Monday, July 9, 2018

PWG Mystery Vortex 2

Cedrick Alexander vs. Trevor Lee vs. Andrew Everett

Holy shit this match is awesome! I remember it being good, but it is so much more than that. The pace is fast and they do a good job of cycling between everybody with them getting taken out and resting at ringside. Everett and Lee make great debuts on this show. Everett hits probably the biggest springboard Shooting Star Press to the outside on Lee. He gets an insane amount of height. Cedrick takes a more toned down role as the bruiser in this match and hits some brutal sounding chops. Just so much good stuff in this match.

Peter Avalon, Johnny Goodtime & Johnny Yuma vs. B-Boy, Willie Mack & Joey Ryan

I really like the local boy six man tags PWG used to do. They're simple, but fun matches and like all of them this opens with some good comedy stuff then just becomes a chaotic tag match. Everybody gets to hit their spots and do some good team work stuff.

Anthony Nese vs. Roderick Strong

Solid match between these two guys. I don't really care for Nese so it's fine, but nothing special. Nese does cool dives and Strong does his awesome backbreakers and eventually gets a win.

African American Wolves vs. Inner City Machine Guns vs. Unbreakable F'N Machines

Couple of guys who turned out to be real shitbags are in this match, but whatever. Holy fuck this match is way too long. It's a lot of fun and everybody hits every single one of their spots in this match, but it just meanders for too long. It's fun watching the big guys throwing around the tiny flippy wrestlers and it's cool when Cage and Elgin hit their dives. Definitely could have done with cutting like ten minutes out of the match though. On the plus side commentary does have Chuck Taylor making fun of AR Fox so that's good. Ricochet hits a Fosbury Flop over the ringpost while AR Fox hits a tope con hilo over the opposite corner. The most interesting thing in this match is just the juxtaposition of how those two high fly. Ricochet does everything with precision and grace and AR Fox just fucking chucks his body around.

Tommaso Ciampa vs. Chris Hero

These two dudes go fucking hard in this match. At times it's a little too much of the same strike over and over, but these two know how to throw them well. I love watching dirtbag wrestler Ciampa as he bites people and just acts like a dick as a heel wrestler and it's so much fun. I like Hero's blend of hardnosed striking, but still bringing in his technical wrestling to keep a guy down and set up more strikes.

Johnny Gargano vs. Kyle O'Reilly

Great match between these two. O'Reilly goes after the should for most of the match and Johnny plays the underdog so well at fighting back while hurt. Kyle is so good at delivering a flurry of moves into a pinfall or submission and his strikes are on point as well. The match really builds up the danger of the cross armbreaker and Gargano's need to get out of the move as soon as he's in it and it makes the end when Kyle grabs a leg as well as the arm that you know Johnny isn't getting to the ropes and he has to tap. Gargano hitting a superkick that knocks Kyle's mouthguard out was an awesome visual as well. Just a really good match between two great wrestlers.

The Young Buck vs. Best Friends

As you might expect from these two teams the match starts off with a bunch of shenanigans which results in Nick Jackson trying and failing to put on the superlong trench coat the Best Friends use for the really tall man chokeslam. Trent plays the face in peril for a bit before getting a hot tag and then it's mayhem with all four men in pretty much from then on and it's great. The finishing sequence of this match is perfect. The Young Bucks cheat to stop a three count or submission from happening so many times and the crowd is going apeshit for them to lose before they do it. I loved Matt stopping a count by hitting the ref over the back of the head with his cast. Adam Cole interference stops Rick Knox from making a three count to Knox superkicks Cole and Trent follows up with a tope con hilo. Cole distracts Knox again from seeing a tap out then Matt low blows Chuck with the cast and Nick rolls him up for a three count. It's so frustrating and it's perfect. Great tag team work from all of these guys and man the Young Bucks are annoying.

Adam Cole vs. Candice LeRae

Adam Cole is a real dick and that's the story of this match. He undestimates Candice and she takes every opportunity and punishes him. When she is hitting the violence party in the corner and the crowd is going nuts its the fucking best. Adam Cole starts the match by using his size advantage to hit two of the most brutal looking powerslam's I've ever seen. Candice hits a beautiful springboard reverse 'rana. Maybe the best one I've ever seen her hit. She also delivers a perfect flying 'rana off the top to Adam Cole. She brings her A-game and makes it count. Ultimately Adam Cole is too strong and hits his big moves and puts her down for a three count with the straight jacket german suplex. Candice really should have been the one to end Adam's reign. Maybe not in this match, but definitely in a rematch. Adam Cole proves how much of a dick he is after the match by starting an ovation for Candice then clotheslining her after a hug and having Nick Jackson come in and superkick her before Joey chases them out of the ring with a chair.

This is a damn good show as all PWG shows from this time are. Two of these matches are fucking great and everything else is fun. Definitely a show you should check out.

Friday, May 11, 2018

RoH: The Epic Encounter

Backseat Boyz vs. Da Hit Squad

I wondered why this match was so early in the show, but after seeing it the spot makes sense. It's a short match and Hit Squad is just squashing the Backseat Boyz the whole time. There's a bunch of spots where Maff or Mack are out of spot and Kashmere or Acid have to stall until the move happens. Kashmere flips out of a burning hammer and Maff slowly remembers he's supposed to try and clothesline him and hit Mack, but Mack isn't in the right spot so that's awkward. Then the Boyz hit the T-Gimmick on Maff and get a three count. It wasn't good so at least it was short.

Special K vs. Carnage Crew vs. Dunn & Marcos

This was a drag race of a match with wall to wall high spots and tons of dives. No flow at all to this match I bet I loved it the first time I saw it. Carnage Crew almost get the win with a second rope piledriver, but other Special K guys distract the ref and Mikey Whipwreck comes in an hits some stunners and Hydro steals the pinfall.

AJ Styles & Amazing Red vs. The Briscoes

A match with a story and some flow to it. This is novel and exciting. Watching Amazing Red matches now is weird because everything he did has become more refined and even higher flying by the later wrestlers, but I remember how groundbreaking his stuff was and a lot of it is still cool now. Red is the face in peril for the match as you would imagine since he's so very small. Cool dives and lots of big moves from both teams. AJ boosts Red up to a top rope hurrincanranna that almost knocks Jay backwards off the top, but its countered into a top rope powerbomb neckbreaker combo. Mark clotheslines AJ out of the ring and slingshots onto him for a 'ranna, but AJ catches it and hits a Styles Clash on the floor. Red counters the Jay Driller into a Maximo Explosion and hits the standing shooting star press for the three count. This was a match I loved back in the day. Now I definitely find it to be way too fast paced with a bunch of big moves that don't mean anything. Is this what it feels like to be JR? I still like it, but it's not as awesome as when I first experienced it.

