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Superstar Sleeze

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  1. Superstar Sleeze

    AEW Dynamite Week 3 - 16 October 2019

    Besides El-P who nailed it in his post, I’m surprised at the lack of talk about Moxley vs PAC I mean that’s how you build a match for the following week. It was such great execution of pro wrestling fundamentals. Mox is an unhinged violent maniac and wants to bloody Omega. PAC wants to win. He takes away the barbed wire bat and berates Mox. So Mox literally tells him him Fuck You with the Double Bird, DDTs and walks out. That was 100% Stone Cold! I loved it! It felt organic, electric and made me excited for a match. I don’t care about either before but now I’m excited for the match. Pro wrestling fundamentals work! Match of the Night for me was the Lucha Bros vs Jungle Boy & Marko. If Cornette could look past his irrational hate, he would realize this was old school pro wrestling. An under-represented story in modern wrestling is when heavy favorites underestimate underdogs. They worked this to perfection. The shine exposed the Lucha Bros’ arrogance. They took them lightly and they got shown up. The shine was so crucial because fans like underdogs that can actually win. The shine made you believe Cinderella could do it. Then when the Lucha Bros took over THEY TOOK THE FUCK OVER! Fenix is impressive but Pentagon Jr was cruel and mean torturing Marko. That was a glorious heat segment. Loved the hot tag to give you that little bit of hope before the decisive finish. Loved, loved that match. People seem to really like Darby Allin. I see the new age Jeff Hardy in him but I dunno didn’t click for me. I love the idea of him as an FIP in a established tag team. I think he would be great. The no hands quebrada was cool. But I dunno I have high standards for highspots artists and I thought Fenix and Young Bucks blow him away. I’ve only seen two matches of Allin. So keeping an open mind. Jericho looked great this AEW run has cemented his legacy as one of the all-time greats. Loved all the tag team wrestling of course! I’m pretty level-headed about AEW I’m enjoying the shows. I attended the Boston show live. I think these shows are clearly better than WWE right now but there’s still room for improvement. I think they can still make it piping hot as they develop more characters and run more angles.
  2. Superstar Sleeze

    [2015-03-31-BJW] Daisuke Sekimoto vs Shuji Ishikawa

    BJPW Strong Heavyweight Champion Shuji Ishikawa vs Daisuke Sekimoto - BJPW 3/31/15 I have never seen a Sekimoto match but I have been hearing his name bandied around for a decade or so at this point. He has a cool look. Trash can for a body. Tree trunks for legs and arms. He falls into the "Heir to Kensuke Sasaki" archetype which is very popular in modern puroresu. Kensuke Sasaki is far more influential than people give him credit for, but I guess his detractors would say that the real influence is Riki Choshu. I would say to that Sasaki kept the style and look alive so that another generation could be sprouted. I need to revisit the Kobashi vs Sasaki Dome Match. I didnt like that much when I reviewed, but it is clearly incredibly influential because so many modern strong style puroresu matches use that as the archetype. I feel this match is Kobashi vs Sasaki meets Bill Watts meets Mick Foley Death Match Sado-Masochistic Theatre. Watts would love these two big uglies just charging at each charging. I loved the lock ups and the test of strengths and bouncing off on the shoulder tackles. I am a sucker for that. Sekimoto hitting a dropkick and then a dive to the outside was great. I thought the beginning was super-charged. Ishikawa, who looks like a death match wrestler, hits a piledriver on the floor to change the momentum which I am fine with. Then in the most disturbing spot of the match. Ishikawa has Sekimoto in a Full Nelson and proceeds to RAM HIS HEAD INTO THE STEEL POST UNPROTECTED! HOLY FUCKING SHIT! The Japanese crowd politely claps when Ishikawa throws Sekimoto back in the ring. What the fuck. I hated the spot because it was totally under-sold and presented as a transition that should have been a game changer. Instead we get Sekimoto Fighting Spirit rallies minutes later. Sekimoto worked most of the match from underneath. He thrives there. He has a ton of fire. He hits a meaty lariat. Ishikawa was great at the cutoffs. He let Sekimoto gets some shit in with a spear, but then hit a massive dropkick and double stomp. I liked the suplex struggles. There was a sick cutoff where Ishikawa just headbutted Sekimoto repeatedly. Sekimoto would not be denied with MONSTER BURNING LARIATS! Lots of headdrop suplexes. Ishikawa did a Rainmaker, but with Multiple Headbutts as the conclusion instead of a lariat. Holy Fuck! This is ridiculous! Piledriver that has to be it! Only 2! Wow! They went overboard but fuck in a match of this violence just go for it. They were just hitting each hard as hell and dropping each other on their heads or blasting their heads into each other. Eventually Sekimoto's head is busted wide open from all the headbutts. This is gross. Mick Foley would lap this shit up. The final turning point is Ishikawa is just WAILING on Sekimoto with Slaps and Sekimoto puts a stop to that with a closed fist! Sekimoto charges for a Lariat, they meet and like just Rams, Butt Heads! OW! Sekimoto is BUSTED! HARDWAY JUICE! BURNING LARIAT! Second one and then a German puts Ishikawa away for Sekimoto to win the title. I must be sick in the head but I liked this. Far from perfect, but it was heated and it felt important. Sekimoto didnt blow me away. He has a cool look and is definitely an asskicker. I dont think he is quite as charismatic as Hashimoto, Sasaki or Choshu. But this is just my first match so I will keep an open mind. I liked Ishikawa, he was a solid foil. Brutal! ****
