Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Tenryu Ain't Particular, He Bangs Like Vehicular Homicides on July 4th in Bed-Stuy.

Genichiro Tenryu v Isao Takagi (All Japan, 1/28/90) - GREAT

For a seven minute match with a result that was never in question, this was fucking great. Tenryu is pretty much the best ever in this kind of setting and I could watch him wrestle scrubs all day. You know he's never gonna lose (unless it's a G-1 or a tournament of some sort, I guess), but he's as unselfish a top star as you'll see in the ring. Sometimes he might even give some guys more than he should, but more often than not he strikes a perfect balance between letting the opponent look good while reinforcing who the guy at the top really is. Doesn't hurt when the opponent is game as well. Takagi has an awesome should tackle where he lunges at Tenryu like a linebacker, then Tenryu backs him into the ropes and offers up the clean break only for Takagi to slap him across the face. Tenryu fucking kills him. He kicks him in the eye, chops him in the throat, then throws him outside and beats on him with a chair. It's the dynamic you know and love. Tenryu going on a rager and trying to bend a guy in half with a Sharpshooter is something I wish we saw more of.  Tenryu going on a rager and kicking the shit out of someone is something we saw plenty of and it never gets old.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Whiskey & Wrestling's Top 100 Greatest Wrestlers Ever

The Greatest Wrestler Ever project on the Pro-Wrestling Only message board is wrapping up over the next few days. After two years of watching a shit ton of footage of a shit ton of wrestlers, 152 people submitted ballots of their top 100 wrestlers ever. 557 wrestlers received votes and over 600 were nominated. This was my list:

1. Stan Hansen
2. Genichiro Tenryu
3. Negro Casas
4. Jerry Lawler
5. Satanico
6. Toshiaki Kawada
7. Yoshiaki Fujiwara
8. Mitsuharu Misawa
9. Shinya Hashimoto
10. Buddy Rose
11. Terry Funk
12. El Dandy
13. Kiyoshi Tamura
14. Nick Bockwinkel
15. Eddie Guerrero
16. Rey Mysterio
17. Tatsumi Fujinami
18. Daisuke Ikeda
19. Yuki Ishikawa
20. El Hijo del Santo
21. Volk Han
22. Kenta Kobashi
23. Ricky Steamboat
24. Daniel Bryan
25. Ric Flair

26. Bill Dundee
27. Jumbo Tsuruta
28. Dick Murdoch
29. Arn Anderson
30. Riki Choshu
31. Akira Taue
32. Randy Savage
33. Barry Windham
34. Bobby Eaton
35. Ricky Morton
36. Virus
37. Blue Panther
38. Rick Martel
39. Sangre Chicana
40. Dustin Rhodes
41. Vader
42. Jushin Liger
43. Dick Togo
44. Pirata Morgan
45. Steve Austin
46. Fuerza Guerrera
47. Naoki Sano
48. William Regal
49. Fit Finlay
50. Jun Akiyama

51. Tito Santana
52. Alexander Otsuka
53. Chris Benoit
54. Butch Reed
55. Shawn Michaels
56. Masa Fuchi
57. Aja Kong
58. Yoji Anjoh
59. Bret Hart
60. LA Park
61. Jerry Estrada
62. Emilio Charles Jr.
63. Greg Valentine
64. John Cena
65. Black Terry
66. Bob Backlund
67. Tommy Rogers
68. Chavo Guerrero Sr.
69. Mariko Yoshida
70. Koko Ware
71. La Fiera
72. Christian
73. Ted DiBiase
74. Yoshihiro Tajiri
75. Hector Guerrero

76. Negro Navarro
77. Samoa Joe
78. Tully Blanchard
79. Mark Henry
80. Andre the Giant
81. Shinobu Kandori
82. Curt Hennig
83. Jerry Blackwell
84. Sgt. Slaughter
85. Atlantis
86. Mocho Cota
87. Masa Saito
88. Rick Rude
89. Jim Duggan
90. Tama
91. Yoshihisa Yamamoto
92. Takeshi Ono
93. Dennis Condrey
94. Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
95. Yoshihiro Takayama
96. Michael Hayes
97. Jose Lothario
98. AJ Styles
99. Austin Aries
100. Kazunari Murakami

Naturally I would change some things even though it's been less than a month since I handed that list in, but you know, I had to cut a lot of guys I really, really like in order to whittle it down to 100. It stung like a bastard to leave off Juventud Guerrera and Tommy Rich and Villano III and Kantaro Hoshino and...well there were lots of guys. There are also others, who I certainly wouldn't consider favourites of mine, that I still sort of regret leaving off. I'm not a Nobuhiko Takada fan, but he's been involved in a number of tremendous matches that he clearly wasn't simply capable luggage in. At his worst he can be intolerable, but at his best, with the aura he brings to things like the Hashimoto match from 4/96...I wish I stuck him on there somewhere at the bottom. Same goes for CM Punk. At no point during the project did I ever really, truly consider him. Not a week after the deadline I already reconsidered that, and wondered just why he was never on my radar for this list. It was an oversight on my part, and if I got the chance to do it all over I'd probably have him somewhere between 60 and 80. I could probably come up with more if I thought hard enough about it, but Takada and Punk are the ones I regret omitting. 

I never really had any set criteria for this. Well, my list was based on what the names there did in the ring (it was hard enough at that; fuck trying to add in promos and drawing power and whatever else), but other than that I never had any mathematical formula. I took into account lots of things, but in the end I had to go with my gut for the most part. I did try my best not to make it a list of favourites, or else my top 10 would've featured guys like Butch Reed, Koko Ware, Fuerza Guerrera and Masa Saito. And well, obviously those guys rule, but I don't think I could come up with a proper argument for any of them being legitimate candidates for the top 10 greatest wrestlers ever. Top 100, sure, but not top 10. 

The biggest blind spots I had when it came to finalizing the list were World of Sport and Puerto Rico. I've been a member of PWO since 2008 so it's not like I can use "I was late to the party and never had time" as an excuse for why I never got around to watching a bunch of WoS or Puerto Rico footage. I had plenty of time. The project ran for two years, and I was there for all of it. I just go months at a time without watching or thinking about any wrestling at all (as is evident by the multi-month stretches where this blog gathers nothing but cobwebs), and Arsenal have been absolutely destroying my soul for the past two seasons, but really, I never got around to diving into WoS and Puerto Rico (and a bunch of other individual wrestlers) because I was too lazy to do so. I mean, I wanted to. I reeeally wanted to. But, you know, Andre Benjamin said it best: you can plan a pretty picnic, but you can't predict the weather (I'm sorry, Ms Jackson). 

I'm posting this because I kind of want to talk about everyone there in at least a little detail, while also writing something about a match involving them. I'm not about to turn it into a "100 matches in 100 days" thing because there is no fucking way I'd be able to watch and write about a match every day for ONE HUNDRED days, but even if it takes about five years (even that might be optimistic) I'd still like to make it happen. Hell, maybe if there's a 2026 Greatest Wrestler Ever project I can look back on this and laugh at how stupid I was. 

I might start this tomorrow. I have no idea who I'll do first. 

