Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Random Thoughts on WWE Matches

So after taking several days off from blogging I decided to get caught up on some WWE TV I missed last week, namely the shows worth watching, Superstars and Smackdown.

Superstars 8/12

The Usos v. Goldust/Yoshi Tatsu

The Goldust revival has been fun to follow for a number of reasons. In particular I really enjoy watching him work fast paced, rope running exchanges with rookies as he always outclasses them. He also shows more fire than any of the fiery young babyfaces on the roster. Here he was in all of his glory as they let him work an offensive showcase of sorts against the Usos who were surprisingly game here. Really loved Dustin mixing up his staple spots in this and I was impressed by the big spots from the Usos as well. Finishing run was nice and definitive though you really wish the Goldust/Tatsu team would get a run with the belts.

Chris Masters v. Chavo Guerrero

Masters has been tremendous this year and Chavo has been back to solid form so it was expected that this would be a good one but I don't know that anyone could have predicted this would be as good as it was. In general Masters is a great bumper, who sells his ass off and has sound psych. Earlier in the year he was really getting a lot of mileage out of structuring his matches around the Masterlock. Had a good match with Ted Dibiase, a good triple threat match, good match with Orton, great match with Ziggler, and an earlier match with Chavo all essentially built around that "deadly move." Here we have Masters working a sort of slugfest/highspot intensive style that I really hadn't figured as a strong point for him and yet it worked very well. Seriously there were some great spots in this from both guys. At one point Master's chops Chavo in the face. Later Masters takes a back bump on the floor and Chavo falls up with two rolling sentons. They do a spot where Chavo goes for the three amigos and Master's stops him and hits a fucking jackhammer of all things. Masters also hits a nasty spinebuster in this. Masters ribs are getting worked over throughout and he does a solid job selling. This eventually leads to a brilliant spot where Chavo has Masters in a bodyscissors. Masters turns over and is in Chavo's guard (Lessons of 2006!) and starts raining elbows. As Chavo starts to defend himself Masters seamlessly climbs to his feet and in one motion delivers one of the most realistic slingshot spots I've ever seen with Chavo propelling himself at a dangerous pace into the turnbuckle. Really a brilliant spot, and Masters working Tony Charles/Bill Dundeesque matwork exchanges is not something I thought I'd ever see. Finish here was great as Chavo fought off a superplex attempt with a diving hotshot that Masters took an insane bump off of. Chavo quickly ascends to the top and hits one of the better frog splashes I've ever seen out of him for the finish. I thought Masters clotheslines looked sort of odd here but other than that this was an excellent performance from both guys.

Smackdown 8/13

Kane v. Kofi Kingston

I wouldn't call this good because Kofi is truly terrible and Kane is Kane. But this was better than expected. Kofi's "Trouble In Paradise" kick looks like shit when he is doing it to a human, but it looked amazing when he was doing it to a ringpost. Kane's follow up legwork was surprisingly spirited as well.

Cody Rhodes v. Christian

Cody is someone who has certain tools but lacks a sense of ring generalship and will occasionally do really stupid shit as a result. But this is a Christian match so you know it's going to be all about Christian selling his ass off and that's what we get here. Really Christian selling the arm has become a near guarantee for a great match over the last couple of years and this was no exception. In particular the finishing run with Christian unable to get the Killswitch set up because of his arm, and the corner bump leading to the Cross Rhodes was really great stuff. Christian has had a really great month or so, and this was icing on the cake.

Drew McIntyre v. Matt Hardy

This was an abridged version of their truly great match from a month back. It's strange to say, but Drew McIntyre has sort of taken the place of Finlay as the Smackdown British Isles worker who wrestles hard hitting, heavyweight matches, with good structure and big bumps. Hardy is a good opponent for him because Matt has a few really nasty looking offensive moves and is willing to take the requisite bumps necessary to make these matches come across as truly brutal affairs. Spear through the ropes looked really reckless in a good way here and I thought the finish with the ring steps was a nasty play off of their previous wars. Funny that the only intentional "blood" shown in WWE this year was on the sock of Matt Hardy. Usually I tell kids to read the novel, but this is a case where the Cliff Notes are a nice compliment and everyone should check out both.

