Sunday, 27 February 2011

Well, They Blew Up The Chicken Man In Mid-South Last Night

Ted DiBiase & Matt Borne v Junkyard Dog & Mr. Wrestling II (2/16/83)

This DiBiase's Rat Pack v JYD and his buddies feud was a really bossy little feud. The 10/82 LLT is the peak, but everything around it is always really nifty studio tag wrestling and this was no different. Total DiBiase/Borne bump-fest here as both guys just rule it taking a bunch of offence from JYD and II. They're especially great whenever II throws one of his awesome kneelifts -- Borne's spill off the apron is easy to miss, but it looked cool as shit, then DiBiase takes a great looking spill through the ropes a little later. There's a great spot where II monkey flips Borne from one end of the ring to the other and back again while he has DiBiase in an armbar. Ref' bump is also really good and doesn't look telegraphed at all. Post-match brawl with the locker room emptying and dudes swinging chairs and fists is a blast, and this whole thing was just a ton of fun.

Butch Reed v Iron Sheik (4/8/83)

So I can remember coming home smashed on Christmas Eve 2008 and watching this match for the first time. That's about all I remember from that night but there you go. At the time it was my first exposure to Reed on the set, but the whole "I was smashed" thing meant that I had a hard time remembering anything about it. Never went back to re-watch it and so my gigantic man crush on Reed never developed until later. Re-watching it now, DEEPLY a member of the Butch Reed fan club, I thought it was a lot of fun and an awesome showcase for old Butch. He looks fucking great in this. Kind of feels like a glorified squash at points, but Sheik is good as your Zbyszko-esque staller and he takes a few big bumps, and Reed has tonnes of stuff he can bust out on offence, anyway. His bridge into a backslide looked particularly swank, plus he's busting out multiple dropkicks and doing leapfrogs and all sorts of agile crap for a guy that's built like a brick shithouse. Reed also has a great looking shoulderblock, and his shoulderblock here looked boss. Gotta love Watts on commentary, too. This was taped in April '83 but never aired until a year later after Sheik had won the WWF title from Backlund, and Watts is in full on burial mode, taking shots at JYD, the WWF, etc. Match is smoked by a lot of the better Reed on the set, but this is a fine intro. Sort of wish I was sober the first time.

Dusty Rhodes v Nick Bockwinkel (5/20/83)

Wasn't a fan of this at all the first time I saw it, but, like everything else on disc 1, I liked it more this time around. I dug Dusty a lot here. I guess this sort of feels like a lesser Flair/Dusty match, but I enjoyed Dusty's answers to Bock's opening gambits in this more than I can remember enjoying the early stages of a lot of Dusty v Flair matches. Maybe it's because I've seen Flair v Dusty 8 million times by now, and Dusty strutting and throwing bionic elbows is hardly something new in and of itself, but this still felt "fresher". Still pretty apathetic towards Bockwinkel, though. The AWA set will probably change my overall perception of him, but for the time being he's a guy that does a lot of things mechanically that are good and not a lot of things that are outright bad, but he just doesn't do a whole lot for me.

Chavo Guerrero v Mr. Olympia (6/24/83)

Every one of the 80s sets tends to have at least one match that, when I've finished going through the entire thing, will end up in my top 10 favourite matches ever. The New Japan set had Fujiwara v Choshu from 6/9/87. The Memphis set had Eaton/Koko v Mantel/Cobra from 7/19/82. The Texas set, so far, has Flair/Adams from 2/3/84. Mid-South had this. I fucking love this match. Babyface Olympia might have been my MVP of the early Shreveport studio stuff, but he's a heel now and might be even better. Chavo comes into this looking for revenge after being taken out a couple months back and takes a large portion of the match on offence, but Olympia is awesome at bumping around and eating everything Chavo throws at him. And Chavo has some GREAT offence to throw at him. He busts out a pescado, a bunch of stretch variations (surfboard, some nutty abdominal stretch thing, something else I'm forgetting), an awesome flying forearm, a modified backbreaker, a German suplex, and in between all that he's just going to town on Olympia with strikes while the crowd completely lose it. Whenever Olympia takes over he'll grind Chavo down and Chavo has a few amazing hope spots and comebacks. Last couple minutes really put this over the top. First Olympia puts something on his boot and dropkicks Chavo, and Chavo takes this nasty as shit bump into the ropes and out to the floor. I had never heard a thing about this match when I first went through the set and I totally bit on that being the finish, so Chavo getting his foot on the ropes was an AWESOME nearfall. Olympia locking in the sleeper had me biting again and I figured it was only a matter of time. When Chavo breaks it... man that crowd is insane. Post-match gets it bonus points and this is just great, great stuff. Don't think this is the *best* match on the set, but I'd be surprised if it doesn't stay my favourite once I'm done with this project.

Ted DiBiase v Hacksaw Duggan (Street Fight) (7/29/83)

"A come as you are street fight means you're not going to go as you came" -- Paul Boesch. That's a pretty apt description because these guys sure as shit don't leave looking the same way they did when they came in. This was fucking awesome; chock full of hatred and AMAZING punches and choking and more hatred. There's one spot where Duggan blocks a combination of punches from Ted and then fires back with this tremendous combo of his own and it might have been my favourite moment of the whole first disc. Before long they're choking each other with t-shirts and whipping each other with belts then DiBiase wraps it around his fist and punches Duggan directly in the face. Then the heel of Duggan's cowboy boot falls off and DiBiase uses it to stab him in the head. DiBiase takes this crazy ring post shot here too where he barely protects himself. Thought it could've used some more blood what with them beating the ever loving shit out of each other the way they did and the chair shots and whatnot, but that's a small complaint. And this is the "weakest" of their three matches on the set.

Mid-South Project

Saturday, 26 February 2011

That Time I Got Drunk With Tenryu #7

Got the PWFG comp this week and started watching that. Mostly been watching Mid-South stuff and trying to finish the Texas set so I can get a ballot in before the deadline. Still holding out for the Tenryu set before I watch a bunch of Tenryu stuff, but the 1993 yearbook set should be here some time in the next couple weeks and there's tonnes of great looking shit on that.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara v Johnny Barrett (3/14/91)

This was a lot of fun. Fujiwara drills Barrett right in the jaw with a crazy headbutt at the start and, well, that's a Hell of a way to get me into a match from the get-go. This is the first time I've seen Barrett. He's shaped almost like the One Man Gang in that lumberjack match on the Mid-South set, which isn't something I was expecting. Fatboys in my shoot style is something I can totally get behind, though, and I dug how he took exception to the opening headbutt by forcing Fujiwara into the corner and peppering him with knees and palm strikes to the head. His size makes for a really cool dynamic as well. Fujiwara isn't exactly the Rey Mysterio to Barrett's Mark Henry, but the size difference is big enough that it gives off a sort of David v Goliath vibe, and there's times where Fujiwara seems like the piranha trying to figure out ways to take chunks out of the whale without being wiped out by it. Finish is nice, too. Barrett tries to lock in a cross armbreaker and winds up slipping and stumbling back, so Fujiwara seizes the opportunity and pounces. Fujiwara is just a master at flash finishes like that.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara v Wellington Wilkins Jr. (5/19/91)

Man Fujiwara was awesome in this. He busts out his trademark boston crab counter early and it looks like Wilkins gets caught in the eye socket with his heel (it's turned purple by the end of the match), so Wilkins starts getting rough, throwing palm strikes and nasty little headbutts at Fujiwara's temple. Fujiwara grins and I get giddy because I know what's coming. Match from that point out is really gritty and potatoey with both guys throwing some mean strikes. They aren't full on Ishikawa/Ikeda level strikes, though; they're more subtle, but the intent is clear and in a way it comes off a little more vicious. Fujiwara is awesome as this cocky dickhead; bouncing around taunting Wilkins, throwing this slick roundhouse kick and looking self-satisfied even though it barely connects, and my favourite spot of the match is him hooking on a kneebar and laying sprawled out with his head resting on his elbow (he has this amazing smile on his face too) while Wilkins struggles to break free. In the end I think he actually just smacks him in the face. Every match on this set is new to me and I'm pretty excited about what's to come. This was really good.

Wayne Shamrock v Naoki Sano (PWFG, 5/19/91)

Absolutely incredible match. Wayne and Ken Shamrock are one and the same and I had no idea he had something like this in him. I mean, I had heard enough praise for this match from people whose opinion on wrestling I trust, so I fully expected it to be good, but fuck man, I honestly thought this was as good as any match I've ever seen in the style. For almost half an hour it's just amazing exchanges on the mat punctuated by amazing exchanges on the feet where they're chucking flurries of palm strikes and knees. Shamrock really was a beast here; he had some awesome takedowns, so quick and sudden, and he was relentless on the ground at points. There's one spell where he's determined to get a hold of Sano's arm and lock in a submission. Doesn't matter what submission; he just wants that arm and Sano has to roll and counter and scramble to avoid constant submission attempts. Thing that impressed me most about this is the way they incorporated pro-style moves into the shoot-style setting without them looking out of place. Sano hits an amazing DDT at one point that had me leaning on rewind like a motherfucker, and a little later Shamrock responds by hitting one of his own. Neither came off like pro-style wrestling moves as opposed to shoot style throws, except these shoot style throws land your opponent flat on their head. Sano's STF looked awesome as well. I've seen him bust that spot out in two shoot style matches now and I've popped big for it both times. Still, my favourite spot of the match might have been Shamrock's German suplex. The match had been paced beforehand with both guys taking their time to set up big submission attempts, waiting for the opening and going for the kill. Sano winds up giving up his back and Shamrock looks like he's trying to find an arm or a leg to grab onto so he can go for the submission. He's biding his time and Sano ends up almost on all fours, so Shamrock just deadlifts him and spikes him with the suplex. The actual spot looked great, but the set-up really made it. Love the finish too -- both guys slow down some after the 20 minute mark and when they call it that 25 minutes have passed it seems likely that they're going to a time limit draw. Then they both start blasting each other in the face with strikes and Shamrock has Sano reeling with a number of clean knees and palm strikes. Sano looks like he's about to drop, but Shamrock leaves himself open and gets caught with a good shot that rocks him, so Sano makes his move and hits a fucking dragon suplex (!) before locking in the Fujiwara armbar. Tremendous, tremendous stuff.