CM Punk vs. BJ Whitmer

Good back and forth match although it is a bit sloppy at times between the two guys. Classic early Punk wrestling though. Some good groundwork at the beginning before turning into a hard hitting affair. Ends with a double count out after a german suplex off the apron through a table which I'm okay with as it's a pretty midcard match and built to more stuff afterword.

Homicide vs. Christopher Daniels

Another solid back and forth match. This one was crisper than the last one, but they were really awkward with the finish off back and forth submission and pinfall counters that just looked rough.

Samoa Joe vs. Hotstuff Hernandez

Back and forth big man match here. This was the first Samoa Joe match I'd ever watched and I couldn't figure out why they made him champ. Not too bad on a rewatch though. Not great, but good hard hitting stuff and Hernandez looked solid as well.

Samoa Joe vs. Colt Cabana vs. Tom Carter vs. Matt Stryker

A really good four way match here. Joe doesn't do much in the beginning of the match, but everybody takes some shots at the champ and he gives them right back when he wanders in to break up pins or submissions. Everybody gets some good stuff in and shows their wrestling acumen. Awesome finish as Joe locks in the Coquina clutch and Carter hits a frog splash to break it up, but Joe holds on anyway and gets the submission.

Paul London vs. Bryan Danielson (2/3 Falls)

This match is still awesome. It's one of my favorites of all time and after all the other matches weren't as good as I remembered I was kind of worried about this one, but it was for nothing. They pace themselves slowly and really make everything matter in this one. They build up every attempt Bryan goes for the belly to back suplex off the top rope and it's a key part of the match. London counters the first one and gets the first pinfall. Early in the second Bryan knocks London off the top and traps his legs in the ropes and goes to work on them. That sets up the story of the second fall as Bryan goes to work on and eventually gets a submission with a single leg crab. In the third fall it continues the same way and eventually Bryan gets the belly to back suplex, but doesn't get the pinfall with it. He gets the cattle mutilation, but no submission, and the single leg crab again, but still London fights out. London counters a fourth attempt at the belly to back suplex with a tornado DDT off the top then hits a shooting star press to the back of Bryan as he tries to get up and gets the three count.
This match is just so well done. It tells a great story and is just two great workers having a great match. Everything is executed crisply and is sold well. Nothing happens without a reason and the wrestling tells a story and that's the best you can get.

Dusty Rhodes, Homicide, Iceberg, & Homicide's Crew vs. CW Anderson, Jack Victory, David Young, & The Bar Room Brawlers

This is just a clusterfuck of a brawl. They don't announce who's in it since the match is unsanctioned and people just show up brawling until they play the music for the Midnight Rider and Dusty finally comes out. He clears everybody out with bionic elbows then everybody brawls around ringside and bleeds and hits each other with weapons. Homicide then tries to gouge Jack Victory's eye out with a fork and he says I quit. This is just so pointless and meandering. With the heel group's leader in Steve Corino missing it makes even less sense to have this match.


Going back and watching early RoH shows might be even rougher than I had anticipated. I don't really regret watching this show except the first and last match. A bunch of spot matches building into mat based wrestling makes sense to me. Gabe is fucking terrible on commentary and his biggest fault is he's always trying to get over the stories he's booking without allowing for any subtlety to take place. Danielson vs. London is fucking awesome and unless you're going to buy a comp with that match on it that makes the dvd worth a purchase if you find it. It's still the standard I hold a 2/3 falls match to and is so good. The earlier stuff might not be great matches, but it's a fun kind of mediocre and that's not bad. Feel free to skip the main event bunkhouse brawl though.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Wrestlemania 34

It wasn't a very good show. I think I might have enjoyed it more if Royal Rumble and NXT Takeover hadn't built up my expectations and made me think WWE could make the right decisions, but that's not exactly a glowing review for something anyway. It doesn't help that between every segment we have a shitty Kid Rock song playing either. So let's get down to a match by match review including the preshow because I watched all of it. I was drinking the whole time so while I remember my impressions of the matches the details are fuzzy. I mean not that fuzzy, I didn't go that hard.

The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
A harbinger of things to come as this went to long and just kind of dragged on. Everybody was already in the ring and there just wasn't any hype to build around any wrestler in the match. There were some neat moments, but they all took too long to get there. The end with Bray showing up to help Matt Hardy win was solid. It didn't help this match at all that Lawler and Ross were on commentary and had no clue what was going on with any of the people in the match and Saxton had to explain everything to them.

Cedrick Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali
The best match of the night is on the preshow, which isn't surprising and I was kind of expecting that to happen before the show anyway. Great work from both of these guys with big moves, and a lot of emotion between the two that was kind of marred by the picture in picture Rousey promo that took over the sound and made me mad. I really like the idea of Cedrick not wanting to keep hurting Ali and telling him to stay down before finally hitting the Lumbar Check. So glad Cedrick is going to be the cruiserweight champ and hopefully be a big presence on Raw as well as 205 live. He's deserved a spotlight for a long time.

Women's Battle Royal
This match had a much better through line of what it was doing and had an interesting start to the match and kept up a lot of solid grouping up of the women in the match. Kairi Sane hitting her diving elbow drop and getting eliminated during a commercial really sucked. A good amount of people including Bianca Belair and my favorite NXT competitor, Dakota Kai got some really good moments in the match and looked good before their eliminations. I liked the ending of Bayley finally outsmarting Sasha although I'm kind of bummed it didn't work out and Naomi was still in the match. Good for Naomi though.

The Miz vs. Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins
A good match to start the show and a lot of good stuff from everybody. Really liked the tease of Rollins doing the powerbomb into the guardrail on Balor before he escaped it. Miz really kept up with these two and hit some awesome stuff including the top rope skull crushing finale. Really liked the ending with Rollins breaking up Balor's pinfall and hitting a bunch of curb stomps to get the win.

