Friday, 12 December 2014

Tenryu and Anjoh - Rockstars Today Ain't Half as Real

Genichiro Tenryu v Yoji Anjoh (WAR, 7/21/96) - GREAT

This ruled, obviously. It's a lot like the '97 match (which I'd already seen), but even better. It follows the same pattern of Anjoh being a shitweasel and Tenryu being a ticking timebomb. Anjoh is in full on douchebag mode early on, throwing shots and winding Tenryu up then bailing to the floor and making those faces Anjoh will make. The more he does this the more Tenryu will progressively up the violence, from regular chopping to a wild lariat to throat chopping. Then he goes off and murders Anjoh. There's one bit where Anjoh has the mount so Tenryu rabbit punches him in the nose and starts pulling at bits of his face. Every punch Tenryu throws seems to be stiffer and nastier than the one before it. The one where he gets Anjoh in the corner and cracks him in the cheekbone was particularly hideous. It was like, you know Anjoh is a shithead, but does he really deserve that? Finish is also similar to the '97 match where Anjoh kicks out of the powerbomb into an armbar, and people are genuinely believing that Tenryu might go down here. The last lariat Tenryu throws probably loosened Anjoh's bowels. Anjoh takes a cheapshot post-match and unashamedly walks away celebrating like he just won the thing. Then Tenryu grabs a mic and challenges Takada and holy smokes that is gonna fucking rule.


Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Complete & Accurate Anjoh

Monday, 16 June 2014

Virus is Raising Hell, Livin' Down in Texas. Probably Aught to be in Jail from the Stories that He Tells Us

Virus v Titan (CMLL, 1/28/14) - EPIC

Virus title matches are one of my favourite things in current wrestling. We've gotten at least one every year for the last four years, all of them have been him up against a young tecnico, and all have been excellent. Titan isn't amazing on the mat, but he can handle himself well enough and Virus is pretty much a master of taking someone that can handle themselves well enough and hand walking them through a matwork caida. Virus works the leg for a bit in the segunda, and it's all good stuff. At one point he just tackles Titan at the knees and it looked like something Ndamukong Suh would do to a mail man. Titan opts against selling it and makes his comeback fresh as a daisy, which was kinda annoying, but I guess this is still Titan and you can't get everything you'd like. As good as Virus is at leading young guys through matwork caidas, he might be even better at laying out and building a third caida in a title match. I mean, you won't confuse a 2014 CMLL title match with a 1990 CMLL title match, but Virus title matches tend to have touches of what made those 1990 matches so great, while tailoring them to fit into the modern day formula. You're guaranteed to get at least one insane spot and/or bump in a Virus title match, too. This time Virus dropkicks Titan off the ropes and Titan takes a nasty spill on the apron, then Virus fucking crushes him dead with a somersault plancha to the floor (with an awesome camera angle to make it look even better). Virus just had his second big title match of 2014 with Fuego yesterday. If it's anything less than good I'll be stunned.


Complete & Accurate Virus

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Ambrose v Wyatt!

Dean Ambrose v Bray Wyatt (Smackdown!, 6/13/14)

So Ambrose is pretty much 2009 Christian at this point. Every week on TV since the turn (and before that) he's been awesome. This was like one of those Christian matches where he sells nerve damage in his elbow or something, but I think I like Ambrose even more just because he injects so much character into it. He starts out all frantic like he usually does, grinding his wrist across Bray's eyes, using all of his limbs in really awkward ways to inflict punishment. Bray then catches him off a plancha and does his Vader-ish chokeslam throwing Ambrose into the ring apron shoulder first. Ambrose's sell of the shoulder is awesome from then on out. He kind of throws his shoulder into the mat and turnbuckles at one point like he's trying to knock it back into place, and there's a great bit where Bray has him in a nerve hold and Ambrose's arm is twitching and quivering like he has no control over it. Re-watching a bunch of ROH from the last decade I got real sick real quick of Nigel McGuinness' rebound lariat, but Ambrose seems to be using it as a regular hope spot now and it looks totally killer. It never looks contrived when he does it, because he's doing it with enough speed and snap that it actually looks like he's hitting it on the rebound. Nigel would just sorta stand a guy in the middle of the ring, half fall through the ropes, bounce back and hit the lariat. Several dozen times a match. It started looking really goofy. Just hit the fucking ropes like normal and stop being a numpty about it. He'd generate more force that way, because at least then he wouldn't have to stagger his stride and awkwardly untangle himself from the ropes. None of that applies to Ambrose's version. I don't remember what Bray did here to send him into the ropes in the first place, but Dean sold it like something that would actually send you through the ropes, not just into them. There was a reason he hit the lariat that way, and it looked like something that made sense at that point in time, not just something that's been shoehorned in because it's a part of his moveset (I'll probably be bitching about Ambrose using the rebound lariat in six month's time, but for now I'm a fan). I liked Bray a bunch in this as well. He works the arm in neat ways and I love his cross body blocks. He did one where he was on the floor and squashed Ambrose's arm into the ring post, and the one he usually does where he really launches himself at a guy looked as good as I've ever seen it. It looks half like a cross body and half like a running clothesline, and it always looks badass. I'm leaning more towards saying Ambrose is the best worker in the world right now every time I see him.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Some 2014 CMLL (Panther & Sons)

Blue Panther, Black Panther & Cachorro v Felino, Puma & Tiger (CMLL, 3/24/14)

Heck of a trios sprint. Everybody looked really good here, but I was especially impressed with Panther's kids. Well, maybe I was especially impressed with Felino, since the last time I saw him all he did was wipe his armpit sweat in guys' faces, so I never knew he still had this in him even if I knew he did at one point (which I assumed had long passed us by). Cachorro and Black Panther were pulling out a bunch of nifty looking shit, though. Actually, everybody got to stretch out on the mat here, and the first caida was one of the better matwork caidas I've seen this year. Everything was turned up a notch and done at a much quicker pace than normal, and the Blue Panther/Tiger exchange was awesome. Felino and the Casas kids start getting chippy as the match goes on, and at one point they all threaten to walk out because the Panthers won't give them a handshake. Great bit where Tiger has Puma on his shoulders and Puma leans all the way back, only being held up there by Tiger keeping hold of his shins, then Tiger swings him forward and Puma splats down with a splash on Cachorro. Felino making a last ditch attempt to block Cachorro's tope was a great little touch, but the tope sending Puma twelve miles up the aisle was even better (camera man is standing in the aisle way and has to back pedal so as not to be wiped out by him, and we actually see this from his camera, which looked cool as shit). This might be the best CMLL trios from this year that I've watched so far.


Cachorro v Barbaro Cavernario (CMLL, 4/18/14)

I said you'd struggle to find a better sub-ten minute match this year than Hechicero/Cavernario, but I think this went and topped it. The Hechicero match had the bigger moments and nuttier big bump (barely), but this got a couple extra minutes to develop things a bit more. Cavernario was really great here -- he basically wrestles like how I'd imagine Captain Caveman would (he has a caveman gimmick), all loud and full steam ahead. I love his take on simple things like kneedrops, where he gets a ton of height and then comes crashing down with both knees across your chest. Great spot where he's on the apron and Cachorro is round the corner on the floor, so Cavernario hits a tope past the  inside of the ring post. There's an amazing sequence that starts with Cavernario taking a Buddy Rose bump through the ropes and Cachorro following up by crushing him with a fucking scud missile tope. He then tries another one, but Cavernario sidesteps it and Cachorro flies head first into the barricade. Cavernario then hits his splash from the top rope to the floor, and this thing is just ridiculous looking. Cachorro must've been shitting ribs for a week. Cachorro hanging in there long enough to pick his moment and catch Cavernario with a flash Fujiwara armbar is a finish his old man would've been proud of. This ruled.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Some 1996 Yearbook

Have you not sent goodhelmet money for these things yet? Why not?


Sabu v Rob Van Dam (ECW, 6/22/96)

RVD/Sabu matches are like those Beyond Wrestling matches to me. I know what I'm getting with Beyond Wrestling -- guys running through a bunch of spots from word one, trying to come up with new and cool stuff with no real semblance of "storytelling" or whatever. It's the definition of popcorn. There's no pretence of anything else. They're up front about what they are, and taking it at face value there are plenty of kicks to be gotten out of it. RVD/Sabu matches are wild spotfests where they do a bunch of crazy shit, usually involving tables and chairs, and that's about as far as it goes. If you're looking for anything else, look elsewhere, because you won't find it in an RVD/Sabu match. They don't try and present it as something that it's not. And taking it at face value, I get plenty of kicks out of RVD/Sabu matches. In some respects this might be the craziest of all their matches, because the ropes break after like a minute, and since most of what they do requires fully functioning ring ropes, the possibility of disaster increases tenfold. Fuck man, Sabu almost kills himself on average three times a match as is. So I was stunned at how much of what they were doing came off looking like it hit cleanly. And some of the shit they did was truly unbelievable. Sabu lays Van Dam on a table that's resting between the apron and barrier, then sets up a chair in the ring, which is to be used as a launchpad. He hits one set of ropes and launches off the chair onto the other set of ropes, but Van Dam's gotten up off the table and now he's standing in the crowd, so Sabu just dives OVER the table and lands on Van Dam and the fans. He then sets him up on the table again, does the same launchpad off the chair onto the rope, but Van Dam's gotten up again and now he's standing on the table...so Sabu just jumps down and hits an insane DDT through the table. One bit where Van Dam monkey flips Sabu out of the corner onto a chair, but the chair hasn't been placed flat down properly and there's a leg sticking up, and Sabu almost gets his prostate examined. There's really only one botch to speak of, and it was totally hilarious and awesome in its own right (Sabu launchpads off the chair and crotches himself on the top rope as if he actually meant to do it). I also love how in Sabu matches you'll get these great unintentional "little things" moments, usually because he's legit hurt himself. This time I think he almost breaks his fingers and tries to use his own wrist tape to band them together, and it's totally something I could imagine Ambrose doing nowadays (only Ambrose probably wouldn't have broken his own fingers for real). Post-match Sabu botches getting carried out on a stretcher. 


