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.
Dangerous K T-Shirt - Redbubble
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.
Read more here:
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
So, I got hyped on Naomichi Marufuji after his fantastic job during the Champion Carnival and Triple Crown challenge. Generally speaking, I am lukewarm on him. Sometimes, he's really a treat to watch as his execution and timing can be impeccable. Other times, his execution is spotty and over ambitious. Additionally, depending on what time period you're watching, his offense can look weak or perhaps predictable.
I eventually tempered my negative feelings by re-watching his 2006 GHC title win over Akiyama. It clicked then. He's not going to be KENTA and not be one of the AJ heavies regardless of his muscles. He's Yoshinari Ogawa with pizzazz. He is sneaky, quick, and smart. Yes, he does have a bit more flair but, he's brains over braun.
Or at least when he's great...Other times he just goes for junior fireworks.
vs Jushin Thunder Liger (12/22/09): Super J Cup. Wow! This was way better than I thought it would be. It follows the classic Jr. template but 2009 Liger has still got it. I really would have liked the leg attack on 'Fuji to have gone somewhere BUT I'm glad they didn't focus on it either. They moved on or Liger moved on, if you will. Highly recommended stuff.
vs Tigers Mask (12/23/09): Semifinal Super J Cup. Nice under 10 minute match. I don't know for sure if that was exactly the finish they wanted but, Marufuji was channeling Ogawa there at the end. This is slept on but, man it was nice, neat, and to the point.
vs Prince Devitt (12/23/09): OK this is the Super J Cup Finals! Anyhow, this is a case of a fireworks display. The story was the invading Marufuji, who's always done well in NJ Super J, going for their top Junior (and top gaijin). This was and was meant to be a cool looking Finals match. I'd highly recommend it based on its flashy new (to me) moves and action but, I didn't have a real drama. The fans were flipping out so, others may get more out of it than me. But a great way to end the tournament. Naomichi shines in tournament settings.
vs Prince Devitt (01/30/10): The rematch...this time for the IWGP Jr. strap! We get a very similar opening but, with a bit more focus on wrestling. Its not a lot but, more than you'll see in Jr. fights nowadays. The great improvement was that this match had a story to tell. Devitt had learned from his mistakes and was prepared for the NOAH hotshots stuff. 'Fuji had to be careful on what he could pull out of his bag AND when because the Irishman could hit him with a surprise. Great finishing segment. I'd have to say this was a great match and perhaps scratching a classic if you're feeling it. This shows the brains both in performance and layout.
vs Koji Kanemoto (03/05/10): Ah what could have been! This was looking to be a classic but fell into that 2010 trap of epic overkill. They provided us with 2-3 matches worth of wrestling and false finishes in one bout. It was like an arc all in one contest. Maybe it should have been 2 out of 3 falls?? I wrote a lot more in my notebook but, I'll spare you my lamentations. I hesitate to call it a great match but, the first 25 minutes really had me- more grappling & striking focused, Koji's persona & charisma, Marufuji trying to hang on against a vet. Koji and Marufuji man...
Overall, this has been a rewarding little batch of matches despite the last one. It's a clear step in the evolution of Marufuji. Speaking of that, the highly evolved 'Fuji vs Tenryu-like Akiyama CC match is up on the 'tube. Gonna check that out before that chap's account is terminated like the last dude's.
Be sure to check out the amended 2018 Champion Carnival post shortly!
Thanks for reading!
Everyone seems to pick Match of the Year contenders. Unfortunately, I tend not to watch too much current stuff. I always dig these lists though...especially when going back to find stuff to watch/buy. They're a great resource.
So, last year when MOTYC talk was really ramping up, I made my own Best Of list to get in on the fun. So, instead of the best match performed this year, went through and figured out what was the best match I watched this year. Pretty simple right? It could be 70's tag match up against a joshi match from 2000 and a deathmatch from last week's BJW show. Its just the best match that I have watched between Jan. 1st and Dec. 31st. Best Match Watched, BMW.
I also had made a couple other lists with the usual stuff like best wrestler & best promotion but, also do a list for most surprising wrestler, promotion, match, angle etc. Since, I mainly watch footage from the past, I'm looking for those that stood out despite their booking place and past discussions (or lack thereof). Also, I like to tally the biggest viewing disappointments. We cannot have good without the bad, right?
Finally, I also do a list of the things I am looking forward to. These can be PPVs, DVDs, a promotion, a spotlight project etc.