  3. GHC Champion Minoru Suzuki vs Takashi Sugiura - NOAH 9/19/15 Damn Sugiura got old quick! This is during Minoru Suzuki's Reign of Terror in Pro Wrestling NOAH. According to VOW, this is the best match of his in NOAH in 2015 so lets see how it goes. First 15 minutes: Ultra-stiff! That's Sugiura's style to a tee. The matches I have seen him in against Kensuke Sasaki and Takyama are just these brutal, ultra-stiff stand-up contests. These two were just rifling each other with the stiffest elbows to the neck/jaw you will ever see. Sugiura got the best of the stand up initially but when he tried to kick Suzuki's head off, he ended trapped in a classic dangling armbar from the ropes by Suzuki. This set up the hook. Suzuki tortures Sugiura's using the guardrail, punishing holds and kicking it really, really hard. Sugiura made some valiant comebacks. I like how he used the injured arm, but it felt like he was fighting through the pain to use it. Best sequence thus far is Sugiura tries a fake-out during a criss cross but Suzuki is wise and kicks the bad arm as Sugiura charges and then wrestles him down to the ground with a tight Fujiwara armbar. Suzuki went for the cross-armbreaker, but Sugiura turned into an anklelock of all things. I kinda remember that being his go-to hold. So going into the second half of the match, it looks Sugiura maybe gaining some momentum and we are in for some dual limb psychology. Second Fall: Nope, they abandon all limb psychology and go full bore with "Stand & Bang". This is better than the usual New Japan Strike Exchange breakdown that is employed in all modern New Japan matches. In New Japan, it is a perfunctory ritual. Here it is the story of the match. They are working in and out of the Stand-Up game. They do a couple well-timed double KO spots. It was stiff as fuck. It was brutal. There was one shot I thought Sugiura killed Suzuki. Like legit knocked his head off. It was so hard. I liked Suzuki trying for his sleeper/piledriver combo at one point out of the stand-up game. Suzuki gets a closed fist cheapshot. Sugiura comes back and wins the stand up exchange with elbows that would make Misawa proud. German suplex. That KO elbow comes at this point and Suzuki kicks out. I thought they lost credibility. The way Suzuki was selling the KO. It just hurt the match. They went too far with the selling and asskicking for Suzuki to make a credible comeback. Suzuki did. It just didnt sit well with me. The slap exchange was brutal. They charge at each other and Suzuki pulls the trigger first and hits a dropkick. That was the final turning point. Sleeper->piledriver and Suzuki retains. I enjoyed this a lot. The closest thing to this would probably be BattlArts in how it was ultra-stiff, minimalist in regards to offense and stand-up oriented. However, I think it could have been 15 minutes shorter and gotten the point across. I thought they did go overboard at the end, but still a nice change of pace from modern pro wrestling. ***3/4
  4. Superstar Sleeze

    [2016-08-06-NJPW] Kazuchika Okada vs Tomohiro Ishii

    Kazuchika Okada vs Tomohiro Ishii - NJPW 8/6/16 The Legend of The Tombstone continues! I won’t spoil the finish because it popped me so huge. Okada remains me a lot of Bret Hart. Everything is tight & logical BUT he is going to hit all his spots (not in the same order) and therefore it can feel a little mechanical and too rote at times. Ishii does a great job jarring Okada and therefore the fans by taking the fight to Okada. At the beginning when Okada does his customary pat on the clean break...Ishii damn near takes head off with a couple lariats including a sliding Lariat which is the prelude to the Brainbuster. He went for the Brainbuster within 2 minutes of the opening bell. That’s hot and that’s getting someone out of their comfort zone. It also felt like he was not letting Okada show him up. Okada wriggles free of the Brainbuster goes for the Rainmaker but is thwarted. He hits that White Noise move and Ishii is left selling. Trading finisher teases at the beginning of a match will ALWAYS get over in my house. It means you are in it to win it. Ishii hit some vicious chops to Okada. He just pounded. Out cane the Flapjack, Ishii took it like a champ. This is just Okada in his wheel house hitting his spots. Ishii sold well and got a hope spot but Okada was just clicking. Top rope Elbow, Rainmaker pose.::ISHI CHOPS HIM IN THE THROAT! Now that’s what I’m talking about. Break Okada’s rhythm. From there, they just have a banger of a finish run. Tons of great counters and near falls. I loved Ishii hitting a dropkick before Okada did. The Ishii Powerbomb after he chopped Okada in the throat on the Rainmaker pose was a good capper. Ishii’s superplex was hot. I loved how hard each man worked for their setup move or their finish. Okada was trying to get the Tombstone or Rainmaker so hard. Ishii it was all about that Brainbuster. I’ll leave it like this he who wins the Tombstone battle wins the match. I LOVE THAT PSYCHOLOGY! ****3/4
  5. Man some serious in-depth analysis here. I enjoyed it a good deal more than you two (I get where the MOTYC talk is coming from), but yes for me the selling threw me for a loop. Selling in general has thrown me for a loop for the last 8 years or so. Honma just dies three minutes in the match. He does a deadfish drop. There is way too much overselling in some parts. Then in other parts there is no selling. It comes down to that it is like the entire wrestling world has forgotten what a register is. Flair and Steamboat would register the sting of the chop. That's it. No one was dying from a chop, but at the same time they let you know that chop hurt like son of a bitch. I give Ishii and Honma a lot of credit for offensive timing and layout. They really earned their bombs and told a great story of their offenses being pitted against each other. NEVER Openweight Champion Tomohiro Ishi vs Tomoaki Honma - NJPW 2/14/15 Big, meaty Riki Choshu-style wrestling! War of attrition, lots of macho pride and big bombs! This has the interesting wrinkle of Honma, the super underdog that the crowd just loves. There were NO Ishii chants and that almost never happens with a Japanese crowd. Japanese wrestling crowds are like tennis crowd they usually root for whoever is losing to rally and therefore keep the match going. Even when Ishii was getting his ass beat, the crowd wanted Honma to win, which is crazy. I loved the escalation of this match and how the offensive strategies were intertwined. It felt like each man had to earn their offense and earn their big bombs. It took Honma four tries before he could hit his trademark falling headbutt. The first failures is what gave Ishii openings. It was a sudden Honma DDT (great sell job by Ishii, he is so great at selling the neck in the moment) that yielded him the opportunity to land that falling headbutt on Ishii's taped shoulder no less. Then things escalated. It took Ishii three tries to hit his trademark delayed superplex from the top rope and took Honma two tries to hit his top rope diving headbutt. I like how they both had big bombs from the top rope and how that symmetry played out. Another great spot that really showcased that symmetry was an apron spot. Apron spots since All Japan are major match turning spots. Ishii went for his trademark delayed vertical similar to his superplex but this time from the apron. Honma fought and shoved Ishii into the metal turnbuckle face first. If this was Crockett, he was coming up bleeding. Honma hit an insane top rope headbutt to the floor on Ishii. I love how one man's trademark bomb turned into another's. From there it was off to the races. The Honma finish run was absolutely electric and heated. The crowd and myself was biting on every nearfall. The lunging headbutt to the back of the head was nasty and really cool. The Brainbuster popped me huge and then the Island Driver! I