Nobuhiko Takada & Masahito Kakihara v Tatsumi Fujinami & Yoshiaki Fujiwara (UWFi, 6/24/96)

Fujiwara was completely amazing in this; like best in the world level good. This had a really fun dynamic with the younger kickpad-wearing strikers up against the tougher-than-shoe-leather vets that've been around since before kickpads were even a thing. Starts out pretty amicably with both teams kinda feeling each other out. Fujinami, Fujiwara and Takada know each other like the backs of their hands and do some of their old dance moves, finding their rhythm again after however many years. Kakihara is younger and has a point to prove though, so he throws shots early and often. None of them cause any real trouble, but he's eager. Then he catches Fujiwara in the eye with a nasty axe kick and Fujiwara goes buck fucking wild. Rest of the match is really about Fujiwara putting a beating on him because of that one kick. He immediately takes him down and throws pot shots to the back of the head, he takes a bunch of cheapshots (bit where he tags in Fujinami and throws a punch to the gut before getting out), chokes him on the ropes, etc. Now and again a shit eating grin will break on his face. Fujiwara and Takada are grappling near the Kakihara corner, and when Takada tags him in Fujiwara jumps on him before he even has a chance to properly step through the ropes. Finish is great. Kakihara's shots start troubling Fujiwara and he even scores a few knock downs. Fujiwara looks like he's actually struggling. Kakihara gets a bit overzealous and goes for a rolling kick, which Fujiwara easily dodges. Fujiwara realises this is his opening and mockingly tells Kakihara to get up and go again. Kakihara is young and foolish enough to fall for it, and this time Fujiwara is ready to pounce straight away. Fujiwara is the best ever at those flash finishes, and this one ruled. Great match.


Negro Casas, Felino & Satanico v El Dandy, Lizmark & Silver King (CMLL, 6/28/96)

I'm not sure this one of the real top tier trios of the year, but Casas was such an amazing douchebag in it that I loved it anyway. He and Dandy feel like the main match-up here. Every exchange is at least niggly, and Dandy is in no mood at all for Casas' horseshit. Casas just whinges and bitches about everything and Dandy gets more and more annoyed. He wants to wrestle, but if Casas keeps up the stupidity he has no problem throwing punches instead. There's only so much a guy can take, you know? They have this awesome exchange in the segunda where Dandy puts his dukes up for a fight, and Casas reluctantly does the same. He catches Dandy with a left hook that decks him (Dandy's KO sell was phenomenal), and now he's feeling a little more confident about throwing fists. Dandy gets back up and is ready for more, but Casas catches him with another left hook and Dandy is on the canvas again. Now Casas is practically dancing. This isn't nearly as bad as he thought it was going to be; in fact he's winning, so it's all good fun. He happily accepts a third round...except this time Dandy has him scouted, ducks the left hook and cracks him with one of his own, and Casas is affronted. The rudos eventually decide to rough it up and there's a close up of him gnawing on Dandy's shoulder in the corner (which fucking ruled). His preening and posturing is off the charts at this point, just revelling in self-satisfaction. Satanico is even surlier than usual here and matches up primarily with Lizmark, and it's all really good. They have a longish in-ring exchange in the third caida while the other four guys are brawling on the floor, like they have their own separate business to finish first. Dive train down the stretch is great and culminates with Dandy's lunatic no hands dive over the top (he almost spikes himself on his head). Going through this yearbook I've been thinking Dandy and Casas have looked like two of the best wrestlers in the world in '96. This does nothing to make me think otherwise. They both might be top 5 by year's end.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

More Shield (kinda)

The Shield & John Cena v The Wyatt Family (RAW, 6/9/14)

Jesus Christ is Dean Ambrose fucking great at the pro-wrestling right now or what? This wasn't up there with the real high end Shield/Wyatts stuff (well, I guess it's not REALLY Shield/Wyatts anyway), but at this point you can stick any sort of combination of these guys in the ring together and I'll be all over it. But fuck all that because Dean Ambrose. His initial burst of offence was awesome, darting around the ring hitting everything with a beard, doing a running flip senton on Rowan in the corner, facepalming Harper off the apron then wiping him out with a plancha; basically just picking fights with anybody not in his team. Then his FIP spell is even better. He has to be the best "little things" wrestler in the world right now. I mean, you'd think it'd be hard to keep coming up with interesting ways to get out of a head vice or a neck crank, but not for Ambrose. This time he bends Rowan's fingers to release the pressure initially, then grabs hold of the beard and starts headbutting him in the FACE. He has this hyperactive, coke-fuelled terminator vibe where you think someone is actually gonna have to kill him to keep him down. Even when he gets back up on his side of the apron after tagging out he looks like he's been hung, drawn and quartered. He also takes Harper's big boot squarely in the chin, every single time without fail. I'm digging how AWA-ish a lot of these tags are with the double heat segments. I've noticed it a bunch now, but I'm not sure when it actually started. Have they been doing it for a while? Cena as FIP is pretty much a can't fail prospect at worst, and he never topped Ambrose, but he gave it a shot all the same. Reigns is such a great hot tag at this point. He's kind of like a less manic Ambrose the way he sprints around and takes on everything in sight, except where Ambrose's offence looks frantic and scrappy, Reigns' looks like an Expendable's wet dream. He comes in and hits his awesome leaping clothesline, the superman punch (which Bray sells like he got clipped by a speeding truck's wing mirror), and his floor-to-apron dropkick on both sides of the ring. And for a move that I was thoroughly tired of seeing in WWE, the guy has a fuuuucking killer spear. It might not be the same without Rollins, but I'd be all for seeing two thirds of The Shield continuing to do their thing, because it's just about the most fun thing in wrestling right now.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

I Will Not Finish the 80s Lucha Set Before the World Cup

There's no way it's happening. But I'm still chipping away at it.


Satanico v Gran Cochisse (9/14/84)

In terms of classic lucha title matches I've never loved this as a personal favourite the way I do with Dandy/Casas, Damiancito/Cicloncito or Cota/Rocca (which is a new favourite having only seen it for the first time last year), but it's still an excellent match. The whole match kind of feels like a struggle between two guys that are at the very top of their game on the night, and there's a fair bit of parity with a few stand-offs and stalemates scattered throughout. The early matwork is great, but doesn't last very long. Satanico is a guy that makes everything feel like it's fought for. This is probably one of the best examples of a lucha title match where everything looks like it takes every bit of strength and energy to pull off, especially the longer it goes, and it leads to some of the best milking of holds and escapes I've ever seen. Both guys looks utterly spent in the tercera and it really feels like a fitting climax to such a match. There are a ton of great little bits all the way through - Satanico's escape out of the Gory Special, Cochisse turning down the handshake by kneeing  Satanico in the kidneys, the bit where they're on all fours staring each other out while folk in the crowd "woof," Satanico's neck selling in the tercera, a thousand other things - but there's no point going through all of them because then it's getting into play-by-pay territory. This is just a hell of a match. Probably top 10.


Sangre Chicana v MS-1 (Hair v Hair) (9/21/84)

This isn't their '83 match. That was a Match of Forever Candidate, while this is sort of abbreviated and somehow doesn't have any blood. If you expect something along the lines of the '83 match you'll be disappointed. That said, this is still really fucking good. I was actually surprised at how short it was. Checking how much time had passed after the second caida I was pretty stunned that it was sitting at nine minutes or so, because they manage to make it feel like they've been a war. Chicana has to seriously be considered in any discussion about greatest brawlers in wrestling history at this point. Same goes for greatest punchers. MS-1 jumps him at the bell here like he did the previous year, but this time Chicana actually makes a comeback in the first fall, and he does it with maybe the best punch I've ever seen thrown by a pro-wrestler. MS-1 spends a few minutes trying to choke him to death in the segunda, and this is some of the most violent and graphic looking choking I've seen. It was like Liev Schreiber in the Manchurian Candidate. Third fall is shorter than the first two, but you get a Chicana bullet tope and MS-1 launching himself into the sixth row like a fucking headcase, so how much can you really complain? You want every second of these guys in the ring together.


Villano III v Perro Aguayo (10/7/84)

I think this is the first time I've seen Perro in a title match setting. By the end I was feeling like he's still more suited to straight up bleeding and brawling, but I liked this a bunch, even if it did start getting a bit long in the tooth in the tercera. Early matwork is really cool, and Perro is better on the mat than I figured. Matwork is curbed when Villano suckers him in for a lock-up and dropkicks him flush in the teeth, which looked killer. Perro must do fifteen sentons in this, and they all look like they'd knock the stuffing out of you, but it maybe got a little repetitive the longer it went. His top rope double stomp to win the primera looked fucking sick, though. He tries it again in the tercera and misses, and Villano starts dropkicking both his knees. It doesn't really go anywhere, but it was a cool touch. The back and forth finishing run was good, but they dragged it on a bit and started feeling like a modern day junior heavyweight match where you kinda wish they'd just hurry up and end it already. Then we get a cop out double pin. Go figure. Still, I thought this was real good and it's probably gonna land in my top half.


El Dandy, Franco Colombo & Panico v Javier Cruz, Impacto & Solar II (10/48)

There's a clip job in here somewhere because we only get two falls (and I don't mean one team wins two straight), but I thought this was really good. This is the first Dandy match on the set and he looked great. About thirty seconds in he takes a crazy Randy Savage bump over the top and pretty much never looked back. There's a lot of super fun rudo miscommunication and stooging early with the tecnicos running them in circles. I've never seen Panico before, but he was a fun stooge here. At one point he's walking around the floor, isn't looking where he's going and basically posts himself, which was goofy, but I dug it. Then the rudos snap and make it a gang war, and Dandy is awesome at running around throwing amazing punches. He hits two insane sentons off the top rope where he kind of shifts his body sideways, so instead of landing on the flat of his back he's basically driving his hip bone into their chest. At a few points one of the tecnicos will come in and look to the crowd like "should I punch him?", but the rudos never leave them standing long enough to hear the answer, so eventually they drop that shit and just punch them like they should've all along. Last few minutes are pretty great, and Cruz hitting an electric chair drop off the middle rope was fucking lunacy. Dandy sells it post-match like he might actually be dead. This all sort of felt like it was building to the Dandy/Cruz hair match, and it got me excited about re-watching it for the first time in about six years.


