Segunda Caida

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

Saturday, December 31, 2016

All Time MOTY List HEAD to HEAD: Ki v. Rey V. Brock v. Reigns

Brock Lesnar v. Roman Reigns WWE Wrestlemania 31 3/29

ER: Man, I can't believe it took me 15 months to watch this (watched this in June), and I somehow didn't know or completely forgot how it ended. This was such a great, great match. Wow. THIS is the match you want main eventing your biggest show of the year. This match is one of those argument settlers for both men, the kind of match that few people could ever have. This is just peak performance Lesnar, showing everything he's great at: That superhuman strength combined with a godly willingness to lean deep into every strike and bump deservedly large. I really loved everything about this. People complained about the Ambrose match at this past WM, about how he looked weak and it was too one-sided. Well, Reigns came out and made SURE he wasn't going to look weak. Reigns plastered Lesnar with every damn shot, enough that I think Reigns' lightest shot in this match was better than the best Ambrose strike in his respective match. Lesnar is going to kick the shit out of you. If you don't want to look like a wimp, you're going to need to lay it in back. And boy, Reigns does. His punches, elbows, knees, it all looked great. WWE wisely capitalizes on this by giving us several awesome slo mo shots, specifically Lesnar's face getting rearranged when he runs into a knee. And the bumps taken by Reigns were just devastating. I can't imagine the toll those kind of suplexes take on a body, but the exhaustion on both men's faces was conveyed beautifully. I mean jeez that belly to belly from the apron into the ring. Good lord.

Brock has skin like flypaper so gets cuts throughout the match that add to everything. Him getting busted open after a superman punch was epic, but him taking a hardway shot to the post was brutal. Brock's willingness to do crazy things to his head and body, and Reigns having no problem punching and elbowing Brock in his massive face made both guys look like killers. Brock made those superman punches look better than anybody else has, really flying into them nose first and taking bumps like Charlie Brown missing the football. Again I had forgotten/didn't know about the Rollins run-in, and that couldn't have been handled better. Being 15 months removed (and not really caring about titles) I forgot who came out of this champ, so I was on the edge of my seat wondering if Rollins was going to blow it, wondering if Brock/Reigns were going to team up, just no clue what would happen. The final sequence of Rollins getting caught in an F5, Reigns hitting the spear and Rollins curb stomping Reigns was masterfully laid out. This whole thing was just the best.

PAS: I absolutely loved 11/12ths of this. This is one of the greatest examples of pro-wrestling mimicking the atmosphere and feel of an epic boxing match or MMA battle. This was Ali v. Frazier, Newton v. Hughes, Barrera v. Morales, or Sapp v. Nogiera , two athletic behemoths throwing everything they have at each other.

The opening flurry was spectacular, with both guys colliding, Lesnar's eye coming out swollen, but Reigns body coming out broken. Then we get this totally vicious beat down by Lesnar with explosive demolition derby suplexes, and Reigns looking like a total badass fighting through the pain. I loved the smile, Reigns was destroyed but threw out a smirk, like he was happy to die like this,  felt like an action hero delivering an awesome death scene. That post shot was an awesome transition, Lesnar cut up and bleeding and getting wasted by giant punches and spears was a great Kong falling off the building moment. If the match had ended with a Reigns spear, or Lesnar catching him with an F5, it is hands down one of the greatest matches in wrestling history, but the fucking WWE can't help themselves. Instead we get another innumerable version of the Money in the Bank cash in, a spot which has been beaten to death for a decade, lame ass Seth Rollins runs out and poops all over the match. Instead of an epic sports movie climax perfectly delivered, we get some cornball shit.  I loved this, awesome performance by both guys, but the writers can't stay out of their own way

Rey v. Ki review


ER: This is it for me. One of the great clash of the titans matches in wrestling history. I think both matches are pretty flawlessly executed, but big hoss will almost always win it for me.

PAS: Awesome performance from both guys, best Wrestlemania main event ever, but there was still that spit in the soup. Cut the last three minutes, it wins for sure, but Seth Rollins ruined this like it was the first hour of RAW.

2015 MOTY List

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Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Ongoing MOTY List: Park v. Escorpion

40. LA Park v. Rey Escorpion Liga Elite 11/4

PAS: Really great LA Park style arena brawl with Escorpion predictably fitting in great. Both guys really pound the crap out of each other, chucking chairs and cases of beer at heads and faces. Escorpion has some of the best punches in the world and he really cracks PARK. I loved Rey battling over the snack tray with the vendor, total asshole heel move to steal a guys popcorn just to whack PARK. Also really liked both of PARK's fatboy dives, he is approaching early 90's Super Porky level and is totally smushing people when he lands. Finish was kind of dumb,  but perfectly within the kind of thing you get in your PARK brawls.

ER: These two are a pretty natural match, and even though Rey doesn't stiff Park quite as badly as we've seen him stiff others, this was still plenty fun. Park keeps getting bigger and bigger and I honestly have no clue how he keeps up this pace. He works a lot, and works hard, takes big spills on joints that have to be barking extra loud at this point. But he chose this style and damn if he doesn't excel at it. He and Rey brawl through the crowd to the shock of nobody, hitting each other with beer boxes, beer bottles, beer buckets, beer coolers and aisle end ashtrays. Park is great at finding loose garbage and equipment and incorporating it on the fly, and here he grabs a large plastic beverage tub and clonks Rey with it a bunch on the way back to the ring, and in a crazy spot that could have ended absolutely terribly for all, he powerbombs Rey onto this bin from the apron, and Rey just splats onto it and settles in. Park lobs off a tubby senton from the apron for good measure. Rey was more about facilitating Park in this one, but he was able to sneak back with cheapshots and violent mask rips, yanking Park's cool reptilian mask fully off at a couple points, and even Baby Richard Jr. gets into the fun with a big bump to the floor. Match peaks with Park just absolutely leveling Rey with a mammoth dive off the top to the floor, and you almost expect them to go crashing through the floor like in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Ending is total silliness with low blows and ref bumps aplenty, but you don't really expect finishes in Park matches anymore. I've made the fat Elvis comparison with Park before, and it never stops being relevant (even though Park has shot past the king by a decade at this point): sometimes the wandering gets long, sometimes he introduces the band a third time to catch his breath, but he's a guy who is still captivating even during his performance lows. You can look past the occasional long or lazy move set up as his floor as a performer is just so much higher than most, and the peaks make it all worth it.


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Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 Ongoing MOTY List: Hero v. Shibata

55. Chris Hero v. Katsuyori Shibata RPW 11/11

PAS: In many ways this reminded me of the Samoa Joe v. Kenta Kobashi match, this absolutely delivered what the crowd wanted to see. They wanted to watch a big indy star work a signature New Japan Shibata match and that was what they got. I can understand why someone might have this as their MOTY, even though it isn't really my type of thing. Hero added some very fun flourishes to this, he was kind of a shitstirrer, talking trash, slapping Shibata in the face, doing a douchy kip up. When it came time to hit hard, Hero can do that as well as anyone, and they pounded each other, there was an especially great knee counter when he looked like he broke Shibata's ribs. I also really liked the way Shibata kept grabbing the sleeper hold, he was tenacious, got into it in a bunch of fun ways, and you really bought it as a finish. Still this had a bunch of elbow..stare..elbow spots, which really can take me out of a match, it is a stylistic thing I just hate. I imagine I will like this more then any New Japan match this year (unless Liger works a rookie or something) but I can't see it super high on my overall list.

ER: Not my favorite Hero match of the year, but Hero is on such a roll this year that he's spinning gold everywhere. Shibata is game and they work a nice condensed version of a modern Hero epic. What's ironic is I've complained about Hero matches going too long, therefore making his opponents seem too strong; and here, we get a 15 minute match and I didn't think Shibata took ENOUGH abuse. Will I ever be pleased? I line up pretty well with Phil on this one, could have done without the New Japan-y elements, loved the moments that felt more like Hero vs. an indy guy. Shibata is a great modern kicker, and Hero is a guy who will lean into kicks, and while the fans were dying to get behind Hero he kept doing all these great little dickhead cutoff spots, the best being a straight punch to the jaw to an unsuspecting Shibata. Every American watching knew Hero was going to work heel right when he came out in the Duke U gear, but I'm not sure how well that specific brand of white privilege translates over the pond. I would have liked to see some selling from Shibata as he mostly worked that chug chug chug NJPW style of "stand up and do your shit", but Hero made sure he stayed down a couple of times with some absolutely beastly knees that I don't recall seeing from him. Both looked like they should have permanently wrecked Shibata, so he's obviously a real man for taking them, but man they looked like finishers; the rolling knee (when he usually does a pump kick) as Shibata ducked in was just so nasty looking. Shibata not winning the strike game and going for sleeper chokes was a great plan, and loved how that's where we ended, with Hero going down to the sleeper through gritted teeth, long enough for the PK to do him in.


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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 Ongoing MOTY List: Gulak v. Quack

34. Drew Gulak v. Mike Quackenbush Chikara 12/3

PAS: This was Gulak's Chikara swan song, and one of the last chances we will have to watch him work a Drew Gulak style match. This is only the second match Quackenbush has wrestled since 2013 (unless he is under an ant mask or something now), and he still looked silky smooth and even takes a nasty back suplex onto the ring apron, I don't like Quackenbush as a booker, but have always dug him as a wrestler. This was a fun battle of Quack's flashy lucha matwork against Gulak's gritty stuff, I really loved a lot of the counters and the finish run was pretty cool too. Gulak has been one of my favorite guys in the last couple of years and while it is good to see him get paid, I am going to miss him bang the mat like this

ER: I love watching Quack do his thing, and I love watching Gulak do his thing, so this was going to be a thing I was almost guaranteed to love. Quack has always appealed to me, used to love his articles in The Wrestler, and he was actually the first indy wrestler I bought a tape from. I love how he moves, love how he clearly makes up moves and practices them and doesn't always care about making stuff look extra painful per se, but the execution is always so liquid that I just love it. Watching him is like watching a lava lamp, and he does all of this great exhibition-y stuff without it ever seeming like him putting on an Eliminators style exhibition. I never feel like he's placing his opponents and having them hold still while he readies himself. And it's a great style to work opposite Gulak and they each kind of bring out a trippy side to each other which leads to some fun visuals and things likely won't see with any other guys. Little things like Quack going for a sunset flip and Gulak waddle walking back to the ropes to prevent going down, or Gulak going for an Irish whip and Quack just dropping to his butt to prevent it, or all of the cool rolling headscissors with Quack adjusting for different pressure. That kind of stuff makes my eyes turn into hearts. Sure I love FUTEN as much as the next....well, as much as the next 7 or 8 internet wrestling nerds, but Quack seems like a guy who embodies Lance Storm's "work safe" mantra while actually making his stuff look interesting. We get several fun mat workouts, trippy rollthroughs, extended Blue Panther-esque rolls with that same kind of grace, and then Gulak starts edging in with some grit. Throwing elbows, stomping hamstrings, then slamming Quack into the ropes a couple times (my current favorite nasty spot) and then Quack starts fighting back in a fun way, knowing Gulak is stronger and fresher so trying to catch him off guard with slaps and kicks to pinpoint areas. The apron bump was nuts and kind of out of the blue for the match, and I think things would have maybe been better without it. Things kinda slowed down afterwards for totally understandable selling reasons, but I think a full out exhibition roll clinic would have been best. Let the other thousands of indy guys take dangerous apron bumps. The stuff around the sunset flip roll through was mind warpingly cool, and the dragon sleeper reversal out of the Quack driver is a wonderful, fitting finish. I'm gonna miss these guys doing their thing on their own stage.


