Friday, 13 April 2018

RINGS Mega Battle Tournament 1992: Semi-Finals (12/19/92)

Yoshihisa Yamamoto v Nobuaki Kakuta

Well this was sort of a miracle. For starters, I think it might've been a shoot, and so far there haven't really been any of those that've been good. Secondly, it's Kakuta, and history tells us you don't really want to be watching Kakuta in a shoot for 20+ minutes (or an anything for 20+ minutes). And yet this actually kind of ruled! It's the earliest version of the Yamamoto we know and love (I assume we all love Yamamoto). Those bouts with Naruse offered glimpses of what he could do, but they were very much about the young guys finding their feet. This was him turned loose and just all over an opponent. He gave Kakuta no reprieve and thoroughly dominated him on the ground through the first three rounds. Then Kakuta started swinging with the leg kicks and body shots, managing to narrowly avoid being submitted, always being in with a striker's chance. Crowd were crazy into the last couple rounds and I found myself all the way behind Yamamoto pulling off the upset. Just as the final round was coming to a close we got some controversy, as Kakuta seemed to maybe catch Yamamoto low with a knee, and the ref' apparently called for the TKO as the time limit expired. Yamamoto was having none of it and eventually they - the judges at ringside, I guess? - decided it wasn't a knockdown and the fight would continue into a sixth round. It only lasted another fourteen seconds, but man were the people all in on those fourteen seconds. Best thing Kakuta's done by a pretty significant margin and our first real look at the Yamamoto we'd come to adore.

Mitsuya Nagai v Sergei Susserov

This was pretty good stuff as well. Susserov looked like a machine at points with the way he'd toss Nagai around, plus he had some flashy stand-up and a couple neat moments on the mat (fitting, as Han is his cornerman/possible trainer). A few of those throws were awesome -- he'd really snap into them, all hips and torque. You look at him initially and wonder if he's maybe going to be another kickboxer, but he was much more along the lines of your Eastern European grappler. Nagai had his moments and looked pretty solid as well. He was never full blown manhandled or anything, and on the "if this was a real fight" scale it looked like he could've held his own okay. His final flurry of strikes certainly looked brutal enough that you could buy it as a stoppage. Susserov's name is familiar to me so I'm guessing he shows up again later down the road, and I'm more than okay with that.

Rudy Ewoldt v Georgi Keandelaki

If I were to guess, based on Keandelaki LAYING IT IN with the body punches, I'd maybe venture that this was a shoot. It would be a ropey guess at best, however. This was a round and a half and they kept it moving along, no real pissing about, but after the scintillating five and a bit rounds of Nobuaki Kakuta that you never thought you'd ever live to see, this was always going to struggle to pop.

Volk Han v Sotir Gotchev

I was pretty hyped for this and I'm happy to report it didn't disappoint. I don't know how many worked fights Gotchev had, but I'd assume this was only his second (after the Kopylov fight). That he can throw guys around with aplomb goes a ways to making you forget about the bits where he obviously looks inexperienced. Han was Han. All of his wrist manipulation stuff looked awesome; the nasty wrist lock thing, the crazy standing armbar, and best of all the way he used it to grab Gotchev in a sort of dragon sleeper before dropping him with an elbow to the chest that looked like a fucking Kill Bill execution blow. He did this thing later on where Gotchev was on all fours and Han grabbed the arm, drew it underneath Gotchev's leg, planted his foot to keep that leg in place, then pulled upwards like he was trying to hyper-extend the elbow under Gotchev's own thigh. Basically this had about four things to add to the running list of Volk Han submissions I'd never seen anyone do in a match before. It wasn't quite like Gotchev could slam Han at will, but Han was clearly having trouble with him, and when Han would try to roll upon landing Gotchev would just drop him super awkwardly on a shoulder or elbow. It actually led to Han using a decent amount of his rope breaks, but of course in the end he found a way to deal. I'm not entirely sure what it was - could've been a choke, could've been an armbar, could've been a bit of both - but it looked like it hurt and every bit the Volk Han way of submitting someone. Really good bout.

Dick Vrij v Herman Renting

This didn't start out great, but it got better as it went and by the end it was about as lively as you could hope for between these two. Renting is never really aggressive in his fights and sometimes he'll outright stand in the corner as if he's waiting to be hit. I don't know if he's gassed or what, but you can imagine how compelling it is. He started this like he actually intended to do something, and you may not have bought him actually hanging with Vrij, but you maybe bought him being able to grab a submission if the stars aligned. Vrij was pretty much coasting for the first couple rounds, but they got a bit chippy with each other and some little cheapshots were thrown. Last couple rounds picked it up. Renting kept retreating to his safe haven (the corner), but Vrij is not the guy who'll let you rest on your laurels that way. In fact he probably kicked him harder.

Akira Maeda v Chris Dolman

Pretty listless main event, at least until the last forty seconds. Lots of tepid stand-up. At one point they wound up clinched in the corner trading slow knees to the body, like they were doing assisted knee raises at a Body Combat class. Maeda's leg was taped up heavily again and they drew attention to it a few times. Crowd picked up on it when he'd back away clearly favouring it after Dolman's probing kicks. Set up to the finish was pretty telegraphed, but the finish itself was surprising.

Complete & Accurate RINGS

Monday, 9 April 2018

Takeover/Wrestlemania Weekend

Another Wrestlemania has come and gone and somehow, someway, Roman Reigns is even further away from being the Top Guy than he was when they started this whole endeavour. Never has there been a more shoddily booked company Ace. But for the first time in about a decade I was genuinely hyped for what was happening over Wrestlemania weekend. The Mania card itself was the best in a long time, Takeovers are usually good, plenty of indie shows had interesting match-ups on them, etc. The only shows I watched in full were Takeover and Mania, and while some of the booking decisions in the latter were...questionable, I didn't regret staying up until 5.30 in the morning watching it. It's way too long these days (the pre-show started at 10pm and the closing montage hit at about 5.20am, which is ridiculous), but it had my favourite match of the year from the most unlikely of sources and a bunch of other stuff that I thought was decent to good. Plus Takeover had Velveteen Dream and overall was pretty great top to bottom. I will now gush about things I liked most.

Adam Cole v EC3 v Velveteen Dream v Ricochet v Killian Dain v Lars Sullivan (Ladder Match) (Takeover, 4/7/18)

The multi-man ladder match has been run into the ground as a concept by now, but this was about as much as I'm ever going to enjoy one these days. I don't even actively dislike matches like this, they're just not very interesting anymore because pretty much everything has been done already and you inevitably reach the point of diminishing returns. But I'm absolutely 100% all in on Velveteen Dream so for the first time in ages I was rooting super hard for a wrestler to win a predetermined contest. I thought he was legitimately great in this. His selling has an awesome car crash quality to it where his limbs go all rubbery on those big bumps. Him hitting elbow drops on everyone and capping it with the Purple Rainmaker off the ladder was my favourite spot of the year. I love him. I want him to win matches and titles and I'm bummed when he doesn't. I don't even dislike Adam Cole, but I was deflated when he won, not because Adam Cole won a match and he's lame or whatever, but because Velveteen Dream DIDN'T win. When/if he wins the NXT title I'll absolutely flip and I never expected to be invested in a wrestler like that again in my old age. I generally have no use for Ricochet but he's perfect for a match like this. That SSP to the floor at the start was wild and he was the projectile in an impromptu person-chucking contest so I liked him fine. Hopefully he curbs more of his annoying tendencies in the NXT run. EC3 never really did anything for me in this. Most of his offence was very early 2000s indieriffic and I wasn't sure whether he was hitting a move or the other guy had reversed it. The beefies were fun and I'm fine enough with Cole as the best possible version of Edge. They maybe could've done with trimming it by a few minutes, but I was hyped for this and it came through.

Johnny Gargano v Tomasso Ciampa (Unsanctioned Match) (Takeover, 4/7/18)

I'm not quite as high on this as the majority, but I still thought it was pretty excellent. It was maybe the best possible version of a WWE grudge match with all the DRAMA and callbacks and storytelling and whatever else that you could ask for. Ciampa getting all that heat was incredible. The silent entrance! They were booing him for absolutely anything at the start and he reveled in it. Thought this could've done with being trimmed a bit as well, but the big spots were huge and the stretch run was pretty great. Mostly felt like they communicated the hatred as well. I'd rather they went the Duggan/DiBiase route, but I'd rather every match went the Duggan/DiBiase route and this is 2018 and those expectations are unrealistic and so we take what we are given. Gargano grabbing Ciampa's beard as he slapped him about the face was great. Ciampa stomping Gargano into oblivion then applauding himself was one of the best things I've seen all year. The finish was basically perfect and drew the whole thing together really well. The melodramatic acting, the INNER CONFLICT, the bastard trying to be a bastard, the comeuppance...yeah, this promised something special and it delivered. 

Charlotte v Asuka (Wrestlemania, 4/8/18)

Man, how about that Charlotte entrance? Going in I thought this might've been a sleeper pick for MOTN, and it wasn't that but it was still pretty great. It was also stiff as shit. Asuka was really laying it in with those kicks, the knees, grabbing Charlotte in a surfboard and curb stomping, reeling off a nasty flurry when Charlotte tried to get defiant. Match had some big bumps as well, like the suplex off the apron and the Spanish fly off the top rope that looked potentially disastrous when they came off initially. Charlotte's dodgy arm being a theme throughout worked well and I thought she did a really good selling it right until the end, especially with the one-armed figure eight. I kind of question why they had Charlotte tap Asuka clean as a sheet already, but I'm guessing they're building to Charlotte/Ronda for next year so...fine, I guess? 

Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle v Stephanie McMahon & HHH (Wrestlemania, 4/8/18)

The miracle of all miracle matches. I fully expected this to blow. Angle somehow moves slower than Undertaker and Undertaker moves slower than my 88 year old grandfather. HHH is less interesting to me than lots of uninteresting things. Rousey has looked awkward at best in the build up. Yet this match went from kinda nothing when it was Angle/Helmsley to way hotter than expected when Rousey got in to flat out awesome by the end. I was practically in slack-jawed disbelief at one point. When they did Rousey/Helmsley I fucking flipped my melon and when she put him in the armbar I was stripped to the waist. I thought he was actually going to tap for a second there. Steph was the best McMahon on this show by a million miles and I loved how she was basically a cheapshotting Jim Cornette for the most part. Did she look stronger against Rousey than she should've? Maybe. But she took the advantage by clawing Rousey's eyes and Rousey sold it great and her eye shadow was all over the place like Steph had maced her or something, so it's not like she bested her with wrestling proficiency. She certainly never looked as strong as most of us probably feared she would. I wouldn't have hated it if Rousey just ragdolled her silly, but I don't mind her showing a wee bit of vulnerability out the gate. Can't say enough good things about Rousey in this match and it felt like a true star making performance. I mean, she absolutely felt like the biggest deal on this card and she probably main events Summerslam and that is fucking wild. Match was probably laid out to the letter but I don't give a shit. Lay everything else out to the letter if it ends up being this enjoyable. I wasn't sure how it'd hold up on a rewatch, but it was somehow even better and it was already one of the most fun live wrestling experiences I've ever had. Amazing spectacle and genuinely one of my favourite matches in company history. 

Friday, 6 April 2018

Spotlight: Kairi Sane

I'm on a 2018 catch-up kick right now and that's coincided with an NXT catch-up kick so here's me taking a shallow dive on your 2017 Mae Young Classic winner, Kairi Sane (whom I'd watched all of two times before she got to WWE).

Kairi Sane v Tessa Blanchard (Mae Young Classic, 7/13/17)

I'm a little surprised Blanchard was the first one to lose to Kairi in this tournament. I figured they'd have her advance if for no reason other than the name (they'll usually milk that "third generation superstar" for all it's worth). I'd never actually seen her before so for all I know she could be rubbish, but she sure never looked it in this. In a lot of ways it felt like Sane ran through her usual stuff, the running forearm in the corner, the Kabuki elbow, the spear and so on, while Tessa was booked to look as strong as possible in defeat. Which, you know...that's a pretty good idea. She was fun roughing it up with her rabbit punches from the headlock, throwing a few big forearms, desperation headbutts, a nice abdominal stretch where she was really twisting Sane's neck. At one point she hit a Codebreaker out the corner that about put Sane's teeth through the back of her head. I liked Sane's ax kick to the lower back as a set up to the elbow drop, but she kind of took forever climbing up the turnbuckles, stopping to do her pirate salutes and all that. Still, this was good stuff and I think I'll check out a few more tournament matches.

Kairi Sane v Peyton Royce (NXT, 11/29/17)

This wasn't much. It mostly felt like a way to give Sane a bounce back win after the WarGames 4 way, without the loser losing too much by losing (better believe I thought that through). Royce has a pretty fun bitchy character and makes amusing self-entitled facial expressions, like that move she did should've ended the match and how dare Sane kick out of it. Who does she think she is? Not a lot of what she actually hits looks very good yet, but she'll get better. There are enough bland indie wrestlers who do lots of cool stuff in a vacuum with no personality, so I know I'd rather someone was ahead of the game with the character work while needing to catch up on move execution than the other way around. Sane was mostly fine, her running forearm to the sternum looked nasty (Royce sold it like it really winded her too) and her elbow drop is of course awesome. Her spear isn't the best, but not a lot of people can make that move look good at this point.

Kairi Sane v Shayna Baszler (NXT, 2/28/18)

Well this was real tidy. I maybe should've watched their MYC final before this in case I missed a callback or whatever, but what's done is done. Baszler was pretty badass in this and I thought she was comfortably the better of the two. All of her armwork looked nasty and I liked how unconventional some of her throws were. She hit a gutwrench suplex that landed Sane in a seated position, but then she followed up by just drilling her in the back with a kick. I don't know if the suplex was intended to land like that as a set up to the kick or the kick was something she chose to do after noticing how Sane landed, but either way it was sort of impressive. She threw a couple absolutely brutal looking knees as well. There was no thigh-slapping, it was just patella to nose and that was that. The suplex at the end was of course intended to land like that and it was a killer set up to the choke. Sane was fine selling the arm initially, but when she started making her comeback she dropped it almost instantly. Long-term limb selling/limbwork doesn't really bother me as much as I grow soft in my old age, but I wanted a wee bit more from her. I probably will watch their Mae Young Classic now because this was good.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

2018...Like a Dream

Velveteen Dream v Johnny Gargano (NXT, 1/24/18)

Man, this was pretty awesome. They did some really nice amateur scrambling to start out and it looked great, just that right balance between slick and gritty (perhaps leaning slightly towards the former). It didn't last long, but it was another look at Dream working holds and he's no worse than competent at it. He also has a knack for the little things, even a simple grimace here or an added bit of wrench on an armwringer. His shit talking is always great and I loved him dismissively wagging a finger in Gargano's face, which then led to Johnny quickly grabbing the No-Escape. I'm guessing Gargano worked the arm a bit during the first commercial because when we come back Dream is really selling it. Even when he took over he kept stretching out that arm, hanging it tight by his side, always reminding you that it wasn't quite right, and I'm forever a sucker for someone instinctively throwing a strike with a bad arm before realising it was a terrible idea and quickly using the opposite arm. He looked totally comfortable controlling things as well. There was an awesome bit where Gargano was on the floor and Dream went up top for a dive, the crowd ready for something spectacular...and then he threw his hands up and climbed back down because forget risking his own butt for the pop. The stretch run had a handful of nearfalls that people really bit on as well, which surprised me considering the result must've felt like a foregone conclusion going in, then the arm came into play again at the finish. Dream goes up for the big elbow, hesitates because the arm is dinged up, switches to use the other arm (making a "subtle" show of it in true WWE storytelling fashion), but that hesitation costs him as Gargano gets the knees up and grabs the No-Escape. Can't really ask for much more out of a thirteen minute TV main event.

Velveteen Dream v Kassius Ohno (NXT Takeover: Philadelphia, 1/27/18)

Not a great match by any stretch, but it had enough going for it that they kept me with them all the way through. The opening with Dream trying to make good on his guarantee and the crowd counting along was great, and not knowing the result beforehand I about lost it when he dropped Ohno with that right hand. Ohno's forearm when he got back to his feet was bonkers. They slowed it way down pretty soon after that, but I was never not engaged. Dream's selling and bumping for Ohno's strikes was awesome again. He might be one of my favourite guys in the world already purely in terms of eating elbows and roundhouse kicks to the jaw. His control segment wasn't amazing or anything, it was mostly pretty basic, but he stuck to working the back well enough and I liked him selling his own back after heaving Ohno's fatness over for a suplex. It's easy to draw parallels based on the airbrushed tights and the swivel hips, but I really was getting some early Rick Rude vibes from him, especially with how he'd slow things down and work the camel clutch. Rude always loved to do that, and I know it's not for everybody but it's refreshing to me in NXT's go-go-go environment. There were a couple choppy moments where things didn't come off great, but it's rare stuff like that will bother me. And how about the post-match, with Dream aping Ali as he stands over a downed Sonny Liston.

Velveteen Dream v Tyler Bate (NXT, 2/28/18)

This got some decent time and turned into a nifty little TV match. I'm sort of whatever on guys doing World of Sport tribute acts, but this had some really fun early World of Sport tributing from Bate. Since Dream was the one who started twisting arms you could even say Bate did it to show him up. They were establishing strengths! Some layered psychology! It's the pro-wrestling storytelling! Dream mostly worked the back again and I'm still rolling with the Rick Rude comparison. It's such an easy comparison to make, but it totally fits. This time he'd twist Bate's face and neck while applying the chinlock, and the chinlock itself was super deep, practically a camel clutch. A couple moments don't come off 100% smooth and you can see the wheels turning as they get into position for things, but Dream is 22 and Bate is even younger so it's hard to be too critical. Purple Rainmaker is far and away the best name for a finisher in WWE right now and already feels more protected than any other Rainmaker in wrestling.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

NXT Takeover: WarGames (11/18/17)

My friend told me to watch this because he was at the show and his big bald head was all over the hard cam and sure enough there he was making faces like a daftie behind Funaki and Asuka. I was really only intending on watching a couple matches, but I wound up just watching the whole thing.

Kassius Ohno v Lars Sullivan

Cool little hoss fight. It only went about six minutes, but they laid it in and gave you what you want out of two beefy guys laying into each other. Some of the strikes were pretty great, especially those two elbows to the back of the head, a couple of Ohno's forearms and one straight right that Lars took right on the button. I haven't really followed NXT closely, but I remember folk talking about Sullivan at the time like he could be NXT's answer to Strowman. Has he faded off the map since then? Because I sure don't remember hearing much about him recently.

Aleister Black v Velveteen Dream 

This was fucking dynamite. Velveteen Dream is my favourite guy in NXT by a distance and I like Black fine, so I had some expectations for this and they absolutely delivered. I loved Dream in this so much. The tights! The early going with Black controlling via the arm was really neat. He wasn't about to be thrown off his game by Dream's nonsense and I liked how he basically schooled him. The little "mind games" sequence after that was just great stuff. Sometimes that kind of thing can come off a bit hokey, but both guys have such unique charisma that it totally worked. Dream's facial expressions, initially at being ignored, then at being fucked with in equal fashion, were amazing. And yeah, every single thing he did in this ruled. Loved how he bumped for Black's strikes. Loved how he was obsessed with Black saying his name. Loved how that obsession had him yelling shit at the ref' like "ask him to say my name!" or "say my name!" while he had Black in a camel clutch. LOVED the swivel hips from the top rope where he sold the back. That's one of my all-time favourite spots and I'm all for someone channeling the spirit of Rickie Rude. Basically loved everything he did. They kind of teetered a bit into no-selly back and forth towards the end, but it wasn't egregious and Black catching Dream with Black Death as he was yet again telling him to say his name was a great finish. There's that obsession again, getting him in hot water.

