Tuesday, October 23, 2012

TNA Bound For Glory: Jeff Hardy Vs. Austin Aries

TNA Bound For Glory 2012
Jeff Hardy Vs. Austin Aries - 6

So let's set the stage here. First of all, this is Bound for Glory -- TNA's biggest PPV of the year. Second of all, you have two of the biggest guys in the company that can legitimately "go" in the ring. Jeff, the charismatic veteran, who can take the crowd for a ride regardless of the situation, and Aries, a wrestler charismatic in his own right that has fought and clawed his way to the top. On a side note, there's a little extra spirit going for Aries, knowing he's only 5'9'' and is the TNA champ. You put these two guys together and you get an interesting element. Aries played heel here and dictated the tempo of the match, dishing out offense that was really slick and sick, including two heat-seeking missile dives, a nasty rope-assisted neck breaker onto the ramp (which Jeff cracked the back of his skull on legit), and a nice tight backbreaker about mid-way through. Jeff's facially selling of everything was spot on, as something as simple as an armbar made me think Jeff was getting his arm torn off at the elbow. Such excellence in performing. This guy deserves and Oscar. Back and forth the pace went, with Aries staying on top the majority of the match until the end. I was marking out here and couldn't believe the finish (which came at a very timely manner). A great way to cap off an above-average PPV. Genuinely enjoyed the shit out of this match.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

ECW Wrestlepalooza 1998

1) The FBI (Tracy Smothers & Little Guido) vs. The Blue Meanie & Super Nova – 3
2) Justin Credible vs. Mikey Whipwreck – 6
3) Chris Candido & Lance Storm vs. Balls Mahoney & Axl Rotten – 3
4) Bam Bam Bigelow vs. New Jack – 4
5) Tommy Dreamer & The Sandman vs. The Dudley Boys – 3
6) Rob Van Dam vs. Sabu – 5
7) Shane Douglas vs. Al Snow – 4

Continuing my series of reviewing the ECW pay-per-views and this one looks like it could be fun. This particular show is being held in the Cobb County Civic Center and every time I see that building, I can’t help but think of Brian Pillman and Basher tearing it up on the Power Hour 1990 project.

Opener was pretty much everything that would be expected when the FBI and b.W.o. match up, lame comedy, dance-offs, and Blue Meanie jiggling about. Nova’s get-up looked like something out of the movie “Kick Ass”. Finish was sloppy with the illegal man getting the pin and lots of mayhem. Wasn’t expecting much out of the Whipwreck/Justin match as their previous encounter on pay-per-view left a lot to be desired. This one, however, really exerted the fact that there was hate between both guys. Both guys bumped really well with Mikey taking a wild bump off the apron into the rail and Justin taking a superplex through a table off the railing in a crazy spot. I could have done with out the Jason and Chastity intereference at the end as, to me, it hurt the final product but the emotion, the brawling, and the crazy bumping made this one of the best matches I’ve seen on this project thus far. Tag title match left a lot to be desired as Axl and Balls cut a fiery promo with Joey Styles before the match but saw their fire fizzle like a burnt out campfire when the match started. If Candido and Storm are doing the old “partners at odds” gimmick, then why are they working so well together controlling the pace. Seeing Axl wrestle in a Dr. Evil t-shirt reminds me of how old this show actually is. I wonder if that t-shirt is still hanging up in his closet somewhere? Highlight of the match was Storm doing a Van Daminator style springboard dropkick 3/4 of the way across the ring.

Next up was a pre-taped legends introduction which should be noted feature the last appearance of the Junkyard Dog, who died in a car wreck a mere three weeks after this show. Then, we got a never-ending hypocritical Shane Douglas promo doing his typical schitck of trashing the WWF and WCW. I have a question, if he was so critical of WCW, then why did he jump ship to there in 1999? Five minutes in to the match and New Jack looked like the victim of gang violence and was just bleeding all over the place. The thing I liked about this match was that Bigelow didn’t stand around like a fool and take shot after shot with Jack’s variety of weapons. He actually fought back and pretty much beat the holy hell out of New Jack. However, the match lost a lot of steam during the crowd brawl segment. The balcony dive spot was really contrived and telegraphed. Bigelow didn’t do it much favors either, looking around in the crowd for New Jack like a kid in a department store who lost his mom.

