365 Wrestling, Day 24: Eight Man Tag (WCW Souled Out, 1/24/98)

365 Wrestling, Day 24: Eight Man Tag (WCW Souled Out, 1/24/98)

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

If you wanted to introduce wrestling to a friend of yours who hadn’t seen it, what would you show them? This is a question I’ve tossed about in my head for years, and one with endless potential answers depending on what you define as good wrestling. What about if you wanted to show someone a specific style of wrestling… lucha libre for example? I might suggest showing them this match that served as the opener of Souled Out 1998. Sit back and enjoy this eight-man tag (or, to use the parlance of lucha libre, atómicos) in all its splendor.

You can watch this match on Peacock.

The Match

This match kicked off the pay-per-view card, and we’ve got Chavo Guerrero, Jr., Lizmark, Jr., Super Calo, and Juventud Guerrera facing La Parka. Psicosis (billed as Psychosis at this time by WCW), El Dandy, and Silver King.

This is positioned as a sprint to fire up the crowd before moving on to other matters that are higher on the booking priority list. Still, there’s lots to like here and plenty of highlights. Whenever Dusty Rhodes is on commentary, you can always tell when something really cool is about to happen because Dusty drops his accent.

Silver King and Lizmark really get the crowd going with a swank exchange of chops punctuated by a titl-a-whirl backbreaker by Lizmark, Jr. El Dandy doesn’t play a big role in the match but he makes the most of his ring time, most notably taking a monkey flip by Chavo and then delivering a headfirst suicide dive as part of an amazing sequence of dives near the end of the match. La Parka stands out by being the only man in the eight who really plays up to the crowd.

If I had to give an MVP to the match, it might be Silver King. He fully commits at every moment he’s in the match, whether on offense or feeding into one of the four tecnicos. He also takes the biggest bump of the match, springing off the middle rope on a plancha to the floor only to miss and eat the concrete.

After Chavo pins Psicosis after a tornado DDT, La Parka runs amok with a steel chair, wiping out each of the four men on the opposing team, and then blasting two of his own teammates for good measure. Following a celebratory dance on the chair to the delight of the crowd, La Parka tucks it under his arm and strolls out. The character work here is a delight.

Final Rating: 6.5

This match lasts less than 10 minutes but damn if these eight don’t make the most of their time — and then some. It’s also a fantastic opening match for a card, with nothing but action and a bunch of big moves to get the crowd fired up for anything and everything coming next.

Eric Bischoff and his role in wrestling remains a pretty polarizing topic, but I always felt he deserved credit for the WCW cruiserweight division — the predecessor in many ways to Ring of Honor and the X-Division of TNA and the style that is now popular across a variety of promotions with TV exposure. Bischoff also brought in a solid contingent of luchadores in the summer of 1996, most of them straight from Mexico, and several of them taking part in this match. Both these moves — emphasizing the cruiserweights and giving luchadores a platform on nationwide American TV — changed wrestling. Not only that. Bischoff let the Mexican luchadores wrestle their style, as opposed to signing them and trying to “Americanize” them.

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

What’s Next

Now, how about an American twist on lucha?

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 23: Ricky Morton vs. Brad Armstrong (IPW, 1/23/96)

365 Wrestling, Day 23: Ricky Morton vs. Brad Armstrong (IPW, 1/23/96)

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

Brad Armstrong is a wrestler’s wrestler. He’s celebrated within pro wrestling for his high level of skill in the ring, and seen as one of the prime examples of an extremely talented wrestler who never received a real chance.

It’s hard to believe that, this November, it will be 10 years since Armstrong’s death.

For this installment of 365 Wrestling, we take a look at one of his matches in a rather unique environment: against Ricky Morton for IPW Pro Wrestling in Asheville, NC, on January 23, 1996.

You can find this match on YouTube, and I’ve embedded it here:

The Match

This match happened a couple of months after the closure of Smoky Mountain Wrestling, where Morton and Armstrong were both top guys. They’re working here for IPW Pro Wrestling, which is running its first — and, as it turns out, only — event held under that banner. This event happened at O’Sullivan’s, a bar in Asheville, NC. Al Getz, a longtime manager and commentator in the Southeast and Friend of the Blog, ran this show. If you enjoy this project, you definitely want to check out his current efforts at Charting The Territories.

