Thursday, 27 July 2017

SWS Bringing the WAR + Kawada v Kobashi: The Final Chapter

Naoki Sano, Shinichi Nakano & The Great Kabuki v Samson Fuyuki, Takashi Ishikawa & Koki Kitahara (SWS, 11/10/91)

Well this was pretty badass. The central thread running through it is that Fuyuki and Nakano despise each other, but there's also a little side story of Kitahara not really being a fan of Fuyuki either despite being on the same side. It's subtle and they don't play it up much, but Kitahara will refuse to tag him and once or twice stares at him like he'd like to give him a smack. Fuyuki/Nakano is not subtle and they tear into each other and grab each other by the throat and such. The first half was a wee bit ragged even if there was plenty of hate going around (from everyone), and there was a great bit where Ishikawa hit a fat boy plancha, but it's when Fuyuki takes a mugging on the floor that things really pick up. Nakano opens him up with these nasty little rabbit punches and Fuyuki spends a chunk of time in peril. Sano was winging kicks and punching the cut, Kabuki was throwing his awesome uppercuts to the body and chin, and Nakano was biting away at that open wound. Fuyuki is always really vocal with his selling and his shrieks were sort of uncomfortable. I mean, you'd probably expect it out of someone whose forehead was being gnawed at. Short finish run is hectic and I was fine with Nakano just grabbing a chair and cracking Fuyuki with it. If you're gonna do a DQ in a Tenryu fed then you need to make it look legit and Nakano made this chair shot look legit. Post-match Fuyuki gets zero sympathy from Kitahara who volleys him in the face, which was just the best payoff. Even Ishikawa was affronted.


Toshiaki Kawada v Kenta Kobashi (All Japan, 1/17/00)

Their last ever match together, so I suppose it's fitting that it felt a bit like a Greatest Hits show. It wasn't absolutely stacked with bombs or anything, but I'd probably rather watch them go twenty minutes than forty-plus at this point anyway. Kawada was the best wrestler in the world in 2000 and he was exceptional in this. Kobashi was kind of picky with the selling and I'm not in love with the Hulk Up shtick, but Kawada basically used that to make the match feel like an uphill struggle. Like, I don't think Kobashi took a great deal more of the match than Kawada did, but based on how Kobashi would often steamroll him and the way Kawada sold it all you knew who the dominant one was. Kawada was always in with the kicker's chance. He dropped Kobashi with a few big suplexes (and Kobashi took them on his head), but much of his offence was kicks. And they were awesome kicks -- the punts, the gamengiri, the roundhouses, the HUGE axe kick, they all looked killer. Sometimes they'd come across as desperation as well, like when he fought off Kobashi's dogged attempt at a German suplex by hitting an enziguri. If Kobashi was suspect with the selling, he was not with the offence. He was chopping Kawada right in the neck, and while the fighting spirit spots might've been eye-rolly he sure tried to make you forget about them straight after with the lariat. Plus he did everything with a scowl. Finish had some awesome dead-on-his-feet selling from Kawada just for good measure, and the fact the crowd seemed to buy into a cross armbreaker as a possible finish despite there not being a submission finish in All Japan since 1992 (prolly) was pretty cool as well.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Great Sasuke, Shiryu & Masao Orihara v Takashi Ishikawa, Masanobu Kurisu & Koji Ishinriki (WAR, 6/30/94)

What a wild wee maniac bastard Masa Kurisu is. This is a show built around a six-man tag title tournament, so in that sense I guess it's fairly important. But it's a house show. It's not taped and it never would've seen the light of day if not for someone filming the whole thing (bless that soul, whoever he/she is). So a house show of some consequence...but still a house show. Kurisu has no reason to be the way he is on a house show. Right away he's potatoing guys, clonking them with headbutts, kicking them in the eye, chopping their throats. Orihara has shaved train tracks into his hair and looks like a crackhead and Kurisu cannot understand why people are cheering him. It is mystifying to him and eventually he decides it's enough for the crowd to also earn his ire and so he spends a goodly amount of time thereafter shouting at them and giving them the finger. He hates Shiryu's elaborate mask so he rips a chair off the ground and hammers him with it, like really destroys him with this chair shot. Later on he jabs the edge of it into Orihara's neck and then runs the length of the entrance ramp to smack him again. He even "winds up" before it, which, you know, awesome. It was a truly glorious performance from a reprehensible little man. And this match fucking ruled, even beyond the Kurisu parts. It might not be quite as random as the most random of six-man tag pairings to ever grace a WAR card, but it's hard to imagine it taking place anywhere else. It was the essence of WAR, basically. I don't know who Ishinriki is but he's wearing a Jason Voorhees mask and bright lilac trunks, which is a pretty tremendous juxtaposition and just goes to show that the pro wrestling really can create wonderful art. Ishikawa sort of takes a backseat in the handing out of potatoes, but there was one bit where he literally punted Orihara up and down the ramp. The M-Pro guys were super over as well. Everybody popped big for their signature spots and were rocking for the stereo dives, and somehow the juniors trio even managed to hit a triple springboard dropkick in which all six feet connected with their target. Usually somebody messes up the timing of a spot like that and you end up with one of them dropkicking thin air, but they hit it right on the money here. Ishinriki probably kicked out of and popped up from too much stuff at the end, but it at least made things dramatic and the finish was really cool. I just loved all of this, warts and all. And Kurisu. He's everything that's great about WAR in one middle-aged, bellicose nutshell.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

There's an Answer Here if Tenryu Looks Hard Enough. There's a Reason Why He Always Reaches for the Harder Stuff

