Wednesday, 21 December 2011

HANSEN! And ANOTHER GUY!

So I obviously haven't written anything in a few months. I HAVE been watching quite a bit, though. My motivation to write about it has basically been non-existent, but I figure if anything is going to get me back into the swing of things, it's Hansen.


Stan Hansen v Kenta Kobashi (All Japan Pro Wrestling, 7/29/93)

Well at this point I'm pretty much convinced Stan Hansen is the best wrestler that's ever lived. I literally don't remember ever reading anything that wasn't praise for this, and I'd assume it's still generally considered the best match of Stan's career. These days I'd rather watch him and Kawada beat the ever loving shit out of each other or see him play borderline-underdog babyface to Andre the Giant, but this is still a Hell of a fight that's better than 90% of anything in the history of pro-wrestling. Hansen is so great here. He gives Kobashi more of the match than I had remembered, but Kobashi is really good in his own right at filling the time. He goes Hell on wheels practically from the jump, and Hansen is almost left fighting an uphill battle the entire match. Match doesn't really tell the same story as Jumbo/Misawa from 9/1/90, but I got the same vibe from Hansen that I did from Jumbo at a few points -- he's a man that's been at the top of the food chain for a long ass time, and here comes this young guy trying to knock him off his perch. He had already come close earlier in the year, and he's coming close again. This is Hansen trying to hang on to his place in the world. Everything Hansen does looks like it's just about the stiffest version of it possible. For his first big transition/breakthrough he catches Kobashi coming into the corner with a boot to the face, and within minutes Kobashi's cheekbone is swollen and bruised. Then after the boot he goes and powerbombs him on the fucking concrete. His splash off the middle rope looks like it would obliterate your ribcage. Then there's the lariat, which might've been the nastiest lariat in the history of forever. Still, this is Hansen mostly fighting from the bottom, and for a guy that is maybe the best pure shitkicker in wrestling history, it's a tremendous performance and something you don't get to see from him all that often.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Where did all the Good BASTION BOOGER Matches Go???

Bam Bam Bigelow & Bastion Booger v The Smoking Gunns (RAW, 1/3/94)

This was the "main" match of the show. As in, this was the match that got the most time. I was legit looking forward to this. Bam Bam is looking like one of the best guys in the company in '94 and I remember being hugely disappointed as a kid when Booger pulled out of the Royal Rumble at the last minute. No IDEA why I wanted a Bastion Booger appearance back then, but there you have it. I think Virgil was his replacement. Fuck Virgil. But yeah, Booger is utterly grotesque. This kind of sucked, unfortunately. Billy and Bart were pretty crappy here, Booger moves a mile a century, and Bam Bam, try as he may, isn't able to pick up the slack and drag this into "not sucky" territory. Did I mention Bastion Booger is utterly grotesque? They run some angle at the end where Luna (Bigelows' MAIN SQUEEZE at the time...how awesome is THAT?) starts rubbing the hump on Booger's neck, and Booger sees this as her coming onto him so he starts trying to molest her or some shit. I am not making this up. Bigelow eventually notices and tries to pull him off, they start brawling (or "clutching") and the Gunns win by count-out. Bastion, you dog, you.


The Quebecers v Marty Jannetty & 123 Kid (RAW, 1/10/94)

This was really fucking good, maybe a top 5 TV match of the year. Gets plenty of time (about 20 minutes) and everybody brings it. Marty and Kid have a bunch of neat double teams and the Quebecers keep having to stall and regroup. They tease Marty going FIP when Jacques (I think) pulls the rope down from the apron as Marty's running in, and Marty takes a really cool bump over the top. When he lands it looks like he splats his nose on the floor. When Kid comes in after this he strings off a couple great highspots. Vince's call of the somersault plancha off the top is amazing. It sounds like he swallows his tongue because his brain is overloading trying to think of a way to describe it. "GBLUGH. DID YOU SEE THAT?!" Quebecers eventually take over when Kid is up top ready to go for the kill and Pierre shoves him off. I don't recall seeing more than 5 Quebecers matches in my life, but I was shocked at how good their heat segment was here. They don't really work it in a way that allows for good hope spots, which admittedly sounds pretty counter-productive, but instead they just murder Kid with a bunch of great looking shit. Pierre's assisted top rope somersault senton looked brutal (that's one thing about them I do recall) and they absolutely kill Waltman with this Total Elimination variant where Pierre hits a running lariat as Jacques casually sweeps his legs away. I would've liked them to build to the finish a wee bit better, but that's neither here nor there. Pop for the title change is a POP and Savage hitting the ring and celebrating is why I love that crazy bastard.


Bam Bam Bigelow v Bastion Booger (RAW, 1/10/94)

This was...not good. Only got about 2 minutes. Bigelow tries to slam Booger at one point and almost falls and gets squashed underneath him. He's all "Nah, fuck that shit" and just picks him up and does it again (this time properly). Booger gets his head rammed into the steps and the way he just lays over them after it like a harpooned whale was hilarious. Imagine Rosie O'Donnell trying to seduce a prostitute. THAT was what this was. I hope to uncover at least one good Bastion Booger match for this project. This wasn't it.


1994 WWF Project

Sunday, 11 September 2011

King of the Ring 1994

It's rare that I'll sit and watch an entire wrestling show in one sitting these days, and while I didn't watch THIS show in one sitting, I DID watch the whole thing (in two sittings, which I guess is the next best thing), shitty IRS matches and all.


Razor Ramon v Bam Bam Bigelow (King of the Ring 1st Round Match)

This wasn't a great match or anything, but Bigelow looked pretty damn good as this big bear with flames tattooed on his dome. They do an extended torture rack spot here that was pretty weird. Bigelow hoists him up and Razor just kind of lays across his shoulders for like 3 whole minutes. It's an interesting choice for a resthold since standing still with a 250 pound lump of dead weight on your back is hardly the best way to get your wind back, and by the time Bigelow drops him he looks suitably fucked. A good old chinlock probably would've done the trick just fine. Bigelow's bump for the finish looked pretty gnarly, though.


IRS v Mabel (King of the Ring 1st Round Match)

Rotunda's promo pre-match is great in a totally "this is crap, but it's funny crap" way. He points at Mabel and starts talking about Tatanka and how after he's done with Mabel Tatanka will never have to face IRS again. Uh, what? He also stammers over lines and it was no Antichristo promo. "I AM TAX MAN! MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" probably would've made me legitimately piss myself. Match itself is a tad shitty. Mabel hits a pretty looking northern lights suplex for a morbidly obese guy, but it's strange seeing him dance around like DJ Casper to "whoomp, there it's is" chants. I guess I just conditioned myself to look at him as the guy that sexually harassed Lillian Garcia before turning into the monstrous (in the BEST way) Big Daddy V. Finish was a really lame "grabbing the ropes for leverage" spot. Mabel goes to splash IRS from the middle rope, but Irwin pops up and shakes the ropes to cause Mabel to fall off (and he does hit the mat hard). He quickly scoots over and, without putting any pressure on Mabel's shoulders at all, hooks the leg, puts his hand on the bottom rope and just kind of sits there while the ref' counts to three and Mabel tries to make it look like he's actually struggling to break free without lifting his shoulder off the mat. In the end he just looked like an overweight walrus. I'm a fan of cheating spots like that when it looks like the guy is ACTUALLY using the ropes for leverage. This wasn't one of those times.


Owen Hart v Tatanka (King of the Ring 1st Round Match)

This starts out a little weird, with Tatanka - the babyface - jumping Owen - the heel - before the bell and laying into him briefly before slowing it down with a headlock. And he stands there and doesn't do anything with it. I can't say I've watched a ton of Tatanka matches recently, but surely he has some better stuff to kill time with than THAT (cool spot where Owen throws him high over the top and he lands on his feet, though)? Owen eventually takes over and things become a little more interesting. Owen's a guy that I've basically been apathetic towards my entire time as a wrestling fan. I can see that he's good and he does lots of things well and he's involved in a bunch of matches I like/really like...but I've never had much of an opinion either way. Fuck if I know why, but this solid-if-totally-unspectacular match sort of got me excited about watching a stack of Owen Hart matches for this project. I mean, this isn't a match anybody needs to go out of their way to see, and it's not even an Owen performance that stands out from the million performances I've seen from him, but for some reason, for the first time ever, I actually feel like I give a shit about Owen Hart. At some point Tatanka does his warpath Hulk-Up thing and I dig how he throws these overhand tomahawk strikes rather than regular punches. He also plants Owen right on his head with a DDT that had Art Donovan marking out. Ultimately forgettable match, but if it winds up making me an honest to goodness Owen Hart fan then...then I'll still not be sure why.


123 Kid v Jeff Jarrett (King of the Ring 1st Round Match)

Man, Waltman might be the second best guy in the company in '94 (I wouldn't call myself a huge Bret Hart fan, but I'd say he was pretty unfuckwithable as the best guy in the company in '94 and I can't see me changing my mind on that any time soon). He isn't quite fucking with a Rey Mysterio, but his timing is great, has awesome and varied hope spots, takes monster bumps, has a ton of great looking kicks, and generally comes across as a dude you want to root for. People often point to the Owen match later in the show as an example of a great sub-5 minute match, but this was pretty fucking choice in its own right. Kid comes out at the start in a karate stance so Jarrett bails and ends up dragging him out to the floor. From there he wails on him while Kid peppers in his hope spots. Jarrett hits a slingshot suplex, Kid replies with a victory roll. Most of Kid's openings actually come from Jarrett missing something of his own and he's really good at trying to "seize the opportunity." Awesome spot where Kid charges into the corner and Jarrett kicks him in the back of the leg so Kid takes a fucking Psicosis corner bump and lands right on his neck. Finish is also cool, as Jarrett spots his opening (with Kid selling the leg) and goes for the figure-four, but takes his sweet time and gets rolled up for three. Post-match he hits 3 piledrivers and storms off, and I wish these guys wrestled in Memphis because that would RULE.


