365 Wrestling, Day 20: Allie Kat vs. Savanna Stone (SUP Graps, 1/20/19)

365 Wrestling, Day 20: Allie Kat vs. Savanna Stone (SUP Graps, 1/20/19)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

Today I’m taking a look at a match from Southern Underground Pro (or, as they’re often referred to online, SUP Graps) and their I Am King event in 2019, where Allie Kat took on Savanna Stone. This is only the second or third time I’ve seen Allie Kat in action and my first time watching Savanna, so hooray for novelty and let’s get to the match.

By the way, you can watch this and all SUP events to date on Independent Wrestling TV. Introductions for this one start at the 33-minute mark.

The Context

Allie Kat is a SUP Graps regular and this is her sixth appearance for the promotion. She’s also got one of the more well-established characters on the independent scene today, as a cat who wrestles (No, really, it’s highly entertaining). Meanwhile, this is the SUP Graps debut for Stone, who’s about two years into her career at this point.

The Match

Allie Kat is not only the established presence for SUP Graps, but also the crowd favorite–to the point she draws huge “meow!” chants that begin during her entrance and continue intermittently throughout the match. The story they tell is a longstanding wrestling trope — the hometown favorite going against the latest invading villain — and both play their roles quite well.

Allie Kat has tons of charisma and brings a whimsy to her in-ring style that is infectious. She also can get physical when she needs to; case in point, a snug-looking hip attack and cannonball senton in succession during her comeback, and a wicked forearm smash to precede the finishing stretch. Stone, meanwhile, shows a solid savvy in a heel role that belies her relative inexperience. The heel heat focuses around Stone and trying to mangle Allie’s left arm by any means necessary, and she does a fine job changing it up, with the usual arm-related offense you’ve seen a billion times in matches intermingled with some casual savagery such as manipulating the fingers and outright biting the hand on a couple of occasions.

I found the finishing stretch compelling, even though it included one of my pet peeves — repeating the same spot or match after a miscue on the initial attempt. In the greater story, with Stone working Allie’s arm, it all works out, as it provided another of several incidents where Allie is unable to hit her finishing move (that would be the Pussy Piledriver). Ultimately, Allie is able to hit the piledriver and score a hard-fought victory.

I’ve talked before about my work in wrestling as a commentator from time to time, so naturally, I find myself focusing on the commentary when it’s there. Dylan Hales and Steven McCash are on the call for this match and do a very fine job, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve known Dylan online for years. They sneak in nuggets of greater context without taking away from the action happening in the ring. When Allie Kat goes to do a dive to the floor on Stone but doesn’t have the nerve, setting her up for an ambush that targets the left arm, the pair of commentators quickly and succinctly summarize Allie’s past hesitancy on dives. This also produces the line of the match from McCash, who encourages Allie to go for it because she’s got eight more lives if she misses. Top. Notch.

Random Thoughts

-This is my first time really checking out this promotion aside from a few clips on YouTube and the occasional gif, and that needs to change. The production values for the event are excellent, from the different camera views to the crystal-clear sound of the commentators to just the overall look of the video.

-To help with the “underground” feel, we’re in an intimate environment with a pretty low ceiling. There are no seats, so it’s literally standing room only for everyone. The ring announcer, Righteous Jesse, is especially intense… so intense that I kinda want to get the guy hooked up with a throat lozenge sponsorship or something.

-Speaking of the intimate environment, this event was filmed at The Basement East, a renowned venue in Nashville that unfortunately suffered catastrophic damage last March when a tornado hit the Nashville area. It’s since been rebuilt and looks to reopen in February according to their website.

Final Rating: 5.9

What is the goal of a wrestling match? Everyone has their own ideas. Is it to tell a story — whether as a standalone match, part of a greater ongoing tale, or both? Is it to give both competitors a chance to showcase their skills? Is it, simply, to engage the crowd? This match succeeds on any of those fronts, and I came away wanting to see more of both ladies going forward, as well as more of SUP Graps.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

It’s back to WCW in 1992 for another scrap featuring the Dangerous Alliance.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.

365 Wrestling, Day 19: Rockers vs. New Orient Express (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/19/91)

365 Wrestling, Day 19: Rockers vs. New Orient Express (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/19/91)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

Like I said a couple of entries ago, I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Royal Rumble and watched them all. As a kid, that meant dad ordering the pay-per-view and watching it together.

So, here’s the thing. I remember ordering the 1991 Rumble. I remember the Rumble match. I remember Virgil finally decking Ted DiBiase. I remember Sgt. Slaughter winning the title. And while I’m sure I saw the opening tag between the Rockers and the Orient Express, well …

Sooo, we’re correcting that and watching this match, which I’ve seen repeatedly celebrated as one of the best undercard matches at a Rumble. Will it live up to the hype? Will it jog some dormant memory? Let’s find out!

You can watch this match on Peacock, by the way.

The Context

Even though they never won tag titles (aside from that one phantom run), Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty have established themselves as one of the most popular teams in the promotion. Since jumping there from the AWA, the Rockers have feuded with the Brain Busters, the Twin Towers, the Rougeaus, and the Powers of Pain. By this point, they’ve been wrestling the Orient Express off and on for almost a year — dating back to WrestleMania VI. That rivalry’s been going on so long that this is actually the second version of the Express to go against the Rockers. After Akio Sato left the WWF, he was replaced in the team by Kato — aka Paul Diamond, a former longtime partner of Tanaka who wore a mask as part of his new gimmick. Mr. Fuji remains the Orient Express’ manager. In fact, as Badd Company, Tanaka and Diamond beat the Rockers for the AWA Tag Titles in 1988.

The Match

Looking back, and seeing matches like this, it’s rather astonishing that the WWF never gave Shawn and Marty a run atop the division. All four guys get their chance to shine in this match, but make no mistake, this is really a showcase for the Rockers. The match lasts almost 20 minutes and Shawn and Marty have the advantage for the vast majority of it, although there is a prolonged stretch where Tanaka and Kato give Michaels a good pummeling centered around his throat and neck.

