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Ring of Honor - Pure Title Revival - Part 6

Here we are at the semi-finals of the Pure Title Tournament. We've got Johnathan Gresham vs Josh Woods and Jay Lethal vs Tracy Williams. Plus Vincent (that's Vinnie to me) versus Matt Taven as well. Sounds like a good show! Gonna try not to spoil anything! Match #1
Woods vs Gresham - This starts out really good with Gresham trying to wrestle Josh. We really see Woods size advantage here. Gresham is 5'4" and just does not have the frame to be out grapple someone of Woods size and amateur background. The Octopus is stymied and goes to the outside early after getting stopped in his tracks and tossed. Then, we get a commercial break which seemingly cuts out 5 minutes of the match!? And apparently these 5 minutes set-up the story of the bout. Both guys are hurt from this and plays into the final 5 minutes. I'm at a loss why they cut 5 or so minutes from a 12 minute match!? (I didn't pay attention exactly so maybe it was a minute or two less). What was shown was good but, I'd have to think it was better if shown in full. Match #2
Taven vs Vincent - Taven gets jumped coming down the steps and this is basically Vinnie's revenge for Matt coming out two weeks ago and laying the smack down. Vinnie goes off the ladder to put Matt Taven through a table. Did they cut Woods/Gresham for this? I mean I thought this was a fun segment but, its the pure title tournament. Focus on that especially on the second to last show... There's an EC3/Shane Taylor promo in there that was nice. Will be nice to see that feud as well as tag wrestling. Match #3
Williams vs Lethal - Well, that was the in the top 2 matches of the tournament...that was a great match! I think it could have been more if fans were there cheering. This featured a fantastic story and work-a-body part wrestling. Lethal looked well...Lethal. Hot Sauce showed so much heart and intensity. Man, and what a great finish to a excellent fight. If they cut down Woods/Gresham in order to only shave a minute or two off this for TV then, it was worth it. Perhaps this is the top match so far. Tracy Williams has the two best matches if you're keeping track. This one and last week's against Fred Yehi. OK so, I'm going to try and do my best not to out-and-out spoil anything here. I'm going to try and not suggest anything either by avoiding talking about the outcomes or booking hypotheses. I want to focus on the performances of the final four competitors throughout the tournament. Jay Lethal - Jay's first two matches (Castle & Finlay) were good but, nothing to write home about. They seemed pretty formulaic but, this week's match was great stuff. He carried over the wear and tear of the previous fights into this match. It really made it stand out.   Josh Woods - They were smart to pair him with vets like Kenny King & PJ Black early on. Josh showed a lot of potential and this week's match with Gresham seemed to be his most comfortable (despite the clip job). He is a big guy and should be suplexing the heck outta smaller guys like he was here. ROH doesn't have Jeff Cobb but, Woods could be that next suplex machine. I think he could be a better one too. A few more years and he could be a destroyer. He's got a great sense of humor and is a natural babyface. If he can tap into his killer instinct during the matches, he has the wrestling/MMA background to be a American Dragon type talent. Jonathan Gresham - He said that he's got a bad leg and I don't know if that's true but, his matches have been rather subdued in comparison to what he is capable of. His first two bouts (Yuta & Sydal) had really clever finishes but, we're not seeing him necessarily wrestling circles around folks. And in the Woods match this week, we're not seeing a smart Gresham either. The size disadvantage was rather stark so, after getting gut-wrench suplexed a few times, one would think he should try a war of attrition to break the bigger man down. Tracy Williams - Hot Sauce has really impressed me the most all tournament. He and Yehi but, I really thought they were just tossing Tracy into the tournament for the heck of it. But, man all of his matches have been a joy to watch. The stories are there, the intensity is there...yeah the drama is there too. They have GOT to do something with Hot Sauce in 2021. He's really proved himself during this tournament. I hope they don't drop the ball. OK so, next week is the finals and I really hope they don't cut anything from it. I'm sure they will for commercials but, we'll just have to see. I'm feeling they might have the EC3/Taylor 6 man match next week along with the finals. That could be quite a good show! I'm not really sure what ROH's plans are after the tournament is done next week. I don't know if they thought the COVID stuff would be done and they could resume touring or what. At this point, its safe to assume they're going to keep doing the empty arena shows in Baltimore. That's fine by me! They could just keep rotating the match ups between all of the competitors of the Pure Tournament for the next 2 months and I'd be OK with that. I'm OK with that for longer than that if you've read my other posts on this There's so many good match ups left on the table. They could keep doing different tournaments and round robins like Gabe was doing Year One & Two. Plus you've got the Briscoes, EC3, Taven, Vinnie, Shane Taylor and his crew. I mean, you
could just have that be the full roster! Again, bring the lucha guys in here and there like Gabe did with the Dragon Gate/NOAH guys in '06-07. Gimmie the book already!!! Hahaha I hope you're staying safe and having fun watching wrestling. Thanks for reading!  

G. Badger

G. Badger

AJPW You Might Have Missed - Late '85 & Jan. '86

I'm trying to get back into my AJPW DVDs from the 80's as well as a slew of other stuff I want to watch. So instead of making big long projects that are so daunting that I don't want to do them, I have a very elaborate (not) system of flipping coins and rolling dice to get my butt in gear. Here's the end of 1985 and January 1986 of AJPW: British Bulldogs vs Jumbo & Tenryu (12/07/85): This was a good match where both teams got alot of offense in. Davey Boy press slamming Tenryu was the highlight for sure! 80's finish though... Mil Mascaras vs Tiger Mask II (01/02/86): A technical bout in contrast to the above tag match. Things picked up though and other than one miscommunication this was a good fight. Tiger Mask Misawa gets a hand shake at the end of the match so, although this is an 80's finish there's a sign a respect to end the match. Jumbo & Kodo Fuyuki vs Barry Windham & Mike Rotunda (01/86): Yes, this was shown in full! Tons of irish whipping and rope running. You better believe this was a high energy tag match for '85. Everyone brought something different to the table so everyone stood out. Plus we get a winner! Very good match. Windham vs Jumbo is a perfect fit in my eyes..wonder if that happened? Hansen vs Ashura Hara (01/86): Super heated slugfest with Hara taking it right to the Texan. It was quick violent good stuff! Russians vs Jumbo & Tenryu (01/02/86): I'm not going to spend time looking up who the "Russians" were since this was the worst bout of the DVD. It was just lame punch, stomp, bearhug type fare from them. Mil Mascaras vs Kuniaki Kobayashi (01/28/86): If you read my NJPW '88 reviews, you know that I'm a Kobayashi fan. I've taken a break on the Tiger Mask I review but, I'm really looking forward to Kobayashi vs Tiger. But here in 1985, he's in AJPW facing Mil. Both guys are technical wrestlers so this starts out really nice but, it turns into a brawl soon enough. Awesome tope and planchas punctuate the go-for-broke feel. It goes to a DQ but, would love to see a re-match with a clear winner. Good stuff. Hansen & Ted DiBiase vs Harley Race & Jesse Barr (11/30/85): Nice power moves from Barr...never seen him before. Hansen like you would hope was like a wild animal. Barr took a flip bump on the Lariat and landed on his noggin! Very good match in my book...no build up or story-just frenzy! Giant Baba & Dory Funk Jr. vs Jumbo & Tenryu (12/12/85): Before watching this I knew that it was either going to be a shorty or it was going long. And this went long but, dang was it a action packed long match. Jumbo's doing leapfrogs, Baba brings out his big guns, Dory's hitting lifter like no one can and Tenryu eventually channels the grouch inside. You had better believe count outs and double DQs are a real thing in the mid 80's so, keep that in mind when the action spills to the floor. This was a great match! Man, this was a lot of fun to watch and it really seems like the best way for me to watch stuff that I'm 'not in the mood for.' I've been down a ROH rabbit hole however, this was a nice break.  

