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cactus

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  1. cactus

    Brock Lesnar Deep Dive

    Brock Lesnar is one of my all-time favorites. Let's do this. Recommended Brock Viewing (essential matches in bold) Brock Lesnar vs Jeff Hardy (WWF Backlash - 4/21/2002) Brock Lesnar vs Hulk Hogan (WWE Smackdown - 8/6/2002) Brock Lesnar vs The Rock (WWE Summerslam - 8/25/2002) Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker (WWE Unforgiven - 9/22/2002) Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker (Hell in a Cell) (WWE No Mercy - 10/20/2002) Brock Lesnar vs Big Show (WWE Survivor Series - 11/17/2002) Brock Lesnar vs Big Show (WWE Royal Rumble - 1/19/2003) Brock Lesnar & Chris Benoit vs Kurt Angle, Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas (WWE No Way Out - 2/23/2003) Brock Lesnar vs Kurt Angle (WWE Wrestlemania - 3/30/2003) Brock Lesnar vs Big Show (Stretcher) (WWE Judgement Day - 5/18/2003) Brock Lesnar vs Kurt Angle (WWE Summerslam - 8/24/2003) Brock Lesnar & John Cena vs Kurt Angle & The Undertaker (WWE Smackdown - 10/2/2003) Brock Lesnar vs Chris Benoit (WWE Smackdown - 12/2/2003) Brock Lesnar vs Rey Mysterio (WWE Smackdown - 12/9/2003) Brock Lesnar vs Eddie Guerrero (WWE No Way Out - 2/15/2004) Brock Lesnar vs Akebono (NJPW - 2/20/2006) Brock Lesnar vs John Cena (Extreme Rules) (WWE Extreme Rules - 4/29/2012) Brock Lesnar vs CM Punk (No Disqualification) (WWE Summerslam - 8/18/2013) Brock Lesnar vs John Cena (WWE Summerslam - 8/17/2014) Brock Lesnar vs John Cena (WWE Night Of Champions - 9/21/2014) Brock Lesnar vs John Cena vs Seth Rollins (WWE Royal Rumble - 1/25/2015) Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns (WWE Wrestlemania - 3/29/2015) Brock Lesnar vs Kofi Kingston (WWE Live From Tokyo: The Beast From The East - 7/4/2015) Brock Lesnar vs Jeff Hardy (WWF Backlash - 4/21/2002) A damn fine main roster debut for Lesnar. He looked like a world-beater here. Jeff Hardy is established enough that Lesnar's win over him feels like a massive deal. Hardy bumps his ass off for all of Lesnar's shit. Heyman trash-talking and blaming Lita at ringside for Jeff's beating because she refused to sleep with him was creepy and it added another layer to the villainous Lesnar/Heyman pairing. Hardy is able to hit a few hope spots and Lesnar even kicks out of the Swanton Bomb, which I don't think anyone had done up to that point. Jeff soon realizes that he can't beat Lesnar, so he grabs a chair and attempts to lay him out, but Lesnar is able to catch him with an F5. Lesnar then keeps assaulting Jeff until the referee decides to call this off. The referee stoppage finish hadn't been used in a while and it made Lesnar's dominating victory feel even more special. ★★★½ Brock Lesnar & Shawn Stasiak vs The Hardy Boyz (WWE Insurrextion - 5/4/2002) The story going into this is that Lesnar wanted to face Matt and Jeff by himself, but the Hardyz had signed up for a tag match so Lesnar has to find a partner. Lesnar and Heyman pick Stasiak and hope he's smart enough to stay out of the way and let Lesnar do all the work, but this doesn't go to plan as the voices in Stasiak's head tell him to take matters into his own hands. Stasiak rushes the ring to start the match, much to Lesnar and Heyman's disapproval. He has some pretty decent comedy chops. Stasiak doesn't fare too well and Lesnar tags himself after saving Stasiak from a Hardyz double-team move. Lesnar kicks ass and looks good doing it. He looked like a lion playing with his food when he was working over Matt Hardy. Lesnar misses a charge into the corner and Stasiak tags himself back in and loses the match for his team. Lesnar wrecks shop after the match and takes out Stasiak. Lesnar loses, but his aura hasn't been damaged because of the circumstances of his loss. ★★½ Brock Lesnar & Paul Heyman vs The Hardy Boyz (WWE Judgement Day - 5/19/2002) Lesnar continues to wreck shop as the crowd throws some Goldberg chants at him. Jeff's hot tag lacked in fire and the crowd doesn't seem too invested in this as they know who's winning this. Heyman excels at being the greasy chickenshit manager. After the Hardyz work together to get Lesnar out of the ring, they turn their attention to Heyman. Heyman runs away until the Hardyz are able to catch him and give him a beating. Lesnar recovers just as Jeff is about to go for the Swanton Bomb on Heyman. The stare-down between Jeff and Brock made for a cool visual. Lesnar hits the F5, but Heyman insists that he gets tagged in and gets the deciding pinfall. Fun stuff. ★★★ Brock Lesnar vs Test (WWE King Of The Ring - 6/23/2002) These two just didn't click. Lesnar is still receiving Goldberg chants and the fans couldn't give a toss about Test, so this was a dull affair with a dead crowd for the most part. Expect a lot of lifeless brawling. Lesnar is still green and Test has never been good in-ring, so this match doesn't have anyone to steer the ship. The highlight of this would have to be Test scoring a very convincing nearfall after a gloriously stiff big boot. Lesnar scooping and powerslamming Test with ease was another high point. Aside from that, I'm not seeing a great hoss fight here. I wasn't too keen on Lesnar needing Heyman's help to win either as a world-beater like Lesnar shouldn't have to rely on his manager to help him beat a lower midcarder like Test. ★★ Brock Lesnar vs Rob Van Dam (WWE King Of The Ring - 6/23/2002) I'm a tad let down by this and I'm hoping their next match together will be better. This became an extended squash once Lesnar countered an RVD monkey flip into a powerbomb. Lesnar works a long bearhug on RVD. RVD makes a brief comeback once Lesnar misses a charge and goes shoulder-first into the ring post. Watching Brock sell RVD's kicks is quite entertaining. RVD hits a frog splash, but Heyman distracts RVD and it results in a unique nearfall where Heyman accidentally knocks RVD onto Brock after pulling his throat onto the ropes. Lesnar catches another RVD aerial attack and turns it into an F5 for the win. ★★¼ Brock Lesnar vs Rob Van Dam (WWE Vengeance - 7/21/2002) This was much better than their King Of The Ring match as they got a lot more time here. Lesnar and RVD's styles compliment each other well. Brock dominates until RVD is able to hit an incredible flurry moves and it all flowed perfectly and you got the feeling that RVD might actually pull off the biggest miracle in his career. RVD hits the Five Star, but Heyman pulls the referee out and ends up getting Brock disqualified. The post-match angle sees the referee attack Heyman in a humourous spot. Lesnar picks up the ref and launches him as if he was a bag of flour. RVD tries to take advantage of Brock being distracted but eats an F5 for his troubles. The DQ finish wasn't great, but there wasn't much they could have done as they had booked themselves into a corner. ★★★ Brock Lesnar vs Hulk Hogan (WWE Smackdown - 8/6/2002) Hogan mostly coasts on by his charisma as his body is too banged up to do anything too physical. He still knows how to work a crowd and they go mental for him. Hogan keeps hulking up whenever Lesnar would try and beat him down, but it's a distraction from Paul Heyman that is enough for Lesnar to hit an F5. Instead of pinning him, he decides to lock in a bear hug. The fans were expecting for Hogan to hulk up once again, but Hulk bleeds from the mouth and is unable to make the referee's count. Lesnar brutalizes Hogan after the bell and the show goes off air as Lesnar wipes Hogan's blood onto his own chest. Has Hogan ever put over anyone as cleanly as he did for Lesnar here' Even Warrior didn't get a rub as big as Lesnar got here! Lesnar not only kicked out of a leg drop, but he also defeated Hogan by submission! ★★★½ Brock Lesnar vs The Rock vs Triple H (WWE Global Warning - 8/10/2002) Nothing to see here. The first half of the match featured nothing but punches, kicks, and not much else. The second half sees each wrestler hitting their finish before the free man breaks up the pin. This featured the worst trope of multi-man matches, where one worker gets hit with a basic move and lays outside the ring for minutes at a time so the two other guys can do their thing. We get a rare instance of Brock showing that he's still green when he just stands there and watches Triple H attempt a pin. Triple H goes the extra mile and gets some color, even if it didn't add anything to the match. I'm not expecting guys to bring their A-game when they are working house shows (this was pretty much a televised house show) and I'm sure the live crowd loved this, but there's no reason to seek this out. ★★ Brock Lesnar vs The Rock (WWE Summerslam - 8/25/2002) This is a star-making match for Lesnar, but I also thought that Rock's performance here was one of his best. Despite being the babyface going into this, the fans have soured on him so he instead decides to rile them up instead of being the babyface that he thought he was going to be when he stepped through the curtain on this night. After using it to score a clean win over Hogan, Brock's bear hug feels like it might actually end the match instead of feeling like a rest hold. Rock fighting out of the move was the last babyface thing he did before he embraces being a heel and striking Lesnar square in the balls. Rock's punch combo features extra taunting, a neat addition added solely to get under the audience's skin. Brock was decent here and he jumped through all the hoops that Rock (and Heyman to a lesser extent) set up for him. You start to see Lesnar's formula in play once you watch his old matches in order, but he's still got exceptional timing and pacing so such a young wrestler. ★★★★
  2. cactus

