Segunda Caida

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

Friday, August 31, 2018

New Footage Fridays: Tarzan Goto, Sabu, Mr. Hughes, Steiners, Goldust, Curry Man

MD: This is part of a ten disc FMW HH set that's recently been unearthed by everyone's pal Pete F. Of it, only one disc seems to have been out there before. We put our heads together quickly and this was the first match that jumped out.

After watching it, I told Phil that we definitely needed to share it with the world but that I wasn't sure we could find anything intelligent to say about it. That said, if anyone can, it's probably Eric.

It's chaos. Given the angle the quality, you don't quite get the blood you'd expect, but you do get the violence. In a lot of ways, this is a Goto and Sabu showcase with Titan and Gladiator throwing everyone around dangerously and that's absolutely, 100% what you want it to be. I have no idea who some of the others even are. Attila the Hun, for instance, comes in solely to get gloriously demolished by Goto at the start of the match. The most horrifying and breathtaking moment of all of this isn't the wire at all but Sabu barely getting around on a Titan powerbomb, turning it into a rana at the last moment.

Post match goes on and on with meandering violence, only some of which caught on tape. Sabu had turned on Goto and everyone pretty much ends up fighting everyone else. There is a Sabu vs Goto match that follows this (I assume) on tape, and I definitely feel a need to check that out. I imagine we're going to get a ton of great Goto moments out of this footage.

ER: Oh man this match owns. It's quite possibly the most of every single thing you could possibly want in pro wrestling: A dangerous stipulation, a crowded ring, fat guys, tall guys with bad hair, a Russian judo medalist in a gi, a phony medical practitioner, a descendant of a tribal leader who invaded Italy (and now he's invading Japan!), stiff moves, dangerous moves, basically everything. This whole match is like the Royal Rumbles my childhood friend Eric O. and I used to have, where we would do separate entrances as every single guy, the match constantly being interrupted so one of us could run down the stairs and back up, constantly entering as someone new. This is one of the greatest Tarzan Goto performances ever. How were all of us tape traders so obsessed with unwatchable quality Sabu comps, while we took 20 years to realize that we should have been making and distributing Tarzan Goto comps. I counted 22 of the stiffest lariats you've ever seen, many of them coming from Goto (Goto threw so many brutal southpaw lariats that my left rotator cuff was sore after watching this), but several from Titan and Gladiator that would typically wind up with Sabu getting dumped on his head. Goto was a Tazmanian Devil throughout the briskly paced and chaotic match, always being in the center of something, throwing almost nothing more than those brutal lariats and his jaw breaking right hands.

We get one of the best and most unexpected ref bumps, as Goto rears back to slug someone and elbows the referee in the face, the ref taking a spectacular flipping bump backwards near the barbed wire ropes. Titan and Awesome make it their mission to hit increasingly dangerous powerbombs on every single person in the match, and their mission was successful. I thought for sure Sabu was going to get spiked right on the top of his head, the angle he was coming down at was looking murderous, but he rana'd Titan at what had to be the last possible inch to do so. Sambo Asako was wearing his aquamarine singlet/tights, stretched tight over that round build. Nobody wants camo pants Asako, they want this plump little blueberry. In a match with 10 men and no ropes we actually get a powder in the eyes finish and a double cross, then everyone swarms the ring. Far and away the best part of the swarm was Titan and Gladiator getting back in the ring. The video quality being handheld from 1993, we can't really see the barbed wire ropes. So seeing Gladiator and Titan hop to the ring apron and high step over what appears to me nothing just makes them look like they're on their way to interview at the Ministry of Silly Walks. Literally every single thing about this match was perfect.

PAS: This was a batch of fun, goddam is Tarzan Goto a monster in this. I loved him just obliterating Atilla the Hun in the opening fall, just punking this goof out, and he continued to just cracking people with stiff lariats and great punches. I also dug Gladiator and Big Titan as this roided out mulleted team of goofs. Really felt like they should have been ECW's Road Warriors. Poor Verichev. This has to be a bit of a rock bottom moment, big fall from the olympic medal platform to getting punched in the face by Mike Awesome in a some gym in Japan. This was the right kind of barbed wire match, where the wire was part of the crazy brawl rather then the focus of the match, some nice bumps into the wire, but not a lot of carving.. Sabu was fun too, he mostly threw punches and rana's but had that nutso aura which made him such a phenom. Nifty discovery.

Barbarian/Mr. Hughes vs. The Steiners ASW 9/3/96

PAS:  Wow, what a blast this was. Total big boy spotfest. No reason for all four of these guys to work this hard on a random North Carolina indy show. Everyone knows how great the Stieners and the Barbarian are, but Mr. Hughes was a beast in this, just a bump machine. He misses a top rope splash, takes a Pat Tanaka level backdrop, and gets dumped on his head with Steiner suplexes and a the Frankenstiener. His offense looked good too, he had a great Buzz Sawyer style powerslam (as did the Barbarian, weirdly Rick Steiner didn't) and a dope dropkick. Steiners hit a bunch of their big throws, and Rick threw some great clotheslines. Finish was completely bonkers, Barbarian put Scott on a table on the floor, and misses a top rope headbutt to the floor and just splinters the table, completely insane bump, as crazy as any Sabu or Tommy Dreamer table bumps in ECW prime. If this had been on WCWSN or a WCW PPV it would have been a legendary match.

ER: My word what a match! You know who was really great in 1996? Mr. Hughes, apparently! Mr. Hughes is not somebody who I've ever had much of an opinion on, good or bad. I guess my only opinion up until now was "It was kind of weird when he showed up for a month in 1999 WWE." But here he looked like my favorite wrestler. He's still really big here (I remember him being slimmer when he showed up in WWE, in the same way Bossman was slimmer when he came back that year) but incredibly fast and agile. "Am I going to need to go on a Mr. Hughes deep dive?" he asked excitedly. Hughes takes a few armdrags from Scott really fast, does a super fast rope running exchange, bumps huge over the top to the floor, hits a high dropkick, a gorgeous classic clothesline (you know, where the power is in you whipping them into the ropes and let them run neck first into your arm), takes maybe the highest back bump I've ever seen from a man his size, hits a fantastic powerslam on Scott, misses a giant splash off the top...I mean Mr. Hughes was just everything I would want a wrestler to be in this match, with the added bonus being that he looks sharp as hell in his duds and wears sunglasses.

You know who else was great in 1996? Everybody else here. Rick was awesome, throwing Hughes high by the ankles with that big back drop, comes in with this fiery hot tag with mean punches to Barbarian's forehead, runs HARD through Barb/Hughes with a double lariat, really looked like a long haul trucker getting super strength from rest stop crank. Scott throws a couple big suplexes (getting Barbarian dangerously vertical on and overhead throw) and snaps off an all time great Frankensteiner on Hughes down the stretch run (and damn does Hughes take a great fast and tumbling bump off it). Barbarian is great all around here, and takes the most unexpectedly dangerous and spectacular bump of the match, something that nobody attending this show expected they would see, when he flies from the top rope to the floor, through a table, missing a splash as Scott rolls out of the way, and gets pinned. Phil is completely right that if that match had been on any WWF/WCW TV or PPV, it would be a super talked about match in our circles long before now. If this match had happened exactly the same this year, it would rank highly on ours and others' MOTY List. Mr.freaking Hughes baby.

Goldust vs. Curry Man 1PW 10/14/06

ER: This isn't too long after Goldust's 4th WWE stint (that popular stint where he was Snitsky's tag partner), so he was still closer to prime time shape and hadn't yet bulked up to Black Reign superheavyweight status. This was a big event with a large indy crowd, and a lot of indy names scattered throughout the card (including Samoa Joe in a six man for some reason, and Smothers/Hamrick flown over to be in a tag trios), and the crowd is into the act here. I'm not 18 any longer, so Curry Man is no longer my flavor, and we get a lot of comedy including a long bit with everyone (ref included) trying to stomp feet. Not really sure I can get past the ref no selling having both of his feet stomped. Mainly because seeing Goldust stomp feet and then limp around after getting his foot stomped, made me want to see someone (Dustin Rhodes-level worker or better) work an entire match around one foot stomp. I know one of these guys can do it. Either stomp someone's foot early and then work over that foot, or get their own foot stomped and then limp through a match. I want a stubbed toe sell; that stubbed toe pain that is the worst pain you can imagine for one 2 second burst. Later the ref gets involved again by leaping in at the last moment to prevent Goldust from hitting Shattered Dreams, taking a leg kick in the process and delivering one as a receipt. If the referee needed to be involved in this, that at least felt like a more organic way to involve him. We get a lot of my favorite Dustin spots - one which I feel doesn't get brought up enough - which is his missed crossbody that sends him tumbling to the floor. It always looks fantastic, and isn't something he does in every match so you aren't exactly expecting it. Curry Man/Daniels is fine. You know what you're getting with him. His moonsault looked like something that deserved to be a nearfall. But it also felt like Dustin could have had this match with anybody.

MD: A year or two back I went out of my way to specifically look for Dustin-in-the-Wilderness matches. Dustin is almost always worth watching because despite the gimmick, he brings such pure pro-wrestling skills. This isn't too far off from the Muta/Tajiri vs. Goldustin/Hakushi match for instance. One thing I came across was a three minute fancam highlight reel of this, posted a week after the match happened.

In a lot of ways it's like trailers today. It had a lot of the "good stuff," some very fun comedy in a setting where you rarely saw Dustin, 00s UK Indy. I'm glad the whole match has showed up but I did get a sense that I'd already seen a lot of that "good stuff." That said, this is still worth seeing for the novelty. Daniels is a guy who's been precision execution but not always precision emotion, but he's unleashed and fully committed and emotive as Curry Man even if he leaves some of that execution at the door. They work the first part of this as a symmetry driven comedy match. Dustin, being Dustin, works the second half from underneath, getting the crowd honestly behind him and buying into his comebacks. He's one of the few people who in 2018 can still get people to do so and this crowd was even more game for it than their decade-later successors. That he was able to work both elements in the same match, in a strange place, with a unique opponent is just more of the gospel of how great he is and was.

