Saturday, 11 February 2017

NWA Classics 24/7 #19

Nick Bockwinkel v Tony Atlas (Houston Wrestling, 10/22/82)

Atlas is about as jacked in this match as I've ever seen a wrestler. He's not someone I've ever really thought about in a "how good at the wrestling was Tony Atlas?" sense, so I was interested in seeing what Bock might get out of a guy I've paid no attention to whatsoever. At times it felt like a Bockwinkel approximation of a Ric Flair touring title defence with how much he gave Atlas, especially late on with how desperate he was getting. The finish probably would've been the exact same had Flair been in there. But with Bock you never got all the begging off. Things were a little more grounded and they never seemed to be aiming for a big, dramatic crescendo. It turned out to be a nice tight contest, and almost certainly the best Atlas match I've seen. He wasn't spectacular or anything, but he made the most of what Bock gave him, and Bock will always try and keep things interesting while being worked over. There was this great bit where Bock tried to get out of a grapevine by elbowing Atlas in the head, but of course black wrestlers have heads of granite so Bock wound up selling it like he'd popped his funny bone. Matches like these aren't necessarily essential to Bockwinkel's case as a GOAT candidate, but they add to the picture we already have and that will never be a bad thing.

Midnight Express v Rock 'n' Roll Express (Houston Wrestling, 5/11/84)

This is one of the matches from this service I've been most looking forward to eventually sitting down and watching and it did not disappoint. Heck of a first go-around for these teams in Houston.
They basically spent the first six minutes getting the crowd to pop and boo for high fives, then go apeshit for a hair pull. It was magical. I think over the years I've come to prefer the MX/Fantastics series over this by a tiny bit (I mean, they're both phenomenal), but the early shtick they work in MX/RnR matches is unparalleled. They have so much they can roll out between all four guys, five if you count Cornette, six if you count the referee. I thought the ref' in this was being crazy hyperactive and annoying early, really getting on Gibson's case about a phantom hair pull, but they paid that off with the spot where he breaks up a Condrey hair pull by literally yanking Condrey to the deck by the hair. In most cases I might've thought that to be too much, but the MX reaction to it, and the crowd exploding, really had me popping along with them. When the MX take over they work an awesome heat segment on Morton, running all sorts of distractions so they can hurl him over the top rope repeatedly, jab him with a steel chair, whack him with the tennis racket. It's the Midnight Express working over Ricky Morton -- you know what to expect and you know it's good. You don't need me to tell you this. I've written before about Condrey being a mean wee bastard and I just love him stomping on fingers and driving the point of his knee right into kidneys. Eaton is an absolute dynamo with the offence and he and Morton do a killer rope running sequence that ends with a HUGE powerslam. I also loved how Gibson just said fuck it and literally hiptossed Morton into his own corner, then quickly jumped back out to the apron to make the hot tag. I think there are three more MX/RnR tags from Houston that we don't already have, so hopefully they're unearthed at some point and we get the whole set. This was excellent stuff, obviously.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

NWA Classics 24/7 #18

Bruiser Brody v Mongolian Stomper (Houston Wrestling 6/4/82)

Well this was great. It's the kind of chaotic brawl you'd expect out of Brody if you'd never seen him before and only heard a bunch of old-timers talk about him as an all time level brawler. If this was the only Brody match you'd ever watched, you'd probably believe it to be true. In terms of selling or how much he was willing to give his opponent, he never really did anything that was different from his usual. It's just that the Stomper seemed to realise this and decided to TAKE what he was going to get. He walked through Brody's punches as often as Brody walked through his and it made for a totally wild, uncooperative, hate-filled scrap. We got forehead biting, we got guys being thrown into rows of seats, we got a referee being launched across the ring for trying to involve himself, and of course we got the blood. Brody was swinging chairs like a damn psychopath, sometimes clusters of them at a time, and at one point he even dinged the ref' because why the hell not? There was another bit where he just went a wander with this blood-smeared chair like he wanted to break something - anything - and it was fucking awesome. I was thinking, "where is he even going?" and then I realised it didn't matter because I don't think even HE knew. He was too caught up in the moment. He'd lost himself in his madness. Just a wild, ridiculously fun ten minutes. Based on this I'd say Stomper knew exactly how to get the best out of Brody, but I think it would be unfair to say Brody never brought it. I just wish he brought it like that more often.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Some Late 90s/Early 00s Japanese Indies