Ember Moon v Kairi Sane v Peyton Royce v Nikki Cross

I'm not one for a fatal fourway, but I thought this was more than fine. Everyone got to hit their spots, the moves that kept someone out the picture for extended periods of time generally looked buyable (that powerbomb on the floor to Cross especially, good grief) and the crowd were into it. There were moments where a couple women had to stand around waiting for an incoming dive, but these are concessions you need to make with this kind of match. I was a fan of Nikki Cross going buck wild on folk, nothing fancy, just frantic swatting about the face. She's around the same age as me and went to Glasgow uni so there's a good chance I spilled a a pint of whiskey over her in Bamboo a decade ago (I did not go to Glasgow uni, but I did drink pints of whiskey in many Glasgow nightclubs). Royce's mannerisms were very girly girl and I liked how she juxtaposed that with elbowing people in the face, even if the elbows didn't look good. Sane is my favourite of the four and her top rope elbow drop is killer, but it feels like she's been a bit of an afterthought since winning the May Young Classic. She lasted like three minutes in the Rumble and I'm not sure what she's been up to since.

Drew McIntyre v Andrade Cien Almas

This might actually be the first McIntyre match I've watched since he came back to WWE. Unsurprisingly he's still really good. He didn't necessarily work as straight powerhouse to Almas' flier, but they did pepper in some really cool strength spots, including the awesome front-facing Alabama Slam as a counter to the reverse rana. I don't have much of an opinion on Almas one way or the other. Don't love him, but I don't dislike him and he has plenty of flashy offence that manages to look like it's actually designed to hurt. I did like how he had to improvise here and there or Drew would just keep plucking him out the air and slamming him. Vega is such a fun second, though. She's always shouting directions, sneaking in and involving herself. That spike hurricanrana was really cool and I'll always pop for a manager saving their client by putting a foot on the rope at the last second. Pretty nasty finish as well.

Adam Cole, Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish v Authors of Pain & Roderick Strong v Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe & Killian Dain (WarGames)

What the fuck is this referee's spray tan all about? It's honest to god Oompa Loompa orange. Who's responsible for applying this to him? How did that conversation go? "Don't scrimp with that stuff, I want you to make me look a secret that's burning to be told!" It was outrageous! Anyways, this isn't your daddy's WarGames, but as far as bloodless iterations go I thought it was closer to Fall Brawl '94 than Fall Brawl '98. And Fall Brawl '94 ruled so yeah, I dug this plenty. It never felt full on chaotic like I wanted despite there being a thousand guys in it; they basically stuck to the one ring even when everyone was in there because...I don't really know why. They just did. In fact the only time a couple guys took a wander into the other ring was to do a German suplex off the top rope through tables and it about scalped Alexander Wolfe. But I thought it did manage to feel crazy enough, they did lots of fairly wild shit without getting too cutesy, and everyone got a chance to shine at some point. I'm not really sure who had my favourite performance, but Killian Dain is a big fat dude who bulldozed everyone and swallowed a key after locking the door, which was sort of goofy considering it's WarGames and the cage is locked anyway, but fuck it, maybe the fact he didn't know that made it even BETTER. Possibly. He also hit a Van Terminator which was pretty insane. I've never cared much about Adam Cole, but he felt like the biggest star in this by some margin. The 'Adam Cole Bay-Bay' chant is obviously over, but even beyond that I wouldn't expect it to be very long now before he gets called up to the main roster. Plus he was really good in this. He wasn't always interested in mixing it up unless he knew his buddies were around, which is really what you want in a guy who's supposed to be playing chickenshit, but when it came right down to it his team won because he was resourceful and pulled it out in the clutch. By golly I think I might be becoming an Adam Cole fan. For a first time WarGames in WWE, with all the modern WWE-isms that go along with that, I thought this was a decent success. I'd be into another one if it was for a title or something was at stake.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

2018 Day 9

Ember Moon v Shayna Baszler (NXT Takeover: Philadelphia, 1/27/18)

This was pretty damn fun, mostly down to Shayna's presence and personality. She's still a wee bit rough around the edges, telegraphing when a move she's attempting isn't going to hit, but her kicks and knees land well and she's a believable ass kicker. Her arm work ruled and that stomp to the elbow was disgusting. Moon sold it all real well, too. She was channeling Christian at a couple points with the possible nerve damage and  she was really vocal, but not in the "look at my acting chops!" overbearing sort of way (though it maybe bordered on that after the Eclipse spot). The extended fight over the cross armbreaker never got long in the tooth to me and I thought they managed to keep the crowd with them the whole time; totally had them biting on each turn and potential escape and I loved Ember frantically clawing at Shayna's back. Baszler never seemed to have it fully locked in either, so I don't mind them milking a hold that ordinarily should be an instant tap. Also appreciated how Ember really went for it on that roll-up. This wasn't your garden variety schoolboy roll-up, she jumped on Shayna with her whole body weight like it was desperation time and maybe her only shot before her arm got snapped.

Aleister Black v Adam Cole (Extreme Rules) (NXT Takeover: Philadelphia, 1/27/18)

Super fun plunderfest. This really isn't my thing as WWE always manage to make them feel hyper-manufactured and they never really come off organically, but the big spots were huge, the set-ups didn't totally take me out of the moment and we even got a little plasma to boot. The story of Black not resorting to using weapons because he was badass enough on his own was kind of cooky, but the moment he finally went fuck it and grabbed some furniture was pretty fun. This is of course 2018 so the furniture was set up in elaborate fashion and it wasn't Duggan grabbing a loaded glove and smashing someone in the face, but still. I guess it worked. The heel setting up a table because the crowd want it might seem counterproductive on the surface, but in your modern smark-heavy landscape I appreciated him knowing his audience well enough, and more than that actually acknowledging their existence. Nobody in WWE jaws with people in the crowd or stalls or interacts with fans anymore, so I thought that was cool. The fact a wrestler playing to the crowd like that felt fresh maybe says something about the state of where we're at today, but that's a whole other discussion. Cole's electric chair bump on the ladder was crazy, the double knees through the table looked great and the death valley driver over the chairs was ludicrous. Cole is an absolute nut job. The finish with the run-ins and stuff was pretty overbooked, but if you're going to do an ECW-style brawl in Philly then you might as well go all the way. Really commit to that nostalgia pop, you know? I wasn't going to bother with this, but I liked it a lot.

Monday, 2 April 2018

2018 Day 8

Negro Casas v Aramis (Lucha Memes, 3/11/18)

On one hand this didn't totally connect with me like I wanted. But then on the other hand it was still a pretty awesome balls out sprint. If nothing else it's yet another notch on the belt that is Negro Casas' case as the best wrestler to ever do it. Sub-10 minute sprints aren't necessarily what I'd think of if someone asked me what Casas was great at, purely because I can't think of many matches like that he's actually been a part of. Lucha Memes is nothing if not a little different, though. Casas came into this off the end of a broken rib and his selling was pretty exceptional all the way through. He'd drop to a knee in between bouts of rapid matwork or rope running, maybe because he hadn't quite convalesced like he thought, maybe because he's almost sixty and sixty year olds need a breather now and then. Aramis is a fun young flier and he wasn't about to go easy on a legend. His challenging of Casas to strike battles maybe bordered on hubris, but it led to a great moment where he took his shirt off mid-chop exchange because he is a man and pain is temporary or whatever, so Casas made to take his trunks off because I guess this is a thing the young folk do these days. Aramis almost topeing himself through the awning support post was outrageous, but of course the people were quick to check on Casas first and foremost, even to the point where it got a laugh out of Casas. I'd be all for Casas doing more of this sort of thing, provided his body held up to it.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

2018 Day 7

Zack Sabre Jr. v Darby Allin (EVOLVE 98, 1/13/18)

Killer match. I'm still finding my feet with Sabre, but this was the first truly awesome performance of his that I've seen. It's the first time I've seen Allin in any shape or form, and I wasn't sure what I was expecting from him but this wasn't really it. He was pretty great here too, though. His roll-ups out the gate were really sharp and fluid and I like that he tried to take it to the mat with Sabre. He was never going to win like that, but I bought him being too stubborn to actually know it. The story of someone trying to prove himself by taking on an opponent at his own game can sometimes come off as forced, but this didn't and a lot of it was down to Allin's selling and wild reactions. Sabre just abused him for like 85% of the match. Any advantage Allin managed to take was fleeting, as Sabre would continually grab him and torture him. Some of the joint manipulation was absurd, bending an elbow here, fingers there, twisting a wrist, digging knuckles into ribs, moving onto an ankle, driving a knee hard into the mat, often doing two or three things at once. There was a point where he'd tied Allin up in some preposterous fashion and afterwards he celebrated by flexing his flimsy biceps like a big idiot and it ruled. Allin was great trying to fight out of all this, punching himself in the face like he was trying to deviate all that pain from having his limbs contorted to a spot of his choosing. He was coming out of this hurt, but it would be on his terms. The longer it went the more condescending Sabre became, kicking and slapping Allin in the face as the commentators kept noting how out of character it was. You could see him growing annoyed, but Allin wouldn't quit. Maybe it's because he's a moron, but he didn't know how to and eventually it led to openings where he almost scored that upset. The finish being the most brutal piece of misery Sabre inflicted upon him was a pretty fitting way to cap the whole thing off.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

2018 Day 6

Sasha Banks v Asuka (WWE RAW, 1/29/18)

I thought this was pretty pedestrian up until Sasha did what she'll do and nearly kill herself on a dive. It wasn't bad or anything, they got nice and chippy and I liked Sasha just taking it straight to Asuka, reputation be damned. There was a great bit where she maybe bit off more than she could chew and Asuka steamrolled her with a strike flurry. But then came the dive and everything after that was really good. I don't know how long Sasha will be able to keep doing things like this before she breaks her neck, but she's sure determined to ride her luck. Asuka's spinning back fist/roundhouse kick combo was brutal and Sasha took those shots clean in the face like a loon, then Asuka went and did a Sasha by crashing on her own missed dive. It wasn't as wild as Sasha's, but she took a nasty bump off the apron on the way down. The speed with which Asuka reversed the Banks Statement into the Asuka Lock would've been the most impressive thing in the match if Banks hadn't Jerry Estrada'd herself through the floor a few minutes earlier.

