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.
Earlier this week my fiance saw Kurt Angle while driving at the mall. I didn't believe her at first since we had just watched some special about him on the WWE network. But, with that fact in mind, I figure his face is going to be fresh in her mind. Most of what little doubt I had was in the fact that I didn't get to see him!
So, that by itself is pretty great but, then today we were telling her uncle about this and end up with the gift of a half hour of old wrestling stories! I had no freaking idea that he was into wrestling let alone have stories! I will not do these justice but, I'll try to tell the best.
The first is about he and some buddies going to a bar by the airport sometime in the 1980's. They're sitting there and his one friend tells him, 'Hey take a look over there.' The uncle thinks its a buxom babe but, it's Andre the fucking Giant surrounded by women downing bottles of beer! Turns out he's there with Jimmy Snuka, Blackjack Mulligan, and Mr. Fuji! Talk about luck, you go into your local suds station and bam you're shoulder to shoulder with grappling greats.
The second story is about a match he saw with George "The Animal" Steele and Bruno Sammartino. It sounded really wild with Bruno juicing a gusher and the fans losing their shit. The match ended in a draw and people are tossing popcorn and God knows what else at The Animal. George is leaving the ring area to the locker rooms and the police are escorting him because it's so bonkers in the Civic Arena. Then, a little old man gets past the railing and police.
The geezer proceeds to punch Steele in the back of the head! Reflexively, George swats back with a clubbed fist and was likely to kill the old man if it wasn't for the cop pushing gramps out of the way of George's hairy fist!
Again, I'm not doing these justice as I'm probably missing all kinds of details. Plus there were other good stories like two drunk women getting in a full on drunken brawl in the stands that stoped a match and more. I just had to document these great stories!
I got to see these matches up on ROH's site today. Its episode #344 , aired 04/20/18 for what its worth. All take place on the Supercard of Honor show from 'Mania weekend.
Ok with that outta the way, we go to the fights!
Kelly Klein vs Mayu Iwatami: This was pretty enjoyable. There were some flubs but, this wasn't meant to set the world on fire. I guess this was a semifinal to determine the Women of Honor champion. Kelly made a good first impression whereas I was hoping from more from Mayu. I've seen her in Stardom back in 2015 or 2016 and thought maybe she could have brought more to this. Nevertheless, this was hard hitting & competitve and A-OK in my book.
Sumie Sakai vs Tenille Dashwood: Dashwood has a very good look and character. Turns out she was Emma from WWE. That means very little to me...other than I can see why her character-work is really polished. As with the previous match, this was good but, nothing amazing. The highlight was Sumie bringing some mat wrestling to the show. That's something the modern product (oh I fucking hate saying that but, I've been watching WWE Network for an hour and it gets burned into your soft brain)....Mat wrestling is something that is lacking from the modern ROH show. So, it was nice to see even a flash of it here.
*So it turns out (per Wikipedia) that the previous matches were prior to the main show.*
Kelly Klein vs Sumie Sakai: This is for the WOH belt. This starts out pretty heated and does really well in topping the previous two fights. It was really good and building to something but, sorta just ends. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be longer but, I liked it nonetheless. I almost get the feeling that ROH management wanted all 3 matches to be less than 12 minutes so that they could put them on an episode of TV. As in, "Keep it short, we're gonna put all of these matches on the show. Wrestle for the TV show and not the PPV or live event".
Here's my gripe with that idea sorta in mind. Colt Cabana and the other commentator go out of their way to make ROH seem pro-women or "pro-feminist" by changing words around and making apologies. For instance, it's a fisherwoman's suplex or it's her-story (instead of history). These things aren't said with tongue in cheek either. Then, Colt talks about how they're making things right by finally having a championship for the women & they have Daffney, an old school ROH and Shimmer wrestler sit ringside to promote some historical-gender connection or something. It was a cool blast from the past though.
Initially, I felt that this was all some marketing/sales ploy to get a couple bucks from sympathetic viewers or attract female viewers by softly riding the wave of pop feminism. I was cynical of their intentions and well, I suppose I still am BUT, I genuinely think they are trying to be supportive. Sure, allowing more than 1 of the 3 matches to be on the PPV show, giving them more than 10 minutes per match, and putting the WOH title match above one of the FOUR other men's title matches that night MIGHT be MORE supportive but, it's something...I suppose.
