Rick Martel played the role of the champion just as well as anyone, which is impossible to deny in this AWA title defense in the Great White North.
July 3, 1984
Halifax, Nova Scotia
AWA World Heavyweight Championship
While the NWA World Title was the pinnacle achievement in wrestling for decades, I definitely have time for an argument that the AWA title was the next best thing. Sure, the WWF title was defended outside of the home territory occasionally, but the AWA champ was probably more omnipresent, whether that meant Nick Bockwinkel and Jerry Lawler were squaring off in Memphis, the title was changing hands on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, or, in this case, Rick Martel was defending the gold against Leo Burke in Montreal's International Wrestling.
Rick Martel's career had quite the odd trajectory. There aren't many wrestlers who were young babyfaces that became world champs before becoming middle-of-the-card tag wrestlers, only to turn heel and gain fame with a male model gimmick -- remember, a male who models can never simply be called a model -- before ending their careers in a series for the WCW TV title, but Martel certainly fits the bill, and this match is an awesome showcase for the best phase of his career. At forty-five minutes and change (of a sixty-minute draw, mind you), I won't say that this match never tested my patience, but the journey was paid off, and Martel only became a better heel the longer the match went. Leo Burke was there, had an interesting career trajectory of his own, and delivered a perfectly fine performance, but this was really a platform for Martel's talents.
As much as we talk about the devaluing of world championships by WWE having two of them, the real issue isn't that wrestling having too many world champions as much as it is a wrestling company having too many world champions. The NWA and AWA champs didn't cross paths all that much, with some notable exceptions, but they existed in a wrestling landscape that gave them both plenty of space to play the role. Here, Martel looks every bit the peer to his contemporary in the role Ric Flair, and all I can wonder is how great Martel's career might have been had he reached the top ten years earlier instead of on the cusp of some transformational changes to wrestling itself.
Portland Wrestling has some really high-quality matches, especially featuring these two. But even the best of us have off nights.
July 3, 1982
Pacific Northwest Wrestling
Buddy Rose. More than Nick Bockwinkel, Jerry Lawler, or even Ric Flair, it's hard to think of a single wrestler who made a career out of doing so much with so little on the opposite side of the ring. All three of these wrestlers are considered shining examples of wrestlers who can get a good match out of the proverbial broomstick, and rightfully so. Still, Flair had Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham, and Jumbo Tsuruta. Lawler had Bill Dundee and Austin Idol. Bockwinkel had Rick Martel and Billy Robinson. Who did Buddy Rose have?
The Pro Wrestling Only forums was home to a renewed love for Buddy Rose a few years back, a love that only seemed to strengthen the more that everyone involved watched more matches. I remember an offline conversation where I asked one of the most prominent members of that discussion, "Who's his [Jerry Lawler career rival Bill] Dundee?"
"He doesn't have one," this person replied.
Looking at match lists, that seems to be true. It's not that Rose never had quality opposition. He faced Rick Martel, Roddy Piper, Matt Borne, and Dynamite Kid. The problem he ran into, however, was one of timing. We usually refer to great wrestlers as mechanics. Buddy Rose was more of a gardener.
Curt Hennig became an excellent wrestler, and quickly so at that. When this match happened, Hennig was probably only six months away from being a really great performer. He was so great at a young age that Ric Flair once opined that as great of a worker as Hennig was, he was never as good as he was when he was young. Hennig also idolized Rose and grew to see him as his own compass. When dismissing booking or match ideas, Hennig argued many times that "Buddy Rose would never do that" when providing his reasoning.
When this match happened, Hennig still didn't quite understand what it was that Buddy Rose would never do. The match is focused on knee injuries that both men have suffered in pre-match angles and it's an explicit storyline point that both men are expected to target each other's knees. At one point, babyface Hennig goes after Rose with a chair in a moment of retribution and just completely obliterates him, but he uses so many chairshots that they quickly lose meaning? There's no logic underpining the weapon shots. Instead of hitting a guy with a chair ten times in a row, why not get him with one shot and make it count? It makes the rest of the match a bit preposterous, especially in an environment where wrestling holds are put over as devastating and are legal and weapons shots are considered beyond the pale and are illegal.
In most cases, a no-disqualification match between two well-regarded wrestlers with both coming in with knee injuries, one where the crowd is so excited that they're specifically chanting for Curt to break Buddy's leg, would be great before it even begins. This match never came close to being something at that level, but for those of us who enjoy following patterns over time, we got something even better. The great matches would come with time. For the better part of a half hour, we saw Curt Hennig sit under the learning tree.
This is unique in that Daniel Bryan carries the offense in most of his matches, but here, he has someone who's on his level in that category, so he puts on more of a selling performance. WWE often talks about Daniel Bryan as this big underdog, which is not what got him over. In fact, he was presented as more of a pitbull. This was an okay match. Nothing really wrong with it, but these are two of the best wrestlers in the company and they obviously have more in them when they aren't doing a short TV main event with a non-finish.
This had tremendous heat, and was pretty much WWE fast-paced wrestling putting its best foot forward. It's a bit weird watching Dolph Ziggler in main events now, four years after most people were clamoring for it but are now sort of over him. Has he changed or have we? Anyway, I guess it's possible he could reverse his momentum. Stranger things have happened. I'm all about Roman Reigns-Drew McIntyre being set up with the post-match angle with Reigns adding a third current program to his workload. One of the best (and longest) TV main events in a while. ***3/4
A good match that tried to tell an interesting in-match story, but a little too much comedy at times for a title match from my view. This is almost a competitive squash for a big part of this, but then it kicks into high gear in the last few minutes when AR Fox stops trying to out-Riddle Matt Riddle and starts wrestling more as himself. The ringside seconds added a lot to the nearfalls by getting so excited after all of the big moves, which I am convinced played a big part in getting the crowd to bite so hard on those. This didn't really come across like a main event-level match to me, but it also seemed like an early chapter in a long series between these two, so maybe that's okay for now. ***
This is my first time to see Austin Theory, but I have to say I don't get guys cutting promos with that scripted WWE cadence when no one is making them do it. (At least I hope no one is.) I have no desire to return to the rape culture days of early 2000s indie wrestling at all, but calling an opponent an "indie piece of trash" just might be too far in the other direction. I loved DJ Z here and think he has a bright future. I hear he's working BOLA this year, so I hope he gets a lot of matches and has a breakout weekend because he seems on the verge of something cool. I'm not a huge fan of three way matches, but they do execute some of the necessities of that really well here. I thought it was cool how DJ Z wanted to do the big move from up top, but it was presented as him countering something else when they were actually setting up his own move. Pretty cool way to structure that so it's not obvious what they're doing. Good match. DJ Z looks ready to conquer the world. ***1/2
This will be a shorter version of the daily match reviews I do for older wrestling. The matches I enjoy the most will get a longer look and a more detailed match review on this date next year.
The storytelling here was awesome. Much of it was built on technical precision. Anthony Henry wasn't as skilled as Timothy Thatcher in the story that they were telling, so he tried to make up for it with as much aggression as he could muster. We saw it at the beginning of the match when he charged at Thatcher and went for an early victory, and we saw it again when he finally found a way to deal with Thatcher's ability to counter just about anything from just about any position. In the early stages, Henry's anklelock was noticeably loose compared to Thatcher's, but that was by design. Henry's dragon screw leg whip being countered by Thatcher's cross armbreaker, only for that to be countered by an anklelock from Henry, was the best part of the match. It seems like most of the time, this dynamic isn't really paid off. Tsuyoshi Kikuchi never beat Jumbo Tsuruta. Ricky Morton never took the title from Ric Flair. Rey Mysterio I guess beat Kevin Nash on a fluke once, but Nash got the last laugh. This time, it did. That makes this not only something cool, but also something special. ****
The individual parts of a great match between Konosuke Takeshita and "Speedball" Mike Bailey were all there. However, they never really joined together.
July 2, 2017
Dramatic Dream Team
Hello From Shinjuku Village
KO-D Openweight Championship
For whatever else one might say about this match, it was not a victim of bad ideas. In fact, most of the ideas were very good or great. It also wasn’t a victim of bad execution. Mike Bailey and to an even greater extent Konosuke Takeshita have quite the arsenal of crisp, impressive moves. What the match lacked was a lack of stakes in the work, some of which was admittedly a byproduct of a growth story for “Speedball” Mike Bailey.