Tag match with the Dudleys was wild brawl, exactly what would be expected between these four individuals. Sandman by far was the worst of anyone involved, as if that comes as a shock. He took a bump on a table that just wrecked his neck. Dudleys took some ill shots with weapons. Bubba got a table suplexed on him really wrecklessly by Sandman early in the bout and D-Von took a hard chair shot. Mid-way through, Spike runs in and starts getting nearfalls. I guess that makes him legal. It’s like the 1880s in baseball when a player could subsitute in a game simply by announcing his name. So much interference beyond Spike running in from Beulah and the Dudley entourage. I can’t really give this much more than a “3” as it felt like a wild, aimless brawl.

As a kid, I created RVD and Sabu on the WWF No Mercy game for the Nintendo 64 and had some epic battles. Those battles were actually better than this. Match started rough with them just doing the “respect spots” as I call them were they so back and forth and wind up in a stand-off. Sabu looked sloppy, but not nearly as bad as he was in previous encounters with Sandman. The chairs he was throwing were stiff but he should have really stayed away from the table spots. First spot was him diving into the crowd and having to bounce off a table as he misjudged the jump. Second spot was beyond awful as he was supposed to DDT RVD through a table but botched the whole thing all to hell. RVD’s offense was the usual standard … Van Daminator, frog splash, rinse and repeat. I could tell about five minutes in they were working towards a draw as the pace never really kicked into high gear. RVD’s nearfalls had zero heat. This should have been better than it was but this could be summed up in two words “thorough disappoinment”.

Main event seemed really strange with Al Snow challenging for the title. Douglas was working injured with a bad elbow and whole other laundry list of items Joey Styles rattled off on commentary. Douglas’ dive into the crowd was dangerous as he just barely cleared the rail. Match had lots of chopping and punching for the majority of offense. The big powerbomb spot from Douglas didn’t come off all that well. There was a really good nearfall with Snow kicking out of the belly-to-belly suplex but the finish was really sudden with Douglas reversing a shitty sunset flip.

PPV Rankings:
1. Wrestlepalooza ‘98
2. Barely Legal
3. Living Dangerously ‘98
4. November to Remember ‘97
5. Hardcore Heaven ‘97

Up next in the countdown: Heatwave ‘98

Saturday, October 13, 2012

ROH Fade to Black

ROH "Fade To Black" Plymouth, MA 9/10/10

1. ROH World TV Title Match: Eddie Edwards vs. Erick Stevens - 4
2. Grizzly Redwood vs. “Brutal” Bob Evans - 2
3. Austin Aries vs. Kyle O'Reilly - 4
4. First Blood Tag Match: The Necro Butcher and Shawn Daivari vs. Kevin Steen and Steve Corino - 5
5. The All Night Express (Kenny King and Rhett Titus) vs. Matt Taven and Sid Reeves - 3
6. Roderick Strong vs. Mike Bennett -3
7. ROH World Tag Title Match: The Kings of Wrestling (Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli) vs. Colt Cabana and El Generico - 4
8. Non-Title Match: Tyler Black vs. Christopher Daniels - 6

Cool venue with a decent look.  Opener was fine, Stevens' personality showed, winking at the camera, calling back to his old "choo choo" persona, etc. but Edwards was unsurprisingly mechanical.  Maybe he's a cyborg.

Cyborg 4 starring Eddie Edwards

Grizzly and pasty Evans was nothing save for Redwood getting in a few shots on a tubby "fan" who was escorted from the building by his neck fat by Don West's identical brother.  Aries is fun and his eye candy valet I dug but Kyle wasn't working with much confidence yet and this just went through the motions.

Fat fan attacks! "You mad bro?"