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Spotlight: Mariko Yoshida

I'm trying to cram in a bunch of stuff for the GWE poll before the deadline, and over the last week and a half I've dived back into a style I figured I had already closed the book on: joshi. I'll level with you; I'm not much of a joshi fan, but my ballot looked kind of weird with only Aja Kong from the joshi workers being on it, so I got my shit together (motivated to do so by reading Dylan's awesome rundowns of a number of joshi workers on PWO) and just motored through a ton of joshi to make sure I wasn't shortchanging anyone. Turns out I was definitely shortchanging Shinobu Kandori. Turns out Aja Kong is still what I remembered her being. Turns out Mayumi Ozaki is still just about my least favourite wrestler ever. Turns out I'm still whatever on Akira Hokuto, even if great Hokuto is pretty fucking great. Turns out I still won't rank Manami Toyota, but I like her more than Ozaki. Turns out I also never realised how great Mariko Yoshida was. I thought I was long past the point of being excited about the joshi puroresu, but I'll be damned if Yoshida hasn't grabbed me in a big way (mostly for the funky out ARSION run, but she was good before that as well).

Yumiko Hotta, Toshiyo Yamada & Mariko Yoshida v Bull Nakano, Aja Kong & Kyoko Inoue (AJW, 9/15/92)

This seemed to be geared more towards "fun" than "epic," which I was perfectly fine with. It's 2/3 falls and the last 2/3 falls joshi match I watched went fifty minutes and they went into the finishing stretch after about seven of those minutes. It was not enjoyable. This wasn't like that and they never went overboard at any point. Maybe it's because I was focusing mostly on her, but I thought Yoshida was really good in this and my favourite girl in it. She's young and scrawny and rookie-ish so of course she gets steamrolled, but she had some awesome bumping for fat lady offence. She was also SPUNKY and stuff, so whenever she fired back with some offence it felt really scrappy and desperate, which is exactly what you want out of a four year pro against a couple monsters like Bull and Aja. She was very fun in this match is what I'm saying. Hotta and Aja really smack the crap out each other like you'd expect. Aja drills her with an absolutely fucking ungodly spinning back fist and it looked like Hotta's molars flew out a hole in her cheek. Good start for Yoshida.

Mariko Yoshida v Aja Kong (ARSION, 6/21/98)

I'm not sure why this had a fifteen minute time limit, but either way it was kept relatively short and compact as a result. First half was solid enough but never had a ton going on. There was one cool moment where Aja hit the deck and tried to goad Yoshida into grappling, but Yoshida just strolled into the corner and crossed her legs. This was actually a pretty cool and different look at Aja. I'd never really seen her hit the mat before, and while it's not her game it did make for a fun dynamic. Second half picks up and really builds to a nice finish. Yoshida didn't get TOO tricky on the mat, but she did start rolling out some super neat stuff, and that forced Aja to go back to what she knows. What she knows is how to back fist people in the gub and holy lord did she back fist Yoshida in the gub. Yoshida's KO sell of it was fucking spectacular as well. This kind of almost stripped back style of joshi is far, far more my thing than the go-go-go bombfests, so I'm not sure why I've never really taken a closer look at ARSION in the past.

Mariko Yoshida v Candy Okutsu (ARSION, 12/18/98)

Yoshida is the same age here as I am now. She's probably younger by a few months, actually. We share similar career paths, her and me. She's almost as pretty as well, though she definitely wears the hot Spiderman outfit better than I could. I'll admit that, much as it pains me. This was pretty damn terrific and I think I love her, which really ought to be enough to get her on my ballot. Right? She was really awesome in this and came across as being totally unique, at least in comparison to all the other joshi I've seen personally (I haven't bothered with any joshi post-2004 or so, but I don't doubt plenty of girls are aping her these days). Okutsu isn't on the same level on the mat, but she holds her own fairly well when they take it down there. Some of the sprawling and grappling actually felt a bit like low-to-mid-level RINGS, and I absolutely mean that as a compliment because even low-to-mid-level RINGS can mean really damn good matwork (and when you talk about high-level RINGS you're talking about the level of Tamura, Han, Yamamoto, Kohsaka, etc., and only a handful of wrestlers in history reached that level). Yoshida herself will burst into super quick submissions by grabbing limbs and working them into angles limbs shouldn't be worked into. Her speed on the mat is pretty Tamura-esque, but she's not always grabbing shoot holds as such; more like something Trauma II would throw on someone. So, you know, I never expected a kind of Tamura/Trauma II mash-up from a joshi worker. She will also blast you in the face with a knee Ikeda-style so there's your Battlartsian influence to REALLY make me gush with praise. There was one bit where she literally monkey flipped Okutsu into a cross armbreaker and it just about blew my mind. Eventually the match takes on a grappler v flyer dynamic of sorts, which builds to a big climax that never feels overblown. I'm sold on Yoshida already, and not just because she's purrdy.

Mariko Yoshida v Yumi Fukawa (ARSION, 9/26/99)

I probably should've watched their May match before checking this one, but this felt like it was still pretty easy to follow on its own. I don't think I've seen Fukawa wrestle before, but she can handle herself on the mat. She's not as quick as Yoshida though, and it kind of leads to a few moments during the early exchange where Yoshida has to leave herself open or feed Fukawa in semi-obvious fashion. It's not massively glaring or anything, though. Thought Yoshida was really awesome in this, particularly as the match goes on and she can't seem to put Fukawa away. Fukawa kicks out of an air raid crash and Yoshida has this great look of almost shock before quickly gathering herself to go in again for the kill. Then Fukawa somehow makes the ropes when it looks like Yoshida has her Volk Han'd in the middle of the ring and Yoshida's "fuck sake, this should not be taking this long" expression was awesome. Fukawa sort of targets Yoshida's knee towards the end and I dug Yoshida's selling of it. It's pretty subtle, but at one point she tries to stand up and the leg buckles briefly, so Fukawa just launches herself at that leg like a shark smelling blood. Finish got an audible "What?!" reaction out of me as well. This was really good. I feel like I need to see every single thing Yoshida did in 1999, and I can't say I've ever thought that about any other joshi worker for any other year ever.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Islanders v Bulldogs

The Islanders v British Bulldogs (MSG, 1/25/88)

This feels like it should be a better match-up than it is. The Bulldogs doing a Steiners and launching Tama around for a while sounds great on paper, but I've watched a few Bulldogs/Islanders matches now and unfortunately that never really transpires. This was the best of them, but it still only topped out at decent-to-good. The Bulldogs were a pretty weird team around this point. I remember them often guzzling opponents and giving them hardly anything (not that the Steiners weren't guilty of this from time to time as well). In fairness they don't really do that here, but...well maybe it's because I'm watching these matches after the Islanders/Strike Force feud, but there is just no energy from the Bulldogs shine segment at all. It's all pretty basic headbutt and headlock stuff. Neither guy is a particularly compelling face in peril, either. Dynamite does take a back suplex on his neck, which I guess leaves little surprise as to how he wound up in a wheelchair shooting jackrabbits with an air rifle for a hobby, but either way his FIP section was mostly fun because of the Islanders. Haku has a bunch of cool chop variations (he'll chop you across the chest, Mongolian chop you Killer Khan style, Kabuki uppercut you in the throat, etc.), they run some amusing shtick with one of those invisible dog leashes, and at one point Dynamite has a foot draped over the bottom rope so Tama grabs both legs and yanks him into it balls-first. Davey's run of offence post-hot tag was more like it with the big piledriver and running powerslams, but then it quickly goes to a disappointing DQ finish. Dynamite putting the pensioner referee on his backside was probably warranted, at least. There's probably a pretty damn good match in this pairing, but this one was only halfway there.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

More Islanders; More Tito (and More Martel)

