Segunda Caida

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

Monday, September 20, 2021

RIP Bobby Eaton Pt. 3

ER: Bobby Eaton only had 30 matches in Japan, and this might be the only one we have, maybe the only document of how Japanese crowds reacted to this god. And what an all time great Odd Couple the Eaton/Halme team was! They teamed together every night of Eaton's first tour of Japan, going 12-2 as a team before getting this title match (beating everyone other than Chono/Muto). Were these two hanging out for those two weeks? Eaton teaches Halme a couple things in the ring, Halme shows him his favorite weirdo Japan spots from his 2+ years there, it's something I would certainly watch. They're a weird team, but I love the team dynamic of a skilled smooth technician and a big lummox. Halme really did come off super lummox-y here, like he was on downers or something. He was a little sluggish and kind of wandered around more than I'm used to in matches that aren't from 80s World Class. His timing seems off throughout, but Eaton is so good at covering for him and making it almost seem like part of the act, that it turns into a real charming Bobby performance. 

Eaton/Hawk had a great thread throughout, with Hawk working a more Memphis puncher style with him rather than a Road Warrior style. They have a few punch outs that are really great, Hawk clearly having some kind of bet with Eaton over who could throw a better worked right hand. I don't know the last time I saw Hawk throw right hands this often during a match, usually throwing more chops and shoulderblocks and not having stand and trade exchanges. Eaton bumped big but wasn't necessarily working this as the small man who takes all the bumps. He was working as Hawk and Sasaki's size equal, using those hooking punches as the ultimate equalizer. Match starts with a bang and a big Sasaki high rotation powerslam on Halme, and while the Eaton/Hawk stuff was my favorite (I mean sure Hawk no sells Eaton's piledriver but we also get Hawk's great fistdrop so), but Eaton/Sasaki is a fun pairing I'd never seen. Eaton takes a high backdrop bump but convincingly holds off Sasaki, throwing incredible headlock punches, putting him down with a perfect swinging neckbreaker and then drops the Alabama Jam. 

Eaton was also busy the entire match wrangling Halme, but it really gave a cool insight into his ring general capabilities. The fans really wanted to see the Hawk/Halme showdown and they were LOUD with "HALME" chants before they locked up. But there was a awkward spot where Hawk went to Irish whip Halme but Halme held on too long and just kind of got tossed sideways into the ropes, and it gets awkward getting him back to his feet in a way that isn't just "stand up and repeat this spot". Eaton recognizes it instantly and comes charging in to get in a punch out with Hawk, allowing Halme to reposition. Halme, while he was much more sluggish than I've seen him and did hardly any offense, did at least lean into big clotheslines. Eaton took some big damage down the stretch, including Hawk rocket launching him into a Sasaki powerslam AND taking the Doomsday Device, and I really hope someday I get to see another match with this weird team. 

PAS: This was a bunch of fun, I loved how Halme can just go to the body and cut off everything, but this was an Eaton master class. He felt like he was conducting the whole match, getting everyone in position and taking these huge in ring bumps to tie it together: backdrops, eating press slams, and getting doomsday deviced. He made the Hellraisers look incredible which also made Halme look great when he went toe to toe with them. That is one of the great things about Eaton, he was going to make everyone in the match go up a level when he was in there. I would also love to see more Eaton and Halme, man they would have been a fun WCW team. 

Bobby Eaton vs. Jerry Lawler Power Pro Wrestling 2/17/01

ER: The two greatest punchers in history throw down, and the punches are as great as expected. I don't think Lawler/Eaton were ever in the same place once Eaton left Memphis in the early 80s, and I love the selling point of an 18 year old grudge exploding in 3 minutes of violence. The punches in the first 10 seconds alone make this match must see, and it's more evidence that Lawler arguably sells punches even better than he delivers punches. Seeing him get rocked in the corner by Eaton right hands is seeing two legends with 100% trust. Lawler knew right where those hands were going to be when he bounced around in the corner, and Eaton knew exactly where to deliver them. The fight to the floor and Lawler blocks a post shot (I love when Lawler blocks a post shot with his hands as he always makes it look like his stiff arm straining to not go into that post) and Eaton takes the shot instead. Eaton even takes a biel on the concrete floor! 

Brian Christopher on commentary talks about Lawler being a slow starter, but not long after Lawler hits a mule kick and then the strap comes down. Lawler uses his punches to build to two Stunners, a Lawler spot I usually hate, but here I like it and it's because Bobby Eaton is really great at selling a Stunner. Brandon Baxter starts interfering, which leads to Stacy Carter crotching him on the top rope, which brings out Victoria (totally forgot Victoria was built like Leyla Hirsch in 2001), which brings out Bill Dundee. Dundee looks like The Gorch here, all that was missing was a pipe or a chain, and they set up a Dundee/Lawler/Kat vs. Eaton/Baxter/Victoria match that I can't find any record of ever happening. This was a criminally short match, the only match Eaton actually had in Power Pro, but every single interaction between he and Lawler was EXACTLY what you want. 

Bobby Eaton/Dennis Condrey vs. Southern Comfort (Tracy Smothers/Chris Hamrick) IWC 12/11/04

ER: Dennis Condrey comes out of a 15 year retirement to work some MX tags, and THAT is the kind of indy dream match that excites me. This was only the second of his comeback matches, and Condrey looks pretty good for a guy in his early 50s who hadn't wrestled since his late 30s. I also like dream matches that pair legends with veterans, not young guys. Smothers and Hamrick were already old guys on the super indy scene at this point, and I like that team against a couple old legends. The match is great, with a lot of really snug matwork that built to a hot tide turn when Chris Hamrick started his bullshit. Hamrick worked the mat well with both, doing hard wristlock takeovers and building to some cool stuff around a side headlock and a neat Condrey half Indian deathlock. There's a couple nice old Midnights double teams, the nicest a Condrey drop toehold into an Eaton jumping elbowdrop.

But match gets up-fucking-turned when Hamrick goes for a Johnny B. Badd style jumping moonsault and completely wipes out on the ropes, hanging himself disgustingly by his knee. Now, if you know Chris Hamrick - and if you know Chris Hamrick you love Chris Hamrick - your yellow lights are flashing. Hamrick is the master at taking calculated body destroying bumps-as-strategy. Hamrick intentionally blows out his knee doing a complicated rope bump and it's allllll part of the plan. It's a spot he has variations on and it's my favorite kind of southern wrestling theater. Smothers runs to Hamrick's aid, the crowd leaps to their feet thinking something went wrong, Smothers waves in people from the back, and it all takes so long that IWC opted to do a time lapse. There are four people helping untangle Hamrick's leg from the ropes while keeping him steady and not injuring him further.....and of course Hamrick then lands a superkick right under Beautiful Bobby's chin. Hamrick's face as he shrugs to the fans and to the men helping him is just part of what makes Hamrick the best at that kind of bullshit. 

Smothers goofs off a ton on offense with his karate chops and silly dancing, all while dishing out stomps to Eaton's ribs. Things swing back for the Midnights when Hamrick does another of his insane bumps, flying feet first to the concrete floor after Eaton undraped himself from the middle rope. I love how indies never expected Hamrick's biggest bumps so they always came off as shocking, closer to the reactions of Bigelow going through a ring than any modern WWE stunt fall. Condrey gets the hot tag and throws a couple nice stiff arm southpaw lariats, Eaton hits a hard lariat to send Hamrick over the top to the floor, and the flapjack gives us old man indy champions, one of the purest experiences in indy wrestling. 

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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Matches from PWG All Star Weekend Night 1 1/5/08

Low-Ki vs. Bryan Danielson - EPIC

PAS: This was their first match against each other in four years, and their last ever indy match (they had a couple of FCW matches during their time in WWE Developmental). This was the matchup that launched modern indy wrestling, but this is one of their least hyped matches (PWG footage used to take so long to show up, that sometimes their stuff would fall a bit through the cracks). This was really great, as good if not better then their matches earlier in the decade. This was structured a bit differently, as these weren't young guys trying to prove themselves, but established stars. Danielson worked this as a heel, really trying to torture Ki by ripping up his arm in gross ways, he also had mixed in a fair amount of MMA spots in his arsenal, and there was a couple of really slick moves in and out of the guard, I especially dug him working an armbar, jumping into guard to throw down elbows, and slipping right back into the arm bar. Danielson also kept attacking with Goodrich elbows, setting up the finish nicely. Ki breaks out a bunch sick kicks to the chest and face, including catching a Bryan tope with a head kick. The finish run was awesome stuff, as they are fighting on the top rope, Ki actually bites Bryan getting him in position for the Warriors Way, Ki then hits the Ki Krusher, and spins it into the Ki clutch where he pays Bryan back with Goodrich elbows of his own. This is a undercover classic, I think it had too much matwork for the people who were really pushing PWG in 2008, but I am always going to love these guys banging the mat. 

Jack Evans vs. Roderick Strong

PAS: This was a fun match, although fell a little short of what these guys can do at their peak. Evans, at this point especially, was completely rubber-spined, and Strong found a bunch of ways to twist him into pain pretzels, at one point he had him wrapped up the ropes and nearly touched his ankles to the back of his head. Strong also unloaded some blistering chops, and Evans took a gross bump to the floor when he missed a dive and nuked his ankle. Evans always had a bit of an offense problem, he is kind of the Lugentz Dort of indy wrestling, he ends up going over in this match, and I just had a hard time buying the stuff he threw putting Strong down, although the 450 always looks great.

Eddie Kingston/Claudio Castagnoli/Human Tornado vs. Necro Butcher/Chris Hero/Candice LeRae -EPIC

PAS: This was a total blast, a wild brawl which ebbed and flowed had great pacing and told a bunch of little awesome mini stories. All six hit the ring fast and start brawling, and they eventually spill into the parking lot. Necro starts throwing rocks at the heel team, I mean big stones tossed hard, the kind of reckless insanity which made Necro special. This was a Necro masterpiece, he wilds out smashing the shit out Tornado and Kingston with crazed punches, at one point he comes in as a hot tag a just throws these totally gross JYD no hands headbutts. Tornado is a great gross cheapshotting prick, he absolutely obliterates LeRae with a superkick to the throat which puts her on the shelf for most of the match. Every time Kingston and Hero matched up it was as borderline unprofessional as you want from those two, and the finish was great with LeRae getting back into the match only for Eddie with a full wifebeater smirk, line her up for a backfist, with Hero diving in front of the bullet only to lose the match. On paper this looks awesome and in ring it delivered on it's promise.

