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NEW MATCH: AJ Styles & Daniel Bryan vs Samoa Joe & The Miz (WWE Summerslam Heatwave Tour 07-16-18, Reading, PA)

The incomparable Master of Muppets has added a match to his YouTube channel from the house show on Monday night (July 16) in Reading, PA. The match sees AJ Styles team with Daniel Bryan against Samoa Joe and The Miz as part of the awkwardly-named Summerslam Heatwave Tour. The camera quality isn't great in this particular case, but if you can tough it out, it's a good chance to see Bryan and Miz opposite each other -- a matchup that has evaded us on television since Bryan's spring return and will likely happen at Summerslam.  RELATED MATCH: Samoa Joe vs Bryan Danielson (ROH Midnight Express Reunion 10-02-04)

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NJPW vs CHAOS 2010 tags

So, this little project came about by searching for Tanaka vs Makabe matches on YouTube. How I got to that is a bit of a mystery. If I had to guess, I'd say it was out of curiosity alone. I don't think I found a singles encounter on the 'tube. However, there was a crap ton of tags available. Investigation revealed that a whole chunk of house show matches from the Fall of 2010 were recorded and uploaded by NJPW. These matches show some of the early battles between NJ main roster & CHAOS.  CHAOS is or perhaps was one of the most popular stables but, it is a splinter group from Togi Makabe (Tenzan was originally leader) Great Bash Heel (Great Big Head, Grievous Bodily Harm or GBH) group. Nakamura staged a coup (he was an outsider who agitated the GBH members) and ousted Makabe (Honma sided with Makabe). So here we see an alliance of Makabe with Tanahashi and Hirooki Goto to combat Nakamura and his group of badasses. This begins about right after when Togi Makabe wins the IWGP Heavyweight title in May 2010. This series of matches reminds me of 1996 Michinoku Pro or 1990 AJPW tag matches. We have roughly the same parties for each encounter but, its exciting and interesting every time. Or at least to me  I'll list full names as they first appear but, will use last names after that. Let's do the wrestling!!! Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Hirooki Goto, Yuji Nagata & Wataru Inoue vs Shinsuke Nakamura, Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii, Tetsuya Naito & Yujiro Takahashi (05/08/10): 10 man fight, alrighty then! This could be a mess but, everyone really clicks and no interactions overstay their welcome. Inoue really shines in this match. That maybe surprising since he's been off most fans radars since day one but, he brings it here. He's the Kikuchi on the NJ squad. A very excellent start where we learn that anyone can lose and anything can end it. Again, very M-Pro like or lucha like. Highly recommended Tanahashi, Makabe & Goto vs Nakamura, Tanaka & Ishii (09/04/10): Seemingly an upgrade but, a hair below the previous match in quality. It should be checked out nonetheless. Goto & Nakamura get into a mat scramble that leads to them fighting after a tag. The ref has to break them up and Shinsuke spits at Goto's feet. Very nasty stuff. Also, Takahashi and Nakamura's work together was subtle but very good. It reminded me of Misawa and Kawada in their 6 man matches. The work was organic to the point where it was understood that this was only one battle in a much larger war. So, Nakamura really excelled here but, Makabe the champ did as well. When he came in like a fucking berserker at the end, I was loving it! He sure as hell looked like the World Champ to me. 14 minutes of great wrestling. Tanahashi & Makabe vs Tanaka & Satoshi Kojima (09/10/10): Not sure if Kojima is CHAOS affiliated here. There was some good action but, Kojima & Tanaka's bland knee focused offense hurt this match. Generally, predestrian match. There are a couple other Kojima matches that I avoided because of this one. Too bad because I do like Kojima but, I feel like he may have lost "it" by this point. Nakamura, Naito & Takahashi vs Tanahashi, Makabe & Goto (09/19/10): Naito was first introduced to me as part of No Limit with Takahashi on TNA when they were fighting Motorcity Machine Guns for the IWGP Jr. belts. That was cool that TNA was having Japanese talent on TV. That's how I first saw Tanahashi too. Anyhow, Jr. team are with Shinsuke tonight to take on the NJ A-Team. Tana works the crowd up from the start. I get the feeling that this is a smaller, less hardcore crowd as they're all very pro Tanahashi. He starts of with some nice wrestling with Naito but, we soon get Goto & Naka which leads to a slow Tanahashi babyface in danger segment. Now, the ACE is pretty darn good in peril but, this felt a bit more lethargic then the previous encounters. Again, I chalk it up to the venue/event/crowd size. Goto & Nakamura get back into it and that leads to the hot stretch to a finish portion.  