Thursday, 29 September 2016

Wrapping Up Puerto Rico Disc 1

Carlos Colon v Abdullah the Butcher (9/21/85)

I doubt anybody who runs through this set will come out the other end of it proclaiming Carlos Colon v Abdullah the Butcher one of the great match-ups in wrestling history, but this is the second of a handful of Colon/Abby matches on these discs and so far they've gone two for two in having a perfectly enjoyable bloody brawl. Abby has actually been super fun in everything so far, from his manic facials to his hide-the-fork shtick to whipping out rapid fast uppercuts to guys' throats. Him and Colon have probably matched up a thousand and one times by this point, and this wasn't massively different from the match that opened the set, but it feels like they'll throw enough little wrinkles into what they're doing that it's never just move-for-move the exact same match. The layout might be more or less the same, but the majority of people watching these discs voted Ric Flair as their greatest wrestler of all time so I'm not buying "samey" as a criticism, especially when the layout is this effective. Colon comes out swinging to start and again goes after Abby's ear, then Abby takes over, they bleed, then they kick each other in the balls and it's a wild brawl to the finish. This had a few really great standalone spots as well, though, like Colon hitting a fucking monkey flip on Abby, then a vertical suplex, and Abby later standing on top of Colon with all of his body weight for about ten seconds. The ref' bump was pretty wimpy, but it led to J.J. Dillon getting popped by Colon and a near riot post-match, so you take the good with the bad.

Hercules Ayala v Killer Tim Brooks (Taped Fist Cage Match) (October 1985)

If you squint real hard while watching this it kind of looks like early career Steve Williams v late career Steve Keirn, with Williams punching old, balding Keirn around a cage for ten minutes. I'm not sure how good Ayala actually is, but he threw some nice punches in this and if the Savage match was anything to go by he was probably a guy who was easy enough to work around (and that might even be doing him a disservice). Sure enough, Brooks mostly bumped around and stumbled back into range to be hit by Ayala's fists, and he did a fine enough job of it. There was one cool bit where he was curled up in the corner trying to block Ayala's jabs, so Ayala just hauled off and dug him in the ribs with an uppercut, which opened Brooks up for more of the face-punching. This is the fourteenth match on this disc. It's also the fourteenth match where someone got kicked in the balls.

Ric Flair v Dusty Rhodes (12/21/85)

I'll level with you, I really did not give a shit about this. I like Dusty and I enjoyed Flair in his other two matches on the disc (the Gilbert studio match is legit my working #1 through the first disc), but this did nothing for me and I lost interest pretty quick. Dusty was at least fun with his mannerisms and big wind-up elbows, and there was one bit where Flair picked up a piece of thrown trash and jabbed Dusty in the face with it (that was actually fucking awesome, tbf), but nothing else grabbed me. Ah, well.

Carlos Colon & The Invader v Los Pastores (Ambulance Match) (12/21/85)

This was completely nuts and everything I hoped wild and out of control Puerto Rico would be. I don't fully know what was going on here, honestly. It started out with all four brawling in and around the ring, and that part was great and the crowd were alllll the way into it. Butch got thrown into a table over by the ring barricade and one of the fans literally started throwing overhands at him! Like, physically striking him! It was crazy. A cop ran over and threatened the fan with a baton and I was like "we have well and truly arrived in the Puerto Rico, motherfucker." Then at some point someone else at ringside - presumably a wrestler this time - got a hold of a big glove and started beating Luke Williams half to death. Then so did Colon and Invader and probably a few other folk. Williams sold this by writhing around on the mat like his appendix had exploded and spent the rest of the match lying there while people punched and stomped on him. The crowd was going ballistic through all of this and were pushing so far up against the barricade I thought it would collapse. This was like T in the Park with everyone on ecstasy crawling over each other to get to the front and see Calvin Harris (or some other bawbag). I have no idea where Butch Miller disappeared to during all of this but the whole back half of the match was just a total shitkicking directed at Luke. I think the ref' actually threw the match out, but Colon didn't care and just kept going. Anybody else and you could even buy the crowd turning on them because they went TOO far. The ending with Williams being carted into an ambulance as scores of fans tried to climb into and then on top of the ambulance as it drove away was fucking insane and, no hyperbole, one of the most memorable things I've ever seen in wrestling. Just an amazing, bonkers spectacle.

First disc is in the books, then. So far there hasn't been anything that's absolutely blown me away, but it's been four hours of easy to watch, very enjoyable wrestling, with a few high notes that have set me up for what's to come. And based on the match list, there's plenty to look forward to on the next few discs...

