Gallo vs. Sledge

Man I really dug this. I had seen Sledge once before, but he was more used as Cobb fodder. I had never seen Gallo and left really impressed. Both threw some nice bombs (Sledge had better punches, but the rest of Gallo's game seemed stronger) and worked stiff throughout. I loved Gallo's half camel clutch variations, wrenching back on one of Sledge's arms while he forearmed his jaw, pulled back on his nose and neck, really locked in. Both guys went hard on standing clotheslines (including Gallo's brutal match finishing one to the back of Sledge's neck) and Gallo keeps doing things I love like hard kneedrops to the chest. I want to see more of both of these guys, but especially Gallo.

4. Timothy Thatcher vs. Marcus Lewis

Well this was awesome. I had high expectations for it and it totally lived up to them. Lewis has been doing this for just a couple years, is a really nice guy and is improving really fast. One of my favorite local guys that I get to see on a regular basis. Thatcher has had an incredible last year and is now known nationally (I have to imagine his WM weekend EVOLVE matches were star making, the building was in love with him during the Hero match). I've never seen these two match up and it's been one of my little Bay Area "dream matches". The mat stuff is as good as expected, and Lewis brings more than I anticipated. At one point he does a mean scrambly boot scrape to avoid a Thatcher ankle pick, and Thatcher naturally works tons of tight cravates (one of them ripping out one of Lewis' dreadlocks, which Thatcher graciously hangs over a turnbuckle for him), and I like how aggressive Lewis is at fighting out of Thatcher's holds. My favorite little sequence was Lewis hitting a couple nice stomps, then a tight short knee to Thatcher's chin followed by a sick double knee drop to his stomach. After kicking out Thatcher dumps Lewis with a big release German and immediately pounces with a rough half nelson while scraping Lewis face with his wrist and forearm. Thatcher is always great at taking spills and he really made a lot of Lewis' strikes look great, leaning into uppercuts and kicks and doing nice Kawada falls for them. Really I like everything they do in this. Lewis hit one of the best missile dropkicks of recent memory, Thatcher does his badass floatover chickenwing into the Fujiwara (which was a nice nearfall since I've seen that sub beat tons of guys), some nasty stomps and elbows, his impressive deadlift Karelin suplex, really it's kind of crazy how much great stuff they cram into 12 minutes without ever making it seem like overkill. They just matched up incredibly well. I was even buying the upset finish, with Lewis throwing all of his weight into strikes and a big time shoulderblock, but then missing his 450 and bouncing his head off the mat. Thatcher's finish is gross as he does a headlock takeover (between he and Busick, maybe my favorite move of 2015) locks Lewis' arm and then traps Lewis' neck between his knees!! Great finish.

5. "Mr. Athletic" Jeff Cobb vs. Kaimana

When I first became aware of Cobb he was working a lot of dominant matches, working like young Lesnar or Scott Steiner; a hyper athletic guy with freakish strength who just steamrolled people. But the last several times I've seen him he's mostly worked from the bottom, with his opponent getting an early advantage and him making more of a late fast break. This match was similar, but Cobb's comeback was much longer than in other recent matches. I had never seen Kaimana before and my luck was really great with this show as every single guy I hadn't seen before, made me want to see them more. I don't remember a time where that has ever happened. Northern CA went through a dry patch in the mid 2000s but certainly seems like it's heating right back up. Kaimana is a stocky Hawaiian guy, Cobb is a stocky Guamanian (is that right? I wanted to not say "guy from Guam". Guamanian? That has to be it), we got a battle of the islands! I love it. Kaimana has some solid kicks that Cobb takes to his back and chest, including one brutal dropkick to a seated Cobb that noticeably scoots Cobb a few feet across the mat. Cobb's comeback is as impressive as you would want, with him doing several cool throws from positions he just happens to catch Kaimana in. I loved the tease to the Tour of the Islands and when he hits it it's epic. Such a freakish physical move. We also had a brutal callback spot where Cobb had hit his impressive standing shooting star, and went to hit it later in the match and Kaimana got his knee up right into Cobb's jaw. It looked like Sabu moonsaulting into a table leg. Cobb's head snaps back and my god it's just a sick spot. Finishing run is great as Kaimana starts decking Cobb with hard elbows (including a sick back elbow) but Cobb catches him with the Tour of the Islands. Awesome match.

6. JR Kratos vs. Dylan Drake

I wasn't looking forward to a 20 minute Dylan Drake match, but damn did this end up delivering. This was probably the best match I've seen from both guys, especially impressed by Kratos and his dedication to putting over Drake's legwork. Kratos starts things off with an awesome headlock takeover, and it's official, I'm declaring the headlock takeover the HIGHSPOT OF 2015! Luckily I'm a notary, nobody can ever question this declaration. I've never really seen Kratos go on the mat, and I really liked what I saw. I've also never seen Drake this interesting on the mat, really going right after Kratos' leg. It's usually dangerous to work over a limb so early in a match as that puts tons of pressure on somebody to sell the rest of the way, but Kratos did so with gusto. The guy looked like he had a believable quad injury here, and it set up some fun spots like Kratos missing his trademark running kick due to being too slow. Drake still takes too long to set up some things, and can be kinda clunky, and moves like a powerbomb onto his own knee just seem too indy, but the rest of his game was tighter than I've ever seen before. His elbows and kicks were great (really loved a yakuza kick to a seated Kratos), he also bumps big for all of Kratos' throws (including a big one that rolls him off his head) and leans into some rough strikes (loved Kratos' jumping knee from a clinch). His attacks to the knee were on point, the legwork looked painful, and Kratos finishing with mounted elbows worked as the elbows looked nasty. Really good match, different than I've seen Kratos work before and the best I've seen Drake.

PREMIER seems to be the (ahem) premier northern CA fed from the stuff I've seen. Everybody seems to really work up to the atmosphere as the really good guys continue to look really good, and the lesser guys really kick things up a notch. I was legitimately impressed by everybody on this show, and I can't remember a time where I've ever said that before. Looks like I gotta start making the trek to Gilroy whenever they run next. (NOTE** the above linked feed has no sound, and sometimes matches have abrupt cuts, but I would highly recommend watching the show. Really good stuff)

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Monday, June 22, 2015

MLJ: Dragon Lee vs Virus/Casas 2: Dragon Lee, Sagrado, Starman vs Okumura, Skándalo, Virus

Aired: 2014-07-19
Taped: 2014-07-15 @ Arena México
Dragon Lee, Sagrado, Starman vs Okumura, Skándalo, Virus

One thing that was important to me when I started this project was that I didn't just rush to a bunch of "great" matches, apuestas and title matches and bloody, legendary ones from anniversary shows and famous spotfests and whatever else. A year and a half ago, I just didn't have the background to fully appreciate them, but more than that, I think it's just a bad way to learn. You have no point of reference, no map point. You see a tall building before you but you have no idea how tall it is or how many other buildings are around you and you definitely have no idea why or how it became so tall. I wanted to understand the tropes and narratives and norms before jumping into the deep end.

Instead, I've looked at things in sequence, or tried to at least, given the spottiness of older lucha footage. We're lucky to have as much online now as we do. You learn a lot more about a luchador by watching what he does week in and week out than you do by just looking at the great matches, especially when he's up against a great opponent.

What this means, however, is that sometimes I end up watching bad matches. I don't plan on it. Usually, if I'm looking at some luchador, there's a good reason, some buzz or interest in him. I'm not shooting to look at middling or low-level talent to see what they do wrong and break that down. Even, in this specific case, when I'm looking at someone who has a lot of buzz but that's inexperienced and prone to error like Dragon Lee, I stacked the deck so that I'd only be looking at matches with Negro Casas or Virus in them.