It's a recommended match as it stokes the feud's fire but, it's a little formulaic. Hey, the 90-92 Misawa/Jumbo 6 mans went there a few times too (Not that this is on THAT level) ;P Tanaka & Ishii vs Makabe & Tomoaki Honma (11/03/10): Wished we got some stuff from October but, maybe that was the Kojima stuff I skipped. Anyhow, this is from the G1 Tag League. There are some expected long strike exchanges that hurt the flow of the match but, this was a nice battle nonetheless. The real standout was Tanaka. He nearly beats the GBH remenants on his own and goes straight psycho-killer on the Unchained Gorilla Makabe on the floor. I'd highly recommend this match to Dangan fans for sure! Ok so now we get a little Jr. participation. I want to go in depth on this series at another date but, here is a little taste as it fits into the timeline very well. Inoue, Ryusuke Taguchi & Prince Devitt vs Nakamura, Naito & Davey Richards (11/19/10): Yup, Davey was in NJ for a year or two. I totally forgot about it but, thought it was a great move for him at the time. He really should have focused more on a career in Japan. That being said, this had good reason to be a train wreck as I'm wasn't confident in Davey's ability to work with the NJ natives. Sure, he had NOAH experience but, he usually was on a gaijin team. I was expecting some bungling but, nope! This was some fast paced magic. Davey was great yelling shit in English too Taguchi though...damn. 13 minutes of action. Naito, Takahashi & Richards vs Tanahashi, Taguchi & Devitt (11/27/10): Naito taking Tanahashi to the canvas and grappling is something to always I'll enjoy. Frankly, if Tanahashi scrapped the leg focus stuff and was a matworker like Osamu Nishimura yet threw in his highspots, I'd probably be a giant fan of his. That being said, his performance in this series has made me a bit of a convert. Also my Ryusuke Taguchi appreciation continues to grow. Um, I don't have too many notes on the action as I really dug this one. Davey is in there more often than the previous encounter and it works well. He and Apollo 55 go at it. Tanahashi finally goes Super Saiyan and unloads. It really means something though as he has not needed to do so until now. There really is something to NOT doing big moves all of the time. I think the ACE is as guilty as anyone from what I've seen but, in this series (and because these are mainly house shows) he has showed the restraint and discernment of a true veteran. Great match Tanahashi, Makabe & Manabu Nakanishi vs Tanaka, Yano & Nakamura (12/02/10): Maybe it was Yano being back in the mix but, this was another really good 6 man. Nakanishi played his caveman part well and added a nice dynamic at this point in the series. Admittedly, these are running together especially, as Makabe and Tanaka aren't changing their routine up too much. But, it's all good. This feud is giving me a WAR vs NJ vibe. Sweet finish, highly recommended match. Nakamura, Tanaka, Takahashi & Naito vs Tanahashi, Makabe, Nagata & Inoue (12/04/10): This venue looks like the classic Michinoku Pro gym from the 90's. It's not but, I think I'm wanting to be. This feud/program has been just so much fun. This one starts with Tana vs Tranquilo-to-be on the mat but quickly has all 8 men fighting. Wataru taking on Nakamura- hells yes, dude! Obviously, it doesn't work out in the end and CHAOS isolate and destroy. When, Togi Makabe gets that tag, watch out! The man cleans house. He lariats the shit out of Tanaka but, payback is a bitch. Tana's still killing it and when Yuji Nagata comes in like a MF-ing veteran- holy shit! Insane stretch run and fantastic finish. Great, great match. Makabe & Honma vs Nakamura & Tanaka (12/05/10):I love the single floor camera that most of these matches feature. It is great for this type of stuff as you can hear how hard the blows are & you're ringside and even in the middle of the action. You wouldn't belive these are house shows based off how hard they are going at it. Dangan and the Gorilla do their routine but, again it fucking works. Its so intense and you never can tell if there's gonna be a twist. Their brawling outside and after the bell is just pure pro wrestling. And damn 2010 Nakamura is the optimal version to me. I like the Beat It tribute act but, there's something about the straight forward confidence of this character. Another great match. In conclusion, these small show mathces put things back into perspective. Most fans especially overseas only really get the opportunity or make the time to watch the BIG shows and BIG matches. Myself included. We compare Big Show A to Big Show B (not Paul Wight). But, damn, it's these gems in between that are where it's at to me. There's no excessive finishers or kickouts or resthold masking as psychology. There's only enough time to get your simple but, engaging story across. Its 15-20 minutes of a struggle, of "fighting." This batch of matches felt like Choshu-Tenryu style for the 21st century. Who knows if they're still doing this or if this really was just the rare product of having so much talent peaking in the ring. This has been probably my longest blog entry so, if you've made it this far. I want to mention where my next little exploration into NJ from nearly a decade ago is going. I think the start of the resurgence in interest in NJ was with the influx of gaijin Jrs. like Devitt, Omega, Shelley/Sabin, Romero & Koslov and others (Davey & Low-Ki for example). Their pairing with talent like Taguchi, Tiger Mask IV, bringing in Kota Ibushi (along with Omega), Marufuji and eventually KUSHIDA helped brings eyes back to New Japan in the early 2010's. NOAH was a shell of itself after Misawa died and AJPW had lost it's interest after Muto changed it (although early 2010 AJ is another shiny bit of seaglass on the beach that I am investigating). So, it was only natural that someone had to fill the void.  I'd like to check  this period out a bit more. There were certainly people in the know back then but, I think 8 years later and with giant interest in NJ, it's important to look back.