kinda knew after that sequence he was not winning, but in the moment the heat was unreal. Ishii sold it all very well to make you believe. Loved all the big, meaty Lariats down the stretch. I normally don't like the shoot headbutts, BUT you could feel the match slipping through Honma's fingers so he just throws his desperation headbutt that stun Ishii. He goes for a lunging one and MISSES! Ishii nails him with his own headbutt! Ishii knocks him out with a second one. The Brainbuster polishes Honma off. The end of the day Ishii beat Honma at his own game. He was more resilient than Honma outlasting him during that hot finish run. Then he beat him using headbutts, which is nasty. I didnt like the Kobashi/Sasaki tribute at the beginning and the strike exchanges at times were tiresome. The selling was weird. Sometimes, they were overselling, Honma did a deadfish flop about 3 minutes into the match. Then other times they werent selling shit. Register, dudes, register. Honestly for me offensive strategy, how they mesh, escalation and the psychology derived from there is more important to me and this really rocked for me. Based on what I wrote and rated the 2014 series, this should go down as one of the all-time great series. ****1/2
  6. Ricochet vs KUSHIDA - NJPW Best of the Super Juniors FINALS 6/8/14 Surprisingly to me at least, Ricochet was more over than KUSHIDA throughout this match. I am a pretty big Ricochet fan. I have seen KUSHIDA at least once live, for some reason I think I have seen him twice. He is a name I see bandied around, but for some reason he doesnt he seem to do too hot on MOTY lists so I have never checked him out. I thought this was a really great juniors match that went off the rails and ventured into NOAH territory with 8 million inconsequential false finishes. The chain wrestling at the beginning was solid and entertaining. Ricochet convinces KUSHIDA that they do a criss cross spot but then rifles him in the gut with a kick. I popped for that. I wish it meant more though. They worked a Ricochet gymnastics sequence similar to the Ospreay which was nice but kinda wish the kick came at the end of that. Ricochet ends up on the outside and KUSHIDA slams Ricochet's arm against the apron. So because I have never seen KUSHIDA wrestle I didnt know his intention. Was he setting Ricochet up for something OR was Ricochet's left arm injured (he was wearing a sleeve). It turns out it was to set up KUSHIDA to have something to go back to when he needed to cut Ricochet off. It was a true touchstone throughout the match that never got dropped. So kudos for KUSHIDA to stay focused and Ricochet for the continuous selling. Ricochet hit a beautiful Flying Space Tiger Drop and I am a mark for that move. Ricochet's control segment was solid but nothing special. A lot of movement and it was snug & tight but it didnt feel like it was going anywhere. KUSHIDA was just letting him do the moves. The spot of the match was KUSHIDA dropkicking the bad arm when Ricochet did a back handspring. I marked so hard for that. That opened things up for KUSHIDA. Great dive to the floor and then a moonsault for two. After that, I feel they ventured into NOAH territory with false finishes and the crazy offense. I did like that not all the moves hit. Ricochet missed a Springboard Shooting Star Press and KUSHIDA missed a Spiral Tap. There was a great double wristlock takedown by KUSHIDA that I really liked. However stuff like Ricochet hitting a Go 2 Sleep kickout and then immediately a 630 kickout was a little much. My second favorite spot of the match was Ricochet was going for something complicated. KUSHIDA rolled back into a double wristlock center of the ring. The heat was off the charts. Honestly if Ricochet tapped right then and there, I would have forgiven everything and POPPED HUGE and been singing their praises. I was into that possible finish. Credit where it is due, Ricochet fought through this so well, clasping his hands when he could and selling it. The actual finish was an overly complicated kick to the head (the first one was a whiff, second one connected). Ricochet was wicked over and deserved the win. I enjoyed the match a lot honestly, but man I really fell in love with that possible double wristlock finish. ****
  7. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuchika Okada - NJPW 1/4/15 I like the booking of having them part for the entire calendar year of 2014 before reprising the rivalry. I have seen the first six matches and really enjoyed the wrestling. Like most, I thought the Invasion Attack match was the best of the lot and the one that deserves praise as one of the greatest matches of all time. I enjoy slow starts a lot more than most wrestling fans. It allows me to get into the action, study the combatants, look for little things about them and I enjoy the little mini battles, you know the tests of strength on a top wristlock or the shouldertackles. It gives me a feel. Tempers flare when Okada mockingly gives Tanahashi a clean break only to pop him with an elbow. Embarassment and then still gives him the cheapshot. I loved Tanahashi's response. He throws the ref out of the way and rocks Okada with a hard shot. A nice, vigorous firefight breaks out this much better than that stupid Fighting Spirit shit. Tanahashi gets the upper hand and wants to hit his patented senton from the middle, but Okada ROCKS him with a flying European Uppercut that sends him flying off the top rope to the floor. Wicked bump. This takes the place of the usual spot where Okada dropkicks his opponent from the top rope. This is the story of the first 15 minutes, lots of scouting. Okada knew Tanahashi was going for the senton and sent him flying. I love that spot as a transition as it is a big bump and signals definitively the start of the Okada control segment. Okada kicks Tanahashi's ass on the floor, hangsman DDT from the railing to the floor. I recall the Tombstone Piledriver is very critical in this feud. I am wondering if that DDT will lead anywhere. Hey they are going for the Tombstone on the ramp, nice no one hits it. Just a lot of struggle. That will definitely play a role later. Tanahashi does a little air guitar showboating and channels his idol, Keiji Mutoh by trying to run down the ramp but Okada is lying in wait and nails him with a vicious F-U on the ramp. Great highspot! I thought this match was really clicking at a high level at this point. Back in the ring, I thought they kinda took a half step backwards. Not that was bad, but it felt like they de-escalated. A lot more scouting spots which I like. Each wrestler evading common spots. I think my favorite was Okada hitting a flapjack to counter the Sling Blade. Okada invites for the Fighting Spirit breakdown to begin. Ugh. I guess there is at least a little character work here. Okada is definitely playing the cocky challenger still. He is the one in control and