Segunda Caida

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

Monday, March 01, 2021

You Call Kandori a Cheater She Left You to Die

Shinobu Kandori/Rumi Kazama/Yasha Kurenai vs. Eagle Sawai/Michiko Nagashima/Sayuri Okino LLPW 2/15/98 - EPIC

SR: Amazing match, which on first watch I thought was seriously fucking with some of the absolute top brawls in history. This was insanely heated and everyone was brutalizing each other, but even more they succeeded in conveying real desperation on the babyface side without going into hammy territory. Whole match was violent to the core and they never let up, these girls didn't hold back with chairs, kendo sticks, other plunder and just straight up kicking eachother in the face, and the heel team of Sawai, Nagashima and Okino was great at working cut offs, isolating their opponents and swarming them. Of course Kandoris superstar charisma is outstanding, and she will do cool things like look in flash submissions during brawling exchanges or counter a chain attack with a judo throw, but the stars of the match are somehow Yasha Kurenai and Michiko Nagashima. Eagle Sawai is also good her as just a big monster crushing people with body attacks and power moves, and Rumi Kazama is solid as a veteran lady wrestler who can kick hard. Nagashima looks damn good punching people in the face with her fist wrapped in a chain, hitting unexpectedly violent offense and taking nasty bumps. Kurenai is fierce booting peoples heads off and the heat segment on her ended up being seriously great due to being smartly laid out (in such a way that when you'd guess the hot tag would happen, it doesn't). 

It sets up a tremendous second half where Kurenai keeps running in, being a bloody mess and looking half dead, and going fucking crazy on the heels with kendo sticks and even a scissor, trying to take chunks out of Eagle Sawai. You really end up wanting her to get to win but also dreading her getting pinned due to how sympathetic she is set up to be. Shark Tsuchiya and Lioness Asuka interfere in the match along with like a dozen tracksuited ringside girls from LLPW and JD' trying to jump into the frey, and while I normally dislike liberal interference in joshi matches, it felt like a frantic gang war here. I could see some folks being irked by them teasing some hot nearfalls and then doing an elaborate chain spot followed by another heat segment, although I thought everything worked and it was a suitably crazy moment. Finish was completely unexpected but great. I think the match would have moved into all-time territory if we had gotten Kandori choking some people out and Kurenai being involved in the finish to pay of her story more, but those are very minor criticisms for what was a damn great unpredictable brawl.

PAS: Killer discovery by Sebastian who is truly the master of digging in the mines.  This is a wild gang fight with lots of mean looking ladies in ugly colors and fringe mangling each other. Our girl Kandori is somewhat of a minor player in this, although she does get one superstar moment where she cleans house with nasty straight punches, gets cut off with a chain to the ribs, and then turns an attempting Eagle Sawai chain choke into a judo throw. Kurenai and Nagashima take the biggest beatings with blood caking on Kurenai's head and Nagashima getting hung by the ankles and wailed upon.  I dug the wildness of it, with lots of random gals running in and smashing and being smashed. I thought it needed a slightly bigger climax to move into all time legendary status, but still a hell of find. 

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Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Judge Said is Kingston the Thug From the Kit Kat Club?

Eddie Kingston vs. PAC AEW Dynamite 1/13/21 - GREAT

ER: I thought this was a mostly boring, rote PAC performance, in a match that was only saved by some tremendous Kingston selling and big King bumping. PAC weirdly worked this match like he was 50 lb. bigger than Kingston, relying on Kingston bumping around for all of his strikes and throws, while he himself put in bare minimum effort getting into position for all of King's offense. It was really bizarre. PAC jumped Kingston and Kingston pinballed around the ring and floor from dropkicks, bounced across the ring on a great German suplex bump, and makes every single thing PAC does really mean something, selling more and more injuries as the match goes on. PAC returns absolutely none of these favors. He's obviously super athletic, but PAC looked completely uninspiring here. Any of the care Kingston took to selling offense and setting up offense was the opposite of what PAC did. 

Whenever PAC went back on offense, it was just him getting up from moves and going back on offense, and he kept making Kingston look like a doofus by standing still in his position waiting for a move, not bothering to occupy himself in any way. At one point he runs into Kingston's boots in the corner, and then just bends at the waist and waits perfectly still for Kingston to come off the middle buckle with a knee. He takes a Saito suplex well, but Kingston is out here selling every individual move PAC did the entire match, and PAC just shrugs the suplex off. Kingston does one of the finest superplex sells I've ever seen, first trying to block it with nice body shots the split second before going over (and before that PAC was taking forever without making it look like he was fighting Kingston in any way), then upon impact had his arms straight at his side like his neck and lower back went right out. Down the stretch he's selling all this nerve damage in his neck, trying to quickly do chiropractic exercises like applying pressure to the soft area under the collarbones, selling the pain down his arm, all of it actually giving some meaning to PAC's offense. Kingston worked this match like he was an AEW Dark scrub putting over Cage or Wardlow, but PAC held up none of his end. This felt like that HHH match where he just tried to sandbag Eddie the entire time.   

PAS: I didn't have the same problems with this then Eric did. I liked the idea of PAC coming out after a long layoff firing on all cylinders, like you might see a basketball team who was embarrassed in a playoff series dominate the first quarter when they played them next season. Kingston taking over with a Bunny eyepoke and a exploder on the floor worked for me, and Kingston laid it in on offense. I don't think PAC is a particularly smart wrestler, but Kingston's selling was incredible in this and I thought really elevated your normal meathead workrate PAC match. That superplex was honestly a spot of the year candidate, and while I want Eddie to win every match, I had no beef with how this turned out.

Eddie Kingston vs. Aaron Solow AEW Dark 2/4 (Aired 2/16/21) - FUN

ER: Kingston against smaller wrestlers is almost always good, because he is really good at appropriately selling strikes and offense. It's a difficult thing to do, and only the best can do it, as it's really easy to settle into selling all punches as punches, all elbows as elbows, all kicks as kicks, no matter the size of who is delivering them or how well they connect. It's difficult to sell these appropriately, because you don't know how well a strike will land before it's thrown, but this match had several moments of King selling exactly the right amount for what he was given. There was a kick to the stomach that didn't connect, so King laughed it off and told Solow to hit him harder, leaving him wide open for a punch to the hard that stunned him, allowing Solow to add some more strikes. Kingston sold Solow's so-so elbow strikes as if he had eye strain from staring at a computer screen for too long. The stuff that looked good, King treated respectfully, like the early match headscissors that sent Kingston scrambling for the ropes, or a spinkick that caught him behind the ear and sent him spiraling into the mat. There was a good nearfall off a nice Solow double stomp off the top, and I am happy we have been getting these glimpses of how Kingston would have worked on WCW Worldwide. 

PAS: Kingston has to be the best opponent in wrestling, he is going to just make you look great, whether he wins or loses. Solow didn't show much, but Kingston made everything he did look great. He sold that spinkick like he was beaned with a baseball. I do love the WCW syndie vibe of this show, and Kingston would have been amazing in 1997 WCW syndies. Imagine a WCW Pro match against Juvi or a 10 minute WCWSN match against Finlay.

Eddie Kingston vs. JD Drake AEW 2/17 (Aired 2/23/21) - GREAT

PAS: I really think Kingston should work a 7 minute match with a US Indy crowbar every AEW Dark show. Get Manders, Big Twan, AJ Gray, whomever, and just have a punch out. Kingston felt like he was trying to get Drake a job here, as he really showcased him. Both guys laced each other with chops before Kingston went to the body and up top with a slap. Highlight of the match was Drake catching Kingston coming off the top rope with a straight right hand, which Eddie sold like it gave him nerve damage in his arm. Drake got a big run of offense including his great looking cannonball in the corner, before missing a moonsault and getting obliterated with a backfist for the pin. Eddie as WCWSN Finlay is a pretty great use of him, especially if he is a bit sidedrained on the main show. 

ER: This feels like a base level Kingston match, filled with the type of things that he brings to every match, elevated by what his opponent is able to contribute. There have been several examples of Kingston doing his cool thing on AEW over the last year, but I'd really love to see him officially take the Cody-but-better role on Dark, crafting digestible matches with unsigned indy guys that aren't outright squashes, and showing just enough ass. This was a Cliffs Notes version of their two Evolve matches from a couple years ago, with the kind of stand and trade I really love in wrestling matches, because it never devolved to them just standing in front of each other like idiots. Kingston is someone who adds dips and knee wobbles and off timing to strike trading, but here he is far more dominant and focused on cutting off any of Drake's momentum. He throws combos (loved the quick left to the body, right slap to the face, headbutt combo), and whenever Drake threatens to string anything together King just changes the rules. Drake has a chest that always reddens nicely, and I like the way he sells Kingston's strikes as if he's staring into the sun. King is always great at placing breadcrumbs in his matches, hitting a nice shoulder tackle off the middle buckle early, only for Drake to punch him out of the air when he tries it later. Drake's run of offense looked good, and his cannonball might be the best of all the fat guy cannonballs that are used in modern wrestling. The finish is simple, and while I wish we got a little more time, these two always pair nicely. 


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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Matches from NOAH Mohammed Yone 25th Anniversary 10/18/20


Alexander Otsuka/Mohammed Yone vs. Akitoshi Saito/Masao Inoue

ER: It's 2020 and these boys have all beefed up to the degree that Akitoshi Saito might be the smallest man in the match. Otsuka especially needs to just sport Butcher singlets at this point. He looks like best possible Dana White. Inoue brings his failson charisma to this early, attacking Yone at the bell and having it immediately blow up in his face when Saito ducks out of the way of a clothesline that Inoue doesn't. So Inoue spends the next several moments taking legdrops and axe handles all while holding his stomach as if he just won a hot dog eating contest and his friends keep trying to hit his belly. The tone changes noticeably when Saito finally tags in, as Yone starts throwing big impact lariats to counter the heavy leather Saito comes in swinging. Saito/Otsuka is a dream pairing that's hardly happened, and we get only a taste here (ending with a great Otsuka German suplex). There's funny Inoue stuff, like Saito dropping Yone before tagging out and Inoue getting into the ring and stretching his back before just running and covering Yone. Inoue does some eye rakes, he and Saito run at Yone with some slow back elbows and lariats, and Inoue does more selling where it looks like he accidentally walked into a screen door. I was shocked to see Otsuka break out the giant swing on Inoue, but happy to see it. Everyone is a little sluggish here (they're old and meatier, it happens), but I laughed all throughout Inoue shaky legs falling to the mat every time Yone tried running at him. This is the kind of match that would have been a 2004 list match, but still makes me smile in 2020. 

