Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D, Sebastian, and other friends write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Friday, September 23, 2022


MD: This last week there were a bunch of new MLG House Shows that showed up on Peacock, with never released matches on them. We plan on going through them now and again over the next several weeks/months.

WWF House Show Maple Leaf Gardens 9/18/88

Mr. Perfect vs. Jim Brunzell

MD: Hennig still had some remnants of Cool Curt here. No real holds. No real offense outside of punching, kicking, stomping, clotheslines, but there was a nice methodological way he went about things and he was definitely working the crowd. He also played king of the mountain a bit which is the most AWA thing ever. Brunzell is always competent but even Gorilla was ragging on him for not getting fiery enough soon enough. Hennig survived the dropkick by ending up in the ropes. Solid opener though Hennig wasn't quite established yet and no one bought Brunzell as a singles.

ER: Maybe I'm easy, but I thought this kicked ass. I love Cool Curt, and I thought this was a...well, Perfect...blend of late AWA Cool Curt and big bumping heel Mr. Perfect. It had a nice methodical build where Curt would just walk slowly, cockily around the ring, like someone with a back injury who couldn't bend down, or like someone holding something up their butt. This was barely 20 matches into Curt's Mr. Perfect run, and I love seeing early versions of famous characters, seeing what they were working on and what direction they were testing out, see what offense they were using that you know they wouldn't be using a couple years later. The build on this was strong, starting slow (slow enough to actually get a few Boring chants, in 1988 Toronto!) and leading to a great section of Hennig keeping Brunzell on the floor while he corncobbed around the ring, kicking Jim off the apron, punching him in the jaw, a long build with a great payoff of Brunzell fighting his way back into the ring and tossing Hennig to the floor (one of only "Hennig" bumps of the match). By the end of the match both guys were throwing legit potato shots to the face. I mean both guys were flat out slugging each other down the home stretch, and the Maple Leaf Gardens cameras give it this awesome "in the ring" feel where you could really see how hard these punches were landing. I don't think of Brunzell as a guy who punches people in the face, but he and Hennig had loaded fists that were cracking jaws in ways I wasn't expecting. 

Powers of Pain vs. Bolsheviks

MD: It's always weirdly fascinating to see the Powers of Pain as a babyface act. The best part of it is always Barbarian doing sort of a primal scream with his arms out as part of a comeback or demolishing guys. They tried to make a real match out of this, which was a mistake. Barbarian let Warlord work most of it not tagging even when you'd expect him to. Bolsheviks' only credible offense was shots off the second rope from behind as the ref was distraction. Part of me thinks that Barbarian could have had a singles babyface run but this wasn't quite meshing and it makes sense they do the double turn so soon after.

Brutus Beefcake vs. Ron Bass

MD: It's a new match and I thought maybe, just maybe, there might be some heat to it since it was after the X'ed out angle. Plus, Bass is more than solid all the way from 77 to 85 in at least a few territories. My professional review of this is that Beefcake maybe had one minute worth of viable stuff and then I literally fell asleep while watching it. We tend to find value in most wrestlers somewhere or another and Beefcake was over as a viable star with a connection to the crowd, but this was bad, at least the parts I can remember.

Jake Roberts vs. Rick Rude

MD: Sometimes it comes down to what they're trying to accomplish. Here, they wanted their cake and to eat it too and it wasn't nearly as good as if they just stuck to the path of least resistance. Rude was excellent here, every reaction just great. More than solid at leaning on Jake. He ducked the short arm clothesline early and took over for most of the match. The underlying story was that he'd pull down his normal tights for the Cheryl Roberts ones when Jake wasn't able to see. So you figure they're building to Jake seeing and going nuts for a comeback right? It doesn't happen. They work it towards a more conventional comeback, then a ridiculous ref bump (he somehow got squashed under the DDT) and a Rude Awakening that got Rude a phantom pin while he was out and the quick roll up Roberts finish. It's only after the match when Rude doesn't care anymore than Jake sees the tights and rushes back in with Damien (the ref gets the snake in the chaos instead). By that point, Jake had already won, so while it's great for Rude to get menaced by the snake and all for the insult, everything would have been so much tighter and more visceral if they kept it within the confines of the match. Hell, have Jake lose it from the tights, come back, get DQed for not letting up on Rude and then bring the snake out to get over on both Rude and the ref. While the match was going on, there was a real sense of anticipation and build over a guy's tights of all things, so it's too bad that it didn't come to fruition.

Big Bossman vs. Jim Powers:

MD: This was for International Challenge so we might have had it before but it's found, if not new. It was very good too, with Bossman really asserting himself, with Powers trying to get shots in but getting cut off. Bossman had a ton of presence, jawing with his opponent and the crowd, shrugging off Powers' stuff, giving him just enough to keep up hope. Finally, Powers was able to knock Bossman back, stagger him, finally drop kick him into the ropes. When he went to finally knock him down, Bossman caught him in the slam and dropped him. This was balanced just right for what it was trying to do. Another point: yes, Monsoon spent a lot of the match giving Powers grief for trying too much power stuff against a massive opponent, but what he accomplished by doing so was making Bossman look big and forboding and unstoppable or at least terribly difficult to stop. He didn't make Powers look great, but Powers wasn't supposed to look great; Bossman was. He teared apart Powers' strategy but not the reality of what we were watching. It was because of that reality that he was tearing it apart. Just something to think about as we deal with grumpy announcers who manage to bury just about everything but themselves these days. Monsoon, believe it or not, was better than that here.

Hulk Hogan vs. Haku

MD: Hogan was between his series of matches with Dibiase and with Bossman here. Haku had recently enough been made King. This was "War Bonnet" Hogan and Heenan was at ringside. It was a one off but it's a fairly unique house show match up. It's been a while since I saw the 88 Hogan act. It has a lot going for it, the reverberation at the start of Real American to get the crowd buzzing, the ridiculousness of the helmet but it also working as a prop to keep things different, and maybe some overall freedom since Hogan didn't need to be in title matches.

Hogan gave Haku a ton here. He wiped out both Heenan and Haku with the helmet pre-match (with a great Heenan bump and him being disheveled for the next fifteen minutes), but then got swept under by a bunch of Haku shots. Having not seen 88 Hogan for a bit, he was excellent working from underneath early, constantly crawling and scrambling back as he recoiled from the shots, retreating so as to try to create some space. Then, when he came back later, it was with a lot of hairpulls and cheapshots. It's all what you'd expect someone like Buddy Rose to do in that situation but Hogan was a face. For all the talk of whether he was a bully or not, his physical actions here were very "heel coded" but they were incredibly over with the crowd. He had three or four little hulk ups/comebacks in this but was cut off either due to Haku getting a shot in or Heenan interfering. They went into deep chinlock/sleeper land but they worked in and out of it at least a little bit. The finish, which had Hogan getting the helmet from Heenan and hitting the legdrop with it on his head felt pretty iconic for the time. I'd say overall this felt relatively fresh due t the unique opponent and showed at least a little reinvention for Hogan.

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Thursday, September 22, 2022

Loosely Formed Thoughts on Two 1998 Quebecers Matches

The Quebecers vs. Miguel Perez/Jose Estrada WWF Shotgun 2/7/98

Boricuas get their full 4 mic entrance rap, which rules because they did the entire entrance rap later on the same damn show when Savio/Jesus had a match

This match positions the Boricuas as the babyfaces in Indiana, which just shows the sheer hateability of Jacques Rougeau

I love how Jacques did a face up dropdown so that when Pierre bashed Perez from the apron, Jacques could go straight to the kip up brag

Jacques yells "What do you think of Puerto Rico now!?" after beating down Miguel, and I'm not positive you could fill the Market Square Arena with Puerto Ricans if you got every single Puerto Rican in Indiana to show up. 

Pierre gets backdropped to the floor onto Estrada and Estrada stays down a long time holding his leg. I'm fairly certain that Estrada's gimmick in WWF was "Guy Who Gets Hurt Catching Dives"

The Quebecers' tandem hotshot is undefeated under terms of "looks cool"

Estrada throws two very nice punches in the corner and that is most of his offense in this match

Quebecers vs. Legion of Doom WWF Raw 2/16/98

There is one fantastic sequence where Hawk hits a leaping fistdrop on Jacques, and Jacques does a kip up and dropkicks him. After the dropkick, Jacques goes to his back to show off for the crowd with another kip up. After showing off with one kip up, he goes down for another and kips up directly into a Hawk clothesline

Animal has amusingly been working as an undersized babyface in early 98. He plays Ricky and he's good at it, though he doesn't do an inside cradle nearfall in this match like he has done in other matches from this era

Animal, babyface underdog, works a fast dropdown/leapfrog exchange with Pierre and after showing off all that agility he brings things back home with a big powerslam. Animal showing off his agility and then complementing it with power is a very cool Animal

Pierre really makes sure to collide on his shoulderblocks and lariats in this, and his cannonball off the apron looks like it makes full heavy boy contact

New Age Outlaws get Hawk inside of a dumpster verrrry easily. Too easily. They just kind of pick him up and plop him in, like he fell victim to a big juicy steaming Thanksgiving turkey that was underneath a propped up cardboard box

When Animal chases off the Outlaws, he swings a chair at the dumpster and comes a literal split second away from braining Hawk with that chairshot, as he bursts out of the dumpster right after an Animal HR swing

Quebecers remain a very weird team to have on the roster in early '98. They were brought in with no warning, no build, no purpose, and given the least flattering attire of their careers. And yet they still own. 

