Thursday, 24 November 2016

Life is Nothin' but a Dream, so Peaceful and Serene, Unless You're Bein' Evil, then You're on Tenryu's Team

Genichiro Tenryu & Yoshinari Ogawa v Jumbo Tsuruta & Kenta Kobashi (All Japan, 8/19/89) - GOOD

I never knew Tenryu and Ogawa ever teamed together. Ogawa wasn't an obnoxious wee prick yet so they weren't quite the pair of assholes they'd be a decade later, but if nothing else it's cool that it actually happened. As you'd expect, this is mostly about Jumbo/Tenryu, but that was never a bad thing in '89. They start out working some basic holds, but they hit each other real hard and that leads to them dropping the kneebars in favour of going toe to toe. Their exchanges were always on that cusp of breaking down into a brawl, so even if the matwork wasn't great it at least had an edge to it. Jumbo tags out a couple times and Tenryu tells him to man up and get back in, so Jumbo obliges and Kobashi has to wait a little longer for his turn. Kobashi and Ogawa are super raw at this point and most of what they do looks pretty ugly, but they try hard and I don't have any problem with young guys overreaching a bit. Their interactions with the opposing Big Dog were great. You had Ogawa stepping to Jumbo and bloodying his nose so Jumbo would flatten him with nasty forearms. Kobashi would go at Tenryu and Tenryu would just waste him with upward angle chops right to the throat. Ogawa v Kobashi was the weak point (understandably), but there was this amazing spot where Tenryu back body dropped Ogawa right onto Kobashi's face. This was eleven minutes long and it had plenty of neat stuff.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Monday, 21 November 2016

The Revival/#DIY and Lesnar/Goldberg

The Revival v Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa (2/3 Falls) (NXT Takeover: Toronto, 11/19/16)

This might've been even better than their previous Takeover match. I said that one was like a hybrid of a traditional southern tag with modern day workrate, and this was that again, but they turned it up another notch. The Revival are the best tag team in wrestling right now. All of the cutoffs, the heat-garnering, the way they work the heat segment -- that all ruled as usual, but this time they seemed even more surly, especially Dawson. He was adding some awesome little nasty touches to this, like stomping on Gargano's fingers, Regal-style grating his forearm across Gargano's face while he held him in place with a bodyscissors, and my favourite of all was when he picked Ciampa up off the mat by his beard! I really liked the layout of this as well. There wasn't really a babyface shine segment in the traditional sense to start, but they went back and forth for control until the Revival eventually took it, and that kept going all the way into the second fall (with an awesome finish to the first). The hot tag in the second led to the score being tied up, and the third fall was one extended stretch to the finish with tonnes of heat and great moments. I was pretty sure on who was winning this, but I wasn't ALL the way sure and they had me biting on a handful of nearfalls towards the end. They played off Gargano's leg injury and the subsequent finish from the first match, with Dawson first using a title belt to block a kick (awesome), applying the inverted figure-four to huge heat, then Dash coming in from the blind side and fucking obliterating Gargano with a chop block to the OTHER leg. So by the end you had Gargano on two bad legs trying to hang in there, and "hang in there" was about all he managed as Dash and Dawson got too cocky going for the double superkick. I assume the Revival are heading to the main roster after this, but as someone who only watches WWE/NXT once every other month I would be more than happy for these teams to have another few go-arounds.

Brock Lesnar v Goldberg (Survivor Series, 11/20/16)

For a match that went about two and a half minutes bell to bell, I thought this was pretty much perfect. I get that people were annoyed by the length and felt that they were shortchanged or whatever, but I watched this after already knowing what went down and I don't follow WWE enough to really be bothered about it and I just use my brother's Network subscription so I basically got this for free and fuck it, I loved it. It felt massive pre-match, then Goldberg came out and people were way into it, then Lesnar got shoved on his butt and it was such a great "fuck outta here with that" moment. The first spear was amazing, the way Lesnar got up laughing only to be mowed down out of nowhere. The pops for Goldberg's three offensive moves - and that was all he did - were huge, then you had all these camera shots of fans in disbelief that Brock Lesnar got squashed in three minutes. For what they were going for, I don't think this possibly could've come off much better.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Shoot Style, Memphis and...Paul Roma!

Jerry Lawler, Koko Ware, Jerry Jarrett & Tojo Yamamoto v The Spoiler, Phil Hickerson, Billy Travis & Ron Sexton (Memphis, 8//10/85)

I was smiling pretty much all the way through this. I had no memory of Tojo Yamamoto being babyface. Had no memory of Jerry Jarrett wrestling this late. Had no memory of Billy Travis working Memphis. Jarrett felt like such a random addition to this (which I guess is fitting, because that's a pretty dang random assortment of names). He looks like a total jobber with his bog standard look, skinny frame and all around flimsiness. He tries to backdrop Phil Hickerson at one point and Hickerson just picked him up and dropped him awkwardly across his knee. Tojo wasn't involved much but man was he fun. Basically all he did was chop people, but everyone bumped big for him and he got fired up like a crazy wee gremlin bastard. Billy Travis was in full stooge mode and it was great. It was Travis who bumped biggest for Tojo's chops and he took a cool inside out bump off a Lawler clothesline. Koko did most of the heavy lifting for the babyfaces and he hit one dropkick that was absolutely fucking unbelievable. I legit shouted "look at that fucking dropkick!" and rewound it about six times. He also won the first fall with this awesome mule kick-dropkick thing (a mule dropkick? I guess) off the second rope. Memphis was the funnest. 

The Rockers v Power & Glory (WWF Superstars, 4/15/91)

This wasn't very good. On paper I thought it looked like an interesting match-up, but it wasn't all that interesting in practice. I remember being a fan of Power & Glory as a kid. I don't remember why. Maybe it was the cool tights. Roma is jacked like a motherfucker and I guess he was an okay shithead, but he's pretty cookie cutter in every aspect. He did have one amusing turnbuckle bump at least. Hercules looks kinda rough at this point and works real slow. Jannetty tried to make his clotheslines look good by doing a Billy Travis inside out bump, then later tried it again and landed on his neck, but there's only so much Marty could do. Fairly lackluster shine segment, lackluster heat segment, tepid hot tag and a non-finish. I'd like to think these teams had a decent match in them, but this wasn't it. 

Kiyoshi Tamura v Wataru Sakata (U-Style, 2/15/03)

I thought for sure I'd seen this before, but if I had I forgot how good it was. Because it was REAL good. I don't know if these two ever fought in RINGS, but Sakata has a bug up his butt about something and slaps Tamura cross the face pre-match. In his younger days Tamura would've come out trying to tear off limbs (or he'd be the one doing the slapping), but this time he came out unperturbed and just went about business. Some of the matwork in this was really great, which probably shouldn't be surprising. Felt like Sakata was the aggressor for a lot of it with Tamura playing defence. Tamura's older now but his defence is just as spectacular as it was in the 90s; maybe even more so because he has a calmness about him now, like he's a guy who's seen it all and found a way out of every submission you can put him in. He has a calmness about in general. This is his house now and he has nothing to prove to anybody. As this went on they started to move to the feet a bit more and a few of the exchanges down the stretch were awesome. Sakata is pushing for the KO and Tamura looks like he's barely hanging in there, so he backs Sakata into the corner and throws knees to the body from the clinch. Then he backs up and drops Sakata for a 9 count with a jumping high kick. Match wasn't too long, but it built in drama and reached a hot climax. I wish U-Style stuck around. 

Friday, 18 November 2016

Tamura v Mishima (U-Style)

Kiyoshi Tamura v Dokonjonosuke Mishima (U-Style, 4/6/03)

I don't know why it's taken me so long to watch this. I've wanted to check it out for ages, but it's not on Tabe's Best of Tamura comp and I figured all the U-Style on youtube had been ripped down, so I kept putting it off and figured one day it'd appear somewhere. Well it's back on youtube (or maybe never left), so here we are. This is the first and only time I've seen Mishima. He's always been that guy with the funny name who wrestled Tamura. "I've seen most of Tamura's U-Style stuff already but there's that match with Doko...Dokojuno...that Mishima guy. Maybe it's good." Of course it was good. Maybe it's just because I've been watching a lot of so-so shoot style going through the UWFi shows, but I thought this was different gravy, especially the matwork. The mat exchange at the beginning was total RINGS and Mishima brought a ton to it. He brought a ton to everything. Elliot on PWO described him as having a kind of "weirdo style," and I definitely got that vibe at a few points with how he'd set up submissions in interesting ways, almost feigning strikes before jumping into an attempted ankle lock, using an armbar as a set up for a choke which he applied with his legs. Some of his stand up was really cool as well. He was doing fucking Eddy Gordo capoeira handstand kicks at one point. The finish with Mishima managing to wriggle free of a choke only for Tamura to INSTANTLY grab the cross armbreaker was really awesome. This was a shade over ten minutes and it rocked.

Thursday, 17 November 2016


This feels like the biggest show they've ran so far. The building, the fancy ring mat, the video opening, the buzz around Bob Backlund being in town. Takada even busted out the lilac ring attire!

