365 Wrestling, Day 41: Mayu Iwatani vs. Kelly Klein (ROH, 2/10/19)

365 Wrestling, Day 41: Mayu Iwatani vs. Kelly Klein (ROH, 2/10/19)

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

Women’s wrestling in America is bigger currently than it’s ever been. In WWE, women main event pay-per-views, including WrestleMania. In All Elite Wrestling, the Unsanctioned Match between Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa has been praised by some as one of the best matches in the short history of that promotion. Ring of Honor has featured a slew of wrestlers who have gone on to be huge stars, but their women’s division has sputtered, ebbed and flowed (mostly ebbed) for the most part.

Ring of Honor’s level of commitment to its women’s division increased when it introduced a title for females — nearly 16 years after the promotion opened.

This match is available on Ring of Honor’s streaming service, Honor Club.

The Context

ROH announced the inception of this title at the end of 2017. The first champion was crowned in a tournament that culminated in April of 2018 at Supercard of Honor XII, with Sumie Sakai defeating Klein in the tournament final.

Klein, who debuted in wrestling in 2006, won the title at Final Battle 2018 in a Four Corner Survival match that also involved Madison Rayne and Karen Q. At this point, ROH had spent the last couple of years building Klein as a bully heel which included a two-year stretch where she was not pinned or submitted. That streak ended with her loss to Sakai at Supercard of Honor.

Iwatani is a product of the Stardom promotion in Japan, which was working as a partner with ROH and its women’s division at the time. Part of the first class of trainees out of Stardom’s own wrestling school, Iwatani reached the semifinals of the Women of Honor Title tournament in 2018. Prior to this match, one of her chief achievements was becoming the first Stardom wrestler to simultaneously hold that promotion’s World of Stardom and Wonder of Stardom titles.

The Match

There are certain stories that just work in wrestling, and for me, the scrappy underdog taking on the dominant heel is one of them. We see a version of that play out here, with Klein as the dominant and nearly unbeatable champion. Iwatami is the undersized challenger and shows a load and a half of fighting spirit. Some little touches help set the stage: Mayu is unable to execute a side headlock takeover in the early going, or Irish whip her bigger and stronger foe off the ropes.

What ensues is a war of attrition, with Klein trying to overwhelm Mayu with her strength and, at times, brute force. Mayu responds with fire. There’s a comeback by the challenger that strings together a flying headscissors, a basement dropkick to a seated champion, and then a crossbody off the top rope to a standing Klein on the floor after Klein powders out of the ring. Klein pops right back up and delivers a wicked German suplex on the floor. The 1-2 combination punch of these two big moves kicks the match into another gear and secures the interest of the crowd — impressive considering ROH crowds had a tendency to be indifferent at best for Women of Honor matches in the past, perhaps because they were relegated often to YouTube-only content or used as filler on live events.

The match is just over 11 minutes from bell to bell but because they are pulling out some major moves the level of punishment seems appropriate for a match double that length. Klein gets frustrated because she cannot put away Mayu. This opens the door for the challenger, who capitalizes. She hoists Klein with back-to-back Tiger suplexes, punctuated by a kick to the head. Iwatani heads to the top rope for a moonsault that the commentators (more on them in a bit) sell as her signature move, but Mayu lands on Klein’s legs and the champion kicks out. If this was a mistake that led to an audible, it only serves to make the champion seem more formidable, as a second moonsault seals the deal and the surprising title switch.

Random Thoughts

–Regular ROH play-by-play voice Ian Riccaboni wasn’t able to attend this show so NWA Worlds Heayweight Champion Nick Aldis joins Caprice Coleman on commentary. The combination is pretty fantastic. Coleman provides some insights on the mindset of a champion and starts teasing the upset hard in the final minutes. Meanwhile, Aldis does a fine job connecting the dots of the narrative, most notably when Mayu nearly lets herself get pinned after Klein catches her with a boot to the head.

–Sakai, the first WOH champion and the last person to pin Klein in ROH before this match, is in Iwatani’s corner.

–After the early “feeling-out process”, Klein hooks Mayu in a cravate and delivering repeated knees to the head. Big fan of that spot.

Final Rating: 6.3

This is the fourth match involving Klein and Mayu, and their third meeting in singles action. They display some impressive chemistry that makes me want to revisit those earlier contests and helps carry this title match. The two women combine for a logical, strong story that progresses as Mayu wears down and eventually conquers the dominant champion.

