Segunda Caida

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Mini Complete and Accurate: Dan Severn in WWF

Dan Severn vs. Flash Funk WWF Raw 4/6/98 

ER: Kind of a robotic debut, but an effective short dead eyes killer showcase. Even though an actual match between these two would have been much better, I like when they put two tough guys in there together. Funk had size for an extremely agile guy, so with Severn's throwing strength and Funk's height you get a couple cool high Severn takedowns. Severn's takedowns all looked great, but his open hand slap ground and pound didn't really read as well to the crowd. The intensity was there, with Severn pouncing on Funk through the ropes and both almost tumbling to the floor. Given even a couple more minutes this could have been a stiff style clash for the ages, and Funk even hits his great spinkick right to Severn's chin. But this was not going to be Severn debuting in a competitive match, and he hits a mammoth belly to belly on Funk before tapping him with a Fujiwara. This was the lost weird dream match that some indy should have booked in the 2010s. I have a feeling that every single Severn WWF match is going to feel like something special that wasn't given a chance to be special.



Dan Severn vs. Mosh WWF Raw 4/20/98 

ER: This was really cool, as it was basically worked like a Bloodsport match. Severn shot in with a fireman's carry takedown and double legs and kept Mosh down with his weight, but Mosh was no pushover on the mat. I've never thought of Headbanger Mosh as someone with amateur wrestling tendencies in the ring, so it was cool to watch him not go limp on takedowns and throws. He was taken down with a reverse waistlock and kept fighting to his right and actually almost pulled off a go behind on Severn! It really looked like Severn wasn't expecting it and they both kind of awkwardly tumbled into the ropes. Severn threw him with a couple of cool rolling gutwrench suplexes, and Mosh kept trying to slow the momentum of them, only making them look cooler and fought for. Mosh even got a big arcing takedown while Severn was distracted, and Severn nearly took a huge head drop off it, like he was Misawa taking a big German. I really dug the two grappling on their feet, ending with Severn throwing what looked like a shoot bodyslam, then doing a similar lift into a powerslam before trapping the arm. The only actual strike that was thrown was a kneelift from Severn. Well, there was a really terrible punch thrown on the floor, when Thrasher took out Cornette with a punch that landed somewhere around Cornette's elbow. You give Severn and Mosh two more minutes, and you come out with something better than the majority of the shootstyle indy matches from this current craze. 



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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Montreal! Henker! Corn! Leduc! Schmidt! Frisuk! Viracocha! Tejero! Ben Chemoul! Bordes!

Inca Viracocha/Anton Tejero vs Rene Ben Chemoul/Walter Bordes 1/18/73

MD: This was exceptional. So many of these Ben Chemoul and Bordes tags (and Ben Chemoul and Cesca for the six matches we have of them together before Bordes) are so, so good that it's hard to rank them but this has to be towards the top of the list. Viracocha did everything well, but Tejero was just an amazing big bumping base that had the visual of being almost Brazo like to really put it over the top. This match might set some sort of record for bumps over the top and to the floor or off the apron as Tejero just went over again and again in the first third, Bordes got absolutely killed in the second, and then the heels got their comeuppance in the last. There were some absolutely amazing sequences like Bordes getting lawn darted and bouncing into the front row only to come back on the second attempt at it with cartwheels and dropkicks as he bounded around the ring and took out both opponents.

The heat was strong and meaningful, cutting off the ring and taking out first Ben Chemoul and then Bordes, who had his back just demolished with whips and creative tosses to the floor and a huge backbreaker. He had a great bit of hope in there as he fought back in but over shot on a flying body press and got stamped out. Then the comeback was fiery and full of revenge and the final fall was hugely entertaining including a great spot where they crushed the ref between the two Peruvians and a high energy finish where Bordes leaped to the top and got his flying body press. I don't really see how this could be any better considering what they were trying to accomplish.

PAS: This was really great, felt like a classic lucha match, with Viracoeha and Tejero as big bumping, big stooging rudos, and the Chemoul and Bordes iconic technicos. Bordes was bumping big and I loved his big KO right hand, and when he went wild and started cartwheeling and flipping all over the ring. Tejero spent more time flying out of the ring then in it almost, and Bordes especially just got tossed everytime he hit the floor. Totally breezy 30 minutes, really something nearly any wrestling fan can enjoy. 

Mr. Montreal vs Der Henker 2/10/73?

MD: Big time heavyweight clash here. Henker was a big powerhouse but so was Montreal. Early on they played it up with Henker jamming Montreal's mares and headlock takeovers in a way I'm not sure I've ever seen before. It took a shoulder block (also jammed) and a rushing headbutt to the gut to even get him into a position where the headlock takeover worked. This might have been methodological at times, but there was always that sense of struggle. The first half of this was really the two of them trading holds with neither getting an advantage. Eventually Henker's inside shots won out and he did take over with nerveholds and rabbit punches. Montreal came back big, dropkicking Henker out and tossing him around the ring, but he overstretched by going to the mask. That let Henker toss him out and post him and the writing was on the wall after that. While Montreal didn't bleed, he did sell it all well enough to really get over that it was the beginning of the end. The appeal in a match like this is that guys that are bigger and stronger are showing the technical prowess. There were less in-and-out escapes but they played up the power and the struggle instead, and Montreal did go up and over out of a top wristlock into a headscissors. It was just the right amount of flash to go along with the hammering blows and the just overwrought enough battling over a test of strength or full nelson.

Jacky Corn/Gilbert LeDuc vs Daniel Schmidt/Janek/Jean Frisuk 2/10/73?

MD: This is our first look at Schmidt and the first time we've seen Frisuk (Fryziuk, called Yanek here) in ten years. And this was very good. In part it almost felt like a throwback to the 50s with some of the holds, some of the spots, and the absolute slugfest that it devolved into again and again. Schmidt and Frisuk played de facto heels, Schmidt young and spry with as much energy as anyone we've seen in this footage other than Bollet maybe, and Frisuk older, a little slower on some spots, but still able to throw fists (or forearms as it was) and grind down. I say de facto because it was clean, with LeDuc and Corn helping Frisuk up after winning the second fall and all hands getting raised after the third. They had taken the first by capitalizing quite mercilessly on Corn going over the top and when the hot tag came in the second, it was very hot. Corn and Leduc were some of the best sluggers in wrestling history and they got more than their share of revenge with one big shot after the next. Down the stretch, it was all parties firing off on each other. Basically, if you enjoy watching wrestlers throw hands, this is one of the best matches in many a year from the footage for it.

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Monday, May 16, 2022

AEW Five Fingers of Death: Week of 5/9 - 5/15

AEW Dynamite 5/11

CM Punk vs. John Silver

MD: Interesting match due to the crowd not quite being as anti-Punk as was likely expected. While there were clearly some planned callback spots, namely Silver hitting the backslide early and then rolling through when Punk tried it later and the tornado DDT spots (two attempts tossed off, the second with Silver landing on his feet and then a back twisting one that Silver fudged a little but not hugely to the detriment of the match), a good chunk felt called too. Punk made sure to give everything impressive and impactful in the match to Silver. When he had Silver beat him to a pulp in the corner, the fans stopped being so split and got behind Silver. Later on, during the break, when it was Punk's time to be in charge, it was with slow and methodological offense and he drew chants about Chicago pizza being terrible and PG Punk, which he reacted to, garnering more heat. Still, the crowd wanted to cheer for him and by the time he'd fought back in the end and was hanging out on the apron, things were split again, which makes it all the more impressive the boos he got for using the Buckshot. It was never about Punk being an over the top heel, just the little things that shifted the hearts of the crowd.



Jeff Hardy vs. Darby Allin 

Phil covered this over at the Ringer.