Drew Gulak v Mustafa Ali (WWE 205 Live, 3/20/18)

Really nifty match. Maybe not quite as good as the best Kendrick matches from the CWC, but it still feels like one of the better 205 Live matches yet (as I've clearly seen an abundance of them). This had some real bite to it, mostly thanks to Gulak. Straight away he was yanking Ali around by the wrist and driving him to the mat, like he was in a shitty mood and happy taking it out on Ali. He was throwing a bunch of nasty stomps, punting Ali really hard in the chest, picking Ali up by the MOUTH, it was all good stuff. It meant Ali had to get mean in return and he wound up slapping Gulak really hard across the face and throwing some nice stomps of his own. We got a couple huge bumps from Ali, firstly as he comes off the top and almost smashes his face off the ring apron. That eventually set up a crazy backdrop off a table to the floor, then he took a running post bump and a big heave over the barricade into the timekeeper's area. The commentators were selling the story of him having to stand up to Gulak by essentially being as much of a bastard as Drew, but sometimes if it's not in a guy's nature to be that then it'll backfire. And well, it backfired. That he came back by showing some babyface guts and going to his bread and butter was a nice payoff.

Friday, 30 March 2018

2018 Day 5

Hideki Suzuki v Daisuke Sekimoto (Big Japan, 3/11/18)

Nice little match that was predominantly built around solid grappling exchanges. It only lasted about twelve minutes and the first ten kind of felt like the early goings of an old NWA title defense. It was methodical and meticulous, and I quite liked how they worked it like they'd at least entertained the possibility that they might end up going long. Sekimoto is fine enough at the actual working of holds, but more than that you can buy it being difficult even for a guy like Suzuki to handle him. He's a roided up wee monster and he does a lot of shouting like the maniac at the gym deadlifting a small house, so he at least gives you the impression he won't be letting go of that top wrist-lock freely. My favourite Suzuki moments were the ones where he was bending fingers to set up an abdominal stretch or octopus hold. His headscissors/tarantula spot was pretty cool as well and you knew that when it came to smacking each other they'd lay it in. There weren't a ton of people in the building, but you don't have to worry about the folks at the back not hearing these two throw lariats.

Hideki Suzuki v Yoshihisa Uto (Big Japan, 3/21/18)

Another fun Strong Climb tournament match. I actually preferred this to the Suzuki/Sekimoto even though Uto isn't as believable or solid working holds. They still had some nice grappling, but Uto was prone to leaving himself open in obvious fashion and at times Suzuki had to do the same as a prompt. "Okay, you're hammerlocking me now, just grab this arm here." Suzuki was great with the little things again, adding mean little touches to holds and countering things in unique ways. He had Uto in a sleeper at one point and as Uto tried to run up the turnbuckles to push himself back, Suzuki just let go and ran his face into the buckle instead, which allowed him to grab the sleeper again as Uto bounced back out in a daze. I liked the finish as well. Suzuki grabbing the chair backfired on him initially, so I was cool with him taking advantage of the moment and going for the count out. A win's a win, isn't it?

Takuya Nomura v Yuya Aoki (Big Japan, 3/21/18)

Really cool little fight. Every match I've seen Nomura in he's been the young guy stepping to the established stars and he's been super fun just about every time. This was him having to deal with a younger version of himself, basically. It wasn't young guy with a chip on his shoulder up against established star/vet. It was young guy with a chip on his shoulder up against slightly older young guy with a chip on his shoulder. I liked Aoki a bunch. He wasn't about to back down and took it to Nomura like Nomura had earned it. I don't know what Nomura had done TO earn it, but Aoki was potatoing him all over the place and put him on his neck with a huge German. I could've done without Nomura popping up from it to land a head kick, but he did drop down afterwards so I guess I'll take delayed selling over no selling. For his part Nomura was really good as well. He threw potatoes right back, his chokes looked air tight and he put the kid in his place when he needed to. The early matwork didn't last very long, but it was more UWF than 70s NWA and they made it look slick. Nomura could be awesome in a few years and if Aoki is willing to crack folk in the jaw like this then I guess he could too.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

2018 Day 4

Roman Reigns v Samoa Joe (WWE RAW, 1/1/18)

These guys seem to have matched up a bunch over the last year and a bit and for whatever reason this is only the second singles match between them that I've watched. They recapped the match from the previous week so I at least know where the 'Roman loses the belt on a DQ' stip comes from. They teased that early on as well, with Cole drawing attention to the fact it's the same ref' who DQd Roman last week, the ref' getting in between them like a slightly less obnoxious Tommy Gilbert, and Roman making a point of stepping back and keeping his cool just to erase any doubt. He's already on a tech, can't be pushing it any further just in case. Joe looked real good in this. He threw nasty jabs and meaty shots, hit a great tope that's totally different to every other tope in WWE, worked over the arm in pretty interesting ways and spent large parts of the match shit talking Reigns. That led to a cool bit later where Roman was shouting at Joe to hit him again as Joe slapped him with a little extra mustard. I liked how they started working in all of the stuff around the ref' and Joe trying to get Roman DQd, initially with Joe daring Reigns to hit him with the steps. Loved the whole sequence with Joe throwing Reigns into the ref', Reigns pleading with him because it was an accident, then turning around and getting planted with the Uranage. It felt like a huge nearfall and from that point on the crowd were all in. I thought it lulled a bit in the body, but it had a nice start and the home stretch was great. Joe going from dominant to maybe a touch overly confident to almost desperate for the ref' to do him a solid was a really fun story as well.

Matt Riddle v Jeff Cobb (Major League Wrestling, 2/8/18)

Well dang, where did this come from? I've seen more Riddle than I have of just about all the oft-praised modern indie guys, and even if he'll do some daft eye-rolly shit now and then he's generally someone I like a lot. Cobb I'd never seen before and I don't know if this was an outlier for him or not, but I thought he was unbelievable and the match as a whole was fucking awesome. I liked the amateur stuff at the beginning, as they're partners and not about to crack each other in the face just yet, then Riddle takes Cobb over with a throw and you can tell he's satisfied with himself. He isn't a prick about it, but he got one over on his buddy and he enjoyed doing it, as we all do when we get one over on a buddy. Cobb did not enjoy it and so he responded by chucking Riddle all over the place. This was some full on Scott Steiner stuff and I was genuinely in awe at how he was manhandling Riddle. I mean Riddle isn't a bantamweight, but he was sure getting thrown around like he was. After the first one where he got thrown clean cross the ring he had this awesome "what the hell?!" reaction, like he knew Cobb was capable of it but he didn't expect to be on the end of it there. Then Cobb grabbed him again and did about four rotations with Riddle's body, like he was steering a ship in a thunderstorm and Riddle was the wheel, before launching him in whichever direction he felt like launching him. Riddle mostly stopped bothering to try and throw with Cobb after this and instead focused on kneeing him in the face and locking in chokes, but there was one moment where he couldn't help himself and hit a super impressive deadlift gutwrench. My favourite spot of the match was when he hit a big falling kick and roared like some fighting spirit foolery was afoot, but Cobb just grabbed him and popped him over with a rapid low angle German. Cobb also had a strapped up wrist coming in, and while they never played it up huge I did like how it was a subtle little plot point throughout. It never really stopped him from doing anything, but he would grab it in pain once or twice, try and readjust the strapping, then at one point Riddle went to throw on a Kimura before changing his mind as Cobb is still his guy and bros before hoes and such. Riddle's knees are kind of thigh-slappy, but that final shot was a true knockout blow and a great finish to a tremendous little match. I may have to start checking out MLW more often this year. Tony Schiavone doing commentary in 2018 is something I was completely oblivious to but he's probably already my favourite commentator going today. I'm so glad I checked this out.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

2018 Day 3

The Undisputed Era v Authors of Pain (NXT Takeover: Philadelphia, 1/27/18)

Man, the Authors of Pain have gotten reeeally good. Assuming this is what they are now. I think the last time I saw them was early last year and while I didn't think they looked bad or anything, they never left much of an impression. But they were a ton of fun here. This was a pretty great brutes v technicians match and I thought Akam especially was on point in showing some vulnerability. Fish and O'Reilly had a bunch of cool stuff to work over the knee and Akam sold it all great, trying to swat at flies when the UE would swarm him, doing lots of limping and hopping on one leg. He was always dangerous, but if it looked like he'd caught one of the two the other guy would usually manage to cut him off. At one point both Fish and O'Reilly took turns charging him in the corner and Akam would keep flinging them away, just tossing them over his shoulder or booting them with the good leg, but then Fish improvised and hit a dragon screw around the middle rope to down him again. Fish and O'Reilly worked like a true unit, basically. Rezar came in swinging off the hot tag and the whole finishing stretch was strong, with a couple awesome moments to boot, my favourite being Akam hitting an apron lariat across Bobby Fish's face. Finish with Akam's leg buckling under him leading the to miscue was a cool way to make Fish and O'Reilly look crafty without having either AoP come off as weak. It sets up a rematch pretty well too, and I'd absolutely be down for it.

