This is the second part in my light exploration into the final months of FMW 1996. This is a very junior heavy section with my review covering a commercial tape focusing on November & Decemeber.
W*ing Kanemura vs TAKA Michinoku (12/10): 11 minute good match and a fantastic example of prime era TAKA. The dude was throwing dropkicks from every angle and off everything. And of course its FMW so, you get chairs!
The Gladiator vs W*ing Kanemura (12/11, BAHU #43): Oh man this is an odd match but, has gotten some praise over the years. The oddness comes from Gladiator getting his leg stuck in the ropes during a botched dive. That would totally suck BUT he & W*ing play it off so well that you very nearly believe it was on purpose. It does go on a minute too long and it does become obvious there's no way they wanted this portion to last THIS long. Still! Awesome/Gladiator sells the heck out of it (legit leg injury prior so, its some of his better/best selling) and Kanemura focuses on the busted wheel trying to put the dominant gaijin away. So, it makes sense! Of course we get "awesome" offense from Gladiator and the never say die W*ing. The end result is a very good match and the finishing parts are so strong that you almost forget about the rope/leg stuff. Fast forward the rope bits and you'll have a blast.
Megumi Kudo vs Shinobu Kandori (12/11): Best match of the tape thus far. Kandori submission attempts and Kudome heart and head drops makes this a good match just on paper. Here they throw in all kinds of teases & fake-outs. It made for a really exciting Joshi match (which I haven't seen in ages). Plus their timing and chemistry were fantastic. I would have to say this fits right alongside AJW stuff from '96 and probably better than many of the overlong bouts that Toyota had that year.
Hayabusa vs TAKA Michinoku (11/16, BAHU #31): The first Hayabusa match of the tape and its a doozy! He and TAKA have an NJPW Jr. style action match that shows the little promotions can stack up against the big boys. Dives, counters, springboard moves, and big signature offense - it wasn't a classic but, dang! It was a great match. Right up there with the Joshi match.
Great Sasuke vs Hayabusa (12/11): If the TAKA match was the warm-up then, this should be amazing! It certainly starts off that way but, the match becomes "my turn-your turn" in taking offense with no true sense of struggle. The bout was a lot of big moves while I would have preferred them trading kicks, running the ropes, or scrambling on the mat. It was a good match and maybe you'll get more out of it than me.
This was a pretty good tape. All the matches above BAHU has put in his top 100 matches of FMW history. Clearly the Kudome/Kandori and TAKA/Hayabusa bouts were the best but, the Gladiator/W*ing bout is worth watching too...especially if you find a file or video for the whole commercial tape like I did. Those 3 are totally worth the time if you're curious or needing an FMW/ECW style fix this fall
Thanks for reading!
One day I will get around to seeing all of the great FMW matches, I swear! The following entry is my attempt to cover FMW 1996 as best I can by searching for vids on the 'tube. From my experience, FMW videos tend to get taken down with some regularity or let's say there aren't a plethora of videos available like old AJPW or even W*ING.
So what I found and what I wanted to watch from '96 focuses on the later part of the year, August to December. The first collection of stuff is from the Commercial tape Funk Masters of Wrestling which is August & September. This is a really good tape. I just want to say that from the start. This video captures that late 90's harcore wrestling style that FMW and ECW championed.
BAHU is the master of FMW and I'm going to put his top 100 FMW rankings next to the applicable matches for reference. Our opinions differ on a couple matches but, I think that's good. You're getting 2 opinions on a match then with that you can decide for yourself if you want to see the bout. Sound good? I'll just review that bouts that I found worthwhile.
(I'm also going to abbreviate names where I can)
W*ing Kanemura, Bad Boy Hido & Hideki Hosaka vs Masato Tanaka, Nanjyo Hayato & Tetsuhiro Kuroda (Barbwire Street fight): JIP & clipped. This is edited but, this is a sweet way to start off the tape. Double & triple team moves, ladder stuff, and of course guys are tasting the wire. I can't say this is a great match but, its a blast to watch!
Tanaka, Kuroda & Koji Nakagawa vs Kanemura, Hido & Hosaka (Exploding Barbwire match 09/01)(BAHU RATING: #42): Fourteen plus minutes of brutal, dramatic deathmatch wrestling. The fighting was top notch and the barbwire and bomb spots were extremely meaningful in terms of the drama. Seriously, this was one of the best FMW matches and best deathmatches that I've seen. Classic match and a must-see for Masato Tanaka fans.
Terry Funk, Gladiator & Horace Boulder vs Tanaka, Kuroda & Nakagawa: JIP. This was a very good 6 man tornado tag match that had some nice double teams, saves, and all of that other good stuff you want in an FMW bout. Tanaka takes some real sickening bumps...one is probably the most dangerous Awesome bombs I've seen. This match, although partial, really encapsulates everything weird and exciting about the garbage wrestling scene of the late 90s. (Also see: Super Leather, Headhunters, & Oya vs Hayabusa, Tanaka, Kuroda, & Nakagawa's Barbwire bat & Money on a Pole elimination tornado tag match from this tape as well. FMW had successfully perfected the W*ING/IWA Japan style at this point.)
Terry Funk & Gladiator vs Hayabusa & Tanaka (BAHU RATING: #48): The story of Funk in FMW at this point (from what I can gather) is he's reformed the J-Tex Corp with Victor Quinones. Gladiator and other gaijin wrestlers (along with Oya) have joined the Funkster to take over and control Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling. Hayabusa and Tanaka aren't going to go along with that and have to fight for their promotion. This was the 2nd best match of the tape and was shown in full. There were lots of saves and exciting comebacks. It was scratching a greatness but, I only felt it was a very good match. It just seemed to lack enough of Tanaka's explosive offense for my taste...that's not to say he doesn't explode here! Still, we get all kinds of excitement post-match so, you really should check this out.
This was a very good tape especially with the classic 6 man deathmatch that all FMW/ECW fans need to see. I'll pick up with the Nov & Dec commercial tape next time.
Thanks for reading!
ROH Conquest Tour 2015 - Hopkins MN
Avari Davari vs Bobby Fish - OK match with some decent psychology and selling. There was bad weather so, I think this match was a little longer than it needed to be for anyone who was running late.
Romantic Touch vs Will Ferrara vs Beer City Bruiser vs Cheeseburger - Let's say you hadn't seen ROH since 2009 and then years later, this happened to be the first match you saw. I would not blame you for completely thinking they had ruined Ring of Honor. You've got a comedy character, a big fat guy, and a scrawny guy with a ROH dojo graduate. I skipped this one.
Michael Elgin vs Caprice Coleman - The first real match of the night. It would have been much better in the #2 slot but, perhaps they realized that not everyone had shown up and the above 4 man match was to kill more time. This was a fun 3/4th speed match with some nice moves.
Adam Page vs ACH - Former teammates square off. Neither guy is an absolute favorite but, both dudes have the potential to deliver a good match. So, I was pleasantly surprised with a very good to a perhaps great match. They kept the flashy flipping to a minimum and threw a load of mean chops, elbows, and lariats. One of ACH's clotheslines looked like he'd been studying AJPW tapes. Folks in attendance booed the finish but, I think it was more out of having fun rather than actual disappointment or anger. Match of the evening thus far.
Arik Cannon vs Danny Duggan - The local attraction match that kept the action going. Probably the best I've seen Cannon look and Duggan looks promising especially for ROH at this time.
ODB vs Truth Martini - A clear pee break match...I like ODB and am OK with Truth Martini (I never really cared for managers in ROH in general) so, this was fun. The most interesting part is that Corino (on commentary) says the hardest he was ever hit was by Jazz in ECW...and Corino has wrestled Kawada and Hashimoto! Sweet tidbit!
Roderick Strong vs Silas Young - This is a good match just on paper. You know they're going to hit hard and keep the pace up so, I was confident this bout would get things back on track. And I was not disappointed. This bout felt like a genuine struggle which is much appreciated in 2019. They had answers for each other's tricks & traps and I think that helped make this a great match. In fact, I wouldn't sneeze at anyone who would rate this **** 1/4. Great finish and MOTN thus far.
Briscoes vs War Machine - The tag team equivalent of the above match. Physical and surprisingly quick match. Now its not like the Young Bucks were facing off against Jay & Mark but, War Machine hustled like a couple of Young Vaders. Another great match where **** 1/4 would totally be acceptable.
Jay Lethal vs Kyle O'Reilly - A long TV title match that hearkens back to the 2000's ROH style. Unfortunately, it ends right when it starts getting phenomenal. In the olden days, they would have kept going and this would have been a classic title match. Ah well, ROH has a PPV schedule and they work toward those so, I can't bitch too much. What we get is really great and certainly hyped the fans in attendance. Fun segement after the match too...we ALMOST get an impromptu World Title match (again ROH may have done this back in the day and it certainly would have made this part of the show a classic ala PWG Giant Sized Annual #4 Danielson vs Generico). Still, the main event portion made up for the slow start of the show and paid some things off from earlier even if not ideally.
Overall, this was a very good B-show with 3-4 great matches. It does start kinda rough but, I really think that's a logistics issue rather than crappy booking or wrestling. Hey, you can always skip them. So, if you just watch ACH vs Page, Roddy vs Silas, the Tag match, and the Main Event - you will have a blast!
In the grim darkness of the the near past there is only WAR! Yes, I'm back to Tenryu's playground to check out more wrestling that I may have missed or just forgotten.
Takeshi Ishikawa vs Great Kabuki (09/15/92): Oh man, so I was hoping this would be a very good match but, eh it was just sluggish. There was no build to a climax just a lot of sleeper work and bleeding. It was OK but, I was disappointed.
Let's get this back on track! Same show...
Ultimo Dragon vs Negro Casas (09/15): This was 15 minutes of perfectly executed lucharesu. This was a real joy to watch. It wasn't super dramatic with a deep story (now maybe I'm wrong since they had a program going in Mexico at the time) but, sometimes wrestling doesn't have to be more than a contest between two competitors. Add the fact that Ultimo and Casas wrestled fast and smart - and you've got a great match!
Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara vs Masa Chono & Shinya Hashimoto (10/01/93): Ten minutes of solid ass-kicking. Hash (IWGP champ) gets on the mic before the bell and talks some trash which kicks off this intense sprint-fight. As much as I love a smooth wrestling match (like above), I love a rough non-cooperative slobber knocker just the same. All four guys use their simple offense and great selling to put on a near classic match. Don't believe me? Watch for Tenryu's chops on Chono...that should get you going...
Tatsuo Nakano vs Genichiro Tenryu (05/26/96): Don't think Nakano was safe with Tenryu & don't think Tenryu was safe with Nakano. Five minutes of trying to hurt each other wrestling at its finest. If you need a quick Tenryu fix - this is your match
I think we can all pretty much admit AJPW took a stylistic nosedive after the NOAH exodus. Sure Kawada, Tenryu, and Kojima occasionally had some great matches but, by in large, folks just didn't care to go out of their way to purchase this stuff. Therefore, the internet community didn't have much to go on as far as recommendations. My interest in AJPW post NOAH actually starts when some of the guys went back in 2013 I believe. Akiyama, Shiozaki, Kotaro Suzuki and others decided NOAH was a stagnant pond and head back (at least Akiyama and Kanemaru) to their true home.
So, I watched a few matches from that period and saw a couple reviews and whatnot that it caught my interest to explore a little more. I was surprised to find that AJPW was actually pretty darn good...great at times! Mutoh eventually was fading from the scene in ring and stylistically. So, matches that featured athleticism and struggle were being championed over angles and sports entertainment style wrestling.
So, I cherry picked a few DVDs from about 2011-2015. I'm a cheap skate so I only got single disc shows so, I'm probably missing out on some big time match ups BUT I was taking a risk. I figure it'd be better to trust my gut with the match-ups than, hope the 2 disc big shows would deliver.
Anyhow, for whatever reason I jumped in during the Fall of 2011 and boy was I pleasantly surprised!
Let's check out the matches!
SUWAMA, Masakatsu Funaki & Takao Omori vs Seiya Sanada, Taiyo Kea & Manabu Soya (09/25/11 AJPW): This is exactly the exciting, hard hitting match that I hoped it would be. It never treads into parody of former AJPW or NOAH territory with unneeded strike battles or meaningless machismo. The characters play their part during the 20 minutes of action. Highly recommended, very good match.
Koji Kanemoto vs KAI - Jr. Tournament Finals (09/25/11 AJPW): Holy crap! This was awesome They really beat the crap out of each other. KAI is a guy that I've seen a couple times and liked. I'd not yet say, "Hey gotta search out me some KAI footy!" but, he is one to watch. Koji worked on the leg here, setting up for his Ankle Hold. KAI did very well in selling the leg damage (even though he did do some flying moves). I felt he sold it enough within the narrative: He's young and he's going to work with the moves that got him to the finals.
Koji was punk as fuck and the A+ worker that he can be- especially as the tough vet. The match featured loads of stiff strikes, variety and smarts. Both guys were battered by the end. It was a true contest for something important and a classic match in the Jr. tradition. I've never heard anyone mention this match so, I'm glad I got the DVD on this.
