Segunda Caida

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

2016 Ongoing MOTY List: Terry v. Wotan

1. Black Terry v. Wotan Chilanga Mask 8/21

PAS: Necro Butcher has pretty much disappeared over the last couple of years, and with Nick Gage back in jail there really hasn't been that kind of unhinged bloody slightly dangerous brawler around anymore. Enter in the sixty-three year old Black Terry who is the Necro we have been looking for. Terry has been having a hell of a year bleeding and brawling through a bunch of tiny gyms across Mexico, this weekend he even no showed an Arena Mexico event so he could bleed all over the rocks and dirt at Coliseo Coacalco. Wotan is a DTU guy and is perfectly willing to smash his forehead violently into Terry's he also had a pretty nice tope, and took a hard backdrop on the ground. Terry was a machine in this, hitting backfists, right hands, coconut headbuts. There was one hinky spot where Terry had to hold a chair on top of himself so Wotan could dropkick him, but otherwise everything was pretty flawless. By the end of the match both guys are rolling around in gravel and chairs punching each other in their bloody heads. Gritty violent and awesome.

ER: Ummmm. What. The hell. I have no idea who Wotan is, and I have no idea why he hates Terry but brother did I buy it. What the hell. This is easily one of the most violent wrestling matches I have ever seen. And the violence just keeps ramping up until I was just kind of staring at my computer screen with my jaw slack. It starts like a normal, expectedly violent Black Terry match. You've seen this backyard flea market before, you've seen these nasty headbutts, and then Wotan starts bringing out the nasty chairshots. He blasts Terry with a couple awful ones, really wings a chair at Terry's face.  This whole time the chops from both men are landing harder, super loud, the short punches are getting meaner, the simple kicks to the stomach are landing with a crack, Terry is throwing pointed knees right at Wotan's face, and then more chairs. Nasty shots. Terry holding a chair may be somewhat suspect, but that dropkick Wotan lands through the chair makes you start wondering if Terry is going to come up headless. And that's when Wotan just holds a chair in front of a kneeling Terry's head and punts it. HARD. Holy shit. If I didn't see on the match timer how long it was, I would have thought it was over right then, because god damn that kick. But Terry is crazy (seriously, Terry must be crazy) and he fights and he comes back mean and soon things spill out to the floor, back to where they started, and that's when things jump up to a level I couldn't believe. Wotan appears to be running fast away from Terry, Terry chasing, and then Terry comes around a corner just in time for Wotan to throw a chair HARD right into his face. Wotan hits a great tope and Terry goes sprawling into dirt and chairs and people. Both men are bleeding and dirty and bruised and cut. Wotan takes an insane backdrop bump into dirt and rocks. And then these men beat each other more violently than almost anything you've seen in wrestling. Literally fighting on the sharpest most annoying rocks, rolling through chairs, cutting up their bodies, punching each other over and over and over while women yell and people look on almost horrified. Terry grabs a beer bottle and bashes Wotan in the face with it a couple times. As Terry sat their beating Wotan's face - blocked by the camera - I was thinking that this video might become Exhibit A soon after. Match gets thrown out, both men stagger back up and fall around, fans want more, and yeah, this was insane. I genuinely don't know what it would take for another match to "out-violent" this one.


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WWE Cruiserweight Classic 8/24/16

1. Rich Swann vs. Lince Dorado

ER: Hey! This was awful! This felt like 8 minutes of two guys doing wind sprints. I hardly remembered any of the moves that happened, just felt like two guys running around, back and forth, occasionally slapping a leg and doing something that approximated hitting the other. Lince pulls out of every strike and every impact, like he's almost afraid of touching Swann. Their punchy slappy exchange was just bad. It looked like the body movements of a competitive Olympic table tennis match. It did not look like two men HAVING A WAR or whatever hack spot they were going for. "This is their version of Frye/Takayama" screamed Mauro. Yes. Their version is the shittiest possible version. Very little of this landed with me. I couldn't wait for it to stop.

PAS: I thought this was fineish. Nothing amazing, but I didn't have the vitriol that Eric had for this match. It was an indy juniors spotfest, and didn't last forever, which is the normal sin for this kind of match. Some stuff looked awful, like their Frye tribute, but the double jump kick was really stigg and I liked the reverse rana by Dorado. Swann's phoenix splash was nasty looking, usually dives with that many rotations land soft, Swann landed hard.

2. Drew Gulak vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

ER: I liked this much much more. I was bummed that Gulak didn't advance but didn't think he had much chance to. I am happy that he didn't get dominated, and was satisfied that the ending was Sabre catching him with an almost flash bridging pin. The opening standing grapple stuff was some of my favorite stuff in the whole tournament so far, the way they would work around each other grabbing at arms and wrists and bending until their leverage point was up, allowing the other to flip the switch. I loved Gulak's aggression, slamming him into ropes, jumping off the bottom rope with stomps, and I loved Sabre working from more of a counter point of view. A lot of people have problems when he just requires people to stand still and take a move, and I agree his stuff works best when he uses someone's momentum against them, like when Gulak went for his awesome flying clothesline and Sabre reversed it into a Fujiwara. And I love when Gulak counters counters, like when Sabre blocked a sunset flip so Gulak shifted his momentum back to catch him. The slap and kick exchange is getting weird and bitter criticism but I liked it. I liked that the timing was off and a third of the strikes didn't land, because the shit that landed landed with a crack, with both guys thrown off and letting limbs fly. I'll take that any day of the week over your elbow-my elbow double jack off fist pump exchanges.

PAS: This was really good, it was very counter wrestling based but all of the counters were very aggressive and it never felt like a do si do. The early mat scrambling was awesome, and I loved the structure of the match with Gulak always moving forward and Sabre looking for openings in his aggression. It is exactly the way the match should be worked, ZSJ looked silly bulldozing his opponent in round one, he is pretty great however as an overmatched guy who can capitalize on mistakes. I also liked the slap exchange, of course Sabre's slaps aren't great, he is supposed to be a guy outmatched in a slugfest, and when he got suckered into one he got cracked, certainly that last Gulak slap was very nasty. Honestly one of my favorite Sabre matches ever, this is a good match structure for him, and it works way better in a 10 minute match then a 25 minute EVOLVE main event where he has to take a long beating and kick out of a bunch.

3. TJ Perkins vs. Johnny Gargano

ER: For two quick counter indy moves matches on one show, I at least enjoyed most of this one, but these two are better at what they do than Dorado and Swann. TJP winning was a legit surprise for me, as rightly or wrongly I had Gargano pegged as a finalist. Gargano came in selling the leg and did a mostly admirable job with it, allowing for a few moments of convenient healing, and there were a couple of moments where either man's crack timing was off a hair, leaving one man standing still waiting to take something; but for fast paced your signature moves counter my signature moves wrestling, this was fun junk food. TJP is super slippery and watching him fire on all cylinders, slipping in and out of ropes, is fun. The pins were locked on tight and looked incredibly tough to kick out of, the lawn dart spot is just freaking crazy (and really would have made sense as a finish), Gargano overshooting the senton into the barricade was nuts, and loved that TJP's already established heel hook was successful.

PAS: The CWC has done a really good job about making me care about guys I haven't given a shit about before. The Gargano v. Ciampa match is the most I have cared about either guy and I got invested in Cedric Alexander in the Ibushi match, and couldn't care less about him before or after. This match tried something similar with Gargano fighting through his knee injury from the future, but most of this match was the kind of disposable juniors stuff EVOLVE keeps running as CWC showcases. TJP had some cool spots, and the lawndart bump was especially nutso, but this was near falls for the sake of near falls. Didn't hate it, but it didn't engage me.


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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

2016 Ongoing MOTY List: Terry v. Demus

38. Black Terry v. Demus 3:16 WMC 8/16

PAS: The 2016 Black Terry run continues as he grabs Demus out of CMLL minis hell and lets him brawl and bleed like a crazed Warwik Davis in a Mexican Leprechaun remake. They start out with some lucha exchanges, and Demus raises Terry's hand and cheap shots him, and it gets gritty. Demus throws him outside, smashes him with a chair and tries to open up his skull on a concrete pillar. By the end both guys are leaking and are doing a lariat battle. Finish has some unnecessary ref shit which may keep it from the level of peak 2016 Terry, but it was such a treat to show up in BTJR's feed. Well worth the 4 bucks.

ER: CMLL minis have seemed sadly uninspired for the last couple years, so it's terrific seeing Demus matched up against a guy like Terry instead of another opening match opposite Ultimo Dragoncito. Demus just seems like a weird guy, whereas Terry just seems like freaking Charles Bronson at this point. After this match and the Cavenario match I just want to see the old mustachioed avenger go up against a weirdo series of supervillains. It's fun watching Terry react to their quirks, and it's even more fun when we hit the inevitable, still inexplicable, violence. Black Terry is absolutely fascinating to me. He works so hard in these small little flea markets and boxing gyms, always ends up crawling around on the floor, punched in the face, hit with chairs, bleeding all over. How much money does he make for this? Does he have a day job? Once they roll to the floor questions just start racing through my brain, and sure enough Terry is bleeding and Demus raps him on the head with a dirty chair. Yeah, Terry gets some hands up but really only enough to prevent him from immediately forgetting math, that shot still blasted him. Before long Demus is bleeding and they're falling into fans, and we see poor BT's balls take another beating, and Demus takes a chestbreaker all laid out and right on the chin. There needs to be a documentary crew following Black Terry around.


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Lucha Worth Watching: Kushida vs. Volador AND Flamita vs. Xtreme Tiger!?

Kushida vs. Volador Jr. (CMLL 7/8/16)

So I went into a hyped match expecting to be a party pooper, and came away liking a lot of it, far far more than I expected. I expected the end run to get a little too cute - and it did - but they did several neat little things that I wasn't expecting, and avoided a lot of the awful parade of nearfall trading that plagues most Arena Mexica singles match terceras. Loved the arm work by Kushida in the primera and segunda (even though nobody watching this expected that to play into the tercera), him grinding it with takedowns on the rampway, and especially him catching Volador in an armbar off a springboard somethingorother. I kept waiting for Volador to go for a handspring-showdown-wait for applause and he never did it, so thank you thank you Volador. He did a lot of nice little things I don't often see him doing, like keeping that arm limp and punching low on things that are supposed to miss. Early in the primera Kushida ducked under a strike during a rope run and Volador really cut low. He's usually more interested in doing his own rope running and not making it look like he's aiming to actually hit his opponent, so I was sold fairly early. He hits a killer dive in the segunda, and then catches a killer Kushida flip dive in the tercera. For awhile here Volador was good at doing things avoiding his arm, hitting a nice headscissors, that dive, his superkicks, but even when he did start using it I actually really liked all the backcrackers in this. The backcracker is a move that swept through lucha in the 2010s like crack through inner cities in the 80s, and here they actually effectively used the move for the first time....shoot, in 5 years? 8 years? Volador leaps onto Kushida's back, tries to pull him down into the move, Kushida struggles into the corner, Volador keeps pulling, being an annoying backpack, and eventually the weight is too much and Kushida gets pulled back into it, bouncing somewhere between 3 and 13 feet into the air. You never see struggle over a backcracker and it was really a tremendous spot. The end run was nice with a super satisfying majistral reversal and a this-should-be-the-ending-oh-good-it's-actually-the-ending reverse rana. No overkill, no 2.9 glut, great peaks, and we have a match that exceeds expectations. Huzzah!