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Bushwhackers in Puerto Rico

Los Pastores v Jay & Mark Youngblood (Spring 1985)

If I'd read a synopsis or review of this match before watching it I'm pretty sure I'd have been psyched about the prospect of it in execution. Early stalling to rile the crowd? Extended heat segment? People throwing shit at the heels? Out of control finish? All of those things are gravy to me. But I've watched this twice now and it hasn't really hit the spot (though I liked it better the second time, tbf). The early stalling with the New Zealand and Puerto Rican flags was amusing, but it wasn't Jamie Dundee/Tracy Smothers-level heat-garnering. I thought it kind of dragged, honestly. The Youngbloods shine segment had some nice stuff built around working Luke Williams' arm, and Butch is always fun reacting to things, but then everybody seemed to get their wires crossed on something and the ref' was left floundering trying to pretend he missed the interference that led to the Sheepherders taking over. I liked the idea of some of the things they were doing during the heat segment on Mark, but there wasn't really any point where I bought Jay being TRULY pissed. One of the Sheepherders would run a distraction while the other took cheapshots at Mark, sometimes with a chair, then Jay would grab a chair of his own and kind of intimate that he was going to mess someone up with it...but never in a way that actually convinced me. He just, like, stood there holding it while Luke and/or Butch had to cower or run away. The whole thing was pretty messy as well, and then there was a finish after some all over the pace timing. Butch being thrown into the crowd prompting a pack of security guards to sprint over and make sure he didn't get jumped was the best part. Match was alright, but probably my least favourite so far.

Los Pastores v The Invaders (Barbed Wire Match) (9/21/85)

This just FEELS like Puerto Rico to me (Puerto Rican wrestling, I mean. I'm not suggesting guys running around dicing up other folks' foreheads with barbed wire is customary over there). I've barely seen any wrestling from Puerto Rico, but this is the setting most familiar to me based on my hazy memories of the few matches I watched years ago. I don't really know why but there it is. Anyways, this was fulla blood. As a match it wasn't mindblowingly amazing, but there were several close-ups of guys getting their foreheads carved up with barbed wire and the Sheepherders bleed everywhere. Luke Williams was really fun in this. His big, exaggerated bumping looked pretty gnarly considering he was often doing those big, exaggerated bumps neck first into barbed wire. It felt like the Sheepherders took a ton of this and the Invaders would take over for spells a little out of nowhere, like a switch just went and it meant it was their turn to go on offence. I should probably try and figure out which Invader is which. Right now I have no idea.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Randy Savage's Puerto Rican Tour

Randy Savage v Hercules Ayala (3/2/85)

Savage wrestling in Puerto Rico is news to me. I might've read something about it at some point, but I don't remember doing so and I know I haven't seen any footage of it. This was very Randy Savage, though, which means it was very fun. He plays allll the way to the back row here with his acting and general horse shit. Big exaggerated reactions, stalling, selling -- everything is designed to get a reaction; the reaction in this case being "pelt that fucker with garbage," and boy do they pelt him with lots of garbage. First half of this was basically Savage stalling and finding ways to keep getting gorilla press slammed by Ayala, who doesn't really do anything besides those gorilla press slams. After being slammed the third time he teases going into the trunks for a chain and this prompts people to throw more cups of piss and cigarette packets at him. When he eventually does manage to use the chain - jabbing Ayala with a chain-wrapped fist - Ayala kicks out and the pop for it is wild. Savage getting progressively more desperate after his chain has failed him is of course really fun, and it leads to him acting crazier which in turns leads to the crowd wanting to gut him (well, wanting to gut him even more). Really, this was Savage working Memphis-style stalling and shtick against a limited guy to great effect. If that sounds enjoyable to you then you'll probably enjoy this. I know I did. 

Friday, 23 September 2016

Back to Puerto Rico

Abdullah the Butcher v Andre the Giant (8/17/83)

I think this is the first time I've seen Abby match up with someone substantially larger than he is. I know Andre was a few inches shorter than his billed height (though the afro might've made up for it), but, as corny as it sounds, his aura and presence really does make him seem like every bit the giant he's presented as. This was pretty short, but I dug it for what it was. The main hook was Abby being headbutted and bear-pawed before inevitably bringing out the fork to turn the tide. I love how Andre sold being jabbed with a shiv and punched in the throat. He's a big expressive dude and he's great at conveying that sense of vulnerability with equal parts danger, like the monster from Stranger Things after being caught in the bear trap (so I guess Abby is Nancy Wheeler, only he's peppering Andre with fork stabs rather than bullets). Eventually he fights back, takes the fork for himself, and appears to be stabbing Abdullah in the neck and stomach with it, which was very Puerto Rico. To the surprise of all the match ends in a count out and crowd brawl, with Andre throwing a fence at Abdullah's head.

