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  1. TonyPulis'Cap

    Matches vs Events

    Might be on something of an island here, but I really enjoy watching whole shows - and that's not just the matches and angles, but the way a wrestling TV show is formatted, the way the announcers link from one segment to the next, the promo packages etc. - I just really enjoy seeing how a wrestling show flows together and the way it's presented. This sums things up nicely for me - I find there's stuff to enjoy in a squash match, or a sprint, or an angle advancement match, if they have a clear point to them. It's also a good way of exploring new people you would enjoy, but that aren't always in a position to have 5* epics and turn up on match recommendation lists. I also love context in my wrestling. I find it hard some times to just enjoy a match 'cold' knowing nothing about why the people in the match are wrestling - I want to be able to build that emotional connection. Sometimes when I see people hyping up a big match, I've got no doubt it's good, but I sometimes find just dropping in without knowing the storyline or the history like watching a big action set piece from the end of a film, but without seeing the buildup I've got no reason to be invested in the potential jeopardy for the characters involved in that scene. Given I'm trying to watch stuff for the GWE project the above approach does makes things challenging, not least because it takes up a lot of time!!
  2. TonyPulis'Cap

    [2003-04-30-NWA-TNA] Jeff Jarrett vs Raven

    This is (in)famously the first real match that TNA built up that had some significant buzz to it. 'Big fight feel' is a term that gets overused, but even in the less than salubrious setting of the Fairgrounds in Nashville this has that vibe to it. I really liked the opening exchanges, where the talk is about the contrasting styles and that both guys will be looking to make the other wrestle 'their kind of match', however once Raven starts to get the advantage in some technical exchanges you have Jarrett start with the brawling to counter. However after a good opening, they start with the gaga and the interference way too early, given the match was just starting to settle in. Both guys are very soon bleeding, which feels too much too soon. When they are allowed to just wrestle, it's good - Raven is in excellent shape here post WWE and I've always believed that Jarrett is much better suited in-ring to being a fired up babyface than the rather bland heel when he's forced to carry the bulk of a match. But the match structure that's been set up isn't trusted to keep people's interest and while all the outside the ring stuff and the run ins are entertaining it just overwhelms the match. We get run ins from S.E.X and the New Church, although it's not evident whose side anyone is on or why the runs in are coming, and then we get the 'Extreme Revolution' (Sandman, New Jack, Perry Saturn and Justin Credible) who at least with the ECW past it's clear are here to help Raven, before Sabu (not actually aligned with the ECW guys) comes in to take them all out. At this stage, as you can maybe tell, there is just too much going on! Jarrett is good as the bloody babyface fighting against thee odds, but then starts to stretch things by becoming superman with the odds he is fighting to overcome, surviving handcuffs, group beatdowns and chair shots. At the time, the talk was that Raven should've won, and even watching this back many years since, that still feels a missed opportunity given how fresh and big a deal Raven seemed, but ultimately, given all the odds being stacked in his favour, you have to see him not winning here as a choke moment. The match itself is good when it's mainly just down to Jarrett vs Raven, and there is tons going on, which is entertaining in one sense, but it's just TOO DAMNED MUCH and ultimately all the extracurricular stuff swamps the match and prevents it from reaching its potential. (*** 1/4)
  3. This is part of the aborted Jarrett vs. Hulk Hogan feud that TNA began with the aim of it headlining their first attempt at a 3 hour Sunday PPV (what was meant to be the first Bound for Glory). That match never happens, although the company do get full value form endlessly replaying the clip of Jarrett hitting Hogan with a guitar at the Tokyo Dome. This is essentially the payoff with Sting parachuted in. At this stage Sting had done one tag match for TNA and little in wrestling other than handful of matches for touring company the WWA since the end of WCW, so that at least brings some interest. Early on there is lots of stooging and stalling from Jarrett as was his way at this point. Sting has good fire and still looks good physically, but the match just has no substance to it whatsoever. It feels very late era WCW, with weak crowd brawling and run ins to compensate for a lack of action. Jarrett gets a sleeper as his only real offence – it’s like why his Chosen One character could never get over as main eventer in WCW, he just gets beat up for most of his matches and has such weak offence. There are tons of run ins here, including from Don Callis as a TNA Management Consultant, Jimmy Hart – who had basically been Hogan’s proxy in the storyline when they thought the match would happen – red shirt security, AJ Styles, Raven, Abyss and the match completely falls apart under all that strain to end in a rubbish DQ, given they clearly didn’t want Sting to lose, nor did they want to change the title. There is a big pop for the brawl after the bell and Sting stopping a guitar shot with his baseball bat, but other than that this is pretty useless. (* ½)
  4. This is the first time the Knockouts main evented an episode of Impact, and it’s well deserved given this is a great rivalry, that really put the division and title on the map shortly after inception. Kong at this point had a mystique to her and came across as a real special attraction - someone that could’ve been a big star for the company. She definitely seemed ahead of her time in terms of North American women’s wrestling. It’s being Captain Obvious, but these two have fantastic chemistry, and give off a real Vader vs Sting vibe in their exchanges. Gail is great at selling the beating she is getting, but is constantly fighting and scrapping whenever she can, which keeps the crowd invested and makes her seem like a credible champion without taking anything away from Kong’s aura. They both lay everything in, and all the sequences have intensity to them. This is a sprint compared to their longer PPV matches, but its all action with lots packed in to a short time and some great bumps. (***)
  5. TonyPulis'Cap