G. Badger

G. Badger

Ring of Honor - Year One

The thing about watching Ring of Honor's back catalog is that you have to plan ahead or have a watchful eye online. Many of the original shows have been out of production for years and although they have put out a lot of fantastic compilations to compensate, those too are no longer in production. I have never bought any of my ROH DVDs as they come out. I'm always running behind...sometimes nearly a decade behind! This is the case with ROH Year One. When I first got into ROH, I was interested in getting stuff that featured puro stars I had not yet figured out a way to get anything of Japanese origin. Fortunately, ROH was in the middle of their partnership with NOAH and I was able to snag stuff with KENTA, Morishima, Kobashi, and Misawa. Some of that stuff is pretty hard to come by nowadays. Cool! I only later got interested in their back catalog but, did not have a good idea of what I should buy. Combine that with having to make the choice between buying classic AJ/NJ/AJW DVDs or ROH stuff, I went with the Puro/Joshi. I still stand behind that decision I have picked up stuff here and there over the past decade trying to fill the gaps of my ROH collection with compilations and keeping an eye peeled on eBay/Amazon. Like I started with, ROH had a fantastic run of compilations from perhaps 2014 covering all of their big stars (and some long time minor stars), factions, feuds, and even years. These have since dried up and only a few are still available at a discount on Highspots. ROH changed warehouses a couple years ago (I have a nice rant about this in one of my earlier blog posts) to MD and got rid of alot of product that wasn't moving. Highspots seemingly bought a bulk of it and do have a Year Four and Best of Alex Shelley set (which I bought a few years ago) that I would highly, highly recommend.
I'm on a tangent...sorry. Year One is something that I thought I probably would never get around to seeing. I was able to get ROH's Year Two DVD set (back when I got the Yr. 4 and Shelley DVD) and I've not seen it available for a reasonable price since. Year One wasn't available at that time or if it was I was a dummy. But, I've pieced enough of it together with Youtube posts, Takedown Masters editions, and one compilation match to present to you my review of Ring of Honor Year One! I'm only going to be reviewing the stuff I enjoyed or that have been recommended elsewhere. If I haven't seen something I'll let you know A couple things are from memory but, again I'll let you know.   The Era of Honor Begins - The first show. This is from the Takedown Masters Edition. These are the best versions to get IMO because they cut out the junk matches and none of the matches you want to see are messed with. There's some folks saying these are clipped but, that's not true. Seriously, get this version. It'll be cheaper than the official ROH release. Jay Briscoe vs Amazing Red - Good match but they were just throwing everything out there in no particular order. Scoot Andrews vs Xavier - Not Scott vs Xavier I guess had a really good series of matches on the Northeast Indies. This wasn't really any different. I had a good build and was really good sound match. Super Crazy vs Eddie Guerrero - Eddie's looking in a bad way here. Took awhile to get going but was a good match. Tons left on the table. I'm sure this is the match the people paid to see but, we get our main event next. American Dragon vs Low-Ki vs Christopher Daniels - Man! The Fallen Angel gimmick is one I really miss. Anyhow, this is still a classic match. It wasn't full of cliches and really introduced a new era of wrestling in the States. It is steps ahead of the other matches on the show in both layout and execution. I would say if you're into M-Pro wrestling of the 90's  or the ECW 3 Way Dances of Super Crazy, Tajiri, Jerry Lynn, Little Guido, Spike, etc.(I'm showing my age right?) then, this is right up your alley.
Round Robin Challenge - Show Two and a follow up to the conclusion of the last show.Ditto on this being the Takedown Masters version. This is labeled as Round Robbin Challenge Its all good. Everything you'd want to see is here in full. American Dragon vs Christopher Daniels - This has got to be top 5 or 10 best ROH show openers. This is a near classic encounter. Things were kept simple with Daniels targeting Am Drag's neck. There were plenty of teases and cut-offs to keep it exciting as well. These two rarely disappoint. Daniels vs Low-Ki - Another near classic but, a tad below the above match because in-ring story wasn't as compelling. Still, the intensity was there with the Fallen Angel looking to hit his big moves on Low-Ki and wrap things up early. Ki was just kicking and fighting the whole way. The finishing segments shows how in tune these guys were with their moves. They could seemingly pull a finish out of thin air. Spanky vs Jay Briscoe - I have no idea why anyone thought Spanky was a good wrestling name. Brian Kendrick is a good name and good enough that he's ran used it the rest of his career. So, it sucks to hear the announcers refer to him as Spanky and take him or them seriously. Nevertheless, this was a good match once Kendrick started bleeding. Despite both guys being young and trying to show-off, they kept it simple. Los Maximos (SAT) vs Brian XL & Amazing Red vs Chris Divine & Quiet Storm - On the other end of the spectrum we have matches like this. This was fun but also cringe inducing at times. These guys got into a ring and wanted to do everything they could think of. It wasn't very long and this style does typify independent wrestling at the time so, its a worthwhile time capsule. American Dragon vs Low-Ki - Ken Shamrock guest refs this. Again, they needed someone to put on the posters to get people to show up to the Murphy Rec Center. It makes sense though because both guys have a shoot style influence as well as martial arts background. So, this was what I would call a Inoki Strong Style match. It starts with shoot style grappling and works its way up to pro-wrestling moves as the match escalates in intensity. Historical importance aside, this is a classic match. Low-Ki is a scowling hard ass and Danielson is a baby face here so, its hard not to root for the Am Drag here. But don't be fooled, once Dragon gets that look in his eyes, he's a bad as they come. BUT we don't quite know that in 2002 do we? We certainly find out this match. He is a tough as nails, aggressive, and technically masterful. He has to be if he has any chance of beating the man they call Low-Ki! Classic stuff for sure.   A Night of Appreciation - Show #3. I don't have this and cannot find the AJ Styles vs Low Ki match that looks to be the highlight. There is there 07/17/02 TNA on Youtube that could be watched as substitute I suppose. Eddie's last match for ROH.
ROH Road to the Title - Takedown Masters Edition. Again, nothing that I wanted to see here was clipped or cut out. There are tons of matches here too. This one is not labeled as a Must See tape like the first two shows but, I disagree. This may not have the classic match but, this is Ring of Honor's first stacked show. Like the others unlike the other shows, I think I may have watched every match. I'm not going to review all of them but, I will talk about the ones I'm recommending. This tournament sets up the 4 way Iron Man match to crown the first ROH World Champ. Jerry Lynn vs AJ Styles - Holy Cow! No one has talked about this match but, it was great. They were doing stuff at NWA-TNA PPVs but, I've never seen those. Maybe those are better but, if so then, I've got to watch 'em. This bout was like one long sequence full of reversals, counters and dodges. If you dug RVD vs Jerry Lynn then, you've got to see this! Near classic match to me. American Dragon vs Doug Williams - Doug's ROH debut and it is a banger. Stiff strikes, powerful suplexes and competitive mat wrestling. It was a great match that could have been something more if it wasn't a tournament match I think. This was a dream match. I wonder if they had a better one than this? -Oh I should mention Spanky Kendrick and Paul London had a good match. There was a botched superplex but, it didn't  really look like that. It looked like they were going for something far riskier like a Kendrick dropping London's throat across the top rope from the superplex position- Low Ki vs Amazing Red - This was a little too choreographed for my tastes to be a great match. It wasn't too long and did have some nice moves and Ki was brutal like Yumiko Hotta here. Red or Ki did fumble a reverse rana and that didn't help things. Good match though. Christopher Daniels vs AJ Styles - Like I even need to talk about these two together. There was a lot of mat wrestling here which is probably different than their TNA stuff. It was great as was the whole match. They really might be each other's best opponents since they are so evenly matched.
Crowning a Champion - Don't have this DVD but, the main event match is/was on ROH's Youtube channel. It is a 60 minute match and is pretty great. I'm writing from memory but, I'd say it was ****-****1/4. Certainly worth seeing once.
Honor Invades Boston - Features Mark Briscoe's first ROH match since they are outside of the Murphy Rec Center and he can legally wrestle in MA. He and Jay have a great match against each other. I've only seen clips from ROH TV when they aired the Briscoes special right as everything shut down for the pandemic. It also features an AJ Styles - Low Ki classic. This takes places days after the aforementioned TNA match so, maybe watch that here in its place. I would like to find this DVD but, I guess there are a lot of DUDs on the card as well.
Unscripted - This has some good matches on paper with Dick Togo, Ikuto Hidaka and Takao Omori but, it doesn't amount to much. This is the show where Xaiver (RIP) beats Low Ki for the belt and joins The Prophecy. I didn't see this match but, I've never had a problem with Xavier in ROH. Now I haven't seen a ton but, I think alot of the flack he got was for beating the ROH ace for the belt a couple shows in with A CHAIRSHOT! (and 450 splash). That really seems like the antithesis of what ROH was about especially at this time. The fans champ was beaten by cheating and lost the belt after one show. That does seem like some Sports Entertainment B.S. especially without the benefit of hindsight. Most notable though is Michael Shane vs Paul London. This is a great match and should be seen. This is the genesis of the "Please Don't Die" chant for London. It is warranted. I don't know how much people thought of London at the time but, he is THE underdog dark horse of ROH.
Glory by Honor - This is Samoa Joe's debut and this was supposed to be a one time only appearance. He was hired by The Prophecy to beat up Low-Ki. These two just beat each other up and it was pretty great. I don't think it was a classic as its really just a collection of potato shots but, this is the only Ki vs Joe singles match in ROH history. The unofficial re-match is considered to be PWG's All Star Weekend V night 2 in '07. I should get this next Highspots sale.
All Star Extravaganza - This is the remastered version and it a ROH release. This is out there still so, I recommend picking it up for sure. It was the first Year One ROH DVD I got and helped encourage me to check more of the early stuff out. Michael Shane vs CM Punk - Punk's debut and its a pretty good one. It is more of an in-ring-story match than full of a bunch of moves. ROH getting more talent in the wrestling department vs the moves department (Maximos, Quiet Storm, Brian XL etc.) is what helped make ROH a lasting promotion. Historical match and vintage Punk is always worth a watch. Like Daniels, he had a character and could talk and that was a big plus for ROH as well. American Dragon vs Paul London - Since I've already watched this show once or twice I wasn't going to sit through the whole #1 Contender Tourney but, London had already beaten 2 guys before facing Dragon. That does not bode well for him. But, do NOT count out Paul London! Most folks do not know how awesome he was year one & year two of Ring of Honor. He was the dark horse underdog of the company for sure. Mid card matches like this prove just how great he would become when given the opportunity. He and Danielson have a very good match where he's hanging with a fresh Dragon on the mat...despite being on his third match. And he throws a mean elbow too! Daniels, Donovan Morgan & Samoa Joe vs Homicide, Doug Williams & Low Ki - Great 6 man match where the tag rules eventually go out the window. I don't mind too much in matches where they're trying to push the level of chaos. Joe vs Doug is a match I gotta see. This was also Homicide coming out party as far as my viewing has gone. He's done alot of throw-away undercard tag stuff but, here he is allowed to be the great maniac we love. Low-Ki & Steve Corino vs Shinjiro Ohtani & Masato Tanaka - This is the main event of the show but, really should be behind the Tourney finals in my book. SO, I watched it before that and am reviewing it first. I've also reviewed it early on the blog for my Masato Tanaka post ECW post. This is still a great match that's full of double teams and hard hits. This wasn't a big time event for Zero One so, this wasn't going to be more than what it was but, it was really great. The fans were really loving it. American Dragon vs AJ Styles - This was like an evolution of the NJ Jr. classics of the 90's. Excellent fast mat wrestling gave way to hard hitting action. AJ's bumping his butt off and Dragon gets busted open. If you can believe it AJ doesn't hit any dives here and it content grappling with THE grappler of ROH. They leave a lot on the table here but, still have a classic match. The organic and brutal finish seals the deal. Post show Homicide stabs Corino with a fork in the eye...
Scramble Madness - Oh there's another Doug Williams vs Bryan Danielson match on this. I need to see this...but, nothing else looks too hot.
Night of the Butcher - I look Abdullah but, I have no idea why he was booked. There is another Paul London vs Bryan Danielson match here - sweet! I think this DVD is pretty rare so, probably never going to see if (but I do have some stuff from Year Two)
Final Battle 2002 - I don't have the show DVD but, this is from the Steve Corino DVD set put out by ROH. They may still have the set available on their website at a discount. It has the following match as well as most/all of the Homicide matches and later stuff with Steen/SCUM from the early 2010's. Low Ki vs American Dragon vs Steve Corino vs Samoa Joe - This was a First Pin or Submission Wins match. There's a lot of back story here with each guy. I've picked up on some in my viewings and have had to read elsewhere but, generally speaking Ki & Dragon respect each other but, are still rivals. Ki & Joe respect each other but, are more than rivals...enemies is probably the best term. Corino is allied with Joe for his Group which was supposed to be the next big thing after The Prophecy but, it never took off (but ignore that part for now). Joe and Dragon are rivals. Ki and Corino tagged at All Star but, I wouldn't say they're friends either. Oh also note that since Corino has been in Z1 he's muted his antics and is much more a puro style wrestler. He stil will take short cuts but, he is not out of place in this match. I could go on about this match as there were so many highlights. My favorite had to be Low Ki double stomping Dragon while we was applying Cattle Mutilation to Joe. What was the craziest part is that Bryan did not break his bridge so, it left Ki standing atop his abdomen like a foot stool. Danielson is a machine! Everyone looked like a beast at some point during the match to be honest. This was another classic for Year One. I've never heard it in that conversation but, it was another must see. It goes long so, set aside some time but, it ends Ring of Honor's first year with a bang.
In summary, ROH Year One (2002) is really enjoyable. I am really happy that I have what I would consider the 4 essential DVDs in Era of Honor Begins, Round Robin Challenge, Road to the Title, and All Star Extravaganza. Honor Reclaims Boston seems like another worth seeking out but, the Takedown Master versions make those first 3 DVDs listed much easier to find. The prices do spike but, if you keep an eye on them then, you can get them for under $10 each for sure. As far as I understand it, ROH's Honor Club doesn't show things this old. They show things from the past few years but, their vaults are not open...which is crazy to me since not only do they NOT have these for sale in DVD format but, they are cutting back their DVD production way down. So, the prospect of any of these being available in physical media seems unlikely. Maybe I'm wrong about the Honor Club. And maybe Honor Club members have access to this stuff on Youtube somehow? I'm person that like to have the physical copy and if you are too then, its not too difficult to track down enough of the great and classic ROH matches to really enjoy yourself. The production quality is rough but, that is some of the charm. One thing I'll mention to tie this into the ROH Pure title revival is that most of the great matches in 2002 should be used as a stylistic template for ROH to come. There is no reason that the talent that Ring of Honor has right now cannot emulate the athletic competitive wrestling of Year One. Most of their current roster has much more experience and training than those guys almost two decades ago. Sure there is Hall of Fame talent there but, I'm sure that there is HoF talent in the ROH ring right now as well. I think this Pure Title revival is more than just bringing a secondary belt back. I hope it is a return to the snug aggressive wrestling we see at the heart of ROH's first year. There is still room for high flyers, brawling, hardcore matches, and comedy but, the focus of the company should be on the competition and the "sport" of professional wrestling. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it!

G. Badger

G. Badger

Ring of Honor - Pure Title Revival - Part 5

A return to form for this week of the Pure Title tournament. We have Fred Yehi vs Tracy Williams and Josh Woods vs PJ Black. Yehi vs Williams - Well, this was a great match and certainly the top 2 best matches of the tourney thus far. It was hard hitting and made good use of the rope breaks. This was one of the longer matches and am waiting to see this in full somewhere. A bit of an unexpected finish (it didn't go to a time limit draw like I thought was possible) and the winner was no who I picked. Nevertheless, both guys are winners in my book. We get another promo section this week. Here we get EC3's first appearance and damn he made an impression. His message was fantastic in content and delivery. I really recommend checking this out...it was chilling stuff especially with an empty arena. Then, we get a set up for a Shane Taylor Enterprises vs Briscoes/EC3 match. Who knows when but, that could be some fun stuff. Black vs Woods - Both guys had seconds which actually helped make this a louder match than we're used to. Silas was in Woods corner and Brian Johnson in PJ's. This was more on-the-mat than the Yehi/Williams match if you can believe that. I really liked it and thought it was pretty good stuff. I'll spoil it - Woods wins it. They must be really have a lot of faith in him for the future. That's good because he seems like he'll be loyal to ROH in the future. And after the Elite exodus and others going to AEW, they really need that. So, I'm gonna say who won the Williams-Yehi match now so, if you haven't seen it yet go watch it Then, come back.
OK so, here we go: In the Final Four we have Woods vs Gresham and Jay Lethal vs Hot Sauce. That is a little bit of a surprise but, not a giant one. I think the big revelation of today's show were the post match promos that start off the show. Lethal came out and addressed the elephant in the room of the finals being him vs Gresham...which felt like he was talking directly to my last blog post. SO, that means that it probably won't be Lethal Gresham in the finals Or may it will be a double fake-out and it will be Lethal vs Gresham! LOL I am thinking it will be Hot Sauce vs Gresham and that is based on Gresham's promo. He talks about being the foundation of ROH, and bringing the Pure Style back, and then somewhat confusingly says he's looking for stylistic freedom in wrestling (while knocking Sydal's high flying style...even though Sydal did one flip move per match). It was a mixed message I thought but, it was very similar to Hot Sauce's promo (which they re-broadcast) after he beat Rust Taylor. It was about bringing honor back to Ring of Honor. So, Tracy and Johnathan seem to have the same goal, message, agenda. That leads me to believe they are the pillars or Foundation in which they're building the Pure Division upon. Based on Woods' win/push and Yehi's performance, I think they can be included in that. I said it last week that Williams vs Gresham is good in my book. I was thinking Yehi was more likely but, they're rewarding Tracy for being a loyal worker. I'm down with that. Now, some more speculation and brainstorming...Perhaps The Foundation isn't just going to be Gresham's new gimmick but, will be a faction in ROH. I could see it being Gresham, Williams and Yehi as The Foundation. Although Gresham has been with ROH for a couple years along with Williams, they cut their teeth on wrestling this shoot style on the indies along with Yehi. This would also play into the ROH 6 man division which is always fun. Who knows...just throwing that out there. That might be something that happens down the road. I did like that Johnathan Gresham did talk about Sydal after his match. That gives me some confidence that we'll be seeing more of Sydal. I've mentioned Lethal vs Sydal but, perhaps Sydal and Lethal as a tag team? All in all this was a really good week of the show. I'm glad I kept some hope alive Yehi vs Williams is a must see for ROH TV as is the EC3 promo. Can't wait for next week! In the meantime, I'm going to try and type up my ROH Year One review that I've been working on in the background. Thanks for reading and stay safe!