G. Badger

G. Badger

2000's NJPW You Might Have Missed

Part 2 to my Fire Pro World prepubescent-like obsessive compulsive hype up. This entry was going to have a couple more matches but, I ended up going down a NJ rabbit hole. So, my next post will cover that, hint its CHAOS vs NJPW house shows in 2010. In the meantime, we've got a couple Fire Pro Returns dream matches that I never knew happened. I mean, for real, these are some FPR match maker multi-man battles. And a couple single bouts as I'm a Nagata & Tanaka fan. Genichiro Tenryu, Minoru Suzuki & Kensuke Sasaki vs Masahiro Chono, Manabu Nakanishi & Jushin Thunder Liger (11/21/04): Yeah, I felt like writing Liger's full name out. Why not? It makes the match seem older and grander, doesn't it? Well, maybe Akira Hokuto's presence makes it more grand. Its not like it needs it. You've got the legend freelance team from hell here. If this was an 8 man match, they'd get Takayama, I bet. Onto the review! This is just that heated puroresu you don't see very often anymore. This felt like Tenryu had been carrying the WAR vs NJ feud in his lumpy Grinch heart all of this time. He & Chono made their time count while allowing the (somewhat) younger members to take the brunt of the beatings. Smart veterans! Speaking of beatings, Sasaki and Nakanishi's chop & lariat battle was badass. Nakanishi doesn't get the respect that he deserves. He is a helluva clean-up hitter in these type of bouts. Also, Suzuki was his charismatically crazy self. So, you know you gotta see this for that psycho bastard in his prime. This was a great match for sure. I know I'm leaving stuff out but, you're going to want to see it for yourself! Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi, Kazayuki Fujita & Kendo Kashin vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura, Osamu Nishimura (05/19/05): Random ass Fire Pro Battle for sure...toped by the fact that Nagata's team comes out wearing Super Strong Machine masks. This combination and style is so weird based on what I have been watching during this year's G1. But to that point, remember emoting in wrestling? Fuck yeah, me too! Let's take a trip back in time and witness some!  Perhaps it is nostalgia permeating my brain but, Fujita was an awesome beast of a human being that should have been champ for life There is a simple joy watching him destroy Nakamura who many people think of as King of Strong Style. Yuji Nagata too should wear that crown before Nak' (and I like the dude)! Case in point for the Blue Warrior-watch the part where Tanahashi stiffly slaps & elbows him. The man just absorbs punishment and re-channels it unto his opponent (Wasn't that Bishop's power from X-Men?). Anyhow, I'm going through my notes, and I'm gushing about everything (except Tenzan-no gripes either). So, here's another great match that time may have forgotten if NJPW archivists didn't post this on YouTube. If you're a fan from the 2000's, maybe you don't watch a ton of wrestling, do yourself a favor & watch this match. Or the one above...or walk on the wild side and watch both! Yuji Nagata vs Togi Makabe (03/21/07) NJ Cup. This started off decently but, Makabe and his pal Honma started cheating-hardcore. Now, I'll say I really was sick of cheating heels in 2007 since TNA at the time was swimming in that bullshit. Oftentimes, its a cover up for a lack of athleticism, narrative direction, or talent. A cop out But, damn! It worked here. Nagata's getting choked with the chain, bleeding and man, he's gotta make the comeback! Enough bull Makabe, kill him or pin him! Sure enough, Mr. Blue Justice gets his opportunity and blazes King Kong Makabe with hard kicks. Eventually, he sinks in the step over arm breaker. Blood dripping down his face, eyes rolled back like The Deadman ©®™ and I'm hooked!! A great moment for fellow Nagata fans and a great match. Maybe newer fans won't appreciate the lack of arm hooking spin around moves but, this was pretty sweet to me. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Masato Tanaka (08/15/09) G1 Climax match. I've come to appreciate Tanahashi in multi man tags but, this restores some faith that he's a fantastic singles wrestler. I say that because they fucking obliterated each other. On top of that, more heel interference that means something, believable false finishes, and Tana leg work from underneath that provides transition rather than weigh the fight down. Classic G1 match? Classic match all around to me. 22 minutes doesn't hurt either There's more for next time...