This match was pretty bad. It needed more Virus. It needed a different structure, and that's not to say that the structure it had was innately bad. It was just wrong for the wrestlers in the match. I actually thought it was pretty good. They started with exchanges, teased an interference-driven beatdown, did a mini comeback so the tecnicos could take the primera, reset for more exchanges to start the segunda, finally had the rudos sort of finesse their way on top and start a beat down and take the segunda. The beat down continued into the tercera where they stumbled into a comeback, hit the dives, and finished it off with a Virus vs Sagrado pairing.

On paper, that's not too bad. It's tecnico heavy at the beginning, and pretty fitting for a second match on a Tuesday Arena Mexico card where they wouldn't want to ramp the heat up too much (it's fitting to note that the announcers were mainly talking about upcoming events like this was a Nitro undercard match). Some luchadores could pull it off too. Just not these guys.

The opening exchanges weren't great. They paired Skandalo with Dragon Lee which meant everything was in slow motion. Starman was paired with Okumura and this was fine. We didn't even really get Sagrado vs Virus though as Virus had tried to break up a submission and everything broke down from there. I will say that Dragon Lee's Spider Suplex that finished the caida looked great and I hope he uses that more than the double stomp in the corner.

The segunda was mostly exchanges and a few high spots. Even then, we didn't get Virus vs Sagrado until the end and that was just for a moment. It was all tecnico heavy which was the wrong move for these specific tecnicos. Dragon Lee, at one point, went for a rana on the outside and powerbombed himself. I'm not one to post flubs usually but this was pretty amusing.

By the time the heat finally came it was long overdue, overly goofy, and just not enough. I haven't seek Skandalo for a while so I forgot. He basically has one use in the world: groin-based offense during a beatdown. At least we got to see Sagrado sell like this:

and this heartfelt moment of Dragon Lee being confused why Virus was being so mean to him:

Poor kid.

Anyway, they rode this out into the tercera, and the comeback, if you could even call it that, came for no real reason. I guess maybe Skandalo went for one too many complicated groin based trios attack and it took too long to set up so even though they hit it, the other tecnicos were too recovered? Or something. It wasn't very narratively satisfying. They hit some dives. They took it home. Virus turned a roll up by Sagrado into a great submission and it left me wishing we had about 40% more of him in this match. Dragon Lee sure didn't show me much here, except for making me appreciate Titan more.

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Lucha Underground Episode 32: All Night Long Review

ER: This is a tough episode for me to provide much insight into, as it was one match, nothing else, and everybody is going to have very different thoughts on it. There were parts of this I loved, parts of it I did not love, parts I thought the iron man gimmick helped the match, parts where I thought the iron man concept was definitely hurting the match. So I guess the questions can be, did I like the match? Did my hour feel wasted? Overall I thought the match worked, and overall my time did not feel wasted at all.

It's kind of a tough match with a lot of different set pieces, and it drags in spots and defies logic in others, but overall it works. Mundo works so much better as a smarmy rudo, it had to be obvious to anyone who's ever watched him. And when you consider the two ways they could have worked this, I think they went the right direction. On one hand you have Mundo cheating early, building up a big lead, and seeing Puma gallantly fight back to pull it out. On the other you have Puma racking up the big lead, then Mundo cheat to come back before ultimately failing. On the former you get the champ fighting and overcoming adversity, and on the latter you would see more of the champ struggling to hang on, escaping by the skin of his teeth. I think they could have pulled both ways off, but I liked the route they took. I do think they went to Mundo cheating not too early, but too damn strong. He bent a fucking CROWBAR over Puma's head 20 minutes in. That was admittedly tough to get over, to picture Puma somehow gaining strength and energy 20 minutes after getting brained by a crowbar. A crowbar just seems like too much to come back from. In the alternate match layout, Mundo gets too desperate and hits Puma late in the match with the crowbar, then starts piling up the pinfalls as fans get worried he'll catch up to Puma's total. This way Puma doesn't have to do offense after getting knocked with a crowbar, he can more believably stall in the ropes and tie Mundo up. Now, that obviously wouldn't be as exciting, so as I said up above I'm glad they went the route they did. But I could never fully get past the crowbar shot as something you can recover from. So that's a big quibble from me, but that aside they still kept me engaged for most of 45 minutes, no small feat. I loved Mundo getting his big lead and then going on the run. Admittedly at first it struck me as odd that the match was apparently no DQ, no countout, but you still had to pin the guy in the ring. Seemed clunky at first, as guys would wander but then there was always filler time as then a guy would have to be drug back into the ring, sometimes from far away. But it made Mundo's running away more satisfying, since Puma couldn't just catch him wherever, and it made El Patron's return even greater as he got to be the one who kicked Mundo's ass back into the one spot where he could lose. Mundo's strategies were great, the table spot was fucking insane, fighting on top of the grandstands was also crazy yet overshadowed, Puma came out looking like a true champ, Mundo further established what a dick he was, and Patron had the most logical return possible, just brutalizing the guy who put him out. WWE has this obnoxious habit of a babyface getting taken out by a heel to end a program, and then the babyface never returns for revenge, just returns to a new program. Seeing Patron actually return to go after Mundo shouldn't have been shocking, but it was because of how much sense it made. Very satisfying match, one of the only iron man matches I've actually enjoyed.

PAS: I was pretty shocked at how much I enjoyed this. I had very little faith that either guy had the chops to work a match this long and have it remain interesting. I enjoyed the wrestling parts of this early, and then when they got to the garbage spots they used them in impressive and logical ways. I liked Mundo building up a big lead with the tire iron shot, it makes total sense that you are going to pin a guy a bunch of times if you dent his skull with a tire iron, and it also makes total sense to get a big lead and run away. He was also such a dick dancing with the band and talking shit on the grandstand, that table spot was nicely teased and totally lunatic. Also really enjoyed the Alberto run in, doesn't take away from Puma's victory as Mundo was being such a poor sport, and brings Alberto back in a big way. Lots of cool spots, a sensible well executed story and some big drama, about as good a match as those guys could work with those stips. Glad to see LU back after a weak couple of weeks.


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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Jack Birthrider is Trapped in a Loveless Marriage

Jack Birthrider parked his truck in the driveway of his modest but mortgaged to the hilt home. She was home. She was often home before him, so this wasn't particularly notable, but he had hoped. Hoped she would be...elsewhere. Who's to say where. Maybe she had to run out for groceries. Maybe someone was running late to their hair appointment and she offered to wait for them, at the salon. Something.

But she was home. He walked in, kicked his boots off by the door, placed his lunchbox on the dining room table - a table that was only ever used to place stuff on, like mail, his lunchbox, his keys, the nice tablecloth if her mother was coming over - but a table in the dining room. The dining room table. She was in the back and called to him, making sure it was him and not some faceless assailant. What would be the odds? She was doing laundry. Well, she was sorting laundry. Everything always seemed so stop at the sorting process. "I need to do laundry tonight. I'm out of underwear," she would say. But some of the sorted piles would sit next to the washer for days, weeks. he could bring these piles up, but that would be him acknowledging that there was something that needed to be done.

Jack Birthrider needed a walk. Fresh air. Jack Birthrider needed more than that, but that was all that he could have at that moment, so that was all he would take. One block over he saw scrawled into the sidewalk pavement "Juan y Ruby". Juan and Ruby. Juan and Ruby. It felt stupid to pine for lost young love, but Juan and Ruby went and messed up his walk. Probably just a couple of teenagers. Or a couple of misled adults. Juan was probably scrawny, weak mustache, short close hair, aloof. Ruby short, curvy, full features...with big eyes, soft her. Just like her. How long had it been? How long had it been since they even spoke. Really spoke. All of their last conversations had gone so badly. Even the ones that started off well, ended poorly. Some just started out poorly. Juan y Ruby.

