365 Wrestling, Day 51: Chris Hero & Mike Quackenbush vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico (CHIKARA, 2/20/05)

365 Wrestling, Day 51: Chris Hero & Mike Quackenbush vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico (CHIKARA, 2/20/05)

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

It would be easy when picking matches for this project to just look up one of the many “on this day in wrestling history” features or identify one of the highest-rated matches from that day, watch it, and go on to the next entry. Honestly, this seems too easy, and would lead to multiple write-ups essentially saying “You should watch this match you already know is good because it is good.”

Pass.

While I have watched the occasional well-regarded match that I just happened to have miss, I’d rather go the obscure route. Give me a very good match that most people haven’t seen, or a look at a wrestler or team from the early days of their career. Or, sometimes, both. In this entry, I fire up the Wayback Machine to 2005, to see Chris Hero and Mike Quackenbush face Kevin Steen and El Generico as part of CHIKARA’s Tag World Grand Prix.

You can watch this match and, I believe, the entire available CHIKARA catalog over at IWTV.

The Context

CHIKARA was known for its tournaments and had three that happened annually or almost every year: the Young Lions Cup, intended for wrestlers with less than 50 pro matches, and later those who were 25 or younger; the King of Trios, a weekend-long tournament of — you guessed it — trios matches that was one of the hottest tickets on the independent circuit in the early 2010s; and the Tag World Grand Prix. This is the second Grand Prix and has a whopping 32 teams. This match kicks off the quarterfinal round, on a night where the semifinals and finals also are scheduled.

Quackenbush is the promoter of CHIKARA and, at this point, co-head trainer of his Wrestle Factory school along with Hero. Before closing in 2020 after allegations were made against Quackenbush and CHIKARA as part of the #SpeakingOut movement, the Wrestle Factory produced a veritable plethora of talented graduates, several of whom have gone on to big careers in wrestling. Here, Quackenbush and Hero have joined forces as The Superfriends with the goal of winning the tournament. In a pre-match promo, during which Hero is sporting a sweet Kamala T-shirt, he promises he and Quackenbush will reach the finals.

Steen and Generico (you might know them better as Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn) are billed here as Team IWS, representing International Wrestling Syndicate, the Quebec-based promotion where they got their start. They’ve only been part of the scene in America for a few months, and this weekend was the first time either had come to CHIKARA.

The Match

This is not what I’d call a “standard” American tag team match because it lacks that one segment where one team remains in control for an extended period of time, even though the match itself goes more than 15 minutes from bell to bell and is actually the longest of the four quarterfinals on the card.

Hero has always had a unique style, heavily influenced by European grappling with an abundance of chain wrestling, and he shows it off here, especially in the first few minutes of the match as part of a protracted exchange with Generico. He’s just not as vicious or arrogant about it as he was in his other installment in the project, when he was in pure dick-heel mode against Bryan Danielson.

If you’re a big fan of either Steen or Generico, or only seen them wrestle in WWE, this match is an eye opener. Both are 20 years old here and look every bit of it. Watching this match and surveying the rail-thin frame of Generico, he doesn’t even look like the same person.

The action is solid, and occasionally too cutesy for its own good — a common occurrence in CHIKARA, which worked comedy into its general wrestling style as much if not more than any other promotion in North America. Another hallmark of CHIKARA is having matches in unique settings. Several of their early shows occurred at a fire station in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, in a room that looked like the fellowship hall I frequented in various churches living here in the Southeast, usually for meals following funerals. Here, the venue is The Staircase — an intimate concert venue in Pittston, Pennsylvania, that now appears to be closed according to my Googling. Making a habit of holding wrestling events in venues that aren’t traditional for wrestling allows for all kinds of unique angles, entranceways, and even spots. Case in point: late in this match, Quack goes outside the ring and to the back of the stage, which has several rows of seated fans. He gets a running start and, while Hero holds down the top rope, delivers a senton off the stage onto Steen. It’s a great moment in a match where most of the additional value is historic in nature, as Quack and Hero march on in their drive to win the tournament.