PAS: This is more an Eric thing then a Phil thing. I am here to see Otsuka and we don't get enough of him to make it worth my time. I appreciate Inoue comedy, although conversely it works better in a more serious atmosphere then in a match with other people up for the yuks.  I thought Yone unable to hit a move on Inoue because Inoue is too old, but he is also too old to successfully execute a roll up, so it goes both ways.  

Daisuke Ikeda/Ikuto Hidaka/Mohammed Yone vs. Yuki Ishikawa/Naomichi Marufuji/Junji Tanaka

ER: This was great, and could have been even greater had it been worked more like a WAR or Kings Road or Futen trios. The ingredients were there but it doesn't take advantage of some of the built up drama and instead pays it off in more of a feelgood anniversary show finish than heat, but the highs are way way up there. We get this awesome surprising big babyface performance from Junji Tanaka all throughout this tag that really plays as the unexpected highlight, but the people you went in hoping to see perform, all performed. The Yone/Ishikawa opening was cool, with Yone coming in like an aggressive Batt guy and popping Ishikawa, leading to Ishikawa doing a cool sweep to cause Yone to miss a punt and slip, with Ishikawa going in for the kill with a Fujiwara. But once we get into Ikeda/Junji stretch the match really opens up into something special. Ikeda dishes out one of those cruel beatings he's known for, instantly turning Junji into a huge fighting babyface. It's a sadistic old dude punishing a tough but weaker old dude, and it came off like Kurisu kicking Mitsuo Momota's ass. Junji is out here in his mawashi, trying to put both cheeks into everything, and Ikeda would just punch, kick and lariat him back to the mat. It was feeling like the same kind of Kantaro Hoshino performance we'd see in those 80s New Japan elimination tags, all clearly building to Ishikawa and Marufuji absolutely wasting the guys across the ring from them. Ikeda's beat down on Junji goes on long enough that it gets uncomfortable, like those old AJPW beatings of Kikuchi, but I loved how Ikeda sold for all of Junji's little comebacks, including a nice headbutt and an elbow that puts Ikeda down on his butt, holding his eye. Finally Junji makes the hot tag, leading to a crowd wildly on his side as Marufuji charges in and Hidaka, Ikeda, and Yone all trip over themselves to bump wildly for this molten lava tag.

I'm just kidding, Marufuji completely tanks any of the actual built up heat, stood idly by watching his teammate get his body and limbs kicked in, and actively decides to turn this into a more standard Anniversary show main event. He just somberly strolls in, then proceeds to chop Hidaka in the corner for the next 4 minutes. Yeah, yeah, Hidaka's chest is raw and bright red when it's over, but it was literally Hidaka with his arms hooked over the top rope and Marufuji just throwing chops, slowly. It felt like more of a gym hazing than anything that would make an actual match interesting, and lo! When it comes to actual sequences, Marufuji isn't very interesting in those either. Hidaka has this evergreen goodwill with me just from showing up as a then unknown (to me) in ECW over 20 years ago. I always like when he shows up in something I'm watching, even though I wished he had worked more Batt and less juniors wrestling here.

The Ikeda/Ishikawa sequence is worth the price of admission. If you weren't as captivated by the Junji performance as I was, you're still guaranteed to love Ishikawa sharp elbows and hooking punches to the curve of Ikeda's jaw, and of course Ikeda's straight fully body right hands to Ishikawa's ailing face. A low key best moment of the match happens right after Ikeda decks Ishikawa: the camera cuts to Yone, standing on the apron with a huge grin on his face. It did not seem like the kind of grin Ikeda's partner would be flashing, instead it looked like the grin of a big fan. In that moment you really got the sense that Yone wanted Ishikawa and Ikeda in this match because he's a tremendous fan of their specific thing, and wanted the best seat in the house to view that thing. I can't blame him, as their exchanges here were as good as any of the dozens of great Ikeda/Ishikawa exchanges we've seen for decades. What amazes me most about their pairing is that there is no "home base". There isn't a comfortable set of spots that they can hit every time, branching off from those spots depending on how long they each want to solo. This is a new song every time, played in the same key, but totally different arrangement. You're going to get punches to the face, but there are never any sequences that are repeated in the same way. The greatest pairings in wrestling history (Santo vs. Casas, Rey vs. Psicosis, Flair vs. Steamboat) all have spots and elements in common with their prior matches. Ikeda and Ishikawa just go out there and play free jazz with it, every time, and I've never seen them sound like they're using different different Fake Books. 

PAS: This is a hard match to rank, as there is nothing in any of the matches on our MOTY list as bad as that Marufuji hot tag, not only the endless comedy spot chops but then the interpretive dance step superkick misses with Hidaka. Just dreadful. But there are also few things on our list as sublime as another redux of the horrific dance between Ikeda and Ishikawa. As disgusting and gorgeous as it always is, the punches and headbutts landing with that hollow sound you really only get with these guys. Yone and Ishikawa had a killer opening section, Tanaka gets massacred by Ikeda in a very Ikeda way, but we also had a finish based around a Junji Tanaka comedy spot. I dunno, color me confused.  Ikeda vs. Ishikawa is the best wrestling gets, and I think the highs are higher then the lows are lower. 


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Friday, February 26, 2021


Andre The Giant/Terry Rudge vs. Osamu Kido/Seiji Sakaguchi NJPW 10/2/76 - GREAT

MD: Unearthed gem where we get all but the first eight minutes, giving us around twenty as a whole. There's almost too much to cover here, and you should just watch it, but the two biggest elements to me were Andre's dynamism and the way Rudge grounded things and kept them along standard tag lines. That is, it'd be bad enough to have to face a heel Andre that would deadlift you from the mat, pick you up off the top and toss you of, or that made every chinlock look downright terrifying (especially when he'd lift you off the ground with it and just hang you there), but you were also dealing with Rudge who, working with Andre, would cut off the ring and draw Sakaguchi in to distract the ref. Basically, things just didn't get better even when Andre got out; I mean, they did, obviously, but not nearly enough. When it was time for Andre and Rudge to clown and stooge, it was Andre with huge, incredibly visual, incredibly engaged bumping. They even did an alley oop spot with Andre caught in the ropes. It's obvious how much we lost with Andre being a babyface distraction until the point where he was virtually immobile. He's so into everything he does here, so dangerous, so alert and active, and the perfect balance of terrifying (even to Rudge after he loses the last fall) and giving. Just great stuff.

PAS: Killer Andre performance, with the three other guys playing their roles. 70s heel Andre is about as cool as it gets. He is like a Grizzly Bear, tossing his opponents around the ring, and any second now looking like he is going to swipe down and disembowel everyone in the ring. His finish run in the second fall was awe inspiring, grabbing Kido by the wasteband, flinging him to the top rope like a porter with a suitcase, flinging him off the top rope and enveloping him in a splash. He had an easier time manhandling Kido then I do with my 4 year old son. He also was great at showing moments of vulnerability, the sport where Sakaguchi can't get him over with the headscissors, only to have Kido flying knee Andre in the back flinging him over, was one of the cooler tag team double teams I have seen from this time period. Rudge was a fun irritant, although he didn't pop in this match like he has in other stuff. 

El Felino/Negro Casas/Black Panther vs. La Fiera/Silver King/El Dandy CMLL 12/23/95

MD:A little bit short, but super talent all around, with a lot of the high spots and moments of personality you'd expect. The central narrative early was keeping Dandy away from Casas. Whenever he'd get him into a hold, one of Casas' partners would rush in to break it up. I argue, often, too often, that you see some new variation in almost every Casas match and here I liked how he rushed in on Fiera with a dropkick to the thigh during a test of strength engagement, keeping his hand up as a feint all the way into the dropkick. That ended poorly for him as Fiera ended up hitting this really cool bicycle kick style enziguri to basically end the fall. This cut off earlier than you'd like with a foul, but obviously it was building on to the next one.

PAS: This never got the big finish to push this into next level territory, but the work we got in the match was very good. I liked all three of the original match ups, Silver King versus Black Panther (Black Warrior) isn't a match up I have ever thought about before, but it was pretty great, and I wish they had a singles match up around this time. Casas and Dandy are of course excellent, and even minor works of theres are worth watching. Two great dives too, Panther's bullet tope, and Fiera's awesome over the top rope dive, which he did as good as anyone. So happy Roy Lucier is filling in the gaps of the 90s lucha we are missing.

Jocephus/Damien Payne vs. Wolfie D/Drew Haskins USWO 8/24/12

MD: This was an enjoyable Southern indy main event and a pretty good look at what Jocephus was up to in that era. Brian Lee wasn't there for some reason so Haskins, who worked earlier in the night, came out to tag with Wolfie. He took a lot of the match as a super dynamic, big bumping FIP, especially good for just propelling himself into the ropes off his opponents' offense. They protected Jocephus quite well here, I thought (Wolfie too, really), as he'd get staggered on blows but not go down easily. A lot of the babyface offense ended up on Payne. Wolfie worked the apron and the mic well and looked good the couple of times he was in there. Everyone came out of this looking better than they came in.

PAS: I remember really enjoying Haskins as a smirking big bumping pretty boy heel and he does a nice job converting those skills into a babyface in peril. He really flies around for Jocephus's offense flipping head over heels into the ropes with a punch. Wolfie and Drew had some nice chemistry for a make shift team, their vegomatic looked great. Payne and Jocephus were a nice slugging heel team which set up the hot tag nicely, and Jocephus's neckbreaker with a chain was an appropriately nasty finish. Hit all of the points you want from a hot Nashville main event tag.

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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Fujiwara Family: BattlArts B-My Baby 11/5/97

BattlArts 11/5/97

Ikuto Hidaka vs. Mamoru Okamoto 

PAS: This goes really long for a undercard young guys match, but they have enough cool stuff to fill the time for sure. Okamoto was the bigger hitter, and he threw a couple of nasty kicks including a high kick which crossed Hidaka's eyes and some body kicks, he also had some simple but deeply executed submissions. Hidaka was early and career but started to mix in his fancy stuff, flipping senton, flying armbar and a cool victory roll into a kneebar for a tap. This probably would have been better at 10 minutes instead of 16, but I enjoyed what we got. 