Stong BJW & Takao Omori vs Manabu Soya, Sanada & Taiyo Kea (10/17): 17 minute match. Things weren't clicking 100% but, that made this bout feel more organic and "real." Strong BJW vs Soya/Sanada is the rivalry at the time and the focus was kept on that here. Kea vs Omori is a struggle that's been going on since the late 90's so, there was something at stake here as well. The action was good with many tags, irish whip moves, and strike exchanges. The finishing segment was fantastic and capped off a very good match.
Jun Akiyama & Ricky Marvin vs SUWAMA & KAI (10/17): 19 minute match. I really dug the mind games Akiyama was playing on SUWAMA...not only effecting this match but setting the stage for their 10/23 Triple Crown fight. KAI and Marvin's interactions were rough around the edges and not in the way of the above match. I'll chalk this up to KAI (who I usually like) but, didn't really bring much to the match. He just kept things moving along. It was a very good match with nice action and told a good story. I just remember liking it a heck of a lot more on the first watch a year or two ago. SO, you might disagree with me here...heck If I watch it a 3rd time, I might disagree with myself!
Jun Akiyama vs SUWAMA (10/23): Sorry, I don't have my notes handy for this match but, I remember that is was kinda disappointing. I was hoping for a classic but, recall it being just a very good match (like *** 3/4). I want to say the pacing was slow and probably went 5 minutes longer than it needed to. I'm pretty confident in that recollection.
Kaz Hiyashi & KENSO vs Minoru Tanaka & Koji Kanemoto - RWTL (11/26/11 AJPW): KENSO is another guy that I've come to watch for. He's kinda a heel and uses his belt to choke guys. I like this kind of guy in the 2010's. He's got some moves but, is much more of a character than a world class athlete. I'm kinda tired of guys that are young athletes but, rely upon a gimmick rather than their abilities. They work a parody gimmick but, have no idea how their work matches up to their character. So, they do a bunch moves that their character would/should not do. KENSO is a guy where he's got a charisma about him without being a cartoon character with a 100 moves.
Anyways, this match was one long finishing run at 11 minutes. Very exciting rush match. Minoru & Koji are cocky jerks taunting KENSO until he has to smack the taste outta their mouths. At this run time, I highly recommend watching this. Its just very good stuff.
Takao Omori & Manabu Soya vs Seiya Sanada & KAI - RWTL (11/26/11 AJPW): Here's that KAI fella again! Omori & Soya have teamed up here as Wild Hearts. The thing is Sanada & Soya were tag partners just a few months ago. Not sure who wanted the split but, they square off right at the bell. Seiya goes for speed and shocks Soya. KAI's in there and they go for the double team. These two young guns look dynamic as all get out!
Oh shit! They are fighting in the stands now. Old man Omori's out there choking Sanada with a child's parasol! Hahahaha! Back on inside the ring and KAI's trying Soya but, come on dude! Manabu is a freaking caveman...and not the Fred Flintstone type either.
Omori gets in there and wisely slows things down with KAI. The K man eventually finds an opening to get Seiya, the fire plug, going. Omori's had enough and puts big Soy sauce in there. Hey, deadlift suplex a motherfucker, Soya! This is a real back and forth match. Omori's trying to Axe Guillotine Driver KAI off the top now. Great! erase his head from existence!
Just tons of double team destruction but, surprisingly never goes into bonkers territory. Both teams were very impressive. This was a great match.
Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi vs SUWAMA & Takumi Soya (11/26/11 AJPW): Strong BJW have the tag belts but, this is a non title fight. It's a RWTL match-up. So here we go- Takumi smartly WRESTLES Okabayashi...fuck...do NOT get into a power battle with him. Daisuke wants SUWAMA. 'WAMA is a beast eating chops for lunch. Takumi gets back in (at some point) and wrestling smartly but, gets sucked into trading hits and early one his chest is a cherry tomato. BJW is stretching him out like a fat lady in a pair of stirrup pants. Quick tags and repeated hard slams only rub it in. Soya is in trouble. Slam, cover, 2 count, kickout, tag, repeat. SUWAMA's waiting...
This match was built brilliantly and paid off in a perfect manner. It starts out being like a ***3/4 match then, a great match like a firm ****+ but, damn this just kept getting better and better. So, I'd call this a classic match. I can't give a number or anything like that but, whew! This did it for me! Awesome closer to an awesome night of wrestling.
KENSO & Kaz Hiyashi vs KAI & Seiya Sanada (12/03): I wanted to mention that if you get the DVD of this show, it has a really nice recap segement of the highlights and finishes of many (all?) of the RWTL matches that have taken place up to this time. I know as wrestling dorks, we want to see the full matches BUT it is really nice and fun to see some of these things clipped down to the highlights. They make Akebono matches look watchable. Anyhow, I like everyone here but, wouldn't say I would stick around for an 18 minute match of theirs...but, I was wrong. They managed to keep everything fun and exciting. The action was very good and it really was time well spent. KENSO even busted open KAI's chest, giving meaning to the nomenclature- knife edge chops. Very good match
Strong BJW vs Get Wild (Omori & Manabu Soya): This is my jam! BJW are tag champs and damn! do they look it here. Omori and Soya can only hope to slow down the juggernaut team. Of course, the AJ team finds a way but, you know Sekimoto and Okabayashi are not going down without a fight! If you're into Choshu/Hashimoto/WAR/Kensuke type stuff then, you must watch this 20 minute RWTL match. It is so simple from a move/sequence perspective yet, the physicality is remarkable. That's what really keeps you hooked and what moves the story along. Matches like this feel like a battle in the true sense of the term. There are ebbs and flows, bits of luck, acts of courage and desperation - This was a classic match to me.
Some of these reviews appeared really early on in the blog but, I wanted to consolidate everything for convenience and reference sake. The first post or so was more than a year and a half ago and I know when I'm doing research on wrestling recommendations, it really helps to have everything right in one spot.
Anyhow, I was damn impressed by the above matches. Three matches I would call classics (in that ****1/2 star range). Don't be mistaken there is some so-so matches that I had to sit through, some I had to skip but, I've spared you the write-ups on those. Manabu Soya is one guy that I think is slept on especially as a tag team wrestler. If you dig Strong BJW then, you need to see them go up against Soya and Omori.
As winter approaches, I want to try and start on 2012 AJPW which I think I have much more of. So, that is a little project goal. We'll see though
Thanks for reading!
ROH Winters Warriors - Dayton
I really enjoyed ROH's Atlanta Winter Warriors 2015 show awhile back. (https://forums.prowrestlingonly.com/blogs/entry/567-the-2010s-roh-winter-warriors-tour-2015-atlanta/ )There's good talk about the Dayton show so, I decided to check it out. Let's see if its any good.
Will Ferrara vs Romantic Touch - Good laughs to start and pretty good action for the opener. Fun
Chris Dickenson vs Michael Elgin - Some people have really liked this match saying it was great or **** or whatnot but, I'm not going to agree with that. It was the 2nd match on the card and with Elgin being a former World Champ, there's no way he should have given his opponent this much offense. I think it's the case of Elgin bringing in a buddy to showcase him but, this looked like a title match rather than a try-out. It came across a very bush league. Still, it was fun but, I disagree with the way it was worked.
Tommaso Ciampa vs Michael Bennett (w/ Maria and Taven): This was a very good singles match with Maria & Taven throwing all kinds of trouble Ciampa's way. Of course Ciampa is a loon and forces them to run to the back but, Hanson is blocking their way. This leads to...
Bennett & Taven vs Ciampa & Hanson: And man, is this all kinds ofchaos! I love this type of stuff A simple story of the bearded babyfaces getting revenge on the shit talking, good looking heels and babe. The energy was there, the pacing was there, and everything just clicked. Great match and a fantastic segment if you count the match before. This was the right way to steal a show.
Cheeseburger & Big Mac vs Jay Lethal & Diesel: Not Kevin Nash but, another guy who was in ROH at the time. I don't really care either, sorry. Anyhow, fun match that was well worked and kept the good times rolling.
Louis Lyndon & Flip Kendrick vs Jimmy Jacobs & BJ Whitmer: Well, this killed the show's momentum...this looked like some undercard stuff from 2003. I couldn't sit through this. SKIP If you get this show, seriously just skip it and it won't kill your buzz. This is the definition of a popcorn match... get you snacks and pee break in before the star studded main events.
Alberto El Patron vs Roderick Strong: This was a fantastic physical match between two veteran wrestlers. Alberto was going after Roddy's injured arm; hoping to secure the cross armbreaker. Roderick was trying to break down El Patron's body as only he can. The fans were psyched to see this match up and so was I. Alberto, Regal, and Danielson were two guys I would watch in the WWE so, it was great to see the former Dos Caras Jr. in a ring where he could show US fans what he's about. It was a shame they couldn't bring him in for more shows but, I'm glad we got this one. A great match, maybe a near classic that was everything it needed to be.
But, that wasn't the main event!
The Briscoes vs Matt Sydal & ACH: This was the action packed blast that I hoped for. It was just two top teams squaring off and going wild. Mark was a little off (under the weather in winter?) but, that did not detract from how exciting that was. This was a great match and a fantastic way to close the show. Dayton fans had to be psyched.
Overall, this was great show. There were 3 amazing matches that really make this a must see B-show. I know the DVD is discounted now along with the Atlanta show (link for that post) so, I would totally recommend getting these or doing the streaming service thing. If you're watching NXT then, you should see some familiar face and this should be a no-brainer to check out.
Thanks for reading!
I was never what you would call a WCW fan growing up. I liked seeing the matches on Saturday or Sunday but, I never went out of my way to watch Nitro until the Monday Night Wars stuff. It was WCW that grabbed my attention first with Goldberg and his streak. Plus my older cousin thought he was cool and therefore I did too
Quickly, I found out that I preferred WWF to WCW in most instances and then ECW came in the picture and I never looked back really.
So, with that being said, I never gave a thought to WCW's pay-per-views and although the titles were cooler than WWF's the cards usually sucked. So, here I am all of these years later willing to call bullshit on myself and check out the best of the best PPV that WCW had to offer - Starrcade. The saving grace of this project is that many of the matches on this list (this is the Starrcade Essential Collection set by WWE) are from Jim Crockett Promotions and/or in the early days of WCW. Half are from the 80's and 5 more are between 1990-1993.
Anyhow there's 25 matches and I'm going run down (or up?) the list to see just how essential these matches are. I might give impressions for some, others I might have a review, and even more I might have written something up in the match discussion archives.
Roddy Piper vs Hollywood Hogan (1996): Good match with good action that tells the Match of the Decade story well. Intense too which was a big surprise considering Hogan was in the ring...I mean honest-looking intensity and not that hammy crappola.
Sting vs Great Muta (1989): Iron Man tournament match which I saw a few months ago during my Great Muta You Might Have Missed post ( https://forums.prowrestlingonly.com/blogs/entry/685-great-muta-you-might-have-missed/). Shit that was almost a year ago!? Anyhow, an under 10 minute banger with Sting and Muta at the height of blending simple wrestling with a fast pace and a few flashy moves. I liked this quite a bit. I'll say a very good match.
Barry Windham & Brian Pillman vs Ricky Steamboat & Shane Douglas (1992): Awesome action packed title match. This Starrcade thing doesn't seem that bad! This also featured Pillman and Douglas ushering a crash-bang style that we would we would see in ECW and the Attitude era. Not that they invented it or anything but, its in contrast to Windham and Ricky's style here. Great match!
Goldberg vs Kevin Nash (1998): The match that ended THE STREAK and perhaps was an early sign of things to come. Goldberg and Nash actually wrestle a good match up until the hi-jinks and Hall electrocutes Goldberg.
Battlebowl (1991): I don't like Battle Royals. So, I'll make a couple suggestions. Fast forward to when Ricky Morton & Liger are wrestling each other. Then fast forward to when Luger and Vader are in ring #1 by themselves (yes there are two rings). Then fast forward to when it boils down to Steamboat and Sting vs Austin and Rude (Luger is in waiting so to speak). Then watch the rest of the match and you might call this good. This rated higher than the 1992 tag match? horse shit!
Dustin Rhodes vs Steve Austin (1993): Starts of pretty good and just sorta ends. I had high hopes for this but, uh yeah it's very much what I expect out of WCW. The last 3 matches don't seem very "essential" to me. I talk more about it in the 1993 match discussion yearbook. I really don't want to do that again here...if that gives you an idea.
Road Warriors vs Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard (1987): Oh crap the Road Warriors...this is not looking good..let's see. Oh man am I wrong! Maybe it's Arn and Tully but, this is perhaps the best Warriors match I've seen. We see a brains & brawn story unfold despite their early domination, Hawk & Animal don't seem invincible. There are some hi-jinks but, it is pandemonium so it works. I loved this match- it was all about selling and timing and it comes off beautifully! Near classic match...hells yeah!
Rey Misterio vs Jushin Liger (1996): Oh Rey vs Liger '96, this should be an easy great match! Nope! It's neat but, just felt clunky and the commentary team bury them. This is a great example of how WCW was out of step with where wrestling was headed. It was a fun exhibition match though.
Rock 'n Roll Express vs Midnight Express (1987): I wish they could have put another type of match on here with these teams. It was high risk and whatnot but, is really a novelty that doesn't really show what these guys do best. Nevertheless it was one of the best scaffold matches I've seen. I've seen like 4 so...maybe that's not a recommendation. Sorta goes into the realm of Battle Royal matches to me.