Hero’s wording in the pre-match promo is key, as he betrays Quackenbush in the finals against Arik Cannon and Claudio Castagnoli (aka Cesaro). He’s been teasing a turn throughout the tournament and that continues here. After Quackenbush pins Steen, he stays in the ring for a show of sportsmanship with his opponents, while Hero quickly heads for the back.

Random Thoughts

–Watching this match reminded me that, aside from starting a podcast, Hero has remained on the sidelines since he was released from WWE in April of 2020. I think he’d be a great asset for any promotion with television but probably the best fit with ROH. Just my opinion.

Bryce Remsburg, now part of AEW, is the referee here.

Dave Prazak and the late Larry Sweeney are on commentary here. We’ll definitely get to Sweeney at some point in the project.

Final Rating: 5.5

There are a few moments ranging between good and great (Quack’s senton from the stage is pretty spectacular), but this match just felt too long. That said, it’s a nice snapshot of Steen/Owens and Generico/Zayn at an early stage in their career, and serves as a plot point for Hero’s betrayal in the main event, but not really a match I would say you should go out of your way to watch unless you’re a big fan of the wrestlers involved or watching CHIKARA shows in full to digest the twists and turns of their booking.

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

Up Next

Prepare yourself… for the White Castle of Fear! DUN DUN DUUUUUUUN!

Got something to say about this match, or the project, or anything wrestling-related? Reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling, Day 50: Dave Finlay vs. Tajiri (SMASH, 2/19/12)

365 Wrestling, Day 50: Dave Finlay vs. Tajiri (SMASH, 2/19/12)

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

Tajiri has become a repeat showcase here at 365 Wrestling. He and Steve Austin (twice as Stunning, once as Stone Cold) tie thus far for the most total appearances in the project, with three apiece.

Recently I joked that this project is like a wrestling nerd’s equivalent of Quantum Leap, jumping to different promotions and places for various snapshots. Thus far we’ve seen Tajiri at two different times and places: a chapter of his star-making and highly influential feud with Super Crazy, and a well-done, fast-paced WWE cruiserweight match with Rey Mysterio, Jr.

And now, for something completely different, we take a look at the latter stages of Tajiri’s career, in this match with Dave Finlay from Tajiri’s SMASH promotion in 2012.

This match is available on YouTube and, for your convenience, embedded below:

The Context

Tajiri started SMASH (not to be confused with the Canadian promotion also called Smash) at the end of 2009, not long after HUSTLE — a Japanese company where Tajiri had been a regular — closed. SMASH brought in a wide and varied roster through its two-plus years of active existence but by the time of this event, SMASH 25, the promotion had announced it would be shutting down. Finlay, who you probably know better as longtime WWE/WCW wrestler Fit Finlay, had won the SMASH Title the prior November.

This was Finlay’s only defense of the title, the final match for the title, and the only time Tajiri and Finlay wrestled one another in a singles match.

Before the match gets going, SMASH put together a video to hype the title bout, and what was announced at the the time as the final event, and it’s pretty fantastic. The video touts Finlay as a world-beater, calling him King Terror, and showcasing several big names of wrestling talking about how formidable he is, including Ultimo Dragon noting he would refuse to wrestle Finlay if the match got booked. Well then.

The Match

This was not what I expected to see at all, in a good way. I anticipated lots of striking. Instead Finlay’s forearms and Tajiri’s kicks serve as accents to spice up the unexpected stew that hearkened back to wrestling’s days of yore. Matwork is the centerpiece of this match, and every aspect of that battle felt like a true struggle. Along the way, we see some beautiful touches, such as Tajiri picking an ankle and applying a leglock on Finlay when the retaining champion goes for a lateral press. Later, after Tajiri finally starts throwing kicks targeting that same leg and Finlay regains the upper hand, Finlay rubs his thigh in a subtle but masterful bit of selling, getting the feeling back in his leg.