Genichiro Tenryu & Stan Hansen v Akira Taue & Great Kabuki (All Japan, 3/2/90) - GOOD

This kind of match has a sort of inevitability about it. Taue is practically unblooded and Kabuki, broken down as he's becoming, isn't dragging a guy in his second year past two of the three biggest stars in the company. And Tenryu and Hansen themselves are inevitable. They're wrecking balls, they destroy things and you can't stop it. The fun, then, is seeing how the old guy with the nunchucks and his rookie partner meet their demise. Tenryu and Hansen obviously smashed them to bits -- nasty chops, forearms, clubbering, forty yarders to the spine. Taue wouldn't go down without a fight though, and there was a great bit where he caught Tenryu coming off the ropes with a big boot to the chin before following up with a weird chokeslam that dropped him face-first. If wrestling was real then Hansen would have to be one of your top draft picks for a tag partner. He's exactly the kind of guy you'd want at your back in a fight. Any time Tenryu looked to be in even the slightest bit of bother Stan would come in and help. Put Tenryu in a leglock? Hansen is in kicking your face. Indian deathlock? Not on Hansen's watch. Taue and Kabuki got no respite whatsoever. He was also awesome at responding to Kabuki's short uppercuts (which looked GREAT, btw). The more Kabuki threw the more Hansen would sell them, going from almost annoyance at the start to eventually needing to just bowl Kabuki out the ring so he'd stop. Finish was cool as well, with Kabuki taking a wild bump to the floor off the lariat as Taue lay dead for a while after the double powerbomb.


Genichiro Tenryu, Koki Kitahara & Animal Hamaguchi v Kendo Nagasaki, Kishin Kawabata & Ryo Miyake (WAR, 6/30/94) - FUN

This is probably right on that line between FUN and SKIPPABLE, but I'm all about the WAR and there was enough randomness here that you probably should be too. Nagasaki is 53 at this point and he is flat out determined to skelp someone with a chair. Doesn't even matter who, he'll hit anyone. Hamaguchi is 47 but he drops elbows like a man two decades younger. They were great elbows, really quick and impactful. Tenryu took a bit of a backseat in this to let the others have the spotlight - as was his unselfish wont - and so Kitahara stepped into the role of guy kicking everyone in the face really hard. Kawabata was kicked many times in the face. Miyake was kicked many, many times in the face. Nagasaki was kicked once in the face and he went directly for that chair. Never for a second did you doubt the finish. This is the Wrestle and the Romance.


Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #15

Hideki Suzuki v Daisuke Sekimoto (Big Japan, 3/5/17)

I was caught a little bit in two minds coming into this. On the one hand it was a big title match in which I figured Suzuki would really get to stretch out and do his thing. On the other hand I knew it went half an hour and I wasn't sure how I'd handle half an hour of Sekimoto. But hey, it mostly turned out to be everything I wanted with almost nothing of what I didn't want! They grabbed me from the very first lock-up, laying some groundwork for the story they were going to tell. Sekimoto wins the initial test of strength because he's stronger, so Suzuki smartly uses his height and leverage to stand back up and slickly spin out to sweep Sekimoto's leg. Suzuki flexes out the kinks in his fingers and they lock up again, but this time Suzuki just throws Sekimoto over the ropes with a belly to belly. And from there it was just a super quick half hour. There were lots of things I liked in this. They never worked what you'd call a slow build as such, there wasn't much hold-trading or deliberate matwork early on, but they continued laying the foundations and it didn't take long for the story to form. Sekimoto is a real slab of meat and his number one aim is to steamroll you. Suzuki can't quite trample guys the same way but he's the superior technician, and so there are lots of examples of Sekimoto trying to flatten him or hit one of his bombs and Suzuki countering in unique ways, usually into a submission attempt. Sekimoto tries for a submission of his own by going to the torture rack and Suzuki does this great slow escape that he manages to turn into one of his airtight chin locks/chokes. Suzuki has so many cool variations of moves, often rolled out unexpectedly, like when Sekimoto lowers his head huffing air after a flurry of forearms and Suzuki yanks him right into a small package. He also brings a bunch of cool little touches to communicate the STRUGGLE, like grabbing Sekimoto's ankle so he can't be turned in a Boston crab or going dead weight to prevent the German suplex. I was mostly perfectly fine with the strike exchange as well, and I actually thought Suzuki threw the better shots. He's a world class striker anyway, but clubbering the dogshit out of someone, as much as he can annoy me, is something not many people do as well as Sekimoto. Even the no-selling/fighting spirit parts were tolerable, not just because there were only a couple of those bits during the whole match, but because they at least played into the story of Sekimoto being a juggernaut who's nearly impossible to stop if he builds up enough momentum. And if nothing else it led to Suzuki having to come up with more interesting ways of combating Sekimoto's little-engine-that's-too-stupid-to-know-it-should-stop-isms. I was a bit worried they'd started going back and forth towards the finish a bit early and that they'd lose me, but they really didn't at any point. I guess there were a couple ropey transitions, but the selling of exhaustion was mostly excellent and it really did feel like they fought a war. It always came off as a struggle rather than back and forth for back and forth's sake, which is one of my single biggest grumbles with modern puro. It isn't making you forget Misawa v Kawada or anything, but there were shades of the build to those big moves just the same. And the fact neither could hit their finisher not only left something of consequence on the table for the rematch, it made sure they never went too far into overkill in the first run. I heard this was good and I'm all the way on the Suzuki bandwagon by now, but it still managed to exceed my expectations.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #14