Bret Hart v Diesel (WWF Title Match)

So I really like the Royal Rumble '95 match between these two. I really dislike the Survivor Series match from later that year. Diesel was good in the former and sucked for large parts of the latter. I hadn't seen this, which I think is their first televised match together, in years, but it's definitely closer to the Rumble match than the Survivor Series one. Diesel is capable enough here and brings enough to the table that I'd say he was "fine" (although he starts to gas pretty noticeably towards the end), but this is a total Bret show/Bret formula and I thought it turned out to be a Hell of a match. They use the first few minutes to establish the roles you'll have seen in a hundred Bret v huge guy matches. Diesel's inexperienced but he's HUGE and already gave Bret a monster Jackknife on a previous episode of RAW, so Bret wants to avoid that happening again. Bret needs to stick and move until he can create an opening; he's the technician and he doesn't intend to go toe to toe with the big guy (okay, so the backstory's different, but it's the same "Bret v Big Guy Psychology" in the end). When he eventually takes over he goes to the leg, and it's all pretty much Bret101. Not a knock, it just is what it is. They do a slow transition into Diesel's control segment, first by having Shawn catch Bret with a GREAT cheapshot (Shawn is awesome as Diesel's douchebag second in this). That leads to Anvil chasing him all around the ring in a cool cat-and-mouse segment, culminating with Diesel dismissively sidestepping an attempted plancha to take over. Nash is fine in control, working bearhug spots, leaving Bret open for more Michaels cheapshots...it's pretty standard stuff, but it's effective enough. Still, the whole stretch run is what puts this over the top. Maybe it's just because I haven't watched any WWF (or Bret Hart) main events from around this time in ages and I'm struggling to remember if most of them were built like this, but it was a really fucking good finishing run..."epic", even. Bret being up in a Canadian backbreaker and slowly wriggling free, turning himself around and throwing on a sleeper, all while practically scaling Diesel's body, was a great catalyst for a comeback. The heat for everything is through the roof, Bret's still getting nearfalls off of most of his signature comeback stuff, he takes his crazy turnbuckle bump (dude is one of the best turnbuckle bumpers ever. Slaughter's signature bump is still the gold standard, but Bret running full speed into the corner and crashing chest-first into the buckle is right up there with any other signature corner bump ever), and Michaels just HURLS himself into a ridiculous guardrail bump off a punch (he's up on the apron acting like a jackass again). Finish is whatever, but if you took the best parts of this, the best parts of the Rumble match and the best parts of the Survivor Series match (an actual finish being one of them) and stick them all together, you've got some really great shit. Definitely the best match I've watched so far.


Razor Ramon v IRS (King of the Ring Semi-Final Match)

Well this wasn't very good. I like a bunch of Scott Hall/Razor Ramon matches and Rotunda has generally always been one of those "solid hand" type guys, but this was basically 7 minutes of nothing with a few worthwhile spots thrown in and then a finish that just kinda happened. At least Irwin does a "feet on the ropes for leverage" spot that could plausibly give you leverage this time. I don't know if I could go as far as to say this was disappointing, because I wasn't expecting anything all that great anyway, but both guys had better first round matches and it's not like those were blowaway or anything, either.


Owen Hart v 123 Kid (King of the Ring Semi-Final Match)

Totally great sprint. You tend to find a lot of the people championing Owen as a superworker pointing to this match as "evidence" (even if it's only about 4 minutes long). I always kind of brushed it off as hyperbole, but it really is a cracking little match. Don't think it provides any more evidence for Owen as a superworker than it does for Waltman, but that's beside the point. Owen's baseball slide as Kid is about to get in the ring looked CRAZY. It wasn't quite on the level of that one Nogami took on the New Japan 80s set, but it was ridiculous all the same. They manage to cram a ton of shit into this and they're moving through it all pretty quickly, but I was surprised at how everything they did still came across as being as big as it aught to. The spot where Kid tries a spinning wheel kick and Owen catches him and PLANTS him with a German was especially fucking awesome. Owen just yanks him out the air and Kid's feet barely touch the floor as Owen is setting it up, so it looked like a really impressive strength spot. NASTY powerbomb straight into the Sharpshooter for the finish looked boss, too. I think I had this in the bottom spot on my Greatest WWF/E Match Ever ballot for the Smarkschoice poll. I didn't really remember much about it going into the re-watch, but I can see why I stuck it on there when I did.


The Headshrinkers v Yokozuna & Crush (WWF Tag Team Titles Match)

Man, how about THIS for a fuckin' Yokozuna bump highlight reel? He seriously takes like 5 awesome obese guy bumps in this one match. He does his through the middle rope bump THREE fucking times and every one was GREAT. He also misses an avalanche in the corner and staggers out before falling flat on his face. I love how they start this out. Spots built around Samoan wrestlers having heads made of granite are the bomb and they do this bit where Crush and Yoko pair off with a Headshrinker and each give them a headbutt. Obviously neither guy is fazed, so each Headshrinker fires back with a headbutt of their own. Strangely, Yoko and Crush also seem to have rock hard noggins (Yoko actually IS Samoan, Crush is from Hawaii...do Hawaiian wrestlers have hard heads as well?), so Fatu and Samu just headbutt them in the cheek bone instead (which is where Yoko takes his first bump to the floor. He staggers around all dizzy and shit after it as well which totally ruled). Back in and Yoko whips Samu into the corner, charges in and winds up getting drilled right under the chin with a superkick. Then Fatu compresses Crush's spine with a FUCKER of a piledriver. I mean God damn, Jerry Lawler must have stood and applauded if he was watching backstage. Crush and Yoko take over when Crush brings Fatu down with a drop toe-hold and Yoko murders him with an AWESOME twelve hundred pound leg drop. Do people ever talk about Yoko's leg drop? His middle rope bump gets praise - and rightfully so, because it's fucking ace - but I can't remember anybody talking up his leg drop. They should, though, because that's also fucking ace. Loved the spot after the hot tag where Samu is about to splash Crush off the top, but Fatu pushes Yoko into the ring post and it causes Samu to lose his balance and crotch himself on the turnbuckle. Gorilla on commentary says the ring moved four feet or some ridiculous Gorilla Monsoon shit like that. It obviously wasn't four feet, but Yoko has 78" thighs and weighs as much as a forklift, so you could buy him crashing into the post and actually causing the whole ring to shake (and he hit the post Samu was climbing next to, anyway). Like an elephant knocking a cat out of a tree. They run some Luger distraction bit at the end, but it leads to a cool finish where Samu, who's the legal man, gets clotheslined over the top by Crush, and as Crush starts jawing with Luger, Fatu sneaks in and cracks him with a superkick while Samu stops Yoko from making the save. I thought this was a blast. Gets about 12 minutes to flesh out, has a great shine segment with the Headshrinkers doing their thing and Yoko bumping like a loon, a great transition spot, a solid FIP section, and a fairly hot finishing run with one really sweet spot and a fine finish. Not a sleeper MOTYC or anything, but the kind of thing that makes a project like this totally worthwhile.


Owen Hart v Razor Ramon (King of the Ring Final)

Disappointing final. Razor hits a big back suplex off the top that looked pretty nasty and he busted out a sweet chokeslam, but other than that I'm only remembering a headlock segment before Owen takes over and works an abdominal stretch (where he's too busy jawing with the crowd while grabbing the top rope to notice the ref' looking right at him. Then the ref' just seems to ignore it so they can milk the cheating some more...made him look pretty stupid). Razor goes for the Razor's Edge and gets backdropped to the floor, at which point Anvil hits the scene and helps him up. And then clotheslines him and rolls him back in. Owen finishing it off with a nice top rope elbow while Savage is disgusted on commentary was a cool finish, at least.


Jerry Lawler v Roddy Piper

Piper's promo earlier in the show was spectacular. He just goes off on one and makes no sense at all. It was seriously fucking great. Lawler comes out to the ring staring at people with complete disdain. There's this one lady with a sign that says "Piper for President" and Lawler notices it, bursts out laughing, then shoots her a look of pure disgust. If this match happened ten years earlier it probably would've been tremendous. By '94 that ship had sailed, but it's not because either guy sucks (shit, Lawler is STILL awesome in 2011, never mind 1994). Lawler is my personal pick for greatest puncher in pro-wrestling history, and it's unsurprising that he throws a bunch of GREAT looking punches. Piper's punches aren't nearly as good, but what he has is a GREAT eye poke. He casually pokes Lawler in the eye after a flurry of punches and I honestly rewound it about 4 times. Best moment of the match (which is as good as any moment on the entire show) is Lawler peppering Piper with first class punches while Piper is propped up against the ropes. Piper is belligerent to the end, telling him to bring it, spitting on him, using the ropes to drag himself back to his feet. When he throws a big haymaker, Lawler goes down like a ton of bricks and the arena pops like it should. Not a great match, but it's something a fan of either guy can enjoy.


1994 WWF Project

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Is ADAM BOMB The Lost Great Worker of Forever?

Probably not, but I'll always have the memories.


Adam Bomb & Rick Martel v The Smoking Gunns (Superstars, 1/22/94 [taped 12/14/93])

One thing I'm looking forward to with this project is watching some Adam Bomb matches. I was an inexplicably huge mark for the guy back then and when I heard he teamed with Martel for a brief spell I got pretty excited. They're the perfect Battlebowl team. Hell, Inoki should book them for his next IGF show. Toss them in there with Mil Mascaras and Bastion Booger (wait...is he even still alive) and we're good to go. This only went about 6 minutes but it was pretty great for the time it got. I haven't watched any mid-late 90s Martel in ages, but he still looked real good here, doing a cool spot where he leapfrogs Billy who's just made a blind tag, stops short of running into Bart like "Hey, it's cool man, I got no beef", before getting blindside dropkicked into a big powerslam. My excitement for an Adam Bomb/Rick Martel team seems justified as they do a great double clothesline spot where Martel is still on the apron and Bomb is in the ring. Adam also hits a big clothesline on the floor that looked nasty and pulls the top rope down as Billy runs into them as the transition into Billy playing FIP, and well that's an awesome spot that I'll never tire of. Finish is kinda crappy, but I'm glad I took 6 minutes to watch this. It gets the "Happy Camper" stamp.


Adam Bomb v 123 Kid (Superstars, 5/28/94)

This is a King of the Ring qualifier and a super cool big v small match that I seriously dug. Doesn't get a ton of time (like, 5-6 minutes), but they cram in a bunch of great looking shit. Bomb has some real nice power spots that Kid bumps huge off of. He launches him halfway across the ring with a hiptoss, drapes him over the top rope and yanks the rope back to send Kid flying, catches an attempted plancha and slams him on the floor, and cuts him off by KILLING him with a knee that hurls Kid about 5 feet in the air. Looked totally Yoshihiro Takayama-like. He also takes a spinning wheel kick right in the grill once Kid makes his comeback. Finish is some Kwang suckiness where Wippleman distracts the ref' for three years, but everything else ruled. This will be a totally worthwhile project if there's a bunch of Waltman Superstar matches like this scattered over the course of the year.


1994 WWF Project

1994 WWF Project




Yeah, time for another one.

I'm not really sure where the urge to pick this year from this company as a dorktastic project piece came from, but there it is. There's plenty of really good stuff from '94 WWF, though, like Bret's run, some really fun Shawn stuff, some good-very good stuff from the 123 Kid, etc. I just bought a bunch of footage from my crack dealer so hopefully I'll turn up some hidden gems (or whatever your metaphor of choice is) in addition to the things that have already been pimped and talked about in the past.