    [2008-06-08-TNA-Slammiversary] A.J. Styles vs Kurt Angle

    This match, which was something of a ‘dream match’ at the time, sadly brings with it its usual level of TNA baggage and overthought storyline – that being that AJ was rumoured to be having an affair with Karen Angle. In a vacuum I enjoyed the grappling at the beginning, although as happens in a lot of Angle matches, it feels all a bit of window dressing for show and they move on quickly without it meaning much for the rest of the match. The problem, as others have pointed out is that it was meant to be a grudge/blood feud going in, but it’s wrestled too much like a highspots match at times. I do love AJ’s fire and intensity in what he does do though – everything has impact and purpose, and there’s a great example here of how you can work in a dive to the outside without it looking convoluted with a long set up. Angle sells for most of the early portions of the match, but when he does take control I liked how he is aggressive, just keeping things simple and grinding AJ down, so you think we are getting a nice logical storyline of the mat wrestler trying to ground the high flyer, however as the match progresses it turns into a too much ‘your turn, my turn’ leaving you usually emotionally disconnected, other than one great one roll up out of the ankle lock nearfall. Ultimately, you get the sports entertainment finish of Karen helping AJ to win, which I don’t necessarily have any issues with per se, but given I don’t think that storyline went anywhere just makes the ending very unsatisfying. (*** ¼ )
  6. This is meant to be Team 3D vs. The Steiners, but due to an injury, Animal steps in as a surprise replacement. The challengers are way past their prime here, but it’s cool them being teamed up in a ‘veteran super team’ sort of way. The match is kept very basic due to the limitations of the challengers, basically playing the hits, but the crowd are buying into the ‘legends’ and the ‘dream tag team’ storyline for the match. Rick looks a bit all over the place at times, but the Dudley’s do a great job of bumping all over the place to help put the challengers over as threats. Unfortunately it’s a pretty flat ending, but the crowd were invested throughout and they got as much out of Steiner and Animal as you could possibly expect in 2007. (** ½)
  7. This is a fantastic match that is a hybrid of the best elements of old school tag wrestling, with the early 2000s all action Indie style. We know AJ and Daniels are great opponents, and that chemistry makes them great partners as well and they mesh fantastically with AMW, who are great early on as stooging heals before building lots of heat on the babyfaces. Because Chris Harris became a punchline, people forget how good they were as a team. The timing on the spots in this match is spot on, getting the crowd biting on nearfalls and bringing them along for the ride. AJ is so smooth, but also impactful, while Daniels is more wily and cerebral, recognising when to step aside to let AJ get the pops with his big moves. At this point in 2006 AMW were like a classic 80s team transplanted into the 21st Century but who can still go. This is also, before TNA started their Knockouts Division where Gail Kim was the hot evil valet on the outside, and she was also super underrated in that role – she’s great here with the timing of her interventions and interference. Yes, there’s lots of gaga – ref bumps, false finishes, beer bottles – but that all makes sense in terms of the storyline and that AMW had been escaping with their titles through cheap endings for months before this. Just a great match and a great moment when the faces finally get the win and the titles. (**** ¼)
  8. TonyPulis'Cap