Dolph Ziggler v. Rey Misterio

These guys have had a couple of great matches in the past so I had high hopes coming in. Ziggler has been entertaining to watch this year as he has evolved from a great bumper who could be carried to a legitimately great wrestler with a real understanding of match structure. This stands out less than the other really great matches between these two because it doesn't have any real "Holy Fuck!" spots and it's essentially a throwaway match but it was still really good. Less 619 heavy than a lot of Rey matches, Ziggler's pinballing was fun, and I thought the finish was really clever and protected Dolph.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Notable Matches From 2010 - Day Six

Josh Crow v. Damian - USWO ?/?/10

I can't find the exact date on this as I stumbled upon this while searching for 2010 Chris Michaels matches. This will not be a match that appeals to everyone as it has an awkward moment or two and it's bursts of big offense come across as almost self-consciously indy at times. But for me this really worked for a lot of reasons.

For starters this is essentially a studio wrestling match in 2010 between two guys that look like 1980 studio jobbers. Imagine how a crowd in Memphis would have reacted in the 80's if Billy Travis had busted a tope con hilo onto Mark Starr right at their feet. That's pretty much what happens here, though the locals do include a disproportionate number of No Depression-reading, Alt Country types, who are apparently unaware that Nashville isn't Austin.

Secondly, this match is very well structured as you have an opening barrage of "big offense" from the babyface Crow, who then whiffs pretty nastily on a tope, which sets up the heat section. There are several comeback teases here and Crow is unusually good at selling a beating with these theatrical bumps and facial expressions that you would never get out of Tyler Black or Roddy Strong or whoever the indie standard bearer is these days. They build slowly to the eventual Crow takeover which takes place after a pele' kick that was hit perfectly and appropriately sold by both guys.

Another really impressive thing about this was how solid everything looked. I mentioned the tope con hilo and the pele, but literally every big spot in this looked good. Crow was running through Damian's offense to make it look good and I thought Damian got over really well for some quick rana's. Also was impressed by Crowd's kicks as they looked sharp, impactful and at times brutal.

There is a shitty run-in finish here and Damian could have brought a bit more offensively. But those are quibbles. The explosive babyface really looked like an explosive babyface here and the douchebag heel really looked like a douche. This was a flash and sizzle match with good pacing in front of a half country fried/half hipster audience. As an illustration of the dispirit elements that make up modern indie wrestling this probably can't be topped.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Notable Matches From 2010 - Day Five

Tommy End v. Brian Danielson - WXW 7/4/10

WXW is a German company and for some reason they decided to run a shootstyle tourney. The show is set in an extremely crowded brick building that sort of looks like a coffee house and comes complete with pretentious Rimbaud reading types who Golf clap for every hold and reversal. The ring is tiny and the mat is covered with a sort of loose fitting tarp that looks like something Dexter Morgan would use to butcher someone on.

Match goes almost exactly seven minutes which is pretty much the perfect length for a match like this. Danielson is such an easy fit into this setting that you really want to see him get a BattlArts run. He works several smooth spots on the mat, does a good job targeting the leg and the finish with Danielson getting annoyed by End's weak strike attack and flooring him with some nasty leg kicks is pretty great.

This isn't an off the charts great match, but it's something people should see.

Monday, August 9, 2010

E-C-Dub Files, Entry Two - Too Cold Scorpio v. Rob Van Dam

From "Cyberslam 99"

If you can put up with interference by Sabu and Fonzy at the very end this is a great match, maybe one of the ten best ECW matches I've ever seen. And it's a total Scorpio carry job. Right out of the gate this has a really awesome dynamic as you have the guy who sort of defined slick highspots and the ECW TV title v. the guy who fetishized slick highspots and elevated the tv title above the World title. It has a real clash of the titans feel to it and Scorp wrestles this almost like he believes the title still belongs to him and Van Dam has it on a loner basis.

Early you get a bunch of cool shit like Scorpio going into a fighting stance leaning into RVD's kicks making them look like potential knockout blows before crumpling in the corner. Later when Scorp has Van Dam back pedaling with strikes, RVD goes for a standing jump kick and Scorp just sort of leans his head back before peppering him again. Scorp brings his A game and really unloads on Rob with his offense but the match never even enters spotfest territory because the pacing is perfect and Scorpio drops his staple "cocky guy hitting big moves and then not going for pinfall" gimmick which really helps the flow of this.

