Friday, 27 February 2015

Hansen v Kobashi - One Last Time

Stan Hansen v Kenta Kobashi (All Japan, 9/5/96)

You know this was fucking awesome. Feels like it's been a while since I last watched a Hansen match. He's the still the best ever. He's pretty broken down here, but it really makes for the story of the one-time baddest redneck walking trying to take back the crown from the new guy on top. Hansen was The Man back when Kobashi was scrubbing Baba's underpants. He's no longer the same Terminator in the Cowboy Hat (that was a line from Childs on PWO, but it's too good not to steal), but this'll probably be his last chance, so there's no way he's not going down throwing hand grenades. What's so great about this match-up is that you can trace its progression from at least '93 (I haven't seen the '92 Carnival match in forever and I don't think I've ever actually seen the '90 and '91 matches, but I don't doubt you could trace it back even that far). In '93 Hansen was still higher up the food chain, but Kobashi was nipping at his heels and Hansen needed to uncork the nastiest Western Lariat in history just to beat him in July. In '94 Hansen was a little older, a little more banged up, and Kobashi was only picking up more steam. When Kobashi finally got his win, it felt like he would only continue to ascend while time would just keep chipping away at Hansen. Now two years down the line Kobashi is the champ. He's where Hansen used to be. So Hansen says fuck it and does the only thing he knows, and that's fight like a total bastard. There are a few points in the first half where you wonder if Kobashi has taken Hansen too lightly. He'll start to gain some momentum, then Hansen will potato him in the jaw and shut him down (and then Tenryu kick him in the eye). Eventually Kobashi gets fed up with that and throws punches to the ribs, and Hansen finally starts looking like the near-50 year old man he is. Hansen responding with his crazy reckless redneck tope fucking ruled, as did his powerbomb on the exposed concrete, which is an awesome staple of Hansen/Kobashi matches; kind of like how Rey and Eddie would always work in a variation of that springboard backflip DDT. Like the '94 match this goes from great to super great once Hansen almost breaks a body part. In '94 he got bounced off the apron and cracked his ribs off the guardrail. This time he runs along the apron and tries to hit the lariat, but Kobashi dives out the way and Hansen smashes the post instead. Hansen's selling from then on out is really awesome. He relies mostly on kicks while his left arm dangles by his side, but now and then Kobashi comes too close so Hansen will throw a right hand to the cheek bone. There was one backhander in particular that looked totally face-cavey. Kobashi obviously works the arm over and as the match progresses he gets more and more surly in his own right. He doesn't resort to throwing potatoes the way Hansen does, but he won't hesitate to kick him in the bad arm, and that leads to the spot of the match. Hansen knows that the only way he can possibly come out of this with the belts is if he hits the lariat. Kobashi has surpassed him and that's really the only weapon that could even things up. It'll hurt Stan, but it'll hurt Kobashi more, so he'll take that bullet. He charges in and Kobashi kicks the arm just as he's about to throw it, but Stan does a 360 on the spot and fucking wastes him on the spin with a right-armed lariat. Crowd lose it in a way where you can tell it was a total left field shot (I never saw it coming, either. And I also popped huge), and Hansen staggers back with hands on knees like that was everything he had left. I think Higuchi might've fucked up the count a little (dude must've been about a hundred a six at this point), but when Kobashi kicks out at the death you can see Hansen just deflate. It was like all those moments in the past where it looked like someone was about to put Hansen away only to fall that tiny bit short, but this time the shoe was on the other foot. Kobashi comes back, Hansen stay belligerent til the end, but there's only so much he can do at this point. Maybe if he'd been able to hit the lariat with the left arm rather than the right it'd be different. But he didn't, and it wasn't. Still, you best believe he walked out with his head held high.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Out Here in the Fields, Tenryu Fights for His Meals