    Jeff Jarrett

    Jarrett has always been a bit of a guilty of pleasure of mine, and while I like him more than many, there just isn't the case for him being a top 100 level performer. This sums things up nicely - his case actually suffers from being pushed as a main eventer in WCW and TNA. If he had just been kept at that IC Title level, he's probably regarded as a decent worker worker that didn't get the recognition, but alas for him, he was given, or indeed gave himself the push (I'm sure his bank balance appreciated it though). His run in WCW is a great illustration, when he comes into the company he puts on some decent matches, like the ladder match against Benoit at Starrcade 99, but when required to be the No. 1 heel in the company, he just doesn't have the ability to lead a match - his offence is so weak, and full of shortcuts and cheap heat. Yes some of that's down to the timeframe and Russo's ADHD booking, but it particularly shows on the PPVs when he gets more time and just cant make the matches compelling. But then, come the end of 2000 and into 2001, as he goes down to that secondary level again, he starts to put on decent/enjoyable matches. It's the same in WWF. In 1998/99, when match quality is pretty low in the Attitude era, he's one of the more consistent performers, but that's as a midcard/tag wrestler. It's pure speculation, but I wonder how much of his TNA run on top, full of all the smoke and mirrors is because he knew, or the bookers knew, that the shortcuts were needed otherwise there was no way he would be able to make his matches 'main event worthy' on his own. Another way in which his presentation actively works against him, was through mainly being pushed as a heel on top, when he was actually a much better in ring babyface. If you want a clear illustration of that, watch his match with Kurt Angle at Genesis 2009. That to me is a legit **** + match and it's where Jarrett plays plucky underdog babyface, utilising his selling, and the timing and instincts for wrestling, which he clearly has, without having to really have much offense. If we'd have got more of that Jarrett, or if he hadn't been pushed above his station, I think he could well have had a sniff at a list like this, but in the real life we've got, not much of a chance.
  9. TonyPulis'Cap

    MLW Fusion, anyone watching it?

    Having just watched the Battle Riot, I can definitely see why anyone would see it as a bit of a mess at times, but I think by sheer force of the amount of 'stuff' going on, and the hard work of the guys involved I found it enjoyable, and ultimately it got to the end point they had been building to with the story line going in. It suffered from the through line of having no eliminations early. This differentiated it from recent Royal Rumbles, when people seem to come in for 2 mins, run through their moves and then get eliminated, but ultimately, there was just too many guys in there at times. There also wasn't a lot of heat early on, but as the match progressed the crowd got into it, and it felt (you never can tell how much has been 'sweetened' in non live shows) like they were really into the winner, so again job done. I feel like I'm often the big MLW defender here, and while I can often see, and acknowledge the criticisms others have, for whatever reason, it just seems to grab me. Some of the new names they introduced should help give what was previously a very small roster a shot in the arm with some potentially interesting programs coming out of the match, although given Migs feedback above from being there, maybe I'll try not to get too carried away! The most interesting point to me from the match, was how in the end it centered around a story line rather than just coming down to 'cool wrestler A vs cool wrestler B' to get a "this is awesome chant". Now whether that story line is a compelling one to you, that of course is open to debate, but to me, I appreciate that they had set up a story for the match going in and paid it off rather than worrying about a 'swerve' or surprise ending.
  10. TonyPulis'Cap