Ric Flair vs Lex Luger (1988): Here we have our first classic match of the set! I never would have thought it'd come from Luger. Simple but effective stuff! GO SEE THIS!! 1988 Everything else folder has more gushing if you need it.
Eddie Guerrero vs Shinjiro Otani (1995): I've seen this match twice and liked it better the 2nd time. Its what the Rey vs Liger match needed to be. Skip that one and watch Otani and Eddie go! Again, I beat a dead horse in the 1995 December yearbook if you want to see that Very good match. Not sure why this is "ahead" of Flair/Luger '88 at all though...gotta give something to Eddie I suppose.
Dusty Rhodes & Sting vs Road Warriors (1988): Hmm can't seem to find my notes on this one...I remember it being good with Sting doing his thing. It was not as good as the Tully/Arn match I can tell you that much. I think it was meant to get Sting over since I really don't remember Dusty or the Warriors doing much but a good match and letting Sting shine.
Sting vs Vader (1992): People have called this a classic match but, I disagree. Its great but, not a classic. There are a few too many flaws that screw with my suspension of disbelief to put it in that **** 1/2+ class. Selling and the finish being the two biggest complaints. Nevertheless, it is Sting vs Vader - Go watch it for yourself and then head over to the 1992 December archives and see where your opinion falls.
Jack & Jerry Brisco vs Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood (1983): A great action packed match. Maybe people don't think that can happen in 1983 here we have it! There were tons of double team moves from both sides. Angelo Mosca is the ref and played his role perfectly. This felt like a real battle in the unreal realm of pro-wrestling!
Dusty Rhodes vs Ric Flair (1985): An entertaining match that was kept even keel for some reason. This lacked the charisma and excitement I expected. It felt very average.
Eddie Guerrero vs Dean Malenko (1997): Again, I can't find any notes on this one. From memory it started off well but, I don't think it really set the world on fire. Probably very much like the Dusty/Flair match above. They had to give a nod to the feud I suppose so, here it is...
Road Warriors vs Steiner Brothers (1989): Everyone was selling and bumping. There were no miscues or blown spots. They did their power moves and throws. What more can you ask really!!? It was a dream match as your gonna get. I thought it was very good and should be in both teams highlight reels. Certainly so for the Steiners as I thought the quality and style was right around what they would be doing in NJPW in the 90's.
Ladder Match (2000): This is the 3 way ladder match that was really a harbinger of early 2000's indy 'let's try anything' wrestling. It sucks that Jamie Noble and Kaz Hiyashi (who I like) are in this thing. Its also on the first WWE Ladder Match DVD set so, I skipped this.
Sting vs Ric Flair (1989): I believe this is the Finals of the 1989 Iron Man tourney. Terry Funk and Jim Ross are on commentary (yes!). This was a great match featuring athletic, charismatic wrestling as you'd hope for. Both guys really put on an action filled match despite the previous bouts and you gotta give it to them for that alone. From what I've seen here and above 1989 looked sweet.
Roddy Piper vs Greg Valentine (1983): And if '89 looked sweet then '83 was sweeter. Oh man, we get the legendary Dog Collar match between Piper and Valentine and it does not disappoint. It was a madhouse type of match where they're just wailing away on each other with abandon. So many visually remarkable moments involving the chain...man they just did it right. A brutal and bloody affair. A classic match.
Road Warriors vs Midnight Express (1986): Another scaffold match. This was remarkably dangerous and Cornette takes a bump off the scaffold (dangling) that seriously injures him. Watch it on fast forward perhaps. Again, these really aren't my thing :/
Sting vs Hogan (1997): Sting's entrance gave me goosebumps. Make no mistake though this is late 90's WCW and they have to fucking slip in some interference in every big match just for the hell of it. Its like having a nice meal at a restaurant and right before you finish, the waiter comes over and drops a fly in it. Like "Why man? Why?" It was a good match even though they dropped a fly in it. For nostalgia sake, watch this big moment in wrestling. I never saw it before and I'm glad I did. Hogan may actually out wrestle Sting too!
Ric Flair vs Harley Race (1983): Steel cage NWA world title match. I watched this a couple times in a week about 7 years back and recall it being very good. It was nice and stiff but, a little to methodical if memory serves me correct. I think it was kinda long too...could be wrong. Maybe it just felt long?? I decided to pass but, this is a big time match up so, if you're curious check it out.
Tully Blanchard vs Magnum TA (1985): This I Quit match was the #1 reason that I spent the $5 at the used DVD/game store for this DVD set. This was violent from the very start...they looked like they wanted to maim each other. I believed it man. I mean Magnum was digging his fingers into Tully's arm trying to pull Tully's wound apart and he's the babyface!! They had to switch cameras that it was so nasty. Visceral barbaric wrestling...this did not disappoint. An all time classic without a doubt. If this is your thing, go see this match. If you gotta buy this DVD, do it. It's worth the dough.
Vader vs Ric Flair (1993): This was Vader's title against Flair's career. I bet you know who wins This was deemed the greatest Starrcade match of all time by someone(s) at WWE. That's arguable but, I understand why they put this over Tully and Magnum. Flair. And it is a great match. It is not without its detractors and I am one of them. I watched this twice in 2 days and my take away is this- it is too slow at the start. Vader wants to pick apart and torture Flair rather than just pin him. I get this but, it is at a turtle's pace. Flair should have had a couple pin attempts in there to show that he had fight rather than getting pummeled. It does get good once Flair makes his successful come-back. However, the pacing and finish are all off to me. The finish required Vader to sell the leg being hurt but, he didn't at all/forgot/etc. so, it seemed like an odd fluke win. Maybe that's what they were going for but, it was clumbsily executed on Vader's part (understandable). But that's a small quibble next to the drawn out first half of the match where Vader beat Flair like a rented mule. Some of the appeal had to be thinking that Flair was going to lose...but, in 2019 that magic has worn away.
So, I would say this set was hit or miss with more hits in the end.
Ranking the hits
Honorable Mention: Eddie Guerrero vs Shinjiro Otani (1995)
10) Sting vs Great Muta (1989)
9) Road Warriors vs Steiner Brothers (1989)
8) Barry Windham & Brian Pillman vs Ricky Steamboat & Shane Douglas (1992)
7) Sting vs Vader (1992)
6) Sting vs Ric Flair (1989)
5) Jack & Jerry Brisco vs Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood (1983)
4) Road Warriors vs Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard (1987)
3) Ric Flair vs Lex Luger (1988)
2) Roddy Piper vs Greg Valentine (1983)
1) Tully Blanchard vs Magnum TA (1985)
I'm very glad that I shelled out the 5 bucks for 10 awesome matches. I feel like Race vs Flair should also be an honorable mention as well. So 12 out of 25 matches that are totally worth checking out...not bad. I'm not sure what that says about WCW or maybe it says more about WWE, I suppose. I'd probably thing the latter is the culprit. They probably could have loaded this with great stuff from 83-89 and I would have been pleased as punch. Heck, Starrcade 83-93 would have been more than acceptable.
Thanks for reading! At the very least watch the top 3 matches above! I'm so glad that I did.
Until next time...
This part transfers the attention to Kawada & his chance at the Triple Crown in October versus Jumbo. It also puts the Step-over Facelock over as a viable finisher, at least for some period of time. Team Jumbo is at their grumpiest here so the overall wrestling is sacrificed here for stronger psychology. It works beautifully in some matches & in others I pine for the excitement filled matches of 1990. There's probably too much Kikuchi & not enough Kobashi as the low-man on the totem pole for me.
Jumbo, Fuchi & Ogawa vs. Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi (All Japan 7/26/91) I didn't really think too much of this match. It was a little jerky and there wasn't the awesome action & nearfalls of the other 6-man matches. The only person that really brought it was Kawada who went ape-shit on Jumbo even hitting a enzui lariat. ***1/2
Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi vs. Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (All Japan 8/18/91) A much better match here. I felt the first match brought the focus of the compilation back to where it started. This one really rekindled the grudge with Jumbo clearly being a jerk here. He & Taue once again try to break Kobashi's face & Misawa hurts his shoulder, and wouldn't you know it! They go after that. This really sucked me into this match. Misawa was really selling his injury here & everyone is working at such a top level. I don't really know why people are hating on Taue, he's not Misawa, Kawada, or Kobashi but, everybody already knew that. ****1/2
Mitsuharu Misawa & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi vs. Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (All Japan 8/29/91) Pretty good tag bout with Kikuchi really stepping up. Unfortunately there's no real damaging offense to Team Olympic so while it's exciting, I wasn't in doubt about the winners. ****
Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada vs. Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (All Japan 9/4/91) Really great match with Kawada bringing the violence. The guys do some stuff they were using a year earlier like Taue's sumo slaps, well that's about it...Misawa's shoulder was really beat on here. Kawada could hold up in his absence though. He was hitting lariats to the front & back like a monster. His step kicks to Jumbo are especially vicious. In fact, Jumbo vs. Kawada are the best thing going here. It's not on the level of their 9/30 or 12/7/90 matches but is still awesome. And is the 3rd best tag match on here.
Jumbo, Taue & Ogawa vs. Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi (All Japan 10/10/91) Another very, very good 6-man tag team match. They're really gearing up for the Kawada/Jumbo match and it's damn clear that Kawada & Misawa have arrived as real contenders. Taue & Jumbo don't take that much punishment here and I do agree that Taue has gotten worse. Not in the sense that he sucks to watch but, he doesn't have the varied offense as he did early on. He seems to be content doing the stomping game alot & only doing moves against Kikuchi like the Samoan drop. He does amp it up here though as I believe he chokslams Misawa on the floor. Kawada gets better with each match as I understand his character more & more. He is tired of the bullshit being run by Taue & Tsuruta- all of their double teaming, cheap shots, and the benefits that their status grants them.
Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue & Masa Fuchi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi (AJ 10/15/91) Filthy, dirty cheats!! Jumbo's team are a bunch of fucking cheats! Misawa attacked Fuchi at the start but soon he was out of the action because they re-injured his nose. So this was a 2 on 3 match but, Kikuchi is one tough SOB and Kawada was really fighting as two men, especially later when you really need him too. He was hitting Jumbo with some of the stiffest elbows! They really had Jumbo & Co. on the ropes but the cheat, injuring body parts & taking turns at stomping & grinding them. I know why they do it too! They're beat! If Misawa was here they would've lost...the facelock would've been in play for sure. Great match especially in generating heat...I was marking out for Kawada to kill the entire other team & some great saves/nearfalls too. Also Kikuchi does his best Toyota impression a couple times... ****1/2
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Toshiaki Kawada (Triple Crown AJ 10/24/91) This is Kawada's chance at Jumbo for the title and he tries to use his brain to bring down the giant. The early portion he controls the big man with the side headlock, eventually this peters out as Jumbo uses his patented knees on Dangerous K's abdomen. Kawada responds with knees of his own and uses abdominal stretches and even a proto-stretch plum for a moment. Slowly he slides into using the sleeper to finish the Big J off. Eventually Jumbo breaks free and flashbacks to Tenryu. Although, his knee butt is now officially antiquated. With the stiffness of all the other moves, this puppy looks silly. It'd be silly to compare this to 6/3/94 but Kawada doesn't take head-drops for nothing & he takes a couple head drops here...does he ever. Brutal Finishing segment to a really smart match. Not sure what to rate it though at least ****1/2 though...
Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada vs. Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (AJ 11/29/91) A really great tag match that sums up the later portion of the year- Misawa's hurt, Jumbo & partner pick on it, Kawada has to kick maximum ass, and Taue's getting lazy. Here they go 30 minutes to show that the teams are equal but in all honesty it's clear that Misawa & Kawada are superior. If Misawa was not injured they'd have nothing holding them back or at least that's the story. He looks like shit in this one too so it's understandable but isn't out of comission like in 10/15/91. This at times looks like they can pin Taue or get Jumbo in the facelock. Maybe next year they'll get their revenge. Very, very good stuff.
These comments on the tag matches are in comparison to the 1990 matches. In the later '91 matches it seems like the same match over & over without much play off or growth in terms of having an answer in the form of a counter, sequence, or strategy like we saw a year earlier. Still this is a damn good match & will have to see where it fits in with the other tag matches on here but is probably 3rd or 4th best tag match...nothing can knock the '90 matches from the top 2 spots though. The real thing that I just remembered after writing the rest of this was at the beginning: Misawa's back! He went all out in the beginning with his flying & did a couple moves in the middle to near end that were showing, you need him here to have an awesome match. Kawada just hadn't come into his own here just yet.
There's more feuding that I'm going to skip over in order to get to what I consider to be the end of the feud despite it not having a proper conclusion.
Misawa & Kawada & Kobashi vs. Jumbo & Akira Taue & Fuchi (05/24/92 AJPW) ****3/4 Although this got a ***** by the Wrestling Observer, I can't agree. It misses the mark as there is a little bit of a let down on the performance side of things from Kawada- there are some weak striking moments and a couple airballs which killed the momentum. In all honesty if he lived up to Dangerous K potential then I would have given this *****. Towards the end he comes in to take on Jumbo and you think it's going to be vicious but it doesn't match the intensity of the previous few minutes of Misawa/Jumbo. If he had hit Tsuruta with blistering strikes then this bout would've erupted. Everyone else impressed me though and if Taue wasn't really injured, I'd be surprised. Just too bad Kawada wasn't performing at his full potential. Still a fast paced and exciting match and Jumbo's team act as vicious heels here which was unique. A must see match even if it's not Kawada's finest hour. It and all of these great 6-man matches of the early 90s are benchmarks in wrestling history.
