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  1. SmartMark15

    Joseph Montecillo Video Essays

    On today's video, I look into one of the most famous US independent rivalries of all time between Bryan Danielson and Ngiel McGuinness. Also, a healthy serving of clips from Amadeus, my favorite movie of all time. he
  2. SmartMark15

    [2020-03-29-NOAH-20th Anniversary] Go Shiozaki vs Kazuyuki Fujita

    In 2013, a friend of mine took me to see the movie Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan by local director Lav Diaz. More than the actual content and plot of the film itself, I remember the actual viewing experience most of all. My friend and I watched it at the cinema and I had been warned ahead of time that the runtime went beyond the four hour mark. One of Lav Diaz’s stylistic trademarks as a director is the use of long, extended shots that hold on moments in the film for minutes at a time whether or not actual plot is transpiring on screen. This explains the long runtime of his films but also creates a distinctly challenging experience for any viewer. For some, boredom will inevitably arise. But in the moment, while trying to make sense of it, such scenes can evoke a sense of focus and concentration on the movie that heightens the experience of viewing it. The act of watching a movie suddenly shifts from the passive to the active as stillness draws the eye in much more than frantic movement. This is what came to mind when I watched the GHC Heavyweight Title match between Go Shiozaki and Kazuyuki Fujita. The most notable aspect of this match is definitely the extended staredown that takes up the first half of this near hour long match. Shiozaki and Fujita use up 35 full minutes keeping their distance in the ring simply staring each other down. Shiozaki does so from the center of the ring while Fujita stands his ground in the corner, shifting only once to move to another side of the ring. The 35 minutes plays out in near silence as the show is being run in front of an empty Kouraken Hall. The only sounds come from the clicks of cameras and the light nudging to action from wrestlers at ringside as well as the referee. In that 35 minutes, I found myself getting sucked in by the nothingness on display. There’s a hypnotic quality to seeing so little in a wrestling ring. Pure minimalism somehow mixed with the excess and grandeur of pro wrestling. Doing nothing in the most spectacular way possible. It was such a bold and compelling choice that I found myself far more involved in this half hour stillness than most ten minute opening segments in comparable matches elsewhere. In fact after a while, I couldn’t help but feel like the segment took on a satirical tone in its absurdity. It takes the often maligned uneventful first acts of many an epic title match and extending that to its unnatural and overblown extreme–making it fresh again in the process. Of course, this segment could not possibly have existed without the extreme circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak. There’s simply no way that a segment like this could work in front of a Kouraken Hall crowd. It’s too much of a risk to run in front of a live audience who can provide their instant feedback. But in the controlled and quiet environment of an empty arena, something as risky as this is allowed to thrive. So often, we hear about the ability of wrestler’s to feed off the crowd. To take the energy being given to them and amplifying it as a part of their performance. Here, we get exactly that. Without the crowd, what Fujita and Shiozaki have to feed off is silence. And they do it perfectly. Instead of fighting against and trying to futilely fill the void, they enhance and amplify it instead. It is truly stunning. A lot of this, of course, is projection on my part. There’s no telling what the true intent of any of this was. But the fact that it struck such a chord with me and got me thinking not only on what I was seeing but even questioning the aesthetic of what good pro wrestling should look like means that it has an innate value for anyone to watch. Regardless of its intent, it is a provocative piece of pro wrestling in how it attacks both emotion and one’s critical faculties. I dedicated so much time to discussing this segment only because these two wrestlers in turn dedicated so much time to it as well. It’s impossible not to talk about given the space that it consumes as part of this match. But don’t let all the talk about this particular aspect of the match take away from the fact that when these two do start going, it kicks unbelievable amounts of ass. Kazuyuki Fujita is an absolute beast of a man. He’s wide, thick, and almost grotesquely shaped. When he starts laying in on Shiozaki, it runs a wide gamut of emotions. There’s the subtle almost dismissive violence of trying to smother Shiozaki by covering his mouth as they struggle on the mat, the hilarity of the man spitting hand sanitizer on Shiozaki or even trying to batter his way into the Kouraken Hall elevators, then the sheer visceral horror of a man trying to kick another person’s head off. The magnitude and excellence of Fujita’s performance here does a lot to overshadow Shiozaki. In discussions of this match with two separate friends of mine, both found most of their issues with the defending GHC Heavyweight Champ in this match. Funnily enough, their problems with Shiozaki came from opposite ends of the spectrum with one not enjoying his offense and the other not enjoying his selling. For me personally, Shiozaki was fine. Credit where it’s due, the man took an absolute beating at the hands of Fujita. The strikes that Shiozaki absorbed here were horrific especially those two head punts down the stretch. His lariats aren’t amazing by the end but the structuring of the match that made Fujita feel like such an insurmountable force making Shozaki fight from beneath helped me to overlook that. What an absolute spectacle of a match. Ranging from peaceful silence to cacophonous violence, this is a title match that has an ambition that I truly don’t see being matched for a very long time. This might be too bold a claim to make in only the third month of 2020 especially when global level doom seems to loom on the horizon, but this is an early match of the decade candidate for me. It feels so far beyond anything else that I’ve seen this year and it will be near impossible to match. It’s also an anomaly of a match that invites any and all opinions that will each have pretty much the same amount of validity. Anyone who says that 35 minutes of no action is both wasteful and boring is just as right as anything else I’ve said above. But in the end, I return to the idea that this match must be seen. ***** https://josephmontecillo.wordpress.com/2020/03/30/go-shiozaki-vs-kazuyuki-fujita-noah-20th-anniversary-noah-the-chronicle-vol-2-3-29-20/
  3. One of the effects of the coronavirus outbreak is how various wrestling promotions have reacted to the policies set up in their respective locations and how that affects the cases that various wrestlers get to build. Because of everything happening right now, some talents are getting much more chances to shine without much in the way of competition. To put it simply, it’s a bunch of nerdy stuff that doesn’t truly matter in the world that we live in and these shows happening right now really shouldn’t be happening at all. That’s the main takeaway. But also, Kenny Omega’s shot to the front of the line in the wrestler of the year race. The guy’s already built an incredibly solid base for himself with the fantastic Tag Team Title run with Hangman Page but he’s since supplemented that with two top line MOTY candidates vs. PAC and against The Young Bucks at Revolution. And now, he comes out and has a really good title match against Sammy Guevara on empty arena Dynamite. Sammy’s one of my favorites on the AEW roster for all the character that he brings to every match. He’s coming in working as the undersized arrogant prick but he creates a lot of openings for himself here. Outside of just some good counter wrestling, he also goes for Omega’s bad hand to create moments of opportunity for himself. Omega sells the hand well too throughout until it’s time to go into Cleaner mode and just obliterate Sammy into dust here. Really great tense finishing stretch here that felt really earned as the match built up to it incredibly well with the time that it was given. Another great performance in a year filled with them for Kenny Omega while one of my favorite midcard acts in AEW gets a chance to show off with one of the top guys. All in all, a big win. ***3/4 https://josephmontecillo.wordpress.com/2020/03/26/kenny-omega-vs-sammy-guevara-aew-dynamite-3-25-20/
  4. SmartMark15