Hideki Suzuki & Takuya Nomura v Yasafumi Nakanoue & Yoshihisa Uto (Big Japan, 2/14/16)

The feud that keeps on giving, this time with a neat new wrinkle. Suzuki and Nomura were a fun match-up, but they might be even more fun as a unit. This is now the fourth Nomura match I've seen and I'm definitely becoming a fan. He was really awesome in this with how he'd throw super fast hands and leap all over people trying to twist them into armbars. That he made his debut a mere three months prior to this means his strike exchanges carry some weight, how he'll try and hang with the established guys even though he's obviously the underdog. You want him to come out of those exchanges on top and you feel sympathy for him when he doesn't. I mean it's hard not to feel sympathy for him when Nakanoue and Uto are clobbering his face in, but his selling was pretty great as well. Suzuki was tremendous yet again. He was Nomura's burly big brother, content enough to let Nomura fight his own battles yet willing to step in when necessary. He approached his initial exchanges with a sort of condescending indifference, where Nakanoue would elbow him in the face (stiffly) and he wouldn't even dignify it with retaliation. It was intended to insult and Nakanoue knew it. Then he lost his marbles like everybody knew he would and he just murdered Nakanoue. That initial moment in a Suzuki match where his temper erupts is so great. It's truly Tenryu-esque. And these matches are all very derivative of WAR, the way the violence escalates and how there's always that sense of things being on the cusp of breaking down into a street brawl. Also loved the finish, with Nomura earning his stripes by holding off Nakanoue long enough for Suzuki to end things. Post-match Suzuki helps Uto back to his feet and shakes his hand in a show of respect. Nakanoue he leaves in a heap on the floor.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #13

Hideki Suzuki v Takuya Nomura (Big Japan, 7/9/16)

This felt like the right sort of progression from their June match (Hideki of the Day #10). The outcome still isn't really in doubt, but Nomura fought harder and took more of this. Suzuki would try things that he did in the first match, but Nomura would be ready for it and counter. Suzuki would try to counter the counter, but then Nomura would counter even that. He did his homework, he was relentless in going for openings, and Suzuki often found himself on the back foot. There were a few cool moments like that in particular. Nomura was crawling all over him at one point trying to grab a cross armbreaker, Suzuki tried to roll backwards out of it and Nomura caught his legs in a nifty cradle. Nomura tried to double stomp Suzuki's head again and there was a great bit where he fought out of a kneebar by slapping him really hard across the face. Nomura even has the big uppercuts scouted and reverses one into a slick backslide. Suzuki needs to go one step further than before when Nomura kicks out of the Billy Robinson backbreaker, so he sure plants him with the double underhook suplex. Give these guys seven/eight minutes and it'd be hard for them not to make it worthwhile.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #12

Hideki Suzuki & Daichi Hashimoto v Yasafumi Nakanoue & Yoshihisa Uto (Big Japan, 6/29/16)

"Nakanoue definitely feels like one of the weakest - or at least the most cookie cutter - of the players in this division when he isn't outright beefing with someone. Like, he needs that hook to draw me in". I said that yesterday in light of Nakanoue and Suzuki being on opposite ends of a match and not hating each other to death. So I went back to some 2016, and yeah, they really hated each other to death last year. This was fucking great. Suzuki was incredible in it and brought everything that made me a fan in the first place, but Nakanoue was so much more interesting this time it wasn't funny. It's actually he and Uto who start the mugging pre-match, which is a departure from Suzuki being the first to let his temper boil over. But of course it's only a matter of time before it does boil over. He really thumped Nakanoue with elbows and headbutts and threw in a Tenryu punt to the eye for good measure. They even did a strike exchange that I not only thought wasn't rubbish, but was in fact actively good, and I know I said I wasn't going to keep bringing up strike exchanges but this felt significant enough to warrant mention. Then Uto tried to get chippy so Suzuki stretched him and punched him in the kidney and dug his knuckles in his face (which gave Uto a bloody nose). Daichi establishing himself as the young guy who wouldn't take any shit was the other major plot line. He really swung for the fences with his kicks, threw a few coconut headbutts, flew into camera shot with a crazy dropkick, and overall I bought him as the young guy who wouldn't take any shit. So job done, I guess. Post-match Nakanoue tries to get back at Suzuki some more and Suzuki literally grabs ring boys by the head and throws them away in order to oblige. I love this feud and this match encapsulates everything that's great about it.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #11

Hideki Suzuki & Daichi Hashimoto v Yuji Okabayashi & Yasafumi Nakanoue (Big Japan, 2/26/17)

Pretty standard twelve minute house show tag. Suzuki and Nakanoue have definitely moved past whatever made them hate one another to death in 2016. Which is somewhat unfortunate. Nakanoue definitely feels like one of the weakest - or at least the most cookie cutter - of the players in this division when he isn't outright beefing with someone. Like, he needs that hook to draw me in, whereas Suzuki is game against pretty much anyone, Okabayashi will throw huge chops against whoever he's in there with, and Daichi at least feels somewhat interesting if for no reason other than the family name. Then again this had one of those screamy tough guy strike exchanges between Daichi and Okabayashi that makes you cringe so hard your face falls off and Nakanaoue did not. So who knows. Suzuki threw one awesome chop-forearm-uppercut combo but otherwise this was fairly nondescript.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #10

Hideki Suzuki v Takuya Nomura (Big Japan, 6/29/16)

