Sunday, 19 April 2015

Lawler v Dutch, Dundee v Sugar (Memphis, obv)

Jerry Lawler v Dutch Mantell (Barbed Wire Match) (Memphis, 3/29/82)

I like the No DQ match a bit more, but this is just a timeless match-up. I love how they start the match all cagey-like. Lance is great as always on commentary, saying that even hitting the ropes requires caution because of the barbed wire being so close. There are some attempts at dragging each other into the wire, but for the most part it's a lingering monster in the background and doesn't come fully into play early on. Some of the punches in this are just unbelievable. Whole last ten minutes or so are basically a game of Punch-Out!! and it's everything that's great about Lawler v Mantell brawls. The hooks, the jabs, the uppercuts, the double KO's, the punch drunk selling - everything rules. The barbed wire wasn't used a whole lot, it was more about  the punches (which I'm all for), but both guys really dug it into the other's face like they were trying to rip out eyeballs. There was one bit as well where Mantell was on the deck and just booted Lawler in the nuts, then got up and dropped the strap, and it was maybe my favourite moment in a match with about a hundred and fifty awesome Jerry Lawler/Dutch Mantell punches. Finish is pretty much perfect, I thought. Both guys are utterly spent and running on empty, and it all came down to one guy basically being lucky enough to fall down on top of the other. Epic scrap, which is exactly what you'd expect out of these guys at this point in their careers.

Bill Dundee v Sweet Brown Sugar (Scaffold Match) (Memphis, 6/21/82)

There hasn't been a scaffold match in history within a hundred miles of this, right? I mean, one or two have been "good for what they are," but it's always kind of faint praise. It's not like you can do a whole lot in a scaffold match, anyway. This is just a ton of fun though, and I can't think of any other match that manages to be so good despite such obvious limitations enforced upon it by the stipulation. Dundee as a former steel worker/circus act that's totally at home in a match like this because he has no issues with high places is so great. Some of the stuff he does is really awesome, from swinging around under the platform like a monkey to shaking said platform so Sugar loses his balance. At one point Sugar tries to throw him clean off the scaffold and for a second it looks like Dundee is heading straight for death, but he clings on and climbs back up like Spider-Man scaling a skyscraper. Koko was a blast in this as well. He never worked in the circus so he's not used to being up this high, and he has a bunch of great petrified facial expressions when it looks like he might fall.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

The Immortality of Virus' Fame is the Measure of Others' Torture, Burnt Offer from a Flaming Author

Virus v Dragon Lee (CMLL, 12/9/14) - EPIC

You already know Virus rocked in this. If you've seen enough Virus title matches then you know what he brings. He's basically can't-fail in a title match, and sure enough he did not fail. Dragon Lee really stepped up and impressed me a bunch, though. He was a lunatic in the Busca de un Idolo tournament and busted out some of the most spectacular highspots of last year, but this is a title match and not a seven minute sprint, so he had way more time to fill in between doing any crazy shit. And while Virus could carry just about anyone to a decent title match, Lee absolutely held up his end. Some of the first caida matwork was really great, especially how they'd fight over something like an abdominal stretch. Virus is one of those guys that makes everything look like a struggle, but Lee really wrenched and pulled at joints to get out of predicaments. Segunda was a bit short, maybe disappointingly so (although that's probably a recurring issue with modern CMLL since I don't think it was any shorter than usual), but the third caida was fucking tremendous. Lee is going to be awesome when he manages to put everything together (kid's only been wrestling for about four years), but one thing he already has down pat is his dives. Holy shit was his tope an absolute scud missile. Virus countering a running dropkick and turning it into an STF was an incredible spot (didn't look choreographed at all), and the fight over the resultant STF was great. Lee claws his way over to the ropes and reaches out to grab them, but Virus shifts the hold around to use Lee's own arm to apply a choke. Cena should steal that. Hell of a match; one of the best Virus title matches over the last few years, which is pretty high praise.