Really, it's not much is it? It's embarrassing actually but, the real positive is putting the strap on veteran 46 year old Sumie Sakai. Clearly she's not the same in-ring but, she's got loads of experience. And that is what this group of women need in terms of stepping up their game. These wrestlers are not Charlotte Flair, Asuka/Kana, etc. They need leadership and guidance in order to approach that level.
It's a gutsy thing to have the face of your Women's division not be some young "hot chick" especially when your fan base is young men. I think everyone assumed Kelly was going to get the nod because of the youth factor. It was a good move to wait on that. ROH hopefully will keep the belt on Sumie for awhile and set the tone for their division as one of competition, athleticism, and progression.
If so, I'll probably watch it more regularly than WWE's women's division.
AJPW CLASSICS # 175
I took a little bit of a break there but, I'm back in the game. And I'm going to tackle AJ Classic #175 covering early 1989.
Joe Malenko vs Mighty Inoue (01/25/89): The Junior Heavyweight title is up for grabs. Remember this is WRESTLING so, there is a lot of grappling here. It's a bit dry and not as lively as I was needing at the time of viewing. Still, there is a time and place and if you're in the mood, this is a damn fine match for it. They do a good job selling the exhaustion and there are some really nice damaging looking suplexes from Joe too. Watch for the finishing move- it probably blew Joe's taint to pieces!
Footloose vs Johnny Ace & The Terminator (03/08/89): I'm not a 100% on the date as I can't remember if they reverse the day and month in Japan. I think we're OK. Anyhow, this is a new Footloose match for me which is great since they are probably one of my favorite teams. The gaijin team of Terminator and Ace are rocking super mullets...holy shit that's a stupid looking haircut. In the early 2000's, making fun of mullets was like a shared cultural experience but, it grew old. I don't care...look at their damn hair!
This is more of the action oriented '89 match I was looking for. Ace is super athletic and in great shape here. He does kinda shoot above his skill level by doing a clumsy skin-the-cat reverse head scissors, then a bumpy slingshot (twisting?) suplex and finally regular flying head scissors. That's one segment! This is 1989 man, you're doing shit like the Young Bucks' lost giant brother Johnny Ace Jackson ;P Another favorite Ace moment was yelling "Ask Him-Ask Him-Ask Him!!!" while he had one of Footloose in a abdominal hold. He yelled this 3 times in one breath...take it easy man!
Overall this was a very good match that started out like a strong TV match and then picked up once they got into the groove. I'd highly recommend checking it out. It has some funny moments, good wrestling, and is a nice showcase for everyone.
Jumbo Tsruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu vs Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy (02/02/89): This takes place in the States and I think. The ring shows AWA but, I didn't think Hansen was allowed near the AWA after the incident with the belt from '86. It could have just been the canvas of the conglomerate of the remaining regional territories. This started out a little bland for my tastes but, I sort of expect that when I see these Japanese matches-in-the-States. Nonetheless, this turned out pretty good after the Olympics worked over Stan's arm. My two favorite moments are when Hansen kicks Yatsu's head like an old pumpkin & when Gordy dump powebombs Yatsu and Jumbo breaks the pin up with a nice stomp to the skull. Otherwise, nothing tremendous but, I'd still say it was fun.
Overall, I'd say this was an average AJPW Classics. Nothing outstanding and nothing terrible...It was a good way to get back in the swing of things. It'd be a nice hour long TV episode of wrestling to watch while having dinner or a couple beers.
Saw that Samoa Joe is on Smackdown now...nice! Even in 2018, I gotta say more Joe vs AJ & Danielson is always welcomed. It's a smart move too! I'm no WWE genius but, three future hall of famers working together seems like a no-brainer especially if they're gonna put Orton and Nakamura in the mix. Here's a little spotlight on Samoa Joe from 2005. If he can bring some of that magic to 2018, I might have to tune in.
Samoa Joe vs AJ Styles (TNA Sacrifice 08/14/05): I thought this was a fantastic meeting of two of this generation's best wrestlers. It was really everything you could hope for in a match between AJ & Joe. Athletic, intense, and surprising. Also thought the ending was good for the match/story as well. A 100% clean finish or draw would have been preferred but, I think this match is still a classic.