Bailey had undeniable personality, but he also undermined the match in ways that I don’t think he specifically wanted to happen. The smarmy applause at the beginning of the match was awesome, especially in using the Seth MacFarlane technique of continuing the joke long past the point that we would expect them to stop, thus creating its own meta-humor. On one level, it was funny, but on the more important level, he established himself as an insincere heel. The problem was that he didn’t wrestle the rest of the match that way at all, going so over the top with his facial expressions that heat-seeking heel gestures were instead played for comedy, which might be okay if this wasn’t a championship match.
As a result, Bailey came across as a guy playing pro wrestler instead of being pro wrestler. It’s a shame, because he seems to be a supremely talented guy with a lot to offer, and I think if his facial expressions weren’t so goofy, he might have been a more credible challenger. At the same time, in Bailey’s overall DDT arc, that seemed to be exactly the point, and many of the problems that plagued his work aren’t unique to him in current day wrestling -- does anyone actually struggle to get in a vertical suplex position anymore or does everyone just voluntarily put their body in position for it? Still, it’s a character not yet realized and match cliches that have spread everywhere that bring down the match despite anything else.
Luckily, Takeshita was in the match as well and he carried himself like a superstar, and had he not, this would have gone from a low-stakes match to a no-stakes match. I absolutely got the sense that Takeshita cared deeply about staying champion. Bailey seemed to be there more to humor himself than win, and to his credit, the post-match interviews make clear that this was an intentional character failing and that this is part of a longer booking journey. Still, this is the type of journey where there isn’t much reason to wake the sleeping wrestling fan until it’s over. As it stands, Takeshita beat a talented guy who challenged him with the brute force of bad comedy and came out champion. Yay him, I guess?
At a spot show in Montreal, Samoa Joe, already one of the best wrestlers in the world, met up with Kevin Steen, who had the somehow likable jerk persona down to a science from day one.
July 2, 2004
Marc LeGrizzly Presents
In 2004, Samoa Joe was the greatest-working world champion in the United States. It was quite the accomplishment in the year where WWE decided to coronate Eddy Guerrero and Chris Benoit. Whether Joe was a better worker than either of them is a matter of debate, but his understanding of what the champion should do and convey showed the understanding of a veteran, even with his career starting only four years earlier.
Joe was not taking on the world champion role in the literal sense in this match. He was outside of Ring of Honor, his home promotion, and working a spot show in Canada. Still, fans were hip to Joe as the indie scene was growing while he was the top guy in the most high-profile indie in North America, so it made sense for Joe to take on the role, even if it was only implicitly so, when he faced local star Kevin Steen.
The Kevin Steen of 2004 was not terribly different from the Kevin Owens of today -- his brashness and quick wit already front and center, as was his tendency to be wrestling’s most easy-to-like asshole. But if Steen was an asshole, he was Montreal’s asshole, which made him the sentimental favorite of the crowd even if they were more likely to cheer the action than any particular guy. Steen was still true to himself anytime he got cheered, flipping the bird to the parts of the crowd who wanted him to come to their side of the ring to deliver offense on the floor. Steen even dared to get into a striking contest with Joe, arguably the best striker on the continent by this time; he might have paid a price for that arrogance, but he earned it back in fan reputation, valuable currency for an indie wrestler. In fact, the more Joe beats the Hell out of Steen, the better Steen looks for withstanding the beating. Joe brutalized Steen with strikes, but the highlight was the release German suplex on the entrance ramp, which was as brutal a flat-back bump as it gets.
I’m not a fan of Franky the Mobster and Chase Ironside running in, which results in the ref throwing out the match and setting up an immediate impromptu tag where they faced Steen and Joe together. It wasn’t that the booking was bad, as I can see the merits of Steen earning Joe’s respect by always fighting back before they end up as unlikely partners, but that's a lot of long-term booking for what wasn't even a full-time wrestling promotion. The match overachieved in a way that it deserved a more decisive finish. Kevin Owens has since become a WWE headliner, but the contrast between the compassionate and caring family man and the sarcastic instigator shows that he never stopped being a walking character contradiction. Maybe the same is true for all of us, but claiming the gray area in a way that doesn’t undermine opponents or treat everything around it like a joke is impressive and rare in pro wrestling.
With Mitsuharu Misawa and Toshiaki Kawada at odds during the peak of their rivalry, All Japan did something rare -- they produced a memorable six-man tag.
July 2, 1993
All Japan Pro Wrestling
Summer Action Series
In classic All Japan Pro Wrestling, six-man tags were likely the most interesting matches the company produced. There were so many of them that it took something remarkable for the match to stand out as great (even when it was), but in such a hierarchy-based company, it was a great peek at the pecking order, a flashlight into the back of All Japan’s booking office that resolved most questions about card positioning. Because the layout was usually geared to ensure that everyone involved had something notable to contribute, six-mans were also an effective showcase of All Japan’s top shelf at a given point in time, letting everyone demonstrate what they could do before, generally speaking, getting out of dodge. This resulted in offense-heavy, action packed matches that doubled as a great introduction to the style for novices.
This time around, the setting alone solved at least part of the difficulty standing out. Just six weeks earlier, Toshiaki Kawada, the long-time second lieutenant to Mitsuharu Misawa in these types of matches, announced in understated fashion that he was leaving Misawa’s side; nine months earlier, Misawa bested Kawada in his first Triple Crown defense and their team was clearly drowning in debt from massively-borrowed time. In becoming Misawa’s top rival, Kawada quickly moved from tag-along to top rival and peer.
Jun Akiyama and Yoshinari Ogawa were there to represent the undercard; in Akiyama’s case, a wrestler who would only close out his rookie year two months after this but had gotten off to an incredible start with one of the best rookie years in history. Kenta Kobashi and Akira Taue took a mostly background role by design. They impressed when they were in the ring, but it was clear they were sandwiched between the top two priorities of the match -- get over the younger Akiyama-Ogawa pairing and get over the Misawa-Kawada rivalry, which would headline the next tour when Kawada would challenge for the Triple Crown one more time.
Much like Kobashi and Taue before them, as the least experienced person on his side, Akiyama would now work the lion’s share of the match. As awesome as Akiyama was, Ogawa was serviceable but not really spectacular, someone who was still about five years away from finding himself. The spectacular belonged to Misawa and Kawada, to the point their intensity swallowed the match whole.
If the goal was to get Misawa-Kawada over as a deeply personal rivalry, which was not really a huge stretch, the match wildly succeeded. Some have debated whether the right person was the ace of All Japan during these years; Kawada and Kobashi had huge positives, but it’s clear watching this match that neither could have assumed the mantle quite like Misawa, who alternated between stoic and fiery with seemingly near the same ease that most of us put on our shoes. The end result does less to advance the plot than continue it, which is the biggest part of what makes All Japan six-mans the most disposable great matches of all time. This one wasn’t disposable, but it doesn’t quite earn all of the shelf space it takes either, landing in a spot where you know a match is great and can’t deny its virtues, but find it hard to care. The match’s greatest drawback is the lack of emotional hook or importance, meaning that it’s easier to admire than love.
Wrestling fandom requires a sense of eternal optimism, although sometimes when we think back fondly on great feuds, we forget that even the best rivalries had an expiration date.
July 2, 1987
Jim Crockett Promotions
NWA World Wide Wrestling 07-04-87
NWA World Tag Team Championship
If any headline act suffered the most from the decline of the territories, it just might have been the Rock N Roll Express. Just like heartthrobs marketed to teenagers in all forms of entertainment, they can be wildly successful, but Tiger Beat usually closes its window before the hormones can escape. Before coming to Jim Crockett Promotions in 1985, Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson worked in Mid-South Wrestling. They “popped the territory”, as the old-timers would put it, but they were also careful not to overstay their welcome.