Complete & Accurate Virus

Friday, 17 April 2015

Catching up with 2010s WWE (#8)

The Shield v Team Hell No & Kofi Kingston (RAW, 5/20/13)

Well this was pretty fucking great. Gets plenty of time (like around 25 minutes), they run an AWA-esque double heat segment, and everybody got to stretch out and look good. I've watched a decent chunk of the Team Hell No run (up to this point in time) since I started this...project, I guess, and the main thing I took away from it regarding Bryan is that he was super fun in all of it and him and Kane had a bunch of entertaining backstage segments. He wasn't exactly a comedy guy, but I think of him in Team Hell No as more lighthearted fun and kinda whimsical. This wasn't that Bryan. He took the fall in the tag title loss to Reigns and Rollins at the PPV, and now he is fucking pissed. He ruled in this. Dude was going a hundred miles an hour, taking guys out left and right to prove that he isn't the weak link of his team. Rollins constantly shit talking him from the apron was great as well ("c'mon, ya little weak link"), primarily because it only wound him up more and led to him killing folk worse. He hits one clothesline that about broke Rollins' neck, pulled him into a surfboard by yanking him up by his nose, and punted Ambrose all over the place. Then he went FIP and might've been even better at that. Just an incredible performance. Have I told y'all I'm a fan of The Shield? I always love how they isolate someone and seem to make an actual effort to cut the ring off, but it's also really cool how they work like they genuinely have each others' backs. When one of them gets in a little trouble, another member will do their utmost to bail them out. Even the way they communicate from the apron, like how Reigns and Rollins will clap and praise Ambrose for doing something good, or how Rollins shouts a warning when Kane tries to come in. Finishing stretch was great too, especially Bryan and Kofi's stereo topes. One of the best Shield matches up to this point and just a killer TV tag. Everything I wanted from it.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Catching up with 2010s WWE (#7)

Daniel Bryan v The Miz (Night of Champions, 9/19/10)

This was total underdog babyface Bryan, and man did he rule. It's kind of strange seeing Bryan fighting from below against Miz, even in 2010, even before he blew up and became this goat-faced beard machine that got insanely over, even before he won the World Title in the main event of a fucking Wrestlemania. Like, I don't think Miz is terrible or anything (although I don't like him much, either), but Daniel Bryan/Brian Danielson as underdog against Mike Mizanin is hard to buy if you're a geek like me that's been watching Danielson stretch indy scrubs for 10+ years. It's almost unfathomable that Miz was ever a bigger deal than Bryan. Fuck, Bryan even has the hotter wife now (I'm a brunette guy). But, you know, that's not really how pro-wrestling works. Everything needs context, and within the context of 2010 WWE, Daniel Bryan working underdog against The Miz makes sense. And even if you still had a hard time buying it, Bryan sold the arm so well that it really felt like an uphill struggle for him (loved how he'd hang his arm limply by side during a strike exchange). A lot of that was down to Miz as well, though. He makes a few goofy intense facial expressions (I literally cannot buy him even having distaste for something, never mind hate), but all of his arm work looked painful and varied, and I thought he controlled the match in a believable way. There was one super nasty spot where he leans back and just rips Bryan's shoulder over the bottom rope. Thought the finishing run was great, especially Bryan recreating the crazy clothesline on the ropes bump from the McGuinness matches (side question: has Bryan ever used Cattle Mutilation in WWE?). Loved Cole's reaction to the finish as well. He was such an obnoxious douchebag at points during this, and the absolute last thing he wanted to do was give Bryan any credit for winning. Great match.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

As the World Turns, Rey Spreads Like Germs, Bless the Globe with the Pestilence, the Hard-Headed Never Learn

Rey Mysterio v CM Punk (Rey Joins S.E.S v Punk's Hair) (Over the Limit, 5/23/10)

I've watched the three PPV matches these guys had in 2010 over the last week or so, and this was definitely the best. The Wrestlemania match was a great little sprint, but the Extreme Rules match, while good, felt a bit up and down and wasn't hugely interesting in the middle. Everything clicked here, though. Punk looked visibly annoyed at the blood stoppage, but it came at an okay point considering it followed Rey's awesome bump into the barber's chair. Punk going ballistic and hurling Rey into the barricade in a bearded rage after he got patched up was great, and everything after that kept building really well. Dug Punk's facial expressions a bunch, too. He would look feral one minute, then he'd start smiling all crazy-like as if he'd come up with the master plan that'd finally work. The last sequence with Punk catching a moonsault and going for the GTS, Rey fighting out and hitting the 619 and then Punk sitting up to dodge the splash was great. Punk clutching his hair in realisation at the end is such a cool contrast to how he was stroking it and grinning at the end of the ER match. Also liked how they set up the actual head shaving. I figured they'd just go the old 'heel gets put out with a sleeper hold and wakes up bald' route, but Punk being handcuffed to the ropes and begging for mercy while Rey shaves his bloody head was great. Punk looked like a wild dog that got kicked into a helicopter propeller afterwards. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Whiskey & Wrestling Turns 400!

