Segunda Caida

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

Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Joy of WWF Saturday Night's Main Event 7/28/90

During this era, there was no program I looked forward to more than Saturday Night's Main Event. My dad would tape it for me and I'd watch the tapes over and over, and this episode was one of my favorites. It's a loaded episode with all the belts on the line, and several memorable performances. Let's see how much I like it 30 years later. 

Rick Rude vs. Ultimate Warrior

ER: A smokin' great Rude performance in front of an unhinged crowd that loved every single thing Warrior did. Warrior's entrance reactions were at their peak here (and it's kind of amazing how loud this crowd stayed for this show considering they had already sat through THREE long Superstars tapings) and Rude was almost certainly Warrior's best ever opponent. This isn't one of their greatest matches, and Rude doesn't get much offense, but Rude stooged his way through this and built to him almost winning the belt. Rude took big bumps on Irish whips into turnbuckles, got tossed by a press slam, ate axe handles like they were dangerous projectiles, and gave us two immaculate atomic drop sells. I can't imagine having more fun as a professional wrestler than getting atomic dropped in front of 8,000 loud fans, then sticking your tailbone out and duck walking across the ring on your tiptoes before getting laid out with a clothesline. Rude's atomic drop selling is probably the greatest stooge sell of all time, and it's amazing how uniquely he treated the bump and always found new gags to add in. I love the heel aspect of Rude coming back by wasting Warrior with a belt shot, nailing him with a convincing nearfall Rude Awakening, leaping onto his back to really sink in a sleeper (Warrior hilariously getting his leg lifted by the ref like he's doing Jan Fonda glute exercises), and of course all the distraction and interference Heenan ran from ringside. I loved Heenan stopping the count and then walking all the way down the entrance way like he was just minding his own business, not interfering in a pro wrestling match. The finish is a big mess with Warrior taking it all out on Heenan (Heenan gets his face bounced off all the turnbuckles and takes a wild bump to the floor after getting tossed) and the match gets called a DQ. But what a tremendous Rude performance, the kind that keeps moving him up my list of favorite wrestlers ever. 

They play *that* Hulk Hogan tribute video, and watching it again with adult eyes I kind of forgive myself for thinking that Hulk Hogan had actually died because of Earthquake. If you showed this to someone who was unfamiliar with the angle, I can only assume that they would think Hulk Hogan died, or at minimum was seriously injured. The entire video really plays like Hogan got crushed to death by Earthquake. I liked the in ring Hogan promo and the intensity of Earthquake/Dino Bravo surrounding the ring, with a big tumbling save from Tugboat. I'm really surprised they didn't run the Hogan/Tugboat vs. Earthquake/Bravo tag match sooner (they ran it a few times on house shows, but not for a few months after this aired, and this tag didn't air on TV until 6 months later), but this angle played out really well on TV. 

The Rockers vs. Demolition (Smash/Crush)

ER: Crush is kinda clumsy and doesn't have great timing, and this probably would have been better with Ax and Smash. But Ax gives a strong ringside performance and Smash puts in a great performance. Barry Darsow was a real goofball but was good at creating openings for the small Rockers and good at directing tags with Crush. Rockers looked good, had a couple nice headscissors and dropkicked both Smash and Crush to the floor. Eadie hits a great lariat on the floor to allow Demolition to take control, and the simple control segment is good. Crush hits big backbreakers on Marty Jannetty and even hits a cool press slam to throw him from the floor over the top rope. Michaels and Crush probably mix up less than anyone in the match, but Crush was fun as a big lug taking cruiser offense. The finish run is really fun with the Rockers hitting a great tandem superkick on Smash, then hitting the spot of the match with a gorgeous tandem fistdrop. Michaels hits an O'Connor roll on Smash but Ax comes in and nukes him with a clothesline, fun use of the masked heel finish. 

Mr. Perfect vs. Tito Santana

ER: This was great, a rematch of the finals of the IC Title tourney (after Warrior vacated the title), and even better than that match. Tito gets such a wonderful, loud babyface reaction throughout the match, with especially loud cheers coming from women. The cheers were higher pitch and loud, and Perfect bumped all over the ring and floor in a way that really made it look like Tito had a chance. Sure, it's not surprising to hear that Perfect bumped his way through a match, but these bumps came off like Tito was a serious threat, almost all of them felt like an actual extension of the move he was taking and not like athletic showing off. He flew to the floor two different times, really flying out past the top rope no his way to the floor; he took a couple of his signature flip bumps that land him on his head, getting his leg swept on the floor and in the ring. The in ring leg sweep bump is Perfect's signature, but I don't remember seeing him use it on the floor like this, not often. 

We get a long stretch of Earl Hebner selling a leg injury, and it takes a lot for Tito and Perfect to not let him overshadow everything. Hebner got run up on and he drags himself all around the edges of the ring as if he took sniper fire from the rafters. He's a wounded soldier in there and hilariously, Perfect has to overact just to try to combat Hebner's extreme overacting. So Hennig is selling Tito's figure 4 as if acid were being slowly poured up his legs, and we build to a nice dramatic moment where Tito hits the flying forearm and Hebner laboriously crawls over, bleeding out, leg likely already lost, and only makes a 2 count. Fans really want Tito to take this, and it's a great moment when Tito finally gets his new referee, running triumphantly down to the ring to gently nudge Hebner out to the floor. Once we get the new ref, the home stretch is brilliant. Perfect takes TWO atomic drops, meaning this show had TWO Minnesotans (the biological best bumpers on the planet) each taking TWO atomic drops and creating FOUR unique atomic drop bumps in the process (Perfect's silliest involved him getting bounced face first into the turnbuckle). The finish itself is so well executed and felt like one of those cool Arn finishes: Tito ducks down for a backdrop that Perfect scouts, Perfect stops short and grabs him for a Perfect Plex, Tito expects that and blocks it with a small package, and Perfect reversed the small package and narrowly escapes with a 3. I could easily see someone lifting this finish today, except Perfect and Tito made it look like actual logical reversals and not two dance partners over anticipating movements that haven't yet come. This is one of the more fondly remembered matches in SNME history, and it earns that acclaim. 

Buddy Rose vs. Kerry von Erich

ER: This is von Erich's TV debut, and really there aren't many cooler things in wrestling history than Kerry von Erich's long shag underneath a headband. Buddy Rose is a really fun but opponent for a debuting von Erich. Rose is gigantic and has two of the more memorable bumps on a show that had Rick Rude, Shawn Michaels, and Mr. Perfect in full title matches. He slaps Kerry to start and spends the rest of the match getting his ass kicked in and out of the ring. It's great. Kerry slams him, Buddy stumbles around and gets caught in the ropes, does that crazy huge fat guy Harley Race bump where he hangs off the bottom rope by his feet and falls on his head, and he leans right into a spins into the mat after taking the discus punch. This match and a two minute Superstars match are the only two times these absolute wrestling legends crossed paths, two stars from different worlds orbiting each other for merely 5 total minutes. 

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Friday, November 27, 2020

New Footage Friday: 1994 WCW House Show (+ Bonus Lawler vs. Bock!)

WCW House Show El Paso 7/14/94

Lord Steve Regal vs. Johnny B. Badd - GREAT

MD: 94 house show Regal obviously brings a lot to the table. He stalled a lot early, but paid it off by bumping himself on the way back in for high comedy. The chain wrestling, when they got to it, was good, though everything along these lines, even the good stuff, feels a little low rent after watching so much French Catch. When Regal took over, it was with a brutal variety of offense. Badd really needed a couple more meaningful hope spots, even if he was going to get the reversed banana peel win.

PAS: I thought this was nifty stuff. Any chance to see new Regal is tremendous, and I thought he was awesome here. He had some fun stooging stuff at the beginning, really riling up the crowd and doing the job of a opening match wrestler. When he lays a beating on JBB it was appropriate, Lots of of those nasty left handed forearms to the side of Badd's head, and an incredible counter of a sunset flip where he shifts his weight and drops a knee right on Badd's eye. I really liked Badd's comeback, really worked the heavy bag with his body shots, and hit a very cool looking flying headscissor. Finish was a bit lame, but what you would expect from a house show. Regal really elevates everything he does. 

ER: House show Regal during this era would have been such a treat, and his performance is the kind that makes house show handhelds such a joy. Regal is the TV champ here, and just watching his haughty mannerisms as he reacts to the El Paso fans would be enough to make me love this match. He makes a ring attendant hold the ropes open for him, circles Badd several times while making fake lunges toward him, then when the crowd finally gets excited about Badd laying his hands on Regal...why of course that's when Regal rolls to the floor to avoid the action. Regal keeps grabbing the house mic and asking the fans to please be more quiet so he can concentrate on his wrestling, threatens to leave until he begins being counted out, runs back to the ring and trips on the ropes, landing in his face. This is the kind of stuff that house show dreams are made of, a style that we're getting further and further away from to the detriment of all wrestling joy. 

And once Regal does start wrestling he lays a great beating on Badd for over 10 minutes. He leans full body weight behind European uppercuts, works cool knuckle lock exchanges that end with Regal kneeing his way out, blocks a sunset flip by dropping a knee down onto Badd's face. I thought Badd sold Regal's shots so well, loved the way he always looked off balance, the way Regal would uppercut him into the ropes and then headbutt his stomach to get him back into the ropes, Badd had a nice organic way of selling Regal's offense exactly as it was delivered. Badd's punch comeback looked really cool, highlighting how silly modern stand and trade exchanges look, as Bad is landing body shots while Regal and him aren't really focused on each other's timing. It looked like two guys each trying to land strikes while on defense, not like two guys waiting out their turning in the timing to strike. Regal is a slime and tries to put his feet on the ropes for the win just because he can, and it works! Until the ref notices the feet and reverses the call, leading to Regal getting schoolboyed. This was a tremendous Regal performance around a popular but limited performer, but I thought Badd's selling was incredibly strong and only added to Regal's hilarious mannerisms and brutal strikes. 

Brian Pillman vs. Diamond Dallas Page

MD: It's great to see visible proof of Austin sitting and watching matches. I'd guess in this case that Page asked him to for critiques but maybe the guy just liked wrestling and was a student of the game. Pillman here, came off like the world's smallest Hansen, constantly fighting back, constantly making Page fill space with his size and his offense. It meant Page had to take every moment of this with nothing given and that made for a more compelling experience than you might think coming in.