Samoa Joe vs Kenta Kobashi (ROH 10/01/05): This match had legitimate instensity as Joe was facing, no testing himself against Kobashi. He had to bring barbarian like intensity lest he be mauled. This was really great! I found the execution to be a little off at times especially on Joe's submission attempts, they were a bit loose. Overall it was above average though much of the match was comprised of strikes. And maybe that's a complaint some of the ROH fans have. It was very much a AJPW style match. There weren't amazing sequences, chains of moves, or the usual flashy business...just hardhitting, believable Kings Road style wrestling. Surprisingly, that King's Road or maybe Ark style (with all the macho strike-offs) was there as Joe paid homage to Kobashi's greatest foes & even the Orange Crush himself. If I can remember correctly, he did Misawa's elbow suicida & step-over facelock, Kawada's step kicks, soccer kick, & stretch plum, and even Kobashi's turnbuckle bomb. I thought that this really elevated this match above all the rest of ROH's stuff. It was great for those who didn't notice these parallels/homages but truly inspiring to those who did. This shows great judgement on Samoa Joe's part by acknowledging Kobashi's history, AJPW's history, and infusing it with his own. Re-Watch: Joe versus Kobashi is probably one of the greatest matches that has taken place on American soil in the past decade and in the decades to come. It has everythingdrama, story, crowd energy, the moves, the stiffness. It all comes together this night in NYC. Just beautiful stuff! It hits on a different level than the other 5 star matches because it is like the ultimate puro fan taking on the King of Puro and damn near beating him. Its totally for the marks but, Kobashi still has a reputation to uphold. And sweet Jesus, does he deliver! Bumping it up a half star to perfect-o!
Samoa Joe vs Jushin Liger (TNA Bound For Glory 10/23/05): Amazing cool entrance by Joe and Liger's wasn't too shabby with his NJ music, full shoulder pads, and streamers. Liger, sized wise, looked like a good match for Joe. Shorter but, thick as Joe. Crowd was amped.
Joe pretty much did his 'standard' TNA act here but, Liger switched it up from his 2005 routine and played it like a younger junior taking on the heavyweight. So, we got a few moments of brilliance from Liger as well as him taking to the air.
The only thing stopping this from being a great match was the time it was given. It reminded me of a Fire Pro Wrestling match where you get a Critical just as you're starting to amp things up. Highly recommended match and a successful dream match in my book.
Samoa Joe vs AJ Styles (TNA Turning Point 12/11/05): AJ took it right to Joe and set the tone for this match. Intense and physical as hell. It was full of nice surprises,teases, hard way blood from both guys, and fantastic pacing. Plus, the post match kept the story going setting up Daniels vs Joe. This really is a classic match alongside anything they did in ROH. Its really a testament to how TNA was mismanaged. Styles, Joe, and Daniels could have been having classics like these for the Heavyweight belt for a few years instead we got 2000 era WCW redux and all kinds of other stupidity.
Here's hoping that the writers don't blow it this time around..I mean they've got Danielson and Nakamura this go around. Don't screw this up fellas!
Okay, we're back from WWE to conclude Ring of Honor's Winter Warrior show in Atlanta.
AJ Styles vs Bobby Fish: No belt on the line but, AJ is IWGP champion. This was a pretty good match. I researched it since I was a little groggy the first time around. It was not as awesome as it could have been. Technically nothing was wrong but, I guess I was expecting more. I'd still recommend it but, the singles match of the night honor goes to Strong vs Kyle.
The Kingdom (Mike Bennett & Matt Taven) vs The Briscoes - 2/3 falls (normal match, table match, No DQ/Falls Anywhere): Well, holy crap this was awesome! Those chanting fans ARE right! The team's really beat each other up. I've never seen Bennett or Taven but, they truly impressed me. I was afraid the were going to be hokey especially with Maria as a valet but, I was wrong. They were really athletic & matched the Briscoe Boys in brawling and crazy shit. And believe you me, there was some crazy shit. It reminded me of 2006 Briscoes vs Joe & Homicide. If you dug that then, see this! Great match or perhaps a classic? A must see bout from Dem Boys in any case.
As I've been on an ROH thing, I watched a couple less talked about fights from their Supercard of Honor from 04/07/18.
Kota Ibushi vs Adam Page: So this is my 2nd Page match in as many weeks...and I was psyched to see what he could do with Ibushi. 14 minutes of fireworks. Perfectly executed dives, strikes, and slams. A great match that builds and concluded just at the right time. **** 1/4 star match, I'd say.
The Briscoes vs Jay Lethal & Hiroshi Tanahashi: Everything looked really solid here. It was a basic smart tag match from vets. I even liked Takehashi which is saying something! The finish left something to be desired especially after their battle vs The Kingdom from above. I liked this regardless and would recommend it to fans.