It's a momentous day. If you'd told me five years ago when I started a blog that it'd still be going in 2015 and I'd have written 400 entries for it I'd have laughed in your adorable face. I mean, only about ten people actually read this, but fuck it. To celebrate such an occasion I watched a few of my favourite matches ever. This might be the most positive entry Whiskey & Wrestling has ever seen. Raise a glass, brothers and sisters. Drink deep this night.

Bobby Eaton & Sweet Brown Sugar v Dutch Mantell & King Cobra (Memphis, 7/19/82)

Fuck sake, what did Eaton do to Mantell? Dutch wants to get at him in the worst way and spends the first few minutes intermittently sprinting around the ring area trying to grab him. Did Eaton wax Dutch's back hair while he was sleeping? Apparently Dutch and Cobra have had beef in the past, and they do this great spot where Dutch accidentally pops Cobra with a punch, teasing some dissension while Eaton and Koko jump around like goobers trying to instigate a fight. Then Dutch and Cobra run across and punch the two of them all over the ring. Eaton and Koko are sooooo the greatest Midnight Express that never was (wonder how many times I've said that over the course of the last 400 posts). The heat segment on Mantell was fucking terrific in this. Obviously Eaton's only willing to get within eight feet of Dutch if he's sure Dutch can't punch his face, and when he's satisfied enough that that's the case, holy shit does he unload with the offence. Crazy powerslam, a Demolition-style assisted elbow drop off the second rope, awesome looking running clothesline, and there's one bit where he and Koko take turns dropping about ten elbows in a row while the ref' tries to keep a lid on Cobra. Koko is just working the absolute hell out of the apron here. I don't think he stays in the one spot for more than five seconds. At one point he runs over to the adjacent corner and climbs the ropes so he can shit talk Cobra and a section of the crowd at the same time. I thought Dutch yanking Eaton clean off the middle turnbuckle by fucking lassoing him was wild enough, but Koko absolutely hurling himself over the top rope to get away was truly insane. Just an awesome tag match.

Dick Murdoch v Afa (WWF, 10/22/84)

100% Dick Murdoch masterclass. He basically runs through every bit of shtick he has and it's completely fucking awesome. It's a total broomstick job. Like, Afa throws a few headbutts and no-sells getting hit in the head. That's pretty much...yeah, that's it. Everything else is Murdoch being God. He cowers in the corner the first couple lock-ups when he thinks Afa's about to hit him, then when it's his turn to break clean he takes a swing. Afa of course moves so Murdoch is on his knees in the corner begging for his life. Then he gets some distance and calls Afa a cave raider. "One more time, you cave raider! One more time!" You know, as if it's Afa who's pushing his luck. He has so many ways to put over Afa's granite-hard head. He elbows him in the head and sells his own elbow, blocks a headbutt with his forearms and sells the forearms, punches him in the head and sells the fist, headbutts him and lays himself out, then Afa throws his head into the turnbuckle and he stumbles all around the ring before falling outside. Then he voluntarily headbutts the turnbuckle a bunch of times to show that his head is hard as well and ends up knocking himself out. His punch drunk, face forward bump with his butt sticking in the air is amazing, like a Hanna-Barbera character who's fallen asleep standing up. The atomic drop sell is absolutely unreal. I couldn't do this justice with words, so I won't even try. He works the majority of the match from the bottom, but his spurts of offence rule as well. He throws Dick Murdoch punches, chokes Afa with electrical cable, then undoes a tag rope and chokes him with that as well. At one point he grabs a 40 from under the ring and bonks Afa on the head with it! His reaction to Afa being unfazed when he rams his head into the mat. I'll stop now because I'd be here for ages trying to note down everything he does, but I loved all of it. I mean, you could probably say Murdoch made it all about himself and worked AROUND Afa rather than work WITH him, but Afa's rubbish so what can you really do, you know? Not a great match, but an out of this world performance and a perfect example of someone carrying a limited opponent by basically working the match around some strength of said opponent (or sole thing opponent brings to the table, since I'm not sure you can actually credit Afa complying with the 'Samoans have rock hard heads' trope as a strength).