Kiyoshi Tamura v Tatsuo Nakano

I was hoping this would be fun and I was not disappointed. Young and eager Tamura with a point to prove is the best. Maybe somebody in his life told him he wouldn't amount to much and this is him out to prove that that person was a fucking idiot. Maybe it was Nakano who told him because Tamura is even more hot-headed than normal. Usually he has a chip on his shoulder, but this time he had the whole bag of McCoy's. He refuses to shake Nakano's hand at the start and once again comes out with the double quick matwork, everything carrying a real sense of urgency. Nakano can't hang on the mat like that, but I thought it was pretty cool for the NARRATIVE~ how he just used his size advantage to wear Tamura down. At times it amounted to him rolling on top of Tamura and slowly working for position - which wasn't all that interesting, it must be said - but it worked for him because he started to open up a points lead. It also pissed off Tamura and young, pissed off Tamura is a blast. The more he struggles with Nakano's little medicine ball body the harder he works, and that leads to an awesome spot where he shoots in for a takedown and gets absolutely wiped with a knee to the face. Tamura's KO sell was wonderful, as was Nakano casually walking away like it wasn't even a thing. This of course only extends the points gap - Nakano hasn't dropped a single point yet while Tamura has lost half a dozen - and it makes Tamura even MORE annoyed. He starts shit talking and slapping Nakano and they both throw nasty little pot shots, because Nakano won't take that guff from anyone. At some point Nakano's nose starts bleeding (I mean, of course it does) and Tamura slaps him across the face, so Nakano throws a kind of downward palm thrust like he's trying to mash Tamura's head into the canvas. His flurry of palms strikes that dropped Tamura a second time was another really great spot. This all builds to the finish where Tamura basically shit talks Nakano into throwing one too many high kicks and Tamura catches him with an ankle lock. I liked this a bunch.

Gary Albright v Yuko Miyato

This went about how you thought it would. Albright looked far more like a killer in this than he did in the Anjoh fight. He threw a couple huge suplexes and smashed Miyato in the face with a nasty forearm. Miyato catches him in the stomach with a spin kick and the crowd reacts like that might somehow be the opening for the upset, but then he goes to follow up and Gary catches him and drills him with a scoop slam. Crowd were like "oh shit he might actually be able to winaaaaand never mind he's fucked." If I'm gonna watch Albright then I want him to launch dudes like they're bags of wheat, so I can't complain about this two and a half minutes.

Kazuo Yamazaki v Yoji Anjoh

Man this was good, which shouldn't really be a shock considering these are two of the three best workers in the company. Some of the stand up in particular was excellent, though maybe surprisingly it was Anjoh who was throwing the bombs. He reeled off a couple outstanding combos that ended with brutal kicks to the body. Yamazaki got the better of the ground game and had Anjoh frantically struggling for the ropes a few times. Anjoh was also really fun trying to avoid Yamazaki's kicks. There was one point where they were sprawling and countering, both of them looking for openings, and as Anjoh got to his knees he had to throw himself out the way of a Yamazaki missile. They never did it like one of your pre-rehearsed indy sequences. It wasn't telegraphed; it felt organic, like Yamazaki got to his feet first, spotted a chance to go for the knockout and Anjoh was able to move just in time.

Nobuhiko Takada v Bob Backlund

I'm assuming they made an arse of this and it wasn't Takada being a carny and booking himself to win in seventy seconds. Match had gone a little over a minute when Takada caught Backlund in the ribs with a kick, and Bob never got up after that. Similar deal to Takada/Fujiwara from the '96 show. It's a shame, because I remember liking their '88 match a ton and the crowd were pretty amped for Bob getting a run out. Takada also looked to be willing to sell Bob's suplexes like death (he stayed down for a 9 count off a back suplex inside forty five seconds), and it's always fun getting to see Bob work some amateur wrestling.

Post-match pockets of the audience start throwing garbage in the ring, presumably because they're pissed about the main event. Yamazaki comes out like the elder statesman and tells them to calm down or something and they actually seem to listen. I bet Yamazaki would be the best uncle. I liked this show even if nothing on it went beyond twelve minutes. Maybe that was welcome after the last two shows had thirty minute tags.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

UWFi 'MOVING ON V' (8/24/91)

We got another kickboxing bout to start the show. Ohe was back again and from what I caught he won pretty handily on points. I was doing stuff for work at the same time so I don't know who the opponent was. We'll move on.

Kiyoshi Tamura v Yuko Miyato 

Yeah, this was good. Miyato isn't a dynamo on the mat, but this is the best he's looked and it's no coincidence that it's against Tamura. Again, Tamura's relentlessness just forces opponents to step up. You try and sleepwalk your way through something and he'll grab a heel hook or an armbar or a choke and it's on you to get out of it. The speed at which he does it continues to be super impressive as well. There's been a bit of a theme running through the last few Tamura matches that his kryptonite is getting hit in the midriff, and it cost him six points in quick succession again here. Miyato is a better striker than grappler so his kicks to the body definitely look like they'd leave someone winded. Tamura was like a dog with a bone when he was going for that choke at the end. Solid bout.

Gary Albright v Yoji Anjoh

Albright's UWFi debut. He didn't look like the wrecking ball he did in the 1/92 tag, but he still threw Anjoh around in nasty fashion and barreled into him with big forearms. I guess Anjoh's job was to go out and make Gary look legit, and I suppose he did that well enough, but he also got to do more offensively than I'd have thought. Albright is impatient and tells Anjoh to bring it, so when Anjoh forces him into a rope break he tells Gary that maybe he's the one who needs to bring it. Cocky Anjoh is the best. Anjoh lands a few kicks, some of them pretty flush, but for the most part Albright shrugs them off and moves to get in close. When he does you know what to expect, and sure enough Anjoh lands awkwardly on some big suplexes. If I was him I'd have taken the L after the first German that put me on my neck.

Nobuhiko Takada & Billy Scott v Kazuo Yamazaki & Tatsuo Nakano

Is Billy Scott one of the lost great American shoot style workers? Probably not, but he was solid again here. His wrestling is fairly strong and his takedowns look really good, and the crowd definitely buy into him because he got a few 'Billy' chants at points. He and Nakano got a little chippy now and than with elbows and breaking late, but it never devolved into anything. Nakano doesn't like anyone and he was pretty surly in this. Takada caught him with a few nasty knees and palm strikes but Nakano just put his head down and motored on. Yamazaki/Takada was the money match up and it delivered on the feet. There was one bit where Yamazaki threw a roundhouse to the gut and Takada crumpled in a heap. Later, Yamazaki caught him with a rolling kick to the side of the head and Takada just flopped into the corner looking into space. That's one of Takada's main strengths, to me. When he gets caught with a big shot he makes it look like it was a big fucking shot. At half an hour this might be a bit long in the tooth, but I didn't think there was too much fat and everybody at least pulled their weight.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

UWFi 'MOVING ON IV' (7/30/91)

This show started with another kickboxing contest. I'm pretty sure it was Ohe from the 6/6 show, but I don't know the other guy. He got damn near curb stomped, whoever he was.

Yuko Miyato v Tatsuo Nakano 

This started out pretty tentative, but after a little while things picked up and it turned into a decent scrap. They throw a bunch of palm strikes that lead to knockdowns that aren't really knockdowns, but that added to the scrappy feel of it. Like, Miyato's strike didn't exactly knock Nakano down, but it unbalanced him as he was about to retaliate and it caused him to slip. I guess it was right on the cusp of a knockdown, but with a wag of the finger Nakano made sure the ref' knew it wasn't. At one point they even end up tumbling out the ring and I half expected Nakano to pull a Kitahara and hit Miyato with a chair. Nakano has been using the choke regularly since the debut show and the crowd are definitely picking up on it. Sometimes it's worked (used it to submit Anjoh), sometimes it hasn't (had it reversed into an armbar against Takada). I thought he'd managed to submit Miyato with it here, but apparently Miyato grabbed a heel hook or something and it was Nakano who tapped. It was hard to tell with the ref' being in the way.

Kazuo Yamazaki v Billy Scott

This was much more like it for a Yamazaki v gaijin fight. Last time he was stuck with the rubbish JT, but Scott is far more capable and it meant Yamazaki didn't need to baby him. Yamazaki has definitely stood out on these early shows, even if he hasn't been in anything blowaway. I'm not sure he's underrated necessarily, at least not among shoot style fans, but he has a sort of understated badass aura about him that not many people talk about. He's pretty stoic and businesslike, never looking especially perturbed, but that makes those moments where he's in trouble stick out. You know how capable he is, so if this Billy Scott guy comes in on his first night and gives him some serious bother then maybe people should be paying attention to Billy Scott. Some of the stand up in this was really good because we got to see Yamazaki let loose with the kicks opposite a guy that knew how to defend against them (I don't want to keep ragging on JT Southern, but you could tell Yamazaki had to hold back there). Scott retaliated with some knees and solid palm strikes and was always dangerous with the throws. Down the stretch there was some pretty big drama as well, a few rock solid mat exchanges and a nice finish with the standing choke. Scott is definitely the best of the Americans on the '91 shows so far, and I know he comes back because I've seen at least one of his matches with Anjoh from '93. This wasn't a classic, but it was good stuff.

Nobuhiko Takada & Kiyoshi Tamura v Yoji Anjoh & Jim Boss

I'll take pretty much every bit of Tamura/Anjoh I can get and their exchanges in this did not disappoint. I don't really want to start talking up Anjoh as one of Tamura's three best opponents ever, because it's been ages since I watched any RINGS Tamura, but it feels like he probably belongs in the discussion with guys like Yamamoto, TK and Han. Anyway, whenever this was Tamura v Anjoh it ruled. It followed the same pattern as the 7/3 singles match with the awesome, fast mat exchanges, Tamura determined to prove a point and Anjoh determined not to let him. Anjoh still has the advantage in the stand up, but it feels like Tamura has improved there even in the space of time between their singles match and now. Takada/Anjoh was pretty good as well, especially when they leathered each other with kicks. The ground exchanges weren't nearly as exciting as Tamura/Anjoh, but they were fine. I'd like to see Takada match up with someone who's closer to his level in the pecking order soon, because he hasn't really stretched out against his opponents so far due to the hierarchy gulf. The Anjoh exchanges have been his best up to now, though. Boss was pretty clearly the weak link in this. Apparently he's a kickboxer, but I'll assume that's some carny horse shit because he certainly doesn't seem like one. Or maybe he is and he just doesn't know how to pull his strikes properly so he purposefully throws feather dusters (the anti-Murakami, then). Either way they were not good (and they weren't any better in the '92 show). When he threw kicks he looked like some high school douchebag trying to wind up the Asian kid with shithead karate. I don't think he extended his leg once, generated no power through his hips, had a weird face-on stance, etc. I get not wanting to full force roundhouse someone, but if you're supposed to be a kickboxer on the same show where someone got decapitated in a shoot kickboxing contest, you need to be bringing some thunder. He mostly paired up with Takada and it wasn't great, but then in the back half of the match he got to do some stuff with Tamura and that was better. It was pretty much all Tamura, though. Takada was kind of content to let things move along steadily so Boss could find his feet a bit. Tamura had no time for that and MADE him get it together. It's that chip on Tamura's shoulder again; he's just 100% effort all the way and you either keep up or you get smoked. There was a great bit where Boss threw his one and only good kick of the match and Tamura sold it like he'd been shot, struggling to regain his bearings for a minute or two afterwards. Match was a little long, but it had plenty of Tamura/Anjoh so I can accept the trade off.