Carlos Colon v Bruiser Brody (Chain Match) (Summer 1984)

I've watched this twice now, because the first time I figured I overrated it based on how shockingly enjoyable I found Brody in it. There are Brody matches that I like and there are Brody performances that I like, but there's always a little bit of the "you know...for Brody" factor at play, like you're grading on a curve. This had a Brody performance, though, that I thought was legitimately good on any curve. Like, I don't think of Brody as much of a seller. Ever. He almost never manages to communicate vulnerability. He'll bump, but it's usually in half-arsed ways. I've seen a goodly amount of Brody matches where he staggers around with his arms out like he's trying not to fall backwards into a swimming pool and that'll be the extent of his efforts at selling opponents' offence. But this didn't really have any of that. From the very start it was as if he was flat out afraid of being chained to Colon, and I don't remember ever seeing Brody attempt to sell fear (and I think fear was the emotion he was actually going for, as opposed to it only looking like fear because he was rubbish at whatever else he was trying to convey). He bumped and didn't just pop back up straight after -- he actually stayed down and let Colon pepper him with chain-wrapped fists. And of course he bled, because he always bled. When he wasn't selling he imposed himself and threw out some pretty mean looking shit. At one point he wrapped the chain around Colon's eyes, he chucked Colon onto a table and beat on him with the chain, etc. Then Colon would come back and try to touch the four corners, and sure enough Brody would frantically try and stop him without ever guzzling him like I expected him to. The finish was a bit hokey, but that's about my only complaint. If you're not a fan of Brody then I doubt this'll convince you to do a deep dive reevaluation, but it might make you wish there was more of him wrestling like this. 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Some '97 Nitro

Over on Cross Arm Breaker Tim Cooke is (or was; I don't think he's written anything in about six months) watching and reviewing some short Nitro matches from '97. When I wrote up that PWF Guerreros tag last week I - perhaps foolishly - speculated that I'd seen just about every Eddie Guerrero match committed to tape. Well, that might be nonsense. Because I've gone digging and there's a bunch of '97/'98 Eddie matches from WCW TV that I'm pretty certain I've never seen before. My interest was piqued, and not just for the Eddie matches. So I watched some wrestling. These are my findings.

Rey Misterio Jr. v Juventud Guerrera (Nitro, 9/15/97)

For an abbreviated, spot-heavy version of a Rey/Juvi AAA match, this was reeeeeally fun. If you're going to judge a spotfest then I suppose you ought to be docking points for blown spots, but Juventud completely whiffing a simple dropkick only to follow it up with a brutal sunset flip powerbomb off the apron kind of throws a spanner in that theory. The blown dropkick annoyed him, so he went and did something awesome (for the viewer, anyway. Probably not for Rey) to make up for it. Do we knock him for the dropkick, or raise our thumbs to the crazy powerbomb that followed? Do we believe the capacity to forgive is in us all? Or, like sane people, do we just not give a fuck and watch the rest of the match and not bother philosophising over Juventud Guerrera missing a dropkick? I'll leave that one to you. Rey Jr. in 1997 is one of the more spectacular wrestlers ever. Some of what he does has been topped for sheer wow factor by now, almost twenty years later, but there's something about Rey hitting a somersault senton over the turnbuckle that can't quite be replicated no matter who does it. It's like the Cruyff Turn. You have Messi and Ronaldinho and Mertesacker, all capable of spellbinding brilliance, but nobody did it like Johan. And he still has the best springboard 'rana of them all.

Eddie Guerrero v Ultimo Dragon (Nitro, 9/15/97)

Man, Eddie in '97 was something else. You're probably reading this and thinking, "oh great, here he goes again," but really, he was awesome. I'd say he was an all-round better wrestler in 2005, but in '97, when he was quicker and a little less bulky, he had such SNAP to everything he did. Even a simple headlock takeover or an armdrag is done like it's intended to make the other guy hit the mat as hard as possible. I'm not one of Ultimo Dragon's biggest fans (and once more you're thinking, "oh great, here he goes again"), but he was really good in this. Match only goes about six minutes, but they throw an arm injury story into it and Ultimo deserves credit for keeping the sell job going right until the end. He hangs the arm by his side, mostly relies on stiff kicks for strikes (and some of them were STIFF), and can't hit certain moves properly because of the dodgy arm. Best example of this is towards the end where he tries for the dragon sleeper, but he can't hook it in properly so Eddie starts kneeing him in the shoulder to force the release. Eddie was also great at working over that arm. I would rather watch Eddie work a body part than almost anybody ever and my favourite part of this was his scoop slam while Ultimo's arm is hammerlocked, followed by rolling Ultimo onto his front and hitting a hilo onto the still-hammerlocked arm. Lead in to the finish was cool as well, with Eddie catching Ultimo in midair, hitting a shoulderbreaker, then putting him away with the frog splash.