Andrade Cien Almas v Johnny Gargano (NXT Takeover: Philadelphia, 1/27/18)

Yeah, this was pretty tremendous. It isn't ordinarily a style I like very much. I'd say it's somewhere between New Japan main event and junior heavyweight epic and neither of those things appeal too much to me, but I thought they managed to play to the strengths of those styles whilst circumventing their worst aspects. The first ten or so minutes didn't totally connect with me, but it was some decent slow build and I did like how they managed to work in the early parity/stand-off spots without looking like dorks. They didn't feel rote or cheesy and I'm someone who has an inexplicable hatred for parity/stand-off spots. So you know, fair play to them. The missed double stomp in the corner leading to Almas taking the overhead belly-to-belly into the turnbuckles was where they really grabbed me. There were still some iffy parts after that, like the way they sort of hinted at going with the back work without ever really following through on it, and at times I never got much of a sense of PERIL, but largely it built super well and the pacing was excellent. I've seen three Gargano matches in the last two years. He's always been a nutty bumper and he was a fucking lunatic in this, but more than anything else he came across as a true underdog you wanted to succeed. I already knew the result, but there were moments where I was all in on him somehow pulling it out the bag. I got goosebumps when he kicked out of that first hammerlock DDT. I wanted Almas to tap on the No-Escape and deflated like everyone else when he got a foot on the ropes. I thought his distant facials were pretty hokey, but I'll almost always take hokey facial expressions over someone burning through shit to get to the next part of their routine, and at no point did it feel like either one of them were guilty of cutting the moment short. There was some laying around, but it felt earned, and without the laying around there wouldn't be that sense of gravity. The Zelina Vega stuff was done super well too. Obviously Candice hopping the rail and spearing her out her boots was amazing, but beyond the pop it felt like a key part of both Johnny and Almas' story. I guess it was similar to Rock/Lesnar from Summerslam in a way, with Vega as Almas' Heyman and Candice's spear as the surrogate Rock Bottom. Had Vega stuck around there would always be the sense that she was the difference maker. I suppose she still was in a way, but in the end Almas had to go it alone and it wasn't Vega who dragged him to the ropes that second time. It wasn't Vega who hit the ludicrous running knees into the ring post. And it wasn't Vega who pinned Gargano clean as a sheet.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

2018 Day 2

Hiroshi Tanahashi v Zack Sabre Jr. (New Japan, 3/21/18)

Yeah, this was alright. It was long as fuck but they never really lost me at any point. I mean, it had a few ropey forearm exchanges and the striking generally wasn't amazing, but this is 2018 and it is what it is. I've only seen Sabre a few times, but his tricky submissions are usually pretty fun and more than that he'll just dig his fist or elbow into a body part to manipulate joints. Tanahashi going to the headlock early on to keep from being tied in knots was decent stuff, even if he doesn't exactly have a Finlay level headlock. The armwork from Sabre was cool and whether it was intentional or just another case of Tanahashi having crummy forearms, the shots thrown with the bad arm coming off as lame as they did actually worked. The progression from the armwork into the legwork was organic enough as well. Tanahashi's dragon screws were the best part of this. The first one felt like it was out of desperation, then the one where Sabre was already on the mat was maybe my favourite spot of the match. They brought it up again later as Sabre was dickishly kicking him in the arm, sort of daring him to grab the leg and try another dragon screw, then when he did Sabre just lunged on him and dragged him into a triangle. It also came up towards the end when Sabre reversed it again into a cradle, and from that point it felt like Tanahashi absolutely couldn't go back to it because Sabre had it so well scouted. Finish itself was pretty great. Long New Japan main events aren't my bag, but I liked this fine.

Satanico v Hechicero (Lucha Memes, 2/5/18)

I have no clue how Satanico does it. He's nearly sixty now but he honestly doesn't move much differently than he did twenty years ago. It's sort of staggering. Sometimes when the legends are in there with the younger guys (and bare in mind Satanico is pretty much a pensioner) you can tell the latter need to slow it down a little, maybe work at three quarter speed. They have to scale it back a bit, or sell for stuff they maybe wouldn't sell for if it was a peer. You never really get that with Satanico. There were no elements of Hechicero having to sell for old man Baba's ropey chops or pare his own performance back so ninety year old Rusher Kimura wouldn't be killed. It's not a knock on Baba or Kimura, it's something you expect. They're wrestlers, of course they're going to be broken down and losing a step by the time they're sixty. And yet with Satanico you hardly see it. When he launched Hechicero face first into the post and flung him into the seats and then smacked him with one of those seats it didn't look like the younger guy giving the legend a little extra. It didn't look like Hechicero paying homage. It looked like Satanico, one of the best to ever do it, still being the biggest badass on the block. And I have no clue how he does it.

Monday, 26 March 2018

The Journey into 2018

It'll be a brief journey, but I'm sure I'll find a few things I like before moving onto something else.

Fuerza Guerrera v Demus 3:16 (Innova Aztec Power, 2/4/18)

I make a point of tracking down at least one Fuerza Guerrera match per year so naturally I was hyped about the prospect of this, and naturally I pretty much loved it. Fuerza is about a hundred and six so this wasn't on the slick side, but it was as seedy and filthy as you'd want. It's taking place in what looks like a dirty aircraft hangar and any time they leave the ring we're literally right on top of the action. Thirty two people are in attendance and just about all of them are following along recording it on their phones, so it looks like a wild brawl between two psychopaths outside a nightclub that everyone wants to put on the Twitter. Some truly gruesome close-ups of face-biting and testicle-clamping. Fuerza was biting Demus on the forehead then covered his nose with the free hand, either to precipitate the blood loss or to I guess suffocate him. At one point Demus was on top of Fuerza biting him through the mask and just grabbed hold of his balls and squeezed. Fuerza applied a camel clutch with his grip across Demus' mouth, so Demus broke the hold by chewing Fuerza's wrist. It had so many nasty little moments like that. They were throwing each other around with reckless abandon too, one guy being squashed by Demus while a retreating child almost got trampled as Fuerza was flung into a row of chairs. For a match like this to end with a Boston crab it really needs to be a mean looking Boston crab, and this sure looked like a Boston crab that would put a guy away. This wasn't your granny's Walls of Jericho.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Back to the Indie Sleaze

Masaaki Mochizuki v Yuji Yasuraoka (Kitao Pro, 6/14/94)

Pretty much the perfect sprint opener to a Kitao vanity project. Mochizuki was winging kicks from everywhere, standing up, on his back, from a seated position while fighting off submissions, mostly in violent fashion as befitting the rest of his career (I didn't actually realise he'd been around THIS long). Yasuraoka is a guy who'd show up on WAR undercards in juniors showcases. Those juniors showcases probably captured the spirit of WAR the least of all matches on a WAR card, but this was less juniors showcasey and more spike someone on their neck with German suplexes (so more of what truly made WAR WAR). Those Germans looked great, how he really popped his hips and snapped Mochizuki over. Still, the best part of the match might've been when he tired of being kicked and just annihilated Mochizuki with a huge slap. It was one of those moments where he sort of paused to think about it beforehand, like maybe deliberating as to whether it might be unnecessary to uncork something like that, but then he did it anyway and we're all grateful for his decision. Hard to ask for much more from a three minute scrap.

Masanobu Kurisu v Takashi Okamura (Kitao Pro, 6/14/94)

Sloppy, reckless, violent, wonderful little mess. I don't know if Okamura had even offered to shake Kurisu's hand at the start or not but Kurisu just marched up to him and slapped the boy across the face. Okamura can't have been wrestling long at this point. He's green as goose shit but it adds to the chaos as he's just letting loose with wild spin kicks and axe kicks and landing all awkwardly on everything. Kurisu murders him severely. Once or twice it looked like Okamura caught him flush in the face with a high kick, but no, Kurisu wasn't interested and headbutted him repeatedly in the ear. There can't have been many things more hellish to be on the receiving end of than Kurisu's stomps. Fucking hell he was trying to give this kid brain damage. FUTEN stomps to the back of the head, stomps to the ear, the face, the throat, back of the neck. It didn't matter how Okamura tried to cover up, he was getting stood on and it was going to suck. The half crab at the end was about as nasty as you'll see as Kurisu applied it with zero regard for the angle Okamura's knee. Either he's turning onto his front or his ACL will never be the same again.

Yoshiro Ito v Keisuke Yamada (NSPW, 9/24/94)

Cool little seven minutes of shoot style. I've never heard of NSPW before, couldn't tell you who the majority of people on this card were and I can't find anything on them actually running any other shows. Don't even know what NSPW stands for. There was a Jado, Gedo and Kodo Fuyuki six-man on top, but I've got nothing on the opponents and the only guy on the undercard I know I've seen before is Koichiro Kimura, who had a few lengthy fights in RINGS. This was described as a poor man's Vader/Tamura and that feels pretty apt. It's nowhere near as good, obviously, but it had the same sort of dynamic. Ito is a big jacked up guy that I don't think I've seen before even though CageMatch says he has a 25 year career under his belt. He had some cool throws, a few big suplexes and a string of powerbombs mean enough that you could buy a TKO. Yamada threw a couple brutal wheel kicks and hung in there pretty well for a guy getting dropped on his neck eight times. Possibly the best match in the esteemed history of NSPW.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Whiskey & Wrestling 600!

And so we reach another hundred posts. The sixth of such milestones since I started this blog eight whole fucking years ago. Eight years! Like the 500th and 400th before it, for entry 600 I re-watched some of my favourite matches ever and wrote about them. Such a momentous occasion should be celebrated, obviously. Plus I need an excuse not to be writing this dissertation.

Tomorrow I'll be back to the Kurisu.

The Rockers v Powers of Pain (WWF, 1/15/90)

I can't tell you how much I love this. It's been my favourite tag match from the second I first saw it, but I think with every re-watch it comes a little closer to being my favourite match, period. It's definitely one of the best sub-10 minute matches I've ever seen. Did the PoP ever match up with the RnRs or Fantastics in Crockett? Because I can't imagine anybody else getting anything close to this good out of them and I say that as a stupidly huge Barbarian stan. Jannetty was unbelievable in this and it might be his very best performance. All of the Rockers double teams were great, like the dropkick-schoolboy trip, the assisted crossbody, the dropkick into hurricanrana; everything looked awesome and the timing was spot on. But Marty Jannetty taking a shit kicking was what made this special and maaaaan did Marty Jannetty take a shit kicking. This was on par with your best Ricky Morton heat segments, the way he had the crowd biting on every hope spot, the amazing selling and the little moments that really put it over the top, like when he desperately tried to grab hold of the barricade as Barbarian ran him into the post. What he had over even Morton was the bumps. I mean Morton is a first class bumper, but that backdrop bump was fucking insanity and then he went and topped it with the second one. Gorilla Monsoon is the king of ridiculous commentary lines but he might've undersold it when he said Jannetty was twelve feet in the air. To be fair to them as well, the Powers never messed around when they were in control. They took over when Warlord hit a powerbomb (which played off an earlier hurricanrana spot, so there's another bit of awesome) and easily could've thrown on a few bearhugs while working Jannetty's taped up ribs. Instead they launched him all over the place and went after those ribs in far more interesting fashion. There was some clubbering, but it was fine clubbering, Marty gave it a little extra weight as he was never content to just stand there and be clubbed (or whacked with a cane), and Barbarian was super fun with his cut-offs. I guess you could say the finish was a touch soft, but that's about the only thing I'd have wanted more from. The Rockers were incredible and I'll probably watch this again in three weeks and love it even more.

