Saturday, 28 March 2015

Catching up with 2010s WWE (#1)

So Wrestlemania is tomorrow. I remember watching last year's event and being really optimistic the next day. I haven't really followed WWE since around 2009/10, but last year it looked like they were set to go on a great run and I was as excited about current WWE as I'd been in a long time. Then it kind of all went straight to shit and I fell away again. There have been other points this decade where I've been drawn in again for spells, like around Money in the Bank 2011 and around 'Mania time last year, but I always fall away pretty quick. I know I've missed a bunch of great stuff, though. I mean, trying to go back and catch up with everything and watch a ton of TV is a fool's errand, but enough people whose opinions I listen to have talked up plenty of matches over the last five years that at least sound interesting on paper. This won't be an everyday thing, I'll basically just watch something whenever and write words about it, sometimes with multi-week breaks in between. I also don't plan on watching much of guys that I don't actively enjoy. So Edge and Chris Jericho probably won't show up very often, while there might be a few seven minute Mark Henry TV matches.

Dean Ambrose v Seth Rollins (Falls Count Anywhere) (RAW, 8/18/14)

Pretty great ECWish propfest brawl. I actually watched more than just a couple matches from last year (well, until June), at least enough that I felt like I had an idea of who I thought was good, and Ambrose was up there with guys like Virus and Hechicero as being my favourite guys in wrestling. He did something in every match I saw him in that I thought was awesome, and there was more of that here. He's someone that the execution nuts would tut-tut at because just about everything he does looks wild and sloppy, but that's why I like him so much. A dropkick is something that usually looks pretty, but when Ambrose does it it's like a dropkick you'd see in a street brawl. All of the big spots here looked great. Ambrose licking his lips and hurling a stack of chairs in the ring was total Chainsaw Charlie, and the big Liger Bomb onto said stack of chairs was something straight out of the Cabana/Homicide feud. All it needed was Ambrose trying to blind someone with bleach. Loved Ambrose's dive after running across the tables, the wipeout on the double cross body was one of the best I've seen, and Rollins' backflip bump off the rebound lariat was equally great (and didn't look ridiculous at all). Finish is kind of gimmicky, but I dug it all the same. I assume they were taking Ambrose off TV for a while after this, so him getting literally curb stomped into rubble was a cool way to do it. There can't have been too many WWE TV matches from last year better than this, surely?

Friday, 27 March 2015

Bockwinkel v Martel. Twice.

Nick Bockwinkel v Rick Martel (AWA, 8/16/84)

The Martel/Bock series was almost entirely new to me when going through the DVDVR AWA set. I might've seen one or two of their matches years and years ago, but if I had I'd completely forgotten everything about them. Bock had also been a guy that, until about 2011, I really didn't have much interest in watching, and I never had any idea how incredible Rick Martel was at the pro-wrestling. So going through their matches on the AWA set I was pretty much in shock at how great a match-up it was. A friend of mine said it might be the best in-ring feud in US wrestling history behind Lawler/Dundee. That's awfully high praise, and I'd probably have more than just Lawler/Dundee ahead of it, but I also don't think it's a crazy opinion whatsoever. I mean, this might only be their third best match together, but of course it's completely awesome. Martel has only been champion for three months at this point, but he knows fine well what Bock will do to get the belt back, and this really feels like Martel taking a stand and letting everyone know that he's here to stay. He refuses to put up with any of Bock's shit here. Match lasts about fifteen minutes, and it's largely Martel working on top. Bock can't get anything going and it kind of feels like he's actually underestimated Martel a little. He knew he was good, but this is just next level, 2014/15 season Golden State Warriors shit, and for the first time in a long time Nick Bockwinkel might actually be in over his head. "Fuck sake, I knew he was good, but they told me he'd struggle in a best of 7 series!" (watch Golden State lose in 5 against fucking Westbrook and the Thunder now). Best representation of this is when Bock tries to grab a breather by throwing Martel out to the floor, and you're thinking he's going to do the King of the Mountain spot. Nope, Martel isn't having it. He pumps his fists like there is no way this shit is happening, then jumps back in and rolls around the ring while Bock falls over himself trying to grab him. I'd seen Bock do the KotM spot a ton of times on the set up to that point, and I thought Martel being able to ram it straight down his throat was so awesome. Martel was really great on offence in this. He goes from working the arm to working the leg to beating Bock about the head, but it was never like you were watching Ultimo Dragon work over a bunch of body parts because he couldn't make his mind up what he actually wanted to do. With Martel it was like a guy just going full assault mode, picking apart Bockwinkel body part by body part. And every time he shifted focus it felt totally organic. When he went after Bock's arm it was because Bock ran shoulder-first into the post. When he went after the leg it was because that leg happened to be draped over the bottom rope, so Martel took the opportunity to jump on it. Bock's offence for the most part was limited to rabbit punches and taking cheapshots, but they were some great rabbit punches and cheapshots, and it really felt like that was what Martel had reduced him to. There's one spot that I've always remembered since watching this match for the first time over two years ago. Martel is working over Bock's arm on the mat, so he holds it out flat and goes to drop the knee across it, but as he's in the air Bock just digs him in the ribs with a nasty right hand. It's such a minuscule moment, but I loved it. Finish is really good as well, and easily one of the best of its ilk that I've seen in ages (probably ever). Just an awesome piece of pro-wrestling.

Nick Bockwinkel v Rick Martel (AWA, 9/20/84)

I don't know, man. This was #5 on my working AWA ballot. I mean, I LOVED the four matches ahead of it. Loved them. But I watch this and I can't help but think #5 was about four spots too low. If you ever wonder what the fuss is all about with Bockwinkel and why people are talking about Martel being better than Steamboat, watch this match. You know how you sometimes watch a match where both guys are just completely on point and everything comes together to make something amazing? Well, that was this. It's not often that happens, so when it does it's like...this whole pro-wrestling nonsense can be really fun, you know? Match is sort of split into two halves. First half is mostly built around Martel working Bock's arm and Bock working Martel's side/ribs, and it's honestly some of the best dueling body part work I've ever seen. The selling is just off the charts great in that first fifteen minutes. So many awesome moments. Martel stretches Bock's leg out and twists the ankle at a really awkward angle, then he drops a knee right into the hamstring. Bock kicks him off and does some JYD-style crawling headbutts to the ribs, and it felt so frenzied and last resort. Like, this is suave and sophisticated Nick Bockwinkel aping the fucking Junkyard Dog! Bock whips Martel into the ropes and drives the knee into the ribs, so Martel is left writhing around on the mat like he's about to puke while Bock crumples in a heap because he used the bad knee and it's really the first half of the match in a microcosm. This also has one of the best King of the Mountain segments ever. Bock doesn't throw Martel out to the floor so much as force him out, using his shoulder to basically shove him along the mat until Martel slides out the ring, then every time Martel tries to come back in Bock just kicks him in the ribs again. He's resting up and Martel is having to expend energy to even climb onto the apron, but then Bock gets ahead of himself and Martel grabs the leg and drags him over to the corner to wrap it around the post. The collision spot around halfway works as a reset  of sorts, and the second half is a frantic run to the finish with both guys running on fumes. I've been writing a bunch on a forum recently about how Bockwinkel, Flair and Buddy Rose all compare, what they do well, don't do well, do similarly, etc. I've praised Flair and his matches for capturing a sense of "epic" during finishing stretches. You have a pretty good idea how the match is going to end, but everything at least has a sense of escalation and desperation, and it feels like the match could be over at any second. This was that, but even more desperate. Like, Bock moves out the way of a Martel cross body at the VERY last second, then the just collapses in the ropes while Martel crashes and burns, and you buy that if Bock had been a split second too late it would've been over for him. Martel lowers his head as Bock is coming off the ropes, and when Bock kicks him in the face he has to cling onto the ropes at the same time just to hold himself up. I'm not sure what my favourite spot in the second half was, but it was probably between the double knockout punch (Bock's sell of it, btw. God damn fuckin awesome) or Martel eating knees to the bad ribs off the hail Mary slingshot splash. If there's one thing I wish they'd done in this it would've been to play up the body part work a little more in the second half, but that's really a tiny bit of nitpicking. Actually the finish wasn't amazing, but Martel swinging the title belt around like a flail in the post-match was. Man, this might be a top 20 match of the 80s.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Tatsumi Fujinami x 2

I got the urge to watch some New Japan last night.

I may watch more later.