Edit: 04/16/18: While I like ROH's recent stuff their business leaves a bit to be desired. They've updated their website and links don't always go to where they are supposed to. I've mentioned their high shipping costs in an earlier post ($11 for 4-6 dvds). But now I can add poor customer service to the list...and I am saying this as a head online retail customer service agent for the past 5+ years. Its been 10 days since ordering 6 clearance shows. I received an order confirmation but, no updates. So, I check my status on there and and it shows "pending."
Um...10 days is a little long to be pending. I'll send a nice email to their help/customer service address and they'll get me some info.
I'm thinking - I ordered right before WM so maybe they got a ton of orders or Supercard of Honor maybe leaves them short staffed in someway. I don't know...I'm pretty understanding. However, instead of an email from a dedicated CS rep, warehouse staff, etc. I get an one sentence reply:
"We are in the middle of relocating our warehouse therefore shipping is delayed
Sent from my iPhone"
Oh well, fucking thank you! 10 days after my order was placed. Of course there is no mention of this on their shop site, in the email confirmation, or social media. Any of these things would have been reassuring let alone a heads up before buying.
Again, I do this for a living so, I'm not being a prick. I've gotten yelled at, cussed at, been told I've ruined birthdays/Xmas/anniversaries, been called a liar etc. in my line of work. We sell fun gag items, tee shirts, and dvds. So, nothing where any of that behavior is called for especially when we're always very understanding and appreciative of the business. So, the type of flippant response I received is really sub par as fuck.
No apology for the inconvenience or delay...let alone a time line of when I'm going to get the shit I paid for. I did ask for this but, eh they couldn't be bothered. It was some chick responding from her iPhone probably on her lunch break. There was no indication who or what she is/does. I'm lucky I even got a response, I suppose.
I try to put in a good word for the places I get my tapes (DVDs) from but, shit ROH dropped the ball from a fan standpoint. I know streaming is the thing but, why even sell DVDs anymore if you're going to cop an attitude for people buying them? And at $11 S&H, a little apology would be expected since a partial refund would be way too much to ask. Cuz I know 6 Dvds don't cost $11 in shipping.
I'm venting rather than blowing up on the employee. Another indicator that I do this for a living, I guess I'll say this, be forewarned of ordering anything (including tickets) from ROH. Get what you can for free online and buy tix & merch at the show. If you can't make it or don't want to then, they miss out on the sales. That's on them!
Update: 04/20/18- Got my DVDs, woo-hoo! Everything was in good shape but, never got an update that they had shipped. I kinda figured that would happen. 14 days for delivery...I can deal with that. I would say that if you want stuff quick or have deadline, call first. It never came to that in my case but, I gotta think you'll get more help than email. Otherwise, you might be waiting in the dark.
Clearly, I'm on a modern wrestling kick as of late. I suppose I'm taking a little breather from FMW and AJ. Who knows I might even finish the wXw tournament!
Fortunately, I have the WWE streaming service free for another month so, I thought I'd see what the hype was about concerning NXT. That's not to say I'd never seen NXT footage but, I wanted to see this current crop of guys. It's kinda like ROH & PWG from 2013-16 with Roderick Strong, Red Dragons, Adam Cole, 2 of the 3 Grapple Fuckers, is Hero still with the company? Oh and they finally got Ricochet too! Plus Tommy Chompers, Johnny Gargano (I remember him from his Pro Wrestling Ohio days...really cool to see him make it), and our wXw friend Tommy End. I'll just say Mr. End has come a long way since 2010.
One thing that I don't like about the streaming business is that there's no way to skip ahead or back to the matches or chapters. I'm so used to watching DVDs that I really prefer it. I hear everyone enjoy all the different streaming services they have. That's cool but, I don't have the time, patience, or stomach to scan through (let alone watch) a three hour show.
It's OK though. This non-skip obstacle forced me to watch a match that I might have missed from the NXT: New Orleans show. You'd better believe I skipped the ladder match and the three way tag team match. That's way too much gimmerickery.
Ember Moon vs Shayna Baszler: NXT Women's title on the line. I liked this match which is less and less of a surprise to me. Women's wrestling in the States is catching up to the men...or at least the stuff shown on TV. It is equal to or better than most of the men's matches. That being said, this was the weaker of the 3 WWE Women's title matches fought during the weekend. I'd still recommend it though.