ER: I'm never going to be too into those matches where babyfaces hit arm drags and then hold arm wringers as a big portion of the match, as it always just ends up making me more interested in the heel eventually breaking through and that shouldn't be the goal. But that's what happened here as I wound up being far more excited for DDP bumping around for Pillman, and really loved his hard forearms to Pillman's jaw. I thought he was good at working a big man against a hot babyface, liked how he took the crossbody, but just found myself far more interested in seeing DDP throw those elbows. Maybe the most interesting thing was our cameraman panning the crowd (or well, panning hundreds of empty folding chairs) to catch Steve Austin sitting by the entrance watching the match. I love seeing things like that. 

Stars & Stripes vs. Pretty Wonderful

MD: The highlight of this came early when Roma bumped himself out of the corner on a clean break and declared victory by claiming Patriot took out his eye. Pretty funny stuff. Pretty Wonderful cut off the ring well, but a lot of their offense was more focused on containing Patriot than doing damage to him and that'll only take you so far. The finish worked though, giving us just enough Bagwell and not too much of him.

ER: I have friends who went to a WCW house in Oakland, CA maybe three months after this house show, and they both said that Pretty Wonderful vs. Stars & Stripes was the worst match they had ever seen live, both with memories of the match going 30 minutes and being dreadfully boring. They both acknowledge that they might feel differently now, how their tastes may have changed, and I think it's possible that they might have hated it due to the unnecessary length and the probable amounts of bullshit in the match. The bullshit in this match is really great, but I know I had less tolerance of stalling and drawn out cheating and those sorts of things when I was younger, and now it's something I actively seek. I didn't like those Rockers/Rougeaus matches that started with 15 minutes of them doing showoff poses and playing games of H-O-R-S-E by doing backflips off the buckles, and now I would kill to see wrestling matches like that. 

This match had a lot of bullshit, and it was nearly 20 minutes (with several minutes cut out when the guy stopped recording) of Pretty Wonderful cutting Patriot off from Bagwell. Patriot is one of the more supremely uninteresting wrestlers of the era, and a match focused on PW containing him and his weird punches is a good thing (he throws hooking right hands with nice form, but frequently aims them them so his mid wrist is connecting with the side of his opponent's head, so his fist always lands behind his opponent). Orndorff is great bumping around the ring and begging off from Stars and Stripes, and things get really great when Roma starts using hand claps behind the ref's back to make it look like Patriot is taking cheap shots. Roma backs Patriot into the corner a couple times, and claps his hands right when the ref can't see, bumps backwards holding his face and complaining about Patriot's poor sportsmanship. The first time Roma did it, a woman near our cameraman began loudly, hoarsely CACKLING with laughter. God I wish I could have watched wrestling with that woman. Roma was great at being the batter who is trying to work a hit by pitch, and what really makes the match is how deeply upset the crowd gets with every single cheat utilized by PW. When a crowd is this angry at a heel routine, it's the easiest thing to love. Roma is a guy I never think of, a wrestler I've seen so much yet has made such a small impression on my memory that watching this house show version of Roma gives me a new appreciation for him. This guy knew how to draw excellent heat on an undersold Texas house show, and that's a cool thing. The match builds smartly to a quick Bagwell hot tag, which is the best possible use of 1993 Bagwell. There's a good chance I would not have had the patience for this match in 1994, but in 2020 this was just what I needed.

Guardian Angel vs. Ron Simmons

MD: This was short and weird. You have to call it a disappointment. I've never seen Simmons work heel like this, almost like chickenshit, falling out of the ring and running away from Angel. He had a nice face first corner bump/rope assisted mule kick as a transition move but it didn't go anywhere as Bossman took right back over a minute later (though there was what felt like a small cut which maybe made a difference). Really the best part of this was how the ring shook whenever they hit the ropes.

ER: I thought this kicked ass, and based on the timekeeper's call I think we actually got closer to 4 minutes cut out of this, and I think that was an important cut. I'm pretty positive we missed the 4 minute entirety of Ron Simmons' offense, as the match cuts right after he knocks Traylor to the floor with an awesome falling headbutt/Bret Hart diving elbow, and then joins us back with Simmons missing a big headbutt off the middle rope. What we're left with does indeed feel incomplete, but I loved the match we did get. Simmons/Boss Man really wasn't a singles match that was run a lot (I don't think we ever would have even got a singles match between them 5-6 years later in WWF), and who knows maybe they intentionally did not want to run this match because Traylor so large and it's a tough spot to put some heels in working with a large dominant babyface. 

But large dominant babyface Ray Traylor is some of my favorite wrestling, so I loved seeing him uppercut Simmons around the ring, roll to the floor and uppercut him some more. We get big shoulderblocks and nice collisions, and obviously the big mystery is just what did Ron Simmons do to control Traylor during that missing time. Traylor's comeback after the Simmons missed headbutt is great, a few big clotheslines and a finisher worthy crossbody that Traylor got great big man height on (and Simmons took in a way that landed HARD). We get a hilarious bit at the very end that feels completely out of place (enough that I assume this was played up a lot during our missing time) as Traylor hits a headbutt and then drops to his knees selling Simmons' hard head...only to roll him up in a small package when Simmons tried to capitalize. It's REALLY hard to do a "sell hard head of opponent spot" literally 10 seconds before winning the match, so this had to have been the focal point of the missing time, leading to Traylor exploiting it for the surprise finish. Loved this pairing, glad we finally got to see a nice length singles. 

Dustin Rhodes/Arn Anderson vs. Bunkhouse Buck/Amarillo Slim

MD: We don't get a ton of this. In fact, we lose it right when it's getting good, but I'm sick of hearing Arn say how terrible a babyface he'd be because he has no "babyface skills." He could punch. He had great timing. That's literally all you need.

ER: Oh, how cruel handheld wrestling can be. This was the match I was most excited to see, and what portion of the match clearly showed it to be the best match on the show. Alas, we don't see the finish of the match, and it felt like there still could have been 5 (or 10!) minutes left. The match still could have gone in several ways and we cut out after jumps the gun on the hot tag. It wouldn't be a shock to find out they worked another 5 minutes of Buck/Slim keeping Arn away from the tag. As we finish, Arn has run into the ring throwing punches before getting tossed hard to the floor, and Buck/Slim are just about to start working over Dustin again. We'll never know, but what we do get is as good as its on paper promise. 

There are cuts throughout the match, but those appear to be our cameraman cutting "out of ring" time. Obviously, all of that out of the ring time involves Robert Fuller, so cutting that out of the handheld is a crime. When Bunkhouse Buck takes a huge bump over the top to the floor and Fuller gives him some air by waving his cowboy hat over his face, you know we're missing out on other versions of that. But we do get Fuller on the house mic directing traffic and telling Buck and Slim to keep putting the boots to Dustin. Buck is great at laying in the boots and taking offense, loved how he sold Dustin's atomic drop but also loved how he kept backing Dustin up with a bearhug. At first I thought it was silly that Erik Watts was working as "Amarillo Slim" (I had no idea this was a gimmick he worked at the end of his first WCW run), but heel cowboy Erik Watts is way more interesting than tall clumsy babyface Erik Watts. He takes his own fast bump to the floor and could have really been valuable as a heel patsy who apes Buck and Fuller. Arn as a fired up hot tag babyface is something we didn't get enough of, and something he's great at. He's a powerhouse on the apron, and between his babyface apron energy and Dustin's excellent FIP work, it's not shockingly a great fit. So, watch and love this for what it is, and not for the missing parts we have no control over. We have Amarillo Slim footage now, and for that we should be thankful. Imagine if Virgil had only worked a few house show dates as Curly Bill and had never been on TV under that gimmick. Watts as Slim is not as exciting as that, but it hits the same spot. 

Stunning Steve Austin vs. Sting

MD: Austin was in transition here, no longer the TV champ of 91 or the Hollywood Blonde of 93 but not yet what he'd become a couple of years (and injuries) later. I love watching him squash guys in 95. Here he was still full of stooging and bullshit but had a way that he threw himself into all of his offense that was a portent of what would come. Sting did what he had to, emanating power and authority, a straightman that let all of Austin's manic energy just wash around him, waiting for him to feed into gorilla press slams and back body drops. This had enough time to be fun, but given the number of roll up finishes so far, there was probably no harm in giving Sting something more definitive to end it.

ER: I love Steve Austin, and I really love this era of Austin. I don't know if anyone on the roster at this point delivered offense better than Austin. He wrestles the way 1994 Bret Hart would have wrestled as a stooging heel. Same perfectly executed offense, delivered as if to look like he's really throwing his full weight behind everything. Hart and Austin have very similar styles but tweaked in ways that made them unique and complementary opponents (instead of the parity battle their series could have been), and 1994 Hart was a guy that would have been able to have a great match with Sting. House Show Austin is one of my favorite things, as every time we get to finally see WCW handhelds or unreleased post-Raw dark matches, Austin shows himself to be one of the more engaging crowd work guys in history. I mean, *obviously* Steve Austin was someone who could connect with crowds, but he never really stopped working the way an old 50 year old bullshit artist territory guy would work a 35 person crowd. He clearly relishes getting in people's faces and doing full routines with people in the front row, and the crowd was here for ALL of it. He knew when to be vicious to Sting, he knew when to get his ass kicked, and you get the sense that Austin could have had a match this good with a babyface of any ability. 

Austin is a great bumper, and here we get to see him give the balcony fans in El Paso a great look off at him as he flew into a sky high backdrop, and not long after went up just as high for a quick Sting press slam, and Austin works so fast his bumps look even better. He's one of the best all time at being perfectly in control while working at a speed that makes it seem like things are about to run off the rails. It's like a 2 year old who has been walking for awhile, but still falls down when running too fast, as if the body isn't quite catching up to the desire. Maybe the best thing about his bumping is how hard his landings look, or how hard he makes his landings look. He hits heavy on the mat for every back bump, which makes suplex landings or falls feel always consequential. His offense all looks so good, and I can't get enough of his kneedrop, his diving elbow off the middle buckle that might be the best version of that elbow ever thrown, and one of the coolest things I've ever seen him do: when he unrolls Sting's arm like he's about to hit a Rainmaker and just assaults him with a back elbow. Honestly, it looked so great it should be a finisher. It all builds to a quick, simple Sting comeback. Austin bumps for three decent clotheslines, holds the ropes on a sunset flip only to have them kicked off by the ref (sincerely one of my most hated spots in wrestling history). Austin kicks out but comes up shoving the ref for kicking his hands, leading to Austin getting shoved into a schoolboy. The finish really felt like the kind that some WCW agent saw Flair use for a couple decades, but Austin pulls off that kind of thing with aplomb. 

