Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Bushwhackers in Puerto Rico

Los Pastores v Jay & Mark Youngblood (Spring 1985)

If I'd read a synopsis or review of this match before watching it I'm pretty sure I'd have been psyched about the prospect of it in execution. Early stalling to rile the crowd? Extended heat segment? People throwing shit at the heels? Out of control finish? All of those things are gravy to me. But I've watched this twice now and it hasn't really hit the spot (though I liked it better the second time, tbf). The early stalling with the New Zealand and Puerto Rican flags was amusing, but it wasn't Jamie Dundee/Tracy Smothers-level heat-garnering. I thought it kind of dragged, honestly. The Youngbloods shine segment had some nice stuff built around working Luke Williams' arm, and Butch is always fun reacting to things, but then everybody seemed to get their wires crossed on something and the ref' was left floundering trying to pretend he missed the interference that led to the Sheepherders taking over. I liked the idea of some of the things they were doing during the heat segment on Mark, but there wasn't really any point where I bought Jay being TRULY pissed. One of the Sheepherders would run a distraction while the other took cheapshots at Mark, sometimes with a chair, then Jay would grab a chair of his own and kind of intimate that he was going to mess someone up with it...but never in a way that actually convinced me. He just, like, stood there holding it while Luke and/or Butch had to cower or run away. The whole thing was pretty messy as well, and then there was a finish after some all over the pace timing. Butch being thrown into the crowd prompting a pack of security guards to sprint over and make sure he didn't get jumped was the best part. Match was alright, but probably my least favourite so far.

Los Pastores v The Invaders (Barbed Wire Match) (9/21/85)

This just FEELS like Puerto Rico to me (Puerto Rican wrestling, I mean. I'm not suggesting guys running around dicing up other folks' foreheads with barbed wire is customary over there). I've barely seen any wrestling from Puerto Rico, but this is the setting most familiar to me based on my hazy memories of the few matches I watched years ago. I don't really know why but there it is. Anyways, this was fulla blood. As a match it wasn't mindblowingly amazing, but there were several close-ups of guys getting their foreheads carved up with barbed wire and the Sheepherders bleed everywhere. Luke Williams was really fun in this. His big, exaggerated bumping looked pretty gnarly considering he was often doing those big, exaggerated bumps neck first into barbed wire. It felt like the Sheepherders took a ton of this and the Invaders would take over for spells a little out of nowhere, like a switch just went and it meant it was their turn to go on offence. I should probably try and figure out which Invader is which. Right now I have no idea.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Randy Savage's Puerto Rican Tour

Randy Savage v Hercules Ayala (3/2/85)

Savage wrestling in Puerto Rico is news to me. I might've read something about it at some point, but I don't remember doing so and I know I haven't seen any footage of it. This was very Randy Savage, though, which means it was very fun. He plays allll the way to the back row here with his acting and general horse shit. Big exaggerated reactions, stalling, selling -- everything is designed to get a reaction; the reaction in this case being "pelt that fucker with garbage," and boy do they pelt him with lots of garbage. First half of this was basically Savage stalling and finding ways to keep getting gorilla press slammed by Ayala, who doesn't really do anything besides those gorilla press slams. After being slammed the third time he teases going into the trunks for a chain and this prompts people to throw more cups of piss and cigarette packets at him. When he eventually does manage to use the chain - jabbing Ayala with a chain-wrapped fist - Ayala kicks out and the pop for it is wild. Savage getting progressively more desperate after his chain has failed him is of course really fun, and it leads to him acting crazier which in turns leads to the crowd wanting to gut him (well, wanting to gut him even more). Really, this was Savage working Memphis-style stalling and shtick against a limited guy to great effect. If that sounds enjoyable to you then you'll probably enjoy this. I know I did. 

Friday, 23 September 2016

Back to Puerto Rico

Abdullah the Butcher v Andre the Giant (8/17/83)

I think this is the first time I've seen Abby match up with someone substantially larger than he is. I know Andre was a few inches shorter than his billed height (though the afro might've made up for it), but, as corny as it sounds, his aura and presence really does make him seem like every bit the giant he's presented as. This was pretty short, but I dug it for what it was. The main hook was Abby being headbutted and bear-pawed before inevitably bringing out the fork to turn the tide. I love how Andre sold being jabbed with a shiv and punched in the throat. He's a big expressive dude and he's great at conveying that sense of vulnerability with equal parts danger, like the monster from Stranger Things after being caught in the bear trap (so I guess Abby is Nancy Wheeler, only he's peppering Andre with fork stabs rather than bullets). Eventually he fights back, takes the fork for himself, and appears to be stabbing Abdullah in the neck and stomach with it, which was very Puerto Rico. To the surprise of all the match ends in a count out and crowd brawl, with Andre throwing a fence at Abdullah's head.

Carlos Colon v Bruiser Brody (Chain Match) (Summer 1984)

I've watched this twice now, because the first time I figured I overrated it based on how shockingly enjoyable I found Brody in it. There are Brody matches that I like and there are Brody performances that I like, but there's always a little bit of the "you know...for Brody" factor at play, like you're grading on a curve. This had a Brody performance, though, that I thought was legitimately good on any curve. Like, I don't think of Brody as much of a seller. Ever. He almost never manages to communicate vulnerability. He'll bump, but it's usually in half-arsed ways. I've seen a goodly amount of Brody matches where he staggers around with his arms out like he's trying not to fall backwards into a swimming pool and that'll be the extent of his efforts at selling opponents' offence. But this didn't really have any of that. From the very start it was as if he was flat out afraid of being chained to Colon, and I don't remember ever seeing Brody attempt to sell fear (and I think fear was the emotion he was actually going for, as opposed to it only looking like fear because he was rubbish at whatever else he was trying to convey). He bumped and didn't just pop back up straight after -- he actually stayed down and let Colon pepper him with chain-wrapped fists. And of course he bled, because he always bled. When he wasn't selling he imposed himself and threw out some pretty mean looking shit. At one point he wrapped the chain around Colon's eyes, he chucked Colon onto a table and beat on him with the chain, etc. Then Colon would come back and try to touch the four corners, and sure enough Brody would frantically try and stop him without ever guzzling him like I expected him to. The finish was a bit hokey, but that's about my only complaint. If you're not a fan of Brody then I doubt this'll convince you to do a deep dive reevaluation, but it might make you wish there was more of him wrestling like this. 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Some '97 Nitro

Over on Cross Arm Breaker Tim Cooke is (or was; I don't think he's written anything in about six months) watching and reviewing some short Nitro matches from '97. When I wrote up that PWF Guerreros tag last week I - perhaps foolishly - speculated that I'd seen just about every Eddie Guerrero match committed to tape. Well, that might be nonsense. Because I've gone digging and there's a bunch of '97/'98 Eddie matches from WCW TV that I'm pretty certain I've never seen before. My interest was piqued, and not just for the Eddie matches. So I watched some wrestling. These are my findings.

Rey Misterio Jr. v Juventud Guerrera (Nitro, 9/15/97)

For an abbreviated, spot-heavy version of a Rey/Juvi AAA match, this was reeeeeally fun. If you're going to judge a spotfest then I suppose you ought to be docking points for blown spots, but Juventud completely whiffing a simple dropkick only to follow it up with a brutal sunset flip powerbomb off the apron kind of throws a spanner in that theory. The blown dropkick annoyed him, so he went and did something awesome (for the viewer, anyway. Probably not for Rey) to make up for it. Do we knock him for the dropkick, or raise our thumbs to the crazy powerbomb that followed? Do we believe the capacity to forgive is in us all? Or, like sane people, do we just not give a fuck and watch the rest of the match and not bother philosophising over Juventud Guerrera missing a dropkick? I'll leave that one to you. Rey Jr. in 1997 is one of the more spectacular wrestlers ever. Some of what he does has been topped for sheer wow factor by now, almost twenty years later, but there's something about Rey hitting a somersault senton over the turnbuckle that can't quite be replicated no matter who does it. It's like the Cruyff Turn. You have Messi and Ronaldinho and Mertesacker, all capable of spellbinding brilliance, but nobody did it like Johan. And he still has the best springboard 'rana of them all.

