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Friday, June 24, 2022


Andre the Giant/Giant Baba vs. Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue AJPW RWTL 11/20/90 - EPIC

MD: Instead of reviewing this, I just want to list all the cool moments. At this point it'd been almost a year since Taue and Baba wrestled each other and Taue grew a lot in 90. He'd throw headbutts at Baba only to eat the brain chop. He'd come back with the palm strikes against the ropes and hit Baba with his own Russian Leg Sweep, only to piss Baba off so he hit him with one of his own. It had been a year (the last RWTL) since Jumbo fought Baba and the crowd buzzed huge when Jumbo tagged in. Early on, Jumbo put on the breaks so Baba couldn't get him with the big boot and Baba gave him a sort of "Aw, shucks" expression.

Then there was Andre, who only faced Jumbo or Taue a handful of times in his career. Taue tried to hit him with an enziguiri but could only get to the middle of his back. Jumbo tried to knock him over with a shoulder block and recoiled with as much over the top selling as I've ever seen out of him (it was warranted). Then Jumbo and Taue combined with a double jumping knee to trap Andre in the ropes but failed utterly to double suplex him. After the aforementioned Baba/Taue exchange, Taue was actually able to slam Baba, though he could have milked it more. Unfortunately, then Andre came in and manhandled him (being Taue!) like he was a child. Andre returned the favor from Jumbo's selling, recoiling from Tsuruta's punches and even going down (though he did toss him on the kick out), and then Taue ran into Andre's fist in the most glorious way possible. They finally got that double suplex, but on Baba, but he was able to ultimately survive the onslaught and tag Andre. Then Taue tried to waistlock him as he was going to German Suplex him and paid for it just like you'd expect.

See, all cool stuff. There was a pretty good match in there too, but that's a lot of cool stuff for a fifteen minute video and a ten minute match.

ER: Man this was awesome. This is the biggest bumping Andre performance of the 90s, and I'm not sure how far back into the 80s you'd have to go to find a match where he bumped more, but it's pretty far. It's amazing. To think, they aired the Andre/Baba RWTL '90 match against The Land of Giants, but their match against the Funks, this match, and the drool worthy Abdullah/Kimala II match all happened on house shows. This show was not officially taped, but was a house show the size of a TV taping, and obviously our intrepid cameraman saw how important this was. I'm so glad he did. I've gotten used to seeing inactive Andre performances, and seeing just how much he can add to a match with as little movement as possible, relying on body language and his incomparable selling and acting. There is so much to gleam from minimalist Andre, that seeing him get in and out of the ring multiple times and taking 4-5 bumps is downright shocking. When he and Baba entered the ring and I saw how Andre was pulling himself up onto the apron and climbing the turnbuckle rungs like a ladder to get the rest of his body upright, I assumed this was going to be a lot of Andre punching people from the ring apron. I've seen plenty of matches where just getting into the ring past the ring ropes looked like Andre pushing a boulder up a mountain, and I'm always excited to see how he can integrate his body's pain into a match. Instead, he made this into so much more. 

There were still great apron Andre moments, like the way he kicked at Taue's foot when Taue was breaking a submission, but I was surprised at how much Andre did in the ring. He worked really well with both Jumbo and Taue, and that first showdown with Jumbo felt special. I loved how Andre sold for Jumbo, how their first exchange went so much differently from their later showdown. When Andre squares off with Jumbo for the first time, Jumbo comes barreling in with a shoulderblock that hits a wall and sends Jumbo recoiling back into the ropes, and when he tries it against Andre just grabs him by the neck and face and squeezes, then blasts him with a headbutt. When a weaker Andre squares off with Jumbo late in the match, it's all about Andre's selling. I loved how Andre staggered around for Jumbo's hard elbow smashes. Andre is a man with somehow impeccable balance, who is able to sell as if he's a man with no center of gravity, always in danger of toppling over. Jumbo hits him with a couple elbows and sends Andre staggering, and Andre has to lunge for the ropes just to dodge Jumbo's big knee. The dodge does not deter Jumbo, and seeing that Andre is still staggered, he knocks him to the mat with a definitive elbow smash. It's wild to see Andre getting knocked down by a strike, and I couldn't even guess the last time it happened before this. 

Taue/Andre was fun in a different way, as Taue is the young punk (I like how a young punk in All Japan is someone who has wrestled almost 500 matches) who boldly fires off shots against the biggest man in Nagoya. I thought the Taue enziguiri looked great, catching Andre in the base of his neck (Andre sold it perfectly, like he just got punctured by a larger than average mosquito), then throwing a couple of jumping knees into Andre's torso before sending Andre careening backwards into the ropes with Jumbo's help. Andre had a great look of panic while stuck in the ropes, and was freed relatively quickly so that Jumbo and Taue could try an ill-advised tandem suplex. I loved how Andre dropped to his butt to block the suplex, as it made the suplex look that much more threatening. Andre did not frequently wind up on the mat during his All Japan run (he winds up on the mat more in this match than in several other available Andre AJ matches combined), so him willingly dropping to the mat only made it look like Jumbo and Taue were *that* close to suplexing him. 