Jerry "The King" Lawler vs  Nick Bockwinkle CWA 8/21/78 - GREAT

MD: A Thanksgiving miracle, even if one with a ten minute clip through a lot of the good stuff. I'm pretty certain this was the first time Bockwinkel fought Lawler and some of the only footage (if not THE only footage) we have of Heenan in the Mid-South Coliseum. Heenan had amazing purple and gold California pajama gear that could have only existed in the 70s. Bock wrestled Lawler early on the same way he'd wrestle Chavo Guerrero in Houston a few years later, that Hollywood over-confidence in wrestling a local yokel in front of a crowd that loved him for whatever reason. Even Lance picked up on it on commentary a few minutes in (which is why Lance is so great). It led, of course, to Lawler stooging him with his own offense and looking like a million bucks without diminishing Bockwinkel in the least. Heenan and Bockwinkel spend the first few minutes complaining about hairpulls that don't exist only for Bock to take over for a bit with a hairpull of his own. It's that attention to detail that made him so great. The cut comes just as you can tell they were about to move into something better, so it's frustrating, but when we come back for the finish, it's in the midst of a ton of great Lawler punches and Bockwinkel's full body selling that really got over the weight of what had happened so far. The finish is typical Heenan running in when his guy is doomed, but it's to show that Lawler can beat the champ and set up the rematch the following week, which I bet drew. It's a shame we don't have all of this, but we've got 15 minute more of it than we did last week, and I won't complain about that.

PAS: Odd presentation of this match, we get the first 12 minutes or so of this, which is a lot of feeling out and cat and mouse stuff. Lawler suckering Bock into a side headlock, Heenan grousing at the ref, etc. All prologue. These are two masters, so minor key stuff is going to be well worth watching, but just as Lawler starts to pick it up with big forearms to the ribs and a couple of right hands, they jump right to the last two minutes. I obviously want it all, but if you are going to clip, clip the appetizer, not the main course. Finish is Lawler rolling, and we get an absolutely classic fist drop. He is the best ever at it, and this is one of his best, before Heenan just runs in for the DQ (his Laker's jumpsuit was maybe the highlight of this match, he looked like Jerry West on the prowl for the ladies). A little frustrating, but still this was something we didn't know existed until Wednesday.

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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Coliseum Video Thanksgiving: Smack 'Em Whack 'Em (+ Bonus JAPW!)

As has happened the past few years, my friend Josh came over on Thanksgiving and we played video games and watched a Coliseum Video. I'm not sure we intended this to become a tradition, but whenever Josh comes over he tends to want to either play old NES games, Silent Hill 2, watch a Coliseum Video, or watch old WCW. This time he chose to just wear a Silent Hill 2 long sleeve while watching a Coliseum Video, and this was the one he chose. It's a pretty legendary tape, often regarded as the best in the series due to the selection of Bret Hart matches. I will not spend any sentences beyond this one writing up any of the Bushwhacker segments that happen between every single match of this tape. 

Berzerker vs. Crush 

ER: Oh my god this was GOOD! It was also WEIRD! Because Crush appeared to be completely zonked out of his mind on something, anything. His eyes were really shut and it felt like Berzerker had to keep kicking him his the face a bunch just to keep him awake. Berzerker has to put in a real overdrive performance, Crush taking a beating that only built to his big comeback. I am not trying to paint too negative a portrait of Crush, but there was just something very off and very far away about his mannerisms in this match. Kona Crush was one of my least liked guys in WWF. I hated his look, hated his fluffy frosted mullet, hated his chubby baby fat face. Crush was not a wrestler I looked forward to seeing. But this was arguably the most I have enjoyed him, and we can point directly to Berzerker as the reason. Berzerker put over Crush's strength HUGE, and it was great. They do a couple tests of strength, one ending with Berzerker getting thrown backwards and taking his fast backwards bump over the top to the floor, and then a shoulderblock exchange sees him also quickly whip himself over to the floor. I love that bump. Berzerker comes back in with a big boot and the Crush admirably takes his own bump to the floor, opting to go out through the middle ropes but taking it more like a luchador, which looked weird but cool. 

Berzerker controls things with these great annoying boots to the head, not letting Crush get to his feet, just stalking around him and needling him with these push kicks. He hits a big delayed piledriver, and it's a shame (and also logical) that he didn't break out the piledriver more as he has a nice one. He misses the big kneedrop which gives Crush an opening, and Crush hits a really nice atomic drop and a side slam, before squeezing Berzerker's head until he passed out. I was realllllly hoping for one minor Berzerker comeback during the head squeeze, such as him looking as if he might fight out of it, before eventually succumbing. It did take Crush awhile to finish him with the vice, so perhaps we were supposed to be interpreting that as Berzerker fighting through it, but I would have liked that visually represented better. Still, this match was so good, which is a strong upgrade over every single online review I found. Those reviews collectively described this match as essentially the saddest fart sound in the world. And they were wrong. If anything, this was a joyous, confident, trumpeting fart sound, delivered in front of your friends and family, who would go on to share in your joy. 

Earthquake vs. Repo Man

ER: I was hoping for more Earthquake here, and the crowd is really quiet for a lot of Repo Man's control. Repo tries to use his verbal skills to get the crowd engaged, and I thought it was hilarious when he locked a headlock on Earthquake and said "I got him now!" Gorilla Monsoon calls Earthquake "Mr. Quake". Which would make his first name Earth, I suppose. "Mr. Quake is my father's name. Call me Earth." To be fair to Repo Man, Earthquake doesn't sell his offense very engagingly. He falls down a couple times, but is a little quiet in his emotion. He catches Repo off an attempted top rope axe handle in a bearhug and hits a nice powerslam, nice elbowdrop, does that awesome Earthquake thing where he just steps on and walks over someone's chest, and then brings that big Canadian butt down on Repo's chest. Babyface Earthquake might make more sense against a bigger heel challenger, but Repo Man was not someone the crowd was interested in seeing give Mr. Quake any issues. 

"Cooking for the Single Man"

ER: This is a segment with Yokozuna eating a comical amount of food in a Japanese restaurant. It was not discussing his relationship status, but we were rather seeing just how much food one single, solitary man could eat. Okerlund is there doing kind of running commentary and seeming genuinely amazed by how many buffet size portions of sushi Yoko manages to quickly engulf. They grill up 6 pounds of shrimp, 10 ribeye steaks, just a huge amount of food. Gene keeps bringing up how there is no way they could eat this much food, and Yokozuna just stares directly at the food the whole time. Gene is talking to Yokozuna and asking questions, but Fuji answers all of them while Yoko just stares mesmerized by the grilled shrimp and steaks. It should be noted that Yokozuna used chopsticks to eat this massive amount of food, and he is really great at using them. That is some unexpected dedication 

Ladder Match: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels

ER: This is one of the reasons this tape was so popular, a ladder match before the more famous Michaels ladder matches. It's probably my favorite era of Michaels to watch, as he's more of a conniving big bumping heel and still has Sherri singing his theme song and looking like a smokeshow at ringside. He takes nice bumps into the turnbuckles, into the ringpost, and a great shotgun blast bump after Hart leans full body weight into a European uppercut. There's some strong Sherri distraction that leads to Shawn quickly climbing a ladder in ring and come fingertips away from grabbing the belt, and the climbing is a real strength in this match. A lot of ladder match quality really hinges on climbing for me, because as uninteresting as climbing something can be, it's an important aspect of this stipulation. The best ladder matches have climbing that doesn't insult your intelligence. Michaels gets knocked off the ladder and gets a real lucky break when the ladder falls over directly onto him but the ladder bounces off the middle rope before getting to him. That top step would have dropped right onto his teeth. Both guys take nice bumps off the ladder, and Michaels continues flying around for Bret's final stretch run, takes a great teeter totter bump into the ladder, and there's a nasty moment where Hart hooks his leg in the ladder bumping off it. I think it was exactly how to take the bump, but it looked like his knee got snagged in a disgusting way. They really take turns taking painful bumps around the ring, and Bret finally grabs the belt after Michaels lands crotch first into the ropes, hitting the ropes, apron, and floor in three successive great bumps. 

Kamala vs. Bret Hart

ER: This was a real favorite of mine when I rented this tape as a kid. I always loved Kamala and this might have been his best full match during his 90s WWF run. Hart is someone who is just going to be better than most at working around Kamala, and Kamala really tightened things up against Bret. Bret knows how to stick and move and the moments where Kamala catches him are great, hitting big overhand chops and catching Bret right under the chin with a mule kick. Hart does a bunch of great things like stomping on Kamala's bare feet (why wouldn't anyone do that??) and I adore Kamala selling his stomped toes. Kamala really plays up the savage role here, and really does an awesome job working up to Bret's pace. There's a dropdown/leap frog exchange that some wouldn't believe, a great leap from the Ugandan giant, in a match filled with cool cutoff spots from Kamala. Kamala was always catching Bret with a cross chop to the throat or a bearhug, and Hart's comebacks were all so satisfying. Hart hit maybe the finest side Russian legsweep I've ever seen in this match, knowing that he would have to throw it completely on the much larger man. You see Bret working through every single step of the move, and it's so gorgeous. He traps Kamala's arm, hooks his neck, grapevines the leg, then hits it. These two are a wonderful pairing, and I loved how logically and interestingly this match worked through its story, a really strong way to fill an 8 minute match. The Kim Chee botched distraction leading to a high leverage school boy is the most believable way you can beat a monster like this. I love this match. 

Bret Hart vs. Ric Flair

ER: This is undeniably a match that could make a Coliseum Video tape infamous. An actual World title changing hands in a match that hadn't been seen before. The tape makes no effort to hide the fact that Hart wins the World title on this tape, as Lord Alfred Hayes reveals 30 seconds into the tape that later on we WILL see Bret Hart win the World Wrestling Federation Championship from Ric Flair, in a match that is available ONLY on this release. And for two guys whose egos will not allow them to acknowledge their in ring chemistry with each other, I think these two were a real natural pair. This is a great match and maybe the best time for these two to have crossed paths. I don't think you can get a better crossing of career axis, just the best time for these two to have their best possible singles match. 

Flair is super expressive throughout the whole long title match, and his yelps and screams really help put over a Bret hammerlock and other surprise Bret offense. Flair is a guy who, at this point in my wrestling viewing, I have seen so much that I no longer get excited for. But I can still get sucked into a strong Flair performance, and this was a strong Flair performance. He doesn't undersell himself by stooging around, and really acts like a guy who knows all the tricks and knows when to apply them. He's really smart at reversing Bret's offense, with the absolute best reversal coming on a sunset flip attempt. He basically  moonwalks with the momentum of the move until he regains his footing and punches downward to break it. Everyone always instinctually sends their weight forward, working against the move, but Flair treats it like a treadmill whose pace you have to match to keep your balance. Now, we do get a spot where Flair gets his full ass shown while Bret yanked his trunks down (and Hart really holds those trunks HIGH) and Flair takes a backdrop bump while still fiddling with his trunks. You would not believe how loud a Saskatoon crowd can get after seeing the toned buns of a man in his mid 40s. Hart's bumps make Flair look like a guy who knows how to utilize his strengths, and he uses two different sick sternum bumps into the turnbuckles to create openings for Flair. 