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Saturday, September 18, 2021

2021 Ongoing MOTY List: Corino Family Feud

12. Steve Corino vs. Colby Corino PWF 8/27

PAS:  This is Corino's return the the ring after five years, to fight his son on Colby's 25th birthday. There have been a handful of father vs. son matches over the years and it is a really great way to insert real emotion into a match. This wasn't an overblown NXT emotional tour de force, the acting was relatively subdued but you could feel the history. It started mostly on the mat, but got much more personal with Steve throwing some really nasty overhand slaps and Colby getting more desperate, focusing on his father's bad neck (after agreeing not to attack it). Steve had some really great looking punches, including some of the nastier mounted corner punches I can remember. He really looked like he was going to knock divots off of his son's forehead. I really dug Steve barely being able to stand at the end and egging his son on to hit him more, and the brainbuster Colby hit was really beautiful (and really should have ended the match instead of whatever Nova looking thing Colby actually used to pin him). I did think some of Colby's offense was a little indy wrestling for this kind of generational war, but when he kept it simple it was great. This was a hell of an old man last stand from Steve Corino, who adds one last classic to his pretty impressive resume.

MD: This told a unique story in a unique way with a ton of emotion and a narrative throughline, without seeming rote or stereotypical in any way. If anything, it reminded me of the last few big Regal matches against Cesaro and Hero, except for the emotional connective tissue in those were symbolic and this was thoroughly and deeply real. Instead of developmental polish it had earnest indy grime. I enjoyed Colby's cocky enjoyment early on and I appreciated the wirey sea of hair that ran down Steve's face, a mask of age and seasoning even if not of blood, shielding us from his wrought emotion and forcing us to imagine the feelings that lay underneath. They worked this match with the crowd but never quite for it. When working from underneath, Steve would hear clapping but never lean into it. When firing back on Colby later in the match, Steve would keep his mounted top rope punches slow and measured, uneven so that the fans couldn't count along, though you could feel the sheer effort in each shot. 

Maybe Colby's offense got a little too cutesy at times, but Steve leaned hard into each leg lariat or what not and made it all look far better than it ought to have. They didn't turn up the speed often, but every time they did, it absolutely worked. And then they brought it back down to the grinding, groaning elemental battle between father and son. As the match went on and Colby survived Steve's second and third winds, it seemed somehow more inevitable than it should have (this helped along by Steve's own words that he only had a good fifteen minutes of wind in him), but even that inevitability felt satisfying because of the sheer heights of oppressive and yet still somehow triumphant emotion that they were channeling. Steve said it himself after the match: the chance to do this in this way and with this freedom was so unique and so unlikely, and they took advantage of the opportunity for all it was worth.

ER: I think I liked the build, the fact that the match happened, and the narratives they built from within the match a lot more than the actual match proper. And I thought this match had some of the same problems as the NXT main event 30+ minute epics. But it had a lot more hard and unique story than those matches had, so some of the melodramatic moments were going to come off better here, where you can more easily buy into the emotional stress of the match. A father physically fighting his own son is a weird thing, even within pro wrestling, and for me that gave it more of a freakshow appeal than an emotional family drama typically has. I played catch with my dad, but we've never worked a collar and elbow, I've never ground my boot across his face, and I've never been potatoed by him. The whole thing is strange and fascinating to me, working a violent interpretative dance with your father. 

Part of me thinks this could have better as a babyface/babyface Bryan/Cesaro structured match, as the opening matwork was snug enough that they could have kept things professional that a straight 20 minute match with less emotional drama would have worked. I knew it wasn't staying in that realm but I think they had the skill to do it. Colby's twisting headscissors on his dad's hurt neck was way more interesting to me than a lot of Colby's actual "moves" offense down the stretch, and Colby was at his best when he went with more of a Finlay-type approach of being active in negative space. I liked the guise of keeping this professional (knowing it wouldn't stay that way) and how Colby edged into that with double stomps to his downed dad and later scraping his boot in his dad's face and holding his boot on his dad's neck. Steve was in awesome shape for a guy who hadn't worked a match in 5 years, and I appreciated Brad Stutts on commentary pointing out details such as Steve losing 28 pounds in the six weeks since the match was signed. Stutts got over strong points of strategy, like how Colby was leaving for St. Louis right after this show, but Steve has been training ONLY for this one match. Those things elevate a big family feud. 

I thought the match was a tremendous Steve performance, one of his great singles matches. Colby is a guy I thought got really really good during his Evolve run, but I thought most of his Evolve performances were better than this one. None of those matches had as much personally at stake, and he was more of an interesting New Jimmy Jacobs in Evolve. Steve is really great at working Jacobs-types, and I wish Colby had leaned more into that style. I bought into Steve's dramatic heft, and loved whenever the 48 year old would fire back at his progeny. Steve's corner punches were excellent, and he saved a light Colby boxing exchange down the stretch by fighting back off rhythm with some thud. I thought a few of the transitions were weak, as they kept leaning on Steve doing things he wouldn't have otherwise done (including twice going up top for the sole purpose of getting knocked off by his son), and the match seemed to blow past several different good endings before landing on the weakest of the bunch. I would have liked this more had Colby gone into kill mode when the ref was giving Steve recovery time and Steve begged his son to keep going. The brainbuster would have been ideal as the final coffin nail, but at minimum I loved how Steve sold during all the kickouts. Still, some melodrama is expected and encouraged in a once in a lifetime match like this, and what they did was a net positive. I'll always get excited for unique pairings like this, even though most won't have the same kind of built-in quality story as they pulled off here. 

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Friday, September 17, 2021


Yoshiaki Fujiwara/Nobuhiko Takada vs. Rocky Della Serra/Leo Burke UWF 7/24/84 - GREAT

PAS: This was early UWF, before they were really a shootstyle fed, so this was a standard pro-wrestling tag match. It was mostly hard head Fujiwara, which is far from my favorite Fujiwara, but he does hard head spots really well. Burke especially leaned into stooging big from punching or elbowing Fujiwara in his rock hard dome. Takada continued to underwhelm me, lots of kicks which only semi-hit (although he did waste Burke with a top rope dropkick).Burke was the revelation here, he has a big rep, but not a ton of footage, and he was on one here. Great looking bumps, awesome offense (he hit the best inverted atomic drop I have ever seen) totally looked like a super worker. 

MD: Fun stuff. Della Serra is a guy we've seen pop up in a few places since we started doing this and Burke is obviously one of the greatest journeymen of the 80s. What I liked about them here is that this, in early days UWF, felt almost like a different style battle where they were utilizing the sort of pro wrestling they'd do anywhere else and Fujiwara and Takada were Fujiwara and Takada. That might be a series of overdramatic elbow drops from Della Serra or an inverted atomic drop from Burke or whatever. It obviously meant that they knew how to play into all of Fujiwara's head spots for the best effect. Adding to this you had Takada bringing a little more flash with whips and dropkicks on top of things like the belly to belly right into a submission. It all came together pretty well despite it all.

MD: Maybe not the best week to cover Flair, but what the hell, it's footage, it's new, it's Friday, and it's of historical value since, unless I'm mistaken, we just have a couple of minutes of garbage footage from 78 over two matches of Flair vs Murdoch, so this is a new, iconic pairing. I liked the creativity and the variation here, much of which I'll credit to Murdoch. After the initial matwork (not Flair's best, but it was fine) they made the most of the relatively short fifteen minutes of match time, just throwing out interesting transition after interesting transition to the point where it never felt like a your turn/my turn match but like a real struggle where both guys were trying to outfox the other. My favorites were probably Murdoch catching the knee on an early knee drop attempt and Flair causing Murdoch's elbow drop to the leg to overshoot forcing him to wipe out on it. But Murdoch also got a snap turning backslide counter and Flair jammed him on a fireman's carry attempt by punching him in the face, and so on, combined with what you'd expect like Murdoch answering the chops with punches out of the corner or Flair getting a cheapshot in after begging off towards the ropes. 

The finishing stretch was, of course, BS, but still had enough wrinkles to feel creative. Murdoch hit a running power slam instead of slamming Ric off the top. They had a ref bump, Flair tossing Murdoch over the top, a phantom pin off a punch by Murdoch, before the actual finish of Murdoch inadvertently back body dropping Flair off the top onto Tommy Young and then hitting the brainbuster but getting DQed. If you're going to have a finishing minute like that, at least it was dynamic. You didn't know if Flair would win by cheating after Young went down or if it'd be Flair tossing Murdoch over the top that would cause the finish or if Flair would win after the phantom pinfall, etc. On the other hand, if you're having to stack elements of a Dusty finish one on top of the other on top of the other to keep it fresh, maybe there's something problematic with your booking?

ER: I thought this was excellent, just the panacea I needed after a long work week with some late nights. The chemistry between the two was great and they kept upping the ante in ways I wasn't expecting. This match had a ton of activity to it and they kept pulling off sequences that I hadn't seen done quite this way. That always excites me, when I see a new match with two guys I've seen a ton. I can't really get excited about Flair matches these days. I imagine if an unseen Flair/Steamboat there's a good chance I'd watch it, but probably a better chance that I would just watch a random episode of Sunday Night Heat instead. And yet I loved everything Flair did here and loved even more how Murdoch worked with him. The opening was some light matwork with them moving in the familiar ways, but it really kicks up when Murdoch catches and blocks a Flair kneedrop inches from his nose, drags himself to his feet by Ric's leg, and before long is dropping elbows on Ric's leg. That leads to Dick missing one of them when Flair shifts and then Flair starts working over Murdoch's side from his nasty spill. 