PAS: I am with both guys, this was a Dustin showcase against a game but generic opponent. I never bought Curry Man as a character, it was always Daniels signature crisp athleticism with some colorless comedy spots thrown in. Still Goldust working shtick leading into a more serious match is going to work with anyone. Dustin had great uppercuts, hit his awesome missed bodypress spot and worked a fun shtick around the Shattered Dreams with the ref. Basically a fun syndie match, but Dustin is one of the great Syndie match workers off all time.

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Thursday, August 30, 2018

2018 Ongoing MOTY List: Revival vs. B Team

71. Revival vs. B Team WWE Raw 8/27

ER: Buried in the middle of Raw was this little gem of a tag match, that built off their prior interactions and added a couple false finishes playing off prior matches. I've been flat out loving the Revival this year, think they've been consistently fantastic, and I think this is as much as Dallas/Axel have excelled since they've been on the main roster. The match is not long, under 10 minutes, and followed a 20+ minute Please Don't Stop match with Seth Rollins. These teams clearly knew their time was precious and busted ass from go, with B Team dropping great knees and elbows (Dallas' successive kneedrops here were some of my favorite offense I've seen from him) and taking it to Revival. But Revival are great at cutting off the ring, and Dawson especially has a bunch of cool attacks, a ton of offense he does well. He hits a nice dropkick and controls with a nice body vice, face lock, Once they went into hot tags and nearfalls it felt like they were working a 15 minute match in 9 minutes, but I thought the frantic pace added to everything. Dallas hits his nice neckbreaker off the ropes (which has beaten the Revival before) and that's when we get our satisfying run of pin break ups and unexpected kickouts. The Summerslam match had a fun moving parts finish (the type of finish that typically looks stupid when someone gets rolled up but then gets knocked into so the pinfall reverses) and they play off that here, making it feel like something similar will happen and milk it for a couple of nearfalls. A few years ago it felt like we were getting a fun 8-12 minute tag match like this one every single week on Raw, but a lot of tag teams now feel relegated to Main Event and the only Raw tags that get time to shine are with makeshift singles guys. I would love to see this kind of tag make a TV comeback.

PAS: This was a lot of fun, when I first saw the Revival I thought they were more like 80s tag team Karaoke, but I really think they have pulled it together now. Really loved how they cut the ring off, and kept shifting into different holds, and attacks rather then just sit in a chinlock. Dawson especially seemed to be constantly throwing in tiny cool moves. His face lock was nifty stuff. I haven't seen much of Axel and Dallas as a team, but they were a totally competent face team, solid lightening express. Axel has been in the WWE for 8 years now, which is 2 years longer then his dad's run, and hasn't had a single memorable moment, it is good to see him doing something entertaining, and I am looking forward to checking out more of these guys.


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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Matches from Black Label Pro 8/18/18

C.W. Anderson vs. Filthy Tom Lawlor

PAS: Always excited to see CW, he really should be the next old guy to get the PCO indies push, he is still excellent and doesn't seem to have lost a step at all.  I really liked the opening mat exchanges in this, it wasn't shootstyle at all, but Lawlor is also really good at basic hammerlock, drop toe hold headlock US territories matwork. There is some great punches, a cool guillotine choke counter of a spinebuster and Lawlor doing a go-to-sleep into a sleeper and putting someone to sleep. You would expect this to be a styles clash and it wasn't at all.

ER: I wanted more out of this one, but I like these guys, and overall I liked this. C.W. really is ageless (not only in the way he moves, but facially he still looks really young for being late 40s) and I fully back him getting a big tour of the indies. Really I have no clue how he hasn't been brought in as a veteran presence in NXT. I liked how the two kind of met their two styles in the middle, with Lawlor working more wrestling holds and throwing a heavy, non-stylish German suplex, and C.W. throwing more elbow strikes than normal but not attempting some silly MMA crossover. I love the way Anderson moves in the ring and I loved the build to that big left hand (coming not long after a new thrust headbutt that he's been integrating), and Lawlor grabbing a guillotine choke to block the famous spinebuster was a really great spot.

PCO vs. Darby Allin

PAS: This is an on paper banger, which doesn't fully live up to it's promise. Allin is my WOTY so far, and PCO has become a super hot act. This never fully kicked in though PCO has kind of morphed into almost an Undertaker like monster character, I love the videos, but I think it is a weaker in ring act. The WALTER match worked because it was kind of a wild sprint. This match was kind of ponderous, and even killer Darby spots didn't get as big a reaction. I did love his tope with PCO draped over the guardrail, and his big senton looks great. Destro coming out with the car battery is kind of goofy, and really ground the match to a halt. Some fun stuff, but ultimately disappointing.

ER: Same. I think the PCO hype train is a little off the rails at this point, and really I'd just want to see Quebecer instead of this quirky Frankenhooker character we got now. He moves a little stiffly and slowly, and is also now doing Undertaker no-selling, and it's kinda hard to tell sometimes which he is doing because his staggering sell looks nearly identical to his Undertaker no-sell. He bumps big but there can be a delay to his bumping, so sometimes there was awkwardness waiting to see if he was just going to no sell Darby and let him bounce right off...or let him bounce right off but then also bump. But once this gets going it was good. The very beginning is fun, with Darby hitting a hard dropkick that believably knocks PCO through the ropes, then gets caught on a dive, and Darby blocks a chokeslam by landing feet first on the apron. Coo, sequence. PCO takes a plausible Code Red and we also get some neat stuff with big splats: PCO catching Allin and slamming him into guardrails before powerbombing him into the rail, and then a sick powerbomb across a few chairs. But I love how Darby is a guy you just can't take your eyes off. Once PCO heads back to the ring Allin is leaping over him, catching him on the railing, and then hitting a bonkers tope to PCO while he's draped over the railing. Absolutely crazy spot (I wrote "absolutely crazy spot" before I watched the match, with Allin it's just a matter of where I put it in the review of any of his matches, not if I'll need to). Allin also hits one of his all time great cannonball sentons off the top (shame we didn't actually get a battle of the cannonballs here, mais ce sont les pauses), but here's where Destro comes out to freaking Andrew Lloyd Webber like he's a Wednesday night dinner theater magician, then puts us through an act more interminable than the magician who was working the Wednesday day shift. PCO and Allin - who have kicked the shit out of each other the whole match, are now just forced to lie motionless in the ring, selling more damage than any one of them has ever sold. We've seen Allin get concussed and break his elbow, pretty sure he sold doing his own senton more than he sold any of those actual injuries. And then PCO sees if that's still the case and drops Allin on the back of his head with a package piledriver. There were flaws before Destro did his routine, but that just left my sails totally windless.

D-Lo Brown vs. Joey Janela

ER: This is of interest because we've all seen Janela attempt to break his neck doing crazy things in a wrestling ring, but now he's in the ring with an actual certified neck breaker. But this match was fine. D-Lo is bigger (I appreciated Dave Prazak's speculation that the added size might be because D-Lo was wearing his chest protector underneath his t-shirt), but not crazier like PCO. Still, this was a perfectly fine older star/younger indie guy match. D-Lo had loud chops, dropped a great elbow, took a low and fast dive from Janela (that sent D-Lo sprawling down the entrance). There was nothing spectacular, but nothing bad. They didn't bog it down with comedy, kept the shtick to the opening sequence, D-Lo hit signature spots and took a big bump off the top when Janela tossed him while attempting the Lo Down, and it went the right time. Expectations, met.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

2018 Ongoing MOTY List: Fuke vs. Fujiwara

77. Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs. Takaku Fuke BJW 8/14

PAS: Fujiwara will be 70 next year and it is pretty amazing that he can work UWF style matches at this level at this age. Fuke is a Fujiwara trainee who worked UWF and PWFG before a long Osaka Pro run. This was total class stuff, outside of some wrinkles I could easily see this match on a PWFG show in 1993 (and it is really Fuke who looks older, Fujiwara looked 70 when he was 40). I really enjoyed the opening grappling, Fuke took Fujiwara's back and Fujiwara did a bunch of cool counters using Fuke's ankle. Really liked the standup too, Fuke was throwing sharp fast slaps, but you expose your arm to Fujiwara, bad things are going to happen, and we get a slick armbar counter for the win.

ER: Quick and breezy, and I'll echo Phil with how impressed I am with 70 year old Fujiwara still doing transitions and blocking armbars and getting slapped in the neck and ear like young Fujiwara. I'm a fan of any kind of wrestling that incorporates some kind of points deduction for rope breaks or knock downs; it adds extra wrinkles to the structure (not that we need to add too many more wrinkles to a match where the mean age is nearly 60). I even liked the ROH Pure Championship. As much as l enjoyed the stuff on the mat, I really perked up once they stood and Fuke got a flash knock down. Oh, it's *that* kind of match, is it? Fuke had these cool wind up slaps, like he was trying to pick someone off third, and he would wind up and unleash a long arm into Fujiwara's ear and neck, then rattle off some thigh kicks, and it's still fun seeing Fujiwara get pushed around standing, wavering, leg buckling, slapping back, looking for a limb to catch. They tease us with him quickly turning a dodged palm strike into an armbar, but Fuke wisely breaks. But right after Fujiwara catches a kick and begins lifting Fuke's leg, seemingly in standstill, giving Fuke the option of a hyperextended off balance leg, or wild card. Fuke opts for wild card and Fujiwara catches the arm in the middle. Satisfying.



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Monday, August 27, 2018

2018 Ongoing MOTY List: Makabe vs. Navarro

Daniel Makabe vs. Negro Navarro 3-2-1 Battle! 8/24

PAS: I loved this match, Navarro is very high on my list of all time favorites, and this is one of his better performances in recent years. Makabe is clearly over the moon to work a maestro match with Negro Navarro (he mentioned in post match mic work that it was his all time dream match), and comports himself really well in very difficult circumstances. His matwork was much grittier then Sabre Jr. or Quackenbush who are the two indy guys I have seen work Navarro, they are both flashier wrestlers, and Makabe made everything look like more of a struggle. Both guys spent the match escaping holds, rather then catch and release, and there were some cool counters, I especially dug how Navarro got out of the cattle mutilation, and Makabe escape the figure four armbar. 321 Battle has a Seattle scenester crowd, but hipsters are clearly better wrestling fans then nerds, because they went apeshit for all of Navarro's stuff, which I imagine wouldn't go over as well at PWG or EVOLVE. Finish was cool with Makabe going rudo and throwing a sneaky Ishikawa punch (the only strike of the match) and rolling up Navarro, I like how the mat master couldn't hang with a mat god and had to take a shortcut. Both guys seem to be setting up a revanche, and I would love to see Navarro break out some dirtier tactics for the rematch. Such a blast.