Shinya Hashimoto v Scott Norton (New Japan 3/21/94)

Unless any of the other Hashimoto/Norton matches top it, this is probably the best Scott Norton match ever. I mean, Norton is a guy I generally quite like, but this was way better than "quite like". He's awesome as a giant oak tree that Hashimoto is trying to chop down, eating a ton of really nasty strikes and just refusing to topple. He pretty much brutalises Hash early on and laughs at a fool's attempt at a fight back, so Hashimoto has to change it up and try a different strategy. He picks an arm and a leg and just starts hurling kicks at both. It visibly takes its toll on big Scott, who does a fine job selling it all, and it's all really good "groundwork" stuff. Norton isn't as quick to throw lariats and bombs because of the arm, and if nothing else it at least buys Hashimoto time. Norton started out as this total juggernaut, but as things go on there's clear chinks in the armour. Simple story, and they tell it really well. Final few minutes are great with Hashimoto laying into Scott with enziguris while Norton does the whole out on his feet ready to collapse sell, and there's a great moment where it looks like he's one good strike away from dream street before rifling off a big desperation lariat. Hell of a match.

Kiyoshi Tamura v Nikolai Zouev (RINGS, 6/21/97)

This is the first time I've seen Zouev. I heard he was the real deal, and he certainly looks it. Isn't quite as spectacular as Han (based on first impressions, at least), but it looks like he's another one of those Eastern European guys that can just flat out go like crazy on the mat. Tamura is Tamura and some of the scrambles and counters on the ground in the opening 3 minutes are utterly spectacular; just exceptional grappling. Eventually Tamura catches Zouev with a good kick to the knee and Zouev is visibly hurt by it, so Tamura paints a bullseye on it and starts picking away at him with strikes. Zouev knows he can't keep eating leg kicks, and the finish is amazing. Seriously one of the most incredible armbars I've ever seen. Actually felt a lot like the finish to the first Tamura/Han match with Tamura having nowhere to go and needing to tap out before his arm's snapped. Same deal here, but the knot Zouev ties him up in looks even more ridiculous than the one in the Han match. RINGS is gradually becoming one of my favourite promotions of the 90s.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Through The Badlands Of Mid-South I Killed Everything In My Path

Junkyard Dog & Mr. Olympia v Ted DiBiase & Matt Borne (Loser Leaves Town) (10/27/82)

Pretty much the perfect TV main event - great pre-match set up, great match, great angle, great post-match. I love how they bring Borne into this. Watts and Boesch do the pre-match interview where they explain that Duggan (or Doogan) is out of the picture right now and that he's probably in jail because he's a crazy bastard, so DiBiase has brought Matt Borne in from another territory as his stand-in partner. The loser leaves town stip only affects the person that takes the fall, so Borne is DiBiase's "sacrificial lamb"; he doesn't even work in Mid-South, so why should he care if he has to leave? They also put his Bombs Away finisher over huge, saying that Ted might have brought him in just to take someone out with it. It's an off the top rope move that would normally be illegal, but this is a no DQ match so it's fair game tonight. Match itself has tonnes of great shit in it. JYD is a good chief ass kicker, Olympia is a great face in peril, and DiBiase and Borne are awesome at both taking and dishing out a beating. I can't wait for the Portland set to see more Borne. He's a guy that I'll always make a point of watching now whenever I come across a match he's involved in, and this was the thing that really made me take notice in the first place. I got all round eyed and giddy when he popped up on the Texas set last night teaming with Buzz fucking Sawyer. The Bombs Away spot in this comes off as spectacular as it should, and JYD is great at reacting to it like he needs to get his partner out of there ASAP. Finish is just a tremendous swerve/angle. Duggan's involvement is so great, mainly because of the way Watts and Boesch handled the pre-match. Something like that would be hilariously telegraphed in most companies and you'd be able to see it coming a mile away. The one thing you probably could see coming a mile away - Borne being the fall guy - is then flipped right on its head and the actual fall guy winds up being the one you'd least expect. Just awesome booking, and a big example of why Watts was so good at it. Also gotta love the post-match interview. Watts is too disgusted to conduct it so Boesch takes over, and by the end he's walking away in disgust as well. DiBiase's spectacularly un-PC line on JYD is an absolute corker, too. This would probably be top 5 on my TX ballot.

Stagger Lee & Mr. Olympia v Ted DiBiase & Matt Borne (Loser Leaves Town) (12/18/82)

Neat enough match, but probably bottom of the pile from everything I've re-watched so far. Plenty heated and DiBiase and Borne are pretty kingsized in their bumping and stooging, but at 6 minutes long, it just won't stack up to some of the better stuff on a set that's full of amazing shit. Finish is good again, though. JYD comes back under a mask and is looking for revenge. No way he won't get it. Except his partner just took the fall and now he's gone for 2 months. How fucking great is that? These Irish Boy's Club matches all seem to have intricate and at least cool finishes. I wonder who was in the Patterson role.

Mid-South Project

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Heading Out For The Mid-South, Lord Knows I've Paid Some Dues Gettin' Through

Junkyard Dog v Nick Bockwinkel (6/11/82)

I thought this was bottom of the pack material when I watched it the first time going through the set. Didn't think it was bad, just totally forgettable for the most part. I've been digging much the early 80s Mid-South stuff more than I did the first run through though (took me until the Chavo/Olympia match to really get me into the swing of things), and this was no different. I'm pretty apathetic towards Bockwinkel in general, but his stooging here was a lot of fun. JYD throws great punches and the crowd are behind him, and I liked just about everything he did more on this watch than the first. I got the sense Bock was running through a bunch of stuff he could do in his sleep, but that doesn't mean it's bad. Wouldn't call it a Bockwinkel carry job, either. I probably would have when I first saw it (don't remember exactly), but I thought Dog more than held up his end this time. This is also the first time we get Paul Boesch on commentary on the set. I thought he ranged from "good" to "whatever" to "date rape" on the Houston footage, sometimes going off on hilarious tangents about random bullshit that could be really distracting, but I found him passable enough here. He does go off on one about JYD being the uncrowned king of wrestling until he got a crown and then he was the uncrowned king with a crown, but I thought his call of the flash pin was great. Heenan brings the bump-freakery post-match and this was just flat out better than I remembered.

Mr. Olympia v Bob Roop (7/15/82)

Another bossy sub-ten minute studio match; this is right there with the Roop/George match as my favourite Roop match on the set. There's some really great shit in this. Olympia's counter to a Roop kneedrop looked cool as Hell and is something I don't think I noticed the first time around, and Olympia's boss tope is my favourite spot on the set up to this point chronologically. The set up to it was really good -- Roop tries to take a powder, but Olympia's all over him. He tries to duck and dodge out of the way before running around the corner, but Olympia catches on, jumps back in the ring and wipes him out with a tope as Roop comes around the corner looking behind him to see where Olympia is. This is another example of "man with the plan" Roop and one thing I loved about the early Roop stuff was the nifty counters and counter-counters you'd always get in his matches. He counters an Olympia sleeper hold by hitting this nasty looking backbreaker/sidewalk slam thing, then he puts Olympia in a sleeper of his own. Olympia tries to counter that by running into the corner, ducking at the last second and ramming Roop's head into the turnbuckle, but Roop knows what's coming and just rams Olympia's own head in. Olympia eventually manages to counter by running up the turnbuckle and flipping behind Roop so he can apply his own sleeper hold. Roop then tries to counter with the backbreaker again, but Olympia won't fall for the same trick twice, and eventually Roop passes out in the middle of the ring. Just a super nifty little match.

Ted DiBiase & Hacksaw Duggan v Junkyard Dog & Mr. Olympia (8/18/82)

First taste of heel DiBiase and it was a good one. I really liked him wanting no part of JYD and being content to let Duggan do all the heavy lifting early, whether Dog was constantly getting the better of him or not. DiBiase chikenshitting it as soon as he realises he's in there with JYD and hurling himself into his own corner to make the tag was great. Duggan is a guy who's rep went up big time thanks to this set, and he looked fine in his first appearance (of the set). Watts is awesome at putting him over as this nutjob that'll put his own body on the line. Olympia continues to rule it, and re-watching the early Irish Boy's Club stuff I'm thinking he might be the MVP. I could probably watch early 80s Olympia studio matches all day and not get bored. Hectic finish to this one, too.

One Man Gang v Buck Robley (Lumberjack Match) (9/15/82)

Super fun little sprint. This is another one that sat around the bottom of the pile when I watched it a couple years back, but I dug it way more this time. Robley's t-shirt is immense, btw. He looks like a hobo with a broken arm and he's YOUR spunky underdog. Dick Murdoch also has an awesome t-shirt and hat. I like the idea of a lumberjack match in a Watts promotion more than anywhere else, because taking a bump on the concrete in a Watts promotion is treated like a big deal. Tossing your opponent out over the top to the concrete so the lumberjacks can toss him back in just so you can toss him back out to the concrete again, rinse and repeat, is a great concept. Also helps that, bar one awesome subtle little moment where Skandor Akbar gets his licks in, the lumberjacks actually do their job and throw the guys back in like they're supposed to. Doesn't give them time to rest, you don't have to go outside and bring them back in yourself; why would you NOT throw them out over the top? Also gotta love OMG bumping like a twelve hundred pound freak. He takes a crazy missed splash off the turnbuckle bump and an even crazier over the top rope bump off a dropkick.