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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Van Buyten! Schneider! Corne! Richard! Strogoff!

MD: More sound issues. We know they do resolve at some point but not yet. Just use one earbud. Thanks for the help on identifying Michel Di Santo and Vanberg.

Franz van Buyten vs Karl Schneider 8/7/77

MD: We get the last five or six minutes of this, a swimming pool match, and it's reaffirming what we already knew: Franz van Buyten was an exceptional babyface. He was constantly driving forward, constantly fighting from underneath, constantly punishing his opponent, standing up to the ref at every point. It was all Schneider could do to try to snatch a headlock or get some shots in and he could never hold Van Buyten for long. This built to a schoolboy trip off the ropes and a catapult into the drink. When the ref complained, van Buyten picked him up in a fireman's carry and hefted him out too, drawing a DQ. Van Buyten was an absolute folk hero.

Jean Corne vs Jacky Richard 8/7/77

MD: Speaking of folk heroes, Delaporte, as iconic as Dusty Rhodes or Hijo Del Santo in his own, villainous way, was the ref here. I learned something about myself watching this one. I'd probably have paid to see Delaporte ref a match in the 70s. He was that entertaining as a draw. Usually a special ref is there to further a story or provide a kayfabe level of enforcement if things boil over or just provide a sheen of celebrity, but Delaporte was as entertaining a wrestler as ever existed and this utilized him fairly perfectly. For the most part this was a standard match, Richard basing for Corne and bullying him with underhanded shots and moments of comeuppance, but when they really introduced Delaporte as a key figure, it was brilliant. That could be Richard retreating to him on his knees and Delaporte patting his head or far more complex things. The spot of the match had Richard tied up in the ropes and Corne charging him. After the first charge, Delaporte got in the way and Richard, in frustrating kicked forward, hitting our beloved ref from behind. Delaporte was incensed and got out of the way, coaching Corne on to hit him over and over with running shots to the crowd's delight. Legitimately funny stuff. The finish was almsot over the top in showing who the star was, with Richard dominating and finally knocking Corne into the water repeatedly, only for Delaporte to have enough of him not listening (and going so far as to hit him) and knocking Richard out too. If Corne had then come in and gotten a quick pin, it would have been better than the DQ on Richard that we ended up getting. Still, this was all great fun and another great Delaporte performance.

Michel Di Santo vs Vanberg 8/8/77

MD: Not a ton to say here. We have audio so I'm sure we'll figure out who these guys are (and we did, thanks! It's Lino Di Santo's son), but it's just the last few minutes. Delaporte is the ref and brings the star power. The heel leans hard early until he cheats a bit too much and Delaporte grabs his mustache. From there the stylist starts to work back with uppercuts again against the clubbering shots of his opponent, really getting an advantage towards the end as the time runs out. Delaporte still proclaims him the winner and everyone's happy but the bad guy.

Franz van Buyten vs Ivan Strogoff 8/8/77

MD: The finish of this was tremendous. We have a Van Buyten vs Strogoff match from Hanover from a few years later but it's got pretty rough VQ and felt a little slight, maybe? This was a very complete match, with two huge comebacks by Van Buyten, the last after the ref had already thrown it out because Strogoff assaulted him. I just can't say enough great things about Van Buyten as a babyface. He's legitimately one of the best ever and this match is a great example of that. He's so into every moment, makes everything matter so much, draws the fans in. You see every bit of agony when he's being assaulted, every iota of strain as he's trying to find the strength to come back, an absolutely electric level of fury as he's getting revenge. His bound across the ring to leap onto the top rope so he can throw fists down into the face of his opponent is just one of the best, most gripping babyface spots ever.

This match had Strogoff controlling early with dirty tactics and strength but Van Buyten out wrestling him and even, at times, showing crowd-rousing strength of his own, making it look more like unstoppable will power than strength itself. Strogoff primarily used open hand chops to the throat and outright chokes but he painted an imposing figure. They ran through an extended short arm scissors sequence which was full of gritty, ugly struggle, none of the precision and beauty of Petit Prince working the sequence with a solid base, but just as effective nonetheless. Ultimately, Strogoff took over by choking him repeatedly in the ropes, putting his head under the second rope and pulling up as he choked him, making for an amazing visual image. That made Van Buyten's comeback as he worked him forward and out of the ring a little more and a little more before sending him (and the referee) tumbling all the more potent. Just an all time fight for a comeback out of a hold followed by him laying it in and beating him (and at times the ref) around the ring.

That finish had everything break down wild, with Strogoff abusing the ref, including just sizing him up and clocking him for all the world to see, and then Van Buyten firing back on him due to the distraction. Strogoff would go back to the ref, pulling his shirt apart. After the match was called, Van Buyten tied Strogoff into the ropes and catapulted the ref head first into him. The ref would stumble up and toss another headbutt in for good measure even as Delaporte tried desperately to get control. Just a great crazy mob scene as Strogoff wouldn't stop and Van Buyten kept firing back on him. There were some points that were somewhat plodding here, but overall, Van Buyten's presence made this great.

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Monday, September 19, 2022

AEW Five Fingers of Death: 9/12 - 9/18

AEW Dynamite 9/14

Bryan Danielson vs Chris Jericho

MD: Here was stand in 2022, and it's Chris Jericho's career year. Jericho's maybe the definition of a guy whose strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin. He's a bastion of self-awareness, of reinvention, of latching on to commercial, marketable ideas. But that self-awareness always gave him a certain level of self-assuredness, which meant that he'd double down on a misstep or would get defensive if something he was so sure if didn't play exactly how he wanted with the fans. You can go back to his match with RVD twenty years ago or him thinking leaping into an RKO was a far more innovative finish than it was less than ten years ago. In ring, his eyes were bigger than his stomach. That didn't always mean breaking his leg on a shooting star press, but it often meant things not looking quite like they ought to and causing the entire, elaborately staged illusion to fall apart. 

And yet, he's 51 and having his career year. Some of that has to be his opponents and opportunities. But he's not just working smart but working hard as well and holding up his end. No one's carrying him in 2022. He's meeting them halfway, wrestling varied matches even with varied characters. I was higher than most on the All Out match where he, again, worked as the Lionheart. There, on a kayfabe level, he wasn't enough to outwrestle Danielson and had to resort to cheating. Here, as a composite of all that had come before, he still wasn't enough to outwrestle Danielson. Here it took throwing bombs (a German, an early Lionsault, the top rope 'rana) to stay in it. That's the brilliance in 2022 Jericho. He's willing to show ass, to wrestle with vulnerabilities, to get outclassed where it matters, but always feels like a dangerous threat. Basically, after decades of doing this, he's finally skirting up against what made Buddy Rose so good, and it's well that he is, as he's relied upon quite a bit to carry the 'territory' in 2022 as people get injured or suspended around him. They worked a fairly complete match of Jericho barely keeping his head above water as Danielson continued to force him down before the leg injury on the outside. That took things into the final third where he pressed his advantage aggressively and effectively as Danielson tried to fight back with one leg. In the end, though, they leaned into the overarching story: Danielson's simply the better wrestler, and this did what it needed to allow him to get his win back and press forward onto the title match to come.

AEW Rampage 9/16

Darby Allin vs Matt Hardy

MD: Matt Hardy is not having his career year. One could argue that was his year as ECW Ace? I probably would. I'm still almost always glad to see him. He's almost as good as anyone on the roster at laying out a match and channeling a crowd. He can still absolutely work smart. After all of the bumps of his career, at 47 going on 48, it's the working hard that's a problem. Personally, I'd take the former over the latter any day. When you have Darby Allin to help create the motion for you, working smart is all you need. This started on the mat before spilling to the outside where they ran a series of clever bits: Matt blocking the tope, the big, debilitating shot into the stairs, Darby's back getting destroyed as he missed the senton onto the apron, the power bomb position charge into the post to cement the back damage. After that, the match was carried by Matt's laser-focus and Darby's selling, where it might take him one or two tries not to hit a move but to even get himself in a position to set it up. Matt pressed his size and strength advantage as if it was the most natural thing in the world, which for most of his career, it would not have been. Darby, as always, threw himself at his opponent, but the damage had already been done. It was Matt, unable to put him away even after a splash mountain bomb, hitting a combination of desperation and a crisis-of-expectation and missing the moonsault that Darby was able to sneak back and score a win. Yes, there was reportedly an edit or two here to make Matt's stuff look smoother, but that's why you tape wrestling. If they edited out Matt stumbling on the way up for the moonsault, that could have even come at the detriment of the match. He was ill-advised to go up and lost the match because of it. A slip might have just added to that notion. Regardless, we can only judge what we see, and a match like this shows what Matt is still capable of. Like I said, I'm still almost always glad to see him.

