Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Well Finlay Bought a Chevy '40 Coupe Deluxe, Chrome Wheels, Shtick Shaft, Give Her Gas, Pop the Clutch

Finlay v Chris Benoit (Smackdown!, 5/5/06)

This is one of my favourite match-ups in wrestling history and this go around might be in my top 3 Finlay/Benoit matches. In some ways it sort of feels like a test run for the Judgment Day match (which I've watched a bunch of times and probably will again pretty soon). It has the intense sense of struggle, the mean strikes, and generally feels gritty as all Hell. The opening section on the mat has Taz marking out on commentary and really does come across as being super rugged and uncooperative. 2006 is my favourite year of Finlay's career, and the more I think about it the more I'm leaning towards it being my favourite year of Benoit's as well. Felt like he was able to really stretch out with guys like Finlay, Regal and Orton and focus less on hitting all of his signature stuff (which is a "WWE Style" issue). Of course Finlay and Regal were more than happy to work this kind of match, and Orton's willingness to do the same actually surprised me when I checked those matches out, so working with them for a nice chunk of the year probably helps. Anyways, Benoit gets to work the mat like he didn't normally get the chance to, and Finlay is Finlay and fucking rocks on the mat, so all of the early stuff is great and leads to both guys getting pissed off and ready to punch someone in the ear. At some point Benoit starts bleeding from the top of his head and Finlay winds up with a bruised eye, and I have no idea how either happened. The causes could've been from a million different things, and that's usually when you know you're watching a Fit Finlay v Chris Benoit match. Also love how Finlay always manages to get across the idea that Benoit's chops are lethal and something you really want to avoid. He ducks the first one Benoit throws and nods a finger and the crowd is all "ooohhh" like "he's lucky he dodged that one." Benoit threw roughly six billion chops in his WWE career and it was something you just expected from him. Chris Benoit was a knife edge chop guy just like Ric Flair was a knife edge chop guy just like Kenta Kobashi was(is?) a knife edge chop guy. They were always over and treated as being something that'd hurt like crazy. But there weren't too many guys that managed to make them seem "special" and actually build to them like Finlay did. Benoit was really good in '06, but Finlay was the fucking man and this is up there towards the top of a best Finlay matches of 2006 list.

Finlay Project

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Sting & Vader! And a Midget! At the WHITE CASTLE!!!

Vader v Sting (Strap Match - WCW SuperBrawl III, 2/21/93)

The build up video packages to this are truly too spectacular to describe. Totally ridiculous and hilarious and there's Cheatum the Evil Midget. The build up as a whole was legitimately really good (the video packages are awful, but in the best way possible). Vader kills a jobber on an episode of Saturday Night, smears face pain over him and starts whipping him with a strap. There's a tag match from late January where Race holds Sting down and Vader whips him across the back. A week later Sting has a match with Barry Windham (Vader's partner in the aforementioned tag) and he winds up trying to hang him with the strap. And there's Cheatum the Evil Midget and a tug of war over a burning dinner table.

Actual match has always been my favourite of the Sting/Vader matches, and I didn't change my mind this time around. Really feels like one of the definitive violent masterpieces in wrestling history. Vader just yanks Sting across the ring with the strap a couple times at the start, and you get the sense he's gonna enjoy fucking around with him like this. Sting is a strong dude, but can he do much of anything when he's literally attached to Vader? Dragging him around the ring so he can touch all four corners is akin to towing a horsebox up a hill with a BMX. And even if he can possibly overcome the GIRTH, there's still the fact Vader will punch your fucking face through the back of your head if you get close enough to him. And well, the strap means you can't really NOT get close to him. The early stages are all Vader and before long he's whipping Sting like a mule, using the strap to draw him in close so he can squash him, dropping big elbows (there's one where he blatantly elbow drops Sting in the nuts), splashing him, etc. Sting takes over by essentially using the strap to force Vader into punching himself in the balls, and he goes on a great run of offense. You can clearly see Harley taking the blade across Vader's back after Sting's whipped him a bunch of times, and the visual of Vader stumbling around with his back all cut up was always a crazy violent image that stuck with me from the first time I saw the match. Love the spot where Sting uses the strap to draw Vader face-first into the ring post, and Sting trying to touch all four posts *outside* the ring is something I've always thought was really cool. Sting torpedoing head-first into the barricade is another nasty spot in a match full of nasty spots.

Then we hit the final third and the brutality ramps way up. Vader's big paws open a cut in Sting's forehead and it's anybody's guess as to whether or not his stumbling around the ring is a sell job or not. Because Vader is really laying in the big paws. Feels like I've said that about Vader's punches a million times since I started this blog, but they're honestly as repulsive here as I've ever seen them. Sting's comeback is really tremendous. The German suplex is always a great spot in their matches, but the moment of the match for me is Sting's return onslaught in the corner. I don't think of Sting as a great puncher, but he threw some awesome punches earlier on when both guys were teeing off on each other (while they were on their knees. It fucking ruled), and the close up image of him rifling Vader with HUGE punches while Vader's crumpled like a lifeless sack in the corner was fucking amazing. He kind of collapses after he's punched himself out like a man who's just been pushed to commit horrific violence he never knew he had in him. And then he follows it up with one of the most impressive feats of strength I can recall seeing in wrestling when he carries Vader on his shoulders around the whole ring only to have Nick Patrick accidentally trip him up (after a really good ref' bump) six inches before touching the last turnbuckle, leaving Vader's entire dead weight to drop on top of him when he hits the mat. So close yet so far. Vader's back is all cut up, his ear is mutilated, he's covered in blood...he looks much worse off than Sting does. But Sting just towed a horsebox up a hill on a BMX before getting a freak puncture. Now he's got nothing left. Doesn't matter if he holds onto the ropes for dear life, doesn't matter if he tries to kick and claw and fight it. That stumble at the last hurdle has beaten him.

Just an epic piece of pro-wrestling.

Monday, 27 June 2011

DVDVR All Japan Set, Disc 2

Starting to work my way through this a little quicker now, so here's hoping I can finish it before the deadline (which will still probably be a while, anyway). Hansen showing up and RULING IT will likely spur me on.