    [2020-03-08-WWE-Elimination Chamber] Daniel Bryan vs Drew Gulak

    At this point, it’s almost embarrassing how much Daniel Bryan can achieve with an inconsistent midcard push compared to how others make use of full blown main event support. On back to back pay-per-views, Bryan’s created something out of what seemed like nothing. Whereas at the Rumble, the nothing he worked with was an overwrought character with very little actual substance to back up all their razzle dazzle, here the nothing comes from a complete lack of storyline and heat. Drew Gulak is far from a nothing performer, he’s the kind of nerdbait great worker that’s gotten accolades from a lot of people I respect but that I simply haven’t gone out of my way to see much of. Here, Gulak gets to work with the best dance partner of them all and someone he’s clearly admired for a long time. You have Gulak outworking Bryan to start, forcing Bryan to take a step back to reconsider his opponent. That translates into great moments of reversal like Gulak getting the Romero Special on Bryan instead of vice versa. Stuff like that enhances all the connective tissue that makes this match such a joy to unfold. And hey, if you get bored with mat-based technical wrestling, Bryan also does a few suicidal bumps because he’s the best. The angle and height that Bryan took that German on is the kind of next level dedication that makes him the most exceptional worker in history. For him to follow that up with one of the most convincing ten count sells since Naito’s in the Dome makes it an even better structural piece of the puzzle. Not merely a dazzling spot but one that’s followed through and considered with its appropriate consequences. Bryan’s selling, in general, is beautifully on display in this match up. From having tingles in his fingers from being dropped on his neck to the emotional expressions of being surprised by the level of Gulak’s ability. What an amazing match, a top two match in the WWE so far this year (which let’s be honest isn’t hard to do given the level of quality that WWE cranks out). Happy that both these guys got the space to craft something so lovingly considered and thought out. We’re all the better for it. https://josephmontecillo.wordpress.com/2020/03/09/daniel-bryan-vs-drew-gulak-wwe-elimination-chamber-3-8-20/ ****1/4
  5. SmartMark15