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Sunday, September 18, 2022

Dark Match Legends: Vic Grimes vs. Erin O'Grady

ER: This is one of those legendary "both men were signed" tryout matches, two acclaimed APW students getting a dark match on a local Raw taping and tearing things down. Grimes and O'Grady had some great APW matches and this was a super condensed version of the best parts of those matches, two guys fully understanding all of the fireworks they could bring to grab attention from strangers. O'Grady had some mind blowing athleticism that was never present in this specific way once he became Crash a year later. He is so damn nimble here, and the way he moves in the first two minutes of this match are just as impressive as the first time I saw guys like Low Ki or Amazing Red. He gets from point A to point B in surprisingly quick ways and has really impressive body control. There's this wild bump where he gets lifted high up in the Savage/Steamboat choke, thrown down hard on the back of his neck, but somehow just absorbs this concussion worthy drop and floats back up to his feet with a kip up. O'Grady gets to the apron and up to the top rope for a missile dropkick so damn fast that the crowd is buzzing just watching him leap to the top rope.  

Of course, so much of O'Grady's offense wouldn't be possible without the sincerely top drawer base work of Vic Grimes. Grimes caught hurricanranas better than anyone, and O'Grady was athletic enough to effortlessly pull off ranas leaping off the top rope and a fly dragonrana that flipped him into the ring from the apron. These two were real dance partners, a west coast Reckless Youth/Mike Quackenbush. Grimes manages to steal the show away from O'Grady's athleticism and make it all about his crazy high slam offense and even crazier bumps. Grimes takes such an insanely huge bump on a missed avalanche, like Sgt. Slaughter's bump with 50 extra pounds, that the crowd takes to him like Jerry Blackwell in Minneapolis. Grimes' fall is so fast and dangerous looking, and as he staggers away he gets wiped out by a full run O'Grady springboard crossbody, Taka Michinoku as leprechaun. Grimes is more than bumps, and has strong big and small attacks. He can really level a guy with a well-aimed back elbow, but then do something extravagant like his sitout torture rack slam, something that looks skeleton shifting.

Grimes manages to outdo his earlier bump with one that should be every bit as legendary as Chris Hamrick's bump against 1-2-3 Kid. Vic sets up and elbow smashes O'Grady into a folding chair (after smashing that chair against his own head at ringside, a dark match gesture done only to entertain the dozens directly at ringside. When Grimes gets into the ring and runs into a head of steam off the opposite side ropes, you don't think there's any way you're about to see what you're about to see. No way. Grimes is too big and shaped like a way larger Mick Foley. Grimes was a really nice man, a guy nice enough to drive up and be my interview guest on my college radio show. He was really open about his dumbest bumps and honest about saying things that he shouldn't have said. He proposed to Vince McMahon the he be brought in as Mick Foley's brother, a team of hardcore psychos pushing each other to bigger stunts. It's a great idea on paper, but imagine just being the lunatic who pushes to the owner of the company that you should be immediately affiliated with one of the biggest stars in the company. I love it. 

Grimes runs off the ropes and flings his surprisingly limber body to the floor, flattering the now empty folding chair and making a dark match crowd that was still arriving the likely biggest bump any of them had ever seen. They are completely in Grimes' back pocket. Later in the match Grimes climbs to the top rope with impressive balance BACKING UP the ropes to the top, crashing and burning off a missed somersault elbowdrop. Grimes is great at bumping his opponent back to control, and O'Grady gets to show off in ways that even Juvy hadn't invented yet. Grimes shows off that base ability taking a  springboard tornado DDT, crazy flipping dragonrana from the apron, but catches the next one and tossing O'Grady into the air for a cutter. Grimes was a big fat Rupert Pupkin out there, showing up unknown and crushing every joke, catching every rana and sticking the landing on increasingly bigger and more dangerous spots. I'm lucky I got to go to a lot of APW shows in my formative teenage wrestling fan years, and this match deserves it's legendary tryout status. They brought something different to a crowd who didn't know to even expect it. 

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Friday, September 16, 2022


IWRG Retro 9/8/22

MD: IWRG is posting old stuff. Some of it is new. Some of it is rare. We are very happy about this development.

Fantasy/Zonic vs Rey Cuervo/Caballero Azteca 4/11/99

MD: This is the "rare" one as opposed to the "new" ones, as it was apparently on tape lists. It's a pretty fun way to spend eight minutes. About half of that is Cuervo and Azteca beating down the tecnicos and it's solid comfort food. The comeback comes on a miscommunication dropkick and goes pretty quickly into a finishing stretch of sorts as this is just one fall. Most of the heat ends up on a rudo ref who misses a tag early and misses Fantasy's shoulder being up late. It's all light stuff with a real opening match feel, but colorful, with the biggest issue being that we lose out on the native audio to the new commentary, which is a problem throughout the show but less of an issue with the matches with more substance to them.

Dr. Cerebro/Paramedico/Cirujano vs Los Cocos 12/23/01

MD: We've got Rojo, Blanco, and Verde for those keeping score, and they come out with "Super Capo" as their valet, which feels like a big deal. Rudos ambush early and make quick work out of the clowns to end the primera. Cerebro is great here directing traffic and flipping off the rope to crush someone or kick them in the face. He bites Rojo's hand after the submission for the heck of it. In the segunda, he goes from hanging out in the corner and watching the violence to hitting a spring up turning headbutt foul to a hung up Rojo. Apparently that impressed the production team so much that they decided to show it in slow motion instead of the moment of comeback. Both Blanco and Verde looked good here, with the best spot maybe Verde on the apron ready to jump and Cerebro diving at him only for his legs to pop up so Cerebro ends up sliding across the apron and off screen errantly. Tercera had some comedy miscommunication, submissions that were broken up one after the other and a pretty nice tope suicida train, with Paramedico all but sailing into the crowd. That cleared the ring for Rojo vs Cerebro and a pretty definitive and crowd-pleasing stunner finish on Cerebro. Big takeaway here was how good he looked overall.

Canek/Villano III/Villano IV vs Scorpio/Guardia/Vigilante 8/22/96

MD: I don't think I've seen much Scorpio, Sr. before but he looked like an old, decrepit rudo with spaghetti like hair that was made to be taken by Canek in an apuestas match.  This was super libre and all about the numbers game, with as much mask pulling as I can remember seeing in one match. The rudos attacked the Villanos before Canek could come out to even the odds but the tecnicos fired back after a couple of minutes of beatdown to take the primera. There was already a lot of mask pulling here, all around, with Guardia and Vigilante spending a good chunk of the match just trying to keep their masks on. Between falls, Scorpio successfully got Canek's mask and that led to a 3 on 2 advantage as he had to run to the back. The beatdowns were solid here and utilized the super libre rules. Scorpio stood out and kept things interesting, in the primera by choking Canek with his own cape and in the segunda, by forcing Villano III into the corner, seated, groin first, and just jamming his feet into his back. Eventually, Canek rushed to the rescue with a new mask, but super libre or no, the refs seemed to call it after too many rudo fouls to try to stem the turned tide. I have to assume that this led to a bunch of mask challenges that went nowhere. Some satisfying lucha for lucha's sake in this initial drop.

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Thursday, September 15, 2022

My God Did I Love Bret Hart vs. Fatu

Bret Hart vs. Fatu WWF Raw 3/1/93

ER: This might sound hyperbolic, but this was one of the most well-executed matches of 1993. It felt like a 1993 All Japan match worked with 1993 WWF offense within a 1993 WWF match layout, and I loved it. It was Fatu's first ever WWF singles match and Bret hadn't had a televised title defense in over three months. Keeping those things in mind, they went out there and made sure every time they made contact, it looked realistic. Their shoulderblocks and slams all hit, every bump looked like they had to wait a couple seconds for their nerves to stop tingling, and Bret kept taking increasingly damaging bumps into the turnbuckles. Hart was an excellent babyface champion here, at times at a real disadvantage, and his harder and harder bumps made the struggle feel more real. Bret whips back on headbutts and goes neck first into thrust kicks, gets thrown to the floor and jumped by Samu. An odd, never explained cut on his nose gets opened up and gives us the sick ass visual of a bloody nose babyface taking on three savages. He also took a fantastic piledriver and a hard slam on the floor, which was arguably an easier landing than in the dead center of an unmoving ring. 

Samu and Afa both played important roles and the payoff sequence for their comeuppance was so worth it. Their involvement kept increasing, with Samu and Fatu pulling off some double switches, even though their face, hair, and body differences left the referee's "they all look alike" racism as the only plausible explanation for the double switch's success. Bret hit an awesome superplex, and the finishing stretch car crash was aided with camera angles that actually felt expertly planned in advance. You usually don't see heel interference comeuppance pulled off this well, but that goes back to thinking this match had a lot of expert examples of timing and execution. Samu and Fatu collide after Samu breaks up a pin, Bret hits a running dropkick to knock Afa off the apron and Afa takes a fucking BACK BUMP off the apron in the foreground, while Samu gets his fucking neck hanged between the top and middle ropes, struggling and twitching in the background. Afa took the bump in the foreground, Samu dangled in the background, and Bret/Fatu were framed in the middle. It was a real professional shot from a company who no longer has any idea how to film wrestling, and an incredibly well orchestrated moving parts finish. Being a Bret truther only gets easier and easier to defend every year removed from his career. 

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Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Bordes! Leduc! Ramirez! Boucard! Mercier! Asquini! MacGregor! O'Connor!