MD: Even with that in mind, I'm not entirely sure what to say about a match like this in 2022. It was weirdly minimalist in as there were not that many spots, not that many interactions, but every single one had a huge impact. It went maybe twelve minutes but it felt somehow infinite and instant at the same time. My favorite part of the Fish vs Hardy qualifying match was Matt working the apron as a corner man and keeping the crowd focused and on point. There was none of that here. It was all climbing and set up and then payoff. 90% of the harm done in the match was self-inflicted. That said, even in a promotion full of big stunts, and big Sting stunts at that, the leap off the ladder stood out and should be memorable for at least months to come if not years. The first replay angle was remarkable. Jeff didn't catch as well as you'd hope but it was like losing a fly ball in the lights. That was Jeff's body language. That was the height differential between them. Jeff's physical charisma and his full body selling has been developed and honed over decades and Darby's one of the best today in emoting the impact of damage done; that combination meant that everything resonated and meant something even if it never coalesced into an overall story. You believed that they would try to one-up each other until the end of the world or until their joints and bones turned to dust, and you sort of believe the finish, that Jeff realized that nothing was going to stop Darby and the only way to save both of them was to break the code of daredevils and sneak in a pin, pressing Darby against the ladder after the coffin drop. I don't know. The match was a pretty good trick but I never need to see them do it again.


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Saturday, May 14, 2022

On Brand Segunda Caida: Vince McMahon

Vince McMahon/Steve Austin vs. The Rock/D-Lo Brown WWF Raw 5/11/98

ER: This was only the second time Vince put himself in a match on Raw, here as Austin's surprise partner. That means Vince was going to stay on the apron the entire time while Austin fought the Nation by himself for nearly 10 minutes. There was no chance Vince was going to do any exchanges with the Rock or D-Lo, although it would have been hilarious in retrospect if D-Lo Brown was the guy tasked with working Vince through exchanges in maybe his first ever match. Peak babyface Austin can do a match like this in his sleep and make it look good, and the crowd stays into every single movement he does the entire match. Vince is limited to a real wrestling strength of his: smirking on the apron like a guy who has it all figured out, every time Austin starts getting outgunned. 

Vince comes in to distract the ref and prevent an Austin tag, wearing his stupid bodybuilding pants while directing Patterson and Brisco. They're smart and don't have any long extended heat segment on Austin, so he always feels like a guy flying back into frame once you think the fight has been broken up. He cuts D-Lo off with an unexpected Thesz press, throws Rock to the floor, conks Patterson and Brisco's heads together, hits Rock with a mean clothesline on the metal ramp (with Rock bumping it on his shoulders like a lunatic), and Austin fighting against the odds was always a very entertaining role for him to shine within. The match ending bedlam was great, with Austin hitting D-Lo with a stunner, Vince coming into the ring and finally getting physically involved by pasting Austin with a stiff arm lariat. Patterson and Brisco try to hold Austin for McMahon but he fights them off (Brisco takes this great flipping bump after Austin punches him away), and suddenly Dustin Rhodes of all people comes out to fight the Nation with DX coming in close behind as we fade out. I remember watching this show with my friends in high school and all of us lost it during the main. All we wanted was Austin kicking ass and handing out stunners. 


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Friday, May 13, 2022

Found Footage Friday: MASAMI~! KANDORI~! TENRYU~! FUYUKI~! TIGER~! LEWIN~?!

Devil Masami vs. Shinobu Kandori JWP 1/16/89

MD: I'm missing some context on this one as most of the Kandori I've seen was later on, but there's a lot you can pick up from the text alone. The first couple of minutes of the match were about her making herself seen by Masami. She starts by putting out a hand only for Masami to refuse to shake it. They lock up but Masami overpowers her and casually hits her with a butterfly suplex, really just dropping her. So Kandori works her into the ropes on the next lock up and starts to slap her repeatedly. After the first, Masami sees her, and after the third or fourth she really sees her. Kandori got what she wanted but soon learns to regret it as Masami powers her immediately into a dangerous back drop, but Kandori was ready to take the punishment and is able to maneuver her into a crossface chicken wing and by that point, they have a real match going (Masami gets out by biting Kandori's wrist and Kandori answers with kicks to the spine, if you were wondering just what sort of match).

The beating that followed was fairly hellacious and one-sided. Kandori would occasionally slip out, pry off a leg, and try to do some damage, but even then Masami eventually had enough and tried to tear apart Kandori's leg for revenge. They went back and forth as the match went on, but always with Masami having a clear advantage, and always with Kandori having to slip out and over to get in a bomb of her own. Usually that came in the form of going back to the leg. Meanwhile, every big impact was made all the more thunderous by Kandori leaning in as hard as humanly possible. Her selling was consistent pain. Masami's on the other hand, appeared when it was most meaningful, especially as they rushed to the finish. Again, I can't put this thing in context, but on its own it stands up extremely well.



Genichiro Tenryu vs. Hiromichi Fuyuki WAR 11/8/93

MD: Tenryu and Fuyuki were stablemates here, but I think even more so than that, they were two guys who knew each other so well in the ring, even if they hadn't matched up all that many times. Fuyuki knew everything about Tenryu and that's why he got dirty first with a stomp and a suplex and holds. He knew he had to in order to get the advantage he needed. Likewise, there was such subsequent tension when Tenryu escaped and had his back, had him up against the ropes. You, the viewer, like Fuyuki, the about-to-be victim, knew the other shoe was about to drop. It was just exactly when and how and Tenryu wrestled as if he was acutely aware of that tension and anticipation.

And the payoff came, because it was inevitable. A shoulder block and a series of these peppering, flicking kicks. The price sufficiently paid, Tenryu was happy to settle back into a Greco-Roman knucklelock but Fuyuki was going to keep stepping over the line (as he must if he was to have any chance at victory and to prove his worth as a man. And Tenryu was there over and again to put him back in his place as only he could. It was when Fuyuki finally pushed Tenryu, finally got him to go for the second rope elbow instead of reverting back to another knucklelock that he was able to capitalize, but even that couldn't last for long, for Tenryu was always back up, always rushing back at him clothesline or powerbomb or a simple shove onto the back of his head at the ready. Still, Fuyuki was no longer a young man. He had size and resilience and an understanding of his mentor's techniques and he hung even in the face of the storm, right up until the point that it blew him away. But not before reaffirming Tenryu's respect for him, however, and maybe that was all that really mattered in the end.



Super Tiger vs. Mark Lewin UWF 9/8/84

MD: If you look at the list of foreigners in UWF (even early UWF), Lewin has to be up there as one of the oddest stylistically. There are Takada and Maeda matches that I've never seen (and I have seen Meltzerian claims that Takada's win over Lewin was a big deal for Takada and UWF, but all I can say for sure is that Phil didn't like it much); I really need to go back for those but this one was pretty out there. Lewin didn't change up his act in the least. It began with Super Tiger throwing a lightning fast kick and Lewin recoiling back wondering just what he had gotten into and it doesn't really look back. Lewin sells all of Tiger's holds like he's wrestling Dusty in Florida, big broad selling. Late in the match he even lets himself get tossed off the top rope. The best bit of that is when the tiger feint gets him in the face and he starts climbing the guardrail in fury. On offense, he's clubbering with stomps, throwing ridiculous karate chops, and yes, gets behind Tiger with the dreaded nervehold. And Sayama is left to try to figure out if he's going to break the illusion by not selling or if he's going to break the illusion by selling. He chooses the latter and I'm not at all sure it was the right decision. The finish, both impressive and merciful is Super Tiger actually getting him up for the tombstone and after the match Lewin goes full maniac and starts dismantling the ring. All of this left me wishing we had the Fujiwara matches from this tour, but I doubt they were as bizarre as this.



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Thursday, May 12, 2022

On Brand Segunda Caida: Dirtbag Era Barry Windham


Barry Windham/Jeff Jarrett vs. Legion of Doom WWF Raw 2/9/98

ER: How did I not remember the killer fast working cutthroat big bumping tag team of Jeff Jarrett and Barry Windham? I very much remember the bad NWA reboot, but forgot we got an actual cool tag team from that, where Jarrett looked flat out the best he ever looked (work wise, look wise, everything). This is a straight up 1985 NWA style tag match taking place on 1998 WWF TV, and it's great. Windham and Jarrett were an awesome team that didn't get enough of a chance, and this whole tag played like a stiff old guy brawl. LOD and Windham are all 38 and up, which was old for this era WWF. But Hawk worked stiff the whole match, dropping Windham with a heavy Thesz press and punching him right in the ear, and later throwing chops to Jarrett that looked like backhands right across Jarrett's face. Windham bumped around for LOD but also gave right back, hitting a couple great lariats and his best punch of the match right on the floor while close to some fans. The crowd was lit up for LOD the whole match. Neither Hawk or Animal were working any complicated power spots here, but they were working quick and throwing themselves into punches and shoulderblocks. Two big dudes in face paint running into people is almost always going to be enough. Cornette comes out and we get a hard racket shot, and Bradshaw runs out and looks as pissed and dangerous as peak Stan Hansen. This was great TV tag wrestling.