This was another solid show. Maybe I'm finding this stuff easier to watch because I find so-so shoot style less troublesome to get through than other so-so wrestling (and the shows aren't very long, anyway), but even your Miyato v Nakano bouts have been fine. There wasn't a truly standout match on the card, but Yamazaki got to look real good against a capable opponent and there was more Tamura/Anjoh in the main. And any Tamura/Anjoh is a good thing.

Monday, 14 November 2016

UWFi 'MOVING ON III' (7/3/91)

Yuko Miyato v Tom Burton 

Pretty much nothing happened in the first five minutes of this. Like, at all. Burton walks around with his guard up and Miyato probes, but nothing connects, it's just Burton stalking him down and Miyato keeping him at arm's length. At one point Burton threw a series of knees and Miyato slipped and fell over, but it didn't even register as a knockdown. That was the extent of the action in those first five minutes. Then they get the 'five minutes passed' call and almost straight away Miyato starts winging leg kicks, which gets him a knockdown. Burton starts selling the leg by backing up and limping slightly, so he goes for his bread and butter (the takedowns) and actually hits a butterfly suplex. Finish was cool as well. It's not easy to make a powerbomb look like a shoot move unless you're Rampage Jacksoning your way out of a triangle choke, but this looked like Miyato got caught in the gut and buckled over, so Burton capitalised and drilled him. Burton isn't all that good really, but you can tell he tries and there's something easy to like about the big lug's enthusiasm.

Kiyoshi Tamura v Yoji Anjoh

Well this was tremendous. It's a total "underdog trying to step up to the plate" story and Tamura has the biggest chip on his shoulder the whole way through. Right at the start you see it when he dumps Anjoh a couple times and tells him to bring it. Anjoh will sometimes do something dickheaded and it just annoys Tamura and makes him even more desperate to prove himself at Anjoh's expense. He throws some slaps and you can tell it gets to Anjoh, because he responds by throwing brutal knees to the body in explosive flurries of annoyance at what this kid is doing. When he gets REALLY annoyed he pushes the envelope a bit and drops some super nasty knees across Tamura's head, and that leads to an awesome moment where Tamura repays the favour and Anjoh looks at him almost in disbelief. The nerve of this kid, who does he think he is? Anjoh grabs hold of Tamura's hair to prevent him from putting on a half crab, so Tamura drops the hold and just slaps him across the face. He knows how Anjoh is and he knows the last thing you can do is let him take liberties. It was a great dynamic and it ran through the whole match. Defensively this was a spectacular performance from Tamura. The speed on some of the ground exchanges was astonishing and Tamura would constantly roll out of or reverse situations that looked dangerous. When people talk about defensive wrestlers, at least in a shoot style context, the guy I think of as the bar setter is Fujiwara. I'm not saying Tamura is better, but at this point I think he's right on that same level, albeit in a different sort of way. Defensively Fujiwara was wily. He used all of his smarts along with the stellar ground game. He'd sometimes sucker guys in, and when he looked most vulnerable he'd completely flip the script and submit them, or at least use their fervor to finish the match against them in some way. With Tamura, it's his athleticism that's remarkable. His speed on counters, how he can wriggle free and instantly turn a position where he's almost caught in an armbar into a position that's advantageous. There were plenty examples in this, but the best might've been his escape from a front facelock straight into a go-behind. That probably doesn't seem terribly special just from reading about it, but it was breathtaking in execution and judging by the crowd response I wasn't the only one who was taken aback by it. Towards the end you could see him starting to tire, Anjoh's strikes to the body starting to wear him down more and more. He keeps on coming because he refuses to be denied and the crowd stay firmly behind him, but he was already fighting an uphill battle on the feet and it's tough to keep going on the mat when you've been kicked and kneed in the guts for fifteen minutes. You can have the strongest engine in the game, but that takes its toll. After the match Anjoh hangs around for a little while, because even a shithead like Anjoh can appreciate Tamura's effort. Real recognise real. Tamura had less than ten matches in his career at this point, btw. That's David Robinson averaging 24 and 12 in his rookie season level.

Kazuo Yamazaki v JT Southern

JT is by far the worst of the Americans Takada has brought in. It's difficult to bullshit your way through shoot style because if you can't do it properly then it's glaringly obvious, and it's already likely the hardest style in all of wrestling to work, so he really had no chance. At times Yamazaki looks disinterested because he knows he's saddled with an unenviable task and it's pointless to even try and make this compelling. Once or twice it looked like he might've considered taking liberties and just wasting JT, but then he'd reel back. Southern can't really do anything on the mat and his stand up is basically putting a shoddy guard up. Finish was kind of hokey. Maybe the ref' decided to be merciful.

Nobuhiko Takada v Tatsuo Nakano

This was another underdog v established star match, only where Tamura was a young prodigy looking for his first decent-sized scalp, Nakano is a lumpy little guy looking to somehow upset the ace. His task is just a little more daunting. He's an unassuming little dude and on the surface not hugely impressive, but you usually get fun character moments with Nakano and we got a couple in this. Takada brushed off a leg kick as if to say Nakano's shot was nothing to him, so the first leg kick Takada throws after that was met with the exact same response. Crowd picked up on this and they were solidly behind Nakano for the rest of the match. Nothing on the ground was amazing, but they had a few nice bits standing up where Nakano would try and take Takada's back for a throw. I liked Takada's attention to detail during those parts, leaning forward so Nakano couldn't use leverage, reaching between his own legs in case Nakano tried to shift his foot under there to try and roll Takada back for a takedown. When he tried that again Nakano dropped his grip on Takada's waist and reached up for the choke, which again got a pretty big pop.

Maybe the best show so far, even off the strength of Tamura/Anjoh alone. That's certainly the best match so far. Takada pairing up with Nakano in the main event was welcome as well. His opponents in the first two shows ranged from limited-yet-likeable to woeful, and Nakano might not be world class but he's a step above that.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

UWFi 'Ruling the World' (1/9/92)

Ruling the World is the show name, obviously. That wasn't my idea of a snappy title. I have a hard enough time trying to come up with different titles for Puerto Rico entries.

Hiromitsu Kanehara v Masakazu Maeda 

Really good shoot style young lion bout. It's not quite striker v grappler, but Kanehara certainly gets the better of the ground exchanges while Maeda dominates the stand up. Minus one throw a piece, every point Maeda loses is through rope breaks and every point Kanehara loses is from knockdowns. Maeda also gets testy at a few points and just stomps on Kanehara's head. Maybe it's something in the Maeda name. This has a fifteen minute time limit and I was expecting the draw the longer it went, but knowing UWFi I wondered if they were going to have someone pull out the victory at the death. Last minute is pretty dramatic as you have the call for thirty seconds remaining, Kanehara pushing for the submission while Maeda tries to make it to the ropes or hang on for the bell. I guess this was a bit similar to Tamura/Kakihara from the debut show with two young guys out to make a name for themselves. It wasn't quite as good as that; it was more of a 'pretty' contest and didn't have the same level of desperation or grittiness, but I dug it. Maeda only stuck around in wrestling for about nine months, but it looked like he had something about him. Kanehara was never afraid to get punched in the mouth. I mean he fought (and got leathered by) Wanderlei, Cro Cop, Overeem and Shogun in consecutive PRIDE appearances. That's ballsy as fuck. 

Masahito Kakihara v Tom Burton 

This wasn't amazing or anything, but I liked the story. Burton still doesn't have much of a stand up, nor does he set the world on fire on the mat, but he has some nice throws and can use the weight advantage if he needs it. Kakihara builds a big lead by forcing rope breaks and one knockdown off a fucking jaw-jacker of a roundhouse kick. He's in full control and it feels like he could win pretty much whenever. But to his credit, Burton keeps on trucking. Eventually he gets down to his last three points, so one more knockdown and he's done, and it leads to some dramatic exchanges where Kakihara lets loose with flurries. And Burton still keeps trucking, forcing a few rope breaks, scoring a knockdown off a big suplex. Kakihara still looks comfortable enough when they're on the mat, but Burton is starting to use the weight advantage more. Maybe Kakihara should've been a bit more lethal going for the KO earlier...

Tatsuo Nakano v JT Southern 

This was not good. JT Southern is not good. Nakano is good, but he wasn't dragging Southern to much and didn't look particularly interested in trying. At a couple points Southern applied a weak kneebar and Nakano would look totally disinterested with this "really, mate?" expression on his face. Then he'd roll over and casually kick him in the head. For the finish he decided he'd had enough and just ended it with a knee strike and a half crab.

Kiyoshi Tamura v Yuko Miyato

This was REALLY good. More than that, though, Tamura looked super awesome in it. Some of his defensive work was incredible, rolling through on armbars and scrambling away from submission attempts. There was one bit where he was going for a choke and Miyato was trying to grab an arm, and Tamura was relentless in his pursuit of that choke while avoiding all of Miyato's attempts at catching him. Tamura also busted out a few Han-esque setups for submissions, including a picture perfect rolling cross armbreaker. All of the stand up exchanges were strong as well, especially the one at the start leading to an early Tamura knockdown. Towards the end Tamura zeroes in on Miyato's leg and will not rest until he's made Miyato tap. Miyato is perfectly fine if unspectacular, but this is one of those fights where you get to see how amazing an athlete Kiyoshi Tamura is.