Mid-South Project

Saturday, 19 February 2011

We'll Dance Round Mid-South 'Til The Night Is All Done

Bob Roop v Mike George (12/16/81)

I love a good sub-ten minute studio match, and this was a good sub-ten minute studio match. I first discovered Bob Roop a few years ago when I watched him and Backlund team up against Baba and Jumbo, but I never really got much of a handle on how good or bad he was from that one match. Then the Mid-South set came and I totally dug him on the small number of appearances he made on it. This is my favourite of the Roop appearances and he and George do a bunch of really nifty stuff in this. There's a cool full nelson spot, a nasty looking ring post spot, a spot where Roop rakes George's eyes across the top rope that looked pretty brutal, and the finish was good. Roop is a good "thinking man's wrestler" and this is a fine intro to him on the set.

Mr. Olympia v Paul Orndorff (2/3/82)

I had never seen Olympia before the Mid-South set, but he was pretty great whenever he popped up and his match with Chavo Guerrero on disc 1 is probably one of my ten favourite matches ever. This is another really solid sub-ten minute studio match. Olympia takes a nasty bump off a clothesline where he practically spikes himself on his neck. Orndorff looked good here, too; busting out a pretty hefty string of offence and doing a good job getting across frustration at not being able to put Olympia away. He also sells Olympia's sleeper like a king at the end. Roop/George is a nice intro to Roop, and this is a nice intro to Olympia...wish there was more house show footage from around this time because I'd like to see even more of them.

Bob Roop v Ted DiBiase (4/2/82)

More good Roop. I slightly prefer the Mike George match, but I thought Roop might've been better in this than he was in that (and he was good in that). Gotta give some love to Watts on commentary during the opening matwork; I didn't think anybody could make a hammerlock sound so cool. DiBiase is ALL FIRED UP post-match and Roop PAYS THE PRICE. We need more Bob Roop, man.

Bill Watts & Stagger Lee v Midnight Express (4/22/84)

This fucking ruled. First five minutes consist of Eaton and Condrey bumping around like absolute kings for Watts while Watts tapes his fist and punches them dead in the face. JYD is pretty much a non-factor here, but he doesn't need to do anything other than feed an MX member to Watts to he can punch him some more. And the crowd is totally molten. Condrey and Eaton are a couple guys that have a ton of neat ways to get punched in the face. Condrey and Eaton are a couple guys that have a ton of neat ways to sell getting punched in the face. Watts isn't quite Bill Dundee, but he has a decent sized bag of way to punch guys in the face. Whole opening spell was just spectacular because of this. Some of the ways Eaton takes and sells a punch are really too great to sit and try and explain, but my favourite spot of the segment is when Watts uppercuts him and Eaton flies onto the top turnbuckle, then Watts punches him again and Eaton takes a crazy bump off the top out to the floor. When the Midnights eventually take over, it's Watts they go to town on. Watts isn't a guy I had ever heard of as being a great face in peril, but he's good in the role here and the crowd are 100% behind him. Of course Eaton and Condrey just rule it with the beatdown, constantly running distractions, cheating, Cornette getting his licks in, etc. The Eaton/Condrey version of the MX are different from the Eaton/Lane version in that Eaton and Condrey don't bust out a bunch of double teams and HIGH-END OFFENCE~. They just beat you down, full steam ahead like a couple of nasty bullies. Condrey has some of the best kneedrops in wresting history, Eaton throws amazing punches...Watts at this point isn't the most mobile of dudes, so you really want him taking great looking punches and kneedrops and getting jabbed in the throat with a tennis racket rather than double backbreakers and Veg-O-Matics. Finish is all pretty hectic and of course the crowd is completely losing its stack. Your pop for the finish is a motherfucking POP, too. Post-match angle is awesome and man does Cornette sell the shit out of being put in a daiper. I probably liked this even more than the MX/II-TA match.

Midnight Express v Rock 'n' Roll Express (No DQ, Tag Titles vs. $50,000, 5/23/84)

The lead-in angle to this has Cornette putting up fifty grand against the RnRs tag titles. The contract signing is shown on the disc before the match itself, but the best part about it is the competition ad they run after it. It's called Superdate at the Superdome where two lucky ladies have a chance to win a date with the Rock 'n' Roll Express, two front row tickets to a show at the Superdome, t-shirts, bandanas and a signed photograph. Any women can enter, as long as they're over 18. And unmarried, naturally. To enter, send your best photograph and say, in 25 words or less, why you think you deserve to win a date with Ricky and Robert. I can only imagine how many ladies entered that. Match itself isn't one of the best MX/RnRs matches out there, but it's still an MX/RnRs match which pretty much means it's at least good by default. I'm a big fan of the finish to this. Watts' "something medical smelling" call of the ether was awesome. Cornette's post-match promo was fucking aces as well.

Mid-South Project

Friday, 18 February 2011

Mid-South All Around, Don't Know If I'm Coming Up Or Down

I'm gonna be jumping around quite a bit with this. Definitely won't be going through the whole set again in chronological order. Figured I'd start with '84 since it was the '84-'85 period that cemented Mid-South as pro-wrestling's equivalent of crack.

Midnight Express v Mr. Wrestling II & Magnum TA (2/10/84)

This fucking rocks. Eaton and Condrey just stooge and bump around like total maniacs for everything II does. The first ten minutes are practically *all* II/TA and you watch this and get the sense II is just having the time of his life; throwing knee lifts, punch combinations, strutting, doing this little's hard not to watch it with a smile on your face. MX have a ton of shtick and II has a blast with all of it. Midnights eventually take over, and TA is a good FIP guy. Been a long ass time since I watched any of the Magnum TA stuff on this set, but I'm already remembering why I came away from it with a new appreciation for him. Wasn't too crazy about the finish, but the post-match with Eaton and Condrey stomping the daylights out of II and TA while the Houston crowd are about to riot is fucking awesome. Crowd heat is nuclear all the way through this, too. Hell, I'm struggling to think of one match from the '84-'85 arena footage that *didn't* have nuclear crowd heat. God damn that whole period was tremendous. I'd probably have this in my top 10 on the Texas ballot, and I'm not sure it's even top 30 for Mid-South. Don't think of that as a knock on Texas; more huge praise for Wattsville.

Rock 'n' Roll Express v Butch Reed & Buddy Landel (3/28/84)

Man, this was a fucking BOSS little sprint. Reed came out of this set as my all-time favourite wrestler second only to Eddie Guerrero, and I can already tell I'm gonna fall in love with him all over again going through it a second (some of it a third) time. He and Landel are a Hell of a combo and I had no memory of this being as good as it is. They rifle off a bunch of great double teams (Reed gorilla pressing Landel onto Morton was badass), work some great cut-offs, cheat, cheapshot, the whole nine. Morton is Morton and runs circles around them at the start before Reed just dropkicks him in the face, then Morton is Morton all over again and plays FIP like he's Morton. Gibson doesn't really do much, but Jim Cornette is out "taking notes", and when Gibson decides he's had enough of standing around on the apron while his partner gets assaulted, Cornette pulls the top rope down and Gibson takes a nasty tumble onto the concrete. Finish is a little sloppily executed, but I love guys milking the foreign object. I'd kill for an arena version of this match-up because there's no way it wouldn't have ruled hard with 20 minutes.

Midnight Express v Bill Dundee & Porkchop Cash (4/6/84)

Doesn't really need to be said at this point, but holy shit does Bill Dundee have amazing punches. Lawler is usually my knee jerk pick for "guy with best wrestling punches ever," but Dundee throws a couple corkers in this that makes me wonder if it's closer than I've been thinking. I mean, from word one I've loved Dundee's punches, but maybe not having seen any of them for months on end made me forget just how spectacular they could be. He's an absolute king in this. Midnights are equally kingsized in their bumping and stooging, but Dundee coming up with ways to play off of it all is a ton of fun. There's one spot where Eaton whips him into the corner and Dundee jumps up on the second turnbuckle, spins around, jumps over on onrushing Eaton, lands on the mat and catches Eaton coming back out with a monkey flip, all in one smooth, perfect motion. He used the same spot in one of the early studio matches on the Memphis set (maybe against Latham) and it looked awesome there, too. A lot of the time you'll see someone try that and the person following them in has to check their stride to allow time for the person on the turnbuckle to properly spin around. With Dundee you don't need to; he does it super quick and it looks really fluid. Dundee's also great as your FIP here. He's always firing back; not in a way that feels like he's halting the momentum of the heels' beatdown, but in a way that always keeps things interesting -- you buy him as a guy that's legitimately trying to get to his corner to make the tag. Porkchop is probably the "weakest" guy in the match, but that's down to the other three being so good as opposed to Porkchop being "bad". He has a few awesome looking hip attacks that get major air every time, and he does a great headbutt spot with Condrey. Porkchop, being black, obviously has a rock solid head, so Condrey throws a headbutt at one point, gives Eaton two thumbs up and then falls flat on his face while Porkchop looks at him like a tool. Finish felt a little too sudden after the hot tag, but it's a pretty small quibble. I thought this was a good match the first time I watched it, but I definitely liked it more this time around. I can tell I'm gonna have a blast going through all of this again.

Mid-South Project

Watts Love Got To Do With It? The Fuckin' Mid-South Project

So last night I finished going through the DVDVR Mid-South set. I never picked up the set until it was too late to participate in the voting process (think I got it just as Memphis was starting up), but I've had it for a little over a couple years now anyway. Some of it I haven't seen in two years, some of it I haven't seen in two weeks. Either way, long before I had watched everything on the set, Mid-South had become my all-time favourite wrestling promotion. Naturally, there's a truckload of stuff that I want to go back and re-watch, so here we go again with another dorkfest wrestling project.