Barry Windham vs. Bradshaw WWF Raw 3/23/98

ER: THE BLACKJACKS EXPLODE!! WWF bringing back the NWA for a few months in early '98 was really weird, and I'm pretty sure I remember that it was all just to make fun of Cornette, so who's to say who the bad guy is here. We get a pretty cool mini video package before this match, something they don't do now as interestingly as they did here, and definitely not as efficiently. Within a 20 second video they had already explained why the Blackjacks broke up, how Barry was jealous of Bradshaw, showed several clips of Bradshaw murdering people, Bradshaw chasing Barry up the ramp after interference, and then we cut back to a smug dirty blonde Windham waiting in the ring. They had me at Hello. This feels like a match that would have fit nicely onto the WM14 card, though I get why it was not on the card. Windham seems pretty broken down by this point, which is weird as he was somewhat resurgent not too much later in WCW. Still, this was 3 fun minutes with a dozen different moments of two giant dudes smacking each other with vests and chaps. Seriously, I'm pretty sure half of this match was them removing their respective vests and chaps, and smacking the other a few times with each removal. Take off a vest, smack your opponent with it. Get them chaps off, smack your opponent with them. It's the 2019-present LA Park formula and it works, as documented here 20 years prior. Barry is moving a little slow and those knees seem to be barking, but he takes a couple of awesome bumps into the ring steps, getting run knees first in nasty fashion, eats a big boot from Bradshaw and falls into them again. Windham hits a cool DDT in the ring and we get a goofus roll up finish. You have Windham and Bradshaw in there, at least let one of these two hit their diving lariat! 


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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

There's a Picture Opposite Me, of Andre's Primitive Ancestry


ER: This was released on WWF's...um... Unreleased DVD, and just look at that body language Andre is giving off before the bell. I love how the man leans into the ropes, love how the cameras cut back to him during Demolition's entrance to clearly show him rolling his eyes with a "These fucking guys" expression. Haku and Demolition throw down, with body blows and bad punches and a great missed Haku headbutt right into the mat. Demolition starts frequently switching out of the match, not making tags, just being annoying. It leaves Andre in the amusing position of complaining to the referee to restore some order. I don't know why it's so entertaining seeing Andre having a very normal conversation with the referee, but the whole situation kills me. Demolition is running in and out of the ring battering Haku with axe handles, and the largest man anybody in the arena has ever seen is standing in the middle of the apron arguing with the ref like he's on the phone with Comcast asking a question about his bill. "Well I'm asking you what the charge is for. No, that's what I said, I'm asking you." 

If I go to the doctor's office and the largest human I have ever seen is having a plain boring disagreement with the receptionist, it might be the funniest thing I will ever witness. "Well they told me my appointment was at 11. It's 11:25 and I have somewhere I need to be at noon. Yes, I understand how you can't control how long each patient exam takes, but I was told to be here 15 minutes before my appointment...Yes, Yes I understand that, but...Okay well the interference and illegal tags are literally happening right behind you...No I am telling you that...you know what, fine. I'll just grab my little rope in the corner."

Demolition has a lot of phony tough guy offense, a lot of stomping to cover up that their strikes never look that good, but let me just say that ALL of Ax's stomping clubbing punches to Haku's neck looked great, and Haku finally creates some space by catching Smash deep under the chin with a superkick, finally leading to our actual Andre involvement. Andre's control is very brief, literally standing on Smash before falling to his butt on a missed sit down splash. Once Andre is prone on his back, that's when Demolition can run wild, beating on a gigantic man who can't seem to turn himself over, a 180 year old tortoise getting stomped and axe handled. Let me tell you, Ax choking Andre and bouncing him up and down on the bottom rope is one helluva visual, right hand wrapped around Andre's throat (choking Andre with just ONE HAND!), Andre's head and shoulders draped over the bottom rope. But it's dangerous just working offense on Andre without sticking and moving, and Ax finds that out when he hits an elbowdrop and Andre just rolls over and starts to smother him. Ax made the foolish decision to lie down directly next to the wounded bear, and was somehow surprised when that bear just rolled over and wouldn't let go. Old Andre on offense is great, as he drops down with that butt splash (holding onto the middle rope for easy plopping), and I love how his eyes go wide with excitement when Haku smashes Ax's head into Andre's gigantic head. 

The finish run has a couple of my favorite ever Andre moments. The first is when he's holding Ax in the corner, pressing in with his butt, and when Ax tries to worm away from the expected Haku charge Andre just grabs Ax by the straps and throws him back into the corner like he's tossing a backpack into his car. I don't know if I ever saw Demolition's Cruising straps used against them and here's Andre just throwing that man by them like it's nothing. Right after that we get an even more incredible Andre moment, one that showcases how much better his physical acting was than any other wrestler's: After throwing Ax by the straps, Andre immediately begins talking shit to Smash, rubbing it in that he and Haku were wasting the old man, without realizing that Haku missed the avalanche. When he notices this and sees Ax crawling away like an escaped lobster, he yells out Hey! the way a giant yells Hey! and then just kicks Ax in the ribs.

Demolition's hot tag is strong, starting with Haku running into a hard Ax back elbow and taking a high backdrop for Smash. Andre drops down into the ropes in a cool way off a Smash clothesline, and a Demolition tandem lariat staggers him and drops him to his butt. Sadly, the finish is a bad one, just Demolition taking the Colossal Connections' belts and using them as a weapon in full view of the ref, Andre getting the hell out of the arena without even considering retrieving that belt. The concierge service, you see, takes care of that. 



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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Ben Chemoul! Bordes! Lagache! Grelha! Saulnier! Renault!

Brief programming note: I've updated the Master List. It should be easier to search for a wrestler, or, once we get past the first year or so, to see things mostly chronologically. Feel free to share it widely and reply if you think we have any name or date or anything else wildly wrong.

Rene Ben Chemoul/Walter Bordes vs Pierre Lagache/Grelha Le Portugais 7/17/72 

MD: This isn't my favorite Ben Chemoul/Bordes match. It was one fall, which is often a plus but this was a long fall without a lot of drama and having the heels take a fall might have actually helped here. You can't judge these French matches against southern tags. It's a different thing in a different place from a different time in front of a different crowd with a different style. It becomes less about transitions and the tension between hope spots and cutoffs and the build to comeback then and more about ebbs and flows and how compelling the action is. It's about the engagement of the wrestlers with one another, the engagement of the crowd, the struggle of the holds, the cleverness of the spots, the personalities and skill and snugness.

Some of that worked out here, but some of it didn't. Lagache comes off as a smaller Bernaert to me, capable, able to base during fast action and for acrobatic escapes to holds, with the right put upon and sour attitude, especially in how he interacts with his partner and the crowd. He was fine. I wasn't overly impressed with Grelha (Maybe Grella?) though. He had the look right, a sort of caveman Mocho Cota (not quite Barbaro Cavernario unless he was the drunken mall Santa version of him). He'd bump over the top eagerly, would stooge well, occasionally had some good clubbering or stomping, but it just wasn't enough. The commitment wasn't fully there, the offense wasn't interesting enough, and he was too low on the overall weirdness scale. I've seen Lagache team with N'Boa against Ben Chemoul and Cesca and Grelha here was no N'Boa, at least not on this night. He paired better with Ben Chemoul who had a bit more theatricality in what he did and there were a couple of fun and unique spots like a catapult into the ref or Ben Chemoul and Bordes tying his hair into the ropes to trap him. In the end though, the stylists probably took too much of this and were never quite in enough danger. The one time the bad guys took over was due to drawing a public warning with blatant cheating and I liked that, and in some ways, it did set up them getting DQed at the end for running out of chances, but this either needed more drama or more shtick over all.