Tatsumi Fujinami v Tony Rocco (9/11/80)

So I figured this was the only Rocco match I'd ever seen, but a search on this here internet tells me he was Don Corleone who had a match on the 80s lucha set there. That match wasn't very good, but I thought Corleone worked pretty well in it (going by what I wrote about it, anyway). He's an oldish barrel-chested dude that looks kind of like Steve Bruce between his eighth and ninth broken nose. He was really good in this; all of his matwork looked super snug and rugged and everything both guys did was fought for. Rocco doesn't go full rudo, but there are points where he takes liberties a little. He'll pull a bit on Fujinami's tights and grab his hair once or twice, but he stops soon enough, like it's more out of habit rather than actually wanting to cheat. Match felt like a long opening fall in an NWA Title match more than a juniors match, with the way it built slowly and methodically with tight matwork and peaked with a short finishing run. Really good match, and if nothing else it shows how versatile Fujinami was.

Tatsumi Fujinami v Johnny Londos (9/19/80)

And here's a different look at Fujinami. Londos is an old World of Sport-ish guy and he's a total blast in this. I thought for sure he was an Englishman, but apparently he's Belgian and his real name is Charly Verhulst. So...there's that. But yeah, I remembered really liking this and it definitely held up. Londos is super slick with some of his matwork, transitioning from a headlock into an armbar takedown so quickly that I had to rewind just to see what had actually happened. At one point Fujinami has him on the mat with an armbar, so Londos starts rocking back and forward until he's balancing on his neck with his legs up in the air and then oh, would you look at that, Fujinami's caught in a headscissors. Fujinami seems content to let Londos bust out the cool stuff and follow his lead, but it's another match that shows his versatility. New Japan brought in a ton of guys to face him for the juniors belt around this time, and on the first disc alone of the New Japan 80s set you get to see him run the gauntlet against a bunch of different guys and styles. Londos, Rocco, Dynamite, Chavo Guerrero, Steve Keirn, Kimura -- all good matches, and all different.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Jerry Lawler v Jack Brisco (Memphis, 9/16/74)

Watching something like this really highlights the scope of Lawler's career. Guy's had killer matches in five different decades. FIVE. That's nuts. He's 24 years old here. I don't remember my biggest achievement in the twenty fourth year of my life, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't competing for a World Title in front of ten thousand people (though I once wrote up a training program for a guy that later got banned from our gym and thrown on the beast register for flashing in a public swimming pool, so maybe that's my claim to fame). This is kind of clipped up in points and doesn't really escalate into something epic, but I dug all of the early parts a lot. There are clear portions of the crowd that are pro-Lawler despite him being a heel at this point, and they pop huge for him reversing or rolling through on armdrags. Jack is always so animated when he's in holds -- he never looks like a guy who's content to just sit in a headlock and kill some time. There's this great bit where he's working Lawler's arm with an armbar, really grinding his knuckles into the shoulder joint. He lays the arm out flat and "handstands" so he can drop the knee, but as he comes back down Lawler shifts around and grabs him in a bodyscissors (and you see a big group of guys jump around celebrating). You know that Lawler scoring the pin after popping Jack with a chain-wrapped fist is going to be reversed, but it gets a pretty huge reaction before that happens. Not on the level of either guy's best stuff, but it's these two. You know it's worth your time.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Santo v Espanto - The Teaser

El Hijo del Santo & Black Shadow Jr. v Espanto Jr. & Eskeletor (12/1/85)

Main selling point here is Santo/Espanto, which you probably guessed. Santo doesn't hit any glorious topes, but his armdrags and the matwork with Espanto is all swank looking. I mean, you know exactly who it is that you're watching. Eskeletor is...weird. He bumps in goofy sorts of ways. At one point he takes a spinebuster and rolls around holding his head, then he gets up to his feet and stumbles a bit before collapsing holding his head again. It was actually a cool bit of selling, but sometimes he looked like a theater actor imitating pro-wrestling. His costume is definitely phenomenal, though. Black Shadow Jr. I've never seen before (haven't seen Eskeletor either, btw), but he throws a few nice looking punches. It's a shame that this is a bit clipped up, because some of the brawling in between falls looked pretty great. Finish is some shit with a heel ref and then the post-match stuff went on for ages. If nothing else this got me geared for Santo/Espanto, and it was actually pretty fun on the whole.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Rocca v Talisman (80s Lucha)

Americo Rocca v El Talisman (3/29/85)

This felt kinda by the numbers, but it was definitely solid. First two caidas are short and I wish the matwork in the primera got some more time. I am not one for the indy standoff, but the whole opening few minutes made up one big stalemate exchange, and it did manage to feel like a struggle, so the standoff never came across as being cheesy. Third caida builds nicely and got the crowd rocking with a few big nearfalls, and while Rocca's plancha wasn't the most graceful or impactful dive on the set so far, it did seem desperate. I dug that finish as well, especially with the way Talisman milked it to get the crowd right where he wanted it. Lower half match, but I'm a sucker for lucha title matches and I'm not disappointed this made the set.

Friday, 20 March 2015

When You're Lost in the Rain in Mid-South and it's Easter Time too, and Gravity Fails, and Negativity don't Pull You Through

Ric Flair v Terry Taylor (5/3/85)

Honestly, I wasn't really in the mood to be watching a 35 minute Flair match, but this was the next match on the disc I had sitting out and I'd have to watch it at some point if I'm gonna finish this project (because it's obviously vital that I do), so I saddled up and went for it. And I'm glad I did, because I thought it was really great. Flair is sporting initially, full of handshakes and clan wrestling. Terry outwrestles him and wins the early exchanges, spinning and rolling out of takedowns when Flair tries to ride his back. Flair throws a knee because he's getting frustrated, but then he offers up another handshake as an apology. This is still a gentleman's contest, and he acknowledges that he lost his temper a bit there. Terry accepts the handshake, but he keeps right on top of him and continues to win exchanges. I like Flair trying to maneuver Taylor's leg into position to hoist him up for the shinbreaker, and Terry constantly shaking him off by really grinding the headlock was cool as well. They really only come up for air to hit the ropes once, and of course it ends with Taylor back working the headlock. I'm not sure if there was a clip job in there somewhere, but I was shocked by the announcement that ten minutes had gone by, because it never felt like that at all. Flair kind of reaches up for a hair pull at one point, almost like it's a force of habit, but he's still in sportsman mode and pulls back. There are definitely signs of him getting ready to drop the nice guy nonsense and let loose now, but he even gives Taylor a clean break at a point in the match where he'd normally have slipped a shot in (I actually expected him to throw a chop or something). Flair strings off some offence with a couple hip tosses and a body slam, but Taylor comes back again so Flair starts a shoving match. That ends with him getting slapped and landing on his butt, then he hangs out the ropes for some breathing space. That basically rounds out the first fifteen minutes, and you know it'll only be so long before Flair gets too annoyed to keep allowing things to go this way. Sure enough he draws Taylor in and throws some chops and rabbit punches, then chucks him out to the floor. Flair gets surly as fuck for a bit after this and the strike exchanges are great, but pretty soon he starts begging off and drops the first Flair Flop. The Flop was actually pretty great here, because whether he intended for it to come off like this or he just wanted to get in a Flair Flop (don't doubt it's the latter, but it doesn't matter either way), it worked in drawing Taylor in so Flair could drill him in the guts with a knee (and Flair has great knees to the guts, which I'm pretty sure I've said a few times). Even though he's begging off and using Fergie to sneak in a cheapshot - Taylor throws a punch, Fergie grabs the arm, Flair goes "lower abdomen" while Fergie is distracted - he's not in full on "Aw god no, please no!" bitch mode. He actually comes across as a guy that'll use any and every trick he can, but when it comes down to it he'll genuinely kick your ass. Flair is fucking awesome after taking over, posting Taylor, clubbing him over the ropes and going after the arm for a few minutes. I really dig Flair arm work because he'll just punch a guy in the armpit and it always looks super nasty. He's also started yanking the hair and using the ropes now, so nice guy Flair has vanished. In a nice break from the norm, when Taylor comes back by reversing a whip into the corner, Flair doesn't go upside down like I figured he would and instead goes shoulder first, which leads to Taylor doing some brief revenge arm work (doesn't last long, but it was still cool). Flair goes to the sleeper, which Taylor eventually reverses into one of his own, and it all keeps with the theme of Taylor being Flair's equal and doing everything Flair can do. There's another great Flair cheapshot when he backpedals into the ropes then lunges at Taylor's stomach with a headbutt, which is another Flair spot I love. Last stretch is total Flair on the Ropes, so you know you get all the stock spots -- the slam off the top, the upside down turnbuckle bump, etc. You're wondering just how he'll be able to hang on, then...oh. That's  how he'll hang on. Well, he IS the dirtiest player in the game. I don't even think my low expectations had anything to do with how much I liked this, because I was totally into it after only a few minutes and all of my reservations about a 35 minute match were quickly forgotten. I don't know who it was that wrote this about Flair or even where I read it, but it was something along the lines of "he never goes away long enough for us to miss him." That's something I can definitely relate to personally, but I think the fact I've watched barely any Flair in the last few years helped this a little. Either way, I dug it a ton and it's one of the best matches I've re-watched so far.