G. Badger

G. Badger

2010's NJPW You Might Have Missed

The Fire Pro World and NJPW partnership has got me really psyched up. The glut of posts I've made on the forum is evidence of that  Its all good though because I thought Fire Pro was done after Fire Pro Returns. Its funny because its a little bit of history repeating as I bought a PS2 back in 2007 specifically for FPR and I'll be buying a PS4 for the sole purpose of playing FPW. Admittedly, Fire Pro Returns was a bigger deal as the game never had a US release and I could only mod my PS1 so much and could only admire the awesomeness of Fire Pro D from afar. I would say Fire Pro Returns is a big reason that I became a fanatic for Puroresu. I printed name guides and move lists for all of the wrestlers and studied them against my old VHS tapes and incoming DVDs (plus WCW vs the World PS1).  So with this release for the PS4, Fire Pro has got to up the ante. The NJPW partnership is the first chip and new moves, expanded Create-a-Wrestler, and story mode have sweetened the pot for me. However, 08/28 is a little bit away so, I've got to keep the fires stoked somehow. What better way than by combing through free NJ matches on YouTube? What's great (in a way) is the relatively recent stuff from NJ's boom period is at a premium and most likely available on the NJPW World streaming service. The YouTube stuff is perhaps the stuff "no one" cares about anymore . And by "no one", I mean mainstream wrestling fans...people who perhaps have the streaming service and know Okada, Bullet Club etc. but have no clue who Inoki, Hashimoto, or Fujinami are. I'm rambling...onto the matches. The Fire Pro World and NJPW partnership has got me really psyched up. The glut of posts I've made on the forum is evidence of that  Its all good though because I thought Fire Pro was done after Fire Pro Returns. Its funny because its a little bit of history repeating as I bought a PS2 back in 2007 specifically for FPR and I'll be buying a PS4 for the sole purpose of playing FPW. Admittedly, Fire Pro Returns was a bigger deal as the game never had a US release and I could only mod my PS1 so much and could only admire the awesomeness of Fire Pro D from afar. I would say Fire Pro Returns is a big reason that I became a fanatic for Puroresu. I printed name guides and move lists for all of the wrestlers and studied them against my old VHS tapes and incoming DVDs (plus WCW vs the World PS1).  So with this release for the PS4, Fire Pro has got to up the ante. The NJPW partnership is the first chip and new moves, expanded Create-a-Wrestler, and story mode have sweetened the pot for me. However, 08/28 is a little bit away so, I've got to keep the fires stoked somehow. What better way than by combing through free NJ matches on YouTube? What's great (in a way) is the relatively recent stuff from NJ's boom period is at a premium and most likely available on the NJPW World streaming service. The YouTube stuff is perhaps the stuff "no one" cares about anymore . And by "no one", I mean mainstream wrestling fans...people who perhaps have the streaming service and know Okada, Bullet Club etc. but have no clue who Inoki, Hashimoto, or Fujinami are. I'm rambling...onto the matches! Ok this first one is 2009 but, close enough... Shinsuke Nakamura vs Hirooki Goto (08/07/09): G1 match. People didn't really care about the G1 until a couple years ago when Dr.Dave and others started rating these highly. AJ vs Minoru Suzuki, I think is the big one. Otherwise, there were probably only like a handful of G1 matches that got uber pimped. Nonetheless, the tournament always produced a few great battles. This has got to be one for '09. Smart, violent Nakamura vs Tank like Goto in 16 minutes of vicious strikes, suplexes, and slams. There was a miscommunication early or in the middle, I believe but, it was quickly forgotten. As much as I like the psycho Beat It Nakamura, this iteration is best because he's not so predictable. For instance, there is an awesome ground work sequence at the end that had me saying, "Damn I need more of this in my NJ!" Go see this and you'll want Nak' back in NJ immediately. Ryusuke Taguchi vs Kota Ibushi (06/10/11): 18 minutes of perfectly executed action. Ibushi was flashy here with a cartwheel move but, I'm OK with the rest of his offence. He made it look natural. However, the real talent of the match was Taguchi. He employed a strong abdomen focused attack on Ibushi from beginning to end. Unfortunately, Ibushi doesn't go very deep in selling this psychology. He lets you know how tired and hurt overall but, doesn't so much as clutch his ribs or chest to convey the strategy of Taguchi...Doing this may have put this into classic Jr. canon contention. Alas, we just get an excellent fireworks match. Or an excellent Fire Pro World match Still, no one really recalls how Devitt & Taguchi  were hot shit back then. Their matches with Golden Lovers & Motor City Machine Guns were what got people excited about NJ. Then, the Tanahashi stuff started up. Anyway, great match here. Probably will dig back into the early 2010 NJ Jr. Tag scene next post. Tomohiro Ishii vs Hirooki Goto (05/20/12): I'll be honest. The IC and Never contenders are the real heavyweights in NJ. The IWGP heavy stuff (especially Tanahashi & Okada) is like WWE Japan at times. There are exceptions for sure as I really dug Omega vs Okada at WK12 and Naito is the man. I just think the Nakamura-Ishii-Goto combo was the bees knees for a few years. You can throw Makabe, Nagata, and a couple others in there and you've got a winner in my book. I say this because people no longer associate NJ with this beat guys into a pulp style but, before the Jr. Elevation Explosion, it was Kensuke, Hashimoto, Choshu, Kojima, Tenzan, Nagata and others doing straight forward physical matches. Goto and Ishii carry on that tradition. No surprise as Goto is the pupil of Tenzan and Ishii is Choshu's. Put simply, there are strike battles and no-sells that are the hallmark of the period but, they can be overlooked when it cannot be determined if Ishii is bleeding from giving or receiving a straight headbutt. Moderation is the key to this style but probably no more than the spot and sequence heavy style in vogue. Highly recommended match. Kazushi Sakuraba vs Shinsuke Nakamura (01/04/13 WK 7): I'll guess that I personally would like this better than the Okada vs Tanahashi main event of this super show of super shows. I'm ragging on NJ a lot for allegedly wanting to buy their game so bad This bout starts polite until Nak' slaps Saku. Then, it gets blown open like old corduroy pants! The Gracie Killer unloads with palm strikes and aggressive grappling. Shinsuke is just trying to stay alive until he can deliver his patented knees  and make some space to breathe. This fight is Strong Style Evolved in the true sense. Slaps, knees, armbars all while Nakamura is able to insert his character and Saku is able to smash Nakamura's head like an egg! Awesome stuff man. Part 2 featuring tag matches and multi-man matches should be up soon. Tenryu in 2004 anyone? Thanks for reading! Hope this pumped you up for watching NJ and playing Fire Pro!  

G. Badger

G. Badger

 

LISTEN: Beau James Interviews Randy Hales

Beau James, a.k.a. King of Kingsport, has posted an episode of an old podcast called "Do You Wanna Be A Wrestler, Kid?" to his YouTube channel where he interviewed Randy Hales.  Hales was the promoter of Power Pro Wrestling in Memphis, TN, from 1998-2001 and worked for many years before that for Jarrett Promotions, making him a mainstay in the Memphis wrestling scene of the time period. Topics include the USWA-WWF working relationship of the 1990s, Monday Night Memories, and Hales booking the USWA. You can listen below. Part 1: Part 2: Part 3: Part 4: UPDATE, July 15: Part 4 has also been added above. As Beau James mentioned to me on Twitter, he also conducted a two-part interview with Bill Dundee.

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FREE MATCHES: FTWW Breakin' It Down

YouTube user carlos lucha has posted matches Fight The World Wrestling's Breakin' It Down show on July 7 in Tampa, Florida to his channel. Links are included below. Full card: Damien Darling & Jack Gallow vs Alex Todd & Apolo Jr. Luis Adams vs Tony Ortega Amber Nova vs Layne Rosario vs Natalia Markova vs Rosalie Valle Max Power vs Josh Grady Chico Adams & Spectacular JC vs Kevin Powers & Salazar Austin Gunn vs Ricky Arness Bryan Idol vs Mike Reed Deondre Motion & Zebediah Cole vs Kayden Greene & Ronnie Rios Billy Gunn vs Deimos Let us know what you think of these matches by starting threads to discuss them at the Pro Wrestling Only forums! Are you one of the wrestlers or promoters involved with this card? Contact us and we'll help put a spotlight on your matches and promote your merchandise to our readers.