G. Badger

G. Badger

Ring of Honor - Pure Title Revival - Part 4

Here we are and Round 2 of the Ring of Honor Pure Title Tournament! We've got Jay Lethal vs Dave Finlay and Matt Sydal vs John Gresham. Lethal vs Finlay: I wasn't really feeling this match. It felt rather flat and by the book. Finlay felt rather vanilla and perhaps it was unfamiliarity with Lethal or Lethal knows he's got more matches to go and is pacing himself. Nonetheless, Lethal did a fine job selling the leg work but, this was just an OK match. I didn't have any expectations so, not really disappointed. I think they cut 5 minutes or so of the match from the TV episode btw. The match was at the 5 minute mark then, we went to commercial and then they said 10 minutes has passed. I wonder what if that 5 minutes would have changed my opinion. Then, we get a segment with Vinnie in the ring speaking of some vague nonsense. What is this? Get back to the wrestling! Eventually, we get the answer to the the questions no one's been asking about the The Trend videos ---it's Matt Taven! Taven then proceeds to squash theheck outta Vinne capped off by a sweet flying splash putting Vinnie through a table. There's a couple things going on here for me. I don't want the hokey talkie crap, that's why I watch ROH. That's the benefit of their 1 hour show...they don't have time to waste on guys prattling on about nothing. So, to stick this in the middle of the Pure Title Tournament was jarring for a few reasons. One, it reminded me that ROH still has mediocre guys on their roster like Vinnie that they're trying to do something big with. And in that vein, ROH still wants to play the sport entertainment game despite no one wanting to see it which should be proven to them by the buzz the Pure Tournament is causing. My other concern is that they did this because the Gresham/Sydal match wasn't going long and they needed filler. Thankfully, Taven crushed Vinnie. My hope, although I do think Vinnie has some potential, is that this is the last we see of him in ROH. At least in this Wyatt family/horror movie knock-off incarnation. He and Bateman as a tag team could be good but, I'd take Taven running him out of the company. Its nothing personal but, its a derivative gimmick and looks cheap next to the athletic display of the Pure competitors. Sydal vs Gresham: I've been looking forward to this match since Sydal beat Delirious on week #2 This did not disappoint. It had excellent counter wrestling and strikes but, unfortunately was over just as it was picking up steam. In fact it was over before, I even knew what happened. Gresham did a Mexican Surfboard and then did some position change where he popped Sydal's torso up and to the side but kept the knees locked in the surfboard position. So, all of Sydal's weight was pulling against the leverage point of Gresham's foot and separating Sydal's knee joint. He insta-tapped so, we didn't get much time to study the hold. It looked like a legit reaction/injury. Sydal was back on his feet to shake The Octopus' hand so, perhaps it was just great selling on Matt's part. Good match but, if given a couple more minutes it could have been great. It just didn't feel like it had an ending third. A couple things to note from today's episode. Lethal winning was predictable and Gresham's win wasn't too much of a surprise either. I hate to say this but, I think those two are going to be in the finals as I thought on week #1. The reason, I 'hate to say this', is because the stakes are getting lower for me & others to care about the outcome should that be the case. I still want to see the matches but, if they're going to play this safe and use this as an opportunity for re-visiting Lethal vs Gresham then, this will all be a whole lot of nothing. The whole tournament will be just drawing that obvious match out over the course of 2 months. Last week I had all kinds of ideas with Yehi, Williams, PJ Black, and Josh Woods to a lesser extent. I think ROH may continue to be 'unpredictable' with these matches but, really what does it matter when its seems very clear that they want Lethal vs Gresham? I can see Woods upsetting Black. I could see Yehi going over Williams (that too would be predictable since Yehi is the only invited wrestler to go over an ROH talent thus far further burying Silas Young in the process). I could envision a time limit draw and Lethal gets a by-week into the finals. This would protect Williams and Yehi from losing to Lethal as well as give them a storyline/feud with each other right out of the gate. BUT! That's if ROH was smart and wanted to get to Lethal vs Gresham but, use the losses as part of their booking...and to be honest after this week, I'm really doubting that cleverness. This week's show seemed like business-as-usual in Ring of Honor. Like who ever is booking (is it Delirious still?) has no creativity left and does not want to take any chances. Or perhaps its some suit telling him "No" on doing anything interesting...I was not convinced of that by the mere fact that ROH was doing this Pure Rule tournament in the first place. I want to take a detour and talk about Yehi because his story seems like the only thing 'up in the air.' If they don't do a draw then, I would love to see Yehi 'shock the world' defeat Lethal. That would take some cajones and it would restore my hope in the company. As far as B Block, its got to be Gresham. No one is left in Block B that can beat him. Especially since Gresham went over a vet like Sydal in less than 15 minutes. Yehi vs Gresham in the finals and have it go long...I would be a happy fan. That leaves me with the losers in the tournament. If ROH was smart, they should be moving them in story lines to keep them relevant. I would love to see a program with Lethal and Sydal. He left a LOT on the table in both the Delirious and Gresham match so, I think he's still protected somewhat. So, having Lethal lose to Yehi (or Hot Sauce) would free him up. Who knows if that will happen? I'm starting to feel that Gresham is winning the whole shebang though so, perhaps that'll leave Lethal free anyhow. Dalton Castle should be in that mix along with Silas. All I know is that I want to see these guys more. All in all though, I think I've spent more time fantasy booking this tournament than ROH spent. Some of that perhaps is due to them having to call an audible due to COVID-19. But, I do think some if it is due to uninspired booking. I don't know if they really care about having any kind of interesting story for their fans. And honestly, I don't know if they're interested in giving their fans matches they want to see. I honestly think they still have no idea what to do after the guys who formed AEW left. They were on Bullet Club-The Elite auto-pilot that they didn't even need to book anything so long as the had The Elite and NJPW guys there. I am still hopeful that this Pure Title will help give them some direction and focus. Things aren't going to change completely due to one tournament but, I really do hope that it is a step in the right direction. This week's episode was a mis-step but, want them to get back on track. I know that they can do some really great things. Thanks for reading! Stay safe!

G. Badger

G. Badger

Ring of Honor - Pure Title Revival - Part 3

Here we are at week # 4 of ROH's Pure Title Tournament. This week was the weakest on paper to me with Tracy Williams being the only guy I actively enjoy. PJ Black is cool but, the other two I've never heard of. 

That being said, everyone's interviews got me psyched on them and the match. Rust Taylor seems like a real star in the making for ROH and if they sign him would be perfect for their roster. I guess he's been working NJPW. And Tony Deppen no one even on the show seems to know where he came from but dammit, he's a punk rock skater who's a technical wrestler! I've got to support him!

Tracy Williams vs Rust Taylor: The first match but, very good stuff from both men. Taylor looked to have the weight advantage on Hot Sauce as well as a solid gameplan. Tracy looked in big trouble once the arm work started getting to him. He doesn't have the arm/shoulder bandaged anymore but, its got to be a psychological weak point if not a physical one. Very good match overall. I thought the finish was rather quick but, Hot Sauce did push that combination of moves as a finisher so, I bought it. 

PJ Black vs Tony Deppen: PJ the Darewolf looked to have Deppen squashed after the first few minutes. His size/physique advantage as well as his experience looked to me too much for Deppen. But like a true underdog, Tony wouldn't quit and went for broke! Busting out some stiff strikes and a Shiryu/Homicide dive that was killer! The finish was pretty great as PJ had to empty the tank to keep his hungry opponent down. 

Overall, this was another great week of wrestling. I thought this was going to be the weakest show but, honestly was one of the better ones as there was a strong simple story for both matches. Little known underdogs taking on ROH talent to advance in the Pure Tournament and secure a spot. I don't know if this is the last we'll see of these two but, I hope not. In fact, they really have the guys to make a shoot style/strong style stable with these two along with perhaps Hot Sauce and Yehi (maybe Gresham?). I'm going to sound like a broken record but, I really prefer to see these type of wrestlers in ROH. 

We're on to round #2 with the brackets looking like this:

Jay Lethal vs David Finaly (A)
Jonathan Gresham vs Matt Sydal (B)
Fred Yehi vs Tracy Williams (A)
Josh Woods vs PJ Black (B)

These are 20 minute matches now so, I expect one of these to judge's decision. I'd say Gresham & Sydal or Yehi & Williams. The former would make both guys look strong as you know they're doing something with either after the tournament. Williams vs Yehi has the EVOLVE history behind it and they could use this match as a program starter with the two. They could do the human game of chess type thing for 20 minutes and have it go to a decision. Or with either - they could not I think if ROH is adding on 5 minutes they want to show that somehow. No one was disqualified but, that was the "reason" Kenny King lost in the decision with Woods. Also, Hot Sauce if I remember correctly, was down to 0 rope breaks and looked in big trouble. So, ROH rightfully wants to play up the stipulations. I can't see them changing course in Round 2.

I have to see Lethal winning as he is their franchise, ace, etc. I can't see Finlay as an NJ talent going over here. Gresham vs Sydal is trickier. This tournament seems to be a way for Gresham to get singles gold however, ROH has to want to use Sydal big time once things get back to normal. He's still got IT and frankly is ROH's #2 to Lethal in terms of accomplishments within ROH, history and connections to the golden era (which the company is playing up big time with this tournament). So, they could do a lot with either facing Lethal.

You may notice I'm treating it as a forgone conclusion with Lethal facing either Sydal or Gresham in the finals. I could be wrong here. It all depends on how much of push they want to give Yehi, Williams, PJ, and/or Josh Woods. And I suppose, it depends how much of a distinction they want the Pure Title to be. If they want it to be like Shoot Style LITE then, I could see Yehi or Williams going over Lethal. I think it was a pretty big deal with Fred Yehi going over Silas Young. Similarly, I could see Woods over PJ Black. An interesting thought is that ROH still doesn't know how to use Silas. I thought his stable with the Beer City Bruiser and Brian Milonas was pretty fun. But, Silas is top tier heel talent. PJ Black is a guy that I really see the potential in every time he's on TV. This week's Pure Match was no exception. He's got a great look and the moves to also be up there. They're having him mentor Brian Johnson but, I don't know who actually care since Black himself isn't really making waves in the company. The Pure Championship could be a way to do that though. 

If we look back at who were the Pure Champions from its inception in 2004 to its end in 2006 when Unified with the World Title, we might be able to find a pattern or some logic in how this tourney may go. 

Champs in order with defenses and the length of their reign:

AJ Styles (1 defense, 70 days) - Won in a tournament was vacated & never defeated
Doug Williams (3 defenses, 42 days) - Won in a tournament
John Walters (6 defenses, 189 days)
Jay Lethal (2 defenses 63 days)
Samoa Joe (6 defenses, 112 days)
Nigel McGuinness (17 defenses, 350 days)
Bryan Danielson (0, unified with World Title)

The case of AJ and Joe, ROH wanted to have big talent that was signed with TNA still on the marquee. With Joe, it was also about him holding all of the belts in the company and raising the prestige of the Pure Title like he did with the World Title as well. I could see ROH wanting to do that with Jay Lethal as well. He's in a similar situation as they were with Joe. He should be World champ BUT other people need to get pushed and have the spotlight. So, we have him as a secondary champ. 

In the case of Doug Williams, John Walters, Lethal, and Nigel - these were guys Gabe/ROH saw their talent but, perhaps the fans didn't at the time. Its a venue for them to show their skills. I could see Hot Sauce or PJ being in this territory like Walters or Doug Williams. Depending on what they do with Yehi, I could see him being like Nigel in terms of defenses and essentially being on par with the World Champion. He came out like a beast versus Silas so, I hope they continue to book him this way. I could see a Yehi vs Gresham finals...power vs technique. I don't see Josh Woods going to the finals as he looks like he needs a little bit of work still. Like Nigel, he could be that diamond in the rough and down the road he could get better with each show. He's got the look and the combat sports background. He's got some character work to do as well as snug up his strikes a little bit (probably afraid he's going to hurt someone) and I think he can do a lot. 