Strike Force v The Islanders (Philadelphia Spectrum, 12/5/87)

I've watched about seven Islanders/Strike Force matches over the last few days and man is it one of the more unheralded feuds of the mid-to-late 80s "golden age" of WWF tag team wrestling. Off the top of my head I think the only series from that period I'd definitely have ahead of it is the Rockers/Brainbusters series. A real staple of these Islanders/Strike Force matches is the awesome babyface shine segment. Martel and Tama are super energetic wrestlers and everything they do has such a spirit about it. I'm not sure you'll find many guys who get more fired up before punching someone in the face than Martel or bump off a dropkick with more zeal than Tama. I don't know if this is the best of the shine segments in a Strike Force/Islanders match, but it's pretty damn great. Haku is tough as nails and really makes the babyfaces earn their moments, Martel busts out a hurricanrana, Tito whips Tama around with killer looking armdrags, and of course Tama takes his nutcase dropkick bump by sailing out over the top and careening head first into a chair. Islanders have some really cool offence once they take over, like Haku's triple backbreaker and Tama's sky high double axe handle off the top rope (if Gorilla was on commentary you'd probably get a line about him literally being able to hang from the rafters). Again, the thing I love most about this series is the participants' willingness to change it up quite a bit even though they wouldn't always have needed to. I've watched tonnes of 80s WWF feuds and it's certainly not uncommon for the guys involved to run practically the exact same match in MSG as they run in Philly as they run in Toronto, right down the to same transitions and comedy spots. I don't even mean that as a knock, because they're wrestling in different markets in front of audiences that wouldn't have seen the match they had three nights ago. WWF never had ten hours of wrestling on TV every week in 1987. But that never stopped all four of these guys from trying something new almost every time out. They still have the great stock spots as well, though, like Tama's amazing face first slingshot bump (it's probably the best spot of its ilk in history) and Martel heaving Tama out the corner with some massive height. Tito's FIP spell was also great here. I said a few days ago that he's not as theatrical a seller as Martel, but I'm not sure there's much daylight between the two in that role. In fact, if pressed, I think I might slightly prefer Tito, if for no reason other than how impressive he is at subtle selling. At this point I'd pretty comfortably take these two teams over just about all of the more lauded WWF teams of the era like the Hart Foundation and British Bulldogs (and I guess Demolition, if you're someone who lauds them).

Friday, 11 March 2016

NWA Classics 24/7 #12

Tito Santana v Butch Reed (Houston Wrestling, 1/13/84)

I'm a big Tito fan and obviously a gigantic Reed mark, so this was one of the matches I got hyped for when it was put up on Classics. Their '87 WWF match was a pretty good 15 minute draw (well, I liked it), but this is really the match you want from these guys. I've watched a lot of Tito over the last few days and it feels pretty clear that he belongs in the same bracket as his babyface contemporaries like Martel and Steamboat. That's to say he was fucking awesome. He wasn't as theatrical with his selling as those two -- Tito's selling seemed grittier, maybe more "realistic" if you want to open that can of worms, but either way it was just as great. I suppose Martel and Steamboat played to the back row, while Tito was maybe a little more subtle. The one thing I think he has over both, though, is his babyface fire. That's one of those YMMV pro-wrestling terms that probably has different meanings to different people, but to me it basically means the intensity with which he teases and makes comebacks, and the conviction he shows while doing it. And well, I don't know if there are many babyfaces in US wrestling history that go after an opponent with more conviction than Tito, especially if he has reason to be pissed off. This wasn't the same Tito that tried to throttle Greg Valentine, but he was committed to everything he did and gave no quarter, which really created the sense of struggle that made a lot of this so good. Even things like the heel pulling the trunks to put the babyface in a pinning predicament while in a headlock felt fought over, rather than a simple spot that's been used to get a bit of heat since time began. It also gave us some awesome moments like Tito hitting a gutwrench suplex out of a front facelock, and Tito charging full steam into Reed only to be chucked throat first into the ropes. I'll always dig Reed hitting his killer fist drops and gorilla pressing dudes, but this was mostly a Tito showcase with Hacksaw as support act.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Does an Islanders Comp Exist?

The Islanders v The Hart Foundation (Maple Leaf Gardens, 11/16/86)

I remember watching this match years ago and loving it. I don't remember why I loved it, but I know I did. And hey, I watched it again and still loved it! It's nice when that happens. I'd actually be surprised if there's a Hart Foundation tag that's significantly better than this. Crowd is behind them because we're in Toronto, so they cheer for things like Anvil cheapshots and Bret being surly. It doesn't lead to them playing to the crowd as such, but Bret appears to really tap into this and ramp up the shithousing in awesome ways, like at one point dragging Tama up the ramp and just fucking hurling him clean off the stage! Then he goes down after him, throws his head into the steps and casually chucks him back in the ring again. It was pretty badass. Tama ruled again and he's 100% solidified his spot on my Greatest Wrestler Ever ballot. He's super fun during the shine segment, then he'll go face in peril and take crazy bumps and sell his butt off. I should re-watch those Samoan Swat Team matches because I don't remember him being nearly this great in WCW. Haku is a nice counterpoint; like the older, tougher brother who people should know better than to fuck with. He's still Haku, the guy who bit someone's nose off for looking at him funny, but it's cool seeing him work as pure babyface hot tag guy (and maybe a little surreal). There was a great bit where he had Anvil in an armbar and thrust kicked Bret who was trying to come in for a sneak attack, then a little later Bret walks up to him and slaps him clean across the face, which in turn leads to Haku making the hot tag and paintbrushing Bret for his insolence.

The Islanders v Dream Team (Boston Gardens, 12/6/86)

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

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Down the 80s WWF Midcard Rabbit Hole

There's just under a month left before ballots are due for the PWO Greatest Wrestler Ever project. I feel like I've got a pretty decent handle on everything bar 70s/80s World of Sport and modern day indies (I doubt I'll bother delving very deep into the latter), but I wanted to go back and re-watch some individual guys for a refresher. One of those guys was Greg Valentine. That led me to the Greg/Tito feud, which in turn led me to scouring dailymotion for some semi-obscure 80s WWF midcard footage for who the fuck knows what reason. I found some cool stuff, though (and how great was the Greg/Tito feud? Jesus).

Rick Martel v Tama (MSG, 7/25/87)

Man, I fucking love Tama. It's been so long since I've watched him that I guess I almost forgot why, but this reminded me. Everything he does is just packed with enthusiasm and energy, like he really loves being there and getting to do what he's doing. Martel is of course awesome and I love HIM even more every time I get to see new footage of him. Both guys ruled in this. Starts out hot with the Islanders double teaming Martel, but Rick comes back and takes them both out before settling into working over Tama's leg. I dug that portion a bunch because it was always chippy, Martel is another guy who does everything with a ton of energy, and Tama was always trying to create space while selling great. Tama tries to get out of a grapevine by continually yanking Martel's hair and pulling at his face, so Martel repeatedly punches him in the mouth. Tama is Samoan so naturally he has to do nerve holds, and nerve holds are rarely ever compelling, but I thought they got about as much out of this as they could, primarily because Tama makes maniacal facial expressions and drools over himself while applying it and Martel sells it by really stretching out his shoulder to get some feeling back into it. There was one cutoff spot where Tama knees Martel in the guts as he's coming off the ropes, and he even sold the early leg work by clutching the knee! It might not sound like much, but how often do you associate that type of selling with late-80s WWF midcard acts (although off the top of my head they did have a pretty stacked midcard, so I might be full of shit on that)? Final stretch after Martel makes his comeback is pretty awesome. Tama has some fucking Nate Robinson-level hops, just flinging himself around wildly off Martel dropkicks and taking an AMAZING face first slingshot bump from the apron into the ring. Match was a total blast and now I will make a point of watching the Islanders/Strike Force feud in its entirety.