Walter Bordes/Gilbert Leduc vs Paco Ramirez/Daniel Boucard 7/25/77

MD: We get a solid 20 minutes of action here, so while this is incomplete, there's a lot to see, and a lot of enjoy, and a lot to learn. For one, it's Leduc, the wrestler of the 60s, teaming with Bordes, who may well be the wrestler of the 70s. Ramirez, working sort of ebullient yet cowardly matador gimmick, was a great heatseeking heel and Boucard, more of a mugging, clubbering one. Leduc still had it, able to slug it out and do all of his signature spins and Bordes had such amazing energy, both when he was charging headlong into his own offense and eating Ramirez' charging headbutts to the guts. Sometimes, he went so fast that it went haywire, like when he tried to flip up into a 'rana off, but they always recovered; here it was with a nasty power bomb. The structure of this makes it a bit of a shame we dont' have all of it, as Boucard and Ramirez, after shaking hands politely, staged and ambush and actually pinned Leduc in the first minute. We only get the brunt of the second fall before the video cuts off, unfortunately, but it was very complete in the action we do have, exchanges and bits of heat and comebacks and the occasional slugfest. This will be our last look at Leduc so I saw it as something of a passing of the torch to a more than game Bordes.

Guy Mercier/Bruno Asquini vs Alan MacGregor/Marc O'Connor 8/1/77

MD: Michel Saulnier was an exceptional wrestler and trained Andre and Petit Prince if I'm not mistaken but he was an outright heel ref here, as heelish as we've seen, and while it absolutely got everyone in the crowd angry, especially as this was a crowd filled with more kids than usual, it ended up being a bit much in this one. Let me put it this way. It was okay this one time, because it certainly worked for what they were trying to do, but as someone watching 45 years later, hopefully they don't go back to the well again. On a social level it was interesting to see the announcer laughing and dismissing Saulnier's antics as good fun and patronizing the kids in the audience for taking it all too seriously. That gives you some sense of how all of this was taken in France on a macro level maybe?

It was all so over the top and comedic (with the comebacks being about Mercier and Asquini attacking Saulnier as much as attacking the Scots) that you really have to take it as its own thing and it makes it hard to compare to more conventional matches. That's almost a shame because this had more straight up heat than most French matches we see. The heels dominated almost the whole thing, mainly through control of Asquini's arm, cutting off the ring, some very credible offense, and of course, Saulnier missing tags and holding Mercier back. MacGregor had size and hit hard and O'Connor was a real mean mugging goon type. Asquini, older but spry, did very well as face-in-peril including setting up and paying off his hot tags rolling across the ring and Mercier, unsurprisingly, was able to knock everyone about when it was his time to come in. There wasn't really any meaningful selling of the arm but it still made sense as a was to control things. The celebratory last fall was shorter than usual though you got glimpses in the second and so much of it was about Saulnier getting his comeuppance. It was certainly fun, no question about that.

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Monday, September 12, 2022

AEW Five Fingers of Death: 9/5 - 9/11

AEW Dynamite 9/7

Bryan Danielson vs Adam Page

MD: I am not a big fan of Adam Page. Let's just lay that out there. I think his execution is fine. I think his selling is quite good. I have absolutely no problem with the longform storytelling he tries to do and the anxious millennial cowboy character and the way he works that into his actual matches. That's not all my issue with him. You can't fault his intensity. Nothing but positive things to say about all of that. I'm such a structure/layout guy though, and the lack of escalation in his matches because he starts at a 9 and more or less gets to a ten as things progress, is just such a killer. He comes out the gate with the fall away slam/springboard clothesline/dive, brings things up to the death valley driver, and then starts teasing the Buckshot and Deadeye. Left to his own devices, his entire match would be one long finishing stretch. It's Daffy Duck blowing himself up on stage: a good trick if you do it once but devastating over time and just blows a massive hole in any attempt of making individual moves and sequences resonate as important up and down the card. I'm not going to throw my hat into the CM Punk issue when it comes to interpersonal or professional things, but in ring, Punk spent the last twelve months trying to reclaim the struggle and impact of things like superplexes so that they could matter and that matches had another level to escalate to and Page shows no sign of understanding any of that nuance, even for all the good things he does.

When you have so many positive qualities, however, a really great wrestler can shape them into a really great match. I think that was true with the Punk match and it was true here with Danielson. Relatively early on Danielson started to dismantle the arm. Adam Page may not have a first or second gear on offense, but when you pepper his bombs through a match as hope spots that get immediately cut off due to the damaged arm and when he's not allowed to chain them together in the first five minutes of a match, everything ends up working out so much better. Danielson basically controlled all the way to the start of the second commercial break and it meant that when they moved into an actual finishing stretch, there was space to inhabit. 

AEW Rampage 9/9

Darby Allin vs Sammy Guevara

MD: Punk's gone for a week and all of the work he did trying to make superplexes matter again over the last year is completely destroyed. I guess it came early enough in the match before too much cumulative damage was done that it wasn't as bad as it could have been? It was still pretty bad. Before that they were almost working a title match version of Sammy vs Darby, which made sense given the stakes and was a cute way to start this one. It escalated how you'd expect with the big spots and counters and Sammy walking tightropes. The Tay/Sammy act is still fairly fresh between AEW's roster being so big that we haven't had a ton of Sammy singles matches in the last few months and the fact they were away for the wedding. They're constantly thinking of new ideas and trying new things like the wedding ring bit here. Interference of people on top of Tay is going to get old quick though, but I get that they were in a bit of a pinch due to the injuries and the suspensions. Darby really does need a big win one of these days. Regardless, I'm looking forward to the contrast inherent in Sammy vs Moxley.

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Sunday, September 11, 2022

2022 Ongoing MOTY List: Rayo vs. Demon

13. Rayo del Jalisco Jr. vs. Blue Demon Jr. AAA TripleMania 4/30

ER: This show already had one great old man match at this point, so it felt like asking a bit much for two even older men to have one just 20 minutes later. And yet. 

This match was universally dumped on in every post-show comment I saw, but people have been bad mouthing Rayo de Jalisco matches on the internet for as long as I've been on the internet. Why would that change when the man is 62? I thought Rayo looked like an old guy out there having a great time, and while I can't say what everyone else is seeing, I saw a guy who can still take a match a long way with nostalgic charisma and a big loud overhand chop. They started with preening, posing, and flexing, which I thought was great old man lucha theater. After that theater, Rayo's big overhand chops and hard corner punches were an awesome escalator. His chops looked great and the punches were thrown like a man who knew he was getting punched in the face with a chain later. Rayo put a lot of good space between all of them, mugging to the crowd before each shot, impressively timing each one to bigger reactions. 

Rayo brings big hands and Demon brings weapons, ranging from a thin cookie sheet to his fucking hammer. Weapons are whatever, but a chain wrapped around a fist is pro wrestling perfection. Demon hits at least two great punches across Rayo's jaw with a chain-wrapped fist, and it's all right in front of a woman who must be somebody, sitting by herself looking like a soap star or the Tijuana Cartel version of Helen Mirren in Long Good Friday. Demon has a nice putaway right hand, and I liked how their punch exchanges aren't set to any kind of rhythm, just punching each other around the ringside. I thought both men sold the other's punches really well, and there was this awesome sequence where Demon fell backward into the middle rope after a big Rayo slap, offered up a weak-legged one on his rebound, only to get walloped with a Rayo return volley. The middle rope bump is something reserved exclusively for cool wrestlers like Bobby Eaton and Big Boss Man, so guess what this makes Demon, haters? 

Rayo dug his heels into Demon in little ways, like how he always pressed his full palm or forearm into Demon's face whenever pinning him, and how they kept punching and kicking each other in their old sagging balls so much that the ref finally just throw up his hands at it all. Referees in disbelief at the sight of two old guys kicking each other in the balls. Also, Rayo looks like he has some bad Mike Graham level ink down his right side, mostly covered by his singlet, and that only makes him even cooler, like he's a cool dumb dirtbag/local slap fighting competition champion

God, the fucking Cien Caras walk out, with his perfect style, like a dangerous uncle at a Quinceanera. He's 72 and still has an impeccable mustache, strong head of hair, and uses a cane with no uncertainty. Still looks exactly like Cien Caras. Mascara Ano Dos Mil meanwhile looks like he's on the same train tracks as Bill Dundee and they're going to meet at a plastic surgeon somewhere in the middle. Mascara Ano Dos Mil looks like Al Pacino playing John Gotti. Caras has the same kind of charisma here as mid 90s Rusher Kimura and man I loved it when he was putting the boots to Rayo. The old man who looks like the toughest version of the Bla-Blazo puppet is beating old rival's asses while getting his sons and nephews to do the same, and it made me yearn for more authentic family feuds in American wrestling. None of this was clean, but these old guys with terrible reputations as workers, representing a very different era of lucha stardom, still know how to take big lumps and milk deserved reactions. This match got downvoted to oblivion just like Caras and Rayo matches have been hated for 30 years, slow brawlers who don't have innovative smooth offense. But old men throwing stiff punches to a loud stadium crowd remains one of my favorite things in wrestling, and I fail to predict the circumstances where that will ever change. Don't believe the hate. 


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Friday, September 09, 2022


Shunji Takano vs. Shinichi Nakano AJPW 9/15/89

MD: Another AJPW Classics drop with a singles match between two guys that I associate more as partners in this era. If you were to look at the entire All Japan roster in 89, the guy who you'd most likely project as a star in 92 wouldn't be Misawa or Kobashi or even Taue, but Takano. He was further along, had size and more presence, hit harder, pressed up better against guys like Hansen. This one bore that out. A good chunk of the first half was down on the mat like you might expect, but it kept building to fiery moments. That might be Takano wrenching Nakano in half with a gnarly elevated half crab and following it with a head-shattering lariat or it might be Nakano coming back with a series of headbutts only to have Takano dive across the ring with a bullcharging headbutt of his own and things boiling over to a visceral slapfest. Nakano would take some big swipes towards the end with a German and Northern Lights Suplex but ran into Takano's feet one too many times (and that's not counting the times that Takano's feet ran into him). It was just over ten minutes but they really put it all out there. This is just how friends hung out in 89 AJPW, by beating the crap out of one another. Hell of a time and hell of a place.