Matters intensify after Finlay counters a tarantula attempt by Tajiri and just starts laying in a beating both inside and outside the ring. Finlay lives up to the reputation placed upon him in the pre-match video. He controls the majority of the match and just keeps coming at Tajiri, although eventually the Irishman does wear down, a battle of attrition that leads to a very believable false finish after a Buzzsaw Kick.

Finlay blocks a second attempted Buzzsaw Kick with a spinebuster and, after a tombstone doesn’t seal the deal, he shortly thereafter resorts to rulebreaking. He brings his shillelagh into the ring behind the referee’s back and waylays Tajiri, then hits a second tombstone piledriver after a prolonged struggle to finish the match.

The pomp and circumstance surrounding the match — with the knowledge of the promotion’s impending closure, and the video presenting it as Tajiri’s last chance to capture the title in his own company — positions this as an eventual coronation, making the outcome a major surprise.

Random Thoughts

–After the match, Finlay grabs the microphone and leaves the title belt in the middle of the ring, then challenges Tajiri to “keep wrestling classic.” This is a harbinger of Wrestling New Classic, the promotion Tajiri would start not long after SMASH folded.

–The national anthems of both wrestlers play before the match, an outstanding touch that adds to both the real-sport and big-fight feel of this one.

Final Rating: 7.2

This is a very good throwback match with plenty of stakes and history adding to the appeal. Both guys wrestle with a sense of urgency, and you believe that they are trying to win the title at all costs and as quickly as possible, not just trying to have a “classic” or highly-rated match. It’s atypical in the body of work of two guys who spent the bulk of their careers thriving as midcarders, but they carry the big-match feel and made me wish there were more one-on-one matches between them. Definitely seek out this one.

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

Up Next

We fire up some tag action in CHIKARA from 2005.

Got something to say about this match, or the project, or anything wrestling-related? Reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling, Day 49: Slim J vs. Andrew Alexander (NWA Chattanooga, 2/18/11)

365 Wrestling, Day 49: Slim J vs. Andrew Alexander (NWA Chattanooga, 2/18/11)

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

Making it big in any type of performance art included isn’t easy, pro wrestling included. In wrestling, you have to stay healthy, sacrifice time with family and friends, make sure you’re being seen by the right people, avoid offending someone who could be deciding your professional future at some point. it’s partly about who you know and it’s also about timing. For example, I’ve maintained that Buddy Rose would have been a huge star in later eras of wrestling, given his gift of gab, size, and willingness to throw his body around in the ring.

Another guy who should have made big money in wrestling, and would have had he come along a few years later, is Slim J. Had Slim been on the rise in our current era of the gif, I have zero doubts he would be working for a major company today… and excelling. A superb high flyer, Slim also holds the distinction of being one of the youngest wrestlers — maybe the youngest — to wrestle on pay-per-view in America. He was still under 18 when he made an appearance on one of TNA’s weekly PPV events back in 2002. He also worked for Ring of Honor in that promotion’s early days, and has been a fixture on the scene in the Southeast U.S., including standout runs for Wildside and Anarchy in Georgia, as well as ACTION Wrestling, PWX in North Carolina, and many more.

I first watched Slim J on an episode of Wildside in the mid 2000s, where he had a cage match with Patrick Bentley. I saw more of him, later, in ROH and other promotions.

Slim also deserves credit for developing a strong all-around style in the ring and, in the mid 2010s, he even developed an entirely new gimmick as the Gladiator Jeremiah, with the Roman garb, a chiseled physique, and an entirely different wrestling style. If this tells you anything about the transformation, I watched him wrestle live in the gladiator gimmick in a dark match at an ROH show and had no idea it was the same person as Slim.

Slim J hasn’t wrestled in any persona since March of 2020, right before the COVID pandemic hit the U.S., in full force. He appears to be content away from the ring now, but we can still take a look back and enjoy matches like this one, against Andrew Alexander from February 18, 2011.

