Sunday, 22 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #11

Nick Bockwinkel v Chavo Guerrero (Houston Wrestling, 2/25/83)

This isn't the best match that's comeout of the NWA Classics service, but it might be the coolest find to me personally. Even the idea of a Bockwinkel/Chavo match is awesome; like a dream match I'd never even thought about before. This is non-title and more of a set up to a probably-excellent title match, but it's a great set up. Story going in is that Bock refused to give Chavo a title shot because he hasn't earned it. This is Chavo's chance to prove himself.  Bock is in smug bastard mode early on, breaking clean with a smile like this is about to be a walk in the park, then taking Chavo over with a couple hiptosses and a body slam. Chavo comes back with some hiptosses and a slam of his own, and I loved how he really threw Bockwinkel to the mat off the slam as a pretty clear "fuck you." Bock gives Chavo a ton in this. Like, other than the opening hiptosses and slam he fights almost the whole match from below. I guess you could argue he maybe gave a bit TOO much, but I thought it worked given the story of Chavo being out to prove himself/Bockwinkel taking him too lightly and paying for it. Chavo works the arm for the majority and it's all pretty great. Both guys are really good at working holds so it's never static (btw, Chavo Guerrero is a god damn offensive dynamo for 1983), and the segments where they come up for air and Bock almost manages to regain advantage are often terrific. There's one segment that kind of fucking blew my mind. Bock grabs Chavo in a bodyscissors, more in an attempt to contain Chavo for a little while as he shakes his arm out and tries to recover from the previous arm work, reeling back and using his weight to lift Chavo up off the mat and slam him back down again. He tries that a second time, but Chavo's hip to it and manages to use his own momentum to escape, instantly running to the ropes. He comes back and Bockwinkel has his legs up for a monkey flip, which Chavo takes, landing on his feet, and as Bock gets up he's instantly taken down with an armdrag. Bock kicks Chavo off from his back, but Chavo is already on his feet before Bock, so Chavo takes him back over with another armdrag. Bock kicks him off again, Chavo gets up quicker, Bock is taken down with another armdrag. The third time Bock kicks him off he manages to get back to his feet quicker, but Chavo does a nip up and Bock ends up walking straight into yet another armdrag, and this time Chavo keeps hold of him as he goes back to wrenching on the arm. It might not sound spectacular reading about it, but it was an incredible sequence if for no reason other than how picture perfect the execution was. The finish was great as well, and I loved Boesch's "he may have him here!" call of it. Actually I loved pretty much everything about this. These guys are absolute money and I hope the gods of wrestling geekdom are kind enough to give us the title match. 

Friday, 20 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #10

Midnight Express v Lanny Poffo & El Bracero (Houston Wrestling, 1/13/84)

You don't really need any more evidence as to why the Midnights were fucking awesome, but well, here's some anyway. This was only the second MX match to take place in the Houston area, against Poffo and Bracero who nobody really buys as having a shot at winning, and yet the crowd is nuclear and rabid for the Express to lose, like they've been acting like giant assholes here in Houston for ten years and not ten days. I think this Sam Houston Coliseum footage has solidified the Midnights as my #1 tag team of all time. They were always in the discussion, but man those guys were something else. Bracero is a short little lucha dude that has a bunch of neat little rolls and spins that he uses to flummox opponents. There's a Bracero/Tully match from 1981 up on Classics and it's like five minutes long and basically a Tully squash, but Bracero was just a ton of fun doing goofy stuff and moving around in weird ways to confuse Tully (and of course Tully was great at playing "what is this guy even DOING?"). He does that here and Condrey is especially funny in his reactions to it. I think I should watch more Lanny Poffo. He's someone I always like when he shows up, and he has a bunch of neat stuff to roll out. He does the bit where he has Condrey in a headlock and as Condrey tries to shove him off into the ropes Lanny just grabs a handful of hair, which of course the crowd eats up (and Condrey's reaction to it is great). Condrey and Eaton pinball around some and I could watch them do it all day, then they bail to the floor to regroup while Lanny and Bracero are doing backflips in the ring. I think it's about time I got my mitts on that Midnight Express comp.

Butch Reed & Ernie Ladd v Terry Taylor & Sonny King (Houston Wrestling, 7/6/84)

I'm always happy when Ladd footage shows up. He's big and gangly and pretty awkward in the way he moves, but it's understandable since he probably has less remaining knee cartilage than Ledley King. He's game though, and his awesome legdrop across Taylor's back looked killer. He was also responsible for some neat "little things" moments as well, like reaching up out of a headlock to try and grab a hold of some hair on the bald head of Sonny King. Old habits die hard, I guess. Reed was kingsized with his cheating and cheapshotting, choking Terry across the ropes, Tenryu-style kneeing him in the kidneys from the apron as Terry runs the ropes. He really reveled in the boos as well and even did a few Mr. Wrestling II-esque jigs to soak it all up. He also takes his headstand bump and really went above and beyond to make King look like a serious ass kicker (like sliding out the ring and falling flat on his face after a punch flurry). I'm not as down on Taylor as a lot of people that watched the Mid-South set even if he is pretty bland, but he felt like the least interesting guy in this. Really good match.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

1996 Yearbook Stuff (Han, Ikeda, Ishikawa, Ono's hair)

Volk Han v Masayuki Naruse (RINGS, 10/25/96)

This rocked. It's the kind of thing that people who're otherwise cold on shoot style could dig, because it has a pretty clear and discernible story to it. Naruse is eager and full of fire, but Han is Han. He is unbreakable, unflappable. Naruse literally somersaults free when Han tries to twist him into a submission attempt, but as awesome as it looks and as much as the crowd love it, Han is unperturbed. He'll keep doing his thing and eventually he'll catch Naruse in something you can't flip out of. Except Naruse keeps coming, and he even catches Han in the ribs with a palm strike. Then he catches him with a backfist. Han dismissively dumps him over the ropes with this amazing "just fuck off already" look on his face and picks up a yellow card for it, so Han is down to his last point. Naruse only needs to force one more rope break - or score another knockdown - and he's won. But Han is Han. I out loud said "look at that!" when Han catches him in the shoot bow and arrow, and part of me wanted Naruse to make it that extra inch to grab the ropes, but a bigger part knew he was already doomed. Han as this shoot style end boss is the perfect description. If you grew up on Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat or whatever then you'll know what it was like to get M. Bison or Shao Kahn's health down to a bare slither only for them to pull it out at the death. You were so close, but in the end what difference did it make? You'd just have to start over, anyway. That was Naruse. So close, but so far.

Yuki Ishikawa & Alexander Otsuka v Daisuke Ikeda & Takeshi Ono (Battlarts, 10/30/96)

What a fucking match. This felt like the best possible amalgamation of this kind of shoot style with US/southern tag psychology (with no downtime at all). Ikeda and Ono are an absolutely spectacular pair of bellicose cunts, constantly interjecting to break up submissions any time the other looked to be in any danger whatsoever. Ono has always been a belligerent shit, but his Vietnamese girl bun makes him look even more obnoxious. He's dangerous, though, like a skinny back alley fighter who takes on bare knuckle bouts for food scraps, then ends up laying out the whole police division sent to shut it down. Every Ishikawa/Ikeda exchange is exactly what you want out of these two. They punch each other in the cheek, throw headbutts with an audible *thud*, try to pull each other's limbs off, the whole lot. Otsuka is at his best chucking folk around and he dumps people on their head a bunch. There's one amazing bit where he can't take Ono's horse shit any longer and comes in like he's about to fucking murder him (and of course Ono taunts him even more). You can actually see Ishikawa and Otsuka getting more and more fed up with the apron interference throughout the match. They're not opposed to doing it themselves, but it really only happens as a response to Ikeda and Ono doing it first. It's a clear theme in the match, and it leads to the perfect payoff where Ono eventually bites off more than he can chew and Otsuka suplexes him on his neck, leaving Ishikawa free to twist Ikeda's arm into a disgusting enough position that he has to submit. I wouldn't hesitate to call this a serious MOTYC.

Monday, 16 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #9

Midnight Express v Magnum TA & Mr. Wrestling II (Houston Wrestling 1/27/84)

How awesome were the Midnight Express? The early part of this is just an absolute masterclass in pinballing and heels feeding themselves to opponents, seamlessly moving into position to eat punches and kneelifts while Cornette literally hides behind camerawomen so he doesn't get caught in the crossfire. There's something infectious about watching Mr. Wrestling II. His little jig, the kneelifts, the crowd chanting "TWO, TWO, TWO"; the guy looks like he's having a total blast. Watching the Midnights work a crowd into a complete frenzy is maybe even better than watching them get beat up. They're pretty much the masters of dragging the ref' out of position and cheating to the point of nearly causing a riot. Eaton starts a mocking "two" chant of his own at one point and that guy is the fucking greatest. Seriously, the heat for this whole thing is through the roof, every single fan in the arena living and dying with Magnum and II. It's been a few years now since I last watched the MX/Magnum-II match that made the Mid-South set, but as great as that was this one might top it. And the blowoff has been uploaded as well! I wonder if it's good.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

There's an Evening Haze Settling Over Mid-South, Starlight by the Edge of the Creek

Terry Gordy v Dr. Death (9/15/86)

In some ways this was one big Williams revenge segment. It still manages to feel like an actual contest, which I suppose is pretty impressive in its own right, but there's no doubt this is about Williams coming back from a previous Freebirds mugging and making Gordy pay for it. He takes the majority of the match, really wailing on Gordy and bumping him around the place. At one point he just starts biting Gordy's forehead and makes like he has to spit out a chunk of flesh, which was pretty gruesome. My main take on this feud is that it was two big hosses beating each other up, but this was more one big hoss beating up the other, while the "other" in the scenario is trying to hold on and not lose his title. There was plenty to like about it, but I'd say it's the weakest of the series (that either made the set or has been unearthed on NWA Classics).

Terry Gordy v One Man Gang (9/21/86)

Was Gordy blading his head after opponents chomp on him a regular Gordy spot around this time? Because he does it again here and I can get behind that sort of grisly behaviour. I've really come around to Gang over the last few years as a super fun fat dude. He's a guy that, practically on a match-to-match basis, will take one completely ridiculous bump where I'm not sure if it's actually intentional or he's just fallen through the ropes and almost hurt himself. The ring ropes breaking in the middle of matches was a running joke going through the Mid-South footage, but this felt like an occasion where you could actually buy it happening. Meaty, bloody slugfest. Obviously I enjoyed it.