he is slapping Tanahashi mockingly and telling Tanahashi to hit him when it is clear Tanahashi is hurting. So when Tanahashi hits him it doesnt pack quite a punch so Okada can tee off on him. So it is humiliation and kicking a dog while it is down. So the psychology is at least a little more interesting, I am still not that enthused by it. Then it happens. The moment you are waiting for in every Tanahashi match when he is going to go for the knee. Catches the kick...ELBOWS THE KNEE! No Dragon Leg Screw. Okada fights back and hits a raucous dropkick that sends Tanahashi flying! Looks like the action is starting to pick back up...Okada definitely ahead on points for the first 15 minutes as Tanahashi has not really gotten anything started yet. Okada is really starting to roll. Tanahashi blocks the obvious and aforementioned Okada dropkick to the top turnbuckle. However eats canvas on the High Fly Flow. Too early, brutha (which Gedo points out). I love Okada's urgency with Tanahashi down, he can really let his shit fly and not worry about it being countered. He rattles off three of his big highspots concluding with the top rope Macho Man elbow. RAINMAKER POSE~! Then it hit him, this first 18-20 minutes has been Okada's control segment now we have climaxed and we are going to hit Tanahashi's. Rainmaker thwarted and Tanahashi snaps off the Dragon Leg Screw. It is like clockwork. It is good, logical clockwork. You have Okada run through his shit and now Tanahashi so when that finish hits nobody is going to know who will win. Great layout. Okada takes a fucking tremendous bump going ass over tea kettle on the floor over the railing when Tanahashi dropkicked the bad leg. HOLY SHIT! TANAHASHI HIGH FLY FLOW FROM THE TOP TO THE FLOOR OVER THE RAILING! FUCKING EH! THAT WAS AWESOME! Tanahashi is looking to finish this off with High Fly Flow but Okada rolls through and he is thinking...TOMBSTONE?!!? TANAHASHI REVERSES IT! TANAHASHI NAILS THE TOMBSTONE! I LEGIT JUST POPPED IN MY IRELAND HOTEL ROOM! I am a huge Tanahashi fan and man that Tombstone made me a fan in that moment. I know that is so crucial for the win. 2 HIGH FLY FLOWS CONNECT! 1-2-NO! YA SHITTING ME! Tanahashi teases the Rainmaker. Ahhhh finisher stealing. The Rainmaker is a stupid finisher to steal because it is very easy to get countered and then you end up being hit with the Rainmaker. Thats what happens! Tanahashi clobbers him with a RAINMAKER~! 1-2-NO! So where do we go from here. Weird part. They trade bridging Suplexes (Tanahashi had not yet hit his Capture or Dragon suplex). There is another Tombstone attempt by Okada because the Tombston is crucial and Tanahashi rana'd out. I love that the Tombstone is more protected than either man's finisher in this series. Okada hits that signature high dropkick. Part of me liked it because it felt like desperation. Like each man was hurling out what they know. they know it is their B-Material but fuck their A-Material didnt work. Part me didnt like it because I feel like the B-Material should precede the A-Material. Ultimately I thought the heat was in the Tombstone->High Fly Flow->Kickout->Rainmaker->Kickout and then they lost a little sumthin sumthin. I ended up loving the actual finish. Tanahashi goes back to his bread & butter using dragon leg screws. Then he hits High Fly Flow while Okada's leg was hung up on the ropes and then smoked with another for good measure. These guys are clinical and I love them for it. They are rooted in the fundamentals and they build to great matches. Invasion Attack still remains my favorite, but I am going to go ahead and put this at #2. I liked the scouting early on. I liked how Okada earned that control segment. Loved the layout and pacing. Tanahashi's control segment was fucking money and just electric. The finish was interesting but not really overdone like late era AJPW or NOAH. There was only one Rainmaker and 2 High Fly Flow Segments. It was just they put filler in the finish. I really enjoyed it with me watching even more wrestling now I dont think this makes my Top 100 list for next year, on the bubble for sure. I would say this Top 10 for New Japan from what I have seen in the modern era. I really enjoy these two together. ****3/4
  8. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kenny Omega - NJPW New Beginning 2016 Vacant IWGP Intercontinental Championship With the departure of AJ Styles, the ascent of Kenny Omega begins as he is now pushed as the the top gaijin of the Bullet Club as he turfed AJ right before he left. At the very first supercard after the Dome show, he is challenging Tanahashi (#2 Native after Okada) for the Vacant IWGP Intercontinental Championship (#2 Belt). The IWGP Intercontinental Championship is vacant because Shinsuke Nakamura departed at the same time as AJ but New Japan gave Nakamura a very respectful sendoff, he did not have to lose the title, which in a lot of ways was his own personal title (like how Baba booked his championships in the 70s and 80s). Nakamura also was not beaten up by Omega and the Bullet Club on the way out. Tanahashi has his right shoulder bandaged and this becomes a target for Omega. Omega comes out with Cody Hall, but ends up sending him to the back within a few minutes of the match starting because of liberal interference. He wants to do this on his own, but he is ok with eyeraking and choking Tanahashi with a cable. He wants to cheat on his own terms, goddamnit! Tanahashi pays tribute to Nakamura by doing some of his spots but when he goes for the kneelift in the corner, Omega evades and then yanks Tanahashi's bad arm on the top rope. A really great heat segment follows. Great selling by Tanahashi throughout especially on not being able to complete the skin the cat. I like the gradualism. Tanahashi still has fight left in him so Omega has to beat the spirit out of him to really gain control. Lots of good ringside brawling and using the railing for devastating effect on the arm. I love when Japanese wrestlers wipe out a bunch of chairs in a spot. Omega suplexed Tanahashi over the railing and wiped out a ton of chairs. Really cool. Omega did an Moonsault from the railing back on Tanahashi just because. Some really gnarly arm torturing by Omega. Then he grabs a sleeper, thats weird, but then he tries to turn it into a Crossface Chickenwing, that makes more sense. Tanahashi back drops out. Tanahashi makes a pretty good one arm comeback, but Omega still has a lot left in the tank UNTIL THE DRAGON LEG SCREW! Oh shit now we GO TO SCHOOL! Tanahashi looks for the Texas Cloverleaf immediately. Credit where credit is due Omega sells this like a big deal. He is struggling against it and scrambling for the ropes. Tanahashi is kicking the bad leg but Omega fights through it and gets a Fujiwara Armbar. Then a curious thing happens. Omega is still selling the leg. Honestly, I would have been ok with him giving up on it because it