Anyhow, this is just some brainstorming. I could be totally off base but, its fun to think about Oh, there was an EC3 video at the end of ROH TV this week. Looks like he'll be working for both ROH and Impact. I gotta think he's going straight for the World Title. Very excited about this!

Thanks for reading!

G. Badger

G. Badger

Ring of Honor - Pure Title Revival - Part 2

Another good week of ROH TV with the Pure Tournament in full swing. Here are some more thoughts on that and the outlook of ROH.

Fred Yehi vs Silas Young: Very good match and perhaps my favorite. Silas and Yehi are a good pairing. Both big guys were ready to put on a beating. I think the physicality of the bout is what got me over Romero and Finlay. Still the Finlay backbreaker and brainbuster to knee still was great. I think Fred Yehi would be a great permanent addition to ROH. I'm going to try and catch this on the re-braodcast if I can. I can see them having Fred vs Hot Sauce in Round #2. 

Kenny King vs Josh Woods: Woods is I guy that I like but, does need some polishing still. Nevertheless Kenny & he have a good match. The finish wasn't exactly as I envisioned it. It did put the Pure Rules to good use and was clever in doing so. Fantastic neckbreaker suplex thing off the top rope. It has to be one of the more spectacular moves of the tournament thus far. 

Another thing of note, I believe ROH has changed their opening title video. I only caught a little bit but, I was glad to see that. This whole tournment really should be about Ring of Honor changing their direction even if that is going back to what made them the best wrestling company in the States. I really value the athletic combat sport presentation that this Pure Tournament has. I frankly think it should spread to the company as a whole. The empty seats plays up to that aesthetic as well. This is sport for the sake of sport. In that regard, ROH has the best fanless show amongst those I've watched during the pandemic (Smackdown & Impact). They are using the interviews to really build the matches up beforehand and disregarding unnecessary gimmickery. Same with the post match interviews we see (on the following week's show). ROH TV really has a good formula going and I hope sticks to it. Its a fantastic use of an hour. I've been watching Impact and while the matches are pretty good there's a lot of goofy fluff that doesn't really need to be there because they're trying to fill 2 hours of TV. They could really learn a lesson with what ROH is doing. But perhaps that's just my preference...

I think I also really enjoy that this Pure Tournament is in a bubble from the rest of the promotion. That thought came about when they showed Rush and Dragon Lee during Kenny King's interview. That stuff just looked so out of place from what the last few weeks has been. So, I'm glad its been in a bubble. I was not really psyched on where 2020 Ring of Honor was headed. And I think the whole 'lucha thing' in ROH doesn't really work for me. I made pretty clear my opinion of Rush as World Champ last post. Dragon Lee as TV champ is OK but, really neither guy needs to the belts to help them get over. Los Ingobernables doesn't need to "hold all of the belts" to get over. I, as a long time ROH fan, don't see either guy as an ROH wrestler OR Los Ingobernales as an ROH faction trying to run the company or anything. They aren't Generation Next, The Embassy, The Prophecy, Age of the Fall, or even The Kingdom. They are just blue chippers brought in to drum up interest in ROH. I think that is the case with all of the lucha guys like Bandido & Flamita...is Rey Horus there too? They don't need storylines or belts. Just put them in TV matches with guys that you do want to build the company around. You'll get exciting live & TV matches and that's all the fans want out of them. Have them win some-lose some matches in the tag & six man division. Do some flips, do some dives and we'll be happy. 

The wrestlers in the Pure Title Tournament is the bulk talent that ROH should be using to push their company along in all regards. Hopefully that is WHY we are seeing them here (and not just dumb luck). Haskins should be in that picture as well as Taven & Scurll (not sure what's going on with him as ROH's roster page is not updated as it shows Alex Shelley and Jeff Cobb still with them).  Having Sydal in that mix as well as Yehi, I could see ROH doing something good. I'm going to be honest the guys that I care about in ROH, the guys whose matches I want to see, the guys that put on good athletic matches, that tell good stories in the ring or have characters that I can love or hate are the guys I've mentioned. Lethal, Gresham, Castle, Sydal, Yehi, Silas, Kenny King, Hot Sauce, Haskins, Taven, Scurll are those guys I want to see rep ROH. You've got the Briscoes in the tag division which is where Dragon Lee and Rush should be having great matches with them. Shane Taylor should be TV champ duking it out with Brody King, PJ Black, Flip Gordon some of the lucha guys now and again. Josh Woods is a good guy to put in this division. Then, you've got the 6 man which should kinda be the waiting area for the tag division where you've got the lucha guys, Vinny's crew with Bateman, you can form a group around PCO there, visiting CMLL guys etc. But at the core of the promotion should be the World Title and the Pure Title and the guys who are constantly in the hunt for one of those two belts. Those are guys who every TV episode should feature. Those are the guys stories that should be told week in and week out. They've only got one hour a week to tell it so, why not keep it simple? Make it about wins & losses. Make it about being the best...about being the champion... Thanks for reading!

G. Badger

G. Badger

Ring of Honor - Pure Title Revival

This is just a musing about what ROH is doing with the Pure Title. Its got a couple take away reviews but, its mainly about my hope that this will be the shot in the arm that the promotion needs. I am very excited to see ROH bring back the Pure Title. I think it helps differentiate them from the other companies out there. It is a gimmick sure but, it is an interesting one and encourages a more technical style. ROH has the talent. I also think it's a better secondary title than the TV title. That belt is passed around like hot potato to guys who leave the company after a year or so. I'm thinking of Punisher Martinez and Jeff Cobb. I was excited for Cobb to stay because they really could have done great stuff with him. Anyhow, Shane Taylor is a good heel TV champ and they should keep him as such for awhile. He's a fantastic rough neck midcard boss. The Pure Title on the other hand I get the feeling is being crafted for either Lethal or Gresham. I think moreso Gresham, he's 5'4" but, it a wizard. I can't see them putting the World Belt on him but, the Pure Title will be his prize I believe. He really goes back to the pure ROH style. If he doesn't win the tournament then, they will get him into the Pure Arena sooner or later. It wouldn't surprise me if it is Lethal vs Gresham for the Pure Crown. It was a great rivalry and we could get another classic/near classic out of it. Will it spell the end for their partnership? Perhaps...I do think the months long Covid break has reset the booking for the company though.  The tournament so far: Castle vs Lethal: Good match, good way to start it out with ex champs opposing each other. Add prestige right away to this belt.
Gresham vs Yuta: OK match but, a great finish with Gresham bringing out his vicious side. 
Romero vs Finlay: Good match perhaps the best in terms of bringing out the big guns. Loved the finish from Finlay...he's a guy ROH could use and Romero is a vet that the locker room needs.
Delirious vs Sydal: Old rivals back at it again. I'm guessing Delirious put the boots back on since COVID restricted travel to a few guys from overseas. So, firing up the old friendship rivalry to welcome Sydal back was pretty sweet. Probably the best match but, the finish was standard for a round 1 match whereas the Finlay finish (backbreaker and Brainbuster to Knee) was aces. The rest of Round one is looking at: Silas Young vs Fred Yehi
Josh Woods vs Kenny King &  Tracy Williams vs Rust Taylor
PJ Black vs Tony Deppen I've heard good stuff about Yehi and I'm a big Silas supporter so, I'm looking forward to that match for sure. Josh Woods has looked good and Kenny is always able to deliver solid matches for TV. I got to say I'm thinking they're going to pit Young & Woods against each other to test out the tag team partner as opponent angle if they match up in the bracket. Plus, I think King is going to be the first DQ loss of the Tournament. Thus far, the Pure Rules hasn't put anyone into Jeopardy but, they've got to show that they have real consequences sooner or later. King should go over due to his experience and being a title holder in the past BUT he's been on a cheating kick and is a Los Ingobernales member etc. But, I could see him cheating (behind the ref) to get ahead another round. It'll catch up with him if they go this route. For the final show of Round one, I got to say both ROH guys are winning. I've never heard of either of their opponents. So, I can't think they're going to push them ahead of their own talent here. Plus Tracy Williams seems like another guy that the Pure Revival is built around. He's too talented to just squander as filler talent. PJ Black I think may be getting a boost from this as well. I'm ambivelent about him. I've liked what I've seen but, I'm not sure ROH knows what they want to do with him. I mean maybe that's what the Pure Title is all about...figuring out where they're going to put guys like Silas, Woods, Hot Sauce and Black...and Castle for that matter. Hopefully, the guys they brought in for the tournament stick around in some capacity. I hope this is a bonus of the Pure Division. I would love to see Ring of Honor invite different talent in once in awhile to challenge for the Pure belt. Having the above mentioned guys just focus on the the Pure Title would be good stuff. Plus, I know there was some international talent that was slated for the original tournament before Covid shut everything down. Yuji Nagata was one that would have been sweet to see! He would have had to win it IMO just because I'm such a fan. Plus it would give the belt so much prestige...even if he would have only defended it a few times. I also appreciate them bringing back guys from the past like Romero & Sydal.  And to that point, I'm glad Sydal is back with ROH. I would be OK with him winning the Pure Tourney for sure. He's got everything but, I'd rather see him as World Title champ to be honest. He's a great babyface and could be booked similar to later RVD or Jeff Hardy. He's got great moves still (as seen from the Delirious match) and is a recognizable talent. I think that's where Rush as champ as failed...I just don't think we was a draw for ROH plus, I don't think his matches were that impressive (on TV) & he's not doing promos to gain new fans. Having him on TV serves no purpose.  Putting the belt on PCO was bananas and probably the lowest point for the ROH title if I'm going to be honest. I saw the Final Battle match and wow was that Sports Entertainment. Fun but, not up to the standards of a ROH title match. PCO as a tag wrestler sure, 6 man yup but, on his own...no. And as champ...never. Rush unfortunately has not been much to write home about other than a couple matches. I digress! Getting Sydal reintroduced via the Pure Tournament is a good start. An even better one is getting him in the World title picture. I just browsed the ROH roster online and they've got a ton a guys that would be great for the division like Flamita, Dragon Lee, etc. but, it all is a matter of how they use everyone. But, I think that's the case for ROH in general for the past few years.  But this is about the Pure Title right now...I do think it is a step in the right direction having this tournament and hopefully every match shown on ROH TV. The biggest thing I think they need is a story that carries over from one episode to the next. I know they have a pretty big roster for 1 hour a week but, they really need to focus on their titles as the main "story" for each week and show less filler. Right now, The Pure Title seems like a bigger deal than the World Title and if that's what they want to do, I'm OK with it. Like I said above, the World belt's prestige has got to be repaired. I think the Pure Belt will be used like the WWF IC belt was used - as a way to move guys to the top and a way to give a place for top guys to wait for their next big time program. Anyhow, this has all got me thinking and interested in current ROH's stuff. I hope to follow this Tournament here in the blog every couple of weeks