Next was a fun NWA throwback wild brawl with everybody pummeling each other at ringside for our enjoyment.  Didn't go long enough to warrant a higher score but I had fun and the Corino busting a beer bottle and stabbing Necro in the head with a shard for the finish was glorious.

Taven really blew a springboard in a huge blunder.  Fine for a squash but could have used some psychology as there were no real game plans demonstrated just a string of offensive spots.  Reeves' look wouldn't win over any talent scouts (appeared as a guy from an Irish pub approximating Jack Swagger) but for his size moved well and came off better than Taven who looked desperate trying too hard with all the flashy aerial spots (grist for the YouTube highlight reel mill).

Concussions "R" Us

If Strong and Bennett were to lock it up today they could generate something of more substance.  Mike was sans Maria or much character to speak of.  I've always appreciated Roderick's work ethic and workmanlike performances and while this wasn't as forgettable as his match I just saw versus Jake Manning (from WrestleReunion VI) it failed to make much of an impression.

KoW bring the goodness and right off the bat Hero did this crazy rolling ankle pick that'd freak out the world if someone successfully pulled it off at a UFC show.  Generico is freakily consistent regardless of promotion.  I was expecting a show stealer but this felt more like a solid ROH on HDNet main event which isn't to say bad at all just not worth seeking out.  The match-ending combination of a stiff forearm to the back of the head by Hero followed by a cracking European uppercut from Claudio worked well.

You fucked up!

Main event is a 30-min. draw.  You know yourself enough as a wrestling fan to ascertain whether seeing Black and Daniels work a fiercely contested half-hour is something you'd want to see or not.  Most people I know would fall in the latter camp.  I'm an extremely open-minded wrestling fan who dare I say turns down absolutely no wrestling so gave this a watch in one sitting.  The "WWE sux!" undercurrent given Tyler's signing with the co. and him doing Cena etc. shtick felt erroneous.  It gave the live crowd a little more reason to care or participate so not without some merit.  I would have rather seen a more focused, deterministic strategy implemented by both men trying to systematically gain advantage(s) en route to securing a major win.  I actually think Daniels would have been a good fit in the WWE due to his ability to structure matches and build to the big spots.  That ship has sailed.  Maybe he can get some stunt work if they do a fourth Boogeyman film.  Some nicely timed and effective nearfalls and Black booked strong to survive Daniels' top shelf shit.  Black refusing to do 5 more min. was Heel 101 and nothing like fucking over your fans on the first night in a new town.

Monday, October 8, 2012

WWF Philly Spectrum 11/7/87

1. Dino Bravo vs. Brady Boone - 3
2. Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukov vs. Young Stallions (Jim Powers and Paul Roma) - 2
3. Killer Khan vs. Bam Bam Bigelow - 5
4. Hercules vs. Junkyard Dog - 3
5. The Islanders (Tama and Haku) vs. Strike Force (Tito Santana and Rick Martel) - 4
6. Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake vs. "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase Virgil - 1
7. Demolition vs. Billy Jack Haynes and Ken Patera - 5
8. Ivan Putski vs. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine - 4
9. Honky Tonk Man vs. "Macho Man" Randy Savage - 3

My first thought of Boone was, "Man, dude looks like a tinier version of Billy Jack Haynes" only to shorty after be informed via commentary he was in fact a cousin of Haynes'. Fine opener that lacked depth but I was lulled into a DMT like trance by its rhythms. Boone's preferred method of selling was lying flat on his back and taking really big, exaggerated breaths.  I have a soft spot for the Russians but man, oh man, was this some of the lightest offense I've ever seen.  There were a few basic things like clotheslines (and a double clothesline near the end) that looked fluffier and about as low impact as a comforting roll around fresh luxury hotel linens.  Boris' match-ending flying headbutt wasn't convincing either.  Roma didn't look like the sniveling heel I recalled from WCW as he was definitely on the gas here completely blown up with protruding veins and enough testosterone for a whole varsity football team.