ER: Hearing about this match is what made Phil seek out Makabe and 3-2-1 in the first place, so I knew he was excited for it and I'm glad it delivered. I'm very bummed I was in Seattle less than 2 weeks before this (if I could have seen Fastbacks at SPF30 and then jetted over to see Negro Navarro in front of a hot wrestling crowd I likely would have gotten teary-eyed over the vibrant 60+ year old arts scene happening) but happy I still got to see it so soon after it happened. This whole thing was a tightly constructed bit of heel nipping, bell to bell. Makabe offers a simple handshake to start and Navarro comes in for one of those two-handed handshakes, as if he were an elder greeting people and passing out bulletins at church, and immediately grabs a top wristlock. And that's how we go for 12 minutes. Makabe makes great facials in submissions, accurately portrays man getting tortured in the Hart Dungeon, but is also good at showing he's not lost in the woods. There were a couple moments where I thought the match would end when Navarro got a tough sub (we've seen his matches with Solar go anywhere from 6 minutes to 16 minutes, so once we hit that mark I was looking for killshot subs) and I always liked how Makabe would find a way out of a corner and annoy Navarro with a reversal. Navarro put on this awesome short arm scissors figure 4, and it was cool watching him assemble each little part of it, and even cooler hearing the crowd go nuts for it. I liked Makabe's headscissor Americana, looked like he really could have damaged Navarro, and the second I start feeling sympathy for the old man he comes out of it holding a wrist. I also got a kick out of Makabe going all World of Sport and was kinda rolling my eyes at Navarro having to kind of pause and let Makabe crawl through his legs, but loved how Navarro put a stop to shenanigans by clamping on a tight crucifix. I was loving it, but did not expect the loud "NAVARRO" chant to start up. This 3-2-1 crowd is really respectful and gets really excited for this stuff, feels like a fun crowd to be a part of. They're clearly in the bag for Makabe, but they're getting a kick out of Navarro the same way Makabe probably was, and that's even more apparent when Navarro locks him into a pendulum and shows Makabe's tortured face off to all sides of the ring. I think Phil and I were thinking the same way with the finish, Makabe throws the lone strike of the match and it leads right to the finish, and now Navarro can come back for revenge and stop playing nice.


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Sunday, August 26, 2018

NXT TakeOver Main Event: Phil and Eric Disagree, Now You Decide

Last Man Standing: Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa

ER: What a fantastic main event, super violent and hate-filled, a match that truly deserves to be called a war. They've been so good at taking this match to match, building upon other interactions and throwing in neat callbacks, that it's really easy to follow along and get hooked in. The energy they throw into every big moment is great, and they know how to space those big moments to make them as effective as possible. I've seen some complaints about drag during a couple portions of this, but I thought the pacing was super successful and made all the biggest moments stand tall. Their street fight at the last TakeOver felt like a classic ECW brawl, and this match was basically a culmination of all their interactions and match styles: the learned behavior counterpoint match, the big match nearfall epic, the late 90s brawl, and the overly emotional "Fight Forever". And Last Man Standing was a great way to combine all of those into one blowout. But LMS matches have their own pitfalls (guys asking for counts too frequently is one that happens a lot, which can grind a tempo down immediately), the big moments landed big, and they nicely wove in their ongoing drama.

This managed to feel like a fight for it's 30+ minute run time, never a This is Awesome contest or a Kurt Angle "We're going to have a MOTY" showcase. This felt like two guys who used to like each other, who really hate each other. Barely into the match Gargano is already exposing concrete on the floor, and not long after Ciampa is exposing the ring boards. They knew what this was. There were so many great set pieces, and I loved the escalation. Outside of the big moments we had a ton of small painful moments, like Gargano getting his back rammed into the edge of the steps, or Ciampa getting a chair flung hard off his patella, or Ciampa eating a DDT onto the edge of the exposed ring boards, to some nice messy strike exchanges where not every punch lands because not every punch needs to land, or Ciampa waiting out a count while sitting in a chair, only for Gargano to beat the count and find Ciampa at the perfect height for a superkick.

The big moments were tremendous, I especially loved Ciampa running full bore into Gargano with a knee on the floor, with a chair leading the way, sending both of them crashing through the barricade, That looked devastating enough, but when Ciampa starting piling other humans and chairs and anything he could find on top of him to make it harder to get up, that's just a guy after my heart right there. Ciampa tossing big announce chairs onto a heap is a visual I won't soon forget, and the whole count he's just perched on the announce table like King Kong. I kept waiting for things to feel like they've gone too long, but that moment never came for me. By the time Johnny had Ciampa handcuffed on the stage and was superkicking him while mocking his apologies, my own inner dark side had taken over and I just wanted Johnny to give him 50 straight superkicks, to guarantee he wouldn't be getting up. I wanted kids crying. "Stop! Stop! He's already dead!" But I loved the finish as it's real evidence of how badly these two want to make this match and feud work. Gargano flying knee first into Ciampa's face, his own momentum sending him violently sprawling over equipment crates to the floor, was as crazy looking as anything I've seen in wrestling. Ciampa falling off the stage onto his feet was delicious icing, as Johnny lied crippled on the floor. These two really got me hooked on this one. This was something I really loved.

PAS: We don't normally have this big of a disconnect on a match.  There have been times when we have had long back and forth discussions over whether a match is 19 or 26 on a list. Or whether something is 2 or 5, or whether a match makes it low or misses it,  but here is a match that Eric thinks should be near the top of a MOTY list, and I would be perfectly happy leaving on the cutting room floor. For the most part I thought this was a pretty standard WWE Last Man Standing match, the kind of thing they do half a dozen times a year, with some pretty big highs and some pretty cratered lows .

There was stuff I really liked, Ciampa's running knee with the chair into the barricade was great, and I loved him tossing chairs, containers and a KO camera guy on top of Gargano to keep him from getting up.  That is up there with some of my favorite LMS spots ever, although the WWE LMS matches tend not to stick in my brain, Big Show had some cool ones right? The exposed ring boards is getting to be a bit of a 2018 trope, but I thought it was done well here, and is a good way to escalate a match when you can't have blood.

There was some smaller stuff I didn't like too, some of Gargano's punches got a little Lisa Simpsony, there was one turnbuckle punch spot that was especially windmillish. I thought the big table spot, which was teased and teased, ended up looking pretty weak, Ciampa ate a superkick and kind of gently fell through the table with no height. For a match with a lot of reckless bumps, this was super safe and looked it. Did the Dudley's ever put Linda McMahon through a table? That felt like a bump she might take.

I had two main issues though. For one 35+ minutes is just too long for a match with this many big spots. We both criticized Kairi Sane for shrugging off that vicious ankle smash, but this match had Gargano take Ciampa's finisher three times less then half way through the match, plus taking his secondary finisher on ring steps. Ciampa got lawn darted into a chair 3 minutes in. Yet they still soldiered on seemingly forever. This kind of brutal war works best in a third of the time they did this in, I can't imagine Magnum vs. Tully would have been good if it was 30+ minutes long. Last Man Standing rules mitigate that a bit, at least we don't have a million 2 counts, but man this started to drag.

Also I thought that finish was incredibly stupid. The whole multiple superkicks where Ciampa is begging for mercy and Gargano is making his hack "I am a good man? Have a forsaken my humanity" faces was duuuumb. It felt like someone making fun of an antihero basic cable show about a pediatrician with a gambling problem who ends up working for the Sinola cartel. The last spot, where Gargano dramatically removes his kneepad (let me remind you this is a match where they have been bashing each other with chairs the whole match), like he was pulling out a machete or something, and then Shockmasters himself off the stage felt less like an epic wrestling finish, then something you put Benny Hill music over and mock on Twitter.

ER: So there it is, and since we're at an impasse we're leaving it all up to you. The poll is up on Twitter to decide how to handle this great and/or atrocious match.

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Saturday, August 25, 2018

NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn IV 8/18/18

28. Undisputed Era (Roderick Strong/Kyle O'Reilly) vs. Mustache Mountain (Tyler Bate/Trent Seven)

ER: Really bonkers spotfest tag, one of those kitchen sink matches, with a bunch of cool stuff chained together. There were a couple holes, a couple awkward O'Reilly moments, and a really overly hammy section with Seven in agony over whether he should throw in the white flag or not, while Bate butt scooted across the ring to him in a inside heel hook. That moment laid it on a bit thick. The rest of this was a fast paced death wish that ramped up the whole way, in a way that felt like they really understood the pace they wanted this to be. Strong was a real savage here, and a real nut. He took some big bumps to the floor, flipping over the top, getting knocked off the apron when O'Reilly was suplexed into him, flying onto the apron and tumbling down, making MM look real good. But man did he lay it in on a couple of cool timing spots, a flying elbow that looked like Seven got hit with a harpoon, and a wicked leaping knee to set Seven up for the killshot at the end of the match. The British guys were a little overly theatrical throughout, but when most of your shots land hard that can be forgiven pretty easily. And a lot of their shots had some thud. Bate hit some big uppercuts, had a fantastic lariat on the floor (bouncing neck first off the bottom rope and whipping around into a McGuiness-like wide swinging lariat), he also sold his knee impressively after O'Reilly worked it over with an awesome inside heel hook. I did think Bate tagged back in way too early after that big butt scooting moment, but I liked him foolishly limping and dragging his hurt ankle up the ropes. There were so many big spots, some big dives, Bate powerbombing O'Reilly into Strong to break up a submission, some brainbusters, a ridiculously kicked out off Burning Hammer, But we got some good nearfalls, some nice saves, tons of big moves, and a really fine build. Very, very hot opener.

