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  1. I enjoyed this, even if I can see the criticisms others have highlighted. For one, it's probably 5-7 mins too long, but you can't argue that the crowd aren't invested and living and dying with Marafuji. I'm not an expert of Takaiwa, but here he alternated between being a no nonsense bad ass to being really boring, often in the same sequence. I'm a Marafuji fan, and thought he was great at eliciting sympathy with his selling, although again, there were a couple of moments - the coast to coast dropkick after having his knee heavily worked on being the most egregious - where he would just pop up. But again, his combination of gaining sympathy and fire has the crowd invested and keeps you entertained. I loved the start, with Takaiwa just going straight at Marafuji and then the sequence on the ramp. Sometimes a match works with a nice slow build and increase in the tempo, but I like here that they just went at it out of the gate and made it clear that if the fans wanted Marafuji to win they were going to have to will it into happening. Good stuff here (*** 3/4)
  2. The build-up for this match comes out of the burgeoning Corino/Alex Shane feud that ratchets up on this show (read more about that here) when Doug agrees to defend the FWA Title against Corino, in part to stick it to Shane (who was the FWA’s heel authority figure, both on and off screen). WOS legend Mick McManus is the guest timekeeper for the match which gives a nice nod to British wrestling history and also makes the match feel more bigtime. FWA Title matches at this stage were 2/3 falls and reflecting the need for both guys to pace themselves we get a methodical start, with Corino trying to hang with Williams on the mat but being outmatched and caught off guard by Doug employing a lot of old WOS counters. There’s a nice story that, getting frustrated and recognised he is outmatched when it comes to technical wrestling, Corino then tries to make this into more of a brawl, but Doug won’t be bullied and as regular now for NOAH he’s happy to go strike for strike as well. I really like how Doug is presented at this point- being smart and tough as the top face. Given Doug is dominating, the first pinfall feels on the one hand that it comes out of nowhere, but on the other, I liked that Corino recognised he was only going to get small windows so went for it with a DDT when one opens and ends up getting the cobra sleeper to go 1-0 up. Given it’s a 2/3 falls match, it makes sense that Doug taps quickly to avoid sustaining more damage. Now Corino has the advantage, he gets more aggressive trying to wrap up the match quickly against a now vulnerable opponent becoming more heelish in the process but not in a cartoony way. However, this ends up costing him, serving to fire up Doug who starts fighting like a wounded animal from underneath. I love Doug’s fire here, really snapping off his European uppercuts, and he responds with a revolution DDT to level things up. I really like the through lines in the match, with the aggressor getting sloppy in his determination to win to end the match quickly – and this time its Doug that makes that mistake. Following the start of the third fall he immediately goes to the top for his bomb scare knee drop but ends up being caught with a superplex. We then get both guys emptying the tanks with big moves, including the tease of a double count out when both get back in at 19. Corino again tries to go for the cobra sleeper, but this time with his foot on the ropes for leverage showing his desperation to try and win the title. Just as we are building to a crescendo, we get a ref bump and both guys end up getting visual pinfalls. While this does interrupt the flow of the match, it leads to Alex Shane and Jack Xavier getting involved, and Doug pinning Corino in the confusion. This is an instance when parts of one match have been sacrificed to push forward other interweaving storylines. That ends up taking away slightly from the final result, however the interconnected storylines running through matches was something the FWA was very good at in 2004, and sometimes you have to look at that bigger picture. In saying all that it’s still a damn good match though (*** ¾)