Eddie Guerrero & Dean Malenko v Rey Misterio Jr. & Steven Regal (Nitro, 11/3/97)

Killer sprint. This lasted about three and a half minutes and they crammed that three and a half minutes full of cool stuff. Rey and Malenko match up to begin with and they run through a mini greatest hits of their stalemate spots. I wasn't crazy about the stand-off, for stand-offs are tripe and I will not be swayed on this, but then Eddie started applauding their athletic exploits and Malenko just glared at him with unconcealed disgust. Crowd are all over Eddie with the Eddie sucks chants, so Eddie covers his ears and everyone chants louder. The Eddie/Regal segment lasted about 45 seconds and it was awesome. Regal goes for a butterfly suplex and Eddie, just as he reaches the point where he'd usually flip over for the landing, spins to his left and reverses it into an armdrag. I honestly don't think I've ever seen that spot before and it was cool as hell. There's another great bit where Eddie gets down on his knees and begs Regal for a break, but Regal naturally isn't having any of it. He makes to throw a punch, and as the ref' tries to grab the arm Eddie dives forward and chop blocks Regal's knee (from the front, which is the nastiest kind of chop block). Finish is cool as well, with Malenko earning Eddie's disgust this time around. I'm not sure you could ask for much more out of this. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

YouTube Lucha Grab Bag

El Hijo del Gladiator, Fuerza Guerrera & Ponzona v Octagon, Super Astro & Volador (CMLL, 9/16/90)

1990 CMLL really is the gift that keeps on giving. This was another one of dataintcash's uploads (hero's work, that), and at this point I feel like I might as well just grab all the CMLL TV from that period. It's such a stacked year that, even after combing through match lists and picking out a bunch of interesting stuff, you end up skipping right over something cool. Case in point: this. Because Fuerza v Super Astro is pretty fucking cool. Astro was inspired in this, with all of his headbutts landing flush, his springboards getting major height and his little jigs leaving the rudos befuddled. As he got older and his footwork weightier he really required a rudo with some competence as an actor to make that spot work, but he was still at his physical peak here (he was 31, so in lucha terms he was practically a hale youngster). Even still, the rudo unit went above and beyond with their stooging, not just for Astro's jig, but for pretty much everything thrown their way in the first caida and a half. Fuerza/Astro rocked like you'd expect. Fuerza ended up humiliated on the floor almost right away and it prompted him to start a fight with a fan, which of course he shied away from when it became apparent the fan wouldn't. Eventually he washes his hands on the exchange with a very clear "that'll be enough of that then!" gesture and tags out. Hijo del Gladiator isn't someone I feel like I know very much about, but his shtick was every bit as fun as Fuerza's. He was even more determined to look like a goofball, if you can believe that. Volador gave him the run around something fierce and it culminated with a third caida tope that landed Gladiator in the second row (he wound up in a lady's lap after almost wiping out the guy in front of her). Ponzona might've gone and topped both of them, though, at least when it came to the uber stooge moment of the match. Where Fuerza and Gladiator were left dizzy by Astro's footwork, Ponzona threw a full blown tempter tantrum. The third caida had a bunch of 'one guy applies a submission --> an opponent comes in to break it up and apply a submission of his own --> rinse repeat', which was a bit deflating after the rudo beatdown to end the segunda promised something more, but it did end on a high note. The spot where Fuerza tried to run away from an Astro tope only to get cleaned out by Octagon's seated senton was outstanding. 

Tuesday Terry Funk

Terry Funk v Sal Bellomo (WWF, 8/17/85)

Fuck me, how's this for your Terry Funk movie at 11? This may not be a revelation to you, but Sal Bellomo is not very good. It's unfortunate, but not everybody can be an all star. Still, he's fired up here and definitely game to play off Funk's lunacy. He does two mule kick/dropkicks that actually looked great and at one point he does a splash right across both of Funk's kneecaps, which ruled. So fair play to Sal Bellomo, he brought as much to the table as you could reasonably expect. But this is Terry Funk's show. He was downright fucking unbelievable in this. Before the bell he throws his chaps at the ring attendant and takes a kick at him, then spits on him, then climbs over the barricade and picks a fight with someone. He bumps around in 100% Terry Funk fashion and it's a stellar effort at making Bellomo not look like a scrub. At one point he tumbles out the ring and lands on top of Gorilla and Jesse's announce desk and the pop for Gorilla getting in Funk's face (Funk started it, obviously) was amazing. Later on he deliberately chucks Bellomo out the ring back onto the announce desk and starts shouting "PIG!" from inside the ring, either at Bellomo or Gorilla or just everyone in the general vicinity. He was a total wildman and you couldn't wipe the smile off my face if you tried. I guess if you want to be critical you could say he maybe gave Bellomo a wee bit too much, but I don't really care. I would rather watch Funk rile people up and get tangled in the ropes and progressively act more and more deranged because he's being shown up by the ham n egger in his god awful singlet than most things in wrestling, so you won't hear me complain when we get it.