You can watch this match on the piercetapes YouTube channel (a real treasure trove of matches from the Southern independent scene). I’ve embedded it below, too:

The Context

There have been several promotions to run in the area of Chattanooga, TN, with varying levels of success. Right now, the Scenic City Invitational (which this site sponsors) and TWE on top of the scene in that region. Here, the promotion hosting is NWA Chattanooga.

Slim’s opponent is Andrew Alexander, a presence on the Southeast scene for nearly two decades himself. He spent several years tagging with Kyle Matthews (another incredibly underrated wrestler from the South) as The Hollywood Brunettes mostly for Anarchy. He was a regular for NWA Chattanooga, which ran shows for a few years.

Alexander was a regular for NWA Chattanooga, while this was just one of two appearances for the promotion by Slim, according to Cagematch.

The Match

The story told here is a variation on a theme that’s played out countless times in wrestling matches, with more modern moves providing an update on the tale. Slim J starts out getting the better of Alexander in straight-up, scientific, technical wrestling. When Alexander can’t gain the edge, as the heel, he starts to cheat, throwing fists until Slim comes firing back with a double-leg takedown and a frenzied barrage of punches that’s one of his calling cards.

Alexander stays on the defensive until Slim goes for a moonsault off the top and misses. At that point, Alexander focuses his offense on the midsection of Slim, which took damage in the spot that led to the momentum shift. None of this is rocket science or brain surgery, but it can be a difficult story to tell well, and tell with consistency, and both guys play their part in accomplishing just that. Watch as Alexander focuses the vast majority of his offense on Slim’s midsection, whether it be tossing him to the mat facefirst from a suplex position, applying a bodyscissors, or just stomping on his guts.

We build to the big moves and get several of them during the finishing stretch. After Slim hits a rana off the top rope to turn the tide, followed by a couple of creative pinning predicaments for two counts, Alexander connects on a leaping Russian legsweep (think of it as a reverse Paydirt) for a very believable near-fall. Not long thereafter, Alexander goes old-school, bringing a chair into the ring, which is merely a ploy to obtain a foreign object from his trunks. Just a few moments later, one shot with the foreign object fells Slim, letting Alexander score the pin.

The action isn’t over. Alexander tries to dole out more punishment after the bell but gets countered and caught in an STF by Slim J. Alexander quickly and repeatedly taps to the hole and goes scurrying to the back.

Random Thoughts

–God bless Southern wrestling fans, and their ability to make “Booo!” a multisyllabic word.

–SCI promoter Scott Hensley is the ring announcer for this one, which, when I noticed, led to this reaction (minus the cigarette):

That’s him! That’s Scott Hensley, all right!

–Speaking of the fans, the mic on the ringside camera picks up a couple of ladies who are a delight with their unabashed rooting for Slim and heckling of Alexander. Wrestling fans like to be able to cheer the good guys and boo the bad guys. Imagine that!

Final Rating: 6.2

Let’s say you have a friend who has never seen wrestling, has no idea what it’s about, or how it works. This would be an excellent example to help them understand the basics. It’s a solid 10 minutes or so from bell to bell, tells a good basic story, and establishes both the fan favorite and the heel without either having to say a single syllable on the mic. New and aspiring wrestlers should note how Slim always keeps moving, fighting, and showing some signs of life … until the finish, that is.

If you’re interested in looking up more Slim J matches, I highly recommend any of his bouts with Amazing Red, whether they be in TNA, ROH, or Wildside. He also had a very good match against TJ Boss in 2019 during Slim’s run as PWX Champion, especially if you’re a fan of the small guy vs. big guy matches… and I certainly am.

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

Up Next

Finlay. Tajiri. One on one. Nuff said!

Send me any and all feedback on the 365 Wrestling project. Just reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling, Day 48: Women’s Tag Elimination Chamber (WWE, 2/17/19)

365 Wrestling, Day 48: Women’s Tag Elimination Chamber (WWE, 2/17/19)

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

With eight hours of TV to fill each week, much of what happens on WWE programming tends to run together or fade into background noise. Storyline continuity is hit or miss. This can make things incredibly frustrating if you’re a week-to-week viewer. It also means that casual and lapsed followers can parachute in for the big events and not really miss out on anything.