Khan and Bam had a really great face-off early in their match that I popped for ending with Khan trying to sneak in a spinning backfist and eating an atomic drop for his efforts.  I just watched Khan versus Chris Adams from Watts' Mid-South the other morning so this is a nice juxtaposition.  Bigelow sells Khan's throat-based offense with the vigor of Vincent Price.  Bam ducked the dreaded green mist and won with a big splash that got a real big reaction from the live crowd.  JYD has an uneven reputation especially for his in-ring contributions so I went into screening this with a sharp eye to see if I could detect anything to support his case as a potential WON HoF candidate down the road.  These guys forego strategy early to just trade big punches and see who'll be left standing.  Hercules emotes frustration superbly albeit not being known for his subtlety.  Dog's version of "Hulking up" looked like a painful seizure.  Hercules going for the full-nelson would have had more drama had he effectively worked the neck at all proceeding it.  Cheap finish stunk.  JYD's trunks say "Thump" which interestingly was the sound the remote control made when I tossed it on the couch and retreated to bed after this match.

They forego the usual formula early and Strike Force looks strong and motivated.  The work was fine and I quite dug it but the booking was certainly odd.  It went to a double DQ.  Why not put the tag champions Strike Force over strong?  Especially since a heel tag team went over clean earlier in the show.  I guess they felt a need to protect the Islanders -- that or Haku threatened to rip someone's eye out if they jobbed.  DiBiase came out on crutches so gave up Virgil as a replacement.  No thanks.  This was a dog fart and patently insulting to the fans in Philadelphia.

Forgot how glorious Patera's afro was.  For a makeshift team these guys looked great having Demolition on their heels early in trouble.  I totally found myself buying into a possible upset even though the disc skipping was a nuisance.  I've never seen a guy get punched so hard he got instant bed head but that exact thing happened here (pictured below).  Finish was as cheap as a used copy of Hero Wanted on DVD.

Example: Man Punched So Hard Instant Bed Head

I thought it was straight to the main next but no!  Valentine versus... wait, get the fuck out of here, is that one of the California Raisins?  Nope just a grossly tanned Ivan Putski.  No one would mistake Valentine for John Dodson but he gets the job done.  With all the chop exchanges overflowing on the indies it was nice to see guys trading belly punches for a change.  "The Hammer" gets a clean win with the figure four in a pleasantly surprising finish.

"I heard it through the grapevine!"

I wish James Lipton could get Honky Tonk Man onto an episode of Inside the Actor's Studio.  I'd love to hear him make chicken salad out of some of the chicken shit in Ferris' career.  You know a disc is severely damaged when it takes you a half-hour to get through the last ten minutes of it.  No worries just meant I got to spend three times the amount of time with Randy Poffo this sunny autumn afternoon so I'm not complaining!  The craft which with Savage withers on the mat is nonpareil.  In the new book The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: Heroes & Icons they explore the traditional different forms of selling ("registering," "selling," and "dying") and Savage serves up a sampling of 'em all here.  Anyone else ever wonder why Honky's icon on WWF WrestleMania for the NES looked like Wladziu Liberace?  Is there an agreed composite "Top 5" matches of HTM out there?  Not sure but of what I've seen this would be on mine.  Countout finish on a main event seems like an awfully lousy thing to do to your paying audience in a town on your regular touring loop but hindsight is 20/20 which ironically is probably what Honky thinks about his participation in this stunt:

Yo-Yo Ma wouldn't have done that shit!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Umaga vs. Jeff Hardy

Umaga vs. Jeff Hardy - WWE Raw 5/19/08 - 5

Raw was broadcast from Kansas City that night and this match was as sweet as the BBQ sauce made famous in the city.  Most people remember their cage match but while shorter (and minus a truly satisfying ending) this has even more dramaturgy.  Jeff will rally off 4-5 punches to nil effect and Umaga will throw one beastly strike that'll take Hardy off his feet.  Delicious visual moment outside the ring where Jeff narrowly escapes a charging Umaga who crashes into the steel ring steps.  While there was no clear victor the ending bump more than made up for it with Umaga catching a flying Jeff who leapt off the barricade and destroying him with a wild swinging side slam on the ground that saw Jeff bounce off the floor.