Since its June, I wanted to do a half year summary post. It will sorta be a culmination of the past 6 months new viewing and posting here in the Puro + More blog. So let's go for it!
Best Match Watched Contenders (Jan 1st - May 31st)
-Inoki/Sakaguchi vs Thesz/Gotch (NJ 1973)
-Strong BJW vs SUWAMA/T. Soya (AJ 11/26/11)
-Onita/Tarzan Goto vs M. Kurisu/Dragon Master [Kendo Nagasaki] (FMW 04/01/90)
-Jun Kasai vs Takeki Iizuka (TAKA Prod. 01/28/18)
-Roderick Strong vs Kyle O'Reilly (ROH 02/21/15)
-Briscoe Bros. vs Mike Bennett/Matt Taven (ROH 02/21/15)
-Tomasso Ciampa vs Johnny Gargano (NXT: New Orleans)
-Kurt Angle/Ronda Rousey vs Triple H/Stephanie McMahon (WWE WrestleMania)
-Shinjiro Otani vs Masato Tanaka (Z-1 07/31/02)
-Masato Tanaka vs Yuji Nagata (NJ 03/19/11)
-Chris Hero vs Big Van Walter (wXw 2010 16 Carat Gold Final)
-Masato Tanaka vs Daisuke Sekimoto (Z-1 08/02/15)
-Shuji Ishikawa vs SHINGO (AJ 04/29/18)
Standout Wrestler: Daisuke Sekimoto, Atsushi Onita, Masato Tanaka
Surprise of the Year: Early FMW Onita, SHINGO, Marufuji, and the 2018 Champion Carnival, 2015 ROH, Yoshi Yatsu in 87-89 AJPW, WWE 205 Live, digging WWE Women's division
Favorite Project: FMW 89-92, Post ECW Tanaka, Hayabusa in AJPW
Disappointment of the Year: Munenori Sawa in wXw 2010 could have been better, Brock vs Roman at WM, Nakamura...Ballshot Expert
I'm Looking Forward To: Getting back on track with early 2010's AJ & AJPW Classics ('89-90), some Dragon Gate USA exploration, watching more DVDs and less YouTube
It's been a good 6 months so far!
There were a lot of positive comments about this Carnival on the main page. Kudos to those folks for taking the time to go through and watch most or perhaps all of the Carnival matches in real time. It certainly was my impetus for tracking what I could down on the 'tube.
Here's a link to that post for the participants, outcomes, and discussion. There are spoilers after the first couple entries so be warned. As usual, I'll try to be spoiler free here in the blog.
I'll begin by saying, I did not nor did I have a desire to watch the entire run of matches. I'm a cherry picking bastard. I'm sure I missed some neat bouts but, I've got a brick of DVDs I want to get to so, this could only be a brief diversion. With that said, I wanted to see 14 matches but, only half were available. So, branched out from the 7 matches and did so chronological as possible. These are my brief take-aways from the matches.
SHINGO vs Bodyguard: Surprisingly sweet, energetic & charismatic with a great pace. 2 cameras helped (most CC matches are 1 camera from the stands). Highly recommended!!
SHINGO vs Yuji Hino: Good action with a vocal crowd. Its mainly macho stuff but done with gusto. Highly recommended!!
Kento Miyahara vs Shuji Ishikawa: Deliberately paced with Ishikawa focusing on Kento's neck. Killer apron move but, overall its repetitive and somewhat dull. OK match
Jun Akiyama vs SUWAMA: Despite the funeral crowd, they fought with purpose and vigor. That's a different kind of finish. Recommended match!
Joe Doering vs SHINGO: Very good big man-small man dynamics with excellent intensity. Recommended match!
Naomichi Marufuji vs Zeus: Zeus is getting really good. They had great chemistry and enthusiasm for fighting. Great match!!!
SHINGO vs Ryouji Sai: Great attack psychology and selling. Its not an even steven match like some (most?) matches nowadays but, damn SHINGO is bringing the goods. Simple well told story, a Great Match!!!
Jun Akiyama vs Zeus: Fought like the Finals, hot damn! Great match perhaps!!!
Naomichi Marufuji vs SUWAMA: Best day so far. Headlock focus, nice surprises, good striking. 'Fuji looked like a kool killer here. A great finish too..this felt like a classic 90's AJ CC match. They really put it out there. Great match!!!
Naomichi Marufuji vs KAI: Alright KAI! Another really good fight with body work giving it focus. Both dudes kicks were right on the money but, the single fixed camera hurt this. We (I) needed to see the full impact though. Highly recommended nonetheless!!