If you like double-team moves in tag matches, or exchanges involving all four wrestlers, then this is the match for you. After Shawn spends a brief period of time taking the heat, escaping trouble with a sweet moonsault press, the four men participate in a highly-entertaining series of spots involving Irish whips out of opposite turnbuckles, before the Express bail out to the floor and take stereo cross body dives off the top rope from the Rockers.

The match ends with all four men in the ring at the same time. Tanaka and Kato try to clothesline Michaels with a belt, and Shawn leaps forward, with the contact pulling Tanaka and Kato forward to crack heads. That’s the exact same spot you can see late in the Anything Goes Match between the Fabulous Ones and the Moondogs, by the way.

The finish is pretty outstanding. The Rockers set up for a Rocket Launcher on Kato, but Tanaka intervenes to break it up and Shawn crashes to the floor from the top rope. The Express isolate Marty, with Kato slingshotting him into a knife-edge chop by Tanaka. They go to repeat the move, but this time Shawn saves the day, decking Tanaka, who doubles over as Kato unknowingly slingshots Jannetty, who catches Tanaka in a sunset flip for the three count.

Random Thoughts

–These guys won me over when the Express jump the Rockers while they’re mugging to the crowd and, shortly thereafter, hit Shawn with a double back drop. As mentioned before, I’m a sucker for a good back drop.

–Most times that Shawn gets in trouble in the match, it occurs when the referee is otherwise occupied either ushering Marty out of the ring or trying to keep him from entering the ring. No wonder Michaels eventually puts him through that window!

–The way this match is filmed seems almost polar opposite to current WWE production, and I definitely prefer the way this is presented. It’s nice to be able to watch a match without a bunch of needless camera cuts or zooms.

Roddy Piper joins Gorilla Monsoon on commentary for this show. I’ve always enjoyed Piper’s commentary work and he adds quite a bit to the presentation here, putting over the skill, talent, and athleticism of all four competitors. On the few occasions where the action slows down and someone gets put in a hold, Piper is quick to explain how the hold is effective and the strategy behind it. Everything that an analyst on commentary should do, in my opinion…

–Kato and Tanaka bust out a leapfrog stun gun on Michaels, a good dozen years before Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin made it one of their key moves during their run as Team Angle aka World’s Greatest Tag Team.

Final Rating: 8.9

I definitely have never seen this match before, because the product produced by these four here is unforgettable. I’ve read and heard a ton of hype for this match and it definitely delivers. I loved this match. They go almost 20 minutes and I could have watched them battle for another 10. I talked before about the difference between “effective work” in a match and “workrate” (how I define it, anyway). Placement on the card also can help, or hurt, a match, and in this case, this tag battle is the perfect match in the perfect place on the card. An already eager pay-per-view crowd is whipped into a frenzy by this highly entertaining tag match. It’s also worth noting how atypical this match was for WWF, especially in this era. A nearly 20-minute match, worked at this pace, with this many big moves and high spots just didn’t happen in this company. Push it to the number one spot on my rankings, which will be coming out at the end of each month, by the way.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

We head to Nashville.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.

365 Wrestling Day 18: Jerry Lawler vs. Jos LeDuc (CWA Memphis, 1/18/81)

365 Wrestling Day 18: Jerry Lawler vs. Jos LeDuc (CWA Memphis, 1/18/81)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

Earlier in this project, I wrote about the wonderfully eccentric world of Memphis wrestling. We return there for a match that occurred 30 years ago to the day, on one of the weekly Monday shows at Mid-South Coliseum, where Jerry Lawler took on Jos LeDuc.

Bad news, though … I can’t find this match anywhere online, and I watched it from my private collection. Because of that, I’m going to be more detailed in the match recap than I usually would be.

The Context

LeDuc is the hired mercenary monster of Jimmy Hart and this is the latest chapter for Lawler in a lengthy feud with Hart that played out for years and didn’t truly culminate until Hart finally left the territory and joined the World Wrestling Federation. Lawler actually brought Hart into wrestling, and the two real-life friends were working together on the heel side of things until Lawler broke his leg in early 1980 playing a game of pick-up football. After losing the biggest star in the territory, the CWA made a sudden and amazing pivot, with Hart ripping Lawler in interviews. Just like that, Hart became the biggest villain in the promotion, and when Lawler recovered from his injury, he came back into the ring as the returning hero out for revenge.

Lawler missed about seven months since the injury, and the CWA settled into a formula that persisted for years, with Hart bringing in wrestler after wrestler to try and finish “The King” once and for all. Lawler and LeDuc already had some history. LeDuc spent quite a bit of time in the Memphis territory in 1978 and this was his first appearance there since that year. That ’78 run also included one of my favorite segments in wrestling history:

Ladies and gentlemen… the Axe Oath!

Jos LeDuc makes his axe oath

The Match

Plenty of pomp and circumstance for Lawler’s entrance. The house lights go out and Lawler gets the spotlight treatment as he descends to the ring from the rafters. The crowd loves it.

Lance Russell announces the specific stipulations of this match to a packed house in the Coliseum: if Lawler wins, Hart gets handcuffed in the corner and takes 10 lashes with a leather strap. After each blow, Hart has the chance to quit, but if he does he has to leave the territory. If LeDuc wins, Lawler gets handcuffed and receives the same treatment from Hart.

What follows is more of a brawl than a match. Aside from a couple of headlocks and a snap mare, the punch and kick are the main notes in this composition of violence. Russell on commentary describes LeDuc as “tremendously wide and thick” and emphasizes his physical strength. Meanwhile, in the ring, LeDuc is throwing Lawler around the ring and sending him flying after eating overhand punches. When it comes to punches by a pro wrestler, though, there are few better than Lawler. He deals out the aforementioned snap mare and delivers rapid-fire punches to LeDuc to the delight of the crowd.