Mid-South Project

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Still Plugging Away with 80s Lucha...

Atlantis v El Faraon (3/22/85)

Pretty sure this is the first time I've seen Faraon in a title match setting. Every other Faraon match I've seen has been full of forehead biting and blood and brawling, and I've come to enjoy him when he's doing that. This has none of that, but I liked him here as well. The matwork in the primera was pretty great, but I wish it lasted a little longer. Faraon's chain of offence to round out the fall did look really painful though, especially the spinebusters, and the finishing submission looked super nasty, like he was really trying to tear ligaments. Dug Atlantis working the arm for his comeback. A lot of his stuff looked like it was designed to tear ligaments as well, and Faraon rolling out clotheslines with the opposite arm in response was a cool touch. Atlantis hasn't set the world on fire through the first three and a half discs (that'll come, of course), but his tope still looks fucking killer. He hits two in this, with the second one being absolutely gorgeous. Didn't think this was on the level of the best title matches so far, but still really good, and at this point I'll take pretty much any lucha title match involving guys I have even a little interest in.

MS-1, Satanico & Pirata Morgan v La Fiera, El Faraon & El Egipcio (3/29/85)

This is not a hard match to follow. It has a simple formula with very few momentum shifts. One of the things I love about lucha is that trios matches in general have a really simple formula (which isn't too dissimilar to most kinds of wrestling match, I guess), but there's a bunch of ways to play around with it. Could be a hateful brawl where the rudos take the first caida by swarming and mugging before the tecnico comeback in the segunda. Could be the other way around, with the rudo mugging coming after losing the primera. Might have an opening caida full of matwork with guys pairing off. The pairings might not have any matwork to speak of, and instead they'll work it like a sprint with a bunch of quick exchanges and spots. Could be a mix of everything. This is really basic in layout and has like three transitions over the course of the whole three caidas. Primera -- rudo beatdown. Segunda -- tecnico comeback. Tercera -- free for all to the finish. It's about the most straightforward match you'll see. And it was completely awesome. It's actually not as wild and chaotic as some of the previous trios during the first two caidas, but the Infernales are an amazing pack of thugs, and they've gotten even better now after bringing in Pirata. How many guys in wrestling history have the sort of badass aura that Satanico does? You wouldn't need many fingers to count them. Infernales taking penalty kicks on Faraon at the end of the primera was fucking incredible hooligan behaviour. Feels like Pirata/Egipcio is the main match-up here, and in true lucha fashion it probably led to an amazing apuestas match that will never see the light of day. Pirata throws Egipcio head first into a row of fixed seats in the primera, then in an awesome revenge spot in the segunda Egipcio chucks him clean through the ring boarding (then he smashes him with a broken piece of it). There's a great bit during the tecnico comeback where you can see Pirata hanging around outside the ring like he's wondering if it's in his best interest to try and put that fire out (and in the end he decides it's not). Third caida is where this gets really great. It's like the rumble scene from 'The Outsiders' and just gets better and better as it goes. Really has everything you want in a big lucha gang riot; choking, biting, eye-gouging, fish-hooking, punching, stomping, postings, reckless dives...all of it. I actually thought Fiera was actively pretty poor for the first couple caidas and the weakest guy in the match by a fair margin, which isn't something I recall ever thinking about him before. He'd come in a few times in the primera like he was gonna deck someone, but then he'd just kind of posture a bit before leaving when the ref' told him to. He redeemed himself in the tercera though where he just about kills himself dead with a dive. He basically flings himself backwards from the top rope to the floor where he bounces off of Satanico and lands on the back of his head. I have no idea what he was actually trying to do. Match coming down to Pirata and Egipcio while the other four have taken themselves out on the floor was fitting as well. Yeah, this was great.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

I Never Finished the Lucha 80s Set

So I've had this for 17 months and managed to finish three discs. I think the old DVDVR board going down and the 80s project section along with it kind of put a cooler on my motivation to finish the set, but the ballot deadline hasn't passed yet so if the gods are good I might actually get through it on time. I mean, there's certainly no lack of great wrestling on it.

El Dandy v Javier Cruz (Hair v Hair) (10/26/84)

This had a bunch of cool stuff, but neither guy has been wrestling very long at this point and it felt like an apuestas match between two guys that haven't really cracked how to work an amazing apuestas match yet. It was less of a bloody massacre and more of a hateful juniors match with some lucha-isms. Dandy throws a few corkers of punches and bumps in really extravagant ways. Both guys bump and sell like that, actually; flopping around and really playing to the back row. I remember a talking point made by, I think, OJ on PWO, regarding Atlantis in the Atlantis/Satanico match earlier on the set, where you could tell that Atlantis was basically a rookie with the way he'd cock his fist and look to the crowd for support, almost like he was unsure of himself. Cruz does that a few times here, once or twice after dropping Dandy with something and jumping on the ropes to get the crowd going. Dandy does similar things on the flipside by adding a rudo twist, and it's interesting seeing these guys do stuff like that in '84 compared to matches years later where crowds didn't need any prompting to react to a Dandy punch or a Cruz comeback. Dandy hits like four DDTs in a row in the segunda, which would've worked as a near riot-inducing angle if it was done in the States at the time. Tercera had more really cool moments (including Dandy missing a big springboard elbow and Cruz trying to snap the fuck out of it), but the transitions weren't great. These guys went on to have some legendarily great matches. This wasn't at that level, and I know it's easy to say this now with the benefit of hindsight, but they both looked like a pair of wrestlers that would get really awesome pretty quickly.

Mocho Cota, Fishman & Tony Bennetto v Gran Cochisse, Villano III & Rayo De Jalisco Jr. (11/30/84)

Well this was pretty awesome. Feels like it's building to a Cota/Cochisse singles match, and holy shit is Cota one of the best wrestlers ever that nobody talks about (or talked about, rather, since this set has opened peoples' eyes to him somewhat, my own included). He's such an amazing stooge in this -- the whole rudo unit is, really, but Cota especially. There's this bit where he's skulking around outside the ring looking to cause some shit, then he runs around and tries to cheapshot Cochisse only to have his leg caught mid-kick, causing him to back-pedal and beg off on one leg. If this isn't a set up to Cota/Cochisse then it's a set up to Villano/Fishman, because that match-up was prominent as well (and also ruled). Fishman has a couple great bits of stooging in the first caida, my favourite being when he steps in and trips over the bottom rope because Villano has him so flustered. Third caida turned into a killer brawl with a great tecnico comeback (which followed an equally great rudo mugging in the segunda), Cochisse biting a hole in Cota's head and a nice finish. Mocho Cota definitely needs the megacomp treatment.

Sangre Chicana v Villano III (12/7/84)

This was fucking great while it lasted. I'm hesitant to say it was only two caidas then a double DQ finish, because it was a hell of a double DQ finish, but...well yeah, it was really only two caidas and a double DQ finish. What we got was everything you want in a Sangre Chicana mano-a-mano, though. First caida is like the first caida in the Chicana/MS-1 classic. Chicana gets nothing and Villano beats him half to death, and of course Chicana bleeds a bucket or two. That continues into the segunda, then Chicana makes his desperate comeback, which is essentially a few punches and maniac tope. I love how he just manages to crawl back into the ring after it and lie there lifeless, like he has absolutely nothing left to give. He's really one of the best ever in that regard -- I can't think of anybody that's better in conveying a sense of being on their last legs and purely running on fumes and residue cocaine. I'm not sure when it happened, but I think somewhere in between the second and third caidas Villano gigs himself, and would you fucking LOOK at that dude? He's absolutely covered in blood after about three minutes. Ref' just tosses the match out when Chicana rips off Villano's mask and throws it into the crowd and Villano punts him in the dick in return. The eventual apuestas match that I assume this set up is out there somewhere, right? Because I would like to see that.