Ricky Steamboat & Chavo Guerrero v Mil Mascaras & Dos Caras (9/6/81)
- Thought this was pretty damn good, but by the time it got to the half hour mark I was kind of hoping it'd just hurry up and end already. First fall had some really nifty lucha matwork and managed to convey a nice sense of struggle, plus it had Chavo Guerrero and Ricky Steamboat as a tag team. That is a fucking dream tag team. Ricky Steamboat and Chavo Guerrero v Sgt. Slaughter and Dick Murdoch is now my dream match. God damn. Finish to the first fall was really good. Second and third falls both had some more neat stuff on the mat, and we even get a Dos Caras bullet tope as the cherry on top. Mil's outfit is truly splendiferous.

Terry & Dory Funk v Umanoseke Ueda & Buck Robley (10/6/81)
- Man, Ueda and Robley are just about the most random pairing ever. Although both guys look pretty fucking scuzzy so maybe it isn't random after all. Thought this was really good, and my favourite tag on the set up to this point. Robley and Ueda just keep tossing the Funks out to the floor any chance they get early on, and this seems to wind Terry and Dory up more and more every time it happens. Leads to some great "put your dukes up and fight like a FUCKING MAN" moments and Terry unloads with a couple amazing punch combos on both guys. Eventually Ueda and Robley get what they want - which is basically a riot on the floor - and at this point I figured we were heading to a double DQ or count out of whatever the non-finish of the day was that day. Except that doesn't happen and things get AWESOME when Terry blades his fuggin' ear and the scumbags start working it over. I love it when guys work a cut. I love it when guys target some obscure body part for a beatdown. This had both. And above all else it's Terry Funk selling the shit out of being stomped and rabbit punched in the EAR. Dory pretty much sucked the life out of the Funks tag on disc one, but his hot tag here is a trillion times better and he comes much closer to bringing the sort of piss and vinegar that you'd want from a guy whose brother's just had his ear cut to bits by a pair of ratty looking alcoholics. And then there's the post-match angle with Brody murdering some kid that I'm guessing is a Funk relative. This won't land top 50 or anything, but it's pretty much exactly what I wanted out of it.

Dory Funk Jr. v Bruiser Brody (10/9/81)
- I don't much like either of these guys, but this was a really good sub-ten minute back alley fight with all the blood and heat you'd want. Brody basically smacks the shit out of Dory for the first six minutes; cuts him open, throws him into ring posts, boots him in the face, etc. Crowd is totally nuts for Dory and they just blow their stack when Dory fires back with a single forearm. Then he dishes out as good as he got in the first place and this crowd wants blood. And of course it's Brody so not only do you get the blood, but you also get to see him taking the blade and creating the cut the blood will come from. Post-match is great again with Robley hitting the scene, Dory and Brody whipping each other with a chain, and finally Terry showing up in a plaid jacket and amazing cowboy boots. Riots ensue, fans scatter for their lives, ring boys get abused. I'm a happy camper.

Ric Flair v Jumbo Tsuruta (10/9/81)
- I was hungover like a cunt when I watched this and wasn't paying a great deal of attention, so I'll probably give it another spin before the deadline, but for the most part I thought it was good. First fall sort of lost me and felt a little dull at points. Jumbo controlling things early with the headlock wasn't really done in any sort of particularly compelling way, but his flurry of offense to end the fall was great and had the crowd amped. Flair taking the second fall and visibly becoming more and more cocky, "wooing" left and right, was really good. Third fall was... I dunno, maybe I passed out for a few minutes because I'm not remembering much about it other than the finish. Yeah, I'll toss this one of the re-watch pile.

Terry & Dory Funk v Bruiser Brody & Jimmy Snuka (12/13/81)
- I've always loved this, and after another watch I still love it. Seems pretty silly to say something is better than it probably has any right to be when that something has Terry Funk in it, but still, I've always thought this was sort of a miracle match. Snuka is fucking aces in this. Dude has crazy hops (while I'm talking about guys jumping real high, Brody always gets huge height on his knee drop), busts out a bunch of sweet highspots, generally looks like a psycho, etc. There's a spot early on where he does this awesome double leap frog over Dory, then when he tries it again later on Dory catches him, hits a spinebuster and winds up the old spinning toe hold. This is also the Stan Hansen All Japan debut as he comes out to the ring with Brody and Snuka, and I guess this is a pretty famous match as a result. He nukes Terry with a lariat down the stretch, and that leaves Dory to fight the odds on his own. You really want Terry being the guy in that role, but Dory brings as much piss and vinegar as I think I've ever seen him bring before and I thought he was perfectly good. Crowd really explode for some of the nearfalls, too. Arguably a career match for three of the guys in this, and another great match for Terry's resume. Top of the pile so far, although I'm going back and forth between this and Bock/Billy.

Genichiro Tenryu v Mil Mascaras (2/4/82)
- Super nifty match. I love Tenryu and will pretty much enjoy anything he is in, but I didn't expect this to be as fun as it was. Tenryu isn't a guy I think of as being a great mat worker, but the stuff on the ground here was really cool and slick, and it built nicely to them throwing bombs at the end. Final few minutes are actually awesome with Tenryu hitting a tope and coming close to pulling out the upset. Finish isn't executed very well, but I liked the idea (and I was buying it being over after the cross body). Tenryu is the fucking greatest.

Stan Hansen v Giant Baba (2/4/82)
- Oh man, HANSEN is also the fucking greatest. I don't really have much of an opinion on Baba either way - he doesn't annoy me or anything and I can't hate big goofy pro-wrestlers whose nipples are level with their bellybutton - but this was just ridiculously fun. Jingus on PWO said this about Hansen that's really a perfect description and reason why this match worked as well as it did: "Hansen might've been Baba's best opponent. Stan sold Shohei's offense perfectly. And when I say that, I don't just mean "he pinball-bumped around the ring and screamed in pain for even the weakest strikes". I mean he had this way of selling the hell out of it while very much *not* looking like he was over-selling. Some guys would try too hard to make Baba's offense look good, and it ended up almost looking like a comedy match when they'd fling themselves around for those weak-ass chops and such. Hansen walked a tightrope and made it look like the stuff hurt without insulting your intelligence about it." He really sold everything here like a champ. Story here is basically Baba going Roman on Hansen's lariat arm while Stan tries to cut the big man down to size by going after the leg. Crowd is fucking nuclear as well. Baba also takes a real nasty bump off of the lariat at the end, falling backwards into the ropes and whipping his neck against the bottom rope. Looked like someone threw a tree into the side of a house. Finish is what it is, but I can deal. Might be my favourite Baba match ever.

