Thursday, 22 March 2018

Whiskey & Wrestling 600!

And so we reach another hundred posts. The sixth of such milestones since I started this blog eight whole fucking years ago. Eight years! Like the 500th and 400th before it, for entry 600 I re-watched some of my favourite matches ever and wrote about them. Such a momentous occasion should be celebrated, obviously. Plus I need an excuse not to be writing this dissertation.

Tomorrow I'll be back to the Kurisu.

The Rockers v Powers of Pain (WWF, 1/15/90)

I can't tell you how much I love this. It's been my favourite tag match from the second I first saw it, but I think with every re-watch it comes a little closer to being my favourite match, period. It's definitely one of the best sub-10 minute matches I've ever seen. Did the PoP ever match up with the RnRs or Fantastics in Crockett? Because I can't imagine anybody else getting anything close to this good out of them and I say that as a stupidly huge Barbarian stan. Jannetty was unbelievable in this and it might be his very best performance. All of the Rockers double teams were great, like the dropkick-schoolboy trip, the assisted crossbody, the dropkick into hurricanrana; everything looked awesome and the timing was spot on. But Marty Jannetty taking a shit kicking was what made this special and maaaaan did Marty Jannetty take a shit kicking. This was on par with your best Ricky Morton heat segments, the way he had the crowd biting on every hope spot, the amazing selling and the little moments that really put it over the top, like when he desperately tried to grab hold of the barricade as Barbarian ran him into the post. What he had over even Morton was the bumps. I mean Morton is a first class bumper, but that backdrop bump was fucking insanity and then he went and topped it with the second one. Gorilla Monsoon is the king of ridiculous commentary lines but he might've undersold it when he said Jannetty was twelve feet in the air. To be fair to them as well, the Powers never messed around when they were in control. They took over when Warlord hit a powerbomb (which played off an earlier hurricanrana spot, so there's another bit of awesome) and easily could've thrown on a few bearhugs while working Jannetty's taped up ribs. Instead they launched him all over the place and went after those ribs in far more interesting fashion. There was some clubbering, but it was fine clubbering, Marty gave it a little extra weight as he was never content to just stand there and be clubbed (or whacked with a cane), and Barbarian was super fun with his cut-offs. I guess you could say the finish was a touch soft, but that's about the only thing I'd have wanted more from. The Rockers were incredible and I'll probably watch this again in three weeks and love it even more.

Bryan Danielson v Low-Ki (JAPW, 6/7/02)

Truly awesome, unique match. The first time I watched it I thought it was about as close to RINGS as I'd ever seen in the US, but this time I thought it was equally derivative of Battlarts (whether it was intentional or not). It's a mash-up of the two and it sort of invites you to run wild with the comparisons. An American juniors version of Ishikawa v Ikeda with Dragon as Ishikawa and Ki as Ikeda? Danielson as Otsuka and Ki as Usuda? Sure, why not. Danielson was incredible in it and I think it's my all-time favourite performance of his. Some of the grappling might legitimately be the best I've ever seen in America; slick and fluid in parts then rugged and gritty in others. It was like Volk Han if Volk Han ever worked Battlarts, and I realise how preposterously hyperbolic that sounds but it's a pretty good indication of where I was at with Dragon here. Those crossface forearms were filthy as all get out and he was determined to take an arm or leg home with him as a trophy. There is absolutely no chance he'll get to stretch out and do anything like this now that WWE's cleared him to wrestle again, but I really wish it was the approach he took more often. Ditch the headbutts and crazy bumps, just twist people into pretzels. It's not like anybody in WWE hits like Low-Ki either, so he could probably manage to parley this sort of match into another five years' worth of work without having to worry about cauliflowering his brain. Ki wasn't simply a passenger in this, he held his own on the mat and his striking was obviously good, but it was hard not to look second best on the night. To say he was a poor man's Ikeda isn't an insult. Maybe he was actually a poor man's Takeshi Ono and that's not an insult either. But Danielson was the richest poor man's Ishikawa you could've asked for.

Lizmark v Jerry Estrada (AAA, 6/18/93)

Title match Jerry Estrada is such a different animal from apuestas Jerry Estrada. It's sort of strange watching him run the ropes and not fall over because he's guttered. Maybe he goes on a detox in the lead up to a title match. Depending on the day you ask me he might be one of my ten favourite wrestlers ever so to me this match will always be about him, but I really did think he was excellent in it. Rudo starting out sportingly before losing his cool and embracing his true nature isn't a particularly complex or uncommon story for a wrestler to tell. Ric Flair stopped by every territory to wrestle every young babyface challenger there was and told that very story a hundred times. But it's not one I'd seen Jerry Estrada tell before. The primera doesn't have the sharpest or most interesting matwork. It certainly isn't flashy, but I enjoyed the struggle well enough. What it was most notable for was how Lizmark had the clear beating of Estrada. It didn't much matter what Jerry did, Lizmark was the champion for a reason and he had an answer for everything. I thought the segunda was a little abrupt even by the standards of short second falls in a lucha title match, but it did give us that moment where Estrada decided he was done playing nice. He started the match with a handshake and a round of applause for the champ, but it got him nowhere. His reaction after Lizmarkk submitted to the Media Cerrajera basically told you there'll be less respect and more aggression going forward. He even ditched the hairband, and if that's not a sign of what was to come then I don't know what is. The third caida was where they really ramped up the drama. Jerry had dropped the pretense of sportsmanship and roughed Lizmark up, much like Flair might have after he'd tired of breaking clean and started digging people in the ribs instead. He also knew the Media Cerrajera was his ticket and he kept going back to it. Both of the big dives looked great and by the end they'd managed to capture that sense that one mistake was all the other guy needed. And in the post-match, unlike Flair, Estrada even managed to show a little grace. Maybe he's not such a scumbag after all.

Toshiaki Kawada v Akira Taue (All Japan, 1/15/91)

I'm not the first person to make this point, but Baba really should've rolled out this kind of match more often throughout the decade. In the context of 90s All Japan it feels remarkably fresh and unique, less about building to that epic crescendo and more about two guys trying to kill each other the old fashioned way. It was more Mid-South than All Japan, replete with the blood and brawling you'd get in a Jim Duggan bar fight. The way they knock lumps out each other is what you remember most, with Taue even juicing from a Kawada chair-mauling, but everything they did around Kawada's knee was a cool thread running all the way through. Taue never worked it over like you'd typically expect him to, but then this wasn't your typical King's Road. He smashed it into the guardrail and wrapped it around the post and went after it with a chair, then when Kawada tried to make his comebacks Taue could just go back to the leg to shut him down. Of course Kawada would still kick Taue in the face even when he was stuck in a kneebar so it meant Taue had to improvise, but at least it gave him something to go to if he needed to regroup. Kawada was as good as you'd expect working from underneath, selling the leg and firing back in brutal ways. At one point he unloaded with a flurry of heabutts and wound up covered in Taue's blood. Plus there's the finish. What a fucking decapitation that was, made even better with hindsight knowing how they harken back to it throughout the year. Badass fight. In a perfect world we'd have gotten more of it (he says while taking a bazooka to the gift horse's mouth).

There we have it. Eight years and six hundred posts. Here's to six hunner more!

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