Terry Gordy v Dr. Death (9/28/86)

One thing about this feud, they managed to change it pretty exceptional from match to match. None of the matches that made the Mid-South set struck me as being transcendent the way the Texas Death Match that got put up on NWA Classics did, but they're all good and all let you look at both guys in different lights. This had Williams selling a busted up arm (courtesy of a pre-match double team by Gordy and Hayes) the whole match while Gordy worked it over, and it was pretty fantastic. Williams barely ever uses the bandaged arm and much of his offence is brutal looking short headbutts, usually from his knees, usually right to Gordy's cheekbone. There are a couple points where Gordy will sit around in an arm hold and not really do anything with it, but it's a minor quibble.

Mid-South Project

Friday, 13 November 2015

Lawler v Bockwinkel x2

Jerry Lawler v Nick Bockwinkel (Memphis, 10/25/82)

This feels like your "technical genius v brawling machine" match. Bock is the consummate World Champ who can grapple with anybody you put in front of him, while Lawler, though no slouch on the mat, is always going to come back to the fists. They know their bread and butter. They know what brought them to the dance. First five minutes are basically one extended top wrist lock segment, and it was GREAT. It really established Bockwinkel as being the better "pure wrestler" (for lack of a better term, I guess), the way he's in control for pretty much the entirety of it. I loved him during this part, just working the absolute hell out of a simple hold, milking it as much as possible, widening his base for leverage, really pushing and bending the wrist like he's trying to make Lawler's fingernails touch his own forearm, taunting Lawler along the way ("Come on, Lawler, it's a simple wrestling hold!"). Lawler's really good on his end as well, though. I'd say in general he's pretty comfortably at "very good" level as a mat worker. Like, people championing Lawler as a GOAT candidate obviously aren't pointing to his matwork as his main strength, but even with all the praise he's gotten in recent years (probably since the DVDVR Memphis set dropped, or at least that's when it exploded) it sometimes it kind of feels like his matwork gets scoffed at. But he was routinely good at it. He works this whole segment from the bottom, but he always makes it look like he's trying to escape or counter. He almost manages to reverse it, but Bock stands way up on his tiptoes to force it back down. Second time he comes even closer to reversing it, and this time Bock has to yank the hair to drag Lawler back down. Then at the third attempt Lawler manages to shake him by just throwing him around until Bock can't hold on any longer. It was a simple segment, but it was milked and interesting and didn't feel like time-killing. They touch on the "technician/brawler" dynamic again soon after this when Bockwinkel repeatedly rams Jerry's head into the turnbuckles, only for Lawler to come back and do it in way nastier fashion by throwing Bock backwards into the same turnbuckles. It was like Bock deviated from his strategy, got ahead of himself, and emphatically lost at Lawler's game. Last spell has the big drama you want in a World Title match, and Lawler going ballistic at the end with punches was incredible. I'm ticked that we're missing about fifteen minutes of the match, but that's more because why would you not want to have every second of a Bockwinkel/Lawler match? as opposed to the match being hurt all that much by the commercials.

Jerry Lawler v Nick Bockwinkel (No DQ) (11/8/82)

This might be the most violent I've ever seen Bockwinkel. Of a seventeen minute match he spends roughly fourteen minutes beating the living, breathing dogshit out of Lawler. Jerry gets hardly anything in in the way of offence. At one point he threatens to stamp on Bockwinkel's balls and Calhoun has to pull him back, but most of this was Lawler properly getting battered. Early on he even has to take a powder because he clearly was not expecting Bockwinkel to come out rampaging, but Bock is relentless and does not let up at all. I was actually expecting to see a King of the Mountain segment with Lawler trying to get back in the ring and Bock kicking him in the head, but no, he never even bothered with that. He just let Lawler climb back in the ring and knocked him around some more. He slams Jerry on the announce table, cuts his eye open with nasty little rabbit punches, then smashes his throat into one of the ringside poles. Lawler took is like a fucking basketcase as well and it looked absolutely brutal. Lawler's comeback of course ruled, and I loved him having to hit the fist drop from progressively loftier heights to keep Bockwinkel down. I had this as my #24 on the Memphis set, but I had no recollection of it whatsoever. It would almost assuredly be higher now. Great, great match, and a spectacular look at Bockwinkel being a vicious surly bastard.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

More Smoky Mountain

Heavenly Bodies v The Fantastics (No DQ) (9/5/92)

You know, while Cornette basically wanted to recreate an 80s territory in a 90s world, this had more 90s-isms than I'd have expected, not least of which being guys making no bones about actually using the absence of rules to their advantage. Going through the Watts footage - and SMW felt like Cornette's version of Mid-South - it became clear that a tag match with a no DQ stip was going to be worked more or less the exact same as a regular tag. This was still worked within the boundaries of a regular tag, with one guy from each team being confined to the apron, but there were plenty of moments where someone would just go "fuck it" and set about someone with a weapon. Fulton picks up a title belt and actively waits until the referee is watching before he bonks it off Pritchard's head. He then grabs a pipe and in full view starts hitting folk with it. Later on Stan brings out a chain, wraps it around his fist and punches Jackie Fulton, blatantly chokes him with it, then waves it in front of the ref' because he knows he can't do anything about it. Cornette spraying a rag with something "medical smelling" is one of my favourite Cornette spots (first time I saw him do it was in Mid-South, shockingly enough), and it leads to an amazing post-match interview where he justifies himself by saying Bobby Fulton had a wound above his eye and Cornette was just trying to seal it so the match could continue, then Fulton keeled over and went to sleep because he must've been drunk. This was also for $20,000, and Cornette rolling around in the money like a total asshole was great.

Rock 'N' Roll Express v Heavenly Bodies (9/7/92)

Outrageously fun match. I had the biggest smile on my face during the first fifteen minutes. They get everyone fired up pre-match, first with Cornette's promo, then with Morton getting on the mic and saying, "We have rock...your ass off!" Crowd goes wild and Lane's eardrum's about to burst. Cornette asks for quiet for the sake of poor Stan, so naturally the crowd shouts even louder. Heat is through the roof and the bell hasn't even rung. They run through a bunch of the tried and true spots from RnRs/MX matches of yesteryear, like the blind armwringer spot that the guys in M-Pro did all the time. Then they do one I've never seen before (I don't think), with Morton and Pritchard running a criss-cross, Morton slipping out while Pritchard continues to run, and Morton throwing Cornette in the ring where he ends up bumping into a still-running Pritchard. Cornette then comes up with his jacket over his head blindly swinging the tennis racket. Once the Bodies take over they just pull the ref' every which way with Morton getting his ass beat and Gibson trying to interject. I love how Cornette booked Stan Lane's ear around this time. It's a constant heat magnet, and it's been used a few times as a go-to for babyfaces. Morton slaps him in the ear as a lead-in to the hot tag and Lane does this incredible sell of it, like he just got hit with a snowball. When Pritchard wallops Gibson with the tennis racket there's this genuine sense of panic and fury from the crowd, then he kicks out and they hit the double dropkick and kids and adults alike go fucking apeshit. Between this set and the NWA Classics service I've watched some killer tag matches the last few days, but this is probably the best of the lot.

Tim Horner v Dirty White Boy (9/19/92)

This was about seven minutes long and totally ruled. It's probably the best I've ever seen Horner look, actually. All of his offence looked great, from his dropkick to his airtight inside cradle. He's not the kind of guy you want as your top babyface (even if he has most of the tools mechanically), but he's more than fine in something like this. White Boy was mostly about the selling here, taking one incredible bump off a Horner punch that was serious rewind material. Ron Wright falling out his wheelchair at the end was absolutely un-fucking-real and literally made me laugh out loud. God damn is the Ron Wright gimmick phenomenal.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #8

Pretty Young Things v Pat Rose & Hans Schroeder (Houston Wrestling, 7/6/84)

I don't think I've ever seen Hans Schroeder before. If I have I certainly don't remember, which probably makes sense because he's wholly unspectacular and not all that memorable. He kind of looks like Rudi Voller, though I imagine if Frank Rijkaard spat in Schroeder's hair Schroeder would've punched him in the face. Pat Rose feels like a guy you've seen work a studio match in every territory from Alabama to Tennessee. Pretty sure I saw him work Flair in GCW at some point. It was probably...well, Ric Flair v Pat Rose, so, you know. This was very by-the-numbers, but I figured it would be and that's fine because, end of the day, it's still more Koko Ware. He was having a blast early on, shucking and jiving and hitting his amazing dropkick, then he plays face in peril and takes a face-first torpedo bump straight into a turnbuckle. Rose and Schroeder aren't particularly inventive in their workover -- it's mostly headlocks with punches that may or may not have been towards the region of Koko's throat. So Condrey and Eaton they are not. It's good that that's cleared up, I'm sure.

The Fantastics v Dutch Mantell & Tom Pritchard (Houston Wrestling, 7/12/85)

It's not really a contentious opinion at this point, but the Fantastics were every bit the world class babyface team the RnRs were. I think I'd say they were the more talented team when you combine the talent levels of the individuals, or at least that there's more of an even contribution from Rogers and Fulton towards their team being great than there is from Morton and Gibson. Basically, Rogers is as good in a tag setting as Morton (pretty much perfect babyface tag wrestlers), and if Fulton isn't clearly BETTER than Gibson then he clearly brings more to his respective team. Opening shine period was awesome in this. I guess you could argue it went a wee bit too long, but I loved how Rogers and Fulton came up with a bunch of different ways to piss off Mantell, who was outstanding in his stooging early on. They do the bit where Tommy has Dutch in an armbar and Fulton comes in, steps over Mantell (stepping ON him in the process) to go over and shit talk Pritchard, then as the ref' ushers him back out he steps over/on Dutch again. Like "oh, I'm sorry, I didn't see you down there." Dutch is fed up with Pritchard not pulling his weight and they get in a shoving match, so Rogers dropkicks Dutch in the back and flies into Pritchard. Crowd of course eat all of this up with a giant spoon. Mantell and Pritchard take over when Pritchard hits a nasty looking thrust kick to Fulton's jaw, and Dutch gets the full Arn Anderson point for shifting from stooge to surly bastard seamlessly. Pritchard doesn't really do a ton, but he's pretty fun and has great hair, like a frillier, blonde McEnroe 'do. Hugely entertaining match.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Smoky Mountain Wrestling!

So I started Goodhelmet's SMW set last night. Well, I started it like three years ago and watched a bunch of the extras, but this is me starting it again and going through the main matches.