Mocho Cota & Loco Zavala v Raul Reyes Jr. & Climax (1985)

More of Cota ruling it. I'd never even heard of the other three and the only reason I knew which one Zavala was is because he was listed as Cota's partner. I think Climax was the one dressed in jeans, t-shirt and suspenders (and mask). He wasn't great, but he handled himself okay and got chucked into the turnbuckles all awkward like by Zavala, which looked super cool. Reyes Jr. looked pretty good. His early matwork segment with Cota was really slick, he throws nice punches and has some great jelly-legged selling of Cota's late flurries. Zavala was a pretty fun bruiser and complimented Cota well. But this is really the Mocho Cota show when it comes down to it. His early stooging was awesome again, and when he shifts into ass-kicking mode he manages to come across as vicious as he did schmucky earlier. I have no idea what that finish was, but it looked wild. This is also just about the most obscure match on any 80s set so far, with three guys nobody's ever heard of and one guy whose stock has risen exponentially due to his exposure on one of those 80s sets. I guess in a sense that makes it the most lucha match on the set as well, because half the fun in lucha is finding obscure shit nobody ever knew existed.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Tenryu's Stumbled and Knows He's Made Mistakes, but Tonight He's Gonna be Playin' for All the Stakes

Genichiro Tenryu & Nobutaka Araya v Kazuo Yamazaki & Takashi Iizuka (WAR, 11/9/96) - EPIC

Well this was awesome. Actually feels like a bit of a lost classic. Match pretty much had everything I want in a Tenryu tag – hate, a central match-up that delivered, every other match-up working, plenty going on on the side, PERIL, bunch more hate, etc. I don't know if this was setting up a Tenryu/Yamazaki match for some point down the line, or even if that match ever happened, but it would've ruled if it did. They were tremendous together in this. I'm not sure if Yamazaki playing up the rib injury was a deliberate call back to the IWGP Tag Title win from June, but his selling was pretty wonderful either way. The opening Tenryu/Yamazaki exchange was phenomenal, with Yamazaki battering him with strikes leading to Tenryu swinging a chair. There's something going on with Araya and Iizuka in the ring, then a cameraman gets upturned as Tenryu runs him over to get at Yamazaki with the chair, and we see all of this from that cameraman's angle. It was like something from a snuff film where the camera fizzles out just before someone gets murdered with a claw hammer. Tenryu's really a whirlwind after being humiliated in the first exchange. He throws ungodly chops – genuinely some of the nastiest of his career – temple punches, reckless lariats, countless cheapshots; the whole repertoire. Great moment where Yamazaki is trying to crawl back onto the apron so Tenryu just steamrolls him with a koppo kick to the ribs. Araya was a pretty great understudy bully in this. He was like Nelson Muntz. He saves Tenryu on a couple occasions by coming in and nonchalantly breaking something up, completely revelling in the boos (because every WAR guy other than Tenryu gets booed in these inter-promotional feuds, even when the match is happening in WAR). Best sequence of the match comes when Tenryu throws a home run chop, which Iizuka ducks and follows up by grabbing a leg lock. Araya comes in and casually breaks it up, like he's happy to snatch away the one last hope Iizuka has of not dying. Tenryu then goes for an enziguiri, but Iizuka ducks that and goes to the leg lock again, then when Araya comes in to break it up a second time Iizuka cuts him off and lays into him. But of course that's still enough time for Tenryu to regroup and punch his face. Really an excellent match; one that never seems to get talked about at all, which is sort of the story with WAR in general. 

Genichiro Tenryu, Ashura Hara & Takashi Ishikawa v Shinya Hashimoto, Tatsumi Fujinami & Masa Chono (New Japan, 8/2/93) - GOOD

Tenryu v Hash is such a can't-fail prospect. Whole NJ/WAR feud is a can't-fail prospect, but Tenryu/Hash is one of those match-ups that absolutely rules every time single time they're in the ring together. This is a week before their second singles match of the year, so of course they do what you want them to do. That being fucking leather each other, obviously. I mean, they leather everyone else as well, but they save the nastiest stuff for each other. 90s Fujinami is a pretty different beast from 80s Fujinami, but he’s always fun against the WAR guys. At times he kind of comes across like a broken down old dude, which makes for a cool dynamic when a bruiser like Hara is headbutting him in the face, but then he burst into life like a badass war vet and lets you know why he used to be The Man. Thought Chono was clearly the weakest in this and never really brought anything worthwhile. He was a lot of fun in the July tag, but there were points here where he'd eat a bunch of offence then just do a takedown and drag a guy into the corner so he could tag out. Like all the offence he'd just taken never actually mattered. His involvement provided a couple great moments, though, like when Ishikawa puts him in a Scorpion Deathlock to a chorus of boos, then Chono’s own STF to even more boos. Finishing runs in these matches don't have the same sort of build or are as nearfall-heavy as the matches over in All Japan, but they're always really hectic and capture a sense of chaos that those in All Japan don't (or can't). What you could probably point to as a "stretch run" in this lasts about two minutes, but they cram in a bunch of awesome spots. Tenryu and Ishikawa try to double powerbomb Chono, so Hash comes across and enziguiris Ishikawa while Fujinami eats about half a dozen lariats. Not one of the real high end matches from this feud, but still a cool instalment.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

New Japan G-1 Climax 2014 (part 3)

Minoru Suzuki v AJ Styles (8/1/14)

Man Suzuki fucking ruled in this. I was pretty excited about watching this to see more AJ (which wasn't the case before the Naito match), and he was great here as well, but it's been so long since I've seen a Minoru Suzuki match that I guess I forgot how much of an epic cunt he could be. I actually thought this was outstanding and up there with pretty much anything I've seen from last year. Even the stare down before the bell was great, mostly because Suzuki has done outrageous things to his hair since the last time I saw him. He now looks like an alley cat that steals food from burning buildings. There were points of this where he was sort of Tenryu-ish in the way he tried to bully AJ, and at times he looked downright disgusted by him. All of his armwork was great (which AJ sold great in return), totally cranking on everything like he's really trying to yank an arm off. It was his finger bending that was the best, though. Any match with finger bending is instantly a better match because of it, and this was some GREAT finger bending. The way it all started was an awesome spot as well, with AJ pointing to Suzuki's head with a handgun gesture and Suzuki just grabbing and bending. Closing stretch was off the charts good, especially the struggles over big moves. I thought I'd seen enough Kurt Angle finishing stretches in my life that I'd never pop for an ankle lock reversal sequence again, but I'll be fucked if they never did an awesome ankle lock reversal sequence. It even ended with Suzuki going back to the arm, and his cross armbreaker looked completely disgusting, like he was trying to just hyper-extend the fuck out of it. Loved the fight for the Styles Clash as well with AJ only being able to hit it one-armed in the end. This also had an actively good strike exchange that never felt contrived at all, but the best part was Suzuki punching Styles dead in the jaw and the ref' losing his shit (Styles only using his left arm to throw forearms was a nice touch as well). I don't want to say this was "shockingly great" or whatever, because I had some high expectations for it, but it did kinda blow those expectations out the water.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Tenryu Lost Most Everything on Horses, Whiskey and Wedding Rings

Genichiro Tenryu v Great Muta (WAR, 10/11/96) - EPIC

I'm a stupid mark for this kind of thing, so obviously I loved the shit out of this match. My usual stance on Keiji Mutoh is that in most circumstances I'd rather take a man in my mouth than watch him wrestle for twenty minutes, but I do think he matches up really well with Tenryu (and you know I'll watch Tenryu against anybody). Plus this is Muta, so I fully expected a bit of a spectacle with a hot crowd, and I got that and more. Muta was actually a total blast in this. Guy just goes off right from the start and wreaks all sorts of havoc. He smashes a glass bottle off the ring post and stabs Tenryu in the forehead with it, piledrives him on a table (which leaves a big blood smear), tries to stab ring boys, jabs Tenryu in the kidneys with a microphone stand; just a whole bunch of awesome stuff. At one point he rips off someone's white shirt and writes something on it in Tenryu's blood! You know what happens when Tenryu makes his comeback. He kisses his fist and throws three absolutely glorious punches, then launches a table at Muta. You're always going to get a big mist spot with Muta, and I really dug him doing it here from about three inches away from Tenryu's face as a kick out of the powerbomb. Looked like Tenryu came up having to spit half of it back out of his own mouth. Ref's performance deserves a shout here as well, you know. He gets his arm cut by a piece of broken glass (which flew up when Muta smashed the bottle), gets flung around by Muta, walks into some residue mist (and sells it like he's swatting away some angry hornets), and has to scramble out the way when Tenryu starts hurling furniture. Muta sells the finish by instantly rolling out the ring and walking away like nothing actually happened, but that was really a small blemish on an otherwise killer match.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Sunday, 8 March 2015

New Japan G-1 Climax 2014 (part 2)

Hiroshi Tanahashi v Katsuyori Shibata (7/26/14)

I remember being super excited when I found out Shibata was coming back to do pro-wrestling. That was like two and a half years ago. This is the first Shibata match I've watched since he came back. Such is how I roll. I don't really like Tanahashi at all and his offence still kinda stunk (that's a criticism that gets levied at him so often that I feel cheap even mentioning it myself, but it's true), but in a weird way that actually added to the match. Because Shibata does not have flimsy offence and is stiff as a bastard, so the match then becomes about Tanahashi trying to use his flimsy offence to better Shibata's striking. It doesn't work well for him and Shibata murders him, and one thing you can't fault Tanahashi for is his willingness to take an almighty shitkicking. All of Shibata's kicks are as lethal as I remembered and I thought he was really great in this. He doesn't exactly get his leg worked over, at least not in the sense that Tanahashi got to do a bunch of limb work, but it's still a target that Tanahashi can zero in on when he manages to string together some offence. Shibata sells it like it's really bugging him more than actively hurting him to the point where it's hindering what he's doing, and I dug how he went about it. Shibata's flurries of offence are awesome, especially when they come in response to one of Tanahashi's weak strikes. They do a forearm exchange down the stretch that I rolled my eyes at, but then Shibata salvaged it with an ungodly back fist that just about took Tanahashi's jaw clean the fuck off. Ref's reaction to it was amazing as well. Tanahashi countering the GTS with a small package was really cool and felt totally last ditch. And of course the finish was emphatic. This might be the best match I've watched yet, and Shibata is still Shibata.