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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2015 Match of the Year

Rey Mysterio v. Low Ki JAPW 11/14

ER: Phil went to this show live and called me about it later, flipping out about how great Rey vs. Ki was, talking it up as if it were the best Rey match he's seen in years. Later when we finally found time to sync up and watch it together, he expressed a little trepidation. We've all seen a match live that knocked our socks off. Later we realized that the live atmosphere played a huge part in our enjoyment. Phil built this up to some big levels, but what if he was just remembering the best parts, what if he had naturally unconsciously started talking with friends during the down parts of the match. Slasher flicks are always better when viewed with friends. You can blab during the boring parts, then flip out during the kills and tits. Wrestling is essentially the same.

But Phil had nothing to worry about. This was the greatest Rey Misterio or Low Ki singles match in a decade, maybe more. Maybe ever. High praise? Certainly. Deserved? Definitely. Over the course of a 20+ minute match Phil and I found ourselves constantly repeating variations of "How good is Rey!? How good is Ki!? God but how good is Rey!?" Rey worked like a man who wanted to have a career match. He worked harder than any guy I've ever seen work Wrestlemania. Thousands of indy promoters across decades of time have brought in stars to their fed and seen them dog it. Imagine the reactions backstage when a star like Rey comes into New Jersey and works as if he has fresh knees and is trying to be noticed by a major. Right out of the gate this seems special. Rey picks an ankle and starts laying in the legwork, and there's nothing rote about it. Both guys present themselves as hungry right at the bell and it shows in every second of the match. The strikes are brutal, and Rey is like a prime Otsuka here with his mix of crazy flying and stiff kicks and elbows. After getting bored to tears watching countless New Japan and indy match strike exchanges that mean nothing, here are two guys mixing in the brutal strikes to wear each other down in between big spots, and the big spots were big, satisfying, built tremendously and just flawlessly executed. Rey takes a couple crazy lunatic bumps, pretending for moments that he was a man with a not broken body. Ki works over his legs, leading to Rey hanging from his knees over the turnbuckle before getting dumped to the floor. There are several fun builds to the 619, with Ki smartly and logically dodging it until he can't, and one of the times ending with Rey just taking an insane Hamrick bump to the floor as Ki moves the ropes out of the way and Rey goes flying right through them into nothing. Ki's psychology was super sound all throughout, always focusing on the build, always setting up his stuff smart. At one point Phil and I marveled as Ki was setting up his corner hangman's stomp, but actually gave Rey a reason to sit up into the potential stomp, by standing on Rey's knees as they were draped over the top rope. Rey and Ki kick each other in the face with their boot heels, work a super fast pace for 20+ minutes (22 minutes that feels like about 8), snap off gorgeous headscissors and beautiful flying, and I was just in awe of two masters - years after each should be at their physical peak - pulling out all of the stops, combining years of experience as high end workers with spectacular young man movesets, and at the end I felt I had witnessed something truly special.

PAS: This match came after a 4 hour show with one other averagish match, and some real stinkers, so it had to make the trip from DC worth it, and man did it deliver.  They opened up with some leg work, but based the beginning of the match around a long knuckle lock where they threw a bunch of cool twists into a basic spot, including both guys showing crazy neck strength in bridges and Ki throwing elbows while keeping his fingers laced. Rey is totally nuts, I don't know how much he is charging for an indy date, but he made sure the promotion got it's money's worth. He does a Pete Rose slide to the floor splash, takes a couple of nutso bumps off misses 619's and lets Ki kicking him in the face. Ki was maybe the 2015 wrestler of the year and he had three matches on tape, he works as Rey's base like he was 1996 Juventud and adds a bunch of his cool shit too. Ki is a JAPW original, and works simultaneously as a Rey Base and Fed Ace. I was worried that I was overrating this seeing it live, but it was even better on video. At this point I have watched the match four or five times and love as much each time. I can't think of a Rey singles match I love more.

All Time MOTY List

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Monday, December 26, 2016

MLJ: Recent Uploads: Black Magic & Negro Casas vs Brazo de Oro & Brazo de Plata [CMLL Tag Title Tournament]

1997-02-21 @ Arena México
Black Magic & Negro Casas vs Brazo de Oro & Brazo de Plata [CMLL Tag Title Tournament]

I've seen a lot of Porky. I've seen a lot of Casas. I haven't seen a lot of them working together. I could be way off but I think Porky, in comedy situations, even when positioned with Pesta Negra, is more likely to be paired with Felino or Niebla (and even that feels rarer than you'd think).

This was the first round of the February 1997 tag team title tournament. The Headhunters were stripped after their title win. I have no idea if that's because of kayfabe reasons or not but you sort of have to assume not. The tournament ended with Silver King and Wagner, Jr. beating Dos Caras and Ultimo Dragon which sounds light and fun and worth tracking down at some point. It's 1997 so they basically had to do it all again in August after Silver King jumped to Promo Azteca.

Anyway, this is that amazing creature, that was probably far more likely in 1997 then it will be in 2017, good tournament lucha. IT was right around ten minutes and felt much more like the Brazos in Japan than more of a CMLL style 2/3 falls match but everyone was in their thirties, all of them were pretty athletic, and it's the Brazos and Casas. Ten minutes of that ended up being just the right mix of shtick and spots, even if it was ultimately going to feel fairly disposable no matter what they did due to the fact it was an early round match that was only going ten.

In many ways, it was a tale of two Brazos opponents. Negro Casas was serene. He bounced off of Porky. He flailed and spasmed whenever a Brazo put him in a hold. He was plucky in bouncing up and charging in again. There was one exchange where he got Flair tossed off the top rope in a manner that was just tighter and more stylistic than you're used to. And for those keeping count about Casas' ability to do new things in almost every match, he locked in a Cavernaria late in the match, which is something I'm sure he's done plenty but I'm not sure I've ever seen him do personally. Of course, it wasn't the Cavernaria in and of itself that made the moment, but instead Casas kicking and grinding upon the back of Porky's leg in order to get it on. It's that attention to detail which makes Negro Casas one of the best, most believable, most engrossing wrestlers ever.

It's also what Smiley absolutely did not bring to the table here. I was, at first, going to give him a pass like I usually do, but then I remembered it's 97 and not 93. He just didn't have it here. There is one or two really good things, execution wise, like a really nasty cravat on Porky, but he's terrible at portraying consequence. Best example of this is him trying to slam Porky early and failing. Normally, this is a transition where someone sells the back, sometimes to set up the slam as a big moment later in the match. He just put him down as if there was no cost to the attempt and when he did hit the slam later on, it really didn't matter. That's Smiley in Mexico in a nutshell. Meanwhile, Casas is stuck in holds and doing the most brutal looking kicks to try to get out, in pure desperation. Night and day.

Just look at this gritty as hell Porky/Casas exchange that ends with the aforementioned top rope toss:
Or how Casas sells the armbreaker:

So past Casas lawn darting and Smiley being stronger, there wasn't much complex storytelling here, but there was plenty of character, some surprising grit and struggle (And killer clotheslines) and all the fun you'd expect.

Like this every person sub:

And Porky doing a twisting senton off the ropes (!):

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas! Enjoy Shoot Punches and Barbed Wire and Terrible Pants!

Necro Butcher/Toby Klein vs. Deranged/Brain Damage (IWA-MS 12/16/05)

ER: Merry Christmas! Here's some guys bleeding out of their bodies in gross ways. It's tough to rank the violence in this Christmas time gem, just as it's tough to rank the terrible pants. But lets be honest and true with ourselves on Jesus and Rusev's birthday, Necro brought the most violence and Brain Damage brought the very worst pants, impossibly wide legged and impossibly parking lot rave dealer. He deserved thee violence wrought on him. Match has one goofy moment with all 4 men sitting in chairs facing each other and punching each other in the face; that reminded me too much of an old roommate who would get drunk with a buddy out on our balcony, and then take turns seeing who could punch the other's arm harder. The rest is Necro punching fools, Klein taking sick bumps on concrete, Brain Damage falling and leaning all his weight into barbed wire in sick ways, and Deranged doing all of the above. Early on Brain Damage tries to box toe to toe with Necro and that ends hilariously and quickly for Mr. Damage. Klein takes some wild bumps in the match to the concrete floor, taking a big hip toss, a nasty posting, and some other falls that shouldn't be happening in front of 30 paying customers. Deranged throws a bunch of really impressive knees and takes some great fat guy spills. Brain Damage gets beat on a LOT and as I mentioned has all these moments of falling into the wire and really showing the crowd how tightly the wire is tied. He'd be leaning full into the wire while Klein would be yanking him even more into the wire from the floor. You could really see the wire being forced into him; pretty sick, but got over the craftsmanship of the ring crew. You could tell these were professionals who knew how to properly rig up some wire. Towards the end he takes a freaking HOTSHOT face first into the wire and Eddie Kingston flips out on commentary about Brain Damage losing an eye. This is overall a really great brawl, with another legendary Necro performance and some great supporting performances, all in front of literally 30 people. I can assume there was a terrible blizzard and these men still went out there and spread Christmas cheer and probably HPV (again, I assume). Merry Christmas!

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

All Time MOTY List Head to Head: Rose/Wiskowki v. Martel/Piper V. Larry Zbysko v. Ivan Putksi

Larry Zbyszko v. Ivan Putski WWF 8/23/80

PAS: Shockingly fun Texas Death Match (which appears to be just a No DQ match in WWF world) , Putski is a guy who I never liked before and is pretty much universally considered a turd. Putski has a weird overly muscled body and these tiny T-Rex arms, and can really barely move. Larry Z however puts on a heel masterclass, he is bumping all over the ring for Putski's stump arm punches, and flying into tables and chairs. He is also super nasty on offense, laying into Putski with lightning fast punches and at one point removing the turnbuckle and smashing the back of Ivan's head directly into the ring bolt. This kept moving, kept violent and I loved the cheap foot on the ropes pin to escape with a win. Zbyszko is a guy I really like, and while the Regal matches may be better matches, this would be on his superworker submission reel.