Kento Miyahara vs Joe Doering: Started slow but turned out pretty good. Recommended match!
Zeus vs KAI: Oh yeah! great action, good selling, a nice match indeed. Great or highly recommended!!
Jun Akiyama vs Naomichi Marufuji: Unfortunately, the YouTuber loaded the wrong match but should he or she fix that, I desperately want to see it and I will put that review here. (Added 06/15/18): Finally someone put this up! Oh and I'm so glad that they did. Of course there's a backstory but, all in all its the head honcho of NOAH facing the head honcho of AJPW. And damn! It delivered like the mailman! The move selection is something that really sets AJ apart from modern stuff. Its really back to basics compared to NJ for instance. Just good solid hits, holds, and throws. I wouldn't say its Sekimoto/Okabayashi simple all of the time but, it definitely resembles AJPW from the 90's. Anyhow, the moves chosen, the pacing, the fakeouts, taking the time to do nothing but sell, and the truly select few false finishes made this a classic CC match to me.
Kento Miyahara vs Yuji Hino: Very good contest where the outcome was in doubt (its round robin so Kento could lose but still make the Finals...to me at least!). The finish was a bit too sudden but a Great Match nonetheless!!!
Shuji Ishikawa vs SHINGO: Holy shit man! Wolverine vs the Hulk. Ishikawa is great but, SHINGO added so many nice touches and knows when to explode and how to intelligently cut guys off. It came across so well here...dude blew the CC up! Fantastic, classic match. Best bout!!!!
Kento Miyahara vs Naomichi Marufuji: A great finish to the Carnival. There were perhaps 2 better matches but, stylistically and business wise, this an awesome closer. Miyahara's comebacks puzzled the fuck outta me though. See:https://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/41898-kento-miyahara-vs-naomichi-marufuji-ajpw-champions-carnival-4302018/&do=findComment&comment=5851519
It makes it sound like I loathe the match but, damn it was so close to a classic that I couldn't let it go
Out of the Carnival we get a Triple Crown challenge.
Kento Miyahara vs Naomichi Marufuji: NOAH leader, old school AJ trained, Misawa endorsed Marufuji vs AJPW's new ace, Kensuke Sasaki trained and hardened Kento Miyahara. It was a great match which featured allusions to their CC 2018 Final. I liked that Marufuji & Kento sorta address the issue of Kento's burst offence. In this match, 'Fuji just about cuts him off every time and with authority.
If this was a cognizant decision then, they are in the headspace of the 90's greats of AJ & AJW. Hopefully, we get a rubber match because with the over-time/match-to-match psychology it appears they're employing, that bout has the potential to be a classic.
I really, truly hope that happens!
Ha! What a dork!
You may be in for a bit of a surprise if you haven't seen Tanaka in awhile. He's like 50 lbs. lighter and tan as river clay. Nevertheless, he still kicks ass and is still the Dangan!
vs Yuji Nagata (03/19/11 NJPW): NJPW Cup 2011. This be a badass bout without a doubt. There's no commentary so, you can hear every strike land. This was as brutal as Electric Wizard. Knees, elbows, lariats all hit with with precision and intensity. The few suplexes and brainbusters were just bonuses. The strike battles felt authentic and were quickly resolved. They didn't need to buy time in order to figure out their next step. Clocking in around 15 minutes, this is an all time classic to me. This is in the top 5-10 matches that I've seen this year.
vs Tomoaki Honma (12/23/11 NJPW): It's noteworthy that we have 2 deathmatch bred wrestlers wrestling a straight match for the IWGP IC belt in NJ. A lot can happen in 10 years! They paid homage to their hardcore roots and so, it was pretty enjoyable. I did feel the pacing and no-sell bits kind of took me out of the match at times though.
vs Tomohiro Ishii (11/19/12 NJPW): Never Belt contest. Well, if you wanr 12 minutes of jaw bruising, chest welting, vertabrae shifting action then, this is the bout for you! Seriously, all jokes aside...this is essentially two guys hitting each other back and forth. There are some throws but, this IS the macho strike battle. It gets repetitive but, if you need to release some aggression or get psyched up for something. This is the match for you!