Pretty much gonna re-watch everything over time (most likely a long time) and eventually have it all ranked, similar to the 1992 WCW Project. Instead of ranking it from #1-#150, though, I'm thinking I'll just split everything into 5 "tiers" -- tier 1 being the really awesome stuff, tier 2 being a step down from that but still great-borderline top level stuff, tier 3 being the stuff that's a step down from that but still really good, tier 4 being the stuff that's fun-good, tier 5 being the stuff that ranges from decent to bottom of the barrel. Or something like that. I'll put everything within each tier in chronological order and then whenever I've gone through the whole set again, I'll whip up a top 50 or whatever. Ranking the top level stuff isn't too difficult; it's when you get to the stuff below that that things become tricky, especially when there *so* much good stuff (found that out with the 1992 WCW Project).

Anyways, I'll plug away at this like I did with 1992 WCW. Sometimes there'll be daily updates, sometimes there won't be anything for months. You know how it is.


Junkyard Dog & Mr. Olympia v Ted DiBiase & Matt Borne (Loser Leaves Town) (10/27/82)
Chavo Guerrero v Mr. Olympia (6/24/83)
Butch Reed & Jim Neidhart v Mr. Wrestling II & Magnum TA (Cage Match) (12/25/83)
Ted DiBiase v Magnum TA (No DQ, Tulsa) (5/27/84)
Rock 'n' Roll Express & Hacksaw Duggan v Midnight Express & Ernie Ladd (6/8/84)
Ted DiBiase v Hacksaw Duggan (No DQ) (3/8/85)
Ted DiBiase v Jim Duggan (NO DQ, Loser Leaves Town, Coal Miner's Glove on a Pole, Tuxedo Cage Match) (3/22/85)
Ric Flair v Terry Taylor (4/28/85)
Ric Flair v Terry Taylor (5/3/85)

Ted DiBiase v Hacksaw Duggan (Street Fight) (7/29/83)
Midnight Express v Mr. Wrestling II & Magnum TA (2/10/84)
Midnight Express v Bill Watts & Stagger Lee (4/22/84)
Ted DiBiase v Magnum TA (No DQ, OKC) (5/27/84)
Ted DiBiase v Magnum TA (7/6/84)
The Fantastics v Midnight Express (8/9/84)
The Fantastics v Chavo & Hector Guerrero (10/12/84)
Butch Reed & Ernie Ladd v Magnum TA & Master Gee (Ghetto Street Fight) (11/4/84)
The Fantastics v Dr. Death & Jake Roberts (4/14/85)
Rock 'n' Roll Express v Dirty White Boys (5/11/85)
Dirty White Boys v Bill Dundee & Terry Daniels (5/11/85)
Ric Flair v Terry Taylor (6/1/85)
Jake Roberts & The Barbarian v Rock 'n' Roll Express (6/28/85)
Terry Gordy v Dr. Death (6/22/86)
Terry Gordy v Hacksaw Duggan (8/3/86)
Terry Gordy v Dr. Death (9/28/86)

Rock 'n' Roll Express v Butch Reed & Buddy Landel (3/28/84)
Midnight Express v Bill Dundee & Porkchop Cash (4/6/84)
Rock 'n' Roll Express & Hacksaw Duggan v Midnight Express & Ernie Ladd (7/2/84)
Hacksaw Duggan & Dusty Rhodes v Butch Reed & Hercules Hernandez (8/19/84)
Butch Reed v Skip Young (9/23/84)
Butch Reed & Ernie Ladd v Brickhouse Brown & Master Gee (10/21/84)
Buddy Landel, Chavo & Hector Guerrero v Brickhouse Brown, Bill Dundee & Jose Lothario (Elimination Match) (11/16/84)
Rock 'n' Roll Express v Midnight Express (1/21/85)
Ted DiBiase v Brad Armstrong (2/10/85)
Rock 'n' Roll Express v Chavo & Hector Guerrero (2/13/85) 
Rock 'n' Roll Express v Ted DiBiase & Steve Williams (5/3/85)
Rock 'n' Roll Express v Terry Gordy & Buddy Roberts (6/24/85)
Hacksaw Duggan, Terry Taylor & Bill Watts v The Fabulous Freebirds (8/17/86)
Terry Gordy v Dr. Death (9/15/86)

Bob Roop v Mike George (12/16/81)
Mr. Olympia v Paul Orndorff (2/3/82)
Bob Roop v Ted DiBiase (4/2/82)
Mr. Olympia v Bob Roop (7/15/82)
Junkyard Dog & Mr. Olympia v Ted DiBiase & Hacksaw Duggan (8/18/82)
Ted DiBiase & Matt Borne v Junkyard Dog & Mr. Wrestling II (2/16/83)
Midnight Express v Rock 'n' Roll Express (No DQ, Tag Titles vs. $50,000) (5/23/84)
The Fantastics & Jim Duggan v Midnight Express & Jim Cornette (7/20/84)
Killer Khan v Chris Adams (9/9/84)
The Fantastics v Midnight Express (No DQ) (9/28/84)
Brad Armstrong v Ted DiBiase (1/16/85)
Kevin Von Erich v Chris Adams (1/18/85)
Buddy Landel, Chavo & Hector Guerrero v Rock 'n' Roll Express & Joe Lothario (1/18/85)
Rock 'n' Roll Express & Butch Reed v Kamala, Dr. Death & One Man Gang (2/25/85)
Ric Flair v Kerry Von Erich (4/28/85)
Ric Flair v Kerry Von Erich (5/4/85)
Terry Gordy v Terry Taylor (6/17/86)
Hacksaw Duggan, Terry Taylor & Bill Watts v The Fabulous Freebirds (7/20/86)
The Fantastics & Missing Link v Eddie Gilbert, John Tatum & Sting (8/3/86)
Terry Taylor v John Tatum (8/17/86)
Terry Gordy v One Man Gang (9/21/86)
Ted DiBiase & Terry Taylor v Michael Hayes & Buddy Roberts (Country Whipping Match) (10/12/86)
The Fantastics v John Tatum & Jack Victory (11/4/86)
Ted DiBiase v One Man Gang (11/18/86)
Terry Gordy v Dr. Death (12/26/86)

Junkyard Dog v Nick Bockwinkel (6/11/82)
One Man Gang v Buck Robley (Lumberjack Match) (9/15/82)
Stagger Lee & Mr. Olympia v Ted DiBiase & Matt Borne (Loser Leaves Town) (12/18/82)
Butch Reed v Iron Sheik (4/8/83)
Dusty Rhodes v Nick Bockwinkel (5/20/83)
Chris Adams v Adrian Street (10/10/84)
Rock 'n' Roll Express v Midnight Express (Scaffold Match) (12/2/84)
Adrian Street v Terry Taylor (Loser Leaves Town) (12/7/84)
Hacksaw Duggan & Terry Gordy v Ted DiBiase & Steve Williams (1/21/85)
Rock 'n' Roll Express v Dirty White Boys (4/15/85)
Rock 'n' Roll Express v Ted DiBiase & Steve Williams (6/19/85)
Terry Gordy v Terry Taylor (6/13/86)
Ted DiBiase & Dr. Death v Michael Hayes & Buddy Roberts (Lumberjack Match) (8/31/86)
The Fantastics v Sting & Eddie Gilbert (9/7/86)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Kiyoshi Tamura x 4

Kiyoshi Tamura v Volk Han (RINGS, 1/22/97)

These two were arguably the two best wrestlers in the world in '97 (although I'd still go to bat for Eddy), and this was the kind of phenomenal match you'd expect out of them at this stage. Feels more "even" than their first match, in that Tamura doesn't seem to be carving out openings through surprise as much as natural ability now. Loved how he took the initiative and started dominating on the feet, mostly with kicks, and the spot where he push kicks Han in the chest for a down like he did in the '96 match was awesome. Han getting wise to it and being able to ultimately use the disadvantage on the feet to score the win is just total Han. This is probably an all-time top 25 match for me.

Kiyoshi Tamura v Akira Maeda (RINGS 3/28/97)

Man this fucking ruled. It's not a great match, but Tamura is as fired up here as I've ever seen him and it really felt like he wanted to win this more than anything else in the world. His look of utter "fuck you" defiance when Maeda shoots in for the first time and tries to take his ankle is just amazing, and the crowd reaction at that moment is one of the best I've seen in a long time. Match is actually a bit spartan, but Maeda has an incredible aura and the charisma of both guys really makes it. I had also never seen this before and wasn't sure who won, so I was losing my shit at the end. I wanted Tamura to get to the ropes about as much as everybody else in that building did, and it's not often I get drawn into a match like that anymore. Has to count for something, right?

Kiyoshi Tamura v Christopher Haseman (RINGS, 4/4/97)

This was really bare-bones, but it was short enough for it not to drag and I enjoyed it. Haseman has really quick kicks and can rifle them off in a blink, but he seems reluctant to get too close to Tamura early. Tamura doesn't have the leg speed as Haseman, but whenever he lands anything, even if it's a leg kick that isn't likely to do any damage, the crowd pop pretty big. Largely feels like a cautious affair, like two fighters coming into a fight blind, not having any idea of how good or bad their opponent is. Final exchange here is pretty beautiful – Haseman shoots in to take Tamura's leg, but Tamura sprawls and winds up on top. He has side control initially, manages to secure the mount and then slowly works towards locking in the triangle, finally rolling onto his back so Haseman has nowhere to go. Nothing necessarily flashy about it, but a fitting finish to a match that was nothing flashy, period.