And yet, when it comes to the big events, WWE still can put out some highly entertaining stuff — which is what makes the slog of the regular weekly TV so frustrating to so many. When it comes to big spectacles, no one does it better. I’m talking about highly-intricate concept matches like the Royal Rumble and… the Elimination Chamber.

We’re watching one of those Chamber matches today. Specifically, the 2019 Chamber match where the very first WWE Women’s Tag Champs were crowned. Your participants: the Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection (Sasha Banks and Bayley), Fire and Desire (Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville), The IIconics (Peyton Royce and Billie Kay), The Riott Squad (Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan), Nia Jax and Tamina, and finally the duo of Carmella and Naomi.

You can watch this match on Peacock or on the WWE YouTube channel.

The Context

The Elimination Chamber has been part of WWE since 2002, and the centerpiece of the company’s February pay-per-view since 2008. This is just the second Chamber match involving women and also the second time the match has had tag teams, instead of individual competitors. Vince McMahon announced women’s tag titles were on the way near the end of 2018 and, in the weeks leading up to this pay-per-view, the field of six teams coalesced with three teams each representing Raw and SmackDown.

A few of the teams were thrown together not long before the Chamber match. Nia and Tamina didn’t team together for the first time until two months prior. Carmella and Naomi joined forces just a couple of weeks before the Chamber match. The other four teams have more experience teaming together, or an established bond between them dating back quite some time, or both.

Another interesting note, that all 12 women in this match spent at least some time in the WWE Performance Center and half of the participants trained entirely under the WWE PC umbrella: Naomi, Carmella, Mandy, Sonya, Nia Jax, and Liv Morgan.

The Match

With two months of hype and build and the opening spot on the card of the last pay-per-view before WrestleMania, there’s an abundance of window dressing to make this match seem like a big deal. It’s the little things for me, like the gear choices we see through all six pairs. Even the new duo of Carmella and Naomi are decked out in matching outfits, which is always a winner for me when it comes to tag wrestling.

The new tag titles might be at stake but this entire match takes place under de facto tornado tag rules, with all four wrestlers from the first two teams in the match at the beginning, then each other team entering the match as a duo.

There’s a lot going on here, with a dozen wrestlers taking part in a match that is longer than 30 minutes from bell to bell, and well past 40 minutes counting entrances and post-match pomp and circumstance, so I’m just going to try to take a broad view.

This is the best I can remember seeing Mandy Rose look in a match. She takes some nasty bumps–note a reverse neckbreaker on the platform outside the ring, with one foot hung in the cage at the time. She also scores a very believable near-fall after hitting a beautiful Angel’s Wings on Sasha once it comes down to two teams. Deville first caught my eye when she had an outstanding match with Asuka at an NXT house show in Spartanburg, SC (one of the few times you’ll see an entire crowd react to something as “pedestrian” as a double-leg takedown). Sudden explosions of movement produce the biggest moments for Deville here, whether it be cutting off Sasha’s double-knees across the back with a modified spinebuster or unleashing to bisect Sarah Logan with a spear near the tail end of a series of big moves involving 10 of the wrestlers in the match.

The IIconics are fabulous here, and stand out with their character work. It starts from the moment they step out on the stage holding hands, and continues until Billie Kay says a distraught “I’m sorry” to her bestie — nice catch by Renee Young on commentary to identify and acknowledge this — before both IIconics get walloped with stereo Samoan drops to get eliminated by Nia and Tamina. Their antics get some of the bigger reactions from a crowd that is occasionally apathetic through the first half of the match.

I’ve long felt Liv Morgan is criminally underrated in WWE, and man does she have some great moments here. The Riott Squad might be heels on the booking sheet, but as one of the smallest wrestlers in the match, Liv also shows plenty of fire. There’s a fierce little exchange of slaps with Deville and she gets tossed around at the expense of her opponents throughout her time in the match. Little touches add a lot, such as Liv screaming “No!” repeatedly as Nia hoists her for a Samoan drop off the second rope.