Genichiro Tenryu v Naoki Sano (UWFi, 8/17/96) - GREAT

This was ten minutes of Tenryu and Sano so, you know, obviously it was a blast. Starts out civilized with both guys working hold exchanges, and it's always cool to see Tenryu working quick exchanges like that. The things you normally associate with Tenryu are the hate and contempt and smashing people to bits, but he brings some nice stuff any time he's required to work the mat. Naturally that doesn't last, though. You know where it goes. Tenryu will only play by the rules for so long before letting loose, and eventually he eats one too many leg kicks. He obviously responds by punching and kicking Sano in the face. Sano just continues to frustrate him and cracks him under the jaw with a nasty roundhouse kick, then Tenryu REALLY snaps and just obliterates him with brutal knees and punches in the corner. Tenryu even picks a fight with the ref' in the post-match. Tenryu/Takada should be awesome.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Friday, 13 February 2015

Random WWE Network Day #3

Royal Rumble 1992 (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/19/92)

I've been watching a bunch of Rumble matches on the Network recently. Well, most of the other ones have largely been on as background noise until something catches my attention and I end up watching for a while (until something shinier catches my attention), but I sat and actually watched this the whole way. If it isn't the best Rumble ever then it probably has the most memorable performance from someone IN a Rumble. Flair was everywhere in this. He's worked probably a billion broadways by this point in his career, but this one is totally different in that he's literally working twenty nine (well, twenty eight -- DiBiase gets bounced before he comes in) different guys over the course of the hour. He's still doing "his" match, but he does it with everyone, and the most impressive thing is that he just does not stop. He picks fights with everybody, begs off, gets gorilla pressed or backdropped out the corner or Flair Flops or does any other spot you've seen a hundred times, then he finds someone else to play with and he goes again. Regardless of whether or not you actually enjoy what he's doing, it's hard not to be impressed with his engine. It's also cool to see him match up again with guys like Kerry, Piper, Sid, Jake, Valentine, etc. who he has plenty of history with (even if it's never specifically mentioned on commentary), as well as guys like Hogan and Savage on a big stage (I'm assuming he wouldn't have done much of anything with Savage or Hogan before the WWF). Whole match is basically biggest star in NWA history running the gauntlet against the whole WWF, with the first half primarily revolving around Flair and Davey Boy and the second half picking up with all the big names hitting the ring. It's booked pretty awesome in that regard. Heenan was incredible during this. It's been said before, but it's an amazing commentary job; probably one of the best ever. His energy and enthusiasm makes everything feel bigger, like when Hogan or Sid comes out and he sounds petrified at what it might mean for Flair. "No, no, no, no, no, not him!" Flair strikes up a partnership with Barbarian then tries to blindside him. Heenan: "Aw, don't turn on HIM, Ric!" Piper effectively comes to Flair's aid at one point and Heenan apologizes for every time he said Piper wore a skirt. Then Piper goes after Flair thirty seconds later. Heenan: "You creep, Piper! You skirt-wearin' freak!" He really added a ton to the match. Piper ruled in this as well. His two minute spell alone with Flair was probably my favourite part of the match, and I've said it before and I'll say it again -- his eye poke might be the best ever. Loved Jake in this, even if he wasn't in all that long. Any time the buzzer went he'd stop whatever he was doing and look up the ramp to see if it was Savage, then when it finally was he snuck right out the bottom rope and waited until Undertaker got a hold of Savage for him. Savage eliminating himself by jumping over the top to get to Jake is total Randy Savage craziness and why that guy is the perfect hate feud wrestler. Heenan and Monsoon actually do a pretty great job of coming up with an excuse for him being allowed back in, saying you have to physically be thrown out by someone else in order to be eliminated (even though Andre eliminated himself to get away from Damian in '89 and wasn't allowed back in). I guess they must've introduced the Mil Mascaras rule after 1992. Hogan comes across as such a salty bitch at the end. He gets eliminated more or less the same way he dumped out Warrior in '90, but of course he can't take it and throws a hissy fit. Crowd audibly boo him and cheer Sid post-match, and you can't really blame them for it. Sid played the game and Hogan cried about it, so fuck him (gotta love Sid pointing to the 'Hulk Who?' sign in the crowd). Flair's victory promo is honestly one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. The close up of his peroxide blond hair and crooked teeth as Heenan and Perfect woo in the background has stuck with me ever since I first watched the PPV as a kid. And of course, "Y'all better pay the man!"