Tim Horner v Paul Orndorff (5/22/92)

Horner's mullet is the stuff of legends. There is no doubt in my mind that people in Knoxville talk about it the way people in Liverpool talk about Graeme Souness' moustache and Brazilians talk about Socrates' headband (I assume). At a glance, SMW is crazy heel-heavy at this point. Orndorff isn't a megastar, but he's certainly a "name" and he'd been a headliner in the WWF. They had Pritchard and Lane managed by the most recognizable person in the company in Cornette. Fuller and Golden had been kicking about the south for years and had that stint in the AWA (even if it was dying days AWA). You had Landel and Dirty White Boy. Mantell was there, even if I think it was mostly commentary. That's a pretty fucking nice lineup for a spin off territory based out of Tennessee. On the babyface side you've got Brian Lee, Tim Horner and Robert Gibson. They had the Fantastics, but the Fans without Rogers just isn't the same so it was really Bobby Fulton and his little brother. Dixie Dynamite and Danny Davis? Sheeeeeeit. They were clearly waiting for Morton and then they eventually brought in Smothers, but early doors there was a definite lack of notable/worthwhile babyfaces. Anyways, this was good. Horner is perfectly fine. He has good timing and his offence looks crisp and he gets fired up...but he doesn't really have any charisma. He's a pretty bland little guy, all in all. But hey, Orndorff was kinda badass in this! His strikes looked great and I was more entertained by him working as methodical Harley Race kneedrop clone than I regularly am by HHH, plus he was not afraid to show major ass and stooge for Horner early on. And I liked the finish as well. Match felt a bit out of place in 1992 wrestling, but Smoky Mountain as a whole felt like one of those "lost in time" things. It's part of its charm.

Heavenly Bodies v The Fantastics (7/11/92)

This is an impromptu match that kicks off after a Bodies squash, and it felt suitably hectic in the beginning. Did I mishear or is Stan Lane rocking the headgear because he has earache from the crowd noise? Every time they get on his case he clutches his ears and tells them to quieten down, so I'm assuming that's what's going on. If so: awesome. This was really solid and Jackie Fulton did an admirable job selling his knee being torn to bits in the absence of Tommy Rogers. Mantell on commentary implies that Jackie is a retard and I can already tell he's gonna be fun to listen to.

Heavenly Bodies v The Fantastics (Street Fight) (7/17/92)

The arena is suuuper dark and it's kind of hard to see what's going on, but this was absolutely wild. It's more of a handicap match with how much Cornette and his tennis racket get involved, so there are a bunch of moments where a Fulton brother chucks a trash can or a plank at him and Cornette has to scurry away. Pritchard was great in this with the way he'd stumble around like he's lost six pints of blood. He bumps like he's not actually taking a pro-wrestling bump and that he really got hit hard enough in the head with a cowboy boot that it sent him flying into the turnbuckle. At one point the Bodies and Cornette tie Bobby to the ring post and both Lane and Pritchard try to smother Jackie with a plastic bag. Someone gets hurled head first into a table, but the table doesn't break down the middle like it usually does and instead the person just goes all the way through and it leaves the table with a big hole right in the middle where they were bodily flung through it.

Heavenly Bodies v The Fantastics v Stud Stable v Danny Davis & Dixie Dynamite (8/8/92)

Fun 4-team elimination tag. Danny Davis was busting out a bunch of rapid matwork that I wasn't expecting. He would just grab a guy's head and yank them over and not let go, doing everything with a real snap. Dixie Dynamite was in for about twenty seconds. He looked not good and Mantell intimated that he, also, was retarded. I'm digging Pritchard using the loaded boot trick as a finisher.

Stud Stable v Rock 'n' Roll Express (8/8/92)

Yeah, this was the stuff. God damn are the RnRs over like crazy in Tennessee. The heat for stuff like the Bodies/Fans street fight was up there, but this is another level. Match is total southern tag formula and of course I loved it. Morton and Gibson run Fuller and Golden in circles early, Fuller and Golden take even with underhanded tactics and Morton gets busted open, Morton plays Ricky Morton for a little while, then hot tag and run to the finish. They're not reinventing the wheel, but it's the exact match the crowd want to see and all four know how to work the hell out of it.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #7

Butch Reed & Jim Neidhart v Mr. Wrestling II & Steve Williams (Houston Wrestling, 12/16/83)

Man, Williams is chunky as hell here. I never realised just how much he leaned out over the following few years. First eight or so minutes of this are total heel in peril and I loved it. Williams has been wrestling about a year at this point and is pretty much all football tackles and three point stances, but the spots built around football tackles and three point stances are fun and it means we get Butch Reed taking headstand bumps off of shoulder blocks. We also get Mr. Wrestling II kneelift spots which means more Butch Reed headstand bumps. There's a great bit where Reed sends II into the ropes and drops to the mat, so II jumps over him and pops Neidhart on the apron, then turns around and kneelifts Reed as he's getting back up to his feet (and Reed bumps out to the floor. Reed's bumping was number one in this). The word I would use to describe II here is scrappy. He's scrappy in the way he uses the headlock to frustrate Reed, really grinding it and doggedly holding on when Reed tries to toss him away (Reed literally picks him up and tries to throw him away a few times). He's scrappy in how he fights off Neidhart despite being old and saggy while Neidhart his just a big slab of mean, raw meat. He's scrappy as a face in peril fighting from the bottom. Mr. Wrestling II is scrappy in this professional wrestling match. I like Reed's idea of taking a cheapshot being to straight up punch a guy in the back of the head, but it probably needed to look even nastier for it to plausibly drop a dude like Williams for the finish. Still, this was a blast and hopefully there's a Reed/Wrestling II singles match out there somewhere. There's no way that wouldn't be great. 

Friday, 6 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #6

Jose Lothario v Black Gordman (Houston Wrestling, 1/13/84)

This was basically eight minutes of two old dudes punching and bleeding. And of course it ruled. Kind of felt like the opening rudo fall of an apuestas match early on, but it soon turned into a street brawl with both guys throwing fists. I really hope we get a bunch of prime Lothario through this sevice at some point because fifty year old tougher-than-shoe-leather Lothario has been awesome. He threw one uppercut in this that looked a shade away from putting Gordman's nasal bone through his brain. Crowd heat for this is absolutely through the roof. Gordman sneaks in a few shots with a hidden chain, and the pop for Jose snatching it and using it himself is one of the loudest I've ever heard. Seems pretty clear that this is building to a big blowoff and holy shit do I want to see it.

Butch Reed  v The Barbarian (Houston Wrestling, 9/13/85)

I liked some of Barbarian's offence in this. He hit a killer powerslam, dropped Reed throat-first across the guardrail, and he's big and imposing enough that you could conceivably buy him throwing around a guy the size of Hacksaw Reed. He's still green as goose shit, but he certainly seems willing to be led along while holding up his own end. I don't remember a single thing he did as the Berzerker, but by '91/'92 he probably could've had enough about him to produce something decent with a guy like Bret Hart (someone else can do a 'Berzerker in WWF Project' if they like). There hasn't been a true knockout from the Reed footage yet (I'm saving the Tito and JYD stuff for after the semester), but he's been solid in everything and this was him leading a rookie to a nice ten minute contest, which is a side of him I don't really remember seeing before. He takes a few big bumps, with his crash and burn across the ropes off a missed crossbody looking awesome, and on the whole this was perfectly decently finely okay.

Dick Murdoch v Al Perez (Houston Wrestling, 10/11/85)

If the last match was Reed leading a serviceable rookie to a decent, competitive contest then this was Murdoch...basically doing the same. This was face v face, though, so more of a sporting affair. The early matwork wasn't mindblowing or anything, but it was solid. I kind of forget just how well Murdoch can work the mat since it's usually the brawling and punching and amazing shtick I think of whenever he's brought up, but he really is fun on the ground. There's a cool bit where Perez catches him with a sunset flip and Murdoch acknowledges it with a handshake and tilt of the head, then a few seconds later he returns the favour with an "anything you can do..." smirk afterwards. Perez throws a couple forearms rather than breaking clean, so Murdoch instantly goes "fuck it" and lays into him with elbows and fists. He reels himself back in again straight away - this is still a gentlemen's contest - but Murdoch isn't some pot-bellied stable hand and these young guys need to recognise. Finish did its job in making Murdoch look like a skilled veteran and Perez a guy that, with some more experience under his belt, might just end up being a stud (maybe in some alternate universe Al Perez is a sixteen times World Champion). And that's really all you can ask for.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #5

Hector Guerrero v Jose Lothario (Texas Death Match) (Houston Wrestling, 6/8/84)

This is your 7 quid a month right here. Phenomenally great match. I was pretty much in shock watching it, partly because I never expected it to be THIS good; partly because Hector Guerrero is basically Eddie Guerrero. Seriously, Hector is sooooo like Eddie. It's almost surreal. Early parts of this are a bit like a lucha maestros match with the nifty give-and-take matwork. Hector is playing by the rules, extending his hand in acknowledgement of Lothario's skills, but he has this little grin that tells you he's being disingenuous. Jose has done this dance often enough and knows as much himself. Eventually Hector loses one too many exchanges and turns it into a fight, headbutting his way out of a standing bow and arrow and ramming Jose into the post. Even Hector getting pissed and snapping is reminiscent of Eddie, like in the Smackdown! match against Rey where Eddie finally drops the charade like you knew he would and just brutalizes Rey instead. This service has done wonders for Jose Lothario's rep as a worker (you know, among internet wrestling fans that go crazy for newly discovered 80s footage, which I'm sure means a lot to him). It's pretty clear the guy is one of the best punchers of all time and he throws some absolute CORKERS in this. There's one you can actually hear above the crowd heat and even Boesch on commentary pops for it. Guess who Hector sells the punches like? Fuck, he even hits a gusher like Eddie, bleeding all down his chest after a few seconds like Eddie at Judgment Day (though not as horrifically). Finish and aftermath is so awesome. Hector and Jose have been feuding together up until this point, but Chavo has been off in Japan and came back only to get caught in the middle. Earlier in the show he does an interview with Boesch where he says it's not his fight, but Hector is still his brother and he'll be in his corner. Then he gifts Boesch with a jar of hot sauce, straight out of the Guerrero family kitchen. At the end they do the double KO/"first man back to to his feet wins" bit (seems like a staple in Houston, because that's a few times I've seen it now), but the ref' gets bumped and doesn't see Chavo fire the whole jar of hot sauce right in Lothario's eyes. Boesch is disgusted post-match when Chavo calls Lothario a half-breed and not a true Mexican, then suspends both him and Hector. I imagine this would've made the Mid-South set if it had been available in full. If it had I'd have had it top 10.