Michiko Ohmukai v Yumi Fukawa (ASRION, 4/11/98)

This was really awesome. I was a bit worried they were going down a route I wasn't really interested in with the very first exchange, then approximately forty seconds in Ohmukai started kneeing Fukawa in the face and they never looked back. Who the fuck is Michiko Ohmukai, anyway? She was fantastic in this, like a more supple Takeshi Ono. She threw forty yarders to the gut, a couple Wanderlei punts, a brutal axe kick, and she hit one springboard wheel kick where she landed with practically her entire body weight on Fukawa's head. There was one bit where she'd gone for an armbar and Fukawa made it to the ropes, then as Fukawa was on all fours trying to get back to her feet Ohmukai just drilled her elbow with a kick. It was nasty as hell. Fukawa was her usual spunky self and all of her tricked out submission attempts had a hint of desperation about them. It felt like she actually HAD to get creative when going for submissions just to avoid being booted in the mouth. And that finish looked like it just about ripped out BOTH shoulders. What a cool find (credit to Jetlag on PWO for bringing it up). I need to watch more Ohmukai.

CIMA v Minoru Fujita (M-Pro, 1/9/00)

This feels like something I probably watched on an early Schneider Comp. I didn't really have high expectations for it since CIMA is a guy I haven't cared for in about twelve years, and Fujita has never left much of an impression on me from the first time I saw him, but I wound up thinking this was rock solid. CIMA sold the early work on his arm well, then dropped it when it felt appropriate. It's not like a ton of time was dedicated to working it over, so he wasn't going to leave it hanging by his side the whole match. The legwork on Fujita lasted long enough as well that by the time they moved into the finishing run, it felt like Fujita had mostly recovered from it. He sold enough in the immediate aftermath that CIMA's stretch of legwork didn't feel meaningless. The match length probably helped that. I don't remember when it started, but at some point in the last ten years a ton of juniors matches seemed to go half an hour or longer, and it made things feel really wonky. The overall pacing, the perfunctory beginning, the meandering in the body, the overkill at the end -- it's a style that wasn't suited to going thirty, sometimes forty minutes (KENTA did it about four times a year). You'd have someone getting their leg torn to bits for ten minutes straight, then a switch would flip and they'd move into the ten minute finishing run without the leg ever being a factor thereafter. That criticism might be old hat these days, but it certainly used to bug me. With this only going seventeen minutes they got to stretch out and build to a hot finish, but the middle portion never felt bloated with limb work that wasn't going to factor into the finish, anyway. They used their time and laid things out really well, basically. And I don't even think they overdid it with the finishing run, either. It ended with the crowd at their hottest and none of the kickouts felt like they were too much. I'm glad I bothered to check this out.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Sid Justice Month!

Chris Benoit v Sid Vicious (WCW Souled Out, 1/16/00)

This is probably Sid's best singles match ever, right? People bring up the Survivor Series match with Michaels a lot, but that feels like more of a fun spectacle made partly by the crowd shitting on Shawn. Michaels basically worked that match as full on pinball. I know some people hate that, but there's really only so much you can do with Sid, so I guess Michaels just decided to let himself be flung around for fifteen minutes. Benoit decided to go a different route. He still bumps big all the way through, and early on I suppose he gets ragdolled a bit, but he works most of this from above by going after Sid's leg. To be fair to Sid, he seemed more than willing to be hand led here and it worked pretty damn well. I mean, he's not amazing at selling or emoting, but he has crazy charisma, the crowd are always behind him, he does what he needs to on hope spots, and he doesn't overreach. If nothing else he was good at being carried, which sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it's honestly not. Dude was perfectly fine and held up his end as well as could be expected. But man, Benoit was really good in this. He's a demon going after the leg, dropkicking the steps into Sid's knee, rolling out a Muta Lock, doing this cool rolling kneebar, just super focused on taking apart Sid's wheel. Sid tapping to the Crossface so quickly despite there being no real build to it might irk some people, but I don't really mind. I'm all for guys working body parts to soften an opponent up for a finishing hold, but I don't see it as being a necessity. Submissions don't always need "build," and the Crossface was always treated as a sudden match-ender, anyway. He worked the leg to keep Sid off his feet, to cancel out the size difference, then saw an opening and used his main weapon. Benoit was on his way to the WWF, but he certainly went out on a big performance.

**(I'm not actually doing some kind of Sid project, btw)