Bruiser Brody v Dory Funk Jr. (4/21/82)
- Eh, first half was pretty shitty and featured some of the driest matwork I've ever seen (especially from a guy with a rep as a great "technical wrestler"), but then Brody thankfully gets fed up and starts assaulting Dory with a chair. Dory bleeds all over the ship then Brody winds up doing the same, and the second half doesn't exactly set my world on fire either, but there's tonnes of blood and the crowd pick up and there's no more shitty greco-roman knuckle locks. Not really good, though, and probably gonna finish somewhere towards the bottom.

Stan Hansen v Giant Baba (4/22/82)
- Liked their first match better, but this was different in that they eschewed the dueling body part work in favour of a bomb throwing sprint. Totally have a broner for Hansen right now. I mean I'm probably overrating this just based on the fact he's in it, but fuck it, everything he did in the two matches opposite the big man was great and this was as hectic and crazy as I wanted it to be. Hansen so much as whips Baba into the ropes and there's this sense of impending doom because there's the chance he's about to decapitate him with a lariat. How many people can make an Irish whip seem like the deadliest thing ever? Post-match he kills some guy in a tracksuit. I'm guessing I'll be a high voter for both Hansen/Baba matches so far.

Ric Flair v Ricky Steamboat (6/4/82)
- Might be their "weakest" match of the decade (that I've seen), but this is still one of the all-time best match-ups in pro-wrestling and I could probably enjoy it any time they wrestle each other. They run through a few spots that they'd bust out in their better matches and they both lay into each other with the chops like it's Flair v Steamboat. Dug the finish as well. I suspect I'll have this top half, although top 50 seems unlikely.

Friday, 24 June 2011

That Time I Got Drunk With Tenryu #8

Haven't done one of these in a while, but I came across some thoughts on a couple RINGS matches from a few months ago that I thought I had already posted, and I've been tearing into Goodhelmet's '93 yearbook, so I figured now would be as good a time as any to get back on the horse. Here's hoping I actually manage to reach a #10.

Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada v Steve Williams & Terry Gordy (All Japan, 1/30/93)

Really good slow-burning tag, mostly built around Doc and Gordy being surly big motherfuckers. The "feeling out" at the start felt sort of listless to me, but it kicks into gear once Kawada starts eating an extended beating. The MVC don't exactly do anything fancy, but it all looks nasty and believable (it's Doc and Gordy...c'mon). Thing I got a kick out of most of all was probably how the crowd would just chew them out any time they'd hang onto holds a little longer than they should after a rope break. I mean they're already stretching the shit out of Kawada, but that extra three or four seconds of torture get the crowd riled up good and plenty. Kurt Angle loved (still loves?) to drag his opponent back into the middle of the ring whenever they'd reach the ropes to break the ankle lock, and at this point the concept of that being enough to constitute a break has more or less been destroyed (not implying Kurt Angle is the sole reason for that, btw), but this is 1993 and this crowd ain't having that shit. And neither is old man Higuchi. Hot tag is eventually made and Misawa makes a brief run, but Doc and Gordy just zero in on him and before long he's their new whipping boy. Kawada might be the best agitated apron worker ever. You don't get to REALLY see him shine in that role here, but every time I watch a tag match involving Kawada I get giddy at the prospect of him just throwing his hands up and illegally storming the ring so he can punt someone. I'm watching this on Goodhelmet's 1993 yearbook, so I eagerly anticipate the stuff deeper into the set when he's feuding with Misawa as opposed to teaming with him, because if my memory is worth half a shit then I know he only gets grumpier. Finishing run isn't as long or "epic" as a fair number of All Japan tags of the decade, but you should know what to expect from it either way. Doc's backdrop driver is one of the ultimate "okay, he's dead" moves in wrestling history, and he rolls out a corker in this.

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

Ridiculously entertaining match. In a lot of ways it feels like a taste of what's to come, especially between Tenryu and Hashimoto, but they do a Hell of a job making you want to see a singles match. They're the focal point of this and everything they do together rules. Hashimoto is staring him down before the bell with this look of sheer contempt while Tenryu has the faintest hint of a smile, like "Son...just don't." Probably not surprising, but Tenryu was my favourite part of this. He doesn't necessarily do a ton of stuff, but what he does do is just classic grumpy Tenryu. The initial Tenryu/Hash exchange that starts the match off is as heated as you'd like and Tenryu is amazing at selling all of Hashimoto's kicks like a heavyweight boxer on the ropes. All of the New Japan guys give him at least one cheapshot while he's standing on the apron, and you can see it all building up to him getting some form of revenge. Mutoh throws a forearm at him early and when Tenryu gets the opportunity to extract some revenge later on he rifles off some trademark short punts to the head. Nogami turns around and plants one on his chin and as he's hitting the ropes Tenryu slips in an enziguiri to the back of the head, and his mocking celebration of this small victory is just great. Nogami was probably my second favourite guy in this, actually. He was one of the finds of the New Japan 80s set for a lot of folks and he continues his quest into our hearts by taking a real shitkicking here. Hara abuses him with headbutts, Ishikawa tries to take his head off with lariats, Tenryu chops him in the throat, powerbombs him on his neck and mocks him afterwards; pretty much the perfect recipient of a beatdown from a trio of guys from fucking WAR. And don't even get me started on the post-match riot.