By the summer of 1987, Crockett fans were growing tired of the Rock N Roll Express, a trend that had only been confined to the heel-friendly Philadelphia market earlier in their Crockett run. The duo peaked both as team acts and a solo acts during the previous year’s Great American Bash tour, with Morton as a hot challenger to NWA World Champion Ric Flair and most of their matches on the tour happening against the Four Horsemen. There was anything but shame in working with the Midnight Express, but it was the second version of the feud in JCP alone and they had already traded the World Tag Team Titles the previous year.
It seemed like they had no idea where to go next. The Rock N Rolls were still very well-received in lots of places, even in this match, but it was clear the act had gotten colder in the previous twelve months. Less than three months earlier, the two were mercilessly booed in Baltimore when ring announcer Gary Cappetta told the Baltimore crowd that they would not participate in the annual Crockett Cup tournament because of Morton’s eye injury. The idea was floated in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter of a heel turn and feud with The Fantastics, while booker Dusty Rhodes pitched a program with The Sheepherders where Morton would have his head shaved, an offer perhaps made specifically so the Express would leave town.
In spite of this, the Capital Centre crowd were receptive to the Rock N Rolls and they might have had a good match that kept the people; however, a television match that spanned 30 minutes with commercial breaks was enough to remind any viewer how played out the team was becoming, which meant this sputtered to a conclusion instead of building to a hot finish. Stan Lane had also replaced Dennis Condrey in the Midnight Express since the previous summer, a change that in theory might have freshened up the rivalry, but didn’t get there in practice. The work is good at times and floundering at times; the teams seemed at least a little off their game because of the growing apathy from the crowd, but haven’t stopped providing the reliably great sequences. Who doesn’t love Ricky Morton literally climbing Bobby Eaton during a simple knucklelock, for example? But more than anything, perhaps the biggest problem they faced was the absence of Jim Cornette. There were a few times in the MX’s run other than this where we saw Cornette not at ringside, and each time, the match had trouble garnering heat. This match made a strong case for Cornette as a difference maker, and as a key component for why this classic series worked so well.
When the Rock N Roll Express returned to the company in 1990, many still weren’t thrilled to see them return, but they won fans over again with their in-ring work even if their days as company main eventers were over. In 1987, they hadn’t been absent, so the hearts of fans hadn’t had time to grow fonder, which showed in how it made even the good moments seem lesser than they deserved.
Tulsa fans were a far less unruly bunch than many ticket buyers in other Mid South markets. Their reward was to receive the ideal snapshot of tag team wrestling.
July 2, 1984
Jim Cornette has spoken in the past about how when Mid-South Wrestling came to town, Tulsa, Oklahoma, attracted a more -- shall we say -- housebroken crowd than in some other major markets in the territory. Understanding this, Ernie Ladd, Bobby Eaton, and Dennis Condrey were licensed to cheat at will, secure in the knowledge that they could be total meanies to Ricky Morton without some drunk deciding to murder the manager. This doesn’t mean that Tulsa drew a docile people; they were hot for the action and in fact, the crowd reaction came easy, being that the Rock N Roll Express were the most over act in the territory. Still, Ladd and the Midnight Express didn’t take the crowd for granted.
Out of the goodness of their dark hearts, they decided to let the Rock N Rolls and Jim Duggan have the lion’s share of the match. There are many moments where you think face-in-peril -- the concept of one babyface being isolated by the heels and struggling to make the tag -- has arrived but it’s not time just yet. They tease Robert Gibson first but quickly abandoned that idea when Gibson tagged Duggan. Then they hinted briefly that it would be Duggan but despite taking a few shots, he tagged out to Morton quickly. It was only when Morton missed a dropkick that the heels took over, leaving Morton to play the role that defined his career as much as it did tag team wrestling in the era.
The contrast of the gigantic Ernie Ladd attacking the pint-sized Ricky Morton made for an awfully effective visual. Ladd was clearly winding down by this stage of his career, but he still has simple moves in his arsenal like the double legdrop and basic thrust-like strikes that got the job done. He also understood how to rile up the crowd, playing Milton Bradley’s Hide the Foreign Object to maximum effect. It’s the double-team moves combined with complete lack of moral turpitude that made the Midnights and Cornette such a credible triple threat; the duo combined legal and illegal tactics seamlessly.
At some point in the 1990s, we started thinking of the hot tag as the beginning of the end of a match -- a sign that both teams would start the finishing stretch, do at least one nearfall, and then go home. In the 1980s, the very sight of the perilous babyface was the beginning of the finishing stretch, and it’s important to watch tag matches from the era with that in mind. Think of it like the film where the villain has the hero on the ropes until the villain’s last weakness is exploited. Just like Dorothy pouring water on the Wicked Witch of the West, the hot tag signified such a moment; complementing that, “shine” -- the part of the matches where the babyfaces get the better of almost every exchange -- is often thought of as a match introduction, but can also spill into the body of the match. It was only in the last five minutes that the Morton beatdown even began. They made those minutes count, but make no mistake, that’s because they were teasing a finish at any moment. Exceptions can and will be found -- the famed “double heat” with two face-in-peril stretches and two hot tags, particularly common in the AWA, and the hot tag that’s followed by multiple nearfalls and teases before the real finish. Those matches are usually the exceptional ones, something this, while very good, is not, even while it does act as an excellent representation of the positives of tag team wrestling in 1984.
Clearly, Loss has changed, updated, and polished the new site and the PWO forums section. Or "the board" as many of it will think of it as
With this change, I want to wish him the best and say thanks for providing this awesome forum and resource. It is without a doubt, the best place for wrestling information and discussion anywhere.
With that being said, the Badger Blog (sure, let's go with that for right now) has been on a little break in order to allow all/most/some? of the updates to take place. Unfortunately, it appears that the new template has restricted or removed the search functions, my categories (80's, 90's, Women's Wrestling etc.), and tags. Also, it seems the blog section is much more difficult to find on mobile devices...well at least for me. I'm a little bummed but, it's all good
I'm such a low tech guy that, I'll find other ways to litter old and new posts with links to put eyeballs on this puppy. Additionally, I'm going to take the time and re-tag my old posts as well as have my next entry be a summary of all 80 oh wait 90 posts...well at least links to them along with the titles. That and update any old links from the old site to the new version. Otherwise, it goes nowhere but to a friendly 404 error page.
Just an update to the larger update.
Well, the time has finally arrived! Thanks so much to all of you have joined us in this adventure. If you believe in the mission of PWO and want to support the site, there are many ways you can do it without spending any extra money at all that I'll talk about in this entry. I'll also talk about the content that we have up so far, along with some other content that you should expect in the coming days. There are already a lot of exciting things happening at PWO, so let's get started.
First of all, if you haven’t seen them yet, there are five match reviews posted from this day in wrestling history. Five new match reviews will be posted from this day in history seven days a week. The match reviews posted today are:
Harley Race vs Terry Funk (Houston Wrestling 07/01/77)
Toshiaki Kawada vs Kenta Kobashi (AJPW 07/01/89)
Toshiaki Kawada vs Masa Fuchi (AJPW 07/01/00)
Steve Corino vs Doug Williams (1PW 07/01/06)
Kenny Omega vs Michael Elgin (NJPW 07/01/17)
Hopefully, there’s a little something for everyone there, as it’s always the goal to provide just that. I’ll share a list of tomorrow’s matches later in this post.
JUST ANOTHER MODERN MONDAY
If you’d like to see my take on current wrestling, Monday is going to be your favorite day of the week for a change. Starting tomorrow, we’ll do our first #PWOModernMonday, where I’ll walk through matches that have gotten buzz over the past week. I have about 10 matches lined up for tomorrow, so look for tons of new content immediately.
I’ve also posted the first episode of Pro Wrestling Lonely, a new podcast that I’ll do almost every day flying solo. It will be an opportunity to talk about whatever is catching my attention in the world of pro wrestling. #PWL is already available on Soundcloud, and it should be available on iTunes earlier in the week. The first episode is a full walk-through of the Shawn Michaels: Showstopper Unreleased 3-disc set WWE is releasing in October. You can preorder your copy on Amazon here.
We have re-posts of some old feature articles I’ve written. The first, The Story of Jerry Lawler and the Snowman, was originally posted at PlaceToBeNation.com a few years ago, and it walks through one of my favorite, most nuanced feuds in wrestling history.
