Segunda Caida

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

Friday, April 02, 2021

New Footage Friday: JOE MALENKO~! INOUE! TAJIRI! CICLON! MOGUR! STYLES! CROSS!


Joe Malenko vs. Mighty Inoue AJPW 1/25/89

MD: We're just starting to see the dividends with this new run of Classics. Previously we just had the last few minutes of this title change and while it was good, it, and other Malenko and Inoue matches from 89, always had me wanting to see the full thing. It didn't disappoint. Both wrestlers were extremely good at chaining one hold or opportunity into another while dealing and adapting with engaged struggle from their opponent. Early on that was Malenko with the arm (including an 89 Crossface), and later, Inoue with the leg. Shortly thereafter, they'd end up tied up a few times, an even match. Malenko had the bridges and the bombs and was so good at chaining a move out of a suplex. Inoue had the somersault senton and even creeping towards 40 could still absolutely go. This had the usual block-and-counter laden finish you'd get on these late 80s AJPW Jr. matches and while it was a finish partially set up to protect Malenko, it still felt like a big moment for Inoue and the fans reacted accordingly.


PAS: Loved this, a real chance to watch Joe Malenko ball out. I loved the opening with him leaping over Inoue's leg sweep attempts like he was doing the Kid and Play dance, and finishing it off with a scissors kick takedown. Lots of nasty counter wrestling on the mat, including Inoue putting on a sick Indian death lock, and some really cool looking arm locks by Malenko. I thought the roll up finish worked good with the way the match was going, Inoue showing he had a little funk to his game as well. 

ER: I thought this was fantastic, an awesome juniors match with matwork more interesting than anything you'd ever see in a New Japan juniors match. My only complaint with the match at all is that they felt the need to break away from the matwork. This was a 15 minute match, and the first 13 are up there with the coolest Muga clinics I've seen. Joe Malenko really is one of the all time mat guys, doing almost minimalist Bob Backlund type holds only wrenched in and played small and tough rather than long. Malenko isn't really about quick movement, and his style is so engaging that it doesn't really need it. You can see every step of his holds, and he builds through each of his holds in snug ways that are easy to follow and make simple holds look agonizing. Malenko is not without flash, as he begins the match doing little MPro hops to avoid Inoue's legsweeps while locked at the arms, and after hopping over a few he spins into a killer leg-scissors takedown. Malenko's bridging neck work is always impressive, made both guys look tough watching them go through slow motion Cirque du Soleil poses. 

Malenko cranks in a couple of nasty cravats across Inoue's face, locking his hands under Inoue's armpit and behind his back, and all of his holds look grinding and painful. Inoue's return fire looks good, especially when he butterflies Malenko's legs on a standing deathlock, he works Malenko's arm in some simple but painful looking ways. Malenko refuses to go into Expected Juniors Matwork, doesn't do kip ups out of knucklelocks, doesn't do monkey flips when you'd expect them, and his knucklelock takeovers look like expert judo throws rather than part of a rolling exchange. And I wish they would have stuck to that. It made for a great 13 minutes. Joe Malenko is much cooler on the mat than he is running ropes, and there were a couple things that didn't look quite right once they were on their feet. But we also got a tight fisherman's suplex from Joe, a slick reversal into a German suplex, Inoue's none-better somersault senton, and a great flash pin title win out of an Inoue rolling cradle reversal. Inoue's reversal was really strong, and the 13 minutes of bridging matwork by both men really established how good they were at forcing each other into bridged holds, you get the real sense that Malenko really couldn't have escaped the pin. Great match, with several things that modern acolytes of this mat style could learn from. 


Tajiri/Ciclon Ramirez/Fantasik vs. Halcon Negro/Mogur/Guerrero de la Muerte CMLL 12/23/95

MD: Tajiri had a few month excursion to CMLL when he was about a year into his career and there's not a ton to see of it, so this was a fun thing to pop up. He had a nice, long opening exchange with Guerrero de la Muerte (Toxico) and they were fine, basic but smooth. Late in the tercera he hit some solid kicks and had a nice tope. This was pretty standard fare otherwise, though lacking a central underlying storyline. Mogur stood out out with some good dropkicks and a great knee in the corner, plus leaning hard into the missile dropkick which led to the tecnicos taking the primera. The beatdown wasn't very memorable, with the comeback spurred by the rudos all mounting and posing Tajiri. Fantastik seemed to be straining to his his offense at times but disappeared from the match at the end with a pretty spectacular slingshot swanton bomb to the floor. It ended with a pretty unsatisfying foul which wasn't built and didn't seem to be leading anywhere.

PAS: Fantastik is this super cool luchador with a hairy chest who basically spent his entire career in Japan. I don't remember him working CMLL at all, and here he was with his Big Japan buddy Tajiri. There is a more well know match later in this tour where things break down between Tajiri and Mogur and they start stiffing each other, but there isn't anything like that here. I enjoyed the opening Tajiri and Muerte mat work the best, real chance to see how skilled Tajiri was as a kiddo. And that Fantastik swanton to the floor is one of my favorite high spots ever, what height and extension he got on that. It might have even been better than Super Astro's. 