Carl Greco vs Takeshi Ono 

PAS: These two guys are the badass B-Sides of BattlArts, Ishikawa, Ikeda, Otsuka, those guys are the big radio hits, the encore songs, Ono and Greco are the deep cuts  BattlArts super fans really love. This was killer stuff, almost all on the mat and full of grappling at the level wrestling has rarely reached. Greco is one of the best to ever do it, he moves in and out of holds with such grace and speed, constant movement, always looking to improve his position or twist a body in a different way. Ono is super skilled on the mat too, and looks a little outclassed, but in a way that fits the story of the match. We only get a couple of reckless Ono strike flurry, and maybe could have used one more, this is the midcard version of this match, a main event version could have been an all time classic. 

Yuki Ishikawa vs Mohammed Yone 

PAS: This was really cool too, man could BattlArts deliver on a show. Yone jumps Ishikawa before the bell, and the story of the match was Yone trying to earn his stripes against the top dog, and failing. It was a very Tenryuish performance from Ishikawa, except more nasty chokes from the ground and less short jabs. Loved how Ishikawa turned it up in the final moments, Yone fights the German suplex attempt, and Yuki lands two jumping headbutts to the back of his head, hits a German, lands another gross headbutt to the back of the head and sinks in a choke. I have been rabbit punched before, I hope Yone had someone sitting with him at night to make sure his brain didn't swell. 

Minoru Tanaka vs Masao Orihara 

PAS: Really fun mix of BattlArts style and sleazy Orihara shit. I am a low voter on Tanaka, especially on this rewatch, but he was really good here, using BattlArts style to counter Orihara's low blows and moonsaults. He aggressively takes him to the mat and works on an ankle pick which Orihara escapes by punching him in the dick. Eventually Tanaka just gets fed up and kicks him to death, winging hard shots at the kind of gross looking bandage on Orihara's arm until he brings his head low and gets put to sleep. I wonder if that bandage was from a wrestling injury or a shooting gallery abscess. 

Daisuke Ikeda vs Alexander Otsuka - EPIC

PAS: Big time violent BattlArts main event. Ikeda is a bulldozer here, opening the match by stuffing an Otsuke shoot with a uncalled for head but and a running stomp to Otsuka's face sending him out of the ring. Ikeda is kicking, punching and headbutting him with real violent force, and throwing some just ungodly hacksaw lariats like he is reaping wheat.  Otsuka meanwhile is focusing on the mat, with some slick looking leglocks, a tight triangle, and a really awesome looking la magistral into a chickenwing choke. This builds to a really epic finishing run with Ikeda throwing massive KO shots, dazing Otsuka all around the ring, only for Otsuka to duck under and catch a couple of his monster suplexes, including a brutal dragon which was able to get the KO. Ikeda was almost like an MMA fighter who throws so many huge power punches that he gassed himself out, with Otuska being able to rag doll his way to an upset. Great stuff between two all timers. 

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

AEW Dynamite Workrate Report 2/23/21

What Worked

-Good opening squash. Moxley looked motivated and threw some hard crossfaces and a great back suplex, but he was also no doubt helped by Nemeth's ability to take punishment in cool ways. He really flung himself back hard on that suplex and took the double underhook DDT like a 90s jobber looking to sue the company.

-I liked the highspot beating Pillman Jr. took in his tag match, tough gig to play FIP while Cage and Starks suplex you and scrape their boots on your face. Pillman hit a great baseball slide dropkick, nearly hanging himself on the ropes but it looked wild. Starks had a couple of cool pinfalls where he really laid back with all his weight, and the Garrison hot tag had some fun moments (nice jungle kick, huge no hands plancha where Cage may have saved Garrison's life by standing his ground), but the beating Pillman took was the highlight. Dropkicks to the face, a screwdriver to finish things, rough night. The whole segment was fun, loved Darby's skateboard shot and Starks' bump over the top for it. 

-Hager's finishing lariat looked great, even though he made Brandon Cutler wobble around in place forever, like he was about to take a Fatality. If you're going to make someone do that, at least he made it look like a fatality. 

What Didn't Work

-I still can't get into the Sting return. I guess I'm not the audience for it, and that's fine, but it's funny to me that Sting took a hard powerbomb from Cage last week (not an unprofessional powerbomb, but a powerbomb harder than a 61 year old man who doesn't need the money should be taking), and Sting claimed he wanted REVENGE. And that revenge? His reverse DDT. I know we're technically supposed to view all finishers as equal, but Sting taking out Cage with a reverse DDT after Cage had been doing nothing but big slams, hard clotheslines, and dangerous drops, and now I have to buy that a reverse DDT might put him down? 

-Jake Hager decided to catch Cutler's tope con giro by flopping onto his stomach look a goof. 

-Craig T. Nelson is making that Young Sheldon money, I don't know why he needed to guest on Dynamite just so Jericho could smear some Smuckers on his head. 

-WHO among us thought Hangman Page/Isiah Kassidy should have gone as long as it did? Kassidy is a guy who seems like he's regressed as a worker since joining AEW. He was far more interesting when he was working as a Red trainee who wrestled like Red. Nobody wants to see him work unconvincing arm locks, not one person thought for one second that Page was going to be slowed down by Kassidy's long arm work section (he was not, didn't hesitate one bit when he hit a rolling elbow, though he did sell the arm after), and I'm not sure there was one thing Kassidy did that looked convincing. It's hard to work convincing control segments when you can't even connect on simple stuff like stomach kicks, while also looking like you're unsure how to apply holds to the limb you're supposed to be working over. Then we had to go through a long series of Kassidy kicking out of things that I did not buy him kick out of. The world did not ask for, nor need, dominant heel control Isiah Kassidy. This was enough. HOWEVER, if Kassidy actually stuck to the limb work and got good at it, I would really love a heel Amazing Red who also did Catch Point matwork. I would even take a bad version of that. And with some more work, Kassidy could be bad at this. 

-I could not get into Britt Baker/Nylas Rose. I don't think it was bad, but it felt like they were more going through the motions of having an epic confrontation without doing the actual match that felt like an epic confrontation. Nyla Rose always looks like she is stumbling or falling over while delivering almost every piece of offense, but rarely in a way that puts her opponent in danger. She's a monster, but doesn't do a lot of offense that makes her come off as a monster. I more like Baker's avoidance, and her mocking kicks to Nyla's face, and was more impressed with Nyla's suplex bumps than with any offense she did. Her best was probably the match ending sitout powerbombs, and even those looked like she was in danger of falling over while lifting. Very basic matches that are treated like manic wars always get under my skin. 

-I love a good wrestling style clash, but I don't think that good wrestling style clash will ever involve Lance Archer. I am getting sick of seeing this guy so often on TV. He moves like he has two town quads and can't bend down, and he constantly throws timing off. Fenix is a guy who at his best can fire off precision timing, and Archer just makes a lot of that look bad. Fenix was falling all over the place in painful ways, and you see him doing it to make Archer look good and just think "for this?" Fenix does some of his unhinged things like his always great tope con giro, and another where he fell face first on the entrance ramp from the top rope after Jake Roberts held his ankles too long. But Archer made him look like an idiot several times by mistiming when to take kicks. And who out there wanted to see Archer in a ladder match more than they'd want Fenix in a ladder match? Get this doofus away from the AEW guys I like. 

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Carpentier! Duranton! Frisuk! Delaporte!

Edouard Carpentier vs. Robert Duranton 3/24/62

MD: First and foremost, let's put the flippy guy aside for a minute. This was an amazing Duranton performance. That's what I want to lead with. He based so well for everything Carpentier did. He was incredibly giving, especially for a guy so featured in the footage and who was used to controlling a lot of the tag matches we've seen him in. He spends basically the entire match stooging for Carpentier, never able to hold him down for long, getting out of his holds only to end up right back in them, and selling more and more frustration, whipping his hair up in a frenzy and charging at him only to get clowned again and again. The more upset he gets the more fury he shows, the bigger and more definitive his comeuppance. It's a Carpentier showcase and Duranton makes it work and makes it matter. That said, Carpentier does bring something unique to the table. He's unquestionably agile, able to hit handstands, handsprings, and cartwheels cleanly and organically for both big, dramatic escapes, and to shock Duranton (who sold the surprise of them perfectly), able to slug it out with fire, and with some big painful bombs like the flipping sentons and double stomp. He clearly knew how to look like a force and look like a star. So long as he had someone to work with him, like Duranton did here, there's no question that he was an immediate headliner.

SR: 1 fall match going about 25 minutes. Carpentier hasn‘t shown up on TV in 6 years. He hadn‘t lost a beat, though. This was outstanding and the best French match in a while. Going in I was wondering if Carpentier would be just another French face with some athletic moves and a hard European uppercut, but he was far more than that. He was tagging Duranton with punches from the get-go while mixing in some really graceful athletic moves. The match structure also seemed improved, as this had one of the best openings of all matches as they immediately turned up the heat. I wonder if they were very influenced by US wrestling at this point, with the punches being a focus. Carpentier really seemed on an athletic level here that even most modern wrestlers can‘t dream of. He was cartwheeling around while making it all look effortless, and everything made sense. All the side headlock control stuff was neat and flew by, and there was other cool stuff happening like Carpentier catching a Duranton strike into a seamless flying armdrag. Duranton had probably his best showing so far as he was thoroughly flamboyant and cocky and also really vicious working over Carpentier. By the end Carpentier was destroying Duranton with punch combos, big back breaking flip sentons and super vicious double stomps. I also swear he lifted him up purely by the neck for a sick looking body slam. Finish felt like a Super Dragon moment. This was a great TV bout.

PAS: Hell of a Carpentier showcase, with a very giving opponent. Carpentier would alternate striking athletic flips and counters, with sick looking jabs, hooks and body shots. Carpentier is a big guy for this footage which makes his agility even more striking. Duranton was back footed for this entire match, with Carpentier escaping every trap, and meeting every shot with a bigger nastier receipt. He based well for all of the takedowns, was great at harrumphing and getting more and more aggravated. He also takes a huge beating at the end of the match, Carpentier was fucking his back up with those flipping sentons, he gets a lot of credit for how world beating Carpentier ended up looking.

Jean Frisuk vs. Roger Delaporte 5/3/62

MD: If you ever wanted one match to really understand Roger Delaporte as a singles wrestler, here it is. Bollet may have higher highs but Delaporte is endlessly consistent, a craven, whinging, bullying, dangerous, opportunist villain, insincere in all the best ways. He'll take advantage of every moment of distraction, will shamelessly beg off to buy himself time or to pray forgiveness from the referee for any of his endless transgressions, including quite frequently pushing him out of the way so he can lay in another blow. He's one of the great bad guys of 20th century wrestling and thanks to this footage, we get to lay claim to him in a way that people could only do so through their memories or the memories of their parents and grandparents. He mustache twirling (figuratively, despite having the mustache) belongs to us now and our lives are the richer for it.