Satanico v Super Astro (10/26/84)

Man, I thought this was fucking great. Satanico is on the short-list for best brawlers in wrestling history, so I knew what to expect from him here, but I thought Astro was really fun as well. He takes a bunch of cool bumps and his leaping headbutts all connect with sternum or cheekbone. For most of the first two falls it's really bully Satanico beating on tubby kid Astro for lunch money. Then when tubby kid Astro doesn't give him lunch money bully Satanico just brutalises him. He's even more vicious in the segunda after dropping the first fall, chewing on Astro's forehead, throwing godly punches, and there's this amazing bit where he's ramming Astro's head into the bottom turnbuckle while Astro lies there like a corpse. Third caida is awesome. Satanico is one of the best "tastes his own blood" wrestlers ever. Astro splits him open and Satanico wipes his hand across his head, looks at the blood on his palm and just launches himself at Astro like he's trying to honest to goodness murder him. They're both on their knees and Satanico cracks him with a punch, so Astro reels back until his upper body is flat on the mat, then springs back up and forward with a headbutt to the chest. I don't remember seeing anybody do that before and it was awesome. Finish is great as well, with Astro's cradle off the rana looking as tight as I've ever seen it. All this needed to really fire it into the stratosphere was a Super Astro tope. I'll be a high voter on this for sure, but right now I've got it top 5.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Shield v Wyatts: The Rematch

The Shield v The Wyatt Family (RAW, 3/3/14)

Fuck my face, this was amazing as well. I really didn't think there was much between this and the first match. This one is certainly more chaotic on the whole, especially from the very start with Rollins doing the double flip dives cleaning house. You get the double FIP spells here as well, but this felt like it was always even closer to completely breaking down than the Chamber match, and that was one wrong sideways glance away from being a prison riot in its own right. Ambrose was fucking indescribable here and strikes me as being right on the level with guys like Virus, Hechicero and the likes this year. He's belligerent to the end, wildly flinging himself at people, throwing crazy palms and fists and elbows at all angles, constantly spewing vitriol at the Wyatts even when he's being worked over, etc. There's one bit where Rowan has him in that knuckles-to-temples head vice over in the Wyatts corner, and Ambrose is shit talking Bray while yanking at Rowan's beard to get out of the hold. He has the best Thesz Press ever, the way he just dives at you like a rabid animal. Harper was phenomenal as well. Ambrose has Bray in a figure-four and bridges up to increase the pressure (which was awesome), so Harper comes in and double stomps Ambrose in the guts. He also throws two of the best big boots I've ever seen him throw. The second one looked like it completely detached Ambrose's mandible (and Ambrose takes it face on at full force like a true psycho). Thought the story of the Wyatts trying to keep Reigns out of the way was really cool as well. They isolated him in the Chamber match and he still almost managed to win on his own, so this time they decide to keep him out of the equation all together. Rollins bailing was a bit hokey, but he at least had a point, and it did lead to Reigns going full Spartacus on the House of Wyatt. Stretch run was incredible with guys just flying and dying everywhere. Reigns spearing Rowan over the announce desk was insane, then Harper hits his redneck tope and Reigns fucking zips across the desk like someone decking it on an ice rink at 70mph. I can't tell you how gutted I am about The Shield split after watching these Wyatt matches. Crazy multi-man tags like this are practically my favourite thing in wrestling, and this already feels like the perfect match-up for that setting.

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Shield - Taken too Soon

The Shield v The Wyatt Family (Elimination Chamber, 2/23/14)

Yeah, this was fucking outstanding. Other than general "that match is awesome and you should watch it yesterday" praise I'd managed to not read anything about it, so I really had no idea what to expect. So much about it was amazing, though. I can see someone thinking the early stuff was too "contained" with not enough out of control ass stomping, but the whole match had a genuinely volatile feel to it and you knew that once shit kicked off nobody was going to be able to stop it. This was the wrestling match equivalent of throwing a bunch of Pez into a bottle of Coke, and it's the ref's job to try and put the lid on before the furniture's ruined. But of course it eventually all broke loose like you knew it would, and that whole stretch was incredible. Everybody got to look great here, but Ambrose and Harper were maybe the stars. Ambrose is such a crazy fucker; everything he does looks so frantic and desperate. He jumps on Bray and clings to him like a limpet throwing wild punches and slaps. I've made the Terry Funk comparison before, and I'm not the first one to make it and I won't be the last, but he really has a bunch of Funkisms, especially in his selling. He also paces around on the apron like a caged animal and shit talks any time someone gets close to his corner. Harper was fucking killer as a hillbilly hunting dog wiping guys out and gifting the corpses to Bray (who I loved as a swamp rat Charles Manson orchestrating everything). The bit where Ambrose tries to run in and Harper meets him at the pass by booting his teeth through the back of his head might've been the best moment in a match littered with amazing moments. Was this the first time he busted out the redneck tope? Because the crowd reaction was practically that of disbelief. He has the look of Brody with none of the shitty wrestling ability. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe it was Rowan that was the star. He looked awesome with his slugfest punches (him and Reigns had one of the meatiest "yay/boo" punch exchanges in ages) and throwing guys around. At one point he grabs Rollins by the hair and, with one hand, drags him over to the corner like he was a sheep carcass. I also love how rather than going to a chinlock or whatever he just squeezes a guy's head by digging his knuckles into their temples (and Ambrose getting free by biting his fingers was great). I have a massive broner for Roman Reigns. No kidding. It's Aaron Ramsey/Thierry Henry levels of man crush and I'm not ashamed to admit that. He has a fucking ungodly amount of charisma and presence. You notice it even when he's standing on the apron doing nothing. The final segment where he has to go it alone against all three Wyatts - which is a super cool role reversal considering that's the kind of thing The Shield have been doing to other teams since they showed up - was really fantastic and pretty much booked to perfection. Bunch of other bits that I loved: Rollins' huge flip dive, Reigns and Rowan with the best double clothesline spot in ages, Bray's face as Reigns powers out of Sister Abigail, Rollins dying on the table spot, folk scattering as Ambrose and Bray fight in the crowd, so on and so on and so on. Just an awesome match, right up there with anything else this decade. Wouldn't have it #1 on a best US multi-man tags list, but I wouldn't think anybody else was nuts if they did.


Dean Ambrose v Sheamus (Smackdown!, 5/9/14)

I guess this is my first look at full-fledged babyface Ambrose, and yeah, I want every second of it. As frantic and desperate as he was in the six-man, he's even more so in this. He does a Lou Thesz Press that just looks completely wild and reckless, like a ferret trying to claw your eyes out. He hits a rebound lariat that looked legitimately organic and better than every rebound lariat Nigel McGuinness ever threw. I don't think I've ever seen a top rope chop block before, but Ambrose does it here. He also took a manly shitkicking. Seriously, Sheamus is just stiffing lumps out of him and Ambrose keeps coming back in the scrappiest ways possible. Ambrose is also injured coming in (because of an Evolution gang mauling on RAW, I think), and he makes awesome "fuck my whole life" faces after everything thrown at him. Not that it makes much difference, because he will not stop coming forward. Finish is great. Ambrose knows he's dead to rights but is either too proud or too belligerent to accept the countout. And holy shit was the final Brogue Kick an exclamation point. This is right on the level of the best WWE TV stuff this year.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

NJPW Skydiving J, 6/17/96

This was one of the first tapes I bought when I first started getting into Japanese wrestling. A lot of the 90s New Japan juniors stuff that I loved back then isn't my cup of tea anymore, but other than Liger/Togo I don't think I've watched any of this show in like ten years. I'm not gonna watch the whole thing again (fuck if I know where the tape even is at this point), but three of the matches made the '96 yearbook. And if I haven't skipped any Mayumi Ozaki matches then I'm not about to skip any involving Taka Michinoku, Dick Togo and Eddie Guerrero. 


Taka Michinoku v Super Delfin

This was alright. In one sense I guess it works as an M-Pro inro of sorts, but it's not like this is the first time these guys had wrestled in New Japan. It's been a while since I watched any non-yearbook M-Pro, but I get the feeling they've had way better singles matches on their own turf (or maybe I'm getting confused with all those multi-mans where they're on opposite sides). This was more like Rey Jr. and Psicosis taking their signature match on tour. Taka doesn't really act like a wee dickhead, but he has some spectacular highspots. His quebrada looks awesome and his springboard plancha where he jumps off two sets of ropes has just the right mix of gracefulness and recklessness. I dug how they do a different take on the lame chop battle, with Delfin wincing and grabbing his chest after each shot, almost like a comedy spot (which is kind of what that tripe has turned into at this point, although in an ironic way). Stretch run gets plenty of heat, but it kinda felt like they were just running through stuff, moving from one spot to the next with no real transitions or selling.


Jushin Liger v Dick Togo

This is the stuff right here. Togo is an awesome portly asskicker in this, but Liger is even better as your juniors ace. Five/six years ago I had Liger as a frontrunner for the GOAT. My tastes are way different now, and at this point I think I prefer Togo as my juniors #1, but this is the kind of Liger that I'll never tire of. Togo comes out the blocks on top and his early offence looks great, including a super nasty double stomp off the middle rope and an awesome fat boy bullet tope. His riling up of the crowd is really fun as well (crowd even boo). Then Liger takes over and gives it back ten times worse. This is his house, he's The Man in it, and he won't be shown up by a chubby indy dude. Liger teaching guys street lessons is by far the best Liger. Remember the NOAH feud twelve (fuckin TWELVE!) years ago where he was just a complete fucker and made Kikuchi hate his life? This is that Liger, only less surly (because if pro-wrestling has taught us anything, it's that true surliness comes with age). He hits three powerbombs in this and each one is sicker than the last. First one is in the ring, second is on the floor as a counter to a rana off the apron, and the third is on the exposed concrete. And he showboats in between just because. He also works Togo's arm for a while, and it all looks really good, but best of all it remains a theme the whole way through. Considering perfunctory juniors mat/limbwork is the dirt worst to me, any match where that mat/limbwork actually feels important is a huge bonus. Finishing run is nice and compact, and it probably could've even done with a few more minutes and nearfalls, which is an unusual yet pleasant surprise. Liger's final transition/comeback after two fat boy sentons felt a bit too easy, but he'd been on offence for a stretch before that anyway, so it's not a massive deal. Killer match.


Black Tiger v Great Sasuke

I remembered absolutely nothing about this, but I thought it was pretty decent. Thought it had more of a narrative and a more interesting dynamic than the BOSJ final I watched last week. Eddie is a much bigger and more muscular dude than Sasuke, so he kind of works this as junior heavyweight powerhouse. He reverses some Sasuke signature moves by just catching him and chucking him around, like plucking him out the air on an attempted springboard splash and hitting a belly to belly. He takes most of the match with some great offence - awesome looking hammerlock shoulderbreaker, a hilo to the arm, huge Alabama slam - and really doesn't give Sasuke time to breathe. He works the arm initially, then Sasuke tries to pull a Wild Pegasus and go to the sleeper (which was cool while it lasted), but Eddie dropkicks the knee and goes after that briefly. He returns to the arm down the stretch, but not as much is made of either as there could've been. Sasuke's offence comes in short spurs, most of it high risk craziness as time goes on. His missile dropkick to the floor is such a wild spot -- it looks like something from a Street Fighter game, but it has to hurt him way more than his opponent. That's concrete the psycho's landing on. I'm surprised he hasn't broken his hip doing it (actually he probably has). Some of his stuff doesn't come off great and looks botchy, so maybe he's concussed again (edit: reading the thread on PWO, apparently one of them had the flu. I'll assume it was Sasuke). Finish looks great and I guess it's supposed to come across as a "flash" finish, but it still felt a bit abrupt. Not the best match either guy had that year, but I'm all for Eddie Guerrero offence showcases.