    Amazing Red

    Have been watching a lot of early 2000s indies, and while I have always liked Red - both at the time and now - I think I've been underrating just how good he was/is. From the period say 2002 - 04, he is an elite level high flyer, managing to do spotfests with meaning, timing his comebacks and big moves to create a compelling storyline, rather than them just being thrown out one after another. His selling is great too - yes, he is small, and so in many matches, his opponent can throw him around, but he is able to elicit real fan reaction, again from the way he takes the moves and his timing. I also love the sequences of offensive moves he puts together - if you watch his nearfalls, they are often after hitting two or three moves in a combination, which makes it believable to be taking on beating guys that are bigger than him. The way they are timed as well, just brings the crowd to a crescendo like the beats of a great song. Unlike a lot of high fliers he wasn't a one trick pony - I'd seriously underrated his strikes and kicks, they are just spot on, and again give him weapons that bring believability to him going toe to toe with guys. I've watched him across ROH, TNA, MLW, CZW, JAPW and across a variety of opponents he always delivers, and for a guy hitting big moves and intricate sequences, he rarely botches or screws up - he is super smooth. There's an undeniable Rey Mysterio vibe to him - especially young Rey - and while he's not at that level (few are!) or has that level of longevity, as the posts above from the 2016 discussion highlight he was a real pioneer in that early 2000s post WCW/ECW indie boom. I need to dig into his later years more, when the knee injuries took their tool to see how he adapted, but from seeing matches like the Ospreay one in New Japan and being their live when he faced PAC in Rev Pro, but genuinely considering him around the 90-100 spots as I start to put some initial thinking together.
  11. This is something of an FWA dream match, given it’s the ‘three musketeers’ of the early 2000s BritWres scene, and arguably the most prominent import that the company would use (at least up to this point). Doug and Jody are the two top faces in the company, while Storm is the hot heel, and Daniels had held the FWA British Title earlier in the year. Then there’s the interconnecting storylines; Daniels had won the title in a three way with Doug and Jody, Doug had then beat Daniels for the belt, Jonny and Jody are of course long term rivals with Jonny turning on Jody earlier in the year and then Daniels had recently won the final match in the FWA vs ROH Frontiers of Honor show…by beating Jody…thanks to interference from Jonny… just great stuff, that the company was really good at doing at this point. Despite the ‘dream match’ vibe, the opening minutes are full of stooging and stalling, and you wonder if this is down to the setting – this isn’t an FWA ‘A show’, and I’m not sure they would’ve wrestled it the same way if not on one of their tour shows with a more kids and family crowd. That’s probably why it’s all a bit pantomime at the start. Once we get into things though, they pick up nicely, and there’s some really fast paced and smooth exchanges between Daniels/Fleisch and Williams/Storm. I also liked how Storm was desperate to avoid Fleisch until he could cheap-shot him on the outside and take over. Considering I’m not sure how many times, if at all, they would’ve teamed up, Daniels and Storm work really well together and both take turns utilising lots of tricks and shortcuts which helps to build the heat before heel miscommunication leads to a fired-up Williams hot tag. I adore Doug as a wrestler and doing this FWA rewatch is really making me see his fire and intensity, when previously I used to think he could be a bit mechanical at times. This all builds up to a great sequence between Williams and Storm that ends with a revolution DDT for a near fall. The four guys do well to largely keep to the classic tag structure before we get to the home stretch and the big moves, which makes those mean more. A criticism I would have, is that while Jonny and Jody going through their usual sequences is always fantastic to watch, the feud they were building was meant to be more about hatred and I didn’t feel that here, but again, maybe that’s down to the setting and not being a ‘main show’ for the company. The ending comes when Fleisch catches Daniels with a flash pin, sending the crowd home happy and also giving Jody some payback for losing twice in big matches in the FWA to him. This is a good match, but you feel on a regular show it would be more balls to the wall. (*** ¼)