Tomohiro Ishii v Doc Gallows (7/28/14)

Ishii was a blast in this as the little steamroller that could. He's about three foot nothing and has no neck. Think this is the first Gallows match I've seen since that match against Rey Mysterio way back when. He looks enormous compared to Ishii. Match is naturally built around the huge size difference and it totally worked. Ishii is especially great at milking spots where he lifts Gallows off the ground. Looks like he puts everything he has into hitting a vertical suplex, and the struggle to hit the brainbuster at the end was even better. Gallows tries to hoist him up for his finisher, but Ishii breaks his grip and headbutts him in the dish, then later he does this awesome Fujiwara-ish headbutt where he kind of rams Gallows under the chin (which played into the size difference story in a really cool way). Good match.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

New Japan G-1 Climax 2014

I'm not really sure where the itch to watch all this stuff came from, but I grabbed some stuff that interested me (like I was really gonna watch the entire tournament) and tried to get up to speed with some New Japan. I mean, everybody else is watching it, so if you can't beat 'em...

Tomohiro Ishii v Tomoaki Honma (7/26)

This might be my first Ishii match. I honestly don't know for sure. I mean, it's probably not, because I used to actually follow New Japan, but it's my first since he became someone who was having matches that people on the internet were raving about (when did that start happening, btw?). I haven't seen Honma in like ten years. He's not as hideously scarred as I figured he'd be considering how much of a lunatic he used to be with the blade. Ishii feels like 2015's answer to WAR; a stocky little bruiser that'll hit like a minivan and take as good as he gives. This had a couple strike exchanges that I guess I could've done without, but at least they wallop each other good and proper. One of them was also stopped dead by Ishii throwing a coconut headbutt, so you know, I'll get behind that if guys are gonna do it. Ishii had a couple incredible bits of selling here. He takes a DDT right on the top of his head and sells it like his whole spine just got crushed, then later he takes a massive German suplex and clutches his neck like he's trying to screw his head back on. Finishing run is short, everything looked lethal and every strike was stiff as a bastard. Really good match, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of both guys.

AJ Styles v Tetsuya Naito (7/26)

I had no idea AJ won the IWGP title. That's pretty cool. I haven't really given a shit about anything he's done in years and years, but I thought he was a pretty first class redneck asshole here. Naito comes into the match with tape above his eye, so AJ spends most of the first half working the cut and shit talking people. Ref' admonishes him for removing the tape and elbowing Naito in the eye. Styles: "What about his face? I'm supposed to hit him in the face! *points at elbow pad* Is that illegal? It's not illegal, right." Then he elbows him in the eye again. At one point Naito hangs over the bottom rope and the doctor tries to check the cut, so AJ tells him to "sit down and shut the hell up." Is Naito a heavyweight now? Last time I saw him I'm pretty sure he was a junior (though we're talking '08 or so. Fuck, that was ages ago). His bumping was really good here, especially his crazy backflip bump off an AJ dropkick, but his offence still felt kind of juniory. Like, in terms of juniors that've made the step up to heavyweight he wasn't even in the same ballpark here as Ibushi was against Nakamura from this year's Dome show, and I'm not exactly an Ibushi fan either (that match did make me want to see some more of him, though). I thought his fatigued/blood loss selling in the first half was good, but his comeback seemed a bit easily came by. Still, that was better than it would've been if he'd just blown off a bunch of limb work, so you take the good with the not so good. I'm neither here nor there on Naito, but Styles impressed me a lot and I'm really looking forward to the Suzuki match now.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Virus Bombs Facts, His Sword is an Axe to Split Backs, Invisible Like Dope Fiend Tracks

Virus, Hechicero & Cachorro v Negro Casas, Cavernario & Dragon Lee (CMLL, 5/23/14) - EPIC

Really awesome workrate trios. This had something great happening almost every other second and everybody got to look like world beaters. Virus and Dragon Lee kick things off with a nifty mat exchange, but before long that gets dropped in favour of everyone running through a ton of awesome looking sequences and exchanges. It's not just a spotfest, though, because all of the big bumps and bombs are built to really well and it all felt fairly logical and organic. Hechicero was unreal here. I basically never watched any wrestling at all in the second half of last year, but before that I thought he was a serious best in the world contender from the stuff I did watch. I've said it in the past, but pretty much every Hechicero match I've ever seen has featured him doing something I've never seen in any other match before. It's not some contrived indy horse shit where it's a regular move with a flip or something thrown in before it -- more often than not it looks truly spectacular and genuinely impactful. He hits a fucking crazy powerbomb on Dragon Lee at the end of the primera, then later he does some faceplant thing to Casas that I can't even describe. His spinning hammerlock backbreaker is also one of the coolest spots in wrestling. Really dug Cavernario again here. His big top rope splash to the floor is insane, but it's his bursts of caveman violence that I love. His set-up to the bow and arrow rules, with the way he just jumps on the recipient's calves to get them on their knees. Third caida is about ten minutes of hit after hit with everyone doing something awesome. I think my favourite part of the whole match was Dragon Lee taking a psychopath hiptoss bump from inside the ring to the floor, then Cachorro crushing him against the guardrail with a bullet tope. Felt like Virus and Casas worked points of this in a way that would allow the other four to shine, but they still looked like Virus and Casas. Virus' stocky tope con hilo is such a great dive. Final Hechicero/Lee exchange is really the only one in the whole match that didn't look seamless, but it ended with Hechicero throwing out the low blow and pinning him with the feet on the ropes, so I don't mind.

Complete & Accurate Virus

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Terry Funk & Mike Awesome v Hayabusa & Masato Tanaka (FMW, 9/24/96)

I wasn't sure what to expect out of this, but it wound up being totally badass. It's in Korakuen Hall so there's plenty of wild crowd brawling with guys getting their faces slammed into walls and a thousand chairs being scattered every which way. Funk was the absolute greatest in this. He's your Charlie Kelly level wildcard, throwing chairs and tables and staggering around punch drunk, then when you think he's taken all the punishment a near-pensioner with no knees can take he surprises you with a reckless piledriver where he stumbles backwards ten feet before falling. There's one amazing bit where Hayabusa climbs up top and from out of camera shot he gets belted by a flying chair, and you know exactly who flung it. Awesome does a bunch of really impressive athletic spots for a guy his size. His big no hands dive looked killer and he was never afraid to take a wild bump. He also hits about fifteen different powerbombs, with the one off the top rope being completely nuts. Tanaka has probably kicked out of more potential match-ending moves than anyone else on the entire 1996 yearbook, and he's only been in like three matches. Of the fifteen or so Mike Awesome powerbombs done in this match, Tanaka must be the recipient of fourteen of them. Hayabusa has a cool tope suicida, but the thing I remember about him most here is his willingness (or maybe he wasn't willing, but it happened anyway) to take an utterly outrageous double team from Funk and Awesome. Funk gets a chain or a belt from somewhere and wraps it around Hayabusa's neck like a noose, then Awesome lifts Hayabusa up on his shoulders. Funk then goes out onto the apron and, using the belt/chain, yanks Hayabusa backwards off Awesome's shoulders, which basically results in Hayabusa taking a Doomsday Device-Ganso Bomb onto the fucking ring apron. I was pretty much in shock that it never crippled him. Post-match Funk cuts an amazing rambly promo introducing his new stable, saying they're gonna tear a path through every promotion until American wrestlers in Japan return to their former glory of the 70s and 80s.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Might Finish the 1996 Yearbook Before 2016!