Friday, 6 June 2014

STUFF

I've pretty much just been picking out things to watch at random lately. 90s yearbooks, 80s sets, WWE from this year, late 90s ECW, random lucha on youtube, etc. These are some of those things:


Hechicero v Barbaro Cavernario (CMLL, 4/8/14)

You'll struggle to find a better sub-ten minute match than this all year. It goes seven and a half minutes and totally fucking ruled. I said not long ago that Cesaro is probably the most spectacular "big spot" wrestler in the world right now, but I might have to take that back because Hechicero is coming mighty close to topping him. I've watched four Hechicero matches from this year so far and he's literally done at least one thing per match that I've never seen before. I watched a trios match last night where he hit some Russian leg sweep pump handle slam thing and it looked nuts. In this he does something awesome for every minute that passes -- a crazy inverted monkey flip or whatever the fuck, an STF where he yanks Cavernario's hair back, some nutso spinning backbreaker thing, and he takes a fucking horrific bump off a missed senton to the floor that might've been even crazier than his tope to nowhere from last year (which was just about the spot of the year). And Cavernario follows up on that lunacy by hitting a wild splash from the top rope to the floor. Seriously, for seven minutes this had a bit of everything: nifty matwork, great offence, huge bumps, big spots, a great comeback and a good finish. I hope Hechicero doesn't die any time soon, because I want to watch him do his thing a whole lot this year.


Luke Harper & Erick Rowan v The Usos (RAW, 6/2/14)

A Texan friend of mine suggested these guys could have something really good with some decent time. This gets about fourteen minutes. First half is pretty by the numbers yet solid; second half is really good stuff. Pretty sure this is my first time seeing Rowan actually wrestle (unless he was in the Rumble, but then you don't get a great handle on a guy with those things). Think it's my first time seeing Harper in WWE as well. Both guys look like they're straight out of Mance Rayder's wildling army. Harper has either sweat or bacon grease staining the front of his shirt and looks like the kind of person that eats live pigeons because they give him "body fuel." He might be my favourite wrestler of all time based on that alone. This is definitely my first Usos match. They're total energetic 80s babyfaces, hand-clapping and full of beans. The Islanders of 2014, I guess. They seem solid. I can't remember which one is which, but one of them threw a few corkers of punches (although they also throw a few that are real thigh-slappy). They do a bunch of superkicks to the midsection of Rowan and Harper. They're not Chris Adams superkicks, but they look fine. Harper was king in this, though. He has amazing crazy eyes. There was one point where an Uso kicked out of a huge running boot, and Harper had this great Silence of the Lambs smirk that was barely noticeable through his beard. One of the Usos has taped up ribs coming in, and the match really kicks up a gear when the Wyatts isolate him and target the injury. Rowan feels like the weakest of the Wyatt family, but I loved him setting the Uso up across the top turnbuckle and headbutting him in the midsection. Stretch run is pretty hot with a crazy Uso dive and an amazing spot where Harper winds up for his spinning lariat only to be drilled right in the face with a nasty wheel kick. The more Wyatts matches I watch the more excited I get about finally watching those Wyatts/Shield matches.


Hulk Hogan & High Flyers v Ken Patera, Jesse Ventura & Bobby Heenan (AWA, 3/13/83)

I guess this is the RnRs/Duggan v MX/Ladd of the AWA set. It's not as good as that six-man, but it's still pretty fucking great. I know hindsight is a beautiful thing and all, but even at the time Verne must've been crazy not to see mega money in Hogan. I mean, Hogan was always going to end up in the WWF eventually (so does that make Verne Daniel Levy and Vince Florentino Perez? And Hogan the biggest Galactico of them all?), but dicking fans around with the constant Dusty Finishes rather than actually putting the belt on him probably hurt them in the long run. Hulk is just craaaaazy over here. Any time he gets within two feet of Heenan the place erupts. Bobby was so awesome on this set, both in the ring and as a manager. He doesn't bleed to the point of near death in this (he did that a few other times on the set), but every bump he takes looks wild. He's such an awkward and reckless bumper; not in the sense he looks untrained, but in the sense he almost breaks his neck every other bump, and it's clearly intentional. It's embellished, and sometimes that kind of bumping annoys me a bit (WWF-era Hennig, Dolph Ziggler), but he manages to strike a perfect balance. Crowd of course hate his guts. This is some serious, visceral hatred; just pure toxic loathing. Even Cornette never got this kind of shit flung at him, and he tried to date rape Ricky Morton with a chloroform rag! FIP spell on Gagne is really good here. Jesse and Patera grind him down with bearhugs, but on the bearhug spectrum these were pretty good. Jesse hoists him above his head and really squeezes around the hip bones, so it's a different take on your traditional bearhug if nothing else. Heenan obviously gets his licks in, and he's the perfect...well, weasel. I'd have preferred Gagne to make the hot tag right to Hogan rather than going to Brunzell who then tags in Hulk after teasing going in peril himself, but it's whatever. Dug the finish, too. Also, you gotta love Hogan yanking off Jesse's do-rag and mocking him for being all bald on the top, party in the back. HOGAN, fer fucks. This ruled, btw.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Re-Watching Some AWA

I feel like a shithead for not finishing the AWA set and getting a ballot in. It's the only one I've had to bitch out on since I started taking part in the DVDVR project. I'll finish it at some point, hopefully before I hit thirty. Some of the stuff I'd already watched was really awesome, though, and I want to go back and watch a bunch of it.


Jerry Blackwell & Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie v High Flyers (Cage Match) (4/18/82)

One of the best cage match sprints ever. This has pretty much everything I want out of a cage match like this -- guys punching lumps out each other, hate and blood and piss and vinegar, crazy cage bumps, a rabid crowd, a satisfying finish, and Jerry Blackwell. It's really your traditional AWA tag formula in a cage match, but the hate and violence is ramped way up. There's no slow build; it's just frantic and non-stop right from the jump. You get your two FIP sections with Gagne and Brunzell, and those sections are good, but this is at its best when the babyfaces are launching Kaissie and Blackwell into every side of the cage. I think this was the match that made me a huge Jerry Blackwell fan (it took me another wild cage match to come to the conclusion that he was the god of wild cage matches), and he's a total bump freak psycho in this. Gagne traps him between the ropes and a side of the cage and repeatedly smashes his face off the cage, and Blackwell throws himself into these shots so hard it looks like the cage will literally collapse. He takes two insane torpedo bumps where he sails over the ropes and goes head first into the cage, and a morbidly obese man like him shouldn't be able to do things like that. Kaissie is also a guy that will have his cut up forehead grated across mesh in cringe-inducingly nasty ways. Post-match is great as well with old man Verne getting in there before Blackwell squashes Greg to death. This was my working #2 on the AWA set. I don't think it would've finished that high had I got through the whole set, but it wouldn't have dropped out the top 10.


High Flyers v Rick Martel & Tito Santana (8/29/82)

This was also in my working top 10, and on re-watch I think I liked it even more than the cage match. This is one of the better face v face tags I've ever seen in the US (maybe face v face matches, period). The first segment with Martel and Tito controlling with the headlock is some of the best headlock control stuff you'll see. Everything feels super rough and fought for; nothing is given up or comes easy. Either Martel/Tito are doing something to force the issue or Gagne/Brunzell are doing something to escape, and most of the time you get both. The bits where they come up for air and work a sequence look killer as well, and they're always changing everything up to keep it fresh. When we come back from a commercial we're into the segment where the Flyers have taken over and going after Tito and Martel's legs, and that's just as good. Some of the little touches of selling from Martel and Tito are awesome, especially from Martel. He was always great at that stuff, doing things like shaking the leg out while he's on the apron, limping when gets back on offence, constantly grimacing, etc. Great spot where he hits a backbreaker on the bad leg and writhes around in agony before having to tag out, then later on he hits another one but makes sure to use the other leg this time. Plus you get to see a super quick Greg Gagne Indian Deathlock. There's a couple "missed move" spots in this that were fucking awesome. Tito's missed dropkick on Gagne was maybe the best missed dropkick I've ever seen. He really throws himself into it and Gagne sidesteps it right at the last second, and you could buy it KOing him if he hadn't. When Tito has to duck a Greg clothesline Greg really keeps him honest with it. 95% of the time you'll be able to tell when a guy is missing a clothesline, because they'll throw it way higher than they normally would, and sometimes the other guy barely even has to duck. Greg MAKES Tito duck. He swings his arm at the same level he would for any other clothesline and it looks crazy reckless, so it's another spot you could buy as a legit KO if it connected. And good grief that finish. Might be the best dropkick ever thrown. Great, great match.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

I Want to Watch ECW

Been a minute since I busted out the ECW set, and I want to watch some Tajiri. So I killed two birds with one stone.


Sabu v One Man Gang (1/23/99)

Alfonso with that fucking whistle. This was basically Sabu practising crazy chair- and rope-assisted highspots on a big fat test dummy. And I liked it a bunch. Gang squashes him at the start and Sabu comes back by stabbing him in the face and tits with a fork, but he also threw some killer right hands that I did not remember him having. Then it's wild spot/bump after wild spot/bump (Sabu is responsible for the spot and bump simultaneously). Nuttiest of them all was probably the springboard legdrop while Gang is on a table propped between the barricade and the ring apron. He overshoots it a bit and it causes him to half land with his own tail bone catching the edge of the barricade while the rest of his butt comes down on Gang's head. This is just about the most random match-up I could think of, but it totally worked for me.


Tajiri v Super Crazy (2/6/99)

This was pretty much the absolute best version of a first round match in an indy fliers tournament, just 100% balls to the wall with everything hitting hard and clean for eight/nine minutes. Tajiri is rocking the blue trunks and isn't in full psycho mode yet, but he still kicks like a motherfucker. I've talked before about how he's a guy that will take a spot I normally hate and make it not suck at all, and his indy stand off spots are probably the best example. They never look too cliche, and they're always super quick and impressive with some things you never see in most indy stand offs. They do one here that was like forty five seconds long and had a bunch of awesome looking shit in it, and best of all at the end they don't just stand there so the crowd can clap, they walk up to each other and get in each other's face. I mean, this is still a fight, right? For the most part this is a spotfest sprint, but it's a hell of a spotfest sprint and a nice contrast to their Mexican Death Match where Tajiri looks like he's trying to actually kill Crazy and crowd members alike.