Now, this match had a lot of "stuff". Murdoch and Flair are guys with a lot of stuff, and Flair more than most is a guy who is going to get his stuff in no matter what. But this match managed to have a ton of stuff while feeling like all of the stuff served the match. This didn't feel like Flair giving the fans Flair, it felt like Flair giving the fans a good match with memorable Flair moments. And Murdoch was there with some incredible selling and super impressive body work to make Flair look even better. Murdoch's execution was all time great in this match. His misses landed like a man who didn't expect to miss, his punches looked as punishing and sharp as ever, but his technical ability was amazing. He had a nice tight reversal on a Flair abdominal stretch that he then rolled into a tight cradle, and later he hit one of the most finely executed sunset flips I've ever seen. Murdoch understood the physics of wrestling, and his move execution legitimized his fighting. It wasn't just his offense, but the way he took Flair's offense was a real mastery of physics. Murdoch is able to look heavy while taking offense but you can tell he's getting up for everything with ease. He hangs in the air taking a Flair back suplex, and makes a hiptoss look like Flair really has to muscle him over. Murdoch's selling was excellent throughout, taking a Flair kneelift and holding the left side of his belly like he got stuck, or the painful grimaces when Flair would raise his arm and punch him in his left side. 

The dedication to every small spot made every big spot look fantastic, with the best being Flair going up top and Murdoch running across the ring to plant him with a huge powerslam. And we got an all time great punch out, with Flair dishing a hard knife edge in the corner that sends Murdoch responds instinctively to with a three punch combo, and Flair bumps his way through these fists in great ways, leading to ref Tommy Young stopping Murdoch from hitting his big wind up right, only to have Murdoch throw a just-as-nasty left jab over Young's shoulder. It wouldn't have looked better if it was a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and I'm not sure Bugs could work that punching sequence as expertly as Murdoch or Flair. I loved all of this match, bullshit finishes don't bother me when the journey is this much fun. 

PAS: There is an apocryphal Murdoch vs. Flair match from Mid-South which Joel Watts called the best match he has ever seen, but the tape melted in a hot car. From this relatively abbreviated version you can really tell that they had special chemistry. This was way more reversal heavy then I expect from Flair matches, with lots of cool counter wrestling by both guys. This was counter wrestling which felt organic rather then two guys waiting around to dance into another spot. Murdoch especially found neat ways to pick the leg or sneak in punches. I loved Young catching the haymaker and Murdoch sneaking in a jab, I love when punchers have a bunch of different signature punches and Murdoch unloads the arsenal. 

Doug Gilbert/Keizo Matsuda/Tiger Jeet Singh?/Ultraseven/Takashi Uwano vs. Terry Gordy/Shoichi Ichiyama/YUJI KITO/Yukihide Ueno/Tomohiro Ishii IWA Japan 2/4/01
MD: Full disclosure: I'm not super familiar with some of these guys, but I found this overall pretty compelling. The story here was good, with eliminations possible by going over the top too, which meant Gordy was a beast here just due to the size differential. I know he was diminished, but you put him in a tag like this where he could be dangerous in the corner or come in and have some guys run into his stuff or just throw his body around and he could still be incredibly effective. I wouldn't want him working a twenty minute singles match necessarily but he had size and presence and meant something to the crowd: when Ultraseven (who was bigger but could still move pretty well) faced off against him the crowd had a real buzz. Anyway, this was ultimately the Keizo Matsuda show. Mostly thanks to Gordy it became 5 on 2 pretty quickly, with a long beatdown on Matsuda, to the point I thought we'd get ten minutes of Gilbert vs the World, but they were able to get it to 4 on 2 and then Gilbert did his job by double eliminating himself and Gordy. After that, Matsuda had some real hope and momentum and it looked like there might be some heel communication and another elimination but the double teaming works and then works more and then works even more and after a valiant attempt to hang in there, the numbers game ends up as just too much. Matsuda is probably stronger for his showing though.

PAS: This was a couple of months before Gordy's death, a full year after his last listed Cagematch match (Hardy Boys vs. Gordy/Hayes which is pretty intriguing). I thought he looked great. In some of his 90s work he looked addled, but here he moved well, hit some big hard shots, great clotheslines, nice suplex. I liked how he was a real obstacle for everyone he faced, and I dug Dougie needing to sacrifice himself just to give Matsuda a chance. That was definitely not Tiger Jeet Singh btw, it was some guy in a mask, which is always the trouble with translated match listings. Matsuda was fun as a guy dying on his sword, but be valiant all you want, you are still dead. 

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Thursday, September 16, 2021

2021 Ongoing MOTY List: Coffin Match

6. Darby Allin vs. Ethan Page AEW Dynamite 7/14

PAS: These two had a series in EVOLVE I had a lot of time for. It was what really made Darby into a name guy, mainly because of the shellacking he would take. This was as good as those matches, although worked a bit differently because of Allin being a bigger star than Page at this point. It is pretty hard to show me new things in a street fight at this point, but this had a bunch of pretty cool unique spots. Loved Darby coming in with the metal back brace to make his senton's nastier. I thought the Scorpio Sky and Sting section worked well, Sky popping out from the casket was fun and Sting showed some real verve cleaning house. Page using the ring post hook to yank off Allin's chain was really nasty looking, as was the revenge Darby fishooking. Your pair of monster Darby bumps, a couple on the floor and the Splash mountain on the stairs were appropriately huge Darby bumps and the post match Coffin drop through the coffin was nuts both for Darby doing it and Page taking it, and feels like the kind of iconic thing which will be part of video packages for years.  I imagine it is unavoidable at this point, but having Darby take such big bumps in picture in picture during commercials kind of sucks. I hope eventually AEW has some sort of network where we can watch these matches in full. I also would have liked to see Page bleed more. Either blade big or don't, but Darby's Pirata blood mist would have been way cooler if he had been able to get more of a mouthful. Still those are minor quibbles for an otherwise excellent match, one of my favorite AEW bouts to date. 

ER: This was tremendous, the perfect amount of chaos and escalating violence. I really can't believe Darby Allin is still in tact enough as a human to be giving us matches like this. I keep waiting for him to be sidelined with a broken torso but at this point he just feels like the kind of guy who tries to jump off the roof into a swimming pool at a party, lands fully on concrete, doesn't remember even jumping, and is totally fine. Page is a true goofus, does dumb stuff like talking to weapons, but will always be reliable for being in the ring while Darby Allin murders himself to a great match. Darby wearing the metal body brace is the most Fury Road he's ever been, and it made his corner body attacks look even more painful. But nothing is ever going to look more painful than 5 of the bumps Darby takes in this match. His tope is probably the best in wrestling because it is the most "body as weapon" dive we have, where the wrestler doing the dive clearly doesn't care about the damage done to his body as long as he's damaging his opponent. 

I really liked the Scorpio Sky/Sting involvement, as it came very early in the match and the surprise of Sky in the coffin was handled well. Sting was really landing hard stomach kicks to buckle Sky (there are literally over 150 people on this roster who should be asking Sting how to throw a kick to the stomach) and the crowd brawl building to Sky getting crotched on the barricade was great. A Darby plancha off the second level gets caught by Page, and Darby gets swung violently into railings and walls. And, the best Darby matches will always see him swung violently into railings and walls. Allin's bumps have such thud and snap to them, he really sends himself to the mat quicker and harder than anyone. His splash mountain bump on the stairs was disgusting, and the way he whipped the back of his head into the mat when Page hooked and snapped his chains looked neckbreaking. 

The most incredible thing about Darby's bumps might not be how eagerly and painfully he takes them, but how unexpected he makes them look. There is no person better in wrestling at making a planned crash landing look like a man who was not expected to crash. Chris Hamrick took body breaking bumps and you knew he was going to take them, but he *always* looked like a man who expected to hit a move, not a man planning how best to take this dangerous fall. When Page yanked Darby to the mat by his necklace it looked like Darby had no idea the spot was coming. Nobody makes his dangerous bumps look as unanticipated as Darby, and the number of wrestlers in history who you can say that about is less than 10. Darby landing an ollie off the top rope off of Page's back is such a sick way to lay a guy out. A full skate deck with trucks is deceptively heavy, and the spot itself looked like a graphic the evening news would show during a Dangers of Backyard Wrestling piece. 


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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

NXT UK Worth Watching: Ohno! Scala! Grizzled Young Vets!

Kassius Ohno vs. Sid Scala NXT UK 8/31 (Aired 9/4/19)

ER: This was part of a cool storyline, where Ohno was calling himself the greatest British style wrestler and was supposed to have a showdown with Jack Gallagher for that self-proclaimed title. Gallagher wasn't cleared to compete, Ohno demanded someone step up and take Gallagher's place, and out came Sid Scala in his dress clothes. Scala was on a handful of the very first NXT UK episodes and has been used exclusively as Johnny Saint's right hand man backstage ever since. This is his first NXT UK match in one year, and as Ohno is an excellent match for literally any wrestler, I like him going up against a "non-wrestler". Scala is perhaps the smallest male wrestler on the UK roster, and Ohno was amusing laughing off Scala's early attempts to get one over. Scala goes for a cravat and Ohno merely lifts him up and tosses him off. Uh oh. Scala has a bunch of great feints, a couple cool tricks around the ropes that keep Ohno off balance, and his ducking and dodging peaks with a really well done sunset flip nearfall. Ohno is really good at being a dickhead who will bail to the floor when things momentarily don't go his way, and then always knows how to make his way back into a match with something unprofessional. Here he hooked Scala's leg from the floor, hopped up to the apron, and stomped the ankle over the bottom rope. 

Scala did a great job of limping around on that ankle, throwing nice back elbows and appropriately sold shots to Ohno's jaw, while Ohno battered him with chops and strikes and stepped a few times on that ankle. Scala manages to tangle Ohno around the ringpost and ropes and then flings himself over the ringpost when a rad pescado, great body-as-weapon work. But Ohno finishes things quick back in the ring with one of my favorite reversals, using his size to block a Scala tornado DDT and crash him down with a wicked kneebreaker, then a hip dislocating outside dragon screw. The disgusting KO elbow to the back of the head is academic. Ohno is the master at working with any wrestler of any size and any ability, and here's another feather for him as "Sid Scala's best match". Scala more than held his own and knew exactly what role he was playing. Ohno matches just do not miss. 