Little Guido vs. Spike Dudley ISPW 7/15/99

MD: Spike had some pretty great forearms. I'm not sure I had registered that previously. It feels like one of those things I knew, forgot, and will forget again. Anyway, this was very much of its time, stemming from Guido heading out to help Corino and Spike making the save for Nova and the two of them just rolling into their match. Guido leaned hard into that with wild, flailing bumps for every one of Spike's shots. Both guys took wild bumps for the setting really, Guido diving to the concrete, Spike crashing out in the corner. The meat of the match was Spike having a ton of great hope spots and Guido gutting him off again and again, even as Guido consistently worked the crowd. Nothing here seemed rote. It was fast moving and all fairly interesting for the time. Eventually it built to a final comeback and Corino and Nova coming back out to build things to a screwy but satisfying finish. This is a good eleven minutes of your time.

Chris Candido vs. 2 Cold Scorpio ISPW 7/15/99

You can't say they didn't have time. Take out the entrances and promos and this went about twenty. You don't want to take out Candido's closing promo as it might be the best thing about the whole experience. This was just these guys calling it out there, doing their thing, being about as much as themselves as could possibly be. That meant Scorpio was making up move after move and hitting things from weird, interesting angles, and Candido was stalling, stooging, feeding, leaning on Scorpio, and overall mean mugging. At times, things didn't feel clean or polished, felt rough or crunchy, but it felt perfect for a 1999 Wildwood main event. They never missed a beat, they never lost their place, even if they went back into a chinlock to figure out what was next more than once. Finish was wonky since it was setting up a 3 way with Ace Darling for the following week. We have that one too and if nothing else, this made me want to see it.

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Thursday, September 08, 2022

Taka Michinoku and Jesus Castillo Had An 8 Minute Match on WWF TV

Taka Michinoku vs. Jesus Castillo WWF Shotgun 1/31/98

ER: Not only do we get Sunny doing the ring announcing in a skirt so short that she tugs down the hem while making funny faces to the camera, but we get the FULL Boricua four part rap entrance. Every Boricua has a microphone, and they rap all the way into the ring. Miguel Perez is wearing a big white Fubu jacket, Jose Estrada looks like Puerto Rican Angus Bethune, and for whatever reason Jesus goes into this with blood in his eyes and hate in his heart. And if you thought that full boy band entrance was as good as it could get, for whatever reason we get gifted with a near 8 minute Taka/Jesus match. All of the Boricuas get tossed early when Savio snags Taka's foot, so this match is almost fully one on one for all that time. What a great choice. Jesus is so good, maybe the most underrated asskicker on the entire 1998 roster. He was like Buddy Lee Parker with lucha bumping ability, a great guy to take faster and faster armdrags and bigger bumps, go over smoothly for Taka's beautiful hurricanrana takeovers, and lean chest first into knife edge chops loud enough to surprise the crowd. It's always a treat when cruiserweights wake people up by hitting someone really hard.  

Jesus was in control for a lot of this, taking over by ducking his shoulder down into Taka's stomach to stop a charge. Once I made the Buddy Lee Parker connection it's all I can see. He hits a slow lift chickenwing suplex and a stiff southern lariat, and we get to come back from commercial break with Jesus paying Taka back for those earlier chops. Jesus throws two of the absolute loudest chops you'll see all year. They were good at paying things off all through this, giving the match more purpose. Castillo has a hard bodyslam thrown like Finlay or...Buddy Lee Parker, but when he tries it too much Taka gets a convincingly close inside cradle. All of Jesus's offense look good, but he has a couple of inventive bumps too: He misses a running torpedo shoulderblock in the corner and bounces off horizontally, like a big husky Jun Izumida bump. They made every exchange look so good, and the sudden hurricanrana roll up finish worked really well. Taka needed to hold Castillo down quick and his rana has such nice physics that Taka snapping it off and quickly hooking the legs forward made it look impossible to kick out from in less than 3 beats. This was a gem. 

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Wednesday, September 07, 2022

AEW Five Fingers of Death: 8/29 - 9/4 Part 2

All Out 9/4

Sting/Darby Allin/Miro vs. House of Black (Malakai Black/Brody King/Buddy Matthews)

MD: While this broke down at the end, it also felt very different from the last couple of far more chaotic Sting PPV matches. I loved the roles in the first half, with Miro taking the shine, Darby eating the heat, and Sting in there for the comeback. That was a different layout to the opening pairings in the FTR trios for instance. There was a sense throughout of real unity for the House of Black, something that, when combined with their size and presence, means even after their loss in the trios tournament and here, they'll be viable challengers for the trios belts or the tag titles without much effort. Miro sort of dropped out as the match went on as much more of the focus was on Sting or Darby but I liked his interactions in general, first refusing to tag in Darby and then telling Darby (who was trapped in a neutral corner) that he had to listen to him and make it over to make the tag. The bit at the end with Sting refusing to break the Scorpion even as he was getting battered and then with the mist (learned it from Muta) were both iconic. This probably could have played just as well on TV as PPV but it was still a lot of fun.

Bryan Danielson vs. Chris Jericho

MD: Full disclosure. Due to things like parental responsibility, I didn't get a chance to catch most of the PPV until Monday morning and then I jumped around a lot. This was probably the third match on the show I saw. That meant I wasn't experiencing it like the live crowd or a lot of you. I know there were criticisms of this maybe being placed wrong on the card or that it went too long, and while I agree with the latter to a degree and in a specific way I'll get into in a moment, I can't really speak for the former. Therefore, overall, this was a hit to me, not a miss. This might well be Jericho's career year and I thought the overarching story of the match was excellent, really. He had dusted off the Lionheart persona and style and had great success against Jon Moxley with it, as it played against very specific weaknesses of Mox. Now, with pride on the line, he came in expecting to repeat his success against Danielson, only to find he was brushing up against Danielson's strengths. You could see it early through his facial expressions. He came out posing and grinning through an immediate successful exchange or two, got immediately knocked on his ass, threw a chair, and came back finding the grin again. He had a couple of tricked out moves that had worked wonders against Moxley but when they failed him against Danielson, he had no recourse other than to go right back to them and fail again. That, as much as anything else was the story. He may have been able to escape a lot of what Danielson was putting him in, barely, but Danielson was easily escaping his holds and shifting back to being the aggressor. 

Whatever the Lionheart was, it was less of one thing than the whole of Bryan Danielson. Lionheart was a mask that Jericho put back on, an artificial guise, but as much as it freshened him up and gave him novel angles to attack from, he found himself too married to it and it limited him and forced him into stubborn mistakes (like the plancha to the outside which cost him). Danielson on the other hand, was the sum of everything he'd ever been, something that culminates with the seated zen position he's been using to absorb damage and throw his opponents off as of late. Where Jericho hid in his own past (and as the match went on, hid poorly, constantly adjusting pants that no longer fit correctly), Danielson wrestles like a man fully actualized. The story was so clear and clean that I wouldn't have cut any of the matwork from the beginning or middle of the match. It wasn't gratuitous. It was the point. That said, I do think the finishing stretch (everything from the first, countered Lionsault) probably went too long. There was escalation desperation in Jericho but they could have cut a few minutes and still gotten that across. In the end, they got to where they needed to be, delusion and cowardice and rationalization and a low blow to prop up a false, flimsy pride, as Daniel Garcia watched on shaking his head. Jericho, like all the greatest heels, came in expecting to win on his own merit and only succeeded to lie to himself once again.

Jon Moxley vs. CM Punk

MD: Going to stick straight to the match here. A couple of days ago, Phil wrote an explainer on the Ringer on where the backstage stuff stood and by the time this gets posted, Dynamite will have aired and things that are moving quickly will reach some other destination. I won't make this a retrospective or wax poetic on the last year. I did think this was very good though. It inverted the match from Cleveland, where Punk came in looking for a title match and Moxley rushed forward, unrelenting from the bell. There, that forced Punk off his balance and caused him to blow up his own leg. Here, he was ready both for Moxley's Hansenian onslaught, which he met head on and for his own kick, which hit picture perfect. That meant instead of early Death Riders, we got the early GTS. Things went to the outside after that, Moxley's domain, and maybe Punk hurt his arm on the dive or maybe he was selling that he did, but Mox was able to take over and open him up. The crowd, despite being in Chicago, couldn't deny Moxley at times and despite his attitude, despite (or because of?) his barbarism and dominance, they gravitated back towards him. For a while, he'd get heat by taking it so over the top. After Punk was opened up and after he made sure that the opening became a gusher, he licked the blood. Shortly thereafter, he jammed his own head against Punk's so that it'd be all over his face. When Punk started to come back from the woundwork, he went straight to the leg to cut him off. With Moxley, the malice is personal, but you shouldn't take it personally. It's universal. He carries disdain for each and every person he faces. He's a storm and it's up to his opponent to endure it and to cobble out a meaningful match from it. If you cut him (scrape him even), he will bleed. If you punch him, his head will rock. If you stretch him, he will know pain. But it's up to you to channel and redirect the forward motion, the potential energy of him, into something coherent. 