ER: We start this with an advertisement for the upcoming Prism airing of "The First Nudie Musical", when Kal Rudman gifts us with "I always wanted to see Cindy Williams nude. It's a fantasy of mine."Kal Rudman is a treasure. I have no idea how Phil found this match or what drove him to watch it, but we've been trying to get more eyeballs to the site and more reviews of Ivan Putski or Larry Zbyszko matches will surely put butts in the seats. But I really loved this match, and am impressed with the find. Putski has one of the most impressive/grotesque bodies in wrestling. Phil's T-Rex line is on the money as his arms are just insanely short. He's like the Cotton Hill of arms. But I spent this whole match just mesmerized by Larry bumping around and begging off for Putski, and Putski put in his work too. He tightened things up and clubbed Larry in the back, kicked at his quads, and in an epic moment punted Larry right in the balls. But damn Zbyszko, what a showing. I always wished he would have highlighted his stooging more as he was really great at it. Even as late as his TNA feud with Raven he was still making it work with excellent stooging (I met him at a Con once and praised his stooging against Raven, specifically this hammy run he did when Raven was chasing him, and Larry immediately said "Oh you mean when Raven was too fat and couldn't catch me, so I had to slow down?" Picture Zbyszko saying that in his voice and imagine how much joy I felt in that moment). He flies into buckles for Putski, gets tangled in the ropes, really gets beaten around the ringside area, choked with a mic cord, reaches out for help as Kal Rudman exclaims "Putski says he's going to kill him!!" And then back in he finally uppercuts Putski in the balls (which made one woman's antipolonism spring to life as she jumped up clapping right after Larry went low) and then Larry takes over. I really liked Larry's cocky assault, and it made that punt to the junk that much more satisfying. Larry sold one of the all time great injured testicle sellings, making his body go stiff as a board as he timber'd down to the mat, then rolled around in fetal position holding his tenderest of areas. The feet on ropes finish was perfect and a nice dick move cherry on this tasty sundae. This was some unexpected fun right here, something on paper that I never would have checked out.

Portland Tag Review


ER: I really loved this match and it was such a fun surprise treat, but that Portland tag was better, and included an ultra intense and satisfying post match. I think this was a surprise worthy challenger, but outside of that build to Putski's comeback punt I don't think it rose to the heights of the PDX tag.

PAS: I loved this, but I think it is more of a Larry Z showcase, than an awesome match. PDX tag had four great performances.

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Friday, December 23, 2016

2016 Ongoing MOTY List: Chair Match

19. Kalisto v. Baron Corbin WWE TLC 12/4

ER: The feud that's been driving all those new Network subs! This starts really fun though, with Kalisto using speed to stay a step ahead while Corbin sets up chair spots that backfire. The opening was really cool David/Goliath stuff with Kalisto trying to spin kick a chair into Corbin but Corbin wisely just letting go of the chair, then rushing Corbin with a chair but Corbin just holding his arms out to catch it. Corbin chokes him on the floor and wings him upside down into the barricade by his neck. Corbin hits a high slam in the ring and sets up tons of chairs, and Kalisto hits a short rana into the set up chairs, then hits a massive Thesz press off the top sending both through a bunch of set up chairs. This is unexpectedly really great. Kalisto flies to the floor with a dive and Corbin catches and just plants him with a brutal backdrop. We get some fun stuff with Corbin chasing Kalisto with a chair, and Kalisto dodging shots, but then Kalisto throws a chair at him and hits a nice rana off the barricade. Back in and Kalisto does a moonsault kneedrop onto a chair/Corbin and my god these guys are really trying out there. Crowd does not care. But they're wrong. Kalisto bashes Corbin around the ring with a chair, but then leaps into a nasty shot when jumping off the top, and Corbin hits a nasty end of days on a pile of chairs which had to be no walk in the park for him either. This far far far exceeded any kind of expectations. Who would have any expectations for a WWE Chair match!? But both guys were nuts and this worked terrifically.

PAS: I really enjoyed this, it felt like the worlds greatest Sabu v. Brian Lee match. If someone told you they found an awesome Sabu v. Brian Lee ECW HH on Youtube, you would want to go watch that right? Corbin was pretty great in this, I liked some of his early squashes, but I wasn't sure he had a actually match this good in him. Maybe my favorite spot of the match was him pinning Kalisto's head against the barricade and smashing it with forearms, it felt like the kind of thing Finlay or Ikeda might do. I also loved him stalking Kalisto around the ring trying to squash him with chair shots. Kalisto hit all of his big spots cleanly and they were high risk crazy stuff, it was almost too well executed, Sabu would awkwardly blow one or two of them which makes him finally hitting them even better. Loved that finish too, holy moly that was nasty.

2016 Ongoing MOTY List

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Brian Kendrick is OK, All Across the USA

Brian Kendrick vs. Joe Coffey (ICW 3/30/14) - REALLY GOOD

ER: Never heard of Coffey before, but in my small 10 minute sample of him he came off like a Michael Elgin with no overkill. There wasn't time for overkill here, but I'll give him possibly deserved credit for knowing how long to work the match. Coffey is a stout dude, certainly not fat, but with that body type that looks like he would blow up quick if he wasn't able to work out. Kendrick struts out and casts some side eye to the crowd, grabs a swig of beer from a fan, slimily juggles his crotch at another. So we got a kind of hometown boy vs. a sleaze, and it's a nice tight 10 minutes. They do a chop exchange I don't love, but since it's within a 10 minute framework and not a part of some bloated overly long epic, I don't mind it as much. Their forearm exchange is much nicer and Kendrick really laces in, almost encouraging Coffey that it's okay to hit harder. Once Coffey does start hitting harder, Kendrick wisely seeks shelter by wrapping himself around the bottom rope like someone holding onto a weathervane in a tornado. They do a few successful teases around the sliced bread, Kendrick hits a great side kick across Coffey's cheek, Coffey gets a nice nearfall off a boss release German, and Kendrick's cockiness leads to him eating a quick 360 clothesline for the pin. As some may know by now I'm a big fan of a nice 10 minute match, and this was that. It set out for a simple story, and accomplished what it set out. Coffey doesn't get exposed, Kendrick earned his check by bumping around big for him, and I'm happy.

Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins WWE Raw 12/12/16 - FUN

ER: A good match between these two, but this is literally the FIFTH singles match we've gotten between them in a few months. It's a lot. Kendrick is a total ace and is still finding ways to build off of their previous matches, still trying new tricks and still getting caught in old ones. I love the way he does a kind of big belly flop splash off TJP dropkicks, and his bumps to the floor are a highlight of any show he works. Here he takes a big lariat over the top and smacks his jaw on the apron on his way down. Match was worked a little weird, with a lot of TJ control, and no real nefarious means leading to Kendrick's comeback. Kendrick just took back over with a slick low angle cradle suplex, and really won using his own strengths and cunning. TJ really hasn't been helped too much by any of this, and I imagine they have Swann retain at the PPV, even though it needs to be Kendrick's belt. So, if Kendrick wins...then what? He's already beaten TJP several times. If they have him beat TJ at the PPV, then Swann can argue he never got pinned for the belt. But then you'd have TJ losing AGAIN. If TJ wins, then Kendrick can make the claim that he deserves the shot as he's beaten TJ so often, but then we're just building up yet another TJP/Kendrick match. So yeah, good match, but getting far too familiar.

Brian Kendrick/Drew Gulak/Tony Nese vs. Jack Gallagher/TJ Perkins/Rich Swann WWE Tribute to the Troops 12/14/16 - SKIPPABLE

ER: I waffled between "skippable" and "fun" on this, so decided I would just write about the match and see which direction I naturally write towards. It was rushed and kind of a mess, with some bright points. There were some fun spots like Gallagher's headbutt and his watermelon tights, Tony Nese doing a belly flop bump on the floor, wild Swann hot tag, and the attempt to have some trainwreck cruiser spots. But we get a dive train where seemingly every dive whiffs, Gulak being treated as CWC whipping boy (and locking on the loosest chinlock I've seen from him), hardly any Kendrick, everybody waiting around to be kicked by someone. Seriously a lot of this felt like someone awkwardly trying to get into position for someone else's kick. Okay, this is skippable. Thanks for working that out with me.


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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I've Always Wanted to Watch This Match Wednesdays...

Bret Hart/British Bulldog vs. Owen Hart/Bob Backlund (WWF Action Zone 1/25/95 (Aired 2/26/95)

ER: We have so much wrestling available to watch no matter where we are, that I think it might make  us watch a less diverse sampling of wrestling than we did when we had to buy boxes of VHS. I'm positive it's worked that way with music. Once every song ever written was made available at any time, I'm positive that people got overloaded and their musical selection became more narrow than ever before. It was way easier to listen to Arthur and love it, and then suddenly you're presented with every single documented Kinks performance and you clam up and stick to what you know. I know too many people like this, and it's frustrating. So there's all the wrestling out there. Lord knows I wish this level of wrestling accessibility existed when I had minimal responsibilities in life. Tuesday thru Thursday college schedule when I was 20? VHS comp tapes! Working 50 hours a week when I'm 35? Every wrestling match available ever!

So there are countless little gems out there that I've still never seen. There just aren't enough hours in the day. Shoot I haven't even finished every season of Martin. There are great Columbo episodes out there that I haven't watched. There are Timothy Carey bit parts that I haven't seen. Timothy Carey was on an episode of Airwolf!? I need to see that.

And today I got this weird urge to watch this match that I've never seen before, but I've seen it popping up on match lists for practically two decades. It's always stood out as weird to me as on paper it looks like a PPV quality match for 1994/1995 WWF, but it was shown on a short lived Sunday morning syndicated show called Action Zone. For anybody who has been to a WWF syndicated TV taping, they were most often 5 hour slogs filled with squash matches and interview segments. You look at the rest of the taping and it's squash matches with Bob Holly, Mantaur, Adam Bomb, Duke Droese, Kama, King Kong Bundy, etc. Yet right at the top of the tapings they had a long Bulldog/Backlund match and then this gem of a tag. Imagine going to a taping and seeing three Adam Bomb matches, three Jeff Jarrett matches, a couple Bob Holly matches....but then THIS tag!?

Post 1983 Backlund has always fascinated me, as outside of Jack Brisco I can't really think of anybody who reached that level of stardom, and then just mostly walked away. Brisco walked away for good, Backlund stayed just barely active until coming back full time to WWF in 1993. I really need to go back and rewatch all of the Backlund BattlArts stuff soon.

