Segunda Caida

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

Friday, September 30, 2016

All Time MOTY List HEAD to HEAD: 2005: Kenta v. SUWA VS. Ikeda v. Ishikawa

KENTA v. SUWA NOAH 9/18/2005

PAS: This match was all about SUWA as the kind of shitbag Southern heel that Japanese wrestling didn't really see much of in 2005. Now this kind of thing got totally played out by the Bullet Club, but you normally didn't see a guy get DQ'ed on purpose or shove Joe Higuchi. SUWA had this short but awesome run as a nasty asskicker who bumped huge and had nice punches, this was probably his apex point. I loved him as a desperate pockmarked creep above his pay grade, but desperate to take his shot. The spot where he countered the springboard by just hurling the ref at the ropes was great. KENTA's role in this was to land all of his spots, and they looked fine, his kicks really thudded as did the GTS. KENTA isn't a very natural babyface, and this would have been better with someone who evinced more sympathy. Still a great match, and as a long time SUWA fan, something I really enjoyed re-watching.

ER: I have an unabashed love for SUWA, and there's a fair chance that I love him more than anyone. I - perhaps foolishly - didn't contribute to PWO's Greatest Wrestler Ever poll because I missed the nominating process and realized SUWA didn't get nominated, and therefore I wouldn't have been able to vote for SUWA. And there was just no way I could turn in a ballot without SUWA's name on it. He meant too much to my late 90s to mid 2000s wrestling fandom. He was a great composite of so many things I love about pro wrestling. A disrespectful southern heel operating in front of a super serious backdrop, and this match was him doing his thing on his biggest stage. Minoru Suzuki brought a different brand of irreverence to large Japanese feds, and a few years later The Bullet Club would bring awful Attitude era cheating to New Japan. But SUWA didn't feel like an impression of a southern heel in any way. He seemed like a man oddly rebelling against his culture, a man out of place and a man with different goals than the goals presented by NOAH and that fans of NOAH accepted and respected. NOAH was a simply booked fed with a hierarchy and more respectful face/heel interactions. There weren't really traditional American heels in NOAH, it was all respectful athletes who merely disagreed over who deserved a title more. "I've worked hard and *I* deserve the title." "Well, I also feel that I've worked hard and deserve the title. Let's showcase our hard work and determination and see who is the victor." And in this match SUWA showed the crowd that he didn't care about a title, didn't care that he was in a big spot on a big show, didn't have a need to put aside his personal grievances with people who weren't a part of the match; to the crowd he was a guy who didn't respect them, didn't respect the brand, didn't respect the ideals of his employer. He acted like a guy who worked comfortably doing his thing under the radar, and when faced with more spotlight said "Okay, but you may regret this." The employee who loves his job when he's able to dick around without being noticed, but the second he's given responsibility he tries anything he can to get shunted back down to how things were.

I remember my friends' reactions when I showed this to them within a year of it airing, and telling them how great it was - but not why. The confusion within the first minute when it looks to end in a DQ was hilarious, and watching it back now I think it works great as a non-gimmick performance. SUWA coming out, ripping up Higuchi's proclamation, and then immediately getting himself DQ'd at the first sign of trouble, that got a genuine reaction. And you just didn't get genuine heel heat in a major Japanese fed at that time. SUWA's fist raise the second the DQ bell rings is classic, really rubbing the ideals of the promotion and fans back in their face. He stalks around the ring, arm raised, pointing at fans, soaking up the jeers. His walk to the back is the best, shrugging his way to the back while still laughing at people. The fans had seen SUWA be a dick before, but not in a title match on a major show. And by the time the match is restarted and KENTA is kicking SUWA back to the ring, the fans are more behind KENTA than they would have ever been before. KENTA is mostly a zero from a personality standpoint, and SUWA did all of his babyface work for him. He was such a dickhead that KENTA became a mega face just by doing what he would have done anyway. And SUWA adds these things throughout the match, kicking KENTA right in the balls twice, ramming him balls first into the ringpost at another point. KENTA could have been a debuting stranger and the crowd would have gotten behind him. SUWA makes a flat out babyface out of any person even tangentially related to the match. When he spills to the floor and screams at Higuchi, and Higuchi starts to take off his ring jacket? Listen to the crowd. SUWA gives Higuchi the biggest pop of his career, 10 years after his retirement. I bet there were people who went home talking about Higuchi removing his jacket, before talking about the Misawa title match or big Tenryu tag match that came after. Later on SUWA boots Kikuchi in the face and spits on him as he tries to replace the turnbuckle pad SUWA had just ripped off, and later in an all time great spot he shoves the referee halfway across the ring to interrupt a KENTA springboard spot. We've seen that kind of spot since, but I've never seen it come off more genuine or been used so effectively. The ref flew into those ropes as if he had zero clue he was about to fly into ropes, and further cemented how little shit SUWA gave.

SUWA being a tremendous asshole really elevates things, but I think even without him being who he is, the match itself would be very good. Strip out any sort of character work and just look at how the match builds, and it's really a wonderful match. The one drawback is that SUWA seemed like he could have this match with practically anybody, and just didn't normally have the stage to do so. He was so great at crafting openings for KENTA's comebacks that KENTA just had to hit his marks. It's a total one man show, and that's not a real diss to KENTA. KENTA was KENTA, SUWA just found a way to craft the best KENTA match. He lead KENTA to every great babyface comeback, bullying him around the ring would always lead to KENTA firing back with bigger shots, only broken up by a kick to the dick or something else untoward. SUWA bullying him in the corner with chops, the best punches and a huge dropkick lead to KENTA doing all the same to the bully. The build around SUWA hitting his finisher was classic Kings Road, with KENTA doing everything he could to sandbag himself, eventually leading to KENTA flipping out of it and hitting his G2S. And SUWA gets into ring position far better than any opponent KENTA ever faced. Look no further than the finishing stretch. KENTA hits his big running knee, and watch SUWA stand up and fall into the bottom rope, steadying himself against the middle rope, stepping on his own feet. He's drunk me standing up out of a chair and realizing how drunk I am. KENTA sets him up for the knee that will finish things, and runs off the opposite ropes fully expecting SUWA to just stand still in the center of the ring for 6 seconds while KENTA runs back and forth before hitting the knee. SUWA stumbles, expertly drops to a knee and struggles back to his feet just in time to take that knee, occupying himself more interestingly than any other KENTA opponent before or since. And really the fans don't care. They would have reacted the same to that knee no matter how SUWA occupied himself in the meantime. He laid the groundwork for the big reactions, and the match build delivered. He didn't need to pay this extra attention to what happened in the seconds leading up to the finish. But he did. And that really sums up SUWA. He was a guy who knew how to occupy himself, his matches, and his surroundings, from opening match status, to his one big match.

Verdict

PAS: I think Ishikawa v. Ikeda still holds the belt. I enjoy heel shtick more then most, but parts of SUWA's stuff felt a little cosplayish, the most awesome version ever of Ziggler having HEEL in his twitter handle. Nothing felt winking about the grotesque violence of Ikeda v. Ishikawa and that kind of war will always have an edge up for me.

ER: This still ranks as one of my very favorite all time matches. I don't rightly know that I could say whether or not this was better than Ikeda/Ishikawa. They both scratch very different itches for me, but they each scratch those itches like the best possible backscratcher. The horrific violence of one versus much of what I love about wrestling in the other. One might be the most brutal war in wrestling history, the other hits me on a more personal level. It's the old "Greatest" versus "Favorite" argument. Is your favorite movie the same as what you think is the greatest movie? Favorite album the same as greatest album? SUWA/KENTA is one of my favorite matches. It's one I'll watch more often over the course of my life than this specific Ikeda/Ishikawa match. Both of these matches feel like #1 to me. And since I can't decide I will yield to Phil, who has a clearer feeling which match is better. However, if we were to do an All Time Match list some day I feel there's a good chance KENTA/SUWA finishes above some matches that finished #1 in their respective year. Or at least I'll argue for it to be.

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Lucha Underground Season 3 Episode 2: The Amulet

ER: Hey Joey Ryan and Castro had a horrible fake fight in their super secret cop room, and it was about as bad as their cop acting. Why is the cop story still a thing?

MD: I'm with Eric on this. The word to use with all this cop stuff is bemused. Also, if this was all going to be so goofy, they should have cast Lisa Marie Varon as the head cop. More wrestlers as cameos to make this stuff more tolerable.

1. Dr. Wagner Jr. vs. Mascarita Sagrada

ER: Doc was at least generous taking head and arm drag for the guy and not spiking him with the Wagner Driver. This seemed clipped. Not sure what Sagrada is going to do to get revenge on Famous B, but I predict it will somehow end with Brenda turning on B and aligning herself with Sagrada.

MD: Again, I like the logic here. It makes sense for Sagrada to be the surprise opponent, and Santos sure announced him with gusto. I kind of love the full on ridiculousness of Nurse Brenda. It feels like 90s AAA with the themed ring girls. The work itself was fine. Sagrada's been so weirdly competitive against people that for Wagner to really squash him helped cement him as dangerous. You have to think most of the audience has no idea who he is, so every bit helps.

ER: Captain Vasqez and Castro need to take a workplace communication course as they clearly both have different goals. Castro was openly working all last season on catching Cueto, and reporting this to Captain Vasquez, but now he's apparently not supposed to go after Dario....even though she's been fully aware of what he's been doing the entire time...This fucking story.

MD: My co-contributor here just no sold "A Millennia Ago." I personally want this to go 10 seasons and to have a complex Lost like underpinning that they're working out as they go. Embrace the kayfabe insanity. It's all crazy. They want to tell this Mortal Kombat type story and they decided the best way to do so was in a backdrop to fully complete pro wrestling matches, using those tropes and half pre-existing characters with their own legacies outside of this (like Chavo or Rey) and half new ones. This entire thing is madness. It's also painfully mundane at the same time. I don't understand what other side Castro was supposed to choose. Either he was with Captain Not-Victoria or He was going to go after Dario then and there? Joey Ryan's on Dario's side. Somehow I think we were supposed to see this as a clear duality of choices and that wasn't it at all. Still, "A Millennia Ago."