This was cool as fuck. I'd seen Nomura once before in a tag match, but this is the first time I've gotten a look at him in a focused singles setting. He works as quick young striker and throws nice hands and feet, pretty much everything landing with a smack (this is Big Japan, after all). Suzuki doesn't really work as a bully as such, but he's the bigger man and so he works as dominant grappler and throws Nomura around with some awesome wrestling. It's a ready made dynamic and it worked a treat. Some of Suzuki's takedowns in this were so great. There was one bit where he just ripped out an inside cradle from nowhere and it was probably the tightest, most realistic use of a small package I've seen in a pro-wrestling match. It had no set up and didn't look cooperative at all, but if he'd wanted to he probably could've kept Nomura tied up like that for several minutes. At another point he dropped to his back to invite Nomura to grapple with him and Nomura tried to fucking double stomp him in the face instead. And good grief will Suzuki try and bend you all the way in half with a Boston Crab. Super fun match-up. Suzuki basically working as burlier Osamu Nishimura is something I can absolutely get behind.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #9

Hideki Suzuki v Masakatsu Funaki (Zero-1, 3/1/15)

Really cool seven minutes. Funaki was the heir to Inoki and Suzuki is a 2010s Billy Robinson, so you knew you'd get some neat matwork, and while it didn't last very long it most certainly was neat. Funaki is more than a decade Suzuki's senior but you couldn't tell from how he moves. He's still super quick in the scramble, rolling through and grabbing armbars like it was 1996. The last couple minutes were just great. They burst into a frantic race to either score the submission or drop the other with a bug suplex and the slickness with which they were reversing and countering was pretty impressive. Wish it were longer, but you take what you can get.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #8

Hideki Suzuki & Yoshihisa Uto v Daisuke Sekimoto & Seiya Sanada (Big Japan, 2/18/16)

This was kind of low-key compared to the Big Japan I've watched recently - nobody really tried to cave anybody else's face in - but it felt like a vehicle to push Sanada, and in that sense I suppose it did its job well enough. He wasn't spectacular or anything and his offence was a bit juniory, but at least it looked crisp. The finish run with him and Uto was basically garden variety "you hit your move and I'll hit mine" stuff, though. Suzuki/Sekimoto made for a fun match-up, especially their exchange where they fought over hammerlocks and top wrist locks. Sekimoto is the pits and the poster boy for most of what I can't be arsed with in modern Japanese wrestling, but to be fair to him he paired up well with Suzuki. His forearm exchanges with Uto also had the added wrinkle of a hierarchy gulf, so it didn't come across as being completely hackneyed. His facial expressions are still ridiculous, however. Perfectly fine twelve minutes overall.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #7

Hideki Suzuki & Yoshihisa Uto v Shuji Ishikawa & Kohei Sato (Big Japan, 9/21/15)

Big Japan truly is the land of the crowbar-wielding potato farmers. I've had that impression for a while if only from reading about it, but watching this stuff confirms it. Ishikawa, Sato, Suzuki, Okabayashi, Kawakami, Sekimoto, even the rookies -- everybody thumps the absolute dogfuck out of each other. It's a bit of a departure from the barbed wire landmine deathmatch focus of yore (though Abby Jr. and the deathmatch crowd are still doing their thing. It's sort of surreal seeing Yuko Miyamoto as grizzled old bastard with criss-cross scarring all over his back when a decade ago he was the pretty young fella being hurled off scaffold. So...surreal yet understandable, I guess). This was all around badass to begin with, but the added hook with Uto stepping to the plate against the big dogs really kicked it up a few notches. And by Christ did Uto get abused in his stepping to the plate against the big dogs. Kohei Sato has been around for a while now but he's always been a guy on the periphery of my attention. I couldn't tell you if he's always worked like this, but based on recent evidence he might throw the hardest elbows in wrestling. He was just plastering Uto here. Ishikawa is someone I now want to watch more of independent of this little project and he was a super fun bully again. His knees to Uto's body were outrageous, but it was the interactions with Suzuki that ruled the most. There was one strike exchange where they were just hammering each other and laughing along like a pair of sadists, gumshields half hanging out mouths and spittle flying. Everybody and their granny and their granny's dog knew who was taking the fall here, but it was the journey that you came to see and a heck of a fun journey it was.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #6

Hideki Suzuki v Ryuichi Kawakami (Big Japan, 2/10/17)

Presumably the follow-up singles to the January tag (for more information on this wrestling match, see Hideki of the Day #3), this definitely had a 'first match in the feud' feel to it. You need to start somewhere, though, and for eleven minutes it was a cool first match in the feud. Both guys are pretty coy in the early parts, neither wanting to play too much of their hand too early, though like in most Suzuki matches we get some nice exchanging of holds. There's a great Suzuki moment where he counters a chin lock by grabbing one of Kawakami's wrists and twisting like he's opening a stubborn jar of pickles. Sometimes you can just tell from a wrestler's reaction whether it's all selling or not, and this looked like the grimace of a man who knew he was either being taken down to the mat or losing a hand. There was another part as well where Suzuki had him in a tight headlock and Kawakami's face was contorted into about four different expressions. I've only seen Kawakami twice so I'm still in the process of formulating an opinion on him, but I'll tell you this much: he hits like a bastard. He threw some MEATY forearms, brothers. Last few minutes were real good and the finish was great. Suzuki had come close to hitting the butterfly suplex a couple times, but Kawakami had been able to reverse. Kawakami then connected with a big forearm and Suzuki went full on dead weight, and for a second I thought they were actually gonna do a ref' stoppage. Kawakami eventually managed to get him up, but Suzuki was playing possum and hit the butterfly for the quick three. Satisfying build up to what I assume will be plenty of ill will and ass-beating and whatnot.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #5