    Brock Lesnar Deep Dive

    Yeah, he goes from a promising rookie to a workhorse who can hold his own in a matter of weeks. Brock Lesnar vs John Cena (WWE Summerslam - 8/17/2014) After taking the loss during their last bout, Lesnar has been on a tear and gets his win back in dominating fashion. Lesnar's performance was fantastic, mocking the Undertaker's sit-up and his staggering selling being my favorite moments. The match starts off with Cena and Lesnar getting in a scuffle before Lesnar lands an F5 30 seconds in! Lesnar dominates Cena with German suplexes, which look a lot more devastating now than they did when a dazed Undertaker was getting thrown around during Brock's last match. Cena gets in two massive hope spots. The first one sees him escaping out of a suplex attempt by clobbering Lesnar with strikes and following it up with an AA for a cogent nearfall. He also is able to lock in a tight STF out of nowhere, but Brock powers out and it's all over for Cena. Each of these hope spots infuriates Lesnar, who is now so full of rage that he's turned red! I don't have an issue with this being extremely one-sided, as it's a complete rehabilitation for Lesnar after losing to Cena during his first match back with the company. This is one of the most devastating squash matches of all time and I loved every minute of it. ★★★★½ Brock Lesnar vs John Cena (WWE Night Of Champions - 9/21/2014) Cena thinks he has Lesnar scouted out after he got mauled by him at Summerslam. Cena blocks a German suplex attempt by holding onto the ropes and follows it up with a flash AA, but it has little effect on Lesnar and it only gets a 1 count. I'd usually have an issue with someone kicking out of someone's finish at 1, but I can give Lesnar a pass as he booked to be so incredibly dominant. Lesnar mixes up his offense and we see some float-over snap and belly-to-belly suplexes. Lesnar is hellbent on tapping out Cena, so we also see a Kimura, with Cena selling the pain convincingly. Cena isn't afraid to potato Lesnar during his comebacks, and he busts up Lesnar's nose. Lesnar taking off his gloves is a neat visual, letting everyone know that he's not fucking around now. The submission exchanges looked organic, and Cena using an AA to weaken Lesnar for the STF made sense, as he is sure as hell wasn't scoring a pinfall of that move. After hitting yet another AA, Seth Rollins comes down to break up the pin and causes this one to be thrown out. During the post-match, we get a fun tease of Rollins cashing in his MITB briefcase, with Cena pulling Rollins from the ring before he has the chance to start the match. The interference finish soured me a tad, but it's not enough to undo the work that Cena and Lesnar had laid out. This was excellent, and I feel not enough people talk about this, perhaps due to the lame finish. It's not quite on the level of their Extreme Rules match, but not many matches are. ★★★★½ Brock Lesnar vs John Cena vs Seth Rollins (WWE Royal Rumble - 1/25/2015) This has a crazy pace that rarely slows down which makes this an absolute treat to watch. Everyone brought something unique to the table. Cena is the powerhouse babyface, Rollins is the sneaky high flyer who will try and steal a victory and Lesnar is the video game end boss. Lesnar and Cena are great as always, but I thought this was a breakout performance for Rollins. He uses his insane athleticism in ways that left my jaw firmly on the ground. He successfully pulls off that counter to the AA that made CM Punk fall on his arse on MITB 2011 and I think he hits the first-ever phoenix splash in a WWE ring. Rollins is a guy that I've soured on over the years as he seems more focused on hitting the coolest high spot than focusing on psychology and things on that ilk, but watching him here reminded me why I was previously such a big fan of his and how he thrived in environments like this. Things like J& J Security getting involved and Lesnar having to be neutralized if Rollins and Cena want to stand a chance are light storytelling elements that stopped this from being a complete spotfest. This might just be the best triple threat match in history. ★★★★¾ Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns (WWE Wrestlemania - 3/29/2015) Reigns is one of the few guys who looks like a total boss TAKING a beating. He smirks at Lesnar while getting the shit suplexed out of him. I know that WWE doesn't exactly have the best track record when it comes to booking a babyface, but I don't know how the fans didn't love Reigns after this match. Lesnar gets an F5 early but is in no rush to pin as he wants to hurt Roman. Reigns kicks out of a second F5 and Brock sees this as a sign of disrespect and starts removing his gloves to let everyone know that he's not fucking around now. He slaps the piss out of Reign's mouth. Brock eats a ring post and bleeds like a pig. He sells his injury well, staggering around the place with a glazed facial expression. Reigns gets in a hope spot to end all hope spot. He hits a barrage of Superman punches before Lesnar catches him in an F5. Seth Rollins' music hits and he cashes in his MITB briefcase and turns this into a 3 way. I knew Rollins was going to get involved somehow, but I didn't expect him to do it while the match was still going on. The ending made Lesnar look strong while losing the belt and opens the door to a future Lesnar vs Reigns match. ★★★★★ Brock Lesnar vs Kofi Kingston (WWE Live From Tokyo: The Beast From The East - 7/4/2015) Brock makes his return to Japan after 8 years away and is fed poor Kofi Kingston in an attempt to revitalize him after his loss at Wrestlemania. Kofi tries to take a page out of Rey Mysterio's book by running around the ring in an effort to tire Brock out. He lays some strikes in, but they have no effect on Brock and he just brushes them off. Brock captures Kofi after a Kofi high-spot doesn't pay off and suplexes him on his head. Kofi takes Brock's suplexes well, especially the one he counters out of by doing a pitch-perfect backflip before being quickly beaten by the F5. Kofi showed a lot of heart and sold his fear of Brock well. Lesnar looked downright scary here. If squash matches aren't your thing, then skip on this one, but this might be one of my favorite squashes ever. ★★★½ Brock Lesnar vs Seth Rollins (WWE Battleground - 7/19/2015) The opening minutes have a lot of struggle, with Rollins trying his hardest to avoid being suplexed. Suplex City is officially a thing now, with the crowd counting every single German thrown. I thought Lesnar leans into it a bit too much, which is a small criticism I have of him once Suplex City became a thing. There are minutes here where it's nothing but German suplexes and that becomes tiresome quickly. Rollins tries to escape through the crowd, but Lesnar catches up to him by jumping and clearing the barricade with total ease. I always love those moments where Brock shows that he has scary athleticism, onto of being a total powerhouse. Like the Kofi match, Rollins used the momentum of Lesnar's suplex to land on his feet. Unlike the Kofi match, Rollins' strikes actually seem to damage Lesnar, with Lesnar dropping to his knee after Rollins lays some stiff shots into his leg. Just as Lesnar has Rollins beat, the lights go out and Undertaker's gong hits. The lights come back on and Lesnar is put down by Undertaker. Rollins and the referee seemed to disappear during this and the match is forgotten about. What a way to bury your new champion! This was a fun match, with a really dumb ending. ★★★
  3. Interesting project! The only Tiger Mask match from this era that I've seen is the tag where teamed with Inoki to fight Fujiwara and Liger. I watched it when I first got into puro. Looking like a dream match on paper, I went into it expecting to see magic and what I got was incredibly disappointing! Inoki was ancient by 1997 and Liger and Sayama just didn't seem to click.
  4. cactus