Jack Birthrider thought back to a time when their conversations came easy, when neither had to think before speaking because neither had to worry about saying the wrong thing, bringing up the wrong memories, having their words misinterpreted, having 100% confidence that what the other said was never said to hurt, always said in good faith. He thought back to those times, but those times keep seeming fuzzier with every step he took.

His truck needed an oil change three weeks ago.


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Friday, June 19, 2015

MLJ: Dragon Lee vs Virus/Casas 1: Cachorro, Hechicero, Virus vs Barbaro Cavernario, Dragon Lee, Negro Casas

2014-05-23 @ Arena México
Cachorro, Hechicero, Virus vs Cavernario, Dragon Lee, Negro Casas

I enjoyed looking at some Titan matches and I thought it made sense to fill in my knowledge gap on Dragon Lee, who is probably the wrestler with the most buzz out of CMLL this year so far. I've seen very little and certainly not enough to make an argument so I thought I'd do this the way I usually do: I'd pick a couple of matches to build to and then watch everything I could related to it, even if they weren't matches directly in a build. The two logical choices are Lee's recent victory over Virus for the CMLL World Lightweight Championship and his defeat to Negro Casas in the 2015 Leyenda de Plata. Looking at any time in the last year when he encountered one or the other leads to quite a few matches but maybe he's worth the attention. I could have gone with the Kamaitachi feud instead but that's a lot less interesting to me than him up against two maestros that I really enjoy.

This trios was one of the most talked about matches of 2014. It ranked #17 here on SC, and #16 on Voices of Wrestling. OJ was cooler on it but he was the only one. It was the highlight match of last year's Busca and in that regard is a fairly topical one to start with. I'm pretty sure that most people reading this have seen it so I'm not going to go too deep. I will say that it had a very clear structure, with the initial pairings in the primera leading to a picking up of the pace and a finish, some real (and surprising) heat in the segunda and a comeback to even the falls, and then both sides going all out in the tercera.

I'll talk about what I liked a lot first. This was the mentors + final four showcase trios. Cachorro was moved from Casas' side to Virus' side, as Casas had 3 to Virus' 1 at this point. This was striking since Virus' side was the one that was going to play rudo in the match. I don't think they wanted to move Cavernario over, even though that would have made more sense as Cavernario and Casas were (already I think? developing?) stablemates and it made some sense to move Cachorro given the Panther family's rivalry with Casas. That meant that, when things turned to heat and triple team beatdowns in the segunda, Cavernario ended up playing babyface. Cachorro ended up playing rudo. I thought both of them were fun in their roles, with Cachorro being initially hesitant but eventually dickish (with just one thing I really didn't like). Cavernario was a revelation, though. I've seen him in matches against other rudos, but not any where he really had to play the good guy. As good as he is as a rudo, he has the potential to be the best "hot tag" in wrestling with the way he throws himself into his offensive flurries. I especially loved him tossing Zacarias up and down after they won the segunda. That they worked a much more traditional match than they could have meant that it had heat and meaning and resonance so that when the bombs started coming in the tercera, there was some emotional weight behind it all. Wrestling doesn't need that to be great but it sure as hell helps.

I thought the primera's opening exchanges were smartly worked. They paired the quite green Dragon Lee (more on that later) with Virus and Cachorro with Casas. Hechicero was a ringer in this, of course, and he ended up with Cavernario. The maestros led their opponents through the wringer. Their opponents performed admirably considering. There were some good early dives and Hechicero took a Hamrick bump (more on that later too). The beatdown could have gone an extra minute or two in the segunda but ultimately it was fine and when the comeback came, it was good enough that you just didn't care. The tercera was just pure excitement with some crazy bumps and dives and sequence that happened so quickly and in such quick succession that it was a huge treat. It's very understandable why people went nuts over this match.

Now, on to what I didn't like. The biggest complaint I've seen (and it's never that big) was that Dragon Lee botched some things. I think his last exchange in the finish was not so great and his code red-reversed into a powerbomb that ended the primera wasn't either. That's fine though, perfectly fine. The guy was only training for what, a year at this point? He was so young and so green. I don't think he was some sort of "best in the world" candidate like some people were claiming after the Busca, but he made a few minor missteps in a hugely complicated match. Who cares? Even a match like this is about more than just execution, much of which was good throughout the match. More important to me by far was that he held his own with Virus in the primera, albeit at a slightly slower pace than someone else might have gone in his place. What impressed me, more than the matwork, was showing a ton of intensity in a stare off at the end of their exchange. You can't teach that.

There were a couple of bits of repetition I didn't like much. Cachorro did a very admirable job as a rudo. I really enjoy Blue Panther as a rude in his earlier work so I wouldn't mind if Cachorro/The Panther ended up veering that way at some point too. He was spirited in the beatdown and played along with his partners. That said, there were two moments in the tercera where he stopped everything and tried to get the crowd riled in that Rush vs Negro Casas way (first vs Dragon Lee and second vs Cavernario). I thought the first was good but the second was diminishing returns and overkill. It happened many minutes later and the first had ended with the crazy arm drag bump over the top. They weren't really going to top that so maybe he shouldn't have tried for the riling again. The match also had two Hamrick bumps through the ropes, which felt like one too many. I get that it was the tercera that everyone loved, but I could have really lived with a couple less minutes of that and a couple more in the beatdown in the segunda just to build up the tension for the comeback. I think that would would have worked better for me.

So this was really fun, had a lot of good stuff, and personally, I thought it was a huge accomplishment, given the age and inexperience of some of the guys in the ring. I'm not sure I'm as high on it as a lot of the people who watched it though and I feel much quicker to qualify it as "great for what it was."

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ring of Honor on Destination America 6/17/15 Review

Kevin Kelly looks like current Henry Winkler.

1. Colby Corino & Adam Page vs. War Machine (Hanson & Rowe)

This again started with Whitmer graciously giving his spot to Corino, and then War Machine lacing into Corino as Page refused to tag in. I like how this has been presented so far, although I'm not totally sure *where* it's going. Corino won't be able to realistically get much offense in against any of these guys, as man is he scrawny. I do like him showing some spunk, slapping Rowe and going after Hanson right when he tagged in. Rowe's rolling tilt-a-whirl back/chest breakers into a powerbomb looked nasty, and I dug the Steve Corino/Whitmer tease in the postmatch. Still, curious where they're going, how they're gonna get there, and how long the plan is. With those questions I presented, I suppose you can refer to me as a man who is "engaged".

2. Cedric Alexander vs. Moose

A lot of this was problematic, but had some moments. Moose is still really green, and doesn't have great timing on a lot of things. He took a nice ringpost bump and threw a great clothesline, but also showed horrible instincts catching a flip dive, stumbles into place at other times. The bomb trading portion of the match looked really good, which was not what I was expecting. I also liked the screwy finish that costs Moose his first loss, if only because Cedric made the shot with the wrench look really great. It was easily his best strike of the match, making me think of only one thing: "Make it good!" RIP Dusty. I don't think Cedric is very good, so the choice to have him end the Moose streak is curious, but sometimes streaks can be more of a crutch so maybe they just wanted to unburden him with it. Look man, I don't have answers.