Genichiro Tenryu, Takashi Ishikawa, Ashura Hara, Koki Kitahara & Ricky Fuyuki v Riki Choshu, Tatsumi Fujinami, Hiroshi Hase, Osamu Kido & Takayuki Iizuka (New Japan, 2/16/93)

Epic match, chock full of hate and bad intentions and pretty much everything else you want out of something like this. It's 2/3 falls and goes 40 minutes, so everybody really gets a chance to strut their stuff and there's a million awesome moments as a result. First fall is pretty even Stevens, but we do get an extended beatdown on Fujinami where the WAR guys just tear into him and work over his KIDNEYS. Fuyuki cheapshots him from behind and team WAR paint a bulls-eye on the lower back; Kitahara rifles off a bunch of nasty kicks, Hara and Ishikawa are a couple of school bullies and they stomp him like a discarded cigarette, and Tenryu naturally punts him up and down place. Couple amazing Tenryu moments in the first fall. Hell, my favourite part of the whole match might be when Iizuki strolls up to him and, with NO FEAR, slaps him dead in the face...and FUUUUCK does Tenryu just fucking beat the motherfucking shit out of him. I mean this was straight up HARROWING. Finish to the first fall is great, with Ishikawa turning his attention away from Fujinami so he can beat up some other pussy boy (think it was Iizuka...was probably Iizuka) and winds up getting clipped by a pair of enziguiris. He manages to absorb them and stay on his feet, but Fujinami's already tagged out and Choshu's ready to steamroll somebody. Ishikawa ducks the first lariat, but Choshu keeps on truckin' and as Ishikawa turns around he gets fucking blitzed by a follow up lariat. I'm talking paraplegia-inducing. Second fall has just as much brutality, but you also get to see guys like Kido and Hara, who were quieter than some of their teammates in the first fall, really shine. Kido is just spectacular down the stretch, Hell bent on ripping someone's arm out the socket, and even though he doesn't score a decision, he winds up taking Tenryu out of the equation late on. That leads to an AWESOME moment where Choshu, like a fucking BOSS, just randomly decides to get in the ring and walk over to the WAR corner so he can stomp on Tenryu a bunch of times while he's in the process of having his arm bandaged up. Felt like a real "So I haven't hit anybody in a little while. Well fuck that" moment and it was why that guy is the best. A bunch of other great shit happens, but I'd be here all day if I tried to touch on all of it. Honestly feels like one of the best multi-man matches ever -- I thought it was fucking with pretty much all of the multi-man matches on the New Japan 80s set and I had two of those in my top 5 with another just outside it. The New Japan/WAR feud is the fucking pro-wrestling.

Kiyoshi Tamura v Volk Han (RINGS, 9/26/97)

Fitting end to their trilogy and really just a tremendous match. I'd probably say their second match is still their *best*, but I think this one might be my personal favourite. This one had a bit of everything. Han comes out much like he did in the first two matches, just grabbing hold of one of Tamura's arms and twisting and yanking it until Tamura is on the mat. He seems more aggressive on the whole, actually. You're guaranteed to see him pull ridiculous submissions out his ass in every one of these Han v native matches (actually you're guaranteed to see it in every Han match, period), but he does it with a lot more force here. There are times where you watch a Han match and get the vibe of a cat toying with a mouse before putting it out of its misery; it doesn't feel "exhibitiony" or like he's diddling around to kill time, but watch enough of him and you realize that twisting and tying people into knots comes easy to him. There isn't that vibe here. He's twisting and tying Tamura into knots, but he's not toying with him. He got the better of Tamura in their first two matches, but Tamura's more than capable of beating him and Han knows it. Thing I love most about Han/Tamura matches is that they almost play off stuff they did in their other matches. In their first match Tamura caught Han with a surprise front kick to the chest that had Han reeling. In their second match Tamura caught him with another one and left Han reeling again. Tamura starts throwing kicks because it's clearly working for him, but Han manages to use it to his advantage, catching a kick and eventually submitting Tamura with a kneebar. Finish to the first match was trademark Han, catching Tamura in a submission and leaving him with no escape. It was the definition of being "caught". He was stuck right in the middle of the ring and if he didn't submit he'd wind up with a snapped arm. Han's a guy that's great at busting out those "quicksand" submissions -- he'll hook something like a kimura, then he'll use his own legs to secure his opponent's, tie him up in the spot, and the more they struggle the quicker they sink. There's a few times in this where they hit on both "themes". Han will come close to trapping Tamura with nowhere to go, but he never manages to seal him up as tights as he needs to. Tamura is great at constantly coming up with escapes and ways to wriggle free, and Han is in a position where he's digging deep into his bag of tricks and nothing is getting the job done. The stand-up in this is the best in any of their matches, and that front kick comes into play again. Han gets knocked down a couple times, but both times are more a result of him losing his footing than Tamura scoring a clean hit, which you see when he instantly puts his hands up and waves a finger as if to say he's okay and shouldn't lose any points. When Tamura drops him with the front kick, he points to Han, who's sprawled out on the canvas, and tells the ref' NOW he can count. Han's return knockdown isn't too dissimilar to the spot in the first match where he unloads with a flurry of nasty palm strikes, but his reaction is different here, almost like he's celebrating. Finish really does leave the door open for a fourth match and a chance for Tamura to level the score, in turn possibly setting up a rubber match. It's a shame this was the last time they fought, but what we did get was more than satisfying and a Hell of a trilogy.