Asuka vs. Charlotte
This could have been the match of the night, but the result just really bums me out. I'm going to just talk about the stuff they did right here and go into the booking afterword. Between all the wrestling exchanges we get the battle of Charlotte's chops vs. Asuka's kicks in any striking exchange and they both hit their respective strikes so well. The suplex off the apron to the floor was brutal looking. Charlotte doing a moonsault and getting caught into a triangle choke was perfectly done. Asuka's flurry of strikes is always really fun to watch. Then Charlotte gets the figure 8 and Asuka taps. She barely fights the hold and just gives up.

So ending Asuka's streak here seems really dumb to me for a lot of reasons. First of all Charlotte is already a huge deal so ending the streak doesn't really do anything for her. She's already the most dominant woman on the roster. Also it seems particularly dumb to end somebody's undefeated streak before they become a champion and have a dominant run with the belt. I have so many ways I would have booked Asuka's streak and this was just so anti-climatic. Asuka kind of being glad somebody beat her was a bummer as well.

Bobby Roode vs. Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Rusev
This match was a very bland choice to follow up the last awesome match and they didn't do it any favors after stunning the crowd with Asuka losing her streak by having Jinder win the US title here.

Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey vs. HHH & Stephanie McMahon
This match was way too long. Considering only HHH is really capable of wrestling a long match now this should not have been this. A lot of people really dug the storyline stuff and Ronda actually getting to fight HHH was pretty cool. But she is a noted garbage person and I'm not going to lose my mind because she was able to perform basic moves in a wrestling match and not shit herself. My favorite part of the match was Stephanie having no clue how to take a t-bone suplex and just landing on her feet then face bumping. Ronda should have fucking merced McMahon as soon as she got into the match and everything should have been build around not letting that happen.

The Bludgeon Bros vs. The Usos vs. The New Day
This match was so short. I kind of didn't believe it was going to end with the top rope powerbomb because it was so fast. I'm guessing they lost a bunch of time to other stuff and it really hurt this match. I thought this would be way better, but it was what it was. Good wrestling with nowhere near enough time.

The Undertaker vs. John Cena
Cool, this match took forever to get to and then it was a three minute match. Undertaker should have stayed retired after last year which was a perfect sendoff. I just don't care about the Undertaker's mystique and that was all this match had going for it.

Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon vs. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens
D-Bry got murdered right at the beginning of the match and they brought out a stretcher for him and Shane fended off both KO and Zayn for a good amount of time before they took control of the match. D-Bry comes back from his injury and hits all his big moves to pop the crowd and get the win. The match would have been way better without D-Bry's fake stretcher job at the start and just having Shane be the starting man and get fucking wrecked before making a super hot tag. Plus Shane's shitty punches were in full effect here.

Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss
Jax destroying Mickie James before the match started was so fucking good. Plus she destroyed her real well. The actual match was really smartly done as well. Jax is way too strong so Alexa cheats a lot and tries to stay out of range. Eventually it doesn't work and Jax hit an awesome avalanche samoan drop to get the win. Really good stuff from both of these women.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles
I was kind of prepared for this match not to be awesome, because WWE had overhyped it and I knew it wasn't going to be as good as their NJPW match so I didn't rewatch that before this. That said this was still a good match. They build it slowly to start and then really start to pick it up. AJ counters the armbar into a Styles Clash and then it ended. That felt like the beginning of the crazy run to build to the finish of the match. It's a modified Clash so it explains why it doesn't end the match, but it did. The ending was just anti-climatic and really took the wind out of the sails of the match. Nakamura turning heel with a low blow after the match didn't really make any sense to me, but I guess it at least means these guys aren't done and Nakamura might still win the belt.

Bran Strowman & Nicholas vs. The Bar
Deep down I wanted Strowman to grab one of the NJPW guys as his partner when he went into the crowd, but I knew that wouldn't happen. I would have loved any indy guy as well. A tiny kid is a really good choice as well. Braun basically dominates the tag champs and then we get the real missed opportunity of this match and that's Braun not having Nicholas get the pin. This wasn't much of a match and I'm giving it a low score, but it was a lot of fun.

Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
I had some streaming issues during this match, but with pausing and letting it buffer I got to watch it. It was really disappointing considering the brutality of their other matches. Sure this had brawling on the outside and Reigns got busted open brutally. It took that cut no time to be a real crimson mask, but it didn't have the same titans clashing feel. The fact that Brock only does three moves doesn't really help anything and then Brock just kept hitting F-5s until he won. Everything in WWE for the last two years has been building toward the moment Reigns gets his rematch at Wrestlemania and proves he's the better man then he just loses. Its so fucking weird and makes no sense. And that is a trend WWE loves to do of swerving Mania results to make them more unpredictable, but it ignores the fact that it fucks up the storytelling. Often times they'll just have a rematch on the next night to make the Raw after Mania feel big and it just makes Mania feel less special. Despite getting the same score as the last match it was not fun.

Overall Thoughts
As is a Wrestlemania tradition, and really a WWE PPV tradition at this point. The best stuff was at the beginning of the show and gets me excited. Then there is a really fucking weird booking decision that bums me out and the rest of the show just kind of falls apart from there. The wrestling is good, it's almost always going to be because the wrestlers are all really good. The storylines going in are usually undeveloped and the booking choices are usually really bad. The show is too long and just always drags on with the time being spent in the wrong places. Especially considering how awesome Takeover was the night before it just makes Mania look even worse in comparison. So in summary there is good stuff on this show, but it's not worth watching the whole thing. Check out the cruiserweight title match, both women's matches, and the IC match and you'll have a pretty good time.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Ring of Honor's 16th Anniversary Memories

Ring of Honor is about to celebrate their 16th anniversary as a company and that's pretty goddamn awesome. They've launched a streaming service finally, and while it's missing the first eleven years it's good for the current era and I'm hoping they'll be bringing the older stuff into it eventually. Their youtube channel has been interviewing wrestlers with their best moments as a reflection on their past so I figure that would be a good idea myself considering I started watching Ring of Honor only a couple of months after they started and caught up pretty quickly.