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

Up Next

Two of the most charismatic fan favorites of the 1980s join forces.

Now it’s your turn to let your opinion be heard. Send your feedback to me — good or bad — along with any match recommendations you have! Just reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling, Day 40: El Texano, Silver King & El Fantasma vs. Samu, Fatu & Fishman (UWA, 2/9/92)

365 Wrestling, Day 40: El Texano, Silver King & El Fantasma vs. Samu, Fatu & Fishman (UWA, 2/9/92)

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

As a wrestling fan, and someone who appreciates and enjoys history, one of the best parts of this project is jumping around to different years and eras. Right now, with 40 entries in the books, 1992 has been the popular destination yet at this juncture of the project.

Counting the two January entries featuring matches with the Dangerous Alliance, today’s stop in 1992 gives that year the most entries — three — out of the 40 to date.

We’re also visiting another gap in my wrestling viewing: lucha libre, in this case. For the first time in the project, we venture into Mexico for this match from the UWA promotion on Feb. 9, 1992. Check out this contest as El Texano, Silver King, and El Fantasma battle Samu, Fatu and Fishman.

You can watch this match on Dailymotion.

The Context

The UWA is the Universal Wrestling Association, a promotion that opened in 1975 when it split off from the CMLL. The UWA might have closed in 1995 but it’s credited for two innovations that remain mainstays in Mexican wrestling: the two out of three falls format for the majority of matches, and the trios match, an example of which we’re about to see here.

Samu and Fatu, as the Samoan Swat Team, already had seen successful runs for both World Class and WCW. They left the latter in 1990 and bounced around working for promotions all over the world, including the UWA, where they enjoyed a short reign in 1991 as trios champs with their cousin, Kokina Maximus (who you probably know better as Yokozuna). Here, the duo formerly known as the SST is teaming with Fishman, a veteran luchador who jumped from CMLL to the UWA when that promotional split first happened. You might have seen Fishman make a few appearances at major World Class shows in 1983.

Texano and Silver King are in the midst of a lengthy and successful run as the Los Cowboys tag team. They started teaming together in 1990 and won titles in four different promotions. At the time of this match, they’re the UWA World Tag Champions. Texano, who debuted as a wrestler at the age of 13(!), is a tecnico here but he reached star level in lucha as a rudo, combining with Negro Navarro and El Signo as Los Misioneros de la Muerte (The Missionaries of Death), which might be one of the coolest group names in the history of wrestling. Silver King is still growing into his own at this point and we’re several years before he comes to WCW as part of their influx of luchador signings. Their partner here is El Fantasma, whose mask and black and purple color scheme hearken to The Phantom, the classic comic hero.

The Match

Samu and Fatu really keep this match going and moving, whether it be with classic heel tactics (biting and gouging and choking, oh my!) or little touches of character work, especially during the third fall.

This is more of a brawl than a wrestling match and it starts in a hurry when Fatu and Fantasma get into it, sparking a melee involving all six. The tecnico trio get wrecked in the ensuing brawl, and the rudos take the one fall lead after about a minute when Samu pins Texano off camera. It takes longer to stop the combatants from fighting to start the second fall than it did for the first fall to take place in its entirety.

The second fall (or segunda caida) is under way coming back from a commercial and Texano still is getting clobbered by the Samoans and Fishman. Fatu hits a sweet powerslam after firing Texano into the ropes as part of this. When Samu misses on a leaping corner attack and ends up straddling the middle turnbuckle, Texano makes the tag to Silver King and the crowd comes alive. The tecnicos tie it up in short order, and there’s another extended scrum while the two referees try to restore order. Maybe this one needs a third ref?