Rick Rude v Koko B. Ware (Boston Gardens, 5/7/88)

When did Rick Rude really put it together as a worker? Based on the Warrior match from Summerslam I'd guess he had by mid-'89, though that match almost certainly had some Pat Patterson wizardry involved. If nothing else he seemed more comfortable here than he did in World Class, but then I don't think anyone would argue he was a complete wrestler in Texas anyway. Either way I liked him a lot in this. At times he'd slow the match down to a crawl - he did that when he was at his peak as well - but he was far more natural in his heat-garnering during the workover. His dedication to shitheaded behaviour was pretty inspired, actually, really winding up the Boston City sweat hogs. He has the absolute best sell of an atomic drop in history and I always love it when he does his gyrating hips pose while selling a previous knock, so of course I loved him combining the two by taking the atomic drop, cutting off Koko, gyrating his hips and realising his coccyx hasn't quite shifted back into place yet. Koko frustrates him early by ducking and dodging and imitating the swiveling hips (with Koko adding his own "flapping wings" spin), and Rude gets so annoyed he bails out and threatens to strangle the parrot! There honestly isn't a whole lot to this match; it's pretty bare bones, but it was really enjoyable to me and feels like one of Koko's best WWF matches.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Everybody Better Move Over, That's All, 'Cause Tenryu's Runnin' on the Bad Side and He's Got His Back to the Wall

Genichiro Tenryu & Stan Hansen v Jumbo Tsuruta & Kenta Kobashi (All Japan, 7/15/89) - EPIC

I don't know how many matches Kobashi had under his belt as a pro by this point, but he's only been wrestling for about a year. He's a rookie, for all intents and purposes. This is Japan, and in Japan guys with around a year of experience tend to be slaughtered no matter who they're facing. When they're facing Tenryu or Hansen they will be slaughtered often and in harrowing fashion. When they're facing Tenryu AND Hansen...yeah. The Kobashi parts went about how you'd think, and of course they were great. Tenryu was motherfucking kingsized in this. Hansen is a guy who will just full throttle mow folk down and that's part of what makes him one of the best ever, but he didn't seem to want to give Kobashi anything here. It's not a huge criticism considering Hansen abusing someone is something I'll watch every day and not complain, but when you look at the bar Hansen and Kobashi set together in future meetings, this one left me a little wanting. Tenryu, on the other hand, gave Kobashi juuuuust enough to make him look like a prodigy, but then got pissed off like crazy and that led to the sweet Tenryu-on-rookie violence. One of Tenryu's strengths in general has always been his ability to sell for much lower ranked wrestlers and make it look like they're capable of actually hanging, and this is the perfect example of it. The way he grabs his ear after a hard slap, or how he staggers and bumps for Kobashi's wheel kicks -- it all feels like his armour is being chipped away at, but underneath that armour is still the grumpiest bastard ever and you know it's only a matter of time before that grumpiness boils over. Tenryu and Jumbo are coming off the heels of the June title match and naturally there's plenty of piss and vinegar to go around. There are moments where one will be in the ring and the other will be on the apron, and because they haven't hit each other in the face for a few minutes the guy in the ring will just go off on a madness and crack the one on the apron. At points I thought the match got a bit ragged and the control shifts felt kind of your turn-my turn, but you come for the rookie mauling and you stay for the rookie mauling. Jumbo booting folk in the mouth is a bonus.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Some Folks Got Fortune, Some Got Eyes of Blue. What Tenryu Got Will Always See Him Through

Genichiro Tenryu v Jumbo Tsuruta (All Japan, 6/5/89) - EPIC

So I am not the first person on this here internet to write words about this wrestling match. If you've read a write-up for it in the past then there's a pretty good chance you'll have read something about it being the bridge between the mid-80s Choshu-inspired-all-action bouts and the kind of matches the Pillars would go on to have in the 90s, with the build and extended finishing runs and all that good stuff. I've seen this a handful of times since I started dabbling in the Japanese pro-wrestling, but this time it resonated with me more than ever before. God damn what a fucking peach of a match it is, and this time more than ever before it really did feel like these guys went out and reinvented a style. Shit, maybe they created a new one. First stretch is a massive departure from the early 80s All Japan house style. I got pretty burned out going through the first half of the AJ 80s set, and I was super glad when Choshu showed up to give it some life. This had none of that drab early 80s matwork. It had both guys going right at it from the very start, and any time they did slow things down for a little bit you had them adding nasty touches to simple holds, like Jumbo clubbing Tenryu in the ribs during an abdominal stretch or Tenryu punching Jumbo's kneecap during a leglock. But forget that because those "downtime" moments were few and far between. You can clearly see where Misawa and Kawada and the rest learned how to do strike exchanges. You can clearly see where they learned how to tease throwing out big bombs early and really milk them throughout the match, building more and more anticipation as they went. You can clearly see where they learned how to pace and structure an extended finishing run. All of those things were in this match and they were all done so, so well. This might also be one of the three best performances of Tsuruta's career. Tenryu was awesome in his underdog-esque role - which is sort of novel, considering who he is - but Jumbo just carried himself like he was The Man. He looked every bit the ace of the company that he was. In the early exchanges Tenryu will chop him and punt him in the kidneys and generally do Tenryu things, but this is still Jumbo's house and he comes back with even more vim and vigour than we're used to. He puts that little extra into his big boots, clubs Tenryu's shoulderblades a little harder than usual. He's not quite struggling to hold onto his place the same way he would be against Misawa a year later, but Tenryu's more primed to usurp him now than Misawa would be in 1990. Whichever way you look at it, Jumbo has to dig as deep as he's ever had to before and you can see it in the way he conducts himself from start to finish. Last seven/eight minutes are really incredible. The build, the way every nearfall feels huge, the struggle over everything, the callbacks, the off-the-charts heat, the subtle little touches: all of it. It's amazing. There was one bit where Jumbo pulls down his kneepad for a big home run high knee only to miss, then afterwards Tenryu pulls his own kneepad down. He doesn't really do anything that would make you think he pulled it down for a reason, but it came across as such a cool "well, if the ace is doing it then there must be something to it" moment. From the micro to the macro, this whole thing was just a transcendent piece of the pro-wrestling.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Friday, 19 February 2016

There's Nothing to it Mister, You Won't Hear a Sound, When Tenryu Brings Your Whole World Tumbling Down

Genichiro Tenryu & Shiro Koshinaka v Shinya Hashimoto & Nobutaka Araya (New Japan, 6/1/98) - GOOD