Frisuk (Fryziuk if you want) is a game opponent. He's been a slugger in the tag matches we've seen him in and he came off as a total package here, albeit one that got a little too cutesy with some of his between the legs escapes. The fans popped for it but maybe it was something he should have been doing when he was a little younger. They had a lot of time to kill and worked holds with the usual escapes and escalation. You got variations on a theme because of the regularity of certain moves that you wouldn't see today: one example is the Mascaras twist, that sort of cross-footed headscissors takeover from the ground on a standing opponent. Because it was so commonplace, they developed heel counters where they grabbed on to the ropes, which always got heat. The very best of this match, however, was when one guy was bullying the other, which happened often, or when they were slugging at one another, which happened even more, and the very best of that was when they were brawling on the floor. This had a little bit of everything: violence, comedy, technique, though I imagine not quite enough wrestling for the true purists watching this, though it's a shame we lose a little bit at the end of the first fall. The only other things that mar it to me would be Frisuk's scampering antics (not necessary for a guy who's otherwise Ronnie Garvin-esque) and that the finish in the third fall needed to be just a little more creative. Otherwise, it's a great Delaporte showcase against a well-matched opponent.

SR: 2/3 Falls match going 40 minutes. Yes, yes, it‘s long, but this was another hit. Delaporte is fascinating. He isn‘t very athletic, he won‘t do anything fancy, but he is insanely charismatic, he will brutalize opponents and he somehow has enough of a gas tank to work a 40 minute brawl without slowing down. This is heated from the get to as both guys tag each other with punches before Frisuk gets Delaporte in a spinning toe hold (a move we‘ve seen end matches) with Delaporte frantically fighting him off. They continue at a crazy pace, alternating between working holds and reversals before beating the hell out of each other some more. You are watching and thinking how on earth can this keep but, but they keep up, and it builds to an even bigger second half with both guys taking spills into the crowd and brawling on the floor, some hard slams, ref getting thrown around and lots of great slugging in out. All while Delaporte had the whole crowd in his palm with his antics. Eventually Frisuk was just hammering his fist at Delaportes face in the corner. Frisuk looked solid, hitting hard and getting hit back, I did like him slamming Roger into the mat repeatedly while in an armlock, but this was the Delaporte show. His antics, his crazy selling, his general despicableness all while like your shady used car salesman uncle. Too bad about the ending of the 1st fall being missing, but we get everything else, and it‘s quite great if you like heated crowd pleasing slugfests.

PAS: I actually think this was the better of the two matches we got this week. You don't look at these two guys and think that you are going to get a 40+ minute cardio fest from them, but this really pushed pace for a long time. I thought the build in the first half was very cool with Delaporte and Frisuk working holds and Delaporte heat seeking, but that finish run was all timer stuff. Just an epic slugfest, with both guys getting knocked into the crowd, getting tossed over the top rope and just standing in the pocket and pounding on each other. The end of the match felt like a Thrilla in Manilla war of attrition, where neither man was ever going to be the same. I love when a wrestling match gets to that visceral violent level, and they got there.

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Monday, February 22, 2021

WWF 305 Live: Yokozuna! Crush! Hogan! Moondog Rex!!

Hulk Hogan vs. Moondog Rex WWF 8/29/84 - FUN

ER: This started out a little rough, with some sketchy striking. Hogan did these weird jabs where he threw with his left hand to the left side of Rex's face, but wasn't really throwing to connect with anything. Later, Rex went for a kneedrop and the camera angle showed a lot of light between that knee and Hogan's head (which, sure, probably best to not crush the money machine's eyeball with a kneedrop). But with Moondog bumping around for Hogan and then getting a couple big moves, this got good. Moondog is a nice heavy bumper, made Hogan's offense feel powerful. Hogan was aggressive and went after Moondog on the floor, and Moondog hit a nice backbreaker and an awesome powerslam. I dug his punches as Hogan made his comeback, and Hogan saved his best punches for his big comeback, which I liked. His finishing offense was much more interesting than boot/legdrop, as instead he hits a strong axe bomber before flying in with an excellent elbowdrop, then scraped his boot across Moondog's face! The legdrop was a good one, and Rex sold it strong, moving his body up so it really looked like he was getting neck damage from it.

Yokozuna vs. Crush WWF Raw 7/12/93 - EPIC

ER: This kicked a ton of ass. I've been watching a lot of 1993 WWF this past year, because I had fond nostalgia memories and have also been seeking the best WWF Lex Luger match. I journeyed out into 1993, seeking Luger, and I've come away loving babyface Crush. I have really been enjoying Kona Crush, and in hindsight I think Crush could have been a bigger star in 1993 than Luger if they only gave him a real shot. The fans really, REALLY wanted to get behind Crush, and there was no reason to keep the Doink feud going as long as it did. I'd really love to see an alternate timeline of Crush getting the push to Summerslam. This match was great, simple psychology, taped July 5th with a Manhattan Center crowd more than ready to will a big American boy to a title victory. Yokozuna bumped more in this match than any WWF match of his so far, with Crush getting an early jump on him and finishing off a run with a big boot, sending Yokozuna crashing out through the ropes to the floor like King Hippo. 

The fans are so behind Crush here, and it's really great, really entertaining to see a truly loved babyface go up against a truly hated heel. After getting knocked to the floor, Yoko comes back in with a total restart, standing his ground as champ, but Crush keeps taking the fight to him and hits a nice avalanche. I loved how Yokozuna didn't just try to use his size, but kept knocking Crush down with gross cross chops right to the throat. Whenever Yokozuna wanted a breather he went for the throat, also dropping Crush throat first over the top rope. Yokozuna throws great punches, too, and Crush is good at taking big bumps to the apron and floor to put over Yoko's striking power. They both make good use of missed offense, and the fans get a real thrill when Crush dodges what would have surely been a match ending avalanche. Crush's comeback is so GOOD, absolutely smashing Yokozuna with a clothesline to knock him down again, then flattening him with a shoulderblock dive off the top. He goes up again and takes a mean flipping bump to the apron and the floor after Fuji knocks him off, and from there it's just Yokozuna crushing American fans' dreams. He bodyslams Crush on the floor, hits a huge belly to belly back in the ring, drops the leg, then hits two banzai drops. After the bell he hits two more, Joey Maggs is running out to try to save Crush, it's total madness. All through the rest of Raw they talk about how long Crush might be on the shelf after Yokozuna made an example of him. This was a really fantastic segment to lead off an episode of Raw, total big man gem. 

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Sunday, February 21, 2021

WWE Elimination Chamber 2/21/21 Not Quite Live Blog

Elimination Chamber used to be my favorite gimmick match, probably because it's only seen once per year and the Rumble match has gotten far more formulaic over the past decade. The on paper lineups don't look great for this year's Chamber matches, but it's a match type that has had several great matches with so-so on paper participants. Any Chamber match has the chance to be good, so that's a good thing have going into a show. 

Mustafa Ali vs. John Morrison vs. Ricochet vs. Elias

ER: I like it when the pre-show matches have some kind of immediate implications, here the winner gets a spot in a three way match later on the PPV, makes this match feel like there are at least some stakes. The match, sadly, stinks. It's got all the problems that the weakest multiman matches have, guys getting in each other's way or lingering noticeably long in one spot waiting for someone else, and a lot of the sequences come off a little messy. Ricochet works hard trying to take folding bumps off everyone's offense, and it helps, and there's a fun moment where Retribution catches Ricochet on a dive after saving Ali. But the chained sequences felt a little off, the big moments weren't there, it mostly fell flat. 

Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. King Corbin vs. Jey Uso vs. Cesaro vs. Daniel Bryan 

ER: This match had some nice highs, but had some problems with pacing and some overly scripted multiman stuff. Bryan and Cesaro are a great pair, but their starting section felt kind of rote, which is a things that's happened a lot in big WWE gimmick matches the past few years. A lot of sequences are ripped directly from other, non-gimmick matches, and it's a boring way to work a gimmick match (even if what you're doing looks good). Nobody wanted to see a War Games where guys are working their normal singles match spots, and that's what happens through a lot of this. Most would probably scoff at the idea of Baron Corbin joining a Daniel Bryan/Cesaro match and improving it, but that's what happens. Corbin beating the hell out of both of them was maybe my favorite run of the match, especially when he was ramming Bryan's knee into the support corners of the chamber pods. Corbin even smashed Bryan's face into the chains and punched him hard in the side of the head. Zayn was a fun addition but also added distracting moments that everyone else had to just sell quietly during, and I don't think his cage climb was worth the time it took to knock him off, even though Cesaro doing pull ups at the top of the chamber was a cool visual. Still, Zayn took harder bumps overall than anyone in the match, and it's important to have that guy in a chamber match. I thought Corbin's elimination was handled poorly, as he had been such a wrecking ball and then essentially got put away after a big swing and a sharpshooter. Almost right before that Corbin had caught Cesaro and slammed him into the cage, dropping him across the turnbuckles, clotheslined him back into the ring, and had taken far less damage during his time in the match. Didn't like that at all. Uso was a real highlight, and him slamming Owens' arm into the chamber exit and teeing off with superkicks was awesome, my favorite part of the match, great way to take someone out. I thought the overall quality of the match was lower than most chamber matches though, and it never really felt like it gelled as a whole match. Chamber matches have a high floor, but this leaned a little bit much into the things I don't love about chamber matches. 

Daniel Bryan vs. Roman Reigns

ER: This was a good angle to either continue a feud while beating Bryan quick, and Reigns looked strong in his quick steamrolling. The more they book Reigns as Brock Lesnar by having him work mostly PPV matches, the more special the opportunities at his belt seem. Here you get Bryan working a long match and getting immediately ground and pounded, but not before nearly getting Reigns with a flash Yes Lock. It really seemed plausible that Bryan could have tapped him, and even when Reigns lifted him up for a hard powerbomb I was expecting a Bryan triangle. However, I couldn't care much less about Edge challenging for a title.  