The third fall feels more like serious business than the first two, which are just indiscriminate and often chaotic brawls. Texano, who has a couple of rough moments earlier, combines with Fishman to work well together on an early exchange. Texano ends up back in peril after a commercial break and we go quickly to the finish. Silver King gets tagged in like a house afire until he learns of the perils of striking Samoan wrestlers in the head. Fantasma saves the day with two dropkicks and a great-looking suicide dive. The finish comes when the Samoans break up a double-team by Los Cowboys, leading both Silver King and Texano to get pinned. Score this one for the rudos …

Random Thoughts

–If you’re a fan of family connections in wrestling, there are a ton of them in this match. Samu and Fatu are part of the Anoa’i family tree, which includes The Rock, Roman Reigns, the aforementioned Yokozuna, the Wild Samoans Sika and Afa, Umaga, and The Usos (Fatu’s sons). Texano’s son, El Texano, Jr., went on to carve out a fine career for AAA and was a regular on the first three seasons of Lucha Underground. Silver King was part of one of the wrestling dynasties of Mexico. His father was famed luchador Dr. Wagner and his brother was Dr. Wagner, Jr. Silver King also was the uncle of El Hijo de Dr. Wagner. Lastly, Fantasma’s son is currently a featured talent for WWE’s NXT brand, as Santos Escobar after debuting in WWE as El Hijo del Fantasma — the gimmick he used throughout his lucha libre career in Mexico. You may also know him as King Cuerno from Lucha Underground. Fishman wasn’t the exclusion to all these family connections; each of his sons followed in his footsteps as a masked wrestler.

–As seen in the featured image for this entry, the pre-match graphic identifies Samu and Fatu as Samoano I and II. I’m not sure which is which.

Final Rating: 5.2

There’s a decent pace throughout but the first two falls meander and there’s not enough about the third fall to make this match jump off the proverbial page for me, aside from a couple of quick highlights like Fantasma’s dive and some of the antics of the Samoans. This one definitely falls in the skippable category for me.

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

Up Next

In our next installment, two Women of Honor are in action.

I love having feedback from readers. Send it to me — good or bad — along with any match recommendations you have! Just reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling, Day 39: Undertaker vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (WWF Shotgun Saturday Night, 2/8/97)

365 Wrestling, Day 39: Undertaker vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (WWF Shotgun Saturday Night, 2/8/97)

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

Wrestling fans can debate and argue over anything: whether they choose to do so in public, on message boards, or via social media. What makes someone a good wrestler? What makes a good match? And, when evaluating a match, how much does what happen before and after the bell influence things?

This latter question is an excellent one to consider, as it pertains to this entry of 365 Wrestling: The Undertaker taking on Hunter Hearst Helmsley in this episode of Shotgun Saturday Night from 1997.

Lest we offend the copyright gods, I’ll just tell you you can find this match on YouTube through a little bit of shrewd searching.

The Context

You probably know him better now as Triple H, the many-time champion turned high-ranking executive and son-in-law of Vince McMahon himself. We’re a far field away from Hunter having that level of prominence and power here. He’s still firmly entrenched in the upper midcard, and using his snobbish character. Helmsley is Intercontinental Champion here — the first of his five reigns — and the title is on the line.

Undertaker is entrenched firmly as one of the WWF’s top and most popular acts. He’s also on his own at the time of this match, having split with Paul Bearer at Summerslam the previous year.

The match itself happens on Shotgun Saturday Night, which started at the beginning of 1997. The initial goal of Shotgun Saturday Night was to present an edgier product than typical WWF programming, and the initial run of episodes, which actually ended here, occurred at unlikely venues for wrestling all over New York City — such as Penn Station, the site of this match.

I was surprised to find out that these two already had had several singles matches before this.

The Match

There are two ways to look at this match.

If you’re going to judge solely by what happens from bell to bell, you’re going to be disappointed. There’s a commercial break right as Undertaker hits the ring, at which point Helmsley jumps him. When the action resumes from the break, the referee gets sandwiched in the corner and Hunter wallops the Deadman with his title belt to gain the control… only to go to another commercial. Back from the break, and the action is moving at a brisk pace, although most of it unfolds in the punchy-kicky style that was more common than it should have been during the Attitude Era. The match ends when Undertaker drills Helmsley in the head with the belt, as payback for what happened earlier. However, this vengeance happens right in front of the referee, leading to a quick DQ.

If you’re going to judge this match from the beginning of entrances all the way through the post-match, it gets elevated to another plane. The setting — smackdab in the middle of Penn Station — adds so much to the presentation. Helmsley arrives in a stretch limo that pulls up outside, says a few quick words about how he wouldn’t get caught dead riding one of the trains at the station, and then descends a staircase into the concourse. Undertaker’s entrance is even more surreal in the context of Penn Station. After getting down the stairs, he makes his way to the ring through the crowd.

