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Best Match Watched - 2020

Welcome to my Best Match Watched of 2020 celebration! We've got big stars appearing and a number of musical performances lined up tonight! Let's get this party started! Oh wait, never mind all of that...let's just get onto the Big List of my favorite stuff of that I've watched this year. In chronological order: Pre 1970's: Mighty Atlas vs Angelo Poffo (Chicago 1956) Honorable Mention, Very good match with nice action and pacing. Simple story but, well worked.
1970s & 80s: Tiger Mask vs Gran Hamada (11/05/81) Tiger Mask vs Steve Wright (04/01/82) Tiger Mask vs Black Tiger (05/26/82) Tiger Mask vs Bret Hart (07/30/82) Akira Nogami, Tatsutoshi Goto, K. Yamada, K. Hoshino & S. Koshinaka vs Hiroshi Hase, K. Kobayashi, Kensuke Sasaki, N. Honaga & H. Saito (04/27/88) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Big Van Vader (04/27/88) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (05/27/88) Shiro Koshinaka vs Owen Hart (06/24/88) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (06/24/88) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Big Van Vader (06/26/88) Riki Choshu vs Antonio Inoki (07/22/88) Shiro Koshinaka vs Kuniaki Kobayashi (8/08/88) Antonio Inoki vs Tatsumi Fujinami (08/08/88)
1990s & 2000s: American Dragon vs Low-Ki vs Christopher Daniels - Era of Honor Begins (2002) American Dragon vs Christopher Daniels  - Round Robin Challenge (2002) Daniels vs Low-Ki - Round Robin Challenge (2002) American Dragon vs Low-Ki - Round Robin Challenge (2002) Jerry Lynn vs AJ Styles -  Road to the Title (2002) American Dragon vs AJ Styles -  All Star Extravaganza (2002) Low Ki vs American Dragon vs Steve Corino vs Samoa Joe Final Battle (2002) Low Ki & Homicide vs Samoa Joe & Jay Lethal (Punk: The Final Chapter 2005) Roderick Strong vs Jack Evans FIP Strong vs Evans (2005) KENTA & Marufuji vs Samoa Joe & Danielson (ROH Best in the World 2006) KENTA vs Samoa Joe vs Bryan Danielson (ROH In Your Face 2006) Low Ki (Senshi) vs Chris Sabin (TNA Bound for Glory 2006) Honorable Mention, An action packed match with 0 TNA bullshit to spoil it. Golden era X Division stuff. Daisuke Sekimoto vs Manabu Nakanishi (BJW 2007) Honorable Mention, A very good to great match that told a great story that that fans & myself could believe. Precursor to the BJW Strong Style revival stuff.
2010 to present:
Sami Callihan vs Tommy End (wXw 16 Carat 2011) El Generico vs Kotaro Suzuki (same) El Generico & Emil Sitoci vs Adam Cole & Kyle O'Reilly " Yoshihito Sasaki vs Sami Callihan " Davey Richards vs Zack Sabre Jr. " Daisuke Sekimoto vs El Generico " Cole & O'Reilly vs Sabre Jr. & Scurll " Sami Callihan vs Big Van Walter " KENTA, K. Kanemoto, Minoru Tanaka, Kanemaru & Genba vs Devitt, Taguchi, K. Suzuki, Nakajima & KAI - All Together (2011) Akiyama & K. Sasaki vs Omori & Takayama - All Together (2011) Fred Yehi vs Tracy Williams ROH Pure Title tournament (2020) Mark Haskins vs Alex Shelley (ROH TV 02/20): Honorable Mention, excellent chain wrestling by Shelley and a good fit for Haskins hybrid style. Crowd actually was into this match which can be tough for live ROH crowds nowadays.   -THE BEST of the BEST!-
Pre 1970's...well I only watched a few pre 1970's matches and well Mighty Atlas vs Angelo Poffo (Chicago 1956) was the best of the bunch. The rest of my picks are going to be a little more difficult so, I think I'll do a top 3 or top 5 for the others. Then...just maybe will I actually able to narrow it down. 1970s & 80s: Clearly I was all about NJPW in the 80's although I did dip my toe in AJPW a couple times later in the year. They had some good 6 man matches (British Bulldogs w. Kobashi), I didn't see anything that could touch NJPW. Tiger Mask vs Gran Hamada (11/05/81)
Tiger Mask vs Steve Wright (04/01/82)
Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (06/24/88)
Riki Choshu vs Antonio Inoki (07/22/88)
Antonio Inoki vs Tatsumi Fujinami (08/08/88) 1990s & 2000s: And now we enter the Ring of Honor K-hole I was lost in for awhile. Hey, I'm glad I took that journey. I was pretty ignorant of Year One ROH and got me excited to keep watching their current stuff. Plus is encouraged me to check out the sister company FIP which I've been digging. Also, I have made some purchases that have fill in some gaps in my DVD collection. I hope to be hitting up a couple of those for 2021. So, my list boils down to these: American Dragon vs Low-Ki - Round Robin Challenge (2002)
Low Ki vs American Dragon vs Steve Corino vs Samoa Joe (2002) - Perhaps a controversial pick against the Era of Honor Begins but, I think this has the action along with the story lines
Low Ki & Homicide vs Samoa Joe & Jay Lethal (Punk: The Final Chapter 2005)
KENTA & Marufuji vs Samoa Joe & Danielson (ROH Best in the World 2006)
KENTA vs Samoa Joe vs Bryan Danielson (ROH In Your Face 2006) 2010 to present: There's a good chunk from the wXw 2011 tournament here but, what can I say? It was a great show. Perhaps similar to the Ted Petty Invitational 2004. Sami Callihan vs Tommy End (wXw 16 Carat 2011)
El Generico vs Kotaro Suzuki
Yoshihito Sasaki vs Sami Callihan
Davey Richards vs Zack Sabre Jr.
Akiyama & K. Sasaki vs Omori & Takayama - All Together (2011)   The runners up: Tiger Mask vs Steve Wright (04/01/82) - a long technical match with beautiful chain wrestling - counters, escapes, reversals, and counter reversals...distinct from his matches with Baby Face, Hamada, Blackman but, still was athletic and exciting as we've come to expect. KENTA & Marufuji vs Samoa Joe & Danielson (ROH Best in the World 2006) - Felt like a late 1990's AJPW Four Corners tag classic Yoshihito Sasaki vs Sami Callihan - I think this match best encapsulates the awesome hard hitting style that both guys showed all 3 days. I didn't rate it as a classic at the time but, both guys have stuck in my mind all year. Here's my top 3 and I'm just going by my gut: Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (06/24/88) - This was timeless stuff to me. A heavenly dream battle...great grappling, wonderfully engaging storytelling, and a real sense of rivalry. Low Ki & Homicide vs Samoa Joe & Jay Lethal (Punk: The Final Chapter 2005) - I got an out of body feeling when watching this match that was very similar to the first time I saw Kobashi vs Misawa's matches from 1997. Maybe it was the mild hype that lower my expectations but, this blew my mind. Davey Richards vs Zack Sabre Jr. (wXw 2011) - As hard as Sasaki & Sami were in the tourney, these two went beyond that. Davey really only does one thing but, when he's in there with the right person it can be awesome. It has grappling, strikes, nice counters & escapes all with an aggressive pace. Best Wrestler: Fujinami was killing it in '88. Tiger Mask given the right opponent was working magic. Sami, Yoshihito Sasaki, and El Generico were on fire during the wXw tourney in 2011. But I'm going to give it to American Dragon Bryan Danielson specifically for his work in 2002 in ROH. A natural baby face to Daniels' gimmick and Ki's natual demeanor, Dragon is relatable in addition to being a fantastic in ring worker. He has a grip of classic matches but, also elevates his tournament matches into something you want to see as well. Best Surprise: Yoshihito Sasaki was pretty much unknown to me other than a character in Fire Pro Returns but, he's a guy I want to be on the look out for in the future. Seeing as I got a 4 disc Best of BJW in 2006 set, the future might be pretty soon! But, I think the best surprise of this year was Full Impact Pro being pretty great wrestling. I watched their Unstoppable 2007 DVD a few years ago and for the first time a few years before that and it didn't "wow" me. I think my expectations were too high or something. As I watched it again, I saw stuff that I don't think I appreciated in the past. From that I've seen some really great stuff including Roderick Strong vs Jack Evans which is a lost "ROH" classic to me. I'm looking forward to getting back to FIP Fridays! Looking forward to: Tackling the mountain of DVDs I've got - AJPW, BJW, NOAH, NJPW, ROH and more including FIP. Duh right? But I'm also swinging back to FMW and specifically 1998 which may be their very best year. I've already watched a handful of matches (although I'm not including them on this year's list) and I am NOT disappointed. Thank you so much for reading this year! Its been a really crappy 365 days but, I hope I was able to give you a little bit of fun and inspiration. Let's hope for a better new year! Stay safe and keep watching wrestling!