2. Argenis vs. Mil Muertes

ER: Another quick squash, again feeling like stuff was clipped out, and more Striker idiocy with him calling Cuerno/Muertes "the biggest feud in our history". I have no clue what criteria you can come up with to make that statement true.

MD: Why was Puma out there again? And why does a Reaper have a Trident and not a Scythe? Is he a Maritime Reaper?


3. Weapons of Mass Destruction: Marty the Moth Martinez vs. Killshot

ER: So the main take away from this match was that this was, indisputably, the worst Matt Striker has ever been on commentary. This commentary was right down there with the absolute worst pro wrestling commentary I have ever heard. It was so distractingly bad, did such a disservice to the actual violence occurring, and was so meticulously planned out and just continuously vomited into our ears, that it didn't seem sustainable. But he managed. He started out terribly, and managed to keep getting worse, and worse, and louder, and it was constant. Usually his commentary elicits somewhere between an eyerolling groan all the way up to just an eyeroll. But this was far worse than his usual degrees of eyerolling jackassery. Here he was just distractingly, aggressively, needlessly horrible commentary. The jokes were bad, the puns were bad, it downplayed just about everything being done in the ring, and then he had to cap things off by bring rape into the whole mess. Every word spoken was so embarrassingly planned out, you could just picture him googling "Famous Quotes About War" and then writing all of his puns down, like the world's shittiest @ Midnight contestant. I'm not sure he reacted genuinely to anything the entire match. It's clear he had a list of jokes he was going to tell, and he was going to shoehorn them in no matter the situation. I'm curious how he had them ordered, if he had them written out in what he felt were the "best to worst", and then he picked evenly throughout (because you can't just front load with ALL of your A+ material), or if he had the jokes divided up amongst categories of moves, like "After Guy Takes Table Bump, Say _____", "After Guy Takes Weapon Shot, Say _____".

Whatever his method, it couldn't have worked worse. Again, there was no genuine reactions from him the entire match. Every movement in the ring was used as a vessel for him to transfer his specific brand of dogshit from his mouth to our ears. Instead of reacting to a move with excitement or attempt to build any sort of narrative, he would just use each wrestler's movements as an opportunity to scream out another inane war-related pun. "SEMPER FI" after a clothesline, on down to mind numbing stuff like yelling "BOUTROS BOUTROS-GHALI!!!" after another move. I have no clue how that even relates to war, but REFERENCES~ I thought the references would die out eventually. Striker will often make a bad pun, Vampiro will groan about it, and then he'll go back to actual business. But these puns never died. They kept going, relentlessly, each one less clever than the last; each one taking away from actual violence and pain that Killshot and Moth were going through, all for the end result of ham fistedly shoving REFERENCES~ into the atmosphere. And then it all peaked with Marty the Moth looking at Melissa Santos, licking his fingers while making a V sign, and Striker blurting out how he was eyeing Santos, "perhaps the spoils of war??" Yep, just because Marty was playing dress up and we got to see a prop fight with fake grenades, we can also just make mention that Moth might rape Santos after he conquers and loots Killshot's village. What a remarkably stupid thing to say. "The spoils of war", after they've already done a foolish and misguide rape angle. This somehow overshadowed all his remarkably insensitive and assholish remarks about napalm. I'm sure every wrestler would want to work their matches while some blowhard reminds people about villages of innocents being burned to the ground. I honestly cannot believe he didn't just double down and start making Holocaust jokes. He was already doing his best to draw any attention away from what was actually happening in the ring, he might as well have gone for broke.

The match itself was a lesser version of the kind of wander around the Temple matches we've gotten used to. This one was more gimmick-y as weapons and Styrofoam boxes were already arranged around the ring for them to fall into, but it still lead to some nasty spots. Moth outed himself as a wild bump maniac last season, and that was on full display in the first minute of this as he made a through the crowd brawl with Killshot pretty brutal by falling onto surfaces that aren't easy to fall on. Killshot takes a few ungodly bumps of his own, the most impressive is him getting run face first into a ladder that had been set up from the apron to the ring barrier (with Moth almost hitting a fan in the face while setting it up, then showing the fan he didn't care). It was an amazing shot, with Killshot taking it the way Lawler would take a ringpost bump, and making it look as good as the best Lawler post bumps. Earlier he took a backdrop driver onto the apron, later he would take an insane bump through tables that had been set up at ringside. This was probably the best Killshot has looked, but he's still just not good enough to give any sort of drama or meaning to these dangerous bumps. They would never actually lead to anything, and he's not good enough to put over the gravity of them (and Striker certainly wasn't helping with that). The match oddly felt too long, and too short; too short to really put over the danger in some of the spots, to properly sell the damage. But it wasn't short, it was 25 minutes, and the idea of it getting another 10 just seems absurd. So overall it didn't really work for me, while also liking plenty of it. How annoying am I? I had to honestly ask myself if Striker's commentary made me like the match itself less than I would have with somebody else talking over it, or had I just muted the TV. And I don't think so. I was impressed by the insane bumps, but also felt they got recovered from too easily. And overall, I just don't think the feud "deserved" this level of match. One guy stole dog tags. That doesn't really get to "blood feud" for me. I think having these two have a match like this just dilutes things when they have a match like this between two actual main eventers, with something bigger than dogtags on the line.

MD: Eric went off on Striker, so I won't say much about that; just if this was supposed to be seen by us as vicious and brutal (and I think it waS), then Striker's commentary made sure we were going to see it as one big joke instead. Personally, I thought his "Sorry I love you" moment from Puma vs Rey was far worse since it completely disrupted a genuine match that was the main event of the entirety of season 2. He was absolutely terrible though. Tonally, I agree with Eric that the level of brutality didn't seem earned from a storyline perspective, not like, let's say, the No Mas match from last season was. They can't just put on something like this without meaningful build, treat it like a joke, and then have it resonate. For what it's worth, Striker's worst moment here was after Killshot grabbed the dog tags on the ladder and he shouted "The symbolism couldn't be any louder!" Louder? Maybe not, but it could have sure been better if he just kept his trap shut.

I though the match itself did more things well than not, though (even past how great Marty's been as of late). I think I'm higher on it than Eric. For starters, Killshot's most annoying tendencies seem to all be based around the ropes. You take that away from him and he's not doing a bunch of springboard or handspring goofiness. The walk and brawl and plunder stuff they did here seemed to suit his slightly off the wall offense far better. It created a natural set of limitations that forced him to censor himself. Second, I really like how this was laid out with set pieces, in that it avoided the traditional Sabu-ness of everything stopping so that they could set up a table or a ladder. When those things were involved, they set them up between other spots and then paid them off later. It helped the flow. I think they should have had Mariposa assert herself earlier on (even if they took her out for a while before the end). When she did show up, it was in the usual "ladder match" moment, which made no dramatic sense here since there was nothing hanging over the ring. In general, though, these matches are so heavily produced and when it works, you get something that's really sort of cinematic and far better than it could have possibly been otherwise. That was this match. The problem is that when something is so heavily reliant upon production, all of the elements have to come together, and that's nigh impossible in a world with Matt Striker on commentary.


COMPLETE LUCHA UNDERGROUND EPISODE GUIDE


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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Lucha Underground Season 3 Episode 1: Wheel of Misfortune

ER: Loved this season cold open just as much as last season's. Dario doing pull-ups, Honky Tonk Man saying "...one giant key..." when giving back Dario's possessions, and then the gift Lorenzo Lamas gives when he says "all charges are dropped". This hopefully means no more cop segments, but it also means that we all had to sit through those embarrassing cop segments with a 4 word wave of the hand to write it off. And apparently Dario is now under Dr. Claw's thumb.

MD: I wish they'd use guys like Honky more in these roles. Part of me wonders if we're supposed to think this is a reality where Honky Tonk Man doesn't exist as a wrestler or if he just ended up a cop somehow. I'm sure Matt Striker's referenced him 2.43 times in the history of the show or something. Thankfully, my suspension of disbelief was never active in any of the cop stuff. It feels too early for the reset button on bringing Dario back. That's my big problem with this. That was the big moment to end season 2 and it's already undone within the first few seconds of season 3. If nothing else, it meant it was a waste of that moment.

1. Matanza vs. Son of Havoc

ER: I wonder if the wheel was gimmicked or not. Fans were way into Havoc by end of last season and he's really become one of the top tecnicos in the fed. Though I can't decide whether or not it was a good idea to give him to Matanza this early in the season. They could be feeding him to Matanza, only to build him up for a rematch later in the season. But - as Matt had pointed out - this season was supposed to be a continuation of Season 2, so it plays weird to have Havoc get robbed of his "unique opportunity" at the very end of Season 2, only to get a title shot in the first match of season 3. Match itself didn't do much for me. Havoc's light offense didn't look that imposing against Matanza, and Matanza has gone from a thing impervious to pain, to someone who sells for the first 80% of the match before making his short comeback. The biggest guys in the fed got all their finishers no sold during his debut, but now Pentagon and even Havoc are practically dominating him. Havoc was at least good at keeping Matanza on his toes, but I just don't buy his offense keeping down the previously invincible Matanza. Did anyone think Havoc had a chance at the title here?

MD: I'm with Eric on this. Havoc could have been thoroughly elevated coming out of Ultima Lucha 2 if they gave him a few smaller feuds and some wins. On the other hand, this could be part of the broader narrative of him falling and climbing back, but maybe that's the wrong story for a guy who needs to be established just a little more. They put themselves into a catch-22 of sorts with this, as Havoc had to look at least a little strong but Matanza had just come off of selling a ton for Pentagon and needed to look absolutely dominant just as much. It all felt lose-lose to me. I do love the idea of the wheel though. It's a great story engine for this sort of episodic show.

ER: Really loved Dario in the segment with Mundo's gang. This guy gets it. He does not, however, get me, as I keep having to see Sexy Star matches.