Flamita vs. Xtreme Tiger (CaraLucha 8/20/16)

Well, Matt tricked me. "This was from this weekend," he said. "I kind of need you to write it up. It's lucha worth watching though not for entirely good reasons (though there are a few)." Okay, I remembered him being slightly more positive about it. There doesn't actually seem to be any trickery after all. I likely just got flattered by someone saying they need something from me, and without listening to the rest of what they said I just went "SURE OKAY!!!" And then they began the match with 40 seconds of Malenko/Guerrero roll-ups. That's how they started things. I thought the sunset flip was going to get him, but then it didn't and I instantly thought that a guy flipping himself into a pin would also then pin him! But none of them pinned anybody. We moved on. And really this whole match was pointless. Both guys are talented. They both do impressive moves, they both execute them fantastically. But none of them mean anything whatsoever. This was some of the most egregious move trading I've ever seen. I can't see how there can be any sort of drama in a match like this. There has to be some sort of responsible hierarchy of moves. Some moves have to seem more damaging than others. This was just a collection of moves, none of which kept either man down for any period of time, and eventually one of them ended the match. Both guys took some dangerous slams, and things would always progress the same: Dangerous slam -> guy who took dangerous slam would stand up and catch the other guy in a dangerous slam. Neither guy showed any damage, so why would I care about pinfalls, or anything else? I guess by that point we're all just watching to see neat moves executed in a bubble. They may as well have done a super fast Spanish Fly, and then both stood up, bowed, and announced their next move. They were essentially performing motion capture moves for a video game, while wearing more flattering attire. Flamita did some very cool arm work, using a fun variety of arm crushing moves, my favorite being a great legdrop starting with him standing on Tiger's arm before delivering it (he also had Tiger slumped in the corner at one point, and did a running dropkick to just his arm). But Flamita couldn't have known that Xtreme Tiger has invincible arms! Tiger did some cool things too, loved his bombs away type move off the top onto Flamita's pelvis, and he broke out some cool leg work (his seated wishbone was killer). But, you may have guessed this, but Flamita has invincible legs! Flamita's phoenix splash has a great thud to it, and that's the move that ended the match. He set it up by being driven head first into the mat by Xtreme Tiger. Put all these moves in a logical order and make a 3 minute highlight video of it. It would be more enjoyable than what we got.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

DVDVR Puerto Rico 80s Set: Disc 1: Randy Savage vs. Hercules Ayala (3/2/85)

Disc 1, Match 9: Randy Savage vs. Hercules Ayala (3/2/85)

We're into 1985 already, and I'm starting to poke around and expand my Puerto Rico knowledge. Right off the bat, it feels unknowable. There isn't some sort of grand expanse of results online for the early 80s like you might get in other territories. In some ways, this is a relief. I'm not so caught up on what we don't have outside some of the big feuds. You have to wonder about the Funks down there or more Buddy Landell or the King Tonga matches, and that's just the guys I'm more familiar with. We've already seen a few people like Steinborn and Los Mercenarios that I wouldn't mind having more footage of from this era.

Or Randy Savage. Apparently, he held the WWC North American title from the Anniversary Show in September, 84 (beating Pedro) to here in March, 85. I have no idea how many tours he did or how often he defended it. He definitely had heat with this Ponce crowd. That 84 Anniversary show, by the way, was part of the Colon/Abdullah vs Brody/Hansen feud and had a tag match with King Tonga on one side and the Sheepherders on the other and a 20 minute Al Perez vs Dory Funk, Jr. draw. That's variety, I guess.

So enough about what we don't have. What we do have is this and it was a thoroughly enjoyable Memphis-heavy, vulnerable heel champion vs babyface strong man match. Savage was at his stooging, stalling best, bringing his token energy, not through the usual offensive explosiveness, but more so in his reactions, selling every slight and going over the top. Even considering how far away the ring is from the crowd, thus eliminating Savage's ability to interact with them on the outside, it's still some of the most active stalling you'll ever see.

Because of that, we end up with really engaging minimalism for the first two thirds of the match. Savage will try a slam, fail, milk it. They utilized Ayala's press slams like Flair or Bockwinkel would use holds, as spots to move in and out of. I think Ayala hit three of them and Savage retreated back to the outside for a minute after each.

When he did take charge (albeit for small periods of time), he'd get over with some sort of cheating, be it a low blow, or later in the match with a chain. Then he'd follow it up with some sort of rapid burst only to get cut off by Ayala's strength. They did a good job building the chain spots to the finish (though I wish the chain was introduced a little bit earlier), and I think it's remarkable that Savage came out feeling so protected even when he gave up so much of the match. Some of that was due to his wild energy and reactions and that he was willing to sell to the extent that Ayala seemed like he had a massive strength advantage, thus allowing any gain that Savage could make against him to feel meaningful. It was definitely a case of putting himself over, even in a loss, through putting his opponent over. That Savage was absolutely fearless in the face of a Ponce crowd that was throwing objects into the ring almost the whole time helped too.

The stalling wouldn't be for everyone, but it was for me. Good match. one of my favorites so far.

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

2015 Ongoing Match of the Year List

27. Jushin Liger v. Yohei Komatsu NJPW 5/22

ER: This one kind of snuck up and surprised me. Right from the beginning this felt like a 2 minute match, with veteran Liger getting rushed by young lion Komatsu and then the vet punishing the youngster for his insubordination. But then it turned into much more. Komatsu nails two beautiful dropkicks on Liger before the bell, chases him to the floor and attacks him off the apron, hits a big somersault senton off the top back in the ring. But Liger catches his breath and blasts him under the chin with a shotei, then drags him far off into the entranceway to plant him with a nasty piledriver. I actually thought that was how the match would end, with the veteran snapping and acting like a dick, dropping him with a brainbuster on the floor, and then cockily walking back to the ring. But Komatsu makes it back in, even doing a nice chest first bump running into the apron to further tease his count out. Liger starts getting meaner and meaner, flipping out and stiffing the hell out of Komatsu for not going down. Every move looked like it would put Komatsu away, but he'd keep on surviving. Liger locks on a rough as hell camel clutch, really leaning back all the way, bending that spine, then locks on an even meaner knee bar. But Komatsu gets the boots up in the corner and Liger starts to panic. Awesome moment when Liger came springing off the ropes trying to shotei Komatsu out of Korakuen, really swinging hard and low, but Komatsu drops to his back and rolls into a single leg crab. I lost my shit on that one. Komatsu hits a big falcon arrow, gets a nice nearfall and suddenly Liger is scrambling. But Komatsu makes the mistake of going up top where Liger palm strikes him, suplexes him, then plants him with a Liger bomb and two brainbusters, making sure that kid stays down. Awesome under-10 minute match, starting with a youngster surprising a vet, turning into Masao Inoue vs. Akiyama for awhile in the middle, and ending hot on a potential upset. Really great stuff.

PAS: I found it a little problematic that basically a young boy gets to survive a brainbuster on the concrete, that really should be a move which puts him out for months. Still outside of that quibble this was a great little match. Liger has been carrying kids in black boots and trunks to fun matches for 20+ years, he know exactly when to ratchet up the tension and when to bring it back down, you could give Liger any semi-competent wrestler with three big moves and he could craft a fun match. Komatsu added a little more spice to the stew though, his frantic run chest first into the apron trying to beat the count was a nice bit of desperation and his dropkicks looked great. Not sure how he would look outside this setting, but he was great here.


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Saturday, August 27, 2016

DVDVR Puerto Rico 80s Set: Disc 1: Carlos Colon vs. Bruiser Brody (Chain Match) (Summer 1984)

Disc 1, Match 9: Carlos Colon vs. Bruiser Brody (Chain Match) (Summer 1984)

Let me just state something to begin: I am not turning a corner on Brody. He is, by far, the most egregious case of the footage not living up to the myth. Sure, it generally wasn't due to lack of talent or skill, but instead how he chose to use the talent and skill. Even then, much of the dissonance comes from the fact that a big majority of Brody that we have is from All Japan, where he was apt to give the least in order to, in his mind, keep his gimmick up. It just came at the extent of dozens and dozens of matches that could have been excellent otherwise.

That said, there are specific matches I like, and specific performances I like (though less of those), and even an era or two that I've come to enjoy. Most specifically, the 1977 Houston footage that's popped up on NWAOnDemand had him inexperienced enough that he didn't "know better," maybe? With the face turn that year, however, he starts eating up matches to their detriment.

This match, however, I'd put pretty firmly in the "Enjoyed" category. It might be that he was fighting his boss for the night. I tend to chalk off certain good Hansen performances (including ones that are the odds on favorite for #1 on this set) to the fact he's wrestling the guy who's paying him. Part of it was the chain gimmick too, though.

Brody sold, and he sold quite a bit here. It wasn't just his usual back flailing followed by immediate recovery either. He'd stay down, he'd let Colon move him about, and he'd even sell emotionally, expressing the crazy idea that he, with his head bloodied, fists crashing against him, a crowd wanting him dead, and a chain around his throat, was actually in danger. That's more than half the battle right there and it was one that Brody's performance actually won here, as in it won me over. That was right from the get go where he didn't want anything to do with the chain. It was the opposite of the usual languid apathy I expect from his reactions.

I think the chain helped, both in allowing him to credibly sell without feeling like he was hurting his character and its invulnerability, but also in making his usual lackluster offense feel all the more potent. Yes, his fist drop wasn't all that dynamic, but when you took into account that he had a chain wrapped around his fist, it was hard to mind. Not only did he choke with the chain, but he did it both inside and outside of the ring, the ability to move around like that, even while doing the same thing, at least giving the illusion of action to the match. And some things, like wrapping the chain around Colon's eyes, were actually inspired.