Andrade Almas vs Aleister Black : NXT Title match. This was pretty darn good. I'd even say great however, it had superfluous moonsaults and "moves" when good old fashion hitting would have been better. That is to say, more intense and more logical. End oh *ahem* Black is a hell of a kicker so, why is he doing moonsaults? This reminds me of Kawada in Footloose. He was doing top rope moves and spins kicks. Sure, they looked really great but, when you can kick a guy straight in the face, why bother? Almas valet was really remarkable and the most memorable part of this match. I'm coming in never seeing them so, perhaps that's old hat but, I dug it.
Johnny Gargano vs Tomasso Ciampa: Grudge match. For a guy that skips as much of the WWE packaging as possible, watch the intro video to this. Especially if you're ignorant of their backstory. I know them but, not as NXTers so, this really helped set the scene. If you're new to this story/feud then, I'd say it's required going forward. Coversely, I don't feel like I missed anything by not watching NXT on a even sporadic basis. I'd say it's like an update retelling of the Midnight Rockers split up...except Johnny and Tomasso really are friends.
I was hesitant to watch this because it had gotten a lot of pimping on the Match Discussion Archive. That and I'm not the biggest fan of 2018 wrestling. I am so glad that I didn't let those things stop me. Not only was it a gruelling battle but, it had a weight to it that few matches have. This was all punctuated by a finish that wasn't fade to black hammers but, instead one that showed a depth of emotions. I thought it was a classic. Bravo guys!!
I can't say I'm in love with NXT since I skipped two matches intentionally. In some regards, just don't like the WWE style of presentation. I didn't like TNA or WCW's main shows either. Saturday Night was good though. I guess I like a more bare bones approach. I don't really care for the gimmicks that the wrestlers have. It feels really focused on a 8-16 year old demographic. I mean I could see myself loving the characters as a pre-teen. I think I'd be an Aleister Black fan since he seems the most scuzzy/ECW like Nevertheless, I am really glad I watched what I did.
This was my first WrestleMania. No, not first time going...This was the first time I've ever sat down and watched the Show of Shows, Showcase of the Immortals, and whatever else they call it.
To be honest, I never wanted to spend the time or money on it. Back when PPV was the only way to see it live on TV, I never remember thinking, "Wow I've gotta see that show!" It always seemed like a bunch of fireworks, lights, and fanfare. Not my thing...plus its super long. I have school the next day dammit!
Well, I broke MY streak and watched it. I would say bought it but, I got it along with "the Network" free for a month. This was the #1 reason. I'm not going to lie. The #2 reason is that my fiancé is a Ronda Rousey fan and she was genuinely interested in how she would do.
That was the real #1 reason I guess...that and it was free, hahaha! No, we watched the Raw lead-in stuff on Youtube clips and it reminded me of classic Attitude era stuff. I was pretty psyched and more importantly my fiance was psyched. Once, I told her that we could probably watch match for free, she was all in
It is crazy to see someone who is not a wrestling fan be excited and emotionally invested in wrestling. It's even better that it's something we can share because outside of the Rousey/Angle vs HHH/Steph, I didn't know or care what was going on in WWE Universe (groan). I will say I was pumped to find out that AJ vs Nakamura was happening though...kinda like icing on the cake.
Overall, it was a good show...a little long but, enjoyable. My significant other checked out after the Rousey match. I can't say that I blame her either. All of the entrances and video packages, it was like 9 o' clock! It was the 4th match! I, being the true blue wrestling idiot, watched the whole thing. She liked the Smackdown Women's title match a lot which was a pleasant surprise to me. I figured she was in it for the one match but, she dug the fight as much as I did. It's nice to see the "Diva" bullshit is gone...Barbie dolls prancing around doing terrible looking moves and getting hurt while they're at it. Uh...no thanks...forever. I'll have to show her the Nia Jax vs Alexa Bliss match. Reminded me a little of Aja Kong vs Toyota...eh sorta
Ok well I'll get on to the match reviews in case you're interested or haven't seen the matches or maybe want a differnt take on them. They'll be brief:
Seth Rollins vs Finn Balor vs The Miz: Tyler Black vs Prince Devitt sounds pretty good to me. Why they gotta throw the Miz in there? Hahaha...it's WWE, I guess. It's all good though. This was a really good opener. Just tons of well executed spots and a pretty nice finish. This is one that I want to rewatch.