G. Badger

G. Badger

This Day in Wrestling - NOAH - Kobashi vs Akiyama 12/23/2000

This match is now 20 years old -  wow! I cannot believe that to be honest. I can do math and probably can remember a few things from each year to prove to myself that 2000 was 20 years ago but, this still seems somewhat modern to me. Perhaps its the green ring mat? That's probably it. But man what kinda gets me is that I've been meaning to see this match for probably 10 years now. Its one of those matches that doesn't quite reach the essential viewing list of many folk like their 2004 match or the one from 1998 or 1999...I can't remember right now. I want to say its 98 though. I'm getting side tracked but maybe that's the point. The Misawa-Kobashi-Akiyama-Taue-Kawada merry-go-round was pumping out great matches at the end of the 90's but, they all start to run together. I think that may be the case with this as well as the fact that Kobashi was in dire need of knee surgery at the start of NOAH. So, he does a few high profile matches and then goes away until 2002 and I think goes away again until 2003. In that regard, not much gets universal praise until the 2003 Misawa match. I'm getting side tracked again...I guess my point is this bout averaged out to middle of the road in folks reviews. I've seen it around ***3/4 to ****1/2. That can be a pretty big difference. But I wanted to watch it for This Day in Wrestling and I wanted to try and end 2020 with a banger of a match! I think its fair to say everyone has had a crappy year and I guess this was a gesture of ending it with a classic King's Road or Ark Style match. Ah...it was not to be Don't get me wrong it was a great heavyweight match but, I felt it was more of a spot match than anything else. It didn't seem to really grab me with a story I could believe in. It had nice attempts with Kobashi working on Akiyama's neck after a particularly nasty ramp DDT. Then Akiyama was able to find some breathing room by drop kicking Kobashi's knees. He then went to work on the arm, as is often the case, but he added some nice twists I thought. This was a slow burner but, it was picking up and I was invested for sure. I just wasn't sure who or what I was invested in beyond enjoying the match and the moves. That slow burn never really turned to rapid boiling.  It got close especially during some choice encounters - very stiff and head droppy. So, I think ratings may have been inflated back in the day on those 2 things. Kobashi's eye is swollen shut by the end. And you'd better believe Akiyama gets chopped to a pulp. With all that though, I just don't think there was enough substance in between to say there was a purpose to those moves as you would see in a classic match. I don't think there was enough intensity/spirit of competition to make it feel like a brutal fight either. So instead of being slow yet purposeful building to a dramatic ending OR energetic and violent exploding until there is a victor, it came off as above satisfactory. That is to say, I was satisfied with this as a big match Kobashi vs Akiyama match and was overly pleased with a half dozen spots and strike exchanges. But the socks were not blown off Great but not a classic to me. I'll issue a disclaimer now -  I'm pretty burnt out from working customer service and managing late orders and cancellations this holiday season. It has been the worst few months since I've started working this job 8 years ago. If you were waiting on a package or have had some orders cancelled this month, let me tell you there are about a dozen people behind the scenes trying their hardest to get your gifts out. I know its on the news and whatnot but, let me tell you that it has been especially rough with the pandemic both in receiving a flood of online & phone orders and not being able to keep staff or shifting staff because pandemic safety protocols. Let alone the usual Xmas stuff. So, perhaps I wasn't in the best head space watching this match. I am emotionally and mentally dulled right now. Maybe I'm not giving this bout a fair shake. You should take some time and watch this 20 year old match. You may actually be watching it with a clear head. Heck! I might even watch it again after the 25th when my brain can begin to heal Nothing helps the healing process like some lariat-o's! I hope to get my Best Match Watched and other things of note for 2020 together before New Year's Eve! Thanks for reading this year! Stay safe & happy holidays!

G. Badger

G. Badger

Full Impact Pro Friday - Fallout 2006

We are back with FIP Friday and pick up with Fallout 2006. Lots of big names on this show. Let's see! Black Market vs Jerrelle Clark & Jon Davis - This was my first match and it was fun stuff. Jon Davis was a lot thinner or less jacked than when I saw him in DGUSA. So Cal Val looking hot setting up this #1 contenders match. That aside she is really talented as a manager or valet.  Jay & Mark Briscoe vs Sal Rinauro & Erick Stevens - Val didn't like the results of the above match so she said THIS will determine the contender spot to face her Heartbreak Express. This was a really good match. These guys had good chemistry and delivered in a big way. This gladly could have been a few minutes longer. Matt Sydal vs Shingo - Another really good bout where Sydal was going to bust out everything. I felt Shingo held back offensively but, really made Sydal shine bright. You have to remember FIP has a strong face/heel style and since Shingo was part of Dave Prazak associates then, he's not going to pull out his crowd pleasing bombs. But it was really enjoyable. Roderick Strong vs Davey Richards (FIP Heavyweight Title #1 Contenders Match) - This was the match of the night. They wrestled this like an ROH bout and I couldn't be happier about that. I noticed the above matches seemed quicker than usual but, I think it was to give this 20+ minutes. Both guys were drenched in sweat by the end of this battle. A great match for sure. I re-watched this and I do think it could have gone on a little longer since the finish felt quick. But that's a minor quibble. Bryan Danielson & Cyber Kong vs Davey Richards & Roderick Strong - This was a impromptu main event where DP Associates come out and spoil the mood post match. Eventually Kong and Danielson have a pretty good tag bout to keep all the fans happy. I think the 15-30 year olds there were happy with the previous bout but, the kids and old folks dug this one. We get kind of an upset win here and with a legit finish so, this was surprisingly good.  Fallout 2006 was super super easy to watch. Again, I'm not sure if some of the matches were shorter or what. Perhaps they were "just right" in duration because for $5 I highly recommend checking this out. The Briscoes tag, Sydal vs Shingo, and Davey vs Roddy are worth it. Everything else is bonus. Thanks for reading and stay safe!  