Michel Saulnier vs Guy Renault 10/9/72

SR: 1 fall match going about 25 minutes. They wrestled for a big golden trophy in this, and damn the wrestling here deserved a trophy. Beautiful beautiful match. Saulnier is certainly making an amazing case for himself with every appearance. The wrestling didn‘t have the kind of flips or whackiness like the more attention-drawing catch, but their movements were poetry in motion, each throw and running sequence executed to perfection. It‘s really amazing what you can do with armdrags, headlock takeovers and headscissors and varying them slightly. They worked all these really fast throws and ran the ropes, then settled it working control segments building to more elaborate counter sequences, then back to throws and rope running, all seamless. Just the kind of ebb and flow structure you want from a mat classic. Saulnier seemed to overwhelm the taller Guy Renault initially, so Renault worked a segment controlling him with a headlock which has to be one of the greatest headlock control segments I‘ve seen in a long time, maybe ever. Renault started hitting Saulnier with these flying headbutts and drew some boos from the crowd, then Saulnier fired back with a tope of his own that knocked both guys down and felt truly epic. Saulnier made beautiful comebacks and went for broke when it was time to hit european uppercuts. Tempers flare a bit with guys ending up in stalemates and in the ropes and taking offense, but they kept working a clean match but amping the stakes building to the eventual conclusion. These two really looked like masters of the style here, never a slip up in anything they did and they worked this with such a pace that I have serious doubts any two workers in the world right now could rival them. Great great match, every once in a while I go back to check in on French Catch and end up being immeasurably happy that we have this stuff.

MD: This was a title match for a European Super Lightweight title. It felt more special for it and for the fact that Renault's wife and kids were at ringside. They cut to them a few times, though the kids didn't seem super interested and the wife was spoken to fairly deep into the match when Saulnier was grinding his face into Renault's cheek on a hammerlock. Renault was billed a Teddy Boy and was bigger, but he wrestled this more cleanly than we'd seen him in the past. While it got intense at times, it did have that traditional title match feel.

And for the first half of it, I got a little worried we jumped the gun on the 1972 MOTY as it was really sharp action, holds worked in and out of, just excellent stuff. They'd build to faster and faster spots and more and more complex escapes and then fall right back into the hold. That included a lot of fast pin exchanges and rope running, high level stuff of the sort that felt novel with Savage vs Steamboat if only because people hadn't seen Saulnier vs Renault. Some of these were put together with clever and meaningful bookends that utilized repetition in a way you don't usually see in this footage. They may have actually overdid it a bit because it was somewhat evident that they were low on gas by the midway point. At that point, there were some leglocks by Renault that weren't nearly as compelling as what they had lead with. They both picked the pace back up and got a lot chippier in their shots by the end but it was a title match worked clean and it never quite boiled over, instead ending on a series of quick pin attempts. Still this was very, very good and fairly different to what we've been seeing at this point in the early 70s.

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Monday, May 09, 2022

AEW Five Fingers of Death: Week of 5/2 - 5/8

AEW Dynamite 5/4

Blackpool Combat Club (Bryan Danielson/Jon Moxley/Wheeler Yuta) vs Andrade Family Office (Angelico/Butcher/Blade)

MD: This is the first of these trios matches where I came off as a little underwhelmed. It just needed another minute or two, maybe. Angelico got to do one tricked out submission on Danielson and Danielson responded by kicking the soul out of him in the corner, but it wasn't the 90 second exchange on the mat that we've been itching for since Danielson came into the company. That said, as a cliff notes version of the sort of match you'd want, everyone still got to highlight what makes them special. It's just that no one got to do a whole lot of it. Moxley got to toss Blade around the ringside area (and Blade got to get tossed around). Butcher got to be a brick wall against Yuta and Yuta got to scrap against everyone and then fight from underneath, with the fans plenty happy to chant for him. By far this was the best use of his through the legs theatrics. Again, it shouldn't be in every match and he can do it as part of a feeling out opening exchange, but it's way more effective used to build to a hot tag now and again, with a guy like Butcher perfect to use it against. Still, hopefully we get that ten minute Dark match between Angelico and Danielson at some point.

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Saturday, May 07, 2022

2020 Ongoing MOTY List: Gallus vs. Burch/Lorcan

54. Wolfgang/Mark Coffey vs. Danny Burch/Oney Lorcan NXT UK 1/18 (Aired 2/13/20) (Ep. #79)

ER: It's been fun going through all of NXT UK, and I'm not at the point where I'm starting to see the very first matches I saw of them. NXT UK bringing in Lorcan, Ohno, Kendrick, etc. was what originally got me to watch, and this match was my first time seeing Coffey and Wolfgang, who have turned into two of my five favorite NXT UK wrestlers. I watched this a couple years ago, and I loved it even more two years later. 78 episodes have already shown Wolfgang to be easily one of the best in the fed, but this match might be his greatest showcase yet. It's also a real fine showcase for Danny Burch, meaning his two greatest WWE performances just might have been this tag match and an NXT UK tag match vs. The Hunt shown two weeks prior but taped just the day before this tag. I'm not sure what Danny Burch was on that weekend in January, but I'm here for it. 

This was a hot 10 minutes that peaked with a heat section on Lorcan that built to a fiery Burch hot tag, but the whole thing had a nice back and forth energy. The Gallus takeover was so well done, executed in a way I haven't seen: Lorcan was going off battering Coffey and Wolfgang, running attacks on them in opposite corners, until Coffey grabs Lorcan with a rear waistlock after getting nailed, pulls Lorcan backwards into the corner, allowing Wolfgang to come flying across the ring with a high crossbody into Lorcan's upper chest. Wolfgang is great at using his body as a weapon, as he flies out of the ring hitting that crossbody and comes roaring back in with a divebomb elbowdrop to a sitting up Lorcan, and later dives into a seated Lorcan with a senton. 

Wolfgang is great at creating space, a great guy to work with Lorcan. I loved how it looked when Lorcan leapt for a tag and Wolfgang caught him over his shoulder to drag him back over to the Gallus corner. The visual was a nice preview of Wolfgang scooping Burch over his shoulder for the match ending powerslam later on. When Burch does tag in it's awesome, knocking Wolfgang off the apron (with a nasty bump to the floor by Wolfie), muscling Coffey over with a German and holding onto the waistlock, then pulling Coffey into a headbutt. There were some real fine pinfall saves by both teams, those fun pinfall dogpiles that get one guy shoved painfully on top of a pin, and I'm kind of a sucker for when the camera shows the pinfall and leaves an obstructed view of the man about to break up that pin. Wolfgang takes Lorcan out of the match with a wild spear through the ropes and too the floor and gets back in to scoop Burch into that powerslam. A week before this match Wolfgang/Coffey worked one match in the NXT Dusty Tag Classic, and then this match against the future NXT tag champs. This was a killer glimpse at what it would have been like to see Gallus working with other WWE and NXT teams instead of being kept in the UK bubble, and it's a shame we never saw more of it. 



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Friday, May 06, 2022

Found Footage Friday: TIGER~! MAEDA~! FUJIWARA~! KIDO~! TENRYU~! KABUKI~! MOCHIZUKI~! FUKUDA~!

Yoshiaki Fujiwara/Osamu Kido vs Super Tiger/Akira Maeda UWF 10/5/84-GREAT

MD: You could more or less sum this one up as two of the most dynamic offensive wrestlers of all time against two of the greatest defensive ones, though that would be understating Kido and Fujiwara, both in general and in this match. It's undeniable that Tiger and Maeda were the aggressors here for the most part though, constantly driving forward, constantly throwing kicks and suplexes and leaps from the top, all with varying levels of complexity. Meanwhile, Kido and Fujiwara would get battered, would endure, would capitalize on a mistake or create an opening and would fire back, Kido with forearms or Fujiwara with his headbutts, only to get cut off once again. The magic of this style and the magic of the Fujiwara/Kido team is that you know that no matter how thoroughly Maeda and Tiger might run up the score all it would take one moment, one mistake, one opportunity for Kido to escape or Fujiwara to win the day. So while you watched the cumulative damage rack up, the tension always increased. Unfortunately, the finish was almost perfectly clipped to make it look like Fujiwara was pure magic, but you can connect the dots in your head to figure out how they got there. Still, a little frustrating after almost thirty minutes, but you can hardly fault the journey for a technical blip upon arriving at the destination.