James Drake/Zack Gibson vs. Mark Andrews/Flash Morgan Webster NXT UK 9/1 (Aired 9/11/19) (Ep. #59)

ER: This was a nice, quick paced tag, and I think the best actual Grizzled Young Vets performances AS A TEAM on NXT UK. For a pair of guys I like, who I think are a good team, I don't think they've really been a part of any truly memorable tag matches this entire NXT UK run. My favorite matches of theirs have all been singles matches (Gibson vs. Dar, Drake vs. Ligero, Drake vs. Bate) and while they've had many enjoyable tags on the brand, this was the one where they felt most like a killer team. The match is a little off the rails and they lose complete sight of who is the legal man and really abuse the blind tag, and it had a couple egregious kickout that would have worked better as a save, but I liked the chemistry a lot and that's what kept the floor high. Gibson and Drake are really good at basing for Webster and Andrews, good at setting up their double teams, and the babyface champs are good at taking punishment. GYV hit this nasty spike shoulderbreaker on Andrews that lead to a couple good moments of Gibson tearing at Andrews' arm until Webster came in with fun saves (like a great swanton while Gibson had his Shankly Gates arm submission locked in). 

Webster had a cool tope suicida and got nuked on a doomsday device, the whole match felt like we were constantly seeing new pairings. The timing on the finish was really strong too, with Drake accidentally hitting Gibson with a superkick under the chin (in a way that wasn't really telegraphed) and Andrews nailing the shooting star press. This was like an NXT UK grab bag of a match, giving you a condensed 12 minutes of some of the better things the promotion has to offer. It had some good flying, some stiff work from the heels, strong double teams, while also not being next level great. I'm still waiting for the absolute banger GYV match and assume it will come, but I will take tags like this all day. This all feels like a very boring, generic review of this match, and I think that's honestly because this is the good match I expected from these two teams. It didn't disappoint, and it also didn't exceed expectations. But it hit the mark in satisfying ways, while presumably honoring the WTC first responders. 

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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Gastel! Williams! Remy! MODESTO ALEDO~!

Modesto Aledo vs. Bob Remy 7/29/67

SR: 1 fall match going a bit over 20 minutes. Not a superclassic like the other Aledo match we've seen, but pretty good technical work. Of course Aledo is ultra smooth and looks a step above. His standing headscissor is just insane. Remy is stocky and another solid French technician. They didn't seem to be super familiar, but most of the wrestling was slick and the gnarly bits were cool. Dug Aledos backbreakers. Remy launched a nice assault on Aledos arm, throwing him around and then locking in some tight short arm scissors. Aledo sold it pretty nicely, collapsing after hitting a forearm. It was one of the better bits of selling we've seen so far and made the ending more dramatic. Elegant finish.

MD: I thought this bit of footage was lost but it turned up and we're glad to have it. It's another look at Aledo, though one that shows a slightly different side of him than before. He still could be lightning quick, imaginative, and moved across the ring with confidence and mastery but he worked this much more from underneath, almost basing for Remy to really make him shine. That's not to say Remy wasn't bringing stuff to the table. He kept his holds interesting, including the back half where he grounded Aledo with long short arm scissors and then hammerlock exchanges with some great selling between holds. My favorite thing he did here was a neckbreaker though, where he just wrenched Aledo's face to get him into position for one of the meanest ones I've ever seen. They didn't quite take it into the gear that we knew Aledo could from our previous look at him, but it was nice to see this as contrast to really show off his range.

PAS: Aledo is one of those super maestros who you know was incredible because of reputation, and I was happy to get another surprise chance to see him. Like Matt and Sebastian said, this is an all time classic like the Teddy Boy match, but you could definitely see some of what made Aledo a legend. French Catch is a style with a lot of smooth movement, but Aledo is really on another level, just simple stuff like a armbar reversal is awesome. His deep roll up pin to win the match was about as great looking as I have ever seen that move applied. Remy was a real grinder, trying to keep Aledo bottled up with short arm scissors and hammerlocks, everything he did looked like it really hurt which is something I am always going to have a ton of time for.  

MD: JIP, a little less than three minutes here. Valois was big and bruising, trapping the arm and sneaking in cheap shots and later tossing Wiecz out. Wiecz was billed as Carpentier's nephew and we'll see him once again in 68 in a longer match against Bollet and he was spirited and fiery with the crowd very much behind him. The big turning point was him grabbing Valois' foot to cut off the King of the Mountain and the fans went nuts for it.

MD: I liked the back half of this more than the first half, probably because Williams got to do more in the back half. That's not to say that the early stuff was bad. It was just by the books with holds, Gastel starting the inside shots early, and the ref being more of an annoyance than usual in cutting off Williams' comeback attempts. There were times where I think Gastel was even telling him to lighten up so that he didn't steal his heat, though a lot of that would pay off later on with a big collision spot with the ref that the crowd loved and then Williams just getting fed up and clocking him. Williams brought vulnerability and intensity and some strength spots and of course the headbutt towards the end. By the last few minutes there was a real sense of his momentum and the crowd, which we knew from the last match was a good one, was very much behind him. Gastel's the guy I could watch again and again though. He lives on that perfect line between mean and credible bruising and being a brilliant, reactive stooge. All of his stuff looks so good and all of his reactions and facial expressions and feeding is just so spot on. He's larger than life while just being this dumpy, nondescript lump of a guy. This might be our tenth match with him, but I feel like I know him in the ring as well as I know Dick Murdoch or Buck Robley. Just a great, great pro wrestler and I'm glad we were able to meet him through this footage. I'm also glad the ref in this one got clocked.

SR: 1 fall match going about 30 minutes. Man, Robert Gastel is such a joy to watch. Even when he is doing super simple stuff, he is supremely entertaining. This had simplistic grappling, armlocks and headscissors, but they kept it interesting. Eddie Wiliams is really athletic - super height on his dropkick - and has nice headbutts and forearms. And I just love Gastel. I'm sure if he popped up more he'd emerge as a Satanico-like superworker. This was more of a houseshowish match and a bit long here and there, but I enjoyed it. Worth watching for Gastel grimacing and punching Williams in the face.

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Monday, September 13, 2021

2019 Ongoing MOTY List: Allin vs. Aichner

106. Darby Allin vs. Fabian Aichner EVOLVE 1/18

ER: We loved basically every Darby Evolve match from his time there, and there are still a ton we hadn't seen. Evolve was a promotion I really loved while also a promotion that I didn't actually follow regularly. Fabian Aichner was the Evolve champ at one point? News to me, pal. Aichner has become one of my favorite WWE roster guys and this is him right after losing that Evolve title, and aiming to take all of his frustrations out on Darby's body. Like the greatest Darby Allin matches, a lot of this is his larger opponent (and Aichner was at the height of his beefiness in this match) hurling Allin disgustingly into hard walls and surfaces. Aichner got a lot of mileage out of literally just running Darby into the guardrails and turnbuckles, not even doing any actual offense, just running a man into things. His actual offense does look really great (if you can't make your offense look good against Allin, you should rethink your moveset), with some strike combos that really move Darby, a wicked pop-up powerslam, awesome brainbuster, powerbomb into the ringpost, all of it great. 

Darby picked his spots well, hitting a great low tope and dodging out of the way of an Aichner running knee, sending him patella first into the post. I really liked how they moved to the knee injury portion of the match, as it wasn't immediately after Aichner hit the post. Aichner rolled back in and went back to decimating Allin, with Darby only taking control when Aichner's knee buckled on a powerbomb and Darby landed with a Bombs Away, then went hard after Aichner's knee. I love how the match went from Aichner dominating, to Allin suddenly having this great in, to Aichner panicking and getting the hell out of there with his feet on the ropes. The finish was cool for a cheap finish, with Aichner essentially just throwing Allin off the top rope with an inside cradle. Allin went splat, Aichner used the feet for leverage, then walked off. It played nicely into their match the next night (where Aichner smashed Allin during his ring entrance) and I thought it was a cool way to run the same match on consecutive nights. 

PAS: I hadn't seen very much of Aichner before, but I enjoyed him as a meathead with fun power offense. He was a bit mechanical in between spots, but when he got his hands on Darby he brought Darby down really hard. I liked the delayed knee sell, I really bought that knee bar as a near fall. Darby is so fast, that staying with him is like trying to stay in front of Kyrie Irving. You throw a bum knee into that equation, you are drawing dead. It seemed like Aichner was out of answers, until he violently threw Darby down from the top rope and put his legs on the rope to steal one. Darby versus a strong guy is a really great match up and we need to see a John Silver match on Dark or something.   

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Sunday, September 12, 2021

If It's Rest Borga Needs, He'd Rather Be Dead

Ludvig Borga vs. Rich Myers WWF Wrestling Challenge 9/19/93 - FUN

ER: A nice simple meat and potatoes Borga squash, working slowly with more trash talking. He's good about not using the exact same movesets in similar order (you can pick up a lot of habits from watching specific guys working squashes), and instead makes small offense changes depending on how he's going to finish. That's really the quickest way a good big man can become a great big man, and was instrumental in Mark Henry's leap to great worker. Here, Borga works a lot of hard kneelifts that believably lift Myers off his feet, and he didn't go to one knee lift in his Superstars match that aired the day before (against PJ Walker). The kneelift is one of his best strikes and it's cool that he has enough of a repertoire to know what things he can keep or drop match to match. Myers is game to be hit in the ribs a bunch, the high elbowdrop looked great, and all of the knees to the ribs lead to the cool torture rack finish. 

