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  1. Oh, man. What a match. Tajiri’s sadism knows no bounds and he mercilessly punishes Corino here -- who has one of the nuttier bladejobs of 2000 as his beach-blonde hair turns strawberry red from the blood that gushes out of his head. He’s on wobbly legs from the blood loss, and his selling makes this match just as much as Tajiri’s malice does. One of the best ECW matches ever, for sure. Stray Observations: Tajiri hits Corino with a Brainbuster on the ramp, my God. He’s dead! Honestly, so many great spots in this one. Tajiri dropkicking the table into Corino’s face; double-stomping him through the table in the finish; misting Jack Victory while twisting Corino in the manjigatame; his flurry of strike combinations that destroys Corino and had the crowd popping out of their seats; the spots just flow fluidly and logically one after another without ever feeling forced. Corino spouts racist bullshit in the pre-match, and I’m glad Tajiri beats his dumb ass. I love these inverted David vs. Goliath matches where the face is Goliath and the heel is David. Rating: ****½
  2. You know what to expect from these two by now. There’s very little here to tie the all-out action together, and this match is essentially an exhibition of flashy spots. Rating: **¾
  3. This is for Rhino’s ECW Television Championship. We segue into this match immediately after Tajiri vs. Corino, and it’s about what I expected. A couple of big spots here and there, and the rest is middling brawling. Stray Observations: Rhino piledrives Sandman’s wife through a table and offers little protection, yikes. Rating: **½
  4. Awesome opener. They go at each other full speed and the violence escalates and escalates until Balls is finished after a chairshot from the top-ropes softens him up for the Roaring Elbow. Maybe the best Balls Mahoney match ever? Rating: ***½
  5. This is a solid “do-it all” match with a strong rudo-tecnico dichotomy, good action, and some decent comedy, as well. The comedy interferes a bit with the pacing, but we get fun dwarf shenanigans, so whatever. Rating: ***
  6. Calvin

    [2000-05-12-AJW] Manami Toyota vs Ran Yu Yu

    Toyota is a wonderful prick veteran, but she kind of makes Ran look like a total geek here. (Speaking of which, Ran looks like she forgot she had a match, ran to the arena, forgot her gear, and said “fuck it, I’ll wrestle in street clothes.”) I don’t know if good or bad decision to run with that story beat, and it mostly becomes moot after Toyota injures her shoulder on a bad botch and the match turns another corner, but it stood out to me. It’s just hilarious to see her biting her way out of submissions, egging Ran on, and generally no-selling her offense, for better or worse. Ran is able to gain some momentum after said botch -- which honestly added a layer this match desperately needed -- and she goes after the shoulder. The match shifts gears and becomes more about Toyota overcoming her injury, but they honestly could’ve done a much better job telling that story. What we got wasn’t too bad, though. Stray Observations: Toyota needs add some oomph to her suplexes. Some of them were so soft you couldn’t really tell whether she was trying to hurt Ran or tuck her into bed for a nap. Rating: **¾
  7. We’re still doing this? OK. I didn’t love this match, to be honest. The first two falls are run through quickly with little drama -- which, I mean, what is the point? Just make this one fall if the first two falls are going to be this meaningless. (I actually didn’t realize this was a two-out-of-three falls match and when Maekawa kicks Mita in the face and pins her in ten seconds I was completely shocked.) We get arena brawling segments, Watanabe bleeds, LCO does LCO things … it’s not particularly compelling, but it’s not bad. The finishing run is quite explosive, but the substance doesn’t match the flash. I’ve seen better from these four, but, hey, at least Watanabe & Maekawa didn’t get stomped out this time around! Stray Observations: Watanabe has some awesome Dragon Whips, and Mita sells/bumps for them brilliantly. Shimoda is terrible here. Terrible selling, terrible offense… just a massive net-negative. Rating: **½
  8. I’ve been mostly disappointed by post-unmasked Villano III’s matches, so I jumped into this with no expectations and…. find myself whelmed once again. I love the redemptive nature of his evolution from rudo to tecnico, but it hasn’t translated between the ropes. The sprawling brawls just don’t do it for me, and it doesn’t help that the chaos feels overly-coordinated, slow, and lacks the sense of danger that is essential to making these types of matches effective and interesting. And, no, before anyone says it, blood does not always effectively (or compellingly) convey violence -- especially with how liberally it’s used in lucha-libre. I’d say in the majority of matches I’ve watched someone ends up springing a leak, whether it’s from a punch or a poorly choreographed hit from a weapon, and we’re seriously reaching the point of diminishing returns here. On a more positive note, I’m enjoying Bestia Salvaje on offense immensely. More of him straight-up punching people, please. Rating: < **½
  9. Calvin