The Guerreros v Jose Lothario & Al Madril (Houston Wrestling, 7/20/84)

Nah, fuck it, they're the same person. Somehow they are. It's not just that they look identical - the way they MOVE is identical. This was 1997 chickenshit Eddie Guerrero in 1984, basically. And of all the matches I've watched so far I'd say this is probably the most straight up fun. So, so fun. Edd-- I mean Hector and Chavo are outstanding here; unreal shticking and stooging and it's all done at a rapid pace. Lothario is more or less all punches and old man sympathy selling but my god is he great at both. There's one bit where he takes on both Guerreros with rights and lefts while Hector and Chavo fly around and the crowd are going ballistic. It was amazing. He also hits one uppercut on Hector that is honest to god maybe the best punch I've ever seen thrown in a wrestling match. Finish was executed kind of poorly, but the idea was good and that's usually good enough for me. Absolutely loved this. And will someone give Hector Guerrero the career comp treatment?

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #4

Butch Reed v Magnum TA (Houston Wrestling, 8/31/84)

Man, I love how Ernie Ladd has settled into the role of Butch Reed's makeshift agent, with his pristine polo and slacks like the business of winning the North American title is to be conducted before setting off to the country club. He played hardball on Sonny King being guest ref', and like all good agents he eventually got the deal that was best for his client. He maybe could've told Reed the 'B' and 'U' were missing from his 'BUTCH REED' trunks, though. I liked this, but it probably could've done with a few minutes trimmed off. The early parts with Magnum controlling are fine; he has nice armdrags (lost count of the number of times the commentator said 'beautiful' in this match. Beautiful armdrag, beautiful dropkick, beautiful hip toss. Everything was beautiful) and it's solid babyface control stuff. Then Reed takes over with an aaaawesome high knee and he really busts out the offence for a few minutes, including a great looking suplex from the apron back in ('beautiful suplex'). I love Reed to death and he's one of my three favourite wrestlers ever, but I think a fair criticism of him is that he sometimes got a wee bit chinlock happy. And he got a wee bit chinlock happy here. Crowd absolutely lose it for Magnum's comeback, but man did he love the hip toss in this match (they were beautiful hip tosses, though). You think, "okay, here comes the big belly to belly" and then...another hip toss. Match kind of got a bit ragged at the end as well, but overall I dug this well enough and I will never complain about new Butch Reed in Mid-South footage.

Monday, 2 November 2015

The Weird and Wonderful World of Random Teams in a Tenryu Fed

Genichiro Tenryu, Ashura Hara & Ultimo Dragon v Jim Duggan, Kamala & Jerry Estrada (SWS, 6/16/92) - SKIPPABLE

Holy hell, would you just look at that outsiders team. Has there ever been a more random mash-up of wrestlers? A jovial Glens Falls caveman, a Ugandan cannibal and the Mexican Keith Richards. This...wasn't very good, but it had its moments and you know, how am I not gonna watch a match with Tenryu AND Jerry Estrada in it? I never even dared to dream something like that existed. Jerry looked fairly sober in this, which sort of disappointed me. He was the best guy from his team, though. Duggan was in full on "HOOOOOOO" mode, chest puffed out with hands high on hips, but nobody in the crowd felt like playing along. I always feel a bit sorry for guys coming into a Tenryu fed for the first time, because unless they've wrestled Flair or Garvin or Wahoo they've probably never before been chopped like they'll be chopped in a Tenryu fed. Hara chops the painted stars off Kamala's tits and I do not think Harris expected to be hit like that.

Genichiro Tenryu, Atsushi Onita & Bam Bam Bigelow v Chris Jericho, Vampiro & The Warlord (WAR, 7/17/94) - FUN

Like this is any less random. This is probably the most I've enjoyed Chris Jericho in a long time. Going through the '96 yearbook he's been super spotty and his offence looks pretty bad most of the time, but he does everything with a kind of reckless and sloppy stiffness that I figured might at least lend itself to a Tenryu fed. Sure enough he recklessly flung spin kicks at peoples' heads, and if nothing else the guy always tries to make a compelling contest of it so the exchanges with Tenryu were really good. Tenryu made him look killer. Tenryu also made Vampiro look halfway passable for a minute there, which is like pissing in a plastic bottle and managing to convince someone it's a thirty year old single malt. Tenryu is pretty much the master of making much lower ranked guys who on paper have no plausible shot of hanging with boss look like they could actually hang with the boss (sometimes he might even be TOO giving in that respect). I wondered if this was the match Jericho talked about in his book where he accidentally rings Onita's bell, and yeah, he Lionsaults him right in the face and Onita's lights are definitely out.

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

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.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Sunday, 1 November 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #3

Terry Gordy v Steve Williams (Texas Death Match) (Houston Wrestling, 2/6/87)

Well I'll be damned. It's been a while since I watched Williams or Gordy in a non-All Japan singles match setting, but this was fucking tremendous and might be the best US singles match either guy ever had. You used to hear a lot on WWE commentary about guys having "no wasted motion." Michael Cole would say it three times every Chris Benoit match. Half the time I'm not even sure he knew what he meant, but if Michael Cole, in some weird alternate universe, happened to commentate on this match I could absolutely imagine him banging on about no wasted motion. Everything in the first few minutes is fought for. The collar and elbow tie-ups actually look like they're struggles for dominance, like a pair of white rhinos butting horns. Then Gordy spikes Williams with a DISGUSTING piledriver - like, this is one of the absolute nastiest piledrivers you'll see - and it turns into everything you want in a Texas Death Match. This might be my favourite Williams performance ever, with his dead on his feet selling being particularly awesome. Both guys hit gushers in this but oh my days does Terry Gordy go full Eddie Guerrero with the blade. He is a fucking mess after half a minute. At one point he tries to hit another piledriver and the blood pouring from his head turns the back of Williams' yellow trunks bright red. I usually hate the "pull opponent up from pin attempt" spot, but it worked better here than just about any other time I can remember. When Gordy does it it obviously leads straight to Williams making his comeback (and Gordy getting opened up), then Williams does it in return and roars like a fucking wild gorilla and the crowd just ERUPTS. It was very awesome, unlike pretty much every other instance of that spot. At first I was kind of whatever on them doing a draw at the finish, but then they threw a curveball and I changed my tune. Williams falling through the ropes at the end and staggering back to the locker room in a stupor was perfect. Just an amazing, violent bloodbath of a match. Might've finished top 10 on the Mid-South set had it been available at the time.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #2

Dick Murdoch v The Nightmare (Houston Wrestling, 7/26/85)

Pretty much the Dick Murdoch show, and a hell of a show it is. Like, Nightmare is a fine enough passenger, but this is all about Dickie. I actually thought this was the match that made the Mid-South set, but apparently it's a different one! So, you know, awesome. Anyways: Murdoch. He was so great in this. Early on he gets bundled into the corner a few times and peppered with shots, but any time he goes to throw a punch of his own the ref' interjects. This persists for a bit as the crowd get more and more worked up, then they do this awesome rope running sequence with fucking multiple Dick Murdoch leapfrogs, and it ends with Dick tagging Nightmare in the face with a perfect right hand. Murdoch then spends the rest of the match trying to unmask Nightmare, and when that fails he just spins the mask around so Nightmare is left staggering around blind. We also get the spot I remember from the Mid-South set, where Murdoch throws a flurry of punches and winds the arm up for the big home run, the ref' grabbing the arm to stop it and Murdoch popping Nightmare with the free hand instead (and the ref' throwing his arms up in exasperation). At one point Nightmare brings a chair in the ring, but Dick takes it off him, open it up and atomic drops Nightmare on the chair, which fucking ruled. And then they do an out-on-their-feet punch exchange towards the end and Murdoch grabs the eye holes in Nightmare's mask to hold him in place while he punches him and that fucking ruled as well. This was several buckets of fun.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Come on Take a Stroll Down to Basin Street, and Listen to the Music with the Mid-South Beat

Jake Roberts & The Barbarian v Rock 'n' Roll Express (6/28/85)

On a set loaded with awesome tag wrestling, this always stuck out in my memory as being one of the best tags on it. In hindsight the spot with Jake being tied up in the ropes and the RnRs peppering him with shots while the Barbarian scrambles around chasing shadows was probably the main reason for that. It's an awesome spot, and I don't remember seeing it any other time, which is weird because why would you not want to do that spot all the time? You'd think someone would've pinched it by now. I mean, it's not like this is a one spot match or anything, but if it was then it might still have been worth it. Loved Jake in this. All of his nasty sleazeball touches ruled, like stamping on Morton's fingers and yanking the tassels on Morton's tights so he couldn't scoot away to tag. He was clearly directing traffic and carrying things for his team, to the point where I thought it was obvious enough that it might've been intentional. As in, Nord was blatantly looking to Jake for direction at points and made no real attempt to hide that, while Jake worked the whole thing as team leader directing his meat head buddy. Nord is obviously green as hell, but I thought in a way it actively added to the match. Hectic finish run was really good as well, and you can't really go wrong with the finish. Yeah, there was a reason I remembered this match being great, and it wasn't just because of one memorable spot.

Mid-South Project

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

NWA Classics 24/7 #1

I'm pretty much watching stuff at random here. I'm also trying not to blow through all the Butch Reed matches straight away.

Ted DiBiase & Steve Williams v The Guerreros (Bandolero Death Match) (Houston Wrestling, 7/85)

Is the Guerrero family the best wrestling family ever? Eddie, Chavo Sr. and Hector are all fucking awesome, Mando I need to see more of but is probably really good (because duh), and Gory sired the four of them so no way he didn't rule. And Chavo Jr. didn't suck, either. Chavo Sr. and Hector really came out of nowhere on the Mid-South and blew a bunch of folks away with how good they were (myself included), and all of this newly unearthed stuff really bolsters their rep. This was good, but the pole gimmick (it's basically [item] on a pole match) kind of got in the way a bit. Everyone had to climb the pole to unhook the bandolero, but the longer the match went the sweatier they got and that hardly made the climbing any easier. Led to plenty of bare ass shots with dudes getting pulled off the pole by their trunks. Maybe this is the match that inspired Shawn Michaels. Crowd absolutely lose it for the finish, and the early do-si-do dropkick sequence needs some love as well.

