Friday, 13 June 2014

Some 1996 Yearbook

Have you not sent goodhelmet money for these things yet? Why not?

Sabu v Rob Van Dam (ECW, 6/22/96)

RVD/Sabu matches are like those Beyond Wrestling matches to me. I know what I'm getting with Beyond Wrestling -- guys running through a bunch of spots from word one, trying to come up with new and cool stuff with no real semblance of "storytelling" or whatever. It's the definition of popcorn. There's no pretence of anything else. They're up front about what they are, and taking it at face value there are plenty of kicks to be gotten out of it. RVD/Sabu matches are wild spotfests where they do a bunch of crazy shit, usually involving tables and chairs, and that's about as far as it goes. If you're looking for anything else, look elsewhere, because you won't find it in an RVD/Sabu match. They don't try and present it as something that it's not. And taking it at face value, I get plenty of kicks out of RVD/Sabu matches. In some respects this might be the craziest of all their matches, because the ropes break after like a minute, and since most of what they do requires fully functioning ring ropes, the possibility of disaster increases tenfold. Fuck man, Sabu almost kills himself on average three times a match as is. So I was stunned at how much of what they were doing came off looking like it hit cleanly. And some of the shit they did was truly unbelievable. Sabu lays Van Dam on a table that's resting between the apron and barrier, then sets up a chair in the ring, which is to be used as a launchpad. He hits one set of ropes and launches off the chair onto the other set of ropes, but Van Dam's gotten up off the table and now he's standing in the crowd, so Sabu just dives OVER the table and lands on Van Dam and the fans. He then sets him up on the table again, does the same launchpad off the chair onto the rope, but Van Dam's gotten up again and now he's standing on the Sabu just jumps down and hits an insane DDT through the table. One bit where Van Dam monkey flips Sabu out of the corner onto a chair, but the chair hasn't been placed flat down properly and there's a leg sticking up, and Sabu almost gets his prostate examined. There's really only one botch to speak of, and it was totally hilarious and awesome in its own right (Sabu launchpads off the chair and crotches himself on the top rope as if he actually meant to do it). I also love how in Sabu matches you'll get these great unintentional "little things" moments, usually because he's legit hurt himself. This time I think he almost breaks his fingers and tries to use his own wrist tape to band them together, and it's totally something I could imagine Ambrose doing nowadays (only Ambrose probably wouldn't have broken his own fingers for real). Post-match Sabu botches getting carried out on a stretcher. 

Nobuhiko Takada & Masahito Kakihara v Tatsumi Fujinami & Yoshiaki Fujiwara (UWFi, 6/24/96)

Fujiwara was completely amazing in this; like best in the world level good. This had a really fun dynamic with the younger kickpad-wearing strikers up against the tougher-than-shoe-leather vets that've been around since before kickpads were even a thing. Starts out pretty amicably with both teams kinda feeling each other out. Fujinami, Fujiwara and Takada know each other like the backs of their hands and do some of their old dance moves, finding their rhythm again after however many years. Kakihara is younger and has a point to prove though, so he throws shots early and often. None of them cause any real trouble, but he's eager. Then he catches Fujiwara in the eye with a nasty axe kick and Fujiwara goes buck fucking wild. Rest of the match is really about Fujiwara putting a beating on him because of that one kick. He immediately takes him down and throws pot shots to the back of the head, he takes a bunch of cheapshots (bit where he tags in Fujinami and throws a punch to the gut before getting out), chokes him on the ropes, etc. Now and again a shit eating grin will break on his face. Fujiwara and Takada are grappling near the Kakihara corner, and when Takada tags him in Fujiwara jumps on him before he even has a chance to properly step through the ropes. Finish is great. Kakihara's shots start troubling Fujiwara and he even scores a few knock downs. Fujiwara looks like he's actually struggling. Kakihara gets a bit overzealous and goes for a rolling kick, which Fujiwara easily dodges. Fujiwara realises this is his opening and mockingly tells Kakihara to get up and go again. Kakihara is young and foolish enough to fall for it, and this time Fujiwara is ready to pounce straight away. Fujiwara is the best ever at those flash finishes, and this one ruled. Great match.

Negro Casas, Felino & Satanico v El Dandy, Lizmark & Silver King (CMLL, 6/28/96)

I'm not sure this one of the real top tier trios of the year, but Casas was such an amazing douchebag in it that I loved it anyway. He and Dandy feel like the main match-up here. Every exchange is at least niggly, and Dandy is in no mood at all for Casas' horseshit. Casas just whinges and bitches about everything and Dandy gets more and more annoyed. He wants to wrestle, but if Casas keeps up the stupidity he has no problem throwing punches instead. There's only so much a guy can take, you know? They have this awesome exchange in the segunda where Dandy puts his dukes up for a fight, and Casas reluctantly does the same. He catches Dandy with a left hook that decks him (Dandy's KO sell was phenomenal), and now he's feeling a little more confident about throwing fists. Dandy gets back up and is ready for more, but Casas catches him with another left hook and Dandy is on the canvas again. Now Casas is practically dancing. This isn't nearly as bad as he thought it was going to be; in fact he's winning, so it's all good fun. He happily accepts a third round...except this time Dandy has him scouted, ducks the left hook and cracks him with one of his own, and Casas is affronted. The rudos eventually decide to rough it up and there's a close up of him gnawing on Dandy's shoulder in the corner (which fucking ruled). His preening and posturing is off the charts at this point, just revelling in self-satisfaction. Satanico is even surlier than usual here and matches up primarily with Lizmark, and it's all really good. They have a longish in-ring exchange in the third caida while the other four guys are brawling on the floor, like they have their own separate business to finish first. Dive train down the stretch is great and culminates with Dandy's lunatic no hands dive over the top (he almost spikes himself on his head). Going through this yearbook I've been thinking Dandy and Casas have looked like two of the best wrestlers in the world in '96. This does nothing to make me think otherwise. They both might be top 5 by year's end.

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