Monday, 19 March 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Saturday, 17 March 2018

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

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

Friday, 16 March 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Thursday, 15 March 2018

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

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

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

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

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

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

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Wrestlemania III

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

Can-Am Express v Bob Orton & Don Muraco

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

Hercules v Billy Jack Haynes

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

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

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

Harley Race v Junkyard Dog

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

Rougeau Brothers v Dream Team

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

Roddy Piper v Adrian Adonis

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

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

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

Butch Reed v Koko B. Ware

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

Randy Savage v Ricky Steamboat

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

Jake Roberts v Honky Tonk Man 

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

Killer Bees v Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff 

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

Hulk Hogan v Andre the Giant

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

Monday, 12 March 2018

Who is the King of All of the Potatoes?!

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

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

Saturday, 10 March 2018

One Night in a Motel Room, Eyes Cast Like Steel, Tenryu Drank the Wine That They Left on His Table

Genichiro Tenryu v Terry Gordy (All Japan, 9/2/89) - GOOD

Maybe a little disappointing given who they are, but they never really went for epic. It was a wee bit more understated than that and in some ways it actually felt more like WAR Tenryu than All Japan Tenryu, where they laid it in and it was built around that laying it in more than the bomb-throwing. The powerbomb was the one bomb that was thrown and they certainly made use of it. Just after the intros while they're still in the process of clearing the streamers out the ring, Tenryu, totally unprompted, powerbombs one of Gordy's crew. I don't know who it was, but there didn't seem to be any reason for it. There was a person there to be powerbombed and so he powerbombed him and we one and all marvel at the man that is Tenryu. Gordy naturally took exception and powerbombed Tenryu right back, and Tenryu basically sold this powerbomb for the rest of the match. It was awesome, sometimes subtle, but you never got the sense he recovered from that move at any point forward. He'd try and fire back, maybe hit a lariat or a gamengiri, but then he'd grab the back of his head and sort of stumble, clearly groggy, and that would let Gordy regain the advantage. Gordy was mostly punch-kick on offence, but he threw in some big corner lariats and Tenryu sold them like the clobberings they were. Good match, but it feels like they've got something bigger in them.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Some WWF-era Andre

Andre the Giant v Killer Khan (Stretcher Match) (Philly Spectrum, 11/14/81)

I'm pretty sure I saw this years ago, but I don't remember what I thought about it then. It's one of those famous Andre matches that people sometimes bring up, though often for the wrong reasons. I thought it was mostly fine, but it wasn't touching their New Japan match. It felt kind of squashy. Other than a couple minutes where Khan wrapped Andre's leg in the ropes and worked it over, Andre basically demolished him. They might've hit a point of diminishing returns with Andre jumping on Khan as well, even though the last barrage was pretty cool.

Andre the Giant v Randy Savage (MSG, 10/24/88)

I actually preferred this. It wasn't amazing or anything, Andre is super broken down can't really do much bar choke and club, but Savage had great energy and it made for an easy story of him having to stick and move to stay out of Andre's clutches. It might not have been a conscious decision to TELL that story - I don't doubt they just went out to fill eight minutes and keep the crowd happy - but that's how it came across in execution. Andre was fun choking Savage with his singlet strap as Heenan complained to the ref' about whatever, then Savage would come back by belting him in the face with double axe-handles. I always like how late career Andre would show vulnerability without having to bump as much, not out of selfishness or an aversion to showing ass, but because I'd guess it hurt like fuck just being out there. His bump where he'd end up tied in the ropes didn't quite come off this time, but I did like how he sat there with a total "I'm way too old for this" expression. Last minute or so was about as hectic as you could expect out of a match featuring a guy who's nearly immobile. Yeah, this was fun. As a side note, Lord Al, Billy Graham and Trongard were on commentary and I don't know if there's ever been a commentary trio that's blithered as much mince, but I give them credit for trying to communicate a story.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

WWF at the Boston Garden (12/6/86)

The Network has a bunch of pre-90s WWF shows from MSG and the Spectrum and Boston in full. I wanted to watch the Hogan/Kamala main event from this show anyway, so I just ran through the whole thing. I may check out more shows from around this time because the midcard had some studs and Hogan main events are usually fun.

Mike Sharpe v SD Jones

Fairly putrid. I have a bit of a soft spot for Sharpe the jobber as he's really vocal and looks like he's always trying to make himself look like a fool. Some of his stalling and horse shit was kind of amusing and he clubbed Jones in the ear one time. Otherwise this was about four minutes that felt like eight minutes.

Mike Rotundo & Dan Spivey v Jacques & Raymond Rougeau

I liked some individual parts of this, at least in isolation. The Rougeaus have nice offence and brought some fun arm work, then some fun leg work, then some fun stuff that was neither leg- nor arm-specific. Rotundo was in the ring for the majority, but I never felt like he was actually in any sort of danger because he never sold like he might've been. It was babyface v babyface so the Rougeaus never exactly put a traditional work over on him, but a few times he sort of got up and could've tagged out but didn't and effectively reset the match, like everything before it hadn't happened or meant anything. Spivey threw one or two forearms that connected nicely, then it got testy and the ref' threw it out, getting in everyone's face with the making money gesture. Heavy fines may have been issued had conflict escalated. I can't think of a babyface team I'd be less interested in watching than Rotundo and Spivey, but if babyface Rougeaus match up with decent opponents then I'd be up for watching some of that.

Harley Race v Pedro Morales

It's pretty cool that this match even exists. Former NWA champ in his goofy crown with chin strap against former WWWF champ. Morales is at the tail end of being able to do much here, mostly throwing a few nice body shots, but Race turned it into a bump show and I was totally fine with it. At one point he took a backdrop from a standing position after it was Morales who came shooting off the ropes, which was pretty impressive as Race is not a small individual and Morales wasn't a youngster in 1986. Harley's taken a whipping in some circles over the years for maybe throwing out offence willy-nilly, but he was basically the sole reason this was fine so I don't mind him running through piledrivers and suplexes. How many kings have shared that same entrance music? Has the king gimmick been a staple in WWF for over thirty years now? Must there always be a king in the WWF in the same way there must always be a Stark in Winterfell? This match has raised more questions than it's answered.