Hideki Suzuki v Kohei Sato (Zero-1, 3/27/16)

Killer match. Suzuki was pretty fucking sensational in this. It's not especially long for a title match (clocks in at around fourteen minutes), but he controls most of it by working Sato's arm and it is some awesome arm work. He has an array of octopus stretch holds where he simultaneously ties up a different body part while bending the right arm at horrific angles. Sato is completely helpless at points and Suzuki is crawling all over him and trying to wrap Sato's arm around his own body like a beach towel. He also throws European uppercuts and grounded knees directly to the arm, which obviously ruled. It's not often I'll complain about a wrestling match in the current climate not having a longer finishing stretch, but I thought this could've done with a few more minutes. I did like the idea of Sato rolling out a few bombs in fairly quick succession to knock Suzuki loopy, and I guess it theoretically leaves the door open for a rematch, but it felt like Suzuki maybe went down a wee bit too easily. Or maybe I just wanted the match to continue because I was diggin' it. Who knows? Either way I thought this was pretty great.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #4

Hideki Suzuki & Atsushi Maruyama v Yasafumi Nakanoue & Takayu Nomura (Big Japan, 6/20/16)

Suzuki/Nakanoue might've been the best feud in wrestling last year. I haven't seen the blowoff to it, nor do I know if there even is one, but everything I saw them do together in 2016 was exactly what I wanted in the current Japanese pro-wrestling. And this was more of the same. Early on Suzuki was trying to get under Nakanoue's skin by refusing to engage, but it didn't take long before the shackles came off. There was a two minute spell towards the end where Suzuki went full Tenryu and absolutely fucking mauled him. It was very, very great; like, one of the best segments of a match I've seen in ages. Nakanoue would have none of it and fight back, but Suzuki would just cave him with an elbow or a headbutt or full force kick him in the face. It was amazing. And then Nakanoue would fight back even harder and it would just annoy Suzuki even more! At one point he threw a forearm that was honest to god one of the nastiest I've ever seen. He's like the perfect modern day mix of Tenryu's cunty savagery and Regal's nasty matwork, replete with all sorts of armbars and leglocks that bend joints at angles they shouldn't be bent at. I mean, what a combination! Maruyama and Nomura were fine. Nomura is a young kickpad guy and he had a fun exchange with Suzuki, who tied him up in a fisherman's knot. It was he and Maruyama who closed out the match, but I couldn't tell you how it ended, intent as I was on watching Suzuki and Nakanoue slabber each other on the floor. Give me everything those guys have ever done together.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #3

Hideki Suzuki & Yoshihisa Uto v Ryuichi Kawakami & Yasafumi Nakanoue (Big Japan, 1/2/17)

Suzuki abusing Nakanoue was just about my favourite thing in wrestling last year so when I saw this I immediately got excited. Where Suzuki hated him in 2016, however, he now...feels nothing. It was a different kind of great, where he just reacted with sheer indifference and a haughty sense of superiority. He couldn't even be bothered locking up with him. Instead, 2017 may be the year where he's decided to hate Kawakami. Suzuki waves Nakanoue away with disinterest and asks for Kawakami, and they proceed to have a nice little struggle on the mat without ever really smacking each other in the face. Suzuki is so awesome at doing the nasty little things, like really twisting on a wrist to force Kawakami to the mat. Then when Naknoue tags back in Suzuki immediately removes himself, above even making eye contact. The back end of this felt like it was more about Uto and Nakanoue than Suzuki and Kawakami, but that's only because the latter pair wound up brawling around the ring and up towards the entrance way. Hopefully a sign of what's to come.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #2

Hideki Suzuki v Shuji Ishikawa (Big Japan, 4/9/16)

This was really good. The opening stretch is another strong matwork segment, with everything being mean and nasty and fought for, then Ishikawa decides he can't hang like that and takes a powder. Suzuki opens the ropes as an invite for him to get back in, but instead Ishikawa sits on one of the ringside chairs and gestures for Suzuki to join him. So they sit in the crowd and take turns elbowing each other really hard in the ear, which is a wrinkle on that particular trope that I don't have any problem with. I've only seen a handful of Ishikawa matches, but in every one of those matches he would stiff the daylights out of someone and he did that again here. Suzuki hardly throws love taps in his own right, but while he has the advantage on the mat it's Ishikawa who has the advantage throwing strikes. Ishikawa will apparently also recklessly fling you into things as he drops Suzuki over the ring apron with a front suplex. Some of the strikes down the stretch were meaty as all get out, particularly Ishikawa's knees to the body. We also got another compact-yet-satisfying finishing run -- no overkill, no egregious fighting spirit no-selling, and a cool finish that I initially thought was a miscue/botch. I would very much be down for watching these two crack each other in the face some more.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Hideki Suzuki of the Day #1

I haven't watched anything in months. I go through these spells often, evidently. A couple days ago I got the itch to watch some of the pro-wrestling, though, and there's a goodly amount of Hideki Suzuki floating around that I've wanted to check out for a while. Having watched a handful of his matches last year I took an instant liking to him, so for the next while I want to continue down that rabbit hole. We'll see how long this lasts before I drop it and move onto something else (maybe I'll even finish Puerto Rico this year!)