G. Badger

G. Badger

Spotlight: Tiger Mask - Part 4

How are you folks doing? Staying cool and safe hopefully. What a heck of a summer, right? Sorry for taking so long to get the next installment of the blog out. The heat has really zapped my energy by the end of the day & I'm in no mood to turn my TV on to watch old wrestling DVDs. But, I have to press on don't I? Hot weather and pandemic anxieties be damned! In all seriousness, that is pretty much the case for my snail like pace. My goal for the better part of the year was to get a post every week but, its been a rough summer. For the last 2 weeks of work, we have been trying to catch up from what I'll call a total order system collapse. I'm not an expert but, everything ground to a halt as far as taking and shipping orders at work. I was able to get a lot done once we were up and running again but, it was a mighty job of catch-up we had to play. Top that off with the heat and the madness of living in the US during the COVID-19 pandemic...yeah I was lucky enough to enjoy bits of Impact, ROH and Smackdown last week. Making time to actively watch and critique wrestling wasn't happening. Nevertheless, when I saw my opportunity this weekend, I took it. Let's get on with the Spotlight on Tiger Mask! vs Ultraman (06/18/82): Ultraman has a neat outfit similar to Hijo del Santo. The character is based off a live action TV show akin to Power Rangers but, is from the 60's originally. I'm guessing NJ saw how popular the Tiger Mask cross-over was that they wanted to try their hand at a long time character like Ultraman. Welp...you know how that worked out...This was an OK match that could have been more if it weren't for some stumbles and bumbles. We get the debut of the Space Flying Tiger Drop (cartwheel plancha) but, this really could have been a clipped match. Tiger Mask/Tatsumi Fujinami vs Ultraman/El Polaco (06/25/82): Hey, hey! I'm always happy to see a full tag match on this set. One of the reasons I bought this was to see more Fujinami along with other lesser seen talent. This was pretty much just that as the Japanese team squashed the Luchadores. I'm surprised they continued the Ultraman stuff as he kinda got buried here. Nonetheless, we have... vs Ultraman (07/06/82): Despite the first two matches, this was pretty good. Only one little bumble when they try to add too many moves onto a sequence. Seriously, this is the TM vs Ultraman bout to watch. It doesn't get to crazy and has a definitive ending. Good match. vs Dynamite Kid (07/23/82): NJPW probably wanted to get the failed Ultraman feud out of everyone's memory so, they go for a safe bet and start up the bulk of Tiger vs Dynamite storyline for the summer of '82. This chapter closes with the legendary WWF MSG match. But, I'm getting ahead of myself! We're at the beginning here. On the previous occasions, Dynamite has been unable to get the better of the super hero. He's tried traditional rough housing, mat wrestling, and even quick attacks. Nothing has worked though. Here he goes full speed ahead showing that he can keep up with Tiger. There's not a great structure to the match but, the theme is that they are peers. I thought it worked well. Bret Hart's involvement at the end was fun and set up the Space Flying Tiger. Now here  we have one of the big faux pas in the series. DK apparently no sells the dive and tombstones Tiger on the floor. To play devil's advocate, the crash & burn of the landing is obscured by the hard camera angle. The floor shot might have shown that Dynamite stepped aside and let Bret take the brunt of the dive. People talk about holy grail wrestling footage...I'd like to see the floor cam angle of that dive! Nonetheless, it was a great match and in terms of intensity and athleticism, this is hard to beat in 1982. Plus, we get an uncommon type of finish. vs Bret Hart (07/30/82): A few days later we see Bret w/ Dynamite at his side. The Canadian hero-to-be tries his hand at pinning the masked man. Let me tell you, this is the superior Bret vs Tiger match. In fact, it may very well be better than the above DK bout. We see a nice face/heel dynamic, Bret looked more confident and worked a smart match where Tiger used is fancy moves as hope spots/comebacks and NOT just to show off. Bret wasn't looking to work as equals he was looking to use his size, smarts, and ability to dominate TM. The story here and in most Bret/DK matches vs Tiger is to shows that they may be better, faster, stronger than TM but, they were hot heads and couldn't resist taking shortcuts. These  shortcuts would then backfire. Tiger knew his opponents better and that knowledge is a weapon more dangerous than any spin kick or dive. If he could endure then, Tiger Mask could find a way to win. The finish played really well to this narrative and we get a great overall match. A different style than many of the others but, you could see that Tiger as a character and worker could adapt. Plus, it was a glimpse at what a great storyteller Bret would be. Again, great match! Tiger Mask/Tatsumi Fujinami/Kengo Kimura vs Dynamite Kid/Bret Hart/Greg Valentine (07/31/82): Oh man, this was shown in full & is a 2/3 falls match! Tiger isn't even in that much so, I'm surprised this was shown in full. I'm not complaining though. The North American team focused on beating up Kengo. He was really great at selling this beat down. I mean I've rarely seen anyone try to scramble or dive to make a tag like Kengo did in this match. One criticism I've seen is that Valentine looked like he didn't belong here or that he was bringing some corny WWF stuff to the match. I disagree. He was bringing Heavyweight action to a Junior Heavy match. In fact, I wish this was fought a little slower like Greg than the Red Bull & vodka crazy pace they were running. Still, the story was there with Kengo being the man in peril, the wrestling was on point, and the finish was bananas in the best way. So much fun, a very good bout and a very nice way to end this post! We got off to a rocky start with Ultraman but, settled in with Tiger Mask fighting some of Stampede's finest. That six man match was just bonus. Those three matches are really worth taking an hour and watching. Thanks for reading! 

G. Badger

G. Badger

Spotlight: Tiger Mask - Part 3

...and we're back! Let's start with clips...ugh great... Tiger Mask/Antonio Inoki/Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Masked Superstar/Don Muraco/Steve Wright (03/30/82) - clips Tiger Mask/Kengo Kimura vs. Steve Wright/Blackman (03/31/82) - great clips of Tiger against Wright & Blackman vs. Steve Wright (04/01/82): This was just excellent. It was a long technical match with beautiful chain wrestling - counters, escapes, reversals, and counter reversals. It was what I consider an aggressive World of Sport style. Since this is a spotlight on Tiger, I want to mention how comfortable he is at this style as well as lucha libre. It was distinct from his matches with Baby Face, Hamada, Blackman but, still was athletic and exciting as we've come to expect. I think I'd have to say this was a classsic bout but, may not be everyone's cup of tea. You really have to want to see wrestling for wrestling's sake. vs. Black Tiger (04/21/82): Rollerball Rocco is the Black Tiger. He had a roughneck but, technical  style that is what i imagined Bret vs Tiger would be. The first time, Tiger Mask did not have an answer for his foe. He we see Tiger's true rival (as established in the manga (imagine Vicious & Spike in Cowboy Bebop)) and told through the story of the match. Everytime we thought a TM flurry of kicks or dives would turn the tide, Black Tiger would shut him down. The superhero met his super villain...and Tiger snaps at the end. Almost betraying his vow to fight fair and for good (think like a technico) and turn back to the evil (rudo) ways of the syndicate he and Dark Tiger fight for. A very good match, a compelling story, if you know a little bit of the manga or the trope (again Cowboy Bebop uses it well and The Wild Bunch to a degree). I think what's even deeper is that NJ had the idea to bring in one of Saiyama's best opponents from the UK as his evil counterpart. I think it's the closest the TM and Black Tiger characters had matched real-life...or even tried to. They had a back story and a history. If you're unaware of these things then, its an OK match BUT with some depth, it makes this more substantial. Plus, it is only setting the stage for the future. vs. Les Thorton (05/25/82): This was a good technical match but, lacked any sort of chemistry or fire. Thorton did some good back work on Tiger but, it never went anywhere and then they wrapped the match up. Glad I watched this but, only to see how Tiger works with everyone. vs. Black Tiger (05/26/82): Man is that a hot crowd! They are eating every spectacular Tiger move up! Black Tiger doesn't give a damn. He's making the hero pay. Again, Black Tiger Rocco is staying one step ahead. I really like how BT kept going for the pin by using knuckle locks and leverage holds. This was a brilliant touch because it made the fight feel more real. It wasn't out of desparation to get the match over but, a way to show technical superiority over Tiger. Think of Bryan Danielson or Tatsumi Fujinami winning with a small package. Its not a cheap win like maybe a school boy roll up. Its a display of technical mastery and getting the "W." Even moreso like Danielson, BT Rocco is making Tiger expend all of this energy to kickout. These pin attempts are more like amateur wrestling attempts...making the opponent keep moving and fighting out so that, they'll be tired or hurt later and make a mistake. Honestly, its a simple thing but, so few wrestlers do it. If you're looking a this type of work as rest-holds or think every fucking hold has to set-up the finish then, we're going to disagree on this. I thought this was a near classic match.
  I've gone through a few of the match archives here on PWO to gauge my opinion against others. I (along with the Vader vs Sting matches) disagree with most folks on Tiger Mask. I'm only 2 discs into the set but, man, I'm really glad I bought this. I'm bummed that I was discouraged by the backlash or the style shift. It reminds me when my comic loving cousin & I said that "Jack Kirby sucked!" at 15 years old; thinking Jim Lee was the shit. Jack Kirby didn't suck but, our minds were so much about Jim Lee, J. Scott Campbell, the Kuberts and other modern artists, that we couldn't appreciate the simplicity, efficiency, and innovation of Kirby. I consider most folks here to have a pretty damn refined wrestling taste BUT, I think a lot of people had TM vs Dynamite as one of their first set of puro matches. It was probably amazing especially in comparison to what was happening in contemporary wrestling and perhaps other tape watching. like 'Whoa this was in the early 80s and they were doing shit 10 years before the NJ Jrs.!" Or AJPW or NOAH or whatever...maybe NJPW from the past couple years is your entry point. Regardless, I think everyone including myself was blown away by the spots, sequences, and bumps from the TM vs DK matches but, the actual matches were a blur because we were still catching our breaths from that amazing move! Then, when people went back, the moves had been surpassed and the trend was very much "how was the selling? did he get put in a leglock? Why didn't he sell the leg the rest of the match?" Under this scrutiny, early 1980s wrestling especially this lucha/World of Sport/Puro hybrid wasn't going to make the grade. I think people have cooled off on this as this is not emphasized in any wrestling promotion anymore for probably the last 10 years. If we were going to watch contemporary wrestling, all of the "is he selling that?" type of analysis had to make a stop. It was really putting a damper on our overall enjoyment of watching wrestling when ANY legwork wasn't sold like '88 RWTL Kawada. Man, I digress...I don't think anyone is going to go back and watch Tiger Mask matches anymore...I mean if they've already watched them. I'm not trying to change minds. Plus, there's so new much stuff out there. I'm an odd duck that I'm trying to pull myself away from the [FREE MATCH] videos and the other distractions and focus on watching what I want to watch. With so much newer stuff available online, I fear that the great wrestling of the past will no longer be pro-wrestling canon and be forgotten. How many great 1950's matches can you name? You may have a Thesz match but that's not the only one..but, no one talks about them so, we collectively are ignorant. Then, we must think if no one talks about them then wrestling then n the 50's must have sucked except a couple matches. We're about 40 years out from these Tiger Mask matches. That's like talking about Thesz vs Rikidozan in the 90's. See how time can get away from you? Ironically, these older bouts' availability online should make it easier to see but, if you've got the WWE network its very easy to get lost and lose years of your life there. Let alone if you've got a personal life! In summary, I feel like I really can trust my own judgement and knowledge at this point. I've been watching puroresu predominately for about 15 years so, I want this blog to still be a guide for folks looking to branch out or trust their own guts. This has been some sort of taste test I guess...if you're on board with what I've recommended in the past then, have no fear. If you think I'm off base here, ah well that's cool too. I thank you for reading and hopefully watching some of this wrestling. Its good to be curious Stay safe and be smart folks! This shit ain't getting better anytime soon...

G. Badger

G. Badger

Spotlight: Tiger Mask - Part 2

The first installment was really good stuff that quite honestly surprised me. My memory of Tiger Mask was all of the flips and spots with Dynamite Kid so, seeing him in different settings was refreshing. But, we start off with 2 Tiger vs Dynamite matches so, let's see how they hold up. vs. Dynamite Kid (01/01/82): The Brit focuses on taking out TM's leg after he apparently took an odd bump. Quick thinking! On top of that he drives the masked head of Sayama into the mat with some devastating moves. Very good match, ***1/2 area. vs. Dynamite Kid  (01/28/82): The rematch of sorts. Kid really wants to get his mitts on the feline fan favorite. Lotsa clubbing blows, tosses to the floor, and chokes for good measure. Tiger wants to prove he's no fluke and out wrestles the lad with armbars, leg locks, and headscissors. Of course, Dynamite gets his chance and delivers a cervical vertebra crushing piledriver that looks to have TM beat. An extra exciting finishing segment caps off a great match. vs. Bret Hart (05/02/82): An interesting match as Bret is the most vanilla wrestler Tiger has faced thus far. But, in that regard, it makes everything TM does that more meaningful. Bret is so much larger and is working heel so, its a little bit different from what you might hope for. But, it worked because he really looked like his size and rough neck style was the answer for Tiger Mask. Good match vs. Baby Face (02/09/82): Now we get to see a more out an out cheating heel in Baby Face. Those fish hooks were great! A very mat based match with explosive rope running will get me every time. Here is no different! If this would have been longer, I would say it was a really great bout. But, as it is, I've gotta say its a peg down at Very Good. There's no shame in that though. I had a blast! vs. Blackman (03/12/82): Joined in Progress but, no matter...this is great! Excellent chemistry and I have to believe they have fought each other previously. I thought that this was going to be glorified squash filler or maybe clipped since Blackman is unknown to me and such an anachronistic gimmick. (Was it part of the TM Manga?) Glad I was wrong though! He really looked like TM's equal in terms of speed and agility. Only Gran Hamada is up there so, that's good company. Anyhow, check this one out! Its got an awesome organic finish that really seals the deal on a great bout. Tiger Mask/Kantaro Hoshino vs. Blackman/Karloff Lagarde (03/19/82): If you're interested in a high energy tag match where everyone is in constant motion, look no further! This is like the '83 version of a mid 2010's PWG tag match - double teams, comedy spots, and just go-go throughout. Just a bunch of fireworks (just in time for the Fourth of July too!). A heat segment  and a more emphatic victory probably would have put this into great match territory. It's exciting stuff nonetheless! This set has really been full of surprises. I suppose that I really forgot that meat and potatoes grappling was the backbone of puro even for the burgeoning Junior division. I'm not well versed in 80's lucha as I've only dipped my toe in here and there but, I think the same focus on grappling was true there as well. Or maybe I've just been away from the early 80's wrestling tapes too long!? I forgot how much I really dig the style here. I also think there's a myth that only TM and Dynamite were capable of amazing things OR that Tiger's like a proto late stage Manami Toyota - all action but, little thought. Thus far, I've seen just the opposite. Just pleasantly surprised already.   Thanks for reading! Please stay safe folks!  