was not that long, but nope he sold it like a million bucks. Even did the whole collapse thing when he knee gives out on a suplex. He sold the leg like a champ the rest of the match. Tanahashi starts pouring it on. High Fly Flow to the outside. Then in the moment when I realized I was watching a great match...Omega is trying to get back in the ring, Tanahashi goes for the dragon leg screw, but Omega starts wailing on the bad arm of Tanahashi. Tanahashi fights through and snaps it off. Holy shit! That was great. There were a lot of great double limb psychology touches from these two. Finally Tanahashi applies the Texas Cloverleaf and looks to have Omega dead to rites. Cody Hall reappears and distracts Red Shoes. The Young Bucks come from under the ring and double superkick Tanahashi. Wow! This is some great old school interference. I dig it! Spike Tombstone Piledriver and Styles Clash but kickout! They trade Dragonranas in a spot I never thought I'd see in a Tanahashi match and I actually popped. There was a weird spot where Tanahashi goes for the High Fly Flow and one of the Bucks yells at him and he sells like it he has been eye raked and falls off the top turnbuckle. It was very strange. The Bullet Club is about to break Tanahashi's arm when Mike Elgin of all people comes to his rescue and actually carries both the Bucks to the back. Now we get the finish stretch proper. It is the greatest hits of both men. High Fly Flow lands once, but misses the second. Omega hits a bunch of his pump knees to the head (they looked fucking great!) and The Cleaner gimmick finish wins the match. I expected nothing but this was a ton of fun! The double limb psychology was fucking great. Both men were totally committed to it. I enjoy interference in pro wrestling more than most and I dont think there's enough in wrestling. It makes matches exciting and dramatic. It makes wrestling wrestling. I will say I think the interference should directly led to the finish since the heel was going over. Front load those typical Tanahashi spots (Sling Blade, Capture Suplex) earlier. Have the Bucks save on the Cloverleaf and High Fly Flow then let that lead directly to Pump Knees and Cleaner gimmick finish to win. It just undercut the drama of the finish. Basically what I am saying is the Bucks stuff was more exciting than Tanahashi/Omega just doing their best hits. I think the finish should always be the most exciting part of the match. Really fun pro wrestling that covered a lot of my favorite shit in wrestling! ****1/4
  9. IWGP Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura vs AJ Styles - NJPW 1/4/16 It is crazy to think I saw this exact match-up live on a random Smackdown in Manchester, NH. Here it is as the semi-main event to a Tokyo Dome show. Life is funny. I was really disappointed by the WWE series and I saw that as maybe the biggest AJ Styles fan on the planet. I remember really enjoying and this and yep it totally lives up to my memory. The main hook of the match is Nakamura working the back/abdomen (the general core region) with laser precision. I hear that AJ had some back injury coming into this. They play that off in the beginning when Nakamura jerks him off the ropes and AJ takes a hard flat back bump. AJ feigns the injury and sneak attacks Nakamura. When Nakamura gets a sort of Irish Curse backbreaker on Styles this time AJ is not so lucky and his back is actually hurt. AJ does such a great job selling this and writhing in agony. The Nakamura heat segment on AJ's back is clinical. This is the type of stuff you show rookies. It is textbook, it looks great and highly entertaining. The way he drives AJ into the guard rail. I loved the kicks to the abs and then when AJ finally smartens and catches the kick, Nakamura goes high with the enzigiuri. Genius! The kneelifts were fucking great and devastating. Running kneelifts leave you exposed to counters so when AJ evaded one this set up the Springboard Forearm and just like that AJ is back in it. I liked how AJ's strategy was all head focused. Even before having his back worked on, AJ was focusing on the head-rocking strikes. Those elbows, forearms and knees were all targeting the head. No one since Misawa is better at throwing the 'bow than AJ. Again, he is going for the head. I liked how hard it was for AJ to get Nakamura over on a suplex given his back issue, struggle is a critical part of pro wrestling. One thing I often in note in Nakamura's New Japan matches is that he is usually the superior counterwrestler. Here are two occasions, we see AJ not Nakamura busting out the counterwrestling using the Calf-Slicer. Nakamura on the other hand was going back to the back when he could. There were great finisher teasers between the Styles Clash and Bom Ba Ye Knee, which I loved. It makes you feel like each wrestler is trying to win the match. As the match progresses, you can feel each wrestler getting a little more desperate. With AJ's injury, he wants to get out of this match as quickly as possible and every time AJ rallies, Nakamura gets a little more nervous and wants to knock him out with a knee. I love that. At this point, the match becomes more strike oriented. AJ builds matches so well and his false finishes just crescendo to absolute fever pitch. I will say Nakamura sold his ass off for AJ. A critical point was when Nakamura was in such a rush, he ends up getting caught in the mush with a wicked uppercut knee. Nakamura's selling was so good and as my mom would say "haste makes waste". We get that sweet AJ 450 for two. Big false finish. Nakamura shows his counterwrestling game with a flash flying cross armbreaker but AJ clasps his hands. When Nakamura turns it into a triangle attempt, AJ hits a Styles Clash! HOLY SHIT! I popped HUGE for that all over again. Great false finish. AJ is fired up and wants to finish Nakamura off with a Super Styles Clash, but in all that time wasted, Nakamura SMOKES him with a wicked kick to the head. Nakamura BLASTS him with a Bom Ba Ye Knee to the back of the head and then one more for good measure to the face to win the match. Amazing start to what would be a banner year for AJ Styles, I would say one of the best in-ring years of all time, right up there with Flair in '89. The work was snug, tight and logical. The escalation was great. They really built to a barnburner. The psychology was very sound, my issue is I thought the bridge from the body of the work (back psychology) to the finish could have been better. Things like Bom Ba Ye Knees after a Pele Kick is not great. It felt very much like action for the sake of action, but once AJ hit that uppercut knee they were right back on track. It may have been all of two minutes so a minor nitpick. Definitely one of the New Japan matches of the modern era that really holds up and all the more shame that they didnt click in WWE. ****1/2 Fun Fact: This is my 2,000th review on ProWrestlingOnly!