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'Locals To Legends Radio' Podcast Interviews Madman Pondo

Gene Jackson of the Locals To Legends Radio podcast posted an interview with Madman Pondo yesterday that's worth a listen, especially for fans of death match wrestling. Topics covered include Pondo's stints in Herb Abrams' UWF and Kick Ass Wrestling in Memphis. Pondo also reflects on Insane Clown Posse, how Girl Fight was formed, $5 Wrestling, and more.  Pondo recently released his autobiography, Memoirs of a Madman, that looks to be a must-read. With a foreword written by Vanilla Ice, Pondo dives into his career both as a pro wrestler and as a casting agent for the Jerry Springer Show.  Pondo was a BJW mainstay for a decade and was also a long-term death match scene regular in IWA Mid-South and Combat Zone Wrestling.   

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FREE MATCH: Su Yung vs Harlow O'Hara (06-16-18)

Title Match Wrestling has posted a free match to their YouTube channel from Battle Club Pro's Malice at the Palace, which took place on June 16 in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. In this match, Su Yung faces Harlow O'Hara in a Last Woman Standing match. Check it out below. The rest of the card is available with a two-week free trial for new users on Title Match Wrestling's Network. Other matches on the show include: Hudson Envy vs Davienne Tasha Steelz vs Kaitlin Diemond Candy Cartwright vs Nikki Adams Veda Scott vs Allie Kat Katred vs Vanity Santana Garrett vs Kylie Rae Gabby Ortiz vs Solo Darling  

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WWE.com Goes Avant Garde in Remembrance of ECW

WWE.com has just dabbled in high art with a photo series depicting current wrestlers as ECW performers. This includes Shinsuke Nakamura as Sabu, Lana as The Sandman, Rusev as Cactus Jack, New Day as the Dudley Boyz, and even Asuka as Stevie Richards, among others. You can view the full slideshow here. 

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MATCH REVIEW: Jushin Liger vs Great Sasuke (07-08-94)

New Japan Pro Wrestling
July 8, 1994
Summer Struggle
Sapporo, Japan
9.4
It's a status that in many ways he still holds today. Jushin Liger is simply The Man. He's been The Man for the better part of thirty years in New Japan Pro Wrestling, setting up worthwhile opponents to knock them down. In terms of longevity and match quality, Liger has as strong a case as any wrestler for being the greatest of all time. That reputation was already well established on April 16, 1994, when New Japan Pro Wrestling ran the first Super J Cup. It wasn't the very first tournament of its kind, but it was the most high-profile one, and it was certainly a groundbreaking event. More than even the final match of the evening, a match rated ***** in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and an all-time classic in its own right, the most memorable match on the card was probably the Jushin Liger vs Great Sasuke semi-final. In an iconic moment near the end of the match, Sasuke springboarded to the top rope, only to fall off on his own and collapse at Liger's feet. It was a sequence intended to set up the finish. Thinking on his feet, Liger casually applauded and worked toward an improvised finish a few moments later, and Sasuke won, which advanced him to the finals where he faced "Wild Pegasus" Chris Benoit. 

If Sasuke won the first match, why would he wrestle as the underdog and aggressor the second time around? Funny you ask. Because of the fluke nature of Sasuke's win,  Liger's sterling reputation, and Sasuke's impressive but limited standing as the ace of a small independent group based in Northeastern Japan, it was Sasuke who came into this match with more to prove. That was evident in how the match was worked, with Sasuke charging at Liger immediately. The match, despite its end result with Liger reigning victorious, was also clearly a project designed to get Sasuke over. He wrestled the match on even footing with the top junior heavyweight in the country. They also wrestled this more like a Sasuke match than a Liger match. Contrary to popular belief, high flying was never really a critical part of what made Liger great. Sure, he was great at it, but he didn't need to fly to be great. 1994 might have been the last year Liger did a notable amount of flying anyway, as he retooled his game after his brain tumor removal in 1996 to move even more toward a mat-based style. This match had more high flying than Liger matches typically did at this point, which got over the idea that Sasuke was forcing him to wrestle his own type of match.  This match acted as the inverse of the J-Cup. In that outing, Liger dominated most of the match, only for Sasuke to hit a few key big moves at just the right time and bring it all home. This time around, it was Sasuke controlled most of the match and Liger who got lucky by hitting one big move -- a super fisherman's buster -- at the end. The end result is that despite trading wins, Sasuke was put over strong in both matches by an opponent who was always hungry for new rivals who could go on his level. It's debatable whether Sasuke ever truly became that opponent in the way Shinjiro Otani did, for example, but they did produce matches that were not only the best of Sasuke's career, but were near the top of Liger's extensive highlight list too.