Dick Slater v Steve Lombardi

Eesh, Slater is called 'The Rebel' here and kitted out with his confederate flag jacket. Gorilla says you'll struggle to find a braver man than one willing to wave a confederate flag in the Boston Gardens. Slater's balls are so big he's the babyface, naturally. Lombardi is just plain old Lombardi at this point and hasn't donned the torn up shirt and jeans. This was like five minutes, had some okay arm work from Slater (minus the worst Russian leg sweep this side of Shelton Benjamin) and a pretty butterfly suplex. I'll be honest, I had no memory of Slater being in the WWF. I'm guessing he was only there for a cup of coffee and did nothing of note?

Little Tokyo & Lord Littlebrook v Pepe Gomez & The Karate Kid

This got off to an exceptional start as Littlebrook made a point of ripping on Gomez and Kid for being tiny. I couldn't tell you the last time I watched one of these matches so I don't know if all of the spots are staples or just some of them (I mean, some of them DEFINITELY are), but it was pretty amusing and got a chuckle out of me. Nobody wants any part of Karate Kid's martial arts, not even Little Tokyo who is a master of the martial arts in his own right being Asian and whatnot. Gomez is wearing plastic bandoleers and looks like Hector Guerrero from my avatar on PWO. My favourite part was when the ref' admonished Tokyo for something or other, so Tokyo climbed the middle turnbuckle, kicked the ref' in the gut and took him over with a sunset flip as Karate Kid counted him out. A real show of midget solidarity, there. I can only conclude that the ref' purposely made them all look stupid at the end by botching the finish in embarrassing fashion. Can you say 'political hit?'

Adrian Adonis v Junkyard Dog

Good grief Adonis is humongous. He does not look adorable in the slightest but man did he go all in on that gimmick. This wasn't good, but it was short, had a few okay headbutts, some lukewarm stalling early on, and a pretty awesome turnbuckle bump from Adonis where he went upside down Flair-style then wound up on the apron tangled up in the ropes Andre-style. If nothing else it's impressive that he managed to combine those two signature spots as relatively smoothly as he did given his portliness.

Jimmy Jack Funk v Blackjack Mulligan

Mulligan's cowboy boots and Yosemite Sam shirt combo really is something. I couldn't even tell you the last time I watched any Blackjacks but Mulligan is huge and super imposing, like way more so than I remembered. Jimmy Jack is wearing a Zorro mask and probably the worst Funk there's been. This was also not good, just sloppy and clunky and uncoordinated. But it was only about five minutes so at least they were merciful.

The Islanders v The Dream Team

Beefcake's involvement in this was basically limited to stooging, mugging and hitting a few stomps. Bulk of the heel end was held up by Valentine, and you may not be shocked to hear that the match probably wasn't hurt because of it. First stretch is total Valentine in peril. Usually you want Greg to be fish hooking people and elbowing them in the temple, but I dug him getting schooled by Haku and Tama. Tama is, once again, the funnest motherfucker in wrestling. His energy is utterly infectious. Then he eats a Valentine back elbow and SOARS over the top rope with an awesome bump to the floor, and good golly is Tama just about the greatest under-the-radar bumper ever. Brutus runs a few distraction spots and mostly sticks to the background so Valentine can deliver the ass beating, which includes a fucking Ganso Bomb-style piledriver! If there's a Tama/Valentine singles match I need to seek it out, because no way it wouldn't rule. This was fifteen minutes that flew by.

Dino Bravo v Corporal Kirchner 

I guess this was fine for a piss break before the Hogan Show. Dino hit a few decent suplexes and a crazy piledriver that was somewhere between that and sit-out powerbomb, then Kirchner came back and hit a few things, then Johnny V ran distraction and it ended. This ref' is the same one from the midgets match and boy he isn't having a good night. He has a touch of the inverse Hebners where he counts super slowly all through the match then speeds it up x12 at the finish. Gorilla slaughters him for it as was Gorilla's wont, but it's hard to disagree with him on this occasion. The young man is quite frankly a disgrace to his profession.

Hulk Hogan v Kamala

The Ugandan Headhunter is a way cooler moniker than the Ugandan Giant. This was a super fun eight minutes of Hogan formula. They establish early that Kamala is a big fuckin unit as Hogan barrels into him and looks out wide-eyed to the crowd when Kamala doesn't budge. Hogan tries to slam him, almost gets him up, but the back gives out and Kamala takes over. It's Hogan v Superheavyweight 101. Kamala working on top is fine enough initially, but then he stabs Hogan with the Fang of Shang-Chi or some nonsense and it gets pretty awesome. I always assumed WWF had banned blood by this point, but Hogan gigs himself and gets some big time colour. I loved Kamala biting and gouging at the cut, and in a gruesome spot he licks Hogan's blood off his fingers, apparently enjoying it as he's a cannibal and a fan of such delicacies. Hogan's bloody convulsing is kind of goofy, but it's one of those Hoganisms that I find at least amusing. We get the comeback, the slam, the boot and the legdrop, the posing, the Hulkamaniacs seeing what they came to see -- it's the ultimate WWF experience! I'd like to check out the rest of the Hogan/Kamala matches because I bet they'd all be fun.  

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Random WWF Midcard Madness

Rick Martel v The Magnificent Muraco (WWF, 6/8/81)

Perfectly solid midcard bout. When Muraco can't be arsed he's hard to watch, but this was apparently his first appearance in MSG so maybe he was up for it. Martel is Martel and thus awesome and usually enough to drag something to watchable on his own. The rough collar and elbow tie-ups early suggest these two might've had a nice heated feud in them somewhere. Martel's headlock work was pretty decent, really grinding it in and kicking his legs wildly when Muraco tried to suplex his way out of it. Muraco has a taped thumb gimmick which I always thought was reserved for wrestlers who'd just come back from extended excursions to the orient. It's been so long since I've seen a Muraco match that I couldn't even tell you when he started doing that. Was he doing it from the start? He works Martel's throat after taking over, jabbing him with the lethal thumb and slingshotting him up into the bottom rope. Martel's bump at the end certainly looked like it could plausibly keep a man out of the ring for a count of ten, so I'll take that as a count out finish. Muraco tends to swing wildly from being really good to really atrocious, but if he was motivated I could see this being a super fun twenty minute match. Would've been an interesting comparison with Muraco/Steamboat if nothing else.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Some Ric Flair, because he definitely hasn't been talked about enough