  10. Am I blind? How is there not a thread for this match. I feel like this is the most famous match from 2016. Ricochet vs Will Ospreay - NJPW 5/27/16 Dragon Lee, Kamaitachi don't be bringing that shit in my house! This is the real, good shit. I am of the opinion is much, much harder to have a great spotfest than it is a traditional pro wrestling match. The traditional structure of shine-heat-comeback-finish is an almost bulletproof formula. When you do decide to freestyle it, man you better be fucking good. These two are really good. In my opinion, the issue that modern wrestling faces is that the wrestlers are being torn in two directions. On one hand, they want to go out and dazzle. They want to bring the action and the workrate. On the other hand, they want to stay true to the selling and psychology. The wrestling fans themselves are pulling these wrestlers in two. It was almost a brainwashing in the 1990s that bad wrestling has two components 1. Restholds 2. Blowing off selling. For the most part when people complain about wrestling it is one of those two things. It is quite silly honestly because it is all context dependence. Restholds make total sense when a babyface is blowing up a heel with constant action during the shine and then heel grinds the match to a halt not just lean on the babyface but to catch his own breath (Arn Anderson was a master of this and of course the famous Sleepers match is a great example). Restholds can be logical and fulfilling spots in a match. What people are actually complaining about is laziness. When a heel has nothing better to do than throw on a rear chinlock. There was no exciting shine. It is just all the heel has got. Or they bemoaning an inconsequential hold that is meaningless. Now we have swung in the opposite directions. Highspots that are inconsequential and meaningless. Just like in those rear chinlocks, I zone out during these feats of athleticism because they are presented so poorly. In this match, these two had two things going for them. One they present their shit so much better than everyone else. You know what the HIGHspots are because they clue you in that this is going to be a big fucking deal. Then on top of that there, highspots are actually HIGHSpots. They stand out and make you say oh shit! Ospreay's Flying Space Tiger Drop and Dragonrana on the floor were fucking incredible. I loved Ricochet's twisting dive to the outside. The missed 630 was eye-popping. The martial arts kicks were phenomenal. The Flip DDT (which my brother invented on our couch in 2005 using a stuffed bear) was so cool for the family connection. Hell the flying Ace Crusher looked great. This was a breath-taking spotfest and a collection of really amazing stuff. It does not stand out as one of my all-time favorite spotfests...here's why... While they leaned into having a spotfest...they couldnt bring themselves to go full bore because what's the second cardinal sin of pro wrestling: blowing off selling. Clearly there were no restholds in this. In order to have a great match, they need sell. They have to. Right? NO! So many problems in pro wrestling would stop if wrestlers stopped selling! Just dont do it. It is pointless if you are going to do thus style of match. You should register. 100% definitely do that. But stop acting like Ricky Steamboat or Ricky Morton. Why are there are so many glazed over eyes? Why is everyone struggling to their feet? Why is everyone gasping for breath? Just register, bro. That's actually what makes the 80s and 90s so good is that everyone registered and saved the selling for when it mattered. We got brainwashed into thinking selling is everything but there are different levels to selling. Stop selling! Just register! That's what dropped this match down was you could tell was their desire to make it "epic" through selling, but it was overselling. It undercut the match both from a tempo stand point and the offense. The match succeeds when the tempo is up once you start doing "epic selling" you lose me because that's not the match you are having. Breath-taking match, really entertaining, I enjoyed this a lot, but what's holding it back was they were not 100% committed to the spotfest. They wanted to have it both ways and have that traditional epic match which in their minds requires dramatic, epic selling. Brutha, all you needed was a register. ****
  11. CMLL World Lightweight Champion Dragon Lee vs Kamaitachi - NJPW 1/24/16 According to the New Japan World Translation, Kamaitachi means "Cut by Whirlwind" which I love. I have seen Dragon Lee live this year at MSG for NJPW show. I thought he was one of the wrestlers that stood out to me. A possible heir to Rey Mysterio, obviously huge shoes to fill, but I enjoyed his triple threat match and he had real babyface charisma. Kamaitachi looks familiar but I dont think I have seen him wrestle. Some of have compared this to Rey vs Psicosis, but this falls way short of that for me. Ill start with negatives because I'd rather end on a high note. I thought Kamaitachi was not a very interesting rudo. Not much in the way of bumping. No clowning. He was not a very vicious rudo either. I liked his overhand chop. There was a really good one in the corner at one point. It really felt like he struck down Dragon Lee. His transitions to offense were not interesting. Working leg psychology in a match with a high flyer is risky to say the least. Honestly, I dont think Dragon Lee is at fault. He is trying to become a star. He should blow off this bullshit. Dont do fucking a dragon leg screw to me while trying to get myself over. This was Dragon Lee's first tour of Japan. Why hamstring him? I found myself zoning out down the stretch. A horrible time to zone out. I am writing this five minutes after finishing the match. I cant remember the finish. I know Kamaitachi won. Alright, I am going to go back and watch. Hold on a minute. Man, how did I forget the Powerbomb into the Canadian Destroyer. Oh because I saw it 8 million times in 2019 over Mania Weekend. Call it unfair, but that's why these matches dont hold up because if you are relying on moves the match tends to not stand the test of time. You know what spot I hate. That stupid Del Rio spot. Where he hits the double stomp in the corner from the top rope. It is so stupid. They did it twice here. Once to the outside, which was a little cooler, still dumb. So what did I like? I liked Dragon Lee a lot. He is a great pure technico. Two really sweet dives at the beginning. The rana from the apron was the one of the two best spots of the match. I really like Kamaitachi's Senton from the top to the floor to a standing Dragon Lee. Down the stretch, I thought Dragon Lee was the more interesting of the two wrestlers. That being said I dont think this was a balls to the wall spotfest. There were highspots but they were measured out and the shit in between was not very good quite frankly. Down the stretch, they were throwing out a ton of highspots and to me it didnt feel interesting. Not for me, I guess.