Kazuo Yamazaki & Yoji Anjoh v Gary Albright & Jim Boss

Man, I fucking loved this. I wouldn't really think of shoot style as being the environment most conducive to big spectacles, but UWFi always did things a little differently and this had just the right amount of pro style to make it a heck of a fun spectacle. This is one of the better Albright performances I've seen. He came across as a total monster, just destroying guys with suplexes and clubbing them about the head. Whenever Yamazaki or Anjoh landed a strike of any sort it felt like an accomplishment because Gary was able to either block or catch most of them. Even something like a Yamazaki high kick that would go over Gary's head had people stirring, just because the shot actually got close. The first exchange with Anjoh was awesome because Anjoh is so totally out of his depth with the size difference and he knows it. Albright just walked through Anjoh's kicks, grabbed hold of him and tossed him. There was one bit later where Albright got in close and Anjoh had to resort to dropping to his knees to avoid being suplexed, but Albright just grabbed him anyway and Anjoh had this amazing "oh I am fucked" expression as he got launched with a deadlift German. The Albright/Yamazaki exchanges were great as well; maybe even better than Albright/Anjoh. Yamazaki has a longer reach on his kicks and the first one that truly landed got a huge pop, then later when Yamazaki manages to suplex him the crowd responds with a big Yamazaki chant. Boss isn't great, but all he has to do as Albright's partner is not lose. His kicks were super light and he never had much to offer on the ground, but he was vocal with his selling and took a Yamazaki roundhouse kick square in the face. So fair play to him, I guess. Last stretch had some nice drama with Albright chucking Anjoh around, and there were a couple women in the crowd who looked terrified for him. Anjoh straight dives at Albright and catches him with a knee and the two women start to believe, but then Gary clubs him and grabs him around the waist and the women literally cover their eyes because they know what's coming. Anjoh makes it up to his feet after the first German (which was fucking disgusting) and sort of staggers towards his corner. He doesn't really know where he is, but he's close enough where he could probably tag out. Albright realises and charges him again, going in for the kill, and this time Anjoh doesn't get back up. This'll probably end up being one of my favourite matches of the entire UWFi run (I say that as if I'll ever come close to getting through all of the shows). 

Friday, 11 November 2016

Ricky Morton Playing Ricky Morton in Puerto Rico

Dutch Mantell v Abdullah the Butcher (2/27/88)

This was more like the Dutch you want. In the Gran Guera matches sort of hung back and stayed out the way, but he was obviously a central focus in this. Abby jumps him at the bell and slams him on the table, then the fork comes out and Dutch is cut open a few minutes in. Abby chucks him out the ring and Dutch happens to land beside the guy who's holding Shoo Baby, so of course Dutch gets back in and lets loose with the whip. DQ finish probably isn't surprising (Hugo on commentary suggests it won't be surprising to Abby either, but he's never cared about such things anyway), but I love Chicky passing Abby a coat-hanger and Abby using it to try and strangle Mantell. I was hoping for a short, fun brawl out of these two and that's what I got.

Rock 'n' Roll Express v Bobby Jaggers & Dan Kroffat (3/19/88)

Total RnR formula match, but I love RnR formula and this was a really nifty iteration of it. All of the early shine was good and we got to see Dan Kroffat bump and stooge in ways we never did in All Japan. He still has the cool offence too, like a big giant swing and a weird Doomsday Device thing that was basically just a lariat off the second turnbuckle. Jaggers has some nice bumps off of back body drops and it felt like we got a better handle of how good he was in this than the Youngbloods strap match. He runs distractions and knows how to work a crowd, cuts off Morton, stooges and was generally pretty fun. Morton juicing gave his heat segment a little extra bite as well, because you had Jaggers and Kroffat punching him in the cut and ramming him into the post. I liked this a bunch, but then you could stick pretty much any two wrestlers in there with Morton and Gibson and I'd likely enjoy it.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

UWFi v WAR (5/27/96)

This was the first UWFi show in the interpromotional feud with WAR. I've seen some stuff from that feud, like Tenryu/Anjoh and Tenryu/Takada x2, but never a full show. UWFi was kind of on its last legs at this point and would close its doors indefinitely by the end of the year, but apparently this show drew 15,000 at the Budokan and I would not have expected that.

Kiyoshi Tamura v Kazushi Sakuraba

Tamura's last match in UWFi before heading to RINGS. I don't know if the story about him working this as a big fuck you to the company/Takada is true or not, but it was certainly a RINGS match more than a UWFi one. The matwork especially is very RINGS; super fast sprawling and tumbling and jockeying for position. They only use one rope break each and mostly work to a stalemate, but it's the kind of shoot style matwork that's my absolute favourite matwork in wrestling. It's not quite the highest of high end RINGS, but you could see they had something brilliant in them and probably would've produced it if Sakuraba went to RINGS rather than Kingdom/MMA. There was one bit where Sakuraba was shifting his weight to get into position for a cross armbreaker, trying to force Tamura's hands apart. He leaned back to break the grip, but Tamura used Sakuraba's momentum to roll backwards and essentially wind up with side control. Finish was so good. Sakuraba comes in close and throws an uppercut, so Tamura moves in to close the distance and they sort of wind up in a clinch. I'm not sure if Sakuraba tried to throw another palm strike inside or Tamura just grabbed an arm, but one second they were standing in the clinch and the next Tamura had rolled him into a perfect cross armbreaker. Tamura was about to go on a run where he legit had a handful of the best matches ever done in the style, and this was a nice way to cap off his time in a promotion he'd pretty much grown out of.

Hiromitsu Kanehara v Akira Nogami

I did not know Nogami ever worked shoot style. Or this approximation of it, at least. They don't use the points system and there's a nearfall of a German suplex, so I guess it's a mishmash of shoot/pro. For five minutes I thought this was pretty tidy. Kanehara has big time strikes and tries to kick Nogami's leg in half and Nogami sells it like he has half a leg. Kanehara goes for a big KO shot, but Nogami ducks it and hits a German for a nearfall,which is about the most headway he'd been able to make up to that point. He then tried to follow up with another, because why wouldn't he, I guess? but Kanehara rolls through into a kneebar and Nogami has no choice but to tap. Perfectly fine.

Naoki Sano v Kenichi Yamamoto

Man this ruled. I don't know why, but these two do not like each other and we get an awesome start with Yamamoto charging in straight away flinging slaps and Sano pump kicking him in the face. While the last match was like a UWFi/NJ match this was more Battlartsy. Naoki Sano was fucking awesome at the pro wrestling, man. He's always able to incorporate pro style moves into a shoot style setting in really cool in organic ways. In this he applied what was basically a scorpion deathlock, then transitioned into an STF/choke, then into a regular crossface. Yamamoto stood him up and planted Sano right on his neck with a backdrop, but then got ahead of himself in the stand up and Sano OBLITERATED him with a spinning back kick. This hit flush in the face and I was stunned Yamamoto was able to get up. Well, Sano just dropped him again anyway, this time with a couple ugly looking powerbombs, eventually hooking in a choke for the submission. Six minutes of badass, that's what this was.

Tatsuo Nakano v Koki Kitahara

How about this for a lumpy undercard dream match? This was like some parallel universe Dark Tower shit because both guys are basically each other if their career trajectories happened to be swapped. Nakano works SWS/WAR? He's Kitahara. Kitahara does shoot style and ends up in a Takada promotion? He's Nakano. To be fair, though, I actually didn't expect Kitahara to be as fun in this environment. I mean, it isn't really a shoot style match as opposed to a pro style match with shoot style trappings, but it was a neat enough amalgamation and I liked how Kitahara handled himself. The early mat exchange was nice and solid and once again Nakano ends up with a bloody nose. It must be made of mashed potato. Pretty soon they start smacking each other in the face real hard and my Clone Wars theory is confirmed as Kitahara's nose also gets opened up, though this was at least a result of a nasty looking knee and not just breathing, which is what I assume did for Nakano. Nakano hits a German and Kitahara no sells it like "*I* am the lumpiest here!" and roundhouse kicks Nakano in the head. This was yet another fun six minutes.

Yoji Anjoh & Yoshihiro Takayama v Hiromichi Fuyuki & Gedo

Anjoh cuts an amazing promo before this starts. I don't even know what he's saying but he's wearing a dress shirt and beige chinos and you can tell he's being a condescending prick to the ugly homeless WAR guys, making these "I'm soooo scared" gestures while Takayama laughs at his little buddy's mean jokes. I'm not sure it's particularly smart business practice for a shoot style fed to have this on the same card as Tamura/Sakuraba. Like, this is not shoot style at all. At times it even felt a bit like a wink wink nudge nudge comedy match. But I'll be fucked if I didn't enjoy lots of it. Anjoh and Tak started out sort of dismissive, poking fun at the tubby WAR dudes and Gedo's ring gear. Fuyuki wants a Greco-Roman knuckle lock so Tak holds his hand way up and Fuyuki can't reach it. Anjoh is one of my favourite shoot style guys but he's such an awesome smug little carny that he makes this kind of match his home as well. He and Takayama were like a pair of all-star high school receivers welcoming a ragtag secondary that could barely run the length of themselves. So the secondary started being dirty fucks and kneeing the all-stars in the balls. I love how vocal Fuyuki is in the ring. He does this shrieking thing as he goes to hit someone and it makes him sound like a wildman. Anjoh mocks him for it so Fuyuki hits him with a fire extinguisher and we get a heat segment on Anjoh who blades and everything. Fuyuki punches him in the cut and team WAR work full on heel. At one point Fuyuki brings in a pair of Y-fronts or something and puts them on Anjoh's head, and Anjoh wrestles the rest of the match with these blood-soaked Y-fronts on his head. It was...strange. As was the finish. I have no clue what that was about at all. This was basically a WAR match that happened to be taking place in UWFi. There was nothing UWFi about it other than the initials on Anjoh's singlet.