The commentators present this as a good, clean wrestling match between a pair of fan favorites. Instead, we witness the tale of the slow, subtle, decline of Morton’s ethics to end up the full-blown heel. Moreover, Morton completes this transformation in less than 10 minutes, taking one shurtcut after another. Midway through the match, Morton is bending every rule he can and breaking some. He pulls hair. He manipulates the fingers of Armstrong, then stomps on his hand. He goes for the eyes. Meanwhile, Armstrong’s frustration builds.

Brad makes his comeback shortly before the 10-minute call, and shortly after, it’s all over, as Morton sweeps Armstrong’s legs out from under him, folding him up for the pin and putting his feet on the ropes for the assist. The sudden result is underscored by the referee making the three count at a much quicker pace than other pin attempts — a longstanding pet peeve of mine when it comes to wrestling.

Final Rating: 5.8

You would be hard-pressed to find a more intimate setting for a match than this bar in Asheville. This added to the “rare find” feel for me when I initially found this online. This is a fine example of a good, solid, well-worked wrestling match. Everything that happens has a purpose. I think it’s definitely something young and new wrestlers should check out, particularly how Morton cuts off multiple attempts at a comeback by Armstrong and does so simply and effectively to halt Armstrong’s momentum. The finish left me lacking. It feels like these two were waiting for the 10-minute call and just wrapped up as soon as possible.

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

What’s Next

Lucha libre steals the show on pay-per-view.

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365 Wrestling, Day 22: Diesel vs. Bret Hart (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/22/95)

365 Wrestling, Day 22: Diesel vs. Bret Hart (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/22/95)

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

There are certain wrestling tropes that always will hook me. One of them is the matchup between a big person and a smaller person… power versus speed. Height and weight against quickness and savvy.

I think you’ll enjoy this version of that tale, coming from the 1995 Royal Rumble when Bret Hart challenged Diesel for the WWF World Title.

You can watch this match on Peacock.

The Match

This is the first major challenge for Diesel (aka Kevin Nash), who became champion in November of 1994, defeating Bob Backlund in eight seconds at Madison Square Garden just three days after Backlund dethroned Bret at Survivor Series. That included a banner 1994 for Diesel. After eliminating seven wrestlers from that year’s Rumble, he went on to win the tag, Intercontinental and World titles in WWF before the calendar turned to 1995.

Bret is seeking his third reign as champion but finds he can’t match up against the size and power of the champion. As a result, he comes at this match with a more aggressive attitude than at any point since his days as part of the Hart Foundation tag team when they were heels in the 1980s. Working over Diesel’s legs around the ringpost becomes a repeated tactic of the Hitman, as is keeping submission holds applied after Diesel has reached the ropes to break. Bret actually plays the de facto heel for most of the match with his rule-bending, relentlessly attacking Diesel’s left knee.

Hart takes a few chances that are not part of his standard approach, diving through the ropes on Diesel and then going for a plancha over the top to the floor. The latter works out poorly for the challenger; Diesel runs him back into the ringpost, and note the priceless expression on Bret’s face prior to impact.

Diesel gets Hart back in the ring and delivers his Jackknife powerbomb, and here’s where the match enters strange new territory. Shawn Michaels, Diesel’s former partner turned rival, hits the ring and attacks Diesel–albeit a beat late, forcing Bret to kick out of Diesel’s finisher. Despite Michaels’ beatdown, the referee says the match will continue. Later, when Bret hooks Diesel in the Sharpshooter and Bret’s brother-turned-nemesis Owen Hart attacks, once again the match continues. It takes a ref bump, which cues a slew of rule breakers to storm the ring and attack both competitors, before the match ends in what is ruled a draw.

This match represents a great example of why Bret Hart is held in such high regard. His fingerprints are all over the match layout. Bret comes up short against the size and strength of the champion, but shows his savvy as the more experienced competitor and actually controls the majority of the match. I’ve seen this referred to as a carry job by Bret Hart but I don’t see it that way. Diesel serves a needed presence here with his presence and power. I thought he does a solid job selling the work done on the knee/.

One thing is certain: in today’s wrestling climate, the interference / draw finish would have been roasted on social media. For good or for worse, fans will not accept non-finishes in major title matches today.

Final Rating: 7.3

This is a challenging match to rate. As mentioned, I think Bret puts in an all-time performance here and Nash deserves a share of the credit as well. In this case, I think the efforts of the wrestlers are hamstrung to some degree by all the interference. This is definitely the best match involving Kevin Nash I’ve seen so far, but all the shenanigans held it back for me from all-time-great territory.