Bryan Danielson v Low-Ki (JAPW, 6/7/02)

Truly awesome, unique match. The first time I watched it I thought it was about as close to RINGS as I'd ever seen in the US, but this time I thought it was equally derivative of Battlarts (whether it was intentional or not). It's a mash-up of the two and it sort of invites you to run wild with the comparisons. An American juniors version of Ishikawa v Ikeda with Dragon as Ishikawa and Ki as Ikeda? Danielson as Otsuka and Ki as Usuda? Sure, why not. Danielson was incredible in it and I think it's my all-time favourite performance of his. Some of the grappling might legitimately be the best I've ever seen in America; slick and fluid in parts then rugged and gritty in others. It was like Volk Han if Volk Han ever worked Battlarts, and I realise how preposterously hyperbolic that sounds but it's a pretty good indication of where I was at with Dragon here. Those crossface forearms were filthy as all get out and he was determined to take an arm or leg home with him as a trophy. There is absolutely no chance he'll get to stretch out and do anything like this now that WWE's cleared him to wrestle again, but I really wish it was the approach he took more often. Ditch the headbutts and crazy bumps, just twist people into pretzels. It's not like anybody in WWE hits like Low-Ki either, so he could probably manage to parley this sort of match into another five years' worth of work without having to worry about cauliflowering his brain. Ki wasn't simply a passenger in this, he held his own on the mat and his striking was obviously good, but it was hard not to look second best on the night. To say he was a poor man's Ikeda isn't an insult. Maybe he was actually a poor man's Takeshi Ono and that's not an insult either. But Danielson was the richest poor man's Ishikawa you could've asked for.

Lizmark v Jerry Estrada (AAA, 6/18/93)

Title match Jerry Estrada is such a different animal from apuestas Jerry Estrada. It's sort of strange watching him run the ropes and not fall over because he's guttered. Maybe he goes on a detox in the lead up to a title match. Depending on the day you ask me he might be one of my ten favourite wrestlers ever so to me this match will always be about him, but I really did think he was excellent in it. Rudo starting out sportingly before losing his cool and embracing his true nature isn't a particularly complex or uncommon story for a wrestler to tell. Ric Flair stopped by every territory to wrestle every young babyface challenger there was and told that very story a hundred times. But it's not one I'd seen Jerry Estrada tell before. The primera doesn't have the sharpest or most interesting matwork. It certainly isn't flashy, but I enjoyed the struggle well enough. What it was most notable for was how Lizmark had the clear beating of Estrada. It didn't much matter what Jerry did, Lizmark was the champion for a reason and he had an answer for everything. I thought the segunda was a little abrupt even by the standards of short second falls in a lucha title match, but it did give us that moment where Estrada decided he was done playing nice. He started the match with a handshake and a round of applause for the champ, but it got him nowhere. His reaction after Lizmarkk submitted to the Media Cerrajera basically told you there'll be less respect and more aggression going forward. He even ditched the hairband, and if that's not a sign of what was to come then I don't know what is. The third caida was where they really ramped up the drama. Jerry had dropped the pretense of sportsmanship and roughed Lizmark up, much like Flair might have after he'd tired of breaking clean and started digging people in the ribs instead. He also knew the Media Cerrajera was his ticket and he kept going back to it. Both of the big dives looked great and by the end they'd managed to capture that sense that one mistake was all the other guy needed. And in the post-match, unlike Flair, Estrada even managed to show a little grace. Maybe he's not such a scumbag after all.

Toshiaki Kawada v Akira Taue (All Japan, 1/15/91)

I'm not the first person to make this point, but Baba really should've rolled out this kind of match more often throughout the decade. In the context of 90s All Japan it feels remarkably fresh and unique, less about building to that epic crescendo and more about two guys trying to kill each other the old fashioned way. It was more Mid-South than All Japan, replete with the blood and brawling you'd get in a Jim Duggan bar fight. The way they knock lumps out each other is what you remember most, with Taue even juicing from a Kawada chair-mauling, but everything they did around Kawada's knee was a cool thread running all the way through. Taue never worked it over like you'd typically expect him to, but then this wasn't your typical King's Road. He smashed it into the guardrail and wrapped it around the post and went after it with a chair, then when Kawada tried to make his comebacks Taue could just go back to the leg to shut him down. Of course Kawada would still kick Taue in the face even when he was stuck in a kneebar so it meant Taue had to improvise, but at least it gave him something to go to if he needed to regroup. Kawada was as good as you'd expect working from underneath, selling the leg and firing back in brutal ways. At one point he unloaded with a flurry of heabutts and wound up covered in Taue's blood. Plus there's the finish. What a fucking decapitation that was, made even better with hindsight knowing how they harken back to it throughout the year. Badass fight. In a perfect world we'd have gotten more of it (he says while taking a bazooka to the gift horse's mouth).

There we have it. Eight years and six hundred posts. Here's to six hunner more!

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

The Grass is Not Always Greener on Kurisu's Side

Masanobu Kurisu v Tarzan Goto (FMW, 1/7/90)

What a delicious wee slice of indy sleaze. This had all the potato shots and grimy nastiness you want in an eight minute Kurisu/Tarzan Goto match. I remember reading the old DVDVRs and they'd refer to Goto as Tarzan Scroto and I guess I convinced myself he must be shit because he's a little fat guy working a deathmatch fed. Thankfully common sense has prevailed and general opinion on Goto has since improved. I mean he is a little fat guy working a deathmatch fed, but he's an awesome little fat guy working a deathmatch fed and at this point in my life as a fan I'd much rather watch him than most of the junior heavyweights I was hunting down tapes of back then. His ribs are all taped up in this and approximately thirty seconds into the match Kurisu leathers him repeatedly with a chair. Right across the ribs and midsection, just over and over. He took a quick break from hitting him with a chair so he could punch him in the kidneys and punt him in the side, then went and grabbed another chair and hit him with it a bunch more. Goto was super vocal with the selling and it was pretty great, trying to lift Kurisu for a slam before buckling over in pain, yelling in even greater pain as Kurisu headbutted his spleen and dug his elbow into the ribs. I loved all of the Kurisu offence as it was as simple and primal as you could get, and of course it was almost unnecessarily stiff. Why bother trying to get fancy? The guy has taped up ribs for a reason, just kick him and grind your fist into the general area. At some point they both start staring each other down while trading coconut headbutts. Headbutts to the ear, to the cheekbone, forehead to forehead like two bowling balls colliding. After the match Kurisu is either presented with a giant trophy or maybe steals one from somewhere and cracks it over Onita's head, which leads to Onita cutting one of his weepy promos about betrayal or whatever. I'm assuming it sets up a match and I'm assuming I'll want to watch it.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

So Many People With So Much to Do, Winter So Cold Tenryu's Hands Turn Blue

Genichiro Tenryu, Toshiaki Kawada & Hiromichi Fuyuki v Jumbo Tsuruta, Isao Takagi & Mighty Inoue (All Japan, 1/26/90) - GREAT

So Pete on PWO has unearthed a ton of 80s/early 90s Japanese handheld footage over the last few months, and if this is anything to go by then what a treasure trove he may have stumbled upon. There wasn't a ton of Jumbo v Tenryu in this, which on the surface might sound disappointing, but boy did they make up for it with every other pairing. Mighty and Takagi were an awesome pair of portly underdogs, taking it right to Tenryu whenever they had the chance. Maybe it had something to do with Tenryu shit talking Inoue pre-match, but the wee fella was extra fired up and even came out on top of a few strike exchanges. I loved his fatboy sentons, loved Takagi shoulderblocking Tenryu off the apron, and pretty much every time they stepped to Tenryu it was great. Naturally Tenryu got more and more fed up with it as it went on and started kicking them in the eye and chopping them in the throat. At one point he stomped clean on Inoue's face and I think it might've popped his nose (it was a little difficult to tell from where it was shot). Jumbo wasn't in there for long, but I liked how his first involvement in the match was him instantly trying to rupture Kawada's spleen with kneelifts. He's still the Big Dog at this point in time so I guess it was only fitting that he swung the tide when he saw fit to. It set up a run of Kawada-in-peril and it allowed Inoue to bust out the abdominal claw so that was also pretty great. Things started to get hectic towards the end with potato shots being flung every which way and pinfalls and submissions being broken up in nasty fashion. There was no fifteen minute finishing run, but you could already see them working out the formula for where they'd go with this sort of match in the near future. After the bell Inoue grabs the mic and I guess says something about Tenryu not being such as smart ass now and Tenryu goes total fucking badger shit. I usually associate the big pull apart brawls with WAR Tenryu, but this had tables and chairs and whatever Inoue said I assume he came to regret it.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Monday, 19 March 2018

Tenryu Had Some Hits and a Few Big Misses, He gave 'Em Hell and Got a Few Stitches

Genichiro Tenryu & Hiromichi Fuyuki v The British Bulldogs (All Japan, 1/25/89) - FUN

This was like 85% Bulldogs. You maybe expect them to run riot over Fuyuki, but Tenryu gave them a ton as well and that meant he never really got to stretch out on offence. When he did fire back he was pretty subdued. I don't think he threw any unnecessary chops to anybody's throat and nobody got kicked in the eye. Dynamite looked a little broken down at this point, but Davey's stuff mostly looked good and chucked Tenryu onto a table with a big gorilla press slam. The last five-six minutes took an interesting turn when Tenryu wound up with a split chin and the Bulldogs started working over the cut. It's a pretty unusual body part to work over, not like a cut on the forehead where you can bite and claw in obvious fashion, but Davey noticed it and went after it straight away. At one point he even started biting Tenryu's chin which was pretty awesome. Finish didn't come off too great as there was a bit of miscommunication, but Fuyuki bridging Davey Boy for about eight hours after hitting the German was sort of impressive.