Nobuhiko Takada v Shinya Hashimmoto (New Japan, 4/29/96)

Pretty much the perfect Tokyo Dome main event. Pretty much the perfect sub-15 minute match. Pretty much an incredible piece of pro-wrestling. Hashimoto is just the master at this kind of match. Everything he does builds drama, whether it's a stare, a grimace, or a kick that shatters ribs. He was phenomenal in this and it's one of his finest performances. Takada in this setting is a different beast from shoot-style Takada. Takada dogging it and lying around in kneebars can get to fuck, but this Takada is gravy. There's one bit where he kind of sits in a half crab and has the facial expression of someone flossing before bed, but other than that he was fairly unimpeachable in his role, and he does bring an air of legitimacy that fires the atmosphere into the clouds. I remembered this having more of a duel limb work story, with Hash going after Takada's leg and Takada going after Hash's shoulder, but I never noticed it as much this time. It was still there, but Takada's leg was more of a subtle piece of the story while Hash's shoulder was a centerpiece. Hash's selling of gradually being broken down by Takada's kicks was really something. Just about everyone in Japan for the last 10/15 years has tried to do the "gritting it out"/selling through toughness bit, but nobody has ever managed to do it like Hashimoto. Not a single person in wrestling history. This has a couple of my favourite spots from any match ever. Early in the match Hash catches Takada with a leg kick, and Takada does this amazing delayed sell of it to set up that little sub-plot (that's not one of the spots I was talking about, but it was awesome and sets one of those spots up). First spot comes when Takada has Hash on the ropes, literally, as he's peppering him with big shots while Hash tries to pull himself back to his feet. Takada won't let him out though and keeps swinging kicks, so Hash just blasts him in the guts and Takada crumples like he got lanced. Later on he has Hash rocking with kicks to the shoulder, the leg, body and head. He's going full pelt trying to put him away. He shoves him back a little to create a bit of distance, then he gears up for a big home run KO, but as he throws the kick Hash ducks down and just cuts Takada's standing leg in half with a low sweep kick. Crowd goes completely fucking ballistic. The brainbuster at the end looked like it compressed Takada's spine, and the pop for the tap out is exactly what the match had been building to. New Japan was undeniably Shinya Hashimoto's house at this point in time. It didn't really need confirmation, but I guess him having the big belt again provided it.

Eddie Guerrero v Big Show (WWE Smackdown!, 4/15/04)

I love this match to death. I love everything about it. It's maybe my favourite monster v underdog match ever, and I also think it's genuinely one of the best. Both guys were really awesome here. When I wrote about Show/Sheamus from HIAC 2012 a few days ago and I said that I never really thought of Show as a guy that managed to incorporate his size and general giganticness into a killer beatdown. Like, in terms of massive brick shit houses that can throw regular-sized people around like bags of potatoes, I wouldn't put him in the same bracket as Mark Henry. He was great in that Sheamus match, though, and he was even better in this. I don't remember him coming off as such an unfuckwithable presence before. It helps that Eddie was on some next level underdog babyface shit, but it takes two to make something this good. All of Show's arm work looked amazing. He hoists Eddie about eight feet in the air with an arm wringer and then holds him up there, applies a one-handed armbar while squeezing the rotator cuff with the other hand (his hand covers the entire shoulder), stretches Eddie out by wrapping him in a hammerlock around the turnbuckle bolt, drops massive elbows on the shoulder joint, headbutts the arm; just a bunch of awesome stuff. Eddie was as scrappy as I've ever seen him here. All of his hope spots where things you could see someone doing in a real fight against a massive man trying to pull your arm off. You can't do much when you're the size of Eddie against a guy the size of Show. You can't pick him up. You can't take him down. You can stomp on his toes, though. You can yank his chest hair out (THAT fucking ruled). Grabbing a wrench from under the ring and stuffing it in Show's boot as a distraction is such a cool Eddie Guerrero thing to do. Show is so great at pleading his case to the ref' as well. "That's not mine! I had nothin' to do with that!" Eddie unloading with a barrage of punches while Show's guard was down felt like Sting going fuck it and laying into Vader after being pummeled for ten minutes. Finish is great. Ref' gets bumped and Show grabs Eddie for the chokeslam, but Eddie kicks him in the plums and then drops him with a DDT and Frog Splash. I've watched a few corkers of WWE TV matches recently, but this might be the best of the lot. I'm not totally locked into the idea that it's the best Smackdown! match in history, but it is waaaaaay in the discussion.