The setting stands out because it is so unlike standard WWF/WWE programming, which usually seeks a sameness from show to show and week to week… and has since the promotion truly “went national” in the late 1980s. Here, we get wide panning shots to take in the crowd and the limited space, unlike the glut of camera cuts that embodies current programming from WWE. The ring looks considerably smaller than the 20-by-20-foot squared circle WWE typically uses. It catches the eye and draws your interest.

The post-match is the best part of the entire endeavor. Frustrated at the DQ and Helmsley’s chicanery, Undertaker delivers a chokeslam (even while the fans chant for a tombstone). Helmsley tries to retreat and a chase ensues up the stairs, until the Deadman grabs Hunter and delivers a tombstone at the top of the escalator. Helmsley stands tall, soaking in the cheers of the crowd as Helmsley’s unconscious carcass heads down the escalator.

Random Thoughts

–Vince is on commentary and if you’re up for a quick drinking game that will lead to a buzz, do a shot every time he says “what a maneuver!”

Sunny joins Vince on commentary. It’s easy to forgot how smooth and comfortable she was as a talker.

–For some reason, Vince describing Helmsley as “Mr. Pompisity” cracked me up.

–It’s a shame the WWF strayed away from the format on these initial episodes of Shotgun Saturday Night. Instead, the show quickly became a B-show that was held at the same venues where Monday Night Raw was filmed. I’m a big fan of wrestling filmed in unique venues with the opportunity for unusual angles.

–So, fun fact, my original plan for this entry was going to be Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomohiro Ishii from New Japan in 2016. Except that match happened on February 11, not the 8th! Calendar fail … for what it’s worth I was already a bit dodgy about it, because those Shibata headbutt spots are downright uncomfortable to watch after a similar headbutt against Kazuchika Okada ended Shibata’s career and nearly killed him.

Final Rating: 6.1

The atmosphere, the entrances, and the post-match make this highly entertaining even if the in-ring action is nothing special. Given the status that both Undertaker and Triple H have achieved in WWE lore since then, it’s surprising to me that this match — and especially the tombstone on the escalator — aren’t remembered or called back more often through the years, or at least got more notice while both were active wrestlers.

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

Up Next

We head south of the border for trios action.

I love having feedback from readers. Send it to me — good or bad — along with any match recommendations you have! Just reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling, Day 38: Ben Carter vs. B-Boy (ACTION Wrestling, 2/7/20)

365 Wrestling, Day 38: Ben Carter vs. B-Boy (ACTION Wrestling, 2/7/20)

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

Earlier this year, I was thinking of some ways to get the word out about the blog. And so I bought the URL you see today. I even bought the variant, inmorehousewrestling.com, since my name gets misspelled so often that way. I also spent a little money sponsoring some independent shows. One of those shows is ACTION Wrestling.

I chose to support ACTION with my wallet for a few reasons:

-Friends of mine spoke highly of them.
-When resuming running shows last year, they took COVID-19 seriously, restricting attendance and requiring masks, unlike so many other shows, especially elsewhere in the Southeast.
-They made it clear what i was paying for, and what I would get in return.

Not once in the process did I feel like I was getting worked or conned by a carnie.

I probably would be reviewing at least a couple of ACTION matches regardless of any sponsor involvement. I’m starting with a good one, though: Ben Carter against B-Boy from February 7 of last year.

You can watch this match, and the entire catalog of ACTION events, over at IWTV. You can also watch this match for free on Youtube:

The Context

Carter is just 22 years old and signed with WWE last year after making appearances during the pandemic for AEW and Impact. He’s currently part of the NXT UK brand, going by the name Nathan Frazer.

Before any of that happened, this import from the United Kingdom was primed for big things in ACTION, which joins with a few other promotions in the Southeast — Southern Underground Pro, Scenic City, and TWE in Chattanooga — to form a quasi-galaxy of shows in the same booking continuity.

The plan came together at the end of 2019, and Carter cut a brief promo challenging B-Boy:

A product of the wrestling school co-owned by Seth Rollins, Carter already was building a strong reputation wrestling for various promotions in the U.S.