Kiyoshi Tamura v Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (RINGS, 4/22/97)

Their half hour draw a year later is pretty much a classic and something you can throw on a 'Definitive Shoot Style Matches' list. This isn’t as good as that, but it's half as long and works as a great "lead-in". I'm not entirely sure if this is their first match together or not, but it felt that way at points; both guys sizing each other up on the feet, not really going balls out on the mat like they would the following year. Couple great stand-up exchanges here, culminating with Tamura landing a palm strike to the body and then a right hook to the face, and Kohsaka's staggered sell of the blow was amazing (assuming it was "selling" at all); stumbling backwards trying to stay on his feet, but only managing to do so long enough for Tamura to close the gap and score the knockdown. A lot of this actually felt like a legit shoot, which is either a testament to both guys or my head's up my own ass for thinking it's a work. Either way it was bossy stuff.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Lesser Known Dudes BLEED & Get FUCKED UP In WAR!

Two entries in one day? I'm on a roll of sorts. Or I have too much time on my hands.

Takashi Ishikawa v Ashura Hara (WAR, 2/10/93)

This was everything I wanted it to be -- two tough as nails bruisers that LEAN into everything being tough as nails and LEANING into everything. These guys are deeply in that Tenryu mold where everything they do just looks mean and nasty. This had them ramping the stiffness way up so it all looks even more potatoey. Hara has some brutal looking headbutts at the best of times, but here it looked and sounded like someone was dropping a bowling ball on Ishikawa's head. Ishikawa can throw a real bastard of a lariat, and there's a few here that look ridiculous. There's one towards the end that sounded like he just clotheslined a fridge, and the fact he sold it like that made it ten times more awesome. Also really enjoyed Hara working the headlock in the first half. He wound grind and twist it and I was getting that Butch Reed vibe where it's conceivable that a headlock from someone like that could result in anything from horrendous cauliflower ears to your entire head being popped off your shoulders. Also set up Ishikawa's first backdrop perfectly. I've loved all of the Hara I've been watching recently, but you can tell when he's setting himself up to take a backdrop. He'll grab a headlock that looks pretty out of place in amongst all the clubbing people in the face and trying to cave their skull in with headbutts, so it's obvious he's setting up a transition spot. Here, he continually goes to the headlock as a base in the opening stretch, so Ishikawa's backdrop comes out of nowhere and works as a great momentum shift. And of course it looks like it compressed Hara's spine. Final few minutes feel like both guys are just trying to survive, and they sell everything so well that it manages to come across like a legit war. Just a Hell of a match.

Shinya Hashimoto & Michiyoshi Ohara v Ashura Hara & Hiromichi Fuyuki (WAR, 3/7/93)

Holy shit. This is motherfucking WAR right here. Hara takes the violence of the last match and kicks it up ANOTHER few notches and, well, Hara will fuck you up. I'm pretty sure this is only the second time I've seen Fuyuki, but man has he made an impression. He hated Hashimoto in their singles match a few days before this and he hates him again here. And he hates Hashimoto's partner so he just tries to fucking murder him. He cheapshots Hashimoto before the bell with a lariat and it really sets the stage for the whole thing. Just so much heat and violence and seething fucking contempt. This actually reminded me of the Jumbo/Taue v Misawa/Kawada match from the '91 Tag League (only with the savagery and stiffness turned way up) in how it's laid out. The first half of that had Jumbo and Taue isolating Kawada and working him over. This is a shorter match and the early shifts in momentum are quicker (usually a result of someone getting cracked in the face) and seem more frantic, but they settle into an Ohara in peril segment similar to the Kawada in peril segment in the AJ match. Reason I used that particular match as a comparison is because I felt the same way I did after the initial Kawada beatdown as I did after the initial Ohara beatdown. If the match had ended there I would've been completely happy with what I saw. Except it doesn't end there and they eventually settle into another, longer FIP spell. The AJ match had Jumbo and Taue zeroing in on Misawa's broken face. This has Hara obliterating Ohara with a lariat, then Fuyuki rips the pressure bandage off Ohara's head and tosses it at Hashimoto. And then they just totally motherfucking just fucking MASSACRE him. Hara's face winds up coated in Ohara's blood because he just headbutts him to oblivion. Fuyuki almost rips his head off with lariats. They kick him directly in the face. They throw a fucking table at his head. Ohara is someone I can't remember ever seeing before, but he is fucking great as the lower ranked teammate of the chief ass-kicker that'll punch above his weight and fight like an absolute pitbull and then thoroughly get stomped into the ground by a pair of lumpy Shreks. It gets to the point where Hashimoto's seen enough and winds up coming in and hurling kicks every 30 seconds, and there is a great spot right before the hot tag where Hara is about to powerbomb Ohara, so Hashimoto comes in, measures him and just nukes him with a roundhouse kick to the neck. Hara's sell of it like he just got hit with a sledgehammer was amazing. Hashimoto is one of the all-time great hot tags and there is this sense of impending destruction as he gets tagged in and walks over to behead Hara. I do wish it went a little longer at the end so Hashimoto could run riot some more, but that's a small complaint. The AJ match I used as a comparison went from a match that was "really good" in the first half to flat out terrific by the end thanks to an incredible second half. This is much the same. I still prefer the All Japan tag, but this has a truckload of violence and hatred and I can't really ask for much more. This WAR v New Japan feud is fuggin' tremendous.

Genichiro Tenryu, Takashi Ishikawa & Masao Orihara v Shiro Koshinaka, Kengo Kimura & Great Kabuki (WAR, 3/7/93)

Not as violent as the Hashimoto tag, but still a perfectly good way to cap off a Hell of a WAR card. Could've done with more Tenryu, but everything could do with more Tenryu so it's not much of a criticism. Besides, the Tenryu we do get is as good as you'd expect. He has a few particularly awesome exchanges with Koshinaka and Kabuki. 1992 potato farmer Koshinaka is so much more my thing than the Koshinaka I had to sit through on the New Japan 80s set. 80s Koshinaka generally bored me to tears, but this Koshinaka just punches guys right in the nose and comes across like a hateful, grumpy bastard. Every time he and Tenryu match-up you can buy the idea that they have no problem at all teeing off on one another, and Tenryu's lariat towards the end was ridiculously nasty, full force right under the chin. Tenryu and Kabuki only lock horns a couple times, and it's always short, but man do they lay into each other. There's this great exchange where Tenryu's throwing chops and Kabuki's throwing his awesome uppercuts, neither guy backing down, so Tenryu just hauls off and chops him in the throat. Kabuki sells it like someone did him with a pocket knife and he never forgets for the rest of the match. His revenge suprkick down the stretch felt like a fucking revenge spot. Orihara takes a total shit-kicking here and works THREE extended isolation segments. I thought he was pretty great working as your defiant underdog that refuses to give the invaders the satisfaction of beating him, and of course that prompts the invaders to lay it in some more. The final Kimura running knee he takes was just disgusting.

DVDVR Memphis Set, Top 60: #53

Tommy Rich v Moondog Rex (4/22/85)

I'm not entirely sure why I put this so high at the time. It's a good match, but #53 seems a bit too high, especially considering I had it above the AWESOME Savage/Rude match I talked about yesterday.

Match goes about 11 minutes, the first half with Tommy in control working the arm. Moondog Rex working this kind of standard match instead of beating the shit out of Stan Lane and Steve Keirn and bleeding all over the place and shit isn't really the Moondog Rex I got the most enjoyment out of on this set, but he's good at getting frustrated and working in and around Tommy's armbar. I've been watching Goodhelmet's Buddy Rose set recently and Rose is a guy that is really good at working an arm and making it look really rough and painful. Tommy isn't the ideal Buddy Rose here, but he's perfectly solid and keeps things interesting enough.

Rex eventually takes over with a really cool transition spot. He points to Tommy's elbow pad and tells the ref' he's hiding something up there, so when the ref' goes to check on him Rex just plasters him with an elbow to the face. I like a good transition spot. I like a good cheapshot. This was both.

Rex is fine in control, but he's still a Moondog and there isn't really the kind of out of control brawling you want from a Moondog. It's not fair to criticise him for that since the situation doesn't exactly call for it, but Moondog headlock spots are never as satisfying as Moondog face biting or dinosaur bone hurling spots. Still, he punches Tommy in the head a bunch and shakes his hand out after it and I get a huge kick out of guys going that.

Lou Thesz is out doing commentary with Lance here so I dug the finish as a nice little nod. Whole match was fun, really. Good, solid stuff. I don't know what it was that made me think so highly of it the first time, but it's still the kind of simple match I can sit through no problem.

Monday, 14 February 2011

DVDVR Memphis Set, Top 60: #54

Randy Savage v Rick Rude (9/3/84)

Did these two ever have anything worth seeking out in the WWF? I'm assuming there might have been something in '88 when Savage was the champ, or maybe in the second half of '87 after Savage had been turned babyface, but after he turned heel again in '89 it seems unlikely. Reason I'm asking is because this match-up is a ton of fun, and I'm really interested in what a WWF version would've been like.

Match goes about 11 minutes. They actually make physical contact two times in the entire first half. It was awesome.

Starts out with Rude doing the phantom foreign object shtick, slipping it into some part of his gear and then moving it to another part whenever the ref' checks him. He'll stuff it in his tights first, but the ref' checks his kneepads and boots and doesn't find anything. Savage is pissed and acts like a nut and the ref's trying to calm him down. While this is going on Rude takes the "object" from his tights and shoves it under his kneepad. Ref' checks Rude again before Savage murders him. This time he looks in the tights and finds nothing. Rude is vindicated. Savage is ready to stab someone in the face.

Jimmy Hart gets in on things and he and Rude pass the object between them. Savage spots it and literally chases Hart backstage. When he comes back out to the ring, he starts the phantom object shtick and now Rude's pissed. Savage and his old man play "passing the object" and by this point the ref' has no idea what's going on.