Masato Tanaka & KENTA vs Naomichi Marufuji & Tetsuya Naito (03/08/14 NOAH): I've seen some self indulgent NOAH matches in the 2010's but 'Fuji's great showing at the 2018 Champion Carnival convinced me to give this a try. So, glad that I did! I could have done without a couple elbow battles but, overall this was too sweet. It is exactly the match you want it to be. Naito is cheeky yet tough, Marufuji is crafty without being cute, KENTA is badass but, not having to be spunky/plucky, and Tanaka is the old time killer. I would have liked a definitive finish but, this was a fiercely competitive battle. Great match!
vs Daisuke Sekimoto (08/02/15 Zero-1): I think this is a semi final for the annual Zero One Fire Festival. These foes delivered 12+ minutes of intense combat perfection. They may as well have stopped the show and burned the ring after this match...it was a thing of beauty. All of the small twists, variations, surprises, all while knowing when to bring it down only to bring it back even hotter later. Another all time classic match that's in the top 5 matches I've viewed in 2018.
Masato Tanaka is lining up to be the best wrestler for the matches viewed in 2018. If you're a Dangan fan, check some of these out. You will be so glad you did
Be sure to check out my other Tanaka entry a few posts back as well. If you think Masato Tanaka was done after ECW then, you will be gladly be mistaken.
Eddie Guerrero was one of my favorite wrestlers that I never really saw enough of. I caught him sporadically in WCW and tuned out the WWF very shortly after the Radicalz stuff. I always wanted to see his ECW and Japan work. Even more appealing about his time in Japan was that he wrestled in costume as Black Tiger! I was and still am a big fan of the NJ Jr. Style. It really was comparable in match quality to what the AJ guys were doing at the time albeit shorter in duration. It doesn't get the love too much anymore but, Eddie was one of the masters. Here I take a look at 1996 versus his fellow masters.
vs Jushin Liger - 2/3/96 **** innovative holds & moves but should have been longer with more of a build. Eddy used his finishers and Liger busts out a few moves including the fisherman buster & a top rope move. But the end felt flat. At least one more sequence would have warranted a win. I think Yamada's tumor kept it limited perhaps? (Note: I think finish sets up their Best of the Super Jr. Finals match & the Benoit match)
vs Shinjiro Ohtani - 6/5/96 ****1/4 strong psychology focusing on Ohtani's leg w/ Eddy getting creative & heelish and a nice build. Similar ending as above in that it was a bit quick to get the win. The intensity was good so the extra 1/4 star was awarded...
vs Chris Benoit - 6/11/96 ****3/4 Need to rewatch this one but, it was pretty good but Benoit locked that sleeper on way too many times. Also after having seen many Black Tiger/Eddie matches, the moves that caught my attention at first glanced seemed to have been standard spots for Eddie at the time like the slingshot somersault senton & alley-oop frankensteiner whip...which diminishes the value really. Rewatch: I'd give it ****1/4 because Eddie uses the ramp to his advantage and there are some good counters but, still Benoit (who I think was in full WCW mode) locked the sleeper on 4 or 5 times and I can never remember him or anyone winning with a sleeper...the other problem being it's difficult to counter or parry. So we had to watch Eddie crawl to the ropes each time and to be honest it loses it effect and diminishes believability. Re-re-watch: I totally get the greatness of this match. If you're watching too much of one style or one person, your standards start getting way too high. Stuff that took place over years, one will place side by side and make unfair comparisons. The reason that doesn't happen w/ my AJPW watching is that I have quite a bit that tells the story.(Note: Oh no it happens there too!) Alot of other promotions don't tell the long story but, it helps to break up your veiwing to compensate...to simulate the passage of time.
Saying that I "get" this one was due to reading the 1996 yearbook on PWO.com. Benoit slaps the sleeper hold on because anytime he lets Eddy get loose he'll counter his offense. It's almost like Tiger Mask/Dynamite Kid. Eddy does a fantastic job selling here...in the league of Kawada or Liger. Staggering, waiting to catch his breath, losing balance etc. Also the genius of this match was the fake-out pacing. I mean this match was always memorable but, I thought in a bad way. I realize now that this pacing and inclusion of sleepers that killed the exceitement & momentum of the match were what makes it stand out. They provided a false build, a dive sequence that usually shows the start of the finish was killed here. It was really something fresh & different. Everything else was perfect too- execution, stiffness (what few chops there were), etc. I have a hard-time giving 5 stars to the junior style matches when compared to other men's matches like AJPW or Jr. style like AJW...I'm gonna get real close here though. Eddy was probably never better than here.