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Random WWE Network Day #2

Shane Helms & Shannon Moore v Jung Dragons v Jamie Noble & Evan Karagias (WCW Starrcade, 12/17/00)

The difference between WCW and WWF at this point is pretty startling. Even when WCW were on top the WWF always had the production values and such, but by this point it's like...well, they're not TNA level, but the war is well and truly over. This show had just over 6,000 people at it, which is almost a third of what Starrcade drew two years earlier. That's a hell of a drop off, y'all. Even the backstage skits seem bush league, from Buff Bagwell as an obnoxious interviewer to Kronik taking a call from a "client" (they're hired guns/assassins or some shit) while in a steam room. I was actually goona watch this whole show, but nah man, life's too short for a Steiner/Sid main event in 2000 (also, did they really just start up Goldberg's streak again at some point? Did I hear that properly?). Anyways, this match is what you think it is -- total spotfest that has no pretense of being anything else. They do some pretty lunatic stuff, especially early on with Kaz Hayashi who almost dies a couple times (although I'm pretty sure they come about from things that are botched). Winner of this gets a Cruiserweight title shot, so it's a triple tag team match that's really just a money in the bank match, and it doesn't take long for everybody to start chucking everybody else off of stuff. Evan Karagias kinda sucks, but he does a crazy neckbreaker off a ladder and then later on takes one of the nuttiest bumps you'll see in a ladder match. Someone shoves him off the top of a ladder, and I think he's supposed to land hotshot-esque across the top rope, but he overshoots it and lands super awkward on the ropes, like his body is practically horizontal, then bounces all the way out to the floor and hits his head off the foot of a table. There's also a hell of a dive train in here somewhere and it was probably better than anything else on the whole show.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Random WWE Network Day #1

I've basically just been picking out random things and watching them, and that's probably how it'll be for the next while. There's a whole bunch of stuff on this Network that I never knew was on there. 

Hulk Hogan & Dennis Rodman v  Lex Luger & The Giant (WCW Bash at the Beach, 7/13/97)

Say what you want about the ridiculousness of WCW booking, but they knew how to put together this kind of celebrity spectacle (at least in '97). This was about as good as it possibly could've been. Rodman is pretty much hand led through everything, especially by Hogan and Luger, but he's willing and able and looks like he's having a blast. The bit where he armdrags Luger is amazing, from Luger looking absolutely stunned to Hogan and Savage celebrating to the crowd reaction to Dusty on commentary. "Dennis Rodman just armdragged Lex Luger! And he ain't even take his shades awf!" Then he does a leapfrog and knocks down Luger with a shoulderblock and Dusty is amazing again. "Somebody call the law. Somebody call the law!" Rodman also takes more bumps and eats more offence than I remembered. I mean, this isn't as good as Big Show v Mayweather and Rodman isn't as good in this as Mayweather was in that, but I think Rodman takes the bigger bumps (I might watch Show/Mayweather next, actually). Hogan was a lot of fun as well with his shit talking and obnoxiousness. Any time Rodman does something even remotely impressive Hogan is right there to let everyone know about it. Massively fun spectacle, and definitely one of the better matches of its ilk. 

Monday, 2 February 2015

No Way Out 1998

My brother got that WWE Network and gave me his password to use at my leisure. I watched a PPV (over a couple days and nights).

Marc Mero & Goldust v The Headbangers 

This was alright. I fully expected it to be nothing outside of maybe one or two Goldust moments, but it was a bit more than that. Dustin looks hideous with the white make up and lipstick and suspenders. He's doing a Marilyn Manson thing, apparently. JR runs through just about every possible amalgamation of the names Goldust and Marilyn Manson. Calls him Marilyndust, Mansondust, Marilyn Manson Dust, etc. Mero was a pretty entertaining shithead in this. Thrasher gets cut open hardway (I think) so Mero punches the cut and complains about blood on his white wrist tape. He then chokes Thrasher with the wrist tape and goofily shadow boxes to a chorus of booes. Biggest pop of the match obviously came towards the end when Sable came back out wearing less clothes than she was wearing at the start (Mero bounced her before the match and got some nice heat for it). I'll be surprised if any babyface other than Austin gets a bigger pop on this show.