I thought they structured this really well with even handed mat exchanges early, Van Dam winning the first battle, Scorp winning the second, a brief Van Dam comeback and then Scorp trying his damnedest to win the match by any means necessary. Tables get turned for Van Dam off of Sabu interference, but Scorp makes another comeback only for Fonzy to intervene. Finish was pretty great as Scorpio takes a jump kick/chairshot from Van Dam/Fonzy combo, RVD scrambles to the top and Scorp desperately tries to get to his feet before falling at the last second (with RVD in mid air) and getting hit with the five star for the finish.

At this point in 1999 no one was talking about Scorpio being a great wrestler and yet here he is having a great match with a guy who was basically working a Carrot Top tribute gimmick, with shitty prop spots instead of shitty prop comedy. The "who was the best wrestler in ECW history?" debate is basically a two person field, with Scorpio and Tajiri being the only legitimate options. Several years removed from his peak run in the company, this is a real feather in Scorp's cap.

Notable Matches From 2010 - Day Four

Gringo Loco/El Hijo Del Diablo/Avisman v. Chico Che/Black Terry/Dr. Cerebro - IWRG 3/7/10

I'm going to cut right to the chase here. This was an awesome match, definitely top ten, possibly top five for the year. It is essentially a cornucopia of wrestling greatness with great pre-match heeling, great bumps, great selling, great spots, great brawling, a great finish and of course (and most importantly) a fat dude doing awesome highspots.

If you are new to IWRG here is what you should know - Gringo Loco and El Hijo Del Diabo have been engaged in a vicious feud all year with Terry and Cerebro that has resulted in some of the best and most intense brawls of the last ten years. Loco is basically working an Art Barr-esque "screw the wetbacks, god bless America!" gimmick and El Hijo Diablo is essentially working Eddie Guerrero to Loco's Art Barr, i.e. turncoat to La Raza. Avisman was drafted into the unit at some point in the year to complete the Gringo Loco VIP trios team. Terry and Cerebro presumably brought Chico Che along because he is a fat dude with Festus-like fits of rage and the dopest fat guy highspots this side of 1996 Dick Togo. Everyone of these guys is a top thirty worker so far this year and that's really low balling it. I'm a Lucha novice and I'd probably have five of these guys in my current top twenty.

Typical pre-match ritual is for Gringo Loco to chastise the locals and that's exactly what we got here with a little twist - NFL football player Dhani Jones is in the crowd and gets big props from Loco and the gang. Evidently Jones actually worked a match for IWRG as part of some Travel Channel thing though I never saw it. Moving on.

Opening fall is rudo domination fall and features some serious blood loss from Terry, Cerebro and Chico Che. Black Terry Jr. is the one shooting these handhelds and he does an awesome job catching the gore here as there are some really wonderful shots of all of these guys throughout that really make this one feel like a war. I really love Diablo's nut kick as a defensive move any time someone tries to get the upper hand in a strike battle. Gringo Loco is a great prick as well and Avisman's headbutts look surprisingly vicious at times in this.

There is a really great moment at the beginning of the second fall where Avisman comes over to cheap shot Terry and Terry gives him a "you have got to be kidding me boy" look and starts beating his ass before the rest of the rudos run over and stomp him down. The transition to offense for the "good guys" is really tremendous as Loco flies to the floor on a corner charge and they proceed to whip up on Avisman and Diablo with the Cerebro's staple rope assisted dropkick and the Chico Che fat man senton.

Chico Che by the way is fucking awesome in this. I'm a big mark for good big men in general, but Chico Che is one of the single most "fun" guys in wrestling and is super underrated. There is a moment in this that feels like something out of a teen movie where the fat homely kid from the country is finally fed up of getting picked on a just snaps and starts beating the shit out of people. Seriously Chico Che is just punching people in the face and screaming and the crowd is going batshit like it's that scene in Can't Buy Me Love where Ronald Miller makes the save before the jocks beatdown Kenneth for hanging out with the cheerleaders and everyone in the school gives him a standing ovation. Actually I think nice fat kid getting picked on by douchebag jocks only to snap and start fucking people up is a really under explored way to structure a match in wrestling despite having real life relevance for a lot of people (and I say this as an emaciated vegetarian with a bit of a mean streak). Anyway Chico Che looks like he's the best wrestler on Earth in this and hits a couple of fat man splashes to take the second fall.