This is one that'd I'd like to rewatch to see how it stands today.
Its a fantastic feud that perhaps overstayed its welcome but, could still deliver the drama and excitement up til the end.
I think this program has been lost to time in terms of essential Japanese wrestling. So, I hope that I've shed some new light on it and folks who are familiar with the current stuff take a step back and check out this classic work.
Thanks for reading!
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs. Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi (All Japan 4/20/91) Whew ! Nearly 52 minutes of action! This was really just awesome stuff with Kawada really stepping into his character & Fuchi being the real-standout of his team. He was the real bone cruncher here & getting quite a few chants too. He deserved them too. Kobashi was getting beat on for a good portion & although this slowed the action down, it made the closing 5 minutes sheer joy. Awesome finish too. I can't wait to see Taue & Kawada go at it in tag.
Jumbo Tsuruta & Masa Fuchi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi (All Japan 5/17/91) A nice little tag match where Misawa has an injured arm & Kikuchi is in the place of trying to protect his boss, Misawa. Very good in putting the Jr. over. Fuchi was quite good again too, Jumbo & Misawa did nothing special but, coming from behind Misawa used his facelock & made Fuchi quit. Another first time move appearance?
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Kenta Kobashi (All Japan 5/24/91) Watched this one a couple times and I really don't know how it's a MOTY candidate or could be nominated for Top 20 but, it's certainly top 50. The start is clipped to where both guys are sweating pretty good. Kobashi's offense is the highlight and he nearly gets Jumbo but, really he wasn't going to win. Still, you really feel for Kobashi & his facial expressions never seemed to get mentioned but he's one of the best. Better organized than the Kawada carny match but not as brutal & believable that the underdog could pull it off. Still Top 50 stuff that should be seen. ****
Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Terry Gordy (All Japan 6/1/91) Now if you want a viable MOTYC for this point in 1991, this would be one of mine. So, far nothing except 4/20/91 has been a blow-away classic unlike the 1990 stuff but, there's been a lot more singles matches & more matches in general so, that's misleading. Anyhow this is the Triple Crown match of the year thus far & top singles match. It's more Gordy's style than Misawa's but, those aren't too different other than the pacing. The beginning & middle are fairly basic but each transition is pretty seamless & the ending gets great but, in a little different way than Misawa's King's Road style he was developing. Reading Ditch's AJPW, I agree that this was Misawa's match in the sense he was stepping out from underneath Jumbo's shadow, showing he could have great matches without him. The same kinda goes for the Hansen carny match. It show he didn't need the feud's heat, his ringwork & star power could get it for him. Gordy's a real pro too. Best singles match thus far in '91. ****1/2
Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada vs. Terry Gordy & Steve Williams (All Japan 7/24/91) Awesome fun stuff here with Miracle Violence Connection looking like the toughest tag team ever. They went after Misawa's face and then his leg which I'm sure both were legitimately injured. Tremendous selling from Misawa & is what made it very special. Kawada was a very good number two playing the part of being Robin to Misawa's Batman. Cool, cool stuff. **** or maybe **** 1/4
AJPW 1991 is slept on but, this is a great place to jump in. All of the big players facing off in tags and singles competition and a couple classic matches - you can't go wrong!
Thanks for reading! Part 5 is in the works!
This part is comprised more of single matches than tags & isn't as awesome as the first two but does an excellent job of showing just about every one of the main players going at it alone. There may be some spoilers ahead by the way.
Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Akira Taue (All Japan 1/26/91) Misawa is such a dick here. He slaps Taue during a rope break & when they go to lock up he hits him with a stiff elbow shot. Taue gets his revenge though throwing up some mean boots, dumping a couple Samoan drops & even throwing our little superhero on a row of chairs. Misawa only get pissed and gets his comeback mojo going by countering the DDT with a northern lights suplex (never seen him do that one!) and getting a nearfall with the Tiger Driver. This is the first time I believe he's done that on the tapes, also Taue does the first chokeslam on the tapes too. Still it's not enough for Taue! Then Misawa does the unspeakable, whether it was planned or improvised, he performs the first Tiger Driver '91!!! It's still the most dangerous finisher & establishes it's reputation soundly. Taue isn't kicking out or really even moving that afterwards. Me thinks Jumbo & Taue want payback...bad. Relatively short match but all action. ****1/4
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs. Misawa, Kobashi & Kikuchi (All Japan 3/23/91) This one started out a little slow & without too much intensity. Kikuchi was really being introduced as an ally of Misawa and he got whooped on. Fuchi is also in a bit in this early section & while some of his offense is dated in it's impact, his submissions are top notch. Once Misawa got the tag, this thing blew up & you really can identify with Kobashi & Kikuchi as almost brothers. That & it makes one wonder why their so rough on Kikuchi & Kobashi when Misawa & Kawada are the ones the really want. This is a little bit of a sentiment switcher since the two K's are just a couple of young guys, there's no good reason to beat them so hard. The story here's pretty good but the beginning is a bit dull but the ending really saved this & kept the heat on. I can't wait to see these guys go at it again! ****1/4
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Toshiaki Kawada (All Japan 4/6/91) Slow starting match but it picked up with Kawada showing his toughness and his hard hitting offense. Jumbo really had to go all out here to put Dangerous K down. Very nice Champion Carnival match. ****
Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Stan Hansen (All Japan 4/6/91) This one here is a lost classic or close to it. If you don't get this on a compilation, I'm sure most people would never see it. And that's the problem I have with all of these Best of the 90s AJPW lists. People should do a forgotten classic AJPW list or something like that...matches that are spectacular but don't get a fair look. This certainly is one of them. I've never seen this on any list & it really deserves to be mentioned. Incredibly stiff, there's a neat story with Hansen being tied to Misawa's progress...an indicator if he's ready to take on Jumbo man to man. I'll have to re-watch this but it was better than the Jumbo/Kawada match for sure.
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Stan Hansen (All Japan 4/16/91) This is the type of match you want to see between two of the biggest wrestlers in Japan. They were just slamming into one another & Jumbo was working Stan's arm very well. Hansen once again show's that he's a hell of smart performer by using other attacks while his arm "heals." I didn't care for the finish but since they wrestled this in more of the 80's style it was excusable & special but not really up to par with most finishes in this time period. ****
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (All Japan 4/18/91) I didn't really think this match stacked up with their earlier matches & wasn't up to snuff with the Champ. Carnival matches. It really took awhile to get going and the strikes weren't as good as the previous matches. I wouldn't be surprised if someone was injured or something. Still the last five minutes were pretty damn good & I wonder if there's some parallel to the Dr. Death/Kobashi match in '93? ****
Thanks for checking this out! Go see some of the great matches!
I'll be back with more of my absolute favorite feud shortly
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (All Japan 9/1/90) ****1/2+ In this match-up Misawa tries to use his elbow strikes to go toe-to-toe with Jumbo. He finds out that he's no Tenryu and gets a beatdown. It's not that Jumbo isn't really messed up by this attack but it's not enough to transition into a serious pinning predicament. Still Misawa uses his quickness & flying but not in conjunction with much other than his strikes. So Jumbo does what he can to shift momentum and work Green Jeans over. I would've liked I little more variety other than a elbow battle to make this 5 stars like some say but, still it's awesome but not like their match in June. Re-Watch: This is a pretty great match but stylistically I preferred the June match. Misawa tried to be Tenryu to Jumbo, you know to try and slug it out. Misawa had much greater effect with his flying moves but wanted to get the big shot in. In the end he got caught and flat out beat. Still I would have liked a match with more variety in offense since Misawa slung 40 elbows or so in this one.
Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada (All Japan 9/30/90) Wow! An awesome time limit draw match that was one of those matches that were so well paced that you could have watched it all day. It wasn't a sprint so there wasn't a bunch of unbelievable sequences or crazy moves although by the end things were getting quite interesting. Kawada did blow a couple kicks and he took a double arm suplex like a Tiger Driver but everyone was worn out & hurt so mistakes like these were excusable because they were insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs. Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi (All Japan 10/19/90) It took me some time to get this one started as I was having some problems getting this to play just right. Once I got it going I'd seen the first 8 minutes a couple times. This match went nearly 30 minutes and I distinctly recall saying to myself, "This is the greatest match ever." That's pretty cool considering I thought I'd seen all of the great AJPW stuff. Greatness is only a state of mind. As an aside, Fuchi is a sadist but his striking offense is weak, Kawada hasn't quite found his Dangerous K persona & moves, Taue is impressive despite the conventional notion that he didn't get good until '95, Kobashi is already the baby-face you just can't pin, and Misawa is an upstart jerk. Jumbo is the old guard, he is the elder & Misawa doesn't give him the respect he's due. It's like a youngster taking on tradition. At this point I'm rooting for Jumbo but, I like seeing Taue & Kawada go at it, and feel sorry of Kobashi, & well Masa Fuchi's there grinning while breaking your bones. That's really neat that they're telling 3 different stories at the same time.
Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada (All Japan 12/7/90) Maybe I'm just a sucker for tag-matches but this was amazing. The timing was really brilliant stuff & showing Akira Taue's toughness was a great little story here too. I wasn't sure he could take all that Misawa & Kawada were dishing out. Although this was clipped a little bit on the front end since I think it was a TV episode (complete with commercials!), it didn't effect the greatness of the match. They're building off of past confrontations or adding neat twists. Kawada really comes into his own here too. I felt that in the couple months since the last match he's got his intensity dialed up. Great stuff!
Stan Hansen vs. Jumbo Tsuruta (All Japan 1/19/91) A solid Triple Crown match between two of the biggest, toughest guys around. Things got a little loose at the end with Hansen & Jumbo trying some sequences but, it came off in a way. Hansen went down to a Baba neckbreaker drop which was cool. I don't know how believable it was though ; ) ***3/4
These are some of my desert island matches. You've got to watch these!
This is one of my all time favorite feuds in puro. It probably won't get much attention nowadays but, that's time for ya! This isn't a definitive match list but, it covers most of the seminal puro program. These are my original reviews and star ratings when I was watching my DVDs as if the matches were weekly episodes. I've been in a wrestling rut lately so I hope this will get me out of it!
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Tiger Mask II (All Japan 3/9/88) ****1/2+ What an amazing little match. Misawa mainly keeps Jumbo contained with a side headlock for the majority of the middle portion. This would be risky nowadays but back then, it works. Wrestling is still the focus and the psychological direction is strong. Misawa can't trade blows or throws but he can contain Tsuruta & possibly score a quick pin. Jumbo won't be so easily wrangled and breaks the hold a few times. First, he is respectful by using the ropes. Next he, frustrated, peppers Tiger's ribs with short elbows. Finally, the champ shows the youngster who's boss & slings Misawa onto his back. From there, the match is wide open with a foreshadow of the action to come for AJPW in the 1990s. Fantastic!
Tiger Mask and Toshiaki Kawada vs. Yoshiaki Yatsu and Ricky Fuyuki (All Japan 5/14/90) - Nothing really special move-wise but this is the match where Misawa decides that the gimmick & mask are holding him back.
Jumbo, Kabuki & Fuchi vs. Misawa, Kobashi & Taue (All Japan 5/26/90) ***3/4 A good 6-man match but the real focus is on Fuchi & Jumbo putting the upstart team in their place. Kabuki to some extent too but Fuchi & Tsuruta are not impressed with the team of Misawa, Kobashi, & Taue...all look like Muppet Babies. It's wild. What's even more wild is that Misawa has the gall to elbow Jumbo off the apron (unprovoked) and that Kobashi isn't killed in the ring. Taue strangely supplies most of the action and is quite adroit in his execution. It really proves what a great tag-teamer & wrestler he is. He really lets Misawa/Kobashi work the story aspects by keeping the match going. This was a smart move on his part as early on it really was losing direction other than Jumbo is pissed. Still, the finishing portions were quite good, enough to build the excitement for the win. Suffice to say big old Jumbo is not pleased with the results.
Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (All Japan 6/8/90) ***** This is the epitome of a big match without doing anything "big." There were plenty of teases to finishers and all of that but, that's not where the match lay. It was a story of Misawa's speed & guile against Jumbo's brutish strength. Misawa's biggest attacks were his dives to the outside & his top rope moves. Tsuruta in contrast used his more pedestrian offense but with the weight & stiffness he is known for. Things such as stomps, axe handles, scoop slams were done with intensity that really few can rival. Just a fantastic athletic match that was really one of the best of all time.
Tsuruta, Kabuki & Inoue vs. Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi (All Japan 7/12/90) **** A very exciting match in a small venue that teased and played off the new rivalry between the old guard and the young guns. Kawada even kept his feud of sorts with Kabuki going and putting his kicks over with the fans by knocking Kabuki out (legitimately?) & Kobashi showed that he could definitely hang with the top guys. We already knew that but, hey it's 1990 and he's not quite throwing the lariats & chops yet. Honestly, he's really interesting because his body of work is split in two distinct periods yet, both are really good.
Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Stan Hansen (All Japan 7/27/90) ***3/4 A simpler old style match that saw Misawa control Hansen for three-quarters of the time. He had his arm tied up in locks and would strike it with knees & elbows. In fact Misawa was as much a Heel as I've ever seen from him. He worked the arm over against the post and even a chair! Anytime Stan broke free though he really hit the crap out of his opponent. There were 3 or 4 really stiff shots that Misawa caught including a back elbow & from a chair. What's also pretty remarkable is how well Hansen sells the injured arm & really is on the short list for best seller. He does it so that he won't use the injured arm for really the entire match. It's a basic program that Hansen & Misawa worked in the next few years but, it's really smart & pretty great when executed by two intelligent & talented performers.
Overall, this is an excellent start with 2 absolute classic matches & really fun six man outings. Pick a few, watch, and enjoy!
Thank you for reading! Part 2 coming soon!
Its been awhile so, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite matches. Not just my favorite Dory Funk Jr. matches...nope, these are some of my all time faves. I cannot promise a bunch of moves and stuff so, don't be mistaken. I like my action matches but, my friends, this is different.
vs Jack Brisco NWA World Title (01/24/74) This is possibly one of the top 5 greatest matches that I've seen. Excellent mat wrestling for an hour with each fall being a little bit different in style and in story. I can see people not liking this but, one has to appreciate wrestling and not necessarily a load of moves.
vs Horst Hoffman (12/15/75) This match is another one of those ones where you can't really rate it. It is simply a treat to watch two masters go at it. A true wrestling fan would want this match to never end. Sadly it does but it rather clever fashion. If there was more of a story to this, then I believe it would be quite phenomenal. Re-Watch: Just a slight re-watch of five minutes or so and man alive, this is a classic. Its got that same chemistry like Bockwinkel vs Robinson. These two are great and this match is a must see for a Dory Funk Jr. fan. You can just see it in his eyes. This is what a world champion looks like.
vs Jumbo Tsuruta (12/18/75) The teacher and the student go head to head possibly for the first time in Japan. If this ever shows up in a complete form it may be up there in the short list of top matches of the 70's. The action is there and the story is there to back it up. Dory knows after the bell rings just how good Jumbo is. You have to know your wrestling to "get" this one but, man is this good. Great? A classic? Take your pick.
vs Terry Funk - NWA International Title (04/30/81) This was a 50 minute technical wrestling match in the old style. There were plenty of long mat sections of grinding holds and attempted escapes. The only portion I thought was a bit long was the very beginning when Dory had Terry locked in a series of headlocks. The match went long so it didn't seem necessary to milk 6 minutes at the front. Also there was nothing too explosively exciting with this match like something Terry would do on his own or maybe Ric Flair or even the stuff going on in NJPW at the time. This was good old mat wrestling NWA style and if one can't appreciate the holds and the escapes then this was a good hour to do something else. They picked it up and brought it down a number of times and gave the fans their money worth. More dynamism would have been great though but I think Terry wanted to show that he could hang in there with his older brother. Also to note very few rope breaks were used on holds, which is why I mentioned all of the escapes. Those holds & escapes were the majority of the match. I also would have liked some of the stuff to be a bit smoother but that's ok. It adds to the realism. Great stuff!
vs. Bruiser Brody - NWA International Title (04/21/82) It's not necessary to dwell on a match like this since it is so basic. This is the primal kind of stuff that transcends styles, moves, eras. It is how wrestling should be done. If you really watch, this type of wrestling provides the base for those 1990s classics and most every classic since. Great match!
If you've never seen a Dory Funk Jr. match, I highly recommend checking at least one of these out!
Thanks for reading!
Let's take the way back machine to 2014!
Ring of Honor in Cincinnati (07/18/14)
reDRagon vs Rocky Romero & Tomasso Ciampa: Koslov is injured so Nigel says Rocky has a replacement in the Sicilian Psychopath - nice! DRagon is pissed and rightfully so as the slap dash team takes the early advantage. Fish and O'Reilly eventually get control and unleash the 2 Man Smash Machine ™. Nevertheless, they can quite seem to get a handle on Ciampa and neither can Romero! This was a very good opener. It went a smidge longer than I like a first match to go but, I think they wanted to wow the crowd since there was a lineup change. Mission accomplished!
Romantic Touch vs Jay Lethal: I gotta give this match some words because Jay Lethal was one of my MVPs of 2018. This started off fun but, was way too long. Nigel mentioned that Matt Bennett was out due to illness so, I think these early matches had to buy some time while they reorganized.
BJ Whitmer, Jimmy Jacobs and Adam Page vs Cedric Alexander, Caprice Coleman and ACH: Very good, all action 6 man match. Coleman and Page were my faves.
Kevin Steen vs Silas Young - No DQ: The penultimate Steen in ROH ma was a hardcore battle! Both guys are tough as leather and beat the brains outta each other. Kill Steen Kill is my favorite iteration of the French Canadian. Very good match with tons of chairs, trash cans etc.
Ethan Gabriel Owens (Ethan Page) vs RD Evans vs Moose vs Matt Taven: Veda Scott is there and she's a total babe. Matt Taven is a guy who really impressed me with the matches I watched in 2018 but, those two things were not enough to keep me interested. Skipped this one.
War Machine (Hanson & Rowe) vs The Briscoes: A very good physical match as the brothers are a little out-matched. We don't have a clear resolution as Cole & Lethal come out to spoil it...but then, Kaz & Daniels are out...
Jay Lethal & Adam Cole vs Kazarian & Christopher Daniels: This was a fast paced jr. tag style match that had some storyline consequences...and we do get a pinfall. A very good match! Then, the original two teams come back out and damn, this was a great segment (starting with the War Machine vs Briscoes). It reminded me of how ECW would book tag matches. They were more organic fights between groups rather than just two teams squaring off for the belts.
Main event time!
Michael Elgin vs Roderick Strong:
This one is for the World title. This was everything you could hope for! Roddy was hitting Big Mike as hard as he could and Elgin responded in kind! I was so glad to see he was in battle mode rather than, fan pleasing test of strength mode. He reminded me if late 90's Kobashi. Strong gets straight vicious and the champ is doing all he can to survive. Not only was this a hard hitting affair but, there were surprises and twists too. The Cincy crowd gets a ROH World title classic. I loved it!
This was a great show and so glad I picked the DVD up. If you can, I'd highly recommend getting this show...at the least check out the title fight.
Thanks for reading!
It is June and by gawd it's the half way point of the year!?? Really? It was snowflakes and salt stains just yesterday!
That being said, I want to do my Best Match Watched and other assorted superlatives for the first part of 2019. It helps you but, more importantly, it helps me!
Best Match Watched:
-Daniel Bryan vs CM Punk - Money In the Bank (2012): This not a classic match but, one of the handful of WWE matches that I've watched this year that I thought was great.
-Michael Elgin vs Roderick Strong - ROH Summer Heat Tour (Cincinnati 2014): The full show review is coming up here soon (I watched it over Winter - sue me!) but, this was a classic ROH title fight.
-Zack Sabre Jr. vs Tomohiro Ishii - Wrestle Kingdom 13 (2019): Inoki Strong Style lives! Loved it! Great match at least but, a near classic to me.
-Jeff Cobb vs Ricochet - PWG Battle of Los Angeles (2016): Not a classic but, a great match! 12-14 minute barn burner and a match lost in an ill fated winter watching project. Ricochet vs a big dude is always gold. He can let loose with his strikes, can bump like a super ball, and his crazy death-defying moves really, truly look like Hail Mary spots.
-AKIRA vs Kenny Omega - NJPW Best of the Super Jrs. (2010): Another 'not a classic but great match.' AKIRA decided to go all limb work psychologist here and it was friggin' brilliant.
-Prince Devitt vs Gedo - NJPW Best of the Super Jrs. (2010): Simple match layout but, the swearing/intensity of this match was lights out awesome.
-Finlay vs TAJIRI - Smash - Final Show (2012): A near classic emotional and physically punishing bout. Fans of either guys need to watch this!
-Wahoo McDaniel vs Greg Valentine - JCP (1977): Near classic hard hitting bout and angle.
-Rick Martel vs Nick Bockwinkel - AWA (1984): The in-ring work, the story, this is a classic.
**Frankly, everything from the Wahoo, Martel and more blog post could be on here but, those are the top two to me!**
-Hans Schmidt vs Yukon Eric - Chicago Wrestling (circa 1958): Simple, brutal wrestling - the ropes break, part of the ring breaks. Classic shit.
Best Wrestler: Wahoo or Martel at this point. Different opponents and different situations and both brought intensity and passion to every encounter.
Biggest Surprise: Right now it's that I'm watching US wrestling more than Japanese wrestling That's not to say the drama and intensity is that much different than puro but, it's probably been a decade since my US wrestling has outweighed my Japanese wrestling.
Biggest Disappointment: Ha! Probably the fact that I can't get big projects started and can't seem to finish up ones that are 85% done. But damn, I'm amped that I've gotten the good wrestling in that I have!
Thanks for reading! More good stuff to come!
I need some kind of format or guide to help me talk about this 'zine 'Wrestle Void.' A blog is in the same vein as a 'zine, right? Its me talking about things I find interesting. What interests me with Wrestle Void? So, I suppose that's my hook with this little publication, right?! Let us begin...
This is a really fun rag to read -Straight and simple! The letters from the editors/co-founders at the start of each issue are a reminder that we as fans are real people. Gravy's letters especially drive this point home. Wrestling fandom is something we participate in to escape life sometimes but, it is something we use to deal with life as well. In other words, we use pro wrestling as a diversion but, use it as a tool to cope and combat hardships. The performances in and outside the ring are fun but, provide many of us an example of how to deal with loss, how to persevere, how to recognize and overcome our weaknesses, etc. If this wasn't true, the stories of matches and angles would not resonate with us.
In additional to these letters or prefaces to the zine are other testimonials by contributors on what wrestling means to them. Many of these deal with the authors coming to terms with their love of wrestling as the enter the adulthood. I find it refreshing to read how others are dealing with this. I really enjoyed Marj's take on how she thought she'd "grow out of it." I'm sure most of us had thought that at one point or another, right?
Then, there is usually a local Cleveland scene piece. This is AIW (which I'm pissed that I haven't been to) and has featured Magnum CK Parsons and PB Smooth. I've never heard of either guy until reading but, damn I feel like I'm missing out. I think this local focus is something special and hope they keep this as a featured part of their publication.
Next, there is a what I'll call general wrestling talk. Meat and potato opinions/review stuff that we know and love: top 25 wrestlers of 2018, BJW show review and a take on the All-In event. Co-Editor/Creator El Jordano Diablo handles this duty quite well with help from contributors. Issue #3 features more humorous stuff like 'The Struggle of a Fat Fan" by Rev. Jess Smith and Hobo Chef's (Gravy's) Wrestlemania watch party menu - "served with a side of Adam Coleslaw - Baybay!":D The humorous bits in issue #3 are really something I hope they continue!
Finally, near and dear to my heart, there is the art! Awesome drawings and collages are there to keep the eye moving from one article to the next but, also to remind you that this pamphlet is a work of love. For instance, Issue #2's centerfold of Marj's "Fight Like a Girl" piece features a simple slightly anime inspired 'poster' of the WWE's modern era of great women wrestlers. I was psyched see Bull Nakano on there! Hells yeah I think graphic art is the one thing that sets an actual publication apart from online content. This is from someone who had a zine all through college and is doing this blog (duh). As an artist, I would love to be able to put all of my wacky ass wrestling drawings up here but, the medium doesn't allow for it in a palpable way. So, kudos to them for doing it right!
All that being said, I cannot say that I have the same views, opinions, and taste in wrestling. Wrestle Void does NOT match my viewing habits nor opinion of contemporary pro-wrestling. Nevertheless, I endorse and support their growth! This is a substantive small press publication that promotes the love of pro wrestling. These men and women want to get folks excited about wrestling. Not only that, they want to turn folks on to the awesomeness that is non WWE wrestling (sports entertainment?) whether it be independent or international. I gotta support that shit!
I hope you do too!
Note: I reviewed issues # 2-4. Looks like 50 copies total per printing/issue. Nice color stock paper cover with art, B&W interior. Costs a few bucks but, how much do you spend on coffee or beer a week? All of the folks contact and social media stuff is in the mag but, I'll say for FB and Twitter look 'em up with @wrestlevoid
Thanks for reading!
Many of these matches I have commented on in the Everything Else match archives or the Yearbooks, if you will. I wanted to make a record of them all in one place here on my blog though. If you have similar wrestling tastes or just like to read what I have to say, I thought I would make one entry of my recent wrestling habits. It's pretty 1970's and 80's heavy but, we dip our toes into the 60's and 90's as you'll read shortly. Let's start with a doozy!
Johnny Valentine vs Bull Curry (06/20/69 Houston Wrestling):This really is an awesome match and the first time I've seen a full Johnny Valentine bout. He and Bull Curry beat each other senseless here...and I loved it! It was really great, simple yet violent pro wrestling. The quality of the footage is excellent as well. So very glad I watched this! In writing this, I did not put a rating but, at the very least it is a great match. The same goes for Johnny Valentine vs Bill Frazier '62.