2. Taya vs. Sexy Star

ER: Sexy Star gonna keep on Sexy Starring. Slow, plodding match with an unimaginative finish. It was mostly Taya administering a slow beatdown until her boys interfered, with the interference backfiring and leading to a Sexy Star roll up win. Star's running knees off the apron looked good, but Star gave Taya next to nothing to work with here. She looked like she was moving in slow motion. She ran the ropes the way someone might before their match, to test the rope elasticity, get a feel for the ring. Something tells me Star will never get a feel for the ring. Best part of the match was Vampiro going on about Johnny Smith, and Striker trying to correct him by saying Johnny Saint, and the ensuing argument with Vampiro saying "I'm right about this". The argument had nothing to do with anything, but it was an amusing real moment between the two of them.

MD: Again, my favorite thing about Lucha Underground is that it's a TV show with wrestling as opposed to a wrestling show on TV. This match had purpose. Taya beat Ivelisse (through hook or crook) at Ultima Lucha 2. Worldwide Underground lost their trios match. Dario likes making the Gift of the Gods champion defend. Sexy Star vs Taya is a natural match-up (even if an unappealing one). It's all logical. It all comes together. It's all in lockstep. It all has purpose. That's on the way in. On the way out, Sexy Star gets another win (and she'll need those if they're going to push her into a title match at some point), and they build to a rematch between the Trios champs and Worldwide Underground. You have to appreciate the utility of the segment even if you didn't want to watch the match (though, again, I get a kick out of how deeply into her character Taya is).

MD: They're really going to spend an entire season building Catrina vs. Ivelisse? Isn't this a 39 episode season? The mind boggles.

ER: After the entertainment Moth has milked out of some lousy feuds, and his death wish bump performance at Ultima Lucha Dos, I'm really hoping season 3 sees Moth bumped further up the card. He's a puffy weirdo, and he really owns his weirdness.

3. Rey Mysterio vs. Pentagon Dark

ER: Fun match, Rey is just ridiculous. I have no clue how he's able to keep doing this. The dive by Rey early on looked great and Pentagon had an amazing catch off it. And throughout the match I dug all of Pentagon's strikes. His chops and short kicks look good, and the two superkicks he hit were delivered perfectly by him, with full extension, and sold perfectly by Rey. The finish was pretty lame, with Pentagon jawing with Vampiro, meaning that whole mess is still going on. I don't really understand the whole "Dark" aspect of the character. He doesn't act darker than before, and if anything he does more hammy babyface mannerisms than before. At one point he spinning arm pump like he was Chi Chi Rodriguez or something. What is darker about him now? He still loses all his matches and then acts like a sore loser post match. I think Pentagon Emo would have been a more fitting character change (though the splash mountain post match looked really great).

MD: Again, this came from a logical place, with Rey wanting to avenge his protege. Again, it was a little tricky from a "needs" perspective, because there was a need to have a big match to main event the first show of the season but they also had to protect Pentagon (even against their biggest star) and I don't think they managed it. I am, too, in complete awe of Rey. Maybe it's because we don't see him as much anymore and we took certain things for granted, but I come into his matches now completely unprepared for how good he is, even though I know, deeply and thoroughly, how good he is. Somehow, he still manages to surprise. For instance, he had a punch in this match that was just off the charts great. It's not a part of his act you usually think about, but there it was. What do you DO think about is his selling, and it's one of the great constants in the universe. There was a moment towards the end, after the Storm Cradle Driver, where the match (and the time limits involved) called Rey to get back up relatively quickly and head towards the finish and it took me out of things for just a half second, right until the moment you really good at look at his body language, and how thoroughly he was managing to still sell the effects of it, even as he moved through the next spots. In general, I thought this was a little insubstantial, but that's fine because they can always go back to it with bigger stakes.


COMPLETE LUCHA UNDERGROUND EPISODE GUIDE



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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Brian Kendrick is So Hot and Low

Brian Kendrick vs. Cedric Alexander vs. Gran Metalik vs. Rich Swann WWE Raw 9/19/16 - FUN


The Cruiserweight Era (hahahahahahahaha) began on Raw with a fun, if cluttered and somewhat disjointed multiman mess. WWE gave them upwards of 13 minutes - yes it was during the dead zone of Raw time, right before the main, but 13 minutes nonetheless. It had the problem of many multimans, with Kendrick and Metalik disappearing for a long period of time seemingly selling, until convenient for both to return. But it also had Michael Cole casually mentioning Tracy Smothers, as a guy who should just be familiar to a current WWE audience. So that was pretty great. "Oh you know, Kendrick was trained by Shawn Michaels, William Regal...Tracy Smothres..." Yeah, those guys! Each guy did some things I liked in this, and Kendrick was the clear standout for me with all the little ways he controlled the pacing. His lean scrappy opportunist bit works better in singles matches where he can focus his wiles on one specific man's strengths and weaknesses, instead of worrying about getting into position to take a couple different pieces of offense from a couple different people, but Kendrick will always benefit a match like this because he makes offense look great. Watch him run so hard into a Cedric uppercut that it almost looked like it did more harm to Cedric's arm than Kendrick's face. Cedric even shook out the arm in disbelief afterwards. Kendrick also took a wild hip first bump to the floor, keeping him out until it was time for him to get in on the Metalik gorgeous flip dive catch. Also loved him trapping Swann in the steps to set up a kick. Didn't much care for the Swann/Cedric strike exchange in the middle, but still am a big fan of the Swann hook kick, and Cedric doing his big faceplant with his butt in the air, and Metalik bouncing like 5 feet in the air after taking the lumbar check. This was a fun showcase for our cruisers, and I was kinda surprised Kendrick got the win with the (urggghhhhh) "Captain's Hook", but the match felt oddly rushed (even though it got tons of time) and it was weird not having TJP actually there, since the match was for a title shot against him.




COMPLETE AND ACCURATE BRIAN KENDRICK



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Complete and Accurate Brian Kendrick, 2014-Present



Brian Kendrick has been on most of our radars for over 15 years now, from he and Danielson being the prize pupils from Shawn Michaels' school, to a couple respectable stints in WWE, to long stints in Japan and TNA. He was a guy who was frequently on TV and frequently working for larger promotions. And then he was a guy who nobody really talked about, unless he was doing a stoned shoot interview with Paul London, or going on a fool's errand attempting to train Eva Marie on Total Divas. But I never heard anybody actually talking about his wrestling. And then the CWC happened and he clearly had the best showing in the tournament, and was wrestling differently than I saw him at any point in his career, and it came completely out of left field. When did he become this guy? Did he reinvent himself for this tournament? I'm not interested (at this point) in going back and watching him in TNA, or New Japan. I'm most curious about his stuff from 2014 on, when he was off of TV or out of major promotions - even major indy promotions, for the most part - but still working frequently. We'll see if there are any hidden gems. I rate my C&As slightly different from the ones Phil, or Phil and I do, adding in the VERY GOOD category. So matches will be ranked as SKIPPABLE, FUN, VERY GOOD, GREAT, and EPIC.  

2016

Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins (WWE Clash of the Champions 9/25) - FUN
Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins (WWE Raw 10/3) - VERY GOOD
Brian Kendrick/Drew Gulak/Tony Nese vs. Cedric Alexander/Rich Swann/TJ Perkins (WWE Raw 10/17) - FUN
Brian Kendrick vs. Rich Swann (WWE Raw 10/24) - VERY GOOD
Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins (WWE Hell in a Cell 10/30) - FUN
Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins (WWE Raw 10/31) - SKIPPABLE
Brian Kendrick/Noam Dar vs. Sin Cara/Rich Swann (WWE Raw 11/7) - FUN
Brian Kendrick vs. Sin Cara (WWE Raw 11/14) - FUN
Brian Kendrick vs. Kalisto (WWE Survivor Series 11/20) - VERY GOOD
Brian Kendrick vs. Rich Swann (WWE 205 Live 11/29) - VERY GOOD
Brian Kendrick vs. Rich Swann (WWE 205 Live 12/6) - GREAT
Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins (WWE Raw 12/12) - FUN
Brian Kendrick/Drew Gulak/Tony Nese vs. Jack Gallagher/TJ Perkins/Rich Swann (WWE Tribute to the Troops 12/13 (Aired 12/14) - SKIPPABLE
Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins vs. Rich Swann (WWE Roadblock 12/18) - FUN

2017

Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins (WWE Raw 1/2) - SKIPPABLE
Brian Kendrick vs. Cedric Alexander (WWE Raw 1/16) - SKIPPABLE
Brian Kendrick vs. Akira Tozawa (WWE Raw 2/20) -  SKIPPABLE
Brian Kendrick/Noam Dar vs. Rich Swann/Akira Tozawa (WWE Fastlane 3/5) - FUN
Brian Kendrick/Tony Nese vs. Akira Tozawa/TJ Perkins (WWE Raw 3/13) - GREAT
Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins (WWE Raw 3/20/17) - SKIPPABLE
Brian Kendrick/Tony Nese/Noam Dar vs. Rich Swann/Akira Tozawa/Jack Gallagher (WWE Raw 5/1) - VERY GOOD
Brian Kendrick/Drew Gulak vs. Mustafa Ali/Jack Gallagher (WWE Raw 7/17) - FUN
Brian Kendrick/Jack Gallagher vs. Mustafa Ali/Cedric Alexander (WWE Raw 10/9) - FUN
Brian Kendrick/Jack Gallagher vs. Cedric Alexander/Rich Swann (WWE TLC 10/22) - GREAT


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Monday, September 26, 2016

DVDVR Puerto Rico 80s Set: Carlos Colon & The Invader vs. Los Pastores (Ambulance Match) (12/21/85)

Disc 1: Match 14: Carlos Colon & The Invader vs. Los Pastores (Ambulance Match) (12/21/85)

I'm not even entirely sure what to do with this. To begin, it's amazing. It's just wonderful wrestling spectacle and a beautiful and appropriate way to end the disc. It feels like something that could only exist in Puerto Rico. It's not really a conventional match by any means. Realistically, I should be ranking the disc at this point, but I'm going to duck that for now, precisely due to "matches" like these.