ER: GREAT squash match. This was the most cocksure Borga has looked in a WWF ring. A man really owning the ring and getting the exact reaction a top heel should be getting. He gets in the ring and quickly walks straight up to Bell and clotheslines him hard, then holds him by the arm a few times to land several uppercuts to the kidneys and ribs. He jams his knee in Bell's stomach in the corner and holds him up in the air for a 15+ second vertical suplex. Great high elbowdrop, and nails him with the diving lariat but interestingly opts to keep the match going for more punishment. He does some great trash talking throughout this whole beatdown, and is practically strutting around the ring drawing heat. It's brilliant, a truly great, confident, powerful heel performance. He lands more body blows and puts the (good sport) Bell away with the torture rack. This is the kind of memorable heel squash that makes fans want to see you get your smug bell rung, and you love to see it. 

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Saturday, September 11, 2021

Youth Culture Killed Andres Dog

Andre the Giant vs. Dick Murdoch 6/13/84 - GREAT

PAS: This was a pretty short match, but full of joy. Both guys are such expressive wresters that even in a HH you can see all of their shtick. Andre starts out the match trying to intimidate the ref and it really fun to watch heel Andre just be evil. He tries to back Murdoch into the corner and smush him, and when Murdoch slips out, Andre points to his head to compliment Murdoch on his smarts. We also get great punches and great punch sells by both. Finish was cool with Murdoch unable to lift Andre for the brainbuster, so he maneuvers him into the corner for the calf branding. Murdoch fights for the branding, but ends up getting thrown off the top and sat on. Big ass Andre sitting on you is an auto finish.

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Friday, September 10, 2021


Lightning Kid vs. Ricky Blues WIN 11/15/92

MD: Unless I'm (that is Cagematch) is mistaken, this was a week after the Rheingans/Saito vs Lynn/Kidd match we covered previously in NFF. Blues was a local guy who worked off and on all the way to 2011, including as "Watsumi the Rising Sun" (but only sometimes as he also seemed to wrestle "Watsumi the Rising Sun" in this era), and he was game to do everything he could to keep up with Waltman here, including almost killing himself on a twisting dive off the top rope to the floor. This was a match that would have probably blown minds four years later, let alone in Dundalk, Maryland on a card with Axl Rotten and Don Muraco teaming in 1992. It was definitely as much of a spotfest as you could get in an indy juniors match for this time, though it was hard not to be distracted by the four person announce team with a more-than-competent woman trying to call it around the local promoter, a heel announcer, and a feigning (?) drunk suspended heel manager trying to get reinstated to buy Morgus' contract. Ultimately, that made it a nice little slice of its time while being entirely ahead of its time with Waltman coming off like a major attraction that brought everyone around him up towards his level.

PAS: Wild shit that had I seen in 1992 would have pulled my wig back. We all know Waltman, especially in 1992 when he is trying to make his bones, he is an undeniable presence, but still let's give it up for Ricky Blues. This was worked at a breakneck pace, with really crazy spots, and he was right there with the Kid every step of the way. Two nutty dives to the floor, including a really wild moonsault, some killer shots including a great back elbow and never felt a step behind what Waltman was doing. I mean really only Waltman and maybe Liger was working like this in 1992 (and even Liger was more deliberate) so give this guy credit for meeting him step for step and spot for spot. Loved the powerbomb counter for the near fall and the crazy bodypress which both guys took a wild bump for, leading to the countout. What a trip this was. 

ER: Hard Rock Ricky Blues! I know little about the early 90s Baltimore indy scene, but lucky for me I actually do as they just had the exact same guys as they did in the late 90s Baltimore indy scene. But I've never heard of Hard Rock Ricky Blues before tonight, and now I'd like to see some more. This had a ton of exciting moves that I hadn't personally seen in 1992, and the entire 4 person commentary crew looked like they were beamed from a 1982 local evening news broadcast (and who is the woman on commentary who appears to know more about wrestling than the guys?). We get some really exciting dives, starting with a Lightning Kid tope con giro that wipes out a woman in the front row, and I'm always impressed when wrestlers manage to work relatively safe in a snug ringside area with no barricades. The fans were really close but it didn't stop Kid from hitting that dive, then throwing a spinkick right under Blues' chin with that woman literally inches away (our camera angle looked like she reached down for something and Kid immediately kicked over her, but I think it was just the camera angle). Blues hits a wild moonsault press to the floor (again right next to people) and Kid hits a sick cannonball off the top to the floor. Nuts. They packed a lot of action into a 15 minute match, with Kid doing some small things I've never really seen him do (like a cool diving punch to a kneeling Blues). Blues had a really crisp top rope frankensteiner, quick sitout powerbomb, big press slam to START the match, and a great crossbody that took both to the floor for the count out. Please tell me that we have the 2010 Ricky Blues Sr. vs. Ricky Blues Jr. match?

 Cactus Jack/Morgus the Maniac vs. The Goodfellas MEWF 11/12/94 - GREAT

PAS: Really nifty southern tag with a solid but understated performance by Cactus, he takes a nice shoulder bump into the post and has a fun hot tag, but is a relatively minor player in the match. I really enjoyed the three others guys here, Morgus is a fun indy Roughhouse Fargo, and does a nice job working face in peril building to Cactus. I am not familiar with the Goodfellas but they ruled here, fun stooging, with the MX/Super Delfin arm wringer spot and lots of backfired headbutts on Morgus, but when they took over they laid in a big beating, great looking kneedrops, hanging suplexes and a huge top rope elbow, feels like guys that should have had a bigger career

MD: This was from November of 94 and it felt like Cactus teaming with a hard-headed Maryland version of Jimmy Valiant by way of Norman the Lunatic. Casanova and Valentino were guys whose peak of success were as enhancement talent on WCW and WWF TV but had a perfectly fine local act drawing the "greaseball" chants and holding up their end of this as cheating stooges with fairly compelling offense. Cactus didn't do anything too over the top here (a legdrop on the apron but certainly no nestea dive) but in this setting, you wanted him playing to the crowd and working shtick. They really built up the pumphandle spot, where one Goodfella would work over Cactus' arm and hand it off to the other, turned around on the apron, leading to the big payoff of him doing it to his own partner. They rule-of-three'd it with the payoff being Cactus hopping to the outside and waving to one Goodfella as he was pumping the arm of the other and it got a big pop. The heat on Morgus worked, as the heels had plenty of stuff and were going to lengths to get heat (clapping behind the ref's back to fake tags even when they didn't have to) and Cactus was a pretty good hot tag in front of this crowd. Morgus is a guy who was 500 on the PWI list a couple of years before and watching this, that felt about right, but formula tag matches are like pizza; so long as someone in the match knows what he's doing, it's hard to get it wrong.

MD: Nice, fairly grounded match that hit the high spots the crowd would have wanted (primarily from Shinzaki). Collyer was just a couple of years in here and they went back to pretty straightforward holds accordingly, but he was vocal and worked them well from underneath. About five minutes in, he had enough and hit a cheapshot during a rope break and his offense was ok. In general though, he was best at eating Shinzaki's stuff with enthusiasm here. The fans didn't go up for a ton in this one but they loved the rope walk, which looked as beautiful as ever. I personally loved the finishing submission where Shinzaki locked in a straightjacket camel clutch and just yanked Collyer in half.

ER: I thought this was really cool, never realized Collyer would be such a great foil for Shinzaki's offense. We got a lot of neat matwork, snug headscissors that really looked difficult to escape from, tight headlocks, and a tiny bit of personality from Collyer that somehow wasn't there as much a couple years later. Shinzaki didn't do any big flying moves but everything he did was really tight. His rope walk Baba chop really looked like a potato right to the hairline, and Collyer sold it fantastically, going down hard and kicking his legs like a guy who just took a leaping punch to the top of his head. Shinzaki's quick right throat thrusts looked great (and I didn't remember him as a "shake out your fist" guy but it only makes me love him more) and he really barrels right through Collyer on his top rope shoulderblock. Collyer had some nice looking brainbuster and an awesome tornado DDT. The tornado DDT was so great, as he clearly baited Shinzaki into throwing a strike while he (Collyer) was sitting on the top rope, just so he could catch Shinzaki in a headlock when the strike was thrown. You don't usually see guys baiting an opponent into taking a tornado DDT and it's a cool bit of detail work that someone should steal. Shinzaki's straightjacket camel clutch always looked wicked, and if you're talking about surprising things that no current wrestlers have stolen, that's another good one. 

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Thursday, September 09, 2021

Rocco vs. Jones '78

Rollerball Rocco vs. Marty Jones WOS 9/13/78

ER: A fun title vs. title match that I thought was a real great Rocco showcase. I know he gets his criticisms but I think most of those revolve around him shrugging off damage to get in cool spots, and those criticisms don't apply to him here. Rocco savagely goes after Jones' knee (and it's Jones who is the one who acts like that never happened), perfectly times the action to peak for Jones right at the end of each round, and then goes down in a blaze of glory in the 8th round. Rocco gets dirty early by tying Jones' leg in the ropes at the end of the 1st, and then starting the 2nd by kicking him right in that leg and then again in the knee. I really dug Rocco's legwork, hyperextending and rolling effortlessly into kneebars, at one point working almost a short arm scissors with Jones' leg. And I dug how he would shift his head and face while Jones tried to elbow him loose, or even better when Jones had his whole boot smooshing Rocco's face (great camera shot). 

I loved how the rounds would peak in Jones' favor, and Rocco would escape without much damage right at the bell, even cheapshotting Jones in the gut one of the times. And Rocco is very generous selling for Jones' eventual comebacks, going down fast on payback kicks to the leg, and the 8th and what turns out to be final round is all Rocco flying around the ring. He tries to jump Jones on the apron to start and it backfires, and then it's Rocco bouncing all around the ring. He eats a nice missile dropkick, takes his awesome upside down bump into the buckles (such a cool bump, flying in perfectly upside down without dropping vertically onto his head), getting monkey flipped into the ropes, and then ending the match taking one of the more spectacular bumps to the floor that I've ever seen. Rocco gets tossed far over the top and lands flat on his back, obviously getting counted out, old ladies in long coats watching watching this man splat out of the sky. If you need to show me a man incapable of beating a 10 count, Rocco's fall something I'd believe would do it. And yet it still had the same grace as any of his in ring spills.