All of the work around roll ups, backslides, and the leg work to set up figure fours or sharpshooters was always engaging. Flair works a cool "stalking" portion down the back side of the match, dragging Hart around the ring by his arm or leg, holding Bret's arm while shooting a kick right across the jaw, throwing short uppercut punches that are my very favorite Flair punches, and Bret is always smart enough to know to grab a leg for a flash nearfall. All of Flair's offense looks fantastic here, everything looking like it just rocks Bret. It's genuinely impressive to me when Bret is able to shrug off Flair's chops, as they all look like really lightning bolts. We get an awesome moment leading to Bret's triumphant title win, when he takes a HARD chop and looks Flair straight in the eye while calmly removing both of his singles straps to invite one last chop. This whole match is so well worked, the time filled so well, building to a conclusive and deserving title win in Canada. This match deserves its reputation, and is the kind of match that would make an entire Coliseum Video worthwhile. 

Razor Ramon vs. Undertaker

ER: Ramon has to work a pretty generous match here, as he works the whole thing as if he's a lot smaller than the Undertaker, except he's at worst the same exact size as the Undertaker. Taker is a pretty big lug in this one, and Ramon doesn't seem fully used to being the "smaller big bumping guy" for a guy who is the same size as him. So the ropewalk smash doesn't look great, and Ramon does really well to make some of this offense look effective. But Ramon wasn't fully comfortable in the character at this point (just a few months later he was so much more comfortable in his gimmick and mannerisms), and there wasn't a ton to work with in a zombie Taker performance. There was one long spot where Ramon hits three straight very nice elbowdrops, and Taker just takes them like a real dead fish, not acknowledging that any offense is being done in any way. And that's just not an interesting gimmick or match development for me. 


Homicide/Sandman vs. Da Hit Squad JAPW  2/3/01

PAS: IWTV put up 30+ JAPW shows as a special Thanksgiving treat, so while I am crazy busy today I thought I would add something to Eric's Thanksgiving post. This was in the ECW arena and it was clear that these guys were the spiritual successors to ECW. We get a full Sandman entrance and it is crazy how much taller he is than the doghouse guys, he looks like Robert Fuller. Much of this match is Hit Squad as big bumping heels for the triumphant babyface team. I tend to think of the DHS as guys stiffing rookies and tossing them into walls, but they are also great as stooging guys taking flip bumps and getting stiffed by the Sandman. Apparently Sandman was really into swantons in 2001? Great looking Swanton's too, he hits one with Monsta under the ladder, and one to put Mafia through a table. Finish was nuts with Mack getting lifted for the Cop Killa and Sandman adding a little momentum by shoving his legs, making Mack over rotate a bit so he takes it right on his neck. It's about the nastiest bump I have seen for a move that always ends up nasty. 

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

AEW Dynamite Workrate Report 11/25/20

What Worked

-I liked most of Hangman vs. Silver, good way to start off the show. Silver is a fun guy to feature, a compact power pack who was really good at cutting off Page. One of my least favorite things in Page matches is how unnecessarily complicated some of his offense is, and how it is never reversed. I liked how Silver cut off a lot of signature offense, like hitting a rana to counter the rope flip lariat. It made Page approach things differently and made for a more satisfying story. Silver has a low center of gravity and can use it in cool ways, like dropping low to the ground to do a quick go behind and snap German suplex. I wish Page had treated Silver's kicks a little more seriously, as it felt like we were building to something really cool when Silver was kicking away at Page, not letting him up, dodging right when he needed to, landing a big hooking kick to the jaw, but Page kinda just stood up and beat him anyway. Also, Silver doesn't need to do the half gainer flip bump every time he takes a clothesline. He did it three times here and you really don't need to be doing the same signature bump three times in three minutes. However, he also planted Page with a brainbuster and took a nice high backdrop bump, and there was more than enough here to make it work. 

-When Lee Johnson makes it onto Dynamite, you know you're getting a nice squad match, because he always takes the best beatings in squash matches. I need to seek out some of his Dark matches to see how he does with actual offense, because I like the way he bumps for lariats and other big offense. He doesn't take intentionally athletic feather soft bumps, his bumps look like he is being hurt. He made that lariat on the floor look brutal, and I don't think Will Hobbs has a very brutal lariat. 

-I do like that AEW is the kind of fed that makes mention about how cool it is that Jericho and Chris Daniels are meeting for the very first time. That's always cool to me when two guys who have been in wrestling for so long finally cross paths in the ring, like Buddy Rose facing Kerry von Erich in WWF. And let me tell you, if this was the year 1999 or 2000, I could not tell you just how over the moon excited I would be to see a Jericho/Daniels match. But this 2020 version is probably about as good as could reasonably expected. Jake Hager was my favorite guy here, and Hager might be THEE guy that I am absolutely never excited to see on my TV screen who can actually deliver something cool. He always gets an "oh sheesh this guy?" reaction from me, but I can't deny how much I enjoy Hager's meathead mouth breathing style. The best part of this was when Hager was driving his knee right into Danielses' back while throwing fists right into the ribs. It looked nasty as hell. 

-The gear AND choreography of the Omega Sweepers has improved every week. It's really satisfying to watch performers get better at their craft in real time. Moxley beatdown was strong. I want Moxley to wreck this guy. 

-Shida/Anna Jay was better than I expected, mainly because Jay doesn't even have 20 career matches work. Obviously there are going to be some glitches, so I'm more impressed with the things she can pull off naturally. She is really strong at making up the difference when selling strikes, like when Shida threw a dropkick that landed a little low and Jay sold her jaw convincingly. She goes to the jaw/mouth sell a bit much, did it right before that dropkick when missing a charge into the buckles, but it's a strong looking sell so hats off. I liked a lot of the ways she would counter Shida offense, like blocking the running apron knee with a downward strike, and especially her shifting weight at the last minute to land on Shida after a vertical suplex. I thought it was just a bad looking suplex at first, but I love a reversal that actually makes it look like the move wasn't pulled off quite right. Reversals in 2020 wrestling are so clean that they usually don't look like they're reversing anything. This looked like Shida tried to do a suplex and wasn't expecting Jay's weight shift. The nearfall kickout by Shida was perfectly timed, actually got me to buy into Jay sneaking away with the upset. 

-Fenix running into Blade's awesome powerslam, that works.

What Didn't Work

-Taz dropping silly shooty comments like "creative has nothing for me" or "wish me luck in my future endeavors" does nothing for me. Taz does not come off threatening to me at this point, and there are too many guys on the roster who could have locked in a better looking submission. Cody's burn about Taz's son (Hook!) training with Cody and not Taz was strong. 

-I feel bad for all the people who have strongly backed Rusev and have been gifted Miro. 

-I love Jack Evans and would rather see him on Dynamite than any number of other less interesting flippers that have been featured. But it's also really weird to give Top Flight a big Dynamite match last week ago, a match that got them buzz and made a big impression, to then bring Evans and Angelico back to Dynamite just to beat Top Flight. I don't think the match worked as a match, as all of these AEW flyer vs. flyer matches feel so same-y. I don't think Top Flight does much of anything that comes off natural, can't adjust on the fly; They can either do long semi-complicated sequences that end with something dumb like kicking Angelico in the arm, or they do weird things like adjust their several feet while rope running. It all comes off like guys just running through some spots that don't always feel like they belong to the same match. I did like the way Angelico went after Daunte's leg, thought his roll throughs to trap Daunte in leg locks and holds looked super cool and felt like old IWRG bleeding into AEW. Also, it is supremely annoying to give these guys names like Darius and Daunte, because there is no way I'm going to remember which one is fucking Daunte and which is Darius. Air Wolf I can remember, but Darius Martin? 

-I didn't think Fenix and PAC looked good as a team. They're two guys who, from their styles, seem like they would complement each other nicely, but their set ups felt long and things missed the mark. But I thought Butcher and the Blade looked good as heel opposition, thought Butcher looked great as a fist swinging bully, thought Blade worked some nice sequences with Fenix and especially loved Fenix aborting a flying attack off the top, jumping past Blade, and running hard into a great snap powerslam. But the match overall felt scattered and like it would have been a real mess without Butcher and Blade. 

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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Corne! Isreal! Les Blousons Noir! Husberg! Spartacus!!

Jean Corne & Ischa Israel vs. Marcel Mannevau & Claude Gessat 4/21/60 pt1 pt2

SR: 2/3 falls match going 45 minutes. It‘s Les Blousons Noir, venerable rudo team made up of Mannevau and Gessat. This was probably the first in very specific brand of French pro wrestling, a very fast paced light weight tag mixing high end wrestling with high end heel work. And it didn‘t even seem like something particularily new to this crowd. The workrate these guys had was just insane, going 45 minutes without really letting up, all while running the ropes so fast, bumping hard, working ultra tight pin attempts and hitting the worlds greatest european uppercuts. While Mannevau and Gessat were clearly indulging in outrageous heel antics they also came to wrestle, there are some slick takedowns and Gessat busts out a sick spinning jacknife bomb that felt like it belonged in a 90s New Japan match. Mannevau is the more animated of the two Blousons and he really looks like a cheapshot king here and I loved all his silent film antics with the tag rope, he was like Regal on speed. Most of this the Blousons backing the faces to their corner or locking in holds before raining down punches and kicks, before some violent retaliations and while mixing in fast rope running exchanges and straight wrestling. It is a really effective formula and these guys are kings at it. There were also well integrated ref spots including Mannevau stepping on the referee, and there is a deceptive near-finish where the referee uppercuts one of the faces.  Israel is the more animated of the faces and he has a real knack for infusing simple things with energy, at one point he comes in and does this neat spinning takedown and then some nasty knuckle grinding. The knuckle grinding really wasn‘t anything super difficult athletic-wise, something any random yokel wrestler could do, but the way he executed it he made it look like he was about to rip a guys leg off. The ending is a bit weird, they are 1:1 and resting in the corners after a fall while the announcer talks about Cognac or something, I am going to pretend it simply ended in a 45 minute draw, even though they delivered two great finishes and showed no signs of fatigue, this was a metric ton of high end wrestling although probably not that special considering they likely did this match 3 times a week.