Generation Next – I was looking forward to the tournament and the fact that the show got moved out of the building and into a tent and then it got taken over by the guys in the tournament thinking that competing for a contract was bullshit made it so much better. This whole show I awesome because of this. It helps that Alex Shelley and Roderick Strong are two of my favorite wrestlers of all time. Plus they were against Jimmy Jacobs who is still one of my favorites. Austin Aries and the Briscoes being involved was awesome at the time although now I know they're pretty garbage people, but at the time this was jam packed with awesome wrestlers and the story was perfectly told and culminated in a great eight man tag match.

James Gibson beats CM Punk – The whole Summer of Punk storyline was really well done. From the start with Punk signing his WWE contract on the RoH title belt, to Mick Foley saying he couldn't leave until he lost the belt it was all great. Every title defense had the extra level of investment as you waited to see who would win the belt, and he just kept retaining the belt in hard fought matches. This felt especially good after seeing Gibson having to play the redneck on WWE tv and not get to showcase what he could do in the ring.

Kenta Kobashi vs. Samoa Joe – Pro Wrestling NOAH had sent over their junior heavyweight guys before to RoH and sometimes the US would get a young lion from NJPW or AJPW wrestling over here, but since WCW's demise it was pretty minimal. Then one of the biggest names in Japanese wrestling came over for a tour and this singles match in RoH was fucking awesome. The match is really good, but just the awesome feeling of seeing a Kobashi match in America was excellent on its own. Just good hard hitting action from these two men when Samoa Joe was at the top of his game.

Christopher Daniels finally follows the Code of Honor – For years Daniels had refused to follow the code of honor in RoH. No handshakes, cheating, and attacking refs, whatever it took for him to win with the Prophecy and by himself after their dissolution. Finally on the 100th RoH show he finally shook the hand of Claudio Castagnoli. On its own a memorable moment, but made even better by the fact that later that night with CZW invading Castagnoli betrayed RoH and helped his CZW partner Chris Hero beat up the RoH guys. Just the perfect way to cap off Daniels finally deciding to follow the Code.

The Ballad of Lacey – This is the best wrestling related song bar none. Everything about the Lacey and Jimmy Jacobs storyline was really well done, although it helps that both of them were basically my favorites even before that started. This video and song is just so good. Jacobs just puts everything into every angle and it really shows in this video and the whole persona he used during this storyline and how it turned him into the dark leader of Age of the Fall.

CM Punk vs. Samoa Joe – The first of their encounters that went to a one hour time limit and the desperation Punk had to get the win and the belt is so good. He throws everything he has at Joe and can't beat him. The game plan is wear Joe down by taking the match slow and going long and it doesn't work. Joe really shows how good he is because you don't expect a dude his size to keep going and last a whole hour. This is one of those broadway matches that doesn't feel as long as it is and really makes the time limit draw work.

Paul London's Shooting Star Press off the Ladder – The creation of the “Please Don't Die” chant comes from this spot and when I saw it on DVD it was, and still is, one of my favorite spots in wrestling. This whole hardcore match between London and Shane is incredible and also includes London running up the ladder in the corner and jumping to the outside onto Shane with a plancha. This match cemented London as my favorite performer in the company and the moment was surreal.

Chuck Taylor Debuts – This isn't really fair because I was there live when Trent? brought him in to be the third member of his team and it was fucking awesome. The crowd popped huge, I popped huge and the Best Friends reuniting in RoH and Rocky Romero being jealous was a ton of fun.

I could keep naming matches and spots that stick in my memory, but these are the best moments for me in Ring of Honor's history and I'm hoping they can return to how good they were once again and start delivering the best wrestling and the most memorable moments.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

My Fifteen Favorite Matches

I want to write about wrestling I love, so I'm going to make a list of my fifteen favorite wrestling matches. This isn't an attempt at some kind of definitive best matches ever list just the matches I can watch any time and be happy to watch them. It was just going to be ten with five honorable mentions I didn't write about, but I love too much wrestling. I was surprised making this list that I had no PWG matches, but the shows overall are always awesome so matches rarely stand out. This was a hard list to narrow it down to and I find it pretty weird I don't have anything by Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, or Rey Mysterio on the list, but I can't really find something I'd want to get rid of. I had an original list of nineteen and it was tough cutting some of those as well, but if there aren't some hard choices to be made it's not much of a list to make.

15. Samoa Joe vs. Necro Butcher (IWA:MS Something to Prove)
This would be the easiest to cut from the list, but it's just insane to watch and got Necro into a lot of non-deathmatch matches. It's not a pretty match to watch, but it's hard hitting and Necro messes up some bumps and takes them forehead first and gets busted open hardway and bleeds a ton. It's just such an insane spectacle to watch. Definitely not for people who are turned off by blood though.

14. CM Punk vs. John Cena (Money in the Bank 2011)
Their match on Raw two years later is technically a better match, but this one has the best storyline of the past ten years going into it with Punk threatening to leave with the belt if he won and the interference and shenanigans at the ending were so well done. John Cena pulled out his shitty hurrincanranna and this was just a match where both men did everything to tell the story of Cena being the stalwart WWE guy, but still wanting the clean win and Punk wanting to screw over the McMahons.

13. Paul London vs. Michael Shane (RoH: Unscripted)
I rewatched this match when people tweeted about it's fifteenth anniversary and it's so goddamn good. It's the match that made me a huge fan of London and Shane has always been underrated. These guys give it their all and innovate so much with the ladder. I don't know which is more iconic; London running up the ladder in the corner and doing a plancha to Shane on the outside, or London coming off the ladder with a shooting star press while the crowd chants please don't die. It builds on the rivalry these two had before hand and a lot of other stuff from other graduates of the TWA class that competed in RoH and is just amazing.

12. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania XII)
The Ironman match and the demonstration of how well these two could work together, even though they hated each other backstage. These two just do what they both do best and it goes together so well. Bret is the great technical wrestler, but Shawn takes chances and flies and those pay off for him. To me this is the easiest to watch hourlong match, which is more impressive considering there were no falls until overtime. This match made a lot of the matches I watched in WWF afterword pretty disappointing because it was such an impressive bar to clear.

11. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles (NJPW Wrestlekingdom 10)
This was one of my most looked forward to matches from the moment AJ showed up in NJPW and it took a full year before it happened and it was worth the wait. Two of the smoothest performers in the ring had a damn fine match. They do hold back a bit as it wasn't the main event of the show and NJPW tends not to let matches outshine the main event. I'm looking forward to a rematch between them in WWE, preferably high on the card at Wrestlemania.