Eddie Guerrero v Ultimo Dragon (Nitro, 9/15/97)

Man, Eddie in '97 was something else. You're probably reading this and thinking, "oh great, here he goes again," but really, he was awesome. I'd say he was an all-round better wrestler in 2005, but in '97, when he was quicker and a little less bulky, he had such SNAP to everything he did. Even a simple headlock takeover or an armdrag is done like it's intended to make the other guy hit the mat as hard as possible. I'm not one of Ultimo Dragon's biggest fans (and once more you're thinking, "oh great, here he goes again"), but he was really good in this. Match only goes about six minutes, but they throw an arm injury story into it and Ultimo deserves credit for keeping the sell job going right until the end. He hangs the arm by his side, mostly relies on stiff kicks for strikes (and some of them were STIFF), and can't hit certain moves properly because of the dodgy arm. Best example of this is towards the end where he tries for the dragon sleeper, but he can't hook it in properly so Eddie starts kneeing him in the shoulder to force the release. Eddie was also great at working over that arm. I would rather watch Eddie work a body part than almost anybody ever and my favourite part of this was his scoop slam while Ultimo's arm is hammerlocked, followed by rolling Ultimo onto his front and hitting a hilo onto the still-hammerlocked arm. Lead in to the finish was cool as well, with Eddie catching Ultimo in midair, hitting a shoulderbreaker, then putting him away with the frog splash.

Eddie Guerrero & Dean Malenko v Rey Misterio Jr. & Steven Regal (Nitro, 11/3/97)

Killer sprint. This lasted about three and a half minutes and they crammed that three and a half minutes full of cool stuff. Rey and Malenko match up to begin with and they run through a mini greatest hits of their stalemate spots. I wasn't crazy about the stand-off, for stand-offs are tripe and I will not be swayed on this, but then Eddie started applauding their athletic exploits and Malenko just glared at him with unconcealed disgust. Crowd are all over Eddie with the Eddie sucks chants, so Eddie covers his ears and everyone chants louder. The Eddie/Regal segment lasted about 45 seconds and it was awesome. Regal goes for a butterfly suplex and Eddie, just as he reaches the point where he'd usually flip over for the landing, spins to his left and reverses it into an armdrag. I honestly don't think I've ever seen that spot before and it was cool as hell. There's another great bit where Eddie gets down on his knees and begs Regal for a break, but Regal naturally isn't having any of it. He makes to throw a punch, and as the ref' tries to grab the arm Eddie dives forward and chop blocks Regal's knee (from the front, which is the nastiest kind of chop block). Finish is cool as well, with Malenko earning Eddie's disgust this time around. I'm not sure you could ask for much more out of this. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

YouTube Lucha Grab Bag

El Hijo del Gladiator, Fuerza Guerrera & Ponzona v Octagon, Super Astro & Volador (CMLL, 9/16/90)

1990 CMLL really is the gift that keeps on giving. This was another one of dataintcash's uploads (hero's work, that), and at this point I feel like I might as well just grab all the CMLL TV from that period. It's such a stacked year that, even after combing through match lists and picking out a bunch of interesting stuff, you end up skipping right over something cool. Case in point: this. Because Fuerza v Super Astro is pretty fucking cool. Astro was inspired in this, with all of his headbutts landing flush, his springboards getting major height and his little jigs leaving the rudos befuddled. As he got older and his footwork weightier he really required a rudo with some competence as an actor to make that spot work, but he was still at his physical peak here (he was 31, so in lucha terms he was practically a hale youngster). Even still, the rudo unit went above and beyond with their stooging, not just for Astro's jig, but for pretty much everything thrown their way in the first caida and a half. Fuerza/Astro rocked like you'd expect. Fuerza ended up humiliated on the floor almost right away and it prompted him to start a fight with a fan, which of course he shied away from when it became apparent the fan wouldn't. Eventually he washes his hands on the exchange with a very clear "that'll be enough of that then!" gesture and tags out. Hijo del Gladiator isn't someone I feel like I know very much about, but his shtick was every bit as fun as Fuerza's. He was even more determined to look like a goofball, if you can believe that. Volador gave him the run around something fierce and it culminated with a third caida tope that landed Gladiator in the second row (he wound up in a lady's lap after almost wiping out the guy in front of her). Ponzona might've gone and topped both of them, though, at least when it came to the uber stooge moment of the match. Where Fuerza and Gladiator were left dizzy by Astro's footwork, Ponzona threw a full blown tempter tantrum. The third caida had a bunch of 'one guy applies a submission --> an opponent comes in to break it up and apply a submission of his own --> rinse repeat', which was a bit deflating after the rudo beatdown to end the segunda promised something more, but it did end on a high note. The spot where Fuerza tried to run away from an Astro tope only to get cleaned out by Octagon's seated senton was outstanding. 

Tuesday Terry Funk

Terry Funk v Sal Bellomo (WWF, 8/17/85)

Fuck me, how's this for your Terry Funk movie at 11? This may not be a revelation to you, but Sal Bellomo is not very good. It's unfortunate, but not everybody can be an all star. Still, he's fired up here and definitely game to play off Funk's lunacy. He does two mule kick/dropkicks that actually looked great and at one point he does a splash right across both of Funk's kneecaps, which ruled. So fair play to Sal Bellomo, he brought as much to the table as you could reasonably expect. But this is Terry Funk's show. He was downright fucking unbelievable in this. Before the bell he throws his chaps at the ring attendant and takes a kick at him, then spits on him, then climbs over the barricade and picks a fight with someone. He bumps around in 100% Terry Funk fashion and it's a stellar effort at making Bellomo not look like a scrub. At one point he tumbles out the ring and lands on top of Gorilla and Jesse's announce desk and the pop for Gorilla getting in Funk's face (Funk started it, obviously) was amazing. Later on he deliberately chucks Bellomo out the ring back onto the announce desk and starts shouting "PIG!" from inside the ring, either at Bellomo or Gorilla or just everyone in the general vicinity. He was a total wildman and you couldn't wipe the smile off my face if you tried. I guess if you want to be critical you could say he maybe gave Bellomo a wee bit too much, but I don't really care. I would rather watch Funk rile people up and get tangled in the ropes and progressively act more and more deranged because he's being shown up by the ham n egger in his god awful singlet than most things in wrestling, so you won't hear me complain when we get it.

Monday, 19 September 2016

A Glimpse at 2016 (part 6)

Fuerza Guerrera v Octagon (Lucha Azteca, 9/10/16)

I'm not sure how good this actually was, but there's something about Fuerza Guerrera bleeding all over the place and hand-walking Octagon through a mano a mano bout in 2016 that I can't help but enjoy. This isn't 1992, so Fuerza can't hit it all the way out the park like he could then. He can still do Fuerza things, though, and sometimes that's enough (well, it's enough for me). Octagon wasn't all that good even in '92 and he's borderline atrocious now. He moves at half-speed, his mask torn open in three places, dazed and confused like a pensioner who's just been mugged for his shoes. There was one bit where he tried to throw a kick in the corner and I assume he thought Fuerza was going to move, but Fuerza didn't so Octagon just kind of fell into the ropes and stared unapologetically into the front row. But man, Fuerza is everything. He rolled out some of his tricks from decades gone by, like tying Octagon to the rope by the tassels on his mask, and there were at least three instances where he blatantly kicked Octagon in the dick (at one point he then hit the deck like it was he who had been dick kicked). His somersault senton off the apron was also completely nuts considering Octagon could not possibly look less arsed about catching him. Finish was pretty crummy even by dodgy lucha refereeing standards, but I'm not at all upset that I took sixteen minutes out of my day to watch this.