Shiro Koshinaka v Masahito Kakihara

This started out great with Kakihara rifling off a big slap and Kosh dropping him with a brutal, side-of-the-head brainbuster. For the most part the match continued in that vein. One thing I've liked about this show is catching a glimpse of some shoot style guys working a bit of pro style. Sano's obviously always been awesome at it and I'd seen Anjoh work it plenty of times. Takayama had one of the best heavyweight runs of the 00s. But it was cool seeing Nakano do it, and it was cool seeing Kakihara do it too (though I suppose you could argue UWFi always had some pro style elements). He only had six minutes to work with (lot of 5-6 minute fights on this card), but he made the most of it. He threw down with lots of nasty palm strikes and lariats, so Kosh was almost forced to grab a front face lock just to contain. Kosh has been around the block more than once, his age is starting to show a bit, but he knows how to handle a young guy getting chippy. The hip attacks are still treated as a big deal even if they maybe look a touch ridiculous in a shoot style setting, but we've been over that already and I don't want to keep harping on it. Finish was nasty and yet probably only the third nastiest version of it done on this show.

Nobuhiko Takada v Yoshiaki Fujiwara 

I liked this while it lasted, but it had a bummer of a finish that I assume was unplanned. There was lots of Fujiwara playing defence in this and it was pretty great, which should be unsurprising because nobody has ever been better at playing defence than Fujiwara. Takada caught him with a leg kick early and I love how Fujiwara tried to nonchalantly walk it off, but he couldn't hide that dead leg limp and the crowd picked up on it. Takada tried to force the issue on the mat and there was one bit where he almost grabbed a triangle, and Fujiwara was wheezing and drooling trying to fight it. Fujiwara went down at the end like he'd punctured a lung, but this was just starting to pick up when it happened. Going by Takada's reaction it wasn't supposed to end like that after nine minutes.

Honestly, I had fun with this. The main event was underwhelming, but it was cool to see that match-up in '96. There were really only two matches that you could say were proper shoot style, but I wouldn't be surprised if UWFi had started to mix shoot and pro style at least as far back as the interpromotional deal with New Japan (I may end up finding out if I stick with this). There's only so much you can do when you're bringing in guys that don't normally work shoot style. The quasi-shoot/Strong Style thing they seemed to be going for worked okay, though. The tag was pretty much 100% WAR, but then I'm not sure you could expect anything else based on the participants on the WAR end. Tamura/Sakuraba was excellent. RINGS (or Pancrase) was probably the next logical step for Tamura. UWFi had passed him by at this point. Or he'd passed it.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

UWFi 'MOVING ON II' (6/6/91)

This show started with a kickboxing contest between Rudy Lovato and Makoto Ohe. I'm pretty sure Lovato had a fairly lengthy boxing career but I have no idea who Ohe is. It was a spirited fight, but as far as I could tell it was a shoot, so in eight years if I do a 'best of UWFi' match list after watching all these shows, this won't be included. Can't be mixing the shoots with the works, brothers.

Kiyoshi Tamura v Tom Burton 

This was a fun look at Tamura v an opponent who outweighs him by a fair bit who's also willing to take it to the mat. It wasn't like Tamura v Bitsadze Tariel where Tariel was about double the size of Tamura but wanted nothing to do with being on the deck. Rather than Tamura grappling with a big bear who just wanted to box his ears in you had Burton using the weight advantage to force Tamura to the mat, so Tamura had to find ways of escaping and either trying to find his own submissions or reset back to the stand up. Burton mentions in his pre-match interview that Tamura has quick feet, and before long Tamura starts finding his range with kicks. They sting a bit, not really doing a ton of damage, but Burton has to be wary of them. Eventually he catches one, and for a second or two he stops to soak in this minor victory before more or less falling on top of Tamura to take him back down. He starts to find more joy on the mat and at one point he even hits a sidewalk slam as a knockdown, but Tamura is slippery and it's hard to lock him into anything. Eventually he leaves the back door open wide enough for Tamura to slip out and grab a cross armbreaker. Tamura does not look like a wrestler who's only had eight matches at this point in his career.

Kazuo Yamazaki v Yuko Miyato

This had a little history from the debut show as Yamazaki was on the losing side of the tag opposite Miyato and Anjoh, thanks in part to a bunch of Miyato body kicks. I don't know if they deliberately played off that, but Miyato sure threw a few body kicks in this. Some of the stand up exchanges, particularly the kicks, were excellent. Kicks to the body, brutal leg kicks, and at one point Miyato broke a Yamazaki leglock by kicking him across the jaw. They also had a few exchanges standing up where they sort of jockeyed for position without fully going for a takedown. In one instance Yamazaki almost grabbed an underhook and there was this gasp from the audience at the prospect of a butterfly suplex.

Yoji Anjoh v Tatsuo Nakano

Anjoh signals pre-match that they're gonna leave out the elbows this time in a nice callback to the debut show tag. Nakano isn't in any mood for jokes, however. This lasted a shade over fifteen minutes but the first half had some downtime. Nakano was persistent, but a lot of what he was doing was reminiscent of the earliest UFCs where Royce Gracie would just lie on top of an Art Jimmerson until claustrophobia kicked in and they'd tap out because they literally couldn't move. Anjoh isn't Art Jimmerson so he didn't tap out, and this annoyed Nakano enough to start throwing elbow from the mount. Somewhere along the line Nakano's nose got busted open again and I don't think I've seen a Nakano match yet where his face doesn't get bloodied up. Everything after that is much better. Anjoh starts hucking strikes, but once more Nakano just lowers his head and keeps on coming. He's like an indestructible little beach ball. He also hits a couple big German suplexes and eventually his desire to chuck Anjoh around pays off as it directly sets up the surprise finish. This wasn't mind blowing, but the second half picked up nicely after the slowish start.

Nobuhiko Takada v JT Southern 

This wasn't great. Even if I don't love Takada it's hard to criticise him for having the worst bouts on these shows when he's matched up with the worst opponents. It's not that I think Takada outright sucks anyway, it's just that I don't have a ton of interest in watching him fight a JT Southern. If I'm gonna watch him then I'd rather it was opposite Tamura or Yamazaki or Sano or, you know, someone good. Which JT Southern...isn't. Maybe. This is the only time I've seen him, but he didn't make me want to seek out more. His strikes were pretty rubbish and this was at its best when Takada blasted his way through whatever JT had as stand up defence and slapped him about the face. I haven't looked ahead to any future cards but I'm hoping Takada fights someone better soon.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Whiskey & Wrestling 500!

500 posts! I did a W&W 400 entry for the 400th post, so I'm keeping up traditions for this, the 500th post, six and a half years after I started this blog. Six and a half years! That's longer than my entire high school life! And they thought I wouldn't amount to anything. Here's some humble pie to you, Mr. Campbell, ya baldy wee prick. Never doubt this boozehound!

Like with the 400th post, here are four of my favourite matches of all time.

'Macho King' Randy Savage v Ultimate Warrior (Career Ending Match) (WWF Wrestlemania VII, 3/24/91)

One of the best pieces of melodramatic pro-wrestling soap opera nonsense ever done, from pre-match to post-match and everything in between. This just feels like a huge deal from the very start. Warrior eschewing his usual sprint to the ring for a deliberate walk, the tentative beginning, the crowd heat -- it's big time. Savage was amazing in this, to the point where it feels like one of the best performances ever in a WWF ring. You know he's responsible for the layout, which was great, but it was everything else he did that ruled, all the little touches and movements. His reactions to Warrior shrugging off blows, spitting on him out of belligerence, the way he bides his time and capitalises on Sherri's interference. He fought like a man whose career was really on the line, even trying the throat across the barricade spot that he used to injure Steamboat way back, which was an awesome callback. Warrior isn't great or anything, but I thought he held up his end fine, even if he was still only the third best participant in the match. I loved the bit where he caught Savage coming off the top and just dismissively stood him up and slapped him. It was one of those matches where even he, this nutcase from another universe who talks to space deities, saw the gravity of the situation. Warrior kicking out of the multiple elbow drops annoys some people and I get that, but the way it happened here didn't bother me if for no reason other than it led to wild beady-eyed Randy Savage facial expressions. Warrior making his comeback and hitting the gorilla press and big splash...only for Savage to kick out; it was like your modern day WWE epic, except fresh and organic. Plus that leads to Warrior asking Kang and Kodos for guidance, threatening to walk out because his gods have abandoned him in his greatest moment of need, and that is legit one of my favourite spots in any match ever. It's completely ridiculous and goofy as anything, but I love it. I also loved how Savage jumping him only served to piss Warrior off, snapping him out of his trance and giving him the sign he needed. His gods hadn't left him. It was just their way of telling him his job wasn't done yet. Trial by adversity! Or, you know, whatever. AND I've always loved the finish. It's a moment that's stuck with me ever since I was a kid. I remember watching it and just being flabbergasted that Warrior was so casual about it. The way he hits the shoulder tackles, Savage completely dead on his feet, one foot on the chest, arms raised, back on top of the mountain. Then of course there's the post-match, which has one of the most iconic moments in WWF history. Sherri, who was a phenomenal she-devil all match, puts the boots to Savage while even Heenan thinks it's all a bit too much ("Sherri, come on, he tried his best!"). All the stuff with Elizabeth, grown-ass adults weeping in the crowd, it's Vince's perfect vision of sports entertainment. And on this night he nailed it all ends up.