10. Kenta Kobashi vs. Mitsuhara Misawa (NOAH Navigate to Evolution)
This fucking match is awesome. I don't always feel in the mood for two big dudes beating the fuck out of each other pretty much legitly so it doesn't go higher, but this is one of the best matches ever and these guys do some crazy shit like suplex each other off the ramp to the floor and generally drop each other on their head a lot. This is the first match where I really understood what Strong Style was and started to get into the Japanese Heavyweight style of wrestling.

9. Hardy Boyz vs. Edge & Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz (WWE: Wrestlemania X7)
Fucking TLC man, you know what I mean. Anybody who doesn't love this match is a crazy person. The swanton off the way too tall ladder and all the other crazy bumps. It's just pure chaos and fun.

8. La Sombra vs. Volador Jr (CMLL 80th Anniversary)
Lucha Libre is fucking awesome and I needed a match to represent that and this one is damn good. A lot is added to it as Sombra loses his mask and it was basically his goodbye match before going to WWE. But these two feuded forever and always have good matches against each other.

7. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (WWE: Wrestlemania X)
A great demonstration of just how good pure wrestling can be. Plus it's got the great backstory of a younger sibling wanting to best his older brother. Plus I made a music video to this set to Metallica's “Hero of the Day” which has sadly been lost to time on the internet and many computers ago, but this was match was just great and I love watching it.

6. CM Punk & Ace Steel vs. Dan Maff & BJ Whitmer (RoH: Death Before Dishonor 2 Night 2)
This is my favorite crazy bump hardcore match and these guys go all fucking out. There's blood, barbed wire, and the crowd fills the ring with chairs and they wrestle on top of it and it's just so crazy and awesome. Plus it makes me happy to give three guys who don't get much props for their indy work a spot on this list.

5. Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada (NJPW Wrestlekingdom 11)
This match is awesome and both of these guys did insane shit in this match and it fucking ruled. They both take some crazy bumps and Omega takes one of the craziest bumps, although it's not even the craziest bump he took in NJPW that year involving a table, but that's because he's crazy. These guys go all out for the last twenty minutes of this match and it's an awesome rollercoaster.

4. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi (NJPW Wrestlekingdom 9)
These two guys are both awesome, but most importantly it has the first time I've ever seen the coolest move where Ibushi stood on the second rope and german suplexed Nakamura from the apron into the ring and it was dope. Also the entire match was great.

3. Roderick Strong vs. Bryan Danielson (RoH: Supercard of Honor)
This match is the final of a trilogy between these two and it's hard hitting and goes for a long time and it's awesome. They weave in amazing technical wrestling and Roddy doing his stiff chops and backbreakers and they just go back and forth the whole time. I was a big Roddy fan before this, but this match cemented the idea that he was big time.

2. KENTA vs. Naomichi Marafuji (NOAH First Navigation 2006)
These two guys were the ones that got me into Japanese wrestling to start with thanks to the RoH forums and people talking about how good they were and asking for them to be booked. They were great as a tag team, but even better as opponents and they beautifully play up how well they know each other with tons of counters and stealing each others moves.

1. Paul London vs. Bryan Danielson (RoH: The Epic Encounter)

This has been my favorite wrestling match since the first time I saw it. These two were guys I was instantly fans of when I first saw them in RoH and this match is just so good. These two guys work perfectly together and just have an amazing match. The way the top rope belly to back suplex is built up to is phenomenal. These guys just have a good, really well worked match and I love it so much.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

RoH: Road to the Title Review

RoH: Road to the Title

This is the first independent wrestling show I ever bought and watched. I was still watching WWE at that point and the internet and specifically the Extreme Warfare Boards, where people posted about EWR led me to find out about the existence of independent wrestling and the hype for Ring of Honor was strong and as I've always been a sucker for tournaments this seemed like the perfect show to start with. I watched it on my laptop on the top of a bunk bed in my college dorm and I fell in love right away. My obsession with wrestling took on a new facet there and it only waned when I had to start paying back college loans and RoH started running ten shows a month that made it too expensive to follow. I somehow failed to review this one before which is impressive considering it's always been an important show to me personally. So without any further ado let's get to it.

We start with Mack and Homicide firing up Low Ki and telling him it's his time to shine. Low Ki then starts beating up the wall and yells at the camera. Simple, but effective. We go right into some techno and highlights of the competitors entrances. I will freely admit that I'm dancing to the techno as I type this. I'm going to get this out of the way here instead of complaining about it in the first match write up. RoH production doesn't have their cameras set up right and will never fix this until they get real lighting on the ring so the color from the hard cam and the hand cam is not the same and it gets annoying. The hand cam is also zoomed in too much, but that is a thing they do eventually fix. For commentary we've got Donny B and Steve Corino who do a solid job. Definitely a team RoH broke up too soon as commentary was bad until they got Prazak in the booth.

Bio-Hazard vs. American Dragon Bryan Danielson

A fun quick squash from Danielson. Bio-Hazard looks a little rough at stringing moves together, but with Danielson there to lead him and them both coming from the same wrestling school they keep it together well. Hazard gets a solid showcase and we get Danielson moving on as we all knew he would. 4/10

Paul London vs. Spanky

Two matches in and everybody is from the Texas Wrestling Academy so far. But looking at three out of the four competitors and what they did in the future, that makes sense. The match starts off back and forth with simple chain wrestling and arm drags traded back and forth and slowly builds from there. Both men counter each others finishers and the end starts to ramp up as they both know they have to take it to the next level. Unfortunately that features a brutal botch from the second rope. Commentary says London might have tried to block it, but he gets dropped and hits his feet on the ropes and lands head first on the mat. I'm pretty sure he's concussed because on the next move a suplex he doesn't jump at all and almost gets dumped on his head again. Spanky hits the sliced bread #2 shortly after for the win after a good match. Most of these first round matches are pretty quick since the second round is where the good stuff happens, but still a good match from these two men even with the botch. 7/10

Jay Briscoe vs. Doug Williams

The first of the original new wave of British wrestlers that were making a name for themselves along with Fleisch and Storm who are later in the show in Doug Williams. A solid match from these two men. Jay hits a powerbomb on Williams that looks brutal as Williams is quite bigger than most indy guys. Williams has some kind of weak looking knees, but finishes the match off with the Chaos Theory which became my favorite move for a long time after this match and made me want Williams to win all of his matches so I could see it again. 6/10