Hacksaw Duggan v One Man Gang (No DQ) (Houston Wrestling, 8/8/86)

Fuck, this totally ruled. Only goes about six minutes, but by the end it feels like both guys just came out of a war. Duggan was a total nut job in this throwing incredible punches and stumbling around the ring (or both rings, as it were) and ringside like a bloodied up caveman warrior. Gang hurling himself in between the two rings to get away from Duggan swinging the chair, Duggan tossing Gang over the top rope by the beard(!), the assisted splash/sit-up/punch sequence between both guys and Akbar, the punches, the postings -- for six minutes they sure managed to cram in a bunch of awesome shit. I've barely watched anything from the service really, but this is the best thing I've checked out so far. Just a badass sprint-brawl.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Grab Bag of the Day - Butch Reed

I went and dropped some pennies on the NWA Classics 24/7 service the other night. I probably won't be able to really jump into it until the end of the year since I took my old ass back to school and I've got a million different essays to write right now, but it looks to be every bit the awesome service that you'd want. There's also a bunch of new Butch Reed matches up with hopefully more to come, so that's worth £7 a month on its own.

Butch Reed, Nikolai Volkoff & Krusher Krushev v Junkyard Dog, Hacksaw Duggan & Tito Santana (Houston Wrestling, 1/27/84)

I lowered my expectations for this because I read it was really disappointing. That probably helped in the end because I ended up thinking it was pretty decent, but on paper it should be a whole lot better than pretty decent. I dug Reed a bunch at least, which is probably always going to be the case with Mid-South. He bumped and stooged for JYD early then threw bombs and bled with Duggan down the stretch. Much of the rest of the brawling was fairly plodding, though. It's also elimination rules and all of the eliminations fell pretty flat. If nothing else it got me geared up for the new Reed/JYD and Reed/Tito matches, but this promised something way better than it what we got.

Butch Reed v Dutch Mantell (Houston Wrestling, 7/26/85)

This felt like a ten minute taster of what a twenty minute match between these guys would be, but it was a good taster. Dutch was really spirited here. He gets the crowd riled up early and teases some hidden foreign object shtick, then shows major ass when Reed gets pissed and tries to throw fists. Everything he did working from above was super solid as well, kind of taking little spells at working over different body parts, from the arm to the leg to the head, living up to the Dirty moniker by pulling tights and ropes for leverage and using the edge of the ring apron to inflict some extra damage. Reed  was Reed and did his thing, but Dutch's performance really stood out here. I'd love it if we got more of this match-up in future updates.

Butch Reed v Eddie Gilbert (Houston Wrestling, 8/4/85)

Man, Boesch is something else as a commentator. My grandpa is 85 and talks THE biggest load of horseshit you've ever heard and just rambles on about nothing, and that's pretty much Paul Boesch at this point in time. Bunch of times he starts saying something then seems to lose his train of thought and stays silent for a while, then resumes his sentence again once he finds the word he was looking for. But most of it is nonsense anyway. He also spends this whole match referring to Reed as Duggan. I guess the Hacksaw thing threw him off. I can see that. Anyways, this was fun. Gilbert is full on stooge-weasel and does nothing in the first five minutes but whine, stall and take one huge pinball bump off a punch. Reed's stuff looked killer here; meaty punches, skull-cavey forearms, a big Vader-style clothesline, big suplex and an awesome flying shoulder tackle. Gilbert's shtick wasn't totally perfected yet (compared to '87 when he REALLY turned up the douchebaggery), but this was a fine way to spend ten minutes.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Thank You for Your Wine, Mid-South, Thank You for Your Sweet and Bitter Fruits

Ric Flair v Kerry Von Erich (5/4/85)

Well I liked this more than the last Flair/Kerry match on the set, but maybe I shouldn't have picked it as one of the first matches to watch after not having watching any wrestling at all in the last six months. I've probably mentioned a bunch of times in the last few years that I got burned out on Flair big time around 2011, and in a sense it's matches like this that are the reason why. I've just seen Flair and Kerry so many times by now that it holds no interest for me. If you've seen enough Flair you'll have a pretty decent idea of where certain things will be plugged in during his matches. That in and of itself doesn't really bother me, but here it felt like I could basically play-by-play the whole thing before it happened. There's some okay arm work that get dropped, Flair begging off, Kerry doing a mocking strut, press slams, Flair coming off the top and getting caught in the Claw, etc. Like, it's fine and everything, but I'd probably be cool with never seeing another Flair/Kerry match again.

Mid-South Project

Friday, 23 October 2015

Grab Bag of the Day - Barry Windham

I'm trying to work my way back into watching stuff. In order to do this I'm just gonna fling some random names into the youtubes and see what comes up. This morning I settled on Barry Windham.

Barry Windham v Dean Malenko (WCW Nitro, 1998 maybe)

Not sure on the date, but it's around the time Flair and Bischoff were feuding (which I guess was all the time, but specifically on-screen leading to their Starrcade match). That was '98, right? Dusty comes out as special ref' and he's wearing an nWo shirt. I have no recollection of Dusty being in the nWo. How great was the Horsemen music, btw? Match goes like four minutes but it still reinforces how much more likely I am to enjoy Malenko in sub-ten minute installments than in lengthy affairs. He works super quick in the beginning and then he takes a nasty spill off the rope where it looked like he could've legit torn an ACL. The leg is already taped up and Windham goes after it, so I assume it's a thing they've put across on TV, but still, he took it like a madman. Windham just punches the knee and wraps him up in the corner and Dusty admonishes Malenko for grabbing onto the ropes for too long. He also does the "I've got something in my eye and can't see what's happening" shtick while Barry wraps Dean's leg around the rope and drops knees onto the hamstring. Then Dusty calls for a DQ and awards the match to Malenko and Bischoff comes out raging about some shit and it turns out it was a swerve and Dusty isn't really in the nWo after all. Or whatever.

Barry Windham v Too Cold Scorpio (WCW Saturday Night, 1/23/93)

This is every bit the Barry Windham I remember from random early 90s WCW episodes as a kid. The moustache, the awesome cowboy boots, the long blond hair, the surliness, the pot belly. I had some WCW action figures from around that time (looked great, but none of their limbs moved and they never had the same appeal as the WWF ones) and my Barry Windham figure was exactly that. That was Barry Windham to me. When I first started reading about 80s territory footage/wrestling outside my childhood WWF-and-to-a-lesser-extent-WCW bubble, I couldn't believe this idea that Barry Windham had once been a handsome young fan favourite. I just couldn't picture it. Turned out I was wrong and that THAT Barry Windham had in fact existed, but THIS Barry Windham will always be the one I remember best. Anyways, this isn't at the level of their Clash match from June, but Scorp/Barry is a quality match-up and this was about six minutes of neat stuff. Barry is just waaaay surly here. The first thing he does in the match is back up into the corner and smash Scorp in the ear with a mean right hook, then he laughs about it. It's also kind of cliche, like the whole "Jake Roberts was a master psychologist" talking point, but Windham just looked like a natural pro-wrestler (and Jake Roberts totally ruled). His bumps, his selling, the way he suplexes a guy - it all looks so graceful, like Thierry Henry galloping down the left wing.

Barry Windham & Arn Anderson v Road Warriors (WCW Saturday Night, 6/2/90)

God damn are Arn and Barry all-timers. One of my favourite nerdy things about this stupid hobby/obsession with wrestling is how you can pretty much forget about the existence of a certain wrestler that you would generally consider a favourite, only to go back and watch a ten minute match of theirs and instantly remember everything you love about them like it hasn't been about a year and a half since you last had them on your TV. Like, before this morning I don't remember the last time I watched an Arn Anderson or Barry Windham match. It's probably been longer since I watched an Arn match than a Windham match, but Arn is one of my ten favourite wrestlers ever and Barry isn't terribly far off that. It had just never really crossed my mind to sit and watch a bunch of Arn Anderson or Barry Windham matches. But then a "Barry Windham" youtube search takes me to this, and it's not like it's a blowaway great match or anything, but it's ten minutes of Arn and Barry being everything that made them favourites of mine however many years ago (though Barry doesn't quite look like my old action figure just yet). Arn stooges, Barry does perfect suplexes, both guys work over a babyface, both guys take their comeuppance. Both guys rule and this is why I love both guys.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Lawler v Dutch, Dundee v Sugar (Memphis, obv)

Jerry Lawler v Dutch Mantell (Barbed Wire Match) (Memphis, 3/29/82)

I like the No DQ match a bit more, but this is just a timeless match-up. I love how they start the match all cagey-like. Lance is great as always on commentary, saying that even hitting the ropes requires caution because of the barbed wire being so close. There are some attempts at dragging each other into the wire, but for the most part it's a lingering monster in the background and doesn't come fully into play early on. Some of the punches in this are just unbelievable. Whole last ten minutes or so are basically a game of Punch-Out!! and it's everything that's great about Lawler v Mantell brawls. The hooks, the jabs, the uppercuts, the double KO's, the punch drunk selling - everything rules. The barbed wire wasn't used a whole lot, it was more about  the punches (which I'm all for), but both guys really dug it into the other's face like they were trying to rip out eyeballs. There was one bit as well where Mantell was on the deck and just booted Lawler in the nuts, then got up and dropped the strap, and it was maybe my favourite moment in a match with about a hundred and fifty awesome Jerry Lawler/Dutch Mantell punches. Finish is pretty much perfect, I thought. Both guys are utterly spent and running on empty, and it all came down to one guy basically being lucky enough to fall down on top of the other. Epic scrap, which is exactly what you'd expect out of these guys at this point in their careers.