Kerry & Kevin Von Erich v Terry Gordy & Buddy Roberts (Badstreet Match) (2/12/88)

This is what World Class was great at. There was a bunch of tags on the DVDVR Texas set that felt pretty ragged, not necessarily unstructured but certainly more back and forth with frequent momentum swings, rather than your traditional southern style tag in the Rock n Roll Express/Midnight Express vein. It didn't hold me back from liking those matches, but it maybe held me back from loving them. I'm a fan of the traditional southern tag structure, and the World Class take on it was a little messy. Sometimes that worked, though. Throw a couple Von Erichs in with some Freebirds and give them a leather belt, something special was gonna happen. World Class excelled at the ten minute bar fight. You knew straight away this was gonna be wild because Kevin was actually wearing boots for a change. He kept them on for about five minutes before taking them off and hitting people with them. Gordy was also rocking gigantic makeshift kneepads that looked like things a carpet fitter would wear. This was one of my favourite Gordy performances because he worked like a big surly bastard and just smashed guys to bits. He really walloped Kerry with a chair, suplexed him on the floor and generally wasn't in any mood to let the Von Erichs take over the match (as was their wont). There was this great bit where he hit a piledriver on Kevin and sat there cackling like a maniac afterwards. Kevin obviously potatoed everybody and whipped them with belts and bonked them with cowboy boots. At one point he nailed Gordy in the head with a belt buckle and you could tell by Gordy's reaction ("oh, motherFUCKER!") that it stung. Finish isn't great, but if you're gonna throw out a Badtreet match for being too out of control then I suppose this ticked all the boxes.

Pentagon, Blue Panther, Psicosis & Fuerza Guerrera v Octagon, Rey Misterio Jr., El Hijo del Santo & La Parka (AAA, 6/18/95)

It's been ages since I've watched any AAA trios (or 8-man tags). It was through AAA that I first started getting into lucha, with things like the Gringos Locos/Santo feud, Rey/Psicosis and Rey/Juventud. I guess it's pretty cliche now, but I was familiar with those guys, so like a lot of people at the time they were my gateway. There isn't a ton of AAA I'd have much interest in re-watching now, but there's some stuff I've watched recently enough to know it's still for me. I'd like to watch the 3/95 trios again to see how this compares with it, but this still feels like one of the best matches AAA ever had. The tecnicos were unstoppable in that primera. Park's footwork and preening had Panther tangled up in the ropes and Fuerza scrambling to keep up. Santito took on all comers at once and made them all look foolish, especially Fuerza who we know was never, ever above playing the fool. Rey was a jumping bean. Octagon...well, Octagon mostly kept out the way, but when he did take centre stage he never balked. You don't get much matwork in a 90s AAA trios/8-man; it was a promotion having a red hot run built on flash and highspots from Pena's creations. I guess that's why a lot of it doesn't hold up quite so well today, now that we're at the point where the highspots have been topped by things more audacious, but sometimes you get a match where everything just clicks and it's not the highspots themselves that draw you in. This had some real bite to it, so all the tecnicos' flash in the first caida felt like it was intended to either humiliate or hurt. Rey Jr. wasn't just running guys in circles for the sake of it, he was doing it to let them know they couldn't keep up. The rudos couldn't handle him and Rey was letting everyone know it. "The spots had substance" is one of those blanket terms you could apply to anything to explain why it made sense (I'm positive I've used that line plenty of times before myself), but this really felt like it had more to it than your standard AAA trios. You had the highspots, you had the flash, but it was the way they held it all together with the animosity that elevated it. That animosity of course led to the rudo beatdown, because there was only ever going to be so long before they'd had enough. There aren't many better beatdowns in a AAA trios than this. Psicosis was determined to cave Santo's skull in with a chair, Fuerza was fouling everyone he could and Park was made to pay big time for the early grandstanding. And when Panther finally got his hands on Misterio, little Rey couldn't bounce away from that ass beating. When the tecnicos make their comeback we get one of the best Santo rampages you'll ever see. He went fucking berserk on Psicosis, hammering him with a chair then wrapping it around his head and throwing him into the post. The cherry on top was the dive train, with Psicosis' utterly insane tope suicida being the pick of the bunch. If you had me come up with an all time AAA top 10 this would definitely be there.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara v Super Tiger (UWF, 9/11/85)

I don't remember if this was their best match together, but all of them were great so I guess it doesn't really matter. I did remember Fujiwara being incredible in the whole series, and yeah, he was incredible in this match. I wouldn't necessarily say it was a carry job, but Sayama was there to kick hard and full force kneedrop Fujiwara in the head. Other than that you watch this for the Fujiwara. Their dynamic was always pure striker v grappler. That was the thread running through all of their bouts. Fujiwara doesn't want to stand up with Sayama, and why would he when he's the grandmaster of submissions? Sayama has quick feet and isn't in Fujiwara's league on the deck, so he has no reason to want to take it there. It's the simplest shoot style dynamic you can get (behind the Ikeda/Ishikawa "smash each other in the brain until we forget basic motor skills" dynamic, I guess). Fujiwara does a few feints early on and the crowd picks up on this by chuckling, which I love because it's Fujiwara being a carny and everyone appreciates that. He then takes Sayama down and completely dominates him. Sayama cannot do a thing and Fujiwara knows it. The half crab is one of those dogshit early shoot style holds that would often bring a match to a halt, but watch Fujiwara work it in this match to completely opposite effect. He works the kneebar initially, transitions into the crab, uses his own foot to kick Sayama's other leg out as he's trying to alleviate pressure. He leans back on it and MAKES Sayama try and fight out. When they go back to the kneebar - another hold that could be lifeless - Fujiwara makes a point of covering his face with his free hand because he knows Tiger will try and kick him to get free. Sure enough Tiger tries to heel him in the face, but Fujiwara has it scouted. It's that attention to detail that makes him the king. After about ten minutes of this Sayama finally scores a knockdown, then hits a jumping kneedrop with his entire body weight coming down on Fujiwara's head. When Fujiwara gets back up he forces Sayama into the corner and motherfucking cracks him with a closed fist, and things only escalate from there. Sayama's kicks are thrown with more venom and when they connect Fujiwara is feeling them. He isn't catching them like he was at the start, they're getting through his defence and dropping him for 8 and 9 counts. Fujiwara throws headbutts and Sayama rubs his head and looks at Fujiwara like he would love nothing more than to cave his face in. Finish is typical Fujiwara. You let your guard down for one second, leave yourself open even a little, he'll make you pay. Nobody is better at the out-of-nowhere submission than Fujiwara. This was a master at work and I now feel like I need to watch this entire series all over again.

So there we have it. Whiskey & Wrestling's 500th post. Here's to five hunner more!

Monday, 7 November 2016

UWFi Debut Show 'MOVING ON' (5/10/91)

The places you can find semi-obscure Japanese pro wrestling these days. I don't even remember how, but the other night I stumbled across every UWFi show ever ran...on Amazon Video. How random is that? Every show (that I can tell, anyway), from their debut through to their final show on 12/27/96, all available. They're not free, obviously, but it's fairly cheap to buy shows singularly, so I bought the first one. I'm not really the biggest UWFi fan, but there's a goodly amount of Kiyoshi Tamura and Yoji Anjoh on these shows that I haven't seen before, so I'll probably end up getting a few more.

Kiyoshi Tamura v Masahito Kakihara

The first UWFi match ever and boy is it a doozy. This is Tamura's seventh match of his career. Seventh! That's nuts, because he's already really good. Kakihara has even less under his belt than Tamura. They did look like two young guys out there, not quite polished yet, but full of determination and ready to be the next big thing. You could see it towards the end when the strikes, which were super fast at the start, began to slow way down. It was ragged, the kicks coming like they were thrown in quicksand, but it added to the whole deal. They're on their last legs, but they'll keep swinging until someone drops. It led to a bunch of nasty, reckless exchanges of open handed slaps to the head and body, where you could buy either one of them going down with one well-placed shot. I haven't always loved the way UWFi would use pro style moves, but I liked how they worked them in this, especially the fireman's carry/Samoan drop thing that Tamura basically used as a submission set up. The guy was an absolute prodigy and it showed. 

Yoji Anjoh & Yuko Miyato v Kazuo Yamazaki & Tatsuo Nakano

This took a bit to get going, but once it did there was plenty to like. Yamazaki carried himself like a...moderately sized star, and there was a big buzz around him getting into the ring for the first time. Nakano is the little shoot style engine that could. He gets his nose popped open and his face is covered in blood but he just puts his head down and motors on, grabbing Miyato around the waist and flinging him with a German suplex. This had a few great Anjoh moments, as every Anjoh match does. First Nakano tried to break a submission by using the point of the elbow, which Anjoh wasn't best pleased with. Next opportunity he had, Anjoh repeatedly elbowed Nakano in the head. His petulance really is spectacular. There's a Yamazaki/Anjoh exchange where Anjoh throws a nasty kick while Yamazaki is down in the ropes, and it looks like that's gonna lead to a big shootout between the two. But then Anjoh just waves it off and tags in Miyato. Miyato surprisingly gets the better of Yamazaki on the feet by scoring a couple knockdowns, so THEN Anjoh tags in to pick up the scraps and get the win. Post-match Nakano refuses to shake Anjoh's hand so hopefully that's setting up a singles match on a later show. 