As Mox continued to dismantle and batter his opponent, Punk was able to endure however he could, was able to tough it out, was able to survive, even if sometimes that meant going for an eye. Moxley returned favor by biting the wound, by stubbornly, and unfairly (because fairness has nothing to do with pro wrestling) cutting him off by going after the leg. But eventually, Punk lasted long enough to get under Moxley, literally, and to drop him down into a GTS. In another world, that's the image that would stick with us of this night, the remnants of the match's second GTS and all the damage that had been inflicted on Punk since the first, a hobbled Moxley draped over a bloodied and exhausted Punk, and Punk's eyes opening as he saw what he needed to do. A talking point in our circle about Survivor Series 97 was that the main event between Bret and Shawn was actually shaping up to be their best match together. I might not go so far with this one, but it had a lot of merits on its own, and I can't help but wonder if in years to come, all of those will simply be a similar afterthought to everything that transpired after.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Prince! Hassouni! Tejero! Remy! Angelito! Sanniez! Bordes! Zarak!

MD: Unfortunately, this has more audio issues, but you can watch it without problem with headphones, only using your left earbud and not the right. It's a good week of matches though, so tough it out.

Kader Hassouni/Petit Prince vs. Anton Tejero/Bob Remy 1/7/77

MD: This one is for some cup and well worth watching. Tejero's one of the best bases and bumpers in the footage so having him paired up against Petit Prince is pretty special. Hassouni was slick as could be and Remy was a meat and potatoes slugger bad guy so all of the pieces were right here.

Structurally, this is probably the most perfect tag in the set. Yes, there are some Blousons Noirs (and others) matches with more (or longer) heat, but this was balanced just right for the style and had, finally and I don't say this lightly, the hot tag we've been waiting on for so long. It gets around 35 minutes with the first 15-20 the wrestling we'd expect from these guys, lots of holds and escapes and the stylists looking great at the expense of the heels. The heat really kicks in with Hassouni getting knocked to the floor, with the crowd moving to help him but he ultimately unable to make it back in. From there, even after a tag to Prince, they really dig in, distracting the ref, laying in mean shots, and ultimately getting the ringpost guards off to the point where Prince gives us that rare, rare French Catch blood.

This segment isn't long, but between the blood, Prince's selling, and the fact that they cut off the tag a couple of times, including one where the ref misses it, it really ramps things up so that when Prince monkey flips both heels and bounds back for the tag, the place comes unglued. Hassouni makes quick work of them on the comeback to take the second fall and the third, as you'd expect, is all celebratory stooging double teams to the crowd's delight. This is the style but it's got incredible talents with great personalities and is tightened up to make things mean even more than usual. If you've been following these tags at all, you should put on some headphones, listen with one ear, and watch this one.

Angelito vs. Albert Sanniez (JIP) 2/19/77

MD: We get the last ten minutes of this and it's just wild action. Stylist vs stylist. Juniors. They just really go at it. Counters to counters, big shots, huge spots. Some fun parallel stuff (be it both guys going for a drop down at the same time or later on when Sanniez hits a press slam into a gut buster and Angelito follows with a fireman's carry into one). Sanniez is smoother but Angelito is pretty imaginative. The thing is, Sanniez has to take all of this stuff and make it look good! The absolute craziest thing is a sunset flip bomb off the apron by Angelito to Sanniez. In 1977. Just nuts. Sanniez hits a bomb later in the ring, which I don't think we've seen too much in a while. They're working towards the draw, but they're working exceptionally hard. Sanniez looks like an all-timer here and in a vacuum this is probably some of the most action-packed ten minutes of footage in the whole set. 

Walter Bordes vs. Zarak 3/12/77

MD: Sorry guys, switch to the right earbud on this one until around the 15:30 mark and then go left. Anyway, Bordes had an absolutely undeniable connection with the crowd. It may have been inherited but you watch a match like this, you see him get fiery and just take one swipe at an opponent, not even landing, and you hear the crowd start singing Mamadou and it's beyond doubt. They go even more nuts with the singing when he tosses out Zarak later. He knew it, knew how to play into it, and here, he had an opponent who understood it just as well, for Zarak was our old friend Batman, David Smith-Larsen.

Larsen, here wrestled completely differently but with the same sort of theatricality he brought to Batman. Here he was a strutting, masked strong man with big power moves and mean clubbering blows. He overpowered Bordes' early attempts but ultimately got outwrestled, the first fifteen minutes or so being very entertaining along these lines. Eventually though, Bordes missed a top rope headbutt (or splash) and Zarak really took over with huge power moves, a press slam into a gut buster, a fireman's carry into a slam, Quasimodo's tombstone position press up move. Ultimately, he catapulted Bordes out and forced him to take some really nasty bumps to the outside. But Bordes was a hero true and he came back and tried for pin after pin after pin as the clock ticked down. This was probably the best push to a draw that we've seen, really gripping stuff with Bordes trying everything and Zarak slipping out again and again. It's not the best match we've seen but it truly felt iconic and really gives you a sense of the skill, flash, and attitude of mid 70s French Catch.

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Monday, September 05, 2022

AEW Five Fingers of Death: 8/29 - 9/4 Part 1

AEW Dynamite 8/31

Bryan Danielson vs. Jake Hager

MD: There were a couple of things I really liked about this one. First, after Danielson's early advantage, it was all Hager, and despite there being some things we'd rightfully call "big spots," like a slam throuh a table and hard shots into the guardrail, there was nothing elaborate or complicated about any of it. It wasn't three counters in a row. It was just a big monster leaning on his smaller opponent and giving him no space to breathe. It was Hager, competent, confident, picking up Danielson and putting him back down again and again with some bells but no whistles. That would contrast both the upcoming main event which was all bells and whistles but also the finishing stretch.

As for that stretch, after Danielson's comeback, I liked the clear rules and boundaries put down. Danielson and Hager were each other's match on the mat. Hager had a power advantage. Danielson maybe had a bit of an advantage when it came to finesse. These things cancelled each other out. They portrayed a sense that the two could grapple for an hour and neither would be able to score a true advantage except for on a fluke. So they tried escalating holds and counters, fairly seamlessly shifting from one to the next until Danielson, realizing that it would be an endless battle of attrition, shifted gears, gained space, and hit the knee to pick up the win. It didn't wear out its welcome and it had its moments of drama, just enough to establish the reality of the situation and provide Danielson with the realization needed to put grappling ego aside and overcome. Overall, I might have liked the Kingston/Hager match from earlier in the year better, but this one had a lot going for it.

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Sunday, September 04, 2022

2022 Ongoing MOTY List: LA Park vs. Villano IV

4. LA Park vs. Villano IV AAA TripleMania XXX 4/30

ER: I've been buried up to my elbows watching and reviewing every single 1997 WCW match this past year for a book that is far and away the biggest project of my life. WCW had a big roster and a ton of TV time to fill, and I can probably count on one hand the other wrestlers in 1997 WCW I've loved more than Park and Villano IV. Looking at both men's matches and standout performances from that year, and there are only a handful of guys on that roster I could argue had comparable or better years in-ring. That was somehow 25 years ago. Now Park is 56, Villano is 57, and while neither are spry or anywhere near as graceful as their past WCW selves, they are still captivating in entirely different ways. I thought both men had some of the best offense in WCW. Villano had strong armdrags that could shift direction and impossibly smooth headscissors and hurricanranas. La Parka did more dives than anyone there and took bigger bumps than any luchador who wasn't Super Calo. The smoothness is gone, but the rough edges are what makes this match what it is. 

I think a lot of the actual, traditional "wrestling" in this match looked bad. Sometimes really bad. The moments where they're slowly walking past each other, the barely attempted missed clotheslines, inside cradles as slow as a 70 year old Mil Mascaras inside cradle. This was not a match made by move execution, it was a match made by dirty punches and headbutts and blood. Villano's headbutts and his punches to Park's face and body looked far more painful than his chair shots, and that was before the man bit into Park's head and sprayed blood mist into the night sky. Am I stupid for being shocked by something like that? We went through Covid! Now two old men who shouldn't need the money are spraying blood in a Monterey baseball stadium and I guess that's what makes all of this so great. I loved how Villano was saved from Park's chops and used that chance to punch Park in the face, and how it built to him trying it again and punching the ref even harder. Park is such a great comeback wrestler, you could feel the buzz as Park started firing back, then getting louder as Park traveled back to 1998 to bring back some chair shots from a time where we could pretend we didn't know better. 