And this match is terrific. If it was on a PPV it would be fondly remember as one of the best tags of 90s WWF. But here it is, relegated to a syndicated show that most people don't remember. The match is called by the legendary team of Jim Ross and Todd Pettengill. But they actually work quite nicely with each other! But everybody in the match is so expressive that they really wouldn't have had to do much to make this work. This is a really great ONE TIME pairing of Owen and Backlund, and they make a killer team. I can't believe they never even teamed up on a house show. This match is literally their lone pairing. But they interact better than most teams you saw on TV during this era. Owen is especially vicious as most of the match is spent with he and Bob taking apart Bret's knee. They both do tons of wishbone splits, Owen drops a few kneedrop variations on his brother's knee, does that wonderful Hart move (that somehow doesn't get used anymore) where they would grab a leg while their opponent was on their back and then do a kind of cannonball into the mat while holding the leg, snapping the leg back over the opponent's body. But the best is when Owen first takes over on Bret. Bret is going through the 5 moves, and when he lifts Owen up for the backbreaker Owen literally just grabs at his eyes and face. Don't think I've ever seen that reversal, but damn does it make too much sense. Bret is great at selling the knee and we get a couple near comebacks, some great small package reverals, and the best being Bret almost getting the Sharpshooter which leads to Backlund coming in to immediately break it up. We get a couple of tags that get missed by the ref, and this match is hot as hell! Again this is maybe Owen's nastiest performance. He clubs Bret all over the ring and just come off mean, as opposed to bratty. Backlund was around for stooging but provided several weird quirks, like driving his knees into the back of Bret's thighs. It all builds to Bret trapping Bob on the floor and locking in the sharpshooter, with Davey planting the powerslam for the win. This was 15 minutes of tag glory, one of the best WWF matches of the 90s, and one that needs more people talking it up. It took me 20+ years, but I finally watched it. Now you can enjoy it with me.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

1989 Match of the Year

Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Kazuo Yamazaki UWF 7/24/89

PAS: This was my number one match in the Other Japan Best of the 90's voting, and truly a beautiful piece of professional wrestling. It is paced differently then any of the other matches in the Top 15, and I am guessing the odd pacing may have been a reason it finished low on some peoples ballots. Fujiwara, especially in the late 80's and 90's does this really stop-start almost Fugazish pacing, where you have big exchanges or moves, and then lulls, where both guys would circle or feint, before the next attack. I really like this kind of pacing, it is the kind of thing you often see in shootfights or boxing matches, really brings drama to the moments of action.

The first part of this match, Fujiwara is really not taking Yamazaki seriously at all. Like he is almost contemptuous, imagine Flair v. Scott McGhee or Ricky Steamboat in their first match. He throws in a cheap shot headbutt, dancing around mugging, puts on a knee bar while reclining with his head resting leisurely in his hand. At one point Yamazaki throws some kicks which miss, and Fujiwara responds with some really assholish thrown kicks of his own. Almost like the Jock Football player taunting the Asian kid with fake Karate. Fujiwara has some of the greatest facial expressions in wrestling history, and he really gets across contemptuous prick.

Yamazaki finally gets some respect when he hits Fujiwara with a nasty kick to the stomach for a down. Yamazaki tends to be kind of hit and miss with his kicks, and Fujiwara only sells the ones that land big, unlike a lot of other guys who will sell intent not result. Fujiwara also is always trying to catch the middle kicks, although even when he does, he will sell the shot if it is solid enough.

The last ten minutes of this match really bring it over the top. Fujiwara has gotten four downs on Yamazaki so he just needs one more knockdown for a technical decision. So Yamazaki has his back against the wall. He gets fed up with the abuse and you almost get the sense he has decided to dish out some receipts even if he is going down. Like many Fujiwara matches ring positioning is very important, Fujiwara had been trapping Yamazaki in the corner and punishing him with bodyshots. Yamazaki kind of bull rushes Fujiwara in the corner, and just unleashes body shots of his own, seemingly aiming right for Fujiwara's sake soaked kidneys. The downs get close to even, and they announce five minutes remaining.

They then go right to the corner with both guys now throwing with abandon and trying to maneuver the other into the corner, Yamazaki gets the final turn and cracks Fujiwara with a knee lift for a nine count. Now UWF2 had booked a ton of 30 minute draws, including one in the opening match of this show. Really the only reason to book so many undercard 30 minute draws is for a main event finish like this.

So we are at 28 minutes and Yamazaki unloads with a nasty headbutt right to Fujiwara's mouth. Now this is a clearly a receipt for the headbutts earlier in the show. Fujiwara comes up with blood dripping from his mouth, and this look on his face "So were throwing headbutts now, Motherfucker," and he just unloads with three nasty headbutts including one right to the eye for the TKO at 29 minutes 30 seconds. Yamazaki was technically fine here, but this was the Fujiwara show. Just an artist at telling a story with smirks and eye rolls and sneers. Every action had a reaction, great great stuff.

ER: I genuinely have no idea what to add to Phil's writing. This is probably the most extensively he's ever written about a match, and he's dead on. This is a beautiful match and showcases the true peak of Fujiwara's powers. This is like watching your favorite musician at the peak of their cool. This is seeing James Brown before he busted his knees or early Suicide gigs or like Mother Teresa in her 30s. I actually had Funaki vs. Nakano from this same show as my OJ #1, and now I'm curious how my opinions have changed on that 10 years later. This feels like a write up where I'm just going to keep saying "Phil is right about..." a lot, but oh well. Phil is right about the pacing of this. It's not a slow build, but the build comes in little waves, little currents. And at times I didn't necessarily think Fujiwara was underestimating Yamazaki, but moreso extremely confident in his own prowess (though at one point he does LITERALLY dust his shoulder off after a Yamazaki kick, soooo). This whole match features some of my absolute favorite rolling and grinding. Both guys end up in non-graceful, awkward positions, and the way they work into and out of those positions is wonderful. There was gamesmanship, often very overt by Fujiwara, and it was all great. I loved Fujiwara going down from that first big kick to his stomach, and staying down until the 9 count...and then literally hopping to his feet and walking it off with perfect posture. When you get publicly knocked down a peg in life, you either scramble to make things look totally normal and hope nobody notices (why no, I didn't just trip due to stepping on my own shoe lace...) or you have a little laugh to yourself at how human you are, and recognize that you still got it. The strike exchanges in this are beautiful in their imperfections. The timing is off, things don't land clean, and it's so much better for it. There are no turns taken, these are guys punching and kicking for an opening. Phil is so damn right about Fujiwara selling the result and not the intent. That's a beautiful sentence right there. It takes such nanosecond reaction times to be able to sell how good you THINK something looked, and Fujiwara is arguably the best ever at this. Post match is almost worth price of admission, as Fujiwara has gone into such caged animal survival mode that he almost forgets that his knock down of Yamazaki was for the match winning TKO, and his realization of that is so good, the smile of a reluctant fan favorite spreading across his face as he starts almost skipping around the ring. I'm a sucker for good sportsmanship done right, and I loved the moment of Fujiwara clapping Yamazaki on the back, happy in victory but almost relieved that it was over. True respect shown by both men.


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Monday, December 19, 2016

DVDVR Puerto Rico 80s Set: Carlos Colon vs. Abdullah The Butcher (6/15/86)

Disc 2, Match 14: Carlos Colon vs. Abdullah The Butcher (6/15/86)

This was a complete and utter thought experiment. It's one of those things interesting to see in wrestling, because it validates certain norms. Sometimes you need a match to end on a random move to justify a two count having meaning. Sometimes you need a match to end with an early submission. Sometimes the heel has to hit that grounded axe-handle off the second rope. Sometimes Ric Flair needs to hit a top rope move. It all gives meaning to the ritual. This match, then, was the answer to the question of "what if Colon's early attacks upon Abby's eyes didn't get cut off?" The answer was a long, well-worked, one-sided mauling without much drama.

Colon and Abdullah work different matches structurally, but they all feel the same in key ways. They all feel like wrestling as religion, like the same circle going around. It feels like wrestling mythology. I'll use the word ritual again. I'm lacking context for these matches, and I know there are stories behind them, alliances and turns and affronts that need to be avenged. In a vacuum, though, this feels like the Puerto Rico crowd going to church, going to see that circle completed once again, the two cosmic forces clashing against one another once more in their eternal struggle. Sometimes the balance is in favor of one, sometimes the other. It's wrestling Zoroastrianism, with Ahura Mazda and Ahriman in eternal struggle.

Frankly, it feels like the most natural thing in the world. Nature drives the two of them, Colon charging in aggressively with his shots to the eyes, close in and unrelenting, Abdullah creating space with his retorts to the throat until he can utilize the fork or overpower Colon with sheer girth alone. Here, Colon got the fork out of the way early. Here, he opened Abdullah up early. Here, he refused the temptation to try a slam, laser-focused on the eye instead. On this night, the stars were aligned and the balance had shifted towards Good. Abdullah never had a chance to get going. Colon was cruel, biting, scraping, raking, driving his fingers in, utilizing the ropes, chairs, shoving the ref. Abdullah was giving. He'd try to fire back once or twice, but Colon always bounced back against the ropes with a shot. He was a master at knowing how much to sell, how much to stagger, when to start to sink.

In many ways this was a remarkable, cathartic match. Once the fork was out of play, the crowd didn't really have any reason to go up or down. They were just along for this one-sided ride, ever forward, ever onwards, a worship in blood and violence that took them further and further in a single direction. The match peaked with a monkey flip, one that didn't seem tricky or amusing, but instead strangely brutal. From there, with Abby fully down and Colon continuing on the wound, the doctors started to come in. From there, Abby tried to (valiantly, really) fight back up, but Colon wouldn't let officials or doctors stop him in continuing the punishment. They ultimately called the match, Colon drove Abdullah to the back, pounding on him the entire way, and the crowd carried their hero on their shoulders, evil thoroughly vanquished on this day. Sometimes, I suppose, people just need a win.

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

WWE Roadblock Not at All Live Blog

So it looks like we got Jeremy Jamm filling in on the pre-show. Though I know I'm getting my hopes up unnecessarily for Roadblock himself to show up on the show. He has to own the copyright, right? Send WWE a cease and desist and then turn it into a final payday. Okay I just looked and apparently Roadblock is somehow in his early 60s. I don't want to see AARP Roadblock. I'll just live off my memories of Roadblock vs. Rick Fuller. These PPV blogs are a regular battle of seeing if Phil is right or not, as he always calls me a masochist (or worse, usually) for doing them. He's usually right, except for maybe last time.

1. Rusev vs. Big Cass

ER: Kinda surprised this one ended up on the kickoff show as it got a lot of TV build. But WWE seems to both love and hate Lana, even though she's the best. Cass is getting a nice soft belly, must be eating a lot of Christmas time work treats like me. I don't think about Godiva chocolates 11 1/2 months out of the year, then suddenly they show up at work littering the Tax Collectors offices and suddenly I want dark chocolate salted caramels. And oh shit that match just ended really quick. That stunk. Rusev threw a great back elbow and I was getting into them starting to brawl into the crowd...and then we get a count out! Still not getting why Enzo is the good guy for trying to plow a married woman.