Friday, 16 September 2016

A Glimpse at 2016 (part 5)

The Revival v Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa (NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II, 8/20/16)

Really great match. Sort of feels like a hybrid of your modern day workrate tag and traditional southern style, like if you transplanted the Andersons into peak ROH or something and had them work surly cut-offs and heel distraction spots. And all of the southern trappings weren't just for show, either -- they got honest, legitimate heat in creative and interesting ways. I've only seen one Revival match before and don't remember anything about it now, but one word I've often seen used to describe them is "throwback." You know, "they're a throwback to an age gone by" or whatever. I don't know if this is how they always work, but in this match they turned in a hell of a throwback performance. None of their double teams were too cutesy or overtly laid out, but they still managed to range from flat out COOL to plain nasty (there's plenty to be said for just taking turns punching and stomping a guy in the head). The cut-offs were probably my favourite, though. There was an awesome bit where Ciampa was thiiiiiis close to tagging Gargano, so Dash, from the apron, just fell into the ring as if he'd leaned too far over the ropes. The ref', somewhat confused, goes over to check on him while Dash feigns injury, and as this is going on Ciampa makes the hot tag. Only to be cruelly denied his chance to come in like the house o' fire because the ref' never saw the tag. It was such a great spot. Totally and blatantly dickheaded, and best of all everything they were doing really wound up a 99% smark crowd, so you had only had one This is Awesome chant the whole match and instead everyone spent their time cheering the babyfaces and booing the heels. I don't have much of an stance on Ciampa and Gargano, honestly. I think I've only ever seen one match they're involved in and that was the one against each other from the CWC a few weeks back. But Ciampa played a solid face in peril, Gargano was a fun hot tag with his bursts of energy, their strikes looked fine if a bit thigh slappy at times, and none of their offence was too contrived. Basically they were responsible for the "modern day workrate tag" part of this fairytale and they held up their end admirably. Finishing run was great as well. You had some BIG nearfalls that the crowd were living and dying on; Dash brought the Arn Anderson by faking a punch and hitting a DDT as Gargano went to duck it; Gargano hit a cool slingshot spear from the apron into the ring, which is a spot that isn't always easy to make look not crummy; and there was even a kind of Dusty Finish just for good measure. I now feel like I owe it to myself to watch every Revival tag from this year.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

A Glimpse at 2016 (part 4)

Roman Reigns v Sami Zayn v Sheamus v Chris Jericho (RAW, 7/25/16)

Thought this was pretty decent. I don't tend to like 4-ways, but I guess I'm less bothered about their limitations as I get older and more understanding of the concessions that need to be made while watching a fatal 4-way on WWE TV. This also had a hook right from the start with Jericho and Sheamus teaming up to go after Reigns, while Zayn briefly questioned whether or not he wanted to be a part of that. You fly with the crows you get shot with the crows, his granny used to tell him. Jericho isn't good these days and his offence is almost always lousy, but he looks like a scuzzy dad going through his midlife crisis, with his dodgy tats, grey goatee and sparkling jacket, and his character work is usually pretty fun. Sheamus has also changed his look since I last saw him and his beard is phenomenal. His skin is so white he looked translucent during his intro, like a mohawk'd Doctor Manhattan. The Jericho/Sheamus partnership goes to the dogs like you knew it would and I liked how Jericho would turn on him in semi-obvious fashion, while simultaneously trying to be sneaky about it. It's like he thought he was being smart taking that cheapshot when he did, but everybody bar Sheamus - because he's either too trusting or just a stupid idiot - could see it coming a mile away. Reigns was Reigns, which is a good thing. He was stoic, unperturbed by the boos, and ready to steamroll people when he needed to. His big swan dive is really awesome and looked super cool in slow motion. There was this great bit where he was cleaning house with Superman punches and he and Jericho tried to do a Codebreaker-into-Superman punch that ended with Jericho just falling over, so Reigns just lifted him up and KO'd him like it wasn't even a thing.

Roman Reigns v Finn Balor (RAW, 7/25/16)

This was really dang good and pretty much exactly what I thought it should've been. Roman worked dominant, he kept moving forward, but he sold with just the right amount of vulnerability when he needed to. Balor, who I don't like nor care about, hit his stuff clean and in spurts, with most of it coming off of counters where he looked really nippy, and got tossed around in plenty of fun ways. One of my favourite things about Reigns is how he manages to get into position for things in very organic-seeming ways. He's subtle in lots of what he does, whether it's selling or facials or even body language at times, and that really works for him when it comes to setting up spots that other guys are blatantly obvious about. I mean, modern WWE is not a style that strikes me as being very organic. I can watch a bunch of WWE in one sitting and enjoy a good amount of it, but it's micro-managed and produced step by step and it can sometimes looks clearly pre-planned. But Reigns has a knack for makings things look like they weren't necessarily laid out to a tee beforehand (I'm not saying everything is anyway, but you know plenty of it is). There was one bit in this where Balor was hanging over the bottom rope and Roman went around to do his running apron dropkick, but Balor moved and countered with a double stomp as Roman landed on the apron. The cool part about it was how Roman made it look like he wasn't just laying there after the missed dropkick waiting to be double stomped by Balor. When he landed on the apron he grabbed his sides and really exhaled like he'd winded himself, grimacing with eyes closed tight just as Balor came down onto him with the stomp. It was only a two second thing, but it was as if he'd tried something, missed it, genuinely hurt himself in the process, and even closing his eyes while grimacing was enough for him not to see his opponent trying to capitalize (and Balor was rapid fast about it as well). I'm sure it was a planned spot, but it actually looked organic, as if it was something that happened naturally during the course of the contest, and that's something Reigns is generally pretty great at. They introduced a little bit of leg work in the middle of the match that never had much impact on the narrative, but I liked the idea of it. Smaller guy taking out the leg of a bigger opponent has been done in wrestling since time immemorial, and it made sense in this context even if it never had a payoff. Plus I thought Roman was great at selling it for a while, only dropping it once it was obvious Balor wasn't planning on going back to it. Finish also played off the theme of Balor mostly attacking through quick counters, hitting the Slingblade to counter the Spear before following up with a one-two punch of corner dropkick-Coup de GrĂ¢ce. Don't think I've ever enjoyed Balor more, and the more of Roman I watch the more convinced I am that he's no worse than top 3 in the company.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The Brothers Guerrero Hit the Indies!

Eddie & Hector Guerrero v Black Angel & Super Ninja (PWF, 5/22/98)

How about this for random? I'd never once heard of PWF before (I mean, I assume), nor do I know why Eddie and Hector Guerrero happened to be working the tag title semi-main event on one of their shows in 1998. But really, who cares about the WHY? It's an Eddie Guerrero match I never knew existed! I've seen almost every Eddie match committed to tape (have I ever mentioned that he's my favourite wrestler?), so when something new pops up there's no way I won't get giddy. And he's teaming with Hector, who after the Houston footage has also become one of my favourite wrestlers ever! It's been a good day, brothers. Pretty sure I've never seen Black Angel or Super Ninja before. Black Angel does lots of "raising the roof" gestures. Super Ninja is dressed like a ninja, obviously. Neither struck me as being very good. Angel seemed kind of uncoordinated and Hector struggled to hide the fact he was trying to help him into position for things at certain points. Ninja did karate and most of it looked lousy. I guess indy guys who predominantly threw roundhouse kicks hadn't started wearing kick pads and stiffing the life out of people yet. Low-Ki is unimpressed. But you watch this for the Guerrero dream team, anyways. What a pair of shitheads these guys are. Eddie is like that kid who'd show up down the park and start mouthing off and acting like a wee dick and you'd wish he'd just fuck off so you could go back to playing football. You really wanted to hit him in the face after a little while, but if you did that he'd just go and get his older brother and they'd come back and it'd be a whole thing. No way you'd get back to the football after that. Hector's the older brother. He doesn't seem like he's as much of a weasel as Eddie, but he has that same disingenuous face and you don't really trust him and, you know, Eddie had to learn how to be a shithead from somebody, right? That was basically how this played out. Hector at least started out on the level, but Eddie was in stooge mode right from the go. At one point he gets so excited he slaps Hector in the face and then back pedals when it looks like he might've gotten too big for his boots. Hector's still the big brother here. Later on Eddie scurries into his corner and wraps his arms around Hector for protection, so Hector slaps him back. Pare away all the bullshit and douchebaggery, Eddie's still a Guerrero. And that's not how a Guerrero is supposed to act. All of the cheating and cheapshots ruled, which isn't surprising when it's being done by guys who rule at cheating and cheapshotting. The run to the finish was a bit disjointed and Angel/Ninja kinda struggled to keep up with it, but overall this was a cool discovery and a glimpse at how awesome an Eddie/Hector unit could've been had they gotten a real run together at some point, even as late as 1998.