Several minutes of the match are clipped from the video, and as the action resumes, LeDuc has Lawler down in the middle of the ring. Lawler no-sells an eye rake and gets to his knees. The Coliseum crowd roars in approval as Lawler begins to fire up on his opponent long before Hulk Hogan made “hulking up” a trope for years. LeDuc shoves Lawler away on a headlock attempt, wiping out the referee, Paul Morton, and then hitting a piledriver — which is illegal in this promotion. A groggy Morton makes a long two count. LeDuc looks awestruck. Hart drops to his knees at ringside, clawing at the heavens.

Lawler comes roaring back once more and when he pulls down his single strap of his ring attire, the fans fly into a tizzy. LeDuc begs off as he eats punches, then gets fired into the ropes for a sweet back drop. (I’m a sucker for a good back drop, you guys …). Hart is trying to get into the ring, and Lawler plants LeDuc with a piledriver — this time in view of the referee, leading to an automatic DQ. So, as Lawler protests, Russell explains that Lawler was merely seeking payback for the piledriver he dealt out, but given the rules in the territory, this finish didn’t paint Lawler in the brightest of lights…

Lawler is upset. The crowd is upset. Hart, meanwhile celebrates with delight. He makes a show of removing his jacket (revealing a pair of elbow pads, curiously) as Lawler is handcuffed to the far corner, facing the ringpost, his back exposed. The fans we can see from ringside sit stoic, with their arms crossed, as Hart lays into Lawler with the leather strap. Hart really gives it to Lawler (that fifth blow echoes through the building). LeDuc, meanwhile, stays down selling the piledriver through most of this but is on his feet as Hart delivers the ninth lash. This leads the Canadian lumberjack to grab the strap and begin whaling away on The King. Several fan favorites hit the ring (I noticed Bill Dundee and maybe Tommy Rich?) but when Lawler gets uncuffed he pounces on LeDuc, seizing the strap and flogging the lumberjack, who flees to the back as the video ends.

–It’s hard for me to watch any “wrestler gets lowered to the ring from the rafters” entrance now because it always makes me think of Owen Hart.

Random Thoughts

–I almost thought LeDuc oversold the piledriver.

–Hart added a lot to this with his antics before, after, and during the match.

Final Rating: 5.3

The crowd was into this and the action felt heated but this comes off as more of an angle than a match, and the way that storylines play out so quickly given the way the territory is structured, it just falls into the category of yet another chapter in the ongoing feud between Lawler and Hart. It doesn’t help matters that LeDuc is one-and-done, not returning to the territory again until 1984. A decent watch, but not anything worth going out of your way to find and see.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

A ballyhooed tag match from 1991.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.

365 Wrestling, Day 17: The New York Rumble (WWF, 1/17/94)

365 Wrestling, Day 17: The New York Rumble (WWF, 1/17/94)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

It’s January, and that means it’s Royal Rumble season!

I.

Love.

The Royal.

Rumble.

It is appointment viewing for me every year, no matter whether I have been following WWE from week to week or haven’t watched in months. I watched the very first one — not the pay-per-view in 1989, but the original Rumble that aired free on USA in 1988 — and was enraptured. I think I wore out my VHS copy of the ’89 Rumble, which was used for background and time cues while re-enacting my own Rumbles with action figures.

That led to one problem with regard to this project, though … I was committing to only watching matches I had never seen, and I’ve seen every Rumble.

Or so I thought!

While doing research and filling out my spreadsheet calendar for January, I discovered a Rumble held at a house show at Madison Square Garden on January 17, 1994, five days before the Rumble pay-per-view took place that year. Some hearty individual toted a Camcorder (after all, remember, this was 1994) into the Garden and recorded the whole thing. You can find it on YouTube or Dailymotion with some shrewd searching.

The Context

No title shots were on the line in this match but the stage was set for the Rumble pay-per-view, where the winner of the Rumble match would face the winner of the YokozunaUndertaker match for the WWF Title. Meanwhile, a long-simmering storyline of sibling rivalry had been playing out between Bret Hart and Owen Hart.

The Match

Howard Finkel announces this as the New York Rumble, and the proclamation that a Rumble match is taking place appears to take the Madison Square Garden crowd by surprise.

In several ways, this serves as a dry run for the Rumble on pay-per-view a few days later. The final four, for example, is almost the same: with Fatu, Bret, and Shawn Michaels in at at the end. Owen Hart joins them, in a spot that would be filled by Lex Luger five days later.

The other most significant harbinger to the pay-per-view Rumble is an early run of eliminations by Diesel, who enters at number one and tosses three straight foes before running into Scott Steiner. Watch during this portion of the match as Diesel waylays Steiner before he can even get into the ring, steps over the top rope and pursues him to the floor; that’s an elimination, but it goes unnoticed or unacknowledged or both. Crush and Randy Savage, who have their sights set on a meeting at WrestleMania, lock horns in the Garden and, in both Rumbles, Crush tosses Macho Man.

For me one of the biggest highlights is the seemingly random selections who fill out the 30-man field. As I mentioned on Day 13, this era of WWF is one of my biggest gaps as a fan and I forgot that certain mainstays of the 1980s are still hanging around on the roster at this point: Iron Mike Sharpe, Virgil, Jim Powers, Rick Martel … I’m looking at all of you.

A few other highlights that stood out for me:

–The 1-2-3 Kid (who you may know better as X-Pac) and Diesel have a nice exchange early in the match.
–Crush looks strong throughout his approximate 15 or so minutes in the match, ousting Savage, Bam Bam, and generally looking strong until a dropkick from Bret Hart sends him to the floor.
Johnny Polo (aka Raven) makes an appearance and does a good bit of flying in the ring; note a heedless-looking sternum-first collision into the turnbuckles not long after he enters.
–Michaels and former partner turned nemesis Marty Jannetty going at one another like The Chicken and Peter Griffin when HBK enters the ring at #29.
Doink delivering a suplex to Bart Gunn near the ropes that dumps Bart out to the floor.

The major story here, though, is the one between the two Hart brothers. Despite all of their issues, Owen saves his big brother from elimination on several occasions. Once the Rumble is down to the final two — Owen and Fatu — Samu comes out to support his fellow Headshrinker while Bret heads back down ringside to cheer on Owen. The final few minutes play out more like a standard wrestling match than the end of a battle royal, but the action is solid, with Owen ultimately prevailing.