Hideki Suzuki v Masato Tanaka (Zero-1, 1/1/16)

I don't really know why, but I'm always a little surprised when I make my brief, annual forays into the current Japanese wrestling and see Masato Tanaka popping up. Feels like he's been around forever, but he still looks to be in great shape. He's not someone I ever really think of as being in that "grumpy old man" category despite the fact he's been wrestling about as long as, say, Akiyama. I wouldn't say he was showing his age as such here, but I did kind of get a vibe of him being out of his depth (kayfabe terms) against the younger ace (who's pushing 40 himself). When he went to his deathmatch roots and brought out the table, for example, you could probably buy it as a sort of desperation move. Match only went 16 minutes so it was fairly condensed, though the opening matwork section still managed to feel substantive rathepthan perfunctory. It was also probably my favourite part. Suzuki is a Billy Robinson trainee so you always get the grittiness to his matwork, pulling legs at nasty angles and really leaning on joints. They moved away from that with a rote forearm exchange, but I should probably just get used to that already and not constantly bring it up if I'm gonna continue to watch this stuff. It is part of the Japanese pro-wrestling. It's embedded in the fabric of the fake fighting. I must come to accept this. Finishing run was short, and while they might've moved on from a few big spots without letting them truly sink in, I'd rather they did that than keep going for another five/six minutes of bomb-throwing overkill. 

Saturday, 11 February 2017

NWA Classics 24/7 #19

Nick Bockwinkel v Tony Atlas (Houston Wrestling, 10/22/82)

Atlas is about as jacked in this match as I've ever seen a wrestler. He's not someone I've ever really thought about in a "how good at the wrestling was Tony Atlas?" sense, so I was interested in seeing what Bock might get out of a guy I've paid no attention to whatsoever. At times it felt like a Bockwinkel approximation of a Ric Flair touring title defence with how much he gave Atlas, especially late on with how desperate he was getting. The finish probably would've been the exact same had Flair been in there. But with Bock you never got all the begging off. Things were a little more grounded and they never seemed to be aiming for a big, dramatic crescendo. It turned out to be a nice tight contest, and almost certainly the best Atlas match I've seen. He wasn't spectacular or anything, but he made the most of what Bock gave him, and Bock will always try and keep things interesting while being worked over. There was this great bit where Bock tried to get out of a grapevine by elbowing Atlas in the head, but of course black wrestlers have heads of granite so Bock wound up selling it like he'd popped his funny bone. Matches like these aren't necessarily essential to Bockwinkel's case as a GOAT candidate, but they add to the picture we already have and that will never be a bad thing.


Midnight Express v Rock 'n' Roll Express (Houston Wrestling, 5/11/84)

This is one of the matches from this service I've been most looking forward to eventually sitting down and watching and it did not disappoint. Heck of a first go-around for these teams in Houston.
They basically spent the first six minutes getting the crowd to pop and boo for high fives, then go apeshit for a hair pull. It was magical. I think over the years I've come to prefer the MX/Fantastics series over this by a tiny bit (I mean, they're both phenomenal), but the early shtick they work in MX/RnR matches is unparalleled. They have so much they can roll out between all four guys, five if you count Cornette, six if you count the referee. I thought the ref' in this was being crazy hyperactive and annoying early, really getting on Gibson's case about a phantom hair pull, but they paid that off with the spot where he breaks up a Condrey hair pull by literally yanking Condrey to the deck by the hair. In most cases I might've thought that to be too much, but the MX reaction to it, and the crowd exploding, really had me popping along with them. When the MX take over they work an awesome heat segment on Morton, running all sorts of distractions so they can hurl him over the top rope repeatedly, jab him with a steel chair, whack him with the tennis racket. It's the Midnight Express working over Ricky Morton -- you know what to expect and you know it's good. You don't need me to tell you this. I've written before about Condrey being a mean wee bastard and I just love him stomping on fingers and driving the point of his knee right into kidneys. Eaton is an absolute dynamo with the offence and he and Morton do a killer rope running sequence that ends with a HUGE powerslam. I also loved how Gibson just said fuck it and literally hiptossed Morton into his own corner, then quickly jumped back out to the apron to make the hot tag. I think there are three more MX/RnR tags from Houston that we don't already have, so hopefully they're unearthed at some point and we get the whole set. This was excellent stuff, obviously.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

NWA Classics 24/7 #18

Bruiser Brody v Mongolian Stomper (Houston Wrestling 6/4/82)

Well this was great. It's the kind of chaotic brawl you'd expect out of Brody if you'd never seen him before and only heard a bunch of old-timers talk about him as an all time level brawler. If this was the only Brody match you'd ever watched, you'd probably believe it to be true. In terms of selling or how much he was willing to give his opponent, he never really did anything that was different from his usual. It's just that the Stomper seemed to realise this and decided to TAKE what he was going to get. He walked through Brody's punches as often as Brody walked through his and it made for a totally wild, uncooperative, hate-filled scrap. We got forehead biting, we got guys being thrown into rows of seats, we got a referee being launched across the ring for trying to involve himself, and of course we got the blood. Brody was swinging chairs like a damn psychopath, sometimes clusters of them at a time, and at one point he even dinged the ref' because why the hell not? There was another bit where he just went a wander with this blood-smeared chair like he wanted to break something - anything - and it was fucking awesome. I was thinking, "where is he even going?" and then I realised it didn't matter because I don't think even HE knew. He was too caught up in the moment. He'd lost himself in his madness. Just a wild, ridiculously fun ten minutes. Based on this I'd say Stomper knew exactly how to get the best out of Brody, but I think it would be unfair to say Brody never brought it. I just wish he brought it like that more often.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Some Late 90s/Early 00s Japanese Indies