G. Badger

G. Badger

ALL TOGETHER - 2011

This was a wrestling show held in August 2011 in honor of the victims of the March 2011 Earthquake & Tsunami and the aftermath including the meltdown of the Fukushima power plant. Well, without going and checking dates I'm not sure they knew the scope of the disaster of Fukashima yet. That's one of those things that the company and government wanted to downplay at the time. And they still do. It is certainly one of those things that still exists but, is sadly a footnote in the 24 hour news cycle. It was almost a decade ago but, those people and communities are still gone...and that area is still radioactive. I digress. Ok so on to the wrestling part. This was a joint venture between AJPW, NJPW, and NOAH as well as some big time freelancers to but on a super show in the spirit of solidarity and togetherness in the face of a national tragedy. What better way to do so then have a bunch of dudes beating up on each other? I kid! All proceeds went to the Japanese Red Cross. It was one of those things that I shied away from at the time because I didn't know if it would be a somber show or if it would be dull due to the nature of the show. Its me being stingy with my wrestling dollar. Don't fret though because this show as well as its follow up (and Kobashi's farewell show) are all available in full on Youtube. I haven't been watching a ton of puroresu and thought "Man, this looks like a good way to get back into it after getting lost in an ROH k-hole." I had pretty low expectations but, this features a pretty complete list of top Japanese talent and I should check it out for the sake of it. Kota Ibushi, Taji Ishimori, BUSHI & Yamato vs Kaz Hiyashi, Shuji Kondo, Tiger Mask IV & Ricky Marvin  - This was a short but all fireworks spot fest! What a way to start the show. My fears of a dull exhibition show have subsided. This was good stuff. Ricky Marvin was my fave. Naito, Sanada & Taniguchi vs Takahashi, Manabu Soya & M. Yone  - I'm not writing out everyone's names. Every match is some form of a tag match and I'm not doing it! You probably know some if not most of the names and the others you can look up Anyhow this was a really good match where Naito got worked over but made a good comeback and tagged out to kick it up a notch - BAM! This was a good mix of guys and although there were some rough patches nothing ruined the fun. Makabe & Akitoshi Saito vs Hirooki Goto & Kea - This was my jam. Hard hitters hitting each other hard. Good chops and slams. These guys had that good upper card tag vibe going, Taiyo Kea and Makabe had good chemistry against each other. Very good match. KENTA, K. Kanemoto, Minoru Tanaka, Kanemaru & Genba vs Devitt, Taguchi, K. Suzuki, Nakajima & KAI - Oh man! They could split all these guys up and have a tag tourney and I'd be a happy man. What we get scratches that it nonetheless. Everyone gets in there and does their thing. KENTA and Koji Kanemoto on the same team!? Get outta here! Attitude for miles! So you've got that and everyone just is super talented and wanted to win, this was a great match. 15 minutes but, it was fantastic. Best match so far. Masakatsu Funaki, Liger & Sano vs Minoru Suzuki, Aoki & Taichi - NJ Dojo classmates united again. Suzuki is right behind them so that's the story of the match to me. Fun little match with good spots toward the end. The Destroyer battle royale - I skipped this... Nagata, Tenzan, Nishimura & W. Inoue vs Akebono, Hama, Y. Yoshie & Morishima - Fun match but, this would have been better with Nagata & Nishimura vs Yoshie & Morishima . Its only 11 minutes and its all good for where its at on the card. Akiyama & K. Sasaki vs Omori & Takayama - So, Takayama was starting to not have "it" by this point but, he could still take a helluva beating. I wanted to say that right off the bat. That being said, this was a near classic macho beat-em up match. All three other guys were still awesome and the crowd was molten hot for this battle. I really really dug this especially at 15 minutes where it was all steak and no sizzle which works wonderfully for this style and the guys' ages. I'm a fan of all 4 so perhaps you think I'm full of it but, I really want to put this as like a ****1/2 match. The final 3rd of the match which had Omori in the ring more really put this up there. Best match of the show and should have been the main event in my eyes. Kobashi & Muto vs Iizuka & Yano - This won the Tokyo Sports GP Best Match of 2011 award. That like many of their awards is based on mass appeal, nostalgia, and star power. That and the finish is really something beautiful if you're a long time puro fan. SUWAMA, Tanahashi & Shiozaki vs KENSO, Nakamura & Sugiura - I totally get why this is the main event. These are the heavy hitter, the aces of their companies, the world champions. That being said I would have LOVED this id it was minus Tanahashi & KENSO because the other four guys are absolute beasts! So, it makes their offense look mid card level. SUWAMA and Nakamura grappling to start, Shiozaki & Sugiura blasting each other...it makes the other two guys stuff look soft. It got really really good though. All that talent in one ring, they had to have a very good match in their sleep. This was that match BUT! they threw a story element in there as well. It was kinda goofy but, the fans loved it and we got to see all these dudes in one ring at once. Kinda like a lucha trios match... Overall this was a really really good show and I think paid off the Dream Show vibe. I would say this would be like getting the '94 Super J Cup tape if you wanted to get into puro but stuff is so easy to come by with Youtube, NJ World, etc. that there's probably more relevant entry points now. But, let's say if you're looking to get into older stuff but, want a more modern presentation and a good introduction than this is a great way for that. I think its also a good reminder of the events that took place all most a decade ago. Thanks for reading !  

G. Badger

G. Badger

AJPW You Might Have Missed - Late 1989

Man, it has been awhile since I've covered some straight up Japanese wrestling. That's a sin or something for a wrestling blog with "puro" in the title. I guess I've been covering the "plus more" stuff for a couple months. Anyhow, let's get in our time machines and go back to late 1989 All Japan Pro Wrestling for some good stuff. British Bulldogs & Kenta Kobashi vs Furnas, Kroffat & Masa Fuchi (11/19) - You'd better believe this is in Korakeun Hall! Dynamite is still physically able to go. Kroffat is doing kicks & kip-ups. Davey and Doug Furnas get in a strong man battle. Fuchi is still tough and mean. Kobashi is great right outta the gate. This match has got all of the 'wow!' moments along with some blood. Watch for that exploding guardrail too! Impressive finish on top of all that - Great match! Terry Gordy & Bill Irwin vs Stan Hansen & Tenryu (11/19): So, I've dropped us in the '89 Real World Tag League for better or worse. I say worse because there's usually some good stories running here but, if I try to do that I'm just going to be intimidated to watch this stuff. Like "Ok I have to plan to watch this DVD on this date then, watch these two this week, what if I take a break?" I digress...this match is the perfect reason to just drop right in. Four bruisers chopping and elbowing each other like they mean it. You can't beat it! This was fast paced as you can get for these dudes and there's not a thing to hate on. Very good match that's scratching a greatness to me. British Bulldogs vs Jumbo & Yoshiaki Yatsu (11/25): Tag League match. Yatsu has headgear and that was of course a target for the Brits. It was good but, had a little too much stomping & headbutts to be awesome. Still, its neat to see all 4 in the ring. Abdullah the Butcher & Tiger Jeet Singh vs Hansen & Tenryu (11/25): Tag League match. Ah yes, I love these matches. Maybe its because my dad is a Abby fan or that I came into my fandom watching ECW but, this was very good stuff. Fighting in the crowd, bleeding, yeah I mean this was very enjoyable to me. Plus we get a pinfall win! British Bulldogs & Kobashi vs Toshiaki Kawada, Samson Fuyuki & Yoshinari Ogawa (12/04): Perhaps the first match I've seen of Ogawa wrestling for Revolution. Catch us if you can! I think that was their slogan Anyhow, this was a great 13-14 minute match much like the Can-Am & Fuchi one. Dynamite puts together a half dozen moves tags out to let Davey do the heavy lifting (literally) and Kobashi takes Tom's role in bumping & diving off stuff. I've seen better Footloose matches (Kawada & Fuyuki) but, they are still great here. This was a blast! This was a super easy AJPW Classics DVD to watch. Nothing was a classic but, it was really enjoyable to see the same few guys wrestle. Plus there was a variety of styles. A brawl, a slobber knocker, two 6 man work-rate matches, and a solid story tag bout made this never boring. Now, there were 2 Nasty Boys RWTL matches but, I skipped those. I saw little bits but, eh I only have so much time & energy. If you love Knobbs & Skaggs then you've got to look forward to seeing. I want to finish off 2020 with a few more puro matches or shows before my year end stuff. So, hopefully I can get that in as well as written up. Work has been CRAZY! So, we'll see about that. I do have a couple DVDs in mind so I'm hoping I can get those in along with another FIP show or two. Thanks for reading everyone! Be safe!