I could count on one hand the number of match-ups in wrestling history of which I feel like I need to see every single second that made tape. Ikeda v Ishikawa is one. Rey v Eddie is another. Lawler v Dundee have been doing their dance for a thousand years, but it's always watchable (and on more than one occasion it's been absolutely transcendent). And then of course there's Tenryu and Hashimoto. This had some clipping, but I got about eight minutes of those guys leathering each other until the cows come home and I'll watch that every day of the week. Strike exchanges in Japanese wrestling kind of suck at this point. If you're one of the four people who've read any number of these blog entries in which I talk about modern day wrestling from Japan then it won't be much of a revelation to you that I think that, but watching Tenryu and Hashimoto slabber each other like this really rams home how wack a lot of guys today are at doing strike exchanges. This isn't some goofy back and forth 'you hit me and I'll hit you' exchange where nothing seems to have any consequence because nobody will sell anything. This is two guys throwing bombs trying to put the other guy down, but it's the selling that really makes it. I don't want to sound like one of those "wrestling sucks now, it was way better back in the day" people, but I've seen so many instances of rote forearm-trading where guys (some of whom I like, btw) just stare at each other and ask for another one while showing almost no emotion or reaction that it's like...why don't more people take a page from the Tenryu/Hashimoto playbook? I mean, this crowd is going apeshit for a strike exchange in the first five minutes because both guys make it seem like it actually has consequence. I couldn't tell you the last time I watched a match from Japan where fans reacted to a strike exchange like that in the first five minutes. I'm not expecting guys these days to be as good as Tenryu or Hashimoto, but it would be cool if more people tried to ape those two rather than whoever started the current trend (was it Kobashi and Sasaki? That probably had something to do with it, surely). Anyways, whatever, Tenryu and Hashimoto knock lumps out each other and it's everything right about the pro-wrestling. Araya kind of ruled as the dude punching above his weight here as well. He really tries not to put up with Tenryu's horse shit, but obviously he ends up getting abused. There's an amazing moment where Tenryu is beating on Hash with a chair down on the floor while Araya tries to put Koshinaka away in the ring. He drops him with a brainbuster and climbs up top to finish him off, so Tenryu just launches the chair off his head and Araya tumbles off the turnbuckle.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Dandy v Fiera - Last Stop Before the Hair Match

El Dandy, Atlantis & Pierroth Jr. v La Fiera, Emilio Charles Jr. & El Satanico (CMLL, 11/13/92)

This is the feud that keeps on giving, and this is the match that finally gave me that one big tecnico revenge rampage. The rudos jump Dandy while he's doing a pre-match interview backstage, and you might be forgiven for thinking this is going to be a similar story as before, where the rudos just go on a tear and the tecnicos can't quite compete with that sort of chaos. The first caida is all rudos, but this time the tecnicos DO make the big comeback in the segunda. And what a comeback. Dandy has had to put up with so much shit during this feud. He's been strung up across the ropes with a chain, hurled into rows of seats, left bleeding all over the place, and punted repeatedly in the balls. In a lot of ways he's taken a back seat to Fiera and basically let himself be abused. Not tonight, though. This was the moment where he decided he'd had enough. When Fiera grabs the chain Dandy goes total fucking apeshit and tries to murder him, whipping him with it, wrapping it around Fiera's neck and hanging him over the ropes while referees try to claw him away. It wasn't just Dandy that dished out some payback; Atlantis and Pierroth had fire in their bellies and were also clearly fed up being whipping boys. Emilio being included on the rudo side probably bumped this up a couple levels as well. That guy is a masterful trios worker and his stuff with Atlantis never fails to rule. There was one exchange where he got completely and utterly schooled and could only resort to faking that he'd be fouled in order to save some face. I'm still trying to keep my expectations for the hair match low, but the build up has been consistently excellent.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Chicana v Perro (80s Lucha Set)

Sangre Chicana v Perro Aguayo (2/28/86)

Pretty much everything you want in a hair match. This was goddamn unbelievable and Sangre Chicana is the unquestioned ruler of the world. I don't think there's anybody in wrestling history that takes punches like him. Perro jumps him early on and Chicana's eventual punch drunk selling is absolutely incredible. Perro rips up the ring apron board and slams Chicana on top of it, then he wraps a towel around his fist and punches him some more. It was like something Jack Bauer would do to interrogate a prisoner without leaving bruises. Except Perro doesn't give a shit about concealing bruises and actively wants to leave them, so before long he ditches the towel and goes back to regular bare-fist punches. In addition to being the greatest eater of punches ever, Chicana is a complete master at timing a comeback. The whole match is full of moments that have been milked to the absolute maximum in order to get the biggest reaction possible, but Chicana waits until a couple minutes into the second caida before throwing his first punch of the match, and of course the whole fucking building shakes. Chicana's tope might also be the greatest tope ever hit. He hits the ropes at a million miles an hour (he was running so fast it looked like he might fall on his face) and just uncontrollably javelins himself out into Perro's chest. Perro's second dive wasn't far off it, though. One of my favourite things in lucha is multiple rows of people running for their lives because they know a dive is coming and the guy taking it will psychotically hurl himself four rows deep, and this is Sangre Chicana who is the biggest psycho of them all so just about every person on that side of the building has to make way. Then afterwards Perro climbs over all the seats Chicana ripped off the ground with his projectile of a body to get to Chicana again, whereupon they brawl in amongst broken chairs and scattered confectionery. Third caida might've gone on a couple minutes too long, but the heat never dies and the reaction of one Chicana fan (you'll know the one as soon as you see him) at the end is why you love the pro-wrestling. If there's also one thing this match makes you wish more than you already did it's that crowds in Mexico weren't so shoddily mic'd, because this is a fancam and the heat is 1985 Mid-South level from word one.

More Dandy/Fiera Build-Up

El Dandy, Pierroth Jr. & Ultimo Dragon v La Fiera, Negro Casas & El Supremo (CMLL, 10/30/92)

Man, if Fiera was washed up in 1992 then he was snorting some unreal chico during the Dandy feud, because he's fucking incredible in all of it. He projects a real aura of confident and deserving ringleader to every group of asshole scumbags he associates with, and that's really saying something when King of Asshole Scumbags Negro Casas is also in this match. Casas has such a palpable and undeniable charisma that it's sometimes difficult for him not to be the centre of attention - even when he doesn't appear to be trying - but Fiera is wreaking so much carnage from the front that you know those other guys are there to back HIM up. I really loved the first caida here because Fiera isn't just content to put a beating on Dandy; he wants to take his arm home with him in a sack. Long term limbwork isn't really a staple in lucha, so when it does happen it tends to stick out (especially when it's good, which this was). Everybody got chippier and chippier with each other as the match went on, to the point where you just had guys going fuck it and straight launching themselves at someone. Ultimo Dragon is one of my least favourite wrestlers of all time, but he was crazy good fun in this. His interactions with Supremo were regularly great, culminating with him unloading a flurry of super fast knees before putting Supremo right on top of his head with a snap fisherman-buster. There's one bit post-tecnico comeback where Casas and Fiera are trying to coax the other into getting in the ring, so Dandy comes running round the apron and fucking decks Fiera in the jaw. Because lucha is a cruel mistress who giveth as much as she taketh away, the Casas/Pierroth sections are tremendous and really make you want to see the singles match that probably never happened. Finish is unfortunately out of nowhere and really deflating, but Casas standing in the ring counting along with the referee while everyone else brawls on the floor was pretty great. Casas might just be the best wrestler who ever lived, you know.