Michiko Ohmukai v Yumi Fukawa (ASRION, 4/11/98)

This was really awesome. I was a bit worried they were going down a route I wasn't really interested in with the very first exchange, then approximately forty seconds in Ohmukai started kneeing Fukawa in the face and they never looked back. Who the fuck is Michiko Ohmukai, anyway? She was fantastic in this, like a more supple Takeshi Ono. She threw forty yarders to the gut, a couple Wanderlei punts, a brutal axe kick, and she hit one springboard wheel kick where she landed with practically her entire body weight on Fukawa's head. There was one bit where she'd gone for an armbar and Fukawa made it to the ropes, then as Fukawa was on all fours trying to get back to her feet Ohmukai just drilled her elbow with a kick. It was nasty as hell. Fukawa was her usual spunky self and all of her tricked out submission attempts had a hint of desperation about them. It felt like she actually HAD to get creative when going for submissions just to avoid being booted in the mouth. And that finish looked like it just about ripped out BOTH shoulders. What a cool find (credit to Jetlag on PWO for bringing it up). I need to watch more Ohmukai.


CIMA v Minoru Fujita (M-Pro, 1/9/00)

This feels like something I probably watched on an early Schneider Comp. I didn't really have high expectations for it since CIMA is a guy I haven't cared for in about twelve years, and Fujita has never left much of an impression on me from the first time I saw him, but I wound up thinking this was rock solid. CIMA sold the early work on his arm well, then dropped it when it felt appropriate. It's not like a ton of time was dedicated to working it over, so he wasn't going to leave it hanging by his side the whole match. The legwork on Fujita lasted long enough as well that by the time they moved into the finishing run, it felt like Fujita had mostly recovered from it. He sold enough in the immediate aftermath that CIMA's stretch of legwork didn't feel meaningless. The match length probably helped that. I don't remember when it started, but at some point in the last ten years a ton of juniors matches seemed to go half an hour or longer, and it made things feel really wonky. The overall pacing, the perfunctory beginning, the meandering in the body, the overkill at the end -- it's a style that wasn't suited to going thirty, sometimes forty minutes (KENTA did it about four times a year). You'd have someone getting their leg torn to bits for ten minutes straight, then a switch would flip and they'd move into the ten minute finishing run without the leg ever being a factor thereafter. That criticism might be old hat these days, but it certainly used to bug me. With this only going seventeen minutes they got to stretch out and build to a hot finish, but the middle portion never felt bloated with limb work that wasn't going to factor into the finish, anyway. They used their time and laid things out really well, basically. And I don't even think they overdid it with the finishing run, either. It ended with the crowd at their hottest and none of the kickouts felt like they were too much. I'm glad I bothered to check this out.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Sid Justice Month!

Chris Benoit v Sid Vicious (WCW Souled Out, 1/16/00)

This is probably Sid's best singles match ever, right? People bring up the Survivor Series match with Michaels a lot, but that feels like more of a fun spectacle made partly by the crowd shitting on Shawn. Michaels basically worked that match as full on pinball. I know some people hate that, but there's really only so much you can do with Sid, so I guess Michaels just decided to let himself be flung around for fifteen minutes. Benoit decided to go a different route. He still bumps big all the way through, and early on I suppose he gets ragdolled a bit, but he works most of this from above by going after Sid's leg. To be fair to Sid, he seemed more than willing to be hand led here and it worked pretty damn well. I mean, he's not amazing at selling or emoting, but he has crazy charisma, the crowd are always behind him, he does what he needs to on hope spots, and he doesn't overreach. If nothing else he was good at being carried, which sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it's honestly not. Dude was perfectly fine and held up his end as well as could be expected. But man, Benoit was really good in this. He's a demon going after the leg, dropkicking the steps into Sid's knee, rolling out a Muta Lock, doing this cool rolling kneebar, just super focused on taking apart Sid's wheel. Sid tapping to the Crossface so quickly despite there being no real build to it might irk some people, but I don't really mind. I'm all for guys working body parts to soften an opponent up for a finishing hold, but I don't see it as being a necessity. Submissions don't always need "build," and the Crossface was always treated as a sudden match-ender, anyway. He worked the leg to keep Sid off his feet, to cancel out the size difference, then saw an opening and used his main weapon. Benoit was on his way to the WWF, but he certainly went out on a big performance.



**(I'm not actually doing some kind of Sid project, btw)

Friday, 30 December 2016

Remember I Started a 1994 WWF Project?

It was like five years ago, but yes, I did start that. This is me now continuing it. I guess.


Bret Hart v Owen Hart (Wrestlemania X, 3/20/94)