Ric Flair & Dewey Robertson v Roddy Piper & Jimmy Snuka (Maple Leaf Wrestling, 5/4/81)

Man this was fun. It's about as pure babyface as I've ever seen Flair work. I guess he was already Slick Ric by mid-'81, but it wasn't the same babyface Slick Ric as we'd see later. A lot of babyface Flair felt like a guy who was naturally a prick taking time off from being a prick because he had issue with an even bigger prick. Old man babyface Flair was easy to root for because he was two hundred years old and being brutalised by people seventy years his junior. His biggest hope spots were still low blows or biting someone in the face. Sympathy was easy to come by and he was beloved, but there wasn't much difference between babyface Flair and heel Flair. He was wooing and strutting here, but he did it with a real babyface energy, like he figured he had to work for his reactions rather than taking for granted that he'd get them regardless. He was throwing dropkicks, super fast body punches in place of the chops, working much quicker than usual. No measured knee drops, no flopping, instead we got small packages and house o' fire. Even the figure four was applied quicker than I've ever seen him do it before, and he went into it as a reversal off a Piper knee drop so there was no methodical leg work beforehand. He just did everything at babyface speed and it was super refreshing. The stuff with Piper also ruled and Piper was an awesome shit head with the early stalling, the cheapshots, choking Flair with the tag rope, etc. Snuka didn't exude the same charisma, but he was a fine lieutenant and I liked how he was always trying to cut the ring off, keeping Flair in that heel corner and dragging him back whenever he tried to scoot away. I don't know who Dewey Robertson is but he was fine and played his part in the finish, so I guess he did what he needed to do. Flair even celebrated with him afterwards like he meant it, rather than patting him on the back because he's the Nature Boy and the plebs should be privileged to share in his victory glow. I've somehow seen hardly anything from this Flair/Piper feud, but based on this I'm hyped to check out more.

Ric Flair v Great Kabuki (All Japan, 12/12/83)

This was okay for parts and then a bit ropey for others. Standard criticism of Flair and/or Flair Formula is that he/it can sort of stifle guys because they need to change some aspects how they work when they're opposite Ric. They're forced to do press slams or always apply the figure four or whatever. If I'm watching a guy opposite Flair for the first time I'm usually interested in seeing how he'll plug his own stuff into Flair's formula, how much he'll delegate to Flair, etc. The first fifteen minutes of this was really just Kabuki being Kabuki and it didn't feel much like your typical Flair match at all. Kabuki threw a bunch of superkicks and I liked how Flair sold them as if he had no idea how to defend against them. He'd just walk into a superkick and have to scramble to the corner for a reprieve. Kabuki can hit them from anywhere and Flair had no answer for it. Kabuki's nerve hold wasn't the most compelling way to fill time, but I get a kick out of him switching it up a bit from the traps to the stomach to the obliques. Flair was really vocal with his selling too, and if nothing else you could buy him being frustrated at having such a hard time figuring Kabuki out. Then the last ten minutes kind of teetered on being not very good. They tried a bunch of the Flair staples, but only about half of them came off. I didn't mind that the headlock into bridge into backslide spot never worked, because Kabuki isn't necessarily the most athletic guy and sometimes things like that add to the sense of struggle, but then they just got back up and went into the backslide after a few beats anyway. If something didn't work they'd it again. There was no improvisation, it was all sort of "checking the boxes" and then Flair chucked the referee and that was that.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

When I Get Out of This Hole I'm Going to Mid-South. There's a Girl Down There That'll Treat Me Fair

Dirty White Boys v Bill Dundee & Terry Daniels (5/11/85)

Assuming the date on this is correct, it's the second awesome match the Dirty White Boys had that day. Which is pretty cool. I thought both Denton and Anthony were pretty great in this and Anthony's scraggly blood-splatter tights are the best because they make him look like even more of a serial killer than usual, but this was the Bill Dundee show. Man was he amazing. The opening shine had a couple moments where Daniels would do something neat, but Dundee was mesmerising in how he'd drag the heels all over the place, cause them to run into each other, outright strike each other, then run into each other again as they argued about hitting each other. At one point Denton asked him for a handshake, and of course Dundee wasn't interested and the crowd knew what was up, but Denton was real apologetic. Maybe he's an okay guy after all. Eventually Dundee acquiesced and Denton took a swing at him like we all knew he would, but more importantly DUNDEE knew he would, caught it, and toyed around with him before cracking his jaw. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand, milked those early spots for all they were worth, and nobody draws a pop for their little jig like Billy Dundee. When the White Boys took over it was Dundee in FIP mode and that ruled, too. Maybe he was scoping out his target for after the show, but on three or four separate occasions he took a tumble to the floor and landed in front of the same woman who got more and more aggressive at the White Boys' thuggery. Daniels was mostly a passenger, but he was an athletic passenger and popped the crowd with what he did, so that was about all Dundee needed on the night.

Ric Flair v Terry Taylor (6/1/85)

There's something about Flair's black and white robe. My first exposure to him as a kid was when he showed up at Survivor Series with the big gold belt, Bobby Heenan raving about him being the REAL World Champ, pomp out the wazoo...and that incredible robe. As a four year old it was the definition of regality and I've been a mark for it ever since. Maybe the black and white brings out his inner bastard as well, because there was a five minute stretch of this where he was as surly as I've ever seen him. The first fifteen minutes were fairly standard Big Match Flair. He wasn't rampant with the cheapshotting and mostly played by the rules. He'd beg off once or twice, kind of flirt with being a dickhead, but for the most part he behaved himself. Taylor wasn't buying whatever Flair was selling and Flair kept finding himself being taken over or having his head squashed in a front facelock. The build wasn't anything new, but these two work it well together. Then Flair got chippy and it led to them absolutely lacing into each other. At the best of times he's pure hubris, but this wasn't hubris; he was pissed and wanted to fight. He's the world fucking champ and who is this wannabe? Taylor backs him into the corner, winds up for a left hand, the ref' stops him short...and Flair knees him in the balls. I've made comment about being burnt out on Flair plenty of times, but I could watch this Flair all day and it's disappointing we didn't get to see him do it more often. He really cleaned Taylor's clock for a spell there, chopping him to ribbons, dropping the knee across his forehead, stomping him in the corner, throwing nasty little body shots, blatantly choking him, popping him with an AMAZING right hand that Terry sold like it broke his face -- just a great little segment. I wish it lasted longer. The last fifteen minutes never went off the rails as such, but it became more of your standard Flair fare. Standard isn't necessarily a knock because standard Flair fare is still a very awesome thing to lots of people, but I can really go either way these days and I much preferred it when he was bullying Taylor. They seemed to maybe run out of ideas down the stretch as well, going to the backslide spot a few times and reaching a point of diminishing returns with the nearfalls. I lost count of the number of times Taylor grabbed a headlock to set up the next rope running sequence, but it built to a fever pitch and it's hard to come away thinking Taylor didn't look all the better for it. Still though, some of the brawling in that mid-match stretch was as potatoey and awesome as the best Flair/Garvin or Flair/Wahoo exchanges I've seen. I'd rather they filled more time with that.