  3. These two would end up forming a union later in the year as heels, but at this stage, both are faces. Tighe is coming off a great 2003, arguably the most consistent in ring performer in the company outside of Doug Williams, but unsuccessfully challenging Doug for the British Heavyweight Title at British Uprising II at the end of the year. Belton hadn’t done too much in the company yet but was getting more opportunities. As a face/face matchup, we get respect at the beginning with lots of counters and escapes. While some of the exchanges are a bit rough, it feels nice to see some more traditional British WOS influences in there when the FWA style was usually very US indie inspired. Early on it feels a bit ‘exhibitiony’ but that sets the table as things get more heated as we go along. As the match progresses, Tighe’s strength and greater experience – in terms of being in higher profile matches – sees him get more dominant, while Belton performs his well as the underdog hanging in there. You can see some frustration starting to emerge in Tighe as he can’t put Belton away, and he gets caught with a flash pin after trying to hit one too many German suplexes. This was a really fun and competitive match between the two and continues Tighe’s run of strong matches from the previous year - however him getting caught in a flash pin (following on from his loss in the main event of BU2) is the start of a losing streak which will be the catalyst for his heel turn later in the year. (***) As a side note, Tighe had been granted a rematch for the title and being a good (naïve) babyface, he had put that title shot on the line in this match, adding more depth to why he would become increasingly frustrated.
  4. This is part of Storm’s brief run with XPW, which came about due to a working agreement with the FWA and resulted in the creation of the XPW European Title (a ‘title’ which would last longer than XPW and be defended in the FWA…well, a briefcase claiming to have the title in would be…). This is No. 1 contenders match for the XPW TV Title and came about due to a double pin in a 4-way No. 1 contenders match at the previous show. We open with some standard mid 2000s indie standoff stuff, but its more measured than usual, and there’s some decent chain wrestling going on. Lynn is a good base for Storm in this match and allows him to get over with the crowd by basing for his high flying. The early exchanges are good at helping put Storm over to the crowd at the ECW Arena that would have come in perceiving Lynn to be the bigger star. There’s lots of fun sequences in this, and the match manages to avoid devolving into full on spot fest territory. Both guys are faces, so the simple story is Storm trying to stick and move, while Lynn is able to counter some of Jonny’s high flying as the more powerful of the two. Lynn was very good at this point, coming off his great early TNA run in 2002, and this is a sort of budget version of his matches with AJ Styles from around this time (which is no way an insult, as those matches were great). Storm ends up getting the win with a wheelbarrow DDT, and while it may be went a little long with a few too many kickouts at the end, this is a good match. It shows the strength of his performance, that while Storm came in as the underdog, there’s a really decent pop when he wins. It’s a shame for Jonny that this is the one time in his career that he was getting a decent push with a US company, and that the company ends up going out of business a couple of months later. (*** ½)
  5. TonyPulis'Cap