Genichiro Tenryu & The Road Warriors v Kevin Sullivan, Steve Williams & Mike Rotunda (WCW Clash of the Champions V: St. Valentine's Massacre, 2/15/89) - SKIPPABLE

This was mostly nothing. I hoped we'd maybe get a little Tenryu v Dr. Death but Tenryu's involvement was mostly limited to matching up with Rotunda. It seemed like a conscious decision for that to happen as well. Like, when Tenryu was in there Rotunda made a point of being the guy on the opposite end. I watched the version that aired in Japan so it was amusing hearing the commentator flip for Tenryu hitting a dropkick and an enziguri while the crowd barely reacts. Some bullshit happens with Sting, Hayes and JYD being unlocked from a cage and hitting the ring and a there's a big pull apart DQ and WCW was a hell of a place.

Genichiro Tenryu & Toshiaki Kawada v Abdullah the Butcher & Great Kimala (All Japan, 3/3/89) - FUN

Fun little novelty. You probably know what you're getting out of this when you see it on a match list. Kawada isn't yet the Kawada who hated everyone and kicked them really hard in the face, but it's still sort of surreal seeing him get stabbed in the head and conked with a big mahogany mask. Kimala was biting the cut and drinking his blood and Kawada was just crawling around helplessly. Tenryu coming in off the hot tag and lacing into a couple fatties is what you wanted and I loved him getting sick of all the stabbing and going ape shit with a chair. This was like seven minutes long and worth it for the oddball factor of a cannibal from Uganda abusing Kawada.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Katsuyori Shibata v Kazushi Sakuraba (New Japan, 7/5/15)

Man this was awesome. Shibata is someone I love in the right setting and roll my eyes at when he indulges his New Japan main event side, but this was almost exclusively what I like about him condensed into thirteen minutes. Sakuraba is in his mid-40s and looks it, graying at the sides, his scraggly facial hair and his J League superfan ring gear. Shibata kicks lumps out of him and there's a great bit where he's doing his running corner dropkicks as Sakuraba just lays hunched up like a man who's forgotten why he's still doing this. He can't strike with Shibata, he'll lose that battle every day, so he has to dig into his bag and use everything that made him the Gracie Hunter. I loved all of his quick throws and submissions, going for kneebars to set up armbars to set up chokes like a man younger than his years. At points he was literally crawling all over Shibata, tying up his legs and his arms at the same time forcing to Shibata to grab the ropes with his teeth. My favourite was the fight for the cross armbreaker that he managed to turn into a choke with his fucking ankles. Some of Shibata's selling was unbelievable, especially while in the chokes, and I about lost it when his eyes started rolling back like he was about drop (crowd picked up on it and popped huge too). Shibata getting back into it with the strikes was probably inevitable, but I thought it was great how he went to the choke to wear Sakuraba out for the penalty kick, knowing that it didn't work going for it off the bat earlier. I loved this.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Tenryu with the Long Black Hair, Do You Know What Lies 'Neat the Long Coat That He Wears?

Genichiro Tenryu & Jumbo Tsuruta v Roger Kirby & Guy Mitchell (AWA, 2/10/79) - FUN

Young Tenryu with the wispy moustache! I figured this was going to be Jumbo and Tenryu as dastardly foreign heels, but in a refreshing twist it was Jumbo and Tenryu as plucky foreign babyfaces. Tenryu was still pretty raw here and threw punches that were more like forearm clubs to the chest, as opposed to potato shots to the cheekbone. He was armdraggy and dropkicky and his house o' fire didn't involve him punting anyone in the eye. It's not the Tenryu you know and love, but it's always cool to see him as a fresh-faced young twenty nine year old. The heel unit were pretty fun ruffians, especially Kirby who threw some nice punches and later on got huge height on a backdrop. He and Mitchell worked a fairly basic peril segment on Jumbo, running distractions so the ref' missed the hot tag twice, choking, standard double teams, etc., but it worked for what it was. Tenryu doing a Ricky Steamboat small package reversal to the scoop slam at the end was cool. In the eight thousand Tenyu matches I've watched over the years that might be the first time I've seen him do that. 

Genichiro Tenryu v Katsuyori Shibata (New Japan, 8/13/04) - EPIC

Sensational five minutes of pandemonium. Shibata is basically the prototype for your chest-puffed, dick-swinging tough guy and Tenryu is an old man who doesn't have time for his shit. Tenryu has no interest in bragging about how hard he can hit someone, his interest lies in the hitting itself. The opening exchange was truly wonderful and ended with maybe the best double punch spot I've ever seen, followed by Shibata grabbing a guillotine and refusing to let go. It pretty soon spills to the floor and Shibata is such a smug prick beating on this pensioner, kicking him up and down the place, throwing him into ring posts, even threatening him with a glass bottle until the ref' talks him down. Of course this just sends Tenryu off on one and he cannot be talked down. The old man is pissed and about ready to glass someone. Shibata just keeps pushing it, though. Slaps Tenryu, punches him in the face, goads him because he thinks Tenryu won't use the bottle. Tenryu punches him back, but he still won't drop that bottle and the ref' is pleading with him because he obviously knows Tenryu better than Shibata does. I don't know if it was brinkmanship or blind stupidity. Maybe he thought riling Tenryu up was the easiest path to victory, but either way he cracked him once too often. Tenryu jabbing him in the throat with the bottle and smashing it over his head was about the greatest payoff to ninety seconds of build that there's ever been. Tenryu might be the king of the five minute match.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Everybody's Dying, This Town's Closing Down. They're All Sittin' Down at the Courthouse Waiting for Tenryu to Take the Flag Down

Genichiro Tenryu v Tatsuo Nakano (WAR, 5/26/96) - GREAT

What an insanely fun five minutes. In a lot of ways it probably went how you thought it would. Nakano is clearly in way over his head, but he's a capable striker, has a submission game, and perhaps most importantly he's willing to engage in any slugfest you put in front of him. Tenryu is one of the most giving top guys in history and he usually manages to do it without compromising his status, so if nothing else you figure this would work stylistically. And I mean, obviously he'll slugfest with anyone. Tenryu's selling for Nakano's strikes was pretty amazing, how he'd get rocked and make those knockdowns feel important. Nakano probably never had a chance of actually winning, but Tenryu at least made it look like the miracle could happen. He'd hit back with the sumo slaps and I'm utterly astounded that Nakano's nose never exploded across his face for a change. I'm not sure who Tenryu started shit talking in the crowd - maybe Takada? - but whoever it was gave Nakano enough of an opening to kick Tenryu in the head some more. Tenryu scoring the win with leg kicks and a half crab was a pretty great fuck you to them UWF boys, too.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Shinobu Kandori v Yumiko Hotta (LLPW, 3/21/98)

This is about as close to a joshi Ikeda/Ishikawa as you'll get, with the added wrinkle of only being winnable via submission or knockout. It had Hotta playing crowbar Ikeda and Kandori playing tough as shoe leather Ishikawa; not quite pure sriker v pure grappler, but you knew what each woman's bread and butter was. They put across the uncooperative grittiness straight away with the rough scramble that lands them on the floor, then Hotta ratchets the violence all the way up by punting Kandori clean in the face. Many outrageous kicks to the face were thrown in this match and Hotta was responsible for basically every one of them. She also tried to break Kandori's guard by headbutting her a bunch of times and this led to her own forehead being split open. Kandori's selling was really tremendous at times, particularly when she was trying to beat the ten count after one of Hotta's kicks to the head or face or ear. She'd also yank Hotta into chokes and armbars, then reach that point where she got fed up being cracked in the face so she'd start throwing headbutts and palm thrusts in return. My favourite moment of the match might've been when she was repeatedly headbutting Hotta and her bleach blond hair wound up covered in Hotta's blood, which left her looking like Flair after he's had his face ground into a cage. Finish was pretty great as well. Hotta hits a mean high angle powerbomb, and maybe she's disoriented from the blood loss or whatever, but he tries to transition straight into a pin. Ref' tells her no, after a few seconds she comprehends, but Kandori snatches her and locks in a triangle for the stoppage. A supremely violent twelve minutes and a great find.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Wrestlemania III

I stuck this on the other night as I was doing stuff for work. I wound up doing little work and actually watched the whole show over the course of a few days. I thought about watching Starrcade '87 to compare the big WWF and Crockett shows from that year, but then I realised I am a grown adult with a job and a dissertation to finish so maybe I'll just drop the idea and revisit it at a later date. Just think how much time I could waste writing about pro-wrestling if I'd finished my degree the first time. Oh well. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery.

Can-Am Express v Bob Orton & Don Muraco

Nice fun little opener. With more of a heat segment this could've been what the hipsters call "a ***1/4 affair," but as is we got plenty of neat babyface shine. The Can-Ams mostly work the arm with arm-wringers, a few quick tags and your hiptoss/armdrag takedowns. Orton thinks he's shaken Zenk, but Zenk keeps hold of the arm and drags him back to the mat face-first. The double monkey flip was cool, Orton's bump over the top looked good, and I liked the finish with Martel hitting the crossbody as Zenk crouches behind Muraco for the schoolboy trip. Doesn't top Rockers v Haku/Barbarian for under the radar Wrestlemania tag openers, but I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up being one of the three best matches on the show.