Any match where a wrestler wins by touching the four corners has the deck stacked against it, but they used the gimmick well here, with transitions based around one of the wrestlers stopping his assault in order to try to win. The finish had maybe one too many flourishes. If they had gone to it sooner after Colon touched the third turnbuckle, it might have worked. It wasn't just Brody knocking him into it but it was Brody knocking him into it after interference that should have helped him and it all seemed a bit much. The post match brawling and bloodying was almost enough to make it forgivable though. As weird as it is to have a Brody match in this position, this one might have topped the set, up til this point, for me.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Dick Togo's Got No Retirement Plans, No Derek Jeters

Dick Togo/Kaz Hayashi/Great Sasuke v. Shuji Kondo/Toru Owashi/YASSHI Wrestle 1 8/11/16-FUN

PAS: This is a battle of MPRO vets vs. Toruyman outcasts and it probably should have been better. Seems like a lot of Japanese juniors have acquired goofy Chikara gimmicks. Sasuke keeps sitting in meditation poses, YASSHI will bite you in the dick ect. First part of the match felt like everyone needing to shoehorn in their bit, like bad improv comedians, Bob has an effeminate southerner voice and no matter what the audience suggests an effeminate southerner will do it, look an effeminate southerner works at the DMV, an effeminate southerner is serving soup at this soup kitchen so on and so forth. Match picks up a little bit when they get the nonsense out of the way, Togo and Owashi have a cool exchange with Togo lacing into that big dude and looking just as tough as Owashi even though he is five inches shorter. We also had Hayashi and Sasuke remind you of the old days when they ruled as they broke out their signature dives. Still much of this was bad junk, and me being so happy to see Togo back might have been the only thing keeping me from rating this skippable.


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Black Terry Dreamed He Walked in a Field of Flowers

Black Terry v. Judas El Traidor IWRG 8/10/16-FUN

This is the Super Libre battle setting up a hair match. Terry is great on offense, opening up Judas in a nasty way, throwing great looking headbutts and right hands. Judas couldn't really deliver the nastiness required to respond, although I did like his running dive over the barricade onto a seated Terry. Judas is probably 20+ years younger then Terry but he looked like the broken down old man for much of this. We also get a really dumb double pin finish. Had it's moments, and bloody Terry is a great version of him. Still hoping the mask match is the one that delivers


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Thursday, August 25, 2016

CWC Throwback Thursday: The Fantastics

Bobby Fulton vs. Tommy Rogers (WWE Raw 6/16/97)

Oh sure, the CWC is all the rage right now, but almost 20 years ago the WWF was starting their big Light Heavyweight division and bringing in some pretty fresh names: Great Sasuke, Taka Michinoku, Tajiri, Scott Putski...okay, three fresh names. And also a famous tag team who were apparently only 36 (jeez is that right!?) but looked about a decade older. Yep, almost 20 years ago the Fantastics made their only career WWF appearance, and it was against each other, in New York (real hot bed of Fantastics fans up in NY), in a 3 minute match.

And the match was about as awesome as a 3 minute match can be. Bobby Fulton comes out wearing some of the least cool tights you've seen (those one-legged atrocities that Zack Ryder shamelessly wore) and Tommy Rogers comes out with his fluffy mullet (18 months after the mullet was mostly phased out of televised American wrestling). Rogers goes for the handshake and Fulton immediately points to his head (he's too smart to trust this Rogers jerk) and hits a surprise dropkick on Rogers. And boy do I love Bobby Fulton in this match. 1997 Bobby Fulton would have been one of my top 5 (top 3?) favorite guys in the CWC. He starts throwing weird low angle elbows in the corner, then starts throwing much nastier elbows to Tommy's jaw, hits a great flash spinkick, and when Rogers rolls to the apron and drops a great elbow on him. Fulton is wrestling like a southern Dave Taylor. Fulton decides that Rogers hasn't had enough so hits a great high speed dropkick that sends Tommy crashing from the apron to the barricade. This whole time Vince is having JR bring him up to speed on the Fantastics, asking them about their history, asking JR how they would have done had they competed in WWF. The ending comes quick, as we had to get to a Headbangers match (vs. Jerry Lawler and Rob Van Dam!?), so Bobby gets his feet on the ropes for a pin, argues with the ref when it doesn't work, and Tommy hits the Tomikaze for the win, which the camera mostly misses while showing the replay of Tommy flying into the barricade. What a weird, wonderful little match. The true torchbearer for the CWC.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

DVDVR Puerto Rico 80s Set: Disc 1: Abdullah the Butcher vs. Andre the Giant (9/17/83)

Disc 1, Match 8: Abdullah the Butcher vs. Andre the Giant (9/17/83)

This disc is going the way of the other 80s sets I've seen: spotty earlier footage from an era where we don't have much, filling in gaps to make sure that the set is complete, with some real novelties that round things out; basically a lot of solid stuff that will get eclipsed by things on later discs. That's what this was. I'm definitely glad Andre made the set, though and this was another of his smart, balanced performances, just another notch in his considerable belt where he does so many things right.

Structurally, we're looking at shine, heat, comeback, with the heat and the comeback both centered around Abdullah's fork (and/or other object). One of the coolest things about Andre is that he enables monster heels to stooge to an extent that they don't often get to. He lets their inner Memphis shine. That's how this one began, with Abdullah taking a shot and then ducking out to stall. He then came back in and ate any number of nasty looking Andre blows, including one chop that was so massive that the momentum almost carried him over.

When it was time for Abdullah to take over (and again, when a little younger, he was one of the best when it came to handspeed for blows to the throat), Andre's selling was just awesome. He made full use of his frame, flailing about and throwing himself back, making everything Abdullah did, no matter how ginger or theoretically unimpressive (for there is nothing in the world less impressive than a nerve hold) look deadly. They ran through some simple comeback attempts and cutoffs, but simple was fine. At one point, Andre tried to elbow back and Abdullah grabbed his hair and pulled him against the ropes to cut it off, and on paper, there wasn't much to it. Andre's bellow in pain, however, made the moment into far more than it should have been. He had so much capital to spend and was so good at spending it.

This ultimately devolved into a countout. It kept moving, never wore out its welcome and the crowd was into it, but it certainly didn't break any new ground. Really, other than Andre's initial bit of selling for Abdullah in the heat, what stood out the most in the match was how fun a passive aggressive Hugo was on commentary.

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They Hang Black Terry's Name in the Fool's Hall of Fame

Black Terry v. Judas El Traidor IWRG 8/3/16 - FUN

This was the first of a three match series ending in a hair match. Terry is in the middle of a killer 2016 run, but this wasn't at the level of the high end stuff. Judas has been around for a while, and during parts of this he didn't look like he could bring the heat needed to hang with Terry in this kind of blood feud. Shortish match, which only got good at the end. The end of the match had the ref get bumped and it got pretty good with both guys throwing bombs. It intrigued me enough to get excited about the Super Libre and the hair match.


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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

2016 Hideki Suzuki Deep Dive

After reading some reviews on PWO I decided to check out some Hideki Suzuki. He was always a guy I dug fighting MMA guys on occasional IGF shows and have really dug checking out what he is doing now. With all of the BattlArts dudes AWOL, and New Japan pretty much being pin up models doing near falls,  Suzuki matches might be the closest thing to my kind of Puro out there.

Hideki Suzuki/Yoshihisa Uto v. Yasufumi Nakanoue/Yuji Okabayashi BJW 5/30

PAS: Not sure why Nakanoue and Suzuki want to murder each other, but they sure as shit do and this was totally awesome. They start potatoing each other in the aisle and can't be pulled apart with the ref throwing the whole match out 50 seconds in. They scream at each other on the microphone and they restart the match and they go back to beating on each other with concussion causing headbutts and leaping headstomps, eventually Suzuki beats up his partner because he was trying to keep him from slaughtering Nakanoue. I love this kind of stuff, felt like a classic WAR v. NJ match or a Kazunari Murakami fight.

ER: I couldn't begin to explain to you what exactly the hell is happening here, other than Suzuki looks like such a nice man in still photos - what with his parted hair and a little goatee like you'd typically see on that guy who wheeled the TV/VCR cart into your classroom - but he clearly has a major problem with possibly every man, and wants to elbow them hard in the face and then kick them  in the face like a real snot. Nakanoue, Okabayashi, his own partner Uto, random ring boys, his elbows want nothing more than to feel their faces. Okabayashi is a big dude and I loved him ripping apart Uto to end the match, almost taunting Suzuki (who was on the floor kicking face) and locking on one of the nastier camel clutches you've seen. This kind of match doesn't happen a lot so we should all soak it in when it does.

Hideki Suzuki v. Takuya Nomura BJW 6/29

PAS: Really fun kicker v. grappler match, Nomura has fast hands and nice kicks and Suzuki responds by just beasting him with wrestling. He has these great looking takedowns and amateur wrestling small packages, where he folds Nomura like a blanket he is putting in a hamper. Nomura had his moments, but this was all about Suzuki as an old school MUGA asskicker, headlock takeovers, Boston crabs and a backbreaker which looked literal rather then figurative, a little one sided, but cool shit. I am going to have to go on a Suzuki binge.

ER: Fun WorldWide match worked nothing like you ever saw on WorldWide. I like Suzuki putting a somewhat angry twist on young lion style. His elbows really rattle, his Boston crab made my back hurt (seriously if he had slipped and lost his footing it looked like he would have snapped Nomura right in half), and as Phil mentioned all the simple stuff like small packages just look so snug and more painful. He's like Osamu Nishimura crossed with Yuki Ishikawa, which made me kind of drool just by typing that.

Hideki Suzuki v. Takuya Nomura BJW 7/9

PAS: Ok I am in on this little mini feud. Nomura is a rookie and this is a nice progression for him after their match in June. Suzuki is still chucking this kid around, but he has a little harder time keeping a grip on him. Nomura lands some nice kicks, and there is a very cool counter where he slips an uppercut and gets a great backslide which Suzuki rolls through right into a Nomura kick. Nomura even survives the backbreaker which put him down. I am in the bag for Suzuki, and think this Nomura kid might get pretty good.

ER: Really fun rematch with Nomura coming back more aggressive, and the crowd picking up on his aggression and encouraging him. Suzuki is a bully to him without ever coming across overtly dickish, just holding him down with his weight advantage but not taking cheap shots. Felt like those old Pancrase matches where a guy could go for the kill but would rather have an exciting fight, and then almost ends up getting caught. Nomura having Suzuki scrambling for the ropes to break a sub was a great moment, a thing that took me from watching a match to see Suzuki administer a beating, to seeing a rookie pull off an upset. But Suzuki is too tough and you can see him kinda casually turn it into overdrive, laying back on that Boston crab and half crab, slamming that backbreaker, and then deciding things should just be over with a crazy swift and violent butterfly slam. I think I may be watching more Big Japan this year...