    Brock Lesnar Deep Dive

    Brock Lesnar vs John Cena (Extreme Rules) (WWE Extreme Rules - 4/29/2012) As good as I remembered it. Lesnar feels like a video game boss that feels nigh on impossible to beat. After cutting open Cena with shoot nasty elbows, Lesnar controls 90% of the match. I don't even mind the ref stoppages as they give us time to reflect on how brutal Brock's offense is as they replay the elbow multiple times, all while Lesnar is pacing around like a caged animal. Lesnar looked like he was having the time of his life torturing the golden boy of the company. He doesn't rush anything and gives everything time to breathe. Cena sells his injuries well and all of his hope spots feel organic and he even makes a usually anti-Cena crowd root for him. Did the wrong guy go over? Probably, but I don't think that the booking decision of Cena going over is as bad as everyone makes it out to be. This was a violent, nutty spectacle between two of the best ever. ★★★★★ Brock Lesnar vs Triple H (No Disqualification) (WWE Summerslam - 8/19/2012) Lesnar had previously broken Triple H's arm leading up to this, so we get plenty of arm work in this as Lesnar tries to soften HHH up for the Kimura. Lesnar hooks HHH's arm behind his back as he tosses him all over the place. We get some cool displays of Brock's freakish athleticism as he jumps up onto the announce table with ease, as well as jumping up and wrapping his legs around HHH's body as he goes for the Kimura. HHH shows a lot of fire when he brawls with Lesnar, but he gets gassed out quite quickly and that leads to parts of this match being quite dull as HHH isn't that interesting of a seller. Speaking of selling, Lesnar's selling of his mid-section after getting rammed into the corner of the announce table was sublime. It touches on Brock's known stomach issues and he sold it by struggling to breathe and spitting everywhere. I could have done without the finisher trading and teasing during the final minutes, but I didn't mind Lesnar brushing the Pedigree off to lock on the Kimura and score an impressive victory. ★★★¼ Brock Lesnar vs Triple H (Triple H's Career On The Line No Holds Barred) (WWE Wrestlemania - 4/7/2013) Triple H is so lifeless during the opening brawling segments and the crowd is sitting on their hands. Even an announce table bump followed up with a meme-worthy Brock grunt couldn't breathe life into this. Brock tries to wake up the crowd by posturing and taunting as he works over his opponent, but the burnt-out crowd isn't biting. Triple H tries to get revenge on Lesnar by beating him with a Kimura, and they were able to milk a bit of drama out of the hold before Brock escapes. Heyman was incredibly animated at ringside and he ate that Sweet Chin Music like a pro after he tries to get involved. Trip's career is predictably saved by a shot from his trusty sledgehammer, followed up with a Pedigree on the stairs after a painful 24 minutes. This was dull as dishwater and overly long - like most of Triple H's matches during the 2010s. ★½ Brock Lesnar vs Triple H (Cage) (WWE Extreme Rules - 5/19/2013) Triple H jumpstarts this by attacking Lesnar as he makes his entrance and he dominates until Lesnar is able to throw him into the cage. They use the cage a lot here as Lesnar continues to throw HHH into it. HHH is able to dodge a high knee and sends Lesnar crashing into the cage knee-first. After that, the match is all about Brock's damaged knee. HHH has a great transition spot, where he gets out of a Kimura in the corner by dropping a knee onto Lesnar's leg that is draped over the ropes. Lesnar never forgets to sell it, even when he hits the F5 on HHH. He tries the move a second time, but his knee buckles. It's stuff like that is why Brock is one of the best sellers ever. I love how Heyman would loudly give advice to Lesnar as the match goes on. Parts of this certainly dragged, partly due to HHH not being that exciting as a babyface, but also due to a lot of downtime during the closing minutes. Brock puts in one of his best selling performances ever here, even if the match itself can drag here and there. This was a lot better than their Wrestlemania match, but I'm just glad this feud is wrapped up as these two didn't really ever click as opponents. ★★★ Brock Lesnar vs CM Punk (No Disqualification) (WWE Summerslam - 8/18/2013) Lesnar feels so god-damn unbeatable here, but the fans believe in Punk and he puts in a hell of an underdog performance here. We get a lot of great trash talk, including Lesnar referring to Punk as 'babygirl', which is a word that I never want to hear out of Lesnar's mouth! Lesnar's counter to Punk's GTS catches me off-guard every single time I watch this and it made Lesnar look incredibly scary. Punk is super scrappy here, cutting Lesnar down with a barrage of quick strikes and he gets the crowd to invest in all his hope spots. The beating he takes here is brutal, with him sustaining a nasty cut on his back after Lesnar effortlessly tosses him around the ringside area like a sack of shit. Heyman added a lot to the match, even if his break-up of Punk's pin looked like it wouldn't hurt a fly! Punk saving himself from an F5 by holding onto Heyman's tie was a creative spot, and it was only enhanced by Heyman's pathetic blubbering. This is a top 5 match for Lesnar, for sure! ★★★★★ Brock Lesnar vs Big Show (WWE Royal Rumble - 1/26/2014) This technically only goes two minutes, but Lesnar pummels Show with a chair before the match starts. Lesnar doesn't hold back on the chair shots and absolutely wallops Show with the chair! Lesnar does a sublime job of getting over the fact that he's scared of Show. Show hits his finish as soon the bell rings and this gets a huge pop, although he's too hurt to capitalize. The highlight of this is Lesnar's selling of Show's body shots. Lesnar's fantastic when he has to show signs of vulnerability. Show goes for a second KO punch, but Brock ducks and is able to flawlessly scoop Show up for a massive F5 to wrap this up. This was fun for what it was. ★★¾ Brock Lesnar vs Undertaker (WWE Wrestlemania - 4/6/2014) This is the first time during this project that I've had to use the 2x speed option on my video as parts of this match were putting me to sleep. Undertaker gets concussed early, so it's up to Lesnar to drag and carry a dazed and confused 49-year old through a 25-minute main event match. Even forgetting about the concussion, the match layout is a mess and some of the Undertaker big match spots are starting to feel stale and cliché now. Lesnar works over Undertaker's leg after brutally thrusting his ankle into a ring post, but it's quickly forgotten about. There's zero heat once they get to the finisher trading segment as it felt as if they were going through motions. Lesnar kicking out of the Tombstone might have been shocking if everyone hadn't already done it during the last five Wrestlemanias. The corner punches to the Last Ride spot is beyond old too, as the crowd reacts as soon as Lesnar climbs the ropes. Undertaker botches the Last Ride as he isn't able to lift Lesnar up. Lesnar shocks the world by ending the streak after 3 F5s, sending the fans into a hushed silence. Although Lesnar ending the streak is the most shocking match result in company history, the match itself is slow, sluggish and an absolute chore to sit through. I've seen this three times before and I seem to dislike it more every time. ★
  5. cactus

    [2012-04-29-WWE-Extreme Rules] CM Punk vs Chris Jericho

    This started strong but ended up it actively boring me to the point that I would just wish it would end. The brawling is decent and Jericho is great at being a smarmy prick. On top of the usual kendo stick and chair shots that you can expect to find in any WWE street fight during the past decade or so, they also got creative by using the cover of the announce table as a weapon. Jericho getting smacked in the face by Punk's sister was a nice little pay-off to all the trash talk that Jericho had been speaking about Punk's family in the lead-up to this match. After Jericho drenches Punk with the beer, the match starts to lose me. The match slows to a snail's crawl and not even a surprise Codebreaker is enough to wake the crowd up. I was beyond bored by the time that Punk hits his big dive through the announce table. There's a reason all the best brawls throughout wrestling history rarely ever go past the twenty-minute mark. You just can't keep the heat building for that long and this match is a shining example of that. ★★½
  6. It's been a month since Sheamus beat Bryan in 18 seconds and they play off that brilliantly here. Sheamus attempts a Brogue Kick early, but Bryan avoids it and they work a smash-mouth technical clinic with plenty of stiff strikes. Sheamus can actually hang with Bryan on the mat and he can obviously bring the beef whenever he would trade strikes with him. I dug how the falls were structured, with the first one ending after Bryan zones in on Sheamus' arm after he missed a charge into the corner and eats the ring post. Bryan refuses to back off from Sheamus and gets disqualified. This doesn't bother Bryan as he has more than enough damage to score an easy submission win for the second fall. I love how they open the final fall, with Bryan once again getting hit with a flash Brogue Kick for another nearfall. Bryan's pitbull-like tendencies and smug facial expressions whenever he had the match in his control were fantastic, but I also thought that Sheamus put in a hell of an effort here too. ★★★¾
  7. cactus

    Brock Lesnar Deep Dive

    That's Brock's brief time in Japan done. Don't sleep on his Akebono match! I couldn't find Brock's matches with Nagata or Nakanishi online, so shoot me a message if you know where I can find them. Brock Lesnar vs Masahiro Chono vs Kazuyuki Fujita (NJPW - 10/8/2005) With the big entrances and the USA and Japanese national anthems playing before the match, NJPW sure knows how to make a match feel special. The match itself isn't anything to write home about. Chono feels like he's only here to take the pin and there isn't much he can do physically by 2005. Fujita and Brock getting into a shoving contest made me realize how much better this could have been if they kept this as a singles match. Fujita is seen as a big guy in NJPW usually, so watching Lesnar suplex him with ease made for a very striking visual. Brock gets Chono up for the F5, but Fujita blindsides Lesnar and this causes Chono to come crashing to the outside area in his only big bump of the match. Lesnar is booked incredibly strong here, with him only every feeling in jeopardy after he accidentally clotheslines the ring post. Lesnar wins the IWGP strap in his first match for the company, although he feels unmotivated and that he's only here for the paycheck. ★★½ Brock Lesnar vs Shinsuke Nakamura (NJPW - 1/4/2006) This was meant to be Lesnar facing Fujita, but Fujita had left the company so Nakamura is drafted in to face Lesnar instead. Lesnar came off as a complete bully here and he reminded me of post-2012 MMA badass Brock who just gets off on playing with his prey. These two weren't afraid of working stiff and they just clobber the piss out of each other. Brock feels slightly more motivated than he did when he won the belt, but we are still a while away from 2003 Brock in terms of giving a shit. Nakamura shows a lot of heart and has a lot of fire in his strikes, but Lesnar is able to counter them by catching his leg and violently shoving him to the mat. I can't say there was any time when I thought that Nakamura might have had a chance. He gets in a triangle choke, but Lesnar is able to easily power out of it and hit him with the Verdict to carry on his reign. ★★★ Brock Lesnar & Shinsuke Nakamura vs Riki Choshu & Akebono (NJPW - 2/19/2006) Akebono is Lesnar's next challenger and this match is solely here to further build up to the match. Anytime they were the two legal men it felt like something out of a monster movie. Even in a protected environment like this, you can tell that Akebono can't work to save his life as the guy is just too big. Good psychology (which isn't something Akebono has a lot of) can only take you so far and there's only so much you can do when you are over 500lbs and 6ft 8. I also thought Lesnar was too giving with Choshu. There's just no way that I can suspend my disbelief that a 55-year old who's half a foot shorter than Brock can stand a chance against him. I wasn't expecting to see Choshu bust out a vaulting body press though! Choshu and Nakamura's interactions felt like filler, but I did enjoy some sequences, such as the Scorpion Death Lock to heel hook counter by Nakamura. This was a mixed bag overall, but it made me curious to see Brock and Akebono's singles match, so I guess that they did their job. ★★¾ Brock Lesnar vs Akebono (NJPW - 2/20/2006) This is Brock's Flair vs Broomstick moment. Akebono gets absolutely gassed within minutes and it's up to Lesnar to make something salvageable out of this. For the first time since joining NJPW, Brock has brought his working shoes with him and he actually looks motivated! He bum rushes his massive opponent and frantically tries to choke him out and take out his legs. The poor referee ends up getting sandwiched in between Brock and Akebono! Akebono lands a banzai drop, but there is no referee to count the pin. Lesnar recovers and hits Akebono with his title belt for a nail-bitingly close nearfall. Brock never forgets to sell his back during his comeback. Akebono finally falling to a DDT was a bit of a flat finish. Akebono didn't want to take an F5 as he didn't want to risk injury because he had a kickboxing match coming. This had a big fight feel and I enjoyed it a lot more than I could have ever imagined. ★★★½ Brock Lesnar vs Giant Bernard (NJPW - 5/3/2006) Lesnar's final NJPW match sees him face the former A-Train/Albert in a so-so match that never really got going. Bernard's coming into this with a taped-up arm and it plays into the first half of this match before being forgotten about during the finishing stretch. Bernard looks to be on Brock's level during the opening brawling segment, but Lesnar cuts him off and works over his arm. The strikes here are quite stiff here. In a callback to his match with Akebono, Lesnar tries to pick up the win with a DDT, but Bernard kicks out. Lesnar is able to land an F5 after a cool sequence and is victorious. Lesnar would end up leaving NJPW not too long after this and he takes the IWGP belt with him. ★★¾ Brock Lesnar vs Kurt Angle (IGF - 6/29/2007) It's been a year since Lesnar walked out of NJPW, and since then Antonio Inoki has left NJPW and formed his own promotion. This match was solely booked to get the belt from Lesnar, who wants to retire from wrestling and pursue MMA. With the Benoit tragedy taking place only days previously, it's understandable that both guys weren't performing at their best. Brock decides to launch Angle to the outside after Angle manages to block an early F5 attempt by holding onto the ropes. Angle clutches his knee and sells his injury, but Angle's bad knee is never touched on again and is quickly forgotten about. The first half of this feels phoned-in with even Angle's ankle lock lacking its usual intensity, but they pick things up during the final minutes with some exciting counters and sequences. Angle countering Brock's powerbomb attempt into an ankle lock was my favorite spot of the match. Clocking in at a mere 10 minutes, this match never dragged even if it took a few minutes for them to get warmed up. ★★★¼
  8. cactus