Mid-South Project

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Michaels v Kennedy...happened more times than I thought!

Shawn Michaels v Mr Kennedy (WWE RAW, 12/31/07)

Kind of under the radar gem and maybe one of the better Michaels TV matches of his second run. I actually went looking for this because I was sure they had a match early on in 2008 and I remembered liking it a bunch at the time. I couldn't find any from that year (in the one google search I made) so I figured this was the match I watched and I'd been getting my dates confused all this time. Turns out they did actually have a match in 2008, on the third RAW of the year, so I'm guessing that's the match I liked and I haven't been living a lie all this time. I also guess they were sort of feuding around this point because they had a match at the Armageddon PPV that I have no recollection of whatsoever. I don't care much for Kennedy so I guess you can say it's faint praise, but this might be one of his best matches outright and I thought he was really good in it. Michaels worked over his leg early and I liked the sell of it, mostly in how he was super vocal. Michaels threw on a half crab variation where he sat across the hooked leg rather than doing the normal version of the hold that would target the back, which was a cool touch. He also yanked off Kennedy's knee pad during this section, and for someone I don't really think of as a "little things" guy he brought a bunch of neat touches. There was the aforementioned wrinkles with the leg work, the way he was dogged in fighting for a crossface, later on punching Kennedy in the knee to create some distance, it was good stuff. Most of Kennedy's run of offense consisted of back work as this is the 2000s and a Shawn Michaels match, but it was solid back work. The tackle to the floor that set it up was pretty gnarly (Michaels' bump was great) and he had a nice seated abdominal stretch where he was twisting the lower back at a mean angle. Shawn's comeback had some clutching at his spine like a pensioner with chronic sciatica tying his shoe laces and I know people hate that because he's a lame actor or whatever, but the hairline was on its way out and he was already cross-eyed so if nothing else I bought him as a pensioner with chronic sciatica tying his shoe laces (and, you know, I appreciate the selling whilst executing offence and such). Finish was surprising as well and I just enjoyed all of this a bunch. I'll check out that 2008 match soon. I haven't really watched any post-comeback Michaels in a long time, but I'm actually kind of interested in going back to see how a lot of it holds up. For a guy who was my favourite wrestler all the way through childhood and then for a minute after that, it's strange how little I've thought about him over the last eight years. 

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Backlund v Patterson (part 1)

Bob Backlund v Pat Patterson (WWF, 7/30/79)

So the PWO crowd just got done running a greatest WWF/E wrestler ever poll on Facebook and this was mentioned as one of the Pat Patterson matches worth checking out. I figured it was a new discovery, but it's actually on Goodhelmet's Backlund comp and that's been kicking around for like a decade. I thought I'd watched everything on that set but I don't remember this at all. Either way it was excellent. Backlund is one of the better US mat workers of the era and his arm work here was really good. He might not be the same kind of hold-for-hold grappler as Bockwinkel and it's not Finlay level rugged, but if he's working a body part he tends to keep it interesting, working in and out of holds, continually engaging and never content to just slap something on and sit in it. He really yanked on Patterson's arm, cranking and twisting, digging the point of his own elbow into the elbow joint of Patterson, doing his big row boat spot where it looks like he's trying to full on tear a guy's arm out the socket. They come up for air, work in interesting teases of Patterson gaining the upper hand, but Backlund keeps taking him over and going back to the arm. Patterson sells all of this great and eventually takes over when Bob takes a spill outside, coming up selling the leg. The dueling limbwork section after this feels unique for the WWF and the fact it remains a theme right until the end is pretty cool. At one point Patterson is working a leg lock so Backlund just starts punching him in the arm to release it, then goes for a slam, but the leg buckles underneath him and Patterson is back on top. They went about it in simple ways, but they never let you forget about those injuries. I loved all of the stuff built around the ring post, too. Bob runs Patterson into it shoulder-first a few times (a couple times out of desperation), Patterson wraps Bob's leg around it, then later Backlund uses it to cut Patterson open (following an awesome face-first bump into the barricade). Towards the end they start hucking wild bar room punches at each other, and I love how Bob ducked a big right hand and hit the atomic drop only to crumple in a heap because of the bad leg. The finish is one of the better ones like it and can you imagine if there was a Jim Cornette in the WWF at the time to rile up these pro-Backlund crowds with shenanigans? Bob was as over in MSG as anybody I've ever seen anywhere and there probably would've been riots. I think my favourite thing about Backlund's title defences is that they're always littered with teases that lead to big payoffs and this was no different. I can't imagine the cage match (which I think IS a newer discovery) doesn't rule and there's another match sandwiched in between that you could probably bet doesn't suck. I'm a big Backlund fan and I feel like I should check out more Patterson so I'll definitely watch those other two matches soon.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

How Many Deaths Will it Take 'Til Mr. Fuji Knows that Too Many People Have Died

Mr. Fuji v Chief Jay Strongbow (WWF, 6/30/73)

This was like 70% carny horse shit and 30% nipple cripple. It was very Memphis, like something you'd expect to see in the Mid-South Coliseum rather than Madison Square Garden. Fuji takes his time early on and does his pre-match ritual, throwing salt around while some old lady comes up to the apron and hurriedly sweeps it away (in case he tries to use some of the residue later?). Strongbow is unmoved, stern faced and statuesque in the corner. They do a criss-cross rope running sequence and Fuji keeps going out to the apron for powders, but he only ends up being humiliated every time when Strongbow headscissors him back in the ring. Fuji then teases the foreign object, reaching into his tights, shifting his body away from the ref', taking it out before quickly having to hide it again. When he eventually uses it the crowd react exactly how the wrestlers would want them to. Then Strongbow steals it, uses it himself and everyone just loses it for Fuji stooging around the ring throwing blind punches and falling on his face. At this point Fuji goes to the pectoral nerve hold and for a hold that basically consists of you grabbing your opponent's nipples this was worked about as well as you'd want. Strongbow teases his comebacks, comes closer and closer to escaping, but Fuji keeps finding ways to clamp nipple. Then he makes a mistake and gets slammed off the top as the crowd hoot and holler for Strongbow lacing into him with kneelifts. This was two guys who knew their audience to a tee, who knew their audience knew THEM to a tee, working the exact match that audience wanted to see. And for what it was I kind of loved it.