3. ACH & Matt Sydal vs. Tetsuya Naito & Hiroshi Tanahashi

Well hey, this was pretty good! I liked ACH more than Sydal in this, which surprised me as Sydal is a guy I like and ACH is a guy I usually do not. But now I'm thinking that's just because I've only seen ACH working long singles, and I should just watch him working more tags. Because tags make more sense for him. Naito is a guy who is...not good...but actually showed some sort of charisma while working as an invading pseudo heel here. He kept doing these weird "wide eyed" mannerisms which read like he was taunting white people. That is officially more personality I've ever seen from him. There was some clunkiness throughout this, but damn if ACH doesn't hit the awesome Aerostar flip dive, we get a cool Tanahashi German suplex with him grabbing Sydal out of the air while Sydal was doing a standing moonsault, and we got a great near fall save from Naito that conceivably could have been the 3. Ending was a little anti-climactic, but overall this was plenty decent.

I'm always a sucker for a contract signing in wrestling. I love the build to the table getting flipped over. Jay Lethal was really good with that, saying "yeah, I could flip this table over, get mad, but I'm not gonna do that." And then Briscoe made him mad and you KNOW that table got flipped the fuck over. Truth Martini makes a contract signing (or anything, really) worse, but even though nothing of note happened here, it did make me more interested in the match.

Better episode this week. I was all dewy eyed and tired after work, so I sat back in the chair and it was that satisfying kind of focus, and I dug what was presented. I'm surprised they didn't push their PPV way more, as they hammered it home during the contact signing, and a little during the Moose match, but it's wild there weren't constant commercials for it. Seems like that's a big deal, right?

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV Episode 17 Review

1. Tomoaki Honma & Yuji Nagata vs. Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto (6/21/14)

Awesome match, with a truly great Honma performance. This goes 11 minutes and is just wonderful. Honma has been having a quietly great post-deathmatch career. It's kind of surprising how little he gets mentioned because he really gets it. Here he folds a bunch of stories, character, selling and moments into 11 tidy minutes, and it's great. The stuff with he and Shibata is awesome with them stiffing the shit out of each other as they clearly try and knock each other's jaws out of alignment. Both men smack each other with total blinders on, really focused on just hitting the other really hard in the face. There's a great early moment when Honma and Nagata corner Shibata and Nagata is still hitting him in a pro wrestling kind of way, while Honma is clearly sneaking in full punches to Shibata's face, not fucking around with meager forearms. Shibata and Honma have several nice moments in this, one where Shibata punches Honma in the face as Honma just does a slow desperate collapse, and another where Shibata tries choking Honma with his boot and a test of wills begins, with Honma fighting that fucking boot and Shibata wanting nothing more than to dickishly grind that boot into Honma's chest and throat. Honma later hits a neat falling headbutt on him, and then splats temple first off a top rope attempt. Damn that looked bad. I normally do not have much use for Nagata and Goto (and Nagata's chipmunk cheek Undertaker eyeball armbar is still one of the out-and-out dumbest things in pro wrestling history), but Goto joins in the Honma shit kicking, peaking with a nasty spin kick in the corner, while Nagata contributes by hitting a nasty yakuza kick on Shibata over the guardrail. Honma gets an awesome near fall after reversing a Goto brainbuster into a small package, but eventually he is no match for Goto's goofy ass "American indy inverted DVD dropped onto his own knee" finisher. Still, awesome shit, and Honma fucking rules. Get on the bus.

PAS:Honma was awesome in this, I have really liked his new age Kikuchi act, and while there are no Jumbos and Fuchi's around to kill him, he is still really fun. Shibata is fine as a poor mans Usuda, and he lands some really killer shots. I loved the spot where Shibata twisted his wrists apart and landed a killer right hook. Goto and Nagata were very much guys in this match, but Shibata v. Honma is well worth the admission price.

2. Bad Luck Fale vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (6/21/14)

Well this was also surprisingly good. I mean, I'm as big a Nakamura fan as anybody, but Fale is a guy who doesn't ever look good during Bullet Club interference so I wasn't too excited about him in a long singles. But Nakamura was a generous and giving partner here, bumped big all over for Fale, and this worked because of that. Jeez Nakamura even did a stretcher job for him! Which is crazy. We get a pre-match sit down interview with Fale, which is one of the drier things you will ever hear. This guy showed nothing whatsoever. His tone sounded like Jimmy Snuka giving somber, remorseful testimony during his murder trial...but with better English. But damn Nakamura did a good job at wringing some interest out of the match himself. All his knees looked great, he throws my favorite knees to the stomach in wrestling. He flung himself into the Grenade, which is move that doesn't always look very good. Nakamura busts ass to make this work, and it totally did. Leans into the avalanche, gets knocked inside out on lariats, this was way better than it should have been.

After the match Karl Anderson and AJ Styles cut a pair of horrendous promos. They don't know any Japanese so just address the crowd really slowly, the way Americans think if they just talk slow and annunciate then foreigners will understand them, as if they think they were speaking to 2,000 retarded people. Both guys are microphone poison.

**NOTE: The Honma tag was awesome so we added it to our 2014 MOTY List. Link is below.


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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

MLJ: Casas vs Cota 2: The Hair Match

1994-09-23 @ Arena México
Negro Casas vs Mocho Cota [hair]

In one way or another, I've been talking about wrestling since 1998, since I was 16 or so. During that time, I bought a few of the early WWE DVD offerings (Flair, Eddy, etc). Before that, I bought a few comp tapes (MX, Rockers, Mr. Perfect, which shows where my head was at in 02-03), and maybe one or two ROH shows. I love hearing stories of people tape trading back in the 90s and the early 00s, but I was always a little detached from that side of things. In the last few years I've bought a couple of other comps (A Dangerous Alliance one for instance), and I participated in a couple of the DVDVRs 80s projects (way too few, just AWA and Lucha, which got me into this mess in the first place). I'm not exactly a big spender. In fact, one of my rules of watching wrestling now is that I don't let it get in the way of my family life, and that includes financially.

I needed this match though. It's the first time in my life I ever really sought out one specific match and dropped at least a little cash for it. I needed it for a few reasons. For starters, Negro Casas and Mocho Cota are two of my three favorite luchadores (with Satanico). To see them in a hair match was exciting. Also, the Fiera vs Negro Casas match that popped up was really good, and there was also the sense of this being lost. I'm sure some of you reading this will have seen this in years past, but no one I talked to regularly had. I get the impression that this era of CMLL is underlooked because people were more into AAA at the time. Amusingly, I did get it, and then within a week of getting it someone posted it online (as he had the same idea/needs as I had in seeing it and got it around the same time I did. It was a zeitgeist thing). I'm not linking it here, but it is on Dailymotion, and people should look for the link, if they can't find it on DM, in the midst of the Greatest Wrestler Ever discussions for Cota on which I think would be interesting to anyone who reads this site anyway.

The match itself was two great performances. It should help the legacy of both men. It hit so many of the things I really love about wrestling in general. Ultimately, though, I think it missed on the thing I care the most about in lucha apuestas matches.

Put simply, it was all Cota. The match, for one reason or another, was only one fall. It had three acts though. The first act had Cota attack Negro Casas at the start, slam his head into the outside post a number of times, and open him up. From there, he worked over the head, stomping, containing, controlling. This ended with Casas fighting back from the apron and leaping to the top rope, backflipping into the ring. He hurt his leg on the landing, and the second fall was Cota opportunistically attacking the leg, pulling off the shoe, twisting, stomping, standing on, using it as a way to open Casas off for other offense or to cut him off whenever he tried to mount any sort of comeback. Ultimately, though, Casas got a few shots in, which led to the last act, where Cota tried to put Casas away, more and more desperate as Casas started to get a few more hope spots and a few shots in. Ultimately, Cota missed a big dive and Casas was able to capitalize with a back suplex. The struggle there, with Cota banging hard on Casas' hands to break the waistlock only for Casas to keep on the attack with a few forearms to set him up was really good and showed the sort of struggle that the entire match had, even in being so one-side.