G. Badger

G. Badger

Spotlight - Tiger Mask

I finally broke down and bought the big DVD set of the Tiger Mask collection. From what it looks, its most of his taped matches from NJPW. I know there was a big of shift in popular opinion a few years back on the Tiger vs Dynamite matches. I still love those battles but, I wanted to revisit them. Also, I wanted to see more of Tiger Mask as other than those bouts, I'd only seen one other match vs Kobayashi. I knew there was more I needed to see for myself, whatever my final opinion would be. Let's take a look! 4/23/81 - Tiger Mask Debut: Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid: Tiger's debut and its pretty good. Its a bit frenetic and all over the place story wise. Dynamite Kid has met his match. Its a little rough in spots so, I can't say it was a tremendous athletic showing but, a fun start. 6/04/81 - Tiger Mask & Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Chris Adams & Mike Masters - Highlights 8/02/81 - Tiger Mask vs. Scorpion - Highlights, Scorpion is a good base for Tiger's moves 9/18/81 - Tiger Mask & Tatsumi Fujinami vs. El Solar & El Solitario -Highlights 9/23/81 -Tiger Mask vs. El Solar: This started out really good but, Solar hurts his shoulder and this is mainly them trying to figure out how to make match. This surely could have been clipped instead of the Scorpion match...and I like Solar too! Only the beginning needs to be watched. 10/08/81 - Tiger Mask vs. Masked Hurricane (Bobby Lee): The best bout so far. This is a mask vs mask match. Guess who wins? There is an emphasis on wrestling rather than flashy moves and the quality benefits. The neat counters or reversals are there but, are few and more meaningful. Good match 10/30/81 - Tiger Mask & Kengo Kimura vs. El Signo & Negro Navarro - Highlights. A full match would have been great. 11/05/81 - Tiger Mask vs. Gran Hamada: Exactly what I was hoping for! Hamada was doing more of the spectacular while Tiger was hitting his kicks. Tiger has slowed from his debut and he and Hamada did a near perfect lucharesu match like we'd see a decade plus later in M-Pro. Near classic match to me! Like ****1/4 territory 12/01/81 - Tiger Mask & Tatsumi Fujinami vs. El Canek & Super Maquina: A full tag match, yes!!! Super Maquina has a similar outfit as Maquina Salvaje, a football player. What's odd is Super Maquina is Super Machine in English. But, this is too early for Junji Hirata to even be thinking of doing his famous gimmick. Oh the confusion of masks and older wrestling, its great! Nevertheless, he's a good worker. This is one of the few El Canek matches that I have seen. I gotta say I like him! The Mexican team pits their power against the Japanese team's speed & technique. And another match where "wrestling" is the focus and exciting spots are kept to a minimum for maximum effect . And the big highspot was for the finish of the match...very good stuff. Really a pleasure to watch and had me wanting to see more. 12/08/81 - Tiger Mask vs. El Canek: So this is the follow up to the above tag match. Its a pretty big deal that El Canek is facing TM. Or the other way around, I guess. The first move was kinda wonky so, they re-did it. Eh, I don't like when they do this but, the rest of bout erased that faux pas. Plus the little spot was pretty cool to see done right. Lotsa good power moves & stretching from Canek. Tiger had some clever answers for those but, also pressed the Mexican with his kicks. Exciting "80's finish" but, you know what? If its done right like this, I really don't mind. Very good match..perhaps a tad below the tag match.    This start had me worried a little bit but, really ended well. The Hamada match, man, so glad I saw this. I may like it more than my "rating" indicates. Plus the tag & El Canek singles bout hit the nail right on the head. I was really worried that this would be all flippy nonsense especially based on what the highlighted matches showed. I really hope those are kept to a minimum as I go forward. Thanks for reading and stay safe! Be smart out there too!

G. Badger

G. Badger

Best Match Watched - 2020 Contenders

It is June and we're half way through 2020. It's been a rip roaring good time, no? All of that aside I'd like to do my half year in review. Not that I've been watching 20 matches a week or anything but, I think I've accomplished some wrestling watching goals that have been years in the making. Those big 2 are the wXw 2011 tournament and 1988 NJPW. I'd like to break things down by decades or era going forward. Then, from there I can say what my pick is. It is a little bit of comparing apples to oranges when looking at wrestling from 1980-2020. Some of the freshness of my approach is making that type of comparison. It is not saying "well that's a good match for 1985" or "that was OK for a 2018 match." I really am of the mind that great wrestling and especially classic wrestling is timeless. The trends and tropes may shift over time but, a hard fought match telling a compelling story will always be exciting, memorable, and worthwhile. I think breaking the matches down by year will help me organize my thoughts and provide a better resource to a reader. You may only want to know about stuff from the 1990's or 2000's onward so, it gives you the chance to see how I compared it to contemporary and historic matches without reading my actual review. My hope is that a person might see I think Sami Callihan vs Big Van Walter is comparable in quality to Vader vs Fujinami. And that then piques their interest in one match or the other. To me that's the real value of match reviews - making comparisons between the familiar and unfamiliar in order to bridge the gap in styles, genres, eras etc. If you've read this blog then, you know my tastes are ecclectic. I don't talk much about Lucha or WoS British style but, that's only because others here have provided such superior insights that I really don't think I can add anything. I just watch and enjoy. I digress! Let's get onto the lists! Oh, these are only matches that I've watched this year so, any review where I pulled a review from the graveyard to share won't be covered here. Best Matches Watched - January - June:   Pre 1970's: Mighty Atlas vs Angelo Poffo (Chicago 1956) Honorable Mention, Very good match with nice action and pacing. Simple story but, well worked.   1970s & 80s: Akira Nogami, Tatsutoshi Goto, K. Yamada, K. Hoshino & S. Koshinaka vs Hiroshi Hase, K. Kobayashi, Kensuke Sasaki, N. Honaga & H. Saito (04/27/88) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Big Van Vader (04/27/88) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (05/27/88) Shiro Koshinaka vs Owen Hart (06/24/88) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (06/24/88) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Big Van Vader (06/26/88) Riki Choshu vs Antonio Inoki (07/22/88) Shiro Koshinaka vs Kuniaki Kobayashi (8/08/88) Antonio Inoki vs Tatsumi Fujinami (08/08/88)
1990s & 2000s:
KENTA & Marufuji vs Samoa Joe & Danielson (ROH Best in the World 2006) KENTA vs Samoa Joe vs Bryan Danielson (ROH In Your Face 2006) Low Ki (Senshi) vs Chris Sabin (TNA Bound for Glory 2006) Honorable Mention, An action packed match with 0 TNA bullshit to spoil it. Golden era X Division stuff. Daisuke Sekimoto vs Manabu Nakanishi (BJW 2007) Honorable Mention, A very good to great match that told a great story that that fans & myself could believe. Precursor to the BJW Strong Style revival stuff.
2010 to present:
Sami Callihan vs Tommy End (wXw 16 Carat 2011) El Generico vs Kotaro Suzuki (same) El Generico & Emil Sitoci vs Adam Cole & Kyle O'Reilly Yoshihito Sasaki vs Sami Callihan Davey Richards vs Zack Sabre Jr. Daisuke Sekimoto vs El Generico Cole & O'Reilly vs Sabre Jr. & Scurll Sami Callihan vs Big Van Walter Mark Haskins vs Alex Shelley (ROH TV 02/20): Honorable Mention, excellent chain wrestling by Shelley and a good fit for Haskins hybrid style. Crowd actually was into this match which can be tough for live ROH crowds nowadays. Best Wrestler: Tatsumi Fujinami, Sami Callihan Biggest Surprise: Yoshihito Sasaki Looking forward to: Tackling the mountain of DVDs I've got - AJPW, BJW, NOAH, NJPW, ROH and more...RetroMania Wrestling video game...   Still deciding on what my next project is going to be... Thanks for reading!  

G. Badger

G. Badger

wXw 16 Carat Gold 2011 - Night 3

Sorry for the delay! Work the past few weeks has been really crazy with the increase in online retail due to the Corona Virus pandemic. So, I didn't feel much like watching another computer screen after staring at my work monitor all day. You didn't come here for excuses though! You wanted to find out about how the 2011 16 Carat Gold tournament wraps up. Well, after a long wait, here we are -the finale! Night 3 starts with a bang! Sami Callihan vs Davey Richards - An all action match to get things rolling. These two hard hitters left tons on the table for a future encounter but, it was still very good stuff. I would have been happy with either man in the finals. Colt Cabana & Emil Sitoci vs Kotaro Suzuki & Mark Haskins - The best Colt match as he was more business plus, he had 3 really good workers to keep him grounded. Therefore, we got a quite good tag match. Some comedy, nice section to build some tension, hot tags, just a fun watch. Good match Go Shiozaki vs Big Van Walter - I was looking forward to this. I was quite disappointed. Let's just get that out of the way. I felt they killed time in a very -ahem- rest hold taking kind of way. I don't like using the term "rest hold" but, that's what it felt like especially in the context of how other matches in the night used holds to move along the action or the story. Here it felt like Go took Walter for a Sunday drive around the town...with no particular place to go. Then they did that long enough and things got interesting. Then, it wrapped up. OK match I suppose but, don't think Shiozaki wanted to go out in style. This was his worse match of the event to me. Axeman vs Yoshihito Sasaki - I doesn't look good for Go to have a guy called Axeman and a BJW wrestler outshine you but, dammit that's what happened. For as much as a letdown Go Shiozaki was Sasaki (and to a lesser extent Axeman) has been a wonderful surprise. These guys went out there like the previous match could have done. Nothing insane in terms of intensity or stiffness BUT they looked like they wanted to finish the event with a win. That crumb of psychology was all they needed to have a very good perhaps even great match. Thank goodness! Jon Ryan vs Johnny Moss - Right now, I'd rather see these type of matches and be pleasantly surprised rather than let down. Fortunately, these fellow kept the good times rolling by having a technical showcase. It wasn't always pretty but, this buttered my bread. Hold and counter hold wrestling is timeless and this was well worth your time. Very good match -There's a tag team match that's really wXw storyline stuff...I'm skipping it- Daisuke Sekimoto vs El Generico - This is Sekimoto's 3rd defense and probably his toughest challenge. You'd think the more muscular Moss or Bad Bones would take that honor. However, if you're familiar with Generico then, you know he can take a beating and come right back and get the win. Daisuke's best defense, Generico's 3rd 4 star match in as many nights. You might even think it was better. Go see this Future Shock (O'Reilly & Cole) vs LDRS of the New School (Sabre Jr. & Scurll): Party Marty in full effect here! Watch for the crowd surfing afterwards. Anyhow, this was your 2010 up and coming wrestlers going to tear the house down type of tag match. Seriously, this was PWG spot fu to keep your jaw on the ground tag wrestling. This could have been a classic had they knew how to edit themselves but, shoot, I won't hate. They have all become smarter workers since then so, as a dream match time capsule, you ought to see it. This was a blast and if you're a fan of these guys like I am then, you'll think it was a great match.  and now, the big match to crown the 2011 16 Carat Gold tournament winner... Big Van Walter vs Sami Callihan - Much like the 2010 Finals, this is your story match. You're using their previous encounters and what you've learned and applying it to this match. Walter is a tank and can finish anyone especially when he hits his powebomb. That move spells DEATH. Sami is a hard hitting dynamo and can finish you with his Stretch Muffler. More importantly, Sami has had a harder tournament - Tommy End, Yoshihito Sasaki & Davey Richards. That's pretty damn good compared to Rico Bushido, Mark Haskins & Go Shiozaki. And you all know how I feel about that last match This was a very good fight where the man who wanted it the most won. That's a feel good story and dammit we need that in wrestling -  Even if it means guys getting put thru tables and clotheslined so hard their heads disappear. Excellent ending to an excellent event. Now to do a little summary and awards (?) I suppose... This was a tremendous 3 night wrestling event that is truly under the radar of a lot of people. I bought this and the 2010 event based on the line-up. Both did not disappoint but, 2011 is the superior show. Every night has at least 2 great matches with some faring better depending on your tastes. This 16 Carat event truly was a world tournament that provided some dream match ups I never knew I wanted to see. Does that make sense? Hahaha maybe! This was a nice change of pace after my NJ '88 project. I was really happy with buying this set and would definitely recommend it to anyone who digs these wrestlers. MVP: Sami Callihan, runner up: El Generico Best Match: Davey Richards vs Zack Sabre Jr., runner up: Sami Callihan vs Yoshihito Sasaki, honorable mention: all 3 El Generico bouts Best Surprise: Yoshihito Sasaki Worst Surprise: Go Shiozaki dogging it (although I will say his one finger was taped each night so, I'll give him that. However, this doesn't excuse slow paced, aimless matches on night 2 & 3) Overall: Night #1 was a breeze to watch, the best night overall. Night #2 had a couple rough matches in the front half but, had the two best matches. Night #3 had a couple great matches and the big finale but, got off track with the Go/Walter bummer and it took me a couple fights to wash the bad taste outta my mouth. Nonetheless, it was everyone's 3rd night so, it can be expected and everything else clicked as expected. Again, I cannot recommend this event enough especially since it is sold in one package. Plus there's a bonus dvd that I haven't watched yet.   I hope you have enjoyed this review and its encouraged you to branch out of your wrestling comfort zone a little. Totally glad that I took a chance with this.   Thanks for reading! Be safe folks! Hoping to do my mid year round up real soon  