The Sheepherders had a reign of terror in Puerto Rico, injuring people, insulting the natives, causing havoc. This was them getting their comeuppance and being driven out of the territory. It was about the most definitive version of such a thing that I've ever seen and past certain key title changes or hair matches, this could possibly be the happiest a crowd has ever been sent home in wrestling.

It's not really much of a match. There's not much of a sense of danger for the babyfaces. They get worked over for a few minutes and then some of those poor souls that the Sheepherders had injured come back and beat them with weapons for about three times longer than the match had been at that point. It's basically a bloody tarring and feathering (but not a literal one, save for the blood part).

The crowd goes absolutely nuts for all of this, with the very best moment, and maybe the best single moment on Disc 1 being someone in the crowd swiping at Luke and a security guard with a big stick threatening him. Holy crap. I think in front of most other crowds, the sheer length of this would have almost made the Sheepherders sympathetic. I was feeling bad for them by the end. That wasn't a worry here though. This was as one-dimensional as it gets, but it's a dimension you'll never forget.

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

WWE Clash of the Champions 2016 Live-ish Blog

1. Alicia Fox vs. Nia Jax

I liked the little build we got to this one, as Alicia flipping out on Jax in the hallway seemed like it had an unexpected moment in it, with Fox seemingly accidentally smacking Jax in the face with a box. You look at the reactions of both when it happened, and I genuinely think it was an accident. But it lead to that super violent shove and I was interested in seeing a match. I really liked Fox not long ago when she was a big bumping heel, but almost right after I wrote something praising her work she got buried in 6 mans and wasn't really face or heel. She was just around. And this match went just about as it should. I love monster heels and Fox was given just enough, and I really liked how they transitioned to Jax finishing her off. Fox was smart and jumped her with kicks, but I loved when they went into Jax hitting her with bigger, more damaging kicks. Jax tossing Fox around was great, as Fox has these long limbs that make her ragdolling look even better. She's also just a good ragdoll bumper in general, so it's almost disappointing that this basically ends their feud. I could watch her get tossed around at least a couple more times. But Fox's comeback crossbody was great, loved how Jax leapt into it. Also love how they set up Jax's butt splash in the corner, with Fox slipping out of the Samoan drop and falling back into the corner, only for Jax to be on it. Fun opener.

2. New Day vs. Gallows & Anderson

Damn this was really good! It's one of those wonderfully constructed hot 8 minute tags. It's short enough that nothing stupid needs to happen, but long enough that it feels like it has some substance. Nobody has time to deal with their shortcomings, it's just a hot match that keeps the crowd up. This may have been Anderson's best performance in WWE so far. He really came off like a badass whose moves all ended with an exclamation point. That spinebuster was sick. And the match was obviously tightly constructed, but had a nice chaos to it, with interference and brawling on the floor not being the moment the match breaks down, but being integrated nicely into the match. Big E looked good as usual, both teams clicked, this was a real nice "opener".

3. Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins

Well TJP clearly has a barely rejiggered version of the best parts of Mega Man 2, and I can't help but flip out for that. And WWE putting up the purple ropes for this match is an awesome attention to detail. Phil and I each compared Kendrick in the CWC to Finlay, so it's appropriate he's the one who gets to bring Finlay's great apron skirt trap back into play. I'm picturing Finlay blessing him with the spot backstage in a gruff but touching moment. Perkins is kind of awkward in this one. His double chickenwing just looked like Kendrick fell on top of him with all of his weight. And then he whiffed on that neckbreaker (but Graves had a nice cover for it saying him drug Kendrick down by his hair). TJP hits a wild rana off the apron that sends both men splatting. I think Kendrick's scrappiness is kind of a good way to cover up for any accidental sloppiness. He does some stuff that's unpolished, throws some timing off, it adds an element of uncooperation without ever coming off unprofessional. There was an moment where they abort an Irish whip and it landed in a neat moment of "guy changing his mind on a spot vs. guy just shifting his timing to keep opponent on his toes". The match overall was a step below the CWC stuff, but still plenty fun.

4. Sheamus vs. Cesaro

Cesaro comes out dressed like a badass maitre'd who is actually just a hitman disguised as a maitre'd. I will never have a moment in my life where I look that cool. I love both of these two but weirdly liked the very first match in this series more than the others, and that was buried on a pre-show. Cesaro seems weirdly light in the first half of this. His uppercuts had a little less mustard, that crossbody landed like a Petey Williams crossbody, and that 619 should never see the light of day again. AND THEN THAT HAPPENED. THAT happened. Cesaro takes one of the most grizzly bumps in wrestling history, and the look of fear on his face after his spikes himself on a dive was horrifying. And WWE make sure to show 5 angles of it and it keeps looking uglier, keeps looking more like something a man shouldn't live through. I assumed immediately they would call an audible and just end on a count out. And somehow they didn't. Somehow it kept going. I wake up some days with a kink in my neck just because I slept wrong, and here Cesaro just basically leapt into the air and  landed on his head. We had a swimming pool growing up, and a diving board. And there was a sticker on the side of our diving board with a cartoon man diving into an empty pool, with a red circle and line through it. And when they showed Cesaro's dive in slow motion, he was in the exact same position as the man jumping into the empty pool. But somehow things continue and the crowd's disbelief leads to the crowd getting way into this match, and the drama seems huge afterwards because it doesn't even seem like Cesaro should be walking anymore. I had no problem with the double count out, because after that dive it's like the rule book went right out the fucking window. This wasn't either man not wanting to get pinned, this was two dudes fighting and not caring about a count. Great stuff that all built from a very, very scary moment.

5. Sami Zayn vs. Chris Jericho

Somehow the slight facial hair has massively improved Jericho's look. He went from looking like old lesbian Denis Leary to more of a Timothy Olyphant type. A massive improvement. And his walk to the ring is very much perfect. The ring work and execution isn't the great in this, but it feels nicely laid out. Jericho is just really bad at taking offense at this point. He essentially bails on Sami's flip dive and baaaaarely catches that through the ropes DDT. Sami wins me over by appropriately selling his genitals and groin after missing the yakuza kick in the corner. The blue thunder bomb was a big moment and Sami added an extra spin, but I thought the finish was extremely lazy with Jericho just standing up and hitting the codebreaker. We can do better than that, right?

6. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte

Not a big fan of three ways but I dug the way the early part of this was worked. I must have missed why this is No DQ though. Sasha and Charlotte match up really well, loved how Sasha bumped face first into the bottom buckle off a Charlotte kick. Bayley seems like she's been disappeared for 6 minutes. Sometimes Charlotte has a really goofy way of getting into position for the next spot. Like she's just doing a zombie sleepwalk. It's weird that it's No DQ but Dana Brooke has only interfered one time. Shouldn't she just be working this like a tornado tag if it's No DQ? Charlotte is just being booked like a beast throughout this whole thing. No move can hurt her, she's hardly needed Dana's interference despite being 2 on 1, and she gets big spots like that moonsault onto both women. You would never know the Bayley to Belly was used as a finisher, because Charlotte didn't even take a moment to act like a move had been done to her. Bayley was just a total afterthought in this whole match. Gone for much of the middle, never made to look important at any point other than the first 10 seconds. This got an insane amount of time and was just a total mess.

7. Rusev vs. Roman Reigns

This was a little deflating, as I really like Roman, but the whole thing was handled so poorly and obviously by the announcers that I just couldn't get into the match. The end felt inevitable. No matter how good Rusev looked, all you would hear about was just how brave Roman was for surviving, or how "Roman just needs to...." or "Is this Roman's moment..." It just sucked all of the drama out of everything for me. Though I was genuinely surprised by the big reaction to Roman's match winning spear. Crowd really exploded for it. I liked the Lana yanking the ref false finish, but I just didn't think this was one of Reigns' better performances. He seemed sluggish throughout, seemed tentative on offense.

8. Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens

I'm really liking Owens in this, liked his shit talk as he caught Rollins' leg and kicked him, liked him dropping the elbow out of the apron and working a snug horizontal chinlock. I get a little burnt out by PPVs though. I don't think I have proper stamina for them. I don't know if it's how WWE paces their shows, or if I can only just watch 2 hours of wrestling at a time, but matches just take more to get me involved in them the longer a PPV goes. The crowd seems with me. They all seem super quiet. Owens is trying. That missed cannonball looked great, and the gutbuster off the top was wild, and Owens is so wanting to get ANY kind of reaction from the crowd that he even does crotch chops before missing his announce table senton. That feels barely one step removed from people using a stunner on 1999-2003 indy wrestling shows. And I'm so sick of that moment every PPV where one or all of the announce team goes "Not like this!" This match felt an hour long.

It seems like all of these PPVs start out exciting and just get more and more arduous the longer they go.

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Phil Cherry Picks MAW

I got my hands on a bunch of MAW shows from the early 2000s, this was a Milwaukee area indy which used a bunch of IWA-MS guys. Since these are dozens of long ass early 2000s indy shows I am going to cherry pick some interesting looking matches.



CM Punk/ Jason Kronnan/Dave Prazak v. Dino Bambino/Bobby Bambino/Sherri Martel 2 out of 3 falls Tables and Ladders match 7/23/00

Punks team comes into Kid Rock which should strip him of all of his straight edge scenester cred. WWIMKT (What Would Ian MacKaye think). He also has a stringy blond front rattail and cut off jorts, his look didn't exactly scream future PPV headliner. This was a total shitshow trainwreck but a pretty entertaining one. Sherri was awesome stiffing Punk and Prazak, and even taking a bump off a ladder through a table which is nuts for a lady in her 40s in front of 100 people. Dragged a bit in the middle, but the end was pretty nutso with Prazak going head first through a table and Dino doing a shooting star press through a table which looked really dangerous, he barely rotated enough and looked like he almost spiked himself headfirst into the concrete.