I've always really liked this without loving it. Last time I checked it out was for a Greatest WWF/E match ever poll about six years ago, and even if it wasn't a personal favourite I thought it was pretty great. I figured it would hold up, and it did. I've seen Bret a hundred thousand times at this point and I know what I'm getting with him. He was good in this like you'd expect. All of his stuff looked nice and crisp, he sold well, bumped well, and the layout was simple yet effective with transitions that held weight. I like that about the longer Bret matches. They're usually broken down into clear chapters, and the progression from chapter to chapter makes sense. It's pretty standard Bret Hart layout, but I absolutely don't mean that in a bad way. But man, this was Owen's chance to shine and shine he did. The early stuff is pretty basic, mostly being armdrag/armbar work, but Owen is really fun during it. He celebrates everything like it's a victory, grabs hair and subtly cheats, then gets indignant when Bret does the slightest thing well. So he just slaps him real hard across the face (which we get a great payback to shortly after). There were two extended runs of offence for Owen in this, the first where he works over the back and the second, which comes after a short Bret comeback, where he works over the leg (including kicking his leg out of his leg). Offensively he dipped into his New Japan bag because he was throwing out all sorts of cool stuff for 1994 WWF. He hit a bridging German suplex (which looked better than most German suplexes thrown in WWE in years), did a couple dragon screws, put on a funky Indian deathlock thing, sat in a camel clutch while yanking hair and shit talking at the same time, etc. Just a really fun offensive display. Bret's offence was mostly his usual stuff; the back breaker, the side Russian leg sweep, elbow off the middle rope, all the hits you expect him to play. I like the finish a lot as well. Did Owen get lucky? Maybe a little. But was it luck that he knew to make that counter in the first place? Was it luck that he was able to execute it properly and keep Bret down? Was it luck that he controlled most of the match and showed he could hang? Maybe Bret wasn't all there mentally, having the title match later to think about and never being completely happy about wrestling his brother anyway, but that wasn't Owen's fault. Next time Bret should know better. I don't think this is the best WWF match of the 90s or anything (I don't know if it's the best WWF match of 1994), but it had a well-told story, lots of nice little touches, cool paybacks, smart callbacks...yeah, it was pretty great.


1994 WWF Project

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Life is Nothin' but a Dream, so Peaceful and Serene, Unless You're Bein' Evil, then You're on Tenryu's Team

Genichiro Tenryu & Yoshinari Ogawa v Jumbo Tsuruta & Kenta Kobashi (All Japan, 8/19/89) - GOOD

I never knew Tenryu and Ogawa ever teamed together. Ogawa wasn't an obnoxious wee prick yet so they weren't quite the pair of assholes they'd be a decade later, but if nothing else it's cool that it actually happened. As you'd expect, this is mostly about Jumbo/Tenryu, but that was never a bad thing in '89. They start out working some basic holds, but they hit each other real hard and that leads to them dropping the kneebars in favour of going toe to toe. Their exchanges were always on that cusp of breaking down into a brawl, so even if the matwork wasn't great it at least had an edge to it. Jumbo tags out a couple times and Tenryu tells him to man up and get back in, so Jumbo obliges and Kobashi has to wait a little longer for his turn. Kobashi and Ogawa are super raw at this point and most of what they do looks pretty ugly, but they try hard and I don't have any problem with young guys overreaching a bit. Their interactions with the opposing Big Dog were great. You had Ogawa stepping to Jumbo and bloodying his nose so Jumbo would flatten him with nasty forearms. Kobashi would go at Tenryu and Tenryu would just waste him with upward angle chops right to the throat. Ogawa v Kobashi was the weak point (understandably), but there was this amazing spot where Tenryu back body dropped Ogawa right onto Kobashi's face. This was eleven minutes long and it had plenty of neat stuff.


Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Monday, 21 November 2016

The Revival/#DIY and Lesnar/Goldberg

The Revival v Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa (2/3 Falls) (NXT Takeover: Toronto, 11/19/16)

This might've been even better than their previous Takeover match. I said that one was like a hybrid of a traditional southern tag with modern day workrate, and this was that again, but they turned it up another notch. The Revival are the best tag team in wrestling right now. All of the cutoffs, the heat-garnering, the way they work the heat segment -- that all ruled as usual, but this time they seemed even more surly, especially Dawson. He was adding some awesome little nasty touches to this, like stomping on Gargano's fingers, Regal-style grating his forearm across Gargano's face while he held him in place with a bodyscissors, and my favourite of all was when he picked Ciampa up off the mat by his beard! I really liked the layout of this as well. There wasn't really a babyface shine segment in the traditional sense to start, but they went back and forth for control until the Revival eventually took it, and that kept going all the way into the second fall (with an awesome finish to the first). The hot tag in the second led to the score being tied up, and the third fall was one extended stretch to the finish with tonnes of heat and great moments. I was pretty sure on who was winning this, but I wasn't ALL the way sure and they had me biting on a handful of nearfalls towards the end. They played off Gargano's leg injury and the subsequent finish from the first match, with Dawson first using a title belt to block a kick (awesome), applying the inverted figure-four to huge heat, then Dash coming in from the blind side and fucking obliterating Gargano with a chop block to the OTHER leg. So by the end you had Gargano on two bad legs trying to hang in there, and "hang in there" was about all he managed as Dash and Dawson got too cocky going for the double superkick. I assume the Revival are heading to the main roster after this, but as someone who only watches WWE/NXT once every other month I would be more than happy for these teams to have another few go-arounds.


Brock Lesnar v Goldberg (Survivor Series, 11/20/16)

For a match that went about two and a half minutes bell to bell, I thought this was pretty much perfect. I get that people were annoyed by the length and felt that they were shortchanged or whatever, but I watched this after already knowing what went down and I don't follow WWE enough to really be bothered about it and I just use my brother's Network subscription so I basically got this for free and fuck it, I loved it. It felt massive pre-match, then Goldberg came out and people were way into it, then Lesnar got shoved on his butt and it was such a great "fuck outta here with that" moment. The first spear was amazing, the way Lesnar got up laughing only to be mowed down out of nowhere. The pops for Goldberg's three offensive moves - and that was all he did - were huge, then you had all these camera shots of fans in disbelief that Brock Lesnar got squashed in three minutes. For what they were going for, I don't think this possibly could've come off much better.