  12. This is part 727 in the never-ending Alex Shane (plus friends) vs. The Family feud that takes up much of 2003 in the FWA. I’m not going to lie I feel like I see versions of this match in my sleep these days. The thing that I do enjoy though, is that a bit like Dreamer vs. Raven in ECW in that it involve lots of different players circling in and out. In this match the Family are represented by stalwart Paul Travell and then Ian DaSciple, who wasn’t very good at all, and would be pretty much gone from the company a year later as they were looking to up standards. This is very much a small show, at a small venue, in front of a small crowd – set up ‘theatre style’ with the ring on the stage and then the fans all on one side. Even though this was a ‘blood’ feud, with escalating violence on the FWA main card shows, here it’s very much ‘yay/boo’ type stuff, particularly early on, given the holiday maker type crowd. The match takes the same structure as most of the ones in this feud do – Shane dominates physically, but The Family take over when they can isolate Nikita. There’s a very basic and uninspiring heat segment, and I should note that as always in these matches, this is NO DQ. So its one of those strange matches where you can use weapons etc. but there’s cheating behind the refs back and early on, adhering to tags. If it’s going to be a ‘hardcore’ match, make it a crazy brawl! Nikita and Travell faced each other at British Uprising the year before and have good chemistry, but pretty soon the match breaks down and we get all the standard walk and brawl/plunder shots stuff. The ring being on the stage does help with the optics though. There’s some enjoyable stooging from The Family members taking the weapons shots, but it is a bit jarring when on others shows there has been blood and violence between the teams. Another (good) constant in these matches, is that the sequences between Shane and Travell are the highlights, as Shane was trying to get Travell over and he gives him a lot. There’s a really crappy ref bump as we hit the closing stretch as the faces get a visual pin, but I did bite on the nearfall where The Family do a switcheroo and Nikita kicks out of a belt shot. Travell then gets to kick out of Shane’s One Night Stand finisher, which I’m not sure was planned as the ref is just randomly staring at the floor, before he counters a second one into a tornado DDT on a tag belt for the 3. It’s pretty mindless, and fun at times, but as I mentioned at the start, if you’ve seen one of these matches, then you’ve seen most of them, and you do feel there’s a sense of diminishing returns as the rivalry goes on. (** ½)
  13. Alex Shane and friends vs. The Family in 2003 was essentially the FWA version of Dreamer vs Raven, with various different matches involving lots of different characters. Shane and Knight – not regular partners and teaming for the first time – had won the tag titles on the first night of the tour, with Stevie being a local replacement with both Nikita and Ulf Herman (Shane’s regular partners being unavailable). As had happened on the first tour, the title change was in part to draw interest in new markets but also breathe some life into the longer running feud I’ve mentioned. It’s never officially announced, but as with most of the matches in this feud, it’s NO DQ, and just like in most of the matches, Shane uses his size early on to dominate. The Family can’t get anything going until they get Knight in there, and then their superior tag experience as a team starts to show. Whenever Shane is in, he dominates, so The Family try hard to keep Knight in as long as they can, which was a nice story to the first half of the match where they largely stick to the tag formula. The second half then breaks down to become more of your standard ‘walk and brawl’ early 2000s hardcore match. Knight and Raj Ghosh just disappear for a bit, but to be honest that works fine as the sequences between Shane and Paul Travell have much better energy and excitement to them. As is the norm in these matches, Travell bleeds and takes some nasty bumps, but he also gets an impressive hurucunrana off the camera platform. The intensity of the match is let down by the ref bump finish, before Knight ‘plays dead’ to get rollup and retain. This is a match of two halves that felt bolted together, and Knight’s more comedy persona and style didn’t really fit with the blood feud that Shane and allies had been having with The Family. Talking of the title shots, to pop the local crowds but return the belts to where they belong for the more ‘canon shows’, The Family would win the titles back on the last day of the tour. (** ¼)