Kiyoshi Tamura v Hans Nyman (RINGS 10/25/97)

Nyman has "BULLDOG" written on his shorts and is pretty good as the big striker stalking down the much smaller technical wiz. You don't really get a sense of how good or bad he is on the mat from this, but he can sprawl and doesn't look shit scared the second Tamura might have so much as a slight chance of taking him to the ground, so he's better than the Dick Vrij's and Willie Peeters's of the world in that respect. Also got a big kick out of him acting like a douchebag when the ref' docks him a point for punching Tamura in the kidneys on the ground, taunting and egging the crowd on when they start a Tamura chant. It's like he's asking them to start a Nyman chant. "A kidney punch? What a girl. I am alpha male." Tamura taking exception to this and going right for the kill after the restart was awesome; just a total "fuck this shit" moment. Match is fought almost entirely on the feet, which isn't normally where you want Tamura fights to be, but this was still pretty great.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

I Asked the Captain What His Name Was and How Come he Didn't Drive a Truck. He Said His Name Was Finlay...I Just Said Good Luck

Finlay v Drew McIntyre (Dusseldorf, Germany, 11/7/09)

Well this was a blast. Gets plenty of time, has a super hot crowd, Fit Finlay, and a guy that's willing to throw down with Fit Finlay -- hidden gem stuff like this (thanks to the Segund Caida crew for turning it up) is why I started this project in the first place. Starts out with both guys interacting with the crowd; Finlay high-fiving people around ringside, Drew getting in their faces, and it's awesome to see a crowd just totally eat it all up. I don't remember a whole lot of Drew Mac pimping around this time, but he looked as good here as he would against Matt Hardy and Christian midway through last year. He hits everything with force and has some nice cutoffs, the best of which being a nasty looking big boot that knocks Finlay off the apron. He bumps around and eats all of Finlay's stuff well in return, and there's a great spot where he gets heaved over the top rope (dude gets massive air on it). I kind of stopped following WWE after Wrestlemania 24, only really watching stuff here and there, so I've more or less missed all of the Finlay face run from the last few years. He looked real good here though, laying in the shots like he's Fit Finlay, busting out his ring apron counter to a baseball slide, and at one point he just grabs hold of Drew's trapezius while stomping his calf to bring him down to one knee, which was a totally awesome Finlay thing to do. I'm not expecting to watch a ton of babyface Finlay and be blown away by it like I was 2006 heel Finlay, but that run's still a blind spot for me and I'm hoping there are some more nice gems to be turned up.

Finlay Project

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Finlay's in the Basement Mixin' up the Medicine, I'm on the Pavement Thinkin' About the Government

Finlay v William Regal (Smackdown!, 8/4/06)

It's not often you'll watch a Finlay match where it seems like he's the least cantankerous person in the match, but I'll be damned if this isn't a five minute slugfest with Regal upping the levels of surliness to loftier heights than I've seen in a while (and this is REGAL we're talking about, so you can imagine how surly that would have to be). He really lays it in here; brutal knees, forearms, elbows, the whole nine. There's this amazing moment where he has Finlay down on one knee and just SKELPS him across the ear with a slap, and Finlay reacts like he's almost surprised, like that was a shot beyond even the Finlay/Regal call of duty. Of course Finlay is still Finlay, so you get plenty instances of him being a nasty bastard, like stomping on Regal's fingers and grating his eyes with his forearm while he goes for a pin. Finish is whatever, but it leads to a great shillelagh mugging post-match. These two have had much better matches, but this is still a match-up I will never get tired of.

Finlay v Rey Mysterio (Smackdown!, 9/8/06)

This is another match-up that rarely fails to deliver. This go- around was more one-sided than usual, but it was a pretty awesome display of Finlay roughing up a little dude for just under 15 minutes. The previous week Vicki Guerrero had slapped Rey and sided with Chavo as part of the whole Eddie-sploitation nonsense, so Rey comes into this playing up the idea that his head isn't in the game. Finlay doesn't give two shits and just bullies him, and you get the sense that if he doesn't ditch the baggage then he's going to wake up the next morning with a couple nice bruises. He hits his hope spots and his timing is as impeccable as you'd expect, but this is really all about Finlay coming up with interesting ways to beat him up. He's like Carlos Santana fucking around with a guitar and making magic. Plus he's an amazing shit talker, slapping Rey in the corner; "Some'in the matter, Rey? Some'in the matter?" You never really hear Finlay being pimped as a great in-ring shit talker, but the guy is pretty spectacular at it. Finish is also choice with Rey attempting a springboard only to flub it (they play it up as his mind still being elsewhere enough times that I suspect it was deliberate), Finlay taking advantage and spiking him with the Celtic Cross. Mysterio's such a good opponent for Finlay, because he's not afraid to truly get his ass handed to him. Their matches don't have the same Finlay/Regal or Finlay/Benoit levels of stiffness, but Rey can take a beating like Benoit or Regal, or indeed most guys in wrestling history, can't. It makes for an awesome yet different dynamic, and like Finlay/Regal, it's a match-up I'll never get sick of.

Finlay Project

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Finlay, He's Down by the Railroad Tracks, Sittin' Low in the Back Seat of his Cadillac

Finlay v Matt Hardy (Smackdown!, 1/20/06)

Hell of a debut; pretty much the perfect taste of what's to come. Everything Finlay does in this just looks super nasty, even the regular stuff you'd see every week. Matt ducks his head at one point, presumably to hit a backdrop, but Finlay just straight punts him in the chest and it sounds like someone let off a firework. Finlay's permanent sneer is why pro-wrestling is the best. He does that standing Bombs Away spot, he does a sort of mini Rocker Dropper where he digs his knee into Hardy's neck before ramming his face into the mat, he counters a baseball slide by trapping Matt between the ring apron and the edge of the ring and just starts cracking him with forearms -- practically everything is the nastiest variation of that move or hold possible. This is also 2006 so Matt hasn't flipped his tree yet (at least not completely), and regardless of what he's like now (last time I saw him was mid-2010 so I genuinely don't know how good or bad he is at this stage), 2006 Matt Hardy was fucking great and he more than holds up his end. Match gets thrown out because Finlay won't stop blasting Matt in the face, but Finlay isn't even happy with the way he gets disqualified so he goes and stomps his head into the ring steps.

Finlay v Chris Benoit (Smackdown!, 2/3/06)

Too short to reach the level of their best matches, but if the Hardy match set the table for what Finlay would be like in the coming year then this set the table for what the matches between these two would be like. Only goes about five minutes, but they really lay into each other; punching each other in the ear, throwing crazy forearms, cringe-worthy chops...basically the kind of stuff you expect out of them. Gotta love Finlay squeezing Benoit's trapezius muscle to try and break his grip. As an abbreviated version of a Benoit/Finlay shitkicking, this was boss.

Finlay Project


What's another dorktastic long term wrestling project?