The floor and crowd brawling was great. A girl gets kicked right in the face when Villano gets clotheslined into the crowd. She takes it completely in stride and only looks more hot and powerful for it, just getting up and moving over a bit as Park drips blood all over the front row while throwing headbutts two feet away, swinging a chair as hard as he can at the side of V4's face. Park hits a powerslam through some propped up flooring, and as his mask hangs off his face you can see that LA Park is the bloodiest, most violent Alfred Molina you've ever seen. I mentioned Park being the biggest bumper in WCW, well the old man can still take some doozies. He still takes the hardest landing banana peel bumps, here getting his leg knocked out from under him by a Villano chair shot; when he goes to the top rope he gets knocked off in real nasty fashion, dropping fast to his crotch and falling off onto the top rope. He takes several different DDT bumps and he always looks like he's bouncing off the back of his head, body landing just as hard after. The king takes big falls, but he's still dangerous on the ground, so maybe it was inevitable that they'd drag themselves into malicious low blows and a kneeling punch-out that was one of the best uses of that spot, Park's heavier blows landing more and more until he was able to just shove Villano over. I love the way big stage old man fights always seem to get to a point where both men are dragging each other over the finish line, collapsing into match's end in exhaustion. The consequences always seem bigger in this kind of spectacle. Two stars commanding a 13,000+ crowd, age showing while also being defied.


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Friday, September 02, 2022


Goro Tsurumi/Animal Hamaguchi vs. Great Kojika & Motoshi Okuma IWE 11/3/77

MD: Goro Tsurumi died last week and the IWE tribute channel released a match that we hadn't had before, for the All Asia Tag Team Titles. I'll admit that I've seen all of these guys older but not necessarily a ton of their 70s work. There was a lot to like here, though. It was a long 2/3 falls match and that's with us coming in at the ten minute mark. My guess is that we primarily missed a lot of matwork because for a title match, this didn't have much. Kojika and Okuma were in green and Hamaguchi and Tsurumi in red and both felt like real teams. Kojika and Okuma were heels, de facto or otherwise. They tried to cut off the ring and were quicker to go to eye rakes, for instance. Hamaguchi had big energy and a very pronounced way of wrestling, with Tsurumi maybe scrappier. There was a sense that they had the general idea of what they were trying to do but the execution didn't always work. You got the idea though.

The first two falls were fairly back and forth, with the champions cheating and taking an advantage and the challengers coming back and then punishing them for their transgressions. The first fall ended in a Hamaguchi airplane spin and then the second started with a great near-fall off of one from Tsurumi. The end of the second fall was Tsurumi getting stuffed on a roll up due to cheating and eating a diving headbutt from Okuma. The third fall wasn't long but it was pretty great, as they opened up Tsurumi with a posting on the outside and really targeted the wound with chops and punches and especially headbutts as he desperately tried to fight from underneath. Good blood, good fire, great woundwork. Good hot tag and comeback. The finish was a little wonky as Kojika broke up a pin with a knee off the top and immediately scored a pin of his own when there was no way he was the legal man, but no one seemed to blink at it. The great stuff here was really great and the rest was good in concept even if not always in execution. It's a good tribute match for Tsurumi for some of the dominant offense and that bit of fighting back bloodied.

Suzuka Minami/Bat Yoshinaga vs Rumi Kazama/Yukari Osawa LLPW 5/11/93

Sebastian covered this over at his blog and it's really worth a look. He said that this made the LLPW vs AJW feud the joshi equivalent of NJPW vs War and it's not far off. Hokuto was ringside here and this is all leading up to her facing Kazama (LLPW president) later on. As best as I understand it Yoshinaga was generally banished to weird Inoki-ism style matches against athletes on the AJW cards but as LLPW wrestlers were presented as shooters, she was brought into the limelight to face them. She certainly made the most of the opportunity and everything she does here is worth watching. Here, she's got swagger, a bullying presence, a toughness, a meanness, a chip on her shoulder. It could be anything from the way she drives in a double axe handle to set up a pile driver to the way she absorbs kicks  and stares down her opponents. Osawa, who is dressed like the world's most violent Christmas elf here, is not afraid to throw brutal, brutal kicks. At one point, Yoshinaga has Kazama in a half crab and Osawa comes in. Yoshinaga stares her down to the point where she starts kicking and absorbs and absorbs until the ref has enough and pulls her back to the corner. Later on, a real point of transition has her absorb until she gets fed up and lays in on Osawa (letting Kazama recover enough that she gets a roll up and can make a tag a bit later). Their advantage leads to Osawa putting a half crab onto Minami; Yoshinaga comes in and with one kick practically sends Osawa across the ring in a lovely moment of contrast. Kazama, shortly thereafter, put on a bit too lackadaisical a cover on Yoshinaga, so she just lifts her arm up, hand outstretched, and gets out of the pin by locking in a devastating iron claw. It's the sort of thing you wish Miro would steal. Ultimately, this does go quick and there are spots a plenty but never once do you lose the sense that they're trying to cause one another severe bodily harm so it's sort of hard to complain.

Jerry Lawler/Mike Rapada vs. Bill Dundee/Terry Taylor NWA Main Event 6/2/2001

MD: It's Lawler vs Dundee so we have to cover it, but there wasn't a lot of Lawler vs Dundee here. Some weird things with this one as the audio cuts out early in the match but the announcers (including Bart Sawyer) talk over the footage. You get the whole thing but have no idea how the crowd is reacting audibly. It also has one of the weirdest, most counter-intuitively set up turns I've ever seen but more on that in a bit.

I like Taylor and Dundee as partners in 2000 because Taylor plays into Dundee's natural corniness and, at the same time, makes Dundee look more credible and like a killer. Just Dundee's punches and stomps (and one brutal double stomp) during the long heat on Rapada are great. Taylor's offense looks ok but he always had that patina of hokey; it works when he's taking Lawler's punches on the comeback but less so when he's in control. You do want to see him get punched, granted. Lawler works the apron for a lot of this but we get another example early on on how he throws his head back into the turnbuckle when taking shots in the corner, which is one of those all time great things he does. Dundee and Taylor have funny tandem bits where they'll set something up and the payoff won't be all that impressive. Again, it's a lot more impressive when Dundee's just laying it in.

The finish is bonkers with Rapada taking and taking and having a couple of hope spots and finally getting the tag but then choosing to pile drive Lawler out of nowhere when the ref is distracted after the fist drop. If they had built up tension where Rapada thought Lawler wasn't doing enough to make the tag or there was some miscommunication where Lawler accidentally hit Rapada or if it was a ruse all along and Taylor and Dundee were only pretending to hurt Rapada or if Lawler was the one playing face-in-peril it might have worked, but as it was, it just seemed bizarre that he got beat on so much by Taylor and Dundee (and so meanly by Dundee especially) only to care more about nailing Lawler for no reason when they were about to win. Match overall still probably registers as fun though just because there's a real novelty to Dundee and Taylor working together and because Lawler's really good when he is in there.

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Thursday, September 01, 2022

The Continuing Saga of Dirtbag Era Barry Windham

 Barry Windham/Jeff Jarrett vs. Legion of Doom WWF Raw 1/26/98

ER: The was a little scruffy, but I thought a lot of this was real good. I love this era of uncertain Windham looks, vacillating among different levels of dirtbag. Cowboy, biker, lazy pool guy, man who offers to wash office building windows and also smells, etc. This week he's still got the Blackjack hair, but now has a freshly shaved smooth fat face. He looks like a guy who wears a clip-on tie and makes fake IDs and licenses. Most notable about this was what I thought was a strong Hawk performance. I really liked his selling while getting repeatedly cut off from Animal, and I thought the pace pushing in his sequences with Jarrett were the best parts of the match. Windham works this like Buddy Rose and gets better the longer the match goes and Animal works a nice hot tag, but Jarrett and Hawk elevated this. There was a killer little sequence where Hawk stops Jarrett's sunset flip and punches him right in the forehead, and Jarrett instinctively trips him by the ankle and drags him down to keep control. 

This was the first of only *three times* that Windham and Jarrett teamed, and it's too bad. They had real chemistry and would have been a real upgrade to the tag division over the summer, and I loved the Aztec ring gear for Jarrett. I liked their ring control and simple things like a Windham vertical suplex followed up by a Jarrett elbowdrop. Both Road Warriors had some big long arm lariats and Animal's high rotation powerslam looked great, and I liked Hawk's role in this even before he hit his leaping fistdrop. The finish is messy but in kind of cool ways, with Hawk leaping recklessly off the top rope with a clothesline while he should have clearly seen that his target, Jarrett, was *not* facing him. Because of that, Hawk basically hooked Jarrett's neck and crashed himself, while Windham gave a weird but kind of cool short piledriver to Animal. The finish had Windham at his asshole heel best, blasting Animal with the tennis racket and then bat flipping it way out of the ring, back to Cornette. I need a GIF of Barry tossing that racket. 

Barry Windham/Jeff Jarrett vs. Bradshaw/Flash Funk WWF Raw 2/2/98

ER: If Windham was a low key document forging dirtbag last week, this was more of him as a guy talking too much shit at a birthday kickball game. He had a smooth smug look on his face and kept obnoxiously flashing peace signs, a cheap shot artist even though he was the biggest guy on the field. Not coy about it, just smiling and getting away with it, with two improbably 40 year old Rock n Rolls laughing and helping him cheat. The match was better on paper than it was in execution, but only because Flash gets taken out of the match early, and his exchanges with Jarrett showed uncharacteristic hesitation. Most of the Windham talk from this era was about how out of shape he was, but this match shows that this man can flat out work regardless of what his body looked like. I guess that's always been something said about him, though. His crowd work during his brief WWF NWA heel run showed that he could still connect to the crowd as a heel, he was just doing it in a way that WWF didn't like looking at. He taunts the crowd from the apron the entire time he was not officially in this match, and only enters the match after the Rock n Rolls distract Bradshaw, allowing Barry to sneak around the ringpost with a western lariat. 