    Brock Lesnar Deep Dive

    Let's finish off Lesnar's first WWE run. Next time I'll be having a look at Lesnar's brief time in Japan! Brock Lesnar vs Big Show vs The Undertaker (WWE Smackdown - 8/26/2003) This is a 1# contender's match for Kurt Angle's WWE championship and he joins the commentary team just as this one starts. I was surprised by how bad at commentary Angle was. He sounds like he's struggling to have a normal conversation without it sounding awkward. Anyway, the match itself is a good TV main event with plenty of close calls. Show and Lesnar try to work together, but that alliance is short-lived as Lesnar starts attacking Show as soon as Undertaker is kicked out of the ring. We see Lesnar failing to F5 Undertaker into the ring post. Just like the Vengence triple threat from the same year, Show is treated like a massive threat here. Everything here was decent and had a quick pace, but it wasn't exactly memorable. I did love the finish though. Brock and Show tease another superplex, but Undertaker is able to sneak under Lesnar and hit the Last Ride to score the victory. ★★★¼ Brock Lesnar vs Kurt Angle (Iron Man) (WWE Smackdown - 9/18/2003) The first 15 minutes show off Lesnar's brilliant character work. Just like in their Summerslam match, Angle has Lesnar beat on the mat, and this causes Lesnar to throw a tantrum on the outside. Lesnar stalls outside the ring and this gets under Angle's skin and soon the crowd are calling for Lesnar's head for wasting their time. Lesnar soon gets himself disqualified for hitting Angle with a barrage of chair shots. This was worth it in the end for Lesnar, as he's quickly able to scoop up two points. After this, the match begins to lose me and they don't win me back until the final five minutes. They really start overusing suplexes and spend way too much time on the mat selling the damage. Angle lifts up his straps so he can pull them down immediately after yet again. They are able to get into a groove yet again and create some meaningful drama during the final moments of the match, with Angle desperately trying to even the score. There is plenty of stuff that I like during this match, but I don't think either man had enough stuff to fill a full hour if I'm honest. This was the weakest bout of the Angle/Lesnar trilogy. ★★★ Brock Lesnar & John Cena vs Kurt Angle & The Undertaker (WWE Smackdown - 10/2/2003) Cena starts the match and gets schooled by both Undertaker and Angle. We don't get much Lesnar involvement until he pulls down the ropes as Angle is running into them and causes him to take a violent tumble to the outside. The match then goes to break and it comes back to Angle getting worked over by the heels, who make quick tags to keep Angle in their grasps. Undertaker doesn't get enough credit as a tag worker. Not only is he great at clearing house after making the hot tag, but it's also the small things like rushing around the apron and bashing on the ring post to wake up the crowd and his partner that really put him over. Lesnar gets knocked on his head after Undertaker rushes in and clotheslines him out of the ring. Cena takes advantage of all this commotion going on in the ring and nails Angle with his chain to steal the victory. This was a total sprint with an unrelenting pace. The No Mercy PPV is just a few weeks away, and this match is here to hype up the two biggest singles matches on that card. If I was watching this at the time and I wasn't sure if I was going to order the PPV, this match would easily convince me to part with my cash. ★★★¾ Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker (Biker Chain) (WWE No Mercy - 10/19/2003) I thought the stipulation also held this one back massively. Anyone who grabs the biker chain can use it, but the match is already no disqualification, so why would you put yourself in a vulnerable position and try and grab the chain instead of just walloping your opponent with weapons that are more easily accessible' Not to mention, the biker chain isn't pulled down until the last minute of the match, meaning all nearfalls before that lack drama as you know for sure this match isn't going to end before that chain comes into play. Barring my complaints about the stipulation, the match itself is solid if not a little too slow-paced for my liking. Undertaker and Brock work well with each other put on a hoss fight that has plenty of struggle, even if it's lacking the pure hatred and intensity from their previous outings. Undertaker impressed me here, he sells Lesnar strikes well by being punch-drunk and I thought that Undertaker using a triangle choke to stop Lesnar from pushing him off the turnbuckle was a creative spot. Undertaker uses a la magistral like he's channeling his inner Negro Casas! There are moments here when I wish they would quicken the pace up and it never felt like they got into their second gear. Trim 5-10 minutes from this match and pick a better stipulation and you would most definitely have a better match. ★★★ Brock Lesnar, Matt Morgan, Nathan Jones, The A-Train & The Big Show vs Bradshaw, Chris Benoit, Hardcore Holly, John Cena & Kurt Angle (Survivor Series) (WWE Survivor Series - 11/16/2003) Holly, who's back after having his neck broken by Brock, gets himself disqualified immediately after attacking Brock and shoving the referee in the process. A-Train and Bradshaw are quickly eliminated after, putting the babyfaces at a 3 vs 4 disadvantage. Morgan and Jones are able to use quick tags as a way to hide their weaknesses and not completely stink up the match. Benoit looked very scrappy and intense when he was working against Lesnar and it made me look forward to their singles match together. Benoit and Cena working together to eliminate both Show and Lesnar after their team captain had been eliminated put them over big time as ones to watch on the blue brand. This match certainly felt rushed given the quick eliminations (3 wrestlers are eliminated a minute into this! ), but I can't say that I didn't find this enjoyable due to its quick pace. ★★★ Brock Lesnar vs Chris Benoit (WWE Smackdown - 12/2/2003) Benoit and Brock's styles mesh incredibly well and made for a super physical and back and forth hidden gem. It's the little things like Lesnar bumping like crazy into the steel steps or showing his fear whenever Benoit was close to locking on the crossface that show that Lesnar is an insanely giving and unselfish worker, who will go out of his way to make his opponent look like a million bucks. Ever since Lesnar tapped out at Summerslam, fans mock him for it and Brock plays into it well and it adds a nice little wrinkle of psychology into his matches whenever he's facing a guy who is well-versed in submissions. Benoit is able to make Brock tap, but the referee is down. Brock never forgets to sell the arm as he hits Benoit with a brutal F5. Benoit kicks out to a monster pop. Lesnar, who is still embarrassed by his Summerslam lose, debuts the Brock Lock and is able to escape with his title. ★★★★¾ Brock Lesnar vs Rey Mysterio (WWE Smackdown - 12/9/2003) This is in Rey's hometown and if he can beat Lesnar here, he will get a title shot next week. This was a damn fine TV match that was a refresher for me on the talents of Rey Mysterio. I've always thought Rey was great, but a few steps below being considered as a GOAT tier worker. However, this match made me reconsider my views, as he was fantastic at fighting a massively overpowered opponent and believably getting some big blows in. Even when he botches, he's able to quickly recover and not have any mistakes damage the flow of the match, My favorite moment of this was when Rey would get Lesnar to wear himself out by running all over the ringside area. Seeing Brock mock Rey for being undersized was fantastic and a great way of pissing off the crowd. The sight of Lesnar throwing Mysterio around by his leg was beyond scary. Brock shows so much ass for Mysterio and I actually thought that Rey might actually pull this one off, but Brock is able to pulverize Rey with a stiff powerbomb, before bending him in half with the short-lived Brock Lock to end the match. Stop sleeping on this and check this match out! ★★★★½ Brock Lesnar vs Hardcore Holly (WWE Royal Rumble - 1/25/2004) Although Holly coming back for revenge after Lesnar broke his neck is a tailor-made wrestling storyline, the sad fact of reality is that Holly just isn't popular enough with the fans for it to work. Holly jumpstarts this by attacking Lesnar as he jumps up on the ring apron. His assault is short-lived after Lesnar dodges Holly's dive from the top rope. I understand that Lesnar using waist locks to keep his fired-up opponent grounded was a completely logical move, but it's also boring to watch. Holly eventually makes the coldest comeback ever and hits the Alabama Slam. Holly decides against going for the pin and attempts to break Lesnar's neck with the full nelson. This backfires and Brock is able to slip out of it and land a quick F5 in a smooth as silk sequence. A solid title defense for Lesnar, even if the winner was never in doubt. ★★½ Brock Lesnar vs Eddie Guerrero (WWE No Way Out - 2/15/2004) This opens up with an intense lock-up with plenty of shit-talking from both men. Guerrero is able to gain an advantage by hitting shots to Lesnar's leg and this bit of limbwork keeps reappearing in creative ways. Brock might be able to power Guerrero around with a wide array of nasty suplexes, but one basement dropkick by Guerrero is enough to send Lesnar to the ground in agony. The worst quality of Lesnar is his reliance on that body scissors choke he does. He works over his opponent's midsection with suplexes and throws, so it makes sense from a kayfabe perspective to why he would do that, it's just clear as day that he's doing it as a rest hold and it drags down parts of this match by making them overly long. Eddie is also guilty of overusing holds, but at least he mixes up the moves to keep his control segments feeling fresh. I didn't have much of an issue with the Goldberg interference and I didn't think it distracted or took away from Eddie's big win. The fans might be looking for him to pop up as soon as the ref goes down, but they are back to cheering for Eddie as soon as Goldberg had left the arena. I love how they faked out the fans, by having Lesnar kick out of Goldberg's spear. An F5 counter and a Frog Splash later, Eddie wins the big one and is heading to Wrestlemania. This is one of my all-time favorite feel-good moments. I still get a lump in my throat watching Eddie celebrate with his friends and family, but I do have gripes with a few things here. ★★★★¼ Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg (WWE Wrestlemania - 3/14/2004) Urgh. I wasn't looking forward to rewatching this one. Although it was disrespectful for the fans to shit on this straight out the box, Lesnar and Goldberg refusing to do anything for minutes and deliver an awful match like this felt like a slap in the face. Lesnar gives the fans the finger, both figuratively and literally. Most of this consisted of stare-downs and grapples that went nowhere. Austin being the special guest referee is the only saving grace here and the look on his face when he realizes the whole segment was screwed was priceless. The fans start to come alive once Goldberg hits his cool press slam and wipes himself out after a failed spear attempt, but it's not long until they back to heckling the wrestlers. Goldberg wins as the crowd shows their disapproval. Austin stuns Goldberg in one last attempt to save this. Never before had a WWE marquee match shit the bed as badly as this one did! DUD
  9. cactus