Matt Riddle vs. John Morrison vs. Bobby Lashley 

ER: This was mostly a typical bad three way, though I liked Lashley running through and treating Riddle and Morrison like tackling dummies. Morrison had a bunch of dumb overly flippy bumps off Lashley offense that didn't need flowery bumping, but Lashley's explosiveness made it all work. Riddle took a big high backdrop bump on the floor, Lashley caught Morrison with a huge uranage slam, and the two corkscrew topes to take Lashley out looked good. But the Riddle/Morrison martial arts exchanges looked stupid and too telegraphed, things were always better the simpler they kept it. Something like Riddle hitting a running elbow smash looked way better than any of their "missed kick/spin around" sequences, of which there were several. I thought the finish was really weak, Riddle and Morrison overshot their rope flip finishers, Lashley felt absent from the action too long, and then apparently the match was No DQ? MVP is sitting at ringside the whole match with a crutch, the match is apparently No DQ, and MVP spends the match not interfering? That's pretty dumb. 

Shayna Baszler/Nia Jax vs. Bianca Belair/Sasha Banks

ER: Another underwhelming tag from the Baszler/Jax team, another reminder that there should be more chemistry there, but there just doesn't seem to be any. I keep waiting for it to work, but I just don't think it will. This started out rough, with a bit too much acting and reacting that needs better timing to work, but when it settled into Baszler working over Banks I think it peaked. Baszler was mean bending Sasha's wrist around, but they abandon it all too early so it doesn't evolve into anything important. Sasha's comeback is good, but more because she works well with Baszler, and not because of where it came in the match. It felt like Sasha just took Baszler's offense for awhile, and then she decided to do her own. The nearfalls and backslide and cradles looked good, but they didn't really feel earned. The finish was no good, didn't need the Reginald involvement, just made Banks look like a dummy. Jax's timing continues to look completely off since her return from injury, and that seemed like it was throwing off Belair too. Belair feels stuck in a rut, and I don't anyone came out of this match looking better. 

Drew McIntyre vs. AJ Styles vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Sheamus vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton 

ER: This was pretty easily the match of the night, even with some minor issues, as it's really the only match of the night that was good. If a show goes out on its best match, it tends to leave a better impression in my mind. I'm simple. But this was good, and it was a great long Drew McIntyre title defense. I thought they did a good thing getting rid of Orton early, with a flash high leverage Kofi roll up, because him giving RKOs to Hardy and Kingston gave us an interesting wrinkle. Styles gets in the match before he needs to be in, trying to get a pin on either of them. I like that it took him convincingly long enough to break out of his pod and get to them that they were able to kick out. Everybody was hitting hard, with Drew especially throwing huge chops and forearms with his full weight. Kingston took some big spills and hit a great tope en reversa off a pod onto everyone. I think McIntyre/Kingston/Hardy/Styles did a great job filling time until Sheamus came in, and I thought the match did a good job at building to the Sheamus/McIntyre showdown. I think a pretty strong case could be made that Sheamus and McIntyre have been the best WWE in ring guys of 2021, and it felt like a big deal when they finally went at it. The slug out looked good, both guys throwing potato shots, and I thought they did a good job of actually making any of the final 4 look like they had a shot. I was believing Hardy could win, and loved when he hit the swanton on Styles only to get his legs buckled by a Claymore. They did a good job of making the killshots unexpected, like Sheamus getting hit with a Styles flying forearm right after nailing McIntyre with a brogue kick. They did the strong form of WWE finisher chaining, the kind that are chained but feel like their bursting in unexpectedly from a blind side of the camera. 

I think the post-match attack by Bobby Lashley was good, and the way they handled the Miz cash in felt strong too. I liked the angle more than the actual result. I like all six guys in the actual chamber match and Lashley more than I like the Miz in ring, and I'd rather see main event matches with any of them instead. But, I like that this sets up a ton of worthy challengers for Miz, and there could be a lot of good matches there. 

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Saturday, February 20, 2021

2018 Ongoing MOTY List: Kotaro Suzuki vs. Tajiri

68. Kotaro Suzuki vs. Tajiri AJPW 1/2

ER: I really liked this. Makes sense that a modern Japan match I really like is going to be between two guys I watched 15-20 years ago. But it felt like more of a modern Japan match, just done really well. Suzuki has really grown into a cooler large junior, the added muscle since his earlier NOAH years making him more interesting. Here they work a simple story around Suzuki battering Tajiri's ribs and body, in a match dominated by Suzuki, but they integrate Tajiri's comebacks as effectively as possible. Tajiri is a game old guy, but this is also a smart way to craft a match around a less game old guy, real smart way to showcase Tajiri (both guys are in their 40s, but at opposite ends). They open with some cool standing grappling that feels more like something from a Regal match, wrist control and Tajiri crossing Suzuki's arms in attempts to control his torso.

Suzuki goes after Tajiri's torso in retaliation, starting with a hard body shot and graduating up to gutbusters and hard knees and more punches and elbows to the gut; he even breaks out a 619 right to the ribcage and a sensible frog splash off the middle buckle. Tajiri uses his kicks to max effectiveness, going right at the collar bones with a running dropkick in the corner and having great aim on all of them, and he's one of the only guys still tossing out a classic Memphis piledriver. Suzuki shoves his hands over Tajiri's mouth when he wisely suspects mist, but Tajiri eventually took advantage of the distracted ref to nail the mist and a great spin kick to the face to finish. I thought these two complemented each other really well, their similarities play well off each other, and this managed to have a lot of movement, but a lot of effective movement.

PAS: Yeah if I am going to watch a Japanese juniors match, I want them to be Senior Juniors. Suzuki isn't great (he wasn't great 20 years ago either), but he did some effective things, although his elbows to the head were so-so, those body shot elbows were nasty, and I liked how he kept Tajiri off of his game with them. The opening matwork section was really cool and something which doesn't exist in major fed Japanese wrestling. Much of the match was Suzuki bottling up Tajiri, including blocking the mist with his hand to set up some very cool magistral roll ups. Tajiri is still a heck of a one shot wrestler, and when he finally hits the mist/buzzsaw kick combo it looks as great as it did in ECW in the 90s. I think I would have rated this higher if Tajiri was unleashed a little more, but this was entertaining well executed stuff, which isn't super common in Japan these days.


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Friday, February 19, 2021

New Footage Friday/Fujiwara Family UWF 4/23/85

PAS: A whole new UWF 1 handheld got unearthed, lots of British guys worked the early tours, but not much of the footage is available. Finlay and Rudge in UWF is still the holy grail, but it's cool to see guys like Singh and Martin as well.

Ray Steele vs. Osamu Kido

MD: I'm fairly high on Steele generally but I like him most in matches with contrast, him vs a scoundrel. Here, despite doing a fairly solid visual John Saxon impression, the actual work was sort of lacking that. It came off dry and exhibition like, with fair struggle but no real fire. When they built to something, like the Scorpion Deathlock, it ended up really not mattering. The finish of Steele grabbing a late headlock and getting suplexed felt pretty lazy for the setting too, even if they twisted it slightly with the submission after the suplex.

Caswell Martin vs. Nobuhiko Takada

MD: I had seen the Steele vs Kido match before this one and I was sort of wondering if it'd just been a while since I'd seen UWF undercard footage and things were just more laconic than I was remembering. No, no they were not. This was top notch. Right from the get go, it had a different sort of aggression, even with Martin's first press into the ropes. Martin really stood out here. There was the sense that Takada had him on holds, on strikes, maybe even on leverage and trickiness, but Martin came off like a true powerhouse with a ton of throws, including this great spin out deadlift gutwrench. My favorite Takada moment here was him slapping Martin in the face on a reset and then drawing him in to stand up striking through it which wasn't at all to Martin's advantage. Just a dynamic match all around. This felt like a real find.

PAS: This was really excellent, Martin fit this style perfectly and I am not a Takada guy, but he was great too. Martin had some killer throws, just popped his hips deadlifted and threw. I also thought he had some fun nifty tricks from the bottom, including grabbing and turning the arm. I liked Takada targeting Martin's gut with spin kicks and whip kicks which really looked like they sucked. He had some nice throws as well, and had his moments on the mat, and never really sat in kneebar which can be the downfall of Takada, in fact his one kneebar attempt had Martin working hard to twist out and counter and was a highpoint of the match. Real gem of a match.

Super Tiger vs. Masami Soronaka

MD: In my head, this was about Sayama being incredibly dangerous and explosive and Soronaka mainly trying to contain him as Sayama worked from underneath. The work mostly bore that out. Sayama just came at you in so many differnet ways. He had the kicks, the lethal headlock suplex, a nasty headlock takeover that took Soronaka's face off, a lightning cross arm breaker, and the northern lights style throw that set up the finish. From underneath, he struggled a bit but could still all but flip out of things. Soronaka put up a pretty solid effort and might have come out close to even on points, but it was just a matter of time before Sayama took him down.

PAS: This was structurally very similar to the all timer Tiger vs. Fujiwara series, with the wily mat wrestler attempting to subdue and ground the explosive striker. Soronaka is very much not Yoshiaki Fujiwara, and I mostly ended up resenting him stifling Sayama and all that he can do.When Sayama gets him in the corner and finally unloads it was very cool, and Soronaka had a trick or two, but I needed a bit more pop.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara/Akira Maeda vs. Omar Atlas/Tiger Dalibar Singh - FUN

MD: Interesting dynamics here. There was a solid Atlas/Maeda exchange to start, smooth but competitive. Singh was clunkier but his stuff had impact. Fujiwara seemed fairly content to feed for him. On the other hand, he leaned on Atlas a little more. For instance, when Atlas didn't quite hit him hard enough in the corner, he turned it around and smacked him on the face. This faded off towards the finish with Fujiwara and Maeda firmly in charge, with crabs and countless great Fujiwara headbutts, which is as good a final image as any if you're going to have a tape abruptly end.

PAS: Definitely a bummer that this gets cut off, because I would have liked to see where it was heading. I as usual am going to focus on Fujiwara and what he brought to the match. I really loved his section with Atlas, he really dominated the standing grappling, locking in the double underhooks and not really letting him go anywhere, shifting and countering any attempts to escape. When Singh gets the hot tag he really puts over those uppercuts and the big suplex, something which meant more considering how tough Fujiwara looked before. It did feel like it was building to something, which we didn't get, but what we got was pretty neat.