MD: We get about 45 of this, two clear falls before they run out of TV time. There seemed to be some confusion up front on them getting the time when they did to begin with. This is our first look at Les Blousons Noirs, and while this one has been out there before, I don't think it is now and it's well worth watching. The commentator has no idea which is Gessat and which is Manneveau, but if I have it right, Maneveau is an amazing cheapshot artist, just a manic cheater of the sort that seems get cheapshots in at every opportunity, even when it'd be more effective to not antagonize the referee. Gessat really impressed me, bumping big, looking credible and tough, hanging with Corne and Israel. Just a really dynamic heel and the two of them together made a good unit. We'd seen Corne once in 59 and we'll see him a lot more, but I thought he looked a lot better here, already fulfilling the promise from the previous year. Lots of cleanly hit, dynamic spots, good fire (though not as good as Israel) and plenty of charisma. There was one moment where he bumped himself into being choked between the ropes that seemed to defy physics. Despite the length, between the quickness of the action, the frequent shifts between heat and revenge, and a healthy dose of comedy with the ref, who became more unkempt and unclothed as the match went on, the time passed quickly and enjoyably. We have another tag with these heels and one Gessat singles match I'm particularly interested in.

Robert Le Boulch vs. Jean Martin 4/29/60

SR: We get about 30 seconds of this before Le Boulch taps out to a spinning toe hold from Martin. No real sense of the match but I dig a spinning toe hold finish.

MD: There was something to see here but we didn't get to see it unfortunately. This starts with a guy on the floor and ends a minute later with him selling a leg and eating a spinning toe-hold. We didn't even get the bump. Ah well. In between matches they show three cartoon drawing which really do sum up French Catch, a guy getting monkey flipped with one foot, that bridging, cross-legged headscissors (like Mil Mascaras), and a forearm right to the face. That's 57-60 French Catch in a nutshell.

Spartacus vs. Eric Husberg 4/29/60

MD: Spartacus is exactly what you'd expect at first sight, a muscular guy dressed like a Gladiator. It's funny because Bernaert was working the Kirk Douglas resemblance, but I imagine this was the other promotion? Still, you'd think there would be money with these two facing off. Husberg, we've seen before, and he's dark-haired with occasionally beady eyes and a smugness when he escapes a hold or gets one over on his opponent, but after seeing so much Bernaert, I still somehow thought he'd be the face in this. I was wrong. Spartacus brought a lot to the table, legitimately good wrestling on the mat, intensity in key moments, power moves (the flipping cradle release power bomb we haven't seen in a while, along with slams and a backbreaker), and some real stylist escapes, half of which looked amazing and half of which looked unsteady. Whether it was true or not, you got the sense that neither man could keep the other down for long. Husberg would use more inside shots or cheap takedowns out of the ropes, but it wasn't until he really took liberties that Spartacus fired back with KO shots. We'll see him one more time and that should be interesting. Oh, and just in case neither Sebastian or Phil tell you, since I'm getting this review in first, Spartacus was Jacques Pêcheur. Go and google him and Gaston Glock together. You'll get a good story out of it.

SR: 1 fall match going about 20 minutes. It‘s Spartacus, baby. Spartacus really had a movie star look and very good build not to mention his amazing entrance gear. Also, about 37 years after this, he was a hitman and arrested after he tried bashing in the face of a famous gunmaker. Husberg looks about like if a middle aged investment banker randomly decided to get in the ring, and to my knowledge, never tried murdering anyone. This was a bout in a small venue in front of a receptive crowd. It was effective but also a bit minimalist and I felt Spartacus belonged on a bigger stage, something like a stadium if you will. Spartacus had some very stylized grappling and a unique way to do  things and I got the sense he could be a fantastic worker in the vein of a Franz van Buyten. Husberg was one of these violent heels who didn‘t do much fancy  but throw hard fists and forearms to his opponent. The bout escalated early with Husberg throwing some hard shots including a cool knee to the ribs while he held Spartacus in a keylock, but they slowed down, and I didn‘t get the sense Husberg was that great an opponent to showcase Spartacuses grappling. It was a good matchup though.

PAS: Spartcus was a bunch of fun to watch, I loved how he kept flipping onto his feet whenever Husberg tried to beal him, or monkey flip him. It was a great bit of shtick which never got tired or had diminishing returns. Spartacus also had some nifty counters on the mat, and he felt a little like a lucha maestro in a trios match where he wouldn't be able to really show his goods, but you could tell they were there. Finish was pretty awesome as Spartacus got tired of Husberg's shit and hit him with forearms including a hooking forearm which dropped him like a Joe Frazier left. Fun stuff, and I hope we get to see more Spartacus.

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Monday, November 23, 2020

2020 Ongoing MOTY List: Two Pre-Pandemic Smackdown Gems

24. Roman Reigns/The Usos vs. Baron Corbin/Robert Roode/Dolph Ziggler WWE Smackdown 1/31

ER: Super hot Friday night main event, with a Loser Eats Dog Food stipulation straight out of late 80s Memphis, enforced and hyped to a hilarious degree. A ridiculous stip taken seriously, a gigantic chili pot full of fake dog food, and Michael Cole on commentary putting over how horrific the dog food smells from ringside. It's a silly thing that they've been giving time to, and then the six men involved go out and have a seriously great territory style showdown, filled with excellent nearfalls and effective twists in momentum. The match was worked like a super professional crowd pleasing house show main event, with Roman really coming off like prime Cena. He was hitting big dramatic uppercuts, big leaping clotheslines, dodging Corbin's attacks and hitting his own while he got gigantic babyface crowd reactions for everything. Usos were pinballs and cannonballs, taking big bumps to the floor, one of them ate a spinebuster on the floor from Roode, Ziggler stayed out of things only to run in with occasional nice punches or a big bump off the apron, Roode had a bunch of great apron work, Usos hit a pair of dives that sent Roode and Ziggler flying dramatically over the announce tables, all of it played to maximum crowd effect. Roman had a couple of great nearfall kickouts, really milking a close count for peak drama, a huge Corbin spinning slam looking like a plausible ending. The layout was great, total hot match from bell to bell, with a kid humor level mid 90s feeling post match vibe. All of it worked for me.

PAS: I really enjoyed this, Eric hit the nail on the head by calling it an entertaining house show main event, which is a great match style. Ziggler as a guy who just runs in to get bumped to the floor is a perfect use of him, and Roode hit his big spinebuster on the floor which is great spot and one good spot is a great use of him. I thought Roman's timing in this ruled, he was such a good babyface worker, and new just when to land a big move or give the heels a moment. The Uso dives on to the floor were both cool too, just cleaned out the heels for the babyface to finish him off. I also loved the roll up, such a different way to end a match. The current WWE is so antiseptic and overproduced, it is cool to watch something so pro-wrestling.

40. Bayley vs. Carmella WWE Smackdown 2/14/20

ER: WWE is quietly delivering some really high end women's wrestling right under our noses this year, with a great Asuka/Natalya match early this month, and now this surprisingly great show opening title match. Just like Asuka/Natalya, this was worked unexpectedly snug, and that really elevates a match like this. This was worked like an important title match, and the fans picked up on that quickly as their reactions kept getting more and more live-or-die as the match went on. The match drew the crowd strongly enough that the crowd didn't feel the need to chant dumb stuff, they just kept reacting louder and louder to nearfalls and close victories. This was the best Carmella match I can remember, and a strong champ performance from Bayley. Both of them leaned into each other's strikes, and I really snapped up and took notice when Bayley gave a hard shove to Carmella's head and bounced it off the bottom rope. But both of them were running face first into boots, and they were setting up bigger moves with stiff shots. 

I loved when Carmella posted up in the corner to push a hard kick into Bayley's face, before hitting a rana. Carmella hit a big tope that landed most of her body on Bayley, and Bayley paid her back by trying to snap her in half with a hotshot into the announce table. The hotshot is a great move that really looks savage when you have two people like this taking it seriously. The nearfalls they built to were really strong, with the crowd reactions really ramping up when Carmella kicked out of the Bayley to Belly. The years WWE spent ending matches quickly with school boys or small packages have learned my behaviors and I always react to well done backslides or roll ups, and the crowd really buying them made me get even more into it. Carmella's great headscissor submission looked like something trippy that Negro Navarro has broken out, and I flipped out when Bayley knocked Carmella's posting arm out from under her to break it. When Carmella locked it in again moments later I thought for sure we were getting a shock title change, but Bayley got her feet on the ropes with a champ's desperate intensity to save her belt.

PAS: I may have never watched Carmella wrestle before, and without that context, I thought she looked pretty green for someone who has been wrestling for a while. This was a great Bayley carry job though, it felt like she was aware of every thing Carmella could do competently and was going to build around those spots. Sometimes it felt like Bayley was rolling up her self. It was a great rudo performance by her, down to the little tricks like hiding behind the ref to sneak in a shot. I thought this was borderline for most of the match, until that finish run, the Carmella submission was awesome looking and that counter where Bayley knocked out the base arm is the kind of little clever counter I absolutely love, and you don't see nearly enough of these days. That did it for me. 

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Sunday, November 22, 2020

WWE Survivor Series 2020 Live Blog

This show looks like it has strong on paper potential, as all of these matches could be good. I'm most excited for Sasha/Asuka, but there is a lot that can go right on this card. Let's see!

Pre-Show Battle Royal

ER: I'm always going to be happy about a battle royal getting good time on TV or PPV, even when they don't really deliver what I want. This was a battle royal worked with modern style, which is not nearly as good as any battle royal from 1991. Guys don't know how to occupy battle royal time as well now, and there's a lack of vets from times when battle royals were more commonplace and can show people how to occupy time. Nobody ever took the flag from Lawler, or Funk, or Finlay, who knew ways to work shtick and stories through a battle royal. Here the older guys like Jeff Hardy were among the least visible or noteworthy performers in the match, and the time filling felt more modern and mapped out. There were a lot of apron duels and they all looked good enough while feeling rehearsed and soulless. Ricochet throwing Cedric Alexander onto the apron with a half nelson suplex should be a major thing - and feels bizarre seeing on WWE PPV - but looked safe (good!) but meaningless here. Rey Mysterio has probably the only exchange he's ever had with Kalisto, and we get a quick 2 second cool looking headscissor spot and then they separate for no reason. There felt like too much timing worked around Dominik, Carrillo and Garza looked like they had no clue how to work battle royals, felt like nobody was looking to stand out. Shelton Benjamin probably looked the best and like someone who knew the small increase in stiffness that can make a battle royal performance stand out. Nobody else felt like they were working with his intensity, nobody else felt in the moment, stuck remembering when their sequence came. 