Rob Van Dam v Jerry Lynn (2/11/99)

This is one of my least favourite match-ups in wrestling history, and I expected to be apathetic towards it at best and hate it at worst. Alfonso is still running around with the whistle and gibbering like a spaz at ringside, but other than that I thought this was alright. They run a few stand offs at the start, but neither guy is Tajiri and they look rote and the same as every RVD/Jerry Lynn stand off you've ever seen. Most of the match is the kind of Step Up street dance routine you expect out of these two, but it wasn't as over the top as I was expecting. There's one spot where Lynn is holding a chair and Van Dam tries to spin kick it into his face, but Lynn ducks and places the chair on the mat. Van Dam goes to sweep kick his legs straight after, so Lynn jumps over that and comes down with a legdrop which mashes Van Dam's face into the chair. I think they did that spot in a bunch of their matches (maybe every single one ever), but I hadn't seen it in a while and it looked real nasty here (Van Dam gets a cut above his eye for his troubles, too). Say what you want about Rob Van Dam, but the guy will take a DDT straight on the crown of his head. Sometimes it looks goofy and overly ridiculous (I'm fine with plain old ridiculous), but he does it here with his neck to the side and he bounces off the mat like it was a trampoline. Looked about as gnarly as I've ever seen it. There's a few more RVD/Lynn matches on this set. I don't think I'll watch all of them, but this was fine.


Tajiri v Super Crazy (2/12/99)

Similar to their last match, but probably even better. They still roll out some of the same spots, but they change up enough that it feels like a very different match. The start of this one is way more hectic as well. They don't bother with the parity stuff and head straight into Tajiri hitting a nutso Asai moonsault into the crowd, then that's followed by Crazy hitting a fucking insane quebrada that lands him about nine rows deep. Tajiri busts out an awesome looking somersault plancha over the ring post as well. Crazy's rolling surfboard is such a cool spot. Some guys have a hard time keeping a regular surfboard hooked in, never mind keeping it hooked in while rolling around the mat with someone still in it. Dug the finish as well, with Crazy hitting a string of springboard missile dropkicks followed by a springboard frog splash. This might be the best match-up in ECW history.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Shield

So, other than CMLL, I'm totally clueless on most current wrestling. Is ROH still a thing? TNA? When did the Briscoes grow incredible hillbilly beards? I'll usually watch at least one lucha maestros match from some backwater cock-fighting ring in Tijuana per year, and last year I never even managed that. I saw almost no WWE, and that was with people constantly telling me to watch a bunch of awesome Shield and Cesaro and Goldust matches. I mean, I'd seen bits of the Shield from this year and I liked all of it, but I never fully committed myself to watching all this stuff everybody had been telling me to.

Well, last week I bought a Shield comp and finally decided to do it. And fuck me if I don't feel like an idiot for not watching them sooner, because this shit is just a blast. Then last night they blew the faction up, which bums me out more than pretty much anything else in wrestling in a good while. Here's to the good times.

(I wrote about all of this before RAW last night, btw. You'll notice how optimistic I was while doing so. There's still a ton of stuff I'm looking forward to watching, like the Rhodes Brothers matches from last year and the Wyatts feud from this year, but everything from this point forward will be tinged with sadness knowing that they are no more. Prolly)


The Shield v Team Hell No & Ryback (TLC, 12/16/12)

I thought this was pretty fucking great. I've obviously been way out of the loop with WWE over the last few years and I know Bryan and The Shield are both over like crazy right now, but right from the jump the crowds seemed to take to The Shield and Bryan's YES/NO shtick was evidently pretty huge earlier than I thought. Everybody was at least good in this, even Kane who kind of stayed out of the way for the most part. Is this the best match he's ever been involved in? Definitely the best I've ever seen Ryback look, and I liked the way he was booked. The period he wasn't involved was because he was taken out with something appropriately huge, and when he was involved he got to look like a wrecking ball. The bit on the ramp where he just recklessly flung himself at Reigns and crashed through like four chairs and a ladder was awesome. Bryan was Bryan. Dug the triple No Lock spot and he always came across as a guy that would fight the odds no matter how stacked against him they were. Shield were fucking killer, though, especially Ambrose. He does a bunch of great little things and I bet he was a big Terry Funk mark. There was one bit where he hits Ryback with a chair, but instead of doing it like you'd normally see someone do a chair shot he just flings it at him and the chair bounces off Ryback's neck. Loved all of the big spots and never thought any of them were annoyingly contrived. Bryan's blindside tope, Rollins being chucked off the ladder through a stack of tables, Kane being speared through the barricade, etc. The Kane barricade spot was especially cool because it's a spot that's been done a fair bit in WWE over the years and has kind of lost some of its impact. This was really out of nowhere, though, and didn't feel blatantly set up. The most impressive thing with all of it is that it managed to retain a sense of chaos, which is unusual for big porpfesty WWE gimmick matches. Match also felt like a real case of an organised unit up against a makeshift trio, so you've got three Shield members working together all the time to isolate someone. Other than the third TLC match I really can't think of one I'd say is better than this, and even then I think this is the kind of thing I'd like more on re-watch at this point. I already feel like a doofus for putting off watching all this Shield stuff for so long. God bless Seabs' comp.


The Shield v John Cena, Sheamus & Ryback (Elimination Chamber, 2/17/13)

I liked this even more than the TLC match. One thing I'm noticing about these Shield matches already is how well they actually come across as a genuine unit. It was the same in the TLC match. They're obviously way less established here than they are now, but they're able to plausibly hang with three guys much higher up the card at the time, because while those three guys are individuals that are teaming together for the same cause, they're still not a TEAM. Not like The Shield. All of the Shield isolation spots, double- and triple-teams, saves, parts where they just overwhelm with numbers, etc. are all so well done. FIP section on Cena was really good stuff. Reigns has awesome headbutts, Rollins hits a crazy flying knee off the top and clearly dropped the Tyler Black-isms way before I figured he would, and Ambrose wrestles like a nutter again. Nothing he does is pretty -- it's all reckless and looks borderline-untrained, but in the best way possible. Some of his Heath Ledger Joker faces are definitely cooky, but guys making cooky facial expressions in wrestling is just about the last thing I'll complain about. Finishing run seemed shorter than in some of the TV matches I've watched from this year, but it was great while it lasted, which feels like a staple of these tags. Reigns' spear through the barricade was fucking spectacular again and ever better than than the one on Kane. Lillian throwing herself out of dodge was so great, like someone diving out of the way of a bus crash. Finish ruled, too. Reigns feels like the weakest worker of the three members, but his timing on big spots like that is impeccable.


The Shield v Goldust, Cody Rhodes & Big E Langston (RAW, 1/20/14)

Have we been getting this kind of trios match every week for a while now? Because again, I'm a numpty for not getting around to watching them sooner. This never really had a ton of structure or a real FIP section to sink my teeth into, but it was a fun as fuck ten minute sprint -- the kind of thing I will never really get tired of, and I'm hoping there's a bunch more of this ilk on the set. I've still basically seen jack shit of Roman Reigns compared to others that watch WWE every week, but am I being silly thinking Reigns is a really cool seller? Like, in subtle ways especially? Because his concussed sell of the Disaster Kick was awesome here and when he stood up to make the tag I could buy him puking right then and there. I dug him a bunch in the short Henry match from Smackdown last month as well, and his selling impressed me then, too. That Superman Punch on Cody was holy shit great and had me leaning on rewind like a motherfucker. This might actually be the first full Big E match I've seen and I liked him as a giant slab of muscle that chucks dudes around. I mean, his chucking around was certainly impressive, like the overhead belly to belly on Ambrose. Plus his Ultimate Warrior splash looks wonderful. Couple cool dives from the Rhodes brothers down the stretch as well (Goldust is doing somersault planchas off the apron in 2014? Why did y'all not tell me to watch more current Goldust?). Final few minutes were totally awesome, everybody just going a hundred miles an hour and running through a bunch of spots. I could get used to this.


The Shield v Daniel Bryan, Christian & Sheamus (Smackdown, 2/11/14)

Yeah, I'm all about this shit. I watched three Shield v Bryan and pals matches over the last two days and this one was my favourite. The other two took a bit to get going, but this had almost no filler with a short Bryan in peril section then a longer Sheamus in peril section, which was cool and a nice change of pace from him being the hot tag. Not that he doesn't still get to lay into people, because he does. He and Reigns have a turn hitting each other real hard and Reigns pops him with a fucking amazing right uppercut (Reigns also gives him this great "You again?" sneer upon entry). The transition into him being worked over was so awesome -- he's just done his ten count clubs to the chest on Rollins, but this time he's the one out on the apron. He goes up top from there and Ambrose runs along to cut him off, but Sheamus clubs him in the face before he gets there. Rollins then runs over and hits a kind of wheel kick to knock him off, and as he falls back in the ring he ends up lying with his head hanging out on the apron, so Reigns takes advantage and hits his cool running apron dropkick. Just a great sequence. Run to the finish totally ruled with Bryan kicking lumps out of every Shield member, him and Rollins hitting topes one after the other, Sheamus KOing Christian with a miscued Brogue Kick and Reigns following up with a spear. I get the sense you could pretty much stick any combination of three guys in there against The Shield and it'd turn out worthwhile.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Shadows are Falling, Virus is out of Sight

Virus, Okumura & Bobby Zavala v Stuka Jr., Fuego & Guerrero Maya Jr. (CMLL, 1/3/14) - GOOD

This starts out with Virus and Fuego and I love Virus grabbing Fuego's arm and flinging him all around the ring while not letting go once. That then turns into a mini-FIP spell where all three rudos isolate Fuego and work the arm. Fuego is someone that I'll really enjoy one week and then the next week I'll barely notice his involvement, and maybe it's because I watched this half asleep, but I don't really remember a single thing he did in this match other than have his elbow yanked at by the rudos. I dug Okamura again here. His matwork is super solid and looks pretty rough, especially when he gets to match up with someone that's willing to shove their forearm in his nose in return, but his stooging was the most fun in this. He avoids a Maya Jr. dive by literally running all the way up the ramp, then celebrates like it was a victory. Finish to the primera was the best, as Maya Jr. goes for a springboard of some sort and Virus just dickishly kicks the middle rope causing him to fall on his neck. 