Third fall is as awesome as the rest of the match with some crazy brawling, some great Black Terry hulk up moments and of course another run of awesome Chico Che shit. Seriously folks, fat man in overalls gliding through exchanges that most indie spot freaks can't nail properly is a real sight to behold. Gringo Loco is also a spot machine and an absolute bump freak of the highest order and Chico Che actually outshines him during the dive segment with an epic tope.

The moments in this when it is just Diablo and Cerebro in the ring are ultra hot and the crowd really goes nuts as Cerebro looks like he's about to put a run together and Diablo cuts him off and finishes him clean with a submission for the finish. Actually Diablo was fucking awesome in this too, begging off, picking his shots, et. Avisman was probably the least of the people in this and he was really fucking solid. This was just a great fucking match. Aside from one awkward spot with Diablo on Cerebro's shoulders that seemed to last forever until Chico Che hit the ring, this was prety much a flawless brawl.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Notable Matches From 2010 - Day Three

Dick Togo vs. Billy Ken Kid - Osaka Pro 2/11/10

This match is not without it's problems. It is needlessly long, the babyface isn't close to matching the heel's intensity, and the crowd doesn't react as much as you would hope down the stretch. There is some minor sloppiness, the Kid has some weak strikes at points, and the portion of the match that he worked sans mask, but covering his face with a towel went on too long. Having said all of that this is one of the best matches I've seen from Japan this year and there is one reasons for that: Dick Togo.

A No DQ match with a vanilla babyface needs a good heel to carry it. Togo is a great heel here and the structure of this match was totally different from what you would normally see from a long junior mask in Japan. Match is filled to the brim with Togo taunts, Togo mask ripping, Togo strikes and Togo shit talk. Togo hits maybe three big offensive spots in the whole match match - all great senton variations including a tremendous delayed snap senton from the inside out - and instead of working the match around striking exchanges, nearfall exchanges, your turn, my turn spot exchanges, et., match is about Togo building heat, the babyface making comebacks, and Togo cutting him off. The seconds of both guys fight at ringside throughout but it's not distracting and their presence adds to the match through minimal interference at key points.

There are people who are not going to like the pace of this but I really liked it a lot. Match felt like a hate filled brawl and the big spots all meant something, from Togo taking the monkey flip into the ringpost onto the floor to set up his blade job and the first Kid comeback, to Togo cutting off a Kid dive with a vicious chairshot, to Kid moving on a corner charge sending Togo to the floor on a huge bump giving himself time to retrieve his mask. The nearfall segment at the end was not overkill but they did some great teasers with Kid kicking out of the Togo senton, Togo kicking out of a very well executed backslide that I totally bought as the finish and the heels accidentally waffling Togo with a chair was the set up for the finish rather than the finish itself. 450 for the pin looked sick as well.

The performance of Togo here was incredible and makes me wish more of his stuff was available. As far as I know there about a half dozen matches of his that have made tape this year, and he's been solid-to-great in all of them, but this is the best of the bunch.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

IWA-MS King Of The Death Matches 2010 Night One

Don't ask me why, but someone had to do it.

IWA-MS King Of The Death Matches 2010 Night One

Jonathan Greshem v. Jimmy Jacobs v. Drake Younger

This is your standard indie workrate sprint. Ian is clearly intent on pushing Greshem who does all the splashes the cool kids do and also has some bizarre twisting moonsault variation that I've never seen before that seems to be his go to spot. I need to watch Jacobs v. Jon Moxley soon before I sour on Jimmy completely. He's really been involved in some weak shit this year, this match included.

Devon Moore v. Mason Cutter

"Bastard offspring" jokes really aren't something I want to lean too heavily on here, but Mason Cutter actually does look like the bastard child of Tank Abbot and Hack Myers. This was a thumbtack match and was kept reasonably quick and to the point. At one point Moore couldn't figure out how to put on a thumbtack covered kick pad Moore took a couple of pretty impressive bumps into the tacks and took the win in the end.