Ian Rotten v. Peter B. Beautiful 6/3/01

This comes off of a KOTDM match between the two of them where Ian crowbarred this kid in one of those weird quasi shoot IWA-MS angles. I have no idea why Peter signed up for this a second time, as again Ian gives him nothing and just brutalizes him with lightbulb tube shots and chairshots. There was some angle where the MAW owner runs in a ineffectually chokes Ian with a pool cue, this leads to PBB's one cover which Ian kicks out of and then Rotten goes right back to mauling him. The end got downright Kurisuish with Ian throwing wind up kicks to this kids eye and punching him square in the cheek. I like meth BattlArts Ian a lot, but this was a different sort of thing and I didn't enjoy watching it.

Ian Rotten/Necro Butcher v. Corporal Robinson/Bull Pain 9/21/02

On paper this is just a murderer's row lineup of early 2000's brawlers. I don't think any match could have lived up to the match I had in my mind, but this was still really entertaining. First part of the match is worked as a southern tag with the heel Pain/Corp team working over Necro. Necro is a guy willing to get worked over and Pain and Corp are awesome guys at beating on someone, awesome punches and stomps and nasty chair shots. Pain is amazing at baseball bat shots, one of the best magic tricks in wrestling history, he really looks like he is braining people with bat shots. Corp has these amazing fast punch combos where he looks like he is beating on a guy in fast forward, man what a heel team those two were. Instead of a hot tag Ian just beats up the ref, and we then have about twelve minutes of straight brawling. I did think that not having the hot tag was a bit deflating, and while the brawling was super nasty looking it got a bit repetitive. Still this was violent nasty stuff executed well and fun to watch. First MAW hidden gem



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Friday, September 23, 2016

DVDVR Puerto Rico 80s Set: Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes (12/21/85)

Disc 1: Match 13: Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes (12/21/85)

I'm a little ahead on when these get posted on SC, a couple of weeks h. I just wrote two thousand words on Nick Bockwinkel vs Tito Santana. That was the easiest thing in the world. I could have probably gone twice that if I had the time. I'm struggling to find two or three things to say about this match, which was new to me as well.

If you've seen this match, you've seen it a thousand times. If you've seen one Ric Flair match, you've sure seen a lot of them. They're good, but this was painful, especially so because I saw it in context. Puerto Rico has amazingly cool crowds, right? It's the mix of lucha and Memphis, of brawling and stooging and heat and just wonderful bs. The crowd is part of the match, part of the equation, an ingredient in the mix, and you can do things with the Puerto Rico crowd that you can't do elsewhere.

In this match you had Dusty Rhodes, who is a master of crowd manipulation and Ric Flair who, if nothing else, is one of the most natural foils in wrestling history. I wanted them to play to their audience, to use the unique nature of the crowd to help build their match, as an architecetural component. In short, they didn't. There was a single moment, a single shot, where you thought that maybe, just maybe, Flair would play hide the foreign object. Dusty had one or two comebacks that got everyone going, with maybe just a little more in the way of engaging brawling than usual. Then the finish, with Flair attacking the ref in frustration, could have played into the chaotic nature of the promotion, but it really didn't. They didn't set it up well enough (but then when does much of anything get set up or foreshadowed well in a Flair match? That's just not his strength).

A match doesn't need to be interesting to be good, but it helps. This was just a waste.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Dark Matches

Oney Lorcan v. Cedric Alexander

PAS: Orney Locan is the ex Biff Busick, it is a pretty oddball name, but Biff Busick is also a pretty terrible name, it sounds more like a NXT create a name then the name that got created. After loving the Ibushi match, I am back to being unimpressed with Alexander. All of his stuff looks good, but he is more Tony Neeseish then an actual great wrestler. Lorcan was a nasty fucker in this, his leaping headbutt was awesome as was all of his different uppercuts, would have liked to see him break out some grappling, but he was great as a guy hitting hard. Worth watching just for him.

ER: Biff Busick at least sounds like the name of a human man. I personally have never known a person named Biff, but I have known two different men named Butch. But Oney Lorcan sounds so alien that you assume that it's an anagram or spells something foul backwards or rhymes with a dirty expression (Boney Porkin'?). But whatever, he's still awesome. His chops sound like they are getting the Lucha Undergound sound sweetening, he tosses out a bunch of uppercut variations that could look silly but instead look brutal, and then tosses out THAT headbutt. Cedric really does come off as "athletic guy doing athletic things" too often, but he also knows how to deliver some cracking strikes, and Lorcan takes some nasty stuff from him like that big suplex into the buckles. I thought most of this was super fun, and only kind of highlighted the additional awesome matches that could have happened if Lorcan had been in the CWC instead of a couple of the duds. Oh, and "It's hard not to get excited with action like this!" wins Daniel Bryan the award for "Vaguest Soundbite That Comes Up 4 Times Per Match While Playing Smackdown vs. Raw". You know you can picture Michael Cole saying it after you just did a snapmare as Trish Stratus.

Drew Gulak/Tony Nese v. Kenneth Johnson/Lince Dorado

PAS: Perfectly fun little tag match. Johnson is pretty green, but does have a nice underdog charisma, and plays nicely off of Gulak as jersey dirtbag Fuchi. Gulak is a beast, I loved his  JYD headbutt to break up a pin, Gulak is pretty much always worth watching no matter what he does. Neese is still kind of a lame-o, but he and Gulak had some fun double teams and I could see them as a nice team. If they end up doing something with Crusierweight tag wrestling I could dig this tag team.

ER: With the color scheme and makeshift team setting this had a feel of an early 2000s Velocity match, which gave it an almost inherent likability, even though I don't really like three guys in this match. Gulak is a favorite of mine, but Nese is more of an RVD without the dangerous bumps. Dorado has some of my least favorite offense, and Johnson just isn't very good. BUT, despite his badness Phil is right that there's some kind of charisma there, something to like. He may have done one of the worst double leg takedowns I've ever seen, but I oddly likely Johnson throughout this. Nese could only improve by working with Gulak, and I did love the two of them cornering poor Kenneth. Gulak locking on that nasty lucha sub was a highlight, as was Nese doing the one arm powerbomb to the floor, onto Dorado. Also liked how Gulak literally brushed off Dorado's strikes, because, yeah, those strikes looked brush-offable. Nese continues his streak of almost 450ing his face into the mat. This was just one of those odd matches that I didn't really think was good, but enjoyed watching it for the duration. It's not so much that I'm a complicated person; burdensome would be perhaps more appropriate.

Ariya Daivari/Sean Maluta v. The Bollywood Boyz

ER: I was prepared to dislike this one, but by the end it pretty easily won me over. That seems more like a testament to a simply worked traditional tag formula, but it won me over nonetheless. Bollywood Boyz definitely play better as a team than as singles, and Daivari is now seeming like the best guy in the tournament that got the most silent reaction. I started out groaning as I don't really care for the whole Bollywood dancing routine. It feels like actual guys from India doing an Indian minstrel show. But that died down as the match went on, and as they started working like an Indian Fantistics I got into it. Daivari bumped all over for them which helped them out a bit, as he made a double team battering ram in the corner look great and later flew recklessly and painfully to the floor. The Bollywood Boyz tandem offense kind of makes up for the looseness of some of it, although Gurv (?) throws a nice elbowdrop and had a fine hot tag. Plus, they're all tasseled out which is bonus gravy. Maluta didn't look great, seemed really lost at how to get into position for double teams, and capped it by throwing a really bad and awkward dropkick off the middle. Still, fine formula tag which showed the Boyz as a team wouldn't look out of place on the roster, and that Daivari is certainly the better Daivari.

PAS: Daivari did look great here, bumping around, being kind of a contemptuous dick to the Bollywood Boyz shtick, felt like a guy who should stick around, maybe team him with Prince Mustafa Ali in a Saudi prince who comes to college and uses coke and BMW's to bang sorority girls gimmick. Bollywood Boyz clearly have a ton of experience working basic tag matches, and know when to work a hot tag, when to get heat ect., it felt very professional without really inspiring me.


COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE CWC


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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

All Time MOTY List HEAD TO HEAD: 2014: Cesaro v. Zayn VS. Shield v. Wyatts

Cesaro v. Sami Zayn NXT Arrival 2/27

ER: Awesome, awesome match. This is not news to most of you. These two match up so well, and this was just a wonderful match to start the big "introduction" event for NXT. There are great matches, and then there are matches that are not only great, but perfectly slot into their time and atmosphere. There were several nice callbacks to their 2/3 falls match from August, starting with Zayn going for his turnbuckle dive DDT and Cesaro lying in wait with a beastly uppercut. Cesaro just manhandles Zayn the entire time using his freak strength. We didn't get anything quite as freakish as the 2/3 falls finish, with Cesaro literally running around the ring holding Zayn above his head and then tossing him even higher, but there were still plenty of awesome freak moments. Everytime Zayn would leave his feet I'd wonder if it would end with Cesaro catching him in mid air and then tossing him painfully, and it often would. Cesaro leveled him a couple of times with uppercuts, the best being a brutal running corner charge. We also get Cesaro working all over Zayn's knee, wrenching it in some cool ways, doing his nasty double stomp to it (later we even get a double stomp literally to Zayn's face), and Zayn gamely plays up the knee injury throughout, showing that some moves take longer to set up because of the knee, and when he follows through with the move anyway it almost always backfires (like Cesaro catching his split legged moonsault and splatting him on the rampway). Zayn's flash roll-ups and pins are all convincing, and Cesaro is great at getting into position and launching himself into Zayn's hope spots (Cesaro taking the sunset flip powerbomb is a thing of perfection). The fans rightly flip out for this one and I was hanging on all of the nearfalls with them. I love that Cesaro never actually went full heel in the match. Crowd was into him and more into Zayn's comebacks, but Cesaro didn't outright cheat or work in an underhanded way, and he didn't need to. This was just a classic match with flawless execution and an awesome, unexpected build. I couldn't see wanting anything more.