AJ Styles/Matt Riddle/Keith Lee/Braun StrowmanSheamus vs. Jey Uso/Kevin Owens/Otis/Seth Rollins/King Corbin

ER: Pretty early on this does not seem like a good match. The Raw vs. Smackdown shirts are so dorky, and they're even worse with USA and Fox on the back. Fox Corporation vs. NBC Universal! It's like a match they were paid to do at a weekend corporate conference. And Seth Rollins is just the kind of guy that would cause a big dumb scene at that corporate retreat, and I could not care less about his sabotage or whatever weird Jesus stuff it was supposed to be. You can't not have good moments with good wrestlers in the ring, so there were cool things like AJ taking a really high backdrop bump, or Otis working shoulderblock exchanges with Keith Lee. But the Otis/Lee and Otis/Braun stuff should be better. Otis is someone who has been dropping more and more of his actual good in ring work in favor of more and more dumb guy Jake Milliman routine. I've been watching a lot of 1993 WWF lately, and Otis basically comes off like modern Bastion Booger. We could have a fat grappling tank and he keeps working further away from that. Braun's powerslam on Otis looks good, Lee's spirit bomb on Uso looks good, but I did not care about any of the consequences of this match. I don't think there WERE consequences to this match. Does the Raw clean sweep mean something? Is this PPV just Bragging Rights? 

The New Day vs. Street Profits

ER: I love how Big E looks in his Gears of War cotton candy Lisa Frank armor. Kingston/Wood is the least interesting New Day combo, and these teams don't match up in ways I like. The match did snap my attention when Kofi hit one of the heaviest cannonballs I've seen into Montez Ford's stomach, crashing over the top rope and landing powerfully. They even work that into the match and do more body work on Ford, and that's a nice surprise. But I knew it wasn't going to mean much, and it didn't. We build to competent move chaining sequences, a missile dropkick bounces someone across the ring, the person delivering the dropkick stands up to take a big crossbody, it all looks fine. Street Profits are really forgettable to me, and I don't love writing that about a wrestler because that would really hurt to hear. But for guys who can do some impressive things, they are such an out of sight out of mind team for me. 

Sami Zayn vs. Bobby Lashley

ER: This didn't feel like it had the same kind of energy that the best Zayn IC champ stuff has had. And part of that is because most of the time Lashley works matches like he's half asleep. This was half asleep walking Lashley, and Zayn's energy and couple bits of big offense don't come off big or threatening when Lashley barely reacts to them. This did not work for me. 

Asuka vs. Sasha Banks

ER: This is easily the match I am most excited for, even if the face/heel dynamics are screwy. Sasha is the defiant babyface in her Bayley feud, but is default heel against Asuka. It could have been worked compellingly as face/face but Sasha shows that's not the plan with her body language so we'll see. And I'm not sure if it was the cold dynamics or that things took an inorganic turn, but this doesn't come off as well as it should. I liked when each were working arm locks on the mat, but once they got to their feet and Sasha was whiffing with full wind up elbow strikes, everything after felt like a 90% speed rehearsal. A lot of seams showing through signature spots, like Asuka missing a hip attack in the ropes but there being a missed beat before Sasha kicks her, or Sasha missing a shoulderblock through the ropes but there being a missed beat before Asuka kicked her. It's too mechanical for the heat to work. The backslide and roll up sequence to end the match felt like the way you go home when you're given your minute warning on a house show, and even though I liked how the sunset flips and roll throughs looked, liked how natural the lost shoulder leverage looked, it just didn't come tacked to a match that worked. 

Nia Jax/Shayna Baszler/Lacey Evans/Peyton Royce/Lana vs. Bayley/Biance Belair/Ruby Riott/Liv Morgan/Natalya 

ER: I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about this, honestly. We get a highlight package of Nia Jax putting Lana through the announce table in literally the exact same way 9 different times. They are really hammering the Lana as demoralized underdog who doesn't quit, and Byron Saxton is awful and phony trying to broadly hammer home the details. But Lana acts mopey and it comes off too grade school. The match is dry as hell, and feels loose. A lot of quick camera cutaways from moves that look messy or strikes that catch air, people staggering awkwardly around unsure how to sell a strike they know didn't land. The quick eliminations in the middle made it so none of them felt like an accomplishment. You had what could have been a huge moment where Peyton Royce of all people - someone whose specific charisma I really like - hits a huge superplex to the floor (after nearly every person in the match stood assembled for ages) and back in the ring finishes Bayley, only to be eliminated herself by freaking NATALYA of all people less than a minute later. And Natalya, who they still in 2020 pretend is a thing, gets eliminated by Lacey Evans not long after that, confirming that Natalya will never be a thing and they'll not figure out why that is. It's an awful layout that shows bland parity, nobody gaining or losing anything from their eliminations. Lana stands on the ring steps the whole time and it's the most predictable thing ever to have her become the sole survivor. Byron Saxton fake laughs his way through the whole thing, the man whose voice goes up a register when he's laying it on real thick. Baszler and Nia and Belair get eliminated in unconvincing ways that require them to be idiots, Lana stands on the steps with her weird smeared lipstick with a comically large frown on her face, and again I STILL have no idea how they exact people to be reacting to this. This was a bad match. 

Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre

ER: For a non-crowd modern WWE main event, this is probably as good as you can realistically hope for. This is the kind of match that didn't completely work for me, but likely would have worked incredibly well in front of a live crowd. Daniel Bryan knows how to work big matches with no crowd, but this kind of big build Marvel match needs a live crowd to really thrive, and really connect with me. I think they did all the right things, and I think this would have killed, so that's a shame. As it was, it was a strong way to not kill Drew and keep a couple different stories going into potentially interesting directions. The nearfalls played well the big finisher kickouts played well, the surprise Uso table spot played well. The match was probably the only match on this show that felt like it actually accomplished something when it was over, and as backhanded as that sounds I do mean that in a very good way. 

ER: It was fun to see the Godwinns again, and it's cruel that no handhelds have ever shown up of the 2007 WWE house show matches Henry had with Gordy's son against Regal and Dave Taylor. I really wanted that 2007 comeback for Godwinn, when they were bringing back guys like Animal, Tatanka, and Duggan, HOG would have been a cool mid 40s addition to C shows. 

This show was not very good. Both elimination matches felt consequence free and mechanical, and "mechanical" is the overall best description for this show as a whole. For a show with nothing but the traditional elimination matches and title matches, this was not a show filled with excited/exciting performances. Vince looks like shit, and that rules. Good night. 

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Saturday, November 21, 2020


ER: When I started Lucha Underground season 4 TWO YEARS AGO, who could have possibly predicted it would take two years to complete? It was that magical combination of near total disinterest in the product after seeing the show's quality decline each season to the next, with a stupid completionist attitude of "you've already written up the rest of the show, might as well finish this race". I loved the first and second season, found some bright spots in the third season, and have just not really enjoyed a lot of this final season. Replacing Dario with Antonio was a brutal decision, most storyline payoffs were weak or poorly constructed, and the roster wasn't anywhere close to as interesting as it was in the first couple seasons. But I like finishing projects, and this one was more of an attainable goal just because it was actually finite. And so, six years after the show began and just over two years after the show's finale aired, we come to the conclusion of Lucha Underground on Segunda Caida.

TL: LU is one of the weirdest entities in recent wrestling history: A pro wrestling outlet with genuine backing and a fresh take that became this supernova of a favorite within not only the wrestling community, but with actual, honest-to-God mainstream buzz. We're talking about a show that was featured at SXSW after its first season, for crying out loud! And then they predictably gave it all away, going away from what made it so appealing in the first place and making some questionable decisions both with personnel and booking that it could never really recover from. What was found out by the time Season 4 came around was that, just as a show can earn tons of goodwill basically overnight, it can lose it just as fast, if not faster. Talent predictably lost faith in the direction of the company when predatory contracts were handed out like a death sentence, and on top of that, outsiders brought in never really elevated the organically grown original roster member to the heights necessary to thrive. That may have been the most crucial aspect of the company: It was COMPLETELY organic and self-sustaining, and the pro wrestling trope of guys with name value on the outside looking in at the hot new show on the block trying to get involved because they're "veterans" essentially killed a lot of what made it work. So here we are, seeing how high the dead cat can bounce.

ER: I liked our opening Mundo/Taya segment. Mundo has good Meathead Han Solo energy, and Taya's braid shaking sell of the doll possessing her was hilarious. They seem like fun.

2/3 Falls: Dragon Azteca Jr. vs. Fenix

ER: This match was good enough, and they tried some big things, but I cannot get interested in the Melissa Santos/Fenix angle. She doesn't have the acting chops to pull it off, and it was far more interesting when they were just fawning over each other like they were in a 2000s Morrissey video. Her having to act through ring announcements is ruffff. The first two falls are a little dry, felt like they were holding back for the third fall, which makes sense. Rudo Fenix isn't really any different than Tecnico Fenix, other than occasionally glowering at Melissa, and a lot of his offense looks like it's focusing more on a soft landing, which makes some of their exchanges look tentative. The tercera gets changed to Falls Count Anywhere by Antonio, and we get some violent callbacks to the earlier falls, but they also don't make a ton of sense. Fenix hit a nice German in the ring on Azteca early in the match, and it's weird when he hits one on the floor that is sold basically the same as the one in the ring. Similarly, Azteca won the segunda with his big tornado DDT, yet when he does the same on the floor Fenix is up wandering into place seconds later. It's weird to do callback spots when you're only calling attention to the newer painful versions being somehow less effective. We get some nice big spots around a table that refuses to break (nice rana off the upper level seating, big Fenix senton off the top to the floor), before it finally gets pulverized by an Azteca cradle driver off the top. The big spots didn't really lead to any big pinfall moments though, and it all felt like it was just building up to be the background to Melissa's involvement, which leads to no justice or interesting storyline wrap. It does lead to Shaul Guerrero as our guest ring announcer for the final hour of the promotion's history, so that's a weird footnote.

TL: A bit too cooperative at the start for this one, and the rapid cuts on the strike exchanges make me beg for a wide shot to see how bad it looked in full. Azteca had a nice dive, and the Fenix Driver to finish the first fall was definitely nasty. Azteca's crispness on offense is always fun, shows out a bit in fall two with the absolutely wild swinging DDT to even it up. The restart to make the final fall Falls Count Anywhere was a bit on the nose, but at the same time, it'll give Fenix an excuse to do something mighty dumb. I liked the German basically out of nowhere on the floor, as suddenness in a stip match based on the ruleset always pops me. The swinging DDT on the floor was even more wild than the one that evened up the match, but I wish there was at least a pin opportunity off it. And then Fenix kicks out at two off the rana through the table, rendering that point moot, I guess. The Fenix Swanton to the floor where he basically wipes out on the table is some Great Sasuke shit, and then Fenix takes the Cassadora through the table for a near fall and I guess you have to actually kill him? And then one time through the table and another Fenix Driver finishes? So Azteca never really had a shot? Just a strange layout for the match, doesn't really give Azteca a rub as the Azteca/Melissa stuff made him look dumb, and then Antonio says, "Love makes you do strange things," which is the cherry on top of this. Shaul Guerrero is fine? This company mystifies to the very end.