vs Jushin Liger - 6/12/96 ****1/2 This match had solid psychology with the opening mat wrestling. The holds locked on not only led way to interesting spots early on but also provided depth to the match later. Nothing spectacular but certainly enriching to the match overall. The most surprising moment was when in towards the end when Liger went after Black Tiger's arm with a flying knee and followed up with a jujuigatame. Nice touch. I was also impressed that top shelf finishers were brought out. The match showed their equality, versitility, & tenacity. I must say that the first "Ooh!" of the match came from a very stiff Liger shotei. It's nice to see sitffness in the Jr. matches...and all of those things made this a must see match. Maybe one of Eddie's most solid matches with the help of Liger to keep him from getting into a routine that he can slip into with Benoit & Malenko. Re-Watch: Just a flawless bit of wrestling & everything stated earlier is true. The only thing keeping this from being perfect is the story wasn't that compelling & Eddy didn't necessarily sell the arm as well as he should of until the end where Liger gave a last ditch shot after it. He was like, "Oh right, the arm's hurtin'." Otherwise pretty killer stuff.
vs Great Sasuke - 6/17/96 ***1/4: I've seen this given 2 stars and in light of Eddie & Sasuke's body of work this would be understandable. However, after seeing 10 Black Tiger matches, I found this one to be a breath of fresh air as it relied little on Eddie's spots and sequences. Due to illness, he wasn't going to be doing any flying or in honestly any bumps so they had to compensate with matwork and the notion of him dominating (ala Super J-Cup Liger v. Sasuke). In fact, the ratio of offensive moves was 3 to 1 in terms of Eddie. He did a good job on the ground as did Sasuke but, there was little follow-up later in the match & Sasuke probably isn't familiar with the concept of selling an injury other than shaking the limb after he gets up. All that said, it was an interesting change of pace but not required viewing.
vs Shinjiro Ohtani - 9/16/96 ***1/2 Pretty good for while it lasted. Ohtani came blasting out of the gate like he was Stan Hansen. Unfortunately he injured his shoulder as if he'd been fighting against Hansen. The match had it's cool spots and Ohtani kicked as much ass as he could and Eddie was pretty good as well. But they had to go home early...it may have been for the IWGP Jr. belt too but, Shinjiro didn't stick around to find out. He scored the win and headed toward the back to get checked out. Their 1st meeting on this tape was pretty great and this one was looking to be just as good or better but, thems the breaks.
Working on my Tanaka follow up and finishing the wXw 2010 project. Here's a good selection from the Grooveyard in the meantime. In this case they are all very good to classic matches in AJ that took place around this time of year back in that early 1990's. There are probably some spoilers in here so, if you're looking to watch these for the first time or forget the outcome and want to be surprised on a rewatch, be aware Some of these I haven't seeen in nearly a decade so, I think I might have to do a couple rewatches myself.
Jumbo, Kabuki & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kobashi & Taue (All Japan 5/26/90) ***3/4 A good 6-man match but the real focus is on Fuchi & Jumbo putting the upstart team in their place. Kabuki to some extent too but Fuchi & Tsuruta are not impressed with the team of Misawa, Kobashi, & Taue...all look like Muppet Babies. It's wild. What's even more wild is that Misawa has the gall to elbow Jumbo off the apron (unprovoked) and that Kobashi isn't killed in the ring. Taue strangely supplies most of the action and is quite adroit in his execution. It really proves what a great tag-teamer & wrestler he is. He really lets Misawa/Kobashi work the story aspects by keeping the match going. This was a smart move on his part as early on it really was losing direction other than Jumbo is pissed. Still, the finishing portions were quite good, enough to build the excitement for the win. Suffice to say big old Jumbo is not pleased with the results.