Bill Dundee v Sweet Brown Sugar (Scaffold Match) (Memphis, 6/21/82)

There hasn't been a scaffold match in history within a hundred miles of this, right? I mean, one or two have been "good for what they are," but it's always kind of faint praise. It's not like you can do a whole lot in a scaffold match, anyway. This is just a ton of fun though, and I can't think of any other match that manages to be so good despite such obvious limitations enforced upon it by the stipulation. Dundee as a former steel worker/circus act that's totally at home in a match like this because he has no issues with high places is so great. Some of the stuff he does is really awesome, from swinging around under the platform like a monkey to shaking said platform so Sugar loses his balance. At one point Sugar tries to throw him clean off the scaffold and for a second it looks like Dundee is heading straight for death, but he clings on and climbs back up like Spider-Man scaling a skyscraper. Koko was a blast in this as well. He never worked in the circus so he's not used to being up this high, and he has a bunch of great petrified facial expressions when it looks like he might fall.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

The Immortality of Virus' Fame is the Measure of Others' Torture, Burnt Offer from a Flaming Author

Virus v Dragon Lee (CMLL, 12/9/14) - EPIC

You already know Virus rocked in this. If you've seen enough Virus title matches then you know what he brings. He's basically can't-fail in a title match, and sure enough he did not fail. Dragon Lee really stepped up and impressed me a bunch, though. He was a lunatic in the Busca de un Idolo tournament and busted out some of the most spectacular highspots of last year, but this is a title match and not a seven minute sprint, so he had way more time to fill in between doing any crazy shit. And while Virus could carry just about anyone to a decent title match, Lee absolutely held up his end. Some of the first caida matwork was really great, especially how they'd fight over something like an abdominal stretch. Virus is one of those guys that makes everything look like a struggle, but Lee really wrenched and pulled at joints to get out of predicaments. Segunda was a bit short, maybe disappointingly so (although that's probably a recurring issue with modern CMLL since I don't think it was any shorter than usual), but the third caida was fucking tremendous. Lee is going to be awesome when he manages to put everything together (kid's only been wrestling for about four years), but one thing he already has down pat is his dives. Holy shit was his tope an absolute scud missile. Virus countering a running dropkick and turning it into an STF was an incredible spot (didn't look choreographed at all), and the fight over the resultant STF was great. Lee claws his way over to the ropes and reaches out to grab them, but Virus shifts the hold around to use Lee's own arm to apply a choke. Cena should steal that. Hell of a match; one of the best Virus title matches over the last few years, which is pretty high praise.

Complete & Accurate Virus

Friday, 17 April 2015

Catching up with 2010s WWE (#8)

The Shield v Team Hell No & Kofi Kingston (RAW, 5/20/13)

Well this was pretty fucking great. Gets plenty of time (like around 25 minutes), they run an AWA-esque double heat segment, and everybody got to stretch out and look good. I've watched a decent chunk of the Team Hell No run (up to this point in time) since I started this...project, I guess, and the main thing I took away from it regarding Bryan is that he was super fun in all of it and him and Kane had a bunch of entertaining backstage segments. He wasn't exactly a comedy guy, but I think of him in Team Hell No as more lighthearted fun and kinda whimsical. This wasn't that Bryan. He took the fall in the tag title loss to Reigns and Rollins at the PPV, and now he is fucking pissed. He ruled in this. Dude was going a hundred miles an hour, taking guys out left and right to prove that he isn't the weak link of his team. Rollins constantly shit talking him from the apron was great as well ("c'mon, ya little weak link"), primarily because it only wound him up more and led to him killing folk worse. He hits one clothesline that about broke Rollins' neck, pulled him into a surfboard by yanking him up by his nose, and punted Ambrose all over the place. Then he went FIP and might've been even better at that. Just an incredible performance. Have I told y'all I'm a fan of The Shield? I always love how they isolate someone and seem to make an actual effort to cut the ring off, but it's also really cool how they work like they genuinely have each others' backs. When one of them gets in a little trouble, another member will do their utmost to bail them out. Even the way they communicate from the apron, like how Reigns and Rollins will clap and praise Ambrose for doing something good, or how Rollins shouts a warning when Kane tries to come in. Finishing stretch was great too, especially Bryan and Kofi's stereo topes. One of the best Shield matches up to this point and just a killer TV tag. Everything I wanted from it.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Catching up with 2010s WWE (#7)

Daniel Bryan v The Miz (Night of Champions, 9/19/10)

This was total underdog babyface Bryan, and man did he rule. It's kind of strange seeing Bryan fighting from below against Miz, even in 2010, even before he blew up and became this goat-faced beard machine that got insanely over, even before he won the World Title in the main event of a fucking Wrestlemania. Like, I don't think Miz is terrible or anything (although I don't like him much, either), but Daniel Bryan/Brian Danielson as underdog against Mike Mizanin is hard to buy if you're a geek like me that's been watching Danielson stretch indy scrubs for 10+ years. It's almost unfathomable that Miz was ever a bigger deal than Bryan. Fuck, Bryan even has the hotter wife now (I'm a brunette guy). But, you know, that's not really how pro-wrestling works. Everything needs context, and within the context of 2010 WWE, Daniel Bryan working underdog against The Miz makes sense. And even if you still had a hard time buying it, Bryan sold the arm so well that it really felt like an uphill struggle for him (loved how he'd hang his arm limply by side during a strike exchange). A lot of that was down to Miz as well, though. He makes a few goofy intense facial expressions (I literally cannot buy him even having distaste for something, never mind hate), but all of his arm work looked painful and varied, and I thought he controlled the match in a believable way. There was one super nasty spot where he leans back and just rips Bryan's shoulder over the bottom rope. Thought the finishing run was great, especially Bryan recreating the crazy clothesline on the ropes bump from the McGuinness matches (side question: has Bryan ever used Cattle Mutilation in WWE?). Loved Cole's reaction to the finish as well. He was such an obnoxious douchebag at points during this, and the absolute last thing he wanted to do was give Bryan any credit for winning. Great match.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

As the World Turns, Rey Spreads Like Germs, Bless the Globe with the Pestilence, the Hard-Headed Never Learn

Rey Mysterio v CM Punk (Rey Joins S.E.S v Punk's Hair) (Over the Limit, 5/23/10)

I've watched the three PPV matches these guys had in 2010 over the last week or so, and this was definitely the best. The Wrestlemania match was a great little sprint, but the Extreme Rules match, while good, felt a bit up and down and wasn't hugely interesting in the middle. Everything clicked here, though. Punk looked visibly annoyed at the blood stoppage, but it came at an okay point considering it followed Rey's awesome bump into the barber's chair. Punk going ballistic and hurling Rey into the barricade in a bearded rage after he got patched up was great, and everything after that kept building really well. Dug Punk's facial expressions a bunch, too. He would look feral one minute, then he'd start smiling all crazy-like as if he'd come up with the master plan that'd finally work. The last sequence with Punk catching a moonsault and going for the GTS, Rey fighting out and hitting the 619 and then Punk sitting up to dodge the splash was great. Punk clutching his hair in realisation at the end is such a cool contrast to how he was stroking it and grinning at the end of the ER match. Also liked how they set up the actual head shaving. I figured they'd just go the old 'heel gets put out with a sleeper hold and wakes up bald' route, but Punk being handcuffed to the ropes and begging for mercy while Rey shaves his bloody head was great. Punk looked like a wild dog that got kicked into a helicopter propeller afterwards. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Whiskey & Wrestling Turns 400!

It's a momentous day. If you'd told me five years ago when I started a blog that it'd still be going in 2015 and I'd have written 400 entries for it I'd have laughed in your adorable face. I mean, only about ten people actually read this, but fuck it. To celebrate such an occasion I watched a few of my favourite matches ever. This might be the most positive entry Whiskey & Wrestling has ever seen. Raise a glass, brothers and sisters. Drink deep this night.

Bobby Eaton & Sweet Brown Sugar v Dutch Mantell & King Cobra (Memphis, 7/19/82)

Fuck sake, what did Eaton do to Mantell? Dutch wants to get at him in the worst way and spends the first few minutes intermittently sprinting around the ring area trying to grab him. Did Eaton wax Dutch's back hair while he was sleeping? Apparently Dutch and Cobra have had beef in the past, and they do this great spot where Dutch accidentally pops Cobra with a punch, teasing some dissension while Eaton and Koko jump around like goobers trying to instigate a fight. Then Dutch and Cobra run across and punch the two of them all over the ring. Eaton and Koko are sooooo the greatest Midnight Express that never was (wonder how many times I've said that over the course of the last 400 posts). The heat segment on Mantell was fucking terrific in this. Obviously Eaton's only willing to get within eight feet of Dutch if he's sure Dutch can't punch his face, and when he's satisfied enough that that's the case, holy shit does he unload with the offence. Crazy powerslam, a Demolition-style assisted elbow drop off the second rope, awesome looking running clothesline, and there's one bit where he and Koko take turns dropping about ten elbows in a row while the ref' tries to keep a lid on Cobra. Koko is just working the absolute hell out of the apron here. I don't think he stays in the one spot for more than five seconds. At one point he runs over to the adjacent corner and climbs the ropes so he can shit talk Cobra and a section of the crowd at the same time. I thought Dutch yanking Eaton clean off the middle turnbuckle by fucking lassoing him was wild enough, but Koko absolutely hurling himself over the top rope to get away was truly insane. Just an awesome tag match.

Dick Murdoch v Afa (WWF, 10/22/84)

100% Dick Murdoch masterclass. He basically runs through every bit of shtick he has and it's completely fucking awesome. It's a total broomstick job. Like, Afa throws a few headbutts and no-sells getting hit in the head. That's pretty much...yeah, that's it. Everything else is Murdoch being God. He cowers in the corner the first couple lock-ups when he thinks Afa's about to hit him, then when it's his turn to break clean he takes a swing. Afa of course moves so Murdoch is on his knees in the corner begging for his life. Then he gets some distance and calls Afa a cave raider. "One more time, you cave raider! One more time!" You know, as if it's Afa who's pushing his luck. He has so many ways to put over Afa's granite-hard head. He elbows him in the head and sells his own elbow, blocks a headbutt with his forearms and sells the forearms, punches him in the head and sells the fist, headbutts him and lays himself out, then Afa throws his head into the turnbuckle and he stumbles all around the ring before falling outside. Then he voluntarily headbutts the turnbuckle a bunch of times to show that his head is hard as well and ends up knocking himself out. His punch drunk, face forward bump with his butt sticking in the air is amazing, like a Hanna-Barbera character who's fallen asleep standing up. The atomic drop sell is absolutely unreal. I couldn't do this justice with words, so I won't even try. He works the majority of the match from the bottom, but his spurts of offence rule as well. He throws Dick Murdoch punches, chokes Afa with electrical cable, then undoes a tag rope and chokes him with that as well. At one point he grabs a 40 from under the ring and bonks Afa on the head with it! His reaction to Afa being unfazed when he rams his head into the mat. I'll stop now because I'd be here for ages trying to note down everything he does, but I loved all of it. I mean, you could probably say Murdoch made it all about himself and worked AROUND Afa rather than work WITH him, but Afa's rubbish so what can you really do, you know? Not a great match, but an out of this world performance and a perfect example of someone carrying a limited opponent by basically working the match around some strength of said opponent (or sole thing opponent brings to the table, since I'm not sure you can actually credit Afa complying with the 'Samoans have rock hard heads' trope as a strength).