Shawn Michaels v Mankind (WWF In Your House 9: Mind Games)

This still fucking ruled, obviously. Been my favourite match for about twelve years at this point. I've talked before about how I still tend to get a lot out of Michaels' pre-first retirement run -- the matches are laid out really simply for the most part, but I'm okay with that, and the nip up has never bothered me. This stands out, though, because it's clearly different in layout and...well just about everything else compared to Michaels' other matches of the era (or ever?). There's been a thing or two made of Shawn throwing a bitchfit in this because of a Foley miscue or whatever. I don't know if the line about Foley doing that on purpose to make it seem more like a real fight is true or not, but that was certainly the outcome. Michaels gets pissed and starts throwing potato shots and stomps right on Foley's face, and it really does feel like a scrap. Whole first stretch is like that. Mankind rips up the mats but winds up trapped under them, and Michaels just starts jumping on top of him. Foley's concrete flat back bump isn't one of his absolute craziest, but it was still nasty looking. First big transition comes when Michaels suplexes Foley on the floor and Foley's leg smashes off the steps, which is a great spot and looked totally organic. Shawn's leg work is all really good; some of the best offensive stuff I've ever seen from him. That's actually not just limited to when he's working the leg -- he busts out a bunch of stuff throughout the match that looks great. Foley takes over with a hotshot and works on top for a spell, and all of that is really good as well. They do a cool variation of Shawn's upside down snap turnbuckle bump where he gets his leg caught and stuck in a tree of woe, so Foley does a great looking running forearm/elbow drop while Shawn's hung up in the corner. They fill the time really well here. There's almost no downtime at any point in the match, plus every so often they end up spilling outside and start chucking each other into stuff. When Shawn takes over again it's because Foley cracks a steel chair with a punch, and Shawn's work on the Mandible Claw hand rules. I'm a huge mark for obscure body part work so naturally I loved this. What's even better is how he still goes back to the knee at a few points as well, like when he bends Foley's hand and fingers then kicks him in the knee to get him off his feet (he also hit Foley in the knee with the chair before using it on the hand when he took over again). Bunch of great stuff happens down the stretch, like Shawn getting caught in the Mandible Claw while Foley is hanging by his head on the ropes, and of course the big table spot, which is fucking awesome. Finish is mistimed and pretty shitty, but the leaping Sweet Chain Music onto the chair is still a great spot, so just pretend it finished there or something. Both guys were really excellent in this. I don't think I'd go as far as calling it the best match in company history, but I would have it top 5 for sure and probably top 3. Might be the career performance of both as well. I don't know if there's been another Michaels performance like this, actually. Not even talking about quality, but in terms of how little shit he was taking and the firepower he brought to the match. There was absolutely no fucking around from him here; no dancing, no posing -- it was all business, and you can buy that it needed to be or the psycho across from him would eat him alive. The Cactus Jack/HHH match from the '00 Rumble was basically Foley dragging Helmsley to something awesome, so it was a hell of a performance, but I think I liked him even more in this. His whole deal in the HHH match was that he was a maniac and would do absolutely anything, but in some ways he comes across even more unhinged here. He also goes out to the floor at one point and chucks chairs in the ring, and that means Shawn gets a little time to recover before doing the nip up. I said that spot doesn't bother me in general, but I still like how Foley wastes a little time to make it more plausible (I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that was his intention). Actually feels like he's right on the level with guys like Austin, Shawn and Owen as one of the best guys in the company that year. Either way, this was incredible. Top 5 worldwide for the year? Might be.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Tenryu's Been a Long Time Walkin' on Fortune's Cane, Tonight He's Steppin' Lightly and Feelin' no Pain

Genichiro Tenryu v Nobuhiko Takada (UWFi, 9/11/96) - EPIC

You'd think this couldn't live up to the hype I had for it in my head. You'd be dead fucking wrong. First half is sort of cagey with only flashes of what would come later. Both guys seem a little reluctant to really throw down early -- there's some circling and maneuvering on the mat, but no real fireworks (although Tenryu throws a few nasty as fuck elbows from inside Takada's guard). Takada will throw a kick and Tenryu will chop him back, but they feel like shots that are made to test the waters more than anything. Tenryu's death stare would still shrivel your testes, though. Takada even exposes his back for a second and Tenryu actually refrains from kicking him in the spine. They tease a ringside brawl - which Tenryu instigates, obviously - but Takada thinks better of it by getting back inside while Tenryu casually strolls around the ring a few times. Great bit where Tenryu takes his time on a rope break, so Takada gives him a little kick and Tenryu walks away with a sly grin. Takada might be cool and collected, but Tenryu brings out the cunty side in all of us. Match eventually goes in the direction everyone knew it would, but it's Takada that sets the ball rolling by backing Tenryu into the corner and unloading with about fifteen brutal knees. Tenryu comes out with a busted eye, so you know what that means. He goes on a complete fucking rampage and it's everything that's great about him. He floors Takada with a straight right, then when Takada's on the deck Tenryu punches him so hard that his head bounces off the mat. Like, a bunch of times. I'm not a Takada fan, but occasionally he can pull off some really awesome bits of selling, and his KO sell of one Tenryu punch was totally amazing. The big strike battle ruled, with Takada teeing off with kicks while Tenryu chops him in the throat and slaps him in the ear. Finish is pretty shocking in that I don't think I've ever seen Tenryu submit before, and also a cool bit of booking since it leaves the powerbomb on the table for the rematch. Just a killer spectacle of a dream match between two charismatic powerhouses that absolutely delivered.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Friday, 27 February 2015

Hansen v Kobashi - One Last Time

Stan Hansen v Kenta Kobashi (All Japan, 9/5/96)

You know this was fucking awesome. Feels like it's been a while since I last watched a Hansen match. He's the still the best ever. He's pretty broken down here, but it really makes for the story of the one-time baddest redneck walking trying to take back the crown from the new guy on top. Hansen was The Man back when Kobashi was scrubbing Baba's underpants. He's no longer the same Terminator in the Cowboy Hat (that was a line from Childs on PWO, but it's too good not to steal), but this'll probably be his last chance, so there's no way he's not going down throwing hand grenades. What's so great about this match-up is that you can trace its progression from at least '93 (I haven't seen the '92 Carnival match in forever and I don't think I've ever actually seen the '90 and '91 matches, but I don't doubt you could trace it back even that far). In '93 Hansen was still higher up the food chain, but Kobashi was nipping at his heels and Hansen needed to uncork the nastiest Western Lariat in history just to beat him in July. In '94 Hansen was a little older, a little more banged up, and Kobashi was only picking up more steam. When Kobashi finally got his win, it felt like he would only continue to ascend while time would just keep chipping away at Hansen. Now two years down the line Kobashi is the champ. He's where Hansen used to be. So Hansen says fuck it and does the only thing he knows, and that's fight like a total bastard. There are a few points in the first half where you wonder if Kobashi has taken Hansen too lightly. He'll start to gain some momentum, then Hansen will potato him in the jaw and shut him down (and then Tenryu kick him in the eye). Eventually Kobashi gets fed up with that and throws punches to the ribs, and Hansen finally starts looking like the near-50 year old man he is. Hansen responding with his crazy reckless redneck tope fucking ruled, as did his powerbomb on the exposed concrete, which is an awesome staple of Hansen/Kobashi matches; kind of like how Rey and Eddie would always work in a variation of that springboard backflip DDT. Like the '94 match this goes from great to super great once Hansen almost breaks a body part. In '94 he got bounced off the apron and cracked his ribs off the guardrail. This time he runs along the apron and tries to hit the lariat, but Kobashi dives out the way and Hansen smashes the post instead. Hansen's selling from then on out is really awesome. He relies mostly on kicks while his left arm dangles by his side, but now and then Kobashi comes too close so Hansen will throw a right hand to the cheek bone. There was one backhander in particular that looked totally face-cavey. Kobashi obviously works the arm over and as the match progresses he gets more and more surly in his own right. He doesn't resort to throwing potatoes the way Hansen does, but he won't hesitate to kick him in the bad arm, and that leads to the spot of the match. Hansen knows that the only way he can possibly come out of this with the belts is if he hits the lariat. Kobashi has surpassed him and that's really the only weapon that could even things up. It'll hurt Stan, but it'll hurt Kobashi more, so he'll take that bullet. He charges in and Kobashi kicks the arm just as he's about to throw it, but Stan does a 360 on the spot and fucking wastes him on the spin with a right-armed lariat. Crowd lose it in a way where you can tell it was a total left field shot (I never saw it coming, either. And I also popped huge), and Hansen staggers back with hands on knees like that was everything he had left. I think Higuchi might've fucked up the count a little (dude must've been about a hundred a six at this point), but when Kobashi kicks out at the death you can see Hansen just deflate. It was like all those moments in the past where it looked like someone was about to put Hansen away only to fall that tiny bit short, but this time the shoe was on the other foot. Kobashi comes back, Hansen stay belligerent til the end, but there's only so much he can do at this point. Maybe if he'd been able to hit the lariat with the left arm rather than the right it'd be different. But he didn't, and it wasn't. Still, you best believe he walked out with his head held high.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Out Here in the Fields, Tenryu Fights for His Meals