PAS: I really wasn't looking forward to this match, over the years I have has some distaste for British indy guys, Kyle O'Reilly, Roderick Strong and indy spotfest tags. So I really wasn't looking forward to seeing Kyle O'Reilly and Roderick Strong take on some British Indy guys in a spotfest tag. Still I admit this really won me over. Really great performance by Bate and Strong especially, with their tag partners being along for the ride nicely. Bate was great in both fighting for the hot tag and getting the hot tag. I loved both of his peril sections, O'Reilly and Strong are really great and continuously tagging in and out and keeping the heat on, and when Bate evades multiple attacks to finally get the tag it felt like Indiana Jones escaping the cave at the beginning of Raiders. His hot tag after they worked over Seven was dope too, laying waste to everyone, including a great dive and a Niebla fake into a lariat. The second peril section got a little overly emotional which is a real flaw in the NXT house style (who is agenting these matches, Chris Carrabba?), but that heel hook looked great and Bate sold it well. Bate also may have pulled off the only two hit-both-partners-with-moves combos I have ever liked. Strong was a bulldozer in this too, I loved how he kept flying in to obliterate people and all of his classic Strong offense looked great. That kick out on the burning hammer knee combo was a bridge to far for me, but otherwise this was pretty damn good.

Velveteen Dream vs. EC3

ER: Overall good match with a few brief hiccups and a little awkward positioning, made up for by each guy taking the other's offense with gusto. Dream is a guy who comes off totally natural in his gimmick and movement, and EC3 doesn't always. You can see this in the awkward way Carter comes out for his entrance doing weird bunny hops. Dream is a good bumper, although I didn't like the early parts of this where he was just aping a few signature Curt Hennig bumps. Once he unnaturally got himself belly first over the turnbuckles it looks like he had to motion for EC3 to go through the old Hennig/Michaels kick to stomach/fly crotch first onto top rope spot, then moves right into taking Hennig's flip bump in the ropes off of some clotheslines. Now Dream was taking these on his shoulder on the apron, so there was a little twist, and they looked great, but something came off forced. But these two had no problem bouncing their heads and faces off the mat and floor. EC3 took a nasty floatover DDT on the metal ramp, Dream made that silly forward facebuster DDT look great in the ring, and both guys took a lot of fireman's carry slam variations (EC3 uses that a bit much and he's not really great at setting it up). Dream throws really nice right hands and I liked him using those to set up flashier things. And the finish was fantastic, with Dream hitting two Dream Valley Drivers - one in the ring and one on the apron - and then hitting his fabulous elbow drop from the top to the apron to finish it. I thought this delivered what it was going to deliver, but I'm not sure these two are good dance partners. The build was fine, but both guys kind of cancel the other out in a few ways. Their styles are almost more complementary as partners than as opponents, but I also don't need to see them as a team. Still, I liked this.

Ricochet vs. Adam Cole

ER: This match had a few fantastic big moments, and a bunch of those moments that makes me zone out during indy strike exchanges. And a couple of the biggest moments didn't really get the proper gravity that they deserved. The two big moments I loved were Cole going for a leapfrog and eating a dropkick, and Ricochet going for an Asai moonsault and getting superkicked in the face. The superkick spot looked especially match finishing (and it was even followed up by that stupid brainbuster on knee) but moments later we were just running and whipping around into our next sequences. We got a long stretch of that thing where one guy hits a strike, and it spins him a bit into position to do his own strike, which then spins the first guy into a different strike, and then they eventually all fall into a big This Is Awesome heap and breathe heavily like they were in a Godspell curtain call. And so they had these few big moments that landed big and looked great, but they were all just treated the same as the moves that looked decent and okay. A crazy flipping moonsault to the floor that sorta grazes Cole keeps him down for about the same time as Ricochet high jumping the top rope to rana Cole off the apron. A lot of their offense looked good, it just didn't appear to be very important, and there were too many of those autopilot sequences where a guy half asses step 2 of a 3 step memorized sequence, because he's already rushing to step 3 (like Ricochet not really getting height on a apron enziguiri because he's already worrying about the timing for the follow up). I didn't think this was bad, but it felt empty.

Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler

ER: This didn't totally land with me, and mostly because of that awesome achilles stomp spot that Shayna did. Something like that is almost too vicious to happen early in the match, as it's so extreme that your opponent basically has to ignore it just to be able to function. There's ways you can work around it better than what Kairi did, but it's a tough wrench. But aside from that, they didn't really seem like they were having the same match. They both wanted different things, and this felt like a collection of parts from different matches. I could have seen Shayna being more sadistic, or Sane getting a stronger win, but it all felt a little disjointed. They still both do a lot to like, and that stomp to the achilles was one of my favorite things on the entire show. I loved all of Baszler's work around that right leg, bending it in all sorts of great ways, popping that ankle, bowing it out, and then curling the toes up before the big stomp. Shoot I even liked ref Jessika Carr's reactions as it was about to happen. Her face read "I feel really bad for what's about to happen to you but can't technically stop it from happening." Shayna looked like she was occasionally holding up on elbow strikes, and there were an abundance of Sane's strikes that looked like they would barely fluff a pillow. But her lunatic elbowdrops are as much of a sure thing as anything in wrestling, and they crushed Baszler. But it was hard to stay invested in Sane with all that running on that devastated leg, all that bridging, all the holding the standing crab, it was just a bit too much. I don't want people to think this was in your face bad, it wasn't. I'm sure these two have a good match against each other at some point.

PAS: I think this was a pretty great Shayna performance that got all joshied up by Kairi. I loved Shayna's taunting and shit talking. Doing Sane's goofy goosestep while kicking her ass was great. I also really liked Shayna's selling, that collapse from the spinning back fist on the temple was totally killer, as was how she snapped into killer mode any time she had a chance to throw on the rear naked choke. I thought Sane wasn't good though, this was a Manami Toyota match with only 2/3rds of Manami's athleticism. That ankle spot was an all timer, and she was up running around doing dropkicks a minute later, she was also doing a ton of over the top emotive telenovela selling, no subtlety about her reactions, everything was on a ten. I really liked the finish, and Shayna is at the point now where almost everything she does is worth a spot on an MOTY list, but I am sure there is better stuff out there, so I am fine leaving this off.

ER: So the tag match is landing on our 2018 MOTY List, but the main event...well, we disagree strongly on the main event. We'll be posting that match tomorrow, separately, and trying something a little different from how we've done things

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New Footage Fridays: Fishman, Black Cat, Fritz Von Erich, Kabuki, Hercules Ayala

PAS: Network put up a nearly complete Star Wars card from 1981 (Kerry vs. Race was out there before, and we took a pass on Killer Tim Brooks vs. Mil and a Battle Royal) so we decided to review a couple of the matches from that show and threw on a cool NJ HH to close out the week.

Kevin Von Erich/David Von Erich vs. Hercules Ayala/Ali Mustafa WCCW 2/21/81

MD: There was a lot to like here. I know David and Kevin had won some of the other tag belts in Dallas but this was their first time winning this one and it felt like a huge deal. Some of that was the setting. Some of that was the post-match celebration. A lot of it was the match itself though. They were a very good babyface pairing, with a lot of energy and just enough stuff between the double teams, the flying, and the claw. Ali was just a tremendous stooge, bumping, feeding, full of underhanded offense. I loved how he threw himself into dropkicks. Ayala brought the power and the size, more than doing his part. What really stood out was how often they went back to heat. I think the Von Erichs had ten comebacks here but between the size advantage and heel chicanery, they kept ending up fighting from underneath. It's not a well that's gone to all that often to begin with, but because they never took back over for long, it made for more of an escalation than any sort of stuttering and really got the crowd to build more and more for them as the match went on. As much as I tend to resent the Dallas crowd for their hero-worship, it's really hard to blame them given matches like this.

PAS: This was a bunch of fun. I loved the Von Erich's meathead charisma, they are great as big fired up country boys ready to fight. Kevin is a totally under rated flyer. He doesn't have the gracefulness of some, but he has a ton of power in his legs and really gets in the air on dropkicks and big elbows. Matt makes a great point about the structure, heels really controlled the match, and they were great at it, and the Von Erich's made a bunch of mini comebacks leading up to the big comeback which really blew up the crowd. Don't know much about Ali, but he was really great in this match, offensive looked nasty and he was a great foil, Ayala was a beast too, great press slam, and he had this moment where he came into break up a pin and just punched David right in the liver, a liver which was already working hard I imagine.

Fritz Von Erich vs. Kabuki WCCW 2/21/81

PAS: Kabuki is such a cool act, the weird penis nose mask, the spinning around, the face paint, the crazy bendy fingers, I am all in, wrestling needs more exotic weirdos. I am a fan of 80s old man walking tall matches, loved the Bill Watts stuff from Mid-South and any time Jackie Fargo or Eddie Marlin wrestled in Memphis. Fritz may be a garbage person, but he is pretty good at walking tall. Lots of Kabuki gesticulating and Fritz countering with a big punch. I loved the spot where Kabuki went for a nerve pinch under the arm, and Fritz countered with the claw. Gary Hart starts punching at Fritz's leg and a fan attacks Hart, have to love wrestling that can get drunks ready to jump barricades. Finish was kind of BS with David running in and beating up Kabuki, actually made Fritz look kind of weak. Still I dug this, although it is very in my wheelhouse.

MD: This was minimalist in the best ways. They knew what they were doing. Fritz came in first which both allowed Kabuki his elaborate pre-match rituals and let him sign about a hundred autographs for kids. About half the match was them looking for an opening an that made when either found an opening all the better. Listen to the heat for Kabuki's first real burst of offense. The crowd was irate because of the build for it. It kills me that we live in a world where the claw probably wouldn't work, because it's such an effective, visual tool that can be built towards throughout a match, that can be consistently countered or defended against, that can be the perfect instrument for a comeback. Fritz was the real deal here, absolutely genuine Americana. He was a gnarled old bastard who looks close to 73 than the 53 he was at this point. Kabuki was electric with his theatrics and Fritz' response, putting his finger to his head and spinning it to indicate in his slow, bigoted way that Kabuki was a crazy weirdo will be the image that sticks with me as much as anything else. The finish was definitely muddled. The idea was that Hart was interfering so thoroughly that David (who wanted revenge anyway) had to run in, but you had both a fan and Manning attacking Hart first which really muted the threat of him. I get that they had to protect Kabuki and Fritz but the sequence felt overstretched and neither of them or David ended up looking good.