Mr. Fuji & Mr. Saito v Rick Martel & Tony Garea (WWF, 10/13/81)

The title change which led to the rematch from yesterday. I actually preferred the latter, but this had Fuji and Saito working on top some more so you got to see how they'd control things. It was more of the same basic stuff from yesterday, but they know how to work it and it led to Rick Martel coming in as a hot tag so you know that ruled. One thing that absolutely stands about it, though -- that finish. Salt being flung in someone's eyes has been about forever and it's not a terribly difficult spot to pull off if the people involved have half decent timing. This had an awesome twist to it, where Fuji turned and flung the salt just as Martel was coming off the top with a cross body to Saito. He hit the cross body, but he was too busy clawing at his eyes to grab a leg or anything, so Saito just rolled through and stole one. The devious one strikes again.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

The Incomparable Mr. Fuji

"Was he the guy who cut off Val Venis's willy?"
-My sister

He was not the guy who cut off Val Venis's willy, no, but maybe the devious Hawaiian inspired a generation of insidious wee Japanese managers who threw salt in eyes and carried around canes or samurai swords and who knows, if not for Mr. Fuji maybe the Big Valbowski would still be making X-rated flicks to this very day. I had no idea the WWE Network had a special Mr. Fuji mini-section, but they do and for all I know it could be a goldmine (I feel like pre-80s WWF is a pretty big blind spot for me in general). Was he incomparable? Apparently not. But maybe he ruled and Tojo Yamamoto's spot as my favourite mangy Japanese goblin US territory mainstay of the 80s is under serious threat.

Over the next few days I hope to have an answer. For you, for me, for us all...

Mr. Fuji & Mr. Saito v Tony Garea & Rick Martel (WWF, 10/19/81)

What a nifty little tag; the kind of match I could watch all day and not complain. Nobody did anything in this that will blow your socks off. They never reinvented the wheel. It was mostly Fuji and Saito on the back foot trying to find openings, but Garea and especially Martel did everything with such energy and zip that it just flew by. Martel was especially awesome and I don't know if there's ever been a babyface who could do house o' fire quite like him. I'm not talking about coming in off the hot tag as such, I just mean his general enthusiasm and how he always looks like he's ready to fight. On offense Fuji and Saito were mostly chops, a brief nerve hold for a second there and some apron-assisted cheating to rile the crowd up, but they were willing bumpers and gave the babyfaces plenty. They were also rocking a pair of awesome matching tights that looked like they'd been pillaged from the Japanese Olympic gymnastic squad. Fuji wasn't super spry or anything at this point in his in-ring career, but he got some nice height on a monkey flip and got slammed off the top rope in a spot I definitely wasn't expecting, so I guess that bodes well for some earlier stuff where he's closer to his physical prime. Match ended in a bit of a schmozz like you might've figured, but Martel's bump over the top rope was great and if I can get a hold of their title change from the same month I'll be all in on it.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Tables! (but no ladders or chairs yet) Oh my!

Hardy Boyz v Dudley Boyz (Tables Match) (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/23/00)

I haven't revisited any of the other Hardyz/Dudleyz/Edge & Christian propfests in ages and I don't really intend to any time soon, but if I did I sort of figure I'd end up liking this more than just about all of them. By 2018 this ground's been retrodden a million times, escalated to bigger and crazier heights, so I don't think you'd say this felt fresh. It certainly played a part in getting the ball rolling, leading to the multi-team ladder matches and TLC and WeeLC and whatever else, but it's hard going back nearly twenty years after we've seen everything we've seen since and finding the big spots new and unique. Nature of the beast and all that. I thought it stood out in other ways, though. I mean, the big table spots still looked visually impressive and those spots were designed to be and came off as the highlights, but they held everything together with a sense of violence that they'd do away with as time went on. Later matches escalated the scope of the highspots. They went through tables from loftier heights and came up with new ways to get chucked off a ladder. The violence kind of took a backseat. In this, I bought that both teams hated each other. They usually communicated that hatred by absolutely blootering someone in the head with a chair. Bubba Dudley in particular took a couple chair shots that were just hellish, and I liked how he'd sell for the rest of the match like those chair shots turned him into a gibbering mess. He looked like a guy who'd had his bell rung way too many times and if it was a boxing contest the ref' would've stopped it long ago. Everyone was swinging for the fences, but his reactions were the best. I also liked how they worked in those near misses. A couple times someone would save their partner by flinging the table out the way just in the nick of time, then in probably my favourite part of the match D-Von Dudley manages to scoot out of dodge twice in quick succession to avoid being put through two separate tables (which both Hardyz wound up going through instead). Jeff was also at his nutso best here, running along barricades, flying into camera shot from nowhere, being ragdolled through plunder and hitting his note for the big finale (which still looks killer eighteen years later). Not something I'd call a great match, but for better or worse it's an influential one and something that held up better than I'd have expected.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

RINGS Mega Battle Tournament 1992: Second Round (11/13/92)

Yoshihisa Yamamoto v Masayuki Naruse

This kind of went on forever. I love Yamamoto and I like Naruse fine, but 20+ minutes might've still been a bit beyond them at this point (felt way longer than Han/Maeda from the last show and that was the longer bout). Still, maybe it stood them in good stead going forward. Smooth waters never made for skilled sailors and all that. Neither were shy about smashing the other in the face at least, and it gave us some nice stand up exchanges where they were really swinging. Yamamoto was deliberate in going for the choke at the end and I liked how he eventually set it up. And Naruse snatching the desperation leglock was a really cool - and welcome, it must be said - finish. Naruse with three draws and a victory in his first four fights is a record Tony Pulis would be proud of.