Random Thoughts

Bushwhacker Butch makes the most of his appearance. He’s the second guy who gets fed to Diesel in the early going. He gets a big reaction from the crowd on his entrance, gets in a comic-relief spot, bumps hard for Diesel to make the big man look strong, gets eliminated, and works the gimmick all the way up the entrance aisle … all in less that two minutes.

Adam Bomb is in this match, albeit briefly. I always thought the WWF could have done more with him during his run there.

Sgt. Slaughter makes a surprise appearance in what marks his first match since September of 1992, according to Cagematch. A couple of years earlier, in the 1992 Rumble, Slaughter gets eliminated on a facefirst bump into the turnbuckles, hitting the post and tumbling to the floor. He does the same spot, to varying levels of aesthetic success, four times in this one.

Final Rating: 5.8

Even a bad Royal Rumble is still pretty fun to watch at least once, and this one is better than some of the offerings that made pay-per-view. The end helps, as Owen was such a phenomenally talented and well-liked performer. Seeing him win here makes you wonder what might have been had he gotten more of an opportunity during this era of WWF wrestling.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

The King of Memphis faces a terrifying lumberjack from Canada.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.

365 Wrestling, Day 16: Dory Funk, Jr. vs. Billy Robinson (Houston, 1/16/81)

365 Wrestling, Day 16: Dory Funk, Jr. vs. Billy Robinson (Houston, 1/16/81)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

Back around the first of the year, there was a whole debate online that started with one person’s opinion of Dory Funk, Jr., then mushroomed into a debate about how wrestling can and should be consumed. If you’re part of Wrestling Twitter, then you probably already saw it, and also, my condolences for being part of Wrestling Twitter.

I won’t get into the nuts and bolts of it, only to say this: if I believed the quality of a wrestling match or a wrestler only could be determined by evaluating it in its immediate real-time context, and could not be evaluated through the prism of history, well, then I wouldn’t be doing this, now would I?

Speaking of Dory Funk, he’s one half of today’s match selection, going against Billy Robinson in the Houston territory in a Reader Recommendation from Jeremiah Lawson. You can watch the match on YouTube, or below:

The Context

This looked like a technical wrestling classic on paper between two world-traveled, seasoned, decorated grapplers. Funk is the former NWA World Champion, and the brother of Terry Funk, who for the record I always thought was the superior pro wrestler of the family.

Robinson, meanwhile, comes from an amateur wrestling background, learning catch wrestling at the famous Snake Pit gym in Wigan. Robinson went on to train others in catch, including Kazushi Sakuraba and Josh Barnett, and former students of his continue to teach the principles of catch wrestling to this day.

The Match

Certain old-school guys like to criticize the look of up-and-coming wrestlers today: that they’re too short or not muscular enough to be credible. Neither Funk nor Robinson has the physique you’d associate with the prototypical pro wrestler, but their credentials shine through from the opening bell of this match. Unlike many matches, where the chain wrestling serves as a feeling-out process and comes across as more cooperative than competitive, everything here feels like a struggle.

It’s difficult to describe this match without getting into a hold-for-hold description, which is something I specifically have tried to avoid in these write-ups. Funk, an Amarillo native, is the hometown guy in this Houston match, and the crowd is largely silent, though the Englishman does earn several appreciative hoots on his impressive reversal of a double knuckle lock into a single-leg takedown.

The first 10 minutes are largely back and forth but that changes when Dory starts unleashing his trademark forearm uppercuts. Robinson eats several of them, and sells each a little more than the last, emphasizing the steady attrition of weathering Funk’s blows. Both men quicken the pace at the “five minutes remaining” call from the ring announcer (Boyd Pierce, I think?) but with subsequent time calls at three minutes, two, and so on, it doesn’t take a mastermind to anticipate this one is going the distance. The crowd boos the time-limit draw somewhat, and both men shake hands before exiting.

Random Thoughts

— According to Cagematch, Funk and Robinson wrestled as singles opponents 10 times but there was never a winner. Each of those matches ended in either a double countout or a draw.

— Houston was a bit of an odd territory because it usually was affiliated with other promotions, such as Southwest Wrestling or Mid-South.

Paul Boesch, the Houston promoter, is flying solo on commentary for this one and does a competent job. Note near the end, after Robinson hits Funk with a backbreaker but sells his knee, Boesch is sure to point out this little detail. He also refers to “the British bulldog” in Robinson, which is amusing since we’re still a few years away from that team even forming.

— Boesch keeps referring to both men as champions and neither title being on the line, but in my research I couldn’t find which championships they held at the time.

Final Rating: 6.0

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I watched the first night of Wrestle Kingdom and saw a match that went 30-plus minutes but only felt like it lasted about 15 minutes. This match isn’t quite such a breeze, but it still flew by fairly quickly to me. I wouldn’t call it an action-packed match, especially by the standards of modern pro wrestling, but both guys stay busy and keep working throughout. I was surprised at the five-minute call, and that 15 minutes already had elapsed. This is a good, solid match — nothing more, nothing less.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

A Royal Rumble match that you’ve probably never seen before, because it never aired on TV.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.

365 Wrestling, Day 15: Stan Hansen vs. Ashura Hara (All Japan, 1/15/82)

365 Wrestling, Day 15: Stan Hansen vs. Ashura Hara (All Japan, 1/15/82)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

I’ve got to confess something. I have a serious, wrestling-related, man-crush on Stan Hansen. Have for years, and it’s time to admit it.

Hansen is one of the best to ever step into a pro wrestling ring, by any metric you want to apply. Five-star matches? He has multiple, according to Dave Meltzer. Longevity? Hansen had more than two decades as a major name, wrestling both in the U.S., and in Japan. He was able to hold up in the grueling Japanese style in lengthy matches, and had a rugged presence that made him a legitimate formidable force — a reputation helped along by being so near-sighted that he was notoriously snug in the ring.