If anybody's interested, watch the match here.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

NWA Classics 24/7 #15

Terry & Dory Funk v Jose Lothario & Mil Mascaras (Houston Wrestling, 1/7/79)

This was one of those matches you watch and think, "man, I wonder if Terry Funk is the best wrestler ever at that thing." The thing in question in this match was his struggle to get out of a headlock/front facelock. The match starts out with Dory Funk being armdragged around at half speed before throwing a few short forearms, and that's followed by ten whole minutes of Terry trying to escape a headlock. And what a fun ten minutes they were. The way he tries to shake himself free, how he'll try and lift Lothario's leg off the floor while grinding a forearm across his face, how he'll literally attempt to jump out the ring just to get away -- it made a ten minute segment built around the simplest of holds feel like something you had to watch. Then when he finally manages to tag out he spends the next few minutes bent over on the apron de-cauliflowering his ears. As the match went on he also started getting surly as fuck, and that was a different yet equal kind of awesome. Dory was actually pretty fun in that regard as well, but Dory is low-key surly and when he stooges it's pretty subdued. With Terry, nothing is low-key and nothing is subdued. There was this bit after the opening headlock where Dory chucked Lothario to the floor and as Terry walks over to him you're ready to bet your mortgage on him sticking a boot in. Except he doesn't, and even pats Lothario on the back before helping him back in. That was nice of him, right? Very sporting. Then Dory, the fucking enabler, chucks Jose out again and at this point Terry is like "yes, I in fact DO demand recompense for the cauliflower ear!" All of the Terry/Jose parts were great, actually. That shouldn't really be surprising, but sometimes you'll get two guys on opposite ends of a tag match and they don't quite match up like you want them to. Luckily this had plenty of Terry v Jose and it culminated with them throwing jabs and Terry being left jelly-legged. You know a singles match would rule and you pray to the old gods that one exists. You also pray for that neverending well of untapped Terry Funk footage, for your thirst is yet unquenched.

Monday, 12 September 2016

A Glimpse at 2016 (part 3)

Rush v LA Park (Liga Elite, 7/14/16) 

Well fuck my face, this was everything you hoped it would be. I don't even know what Elite is supposed to be, whether it's some kind of CMLL spin-off or something, but either way I assume Rush and Park agreed pre-match to use it as a vehicle to fuck the establishment and do everything they're otherwise not allowed to do shy of whipping out a shotgun. Seeing this kind of blood-soaked lunacy in Arena Mexico again had me smiling ear to ear the whole time. Like, there are so many awesome on-paper brawls that you could book from that CMLL roster, but there's always that little voice in the back of your head going "you still wish it had gallons of blood, you bloodthirsty vampire, you." And apparently that voice speaks to every member of this crowd as well because god damn they eat all of this up, to the point where they were legitimately about ready to riot when the referee tried to call the whole thing off. Some of the weapon shots were pretty brutal, particularly the first chair shot to Rush, but there's something sort of harrowing about seeing old man Park stumble around covered in blood like a vagrant Stevie Van Zandt while Rush recklessly launches a mini-fridge at his head. It's actually been a while since I last saw Rush, but man is that guy still the greatest. There isn't a better coke-fueled bully in wrestling and he was just crushing Park with furniture, licking Park's blood off his hands, getting right in the faces of angry fans...generally being the complete headcase that's been my favourite wrestler in the world for the last three years. Both guys going fuck it and continuing to brawl for another ten minutes after the initial stoppage made the whole thing feel even more chaotic, and then you get the big dives in amongst the debris and the crowd throws money in the ring at the end. That's usually a good sign. This was incredible.

Friday, 9 September 2016

A Glimpse at 2016 (part 2)

Dragon Lee, Stuka Jr. & Volador Jr. v Kamaitachi, Gran Guerrero & Negro Casas (CMLL, 2/19/16)

Pretty awesome spotfest sprint. Maybe it's just because I've seen so little wrestling from the last two/three years that it only seems this way to me, but Casas in this type of match feels like one of those beautiful pro-wrestling rarities that comes around once in a blue moon and knocks your socks off, not because it's Negro Casas being good at the pro-wrestling, but because it's Negro Casas doing a balls to the wall spring with guys almost forty years his junior and not looking one bit out of place. He's a bit like late-career Mikel Arteta only with functioning hamstrings and quadriceps and spine. He might not have the pace or legs to go box-to-box like he once had, but he has an astonishing mind for his craft and the capability to control everything around him. There were absolutely moments where guys were kind of caught standing around waiting for their part of an intricate sequence, Casas included, but I love how he'll still more often than not make it look like he's selling at the same time, whether it's by stumbling around a little more groggily than the others or taking an extra few seconds to lay low on the apron before getting into position. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I still haven't watched a Dragon Lee/Kamaitachi singles match yet. All of their interactions in this were cool at their worst, absolutely spectacular at their best. The speed at which they do rope running sequences, the sheer audaciousness of some spots. Right at the start Lee just yanks Kamaitachi out the air, muscles him into position while he's clinging to Lee's body, then launches him way in the air with a fucking suplex-powerbomb. I should watch one of their singles matches already. Stuka Jr. has always been a low-key favourite of mine, especially in trios, and ESPECIALLY in trios like this. It's been a minute since I've seen him, but his splash is still pretty and his dives are still gorgeous. And holy fuck if the stereo tecnico planchas weren't immaculate. Negro Casas also kicked a midget in a blue chicken suit. I give this eleven stars.

JR Kratos v Joe Graves (Premier, 3/6/16)

Really cool, unique match; had a bit of a Battlartsian feel to it with Graves as your Ishikawa and Kratos as your Viktor Krueger or some such (only way better, because I got the sense Kratos was actually quite good). I guess it's grappler v much bigger dude who can also grapple and ALSO throw you around and elbow your head into the floor. All the matwork and grappling itself was really snug and fought for. Graves was dogged in going for submissions and Kratos was someone that wouldn't panic, being patient and using his weight advantage to work himself into position to throw his elbows. And man, when he threw those elbows he really threw them. There was one in particular that he threw from a mounted position into the back of Graves' head and it was just brutal. I also absolutely loved the spot where Kratos fakes to throw a punch which causes Graves to duck, and as soon as he does this Kratos grabs him and hits a nasty, awkward snap piledriver that landed Graves on the side of his head and neck. It was a spot I assume was planned, but it was so quick and well-executed that it didn't seem that way at all, instead coming off as Kratos thinking on his feet and seizing an opening. Finish was pretty great as well. I'd never seen nor heard of these two guys before tonight, but I bought into the story they were telling and popped at the end, so I couldn't really have asked for much more.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

A Glimpse at 2016 (part 1)

I've been going through some threads on PWO and after reading about the Trauma I/Canis Lupus mask match I feel motivated to watch some stuff from this year (including Trauma/Lupus, eventually). I've been out of the modern Japanese wrestling loop for ages and I'm not entirely sure what's going on in WWE right now and I haven't even kept up with lucha for a couple years now, but we'll see what tickles my fancy and then I'll lose interest again in about a week. WWE also put up the fucking Last Battle of Atlanta the other day so I should probably get on that real quick as well. If I can write up four entries of 2016 wrestling I'll be proud of myself.

Hideki Suzuki & Yoshihisa Uto v Yasufumi Nakanoue & Ryoto Hama (BJW, 5/5/16)

This was my first taste of the Suzuki/Nakanoue feud and it felt like a pretty great place to start. Fairly short, super intense, buckets of hate, etc. Good grief Hama is even fatter than the last time I saw him. It's like Dusty Rhodes absorbed Rikishi Phatu Dragonball Z style and this was the outcome. His fatboy splashes all looked very lung-squashy and I pretty much love his twist on the duelling lariat trope by just diving onto Uto with a cross body. Suzuki/Nakanoue is of course what you come to see, though. No idea what the context of this feud is or why they hate each other to death but I'm fine just sitting back and watching them try and maul each other. Constant cheap shots, looks of disgust, flurries of violence - it was all there. The WAR comparison I've read certainly feels apt and considering WAR is just about my favourite promotion in history I was all the way behind this. I don't actually know if I've seen Suzuki before but I liked him a bunch here. He was pretty Tenryu-ish in the way he'd sort of react to Nakanoue's strikes with condescension early on, to later being thoroughly fed up with them and absolutely plastering him in response.