G. Badger

G. Badger

Full Impact Pro Friday - The Big List

I would have loved to been able to get a new FIP show watched this week. My job in online retail has been absolute bonkers though. It is usually pretty bad just because its the holiday season. This year has been especially rough due to the pandemic. I thought maybe people would be chill since folks have been home and able to online shop probably more now than ever. So perhaps they shopped early...I don't know what I was thinking! Hahaha maybe it was wishful thinking. Anyhow, I wasn't able to watch more Full Impact Pro this week but, I've assembled my watch list for the remaining DVDs. I snagged a new on during Highspots Black Friday sale. I was supposed to get a second one but, it was sold out and I got a refund. Bummer but, it was one I was on the fence about so, I'm not to sad. I wanted to put this list together for folks interest in what's out there beyond what I have already reviewed. As of writing this, these are still available on Highspots website. They usually do an after Xmas sale or a New Years Sale so, if you're interest in scooping a few up I wanted to give a heads up on what I'm digging. So if we have the same tastes then maybe this will help you without having to wait for my slow ass to watch all of these
Fallout 2006 The Heartbreak Express vs. Jaison Moore & Bobby Hopkins, Jr. - will skip
Black Market vs. Jerrelle Clark & Jon Davis - worth checking out
Chasyn Rance vs. Canadian Cougar - will skip
Seth Delay vs. Steve Madison - ehhh might check out...perhaps
Jay & Mark Briscoe vs. Sal Rinauro & Erick Stevens - yeah looking forward to this. Sal & Erick are good stuff in this setting for sure.
Matt Sydal vs. Shingo - Sydal was wrestling Dragon Gate and ROH had their DG matches so, this is one to watch
Roderick Strong vs. Davey Richards (FIP Heavyweight Title #1 Contenders Match) - Can't go wrong with this match especially in this small setting
Bryan Danielson & Cyber Kong vs. Davey Richards & Roderick Strong - Other than Cyber Kong this would be a main event on a ROH 2006 B-show. Swap Delirious in for Kong and there you go!   Second Year Spectacular Night 1 *(the listing is reverse on Highspots so the main event is at the top)*
Davey Richards vs. Delirious w/Dave Prazak - Speaking of Delirious - yup this should be good stuff
Jerrelle Clark vs. Jay Briscoe - Interesting to see Jerrelle this high up but, I'm all for it.
Roderick Strong vs. Cyber Kong w/Dave Prazak - I'll watch it but, Cyber Kong is an unknown to me. Could go either way...
Steve Madison, Chasyn Rance & Kenny King vs. Erick Stevens, Roderick Strong & Seth Delay - Yeah, a 6 man match...this should be fun
Mark Briscoe vs. Canadian Cougar - I'm watching it for Mark.
Allison Danger vs. Lacey - Yup I'm down for this. Its been awhile since I've seen either wrestle.
Black Market vs. Colt Cabana & Sal Rinauro - I liked Black Market from Unstoppable 2007 and Cabana & Rinauro are a fun team. I might watch this whole show!   New Years Classic 2007 Kenny King vs. Seth Delay - Maybe based on Kenny King
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Shane Hagadorn - Probably will skip but, this is probably a squash
The Heartbreak Express vs. Shiima Xion & Pelle Primeau - same as above
Sal Rinauro vs. Gran Akuma - yeah, I think I'll watch this.
Black Market vs. Steve Madison & Chasyn Rance - Not crazy about this match but, we'll see how I feel when I get there!
Jimmy Jacobs vs. Larry Sweeney - I've only ever seen Sweeney as manager so, I'm interested. Him vs Jimmy should be entertaining for sure
Brent Albright vs. Erick Stevens - This is an ROH match I remember seeing and it reminds me of an AJPW undercard match. It should be stiff and have some suplexes- I'm game
Roderick Strong & Jack Evans vs. Jimmy Rave & Shingo - The selling point of the DVD. Seeing as the ROH guys have experience together and Shingo has been working with them as well. This should be very good stuff.   In Full Force 2007 Hallowicked vs. Seth Delay
Shingo vs. Jigsaw (FIP Florida Heritage Title Tournament Qualifier) - I'll pick up here...I'm a Shingo fan if you can't tell
Black Market vs. Claudio Castagnoli & Sal Rinauro (Losers leave Town) - Hey a tag match with an old school stipulation...I'm hoping its a brawl
Sean Waltman vs. Chasyn Rance - Probably will skip
The Briscoe Bros. vs. Necro Butcher & Mad Man Pondo (FIP Tag Team Title Match) - Yeah, my hope is this is indy deathmatch crazy. Just see for the spectacle
Erick Stevens vs. Gran Akuma (FIP Florida Heritage Title Tournament Qualifier) - Stevens is working his way up the card
Colt Cabana vs. Larry Sweeney (FIP Florida Heritage Title Tournament Qualifier) - This is looking like a good comedy match
Roderick Strong vs. Davey Richards (FIP Heavyweight Title - 2/3 Falls Match) - Selling point right here. These guys are like bread & butter. Violent bread & butter.   Heatstroke 2007 Night 1 Steve Madison vs Danny Daniels (w/SoCal Val)
Seth Delay vs Austin Amadeus
Trik Davis vs Scott Commodity - yeah I'll be skipping the first three matches...
Erick Stevens vs Davey Richards - Odd position for this match but, I've got hope.
No Disqualification Match - Delirious vs Necro Butcher (w/Dave Prazak) - Even if just for the chair spots I'll watch this!
The Briscoes (Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe) (c) vs Irish Airborne (Dave Crist & Jake Crist) - Brothers vs Brothers plus Airborne were the new thing at the time as well.
Roderick Strong (c) vs Tyler Black - Would be ROH main event stuff in a year...yeah I'll watch this.
Eight Man Tag Team Bunkhouse Brawl - The YRR (Chasyn Rance, Jason Blade, Kenny King & Sal Rinauro) (w/Becky Bayless & SoCal Val) vs  Black Market (Joey Machete & Shawn Murphy) & The Heartbreak Express (Phil Davis & Sean Davis) - This is seemingly the acutal big storyline of FIP at the time and it should be chaotic so, why not. I'm guessing the wrestling main event is Black vs Strong though.   Third Anniverary Show Kenny King vs. Seth Delay...
Jigsaw vs. Jason Blade...
Sara Del Rey vs. Lacey vs. Daizee Haze (Triple Threat Match) - I'll be starting here. Nothing against those guys but, this looks like a good card
Irish Airborne vs. Hallowicked & Scott Commodity - I will be skippinh this for the same reason as above
Necro Butcher vs Gran Akuma (No DQ Match) - Unless I'm just bored of Necro doing wacky stuff, I'm interested
Delirious vs. Larry Sweeney - It depends if I'm in the mood. Sometimes I LOVE a good comedy match. Othertimes, I can't be bothered.
Erick Stevens vs. Jack Evans (Florida Heritage Title Match) - Jack in Florida is gold.
Roderick Strong & Jay Briscoe vs. BxB Hulk & Yamato - This is whats on the cover and again this could be an ROH B-show main event.
Black Market & The Heartbreak Express vs. The YRR (Anything Goes Match) - Clearly these guys haven't settled their differences from the previous show. If that one grabs my attention then, I'm down for this.   Dangerous Intentions 2008 Jigsaw vs. Chasyn Rance - No
Rex Sterling vs. Chris Jones - Nope
Damien Wayne vs. Seth Delay - No way Jose
Sal Rinauro vs. Delirious - Again, only so much time and when this is following those then, I'd rather cut to the chase.
Black Market vs. Dark City Fight Club - These are some clubbering dudes so this should be good
Tyler Black vs. Davey Richards - Again, ROH Main Event in a couple years
Kenny King & Jason Blade vs. Jay Briscoe & Austin Aries - Certain to be an all action match
Roderick Strong vs. Erick Stevens (FIP World Heavyweight Title Match - Last Man Standing) - Oh yeah, the top half of the card looks awesome   Heatstroke 2008 The Heartbreak Assassins vs. The British Lions
Mercedes Martinez vs. Lorelei Lee - Might as well pick up a Women's match where & when I can!
Sal Rinauro vs. Chris Jones
Chasyn Rance vs. Shawn Osborne
Austin Aries vs. Jason Blade - I'm gonna go with this next. Blade is alright of all of the Streets of Rage indy wrestlers
Dark City Fight Club vs. Black Market (Weapons Match) - These are some clubbering dudes WITH WEAPONS so this should be good
Roderick Strong vs. Kenny King - ROH match right here
Tyler Black vs. Necro Butcher - Ditto
Erick Stevens vs. Go Shiozaki - If they chop and lariat each other like crazy then I will be a happy person. Fallout 2008 (This is the end of the road with the FIP DVDs available. I think this was billed as Impact of Honor 2 but the DVD was called this.) Shawn Osborne vs. CJ O'Doyle
Dark City Fight Club vs. The Lifeguards
Chasyn Rance vs. Nooie Lee
Damien Wayne & Rex Sterling vs. The British Lions
Erick Stevens vs. Tyler Black - Wow, we're just skipping all of that and this looks like a great place to start
MsChif vs. Rain (SHIMMER Title Match) - Sure why not!
Go Shiozaki vs. Roderick Strong - Sign me up yes, please!
Kenny King & Jason Blade vs. Jay & Mark Briscoe - I know these guys can all go so I'm looking forward to this. FIP guys challenging the ROH guys again
Sal Rinauro vs. Chris Jones  - No idea what this is doing here in the top spot. Its here on the DVD case too. Alright...I'll give it a shot!   Whew! That took longer than I thought! Well I hope it helps you if you're thinking about checking old Full Impact Pro stuff out. If you're on the fence then I highly recommend Strong vs Evans as a place to start. I hope these above shows are very similar. If you look at the cards they look more like ROH year One in that the undercards are a little shakey sometimes but, the last 4 matches look really great. There are plenty of other shows that I guess were TOP shows at the time and I might try and find those on eBay but, that's what we're looking at right now. I'm digging it! Thanks for reading!