Same deal as the '92 WCW project (which I still plan on updating from time to time -- there always seems to be more interesting stuff turning up), although I doubt there'll be as many matches worth sticking on a "best of" list, so hopefully it'll be a bit easier to manage over time. I'm also gonna go by air dates rather than the dates on which stuff was taped and just update as I watch (so I'll leave off the no-brainers until I've seen them again).


  1. Bret Hart v Owen Hart (Wrestlemania X, 3/20/94)
  2. Bret Hart v Diesel (King of the Ring, 6/19/94)
  3. The Quebecers v Marty Jannetty & 123 Kid (RAW, 1/10/94)
  4. Owen Hart v 123 Kid (King of the Ring, 6/19/94)
  5. The Headshrinkers v Yokozuna & Crush (King of the Ring, 6/19/94)
  6. The Quebecers v Bret & Owen Hart (Royal Rumble, 1/22/94)
  7. The Quebecers v Razor Ramon & 123 Kid (RAW, 2/21/94)
  8. Marty Jannetty & 123 Kid v The Headshrinkers (Wrestlefest, 1/11/94)
  9. Randy Savage v Yokozuna (RAW, 2/28/94)
  10. Adam Bomb v 123 Kid (Superstars, 5/28/94)
  11. Bam Bam Bigelow v Tatanka (Royal Rumble, 1/22/94)
  12. Adam Bomb & Rick Martel v The Smoking Gunns (Superstars, 1/22/94)
  13. 123 Kid v Jeff Jarrett (King of the Ring, 6/19/94)
  14. Jerry Lawler v Roddy Piper (King of the Ring, 6/19/94)
  15. Marty Jannetty v Johnny Polo (RAW, 1/31/94)
  16. Randy Savage v IRS (RAW, 1/17/94)
  17. Marty Jannetty v IRS (RAW, 2/7/94)

Thursday, 8 September 2011

2011 Needs More FAT Guys

Dick Togo v HARASHIMA (DDT, 2/27/11)

Thought this was pretty badass, even if it did have its problems. Dick Togo was not one of those problems, however. Dick Togo is king and this was another really good Togo show. HARASHIMA winds up kicking the ring post early on and Dick goes to work on the leg, and I was surprised at how much I dug HARASHIMA's selling of it. He jumps over the top rope onto the apron to do a springboard, but as he lands on the apron he grabs the knee like it's still bothering him, and there's another spot where he whips Togo into the corner and does some corner running junior heavyweight stock spot, but he makes sure to slow the "run" down and at least sell the idea that the leg is giving him bother. He doesn't run a million miles an hour like there's nothing wrong and then start clutching his leg like he's just been shot directly afterwards. I hate it when guys do that. He gets his spots in, but he's at least selling the leg fairly well while doing it. But then he does some thing where he knees Togo in the head with the bad knee and that's pretty much the end of him winning me over with the selling. They eventually move past the leg work (which I don't really mind, because Togo working it over in the first place felt like a "seizing the opportunity" thing rather than blatant time-killing) and build towards the finish. There's some really nifty shit down the stretch, like Togo snatching HARASHIMA straight out the air into the crossface. Togo is really awesome at constantly going back to the crossface; he's like a Doberman that refuses to let go of a piece of steak, and the spinning headscissors directly into the crossface spot was fucking SWANK. HARASHIMA's "choked out" face at the end got him back on my good side, too (since I'm sure he was bothered about being on some drunken idiot's shit list). Not on the level of the Honda match, but it's another really good Togo performance (and match).


Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi v Ryoto Hama & Manabu Soya (BJW, 4/28/11)

Well shit, I was SHOCKED at how much I liked this. I mean, I had seen enough guys whose opinions I actually take seriously pimping it, so I expected to enjoy it going in...but not as much as I did. HAMA! God damn he was awesome in this. Dude must weigh about 900 pounds and he looks like Taylor Wiley (aka Teila Tuli of "Gerard Gordeau punted my face through my head at UFC 1" fame) if Taylor Wily had a diet consisting entirely of gravy-coated livermush. He is FAT. He's also an All Japan invader so he's booed mercilessly, and he just soaks it up and continues to use his ginormous girth to crush livers and punch people in the head. If a morbidly obese guy walking around flattening a couple of roid heads and glowing with self-satisfaction while a crowd boo him silly isn't your thing, you can go eat sandpaper because we will never be friends. He does a rolling senton, sits on Sekimoto's chest to counter a sunset flip (which looked as chest-crushing as that spot should when a fat guy is doing it), busts out a Vader Bomb that I totally bit on as the finish, throws big Vader-like soup bones in the corner, and best of all stands and laughs when someone tries to shoulderblock him. There's a great spot where Okabayashi comes in off the hot tag and Hama just creams him in 2 seconds flat. If there's a better Ryoto Hama performance out there then I really need to see it. Everybody else was good too, though. Sekimoto has bulked up even more since I last saw him and almost has no neck. His deadlift German suplex still looks kind of slow (although it's an impressive power spot, no doubt) and he has one strike exchange with Soya at the start that was goofy and stupid and pointless, but otherwise I thought he was pretty great. The initial strike exchange was suitably erased from my memory thanks to the fat guy and a later strike exchange that was waaaay better, anyway. Soya probably could've assholed it up a bit more, but he was good too, and Okabayashi was right there with Sekimoto from the home team. His top rope splash looked AWESOME, there's a great spot where he comes out of nowhere to spear Soya and allow Sekimoto to powerbomb Hama from the middle rope (which was as cool as it sounds), and his exchanges with the fat guy were always a ton of fun (he tries to put him in a torture rack at one point!). Finishing stretch was loaded with nearfalls, but I don't think they overdone it thanks to how well they paced everything. Just a Hell of a match that I honestly fucking loved.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

MORE 2011 Wrestling?!?!

I might even be able to scrape together a top 20 now...maybe.


The Miz v John Morrison (WWE RAW, 1/3/11)

The stuff pre-commercial break was fine, even if it didn't do a great deal for me. Morrison's dive off the big 'W' sign was pretty cool and I liked Riley constantly trying to stick his nose in, but I thought Morrison's expression of ANGER and DISTASTE after he takes Riley out was pretty hilarious, as was Miz's scaredy face. Morrison is a ladyboy that jumps off of stuff onto other stuff; you're not scared of that and you're fooling nobody. Still, things picked up post-commercial and got real good. Miz hitting a string of big moves and saying "What do I have to do...what do I have to do" after every Morrison kickout felt really goofy to me, but it did make for a nice in-match story. Morrison's bump off the missed Starship Pain through the table was fucking crazy. I was surprised he managed to even DO the move from where he was standing, let alone take the bump. I wasn't sure what to expect from this since I don't really care for either guy (although Miz has definitely grown on me), but it was good stuff and probably one of the better WWE TV matches of the year.


Koji Kanemoto v Hayato Jr. Fujita (New Japan, 5/26/11)

This has turned into one of the most reliable match-ups in wrestling over the last couple years. I like their '09 J-Cup and BOSJ match from last year more, but this was still what you want out of these guys. Follows the same pattern as their other matches -- they're pissed off at this stinking world and they take it out on the other guy by kicking them real hard. Fujita's apron running punt to the guy on the floor spot always looks brutal, and it did again here, but I thought it was even better this time because he started clutching his foot like he'd just kicked a door. I know this for a fact, because I'm a guy that broke his foot two days ago because he kicked a door (like a fucking idiot). There's a couple really amazing counters in this as well. Hayato throws a side kick and Kanemoto catches his leg, so Hayato goes to enziguiri him, but Kanemoto grabs that leg as well and instantly turns it into a dragon screw while Hayato is still in mid-air. I don't think I've ever seen anything like that before and it looked bossy as Hell. Kanemoto breaking a guillotine choke by deadlifting Hayato and grabbing an ankle lock was pretty great, too. These are also two guys that can bust out a tired and generally shitty trope of current day wrestling like the super stiff strike exchange and actually make it good. I mean, shit, if that isn't worthy of multiple snowflakes then what is?

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

FINALLY...I get my Hands on Some 2011 Finlay

Fit Finlay v Sami Callihan (EVOLVE, 7/26/11)

This. Was fucking great. I had really high expectations for it and it totally lived up to them. God damn Finlay is the fucking best. His WWE revival is one of my favourite runs in wrestling history, and I honestly thought this was fucking with the best stuff from his incredible 2006. Story of the match is basically Callihan trying to step up to the plate and prove he's capable of hanging with The Man. In the end, Finlay respects him for it and gives him his props, but he sure as shit makes him earn it first, stretching him all over the place (some of the leg submissions looked super nasty) and generally beating the tar out of him. The very first spot of the match might have been the best of the whole match, as Callihan tries to come out like a whippet and Finlay just shuts him down by DRILLING him in the face with a forearm. "Do you know who the fuck I am?" There were points of this where it felt like a pro-wrestler showing up to a bar fight. Don't bring a knife to a gun fight, don't bring a death valley driver to a bar fight. Wield the knife properly and you'll do some damage, but in the end, the shotgun always wins. Callihan's chops are nasty and a few of them land right on the throat (Finlay's post-match raspy voice putting them over was awesome), but knife-edge chops are pro-wrestling. Headbutting someone on the bridge of the nose is a bar fight move. Guess who comes out worse? Finlay puts a stop to a flurry of chops by just picking Callihan up, sitting him on the top rope and shoving him out to the floor. Callihan wants to go strike for strike "like men", but Finlay responds by shouting "How can we fight like men when I'm the only man here?" (he actually said that word for word, and yes, it was as great as you'd think) and kicks him right in the kneecap. Callihan tries to hit a baseball slide at a couple points. But that's pro-wrestling and this is a bar fight, so Finlay just catches him and chucks him into the guardrail. Callihan goes for a tope, but Finlay casually sidesteps it and Callihan careens into the guardrail throat-first. "Tope suidica? In a BAR fight? Does not compute." Finish is awesome, too. Callihan is on his last legs, but he's defiant to the end and refuses to stay down after a Celtic Cross. Finlay gives him another, but Callihan is still breathing. He knows he's fucked, but he won't go quietly and flips him the bird, so Finlay picks him up and plants him with a tombstone. Just a tremendous match.

Callihan gets a ton of hate in some places, but I'm honestly not seeing why. His facial expressions are pretty hammy, sure (although this is a guy who wrestles on the same indy circuit as Davey Richards), and this IS probably a career match, so it's not fair to expect something as good every time out, but he was still great in it. Take Finlay out and stick someone else in and you don't get something nearly as special (Dave seriously looked like one of the best in the world here), but Sami is clearly holding up his end perfectly well, eats a HUGE ass stomping, fires back with plenty of nasty looking shit, and best of all punches Finlay directly in the fucking teeth (THAT spot was tremendous). Feel like I should watch some more of the guy and it's just the hardcore indy nuts spewing bullshit. Anyways, strong MOTYC and I need to get my hands on more Finlay ASAP. What a fucking king.