Here's to four hunner more!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Drew McIntyre! Was Really Fucking Good!

Drew McIntyre v Kofi Kingston (Fatal 4-Way, 6/20/10)

I thought Kofi/Ambrose might've been Kofi's best match (well, it was the best I'd seen at that point, at least), but this was better. This was really fucking good, and I thought Kofi absolutely held up his end again. He bumped well and he sold the arm well, both during and after the armwork. There was one cool bit where he does his boom/clap set-up to Trouble in Paradise and actually sells the arm after he claps, like he forgot about the bad shoulder and that clap jarred it again. So yeah, that was neat and people would've lost their shit for it if Bryan or Ambrose did it. Your mileage'll vary on the strikes of course, but that poor horse be fucking dead y'all so we'll leave it well alone. Still, this was Drew's show. He had so much awesome offence around this time. Was there anyone in the company who had as many interesting ways to work over a body part? I love how he'd take over matches by using parts of the ring to injure someone. This doesn't have as cool a spot as the Christian match, it's just a plain old ram into the ring post, but it's effective. Dug all the arm work, especially the Codebreaker to the shoulder. He also threw a corker of a bit boot at one point right to the arm. Kofi's float-over DDT to start his comeback was a great spot. Didn't look contrived or silly at all and you know Drew took it straight on his cranium. I don't really remember anything about the Teddy Long storyline that was happening, but the crowd went pretty ape shit for him standing up to Drew, and it all made the whole thing feel pretty big. Strong PPV opener.

Drew McIntyre v Christian (Smackdown!, 7/30/10)

Yeah, this held up. Pretty much the perfect TV match. These guys are just a match-up made in pro-wrestling geek heaven, because Drew has amazing ways to work an arm and Christian was pretty much the God of selling an arm injury for a while there. They don't do much of a shine segment at the start; it's basically a minute or two where Drew takes a couple killer bumps on the floor (the bump into the ring apron off the dropkick was so great), then they head into the arm work off the amazing transition spot where Drew smashes Christian's shoulder into the metal frame of the ring. Has anybody else ever done that spot before? I really can't remember seeing it. All of the arm work from then on out ruled, as did Christian's sell of it. The shoulderbreaker on the ring steps is just a holy shit level spot, all of his armbars looked nasty, and Christian sells by wiggling his fingers around like he's got nerve damage. Christian keeps on selling all the way to the end and the finish leaves a rematch on the table, and you can't really ask for much more from a wrestling match on free TV.

Drew McIntyre v Chris Masters (Superstars, 8/26/10)

Man, this wasn't a whole ways off the Christian match. I mean, these two have legit cases for being the best heel and babyface in the company in 2010 (I'm probably at the point where I'd say McIntyre was the best heel. Masters has a bit more competition for best babyface), and this was about what you'd expect out of guys at that level. McIntyre taking over by throwing Masters' leg into the post was another great transition spot from a guy that had a ton of great ways to take over a match. All of his leg work was great, which shouldn't surprise anyone. At one point he dropkicks Masters in the knee and it looked fucking awesome. When did people actually stop and go, "right, hold up here. Chris Masters really fucking rules at the pro-wrestling"? He obviously never got this good overnight so I'm wondering if there weren't always signs. Maybe someone needs to go back and watch his first run. His sell of the leg was pretty fantastic here. He hobbled around and always showed at least discomfort, and I love him throwing desperate chops from his knees. The leg comes into play again at the finish, and this is another match on free TV that you can't really ask for much more from.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Catching up with 2010s WWE (#6)

Sheamus v Big Show (Hell in a Cell, 10/28/10)