Up Next

Two really good wrestlers walk into a bar in Asheville. Good wrestling ensues.

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365 Wrestling, Day 21: Alex Shelley vs. AC Mack (Southeast First, 1/21/22)

365 Wrestling, Day 21: Alex Shelley vs. AC Mack (Southeast First, 1/21/22)

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

I recently described this site as the pro wrestling equivalent of “Quantum Leap” — jumping around to different points in history to watch and review a noteworthy match, then move on to something else. I’ve been supporting the work being done at ACTION Wrestling for a while, so I decided to shake things up and do the first live review of a match for the project.

I certainly picked a good one… the main event of Southeast First, which saw Alex Shelley defend the IWTV World Title against AC Mack.

If you missed the live stream, you can check out the full show on demand at IWTV.

The Match

You can tell by the photo on this entry who won the match and frankly I was shocked by the outcome. Part of my surprise stemmed from the same stigma plaguing Southern wrestling that led Matt Griffin and others to hold this event, as he explained in our preview.

I also think that, unfortunately, wrestling history and especially recent wrestling booking have conditioned fans to anticipate unsatisfying conclusions. A feel-good moment gets replaced for the chance at building heat for another match down the road. Modern WWE booking is an excellent example of this, but think of all the other times a booker waited too long to give a wrestler who had connected with the crowd a run with the main title. By the time the move gets made, the wrestler already has cooled off.

The booking for this card, which was highly entertaining from top to bottom, plays off of these fears and ultimately provides a satisfying conclusion to a story that ACTION had been telling for months. It began when Mack, a former ACTION Champion, won the 2021 Scenic City Invitational. Then, in December, Mack was named the No. 1 contender for the IWTV Title. That championship saw its profile rise last year, with Pro Wrestling Illustrated recognizing it as an official world title.

Mack gets a hero’s welcome from a jam-packed crowd at the Rec Center in Tyrone, GA. Shelley, meanwhile, is the immediate heel. The opening note of his music is enough to turn the crowd against him — not because of anything Shelley has done (not yet), but merely because he’s the guy going against ACTION’s favorite.

This match is also proof that you don’t need a massive building or storied venue to create a great atmosphere. A humble rec center in Georgia feels like a facility 10 times that size when everyone in attendance is shoulder to shoulder, standing and making noise. Mack is in his element here, handling his own ring introduction as has been the custom for ACTION. When ring announcer Scott Hensley finally gets around to introducing the champion, he can barely be heard over the boos. Shelley grabs the microphone and adds some extra heat to the proceedings.

Now for the match itself… What ensues here is a modern twist on the old tale of a traveling champion coming into town to defend against the local favorite. The story centers around the left arm of Mack, which Shelley focuses on with ill intent for the vast majority of the match. The moment that cues the arm offense is a creative one. Mack is standing ringside when Shelley feints, vaults over the top rope with an up and over and brings both feet down across the left forearm of Mack, which was outstretched across the apron.

Credit Mack for selling Shelley’s arm attack like it rendered the limb useless. That also negates Mack from using his signature move, the Mack 10 — a cross-armed version of the Pedigree. It’s been established as a match ender in ACTION and it’s other affiliated promotions, but after the champion’s work, Mack cannot hoist Shelley and deliver the move, though not for lack of trying.

Eventually, ACTION CEO Matt Griffin comes ringside and most of the other wrestlers on the card — an inter-promotional effort featuring talent representing eight different Southeastern companies — join Griffin. Wrestlers, staff and fans surround the ring, banging on the apron and urging on the challenger. This really adds to the atmosphere and makes for a great visual.

You probably have seen Shelley wrestle or at least know of his work, though he’s had more success as a tag wrestler than in singles. A veteran of Ring of Honor and Impact Wrestling and a tag champion for both companies, Shelley won the IWTV Title in October. He proves his mettle in the ring by rising to the occasion as the traveling champion facing the local hero and crafting a compelling story in a singles match of a significant length with major stakes. He’s eating up the boos from the crowd and nearly every movement, gesture and expression only raises the collective ire against him. His arm offense looks nasty and his sells and facial expressions add so much.

What’s happening here doesn’t feel like just another match and the champion sells the threat to his title reign by digging deep into his repertoire to break out a Shell Shock, the move better known as Jay White‘s Blade Runner, which White adopted after taking it from Shelley in one of his very first matches. Mack kicks out and Shelley immediately turns Mack into the Border City Stretch, a variation on the crossface he’s already tortured Mack in previously. This time, the challenger rolls Shelley onto his shoulders and… pins him.