G. Badger

G. Badger

wXw 16 Carat Gold 2011 - Night 2

Without further ado, let's take a look at Night #2 of wXw's 2011 16 Carat Gold Tournament! Axeman vs Rico Bushido vs Tommy End vs Bad Bones - Hard hitting wXw guys doing a fun spot match. Jay Skillet vs Jon Ryan - I like Ryan from his match with Davey but, you can skip this match. It wasn't bad. It's nothing special to me though. Colt Cabana vs Marty Scurll - Another outright comedy match. Marty is much better at this than Zack just because he's more vocal and outgoing. Fun stuff  Carnage vs 2-Face - This was OK. They probably didn't need to hit as hard for this kind of match. Post match stuff had storyline stuff so, this was a vehicle for that. Poor use of Carnage IMO. Mark Haskins vs Big Van Walter - A simple David vs Goliath match with Haskins showing a ton of heart. He didn't have the cleanest execution but, it looked natural when going up against the juggernaut of Walter. Good match and best thus far.  Day 2 is OK thus far but we're only half way through. Let's see what part 2 has to offer...It should get better. El Generico & Emil Sitoci vs Future Shock (Cole & O'Reilly) - I was really glad they took their time in setting up heel vs face dynamics here. Sitoci made a great first impression. He reminded me of Paul London. That's interesting because London and Generico had a nice tag team in PWG in 2010. So, that dynamic was here against the cocky upstart team of Future Shock. This was an exciting match with nice offense and fake-out spots. Best match of the show thus far. Great stuff! Sami Callihan vs Yoshihito Sasaki - Man, this looks promising! Sami really looks like he's got a screw loose! He brings so much intensity and bravado to the ring that, I'm invested before the bell rings. A handshake to start the match means Sasaki and Sami are going to be rough. And good gravy, this is violent wonderful wrestling and a near classic bout. This really puts the night back on track by topping the tag match. Go Shiozaki vs Kotaro Suzuki - NOAH match in Germany! This was a very good match but, felt it was lethargic compared to the previous couple matches. Also, the fan cam on the ground wasn't in the best position. So, we could see the action OK but, we were mainly seeing their backs. They were in a different venue and the hard cam and the floor cam were coming from the same side of the ring for this match. These things don't bother me too much but, I felt that because we couldn't see the impact as well as could be expected, we were missing some of the action. The crowd also seemed tired and I could only say it was very good at best. Davey Richards vs Zack Sabre Jr. - I understand the pacing and card placement with the NOAH match now. They wanted to give the crowd a cool down for this battle. The pacing was aggressive from bell to bell and Holy crap, they just beat the slop outta each other! This has grappling, strikes, nice counters & escapes. Up & coming ZSJ vs top tier Richards provided a classic encounter without a doubt. If you're a fan of either guy, you should see this for sure. Daisuke Sekimoto vs Johnny Moss - Match for the wXw belt. This was a good ***1/2 bout to close the night out. There was no way they were going to top the previous match so, they gave the fans a nice hard hitting simple title fight.  Overall, Night 2 was a great show but, really one of two parts. Part one was nothing special although the 4 Way opener and the Haskins/Walter matches were worthwhile. Your best bet is to watch those two and skip to the 2nd half where stuff really picks up with a 3 amazing matches. Davey vs ZSJ is the best bout thus far. Thankfully, the 2011 tourney is sold as a set so, if you're looking to buy this DVD or that DVD, you don't have to choose one night over another What's even better is that we've still got Night 3!  Thanks for reading!  

This Day in Wrestling : Manami Toyota vs Kyoko Inoue

Are you like me and remember important dates in wrestling? Its almost like they are holidays or birthdays for friends past. You're not necessarily celebrating anything but, when the day comes, it feels a little special. Its like the numbers in that particular combination mean something to you and a few others. For everyone else, its just a Thursday. That brings me to today, May 7th or as I have it burned into my brain 05/07. Twenty five years ago AJW's Manami Toyota and Kyoko Inoue had an hour long draw that earned 5 stars from Dr. Dave Meltzer. Ironically, it was probably one of first disappointing big Joshi match I had seen. It was one of the few lauded classics that didn't live up to the praise. As I've watched more AJW since then, I think '95 in general is when AJW started to begin its decline. Don't be mistaken, there are some really great matches and shows in '95. I think the Toyota-Inoue hyper style was becoming the main event norm and 1995 was the break out year. This May match then, the August 08/30 Double Inoue vs Toyota/Sakie 2 out of 3 falls 5 star match are the two major "classic bouts" that both earned big praise and are minor disappointments.  I really do digress...05/07 still sticks with me because, while not a 5 star all time classic, it really is a wrestling tour de force. Both women wanted to show that they were not only the best women wrestlers but, the best wrestlers period. I really would recommend watching this if you're into current Joshi or US women's wrestling. Here's my review of the match and whole show. Yumi Fukawa vs. Yoshiko Tamura -Pretty basic beginner style match. Fukawa (I think) won with 2 consecutive body slams. Tamura was better in execution but Fukawa did a headscissors takedown from one of Tamura's scoop slams and it was pretty cool. Midget Death Match: Atsushi Obuddha (Buddhaman) vs. Tsunokake. -Even without knowing more than 5 Japanese words, this was damn funny. It really goes to show the universality of physical comedy and parody. AJ Junior Title: Chaparita ASARI vs. Nobue Endo (Saya) -An advanced beginners match was marked with ASARI rolling out a couple crazy spin/flip moves for the win. Takako Inoue & Tomoko Watanabe & Kumiko Maekawa vs. Mariko Yoshida & Kaoru Ito & Rie Tamada. A bit rocky in the beginning but the pace was great throughout and it was quite exciting. Could've been better executed at times though. The proper beginning of the show with Takako/Mariko as the focus. ***3/4 Aja Kong & Reggie Bennett vs. Lioness Asuka & Bison Kimura. - It was a very neat match but nothing spectacular other than Aja brutalizing Bison. Bison's quite a fox in this one too despite getting a bloody nose from the spinning back fist... ***1/2 Minami Retirement Memorial: Suzuka Minami & Yumiko Hotta vs. Las Cachorras Orientales. A great AJW style tag match with Minami being in the majority of the match. Hotta was minor in her role...I'm not sure this was because it was Suzuka's retirement match or what. Still it was very exciting and I really wasn't sure who was going to win. Really emotional too which is nice to see. LCO were pretty good here in their berserk heel mode giving Suzuka a tough retirement match. ****1/4 3 Minute Exhibition Match: Marine Wolves vs. Bull & Hotta. For a 3 minute match, this was awesome and actually resembled a match and gave an opportunity for the Marine Wolves to shine one last time. WWWA World Singles Championship: Manami Toyota vs. Kyoko Inoue. This is a gruelling sixty minutes of Joshi action. It was a bit unwise to let two sprinters run the long race since they got injured relatively early. Still if you had to pick two wrestlers from AJW to go 60 minutes it would be these two. They're so full of energy that just when you thought they crapped out they would have a burst of action. The real complaint here is that the quality of the execution suffered as the match progressed. Still it's to be expected and really was quite excusable . Still you can't give something this flawed 5 stars by using the match as an out. Still probably one of the best 60min. draw I've ever seen ****+ Thanks for reading! The 2nd day of the wXw 16 Carat show has been watched and the notes just need to be typed up. Hoping for tomorrow...in the meantime watch some Women's wrestling!   Take care!  

wXw 16 Carat Gold 2011 - Night 1

I have been meaning to watch this tournament for awhile now. I bought this along with the 2010 tournament so, this has been a long time coming. The box art of the DVD set features all of the participants in this year's event. It is pretty damn stacked even compared to the previous year. We have stars from ROH, Big Japan, NOAH, Independent US talent as well as European wrestlers.  This 16 Carat Gold event may be the most diverse and globally representative tournament assembled in recent memory. Enough fluff! Let's get to the wrestling! Kyle O'Reilly vs Karsten Beck vs Marty Scurll vs Axeman: This 4 man match will determine who will be an alternate for the tournament. Nice to have some incentive for the guys...they surely fought like they meant it. Axeman was a nice surprise. He and Kyle have a similar style. Fast paced fun opening match.  Yoshihito Sasaki vs Carnage: Sasaki is a guy who's name I've seen here and there the past decade but, never knew how he flew under my radar. I mean, I have Fire Pro Returns and don't recall seeing him. Ha! I was wrong. He's listed under the Zero-1 promotion as a low ranking wrestler. That was 2004 in Japan and in 2011 he's made his way in the world. And I have to say, damn! I was missing out. He's got a no nonsense hard hitting style that I appreciate.His opponent Carnage does as well. I remember him from 2010's shows. Very good match here and a proper way to start the tourney. Two matches in and this feels better than 2010. Zack Sabre Jr. vs Colt Cabana: Is Colt NWA champ here!? This was funny at times but, took too long to really go anywhere. This was a popcorn match to me. You'll be OK fast forwarding to the last five minutes or skipping altogether. Much like the other World of Sport style matches (not that this was exactly but, it had that feel and style) of 2010, this feels out of place next to 2010 puro style bouts. Adam Cole vs Mark Haskins: Both dudes have come a long way from here. This was a very scatterbrained Indy wrestling match. Stuff was done with little rhyme or reason. Unlike the ZSJ/Cabana match, this was relatively short and an OK watch.  Go Shiozaki vs Johnny Moss: Thank goodness they got the show back on track. Fans started out pretty much behind Moss but, Go won them over with his hard hitting never say quit attitude...kinda like how Rocky won over the Russian crowd in Rocky IV. This was a very good match and the ending portion was that stuff you want from NOAH's top dog. This was another very good pairing. Big Van Walter vs Rico Bushido: Never heard of Bushido but, he reminds me of how I imagine Ricky Reyes fought and looked like in the Rottweiler days of ROH. That's probably all wrong but, I'm cool with that assumption. He was all martial art kicks and Walter put him down after a few power moves. Short and unoffensive match. I have nothing against so-so matches but, at least make them short like this match. Davey Richards vs Jon Ryan: Ryan has no chance in hell beating Davey...just by the looks of him. But to Davey's credit he gave a lot to J.R. He got some heel moves in and was able to fight Richards and be a credible opponent. So, don't let his cheesy ring gear and physique fool you! I really thought an upset might happen. Another very good match. Sami Callihan vs Tommy End: This was an intense, fast, hate filled match. These guys were wXw regulars and this must have had some back story to it. You don't need to know it though. These dudes were aiming to maul each other. Tommy End is much improved since 2010 and Sami has gotten even better. The best bout so far! Great match with a fantastically aggressive submission finish. Yes! Kotaro Suzuki vs El Generico: This is a pretty high profile match for 2011. It's like an unofficial Best of the Super Jrs. match. It had lots of good action that kept the excitement and drama going. Who would win? Generico is a mega star in indy wrestling and Kotaro is GHC Jr. champ...every nearfall felt like the one that would do it. They both have so many tricks in the bag so, the end was always in doubt. Great match. As good or better than the previous bout for sure. A sweet way to end day one!!  Wait...that wasn't the main event? Daisuke Sekimoto vs Bad Bones (wXw Hvywt. Championship match): This is like the cherry on top of a sundae. It starts of slow but, gets action packed as the match progresses. The last few minutes made a big difference as this was scratching at great match territory. Reminded me of the Hayabusa/Tanaka era FMW matches. Very good match overall...like ***3/4 territory. Then we get a very enjoyable post match with Bones and Johnny Moss comes out to challenge Daisuke. Very psyched to see Night 2! This was a heck of night of wrestling. This was much better than I remember the 2010 Night #1 being. Each match that I enjoyed delivered the excitement and entertainment that I was hoping for. Not one wrestler in those matches dogged it and in many cases they went above and beyond to have the best match they could. If they can keep it up then, this might be one helluva ride. Thank you for reading!