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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Lord Regal and September Spawned a Monster

Lord Steven Regal/Stunning Steve Austin/Mongolian Mauler vs. Dustin Rhodes/Sting/Flyin Brian Pillman WCW 1/31/94 - GREAT

PAS: Totally WAR six-man tag match with five of the greatest wrestlers in history and the Mongolian Mauler for some reason.  I kind of liked the Mauler in this he had a nice chop to the throat and both a back rake and the lesser seen but equally effective front rake.  The other five were as great as you expect them to be. Regal and Sting have a couple of exchanges and those guys always work great together. Dustin was the face in peril, and he is an all time at it, he takes a great bump on a blocked monkey flip, and does a 360 on an Austin clothesline. It all leads to a hot tag with both Sting and Pillman, and those guys can heat up a tag. Great Worldwide main event, the kind of thing that would put a smile on your face on a Saturday morning.

MD: 1994 WCW is a bit of a blindspot for me, actually. I've seen some of the biggest stuff (both in general and in our circles) but the idea was that I always wanted to keep that one specific year, especially the first half, in my pocket for a rainy day. I had this ridiculous notion that there was going to be a limited amount of old wrestling out there and I never knew when I was going to need a bunch of it that I knew I'd probably love. There are a couple of things like that for me (The prose version of The Big Sleep is another actually). My rainy day media.

So I haven't seen this before. "From Mongolia, the Mongolian Mauler" is a pretty ridiculous billing. They should have probably just called him the Mauler. The black contacts are gold for 1994 though. I immediately like the camaraderie of the babyfaces. The unity and shared vision they all seem to have must have made Hogan's arrival a few months later feel all the more jarring. My favorite shot in all of this is probably the shift from Mauler chewing the scenery (figuratively but just barely) on the floor, to Regal making faces on the apron. You would get random few week/months runs with guys in WWF (Lance Cassidy or Battle Kat or what have you) but the nature of WWF TV meant that there were less name vs name matches and a lot less random tags/six-mans in general, with only the more established guys selected for Coliseum Videos, so it's less likely you get a situation like this with a guy who was in and out.

The match itself was what you'd want out of 8 minutes of this grouping. Sting got to take about forty seconds of the Mauler's offense and you get the sense he was absolutely into it, to the point where I'm amazed the didn't work more during this short run. Sting knew what he could do with an opponent like that. The real heat came after Dustin contorted himself impossibly for a bump on an Austin clothesline out of the corner. He didn't just hide his size as a FIP but he also went over big for things like Regal's butterfly suplex. When he actually used the height was when he futilely reached for the corner which was always an effective visual from Dustin. That's another side of this. By 94, most of these guys knew each other so well that they could do a match like this in their sleep. You add the Mauler into the mix as an X factor and you get a fun bit of televised chaos.

William Regal vs. Bubba Ray Dudley WWE Raw 5/20/02 - FUN

ER: These two matched up for months in tag matches, with Regal and Lance Storm having a long feud with the Dudleys. This is the only singles match they had though, and the first half is exactly what you'd want. Regal worked really stiff, roughing up Bubba with hard elbows and punches, hard knee strikes, both collided with different shoulderblocks, all of it shaping it to be a classic. But things get unnecessarily derailed when Molly Holly interfered and Bubba chased her, and the timing of things gets thrown off a little bit. They started with a nice violent flow and interrupted the rhythm. Regal kind of whiffed on a punch that was supposed to land and they kind of wound up standing in the wrong spot. Regal gets things back to where we were by just throwing Bubba throat first against the middle rope, my favorite moment of the match. It looked practical - like the way Finlay integrated the ring into his offense - and really violent, and I fully bought into Bubba's choked selling. But then Brock came out and interrupted the rhythm they had regained and it didn't really get it back. It had too many distractions away from the ass kicking, and for a 3 minute match ending in a DQ, it still could have been great if the 3rd minute was like the 1st minute.

PAS: This had a couple of fun moments, which is pretty good for a short TV match to set up a run in. Bubba's opening offensive run was stiff enough to bruise up Regal's chest, and the post Molly Holly interference spot where Regal threw Bubba's jaw into the rope was super nasty. Bubba needing to get in a running man set up for a splash, a flip flop and fly, and a "Bubba get the tables" in a three minute match was shtick overkill. You have three minutes, pick one thing. 


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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

NXT UK Worth Watching: Gallagher! Andrews! Webster! Bate!

Mark & Joe Coffey vs. Mark Andrews/Flash Morgan Webster NXT UK 1/27 (Aired 2/20/19) (Ep. #30)

ER: I really liked this, and thought it was a fun way to work a match where the outcome wasn't ever in doubt. We knew Gallus was going to run over Mandrews and the Modfather, and I like how they got to that. Mark Coffey is really good at working with juniors, knows how to miss close and occupy time while highspots are being set up, and Andrews especially was great at sticking and moving between the larger team. Andrews doesn't skimp on his strikes, gets his boots up into Mark's face and pushes off, hits an uppercut that looks like something that would slow down a big guy. You knew Andrews was only going to  keep pace for so long, and it turns on a dime with the Coffey brothers hitting a wicked pop up uppercut. They cut the ring off, Mark planting a kneedrop, Joe backing Andrews into the corner with great punches (hard shot to the face that Andrews sold like someone who got punched right in the face, and some great body shots), lifts him with a nasty hammerlock and overhead throw, and Andrews' only saving grace is that he's good at leaping out of powerbombs. Webster has a fun hot tag, and I think there's a reason they had Mark in the ring when the tag was made, he took a Asai moonsault very well, and Webster swung around the ringpost to hit a rana on Joe on the floor. We get a fun spot down the stretch where Andrews tags back in gets caught trying a tornado DDT, but Webster shoves his legs to send the DDT through. We get duel tope con giros, and I thought they did a good job of working in that team flash at the end, right before Andrews is separated again with a suplex on the apron, leaving Webster alone. This easily could have been worked as a squash, or they could have given the flyers more time than would be believable, but I think they found a strong balance, and I came away impressed by Andrews working up to the bigger Gallus. 

Gentleman Jack Gallagher vs. Tyler Bate NXT UK 1/27 (Aired 2/27/19) (Ep. #31)

ER: This had the beginnings of a seriously great match, but I thought the finish was sudden (by design), distractingly long, and more than a little silly. They work it like they're going 20, but it ends at 10. Since the entire match is essentially matwork leading to pinfall, with not much in between, the matwork portion was great and then things basically ended. I'm unsure if I would have been better with the match just ending as a 10 minute draw, rather than the finish we got. It's a little tough to evaluate a match with some of the best mat tricks WWE has seen, that then ends with a couple dozen one counts of an endless rolling cradle reversal and then a schoolboy. So let's just look at the matwork and soak in it pleasantly. Bate was aggressive on the mat, going after Gallagher's arm but not ever really doing too much damage, and always eventually getting shown up and punished by Gallagher. Gallagher had some smooth reversals into snug headscissors, and Bate had a slick moment where he kneeled down on Gallagher's ankles to get him to loosen his legs enough for Bate to pop his head out. 

Jack's Indian deathlocks and work on the knee were great, sinking in holds and doing things like digging his knee into Bate's thigh, and I loved when Gallagher tied Bate's leg in the ropes and then jammed his knee into Bate's knee. I really liked how Bate sold the knee too, being wobbly on his feet and using his bum wheel to still do kneelifts into Gallagher's face (while making it clear that he has made the choice that it's better to use his in-pain knee as a blunt instrument than trust putting weight on it to weaponize his good knee). Things got a little silly when Bate shrugged off the match long work on his leg and held Jack in the air with a keylock, then did an airplane spin. Nothing puts more painful pressure on your knees than the short side to side steps needed to perform airplane spins or giant swings, so this felt egregious to me. Still, it looked like the match was getting off the mat and into a crazy finishing stretch, but then the silly little endless rolling cradle to the finish happened. And that's fine. Wrestling isn't all about Match of the Year status and can also be about the unexpectedly good and bad. This whole thing is well worth seeing just for the opening 7 minutes alone, some of the most fun scrambling and transitions in 2019 wrestling, regardless of promotion.


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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Delaporte! Bollet! LeDuc! Gastel! Montreal! Sola! Bernaert! Rouxel!

Roger Delaporte/Andre Bollet vs Gilbert Leduc/Robert Gastel 12/14/61

MD: Great tag with four great guys. I have no idea why Gastel was on the side of the angels here but he came off as a folk hero and the fans loved to cheer for him. He would just mow everyone down with forearms and headbutts and the crowd ate it up. Leduc took a nasty bump on a fireman's carry into the heel turnbuckle early on and they just unleashed the most brutal, long beating on him with quick tags, slams and backbreakers, stomps, and even a somersault senton by Bollet that spelled his doom in the first fall. Eventually, in the second, Gastel had enough (they had done a good job goading him while in control) and rushed in to a big pop. From there it was fairly back and forth. Leduc sold his back for the rest of the match but had moments of fire. They built to a few big comeuppance spots like usual. Gastel had a way of taking the crowd back down after comebacks to set up the heels taking back over which were well and fine but he held one armbar for over four minutes without them working in and out of it and that was a bit much. Still, past that, these guys were masters and the match was masterful.

SR: 2/3 falls match. We JIP about 20 minutes into a 60 match. This is one of those matches which is heated as we join, and it stays heated for almost a full 40 minutes from that point forward. This was all about Delaporte and Bollet throwing hard punches and stomps, and our man Gastel being a real one and helping poor gentleman Leduc through the match by fighting fire with fire. Gastel being excepted wholly as a babyface by the audience is heartwarming. Bollet was doing those flip sentons to peoples backs like Tenryu being in a funny mood. This had quite a bit of back work, which didn‘t pay off in a major way. In fact the match had some unusual restholds and may have suffered a bit from being nothing but all these guys beating the hell out of eachother for 40 minutes, but these guys are great at beating the hell out of each other. The last 10 minutes or so are great though with Gastel throwing some awesome looking headbutts. I would‘ve liked to see the full thing, as these kinda heatfests suffer a bit when you don‘t get the early build. But knowing these guys, they may have gone for full on heat from the get go.

PAS: This was great stuff, it is really impressive the pace these guys can set in a 60 minute draw, we tend to mentally think of 20th century 60 minutes draws having long rest hold sections, but this was a go go pace. All of what we got were hard exchanges. Liked the contrast on the face team, with Gastel working like a third heel, and LeDuc being more of a technician (although in French catch even the technicians throw heat). We got two classic LeDuc headspins,  one the Santo style headscissors, one a spin out of a arm stretch, which was especially awesome. I loved Gastel's final heat segment, tying both heels up in the ropes and wailing on them with forearms. No real finish, and long matches suffer if they don't build to anything, although the work her was super strong. 