The performances were great. Cota, whose hair was massive, was an incredible jerk. He would put his hand up in victory throughout the match, would stomp or stand on Casas' leg at any point, would kick and stomp him and just be unrelenting. He was a twisted, opportunistic goblin, a malignant spirit, a scoundrel. In the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, he'd be the Ugly. His frustrated or desperate or downright cruel reactions to Casas trying to come back were great.

Casas put in one of the most sympathetic performances I've ever seen in lucha. He oscillated from desperate and defiant to pained to almost comatose with his body language and glazed eyes. He sold throughout the match and every shot he got in on Cota was earned. He had to climb a mountain for every moment of hope, but in climbing so hard and so high, he never had the strength to capitalize; Cota would take his leg right out again. Probably his biggest offensive move in the match, before the finish, was a desperate mule kick that he snuck in. Afterwards, he looked to the crowd and stuck out his tongue in valiant rebellion, a hint of the trickster god he'd morph into in his old age.

Those performances are why the match was ultimately unsatisfying to me. Cota was so nefarious and craven. Casas was so defiant and brave. They sold the meaning to everything in the match, from the legwork to Cota's Gory specials back into the turnbuckle, to his pokey punches in the corner, to Casas' doomed taptia towards the end. I wanted to see Casas unload on Cota. He toughed out the assault and scored a victory. Cota lost his hair and at least to me, was vanquished as someone on Casas' level. But I wanted to see Casas pound him. I wanted to see him get an immediate, violent revenge and it just wasn't there.

What was there instead, however, was very good, and you got the sense that the crowd was satisfied and that Casas was satisfied, even if we didn't get to see the actual hair cut. I just thought Cota deserved more violent comeuppance and I thought that Casas deserved the chance to give it to him. A match well worth watching though. I don't regret going out of my way for it.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Lucha Underground Episode 31: The Desolation of Drago Review

1. Blue Demon Jr. vs. Chavo Guerrerro

PAS: The rematch 31 weeks in the making. Man I guess I get that Demon Jr. is iconic and all, but he is poopy, and I am bummed he is back. Listless nothing brawl from Demon in a blue suit and Chavo. Thought Chavo looked crisp and like his alliance with the Crew but this was pretty meaningless.

ER: Just think where we all were in life 31 weeks ago. I was a young, virile 33 year old, head full of dreams. Now I'm a worn out zombie of a 34 year old, victim to the inevitable march of Time. I would love to hear HHH's Tough Enough take on Blue Demon's back bumps. Replacing B-Boy with Chavo is a major upgrade for The Crew so that's a good thing. But yeah this wasn't much.

2. Disciples of Death vs. Pimpinela Escarlata, Mascarita Sagrada & Bengala

PAS: Kind of strange to debut your new creepy monster tag team against a comedy trio. I love Pimpi, but demons from the underworld probably shouldn't have to sell fear of his taint. Bengala is apparently Ricky Marvin, and that dude has gotten tubby. Nothing I love more then a tubby highflyer and he hit some cool stuff. I am not sure who is under the Disciples masks, but I was pretty unimpressed, cool look and some cool mannerisms, but not much in the ring.

ER: I couldn't get a feel for any of the Disciples, but none of them looked very good doing the limited things they did. Their formula appeared to be weak stomp -> weak clubbing forearm -> tilt your head to the side -> take a long time to set up your two triple team moves. I do like Ricky Marvin coming in, and am also amused at Phil fat shaming him when he looks maybe 10 lb. heavier than when I last saw him. That Phil can be a real catty bitch. Liked Marvin's tornillo, liked Pimpi flying crotch first into a fan, but overall this wasn't good.

ER: "Johnny, you gave me a black eye. Who cares? I look great in sunglasses." Dario is awesome. But then Dario agrees to put Mundo in a 45 minutes match, and suddenly I don't find him as awesome.

3. Drago vs. King Cuerno vs. Hernandez vs. Cage

PAS: Drago gets in the match because all four guys had previously fought Puma, but because was banned he had to put up his mask. Awesome more impromptu mask matches, one of my least favorite things about this fed. This was a fun indy four-way which is a match type this fed does well. All four guys hit very cool dives, although it was pretty ominous that Cuerno was calling out Killshot, I was hoping he was Matanza food not a guy getting a high profile singles feud. Seemed to be setting up Cage v. Cuerno, but they never really faced off. For a guy putting up his mask, never got a huge amount of urgency from Drago.

ER: Awesome new gear on Drago, love the bat wings. And not only did they inform the TV viewer of the mask match in an earlier vignette, it appears like they announced it to the live crowd literally right before the bell. That is just so so stupid. Also, I was actually bummed when Drago got banished from the fed. I figured he was actually gone for good, or at minimum several months. But here we are like 5 weeks later and I haven't even had the chance to miss him. That's just lazy and pointless writing, and you can only play loose with stipulations so many times before a fanbase doesn't care. Right now there's a nice little bubble of people who are way into this fed, best to not squander that. Vampiro also points out how scaly Drago is looking, and I'm now thinking they should have saved this gimmick for a young flyer with psoriasis. I mean that is a skin condition that practically looks identical to the name of a famous luchador anyway. Starting to feel like a missed opportunity to bring some charity awareness to it. But I liked the match, I think just about every 4 way the fed has put on has been good. Couple rough moments like Drago and Hernandez not really catching Cage on a moonsault to the floor (though that did inadvertently create a good reason for Cage to be on the floor during the pinfall), and of course Cuerno takes the loss because fuck that guy apparently. Still, good action, and their 4 ways never overstay their welcome and that's a very important and often overlooked thing with this kind of match. I liked little moments like Drago going for a double clothesline and not budging Hernandez/Cage, dug Cuerno's right hands, Cage's surprisingly effective moonsault, and both men know how to work well in a multi man, without everybody getting in everybody's way.

PAS: This fed constantly makes the same weird booking mistake, running the same kind of thing on one show in multiple different ways, diluting the impact. We have had shows where multiple guys were breaking up with their valets, multiple shows where Puma faces a muscled up monster on the same show that Fenix faces a muscled up monster, now we have a show built around the return of the exiled Drago on the same show with the return of the exiled Blue Demon Jr., the exiled Chavo Guerrero Jr., the exiled Mascarita Sagrada and the exiled Escarlata Pimpinela, basically every wrestler who has been sent away from the temple all came back on the same show. It makes no basic storytelling sense.

PAS: This was another lackluster show, and I don't have high hopes for an hour of Johnny Mundo next week

ER: I think the last match at least made this episode better than Episode 30 (which was one of the worst of the series), but next week's iron man match with Mundo has me not expecting much. I mean, how many good iron matches have even happened in wrestling history? Rude/Steamboat is easily the best. Does Rock/HHH hold up? So right there we have one, maybe two good iron man matches, ever. That doesn't give very good odds for next week. And with that, Catrina's tits bring us to episode's end.


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MLJ: Casas vs Cota 1: Mocho Cota & Silver King vs El Dandy & Negro Casas [Relevos Increíbles]

1994-03-18 @ Arena México
Mocho Cota & Silver King vs El Dandy & Negro Casas [Relevos Increíbles]

Brief two match interlude here before I shift gears. I may have gone and obtained an episode of CMLL TV from 1994 in order to watch the Mocho Cota vs Negro Casas hair vs hair match. It was just really striking to me that a lot of the people I talk to hadn't seen it. Negro Casas is one of my favorite wrestlers, but Cota is unique and special in his own way. He's unconventional and so over the top. I'd liken him to Fuerza Guerrera more than anyone else, maybe? But he's more unrelenting and pesky, especially in his early 90s comeback. If modern day Casas is some sort of trickster god, early 90s Cota was a malignant goblin. I've been impressed with how over the top and larger than life he's been in the 93-94 matches I've seen him in and I just had to see what he and Casas could do, given time and stakes.