Nia and Tamina are the final team in the match and serve the role they should, as the two monsters who wreak havoc but get ousted down the stretch. The production team does its best to ruin one of their most impressive spots, swinging both IIconics in tandem repeatedly into the cage, with the frequent camera cuts missing almost all of the impacts into the fence. As the two biggest people in the match, it takes two of the bigger spots to eliminate them. Nia charges at one pod and ends up eating shit through the wall, putting her down for the count while Sasha, Bayley, Rose, and Deville pool their efforts — literally — stacking up to pin Tamina after a Bayley flying elbow.

Any way you slice it, though, this is the Sasha and Bayley story and they are the MVPs of the match. It starts with Corey Graves sowing seeds of dissension by noticing past betrayals between the two in the other women’s Chamber match, but throughout the match Sasha and Bayley work as a seamless team, saving one another on multiple occasions. When Bayley gets sent crashing into one of the pod supports and knocked out, Sasha climbs down off the pod to check on her, getting jumped and leading to the finish.

Sasha does a spectacular job in particular. She gets sent careening shoulder-first into one of the pod structures and sells the arm injury consistently for the rest of the match. The babyface duo that could thinks they can… and thinks they can… outlasting all competitors to come back around against the same pair they faced at the start of the match, Rose and Deville. Sasha comes out on top, submitting Sonya with a modified Banks Statement, using her leg rather than her damaged left arm to cinch the hold. The variant looks even nastier than the standard hold.

Random Thoughts

–Four commentators for this match: Michael Cole, Beth Phoenix, Graves, and Young. That’s at least one too many voices for me, and reminded me of this:

Not pictured: Dr. Joyce Brothers

–This had the most people in a single match in the project since the “New York Rumble” I watched as part of the January list.

–This match is just more than two years old, but one-fourth of the wrestlers are no longer with the company. In addition to The IIconics getting let go, Logan got released exactly a year before in April of 2020.

Final Rating: 6.8

This match has some rough spots but the intensity builds as things progress, and the crowd is highly engaged by the time we get to the finishing stretch. Plus, there are legitimate stakes, and historic value as both a rare women’s match and a rare tag match takes place inside the Chamber. The right team wins. There’s lately been some speculation on Twitter about what just kind of impact Sasha and Bayley have on future generations of women’s wrestlers. Performances like this can and should be cited as an example.

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

Up Next

A look at one of the most talented, most underrated wrestlers to ever come out of the Southeast.

Bring out your feedback, your praise, your match requests. 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 47: Monster’s Ball, The Wolves vs. Decay (TNA, 2/16/16)

365 Wrestling, Day 47: Monster’s Ball, The Wolves vs. Decay (TNA, 2/16/16)

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

Finding the match for this date was a bit of a quest. First off, February 16 is a Tuesday, which meant choosing a tag match by my self-identified and not-at-all-enforceable “rules” of the project.

In addition to trying to hit various eras, and not repeat the same wrestler and/or promotion on back-to-back days, I’m also trying to hit as many different years as possible. So first, I chose a New Japan tag match from their Australia tour in 2018 but it honestly wasn’t noteworthy enough to write about at length … as is the case with a lot of New Japan house show and “Road To …” tags.

Next, I picked a Rockers vs. Brain Busters match from Saturday Night’s Main Event. Thanks to the WWE Network getting assimilated by Peacock, and no sign of the SNME archive appearing on the latter yet, that one isn’t available online.

After that I chose a ROH Tag Title Match from 2007… which, you guessed it, also is not available anywhere that I can find online.

Hmm. OK then.

Necessity is the mother of invention and in this case I suppose what I needed was 12-ish minutes of plunder and chaos.