ER: Well, Phil went on a deep dive and he dragged me under the water with him. Suzuki really does scratch an itch. Evolve needs to start bringing him in, in a move that will surely sell few extra tickets. Anyway, the awesome and wild tag match landed on our 2016 ONGOING MOTY LIST. But if you got a spare 20 minutes, you'll be able to watch every match in this review.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

DVDVR Puerto Rico 80s Set: Disc 1: El Gran Apollo vs. Buddy Landel (5/8/83)

Disc 1, Match 7: El Gran Apollo vs. Buddy Landel (5/8/83)

I know we're going to get more into the bloody brawls as we go in this set; I've seen the match list. At this point though, I feel like we're judging between which matches had the best worked chinlock segment. That said, this one had a pretty great chinlock and I'm more inclined towards that stuff than most.

So unless I'm wildly mistaken, it seems that Landel really developed his heel act in PR in 82-83. I'm not going to post the weightlifting contest that helped set further this fued,  as it's a bonus on the set, but I am going to post a promo where Hugo spoke and Landel pretended he was Flair in the way he stood and presented himself. Usually in the states in 84-85, he'd have much more of his own spin on the Nature Boy thing. 

And I'm going to post this jobber match vs Angel Diaz which the video says is from 82, namely because Landel just killed the guy and people should see it.

The match itself was pretty much what you'd expect. Landel's an amazing, emotive stooge, and he'd already worked all of that out here, flailing about, bumping big, putting his own little twist on familiar spots. He did a flat back dropdown in the cross-cross, managed to Flair Flop into the second turnbuckle, and had the world's most beautiful high knee cut off on a chinlock hope spot. 

Apollo did his part here too. Puerto Rico fans were endlessly hot and they would chant along to grinding headlocks, which makes them better than fans today. He worked well from underneath in the chinlock too, but that was assisted by Landel's teeth gritting, jawing with the fans, and picture perfect cheating cut offs. He had one of the best dropkicks you'll see in 1983, though, and that was all him. 

The final comeback was a callback on that knee, with Apollo dodging it this time, getting some rabbit punches in, and taking over. Hugo interfered on the finish and one thing I've noticed on the set so far is that the heels don't seem to get away with things quiet as much in PR. That could have easily led to Buddy going over, since it was just a leg grab and nothing overly blatant or highly visual, but I guess they were afraid of angering this fanbase too much. Short and simple but a good match nonetheless and a nice way to gauge just where Buddy was at this stage of his development as a heel (he was far along).

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

WWE Summerslam 2016 Live Blog

ER: Figured I would do a live blog of this since I'll be watching it, at least until I get too annoyed at the Network freezing on me (I think it really runs like garbage on my PS3, likely would run better on a PS4, but fuck that support my old media!). PLUS, we gotta leave at some point to go see Chastity Belt and So Pitted in SF. Seem to remember we were also going to a concert during the last WWE PPV (that's right, Gun Outfit. Sheesh that was already a month ago!?) but I swear we usually aren't this interesting. The idea of going out on a Sunday night usually terrifies me into thinking I'll be a work zombie the rest of the week. So who knows how much of this show I'll be getting through, but I'll try.

(Apparently there was some sort of a tag team scramble even earlier than the awesome Sheamus/Cesaro match, guess I didn't rewind far enough. Probably won't be going back for that one.)

2. Sheamus vs. Cesaro

ER: Really like the hot fast start with some big Cesaro uppercuts, Cesaro flipping out of a Sheamus powerbomb, a big Sakuraba leaping double stomp by Cesaro, and Sheamus getting clotheslined to the floor. Cesaro nicely blocks the apron forearms by muscling Sheamus' arm off his chest and tossing a headbutt to the neck. Sheamus goes after the taped up arm and shoulder and Cesaro is always good at selling a limb. These two are laying it in nicely. Love Sheamus blocking a short arm lariat by just tossing out a back elbow. They do some really fun struggles around a vertical suplex and end up both tumbling over the top off the apron and to the floor. These two are really laying it in on the pre-show! Sheamus gets dropkicked off the top, and the struggle keeps happening throughout. Guys going up halfway on moves, forcing the other to lift the weight, not the type of stuff you can do with just anybody. Sheamus hits the rolling senton off the middle rope for somehow only a two. These two are getting ridiculous on the pre-show and the crowd is picking up on it. Cesaro hits a beast of a lariat, then climbs up to the RINGPOST, jumps from the post to the ropes and does a springboard crossbody. What the hell! Finishing sequence is cool too, with Cesaro dropping down to his back during a brogue kick to try and catch the leg for the sharpshooter, but Sheamus kicks him away, tosses him into the post and hits the brogue kick anyway.

PAS: These guys really killed themselves on a pre-show to get over, especially on a show filled with such BS. It had a very WCW vibe to it. Hope this best of 7 is as good as Booker v. ?, and I hope Finlay gets involved somehow too. That turnbuckle springboard was awesome looking and I can't ever remember seeing it before, I wonder if Cesaro is going to break out something new for every match. Sheamus sure isn't because he has been doing the same stuff for a decade, still it is pretty cool stuff done with some real violence. Liked the catching of the brogue kick and the thumb to the eye. Fun stuff and I imagine all seven will end up on our list somewhere.

3. Enzo & Big Cass vs. Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens

ER: Not a big fan of the two teams but I'm digging it after the first 3 minutes, especially the Owens/Cass stuff. Cass lands some great body blows in the corner and then Owens starts kicking him right in the knee cap. Jericho's douchey facial hair works for him and Owens making fun of Enzo's shitty footwork made me laugh. Enzo seems like a guy who has only been wrestling for like one month sometimes, but he makes a real effective FIP. Owens' trash talking is used nicely when he's taunting a FIP, and he makes Enzo's stuff look plausible by charging into boots. Jericho intercepting the hot tag was killer. I could see him setting it up but I love Enzo getting knocked silly in mid air, inches from a tag. Jericho also realizes Enzo landed too close to Cass, so kicks him hard back out of the corner, so Owens can fly out of nowhere with a frog splash. Cass hot tag is pretty clunky, not entirely his fault as Jericho is super sloppy in his set ups. Cass does hit a nice big boot on Owens and later takes a fantastic ring post bump. Jericho looked horrendous once the hot tag portion set in (you know, once the match start moving quickly) and nearly beheaded Enzo on the finish. Owens flapjacked him into a codebreak and Jericho was slightly late, Enzo basically had to get his head snapped back over Jericho's knee.

4. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks

ER: That is an excellent robe on Charlotte. I was really liking their fighting on the top rope, LOVED Charlotte stretching Sasha out and jamming that boot under her neck, loved Sasha kneeing her way out....but have no clue what the hell happened after that. I have no clue what move was supposed to happen, or what it was supposed to look like, but Charlotte goes for a side slam off the middle rope and looks like Sasha's legs catch and Charlotte just bails, like when I dropped a butcher knife in the kitchen and all my limbs go out as I just leap bakwards away from the dropping knife. Sasha's legs bounce off the top and send her headfirst into the mat, because I guess you can't have a big Sasha match without her dumping herself or getting dumped onto her neck at the worst angle. They have another ugly little flip over reversal segment not long after and maybe they need to slow it down a bit or something. But then they kind of shut my mouth a bit by doing a few fun quick segments in the corner, and build to a wild splash mountain rana reversal off the top. Loved Charlotte doing the Flair flip in the corner onto the apron and then kicking the hell out of Sasha's leg as she charged in, and jeez then Sasha does the double knees from the middle rope to the floor? Nuts. Kinda wish the finish would have happened when Sasha reversed natural selection in the Banks statement. I really loved the fighting over it, loved Charlotte trying to reach the ropes while also trying to break the hands over her face, loved Sasha pushing off the bottom rope. The stuff immediately following it felt a little formless. But, I did like Charlotte rolling the BS into the pin, even if I think putting the title back on Charlotte this quick is tremendously stupid.

5. The Miz vs. Apollo Crews

ER: Maryse's outfit is awesome. Not many people can pull off essentially a white swimsuit with a police hat. Damn this is an IC Title match? This feels like a pre-show opener if I've ever seen one. I don't know much about Crews, but I like how he leans into Miz's kicks and plants on that fast DDT. Ohhhhhhhhh Crews is Uhaa Nation. That makes sense. I don't know why I didn't recognize him. Stupid me. Crews' standing moonsault is really impressive and while it was kinda dodgy I liked his little cradle roll through pin. And then Miz hits the skull crushing finale for the clean pin. That move never fails to look like the weakest move of any match.

6. AJ Styles vs. John Cena

ER: Really liked the first few minutes of this, loved AJ getting cocky and outquicking Cena, loved Cena catching a bragging AJ with the soupbone right. I think they went to an apron suplex way too early but I like all the stuff immediately after that, with AJ taking a big backdrop and Cena punching him around, and I love the sloppy Cena dropkick (helped no doubt by AJ flying into it like AJ). The Pele kick was placed great and the crowd is way into this. Cena's doing that weird thing where he just starts pulling moves out of his ass, lifting AJ up for a powerslam but doing basically Big E's finisher. Loved Cena's doing a drop down to try and grab AJ into the STFU, and AJ dropping Cena across his knee looked great. Cena's so damn big that it just looks wild to see a big lug getting dumped neck first onto a knee, he really just crumbles differently. AJ misses the 450 like a champ, like a guy who was practicing it into a swimming pool instead of actually just doing it onto a hard surface. Good lord AJ.

So I'm loving this match, and we gotta be like 20 minutes in.......and I can feel them losing me. We go into some hardcore move trading sections. And it's tough because I keep going back and forth, as sometimes something looks really great, but then it's just immediately ignored because the other guy has to do his move right back. I love Styles' calf crusher, but then Cena just rolls into the STFU as if he hadn't been in the calf crusher for 30 seconds. Styles hits the big forearm, but Cena lifts him into the AA. The fans are going apeshit so they're obviously doing something right for the 15,000 paying human beings, and the pop for Styles reversing into the clash was great.....but it seemed like a switch kinda flipped and they went into the "make a bug eyed shock face after every kickout, breath hard after hitting your big move" without much of a warning. It was weird, because it was really good in a lot of ways. Both guys are stars, and the crowd was reacting to them like stars, and the moves themselves looked incredible. Styles got tossed a mile with the AA, the forearms looked awesome off the top rope, everything looked great....but it's also a style that bugs the holy hell out of me. I'm chalking it up as a win. It felt like a great version of a style that usually turns me off. But I never got completely turned off. The first half was great, and the finishing run was a big match finishing run.

Now, the fact that it wasn't the main event, and tons of matches still have to follow the match, that's a whole different bundle of problems. If the crowd manages to stay hot through the rest of this show, more damn power to them. I'm conflicted, guys. But my gut still says thumbs up on this one.

7. Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods vs. Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson

ER: I will always love Jon Stewart, even when he goes out there knowing he's going to bomb. There's something quietly dignified about delivering material you're supposed to deliver, knowing it's going to be bad, and doing so professionally. I also skipped past any promos or build or anything so have zero clue why the Club came out with jars of urine. The tag match itself was put on in a death spot on the card. Crowd is predictably exhausted after the last match. Gallows is working like Barry Darsow which is amusing because I notice this right as Cole is talking about Demolition. Kofi's unicorn shoes are great and Woods has been on fire in the match, dug his fast dropkick to a draped-over-the-ropes Anderson and that long distance springboard elbowdrop. I really have no idea what any of the storyline stuff is going around this, not sure why Stewart is back, not sure what the pee jars are (Corey Graves called it formaldehyde?) but Gallows gets obliterated by Big E and I'd want to see a singles match. Him taking the belly to belly on the floor and then flying into the barricade was the best part of the match. Match was nothing.

8. Dolph Ziggler vs. Dean Ambrose

ER: Boy this one ain't holding my attention. I am wondering if any match will be able to resurrect the post-Cena/Styles crowd. They do some things I like, both can take a ringpost bump, their missed crossbody was sloppy and good, Ambrose's punch chop combo looked nice, the way Dolph kinda spiraled into the center of the ring while taking them; but overall it's not doing a whole lot for me. Though I do like Dolph setting up a superkick with a headbutt. That's...a million times better than setting it up with his usual shitty flailing. Ziggler's 12 to 6 elbows look horrible. Rebound lariat is such a fart sound spot at this point. I hate so much that it's in every match, and I don't think I've seen anyone do a decent job of occupying themselves while they wait to get hit with it. I didn't care for most of this.

9. Naomi, Carmella & Becky Lynch vs. Natalya, Alexa Bliss & Nikki Bella

ER: Oh man the Eva Marie stuff is genuinely funny. I had no idea how they would acknowledge Eva Marie's suspension, but I'm very happy they kept doing what they're doing. Watching the women's matches with Rachel is always great, as she somehow knows more about what's going on with their lives than I do, and also adds fine commentary on their looks and gear choices. When I said "Man that's a big reaction for Nikki" she goes "well she's been out rehabbing a really serious injury" right as Ranallo starts explaining the same thing. Then she points out how horrible Becky's mesh body suit is, combined with the unfortunate crotch area of her pants. She's also a huge Naomi fan, and I can't blame her for that one. I love Naomi. Bliss hits a killer back handspring double kneedrop. Silly set up but love the end result. Carmella seems very much not good. At least Nikki is smart enough to switch her finisher and stop doing the rack drop. This match mostly did nothing for me. I'm getting more excited for Chastity Belt and So Pitted with every match.

10. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor

ER: So as some of you know I'm currently two years behind on NXT, so I have no clue what the hell this whole Demon King thing is about. It feels about one tick removed from some of the more embarrassing Jeff Hardy entrances. And does he really wrestle any differently than just regular non-Al Jolson Finn Balor? He seems like he wrestles the same. The announce crew says it's him tapping into a dark side but....yeah, not seeing it. Same ol' Balor/Devitt, same loose elbows, same flimsy shoulder tackles. I liked a couple of Rollins' knee counters, but these two just seem like a bad match for each other. And it looks like Rollins broke out the small package driver but right after that Balor is up and running around like a dungus. All moves for everybody!! Superplex no sold! How can I be expected to buy anything when nobody is selling!? This stunk. No drama, no build, feels like all the complaints about Cena/Styles are tenfold more appropriate for this. This was just each guy tossing out every move they know and not bothering to structure them in any sort of interesting order.

Alright, Miz in a chicken suit removing his chicken glove to slap Col. Ziggler made me laugh. And Ziggler's tearaway suit and Col. Sanders ring gear (with cuffs!!) made Ziggler so much more interesting than he's been in ages.

11. Rusev vs. Roman Reigns

ER: Well I'm sure this is what most people wanted out of this one, right? So weird to have them work a PPV main event on Raw, and then have their match thrown out on PPV. The pre match brawl was awesome, Rusev jumps him and as they tumble to the floor Reigns nails a backfist, stairs get thrown, Rusev gets dumped into the ring crew corral, then the superman punch as Rusev was getting resurrected. I was getting into it. But there must be some sort of "insider" hoo ha that I don't know about. And Lana wore her finest ice princess attire and everything. But hot shit that might have been the greatest spear in the history of spears. We have Goldberg folding Kanyon in half....but yeah this one tops it. Reigns flying down the ramp and just blasting through him.

12. Randy Orton vs. Brock Lesnar

ER: Alright, next day and I just watched this, and I liked it. I think a lot of people hated it. I don't know how I feel from a booking standpoint, but from a presentation standpoint I liked it. Lesnar gets a lot of hate now, and the barrage of Germans can be disappointing when I know he's capable of more, and he gets certain benefits that nobody else gets...but I love the differences that he brings to the table, and I'm not sure what will stop me from loving the differences. Eventually I assume we'll get a Brock opponent that is more competitive within the match structure. I have no idea who that person will be, but the moment will be enormous. I love the ways Brock has been "taken out" so far in matches where he did go down, like how he essentially got blown up during the 3 way earlier this year. I thought this match had some killer moments, including all or Orton's comeback moments. The RKO on the announce table was awesome. The draped DDT was awesome. I was really hoping to see the punt land, see how Brock reacted to it, but alas. Orton took a furious beating here. Both of those tosses into the announce table looked nasty, the clubbing looks like he will be as tenderized and bruised as a human can get the next day, and then there's the matter of those two elbows right to the side of Orton's head. I can't even explain them. Was the plan for Orton to get busted open? There's no way that elbows thrown that violently wouldn't bust a person open. Brock looked like he was treating Orton's head like a watermelon that needed to be opened without utensils. Just the biggest arm possible crashing into it, and Orton bled and bled, dripped blood. Is Orton such a crazy wrestler that he said "hey bruh, the match has to end in a stoppage, so just blast me with elbows!" That...couldn't be what happened, right? And I guess I like that kind of mystery that Lesnar brings to things. The foolish 8 year old questioning if something is real or not. But the main differences I love about him is he doesn't wrestle like the accepted WWE Performance Center style. He falls differently, he strikes differently, he moves differently. Orton hit him with a dropkick and Lesnar kind of spun out on a knee. No rapid flat back bumps. He tosses mammoth knees into the corner, and throws strikes without predictable timing. The timing of stuff just looks so much different than everybody around him, that I can't help but be entertained. There IS an ingrained disappointment, because I know the guy has a smart wrestling brain, and I know these matches COULD be better. I know he has it in them to craft a better overall match that still delivers the end, pre-decided goal. He could have taken the punt here, but been positioned to get a foot barely on the ropes, or could have been punted while one  leg was already barely under the ropes. There was more they could have done, and it can be frustrating since it would have been easy to add those extra moments to the match. But I can't deny how excited I still get for the vibe Lesnar brings.

Well, Sheamus and Cesaro killed themselves on a pre-show that I'm not even sure WWE keeps available on the Network after it airs, and for their effort they easily landed on our 2016 ONGOING MOTY LIST. I really wanted Phil's opinion on Styles/Cena, but he refused to watched it :)

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

WWE Cruiserweight Classic 8/17/16

1. Akira Tozawa vs. Jack Gallagher

ER: Really fun performance from both guys, really fun match. Part of me was grumpy that Gallagher didn't advance, but at the same time I really thought Tozawa turned in a killer performance. It would have been really easy to let Gallagher's performance steamroll him. Gallagher was the clear crowd favorite and had them in the palm of his hand from before the bell. "But American indy crowds go nuts for all things Japan!!" thought Tozawa, bewildered. But he sucked it up, was a game sport through all of Jack's awesomeness, through all of Jack's silliness, and Jack was more then willing to take Tozawa's nastiest stuff. I loved Jack's progression through the match, as he's super goofy to start, doing little things like licking his thumbs to easier slip them into and break a waistlock, setting up a comedic Indian deathlock, trapping him in a Nieblina before kicking his butt to break it...the more comedy happened the more restless I got and the more I wanted limb wrecking Jack. And lo and behold the leg work gets increasingly mean, and Tozawa starts working increasingly stiff. Jack keeps finding all sorts of awesome ways to take apart a leg, attack a hip or knee joint, roll into a surprise single crab when Tozawa takes too long to do a move; Tozawa blows Gallagher up with a flying kick out of the corner (replays look like Jack took it right under the chin), big senton, hard forearms and those awesome snap German suplexes. Tozawa sells the leg really great, Jack rips apart the leg really great, and by the home stretch I was left saddened that one of these two wouldn't be advancing, while one of Noam Dar or HoHo Lun would be.

PAS: I really loved this match. Gallagher losing in the second round is the biggest booking blunder in this tourney, as I think he might be the most impressive and most over guy in the whole thing. I think the difference between the Gallagher comedy spots in this match and the kind of Chikara bullshit I hate, is that this didn't require Tozawa to be a good sport. He didn't have to pretend that there was a real grenade or that he was hypnotized, he could actually get more and more pissed that he was being clowned, which led to that big short left hand and the second part of the match. Gallagher switched into killer mode awesomely and I loved how he mixed in vicious submissions with selling all of Tozawa's stuff. The ankle pick counter may have been one of the coolest submission counters I have ever seen, I must have rewound it five times. Loved the finish too, with Tozawa fighting for the German as Jack fought for the leg. It is totally nuts that Gallagher was the only British import out in the first round as he totally smokes Sabre and Dar.

2. Noam Dar vs. HoHo Lun

ER: So, I haven't been following tapings for these at all as I don't want to be spoiled, but were these taped in order? Did these two seriously just try and work a worse version of the previous match? Are there agents working this tourney? I imagine there would have to be. No matter where this match was taped relative to Tozawa/Gallagher, somebody must have said "Hey maybe don't all of you go out and work leg based matches". This match had exact spots practically lifted from Tozawa/Gallagher, like that slower, shittier single leg that Dar did. Lun looked better than his first match, but his facial selling is really embarrassing. I enjoyed the match more than I expected to, but it was just terribly placed after the first match, and whoever did the bracketing really pulled a boner on this one. Also, any wrestling that inspires singing from the crowd is almost always inherently shitty.

PAS: Yeah this was taped in order, the weird match placement is really my only beef with this tourney, no idea why you run asian with a german suplex v. brit with leglocks right after vastly superior asian with a german suplex v. vastly superior brit with leglocks. Better then either guys first round match, but Dar is clearly the turd in the punch bowl.