    [2000-05-11-IWRG] Ultimo Vampiro vs Dr Cerebro

    I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is about this match that bothered me because I found this to be curiously sterile despite generally being a fan of twisty, floaty lucha-grappling. I just had such an inexplicable, visceral indifference towards this match.
  10. This is for Jericho’s WWF Intercontinental Championship. Jericho’s defending the championship for the third time tonight because he called Shane a pussy, Stephanie a hoe, and made fun of Vince’s small penis. He’s noticeably tired as he makes his entrance. Benoit is fresher and a step quicker, so he’s able to dodge/counter many of Jericho’s usual moves. Triple H is wearing a ridiculous referee outfit as he spectates on the sidelines (and will eventually become the referee of the match after he tosses Chioda out of the ring). Jericho gets screwed over by Hunter, and Benoit regains the championship as the belt continues to be hot potato’d. Rating: ***¼
  11. This is for Tanaka’s Independent Junior Heavyweight Championship. This is boring as sin up until Tanaka started headkicking Usuda into the shadow realm. Usuda logically responds by targeting Tanaka’s leg and the match started to trend upwards, but quickly tails off once they start repeating the same sequences over and over again. Stray Observations: Usuda takes some gnarly head bumps off of Tanaka’s suplexes. I liked him a lot here; Tanaka … not so much. Tanaka has no ring IQ. Your opponent is very obviously adjusting to your headkicks, and also actively trying to weaken them by targeting your leg, so your response is to spam them more … why? Rating: < ***
  12. Taira is a talented grappler and impressive striker (has one of the best Pele kicks I’ve ever seen), but he’s excitable and undisciplined, so Otsuka decides to fuck around and guide him to one of the best BattlARTS matches of 2000 (or through May, at least). He channels Taira’s raw violence into a more coherent assault and makes him come off wickedly dangerous in his debut match. Otsuka’s sells were so, so good here as he scrambles to gain control while fending off Taira’s explosive stand-up game and avoiding his leglocks. I wouldn’t call this a complete carryjob, but Otsuka just nails every damn second of this match. Stray Observation: Can we somehow send current Cesaro back in time to face a prime Otsuka, please? Holy-fucking-shit at Otsuka’s deadlift gutwrench backbreaker. I loved how viciously he works over Taira’s back after that spot. His unique hybrid offense is such a pleasure to watch. Taira secures himself on the middle turnbuckle in one of the corners as Otsuka tries to pry him out of there, so Otsuka softens him up with some dope knees to loosen his grip before emphatically dropping Taira with a nasty powerbomb. Rating: ****¼
  13. It’s interesting how emotionally-charged this match becomes. There’s an element of one-upmanship in every exchange, and Nagai seemingly gets into the head of Ishikawa from the outset as he cockily challenges the legendary mat-technician to a ground battle, who responds by aggressively throwing punches at Nagai from full mount. From there, Nagai surprisingly, yet definitively, defeats Ishikawa in almost every aspect of this fight and gets the massive upset win by tapping him out in the end. Ishikawa never backs down, but he gets tunnel vision’d into showing up the upstart Nagai, ends up underestimating him, and pays for it in the end. Great, great match. Stray Observations: I love how violently Ishikawa wrenches Nagai’s arm across the top of the ropes. He does it so ferociously that he falls of the apron from the counter-momentum. I swear Nagai has bombs for legs. Those kicks are atomic. And Ishikawa has some HELL-BOWS! This match probably doesn’t work as effectively if it weren’t for Ishikawa’ fantastic selling and emoting. Rating: ****½
  14. This is for Mochizuki's Open the Dream Gate Championship. I saw the forty minute runtime for this match and I wasn't thrilled. Mochizuki and Yoshino are talented wrestlers, but I'm skeptical of them in a long-form match. Luckily, the length of the video was inflated by entrances and post-match segments, so the actual match ran around twenty or so minutes. Anyways, on to the match itself. Mochi and Yoshino are very measured, almost nonchalant, in their attacks. Yoshino targets the arm, and Mochizuki targets the leg ... but there's no real sense of urgency here. It's as if they're both resigned to the fact that everything they do in the first portion of the match is going to be filler and non-essential to the finish - which is kind of what ends up happening. The back-half is more spirited and engaging as they're now going back-and-forth with each other instead of trading bland control segments. I don't have a major issue with them dropping the dual limb-selling here as it never felt integral to the match's story, and it felt more like a beat that they can pick up again on the fly if they decided to go down that path, but obviously they could've handled it better than pretending it never happened. The finish is anti-climactic as Yoshino catches Mochi in a mildly botched crucifix roll-up for the win as Mochi's nine month reign ends on a whimper. I enjoyed parts of this (the cool combos, counters, Yoshino's submissions, Mochi's strikes...), but didn't care much for the structure, pacing, or storytelling. Rating: **¾
  15. Fantastic match. Murahama is the vastly superior striker, so Delphin does everything in his power to keep it on the ground. Delphin pressures him and spams takedowns with impunity since Murahama doesn’t have the takedown defense to stop him. He does have an uncanny ability to find the ropes, and Delphin is never able to capitalize when he locks in a submission or has the positional advantage. Murahama gets so frustrated by the end he rakes the eyes of Delphin, giving him the advantage to unleash a torrent of strikes on Delphin and winning by TKO. Stray Observations: I was very, very impressed with Delphin’s grappling here. I didn’t know he had that in his toolbox. Delphin’s “knocked out on his feet” sells were tremendous. I just found out Murahama is a goddamn rookie after visiting his CAGEMATCH page. Rating: ****½