Final Rating: 8.2

This was a fantastic match on what should be an early 2022 candidate for the best wrestling show of the year. It won’t make many match of the year lists, partly because it’s still just January and partly because it lacks some of the elements that a vocal part of the fandom believe are needed to be one of “the best” matches. However, I am hard-pressed to find an area where this match falls short.

Shelley does a masterful job as the visiting champion and Mack is in his element as the hometown hero finally getting his big match. The crowd is invested for every second. The work is smooth and compelling. The conclusion is sudden, satisfying… and also historic. With the win, Mack becomes the first openly gay male world champ in wrestling history.

It won’t make many match of the year ballots… but it should.

Up Next

Another ballyhooed but new to me non-Rumble match from a Royal Rumble of yore.

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365 Wrestling, Day 20: Atlantis vs. El Satánico (EMLL, 1/20/84)

365 Wrestling, Day 20: Atlantis vs. El Satánico (EMLL, 1/20/84)

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

I’ve written in the past about the gaps in my wrestling fandom, and today’s selection represents another of said gaps: older lucha libre. Specifically, a match from EMLL (the predecessor of CMLL) on January 20, 1984, between Atlantis and El Satánico.

You can watch the match on YouTube, and I’ve embedded it below:

The Match

Satánico is the lucha embodiment of a grizzled vet. He’s already got more than a decade of experience at the time of this match. He went on to work extensively at CMLL’s wrestling school and, as of January 2022, still was working the occasional match … at 72 years old. Atlantis is almost 60 years old and still wrestling fairly regularly, but in this match he’s still a rookie in the midst of his first calendar year as a luchador.

The video quality is mediocre but that does nothing to conceal the story taking place in the ring. From the opening seconds of the match, when Atlantis unleashes a series of dropkicks and each blow sends Satánico sprawling backward, Satánico sells everything Atlantis does to him with conviction and the enthusiastic crowd quickly is enraptured in the tale being told.

This match goes the full three falls and the first two feel like a precursor setting the stage for the violence that awaits in la tercera caida. After pinning Atlantis to even the match at one fall apiece, Satánico continues to attack in the break between falls, ripping open Atlantis’ mask (a common trope in lucha matches) and drawing blood. The best visual in the match is in the image at the top of this piece, with Satánico biting and mauling Atlantis, who is writhing in anguish until the referee has to physically pry them apart.

Atlantis makes a comeback shortly thereafter, quickly busting open Satánico and now both are a bloody mess. Both men start trading punches, but after each unleashes a strike, he falls to his knees in exhaustion. The concept of wrestlers throwing tired punches isn’t something you see often (a barbed wirematch between Jerry Lawler and Dutch Mantell from Memphis in 1982 is a great example), and I think it tends to add plenty of flavor to a match.

Final Rating: 6.8

Working wrestlers should watch this match for a master class in heeldom by the rudo, Satánico. Note the little things he does along the way. Satánico cheats several times — known as fouls in lucha — but he does it with such quickness that, if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss it. It’s artful rulebreaking, like watching someone who knows close-up magic perform sleight of hand. He counters moves not with some cute technical reversal but with violence, such as when Atlantis goes for a pin off a sunset flip and Satánico just kicks him in the head to escape. The utmost rudo, even after the match, Satánico sticks to his nefarious act, bating Atlantis into a handshake only to sucker-punch him and dump him out of the ring. Atlantis shows he’s still learning — he has a bad habit of playing to the crowd for approval after any offensive maneuver, looking to the fans like he’s trying to decide what to bid on “The Price is Right” — but there’s still a lot to like here.

What’s Next

We go live to review a match from Southern First.

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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 today.

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

The Match

By this point, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty have been wrestling the Orient Express 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 Pat Tanaka as Badd Company.

If you like double-team moves in tag matches, or exchanges involving all four wrestlers, then this is the match for you. I won’t spend time trying to recap it all; just go and watch, or rewatch, it for yourself. These two teams pack so much action, innovation and creativity into this match.

The finish is outstanding and worth a deeper dive. 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. With poorer timing or less talented wrestlers, this would have come off as clunky and overly choreographed. Good execution makes for a slick, seamless culmination.

Roddy Piper joins Gorilla Monsoon on commentary here and adds quite a bit, enthusiastically praising 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. He does everything that an analyst on commentary should do, in my opinion…

Final Rating: 8.9

I definitely have never seen this match before, because the product produced by these four here is unforgettable. I loved this match. They go almost 20 minutes and I could have watched them battle for another 10.