El Dandy, Pierroth Jr. & Vampiro v La Fiera, Black Magic & El Supremo (CMLL, 11/6/92)

This started with Fiera whipping and choking Dandy with his chain before trying to hang him over the top rope with it, which was pretty fucking amazing, but it soon settled down a bit and never really got back up to the level of the first couple minutes. Fiera was great again, though. I'm not sure why he and Dandy have beef, but I guess maybe Dandy ran over Fiera's cat or something because Fiera hates him to DEATH. I've always considered Dandy's peak to be '89-'92, but he's clearly taken a back seat to Fiera in this feud. Maybe I'm just on a Norman Smiley high after the '94 Dandy/Llanes trios, but I thought he was really fun again in this. He's mostly all stooging and cowering, but it was good stooging and cowering and it made you want to see him get punched in the mouth, which is really the whole point. The one gripe I've had with this feud so far is that the rudos have been massive dickheads and sought to abuse the tecnicos at every turn, while the tecnicos haven't ever really been able to dish out some serious comeuppance at any point. Granted, a lot of that is down to Fiera having matches thrown out for kicking Dandy in the balls when his side seem to be losing control, but if the hair match doesn't have Dandy exacting some sweet revenge then I'm probably gonna be left wanting (I guess in that sense the trios have made me want to buy the hypothetical ticket. So, you know, they're definitely doing something right).

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Dandy v Fiera - Building to the Hair Match

El Dandy, Atlantis & Pierroth Jr. v La Fiera, Sangre Chicana & Gran Markus Jr. (CMLL, 11/20/92)

This had a ridiculous pre-match vignette with Pierroth in a Stetson on horseback. The horse then lies down for him and Pierroth stands on it like he's the horse whisperer. Yeah, I dunno. I skipped the video ahead a bit and I initially thought he'd killed it or something. Upon further inspection he did not, but I'm sure PETA would still be less than impressed. This is building to the Dandy/Fiera hair match. I actually don't think I'd previously seen anything from that feud, but if it's all like this then I should probably watch every second of it. Fiera was fucking unreal in this. The tecnicos don't even make it to the ring before the rudos swarm them, and pretty soon Dandy taps an artery. Fiera is in full on vampire mode, chewing Dandy's forehead and spitting his blood in the air, dragging him around ringside throwing him into posts and chairs. At one point Dandy staggers into the crowd bewildered and near death, so Fiera comes over and leaves him upside down on one of the seats. Fiera is relentless and utterly committed to making Dandy's life a misery, while Dandy can't mount any offence because the rudos won't leave him alone long enough to wipe the blood from his eyes. Chicana was relatively reserved in this, though he still came across as a psychopath. He'd been growing his hair out a bit and this was as long and stringy as I'd ever seen it. He looked like the girl from The Ring after crawling out the TV. Still the most charismatic motherfucker in history, though. A third caida with a big tecnico comeback might've pushed this into serious 'best trios matches of the 90s' territory, but what we did get was a hell of a rudo gang-beating and quite the set up to a hair match. Plus, if that finish doesn't make you want to see Dandy fucking kill someone then I'm not sure why you're watching the pro-wrestling.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

More Jerry Estrada, and Dandy/Llanes: The Lead-In!

Bestia Salvaje, Jerry Estrada & La Fiera v Huracan Sevilla, Blue Demon Jr. & El Hijo del Solitario (CMLL, 1/24/92)

How's that for a fucking rudo unit? Bestia, Estrada and Fiera are like a gang of scummy, sleazy rapist bandits whose faces folk put on 'WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE' posters outside taverns in Dodge City. Huracan Sevilla is the bounty hunter tasked with hunting them down. Of course he picked a shitty goddamn posse to bring along with him. He really had no chance here with these kids. Blue Demon Jr. hits a decent enough looking tope (camera doesn't quite catch it, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt), but is otherwise just kind of whatever (which I suppose is better than wretched, at least). Hijo del Solitario pisses off Fiera at some point and Fiera abuses him in tremendous fashion the rest of the time. Fiera was pretty damn inspired in this, actually; spin kicking everyone and trying to strangle Solitario's kid for ripping off his bandana. Match only went two falls and did feel pretty squashy, but LOOK at those teams. There was really only one outcome for the tecnicos, and it wasn't them walking away with that bounty. Post-match brawl was pretty awesome as well. Fiera body slams Solitario's face into the ring apron board which, I mean, c'mon. I can't even do that justice.

El Dandy, Atlantis & Ringo Mendoza v Javier Llanes, Mano Negra & Black Magic (CMLL, 2/15/94)

This is the lead-in trios to Dandy/Llanes that people had been clamoring for for years. I actually think a couple trios from the feud have surfaced now, but I know this is the first of them I've watched. It's pretty much everything you want in a lead-in trios. Dandy/Llanes is obviously the central pairing; they make no bones about that, and as a result the other four guys sort of play supporting cast, especially Atlantis and Ringo. Black Magic and Negra are very much thug henchmen here, cutting off Dandy any time he starts to build up a head of steam against their captain. This also has to be Norman Smiley's finest hour in Mexico. He wasn't the least bit tentative and looked like a natural rudo shitheel with his interference and begging off -- the perfect lackey. He's always the first to try and shut down Dandy's comebacks, takes a splat bump to the floor by literally diving through the ropes to get away from Atlantis, does an amazing Indian "war dance" to mock Mendoza, and he celebrated at the end like Llanes had just picked up the biggest win of his career. He was a true ride or die lieutenant. Mano Negra only really had a few moments to shine, but they were great moments. At one point Atlantis demands he get in the ring and fight, so he pulls on his black glove like he means business only to be promptly dropped by Atlantis. First caida isn't a TOTAL brawl, but it progressively goes down that road into the segunda, albeit in fairly one-sided manner as the rudos have no compunction about triple teaming. The tecnico comeback in the second caida is basically a Dandy comeback. He's the catalyst for it, and everything leading up to that point really meant Dandy had to kick the shit out of someone (and all three rudos do indeed get popped, with Smiley especially deserving of being punched in the mouth). Third caida almost feels like a Dandy/Llanes singles match. They go toe to toe for pretty much the entirety, but fuck if it wasn't great. Best moment of the whole match might've been when Dandy finally decided he'd had enough of Mano Negra's horse shit by stepping out onto the apron and absolutely flooring him with a right hand. Killer match.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Your Monday Evening Jerry Estrada

Jerry Estrada, La Parka & Satanico v Mascara Sagrada, Octagon & Lizmark (AAA, 6/4/93)

More of a great rudo showcase than a great match, but it was a hell of a showcase. La Parka was channeling Fuerza at points of this with his shitweasel act. Estrada being drunk as a skunk might just be an apuestas thing, because he usually seems lucid in trios and title matches. He was running the ropes here like he could actually put one foot in front of the other without tripping over himself (unlike the Stuka hair match). Satanico was surly as fuck from start to finish here. He has a bit of a 'fish out of water' feel about him working for Pena, but while he's past the point of being able to do graceful armdrag sequences or pretty workrate matwork (though I suppose that was never really his calling anyway), he'll still put the fear of god into a young tecnico. Second caida is a pretty great rudo beatdown, with Estrada making a point of yanking every tecnico into the ring post balls-first (he does it to Sagrada while La Parka stands on Sagrada's head at the same time). He also takes a headcase bump in the crowd that nearly wipes out three rows of married couples. Looked like a flyaway windshield after a car bomb went off. Satanico was probably the standout, though. The rudos tie Octagon to the top rope with the tassel on his mask, then later Satanico tries to strangle him with that same tassel, dragging him around ringside like a carcass before tying him back to the rope. The ref' then tries to pull him back so Satanico uses Octagon's flimsy belt to tie the ref' to the rope as well! Satanico was pretty much the last person you'd want to fuck with in this match. Finish also ruled, with Satanico ripping Octagon's mask clean off while Octagon was mid-springboard.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Your Saturday Evening Jerry Estrada