    Shane Douglas

    One of the aspects of a project like this is that you can end up going down some pretty random rabbit holes in your watching, and that's exactly what I found myself doing with Shane Douglas of all people. Don't think it's highlighted he's got a case of making a top 100 of all time, but he's had periods - like when he returns from the awful Dean Douglas run to ECW in 96 - when he is a really dynamic performer, but a lot of that comes from his promos and the way he carries himself rather than too much of the in ring. I find his initial rookie/babyface runs in WWF/WCW to be fine - he's fairly non-descript, but obviously its the Franchise runs in ECW when he is at his best. As Dean Douglas the gimmick is so over powering and 1995 WWF is not an environment creating the conditions for success, but as I say in 96 ECW he is really good, although as time goes on and his body gets more broken down, to me he starts to move further and further down the Triple H/Jeff Jarrett scale in being a guy that was way overpushed as the 'top champion'. As I say, injuries were taking its toll, but as 97 goes on and certainly in 98 he's not very good. He does have a very fun match on his way out with Justin Credible at Cyberslam 99, which is better as he works face and sells for a lot of the match. The less said about the second WCW run, where his matches are generally dreadful, and while his promo delivery can still be decent he's in a series of terrible feuds and angles. although as are most people in the company at that point. Post WCW, there's not too much there either, one of his best runs is actually backstage interviewer in TNA, but not sure that qualifies as much of a case for this particular project... I even watched some of his XPW run where he is both the booker and champion. Again, it's not like Rob Black's XPW is an environment that creates the conditions for success, but that's again where the Triple H/Jarrett comps come in, where his act of trying to still be the dominant champion when he just shouldn't be wrestling in that way - being aware of your limitations so you can accentuate the positives is something I look for - and makes it very depressing to watch, given he was a guy that made his name railing on the older guys to move aside. So no, no case for me, but an interesting rabbit hole I went down nonetheless.
  6. Doug is the FWA Champion coming in, while Flash is representing the 'Old School' which was the main heel stable in the FWA at the time. British wrestling legend Mick McManus is at ringside for this, while there is an old World Of Sport ref for the match, which rather than be nice nods to the tradition and history of British wrestling are sadly red flags for the complete mess this match will devolve into. Flash cheapshots to start the match, and the early exchanges are the best part with both guys showing great fire and intensity and lots of snap in their strikes and chops. Barker tries to slow things down, but quickly realises that if its a technical battle then that plays right into Doug's hands, who will dominate on the mat, whereas when its a brawl the challenger has much more of a chance. After a flurry of offence, Doug gets a really nasty DDT off the top rope, but the old ref, after doing a standing 2 count WOS style then just calls for the bell?... to general confusion with no-one sure what's going on. We then get Dino Scarlo, who was off screen the FWA booker and on screen part of the Old School turning this into a 2/3 falls match, so Doug has gone up 1-0 rather than winning the match. You can already tell this is now going to go off the rails... After what seems an age, Doug goes on the attack against a still dazed Barker to try and finish off the match, which is a sound strategy and when the two guys can actually just wrestle straight the match is decent, but the old ref - think one of the Athletic Commission refs at MSG in the 80s - is so useless it ruins any momentum. Given how the story of the match goes, there's a chance that could be intentional, but I genuinely think he just didn't have a clue what was going on. Williams gets the Chaos Theory, but just as it looks like he's going to get the 2nd fall and retain, we get the next screwy moment as the bell rings again 'for the end of the round' and this is now being fought under European rounds. As rip offs of Over the Edge 98 go this is not the most compelling. Despite all this, Doug is still dominating, until Barker gets a low blow and a pin with his foot on the ropes (maybe a bit much?) to tie things at 1-1. Barker then destroys Doug's leg with a chair, with Dino Scarlo just liberally joining in as well, which makes you think - why bother with the elaborate changing the rules on the fly story for the match if the interference/cheating is just going to be so blatant anyway? Just have him interfere to cost Williams the match. Rather than be Steve Austin vs Dude Love, this is Lance Storm vs Mike Awesome from New Blood Rising in making no-one come out looking good. After using the chair, Barker continues to work over the leg. Doug manages a hope spot, but can't execute the Chaos Theory with his injured ankle which I liked, but then Flash gets an ankle lock and the ref just calls for the bell without Doug tapping which I liked less (why not throw a bit of Montreal in for good matter?) and Flash is the new FWA Champion. Because of what went before, and the general shoddyness of the screw job execution no-one in the crowd really gets whats going on so you don't even get the reaction to the hated heel cheating to win. The booking in this destroys what could've been a really good match given that Doug is a brilliant wrestler, and Flash Barker in the FWA was a more than decent enough worker. Mick McManus presents Flash with the belt, but again its not clear if he was involved in the Old School's conspiracy to get the belt or if he's just an old guy that like the rest of us doesn't know what's going on... just really bad * for the match and -***** for the booking.
  7. TonyPulis'Cap

    Mickie James

    Ultimately Mickie James (sadly, as I like her as performer a lot) is not going to make my top 100, but to me, a good representative of how I view this project - half (most) of the joy for me is getting to discuss nominees and exploring matches you haven't seen before/in a while as part of evaluating them, even if deep down you know they probably aren't going to make your list going in. Mickie is part of the period of women's wrestling when its hard to know exactly how good she could've been, given she was wrestling at a time and in companies where opportunities for women to have good matches and compelling feuds (even if she did have one killer storyline with Trish of course) was much more limited. Ultimately though, we can't judge on what if's. She's not the most technical or athletic of wrestlers, but I value the emotion and drama she brings to her matches, and while she has had some memorable moments as heel, think she is a tremendous babyface, that can take a beating and come back with great fire - her matches against Beth Phoenix are good examples. As others have pointed out, she has longevity too, still going strong across Impact and NWA and due at time of writing to be in the Rumble again. I wouldn't disagree with anyone saying she isn't at the level of a GWE list, but welcome the opportunity to talk about her and recognise her abilities.
  8. TonyPulis'Cap