Then Rude starts a pose-off. Rude is as shredded as I've ever seen him here, btw. He looks like a drawing from a Marvel comic book. Savage of course responds and Rude is shocked and appalled that people could think a fool like Savage is a better poser than him.

By the time they finally make contact for the first time we're about 4 minutes in. Savage's airplane spin is a HELL of a way to get the ball rolling, though. This is a motherfucking airplane spin right here. He spins around really fast and Rude has that crazy perm that blows around like he's stuck in one of those NASA space shuttle takeoff simulators and you can totally buy him being too dizzy to stand up afterwards. He takes this awesome stoogey Jerry Estrada like spill out of the ring after it, and Savage, who some how managed to actually stay on his feet, follows him out, hops up on the announce table, shouts something over the house mic, and throws a cup of confetti all over Rude's head. The part on one of the extras discs where Savage tears up a photo of Lawler, throws it in the air and screams "CONFETTI!" was seriously one of my favourite things on the entire set, primarily because Savage is absolutely wired to the motherfucking moon like a complete fucking psychopath. I had no memory of him doing that spot in this match and it honestly had me on the floor. Rude's "What the fuck is wrong with you?" look after it really sealed the deal.

They eventually transition into the actual wrestling part when Jimmy Hart reappears and gets up on the apron. Savage is clearly a maniac and is distracted but it, so Rude jumps him and takes over. Rude is really good at strutting and being a cocky douche, rubbing the ref's bald head for giving him warning about closed fists. At some point Savage fights back and things spill to the floor, then the ref' winds up having to split up a scuffle between Hart and Savage's old man.

It's been so long since I've watched stuff from this set that I'm struggling to remember anything about anything. I had forgotten how this ended, but I was pretty disappointed with the finish here. At this point I'm more than a little used to a good (read: not good) old 80s finish, so it usually takes something to actively annoy me. No idea how I reacted to it the first time, but I was digging the absolute Hell out of this and I just wasn't ready for it to end so soon. Still, it sets up another couple matches that I wound up loving, and everything leading up to it was a blast, anyway.

I could totally see someone not being all that high on a match like this. First half is basically 5 guys (Savage, Rude, Hart, Angelo Poffo, bald ref' who's name I forget) working a bunch of horseshit. I love horseshit in my pro-wrestling, though, and this was fucking awesome horseshit. The CONFETTI spot made my day. Second half doesn't have anything that'll blow you away from an in-ring/WORKRATE~ standpoint, but I dug what they brought to the table. Finish was really the only thing that disappointed me. This is Memphis, motherfucker.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

That Time I Got Drunk With Tenryu #6

This is Yoshiaki Fujiwara week. Most of what I've been watching recently has been from the WAR/New Japan feud, but I've already rambled about all of that in separate entries like an out of control dork. Everything in between the WAR stuff has been Fujiwara. The title says Tenryu, but THIS time I got drunk with Fujiwara.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara v Riki Choshu (New Japan, 6/9/87)

So this has always kind of felt like a match in 1987 between a Japanese Steve Austin circa-1997 and a Japanese John Cena circa-2007. Fujiwara is your 1997 Steve Austin where he's doing whatever the fuck he pleases and the crowd are completely losing it for him. Choshu is your 2007 John Cena where he gets mauled and sells like crazy and is just fantastic working from the bottom, but there's still a large part of the audience that refuse to get behind him (I guess '06 Cena would be a better comparison from that standpoint, but Cena was a far better worker in '07... and I'm tickled by the '87-'97-'07 'decades ending in sevens' thing so I'll just run with it). I had this as my overall #3 on the New Japan 80s set and it's been one of all-time favourite matches ever since I first watched it 3 years ago. Fujiwara is just ridiculously great here. Nobody in wrestling history has better facial expressions than him and we get a few corkers in this. He jumps Choshu right at the start and just continually lays into him, tossing him into the ring post, busting him open, choking him, throwing awesome Fujiwara headbutts, etc. Crowd reaction to this is incredible, and as Fujiwara's getting into the ring for the first time post-mugging on the floor, he has this amazing little smile on his face, like a subtle nod to everybody that's been chanting his name. He cuts off Choshu by just wrestling him to the mat and blatantly choking him with this "HEEEERE'S JOHNNY!" grin on his face. Then he'll pin him after a piledriver and pick him up voluntarily while there's this collective "Oh man he's not finished yet" reaction from the crowd. Choshu will throw out a few kicks and Fujiwara will tell him to bring it and then he'll just wrap his hands around his throat and start choking him again. The early parts of it feel like the opening rudo beatdown caida in a lucha hair match. There's this utterly amazing moment where Choshu backs him into the corner and starts punching him in the face, and Fujiwara's expressions go from amusement to annoyance to defiance before capping it off with the greatest look of sheer and utter contempt I've ever seen, and of course he then goes back to clawing at Choshu's throat while there's a huge Fujiwara chant. Choshu finally manages to take control with a backdrop, and Fujiwara's surprised "Oh, shit!" face as he's going up is just out of this world. I mean, it's getting to the point where I'm running out of superlatives to describe Fujiwara making pretend faces, but Jesus Christ are they fucking great. Choshu's only in control briefly before he goes for a suplex, and the pop for Fujiwara's reverse of it into a Fujiwara armbar is insane. Fujiwara's shit eating grin is just... there are no words. Bar one scare, Fujiwara's basically been in control for the entire match at this point, but he gets cocky and takes the ring pad off the turnbuckles. Choshu reverses the whip in and Fujiwara eats the steel, and Choshu just nukes him with a lariat. Fujiwara takes it almost side on and it looks like he got clipped by a bus. Second lariat attempt is reversed into another Fujiwara armbar and the crowd reaction to this is totally spectacular, like Austin stunning McMahon or Goldberg getting The Giant up for the Jackhammer. They spill out to the floor where Choshu blasts Fujiwara's head off the post a couple times, and Fujiwara's blade job is absolutely ridiculous. I've seen a ton of Fujiwara blade jobs where there's a trickle of blood above the nose, but he is a hideous fucking mess here. Doesn't even need to be said, but his sell of the blood loss is outstanding, throwing headbutts and doing this stagger where he's all but ready to collapse, like the headbutts are doing as much damage to himself as they are to his opponent. I can't even describe the way he takes the last couple lariats and do it anywhere close to enough justice. Just a phenomenal match, so simple yet so amazingly effective. And the facial expressions. Bah gawd, the facial expressions.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara v Nobuhiko Takada (UWF, 2/27/90)

This is the first time I've seen Takada since the New Japan set. He's bulked up quite a bit in the two years between his last match on that set and here. He's not exactly fat, but he's really puffy, kinda like someone stuck Samoa Joe's head on Helmsley's body. I'm not sure how good this is as an actual match, because Takada really wasn't very good in his own right, but holy fuck is it a Hell of a Fujiwara performance. He is just on another level entirely when it comes to selling Takada's strikes. Takada looks pretty gassed for a lot of this and doesn't hit everything clean, but Fujiwara sells in a way that lets you know what *does* connect. He'll parry the weaker shots that aren't landing flush and keep moving. Then as time goes on, even the shots that only partially land are managing to take their toll. There's a great moment where he's able to catch a kick that's aimed at his stomach, but gets a hold of it a little too late to keep it from getting through his defence, and he does this utterly amazing sell of it by falling to his knees in a heap while trying to cling onto the leg. It's at this point where he starts bouncing around smiling and taunting, like he's trying to goad Takada into making a mistake. He's been patient up until now and it hasn't gotten him anywhere, so it's time to switch up the strategy. Another great moment where he backs Takada into the corner and just rams him with a headbutt. Takada's revenge headbutt in the same corner is probably the best thing he did in the entire match. Also liked the finish, although that was all Fujiwara, too. Everything that was good about this other than one payback spot can basically be attributed to Fujiwara. Everything. I guess Takada "holding up his end" was all he really needed to do when his opponent is performing on the level he was, but there's still plenty of instances where he sucks the life out of the match as well. There's one spot where he has Fujiwara reeling after a series of kicks in the corner, so he just slaps on a kneebar and sits there. You can't even call it an attempt at a submission because he doesn't *do* anything. Doesn't feel like he's showing any impetus to actually win the match at any point. Work this exact same story with, say, Yamazaki in Takada's place and I can't imagine it not being a whole lot better as an actual match. But you still can't take anything away from Fujiwara, seriously.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara v Akira Maeda (UWF, 2/9/90)

This is probably one of the better match-ups in wrestling history. I'm not sure where this ranks on the Fujiwara v Maeda scale, but it was pretty great however you want to look at it. Match is wrestled almost entirely on the mat. There's brief exchanges on the feet whenever the matwork is broken up, but it's practically all about what they're doing on the mat. Even the best strikes happen on the mat, including Fujiwara's amazing diving headbutt through Maeda's guard, which is one of the best spots I've ever seen. Maeda's kick to the teeth to break up the ankle pick towards the end looked nasty as shit. Also leads to Fujiwara gurgling blood while Maeda's got him in a choke, and any match where Fujiwara starts gurgling is a match you want to see. Maeda's also far better on the mat than Takada, so there's always the sense either guy could cause a tap out with the right twist or pull. Takada mostly looked like he was clueless in the 2/27 match. Finish is boss, too.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara v Nobuhiko Takada (UWF, 10/25/90)