Virus, Terrible & Vangelis v La Mascara, Rush & Titan (CMLL, 1/21/14) - GREAT

Virus and Rush are two of my three favourite wrestlers in the world right now, so there was almost no way I wouldn't enjoy this. I mean, I'm probably overrating it, but it had a bunch of awesome Virus and Rush moments, so fuck it. I liked this a bunch. To start out we get a bit of Virus v Mascara matwork, and it was nifty and I was digging it, but then Virus wanders too close to the tecnico corner and Titan grabs his hair, presumably just to fuck with him. So Virus fucks back by punching him square in the dish. Rest of the match is mostly about Virus/Titan and serves as a pretty great set up to the title match a week later (which I'm stoked about). Initially Virus takes cheapshot after cheapshot and constantly interferes (at one point he casually strolls in and Sheamus punts Titan in the spine) until Titan has had enough, then Virus changes his tune and chills on the apron instead. The parts where they match up are good, but Titan will do a bunch of daft flippy shit for no real reason and there were a couple points where Virus should've just kicked him in the chin. Virus/Rush exchanges, brief as they may have been, fucking ruled. Rush rips on him for being tiny so Virus chops him, and Rush responds by tearing off Virus' shirt and caving his chest in. Rush's roid-rage bursts of violence where he attacks everything in sight are always amazing. He and Terrible do their usual dance and smack each other really hard, often in the face. Vangelis has grown on me huge recently. He's kind of similar to Rush and Terrible in the sense he's a big muscled up dude that'll full force boot you in the grill. Mascara did some things but was pretty much background noise.


Complete & Accurate Virus

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Virus! Virus! Virus!

Virus & Shigeo Okamura v Blue Panther & Delta (CMLL, 12/23/13) - GREAT

I thought the first caida of this was really fucking good stuff. Virus and Delta have a nice exchange and get to do a bit on the mat, but it was Panther and Okamura matching up that I liked most. I've seen a few Okamura in CMLL matches now and he's taken to lucha really well, which isn't something I've felt about a lot of Japanese wrestlers working Mexico. His mat exchange with Panther was great here. It wasn't fancy, but it was rugged and methodical, like two guys thinking several steps ahead. Panther's maestro matwork is something I've come to really love over the last couple years. Whatever he's lost in flash and quickness he's made up for in surliness and old bastard roughness. Unfortunately we never got a lengthy section where he and Virus could replicate their lightning match from earlier in the year, but you take what you can get, and the two of them pairing off for the finish was yet another piece of evidence that a big singles match wouldn't suck. Delta brought some real prettiness to things with a big moonsault that got massive hangtime and a nice headscissors to the floor, and late in the tercera he hurls himself at Virus with the dive of the match (and Virus almost KOs a beer vendor by flying up the ramp). There's a goofy submission train in the third caida that felt pretty out of place in comparison to the grittiness of the opening Panther/Okamura exchange, but I wasn't hating it or anything. This was one of Virus' more quiet performances of the year, although he still got to rip someone up with submissions and hit his awesome run-up-the-ring-post armdrag from the Maya Jr. match (and it looked even more spectacular here). Minus a couple matches that I can't seem to get working on youtube I've watched just about all the Virus from last year that I want to, and this was a cool way to go out. 

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Some other Virus matches I've talked about before that I'll just repost here for the sake of keeping things organised:


Virus v Guerrero Maya Jr. (CMLL, 6/7/11) - EPIC

I'll probably only watch another 10 non-WWE matches this year, but I see this and get the sense I could watch a hundred and not find anything better than it. This was terrific. Virus used to wrestle in the minis division as Damiancito El Guerrero and he had that match with Cicloncito Ramirez that's the best fucking match ever. That was 14 years ago. And he STILL rules it like an absolute king. The first caida matwork isn't quite up there with the best IWRG grappling, but it was all good-really good stuff. Third caida is what propels this into the stratosphere, though. Just tonnes of great moments and the finishing stretch is as dramatic as any lucha finishing stretch I've seen in the last 10 years. There's one woman who looks to be in her 20s in the front row completely losing her shit. At one point the camera pans to her and it looks like she just had a heart attack. Not sure what my favourite part was. Virus' dive was truly spectacular in a totally chest-crushing sort of way and served as the *perfect* catalyst for his comeback, but the chop exchange that ends with Virus "winding up" his right arm for a big chop only to CRACK Maya right in the grill with his left fist was TOO fucking great. And I have no idea what you'd even call that finish, but it looked amazing.



Virus, Cancerbero & Raziel v Magnus, Stigma & Starman (CMLL, 2/24/13) - GREAT

I dug this a ton. Honestly, I thought the first caida here was up there with just about any opening caida that I've seen in a long time. I loved all three Cancerberos in this, but Virus especially looked incredible. His opening exchange with Stigma was really awesome, but he was great any time he was doing something, no matter who it was with. Stigma looked really crisp and can obviously go on the mat considering he was hanging with fucking Virus himself. I'll try and check out some more of his stuff from this year. Los Cancerberos were pretty awesome shitheads in the third caida, instigating a mugging then back-pedalling when it blew up in their faces. Virus gets into a slap exchange, then when he thinks it's going south he just waves his hands and leaves the ring like, "nope, this is not fun after all." Cancerbero gets caught in between Starman and Magnus on the ramp, and he has this great "okay, let's just be friends" reaction to it. It's like they're just waiting for the right moment to strike, then it presents itself and the niceties are thrown out the window like you and I and everybody else knew they would be. Virus is probably the best wrestler on the planet at this point in time.


Virus, Puma & Namajague v Angel de Oro, Diamante & Valiente (CMLL, 4/30/13) - GOOD

Man, Namajague had a rough couple months. First he loses the mask, then he loses his hair. The tag with Okamura against Cometa & Stuka was actually the first time I'd seen him, but I'd read enough pimping of him that my expectations were high. After that match and now this (still need to see the match with Cometa where he loses the locks), I can say they've been pretty well met. He never did it in this match, but in the tag there was this great spot where he went to kick Cometa in the gut, but Cometa caught his leg and pulled him forward, so Namajague wound up doing the splits, and while he was in that position Cometa just kneed him clean in the face. He's clearly a total bump freak of the highest order, and here he takes two AMAZING monkey flip bumps out of the corner where he gets like four seconds hang time. Honestly, I don't remember the last time a Japanese guy came in and took to lucha like this. Still, for all that, the Virus/Valiente section at the start was the highlight of the match. When are we going to get a singles match? Oro and Diamante do a bunch of neat rope-assisted armbrags in this, but they're at their most interesting when the rudos are mugging them. The technicos' stereo topes in the tercera was a pretty great spot, though. I'll take Virus v Valiente now, thanks.


Virus, Fuego & Vangellys v Negro Casas, Stuka Jr. & Valiente (CMLL, 6/14/13) - EPIC

Fucking killer trios sprint. Everybody got to look at least really good here, especially Vangellys (which was a pleasant surprise) who had a massive chip on his shoulder the whole match and just relentlessly went after Casas. I have no idea why, but it made for a great little subplot. Casas was fucking phenomenal, though. At first he kind of reacted to it like a guy that knew someone was after his blood, but wasn't really sure why (there's a great bit where he's hunched up in the corner with this "what did I do this time?" look on his face). Then after a while he stopped wondering about the why and decided to give as good as he got. Now and again a young pup will pick on the old dog. Maybe the young pup thinks the old dog has been around too long and it's time he was put out of his misery. The young pup could make a name for himself if it was him that did it. Except the young pup clearly doesn't know why that old dog has been around for as long as he has. If he did, he'd let that old dog lie. Any time Virus and Casas are on opposite sides of a trios match you really want them getting a lengthy section to pair off. This wasn't exactly the kind of trios where that was going to happen (it was pretty much hell for leather from word one, so nobody was getting a lengthy mat section), but the part where they were tearing each other to ribbons with chops and spin kicks to the guts was great. And of course a Virus/Casas singles match would rule the fucking earth. The big dives in this were spectacular as well, especially Valiente's moonsault plancha, primarily because they come out of nowhere (seriously, Valiente's was fucking incredible). Awesome stuff, and of all the CMLL from last year that I've watched so far, this might be my favourite match yet.


Complete & Accurate Virus

Friday, 30 May 2014

Virus & Valiente! Twice!

Virus v Valiente (CMLL, 4/3/09) - GOOD

So this is a lightning match. It's not really the kind of match you want for a Virus/Valiente singles match, or a Virus match in general, but then there was that Virus/Panther lightning match from last year that was truly awesome, so it's not like this couldn't be good. Sure enough it was good. It really makes me wish we got a lengthy title match between the two (Virus usually gets to have one or two a year, so here's hoping...), because an abbreviated version of it is super fun. You get flashes of the killer mat exchanges, you get Virus doing at least one great transition spot, and you get Valiente wiping him out with at least one amazing dive. The crazy inside-out armdrag that set up Valiente's springboard moonsault was totally spectacular as well, actually. Even in lightning matches Virus manages to get across the wear and tear of the match. A lot of guys will run through as much stuff as they can and there's no selling at all, but Virus strikes the balance between keeping things moving and getting in everything they need to within the time limit, while selling enough after each big dive that you know it hurt like a bastard. Dives aren't just meant to look cool or pretty or elegant; they're meant to hurt. Virus reminds you of that. Now somebody give us the title match.


Virus & Arkangel de la Muerte v Fuego & Valiente (CMLL, 2/21/12) - GREAT

More Virus v Valiente. Honestly, every exchange pretty much pushes a lengthy singles match - preferably title match - into personal dream match territory. First caida is so great. Arkangel and Fuego start it out, and it's good stuff. Arkangel works really rough yet sort of stoogey, interspersing leverage holds with moments where he'll back up incredulously after being chopped. He was kind of Regalish in that sense. Fuego is fine enough of the mat and is all fist pumping tecnico charisma. Then Virus and Valiente get in there and just rip it with their exchange. Practically every time Virus takes it to the mat, regardless of opponent, he'll do something I've never seen before. Second caida is where Virus and Arkangel go full on rudo asshole and throw all sense of sportsmanship out the window. Working civilised never got them anywhere, so they shift gears and put a beating on Fuego and Valiente. Couple of the double teams looked pretty brutal, especially when Arkangel drapes Fuego across the top rope and Virus hits him with a running dropkick to the face with so much force that he ends up flying back in the ring. Third caida has some nice comeuppance with a couple sweet dives, and this was all just great stuff.


Complete & Accurate Virus

Complete & Accurate Virus



So over the last few years Virus/Damiancito El Guerrero has become one of my favourite wrestlers, not just currently, but ever. He's one of those luchadors that's having incredible matches well into years of his life when the majority of wrestlers in history are on the steep decline. He's also a guy that's had two periods of his career looked at pretty closely (circa-1997 and the last six or so years), while there's a huge chunk in the middle that's almost never talked about. Given how amazing he was/is in the two periods folk have actually looked at, I don't doubt that there's a bunch of great stuff in the middle that's just right there to be discovered (or at least talked about a bit more). So I guess that's what I'm gonna try and do.

Same deal as the Tenryu and Anjoh projects -- I'll watch stuff and talk about it, and it'll all go under EPIC, GREAT, GOOD, FUN and SKIPPABLE. Here's to even more great years of Virus.