You can bet your hat and your boots, cowpoke, this won’t be the only Stan Hansen match as part of the project.

The Context

After several years as a top gaijin heel for New Japan Pro Wrestling, Hansen jumped at the end of 1981 to NJPW’s main rival in the country, All Japan. This match was his first since making the move, but he made a few appearances in the mid-70s for the promotion with a very different look than he had for most of his career:

Moondog… Stan?!?!

I don’t know anything about Hara and don’t recall seeing him wrestle before, but some research tells me he arrived in AJPW as part of a faction in 1981 when the IWE promotion folded. He started teaming with Tenryu soon thereafter, and stayed linked with Tenryu as a partner in the ring and friend outside of the ring for much of his career.

The Match

Hansen had a reputation as one of the top heels in New Japan, but he’s the attraction in this matchup. There’s a buzz in the crowd that intensifies when Hansen’s music hits and he stalks toward the ring. The crowd starts chanting his name mere seconds into the match, as Hansen clubs his opponent with forearms, elbow drops, and knee drops. Twice, he throttles Hara in a chinlock. Note the mannerisms of Hansen, the extra torque he puts on the hold as he wrenches Hara, and the facial expressions of Hara. They all combine to make this much more than just a “resthold” (a term I despise by the way …)

Back to the fans, who add so much to the atmosphere of this match. Every time Hansen Irish whips Hara into the ropes, or goes into the ropes himself, there’s a murmur of anticipation as they await the Lariat … Hansen’s signature and brutal-looking clothesline finisher. After a couple of teases, including a jumping knee that fells Hara with ease, Hansen delivers on the lariat, unleashing it at center ring to the delight of the crowd. The only unfortunate circumstance is that there’s a nonsensical camera cut as Hansen delivers the move, detracting from its apparent devastation. Hansen makes the cover and wins a match earmarked for 45 minutes in less than three, sending an immediate statement to everyone in his new home promotion.

Give Hara credit for treating Hansen’s lariat like death itself to make his debut as noteworthy as possible. Young boys in matching red windbreakers come out and give Hara the full stretcher treatment. As he is carried to the back, his foot quivers a bit to add just a little extra seasoning to this delectable entree of salesmanship. Hansen, meanwhile, makes the pin, has his hand raised, and stalks to the back without another glance, his job done.

Random Thoughts

This was the first step in a long, successful career in All Japan for Hansen. By the time he retired, he had racked up the following accomplishments in the promotion, while serving as a fearsome foil for multiple generations of AJPW fan favorites:

— Won each of the three belts that eventually would go in the Triple Crown
— Four-time Triple Crown champion
— Back to back winner of the Champion Carnival, AJPW’s annual round-robin heavyweight tournament and their counterpart to New Japan’s G1 Climax
— Four-time winner of the World’s Strongest Tag Determination League, AJPW’s annual round-robin heavyweight tag tournament
–Thirteen separate tag title reigns

Final Rating: 5.5

I’m a big believer that the quality of the work in a match depends on how effective the work is. If two guys are flying all over the ring killing themselves in a match in front of a packed crowd, but the fans are sitting on their hands the whole time, is that match better than a contest from the yesteryear of wrestling where the combatants are trading headlocks and hammerlocks but the crowd is fully engaged? The goal here is to establish Hansen immediately as a force to be reckoned with in All Japan, and they overachieve in meeting that objective. It’s a historic match for both Hansen and the history of wrestling, especially in Japan.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

Another Reader Recommendation brings us to Houston in 1981.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.

365 Wrestling, Day 14: Bryan Danielson vs. Chris Hero (ROH Hell Freezes Over, 1/14/06)

365 Wrestling, Day 14: Bryan Danielson vs. Chris Hero (ROH Hell Freezes Over, 1/14/06)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

As mentioned before, the January portion of this project is about showing love to some all-time favorites of mine. Mostly favorite wrestlers, but also promotions, eras… and feuds. My selection for January 14 is the first chapter in one of my favorite feuds of all time: the Ring of Honor vs. CZW rivalry from 2006.

This inter-promotional feud just underscores what the WCW/ECW Invasion could have been. The CZW interlopers exact some major violence in a “shock and awe” campaign on an ROH roster known more for “pure” wrestling and splintered by their own interpersonal rivalries. Strange alliances are made, like loathed heel Adam Pearce becoming one of the standard-bearers for ROH and a subsequent fan favorite. The overarching invasion splinters off into individual feuds, like BJ Whitmer and his issue with Super Dragon, then Necro Butcher. We’ve got secret traitors. We’ve got betrayals. We’ve got highs and lows, all culminating in a CZW specialty — the Cage of Death — that summer to settle the score and also immediately launch the main storyline in ROH for the latter part of 2006.

I love this feud so much and I’ve seen most of it … except the first match where it really all began, when Chris Hero challenged Bryan Danielson (you might know him better as Daniel Bryan) for the ROH World Title.

You can watch this match on Ring of Honor’s YouTube channel.

The Context

This all started when ROH and CZW both booked shows in Philadelphia on the same day. CZW opted to move its event, which had been scheduled first if I recall correctly, to an afternoon bell time so fans could have the option to attend both. That made Hero, a CZW mainstay and one half of the promotion’s tag champs with Claudio Castagnoli (now known as Cesaro in WWE), quite unhappy, and led to the following promo:

Meanwhile, since winning the ROH Title the previous September, Danielson had made a point to defend against competitors from other promotions as well as ROH mainstays. This was dubbed as an “open contract” format and led names like Steve Corino and Naomichi Marufuji to come in and test their mettle against Danielson. Hero would use this “open contract” to get his own shot at the champ.

Now, neither promotion had TV and YouTube was not the online powerhouse that it used to be. So, when it came to talking trash and building heat before walking into ROH as the hated invader, how would Hero get his message to the masses? Twitter didn’t even exist yet. Neither did Instagram. Facebook, like YouTube, was still a relative neophyte in the online world.

There was only one answer. Hero had to write out what he had to say on LiveJournal, y’all!!!