Monday, 5 September 2011

So I Actually Watched Some Wrestling From 2011

Virus v Guerrero Maya Jr. (CMLL, 6/7/11)

I'll probably only watch another 10 non-WWE matches this year, but I see this and get the sense I could watch a hundred and not find anything better than it. This was terrific. Virus used to wrestle in the minis division as Damiancito El Guerrero and he had that match with Cicloncito Ramirez that's the best fucking match ever. That was 14 years ago. And he STILL rules it like an absolute king. The first caida matwork isn't quite up there with the best IWRG grappling, but it was all good-really good stuff. Third caida is what propels this into the stratosphere, though. Just tonnes of great moments and the finishing stretch is as dramatic as any lucha finishing stretch I've seen in the last 10 years. There's one woman who looks to be in her 20s in the front row completely losing her shit. At one point the camera pans to her and it looks like she just had a heart attack. Not sure what my favourite part was. Virus' dive was truly spectacular in a totally chest-crushing sort of way and served as the *perfect* catalyst for his comeback, but the chop exchange that ends with Virus "winding up" his right arm for a big chop only to CRACK Maya right in the grill with his left fist was TOO fucking great. And I have no idea what you'd even call that finish, but it looked amazing.


Dick Togo v Antonio Honda (DDT, 1/30/11)

This was seriously fantastic, and if I actually bother to watch any more matches from Japan this year I'll be shocked if anything manages to top it. Togo is 6 months shy of retirement here and he is totally the Edwin van der Sar of wrestling. Van der Sar retired from football/soccer at the age of 40, and he went out as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, arguably as good as he had ever been. Togo goes out at the age of 42, at a time where he looks like an honest to goodness best in the world candidate. I can't say I've ever seen Antonio Honda before, but a quick check tells me he's normally a comedy wrestler. Well fuck that because on this night he tosses that shit out the window and punches Dick Togo right in the fucking face. Togo is the star here, but Honda absolutely holds his own and looked great in the process (although for all I know he could be good in general). Honda comes out the blocks and zeroes in on Togo's arm, cranking on a hammerlock, yanking him down to the mat, refusing to let him get any breathing space. Togo's selling, especially the way he screams in pain any time Honda torques on a hold, is really awesome. He tries to go for the Pedigree early on and can't hook it with the bad arm, so Honda reverses it. He does that spot three times over the course of the match before eventually succeeding (and that's not until we're about 20 minutes in). At the ten minute mark Honda goes for a tope and winds up getting his forehead cut open, so Togo rams his head into the post and starts stomping on the cut. Honda's comeback is AMAZING. Togo's repeatedly blasting his head off the turnbuckle and Honda goes one hundred fucking percent Jerry Lawler on him, dropping the strap and unloading with a huge flurry of punches. Over the course of the second half of the match I lost count of the number of straight up AWESOME punches. I mean my God this was some Lawler/Dundee shit right. Phil Schneider talked about this a few months back and already made a "Mid South Coliseum main event" comparison, so I feel pretty cheap busting out the Lawler/Dundee line, but really, it might be the closest thing to a classic Memphis brawl that I've ever seen in Japan and if YOU'VE seen something like Lawler/Dundee or Lawler/Dutch, YOU will instantly be giddified at the similarities. The double knock down spot is just out of this world great. How does a match that's happening in non-FUTEN finisher overkill current Japanese wrestling manage to get a fucking PUNCH over as a legit nearfall? Togo is the fucking greatest. I would give this twelve stars.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Takayama v KENTA x 2! FACE PUNCHING x ONE MILLION!!!

Yoshihiro Takayama v KENTA (NOAH, 6/27/04)

This was spectacularly violent. Takayama offers up a handshake at the start and KENTA slaps his hand away like a little prick, so Tak just fucking KILLS him. It's not a Tenryu-like hurricane of rage and brutality with the pissed off facial expressions; Takayama doesn't look any more pissed off than he usually does, in fact he seems perfectly calm, but that "fuck a handshake" bullshit is straight up mockery and he's having none of it. He knees him clean in the face, kicks him ridiculously hard in the solar plexus, punches him in the jaw, and best of all he just hoists him above his head and throws him out to the floor (and KENTA's head really smacks the guardrail when he lands). KENTA is a guy I don't really care for at this point, but as a piss and vinegar junior punching above his weight against the big lumpy dudes, he's pretty unimpeachable. He lands a bunch of super nasty looking shots in this, almost from a clinching position, and will full throttle punt someone in a body part. Not having to sell (then shrug off, then sell again, then shrug off again, rinse repeat) a leg injury and only worry about getting cracked in the teeth also works wonders for him. Takayama's selling in return is some GREAT shit. He eats an elbow to the face early on and immediately responds by caving KENTA's head in, but as the match goes on, the more shots he gets hit with the slower he is to respond in kind. It might seem redundant to say something like "he sells each strike like it actually hurts", since that's kind of the point of pro-wrestling in the first place, but there's so much crappy no-selling of stiff strikes in current day puro that it's honestly worth mentioning when someone actually sells it WELL. And sweet Jesus does that final knee look horrific. This is a match dynamic that can be awesome when it's done right. THIS was done right.


Yoshihiro Takayama v KENTA (NOAH, 1/15/11)

This was fucking crazy, too. It's just as stiff, but it might be even more harrowing since Takayama's an honest to goodness stroke victim. His face is pretty much a wreck at this point in his career; it honestly looks like someone stuck their hands in putty and made random shapes around two eyes, a nose and a mouth. Then gave him it and told him to wear it as his face. He eats a bunch of sick strikes and takes a double stomp from the top rope to the floor that looked totally ribcage-shattering. There's points where he sort of stumbles around with this "Why am I even doing this? I should've retired and opened a fucking restaurant as soon as Don Frye punched me in the nose" look on his face and I'm thinking "Aw man, someone do the F.A.S.T Test, quick." On offence he is what you expect -- just a mean motherfucker that'll maul you if he has an opening. He winds up bleeding hardway after cracking KENTA with a total bar fight headbutt, and there's a spot later on where it looks like he's set to throw another one only to bring KENTA's head down and obliterate him with a knee. Then they top it off by shoot punching each other DEAD in the fuggin' face. Definitely my favourite match from Japan this year. The dynamic is the same as the '04 match, but KENTA takes more of this while Tak spends some time trying not to keel over and die. There's a couple parts where Tak has to stand waiting on KENTA doing a springboard or some corner running spot, but everything leads to something brutal and I guess I can buy a guy with 3 braincells standing around looking confused for a few seconds. I'll honestly be surprised if he retires in one piece, though.

Monday, 29 August 2011

I Met Finlay and he Hipped me to Some Life Game, to Stimulate Then Activate the Left and Right Brain

Finlay, JBL & Randy Orton v Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit & Bobby Lashley (Smackdown!, 2/24/06)

This was a lot of fun. Everybody got a chance to do their thing here; Rey took a beating as FIP and peppered in his hope spots like he does, Lashley got to throw dudes around with his powerhouse spots, JBL got to cheat and act like a prick, Benoit got to come in as a house o' fire and suplex everybody to oblivion, Orton got to bully Mysterio (Orton/Rey is a seriously GREAT match-up in general), and Finlay got to be a nasty bastard and beat the shit out of people. With all of that said, I did not expect to come out of this thinking the best parts were the headlocks. But shit, Finlay and Orton fucking WORK the headlock. You know what to expect from Finlay -- even when he pins a guy it looks like it hurts. When he slaps a headlock on Rey he just cranks and twists at his neck, squeezes his head and pulls upwards like he's trying to rip it off, whacks him in the nose with his free hand, jabs him in the trapezius with the point of his elbow...I'm sure I've already said Finlay's a guy that always does the meanest, nastiest variation of a move or hold possible, and this was a mean, nasty headlock. Then Orton gets in and maaan, his headlock might actually have topped it. Orton's always been great at working a headlock, and it looks like he's about to pop Rey's head like a balloon here. Finish felt a little anti-climactic, but you could make a decent case that two thirds of the participants in this were having a career year, and you can't really go wrong with them getting almost 20 minutes to stretch out and do their thing. Smackdown! was quite the gold mine in 2006.


Finlay Project

Friday, 26 August 2011

Finlay, Disguised as Robin Hood, with his Memories in a Trunk, Passed this way an Hour ago with his Friend, a Jealous Monk

Finlay v Mike Knox (Superstars, 1/7/10)

So a friend of mine told me to watch this aaages ago, and I'm glad I finally did because it's a totally bossy way to spend 7 minutes. Finlay is a guy that always works really snug when he's dishing out a beating, and that's something one tends to pick up on when you watch a bunch of Finlay (because how can you not pick up on that?), but he is also not afraid to eat a nasty beatdown in return (the Benoit and Regal matches were sort of stiff). He takes a powerslam on the floor here that looked super hurty and he leans WAY into a big boot from Knox. I mean this was forehead-denting. I've watched hardly any WWE over the last couple years, so I never got a chance to see much Mike Knox, but he's a guy plenty of people started banging the drum for and it's clear to see why. He looks like Boris the Blade mated with Baloo from The Jungle Book and had an angry baby. He also has a few great cut-offs (the powerslam on the floor being a highlight) and does a big cross body spot called the Flying Bear. Finish is pretty cool, as Knox rips the middle turnbuckle pad off and forgets to throw away the evidence, so as the ref' tosses the padding Finlay sneaks in a shillelagh shot for the win. How many times did Finlay make TV over the last two years? Couldn't have been many, which is a crying shame...


Finlay Project

Monday, 22 August 2011

DVDVR All Japan Set, Disc 11

This was another tremendous disc and I wouldn't be surprised at all if the closer wound up being the overall #1 at the end. It's probably one of those "universal" matches that'll land top 10 on every ballot (I would be stunned if it didn't land top 5 on my own).


Genichiro Tenryu & Toshiaki Kawada v Tiger Mask & Isao Takagi (7/16/88)
- This was kind of a mixed bag. Not in a “some good, some bad” way, but rather a “some decent, some REALLY good” way. Tenryu provides much of the “really good” by being a total cunt to Takagi and generally being a guy that hates the world and everybody in it. We may have the best break up of a pinfall on the entire set here as Tenryu punts Takagi directly in the eye and then stomps him in the head. He actually stomps him in the head a bunch of times throughout the match and it ruled. Punts him in the kidneys, chops him in the throat...The Blind Boys of Alabama should write an uplifting gospel number about Takagi’s fight for survival and how he throws amazing shoulder tackles. Then Alanis Morissette should write the follow-up about how the world is a cold place and Takagi gets dumped on his neck.