Ric Flair vs Wahoo McDaniel (1976 Mid Altlantic): This is probably one of the few 70's Wahoo matches vs Flair on YouTube. Like Cornette mentions, his physique, stamina, and agility are much greater than in 1980's. He looks like an absolute beast here. There's no finish unfortunately but, the 8+ minutes are great.
Wahoo McDaniel vs Greg Valentine (09/07/77 JCP): Just a fantastic match where Greg takes the place of his dad. And Wahoo is cool with that since he beats the crap outta him. Gregster is no bum as he can take a shot as good as he can dish it out. This is just hard hitting no nonsense wrestling and it's hard not to love it. This was a near classic match. Plus look for promo of Wahoo at home, in a cast, calling out Greg Valentine & Ric Flair.
Harley Race vs Wahoo McDaniel (02/10/78 Houston Wrestling):This was great 2/3 falls match.I waited a while to watch this since I'm lukewarm on Harley but, this was a doozy. Wahoo just tees off on the champion and Race's bumps are fantastic. Of course his headbutts and knee drops look vicious as ever. Do watch for the fan wildin' out in the front row on the camera side of the ring. He's the guy the fuzz have to grab in fall #3. It's pretty awesome. If you like to people watch the crowd during matches then, you gotta watch this one. It is a bit of a distraction since it takes like 5 officers get escort the dude but, Wahoo and Race don't let it phase them. Loved the finish! The Chief almost had it!! So close! Great stuff
Wahoo McDaniel vs Tully Blanchard - Indian Strap Match (05/14/82 Houston Wrestling): This wasn't a long drawn out match. It was simple and vicious. I especially loved the finish (no pins or submissions, one man must drag his opponent to all 4 corners of the ring and touch the turnbuckle). We really need more matches like this in contemporary wrestling. It emphasizes the rough and tumble violence that I think is lacking in wrestling nowadays. Sure there are street fight and other gimmick matches but, there's too much emphasis on spots and not enough on the intensity. The violence of these type of fights should be at the forefront. We certainly have that here. Very good stuff!
Bruiser Brody vs Mongolian Stomper (06/04/82 Houston Wrestling): Pure pandemonium with both guys trying to clobber each other. Brody vs the Stomper truly delivered despite not being very long. This was very much in the same vein as the 1990 FMW stuff. Walloping the heck outta each other but, never backing down...Houston looked like Korakuen Hall.
Rick Martel vs Nick Bockwinkel 09/20/84 AWA): I thought the match up looked good but, no idea that there was such praise from the PWO community. I was just thinking "damn this is really good. They've got plans of attack, they're selling the specific damages as well as the overall fatigue. Still, its a heated fight with guys trading great blows and kicking out because the belt is on the line."
I think for '84, you could call this a work-rate match but, its deeper than that. The in ring story is so solid and to have it almost spoiled at the end..oh man. Martel whipping the AWA strap around like a wild man at the end just capped off this beauty of a match. Classic stuff!
Masa Saito vs Curt Hennig (03/28/85 AWA): What a simple but great match. Curt was very young here but, he and Saito had a little program going. It was pretty basic in that Saito roughed up Hennig and he made a energetic come back only to get shutdown. Maybe its just me but, I prefer 80's AWA Curt to Mr. Perfect. Anyhow, Curt does a fucking tope to the concrete instead of the leaping shoulder miss to ring post spot. That's to say he missed 85% of the ringpost and went thru the ropes to free fall and cement! Awesome!! The best was the finish were Saito and Hennig were just smashing each other with punches. More importantly, Masa Saito was punching Hennig...because there were some nice "punches" earlier but, Saito was like, " let's do this proper! " Yes, please, thank you!
Rick Martel vs Mr Saito (04/24/85 AWA): Oh boy, this is a great match. Saito is an absolute beast and Rick Martel is just trying to survive. The part where he is clawing his way to the ropes to escape the Scorpion Deathlock is a new iconic wrestling moment for me. Just brilliant! I think this would be an awesome place to start if you only remember Martel as "The Model" from WWF.
Rick Martel vs Terry Gordy (10/03/85 Pro Wrestling USA): Rick Martel is certainly a fighting champion and this fast paced challenge from Gordy is proof. This just checked all of the right boxes in the move and storytelling department for me. The other Freebirds are sent to the back and Terry is OK with that. He's going to beat the champion fair and square. Gordy is matching Martel all throughout but, then brings the power based offense to the table. It looks to be too much with the champ taking some hard slams. Don't count Martel out of the match yet! I just loved this 15 minute match. It truly felt like a title fight. Great stuff
Ric Flair vs Ron Garvin (02/07/86-JCP-Superstars on the Superstation): Well, these two really beat each other from pillar to post! So many hard chops that it really is a wonder that their chests weren't red. Oh and the punches and slams...man, this was a heck of an intense TV televised match. 15 minutes of fighting, I loved it. People have said Garvin wasn't selling but, in his role, I think he should have been ferocious. He was taking the fight to Flair. A very good to great match in my eyes. Quite glad that I stumbled upon it.
Rick Martel vs Riki Choshu (12/03/86 AJPW): This started out with a lightning pace. Then, they settled down into working over each others legs which was ferocious. I so wish they sold this after the fact since it appeared they were really going to town but, it was a 10 min. match. Evenly fought but a little to soon to finish for me. Very good, intense match. Totally worth watching! Just not the heavenly dream battle I hoped for. But the first few minutes had me believing it was real!
Wahoo McDaniel vs Manny Fernandez (09/18/88 AWA):Just two big dudes punching and chopping the crap outta each other for 10 minutes. If you dig Tenryu - Choshu - Hashimoto type stuff check this out. It'd be right at home in '88 AJ or NJ.
Wahoo McDaniel vs Manny Fernandez - Indian Strap Match (12/13/88 Superclash III): I think most folk remember the Kerry vs King match but, I think this bout deserves a bit of recognition. Stiff chops, punches and blood abound! The big surprise was that Tatsumi Fujinami was there! Fernandez was working in NJ in '88 I believe so, I think he was there to keep Manny in check or something. Well, he certainly DOES both at the start and finish...yes! Awesome little interview at the end from Wahoo where he says he wants to literally kill Fernandez.
Larry Zbyszko vs Masa Saito (02/10/90 NJPW) I could tell that this was going to be a fantastic encounter from the very first collar-and-elbow! Oh man! Take note current wrestlers, THIS is how you tie up! The match was a fine example of how to create drama and excitement without running through moves. The holds were credible and meaningful towards the outcome of the fight. Their strikes were stiff yet, measured. Larry & Mr. Saito used their body language (and actual language in Lar's case) to convey athleticism, desperation, and that killer instinct. This was a great match.
Nick Bockwinkel vs Masa Saito (12/26/90 NJPW): If you like headlock work then this is a match for you brother! I truly dug the simple focus on the headlock and leg locks becuase you felt the struggle was genuine. Man, two masters going at it for the NJ crowd. The finish came a little too quick but, dang this was a pretty good bout.
QUICKIE BONUS: Rick Martel vs Naoki Sano (08/09/91 SWS): Roughly 5 minutes of pedal to the metal 80s technical junior offense. I loved it, it was short and to the point and put over the power of a technical pinning predicament.
Thanks for reading!!!
If I can get my act together, I should have a few posts ready to go in the next few days
I exhumed a load of reviews from the grooveyard for this one. I'm psyched to do it though. Jun Akiyama is one of my favorites I hope you enjoy reading and you take the time to go back to good old days of 1990's AJPW!
OK let's get this started!
vs Al Perez, vs Ted DiBiase (1/15 & 10/23/93): Both of these are worth checking out for that fun house show type of match. Both opponents kept the action and pace going for a couple entertaining matches. Its especially cool to see DiBiase back in AJPW after his very good run back in '87.
Akiyama & Takao Omori vs The Fantastics (01/29/95): This was a highlight reel match for both teams. It wasn't heavy on the drama or story but damn! it featured quick action Watch for when Jun gets some Hashimoto nose blood. Good match and fans of these guys should take the time to watch it.
Toshiaki Kawada vs Jun Akiyama (Champ Carnival 03/21/95): This seemed like that match people were talking about when they were discussing Kobashi vs. Jumbo back in '91. Just an excellent match that really made Jun look like the future star and it made Kawada look tough yet beatable. Really cool match with Kawada getting really stiff at times. Great Match perhaps a Near Classic
Toshiaki Kawada, Johnny Ace & Takao Omori vs Stan Hansen, Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama (04/15/95): All Japan had some of the best six-man matches that you'd think they were M-Pro in '96. But yeah AJ was doing it in the late 80's & early 90's and if you didn't know they were even doing them in 1995 too. This was a surprise for me but, I'm not going to fawn over it. 4 out of the 6 guys are bonafide greats, and Omori has got the chops and Ace knows how to hang with the group too. I mean he's got some 5 star matches to his credit, right? So, you put all of them together you're going to get something enjoyable. That's always been my rating scale on all of these...how much I enjoyed them There were so many neat stories here with everyone being Champ Carny runners-up for one then you've got: Hansen beating Kawada a month earlier for the belts, Kobashi & Ace at the same show went toe-to-toe during their tag war, then you've got Kobashi against Kawada who not only went to a draw in Jan. but they went to one during the Carny, and then you've got Akiyama vs. Kawada which is always awesome and the story of him & Omori as up & comers as well as being All-Asia tag partners (either around this time or in the past.) AND you've got Hansen, the last of the old guard showing he can still go. Whew! The fact of the matter is that with all of this they didn't need to do too much to make this great but, being the best promotion of the 90's they sure as hell did AND then some. The more AJPW you watch the better the match is. Classic stuff!
Mitsuharu Misawa/Jun Akiyama vs Steve Williams/Johnny Ace - (06/07/96 Tag Team Titles): A pure 20 minute plus spree of excitement and near falls. Ace has never looked better, and his chemistry with Akiyama is what made this match so great. Doc once out of the limelight really showed his strength as a brilliant tag wrestler. He and Ace were such a standout team because of this dynamic. Akiyama played his role brilliantly and Misawa was ace but also senpai. This was his role here and it was masterful as ever and touched an emotional nerve. The dynamic with Doc and Akiyama was rough in the early going but as it became more heated, one forgot this segment of the action. It was clear this match was for Ace and Akiyama to shine and they did not disappoint. A classic for sure!
Kenta Kobashi, Johnny Ace & Johnny Smith vs Mitsuharu Misawa, Jun Akiyama & Satoru Asako (08/22/97): This started out pretty routine although Johnny Smith was the clear bright point. He was very adamant about making the arm work something special. It was different and helped slow down Akiyama who was the fireplug of his team. Jun wanted to take it to Ace and Kobashi but, Smith wasn’t going to be ignored. He darn near ripped the Blue boy’s arm out of the socket. That’s alright because he was pumped and gave the match a little depth. Stop the burgeoning contender! Now, that’s not to say the other guys were slouches but, no one else brought the intensity like he did. That is to be expected in a match like this. Akiyama, Smith, and Asako are the one’s with something to prove. The story was about ranking and status but, ultimately the athletic competition. This set the outcome in question and was exciting as all hell. The execution, pacing and timing was flawless from all. Great final match for a TV episode…I’d love to be a teenager again and see this at 10:30 at night before going to bed and thinking about it all the next day at school! Reminds me of ECW Hardcore TV in that way. Very good match.
vs Mitsuharu Misawa (04/18/98 Champ Carnival): Whoa! Blue Bomber coming in with the game plan! This might be the birth of Akiyama - the genius. Here he is precise like a surgeon opertating on Misawa. Elbows, dropkicks, leg locks etc. but, the Emerald ace is double tough & plenty dangerous. This 20 minute match showcases excellent timing and pacing that crescendos with a badass finishing segment. A near classic match, damn might even be a classic in my book. Smart and violent wrestling in the AJ tradition.
vs Kenta Kobashi (07/24/98): What a match! I really enjoyed Jun's persistant focus on slowing Kobashi down. He had a slew of surprising attacks against the Orange Crush's knee. They felt so organic. Of course, this all would be meaningless if it wasn't for Kenta's masterful selling. This is the timeless Kings Road 'blurred reality' selling where its very difficult to tell if the damage is real or imagined. I liked this match much more than than the Kawada vs Kobashi 06/12/98 bout. I feel that match-up had been done to death. Besides, I felt Kobashi never fully clicked in singles encounters with Kawada. Also, Kobashi refrained from hulking up which always has to be noted at this point in his career Anyhow, I thought this match was a classic!
vs Yoshinari Ogawa (09/11/98): Two geniuses go at it in the squared circle! This is an all action bout with lightning counter moves from Ogawa with Jun keeping pace and selling just enough to keep Ogawa in the fight. Rat Boy is underrated a hell and such a breath of fresh air. I loved this match and so did the fans. Great match!
Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue vs Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama (10/11/98) – This was a great little tag match. Kawada was just pissed and brutal. He was beating Akiyama, he was beating Kobashi, and he himself got beaten for good measure too! We all win! Akiyama had a spirited showing as well. Kobashi and Taue do show their wear and tear so, this wasn’t exactly everyone in their prime but, this still kicked a fair bit of ass. It’s that unpredictable appeal of very late 90’s AJPW that had me interested in this one for sure. Anyone can win in these matches and more importantly- anyone can lose. Great bout.
Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue vs Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama (01/07/99) – The first few minutes (?) were clipped from this match. I’m a little bummed of that but, in all honesty I think AJPW’s clippings are superior to let’s say NJ or M-Pro’s clipping of things. They always seem to pick a nice point to pick up the action and ride it on out. Ok so, it starts with the original “Burning” picking apart Kawada’s knee. From there Taue gets in and brings the fire like it’s 1995! He must have gotten a good night’s sleep because he’s kicking with pep. The man’s throwing dropkicks like he’s a youngster. I love it! This is especially the case since Kobashi is all taped up…I think from a bout with Vader perhaps. Anyhow the Holy Demon Army go rabid over this. Akiyama’s there doing his spots and sequences and it’s nice but, Taue really brought the shit tonight! This is an all action match with bags full of energy and pep. The teams were really feeling the electricity in the air on this one. It wasn’t hall of fame stuff but, I still don’t think anyone was doing matches this exciting in 1999 Japan. Great!
Burning (Kobashi & Akiyama) vs Untouchables (Misawa & Ogawa) (03/06/99 AJPW): This was a fantastic must see match. That’s not just for very late 90s AJPW either. This was surprisingly awesome. Misawa and Ogawa’s chemistry is great. Burning has come together as a team in their own right and were equally impressive. Plenty of great tag team maneuvers and teases. This was an AJPW style that went back to the early 90s in terms of surprises and timing. This was not the King’s Road pinnacle style yet, there was a glut of excitement and drama nonetheless. I could see anyone who would want to get into the 90s All Japan style to start out here. It’s got everything. It really encourages me to checkout the late 90s AJ scene more. This was a true gem.
vs Takao Omori (09/04/99): If you are a fan of either guy then, damn man, you need to watch this!! Knees, lariats, armbars, attacks off the top rope, man! Why did people thing AJ sucked in '99? It has a big match feel, it has a nice early focus on grappling then, organically transitions to big moves but no MKII finishers which was refreshing. This is very similar to 2012-2015 actually Great match!
Burning (Kobashi & Akiyama) vs Untouchables (Misawa & Ogawa) (10/23/99 Tag Titles): This maybe one of the greatest action style tag match ever done. Now they did edit out a portion at the beginning but, I can’t think it was too much. The combat here was hot and hard hitting throughout. Ogawa of course brought his chicanery but, worked so fast and tight that he deserved to be in a true title fight. Misawa was not a slouch either, proving he still has it with multiple dives and splashes. Kobashi was Japanese Hercules and Akiyama had finally grown into his boots. The Blue boy brought the moves and stiffness we didn’t really think he had until NOAH. Other than that I can’t say enough good things about the match. So, I will declare it’s not the same match you would expect in the heydays of 93-96 but, it is just an awesome display of grit, drama, and courage. I would seek this match out without hesitation. One of those matches I slept on for awhile but, so glad I finally got it - classic match!
Burning (Kobashi/Akiyama) vs NO FEAR (Omori/Takayama) (10/30/99): I hadn’t heard too much chatter about this match until the 1999 PWO Yearbook. It’s certainly one of those matches an AJPW junkie wants to see just in case it’s an overlooked gem. Well, this is an overlooked gem for sure! Takayama is just about on par with the blonde haired bastard from the 2000s. Omori is just a beefier version of the ass kicker from 95-96 that was giving guys a run for their money. So, to give a summary- This was heated and intense. NO FEAR showed they belonged by handing Burning’s ass to them. Takayama was especially brutal. It’s as we’ve come to expect just, a few years earlier that he’s given credit for. It’s a quick match for AJ standards but, it delivers just how you want it to. Very good!
Vader & Steve Williams vs AJ Tag Team Champions Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama (02/20/00 AJPW): Vader & Dr. Death are a hell of a team and Akiyama was ready to bring it. Kobashi dogged it a bit but, took some good shots and nice bumps so it didn't matter too much. This is the time and place where Vader & Dr. Death shine. Near Classic to classic match.
Thank you for reading!!! Now go watch some wrestling!
Its been over a month since my last blog post but, I've been watching plenty of wrestling. I'm revisiting Kurt Angle's awesome early years in TNA as well as bouncing around YouTube for classic match ups. My Wahoo McDaniel kick has been a blast by the way! In addition to that great stuff, I've been catching up on some Tajiri stuff that I've missed. Not his WWE stuff mind you but, some odds and ends after he went back to Japan as well as some Tajiri as ECW fan favorite era stuff. So here we go! Spotlight: Yoshihiro Tajiri
Yoshihiro Tajiri vs Super Crazy (02/06/99 ECW Fancam Taping - Concord, NC) Gotta start with the classic match-up but, a lesser known one. There's something to be said of these fancam tapings. For one, you're not dealing with the doppy fans that most TV tapings have. These people are just there to see some wrestling. Anyhow, these folks got their money's worth in this match-up. They do their perfect blend of lucharesu here and it really rivals some of their best bouts. It was so fast and crisp and surprising. They did counters here that I don't remember them doing, or if anything this was the first time they did them. Plus the crowd made it great because they were reacting to everything. It reminded me of Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite in Madison Square Garden because these people just had never seen anything like this before...the Japanese Buzzsaw and the Insane Luchador were like something from outer space. They were throwing caution to the wind but, it was a brilliant display of athleticism and spectacular spots. Of course, the selling and development of a story were minimal but, this type of wrestling and the burgeoning feud doesn't lend itself to that type of match. I'm not sure that they ever topped this match in terms of execution, "Toyota" pace, and diversity. This really made both men look like budding superstars. Great match
vs Steve Corino (05/14/00 ECW Hardcore Heaven)
ECW was on one knee at this point and it's apparent in presentation and the audience composition. It just didn't feel like ECW anymore and this somewhat tame spot match reflects that. However, this still outshines what WWF & WCW were doing in terms of the hardcore wrestling style. I mean, Corino is bleeding bad and that is just damn entertaining to see Honestly, I did not write anything of note regarding Tajiri here so, I figure he was pure babyface spotting in this match with his Tarantula which was as over as ever being the key spot. That's cool. This was a good to perhaps very good match depending if you're giving nostalgia points out. And dammit, I am!
BIG JUMP in time here
vs Fit Finlay (02/19/12 SMASH 25): SMASH was Tajiri's spiritual successor to Hustle and this was SMASH's final big show. There's a really great lead-in video from Tajiri talking about the importance of this match, as well as, talking about the ferocity of Dave Finlay. It really establishes the drama of this title match in that it is not only about Tajiri having the title at the close of the promotion but, also in proving something to himself. The Buzzsaw looked really good early on getting ahead of Finlay. Of course, Fit came back strong by upping the violence. He attacked our hero Tajiri in the ring and on the floor. Yoshihiro wouldn't quit and tried to mount a counter attack but, the Belfast Bruiser was one step ahead. He blocked, reversed or straight countered Tajiri's signature offense. The Japanese man was in the fight of his life (which played off the lead-in video SO well). This desparation made him doubly dangerous and he finally put Fit on defense. Who would survive? This was such a punishing, dramatic match. It was everything I hoped it would be. A near classic (if not a classic) encounter. It is a must see if you're a fan of either man OR just a wrestling fan in general.
Tajiri & Mikey Whipwreck vs Yusuke Kodama and YO HEY (05/26/12 WNC): This is from the 2nd show of Tajiri's new company. Mikey gets on the mic and asks the fans if they want a hardcore match ECW style. They're hell yeah! and so am I. He and T have spikes and give the younger team a tour of the building. The Buzzsaw tries to toss YO HEY from the balcony, oh man! But, I could call this a comedy ECW match but, Kodama and YO HEY aren't having that. They bring the offense that forces the vets to up their game. Sure they get a couple more gags in but, it gets good at the end. This was a ton of fun especially if you miss Mikey, he does great and gives an emotional talk at the end.
vs Starbuck (02/17/14 WNC): I'll admit I was never stoked on Starbuck from a name standpoint back a few years ago. Clearly, I could only think of the coffee chain store and I was pretty sure that this dude was some kinda high-flyer. Eh...no thanks. But boy! Was I wrong! He's a very solid back to basic European wrestler. Right on! Tajiri was vicious in his armlocks and kicks so 'Buck had to make space whenever he could - rolling out of the ring, getting a rope break etc. The Veteran would not let up but, Starbuck would turn that aggression against him by timing his counters. This wasn't the most modern match but, it was very good stuff. It told a good story, the execution of moves and body language was spot on. It was simple believable stuff and I dug it!
vs Sanada vs Matt Hardy (Wrestle-1): Fuzzy on the date but surely after 2014. Another fun nostalgia match but, with some good wrestling and laughs. It was good to see Hardy and Yoshihiro can put on a good three way dance without having to try for their moves of yesteryear...especially since Sanada was more than happy to do it for them! Man, I dig pre-NJPW Sanada. A total feel good smile on my face the whole time match - right on!
Here's my take on some semi-recent NOAH stuff:
Doug Williams vs Yoshinari Ogawa (12/16/18): Gosh remember 2018? Man, where has the time gone? Seriously, I know a lot happened last year but, we're a quarter of the way thru 2019 and I'm still trying to get used to that, aren't you? In the same vein, Williams and Ogawa let you know that the past is present. This was like a 1988 AJPW Jr. title match with holds, counters, and good old fashion wrestling. Hey it might be slow for some but, damn this was a fun match!! What a breath of fresh air in this smoggy decade's end!
This Decemeber 16th show was a big one for NOAH but, man- I wasn't feeling it...although there was one other match that caught my attention: Kotaro Suzuki vs Daisuke Harada. This match was good but, the last 5 minutes were especially enjoyable. Then we get some post match madness and I always dig that!!
The follow up is:
Kotaro Suzuki, Yoshinari Ogawa & YO-HEY vs Daisuke Harada, HAYATA & Tadasuke (01/06/19): This is Korakuen Hall six man action and damn it is very good! NOAH still knows how to do this 17 minutes of excitement that cuts out all of the slow extemporaneous bits of of the Kotaro vs Harada match out. This had heat and the tandem moves most notable Ogawa and Kotaro (Misawa's other protege besides Marufuji) doing Untouchables moves - Oh man! so cool to see 20 years later! This was just a great follow up to the above match in more ways than one.
SO then I decided to back track:
Daisuke Harada vs Kotaro Suzuki (10/30/18): There was a Halloween in 2018?! When the hell was that!? Oh wait I remember sitting in my house with the lights off until 8pm...occasionally glancing out the window making sure no teenagers were fucking up my shrubbery. Ahem...anyhow...We get a much better match than their Jan 2019 encounter. This baby has intensity, the fans were into this, and maybe the moves came across better. I dunno but, this was some very good stuff! I liked this! Trick and treat perhaps? Ehh, that doesn't work in March but, dammit if I'd been on the ball a 5 months ago, that joke would have been spot on! Spot on, I say!!!
Hahaha! So, my ever-so-often check up on NOAH was fun. I totally avoided the Go Shiozaki & Nakajima matches since they are the same damn chop-kick matches for the past 10 years. But, I found some fun stuff with Ogawa, Kotaro, and Daisuke Harada and his gang. It's a very Indy feel over on the Ark but, it's fun. I'll be sure to check it out some more this year and maybe you will too!
Thank you for your patience! I'm going to conclude the singles portion of this project here so, read on!!
Yoshihashi vs Ryusuke Taguchi: This was OK. I liked the opening mat section but, this felt like a by-the-book junior match. I think there is some drama here as Yoshihashi was part of the NJ main crew but as in a Young Lion/Junior member capacity. I say that as I've seen him paired with Taguchi in some tag matches. So maybe there's something here along the lines of YH proving his worth yadda-yadda but, I'll be honest I might even say SKIP this one. It just wasn't worth the 10 minutes in my mind.
Gedo vs Kota Ibushi: Gedo's swearing and trash talking has been a real treat with the project. I crack up every time he tells some one off This match was no exception. His smack talk also strenghtens his dislike for his opponents especially Ibushi. "Come on, Golden Boy!" as Gedo slugs the comely Kota in the jaw. Oh man! That's good stuff K.I. comes back like a technico by finding that opening and wow-ing the fans and his foe with spectacular offensive maneuvers. And dammit! It works here because there's a reason he's doing his flips and dives. He's gotta his skill and agility to best the tough, crass vet! GO KOTA GO!This was a really standout bout in the 2010 BOSJ. 10 minutes of very good stuff here, go see it!
Jushin Liger vs Davey Richards: A good match that featured a Davey going after Liger's arm. Richards played the young aggressive gaijin going after the never-say-die veteran Liger. If this was a larger show, they could certiainly have put on a great **** match with this story/layout. I really enjoyed this one even though it was only 9 minutes long.
Ryusuke Taguchi vs AKIRA: A match of parity and dueling leg work. This was a neat little story as both guys decided they'd hobble each other. There was some good selling and neat transitions but, neither took it so far to delegitimize the previous portion of the match. That is to say, they didn't sell it like a torn ACL only to be running and diving a second or two later. I like this. It was a different match and told a story most people shy away from nowadays. Good match.