Genichiro Tenryu v Naoki Sano (UWFi, 8/17/96) - GREAT

This was ten minutes of Tenryu and Sano so, you know, obviously it was a blast. Starts out civilized with both guys working hold exchanges, and it's always cool to see Tenryu working quick exchanges like that. The things you normally associate with Tenryu are the hate and contempt and smashing people to bits, but he brings some nice stuff any time he's required to work the mat. Naturally that doesn't last, though. You know where it goes. Tenryu will only play by the rules for so long before letting loose, and eventually he eats one too many leg kicks. He obviously responds by punching and kicking Sano in the face. Sano just continues to frustrate him and cracks him under the jaw with a nasty roundhouse kick, then Tenryu REALLY snaps and just obliterates him with brutal knees and punches in the corner. Tenryu even picks a fight with the ref' in the post-match. Tenryu/Takada should be awesome.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Friday, 13 February 2015

Random WWE Network Day #3

Royal Rumble 1992 (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/19/92)

I've been watching a bunch of Rumble matches on the Network recently. Well, most of the other ones have largely been on as background noise until something catches my attention and I end up watching for a while (until something shinier catches my attention), but I sat and actually watched this the whole way. If it isn't the best Rumble ever then it probably has the most memorable performance from someone IN a Rumble. Flair was everywhere in this. He's worked probably a billion broadways by this point in his career, but this one is totally different in that he's literally working twenty nine (well, twenty eight -- DiBiase gets bounced before he comes in) different guys over the course of the hour. He's still doing "his" match, but he does it with everyone, and the most impressive thing is that he just does not stop. He picks fights with everybody, begs off, gets gorilla pressed or backdropped out the corner or Flair Flops or does any other spot you've seen a hundred times, then he finds someone else to play with and he goes again. Regardless of whether or not you actually enjoy what he's doing, it's hard not to be impressed with his engine. It's also cool to see him match up again with guys like Kerry, Piper, Sid, Jake, Valentine, etc. who he has plenty of history with (even if it's never specifically mentioned on commentary), as well as guys like Hogan and Savage on a big stage (I'm assuming he wouldn't have done much of anything with Savage or Hogan before the WWF). Whole match is basically biggest star in NWA history running the gauntlet against the whole WWF, with the first half primarily revolving around Flair and Davey Boy and the second half picking up with all the big names hitting the ring. It's booked pretty awesome in that regard. Heenan was incredible during this. It's been said before, but it's an amazing commentary job; probably one of the best ever. His energy and enthusiasm makes everything feel bigger, like when Hogan or Sid comes out and he sounds petrified at what it might mean for Flair. "No, no, no, no, no, not him!" Flair strikes up a partnership with Barbarian then tries to blindside him. Heenan: "Aw, don't turn on HIM, Ric!" Piper effectively comes to Flair's aid at one point and Heenan apologizes for every time he said Piper wore a skirt. Then Piper goes after Flair thirty seconds later. Heenan: "You creep, Piper! You skirt-wearin' freak!" He really added a ton to the match. Piper ruled in this as well. His two minute spell alone with Flair was probably my favourite part of the match, and I've said it before and I'll say it again -- his eye poke might be the best ever. Loved Jake in this, even if he wasn't in all that long. Any time the buzzer went he'd stop whatever he was doing and look up the ramp to see if it was Savage, then when it finally was he snuck right out the bottom rope and waited until Undertaker got a hold of Savage for him. Savage eliminating himself by jumping over the top to get to Jake is total Randy Savage craziness and why that guy is the perfect hate feud wrestler. Heenan and Monsoon actually do a pretty great job of coming up with an excuse for him being allowed back in, saying you have to physically be thrown out by someone else in order to be eliminated (even though Andre eliminated himself to get away from Damian in '89 and wasn't allowed back in). I guess they must've introduced the Mil Mascaras rule after 1992. Hogan comes across as such a salty bitch at the end. He gets eliminated more or less the same way he dumped out Warrior in '90, but of course he can't take it and throws a hissy fit. Crowd audibly boo him and cheer Sid post-match, and you can't really blame them for it. Sid played the game and Hogan cried about it, so fuck him (gotta love Sid pointing to the 'Hulk Who?' sign in the crowd). Flair's victory promo is honestly one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. The close up of his peroxide blond hair and crooked teeth as Heenan and Perfect woo in the background has stuck with me ever since I first watched the PPV as a kid. And of course, "Y'all better pay the man!"

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Random WWE Network Day #2

Shane Helms & Shannon Moore v Jung Dragons v Jamie Noble & Evan Karagias (WCW Starrcade, 12/17/00)

The difference between WCW and WWF at this point is pretty startling. Even when WCW were on top the WWF always had the production values and such, but by this point it's like...well, they're not TNA level, but the war is well and truly over. This show had just over 6,000 people at it, which is almost a third of what Starrcade drew two years earlier. That's a hell of a drop off, y'all. Even the backstage skits seem bush league, from Buff Bagwell as an obnoxious interviewer to Kronik taking a call from a "client" (they're hired guns/assassins or some shit) while in a steam room. I was actually goona watch this whole show, but nah man, life's too short for a Steiner/Sid main event in 2000 (also, did they really just start up Goldberg's streak again at some point? Did I hear that properly?). Anyways, this match is what you think it is -- total spotfest that has no pretense of being anything else. They do some pretty lunatic stuff, especially early on with Kaz Hayashi who almost dies a couple times (although I'm pretty sure they come about from things that are botched). Winner of this gets a Cruiserweight title shot, so it's a triple tag team match that's really just a money in the bank match, and it doesn't take long for everybody to start chucking everybody else off of stuff. Evan Karagias kinda sucks, but he does a crazy neckbreaker off a ladder and then later on takes one of the nuttiest bumps you'll see in a ladder match. Someone shoves him off the top of a ladder, and I think he's supposed to land hotshot-esque across the top rope, but he overshoots it and lands super awkward on the ropes, like his body is practically horizontal, then bounces all the way out to the floor and hits his head off the foot of a table. There's also a hell of a dive train in here somewhere and it was probably better than anything else on the whole show.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Random WWE Network Day #1

I've basically just been picking out random things and watching them, and that's probably how it'll be for the next while. There's a whole bunch of stuff on this Network that I never knew was on there. 

Hulk Hogan & Dennis Rodman v  Lex Luger & The Giant (WCW Bash at the Beach, 7/13/97)

Say what you want about the ridiculousness of WCW booking, but they knew how to put together this kind of celebrity spectacle (at least in '97). This was about as good as it possibly could've been. Rodman is pretty much hand led through everything, especially by Hogan and Luger, but he's willing and able and looks like he's having a blast. The bit where he armdrags Luger is amazing, from Luger looking absolutely stunned to Hogan and Savage celebrating to the crowd reaction to Dusty on commentary. "Dennis Rodman just armdragged Lex Luger! And he ain't even take his shades awf!" Then he does a leapfrog and knocks down Luger with a shoulderblock and Dusty is amazing again. "Somebody call the law. Somebody call the law!" Rodman also takes more bumps and eats more offence than I remembered. I mean, this isn't as good as Big Show v Mayweather and Rodman isn't as good in this as Mayweather was in that, but I think Rodman takes the bigger bumps (I might watch Show/Mayweather next, actually). Hogan was a lot of fun as well with his shit talking and obnoxiousness. Any time Rodman does something even remotely impressive Hogan is right there to let everyone know about it. Massively fun spectacle, and definitely one of the better matches of its ilk. 

Monday, 2 February 2015

No Way Out 1998

My brother got that WWE Network and gave me his password to use at my leisure. I watched a PPV (over a couple days and nights).

Marc Mero & Goldust v The Headbangers 

This was alright. I fully expected it to be nothing outside of maybe one or two Goldust moments, but it was a bit more than that. Dustin looks hideous with the white make up and lipstick and suspenders. He's doing a Marilyn Manson thing, apparently. JR runs through just about every possible amalgamation of the names Goldust and Marilyn Manson. Calls him Marilyndust, Mansondust, Marilyn Manson Dust, etc. Mero was a pretty entertaining shithead in this. Thrasher gets cut open hardway (I think) so Mero punches the cut and complains about blood on his white wrist tape. He then chokes Thrasher with the wrist tape and goofily shadow boxes to a chorus of booes. Biggest pop of the match obviously came towards the end when Sable came back out wearing less clothes than she was wearing at the start (Mero bounced her before the match and got some nice heat for it). I'll be surprised if any babyface other than Austin gets a bigger pop on this show.

How ridiculous was Sunny? That woman was truly gorgeous. Like, legitimately gorgeous, even as far back as SMW in '93. Sable had the massive cans, but Sunny had the smile and charisma and everything else, and none of it looked plastic. She could probably handle her coke, too.