Bull Pain v. Kyle Threat

I'm watching these shows for two reasons. One is Necro Butcher and the other is Bull Pain. Pain is an old, cranky, biker dude who's gimmick is beating the shit out of people. His weapon of choice is a baseball bat and this match is filled with gimmicked basbeball bats of all shapes and sizes. We've got bats wrapped in barbed wire, bats with tacks, bats with glass, bats with water jugs attached to them, et. Threat is pretty funny in this as he keeps taking these vicious shots from Pain and then will stomp and clap his hands and get the crowd all worked up and then Bull just beats the shit out of him some more. Bull takes some pretty nasty stuff in this too to be fair and I really liked his weeble wobble selling on the floor after the water jug shots. Bull advances and gives his trademark sick smirk post match with a face covered in blood. I hesitate to call anything this violent "fun" but it's the best word I can come up with at 3:15 in the morning.

Mitch Page v. Simon Sezz

Page is enormously fat and Sezz is skinnier than me. These guys are bleeding seconds into this. Gimmick here is bizarre as there are basically a bunch of household items everywhere and they are just waffling each other with them. In general these prop spots are kind of hit or miss, but there are some incredible spots in this. At one point Page gets his fingers mashed up pretty brutally in some shutters which leads to the most violent moment in the whole match - Sezz brutally punching Page in the face as hard as he can twice and Page responding with a shot to the throat of even greater force. Later those same shutters get broken over Page's back in a pretty epic fashion. Death matches really need effective finishes to work and this had a terribly uneventful one, but for immobile fat guy v. male with bulimia this was better than I would have expected.

Balls Mahoney v. Michael Faith

This was actually a well worked match. It was billed as a hardcore vet trying to regain his street cred v. a young kid trying to earn his street cred and was worked accordingly. Balls knows where his bread is buttered and takes a glass shot to the head early, but he also isn't stupid and doesn't take much else other than some pretty decent traditional offense from Faith. The crowd does the "Balls" chant along with his comeback and I really liked the finish to this as they actually built to the one really crazy bump in the match - Faith getting powerslammed into a pile of light bulbs held up by plastic forks. Aside from an early cheese grater spot from Balls this was the most low key match so far and not surprisingly one of the best. Still gotta feel sorry for the guy as he went from dealing five card stud to half naked divas on WWE tv to dueling chairshots with fat scrubs in front of half empty high school gyms in less than five years.

Neil Diamond Cutter v. Devin Cutter

"NDC" is working an unbelievably egregious Spike Dudley rip-off gimmick right down to the mohawk haircut and feuding with his fat older brother. By this point I'm totally disinterested in seeing guys stabbed with sharp shit or getting hit by plunder so I sort of admire the number of actual wrestling moves these guys attempt even if they are almost universally executed poorly. "NDC" hits Spike's double stomp and shortly thereafter advances.

Whacks v. Chuey Martinez

Supposedly Chuey is wrestling with a broken leg. This is mercifully short and consists almost entirely of shots with light tubes before the admittedly inventive finish which is Chuey getting suplexed onto a light tube encrusted pogo stick.

Necro Butcher v. Nick Gage

I would call this a disappointment, but Gage really sucks so this being pretty shitty isn't that surprising. This was worked a lot like the Necro v. Kasai disaster that Big Japan ran earlier this year. It sounds strange to say but the death mach style really seems to tame the feral spirit of Necro which is what makes him great. Domesticated Necro is not good (see Ring of Honor) and this is a really subdued Necro, waiting around for Gage to set up his shitty pre-planned spots and looking outright bored at times. To make matters worse the big "gimmick" here is plexiglass in the corners, which results in lots of visually unimpressive bouncing around and a shitty pay off.

Ian Rotten v. J.C. Bailey

These sort of mentor v. protege matches don't work out really well when the protege is so much worse than the mentor. I'm not a big fan of garbage wrestler Ian Rotten, but the guy can work when he wants to. Bailey is pretty uninteresting even as a human pin cushion. This match has your typical disrespect from youngster spots, old vet laying on a beating spots ("You Fucked Up Your Life!"), and culminates in the big sick spot where the protege finally eclipses the mentor. There was some visually impressive spots in this but a Death Match tournament doesn't lend itself to something of this sort and Ian Rotten's obnoxious kid on commentary being indifferent to the suffering being inflicted upon his father made an annoying match uncomfortable.

Needlessly to say I'll be skipping ahead to the Bull Pain match on the second night and not going any further.