G. Badger

G. Badger

NJPW You Might Have Missed: 1988 - Part 9

The final installment of my NJPW 1988 adventure! Its ending with stuff from the 09/12 show. Of course there is more out there but, I just don't own it or have easy access to it...and that's the name of my game If you have NJ World or do file loading or wanna get DVDs, please check it out. I'm sure there's really good stuff I've missed. Anyhow, let's begin! Big Van Vader vs Bam Bam Bigelow (09/12) I have the full version of this but, overall I was disappointed here. Bigelow didn't bring much to the table. I wanted to see them pound away at one another & its not what they did. It had a few nice moments but ended in a DQ. The best was when Vader was exiting the ring he pushed some fan in the face. OK match as their 08/08 bout is the one to see. T. Fujinami, K. Kimura, Y. Fujiwara, S. Koshinaka & K. Yamada vs R. Choshu, M. Saito, S.S.Machine, K. Kobayashi & H. Saito (09/12): 5 on 5 elimination match that goes about 40 minutes. I have the final few minutes on DVD but, was able to find this in 3 parts on YouTube. I'm really glad that I saw this in full especially since folks have said its a classic. After watching this as well as a good chunk of '88 New Japan, I think this is a very good match especially the first 2/3rds. There was a good deal of punching and stomping in this match so, to have the final portion just be MORE of that...eh it kinda fizzled out for me. We get some good blood but, it feels like the wrong wrestler got color and I just lost what they were trying to tell/show me. Nevertheless, I had fun watching. There were some really great segments and match ups but wasn't a classic. Give it a shot though! So, this wraps up my exploration of 1988 NJPW and it was pretty great! Everything leading up to and including the 08/08 Inoki vs Fujinami match was fantastic in one form or another. Obviously there were some classic encounters that I'm glad that I finally saw. I am a little bummed that this final installment was not the awesome send off that I was hoping for. I do feel like I've seen everything that I truly wanted to for '88 NJ though so, I can't be too letdown. Like I said above, the 5 man elimination match was very good and did have some really worthwhile action but,  I think I enjoyed the 04/27 elimination more than 09/12.  The best matches to me are: Nobuhiko Takada vs Kazuo Yamazaki (01/25) Nobuhiko Takada vs Hiro Hase (03/11) Akira Nogami, Tatsutoshi Goto, K. Yamada, K. Hoshino & S. Koshinaka vs Hiroshi Hase, K. Kobayashi, Kensuke Sasaki, N. Honaga & H. Saito (04/27) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Big Van Vader (04/27) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (05/27) Shiro Koshinaka vs Owen Hart (06/24) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (06/24) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Big Van Vader (06/26) Riki Choshu vs Antonio Inoki (07/22) Shiro Koshinaka vs Kuniaki Kobayashi (8/08) Antonio Inoki vs Tatsumi Fujinami (08/08)
  And after the September matches, I'm missing the last 3 months of the year. So, clearly this isn't an end all - be all review of '88 but, I'm happy with what I've watched. Its totally lived up to my expectations and the above bouts are the matches I would truly recommend checking out! Thanks for reading! I'm moving on to the 2011 wXw 16 Carat Gold tournament to change things up!  

G. Badger

G. Badger

Friday Fruit Salad - WCW, ECW, NOAH

Today felt like a good day to watch some bookmarked matches on YouTube. I think I wanted to break up the NJ '88 stuff for a moment with some bouts that piqued my curiosity. Let's do this chronologically! Sting & Dr. Death vs Terry Funk & Terry Gordy (NWA Power Hour 08/08/89): I mean if this was more than a TV match, I'm sure wrestling fans would know about this. As it is its still pretty fun with the Terrys teaming up against the Steves. Everyone except Doc was pretty good with Gordy and Sting providing the action and Funk adding that middle aged and crazy energy. Williams did press slam Bamm Bamm so, I mean that's sweet. Fun stuff! Jushin Liger vs Chris Benoit (WCW Starrcade 1995): A fireworks show where they loaded as much cool looking stuff as they could into 10 minutes. It was great until the Kevin Sullivan distraction which led to the botched hurricanrana finish. THAT aside, this was totally worth the watch. Oh, I should note that  muted it because I don't care what Tony, Heenan, and Dusty had to say. Rob Van Dam & Sabu vs The Dudley Boys (ECW TV ep. 288 10/24/98): This is more of a review of the segment than just the match. Its supposed to be Balls & Tanaka vs RVD/Sabu for the Tag Titles. The Dudley Boys jump 'em with chairs real vicious like. So, they can't compete but, Bill Alfonso calls Bubba and D-von out. I don't think Rob and Sabu are psyched on that but, the fans are. So, we get the match which is a highspot squash where much to Cleveland audience and myself, RVD and Sabu do damn near all of their upper level acrobatics..and the Brothers from Another Mother eat it. The Triple Threat of Candido, Bigelow, and Douglas ruin the fun. But thank goodness for ECW and match continues and Taz tries to make the save. Well, he at least gets some of the heat off the champs but its not enough and the challengers 3D Sabu. Awesome stuff that made ECW TV must see to me. Misawa vs Kobashi (NOAH 12/24/04): Their last singles match and a Xmas gift for the NOAH fans. This was a 10 minute Champions Carnival style sprint. I was really pleasantly surprised that they were busting out the their A game...seriously if you want a condensed Misawa vs Kobashi bout, you can't go wrong with this! Very good match. So, that was fun! I left off a couple other bouts like AJ vs Syxx Pacc where he's on crystal meth and a Dr Death vs Cactus match because they were just OK. I'm not trying to steer you into the rocks and waste your time. Thanks for reading! NJPW 1988 part 9 coming shortly!  

G. Badger

G. Badger

NJPW You Might Have Missed: 1988 - Part 8

Antonio Inoki vs Tatsumi Fujinami (08/08): It was a gruelling 60 minutes of struggling to gain the upperhand. Inoki probably controlled more than Fujinami (60-40) but, Fujinami had youth on his side. Just an amazing display of endurance and athleticism and a perfect story showing the fighting spirit, strong style and NJPW leading up in essence to this very match. It's not really an ending but the continuation. The clips really helped get this across especially after the match. The definitive strong style match, the definitive epic, a must-see. Re-watch: 54 minute version..I swore that I had the full version but, we don't miss too much. 60 grueling minutes of wrestling action is right! I really don't think this was planned out at all! In a good way Both guys just fought over holds, working in strikes and suplexes when they could find an opportunity. This was amazing and organic. But, this was Inoki strong style and that is Pro Wrestling as the strongest of all martial arts. This is the perfect example of that (disregarding mix style matches). This was student proving that he was the true IWGP champion and the equal to the legend and hero that's Antonio Inoki. All that being said, I'm not fond of long matches anymore. So, I would probably have this as my #3 NJPW 1988 classic behind Fujinami vs Choshu and Inoki vs Choshu. But a must see classic nonetheless! Glad that I took time to watch this again. Thanks for reading! Stay safe folks  

G. Badger

G. Badger

NJPW You Might Have Missed: 1988 - Part 7

We are closing in on the epic battle between Tatsumi Fujinami and Antonio Inoki on August 8th. Let's see what else is going on in New Japan at the time... Buzz Sawyer/Manny Fernandez vs Riki Choshu/Masa Saito (7/22) Short clip of just the finish. Everyone looked pretty cool and like skull crushers.  Next, the TV program shows us a recap of the events leading to the Fujinami/Inoki encounter. Some I've covered in previous posts while some footage is new to me. Riki vs Vader looks particularly interesting. This match and others are available but, I didn't happen to pick that disc up at the time. Anyhow, we're now properly excited for the showdown. But first... Shiro Koshinaka vs Kuniaki Kobayashi (8/08): Both men wrestled like they wanted to steal the show from the headliners. Never a dull moment and I recant my statement from an earlier post- these guys are awesome opponents for one another. It reminded me of Misawa vs Kawada in '92 - move sets that emphasize action while not minimizing the importance of leverage based pinning predicaments near the end. Wow, that's specific! But, that's what's so great about late 80's and early 90's junior style. They would go for flashy moves but, would return to time tested cradles and bridging suplexes for the win. This reminds us that the wrestler is there to pin or submit his opponent first and foremost. Later, of course, the flash would be the finish and the match becomes a game of 'one upping each other.' Anyhow, this was a great match. Probably the best Jr. bout shown in '88 thus far AND probably the longest. It clocked in at about 9 minutes.  Bam Bam Bigelow vs Big Van Vader (8/08) Vader attacks Bigelow with the helmet smoke! Hell yes! The battle of the bulldozers is on! And it doesn't stop until the final bell is sounded. We get an expected 80's finish but, that does not diminish anything that occurs prior. Vader and Bam Bam were able to be athletic and really sell the idea that Big Van had met his equal in the Beast from the East. A very good match for sure! And its shown in full. Nice! Next time, we see if Fujinami vs Inoki lives up to the '88 and historical hype. We'll see if it lives up to my memory as well! Thanks for reading!

G. Badger

G. Badger

NJPW You Might Have Missed: 1988 - Part 6

A little bit of a delay in posting this what with the pandemic being a bit of a distraction and all. Nevertheless, we push forward with NJPW 1988! Buzz Sawyer & Manny Fernandez vs Super Strong Machine & Kuniaki Kobayashi (07/05): I'm going to go with this date although I'm not 100% sure. Who cares though? Its Manny & Buzz smashing skulls and Super Strong Machine, the most iconic NJ wrestler that most people haven't seen more than 3 matches of! Me included! Well, this is a finish only match but, I'm going to add it to my tally. Wrestling-wise Buzz & Manuel do some nice heelin' and double teamin' which made me really push for the Riki-gun team comeback. Very good stuff from what was shown. Helluva lot better than the Gaspar Bros. match! Kengo Kimura vs Riki Choshu (07/09): This was just about complete, yay! A fast and exciting match. Way moreso than you thought Kengo vs Riki in '88 would be. Kengo is getting phased out from what I can tell but, man he's going for broke against Riki. As a reminder, this is a round robin match to face Fujinami in August so, there is a lot at stake. That what really makes this so very good..plus Inoki is on commentary. And damn you'd better believe he gets up in the mix post match. Ric Flair style too - shirtless & in dress slacks! This match and post match were just a blast. Masa Saito vs Big Van Vader (07/22): I have the TV version which is pretty much the last few minutes but, I was able to locate the full version via handheld on Youtube. You're not missing a lost classic with the handheld...let me say that much. There's some nice slams and Vader took some sick bumps for a man his size. Good match and Vader tantrums afterwards  No way I would say that to his face...he'd toss me like a fucking guardrail. Riki Choshu vs Antonio Inoki (07/22): The clear main event and reason Vader vs Saito was clipped. Choshu is so amped to get at Antonio that he won't let the big chinned hero in the ring for introductions. He's like a junk yard dog walking the perimeter of the ring, blocking Inoki, getting into his head before the bout begins. And when the bell sounds, it is on! Inoki out-wrestles the rebel Riki and we see that for once, he is the underdog. This is a scramble, this is a fight, I love it. Loaded with intensity and explosiveness...its on the short list of great sub 10 minute matches. Hell, for its sense of urgency, intensity, story, and finish...it is a classic.  I've never heard anything about this bout but, man I was glad it was included on my DVD set. If you've been watching any of these matches or like that Riki Choshu Strong Style then, you'll want to see it. Next time, we've got more Manny & Buzz, a return to Jr. action and more! Thank you for reading! Stay safe and be smart out there wrestling fans! 

G. Badger

G. Badger

NJPW You Might Have Missed: 1988 - Part 5

Let's look at Part 5 of New Japan in 1988! Kuniaki Kobayashi vs Shiro Koshinaka (06/26): Kobayashi is such a badass. He just rips up the title match declaration and hassles the official. This is a key match up with the Junior captains of the NJPW and Riki teams. That being said, this is the longest Jr. match shown on TV thus far and is very good stuff. Move-wise this is not as fast paced or innovative as some other bouts however, the simple suplexes and pinning combinations felt really important and dire. Its very scrappy and the crowd eats it up. Its hard not too just dig this match. Very good bout! Tatsumi Fujinami vs Big Van Vader (06/26): NJ Vader was such a monster in damn near every way that matters. Fujinami is as capable and tough a wrestler as you can ask for and Vader just destroys him with power slams and splashes. Fujinami has technical victories over B.V.V. but, we may just chalk those up to luck or smarts. Vader is not going to leave anything up to luck or give The Dragon a chance to be clever this time. Perhaps unwisely, Tatsumi wants to prove that he's a real champion and slay the monster...This is a great title fight and probably the best Vader match thus far. I've seen this match a few times over the years but, it was fresh and exciting like it was my first go around. Take 15 minutes and check this out. To end this post, we see a confrontation between Vader and Inoki along with Kengo Kimura, Riki Choshu, and Masa Saito that takes place on 07/15. It features a nice sequence or two of Inoki and Vader getting into it. Antonio shows he's ready for the big man to give it his best shot.  Doing a little looking ahead, this sets the stage for a summer round robin to see who will face Fujinami at the 08/08 show (you may have a guess). Nevertheless, I want to see the matches, man! That's a pretty stacked line-up. Next time, we'll see some matches from this round robin plus Buzz Sawyer and Manny Fernandez kick butt! Thank for reading!

G. Badger

G. Badger

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