PAS: New Fujiwara is basically Christmas for me, and especially this period where he was smack dab in the middle of his prime, lots of tiny little moments of genius from him, along with some great stuff from Kido who is kind of the Dick Slater to Fujiwara's Terry Funk. The highlight of this match for me was Super Tiger, I have no time at all for NJPW Sayama, but UWF Sayama, a Sayama where he just embraced his inner crowbar was perfection. He is just killing Kido and Fujiwara with sick unpulled kicks to the head and stomach and some uncalled for jumping knees, at one point he splits Fujiwara with a knee, and we get see our guy Yoshiaki work his way through the blood in his eyes. So amazing that there is still new HH from 1984 which just show up on the internet on a random Tuesday


Genichiro Tenryu vs. Great Kabuki WAR 11/9/93

MD: As a general rule, I prefer Kabuki in tag matches over singles. He's great at coming in and disrupting things, with two of the great sudden strikes in wrestling history between his uppercut and the cut off kick to the face, but sometimes he has a tendency to take a relatively short singles match and eat up too much time with holds when you'd rather see him scrapping. I wasn't too worried about that here since he was up against Tenryu so you know that one, the holds will all be full of struggle and two, eventually, Tenryu will get him up and to the ropes and will throw some killer chops. Then, you know, Kabuki will come back with the uppercut and things will be off to the races. That's what happened here after a methodological start. It bled into mid match heat where Tenryu got roughed up on the outside and a great comeback where he blocked the uppercut and drove forward with the sumo palm strikes across the ring. Finishing stretch was Tenryu overwhelming Kabuki and Kabuki just getting points for surviving as long as he did. Nothing overly surprising here, but you don't watch something like this for a surprise. You watch it to see Kabuki and Tenryu hit each other repeatedly.

SR: These two could have just punched and kicked each other and done some staredowns and it would‘ve been a quite good match, but we got something more neat here. Tenryus resume of great houseshow matches is for sure impressive. We get a fun opening with Kabuki trying to stand up to Tenryu with his great uppercuts, and Tenryu just chops and lariats him in the throat with Kabuki sells passionately. Tenryu seems to have this in the bag easily but then Kabuki catches him with a surprise thrust kick and Tenryu tumbles outside. Immediately a bunch of Heisei Ishingun goons start swarming Tenryu and brawling with his seconds. Tenryu eats chair shots while Kabuki cuts a promo. Back in the ring Tenryu is bleeding and Kabuki takes him apart punching and kicking the cut. Tenryu is able to snap a Fujiwara armbar but has to let go of the hold because his blood is blinding him in a really neat moment. Tenryus facial expressions and body language are outstanding even on a blurry handheld. His exhausted surprise abisegiris were really cool, also. Great little match due to structure and grit.


Masaaki Mochizuki vs. Masakazu Fukuda Yume Factory 8/4/98

MD:  This went a little over 11 minutes but I wouldn't necessarily call it a sprint. There was just a bit too much substance to it for that. Mainly, it was Mochizuki's kicks against Fukuda's throws (and general sense of resilience because Mochizuki struck first and frequently), but what I loved the most about it was how well it implemented pro wrestling tropes or spots to make them feel organic and natural. Mochizuki would cycle his brutal kicks right into a ten punch in the corner. The match turned on him missing a clothesline into the post but it wasn't telegraphed or set up or winking. Nothing about it felt like a spot, but instead a thing that just happened to occur during this fight. Tack on to that a really strong finishing stretch with a few near-falls that got me and you get a great hidden gem.

SR: This thing getting uploaded by the cameraman almost 25 years later has to be a near miracle, but then we‘ve seen a lot of miracles by now when it comes to highly improbable things ending up on the internet. This was a great striker vs. grappler matchup. Seeing Mochizuki here makes one sour that he retired to Dragon Gate, as he was throwing kicks and hands in a totally unpredictable and non-choreographed way here that was really cool, coupled with some swank agility. Fukuda's style is really unique, he is this lanky tall guy who just glues himself to opponents when he grabs them and drags them into his throws and submissions. He also absolutely rattled Mochizukis shit with a nasty dropkick and some stiff strikes, but Mochizuki kept firing back. The match had a few Hondaish moments, at one point Mochizuki went for a punch to Fukuda and Fukuda attached himself to Mochis arm and dragged him into another hold. When Mochizuki went to recuperate Fukuda just dragged him over the ropes and threw him, with Mochizuki landing hard on all his throws. This was to the point and absolutely no nonsense with both guys giving each other little space a nd all the offense looking like it required zero cooperation, I get WYF was a niche indy back then, but this kind of indy match is a real breath of fresh air these days.

PAS: This was really cool, Fukuda has kind of a tragic story, but he was on his way to being one of the coolest Japanese wrestlers of the 90s. I just love how he would clasp and throw Mochizuki. Always finding cool ways to cut off Mochi's flurries of offense. Mochizuki is pretty great here, as he is just a kicking machine and not a spot guy. His big kicks meshed really nicely with Fukuda's grappling, and you never got a sense of who was going over and the finishing slam by Fukuda was a great coup de grace on a very exciting finish run. Really makes me want to see more WYF stuff. 

 

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Thursday, May 05, 2022

Big Bad John...Was Not a Threat to Andre



ER: Let's soak in a couple of great pro wrestling looks before the bell: Big Bad John is in his studded jacket and German helmet, Andre is in what I can only assume is the largest fringe leather vest ever sewn. It's like Andre wanted his own Bob Orton vest, and this same vest would go on to be Orton's full length sleeveless fringe ring robe (probably). Andre nudges John's jacket off the apron with his foot and gives him a comical salute, so John is in the right when he beats Andre over the head with his helmet and then throw a dozen knees towards his stomach and groin. Andre got so mad at being hit with the helmet that he tried to get it back from a vet attending ringside, and literally leaped out of the ring to the floor to retrieve it. John got the hell out of Dodge, showing why his name is not Big Dumb John. 

This whole thing is clipped to hell, but what we have is a nice glimpse at Andre against another big man. John really is big, not much shorter than Andre, with a body built on beer and fatty meats. He's a throwback to the days where your size - regardless of your shape - could give you an easy 10 years in wrestling. We miss a lot of his bumping, the clips maddeningly editing out a sequence of repeated shoulderblock attempts and opting instead to show us the two of them standing in the aftermath of the shoulderblocks. John is a messy bumper, but a guy his size shouldn't be someone who falls clean. His timing is strong, sitting up at the very last possible moment to dodge an Andre splash and stumbling amusingly over Andre in a sort of backdrop bump, even coming off the middle rope with an ugly splat on a missed splash. I liked the finish a lot too, with John hitting Andre with a hard shoulderblock and falling onto his back as a result. The impact shoves Andre back into the ropes and he falls forward directly onto John with a splash. Who knows what we missed and who knows whose choice it was for us to miss it with clips, but they are among the truly joyless. 



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Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Back in Japan, Big Boss Man

Big Boss Man vs. Mighty Inoue AJPW 7/2/93 - FUN

ER: This was Boss Man's first match back in Japan after many years in WWF, and we got a short, simple match, a first night of the tour showcase for him. It's fun seeing Boss Man doing his thing, but even more fun seeing Inoue's brief burst of offense before he got put down. Inoue flubbed the timing on Boss Man's big slide out of the ring-big boot-uppercut combo, rushing in too quickly, so he ran right past Boss Man's boot (though he hit knee so it wasn't bad) and then kind of stood there awkwardly waiting to take the windup uppercut. But Boss Man didn't flinch at the timing injustice and the crowd was into his enthusiasm. Weirdly I think my favorite part of that spot is the missed clothesline that sends him into the corner. He always cuts it super fast, something that would really murder someone if they weren't careful. 