    [2020-03-23-AJPW-Dream Power Series] Kento Miyahara vs Suwama

    Very boring for about ten to fifteen minutes then suddenly very good. Suwama ruled as a big man forcing Kento work from underneath. Found Kento much more compelling as an underdog babyface rather than a cocky top ace or maybe it was just a nice break in the formula. Either way, things were a bit plodding for the first half of the match especially when the action spilled out to the floor. Kento’s floor segments really are just a whole lot of nothing and it disrupts the momentum of the match pretty much every single time, stunting things before the actual match can get going in the ring five minutes later. But when things got going, they were really good. Suwama tossed Kento around with some great suplexes. Kento was driven to a desperation piledriver on the apron but Suwama still kept coming back with his throws and double handed chops. Really enjoyed just watching Kento absolutely get owned by this old man for a good thirty or forty minutes. Suwama pulls out the Jumbo combo of a big dropkick and a bridging backdrop hold to get the win and become Triple Crown Champ in what seems to be a very strange booking move. Even as someone who doesn’t religiously follow All Japan, sacrificing the lengthy Kento title reign to last decade’s Ace is questionable to say the least. Booking aside, the match took a while to get going but once it did, it rarely let up and was a fun ride. ***3/4 https://josephmontecillo.wordpress.com/2020/03/25/kento-miyahara-vs-suwama-ajpw-dream-power-series-3-23-20/
  6. SmartMark15

    [2020-03-07-wXw-AMBITION 12] Daisuke Ikeda vs Yuki Ishikawa

    It’s old dudes punching each other in the face. I don’t know how else to more succinctly explain the appeal of this match. For a more discerning fan than I, there is decades of history and legacy between those two that enhances every move they did in the ring on this night. Being a much simpler kind of dullard though, I enjoyed it because it was two old dudes doing irresponsible and stupid things with their bodies. The punches in this match thud with such a disgusting smack that it’s almost comic to an indie crowd who have been taught thigh slaps and kick pads. Once you get past the initial shock with a laugh, what you’re left with is stiff strikes and two men headbutting each other very hard. It’s shocking, almost disgusting, and insanely compelling stuff. ****1/4 https://josephmontecillo.wordpress.com/2020/03/21/yuki-ishikawa-vs-daisuke-ikeda-wxw-ambition-12-3-7-20/
  7. SmartMark15