Jumbo Tsuruta vs Kenta Kobashi (All Japan 5/24/91) Watched this one a couple times and I really don't know how it's a MOTY candidate or could be nominated for Top 20 but, it's certainly top 50. The start is clipped to where both guys are sweating pretty good. Kobashi's offense is the highlight and he nearly gets Jumbo but, really he wasn't going to win. Still, you really feel for Kobashi & his facial expressions never seemed to get mentioned but he's one of the best. Better organized than the Kawada carny match but not as brutal & believable that the underdog could pull it off. Although Kobashi's moonsault got pretty close...No real flaws it just wasn't meant to be a MOTY & the divide between the two is far too large to have any believable drama especially since the moonsault didn't do it. I mean Misawa has only put him away once how's Kobashi gonna do it? Still Top 50 stuff that should be seen. ****
Misawa & Kawada & Kobashi vs Jumbo & Akira Taue & Fuchi (05/22/92): ****3/4 Although this got a ***** by the Wrestling Observer, I can't agree. It misses the mark for two reasons. The first being the context. I haven't seen any of the great matches in the Jumbo/Misawa feud other than the 6-8-90 singles match (EDIT: No longer true so, clearly a rewatch is needed). Therefore I can only rate it as a stand alone. It still does quite well. The second reason is a little bit of a let down on the performance side of things from Kawada- there are some weak striking moments and a couple airballs which killed the momentum. In all honesty if he lived up to Dangerous K potential then I would have given this *****. Towards the end he comes in to take on Jumbo and you think it's going to be vicious but it doesn't match the intensity of the previous few minutes of Misawa/Jumbo. If he had hit Tsuruta with blistering strikes then this bout would've erupted. Everyone else impressed me though and if Taue wasn't really injured, I'd be surprised. Just too bad Kawada wasn't performing at his full potential. Still a fast paced and exciting match and Jumbo's team act as vicious heels here which was unique. A must see match even if it's not Kawada's finest hour. It and all of these great 6-man matches of the early 90s are benchmarks in wrestling history. Rewatch: Having seen the majority of The Feud, I can whole-heartedly agree with my previous statements. Kawada's lack of explosiveness is not a detriment as previous stated though. He's just not there in his development. Otherwise a great 6 man tag match!
Doug Furnas & Danny Kroffat vs Kenta Kobashi & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi (05/25/92): ****3/4+ The only reason this match is not 5 stars is that it lacks a larger story or psychology (that I am aware of). Everything else is perfect-pacing, intensity, stiffness, and execution. What's even more impressive than these aspects alone, is the fact that it all took place in less than 20 minutes! RE-Watch: AJPW's answer to Steiners vs. Hase/Sasaki '91 MOTY...Just full on action the whole time with state of the art moves. Just a magical era in Japanese wrestling. Additional Note: I'd put this up with the great 6/5/89 tag match.
Stan Hansen vs Mitsuharu Misawa- Triple Crown (AJ 5/21/93) Whoa! Talk about a great match. This is the match Kawada should have had with Hansen (02/28/93). Real smart & meaningful armwork on Misawa who sells appropriately. This maybe the match that killed the Facelock as a finisher but Hansen takes it better than anyone & works his way out of it with conviction. This is the Bad Man from Borger that I know & love. You've also got the feeling that if he would have busted the Lariat-o!!! then Misawa would have lost but, he never got the chance. So, with the facelock killed we get the birth of the Rolling Elbow! And it's a dooozy! He damn near knocked Stan out. Great pacing, selling, seemless transitions with a great finish. ****3/4
Mitsuharu Misawa/Kenta Kobashi vs. Toshiaki Kawada/Akira Taue AJ 5/21/94 ****: Frankly I didn't get the hoopla over this match. It seemed like an unfocused attempt at a superlong spot match. I really don't get it! AJW was doing these type of matches to perfection in '92 & '93...so if the excitement is over this being the first match like this in AJ then, big shit. They didn't do it that well. I'm pretty sure the 12/93 match was more solid than this. Kawada was the only one that was of really any note. They went to the tired old hurt Kobashi's leg bit & it didn't really fly because of the amount of time spent it went nowhere with the story...I mean he couldn't cover after a moonsault but then later he could (after missing attempt #2). This made no sense to me!! That & some of the sequences looked way too obvious as planned sequences. Not a bad match overall really for 40 min. but it could have been a whole lot better. The worst moment I can remember though was when 3 or 4 guys were in the ring Misawa was just standing there waiting...(EDIT: This is one that I've been meaning to rewatch for like 8 years and never have).
Man, it has taken me a long damn time to get through this set. That's on me and not the quality of the wrestling. I've been distracted by the WWE network stuff and YouTube. I've clearly got the attention span of a 3 year old At this point, I don't know what's tournament and non tournament. Also if I skip something it's because I skipped the match intentionally. I'm just trying to get finished...It's like I'm trying for my 16 Carat GED at this point!
Big Van Walter vs Erick Stevens: Tournament match. I've been buying Stevens as a baby face with a chance all tournament long so, I was not disappointed here. His comeback on Walter was fierce. Elbows, chops, slaps, and clotheslines to the Austrian's face. The arc of the narrative should have had Erick go over but, it wasn't to be. Highly Recommended match. Stevens had an awesome showing over all 3 nights.