The second, Wrestling on Fast Forward, is an extended look at how tape trading and hardcore fandom have had a bottom-up influence in pro wrestling. More feature articles will be coming on the site, including some submitted by guest writers. One that I think will be especially interesting is called #Wrestling7Up. I’ve asked some of the most fascinating wrestling fans I know to write about what wrestling fandom was like to them at the ages of 7, 14, and 21, continuing as far along as their birth year will allow. The first piece will be posted in the coming days. Stay tuned.
“USE ME, USE ME, CUZ YOU AIN’T THAT AVERAGE GROUPIE”
For those of you reading who host your own podcasts, if there’s a topic where you think I might add value, I’d probably love to be on your show! Please contact me to tell me what I need to do and it’s pretty unfathomable that I’ll say no. Likewise, if there’s opportunity for me to contribute a piece to your site, please let me know.
The PWO board will likely always be the lifeblood of the site. It’s what gotten us this far and that shared sense of community is something that’s still important to me that I want to continue to foster. Some recent interesting content that I would like to point out includes:
Some match reviews from December 2000 in our exhaustive Match Discussion Archive
G. Badger’s Badger Blog is back from hiatus (If you want to start a wrestling blog with a built-in wrestling audience, consider PWO as your blogging home. I'll even promote your content here, free of charge!)
Various thoughts on the NJPWxCEO and ROH shows over the weekend
Thoughts on Matt Cappotelli, who recently passed away
Tomorrow, I’ll have reviews up for these matches:
Midnight Express & Ernie Ladd vs Rock N Roll Express & Hacksaw Duggan (Mid South 07-02-84)
Midnight Express vs Rock N Roll Express (NWA World Wide Wrestling 07-02-87)
Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama vs Toshiaki Kawada, Akira Taue & Yoshinari Ogawa (AJPW 07-02-93)
Samoa Joe vs Kevin Steen (Marc LeGrizzly’s Midsummer Madness 07-02-04)
Mike Bailey vs Konosuke Takeshita (DDT 07-02-17)
Thanks again for your support and readership! Feel free to join us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for more updates.
On the first episode of Pro Wrestling Lonely, Charles walks through the match list for Shawn Michaels: Showstopper Unreleased, a three-disc set WWE is scheduled to release in October. Hope you'll listen and let us know what you think.
Wrestling DVD Network reports that six more matches have been announced for the Shawn Michaels: Unreleased set that is scheduled to hit the market in the U.S. on October 2. They are:
Shawn Michaels vs Jake Roberts (Mid South Wrestling 02-01-85)
The Rockers vs Legion of Doom (WWF Superstars 12-28-91)
Shawn Michaels & Bret Hart vs Jacob & Eli Blu (WWF Louisville, KY 07-24-95)
Shawn Michaels vs 1-2-3 Kid (WWF Superstars 04-27-96)
Shawn Michaels vs Rob Van Dam (WWF Monday Night RAW 11-25-02)
Shawn Michaels & John Cena vs Edge & Randy Orton (WWE Bakersfield, CA 02-19-07)
The Michaels-Roberts match is most likely a TV match that was listed on the old Universal Wrestling site run by Bill Watts' ex-wife Enie. While the site listed the match as airing one week later on 02-08-85, it's probable that either the site listed an errant date or that the incorrect date is listed for the new DVD release. No Michaels-Roberts house show matches were released when Ms. Watts still owned the collection; in fact, WWE has released no Mid South footage of any kind that wasn't previously sold on the Universal Wrestling site. Additionally, there are no available house show results that indicate that Shawn Michaels and Jake Roberts had a match on February 1, 1985. Based on their relative card positioning at the time, you can probably expect this to be a competitive squash.
The Rockers-Legion of Doom match aired on WWF Superstars and was near the end of the Rockers' five-year run. The match was fun but short, primarily a way to continue pushing the breakup of Michaels and Jannetty, a move that ultimately springboarded Michaels to singles superstardom.
Bret-Shawn vs the Blu Brothers is a newly available match. The novelty of Bret and Shawn teaming as babyfaces makes this match a worthy inclusion. It was a dark match at a RAW taping on July 24, 1995, in Louisville, Kentucky, the same show where Bret had a highly regarded televised match against Hakushi. Shawn also wrestled Jimmy Del Ray of the Heavenly Bodies in a good five-minute match. Del Ray's floatover DDT was one of my favorite highspots in wrestling at the time.
The 1-2-3 Kid was on his way out of the WWF by late April 1996 and the match with Shawn on the April 27, 1996, episode of Superstars was his last big showcase before returning two years later. Shawn's November 25, 2002, match against Rob Van Dam aired on television at the time and was Shawn's first televised match in five years. Shawn was still finding himself after returning from a four-year absence a few months earlier, so his performance isn't at the level Michaels fans usually expect. This was, however, the only televised defense during his last reign as World Champion. The Shawn-Cena vs Rated RKO tag match has never been released and comes right in the middle of a six-month run of WWE television that has been highly praised in many circles.
It's possible that Kenny Omega and Michael Elgin made magic on this night. However, it also seems that the spell has since been broken.
July 1, 2017
New Japan Pro Wrestling
G-1 Special in the USA
Los Angeles, California
IWGP U.S. Championship Tournament
Kenny Omega, Michael Elgin, and the other stars of New Japan Pro Wrestling should be commended for creating American interest in a foreign wrestling company at a level that would have been virtually impossible at any other time in wrestling history. In the current era, Bullet Club members can show up on WWE television and get the, “Hey, we recognize you and see you as stars!” crowd reaction that used to be elusive to anyone who rose to stardom outside of the national television establishment. Omega’s cornermen, the Young Bucks, are legitimate difference makers in Ring of Honor and on the independent scene. They have a popular YouTube show and their merchandise even sells well at Hot Topic! They relied on their own intuition and creativity to forge a new path, which I deeply respect. I just wish I was as impressed with this match as I am with their ability to succeed.
That’s not to say that this was a bad match or that I didn’t like it. Power versus speed is a timeless wrestling match contrast and they executed it well, as seen in moves like Elgin’s delayed vertical suplex that showed off his strength and Omega’s surprise Rocker dropper on the floor that highlighted his craftiness.
This resembles two separate matches superglued together when they started working toward a finish; everything before those few minutes was just an exchange of moves because of the lack of significant follow-through. Moves like the aforementioned Rocker Dropper on the floor seemed to have predicted an offensive run for Omega, but all was forgotten two minutes later. When Omega started throwing all of the V triggers, the drama picked up considerably, but drama without equal suspense to precede it is merely hysterics; in the best competitive matches, you might not know when the comeback is happening or how it will happen, but you know that it will come. Elgin’s crowd-thrilling German suplex on the apron worked like a charm in the moment, but doesn’t stand out as special when apron moves are so common. For all the attempts to wrestle big, the match still feels small, like it’s a B-show match that needed to keep going because one of the wrestlers in the next match hasn’t arrived at the building yet.
To deny the effectiveness or positive reception of the match would be foolish. Omega-Elgin worked in this building on this night and in this moment, but for those who place a premium on replay value, there sadly isn’t much to see here.
Steve Corino was only a World Champion on a national scale in America one time, and in a company that had a booking style pretty far from the NWA tradition. Armed with a credible and capable challenger, Corino shows what might have been with different career timing.
July 1, 2006
1 Pro Wrestling
Fight Club II
1PW World Heavyweight Championship
Steve Corino, while a great wrestler, has always seemed to me like a kid living the dream. He lucked into opportunities any aspiring wrestler who grew up on 1980s Jim Crockett Promotions would die for, whether he was getting smacked with a cowbell by Dusty Rhodes in ECW or wrestling a resurgent Barry Windham on the indie scene. He became Shinya Hashimoto’s favorite American through his work in Zero One. He also got to tour Europe as the world champion, in this particular case working his version of the Ric Flair title match.