La Sombra vs Jushin Liger: Shades of Liger vs Hayabusa Super J Cup 94 baby! La Sombra was like 'Screw it! I came here to highspots!' JTL hits his backbreaker and shotei palm strike and is looking to make an opening but, the young luchador shuts him down. We get a countout win after he hits a springboard inward somersault facecrusher on Liger on the floor! Now I think it was supposed to be like AR Fox's inward somersault plancha but, how Liger caught Sombra and vice versa made it look like a face crusher/bulldog on the cement. Hells yeah! 5 minutes...sorry to spoil it but, you gotta see it for yourself.
Davey Richards vs Kota Ibushi: This wasn't the most developed match and my favorite part was when they were hitting each other BUT dang it! It worked! This was an all action bout and other than an iffy frankensteiner this was spot on. Probably not as good as their ROH bout around the same time (I think) but, this was good to very good stuff. I mean if you're interested in this you'll want to spend the 11 minutes on this match. If you dislike either guy then, uh yeah...I can't say it's what you want
Kenny Omega vs AKIRA: I really dug this bout - high level of energy and excellent laser focus from AKIRA on Omega's knee. The Canadian sold it very well. He let us know it was hurting him enough to throw his offensive momentum off but, when pushed he could pull it together. AKIRA kept on it though. Kenny was in real trouble and he needed to put that fact at the forefront of his mind for the rest of the contest if we was going to win. He gave a great performance in building up hope, showing fighting spirit, yet still impressing us with his maneuvers. Likewise, AKIRA put on one of the best outings of the BOSJ round robin in constructing a spirited, intense battle that was believable and interesting even though it focused on a submission based attack in 2010 AND was only 10-11 minutes long! Very good to perhaps great match.
So, the MVP of this is totally Gedo! Maybe I'm biased from growing up seeing him in all the sleazies and ECW (check out Jado & Gedo vs Impact Players) but, dammit- he really brought a real sense of hate to his matches. Many of the others we're technically great but, lacked emotion. There were exceptions, notably AKIRA vs Omega and the Hayato matches. This has taken me longer than expected but, it's been fun and something neat to do during the middle of a snowy afternoon. And really, that's the real treat here, NJPW has a bounty of good to great 10 minute matched on Youtube for people to enjoy. So, yeah watch Fujita Hayato's, Gedo's, Omega vs AKIRA and a Davey and Ryusuke Taguchi match and you'll be all set!
Thank you wrestling fans!!
We'll take a slight detour to some recent NOAH You Might Have Missed and then hitting the 2010 Jr. Tags. There are some real bangers in there!
Sorry for the delay! The weather has been a little bit better the past two weeks and I've been able to get some skating in. Plus I think I needed a little break from wrestling. Nevertheless, I'm ready to pick up where I left off and get back to NJPW's Junior scene circa 2010.
We're still watching the Best of the Super Jrs. round robin matches.
From June 2nd (06/02/10)
Tama Tonga vs Yoshihashi: I missed this one on the previous post but, no biggie. It was an OK match. Nothing fancy but, it was not bad. Just a quick little match.
KUSHIDA vs Kota Ibushi: It was weird seeing KUSH in something other than his McFly get-up but, even weirder was seeing him in red & gold shorts with bleached blonde hair. Whoa! Anyhow, this was very much an offense oriented match and was quite impressive. The crowd was digging it but, for some reason it didn't "get to me." It was good though and others may like this more.
Fujita "Jr." Hayato vs Tama Tonga: A fun match pitting Tonga's power against Jr.'s kicks. It's very simple yet quite satisfying. 9 minute match and I've read that Hayato injured his foot during the match and had to pull out of the rest of the shows. Watch this bout and see if you can figure out where/when it happened. This is a shame since I was very much enjoying his shoot style leanings.
La Sombra vs Davey Richards: So, we get the first appearance of the American Wolf Davey Richards. Yes! This time with NJ created some buzz back in the day as he used to appear with NOAH fairly often and now he was going to be working with New Japan. His hard hitting style is very puro influenced so, to see him working in NJ gave them impression that they were looking to mix things up in the 2010's. To be honest, the 2000's for NJPW had some high points but, overall it was pretty stale what with dabbling in MMA-centric bouts, tired match ups and uninspiring stables. So, for a big name in the US scene like Davey to align himself was exciting. But to the match at hand - it was a good bout with nice moves. For a small show round robin match, it delivered. Some folks on the YT said it sucked but, that's B.S. They probably thought they were going to go buck wild despite the circumstances. Well, this is a New Japan house show folks...
Kenny Omega vs Tama Tonga: Bullet Club battle right here! No but, it was a nice Junior power vs power type of match. Like many of these matches, there wasn't a ton of selling but, it was fun watching these guys toss each other. I gotta say the Hadouken and Croyt's Wrath are great here!
Prince Devitt vs Gedo: Gedo jumps Devitt from the get-go and dominates him for a good portion of the match. Of course, the Irishman comes back and damn! does it feel good! This is the best match so far in the project. The in ring story is there, the selling is there, the action is there, and we get humor too! Like Gedo telling the ref to "Shut the Fuck up!" on a couple occasions and pretending he's not going to use the ring bell mallet as a weapon AGAIN. Hahaha! Not to be out done, during Devitt's comeback, the Prince advises Red Shoes, in an un-princely manner, "Get the fuck outta the way!" I dug the hell outta this match. -
It becoming clear to me that NJPW was trying to rebuild their Junior division much like they did in the 90's Golden Era. Get those talented Gaijin!
Thanks for reading! Comment below if you see when Hayato got injured and I hope to be much quicker with my next installment.
We open with Queen of Heat, Vickie Guerrero out who is so sincere in wishing us a Happy New Year to absolutely deafening boos. As expected, we don't have long until HHH wanders out, in what can only be described as an outfit to ask if he can be in the Royal Rumble. So, I guess this was the start of guys just declaring themselves, rather than having to work their way into it. Vickie declines so HHH makes a bunch of fat-shaming jokes, implies that he got turned on by Vickie's action figure and that he discovered nude photos of Vickie on "eBay". Yeah, I don't know either. Anyway, Vickie lets him in the Rumble and runs off to outbid "ChavoG2009" for the photos. Man, WHAT a fucking start. This sort of putrid, shitty HHH comedy was godawful at the time and a decade has not been kind to it. Lest we forget that corporate HHH, king of NXT, still finds punch-down humour to be the funniest thing in the world.
Great Khali and Finlay vs. Hawkins and Ryder
I guess Hawkins and Ryder are now without Edge's backing but man, here's a babyface team I didn't know existed but the tallest guy on the roster next to the smallest is WWE undercard to a T. This is right into Hornswoggle's period as an impossibly over act so the match is largely based around Finlay working spots to get him into the match and, as you'd expect, Finlay is absolutely fantastic at it. Khali knocks Hawkins and Ryder's heads together so Finlay distracts the ref to allow Swoggle to do it for a big pop. Just because it's a comedy match doesn't mean Finlay is going to stop being Finlay as he's still full of nasty touches like stomping on Hawkins' hands, lacing into uppercuts and just never giving guys any time to settle. Khali remains a training dummy on wheels as he exists for the heels to bump around big for him. For a match based around heels bumping for both a giant and a mini, the bumps were good and this was perfectly fine.
We cut to Edge and his outrageously bad acting as he literally rocks back in forth at anger and balls his fists up to convey rage at HHH. Just a stellar night for promo segments right now.
Jesse and Festus vs. Brian Kendrick and Ezekiel Jackson
Ah yeah, my man, Kendrick. He was just an absolutely fantastic asshole at this point and I was, for sure, certain that they were running the HBK/Diesel playbook with he and Zeke. Festus was a fun gimmick that I felt they did about all they could with. Once you've had the heels ring the bell to sedate him and kick the crap out of him or had him stay snapped for a heel turn, there's really nothing else to do. It's telling how much faster Gallows/Festus was here, even though Jesse is about as bland and uninteresting as you can get in-ring. What Festus needed was a better tag partner so they could come up with some more interesting offense. This match is, strangely, based around Festus being the FIP as he tweaks his knee which Kendrick goes after with nice kicks but it isn't given a chance to go anywhere before the hot tag. Zeke tags himself in and hits a Uranage for the finish but this was really far too short to matter much. It was obvious that Zeke was going to get the rocket strapped to him at some point but the act really needed Kendrick.
Vladimir Kozlov vs. Hurricane Helms
I guess this is post-main event Kozlov but they're still talking of him being undefeated and feuding with HHH so I dunno. Helms is "Hurricane Helms" which I have no memory of since I assumed that he returned as The Hurricane post-neck injury. Anyway, this is a minute of Kozlov grabbing a key lock, Helms rallying a comeback with a decent uppercut before Kozlov uses his head, literally, for another minute before locking in another key lock. Helms sells the headbutts to the chest in a great way, as it looks like they're sending shockwaves through his body but Kozlov was pretty terrible, especially as he struggled to fill a 3 minute squash match. As far as European terminators go, Tony Halme was a much better worker and they didn't persist with him half as long.
JR runs down the Smackdown Rumble participants which feels like a really low-effort version of the old Rumble promo montages. US Champion Shelton Benjamin interrupts with an...ok promo. The disembodied voice of The Undertaker interrupts him, lights go off and Taker appears to chokeslam him, putting himself in the Rumble. If there's a "lights off and then on" angle in the history of wrestling that hasn't gotten over, I haven't seen it.
Michelle McCool comes out to apologise to Maria or something? And holy shit, McCool is an awful promo. Eve comes out and the poor lamb, new to the world of professional wrestling, doesn't realise what's coming and who'd have thought it? McCool's apology to Maria and Eve was insincere and she's now a heel. To be fair to McCool, she does an awesome sneak attack, barrelling Eve into the barricade before fish hooking her mouth in a super nasty way. Mark your WWE bingo card down for "pulls at hair to signify anger" also.
The Vickie Guerrero nude picture saga has now stretched to three segments, involving HHH, Vickie, Edge, Big Show and now Chavo Guerrero. This is like the nWo angle of offensive WWE humour. Vickie finally gets some measure of revenge by announcing Triple Jeopardy for next week. Wow thanks, I get to watch HHH wrestle three times.
MVP vs. Kizarny
Ah yes, the losing streak that absolutely killed off MVPs chances at being a top guy. I'm not sure but that's probably the first instance of the modern era of them truly fucking up a guy who could have made them money. Great worker, great promo, great character and they truly ruined it. And now, the dude has to wrestle Kizarny who, I think, was a buddy of Edge? If so, here's another reason to hate what he has wrought upon wrestling. OK, maybe that's harsh since he has a distinctive look but his dives and splashes look super weak, his bumping is pretty anaemic and his selling during MVPs control segment is underwhelming to say the least. I feel that the best MVP matches always had him working over a body part but this has him utilising a lot of body scissors and bear hugs which really lead nowhere as Kizarny is up and hitting running dropkicks in no time before winning with a Double arm DDT. Not a great match and an even worse way to debut someone as a would-be face, considering there were pockets of chants for MVP and absolutely nothing for anything Kizarny did. The lowlight being him trying to start a clap during a bear hug and receiving nothing for his attempts. I guess they wanted to keep MVP looking halfway competitive but nothing Kizarny did looked impressive and he spent a large time of this selling. They should have gave him the Helms match and gave Kozlov to MVP. Not that it matters since even here, you can tell that Kizarny was DOA. They should have him had do carnival stunts in front of live crowds for weeks before getting him in the ring, really.
Mr Kennedy comes out with his terrible promos and his terrible facial hair and his terrible fashion sense and holy shit, they put him in a WWE film! Can we fast forward to the part where he fails to catch Randy Orton and they fire him?
The Hardys vs Edge and Big Show
Is Edge the worst top WWE guy ever? He's certainly in the mix as far as promos and character work go with his dumbass hair clutching and overacting and his weak, shitty offense in this match definitely adds to the cause. Matt Hardy's punches remain incredible, Jeff Hardy continues to throw himself into complete danger and this is Big Show at his slimmest, quickest and he was probably in his peak so Edge's shittiness stands out like a sore thumb. This is a WWE TV main event tag all ends up and everyone works it well, to be fair. We have a double FIP segment, Big Show hits great power spots and The Hardys get to show all of their great southern wrestling knowledge as Matt sells and cuts himself off like a pro. Show is fantastic; they're really selling his right hand as death and Matt is just collapsing after every chop. Show is just in fantastic shape, hitting suplexes and elbow drops and cutting an awesome pace for a guy his size and Big Show/Jeff Hardy feels like a real missed opportunity as a PPV main event. Jeff is an awesome apron worker, running up and down to get people into it and, while no part of this match raises above "good", all four guys know how to work this to perfection and the crowd ends up super into it for the ending stretch. Show ends up deserting Edge, which leaves him at the mercy of the Hardys and they get to run through their spots for the win.
This was a decent enough show but WWE shows around the Royal Rumble tend to focus entirely on the Rumble match with feuds specifically designed to build to spots in the Rumble itself. Jeff Hardy was almost next-level over at this point so the tag is worth a watch for his popularity alone but this was pure Rumble build with a feel-good finish.