365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.
Originally, when I first started the project, I planned to do one entry for every day, on that day, as we navigate through a full year.
Looking back now, more than a fourth of the way into the year, I only can react thusly to such ambitions:
Anyway, one benefit to being behind the actual calendar, is that 2021 matches are now in play. Thus, I decided to take a look at one of the matches from the first-ever, and recently-completed, women’s edition of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Specifically, taking a look at the semifinal match pitting Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro against Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez.
WWE started tag tournaments under the Dusty Classic name in 2015. This was the sixth iteration of the tournament but the first time they had separate men’s and women’s divisions, although the women’s field was only half the size of the 16-team men’s bracket.
Kai is the only real veteran in this match. The native New Zealander broke in in 2007 and wrestled around the world by the time she signed with WWE near the end of 2016. Kai showed the ability to be a captivating fan favorite during her time on the independents and aboard, and early in her WWE run, so of course, she was turned heel at the 2019 Survivor Series.
Carter, who was trained at the Dudley Boys’ school, has been wrestling since 2016. Catanzaro, a former Junior Olympian and college gymnast, and earned some level of fame on the American Ninja Warrior show before signing with WWE. Catanzaro and Gonzalez, a former basketball player, are total products of the WWE system, with all their training coming in the Performance Center.
As for the teams, Kai and Gonzalez first allied last March when Gonzalez helped Kai win a cage match over her former partner, Tegan Nox. Carter and Catanzaro didn’t start teaming together regularly on TV until the Dusty Classic.
One of my favorite dynamics in wrestling is the combination of different sizes. Put a big wrestler in a match with a smaller wrestler, either as opponents or as partners, and you’re likely to have my attention. Here we have a couple of manifestations of the theme, with Kai teaming Gonzalez, a legit 6-footer; and the two of them taking on the scrappy undersized babyface duo of Carter and Catanzaro.
The dynamic plays out two ways, with Gonzalez throwing around her two opponents (the moments where she is in against Catanzaro make for quite the size discrepancy), or with Kai using Gonzalez as a launching pad to add momentum and impact to her own moves, such as a double stomp in the fairly early going.
This match is far from perfect. Catanzaro can pull out some spectacular moments, whether it’s hearkening back to her American Ninja Warrior past with a dive off one of the light pillars in the venue or hitting an impressive twisting splash off the top, but she struggles here with some of the nuts and bolts of wrestling like basic moves and transitions. Kai, meanwhile, is the engine that makes this match go. She’s the most experienced and has the best timing
The finishing stretch is a solid one, with Catanzaro’s dive the catalyst, and Kai and Gonzalez prevail in the expected result of a fine TV match and tournament affair.
-Nice to see Carter and Catanzaro wearing matching gear for this match. Little touches like that make a team seem more permanent, and less like a fly-by-night slapped together to fill a spot in the tournament.
-Another nice touch; the heels’ initial control segment occurs without the need to break the rules, speaking to their experience advantage.
Final Rating: 5.8
When assessing a wrestling match, does the whole matter more than the sum of the parts? The match feels like a collection of moments: some excellent, some awkward, most technically good. I have friends who say NXT is the best wrestling on the planet. I would argue these friends need to watch more wrestling from other promotions, and other countries, but, in terms of what happens in the ring, they have a fair argument. However, to me, NXT often feels like someone went into a laboratory and tried to replicate the formula for a “great match” in the super-indy era that began in 2005 or so. They tick all the boxes of what is now regarded by critics and fans as a “good match” but it all happens here in a vacuum with minimal emotion and no real reason for me to care.
One of my favorites faces his best opponent. You had me at hello.
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