    Adam Page

    Not to just repeat what others have already said in the thread (although actually, that's exactly what I'm about to do) but for me it's a 'not yet...but if he continues on his current trajectory then he may have an outside shot'. I haven't watched the second Danielson match yet, but thought he was really good in the first one. I think Danielson is clearly leading large parts and mapping things together, but wrestling a 60 min match, particularly in a modern setting where fans have much more of a limited attention span is no means feat, and at no times does it look like he's being 'carried' in the sense we use that term. It's not flashy or over the top, but he has a real physical charisma to him - able to build crowd sympathy but - so far - without him coming across as weak or pandering, which I think is how he has been able to get so over in AEW at a time in modern wrestling where top of the card babyfaces have often been hard to build. I haven't watched all his big AEW matches, but I watched almost all his ROH run and by the end he had got really good - the proper workhorse of those Elite/Bullet Club multi ,man matches. In particular his last big match against Jeff Cobb at Final Battle 2018 is a fantastic all action battle where the two guys just smash each other. Other matches I'd recommend from his ROH run if anyone wants to check out: vs. Jay Briscoe - No DQ (ROH TV 213) 8 Man Tag Team Match (Manhattan Mayhem VII) - yes this is a multiman, but Page is the real star and very good in this vs. Kota Ibushi (Supercard of Honor XII) vs. Joey Janela - No DQ (All In) - may not be to everyone's tastes, but a proper spectacle vs. Jeff Cobb (Final Battle 2018)
  9. This has a great sense of anticipation at the beginning - you can tell the crowd is buzzing and excited at the possibility of the title change. Akiyama coming out with a gangster looking Yuji Nagata in a suit is also great. I watched this after the GHC Title Tournament final where Misawa faced Takayama and this is very different - Misawa is the one that dominates from the off. Early on, Akiyama is struggling to get anything going, and it seemed like Misawa was that more successful team in a sports match saying "you want to take the title, you are going to have to earn it". Whether by accident or design, early on Akiyama does seems like he is a bit out of his depth, but as others have pointed out, it tells the story that if he wants to win the title he is going to have to win through being resilient - hanging in there till he can get an opening. I understand the criticism that if you want Akiyama to be the ace coming out of this, you would want to make him look more dominant in the early and middle parts of the match, but I feel like they have gone for the approach that if Misawa is the big boss to be slayed, then that needs to be firmly established within the match structure itself so Akiyama's win is truly meaningful. I can also see the criticism that things are a bit lethargic until the final few mins, but in personal preference I don't mind a match being slow at times to build to that crescendo. There's a great nearfall once Akiyama has started hitting the big exploders where Misawa barely gets his foot on the rope, but at that moment it shows Misawa has very little left and the title is there for Akiyama with one last push, building the crowd to be excited that title change is coming. (**** 1/4)
  10. A bit of a mixed bag of a match this for me - I liked it, but did think there were dull moments when Takayama was on offence, which is for extended periods of the match. I enjoyed Takayama getting right in Misawa's face during the ring introductions, but sadly he doesn't show that dickish intensity (for want of a better phrase) for more of the match. Early on there's a bit too much Misawa selling and sitting in holds to really capture your attention, but it picks up nicely when Misawa starts firing up with the elbow exchanges. I like Takayama when he is being more of a brawler, but here it never felt like it was believable he would win. On the one hand, I enjoyed there wasn't lots of kick outs, but on the other, I didn't think Takayama really got any legitimate nearfalls the crowd bit on. There are fun moments - like the nasty Takayama German suplexes and the blood that looks like Misawa has had his head severed or something from a horror film is a great visual, but ultimately, it did leave me a bit disappointed given the praise others in the thread have for it. (*** 3/4)
  11. TonyPulis'Cap