Hideki Suzuki & Yoshihisa Uto v Yasufumi Nakanoue & Yuji Okabayashi (BJW, 5/30/16)

The Suzuki/Nakanoue relationship has deteriorated even further in the three weeks between this and the previous match and I don't think there's any hope of reconciliation at this point. I still don't know why they despise each other so, but if it keeps leading to shit like this then I hope they never bury the hatchet. This went about fifty seconds before the ref' threw the match out, then he was persuaded to restart it after everyone had calmed down a bit and it only went another four and a half minutes after that. I could see that being too short for someone to really get behind, and sure, I would've liked it to last a bit longer, but if you've got less than five minutes to work with and you approach it by beating the living dogfuck out of everyone else involved then I will never, ever not appreciate that. And by "everyone else involved" I literally mean everyone, which is exactly what Suzuki does here. He mostly wants Nakanoue, but he's not above taking a swing at ring boys and the referee and even his own partner for getting in his way. It was very great. He was pretty much the world's best potato-farming crowbar bastard and everyone got hit in the face by him, especially Nakanoue, who got it the worst and most often. Uto actually got fed up at one point and smashed him back, but Suzuki didn't care and just went back to stomping on Nakanoue's head because who needs a tag team partner anyway? I kinda loved the finish with Okabayashi really putting some torque on the camel clutch while Suzuki, who knows his partner is in trouble, ignores it in favour of throwing Nakanoue into things. This reminded me of one of those Hashimoto v Ogawa tags from the late 90s/early 00s, and if you're successfully aping a Hash/Ogawa tag then you are alright with me.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

More Puerto Rico Stuff

Gino Dellaserra & Pierre Martel v Los Mercenarios (11/27/82)

Well, I did not know Rick Martel had a brother. Where Rick was handsome and all shredded like a julienne salad, Pierre is gruff and rugged and he looks like a binman. Never seen Dellaserra before but a cursory google search reveals at least four different spelling variations of his surname. The VQ isn't always spectacular on this - though dodgy VQ on early 80s studio matches that you'd never check out otherwise is part of the charm of the 80s sets - so I'm not sure which version of Los Mercenarios this is. Judging by the timeline I'd have thought it'd be Angel Acevedo/Cuban Assassin and Gerry Morrow, but it doesn't look like Morrow. Acevedo's hair/beard combination is absolutely spectacular. He's achieved true lunatic caveman status with that. This was rolling along nicely with some spirited arm work by Martel and Dellaserra, then Martel ends up on the floor and comes back in covered in blood so we have ourselves another 'Welcome to the Puerto Rico, Motherfucker!' situation. I'm all in on Puerto Rico studio matches already. Crowds are raucous and there's blood and shithousing for days. I'm not even sure what the finish was but there was eye-gouging and face-biting and blood and beard everywhere. I dug this.

Carlos Colon v Tully Blanchard (1983)

This was one of those Tully matches where he wanted to come in and be as much of a shitbox as possible before finally having to man up and throw some punches. He begged off, stooged, outright ran away, threw cheapshots, and generally acted like an annoying wee weasel. If that sounds like fun to you then you'll probably get a kick out of this. Thought Colon was pretty good again, especially in the way he'd go from merely threatening to punch Tully in the nose at the start of the match to actually punching him in the nose, and often at that, by the end. Tully will do that to a guy, I suppose. Some cool revenge spots on the floor as well, like Tully throwing Colon over the barricade into a group of fans and attacking him every time he tried to climb back over, leading to Colon picking Tully up and dropping him tailbone-first across the barricade later on. Finish isn't executed terribly well, but I liked the idea of it.

El Gran Apollo v Dick Steinborn (February 1983)

I'd never seen either of these two guys before. Steinborn looked to be somewhere around his fifties and sure enough a quick check on tells me he debuted in 1951(!) and at one point went by the ring name Dick Gunkel, which for whatever reason just tickles me. He was also the brother-in-law of Jerry Oates, who spent a while in the NWA through the 70s and 80s and had a cup of coffee as a ham 'n' egger in the WWF in the early 90s. So...there you go. Steinborn was pretty damn fun in this as your tough old roughhouse. He had a few cool takedowns and carried himself like a guy who knew how to go, but if things were getting a bit out of hand he would duck under the ropes for a quick breather. You need to learn your limits as you get on in years, you know. If there's any Eisenhower-era Dick Steinborn floating around I may very well be tempted to check it out. I never got much of a handle on Apollo from this. He struck me as Puerto Rico's white meat midcard babyface - solid if unspectacular - but the match was about six minutes long, so it's hard to gauge anything from that. Another nifty studio match, though.

El Gran Apollo v Buddy Landell (5/8/83)

This was also about six minutes, but Apollo was super solid again, enough that I think it's fair to say he's pretty okay at the pro-wrestling. Landell was Landell, and man, Buddy Landell is just the best. He's such a detestable goof and this studio crowd are allll about letting him know it. His stooging was really great here, with the best spot of the match being his face first collapse into the middle turnbuckle after Apollo headlocks him into oblivion. He also flings himself wildly into the air off a back body drop and has no compunction about taking shortcuts, which just winds folk up even more. His chinlock was up there with the most shoddily applied chinlocks in the history of wrestling, but it didn't last long at least. These short studio matches are a-okay with me.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Welcome Back to Puerto Rico, Motherfucker!

Ric Flair v Carlos Colon (10/16/82)

I think I may have said a word or two about Flair in the recent past, right here on this very blog. I've perhaps mentioned that the most interesting Flair matches - especially if they're lengthy - to me personally at this point will be against guys I've never seen him match up with before. Well I've never seen him match up with Colon and I was interested in seeing what Colon would bring to a title match (especially after seeing what he brought to an Abdullah the Butcher match), so I was looking forward to this. You have a pretty good idea how the match is going to be laid out and what Flair will do on his end, but how opponents fill in their part of the script can be pretty intriguing if it's an unfamiliar opponent. Colon basically controls the first ten or so minutes by working the arm, and it's not spectacular but it is spirited and looks fairly nasty. The arm work gets dropped soon after Flair takes over, but then I assume we all saw that coming. Flair actually does some pretty nifty stuff working on top, like hitting a couple snake eyes (don't remember seeing him do that before) and another big delayed vertical suplex. Around midway through we get some legwork and Colon reverses the figure four, then applies it himself, and the last stretch is your big Flair run to the finish. There was some pretty great stuff down the stretch, the best being Colon absolutely fucking Kurt Angling Flair head first into the ring post about six times in a row, with Flair taking every shot like a nutter. Colon's cartwheel as his "drop the strap" moment is incredible, btw. The crowd goes utterly BALLISTIC and it's so infectious watching him get fired up like that. I'm gonna enjoy him a ton on this set, I can already tell. Flair grabbing a headlock as a way to transition into the finish is very Flair, but man I didn't expect the actual finish to be what it was. Goosebumps-inducing. Probably doesn't sound like I'm overly enthusiastic about this as a match, but I thought it was really good. Of the three matches so far it probably has the least re-watch value to me for reasons that are likely obvious by now, but it might still be the best of the three (like, I guess).

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Welcome to Puerto Rico, Motherfucker!

I think my favourite thing about wrestling at this point in my life as a hardcore wrestling dork is the buzz that surrounds every new DVDVR 80s set. Seeing the initial match list, checking the post every day to see if the set's arrived yet...sometimes an old, whiskey-ravaged degenerate enjoys the simple things in life. The lucha set (which I never finished because I suck) came out three years ago now, but this summer both Portland and Puerto Rico got the goodhelmet treatment. Puerto Rico is a huge blind spot for me, so I picked up that set and started it tonight. It's already the best fucking thing.

Carlos Colon v Abdullah the Butcher (September 1981)

How about this for an introduction. It's taking place in Trinidad and Tobago for the West Indies Championship and I'm like 98% certain it's the first match I've ever seen from Trinidad and Tobago. So there's another one off the old bucket list! The ring mat looks squishy, like a dodgy matress or a burst bouncy castle. Early parts were all about Colon punching Abby in the ear and trying to rip the ear off Abby's head. Abby sells with mild annoyance. Then Abby goes bonkos and man this might be the most fun I've had watching Abby punch folk in the throat and kick them in the eye with the toe of his boot. He does it at Abdullah the Butcher speed but it all looked great. His elbow drops fucking rule as well, btw. About seven minutes in and both guys have tapped a gusher and Savinovich is on commentary calling the referee a full blown idiot for not stopping the match before a riot ensues. You're listening to it thinking "yeah okay, mate, I'm sure a riot will ensue" and then a few score Trinidadians surround the ring like some shit is brewing. The commentators also reiterate that anything they say about Abby that may be misconstrued as insulting is purely accidental and in the heat of the broadcast because they don't want Abby or his people hunting them down and assassinating them or something. Which was awesome. Eventually the ref' does throw out the match, but Abdullah isn't done and keeps going after Colon post-match. Someone jumps in the ring - a wrestler from the territory, apparently - and Abby punches him in the throat so people outside start trying to grab Abby's legs and yank at his tights. Then Abby steps out the ring and everybody scatters like Abby is the fucking plague incarnate! Fans literally start fighting with each other. Abby goes full Hansen and waddles into this mass of people and folk are terrified, running over each other to get away. Remember when people believed a morbidly obese bag of walnuts who moved at the speed of moss from Windsor, Ontario was a psychotic murderer from the Sudan? Hot damn, that was the pro-wrestling. Bring back the kayfabe! This ruled like fuck.