Been wanting to do a Finlay project for a while now, and watching some Smackdown! stuff from 2006 last night motivated me to start it. I'm just gonna stick to his WWE run since that seems way more manageable and less daunting. The goal is to cover everything he's done in the WWE and have it all piled in here as a checklist of sorts. Because I'll obviously need something like that later in life.

Much like the Mid-South project I'm just gonna break it down into 4 tiers, with the best stuff being in the top tier and the "worst" stuff being in the bottom tier. Everything within each tier will be in chronological order as well, since ranking it all individually from best to worst - especially given the fact I'll go months without updating it - can get pretty confusing.

Finlay v Rey Mysterio (Smackdown!, 3/24/06)
Finlay v Chris Benoit (Smackdown!, 5/5/06)
Finlay & William Regal v Matt Hardy & Gunner Scott (Smackdown!, 6/16/06)
Finlay v The Undertaker (Smackdown!, 3/9/07) 
Finlay v Matt Hardy (Smackdown!, 6/19/07)

Finlay v Matt Hardy (Smackdown!, 1/20/06)
Finlay, JBL & Randy Orton v Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit & Bobby Lashley (Smackdown!, 2/24/06)
Finlay v Bobby Lashley (Smackdown!, 5/12/06)
Finlay v Rey Mysterio (Smackdown!, 9/8/06)

Finlay v Chris Benoit (Smackdown!, 2/3/06)
Finlay v William Regal (Smackdown!, 8/4/06)
Finlay v Drew McIntyre (Dusseldorf, Germany, 11/7/09)
Finlay v Mike Knox (Superstars, 1/7/10)

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

More Tag Team Wrestling That Fucking Ruled

The Rockers v Los Conquistadors (MSG, 9/29/88)

I've watched a bunch of matches between these guys over the last couple years, and this is the best I've come across. I love guys in matching full body attire (well that's the gayest thing I've said this week) that do a bunch of switcheroo shtick, and there's some real good switcheroo shtick in this. The early torture rack switcheroo bit is especially great, and watching this match for the first time many moons ago might've been the first time I had seen it (although it probably wasn't). Shawn's FIP spell is really bossy, mostly because the dudes from somewhere in Latin America just choke and punch the shit out of him behind the ref's back. Seriously, 90% of their control segment consists of blatant cheating and illegally switching in and out so they can brutalise a pretty boy. Our ref' isn't all that great and spots most of the shenanigans because he's out of place or whatever, but Marty is always a great apron guy and does his best to keep looking frantic and giving the ref' a reason to scoot over and settle him down. Also gotta love how the Conquistadors are fully committed to legitimately keeping Michaels in *their* corner the whole time. Any time Shawn manages to slip away, somebody dressed as an Oscar will drag him back into the corner and start choking him with a tag rope or some shit. Crowd are plenty psyched for the hot tag and one of the Conquistadors takes a batshit Jerry Estrada bump off a backdrop that added several snowflakes to this whole affair. This is why tag team wrestling fucked rules (or ruled, IDK).

The Rockers v Demolition (MSG, 10/24/88)

I love this match. There's about 5 Rockers matches that are my go-to matches for getting me out of a wrestling slump, and this is one of them. It's been getting talked up quite a bit on PWO thanks to the whole Demolition discussion (part of the 'PG-13 vs. The World' thread that motivated me to watch some tag wrestling in the first place), and irrespective of whether or not one thinks Demolition are great, good, bad, shitty or whatever, this match seems to be one everybody can get behind as something good. And it waaaay is. Starts out with your simple brute force v speed/quickness dynamic. Demolition's offence/lack of offence has been one of the main issues that's been debated in the aforementioned thread. Some people don't think they bring enough offence/have enough good offence/whatever. Others are content with what they do bring because they make up for any shortcomings by excelling in other departments (structure/"storytelling"/whatever). I can't really comment either way because, other than this match, I don't think I've watched a Demolition match in about 3 years. Here they're mostly about the clubbering. But I'm easily enough pleased and I can get behind good clubbering, and well, the Demos have some fucking good clubbering. Ax is throwing some especially nasty looking shots and basically trying to manhandle Michaels. Shawn attempts a crossbody and Ax just catches him, struts around the ring with him in his arms, and drills him onto the mat hard. Then Shawn and Marty shift gears and the Demos are on the back foot, totally caught out by the speed and struggling to slow things down at all. Lots of quick tags, tonnes of arm wringers, ducking wild punches before throwing some peppering jabs; the Rockers are going a million miles an hour and the Demos can't keep up. Until Ax just cracks Jannetty in the face with a headbutt. You can run around like a 12 year old on speed all you want, but at some point you'll stop to catch a glimpse of that side boob and then the dude in the facepaint will fucking kill you. They work over Jannetty briefly, but Shawn's back in pretty soon and from there they head into Shawn in peril as he hits the ropes at a hundred miles an hour and completely hurls himself over the top as Smash pulls the rope down. Looked like the crazy fuck almost broke his back going over. The Demos slow things down to a crawl at this point. There's a great moment where Smash has Michaels in a Boston Crab and appears to be losing it, so he tags in Ax and Ax just calmly walks in and blast him in the spine with a big old clubber. Hot tag comes and Jannetty is house o' fired to the max, and there's an awesome nearfall off of a rocket launcher before Ax breaks it up. Crowd really buy into Shawn and Marty winning this, and you can tell by the way they just deflate when it doesn't happen. Finish is super nasty as Smash pick up Marty in a bearhug and walks him over to the corner, while Ax channels Stan Hansen and nukes him square in the face with a lariat. It's a shame this match-up didn't happen more often, because it's a great one.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Tag Team Wrestling Used to Fucking Rule

Inspired by the 'PG-13 vs. The World' thread on PWO. Southern tag style is my favoutite kind of wrestling, and if anything is going to get me out of this rut, it'll be that. I'll probably ramble about a bunch of Rockers matches over the next few days, too. Two entries in two days?! FUCK OUTTA HERE!