It was attached to the 61st Anniversary, a week or two before, in what may have been an attempt to run multiple Anniversary shows. We don't have a lot of the matches that lead up to the actual hair match online but this revelos incriebles was early on. I looked at some old Observers and Meltzer said this started back on 3/4/94 and apparently they had a singles match the week after this one that drew 8000 at a time they were normally drawing 1000 on the Friday night shows. There was some thought that they were going to blow things off with a hair match in April but apparently they wound things down and heated them back up as the year went on. It didn't completely work as the eventual hair vs hair match apparently only drew 4000. Meltzer claimed that Cota had a bad back injury around this time and it affected his work but I'm going to pin that on the world not ready to yet appreciate what Cota brought to the table that may not have been necessarily athletic but more character based.

So this was Silver King and Cota vs Dandy and Casas. Silver King and Dandy were tecnicos. I've seen way too little Silver King, by the way, and he's someone I mean to do a lot with at some point. I have no idea HOW Cota turned on Casas but it must have been heated since Casas went after him right from the get go. King and Dandy seemed fairly bemused to be stuck in the middle of this.

And it was a lot of fun. I'm not sure I'd call it great or even good, but it was effective and fun. Cota was an opportunistic lout. He could hold his own, but in equal combat with Casas, he'd never win. He'd be the first to go to a kick or a cheapshot. He'd complain and gripe and rudo it up. He'd ambush Casas at any chance he had and what he actually would do wouldn't be smooth but it would be canny. It was after an ambush towards the end of the primera that he was able to pick up Casas in a fireman's carry and just dump him out:

Almost immediately thereafter he pulled the rope down to make Dandy go flying (he had been in an exchange with Silver King), which give his side the last bit of advantage to pick up the fall.

Casas fired back at the start of the segunda with a potential foul. The refs' reaction and Casas' reaction to that was pretty funny, and he followed it by leading him into the corner, as if protecting him, and then peppering in a great little elbow:

Things were pretty much broken down by this point with the partners breaking up any sort of advantage. Eventually Cota tried to hold Casas for a Silver King missile dropkick but miscommunication ruled. That let Dandy and Casas dropkick their opponents out and they held the ring. Cota responded by running to the back and he returned with a rare foreign object (knuckle dusters ironically enough). He clocked Dandy but Casas got it from him and fought back with it. The refs saw that and Cota got the DQ win. I've seen objects like that so little in CMLL that it does mean something when they're used. Casas didn't take the loss lightly and beat Cota up for the next few minutes any chance he could and I could see why this drew well the next week.

I wouldn't call it a necessarily good match but Silver King and Dandy worked well together for the bit we got to see them and it was all definitely fun. Cota and Casas, being two of the greatest characters I've ever seen, certainly had good chemistry with one another.

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

WWE Money in the Bank 2015 Live Blog

We've done most of these, and I got some time before watching the Silicon Valley/Veep season finales, so let's do this until I get bored.

1. Wade Barrett vs. R-Truth

ER: Seems like almost anybody who ends up winning KOTR, and then starts dressing like a king, always ends up just completely dead as a character in mere weeks. I think King Regal was the only one I actually enjoyed. I think he's the only one who played it with the proper gravitas. I mean just look at how far this crown has gotten him! He has the honor of appearing on the kickoff show of arguably the 8th most important WWE PPV of the year! Feuding over a crown feels not quite as important as feuding over a really nice parking space, or an upgrade to a first class plane ticket. Those feel like things that the crowd would get more invested in. I can't imagine people caring about a fake crown, but I can see people thinking "Man, more leg room would probably be sweet on a long flight".  That's already getting me interested. But this match felt exactly like a match that took place on a kickoff show. Short match with a commercial break in the middle, literally nothing of note happens. I mean I *just* watched this thing, and remember nothing about it. Great start to the night!

2. Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Randy Orton vs. Neville vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kane vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns

ER: I wish they had Cena and Owens in this match. Seems like that would have more interesting story potential than just immediately rematching them 2 weeks later. This whole briefcase gimmick does nothing for me anymore. It's silly to put it on a face as it makes them look like opportunistic weenies if they cash it in while a guy is weak, but makes them look stupid if they don't. And it's beyond played out to use it as a device to get over a heel. Early on and they might have set the record for "earliest time 5 guys all lie around outside the ring selling death so 2 guys can fight easily inside the ring". Seems like we hit that around the 3 minute mark, just everybody lying around the ring as if they had been through a war. Some people had hardly even taken a bump at that point! This whole thing is one giant mess of 5 people death selling and two people slow climbing. Kofi at one point was selling on the floor for 7 minutes! Cool he put over a nasty powerbomb, but jesus get the doctors after minute #2! Just not enough logical ways to put a guy out of commission for that long. Michael Cole screaming "WILL THIS BE THE BEGINNING OF THE NEVILLE ERA!?!?" made me laugh. "The Neville Era". That sounds so fucking stupid. Eventually Sheamus shows that HE is the greatest climber of them all!! Man this was bad. A couple of good spots, liked Orton pulling Neville off the ladder into an RKO, Kofi getting tossed onto the group looked good, but the amount of selling on the floor was absurd when you think of what moves each individual actually took in the match. Cole is BAFFLED after the match, cannot think of ANY reason why Bray Wyatt would attack Roman Reigns. Yeah, it's a total mystery. These guys have worked together for so long, after all.

3. Nikki Bella vs. Paige

ER: This is pretty easily the best match of the night so far. Paige appears to be working over Nikki's tits as I've seen more than one back elbow straight to a boob. Also dug Paige's weird over the shoulder single leg takedown out of the corner. Nikki has fun offense which she's actually good at executing, and I liked some of the knees and stomps in this. Brie tossing out her boob padding was amusing, and Nikki's KO blow on Paige looked great. Clearly a much more interesting and better laid out match than the MITB match. Who the hell is even laying out their gimmick matches now? Between that ladder match and all the horrible Chamber matches, somebody is badly fucking up.

4. Big Show vs. Ryback

ER: Fairly fun match until that completely bankrupt finish. Miz is one of the most fast forwardable guys in wrestling. I'm surprised he's still wrestling after those concussion years ago, as ever since he came back from those he has never been able to take offense, especially strikes. He holds his arms out extended almost completely whenever taking anything to the head or face.

5. Kevin Owens vs. John Cena

ER: After Elimination Chamber, Phil talked about how Cena may have become the best indy dream match worker, and after this match I'm with him. It's too much fun seeing Cena pull out all sorts of new offense in his late 30s, and work reversal heavy indy matches. It's also kind of crazy just how much offense they're letting Owens do. I mean they have made every single wrestler reel in their arsenal, and Owens is wrestling almost exactly the same as he would in PWG. I can't totally wrap my brain around it. Has their been any worker of the last decade who they have changed LESS? This rematch is a little overly long, but if you're working a PWG tribute match than obviously you HAVE to go too long. That is of utmost importance. It did get a bit move-tradey which isn't my favorite, but it was balanced out by seeing Cena break out a Code Red and a nice rana and take shit like rotating superplexes and a powerbomb into the apron. Steen stealing all of Cena's offense and doing it better was a nice touch; loved his fist drop. Steen also did a good job covering for the potential Code Red blunder, acting like he was attempting to reverse it and do EZ Money's old Money Bag finisher. This was all super fun but I will repeat that I wish these two would have been in the MITB match instead, so we wouldn't have Cena getting his win back just two weeks later.  At least Steen got to be a total shithead postmatch, people will remember him killing Cena after more than they'll remember his loss.