Monday, 19 September 2016

A Glimpse at 2016 (part 6)

Fuerza Guerrera v Octagon (Lucha Azteca, 9/10/16)

I'm not sure how good this actually was, but there's something about Fuerza Guerrera bleeding all over the place and hand-walking Octagon through a mano a mano bout in 2016 that I can't help but enjoy. This isn't 1992, so Fuerza can't hit it all the way out the park like he could then. He can still do Fuerza things, though, and sometimes that's enough (well, it's enough for me). Octagon wasn't all that good even in '92 and he's borderline atrocious now. He moves at half-speed, his mask torn open in three places, dazed and confused like a pensioner who's just been mugged for his shoes. There was one bit where he tried to throw a kick in the corner and I assume he thought Fuerza was going to move, but Fuerza didn't so Octagon just kind of fell into the ropes and stared unapologetically into the front row. But man, Fuerza is everything. He rolled out some of his tricks from decades gone by, like tying Octagon to the rope by the tassels on his mask, and there were at least three instances where he blatantly kicked Octagon in the dick (at one point he then hit the deck like it was he who had been dick kicked). His somersault senton off the apron was also completely nuts considering Octagon could not possibly look less arsed about catching him. Finish was pretty crummy even by dodgy lucha refereeing standards, but I'm not at all upset that I took sixteen minutes out of my day to watch this.

Friday, 16 September 2016

A Glimpse at 2016 (part 5)

The Revival v Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa (NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II, 8/20/16)

Really great match. Sort of feels like a hybrid of your modern day workrate tag and traditional southern style, like if you transplanted the Andersons into peak ROH or something and had them work surly cut-offs and heel distraction spots. And all of the southern trappings weren't just for show, either -- they got honest, legitimate heat in creative and interesting ways. I've only seen one Revival match before and don't remember anything about it now, but one word I've often seen used to describe them is "throwback." You know, "they're a throwback to an age gone by" or whatever. I don't know if this is how they always work, but in this match they turned in a hell of a throwback performance. None of their double teams were too cutesy or overtly laid out, but they still managed to range from flat out COOL to plain nasty (there's plenty to be said for just taking turns punching and stomping a guy in the head). The cut-offs were probably my favourite, though. There was an awesome bit where Ciampa was thiiiiiis close to tagging Gargano, so Dash, from the apron, just fell into the ring as if he'd leaned too far over the ropes. The ref', somewhat confused, goes over to check on him while Dash feigns injury, and as this is going on Ciampa makes the hot tag. Only to be cruelly denied his chance to come in like the house o' fire because the ref' never saw the tag. It was such a great spot. Totally and blatantly dickheaded, and best of all everything they were doing really wound up a 99% smark crowd, so you had only had one This is Awesome chant the whole match and instead everyone spent their time cheering the babyfaces and booing the heels. I don't have much of an stance on Ciampa and Gargano, honestly. I think I've only ever seen one match they're involved in and that was the one against each other from the CWC a few weeks back. But Ciampa played a solid face in peril, Gargano was a fun hot tag with his bursts of energy, their strikes looked fine if a bit thigh slappy at times, and none of their offence was too contrived. Basically they were responsible for the "modern day workrate tag" part of this fairytale and they held up their end admirably. Finishing run was great as well. You had some BIG nearfalls that the crowd were living and dying on; Dash brought the Arn Anderson by faking a punch and hitting a DDT as Gargano went to duck it; Gargano hit a cool slingshot spear from the apron into the ring, which is a spot that isn't always easy to make look not crummy; and there was even a kind of Dusty Finish just for good measure. I now feel like I owe it to myself to watch every Revival tag from this year.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

A Glimpse at 2016 (part 4)

Roman Reigns v Sami Zayn v Sheamus v Chris Jericho (RAW, 7/25/16)

Thought this was pretty decent. I don't tend to like 4-ways, but I guess I'm less bothered about their limitations as I get older and more understanding of the concessions that need to be made while watching a fatal 4-way on WWE TV. This also had a hook right from the start with Jericho and Sheamus teaming up to go after Reigns, while Zayn briefly questioned whether or not he wanted to be a part of that. You fly with the crows you get shot with the crows, his granny used to tell him. Jericho isn't good these days and his offence is almost always lousy, but he looks like a scuzzy dad going through his midlife crisis, with his dodgy tats, grey goatee and sparkling jacket, and his character work is usually pretty fun. Sheamus has also changed his look since I last saw him and his beard is phenomenal. His skin is so white he looked translucent during his intro, like a mohawk'd Doctor Manhattan. The Jericho/Sheamus partnership goes to the dogs like you knew it would and I liked how Jericho would turn on him in semi-obvious fashion, while simultaneously trying to be sneaky about it. It's like he thought he was being smart taking that cheapshot when he did, but everybody bar Sheamus - because he's either too trusting or just a stupid idiot - could see it coming a mile away. Reigns was Reigns, which is a good thing. He was stoic, unperturbed by the boos, and ready to steamroll people when he needed to. His big swan dive is really awesome and looked super cool in slow motion. There was this great bit where he was cleaning house with Superman punches and he and Jericho tried to do a Codebreaker-into-Superman punch that ended with Jericho just falling over, so Reigns just lifted him up and KO'd him like it wasn't even a thing.