Monsieur Montreal/Ami Sola vs Pierre Bernaert/Jack Rouxel 1/12/62

MD: Another week, another show, another great tag. This is our second or third match with Rouxel and I really like him so far. He had this upstart attitude in how he'd disengage or lay shots in or interact with the ref or the crowd. Montreal leaned hard into the strongman gimmick (using the bear hug and a lot of his opponents making him look good by flying around the ring on normal exchanges) and at one point, he picked up Rouxel out of a headlock, deposited him on the apron, and knocked him off. Rouxel made sure to land in a woman's lap which popped her and the crowd. I like the guy. Bernaert (who wasn't teaming with Bibi here since Cheri was in training for another match apparently) was a perfect partner, a smarmy mentor in cheating and underhandedness. Yes, he managed a fake handshake into a forearm once here. Sola was as savvy as we've ever seen him, delighting in Montreal's strength spots, working the apron well, orchestrating a lot of the revenge spots; the best of those was probably a series of arm stretchers in the heel corner where they kept kicking Sola down when he tried to work to his feet. When he got an arm of his own, he yanked it back to the face corner and they repeated the spot on the heels in an over the top manner. It's interesting to watch things develop over the years. By this stage, limbwork/bodypart work is 100% a thing. It really wasn't a couple of years earlier. The first fall ended with the heels really targeting Sola's back. That led to a fun little moment (again showing Sola's presence and experience) when he rushed in to touch his opponent so that he could immediately tag back out to start the second fall, as you can't tag until you touched at least once. Good moment in a match full of good moments. Everything really came together here to make for yet another good tag. Others might disagree with me but I think the overall quality of the tag scene is better than a few years earlier, where there would be heat and intensity and big moments, but less tricks and narrative shortcuts, like the heels cutting off the ring or stopping babyface reversals from the apron or using the ref being distracted. In 61-62, there was just a great balance of the two elements.

SR: 2/3 Falls match going about 35 minutes. The Montreal/Sola team is pretty fun. Sola is pure technique, and Montreal is all about strength. Rouxel on the other hand looked like a slightly less blonde version of Bernaert. A classy guy who could wrestle but was simply more interested in cheapshotting guys. This built for quite a bit and there was some nice skill on display from Rouxel and Bernaert. Of course, their bread and butter is cheapshotting guys hard, and when it got to that they looked great. Especially liked Beraneaert loosening Solas jaw with a knee only to get giant swung seconds later. And well, Mr. Montreal and Ami Sola are great pair of faces to play off those vicious tactics. This wasn‘t as heated as the other tag but it felt more complete (not just in terms of how much we got to see) and well rounded.

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Monday, February 15, 2021

Paradigm Pro Wrestling 2020 Fighting Spirit Grand Prix 11/6/20

After really enjoying their UWFI contender series, I wanted to go back and check out some of the other PPW UWFI rules shows. This was their second Fighting Spirit Grand Prix and had a fun line up:

Cole Radrick vs. Derek Neal

PAS: This was really good, with some more pro-wrestling tropes then most of Contender series matches, but in a way that worked. Radrick had some real slickness on the mat including a great calf slicer counter. Neal was a heavier hitter, and landed a big elbow for a knockdown. Finish was really cool with Radrick landing a big double leg spinebustery takedown, and throwing from the top. Neal is able to squirm out and cancel Radrick with a gross elbow to his brain stem. Felt like it should have been a stoppage, but Radrick gets to his feet hits a desperate spin kick and a running knee to knock Neal to the floor and out. I would like to see both guys again in this style, really entertaining sprint with some big moments.

ER: Very cool short match that kept building to bigger, more exciting peaks. Radrick threw a bunch of cool spin kicks that really made this feel like something out of Bloodsport: The Movie. They were always great whether they landed or missed, because the landings looked like KO blows and the misses lead to him getting worked over. Neal laid into him after several misses, and it kept looking like Radrick wouldn't beat the count. They managed to make this feel like it could go both ways despite Neal connecting more. The way Radrick kept pulling things out were really exciting, great way to open a show. 

Dominic Garrini vs. Dustin Leonard

PAS: Leonard is relatively new to pro wrestling, but has a Jujitsu black belt and a ton of combat grappling experience. As expected this was mostly on the mat, and while it didn't have the flash you might see out of Volk Han or Navarro, there was some pretty cool technical stuff fighting in and out of guard, and a great looking judo throw by Leonard. On their feet Leonard looked a lot more tentative and got caught with a big jumping knee, he shoots into Garrini after getting stunned which allows Dom to crucifix him and elbow him out of there. Cool idea and neat to see a promotion just let two guys go out there and grapple. 

ER: I was really into this, great grappling throughout that felt like it had real consequences the whole fight. This was my first time seeing Leonard, and I will always like a bigger guy in a gi. He threw these straight front kicks that I really liked, and I liked how Dom struggled to contain him. Leonard was big on the mat, a great neutralizer against Dom. We've been watching a lot of UWFI rules stuff lately, and a lot of it is with guys who aren't as experienced on the mat, so seeing several minutes of two jujitsu guys doing their thing was a treat. Leonard even gets a strap down moment when he ditches his gi. I wonder if Gary Goodridge knows how important his UFC 8 finish is to pro wrestling. 

Max the Impaler vs. Lee Moriarty

PAS: Max has a great look, a mix of Mad Max and Furiosa. They are really powerful looking, and for most of the match overwhelm Moriarty. I am a Moriarty low voter, but enjoy him in this style a fair amount. He has nice flashy kickboxing and knows how to time shootstyle near falls. Max had some nice Vader smashes and power throws.  Moriarty uses the bottom turnbuckle as a Anthony Pettis style springboard into a forearm which turns the tide, before another elbow finish. Fun stuff and I am interested in tracking down some more Impaler. 

ER: I think this is my first time actually seeing Max the Impaler outside of GIFs, but I agree they have a great wrestling look, maybe the most authentic of all the Mad Max cosplay gimmicks we've got over the years. The Fury Road aesthetic is strong but could be tough to convincingly pull off, but they pull it off well. Moriarty was like a CAW dummy here, I barely even noticed him until there was an annoying and out of place German suplex fighting spirit sell. This was all Impaler, clubbing away at Moriarty's back and executing big throws while stomping around. The Moriarty elbows at the finish looked good, and my favorite thing about all this may have been how Impaler sold their jaw after the finish. Very cool. 

Thomas Shire vs. Josh Crane

PAS: This was the least of the first round matches, but had a pretty cool finish. Crane is a Big Japan gaijin but didn't seem to have the hang of throwing UWFI style strikes, and most of his offense was strikes. Shire is on defense for most of it, until he throws a nice looking side suplex and then just wrecks Crane with European uppercuts out of a Muay Thai plum, which was exactly how you want a Dory trained guy to finish a shoot fight.

ER: I wasn't really feeling the stand up as Crane's open hand strikes didn't look good, although I thought Shire sold them well, especially a hard slap. Crane's offense was seeming to come alive (big knee lift that looked like it knocked the wind out of Shire) before Shire decided enough was enough. Shire hits an awesome back suplex and makes the decision to not take the suplex point so he could instead kick away at Crane. His European uppercuts landed deep and the stoppage finish was well utilized and timed. 

Alex Kane vs. Levi Everett

PAS: This is how you make a debut, holy moly. Kane has one of the fastest shoots I have seen in pro-wrestling. He looks like he is moving in 1.5 speed while doing two nasty gator rolls and a lightning taking of Everett's back. Levi only gets in two moves, but they both look great: a big bar fight headbutt for a knockdown, and a SUWA dropkick which actually works in this style. Kane finished him off with a head and arm cradle suplex which was like prime Taz level nasty. Two minutes but Kane is on my radar for sure!

ER: If you come in with the nickname Suplex Assassin, you have to murder someone to get that name over. Luckily for us the Amish love taking suplexes, because the match ended here was a doozy. Kane hits like an inverted fisherman's buster on Everett, a suplex that can be called the No Good Landing, and then we have to deal with Everett's lifeless corpse after. Everything up to that was great, a missed overhand by Everett lead to a great double leg takedown, Everett had a big knockdown off a headbutt, and there's some great timing on an Everett dropkick that hits heels first into Kane's chest. That suplex was a real finish though, on a show with all good finishes, that suplex is the thing you're talking about on the ride home. 

Bobby Beverly vs. Cole Radrick

PAS: They start out just throwing hands back and forth, finishing with a nasty open hand shot to the neck by Beverly. Rest of the match is Beverly establishing himself as the heel landing two low blows before his Saito suplex and a running knee for the KO. I really liked Radrick in the first round and would have liked to see him get a chance to do more here.

ER: Yeah, Radrick had a cool opening round performance and it felt like he was a bit wasted here establishing Beverly as the dirty fighter of the tournament. There's a fine line between these windmill arm open slaps looking painful and looking like clueless 3rd graders fighting, but I liked these, and liked how the opening flurry ended with Beverly chopping right at Radrick's neck tendons. Once Radrick composed himself he landed some nice stick and move shots, but had no chance in a format that apparently allows low blows. It's tough to do that "the pro wrestling ref keeps missing these low blows" when you're going for realism, as the low blows would work better if the match was actually stopped as if they were accidental. Beverly would still get the heel advantage and we wouldn't have to put up with wrestling tropes in our shootstyle. Beverly's Saito suplex and running knee make for a nasty finish, but we could have gotten there with different shenanigans. 

Dominic Garrini vs. Calvin Tankman

PAS: I dig Tankman on these shows working like Emmanuel Yarbrough. Garrini keeps trying to get Tankman on the ground, only to get stymied by his size, and it is hard to put on a hold with a giant dude smushing you. Garrini has been really clever with finishes and this was a killer, with Tankman rocking Garrini with big shots, knocking him down with a great spinning elbow, only to get suckered in to side choke for the tap. Love the Fujiwaraish way that Garrini is always moments away from tapping you out. 

ER: This started out slow and was clearly Dom trying to sucker Tankman into going to the mat, while Tankman was fine to stand. The stand-up from both was tentative, and that makes sense because who would not be tentative opposite Tankman? The finish was really fun, with Tankman finally hauling off on Garrini, throwing heavy elbows and a big chop, then nailing a big spinning back elbow that sent Dom spiraling into the mat. Alas, Tankman gets excited and pounces on Dom, with Dom getting his back and digging in his heels to get the tap. It doesn't seem too sustainable to lean into spinning back elbows just for the shot at getting a choke on the mat, but it worked here. 