Hercules v Billy Jack Haynes

Herc's HGH gut is wild. It's not quite at that point where it's super distended and blocky, but he is absolutely juiced to the gills and somehow makes Billy Jack look natural in comparison. This wasn't great or anything, but I expected it to be a bag of shit and it wasn't that either so...happy days? Hercules absolutely slabbered Haynes with a clothesline early and that set up a spell of back work, which Haynes sold pretty well for a minute there. He was hunched over and it gave him so much bother he couldn't even suplex Herc. Herc wasn't amazing on offence or anything, but he did hit one big vertical suplex that he really threw himself into, almost turning it into a brainbuster. The post-match beatdown was a touch nastier than I remembered and Billy Jack blading was something else I'd forgotten. You kind of grade these 7 minute matches between guys who aren't all that good on a curve, and for what it was I thought this was fine.

King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo & Lord Littlebrook v Hillbilly Jim, Haiti Kid & Little Beaver

Imagine being a midget wrestler. Yahoos like Hillbilly Jim picking you up like you're a literal child and condescendingly patting you on the head. You're either a goofy comedy act or a psychopath that bites people in the arse (Hornswoggle). Sometimes both (Hornswoggle). I'd have taken my shit to Mexico. That said, Little Beaver absolutely deserved to be squashed like a grape. If nothing else Bundy should be commended for treating him like an equal! What did he expect? You slap Bundy's keister and keep pushing his buttons you better believe he'll react. Raylan Givens said it best: "Y'all go poking the bear and it's his fault when you get bit."

Harley Race v Junkyard Dog

King Harley and Queen Moolah. I could see Harley being an okay king. Hard but fair. Firm but not inflexible. Maybe not loved by the people, but in time I could see them coming to at least accept him. Moolah, though. Like Cersei Lannister with none of the good parts (...youthful exuberance?) and all of the worst dialed up to eleven. Call me a fool, but I thought this was pretty fun! Again, it only lasted a few minutes, but it was a highlight reel of old man Harley Race bumping. He faceplanted on a missed headbutt off the fucking apron to the floor, took an over the top rope bump where he hit his face on the apron, conked JYD with a falling headbutt that did more damage to himself (as a black man JYD has a four inch cranium, obviously), took his signature flip bump from the apron back in the ring, even gave us the slowest Flair Flip in the corner you've ever seen. He knew he had four minutes and he was going to make it count. I say this probably once a year, but I ought to do a mini-deep dive on Race. I'm pretty confident that his stuff in Japan does nothing for me at all, but his post-world champ run usually delivers the goods.

Rougeau Brothers v Dream Team

I watched this three hours before writing about it and I didn't remember a thing that happened other than the Beefcake turn at the end. I actually forgot it even happened until I went to Wikipedia to check how long the next match lasted. The Rougeaus are a fun babyface unit, Valentine is great and Beefcake can be fine so I'll assume it was watchable, but that's honestly all I have. It was short. Things happened. Blanks must be filled. You can do it.

Roddy Piper v Adrian Adonis

I've got a lot of time for Piper dropping Springsteen lines in his pre-match promo. "No retreat, baby, no surrender!" Tell'm, Hot Rod! I loved every second of this madness. The crowd are red hot for the whole thing and I loved Piper flinging Jimmy Hart all around the ring early on. He flung him into then onto then damn near through Adonis, whipped them both with a strap, people were going ballistic. Then Adonis took over and I'm a fan of him playing to the exotico gimmick by raking Piper's back and chest. Piper's punch drunk selling ruled and he managed to throw in his GOAT-level eye poke. Adonis and Hart celebrating prematurely after Goodnight Irene, Beefcake morphing into The Barber right before our very eyes (don't know why he was actually out there, don't really care), Adonis smashing himself in the face with a big fuck off pair of shears, the old carny trick of smacking a guy on the neck to wake him up from a sleeper hold, the post-match head shaving, Adonis audibly shouting "WHAT THE FUCK?!" when he sees his reaction in the mirror, I loved all of it. One of the most fun sub-ten minute spectacles in WWF history.

British Bulldogs & Tito Santana v The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis

This was alright. Bret looked motivated to get his ten minutes on the card and took a couple big bumps, including his sternum-first turnbuckle bump. Dynamite also yanked him about five feet off the canvas by the hair and I always cringe when he does that. Danny Davis entered the match twice, threw two kicks, grinned, tagged back out, and got more heat than anyone all night. Davey Boy finally running rampant on him was sort of terrifying in one of those Steiner Brothers murdering enhancement talent ways. Perfectly solid six-man.

Butch Reed v Koko B. Ware

This is an honest to god dream match of mine, but four minutes on a Wrestlemania midcard isn't the same as twenty minutes in the Sam Houston Coliseum. We got some great punches, TWO awesome Koko Ware dropkicks, a big bump over the top from Reed, and then a double dropkick from Tito and Koko as Reed STEALS one with a handful of tights. Reed was probably past his best in '87, but I still want to believe there's a Reed/Santana match on a Boston or MSG card that's as good as their Houston match. What are we if not dreamers?

Randy Savage v Ricky Steamboat

I'd gone back and forth on this for years. I always wanted more hate, I wanted blood, I wanted Steamboat to throttle Savage. It had always left me underwhelmed until about a decade ago when I watched the entire feud. Context helped it and so did that interview that was an extra on the Wrestlemania 3 DVD or whatever, with Steamboat talking about this being his last chance at the belt, how he'd come back from injury and let his temper get out of control and how it never got him anywhere. It might've been a convenient way to get out of someone bleeding in the blowoff to the big blood feud, but if nothing else it worked and added the layer that made it all click. I'm not sure I'd still call it a top 10 match in WWE history, but it's a great match. The main takeaway I had this time was that they built the hell out of this thing. It wasn't like it started out with no heat. People were into it from the start, as you'd expect. But by the end, even with the phantom heel pinfall and the fact they never COMPLETELY pulled the trigger on that clean win, the place was molten hot. Hebnar was gassed out of his mind towards the end and people were just losing it for every roll up and nearfall. It had lots of cool little throwbacks to the major points of the feud. Some of them I wish they maybe did a bit more with, like Savage working the throat and Steamboat playing up those moments where he'd turn loose, but I thought things like the nearfall off the finish to the Toronto match and Savage going for the bell came off great. Even Savage coming out and moving Elizabeth as far away as possible from Steele touched on the history. I suppose they could've done more with that brief bit of arm work. I'd maybe have liked for them to do away with a bit of the back and forth so Savage could have a longer stretch on top. I'll never love that phantom pinfall. It didn't really matter, though. What they gave us was an exceptional bit of pro-wrestling and one of the more iconic matches the company's ever had.

Jake Roberts v Honky Tonk Man 

Pretty by the numbers, but Honky was effective as a heat magnet around this point so at least the crowd were into it. Jake threw some okay punches and took a nice bump into the guardrail, while Honky did the Terry Funk teeter-totter spot in the ropes and shook his hips to rile folk up. I don't know if Jimmy Hart is terrified of snakes or what, but he sure wanted no part of Damian post-match. If it came to a fist fight between him and Alice Cooper, my money would be on the Colonel (for some reason I totally forgot Gorilla would always refer to Jimmy as that. "The Colonel Jimmy Hart." Was that just a Gorilla thing or was it an actual moniker he used in the WWF?). 

Killer Bees v Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff 

Also by the numbers, but we got a Jim Brunzell dropkick so you take the five minutes of by the numbers. Compromises and whatnot. Volkoff singing the Soviet national anthem pre-match is always great because people will start flinging rubbish at the ring and it never gets anything but crazy heat. I also love how Slick came back out to the ring with his clothes all torn up after the Tito mauling from earlier.

Hulk Hogan v Andre the Giant

I've always liked this. Hogan's had better matches built around bodyslamming a larger opponent, but he has every single person in that stadium on strings and if nothing else it's certainly a spectacle. I thought it was worked smartly as well. Andre is nearly immobile so he's mostly clubs, headbutts and a bearhug. He uses the clubs and the bearhug to work the back, which they establish as a story point early when Hogan fails to slam Andre the first time. The bearhug isn't riveting or anything, but they never lost the crowd and the reaction for Hogan fighting back from the brink is special. The headbutts were my favourite, because when they connect they're sold as being devastating. Then when they miss they're sold as being devastating. The first time he misses he headbutts the turnbuckle and it gives Hogan an opening. Andre cuts him off after a brief flurry, but they establish a way out for Hogan. Avoid the headbutt and maybe you can use it against him. The second time they escalate it as Andre headbutts the post, and that's really Hogan's inroad. I guess they backtrack on that idea when Andre backdrops Hogan on the concrete (well, that was the intention. It didn't come off great), but Andre was groggy from then on out. Everyone goes ballistic for Andre being taken off his feet, then more ballistic for the slam, then EVEN MORE BALLISTIC for the legdrop. It's one of the defining moments of Hulkamania and a cool way to cap off one of the most successful wrestling shows there's ever been.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Who is the King of All of the Potatoes?!

Shinya Hashimoto v Masa Kurisu (New Japan, 8/3/90)

I fucking love Kurisu. Never has there been a grumpier potato-farming bastard in all of the pro-wrestling. What a highly unpleasant little man. This was basically ten minutes of two guys who will crowbar you stupid crowbarring each other stupid, so of course it was tremendous fun. Kurisu was headbutting Hash in the ear and cheekbone, really laying it in with the kicks, all to set him up for some steel chair mauling. He's determined to get Hash out the ring long enough to smash him with that chair, but Hash knows Kurisu's game and keeps scooting back in the ring. Kurisu is obviously vexed by this and starts throwing chairs around and then he just punts Hash in the balls. When he finally gets his chance to unload with the chairs you know he makes the most of it, breaking one over Hash's head and bringing it into the ring with him as a pet. Hash was buck wild with the kicks, just hammering Kurisu under the chin, walloping him in the ear with overhand chops. And the DDTs. Good grief. That first one was absolutely hellish and I thought he'd killed the wee fella. He'd have deserved it too, you know.