Danielson added extra sizzle the day of the big title match, when he crashed the CZW show in street clothes and cut a scathing interview on the promotion, its wrestlers, and its fans, leading to a pull-apart brawl involving wrestlers from both rosters. Unfortunately, I couldn’t track down video from this.

The Match

I spent a good portion of my professional career covering college football and this felt like a rivalry game: with loud boos for the road rival, who also is represented by a small but vocal contingent of its own fans. As if there already isn’t enough heat and hype surrounding this match, Hero adds to it with a promo where he vows to win the title, take it back to CZW, and throw it in the trash. Hero gets his mic cut as “The Final Countdown” plays out Danielson.

We’ve got a big-fight feel, with several other members of the CZW roster walking to the ring with Hero like cornermen for a boxing match or MMA fight. The two combatants go nose to nose and, since it’s both a title match and the main event, we get the boxing-style intros from longtime ROH announcer Bobby Cruise.

As much as I enjoy his career whether he went by Danielson or Daniel Bryan, and not to downplay any of his later feats (like main eventing a WrestleMania), this ROH Title run is my favorite iteration of Danielson’s. He’s a supremely confident, technically proficient bully of a champion, bringing that same attitude to his defenses whether facing a fan favorite like Samoa Joe or Colt Cabana or a member of The Embassy.

Hero, meanwhile, looks and wrestles quite differently than he has in later years — either as Hero on the independent circuit or Kassius Ohno during two runs under the WWE banner. He’s yet to adopt the big, brutalizing strikes that are now his bread and butter. Hero leans more on the European-influenced mat aspects of his style, which is part of Danielson’s wrestling ethos, too. That technical proficiency also allows Hero to stave off some of Danielson’s signature offense, such as the surfboard.

Danielson controls about the first half of the match until Hero focuses in on the left arm of the champion. This includes a nifty hammerlock into a backbreaker with Danielson’s arm pinned behind his back that would have made the Andersons nod in approval 20-some years prior. Check out the 18-minute mark of the match or so, for some slick arm-related torment by Hero and some equally smooth counters by Danielson.

The champ breaks out of the hold by literally slapping his way out of it, unloading with strike after strike using his good arm and hand. After an aggressive back-and-forth of pin attempts between the two, both men try to finish it. First, after Hero delivers a rolling elbow right to the bicep of the injured left arm, he hooks one of his signature submissions — a hangman’s clutch (or inverted cravate) with the arm trapped. Danielson gets to the ropes, and a few moments later, he ensnares Hero in his Cattle Mutilation submission. Hero rolls through while still in the hold and gets to the ropes. Even though he was close to victory, Danielson comes out of his trademark submission clutching at his left arm, selling the physical toll of the match.

Pay attention to the crowd dynamic throughout this match. For most of the contest, the ROH fans are incredibly vocal whether mocking Hero with chants encouraging him to fornicate himself, and overall thirsting for his bloody, violent end at the hands of their champion. As the match progresses, though, he starts earning the begrudging respect of the ROH fans — though not their support,. In what marked a ballyhooed debut match in ROH, Hero more than holds up his own end before eventually succumbing to a crossface chicken wing at center ring.

Random Thoughts

— I mentioned it before but watching Hero here and watching any of his matches from the last five years or so is almost like watching two different wrestlers. I like what Hero brings here, but I prefer the modern version, for the record.

— The collection of CZW personnel accompanying Hero includes Spyder Nate Webb, Adam Flash, Necro Butcher and a young Bryce Remsburg in the black and yellow stripes of as CZW referee shit. Necro is so hyped before the match he punches himself in the head repeatedly until he draws blood. The CZW crew stay docile observers throughout the match, which adds to the “real sport” feel of the bout.

Lenny Leonard and Dave Prazak do a fine job on commentary: Prazak as the straight man calling it right down the middle and Leonard as the analyst leaning to favor the home team. When Hero hits his Hero’s Welcome finisher late in the match, Leonard’s repeated yelling “No!” adds to the imminent peril of the title changing hands.

— I might focus on commentators more than most where I’ve done that work, but the third man in the booth does NOT add to what we see. Gabe Sapolsky, who went by the nom de plume of Jimmy Bower whenever he was part of the perpetually unseen commentary booth, makes several verbal appearances during the match as an unabashed ROH cheerleader, burying Hero and all the CZW personnel for most of his appearances before delegating a small bit of respect to the challenger late in the match. Gabe, I mean Jimmy, sometimes adds a lot on commentary where he’s also the one building the stories and making the matches but I would have preferred they stick with the two-man commentary team for the duration on this one.

— Line of the match: Prazak tells Hero to “back up his words on his LiveJournal.” What, no Myspace status?

— As far as longevity goes, where do the runs of Cruise and referee Todd Sinclair with ROH rank at this point? Both have been with the company for more than 15 years.

— Danielson still has welts on his chest match from a brutal defense against Roderick Strong in the fall of 2005 which is amazing and vicious and might make me break my rule about not re-watching matches as part of this project.

Final Rating: 6.9

This is a very good match worth seeing on its own and a fine microcosm of the Danielson ROH reign as a whole. The ROH-CZW rivalry adds plenty of atmosphere. Seek it out and, if you haven’t seen it and have access to ROH’s 2006 shows (which, like most of the promotion’s early library are out of print and have not been released on the ROH Honor Club streaming service), I recommend going for the ride and checking out the entire seven-month run of shows.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

The Lariat cometh.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.

365 Wrestling, Day 13: Lioness Asuka vs. Michiko Omukai (ARSION, 1/13/02)

365 Wrestling, Day 13: Lioness Asuka vs. Michiko Omukai (ARSION, 1/13/02)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

I embarked on this project for three reasons:

  1. To get back in the habit of original writing again. As a freelance writer and editor, I’m writing all the time, but that’s also work, so even though the subject matter is varied, like any job, it’s work.
  2. To focus on wrestling I enjoy, and the concept of enjoying wrestling, and combat the ever-present negativity in wrestling fandom.
  3. To watch wrestling I haven’t seen yet.