Ricky Steamboat & Shane Douglas v Brian Pillman & Steve Austin (Clash of the Champions XXII, 1/13/93)

Well this was awesome. Ross points out at the start that this has a 30 minute time limit as opposed to the 60 minute time limit usually given to title matches, so we can probably expect a much faster paced match than we'd normally get. And well these guys just go peddle to the floor for almost 20 minutes. Was this peak Shane Douglas as a worker? I mean the stint where he was teaming with Steamboat? It's been a long time since I watched any ECW Douglas, and even then ECW is pretty much a total blind spot for me, but shit, early 90s babyface Douglas was a legitimately bossy tag worker. Sure, teaming with Steamboat isn't likely to turn you into a shitty wrestler, but still, every time I've seen the Douglas/Steamer team, Douglas has been working his ass off. All of the early stuff with Austin and Pillman on the back foot is GREAT, and it's mostly Douglas in there with them. The "Austin was a great technical wrestler before he broke his neck" talking point doesn't make (and has never made) much sense to me, but one thing that's pretty clear is the fact he was a total bump freak before the injury, and watching something like this before watching something from him in 1998 WWF, you can see how much he loved to really "snap" back on bumps. He just flings himself around like a nut for everything here and it's really awesome. Pillman is of course Pillman and he pinballs like a freak as well. His throat-first guardrail bump from the apron is complete lunacy and every time I've seen him do it the crowd totally loses its stack. Eventually Austin and Pillman take over and Steamboat plays FIP, which is one of the safest bets for producing something good in wrestling history. If pressed I'd still say Ricky Morton is *the* all-time face in peril, but there isn't much daylight between him and Steamboat. Couple great teases of the hot tag, and this crowd is fucking rocking by the time it actually comes around. Also thought the DQ finish was a Hell of a DQ finish. If you're gonna get DQ'ed, you might as well do it in style, right? Oh and that nearfall off the top rope elbow drop cheapshot was fucking ace. Great stuff.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

DVDVR All Japan Set, Disc 1

Figured it was time I dusted this off again. I've barely watched any wrestling at all over the last few months, but I finished disc 1 of the All Japan 80s set this morning and finally finished the first disc of the 1993 yearbook, so I might be getting back into the swing of things.

Jumbo Tsuruta v Dick Murdoch (2/23/80)
- Noice start to the set. Thought the first fall was a really good "laying the groundwork" fall that set up some interesting "plot points". Jumbo is like a gnat at a barbecue that just won't go away, and Murdoch has these great toothless grimaces and signs of frustration at not being able to do anything without Jumbo grabbing hold of his arm and yanking away at it. Mostly feels pretty "70s" with the matwork, but I dig 70s style matwork and there was some great instances of it here. Love Murdoch's mini-piledriver from a seated position when Jumbo tries to escape a headscissors. Second and third falls build on each other, but neither of them last more than 5 minutes, which doesn't really do the initial 17 minute fall justice by giving it the big payoff it deserved. More people need to take a page from Dick's book and just start punching people right in the fucking neck. Man Murdoch is the greatest. Finish is cool as well, and pretty unexpected to boot. I don't think I've ever seen that kind of submission/pinning combination before.

Dick Murdoch v Jumbo Tsuruta (3/5/80)
- Holy shit is Murdoch the fuggin' MAYNE. Tonnes of great Dickie moments in this, like CRANKING on this nasty looking armbar while punching Jumbo in the kidneys, begging off into the corner so he can kick Jumbo in the nuts (don't think you actually see the kick, but Jumbo sells being hit in the balls), the trademark "just got my teeth knocked out" selling, etc. Murdoch was a little more aggressive in the first fall here than in the first match, pretty much adopting Jumbo's strategy of going after the arm. I probably enjoyed the opening fall of the first match better, but I'm leaning towards this being the better match as a whole. Things felt way more niggly here -- they never flat out smacked each other in the face as much in the first one. Second and third falls are still fairly short, but I kind of felt like they were more "complete" as opposed to being left wanting a little more. They also play off some ideas from the first match, like the neck work and one guy maybe getting a little too aggressive in the second and third falls. Another really cool finish here as well. I'll wind up re-watching some stuff at the end when I'm trying to come up with a ballot I'm relatively happy with, but at this point I'm thinking I'll stick both Murdoch/Jumbo matches side by side, because I don't think there's much at all between them.

Jumbo Tsuruta v Dick Slater (5/1/80)
- This is definitely on the re-watch pile. I've tried to watch it five times in the last week and four of those attempts failed because I was either too tired (I usually watch this stuff at night before I go to sleep), or because of some distraction that took me out of the match completely. Last night I stuck it on again and then some other shit happened about half way through and naturally I got distracted. But I figured if I didn't finish it last night then I never would, because that's just how the world works. Besides, I was a big fan of this a few years back, so it probably deserves a proper watch. Plenty to like about it even if one is only half paying attention, though. Slater does lots of little Terry Funk-esque things (some of his facial expressions, some touches he adds to his selling) and really hurls himself into an over the top rope bump, which looked way crazy. He also comes into this with a big bandage over his eye, gets some big face heat, and there's a great moment where he's trying like an absolute motherfucker to make Jumbo submit to a spinning toe hold while Jumbo repeatedly boots him in his bloody eye just to shake him. I imagine I'll like this a good deal when I get around to giving it a proper watch.

Giant Baba v Harley Race (9/4/80)
- I thought this was fine enough, but not anything that'll finish high at the end. Race is your touring NWA Champ and is clearly working as NWA Champ coming into the "territory" to make the local guy look as good as possible. As a result he basically bumps around and eats a ton of Baba's offence for the duration. Some of it feels a little contrived, though, and it's really one-sided, especially given the finish/result. Still, I tend to kind of like Harley bumping around in general (not really a Race fan but if I can dig anything about him it's that), and he takes a few really nice ones here. Baba's chops look about as good as I've ever seen them in this too, and so do his big tomahawk things to the forehead (really looks like he's putting a lot of force behind them, jumping off his feet and coming down with a big swing of the arm). There's one moment where Harley just seems to toss out a piledriver as a transition which seemed sort of stupid and out of nowhere - and probably a decent example of why some folks aren't Harley fans in the first place - but for the most part this struck me as really solid-if-unspectacular stuff.