How ridiculous was Sunny? That woman was truly gorgeous. Like, legitimately gorgeous, even as far back as SMW in '93. Sable had the massive cans, but Sunny had the smile and charisma and everything else, and none of it looked plastic. She could probably handle her coke, too.

Taka Michinoku v Pantera

Crowd never gave a shit about this. Barely even popped for the highspots. Which is a shame, because it was pretty nifty and more than just a few dives. Lawler and Brian Christopher are incredible obnoxious shitheels on commentary. Any time Christopher notices the camera on him he makes the most punchable facial expressions imaginable. At one point he calls Taka a slant-eye and he and Lawler just rip into him the whole match, which is probably counterproductive, but then the crowd don't care anyway so I'd rather they did something halfway entertaining. It only added to my own personal enjoyment, at least. So you know, fuck the rest of y'all. Great exchange with Christopher and JR: 
'Taka don't know no English!'
'Sounds like you don't either with those double negatives. "Don't know no English!"'
'What?! Hey, I was the valladicktrian in my class.'
'...I rest my case.' 
Pantera hits an awesome headscissors off the apron and then crushes Taka into the barricade with a tope from the apron where he dives past the inside of the ring post, and that sets up a run of backwork, which included a wild tope con hilo to the lower back of a prone Taka. Taka's comeback came a little too easy, but the Michinoku Driver was at least over. What was the best match this light heavyweight division produced? Is there anything that fucks with the high end WCW cruiserweight stuff? Not things like Eddy/Rey from Halloween Havoc, because there are barely any matches in WWF's history that fuck with that, but like, matches that are at least in the discussion with stuff like Juve/Blitzkrieg from Spring Stampede '99 or Eddy/Jericho from Fall Brawl '97? I remember Taka/Sasuke from the Canadian Stampede In Your House being really good. They had maybe the best junior heavyweight in history on the roster for a minute but I'm not sure he did anything other than be the tubby dude in a group that tried to chop off a pornstar's dick. So maybe I just answered my own question. 

The Quebecers v The Godwins

These are two I would not have thought were still on the roster in 1998. This was not good. Based on the tepid crowd response I'll assume the Godwins are the babyfaces, but neither team really do anything to establish a babyface/heel dynamic. Godwins work over Jacques for a spell to no heat at all, then Pierre gets the tag to no heat at all, then Phinneas gets worked over to no heat at all, then some stuff happens and a team wins, to marginally more heat than none at all. In true Attitude Era fashion the Godwins no longer have slop in their buckets. Instead they just carry around empty buckets and hit people on the head with them. Phinneas also looks straight serial killer.

Jeff Jarrett v Bradshaw

Well this was pretty fun. I couldn't remember Jarrett being back in the WWF at this point and I sure as shit had no recollection of him being part of a Cornette stable with fucking Windham and the Rock 'n' Roll Express (they're collectively called The NWA). Robert Gibson has to be THE ugliest motherfucker to ever have fallen into the 'blowjob' sub-category of babyfaces (Morton at least had the hair). Match is worked like a neat Memphis mid-card match that would've drawn a nice bit of heat fifteen years earlier. Bradshaw is just potatoing the living shit out of everything that moves here -- crowbar forearms and clotheslines, nasty punches to the ear and full force big boots. Did he ever tour Japan? I could imagine him having a real stiff-fest in WAR. Post-match you've got the rest of Cornette's boys starting a gang beating and the Road Warriors coming to the aid of Bradshaw, and I like the idea of a Bradshaw/LOD v Jarrett/RnRs six-man. I like to think it happened somewhere. 