Jody Fleisch vs. Johnny Storm

This is the most indy ass wrestling match. Not that it's a bad thing, but it is definitely by the books. Fast paced exchange to start that ends in the indy respect standoff and applause from the crowd. They have a long pinfall exchange sequence. Both men do big dives. Kickout of finisher counter a move and win. It's a fine match, but both men are a little sloppy, which is easy to have happen when you do lots of springboard stuff and they both do. Storm misses the ropes several times and Fleisch's 720 DDT always looks pretty iffy. Not really a good debut, but since they both hit big moves it leaves an impression. Fleisch's springboard shooting star press to the outside is really impressive looking. Fleisch picks up the win after countering a rewind 'rana into a sitout powerbomb. 5/10

Low Ki vs. Prince Nana

Nana jumps Low Ki to start the match and keeps the advantage for the entire match, until the end. Low Ki avoids a running hip attack in the corner then hits an enziguri and Nana is knocked out to end the match. Not much of a match just a way to show how dangerous Low Ki is. 2/10

Xavier vs. Amazing Red

A fast paced spotfest where they hit everything and do some great wrestling. Early in the match Red goes for a phoenix splash on a standing Xavier who catches him and powerbombs the fuck out of him. Really good back and forth stuff from these two guys and Xavier really doesn't get his dues for how good he was at wrestling. Red hits an Infared (a twisting moonsault where I think he spins 540 degrees while moonsaulting) then a standing SSP for the win. 6/10

Christopher Daniels vs. Scoot Andrews

Daniels picks up a quick win over Andrews which was surprising because I remember Andrews doing well early in RoH, but guess they needed to get the match over quick for Daniels to cut a promo and then Simply Luscious cutting her promo afterward. 2/10

Sumie Sakai vs. Simply Luscious

Simply Luscious is not very good at wrestling, but Sumie is very good so it turns out to be fine. Luscious is often lost when trying to figure out what to do between moves, but she can execute the moves she knows well. Sakai hits a couple of big missile dropkicks then a moonsault to pick up the win. Steve Corino's commentary on this match may be worse than attitude era Jerry Lawler, it is brutal. 2/10

AJ Styles vs. Jerry Lynn

This is the best match of the first round by a large amount. These two get plenty of time to work the match and they're both great at it. Styles focuses on the arm of Styles so he can't lock in the cradle piledriver. Lynn just wrestles like Lynn because he's great at that and it's good to watch. The beginning is even until Styles gets some good shots in on the arm. The two have a great pinfall exchange sequence that ends with Lynn hitting a big bridging German suplex for a two count. My favorite part of old school AJ is seeing him hit the Spiral Tap even if it only gets a two count. Styles blocks an attempt at a piledriver from Lynn then lifts him up into the Styles Clash for the win. 7/10

Jody Fleisch vs. Spanky

Solid match from these two. Less wild than Fleisch's first match. Fleisch does a springboard moonsault to the outside that destroys the guardrail, but apparently doesn't hurt himself too much on it. They go back and forth a little more before a sliced bread #2 gets the win for Spanky 6/10

Bryan Danielson vs. Doug Williams

Great technical wrestling exchanges and plenty of hard hitting strikes. This is a damn good match. Williams winning is a real surprise as Danielson was one of the big three in RoH and felt like a lock for the finals which is a nice choice, and makes the results of the next two matches less certain. The definitive moment in this match is both men locking in a leglock and rolling to the ropes then outside of the ring with neither man letting go. Williams hits a beautiful Chaos Theory, but Danielson kicks out. The finish of the match is a kind of weak looking suplex into a sloppy submission hold/cover for three, but doesn't take too much away from a really well wrestled match by both men. 8/10

Low Ki vs. Amazing Red

This match starts out with what is called the matrix minute and is an impressive display of dodged strikes and kicks and running dodges that led to the amazing displays we get from Ospreay and Ricochet today, and it's still looks good after all these years. Low Ki hits Red with all of the kicks he can and Red fights back and plays the underdog perfectly. I forget just how unique a presence Low Ki is in the ring. Nobody else has ever moved and fought like him and it's just awesome to watch. Ki's most painful looking move is the Krush Rush when he lifts Red up for the Ki Krusher then runs him into the corner and drops him to the outside. They go back and forth with great counters and moves until Low Ki blocks a top rope hurrincanranna and turns it into a top rope Ki Krusher. Just an awesome athletic display from both men. 8/10

AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels

This match is built like the biggest match of the night and it carries that title well. It's back and forth until they start fighting on the apron. Daniels gets in the ring and kicks Styles off the apron and into the guardrail busting him open. Daniels goes to work opening the cut up further and trying to wear Styles down. Eventually Styles makes the comeback and they brawl to the apron again. This time Daniels gets draped over the second rope on the inside and Styles hits a Lionsault on him. Also get to see Styles kip up 'rana which I haven't seen in a while. Styles goes for a Styles Clash, but Daniels picks his leg into an ankle lock. They go through a quick pinfall exchange then start going back and forth again. Styles goes for the Lionsault into a DDT, but Daniels snapmares him over then hits the Last Rites for the three count. Really good match between these two, but they have way better matches in the future. 8/10

Overall it's a pretty good show still. A lot of the first round is a little weak because they have a lot of matches they want to get to, but the Styles/Lynn is really good and the last three matches are all awesome as well. And all very different kind of matches which has always been the drawing point of RoH. It's still cool to go back and see a lot of the big names in wrestling back in their early days and see just how far they have come. If you see this show for $5 somewhere pick it up. Or if RoH ever realizes they should have a streaming service this match is one you should watch. RoH has definitely had better matches, but this one has a lot of import to the history of RoH.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

WWE's Production: What The Fuck Are You?

WWE is sports entertainment and are basically the only name in that game. Granted Impact Wrestling is the same thing, but they copy what WWE does so you can't really use them as a comparison. The closest sports comparison would be UFC shows that generally run five to six hours with about ten fights give or take depending on everybody making weight. And also the idea of matches is pretty similar. Plus many fighters in UFC and other MMA shows have been happy to cut wrestling promos after wins to get the crowd to boo them and be invested in a future loss for them. The difference is the scripted nature of wrestling, but there is no other scripted show that is anything like WWE. Mostly because scripted shows have a story they tell over an episode and they generally run nowhere near as long as WWE. I've got several idea of how WWE presents themselves like those other things and how they can make themselves more proficient in those areas.