I know I'm focusing a lot on Andre, but I thought this was a tremendous Baba match too. Really, it was a tremendous Everybody match, but I digress. Baba had some fun small stuff with Taue to start, giving Taue a great oldhead "okay, okay!" look after Taue backs him into the ropes and chops him. He does a slick armdrag takedown of Taue and works the headscissors, then later breaks out a rolling ankle pick on Jumbo, rolling down Jumbo's leg from a hammerlock to force Jumbo's momentum forward. It's always weird fun watching first couple years matches from guys like Taue or Tamon Honda, as they have 100% different movesets than during their peak years, and it's barely like watching an early version of the same wrestler, it's more like watching a completely different guy. Taue does Jumbo kneelifts instead of big running kicks, hits Baba with a bodyslam/elbowdrop/legdrop combo that he completely dropped, even throws a great lariat that I don't remember him using past 1992. I loved their dueling side Russian legsweeps (a move that always looks like it might cause Baba to shatter), and how Taue and Jumbo pulled off the tandem suplex on Baba, then took turns seeing who could hit him with a harder lariat (jury is out, both Taue and Jumbo really aimed to wreck their boss). Taue has Baba on the ropes and keeps that energy when Andre tags in, and it goes terribly for him. Taue chops away on Andre until Andre has had enough, then just shoves Taue into the corner and triumphantly squishes him over and over again, whips him into Baba's boot, and then drops that elbow. You can see Andre digging that elbow into Taue's chest as he presses down on his sternum with his palm, making sure the punk stays down. Another 90s Andre classic.

Jerry Lawler/Brian Christopher vs. David Flair/Jim Cornette 3/31/2002

MD: There's a moment in here where David has Lawler backed in the corner and lays in some punches. He'd developed pretty decent ones at some point and Lawler might be the best guy in the history of wrestling when it comes to sympathetically taking offense in the corner. I've seen him as an old man build matches over the last couple of years just around that. Anyway, afterwards, Flair goes over to Cornette and eagerly asks if he did good before getting nailed from behind and stooging. That, right there, was probably David's ceiling, but it was a very effective moment. David looking for fatherly acceptance from Russo or whatever obviously didn't work, but a couple of years and a number of matches later, with Cornette in that role? That might have had some legs.

Having Christopher in there (and I have to admit, he sort of felt like 80s Greg Gagne, after he'd already had some success, teaming with Verne) makes you think that David's best was sort of as a poor man's version of him. Where he stood out the most wasn't trying to be Ric Flair but the slightly off-kilter stooging, just how Christopher was best as an over-the-top stooge. Still, he had a pretty decent cut off punch and got some heat with pile drivers. He also took a neckbreaker in an ugly manner. Bumping just wasn't his strong suit. It didn't need to be here, though, since Cornette carried a ton of weight: with the pre-course promo, with the super padded trunks, by trying to coach instead of wrestle until Christopher tossed him in, by getting shaken up and tagging Lawler hilariously, by using the powder and getting believable shots in on the outside. This was pretty close to the whole Cornette experience and the Lawler family knew how to get the most out of it.

ER: This was great, and really there was only one reason to think this wasn't going to be great, but it's a pretty important reason. That said, this is probably the most complete I have ever seen David Flair look in a wrestling ring. Flair is a complete unnatural ("The Unnatural" would be a really funny gimmick for someone like Renegade or Flair to have worked), a guy who looks like he's never moved athletically in his life, who always took the weirdest bumps while having no idea what to do with his body on offense. Here, more than any other awful David Flair performance I've seen, he knew exactly what to do. Before the match, Cornette got on the mic and talked a lot of great hyperbolic BS about how "David Flair is going to be the best wrestler of the 21st century!" And, you know, I gotta say there are nothing but fascinating matches from the last 100 matches of Flair's career, so maybe he was onto something Has anyone here seen any of the Puerto Rico, All Japan, or even remember if the TNA stuff was any good? Any lucky souls get to see Regal/Flair in South Carolina, taped as a Velocity dark match? I hate how I'm talking myself into seeing more David Flair. 