Nobuhiko Takada v Shinya Hashimmoto (New Japan, 4/29/96)

Pretty much the perfect Tokyo Dome main event. Pretty much the perfect sub-15 minute match. Pretty much an incredible piece of pro-wrestling. Hashimoto is just the master at this kind of match. Everything he does builds drama, whether it's a stare, a grimace, or a kick that shatters ribs. He was phenomenal in this and it's one of his finest performances. Takada in this setting is a different beast from shoot-style Takada. Takada dogging it and lying around in kneebars can get to fuck, but this Takada is gravy. There's one bit where he kind of sits in a half crab and has the facial expression of someone flossing before bed, but other than that he was fairly unimpeachable in his role, and he does bring an air of legitimacy that fires the atmosphere into the clouds. I remembered this having more of a duel limb work story, with Hash going after Takada's leg and Takada going after Hash's shoulder, but I never noticed it as much this time. It was still there, but Takada's leg was more of a subtle piece of the story while Hash's shoulder was a centerpiece. Hash's selling of gradually being broken down by Takada's kicks was really something. Just about everyone in Japan for the last 10/15 years has tried to do the "gritting it out"/selling through toughness bit, but nobody has ever managed to do it like Hashimoto. Not a single person in wrestling history. This has a couple of my favourite spots from any match ever. Early in the match Hash catches Takada with a leg kick, and Takada does this amazing delayed sell of it to set up that little sub-plot (that's not one of the spots I was talking about, but it was awesome and sets one of those spots up). First spot comes when Takada has Hash on the ropes, literally, as he's peppering him with big shots while Hash tries to pull himself back to his feet. Takada won't let him out though and keeps swinging kicks, so Hash just blasts him in the guts and Takada crumples like he got lanced. Later on he has Hash rocking with kicks to the shoulder, the leg, body and head. He's going full pelt trying to put him away. He shoves him back a little to create a bit of distance, then he gears up for a big home run KO, but as he throws the kick Hash ducks down and just cuts Takada's standing leg in half with a low sweep kick. Crowd goes completely fucking ballistic. The brainbuster at the end looked like it compressed Takada's spine, and the pop for the tap out is exactly what the match had been building to. New Japan was undeniably Shinya Hashimoto's house at this point in time. It didn't really need confirmation, but I guess him having the big belt again provided it.

Eddie Guerrero v Big Show (WWE Smackdown!, 4/15/04)

I love this match to death. I love everything about it. It's maybe my favourite monster v underdog match ever, and I also think it's genuinely one of the best. Both guys were really awesome here. When I wrote about Show/Sheamus from HIAC 2012 a few days ago and I said that I never really thought of Show as a guy that managed to incorporate his size and general giganticness into a killer beatdown. Like, in terms of massive brick shit houses that can throw regular-sized people around like bags of potatoes, I wouldn't put him in the same bracket as Mark Henry. He was great in that Sheamus match, though, and he was even better in this. I don't remember him coming off as such an unfuckwithable presence before. It helps that Eddie was on some next level underdog babyface shit, but it takes two to make something this good. All of Show's arm work looked amazing. He hoists Eddie about eight feet in the air with an arm wringer and then holds him up there, applies a one-handed armbar while squeezing the rotator cuff with the other hand (his hand covers the entire shoulder), stretches Eddie out by wrapping him in a hammerlock around the turnbuckle bolt, drops massive elbows on the shoulder joint, headbutts the arm; just a bunch of awesome stuff. Eddie was as scrappy as I've ever seen him here. All of his hope spots where things you could see someone doing in a real fight against a massive man trying to pull your arm off. You can't do much when you're the size of Eddie against a guy the size of Show. You can't pick him up. You can't take him down. You can stomp on his toes, though. You can yank his chest hair out (THAT fucking ruled). Grabbing a wrench from under the ring and stuffing it in Show's boot as a distraction is such a cool Eddie Guerrero thing to do. Show is so great at pleading his case to the ref' as well. "That's not mine! I had nothin' to do with that!" Eddie unloading with a barrage of punches while Show's guard was down felt like Sting going fuck it and laying into Vader after being pummeled for ten minutes. Finish is great. Ref' gets bumped and Show grabs Eddie for the chokeslam, but Eddie kicks him in the plums and then drops him with a DDT and Frog Splash. I've watched a few corkers of WWE TV matches recently, but this might be the best of the lot. I'm not totally locked into the idea that it's the best Smackdown! match in history, but it is waaaaaay in the discussion.

Here's to four hunner more!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Drew McIntyre! Was Really Fucking Good!

Drew McIntyre v Kofi Kingston (Fatal 4-Way, 6/20/10)

I thought Kofi/Ambrose might've been Kofi's best match (well, it was the best I'd seen at that point, at least), but this was better. This was really fucking good, and I thought Kofi absolutely held up his end again. He bumped well and he sold the arm well, both during and after the armwork. There was one cool bit where he does his boom/clap set-up to Trouble in Paradise and actually sells the arm after he claps, like he forgot about the bad shoulder and that clap jarred it again. So yeah, that was neat and people would've lost their shit for it if Bryan or Ambrose did it. Your mileage'll vary on the strikes of course, but that poor horse be fucking dead y'all so we'll leave it well alone. Still, this was Drew's show. He had so much awesome offence around this time. Was there anyone in the company who had as many interesting ways to work over a body part? I love how he'd take over matches by using parts of the ring to injure someone. This doesn't have as cool a spot as the Christian match, it's just a plain old ram into the ring post, but it's effective. Dug all the arm work, especially the Codebreaker to the shoulder. He also threw a corker of a bit boot at one point right to the arm. Kofi's float-over DDT to start his comeback was a great spot. Didn't look contrived or silly at all and you know Drew took it straight on his cranium. I don't really remember anything about the Teddy Long storyline that was happening, but the crowd went pretty ape shit for him standing up to Drew, and it all made the whole thing feel pretty big. Strong PPV opener.

Drew McIntyre v Christian (Smackdown!, 7/30/10)

Yeah, this held up. Pretty much the perfect TV match. These guys are just a match-up made in pro-wrestling geek heaven, because Drew has amazing ways to work an arm and Christian was pretty much the God of selling an arm injury for a while there. They don't do much of a shine segment at the start; it's basically a minute or two where Drew takes a couple killer bumps on the floor (the bump into the ring apron off the dropkick was so great), then they head into the arm work off the amazing transition spot where Drew smashes Christian's shoulder into the metal frame of the ring. Has anybody else ever done that spot before? I really can't remember seeing it. All of the arm work from then on out ruled, as did Christian's sell of it. The shoulderbreaker on the ring steps is just a holy shit level spot, all of his armbars looked nasty, and Christian sells by wiggling his fingers around like he's got nerve damage. Christian keeps on selling all the way to the end and the finish leaves a rematch on the table, and you can't really ask for much more from a wrestling match on free TV.

Drew McIntyre v Chris Masters (Superstars, 8/26/10)

Man, this wasn't a whole ways off the Christian match. I mean, these two have legit cases for being the best heel and babyface in the company in 2010 (I'm probably at the point where I'd say McIntyre was the best heel. Masters has a bit more competition for best babyface), and this was about what you'd expect out of guys at that level. McIntyre taking over by throwing Masters' leg into the post was another great transition spot from a guy that had a ton of great ways to take over a match. All of his leg work was great, which shouldn't surprise anyone. At one point he dropkicks Masters in the knee and it looked fucking awesome. When did people actually stop and go, "right, hold up here. Chris Masters really fucking rules at the pro-wrestling"? He obviously never got this good overnight so I'm wondering if there weren't always signs. Maybe someone needs to go back and watch his first run. His sell of the leg was pretty fantastic here. He hobbled around and always showed at least discomfort, and I love him throwing desperate chops from his knees. The leg comes into play again at the finish, and this is another match on free TV that you can't really ask for much more from.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Catching up with 2010s WWE (#6)

Sheamus v Big Show (Hell in a Cell, 10/28/12)

My first thought when I see these two matching up is, "I want this to be a slugfest." And that's what this was. Both guys were pretty great in their roles here. Sheamus almost works this like he's Rey Mysterio, or even how Rey Mysterio would work if he was against Sheamus (did those two ever have a match, btw? That sounds like it could be money), but instead of hope spots built around springboards and armdrags, Sheamus' hope spots are built around him trying to slabber Show. Show was a demon in control. He's obviously naturally imposing, but I don't really think of him as a guy that's always great at translating that into a killer beatdown. He was totally Henry-esque in this though, emphatically cutting Sheamus off, chucking him all over the place (the bumps over the top rope were great, but the table bump was spectacular), and he really went Hashimoto with the overhand chops. Sheamus' chest looked like a chewed up hamburger by the end. Dug how Show showed gradual frustration throughout the match as well, similar to the Del Rio LMS match (which he was amazing in). After every kickout he loses a little confidence, a little poise, and when even the KO Punch can't put Sheamus away he's about ready to have a fit. Everything in the finishing run looked brutal. The KO Punch and Brogue Kick were two of the most protected finishers in the company at the time (still are, actually), so both kickouts felt huge, but neither felt cheap. I figured another KO Punch was coming when Sheamus was gearing up for the second Brogue Kick, but that never made it look any less awesome. Hell of a finish. Is this one of the best matches either guy's ever had? It's not the best WWE match of the year since 2012 was the year of Cena/Lesnar, but it could be top 10 (I say that as if I'll ever get around to watching enough 2012 footage to even know what a top 10 would look like).