Nation of Domination v Ken Shamrock, Ahmed Johnson, Chainz, Skull & 8 Ball

War of attrition is a great name for a match. It insinuates that some shit is about to go down. I only really like three of the guys in this, and I'll be honest, not that much shit went down, but I'm a huge mark for multi-man tags where the teams have beef and I thought this was actively pretty damn good. I mean, it never broke down into anything crazy (although the main event is an eight-man street fight, so you understandably want to save the nutty stuff for that), but everybody got to stretch out and look at least halfway decent. D-Lo isn't one of the three guys I liked going in, but he impressed me enough that I'm interested in seeing more of him through 2015 eyes. He gets super high on a missed moonsault and hits a frog splash from almost the length of the ring away. He might've been my favourite guy in the match, actually, and he was way better at this point than Henry, who is one of the three guys I like, but wasn't really up to much in 1998. For a guy with the gimmick of being the world's most dangerous man, Shamrock never really came across as being all that dangerous. Maybe that changed some when he turned heel, but if we're talking about mixed martial artists doing pro-wrestling then he had about a quarter the aura of someone like Ogawa (it'd be unfair to even compare him to Lesnar). Ahmed is still pretty over as a babyface here (more so than Shamrock), but I could've sworn he'd turned heel and joined the Nation by now. Maybe that comes later. I have no idea which Harris brother plays FIP. Neither do Ross and Lawler. Whoever it was did a solid enough job, but I put most of that down to D-Lo Brown. After the hot tag it spirals into gang fight territory like you expect in a war of fucking attrition, and we've finally got something that out-popped Sable. It doesn't take a whole lot to make me enjoy a match like this, and so I dug it.

"It's fun to beat someone's ass anywhere in the world, but if ya beat someone's ass in Texas, then ya done something." That was basically Austin's promo. Crowd were all over it, obviously.

Vader v Kane

This wasn't very good. Vader threw Vader soup bones and Kane had a couple moments where he looked spryer than I thought he was, but it was mostly plodding and heatless. Picks up a bit in the last couple minutes after Vader hits the moonsault and absolutely slabbers Kane with a clothesline, but Kane just sits up and no-sells everything, anyway. The Tombstone on Vader is an impressive looking spot, though. And the wrench Kane smashes Vader in the face with post-match has to be gimmicked, because if it wasn't it really would've caved his skull in. 

Steve Austin, Owen Hart, Chainsaw Charlie & Cactus Jack v HHH, New Age Outlaws & Savio Vega (Unsanctioned Street Fight)

Man, this was fucking GREAT and a totally slept on Attitude Era brawl. It's not quite on the level of Austin/Foley from Over the Edge, but I can't think of anything else the WWF produced that year that was better than it (I know that's not a massive bar, but whatever). It starts out as a completely bonkers prison riot with all the plunder you could hope for, then they eventually settle down into a couple FIP spells with Funk and Foley going in peril. Funk in peril ruled because he's a hundred years old and will fearlessly get the shit kicked out of him while flinging wild thin air punches. Road Dogg powerbombs him through two chairs and Funk slithers out the ring like a land mine victim, landing head first on a broken table. Savio brings a roll of barbed wire with him and wraps it around Foley, then he sticks it in his mouth and starts pulling like he's trying to rip off Foley's mandible. Brutal spot. Austin was incredible in this, just wailing on everybody with metal things and doing everything at such a frenetic pace. He has that menacing Hansen aura where you almost expect him to haul off and assault someone at any second. Awesome bit where he's standing on the apron and chucks a garbage can full across the ring off Billy's face. I'd have liked a bit more of a hectic run to the finish after the Austin hot tag, but that's really my only complaint (well, it could've done with gallons of blood as well). Crowd completely lose it for Austin Stunning Chyna post-match. He's not even at the peak of his popularity yet, but there's no doubt he's the guy people are here for. It might've been The House that Hogan Built, but you knew who its new tenant was. 

Fun enough PPV. Pretty sure the WCW PPV that month was Superbrawl and had Page v Benoit, but I don't remember anything else about it. I thought Page/Benoit was great, but I'm not sure I'll think it's better than the street fight. Imagine Michaels was fit to participate? Or even be at ringside to antagonise everybody? Woulda been fucking tremendous. War of attrition was fairly good and so was Taka/Pantera, Jarrett/Bradshaw was fun and nothing on the show was outright offensive (well, the Quebecers tag was kinda puke).