Ric Flair v Tommy Gilbert (9/4/82)

Well I loved this. Fuck it, I said it, I meant it, I'm here to represent it. Old, balding, two-years-shy-of-retiring-into-a-refereeing-gig Tommy Gilbert isn't the first candidate I'd put forward to play plucky underdog in a studio match against the World Champ, but hell if it doesn't work. Maybe this is the kind of setting in which I'll get the most out of Flair at this point. Short, to the point, pretty much a sprint. Thought he struck a really nice balance between being the aggressor and begging off. Like, I know for a fact I'd be fawning over Rose or Bockwinkel if they worked the match this exact way. Actually, and maybe this is just because I haven't watched a Flair studio match in ages, Flair seemed more aggressive and intent on working on top in this compared to a LOT of Flair matches I can think of, studio or otherwise. He of course gives Tommy plenty, but he'd let loose with body shots, AWESOME elbow drops, kicks to the kneecap, rabbit punches to the nose, a great delayed vertical suplex, etc. He cut a no-nonsense promo before it about how he was the best athlete in the world, and he generally worked this like a guy who could live up to that hype (with the begging off highlighting the hubris in such a statement at the same time). And how about the figure four? Wasn't reversed, wasn't applied to Flair as a revenge spot, didn't feel tacked on for some mid-match heat. It was the figure four leglock in all its glory. Praise the Puerto Rico.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

NWA Classics 24/7 #14

Wild Bull Curry v Johnny Valentine (Houston Wrestling, 6/20/69)

This was a ton of fun -- the kind of thing that makes the NWA On Demand service truly awesome. Like, this being unearthed and thrown up on the internet in perfect VQ almost half a century after it happened is I've never seen Wild Bull Curry before, but my goodness, his face! Is about 50% comprised of one single eyebrow! He looks like a newly hatched duckling, or Stig of the Dump. I love him already and so do this crowd. If you ever wondered where Greg Valentine picked up a lot of his quirks as a worker, it was from his old man. Johnny just LOOKS like an older, grizzlier Greg. Nobody could clubber a guy in the chest like the Valentine family. This is 2/3 falls, and the first fall is largely puncher v technician. Curry only knows how to throw fists and he'll live and die on that. Valentine tries to work holds and it feels as much like a tactic to smother Curry so Bull doesn't punch him in the ear as it does a way of actually winning. It wasn't remarkable hold-working or anything, but it was fairly active and I like how he seemed to be trying to actually use leverage, plus I dug Boesch's descriptiveness on commentary. Curry's flurries of wild punches were pretty great. They're not pretty at all but every bit as reckless as you'd expect punches to be when thrown by a man raised by orangutans. Some of them were stiff as a bastard as well, especially the ones where the camera gets up real close and Valentine is eating them square in the bloody forehead and staring into space like he's having a stroke. He even topples backwards like Greg would eventually do (except Greg would fall on his face). Stinker of a finish, but Curry trying to eat people post-match like a psychotic wee ManBearPig was entertaining.

Dusty Rhodes v Ivan Koloff (Coffin Match) (Houston Wrestling, 10/24/80)

I was kind of confused about how this stipulation was supposed to work. They never really explained it well pre-match and then they started working it like a Texas Death Match with falls and rest periods in between which. But Dusty also demanded the coffin be left in the ring and both guys would sell being near it like the coffin was a sentient being that could suck them into another dimension. THEN they started trying to shove each other in the coffin and...basically it was a casket match where you win by throwing your opponent in the coffin (although this one didn't have a lid), but for whatever reason you could also win falls that...didn't really matter whatsoever. They had some fun spells of brawling in between the rest periods, though. Ivan hit a nice gusher initially and they built to a hot crescendo at the end considering the early parts were fairly heatless for a big Dusty match. And in reverse 80s fashion the finish was actually awesome! Ivan laid Dusty's head over the edge of the coffin - which looked like a prop from an early Doctor Who episode - and went to hit a top rope kneedrop like he was trying to decapitate Dusty guillotine style. Dusty moved, Ivan kneed the coffin, and Dusty bionic elbowed him into said coffin. I wouldn't really call this good, but it was an interesting spectacle.

Friday, 22 July 2016

I Watched Some Indy Wrestling From the Last Year. No, Really.

Matt Riddle v Tracey Williams (Evolve 52, 11/7/15)

I got the urge to watch some modern indy wrestling. I don't really know why. Folk have been hyping guys like Riddle and Fred Yehi for a minute now though, so I wanted to start with one of those two. My intention was to watch Riddle v Chris Hero from Evolve 57, but I couldn't find it online in the 45 seconds I set aside to look for it and don't know where to find it past two pages of a google search. This popped up though, and it was an 11 minute file so at least if it sucked it wouldn't be a total waste of time and turn me off all wrestling for another month and a half. I've never seen Williams before, though I've read about him on Segunda Caida and PWO and Dylan Waco's twitter. Riddle I remember from the UFC where he got fired for his penchant for smoking weed and pissing off Dana White. He had some beef with Kevin Randleman a few years back and I think Randleman threatened to fuck him in the pussy or something. This was alright for about six minutes. I was pretty impressed with the glance at Riddle. He spent the majority selling and he was good at it. He took one strike a couple minutes in and had this great KO sell, and he made it look like he was struggling to regain his bearings for the next few minutes. When he did he let loose with a few nasty looking kicks and his forearm smashes weren't crummy. Some of Williams' were. He doesn't do the Roderick Strong "slap your own thigh while throwing a strike" thing, but instead he uses his free hand to slap Riddle's chest as the forearm connects. It was kind of goofy. He was also very "modern day professional wrestler" in this. Remember when Tommy Rogers or Rick Martel would hit a cross body and they'd get pumped up like "fuck yes I loved that!" and the crowd would go apeshit right along with them? Well Williams hits a cross body and immediately - to mild applause - gets up and roars like LeBron after he dunked on KG. Everyone is so angry these days, yo. Such is the world we live in. I think I'd like Riddle a good bit if I watched him get some more time. I'm not sure about Williams, but it's tough to condemn a guy based on six minutes of footage. I mean, once upon a time I compared Nick Bockwinkel to Edge, so I'm not immune from being a total fucking spastic.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

NWA Classics 24/7 #13

Hector Guerrero v Jose Lothario (Houston Wrestling, 5/25/84)

Who knew that what I needed to drag me out of a wrestling slump was to watch Hector Guerrero and Jose Lothario punch each other in the face for seven minutes? This is basically a set up for the eventual Texas Death Match - which turned out to be one of my absolute favourite matches of the 80s - and it's a total balls to the wall sprint that ends with neither guy being satisfied about the result. As always, Hector was a blast in this. He maybe gave Jose a little TOO much, but all of his awesome stooging and bumping around did make for some well deserved comeuppance for the early mugging, and the crowd ate up every second of it. Plus how can I not get behind Lothario throwing his amazing punches? Hector also seemed to get more desperate to turn the tide as the match went on, and it leads to him bailing outside and throwing a chair in the ring, which Lothario catches and bashes over Hector's head as he's getting back in the ring. In true "rules of the squared circle can't contain our hurricane of hatred" fashion both guys agree to grab the ref' and punch him across the ring so he'll stop interfering in the serious business at hand - which is both guys punching each other across the ring.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Tenryu Ain't Particular, He Bangs Like Vehicular Homicides on July 4th in Bed-Stuy.