    Brock Lesnar Deep Dive

    Brock Lesnar vs John Cena (WWE Backlash - 4/27/2003) This felt like a filler title defense and there wasn't one moment where I thought that Cena was going to win. Brock felt like too much of a bully during the opening exchanges for a babyface. Cena is able to take control of Lesnar by countering a whip into the steel steps, which cuts Lesnar open. The fans get restless once Cena locks on a rest hold for over two minutes. Lesnar makes it to his feet and does that spot where he runs into the corner with Cena still on his back. We've seen Lesnar do that spot a few times now and it wasn't enough of a satisfying pay-off after having to sit through that long and dull Cena control segment. Lesnar makes a comeback using STOs and clotheslines, but there are plenty of awkward mishaps along the way. I found this to be disappointing given how great their later matches would be. ★★¼ Brock Lesnar vs Big Show (Stretcher) (WWE Judgement Day - 5/18/2003) A stupidly entertaining match that sees Lesnar and Show wack the piss out of each other with stretchers and come up with all sorts of creative spots. Lesnar struggles to get Show onto the stretcher, so he has to get resourceful. He first chokes out Show onto the stretcher with a cable, but when Lesnar goes to move the stretcher the cable gets stuck and ends up pulling Show from the stretcher in a twist of irony. Show takes a lot of nasty bumps here. I wasn't sure about the Mysterio involvement at first, but seeing Lesnar come back to the arena in a god-damn forklift made up for it. Lesnar launched himself from the forklift to the ring and looked like the biggest babyface ass-kicker in the world. I thought this stipulation would be too gimmicky and that they wouldn't be able to match the level of brutality that the commentators were trying to put over, but these two made it work. ★★★★ Brock Lesnar vs Big Show (WWE Smackdown - 6/10/2003) This is the match where they break the ring with a suplerplex. Show clobbers Lesnar with elbows and Lesnar sells this well by stumbling around the place. Lesnar's back is worked on, and it's not forgotten about as Lesnar is unable to land an F5 later in the match. Show cuts Lesnar off with a gloriously stiff clothesline and he gets a nearfall with a chokeslam. A frustrated Show then climbs the top rope and tries to take Lesnar with him for a top rope chokeslam, but Lesnar is able to counter and hits wrestling's most famous superplex. Although it might be lacking the explosiveness of their other outings and it's their weakest match yet, this was still another corker between these two big men. ★★★¼ Brock Lesnar vs Big Show (WWE Smackdown - 6/17/2003) Show and Lesnar broke the ring the week previous, and I liked how they played off that multiple times. Lesnar starts the match by climbing the turnbuckle and trying to get Show to climb up again. Once Show starts to make his way over to the corner, Lesnar leaps over him and they kickstart this match. Lesnar shows a lot of personality as a babyface and I don't think enough people give him credit for his work as a good guy. Not a whole lot of interest happens here before Haas & Benjamin rush in and cause a DQ. Chaos ensues as Kurt Angle and Mr. America get involved, but it's Big Show standing tall as Smackdown goes off the air. The weakest match from the Show/Lesnar feud, but this was mainly here to set up things heading into Smackdown's first-ever PPV. ★★½ Brock Lesnar vs Kurt Angle vs Big Show (WWE Vengence - 7/27/2003) Angle and Lesnar work together to try and take out Show. Angle puts Show through the announce table and makes his way back to the ring. Lesnar and Angle meeting back in the ring with both of them realizing they have a chance to fight it out without Big Show interfering was a cool moment. All the nuggets of story-telling with Show being the most dangerous man in the match stopped this from feeling like a spotfest. This was a fun, fast-paced triple threat hindered by the usual issues that come with multi-man matches. You can't invest in a lot of the near falls as you know the third man is lurking in the background. Aside from that, this was an entertaining way to spend 20 minutes. ★★★¼ Brock Lesnar vs Kurt Angle (WWE Summerslam - 9/24/2003) A rematch from Wrestlemania, only with the face and heel roles reversed. These two ripped into each other with some impressive amateur-styled wrestling with Angle schooling Lesnar on the mat. Lesnar has the power advantage and he tries to lean into that, but Angle blindsides him and Lesnar leaves the ring and starts trashing up the ringside area. They really brought the intensity during the opening exchanges, but they start to lose me as the match progresses. Lesnar's selling is incredible here and it's always consistent. After his ankle has been torn to shit by Angle, he manages to power through and hits a one-legged F5! Angle's performance was a lot more spotty. He would bring a lot of cool transitions to the table, but this also featured some of his worst tendencies. The dumbest moment of the match had to be him pulling his straps up, only to pull them back down seconds later. Angle sold his beating, but he wouldn't milk sympathy from the crowd as all great babyfaces would. I could take or leave the Vince interference and the excessive usage of ankle locks. Not quite on the level of their Wrestlemania bout, I'd still recommend you check this one on the strength of Lesnar's performance alone. ★★★½
  10. cactus

    Brock Lesnar Deep Dive

    Brock Lesnar vs Big Show (WWE Royal Rumble - 1/19/2003) I am really surprised how much I love this pairing! Big Show is starting to let himself go and he's not quite as agile as he was during their first encounter, but he more than makes up for his shortcomings by pummeling the ever-loving shit out of Lesnar. Like their Survivor Series match, Lesnar overhead suplexes Show multiple times, but Show is able to counter Brock's third attempt by grabbing Lesnar's head and throwing him out of the ring as if he was a bag of feathers. I loved Lesnar's counter to the chokeslam, where he flawlessly arm dragged Show into a pinning position. Heyman gets involved, and the fans lost their minds once Lesnar got his hands on him. This was yet another hoss fight from these two and it made for a hell of an opener. ★★★¾ Royal Rumble Match (WWE Royal Rumble - 1/19/2003) Lesnar enters the match at number 29 and immediately starts kicking ass. He throws out Haas and Benjamin and then F5s Matt Hardy from the ring and onto the two wrestlers he just eliminated. The last person to enter this match is Undertaker. Like Lesnar, he also clears house and it becomes very apparent that Undertaker and Lesnar were the only two men that felt like they had a chance of winning this match. After being eliminated by Undertaker, Batista rushes in with a chair and this distraction is all Lesnar needs to toss Undertaker out of the ring. Undertaker giving Lesnar props after winning the match was a neat way to wrap up their rivalry and cement Brock as a 100% full babyface. A super fun Rumble all in all. Brock Lesnar vs John Cena (WWE Smackdown - 2/11/2003) Seeing as their Extreme Rules match 9 years later would end up being one of my all-time favorite matches, I had to see this one even if I knew it wouldn't be anywhere near the quality of that match. This was an entertaining enough TV bout, which had the sole purpose of giving Brock more momentum as he heads into No Way Out against Team Angle. The result is never in question. Brock dominates and Cena is only able to take control after hitting Lesnar with a chain behind the referee's back. Cena using Angle's scissored sleeper to wear down Lesnar was a neat touch, but I'm less than pleased about Cena's extremely obvious spot-calling as he works the hold. I always assumed that he only started doing that when he was a main eventer that was untouchable and I didn't realize he was doing it as early as 2003. Lesnar looked like a monster and Cena showed promise, so this did what it set out to do. ★★¾ Brock Lesnar & Chris Benoit vs Kurt Angle, Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas (WWE No Way Out - 2/23/2003) Edge was meant to be on Lesnar and Benoit's team, but he was ambushed at the show and this is now a handicap match. The pace of this one was electric, with them not slowing down for the entire duration of this 13-minute bout. Both Haas and Benjamin looked comfortable mixing it up with Benoit and Lesnar, despite their inexperience. Any time we get to see Angle and Benoit slug it out, you are guaranteed a good time. Something that I thought was lacking in their Royal Rumble 2003 match was that Angle didn't act like a heel. That's not a problem here as he's always looking for shortcuts to keep Benoit in Team Angle's corner. Benoit's fake-out enziguri to mule kick spot was a fantastic way for Benoit to bide himself enough time to make the tag. Lesnar looked unstoppable when he was cleaning house. The interactions between Angle and Lesnar were limited, but they gave us just enough to leave us salivating for their Wrestlemania match next month. Although this felt like a Smackdown main event. the quality of the match was good enough to not bother me. ★★★¾ Brock Lesnar vs Kurt Angle (WWE Wrestlemania - 3/30/2003) Although it's overshadowed by the freakish Shooting Star Press botch, this was the most physical main event of a Wrestlemania up to this point. This was two lads without fancy gimmicks going out there and putting on a rugged and aggressive wrestling match. Angle is more focused on putting on a clinic and doesn't get many chances to show his huge personality and plays this one straight. Lesnar goes into this with injured ribs and Angle sets his sights on his injury by going after them with many German suplexes, including one onto the turnbuckle. Although you could tell that some fans weren't into this and maybe having a slow burn technical clinic in front of a tired stadium crowd wasn't the best way to keep the fans engaged, I enjoyed this a ton and seeing Lesnar getting a chance to show off his technical chops and sell like a sympathetic babyface made for compelling viewing. This was a changing of the guard moment with the work rate feeling more important than the big gimmicks and characters. ★★★★
  11. cactus