G. Badger

G. Badger

Ring of Honor - ROH TV thoughts

I don't want to do a week by week review of Ring of Honor TV. Although it did help keep my blogging on track, I just don't want focus too much on ROH. And besides when do I end it? OK I've said that and so now I no problem doing a "once in awhile" catch up with ROH TV. Anyone reading this maybe wondering why I don't look at WWE or AEW or Impact as well. What about the Indies? Yeah, that's another good reason I am not planning on covering ROH TV on a regular basis. There's just so much new stuff out there and plenty of folks here on PWO do a great job of that already. ROH TV is my jam because #1 is free on TV and #2 I've been a Ring of Honor fan since 2007 or 08. But also because they still have really good no nonsense wrestling. It may not be as AWESOME as the mid 2000's stuff or even as good as it was a few years ago but, man! they are coming back. That's the reason I wanted to do this post. The Pure Title revival has been a success, and like I was hoping for, ROH has stuck more to this athletic focused wrestling. I gotta say I like it a lot better than the stuff when Cody was there. Sure you had the Elite guys who could fart out very good tag matches but, it was too corny for my tastes. Plus too many hi-jinks. That's been a couple years but, after they left and until now ROH seems like it has been searching for it's soul. The Pure Tournament seemed like they had found it again. I really hope they bring some of those guys back especially Yehi & Sydal. So, the weeks after Gresham won the belt have been just as good or even better. I'm acutally digging the Taven vs Vincent stuff despite my initial reservations. The return of Bennett and the introduction of Bateman into the feud seems like great hate filled tag team stuff with a potential for a Ladder War match. EC3 didn't light the world on fire with his stuff but, he's been keeping it interesting nonetheless. I'd like to see him wrestling in actual wrestling boots though. Brody King, who I was waiting to get pushed, has been getting pushed big time. His matches with Dalton Castle and Shane Taylor have been nothing short of great puro battles. Those two deserve a ton of credit too. Longer TV matches that very much would be PPV level bouts in my book. Shane Taylor had a very good match with Kenny King that also was PPV level. And the franchise Jay Lethal has been working his magic with LSG and Josh Woods. Both guys really were great in their fights with him in their Pure Rules bouts. I would have to say LSG's fight against Lethal was about as good any the best matches in the Pure Tournament. It was a great match for sure. As was today's match with Josh Woods. Man, Woods looks better and better with each match. If he can get his confidence up on his strikes (like confident he can go harder without KO-ing someone) then, he really is big star material. I'm just going to speculate on Final Battle 2020 and say that there's going to be a big shake-up with the belts. If they can get the Mexican wrestlers (or if its pre-taped "GOT" the Mexican wrestlers)...if they can get them for the show, I think they're dropping the titles. And if they can't get them there then, perhaps they will be forced to vacate? They have been sitting on the shelf for a pretty long time without being in an ROH ring or doing an ROH promo or TV show. SO, I'm not sure what value they'll be to Ring of Honor back in Mexico. Even Marty Scurll who's gone did a COVID lockdown Best Of show...but not the World Champion? I think Rush was a mis-step as he really didn't connect with the fans. I was excited early on but, again ROH was still soul searching. Getting bailed on by the AEW guys and muddying the relationship with NJPW really forced them to take a look in the mirror. Kinda like getting dumped or fired. Maybe you're more familiar with all of the dirt and inside baseball than me. Maybe I'm off the mark or missing some details but, the way I see it is ROH wants to get back to its roots. That's not a gimmick. Its been shown in the fantastic TV shows they've been having since they started back up. If its not your cup of tea then, that's OK. I really don't have much contemporary wrestling to compare it to than Smackdown and Impact. Both of which I watch sporadically...I usually forget they're on and then miss like 75% of the show. I saw the Bryan vs Zayn match from the other night and that was the only thing that held a candle to what ROH is doing. Even then there was a load of crap I had to wade through to get to it. And that Thunderdome BS hurts my eyes. Impact which is the most analogous show really needs to be trimmed to 1 hour. But I'm watching that on Twitch...so I think ROH knows they're doing OK in comparison. So, again ROH TV might not be your thing but, I think it fares pretty darn well in comparison to its closest competitors. Its not as flashy but, perhaps that's why I like it so much. I'm a fan of puroresu especially older stuff. I favor the simple production, the intense battles, and no nonsense stories. I feel like ROH has been delivering on that and am a happy fan. Thanks for reading! Stay safe and be kind P.S. There will be more puro reviews coming up! Its been awhile but, I'm sure of it! Plus my 2020 Best Match Watched round up is around the corner.  

G. Badger

G. Badger

Full Impact Pro Friday - Strong vs Evans - 2006

Welcome back to FIP Fridays! Hopefully I can get this puppy in before midnight! Also if you're interested all or at least most of the FIP DVDs I'll be reviewing are available on Highspots. They are having their Xmas sale so, that's a tough deal to beat. Tonight I'm going over the best FIP show I've seen yet - Strong vs Evans! As always I cherry pick but, this has quite a few matches I want to see.  Austin Aries vs Jerrelle Clark - This is a really good athletic match with Aries playing heel alongside his stablemates Bryan Danielson & Dave Prazak. For my "opening match" it sets a great tone. They only thing holding this back is that it could have been longer. Clark's handspring moonsault thing was awesome! Bryan Danielson vs Jay Fury - Fury comes out for a little payback for what DP Associates did his tag partner in the previous bout. Very similar athletic match with some heeling from Danielson. He is such a good chicken shit heel! Milo Beasley who is DP's wheelchair riding goon does senton atomico off the apron at one point and it nearly kills him & Fury! Good payoffs here and good wrestling...very good stuff. We are off to a wonderful start. Oh and let me say the venue is much bigger, the crowd is bigger, and the camera angles are spot on. That makes a difference and glad to see that FIP is growing...I mean 14 years ago... Tony Mamluke & Jimmy Rave - Mamaluke's girlfriend is there again I liked this one a bit better than the Homicide match from Heatstroke last review. He and Rave have good chemistry and I think worked on the FL indies together for awhile. It shows..I would says its a good match for sure. Rave gets his mouth busted open...Rave stalls like a goon at the beginning and I loved it. He's probably one of the best heels of the 2000's.  Colt Cabana & Sal Rinauro vs Erick Stevens & Steve Madison - First Stevens match I've wanted to see from this period. He and Madison are working their way up the card. They go as The Miracle Violence Connection which of course works since I'm guessing no one there knows about the Gordy-Williams team of the same name from the early 90's They too are a hard hitting team so, the good time Sal & Colt team have their hands full. But man they are a good pair - Sal is underrated as a worker and Colt can still go in 2006. He's in no laughing mood. I thought this was a great match. We get an 80's finish but, man it works and it sets up a revenge pair of matches. Might have to check that out. These teams just clicked in terms of working the crowd but, keeping the action exciting. Main Event time and the name of the show. The first meeting of former tag partners and Generation Next members Roderick Strong vs Jack Evans - To save you some time - this was the best ROH style match in FIP that I've seen so far.This is Messiah of the Backbreaker Strong vs using his offence at the right times Evans. I don't know if they had an encounter in ROH as good as this one and from what I know its their first. Jack was bent like a pretzel and chopped red but, he would not quit. His selling was so excellent because it really looked like Strong was destroying him. Perhaps he was but, like I mentioned above, he was able to get some space and hit some spectacular stuff that really sent Roddy reeling. It reminded me of some of TIger Mask's best matches when he was fighting from underneath and would pull a counter or reversal to turn the tide. Or hit a dive to to show his heart and desperation. All on top of Roddy shit talking the fans made this a classic match to me.I was hesitant to pick this up because I'm not a giant fan of Evans all of the time but, this is the perfect setting for him. The fans LOVE him and he plays such a good face in peril here to all of the kids and girls. Yeah,  it just worked so well and they really did not hold anything back believe it or not. If you're an old time ROH fan and are looking to revisit that era or uncover something new from that time, I highly recommend this show. It's $5 and I really think the matches listed above are worth that. If you're a Roderick Strong fan like I am, you will want this in your collection. Thanks for reading! I think I might get this in on time after all! P.S. If you work retail, hang in there! I'm there with you - we'll make it!