Nobuhiko Takada v Tom Burton

Felt like Takada never had to do much for most of this, though I think that was by design and part of what they were going for. Burton came in wanting to prove that America had the better, tougher wrestlers, so the onus was on him to force the issue and he tried to take it to Takada early. Takada was content to let him and never had much trouble dealing with it. He wasn't exactly dismissive, but he was never flustered, never looked in any danger. I'm not sure Burton is any good really, but he had some moments. Takada gave him a quick leg kick and Burton looked at him like "oh, you motherfucker." Takada would then tee off on the leg at points after that and Burton was pretty amusing selling it, though it won't be for the purists. Towards the end he actually started making some headway, forcing Takada into a couple successive rope breaks, chipping away at Takada's points...but man, Takada isn't compelling at all. There was one bit where he just stood up and kind of waited for Burton to come around and suplex him. It's not that I expected Takada to make it look like Burton had a serious shot of beating him, because Takada was the unquestioned ace and a Takada victory was the only outcome worth considering, but sometimes he'd look totally disinterested with that "flossing before bed" face while sitting in a hold. Then again, Burton's half crab was atrocious, so I'm not sure you can blame him too much. RINGS this ain't. BUT. This was okay.

Solid debut show. Tamura/Kakihara was great and once the tag got rolling it had some good stuff. Main event wasn't amazing or anything, but it was alright and at least solidified Takada as The Man right off the bat. I'm pretty unfamiliar with this early period of UWFi, but without looking at any of the cards it feels like there might be some worthwhile stuff. I'll definitely watch some more. 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Puerto Rico (What Else?)

Invader I v Super Black Ninja (Cage Match) (2/6/88)

This is one of those matches where Invader, even in the mask, bleeds and sells the blood loss like he is who he is, but you still wish he was mask-less so you get the facial expressions to go with the body language and punch-drunk stumbling around. Muta controls most of this and Invader gets his ass beat, but every time it looks like Muta might escape Invader grabs a leg to prevent it. When you think it's just a matter of time, Invader produces the almighty equaliser and punts Muta in the balls. Muta blades and about two seconds later his face is entirely red. Sick, sick blade job. He also gets crotched up top and that looked fucking nasty as well. Cool finish, too.

Bruiser Brody v Dory Funk Jr. (2/27/88)

Is Brody heel at this point or is throwing chairs at kids a babyface thing in Puerto Rico? I don't like either of these guys, but strangely enough my favourite singles match from both is probably against each other. And hey, I thought this had some good stuff! Dory channels his brother and throws a chair in the ring, so Brody grabs it and smashes it to pieces on the ring post. In an awesome touch, Dory takes a piece of the broken chair, hides it in the trunks and uses it to jab Brody in the head the first chance he gets. He then drags him outside and chucks him into the crowd and starts hitting him with another chair, and I'm not used to Dory getting wild like that. Eventually Brody comes back and fucking wellies Dory in the head with a revenge chair shot...but then it settles down a bit and they work a pretty mediocre brawl. Nobody bled buckets, no riots were nearly started. It was short, though. I actually thought the first half of this was shockingly fun and the second half was passable enough, and it's not like it stuck around forever. I think I feel comfortable saying these two are an okay match-up for each other. Minus that absolute stinker they had in All Japan. We'll forget that one ever happened.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

The Rain'll Wash Away the Piss and Blood, but the Water's Not Enough to Wash Away the Things Tenryu's Done

Genichiro Tenryu & Takashi Ishikawa v Riki Choshu & Tatsumi Fujinami (New Japan, 3/23/93) - GOOD

One of the lesser tags from this feud, a bit less on the nuclear side, but the last few minutes were what you come to expect from WAR v New Japan. Choshu and Fujinami are a fun unit, suckering Tenryu in at the start and clobbering him from both sides, leading to Fujinami hitting an awesome tope (to a massive pop). Choshu seemed extra pissed off in this and even out-grumped Tenryu. He was in absolutely no mood for Ishikawa's shit and would sometimes take a swing at Tenryu just for being in the vicinity. Tenryu wasn't exactly incredulous, but there were a few points where he looked a little taken aback. Team NJ take the majority of the match, with the biggest heat segment being on Ishikawa, and the crowd were down with that because they hate him. Tenryu tries to do Tenryu things by coming in and kicking someone in the eye, but for the most part Choshu and Fujinami deal with him fine. Then we get to the last couple minutes. I don't know if they planned this out beforehand as one long sequence - it never felt choreographed or anything - but it was damn near perfect. You had Fujinami dropping Tenryu in the corner with a flurry of slaps before putting the dragon sleeper on Ishikawa, Choshu coming in and obliterating Tenryu with a lariat as he tries to make the save, then eventually persistence pays off as Tenryu and Ishikawa manage to separate the New Japan guys. It leads to a surprising finish, certainly one Choshu never saw coming because he nearly rips the referee's shirt off post-match. I loved Tenryu's celebration as well. WAR got away with one, but maybe that made it all the sweeter.

Genichiro Tenryu v Riki Choshu (New Japan, 4/6/93) - GREAT

In some ways Tenryu/Choshu feels a bit like Hansen/Jumbo. I love Tenryu/Choshu as a match-up, way more than I ever liked Hansen/Jumbo, but like the latter I wasn't sure they ever reached that very top level with any of their matches. I remembered this being the closest, if just a step short. It was five years ago that I watched it, and I'm used to my opinions changing wildly after half a decade, but I think I'd stick with that assessment still. It was reeeeeal good, though. The build is slow and it won't be for everyone, but I love how everything they do looks rough and mean. The collar-and-elbow tie ups are all forearm and elbow digging into face, then they'll back away and someone will throw a slap. This time Choshu does it, and there's a hint of a smirk on Tenryu's face because he knows he'll tag him back. I've written about three Tenryu/Choshu matches on this blog over the years, and without checking I'm almost positive I've used "rough" or "gritty" or any other similar adjective as a descriptor of them all. Those are the words that come to mind when I think of Tenryu v Choshu. The matches don't always look pretty (or never look pretty) and at times look downright sloppy, but as always, the sloppiness in Tenryu v Choshu actively adds to my enjoyment. I don't really mind Tenryu not hitting the powerbomb clean anyway, but when he's selling his head and neck at the same time it turns it into a really cool spot, rather than one that just had iffy execution. His top rope elbow was whiffed and his enziguris weren't great, but it wouldn't be a Tenryu match without a dodgy enziguri. This really gets good when Choshu hits a superplex, which is basically the kick start to the finishing run. From that point on it's mostly Choshu on top with Tenryu selling and making a brief flurry or two, but the heat kept building and I love how Tenryu sells the idea that he's being chipped away at, every lariat or kneedrop taking that bit more out of him. Most of his own offence throughout the match felt like it was limited to dismissive kicks to the face, but the crowd were on his back for that and down the stretch he did get to hit some bombs. Finish is great with Choshu winding up for the lariat, Tenryu biting on it and ducking only to get planted with a DDT, then taking a few more lariats before finally going down. The last one looked like it just about took his head off.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

Friday, 4 November 2016

You Know it's Still Puerto Rico

Invader III v Super Black Ninja (1/30/88)

I liked this a bunch, even if the ending felt a bit abrupt. I really love how early days Muta moves around the ring. Maybe he's always moved like this, but it's been so long since I've watched any later-career Muta that I don't remember. I said it when I wrote about the Invader I match, but how he conducts himself is just flat out cool. He has a real snap to his bumps and even the way he gets in and out of the ring has a sort of menacing elegance to it. He's solid enough on offence as well, but it's seeing how he reacts to things defensively, how he regroups and comes back for another go; that's where I get the most out of him. Invader III has brought lots of nice offence whenever he's shown up on this set and he was really good trading quick holds with Muta early, running the ropes at speed and hitting a great looking Super Astro-style headbutt. He doesn't really bother selling Muta's legwork from the middle of the match, but the crowd are super into the finishing run so I doubt THEY cared. At first I thought the finish might've been a referee flub because it looked like things were just starting to get hot, but either way this was good stuff.

Bobby Jaggers & Dan Kroffat v Mark & Chris Youngblood (Double Indian Strap Match) (1/30/88)

This might be the first time I've seen Bobby Jaggers wrestle. From a distance he looks a bit like a gruffer, late-career Buddy Rose. It's not how I pictured him from his commentary. Kroffat is peroxide blonde here and I don't think I've ever seen peroxide blonde Danny Kroffat before, either. This was short and everybody whipped each other with straps and Chris Youngblood was pump kicking guys in the teeth. I always assumed he was the worst of the Youngbloods, but he has a really nice pump kick. At one point he got thrown to the floor and yanked the strap to drag Kroffat out with him, and holy shit did Kroffat take a crazy bump outside. No hands, unprotected, face first to the concrete.

Hercules Ayala v Super Medico (1/30/88)

This was really good and I'd put it right alongside the Savage match as Ayala's best on the set so far. He was mostly decent in this, but Super Medico was great. I'm pretty sure I've only ever seen him twice, and both times have been on this set, but he feels like a guy we should know more about. His punch flurries are amazing and the crowd go totally nuts for them. All of his early control was good stuff, then when Ayala takes over he's really fun selling from the bottom, fighting for his hope spots then crashing and burning as Ayala cuts him off. Puerto Rico seems to be a territory that knows how to make the figure four feel like a huge deal. There've been a few Colon matches now where the build to him finally locking it in has been exceptional, and the build to it in this was great as well. Medico tries and tries to keep Ayala away, but Ayala keeps going back to that leg, dropping elbows, stomping on the ankle, twisting and yanking away. When he finally gets it in Medico just sells the absolute crap out of this and it's honestly some of the best desperation selling I've seen from someone in a hold. I thought for sure he'd give it up, but he made it to the ropes and I even had a little fist pump of my own. We need more Super Medico.