Jerry Estrada v Stuka (AAA, 10/31/94)

I'm not sure where this ranks among AAA apuestas matches of the 90s, but I know I dug it a ton. There are absolutely things about this that non-lucha fans would be turned off by. There are things that lucha fans would be turned off by. Estrada runs the ropes like he's concussed and probably drunk (he's always drunk). Stuka sometimes moves at the speed of moss. The first caida lasts about three minutes and the segunda lasts like thirty seconds. But Stuka bleeds and the dives are fucking nuts and Estrada is a whirlwind of whiskey-soaked lunacy, so you know, I have no problem spending sixteen minutes watching that. Right at the start Estrada takes it to the floor and instigates a brawl in the first row (with Stuka, not fans), then climbs back over the barricade like "nope, this was not a good idea after all." They really ramp up the brawling in the third caida, and Estrada in particular gets pretty violent. I loved him applying an abdominal stretch and just fish hooking Stuka's mouth. Stuka hits a couple spectacular dives in this - they were certainly graceful, but these were of the hateful variety where he's trying to put Estrada through seven rows of chairs - but Estrada's psychotic somersault senton really takes the cake. He overshoots it a little and almost mangles his spine on the barricade, then like a coke-fueled demon he crawls out from under the rubble to punch Stuka in the face some more. Feels like the tombstone behind the referee's back finish in aupestas matches is a AAA staple, but man did Estrada hit an absolute motherfucker of a tombstone piledriver. This was Owen Hart at Summerslam '97, which is sort of terrifying when you think about it.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Eddie Guerrero v Rob Van Dam (WWE Backlash, 4/21/02)

This is an RVD match when RVD is on offence, but Eddie does what he can to make that look okay. About one in three strikes do, so he's above average in that regard. Van Dam does his goofy spots where he throws in forward rolls and cartwheels and it looks like it always does. Just do a regular monkey flip, mate. Match gets way better when Eddie takes over and starts working the back. Van Dam has never really been someone that'll sell long term limb damage, but if he's going to blow off body part work I'd rather it be the back than the leg or arm where it's far more obvious. It also feels like a good idea to work his back in that he's super flexible so you can bend him into all sorts of nasty shapes and angles, which Eddie does here. Eddie putting together a control segment is a beautiful thing -- he has lots of great looking offence, mixes in holds with the high impact stuff (high-angle backdrop --> surfboard stretch --> tilt-a-whirl backbreaker --> Gory Special), knows when to slow it down and speed it up to keep the crowd into it, etc. Has anybody in history ever been able to properly hit that sunset flip powerbomb more consistently than Eddie? He absolutely obliterates Van Dam with one here. Like, this might be the best one he's ever hit. Van Dam takes the bump way up on his shoulders and just gets completely folded in two. I also had no recollection of the finish to this, so I popped for Eddie almost frog splashing RVD's head into mashed potato at the end. I know it's not a sky high bar, but this is probably up there as one of RVD's better matches, right? I've wanted to re-watch that Benoit match from Summerslam '02 for a while, so I might do that soon for a comparison.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

LA Park v El Mesias (AAA, 12/5/10)

I've seen this before, but I remembered nothing about it other than the blood. Well, it's tremendous (and oh my days the blood). Park was incredible. He assaults Mesias straight off the bat and it's pretty much glorious. There's a vocal group of female Mesias fans in the front row so Park drags Mesias over there and kicks the shit out of him right in front of them. He forcibly shoves a portly woman out the way and smashes Mesias with her chair, slams him into the first row on top of that group of women, then follows him in and repeatedly bangs his head off the floor. Some old lady empties a cup over Park's head and I thought he was going to kill her. Mesias' comeback was sort of sudden, but you forget that quick enough when Park gigs himself and hits a 7.5 on the Muta Scale. Mesias throws wild chair shots and Park is staggering around with his mask practically torn completely off bleeding all over the place. Mesias' tope is one of the best I've seen in who knows how long. He fucking bullets himself through the ropes and both guys careen into the safety boards, and Mesias comes up with his right arm absolutely covered in Park's blood. Finishing run might've gone on a wee bit too long, but they had the drama way up there and the roll-up off Park's tombstone was an amazing nearfall. I prefer the 2011 apuestas (that might be my MOTD), but isn't far off. Both might be top 5 in AAA history.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Wagner v Solitario (80s Lucha Set)

Dr. Wagner v El Solitario (12/1/85)

This might be the only match I've ever seen featuring either of these two. I knew Solitario was a big star in Mexico and died under pretty tragic circumstances, but I couldn't have told you a single thing about him as a worker. He certainly had the adoration of the kids in the crowd, though, the way they swarmed both him and second-for-the-night Lizmark before the bell. Based on the pre-match pageantry I assumed this was either a title or apuestas match. First caida and a half felt more like it was a title that was on the line than masks, though there was some unfortunate clipping that was a little jarring. There was one spot involving the ref' that got me thinking about the kinds of ridiculous outcomes it would've led to in Monterrey, only to read OJ's lucha history thread and learn that this actually took place IN Monterrey! Which I think makes it the only match from Monterrey I've ever seen that didn't have some idiotic schmozz involving the referee. Midway through the second caida Wagner goes total fucking apeshit and tries to murder Solitario with a chair, so there you go, it is in fact the masks that are on the line and not a title. There's more clipping in the back half of the match as well, but it's not quite as jarring, even if I think we do miss a Solitario dive (we get what appears to be the set up for it). Thought Wagner looked great down the stretch with his exhaustion selling, the way he'd half slip on a blood stain on the mat and resort to recklessly choking Solitario with Solitario's own half ripped mask. I wish there was more footage of these guys out there.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #11

Nick Bockwinkel v Chavo Guerrero (Houston Wrestling, 2/25/83)

This isn't the best match that's comeout of the NWA Classics service, but it might be the coolest find to me personally. Even the idea of a Bockwinkel/Chavo match is awesome; like a dream match I'd never even thought about before. This is non-title and more of a set up to a probably-excellent title match, but it's a great set up. Story going in is that Bock refused to give Chavo a title shot because he hasn't earned it. This is Chavo's chance to prove himself.  Bock is in smug bastard mode early on, breaking clean with a smile like this is about to be a walk in the park, then taking Chavo over with a couple hiptosses and a body slam. Chavo comes back with some hiptosses and a slam of his own, and I loved how he really threw Bockwinkel to the mat off the slam as a pretty clear "fuck you." Bock gives Chavo a ton in this. Like, other than the opening hiptosses and slam he fights almost the whole match from below. I guess you could argue he maybe gave a bit TOO much, but I thought it worked given the story of Chavo being out to prove himself/Bockwinkel taking him too lightly and paying for it. Chavo works the arm for the majority and it's all pretty great. Both guys are really good at working holds so it's never static (btw, Chavo Guerrero is a god damn offensive dynamo for 1983), and the segments where they come up for air and Bock almost manages to regain advantage are often terrific. There's one segment that kind of fucking blew my mind. Bock grabs Chavo in a bodyscissors, more in an attempt to contain Chavo for a little while as he shakes his arm out and tries to recover from the previous arm work, reeling back and using his weight to lift Chavo up off the mat and slam him back down again. He tries that a second time, but Chavo's hip to it and manages to use his own momentum to escape, instantly running to the ropes. He comes back and Bockwinkel has his legs up for a monkey flip, which Chavo takes, landing on his feet, and as Bock gets up he's instantly taken down with an armdrag. Bock kicks Chavo off from his back, but Chavo is already on his feet before Bock, so Chavo takes him back over with another armdrag. Bock kicks him off again, Chavo gets up quicker, Bock is taken down with another armdrag. The third time Bock kicks him off he manages to get back to his feet quicker, but Chavo does a nip up and Bock ends up walking straight into yet another armdrag, and this time Chavo keeps hold of him as he goes back to wrenching on the arm. It might not sound spectacular reading about it, but it was an incredible sequence if for no reason other than how picture perfect the execution was. The finish was great as well, and I loved Boesch's "he may have him here!" call of it. Actually I loved pretty much everything about this. These guys are absolute money and I hope the gods of wrestling geekdom are kind enough to give us the title match. 