3. Brian Kendrick vs. Tony Nese

ER: Man alive do I love Brian Kendrick. Is this how he's been working for the last few years!? Who's doing the Kendrick 2014-2016 deep dive? Because Kendrick has been my favorite guy in this tournament. I've always liked him, but never anywhere near as much as his two matches in the CWC. He's wrestling completely different than I remember, like a cornered raccoon. And this whole match was just really exciting for me, because I assumed Nese would be advancing, and I didn't want Nese to advance, and I knew there was at least some chance that Kendrick would advance. So the fan in me really took over and I just really wanted Kendrick in and Nese out, so every Kendrick kickout was exhilarating and every Nese rope break was crushing. When the first bully choke failed to put away Nese I thought Kendrick was a goner for sure, that he had gotten a good showing and almost beat the muscled up guy, but couldn't pull it off. All of the spots with Kendrick fighting over his armbar, kicking at Nese's face, hyperextending that arm, I was hooked in and dying with every second. Phil totally nails it by comparing Kendrick to both Finlay and Tarek the Great. He's been a super accurate fusion of those two in all of the best ways. He has the inventiveness and tightness of all the little things, just like Finlay. Finlay wasn't just about tight strikes, he was also one of the best at setting up opponents' offense and getting into position for things, making the misses plausible and making the hits expected and nasty. Kendrick sets up Nese better than anyone I've seen, adding credibility to stuff that has looked less so in other Nese matches I've seen. Kendrick doesn't cheat. Not cheat in the way that a heel cheats, but cheat in a way that the wrestler knows what move is coming next because they've planned things out. You don't get a sense that he's cheating to set himself up to remember the next sequence, he's just unbelievable and making every sequence seem unplanned and natural; doesn't cheat by ducking early on spots that are supposed to miss, or sitting up early on Nese's missed moonsault, just genuinely comes off as a guy who's escaping by the skin of his teeth. He's this scrappy underdog who's going to use every part of the ring and every part of his body to win, and it's kind of amazing to watch. Kendrick has just come completely out of nowhere to be one of my absolute favorite wrestlers. I love it.

PAS: This was very good. Kendrick didn't appear to be wrestling at all in 2014-2016 and he has come back like Jordan wearing the 45. Neese is a goofy bum, and he made him mostly look great. I loved the idea of Kendrick trying to jump him at the bell and getting drilled. Then its Kendrick trying everything he can to survive Neese until he can get his head cleared. Loved all of the crazy Finlay style rope and turnbuckle attacks and that bully choke reversal sequence was awesome. Not sure I liked Neese tapping so quickly on the finish, felt like it would have taken the match to another level if Kendrick made him pass out while gripping him like a junky holding on to the last vial. So weird that Brian Kendrick is basically working as 2002 Tarek the Great but I love it.

ER: So this was another great hour of wrestling TV, and the Tozawa/Gallagher and Kendrick/Nese matches were both easy additions to our 2016 ONGOING MOTY LIST, which again seems like it has potential to be full pf CWC matches by the end of the tournament.


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Friday, August 19, 2016

DVDVR Puerto Rico 80s Set: Disc 1: El Gran Apollo vs Dick Steinborn (February 1983)

Disc 1, Match 6: El Gran Apollo vs Dick Steinborn (February 1983)

Okay, so this isn't a match that would have made a lot of other sets, I don't think. There's not a lot to it. It's not very long. It's very straightforward. It's more or less back and forth with just a short chinlock for heat. The finish is definitive but not elaborate. There's no sense of stakes. Apollo is a serviceable babyface with a good look but nothing special. My guess is that this has to do with footage availability to some degree, as there are only three other 1983 matches on the set, but more than that, I bet you that the committee just really wanted people to see Dick Steinborn.

Steinborn was a guy who was around Wrestling Classics years ago so his name came off as familiar at least. He was a second generation wrestler, whose dad promoted a bit as well. We have very little footage of him online. There's 8 minutes of a Dory Funk match from the late 60s, some of him vs Bruce Hart in the late 70s, etc. That sort of thing. Apparently, he had some top angles in PR, but I'm not the one to tell you about those. He does have some fun stories here:

And he was great here. I'm someone who loves the little things, a bit of positioning here, a bit of footwork there, an extra flourish to set up a move, etc. That's what this was all about, as he guided Apollo around the ring and made everything that happened feel more natural and meaningful. He was such a mechanic in there but also constantly portrayed a sense of struggle and engagement with what was going on.

Let me give an examples: my favorite thing in the match came after a really nice drop toe hold. He turned it into a leglock, twisting the leg back. Apollo countered by wrapping his arm around Steinborn's head to pull him forward. Instead of breaking the lock, however, Steinborn slipped his own foot in there to keep the pressure on, and then, in order to break Apollo's hold on him, looped his arm around his leg to add additional pressure. All of this seemed like the most natural and obvious thing in the world. He made it look easy.

The match was full of things like that, these little moments that made me take notice. He did things that we tend to take for granted very well; he had a great eye poke, a mean chinlock (with a grimacing face), and when pulling Apollo back down by the hair to keep a hold, he did it so tightly and deeply that you actually sympathized with the ref for missing it. You didn't blame him for once. The heat was solely on Steinborn.

There wasn't much here, certainly not enough to rank it highly, but I enjoyed just about everything Steinborn did. It was obvious he knew all the tricks and had the experience-honed instinct to use them well. I see some of the other match ups he had, in PR and out, and it bugs me that we don't have, for instance, the Les Thornton matches easily available. I still plan on watching everything that we do have out there, though.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

2015 Ongoing Match of the Year List

48. Villano IV v. Blue Demon Jr. AAA 3/18

PAS: VIV shows up twice a year on tape to have these gritty nasty brawls. Blue Demon is sort of luggage set, but he is solid in all the different parts of this match, and that iconic mask soaked in blood is a great visual. Villano is awesome in this, he does a bunch of interesting mat stuff early, lands some beautiful punches on the cuts and builds a lot of drama till the finish. Villano is one of the most interesting punch combos in wrestling, he mixes in hooks, jabs, body shots, the highlight of the match is Demon and Villano IV standing toe to toe and just exchanging until both fall over. I would rather see VIV matched up with someone a little better (man he would be great against Pentagon Jr.) but I am thrilled we still get to see him on a big stage.

ER: I really liked this, it combined the kind of clumsy stiffness you typically see from old white guy wrestling, with the slow grace of old luchadors fighting. When old guys fight there's a built in vulnerability that really appeals to me. Every spill resonates more as these guys are long past the days of feeling invincible. At this point they have a finite number of falls left in their bodies. Both men operate to a degree as symbols. Demon is a legend who isn't a legend, more like a son running his father's drywall business into the ground, but the long time employees still like him despite his faults because of how much they loved his father. V4 is much closer to a legend, but probably pales when compared to V3 and V5. But here they are both legends, older slower, still willing to takes risks, still utilizing their tools. I love the slowed down old man lucha spots, the slower armdrags, the slower go behinds, and we get those; but things take a turn as V4 backs Demon back into the corner with punches to the face, body, short kicks to the ribs and kidneys, and soon we get biting and mask ripping and bleeding, and any ounce of grace is gone. V4 drops that classic leg on the apron, falls short on a dive, Demon hits a rana off the top rope; these are things they don't need to do and don't often do anymore, but you can hear the fans getting deeper and deeper involved as they see what level the two luchadors are taking it to. The big moment comes - and this is legitimately one of my absolute favorite wrestling moments of the last few years - where V4 comes out of the corner throwing tight balled up fists right at Demon's chin, and Demon responds in kind, and you have these two just standing in the middle of the ring punching each other in the face, not taking turns, just swinging until collapse. Hearing the fan murmur slowly starting to build to a roar was really special. I love it when old guys really show up. These kinds of matches are just made for me.


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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

DVDVR Puerto Rico 80s Set: Disc 1: Carlos Colon vs Tully Blanchard (1983)

Disc 1, Match 5: Carlos Colon vs Tully Blanchard (1983)

This was my favorite match on the set so far. I'm not sure it was the best, but there was something extremely pure about it which I found appealing. That said, I fully believe that there was, for instance, probably a better Colon vs Abdullah match from 1982, just that we don't have tape of it. This was just so very appropriate and sometimes that's what you want from a match.

I've seen people stump for and against Tully this year, and in this match especially, the words that I'd use to describe him are what I used up above: pure and appropriate. That's not flashy or dynamic or whatever else, but it plays into so many of the primal things that make wrestling work. He plays his role so well and his role is so ideal, that it stands out even if it doesn't surprise you. I've seen a decent amount of him from this point and earlier, and he did have a certain speed pre-Crockett that he didn't have quite so much as he got older. That was at play here, occasionally, in how he darted in and out of the ring during his control segment, and even in his very cool double axe handle to the floor as Colon was hanging on to the apron.

Back on point, though, Tully was a great foil for Colon here. Both do things that match together perfectly. Tully was an expert at portraying weakness and inadequacy while also seeming credible and dangerous. They had punch exchanges, but Tully only held his own when he threw a kick in to start, and he'd still lose it. He took advantage when he desperately and sneakily used Colon's momentum to redirect him through the ropes, or when he used a hidden foreign object (which then disappeared for the rest of the match, which was a bad offense on the Chekhov's gun meter). He maintained control by keeping his distance and hitting and running while Colon was hurt.

For Colon, one thing I'm finding in his matches, and this is something I've come to appreciate out of lucha brawls, is that he was an expert at looping clear, visual moments of comeback. Punctuation. That could be a big block of a punch, or, on the outside, with the rail between them, when he ducked one of Tully's punches and started to fight back. Given the spacial issues caused by the rail, it was unexpected and felt, much like these other things, like a big moment. The ultimate punctuation, of course, was the cartwheel. He also built to a comeback by running around the ring to prevent Tully from being able to control higher ground. Stuff like that matters. I can see why he's been somewhat undervalued though. There remained, at times, a lack of smoothness on some simple things, like grabbing Tully's arm for an Irish Whip. It's jarring, but I also think it fits Puerto Rico to some degree because the atmosphere makes it feel more like struggle than flubbed cooperation. If you value smoothness above all else (and plenty of people do), it does, and I think has, hurt Colon.