1997
Damiancito El Guerrero & Pierrotito v Cicloncito Ramirez & Ultimo Dragoncito (CMLL, 4/5/97) - GREAT


2009
Virus v Valiente (CMLL, 4/3/09) - GOOD


2011
Virus v Guerrero Maya Jr. (CMLL, 6/7/11) - EPIC 


2012
Virus & Arkangel de la Muerte v Fuego & Valiente (CMLL, 2/21/12) - GREAT


2013
Virus, Cancerbero & Raziel v Magnus, Stigma & Starman (CMLL, 2/24/13) - GREAT
Virus, Puma & Namajague v Angel de Oro, Diamante & Valiente (CMLL, 4/30/13) - GOOD
Virus v Blue Panther (CMLL, 5/12/13) - EPIC
Virus, Puma & Misterioso Jr. v  Fuego, Hijo del Fantasma & Hombre Bala Jr. (CMLL, 5/19/13) - GOOD
Virus, Fuego & Vangellys v Negro Casas, Stuka Jr. & Valiente (CMLL, 6/14/13) - EPIC
Virus v Guerrero Maya Jr. (CMLL, 10/6/13) - EPIC 
Virus & Shigeo Okamura v Blue Panther & Delta (CMLL, 12/23/13) - GREAT


2014
Virus, Okumura & Bobby Zavala v Stuka Jr., Fuego & Guerrero Maya Jr. (CMLL, 1/3/14) - GOOD
Virus, Terrible & Vangelis v La Mascara, Rush & Titan (CMLL, 1/21/14) - GREAT
Virus v Titan (CMLL, 1/28/14) - EPIC

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Virus - Best Wrestler in the World?

Virus v Guerrero Maya Jr. (CMLL, 10/6/13) - EPIC

Might not be quite as great as their 2011 match, but fuck me if this wasn't still awesome. First caida is more less spent entirely standing up with both guys grappling and trading holds from the feet. They fight over hammerlocks and headlocks and it all felt really surly and nasty. When they eventually deviate from that Maya Jr. grabs Virus in a Gory Special, and Virus' struggle and eventual escape really encapsulated that first fall. Second caida is when they take it down to the mat proper, and I could absolutely watch Virus work the mat all day. I mean, Maya Jr. is capable and hangs in there, but Virus is a master. So I guess it made sense that Maya Jr. would ditch that and go to the high impact moves. His one-two punch of an insane neckbreaker followed by a really violent drop down dragon sleeper to finish the fall looked really awesome. Like their 2011 match, the third caida launches this into serious MOTYC territory. It's pretty much the perfect example of a third fall in a modern day CMLL title match. Maya Jr. hits two insane dives, the first of which is a no-hands screwball tope that I rewound like fifty fucking times. The second is a plancha from the top rope to the floor where his whole body connected with Virus' face. Virus might be the best wrestler in the world at working big transition spots into his matches, because they always feel different and are often spectacular. This time Maya Jr. goes to ram his face into the post, and Virus counters by running up it and using it as a launch pad to armdrag Maya Jr. on the steel floor. Guys trading indy roll-up nearfalls is one of my least favourite things in wrestling at this point, but now and again you'll see that spot not totally sucking. These two do it late in the match and it felt like two guys who are utterly exhausted really going for broke, rather than two guys doing it because they saw Eddie and Malenko do it way back. Even the ref' looks spent after it. That final submission is why Virus is king. Awesome match, and maybe my MOTY from last year.


Complete & Accurate Virus

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

I Watched Some Wrestling from 2014

John Cena v Cesaro (WWE RAW, 2/17/14)

Cracking match. It was obviously the real coming out party for Cesaro, and he was great in it, but I thought Cena was too (some crummy punches aside). He was a pretty awesome ace in this and really went above and beyond to make Cesaro look on his level. Thing you remember most about this is the highspots, but in addition to being great on their own, they're all built to really well (some are used as hope spots or cut-offs -- Cesaro doing a lightning quick sunset flip to counter Cena's sit-out powerbomb and halt his comeback was honestly one of my favourite spots of the match). Cesaro has to be one of the most spectacular "big spot" wrestlers in the world right now. There was the fallaway slam with the bridge, both uppercut spots, the bit where he just deadlifts Cena and holds him there for a few seconds before muscling him into a gutwrench suplex, and of course the incredible outside-in superplex. I saw a clip of him do that to Kofi Kingston, which was impressive enough, but doing it to a guy like Cena is wild. Then Cena goes and hits a fucking DDT out of the giant swing (the build to Cesaro eventually doing it properly was also perfect) and busts out the crazy AA at the end and you're wondering if he doesn't have even more freakish strength than Cesaro. Cena has always felt a bit like a modern day Bob Backlund to me, in that Backlund would do all kinds of spots that required mutant strength as well. And that lariat to cut off Cesaro at the end was fucking amazing. I've seen hardly any wrestling from this year, but this is probably the best thing I've watched. 

Monday, 26 May 2014

Hashimoto Killing People!

Shinya Hashimoto & Junji Hirata v Zazuo Yamazaki & Takashi Iizuka (New Japan, 6/12/96)

Well it's only taken me like three years, but I'm finally halfway through the '96 yearbook (well, almost. Fuck it). I've probably forgotten more than I can remember, but Hash has definitely been right up there as one of the best wrestlers in the world so far. One of my favourite things in wrestling is Hashimoto going total apeshit and trying to kick someone to death, and this time it's Yamazaki that gets it. Ref' tries to step in at a couple points and almost gets caught in the crossfire. When Hash flings him all the way across the ring you know it's for his own good, because taking a stray kick would be a whole lot worse. Yamazaki has to get his ribs taped up after the first exchange and looks to be in agony the rest of the match (I'll assume he wasn't really injured, but being repeatedly roundhouse kicked by Hashimoto has to really suck either way). Hash naturally paints a bullseye on it. At one point he just starts jumping on his stomach and Yamazaki looks like he's about to puke. It actually gets to the stage where the crowd are firmly behind Yamazaki and Iizuka, which should be a pretty good indication of how much of a shitkicking he had to take in order to make that happen. Finish is out of nowhere, but that's by design and totally works. I guess it might've looked like Yamazaki kind of popped up too easily, but as soon as it's over he goes back to trying to hold his ribcage in place. He certainly doesn't look like a victor. Has to be said that his selling was pretty fantastic through the whole thing, but you watch this for Hashimoto being a fucking wrecking ball. Everything else is gravy.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Lawler v Mantell x 2

The Loser Leaves Town studio match is sandwiched in between the No DQ and Barbed Wire matches on the Memphis set, but even though the LLT is dated as a week after the no DQ I think the LLT happened first. Maybe it was an issue with air dates and taped dates. I watched the LLT first, anyway.


Jerry Lawler v Dutch Mantell (Loser Leaves Town) (3/27/82)

Dutch's promo and challenge to set this up is great. He hates Lawler from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head and Memphis isn't big enough for the both of them, so he wants a match for all the marbles right there on TV -- winner gets the belt and the loser buys a bus ticket out of Memphis. Lawler of course accepts, and Lance is Lance in making it seem like a huge deal. "On TV? Are you crazy?" Match itself has a real feeling of unpreparedness to it. In big matches sometimes you get the sense the participants have had time to work out a gameplan. Sometimes they appear tentative, like they're sizing things up or waiting for the opponent to play into that gameplan (that sounds like something from a kayfabe documentary or some shit but whatever). This isn't that. This is just pure adrenaline, on-the-fly punching the shit out of each other and both look exhausted after five minutes. It's the kind of exhaustion you get when you're sitting there minding your own business, just having a beer watching the ball game and the next thing you know you're in a bar fight. They've just walked into this and it's been balls to the wall from the get go; they haven't been able to pace themselves. Lawler nails Dutch with an absolute corker of a punch here as he's coming out the corner; one of the best I've ever seen him throw. Dutch is also great at getting himself in position for the spot where Lawler will get a running start on the floor and pop the opponent half hanging out the ring. Mid-match bullshit with Dutch rules. He feigns sincerity and wants to team up now, because why should he and Lawler beat each other's brains out when they could both go after guys like Hart and the Midnight Express? Lawler is hesitant at first, because why wouldn't he be? but Dutch talks him around. And then bang. Lance: "Aw, c'mon. Dutch!" Lawler was great as always here, but Dutch carried this, from talking Lawler into accepthing the title/LLT stip in the first place, to realising he might've made a mistake, to conning Lawler into buying into his truce, to taking advantage and beating him senseless. Then to top it off he walks away with Lawler's belt. Memphis was maybe the king of taking an angle and match and putting it together into one seamless package, and this is an awesome example of that.


Jerry Lawler v Dutch Mantell (No DQ Match) (3/22/82)

This was #4 on my Memphis ballot, and on re-watch it was every bit the top 5 match I remembered. Lawler comes out the blocks swinging here and Dutch has no answer to any of it. Lance drops the classic "Lawler is usually a slow starter" line, but Dutch stole his title and Lawler is in no mood to fuck around. First five minutes are all Lawler. He throws Jerry Lawler punches and at one point almost catches Dutch out with a sunset flip. Then Dutch grabs a chair and fucking javelins is at Lawler's leg, and if that isn't just about the best transition spot in history then I don't know what is. I'm not sure if he meant it or not (Lance wonders if he never tried to launch it at Lawler's face...), but Dutch goes after the leg either way. He only really focuses on it for a few minutes (though he does go to it as a cut off after a brief Lawler comeback), but it's alright because he drops it in favour of smashing Lawler's face into the ring post a buncha times instead. This was some Austin/Angle Summerslam '01 shit right here. I mean, fuck, Lawler will fearlessly fling himself face first into ring posts. Dutch also blasts him in the teeth with a wild chair shot (he swung it like you'd swing a baseball bat, basically, and Lawler barely protects himself on it). I actually thought Lawler's comeback looked like it came a bit too easily, which is weird considering he's probably the best comeback guy ever. I mean, after six or seven postings, a chair shot to the face and a piledriver, it felt like he just kind of went fuck it and that was that. Normally he'll milk the shit out of it before dropping the strap. Not that the crowd never lost their mind anyway, but still. Like, if this was Michaels kipping up in the same situation then you know be outrage. But fuck all that because the last few minutes are amazing with both guys lighting each other up and Lawler getting revenge with a chair shot of his own. Mantell pinning Lawler clean as a whistle shocks every person in that arena as well. When the biggest complain of this match is that the big comeback spot didn't feel quite as well built to as other big comebacks from the master of the babyface comeback, you know you're onto something pretty great. This might be a top 20 match of the decade for me.