Asuka vs Charlotte Flair: I was very impressed with this. I've seen just a smidge of WWE Women's stuff and I thought it was better than Diva era crud. It wasn't AJW but, that's understandable. This might come off as dated but, it was comparable wrestling to when Jazz was in ECW or Awesome Kong, Gail Kim, Akayo Hamada and Cheeleader Melissa were in TNA. This was a great match with stakes on the line. The actual wrestling was intense and the in ring story was fantastic as the finish was that climax to that. Top 2 or 3 match of the night.
OK I tuned some shit out because I needed to eat and walk the dog. So if this review section is missing stuff, it's intentional.
Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle vs Triple H & Stephanie McMahon: This was the match of the night. We were emotionally invested. Hell, I haven't been this into a match since I was 16 years old. I don't know if it's just me but it felt like an Attitude era build and payoff. I think everyone was wondering if Rousey was going to be good. Plus I think everyone was worrying that shit was going to get botched or look weak. Well, everything came off perfectly with Rousey performing up to and exceeding expectations. It's fitting that Kurt is her mentor as she is a natural. I wonder if they're going to have her be a Women's division competitor or have her do attraction matches for the PPVs. Technically this isn't as tight as Charlotte/Asuka but, it's checks all the boxes for a 1998-2001 WWF PPV main event. Weird that it was the #4 match. I guess they didn't want Rousey fans tuning out.
Alexa Bliss vs Nia Jax: Totally surprised that another women's match was on the card. I was so thankful because whatever happened after the Rousey match until this was junk to me. It was a reminder of why I don't watch WWE. Let alone the Wrestlemania pageantry I suffered through. This was what I wanted though. I mean I would have been happy with Jax' destruction of Mickie James. That was some straight Jungle Jack vs Bull Nakano violence! Bliss is a little Diva-ish but, that's alright. She makes it work and she can wrestle. I highly recommend this match. Probably my #3 or 4 match.
AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura: WWE title on the line. I've been reading stuff that people did't think this was a great match. All I can guess is that their expectations were way too high. The largest chunk of modern NJ is 2015 which was Nakamura and AJ's peak of popularity and performance so, I can say this was pretty damn comparable. This was a NJ title match on WrestleMania. That's crazy! Younger folks probably cannot appreciate that and that's alright but, it's the truth. AJ Styles in WWE seemed possible but, a top Japanese talent like Nakamura is bananas. They did the best NJ style match they could with the story they were given to work with. Yes, this could have gone on for another few minutes and had the "epic" kickouts but, WWE is going for a longer run with them. It was a great match. I will say that Styles' Springboard Elbow as a finisher is stupid...but, then Roman Reigns' big move is a Flying Punch that's what you get.
Why the show kept going is beyond me...The tag match was stupid fun...Good for TV but, was a little tiresome at hour 56 of WM. And the main event...man that could have been something. 7-8 minutes of bombs with blood and tables. Instead, it was crap. It seemed like an intentional swerve to throw off the internet critics. I can't say I'd blame them. It's not like there's only a relatively small group of wrestling nuts like here on PWO. Everyone who's into wrestling has Reddit, Twitter, Facebook and all the other shit to use in order to bitch about wrestling and everything else. If I was part of the WWE higher ups, it would piss me off. I can't think they'd throw a middle finger up to their fans but, gosh, that's what the match felt like.
One match that I didn't review was the Bryan Danielson match. It was OK. It's nice to see he's wrestling again. He kinda retired in my eyes once he went to the WWE though. So, eh...I'd much rather watch him beat the everloving shit out of someone in ROH or Japan than do a watered down version.
Now that I've had a chance, this is how I'll rank the matches:
1) Rousey & Angle vs Triple H & Stephanie
2) AJ Styles vs Nakamura
3) Charlotte vs Asuka
4) Alexa Bliss vs Nia Jax
5) Miz vs Balor vs Rollins
Overall, I'm glad I watched it. It certainly was something special. I can't say I'll actively try to follow WWE after this but, I'll use the rest of the free month to checkout Women's matches and perhaps some classics.
So, ROH has this show and a ton of shows on sale for like $2-3 on their website right now. Their shipping rates are a bit steep and antiquated. It's $11 for 4-6 items but, at two or three clams a show, that still is a great deal.
They've got 2015-2017 shows, nearly the whole year for this low price. I'm not trying to make this an advertisement. I just wanna spread the word in case people are getting DVDs. That's probably why they're so low...streaming man...streaming...