Toshiaki Kawada & Ricky Fuyuki v Shunji Takano & Shinichi Nakano (7/19/88)
- Man, Fuyuki has been totally awesome in all this ’88 stuff and he rules the world as your Japanese Ricky Morton again here. He transitions into his FIP spell by eating a NASTY gutbuster thing after attempting a cross body off the middle rope, and a little later he eats a fucking HYYYUGE boot to the face from Takano. I dug Nakano a whole lot here, too. He’s a big tall dude that doesn’t really do a ton of big tall dude things, but the things he does do can often look real good because of the big tall dude factor. The big boot that I mentioned is one of them, but he also does a King Kong kneedrop and a huge running legdrop and both looked pretty killer. Finishing stretch is really hectic and they’re going Hell on wheels with a bunch of nearfalls and saves. Between this and the 90s WAR stuff, Fuyuki looks to be a dude in need of a serious re-evaluation.

Genichiro Tenryu v Stan Hansen (7/27/88)
- I prefer their 3/27 match by a little, but this was still fucking great and currently sitting in my top 15. Tenryu’s a guy that has taken the blade to his head a few times already, but it’s always produced a mere trickle of blood that’s wound up being hidden by his fringe. Hansen jumps him in the aisle here and Tenryu BLEEDS like a faucet, and not even Cousin Itt’s fringe could hide this. From that point on the story of the match is basically Tenryu fighting an uphill battle against this freight train of violence. Hansen just paints a bulls-eye on the cut like you’d expect, at one point throwing a couple back elbows that looked brutal as all get out, and Tenryu is great at eating all of this and stumbling around like he’s half dead. Hansen eventually goes for the kill, but Tenryu manages to catch him in the ribs with a knee as he’s charging in for the lariat, and that opens a window of opportunity. I don’t know if Tenryu going after Hansen’s ribs was supposed to play off their last match, but it was some cool continuity regardless. Tenryu goes for the elbow off the top to cap off a run of offence, but Hansen moves and just bowls him out to the floor with these nasty shoulderblocks before blasting him with a chair. Still, Tenryu keeps plugging away until Hansen manages to hit the lariat, and Tenryu takes a great bump by flying halfway up the aisle for the count out. Both guys were aces here and this rocked something fierce.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (8/29/88)
- The first half of this felt a little time-kill-y, but these four are generally good at killing time and there’s still the kind of hate that you want from the feud, so it’s better than a lot of “time-killing segments” on the set. About halfway through Tenryu and Hara zero in on Jumbo’s knee for the first real heat segment of note. Jumbo is really good at selling it and at one point he hits a high knee that almost loses his team the advantage (because the knee’s FUCKED). Then he hits another three dozen and keeps selling the damage to his own leg, and well, if my knee was giving me bother because I kept kneeing people in the skull, I personally would stop kneeing people in the skull. But that’s just me. Tenryu kind of powerbombs Yatsu on the floor and that leaves Jumbo on his own for a little while, and the whole finishing run is just really choice in general. Match finishing with a roll-up was pretty boss, too. Feels like an upper half match.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (8/30/88)
- I liked this better than the previous night’s match, and right now it’s sitting in my top 30. Both matches go about the same length of time, but I thought the first half of this, leading up to the first real heat segment, was way better and I never got the same sort of “killing time” vibe that I got from the other match. Tenryu and Yatsu trade slaps in the corner and Tenryu turns around and just LEVELS Jumbo with a slap out of nowhere. It was the greatest. They do another Jumbo in peril segment where Tenryu and Hara work over the leg, but Jumbo doesn’t persist on throwing fifty running knees this time, and Tenryu smacks him in the knee with a table at one point so it was pretty awesome. They go into an extended Hara in peril segment after Jumbo fucking drills him with a lariat, and Hara might have the best lariat bump of any beefy guy in wrestling history. He totally leans into it like a pro and lands like a sack of potatoes. I thought they started to lose a little momentum/direction after Hara makes the tag, but they reel me back in again when Jumbo completely loses his mind and tries to murder Tenryu. Tenryu tries to get in the ring and Jumbo just waffles him with these super nasty looking clubbing blows right to the face, then he throws him over the barricade and starts beating the shit out of him with this big metal box thing while everybody in the vicinity scatters. This was like some “Hansen swinging a cowbell” shit; people just running for their lives, not wanting to get caught in the firestorm. The finishing stretch was pretty fucking great here, but there’s one nearfall that was blown pretty badly (not sure whether it was the ref’s fault, Yatsu and Hara’s fault, or all three’s). Tenryu eating three nasty backdrops and Hara trying to save him by covering him with his body was a cool touch, as was Jumbo going ahead and just pinning both of them. Hell of a match.

Toshiaki Kawada & Ricky Fuyuki v Tatsuo Nakano & Shunji Takano (9/15/88)
- I liked how this was structured, basically a bunch of short, strong control segments with a bunch of great segues and spots interspersed. I liked Takano here about as much as I did in the first match (so a lot) and he does this crazy escape of a dragon sleeper where he almost deadlifts Kawada from his knees while his body is own bent backwards. He also boots Fuyuki right in the teeth. Kawada hits this running flying lariat/right hook to Nakano’s face early on and GOD DAMN did it look nasty as fuuuuck. Fuyuki continues to be a star and he’s probably gonna come out of this set as the All Japan equiv of Kantaro Hoshino. “Hit me with a chair, I’ll burst your kidneys.” Fuck yeah.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (9/15/88)
- Fuck me, the opening stretch of this was loaded with some nasty, nasty looking shit. Tenryu and Yatsu just SHRED each other with chops and Yatsu starts cracking Tenryu in the head with horrendously unpulled forearms. He wasn’t throwing them like pro-wrestling forearms; he was bringing his arm down full force in a kind of downward stabbing motion. Jumbo completely nukes Tenryu’s face with a running dropkick as well. I thought his nose was going to be spread across his forehead. This didn’t have the layout of the 8/30 match, but of all the outings this math-up has on the set, I’d probably put this one third. Finish was pretty crappy, though. Tenryu and Hara walking away like it ain’t ‘bout shit was pretty bossy, but still, walking away from a title match after that finish like it ain’t ‘bout shit might not be the best thing.

Stan Hansen & Dan Kroffat v Rock N Roll Express (10/26/88)
- What the fuck did Morton do to Hansen? Did he and Gibson pull that rib Jericho mentions in his book where they get you to close your eyes and touch a part of the wall with your finger, only what you end up touching is Gibson’s asshole (I don’t remember if that was the rib exactly, but it involved Robert Gibson’s asshole, anyway)? Did they pull that shit with Hansen? Because Hansen seems to want to murder Morton here for discernible reason, jumping in the ring unprovoked and dragging him out to the floor so he can beat on him, stomping him in the head, and there’s an awesome shot of him cackling like a lunatic when Kroffat grabs Morton’s hair and flings him into the air. Kroffat actually had a ton of awesome looking stuff here, the best of which is a teased Fuerza bump to the floor only to skin the cat back in before getting dumped back out when he turns around. And I know it doesn’t need repeating at this point, but holy fuck is Morton the greatest. His peril segment here has an awkward spot near its conclusion, but other than that I don’t think there’s much in wrestling history that I rather see than Stan Hansen cutting off Ricky Morton in a southern style tag. I wish Morton went on and made the hot tag to Gibson in order to REALLY launch it into my heart, but you take what you can get. I still prefer the ’86 Tag League final as far as total southern style tags on the set, but this’ll probably land in my top 50 as well.

Jumbo Tsuruta v Genichiro Tenryu (10/28/88)
- This was pretty excellent. I slightly prefer the 8/31/87 match, but both are sitting in my top 10 right now. Only real complaint I have is that I thought it could’ve done with being trimmed by 5 minutes or so, because they started getting into “downtime” territory in the body of it. I didn’t love the finish either, but I can’t really bring myself to complain a great deal about Tenryu hauling off and punting someone in the balls before punching him into oblivion. I mean a good DQ is a good DQ, I guess. Finishing stretch – the match in general, actually – really managed to capture a sense of “epic” and both guys were totally selling the shit out of the exhaustion factor the longer it went on. Still, my favourite spot of the match might have happened in the first couple minutes. Tenryu launches Jumbo into the guardrail and tries to get back in the ring, but Jumbo jumps on him and tries to mount some offence. Tenryu is almost dismissive of this and just throws him back into the guardrail, but it only pisses Jumbo off as he responds by running after him and punching him in the kidneys. 6/5/89 is looming on the horizon and I’m eager to see how it holds up, because this has been a great series so far.

Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy v Genichiro Tenryu & Toshiaki Kawada (12/16/88)
- Pretty much a classic. Story is simple enough – Hara is gone and Kawada is stepping into his shoes as Tenryu’s partner, but he’s clearly not at the “#2” level yet. Hansen and Gordy are two of the greatest ass-kickers of all time (and at this point I’m convinced Hansen is the greatest wrestler ever, period) and will FUCKING KILL YOU. Tenryu is Tenryu. Kawada doesn’t have the firepower to hang and bang with the likes of Hansen and Gordy, but he’ll try all the same. For about ten minutes he gets the job done (and nukes Gordy’s chin with a wheel kick). Then Hansen kicks him in the knee to break a pin attempt and it all goes downhill from there. Hansen and Gordy just destroy him and leave him out on the floor with one good leg to stand on, and Tenryu is left all alone against THOSE two. Kawada actually runs all the way around the ring to pick a fight with Hansen and God damn does Stan fucking eat him alive for his shit. There’s a couple amazing moments where Kawada will desperately try to help his partner, like when Gordy powerbombs Tenryu in the middle of the ring and you just see Kawada leaping into the frame to break the pin. Of course Hansen is annoyed and cooks him. GREAT spot where Tenryu busts out a desperation kneebar on Hansen while Gordy is brutalising Kawada on the floor and you see him sprint into the ring to make the save. Hansen’s expression at the end is perfect, like he had to dish out more punishment than even Stan fucking Hansen could ever imagine. Tenryu made him do this. He should’ve just stayed down. Seriously, this is as good as any tag match that happened during the decade and I’m going back and forth on whether or not to put it at #1 ahead of the 1/28/86 tag.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Cocaine & Wrestling! The Jerry Estrada Show!