Friday, 23 May 2014

TOJO THE GOAT!

I'm watching a bunch of stuff from the Memphis set again. Some of it I haven't watched since I originally went through it almost six years ago. Oh, Tojo Yamamoto, how I've missed thee (disc 2 might be the best disc of any wrestling comp in history). 


Jerry Lawler & Bill Dundee v Masa Fuchi & Atsushi Onita (8/1/81)

I had this at #26 on my original Memphis ballot, which seems kinda crazy in hindsight because it was pretty much an extended squash for nine minutes. But it was a super fun extended squash. Seeing Masa Fuchi as a stooging goofball heel doing a mocking Bill Dundee strut is so awesome. He was always really charismatic, but you get so used to seeing him as a dirty cheapshotting little prick in the cathedral of stoicism that is All Japan that you're sort of taken aback that he can work this style as well as he can. Fuchi and Onita do a bunch of the classic stooge spots and Dundee/Lawler light them up with Dundee/Lawler punches. At one point Fuchi sets himself in a cooky "martial arts" pose and Lawler backs into the corner, so Dundee sneaks in and pops Fuchi in the chin with a hook. Tojo is skulking about ringside dressed like someone taking golfing lessons and you're always ready for him to jab someone with a stick. At some point I think Jimmy Hart hits the scene and the whole thing deteriorates into a gigantic brawl. I think the entire locker room empties and it's just a total pier sixer. Rick Gibson gets shot in the face or something because he is a fucking MESS, and Fuchi is right there stabbing him with a kendo stick. During all this Dundee ends up getting pinned, so Fuchi and Onita win the belts! I think. Anyway, if nothing else this is a cool glimpse at young Fuchi and Onita, and especially at how good Fuchi was even then (how awesome would a Pat Tanaka/Masa Fuchi Orient Express have been? Not that the Fuchi we actually got wasn't an all-time great level wrestler, but you know).


Ricky Morton & Eddie Gilbert v Atsushi Onita & Masa Fuchi (Tupelo Concession Stand Brawl) (9/4/81)

"Look out, Randy, get outta the way!" Christ almighty this is even better than I remembered. I'm not even sure how they wind up in the concession stand in the first place, but once they do it's just complete and utter carnage. Gilbert upturns a box of ice, so everybody's slipping and sliding all over the floor, chucking kitchen utensils and condiments like this is a high school food fight. After about thirty seconds they're covered in everything and I'm not sure what was blood and what was ketchup. Tojo's sitting under the sink like a fucking homeless person covered in mustard and Gilbert keeps smashing things over his head. And holy shit is Morton laying it in with the kendo stick (kendo stick belongs to Tojo; they're not actually selling kendo sticks in the arena). I think Fuchi got stabbed in the ear somewhere along the line. Could've been with a fork, could've been with a broom, could've been with a broken mustard jar; I have no idea. Eddie Marlin comes in and tries to break it up so Gilbert cracks him with a plank. Then he breaks it over Tojo's head. And Tojo goes fucking ballistic. Some guy in a white shirt ends up getting involved (fuck if I know how) and Tojo tries to choke him to death (dude's white shirt is covered in blood and mustard). Then a hysterical lady in a summer dress - maybe white shirt's husband - tries to drag him away so Tojo CHOPS HER IN THE HEAD! HE CAN'T BE STOPPED! SOMEBODY STICK A FORK IN ME BECAUSE I AM DONE!!! I can't tell you how hilarious Tojo was during this whole thing. He's the last one left in the concession stand at the end, so he grabs a board and crawls over the counter like a gremlin looking for somebody to attack. Just amazing. When we cut back to the studio Lance and Dave are shaking their heads all disapproving like and you can see Dave is just DYING to laugh. If hating Tojo Yamamoto hitting people with sticks is wrong then Dave Brown doesn't wanna be right. And neither do I. This is my favourite thing ever.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Old AWA Set Stuff

I never finished the AWA set in time to get a ballot in. Shit, I never finished the AWA set, period. But I started watching it again a few days ago and came across some things I'd written from almost two years ago, mostly about the matches from the start of the set. I never posted them here at the time, so I'll do it now, twenty two months down the line.


Bobby Heenan v Lord Alfred Hayes (1/13/80)

Yeah, this was a super nifty way to kick the set off. Hayes has some pretty killer looking right hands, and the tricky Euro holds looked cool, which has more or less sold me on watching that other Hayes match that's online somewhere. I dug how this was basically two shitheads trying to outshithead each other. Hayes doesn't try to hide the fact he's cheating any chance he gets, but this is Heenan he's choking with his singlet strap and blatantly punching in the nose, so the crowd are all for it. Then Heenan returns the favour and they just tear into him. Heenan on top for a bit longer would've made me an even happier camper, but eh, what can you do? Surprised Heenan didn't bleed all over the ship or take at least one bump directly on his neck, but he KOs two dudes with the one chair shot in the post-match (fucking ruled) so I guess I'll take that as an acceptable trade-off. Can't imagine this cracking many top 50s (although I've watched all of the first two matches so far so I don't really know shit about shit), but I'm glad it got repped on the set and I doubt it'll be scraping the barrel at the end.


Big John Studd & Jerry Blackwell v High Flyers (2/210/81)

Brunzell is just about fucking with Kevin Von Erich for the 'Dude With the Best Dropkick of the 80s Project' award. Jerry Blackwell is pretty much unfuckwithable for the 'Fat Dude With the Best Missed Fat Dude Splash of the 80s Project' award. Those two are a couple guys I was really looking forward to seeing a whole lot of on this set, and this was a fine way to introduce them. This is probably the best I've ever seen Studd look, which doesn't seem to be something I'm alone on. He has pretty slow and clumsy looking elbow drops, but eats a big slam and crumples Gagne's spine with a nasty looking atomic drop, so I can deal. The way he stands around looking goofy at the finish is kind of...uh, goofy, but I did dig the way he just sort of stared at his hands like "WTF did I just do?" Final five minutes were really good and seemed plenty hectic. I get the sense there is going to be performances from everybody here other than Studd that'll end up blowing this away, but this is perfectly good, middle of the pack stuff.


East-West Connection v High Flyers (3/1/81)

I liked the Gagne/Super D v Heenan/Bock match more, but this is sitting #2 right now, and obviously my second favourite tag match on the set so far. Totally digging the double FIP structure of these tags as well. When I watched all of that 2002 WWE a few years back for the WWF/E Poll the Smackdown! guys did the same thing, only in a more "workrate-y" kind of way. In terms of guys doing a bunch of cool looking shit in that kind of setting, I'd much rather watch Adonis fly around like a lunatic than Angle suplex everybody 15 times (although I wasn't really getting the sense Adonis was just bumping like a nut for the sake of it here, which he did tend to do now and again). As surprised as I was by Studd's performance in the last match, I was even more surprised by how much I liked Jesse here. He's a guy I don't think I've ever actively liked for an entire match in the past, but this went around 20 minutes and I don't remember thinking he sucked even a little bit at any point. The spot where he just hoists Gagne up into an Argentine Backbreaker (is that what it's called?) like a ragdoll only for Gagne to use the ropes to flip himself back over and use that momentum to end up in a pinning situation was great. And there's an awesome Indian Deathlock spot between Greg and Jesse. Finish is what it is, but Jesse yanking both Adonis and Gagne over the top in order to both break the sleeper and possibly convince the ref' it was worthy of a DQ was a really fucking cool spot. And Brunzell continues to be awesome, dropkick and all.


Nick Bockwinkel vs. Pat O'Connor (3/22/81)

This was short and probably won't make it out of my bottom 30 at the end, but I always dig watching Pat do his thing (and it was hardly a bad match). He looked pretty fuggin' spry here (he's even older than Verne was against Bock, but I thought he was moving around like it was the other way around), and there was one takedown in particular that looked real quick and slick. Still, while I probably enjoyed Pat working opposite Bock in this more than I did Verne working opposite Bock in the 7/18/80 match, it was still Bock I kept finding myself drawn to. The way he grabbed this half-assed headlock after breaking the sleeper hold as if he was merely trying to keep a lid on things for a minute just so he could get his shit together was such a cool little moment.


East-West Connection vs. High Flyers (Cage Match) (3/22/81)

Well God damn, Adonis is THE motherfucking pinball bump freak psycho in this! He takes, like, four lunatic bumps in the ten minutes we get to see, and I'm pretty sure he's bounced his head into every side of the cage within the first two minutes. The missed dive off the cage at the end was completely spectacular and had me losing my shit, but that upside down bump in the corner was totally nuts as well. That shit'll tear your shoulder up in a hurry. I pretty much loved this. Adonis' bumping was definitely my favourite part (even if it bordered on silly at a few points), but Jesse held up his end well again and the Flyers continue to rule it. The vampire in me kind of wished we got a better shot of the blood, but that isn't really a complaint I can toss at the actual match. I'm probably going to end up overrating this because of Adonis' bumpfreakery, but fuck if I'm going to feel bad about that.


Nick Bockwinkel vs. Jim Brunzell (6/11/81)


So, again, I end up ask myself why I never really "got it" with Bockwinkel. I don't have an answer to it, either. Watching this first disc I get the sense we've barely scratched the surface with him on the set, yet I've already completely turned the corner on him. He just seems like a guy I absolutely should've dug long before coming around to him now. Well whatever, I thought this was a blast and featured my favourite Bock performance in a singles setting so far. Loved the leg work. The way he goes after a limb, he doesn't look like a pro-wrestler trying to slap a hold on another pro-wrestler -- he really roughs you up and gives everything a real raw edge. He's really Finlay/Regalesque in that regard, which again makes me wonder why I was never sold on him. Brunzell getting some payback by wrapping Bock's leg around the post is a great receipt, and the finish was pretty unexpected. Seriously, who has the better dropkick, Brunzell or Kevin Von Erich?


Adrian Adonis vs. Jim Brunzell (6/28/81)


Man, Brunzell is fucking awesome and this set is already worth the $45 just for turning me onto him. I've still got a couple singles matches to go on the disc, but I'll be surprised if this doesn't end up as my highest ranked singles after the first disc is in the books. Match kind of feels like it's split into two halves, with the first being the duelling body part work and the second being about both guys having a semi-extended run on offence after the initial spill to the floor (which kind of serves as the bridge). I suppose the body part work in the first half gets dropped in the second half, but Brunzell goes back to the leg almost in desperation enough times (like repeatedly punching Adonis right in the hamstring, which was awesome) to remind you it was a focal point earlier on. I did think the second half was a step down from the first, but on the whole I really dug this. And Adonis really looked like he was yanking at the tights at the end. No half-hearted cheating here.