  12. Stopped watching New Japan in 2016, but my interest has been renewed by attending a New Japan house show in Lowell this past weekend. Starting it off with two of my favorite stiffs! NEVER OPENWEIGHT Champion Tomohiro Ishii vs Katsuyori Shibata - NJPW 1/4/16 Going into this match, I expected this to go one of two ways. First, it could be an explosive, high energy asskicking contest. Alternatively, it could one of those macho pride dick waving contests, that is slowed down and more about showing fighting spirit than winning the match. Unfortunately, it was the latter. To make matters worse, the teased it being a uptempo, brutal strikefest at the beginning, before settling into fighting spirit spots. We are talking full on "let us alternate sitting down so each of us can kick the other in the back really hard". Once the match progressed, I enjoyed it for the sheer brutality. There were some absolutely wicked elbows and monster lariats. I could watch Shibata kick someone's arm all day. They kept teasing working the arm and I really wished they went there. Shibata was awesome at submission. I loved how he had him cinched in so deep. His abdominal stretch and then Octopus may be the best version I have ever seen of that move! Inoki would be marking out! I thought it terms of narrative it was lacking. There was symmetry of each doing the same thing to the other, but overall it was so overwrought that the offense started to feel inconsequential. As one reviewer did a great job pointing out, you become desensitize to the violence of the match because there is no real progression in the match. There was a lot of King's Road style double knockout spots, which got old. I thought the best sequence was Ishii catching the PK and hitting a wicked headbutt! But it didnt lead to a hot nearfall. That sequence happened two minutes before the end of the match and Ishii was jobbing. That should have been his nearfall to really build the drama. Instead they did nasty, nasty shoot headbutts to each other. Disgusting. Shibata hit the PK for the win. They absolutely smoked each other at some points, but if they were not hitting each other so hard this match would not be much. However, I like the style so I found it enjoyable, but I know it could have been much, much more. ***1/2
  13. Superstar Sleeze

    [2014-08-03-NJPW-G1 Climax] Katsuyori Shibata vs Tomoaki Honma

    A lot of modern New Japan runs together in my mind, but this match has stood the test of time. I watched it one time from January 2015 and I can still remember a lot of it. Matches that have that type of stickiness are the matches I really value. Katsuyori Shibata vs Tomoaki Honma - G-1 Climax 2014 Day 8 As a straight up fighting spirit match, this is a ton of mindless, slobber knocking fun. But, unlike most fighting spirit matches, this has the cool hook that lovable loser, Honma is looking for his first victory in the G-1 Climax and the crowd is 100% behind him. I like the whole match is just built on Honma's straight ahead approach. There was no heat segment. Honma was going to live and die by his offense. For the most part, he actually overwhelmed the hard hitting Shibata. Shibata could rely on kicks and elbows to always quell any sustained offense, but he was no match for Honma's fast break offense. They built to Honma's falling Harley Race heabutt perfectly as he missed the first two and then when he hit on third try, crowd popped huge! The crowd went nuts for his leaping Zidane headbutt to Shibata's chest. I heard about Honma, but I had no attachment to him going into this. I am on Team Honma for sure now. Dude is pure relentless, positive energy! Shibata chops him in the fucking face at one point. Shibata goes for the penalty kick and Honma catches. Shibata slaps a bunch of times in the face hard. So Honma fucking slaps him into the next week. HOLY SHIT! Nothing stops Honma ok, maybe two boots to the head as he comes off the top rope for a headbutt. NOPE LARIAT~! Fuck, Shibata just hit a damn brick wall. Spinning back hand chop to the face and Shibata finally catches his breath. Sets him up for a G2S, but Honma struggles so Shibata backfists him in the face and then hits the G2S! Honma-Seeking Penalty Kick! Our underdog comes up short again. Awesome, hard-hitting sprint made way better by the great, energetic underdog, Honma who looked poise to score the upset. ****1/2
  14. Superstar Sleeze

    [2014-07-26-NJPW-G1 Cimax] Katsuyori Shibata vs Hiroshi Tanahashi

    Review from January 2015...oddly low rating for two of my favorites...probably needs a revisit Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Katsuyori Shibata - G-1 Climax Day 4 Pride can be the downfall of even the greatest champions. I have argued before that beauty of Tanahashi is not his magnificent mane, it is his offensive strategy. Tanahashi's game plan is to attack the knee, destroy his opponent's base and set himself up for a victory either via submission (Texas Cloverleaf) or suplexes/High Fly Flow. Tanahashi can not beat Shibata in straight up strike battle. What makes Tanahashi a champion is recognizing that, swallowing his pride and getting to work on his strategy. He is NOT Bob Backlund, who is going to beat his opponent at his own game. He is NOT John Cena that is going to bury his head down, circle the wagons and fight through his opponent. He is Tanahashi, he is going to avoid his opponent's best shot and set himself up for victory. I have never seen Shibata in this long of a match before especially one where he had to sell so much. He did an admirable job for someone who is better suited to shoot-style mayhem. Tanahashi put over Shibata as a killer early by avoiding the penalty kick and hurrying to the outside to regroup. He lures Shibata to the outside and hits a plancha to set himself up for some knee work. Tanahashi goes to work like usual except he decides to go for a running splash and crashes into the turnbuckle. Shibata is able to smoke Tanahashi with a kick to the head up against the railing. Shibata favors the leg, which is awfully nice of him because Tanahashi really had not gotten down to work on it yet. I have seen people no sell a lot worse and I would have not begrudged him not to sell it. Shibata seems more reserved than usual. He is hitting Tanahashi hard, but it is not as urgent or energetic as I would like it to be. Tanahashi is playing to the crowd way too much when he his flurries of offense and it is costing him. Tanahashi catches the Penalty Kick and Dragon Leg Screw! That's Tanahashi I know! Texas Cloverleaf, but can't secure the submission. I love when Tanahashi flips his opponent over before hitting High Fly Flow to avoid the knees. On his second High Fly Flow (I also like that he does High Fly Flow in pairs), Shibata gets his knees up. Then Tanahashi does something uncharacteristic he gets sucked into an elbow exchange. Shibata is able to obliterate his back with a spinning back chop. Tanahashi's sell is so awesome. Shibata has a bit of trouble with Go 2 Sleep, but is able to wrangle Tanahashi to hit it and the Penalty Kick for the win. Kayfabe, Tanahashi's head did not seem to be in the game. Playing to the crowd, not exploiting his knee work and then getting sucked into a strike exchange. Non-kayfabe, Tanahashi was crushing it selling for Shibata. Shibata came off as a total badass when Tanahashi was selling his ribs and then selling that last spinning back chop. In a lot of ways this was the story of Tanahashi dropping the ball and Shibata staying steady with game plan of strikes. It felt a bit cold and dry at times. I wanted more out of Shibata, who I know can get feisty, Maybe the story is that he is more concentrated because he respects Tanahashi's status and wanted to focus on winning. Either way it did not grip me even if it was an effective story. ***3/4