ER: I love it! Fully agree with Phil about old guy Walking Tall matches. I would wager a substantial amount that I was the high vote on the Eddie Marlin/Tommy Gilbert Memphis match (and also bet that Phil was the 2nd highest vote) and I assume if you've read much of anything I've written you would know that I have a general fondness for old guys wrestling. That juxtaposition between an incredibly tough man, who is now also very vulnerable due to humans' peculiar habit of eventually dying. Fritz was in his 50s here but looked large, and powerful; a vast aging physique that still flashed plenty of muscle. The man looked like someone who could still muscle around cattle. And what a sight it is to see the ringside area swarm with children and adults alike, all trying to get their programs signed by a man they would later grow to not respect. And we get a simple yet effectively hot kick and punch match with Fritz lifting heavy legs into Kabuki's gut, and throwing punches that....well, realistically I could watch an old cowboy punch another old cowboy like that for 20 minutes and have it be one of my favorite matches of all time. See, our 1976 MOTY. Kabuki grounds him and bites at his throat, Fritz reverses to a stomach claw from his back, and we all know how silly the stomach claw was but it somehow never looks silly in the least when Fritz is applying it. Hart attacks Fritz's leg when they're in the ropes and a drunk fan charges in to save Fritz. It is a fact that any spectacle that can inspire a drunk man to play hero, is almost always going to be great. This is not a man who runs onto a baseball field or charges the Nitro ring or makes jack off motions behind a live on the scene news reporter. Those people are in it for the fleeting fame. This man is not Soy Bomb. This man was so incensed watching his legend get treated unfairly, that he felt it necessary to step in and show Fritz he was NOT ALONE. This man was so wrapped up in the drama that was professional wrestling and the Von Erichs, that he - in that moment - felt that HE was the solution. In that moment he was the guy thwarting an armed robbery. And that's a level of performance that most performers will never achieve. David Manning annoyingly gets the biggest babyface spot of the match when he punts Hart from the apron, Kabuki throws great uppercuts but gets pinned by a backdrop, DVE is somehow a babyface for beating down a man just so his dad can pin him....but I don't care, because this was 10 great minutes of pro wrestling.

Fishman/Black Cat vs. The Cobra/Shiro Koshinaka 10/6/85

ER: This was a fun low stakes tag, making me want to seek out more and more Black Cat. He was so cool here at dickish little things, yanking Koshinaka out of a pinfall by his hair, swiping at Cobra from the apron when he ran the ropes too close to their corner, nice aggression; he really did little things you don't typically see in juniors matches. Koshinaka was also a pleasant surprise. He has been wrestling for more years than I've been alive, and it was neat seeing him even younger (he showed up a lot on the NJPW 80s set, but mostly from '87-'88, nothing this early). He was on the good guys team here but showed plenty of spunk, slapping both heels around (especially taking it to Fishman), landing a heavy plancha on Fishman, good punk charisma. Fishman we recently saw in an unearthed 1998 match against Santo, a real treat of a match that made me curious to see more of him. Here he was mostly feeding Koshinaka, but he throws meaty chops, bumps hard for dropkicks, takes a squirrelly backdrop bump on his shoulders, and throws a killer back elbow. Takano lightens up on some things, but gets crushed by a Black Cat lariat (after landing on his feet after a flip, the best) and throws some cool armdrags, rolling across Cat's back to do so. The match ending sunset flip is reckless but smooth. Nothing blowaway, but a really fun match.

PAS: Fishman is a truly legendary lucha libre figure, and I have never gotten it. He worked the Monterey show I did commentary on years ago and was the worst guy on the card. He was old then (although old luchadors normally rule) so I am always looking forward to catching glances at him during his prime and trying to figure it out. This match doesn’t do it though, he seems like a replacement level tecnico and feels like the least interesting guy in this match. Black Cat is one of those guys who was around NJPW forever, but man is he great, he feels like a great regional rudo, like Toro Bill or Arandu, a guy you know had dozens of classics which never showed up on tape, but just radiates professional asskicker. He had an awesome journeyman career, starting out as a Villano IV tag partner in UWA, worked as a trainer and ref in New Japan for years, had a weird AAA run as a Gringo Loco and even had a WCW Worldwide match against Chris Adams. Nothing spectacular in his performance in this match, but impossible not to enjoy him.

MD: I'm glad I'm on the same page with Phil and Eric here re: Black Cat. This was a great showcase for him. All of his stuff looked mean including these little bursts of bullying chain wrestling, and he based perfectly for his opponents. The rope running sequence with Cobra definitely stood out: he threw himself into the arm drags and they managed some fairly complex fakeouts before ending with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. I wasn't quite so high on Fishman. There's something very iconic about him as an entity but to me, here was just there in this one, effective but forgettable. I do think we have more Black Cat in this footage and we should poke around to see what we can find.

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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Shinya Hashimoto Has the Longest Blackest Hair and the Greenest Eyes Anywhere

Shinya Hashimoto vs. Randy Thornton NJPW 5/13/91 - GREAT

PAS: Thornton is the future Swoll of No Limit Soldiers fame, years before his legendary WCW run. This is in the midst of the Hashimoto vs Tony Halme feud, and is clearly a warm up for Hashimoto. It's worked rounds style and Thornton is wearing kickboxing gloves, and while he was working as a kickboxer, it was pretty clear that he didn't have a ton of training (or couldn't translate it to wrestling) as he was throwing this weak looping punches and awkward off balance kicks. Hash is great at working these kind of matches, but future Swoll wasn't giving him much to work with. At some point Hash just snaps and beats the shit out of this dude, hitting a big forearm to the head, spin kick to the temple and a suplex where he pretty rudely drops him. Not great, but I would still be into seeing Hashimoto vs 4x4.

ER: Counterpoint to Phil: TOTALLY GREAT. If this isn't a holy grail for you then you might not be a person that I would invite into my house to watch professional wrestling with. We all remember the legendary run of the No Limit Soldiers in WCW, having recently celebrated their 19th anniversary as a team/stable/phenomenon. And you obviously remember Swoll during this run. Sometime last year I realized that he had worked two matches for New Japan 8 years before his celebrated WCW run. I didn't realize this because in New Japan he was working under a pseudonym - Kevin Thornton - instead of using his birth name of Swoll (ne Swoll Novak) as he would in WCW. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during any of Swoll's conversations with other WCW wrestlers. "Yeah, I've wrestled before. In Japan, 8 or so years ago. The company? I think it was something like New Japan? Oh yeah, ask Scott Norton. My match was after his. Or ask Steiner." I guarantee you Brad Armstrong thought he was being ribbed. And this match rules. Thornton is a kickboxer and very tall, Hashimoto has a big beard and a big scowl. Thornton throws a bunch of nice shots to the back of Hash's head, Hash rushes him to break up the rhythm of his kicks, and Thornton starts wisely going to the ropes whenever Hash tries to grab him. At a certain point Hashimoto clearly gets tired of getting punched in the back of the head, and just burst out of the corner and blasts Thornton with a nasty forearm that sends him down hard. Hash hits a big spinkick, and starts throwing his big roundhouse kicks before deadlifting him and just planting him with a hardway Saito suplex, setting up an armbar. This was the best, and everything you wanted, if you wanted Hashimoto versus PROTO SWOLL. Which you did.


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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

2017 Ongoing MOTY List: Thatcher vs. Makabe 1

47. Timothy Thatcher vs. Daniel Makabe 3-2-1 Battle! 7/28

PAS: I saw that 123 Battle was bringing in Negro Navarro to work Makabe in a couple of weeks, and I have to respect any fed and wrestler crazy enough to fly in Navarro. So I figured I would check out the pair of pimped Makabe vs. Thatcher matches to see what to expect. This was really good stuff, reminded me of a Fujiwara vs. young guy match from UWF or PWFG. Thatcher was clearly contemptuous of the dirtbag arena and the goofy nonsense in the promotion, and he clearly figured on an easy night. Match opens up with Makabe landing a great looking Ishikawa style punch to the jaw and getting a near fall. Rest of the match has Thatcher trying to punish Makabe with submissions, and kidney pulverizing body shots. Makabe was pretty great working from below, and clearly is a guy who is inspired by the UWF and its children. I really liked how he did little things like manipulate fingers to set up submissions. Loved the finish with Thatcher trying to rip Makabe's arm off with a Fujiwara, but Makabe slickly rolling through landing a nasty headbutt to the shoulder blades and locking Thatcher in a Muto lock variation which nearly put Thatcher's nose in his own butt. Finish has Thatcher showing Makabe respect and giving him his towel, which was actually a touching moment. Very good match, and Makabe looks like a guy who could do some cool stuff with Navarro.

ER: Really fun match that is a true testament to the still relevant strength of a regional babyface. I was in Seattle just a week ago for Sub Pop's SPF30 festival and had just missed a show by this group by one night. I'd never heard of them before, but they run consistently, every 2 weeks, using a roster of people who I've mostly never heard about. (some names down from ECCW, not many up from Portland, and only occasional fly-ins). The crowd sounds and acts clearly devoted, and they come off like real fans, reacting to something not to be the cool person in the crowd, but reacting because they're driven to react. This was not an ironic inside joke wrestling audience, this was a crowd that really wanted Makabe to pull out a victory, and that was really exciting. Really we've seen this kind of match plenty of times from Thatcher, but the crowd reaction pushed this over the top for me. Thatcher goes all split legged at the bell after missing a kick and eating a punch, almost loses, and then spends the match punishing Makabe. I wouldn't have expected the crowd to be as into the grappling stuff as they were, but I was happy with reactions to small reversals. Thatcher had several, and I especially loved when he just stood up and grabbed an arm while Makabe was trying to lock in an octopus. Makabe never looked out of his element, just a talented guy overwhelmed by a more talented guy. I love Thatcher working with disdain, and we get all the stuff you love about Thatcher: an awesome deadlift throw, forearms grounded into Makabe's jaw on pins, slick armbars, all with that great scowl. When Makabe ran up the ropes and flipped back onto him, I thought that for sure was the finish, as it's a popular one to lift in this kind of match. I was pleasantly surprised when it wasn't, as the actual finish was much better. Makabe looks like he practically snaps Thatcher in half with almost a combination Cattle Mutilation/Stump Puller. Watching it applied it's easy to picture how difficult breathing would be. Thatcher handing him his towel was really nice. It wasn't overly emotional, he handed it respectfully and left, but it was Makabe's touched reaction and the crowd's excitement for him - again - that really made that gesture feel huge.