With that, ladies and germs, here’s the Monster’s Ball TNA World Tag Title Match bewtixt The Wolves — Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards — and the Decay duo of Crazzy Steve and Abyss from the February 16, 2016, episode of Impact.

You can watch this on Impact’s website.

The Context

This is actually the first big match for the Decay faction, which formed just a few weeks earlier as Rosemary debuted and joined in a 3-on-2 beatdown of the champs, Richards and Edwards. Decay then stole the tag title belts, leading to this moderately awkward promo segment:

Richards and Edwards made their names in Ring Of Honor, where both held the ROH World Title in addition to two previous reigns as tag champs there, known as The American Wolves. After a few appearances on the independent circuit at the end of 2013 and a WWE tryout, they came to TNA where they were known more simply as The Wolves.

Abyss now works behind the scenes in WWE but for nearly two decades he was a fixture on TNA programming even while the roster around him had a constant ebb and flow. The Monster’s Ball is his specialty, at least in storyline.

The Decay group might be new to TNA here, but Steve isn’t, as part of the roster since 2014. We’ve written about Rosemary and our appreciation of her and her gimmick, previously in the project.

The Match

When the Monster’s Ball concept first debuted in TNA, it was a twist on the old concept of a No DQ match with weapons, in that the participants (in storyline) were locked away for 24 hours prior to the match without light, food, and water. Goofy? Kinda. But at least it was an attempt to do something different. That pretext has gone long by the wayside by the time of this match. By 2016, Monster’s Ball has just become synonymous with a hardcore match, although with the weapons Abyss is known for: tacks, barbed wire, etc.

Richards and Edwards get the early advantage, and then start bumping around for Decay. Momentum shifts when both Wolves are on adjacent top turnbuyckles as Rosemary hops on the apron and blows red mist in Richards’ face. Abyss, meanwhile, hurls a chair at Edwards, who plummets through a conveniently placed table at ringside. Steve is smaller and athletic so he’s the guy who gets thrown around by the Wolves, with Abyss the heavy hitter.

Abyss seems to get a lot of grief in online circles for a perceived lack of wrestling ability. I think it’s important to note that, in the latter years of his in-ring career, his body was really starting to break down. The Abyss who is in this match looks like he is wading through molasses compared to the guy who first came into the scene in TNA, eventually dethroned Sting as world champion, and also made waves in ROH as part of The Embassy led by Prince Nana. If you want a true picture of Abyss’ talent and potential, seek out some of his work from the 2000s decade and you will have a very different take.

With all that being said, Abyss takes the two nastiest bumps in this match. First, he eats a sunset bomb by Edwards onto a pile of chairs topped with a trashcan. Next, Abyss is on the floor, staggering right in front of Chekhov’s barbed wire board, ominously propped up against the ringside railing behind him. Edwards goes for a suicide dive, but Abyss grabs him and teases a chokeslam… only to have Richards deliver his own suicide dive and put Abyss into the wire. It’s a small bait and switch in the midst of the chaos, but added to the moment for sure.

The finish is creative as well. Steve has Edwards’ head trapped on the seat of an open chair and is getting ready to wallop him with a steel chair when Rosemary brings Abyss’ bag of tacks into the ring and proceeds to pour it over Edwards’ head. It’s smoke and mirrors, but a spectacular visual, and Edwards sells it like he’s being tortured. Steve whiffs on the chairshot, however, and Richards comes back in the ring to block a second misting by Rosemary by literally sucking face and using her own mist against her. Steve eats a suplex/brainbuster-onto-a-chair-with-tacks-on-the-seat combo to end it.

Random Thoughts

–There sure are a lot of low blows in this match. A more juvenile mind would make a joke related to the Monster’s Ball moniker. Not me, though. Nope.

–There’s a funny line by The Pope on commentary where, after Abyss produces his ever-present cloth bag, he says, “We know it’s the tascks but it could be anything!” (Spoiler: It was tacks).