Oberhausen Terror Corps vs Up In Smoke: Again, OTC has a bitchin' name. Here they're looking to kill Cheech & Cloudy...who have a terrible tag name. Its not as bad as Special K but, are the spiritual successors to the thin highspot oriented drug referencing Indy group. Anyhow, Cloudy gets assaulted by the zee Germans. The Smokers' teamwork gives them a fighting chance and makes this a very, very fun match.
Ares vs Chris Hero: Tournament match. Anything with Hero or Walter in them is a tournament match since they're in the finals. Those are the only fights that I know are part of the tourney. Anyhow, rather than rewrite my summary of this match, I'll say that I fast forward-ed the 2nd half of this. These two have history and probably thought a 22 minute match was a good idea. Fans probably loved it but, this went on too long and Ares just doesn't do it for me this far along in the brackets. Hero has been so-so thus far. The Martin Stone match was great though.
Claudio Castagnoli vs Paul Tracey vs KAGETORA vs Tommy End: This was fun! Good action, exciting and just what was needed. 16 minutes but, sad we didn't get to see Claudio vs KAGETORA in singles competition.
Strong BJW vs Switchblade Conspiracy: wXw Tag belts on the line. They kept it simple and worked their story well. BJW are strong & tough but, if Sami and Moxley could last the punishment and isolate an opponent then, MAYBE they could beat the Japanese team. 20 minutes was perfect timing here...its a highly recommended or perhaps great match. The tag team bouts haven't disappointed all super-show.
This is the end of Day # 3, disc #2. I'm going to get the final disc up and do a run down off all three days since it took me forever to get these watched and the reviews are all over the blog. We're looking at ZSJ vs Sawa, Nick vs Matt Jackson, Hero vs Walter for the final installment.
Addendum: Watched Johnny Kidd vs Terry Frazier as it was listed in the Match Discussion Archives and figured I was missing something. It is a definite change of pace from the entire rest of the card, I'll say that. It goes to 5 rounds, Frazier jaw jacks with the crowd like Larry Z, they do a traditional British match. It was fun but, I would recommend watching it separate from the other matches. It takes you outta the right mind set. Otherwise, well done entertaining stuff but, nothing more.
I watched this because it's still covered under my free month of the Network from Wrestlemania. Not bad...got 3 PPV shows for free. So tonight, I watched Backlash sorta in passing. It was really clear from seeing the card some of the matches could be good and some sucked at "go."
Anyone that had hopes that this was going to be awesome was delusional to some degree. Here's the card and my brief takes.
Seth Rollins vs The Miz: IC belt. Liked these guys in WM, Saudi Rumble, and liked Tyler Black in the past. Looked good on paper, delivered and then some. Finish could have been less choreographed but, a banger.
Nia Jax vs Alexa Bliss: Raw Women's belt. Dug their WM match. Fuck people who want more "moves", this was really well done. Baby Bliss looked smart & Jax looked vulnerable but tough.
Jeff Hardy vs Randy Orton: Hate Orton, skipped this.
Skipped Elias & Rusev bullshit. I'm too old for that middle school fuckery.
Daniel Bryan vs Big Cass: Was excited to see Danielson in a singles match. Didn't know who Cass was before the Saudi Rumble. Saw that and knew this was a lead turd waiting to drop. Caught the last 5+ minutes for proof of death.
Carmella vs Charlotte: Smackdown Women's belt. Saw Charlotte and thought this had potential. Carmella annoyed the hell outta me and is a step back for the division. Juvenile character. Would have been good if Charlotte won but, finish was flat. Transition champ to give C. Flair time off (fake leg injury?) because of the kayfabe finish?
AJ Styles vs Nakamura: Why they gotta make Nakamura the "nut shot" guy? Stupid and sophomoric at best. Had some moments though especially the chair bits.
Braun Strowman & Bobby Lashley vs Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens: Skipped this. Strowman is alright in my book. What's Lashley doing back? I don't care about Steen & Generico anymore. Great in PWG and 2008 ROH though.
Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe: Looking forward to this match and it delivered. Anyone who left during this or was bored with it, that's fine but, I suggest you look elsewhere for wrestling. Seriously, if you didn't think this was just going to be a *** affair then, you're kidding yourself. Reigns at WM was one of the worst main events I've ever seen. This was at least pretty good with Joe using his brain to work a smart match. Reigns is on autopilot on the Airship Bland Meathead... that's to be expected though. It's more about how Joe can work within the predictable booking and approved spots than have a great match with the well meaning Reigns. Truth be told Joe's been booked like shit after 2006. He doesn't have "the look" and probably would be best in ROH or AJPW now. I doubt people would chant Rusev Day during his match there...lame as fuck...children.