G. Badger

G. Badger

Full Impact Pro Friday - Heatstroke 2005 Night 2

Back with FIP Friday after a week off! Here we have Night #2 of the inaugural edition of Heatstroke in Bushnell, FL. I'm cherry picking matches so, this isn't a full show review. And yeah Night 1 didn't interest me as much so, let's roll! Samoa Joe vs Ace Steel - My opening match and its really odd to have Joe being in this position in 2005 or really any year but, he and Ace have a good match with lotsa nice action. It set the tone pretty well for the show. The static camera angle is from around the entrance way and although it catches the crowd and the apron, does seem far away. Plus the lighting here is not that hot. The venue is more typical of an indy show than a a bar or some of the other weird places we saw back on the Best of CM Punk vol. 2 DVD. So, FIP is growing Adam Pearce vs Azrieal - Azrieal is no longer with Punk as the New Dawn sold out. So, Pearce (representing DP Assoc.) is going to teach him a lesson. I forgot what a hard chopper Adam Pearce was! This was a good match. Nothing terribly memorable other than Az not having enough room to stand on the top turnbuckle since the ceiling was so low! (see the tag match above) "Fast" Eddie Vegas & Jimmy Rave vs Spanky & Sal Rinauro - Vegas and Rave are Dave Prazak goons are are the FIP tag champs. Sal is Spanky Kendrick's protege and they're fighting for the belts. To me this is the match of the night. Rave and Vegas do such a good job being heels here along with Prazak. Now that's not an uncommon thing in FIP where those roles are much more defined than ROH. However, Sal & Spanky are just the most baby face team -  good looking, wearing pink & teal shorts, the kiddies are screaming for them etc. So, Rave & Vegas decide to work a traditional tag match where there's a face in peril and they gotta make that hot tag. What makes this really tops is that both teams wrestle this like they're at an ROH show with many of their big moves. Hell, they even dislodge some ceiling panels on a move! This is a great match for sure. Homicide vs Tony Mamaluke - The chick in the front row is Tony's girlfriend is pretty funny throughout this match and really all of the matches to some extent. 'Cide jaw jacks with her a little bit which is good for a chuckle. I thought this was a good match and very good at times but, it just didn't keep the excitement level up for me. At these small shows, where it is poorly lit and the camera angles aren't the best mat grappling just doesn't have the same in impact. It really just looks like laying around. When they do switch to the close up camera (as opposed to the far away one also at floor level) you can appreciate the action but, for some reason they use the far away one for a good deal of the match. There are some really good parts though so perhaps you'll like it more than I did. DP Associates attack Homicide afterwards and some good guys make the save including Roderick Strong which leads to the main event... CM Punk vs Roderick Strong - This was a great match with really solid and well executed pro wrestling. Punk was on his tour out of FIP (and ROH) and each show was going to be his last. This night he faced Roderick Strong who was having a breakout year. This match was no exception but, a bit different from his ROH matches in that he wasn't necessarily destroying Punk with chops and backbreakers. In fact, there were 0 backbreakers. And I kinda take that back regarding chops...there were some pretty mean chops here. Punk was able to control Roderick with abdominal stretches, chin locks and sleepers. He knew the Florida native as very explosive and he needed to tire him down. Strong would get breaks but, was quickly cut off by Punk or the meddling head of DP Associates Dave Prazak (Prazak had bought out Punk's New Dawn stable). When Roddy was able to get an opening though he would explode with chops, running elbows and kicks and everything else you want from him (except his trademark breakers). The fans were really loving this match and we get a Punk moon sighting which was pretty funny. I would have liked a 100% clean finish but, under the circumstances it totally works and keeps the breakout 2005 for Strong still going. Don't go in expecting classic ROH style but, both guys really can work a great wrestling match without hitting every big move and tons of false finishes. This was a really good show and very enjoyable. I cherry picked the matches I wanted to see most so, if you're interested in buying this DVD there's more in store for ya. I think this is the last CM Punk in FIP show that I have so in a way this is his final match to me. Here and with all of his matches I've seen, he was a true professional wrestler meant for the big time. Not only did he know what to do in the ring but, he knew what to do with the fans. Also, I'm a Jimmy Rave fan from a lot of the 2005 ROH I have and man that tag match is another feather in his cap. What an interesting heel wrestler here and there. He really is a talent where the sum is greater than the parts. I dunno...I'm rambling. But if you're interested in this era of ROH, I would consider picking this DVD up. Its $5 on Highspots and is definitely worth the money if you're still buying DVDs like me