Herman Renting v Nobuaki Kakuta

I was about to question why this was a second round fight when only one of them actually won their first round fight (and Kakuta got beat so badly he probably dropped out of NEXT year's Mega Battle), but then I think it was actually a shoot and so...who knows? Renting looked decent at points and Kakuta was mostly outmatched again, especially on the ground. Once Renting went for the choke the first time I think he realised Kakuta couldn't defend against it, so it's no surprise he went back to it. This was largely nothing.

Willie Williams v Yukihiro Takenami 

This was some spectacular carny horseshit and I loved it. The crowd is alllll about Williams and his hobo karate! Takenami is in the mood to fight! It lasted about three minutes and the heat was outrageous! I mean I can't explain why people were so thoroughly losing their mind for this but as a viewer I'm grateful that they were (because rabid crowds make the RINGS even better). Williams isn't good, but man he's fun in this type of short spectacle, with his sloppy palm thrusts and wheel kicks. I have absolutely no problem with him doing this every other show, which is not the stance I expected to take after seeing him for the first time however many shows back.

Dick Vrij v Hans Nyman 

Nyman is announced as "the one and only Hans Nyman," which is like that time back when I went to rent Devil May Cry from the Blockbuster and it was already taken but the guy behind the desk told me to rent Kabuki Warriors instead. This is a rematch from a previous show that I remember kind of sucking, This one was a wee bit better, but not really something you need to see for six rounds/hours. They at least had spurts of half decent stand-up and some of Nyman's strikes looked like they actually had some impact behind them, as opposed to just looking pretty. I don't know what the finish was all about. I don't think Nyman did either, though he was gracious about it despite being annoyed (with good reason!).

Andrei Kopylov v Chris Dolman

Perhaps I was hasty in my assessment that Dolman, after his fight on the previous show, had little left to offer in the twilight of his career. Because this was way better. It probably helped being in there with a gamer like Kopylov. I liked how Dolman would try to control with his judo and use his size advantage on the mat. Kopylov is tricky and we've seen how he can submit guys in plenty of ways, but Dolman was patient and used the extra weight. Excellent finish, too. Pretty fun bout.

Akira Maeda v Dimitri Petkov

I like how the booking of this was basically a rocket-fuelled version of Hulk Hogan v whatever member of the Heenan Family was up next for him to feud with. Petkov came in on the last show, looked good, picked up the win, and now he's onto the ace. That they did it as part of a tournament was smart, in that it wasn't completely obvious they were setting Petkov up as the next guy for Maeda to run through. As a standalone bout I also thought this was really good, so it gets thumbs up all around. Petkov was super fun as a sort of shoot style King Kong Bundy, shrugging off Maeda's strikes and telling him to bring it, being pretty damn solid on the ground and tossing Maeda around with some awesome slams. There was one cool bit where he just picked Maeda up like it was nothing and walked around the ring, Maeda helpless, Petkov soaking in the moment before slamming him. He also reeled off a killer headlock takedown that the crowd lost it for. I thought they were kind of obvious in setting up the finish at first, but they threw in a bit of a curve ball and overall I really dug this.

Complete & Accurate RINGS

Friday, 24 November 2017

RINGS Mega Battle Tournament 1992: First Round (10/29/92)

Dimitri Petkov v Vladimir Kravchuk

This was alright. Certainly a different sort of opener to the young lion-ish series from the previous few shows. I'd never seen nor heard of either guy before and I didn't have sky high hopes based on the early stand-up, but it got decent enough once they took it to the mat. It was pretty ragged and a far cry from your top tier stuff, but it's interesting seeing how a guy who looks like Hodor will go about submitting someone. Petkov had a few big throws as well -- impressive considering Kravchuk is by no means a slight individual. Petkov is absolutely made up afterwards and high-fives with enough force to leave mere mortals limp-wristed.

Han Nyman v Georgi Keandelaki

I've seen several different spelling variations for Keandelaki's name. I don't know which one is correct. This was another rounds contest, fought mostly standing up. Nyman is limited and has almost no ground game, but he has fast feet and some of those kicks are real pretty. Keandelaki threw some nice punch combos to the body but he had even less to offer on the ground than Nyman, to the point Nyman was actively trying to take it there to finish him. Nasty knockout finish, but otherwise this wasn't much of anything.

Willie Peeters v Herman Renting

This was a little weird. It went twelve minutes and I guess it was spirited enough. They were active - Peeters especially - and there was no "downtime" in the shoot style sense of lying around in half crabs or the likes (the half crab being very much a staple of the RINGS, obviously). But not a lot of what they did felt like it was of consequence. None of the strikes landed with any real authority. Nobody seemed in danger of being submitted (until the finish when, you know, someone was submitted, though even then it happened so quickly you never had a chance to properly register the danger). Peeters was the aggressor and for large parts Renting absorbed body shots, but he's not very compelling. It's not like Fujiwara getting battered while trying to lure a guy into a mistake. It's just...guy getting popped in the gut while semi-successfully protecting himself. Peeters had a couple nice takedowns, at least. Still a treasure, Peeters. The music accompanying the post-fight highlight package is simply sublime, like something from the opening montage of a mid-90s JRPG.

Andrei Kopylov v Sotir Gotchev

This is the kind of thing I started this project for. I haven't a clue who Gotchev is, but straight away he grabs Kopylov and chucks him and you're thinking the Bulgarian Christian Laettner might have something about himself. Then Kopylov forces a few rope breaks and scores a knockdown. It starts looking like a neat wee competitive squash, where Kopylov gets to stretch out a bit (always welcome) against a complete unknown who it turns out can handle himself. Then Gotchev gathers some steam and the score starts to even out a bit. It feels less competitive squash and more flat out competitive. Gotchev is clearly no scrub and the crowd were all in on them rolling around on the mat. It wasn't a lost classic or anything, but it was a really nice, low-key bout between two unassuming guys who could twist your arm off. Which is why we watch the RINGS.