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MATCH REVIEW: Ric Flair vs Lex Luger (07-10-88)

Great American Bash 1988: The Price For Freedom
Baltimore, Maryland
NWA World Heavyweight Championship
July 10, 1988 7.5 In Japan, multi-year chases are fairly common, but that has never really translated to American audiences for whatever reason. Chalk it up to the reactionary tendencies of promoters when gates aren't at a certain level. Maybe it's a lack of conviction. Maybe it's even that pro wrestling has always been more of a fad-based interest than a long-term hobby for most casual viewers. Maybe it's even differences in culture, as it's much easier to plan that type of story in a company where it's almost unthinkable that a homegrown talent would leave and go to the competition (even if it did occasionally happen). Regardless, the idea of fans, promoters, and wrestlers sticking with a six-year chase to an undercard title win the way AJPW handled the Masa Fuchi vs Tsuyoshi Kikuchi feud from 1990-1996 are pretty unlikely on this side of the Pacific. The Ric Flair-Lex Luger rivalry is interesting to think about in that context. Between 1988 and 1991, through changes in ownership, executive leadership, and even the name of the very company where the rivalry played out, the two wrestled each other five times on pay-per-view and once on a Clash of the Champions TV special. Flair turned twice during this time, Luger three times going on four -- they were even set to do a sixth pay-per-view match, the one that would finally pay off Luger's perpetual chase, before contract negotiations broke down and Flair bolted for the WWF. The rivalry sustained through all of that, and defiantly, it seemed to be a feud that just kept falling up. Despite the chaos that surrounded it, Flair-Luger always worked, even if it did play to diminishing returns. It worked so well in the summer and fall of 1988 that it gave David Crockett temporary hope that they would not have to sell the company to Turner Broadcasting. Flair and Luger did massive house show business during a time that Crockett was dying, and even in 1990, when Luger stepped in to hastily turn babyface to substitute for an injured Sting, Wrestle War '90 did a surprisingly good buyrate and house show attendance had a short-lived mini-spike. It was a rivalry people were interested in following and the prevalent belief, years before wrestling conditioned its fans to never expect anything to pay off, was that this had to pay off somewhere and that they wanted to see it happen. That continued investment can be attributed to how well these matches were worked. Flair saw his role as not to have a great match with Luger, although they would eventually have some classics. Instead, he saw his role as to make him look invincible.  Flair has told a story many times about how he drew the ire of Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard because of how he worked with Luger; Arn and Tully thought Ric's pinball bumping and obsessive begging off was a little too much self sacrifice. Flair explained to them that he saw his role as to both carry Luger and teach him how to draw money at the same time, so he had to work in overdrive to pull it off. 
They weren't quite there yet at this early stage of the feud, but it was clear that once they settled into their formula, Ric Flair and Lex Luger would have a sure thing. 

Flair has always defended Luger as someone who never had the opportunity to really learn how to work because he was pushed to the top right away. While Flair's graciousness is appreciated, he was selling Luger short. This match had some rough spots because it was Luger's first time to be in such a pressure-packed main event position, to the point that Dave Meltzer commented in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that the match looked like two independent wrestlers trying to copy a Flair match than it did an actual Flair match. However, Luger reminded us all that he was an excellent athlete in spite of any other critiques leveled his way -- his surprise leapfrog and dropkick were legitimately great moments. Over time, Luger did exactly what Flair hoped he would do -- he learned on the job and adapted. By the time they met again on pay-per-view four months later at Starrcade, Luger had dropped about 15 pounds in muscle and improved his cardio so he could do long matches without getting winded. By the time they wrestled a year after that, Luger was strong enough to carry a match between the two of them offensively while working heel. While Luger never really learned how to do a proper figure-four leglock, he did have one of the best heel runs of his era in 1989 as U.S. champion and had a clear hot streak on pay-per-view that lasted a good two or three years. He gelled wonderfully with Flair, who would take his own trademark bumps in exaggerated fashion during their matches -- usually two or three high-elevation press slams, big back body drops, the slam from the top rope, and the Flair flip into the clothesline off the apron. The "Flair Formula" as we know it didn't originate in the Luger series, but that's where it was tweaked and cultivated.  None of this addresses what this match is most notorious for, and that's the finish. Luger was barely cut at all, the match was stopped by the Maryland State Athletic Commission for Lex's "excessive lacerations", and Flair retained on a technicality. It did lead to a massive house show run of Flair-Luger matches, sold on the idea that they don't stop matches for blood loss in YOUR town, so YOU might just see a title change. However, I'll reprint a fan letter from the October 3, 1988, issue of the Observer explaining the problem with this booking, even though it worked in the short-term, and which Meltzer defended for that reason. "Your comment that, ipso fact, the ridiculous Flair-Luger blood angle on the PPV Bash was a success because live gates were up immediately was the most naive thing I've ever read by you. Don't you think infuriating the PPV audience was more significant than live audience, a totally different and relatively microscopic portion of the potentially vast PPV audience? The NWA's biggest problem is they never take the long view. Like children, they live in the eternal here and now. People are turned out of the blue (Windham, Luger, Murdoch, Garvin) with no build up because they need heat at some shows. They get good notices on Clash and think they've won the wrestling war. They draw a few good live gates and suddenly Dusty and Jimbo are convinced they've been right all along and should continue to run the organization even after Turner spends good money on it. " -- Bill Kunkel, Woodhaven, NY This match being the catalyst, the Flair-Luger feud acted as a platform for a lot of people to project their own biases, ideas, and truths, including promoters, wrestlers, reporters, and even fans like Mr. Kunkel of Woodhaven. It was hard to cut through the noise and appreciate the matches for what they were, but it's something that became easier with time as Luger gained confidence and Flair found in-ring sanctuary from the constant politics of the new TBS environment. While it was a  long-running program that left behind so much collateral damage and Luger developed a "choker" label that followed him for the rest of his career as a result of this very match, it did eventually become a really rewarding series. This isn't the match to watch to see the absolute best version of these two against each other, but it's a primitive look at where they'd go through the turmoil, growth, and fallout of the next few years, accidentally crafting a compelling long-term story in spite of itself. 