When the territories collapsed for good in the late 1980s, NWA title defenses went out of style. Main events were much shorter for the most part, with slow build and matwork often replaced by more brawling and big spots. That change wasn’t entirely for the bad, as the worst 60-minute draws could be painful and some great matches were born from the new approach. Still, when WCW and ECW died in 2001 and the wrestling world was looking for a new path forward outside of the American monopoly, independent wrestling brought about a return to pro wrestling’s roots. Wrestlers sometimes missed the mark and occasionally had ambition above their skill level, but the focus on in-ring competition was welcomed and served as a nice contrast to the excesses of the Attitude Era and latter-day WCW. Young wrestlers displayed an experimental streak and were willing to take chances, which resulted in longer matches once again returning to favor.
It was in this setting that Steve Corino wrestled Doug Williams. Both were on the ground level for the indie boom that put Bryan Danielson, CM Punk, Samoa Joe, and numerous others on the path to stardom. Circumstance led Corino and Williams to 1PW, a UK-based promotion that opened its doors the previous year, and a two-out-of-three-falls -- air quotes -- “world” title match.
The fascinating thing about this and other matches like this during the time period is that it wasn’t worked all that different from the wrestling of previous generations, but it seemed fresh and even in some ways innovative because it lied dormant so long. There was modernization (or regression, depending on your point of view) to an extent -- chances are that the Chaos Theory and Northern Lights Bomb on the floor wouldn’t be the two most important highspots in a match thirty years earlier -- but the match layout still nods to the corpse of the old NWA.
Even though the first fall was worthy of being called a great match on its own, the match didn’t truly pick up steam until Doug Williams took liberties with the rules in the second fall. Williams might as well have been the uncrowned lead heel in the biggest company in the world. He mercilessly targeted Corino’s arm and used the armdrag to return the match to his control anytime Corino teased a comeback, an interesting choice because the armdrag is not typically a move that is used as a neutralizer during the body of a match. Here, it functions like a dragon screw leg whip -- a sudden, high-impact move that halts momentum.
The finish was in some ways too clever for its own good, even while creating some nice theater in the moment. Restarts have always seemed risky to me, especially in longer matches, and they pushed this one far; Williams was escorted nearly out of sight and the referee had already handed Corino the belt. The other issue was the apparent time shaving. It’s certainly possible that there was a masterful editing job involved when this was released commercially, but if not, this was much closer to fifty minutes than sixty. It was here that I was reminded of the best NWA title matches of years past, although probably not for the reasons the wrestlers intended. The time call from the ring announcer was not a staple in every territory, but those who used it knew they had a gimme for creating drama down the final stretch. When there is no sense that the wrestlers are racing the clock, expiration of time, neither the possibility of it nor it actually happening, means as much as it should.
The big takeaway from this match is not the little things that might have been done better, but the multitude of things that were done well. 2000s indie wrestling -- and wrestling in general, I suppose -- often seeks judgment not on execution of an idea, but in the quality of the idea itself, (“Well I could see what they were going for”) and this match exemplifies that as well as any other. When viewed without that lens, this was a four-star match that had potential to be a classic and didn’t quite hit the mark. However, when judged with the ideas themselves as the reason to get excited, Steve Corino and Doug Williams overachieved.
After Mitsuharu Misawa abandoned ship with most of the roster to form Pro Wrestling NOAH, Toshiaki Kawada and Masa Fuchi began rebuilding a company left in shambles.
July 1, 2000
All Japan Pro Wrestling
Summer Action Series
On June 9, 2000, Mitsuharu Misawa had his last match in an All Japan Pro Wrestling ring. Sure, he returned for a one-off match four years later, but that was for an AJPW so different that it might as well not even count. After years of problems with the widowed Motoko Baba, Misawa had plans to form his own company, Pro Wrestling NOAH, which would launch in August. Much like Mrs. Baba’s deceased husband, Misawa inspired massive loyalty in other wrestlers, so when Misawa left, the entire native roster left with him. The entire native roster left, that is, with two notable exceptions: Toshiaki Kawada and Masanobu Fuchi.
Despite longtime personal animosity, Misawa expected Kawada, arguably his greatest rival, to come with him and ended up angered by Kawada’s decision to stay. In Misawa’s mind, he was the modern-day Biblical Noah and he was building an arc for everyone to escape AJPW, hence his new promotion’s name and navigation-based symbolism. Kawada made the calculation that AJPW would be his for the taking with Misawa and other top stars out of the way, which proved itself true in the short-term. Rumors were flying of everyone from Genichiro Tenryu to Atsushi Onita returning to the company, but they would need to be cast aside on this night, when Kawada and Fuchi needed to prove a basic credo -- that the company could still deliver great main events.
Fuchi was never anything less than a stellar pro wrestler, but he was also past his peak. It had been four years since he passed the junior heavyweight torch to the now NOAH-bound Tsuyoshi Kikuchi and it had been even longer since he was phased out of his reliable antagonist role in six-man tags at the top of the card. Fuchi never completely disappeared, but he rarely appeared alongside the top stars anymore. The mass exodus of talent and the pressure on his shoulders inspired a brief, but exceptional comeback that started with this match.
All Japan’s calling card was always the match quality of its main events, especially in the preceding decade. Misawa and Kawada, along with Kenta Kobashi, Akira Taue, Jun Akiyama, Steve Williams, Stan Hansen, and a select few others, set high standards -- some would say impossibly high standards -- for action-packed main events with excellent psychology. Kawada and Fuchi had a challenging path ahead of them, but they also had newfound freedom. Kawada’s longtime suggestion of interpromotional matches, which ostracized him politically when he suggested it to Mr. Baba years earlier, was suddenly a very real possibility.
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Despite high standards, the in-ring style had escalated in an unhealthy way in recent years, with ever-lengthening nearfall stretches and more dangerous moves happening in each marquee match. The company had also grown stale, as great as the top talent was, because of the lack of new stars. Kawada and Fuchi not only needed to demonstrate their ability to have a great match, but they’d need to have a different type of great match.
Their unfavorable position seemed to earn the sympathy of fans. Fuchi received the most heartfelt welcome he had gotten in years, (or possibly ever, considering his usual surly heel personality) making clear that All Japan fans would do their part in helping the match succeed. Rather than attempt to parallel the action quotient of the Misawa-Kobashi series, Kawada and Fuchi worked smaller and smarter with heavier focus on details, the type of match where Fuchi has always looked his best. Fuchi was totally in his element with tactics like the cold staredown off of a clean break or stepping directly on Kawada’s face. The lasting visual of the match is, of course, Fuchi’s raw and bloody chest, the result of Kawada’s brutal chops. Kawada finishing off Fuchi with one powerbomb when it had taken multiple powerbombs to bring home the win in some of his past big matches, felt right. They proved that they could dabble in greatness without dabbling in excess.
To ask if All Japan ended up okay in the long run is to ask a loaded question. The glory days of the Baba era were long gone, but the company itself remained a staple under new ownership with different stars. They never reached the same heights of match quality or popularity after the formation of NOAH, and it’s probable that they never will. However, that’s only a loaded question with the benefit of hindsight. On July 1, 2000, after the show was over and fans had left the building, the answer of the moment was clearly that yes, All Japan would be just fine, even if they had become the Little Promotion That Could overnight.
Before either man reached solo superstardom, the 1989 Tomorrow League saw Toshiaki Kawada and Kenta Kobashi lay claim to the decade ahead.
July 1, 1989
All Japan Pro Wrestling
Summer Action Series
Tomorrow League '89
Imagine that a new wrestler debuts on WWE television with seemingly endless promise. This wrestler is adored within the company because of his attitude and drive, and virtually everyone sees him as a future superstar. Now imagine that guy losing every singles match for the first 15 months of his career. It’s likely that WWE would face a fanbase revolt played out by live crowds booing the company’s chosen ones in an attempt to force their own preferred booking direction. It didn’t happen in 1988 when Kenta Kobashi debuted, nor did it happen at any point over the next 15 months, even while it was clear that Kobashi had something special.
While it’s true that culture and technology have had a major impact on wrestling fan mentality over the last thirty years, Shohei “Giant” Baba’s booking rewarded fan patience above all. This measured approach to superstardom was uniquely possible in All Japan Pro Wrestling, as other wrestling companies usually had too many ups and downs. Reserved goodwill during a hot period usually results in most fans assuming the best, just as creative transgressions minor and major are immortalized during a decline. After all, which do you remember more -- HHH accusing Kane of murdering Katie Vick and raping her dead corpse in the downturn of 2002 or Chaz’s girlfriend Marianna making domestic violence accusations during the boom of 1999?