Like anyone in any fandom, I have gaps: New Generation WWF, the Four Pillars era of All Japan … and pretty much all of lucha libre and joshi. This week, for Women’s Match Wednesday, I take a foray into the latter for this match from ARSION in 2002 between Michiko Omukai and Lioness Asuka.

Now for the bad news… I can’t find this match for free anywhere online. However, you can buy it as part of this DVD in the Best of ARSION comp over at IVPVideos.

The Context

This is the 10th Anniversary match for Omukai, who started in wrestling in 1992 when she was 16 years old. This is less of a big deal than you’d think or than it would be most places in America, as it’s pretty common for women’s wrestlers in Japan to debut before they turn 18.

Her opponent, Lioness Asuka, already has 20-plus years under her belt. She’s also the reigning Queen of Arsion champion, which is the top title in the promotion. She’s best known for her tag run with Chigusa Nagayo as the Crush Gals. Lioness Asuka also was part of the women’s elimination tag involving several Japanese wrestlers at the 1995 Survivor Series.

The Match

So much for starting slow … Omukai launches herself at Asuka with a flying knee, over the referee’s back while he’s busy checking Lioness Asuka before calling for the bell. I wrote about escalation of violence in the dog collar match I watched on January 10, and what follows is a variation on that theme. Strikes and submissions set the tone; take special note of a sweet transition into an armbar by Lioness Asuka at the approximate 7-minute mark of the video before matters hit a new gear.

From there, the action spills into the crowd and Lioness Asuka ratchets up the intensity. First, she lays a table across her opponent and launches with a double stomp off the top rope. From there, they go allllll the way up through the crowd to the far end of the building. Lioness Asuka outstretches Omukai on yet another table, ascends a steep set of stairs to a small balcony, and jumps off with yet another double stomp that looked brutal!

Now they head alllllll the way back to the ring, where Omukai makes a comeback with a delayed axe kick, followed by a leaping kneedrop from the apron across the back of Lioness Asuka’s head. The action remains intense during the final minutes. Lioness Asuka hits a huge Liger bomb at center ring, but Omukai kicks out at one to the shock of the crowd. They keep scrapping until the bell sounds as the time limit expires, and the fight keeps on going beyond the bell, with the referee and officials having to separate them.

Random Thoughts

-Early in the match, Lioness Asuka has Omukai by the legs and is going for an apparent Boston crab. Instead, Omukai sits up in the hold and slaps her opponent in the face a few times. I dug that.

-As mentioned I haven’t seen a lot of joshi, but in what little I have watched, there’s at least one moment where someone’s going to be in a submission hold and screaming like they’re suffering indescribable torture.

-If those Korakuen Hall bleachers could talk, I wonder what they would say about all the brawls through the years …

-Lioness Asuka has a few masked lackeys at ringside, providing helpful assistance like holding Omukai in place to eat a dive from Lioness Asuka, or supplying tables. I have no idea or frame of reference for what these henchmen (hench-people?) signify.

Final Rating: 6.5

I’d never seen either of these wrestlers before so I came into this with no expectations but was pleasantly surprised with what they did in 15 minutes of work. The level of violence and intensity surpassed anything that happened in the No DQ title match from TNA I watched last week. The draw finish and their willingness to keep fighting left me wanting to see more. I’ll definitely be checking out more joshi as the year continues.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

An interpromotional title match ends up being the spark that starts one of my favorite feuds in wrestling.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.

365 Wrestling, Day 12: Paul London & Brian Kendrick vs. William Regal & Dave Taylor (SmackDown, 1/12/07)

365 Wrestling, Day 12: Paul London & Brian Kendrick vs. William Regal & Dave Taylor (SmackDown, 1/12/07)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

I’ve tried to think of this project in stages, with January serving as the introduction. In this first month, I’m trying to spotlight some of my favorite wrestlers and tag teams, so you can learn a little more about my preferences during this yearlong deep dive into wrestling history.

Today I want to talk a little about William Regal, an all-time favorite of mine. He can bust out some smooth technical wresling, or throw down in a brawl. He’s shined as both a singles and tag wrestler, as a standalone character, part of a group, or in a henchman-type role. While he spent the bulk of his career as a heel, he did some fine work on the babyface side of things during alliances with Eugene and Tajiri that both led to eventual tag title runs. I honestly think that Regal was on track for a run as a world champion in WWE in 2008 when he was both general manager of the Raw brand and won King of the Ring only to have his push promptly stopped due to a violation of the company wellness policy.

Today, we’re taking a look at a match from SmackDown in 2007, where Regal teams with fellow Englishman Dave Taylor to challenge Paul London and Brian Kendrick for the WWE Tag Titles.

You can watch this match on Dailymotion, or below:

The Context

These are the tag titles that WWE first introduced in 2002, a few months after the initial brand split. London and Kendrick have been champs since the previous May, an eight-month reign that already had set the record as the longest run with the titles. They’ve crossed paths with the two Brits a few times before this, most notably in a four-team ladder match titles the prior month at the Armageddon pay-per-view that is worth watching (but not for the squeamish as Joey Mercury suffers a ghastly facial injury).

On this episode of SmackDown, prior to the match, Regal and Taylor approach the champs backstage reminding them this will be a straight-up wrestling match, with no ladders or other shenanigans. Regal , who does all the talking, doesn’t actually say shenanigans, even though this is a very Regal-esque type of word for him to use in such a scenario.

The Match

I’m a sucker for the rugged wrestlers with technical skill playing the part of the heel, and it’s a role perfectly suited for the duo of Regal and Taylor. They spend the first few minutes feeding into the fast-paced, occasionally high-flying offense of the champions. London and Kendrick are also giving up a lot of size in this match, so they tag in and out often. Note the sequence with three straight tags and immediate attacks off the top targeting the back of Regal, punctuated by a London double stomp.

Momentum changes when Regal delivers a wicked clothesline to London. A solid beating from the challengers follows, but London never feels to be in any real particular peril or especially dire straits. That said, Regal unloads a fun series of strikes bludgeoning London in the Englishmen’s corner.