59. Thomas Shire vs. Mike Braddock

PAS: Braddock is a OVW wrestler with a ju-jitsu and boxing background who has a prosthetic leg. He has really good balance on the leg, and it was easy not to even notice for most of the match. The only moment it comes into play is when Shire backs him into the corner mixing up kicks and palm strikes and accidentally leg kicks the metal leg which allows Braddock to take over. They had some good grappling exchanges, and I liked how Shire threw forearms to the ribs to weaken the body. Braddock is able to get a sneak head and arm choke during a mat scramble which worked really well to end a very even match. Shire is really fun in this style, and I hope we get to see more. 

ER: I thought this ruled, count me as an immediate Braddock fan. Braddock is like Catch Point Vachon, and his mat movement with a full prosthetic left leg were so natural that he comes off like an AI effect from Ex Machina. He moved like Buzz Sawyer, which will always put me in your corner, and it was easy to completely forget that he in on an artificial leg. It brings up cool psychology moments here, gives total new implications to a Shire kneebar. Is it an advantage that he has one less leg that Shire can work over for a submission? Or is it a disadvantage to have just one leg for every attack to be focused on? And that lead to a great moment where Shire was backing Braddock into a corner with strikes, and threw a leg kick and hit titanium. The grappling here was really great, both really tenacious and fighting for their spot in the semis. And the striking was really active, leading to a big Braddock slap, and Shire went after Braddock with brutal knees from side mount. The finish was awesome, with Shire pouncing into a rear naked choke after landing a heavy knee, trying to sink in hooks and looking like he had it, only for Braddock to turn himself and lock a head and arm choke onto Shire for a quick tap. I loved this, was hooked through every second, and I think I'm going to start obsessing over Mike Braddock matches the way Phil is going to obsess over Alex Kane matches. 

Hoodfoot Mo Atlas vs. Lee Moriarty

PAS: Hoodfoot is the breakout star of this promotion. I am not sure I can remember a wrestler who carries that 1985 Mike Tyson one punch eraser aura. Moriarty is much faster and was able to use that speed to flummox Atlas early, staying inside on his looping strikes and peppering him, even getting a knockdown on a jumping knee. Atlas hurls Moriarty but gets caught in a triangle armbar and needs to go to the ropes. You can only play patty cake with a panther for so long, and Atlas gets another takedown and taps Moriarty with a vicious neck crank that looked like he was trying to rip his jaw off. 

ER: I really do get excited for Hoodfoot matches, the kind of guy I can watch on a show and have a good feeling that I'm not going to have to skip through a match that goes too long. I loved watching Hoodfoot stalk Moriarty, and it all paid off just the way I wanted. Moriarty lands a straight kick to the chest, but gets cute and tries a kind of Superman punch off the ropes, and Atlas catches him with a video game violent suplex. The neck crank he finishes the match with was awesome, big arm pressed hard and flat across Moriarty's jaw, just brutal. 

Chase Holliday vs. Lord Crewe

PAS: A spirited little slap fight. Crewe has a ton of activity in all of his UWFI fights, he is like Max Holloway, overwhelming his opponent with activity. Holliday has more power and also throws a couple of nice deadweight suplexes, before getting the KO with a spinning backfist, which didn't land as clean as one would hope for a KO finish. Still this was entertaining and compact which is what you want from a non-tourney fight. 

ER: I love Chase Holliday in these things, makes it easy to picture Daveed Diggs doing a cool version of The Wrestler. The arm swinging looked good here, neither guy fighting like they were afraid of getting hit.  It's not easy to work extended open hand stand-up without it occasionally coming off silly, but this looked tough a bruising. 

Lexus Montez vs. Flash Thompson

PAS: I have written up three Flash Thompson matches now, and in everyone I primarily talk about how he has really good head movement and positioning. I want there to be more, but so far it's mostly head movement. I did like a couple of the open hand hooks, and the back elbow he used to set up the heel hook was nasty. Still most of this didn't totally work. Montez has a Muay Thai gimmick, but the knees didn't have the pop they need. This wasn't bad, but this tourney has set a pretty high bar.

ER: I liked this a little more than Phil, but I give it credit for the final minute being stronger than the first minute. That's been a nice floor for several of these Paradigm UWFI matches, and it's a plus that's built into the format. It makes sense that the guys would save up their most explosive stuff for the finish, especially if they're going less than 3 minutes. So guys sometimes save themselves for the final burst and it ends matches on a high note. Here I thought the Montez shotgun knee knockdown looked great and I liked how Flash sold the 8 count. The Flash rolling kneebar finish was really slick and I liked how it got the instant tap. 

Hoodfoot vs. Mike Braddock

PAS: Another great Hoodfoot slugfest, Braddock catches Hoodfoot with multiple short counter hooks for knockdowns, throwing shorter to get inside of the more looping shots. Hoodfoot gets a big knockdown on one of his big swinging shots, which actually bends Braddock's head to the side. Braddock gets up, catches Hoodfoot again, but while going for the submission scramble, ends up on his back, and Hoodfoot stomps him on the head for the KO. Really enjoyable scrap, and Braddock fits really well in this style. 

ER: Here's an indy dream match featuring a guy I didn't know existed an hour earlier. Mike Braddock had just popped up on my radar and made me want to see more, and near instantly he is matched up with one of the true breakout names from this UWFI trend. This had a few neat surprises in its short runtime, with Braddock catching Atlas at just the right moment to stun him with a slap, then following up to the exact same spot. Braddock wound up with two knockdowns before this was over, and I love how Atlas folded on the first one, taking open hand shots and dropping down to a knee before going over, and the second time he just spun down a bit, selling almost more surprise than damage. Hoodfoot had a big, effortless looking throw early, looking like all arms, and he finishes this with a damn chest stomp stoppage! Hoodfoot is out here just stomping a man's chest until the ref gets involved, and that rules. Atlas has basically been doing the coolest version of the Rodney Mack White Boy Challenge and we are here for it. 

Bobby Beverly vs. Dominic Garrini

PAS: Pretty damn exciting 45 seconds, with Beverly charging at Garinni only to get caught in a leaping triangle for the tap. Came off in the crowd like a wild UFC finish which would get GIFed and Sportcentered, and is a hell of a way to set up a Hoodfoot vs. Garrini final.

ER: It's tough to fit too much more angle into under a minute, but this was really impressive. Beverly has been almost openly flaunting the rules of UWFI, more concerned with his Heavy Hitters title and getting some actual heat by doing so. The excitement in the crowd is palpable as Beverly charges directly into a leaping triangle and has to tap, that kind of excitement where the crowd is jumping out of their chairs at a fixed pro wrestling result. Garrini's title win felt really exciting, and I loved the idea of the title being on the line during the tournament, guaranteeing the title will be also defended in the finals. I'd love a Garrini/Beverly rematch, loved all of this. 

32. Dan Severn vs. Matthew Justice

PAS: Holy hell was this awesome. Even though we are big time Severn fans on SC, I wasn't expecting much from a match from a 62 year old Severn, but he looked great. He has such natural strength, that when he got a grip on Justice he would just muscle him down. He was also great at transitions on the ground, having a long struggle on the mat for an armbar, or transitioning into a side choke. Justice hits a great looking spear when he got some distance, which was a nasty shot for an old guy to take. Severn snaps after a slap in the corner which looked like it welted his eye, and he just yanks Justice down, with Justice nearly getting his arm ripped off in the ropes. Severn locks on a sick choke and drags Justice to the floor and strangles him out. 

ER: What a tough fight, probably the best Severn performance we've seen in his increased indy usage of the past 5 years or so. I've been really into Justice's MMA legend killer gimmick, and you knew it was going to come down to something crazy with the Beast. The grappling here was really good, and Severn was moving more fluidly than during his 1998 WWF run, no way he was moving like a 62 year old once that bell rang. He stuck to Justice and squeezed like an anaconda, not so much throwing him to the mat as he did drag him to the mat, just a concrete block dragging someone under water. Sure there were a couple throws, but I loved the dragging, loved how he fought for an armbar or choke and broke Justice's grip by throwing glancing chops at Justice's eyes. Matthew Justice has a great spear and he really drove that shoulder into Severn's midsection, really looking like it took his wind. The shot of Justice's face while he was desperately hanging onto the ropes and Severn was dragging him under was so classic, with Justice's hand tied inadvertently between top and middle rope, he looked like a guy willing to rip his hand out of a trap to escape the approaching wolf. Nothing was going to prevent Severn from choking the life out of Justice, rules be damned, and the finish of Severn sinking in those hooks on the floor was really cool. Let's run this match back, maybe do a best of 3. 

50. Hoodfoot vs. Dominic Garrini

PAS: This really felt like a main event, with the two top guys at this style in this territory meeting at the end of a tourney. Almost felt like a 2020 version of Nogueira vs. Sapp, with Garrini being ultra dangerous with submissions and Hoodfoot being hyper powerful. Garrini is able to catch Hoodfoot in multiple submission attempts early, with Hoodfoot using his strength to throw him several times. Eventually Garrini makes the mistake of trying to throw with Hoodfoot, only to get stunned and knocked down by one of those huge bear swipes. Garrini suckers Hoodfoot into a triangle though, and it looks like the finish, until a sick looking Rampage powerbomb and ground and pound forearm for the tap. Great styles clash and I want to see a rematch bad.

ER: Hoodfoot with the gear change throughout the tournament is a real highlight, and the white trunks with royal blue accent is a championship look. This was a great looking tournament on paper, with cool alternate bouts and plenty of great pairings, and on paper this was definitely one of those matches you wanted to see. The fact that it was in the finals, and also for the Heavy Hitters belt, only made this more cool. Garrini is good at getting Atlas to the mat, and I kept thinking he was going to tap him within the first 2 minutes, but was also rooting for him to not do that. There's one thing Dom does that I don't really love, and it shows up in a lot of his matches, and it's that he's not great at selling during strike exchanges. There are always these moments where he just kind of stands still and waits to get hit, and it kind of seems like he's just someone with no rhythm? I'm curious to know if Dom is a decent dancer or not, as there always seems to be one of those moments in his matches where he's motionless, neck craned forward waiting for a strike. It's distracting and kind of gives away what is about to happen. So he trades with Atlas and then kind of waits to be struck, and Atlas delivers on that. The triangle catch is really great and I thought once again Hoodfoot was done, but the powerbomb was sick and that diving finish forearm is classic. 


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