6. Xavier Woods & Big E vs. Prime Time Players

ER: Good tag and nice to see PTP get the belts. Hopefully they get to hang onto them for awhile. Young played FIP most of the match and Titus is a great hot tag guy. Great clothesline over the top, great backbreaker followed by tossing Woods aside, nice Pounce. This guy has major star potential and it seems like they may be realizing that. Big E takes a nice missed shoulder into the post, and then breaks out a CRAZY suicide dive/spear while Young was on the apron. Also loved Big E locking on an abdominal stretch while slapping the New Day Rocks chant on Young's ribs. Nice little touch. Nice tag match.

7. Ladder Match: Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins

ER: Man I really dug this, my favorite singles match between these two. I mean jeez I'm not sure any match needs 35 minutes. I wonder what was the last WWE singles match that went 35. Still this was plenty brutal and there were some just lunatic spots, the kind of things you expect to see when you go to an indy show that takes place behind a bar with untrained workers. I loved how most of this wasn't a climbing contest like that shitfest of a MITB match. Instead it was more of a fight that used ladders as weapons, and only for climbing when necessary. Focusing on the asskicking instead of the climbing is a simple but HUGE difference. Ambrose was great at getting his knee worked over. I don't recall the last time I bought into a figure four that much, I bought into the pain, and Rollins was killer with his "How ya gonna climb the ladder, Dean!? How ya gonna climb!?" The knee couldn't be sold the WHOLE time but I thought he was good at going back to it. Rollins took some manly shots, getting annihilated with a clothesline off the top rope, getting knocked ass over elbow off the rebound lariat (which was nicely countered a couple times). All of the nasty bumps onto ladders, over announce tables, into the barricades, it was nutty fucking stuff. The big stuff looked great, the small stuff like Ambrose's shots to the ribs and Rollin's shit talk all worked, and I actually enjoyed the shitty finish. Not sure where this leaves Ambrose though.

Overall a good show. The actual gimmick match the PPV is named for was atrocious, but everything else was inoffensive at worst, all the way up to really good. So that's not a horrible night of wrestling right there.

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

APW 6/12/15 War at the Shore Road Report

APW has been running quarterly shows at a community center up the hill from the Cow Palace, and they've been getting some good, lively crowds with tons of kids. We've been to a few of them (maybe all of them?) and figured hey, why break the streak?

1. Truex vs. John Redito

This was a "dark match" so it was kept to about 3 minutes. Truex is a real great slime, skinny with long greasy hair and a real punchable face. The kind of guy who should not ever work face. Redito is a short chubby Filipino guy who did not look very good. Truex had a couple nice suplexes, but this wasn't much.

2. Reno Scum & Nicole Savoy vs. Joey Ryan, Candice LeRae & Ryan McQueen

This match was a blast and probably the best of the night. Scum were supposed to team with Christina Von Eerie but for reasons not given she was replaced by Savoy, which only helped the match. CVE is not good, and Savoy looks better every time I see her. Ryan and LeRae have their schtick down (dig their matching gear and Joey's white members only jacket), and it works. McQueen was pretty bland. Savoy gets to be the star of the match which I was not expecting, but she totally worked up to it and looked awesome. She has long legs and throws big high kicks, decking LeRae at one point (who did a nice falling tree bump) and throwing nice strikes all around. This all builds to a triple dive into the entranceway, with  Savoy's being particularly wild as she flips completely over (think those wild old Shocker dives). We get an absurd tower spot with McQueen taking the worst of it and doing some great Terry Funk fish flops, and we get tons of suplexes all around. LeRae throws her ball grab suplex to Lester, Savoy dumps LeRae on her head with a nasty German, Joey Ryan does a sleazy suplex on Savoy while grabbing her boobs, everybody gets left in a pile. Fun match, went the right amount of time, and Savoy is somebody I want to see more.

3. Pistolero vs. "Out of Control" Matt Carlos

Ahhhh, one of my least favorite gimmicks in wrestling. Matt Carlos - aside from making the choice to devote his life to professional wrestling - is oftentimes the most in control wrestler on a card. He has a normal haircut, he has no tattoos, probably drives a fairly fuel efficient car, has likely never shared needles when doing intravenous drugs, has likely never committed arson, and wrestles just about the most boring indy style you can imagine. You can call Matt Carlos plenty of things, but "Out of Control" is really not one of them. Carlos has a bunch of moves that need to be set up by kicking a guy in the stomach, and not only do the kicks to the stomach look bad, but the moves aren't too inspired either. Pistolero throws a couple of decent punches, plants himself nicely on a DDT, and has hair and facial expressions that are clearly more out of control than "Out of Control" Matt Carlos, and man this stunk. It all built to what was supposed to be a big spot, which was Pistolero giving Carlos a Russian leg sweep into the ring post, with Pistolero in ring and Carlos on the apron, but Carlos missed the post completely and just kinda fell to the floor, and Pistolero ended up looking like the one taking the move. Not good.

4. Timothy Thatcher vs. "The Butcher" Tyler Bateman

Hmmmm, maybe *this* was the best match of the night. Tough call. The 6 man was a fun spotfest, these guys went out working a body part based mat match. Personal preferences I suppose, but both hit the right marks. I had never seen Bateman before, and he's...well I don't quite get what he is. He's called the Butcher, and I suppose he vaguely sorta somewhat looks like Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of NY (he has the quirky handlebar mustache at least), but then has a long ponytail, wore weird capri leopard print tights (I thought there was a pro wrestling rule that only islanders can wear capri tights...) that had a cartoon bunny with a handlebar mustache. But he doesn't really act quirky or odd. I just don't see how the whole package fits together. The match itself was just 9 or 10 minutes, but everything was paced nicely so that it didn't feel too short. All the opening mat stuff was good, as you'd expect from a Thatcher match, with Thatcher locking in some nasty wrenched in cravates, and then Thatcher began working over Bateman's right hand. Thatcher is a guy who always has compelling hand work, but it doesn't always factor in to anything later, so it was awesome when Bateman broke free of Thatcher's mat stuff, then belted him real good, only to have to shake out and hold his fist, which gave Thatcher time to belt him back. Bateman abandoned the mat game and started throwing strikes at Thatcher, hitting him with a nice straight kick that allowed Thatcher to do his really great sell where he drops to his butt. Thatcher lures him back into exchanging elbows, but it's a trap to set up Thatcher's great out of nowhere Fujiwara arm bar for the win. This was a pretty basic Thatcher match but that will always be a good thing, and Bateman's selling added to things. So basically the two matches I was hoping would pay off on the card, have paid off. So I'm a happy camper.

5. Idris Jackson & "The Mad Tongan" Sione Finau vs. Buddy Royal & Mikko Maestro-Shapiro

Well this was a waste of everybody's time. Short match with not much happening anyway, and then it ends when Finau turns on Jackson. Finau/Jackson have been teaming for awhile, but they haven't teamed much at the Bayshore shows, and most of the people at these shows only go to the Bayshore shows. So the break-up didn't really mean much to the majority of the crowd. As far as bright spots, Donovan Troi is always an amusing heel manager, usually more entertaining than the guys he manages. And I had never seen Mikko before and he's a great entitled white douche, wearing a wrestling singlet that says "Varsity", and he has this obnoxious fluffy white hair and rosy cheeks. You know he'd have an awful flesh beard if he could grow one. Couldn't get much of a feel for him as a worker, but his douche presence was high end.