Roman Reigns v Finn Balor (RAW, 7/25/16)

This was really dang good and pretty much exactly what I thought it should've been. Roman worked dominant, he kept moving forward, but he sold with just the right amount of vulnerability when he needed to. Balor, who I don't like nor care about, hit his stuff clean and in spurts, with most of it coming off of counters where he looked really nippy, and got tossed around in plenty of fun ways. One of my favourite things about Reigns is how he manages to get into position for things in very organic-seeming ways. He's subtle in lots of what he does, whether it's selling or facials or even body language at times, and that really works for him when it comes to setting up spots that other guys are blatantly obvious about. I mean, modern WWE is not a style that strikes me as being very organic. I can watch a bunch of WWE in one sitting and enjoy a good amount of it, but it's micro-managed and produced step by step and it can sometimes looks clearly pre-planned. But Reigns has a knack for makings things look like they weren't necessarily laid out to a tee beforehand (I'm not saying everything is anyway, but you know plenty of it is). There was one bit in this where Balor was hanging over the bottom rope and Roman went around to do his running apron dropkick, but Balor moved and countered with a double stomp as Roman landed on the apron. The cool part about it was how Roman made it look like he wasn't just laying there after the missed dropkick waiting to be double stomped by Balor. When he landed on the apron he grabbed his sides and really exhaled like he'd winded himself, grimacing with eyes closed tight just as Balor came down onto him with the stomp. It was only a two second thing, but it was as if he'd tried something, missed it, genuinely hurt himself in the process, and even closing his eyes while grimacing was enough for him not to see his opponent trying to capitalize (and Balor was rapid fast about it as well). I'm sure it was a planned spot, but it actually looked organic, as if it was something that happened naturally during the course of the contest, and that's something Reigns is generally pretty great at. They introduced a little bit of leg work in the middle of the match that never had much impact on the narrative, but I liked the idea of it. Smaller guy taking out the leg of a bigger opponent has been done in wrestling since time immemorial, and it made sense in this context even if it never had a payoff. Plus I thought Roman was great at selling it for a while, only dropping it once it was obvious Balor wasn't planning on going back to it. Finish also played off the theme of Balor mostly attacking through quick counters, hitting the Slingblade to counter the Spear before following up with a one-two punch of corner dropkick-Coup de GrĂ¢ce. Don't think I've ever enjoyed Balor more, and the more of Roman I watch the more convinced I am that he's no worse than top 3 in the company.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The Brothers Guerrero Hit the Indies!

Eddie & Hector Guerrero v Black Angel & Super Ninja (PWF, 5/22/98)

How about this for random? I'd never once heard of PWF before (I mean, I assume), nor do I know why Eddie and Hector Guerrero happened to be working the tag title semi-main event on one of their shows in 1998. But really, who cares about the WHY? It's an Eddie Guerrero match I never knew existed! I've seen almost every Eddie match committed to tape (have I ever mentioned that he's my favourite wrestler?), so when something new pops up there's no way I won't get giddy. And he's teaming with Hector, who after the Houston footage has also become one of my favourite wrestlers ever! It's been a good day, brothers. Pretty sure I've never seen Black Angel or Super Ninja before. Black Angel does lots of "raising the roof" gestures. Super Ninja is dressed like a ninja, obviously. Neither struck me as being very good. Angel seemed kind of uncoordinated and Hector struggled to hide the fact he was trying to help him into position for things at certain points. Ninja did karate and most of it looked lousy. I guess indy guys who predominantly threw roundhouse kicks hadn't started wearing kick pads and stiffing the life out of people yet. Low-Ki is unimpressed. But you watch this for the Guerrero dream team, anyways. What a pair of shitheads these guys are. Eddie is like that kid who'd show up down the park and start mouthing off and acting like a wee dick and you'd wish he'd just fuck off so you could go back to playing football. You really wanted to hit him in the face after a little while, but if you did that he'd just go and get his older brother and they'd come back and it'd be a whole thing. No way you'd get back to the football after that. Hector's the older brother. He doesn't seem like he's as much of a weasel as Eddie, but he has that same disingenuous face and you don't really trust him and, you know, Eddie had to learn how to be a shithead from somebody, right? That was basically how this played out. Hector at least started out on the level, but Eddie was in stooge mode right from the go. At one point he gets so excited he slaps Hector in the face and then back pedals when it looks like he might've gotten too big for his boots. Hector's still the big brother here. Later on Eddie scurries into his corner and wraps his arms around Hector for protection, so Hector slaps him back. Pare away all the bullshit and douchebaggery, Eddie's still a Guerrero. And that's not how a Guerrero is supposed to act. All of the cheating and cheapshots ruled, which isn't surprising when it's being done by guys who rule at cheating and cheapshotting. The run to the finish was a bit disjointed and Angel/Ninja kinda struggled to keep up with it, but overall this was a cool discovery and a glimpse at how awesome an Eddie/Hector unit could've been had they gotten a real run together at some point, even as late as 1998.