Inoue was not a guy winning singles matches at this point (unless he was up against Eigen or Momota) but it was a great moment when he hit that flying headbutt on the Boss, then another. Boss Man staggered around really great for it, going down briefly to a knee and wobbling before going down hard for the second. Inoue's fast rolling senton is one of the prettiest and coolest moves in wrestling, and I'm not sure anyone did one better than him (including hundreds of luchadors). It's a cool little World of Sport injection into King's Road. It was a nice little run for Inoue that Boss Man both sold well, and also appropriately, when he easily bench pressed Inoue off at 2. The win was never in doubt. This was a "hey we got Boss Man back in All Japan" opening tour match, but it was fun as hell.


COMPLETE AND ACCURATE BOSS MAN IN JAPAN


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Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Catanzaro! Bernaert! Mantopolous! Montreal! Corn! Leduc! Henker!

Billy Catanzaro/Pierre Bernaert vs. Mr. Montreal/Vasilios Mantopolous 6/5/72

MD:  I'm amazed we didn't watch this one before. It could be that we saw it was a swimming pool match and decided against it because the few pool matches we've seen so far just haven't been great. This had a few things going for it though. First, it had Billy Catanzaro who is a singular, once in a century, stooging heel. It had Bernaert who is as professional a put upon bad guy as you'll find. It had Montreal who was one of the biggest positive surprises in all of the footage because even a muscle man, in France, was excellent. And of course, it had Mantopolous, who was imaginative, creative, deft, skilled, very over, whatever word you want to use, just a marvel. Even so, what made this work was that they treated the water like a big deal. The tag setting meant that Bernaert could get knocked out relatively early due to mishaps with his own partner, but they took twenty minutes teasing the reviled Catanzaro going out with any number of close calls. It ended up being a bit like an exploding ring match where they tease it and tease it and then finally pay it off, here with Mantopolous skinning the cat and taking Billy over, except for instead of pain and destruction it was a wet humiliation that Catanzaro was trying to avoid. The tag nature meant that Bernaert could suffer repeatedly and keep the fans happy and the gimmick fulfilled while the tension for Catanzaro finally crashing into the pool rose and rose. Once that happened they were already in the second fall and they could just keep building upon it.

There wasn't going to be much heat here. Some cheapshots, some tandem cheating, but it was almost always to set up immediate comeuppance for the bad guys. This was all about keeping the crowd happy and the interplay between Bernaert and Catanzaro was perfect for that. Catanzaro was a jerk's jerk, so much so that Bernaert, a jerk himself, was getting more and more furious at him. On the other side you had Montreal's strength spots and big hammering blows and Mantopolous flying around the ring, using tricked out takedowns, and lady in the lake turtling to make fools out of his opponents. This wasn't the most dramatic match we've seen but it was wildly entertaining the whole way through.


Gilbert Leduc/Jacky Corn vs. Der Henker 7/5/72

MD: This was actually a tremendous piece of business, maybe the most emotionally resonant match we've seen in the entire set. Corn and Leduc were true stars, wrestlers' wrestlers, absolutely tops on my list of babyfaces and stylists I've seen in this footage. They were heroes. Henker was another in the line of masked headsmen but he had an aura, hard shots, big power moves, believability. We'd seen him face off against Leduc and Corn in singles matches already and I wouldn't say anything in those made it inevitable that he could take on both in a handicap match, but they leaned harder into his power and presence here and laid out a match that caused a near riot and that left everyone looking better than they came in.

Early going here was Henker's power up against Corn or Leduc's skill. They would tag in and out and never double team or cheat. Leduc obviously made good use of his headstand and the Mascaras style headscissors. Corn would go quicker into the strike exchanges. Midway through the match, Henker was able to toss Corn out, to slam his head onto the post as he was trying to come back in, and then to drop him hard with a tombstone. The crowd banded together to carry Corn to the back leaving Leduc alone. Leduc did well at first, taking over and even going for the mask, but the ref held him back allowing for a Henker cheap shot and infuriating the crowd. From there, it was Henker slowly whittling Leduc down with big blows and power moves even as the crowd occasionally tried to storm the ring. Leduc would get pops every time he tried to get up, every time he threw a futile blow but Henker was just too much, or at least he was until, minutes down the line, Corn, head taped up, rushed back to the ring. He got the tag and the tide turned with Corn (one of the best late match sluggers ever) and eventually Leduc getting revenge on both Henker and the ref. From there, it was more about Henker surviving the onslaught and making it to the time limit draw, which, as I said, left everyone looking formidable and respectable by the end. The last shot is Corn and Leduc embracing to the crowd's delight. We've seen many matches that were technically better but maybe none that had more heart.

PAS: This was a blast. Henker is a big beastly dude, and I liked how the match built from more exchanges to big bursts of violence. You don't see much blood in French Catch and to see Corn just dripping after getting smashed by those nasty elbow/forearms and the posting was pretty memorable. Also the mass of people carrying him to the back like a martyred rebel leader was awesome. They had really established Henker as so formidable that LeDuc being one on one with him felt like he was at a big disadvantage. Corn coming from the back was iconic and his fired up comeback was some Lawler Mid-South Coliseum level great stuff. After all that I would have liked a more conclusive ending then a draw, but this was very cool stuff.  

ER: I wasn't sure what to expect from this as the handicap structure felt odd. Der Henker is a big man but not so much bigger than Leduc or Corn that a handicap match feels necessary, but these men had all been feuding for a year or more and this was two of the best babyfaces teaming up to rid France of this asshole Executioner. I'm used to German words sounding more ominous than their American counterparts, but I admittedly think that Executioner sounds much cooler than Der Henker. That said, tell every person in attendance that Der Henker doesn't sound ominous and they'd find you mad, as this man is loathed. I love when a French Catch match has these simmering social situations that just keep getting hotter until they boil over, leading women in their nice coats to charge the ring and yell in Der Henker's face.

Henker did a good job of fending off the fighting babyfaces, but things went up to the next level when he tossed Corn to the floor and posted him, then dropped him with a tombstone. Up to that point it had mostly been Henker defending and clubbing in response (with these weird but also cool elbow strikes that landed the entire inside of his arm and elbow across Corn and Leduc's heads), but this was an actual outright offense! The crowd actually carried the injured Corn to the back and I thought for sure that there was going to be a riot, as Der Henker had the stones to actually get out of the ring and face the crowd, more of them pushing closer to the ring every second. A kid, 12 years old tops, even starts to climb up the ring steps to get in before an adult grabs him! 

The match had given us a lot of holds to work out of and now was the time for the uppercuts to start landing. Henker kept winning exchanges, taking a lot of damage, but not staggering or falling to his knees, into the ropes the way Leduc was. Leduc's best attack was his cool slingshot into the ropes, Der Henker falling back hard - twice! - into the points of Leduc's knees. But Der Henker's excellent press slam gutbuster (a move that might have made me flip out even more than the French acrobatics, had I been alive and in attendance) and tombstone on made it seem like that bad guy was taking this, leading to the bloody and wild Corn returning to save his partner. The finishing stretch to the (admittedly disappointing but understandable) time limit draw was pure joy. Corn threw his closed fists to the side of Henker's head and really let loose with uppercuts. Der Henker got stuck in the ropes, the referee got monkey flipped into Der Henker, total madness leading to our draw. I loved how this kept building and leapt into something huge. 