PAS: This was a pretty awesome version of a indy juniors style main event. All time great Cesaro performance, which was really a bridge from Claudio to Cesaro. He really broke out a bunch of his great rudo base work which was his signature as CC, as he is just awesome at bumping for high flyers which is something you rarely see him do anymore. He also just chucks Zayn around the ring with crazy power throws, I especially loved his throwing uppercut, and that cut off dive was one of the coolest versions of that spot I have ever seen. I thought Zayn was a little fighting spirity at the end, that kind of "look at my determination" face can get hammy at times and I think it crossed that line. Still minor point, for what was otherwise a great match


VERDICT

PAS: I think this is a pretty convincing win for Wyatts v. Shield. I really dug the Sami v. Cesaro match it was about as good a version of a NXT/PWG juniors main event. Cool execution, impressive near falls, great individual performances, I loved how they did all of the call backs to the 2013 match and the big spots were sufficiently big. Still the Wyatts v. Shield match was the climax of a one year plus story with the emergence of the Shield and the emergence of this new big gang on the block to challenge them. Awesome build, great payoff, the best heel v. heel matchup in wrestling. That kind of thing done well is always going to trump a great juniors match for me.

ER: I love this match, and I think it has a convincing argument as the best singles match of 2014. But those Wyatts/Shield trios and that glorious Hardy Boys/Young Bucks tag (my favorite tag match of the last 5 years, at least) are going to be tough to overcome.

2014 MOTY Master List

All Time MOTY List

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DVDVR Puerto Rico 80s Set: Hercules Ayala vs. Killer Tim Brooks (Taped Fist Cage Match) (October 1985)

Disc 1, Match 12: Hercules Ayala vs. Killer Tim Brooks (Taped Fist Cage Match) (October 1985)

This was more enjoyable minimalist fare, the sort of thing I expected from the set. I've seen a decent amount of Brooks in Houston lately, and he varies with his opponent. Some of it has been in those nigh-impossible to watch two-ring six man tags where you never know where to look and the wrestlers' have a hard time building a narrative. Ayala, after two matches, feels like the definition of a large body that has his opponent orbit around him and create the motion and the action. In that, Brooks did an admirable job here, using the gimmicks to full advantage.

The story of the match was that Ayala would beat Brooks to a pulp with the taped fists and Brooks would stooge and sell and beg off. The few advantages he got were due to low blows or cheapshot kicks. It's one of those matches that could have used a real heat segment but, at the same time, didn't suffer quite as much as it should have because the beating was thorough and consistent enough. The fans paid to see Brooks trapped in a cage with Ayala and for Ayala to punch him a lot, to open him up, to focus on the wound, and then, towards the end of the match to slam him into the cage, hit a few power moves, and win. That's what they got and it's hard to fault the match too much for it.

I liked the double gimmick aspect of the match. It meant that they didn't have to go to the cage early, instead focusing on the punching and the power of the taped fists. They get that over immediately in a very clever way with Brooks missing an early punch, hitting the cage instead, and not selling it at all, a testament to how hard the tape made the fists. He'd indirectly use the cage later on to hit the second and top rope more than he would have otherwise, but it really didn't come into play until the end of the match, when blood had already been introduced.

This is going to be another hard one to rate as it was very one-sided. Still, Ayala played his part well. His 'comeback,' if you want to call it that, after about twenty seconds of actual heat, felt impassioned enough to make up for the short time. That paired with Brooks' reactions was just potent enough to make the match feel like more than it was, which is the magic of pro wrestling. I just don't think it was quite magical enough to rate well on the set as a whole.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

2001 Match of the Year

Shinya Hashimoto/Tadao Yasuda v. Tamon Honda/Masao Inoue Zero One 4/18/01

PAS: Nothing I love more then a inter promotional Japanese brawl. Team NOAH is undermanned and are awesome fighting from below. Serious Inoue is great, he is such a shlub, and I love it when he steps it up and goes to war. The Yasuda experiment was a pretty huge turn of the century failure, but this was his crowning achievement, he is a great bully smacking around Inoue with sumo thrusts and chucking him to the ground. In one of the cooler moments Yasuda has Inoue mounted and Honda runs in and chucks him with his awesome german suplex. Finish was totally boss, Hashimoto is a serial killer in this, he comes in a demolishes Inoue with these brutal looking over hand chops, they have to stop the match because his shoulder is so damaged. Has everything you want in this kind of match, bad feelings, great character work and  big time violence.


ER: Yeah these type of matches are bread and butter for me. All time asskicker, former sumo, former Olympian, chubby little loser. That's a winning combination for me. There's a lot to love in a short amount of time here, and I loved it all. Inoue gets his own ring entrance and he really soaks it up, but Hashimoto's entrance is just charisma beyond compare. A top 10 favorite of mine at the peak of his all time badass powers, sideburns with the Paul Weller shag, truly The Jam of assbeating. I'm a big fan of former sumos in pro wrestling, even the ones that aren't too great. The crowd seems to get extra electric for them, their sumo spots always get a big reaction, and they bring a "legit athlete" credibility to matches. So I'm excited right off the bat as Yasuda rushes Honda and bullies him into the corner, and then does it again with Honda catching him in a choke, followed by Honda tossing the ref aside so the can grapple. They keep coming to stalemate but the intensity burned. And then Inoue - like a 13 yr old boy trying to kiss a girl way out of his league- rushes Hash and begins blasting him with elbows, even dropping Hash down to a knee. Inoue staggering Hash is an all time great moment, but Hash has to spoil the glee by standing up and throwing the meanest overhand chops to Inoue's neck and trap and shoulder. Yasuda gets to pick on Inoue, chucks him with his underhook suplex and rolls right into mount, blasting Inoue several times. Honda breaks up the punches by coming up behind Yasuda and lifting him up and over with his great great great German suplex. We get a wonderful Honda/Hash throwdown, with Hash getting overzealous and headbutting Tamon Honda, the way a fool might. You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't open attachments from parties you don't know, and you don't try to headbutt a man with a noggin like Tamon Honda. Honda smirks at Hashimoto's headbutt and then drops Hashi to the mat with his gigantic sledgehammer of a dome. But we knew who the weak link was before we even saw a visual of the match, and before long Hash has Inoue all to himself, kicking and chopping, and Inoue's shoulder - to this day - probably sounds like a rock grinder every time he moves it. And on rainy days he is reminded of Shinya Hashimoto.



ALL TIME MOTY LIST



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Monday, September 19, 2016

Dick Togo is in the Same Project as Candyman Still Doing Hand to Hands

Revolucion v. Argos MPRO 9/16/16-FUN

Known marxist revolutionary Dick Togo comes into the MPRO mask tournament in a Cuban flag outfit to wrestling Mistico's mediocre tag along brother. Not much of a match, Argos is pretty dull and Togo wasn't busting out all of his cool spots, possibly to attempt to conceal his identity. Togo still looked really crisp, and I would be very excited to see a Togo/Fidel Sierra tag team. Hopefully his later round matches have a bit more pop.

COMPLETE AND ACCURATE DICK TOGO

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DVDVR Puerto Rico 80s Set: Carlos Colon vs. Abdullah the Butcher (9/21/85)

Disc 1, Match 11: Carlos Colon vs. Abdullah the Butcher (9/21/85)

There's such a wonderful purity to Colon vs Abdullah. The match up shows up a number of times on the set, and I wonder if I might grow sick of it. Somehow, I don't think so. It already feels familiar here, or more accurately, it feels seeped in familiarity. It's chemistry. Colon and Abdullah unlock something in one another, unlock something in the crowd. After two matches with them, I can already see it.

It's streamlined to some degree. There's no preliminary posturing. Sure, in this match Abdullah has JJ with him. Yes, Colon comes out out to We are the World. I actually thought this was Abdullah vs Dusty for someone reason (a match up that's not even on the set). I was groaning at the "branding" Dusty must have done ("The 1985 We Are the World tour, Daddy"). But no, it was Colon, and that familiarity bleeds through. There's a glorious bit of dissonance as the music is still playing even as he takes it right to Abdullah again. Then, when the first assault doesn't work and Abdullah just gawks at him after headbutts in the corner, it's back to the ear. This doesn't feel repetitive. It feels like the most natural thing in the world.

From there, it's how you'd expect, a lucha brawl with Memphis trappings, Colon taking it to Abby, Abby bleeding, eventually firing back, Colon's comeback with low blows and the little jump, a multi-angle assault from the ropes. There are moments that shock and surprise, like Abdullah's courtly bow after an even brawling exchange, like the Monkey Flip and the suplexes and the Santa Isabel Jam. There's a hugely cinematic moment, after the comeback where Colon hits a knee lift, creating distance that allows the crowd to really see him and the fact that he'd been opened up even more. They gasp, and Colon and Abdullah are such masters of their environment that they take advantage of this, working in another little bit of heat and comeback. If it was planned, which seems unlikely, they're masters. If it wasn't planned, they're even more so.

There's a strange feeling in watching these two, like nothing I've ever seen outside of maybe some of those interminable AJPW 90s classics. There's no natural sense for when the match should end. It shouldn't end. It can't end. I'm curious to see if there's an actual finish in any match between them on this set, because I almost can't imagine it. Even here, they do an elaborate finish with a ref bump (and trash thrown in because the fans know) and JJ blading and it all leads to crowd brawling, people scattering, and a count out. It's such a testament to them, to how they turn familiarity into a strength, that they're able to present this primordial struggle, Autumn giving way to Winter and Winter giving way to Spring, one that simply can't end, and yet it is still, somehow, fulfilling.


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Sunday, September 18, 2016

WWE Cruiserweight Classic 9/7/16

1. Noam Dar vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

PAS: I am pretty deep in the skeptic camp on both guys, so I was pretty surprised how much I enjoyed this. These guys have clearly worked each other a ton, and this had a the feel of a practiced touring match, still it was a pretty entertaining one. I really loved all of the early amateur stuff with ZSJ adding some cauliflower to Dar's ear. I thought the arm vs. leg story was pretty well done, with both guys adding some nice flourishes to it. ZSJ slipping during the penalty kick was a nice bit of subtle selling, especially from a guy whom subtlety isn't a strong point. I also loved the double stomp while Sabre's leg was on the ropes, reminded me of the kind of nasty shit KDX used to do to Sasuke's leg right before he went out for surgery. I am also always a huge fan of the double kneebar roll to the floor spot. I did think some of Dar's strikes looked pretty dainty, and the end section where Sabre's arm was hurt too, might have been a little too cute. The all legs Rings of Saturn was really cool, but maybe leave that for a match where your leg hadn't been torn up all match. I did like how Mauro and Bryan started questioning Dar's strategy when he switched to the arm. This was the best job of commentary these guys had done, Mauro cut his "shades" down a bit, and they actually articulated the nuance of the story.