ER: Matt mentions that this is pretty standard lucha fare, and he's right, but it's also really exciting watching just standard lucha fare from guys from this era. I've seen a stupid amount of standard lucha from the last decade of the CMLL roster, so a different era of roster going through their routines can be a real sweet panacea. It's cool seeing Tajiri and Fantastik in the CMLL mix, to see Tajiri do a pretty good job of understanding basic lucha caida structure. He's tasked with being the first mat exchange of the match, he comes in at the end of the segunda with a high spinning heel kick, and then lands a nice dive on Mogur at the climax of the tercera. Fantastik had the wild spot of the match, with a gorgeous slingshot swanton off Halcon Negro, perfectly lined up down an aisle. I really liked Negro here, a great theatrical bumper, and if that slingshot swanton wasn't in the match I think my favorite moment would have been Negro getting bumped to the floor, sliding out after a headscissors and landing on one leg, then hopping on one leg to slow his momentum until landing in the front row. He looked like a Looney Tunes character who skidded to a stop before running off a cliff. Ciclon Ramirez was a super graceful tecnico, great height on headscissors and bumps, and Mogur is a classic rudo in the vein of Mocho Cota or Satanico, all short right hands and nice traffic direction. This was probably a typical Saturday night for all of these guys, but it played with the right amount of freshness for me. 


AJ Styles vs. Jason Cross NWA Wildside 8/15/01

MD: This had a few things going for it. First and foremost, they were working it as an evil mirror image sort of match (or more accurately, as Cross stealing Styles' act), so there were a bunch of parallel spots that were effective and creative and well-executed, but also that meant something because there was an underlying story driving them. It wasn't an exact tit-for-tat, but was defined enough you couldn't miss it. Cross would hit one sort of tricked out arm drag, Styles would return with another. At one point, Styles hit a huge over the shoulders alley-oop on Cross that caused him to hit his head on the screen above the ring. Cross returned the favor later with one onto the top turnbuckle snake-eyes fashion. Late in the match, they both hit top rope splashes. That sort of thing. The second thing would be the theater itself. It let Cross hit a crazy dive of the stage, less crazy for the twists and turns and more so for the damage he would have done to himself if Styles didn't catch him well (he did), and they followed it up with brawling on the floor, with a green tinted, security footage looking sort of night-vision effect, and Styles spectacularly hitting a wall step-up standing moonsault. For the most part, everyone's stuff looked good. There were a couple of physics defying moments from Styles, like a bump off of a top rope 'rana that took me out of it. I thought Cross' strikes looked really good and it's too bad we didn't see more of them. They didn't wear out their welcome here by any means and that helps to justify the your move, my move nature a little (as does the mirror image underlying story), but if they shuffled things around a bit and had Cross lean on him a bit more towards the end, it would have made Styles get the moral win, before the "1988 WWF Manager on the apron so let me chase him around the ring" screwy finish, mean more. Still, this was very good for what it was and what it was trying to be.

PAS: Cross was working a Mike Davis as Dusty Rhodes version of AJ Styles here, which was a fun gimmick. The athleticism in this match was pretty off the charts, both guys had tremendous snap and execution on all of their big spots. This would have been pretty mind-blowing at the time, I mean we were just starting to see Low-Ki,  Red  et al do this kind of thing in the Northeast, and this was at or even above that level. The Cross dive off of the stage, the Styles wall walk moonsault and spiked headscissors, totally wild shit even now. I did think this was aiming to be an all time lost classic until they returned to the ring where they lost the string a bit. I don't think we needed that chase around the manager spot, and a fast ref count felt like one too many booking things for a match which didn't need any of them. Let Cross win clean or have Styles win clean, the match was good enough that no one would have been hurt by it. Cross is one of those weird wrestling casualties, no reason he should have been lost to history. He was like a taller AJ Styles and should have at least had a ROH/TNA career.  

ER: This is an era of indy wrestling that will always have the warmest place in my heart, as it was right when I was really getting into wrestling message boards and was the peak of my tape trading. This match had all of the things I loved about getting tapes in the mail, with a perfect wrestling venue for starters. This was in an old (?) movie theater, with the ring up on the stage and all the crowds seated below watching the show. I'm always interested in seeing how guys perform while having less sides of the ring to play to. This set-up has them essentially playing to one side of the ring, which brings unique perspective and focus to some of their exchanges. 2001 was fertile for getting a random selection of indy tapes in the mail and being surprised at so many styles happening all over the country. This was inventive as anything else from 2001, and Cross wasn't that far behind Styles as a talent at this point. Bobby Quance is a guy who gets brought up as a "what should have been" guy with under 100 matches, but Cross's stuff ages even better for a guy with a similar career. Cross is great at taking offense, and I love the heel gimmick of aping a popular face's wrestling style so well that is gets under the babyface's skin. Cross is great at being that smug and backing it up in ring. Cross hits an insane corkscrew plancha off the movie theater stage, and takes all of Styles' craziest 2001 offense, like the spike jump up headscissors and a Styles Clash off the top rope. Styles has been doing this level of great match for over 20 years now, and seeing how many indy guys are working for major promotions now, 2001 Cross is more polished than most of them. He was slightly too late for WCW, and for some reason didn't catch on in TNA after getting semi-regular shots. You always hate to see a cool talent fall through the cracks. 

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