G. Badger

G. Badger

Ring of Honor - Stars of Honor DVD

I wonder how many people got into Ring of Honor through through the mass market Koch DVD releases. I know I count myself as one of those folks. I picked up their "Best in the World" release (not to be confused the 2006 Milestone Series show) and knew that this was a company I should check out. For whatever reason, I stopped there and did not get the three other Koch releases. Now like much of ROH's past releases these are out of production and are pretty desirable themselves. They do a pretty good job of compiling ROH's golden years of 2004-2007 and because they were mass produced, they are a little bit easier to come by than the show DVDs. You might actually find these at a cd/game exchange type store too! Although don't hold your breath. But really, why didn't I purchase the other DVDs? I think I was super eager to get my paws on anything puro and the 'other three' didn't feature Japanese talent. I've eventually come in to possession of these compilations and want to let you know (over a decade later) if you should check these out. The first one I'm going to review is the final one I bought. That is 'Stars of Honor.' As someone who's not a big fan of WWE style stuff, it makes sense why I put this one off. There are two Matt Hardy matches, a Christian match, and an MVP match. But! There is also guys like CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Spanky Kendrick, and Jay Lethal. So, I got it I watched these in order of least to most interested. Let's take a look! Homicide vs Antonio Banks (MVP): This match took place 02/19/05 and is for the FIP Heavyweight title in Elizabeth, NJ. However, that doesn't make sense since 02/19 was the Second Anniversary show Night #1 and 'cide faced Danielson in a Taped Fist Match. I had to research this a little bit and this was probably a dark match and was not shown on the ROH DVD. I'm guessing it was added as an extra on a FIP or ROH show that needed some padding. Why they added this here is beyond me. I never though MVP was a big star back in 2008 when this was released. No disrespect to him but, the gimmick was goofy as hell. He looks way better here versus The Notorious One. This was a fun match with Banks powering the champ around. Matt Hardy vs Homicide  (Redemption 2005) - Matt Hardy had already been resigned to WWE but, wanted to fulfill his commitment to ROH during what would become the "Summer of Punk." Hardy's three show participation had to have some effect in getting more butts in the seats. He wasn't a welcome addition to the roster as the fans, much like ECW's, were very hostile toward big company outsiders. I belive Jeff made an appearance earlier and that did not go as well despite Jeff's style being much more conducive to the ROH style. Matt Hardy wanted to prove he was a top wrestler especially with James Gibson/Noble doing the same in '05.  Gibson was never given the limelight like the Hardys and many felt by this point in time they were company men. What better opponent for Matt to face than the no nonsense Homicide? That being said, everyone wanted deep down for Matt to do well because he and Jeff had been instrumental in introducing the high risk action of a new generation to WWF. So, it was a 'we hate this guy! (I hope he does well!' sentiment. I was really impressed as they punched and slammed each other all over the place. Homicide can take a beating but, kudos to Hardy for taking a king-sized lariat. Some might not love the finish but, it was smart and it worked! Very good stuff! Roderick Strong vs Matt Hardy (Punk: The Final Chapter 2005): We're going to come back to this show later. ROH has two matches from two shows on this compilation which is pretty weird since it sorta discourages a person from getting those actual DVDs. Anyhow, this is Matt's final appearance and has one final opponent in Roderick Strong. At this point, people were happy to see Hardy but, since it was known he was jumping ship back to WWE, they wanted to see him get destroyed. I think there was no better person than Roderick. And you better believe me & the fans get what we want. This was a great match where Roddy almost kills Matt with a back breaker combo. I mean I lost it when he hit it! That flurry should have been the finish IMO! Things are picking up! Christian Cage vs Christopher Daniels (Generation Now 2006): The second of I believe Christian's 2 ROH shows. I think this was sort of a warm up before he went to TNA. And that's kind of what this match is with Daniels. It never goes into 4th gear but, is very good. Christian isn't one of my faves but, I can't fault them putting this on the DVD. Spanky (Kendrick) vs Bryan Danielson (Best of the American Super Jrs. 2005): For as awesome as 2005 ROH was there was still goofy stuff like this show where Kendo -freaking- Kashin wins a tournament with Danielson, Rocky Romero, Kendrick, Roderick Strong, James Gibson, and more participating! To top it off Kashin dogged it and didn't even wrestle under his own gimmick AND this tournament was supposed to grant the winner a spot in the 2005 BOSJ in NJPW...but that never happened! SO, there was no point in even having the tournament let alone letting Kashin win. That show did produce some really notable matches. This being the first. Many have described this as the BEST opening match in ROH history. I don't know about that but, this was in no way wrestled like a tourney match. Danielson was brutal in grinding Kendrick down but, Spanky would not quit. Great match James Gibson vs Roderick Strong (same show): Strong manhandles Gibson and Jamie is selling the heck outta it. Lotta great mat action here. They leave stuff on the table here but, there is a rematch at the Unforgettable 2005 show which I might have to snag. Very good match. Also may have to find their Full Impact Pro matches too. Now I'm going to say the selling point of this DVD for most (including me) is Joe vs Punk III at All Star Extravaganza 2. Per my guidelines above, I would leave that match last. However, I find that is is not THE BEST bout on this compilation in my view. So, let's take a look now and then get on to the final  and best match. Samoa Joe vs CM Punk (All Star Extravaganza 2  2004): I've seen Joe vs Punk II and loved that match. It is a classic in my book. This match is not a classic though. The story of it did not connect with me as strongly. The layout of this did not strike me as much. There are some execution issues that while not egregious do take me out of the moment. All that said, this is a great match. **** stuff to me but, I am in the minority. I have not seen their first match at World Title Classic. I think I might want to. Low Ki & Homicide vs Samoa Joe & Jay Lethal (Punk: The Final Chapter): This is the best match on this DVD and the one I probably knew the least about...other than people recommending it. This is the 3rd Homicide match, the 2nd Joe match, and the second match from Punk's last ROH show. Its an odd inclusion for those reasons. Was it trying to recognize Low-Ki and Lethal? Lethal was building but, Ki was Senshi at this time which was just weird (which would get weirder). I don't care at the end of the day though. This was a WAR! Ki & Homicide are heeling in the worst way and Lethal is the little brother to the juggernaut that is Samoa Joe. This is like an updated version of The Funks vs Abby & The Sheik or the best ECW brawls. There's blood, chair throwing, crowd fighting, and more. This was a classic fight to me. There's an 80's finish but, I mean that in the very best of ways. That bell don't mean a thing. This is the Samoe Joe you wanna see, this is the Homicide you wanna see, Baby Jay Lethal learning how to be a champ in this match. Yup, this is a classic. Get this puppy used online and I'm sure you'll be happy. Its a weird pick of matches and talent especially with the benefit of hindsight. 2 Matt Hardy matches, an MVP dark match, and three Homicide matches seems like they were piecing this one together at the end. I would have preferred a 2nd Gibson match or a Paul London or an AJ Styles match instead. I think they were really focused on the Best Buy or Amazon customer snagging this and seeing those WWE names and going "Yeah why not!" With that in mind, they probably should have put another Punk match on there if they wanted to have 2 Joe matches. But, I'm Monday morning quarterbacking something from 12 years ago You get two very good-great Roderick Strong matches from his break-out year, you get two great-classic Samoa Joe matches, you get a great Bryan Danielson match from a show you probably don't want to track down...so it's a no brainer if you can get this under $10. If you look at this as a show DVD, there's a ****1/2+ match and 3 **** matches. That's a must buy in my book. I've got Bloodstained Honor (terrible title) and Greatest Rivalries to tackle in the next few weeks. Thanks for reading! Stay safe!

G. Badger

G. Badger

Full Impact Pro Friday - Best of CM Punk vol. 2 - Rise of the New Dawn

Full Impact Pro DVD review for this week goes back to early 2005 and covers CM Punk. Duh right?  Its a really good DVD, lets just say that from the start. The big reason why I say that is because it includes matches, promos, and run-ins that feature Punk. So its really easy to get sucked into the story line. Punkster is basically public enemy #1 by feuding with FIP champ Homicide and getting up in James Gibson's and Bryan Danielson's business. Azrieal who was a member of Special K, the raver group in ROH, is his toady and features in some of the early matches. Anyhow, enough explanation. First match is against Antonio Banks and its a fun match. Banks is MVP by the way. Next we gets Azrieal vs James Gibson which gets good after it gets going. This sets up the main event tag match. CM Punk & Azrieal vs Homicide and James Gibson (Unfinished Business 2005) - This is an Anything Goes Match. Punk doesn't want this. He wants a regular match because he's a chicken shit heel. It takes a minute to get going but then, its good in- ring action. Eventually, the fans get we want and the fighting goes to the outside...literally. They're in the gravel parking lot duking it out. And when they get back inside they end really strong. Very good match!  CM Punk vs Puma (New Dawn Rising 2005) - Puma is TJP early in his career. This is a fun match but, nothing awesome. CM Punk vs Bryan Danielson (Dangerous Intentions 2005) - Great match. Punk loves working the crowd early on in FIP. There's like 20-30 fans at these shows so, good on him for engaging the crowd and getting some good heat. The fans in the audience love hating on him Anyhow, this was an intense match and the best bout thus far. Danielson always brings it and Punk is game. This is a long match in a good way. We get a cheap win but, it doesn't sour my opinion of the fight. And it works out...you'll have to get the DVD to see what I mean. CM Punk vs James Gibson (With Malice 2005) -  Man, it seems like Punk is really turning it on now. I think he already knew he was leaving the Indies and wanted to put on great matches with everyone. I think FIP at this point in time was a place for their talent to work with each other to gain experience and chemistry in front of small but vocal crowds. Then they could bring their dialed in matches to ROH. I really think that is the case with Gibson. If you're a fan of his in ROH but wish there was more available then, check these early FIP shows. He and Punk have a great match. A similar ending as in the Danielson match. It works out and sends the fans home happy. It sets up the next show's big match of Punk vs Danielson 2/3 falls!! And...its not on this DVD. Bummer...I really want to track it down on eBay as its supposed to be pretty awesome. Overall, this is a very good DVD and its $5 on Highspots. Its totally worth buying if you're jonesing for vintage Punk.  Here's the video trailer: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1nMMjZO_kJw Thanks for reading!