ER: I really liked this, and like Phil I was also surprised (even though I have suddenly found myself on more of the "defending Sabre" side of the fence, which is weird). Both do some things I don't like (Dar moreso than Sabre) but both found some fun twists I liked, and Sabre does plenty of things I actively like. I liked Dar falling slightly short on his dive and instead of both men lying there selling (which seems like what happens whenever guys do a tope) he got up immediately and tossed Sabre back in the ring for a possible pin. I liked a lot of the more complicated indy-ish segments, especially Sabre going for a flying uppercut and Dar turning his body just in time to catch Sabre on his back and deliver and almost backslide driver. Sabre does some nice subtle things that he doesn't get a lot of credit for, like the slip on the PK Phil mentioned (and god, fuck off already Mauro, with your "Penalty Kick ala Katsuyori Shibata!" We get it, wrestlers do moves that other wrestlers have also done. Shut up.), and the spot setting up the tope where he got tossed to the apron but his foot accidentally hung up on the top rope, so he kicked at Dar's face with that hung up leg until getting knocked to the floor. I liked in the Gulak match how Sabre got easily outstruck, and in this match when Dar threw a couple of soft left hands Sabre made sure to toss some hard cupped hand strikes at Dar's ears. The early scrambly stuff was good, the knee bar reversals were good (and I'm with Phil, always love the roll to floor in a leg lock spot) and that finishing submission was just disgusting. Both of Dar's arms looked popped out of their sockets and I just love the slow progression of it, fighting for the rings of Saturn, bending the top arm back, hooking his own legs, and then snapping his legs shut. I always love the slow, struggling sub set-ups in Sabre matches, seen earlier this tournament against Tyson Dux when he slowwwwly bent Dux's wrist back away from the ropes. Really awesome stuff, and a real pleasant over-delivery.

2. TJ Perkins vs. Rich Swann

PAS: I also thought this match exceeded my expectation by a fair amount. Starts out as a rope running backflip contest as one might expect. I am not Vader so I have no real problem with that kind of thing, you could go back to the 50s and watch French Catch dudes do that same sort of one ups manship. Swann and TJP are a pair of guys with impressive kip ups and headscissors too. Then Swann hurts his knee and he does an awesome job of selling the damage while Perkins works over it. Swann would still hit moves, but not have the snap or elevation on them, really the way you would expect a real world knee injury to play out, Kerri Strug still did the vault. Bryan did a great job pointing this out on commentary, and it really added to the match. I also loved Swann's hook kick, such a nasty looking version of the played out superkick. Finish was exactly what it should be. I question the sense of booking two leg injury matches on the same show, but they were both good.

ER: This was really good, and I'm super impressed by Swann here. And I don't really have tons different to say about it than Phil already said. I also have no problem with backflip counter wrestling and if I'm gonna watch two guys do it, then Swann's kip ups and TJ's flips out of headscissors are pretty awesome to watch. So I was enjoying it just fine, but then things leapt up another level once Swann landed wrong on his knee on the floor, and TJ belted him with the slingshot dropkick to the apron. And Swann's knee selling was just excellent the rest of the match. Instead of a bunch of moments with him lying on the mat going "My kneeeeee!" and then getting up and doing his spots, we had a guy still doing his spots but noticeably slowed and less effective, a guy leaving himself open to TJ's kneebar more than he otherwise would. This match was certainly one of Bryan's better commentary moments as I hadn't picked up on what Swann was doing until Bryan pointed out his lack of height on the tornado DDT, and from there I was hooked. Loved him tiring himself out dragging TJ to the corner for his 450, and TJ just grabbing the heel. All of TJ's heel hook/kneebar snares were simple and logical, that kick exchange was awesome (fully agree on how cool Swann's hook kick is), and loved the quickness of the finish, with all the cumulative damage finally catching up to Swann and leaving him with no option. Awesome stuff here.

ER: I was really impressed with both matches this episode, both exceeded my expectations but stand on their own no matter the expectations. Both landed on our 2016 Ongoing MOTY List, which shouldn't be much of a shock with how the tournament has gone so far.

COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE CWC


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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Lucha Worth Watching: Panther Familia, and Kraneo vs. Smaller Men

Blue Panther, Blue Panther Jr. & The Panther vs. Misterioso Jr., Bobby Z & Sagrado (CMLL 8/5/16)

This wasn't the match I expected, but I was pleased with the match we got. I was expecting this to be a showcase of everybody's highflying, but man do the dives keep coming. BP's kids get to show off their fast topes, BP himself hits two sturdy and impressive ones, Misterioso gets his nice rolling senton off the apron, Bobby hits a killer plancha to the floor while Panther Jr. is already lying on the floor, and Sagrado hits a mean springboard flip dive. That's not even counting all the numerous springboard and top rope moves into the ring. Then throw in Misterioso's great Cassandro bump and Bobby's big Jerry bump and this match had way more guys leaving their feet than any Sky Team match I've seen. Wild stuff. There's plenty of great character moments, with Sagrado not playing along with Panther Jr. sequences, and Bobby Z's ever-growing unwitting doofus character that is hopefully finally getting bumped up the card. BP and Misterioso have some wonderful sequences, and I especially loved their mat rolls to start. Blue Panther always does at least one little thing I love in his matches that have some primera matwork, and here I loved him rolling backwards and catching Misterioso's ankle on his way over. A small but wonderful part to a fun big spot match.

Kraneo/Hechicero/Sagrado v. Triton/Hombre Bala Jr./Angel de Oro (CMLL 5/10/16)

I love a good rudo team, and that right there is three rudos I like seeing together, and this is the first time we've been lucky to see them together. Hechicero teaming with Kraneo is a beautiful thing, and together they're like Jack Handey's shark riding on an elephant's back, just trampling and eating everything they see. Sagrado has really found new life as a rudo these last two years, gone are the days of him clumsily blowing tecnico offense, now he's found his calling being an asskicker and bumping great FOR tecnico offense. He takes tons of armdrags from Triton that ramp up faster and faster and make me think my video was glitching and speeding up. I loved all of Hechicero's stuff with Bala, with Bala getting a rare chance to shine (apparently replacing Super Porky, which likely made the match take an entirely different tone than it otherwise would have) as Hechicero takes his ranas and knees with force, and Bala takes all of Hechicero's endless bag of tricks. Loved Hechicero hitting a pointy running knee in the corner, then whipping him with a couple of sick jabs I've never seen him do. Bala mirrors him with a couple of flying knees of his own and Hechicero is great stooging for him. But then Sagrado and Triton get to tear it up on the edges of the camera, with Triton getting flung upside down into the barrier and Sagrado hitting a killer sliding lariat to a slumped-in-the-corner Triton. Kraneo is such an awesome mismatch for most tecnicos, eating and trampling, flattening fliers, elbowing guys off the apron, accidentally booting poor Cujie, but he goes down like he got shot for a couple Oro superkicks, really times them perfectly to actually make them look like kicks and not thigh slaps. We get some crazy flying down the stretch, with Triton hitting a big asai moonsault to the floor, and Triton hitting a wild asai tornillo that sees him go upside down through his opponent and possibly onto his own head. And everything ends with Kraneo just flattening Oro with a sick senton which the announcers refer to as a "mega senton". Indeed.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Lucha Underground Season 2 Episode 26: Ultima Lucha Dos - Part III

1. Fenix, Aerostar & Drago vs. Jack Evans, Johnny Mundo & PJ Black

ER: Really great match in terms of tecnico craziness, and without a dud PJ Black performance this could have been one of the great modern spotfests. So let's enjoy it for what it was, a tremendous showcase for Fenix and Aerostar. Drago seemed to have a problem overshooting things this match, but his heart was in a kind and crazy place. Evans was kind of going into business for himself, stealing some attention by doing silly things like bumping bigger delivering a move than the guy actually taking a move (at one point he catches Fenix on the top rope, and then goes flying off the apron with nobody bringing it up, felt almost Teddy Hart-ish). But damn Fenix and Aerostar. Those guys seem like they're just making up their looniness as they go, and I love them for it. Aerostar walks around the ropes like he has fly paper on the bottom of his shoes, and Fenix was just great glue centering this match. Didn't care tons for the Bullet Club style home stretch where all the illegal stuff happens and then some other guy interferes to cancel out the cheating, and Striker makes dogshit shoehorned 3rd Bass references, but whatever, Aerostar and Fenix are awesome.

MD: They've really done an amazing job moving wrestlers up and down the card in Lucha Underground. It doesn't always work, which is why we had an inconsequential Mil Muertes match earlier but Drago and Fenix have been at the top and that makes them in a trios with Aerostar feel all the more important. I think this match sort of highlights how I look at LU differently than Eric (and certainly Phil). I have a hard time distancing myself from the fact it's a TV show with wrestling matches. That's the thing that we've been all but programmed to hate and rebel against, certainly since 98-99 and how that idea killed things we loved, but that's really what we're dealing with, and when it works, it works. In that regard, the Angelico return felt like a big, earned moment, and I think it worked almost solely because the beatdown had gotten into overkill. If the beatdown hadn't gotten that annoying, the comeuppance wouldn't have mattered as much. To me, the bigger problems in the match were the inconsistency of the ref's actions. It makes sense (begrudgingly) when a ref is trying to keep a tecnico acting tecnico but those lines just aren't drawn in this show. They set up a big transition with a ref stopping the babyfaces so really, the match should have been over immediately, later on, after the ref got pulled out. If they're going to introduce an element, they should be consistent with it. Past that, this was fun and action packed with the crazy spots Eric mentioned. I could have used a little less butt-based offense, a little less collaboration, and a cooler looking triple team Invasores battering ram, but it's not like any of these guys are Kraneo.