On this evening, Kobashi would wrestle Toshiaki Kawada, a future singles star in his own right, in the Tomorrow League, a tournament where the name itself suggested some degree of long-term commitment. It was a promise fulfilled when the two had more than a few classic matches against each other over the following decade, even if on this night, they wouldn’t provide the same type of match that we would see between 1993 and 2000. They didn’t even look the way that most of us think of them in our heads -- Kobashi still wore red trunks and white boots while Kawada hadn’t turned into much of a Genichiro Tenryu clone just yet. They weren’t yet torchbearers, so they stayed within the framework created by those who were.
In the late 80s, the upstart Universal Wrestling Federation was the hottest company in Japan, powered by the naive belief that they presented “real wrestling”. The key to the facade was in the working style. Mixed martial arts wasn’t a thriving sport yet so fans had no concept of what real combat sports looked like, and UWF matches were mostly exciting but no-frills, mat-based affairs. The UWF drew massive crowds even without television exposure, which changed the course of pro wrestling in Japan. Just as four years earlier, the traditional style that dominated All Japan bit the dust when incoming New Japan star Riki Choshu and friends jumped ship and challenged the top stars to pick up the pace, the UWF’s emphasis on clean finishes demanded the abolition of the double countout, a long-time All Japan fallback finish.
Kawada and Kobashi represented a hybrid of the UWF emphasis on matwork and the freshly-elevated All Japan pace. Even in moments of brilliance, they also exposed their lack of ring time -- Kobashi expertly attacking Kawada’s leg for the body of the match only for Kawada to completely stop selling it during his comeback will drive the purists among us nuts -- but admittedly, that criticism ignores the spirit of the moment. It was the Tomorrow League, something far more about youthful idealism and future potential than seasoned work. The match succeeded on its own terms in that regard, and the overall impression is the desired one: that one day, these guys are going to carry the company and be great doing it. For those only interested in the top matches in each style, this provides little value, but for those who enjoy watching formative wrestling, even when it isn’t quite great, this hits the spot.
In the scorching heat of a Texas July, Harley Race defended the NWA title against the former champ in a true midsummer night's dream.
July 1, 1977
NWA World Heavyweight Championship
In the post-match promo from Terry Funk, his inner prophet showed, just as it would many times in his career. “I want to be known, not remembered,” Funk demanded, arguing the case for making an impression over being preceded by reputation.
By this time, Funk was a former NWA World Champion, but he’d be damned to hell before he was confined to a mere curriculum vitae of his past accomplishments. This might have been Terry Funk at his most predictive, which was no small feat for a man who sold the Amarillo territory just two years before this because he suspected that cable television would kill territory wrestling. Fans couldn’t have foreseen Funk’s many reinventions to come, be they the “middle-aged and crazy” lunatic, the spaghetti-legged old man synonymous with hardcore wrestling, the journeyman, or even the premiere babyface in All Japan Pro Wrestling. Little did fans know in 1977 that Funk would wrestle an Ed Farhat protege in a barbed wire match two decades later or that he would work the semi-main event of a pay-per-view even ten years after that. Funk was so well-traveled and enduring that in the 1996 Pro Wrestling Illustrated Wrestling Annual, the writers opined that, “If you’re a wrestling fan and haven’t seen Terry Funk live, then you’re not really a wrestling fan.” Here, Funk fancies himself a man who transcends time and place and with the benefit of hindsight, who are we to doubt him? For all we know, he always accessed a crystal ball in high def through an app on his smartphone.
Unlike the Lou Thesz-controlled era before it and the Ric Flair-dominated era after it, the NWA of the 1970s starred an ensemble cast that, in addition to these two, included Jack Brisco and Terry’s older brother Dory. Call them the original four pillars; it’s a label that even Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada, Kenta Kobashi, and Akira Taue would find hard to dispute. We have a fair number of matches pitting these four against each other, but this particular matchup -- Harley Race vs Terry Funk -- is deceptively rare. As far as we know, only the final minutes of Race’s Toronto title victory over Funk four months earlier survived. Most other Race-Funk iterations place the two on opposite sides in a tag match or exist only through brief 8mm clips. It’s a conspicuous separation born by the limitations of 1970s footage, but their legacies have intertwined nonetheless. That was just as true when Flair name-dropped world champions in his late 1990s interviews as it was when Highspots marketed a shoot interview of the two drinking beers and reminiscing on old times.
It’s the other pairing -- Dory Funk Jr. vs Jack Brisco -- that is often considered the defining in-ring series of its time. It’s a series that absolutely demonstrates technical mastery, stamina, and fast-paced action at a premium, but there’s a messiness and brutality in this particular matchup that’s often absent in Dory’s stoicism. Funk chopped Race directly in the throat in the first strike of the match while gentlemen’s mat wrestling turned impolite when Funk stepped on Harley’s face during an arm stretch and ground Race’s face with his forearm while applying other holds.
Other than in one of the fight scenes in Road House, I’ve never thought of Terry Funk as a powerhouse, but he’s presented as such on this hot night, both in his repeated press slams and in how he almost successfully powers out of Race’s headscissors by powerlifting him, leaving Race upside down and desperately applying more pressure in the hopes that he could avoid landing on his own head. Despite sporting a stockier frame than 1980s and 1990s-era fans are accustomed to seeing, the portrayal of Funk as a strongman is a master’s class in getting the people to buy what they’re sold. At its best, the match is outright subversive; in addition to Funk’s early role as the aggressor, the babyface Funk dropped the first fall by cleanly submitting to Race’s abdominal stretch. If the finish of the first fall challenged conventional wrestling wisdom, the beginning of the second fall left a footprint on its face when local hero Funk defiantly slapped heel champion before an angry Race retaliated with an offensive flurry, a position usually reserved for overconfident heels. Terry’s selling and audacity only rallies the people in the building more to his side as he wins the second fall with a piledriver, the culmination of a half-hour of build and teases, of selling and persistence.
The match worked as a play in three acts: first, get over the champion as tough; second, get over the challenger as credible; and finally, use any doubt over the outcome to create maximum suspense and drama. In a wrestling industry that lived and died based on the size of the crowd, it was a working style born out of business necessity more than artistic merit. The best way to sell a show was to convince local fans that they couldn’t afford to miss the card. They just might see a title change in their hometown, and infrequent title changes only preserved the value of the title. By the time the false finishes arrived in the third fall, we believed in both the worthy challenger and the mighty champion. We also see a convincing case that history will be made. For Funk, that means finally applying the spinning toehold after multiple attempts. For Race, countering the spinning toehold by punching Funk squarely in the eye until he bleeds from the eyebrow, a tactic just as definitively Harley Race as his own fingerprints, is an attempt to turn this into Just Another Night.
This was perhaps the greatest uncovered gem from the short-lived NWA On Demand subscription service -- one that takes its rightful place in the upper echelon of NWA title defenses, one that gives us a rare look at Race as champion in a long match on American soil, and one that adds yet another layer to the seemingly endless dimensions of Terry Funk the Performer. Time may not stand still, but it also never leaves the Funker in its shadow.
So, Leon White has passed away. I am very bummed out because, not only was he a great wrestler but, he seemed like a great guy especially in the world of pro wrestling. I know there will be better tributes and stories than what I could piece together so, I just want to say 'Thanks!'
What's sorta uncanny (to me) is that I had the notion of posting about my favorite Vader in Japan matches just a day ago. Well, I'd like to do that now. I'm not overly sentimental and am not using his passing as a way for folks to read my blog...I clearly get no profit Instead, I'd like to celebrate his work in wrestling. Do yourself a favor and watch one of these and powerbomb someone in memory of Mr. White!