Takada has bulked up even more here and kind of looks like Glenn Shadix. His chin doesn't even look real; like someone's cut the neck off a fat suit and just stuck it on his face. It'd probably be really distracting if this wasn't a fucking awesome match. Takada is much better in this than he was in the February match. His matwork is still pretty poor and his strikes don't look particularly great, which is unfortunate since this is mostly worked standing up, but there's times where his selling of Fujiwara's strikes is really spectacular; collapsing on a 7 count before just managing to get back up before 10, staggering back with great "concussed" facial expressions, etc. Just a flat out better performance in every department. This is still your Fujiwara show, though, and what a show it is. His performance in the February match was sublime, but I think he might be even better here. 25 minute+ match that's mostly stand-up isn't really what you want out of your Fujiwara, but he starts this by laying in a bunch of punches to the body and some great headbutts (Fujiwara's shoot-style headbutts are always awesome; he really bends his knees and rams up into you with the top of his head), just on a total tear like he's trying to kill this off and hit the showers in jig time. Also gotta mention his selling. You're pretty much guaranteed to get a few amazing moments of selling in any Fujiwara match, and holy shit are there a few amazing moments of selling in this. He tries to take Takada down at one point and winds up getting drilled with a palm strike, and the way he sort of delays his stagger backwards before collapsing in the corner is just ridiculously great. There's a lot of times where he'll eat a good strike and then smile like someone that's just taken a nasty hit and doesn't want to show it. Here he gets up out of the corner, looks out to the crowd, smiles, and dusts off his cheek. Breathtaking sell of a kick to the side towards the end as well. There are still a few spells on the mat that aren't great and begin to lull, but Fujiwara's one of those guys that's always doing *something* interesting, even if his opponent isn't. Positives far outweigh the negatives anyway, and this is a terrific match full of positives. I still think Dandy was the best in the world in '90, but Fujiwara's getting closer and closer every time I see him from that year.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Shinya Hashimoto v Kohei Sato & Hirotaka Yokoi (Zero-One, 8/15/04)

Man this was great; felt pretty Battlartsian at points with everybody really teeing off on each other. Sato and Yokoi are especially keen to let loose and Fujiwara winds up taking quite the shit kicking at points; full force punches to the face, kicks to the spine, etc. He gets worked over for a spell and there is a spot where he comes out of the corner with a surprise headbutt right to the side of Sato's face. Hashimoto is one of the best hot tags in history so you know what you're getting once he comes in. He has a big chop exchange with Sato and he really unloads with those overhand chops right to the neck. Sato is great at progressively being chopped down while firing back with strikes that he probably knows are doing less damage each time. 2000s Fujiwara is a well I've left relatively untapped up to this point, but it's something I really should get around to digging into soon.

Friday, 11 February 2011

There Is No Substitute For WAR!

Genichiro Tenryu & Takashi Ishikawa v Tatsumi Fujinami & Hiroshi Hase (WAR, 2/14/93)

Man the NJ/WAR feud was fucking great. Every Tenryu match has copious amounts of piss and vinegar by virtue of the fact it's a Tenryu match in the first place, but the inter-promotional stuff I've watched so far just ramps it up even more and I cannot get enough of it. And it's in fucking WAR where EVERYTHING is violent. How could I not love that? This has as much cheapshotting and hatred as you expect right from the get go, then Hase gets isolated and Tenryu and Ishikawa just take him to the cleaners. There's a ton of New Japan crowd support even though it's in WAR, and Ishikawa gets some huge heat at points. There's a great moment where he comes in illegally to drop a knee or an elbow on Hase, and a large section of the crowd goes totally nuts. Ishikawa's actually been one of the great discoveries that's come out of watching all this WAR stuff, and this is probably his best "big match" outing yet. There's some great Tenryu/Fujinami interactions here, too. Fujinami has Ishikawa in a dragon sleeper at one point and turns him around so he's facing Tenryu so he can taunt him while he chokes out his teammate. Of course Tenryu makes him pay for it later by punting and stomping him in the kidneys. Stretch run here is fantastic. Hase and Fujinami take Ishikawa out of play and reel off a bunch of NASTY suplexes on Tenryu -- there's a couple urunages from Hase that he takes right on his neck. Tenryu hanging tough long enough for Ishikawa to come back and clear house was amazing, and holy fuck can Ishikawa clear house; his last lariat to Hase to save Tenryu from another German suplex might have been the moment of the whole match. Even the post-match stuff in this feud is perfect. The build to an eventual Hashimoto/Tenryu match has been so great and I can't wait to see the payoff.

Ashura Hara & John Tenta v Haku & The Great Kabuki (WAR, 3/3/93)

The Tenta & Partner v Haku & Partner tag from 1/8 that I watched yesterday was pretty disappointing, but I figured there could be something really good with a little re-shuffling of the participants. This was it. Iaukea didn't do anything for me as Haku's partner in the 1/8 match, but Kabuki takes his place here and is not afraid to throw a mean fucking superkick. Kabuki's a guy that's never really had much of a rep for being good, but the Kabuki stuff I've watched on the Texas set, and now the stuff from WAR, says otherwise. He has these great uppercuts to the throat that look like he's really trying to smash your Adam's apple up into your mouth. Earthquake is your big oak tree as always and man does he take some nasty shots from Haku; giant chops and one crazy superkick right under the jaw. Hara is right there with Ishikawa and Kitahara as the top WAR discoveries and he does his thing again here. His headbutt exchange with Haku is the kind of thing I figured we'd see, and it didn't disappoint. This isn't something everybody will like. A lot of people will probably loathe it. But at this stage in my wrestling fandom, four lumpy dudes smacking each other around is something I can work with no problem.

Genichiro Tenryu & Takashi Ishikawa v Riki Choshu & Osamu Kido (WAR, 3/3/93)

Shockingly enough, this was really fucking good. Choshu and Tenryu are just great as your "team leaders" throwing down, but everybody really brings it here. Plenty of moments where one guy will rail off and punch or chop the opponent on the apron, and it culminates with Choshu winding up for a lariat on Ishikawa only to change direction at the last minute and nail Tenryu on the apron. That kicks off your crazy hot stretch run where Kido just explodes in a flurry of Fujiwara armbars and kneebars in an attempt to make someone tap out. He'll put Ishikawa in an armbar and Tenryu will kick him in the head to break it up, so he'll get up and put Tenryu in an armbar instead. Ishikawa will break that up so Kido will put HIM in an armbar. Tenryu stops that so Kido will grab his leg and hook a kneebar. Crowd is going freaking nuts and Osamu Kido is determined to submit a fool. Really awesome performance from him and I'm hoping there's a Kido v Tenryu singles match out there somewhere. Post-match is even better than the 2/14 post-match with the ring filling up and then you get an awesome shot of Hashimoto striding into the think of it like he just lives for this shit. Handheld guy forgets about the camera and it winds up tilting at an angle and this ring full of beef looks like the titanic is sinking. Then Hashimoto chucks a table so Tenryu gets on the mic and calls him out and then throws it at him. And I'm spent.

El Samurai v Ultimo Dragon (WAR, 3/7/93)

This felt like quite the Samurai carry job. Ultimo does his thing and isn't terrible or anything, but Samurai controls most of it and seems to be holding everything together. Match isn't spectacular, but I can say I'm glad I watched it. It's New Japan v WAR so there's at least the cool moments you probably wouldn't get if it wasn't inter-promotional, like Ultimo punching Samurai in the ear a bunch of times and Samurai getting great heat by acting like a dick that's above this WAR scrub. Didn't think they wasted a ton of time early with the perfunctory juniors matwork either, which was pretty impressive considering it goes almost 20 minutes. They even do a roll-up section towards the end that didn't annoy me. If anything, this makes me want to check out more Sammy in WAR.

John Tenta v Haku (WAR, 3/7/93)

This was fine, although I much preferred the tag from 3/3. There's the nasty shots I expected, but it felt kind of slow and plodding, and the stiffness wasn't enough to make up for it. I enjoy a lot of what these guys do in general, but I really wanted more from this. The post-match with Haku stalking Tenta with a table was probably the best part.

Koki Kitahara v Kuniaki Kobayashi (WAR, 3/7/93)

So these guys were a part of the 3/3 tag with Koshinaka and Orihara, which is a match I thought was a ton of fun, but I came away from it thinking Kobayashi dragged it down. The other three guys in the match were delivering the hate, but Kobayashi was just kind of there. Then this happens and holy shit was it great. Kobayashi is better here and you buy him as someone that hates the guy he's facing, but this is the Kitahara show all day long. He jumps Kobayashi before he gets to the ring and from there he just tries to kick the shit out of him. He spits on him, hurls chairs at him, punts him in the head Tenryu style, etc. In fairness to Kobayashi he gives about as good as he gets, but this was really at its best when Kitahara was bare knuckle punching him in his bloody forehead or kicking his face for a field goal. Kobayashi is really in the Kitahara role from the Kitahara/Ishikawa match I talked about a few days ago, where he's taking an absolute pasting and trying to hang on while the ref' considers stopping it. Kitahara is in the Ishikawa role where he's the one delivering the pasting and couldn't care less about whether the referee wants to check a cut or not. Ref' pushes him back, checks on Kobayashi, Kitahara gets restless and kicks him in the face some more. It was beautiful and violent and WAR in a nutshell.

Thursday, 10 February 2011


Akitoshi Saito v Nobukaza Hirai (WAR, 1/8/93)

This was a lot of fun. I'm assuming Hirai is sort of your enhancement talent guy because Saito beats the shit out of him and doesn't really sell much of what Hirai throws at him in return. I mean, I would've liked this even more if Saito had sold a little better, but they're clearly not working "even" and Saito bringing the ass-stompery outweighs the questionable selling, anyway. Because Saito really brings the ass-stompery. The kicks he's rolling off would look nasty enough to begin with, but this is in WAR and Saito's invading and there's the violence that comes with those two things, so they looks extra painful more often than not. I dug Hirai's strategy of going after the kicking leg, but Saito is having none of it and repeatedly caves his chest in. There's one powerbomb that probably would've killed Hirai if he never managed to tuck his head in at the *exact* second he did. Saito looked like a first class brick shithouse here and I'm hoping there's some Saito/Tenryu interactions at some point.