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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

2000 Match of the Year

Atlantis vs. Villano III CMLL 3/17/00

PAS: We have been waiting for a while to write up this match, and talking about his most legendary performance is a great way to salute Villlano 3, what an all time great may he rest in power. I hadn't watched this in over a decade and it was as great as I remember. The early matwork was tight and crisp, and then Villano 3 goes rudo by unloading a punch and then taunting Atlantis. There is some brawling and we get some mask ripping by V3 and a big tope which splits both guys open (there is a great replay which shows them clashing heads like in a southpaw versus conventional boxing match). Atlantis especially is just gushing blood, and we get an epic lucha moment as his mask goes from white to pink to dark red. Much of the rest of the match was dramatic near fall after near fall, it isn't a match structure I normally love, but so much was at stake in this match, every close two count or big submission felt huge. These are both guys with great pacing and timing on the application of holds, Villano's escape of the first Alantida was awesome, just desperate hurling himself to the mat. After that escape he is just stumbling around holding the small of his back, he hits a clothesline to the back of Atlantis's head, but he doesn't have much left, and when he gets caught again, and Atlantis drops to his knees with the Atlantida, it is all over. Matches aren't bell to bell, and the dramatic teary unmasking, with his father Rey Mendoza removing his mask with his family around him was one of the great emotional moments in wrestling history. Pretty much a perfect wrestling match.

ER: Yeah I'd like to make it clear that when we started our All Time MOTY project we outlined the whole thing and put in placeholders for years we hadn't yet written up. This was the year 2000 MOTY from go, and now is as good a time as any to write it up. I'm with Phil, I haven't seen this in over a decade and watched it tonight right when I got home from work. It was better than I remembered. We get two very different dives in this match - a big plancha to the floor late in the match from Atlantis, and a big tope from V3 early. My favorite moment in any mask match is V5 getting the back of his head smashed into a chair  off a Blue Panther dive, causing a big blood stain to spread across the back of his mask. Here V3 clonks heads with Atlantis and Atlantis gets up trickling blood, which turns to a drip which evolves to a dark red soaked mask. V3 winds up with the entire right side of his mask as one large port wine stain. And bloody luchadors fighting for glory is always the best part of the best lucha matches.

I've gotten so tired of modern CMLL title matches that just devolve into a series of turn trading 2 count exchanges, that it was jarring how much I enjoyed these two doing just that. The stakes felt bigger, the falls felt dramatic, the submissions felt wrenched, and the crowd kept getting louder (also I forgot how jarring all the cutaway shots to mostly indifferent faces were in this era lucha). I was blown away by Villano's athleticism here. We've all seen plenty of V3's post-unmasking brawling matches from when he was (not much) older and moving slower, but there were moments here where he moved like Santo. I loved him popping up for a sub and rolling up Atlantis, pivoting his hips in the waistlock to turn it into a high cradle; later he (twice) pulls himself up out and over Atlantis during subs, looking as if he was being pulled skyward by an invisible force, the kind of thing you don't often see from guys half his age. He also picks and chooses when to use his short punches, throwing a few out early and then opting to play Atlantis' game, getting more and more frustrated by kickouts until he unloads on Atlantis in the corner with some shots that would make Satanico suck on his teeth. I like how both men worked in and out of submission predicaments and pinfalls, and the two Atlantida moments were spectacular. The home stretch sequence of V3 getting caught in it (and how often does someone escape that move once it?) followed by that nasty lariat to the back of the head, leading to V3 charging his way right into his doom, was expert. V3 hadn't charged Atlantis the entire match, but had to sense victory was near after that lariat and went for another. Arturo Mendoza graciously carrying Atlantis around the ring on his shoulders immediately after losing his identity was a rare, warm moment


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Monday, August 20, 2018

2018 Ongoing MOTY List: Dickinson vs. Kingston

63. Eddie Kingston vs. Chris Dickinson Limitless Wrestling 1/19

PAS: This was these guys working a tough guy match full of hard shots and suplexes. It is a match structure with lots of possibility for bloat and nonsense, but Kingston can hold a match like that together and Dickinson's Jersey Unite the Right marcher energy meshes well with Kingston's semi-retired Brooklyn weed dealer vibe. Loved all of the full body throws, none of suplexes looked cooperative and all of the shots were nasty. I especially dug Kingston's selling of the kick to the ear, and Dickinson was getting lit up with Tenryu chops. This wasn't the masterpiece the Kingston vs. Yehi match was, but I enjoyed it a bunch.

ER: Two of my favorite wrestlers, and I believe this is the first time I've seen them head to head. And not everything worked in this match, but if you're a fan of both guys then you got to see them do some stuff you'd want them to do. I liked Phil's "full body throws" description, because that was my first takeaway from this one: These two were hoisting each other into heavy, ugly throws, one meaty guy to another. Kingston doesn't do a ton of throws usually, and it's something he should explore because they look good. Neither man goes along easy with the throws, only making them look more important. Kingston is an expert at selling that kind of offense, especially loved when he stood up trying to massage out a sciatica flare up. If I thought Kingston throwing a bunch of suplexes was odd, we also get to see him barrel into Dickinson with a tope. I...I'm not sure when I last saw Kingston do a tope, so I was all in. There were a couple of awkward strike exchanges, a couple things that didn't quite land, but these two are also pros who can recognize when something doesn't quite land and make up for it. They mix up the strikes enough to keep it interesting, and I loved how Kingston started getting the upper hand and that's when Dickinson broke out the big kicks to the chest. I also loved how he was committing all the way on the kicks, so that when Kingston dodged we got a great moment of Dickinson getting caught up in the ropes. If you dig these guys (and why wouldn't you), you'd dig this.


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Sunday, August 19, 2018

WWE Summerslam 8/19/18 Safely Behind Live Blog

ER: This show is going to be long, right? I should be in for the long haul. The card has potential for a lot of matches to deliver.

Andrade "Cien" Almas/Zelina Vega vs. Rusev/Lana

ER: It's nice that we got this match on Summerslam, but my god they wouldn't have had to do that many things differently to get to this match as one of the main matches on the card. If they had just tried a little bit harder with both of these acts (and not actively chose to take the legs out of Rusev/Lana) this could be a big deal. So, I'm glad we got it at all, but we both know what this group is capable of. And I don't think this ruins either act, just think this could easily be a bigger deal. Lana and Vega aren't great, but they're great within their act, and that's arguably more important. So yeah you're gonna get some ugly ponytail bulldogs from Lana, but there's a chemistry between both teams' partners that doesn't always work this well. Almas takes a couple big bumps to the floor, and Almas and Vega are each great at interfering from the apron, but the match doesn't really go anywhere interesting. The match ending roll-up is a lazy finish and wasn't executed great, so with the overall card placement and the allotted match time, this was a big disappointment for me.

Drew Gulak vs. Cedric Alexander

ER: Gulak is wearing the stars and stripes trunks and Alexander has the Warriors royal blue and gold, and this is another match that makes me feel in line with the pre-show. And Gulak is a total beast here, hitting a stiff boot to Alexander's chest, doing a weird but effective inverted bulldog to his own knee (from the apron to the floor), cranks a cravat and yanks on Alexander's chin in cool ways, hits a brutal Hase uranage, really looking like a guy that should be 205 champ. Gulak is great at selling and taking Alexander's offense, but his offense isn't always 100. But it's a treat seeing Gulak take a flip dive like he was taking a Blockbuster, lean into elbows and somewhat silly spin kicks, and go over fast on a Spanish Fly, and my god was I in love when he grabbed Alexander by the beard and just slapped the hell out of him. The end run was hot with some unexpected reversals and tight pinfalls, and while I wanted Gulak to get the belt I really liked a lot of what they did. This was constructed as a cool Gulak control match, getting beat by leverage instead of match dominance. It made Gulak still look strong, but Alexander didn't seem lucky, just smart. Really fun.

The Revival vs. Curtis Axel/Bo Dallas

ER: Killer tag match, could have gone a lot longer, but I liked all of this. The Revival are really awesome, Dawson is one of my absolute favorite people to watch in wrestling. He's got a lot of ideas and executes them all really well, and I like how they work these cut off the ring tag matches. WWE has rarely been about cut off the ring and when it shows up it's always a treat. This was different right out of the gate as they get Axel out of the way quick with a Shatter Machine. That's uncommon in WWE tags and it worked great here, with Revival taking apart Dallas' leg, taking turns throwing dropkicks to it and generally teeing off. They built to Bo's rope draped swinging neckbreaker well, as I buy Wilder wanting to hit an exclamation point suplex to the floor enough to get caught. The finish was super well done, with Axel coming back but getting pinned effectively by Wilder, only to have Dallas get knocked into them and roll the pin over in favor of Axel. It could have easily looked terrible, needed all the moving parts to work, and they did. Revival are really good, and this tag was a blast.

Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler

ER: Oh that's right. This. I'm gonna have to work hard to remain positive on this one. I like Ambrose's haircut, looks sharp. My god does it make him look almost exactly like Santino. There's a little Timothy Thatcher mixed in, but major parts Santino. Also, Ziggler's IC belt tights are really great. No matter how good or terrible this match is, he'll have those, at least. I decide I am not liking the match when Ziggler misses a chop that was supposed to miss, but would have missed any man no matter if that man was ducking. Ziggler threw this chop almost straight into the air. After that all my brain could process was running and falling. They ran a lot, and they also fell a lot. We saw Rollins get his leg work a lot. Nobody expected that to go anywhere, and it didn't. Rollins looks like he brains himself doing a wild reverse suplex off the top, but you know he rolls right through it even though he landed harder than Ziggler. I like how they do tired 90s indy exchanges but add their own tired 2010s indy exchanges to stale up some stale spots, like doing a Malenko/Guerrero roll-up sequence into a buckle bomb. These two feel like humanoids replicating moves they've seen.

The New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brothers

ER: Super fun spotfest tag, though we could have used a little breathing room and the finish was...well, pretty dumb. There was a lot of great moments, and Big E going against these two huge dudes is always fun. Big E doesn't hold back anything and always seems excited to work his power spots against bigger guys. And him still breaking out the spear to the floor is total insanity, but he also kills Harper like the whole match. Harper might slap the hell out of him backstage for almost ending him with a suplex. Woods ate a lot of big moves, and that assisted sitout powerbomb feels like something that would be a finisher. But the moves train on the floor was fun, big guys crashing into each other, and I loved things like Rowan going over to grab Kingston on the floor to muscle him into a backdrop, and Woods hitting a bonkers elbow off the top rope to the floor (quite far away too). But Rowan coming in with a sledgehammer? That's what we get? Cahmannnn.