MD: So, the bugbear with this one is Jones shrugging off the legwork in Round 5. Part of it, I can actually go for. I can buy the idea that Rocco gets Jones so angry that he just pushes past it. The problem is that he pushed past it three times in a minute span: the initial damage, the redirected bump over the top, and then the missed leap into the ring. It's doubly damning because a sort of redirection over-the-top bump is the finish to the entire match, one that prevents Rocco from getting back in. It's the thing that ends a title-vs-title match, and yes, it's a hell of a bump and a hell of a visual, but so was Jones' and it was shrugged off like it was nothing. If you're going to set up a finish like that, you don't do it by crapping on the very idea of it earlier in the match.

I agree with Eric that most of the usual Rocco criticisms don't apply here. There are times where he doesn't let things breathe, but they're because he hadn't taken enough damage yet or because he's harrowed by the count (and getting over the count IS important in this one for the reasons mentioned above). It's near comedic at times, though. He's the only person I've ever seen that hits elbow drops where he's already rolling back to his feet to do whatever's next. I much prefer him on offense, to be honest, because that alarcity really does benefit the break/up British rules. He's constantly ready to hit the next thing and not allow for even the slightest momentum shift. He's able to portray himself as a craven, underhanded villain as well as someone like Breaks with tantrums and matter-of-fact hairpulls, but is such a dervish of energy that he still comes off as distinct. He definitely wrestled this match exactly as he should have. 

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Wednesday, September 08, 2021

AEW All Out 9/5/21 Pt. 3

CM Punk vs. Darby Allin

PAS: This was excellent, maybe one of my favorite Punk matches ever. He really leaned into what he does well, and I thought his execution in this match (which was always a bit of a weakness) was precise and excellent. I don't really think of Punk as a stiff worker, but he throws a brutal looking short clothesline, some hard punches and a great looking leg lariat, which is a Punk spot which I had always thought looked sort of crappy. Darby was of course tremendous, he has some of the best offense in the world and is an all time bumper. I loved how the sick ringpost bump led into all of Punk's abdominal stretches, and how hard Darby bumped for simple things like shoulder blocks. He is so fast, that he always seems moments away from winning, and eats offense so well that he is always moments away from losing. They cribbed an opening spot from Bret Hart vs. 1-2-3 Kid, so that is the obvious comparison, but this was a very Bret Hart performance by Punk, and Darby is an even more self destructive 1-2-3 Kid. I honestly think this is a classic match, it easily exceeded my expectations. 

ER: If this match somehow didn't exceed someone's expectations then that person may want to find a new fandom. This was going to be a difficult match to make memorable beyond "return of the guy people have been waiting to return for 7 years". The return was always going to be memorable, but that's no guarantee the match was going to be. Hometown Returning Mega Babyface vs. one of the biggest AEW babyfaces is tough to work around without one of them working heel, and I'm happy that they used Bret/Kid as a loose framework to successfully work around that. Nobody wanted to see either as the bad guy, and so instead they made the match work with some excellent focused work and execution. Punk has always famously been a John Cena bad execution wrestler, but execution is just one facet of a great worker. Here, however, his execution looked as good as any Punk match I've ever seen, and Allin's offense was on another level. Allin is one of the best "body as weapon" wrestlers today, and he was hitting Punk so hard with shoulderblocks and corner body attacks harder than ever, like he wanted every back row Chicagoan to know how hard the hometown boy was getting hit. Allin's ringpost bump was insane, and no matter how redundant it has felt to still be calling Darby bumps insane, he somehow keeps managing to top himself. I've never seen someone take that bump as a cannonball, bouncing back first off the ringpost. 

Punk immediately starts working over Darby's back and it's the most effective use of an abdominal stretch in a big match in who knows when. Excalibur smartly pointed out before the match that Punk's gas tank would be his biggest concern, so I loved how all of Darby's offense was focused on Punk's stomach and ribs. A guy with a iffy gas tank getting pounded in the abdomen makes a ton of sense. Darby was great at moving this show along, taking a mammoth bump through the ropes to the floor off the first Go2Sleep, and I loved the spot where Punk merely sat up out of the way of the first Coffin Drop. Darby made Punk's calf kick look lethal, and Punk made the Diamond Dust really look like something that could break your jaw. Both men really lit it up and the time really flew by. There was no nonsense, no unnecessary outside involvement, and that couldn't have been easy to pass up. This match had to accomplish several things, and they managed to find the best way to balance a huge star's return while having the best match possible and STILL keeping Darby strong. This was a smashing success in every way. 

Paul Wight vs. QT Marshall

PAS: This was great for it's spot, I believe in a cooler match, and Wight bumping around some goofs is a great cooler. This was a Women's match spot in the WWE forever, and it is smart for AEW not to demean their women by putting them there. I liked Comoroto not dropping from the punch, that guy has potential and I would be into him and Wight going at it. 

Kenny Omega vs. Christian

PAS: Good main event, focusing on vicious Omega rather then spot guy Omega. Christian took a real shellacking in this match for an older guy, blasted in the mouth with knees, big bumps to the floor, that double stomp with a table on top of him. You get the sense his body was one giant bruise after that match. Omega kept the do-si-doing to a minimum and instead just tried to drive his knee through Christian's head. Some of his facial expressions are too Tom Green for me, but I appreciate violence. That one winged angle from the top rope is a great looking super finisher. Adam Cole debuting post match is sort of a bummer, but I am excited to see what Danielson can do in this stage of his career. 


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Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Tuesday is French Catch Day: Bordes! Cohen! Mantopolous! Rouxel!

Georges Cohen vs Walter Bordes 2/12/67

MD: This is our second chronological look at Bordes. Last time he was teamed with Ben Chemoul; I think he was billed as his nephew. They said he was 20 here and that makes sense, because we'll be seeing a lot more of him over the rest of the footage, even deep into the 80s. From what we can see here, that's not a bad thing at all. This was a stylist vs stylist matchup with a juniors feel. Lots of holds, a good chunk of rope running, and some chippiness in the last third. For that first half, it really felt like the older, more seasoned Cohen was working Bordes through his paces as they went in and out of holds; there was a long armbar by Cohen, full of lots of interesting escapes and looping back in. Bordes' stuff wasn't quite as interesting, headscissors and full nelson and later a straightjacket hold that led to Cohen starting to get chippy. Also, there was a moment or two where something he tried off the ropes didn't quite work or his footing didn't quite land right, but in general, it was an impressive match for the younger wrestler and the older one who likely led him through it and the crowd was appreciative the whole way through.

PAS: This is more of a chance to see a youngster with potential, then it was a great match. We have seen a bunch of these juniors matches before, and there was nothing here which particularly popped, but the athleticism was there, headscissors looked good and it got a little nasty at the end. This is such a high floor project, this was near that floor but it was still high quality stuff. 

Vasilios Mantopolous vs Jaques Rouxel 6/29/67

MD: This was a blast. Mantopolous was maybe as good as being a diminutive wizard as anyone in wrestling history. Rouxel was bigger and could be defined as a lug. When he finally lost his cool and started hammering, it was with these overwrought jumping stomps and clubbers. He had some cool stuff like a front cobra takeover and was more than eager to go flying over the rope for transitions when Mantopolous was able to get a little distance and get him to charge. Or to feed into dropkicks and armdrags. And his complaining was memorable enough. For the most part though, this was Mantopolous doing his thing, balancing fire and sympathy and underdog cheek with sheer mastery. He'd sucker Rouxel in with a hand behind his back, would use his momentum against him, would snatch a limb out of nowhere or keep a hold despite the size and strength differential. He'd do his little bouncing leap to start an exchange and get Rouxel to beg off in frustration and with the obviously knowledge that when it came to wrestling skill, he was outmatched, and then, to end it all, he'd tie him up in a knot that even the ref couldn't untangle. This was from Puteaux and the crowd seemed to be there more to be amused than to riot, but the lighting is so clear and crisp that you can see Rouxel's every reaction and every iota of Mantopolous' skill.

PAS: Very fun showcase for Mantopolous, he moves so effortlessly, and is really great at dancing his opponent around the ring. It has a very Johnny Saint vibe, although with more athletic explosion. The speed and pop of Mantopolous's headscissors are on another level from the stuff in the earlier match we reviewed. I liked Rouxel too, he had this Anaconda Vice like submission he used to ground Mantopolous, took a couple of big bumps to the floor and laced him up when he needed to. Match ending in a Neblina was a real trip, not a move I knew was around this long ago.

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Monday, September 06, 2021

AEW All Out 9/5/21 Pt. 2

Dr. Britt Baker DMD vs. Kris Statlander

PAS: Baker has to be one of the most improved wrestlers I can remember. I would watch AIW shows where she looked like the worst wrestler on the roster, and she looked way over her skis in the early part of AEW. Now she has turned into someone who is as over as anyone in wrestling and who can be a part of a really compelling match. There were parts of this with some warts on it, but they hit the big moments cleanly and Statlander had some nifty power spots. Her missed moonsault off the apron was a big bump and I liked how they just had Baker clean her out, rather than do a bunch of 2.9 counts. 

ER: I was excited for this one, and while it had a couple of sketchy moments I thought they moved past them so easily that it made the messiness work. Baker is a star and she really has blossomed over the past year plus. She was so strong at getting into position for Statlander's fun offense, and both have such good body chemistry that some of their exchanges kind of just willed themselves to work. Baker is great at ragdolling on Statlander's slams, and Statlander is also great at falling, good at smacking into things. Baker keeps working more stiff the deeper the match gets, and she was really wailing on Statlander's right jaw and orbital bone after breaking a submission with hard kicks. Statlander's missed moonsault to the floor was sick, but she also tried to scorpion herself on a spike DDT. Baker's curb stomps kept landing more viciously, and I loved the use of the Pittsburgh Sunrise (hit stunningly better than I've ever seen Cole hit his) to set up another stomp and then the Lockjaw. They fought to have a good match and that fight came through. 