The Mack vs. Mil Muertes

ER: This had the same kind of unhinged first season cartoon violence that made that season so damn enjoyable. Two heavyweights work a fast sprint that has hard punches and kicks, big dives, hard bumps, big nearfalls, and an axe getting swung at Mack's head. It is a death match, after all. This felt like the entire match was really made for absolute Temple Fan Enjoyment, as each section was worked the way the Temple seems to respond to. Muertes is my favorite brawler in the fed and I could watch him knock Mack in the head with those big right hands all day. Both guys hit crazy topes, and Muertes has an awesome one that knocks Mack backwards into the ringside casket. But I also really liked the big nearfalls section where both guys had titanic finishers spammed to death, like a sick Mack powerslam and an even sicker flatliner that Mack takes crooked on his head. The finish stretch is classic LU, with Mack hitting a few stunners and then breaking a damn brick over Mil's head, putting him down with one last big stunner. Great all action match that felt like them getting an opportunity to work the match I knew they could work together. They had a singles match earlier this season that was incredibly dumb, a Haunted House match that included a "serious" section where Muertes got out a knife. This showed they had much better ways of integrating weapons into a match that was actually interesting. I'm happy they got a second singles match on the books as it's a singles pairing I always wanted from LU. It took until the literal final episode to deliver, but we made it.

TL: The pre-match was cute, Shaul not finding her footing yet is a bit odd given she's only 30, only an AEW ring announcing credit to her name? I'm extremely happy this matchup is happening, as Mil and Mack were two of the bright spots in the promotion's history, and the casket to start has me stoked. Mack is nuts, hitting his fat guy tope con giro and braining himself on a DDT on the apron. And then things pick up from there and these are two guys that know how to turn it up a few notches. The weapons in the casket is an awesome touch, and then the Muertes tope sending both into the casket was gnarly. We have an axe and a sickle involved, so I guess someone's been watching Mr. Pogo matches. I mean, a couple of weeks ago, someone actually got shot during a wedding angle on IMPACT so an axe doesn't surprise me. An ICE PICK, goddamn. I just rewatched Basic Instinct a couple weeks ago and yeah, the ice pick shots led to grimacing. A spinning heel kick that looked nasty AND Mack saying "KUNTA KINTE 3000" before laying in a shot, Mack rules, man. Muertes also hits his nasty chokeslam, so I feel like I'm getting everything I wanted out of this match and then some. Mack getting to kick out of the Flatliner is a great sign of respect considering how protected that finish is, AND THEN MACK HITS HIM WITH A BRICK AND A THIRD STUNNER FOR THE WIN. Mack's run in LU was an absolute blast, and Muertes was without a doubt the most consistent person in the entire run; to see them go out with one last banger against each other is incredibly satisfying. Highly doubt anything will touch this for me the rest of the night.

PAS: This was good stuff, a classic Mil Muertes garbage brawl with blood, dumb bumps and stupid weapons. Nothing in this felt space alieny or spooky ghosts, just two big dudes escalating violently until the ending. The spin out of the chokeslam into a stunner was really cool, I wonder if Austin and the Undertaker ever did that spot? I liked the Icepick as Kevin Sullivan's spike and the blood looked really cool in Mack Afro's like red soul glow activator.  LU eventually killed me, and I stopped caring about any of this stuff, but this match is the kind of thing that initially drew me to the fed. 

Johnny Mundo vs. Matanza

ER: I am genuinely excited for this one. I don't think I'm being hyperbolic or nostalgic to say that this episode has captured a real Season 1 vibe so far, the obvious best season of the series run. Is this like how March 2001 WCW was actually feeling like things were changing for the better, just a few episodes before it was all over? The power glove thing is soooo stupid but also soooo perfectly Lucha Underground. Mundo has a super power glove and it gives us a sign of Matanza we've never seen before, because now Matanza actually fears something. So we get a fun mixture of invincible Matanza as he kicks out of an early Moonlight Drive and other Mundo attacks, and tosses him with a few hard landing suplexes. The Gift to the Gods looks great, and Matanza really chucks him off the top with an overhead belly to belly. They brawl up to the top of some Temple structures, and we get fun Mundo parkour leap into a far wall, but he still gets caught by Matanza and tossed into a different wall. We get a big stunt fall where Mundo gets tossed through a roof ("You can see the asbestos falling from the walls," says Striker, a poor thing to have on tape when it comes to future class action lawsuits) and we get the big LU moment of power glove Mundo emerging through a door in the wreckage. Scared Matanza is a fun sight and something we might as well get to see in the final episode, love how weird begging off Matanza felt. We still got a couple of Matanza last gasps and this never felt like Mundo was going to dominantly come back, and it still felt like a big deal when Mundo put the monster away.

TL: Matanza's entrance gear is absolutely outrageous, some shit that he should have worn every week. Big time Vader mastodon helmet vibes with it. And yeah, I'm with Eric, the Power Glove is one of the great kitschy pro wrestling gimmicks of our time, and Mundo has the range to do fun stuff with it. And that happens in the start where he shows it could actually take down Matanza, a great bit of psychology to start, and then Matanza catches him and starts absolutely mauling him with sick power moves, including an impressive vaulting belly-to-belly. Mundo had a nice little comeback, too, and then just an insane Super German Suplex from Matanza with Mundo vaulting off the top of the post for maximum height. If you're gonna have a bombfest and aren't going to crush each other like Mack and Muertes, at least go big and with style, you know? The parkour stuff was great, too, which is a rarity in a Mundo match for me, so these guys are doing a great job with this match style, something that has genuinely impressed me. It's wild that LU missed so much in Season 4 only to have a match that encapsulates everything about it in basically one match, and the Johnny rising from the dead to use the gauntlet's power to kick out of the Wrath of the Gods and BIG PUNCH his way to victory, just a boatload of entertaining pro wrestling bullshit. Eric and I have watched a ton of cheesy horror movies lately so all those tropes rang true here, and both guys played the roles to perfection. Wild that he'd give up the glove like that, though, better man than me.

ER: I disagree with Tim's statement that there are such a thing as "cheesy horror movies". 

Pentagon Dark vs. Marty The Moth Martinez

ER: The Moth has basically retired from wrestling post LU (he has had less than 10 matches since this one, and this one aired two years ago), and he goes out with an all time LU performance. This whole match is the Moth show. He hits a true gusher, no blood packets for the Moth, just that thick kind of blood that soaks your entire head and thins your hair. Marty throws himself around ringside with abandon, going through several sets of chairs and hard into the ringpost (which is when the blood starts flowing). LU is a fed where basically everyone (especially heels) was required to take sprawling bumps through ringside chairs, in the same way everyone in NOAH had to learn how to get thrown into a guardrail. Guys getting tossed into chairs is always something that lands with me, with so many moving parts that it always looks painful and chaotic. Now considering guys go through chairs at least once per LU episode, it's pretty awesome that Moth's chair bumps actually stood out as crazy. He hip tosses Pentagon through a table, rips at his mask, stabs him with a fork, eats what appears to be a piece of bacon, and gets Pentagon bleeding. The match needed more blood, so this is obviously a good thing. That's about all Moth got out of this, busting Pentagon open and eventually hitting him while stuck in a trashcan, because the bulk of this was Moth making Pentagon look like (Antonio Cueto voice) A GOD. Moth bumps around for Pentagon and makes Penta come off like the top guy, eats a flipping piledriver off the floor, flies out of the ring through a table, gets a barbed wire board bounced off his head, gets thrown through glass (!), and eats a sick package piledriver through a bunch of chairs. Pentagon was essentially working as Hogan during the last couple LU seasons, all catchphrases and relying on others to violently bump for him, but with enough charisma it is a tecnico formula that clearly works.

TL: Perhaps the most telling thing about LU is that Marty Martinez, who has essentially disappeared from pro wrestling since this finale, is in the main event of a show in the last episode of the series, and is in a match that really has little doubt going into it of who will win. Just an absolutely weird run for him, too, as the whole psychopath gimmick was so hit-and-miss outside the ring, only to see him overperform inside the ring, including with Fenix at Ultima Lucha Tres. But we know it's Penta Dark's night to end it on top, and the only thing to consider going in is if he'll actually go for it or hold off knowing that sweet Tony Khan money is coming. Marty is going for it early on, though, taking wild bumps and hitting an absolute gusher two minutes in, and if you're gonna go out, you might as well go out bleeding all over the place. Penta is bringing it, so I'm happy about that, at least. These two really do just go all out, chair shots, the garbage can shots, and then the bat shots to the garbage can Penta is stuck in, just really violent shit. I mean, Marty does lesser stuff like the table bump to the outside and then goes through the pane of glass full on, takes the Fear Factor through chairs...look, this is absolutely the Triple H at Royal Rumble 2000 performance from Marty, a very good way to go out, and Penta did enough here to make it worth watching. I don't think I liked it as much as Muertes/Mack, but I'm a big fan.

ER: Hilariously, a barely mobile Vampiro brings in his MASTER, who is actually honestly seriously called Hexagon Dark (because why would you follow a master who has one less side?) and Vampiro's master is the tiniest little man! I thought it was Darby Allin, but apparently it is Australian Suicide, who is the same size as AAA era Rey. They couldn't have found anyone with decent size? Bring back Ezekiel Jackson from the grave and put him under a Penta mask? I'm pretty sure the only guy in LU smaller than Hexagon would be Mascarita Sagrada, but I'd have to see them standing side by side to be certain. And then Jake Strong comes out and cashes in Gift of the Gods to be the final champion in LU history!! The whole episode felt designed to give the LU fans nothing but matches they wanted and finishes they wanted to see, and then the entire series ends with the fans bummed out and quiet about Jake Strong.