  14. Night 2 of the tour is from Bolton. Coming in, Tighe is the one with the momentum in 2003 having just pinned Jody Fleisch on the last big FWA show (Hotwired) and would go on to main event the biggest show of the year (British Uprising 2). Xavier by contrast has been up and down. I like that this match doesn’t start with the usual indie reversals and standoffs (a standard trope of many an FWA match at this time) and there’s some nice matwork at the beginning to enjoy. They each try some ‘mind games’ at the beginning to try and get the advantage, with Xavier winning the battle of wits to get a couple of close near falls. Tighe is the better, more in form wrestler of the two, so Xavier keeping him off his game is how he is able to get the advantage. As the match goes on however, you can see Tighe’s quality coming to the fore, and increasingly Xavier is having to go more high risk to hang in there. This leads to him taking a really scary looking bump off a moonsault to the floor landing on his leg. It would’ve been nice to see Tighe then go after the leg and show a more vicious or focussed side, but they then go to the finish fairly quickly after that. Xavier gets a close 2 count off a flatliner, but gets caught going up top, and Tighe his the Tighetanic off the ropes for the win. (** ¾)
  15. This is a banner match for the FWA, which brings with it lots of history between the two. This includes them first clashing in the UK all the way back in 1999 for the ill-fated UWA promotion (might have to go back and revisit that one day), to Daniels winning the FWA British Title by pinning Doug and taking it ‘hostage’ to America for 6 months to finally Doug winning the title back in Ring of Honor at Night of Champions (a hell of a match). A few months before this Daniels had pinned Jody Fleisch to win the FWA vs. ROH series and thus justify this shot at the title. The first thing to say about this match is that the two have fantastic chemistry. Daniels stalls to begin the match, knowing that Doug got the best of him last time out, and Williams dominates the early goings. Daniels is used to being able to ‘out-wrestle’ his opponents, but Doug is the superior ‘technical wrestler’ and Daniels only answer early on is to try to break up his opponents momentum by going outside. What I loved was Doug steaming out with a tope to stop Daniels from stalling further on the outside, meaning there was a reason for the normally grounded Williams to fly to the outside. But while he is finding himself outmatched technically, you can tell how smart a competitor Daniels is, and he continues to use tricks where he can to rile Doug up, and get him to make a mistake, and that’s where Daniels is able to capitalise when Doug lets his anger get the better of him. Daniels is then able to seize his opening to hit the Angels Wings for the first fall (FWA Title matches at this time were 2/3 falls). Recognising his title is now in serious jeopardy, Williams gets a brief flurry at the beginning of the second fall and a couple of flash pins, but Daniels is great at cutting off any momentum, just as it is building. Daniels strategy is then to try and wear Doug down by going for regular pinfalls, but tries one too many, as Williams is able to catch a reversal on a sunset flip to tie things up at 1-1. I liked that Daniels sold this anger at allowing himself to be caught and pinned when he was in control, and that it manifests itself in him not allowing the rest period between falls and taking it to the outside, where he will have the edge if this comes down to a brawl. But now the match has turned from a tactical encounter to a fight and its back and forth. I liked how with the tables turned, and Doug as the aggressor that it was Daniels who was looking to hang in and grab flash pinfall attempts where he can. There’s a great near fall where you think Doug has the match won off a bomb scare knee drop, but while Daniels survives that he is then vulnerable to the chaos theory and the winning fall goes to Williams to retain the title. This is not as good as some of their previous clashes, in particular their more high-profile match in ROH, however that is more of a sign of just how good their other matches between them are! These two always mesh so well together, and it’s nice after Williams won the belt in America to see him definitively beat Daniels in a title match in the UK as well. I really liked the stories they told through the 2/3 fall structure in this one. (*** ½)