John Tenta & Koki Kitahara v Haku & Curtis Iaukea (WAR, 1/8/93)

This was kind of disappointing. Earthquake looked real good for the most part and Kitahara already feels like someone who's been shamefully overlooked, but the match never really ventured into the territory that you expect when there's four guys like this having a match in WAR. Iaukea looked pretty crummy and has really weak strikes that you notice right away if you've been watching a bunch of WAR for the last few days. The Haku/Tenta exchanges has me looking forward to a singles match, though. Haku really clams him with a superkick to the chin at one point. Tenta has this sort of less mentally challenged Lennie Small type charisma where he might seem like a big dope on the surface, but he can pancake you in a second if you force him to. The ref' tries to break up a Tenta/Haku altercation and winds up getting belly bounced across the ring. Wasn't even a bump. Earthquake just walks into him and he goes flying. A little re-casting and this feels like it could be pretty boss.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v The Great Kabuki & Masaji Aoyagi (WAR, 1/8/93)

Now THIS is what I'm talking about. This is the first Tenryu main event tag I've watched from the WAR stuff so far and it already feels like something I'm gonna love. Tenryu might be the best wrestler ever when it comes to conveying a sense of contempt; this wasn't on the level of the truly venomous Tenryu performances - although that is such a high bar - but holy fuck does Aoyagi earn his ire here. Aoyagi is yet another one of these WAR guys that I don't remember seeing before, but he kind of looks like current day Keiji Mutoh if he went dressed as Mr. Miyagi for Halloween. He's wearing a gi and ditches the top half when Tenryu starts throwing chops at his chest. Tenryu sees this as a slight and starts hitting him even harder, and before long he's kicking him in the eye and chopping him in the throat while Aoyagi is crawling around the ring bleeding. Hara is pretty great at throwing coconut headbutts, and he fits right in there as a Tenryu teammate. I mean, when you're a heavyweight teaming with Tenryu you really need to be able to throw down. He definitely throws down. Thought Kabuki was really good here, too. All of his uppercuts looked nasty, he catches Tenryu with a superkick to the throat, and is generally a good match-up with both Tenryu and Hara whenever he's called upon. There isn't a ton of him, but when he's in you can't really ask for much more. Post-match has a big pull apart and there's a moment where a chair comes flying into the shot. You notice Tenryu isn't in the ring and know who threw that chair. Tenryu's your star here (I didn't mention any of his selling, but man is that great as well), but everybody brought it this was just a ton of violent fun.

Shinya Hashimoto, Keiji Mutoh & Akira Nogami v Genichiro Tenryu, Takashi Ishikawa & AshuraHara (New Japan, 2/5/93)

Oh man, Hashimoto and Tenryu just hate each other and I cannot wait to get to their singles matches later in the year (actually I'm stoked about any interactions between the two, period). Hashimoto just wants to fight and kill someone and Tenryu just glares at him and from time to time this little smirk will appear on his face like he's enjoying the thought of unleashing Hell. And of course I see that and I do more than just smirk. Tenryu really has an incredible aura; he just feels like the most badass motherfucker on the planet. There's a great moment where Hashimoto clobbers him with a kick or something (I don't recall exactly, something stuff anyway) and then Mutoh flies into the screen and floors him with a bulldog out of nowhere. They they both start dropping elbows on him, then Nogami joins in and all three are dropping elbows, and the crowd totally come unglued for it. Nogami was actually pretty awesome in this, not just when it came to punching above his weight, but also as your underdog eating a boat load of punishment. Hara is cracking him with headbutts and Ishikawa is hurling lariats at him, then Tenryu gets the tag and starts rubbing his hands together and you feel sorry for the guy because you just know he's about to receive a grade-A potatoing. And sure enough he gets chopped right in the Adam's apple. Mutoh's over like crazy here, cheapshots Tenryu on the apron a couple times and generally doesn't suck, but he really feels like the least of the three guys on team New Japan. Tenryu/Hahsimoto is the match-up you want to see after this. Tenryu/Nogami is a match-up I really hope is out there somewhere. Tenryu/Mutoh isn't quite as enticing.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

WAR! People Kick Other People In The Face In WAR!

So the Segunda Caida crew have been reviewing a bunch of WAR over the past however many months, and it all sounds ridiculously fun and violent and awesome. I've been holding off on digging into it until Goodhelmet's Tenryu set is ready to go, but last night I caved and figured I'd get myself a small taste. It tasted like fucking WAR.

Takashi Ishikawa v Koki Kitahara (WAR, 7/15/92)

I don't know if I've ever seen an Ishikawa match before. He was a part of a couple All Japan six-man tags during the Jumbo-Tenryu/Choshu-Yatsu feud in the mid-80s that I have, but I'm blanking on whether I bothered to actually watch them after burning them onto a disc however long ago. Pretty sure this is the second Kitahara match I've seen. The first was the New Japan tag where he was teaming with Tenryu against Liger and Fujinami where he was aping the "come out and play-aaaayyyy" guy from The Warriors with the jeans and t-shirt and funky bandana, but Tenryu and Liger stole that particular show while Kitahara was pretty much limited to throwing a bunch of kicks and soaking up boos, so you don't really get a handle on how good or bad he is. The WAR crowd are totally behind him here, though. Primarily because Ishikawa just fucking murders his face. If this is what Ishikawa is always like then I need to get a hold of as much Ishikawa footage as I can, because he is just a nasty violent motherfucker. Kitahara comes into this with a bandage above his eye and after a couple minutes Ishikawa narrows right in on it. He potatoes him with two ridiculous punches to open him up, and from there Kitahara crawls around half blind while Ishikawa punts him, stomps him, knees him, kicks him in the eye and face. Kitahara will rifle off a kick from time to time and the crowd really rally behind him, but all roads lead back to Ishikawa brutalising him. The ref' is trying to get him to stay back so he can check the cut, but he's having none of it and eventually it's thrown out before there's an honest to goodness maiming. Ishikawa's reaction to this is sort of "Fuck it, I knew this would happen anyway" and as he's walking away he takes one last penalty kick to Kitahara's face like it's nothing. Such a violent shitstorm of a performance from Ishikawa, and you really come away from this with that in your mind, but I thought Kitahara was good as your underdog taking a complete mauling and continually coming back. This was my kind of wrestling.

Shiro Koshinaka & Kuniaki Kobayashi v Koki Kitahara & Masao Orihara (WAR, 3/3/93)

Koshinaka's a guy I didn't like much at all on the New Japan 80s set and actively dreaded watching a lot of his matches. That said, this is WAR and everything already just seems better in WAR. Koshinaka taking it to the mat and diddling around isn't the Koshinaka I want. Koshinaka potatoing people is the Koshinaka I want. This was potato Koshinaka, just punching guys in the face and stomping them in the head. Even his hip attacks looked nasty, like he was jamming the point of the bone right into the opponent's cheek. Also does lots of stuff with a smile on his face; totally came across as a guy that loved the idea of being a nasty bastard. There was one annoying moment where he no-sold a piledriver, but who's perfect, right? Kitahara and Orihara are really good as your home team defending WAR turf here. Kitahara continues to take a man-sized whooping, only this time he has two good eyes and manages to hold his own much better. Orihara just hates Koshinaka and there's a great moment where Kosh has Kitahara in a half crab, so Orihara comes in and blasts him clean in the face with a roundhouse kick. Koshinaka looks at him with pure disgust and refuses to let go, so Orihara cracks him with this reckless roundhouse right square on the ear. Kobayashi was just kinda there for the most part, though. The other three guys are bringing the hate and stiffness like it's WAR, and from time to time he'll border on that level, but most of the time it seems more like a Davey Richards approximation of ROH INTENSITY. And that shit just won't cut it.

Shinya Hashimoto v Hiromichi Fuyuki (WAR, 3/3/93)

I guess recently I kind of lost sight of how good Hashimoto was. I've been watching a lot of early 90s New Japan over the last couple months and I've found most of it to be really dull and/or boring. The Hashimoto stuff is always at least interesting on some level, but almost everything else sort of put me in a New Japan slump. This was exactly what I needed to pull me out of it (even if it's technically not "New Japan"... it's part of a New Japan feud so fuck it, it counts). Both guys are really great at capturing an aura of hate for the other; just from staring at each other from across the ring you can tell they have bad intentions on their mind. They do a big pull apart brawl at the start and Hashimoto even takes a swing at one of his own boys because he wants the ring clear, and fuck anybody trying to calm him down. Once things do settle down they actually take it to the mat and work a slow burner, which isn't really what I was expecting. But I can't complain because all of the matwork is really heated and gritty, and there wasn't any point where I found myself zoning out like I did with a bunch of Chono and Mutoh matches recently (I'm not sure why I bothered to watch them in the first place because I don't even like either guy). Plus they break up the spells on the mat by hitting each other really fucking hard. I mean, I can't recall ever thinking these guys didn't seriously dislike each other, whether they were on the mat or standing toe to toe, it always felt like a case of one guy trying to hurt the other. So it always felt like WAR, basically. Fuyuki's another guy that's new to me, but my first impressions of him were good. He brings the hate and violence and drops Hashimoto with a fucker of a DDT, and that's really all I was hoping for out of him. His selling at the end was pretty awesome, too. He's a dude that just got planted on the top of his head with a DDT and he sells like a dude that just got planted on the top of his head with a DDT, all dazed and confused like.

I was planning on ordering a bunch of RINGS in the near future, but after this I'm thinking I need to join the WAR party ASAP. It just seems like the easiest promotion in history to watch if pro-wrestling with violence and dudes beating the fuck out of each other is your kind of pro-wrestling. And I haven't even got to the Tenryu stuff yet.