But, more importantly, I'm really digging this ROH show from 2015. So much so that I dropped a few coin and ordered a few from 2015 & 2016.
Here is the latest batch of matches from Winter Warriors- Atlanta:
ACH vs Moose: This is my first ACH or Moose match. Moose had a really good entrance and Stokely Hathaway looks like a fun manager/hype man. The fans are hyped for guys and I guess Moose played for the Falcons so, there you go! My favorite moves were Moose swinging ACH into the guardrails and ACH driving the big man Death Valley style. Very good match, a lotta fun.
Six Man Mayhem: Jay Lethal vs Hanson vs Will Ferrara vs Michael Elgin vs Cedric Alexander vs Tommaso Ciampa: According to Kevin Kelly, Ferrara is filling in for Jimmy Jacobs. Its all good because Ferrara was really good here. As expected, this featured all kinds of wild spots but, had some character work as well. Elgin was doing some heel shit or something but, Lethal was the best. Best probably in all aspects. His athleticism, character, and experience are very appealing in 2018. Anyhow, perfect match for its type and I'm sure worth the ticket price to see it in person!
The double main event is up next. AJ Styles vs Bobby Fish and The Kingdom vs The Briscoes in a 2/3 falls match.
Man, I was hoping to watch a few more matches but, I've got some business to take care of today & probably won't get the time. I did get to watch the 4th match on the card (I'm counting the Hollis/Gresham stuff as one match). I'm glad I made the time because this one is a doozy!
Roderick Strong vs Kyle O'Reilly (02/21/15): This was a very dynamic & competitive match, a classic style ROH bout. This wasn't a TV match plus a little more. No, this was the hard hitting wrestling you want.
Kyle was like a shark going for the kill. He was going for kicks or combinations when standing and going for armbars when on the mat. Roderick was selling this damage really well...more than just shaking the arm or holding it. He adjusted his offense because of it and when he relied upon it to power his way to a pin, it collapsed on him. Nevertheless, he was practicing what commentator Kevin Kelly said was turning a good defense into a good offense. Or something to that effect
I thought this was a great match and probably a classic in the style. If you're reading this then, you'll probably dig this fight. It is exactly what you would want from these two. And for the #4 spot on a show, it over delivers without being overkill. An aggressive, masterfully paced & technically proficient wrestling match. That's hard to do in the 2010's.
So, I bought this DVD during a Black Friday sale. I heard some very good stuff about it. I was also interested to get it because it was not a major event like Death Before Dishonor, Anniversary Show, Final Battle etc. They come to Pittsburgh every year...sometimes 2 times and I want to go but, never seem to remember, something else comes up etc. Kinda wanted to see how they're handling the smaller shows.
Anyways, onto the show! ROH: Winter Warriors in Atlanta 02/21/15
First and foremost, the arena in Atlanta is very reminiscent of mid 2000's ROH. Crowd seems amped. I'm digging this already.
Caprice Coleman vs "P-Dog" Mike Posey: Fun open as Coleman squashes the cheap heat comedy/cringey P-Dog (think J-Roc from Trailer Park Boys). C. C. has some good moves.
Corey Hollis vs Jonathan Gresham: A fun minute or two before BJ Whitmer & Adam Page come out to lay a beat down. Hollis is like, "Fuck that! Let's fight!"
Corey Hollis & Johnathan Gresham vs BJ Whitmer & Adam Page: ECW PPV style impromptu tag match. The crowd is loving it! The faces look really good and shiny here. Page (as a heel) does a Shooting Star off the apron to Hollis...no fucking clue, man. It looked cool but, that was goofy. But, let's ignore that because this was a fun ass match. Gresham goes all Manami Toyota and we get a no tag legality action fest. It doesn't go into overkill either. I recommend this one!
Delirious vs Matt Sydal: Kevin Kelly does a good history recap here by letting us know about these fellows' back story. I felt it went a little longer than needed because I sensed they were winging most of it. I say that affectionately! They know each other so well that they did a very good job filling the time between spots. I could have done for less Delirious schtick but, its the #3 match. Besides the closing stretch is nice as the D-man eats kicks and knees. I'm never goona turn this matchup down. Its like 2005 all over again!
So far, so good! Certainly, an excellent vibe thus far. This will easier to watch and review the whole show compared to the wXw stuff as I don't need to bring out the laptop for the DVD+R discs. Huzzah!