If anybody's interested, watch the match here.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

NWA Classics 24/7 #15

Terry & Dory Funk v Jose Lothario & Mil Mascaras (Houston Wrestling, 1/7/79)

This was one of those matches you watch and think, "man, I wonder if Terry Funk is the best wrestler ever at that thing." The thing in question in this match was his struggle to get out of a headlock/front facelock. The match starts out with Dory Funk being armdragged around at half speed before throwing a few short forearms, and that's followed by ten whole minutes of Terry trying to escape a headlock. And what a fun ten minutes they were. The way he tries to shake himself free, how he'll try and lift Lothario's leg off the floor while grinding a forearm across his face, how he'll literally attempt to jump out the ring just to get away -- it made a ten minute segment built around the simplest of holds feel like something you had to watch. Then when he finally manages to tag out he spends the next few minutes bent over on the apron de-cauliflowering his ears. As the match went on he also started getting surly as fuck, and that was a different yet equal kind of awesome. Dory was actually pretty fun in that regard as well, but Dory is low-key surly and when he stooges it's pretty subdued. With Terry, nothing is low-key and nothing is subdued. There was this bit after the opening headlock where Dory chucked Lothario to the floor and as Terry walks over to him you're ready to bet your mortgage on him sticking a boot in. Except he doesn't, and even pats Lothario on the back before helping him back in. That was nice of him, right? Very sporting. Then Dory, the fucking enabler, chucks Jose out again and at this point Terry is like "yes, I in fact DO demand recompense for the cauliflower ear!" All of the Terry/Jose parts were great, actually. That shouldn't really be surprising, but sometimes you'll get two guys on opposite ends of a tag match and they don't quite match up like you want them to. Luckily this had plenty of Terry v Jose and it culminated with them throwing jabs and Terry being left jelly-legged. You know a singles match would rule and you pray to the old gods that one exists. You also pray for that neverending well of untapped Terry Funk footage, for your thirst is yet unquenched.

Monday, 12 September 2016

A Glimpse at 2016 (part 3)

Rush v LA Park (Liga Elite, 7/14/16) 

Well fuck my face, this was everything you hoped it would be. I don't even know what Elite is supposed to be, whether it's some kind of CMLL spin-off or something, but either way I assume Rush and Park agreed pre-match to use it as a vehicle to fuck the establishment and do everything they're otherwise not allowed to do shy of whipping out a shotgun. Seeing this kind of blood-soaked lunacy in Arena Mexico again had me smiling ear to ear the whole time. Like, there are so many awesome on-paper brawls that you could book from that CMLL roster, but there's always that little voice in the back of your head going "you still wish it had gallons of blood, you bloodthirsty vampire, you." And apparently that voice speaks to every member of this crowd as well because god damn they eat all of this up, to the point where they were legitimately about ready to riot when the referee tried to call the whole thing off. Some of the weapon shots were pretty brutal, particularly the first chair shot to Rush, but there's something sort of harrowing about seeing old man Park stumble around covered in blood like a vagrant Stevie Van Zandt while Rush recklessly launches a mini-fridge at his head. It's actually been a while since I last saw Rush, but man is that guy still the greatest. There isn't a better coke-fueled bully in wrestling and he was just crushing Park with furniture, licking Park's blood off his hands, getting right in the faces of angry fans...generally being the complete headcase that's been my favourite wrestler in the world for the last three years. Both guys going fuck it and continuing to brawl for another ten minutes after the initial stoppage made the whole thing feel even more chaotic, and then you get the big dives in amongst the debris and the crowd throws money in the ring at the end. That's usually a good sign. This was incredible.

Friday, 9 September 2016

A Glimpse at 2016 (part 2)

Dragon Lee, Stuka Jr. & Volador Jr. v Kamaitachi, Gran Guerrero & Negro Casas (CMLL, 2/19/16)

Pretty awesome spotfest sprint. Maybe it's just because I've seen so little wrestling from the last two/three years that it only seems this way to me, but Casas in this type of match feels like one of those beautiful pro-wrestling rarities that comes around once in a blue moon and knocks your socks off, not because it's Negro Casas being good at the pro-wrestling, but because it's Negro Casas doing a balls to the wall spring with guys almost forty years his junior and not looking one bit out of place. He's a bit like late-career Mikel Arteta only with functioning hamstrings and quadriceps and spine. He might not have the pace or legs to go box-to-box like he once had, but he has an astonishing mind for his craft and the capability to control everything around him. There were absolutely moments where guys were kind of caught standing around waiting for their part of an intricate sequence, Casas included, but I love how he'll still more often than not make it look like he's selling at the same time, whether it's by stumbling around a little more groggily than the others or taking an extra few seconds to lay low on the apron before getting into position. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I still haven't watched a Dragon Lee/Kamaitachi singles match yet. All of their interactions in this were cool at their worst, absolutely spectacular at their best. The speed at which they do rope running sequences, the sheer audaciousness of some spots. Right at the start Lee just yanks Kamaitachi out the air, muscles him into position while he's clinging to Lee's body, then launches him way in the air with a fucking suplex-powerbomb. I should watch one of their singles matches already. Stuka Jr. has always been a low-key favourite of mine, especially in trios, and ESPECIALLY in trios like this. It's been a minute since I've seen him, but his splash is still pretty and his dives are still gorgeous. And holy fuck if the stereo tecnico planchas weren't immaculate. Negro Casas also kicked a midget in a blue chicken suit. I give this eleven stars.