2. Dragon Azteca Jr. vs. Black Lotus

ER: I couldn't begin to explain (or care about) the Black Lotus story, and I'm pretty burned out on intergender matches (especially singles matches), and I had never seen any Angela Fong matches before, so was not too excited by this one. I like Azteca and thought he had some pretty nice stuff here. He set her up nicely to succeed, and I think about half the time she did. There were some ugly moments like her flimsy elbows, but I liked how she ragdolled after Azteca's response elbow. Azteca worked fast and crazy, that missed springboard 450 to the floor was just nuts. I don't know how someone's ankles don't just shatter after that. I thought Lotus' sliding knee looked good and she took a brutal bump into the ringside barrier, but after a bit it was a little annoying seeing Azteca bumping so hard and fast for her offense, and there was a lot of stuff they both made look clunky. I wasn't too crushed when Pentagon came out for some arm breaking, though it's a bummer that Azteca was just an afterthought.

MD: I get that they consider 2 and 3 part of one big season and that it set up Pentagon vs Rey to start S3, but having Sid come down and destroy someone is never a very good way to make a grand debut. Just too much weirdness here, with the announcers as clueless as Eric about the ongoing storyline and the intensity coming and going far too much considering MURDER was on the line. I do think this match, as much as any they've done, highlighted the Street Fighter II sort of feel they say they go for where a man and a woman can just face off like it's Chun Li vs Ryu or something and you're barely supposed to notice. Sexy Star overcoming adversity to be a symbol is too primal a part of her character for that. We were supposed to buy Black Lotus as an equal threat and I'd say that they managed it 75% of the time as opposed to Eric's 50%. That said, I had forgotten this had gone so long in my first watch and I've already forgotten most of it again a few days later.

3. Pentagon Dark vs. Matanza

ER: This didn't actually do much for me, which is a shame as I obviously like both guys. The Vampiro-as-Master thing, and characters who can't be hurt always end up problematic, as they usually just start selling for reasons never explained. Add to that, the structure of the match just bored me after awhile, even if I liked a lot of the moves being done. We get literally 8 minutes of Pentagon control to start, and other than insisting on being called "Dark" and the S&M vignettes with he and Vampiro, he didn't act any more vicious than we had previously seen. Shit, last season he almost lit a guy on fire. Here, he added some weird campy, swishy strut. Did anyone else notice that? He did it several times so it had to be intentional, just braining a guy with a chair and then doing a little Charles Nelson Reilly walk. Matanza took a big beating on the floor, taking some wild bumps into chairs, taking chairshots to various body parts (I loved when he went for almost a desperation double leg and Pentagon nailed a chairshot while he was rushing in), all sorts of chops and leg kicks, big tumble into the barrier.....but it just went on way too long. Matanza goes from a guy who can never be kept down for more than a move or two, to a guy who just takes an 8 minute beating, for reasons, I suppose. So Matanza takes an overlong beating, then starts throwing Pentagon around (though here more than any other time it's way too obvious that - just because he CAN do them - Cobb should not be doing standing shooting star press/standing moonsault). I'll never tire of Cobb's stopped momentum suplexes, but then the finish was just lame as Pentagon gets distracted by Dario (why does he hate Dario again?) and Cobb hits him with a barbed wire bat and that's all she wrote. Real disappointing. The beatdown went on so long, Matanza sold until he didn't, Vampiro looked like an exhausted Guardian Angel, and overall it just kinda bored me.

MD: This is another case where the story and the execution weren't quite in sync. I'm actually pretty torn on the Pentagon stuff from this episode. It was just all over the place tonally. He destroyed Dragon Azteca, Jr. and Black Lotus, both of whom are fairly sympathetic. He lost here, while dominating and being extreme or what not, but also playing to the crowd and drawing cheers. He got upset after the match. Then at the end of the show he came out and killed Vampiro and that was the way they ended it. It was all over the place. If they had pulled the trigger and gave him the title, it would have been one thing. This doesn't feel like the best way to tease a face turn to the crowd and then make try to make him more evil. It was just muddy all around.

Just from sheer results alone, it's a big deal that Pentagon was able to dominate Matanza so thoroughly. That, in and of itself, made the Dark transformation feel more meaningful, and that was, very much in how they protected Matanza so far. While I think the beatdown had to drone on annoyingly in the trios match, I agree with Eric that it was too long here; they could have gotten the same point across in half the time and everyone would have probably looked better for it (Pentagon's offense wouldn't have seemed inconsequential. Matanza wouldn't have had to work from underneath for so long). I'm a bit torn on the shooting star press too. I really disliked acrobatics which happened in the Mack vs Cage match after some nasty shots. Here, though, I think it might have added to the unreality and surreality of Matanza, the inhuman nature of him, that lumbering final boss who's not just strong but impossibly (and improbably fast) in the way that you punch the wall in frustration. That said, I didn't buy the finish. Vampiro needed to screw up more, maybe? It was nice, however, to see Dario's best Jimmy Hart impression as the sacrificial lamb who was saved at the last moment. No, this was just too all over the place. Frankly, I think they would have been off shifting this transformation earlier in the season and running Grave Consequences II with Mil and Matanza here instead.

4. Taya vs. Ivelisse

ER: I think I like both of these two more as trios workers. I think they've almost always added a bunch to their trios matches, but here they just have a very standard, so-so singles match. Some of the brawling was good, some of it was sloppy. A lot of the "brutal" kicks that Striker was rubbing one out to didn't come off as heavy as he wanted them to. And then we get interference leading directly to the finish for the 4th straight match as Catrina teleports, derp derp.

MD: I don't have a ton to say about Taya vs Ivelisse. Taya is 100% into her character and she's a really good heel act because of it, but I'm with Eric that she's better as part of a team. The first chunk of the match was built around Taya's short ddt onto the chair, which I thought Ivelisse sold well, but then the announcers seemed to completely miss it. I don't know. I thought this was about as effective as it could be, but like almost everything else on the card, it suffered from a "mid-season" sort of feel and the interference that goes along with that. This show was painfully lacking in finality.

5. Prince Puma vs. Rey Mysterio

ER: I liked this quite a bit, still have no idea how Rey is working the way he's working. Weren't his knees just powder like a decade ago? Puma was in a tough spot as the storyline and announcing were pushing this all the way as a passing the torch match, but the crowd seemed way into Rey and didn't seem to care if a torch was passed or not, they just wanted to see a hot match. The match didn't land with me as well as it did for others, I thought some of the rehearsed stuff came off too rehearsed, and I didn't think it came anywhere close to Rey/Ki. Most matches don't come close to Rey/Ki, but it felt like a lot of the people over the moon for this match were mostly shocked that Rey could still go like this. And again, it is shocking that Rey can go like this, but we've seen him in a MOTY within the past year. But we got to see some pretty spectacular stuff here. It still boggles my mind how they manage to land on their feet after doing a headscissors over the top rope, that's like a vaudeville stunt that would have made someone famous. I rewound Rey's belly slide splash to the floor a few times, I've never seen it land so damn violently. I have no clue how Puma didn't shit his pants. I liked the struggle through some of the things they did, loved Puma going for splash mountain and Rey kicking him in the kidneys to get out of it. Ugh then fucking Striker actually had to start calling shit a "I'm Sorry, I Love You" moment. Twice. And then fucking Vampiro did. Shut the fuck up. Let this be its own shit. I wanted to vomit when he said it. The finish is nuts, loved how it played out with the 619 getting caught but turned into a gross reverse rana, and then Puma going all SUWA/Psicosis on that balls out top rope rana. Good lord that looked neck breaking. I'm not totally sure why Rey went over here. Rey is one of the all time greats, a true legend, and everybody knows that. They spent so long building this up as Puma's big star making moment, that him losing just makes zero sense.

MD: It's weird but I kind of miss Konnan as part of Puma's act. I think he would have added something here, maybe even more than he would have subtracted. Before I go on a tangent, let me say that I liked the match a lot. Rey's smoothness is outright amazing to me. It's not just that he hits incredibly complex things cleanly, but he does it with such physical purpose. It's always with the right emphesis or the right positioning and so often it takes into account his own selling appropriately for the point in the match he was in. Also, I had completely forgotten how great his punches could be because he never used them much.

It's hard to sort of babyface vs babyface matches sometimes, because you have to seek out something other than shine/face/comeback to use as an analytic model. Here, though, there were a number of story threads, including escalating intensity, Puma's youth vs Rey's experience, and Rey going for the 619 and Puma going for moves out of the fireman's carry. Going back to these gave the match narrative touchstones and it became far more than a 50-50 spotfest.  I don't entirely mind the finish because it gives Puma something else to shoot for. Again though, that's a bit of a mid-season thing.

I have to add that the very worst moment of wrestling I can think of all year was when Striker went on about the "I Love You Man" moment. What referential madness. That's the only word for it. Pure madness. He couldn't have stepped further outside the moment of the match if he ... actually, I can't even think of a way he could have broken up the flow of the match and undermined any actual emotion in that moment more. It was that bad.

ER: I honestly do not give a shit about Pentagon turning on his master. He already almost lit him on fire a year ago, I don't care about their relationship, it never made sense from go. Here he canes him out of paralysis or something, and makes him "darker", even though he didn't do anything different than he did previously. So Vampiro takes some nasty as hell bat shots and bleeds like somehow only fat guys can bleed, but....I don't care. Pentagon came back and cut a redundant babyface promo about how he was Pentagon DARK, which sounds like a new Mountain Dew flavor, and then he lost. Again. Why do I care that he can make a fat retired wrestler bleed?

MD: I think so much of the strength of Ultima Lucha I was that they didn't know they were coming back, so they made sure to tie things off, down to the closing montage. Here, this closed more like a mid-season break. They should have spent a minute doing another montage just to hanmer home that what happened on this show mattered.


COMPLETE LUCHA UNDERGROUND EPISODE GUIDE


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