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Catching up with 2010s WWE (#5)

Dean Ambrose v Kofi Kingston (Extreme Rules, 5/19/13)

Pretty quality sub-ten minute match, probably the best Kofi match I've ever seen and maybe the best Ambrose (in WWE, I mean) singles match up to that point. Match actually feels sort of Nitro-ish in the best way possible, like both guys knew they only had ten minutes and decided to just cut the fat and go flat out. It wasn't really a sprint, but they never messed about, either. Ambrose's offence wasn't as wild and reckless as it usually is, but he still busted out some great stuff. Like, he looked more like a pro-wrestler in this rather than a psychopath that's stolen riot gear and flinging himself at people. His double underhook superplex was a great spot, and there's one bit where Kofi goes for a leaping something and Ambrose just yanks him out the air right into a crossface chicken wing. He also has some awesome facial expressions, like the "okay, so we're doing this now?" smirk after Kofi kicks out of the aforementioned superplex. I have to go to bat for Kofi here as well. This was about as on point a babyface performance as you could want out of him He gets the crowd going with the massive height he gets on leapfrogs and cross bodies, he does some cool lingering selling of the chicken wing by hanging his arm by his side for a few minutes afterwards, and yes, most of his offence looked good. Trouble in Paradise especially came off better than I've ever seen it before (helped that Ambrose took it clean in the face like a fucking nutter, mind you), then when he tries it a second time he ends up taking a nice bump into thw ropes. Ambrose post-match: "gimme that fuckin' belt." I also LOVE the other two Shield members coming down and celebrating with him in the ring afterwards. Made the US title feel special and like this was a title change that held some weight. I adore The Shield and this was a lot of fun.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Catching up with 2010s WWE (#4)

CM Punk v Randy Orton (Last Man Standing) (Extreme Rules, 5/1/11)

I watched the 1/11/13 Big Show v Alberto Del Rio Last Man Standing match yesterday. It was great, maybe the best Del Rio match ever and one of the best of Show's career, but I wouldn't have said I was all that high on the Last Man Standing gimmick. That said, I can think of a decent handful of WWE LMS matches that I'd call really good. This wasn't as good as Show/Del Rio (or Cena/Umaga, obv), but I thought it hit really good level pretty comfortably. I'm honestly not a massive Punk fan, but the guy can be super great on a micro level. Just with awesome little touches here and there. Some of his mocking shtick was a blast in this, like when he does his running knee in the corner and shit talks Orton for a few seconds before going for the bulldog. For a PPV opener this managed to feel like a pretty brutal war with some killer bumps. Orton's back suplex across the guardrail looked sick, there was a nasty Russian leg sweep on a chair, and in a totally crazy spot Punk wrapped a chair around Orton's throat and flung him straight into the ring post. Orton ate it like a fucking psycho as well and I'm wondering how his trachea never got crushed. I'm not sure if they were using sturdier kendo sticks than usual, but every shot looked seriously painful, both guys sold the shit out of them (especially Orton, who really writhed around like he was getting the cat o' nine tails treatment), and they left welts on bodies. Also liked Punk using one as a makeshift walking stick towards the end, hobbling around like the old arthritis-afflicted Hapkido master in a martial arts flick. Don't think they moved from spot to spot down the stretch as well as something like Show/Del Rio, and it never felt as organic as that match either, but the finish was suitably big. This feels like one of the best PPV openers of the decade and I'm surprised I haven't seen it pimped before. 

Monday, 6 April 2015

It Ain't Hard to Tell, Rey Kicks a Skill Like Shaquille Holds a Pill

Rey Mysterio v The Undertaker (Royal Rumble, 1/31/10)

This is a really cool match-up to me on paper. Rey flying around and Undertaker plucking him out the air like a zombie Anthony Davis sounds like a fun prospect, and it more or less worked in practice just like I hoped. Some of the early spots ruled, like Undertaker just throwing Rey clean over the ropes to the floor to cut off a strike flurry, Undertaker's punch while Rey goes up for a springboard (Rey's bump looked awesome), and at one point Rey tries a splash and Undertaker hits a big boot while Rey's mid-flight. It creates a pretty cool dynamic of Rey having to take to the air even more often than normal, just because being close to Undertaker is so dangerous. Unfortunately they don't do as much cool stuff in the middle of the match and instead have Undertaker kind of work "methodical." That's not bad by any means, but it doesn't really play to the main strengths of Rey either. I did like Rey frantically kneeing Undertaker in the face to get out of the Tombstone, which wound up giving Taker a bloodied nose, and Rey doing a sliding dropkick as Undertaker sits up was great. Cool finish as well, with one of the best, most emphatic Last Rides ever.

Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston & John Morrison v The Miz, Alberto Del Rio & R-Truth (Summerslam, 8/14/11)

Fun PPV opener; not quite as good as some of the multi-man stuff from the last couple years, but this is still one of my favourite ways to watch wrestling so of course I dug it. Everyone got to do a bit, though Kofi was the prominent guy on the babyface end and I'd rather it was someone not him. He gets massive hang time when he jumps so the beginning of all his highspots look good, but then they connect and look lousy. He goes from Kevin Von Erich to...well, Kofi Kingston is basically shorthand for lousy looking offence at this point, so I guess he goes from Kevin Von Erich to Kofi Kingston over the course of a move. He'll at least bump around all rubbery now and then. Rey wasn't featured much - rather than playing FIP he come in off the hot tag, so we never got a beatdown, but we did get him zipping around taking guys out. Dive train at the end was sweet. Kofi gets huuuge height off the springboard. Then he just sort of falls down to earth like Wile E. Coyote when he walks off a cliff like aw shit what the heck do I do now.

Rey Project

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Catching up with 2010s WWE (#3)

Mark Henry v Randy Orton (Night of Champions, 9/18/11)

This was peak Hall of Pain Henry so you know he ruled in it, but I thought Orton was right there with him and more than held up his end of a match I thought was pretty damn great. He has to stick and move early on and goes to the sleeper, but Henry takes over by just swiping him across the ear with a big old paw  that sends Orton crashing from the top rope to the floor. Henry is one of the most imposing guys ever working from the top like this. He flings folk around, makes people bounce off him, and his smack talk is always great. Orton's middle rope DDT was put over huge here. He tries it a couple times and Henry fights him off, and the commentary makes you wonder if he can even lift Henry into position for it. When he eventually does manage to hit it it feels like a serious game changer, and Henry takes the bump flat on his face. Loved the finish. Orton knows it's over, but he'll die on his sword and go for the RKO anyway, and that World's Strongest Slam is one of the more emphatic heel title win moments in a long time. I remember watching this live and wondering if they'd actually pull the trigger on Henry. Judging by the reaction in the building at the time, I wasn't the only one.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Catching up with 2010s WWE (#2)

Dean Ambrose v Kane (Smackdown!, 5/3/13)

Not having been subjected to a whole shit ton of rubbish Kane stuff over the last few years is probably why I'm not quite as sick to death of him as everybody else is. I mean, I don't have any interest whatsoever in watching Authority Kane, but I've seen a bunch of the Team Hell No run now and I've actually thought it was a pretty good run all things considered (and not just because of Bryan). This felt like one of the better Kane singles matches ever, and he held up his end of it. Kane cleaning house at the start looks great because the Shield will really fling themselves all over the place for him. Reigns' bump is especially great, clearing the announce desk and piledriving himself onto a swivel chair. Ambrose ruled in this. He takes over with some leg breaker thing (Kane tries to hit a big boot in the corner, so Ambrose catches the leg and sort of, like...does a Stunner to the leg? Looked like it'd hyper-extend the knee whatever it was) and has some nice stuff to work the leg, including a cool spinning toe hold around the ring post. To his credit Kane sells all of it pretty well, too. More Shield interference leads to Rollins taking a sick table bump, and I think this is about the time Ambrose debuted Dirty Deed as a finisher based on how Cole reacts to it scoring the win. Is this Shield run the closest WWE ever got to the Dangerous Alliance? I haven't watched the whole run yet, but they seemed to be having good matches practically every week, sometimes twice a week, had a ton of fun stuff against any number of babyface combinations, and the best stuff I've seen so far is GREAT. They never had a Wargames type blooodbath, but the Wyatts stuff is a pretty fucking good trade-off, and I think that Elimination Chamber match is right there with the best DA matches.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Brock Lesnar v Roman Reigns (Wrestlemania 31, 3/29/15)

I actually watched the whole of Wrestlemania, half of it live and half of it the following morning (because I'm too old and decrepit to sit up until 4am these days), and thought it was a really good show on the whole (which makes two 'Manias in a row I've enjoyed a whole lot). The opening ladder match had some cool enough spots and an absolute horror bump that I thought left Ambrose's brains seeping out his ears, Orton/Rollins was fine with a completely killer finish (probably the best RKO ever), Sting/Trip was hilarious enough that I couldn't not enjoy it on some level (I watched the show with my brother and we were basically taking bets on when Nash's quad would snap like a rubber band), the Divas tag was a nifty six-seven minutes, Cena/Rousev was really good and had the best entrance in wrestling fucking history, Ronda Rousey threw Helmsley like a schoolgirl, and The Undertaker match match was...well, that sit-up/crab walk spot was cool.

Highlight, though, was the main event, which I thought was fucking outstanding and truly unique. There's never been a Wrestlemania match like this, never mind a Wrestlemania main event. I initially wondered if it would come off less spectacular on a re-watch when I already know the result, but I watched it again there and I'll be fucked if it wasn't spectacular all over again. Crowd getting hotter and hotter and building to nuclear levels helped, of course. Match was stiff as shit. Pretty sure all the blood was hardway, and whether Lesnar pulled a Nigel McGuinness and actually tried to get cut open or not, it absolutely added to the match; about as much as blood has added to any match in company history. Even at the start when Lesnar hit the first F5. He realises he's bleeding, and like a true bully that spurs him on to dish out tenfold the damage in response. Some of his knees to the body were sick, all of his suplexes looked huge; he was just incredible. Reigns threw a bunch of potatoes right back, though. He threw one knee from the apron that was super nasty, then Lesnar fucking murdered him with THAT clothesline, which was obviously amazing. Lesnar taking off the gloves and slapping him silly while Reigns laughs like a belligerent nut job was awesome as well (and surely riled up the Reigns haters to no end). Thought Lesnar sold growing frustration remarkably well, from the tiniest bit of annoyance and doubt after the first F5 kick out to straight up shock towards the end. Then the posting and nasty cut fired the whole match up another level. The blood made him look human and created a sense that Reigns could believably come back and win from being dominated up to that point. Brock's loopy selling of the Superman punches and spear was some next tier shit, and that nearfall with Heyman about having a coronary was so great. I'm cool with the cash in. Match probably did deserve a real finish, but the pop for Rollins winning was insane. I kind of figured it was coming after he lost to Orton, and I thought I accidentally read something about it when I woke up (but I wasn't sure), but it at least felt unpredictable. Lesnar is unlike anything else in wrestling right now and I'm so glad he's sticking around. Him going buck wild and killing folks in a total motherfucking juggernaut rage could be unreal (I haven't seen anything from RAW yet, but I heard he went nuts and almost killed people with an announce desk, so, you know, awesome). Just an unbelievable match. It kind of feels like I'm being crazy hyperbolic since it's still so fresh in my mind, but I really think it has a case for being the best main event in Wrestlemania history.