WWE as a Sport

We're going to look at how WWE presents itself like a sport and how to be more like a sport first, because that is the method I would like WWE to adapt to the most. The first comparison goes toward all other sports on television and how WWE differs from them and that is that they cut away from the action for a commercial.

Granted a wrestling match doesn't have timeouts or stops in play, but hockey and soccer both run for longer than almost any match WWE puts on without a commercial so it can be done. And I've seen both of those sports on USA as well. Putting a commercial break in the middle of a match can kill the flow, but a lot of other wrestling shows that do it are at least tape so they can just restart without the viewer missing anything. For the most part WWE should have the leverage to negotiate a twenty-five minute match without commercial breaks and throw them in more often before and after, or possibly get what they had with the Smackdown debut where the match would continue in a small window while the ad aired. The fact that interviews are never interrupted while matches always are shows where the importance lies in the company. Related to that are there are many times when they will show a replay or cut to the audience and miss action that is happening in the match right away. Yes, the crowd is important to a wrestling match, but their noise is more important than seeing them.

The big changes WWE can make to fix the commercial problem is sell advertisements on the show or the mat. They do the ads in the show already with Snickers and KFC being pretty obvious examples and every PPV is sponsored by something. The mat is pretty empty as are the turnbuckles, but WWE seems pretty insistent on keeping that on brand for them. If they couldn't negotiate for longer breaks between commercials they should have the leverage to get the split screen during commercials or just have the announcers pick up slack with announcing the advertisers more.

After the commercial issue we have to address the fact that nobody ever knows what's going to happen on an episode of RAW/ Sometimes like this week we have a match made on Saturday on twitter to give us a random match on the middle of the show. What WWE really needs is to have some kind of schedule for what we're going to see on a given show. At least three matches. I'd prefer they have five matches planned out for each episode, but I'll give them some leeway for the element of surprise that they love. But the viewer should always have an announced main event, even if it changes during the show, and a couple of other matches that matter ahead of time. They have five different titles on the show and usually four shows between PPVs they can have a different title defended on the main event every RAW and only have the World Heavyweight's Championship defended on PPVs because it's the big belt that means the most. So the main event for every week is simple just a different title defense. That means the week before you have a number one contenders match and that's built out of people who are winning matches on previous shows.

Now once WWE is building schedules up ahead of time and naming contenders you need a ranking system or at least an acknowledgment of wins and losses going into the fight. Are they on a hot run that can negate a bunch of losses earlier. Maybe somebody can't win the number one contenders match, but they've beaten the champ before he won the belt and wins all the other matches. Just a general sense of what has been going on before hand is important for building up credibility of the challengers going into title matches and even the number one contenders match. The win loss record for their career isn't something WWE needs to keep track of, but just a general sense of having a hot run before getting a title show would be nice. Even stealing an idea from Chikara where they require a tag team to win three matches in a row before they can challenge for the belts. This gives non-title matches repercussions as well so there is something at stake whenever a match is happening.

You can still keep the concept of anything can happen by having interference that leads to impromptu tag matches and stuff, but really the concept of anything can happen at any time has kind of run its course when WWE isn't trying to compete with WCW anymore for viewers. There is no need to keep up the idea of stealing a wrestler from the competition or having a bigger surprise match than them.

The setup of established matches ahead of time allows for another great thing to steal from UFC and that is the hype videos they have ahead of the match. There is an interview with both fighters and the interview footage is intercut and overlayed on highlight videos from past fights. Showing big moves gets people excited for what they might see and the heavy production can allow wrestlers with weaker promo skills to still sound badass. And while I can point out bad production elements in WWE one thing they have been great at it for as long as I can remember is cutting together a hype video with music and interviews. I don't know who does that for them, but they are amazing at their job and deserve so much money and awards.

Now this presentation style would be my preference. You still have promos live in front of the crowd, but it puts the emphasis on the sports aspect and gives a more structured style to build the show around. Granted it may not be for everybody, but there is another way to change how WWE is presented that is to put the emphasis on the entertainment part of the show.

WWE as Entertainment

If WWE wants to focus more on the entertainment they need to work on their story telling and make the stories compelling on the basis of the story. A lot of fan involvement in feuds is more related to liking the wrestlers in the feud than enjoying the story that is being told. The stories have to be structured more like comic books than any other kind of medium, because the performers stick around after the story is done. So ideally every story will make both performers seem more interesting afterward and won't just be one person's credibility taking a dive because they can't get the win. One of the big flaws in WWE's stories is that people will just disappear after a story finishes. Rhino and Heath Slater are a great example of that. Heath's quest to get signed by one of the two shows was a strong plotline that lead to the tag team and some fun shenanigans before they won the belts and secured Heath a job. Once they lost the tag belts they just kind of never had a story for a rematch and they just became directionless and then got moved to RAW and haven't done anything. Now not everybody needs to be involved in a story at all times, but there is a need for them to have some kind of direction that they are moving in. Sometimes in comics or tv characters are just kind of there, but it's generally not going from being the head of a team (tag champs) to drifting around in the background while other people get stuff done.

If you look at the basic story structure of an episode of RAW it's a fucking mess. There is usually no episode long story, which makes sense as there are three hours and not all of it should be devoted to one story all the time. In general an episode of RAW we start with a long promo that sets up the main event of the evening, or if leading up to something like Money in the Bank you get a bunch of matches set up for the show one of which happens after the commercial break. Starting a show about wrestling with somebody talking for twenty minutes isn't exactly exciting, and it's also just having people tell the fans what they are going to do. There is no drama in most of these promos, they follow a standard format every time and generally lead to the same conclusions. A lot of the suggestions I'm going to make for fixing the entertainment part of WWE are going to kind of suck for a live audience, so I'll try and work other stuff in that keeps the live crowd interested.