Mark & Chris Youngblood v Kendo Nagasaki & Mr. Pogo (2/6/88)

For a four minute sprint, this was perfectly fine. Chris Youngblood hit more of his big pump kicks and I'm now officially a fan of Chris Yougblood pump kicks. Pogo was running around hitting spin kicks and I think it's the first Pogo match I've ever seen where he doesn't try and stab someone with a broken chair leg or piece of scrap metal. Crowd really bought into the hectic finish after the ref' bump and I thought they nailed everything well at the end. It could've wound up being messy, but it came off great. No complaints about this at all.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Puerto Rico, Day 112

La Gran Guera I (12/12/87)

This is Puerto Rico's version of Wargames, except it's crazier than Wargames because it's Puerto Rico. Two teams of five, everybody starts in the ring at the same time, and you're eliminated by being handcuffed to the cage (there are pairs of handcuffs all around the two rings). Once all five members of a team have been handcuffed, the winning team then get to free any handcuffed members of their own team and spend five minutes doing as they please to the losing team, who remain handcuffed to the cage. Be honest, you want to watch this based on the description alone. Rudo unit consists of Abby, Chicky Starr, Kareem Muhammad, Hercules Ayala and the Grizzly Goon or something. There's a very good chance I'm wrong about that last one because I didn't recognise the guy, I might've misheard Hugo on commentary, and searching Grizzly Goon is yielding no answers of worth. But they're your rudos. Tecnico unit is Colon, Invader I, Bruiser Brody, TNT and Dutch Mantell, which was an awesome surprise. You fully expect this to be wild and crazy and that's exactly what it was. Chicky was probably my favourite guy in it. He took a bunch of great bumps off of being flung into the cage, he bled like crazy, and when things got a little too heavy he'd try and burst his way out the cage (it had a roof, so he couldn't). Maybe it's because there was so much going on and he wasn't the focus for large stretches, but this felt like a strong Brody showing. He seemed generous enough in exchanges, and there was one point where he just unloaded on Abby with the best punches he's ever thrown while the crowd went bonkers. I loved Colon and Invader's dual comeback at the end as well, Colon with his carved up forehead and Invader with his white mask stained blood red. This was pretty awesome.

La Gran Guera II (12/13/87)

A step down from the last one, but more of the same. This time Muhammad is out and he's replaced by the Iron Sheik, but otherwise the teams are unchanged. Chicky was probably my favourite again. Him and Invader go after each other right away and then spend large parts of the match punting each other in the balls. Even when Chicky ends up handcuffed Invader will still wander over from time to time to low blow him. I'm not sure this is the best setting for Abby. I've loved him on this set, but I think in a match like this, where there's so much going on and it could be easy for a guy to rest on his laurels, he was mostly content to stand by the ropes and chop people in the throat or be punched in the head until his scar tissue opened up. There was plenty of stabbing in this as well and it wasn't even him doing it (it was Sheik, and it was some nasty stabbing). Dutch was pretty low key in both these matches. He threw some killer punches, but it felt like he spent most of the time handcuffed and out the way.

Hugo Savinovic v El Profe (Loser is Painted Yellow) (1/5/88)

This was way better than I thought it was going to be. I never knew Hugo had been a wrestler earlier in his career. It's really fun to hear him commentating on his own match, and he actually had some pretty good offence, sold well, and the crowd were all the way behind him. I don't know who El Profe is but he worked well in this, too. He hits a nasty double stomp, eats knees like a trooper off a top rope splash, and will bite Hugo's forehead when he needs to. I wouldn't be opposed to seeing more of these guys in the ring at all.

Invader I v Super Black Ninja (1/23/88)

Okay, so Invader v Mutoh (Super Black Ninja) is one of the few matches from Puerto Rico I'd seen before. Not this match specifically, but one of the stadium brawls (I think it was a Texas Death Match). This was more of a slow burner, but it built up to a hot finish. Young Mutoh had such a cool presence. The way he moves around and conducts himself, it has a hint of menace to it, like he's stalking you down. Plus he was super quick with his strikes, his dropkick had massive air, and he'd do things like his spazzed out elbow drop that just looked cool. We've heard plenty about him being lazy and all that, and I'm not really a fan of his, but early Muta could be pretty fun and he had a genuine aura. Invader was probably at his best during this on the back foot, which won't be too surprising because he's Invader and you want to watch Invader selling, but the early matwork was pretty solid as well. I'm looking forward  to seeing these guys try to tear each other's throat out soon (I mean, hopefully).

We're now four discs down. This wasn't as strong a disc as the amazing disc 3, but it was probably never going to be. What we did get, though, was the incredible blowoff to one of the best feuds ever, more insane Terry Funk, and the first appearance of Mutoh in Puerto Rico. And La Gran Guera was fucking nuts.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Another Stop in Puerto Rico

Invader I v Chicky Starr (Retirement vs. Hair, 15 Minute Time Limit) (9/20/87)

Finally the blowoff. I don't think much went down here that wasn't easily picked up from how it was worked and the announcement of the time limit beforehand, but Boricua provided some extra context for us Puerto Rico novices on PWO anyway. Basically, Chicky doesn't have to beat Invader before the time limit, he just has to not GET beat. If he survives the 15 minutes, Invader has to retire. Invader has to actually win the match, obviously within the time limit, and if he does Chicky gets a haircut. There's your context. Honestly, I wanted to love this, but I didn't LOVE it love it. It was good and parts of it were awesome, but it didn't quite click all the way like I hoped. Chicky saying screw it to actually engaging in a proper contest and being content to run the clock down ruled. His self-satisfaction whenever he did something resembling an offensive maneuver, pointing to his imaginary watch to signify that time's running out, counting down with each passing minute as we get close to the time limit, constantly trying to scurry away when Invader was on top -- all of it was great. And the bit where he just crawled under the ring to hide was fucking amazing. I like how Invader started this in no real hurry even though he only had 15 minutes, being happy enough to punish Chicky initially, then realising he had to get it together as they were closing in on the expiration of time. Then he ran headfirst into the ring post and that put him in the position of having to fight back before it's too late. As a heavily story-driven match I thought the story they told was really good, but some of the ways they went about telling it fell a wee bit flat. The post-match was tremendous, though. This wasn't just a head-shaving. This was a head-, chest- and even moustache-shaving, and Chicky's tantrum would've made Emilio Charles proud.

Carlos Colon v Hercules Ayala (Barbed Wire Match) (9/20/87)

This has a cool stip within the stip where the only way to win is by making the opponent submit to the figure four. Ayala was pretty fun again, especially in how he'd react to the barbed wire. It's his first time being in a barbed wire match, and right away you can tell he isn't at all comfortable being there. He backs into the ropes or the corner the way he would in any other match, but these ropes are covered in barbed wire. His reactions to this were pretty amusing, almost in a comedy bumping/stooging sort of way. We got lots of gruesome, nasty close-ups of barbed wire being dug into foreheads in this, but because everything was mic'd so much better we also got to hear the screams. It was pretty gnarly. There was one bit where Colon was using his feet to shove Ayala into the wire and it didn't take long for the cameraman to zoom in on the blood trickling down Ayala's back. I liked the finish a lot as well, with Colon playing Ayala's brass knucks game and locking in the figure four while Ayala futilely grabs the wire/ropes.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

NWA Classics 24/7 #17

Jim Duggan v Kamala (Houston Wrestling, 6/28/85)

This is more about the big picture segment than the bell-to-bell match. The match only lasts a couple minutes before it gets thrown out, but that doesn't stop Duggan and Kamala having a big pull apart brawl for a while afterwards. This is Duggan's return to Houston, presumably after an eye injury, because he comes out wearing a big eye patch. Of course Kamala rips it off and tries to stab him in the eye with Akbar's whip. I don't know if Duggan bladed around his eye or whatever but it looked like he got shot in the face. Duggan is really one of the best ever working pull apart brawls. Anybody who gets in his way will be mowed down and when you see him marching around wielding an axe handle (a literal handle of an axe) you know you don't want to be anywhere near that. I don't think any of these Duggan/Kamala matches that've been upped are very long, but it's a fun pairing and Duggan seems to bring out the same kind of fire in Kamala that Invader I does. I'll check out the others in due course.

Butch Reed v Jim Neidhart (Houston Wrestling, 1/27/84)

Maybe it's because I knew this was the first match in the feud and two subsequent matches had been uploaded, but this definitely felt like the first match in a feud. Neidhart (or Need-hart as Boesch calls him) was usually pretty fun in Mid-South as Reed's partner. He would stooge and bump pretty big. This is obviously taking place after the babyface turn, but he still bumps a bit like a heel, taking some big exaggerated bumps off of Reed's punches, really throwing himself across the ring when Reed slingshots him into the ropes. Reed is Reed and takes all of Anvil's stuff great, bumping big himself and bouncing around for his punches. I'm not sure if he blades or he just ends up half covered in Neidhart's blood, but there's a cool image at the end where he has blood running down his chest like he'd just participated in a Dothraki heart-eating ritual. Perfectly fine eight minutes.

Ted DiBiase & Dr. Death v Dick Murdoch & Masked Superstar (Houston Wrestling, 3/14/86)

This was the business. It was structured a little differently from your tried-and-true southern style tag -- they worked holds briefly and evenly at the start so there wasn't much of a babyface shine, but that made the eventual payoff with a bloody and battered DiBiase cleaning house all the more meaningful. I guess you could say the heels took more of the match as a whole than was necessary (we basically got three heat segments that maybe could've been compressed a little), but it didn't really bother me. It's been a while since I've watched any Murdoch, but I don't think he'll ever stop being a favourite of mine. The camera angle was pretty wide in this so it meant you got to see him work the apron all the way through, and man is he great at working the apron. A lot of it was subtle, but you could see him getting worried when it looked like Superstar might've given up control, then he'd compose himself again after things were put back on track. The FIP spell on DiBiase was stellar, mostly for DiBiase's blade job and awesome selling, but Murdoch was clearly having a hoot beating him up. At one point he grabs a near-lifeless DiBiase by the hair, cackles at Williams across the ring, then smashes Ted's face into the canvas. This about sent Williams over the edge and he nearly threw Tommy Gilbert out his shoes to get to Murdoch, but of course all it did was give Dick and Superstar free rein to double team DiBiase some more. Post-match was great as well, with Ted and Doc holding Superstar's mask aloft in triumph. Strong tag match.