Genichiro Tenryu v Isao Takagi (All Japan, 1/28/90) - GREAT

For a seven minute match with a result that was never in question, this was fucking great. Tenryu is pretty much the best ever in this kind of setting and I could watch him wrestle scrubs all day. You know he's never gonna lose (unless it's a G-1 or a tournament of some sort, I guess), but he's as unselfish a top star as you'll see in the ring. Sometimes he might even give some guys more than he should, but more often than not he strikes a perfect balance between letting the opponent look good while reinforcing who the guy at the top really is. Doesn't hurt when the opponent is game as well. Takagi has an awesome should tackle where he lunges at Tenryu like a linebacker, then Tenryu backs him into the ropes and offers up the clean break only for Takagi to slap him across the face. Tenryu fucking kills him. He kicks him in the eye, chops him in the throat, then throws him outside and beats on him with a chair. It's the dynamic you know and love. Tenryu going on a rager and trying to bend a guy in half with a Sharpshooter is something I wish we saw more of.  Tenryu going on a rager and kicking the shit out of someone is something we saw plenty of and it never gets old.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Whiskey & Wrestling's Top 100 Greatest Wrestlers Ever

The Greatest Wrestler Ever project on the Pro-Wrestling Only message board is wrapping up over the next few days. After two years of watching a shit ton of footage of a shit ton of wrestlers, 152 people submitted ballots of their top 100 wrestlers ever. 557 wrestlers received votes and over 600 were nominated. This was my list:

1. Stan Hansen
2. Genichiro Tenryu
3. Negro Casas
4. Jerry Lawler
5. Satanico
6. Toshiaki Kawada
7. Yoshiaki Fujiwara
8. Mitsuharu Misawa
9. Shinya Hashimoto
10. Buddy Rose
11. Terry Funk
12. El Dandy
13. Kiyoshi Tamura
14. Nick Bockwinkel
15. Eddie Guerrero
16. Rey Mysterio
17. Tatsumi Fujinami
18. Daisuke Ikeda
19. Yuki Ishikawa
20. El Hijo del Santo
21. Volk Han
22. Kenta Kobashi
23. Ricky Steamboat
24. Daniel Bryan
25. Ric Flair

26. Bill Dundee
27. Jumbo Tsuruta
28. Dick Murdoch
29. Arn Anderson
30. Riki Choshu
31. Akira Taue
32. Randy Savage
33. Barry Windham
34. Bobby Eaton
35. Ricky Morton
36. Virus
37. Blue Panther
38. Rick Martel
39. Sangre Chicana
40. Dustin Rhodes
41. Vader
42. Jushin Liger
43. Dick Togo
44. Pirata Morgan
45. Steve Austin
46. Fuerza Guerrera
47. Naoki Sano
48. William Regal
49. Fit Finlay
50. Jun Akiyama

51. Tito Santana
52. Alexander Otsuka
53. Chris Benoit
54. Butch Reed
55. Shawn Michaels
56. Masa Fuchi
57. Aja Kong
58. Yoji Anjoh
59. Bret Hart
60. LA Park
61. Jerry Estrada
62. Emilio Charles Jr.
63. Greg Valentine
64. John Cena
65. Black Terry
66. Bob Backlund
67. Tommy Rogers
68. Chavo Guerrero Sr.
69. Mariko Yoshida
70. Koko Ware
71. La Fiera
72. Christian
73. Ted DiBiase
74. Yoshihiro Tajiri
75. Hector Guerrero

76. Negro Navarro
77. Samoa Joe
78. Tully Blanchard
79. Mark Henry
80. Andre the Giant
81. Shinobu Kandori
82. Curt Hennig
83. Jerry Blackwell
84. Sgt. Slaughter
85. Atlantis
86. Mocho Cota
87. Masa Saito
88. Rick Rude
89. Jim Duggan
90. Tama
91. Yoshihisa Yamamoto
92. Takeshi Ono
93. Dennis Condrey
94. Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
95. Yoshihiro Takayama
96. Michael Hayes
97. Jose Lothario
98. AJ Styles
99. Austin Aries
100. Kazunari Murakami

Naturally I would change some things even though it's been less than a month since I handed that list in, but you know, I had to cut a lot of guys I really, really like in order to whittle it down to 100. It stung like a bastard to leave off Juventud Guerrera and Tommy Rich and Villano III and Kantaro Hoshino and...well there were lots of guys. There are also others, who I certainly wouldn't consider favourites of mine, that I still sort of regret leaving off. I'm not a Nobuhiko Takada fan, but he's been involved in a number of tremendous matches that he clearly wasn't simply capable luggage in. At his worst he can be intolerable, but at his best, with the aura he brings to things like the Hashimoto match from 4/96...I wish I stuck him on there somewhere at the bottom. Same goes for CM Punk. At no point during the project did I ever really, truly consider him. Not a week after the deadline I already reconsidered that, and wondered just why he was never on my radar for this list. It was an oversight on my part, and if I got the chance to do it all over I'd probably have him somewhere between 60 and 80. I could probably come up with more if I thought hard enough about it, but Takada and Punk are the ones I regret omitting. 

I never really had any set criteria for this. Well, my list was based on what the names there did in the ring (it was hard enough at that; fuck trying to add in promos and drawing power and whatever else), but other than that I never had any mathematical formula. I took into account lots of things, but in the end I had to go with my gut for the most part. I did try my best not to make it a list of favourites, or else my top 10 would've featured guys like Butch Reed, Koko Ware, Fuerza Guerrera and Masa Saito. And well, obviously those guys rule, but I don't think I could come up with a proper argument for any of them being legitimate candidates for the top 10 greatest wrestlers ever. Top 100, sure, but not top 10. 

The biggest blind spots I had when it came to finalizing the list were World of Sport and Puerto Rico. I've been a member of PWO since 2008 so it's not like I can use "I was late to the party and never had time" as an excuse for why I never got around to watching a bunch of WoS or Puerto Rico footage. I had plenty of time. The project ran for two years, and I was there for all of it. I just go months at a time without watching or thinking about any wrestling at all (as is evident by the multi-month stretches where this blog gathers nothing but cobwebs), and Arsenal have been absolutely destroying my soul for the past two seasons, but really, I never got around to diving into WoS and Puerto Rico (and a bunch of other individual wrestlers) because I was too lazy to do so. I mean, I wanted to. I reeeally wanted to. But, you know, Andre Benjamin said it best: you can plan a pretty picnic, but you can't predict the weather (I'm sorry, Ms Jackson). 

I'm posting this because I kind of want to talk about everyone there in at least a little detail, while also writing something about a match involving them. I'm not about to turn it into a "100 matches in 100 days" thing because there is no fucking way I'd be able to watch and write about a match every day for ONE HUNDRED days, but even if it takes about five years (even that might be optimistic) I'd still like to make it happen. Hell, maybe if there's a 2026 Greatest Wrestler Ever project I can look back on this and laugh at how stupid I was. 

I might start this tomorrow. I have no idea who I'll do first. 

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Spotlight: Mariko Yoshida

I'm trying to cram in a bunch of stuff for the GWE poll before the deadline, and over the last week and a half I've dived back into a style I figured I had already closed the book on: joshi. I'll level with you; I'm not much of a joshi fan, but my ballot looked kind of weird with only Aja Kong from the joshi workers being on it, so I got my shit together (motivated to do so by reading Dylan's awesome rundowns of a number of joshi workers on PWO) and just motored through a ton of joshi to make sure I wasn't shortchanging anyone. Turns out I was definitely shortchanging Shinobu Kandori. Turns out Aja Kong is still what I remembered her being. Turns out Mayumi Ozaki is still just about my least favourite wrestler ever. Turns out I'm still whatever on Akira Hokuto, even if great Hokuto is pretty fucking great. Turns out I still won't rank Manami Toyota, but I like her more than Ozaki. Turns out I also never realised how great Mariko Yoshida was. I thought I was long past the point of being excited about the joshi puroresu, but I'll be damned if Yoshida hasn't grabbed me in a big way (mostly for the funky out ARSION run, but she was good before that as well).

Yumiko Hotta, Toshiyo Yamada & Mariko Yoshida v Bull Nakano, Aja Kong & Kyoko Inoue (AJW, 9/15/92)

This seemed to be geared more towards "fun" than "epic," which I was perfectly fine with. It's 2/3 falls and the last 2/3 falls joshi match I watched went fifty minutes and they went into the finishing stretch after about seven of those minutes. It was not enjoyable. This wasn't like that and they never went overboard at any point. Maybe it's because I was focusing mostly on her, but I thought Yoshida was really good in this and my favourite girl in it. She's young and scrawny and rookie-ish so of course she gets steamrolled, but she had some awesome bumping for fat lady offence. She was also SPUNKY and stuff, so whenever she fired back with some offence it felt really scrappy and desperate, which is exactly what you want out of a four year pro against a couple monsters like Bull and Aja. She was very fun in this match is what I'm saying. Hotta and Aja really smack the crap out each other like you'd expect. Aja drills her with an absolutely fucking ungodly spinning back fist and it looked like Hotta's molars flew out a hole in her cheek. Good start for Yoshida.