6. Willie Mack vs. MVP

The battle of secondary TV wrestling promotions!! Slow-paced but smartly worked match. It's nice seeing MVP not dogging it post-WWE. The guy has worked hard in TNA and in the indies, just nice to see. He and Mack worked pretty stiff, with MVP at first laughing him off and Mack laying in some insanely loud chops, with MVP responding nicely with some hard forearms to the jaw. They took it to the floor with MVP hitting a pescado and then a mean yakuza kick over the ring barrier. Back in and Mack hits a couple of his impactful and beautiful dropkicks, but misses a huuuuuge frog splash, really committing to that miss and doing a big belly flop. Finish could have been better as MVP hits a couple Plays of the Day that Mack kicks out of, which is good as that really doesn't seem like a viable 2015 finisher. But then MVP kinda whiffs on the Drive-By and it gets the win anyway. It seems like it would be easy to work out a secondary finish ahead of time, something like "hey if my kick doesn't land I'll yell something like ONE MORE and do it again". Something like that wouldn't even look like a re-do, it would look like somebody putting an exclamation on the finish. MVP would look better as the kick would land better, and Mack would look better for looking like it took two of them to put him down. It's surprising that more guys don't work out audibles like that ahead of time.

7. Bobby Hart vs. Virgil Flynn

Had higher hopes for this one as I like both guys, but it barely goes 4 minutes. Virgil hits a nice SUWA pump dropkick that Hart bumps kind of recklessly into the corner, also hits a wild standing corkscrew senton off the top, and a stiff cannonball senton. But Hart kinda just brushes him off and crushes him for the clean win. Would have liked to see more from Hart as this was kinda worked like Virgil getting his highlights before Hart just decided it was time to go home.

8. Marcus Lewis vs. Roberto Rodriguez

Well this was really fun! It's possible RR was not using that name, but I missed what name he's using on the indies now. This was another match that went just the right amount of time. Rodriguez gave Lewis a lot here: leaned into a big shoulderblock, and admirably bounced his face off the mat taking a  rana while on his knees. Rodriguez gets a nice fast snap suplex, but really Lewis took most of the match with some pretty awesome stuff: big dive to the floor, and then an insane reverse rana that RR takes like a complete lunatic. I mean RR just planted himself vertically and stayed that way for a split second. It looked disgusting and was easily the spot of the night. Lewis hits the 450 and that's that. Nice little showing from both guys. Damn that rana was gross.

9. "Mr. Athletic" Jeff Cobb vs. JR Kratos

Was really excited for this one, and it delivered. Both guys are meaty tough guys so seeing them slam into each other is always fun. Cobb has freakish Backlund strength so seeing him do a one arm vertical suplex to a guy as thick as Kratos is always eye popping. Cobb has added a nasty headbutt into his arsenal and it always adds with a gross smack. Both guys throw some rough shots to the other's jaw, Cobb ends up laid up over the bottom rope and Kratos hits a great running knee on the floor (think Roman Reigns' dropkick but as a nasty jumping knee), and later does his nice running dropkick in the ring. Cobb didn't do as much flying as he normally does and this was worked more like a slugfest which is fine with two big guys. Finish kind of fell flat. On paper it wasn't a bad idea, it was a KO stoppage with Kratos beating Cobb unconscious. But their ring placement could not have been worse. The way the crowd is situated is three sides of the ring have people on them, with the entranceway taking up all of the 4th side (and the most seats being the side opposite entrance). Well the did the mounted punches on the side of the ring with no fans, meaning Kratos' back was to 60+% of the crowd and you couldn't see any of the shots landing. So not only did anybody see the finish coming, but most people literally couldn't see how why the shots would be devastating enough to KO Cobb. The idea doesn't sound bad on paper, but it wasn't executed great.

10. Jinxx, Jeckles, Dylan Drake, Jody Kristofferson & Will Cuevas  vs. KMJ, Damien Grundy, Will Rood, The Almighty Sheik & Boyce LeGrande

Well this was a giant mess. This was billed as Team APW (that first team up there) vs. The Animal Farm. But the match structure was pointlessly absurd. Instead of just doing a 10 man tag, it was War Games rules, where a new person would come in every minute, but eliminations could happen at any time, and you could get eliminated by getting thrown over the top rope as well as pinned. It was also No DQ, but you couldn't pin the guy outside the ring. So basically not too long into this you just had guys wandering around the ring hitting each other, but to eliminate them they always had to find a way to implausibly make their way back to the ring. It was billed as a team based match, but there was minimal semblance of teamwork throughout and it came off WAY more like an every man for himself match. Since there was no sort of flow whatsoever to this, and parts really dragged, I'll just hit a few notes on certain guys: standouts in the match were Will Rood and amazingly, The Sheik. I've never seen Sheik look good in any match, but a no DQ match where he can wander around and hit people with shit seems to be an environment he thrives in. He showed a lot of personality and came across great running through the crowd and hitting people with chairs and trashcans. Rood had some nice stuff too, including a molar rattling clothesline. Kristofferson showed some fire and got a surprisingly huge reaction. I had no idea he was so popular. He kinda looks like Bison Smith and acts like kind of a reckless asskicker, but needs to tighten up his strikes a lot more. It would be one thing if they looked dangerous, but they just sort of look not good. Jinxx hit a nice dive and a massive corner dropkick, and seems to be improving. I think he hasn't been wrestling very long. A bunch of his stuff still looks bad, but he's looked better each time I've seen him. Dylan Drake is the most forgettable wrestler ever. I have seen him live at minimum 10 times, and my friends and I always marvel how we never remember a single thing he did in his matches. If he was really horrible we'd remember that, and if he was actively good we'd remember that. But he's just an instant distant memory. Amusing anecdote: Our friend Brian joined us this time, and he is not in on our Dylan Drake "most forgettable wrestler" joke. But he's definitely seen him live several times before. So when Brian asked "Hey who is this guy? Is he new?" we all burst out laughing and poor Brian thought we were laughing at him, but we were just tickled he helped prove our point. The best thing about Drake is his robe, and he didn't even wear his robe tonight. He has this really awful full back piece tattoo that just looks like colorful spin art, and it seems to get bigger every time we see him. It is a tattoo completely devoid of interest, creativity, personality, etc. It is a tattoo somebody gets if they have no idea what to get a tattoo of...except they keep adding to it and adding to it, for reasons they possibly don't know. They're driven to add to this shapeless splattery mess of a tattoo, it is beyond their control. What is driving me to keep making this bigger!? It is slowly taking over my body, slowly spreading to my lower back. Soon it will creep around to my stomach and onto my arms. What could be happening to me!? What am I infected with!? Why does my back now look like a blurry polaroid of a sunset reflected in a murky lake!?!? Dylan Drake threw surprisingly nice mounted punches. The end.

Show went on way too long. Ten matches is just wayyyyyyy too much wrestling. I was yawning by the end and it wasn't even that late. It's just too much and we really don't need to find a way to get *34* wrestlers on one card. THIRTY FOUR!! That's far too many wrestlers to shoehorn into matches. There ended up being a lot of dead weight, and it distracted from some of the very fun matches. A tight 6 or 7 match card would be best for everybody. And 10 matches is WAY too many when you still plan on having a 30 minute intermission. Also, shows at Bayshore have been $10 in advance, and this show was $15. Maybe that's because they had some names like MVP on the card, or maybe it's because they've been drawing well there so why not try and make some extra scratch. I get it, smart move. If you sell 85% less tickets than before, you're still making more money since you're charging more. Why not play around with the price point a bit. Plus they only run every 3 months so $5 extra wouldn't quite be enough to make me skip it or not. If a card looks good then I'm game. So overall it was a fun night, but also had potential to be better than it ended up being. But a fun show is a fun show, and my time didn't feel wasted. That's a win.

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