Kevin Owens vs. Braun Strowman

ER: Oh wow was anybody expecting a squash match? Owens got completely steamrolled. Braun hit some big avalanches, Owens flopped great on his stomach for a lariat on the floor, Owens got big height and landed hard off a chokeslam on the rampway, all nasty stuff that looks like it belongs in a squash match. I don't really mind Owens getting squashed. I like Braun looking unstoppable, so I was fine with this.

Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Carmella

ER: Boy they really shoehorned Charlotte into this thing, huh? I was looking forward to Carmella/Lynch but we can't let people forget that Charlotte has a famous dad. Carmella has been so fun during this run, and she's good here. She's really been the only person on this entire show who has actively worked to engage the crowd. Over 20 people, and she's the only one, and she's good at it.  She also doesn't act like she's taking a rehearsed sequence when she's taking Lynch's rehearsed sequences. How about that. She is so funny talking trash and acting smug, but then barely being able to lift Carmella onto the top rope. Carmella's dive is great and she becomes the first person I've ever seen get ALL of her available limbs on the ropes during a pinfall. More people need to give credit to this: She had Becky pinned, and had both legs and her free arm pushing off the ropes. That's heel genius. Charlotte sure does half ass most of her execution. She hits an ugly yakuza kick, a corkscrew moonsault that seems impossible to catch and always sends her plummeting straight to the floor, and then of course wins the title with her rolling neck snap that she lets go of halfway through. I am so tired of Charlotte. And, it's a shame that Becky Lynch's Fury Road eye makeup just kind of made her look like she had a unibrow. BUT I'm glad that she unloaded on Charlotte. I assume they will make her the ungrateful best friend who was jealous of her blonde popular friend's success, and that will be unbearable, but really Charlotte was the shitty friend in this scenario. Lynch busted ass and worked hard to get a singles title match with Carmella, and then a couple weeks in Charlotte sticks her nose into things. Face Charlotte/Heel Becky just feels incredibly stupid and way against type.

Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles

ER: I don't know what they're going for as right when the match is about to start Joe grabs a mic and points out AJ Styles' wife in the crowd, even says "How you doin'?" and Styles says that his family is there to watch him kick Joe's ass, and then they start a match with a bunch of go behinds and floatovers. What the hell? Is this like a Kurt Angle TNA feud where all his responses were "We're going to have a match of the year contender!" This just doesn't really feel like that match I was expecting, or the match I wanted. That opening was such a disconnect that it makes me wonder what the hell their whole plan even was, or if they were even paying attention to any of their own build up. Getting over that, the match is fine, if slow. They really take their time with stuff, which I am a fan of at times, but there needs to be a defined purpose to it. The purpose here only seemed to be that Joe was gassed as hell. There were things I liked, Joe hit a helluva powerslam, but Styles almost killed him on a sloppy as hell Styles Clash. The match really gets good when they roll to the floor and basically get DQ'd. Joe calling out Styles' wife and daughter is a little hack and obvious, and not really an interesting use of them. "I'll be your daddy" would sound a lot cooler and believable on a 2000s IWA-MS show; here is sounds like something written to be offensive. But the passion afterwards by both guys was good, and they almost snap the ankle of a ring crew guy when Styles vaults off an announce table to tackle Joe. Styles finally reacted the way he should have at the beginning of this whole match. These guys hit hard throughout so there was a higher floor, and this was a first match in what's clearly going to be a series, and the final stretch leading to the finish was very well done and exciting. I'm curious where they go from here.

Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz

ER: I'm not as big a Miz fan as many online, but I am looking forward to what they bring. We've talked about it before, but Bryan has built in vulnerability now, and it adds to his matches. This thing really hits a new gear when Miz lariats Bryan off the top rope and Bryan just gets turned inside out as he crashes to the mat. This truly may have been the greatest lariat ever thrown by Mike Mizanin. Miz works some nice stuff in after that, some knees while holding Bryan in a cravate, throwing nice punches to a grounded Bryan, stuff that made you want to see Bryan snap and unleash. And unleashed Bryan was really fun, Miz getting turned over and over in the corner from hard running dropkicks, and Bryan hits his great flying elbow as mean as he's ever hit it. But I think this went from being good, to being a bit too long. This didn't totally feel like a feud ender, or a feud starter, it kind of felt like some guys doing their big moves. Down the stretch this changes when Bryan starts working almost like an asshole heel. That moment where Bryan is working the Yes Lock and just starts punching Bryan in the back of the head? That was awesome, and a glimpse of some of the things I'd rather see from Bryan. He also missed a kick on the apron and hit the LED post, and that weirdly felt like a heel thing as well. When that happens to a guy who has been kicking someone's ass, it doesn't feel super sympathetic. Then he's slamming Miz into the barricade in front of Maryse, dropkicking him in the back of the head, and Maryse feeds him a hidden weapon. Bryan starting to work unprofessional, with Miz almost actually drawing babyface sympathy, only for the crime family to quietly cheat and knock Bryan out cold. The match was good, though I don't think Miz usually brings enough violence for his gimmick. And Bryan outright beat the shit out of Miz. Miz was covered in bruises and scrapes by the end of this. When was the last match where a like-sized babyface just bruise and welt up the heel? Something was missing here, although I liked it, I didn't love it.

Baron Corbin vs. Finn Balor

ER: Oh. Great. That evil demon who does a lot of light offense like some sort of small Irish guy. Baron at least earns his paycheck by acting completely scared of a little kid trying to be spooky. And they must have really been out for my own interests, as we end so, so, mercifully early. Thank you both. Thank you, demon. I did not want to watch this, but I will have a little lady impatiently waiting to watch Sharp Objects so this going 2 minutes was manna from Brooklyn.

Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

ER: Not two guys I look forward to seeing these days. But this actually totally worked for me. Both guys are goofballs and two goofballs making fun of each other for looking like goofballs is great, like a Dragon Quest guy and a Final Fantasy guy making fun of the other's cosplay costume. There's tons to like here, the length was just the right amount, Nakamura winged several kicks that landed nicely on Hardy's cheek, Jeff missed an absolutely crazy swanton onto the ring apron, but Jeff also dodges Nakamura's big uppercut ball attack, and I loved Nak's reaction after his fist doesn't connect with balls. They ended up matching up wonderfully, two floppy limbed goofs flopping their limbs at each other, with an actual satisfying finish. This over-delivered for me.

Ronda Rousey vs. Alexa Bliss

ER: Ronda is all done up like Mantaur and I don't know if I love it or hate it. I think I hate it. And yet, Carmella's lacquer thick safety pink eyelid glue with matching scrunchie just felt right. And I was kind of expecting this to be an outright squash, since the program has now established those things as possible, but I've loved the ways they've worked little chinks into Ronda's armor so far. This was an outright annihilation though, replete with woman empowering woman after the match and childhood dreams fulfilled and Travis getting hugged and it all came off predictably forced. Ronda had some awesome throws and you just knew Bliss' creepy double jointed elbows were going to come into play. Ronda grabbed that arm and started bending, and with the wrist getting bent her arm was sitting in three different positions. Still this was my least favorite of the big PPV Ronda matches.

Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar

ER: Every part of this fucking ruled. Braun comes out before the match and says he's a large noble monster who will be forthcoming about when he opts to cash in his cartoonishly green briefcase, and Lesnar looks at him as if Braun is telling an unsolicited story about what sandwich he had for lunch. And I loved Roman pouncing into action, throwing all the Superman punches and hitting all the spears. Brock is great at selling flurries of offense, always acting like he's being swarmed by a bunch of bees on a picnic. Brock is staggering around and his face was already beet red before the bell, and I flipped when he grabbed a guillotine out of another spear. Reigns hits Braun with a big dive after missing Brock, and Brock kicks Braun's ass around ringside. I laughed as Brock beat him with a briefcase and then threw that briefcase as far as he possibly could, then beating him with a chair. And then, not long after, Reigns speared Brock for the win before Brock could fire off a chair shot (and then the chair bounced off the ropes and landed on Brock's face). The crowd was cool as hell throughout the match, showing how cool they are by spending far more American dollars than I did to watch this show, and also chant "You Both Suck". You know who they think doesn't suck? No professional wrestlers you would ever want to watch. This whole thing felt like anything could happen, which isn't a vibe that happens with anybody else. All of it worked for me.

ER: This was a better show than I expected, despite having anything blowaway great on it. I think that's what happens when matches I don't care about overdeliver (Hardy/Nakamura) or just barely happen, and everything else is just fine. I really loved the Gulak match, thought Revival/B Team was a blast, enjoyed Bryan dishing out a real asskicking (even if the tone felt a little off to me), and really the only thing that drove me bonkers was the never-ending Rollins/Ziggler feud, that for the love of Pete just needs to fucking end fucking now. Still, I had fun.


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Saturday, August 18, 2018

2017 Ongoing MOTY List: Gallagher vs. Neville

20. Gentleman Jack Gallagher vs. Neville WWE Fastlane 3/5

ER: Awesome stuff, which felt like the match the Cruiserweight division needed. Gallagher is just a total nutter, and these two really delivered on PPV. They both do great at fast exchanges, and Gallagher takes some brutal bumps, starting with him getting his head whipped into the mat off a double leg. We build to an awesome Gallagher dive, with him just flinging his body sideways through the ropes and crashing through Neville, and back in the ring Gallagher goes for a prawn hold and Neville reverses into an INSANE whipping german suplex. Gallagher's landing was like an accidental Great Sasuke bump, just landing right on the side of his head and shoulder. Good lord. Neville's flying is tight and his big moves land with actual force, and Gallagher still gets some hope with his glorious headbutt, and this just felt like the match that needed to happen. Both came out of this looking good.

PAS: I thought this was excellent one of the better PPV crusierwieght matches ever. Gallagher is one of the few British guys who doesn't seem like he is cosplaying Jim Breaks. His WOS stuff felt like organic parts of the match, really slick, but not performative and he isn't afraid to get into the weeds when needed. That dive was superb and really felt like someone throwing caution to the wind. He is one of my favorites, and I really need to deep dive on his whole WWE run. Neville had really come into his own during the final run, he had turned into such a nasty shit, dropping Gallagher right on his neck with that German, Kawada kicking him in the throat. His splashes both look like they landed with a ton of impact, almost like 2 Cold splashes and he sold his ass off to put Gallagher over, I loved his collapse sell on the second big headbutt. Real shame he has been put in deep freeze for the last year and a half, especially with all of the lesser British lights getting such shine.