2. New Day vs. Sheamus/Cesaro

ER: I am so tried of Michael Cole shouting the exact number of New Day's title reign, every time. It makes me want to see them lose so badly. New Day's gear makes them look like extremely loud Mountain Dew adverts. Cesaro is working at a crazy pace, really flying into people super quick. His Irish whip reversal uppercut in the corner was great, but then he follows it up with his boss flapjack uppercut. Sheamus/Big E is such a fun match up as they both do cool power reversals off moves. The caught brogue kick into a delayed powerbomb was wild. Big nearfall after Cesaro planted the neutralizer (getting there in a tremendous strength showoff) and then Cesaro hits a tornillo and holy shit this man is working like a man who is showing he's worth owning a few title belts. This whole match was really worked as a finishing stretch, resulting in a hot opener.

3. 10 Minute Challenge: Sami Zayn vs. Braun Strowman

ER: I love these kind of challenge matches, really feels like old Memphis TV. The build up on TV was good too and probably the only Foley thing I've been interested in over the last decade. I wanted to like this more than I ended up liking it though. As much as I enjoyed the Foley/Zayn segment on Raw, I thought Foley completely ruined things in this one. His part in this went on far too long and the melodrama was just way too much. He comes limping down the ramp in his shitty gigantic leather sports coat, and I really just wanted Zayn to run towards him and give him the helluva kick before going back inside the ring to get his ass handed to him. The begging just dragged on too long. Braun's crossface shots looked great, and Sami sold it really well by rubbing at his ear, in that way you do when you get hit in the ear and it starts to feel hot. Also dug Braun's big missed charge through the barrier, and him staggering around after getting hit with the helluva kick. The match was fine but the 10 minute challenge portion ended up feeling limp as hell. Considering 3 minutes were wrapped up with Foley's shitty acting, and capped off by Byron Saxton's pathetic, wimpy "Sami Zayn did it!" It really came off like Luger getting the count out victory. It will build to another match, yippee yippee, and maybe it will be better as just a straight match. But for something I feel like I should have been into, it mostly fell flat.

4. Chris Jericho vs. Seth Rollins

ER: This is an example of a match I ended up enjoying, despite hating the movesets of both men. There was clumsiness and I hate how Rollins bunny hops into everything, especially his missed bunny hops into the corner. But it was paced nicely so I had that odd feeling of watching something with a decent build, while disliking the moves that were building things. Jericho takes the pedigree really well, and I also liked how he blocked a pedigree earlier. Rollins hopping knees look a little silly, and the run in leading to finish is blah. This was whatever.

5. Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins vs. Rich Swann

ER: This starts a little nuts with Kendrick catching an errant knee to the eye socket when he didn't duck low enough under Swann. Three ways are usually pretty bunk, but Kendrick is ace enough to know how to plausibly get out of the way. His big swan dive fall to the floor was great and really looked like he just dropped into nothingness when he fell out of sight. Kendrick's falls and getting dumped to the floor have been a real highlight of his matches. That and the struggle around the bully choke. Rolling through the bully choke actually worked decently in a three way, Kendrick was able to add some neat dodges leading into a TJP save. When Kendrick came back only to eat two superkicks it was a logical progression. But the match felt super rushed, which is a little silly since we have now seen them match up so many times. This felt like a rushed greatest hits version of their other stuff. "Gotta do the caught in a kneebar spot, gotta do the surprise superkick spot." The ringwork was good, but I was hoping for more, and Swann just doesn't interest me much as champ.

6. 30 Minute Iron Man Match: Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks

ER: Really liked the standing exchanges they opened with, and Sasha leaping onto Charlotte's back with a sleeper. The way they crumbled to the mat is one of those moments in their matches where something seems very much clunky, but in a way that ends up making the move look more nasty. And the straitjacket choke always looks gross thanks to Charlotte's flexibility. Sasha takes a mean bump off the apron onto the ring steps after getting her leg swept. But it does seem like we get one of these "stop the damn match!" moments in every big Sasha match. It's weird that a wrestler is prevented from pinning another wrestler when one of them maybe can't continue. If a ref has to hold up the match to make sure you're okay, that should count as a pinfall in this type of match, right? Maybe I've just been watching more UWF than usual lately. Charlotte locks on an awesome rolling headscissors and let's loose an appropriate "Four time champ, BABY!" to the quiet crowd. The rolling headscissors is maybe the best "rolling" move, rivaling even the rolling Olympic Hell. Sasha's first comeback felt a little unwarranted, but I loved the missed crossbody that lead to Charlotte taking back over. I do appreciate that we didn't get any falls in the first 20 or so, as that at least plays off the fact that these two go long against each other. I hate elimination matches where people start getting eliminated after taking 12 seconds of offense. Holy lord Charlotte's springboard stomp to spike Sasha's leg was the most vicious thing on the card. All the bending and stretching of Sasha's knee and ankle is sick, though it's kind of a storyline blunder to have Sasha tap with just a few seconds left in the match. But Sasha getting busted open is a great unexpected moment, and made the Banks statement look killer with blood striping her face. But I really wanted her to retain.

7. Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens

ER: Eh, this was what it was. I liked Owens sentons, the one off the ring steps, the somersault one that hit knees in the ring, really all the ways he uses his fat. This whole thing was decent without ever feeling like more than a Raw main event. Maybe the table spot? Table spot is an accepted "PPV moment", and the table spot was pretty great. So we got a table spot. Reigns has had plenty of great PPV singles main events, and this wasn't one of them. Owens is going to get the blame for that but I don't think that's fair. I think both men looked fine and it was more a case of things just not adding up to much. The ending with a semi-reunited Shield attacking and destroying JeriKO was satisfying even if it felt more like a crowd pleasing moment given minimal thought. But that's fine. This whole match just didn't have a whole lot to keep me.

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

205 Live 12/14/16

1. Jack Gallagher vs. Drew Gulak

ER: Not the flat out classic I was hoping for, but still two guys I really like having a likable match. I thought Gulak looked pretty vicious here. People might not want to see cruisers doing headlocks, but I love his side headlocks and cravates. Love the spot where one guy has a headlock and the man in the headlock tries to push him off, but he holds on. Seeing Gulak hold on and wrench it in looked great, and then seeing Jack handstand out of a headlock takeover was gravy. Also love how he tightens the cravate by going for a snapmare and stopping short. The fans really do not care about Gallagher's knot tying at the moment, which I think is for the best long term. They respond much better to his great uppercuts and sick headbutt and dropkick. Them responding to his violence and not his comedy is a good sign going forward as he'll veer towards ultra stiff Dean Malenko instead of just becoming Scotty II Hotty. But Gulak was a real asskicker here and I did like how the (too long) butt kicking spot lead to him immediately transitioning back to ass beating with a big running kick, then pie facing Gallagher off the bottom rope in a cool spot. Would have liked to see a longer strike exchange (weird comment right there) but I liked the brevity of Gulak's ear cup slap leading directly to the KO headbutt (with king douche Mauro naturally mentioning New Japan). Hopefully these two match up again.

PAS: Yeah this was a really fun Worldwide style match up between these two guys. I guess I don't mind the knot as a set up for the heel to get pissed off at Gallagher, which seems to be how they are using it, but I would love to see that retired. Loved mad Gulak, that pie face into the bottom rope was super nasty looking. I really wish the Davari feud was between these two guys, as I could see them having multiple matches against each other and find new interesting things to do.

2. Lince Dorado vs. Mustafa Ali

ER: I quite liked this up until the shrug finish. Lince's matches will always be as good as the spots he hits, and he hit everything clean. More importantly Ali had a real impressive showing, really lacing into Dorado with stiff clubbing forearms and being a great base for his flying. He certainly looked more impressive than in his CWC match against Dorado, and I like some indy stuff I've seen from him and also dug how he carried himself here. It's nice to see they're at least attempting a "you only boo me because you don't like my name" angle, instead of having him be a sheik. Finish was something, but I dug him jumping Dorado back in the ring, and then he went and bumped huge to the floor to put over a spin kick. Not bad.

PAS: Eric has a lot more faith in the WWE racial  then I do, the last time the ran a "you just boo me because I am Muslim gimmick" three weeks later we had Jihadi's beheading the Undertaker. Of course that was before Linda joined the Trump administration, a place full of nuanced opinions on the Muslim world. Ali looked great here, I also enjoyed this more then their CWC match, everything got hit cleanly, and I really dug the nastiness of both bumps which set up the double count out.

3. TJ Perkins vs. Rich Swann

ER: The parity in this division is tearing me apart!!! Everybody beats everybody and then rematches and the other guys beat the other guys and everybody is equal to everybody. There are 15+ guys in the division but it feels like we're seeing the exact same matches already. That said, I liked this match and thought it was one of TJP's best performances in WWE so far. He's definitely a "timing & execution" guy, so sometimes things just click better than normal. Opening stretch was simple but nice and fluid and I liked the way they worked in the knee tweak and the way TJ started going after it.  Perkins was nice and aggressive and it lead to some fun Swann nearfalls, especially the cool victory roll into a tiger driver. TJ's knee bar has come replete with some cool reversals, and I love when he rolls under a guy as they're doing some sort of flip so he's lying there in wait to lock it on. Fun, satisfying match with logical progression. It went the direction you thought it would, and was better for it.

PAS: Yeah I am tired of seeing the same match ups over and over again, but I did enjoy this. I thought Swann did a nice of job of selling his knee on the jumping 480 splash, and the knee bar finish was really nasty looking. I am not a huge fan of mirror sequences, but TJP and Swann are really good a mirrors. I really hope they move into something different after this weekend though.

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All Time MOTY List Head to Head: Onita/Goto v. Kurisu/Nagasaki V. Liger v. Sano

Jushin Liger v. Naoki Sano NJPW 1/31/90

PAS: This was the final match of their awesome late 80s early 90s triology, and it is a hell of a finish. Liger starts out the disrespect by slapping Sano in the face, but Sano takes the early lead by piledriving Liger on the floor, ripping his mask and posting him. The rest of the match is this great visual of Liger with his mask ripped off, adding a bunch more red to the iconic red and white outfit. I loved all of Liger's comebacks in this match, he would squirm out of a Sano bomb attempt and hit a crazy dive or a desperation throw, but then get overwhelmed. This was Liger trying to ride a tidal wave, rather then a back and forth battle. Sano was great in this, such a vicious prick, there is a moment where he is just pounding on Ligers bloody head that you can see the joy in his face. I also loved his intelligence, there is a moment where he charges Liger in the corner, Liger moves, so Sano backflips out, Sano knows the kappo kick is coming so he just dives on his stomach to avoid it. Finish may have felt a little abrupt, with the level of punishment, but I dig the tombstone as a death move (Sano did a great post match sell of it) and Liger breaking out his first Liger SSP to close it out was pretty cool. I have a feeling that when I revisit NJ juniors for this project, the less juniory matches will stand out, and this was a great one.