My first thought when I see these two matching up is, "I want this to be a slugfest." And that's what this was. Both guys were pretty great in their roles here. Sheamus almost works this like he's Rey Mysterio, or even how Rey Mysterio would work if he was against Sheamus (did those two ever have a match, btw? That sounds like it could be money), but instead of hope spots built around springboards and armdrags, Sheamus' hope spots are built around him trying to slabber Show. Show was a demon in control. He's obviously naturally imposing, but I don't really think of him as a guy that's always great at translating that into a killer beatdown. He was totally Henry-esque in this though, emphatically cutting Sheamus off, chucking him all over the place (the bumps over the top rope were great, but the table bump was spectacular), and he really went Hashimoto with the overhand chops. Sheamus' chest looked like a chewed up hamburger by the end. Dug how Show showed gradual frustration throughout the match as well, similar to the Del Rio LMS match (which he was amazing in). After every kickout he loses a little confidence, a little poise, and when even the KO Punch can't put Sheamus away he's about ready to have a fit. Everything in the finishing run looked brutal. The KO Punch and Brogue Kick were two of the most protected finishers in the company at the time (still are, actually), so both kickouts felt huge, but neither felt cheap. I figured another KO Punch was coming when Sheamus was gearing up for the second Brogue Kick, but that never made it look any less awesome. Hell of a finish. Is this one of the best matches either guy's ever had? It's not the best WWE match of the year since 2012 was the year of Cena/Lesnar, but it could be top 10 (I say that as if I'll ever get around to watching enough 2012 footage to even know what a top 10 would look like).

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Catching up with 2010s WWE (#5)

Dean Ambrose v Kofi Kingston (Extreme Rules, 5/19/13)

Pretty quality sub-ten minute match, probably the best Kofi match I've ever seen and maybe the best Ambrose (in WWE, I mean) singles match up to that point. Match actually feels sort of Nitro-ish in the best way possible, like both guys knew they only had ten minutes and decided to just cut the fat and go flat out. It wasn't really a sprint, but they never messed about, either. Ambrose's offence wasn't as wild and reckless as it usually is, but he still busted out some great stuff. Like, he looked more like a pro-wrestler in this rather than a psychopath that's stolen riot gear and flinging himself at people. His double underhook superplex was a great spot, and there's one bit where Kofi goes for a leaping something and Ambrose just yanks him out the air right into a crossface chicken wing. He also has some awesome facial expressions, like the "okay, so we're doing this now?" smirk after Kofi kicks out of the aforementioned superplex. I have to go to bat for Kofi here as well. This was about as on point a babyface performance as you could want out of him He gets the crowd going with the massive height he gets on leapfrogs and cross bodies, he does some cool lingering selling of the chicken wing by hanging his arm by his side for a few minutes afterwards, and yes, most of his offence looked good. Trouble in Paradise especially came off better than I've ever seen it before (helped that Ambrose took it clean in the face like a fucking nutter, mind you), then when he tries it a second time he ends up taking a nice bump into thw ropes. Ambrose post-match: "gimme that fuckin' belt." I also LOVE the other two Shield members coming down and celebrating with him in the ring afterwards. Made the US title feel special and like this was a title change that held some weight. I adore The Shield and this was a lot of fun.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Catching up with 2010s WWE (#4)

CM Punk v Randy Orton (Last Man Standing) (Extreme Rules, 5/1/11)

I watched the 1/11/13 Big Show v Alberto Del Rio Last Man Standing match yesterday. It was great, maybe the best Del Rio match ever and one of the best of Show's career, but I wouldn't have said I was all that high on the Last Man Standing gimmick. That said, I can think of a decent handful of WWE LMS matches that I'd call really good. This wasn't as good as Show/Del Rio (or Cena/Umaga, obv), but I thought it hit really good level pretty comfortably. I'm honestly not a massive Punk fan, but the guy can be super great on a micro level. Just with awesome little touches here and there. Some of his mocking shtick was a blast in this, like when he does his running knee in the corner and shit talks Orton for a few seconds before going for the bulldog. For a PPV opener this managed to feel like a pretty brutal war with some killer bumps. Orton's back suplex across the guardrail looked sick, there was a nasty Russian leg sweep on a chair, and in a totally crazy spot Punk wrapped a chair around Orton's throat and flung him straight into the ring post. Orton ate it like a fucking psycho as well and I'm wondering how his trachea never got crushed. I'm not sure if they were using sturdier kendo sticks than usual, but every shot looked seriously painful, both guys sold the shit out of them (especially Orton, who really writhed around like he was getting the cat o' nine tails treatment), and they left welts on bodies. Also liked Punk using one as a makeshift walking stick towards the end, hobbling around like the old arthritis-afflicted Hapkido master in a martial arts flick. Don't think they moved from spot to spot down the stretch as well as something like Show/Del Rio, and it never felt as organic as that match either, but the finish was suitably big. This feels like one of the best PPV openers of the decade and I'm surprised I haven't seen it pimped before. 