When Windham tags in, he hits two excellent punches, long uppercuts that started from behind his right lovehandle, and continued to mock the crowd any chance he got. It surely wasn't a good sign for the NWA angle that Bradshaw still managed to win this match despite having no partner and going against 5 people, but it was worth it for the post-match beatdown. Cornette blasted Bradshaw with the racket and Bradshaw completely ignored it, before being jumped by Ricky and Robert. I loved the visual of the Rock n Rolls holding Bradshaw by the arms while Jarrett ties up his legs, Windham hitting standing splashes on Bradshaw's bad leg. I wish we would have gotten a Blackjacks Explode PPV match instead of just a 3 minute Raw match two months later. The whole feud could have been so much more. 

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Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Weber! Salah! Don! Trujillo! Bordes! Bouvet! Samurai! Payen!

MD: As a heads up, the audio on the first set of matches is a bit messed up. For me, it worked best if I just listened with my left earbud and not the right. The footage is the footage.

Arpan Weber vs Artif Salah (JIP) 6/14/76

MD: We get the last seven minutes of this. I don't think we have much more Weber but he's looked very good in the two matches we've seen so far. A real slugger, with a tendency to bounce back off the ropes with big shots. He has a lot of stuff: a butterfly suplex (one of the first we've seen?), a backbreaker with a grind, his fall away slam with a float over follow-up, and of course chops and headbutts and an ability to take all of his opponent's stuff. Good presence and I would have liked to see him against LeDuc or Corn or Bibi or any number of other wrestlers from the footage. Salah was game to fight back against him, having more stylist tools like dropkicks and headcissors takeovers but going shot-for-shot when it was called for. They were fighting for the draw here and showed but it was still good hard-hitting action for the seven minutes.

Juan Gil Don vs Tomas Trujillo 6/14/76

MD: This was a totally different animal than the last Don match. It started off much the same with Trujillo feeding into all of Don's traps and spots. Trujilo had his own climb up armdrag which he used here. It looked like it was going to be another straight up Don showcase like the Tejero match. Then it turned hard left as Trujillo tossed him out and posted him, opening him up and taking a real advantage. From there, Don had to use his tricks and savvy to come back again and again as Trujillo leaned on him. It gave the match plenty of drama and made it feel like a complete match, all heightened by the blood, by Trujillo being a good bully, by Don's spectacular stuff (including those flipping mare that someone, anyone has to steal! I never do this, but here's a gif. Steal them!:

You get the sense that they wanted to get him over in the Tejero match and once he was they could do more fleshed out encounters like this. 

Le Samurai/Pierre Payen vs Walter Bordes/Gerard Bouvet 7/18/76 

MD: We had this back in 2014, but it was only the first two falls. Now we have it complete. That's a great word for it, for it really is a very, very complete tag, going a few minutes longer than a lot of the ones we've seen lately. The first ten-fifteen minutes is one of the best shines we've seen, just the stylists pulling out all sorts of spots and clowning the heels again and again. The last six minutes are hugely celebratory with the fans singing and chanting and having a wonderful time. In the middle there are about three separate face-in-peril sequences and comebacks, including one stemming from Bordes absolutely wiping himself out on a missed top rope move.

Bordes and Bouvet made for a great unit. Bordes always kept up on the new moves and spots of the time and here threw a chancery suplex followed by a German suplex, for instance. He also worked the apron quite well showing excitement for his partner on big spots. Bouvet had a lot of fun little variations, leg picks and nice escapes, including a sort of skin the cat headscissors takeover that was deep and measured and popped the crowd huge, and a fallaway slam that almost caved in a skull, but also did a dropkick variation on the bit where both heels are tied up in opposite ropes and the stylist charges in again and again. Because this got so much time, everything felt fairly balanced, even if the drama was done by the end and they were into full on partying. You wish that they had worked out exactly how to time and maximize the hot tags with some of the ref distractions and out of position tags that didn't count, but Bordes and Bouvet always came in fiery and the crowd went up for it. Samurai didn't have too much in the way of complex wrestling, but I thought he was properly theatrical (and Payen properly mean), working very big with chops both missed and hit and doing things like getting into a shoving match with the announcer. Very worthwhile tag and I'm glad we have it complete now.

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Monday, August 29, 2022

AEW Five Fingers of Death: 8/22 - 8/28

AEW Dynamite 8/24

CM Punk vs Jon Moxley

MD: I caught this Thursday morning, after being spoiled and came in expecting Brock vs Kofi and figured there'd be nothing to talk about. This wasn't that, so it's worth a few words at least. At this point, we still don't know the endgame here, but this did have some real substance to it, based on the characters of Punk and Moxley and the year they've been having. Punk's AEW run has been about reclamation, about reclaiming his own role and legacy in wrestling and, if you look at his ring-work, about reclaiming certain aspects that have been lost when it comes to the meaning and struggle of every exchange and every moment. It's about bringing back the ten-punch in the corner or the bodyslam and showing that if treated as something with impact, they can matter as much as a 450 splash or a falcon arrow (and theoretically, if done properly and consistently, can actually make those things mean even more when they're escalated to). Mox, on the other hand, is the successor of Hansen, a whetstone that you crash up against and that pulls back the skin and bones and polish and shine (and moves) and reveals whatever you truly as underneath, that bares your soul to the world as you survive and survive, right up until the point you don't.

And that's how they worked this. Punk came into that first, hard and harsh lock-up expecting a clean break. This was a title match. They'd just started. Moxley just went at him in the corner. Punk fired back, because even though he wants to represent something, there's a darkness within him too and he wasn't about to back down, but once they made it back to the corner, the ref interceded. Punk started to draw back only for Moxley to capitalize with a headbutt over the ref. And that's when Punk, pissed off, off-balance, still dangerous but now prone to an early mistake, pushed forward with the kick that would reinjure the leg. Mox showed no mercy, immediately pouncing, and after the clothesline, the hammer-and-anvil shots, the ankle wrench, and two death riders, the match was over. Storywise, if Punk was healthy, maybe Mox might have pushed him off balance, but maybe he could have ridden it out and taken over later on and made Moxley play his game instead. Punk's a pro; he's a champ; he knows all the tricks. But he was hurt and that meant there weren't extra chances, not without Mox giving them, and 2022 Mox doesn't give anyone anything but grief and violence. It was striking and daring and completely true to everything that had happened this year. Now we see what's next as Chicago looms.

AEW Rampage 8/26

Claudio Castagnoli vs Dustin Rhodes

MD: Let's start with the finish. This is basically the Clash XXI finish, where Dustin and Barry Windham were up against Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas, a similar mishap occurs with a crotching on rope running, Dustin doesn't take advantage, and after they subsequently lose the belts, Windham turns heel on him. Who knows where, if anywhere, this is going. We do know from interviews (Maybe even the Way of the Blade interview) that Khan often goes to Dustin and asks him to do spot A from match B from 1994 or whatever, and then Dustin has to figure out what the heck it is he did in that match. What I'm trying to say is that this wasn't some sort of botched or off or misdone finish. It was intentional. Arn's reaction was intentional. With Dustin in AEW, though, you never know if it's going somewhere or just some sort of easter egg. Given that it was happening at the end of Rampage, when Excalibur was doing everything he could to get over the next week of shows, they couldn't exactly stop and note that Dustin had a tendency to do this in big matches, leaning towards sportsmanship and that's part of why he's never been world champion and that he'd even lost friendships over it, as he might with Arn here. They could have even contrasted it with how Moxley won the title on Dynamite, but that's kind of a big ask for a four man booth at the end of a show when they have to hype four upcoming matches. But that's the finish and the mindset behind it. Either it worked for you or it didn't. Maybe it'll work better if you know the history. Maybe it'll work better if they do something coming out of this.

The match itself, however, was very good. A few things about how Claudio is working. One, I think he's utilizing a lot of the small/close up/mean stuff in a way he wasn't in his WWE run. Granted, I haven't seen him much in the last few years, but I really don't remember it. I don't think the BCC is teaching him to rub his arms against people's faces or anything but I do think it's a part of their training sessions so it's on the front of his mind. I really liked how he'd go from a pin to immediately looking for the next hold too. It's all an interesting dissonance to his personality which is light and fun; when he gets in the ring, he's really grinding down and punishing people. Two, there's a certain moveset limitation in WWE. I noticed it the other day with Danielson having the freedom just to do a brainbuster because he wanted to even though it wasn't one of his "set" moves and even though other people may do it. I think it's less likely that Claudio would have just been able to do a shoulder-breaker even though it made sense at the point of the match, so that freedom is nice to see. He can express himself so freely now just in general and he's making the best of that and seems to be enjoying it. 

The early chain-wrestling/oneupsmanship was a lot of fun, the twos in the face and then Claudio having enough of it. Dustin is a very unique character (let alone wrestler, given his size and experience) for guys to push up against and it's good to see someone really lean into it. As the match went on the focus on the shoulder, mixed with Claudio's recent tendency to really bear down on something, made for a pretty compelling story. Dustin had to fight from underneath, because everyone has to fight from underneath against Claudio, but Claudio respected him enough to target a weakness instead of just having a lark with it. Like the Mox/Punk match, the finish will now depend on what happens next, but as wrestling for the sake of wrestling, it was very good and sort of made me want to see Dustin against all of the other ROH champs (Where is Joe anyway?).

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