Big Van Vader vs. IWGP Champion Tatsumi Fujinami (13:27, 6/26/88) *** A pretty enjoyable squash type match as Vader threw Fujinami around like a doll. The bummer is that Vader isn't quite stiff yet and Fujinami airballed on a couple moves but he sells the damage well and Vader already shows use of psychology by slaughtering The Dragon's back. The end is cool but not really believable considering the damage done...Re-Watch: I'd have to say I've change my mind about this match. I think it's really, really good. Near great even! The psychology is really sound with Vader trying to dismantle Fujinami while the Dragon tries guile & quickness to slay the mythical monster of Vader. Maybe it's because I got done reading an article on Lovecraft but I saw Big Van Vader especially with the head-piece as a Cthulu-type creature. As stated below, you've got to understand that NJ is like more action based American wrestling akin to what Cactus Jack & Sting did in their '92 WCW PPV match perhaps. If you're cool that it's not '92 AJPW then, damn is this a fun & dramatic match. It also didn't hurt that I've seen more Fujinami & know why this match worked.
Big Van Vader vs. Shinya Hashimoto for the vacant IWGP Title (9:47, 4/24/89) ***1/2 I liked this match but it was too short...although that may have been by accident. Lou Thesz was the ref & he hesitated on the 3 count indicating that maybe the match ended unexpectedly. Here was a very good match cut short. Both guys were stiff & Hashimoto was looking to snap Vader's arm. I wish it would have been a few minutes longer. Re-Watch: I've watched this a couple times a year or more after my initial review & really nothing changes. I really wish it would've gone a couple more minutes with Hash getting some more kicks in on Vader or running a sequence or two to spice up the ending.
Big Van Vader vs. IWGP champion Riki Choshu (10:04, 8/10/89) **** It seems Riki only brings it when he has to because he wrestled like the Riki Choshu that has multiple 4 star and 5 star matches to his name. This match is stiff and well paced for 10 minutes with the stand-out being a Riki Lariat that knocks Vader backwards over the guardrail. If this went a bit longer it was bound to get better. Still the best match so far & it really shows how great Vader is for such a massive guy. Re-Watch: Yeah this is pretty good considering how limited each guy is both in what they can take & what offense they bring (size, agility). And by pretty good I mean quite enjoyable. One needs to think of NJ in this time period with a certain level of wrestlers as WCW Japan, if that makes sense. If this were on American TV, I'd watch every G-D week without a doubt. This match is good proof. It's not Jumbo vs. Tenryu though. Still it's rough & tumble and very fun stuff. Excellent pick for a Vader compilation!
Big Van Vader vs. IWGP Champion Tatsumi Fujinami (12:57, 1/17/91)***3/4 Dammit Fujinami if you're going to do a enzuigiri try to make contact! Like their first meeting, he's small enough for Vader to throw and splash him...and you know it's wearing him down. Vader bled here which was cool and when the Dragon was punching and it was believable. There was some heat & once again Vader performs on par with a guy 100 lbs lighter & with a decade more experience. Re-watch: Wow! My opinion has really shifted on these matches. I thought this was an awesome match with only a moment of weakness. The moment is that enzuigiri but on re-watch & the context of the match, it was a gamengiri meant to hit Vader in the face or above the eye...as to put over the blade job...or that's what I think! Just a stupendous match showing each guy's versitility. Fujinami is a great wrestler but here we get to see that Vader is too. He's not just the greatest super-heavy weight (I haven't seen much prime Andre) but one of the greatest of all time. ****1/4 but I could go higher.
Here's an odd one but, I liked it!
Big Van Vader vs. Tony Halme (1991) ***1/4 This match was a pleasant surprise as it's really want I want to see in a Vader match: both guys slugging the crap out of one another. And I mean stiffly slugging one another. Of course Halme, being a pro boxer went half power, he was stiff on the body shots and made the head punches believable due to Vader's superior selling. A thouroughly enjoyable worked shoot especially since Vader lost! (I hope I'm not spoiling anything!)
Keiji Mutoh & Hiroshi Hase vs. Bam Bam Bigelow & Vader 03/01/92: People say this match isnt very good but, shit! I thought it was fantastic. The timing and near finishes were just awesome. You knew the hope spots were going to be there but, wow! This was just an awesome match that should be on every one of these guys Best Of comps. The stand-outs were Hase and Vader. The segments they had were just great stuff and very stiff. Vader was just punishing throughout and Bigelow and Mutoh were the charismatic ones who put the flashy bits in. Everything was hitting just right. Like I said maybe this is a case of low expectations and being surprised but I really enjoyed this. ****1/2
Vader vs. Antonio Inoki (14:16, 1/4/96)****1/2 What a physical match-up! 600 lb. cherry-cheeked Vader versus a withered-up Japanese government employee. I'm surprised Inoki wasn't killed then re-animated and then killed again because it sure as bloody hell looked like it. Man got dumped on his dome two times that would make Tiger Mask II's tail spin 'round. Then he made a good comeback & slapped on the ju-ju-got-to-me armbreaker and got the victory. Although by the looks of it, he should've kept his shoulders down after the first swell of punishment. Vader & Tony put on a monster truck show & Inoki played the part of 'Gravedigger.'
Vader & Stan Hansen vs. Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama (Real World Tag League '98 Final)***1/2 Ha! Akiyama got beat-up here and Kobashi got worked over pretty well too. Hansen wasn't movin' too well but the Gaijin team was stiff. How's that face doin' Akiyama? Re-Watch (2015): Im going to mosey on down a shakey tree branch and say that this was a great match. Maybe its hued by the early 90s lucha libre and 88 Hansen that Ive been gluing mine eyes to but, this was fantastic stuff. Everyone was going at their 98 best. It was stiff, fast and full of teases and pay-offs. Ironically the lucha has got me really excited on the pay-offs. I guess that shouldnt surprise me too much, what with the wide-spread bribery down there! Get it? Pay-off? Bribery?...Any how this was just a real exciting match. I think at this point in AJ history we have to look at Kobashi as the ace regardless of what Misawa and Kawada are doing. This style of match really takes us right back to the late 80s Native Japanese versus the built like Frigidaire Gaijin Hansen/Gordy vs. Tenryu/Kawada Tag League 88 sound familiar? Great Match
Vader vs. Kenta Kobashi (1/15/99) (16:59) **** Pretty nice singles match that was very physical for both guys. Kobashi was taking hits & gettin' splashed on while Vader isn't used to getting hit & slammed too much let alone movin' for 17 minutes! Can anyone beat Super Vader? Even Misawa?
Vader vs. Triple Crown Champion Mitsuhara Misawa (10/30/99) (12:12) ***3/4 Vader was very brutal with his slams here. Misawa tried fighting back with very stiff elbows and dives. It just wasn't enough & I think it ended early. Vader did a reprisal of his role versus Inoki.
Vader & Steve Williams vs. Yoshihiro Takayama & Takao Omori (2/12/00) (8:02) ***1/2 Hard hitting mid-card style slug fest. The gaijins dominated and double teamed. This was an all fun match and made everyone look good.
Vader vs. Toshiaki Kawada (2/17/00) (13:44) ****1/4+ This is how it's done! Kawada even used Vader's own fore-arm clubs and used his kicks tactfully. It was just a smart match that peaked at the best time and one of Vader's best. Both knew the limitations and they excelled. Just as in all of Vader's best bouts. Re-Watch: A really stiff slug-out. It was kind of what I wanted in Vader's 1990 match against Hansen. Really awesome stuff & both guys sold the stuff very well. Geez...it's probably not that hard to do considering the blows being dealt. Kawada showed himself superior to his peers by getting so much out of Vader and structuring the match so it told a believable yet suspenseful story. Vader isn't a slouch but because of his size it's up to his opponent create the tension & drama. Having a match with him is like going up against a steam shovel, so what are you going to do to make it something special? Misawa & Kobashi do fine, Taue fails but, Kawada truly excels.
Vader & Steve Williams vs. AJ Tag Team Champions Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama (2/20/00) (25:14)****1/4 A very solid tag team title match. Vader & Dr. Death are a hell of a team and Akiyama was ready to bring it. Kobashi dogged it a bit but, took some good shots and nice bumps so it didn't matter too much. Another fun tag match & really the place where Vader & Dr. Death (at this point in his career) shines.