This match took place during the era when SmackDown was taped, and sweetened crowd noise became the norm for the blue brand. It’s off-putting to hear these big oooh’s and ahhh’s during the hot tag by Kendrick and finishing stretch, while all the fans on camera are sitting there, silent and passive. Regal reverses a cross body by Kendrick into a pin attempt for a convincing near-fall, and shortly thereafter, Kendrick catches Regal in a backslide for the sudden victory. The facial expressions and mannerisms of both challengers selling this sudden and crushing loss are pretty great.

Random Thoughts

–I forgot Ashley Massaro was managing London and Kendrick during this time until I saw her come out for the match with the champs. When people and pundits talk about individuals in the world of pro wresting who had tragic ends, they don’t mention Ashley nearly often enough. I won’t go into all the details here, but you can find them easily enough with some Internet searching.

–It’s something to go back and watch WWE television that is more than 10 years old and watch a product that looks and feels pretty much the same as the current stuff. The only difference is probably more zoom cuts in the camera work now.

–Kendrick has short hair and looks to be about 10 years old as a result.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

Final Rating: 5.0

There’s plenty of good talent in this match and while there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing, there’s also not anything to make it really stand out or that I can identify as a reason for you to go out of your way and watch it.

What’s Next

We head to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.

365 Wrestling, Day 11: Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes & Ron Simmons vs. Dangerous Alliance (WCW WorldWide, 1/11/92)

365 Wrestling, Day 11: Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes & Ron Simmons vs. Dangerous Alliance (WCW WorldWide, 1/11/92)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

Another Reader Recommendation today, as independent wrestler and Zubaz enthusiast Jeff Connelly pitched me on this six-man tag from WCW in 1992, smackdab in the heart of the Dangerous Alliance storyline. Specifically, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton and “Stunning” Steve Austin rep the Alliance against the babyface trio of Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes, and Ron Simmons.

You can find this match online with some strategic searching.

The Context

Paul E. Dangerously (who you might know better as Paul Heyman) formed the Dangerous Alliance over the span of several weeks in late 1991. Dangerously, who had been fired in storyline from his commentary position, was out for revenge. By late November, he had assembled his squad: Anderson, Eaton, Austin, Rick Rude, Larry Zbysko, and Madusa. At this point, in early 1992, the Alliance controls two titles in WCW, with Austin the TV Champ and Rude holding the U.S. Title. Anderson and Eaton are chasing the tag titles, currently held by Steamboat and Rhodes. They won the titles at Clash of the Champions XVII in November (the last major event before Dangerously “officially” forms his stable), beating Arn and Zbysko when Steamboat showed up as a surprise partner for Rhodes after the champs broke the hand of Rhodes’ original partner, Barry Windham, earlier in the night. As for Simmons, he was firmly ensconced in the upper midcard at the time. The week before, on the prior episode of WorldWide, the Alliance jumped Simmons at the end of a TV Title match against Austin when he had the champion apparently beat. Steamboat and Rhodes made the save, setting the stage for this match.

The Match

The Dangerous Alliance is such an impressive and underrated stable. They never reached the heights of success of other major heel groups in WCW like the Four Horsemen and the nWo, but stand out in two ways: one, by having good matches almost every week across WCW’s various programming; and two, with the synergy and teamwork they show. Even when they weren’t wracked by dissension, neither the Horsemen nor the nWo display the type of team-first mentality you witness from the Alliance. It shines through in sacrifice, such as when Arn smashes Dustin Rhodes’ head into Eaton’s noggin on the apron to help the Alliance finally take over the match after several minutes where each of the babyfaces fights off the entire trio and clears the ring, single-handed, in three separate segments. Eaton tumbles to the floor off the impact, and Paul E. is quick to check on him. Overall, Paul and Eaton show a chemistry that hearkens back to Beautiful Bobby and Jim Cornette in the Midnight Express.

The little touches really elevate this six man, such as:

–When Dustin kicks out after eating a huge clothesline from Austin, Steamboat (who was already headed in to try and break up the pin) starts cheering on his partner
–As the beatdown on Rhodes continues, Arn backs into the ropes to deliver a stalling kneedrop to Dustin, only for Steamboat to slide into the ring and take the knee across his own back
–A unique turnabout spot, where Arn goes to ram Dustin’s head into the outstretched knee of Austin in a tag-match spot we’ve all seen a million times, only for Dustin to send Arn’s cranium into the knee instead. Arn and Dustin smash skulls after the impact while Austin, doing the Wrestling Gods’ work, stumbles to the floor, selling his knee after the impact

The finish reiterates the theme of sacrifice and teamwork. After laying waste to the Alliance trio following a long-awaited tag from Rhodes, Simmons is the apparent victim of a double team by Arn and Eaton, with Arn restraining Simmons as Beautiful Bobby ascends to the top rope. Steamboat comes flying in to stop Arn, and Simmons catches Eaton in midair and delivers a spinebuster to give the good guys a rare victory over the Dangerous Alliance.

No time to celebrate. as Zbysko comes hustling to the ring for a 4-on-3 beatdown, which sees Steamboat eat both a spike piledriver and a flying Eaton legdrop before Windham sends the heels scattering.

Random Thoughts

–WorldWide was one of the B-shows for WCW at the time (this was pre-Nitro, remember, so WCW Saturday night is the flagship), but as I said the Dangerous Alliance had matches across every WCW program during this era, which makes for one of the most consistently entertaining, watchable runs of wrestling TV that ever has been produced.

–Ring announcer Gary Michael Cappetta clarifies this match isn’t the main event but the “featured confrontation.” Alright then.

–Paul E. jumping on his handheld phone trying to figure out what’s happening early when the babyfaces are in control made me legitimately chuckle.

Final Rating: 6.1

The action here is hard-hitting and the story is fairly simple. With a less talented group of wrestlers, this match easily would be skippable. Instead, the little touches and the overarcing storyline help make this a compelling watch.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

We head to SmackDown in 2007 for a match involving yet another of my personal favorites.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.