Monday, 6 April 2015

It Ain't Hard to Tell, Rey Kicks a Skill Like Shaquille Holds a Pill

Rey Mysterio v The Undertaker (Royal Rumble, 1/31/10)

This is a really cool match-up to me on paper. Rey flying around and Undertaker plucking him out the air like a zombie Anthony Davis sounds like a fun prospect, and it more or less worked in practice just like I hoped. Some of the early spots ruled, like Undertaker just throwing Rey clean over the ropes to the floor to cut off a strike flurry, Undertaker's punch while Rey goes up for a springboard (Rey's bump looked awesome), and at one point Rey tries a splash and Undertaker hits a big boot while Rey's mid-flight. It creates a pretty cool dynamic of Rey having to take to the air even more often than normal, just because being close to Undertaker is so dangerous. Unfortunately they don't do as much cool stuff in the middle of the match and instead have Undertaker kind of work "methodical." That's not bad by any means, but it doesn't really play to the main strengths of Rey either. I did like Rey frantically kneeing Undertaker in the face to get out of the Tombstone, which wound up giving Taker a bloodied nose, and Rey doing a sliding dropkick as Undertaker sits up was great. Cool finish as well, with one of the best, most emphatic Last Rides ever.

Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston & John Morrison v The Miz, Alberto Del Rio & R-Truth (Summerslam, 8/14/11)

Fun PPV opener; not quite as good as some of the multi-man stuff from the last couple years, but this is still one of my favourite ways to watch wrestling so of course I dug it. Everyone got to do a bit, though Kofi was the prominent guy on the babyface end and I'd rather it was someone not him. He gets massive hang time when he jumps so the beginning of all his highspots look good, but then they connect and look lousy. He goes from Kevin Von Erich to...well, Kofi Kingston is basically shorthand for lousy looking offence at this point, so I guess he goes from Kevin Von Erich to Kofi Kingston over the course of a move. He'll at least bump around all rubbery now and then. Rey wasn't featured much - rather than playing FIP he come in off the hot tag, so we never got a beatdown, but we did get him zipping around taking guys out. Dive train at the end was sweet. Kofi gets huuuge height off the springboard. Then he just sort of falls down to earth like Wile E. Coyote when he walks off a cliff like aw shit what the heck do I do now.

Rey Project

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Catching up with 2010s WWE (#3)

Mark Henry v Randy Orton (Night of Champions, 9/18/11)

This was peak Hall of Pain Henry so you know he ruled in it, but I thought Orton was right there with him and more than held up his end of a match I thought was pretty damn great. He has to stick and move early on and goes to the sleeper, but Henry takes over by just swiping him across the ear with a big old paw  that sends Orton crashing from the top rope to the floor. Henry is one of the most imposing guys ever working from the top like this. He flings folk around, makes people bounce off him, and his smack talk is always great. Orton's middle rope DDT was put over huge here. He tries it a couple times and Henry fights him off, and the commentary makes you wonder if he can even lift Henry into position for it. When he eventually does manage to hit it it feels like a serious game changer, and Henry takes the bump flat on his face. Loved the finish. Orton knows it's over, but he'll die on his sword and go for the RKO anyway, and that World's Strongest Slam is one of the more emphatic heel title win moments in a long time. I remember watching this live and wondering if they'd actually pull the trigger on Henry. Judging by the reaction in the building at the time, I wasn't the only one.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Catching up with 2010s WWE (#2)

Dean Ambrose v Kane (Smackdown!, 5/3/13)