ER: Man what a fight! Phil is right that when we revisit juniors stuff the best stuff will be the stuff centered around hate, not the stuff centered around "hot spots". But this had all the hate AND all the hot spots. It's great seeing Sano as almost a pushover, and then having that immediately blow up in his face. This is like CM Punk slapping Teddy Hart without realizing Hart was a trained boxer. Liger slaps him before the bell and hits palm strikes which leads directly to Sano beating his ass for 15 minutes. I love that this isn't some back and forth, big moves, pause for response, nearfall match. This is one man executing his perfect gameplan, while a legend hangs on and breaks out every desperate trick he knows. Sano was so cold and calculating, you can picture an announcer talking about how he's been reviewing film of Liger. He seemingly knew Liger's moves before Liger knew them, and looked awesome in executing his plan. Liger would get these annoying little escapes: gets dumped by a tiger suplex, but his foot almost accidentally falls onto the ropes; gets tossed with another dangerous suplex and almost accidentally lands in a crossbody for a nearfall. But this whole match is just violent and awesome. I can't believe the guardrails didn't go flying into the fans with the way these two were getting launched into them. And there were so many killer visuals of a bleeding Liger stumbling around with his mask barely hanging on, just trying to get a breath before Sano would maul him again. Only minor complaint was they peaked Liger's damage way too early, making him look pretty unconscious after that crazy piledriver at around the 6 minute mark of a match that went 20. But they sucked me right in and the whole thing just felt epic. Great match.

FMW Tag Review


PAS: Both matches are awesome hate filled brawls and great ones. The FMW tag has more reckless violence, but Liger v. Sano tells more of a story. Very close, I am giving it to Liger v. Sano by a hair, but could easily be talked into a different verdict on a different day.

ER: As much as I loved this, I'm still leaning FMW tag. As Phil mentioned they were both violent, and violence is a pretty easy sell. But I loved the recklessness of the FMW tag, loved how unstructured it felt, loved moments like Onita running through the crowd trying to get away from Nagasaki like he was Jason Vorhees, all the insane chairshots, all the hardway juice, Kurisu showing up in a dad shirt button down; that FMW tag has a special charm to it, and I'm not actually sure what it's going to take to dethrone it. This match came damn close though.

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Friday, December 16, 2016

2016 Ongoing MOTY List: BWO v. Rocky/Sato

57. Dick Togo/Shiryu v. Hikaru Sato/Rocky Kawamura Tokyo Gurentai 11/28

PAS: Togo and Shiryu come out in their BWO gear, which is a bizarre 90s gimmick to have remained relevant. Sato is a quasi shoot guy who hung around end of the road BattlArts and had a great match with Togo on his retirement tour, Rocky Kawamura is a bald guy doing a Rocky 3 gimmick, USA flag trunks and boxing gloves, it obviously limits what he can do in the ring, but he had some nice combos. The initial Shiryu v. Sato matwork was really slick, and KDX had a nice double flip dive, but most of the fun meat in this match was Togo v. Rocky. Being a wrestling genius Togo has a bunch of funs spots to work around a guy with boxing gloves, Dick starts out with a Inoki v. Ali sprawl, as he doesn't stand with Rocky, just lies on the mat kicking his thighs, fun callback to puro history. There final showdown though was awesome, with Dick throwing good looking pro-wrestling punches and Rocky landing big boxing combos. As an ex-golden gloves guy, I feel confident in critiquing Rocky's stance, way too flat footed, but I did like his lead right hook. Not a high end MOTY kind of thing, but I sure did enjoy it.

ER: A lot to unpack with this one. Have Shiryu/Togo literally just kept their BWO midriff tops for 20 years? Those are not new shirts. I know when I tried to get one 15+ years ago in college the prices were already ridiculous. It's not like you can just hop online and get a 20 yr old BWO shirt whenever you want to work some tiny indy on your comeback tour. Those have to be the same damn shirts. And while I'm thinking about a wrestler keeping a midriff top accessible for 20 years and feel my heart fill with joy, then I'm reminded of just how amazing Togo's old Sato mask is. That's a gorgeous, top 10 all time mask right there. Togo just does nothing wrong. And he continues that in his wrestling as he turns in another classic comeback performance. Shiryu looked especially great on the mat, loved the shots of him standing on Rocky's wrist and stomping his arm in gross ways. Sato is also fun although his partner Rocky is problematic. He's working a gimmick that would fit right into "classic" Chikara, and Tokyo Gurentai has a guy whose name is "Chikara" so indy bullshit has truly come full circle! And for a guy working his Rocky 3 gimmick and wearing large gloves, he sure does throw a lot of bad punches. His short rights were nice but all his KO blows were lame. His wind up punches and huge uppercuts all landed short or off their mark. You have Togo throwing picture perfect punches and here's a boxer landing a KO uppercut to the right boob. But he's a pliable broomstick and doesn't slow down the action at all, Dick can still be Dick. Togo hits a boss somersault senton dive, drops his mean fist drop, works some shockingly great sequences with a guy like Rocky, and this whole thing was very easy to smile all throughout.


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Thursday, December 15, 2016

2016 Ongoing MOTY List: New Day's Last Obstacle

31. Big E/Xavier Woods v. Seth Rollins/Roman Reigns v. Chris Jericho/Kevin Owens WWE Raw 12/12/16

ER: For the last several months Michael Cole has been ham fistedly yelling at me about just how close New Day were to making tag team history, always yelling out the exact length of their title run, and talking about Demolition's old record (for a team talked about on TV for months, it is ridiculous how they never showed one clip of Demolition, so people could glimpse the previous record holders). Cole tried so desperately to make it seem like this was IMPORTANT HISTORY that I turned long ago on their record chase. And then somehow all the annoying things about how they've pushed the chase, came together and made me really enjoy their final obstacle in setting the record. They won a match earlier in the night and Cole kept weirdly saying that "at midnight tonight" they'll set the record, which really made it obvious they would have to defend one. more. time. And suddenly I found myself unexpectedly excited by the chase. And then they went out and worked a sometimes surreal 2002 Divine Storm match, except with a bunch of guys who have been WWE World Champ.

The match had several sloppy moments and I thought the big tower of doom spot was embarrassing. But I loved everything after that spot. This was Rollins' best showing in who knows how long, and I really loved him bringing back the babyface triple dive spot, with him making saves and keeping guys at bay just by doing unexpected topes. Reigns and Big E always feel like a big deal when they lock up, and I loved how fluid him going for his apron spear lead to Reigns kneeing him right in the face to block it. E seemed like he was fully committed to that spear so the knee looked devastating. Once we go full on into WWEDG style I really started flipping for all the nearfalls. I thought Owens effectively used his Barry Darsow trash talking (extra important since it felt like Demolition Smash defending his record), loved the flipping legdrop and the big senton attempts. Jericho put in one of his better in ring efforts lately as well. He's a step slower but there were logic moments, like him just stopping Roman's spear by kicking him as he charged in. Felt like Little Mac timing the Bald Bull charge perfectly. All the nearfalls were legit, that big Reigns powerbomb, Woods almost tapping to the walls, the Rollins pedigree, all good. Then things really peaked with that wild JeriKO alley oop codebreaker. I thought that was it for sure, and then Rollins had a great logic moment while Owens tried to prevent him from breaking up the pin: knowing he couldn't break up the pin himself in time, he shoved KO backwards and into the pin. Awesome spot. Fans were really going nuts for the whole last 10 minutes, and I was right there with them.

PAS: For a match of guys I really don't care about I got pretty into this. Rollins as PWG Epic style main event worker is the pits, but as a guy in a tag match throwing topes out of nowhere he was pretty great, this kind of workrate match works ways better in a tag or three way tag because we don't have to see either a bunch of no-selling or a bunch of lying around, instead we just go on to the next guy. Really dug Xavier in this, you bought the record being a big deal, and he was great as the tough little guy surviving against all odds. Owens is also way better at these kind of matches too, he hits his big moves in weird places and is great at arriving at the last minute. Clearly the solution to lame WWE matches is turning it back into a trios territory.

2016 MOTY Master List

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wajima Wednesday (Not a Thing)

Abdullah the Butcher vs. Hiroshi Wajima (AJPW 1/2/88)

Finally available online! The match that I begged and pleaded to be added to the AJPW 80s set, then when I realized it wasn't going to get the necessary votes I begged and pleased for it to be added to the AJPW 80s Extras. But it was done to no avail. This match did not bring the same level of joy to others as it did to me, and that's okay. It's about 7 minutes long, and it's mostly a squash, and it ends somewhat unsatisfactorily. So plenty of people will be left pretty flat when it's all over. But I love it. I love sumo guys getting into pro wrestling, but not all of them are going to work out well. Wajima is definitely one of the weaker sumo transplants. And 1988 was the tail end of his short couple years in pro wrestling. And Abby was having none of it. He does not treat Wajima as much of a threat in the least, which is kind of what makes the finishing run so much fun. This never feels unprofessional, but I'm curious just what was going on, as Abby pretty much goofs off all while dominating Wajima. Abby throws stiff throat thrusts ("throws throat thrusts" was alliteration I wasn't attempting) and blocks any attempt at Wajima offense. Wajima is playing along and bumping around nicely for Abby strikes, and really putting over all the chops and throat shots. Abby shuts him right down whenever he tries something, either shoving him off, kicking him in the stomach, or just doing wild eyed karate mannerisms. And it all builds up to Wajima finally getting into his sumo comfort zone. They get in close and you can see it happening, see Wajima adjusting his arms, see him hitching up Abby's very very large pants, and finally he gets a great throw, and then another one! And it's an awesome moment! And then Abby puts his curled boot down and beats him down, then squashes him with his perfect elbow drop. In another great moment, Wajima gets his boot on the ropes. And so Abby drops another brutal elbow. Still the boot finds rope. So Abby flies off into the opposite ropes for another squishing, and Joe Higuchi gets in the way to stop some of the punishment, so Abby just shoulderblocks Higuchi into the weekend. Match gets thrown out, elbow drops continue, then Baba and Jumbo come out in teal track suits and TNT comes out and Abby drops threats on the mic while throwing chairs at photographers.

And now you can finally see the match that THEY DIDN'T WANT YOU TO SEE. You know, because they know you value your time, most likely.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

2003 Match of the Year

Tamon Honda vs. Kenta Kobashi (NOAH 4/13/03)

ER: Tamon Honda's big coming out party! How were we all wrong, for so long? Before this match (and possibly the Saito match that set this title match up) I never heard anybody praising Honda. I heard plenty of people dumping on him, especially for his 90s AJPW matches. Before this title match he was most famous for that match teaming with Izumida against Hayabusa and Shinzaki, where he conked Shinzaki with a headbutt that busted him open hardway and was probably the first bloody AJPW match in well over a decade. We've gone back and seen 2001 NOAH where he's clearly awesome, but I don't remember anybody talking about that in 2001. Was he a guy who just took a long time to "get it"? Or was he a guy who just took a long time to get? Nobody liked Takayama in UWFi or AJPW, and suddenly about a decade into his career he got great. When did Honda get great?