Loss

Loss

 

FREE MATCHES: Proving Ground Pro's No Broken Promises (05-18-18)

Proving Ground Pro has published some of their No Broken Promises show from May 18 in Washington, Illinois, on their YouTube channel. In two first-round matches of the one-night tournament to crown a PGP Cutting Edge Champion, Jake Lander faced Jah C and Tyler Matrix faced Paco Gonzalez. You can watch the matches below.    Let us know what you think of these matches by starting threads to discuss them at the Pro Wrestling Only forums! Are you one of the wrestlers or promoters involved with this card? Contact us and we'll help put a spotlight on your matches and promote your merchandise to our readers.

Loss

Loss

 

FREE MATCH: Six-Man Scramble (05-11-18)

Maine independent Limitless Wrestling has posted a new free match to their YouTube channel from their Feed The Need show on May 11. This is a six-man scramble that includes Ace Austin, Kevin Ku, AJ Gray, Jake Parnell, Tony Deppen, and Bolt Brady. Watch it below.   This card is not yet available on DVD, but Limitless Wrestling indicates that it will be. Also on the show: Brody King vs Eli Everfly Ace Romero vs AR Fox Dream Team vs The Rascals vs Anthony Henry & James Drake Rachael Ellering vs Ashley Fox JT Dunn vs Anthony Greene Darby Allin vs Zachary Wentz (clip) Kimber Lee vs Skylar (clip) Jeff Cannonball & Brandon Kirk vs Jay Freddie & John Silver Teddy Hart vs Josh Briggs

Loss

Loss

 

First Episode of Dojo Pro Wrestling Airs on Amazon Prime

In partnership with Ring of Honor, Dojo Pro Wrestling has launched a new TV show that's available on Amazon Prime. The concept show includes a gauntlet where independent wrestlers receive a belt to signify completion of that particular level, only to go to their next match and aim to receive a higher belt, like martial arts starting with a white belt. When a wrestler receives the Dojo Pro Black Belt, he earns a shot at the ROH World Championship.  Eleven of the  wrestlers are: Aaron Solow Brandon Cutler Corey Hollis Gunner Miller James Storm Jeff Cobb Joey Janela MJF Ricky Starks Shane Strickland Wheeler Yuta Kerry Awful and Kevin Ku are in competition for the twelfth spot and face each other in the sole match on the first show. Cobb, the #1 seed, had an altercation with a ringside fan to establish him as the top heel.  Amazon Prime members can watch the show by clicking here.

Loss

Loss

 

MATCH REVIEW: Bret Hart vs 1-2-3 Kid (07-11-94)

In the quarter century that has passed since this match took place, it has become rightfully immortalized, although the environment in which this match was created remains frozen in time. WWF Monday Night RAW 07/11/94
Bushkill, PA
WWF World Championship 8.7 In 1994, Bret Hart clearly had a vision for the type of World Champion he wanted to be. He wasn't your older brother's WWF champion. Instead, whether intentionally or not, he was your father's NWA champion, a modern-day Jack Brisco. Brisco, who held the NWA title for most of the period between 1973 and 1975, was a highly-skilled athlete and an excellent wrestler, but more than that, he was a clean-cut, guy-next-door type who treated wrestling, and his opponents, with a certain respect. As with most NWA champions, when he faced a local babyface, he took on the heel role, but played it in a much more subtle way so that it wasn't a dramatic departure from his usual persona. This usually meant little to no outright cheating and instead meant wrestling from a position of dominance to set up the babyface's comeback, all while showing moments of mild frustration that he can't put the challenger away. As his successors Ric Flair and Harley Race became the dominant NWA champs and mostly wrestled as heels, the Brisco doctrine became more of a distant memory. Understandably, Hulk Hogan was something far closer to Bruno Sammartino than any long-term NWA champion. He faced his challenger of the moment in a series that usually lasted three matches, then moved on to the next monster to repeat the cycle. The Bret Hart feud formula wasn't the Hulk Hogan feud formula, nor should it have been. When Bret became champion for the first time in 1992, wrestling was in the doldrums. Domestic business had collapsed drastically in a fairly short period of time under the weight of company scandals. Ultimate Warrior and Davey Boy Smith, two wrestlers who were being positioned as the top babyfaces in the company, were fired for using HGH as Vince McMahon was facing indictment for steroid distribution. Bret, who always had a dedicated WWF following -- at one point, he received more fan mail than any wrestler in the company -- was also someone more established at the Intercontinental title level, and he wasn't the level of star just yet that could immediately reverse the WWF's fortunes. He could, however, either slow the sinking or prevent things from getting worse.