Misawa & Ogawa vs. Vader & Scorpio (11/30/01) Full match here showing that NOAH could be a different product even if that product is 80s AJPW!! Really fun stuff in a more American style. Good to see Scorpio as he really is the heart of this match.
Apologies for inconsistency but, ya get the point
I'd also recommend Vader in UWFi and Leon White vs Stan Hansen AWA from ESPN. One of the sweetest rookie vs champ matches. YouTube dat!
Thank you for all your hard work and passion Mr. Vader, sir! RIP Mr. White
A buddy of mine who's sorta-kinda into wrestling still texted me and asked if I'd ever heard if Ring of Honor. Uh...yeah, I have. Then he told me he was watching the women's wrestling and commented on how good it was. I then remembered enjoying the heck out of their tournament to crown the first WOH Champion.
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But, it got me thinking that I haven't watched any women's wrestling since. I've got a back log of DVDs that I really ought to watch considering I've already paid for them AND probably shouldn't spend more time match surfing on the 'tube. I know I totally missed out on a clever surfing pun there but, damn it all! I want to make a post about AJW Joshi and not talk about getting tubular!!
There was a time where I watched Joshi equal to or perhaps more than men's wrestling. And good reason! Somewhere along the line it kinda lost me. Or I think that I burnt myself out on it. Anyhow, I want to share one of my favorite AJW shows by presenting the original full 3 disc review of 09/02/95. General formatting is lifted from Quebrada.net where I purchased it. He's got everything if you're interested in getting into the best women's wrestling ever plus pretty thorough reviews too!
AJW DESTINY Commercial Tape (09/02/95): There's a long convention, meet & greet segment at the start that I watched when I first got the tape. It's interesting to see the lady's personality's come out in the interviews. I really remember Hokuto, Toyota, Bull & Kyoko.
Zenjo Up To Type II: Misae Watanabe & Naomi Kato vs. Yoshika Tamura & Yuka Shiina: Have never heard of any of these girls. Typical dropkick & scoop slam fare I assume...I skipped it.
Midget Puroresu Gabyo (thumbtack) Match: Tiger Jeetmezucito vs. Buddha Nakamaki Hiroshi: It was pretty funny but soon dragged on. I think Bas Rutten & some other white guy (some fighter presumably) played a part of it out in the stands. Didn't see them the next match or in the later ones...so I guess they were compensated & aren't generally interested in Joshi.
Vacant AJ Tag Titles: Chaparita ASARI & Kumiko Maekawa vs. Rie Tamada & Yumi Fukawa: This was actually pretty good stuff here as they've been wrestling one another for the better part of the year. Both teams were very good on execution. Of course there were slip ups and whatnot but this was a pretty fun undercard tag match. Little Chaparita bites off too much sometimes but, hits a wicked Cancun Tornado...first time I've seen that done other than on video games. ***1/2
Toshiyo Yamada & Takako Inoue & Tomoko Watanabe vs. Blizzard YUKI & Mariko Yoshida & Kaoru Ito: Holy shit this was a hot 6-woman tag! Each woman was performing her best but, I'll go on record to say I'm the biggest Takako detractor. *Note: Spoiler plus my Takako Inoue Rant begins here.* She does not know a damn thing about psychology or appearing to care about the match. Why she's in wrestling I have no clue! In the middle of the match, before the fantastic sequences, saves, nearfalls etc. she took Blizzard YUKI (S. Hasegawa w/ a mask) and chokeslams her off the apron! No rhyme or reason- of course with 1/3rd of the match to go Yuki can't really sell it or the match sorta dissolves. So Takako puts a mid-carder in the position where she has to no-sell the chokeslam off the apron, as big a fucking move as I can think of! I mean it wasn't executed with the force or vigor of Taue's but, there was no lead-in, no tease, no drama, just 'I got her on the apron & I'm going to slam her to the floor.' It boggles the mind! I mean she used almost every big move she has...It's a fucking 6-man match if anything you, who is not doing the pinning, should NOT use your big moves except the one everyone always kicks out of like the tombstone or regular "chokeslam" to build tension.
She's the biggest downside of the match and every-match I've ever seen her in. Thank the stars that Yamada was on Watanabe's team because she really helped hold it together since Watanabe's offense is nothing too credible. I'm going on about the negatives because this was very, very close to being a ****1/2 match...maybe ****1/4+ to be conservative but, Takako just doesn't know what the hell she's doing...she reminds me of the one girl from "The Beautiful People" stable in TNA...she skips around the ring & keeps her hands close to her body...just poor body language (doesn't commit/want to get hurt) & no concept of psychology. She did one of her big moves & followed up with a stomp to the head! Not a pin attempt, not a hold (god forbid!), or a tag out to double team. She didn't really kill this match, it's the fucking proof I needed for my claim that she sunk the 8/30 Tag Match...she is a fucking match anchor! I don't care how alabaster her skin is, how nice her cheekbones & cute little nose are...Gimme acne'd Ito stompin' skulls anyday.****1/4 End of Disc 1
UWA World Women's Tag Titles: Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda vs. Jaguar Yokota & Lioness Asuka: This is a dream match to me & it did not disappoint. Everyone was doing what it takes to have a great match- quick movement, on point execution, intensity, saves, double teams, near falls, etc. It was really fantastic & evident that they were only biting off as much as they could chew to preserve the quality of the match. Jaguar redeemed herself here (from a past match) and was excellent especially with her facial expressions, as were the LCO. Lioness & Mita provided the base for the 2 flashier fighters to work off of. It was a really great balance. This is just how tag team fans like myself like it. ****1/2
THE DESTINY STRONGEST: Yumiko Hotta vs. Reggie Bennett: A very, very good match between Hotta & Bennett. Once again, they worked within their limitations and accentuate their strengths. Both women were quite stiff with one another and the spots were simple but effective. Both are very good opponents for one another and really showed their strongest-ness ...I think that's what they were getting at all along. ****+
THE DESTINY BEASTY: Aja Kong vs. Bison Kimura: Just an old-school, knock-down, drag out fight. I never thought Bison was going to win. She really should have hit Aja with some more weapons and had a couple more credible moves. The Blazing Chop is nice but, in 1995 it's not that good of a finisher. Still, it was a very good, bloody fight. **** End of Disc 2
THE DESTINY MEGA-POWER: Kyoko Inoue vs. Bull Nakano: Kyoko is a bit all over the place with her psychology but Bull compensated by destroying her. It wasn't as awesome as their 3/26/95 classic but still was very good. The audience really sucked though, which hurt the aura...so maybe it would be better with the sound off. I didn't care for the finish but, it made sense... So there you go. ****1/4 possibly
THE DESTINY CLIMAX: Manami Toyota vs. Akira Hokuto: I watched this first. The reason I skipped ahead to this match was because I was disappointed so much with the Queen's Holy Night main event. I wanted to see if this really was as good as advertised. And it was. It was not the Toyota style of run around and do 5 moves in the time you should be doing 3. It was Hokuto's style of hard hits, insane dives, and head drops. In the end, it was more like a deathmatch than anything else. Just brutal throughout. Both women were injured & was difficult to watch at times. *(There is a spoiler at the end so skipthe rest of the paragraph now)* I could give this ****3/4 but when I look at Jumbo/Tenryu 6/5/89 & this, I realized this match is not only comparable in psychology but an advancement of that style. The match was more about maiming you opponent more than pinning them. Toyota practically had to kill Hokuto to beat her & Hokuto practically killed herself in order to destroy Toyota. *****
Overall this was a great wrestling show. I would have liked the Destiny matches to be a little more than they were but it's better that they didn't upstage the main event & that the main event delivered which couldn't be said for Queen's Holy Night or Wrestling Queendom Victory (2 other notable 1995 AJW super shows). In those two the other top matches upstaged the lackluster finals.
If you think that you wanna see this stuff, I highly recommend that you do! With women's wrestling gaining popularity due to the talent in WWE, ROH, Japan, the Indies, etc., you really should check out the masters. In 2018, no one really discusses this anymore but, give it a shot and know your history! And if you already know then, maybe go back and revisit it. I've been pretty engrossed with 2010's stuff that I think I'm due for a trip back in time myself