Jerry Estrada v Javier Cruz (CMLL, 11/5/89)

How the fuck is Jerry Estrada not dead? This might be my favourite match ever and I've probably seen it 10 times over the last couple years, yet I'm always amazed at the fact he didn't wind up killing himself – or anybody else – here. He is lit up like a fucking Christmas tree. I've seen plenty of matches where guys are loaded. I watched a ton of Shawn Michaels matches for a WWF/E poll last year and there are times where he is pretty clearly wasted. I watched some of the Texas set last night with a bunch of friends and Kerry Von Erich looked about as zonked as my buddy who passed out on the floor. I've seen Juventud Guerrera live and that pretty much speaks for itself. None of those guys were ever as well and truly puggled as Jerry Estrada in this match. He can barely run the ropes, walks around like a plastered zombie (which is really awesome when he starts bleeding, although a guy in that state taking a blade to his forehead is a scary thought), tries to climb the turnbuckle and almost falls off, etc. At one point he walks across the ring apron and winds up falling face first into the turnbuckle. I've only ever seen Estrada and Terry Funk do that spot but it's one of my favourite spots in wrestling. I get the sense Funk did it as a semi-comedy spot, but I'm assuming it was unintentional on Jerry's part and he fell asleep standing up or something. I love Estrada, but Cruz deserves a shit ton of credit for holding this match together. Estrada is as reckless as you'd imagine a guy in his condition would be and I would not have been surprised if Cruz had just thrown his hands up on the whole deal and refused to work with this lunatic. He tries a victory roll at one point, and as he's rolling forward Estrada just throws him off his shoulders. I still don't know how he didn't land right on his head. For the finish to the second fall Estrada does a top rope senton, and it's possibly the most reckless senton in history. He just flies off the top rope, curls himself into a ball and plummets right into Cruz's chest like a ball of coked-up stupidity. Third fall is awesome with both guys bleeding buckets (Estrada somehow manages to bleed in a straight line all the way down his body, like someone's painted a red stripe from his forehead to his dick) and Estrada flying five rows deep into the fixed seats after eating a tope. Cruz also does this crazy missile dropkick thing from the top rope out to the floor that catches Estrada right in the stones. The post-match shaving (this is a hair match) goes on forever because Estrada keeps trying to start fights. Cruz is trying to take this humiliation while retaining some of his dignity and Estrada is slapping him in his half-bald head, talking shit, throwing stuff at him, just generally being a belligerent drunken/tweaked out douchebag. He's like the hammered guy at the bar who throws shot glasses at people for drinking water and calls the barmaid a "filthy scutter". Whenever we get to the DVDVR Lucha set I will be shocked if this doesn't wind up being my number one.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

WAR!!! AND NEW JAPAN!!! AT WAR!!! STILL!!!

Jushin Liger & El Samurai v Ultimo Dragon & Norio Honaga (New Japan, 4/6/93)

I was pretty surprised at how much I liked this. It's WAR v New Japan so I shouldn't be, but other than Liger and occasionally Sammy, this isn't a group of guys that I'd see on a match list and find myself getting excited about. That said, Ultimo's actually been fine on the '93 yearbook so far. The Casas match from 3/19 came out of nowhere and was excellent, although I'd be surprised if anybody thought Ultimo's performance was what made it. The Samurai match from 3/7 is good. The Liger match from the 1/4 Dome show has been my least favourite match on the set though, and the only one so far that I thought actively sucked. But this started out with Ultimo dropkicking Liger off the apron and Liger wanting a piece, so we get off on the right foot. Does kind of meander for a little while after the opening, and it isn't bad or anything, but it's WAR v New Japan and there isn't enough violence or guys acting like dickheads. But then Norio Honaga breaks a camel clutch by biting Samurai's fingers and things start to get much better. This is where you'd want it to be JIP'd for TV. Honaga grabs Sammy's hand and drags the webbing between the fingers along the rope and it was awesome. And then Ultimo gets the tag and throws on a figure-four, which signals the end of obscure body part work, but they head into a pretty choice finishing run after that. Honaga was my favourite guy in this, bringing lots of cheapshots, constantly being a thorn in Liger's side, and above all else he looks like a seedy Japanese meth dealer. He breaks up two or three Liger pin attempts in a row towards the end and Liger gets visibly more and more pissed each time. Finish was sort of unexpected as well. We've already seen Ultimo v Sammy, is there a Liger v Honaga match out there somewhere (preferably from '93, because that match happening outside of this feud does not interest me nearly as much)?


Genichiro Tenryu & Takashi Ishikawa v Shinya Hashimoto & Tatsumi Fujinami (WAR, 5/24/93)

Somebody needs to make a comp of this entire feud because it is honestly just about the fucking best thing ever. This doesn't have the same level of violence as the Hashimoto/Ohara v Hara/Fuyuki tag from 3/7 or the Hashimoto/Choshu v Tenryu/Ishikawa tag from 4/2, but the sub-story of Fujinami's arm being injured is a neat addition to the formula. Of course this IS motherfucking WAR, so there's still plenty of violence to sink your teeth into. The Tenryu/Hashimoto exchanges in this are just amazing. They start the match out and you can feel the hatred, from the simple stare-downs to the portions where they're leathering each other with kicks and chops. I love how they'll stop throwing strikes for a few seconds to shit talk each other. Hash backs Tenryu into the ropes and repeatedly headbutts him so Tenryu throws a huge chop just to create some distance, and he has this incredulous look on his face like someone would even try and fuck with him like that. Then he shouts something in Japanese and Hash kicks him in the leg. A little later on Hash is beating on Ishikawa, and when he hits the ropes Tenryu blasts him in the back of the head from the apron. That leads to a short Hashimoto in peril segment before he tags in Fujinami, who comes in and immediately slaps a dragon sleeper on Tenryu. Ishikawa jumps off the top to break it and that segues directly into an extended beatdown on Fujinami. For the next while team WAR go to work on him with the focus being the arm, and God damn does Tenryu rifle off some STIFF kicks to the shoulder. They sound like the ones a million dudes with kick pads throw, except there's no kick pads there to make that sound. This is just leather meeting skin in horrendous fashion. Fujinami takes exception and catches Tenryu's foot and Tenryu has this great "Aw shit" expression before being dragon screwed. Hashimoto is a total whirlwind of piss and vinegar when he gets the hot tag and there's an awesome moment where Tenryu breaks a pin attempt by kicking him in the eye, so Hash follows him back to the corner and beheads him with an enziguiri. Tenryu's KO sell of it is flat out amazing, going dead weight and hitting every turnbuckle on the way down. Finishing run is great, and for a change the violence wasn't my favourite thing about it (although that rocked as well). Ishikawa puts Fujinami in a Scorpion Deathlock, basically as a 'fuck you' to the New Japan team, so Hashimoto comes in like he's ready to cook a fool. Tenryu is having none of that and runs over and lariats him so hard he throws himself out the ring. Hash follows him out and they just start chucking chairs at each other and shit, while back in the ring Fujinami is back on top and locks in the dragon sleeper. Ishikawa breaks it by punching him in the bad shoulder (which was AAAAWESOME), so Fujinami regroups and goes back to it with the *other* arm, leaving Ishikawa no choice but to submit. And then post-match Tenryu and Hashimoto have another pull apart and I am ridiculously excited for the singles matches later in the year. I'm gonna try and come up with a top 50 or so matches of '93 when I get done with the yearbook, and I could absolutely see about 10 WAR v NJ matches in the top 20.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

DVDVR All Japan Set, Disc 10

What a great disc. The '88 and '89 stuff was what I was most looking forward to out of everything on the set, and the '88 stuff on this disc did not disappoint.


Genichiro Tenryu & Toshiaki Kawada v Yoshiaki Yatsu & Tiger Mask (1/23/88)
- ’88 starts off with a BANG! I dug the SHIT out of this! TENRYU! There’s a lot to like here, but the palpable hatred between Tenryu and Yatsu is what really pushed this into my top 15. Tenryu is grumpy and agitated right out the gate, but he ends up going one step too far and Yatsu just fucking WASTES him with one of the stiffest slaps I’ve ever seen. Tenryu either sells it spectacularly – which wouldn’t surprise me one bit – or Yatsu rung his bell for real – which also wouldn’t surprise me – but whatever the case he swiftly tags out and tries to shake off the effects. You can see him brooding on the apron, itching to get in there so he can hurt someone, and from time to time he’ll just waltz in and take a swing or kick a guy in the teeth. There have been better matches involving Tenryu on the set, but this might be my favourite Tenryu *performance* for the fact it most closely resembles the 90s Tenryu that made me a huge fan of the guy in the first place. It’s almost surreal seeing Kawada and Misawa on opposite sides and *not* being the clear top dog of their team, but both guys are good as the “underlings” here. Kawada takes a pretty hefty beating after Tenryu goes down following that slap, then Yatsu and Misawa isolate him again a little later for another pounding. Misawa wiping out Tenryu towards the end with a dive off the apron taking them both over the guardrail was a great spot. Tenryu powerbombing Misawa on a table for his bullshit was a greater spot. I didn’t have any problem with the finish here, either. I mean Tenryu and Kawada mugging a guy with a chair is as good an excuse for a DQ as any. I’ve been looking forward to seeing the ’88 and ’89 stuff since the match list for the set came out, and this was a great way to kick if off.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Jumbo Tsuruta & Hiroshi Wajima (1/24/88)
- Tenryu’s ring jacket says “CATCH US IF YOU CAN!” He starts this out by jumping Jumbo at the bell, but it backfires and he ends up being the recipient of a beatdown with a busted forehead. Wajima looks pretty decrepit here but he headbutts Tenryu about ninety times upon introduction to the match and that kind of ruled. I actually thought he was fine in general as the old geezer that was out of his league, especially with his willingness to get the shit stomped out of him. He isn’t all that interesting offensively, but there’s one sequence with Tenryu that culminates with him hitting a big backdrop that looked pretty swank. The Tenryu/Jumbo stuff ruled again and Tenryu appears to be REALLY putting it all together at this point. I’m probably overrating this by putting it just outside the top 20, but structurally it was way more up my alley than most of the tags before it and didn’t suffer from being too long. Kept up a good pace, had a good layout, plenty of hate and ill will, stayed focused...yeah, this was good.