Dick Vrij v Nobuaki Kakuta

I think part of me has wanted this fight from the first time I saw Kakuta. I mean, nothing against the guy, but he's not terribly interesting and his other bouts haven't set the world on fire. They tend to follow a similar pattern and he tops out at "okay, he was better in that than I figured." The crowd love him, though, especially when he's up against it. Vrij is about a foot and a half taller than him so that constitutes up against it. It went about how you thought/hoped it would. Vrij's coming off the loss to Han so I guess the slaughtering of some wee fella was just what the doctor ordered. While Kakuta can't do anything on the ground his stand-up is at least competent, and that usually keeps him in his fights. Here he has no chance because Vrij annihilates him whenever he tries to get in close enough to actually connect. At one point Vrij appears to punch Kakuta with a closed fist, probably out of annoyance. The ref' admonishes him and Vrij responds with this "oh I'm sorry, I didn't know that wasn't allowed." He'd only been there for every single show, of course. Kakuta sort of takes Vrij down, or Vrij falls over as Kakuta happens to be clinging to his leg, and Vrij uses up a rope break almost entirely out of pity. He literally points to the rope and smiles like "see, I was in trouble there" *wink wink*. This was like six minutes of what we'd soon, one and all, come to love about PRIDE.

Grom Zaza v Chris Dolman

I can't help but think this was kind of a waste of our magnificent Grom Zaza. Dolman has that lovable vet thing going and I find the old lug endearing, but he can't really do much as he inches ever closer to 50 (though, looking back, I apparently liked his last fight). Zaza was fun letting loose with combos, moving in and out, finding ways to take Dolman over. Dolman really just bided his time until he could grab a limb and twist. He's wily and been around the block a time or two. Fine enough for five minutes, but you want Zaza against someone with a bit more to offer.

Masaaki Satake v Mitsuya Nagai

This went a minute and a half and I'm not really sure what the deal was. You maybe wonder if it's a shoot, but then you watch the finish where Nagai kind of stands there for a couple seconds before going down for the ten and it's like...well, that happened. What we got was actually okay and probably the only time I can say I'd have been fine with a Satake fight going longer. Mitsuya Nagai: Miracle Worker?

Akira Maeda v Volk Han 

The rubber match. It probably went too long and it wasn't without its lulls, but of their three bouts this one might've had the coolest individual threads running through it. A lot of elements that had been played up in previous fights came together in this, sometimes in ways we hadn't seen before. We got Han's spinning back fist, but this time he did it before the bell had even rung (which got the crowd on his case for doing it, and the referee's case for counting it as a knockdown). Maeda is still the superior striker and Han is STILL and FOREVER (apparently) susceptible to getting smashed in the gut for a nine count. You can tell guys are always wary of grappling with Han, especially on the ground. They'll roll towards the ropes even if they're the ones with the advantage, just because they know how quickly Han can flip that script. There was one bit where Han casually grabbed a wrist and before you knew it Maeda was on his back, then just as casually he let go of the wrist in favour of an ankle and Maeda was left scrambling for the ropes. Han did all this standing up. Hadn't gone to ground at any point. Eventually Maeda started absolutely drilling Han with leg kicks and any time he so much as grimaced the crowd were right on it. Forcing this mild-mannered Russian to show weakness is a victory unto itself. The longer it went the more visibly gassed Han became, then he'd start favouring the left leg (which had been kicked to smithereens), but then you wonder if it was all a ploy because Maeda would come in close and Han would just leap at him and do something preposterous. That happened like four times, where he'd literally leap into a rolling kneebar or cross armbreaker. At one point he managed to apply an STF and it was unbelievable. Finish was pretty great, too. You could've probably shaved ten minutes off this and it wouldn't have hurt, but at 24 minutes I didn't think it was a slog and would still call it one of the better RINGS fights so far.

Complete & Accurate RINGS

Friday, 15 September 2017

Back to the 80s Lucha

Rayo De Jalisco Jr. v Mascara Ano 2000 (8/15/86)

I thought this was more interesting than good, but still pretty enjoyable. What they're doing isn't spectacular by any stretch, but it's cool to see a title match between two guys I don't recall ever seeing work a title match. The first caida had some neat enough matwork, although it was more about Rayo whipping 2000 around the ring with armdrags - and a little dancing thrown in for good measure - than them rolling around on the mat. I liked 2000's reactions to Rayo getting the better of him -- you could tell his ego was taking a beating and that aforementioned dancing was adding insult to injury. The tercera wasn't particularly long, but it had a couple nice topes and a big Rayo plancha, and I liked how Rayo wanted no part of the tapatia twice in the same match.

Babe Face, Pirata Morgan & Cien Caras v La Fiera, Lizmark & Rayo De Jalisco Jr. (September 1986)

I'm not sure the date on this is correct. It feels like a lead in to the Babe Face/Fiera hair match from August, what with how they bled and bit each other in the face and whatnot. This was really fun stuff. I've watched a bunch of lead-in trios of late, often setting up apuestas matches where the central pairing go at each other tooth and nail. This wasn't quite as frantic overall as some of those, but the Fiera/Babe Face match up was as gritty and violent as any. Fiera's sell of the blood loss was really awesome, the way he'd stagger around like his body was willing but the tank was nearly empty. He'd unload with the spin kicks and he got his revenge by drawing blood, but Babe Face always seemed to come out on top. Maybe the rudos just worked better as a unit. Honour among thieves and all that -- the kind of code Fiera used to live by himself. The other four guys were very much bit part players, though they each had their moments. Cien Caras was pure hubris and I loved him for it. When things were going his way he reveled in the moment, but whenever the tide turned he wanted nothing to do with anyone on the opposite side, especially Lizmark. Pirata Morgan never took any career-threatening bumps, but he took one doozy to the floor and spat Fiera's blood in the air so he ticked the boxes of what you want in a bit part Pirata Morgan performance. I've been holding off on watching the Fiera/Babe Face apuestas for ages so I'm hyped about it coming up next.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Looking at 1995 CMLL

El Dandy, Ultimo Dragon & Hector Garza v Ray Gonzalez, Dr. Wagner Jr. & El Felino (CMLL, 8/18/95)