 

ALL TIME MOTY LIST


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Monday, May 02, 2022

AEW Five Fingers of Death: Week of 4/25 - 5/1

AEW Dynamite 4/27

Blackpool Combat Club (Danielson/Moxley/Yuta) vs Factory (Marshall/Comoroto/Solo)

MD: I know some people are frustrated that Danielson isn't getting obscenely long singles matches anymore, but I'm generally into seeing him in these tags. I'm not entirely sure that I'm overly fascinated by 2022 Danielson's match layouts, but I do love seeing him in specific exchanges with varied opponents. I wish we had seen him really have one with either Comoroto or QT here but it was nice to see him beat Solo around the ring and dropkick him in the face as he came off the top. Then he had a killer tope out of nowhere on QT and Comoroto. Yuta (with his new Punch Out theme) got a hero's welcome in his hometown and both took most of the heat, always getting a chop back in whenever they tagged out on him (for as we all know, constantly trying to fight back is key for staying over during a heat segment) and then the finishing stretch where he survived and then overcame Comoroto, finally winning with the seatbelt, a bit of hierarchy which has definitely shifted over the last couple of months. Biggest new bit in the match were the tandem corner running bits by Moxley and Danielson though. They're in the tag rankings now and the act is solidifying. There's still a sense that they ended up together to cool one another down just a little so as not to overshadow Page, but it doesn't mean the matches aren't a blast.

AEW Rampage 4/29

Darby Allin vs Swerve Strickland

MD: There's maybe no one in wrestling that'll take the most convoluted route between points A and B than Strickland. Darby had the right amount of speed, familiarity, and agility to make it kind of work on this night though. Sometimes, if things go so far over the top, they come back around to where they ought to be. I'm not going to say that was true for every exchange here, but it was probably better than 50% which is honestly a huge credit and probably to both guys. I found myself fighting a small groan in the first half of an exchange and then coming around for the back half. That doesn't mean things like Swerve flipping to the floor or rolling about for no reason actually work though. At least when Darby jumped over him for the code red set up it was about positioning, but even that was kind of borderline. That said, the biggest spots, definitely worked. Strickland based perfectly for Darby's twist around stunner on the floor. The knee up on the dive was so fast and impactful that no one even knew what happened until the replay. Darby's grapevine of the leg out of the corner was beautiful and Strickland more or less sold appropriately from there on out. The suplex to the floor, despite being straightforward was grisly and put over appropriately, and then the banana peel finish with just a hint of Starks involvement worked for the match. Darby, through who he was and what he could do, ultimately made this work in a way almost no one else could do. I'm glad I probably won't have to write up another Strickland match for a while though.


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Sunday, May 01, 2022

Ain't No Chains to Hold Gulak In, to Hold Gulak To

Drew Gulak vs. Jaxson Ryker WWE Main Event 9/16/21 - GREAT


ER: The last time Gulak showed up in a match before this was also against Ryker, seven weeks earlier on this very program. This match was an improvement over their late July match, which saw Ryker work as a heel while being positioned as the babyface. Not a whole lot changed here, except Ryker seemed to understand that he was the babyface (however bizarre that choice might be) here, and Gulak plays a punishing heel well. The opening match lock-up was great, taken to all sides of the ring, and a nice way of establishing that this was not going to be a heavyweight steamrolling a cruiser. 

Ryker does much of the same offense he did several weeks prior, with a couple important changes that all work to get him face reactions from the crowd: Instead of hard bodyslams, he picks Gulak up for one and then shows him off to the crowd from different angles before slamming him, letting the reaction build before throwing him down and hitting a falling headbutt. Ryker even adds in a surprise rana off the top (not sure I've seen him use that before) to cement his babyface status to the Boston crowd, who has no problem rooting for guys who look like sentient Thin Blue Punisher window decals. 

The best parts of this were Gulak fighting his way back, as he throws some slashing knife edge chops (a stunned Ryker chops him back just as hard), and this great moment where Ryker runs into Gulak's boot and then Gulak wastes him with one of his all time finest lariats. Gulak knows how to make bigger moments (like that huge lariat) read so well, but I also loved little details he added throughout, like when he took a stiff shoulderblock and immediately grabbed for Ryker's leg, tying him up to halt momentum. This was a lightly tweaked version of their previous match, but it was tweaked in all the right ways.   



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Saturday, April 30, 2022

2002 Boss Man vs. Shawn Michaels(' cousin)

Big Boss Man vs. Michael Shane WWF Metal 2/23/02

ER: Sometimes you just need to see Big Boss Man punch Michael Shane and his weird neon Scott Hall gear around the ring for 3-4 minutes. Boss Man was smart about how to construct a squash match, where Shane wasn't really getting any offense, but his very limited offense built to something within the match. Boss Man worked a similar match against Hurricane, building to one Hurricane bodyslam that got a big crowd reaction, and here he builds a reaction for Shane without actually needing to. Most of the match is Boss Man throwing great knee strikes, using a kneelift to cut off potential charges, and later using a knee to the side of the head while Shane was getting up. 

He interacts with the crowd and encourages the Boss Man Sucks chants with his gotten-to eyes, and encourages them more when he rubs it in their face every time he knocks Shane down. He even goes for a pin and just gets up after a 1 count, not even lifting Shane. Our first peek at Shane offense looks awesome, as he hits a dropkick that sends Boss Man reeling into the bottom and middle ropes, and Boss Man springs back and just sidesteps the next dropkick. 

I love all of Boss Man's strikes, but after watching a lot of later era Boss Man my favorite might be his straight palm strike to the forehead. It's so great to see him rear back and then just palm a guy right above the bridge of the nose. Shane's big moment is good, and it gets a reaction because of the heat Boss Man was getting throughout, with Boss Man missing a hard chest first corner charge and Shane coming off the ropes with a flying forearm. Boss Man goes down, crowd cheers, Michael Shane gets a moment. Plenty of guys in Boss Man's shoes would not have given that moment, and I love how Shane gets fired up enough to do that forearm again and gets caught immediately with a Boss Man Slam. 



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Friday, April 29, 2022

Found Footage Friday: EDDIE~! CHAVO~! MANDO~! REY~! FIERA~! ESPANTO~! NAVARRO~!

Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero WWE 4/8/05

MD: 20 minutes or so, with Eddy bringing out a Make-A-Wish kid to begin and Carlito getting in his house show interaction with the two of them (and a bit of Torrie) at the end. So it's not the thirty minutes that the video suggests but it still gets a ton of time. Eddy and Rey were the tag champs together at this point so that made it feel even more special and timely for this week.

They use the time to really let things breathe, with Eddy attacking Rey's arm with a lot of different and varied holds. Maybe what I loved the most about this was how into it the crowd was based on the way they put over each bit of wrenching or cinching of a hold. Eddy would land a drop toe hold out of nowhere and the fans would "oooof" in unison. He'd do a headstand to tighten up a hammerlock and it'd lead to an "ooooh." You have to love that level of investment on even simple things. It is hard, sometimes, to go from 70s French wrestling where everything, a top wristlock or a hammerlock or a short armscissors would have a four minute elaborate series of escape attempts to 21st century wrestling where we have to live with one huge fly mare out of Rey instead of three attempts of it with Eddy hanging on, but that's a me thing, not a match thing.

When Rey really got going, he really got going, hitting from one direction and then the next and the next, all fluid, all with oomph, all believable. Eddy could do no wrong at this point. He cheated and the fans chanted his name, so while he was the aggressor and Rey had to work from underneath, it still felt like a babyface match, just with different tools used than usual used to achieve the same ends. That was a testament in itself. Having not seen it for a while, I love to see Eddy do the three amigos, because unlike all of the tribute spots now, there's no hesitation to milk the moment. He just bursts into the sequence. The finish was the old, tried and true, splash mountain into a 'rana, but it, like everything else in the match looked great and got over huge.

PAS: The dream is to find the bloody house show brawls these two had, but it is really cool to see them work a basically scientific face vs. face match, even with Eddie being a lovable cheat. Really simple effective wrestling with Rey taking a corner post bump and Eddie really showing every step in how to crank and damage an arm. Good point about the Three Amigos, he has a ton of explosion and force on the move, which is never really captured by the tribute spots. I love getting another chance to watch Eddie, what an electric and compelling performer he was


Eddie Guerrero/Chavo Guerrero/Gacela vs. La Fiera/Espanto Jr./Predator Juarez

MD: This is posted on the Juarez YouTube page and is about ten minutes but only a few of an actual match before mask pulling, post match fighting, and Chavo making challenges. Eddy had some really good strikes here though. That's my biggest takeaway. It's not something I usually think of when I think of pre-modern Eddy. In the short amount of footage we have here, he launched a spinning backfist, an awesome European uppercut that reached for the ceiling, and a really nice elbow smash, and then post-match took a bunch of shots well and sympathetically as he was tied up in the ropes. You catch him too early in his career and he often comes off as an afterthought. That wasn't at all the case here. Just given who was in this one, if we had more of it, or if there even was more of it, it'd probably have been good, but we come in on the chaotic violence and as chaotic violence goes, it's solid stuff.