    Brock Lesnar Deep Dive

    I've gone back and gave a Test vs Lesnar a rewatch and it's still not doing much for me, although I appreciated how hard those two were clobbering the hell out of each other. Test just bores me to tears. What are some of Lesnar's better TV matches? I don't want to cover every TV match of his, but I do want to touch on his most memorable matches. I'll definitely cover his 2003 matches with Rey, Angle, Show, and Benoit. Is there any I'm missing? Brock Lesnar vs Hardcore Holly (WWE Smackdown - 9/10/2002) Yup, this is the match where Holly sandbags Lesnar and ends up with a broken neck. I don't feel too bad for him. It's well known that he would bully and stiff younger talent and he would end up with a PPV title match out of this when he was able to return a year later. Despite the injury, this was a fun compact TV match where Brock wasn't afraid to stiff Holly back and it caused this one to feel very competitive. After Lesnar wrestles Holly to the ground, Holly takes a chance on mat-wrestling Lesnar and ends up tackling him out of the ring. I've always assumed this one ends once Holly breaks his neck, but Holly carries on and finishes the match as planned! He hits a goddam dropkick and takes an F5 with a broken neck, you've got to respect him for that! ★★¾ Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker (WWE Unforgiven - 9/22/2002) Fans of Lesnar/Undertaker's legendary Hell in a Cell match shouldn't sleep on this match, as it's great in its own right. In his first title defense, Lesnar is look a lot more comfortable in-ring than he was just a few months prior. I liked him trying to play the power game during the opening exchanges, only to become frustrated when Undertaker showed him that he could match him in that department. This forces Lesnar to try and rely on his wrestling skills to mixed results. This was a fun hoss fight with plenty of intensity and hatred to boot. Undertaker's match quality was spotty around this time, but this was one of his better matches of 2002 and it's clear that he and Brock work well together. The non-finish might have pissed off the live crowd, but it was necessary for building up to the HIAC rematch and they made up for the fans in the building by having a cool spot in the post-match which saw Undertaker throw Lesnar through the stage. ★★★¾ Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker (Hell in a Cell) (WWE No Mercy - 10/20/2002) This was a slow and bloody epic that was rife with psychology. Undertaker's hand is in a cast and that's a crucial part of this match. Lesnar wants to rip it off and do more damage. Undertaker dominates early on and wasn't that interesting when doing so, but Brock makes up for this by bumping into the cell like a madman. This is the first time in Brock's WWE run that he showed fear, as he backs off from 'Taker multiple times during the match. This was so chaotic that even Heyman got color! That visual of him being violently pulled by his tie into the cage wall will stick with me for some time as did Undertaker's horrific bladejob that had him pissing blood all over the place. I wish they didn't forget about Undertaker's hand injury during the last few minutes (he stops selling his hand after landing a barrage of punches on Brock), but that's only a minor gripe. ★★★★½ Brock Lesnar & Paul Heyman vs Edge (WWE Rebellion - 10/26/2002) Excluding the few high points during the go-home stretch, there's not a whole to say about this match. Perhaps it's the jetlag, but these two felt like they were stuck in house show mode. They open with some stalling, which leads into a dull control segment by Lesnar where he works over Edge's ribs. Heyman hamming it up and getting kicked about by Edge saved this from being mediocre. Heyman being in the match means that Edge can pin Heyman to win the title instead of having to conquer Lesnar, which is a small touch that added a touch more drama, even if everyone deep-down knew that Edge would not be leaving with the title. Edge scoring a near fall on Heyman when he wasn't the legal man bothered me more than it should of. Lesnar sidesteps an Edge crossbody from the top rope and causes the referee to be pancaked in a great bump. Edge is able to score a convincing near fall after a Spear, but Lesnar is able to land an F5 to retain. ★★ Brock Lesnar vs Big Show (WWE Survivor Series - 11/17/2002) Lesnar is now a babyface and the MSG faithful are going insane for him. Show keeps trying to cut him off, but Lesnar fights back with plenty of fire and shows that he can brawl from underneath just as well as he can dominate from the top. The story going into this is that Lesnar is the underdog for the first time in his career and Heyman is starting to doubt his client. Heyman doesn't think Lesnar can do three things: suplex Big Show, F5 Big Show, and finally beat Big Show. Lesnar ticks the first box by hitting a back suplex and following it up with an impressive overhead belly-to-belly. After a ref bump and a chair shot, Lesnar is able to F5 Show and tick the second box. Just as Lesnar is about to win, Heyman betrays Lesnar by attacking the referee. This swerve was memorable and I don't think anyone saw it coming. This is the birth of the Big Match Brock Sprint. This goes just four minutes and change and it is thrilling stuff. It's a high-energy back and forth hoss fight. This is the moment where it becomes clear that Lesnar's monster push was a roaring success, even if he did lose on this night.. ★★★½
  12. After the KAORU's quick opening rush sees her eat shit and crash through a table to the outside, Aja wants to make her pay by introducing KAORU's skull to a shard of a table that her body had just broken. KAORU's performance as a resourceful underdog made me a fan of her. After her attempt to moonsault Kong fails, she quickly recovers by hitting Kong's arm with a shattered bit of the table. Kong sells this like a wounded lion and KAORU has her opening. With all the plunder used here, it might come to surprise you that the most brutal parts of this match feature Kong's strikes. They are nasty! This was an insane garbage brawl which left me wondering what kind of brutality they would inflict on each other next. ★★★★★
  13. cactus

    What are you watching?

    After being disillusioned with the product that NJPW has been putting out the last few years, I decided to skip watching Wrestle Kingdom for the first time in a decade. Instead, I watched the big 1/1 NOAH show and I had a blast with it. I've caught a handful of shows since they rebranded in 2019, but I think I will try and catch all their big shows from now on. Kenou/Kiyomiya was my MOTY. Despite my criticisms of it, Go/Nakajima was a fun watch too. KENTA returning and looking like the coolest motherfucker on the planet was another highlight. NOAH is definitely putting out a product that is exactly what I want out of my puro.
  14. cactus

    [2002-08-25-WWE-Summerslam] The Rock vs Brock Lesnar

    This is a star-making match for Lesnar, but I also thought that Rock's performance here was one of his best. Despite being the babyface going into this, the fans have soured on him so he instead decides to rile them up instead of being the babyface that he thought he was going to be when he stepped through the curtain on this night. After using it to score a clean win over Hogan, Brock's bear hug feels like it might actually end the match instead of feeling like a rest hold. Rock fighting out of the move was the last babyface thing he did before he embraces being a heel and striking Lesnar square in the balls. Rock's punch combo features extra taunting, a neat addition added solely to get under the audience's skin. Brock was decent here and he jumped through all the hoops that Rock (and Heyman to a lesser extent) set up for him. You start to see Lesnar's formula in play once you watch his old matches in order, but he's still got exceptional timing and pacing so such a young wrestler. ★★★★
  15. Wake up, babe. New Black Terry just dropped. This was a deathmatch taking place in a literal junkyard between a 64-year-old and a 69-year-old. If that's not enough to pique your interest, then I don't know what will. Like Terry's match with Wotan five years previously, this was an insane spectacle where salty men attack each other with stiff strikes and beer bottles in an arena that will make you want to take a bath just looking at it. The moment in this where they get into a stand-off with both men holding broken beer bottles was wild, only to be topped a few minutes later when a near-septuagenarian gets leveled by a pane of glass. The amount of blood both guys bleed is insane. It's hard to say whether this is a great match or this is just outlaw barbarism, but I guarantee that this will enthrall you every step of the way.
  16. Lesnar continues to wreck shop as the crowd throws some Goldberg chants at him. Jeff's hot tag lacked in fire and the crowd doesn't seem too invested in this as they know who's winning this. Heyman excels at being the greasy chickenshit manager. After the Hardyz work together to get Lesnar out of the ring, they turn their attention to Heyman. Heyman runs away until the Hardyz are able to catch him and give him a beating. Lesnar recovers just as Jeff is about to go for the Swanton Bomb on Heyman. The stare-down between Jeff and Brock made for a cool visual. Lesnar hits the F5, but Heyman insists that he gets tagged in and gets the deciding pinfall. Fun stuff. ★★★
  17. A damn fine main roster debut for Lesnar. He looked like a world-beater here. Jeff Hardy is established enough that Lesnar's win over him feels like a massive deal. Hardy bumps his ass off for all of Lesnar's shit. Heyman trash-talking and blaming Lita at ringside for Jeff's beating because she refused to sleep with him was creepy and it added another layer to the villainous Lesnar/Heyman pairing. Hardy is able to hit a few hope spots and Lesnar even kicks out of the Swanton Bomb, which I don't think anyone had done up to that point. Jeff soon realizes that he can't beat Lesnar, so he grabs a chair and attempts to lay him out, but Lesnar is able to catch him with an F5. Lesnar then keeps assaulting Jeff until the referee decides to call this off. The referee stoppage finish hadn't been used in a while and it made Lesnar's dominating victory feel even more special. ★★★½
  18. cactus