Taka Michinoku v Pantera

Crowd never gave a shit about this. Barely even popped for the highspots. Which is a shame, because it was pretty nifty and more than just a few dives. Lawler and Brian Christopher are incredible obnoxious shitheels on commentary. Any time Christopher notices the camera on him he makes the most punchable facial expressions imaginable. At one point he calls Taka a slant-eye and he and Lawler just rip into him the whole match, which is probably counterproductive, but then the crowd don't care anyway so I'd rather they did something halfway entertaining. It only added to my own personal enjoyment, at least. So you know, fuck the rest of y'all. Great exchange with Christopher and JR: 
'Taka don't know no English!'
'Sounds like you don't either with those double negatives. "Don't know no English!"'
'What?! Hey, I was the valladicktrian in my class.'
'...I rest my case.' 
Pantera hits an awesome headscissors off the apron and then crushes Taka into the barricade with a tope from the apron where he dives past the inside of the ring post, and that sets up a run of backwork, which included a wild tope con hilo to the lower back of a prone Taka. Taka's comeback came a little too easy, but the Michinoku Driver was at least over. What was the best match this light heavyweight division produced? Is there anything that fucks with the high end WCW cruiserweight stuff? Not things like Eddy/Rey from Halloween Havoc, because there are barely any matches in WWF's history that fuck with that, but like, matches that are at least in the discussion with stuff like Juve/Blitzkrieg from Spring Stampede '99 or Eddy/Jericho from Fall Brawl '97? I remember Taka/Sasuke from the Canadian Stampede In Your House being really good. They had maybe the best junior heavyweight in history on the roster for a minute but I'm not sure he did anything other than be the tubby dude in a group that tried to chop off a pornstar's dick. So maybe I just answered my own question. 

The Quebecers v The Godwins

These are two I would not have thought were still on the roster in 1998. This was not good. Based on the tepid crowd response I'll assume the Godwins are the babyfaces, but neither team really do anything to establish a babyface/heel dynamic. Godwins work over Jacques for a spell to no heat at all, then Pierre gets the tag to no heat at all, then Phinneas gets worked over to no heat at all, then some stuff happens and a team wins, to marginally more heat than none at all. In true Attitude Era fashion the Godwins no longer have slop in their buckets. Instead they just carry around empty buckets and hit people on the head with them. Phinneas also looks straight serial killer.

Jeff Jarrett v Bradshaw

Well this was pretty fun. I couldn't remember Jarrett being back in the WWF at this point and I sure as shit had no recollection of him being part of a Cornette stable with fucking Windham and the Rock 'n' Roll Express (they're collectively called The NWA). Robert Gibson has to be THE ugliest motherfucker to ever have fallen into the 'blowjob' sub-category of babyfaces (Morton at least had the hair). Match is worked like a neat Memphis mid-card match that would've drawn a nice bit of heat fifteen years earlier. Bradshaw is just potatoing the living shit out of everything that moves here -- crowbar forearms and clotheslines, nasty punches to the ear and full force big boots. Did he ever tour Japan? I could imagine him having a real stiff-fest in WAR. Post-match you've got the rest of Cornette's boys starting a gang beating and the Road Warriors coming to the aid of Bradshaw, and I like the idea of a Bradshaw/LOD v Jarrett/RnRs six-man. I like to think it happened somewhere. 

Nation of Domination v Ken Shamrock, Ahmed Johnson, Chainz, Skull & 8 Ball

War of attrition is a great name for a match. It insinuates that some shit is about to go down. I only really like three of the guys in this, and I'll be honest, not that much shit went down, but I'm a huge mark for multi-man tags where the teams have beef and I thought this was actively pretty damn good. I mean, it never broke down into anything crazy (although the main event is an eight-man street fight, so you understandably want to save the nutty stuff for that), but everybody got to stretch out and look at least halfway decent. D-Lo isn't one of the three guys I liked going in, but he impressed me enough that I'm interested in seeing more of him through 2015 eyes. He gets super high on a missed moonsault and hits a frog splash from almost the length of the ring away. He might've been my favourite guy in the match, actually, and he was way better at this point than Henry, who is one of the three guys I like, but wasn't really up to much in 1998. For a guy with the gimmick of being the world's most dangerous man, Shamrock never really came across as being all that dangerous. Maybe that changed some when he turned heel, but if we're talking about mixed martial artists doing pro-wrestling then he had about a quarter the aura of someone like Ogawa (it'd be unfair to even compare him to Lesnar). Ahmed is still pretty over as a babyface here (more so than Shamrock), but I could've sworn he'd turned heel and joined the Nation by now. Maybe that comes later. I have no idea which Harris brother plays FIP. Neither do Ross and Lawler. Whoever it was did a solid enough job, but I put most of that down to D-Lo Brown. After the hot tag it spirals into gang fight territory like you expect in a war of fucking attrition, and we've finally got something that out-popped Sable. It doesn't take a whole lot to make me enjoy a match like this, and so I dug it.

"It's fun to beat someone's ass anywhere in the world, but if ya beat someone's ass in Texas, then ya done something." That was basically Austin's promo. Crowd were all over it, obviously.

Vader v Kane

This wasn't very good. Vader threw Vader soup bones and Kane had a couple moments where he looked spryer than I thought he was, but it was mostly plodding and heatless. Picks up a bit in the last couple minutes after Vader hits the moonsault and absolutely slabbers Kane with a clothesline, but Kane just sits up and no-sells everything, anyway. The Tombstone on Vader is an impressive looking spot, though. And the wrench Kane smashes Vader in the face with post-match has to be gimmicked, because if it wasn't it really would've caved his skull in. 

Steve Austin, Owen Hart, Chainsaw Charlie & Cactus Jack v HHH, New Age Outlaws & Savio Vega (Unsanctioned Street Fight)

Man, this was fucking GREAT and a totally slept on Attitude Era brawl. It's not quite on the level of Austin/Foley from Over the Edge, but I can't think of anything else the WWF produced that year that was better than it (I know that's not a massive bar, but whatever). It starts out as a completely bonkers prison riot with all the plunder you could hope for, then they eventually settle down into a couple FIP spells with Funk and Foley going in peril. Funk in peril ruled because he's a hundred years old and will fearlessly get the shit kicked out of him while flinging wild thin air punches. Road Dogg powerbombs him through two chairs and Funk slithers out the ring like a land mine victim, landing head first on a broken table. Savio brings a roll of barbed wire with him and wraps it around Foley, then he sticks it in his mouth and starts pulling like he's trying to rip off Foley's mandible. Brutal spot. Austin was incredible in this, just wailing on everybody with metal things and doing everything at such a frenetic pace. He has that menacing Hansen aura where you almost expect him to haul off and assault someone at any second. Awesome bit where he's standing on the apron and chucks a garbage can full across the ring off Billy's face. I'd have liked a bit more of a hectic run to the finish after the Austin hot tag, but that's really my only complaint (well, it could've done with gallons of blood as well). Crowd completely lose it for Austin Stunning Chyna post-match. He's not even at the peak of his popularity yet, but there's no doubt he's the guy people are here for. It might've been The House that Hogan Built, but you knew who its new tenant was. 

Fun enough PPV. Pretty sure the WCW PPV that month was Superbrawl and had Page v Benoit, but I don't remember anything else about it. I thought Page/Benoit was great, but I'm not sure I'll think it's better than the street fight. Imagine Michaels was fit to participate? Or even be at ringside to antagonise everybody? Woulda been fucking tremendous. War of attrition was fairly good and so was Taka/Pantera, Jarrett/Bradshaw was fun and nothing on the show was outright offensive (well, the Quebecers tag was kinda puke). 

Saturday, 31 January 2015

CM Punk v Mark Henry (RAW, 4/2/12)

Henry was pretty much God in this. His in-match shit talking is all-time level great and it was spectacular here. "Is that all you got?" "I OWN YOU, BOY. I OWN YOU!" "I ain't tell you to move. YOU MOVE WHEN I TELL YOU TO!" Awesome. Thought he was pretty much the perfect monster in this. He sold with the right amount of vulnerability when he needed to in order to make it look like he could be taken down, but still came across as a total fucking destroyer of worlds. Which is really what you want in a guy like that. I don't think Punk is a terribly good striker in general, but his ratio of good to not good strikes was alright in this. Henry sold every one of them perfectly (seriously, this was like Fujiwara selling shit for Takada or Yamazaki), plus a few looked super stiff and teeth-looseny.Henry's cut-offs were also great. The timing was always spot on, and they all looked like they'd hurt like a bastard, even the one where he just catches Punk coming off the top rope by sort of double clubbing him in the neck. Then he'd follow up with more shit talking. I knew this didn't have a proper finish so I wasn't disappointed when it came, but it's hard not to imagine an extra few minutes and an actual finish not sending it up another level. Henry made the bulldog over the top look killer as well, btw. It was like a guy picked up another guy and threw him away without the other guy cooperating, which probably sounds redundant since that's how its supposed to look, but you'll often get the person receiving it flinging themselves/jumping into it. Punk didn't need to here becauseHenry could fling a couch through a tree house. This is the good TV wrestling.