1995 is sort of a lost year for CMLL. I could probably count on one hand the amount of 1995 CMLL matches I've seen, I don't recall even reading about anything from that year, and it's not like anybody's jumping to take deep dive on it. I'm not saying I'm going to be the guy to do that, but if this was anything to go by then there might be a few things worth unearthing. El Dandy and Ray Gonzalez are clearly feuding at this point, though going by Dandy's apuestas record this didn't lead to a hair match. Which is sort of astounding because they sure fought like an apuestas match wasn't far away. They bleed truly gruesome amounts of blood. Dandy was cut open about a minute in and he bled EVERYWHERE. Like, I'm not sure enough people were even watching CMLL in 1995 to warrant a gusher like that. Gonzalez is a Puerto Rico guy so he knows how to bleed, but when the tecnicos made their initial comeback he just ran away. Again and again, when Dandy tried to grab him, Gonzalez ran. This went on for a while and I wondered if they were going to hold off on Dandy's revenge for another time, but no, eventually he was caught and he did indeed let the blood flow. Wagner wasn't featured a ton in this, but he was my favourite guy in it. He didn't have to do much, sometimes it was just his mannerisms and charisma that grabbed me, but whenever he was on the screen I paid attention. He threw his hands up on the match and threatened to walk out with Gonzalez, but Dandy followed them up the ramp, clocked Wagner with a hook, and Wagner took a pratfall into the crowd. Later he fell backwards out the ring as Ultimo held the ropes open, tumbling to the floor as he hopelessly tried to grab onto something. It was more of a comedy performance than anything, but it made for a fun counterpoint to Dandy and Gonzalez mutilating each other.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Porky v Escorpion (Hair v Hair)

Super Porky v Rey Escorpion (Hair v Hair) (CMLL, 10/18/13)

How's this for something totally different? I don't remember ever seeing a lucha/shoot style hybrid before, but that's what this was. It's MMA rules and it's sort of surreal watching Brazo de Plata don the gloves and work FUTEN-level stiff. It's unfortunate that they stuck to the two out of three falls format, though. We never got a ton of actual match time and the falls hurt the pacing of it. Felt like things were really starting to break loose only for us to have to settle down for a minute or two before resumption. Porky was crazy fun in this. He doesn't have much left in the tank at this point, but I loved him using his fatness to ground Escorpion, secure the mount and rain down holy hell with the punches. When Escorpion was on top it was all Porky could do to curl up and cover his face, which got the crowd behind him ten thousand percent. I should watch more Escorpion from 2013. I think I've only seen him in this feud, but he was awesome in it and there's bound to be other stuff. The spot where he used his legs to tie Porky to the ropes while punching his unprotected head was glorious and I don't remember seeing anything like that before. Finish might've been cheap on the surface, but Escorpion pummeling Porky so badly that it caused Maximo to lose it and come to his old man's aid was quite the moment. I thought this was a really fun novelty. Probably would've been even better with a few tweaks, but I'm not sure it's ever been done before so it's hard to criticise them for not getting it spot on first time.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Super Porky v Rey Escorpion Trios

Maximo, Stuka Jr. & Super Porky v Dragon Rojo Jr., Polvora & Rey Escorpion (CMLL, 10/4/13)

CMLL really was brilliant in 2013. Between Porky/Escorpion and Rush/Casas/Shocker we got tonnes of awesome brawling. If they allowed blood in Arena Mexico then this would've been twelve stars. I actually thought at several points they were trying to open Porky up hardway as Escorpion was just punching the absolute dogshit out of him, biting him like he was trying to siphon the gravy out of his forehead. It was sort of harrowing because Porky could barely defend himself. He looked like the fat kid being set upon by a gang of thugs and no wonder the ref' tossed out the primera. Porky eventually snapping was incredible and man oh man was he potatoing Escorpion something fierce. There was one bit where Escorpion was lying in a heap in the corner and Porky was just drilling him with left hands. It was as WAR-esque as you'll ever see in lucha. Everyone else played their parts fine as well. Dragon Rojo Jr. and Polvora were capable lieutenants when it came to holding Porky's partners at bay, Maximo's diva shtick was fun once he started making his comeback and Stuka's no-hands reverse plancha is astonishing. Seriously, it never ceases to be breathtaking, and the camera angle made it look completely insane. Awesome ten minute scrap.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Casas v Ultimo Dragon - The Lead-In

I was planning on watching the Casas/Fiera hair match today, but then I kind of wound up down the rabbit hole and wanted to finally check out some build to the Casas/Ultimo title match that I also want to re-watch soon. I'm on a Negro Casas kick, basically. He was very, very good, you know.

Negro Casas, El Felino & Bestia Salvaje v Ultimo Dragon, Ciclon Ramirez & Oro (CMLL, 3/12/93)

This was pretty much everything you'd ask for in a lead-in trios. The early Casas/Ultimo exchange wasn't particularly flashy or grand in scale, but it gave you a taste of what to expect and that thirty second stretch where Ultimo continually dragged Casas back into the armbar was beautiful. It really set the tone for everything they did throughout the match -- Casas was Casas and arguably at the very peak of his powers, but Ultimo was rapid fast and getting better by the day. Plus he had those kicks, and Casas didn't seem to have a proper answer to them. I've shit on Ultimo Dragon plenty of times on this blog, but I thought he was pretty excellent here and Mexico is by far my favourite setting for him. The Felino/Ramirez and Bestia/Oro exchanges ended up going a similar route, with Bestia eating Oro's dust and Felino getting pissed that his partners allowed him to be humiliated so. At that point the rudos teased dissension and suckered the tecnicos into a gang beating. Casas took out his frustrations by seemingly tying Ultimo's leg to a fixed seat, and the beatdown continued into the segunda with Oro playing punchbag. Fittingly it was Ultimo clipping Casas' legs from outside that was the catalyst for the tecnico comeback, leading to an awesome revenge spot with Ultimo repeatedly kicking Casas into rows of seats. Oro's moonsault to pick up the fall on Bestia was gorgeous and of course Ultimo would pin Casas with another one of his kicks (this time it was an enziguri). That issue ate at Casas into the tercera and I loved that he just drove his shoulder into Ultimo's balls. I mean, what better equaliser? Ultimo repaying the favour with a dropkick was another awesome moment. Did he mean to go low? Did it actually CONNECT low or was Casas trying to pull the con job? Maybe it was accidental, maybe it wasn't, but either way it made you wonder if even the subtle low blow was something Casas couldn't beat Ultimo at. The short end run between them was great and Casas once more trying and failing to outdo Ultimo made for a great finish, but it was the Ciclon Ramirez tope leading into it that was the moment of the match. It was truly spectacular; he absolutely fucking torpedoed Bestia with that thing. Great match.