Lucha Brothers vs. Young Bucks

PAS: This was the most "not for Phil" match on the card, and while it definitely lost me at points, it did have some stuff to recommend. Hell of a Fenix performance as he was flying all over the cage, kick flipping off it, doing a big dive, taking big bumps, reminded me of a Elimination Chamber Rey Jr. performance. I actually liked the stuff with the tack shoe a bunch as it caused them to slow down and actually build towards a comeback instead of just doing a million spots. I mean you had two different spots where teams violently collided with missed superkicks, the announcers mentioned how that could have caused a broken ankle and both times the wrestlers just went right back into flipping and spinning. Take a moment and let something sink in. Still it did feel like a real moment when the Lucha Brothers won, and it worked for the crowd even if it did not really work for me.

Casino Battle Royal

PAS: It's a Battle Royal so you know what you are going to get, and I don't think the AEW Women's division is deep enough to support a Battle Royal's worth of wrestlers. The Ruby Soho debut was pretty perfect. She felt like as big a deal as Danielson, Cole, and Suzuki, and the stuff with Thunder Rosa was some of the cooler AEW women's wrestling I've seen. 

Chris Jericho vs. MJF

PAS: I think the layout of this was pretty good, but it was hurt by relatively subpar execution. Lots of punches and elbows which looked kind of crappy, lots of OTT mannerisms by MJF, etc. The big strokes were good, the powerbomb on the apron by Jericho setting up MJF's bad back, the powerbomb off the top rope which MJF hit jarring his back, the well executed Dusty finish leading into a cool nearfall section by MJF (using the Fujiwara arm bar and getting reversed into the Walls). It does feel a little like both guys are relics of an earlier era of AEW, and I am not sure where either guy fits in the current scene.  

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Sunday, September 05, 2021

AEW All Out 9/5/21 Pt. 1

Private Party/Jack Evans/Angelico/Matt Hardy vs. Jungle Boy/Orange Cassidy/Luchasaurus/Wheeler Yuta/Chuck Taylor

PAS: This was a match full of guys I am a low voter on (I like Jungle Boy, Hardy and Jack Evans a fair amount, the rest aren't for me), but this kind of fast moving 10 man is a good way to hid limited guys and keep things moving at a nice pace. The Private Party have some fun SAT's double teams, and didn't have to do things they couldn't do. The top rope blockbuster by Jungle Boy was a great spot, and they did some amusing Chikara stuff like the chicken fight and submission chain, and left slow motion spots and invisible grenades in the trash where they belong. I don't know why Chuck Taylor did two dives to the floor and Jack Evans did none and Luchasarus needs to dump the spin kick when Tommy End is in your fed, but otherwise this got Cassidy and Jungle Boy on the show and it is smart to get really over acts like them to open a show. 

Eddie Kingston vs. Miro - EPIC

PAS: The first real Eddie Kingston classic we have seen in AEW. This was King's Road Eddie, he maybe the only US wrestler to actually understand what made those All Japan matches so special, and it wasn't the moves it was the meaning. Eddie and Miro really beat the hell out of each other with Miro landing great looking kicks and straight rights and Eddie absolutely beating the hell out of Miro's chest and neck with blood blistering chops. I loved the little selling Eddie did throughout the match, eyes getting glassy after eating big shots, never fully able to get movement in his back after getting powerslammed on the floor, shaking out his fingers when Miro bit them, masterful stuff from one of the greatest sellers in wrestling history. All of the stuff with the turnbuckle pad was great business. Remsberg being a beat too slow on the Kingston pinfall, him stopping Kingston from slamming Miro into the turnbuckle only to be out of position and miss the low blow. This is how you protect an over babyface like Eddie, he was the better man, but lost out due to fate. This is another level performance by Miro and another feather in Eddie's all time resume. 

ER: Incredible, passionate performance for Eddie Kingston, a guy with a career's worth of great passionate matches. He's the guy I currently want to see against every other wrestler, the guy I think is most likely to have someone's best match (at least until Hero gets back). And if there's a Miro match I've ever enjoyed more, it's been many years since it happened, as these two really tapped into something. This is the coolest version of Miro we've gotten, and I love Eddie in big title matches so I was buzzed about it. Eddie got to have a great selling match, working a ton of match long bits in between quick bursts of damaging Miro. Eddie brings that ability to have a chance in any moment of the match, the same way Fujiwara was always in it. Kingston could lose every single match he's in for two years straight and people will still believe he has a chance the next match. It's a strong connection and it elevates his biggest singles matches. 

I fully bought into how big each guy was missing, both running hard into turnbuckles and guardrails, and I also bought into how both would immediately come firing back. Kingston firing off the guardrail with a yakuza kick or how Miro would scream into Eddie. Eddie's chops really did look blistering, and the way all of his offense had these triumphant builds due to the way Miro had avoided them really added to his aura. Seeing Kingston finally land his tope or his backfist really meant something, and the two suplexes he hit looked like a title change. I really liked all the nonsense with the turnbuckle, loved the way it played out. Miro's winning combo was like something Kingston himself would set up: A mule kick low, big high kick, and a big exclamation point running kick to turn out the lights. Great presentation, great title match. 

Jon Moxley vs. Satoshi Kojima

PAS: This was a solid hard hitting New Japan style match which I think was hurt a bit by following Kingston and Miro doing a better version of a similar thing. They really put Kojima over on commentary and it is cool he got to have a big US moment like this. Stuff landed with thuds and I thought Kojima got several big near falls (without ever hitting his Koji lariat), the DDT on the apron looked appropriately nasty and the bloody elbow from Moxley added a bit of spice to the match. But this had a lot of the elbow strike, make a face, elbow strike stuff which I don't like in current Japanese wrestling. Suzuki coming out post match felt like a big moment and I like how AEW takes advantage of an open door policy to have surprises like this.


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Saturday, September 04, 2021

On Brand Segunda Caida: Jamie Dundee

JC Ice vs. 1-2-3 Kid USWA 8/7/93

ER: This is more of an angle than an actual match (it is USWA TV, so) but it rules. PG-13 come out and start running down 123 Kid for being small. Jamie Dundee of all people calling people short is going to make for great TV, and he goes on this whole Showtime at the Apollo diss routine on Kid. "People say that we're small, you should see this small stick man in WWF right now! That kid is so small he can hula hoop with a Cheerio! Razor Ramon must have been drunk when he lost to him. This guy's parents named him after numbers!" Kid comes out, gets in the ring, Wolfie goes to fight him, but JC wants to teach this "little guy" a lesson. Dundee is the perfect kind guy to teach someone a lesson, because you know his ass is gonna get kicked. I died and rewound as JC runs into the ring and straight into a super high backdrop, has a great punch exchange with Kid (I love how Dundee throws punches), and my 12 yr old mind would have blown had I seen this, since I actually believed 123 Kid was the smallest wrestler imaginable. I imagine tons of fans have had a disappointing experience when meeting Waltman for the first time. "You were my favorite because you were small like me! Oh, you are not small at all." 

JC stooges around for Kid, great at standing there looking like a dummy while eating kick combos. He takes another backdrop but lands on his feet, showing off to the fans before getting kicked. Then Wolfie D makes this a tag match and comes in, even yelling "pick on someone your own size!" as he charges in. He gets the advantage for a bit, then Kid picks him apart with kicks and JC Ice runs back in to double team Kid. The match proper went maybe 2 minutes, Jeff Jarrett runs in for the save, and somehow we never get a PG-13 vs. Kid/Jarrett match (which would have the potential to be a legitimately great match). Why would you not run that match!? Anyway, this whole segment ruled. (Also stick around for Richard Lee's promo on Bert Prentice right after this, made me want to see him take the Moondogs against anyone and everyone).

PG-13 vs. Tony Falk/Tony Williams USWA 10/2/93

ER: I, personally, always expect a powerhouse team like the 2 Tonys to take over 90% of a match. PG-13 come out with Midget D, and practically the only offense they get the entire match is when D interferes from the floor. Most of the match is spent on Williams controlling PG-13 with armdrags, and Dundee is someone who is going to do a ton of funny things while getting frustrated by armdrags. Dundee takes two great backdrops and bumps to the floor off a clothesline, comforted and cradled on the floor by Midget D. Wolfie does some great stooging around athleticism, like doing a rope assisted backflip while caught in an armlock, only to get clotheslined once he lands; or, getting a hiptoss on Williams and trying to legdrop Williamses' arm, completely missing and hitting canvas instead. Now, why the mat hurt Wolfie D's buns because he missed, when it would have been the same landing has he hit the arm? I couldn't tell you, but I love it. Tommy Rich comes out and gives this great conversational ramble to Dave Brown, and eventually gets in the ring and starts kicking Tony Falk's ass, just to be a jerk.

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Friday, September 03, 2021

New Footage Friday: All Japan 11/19/90

Masa Fuchi/Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Ricky Santana/Doug Furnas

MD: In general, it's astounding that these AJPW Handhelds are as well-shot as they are. Occasionally you're bound to get a match like this where there's just nothing the poor guy shooting can do to capture the action. We got glimpses of Furnas powering people about, maybe the tiniest hints that Ogawa was starting to put a few things together, a buzz for Fuchi doing awesome Fuchi things, and some energetic stuff (stooging? flying? who knows!) from Santana, but mostly, we're looking at the back of people's heads. Ah well.

ER: Matches like these remind me how often I take handhelds for granted. For all the amazing handheld footage we have of various territories and eras, we don't really have a ton where 75% of the match is blocked by someone's head. What we do see are some moments that make Doug Furnas come off like a monster heel, Fuchi like a VERY relevant 36 year old (that man was prematurely shunted to openers and old man trios), and Ogawa like a guy that big crowds are really getting behind. Furnas had this kickass muscular athlete spot where he hit a press slam and then did a back handspring into a running shoulderblock that sent Ogawa flying. Fuchi works super fast exchanges and comes in at the end to hit a sick kneedrop off the top rope. Fans went nuts thinking they were seeing Ogawa pin Furnas with a nice bridging German, but Furnas knows just how to egg them on and rubs their faces in a strong belly to belly. 