My favorite part of this was how everyone got to show off their right hands, and honestly, every person in this match had a good right hand. Lawler having a good right hand won't surprise you, and he used it well here (including blindsiding Flair with a right before dropping to his knees with a fistdrop), and Cornette at this point is someone who is established as having a great right hand. But they aren't the ones who throw the most punches in this match. We get two actual punch outs between Christopher and Flair, and they were good! They each showed a bit of light on two of them, but the form of Flair was what stood out the most. This was a man who, just a couple years before, did not have good form on ANYthing. And here he is throwing actual punches to the chin and jaw, not cheating by trying to throw them past Christopher's head or doing that weird Abyss punch where he sands the top of their head. David Flair was throwing actual worked punches in 2002, and they were good. He has a nice gutwrench slam and an even better pair of piledrivers, and you can color me impressed. He still looked like he couldn't really bump, taking a neckbreaker like a baby wiggling in his high chair to avoid the mashed carrots. Also, I love how Cornette was the biggest bumper in the entire match. Every piece of Cornette shtick was great, like tagging out to Lawler after getting punched around by Christopher. Cornette even took a big bump to the floor, and all of his big back bumps to sell punches were perfect. I always love how good Cornette is at bumping despite looking like, well, a guy who would be filmed berating a Wendy's employee.  

Low-Ki vs. Necro Butcher JAPW 5/19/07 - EPIC

PAS: This is honestly one of the great all time match ups in wrestling history. I am not sure how I had no idea they wrestled in JAPW in addition to the two IWA-MS classics the year before and the fun brawl a few years later in IWA-EC. Having this show up is like finding a new Santo vs. Casas or Lawler vs. Dundee match. Necro is really the perfect opponent for Ki: he is willing to meet his recklessness and stiffness with recklessness and stiffness of his own. Ki throws full force kicks to his head, and Necro responds with hard shoot punches to the jaw, just sick stuff both ways. FUTEN shit. There is a moment where Ki lands a double stomp on Necro's back and you can see his spine invert. Necro punches his way out of the Warriors Way double stomp and hits a crazy looking top rope rana. They do the thumbtacks spot with Necro getting Irish whipped and stepping on them with his bare feet. It is an incredible spot the first time you see it, but Necro went back to the well a couple of times with it. Still that is a minor complaint for an otherwise hellacious monster of a match.

MD: This was as good of a brawl-with-plunder 2000s match as you'll find, really, two guys who just threw everything they had at each other and did everything they could to prevent the other from doing the same. Violence and struggle from beginning to end. What made this better was that it was at St. Joseph's gym, with a priest obviously holding the keys to letting JAPW run there and getting to do the ring introductions in turn. So, he got to introduce Necro with his "Choose Death" shirt. That's as pro wrestling as you get basically. You can almost imagine Fat Frank reassuring the guy it was okay because Ki was going over so it was a parable about good vs. evil, with good overcoming the excesses of evil...or something. I especially appreciated the fight out of the Warrior's Way set-up because Necro had previously sort of sat around draped on the top rope for the double stomp. It was a great double stomp, but that had seemed a bit off given the match they were having. The fact he refused to allow such a thing to happen again was great and pulled me right back in. It was the sort of a match where the announcers and the crowd would go just as nuts for Necro taking the Cactus Jack plunge through a table as they would for something like Ki hitting a power drive elbow on the floor. Agreed with Phil on the thumbtacks spot, though it obviously worked for the crowd on that night and they used it effectively in setting up the finish. Necro probably went to that well as often as he did because it protected him in a loss.

ER: Athletically, these two couldn't be much more different. Low Ki has maybe the best body control in American wrestling history (I used to say "in wrestling history" but all of our unearthed French Catch footage kind of popped that balloon) and Necro Butcher wrestles like the proverbial bull in a china shop. It's one of wrestling's great juxtapositions, and they meet in the middle with stiffness. Necro takes so many kicks in this match, all to the body and head, and no matter how many times he punches back at Ki and sticks digs his fingers into Ki's mouth, nose, and eyes, those kicks keep coming. I loved Ki kicking Necro right in the eye, causing Necro to get stuck in the ropes like a death match Andre. Necro has a lot of fun ways to fight back, seems like he was always punching while off balance, from his knees, from his back, even hanging upside down. But I thought what set this apart wasn't just the stiffness, it was the way they each sold strikes and how they each fought for offense. A Necro punch is always a great thing, but when Ki slips out of a powerbomb and gets decked right after, Ki - limp bodied - bounces and flops down to the mat while hitting every rope on the way down, and that's just wrestling perfection. When Necro tries to powerbomb Ki into a table, Ki tries to fight out, making Necro fight against physics to re-lift Ki and finally drop to his knees with a powerbomb. when Ki goes for the Warriors Way, he tries to keep Necro in the tree of woe by grinding his boot into Necro's kneecap, causing Necro to reflexively punch up at Ki until he breaks. Necro getting run barefoot through the thumbtacks is a great way to set up offense, distracting Necro long enough to shotgun dropkick him through a table. Their stiffness was often used as a means to distract, not as a means to an end, and I think that's something that really elevates their feud to all time status. Monsta Mack's screeching Chicken Lady impression over every single awesome part of the match couldn't hold this one back. 




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Blogger Rob B said...

David Flair worked at least one tour in the UK for All Star in 2001/2002 and I saw him vs James Mason. Can't remember if he was any good but there might be footage out there.

3:26 AM  

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