    Place to Be Podcast Thread

    Really enjoying the return to the 'original timeline' and these 2007 shows. For the rather obvious reason you will soon run into, 2007 was where I dropped out of a lot of wrestling watching so it will be great to hear about the shows post the summer. It struck me listening to this show, and it's something I've thought for a while, but that 2006-07 Cena title reign is probably my favourite run of his whole career. To me it was the closest they've ever got to replicating a Hogan run, where he was the clear ace of the company and fighting off a wide variety of different challengers each month - you think that he went from Edge, to Umaga, to HBK, to Khali, to Lashley up to Orton, and Cena is great in all of them, changing up his formula depending on the opponent. It also kept things fresh, something very different from how it would quickly move to where it was rematch after rematch until something like Cena vs Orton gets run into the ground as they did it 4 or 5 PPVs in a row. You guys were talking on the Backlash show about was it the right time to end the Cena title reign, but to me, if he hadn't got injured it should've at least made it to Mania 24 before you would consider him losing. I also think that, while he would get some mixed reactions when up against someone like Shawn, that during this time the fans were generally on his side as they recognised how awesome he was (although that also came him from being put up against heels like Khali that fans weren't going to cheer for). Anyway, sorry, bit of a ramble, but I think this Cena title reign is great, and I'm glad you are back chronicling it. I also agree 100% with you guys that this Hardys run is brilliant too - they are so good here. For me, adding up all their different runs, they come out as the best WWE tag team of all time, but that's another debate to be had! Keep up the great shows guys.
  12. TonyPulis'Cap

    [2003-07-19-ROH-Death Before Dishonor] Raven vs CM Punk (Dog Collar)

    The Raven/Punk feud is pretty legendary, but one where it feels like the matches themselves could never quite live up to the storyline and promos around them - which is not to say they were bad, but just that the promos were so good, such as the one Punk delivers before the match. In saying that, this is a match that does deliver in-ring and I really enjoyed it. There's some great intensity from Raven early on, and as others have said, while that does maybe go a bit too long, it shows that in the hardcore/brawling environment Raven is in his element and he is able to dominate. Punk takes a great arse kicking and has a pretty nasty blade job. People's enjoyment of crowd brawling varies, but I thought here it added to the chaotic nature of the match and they did enough out there to keep you engaged. I also enjoyed how they were creative with the dog collar spots, meaning they worked the stipulation into the match rather than it just be window dressing to a more regular No DQ match. Punk was still finding himself as a worker at this stage, but in terms of a character he was on point, and I liked that a lot of his heel control was him talking on the mic and berating Raven rather than anything particularly physical - working to his strengths. The ending with Cabana getting involved feels like the right kind of gaga finish in the context of continuing the feud, and both guys end up coming out of it positively. The post match angle with Dreamer and the beer is also really effective in terms of highlighting the personal nature of the feud, and maybe I'm factoring that in slightly in my match rating, but I thought this was a great brawl that has energy and intensity to it and that doesn't descend into furniture building and hardcore match tropes that end up taking away from the storyline as often happens today. (*** 3/4)
  13. TonyPulis'Cap

    Is the empire crumbling before our eyes?

    For me, irrespective of all the creative and onscreen issues - although there's probably a clear link - is just what an awful place WWE sounds like to work if you are a performer. I'm sure, to some extent its been forever thus, but when you read about all the bizarre things that go on, the pettyness, the fact that the corporate way the company operates sounds on the one hand so incredibly stifling, but on the other does nothing to protect employees from the whims of a senile sociopath and his inner cabal of yes men, how would it motivate you when you are at work? The fact you can just be seemingly hired and then fired a few months later irrespective of anything you've actually done must be soul destroying and basically means that working for WWE gives you all the job 'security' of working for Mike Ashley's Sports Direct on a zero hours contract. Like again, how does it create a positive working environment that is conducive to helping employees thrive when your whole world can be just thrown upside down at the snap of someone's fingers. I haven't watched WWE since the mania that ended with Brock vs Roman the second time (no idea of the year anymore) and NXT a few months later since they ran Gargano vs. Ciampa into the ground. It's not really anything to do with the wrestlers themselves, or match quality, I just cannot stand the presentation and all the forced directives and tropes that are so tired and eliminate every bit of spontaneity and creativity from the product. If you can still watch, or separate the odd 'good match' out and watch it in a vacuum then more power to you, but it is very much not for me Clive anymore.
  14. TonyPulis'Cap