Mariko Yoshida v Aja Kong (ARSION, 6/21/98)

I'm not sure why this had a fifteen minute time limit, but either way it was kept relatively short and compact as a result. First half was solid enough but never had a ton going on. There was one cool moment where Aja hit the deck and tried to goad Yoshida into grappling, but Yoshida just strolled into the corner and crossed her legs. This was actually a pretty cool and different look at Aja. I'd never really seen her hit the mat before, and while it's not her game it did make for a fun dynamic. Second half picks up and really builds to a nice finish. Yoshida didn't get TOO tricky on the mat, but she did start rolling out some super neat stuff, and that forced Aja to go back to what she knows. What she knows is how to back fist people in the gub and holy lord did she back fist Yoshida in the gub. Yoshida's KO sell of it was fucking spectacular as well. This kind of almost stripped back style of joshi is far, far more my thing than the go-go-go bombfests, so I'm not sure why I've never really taken a closer look at ARSION in the past.

Mariko Yoshida v Candy Okutsu (ARSION, 12/18/98)

Yoshida is the same age here as I am now. She's probably younger by a few months, actually. We share similar career paths, her and me. She's almost as pretty as well, though she definitely wears the hot Spiderman outfit better than I could. I'll admit that, much as it pains me. This was pretty damn terrific and I think I love her, which really ought to be enough to get her on my ballot. Right? She was really awesome in this and came across as being totally unique, at least in comparison to all the other joshi I've seen personally (I haven't bothered with any joshi post-2004 or so, but I don't doubt plenty of girls are aping her these days). Okutsu isn't on the same level on the mat, but she holds her own fairly well when they take it down there. Some of the sprawling and grappling actually felt a bit like low-to-mid-level RINGS, and I absolutely mean that as a compliment because even low-to-mid-level RINGS can mean really damn good matwork (and when you talk about high-level RINGS you're talking about the level of Tamura, Han, Yamamoto, Kohsaka, etc., and only a handful of wrestlers in history reached that level). Yoshida herself will burst into super quick submissions by grabbing limbs and working them into angles limbs shouldn't be worked into. Her speed on the mat is pretty Tamura-esque, but she's not always grabbing shoot holds as such; more like something Trauma II would throw on someone. So, you know, I never expected a kind of Tamura/Trauma II mash-up from a joshi worker. She will also blast you in the face with a knee Ikeda-style so there's your Battlartsian influence to REALLY make me gush with praise. There was one bit where she literally monkey flipped Okutsu into a cross armbreaker and it just about blew my mind. Eventually the match takes on a grappler v flyer dynamic of sorts, which builds to a big climax that never feels overblown. I'm sold on Yoshida already, and not just because she's purrdy.

Mariko Yoshida v Yumi Fukawa (ARSION, 9/26/99)

I probably should've watched their May match before checking this one, but this felt like it was still pretty easy to follow on its own. I don't think I've seen Fukawa wrestle before, but she can handle herself on the mat. She's not as quick as Yoshida though, and it kind of leads to a few moments during the early exchange where Yoshida has to leave herself open or feed Fukawa in semi-obvious fashion. It's not massively glaring or anything, though. Thought Yoshida was really awesome in this, particularly as the match goes on and she can't seem to put Fukawa away. Fukawa kicks out of an air raid crash and Yoshida has this great look of almost shock before quickly gathering herself to go in again for the kill. Then Fukawa somehow makes the ropes when it looks like Yoshida has her Volk Han'd in the middle of the ring and Yoshida's "fuck sake, this should not be taking this long" expression was awesome. Fukawa sort of targets Yoshida's knee towards the end and I dug Yoshida's selling of it. It's pretty subtle, but at one point she tries to stand up and the leg buckles briefly, so Fukawa just launches herself at that leg like a shark smelling blood. Finish got an audible "What?!" reaction out of me as well. This was really good. I feel like I need to see every single thing Yoshida did in 1999, and I can't say I've ever thought that about any other joshi worker for any other year ever.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Islanders v Bulldogs

The Islanders v British Bulldogs (MSG, 1/25/88)

This feels like it should be a better match-up than it is. The Bulldogs doing a Steiners and launching Tama around for a while sounds great on paper, but I've watched a few Bulldogs/Islanders matches now and unfortunately that never really transpires. This was the best of them, but it still only topped out at decent-to-good. The Bulldogs were a pretty weird team around this point. I remember them often guzzling opponents and giving them hardly anything (not that the Steiners weren't guilty of this from time to time as well). In fairness they don't really do that here, but...well maybe it's because I'm watching these matches after the Islanders/Strike Force feud, but there is just no energy from the Bulldogs shine segment at all. It's all pretty basic headbutt and headlock stuff. Neither guy is a particularly compelling face in peril, either. Dynamite does take a back suplex on his neck, which I guess leaves little surprise as to how he wound up in a wheelchair shooting jackrabbits with an air rifle for a hobby, but either way his FIP section was mostly fun because of the Islanders. Haku has a bunch of cool chop variations (he'll chop you across the chest, Mongolian chop you Killer Khan style, Kabuki uppercut you in the throat, etc.), they run some amusing shtick with one of those invisible dog leashes, and at one point Dynamite has a foot draped over the bottom rope so Tama grabs both legs and yanks him into it balls-first. Davey's run of offence post-hot tag was more like it with the big piledriver and running powerslams, but then it quickly goes to a disappointing DQ finish. Dynamite putting the pensioner referee on his backside was probably warranted, at least. There's probably a pretty damn good match in this pairing, but this one was only halfway there.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

More Islanders; More Tito (and More Martel)

Strike Force v The Islanders (Philadelphia Spectrum, 12/5/87)

I've watched about seven Islanders/Strike Force matches over the last few days and man is it one of the more unheralded feuds of the mid-to-late 80s "golden age" of WWF tag team wrestling. Off the top of my head I think the only series from that period I'd definitely have ahead of it is the Rockers/Brainbusters series. A real staple of these Islanders/Strike Force matches is the awesome babyface shine segment. Martel and Tama are super energetic wrestlers and everything they do has such a spirit about it. I'm not sure you'll find many guys who get more fired up before punching someone in the face than Martel or bump off a dropkick with more zeal than Tama. I don't know if this is the best of the shine segments in a Strike Force/Islanders match, but it's pretty damn great. Haku is tough as nails and really makes the babyfaces earn their moments, Martel busts out a hurricanrana, Tito whips Tama around with killer looking armdrags, and of course Tama takes his nutcase dropkick bump by sailing out over the top and careening head first into a chair. Islanders have some really cool offence once they take over, like Haku's triple backbreaker and Tama's sky high double axe handle off the top rope (if Gorilla was on commentary you'd probably get a line about him literally being able to hang from the rafters). Again, the thing I love most about this series is the participants' willingness to change it up quite a bit even though they wouldn't always have needed to. I've watched tonnes of 80s WWF feuds and it's certainly not uncommon for the guys involved to run practically the exact same match in MSG as they run in Philly as they run in Toronto, right down the to same transitions and comedy spots. I don't even mean that as a knock, because they're wrestling in different markets in front of audiences that wouldn't have seen the match they had three nights ago. WWF never had ten hours of wrestling on TV every week in 1987. But that never stopped all four of these guys from trying something new almost every time out. They still have the great stock spots as well, though, like Tama's amazing face first slingshot bump (it's probably the best spot of its ilk in history) and Martel heaving Tama out the corner with some massive height. Tito's FIP spell was also great here. I said a few days ago that he's not as theatrical a seller as Martel, but I'm not sure there's much daylight between the two in that role. In fact, if pressed, I think I might slightly prefer Tito, if for no reason other than how impressive he is at subtle selling. At this point I'd pretty comfortably take these two teams over just about all of the more lauded WWF teams of the era like the Hart Foundation and British Bulldogs (and I guess Demolition, if you're someone who lauds them).