One of the suggestions people often throw out on how to fix RAW is to cut it to two hours, but really there is plenty of talent and stories to tell to fill all three hours. The thing is since RAW is presented as a single episode for the whole time they are running one major story throughout the whole thing. RAW has five titles on it, kind of four since Brock Lesnar doesn't show up with the World Championship, and each of those titles can be given a section of RAW as their own show. Or at least have a story that is important for that week that leads to what happens to next week. With five or six episodes between PPVs, in general, they can main event each show with a different title and change the focus between the weeks and also change the formula of the show which gets tired after being the same for years so far. With 180 minutes you can give the division you have main eventing the show a full hour of focus and split the remaining time evenly between the other four divisions with a half hour each. Obviously there is leeway as the time division isn't super important, but it gives a good baseline for how to build each divisions story. A focus on monthly stories from PPV to PPV for a title is important, and having more long term plans so they keep undercard workers present and can have them getting built up so that they are ready if they are going to become a championship contender in future months.

Each week every division gets time for a lengthy match or two shorter matches and time for promos or vignettes for the characters. The important thing is to build up why people are fighting. A lot of the time it's going to be because they want to win the championship, but personal feelings can carry fights as well when somebody feels like somebody else cost them their shot at the title, or maybe they felt disrespected by them. Long term planning is a necessity to focus on the entertainment aspect of WWE and having a clear plan of where storylines are leading and how to build a next story off there. It also allows them to write characters off for a while to give them breaks from wrestling for a bit and recover. Time away from the ring could also be used for WWE Network shows focusing on the life of wrestlers away from the ring. It also could allow for wrestlers to be written off to go work on WWE movies instead of them just disappearing for a couple of weeks without any notice.

Lucha Underground is the ideal in terms of telling a story outside of the wrestling as the wrestling and vignettes are filmed separately and edited together in post so the live crowd doesn't have to sit through any pre-taped stuff. Obviously WWE can't change their style that much, but they do air pre-tapes for the live audience so what they can take is the more cinematic direction and style that those vignettes use. The most obvious and present example of the lack of directorial style in WWE is the backstage shot of people watching a match on tv. Every time this shot is set up its a static shot with everybody lined up along the tv in a way that no human has ever actually watched tv. The way to make this shot look better is to have the camera move. The ideal way to do this would be to come in from behind and shoot the wrestlers from behind and see them watching the tv then swing around so the camera is behind the tv looking at the wrestler taking notes or talking to whoever they are watching with. The other big thing WWE does wrong is that they always put the backstage thing in the main screen while the match is in the picture in picture screen which is the wrong order of doing things. The viewer doesn't need to be focused on the people watching as long as they are seen. The match is still the key thing for fans to be watching.

I haven't been watching WWE consistently for a while, but the other day I was watching Smackdown and they had a backstage interview with Charlotte and the camera was just kind of wandering around the whole time. WWE is a gigantic company that should be able to afford a steady cam instead of trusting a camera man to hold still. And sometimes a still two shot is fine for a conversation that WWE likes to use a vignette, but the problem then becomes the set dressing. They are in different arenas every show, but every interview is in the same spot and you would never know it was a different place from week to week. It doesn't have to be a big change, but just utilizing the arena they are in to give interviews a different feel. Another option is putting more of these interviews in the locker rooms or give them more of a press conference feel from before the show instead of having them stand awkwardly in their wrestling gear while answering questions. I watched a Fashion Files vignette yesterday where its done in black and white and the performances are good especially given the fact that the New Day are there with Fandango and Breeze. Breeze and Fandango would talk to each other telepathically without the New Day hearing them and not getting it and that was a great segment with great writing, but the way it was shot was bad. It was one camera and it has no goddamn steady cam. The frame is moving all over the place. I know I talked about this before, but that's the kind of scene that can be improved by having multiple camera angles. The wide angle with everybody is fine if the camera is steady, but then you can intercut it with over the shoulder shots. Even when WWE comes up with a good angle they just don't know how to film it well.

There is obviously a middle ground between the urban fantasy world that Lucha Underground produces and the sterile simple sports stories that WWE tells. One of the things that sets them apart is that WWE seems to be okay with using a fine take for a story instead of trying to get everything done really well or even great. They are using taped segments, but not putting in the time to get something great out of the people in the scene. But that's a thing that comes down to the producers who aren't directors and don't understand how to get the best out of an actor. I talked about directors being important for knowing how to move the camera in scenes, but getting a great performance is another skill they're important for and WWE would be wise to try and gets somebody with television experience for that role and not just limit the television experience to the writers. When the director uses multiple angles it makes it so that the wrestlers don't have to nail the entire scene in one take and can cut between the best parts of each take, which is a big positive considering most WWE wrestlers aren't really actors and can do well, but aren't going to nail everything in one go.


The more likely approach WWE would take is a combination of these aspects and that's fine. Of the issues that WWE could mostly easily fix it is their production. Compared to other wrestling companies WWE spends a lot of money on production. They have awesome stages, great cameras, high quality sound, pyrotechnics, and great highlight videos, but the production flows are that they don't utilize those things that well. Lucha Underground will be my go to for this, but that's a company that doesn't have as much money in production, but they use it to maximum effect. The arena has a character, which is easier for them as everything is shot in the same place, but it's not just a giant stadium it's a place the fans like to see. WWE presents every stadium as the same except for the exterior establishing shots. They can make each stadium feel different and look different because they are. But the bigger thing is that they have gotten way better cameras, and they don't shoot RAW any differently than they did when the cameras had motion blurring and it was hard to follow what was happening. WWE rebranded themselves from wrestling to entertainment in the early 90s, but have never changed how they shot the product which is one of their biggest problems. The in ring product and the writing have evolved, the former more than the latter, but the direction is the same as it's always been and doesn't serve the product well. The fans know it's entertainment, WWE can shoot their show that way.

Personally I favor WWE going toward a more MMA approach with how they present the program, because they won't go far enough toward the Lucha Underground craziness if they go toward entertainment so I'm pretty sure my arguments in that section are stronger and have more conviction. The entertainment section is important and the lack of different directors for WWE is a big problem. All long running shows change their show runners over time, but WWE has only had three with Vince McMahon, Kevin Dunn, and Stephanie McMahon, and Vince has never really stepped down from that position even while giving Steph more influence. No matter what the writers are giving the talent its all being overseen by an out of touch 71 year old man. There's lots of writing influences WWE takes from Hollywood and the idea of rotating show runners would probably be the most beneficial for the show.