Placement on the card can help, or hurt, a match. Putting this match first was the ideal spot, whipping an already eager pay-per-view crowd into a frenzy. 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 double teams and high spots just didn’t happen in this company, at least in this era.

Looking back, and seeing matches like this, it’s rather astonishing that the WWF never gave the Rockers 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. It’s celebrated as one of the best undercard matches at a Rumble, and for good reason.

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

What’s Next

We head down Mexico way.

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365 Wrestling, Day 18: Masato Yoshino vs. Don Fujii (Dragon Gate, 1/18/11)

365 Wrestling, Day 18: Masato Yoshino vs. Don Fujii (Dragon Gate, 1/18/11)

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

Of the thousands upon thousands who have stepped into a wrestling ring, a select few stand out for their ability to perform one element of the art better than the rest.

Arn Anderson and his spinebuster.

Randy Savage and his flying elbow.

Or, in the case of today’s entry, Masato Yoshino and running the ropes. With Yoshino, something you’ve seen thousands of times before — a wrestler running the ropes — transcends into an attraction.

Let’s dig a little deeper with today’s match, as Yoshino takes on Don Fujii from this Dragon Gate bout on January 18, 2011.

You can watch this match at this link.

The Match

If you like fast-paced, high-flying wrestling, you owe it to yourself to give Dragon Gate a look. This promotion takes the same style as Impact Wrestling‘s X Division or New Japan’s junior heavyweights and dials up the tempo.

Dragon Gate’s alumni include CIMA, Akira Tozawa, Shingo Takagi and many foreign talent who came in for tours and have gone on to stardom on the mainstream wrestling scene: Kevin Owens, Ricochet, Pac, Jack Evans, Rich Swann and many more.

Here we have Yoshino defending the Open the Dream Gate Title, the top singles championship in the promotion. He’s been champion for about six months, and this is his fourth defense. His opponent, Fujii, brings more of a ground-based style than many of his cohorts and so there’s a bit of a stylistic conflict that produces the central story of the match.

I saw Yoshino in action at three ROH shows during WrestleMania weekend in 2006, and I’ve yet to see another wrestler to match his speed in the ring.

When Yoshino first goes into the ropes, Fujii gives him multiple passes, allowing the speed to build. It might seem cooperative in another environment but here, it’s more about Fujii trying to anticipate whatever move is to come. Sometimes the challenger succeeds and counters; sometimes he fails.

When Fujii does try to go to the top rope, it backfires. He connects on a huracanrana but lands on his head in the process. Fujii remains addled for the rest of the match, fighting off some of Yoshino’s signature offense — such as a straight jacket triangle choke he calls Sol Naciente — and turns the tide after winning a fracas with both perched on the top turnbuckle to deliver an avalanche chokeslam.

A few tantalizing false finishes follow, with one of them so close I honestly don’t want to spoil it for you. The match ends with both men frantically trying to pin the other, before a mistake leads to the final three count.

Final Rating: 6.4

This is a good, solid match that definitely is worth watching. There’s very little filler or stalling and plenty of action. My greatest critique is that I think the Dragon Gate style translates more to multi-man tags (which will be coming later in the project), but this is still a fine capture of the talents of both wrestlers, especially if they are new to you.

Up Next

A gem of a tag match from a Royal Rumble of old.

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Imperial Pro Talent Lineup Includes Jimmy Hart, Tatanka, Redbeard, More

Imperial Pro Talent Lineup Includes Jimmy Hart, Tatanka, Redbeard, More

Imperial Pro Wrestling is loading up the card for its next event, “This One’s For Trea”, which takes place Saturday, Feb. 19, from Tennessee Middle School in Bristol. Bell time is 7:30 p.m.

On Monday, Imperial Pro announced Tatanka, Erick Redbeard, Jimmy Hart, Jillian Hall and Glacier for this event.

All of the proceeds from this event will go to the family of Trea Leonard, an assistant coach at Tennessee High in Bristol who passed away last fall.

“The Mouth of the South”, Jimmy Hart is in the WWE Hall of Fame. After coming into wrestling in the Memphis territory, where he spent years as the nemesis of Jerry “The King” Lawler, Hart joined the WWF in 1985. The list of wrestlers he’s managed read like a who’s who of the names of the 1980s and 1990s.