Mitsuo Momota/Tsuyoshi Kikuchi vs. Dynamite Kid/Johnny Smith

MD: This one we could see clearly and it was fairly good stuff. Johnny Smith didn't have Davey's likability and oafish charisma, but he was a physical force and very athletic. In some ways, his edge synced better with Dynamite's. Kikuchi already had a lot going for him in 1990: His stuff snapped, he could draw sympathy, and he had fire in his comebacks. Momota was fine here but he worked best as an underdog and Kikuchi was there to play that role. Good finish, getting him out of the way for the bodyslam tombstone and headbutt.

ER: I really like the Dynamite/Smith team. Smith is a sound wrestler but pretty colorless, and Dynamite is a broken down 32. But the team dynamic is stronger than the Bulldogs dynamic would have been at this point, as Dynamite doesn't have to provide nearly as much flash and instead can rely on his strengths as an asshole. Here he's mostly utilized as a guy stopping Kikuchi's momentum and saving Smith, and it works really well. Dynamite looks and acts like a real tough guy piece of shit, with his slicked back hair and sideburns, and I loved every instance of him breaking up a pin with a boot to the back of someone's head, stopping a Kikuchi Boston Crab with the hardest chop of the match, and coming in late to smack Kikuchi off the top rope. We missed the first couple minutes of this, and that's likely where most of the Dynamite/Momota exchanges happened. The little bit we got looked great, with Momota working some fast juniors exchanges and then stopping Kid short with a straight kneelift. Dynamite's finishing 1-2 was really nasty, deadlifting Kikuchi into a scoop tombstone (that had to be hell on his back) and hitting a crippled (but still crazy) version of his top rope headbutt that inadvertently adds a forearm across Kikuchi's throat. This was a different Dynamite Kid than his uninjured heyday, but this iteration of him sees him picking and choosing how to use his fading athleticism, while increasing the emotional heft of his selling (the way he sells a falling headbutt looks like he wrung his own bell). It's a different way of doing things, but I always get engaged seeing a wrestler operating at his base muscle memory. 

Haruka Eigen/Motoshi Okuma vs. The Land of Giants (Skywalker Nitron/Butch Masters)

MD: Eigen and Okuma get a solid B- for effort in trying to fend off Masters and Nitron, including chaining some strikes together to finally get one of them down, but the finish was inevitable from the start. Land of the Giants had presence due to their size and worked best when hammering down on their opponents or lifting them up. Their other strikes, including the kicks in the corner? Less so. This was still effective enough in presenting an attraction and making fans wonder how a more accomplished team might fare against them.

ER: Man, the fans in Niigata LOVED The Land of Giants. At least during their entrance. When the two giants stormed out and ambushed the natives you'd think the crowd was watching the Road Warriors. Land of the Giants might be the actual worst of the big league Road Warriors knockoffs, but I'll always think a pair of teaming giants has a high floor, no matter how glaring their weaknesses might be. And there are weaknesses. Nitron is very tentative with all of his stuff, almost always double pumping or stuttering a bit before making a move. Masters has a lot more confidence and has better timing, but neither of them have good strikes. It shouldn't be difficult for two legitimately huge guys to just swing their arms and voila, Good Looking Strikes, but pro wrestling doesn't really work that way. The best stuff here came from Okuma and Eigen making inroads and the fans getting excited about the distant prospect of an upset. Okuma especially got them fired up, taking advantage of a (really nice looking) missed Masters avalanche and helping Eigen knock him to the mat. I laughed at Eigen grabbing a single leg and Okuma kicking Master's plant leg out from under him, and Okuma misses his diving headbutt by whipping his forehead down into the mat. I also really loved Okuma's delayed reaction sell of the double big boot, looking up at them as if to say "TWO boots??" before falling to his back. The assisted legdrop is a cool finisher for Land of the Giants, but of course Nitron hesitates twice before finally lifting Masters. 

Rusher Kimura/Mighty Inoue vs. Stan Hansen/Dan Spivey

MD: Mighty Inoue really wrestled like a million bucks, but here he also got exposed as being really tiny. What was striking, however, was that Hansen and Spivey actually made him LOOK like a million bucks here, letting Inoue outmaneuver them. That lasted right til the end where he somehow rode Hansen's attempt to interfere into his somersault senton and took Hansen out (and literally out of the ring) before the distraction had him walk right into the Spivey Spike DDT. Kimura was only in for a little, but but he got to give Hansen a taste of his own medicine with the world's longest eyerake. If Inoue was two or three inches taller, he could have been one of the biggest stars of the 80s. Sometimes you get these bizarre house show performances where Hansen will give a ton to someone, like we saw some months back with Blackwell. Here, though, Inoue made it all seem earned. 

ER: This is a great house show curiosity, a match that looks like a surefire on-paper steamrolling and instead is worked as if the teams were equals. Hansen and Spivey paid a lot of reverence to the two old men (Rusher Kimura here is 8 years older than I presently am), with Spivey selling Rusher's headbutt like a real momentum shifter multiple times. Hansen runs over several audience members on the way to the ring, but he generously sells for Inoue, and the two big men getting knocked around by two smaller/older guys is incredibly entertaining. Spivey was smart about what to sell, not going down for every move but every other move, consistently selling the headbutts as a big move but merely getting knocked on his heels by shoulderblocks and lariats. Rusher has a fun hot tag where he punches Spivey right in the neck, Inoue hits a big bulldog on Spivey and has a great run of flying shoulder tackles (including one that Hansen bumps to the floor), but he misses his beautiful somersault senton right after disposing of Hansen and Spivey pounces with his spike DDT. I always get excited for new All Japan handhelds, because there are always weirdo gems like these where we get glimpses of guys working outside of the established All Japan hierarchy.

Dr. Death/Terry Gordy vs. Kenta Kobashi/Johnny Ace

MD: We get a few really good minutes of footage if you skip past the handheld issues that start this video out. There's a 50% chance that's all you'd get anyway with a match like this if it was filmed for the TV, so I can't complain too much. The clarity comes in right when Williams had Kobashi in a bear hug and the fans were going nuts for him to escape. Instead he ate a belly to belly. From what we could see, everyone looked great. Ace is an underrated apron cheerleader, not that this crowd needed much leading. Kobashi had been in the spotlight for about a year and a half at this point and he definitely already had It here, working from underneath and unleashing his fire when it was his time to get revenge. Unfortunately, the few minutes of clarity we got just made you want to see more since this looked like a great one overall.

ER: This was just the final 5 minute stretch of a 17 minute match, and I'm sure we at least got the best and hottest 5 minute stretch of the match. Sure it would be nice to have full matches on handhelds, and a lot of people would be excited for new Kobashi footage, but I like that we got complete versions of the other matches and just the finish of this one. The crowd is over the moon for Kobashi here, but on this same show I've been way more into babyface performances from Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, Motoshi Okuma, Rusher Kimura, and Mighty Inoue. I don't even think Kobashi was the best babyface in his own match, as this felt way more like a great Johnny Ace show. Kobashi had goofy slaps during his big hot tag, and meanwhile Ace is taking big bumps off the top and breaking up pins with his whole body, really knowing when to let Kobashi shine and when to step up. Gordy and Doc looked exactly how you'd expect them to look, and the hot crowd made the match-finishing Gordy powerbombs feel even bigger. 

Andre the Giant/Giant Baba vs. Kimala II/Abdullah the Butcher - GREAT

MD: This was fun for what it was and you knew what it would be coming in. Andre vs. Abby is a rare match-up if not a completely unique one, and both Abby and Kimala II were respectful and willing to put over the grandeur of their opponents. It was interesting to see a 1990 Giant Baba match where he did the brunt of the work. The highlight was the corner battering ram spot but Abby's timing was as good as ever. It was a crowd-pleaser though it was funny that Abby and Kimala got some chants from obvious dissidents before the match started.

PAS: I thought this was awesome. I am an end of the road Andre super fan, and watching him throw hands with 1990 Abby is really thrilling. We don't get a ton of it but it ruled. There is a 2/3 falls Abby vs. Andre match from 1977 in Houston, and it's probably in Billy Corgan's garage. DAMN YOU CORGAN!!. I enjoyed Kimala bringing the athleticism. He just flew into all of Baba's stuff, hit a dropkick, dove off the top, really wrestled around Baba and made his stuff look good. I would have loved to see the crowd brawling between Andre and Abby, but what we got was a blast.

Mitsuhara Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada vs. Terry Funk/Dory Funk Jr.

MD: This went all the way and from what we could see, which admittedly wasn't everything was really good. The crowd was up for it and made it feel like a big deal, a sort of parallel to Tsuruta-gun vs the Super Generation Army, but the latter facing legends in the Funks instead. It had just about everything you'd want: Dory throwing forearms instead of sitting in holds, Terry getting a ton of sympathy as he took all of Misawa and Kawada's stuff, a big comeback with an amazing exchange ending in him ducking a Kawada kick and flooring him, and an incredibly exciting and increasingly wild last ten minutes as they built up to the draw. Dory and Terry rose to the occasion, including tossing out a standing double hip toss which seemed pretty unique from them. I loved the bit where Misawa and Kawada both tried a Scorpion Deathlock since that's a death move in AJPW. And it ended with Kawada surviving the spinning toehold as the clock ran out and a show of respect from the four.

PAS: Terry vs. Misawa is a match up that only happened here (Terry worked with Tiger Mask II in the 80s) and they really had great charisma with each other, Misawa's stoicism blended nicely with Terry's wild shit. We get some fun feeling out stuff with Dory early and it built to a pretty exciting finish run, with Terry hitting his piledriver on Kawada and Misawa and Kawada trying to finish the Funks with scorpion death locks. I liked how the finishing run felt frantic, sometimes draws just finished, but here both teams felt like they were working against each other and the clock. 

Joel Deaton/Dick Slater vs. Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue

MD: This had a sense of inevitability from the start, but it was still pretty good for what it was. Deaton and Slater were able to maintain control when they leaned into their teamwork. Taue wasn't quite there yet but he was closer than he was and could better use his size and presence, though in this match he was there to set up the big tag to Jumbo. Inevitability is the best part about Jumbo, that last minute where his opponent survives but where everyone in the crowd knew the hand would be raised and the backdrop was coming. Slater, despite being past his prime still came off as fairly credible in this setting.

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