JR Kratos v Joe Graves (Premier, 3/6/16)

Really cool, unique match; had a bit of a Battlartsian feel to it with Graves as your Ishikawa and Kratos as your Viktor Krueger or some such (only way better, because I got the sense Kratos was actually quite good). I guess it's grappler v much bigger dude who can also grapple and ALSO throw you around and elbow your head into the floor. All the matwork and grappling itself was really snug and fought for. Graves was dogged in going for submissions and Kratos was someone that wouldn't panic, being patient and using his weight advantage to work himself into position to throw his elbows. And man, when he threw those elbows he really threw them. There was one in particular that he threw from a mounted position into the back of Graves' head and it was just brutal. I also absolutely loved the spot where Kratos fakes to throw a punch which causes Graves to duck, and as soon as he does this Kratos grabs him and hits a nasty, awkward snap piledriver that landed Graves on the side of his head and neck. It was a spot I assume was planned, but it was so quick and well-executed that it didn't seem that way at all, instead coming off as Kratos thinking on his feet and seizing an opening. Finish was pretty great as well. I'd never seen nor heard of these two guys before tonight, but I bought into the story they were telling and popped at the end, so I couldn't really have asked for much more.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

A Glimpse at 2016 (part 1)

I've been going through some threads on PWO and after reading about the Trauma I/Canis Lupus mask match I feel motivated to watch some stuff from this year (including Trauma/Lupus, eventually). I've been out of the modern Japanese wrestling loop for ages and I'm not entirely sure what's going on in WWE right now and I haven't even kept up with lucha for a couple years now, but we'll see what tickles my fancy and then I'll lose interest again in about a week. WWE also put up the fucking Last Battle of Atlanta the other day so I should probably get on that real quick as well. If I can write up four entries of 2016 wrestling I'll be proud of myself.

Hideki Suzuki & Yoshihisa Uto v Yasufumi Nakanoue & Ryoto Hama (BJW, 5/5/16)

This was my first taste of the Suzuki/Nakanoue feud and it felt like a pretty great place to start. Fairly short, super intense, buckets of hate, etc. Good grief Hama is even fatter than the last time I saw him. It's like Dusty Rhodes absorbed Rikishi Phatu Dragonball Z style and this was the outcome. His fatboy splashes all looked very lung-squashy and I pretty much love his twist on the duelling lariat trope by just diving onto Uto with a cross body. Suzuki/Nakanoue is of course what you come to see, though. No idea what the context of this feud is or why they hate each other to death but I'm fine just sitting back and watching them try and maul each other. Constant cheap shots, looks of disgust, flurries of violence - it was all there. The WAR comparison I've read certainly feels apt and considering WAR is just about my favourite promotion in history I was all the way behind this. I don't actually know if I've seen Suzuki before but I liked him a bunch here. He was pretty Tenryu-ish in the way he'd sort of react to Nakanoue's strikes with condescension early on, to later being thoroughly fed up with them and absolutely plastering him in response.

Hideki Suzuki & Yoshihisa Uto v Yasufumi Nakanoue & Yuji Okabayashi (BJW, 5/30/16)

The Suzuki/Nakanoue relationship has deteriorated even further in the three weeks between this and the previous match and I don't think there's any hope of reconciliation at this point. I still don't know why they despise each other so, but if it keeps leading to shit like this then I hope they never bury the hatchet. This went about fifty seconds before the ref' threw the match out, then he was persuaded to restart it after everyone had calmed down a bit and it only went another four and a half minutes after that. I could see that being too short for someone to really get behind, and sure, I would've liked it to last a bit longer, but if you've got less than five minutes to work with and you approach it by beating the living dogfuck out of everyone else involved then I will never, ever not appreciate that. And by "everyone else involved" I literally mean everyone, which is exactly what Suzuki does here. He mostly wants Nakanoue, but he's not above taking a swing at ring boys and the referee and even his own partner for getting in his way. It was very great. He was pretty much the world's best potato-farming crowbar bastard and everyone got hit in the face by him, especially Nakanoue, who got it the worst and most often. Uto actually got fed up at one point and smashed him back, but Suzuki didn't care and just went back to stomping on Nakanoue's head because who needs a tag team partner anyway? I kinda loved the finish with Okabayashi really putting some torque on the camel clutch while Suzuki, who knows his partner is in trouble, ignores it in favour of throwing Nakanoue into things. This reminded me of one of those Hashimoto v Ogawa tags from the late 90s/early 00s, and if you're successfully aping a Hash/Ogawa tag then you are alright with me.