Not having been subjected to a whole shit ton of rubbish Kane stuff over the last few years is probably why I'm not quite as sick to death of him as everybody else is. I mean, I don't have any interest whatsoever in watching Authority Kane, but I've seen a bunch of the Team Hell No run now and I've actually thought it was a pretty good run all things considered (and not just because of Bryan). This felt like one of the better Kane singles matches ever, and he held up his end of it. Kane cleaning house at the start looks great because the Shield will really fling themselves all over the place for him. Reigns' bump is especially great, clearing the announce desk and piledriving himself onto a swivel chair. Ambrose ruled in this. He takes over with some leg breaker thing (Kane tries to hit a big boot in the corner, so Ambrose catches the leg and sort of, like...does a Stunner to the leg? Looked like it'd hyper-extend the knee whatever it was) and has some nice stuff to work the leg, including a cool spinning toe hold around the ring post. To his credit Kane sells all of it pretty well, too. More Shield interference leads to Rollins taking a sick table bump, and I think this is about the time Ambrose debuted Dirty Deed as a finisher based on how Cole reacts to it scoring the win. Is this Shield run the closest WWE ever got to the Dangerous Alliance? I haven't watched the whole run yet, but they seemed to be having good matches practically every week, sometimes twice a week, had a ton of fun stuff against any number of babyface combinations, and the best stuff I've seen so far is GREAT. They never had a Wargames type blooodbath, but the Wyatts stuff is a pretty fucking good trade-off, and I think that Elimination Chamber match is right there with the best DA matches.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Brock Lesnar v Roman Reigns (Wrestlemania 31, 3/29/15)

I actually watched the whole of Wrestlemania, half of it live and half of it the following morning (because I'm too old and decrepit to sit up until 4am these days), and thought it was a really good show on the whole (which makes two 'Manias in a row I've enjoyed a whole lot). The opening ladder match had some cool enough spots and an absolute horror bump that I thought left Ambrose's brains seeping out his ears, Orton/Rollins was fine with a completely killer finish (probably the best RKO ever), Sting/Trip was hilarious enough that I couldn't not enjoy it on some level (I watched the show with my brother and we were basically taking bets on when Nash's quad would snap like a rubber band), the Divas tag was a nifty six-seven minutes, Cena/Rousev was really good and had the best entrance in wrestling fucking history, Ronda Rousey threw Helmsley like a schoolgirl, and The Undertaker match match was...well, that sit-up/crab walk spot was cool.

Highlight, though, was the main event, which I thought was fucking outstanding and truly unique. There's never been a Wrestlemania match like this, never mind a Wrestlemania main event. I initially wondered if it would come off less spectacular on a re-watch when I already know the result, but I watched it again there and I'll be fucked if it wasn't spectacular all over again. Crowd getting hotter and hotter and building to nuclear levels helped, of course. Match was stiff as shit. Pretty sure all the blood was hardway, and whether Lesnar pulled a Nigel McGuinness and actually tried to get cut open or not, it absolutely added to the match; about as much as blood has added to any match in company history. Even at the start when Lesnar hit the first F5. He realises he's bleeding, and like a true bully that spurs him on to dish out tenfold the damage in response. Some of his knees to the body were sick, all of his suplexes looked huge; he was just incredible. Reigns threw a bunch of potatoes right back, though. He threw one knee from the apron that was super nasty, then Lesnar fucking murdered him with THAT clothesline, which was obviously amazing. Lesnar taking off the gloves and slapping him silly while Reigns laughs like a belligerent nut job was awesome as well (and surely riled up the Reigns haters to no end). Thought Lesnar sold growing frustration remarkably well, from the tiniest bit of annoyance and doubt after the first F5 kick out to straight up shock towards the end. Then the posting and nasty cut fired the whole match up another level. The blood made him look human and created a sense that Reigns could believably come back and win from being dominated up to that point. Brock's loopy selling of the Superman punches and spear was some next tier shit, and that nearfall with Heyman about having a coronary was so great. I'm cool with the cash in. Match probably did deserve a real finish, but the pop for Rollins winning was insane. I kind of figured it was coming after he lost to Orton, and I thought I accidentally read something about it when I woke up (but I wasn't sure), but it at least felt unpredictable. Lesnar is unlike anything else in wrestling right now and I'm so glad he's sticking around. Him going buck wild and killing folks in a total motherfucking juggernaut rage could be unreal (I haven't seen anything from RAW yet, but I heard he went nuts and almost killed people with an announce desk, so, you know, awesome). Just an unbelievable match. It kind of feels like I'm being crazy hyperbolic since it's still so fresh in my mind, but I really think it has a case for being the best main event in Wrestlemania history.

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.