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Friday, August 17, 2018

New Footage Fridays: Mask Match, French Catch

Bruno Asquini/Gilbert Leduc vs. Les Blousons Noirs (Claude Gessat/Marcel Mannevau) French Catch 5/6/67

PAS: This French stuff is such a treat to watch, here are four completely new guy I have never seen before doing some incredible things I have never seen before. Bruno Asquini isn't in this match very much (he either legit blows out a knee or they do an angle) but he was pretty impressive in his brief sections. He has maybe the greatest headscissors take downs I have ever seen, he get a ton of height and wraps his thighs around the neck of his opponent and then drives their head into the mat like a piledriver, and does it a luchadore speed. LeDuc is the master of the headspin, he does a Santo style headspin leg scissors, but super fast, he also uses a headspin as a mistake, it is an elite breakdancer level headspin, he is the French precursor to Boogalo Shrimp. The Blouson's were fun stoogers and bumpers and were vicious when they needed to be, but were mostly just foils. Asquini torches his knee 10 or so minutes into the match, and can't go on, then they have a long section of 2 on 1, which Leduc weirdly still takes 60% of. When Le Batman comes down to join the match and take the tag, to clean house, it didn't really land because he was cleaning house on a pair of guys who already were getting walloped 1 on 2. I like Le Batman a lot, he is a fun babyface brawler, kind of a French Dream Machine Troy Graham. He wasn't listed on this match, so I was amped to see him. I liked both fall finished too, and if they had ever treated the Blousons as a real threat, this would have gotten an EPIC from me, but instead it was more a collection of cool shit then an all time match.

MD: This was a mix of stuff thirty years before its time and stuff that is absolutely timeless, all of it with that extra bit of connective tissue that we've lost today, the why of a move. We have a handful of 60s French Catch and that's got to be one of the great untapped treasure troves left. I was unfamiliar with everyone in the match but the wrestling is universal. The babyfaces outwrestled and outpunched the heels, all at excessive speed, throwing multiple dropkicks and armdrags and uppercuts and even quick ranas. The heels got a head due to luck or chicanery or a combination of both. The leapfrog transition to take out the leg is something that people should steal. We should be seeing that on TV six times a year. There were plenty of heel miscommunication spots that would have played anywhere or anywhen and they did a solid job of cutting off the ring. All of the stuff with LeDuc fighting off the numbers game was super compelling. I kept waiting for Asquini to come in from the back but Le Batman was a nice surprise, basically a mobile Bruiser or Crusher in a batman shirt. Once he arrived this ended in short order. LeDuc's Bearhug-drop down-leg-nelson-endless headsplitters thing is amazing and super over a guy like Riddle or Gable neeeds to steal it immediately).

ER: Paul Levesque was born in 1969. Here we have wonderful footage of a French ladies' man, Gilbert Leduc, wrestling in 1967. It was around this time that young Patricia Levesque first went to France, on a trip with her aunt, after he first year of college. It was here that she met Leduc and was so captivated that she wound up taking a summer abroad the very next year just to see him more. She had never been a fan of professional wrestling, but that wasn't what she loved about him. She loved his charm, his magnetism, his silly and showy sides. She loved him. And while she wasn't planning on becoming a mother while still at university, sometimes life gets in the way. She never told Gilbert about their child, fearing his reaction. But when the time was right she did tell Paul. She told him how much she loved seeing his father Gilbert entertain the crowds, and Paul would side wide-eyed, picturing this larger than life man who was able to be both beloved by crowds, while handily vanquishing two strapping men. Paul knew from a young age he wanted to be just like this man whom he would never know. He would be the coolest guy, who would beat up all the bad guys at once, and get the coolest girl. Leduc would never know.

Leduc wrestles much like his progeny, taking 90% of a match no matter the odds, with a major difference being that he's got some flat out awesome shit. Santo is the king, but LeDuc's spinning grounded headscissors blow Santo's out of the water. No hyperbole. LeDuc is able to bridge up onto the top of his head and get this crazy spin, legs scissored around his opponent's neck, that it looks like the most graceful and violent move. I came here to make a Breakin' joke, but Phil wrote his review before me, and you have to expect someone would have gotten there first. But it's an apt comparison. Gilbert's street moves were great enough that you know he knew some of the coolest street artists. He could throw a mean right, had great arm drags and takedowns, he just wrestled as a two man Guerriers de la Route, and if your brain somehow didn't notice that he was 1 on 2 and was totally fine the entire time and just watched all the cool shit they pulled off? This still would seem like the absolute best. Phil was also spot on about Bruno's headscissors, maybe the best I've seen. They're those great heavyweight style like Dave Taylor's, only lightning fast and even more snug. Phenomenal. Batman comes in to replace him LeDuc, and throw some nice hard dropkicks...But I can't say I can remember any time where Batman showed up to save someone from henchmen and the guy he was saving said "Oh thanks for showing up, Bats, but I've had this situation under control the entire time. Even HHH didn't get to steal Blade's thunder.

Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar WWE 10/9/03

MD: How can you watch this match and think that we're in in the best timeline? Look, Suplex City Brock is unique and special. His matches are exciting. Some of that is how little he wrestles, some of it is how different he is from everything else. I have no desire to revisit any Suplex City Brock match though, not really. They exist in the moment and only in the moment. On the other hand, I think I'd be happy rewatching this match. This Brock was not unique. This Brock was not different. What he was instead was exceptional at doing all of the things that make wrestling great. You watch this and you wonder how he could have ever left. He's obviously having the time of his life as a heel. It's everything you'd want a house show like this to be. He spends the first third of the match stooging and stalling, diving out of the ring at every opportunity as Taker stands tall. The second third has him landing a few cheapshots and then working heavily over the leg. All of the intensity is there. All of the physical gifts are there, but they're channeled through the canon of pro wrestling heel champions. Taker's selling is top notch. There's nothing that he's ever done, ever, that's better than the way he sells his demolished leg on the way to hitting a big boot. Nothing. The last third has ref bumps and chair shots and everything you'd expect from a house show match in this era, but it's all larger than life while still drawing within the lines. It doesn't deconstruct the form and tear at everything else around it. It embraces it and glorifies it.

PAS: This didn't do a ton for me. I am still a high voter on Suplex City Brock, he has some misses for sure, but the AJ Styles match was my MOTY for last year and he still has this aura of unpredictable violence. Here he was basically working like all of the 2003 WWE heavyweights, a bigger and more muscular HHH or Rock. Feeding and bumping on every punch, stalling, even begging off. Nothing really felt organic or crazy. I thought the Undertaker was fine and I liked his selling, Biker Taker was always a more interesting worker then the Dead Man. It is cool to see house show footage like this, but I thought it was pretty by the numbers.

ER: I'm split down the middle on this one. Brock Lesnar was my favorite wrestler in the world during this era. He understood every aspect of being a wrestler, knew selling, made his own and everyone's offense look great, is one of the all time great bumpers, and never skimped on little things (even here watching him make Taker really duck on a low missed lariat). The guy just knew how to move around a ring. And it's awesome that in only their second show ever in Finland, they had the world's foremost Ludvig Borga clone in the main event. I agree with Phil that the match is very much "any 2003 WWE heavyweight", and while I like what both bring to the match, this very easily could have been Chuck Palumbo/A-Train match. And hey, I loved Chuck Palumbo matches, so I liked this. If I was sitting in the crowd I would have been having a ball. At the same time, it would have been the worst Brock Lesnar match I've ever seen live. They work a few weird generic spots that guys this big shouldn't be doing, like Taker giving Brock a snapmare and then going for a pin. Snapmare into pin is a weird passing WWE trend that it felt like everyone was doing at a certain point, like the more recent TV match thing where every babyface comeback that leads to a finish starts with a heel putting on a chinlock. This is most definitely a house show match, so we don't get the usual big Brock bumps, but we get some impressive selling from Taker that he usually shrugged off during this era. Biker Taker would always acknowledge knee or ankle work, but usually would do something like punch his ankle a couple of times, selling leg work more like his leg fell asleep because he was sitting on the toilet too long. So I liked what Taker did with the leg, I liked Brock working as Larry Zbyszko in a foreign match that nobody thought would ever be seen by Americans 15 years later, and I liked the weirdness of having Rhyno of all people come out to attack Taker after the match and taking the biggest bump of the match. I would love for more house show footage to be released, but I would love full house shows the most.

Guerrero Azteca vs. El Supremo Nueva Laredo 4/20/87

PAS: This is a smaller arean mascara contra mascara match which has been sitting undiscovered on a youtube channel for a couple of years. Rob Bihari who unearthed this, hypothesized on twitter that this was run the day after they ran the same match in Monterey, getting two bites at the unmasking apple. It was a solid old school mask match, a lot of punches and kicks, some mask ripping, a great looking tope into the crowd by Azteca. This was really helped by the grimyness of the atmosphere, the VQ was good, but washed out and the arena was dirty, clouds of dust came off the mat every time someone was slammed on it. That kind of presentation can really add to this kind of fight. Nothing groundbreaking, but a cool discovery and an example of the deep pool of lucha footage still out in the world.

MD: This is clipped and "augmented" with music. The clips don't really affect the flow. The music you learn to live with. Sometimes it even helps the atmosphere. The start of this was all Supremo being an outright bully and Azteca selling big and broad, even for things like hip tosses. When you combine Supremo's swagger, Azteca's selling, the dust flying up from the center of the ring with each bump, and the music, it all added up to more than the sum of its parts. There was a lot to like here. I haven't seen much Supremo but you really get a sense of him here. He has a way of powering out from every hold he's in, as opposed to finding more technical ways out and that adds up over time. Azteca had a lean bodybuilder's physique but he brought both the selling early and the fire in his late comeback once the mask ripping had started. I thought the finishes (generally unique or character-laden roll-ups) to all three falls came off well, especially Supremo making Azteca pay for going to the well one too many times with a slam in the tercera. Just a solid, solid mask match.

La Complète et Exacte French Catch

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