Genichiro Tenryu & Samson Fuyuki v Takashi Ishikawa & Great Kabuki (2/20/88)
- I really liked the dynamic of this. Fuyuki is outmatched against Ishikawa and Kabuki, but he’s teaming with motherfucking Tenryu and doesn’t much care as long as he gets to fight with people. Tenryu is of course Tenryu and a Hell of a guy to have watching your back. Ishikawa and Kabuki do the smart thing and isolate Fuyuki, which leaves Tenryu to basically feed off scraps, coming in from time to time so he can thump someone. Kabuki was awesome here, throwing his great looking uppercuts and working super stiff, and Ishikawa is starting to look like the surly little shitkicker he would become in WAR. When Tenryu gets the hot tag he comes in and does a Tito Santana-esque flying forearm right to Ishikawa’s head, and then he repeatedly elbows him above the eye until he splits him open. Tenryu selling his own elbow after bludgeoning Ishikawa was fucking tremendous. The beatdown on Ishikawa is pretty short, but I can’t really complain when it leads to Kabuki coming in and stiffing dudes. There’s a great cut off later where Ishikawa lowers his head and Tenryu just pops him with the point of the elbow on the cut. I initially thought the finish was a bit of a downer, but it was timed well and Kabuki’s superkick looked suitably nasty, so I’m not too bothered. This was really good stuff.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v John Tenta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (2/29/88)
- The commentator constantly referring to Tenta as “Big John Tenta” tickles me for some reason. This wasn’t blowaway great or anything, but it’s four big lumpy dudes throwing nasty shots and generally wrestling like they don’t much care for their opponents. My first thought was that it was a sort of WAR midcard/Nitro style hybrid with guys that just give off that “WAR vibe.” It’s mostly back and forth, but they don’t bog it down by going long and cramming it with filler. I liked Tenta as a big brick wall here and there’s a few nifty spots involving him. Tenryu chops him at one point so Tenta responds with a big clubber to the chest that lands Tenryu on his ass, and Tenryu’s “Well...maybe I shouldn’t have done that” look was great. Loved him dragging Tenta out to the floor and hurling him into the barricade as a receipt. Tenryu suplexing Tenta is an impressive looking spot, but as a finish it isn’t all that great. Still, this was fun and will probably land somewhere in the middle third.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy (3/5/88)
- “NOBODY POTATOES ME!” So this isn’t a great match, but it may have the best “end” to any match on the set. Not necessarily best as in fitting or conclusive, but...well, I’ll get to it in a second. The actual match leading up to it is more or less entirely controlled by Hansen and Gordy. At times it feels a little *too* one-sided, though, which is weird to say considering I can’t think of much I’d rather watch than Stan Hansen cutting guys off and beating them up. Tenryu or Hara will start to fire back, Hansen or Gordy will shut them down within seconds, rinse and repeat. We’re still talking about Hansen and Gordy here, so it’s not like watching those guys beat somebody up is going to be much of a chore to sit through, but I would’ve liked for them to give the natives a little more offence. And then Tenryu and Hara hit Stan with a double enziguiri and Hansen goes dead weight and sells it like he’s legit KO’d. When he wakes up he goes absolutely BALLISTIC, flinging chairs, breaking tables, swinging his bullrope, stiffing the daylights out of Tenryu and Hara (there’s one shot to Tenryu that looked fucking disgusting), running through the crowd while fans part like the red sea, punching Higuchi in the head, etc. I mean you know he’s going crazy when fucking GORDY is trying to talk him down. The match itself feels like a bottom half affair, but the Hansen insanity at the end will hurl it up the ballot some. The close-up camera shot of his face when he gets up and dives out of the ring to get at someone is seriously one of the greatest images in wrestling history.

Jumbo Tsuruta v Tiger Mask (3/9/88)
- Other than the early portion with Misawa working a headlock maybe going a touch too long, this was a fucking great match. I like Misawa going to the headlock because he knows he can’t hang and bang with the big cat, but the match goes 15 minutes and the headlock stuff eats up practically half of it. Still, they work in and out of it well and they do some interesting things when they come up for air, like Misawa’s awesome leaping headbutt out the corner, so it’s honestly a minor complaint. Jumbo getting fed up with the bullshit and just whipping out a backdrop was a really great sudden transition. He really snapped into it and yanked him over quick as you like. Misawa rolls out some of his own bombs in response and hits an awesome looking plancha, but Jumbo’s hotshot cut-off spot topped it. Misawa takes it with his arms at his side and literally goes throat first across the rope; it looked like some brutal shit. I figured it was over for sure at a couple points down the stretch, but Misawa kicks out and sneaks in a roll up for a Hell of a nearfall that actually had me biting. Jumbo hitting another backdrop and hooking every limb possible seals it in the end, but Misawa got to look great here by kicking out of a bunch of Jumbo’s bigger moves and came out looking like a gutsy son of a bitch even in defeat. I could honestly see this landing in my top 20.

Genichiro Tenryu v Stan Hansen (3/9/88)
- Definitely my favourite Hansen/Tenryu match so far, and currently just inside my top 20. Starts out with both guys swinging wildly and Tenryu going right for the enziguiri, so Hansen just bowls him out to the floor with a shoulder block and beats him up. He works Tenryu’s back from here on out and everything he does looks gloriously hurty. Hansen’s kneedrops are the greatest, the way he jabs the knee right into the spine, and from time to time he’ll just start punting Tenryu in the kidneys, which also ruled. Really liked the finish here too – Tenryu goes for a fisherman suplex and can’t lift Hansen because his back is hurt, so he regroups and tries to hit a German suplex only for that to fail as well. Stan has Tenryu where he wants him and goes for the kill, but he lowers his head and Tenryu seizes the opportunity. He may not be able to lift him up for the big bombs, but he can still perform a small package. Post-match Hansen goes nuts, wrapping the bullrope around his arm and hitting the lariat on Tenryu, tearing up the ringside area, chasing after fans, etc. He goes back to Tenryu and Hara jumps in the way so he just cracks him with a cowbell and punts Higuchi in the liver. Then he leaves. Some guy tries to get an interview out of Tenryu and Tenryu’s all “Dude...seriously, just fuck off.” I eagerly await the rematch.

Jumbo Tsuruta, Great Kabuki & Takashi Ishikawa v Ashura Hara, Toshiaki Kawada & Ricky Fuyuki (3/11/88)
- Well fuck my face. This sounded really interesting on paper, but I never expected it to wind up being one of my favourite things on the whole set. Ricky Fuyuki was totally awesome in this. He has no qualms punching above his weight and will throw down with anyone. His exchanges with Jumbo are outstanding and probably my favourite thing about this. Jumbo’s an amazing grumpy prick and really lays it in, especially down the stretch when he fucking NUKES Fuyuki with a couple high knees. Everything they do together feels like an earlier version of Jumbo/Kikuchi, which is some real high praise. Actually Fuyuki basically IS Kikuchi here because he gets pounded on during a great FIP section and really excels in that role. Kabuki unloads with a NASTY combo of punches at one point and there’s this awesome cut off spot later on where Fuyuki hits a flash cross body only to get up and walk right into a chin-rattling superkick. Hara was also pretty ace as agitated leader of his team, channelling Tenryu at times by walking in and picking a fight with someone because his boy is being assaulted. There’s a couple moments where he and Jumbo forget about everything else and just start brawling with each other. Kawada is pretty quiet and isn’t involved for very long, but he cracks Ishikawa to break up a submission, and then tries it again later on only for Ishikawa to spot him and put him back in his place. Wasn’t really feeling the finish, but it was at least clean and it’s not like it sucked and hurt the match to any degree. Seriously, this ruled.

Genichiro Tenryu v Stan Hansen (3/27/88)
- Man, with a better finish this might have been fucking with my top 5. Someone picking their opponent’s shoulders up off the mat during a pin attempt is a spot I don’t like at the best of times, but when you’re Stan Hansen and you’ve just drilled a guy with a Western Lariat (dead in the middle of the ring, which is pretty much a guaranteed victory) only to pick him up and then get DQ’d twenty seconds later, I tend to throw my hands up. The fact he tries to maim Tenryu afterwards is small salvation, but this was a total fucking slaughterhouse of a match that ended with the most deflating DQ finish on the set for me personally. Luckily what comes before it is as awesome as the finish is crappy. These guys seriously knock lumps out of each other, especially Hansen who is as violent as I’ve ever seen him. He looks like a rabid animal during the intros, pacing back and forth, itching to take a bite out of anyone that gets close enough. Tenryu charges him at the bell and gets a couple licks in, but Hansen sneaks in a big forearm and levels him with a punch right to the eye, and from that point on Tenryu is fighting an uphill battle. Hansen is just ridiculously vicious, focusing his entire attack on the cut above Tenryu’s eye. There’s a couple punts that would make the FUTEN boys grimace and there’s a great spot where he blocks a powerbomb attempt by dragging Tenryu to the mat and nailing him with one of the nastiest kneedrops you’ll see. This is worked more evenly than their last match. That had Hansen controlling the majority of it by working the back with Tenryu fighting back in spurts. Tenryu ramps up the violence this time out (he’d be dead if he didn’t) and is willing to give just as good as he gets. Hansen starts punching him dead in the face, so he just grabs Hansen’s fist to block it and uncorks with a huge left hand of his own before following up with a monster lariat. He also gears most of the nastiness towards Hansen’s ribs, at one point running all the way across the ring and punting him so hard that he ends up flinging himself out the ring. Really, I know what I like in my pro-wrestling and THIS is it. I am super stoked for the next instalment on disc 11.

Jumbo Tsuruta v Bruiser Brody (3/27/88)
- For starters this had the unenviable task of following the shitstorm that was Hansen v Tenryu, but even watching it in isolation I doubt I’d like it all that much. I mean they do some interesting enough things. Brody throws this really stiff chop in the corner and Jumbo’s sell of it was great, like he’d just had all the wind knocked out of him. And there’s a clean finish, at least. Still, most of it felt really dry and listless. Brody’s sell of the triple enziguiris was pretty hilarious, although not in the same “good way” as his sell of the backdrop after the second Jumbo/Tenryu match. Can’t see this breaking out of the bottom 20.

Jumbo Tsuruta & Hiroshi Wajima v Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara (4/21/88)
- So Wajima is OLD and pretty rubbish at this point (although he was OLD and pretty rubbish the first time he showed up), but if you can handle copious amounts of “OLD rubbish guy getting his clock cleaned” then you shouldn’t have a terribly hard time enjoying parts of this. I enjoyed the whole thing, but I get the sense I’ll be a high-voter on it. Wajima takes three separate turns at getting beat down for an extended period of time, and while he’s not nearly as compelling as Jumbo at eating a shitkicking, Tenryu and Hara still dish one out all the same. Tenryu looks like one of the best in the world at this point and everything he does has this contemptuous vibe to it. It’s like everybody in the company decided to step up huge at the turn of ’88 (even the guys that were already great) and Tenryu looks to have turned his shit WAY up. Hara is throwing some fucking brutal looking punts here as well; I expected old man Wajima’s liver to fly out through his ribcage. Jumbo is really great as the pissed off ace that is simmering on the apron while being forced to watch his decrepit partner get beat from pillar to post. Any time he comes in he’s a total house o’ fire, throwing the stiffest knees and lariats imaginable. He catches Tenryu with a running knee that looked absolutely nuts and Tenryu must’ve been high to lean into it like he did. Count out finish is a count out finish, but Wajima wiping Hara out with a tope was a fine enough setup. Jumbo no-selling a Tenryu powerbomb was far more annoying than one more count out finish, anyway.

Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu v Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara (6/4/88)
- Totally different dynamic from the last match in that it’s Jumbo who’s the one getting beat down most of the time. It starts early when Tenryu and Hara go after the leg, and while the leg work never truly pays off (that I can remember, anyway), it remains a focus for a large part of the match. There’s a particularly great spot where Jumbo comes in and fucking wastes Tenryu with a high knee and sells the shit out of his own leg afterwards. He also obliterates Hara with a lariat and Jumbo is another guy that has seriously ramped it up since the turn of the year, just mowing guys down and taking zero shit from anyone. Moment of the match might have been Yatsu going for a bulldog only to be rammed into a knee in the corner. Totally came out of nowhere and looked great. I actually liked this a little less than the last match, but this was such a great disc that it’s not out of the realms of possibility that every match on it, other than Jumbo/Brody, could finish in my top half.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

DVDVR All Japan Set, Disc 9

Unfortunately this was one of the more disappointing discs on the set. '87 in general was a disappointing year, actually. There's a lot of shit that looks great on paper, but more often than not it fails to live up to the potential. The first Jumbo/Tenryu match fucking ruled, though.


Stan Hansen & Ted DiBiase v Jumbo Tsuruta & Tiger Mask (7/11/87)
- Pretty forgettable match. As in, other than Hansen killing Misawa with a lariat at the end, I’ve forgotten basically everything about it. Where the New Japan set had a bunch of tags that were structurally pretty scatterbrained, thus giving me a hard time getting into them, this set has had a bunch of tags that have ultimately been largely forgettable. I’m not sure which is better/worse.

Stan Hansen & Ted DiBiase v Yoshiaki Yatsu & Shinichi Nakano (7/17/87)
- This was much better, and I’d call it legitimately great if they had worked towards the finish for a few more minutes at the end. Finish is a double-edged sword in that Hansen pulling a lariat out of nowhere and mowing someone down is always an awesome spot, but that awesome spot just came TOO out of nowhere this time around and wound up deflating me. A few more minutes to build drama beforehand would’ve cured that, but that’s getting into “judging a match on what it isn’t rather than what it is” territory, so I’ll leave it there. Body of the match is all about Yatsu and Nakano going to town on DiBiase’s leg. They’re so outmatched on paper that it’s almost comical, but if one half of the champs is hobbling on one leg then they *might* have a chance. Hansen is spectacular working the apron and getting progressively frustrated, constantly shouting obscenities that don’t even sound like actual words half the time. Then he gets the tag and they run an awesome spot where Ted is holding Yatsu in front of the post so Hansen can drill him with a running knee, only for Nakano to come out of nowhere and save Yatsu while Hansen winds up kneeing the ring post. From there they go into Hansen in peril as Yatsu and Nakano work over his leg, so it becomes a case of the champs having two good legs between them while the clear underdogs mean to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. And then it ends.

Stan Hansen & Ted DiBiase v Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara (7/23/87)
- Another great performance from Ted here, selling the ribs rather than the knee this time, but selling like a total champ either way. Tenryu and Hara don’t reel off a ton of “high end offense”, but Ted’s selling is always terrific and makes something as simple as Hara stomping him in the gut seem vicious (well, it’s Hara, so it’s vicious to begin with, but still). When Hansen gets the tag DiBiase is more or less useless from that point on, so Stan has to go it alone. Tenryu running around and throwing Ted into the barricade from time to time, just to make sure he won’t be making a recovery, is always great. Thought the finish worked fine here as well, like Stan knew he was on his own against two bruisers and would happily take a double count out if he had the chance. Tenryu accidentally hitting his own partner with a lariat was that chance.

Jumbo Tsuruta v Genichiro Tenryu (8/31/87)
- Hell of a way to kick off the Jumbo/Tenryu series. This feels like the closest thing to King’s Road yet, from the early blocking of strikes to the general layout. I really liked how they started it out, with both guys clearly wary of getting too close to each other for fear of getting popped in the mouth. They know how each other ticks as a tag partner, but as a singles opponent it’s a different ballgame and you can’t be too careful. First great spot comes when Jumbo cracks Tenryu with a few nasty back elbows in the corner, so Tenryu responds by RIFLING off a slap right to Jumbo’s ear and the look of utter contempt that Jumbo shoots him in return is glorious. I though Jumbo was really great here as the big man on campus, busting out a few of Tenryu’s own signature moves and generally ramping up the violence because he refuses to give up his spot to the guy that used to play second fiddle to him. The first real stretch of offence comes when Jumbo tries to hit a lariat which Tenryu partially blocks, but the force still has him reeling enough that he staggers into the corner. Jumbo rolls down the knee pad and follows up with a high knee, and while Tenryu’s blade job isn’t the craziest thing you’ll see, Jumbo goes to work on the cut anyway. They kind of tease a finishing stretch after Tenryu hits a German suplex, but Jumbo’s still too fresh and keeps up the assault. That leads to him going for another high knee in the corner, but Tenryu knows it’s coming and counters by ducking and ripping the turnbuckle pad away in the process so Jumbo winds up kneeing steel. That was a fucking awesome transition spot that I don’t remember ever seeing before. Jumbo’s comeback with the HUGE backdrop was fucking great as well. I don’t dislike the fact they went with a count out for the finish, but I wish they hasn’t made it so painfully obvious. Still, all of the bombs and shots they were throwing down the stretch ruled and this is currently sitting in my #4 spot.

Genichiro Tenryu v Stan Hansen (9/20/87)
- Hansen flipping his lid and throwing chairs and chasing people around ringside for no apparent reason whatsoever was AMAZING. That was at the intros. When he calms down and they start the match for real Tenryu just goes right for him and winds up dropping him with a big palm strike to the ear. Unfortunately they slow it way down after that and, other than Hansen repeatedly shouting “ASK HIM”, it never hit the level the opening few minutes promised. I mean they both work the arm and it’s all solid enough stuff, but this is Hansen and Tenryu and this isn’t the kind of bar fight you want out of them. Hansen going postal post-match was a nice return to form, but this was one of the more disappointing matches on the set.

Jumbo Tsuruta v Genichiro Tenryu (10/10/87)
- Thought this was also really good, but not on the level of the first match. It still has the great moments where one guy will slap the shit out of the other and there are some hugely dramatic “peaks”, but there are also some pretty awkward parts and it isn’t as focused as the August match. I thought Tenryu’s early headlock was great here, the way he’d hold on like a vice no matter how Jumbo tried to shake him. Only letting go because Jumbo had backed him into the ropes and the ref’ called for the break felt like a cool little “Fine, I’ll let go...but only because *I* choose to” moment. There’s a terrific stretch after Tenryu counters a Thesz Press with a hotshot where he’s rolling out a ton of big bombs in an effort to put Jumbo away, getting progressively frustrated at not being able to get the job done while the crowd loses its shit. Jumbo’s backslide hope spot looked pretty shitty, though, and while the two whiffed powerbomb attempts from Tenryu didn’t bother me that much (I actively liked the first one), they still felt out of place and awkward. Finishing stretch was fine and still very heated, but I was far more engaged in the final run in the first match (even after the cross body spot that took both guys to the floor, which initially took me out of the match). Brody’s sell of the backdrop post-match is either awesome or goofy as shit. Probably a bit of both.

Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy v Bruiser Brody & Jimmy Snuka (11/22/87)
- Crowd is totally amped at the beginning here and want a Hansen/Brody exchange to start things out. Both guys approaching the exchange by running a cross-cross and ducking a few big hits from the other was a great way to go, I though. Crowd losing its shit helped, of course. I certainly wouldn’t call this a great match, but it was better than I expected. Snuka and Brody have that awesome tag against the Funks from ’81 (that’s still in my top 10), but 1987 Jimmy Snuka is a prospect I don’t look too forward to and, despite the fact I’ve had no issues with him on the set (at times enjoying him quite a bit), Brody showing up again after the multi-disc absence didn’t do a whole lot to get me excited. Still, Hansen might be the best ever and late ‘80s Gordy is awesome, so that’s generally enough to offset the Brody/Snuka-ism. Snuka’s isolation period was pretty pedestrian, but I liked more of this than I disliked and it’ll get bonus points for being in the “I was shocked at how much I dug this” category.

Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy v Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (11/26/87)
- I thought this was really disappointing. There’s some stuff that would’ve been really awesome if they hadn’t detracted from it with something silly or unneeded. Like the spot where Yatsu puts the figure-four on Hansen (even if it looked pretty crummy) and Hansen is selling it so well that I’m legitimately buying him possibly giving up. Then Jumbo and Gordy start trading bombs in the middle of the ring while this is going on and I can’t understand why Gordy won’t just break the hold when he has the chance. The finish is another “double-edged sword” in that we get the awesome out of nowhere lariat that leads to a super goofy count out. The lariat itself looked SUPREME and the commentator’s reaction made it even better (Baba is mid-sentence and all you hear is “AAAHHHHHHH!”). Yatsu struggling to get back in the ring and succeeding a second too late would’ve been a fine count out, but Jumbo comes across with about 7 seconds left and starts “willing” Yatsu to his feet, shouting at him to get back up. The ref’ is at 9 there, Jumbo. JUST THROW HIM IN THE FUCKING RING, ALREADY. ’87 has churned out a couple corkers that seem destined for the top 30, but on the flipside it’s produced an awful lot of middling matches that really should be better.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (12/5/87)
- As far as telegraphed half hour draws go, I liked this a good deal better than any of the Jumbo/Tenryu v Choshu/Yatsu matches. I mean I figured they were working to the bell eventually, but it didn’t seem as obvious here and I definitely preferred the things these guys were doing to kill time. Jumbo and Tenryu playing mind games in the first half was really cool and I thought it built to Tenryu’s big time cheapshot well. You knew it was only a matter of time before one guy REALLY let loose because they weren’t satisfied with just throwing a slap or a chop here and there, and Tenryu pulling open the ropes while Jumbo was running into them was a great spot. Jumbo getting massively pissed off was also great. Lots of “burly dudes throwing down” stuff throughout, possibly culminating with Jumbo pasting Hara with a lariat. Tenryu in peril towards the end while Jumbo and Yatsu go to work on his cut forehead might have been my favourite spell of the match, and Hara mowing people down after the hot tag was pretty boss. I *might* have this in my top 40.

Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy v Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara (12/11/87)
- This wasn’t “bad” or anything, but...well, I’m reeeealy glad I’m moving onto the ’88 stuff after this, because ’87 just seems to be a year that has a ton of ‘on paper’ great stuff that ends up disappointing. There are stretches here that have some good shit going on, but they don’t really GO anywhere and ultimately feel like time killing. Still, everything after Hansen breaking an abdominal stretch by nailing Tenryu in the head with a cowbell was good shit and made for a dramatic closing stretch.