    [2020-03-07-WXW-16 Carat Gold: Night Two] Mike Bailey vs Bandido

    I’m so rarely the low vote on something as universally loved as this match even among the harsher critics in my own bubble. But I just didn’t understand this one at all. Surely, it didn’t aspire to be anything more than just a fun spotfest and they definitely worked that match towards that aim but even from that lens, I don’t understand. After the initial enthusiasm for both guys at the bell, the crowd lulls almost entirely into an exhausted dullness as these two run through their back and forth awesome. Things perk up again after Bailey’s springboard off the top to the floor but then things just settle into a pretty monotonous trading of spots. Very little sense of escalation or struggle in transition. Just moves being done that are pretty cool in their own right. But then they just continue happening and these two just absolutely lose me. But hey, who am I to complain? I didn’t lose any cash throwing money into the ring after. Depending on just how much hype this sustains through this year, this feels like it’ll be 2020’s Ospreay-Shingo for me. **1/4 https://josephmontecillo.wordpress.com/2020/03/17/bandido-vs-mike-bailey-wxw-16-carat-gold-2020-night-2-3-7-20/
  8. I write about David Starr a lot. There’s a few reasons for that. First and foremost, there is the fact that David Starr is a very good wrestler. He has consistently been a top level performer on the independent wrestling scene for the last four or five years, cranking out excellent matches in promotions all over the world. And even when he falls short, it’s rarely because Starr himself puts in a poor performance but rather that other elements and choices get in the way. That is the case for this match here. This match could have worked. At around the twenty to twenty-five minute mark, there still existed the potential for this to be a great match. Around the thirty minute mark, I finally accepted that this was a bad match. By the time the match crawled aimlessly into its finish at the forty minute mark, I knew that it was bad match for sure. A lot of the problems here are problems I’ve discussed about David Starr in the past. It’s helplessly bloated, aiming for the kind of maximalist spectacle and awe that Starr’s best OTT and Beyond classics attain but falling short every time. Those aforementioned matches work so well because of Starr’s ability to invest into longterm storytelling that bolsters and excuses the instances of overindulgence. That’s the reason I can enjoy forty minutes against Devlin, WALTER, and even sixty minutes against Janela. Here against Bobby Gunns, it just feels perfunctory. The length of the match is exhausting. In fact, the whole match gives off a vibe of exhaustion especially from the crowd. The live crowd are visibly exhausted and somewhat detached from the proceedings even when the action is good (as it was in the early technical exchanges). It’s only after Starr’s amazing tope dive into the crowd that things liven up only for things to be dampened again by a crowd brawl that dulls the energy of the fans who can’t see the action. There are flashes of brilliance here in how Starr sells the damage that Gunns does to his arm. Credit to Gunns as well as there’s a lot of good arm work there and he’s such a dirty bastard that it’s easy to root for Starr. That heel-face dynamic makes the ref bump teases and the subversion leading into low blow spots so satisfying. But the match just doesn’t stop. It keeps crawling its way towards a miserable ending, the worst possible one: Starr losing. It was an inevitable result. As soon as the title vs. career stipulation got announced, it was always going to be Starr losing. His disappearance from PROGRESS at the tail end of 2019 and his very public criticisms of the WWE have made it so that there was no way this match would end with Starr holding the wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship above his head. Prolonging the suffering of that impending doom into a 40 minute slog felt more cruel than celebratory. Starr’s loss bring us to the second reason that I enjoy watching and writing about David Starr so much. David Starr is one of the few wrestlers left in our time who so vocally and thoroughly represents something beyond himself. The moniker of INDEPENDENT, the calls to unionize pro wrestling, the concerted efforts to never settle for less and always demand for more. These are the things that David Starr embodies not only as a character but as a person. In the face of criticism and cynicism, Starr has never once backed down from a very core principle: that pro wrestlers are workers and deserve to have their rights respected. As someone who came from a university that prides itself on activism and social responsibility, this always struck a chord with me. No matter what I think of David Starr’s matches, I can only ever respect what he stands for and the methods he uses to fight for those principles. Which makes it so crushing and disheartening when those same principles stand in the way of his success. In his farewell speech to the crowd, David Starr tells the fans that “Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.” In this case, Starr’s insistence upon calling for unionization of wrestlers has led to him drawing the wrong sort of attention from the entity that stands to have the most to lose from that: the WWE. Both David Starr and wXw have gone on record that neither party wanted to part ways. It doesn’t take a genius to see why they would have to though. Starr’s politics have essentially made him persona non grata at WWE-affiliated events. That the WWE casts a shadow on the result of this match does as much to sour me on it as the overindulgent layout does. There’s so much about this match that’s upsetting, some of it beyond the control of even Starr and Gunns. Unpleasant and grueling in all the wrong ways. Indicative of the worst of pro wrestling both stylistically and systemically. **1/4 https://josephmontecillo.wordpress.com/2020/03/17/bobby-gunns-vs-david-starr-wxw-16-carat-gold-2020-night-2-3-7-20/
  9. SmartMark15

    Joseph Montecillo Video Essays

    My tribute to Jumbo Tsuruta's final year at the top of All Japan.
  10. https://josephmontecillo.wordpress.com/2020/02/09/jon-moxley-vs-minoru-suzuki-njpw-the-new-beginning-in-osaka-2020-2-9-20/
  11. SmartMark15

    [2020-02-26-AEW-Dynamite] PAC vs Kenny Omega

  12. https://josephmontecillo.wordpress.com/2020/03/01/kenny-omega-hangman-page-vs-the-young-bucks-aew-revolution-2-29-20/
  13. SmartMark15

    Joseph Montecillo Video Essays

    This was probably the best match in Philippine wrestling history! Let's talk about how Chris Panzer's PWR Championship defense against Robbie Eagles made me physically ill.
  14. SmartMark15

    Joseph Montecillo Video Essays

    A primer for non-fans would be interesting but I feel like that's more in line with other channels than mine. Never say never though! Thank you so much for the kind words, Ica and I appreciate it very much.
  15. SmartMark15

    Joseph Montecillo Video Essays

    This week's video comes from my girlfriend as she reflects on her struggles trying to understand Kazuchika Okada!