That Honda investigation is for another time (and is something I definitely want to do, time to start seeing who has all the AJPW 90s stuff) because this match is here and it's wonderful. It feels very different from almost every other GHC title match during NOAH's heyday. There are far less strikes than in any other contest, no big bomb throwing portion, no rail ride, and had a sense of someone trying to outlast as opposed to learning their opponents' methods. The whole vibe didn't feel "NOAH" to me, it felt like some big match from an alternate universe fed, that just happened to be using a neon green ring. Honda tries to grind him down early with headlocks and Kobashi repeatedly brushes him off, and there's a neat establishing moment where Kobashi locks on a headlock, which results in him immediately tossed off by a rolling throw from Honda. It really showed that Kobashi was only going to be along for the ride whenever he attempted to grapple with Honda. They brawl to the ramp and Honda just gets flat out spiked by a DDT. I'll note it now as it applies to the whole match, but Honda's bumping was just incredible in this match. The way he threw himself into moves really belied his awkward physique, and this DDT was the first instance of that awesome bumping. Honda struggles already to get up and starts crawling back to the ring, and I like how cocky and almost dickish Kobashi is here, attacking him from the ring while Honda is still on the ramp. And then in the turn of events nobody saw coming Kobashi goes for the kill with a spinning chop and Honda ducks, catches Kobashi in a sleeper, drags his ass out over the top rope and plants him on the rampway with the Dead End. At that moment the whole crowd was suddenly taking Honda seriously as a contender, and he would look like a threat the rest of the match.

Even when Honda would fall behind, the fans now knew he had aces up his sleeves. And Honda goes right after that big lariat arm, rips off the elbow pad, works the wrist, traps Kobashi in several Olympic Hell variations (the rolling OH is so damn cool) and at one point, the way Kobashi is struggling to get out of it, he genuinely seems like someone who is being smothered by his own arm. Kobashi is always ready to threaten with a lariat, even through the pain, and boy does he. He hits a couple of absolute beasts in this match, just obliterating Honda. But Honda just hangs on, sometimes literally, grabbing that Olympic Hell and just dragging Kobashi down with it. The craziness really ramps up and the crowd is white hot for the stretch, with both guys bringing body breaking offense. The Dead End soon became my favorite finisher in wrestling. Watching Honda drag guys up and over was like getting to the verrrrry top of a rollercoaster, and that feeling you feel as it momentarily stops before crashing down....except now you're going backwards. And the dead ends are brutal here, but perhaps nastiest of all is a double leg that looks like it dislocated Kobashi's pelvis. It wasn't a spear, wasn't a spinebuster, it was a double leg, and it looked like Kobashi ran off the ropes right into a bus. But Kobashi has no problem giving back, and before long he's dropping Honda directly on his head with a couple half nelson suplexes, an insane sleeper suplex, and finishes things with an all time Burning Lariat. Such a wonderful, unique match, with Kobashi eventually going along for Honda's ride, helping the crowd really buy into Honda. Apparently, it helped all of us buy into Honda.

PAS: Goddamn is Honda a grappling master in this match, pure old school Olympic grappling, I can't remember a better performance of straight up wrestling from any in a pro-wrestling match ever. His early double leg was awesome, as was the way he twisted and turned Kobashi's arm, his grip and core strength in this match was unbelievable. Kobashi looks way bigger then Honda here, and Honda just snatches him and throws him time and time again. Even when Kobashi was in control, Honda could just grab him and drag him down to the Olympic levels of Hell. The Dead End on the ramp was my favorite ramp spot in NOAH history and they did a ton of them. I also loved how Honda ripped and tore at the arm, he felt like a guy in the match of his life and he was going after every hold like this was his last chance at glory, the battles for the Olympic Hell's felt like that as well. We also have to give Honda credit for his bumping, he takes some truly nasty drops right on his giant lollipop head and it looked horrific, that monster sized Family Circus thing compressing his neck bones, yuck. Kobashi was fine, his main contribution to the match was being Kenta Kobashi, he was the mountain Honda tried and failed to climb, and all of those years of greatness needed to be there, to make Honda's near triumph so sweet.

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Until There's a Kurisu...

The joy of Kurisu, a man with a legit long career in both New Japan and All Japan, he was around during the start of FMW, during an important year of WAR, and trained guys like Koji Kanemoto. He's also a guy I don't believe I've seen footage of before the age of 40. Kurisu exists as this perpetually middle aged Japanese Randy Marsh, whose interests include chair shots and shoot kicking people in the face. Until There's a Kurisu is a foundation dedicated to raising awareness of the pain caused by chair edges to the back of heads.

Kurisu vs. Shoji Akiyoshi (FMW 12/10/89)

Good grief, Kurisu. I think we all use the words "destroy" or "nasty" or similarly animated words to describe wild moments in the wrestling that we watch. But this match probably belongs in its own category. Because it's basically just Kurisu kicking rookie year Jado in the face for a few minutes until he's actually knocked out. Now, there is other stuff. It's not some weird snuff film where a stationary camera just zooms in on a man's face as you watch life drain from his eyes. There is a competitive (sort of) nature to it. But no matter what happens, it always comes back to Jado getting kicking in the face. This is the type of desultory beating that could really turn somebody into a vengeful psychopath, something that could really alter you. You can picture Jado visiting elderly Kurisu like Vito Corleone visiting Don Ciccio. So yeah, Kurisu kicks face, and as Akiyoshi is selling being kicked in the face he gets kicked more in the face. He finally escapes to the floor, which just leads to Kurisu getting on the apron and kicking him in the face, pre-dating Trevor Lee by 25 years. Then he grabs a chair and literally just hits Akiyoshi as hard as he can with it, several times, and kind of leaves him for dead. Back in the ring, though, Kurisu gives him a little comeback. Akiyoshi locks on a crab and Kurisu actually sells his back nicely for him. Akiyoshi goes up for a missile dropkick (inexplicably going to the turnbuckle farthest away from Kurisu) and eventually drops him. But then Kurisu has had quite enough of that and goes right back to kicking face, with the final kick catching Akiyoshi right under the chin and legit turning off the lights. The craziest thing about it is Kurisu goes to pick him up for more of an ass beating, realizes immediately that he is picking up a corpse, and then makes a face like "oh yeah, that makes sense!" and pins him. The screen freezes and fades to black and white, and I was half expecting to see a "In Memoriam" graphic pop up for Akiyoshi. He certainly earned his long career with this one.

Kurisu vs. Jang Yong Wow (FMW 1/7/90)

Kurisu against a karate guy, in the opening round of a tournament. "Japanese indy scum vs. Karate guy" is pretty much a guaranteed source of pro wrestling joy, as I imagine almost all of the scenarios involved some guy from a local dojo offered money to fake wrestle once, and the person he's wrestling eventually flips the script and goes off page on him. And that's what happens. Wow throws some spin kicks in the 1st round, 2nd round is Kurisu being Kurisu: throwing the nastiest unprotected chairshots to an unsuspecting Wow (his reaction made it seem like he knew Kurisu would be hitting him with a chair, but something tells me the shots were explained differently to him than the ones he got blasted with) and then back in the ring he allows himself to be dumped on his head with a Saito suplex and lies there while Kurisu puts him in a half crab. This was clipped to hell, and the match never had that wrestler vs. karate guy moment where the karate guy realizes he's being fucked with, instead Wow just kinda rolled over and played ball. But damn those chair shots.

Kurisu vs. Matsunaga (FMW 1/7/90)

I wonder how the transition happened, when Matsunaga went from normal karate guy to crazy deathmatch guy. Is it like prostitution? You're looking for a way to make some quick money one summer, and the money turns out to be WAY better than you anticipated, and then pretty soon you're doing it full time, and then the drug use kicks in, and eventually some long haul trucker buries you out on Long Island Sound and a jogger finds you a year later. The death match money likely doesn't come close to a night of hooking, but it's somehow less dangerous. But I really am wondering if one day you're a karate guy and then they convince you to let Kurisu hit you with a chair and then a week later you're in a piranha tank with your gi hung neatly in your locker. If you had never seen 90s Matsunaga you wouldn't have given him a second thought in this match. He was very much a karate guy who didn't look like he knew pro wrestling. And he was clearly told the same thing Jang Yong Wow was told in the first match: "Throw some pulled kicks throughout the 1st round, then in the 2nd at some point Kurisu will hit you with a chair." I am operating under the assumption that they expected the chairshots because it looked like they were waiting and bracing themselves to be hit by a chair. Kurisu even makes them wait a little too long. But yeah, Kurisu eats some nice low kicks eventually catches a kick and kind of muscles Matsunaga over the top to the floor. And then you see it: Matsunaga lying on his stomach, knowing that this is when he gets hit with a chair. And Kurisu finds a chair, and literally walks around Matsunaga's body, craning his neck in to look for the most painful angle bounce a chair off him. And he finds it. Kurisu ends up teeing off golf style with the edge of a chair to Matsunaga's head, then gives him a few shots to the body....then grabs a couple more chairs and gives him a few more shots, and then rolls in for the count out victory. If I had to guess, Matsunaga knew "take a chairshot, get counted out". Something tells me he was not told there would be 14 chairshots.

Kurisu vs. Tarzan Goto (FMW 1/7/90)

This is the finals of FMW's weird karate fighter tournament, with all the lumpy scuzzy indy guys advancing. Goto comes into this with his ribs wrapped and his mullet all wooly and fluffed, and wouldn't you know it, Kurisu goes after Goto's ribs. Goto punches him out of the ring to start and then goes up for a dive off the top, and Kurisu ole's him right into the floor. Kurisu grabs a chair and begins doing his signature move, that being "hit opponents' tender spots with a chair at a violent angle, repeat". And that's the story of the match. Kurisu targets the ribs, kneeling on them, jamming his fists into them, at one point he is literally just leaning on Goto's taped up area. They also find plenty of time to headbutt each other. We get tons of moments of these two just looking each other in the eyes and clonking heads in painful ways, until Kurisu keeps deciding he's had enough of Goto's giant dome and goes back to kicking him in the ribs. Goto doesn't last long, whole match goes maybe 8 minutes. These kinds of matches can't go too long as they were just out there taking tons of shots to the head. If this was booked to go 20 they'd both be vegetables by the end. But it's definitely a mistake to go into a Kurisu match with something taped up. It would be like me walking through the Richmond BART station asking if anybody has any change for all of my hundreds. Onita comes out afterwards and he and Kurisu go at it, with Kurisu leaping at him off the apron with a chair. We get a bunch of still photos progressing the action, as though Chris Marker suddenly decided to make a poetic garbage wrestling documentary. And then I've never wanted to know how to speak Japanese more, as Onita cuts an insane, passionate crying promo backstage, just sitting there in his blue tiny trunks with belly bulging in white tank top, hunched over awkwardly, bleeding, and passionately crying. This is the kind of promo that can go viral. GIFs of his plaintive eyes can easily be inserted into any conversation thread. Crying Onita can become our Crying Jordan. Crying Onita has always been our Crying Jordan.