G. Badger

G. Badger

Ring of Honor - Pure Title Revival - Part 7

Here we are at the final week of the Pure Title tournament. Jonathan Gresham vs Tracy Williams plus The Briscoe Brothers & EC3 vs Shane Taylor Enterprises. We learn from Quinn that Vinnie and Matt Taven haven been fined for their repeated brawling and destruction of company property. That's cool! A nice throw back to the Code of Honor. I really hope ROH is serious about wanting to get back to the roots or "foundation" of the company. There are spoilers btw. Briscoe Brothers & EC3 vs Shane Taylor Enterprises - This was a pretty good 6 man match! I was really impressed with the SOS guys from STE. Moses and (Nam Here we are at the final week of the Pure Title tournament. Jonathan Gresham vs Tracy Williams plus The Briscoe Brothers & EC3 vs Shane Taylor Enterprises. We learn from Quinn that Vinnie and Matt Taven haven been fined for their repeated brawling and destruction of company property. That's cool! A nice throw back to the Code of Honor. I really hope ROH is serious about wanting to get back to the roots or "foundation" of the company . Briscoe Brothers & EC3 vs Shane Taylor Enterprises - This was a pretty good 6 man match! I was really impressed with the SOS guys from STE. Moses and Kaun looked really powerful and I'm seriously looking forward to seeing more of them. Taylor and EC3 looks like a good feud heating up. The Briscoes can do no wrong at this point. Mark was killing it here. He's still crazy after all these years.  Tournament Finals - Gresham vs Williams - Fortunately very little was cut from this match. I was worried since it had a 60 minute time limit. It took a little bit to get going with the first five minutes being good but, not as competitive as I would've liked. The last 8 minutes were pretty darn good and approaching greatness. Then it was over. Yup, nothing clever, no great story line to make sense of the finish. Gresham was able to hook on the Octopus Stretch (it was a mean looking one though) and that was it. Williams shook hands with Gresham and Lethal after the match. Talk about a let down! I really don't think my expectations were too high either. Williams had great matches thus far with Yehi and Lethal. There was no reason why he and Gresham couldn't...even if they only gave them 13 minutes. I really believe that this match is setting up a 3 person group of Lethal, Gresham, and Williams called The Foundation. Maybe Lethal and Gresham are already called this but, after a 5 month break in ROH TV we, the fans, need a reminder. My other clue to this is Ian Riccaboni made a slip by saying something like "two men representing The Foundation" are in the ring. Perhaps not a slip as both men represent the foundation of what ROH was built upon but, Riccaboni didn't say that. His choice of words are pretty good and he rarely mis-speaks. Therefore, one could chalk this up to an intentional foreshadowing OR ROH is taping many shows at a time (perhaps out of order). And this slip was a continuity issue as The Foundation as a group may have already formed in a taped promo/interview format. I would be all for this group and Ring of Honor seems keen on the 3-4 man squads. They are the bread and butter for their live show main events. Nevertheless, I am a bit disappointed with the final match. This is especially true when the guys had a couple weeks off after their first match. Now, in reality, if they taped the entire tournament over a day or two then, I can't blame them for being banged up and doing a short match. This was just not the war that the best two pure wrestlers in the company could have put on. So, it all felt a little flat. e) looked really powerful and I'm seriously looking forward to seeing more of them. Taylor and EC3 looks like a good feud heating up. The Briscoes can do no wrong at this point. Mark was killing it here. He's still crazy after all these years.  Tournament Finals - Gresham vs Williams - Fortunately very little was cut from this match. I was worried since it had a 60 minute time limit. It took a little bit to get going with the first five minutes being good but, not as competitive as I would've liked. The last 8 minutes were pretty darn good and approaching greatness. Then it was over. Yup, nothing clever, no great story line to make sense of the finish. Gresham was able to hook on the Octopus Stretch (it was a mean looking one though) and that was it. Williams shook hands with Gresham and Lethal after the match. Talk about a let down! I really don't think my expectations were too high either. Williams had great matches thus far with Yehi and Lethal. There was no reason why he and Gresham couldn't...even if they only gave them 13 minutes. I really believe that this match is setting up a 3 person group of Lethal, Gresham, and Williams called The Foundation. Maybe Lethal and Gresham are already called this but, after a 5 month break in ROH TV we, the fans, need a reminder. My other clue to this is Ian Riccaboni made a slip by saying something like "two men representing The Foundation" are in the ring. Perhaps not a slip as both men represent the foundation of what ROH was built upon but, Riccaboni didn't say that. His choice of words are pretty good and he rarely mis-speaks. Therefore, one could chalk this up to an intentional foreshadowing OR ROH is taping many shows at a time (perhaps out of order). And this slip was a continuity issue as The Foundation as a group may have already formed in a taped promo/interview format. I would be all for this group and Ring of Honor seems keen on the 3-4 man squads. They are the bread and butter for their live show main events. Nevertheless, I am a bit disappointed with the final match. This is especially true when the guys had a couple weeks off after their first match. Now, in reality, if they taped the entire tournament over a day or two then, I can't blame them for being banged up and doing a short match. This was just not the war that the best two pure wrestlers in the company could have put on. So, it all felt a little flat. I really hope that Gresham is able to have some great defenses. His matches in the tournament were good but, not great. This win was no exception. Thanks for reading! Check the big match out for yourself. You might like it more than I did.

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G. Badger

Full Impact Pro Friday - Unstoppable 2007

If you are a fan of  ROH's golden years then, I'm sure you have heard of Full Impact Pro wrestling. This was ROH's sister company in Florida that was used as a sort of feeder system for Ring of Honor to varying degrees of success. It doesn't seem like it was a gigantic hit based on the small amount of show/match reviews available online still. But, I don't know if this is really warranted. Many of the cards are pretty darn impressive with guys like Samoa Joe, CM Punk, Danielson, Roderick Strong and others appearing on many shows. Now in some cases they're up against local talent that would be mid card talent in ROH but, often these top stars would square off against one another. And i can't believe that these are crappy matches which I feel is/was most people's impression given the scarcity of information online. There is one site that has archived reviews which I have used as my guide in exploring the back catalog of FIP. Now, I'm aware that it has been revitalized in the past few years but, my interest is in the original incarnation when Gabe was booking ROH and I would guess FIP. Dave Prazak was a big heel manager there so, I think perhaps he had a hand in booking too. He did in ROH's women's wrestling sister company Shimmer. I'm rambling now...anyhow I'm going to start Full Impact Friday with my first FIP DVD that I got in a Highspots freebie -Unstoppable 2007. Jack Evans vs Davey Richards - Lotsa fun watching Jack trying to not be killed by Davey. Nice arm work by Mr. Richards and a fantastic 450 move where Evans nearly destroyed DR. Very good match. The Florida fans love Jack! Heatbreak Express vs Black Market - Now these are guys ROH fans like myself won't be familiar with but, are a big deal in the FIP world. The Heartbreaks are like mid 2000's Buddy Rose & Doug Sommers. This was a good concession stand brawl with all kinds of shit flying. Erick Stevens vs Sal Rinauro - Sal was in under card matches in ROH so perhaps you'll remember him. But as a member of Young Rich and Ruthless (YRR) he's a little higher in the pecking order. Stevens you might know from ROH as well as his matches in wxw's 16 Carat from 2011 that I reviewed. To cut to the chase, this is FIP's version of Kobashi vs Ogawa. So when Erick gets his hands on Sallie Boy! Watch out! He's hitting like Nigel and Roddy. You may call BS on the finish but, a little bit of swerve is part of the charm with FIP. Its more like a JCP/NWA/early WCW promotion vs ROH being a version of NOAH or other puro group. I thought this was a great match. Kenny King & Jason Blade vs The Briscoes - Yup it's that Kenny King! Alright! This should be good as long as Blade can keep up. And yes he does! This is full speed ahead stuff. Blade & King are YRR and they have their BS at play. Dem Boys are in full mid 2000s murder mode. I do think that the fast pace hurt the match some. There wasn't enough time to let everything sink in. Very good stuff nonetheless! Roderick Strong vs Claudio Castagnoli - FIP title in a 2/3 falls match. This is a upper card match in ROH 2007 and they don't let the fans down. Claudio is jaw jacking with the crowd (he too is YRR) and Roddy is the wrestling machine we want. This was a very good to almost great match. I think they left a bunch on the table and the finish was too quick for my taste but, I still liked this match a good bit.  I got this DVD for free from Highspots awhile back and a can't complain at all. I'm not seeing it for sale on their site but, I'm sure its available elsewhere. It'd be a steal at $5 but, you wouldn't be wrong if you got it for a few dollars more. It was a blast of a show especially the stuff I reviewed here. I am looking forward to seeing more. My plan is to review a new FIP show every Friday.  Thanks for reading! I hope I find some more good stuff.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

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G. Badger

Ring of Honor - Pure Title Revival - Part 6

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

G. Badger

G. Badger

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

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

G. Badger

G. Badger

Ring of Honor - Year One

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

G. Badger

G. Badger

Ring of Honor - Pure Title Revival - Part 5

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

G. Badger

G. Badger

Ring of Honor - Pure Title Revival - Part 4

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

G. Badger

G. Badger

Ring of Honor - Pure Title Revival - Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

G. Badger

G. Badger

Ring of Honor - Pure Title Revival - Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

G. Badger

G. Badger

Ring of Honor - Pure Title Revival

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

G. Badger

G. Badger

Spotlight: Tiger Mask - Part 4

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

G. Badger

G. Badger

Spotlight: Tiger Mask - Part 3

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

G. Badger

G. Badger

Spotlight: Tiger Mask - Part 2

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

G. Badger

G. Badger

Spotlight - Tiger Mask

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

G. Badger

G. Badger

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