Tatanka was a fixture for WWE in the first half of the 1990s, going on a lengthy undefeated run and challenging Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania IX. Later, Tatanka turned heel and joined the Million Dollar Corporation led by Ted DiBiase.

You might know Redbeard better as Rowan, part of the Wyatt Family in WWE and a three-time tag champion with the late Brodie Lee. He also worked with Daniel Bryan before going on a brief singles run.

Glacier was part of WCW during the Monday Night Wars era. These days he spends time taking independent bookings and helping train at the Nightmare Factory, the de facto All Elite Wrestling training facility in Georgia.

Jillian Hall spent nearly five years on the WWE roster after a stint in developmental, then located at Ohio Valley Wrestling. A former Divas Champion, Hall is now a trainer, with her pupils including Judi Hendrix, who also is booked for this event.

The full announced lineup includes the following:

Kenzie Paige Henry (C) vs. Judi Hendrix for the Imperial Pro Women’s Championship

Also Appearing:
-“The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart
-Erick Redbeard (fka Rowan)
-Tatanka
-Glacier
-Jillian Hall

For tickets or more information, message Imperial Pro Wrestling on Facebook.

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.

Even as my interest in WWE has wavered as of late, I still parachute in for the Rumble, so I figure I had seen them all.

Or had I …

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 Match

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 Hart, 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. 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.

I got a kick out of the rather 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. Sgt. Slaughter also makes an appearance in what marks his first match since September of 1992, according to Cagematch.

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 and Bam Bam Bigelow, until a dropkick from Bret Hart sends him to the floor.
Johnny Polo (aka Raven) makes an appearance and does his damnedest to sell for others. 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 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.

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. Owen was such a talented performer and seeing him win here makes you wonder what might have been had he gotten more of an opportunity during this era.

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

What’s Next

Back to Japan for a match featuring the fastest wrestler I’ve seen in person.

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Southeast First Preview

Southeast First Preview

Matt Griffin thinks that independent wrestlers in the Southeast get overlooked on the national scene.

He hopes that Southeast First changes that.

A collaborative effort featuring eight different promotions in the region, Southeast First emanates Friday, January 21, from the Roger Spencer Community Center in Tyrone, GA. Bell time is 7:30 p.m., and general admission tickets remain on sale. The event also will be streamed live on IWTV.

The rec center in Tyrone is the home venue for ACTION Wrestling, but several other companies are involved:

Southern Honor Wrestling, based in Atlanta
PWX Wrestling, based in Charlotte
New South Wrestling, based in Alabama
TWE, based in Chattanooga
Southern Underground Pro, based in Nashville
Scenic City Invitational, based in Chattanooga

“The south does not get the respect it deserves,” said Griffin, a former independent wrestler himself and the promoter of ACTION. “We want to try to bring the Southeast to a better level of prominence and have some of these wrestlers who haven’t been seen outside the Southeast get seen. Sometimes, the only things you can find of somebody are a single-cam shoot on YouTube. There’s still a lot of great wrestlers here who don’t get the credit that some in the Northeast and Midwest do.”

Perhaps ACTION’s top talent is featured in the main event, as AC Mack challenges Alex Shelley for the IWTV World Title. You probably know about Shelley and his accolades and exploits. Mack has held the ACTION, SUP Bonestorm and SHW Titles. He also won last year’s Scenic City Invitational tournament. Griffin described the Mack-Shelley bout as “the biggest match I could possibly think that we could put on.”

Other matches include:

Owen Knight defends the SHW Title against Kyle Matthews

Jon Davis defends the PWX Title against Drew Adler

Rolando Perez defends the New South Title against Brandon Williams, Donnie Janela & Chris Crunk in an Elimination Match

Merc defends the TWE Title against Damyan Tangra

Violence Is Forever (Kevin Ku & Dominic Garrini) take on current ACTION Champion Arik Royal & Jaden Newman

Adam Priest vs. Anthony Henry

Landon Hale vs. Eli Knight

Bojack, BK Westbrook & Diego Hill vs. Ashton Starr, Bobby Flaco & Brogan Finlay

It’s not hyperbole to label this as the most significant event in ACTION’s three-year history.

“It’s been a long term goal for me to book wrestling that matters,” Griffin said. “If you draw 500 people it’s great, but if no one outside the building sees your show, what does it matter? This is 2022 now.”

Be sure to check this site on the night of the show, as we’ll be reviewing one of the matches from this event for Day 21 of our 365 Wrestling project!

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