    Gail Kim

    This is a spot on description, highlighted in her series of matches against Awesome Kong - she is a great seller, generating sympathy and getting over her opponent as a monster, however at the same time she shows constant fire, keeping herself over by not feeling like a jobber that has no chance and timing her comebacks beautifully. Those matches have a real Sting vs. Vader quality to them and they absolutely hold up. It can feel overstated, but I think as others above have said, she was a real trailblazer for the women's wrestling scene we currently have. She suffered initially from being put on TV in WWE when she was still green and with the matrix character that meant she was doing moves which she probably wasn't capable of at that point, but by the end of her first WWE run she had turned into a more than solid worker (there's a really fun tag at Unforgiven 2003 with her and Molly Holly against Trish and Lita that is worth checking out). When she goes to TNA they don't actually have a women's division, although from everything you hear she was the one that fought for it, and she was also great in her role as the bitchy heel valet for AMW. As discussed above, she then helps put the Knockouts Division on the map with the series against Kong and then is the real glue in that division having good matches against a variety of opponents. When she went back to WWE I was hoping she would get the Christian run of showing what he could do in TNA and then being pushed more than if he had just stayed, but ultimately she just wasn't the right fit at that time and it never worked out. Ultimately, it was in TNA where she got the opportunity to showcase what she could do. Gail also had that ability to carry less polished opponents to compelling matches - the Taryn Terrell is a great example. I remember at the time thinking, holy s**t, how has she just had this amazing and brutal last woman standing match with the former Tiffany who was the general manager of ECW?? I have no idea how much of it is down to the agent, but that's a fantastically structured match and Gail is a real ring general in it, connecting the more explosive spots together. For me, she has a definite lull in the TNA down years when they were bouncing around worse and worse TV networks, but then it was hard for anyone to shine at that time. I think part of that was booking - she got a bit exposed and stale by being constantly pushed on top - and while trying to separate that from the matches she was having, I seem to recall her matches at that time while solid, being on the dull side. But her ability, and how much of a great wrestler she could be can be shown by the match against Tessa in 2019 which is an easy **** match in my books, and where she gives a great performance as veteran trying to hang in with young upstart that has called her out.
  15. These two have lots of history, having a great feud in CZW prior to this, and that chemistry is on show here, even though this is a short TV match. That history between the two is hinted at here, or implied without ever being made explicit on commentary, but helps the atmosphere for the match given we are in the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia and many in the crowd probably knew it. This is a hard hitting sprint, and given their previous rivalry they go straight at it from the opening bell. Early on Hero strikes just the right balance in backing away from Kingston's onslaught but not being a full on cowardly heel. Both guys lay in their strikes and in their brawling on the floor. There's one great spot where Kingston is distracted by Sara Del Ray on the outside and Hero takes him out with a brutal looking baseball slide dropkick from his blindside. As we know now from his rise to prominence in AEW, Kingston is a really sympathetic seller, bringing real emotion into his matches (even a short TV match like this one) and that rallies the crowd to his side, when Hero's antics at this point often got him cheered despite being the heel. Unfortunately it ends in a rather lame DQ when Kingston wont break in the corner, but he does make up for it by hitting ref Todd Sinclair with a nasty snap punch which gets a pop from the ROH crowd who always used to get on poor old Todd's case. Even those this has a crappy ending, and is only 5/6 mins long, it's a really fun sprint where they pack a lot in. (***)