Giant Baba v Harley Race (9/9/80)
- Much better rematch; fairly short, plenty intense. Harley jumps Baba right at the bell this time around and his early flurry of offence lasts longer than basically the entirety of his offence in the first match. He still works most of this from the bottom, bumping around, bleeding, eating all of Baba's offence, but you get the sense this one's a little more even and that Race has a point to prove after losing the belt the last time out. Run to the finish is good here as well, with Baba busting out everything he did in the last match, except this time Race keeps managing to hold on. Finish seemed a little weird initially, but the more I think about it the more I kind of dig it. Thought this was bordering on really good stuff.

Ricky Steamboat v The Sheik (12/9/80)
- Pretty sure I've seen this before, probably on the Steamboat set. This is likely a bottom of the barrel shot for me, but I always get a kick out of Steamboat losing the rag and trying to stab someone. Whole match is more or less both guys trying to stab each other, actually. They bleed, they stab, they bleed some more, etc. Sheik doesn't look as menacing as an Abby or Brody, but it's pretty awesome to see him stumble around like a zombie trying to grab hold of a fan while everybody scatters. Him trying to bite the ref's face was also terrific. Match itself goes about 5 minutes, but then there's the post-match with Steamboat continually trying to maul The Sheik while Sheiky tries to climb up the balcony, either to get away from Steamboat or so he can scare some more people. He succeeds in both regardless, so I guess it's a win-win. I'm a fan of crazy out of control brawling. This was crazy out of control brawling 101. Not necessarily *awesome* crazy out of control brawling, but crazy out of control brawling nonetheless.

Billy Robinson v Nick Bockwinkel (12/11/80)
- Hell of a match; felt like a real struggle the whole way through, nothing necessarily tricked out in terms of matwork, but everything is fought for and some of it seems like an early 80s All Japan equivalent of Battlarts. There's an especially awesome fight over a figure-four towards the end where they're both twisting and cranking at each others' legs in order to create some kind of opening or reversal. Also gotta love Bock getting fed up being on the losing end of mat exchanges and just slapping the fucking taste out of Billy's mouth (even though it was technically Billy that "struck first"). Most impressive thing to me is probably the fact that it goes half an hour and there was never any point where I felt like they were getting "exhibitiony". They even do a stand-off spot that actually felt organic, which sort of blew my mind. And holy shit does Billy have an awesome, super-speedy little roll up in this. I was as surprised as Bock seemed to be when he pulled it off. Just great stuff all around and the first match (pending a re-watch of Jumbo/Slater, I guess) that struck me as a good shout for the overall top 40. Granted, this is the first disc and I've been way off on things like this more times than I could count, but still...this was the shit.

Terry & Dory Funk v Giant Baba & Jumbo Tsuruta (12/11/80)
- So I thought this had its moments, but I definitely didn't think it was anywhere near as good as I thought it was when I last watched it. Terry's pretty great the whole way through and has some really good exchanges with both Jumbo and Baba, but Dory just kind of floats along and rarely does anything I find myself taking notice of. I like how he'd casually sidestep a dropkick, like such shenanigans are beneath him, but there's never any point where it seems like he actually *cares*. About anything. His expression never changes, even when they run an in-match angle towards the end where Terry sacrifices himself to save Dory and Dory has to fend off both Jumbo and Baba. Terry is selling the motherfucking shit out of this by convulsing on the floor before fighting his way back onto the apron so he can make the hot tag, all fired up like a lunatic shouting for Dory to reach the corner ("I'M HERE FOR YOU, DORY!"), but as much effort Terry puts in to making it seem like a big just don't get the same from Dory. You don't really get the same from Baba and Jumbo either, which is a shame considering how hard Terry's trying to get this over, but Jumbo is at least good at getting pissed off and chippy. I've written in the past about how Dory getting this rep as a great "technical wrestler" that was better than Terry confused me, and this isn't about to change my mind. Honestly, I'd put Terry *so* far above Dory it isn't even funny. Match goes about 45 minutes and has some nice stretches with one team in control, but on the other hand there's an awful lot of stuff that just meanders and isn't very interesting at all. And the finish is kinda crap to boot. Probably bottom 10.

Ricky Steamboat v Jimmy Snuka (6/3/81)
- So by this point in my tenure as a wrestling supernerd I've watched a decent amount of early 80s footage involving Jimmy Snuka, yet I still find myself surprised at how juiced to the absolute motherfucking gills he seems to be. Like, all the time. Steamboat is all cut up like Rambo as well, but Snuka is on another level. I thought he was pretty entertaining in this, though. I had seen it before a couple years ago and remember coming away from it then thinking much the same, although I probably liked it as an actual match more the first time. And a lot of that entertainment came from Snuka doing something goofy and mildly unnecessary, so maybe it was entertaining for the wrong reasons? Who knows. He's got some awesome Randy Savage-esque facial expressions though, all zonked out and crazy like. There's a great moment where he starts biting Steamboat's forehead and comes up sneering with his teeth all covered in blood. He's quite the bump machine too, although some of the bumps were pretty silly -- he takes a running over the top rope bump post-match that was hilarious. His face plant off of a fucked up springboard was also spectacular. Steamboat is Steamboat and is always going to do something at least worthwhile, but for the most part it's Snuka that I find myself being most interested in here...for better or worse. Steamboat snapping at the end and trying to choke Snuka to death was pretty cool, but I don't recall anything happening beforehand to necessarily warrant him chopping Higuchi in the head. Bottom half, most likely.

Ricky Steamboat v Mil Mascaras (8/22/81)
- I was still half drunk when I watched this so I guess it could do with another go around at some point down the line, but I liked it either way. First fall was really nifty; lots of neat stuff on the mat and there wasn't any point where I thought it was too exhibitiony. Thought it was really cool that they never threw a single strike the whole time. Didn't think the second and third falls were as good as the first, and the finish is kind of cack, but this was totally inoffensive pro-graps that had some nice highs. Maybe it'll come off even better when I can see straight. I have the whiskey shakes right now too so I'm not writing anything else.