This had a few fun spots, the aforementioned axehandle, the control segment on the other side of the rail and the revenge callback, the ref-in-the-way top rope cut off by Tully, and the finish, which could have been executed just a little better (both in the ref bump and in shortening the delay between the fall and the pin count) but that was in general clever and satisfying. This was very straightforward, but straightforward wrestling is, more often then not, the best wrestling out there.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

2016 Ongoing MOTY List: Hama v. Okabayashi

12. Ryoto Hama v. Yuji Okabayashi BJW 1/24

ER: I am a reputed fan of giant fat dudes in pro wrestling, and they don't really come fatter than Hama. Ryoto Hama is slightly shorter than me, but weighs almost 3x as much as me. If I one day decide to throw an additional 300 lb. on my frame, I would be Hama. I don't know how these guys do it. I got aches and pains on my body, just from life and sports and what not. But I don't have to deal with the knee/back/body pain that comes with carrying around extra weight, never mind a few hundred pounds of extra weight. Hama is limited but athletic, and a match like this will rely on Okabayashi being willing to get plastered with 450+ pounds of Hama splatting onto him. And thankfully for us, Okabayashi is more than willing. We laugh as Oka tries bullying Hama in the ropes, and Oka ends up standing to the side so all we can read on Hama's mawashi is HAM. And from there, Hama goes full HAM on Okabayashi. We get some big chops, though certainly powerful Oka's do not move Hama. We get some shoulderblocks which just seems like a death wish for Oka to attempt. Sure enough, he slams into Hama, gets knocked down, and Hama drops the biggest and best damn leaping elbow you've seen right onto Oka. Hama would continue his run of awesome giant fat guy offense, with a rolling senton, big butt offense, a huge sunset flip splat, but Oka starts turning things around after Hama misses his fast low splash. Oka starts in with big lariats but goes for one too many as Hama leaves his feet for a terrific crossbody. Hama punishes him with two splashes which I thought was certainly it. But he gets greedy and goes to the corner for presumably a banzai drop, leading to Okabayashi lariating him right in his giant butt before powerbombing him, then hitting two massive big splashes for the win, with Hama likely not able to roll over, like a centuries old giant tortoise. Okabayashi was a nut for taking all of Hama's excess fat guy offense, and I appreciate him for that. (also, might have to dig back and review all Akebono/Hama tag matches from earlier this decade).

PAS: Man alive Hama has gotten fat, I remember him as a regular sized fat guy and he is end of the road Yokozuna fat now. He is really great at using his fat, his elbow drops and barrell roles look like they are lung collapsing. I liked how Okabayashi sold each smush like he was going to throw up. He also knows that if you are going to hit a fat guy in the throat you had better hit him. I also totally bought the finish, Hama may be hard to knock down, but if you knock him down he is going have some trouble getting up. Really fun match.


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Monday, August 15, 2016

DVDVR Puerto Rico 80s Set: Disc 1: Gino Dellaserra/Pierre Martel vs Los Mercenarios (11/27/82)

Disc 1, Match 4: Gino Dellaserra/Pierre Martel vs Los Mercenarios (11/27/82)

Hey, this was fun. Half match, half angle, it's going to be hard to ultimately rank, but the heat was off the charts (though maybe normal for Puerto Rico?) and there were a couple of fun twists on the normal formula.

Pierre Martel was Frenchy Martin, obviously, and a rather surreal babyface, especially a sort of dynamic shine-heavy tag team babyface, but that's PR for, I guess. I'm not familiar with Dellaserra. He was canadian as well and based out of Vancouver for the most part, I think? No idea about Los Mercenarios, but they came off as the Castro Moondogs to me. The ref was totally WWC Gabe Kaplan. The footage was charmingly spotty, color coming in and out, generally faded. It gave the proceedings the feel of the lucha set where I was just trying to keep track of what was going on.

The basic narrative was a control-based shine, with lots of arm drags and quick tags and heel-in-peril spots, well worked. It really could have been a Rougeaus vs Moondogs match from 1986. Los Mercenarios stooged well. Dellaserra had this stockiness to him that came through in his offense and made it visually interesting. He had very definitive strikes. I especially liked how earned the moments of heel comeback were. They generally came on a broken up pin or wandering too close to the heel corner. That's the element of Demolition I (and few others, apparently), like so much, that underpinning of forced logic that informs just why the babyfaces are in control or why the heel gets a momentary comeback.

That played in to the first transition too. Los Mercenarios weren't able to really come back until they threw Martel out and isolated him, slamming his head against the psot on the outside and opening him up. From there, they worked over the wound like masters, just a couple of minutes of awesome heat-generating focus, where every little hint of comeback by Martel would get the crowd going. The brevity of it was what was most striking. There was really just a minute or two of it before Dellaserra was able to get the hot tag and rush in. I don't think I've ever heard a crowd go so nuts after so short a heat segment. I've been impressed with some of the short bits of heat in the Houston NWAOnDemand footage, where a team such as the Guerreros or the MX were able to get a whole lot out of just a minute or two of heat, but this, between the blood, and the focus, and the comeback hints, and the nature of the crowd, smoked those matches in that regard. They tapped into something special there.

That could have been the finish and it would have been a short but sweet match, but they gave it another loop instead, with an assortment of babyfaces taking the wounded Martel to the back, Dellaserra falling (but valiantly) to the numbers disadvantage, and Martel rushing back, bandaged, to even the odds as the crowd, once again, went nuts. If this had led to some sort of definitive babyface triumph, this could have been a succinct classic. What we get instead is a great set up for some sort of gimmick blow-off, which it doesn't seem like we have. Very cool stuff, but like I said, it'll be hard to rank.

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

WWE Cruiserweight Classic 8/10/16

1. Tajiri vs. Gran Metalik

ER: This felt like a match that would have got 10 minutes on Nitro while the crowd went nuts and Schiavone talked about the nWo the whole time. I really liked a lot of this, even though the ending was really unimaginative, anticlimactic and flat. Tajiri looked real good throughout, loved his momentum shifting armdrags and sneaky kicks. Tajiri had a bunch of fun kicks (you heard it here first!), and that moment where he kicked a kneeling Metalik in the chest, and Metalik just stood up, slapped him, and Tajiri just stood there? That was the best. I really liked the mat stuff, had some smooth lucha flow and some vaguely unprofessional behavior, made me want to see Tajiri match up against guys like Blue Panther or Virus (and made me realize that we've never gotten to see an extended matwork run from Tajiri before). We get one of Metalik's big beautiful dives, Tajiri gets his leg dragon screwed through the ropes in a nice spot.....and then the ending just felt flat as hell. Tajiri kicks Metalik in the head, Metalik falls down....then just gets back up and does his finisher to Tajiri. That's just about the most uninspired way I can think of to end a good match. It was like they both remembered they left their stoves on and had to get out of there as fast as possible. Did my Network feed jump ahead or something?

PAS: I dug this more then Eric, I thought the opening matwork stuff looked like Negro Navarro or Solar maestro stuff which was crazy to see on WWE TV. Tajiri's mat counters looked awesome, that lifting press headscissors counter was truly beautiful, Metalik stuff was fine, but Tajiri looked world class on the mat. Feels like Tajiri v. Jack Gallagher is the dream match that came out of this tourney. I loved all of his kicks as usual, and he has so much more character then most of other guys still in. Metalik is fine, he has cool spots, but this feels really clearly like the wrong guy went over.

2. Kota Ibushi vs. Cedric Alexander

ER: Sometimes when watching a match I can see that the crowd is into it, and feel myself not seeing whatever it is they're seeing. But this match? I was right there with them, and it was an exciting and unexpected reaction. Ibushi and Alexander are two guys who I don't really have strong opinions on. I have liked matches with both, I have disliked matches with both. In matches of theirs I like I typically don't get driven to seek out more of their work, and in matches of theirs I dislike I don't get turned off from watching them in the future. They operate in that zone of guys who don't surprise me when a match is good, but I never expect it. And this match wasn't really the kind of match I like, but damn if that crowd didn't just draw me right into the whole thing. I surprised myself by how much I suddenly wanted Cedric to win, and that is a testament to the emotional performance that he put on. It wasn't because Ibushi was playing subtle heel, it was wholly because Cedric just worked like he deserved to win, and I wanted him to get that win. There were a couple kickouts I didn't care for, but who can really argue as obviously it slayed the live crowd and I totally get it. Both guys did things I dug, especially Cedric's early match back elbow. I wish Ibushi didn't leap up so quickly after that big ass brainbuster, but it was soon in the rearview as I flipped out over Ibushi's massive powerbomb and big kicks and that death wish German suplex. These guys got me invested and made me really excited for everything that was happening, despite having minimal opinions on them beforehand. It's a special reaction that doesn't happen often.

PAS: People really talked up this match, and I figured I wouldn't like it, 2016 near fall juniors wrestling is very much not my thing. Still I got caught up in this, I am giving a lot of credit to the announcing, the match had a simple story of a young guy with a family getting his big shot, coming so close and falling just short and both Bryan and Ranallo did a great job spelling it out without Joey Stylesing it. This tournament is pretty unique in wrestling history, as most of these guys in here aren't signed, for many of them it is their one shot. I can't think of any thing like it. This felt like a semi-final match at Wimbledon where a guy ranked 85 makes it to fifth set against Nadal before succumbing.  The last minute was really great, the quick kick after the brainbuster kick out was an awesome near fall, and I totally bought into Alexander's devastation at losing. HHH's little thumbs up at then might be the only thing he has ever done I actually liked. Emotional wrestling is something that the WWE normally does terribly, it is usually hammy Shawn Michaels horseshit, here we have two weeks in a row where it has been done well.

ER: Both matches were clearly wonderful, probably the most unanimously beloved hour of TV wrestling I've seen since some of the high end Lucha Underground episodes. Both matches landed on our 2016 ONGOING MOTY LIST, and it's starting to feel like this tourney will be producing many more that land on that list.


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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Big Time Wrestling 8/5/16 TV

"The most anticipated episode of BTW TV so far!" Okay, that's a lot of hype to open the episode with. The will be showing a US Title match between Victor Sterling and Tony Vargas, but they also act like the match has been hyped for months, which it hasn't been. It wouldn't be too hard to hype up TV matches week to week (which they haven't really done, instead wisely using their TV time to focus on promoting live events), but I guess it depends on if they'd rather have more TV viewers or draw some more bodies to live shows. If anything their TV should probably be geared ENTIRELY to promoting upcoming live cards, explaining feuds, showing why the matches matter. We'll see what direction they take things.

1. Kimo vs. Will Roberts

Fun match that wasn't worked the way I was expecting. I've never seen Roberts as a heel and now I never want to see him as anything but. Cocky, undersized heel is one of my favorite wrestling roles and Roberts takes to it real well, and it makes him a nice foil for Kimo's offense. Roberts was great stooging around for Kimo, but hit some real cool stuff of his own (that low crossbody in the corner, annoying little mocking kicks and stomps, that boot scrape from the apron). Kimo played into it nicely, really liked his weird roll up that reversed Robert's momentum off the ropes, and he admirably sold his mouth and jaw after a few Roberts' kicks. Finish was one of the more satisfying "feet on ropes" finishes as it was all about Roberts' attitude while doing it. Afterwards he hilariously leaps into the crowd to celebrate his victory, acting the man of the people. Funny gag to cap a fun match.