I'd probably say the top matches are:
1) Rollins vs Miz
2) Jax vs Bliss
3) Joe vs Roman
4) AJ vs Ballshot Nakamura
Masato Tanaka was pretty much responsible for me getting into puroresu. His matches in the States with ECW were eye opening to me. He was tough, intense, and innovative. I would say he, Mike Awesome, and Tajiri were the 3 guys that convinced me that wrestling in Japan was something worth seeking out. After ECW folded, so did my interest in newer wrestling at the time. It was another 5 years before I got back into it. I've never really looked at what "Dangan" Tanaka was doing in that time when I was away.
Masato Tanaka vs Samoa Joe (Zero-1 2001 or 2002): There was no date on this from the Youtube video but, based on the size of Joe and his attire (cut off tee & track pants), this was pre-ROH Joe. I believe per Quebrada.net that it's from BURNING HEART League 09/15/01. All that being said, this was 8 minutes of spots but, I'll be darned if this wasn't a blast! Joe was pulling out all kinds of stuff like a Fosberry Flop dive and Pedigree type move. Obviously Tanaka was going over but, you'd be surprised. Cool finish too!
vs Shinjiro Otani (Zero-1 07/31/02): A classic 16 minute tournament match. It's like in that **** 1/4 - **** 1/2 range to me. It's best described as NJPW Jrs. style with 2000 era hard hits, a hot Korakuen krowd, and tourney match urgency. Tanaka & Otani don't go for epic, they go for the win. Dangan gets busted open from a Tree of Woe baseball slide if that's any indicator. Plus, Otani's facial expressions are as top shelf as ever. He takes the drama to another level with his emoting. Totally surprised by this match since no one really talks about Zero One especially in 2018...if you're a fan of either guy, see it. It'll be one of the best bouts you'll watch this week.
Tanaka & Shinjiro Otani vs Steve Corino & Low Ki (ROH 11/09/02): This was the main event to the inaugural All Star Extravaganza. Otani & Tanaka kept this a lean mean contest. Otani damn near put Ki's face into the back of his head with a kick. Not to be outdone, Dangan hit a brutal lariat and shotgun stunner. Sure, it was Philly but, no chairshots needed. Corino & Ki were excellent as well. Highly recommend checking this out.
vs Mike Awesome (Zero-1 02/29/04): Holy shit...wow. For an Awesome vs Tanaka match this might be the most dangerous one. I don't know if the match quality is the tops since they really do just run through the spots but, what spots they are! Highly recommended match for those missing this rivalry. I had no clue this existed especially since their One Night Stand match from 2005 was touted as their most recent battle since ECW. But that's WWE history for ya! Go see this Zero One match and witness the brutal spots for yourself!
vs CM Punk (Wrestling-1 04/09/04): I'm not 100% on the promotion title as it appears to be a US indy with affiliation to Zero-1 or a US offshoot when they were trying to do a global wrestling thing. I read in the comments online that Punk was sick at the time but, this was a very good hotel banquet hall level match. Punk focused on Masato's arm amd gave the match a good sound body. It was really solid when they could have just winged a bunch of moves. It felt good because they eventually got into a nice little finishing run. Some big moves were hit and some were countered but, they never gave it all away. These two worked really well together.
vs Samoa Joe (1PW 2005?): Again, the poster didnt' put a date but, this looks around the time Joe had the bleached brown/red bit in his hair while in TNA. This was a 10 minute sprint of wonderful stiffness. If the above match was about moves, this was about hitting each other. They go bat shit with it. This pairing is really, really good and I wish there was more available. Match goes to a double DQ but then we get...
vs Steve Corino: ECW rules type of match. They're in the crowd and being a little cute for the people that loved ECW back in the day. I'm sure I would have dug this at the time but, the let's take a tour without actually fighting isn't as interesting anymore BUT it's not all of that. It's brutal at times too. So, this is a 2 in 1 or Gauntlet match for Tanaka and a must-see. Dangan all the way man!
Tanaka to my knowledge only wrestled in ROH the one time but, he seemed like a perfect fit for early ROH from his performances above. 2002-2004 Tanaka in ROH would have been great and is certainly fodder for fantasy bookers out there. These matches are a hint of what could have been.
Next time, I want to tackle what I'll call the Tanaka revival- from my estimates late 2000s to early 2010s. I'll see what I can find on the web.