  15. Superstar Sleeze

    [2014-05-03-NJPW-Wrestling Dontaku] Tomohiro Ishii vs Tomoaki Honma

    My interest in modern New Japan has been reinvigorated by attending a live show in Lowell last Friday. Here's what I had to write about Ishii and this match against Honma in February of 2015: I thought you'd be taller. Ishii reminds me of Arn Anderson or 1980's Bret Hart more than just about anyone else. In that, he is a midcarder who can have an entire match unto himself. He basically plugs his opponents into his formula and produces dramatic, hard-hitting classics. For Honma, he put over how close NJPW's miracle underdog could come close to winning a match by showing his vulnerability through his trademark neck/shoulder selling. For Naito, the struggling hot new upper midcard babyface badly needed credibility with the fans and by standing tot to toe with the stiff powerhouse Ishii he re-earned the fan's respect and his career while not fully rehabilitated is back on track. For Ibushi, he had a great heavyweight vs. junior heavyweight match where Ibushi showcased not only his high-flying offense, but his nastier side too. When I say formula, I don't mean every match is same, but rather Ishii uses his spots in the match how the context dictates to enhance his opponent and himself. You know there are going to be a lot of strike exchanges and that somehow Ishii will be dumped on his head. What separates Ishii from his contemporaries is his commitment to selling his neck/shoulder injuries to build drama in the late match strike exchanges and have you wondering how he will pull this one out. For all the great positive attributes, Ishii does represent the New Japan style moreso than probably any other wrestler. Having watched a lot of Japan 2008-2009 and reading what New Japan critics had to say, I was terrified that NJPW was just filled with strike exchanges and endless nearfalls. I have found that not to be the case at all. It is a minimum of one strike exchange, but usually no more than two and even more importantly, these are matches that build to a satisfying conclusion without a barrage of nearfalls watering down the finish. What I found interesting is that my nightmare New Japan was found in Ishii matches when Ishii seems to be the unifying force of all New Japan fans. It is easy to see why he is the big tent candidate when he combines great offense with selling. But calling a spade, a spade, he relies on strike exchanges way too much especially in the beginning of match are very boring. He is also the king of the nearfall and the one count. Don't get me wrong, I have been impressed with Ishii and I think he is the best midcard wrestler in the world. I just thought it was interesting that New Japan wrestler everyone loves is the most New Japan-y of all the wrestlers on the roster. NEVER Champion Tomohiro Ishii vs Tomoaki Honma - NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 5/3/14 I am a total sucker for the underdog Tomoaki Honma character. After he hit that crazy diving headbutt onto the floor and he gets into the ring and goes crazy, you just can't help but you root for a guy that wants to win so bad and is putting out such great positive energy. Ishii to his credit, he did a great job making Honma not just look like a credible challenger, but like someone that could really win the match. Early on, Ishii was in full control by using high chops and seemed to underestimate Honma with little kicks to the head. The turning point came early when Honma scored a DDT out of a lariat attempt. Until the end of the match, Ishii was digging himself out of the hole. Ishii did a great job modulating his selling. You knew the DDT hurt him, but it was not a blinding or insurmountable pain yet. He was able to recover with a backdrop driver. Then Honma hulks up after a lariat. I loved the urgency of this part of the match with each one following the other into ropes to cut the other other off with a strike. It really felt the match was going to be decided in that sequence and BANG! Honma nailed Ishii with a suplex that dumped on his head. Now that shoulder/neck pain just became excruciating and he powders. Honma presses his advantage with that crazy headbutt from the top rope to the floor where he bounces off the floor. God Bless Death Match Wrestlers! Honma is pumped, I am hyped and the crowd is whipped into a frenzy. He hits the top rope headbutt in the ring!!! Can he do it? One-Two-No! Ishii hits a desperation lariat, but clutches his shoulder and collapses. He can't take advantage. Two bulls ram into each other with Ishii winning. Ishii hits his powerbomb, but can't put the underdog away. Ishii goes for his Brainbuster finish, but the tenacious Honma will not be denied. One of the best suplex struggles ever (only to be topped by their one at G-1 Climax), Honma avoids the Brainbuster with a knee to the top of the head and hits one of his own! Honma Driver! C'mon ref! That was three, how much money do you have on this! Ishii is deadweight and collapses twice. Honma crashes and burns on the diving headbutt. Ruh Roh! Ishii drills him with a wicked Zidane headbutt to the head and a German suplex levels the playing field. During the strike exchange, it looks like Honma has Ishii on the ropes, but Ishii manages to hit an enziguiri, a sliding lariat and then his Brainbuster to quash the dreams of Honma and children everywhere. This was a superb performance by two great wrestlers that understood their characters. Ishii went a different route than the usual beat the underdog down and let him comeback. Instead, he got his ass handed to him and looked like he was dead to rites, but was able to fight through the pain to hang onto the title. Ishii never looked weak. It just so happened that the DDT and suplex injured him badly, but he kept fighting. The crowd was so excited for the possibility of Honma winning it never felt like Ishii babyfaced himself by fighting from underneath. I think I like the Shibata match a tad bit more, but this was tons of fun also. ****1/2