2. Victor Sterling vs. Tony Vargas

Nice match continuing their feud, hopefully building to a violent No DQ match (as this ended up getting thrown out when both men kept shoving the ref as they brawled on the floor). Vargas was playing bully here and tossed Sterling with a couple big suplexes. The overhead belly to belly was crazy, looked like Sterling was *this* close to being planted right on top of his head. Sterling doesn't really do underdog, nor should he, so it's fun seeing a bully try to pick on someone who is just as tough. Sterling throws a couple of great leaping knees and I really loved a moment where he rushed Vargas with a forearm and Vargas sold it by spinning and getting knocked into position for a knee. Too many times guys fall into the comeback trap of forearm-back bump-forearm-back bump and I thought that's what was happening, but they too it a welcome, different way. Eventually we brawl to the floor and I loved this, because they haven't had anybody brawl to the floor yet in their small training facility space, and I'm glad they saved the moment for a title match. It's a good sized room, but much less so when you have a large ring and a backstage area. So the area with fans isn't that big, but it's filled with fans. So brawling in and around them looks nice and chaotic. Guys come from the back to break them up, Sterling breaks free and jumps off the apron over the timekeeper, really made me interested in these two having a No DQ match. We shall see.

3. Kimo vs. Shannon Ballard (10/22/11)

Okay, now this was strange. Owner Kirk White does a nice intro talking about how their 20 year anniversary is coming up in October, so over the next several weeks we'll be seeing some classic matches highlighting some of the stars that have come through BTW. Makes sense. Last week they showed a Davina Rose/Bayley match, and she's currently one of the more popular ladies in wrestling. Made tons of sense to show. So now we get Kimo vs. Shannon Ballard?? No offense to either guy, but BTW has had actual big names come through, plenty of ex WWE guys, several other bigger indy names. This match was around the 15th Anniversary show, in the shows all around this one there were some nice sounding matches with "names". Paul London came in several times (reallllly would like to see the London/Kendrick vs. Young Bucks match from 2010),  X-Pac, Matt Hardy, Chris Masters, show their matches! Kimo and Shannon Ballard are fine, but sheesh we already got a Kimo match on this same episode. Spread it out a bit. Just seems like a really "drawn at random" old match to show.

Now this is nothing against the match itself, which turns out to be the best match on the show! At some point Shannon Ballard became a really engaging singles worker, and him as the cheapshotting heel hiding behind a National Anthem singer was gold. He throws a mean right hand, which is not something I remember being a thing. He makes a real competent southern heel and there are some spots that would kill in the south, like Ballard crotching Kimo on the top rope, but then getting crotched himself when he went up top, then punching Kimo off the top and losing his own balance in the process. They do a couple nice callback spots, Kimo gets in some nice suplexes, but damn I might have to do a little digging for 2008-2012 singles match Shannon Ballard. After this he felt like a guy who would have been one of my favorite IWA-MS undercarders, and I have TONS of favorite IWA-MS undercarders!

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Friday, August 12, 2016

DVDVR Puerto Rico 80s Set: Disc 1: Ric Flair vs Carlos Colon (10/16/82)

Disc 1, Match 3: Ric Flair vs Carlos Colon (10/16/82)

I have a bit of a hard time going back to longer Flair matches after watching Bockwinkel. Therefore, I may not be completely fair with this. There are a few things I want to talk about and they don't do the whole of the match justice, so let me try to get to focus on the big picture first.

This was incredibly heated. I think Colon looked excellent in it. His early armwork was varied and aggressive. The fans responded perfectly to him pumping the arm in various hammerlocks and holds. Ritualistic, repetitive, crowd interaction is so huge and doing that (or the repeated pumphandle you see more in Portland) is an easy way to engage them. Was some of his spots with Flair as smooth as you'd get from other opponents? No, but they always recovered well. Nothing seemed flubbed. Flair, especially would be quick to throw in an extra punch on something like the late Sleeper attempt when he didn't quite get around him. It made everything seem grittier and better for the setting. You could tell they made multiple audibles on the finish, but that just made everything more chaotic and emotional.

As always, it's frustrating to watch 82 Flair and see the things he dropped from his act later on. Here, the two snake eyes style hotshots were just great and helped to cement a long-in-coming transition into heat. It was also a hugely appropriate use of the King of the Mountain to destroy Colon's momentum. Obviously, in this setting, he wasn't going to take very much of the match, so it was important they came up with a way to definitively let him take over, at least for a little while, to build towards a comeback and finish.

Unsurprisingly, my biggest issue with the match was the arm work. It wasn't that Flair didn't sell it between holds as well as someone like Bockwinkel would have. It wasn't JUST that, at least. You can't criticize someone for something no one does. People do sell early matwork better, though, especially when going in and out of it. Once or twice Flair would give a little bit of lip service to it, and that was nice, but it wasn't hardly enough. In this match, it was a problem because it took up so much time, sure, but it was a bigger problem because it created a massive inconsistency. Flair spent ten minutes barely selling an arm as Colon went every which way on it. Then, after one elbow drop to the leg, he spent the rest of the match, more or less, selling his leg. Was that a more important part of the match? Sure, but the inconsistency between the two was frustrating. It took me out of the match because the leg selling didn't feel at all earned in comparison to the ten minutes of offense on the arm we'd just seen that Flair didn't really feel like selling.

Two working theories: The first is that Flair simply cares more about selling the leg because that builds into his own offense. He has every interest in making even a few seconds of a figure four reversal matter more because that's his move. It also allows him to do things more visually and take bumps, like the top rope one more believably. That'd interest him more as well. The second is simply that Flair cares far more about the back half of a match than the first. His selling (and by selling, I mean the broader sense of reacting to things) was perfect during the comeback, highlighted by the sunset flip attempt by Colon and his massive desperation in trying to reach the ropes to prevent it or even in Colon starting to punch back and Flair pressing his body against him in the corner to try to stop it. Both attempts were futile but they made the moment seem like so much more. That's valid, but it's not necessarily mutually exclusive. It's the difference between a match that has clear, unrelated act breaks, and one that builds from beginning to end. This was far more the former than the latter. This was still a very good match. I just think it could have been better.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

NXT 228 6/26/14 Review

1. The Vaudevillains vs. Matt Sugarman & T-Perkins

Fun but very brief Vaudevillains showcase. This was the best I've seen Gotch look, not only with his forearms and a great knee he dropped to Perkins' (not TJ Perkins) temple, but he broke out such a wonderful spot that I really didn't care what happened the rest of the match: While grounding Perkins with a headscissors, he then rolled through and started doing clapping pushups while still holding the headscissors around Perkins' neck. Stupendous. No idea who Sugarman/Perkins were, but I liked how Perkins faceplanted a drop toehold.

2. Xavier Woods vs. Bull Dempsey

This is Dempsey's "debut" (he worked a Mojo squash a few months back) and I liked him. They push the "fat old timey strength" thing way too hard on commentary, acting like he's Da Crusher running with beer kegs instead of just a fat guy who is fat. But he has a great side headlock and was doing some interesting little things with it, and then I was sad when they stood up and rope ran because I was still interested in the headlock. But then Woods threw an armdrag and Bull awesomely grabbed a side headlock mid armdrag so that when they landed he was back to holding the headlock. Sold. I am sold. He threw a nice elbowdrop, ran face first right into a Woods kick (Woods really scrambled him right across the eyeballs with that one), and yeah, I'm a fan. Nice debut, and a nice job by Woods setting him up.

3. Summer Rae vs. Becky Lynch

This is Lynch's debut and my oh my was there some Irish flavored cringing to be had. She doesn't much resemble the orange haired steam punk you're used to seeing; instead she's got subtle reddish brown hair, and garish irish green flared chrome pants with matching bralette. But she does this ghastly Irish riverdance jig all through her entrance, all through the match, just all over the place. And it's not just the goofy as all hell jig, but she actually sings along to it. She doesn't sing words, but she approximates the sounds of an Irish fiddle jig, so she does this embarrassing jig while awkwardly blurting out "dee-da-dee da-diddly diddly-dee", over and over again, like she was verbalizing Finlay's theme song. I felt so bad for her. Match itself was short, but fine. Summer is a great heel, and Lynch looked good whenever she wasn't doing her jig. She ran into a spinning Summer kick and rolled around holding her jaw, dropped a nice leg, big exploder. I'm actually surprised she got the win as there was a great nearfall (Summer kicked out as late as possible) and I thought that signaled that Summer was definitely going over. But, no. NXT is full of surprises. Now no more dancing. Or sing-dancing.

4. Colin Cassady vs. Sawyer Fulton

Fulton is back with his ridiculous dance pants and Capezios, but I liked his brief little run here. He threw a great front kick and awesome shoulders to Cassady's stomach in the corner. Not a lot of guys really jam their shoulder into the ribs in the corner. Fulton runs nicely into Cassady's big boot. Cass has good intentions with his leaping elbow, but lands a little sawftly on it.

Enzo Amore comes out post-match, returning from his broken leg, and proceeds to do the same routine that he is currently doing 2 years later on TV. This....has already gotten old. Sylvester Lefort and Marcus Louis looked awesome in their shitty ultra tight white lifting shirts though (with embroidered French flags!).

5. Adrian Neville vs. Rob Van Dam
So, I actually liked this. This was not something I was expecting to like. But I liked this. That sounds really undercutting, "hey! I thought this would be totally terrible and it wasn't!" but I'm not intending it that way. I just don't tend to get excited for 2014 Rob Van Dam matches, for SOME reason. That's a bold limb to stand on. This match is smack dab in the middle of his 2013/2014 WWE comeback that you don't remember a single thing about. And the match totally works, with RVD working subtle heel with dated offense against the new him. The match still had typical RVD faults, but there was something almost captivating watching an older, slower but still athletic RVD work old indy spots that were novel 15 years before but slow and clunky now. They do an early mirror exchange straight out of his Jerry Lynn matches and it seems so out of place in a modern setting that it's like a switch flips during the post flippy standoff and he just pops Neville in the mouth. Neville did a great job selling RVD's stuff, taking a mean spill on the preposterous "balance on these ropes while I dropkick you" and getting laid out by a stiff rolling thunder. When it's RVD's turn to sell he does a surprisingly adequate and at moments genuinely impressive job. At one point Neville hit a mule kick that staggered RVD, and it was meant to get him in position for a sliding dropkick. RVD staggered back from the kick, dropped to a knee, shifted his gaze down as he held his stomach and then made it appear as if he got naturally blindsided by the kick. It couldn't have been timed better and he couldn't have occupied himself better waiting for the kick. This was a far cry from an opponent bending over at the waist while waiting to take a Booker T axe kick. RVD keeps things interesting from a vet vs. upstart standpoint, and vet vs. upstart is an all time favorite story of mine. The little cheap shot punches, the abandoning of his traditional cocky finger pointing when he realized he might be in over his head, it was somehow a generous performance, while also one where he took 70% of the match. I wasn't expecting to enjoy this, but it was really good and easily my favorite match involving RVD in at least the last decade. What a pleasant find.


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