B-Boy, meanwhile, should be a familiar name to anyone who has followed indie wrestling in the past two decades. He was a fixture for the highly influential Pro Wrestling Guerrilla promotion in southern California. He’s also enjoyed significant success for Combat Zone Wrestling and is in the CZW Hall of Fame. He’d made a few prior appearances in the ACTION/SUP/SCI/TWE sphere previously, highlighted by a pair of highly-regarded and highly-violent matches with Brett Ison. He also spent some time on Lucha Underground as Bael, who has the distinction of being the first character killed off that show.

The Match

The young star on the rise facing the wily veteran is a storyline we’ve seen play out across the sports world. Here, we have a contest that starts with a handshake of respect but quickly devolves into violence… in a good way. An early taunt by Carter, though it responds to one of B-Boy’s own, upsets the veteran and triggers a nasty forearm that Carter sells like a knockout blow. That’s just the start of what’s to come.

B-Boy chains a La Magistral into an ankle submission, then starts flinging his foe around the ring, with the most stirring of these a death valley driver into the corner. B-Boy’s vaunted strikes also do damage, and Carter sells the punches in particular like death itself. My personal favorite spot? When B-Boy sets up Carter outside the ring, then does a full lap around the squared circle ending with… an eye poke.

The structure of the match seeks to elevate Carter, a young upstart who takes a beating but keeps coming back time and time again. It succeeds in telling that tale, in large part because Carter does an excellent job fighting from underneath. No matter what B-Boy does to him, Carter keeps stirring and struggling. After the second of B-Boy’s punches, which are meted out in sporadic doses to emphasize their lethal effect, the competitor known as the New Age Punisher screams for Carter to stay down. He does not, and it sets the theme for the entire match.

Carter makes his comeback not in one major series of moves, but in bursts. Not long after the eye poke, B-Boy rolls Carter back into the ring and the upstart explodes off the far ropes and launches with a dive with such depth and height that he almost overshoots. Carter hits that next gear as quickly as anyone I’ve seen, unleashing some explosive offense in an attempt to narrow the gap and overwhelm B-Boy.

The action builds to a compelling and believable series of false finishes. We see powerslams. Tiger Drivers. A Canadian Destroyer. A cutter delivered to an opponent flying in midair. The action is something that would be standard business in a PWG ring, but in this environment — a rec center in a small Georgia town on the periphery of Atlanta — it stands out, and it’s outstanding.

When the result of the match comes, it does so seemingly out of nowhere, with Carter scoring after a lightning-quick victory roll. The entire crowd comes to their feet in a standing ovation and, despite the violence he just engaged in, B-Boy can’t resist a smile as he approaches Carter for an embrace. This match ends as it began, with a show of respect.

Random Thoughts

–As shared by Matt Griffin, the promoter of ACTION Wrestling, and Dylan Hales, the lead commentator, this win by Carter was supposed to be the start of a major push that never happened. COVID-19 shut down events for months, and Carter signed with WWE, never to return to ACTION.

Hales elaborated: “The following day Ben was going to win the Scenic City Rumble but that show ended up getting cancelled due to weather so a chunk of the weekend was designed around that. B-Boy was supposed to wrestle Brett Ison in the third match of their trilogy the next day but that was also cancelled obviously.”

Griffin noted he was “so happy for [Carter] when he got signed. We knew it was likely.”

–Hales, who was also lead commentator for the SUP match watched as part of the January entries, has a different sound and vibe here. He’s also got an extra year’s experience in the booth by the time this match happens and it shows.

–Kudos to the commentators as well for laying out entirely during the postmatch.

–I’ve written before about how a referee can make a match worse or even outright ruin it, but Aaron Noyes — the arbiter in the striped shirt for this one — does a fine job without getting in the way.

–This match happened about a month before the pandemic really started affecting the U.S., and was the last ACTION show before the pandemic. Seeing a packed building was both gratifying and off-putting, for me.

Final Rating: 7.6

This is a very good match and, according to Griffin, one of the best matches in ACTION history. It’s definitely worth seeking out and watching. Even if you’re seeing both wrestlers for the first time, the story is easy to grasp, well-told, and executed with barely a hitch.

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

Up Next

A snob turned wrestling champion and a zombie funeral director walk into Penn Station. Hijinks ensue.

Send feedback or recommend a match for one of the upcoming dates in 365 Wrestling! Just reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.