Kurisu vs. Onita (Barbed Wire Board Match, FMW 2/12/90)

I really liked this, but it's the type of match that I don't really think would play today due to the desensitization of death match culture. This is before the death match boom, and you don't get any guys taking stunt falls into elaborate weapon structures here. Instead, you get two men not at all dressed for a death match, actively trying to avoid falling into barbed wire. Death matches were still in their incubation period here. It would still be MONTHS before some weirdos decided to throw a cobra into a ring sealed by saran wrap or fight in the middle of a grocery store. So Kurisu and Onita wrestle in their normal trunks as the ringside area is completely covered in barbed wire boards. And these two insane men sanely do not want to land in the barbed wire. But they are vicious in how they each want the other to land in the barbed wire. Kurisu especially just jams his boot into Onita's throat to try and force him over the apron and into the wire. There are some great shots of Onita dangling perilously off the apron as Kurisu's outstretched leg pushed at his throat and jaw, forcing him down into the wire. And when he finally does fall into it, we don't get a modern back bump we've all grown bored of, we get a guy reacting the exact same way you or I would react if we accidentally fell into barbed wire. There's no rolling around in it, just a man trying to move as slowly as possible so as not to rip the shit out of his skin. Sheesh Onita is kneeling in it while trying to get his singlet untangled. His kneepads are not covering his knees. Personally, I hate kneeling on any hard surface, so I can only imagine how awful is it kneeling in barbed wire. Kurisu keeps kicking Onita into the wire, and in a great moment Onita finally catches Kurisu's leg and starts yanking him towards the wire. And man Kurisu does NOT want to go into the wire.

When I was 13 my mom let me throw a back to school pool party. It being a pool party, there were moments of meatheads throwing girls into the pool. My friend Brigit had just started her period and really had zero interest in going into that pool, but meatheads trying to throw someone in a pool LOVE resistance. They love the chase, they love the screams. They are monsters. Brigit eventually went into that pool, but man did she put up a fight on the way there. It took a few guys to drag a 115 pound girl into a pool. Kurisu held onto that bottom rope as strongly as Brigit held onto every damn thing she could get her hands on to slow down her eventual drop into the pool. Kurisu looked like a guy who had been promised backstage that he wouldn't have to go into the wire...and was realizing in real time that Onita was going to get him into that wire. Kurisu looked like a kid who had been tricked into going to the dentist, with Onita as the dad trying to drag him out of the damn car. Onita gets far more cut up by wire, Kurisu mostly avoids it by hanging on as long as possible and mostly falling underneath the apron, away from wire, and then taking his time to carefully get out of it. Again, he looked exactly how any of us would have looked in the same situation. And before long Kurisu is back on the apron and they're laying in shots to each other. The barbed wire stuff is amusing, but I like these two punching face. And we get some face punching, and Kurisu does a not recommended superplex. It looked like two people trying out a superplex for the first time. And then Onita decides to punish Kurisu for all of those shoves into the wire by just absolutely planting him with the thunder fire bomb. I mean vertically planting him. I wonder how many young boys watching secretly celebrated as Kurisu was just driven headfirst into the mat? It's not enough to stop Kurisu, so he gets another bomb for his troubles, and even then kicks out the as soon as the 3 is counted. Again this was a match that I don't think would go over today, but due to the personalities involved and the time it happened, I really enjoyed it. FMW was such a strange turning point in wrestling history.

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Select Matches from EVOLVE 66 8/19/16

Phil went to this show with his 8.5 months pregnant wife and has been (rightly) on my case for me to watch Thatcher/Riddle ever since. There were a couple other matches on the card that interested me, so I figured I'd skip around and you know, not bother writing up Ethan Page/DUSTIN.

Tracy Williams/Fred Yehi vs. Jigsaw/Peter Kaasa

ER: I really dug this one. Phil had told me Jigsaw looked really bad live, but I thought he looked quite good in this. There was one moment that was too 2000 indy (Yehi having to be draped over the middle rope while Jigsaw went up to hit a dropkick), but he matched up especially well with Williams and liked the way he took offense. He was kind of the guy overmatched by Catch Point, and I thought he got that over nicely. I liked their grappling, Jigsaw had a fun little wristlock counter, some fun leg stuff. Jigsaw was also fun with Yehi, dug him tossing some stiff kicks before one got caught, leading to Yehi straight up punching him in the foot bones! But this match was really the Tracy Williams show, one of his best outings, and he was in it a lot. A lot of this was Williams/Jigsaw, which was cool. Yehi hung back more than usual, coming in occasionally to stomp some limbs and drop Jigsaw with a couple of big germans. Kaasa didn't make it in a lot either but hit his big space flying tiger drop and some fast power moves. He has an impressive high bridge on his northern lights, and I loved his flying shoulderblock in the corner. But this worked as a super fun Jigsaw/Williams show. Really wouldn't mind a singles match between them, or more Jigsaw in Evolve.

No Holds Barred: Timothy Thatcher vs. Matt Riddle

PAS: I was at this match live, loved it, and I may have loved it even more on video. Both live and tape had advantages. Live I could really feel the thud of all of the strikes. These shots didn't have the snap of a Low-Ki kick, they thumped, the sound when they landed wasn't sharp it had a real bass to it. On tape you can really see the close up of the mat work, I could tell that Thatcher was mauling Riddle's foot, but on video you can really see him try to separate the toes and turn the ankle. Thatcher has been hit and miss lately, but having this kind of harrowing violence in his grappling is where he is at his best. There is no test of skills, this is a mean guy trying to use grappling to maim the guy across from him. The no holds barred stipulation came in to play mostly with a lack of rope breaks, there was a bunch of innovative cool looking spots around no rope breaks, including both guys locking in kneebars and rolling off the apron to the floor, and Thatcher using the ropes to choke Riddle out and break a triangle. Finish was also an awesome use of the ropes, as Thatcher hung Riddle by the arm into a hangmans crossarmbreaker. Great stuff, right up there with my favorite Thatcher matches ever, and the best Riddle match of his young career.

ER: My god what a match. Phil has been on me for 3+ months to watch this, it has been the subject of at least two arguments, maybe three, and I get it. This match was ridiculously awesome, Phil was a lucky enough son of a gun to see it live, and he was just trying to share some wonderful wrestling with a friend. I was the bad friend. When I heard "No Holds Barred" I was thinking it was going to devolve into cheapshots and chair shots or something, and I'm so happy that wasn't the case. The stip took away rope breaks and you don't realize how important rope breaks are to these type of matches until the don't exist. So you're left to cringe at the twisting and screaming for extended periods of time, until one of them gets desperate caged animal eyes and starts lashing out at the other to save a limb. This is just a hyperviolent war with no weapons necessary to enhance the violence. This is a match that would translate across all eras of pro wrestling. As we learned through the 80s projects, violence and brawling are what most consistently transcend any particular style. And this whole thing is just awesome. Riddle jumps Thatcher during his entrance and the whole thing is go go go but with no big moves or rope running or anything like that. I was honestly hooked right from Thatcher's early match heel hook. It was one of the nastiest things I've ever seen. I fully bought into Riddle's screams, and Thatcher kept ratcheting that ankle further and further out of position and you could hear the crowd swelling each time. And from there they just tear into joints the entire time. The whole match looked like a constant struggle. Arms bent at awful angles, suplexes fought over, necks cranked, ankles twisted; everything in this looks career shortening. You hear about all those PWFG guys had wrecked joints into their 30s and you wonder if the same is going to happen to some of these Catch Point guys. But I will not think about that now because these men are fighting for my enjoyment!!! Phil covered how great all the rope based spots were, so I'll mention how much I loved how much sweat played a factor in things. "Slipperiness" as a match goes on is a favorite Joe Rogan talking point and I love how that proved true here. The longer things went the tougher it was to keep on a hold. You see Thatcher lock in what could have been a match ending ankle lock but Riddle slipped out. Riddle locks on a Bro lock in the middle and Thatcher is able to slide right through into a vicious calf crusher. The violence never stopped in this, and the whole thing really felt like a high water mark for this style. Love.

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Cody Rhodes

ER: I was really curious about this one, as I've somehow become one of the bigger Sabre supporters (despite my opinion on him remaining relatively consistent), and I was also a pretty early fan of Cody. Cody would go through peaks and valleys in WWE, but every year or two he would go on a TV run that would reconfirm his quality. He had a nice 09/10 syndicated run and as recently as 2014 I thought he and his brother were the best tag team (and it wasn't just Dustin doing the heavy lifting, Cody was more than holding his own in those tags). So I was excited to see his first non-WWE affiliated match of his career. And I really liked this match, although admittedly it was mostly Sabre that I liked, and the ending was far too sudden. But I thought this match was a nice feather for Sabre, who has gone from internet favorite to "overrated". I thought he was pretty vicious here working over Cody's wrist. He kept on that wrist and plenty of stuff he did made me cringe. I injured my wrist 15 years ago working at FedEx and I'll go months without feeling any pain, then out of nowhere be hit with a stabbing pain on my top right wrist. Seeing Sabre bending and wrapping and twisting Cody's wrist made the pain palpable to me. Sabre locked on some really cool stuff, especially loved his short arm scissor. He locked it on real tight and clasped Cody's hand to wrench it in even more, and it even lead to some nice pinfall counters by Cody. Also loved the moments of him stomping the wrist, stomping the elbow, really everything Sabre did looked really good. Now any problems with the match mostly lied on Cody. He had a bunch of weird dated Edge offense that landed completely flat with me and the live crowd, several of those lame power plant moves that look like the giver is bumping just as hard as the taker. He even rolled the dice! His springboard kicks both looked weak, and it's not like I was expecting him to come in and wrestle all "indy", but his style also seemed somehow more dated than it ever looked in WWE, so that's weird. And the finish, as I mentioned, just came too suddenly and didn't really work for me. Maybe the match structure is to blame, and maybe that's on Sabre, but Sabre took 80% of this match, and it ended with Cody basically dropping him with a slam, and then locking on a (nice looking) knee crank to get the tap. The sub looked great, and the ring positioning was good, but we had just seen Sabre work Cody's wrist for 15 minutes while none of Sabre's limbs got worked over, so it came off really hollow for Cody's wrist to suddenly be strong enough to tap a guy who hadn't been weakened. The finish just didn't feel earned, which is a shame as I really dug the match overall. It stinks when the weakest part of the match is the last visual.

Overall a fun show (from what I watched), and Thatcher/Riddle is one of the easiest locks for our 2016 Ongoing MOTY List as there ever was. Every wrestling fan owes it to themselves and the wrestlers to go out of their way to watch that match. It is near wrestling perfection.  Find it, watch it, love it.

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