In Bret's first run with the title, he was presented as an unusually active champion, an easy label to apply because it was true. The WWF put him in title defenses four to five nights per week and played this up heavily on television to get him over as a Fighting Champion. He was often vanquishing low-level foes, but so many of the stars were gone first of all, and second, he was doing it decisively, and beating other midcarders made clear that Bret Hart was now a cut above the guys that were previously presented as at about the same level that he was.  With plans of Bret beating the Ultimate Warrior at the 1993 Royal Rumble and Hulk Hogan at the subsequent Summerslam not working out as originally planned, Bret wasn't really put in a position to be a real champion until his second run, which started just three months before this when he beat Yokozuna at Wrestlemania X. For the foreseeable future, the company would be built in the image of Bret "The Hitman" Hart, who fans clearly preferred to Lex Luger when they were asked to choose between them. Bret could finally take main events somewhere more consistent with who he was. This was how he crossed paths with the 1-2-3 Kid. Kid was a supremely talented independent wrestler, working a highly-regarded series against Jerry Lynn in the Minnesota indies that continued to the Global Wrestling Federation, which was a more high-profile setting. The Razor Ramon upset on the May 17, 1993, episode of Monday Night RAW  is widely considered one of the most memorable moments of the era and it made Kid a bonafide star. Bret spoke highly of Kid at the 1994 WWF Hall of Fame ceremony, clips of which were included in the pre-match video. It speaks to what made Bret an effective champion. He wanted to test himself against someone he saw as a great wrestler, and it was a breath of fresh air because they didn't have to presume that they hated each other or manufacture an issue to get there. This is a big part of why Bret Hart was a star -- he was a real person in a sea of cartoon characters. He was facing a challenger who also resembled that remark and earned the opportunity by simply being talented and getting some big wins. This match aired on television only six days before Hulk Hogan would have his first match in WCW, a title match against Ric Flair at Bash at the Beach. It reprsented quite the reversal in stature for the two companies -- the WWF running a title match between two great workers in a dingy building in a small market while WCW headlined with a dream match featuring the two biggest stars of their era, taking place in a major, full-sized arena in a city that hosts Walt Disney World and is notorious for being a tourist trap.  Bret went out of his way to make Kid look credible here. When Kid snuck in the armdrag off of their first lockup, Bret's face said it all -- he was both surprised and impressed. Bret attempted to use his size to his advantage, something he didn't get to do very often, by bodyslamming Kid out of his second armbar attempt, an example of the aforementioned Jack Brisco subtle heeling. This continued when Bret applied a chinlock, which was the first step in turning the crowd. The match started with the crowd firmly behind Bret, booing Kid and acting dismissive of his chances, and the chinlock started the ball rolling in their preferred direction, putting sympathy on Kid. These holds are sometimes written off as restholds, and that's often deserved, but here, it played a key role in turning the audience. The first image after a commercial break was Kid once again in control, with Bret only able to turn the tide with a knee to the gut, another subtle heel move. Bret slowed the pace, which was another example of great psychology because it built anticipation for Kid's eventual faster-paced comeback. Bret hit Kid with a series of awesome European uppercuts in the corner, which only further endeared him to the audience. At this point, the crowd was slowly moving to Kid's side, and more great offense like the swinging neckbreaker from Bret only helped build sympathy. When Kid blocked Bret's crucifix attempt and covered him for a three count, Kid was in the ropes and Bret was declared the winner anyway because the referee was out of position. Bret insisted on a restart, hammering the point home that this is a champion who finds it important for his title defenses not to end in controversy. Catching Bret off his guard just after pleading his case to continue the match, Kid snuck in a quick nearfall and almost got the victory. The crowd bit hard. In Bret Hart's WWF, the great wrestlers could become the new champions at any time.  Frustrated, Bret grounded Kid and went back to the chinlock, which at this point made for a fully-divided crowd that just minutes earlier was solidly on Bret's side. When Kid blocked Bret's hiptoss attempt with a backslide, only to be cut off again, they finally had the people where they wanted them, chanting "1-2-3!" and fully supporting Kid's title bid. When Bret attempted the middle-rope elbow, Kid kicked him squarely in the face. It was a common transition in Bret Hart matches, but it had more impact here because it reinforced that high flying was Kid's domain. To hammer this point home, Kid hit a flying crossbody for a hot nearfall, and after Bret barely kicked out, Kid clotheslined the much larger champion over the top rope. The message was clear -- we were watching a WWF now where the best wrestles were as big as anyone in the company. After the best nearfall of the match, one where Kid reversed a superplex mid-air to land in a pinning position on top of Bret, Bret finally secured the sharpshooter, and with it victory, after Kid got a little overzealous going up top. As the two congratulated each other on a great match when it was over, Jim Ross had the wherewithal to stay quiet since the wrestlers were conveying the points just fine on their own, a sixth sense he wouldn't always have in future years.  If the NWA champion working style died another death when Bret Hart was no longer the top guy, it wasn't because the groundwork was never laid by matches like this, nor was it because wrestlers like Kid didn't know how to sell themselves as challengers at just the right pitch -- strong enough to be taken seriously, but not so strong that he would lose his underdog appeal. It's more that the American wrestling scene became increasingly impatient, aimless, and focused on outside shenanigans as the years waned on, a continued trend that helped Sean Waltman make big money at the end of the decade as much as it deprived us of some chances to see a great wrestler in long title matches. It was also a trend that, sadly, would eventually leave Bret Hart as a casualty. The small building and small market suggest otherwise, but these were happier times, not because the present was great as much as it was that the future hadn't yet been bargained away. Even if the elevator never hit the top floor, Bret Hart and the 1-2-3 Kid were hard at work building the ground level.

Loss

Loss

 

FREE MATCHES: Next Evolution Wrestling (06-30-18)

Matches from the Next Evolution Wrestling (NEW) show in Elizabeth City, North Carolina on June 30, have been posted for free on YouTube.   They are: Austin Shadowz vs Dontay Bishop DA Assassin vs Livid the Clown Joe King vs Preston Quinn Wes Rogers vs Jake Hollister Handicap Match: Blunt Force Trauma (Benjamin Money Banks & The Demented Bradley) vs Victor Griff Evolution Championship: Beau Crockett vs Franco Varga   Let us know what you think of these matches by starting threads to discuss them at the Pro Wrestling Only forums!   Are you one of the wrestlers or promoters involved with this card? Contact us and we'll help put a spotlight on your matches and promote your merchandise to our readers.

Loss

Loss

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