Mando Guerrero vs. Negro Navarro

MD: The only record I see on Cagematch with these two is from 1981 in Los Angeles. It's possible. Navarro is certainly young with a full head of hair. There's a brief bit in English in between the Spanish commentary. Fact of the matter is that I don't know. What I do know is how well these two are matched up. Both have a certain amount of over the top theatricality in what they do. In his later career, Navarro would overlay that on top of the maestro style. Mando was more apt to roll around the ring and eat up opponents. Here, Navarro had control with bit offensive flourishes. He'd grab what I assume is Mando's cape and wrap it around his hand to beat him down. He'd bite. He'd pose. Mando would fight his way back, making sure to preen to the crowd for half a second before big shots. Navarro would cut him off. Just when I thought the 8 minutes of footage that we have would cut off without a finish, Mando snuck through the ref's legs for a roll up and a banana peel win. Whatever vintage it is, it's a good look at Navarro earlier in his career and a very apt pairing.

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Thursday, April 28, 2022

NXT UK Worth Watching: Danny Burch! Oney Lorcan! Ridge Holland! Tyson T-Bone! The Hunt!

Oney Lorcan/Danny Burch vs. The Hunt (Wild Boar/Primate) NXT UK 1/17 (Aired 1/30/20) (Ep. #77)

ER: This tag was another one of my introductions to NXT UK. I had never seen Wild Boar before this, and had not in fact ever even heard of him. Wild Boar has been a consistent highlight 77 episodes later and it was because the brand had the good taste to use guys like Oney Lorcan that I even saw him. The match was a cool Danny Burch showcase, one of his greatest performances I've seen. He was a real rugby thug asshole in this, working with disdain against The Hunt, grinding Wild Boar's ears on headlocks and softening up his face with vicious palm strikes that I hardly ever see him use. Muga Burch is something we need to see more often. Wild Boar really threw himself headlong into his own and everyone's offense, hitting hard and getting hit harder. His crash and burns were the best, including a sick missed splash to the floor that kept him away from the finish. Primate made the most out of his hot tag and threw some of several suplexes down the finishing stretch, and really runs over Lorcan with a big lariat. Just like Wild Boar's biggest miss was greater than his greatest hit, Primate also took a great bump into the ringpost. Lorcan nails Primate with a big uppercut and Burch headbutts Boar into next week with a headbutt after Boar had just flattened Lorcan with one of his best ever cannonballs. It was a really great match that felt intense the entire time, and felt bigger than its relatively short 7 minutes. Great, great tag. 


Ridge Holland vs. Tyson T-Bone NXT UK 1/17 (Aired 1/30/20) (Ep. #77)

ER: This is only 3 minutes, but it's two guys who like to fight, fighting for 3 minutes. That's always going to be entertaining, even if I wish they had twice as much time. There's a big boy lock up, heavy knees thrown to the midsection, and real forearm shivers across the length of the jaw. Holland controlled things for a bit, and he's got plenty of ways to muscle around a tough dude like T-Bone. He worked T-Bone over with crossfaces and knees, ran him over with a lariat, and tossed him with a cool belly to belly. They worked back and forth but in a way that wasn't 50-50, just two guys going all out, destined to crash into an early finish. And, once Holland grabbing T-Bone by the ears and throwing headbutts into Tyson's T-Zone I knew the end was nigh. Just a couple of guys hitting and throwing each other around for three minutes, which is what those with good taste call Pro Wrestling.  



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Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Oldest Giants Take on Miracle Violence Connection

Andre the Giant/Giant Baba vs. Steve Williams/Terry Gordy AJPW 11/21/90 - GREAT

ER: I loved this, a great Broken Old Giants performance, a manic Dr. Death performance as the smallest man in the match, and a great disrespectful young punk MVC performance. I love the Andre/Baba team: two kindred old broken giants, the only sympathetic team of giants I recall seeing. Every stage of old Andre has different distinctions and different joys. Here he was still "limber" enough to enter and exit the ring over the top rope. I've said before that Andre, even at his most broken, understood how to use his current physical condition to tell small stories in a match. Baba was still limber enough to throw a fast side Russian legsweep and get dropped on his shoulders by a crazy Gordy brainbuster, and seeing the novel ways that Baba and Andre use their declining physicality is always impressive to me. Opposite them was Dr. Death, opening the match getting his leg worked over by Baba (you try not smiling when you see Baba throwing leg kicks while Doc hops around selling them), and I appreciated the combination of overly reverential selling and asshole behavior we got from MVC. 

Doc and Gordy develop a pretty great strategy midway through and kind of trick Andre into expending a lot of extra energy, making him get into and out of the ring to save Baba and dragging Baba to the floor for a beating far across the side of the ring Andre was stationed. It's great psychology to work around the Giants' physical limitations, and it only played into the sympathy when they wisely realized how long an Andre rescue would take. Williams was really fun against Andre, squirting past him like a man escaping The Mummy and getting knocked around when he gets snared. Andre threw hard chops, a ton of headbutts, and those cool short right hands that look like getting hit in the head with a telephone. 

There's an incredible moment where Williams escapes Andre's corner onslaught and gets a slick go behind, and we get to actually think that we are about witness the craziest German suplex possible. Andre is holding onto the top rope for dear life while Doc is pulling and pulling with all his might, arms locked around Andre's waist in a deep squat, butt nearly touching the mat. Later Doc snags Baba in a bearhug, and it's one of the most bizarre pro wrestling visuals I've seen. Dr. Death was just holding Baba in a bearhug without Baba's boots touching the mat. The coolest, weirdest shaped man in pro wrestling was being held like a long fragile baby, size 19 boots just dangling over Dr. Death's' legs like a comically large ventriloquist dummy's. The moment goes from surreal to Great Pro Wrestling as Baba starts pulling at Williams' hair and throwing hard overhand Baba chops to break the hold. The hold does start to break, and we realize that if the hold breaks then Baba still goes crashing to the mat. And he does, and Williams falls into his guard. 

As gracious as Williams and Gordy were on selling, there was still a lot of doubt about who was winning this match. It's possible to show ass for a couple old guys while still being a threat to those old guys. Andre and Baba went on to win every match of the Real World Tag League, which rules, but man Baba took a brainbuster so who knows how these old Giants might get wrecked. I thought the end was coming when Andre got tangled in the ropes, and I don't know if we have tape of anybody knocking Andre into the ropes harder than Doc and Gordy did here. The MVC hit Andre with a tandem shoulderblock that would have sent Andre to his sure death if the ropes couldn't be trusted. It's kind of amazing that I can't recall Andre ever breaking a ring rope, because this man has as much unceasing trust in ropes as Big Boss Man. Even during the era where he was having difficulties moving in the ring, he always maintained control over his movement. 

When Doc and Gordy slam into him it looks like Andre gets knocked so hard that the ropes actually save him. It's a great "Andre in the ropes", capped off with the always great moment where he powers to his feet. When I wrote earlier about Andre being so great at using his current physical condition and working it into his matches, I loved how Andre sold the wear and tear after being caught in the ropes, exiting the ring through the middle ropes instead of over the top. It was the only time in the entire match that he didn't go over the top rope when tagging in or out, and I like that he went back to the apron he looked like a defeated giant. The Giants pull out a really fun finish, with Doc taking a big bump to the floor after getting decked by Andre, and Gordy running face first into Baba's big boot in the corner before getting hooked by Baba's flying clothesline, Andre kicking Dr. Death in the ribs as Death is scrambling over the bottom rope for the save. Nothing compares to the specific joys the Andre/Baba team bring me. Each match I watch always just makes me want to watch another. 



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