    [2002-01-20-WWF-Royal Rumble] Chris Jericho vs The Rock

    This had every Attitude Era big match cliche that you could think of. With outside interference, referees getting knocked down, and finisher stealing, this shows that even if the Attitude Era is officially over, some of the worst hang-ups of that era are still going to be sticking around for a while. What I did like about this is that Jericho played this one straight and he actually felt like a cocky heel instead of a comedic midcarder. The posturing to the crowd got the fans to hate Jericho and them to root for Rock. Although the fans brought into all the false finishes and the performances from both men were solid, this was way too overbooked to rate anything higher than good. ★★★
  19. We actually get a chance to see how Vince is as a worker here, as barring all the weapon spots and blood, he actually wrestles this a lot straighter than how he did during his matches with Hogan and Shane. There's zero interference here and it's actually worked as a straight street fight. Vince's strikes aren't the prettiest, but he got great psychology and knows how to make the crowd hate him and when to show himself in danger. Flair's kids are at ringside and Vince stealing the future Charlottle Flair's camera to take a photo of her bloody father was hilarious and I love how they played off that by having Flair making Charlottle snap a picture of a busted-up Vince later in the match. Flair still has to take more time to find his footing as a full-time wrestler, but this was a satisfying way to bring him back to the WWF after a nine-year absence. ★★★½
  20. The glory days of the Attitude Era tag team division sure have faded as we now have the thrown-together team of Spike and Tazz as champions, who the fans aren't buying as champions. The Dudleyz make great bullies and Spike sells all their offense by taking some big bumps, but the crowd doesn't come alive until Taz hits a hot tag and starts suplexing Bubba and D'von. The individual performances from the wrestlers were decent enough, it's just that they didn't have that great of chemistry together and the fans seem done with the storyline of Spike facing his brothers and would rather ogle Stacy Keibler instead. ★★
  21. According to a comment on the Youtube video of this match, this was the match that got the women's division scrapped as the boys got too insecure about how stiff these women worked. I'm not sure if that's true or not, but you could certainly believe it given how brutally stiff the match was and how fragile some of the egos were backstage. This match is a total squash, with Asari only getting some offence at the start of the match and when Aja misses a dive from the turnbuckle. Aja has plenty of opportunities to go for the pin, but she toys with Asari and lifts her up just before the referee can count to three. The kicks Aja gives to Asari when she's down made me wince. This is how you get someone over as a monster heel. ★★★
  22. cactus

    [1977-01-17-WWWF-MSG, NY] Stan Stasiak vs Bobo Brazil

    Bobo is in his mid-50s and feels every second of it by this point. Stasiak is a few months from turning 40, but he feels just as washed-up and ancient as Bobo here. Stasiak goes for the heart punch early, but Bobo fights back and we get a lot of bad brawling here. They fight on the apron, and Bobo punches Stasiak back into the ring. Stasiak fights Bobo when he is in the corner and refuses to let Bobo out so the referee calls for the DQ. Shit finish, shit match. DUD
  23. cactus

    [1977-01-17-WWWF-MSG, NY] Bruno Sammartino vs Ken Patera

    This was a fun WWWF title defense built around Patera's power and seeing if it's enough to conquer Bruno. Expect a lot of tense Greco-Roman knuckle locks and bearhugs during this one! I'm not much of a Bruno guy, but I thought that this was one of his better performances. He lets Patera get a lot of his shit in and he sells exceptionally well for it. He sells his pain by grimacing and groan and the MSG faithful get right behind him. Bruno's strikes on his comeback are basic, but they look snug and Patera flops around like a fish for them. We get a weak count-out finish, which would lead to them doing a Texas Death match at the next MSG show (which we sadly don't have on tape). I don't mind the idea of the count-out finish, but Patera striking Bruno with a chair right in front of the referee right before the ref decides to award the victory to Patera was certainly mind-boggling! ★★★¼
  24. cactus

    [1985-10-13-WWF-Toronto, ONT] Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage

    Savage is still in prime stalling mode here, so don't go in expecting a match on the same level as their Wrestlemania V encounter. This was still a fun match where Savage looks like a worthy opponent for Hogan, even if he's only a few months into his run at this point. Hogan gets a chance to show off his actual wrestling chops by working the arm and hitting a textbook suplex and backbreaker. Savage gets a near fall from his top rope elbow drop and Hulk doesn't even hulk-up after it! Savage's second attempt at an elbow drop is spoiled by Hogan getting his leg up and hitting him with a big boot while lying on his back. Savage gets pinned, but kicks out just as the referee counts three. This had a cool finish that protected Savage, even in defeat. ★★¾
  25. Thanks BigBadMick! Let's get this finished. 19. Terry Funk & Dory Funk Jr vs Terry Gordy & Stan Hansen (AJPW - 31/8/1983) (2020 GME Ranking: 16) You know you have a hot crowd when they are going apeshit for Dory Funk Jr. of all people! The match starts off with Dory being worked over by the heels. They mostly keep him immobilized with an armbar and strikes. Dory gets the crowd pops big whenever he gets in a lucky jab. Terry was sublime in this, egging his brother on and pacing up and down the apron when he's not tagged in and throwing some great punches and doing a marvelous selljob of his leg when he is the legal man. Everything looks snug and not one move looks phony. This is yet another hellish brawl that we need more of in today's wrestling. Above all the great strikes and well-done tag team wrestling, the emotion is off the charts. 18. Jumbo Tsuruta vs Genichiro Tenryu (AJPW - 6/5/1989) (2020 GME Ranking: 12) An absolute masterclass on how to wrestle as a heel by Jumbo. He stiffs Tenryu and takes a few liberties here and there, but it's never over the top. It's always subtle and feeds fuel to Tenryu's comeback. Tenryu sneaks in a quick German for a two-count early into this, but it's mostly Jumbo taking control after that. Watching the faces in the crowd looking more and more shocked every time Tenryu kicked out made me realize I was watching something truly special. This blew me away when I watched it for the first time and it gets even better with age. This is where King's Road began. 17. Kenny Omega vs Tetsuya Naito (NJPW - 8/13/2016) (2020 GME Ranking: N/A) This starts the same way that all Naito matches start, with Naito trying to psych out Omega. This works and the two end up spitting at each other. I might be down on Omega's work in AEW, but he was magnificent here. Naito works over his knee and Omega does a masterful job at selling it. He'd attempt to make a comeback and only for his knee to give out on him and Naito would take back control. Even during the work-rate heavy home-stretch, he'd never stop selling and he even changes his V-Trigger up so that he uses his good knee to deliver the devastating blow. Everything they did had a purpose and this never felt like a spotfest, even though all the big highspots here were spectacular. That One-Winged Angel to Destino counter caught me off-guard and they couldn't have pulled that off anymore smoother. 16. Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi vs Toshiaki Kawada and Akira Taue (AJPW - 5/21/1994) (2020 GME Ranking: N/A) Man, any time you throw these four men in the ring together and you are going to get magic. We are just weeks before Kawada and Misawa have their iconic match and they really brought the hate to each other here. Misawa brushing off Kawada's trademark kicks are one of the many highlights to be found in this 40+ minute classic. Kobashi puts on a tremendous babyface performance here, and Taue looked like he was having the time of his life being a massive bully. This had so many ebbs and flows to it, and they never went overboard with the near-falls. It's a long watch with plenty of explosive moments, but this never felt excessive. A top 10 match of the 1990s, my only complaint is that their 6/9/1995 encounter is just a touch better. 15. Kenta Kobashi vs Mitsuharu Misawa (AJPW - 1/20/1997) (2020 GME Ranking: 13) They start this one out with both Kobashi and Misawa getting a brief shine segment. They fight back and forth until Misawa elbows the guardrail in a failed dive attempt and Kobashi focuses his attack on taking out Misawa's arm. Misawa tries to fight back the only way he knows how, by elbowing his enemies in the face. Initially, this seems like a bad idea as it's clearly hurting Misawa, but one lucky shot to Kobashi's lariating arm is all he needs to change the tide of this match. The way they built up to their big moves was magical. Kobashi kicking out of the Tiger Driver '91 shocked me as much as it shocked the two suits in the front row. The Misawa elbow finish could have easily fallen flat, but these two made it work. This was a phenomenal face vs face match that did not hold back on the workrate. 14. Megumi Kudo vs Combat Toyoda (No Rope Explosive Barbed Wire Death Match – FMW – 5/5/1996) (2020 GME Ranking: 10) If I had to pick one match to show someone to people that deathmatch isn't just a vulgar display of very real violence, I'd pick this match. Kudo and Toyoda tease the big barbed wire spots well and there are only four occasions when they take a bump into the barbed wire. Toyoda is retiring and wants to go out with a literal bang. After eight minutes of teasing that someone is going boom, the much smaller Kudo takes the plunge and she sells it like death. The later part of this match felt like Manami Toyota bombfest, but if they took the time to slow things down and sell their arses off. Toyoda takes one of the nastiest head drops I think I've ever seen. All this complemented with a pained Onita looking on from the commentary, makes this one of the best women's and one of the best deathmatches ever. 13. Shawn Michaels vs Mankind (WWF - 9/22/1996) (2020 GME Ranking: 8) I'm starting to feel like Mick Foley might be a better worker than Shawn Michaels. Shawn beats on Mankind's leg for a solid ten minutes and never once do I feel like that I'm meant to be rooting for the psychotic Mankind. He puts himself through hell and only he could make it work because of his gimmick. I'd find any other wrestler getting up from the damage that Mankind takes here would take me out of the match. That table bump might be one of the best ever as it felt organic and not forced. Even the run-in finish couldn't sour this for me. I remember this being great, but I was shocked by how brilliant this was. A serious contender for the best WWE match ever. 12. Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue vs Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama (AJPW - 12/6/1996) (2020 GME Ranking: 9) There's so much to unpack here. Taue is here to be the brains to Kawada's brawn. He needs to keep Kawada's temper in check, much like in the 6/9/95 tag. Akiyama is lacking in experience, but he has a lot of heart and is a much better tag partner than Kobashi ever was to Misawa. Some of the head drops here were nasty, especially the spike Backdrop Drivers that Misawa ate. The strike exchanges between Kawada and Misawa show us that their epic rivalry is far from over. Akiyama and Misawa isolate Kawada and it's all up for Taue to save the day. This was probably my favorite AJPW King's Road match, behind the 6/9/95 tag of course! 11. Bryan Danielson vs Nigel McGuinness (ROH - 8/12/2006) (2020 GME Ranking: 24) This was an incredibly engaging and competitive technical classic with an all-time brilliant heel performance from Bryan. McGuinness is the hometown hero and Bryan wants to rain on his parade and the crowd might respect Danielson, but they don't like him. The rule with the rope breaks was a great bit of psychology. When Nigel uses up his third and final rope break, he has to pray that he doesn't get caught in another submission as the ropes can't save him anymore. The ring post stuff might be a bit much for a post CTE world, but I'll be lying if I said it didn't hook me into the match even further. 10. Kenta Kobashi vs Mitsuharu Misawa (NOAH - 3/1/2003) (2020 GME Ranking: 5) Misawa plants Kobashi on his head with a sickening backdrop within minutes into the match and it looks like Kobashi is already out. Kobashi tries to mount a comeback by resorting to his trusty chops, but Misawa has him figured out and cuts him off with his elbow strikes. In an incredible transitional spot, Kobashi sidesteps a Misawa dive and sends him jaw first into the guardrail. Misawa powering up showed off his often-overlooked subtle charisma. Kobashi's performance here was vicious, but the fans got right behind him after that insane Tiger Suplex spot. As brutal as it was emotional, the only criticism I can throw at this match is that you can see how it influenced the next generation of indy wrestlers to try and replicate this match with mostly mixed results. Misawa and Kobashi see out their rivalry with their best singles match together. 9. Katsuyori Shibata vs Kazuchika Okada (NJPW - 4/9/2017) (2020 GME Ranking: 7) The once-disgraced shooter takes on the golden boy in an effort to finally complete his redemption. I was worried this wouldn't hold up as a lot of the NJPW main events struggle to stay engaging on rewatches as you are just waiting for them to get to the good stuff. Shibata is clearly fucking with Okada as he dominates him during the opening matwork and this keeps the first 15 minutes engaging and is essential to the story they are telling. The finishing stretch is more typical for your usual Okada IWGP bout, but with added legitimacy as some of the strikes are mortifyingly stiff. This is a match you can show someone who scoffs at wrestling for being fake and they would walk away with some newfound respect for this crazy art form we all love. I'm struggling to think of a better 2010's NJPW match and I can comfortably say this is both guys' best match. 8. Kiyoshi Tamura vs Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (RINGS - 6/27/1998) (2020 GME Ranking: N/A) Even as a recent shoot-style convert, this match flew by and the 30 minutes felt like 15. Tamura looks a lot different since I last saw him during the Volk Han trilogy. He's no longer a pretty boy, but he's now more built up and looks like a total badass. This was two mat maestros putting on some of the most impressive matwork and submission wrestling that I'd ever seen in a pro-wrestling match. These two are so proud and headstrong that they refused to give up a rope break unless it's absolutely necessary and we don't see a rope break until 13 minutes into the match! The strikes that followed the first rope break are incredibly intense and you could tell that Tamura was ashamed and pissed off that he was the first fighter to have to use the ropes to break a hold. They mostly stick to grappling after this, but once it's announced that 20 minutes had expired and that there were 10 minutes left on the clock, they start wailing on each other again. They both look exhausted by this point, but they still have a lot of heart and the final few minutes were super tense. I didn't care who won, I just wanted a decisive winner. This was amazing stuff that every fan needs to see once they are accustomed to shoot-style. 7. Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns (WWE - 3/29/2015) (2020 GME Ranking: 6) Reigns is one of the few guys who looks like a total boss TAKING a beating. He smirks at Lesnar while getting the shit suplexed out of him. Lesnar gets an F5 early but is in no rush to pin as he wants to hurt Roman. He doesn't spam the Germans, instead, he opts to attack Lesnar with an array of violent knees and clotheslines during the early portion of the match. Brock eats a ring post and bleeds like a pig. He sells his injury well, staggering around the place with a glazed facial expression. Reigns gets in a few hope spots before Lesnar catches him in an F5. Seth Rollins' music hits and he cashes in his MITB briefcase and turns this into a 3 way. I knew Rollins was going to get involved somehow, but I didn't expect him to do it while the match was still going on. The ending made Lesnar look strong while losing the belt and opens the door to a future Lesnar vs Reigns match. 6. Nick Bockwinkel vs Curt Hennig (AWA - 11/21/1986) (2020 GME Ranking: N/A) There's no way that my ADD-riddled brain should have been able to handle this 60-minute draw. This was a lengthy match with even lengthier holds and they managed to keep my attention the whole time. They never stop working when they are in a hold, and the exchanges outside of the holds are exciting and quick. All their fundamentals were rock-solid and this match reminded me a lot of Flair vs Steamboat. This was a simple story of experience versus youth. Bockwinkel attacks Hennig at the start of the match when he has his back turned, but that's not enough to stop Hennig from fighting back. Bock incorporates a lot of subtle heel tactics into his arsenal, and this keeps the fans backing Hennig. Just when I thought that they were about to run out of steam at the 50-minute mark, Hennig takes a rough fall to the outside and is cut open badly. This soon breaks down into a fight, with both guys bleed buckets as they strike the hell out of each other as the time limit ticks away. You aren't going to find a better sixty-minute broadway than this. 5. Daniel Bryan vs Triple H (WWE - 4/6/2014) (2020 GME Ranking: 94) The winner of this match will go on to join Batista and Randy Orton in the main event world title match. Bryan's massively over, but it feels like WWE might hold him back yet again.Triple H's NWA Champion cosplay wrestling style worked wonders for this match, keeping Bryan down with crossfaces and chickenwings in an effort to further damage his bad arm. Bryan bumps like a madman here, that Tiger Suplex spot had me wincing. We are used to seeing the big stars like Undertaker and Shawn Michaels kick out of a Pedigree, but seeing a guy like Bryan getting a second wind felt shocking. After managing to fight out of every attempt of a second Pedigree, Bryan uses his own momentum from countering Triple H's backdrop to perfectly set himself up to nail his big knee to get the win. This was an emotional rollercoaster packed with the physicality of an 90's AJPW match. 4. Antonio Inoki, Tatsumi Fujinami, Kengo Kimura, Umanosuke Ueda & Kantaro Hoshino vs Akira Maeda, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Nobuhiko Takada, Kazuo Yamazaki & Osamu Kid (Elimination Match – NJPW – 3/26/1986) (2020 GME Ranking: 4) What we got here was a super hot interpromotional war where everyone gets a chance to shine. There's zero downtime in this match and it well over half an hour. I thought the roof was going to blown off the building when Maeda and Inoki interacted. Inoki is the ace defending the company from those pesky shoot wrestler, while Maeda is the dickhead renegade who has no issue kicking Kimura when he's down to show dominance. Takada throws strikes so quick that I thought my video was running on 1.5 speed. What Hoshino lacks in size, he makes up for with pure heart. We finally get a Fujiwara match to match his consistently awesome performance. Ueda is in this for a grand total of around a minute, but the crowd pop huge whenever he was in the ring. The finish with Inoki cleaning house on the last two wrestler gave me 'John Cena taking out the entire Nexus by himself at Summerslam 2010' vibes, but don't let that stop you from watching one of the best matches NJPW has ever put out. 3. Brock Lesnar vs John Cena (Extreme Rules - WWE - 4/29/2012) (2020 GME Ranking: 3) This was as good as I remembered it. Lesnar is back in the WWE after an eight-year absence and he feels like a video game boss that feels nigh on impossible to beat. After cutting open Cena with shoot nasty elbows, Lesnar controls 90% of the match. I don't even mind the ref stoppages as they give us time to reflect on how brutal Brock's offense is as they replay the elbow multiple times, all while Lesnar is pacing around like a caged animal. Cena sells his injuries well and all of his hope spots feel organic and he even makes a usually anti-Cena crowd root for him. This was a violent spectacle between two of the best ever. 2. Bret Hart vs Steve Austin (Submission Match - WWF - 3/23/1997) (2020 GME Ranking: 2) Even watching these two trade punches is elite tier stuff. They brawl throughout the crowd and it feels organic. The crowd, who have been quiet all night, wake up as soon as the crowd brawling starts. Once their back in the ring, Bret starts his assault on Austin's leg. Austin sells this so well, flailing all over the place. Austin tries to keep with Bret, but Bret keeps cutting him off. After getting cut open, Austin doesn't have much more to give. He tries to choke out Bret with an electrical cord, but Bret wails him with a ring bell. All the weapon spots have meaning and aren't just used to add a nice spot here and there. Austin passes out in the Sharpshooter, and Shamrock calls for the bell. J.R's call of Austin never giving up adding a lot to his face turn. This is so much more than just a good bladejob. So glad this holds up. The best match in company history. 1. Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue vs Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuharu Misawa (AJPW - 6/9/1995) (2020 GME Ranking: 1) The main reason I love this match is Kobashi's performance. His knee problems are no secret to anyone. When a simple kick sends Kobashi to the floor, Kawada and Taue devise their strategy to tear his leg to shit. Kobashi takes so many nasty shots to his knees and he makes you wonder if he is actually hurt. In the last 10-15 minutes of the match, Kobashi is barely walking. He tries to save Misawa from a beating by protecting him and it's just brilliant storytelling. This is tense, gripping, and ripe with great storytelling. This is the greatest pro-wrestling match ever, in my opinion. I think I am going to struggle to find a match better than this. It's almost annoying how perfect this match is.
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