TL: The Australian Suicide Hexagon Dark master bullshit was hilarious to me, and leading to the obvious Strong cash-in bullshit was even more hilarious. Marty goes out like that knowing he's done, and then you get about as impactful a Strong cash-in as when he won his MITB cash-in. This means that LU absolutely was thinking a Season 5 was going to happen, when everything about the show said otherwise, and the postscripts, with Matanza getting his heart ripped out (?!?), Strong getting the glove, Taya being possessed by a damn doll, I think I would have loved to see Lucha Underground Season 5: Temple of the Gods. AND THE WADE BARRETT REVEAL. GODFREY IN THE LIMO. Why is Lucha Underground deciding to become interesting right when I lose interest? AND LITTLE CUETO IS BACK? Okay, I take back everything I said, bring it back, man.

ER: And we get a long, wistful series of vignettes, segments designed to set up the storylines for a season 5 that was assuredly never going to happen. Black Lotus murders Matanza with the gauntlet, Strong steals the gauntlet from series punching bag and perpetual loser Dragon Azteca Jr. (breaking his ankle just to remind him that he's a loser), Taya is possessed, and Wade Barrett is revealed as a higher power (in 2018 we would have had no clue how true a higher power he was, as taking Mauro Ranallo's voice off of television is a real god tier move). And to really hammer home the cruelty, we get one final glimpse of Dario being resurrected, and as much of a drag parts of this last season was, I would have obviously been back for season 5 and WARRING CUETOS!! But they went out with a very strong last episode, and that will leave a lot of goodwill for a promotion that I watched in its entirety.

TL: This is still pretty obviously the death knell for the promotion given most of the guys on top are with other promotions, namely AEW, but you have to give them credit for at least making it look like they had a plan going forward. Dueling Cuetos, leaning in completely to the Gods motif, I mean, gimme 22 episodes of that, please. Someone is going to want to watch this the entire way through years from now because it'll be readily available on something other than Tubi and be flabbergasted by what happened here: a promotion that got a ton of talent, most of them at exactly the right time, but only went forward with specific guys due to a number of factors that seem so incredibly dubious in retrospect, only to stumble sideways into greatness multiple weeks due to that multitude of talent. LU was odd until the very end, and perhaps the only thing that would be more odd and more fitting is if somehow they got everyone back together for Season 5, even with all odds stacked against them. We'll be ready when it happens.

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Friday, November 20, 2020


Perro Aguayo vs. El Hijo Del Santo Monterey 1990?

MD: Basically 10 minutes of perfect lucha libre followed up by another five of enjoyable bullshit. This is JIP but it's joined with Perro slamming Santo onto a table that he has leaning from the apron to the floor. Twice. If you're going to come in onto any moment, that's pretty much ideal. That basically ties off the primera. The segunda has a little bit of beatdown, Santo dodging a senton with perfect timing, launching a bunch of comeback dropkicks, moving out of the way so that Perro hits his second, and hitting two perfect topes, one out of the ring and one off the top before finishing him off with the caballo. Entirely iconic and super heated. Tercera goes to the floor with some revenge chairshots and a lot of bleeding from Perro before we get a perfect ref bump and a foul that scores Perro a win that got overturned. Post match Perro goes for the mask, with Stuka making the save and they make the best challenges possible, Perro with blood dripping down his face and Santo with his mask ripped. It would have been nice to have the first few minutes but what we ended up with was plenty of the absolute best doing what they did best.

PAS: This was pretty short as we miss the opening section, but what we got was frantic violent stuff. Perro is one of the great intense brawlers, and Santo is an iconic brawling babyface. Loved the pair of dives to finish up the second fall, Santo's tope is always amazing and sends Perro into the chairs. Perro bleeds, they exchange big shots. It felt more like a set up for an iconic match, the TV angle for the big blowoff, but it was a hell of a set up. 

ER: Even with who knows how much of the Primera cut, we still get 10 minutes of two legends doing the things you'd want them to do. These two are a great lucha yin yang, as Aguayo is so good at punching Santo around the ring, and Santo is one of my absolute favorites at staggering and falling all over ringside. Santo always brings a tumbler's artistry to getting his ass kicked, taking punches and tumbling backwards on dirty floors with legs flying up, getting tossed into a skidding down a table, always a second away from a quick comeback. I love Santo brawling comebacks, as he hits his gorgeous floating dropkicks to knock Aguayo to the floor, then hits that perfect tope to send Perro flying into chairs, and then sets up the in ring rope with incredible speed. I've watched so many different excellent Santo matches from years spanning four decades, and he's a guy like Negro Casas who I'm so used to the old awesome version that I always get surprised by certain movements from the young awesome version. I had to skip back several times just to gawk at how slick Santo looked while getting to the top tope before nailing that in ring tope. I couldn't get enough. Perro misses his own tope, crashes to the floor and gets a chair jammed into his neck by Santo, and again, this is 10 minutes of all the things you want to see. We don't have the full match, but oh well, you know you're going to want to watch early 90s Santo vs. Perro. 

Negro Navarro vs. Apolo Estrada Monterey 1991?

MD: I loved the front half of this. A little bit of BS from the outside and a little bit from the ref but most of it was Navarro showing off on the mat and then Navarro showing off with a beating. Great strikes used to high effect and just the amazing personality that we're used to from his later career. He's a top ten talent in being able to express himself in the ring and here he just has this easy, laconic way of laying in a knee or working a wound that's unmistakably him. The violence, punches or kicks or headbutts, seem both effortless and brutal all at the same time. It could be the footage quality but Estrada came off like a sort of scummy tecnico. When he did get a chance to fire back, it was with a low blow and quality revenge shots. It was a bit scattered though, not as concentrated as a big moment of transition might have been. The tercera built well, with Navarro staying in it due to outside interference until Estrada had some help of his own. That moment, more than the comeback, felt like a big swing of comeuppance and was pretty satisfying in a way a bs-laden finish generally isn't. Ultimately, this was a great opportunity to see Navarro do his thing in his prime in a singles setting.

PAS: Man this was awesome to watch, the first prime age Navarro where he looked as good as he looked in his fifties and sixties. He lays a super nasty beating on Estrada, throwing these little knuckle punches to his forehead busting up his brows, big knees to the face, and a great series of combos to the body and head. He also would throw in a submission or two which felt like a expansion of the beating, then a real show of skills. Estrada was fine here, he had a very Chicky Starr look for a babyface but he bled a bunch and his comebacks were fine. Finish was a bit Monterey, but that is kind of baked in when you see the arena you are in.

 Necro Butcher vs. Monsta Mack GHW 10/20/06

PAS: This is a super sexy on-paper match up, two of the great 20th century indy crowbars wailing away on each other, and it totally delivers on that promise, even exceeds it. Both guys spend the entire match just escalating the force of the shots. Necro opens up with his classic straight right to the jaw and Mack fires right back, these are two guys who utterly refuse to stand down. Necro also takes a Necro in the mid-2000s level bump, as Mack hits a running powerslam right on the concrete, he also eats some gross thrown chairs which land legs first into his eye. Match ends with a bar fight, as they both throw increasingly psychotic shots at each other, until Monsta springs off the chair with a nutcase headbutt which looks like it dimmed Necro''s running lights. Mack just kind of pins him, and for a apparently blown finish, it is exactly what you want from these two guys. Awesome shit, loved every second of it. 

MD: Intimate, personable few-frills violence. Necro sets the tone immediately with punches up and down Mack's body. You can see flesh crater in the wake, a high-low assault that lets everyone know what they'll be getting, not like they had any real doubt. It never stops from there. Necro is resilient and unyielding but Mack's a monster and when ferocity is this close to equal, size is going to win out. The ambience helps make this, with a fan asking the ref about the rules at one point, with suggestions for violence from the crowd that pales to what they're actually going to do, with the camera man complaining about trying to get back over the rail when they head back to the ring; it's like a found-footage version of a bum fight, except for one of the bums is a 300 pound killing machine. There wasn't a lot of narrative here except for that. There was a moment of transition where Mack went to the top because he couldn't otherwise put Necro away and misses, but that just leads to the bar fight finish with two chairs, two men sitting and meeting one another with no filters and no remorse, and hubris like you'd never see elsewhere in wrestling.

ER: Any time any new vintage Necro is unearthed, obviously it needs to be discussed. There were few wrestlers in the world I loved more in 2006 than Necro Butcher. Experiencing the fun and violence and chaos of a live Necro Butcher match was the kind of thing I wished every wrestling fan got to experience. I saw him three separate times, including a few years after this match, in a San Francisco night club against big fat King Dabada (in a match that has never been released beyond a few highlights, so maybe that one will show up here someday. It was two big sweaty men brawling around a snug nightclub, falling onto fans, going up into the balcony, and I ran around the building following them everywhere. Who would love running around following Necro's Tasmanian devil crash. He and Mack beat the shit out of each other from first punch, and this whole match was filled with close fists to the jaw. The crowd brawling was as hard and reckless as you'd want, and Mack kept hitting Necro with expertly thrown chairs. Necro is usually the guy with the best chair throwing range in wrestling, and I liked how Mack kept beating him to that punch. Necro took some classic Necro hard spills on the floor including a brutal powerslam, and they built to a climactic punch off. I usually hate those sit and punch sequences, but I can't really argue with one that ends the match with a seeming knockout headbutt/punch combo. They punch each other one at a time, and then build to left-right combos, and then throw in headbutts. Mack laughs to himself before lunging in with a headbutt straight to Necro's jaw/orbital bone, then decks him right out of his folding chair. 

JR: If you believe in the idea of home turf advantage in pro wrestling, Necro’s home turf would be any building that looks like it previously held a now defunct indoor mini golf course. I have no expectations for this other than Phil sending it to me and saying it’s better than you expect it to be, which is incredible because I would expect this to be life altering. It’s a rare Necro match that features the vaguest hint of a feeling out process (and some trash talk) but it quickly shifts into exactly what you’d want from both of these people: wild looping punches that connect full force and a complete disregard for their own well being and the well being of others.

While there are some great Necro performances in companies that had actual cameras, there is always a wonderful quality when you find a Necro match like this. He feels like a cryptid, this monstrosity that should be caught on camera and if he noticed someone filming, it’s unclear what would transpire but it would probably be horrible for all involved.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t write about Mack being absurdly, preposterously reckless in his own right; throwing open chairs at Necro (with a fan sitting in the bleachers like 8 inches from where the chair lands), flailing and falling on top of people in the crowd. Through the first five minutes of this, each transition is essentially built around one person or the other doing something that pissed the other off a little too much. It’s a wrestling match with a few tiny fights breaking out for good measure.

While the match loses steam a little bit heading into the bar fight section, and the finish feels as though they were going for a surprise tko type thing that didn’t land as effectively as it would’ve if they had played it more straight, I don’t think anyone is watching this because of the narrative escalation or whatever. It’s exactly what someone would expect from these two 15 years ago.

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