Friday, 20 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #10

Midnight Express v Lanny Poffo & El Bracero (Houston Wrestling, 1/13/84)

You don't really need any more evidence as to why the Midnights were fucking awesome, but well, here's some anyway. This was only the second MX match to take place in the Houston area, against Poffo and Bracero who nobody really buys as having a shot at winning, and yet the crowd is nuclear and rabid for the Express to lose, like they've been acting like giant assholes here in Houston for ten years and not ten days. I think this Sam Houston Coliseum footage has solidified the Midnights as my #1 tag team of all time. They were always in the discussion, but man those guys were something else. Bracero is a short little lucha dude that has a bunch of neat little rolls and spins that he uses to flummox opponents. There's a Bracero/Tully match from 1981 up on Classics and it's like five minutes long and basically a Tully squash, but Bracero was just a ton of fun doing goofy stuff and moving around in weird ways to confuse Tully (and of course Tully was great at playing "what is this guy even DOING?"). He does that here and Condrey is especially funny in his reactions to it. I think I should watch more Lanny Poffo. He's someone I always like when he shows up, and he has a bunch of neat stuff to roll out. He does the bit where he has Condrey in a headlock and as Condrey tries to shove him off into the ropes Lanny just grabs a handful of hair, which of course the crowd eats up (and Condrey's reaction to it is great). Condrey and Eaton pinball around some and I could watch them do it all day, then they bail to the floor to regroup while Lanny and Bracero are doing backflips in the ring. I think it's about time I got my mitts on that Midnight Express comp.

Butch Reed & Ernie Ladd v Terry Taylor & Sonny King (Houston Wrestling, 7/6/84)

I'm always happy when Ladd footage shows up. He's big and gangly and pretty awkward in the way he moves, but it's understandable since he probably has less remaining knee cartilage than Ledley King. He's game though, and his awesome legdrop across Taylor's back looked killer. He was also responsible for some neat "little things" moments as well, like reaching up out of a headlock to try and grab a hold of some hair on the bald head of Sonny King. Old habits die hard, I guess. Reed was kingsized with his cheating and cheapshotting, choking Terry across the ropes, Tenryu-style kneeing him in the kidneys from the apron as Terry runs the ropes. He really reveled in the boos as well and even did a few Mr. Wrestling II-esque jigs to soak it all up. He also takes his headstand bump and really went above and beyond to make King look like a serious ass kicker (like sliding out the ring and falling flat on his face after a punch flurry). I'm not as down on Taylor as a lot of people that watched the Mid-South set even if he is pretty bland, but he felt like the least interesting guy in this. Really good match.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

1996 Yearbook Stuff (Han, Ikeda, Ishikawa, Ono's hair)

Volk Han v Masayuki Naruse (RINGS, 10/25/96)

This rocked. It's the kind of thing that people who're otherwise cold on shoot style could dig, because it has a pretty clear and discernible story to it. Naruse is eager and full of fire, but Han is Han. He is unbreakable, unflappable. Naruse literally somersaults free when Han tries to twist him into a submission attempt, but as awesome as it looks and as much as the crowd love it, Han is unperturbed. He'll keep doing his thing and eventually he'll catch Naruse in something you can't flip out of. Except Naruse keeps coming, and he even catches Han in the ribs with a palm strike. Then he catches him with a backfist. Han dismissively dumps him over the ropes with this amazing "just fuck off already" look on his face and picks up a yellow card for it, so Han is down to his last point. Naruse only needs to force one more rope break - or score another knockdown - and he's won. But Han is Han. I out loud said "look at that!" when Han catches him in the shoot bow and arrow, and part of me wanted Naruse to make it that extra inch to grab the ropes, but a bigger part knew he was already doomed. Han as this shoot style end boss is the perfect description. If you grew up on Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat or whatever then you'll know what it was like to get M. Bison or Shao Kahn's health down to a bare slither only for them to pull it out at the death. You were so close, but in the end what difference did it make? You'd just have to start over, anyway. That was Naruse. So close, but so far.

Yuki Ishikawa & Alexander Otsuka v Daisuke Ikeda & Takeshi Ono (Battlarts, 10/30/96)

What a fucking match. This felt like the best possible amalgamation of this kind of shoot style with US/southern tag psychology (with no downtime at all). Ikeda and Ono are an absolutely spectacular pair of bellicose cunts, constantly interjecting to break up submissions any time the other looked to be in any danger whatsoever. Ono has always been a belligerent shit, but his Vietnamese girl bun makes him look even more obnoxious. He's dangerous, though, like a skinny back alley fighter who takes on bare knuckle bouts for food scraps, then ends up laying out the whole police division sent to shut it down. Every Ishikawa/Ikeda exchange is exactly what you want out of these two. They punch each other in the cheek, throw headbutts with an audible *thud*, try to pull each other's limbs off, the whole lot. Otsuka is at his best chucking folk around and he dumps people on their head a bunch. There's one amazing bit where he can't take Ono's horse shit any longer and comes in like he's about to fucking murder him (and of course Ono taunts him even more). You can actually see Ishikawa and Otsuka getting more and more fed up with the apron interference throughout the match. They're not opposed to doing it themselves, but it really only happens as a response to Ikeda and Ono doing it first. It's a clear theme in the match, and it leads to the perfect payoff where Ono eventually bites off more than he can chew and Otsuka suplexes him on his neck, leaving Ishikawa free to twist Ikeda's arm into a disgusting enough position that he has to submit. I wouldn't hesitate to call this a serious MOTYC.

Monday, 16 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #9

Midnight Express v Magnum TA & Mr. Wrestling II (Houston Wrestling 1/27/84)

How awesome were the Midnight Express? The early part of this is just an absolute masterclass in pinballing and heels feeding themselves to opponents, seamlessly moving into position to eat punches and kneelifts while Cornette literally hides behind camerawomen so he doesn't get caught in the crossfire. There's something infectious about watching Mr. Wrestling II. His little jig, the kneelifts, the crowd chanting "TWO, TWO, TWO"; the guy looks like he's having a total blast. Watching the Midnights work a crowd into a complete frenzy is maybe even better than watching them get beat up. They're pretty much the masters of dragging the ref' out of position and cheating to the point of nearly causing a riot. Eaton starts a mocking "two" chant of his own at one point and that guy is the fucking greatest. Seriously, the heat for this whole thing is through the roof, every single fan in the arena living and dying with Magnum and II. It's been a few years now since I last watched the MX/Magnum-II match that made the Mid-South set, but as great as that was this one might top it. And the blowoff has been uploaded as well! I wonder if it's good.