Final Rating: 5.9

You’ve seen plunder matches like these a hundred times and you know what you’re getting. I thought there was a good effort by all involved (The Wolves and Steve worked hard; Abyss did what he could) and a couple of unique moments — the tacks being poured on Edwards’ head and the reversal of the mist by Richards — make this worth watching.

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

Up Next

Twelve women confined to co-exist within the same structure. Is it a reality show or an Elimination Chamber match?

Send me any and all feedback on the 365 Wrestling project. Just reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling, Day 46: I Quit, Jake Manning vs. John Skyler (PWX, 2/15/14)

365 Wrestling, Day 46: I Quit, Jake Manning vs. John Skyler (PWX, 2/15/14)

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

As Gordon Solie so eloquently put it… “Five letters. Two words. I Quit.”

An I Quit match is one of my favorite gimmick matches in wrestling… when it is done right. Magnum TA vs. Tully Blanchard is the best and most famous example of this type of match, as it should be. John Cena and JBL had a very good one during Cena’s initial run as WWE champion. To me, an I Quit match is the blowoff, the final chapter, best suited for the culmination of a long-running rivalry.

And that’s what we have here… in this match from February 15, 2014, with Jake Manning facing John Skyler in an I Quit Match at PWX Rise of a Champion, Night 1.

This match is available on the Highspots Wrestling Network or through PWX’s own on-demand streaming service.

The Context

There was a preview of the entire Rose of a Champion card over at PW Ponderings that served as a great resource in my research for this match. PWX also put together a video package chronicling their feud that ran right before the match.

These two started feuding in May of 2013, when they were thrown together as a team through a random draw for a tag title tournament. Manning and Skyler ended up winning the tournament, only to see Skyler immediately turn on Manning and go on an overseas tour, leaving Manning to defend the tag titles in handicap matches. Their feud continued, mostly in tag matches with a variety of partners that included Kevin Steen teaming with each man at some point. In the last singles match between these two, Skyler won by countout then got to dole out 10 lashes with Manning’s leather belt across the back of the Manscout.

Skyler has about 5 1/2 years of experience at the time of this match. He’s gone on to wrestle all over the Southeast, also making appearances as a job guy on WWE programming as well as AEW Dark.

Manning, who you also may have seen on recent episodes of AEW Dark, started wrestling in 2004. He’s also a stand-up comic and, in more recent years, added some schtick to his wrestling as well when he incorporated a pop-up tent into his act. Manning also has had a hand in training an assortment of quality wrestlers to come on the Carolina scene in recent years.

This is also the first time in the project I’m writing about wrestlers where I’ve commentated their matches previously: Skyler against Chase Owens in Tennessee in 2016, and Manning against Lucky Ali in West Virginia in 2019.

Based in Charlotte, N.C., the PWX promotion has seen a who’s who of independent stars in the 2010s who went on to major promotions. Cedric Alexander, Caleb Konley, Cameron Grimes (then known as Trevor Lee), Andrew Everett, Adam Page and Anthony Henry were regulars. Guys like Roderick Strong, Eddie Edwards, Adam Cole, Rhett Titus and Moose worked there regularly while also working with Ring of Honor. Other names like Samoa Joe and Steen (aka Kevin Owens) made guest appearances.

The Match

When you watch wrestling you have to have at least some suspension of disbelief. That said, it makes no sense to me when you see a heated grudge match — especially one with a big stipulation — and they start out with hold-for-hold exchanges.

If an I Quit Match is booked, I expect to see violence, and violence is what you get here. The fists start flying from the second Manning hits the ring and these two keep going at one another for a full 20 minutes. The closest thing you get to “traditional” wrestling, aside from an Indian Deathlock by Manning in the very early going, are moves that all involve some extra-curricular element to make them more painful such as suplexes, except on the floor.

The match hits another level of intensity when the blood starts to flow, and let me tell you, it flows. The total amount of bloodshed in this one even rivals the one death match I’ve watched as part of the project. Skyler waylays Manning with a chair out on the floor and the Manscout comes up a bloody mess. A few minutes later, Manning throws a chair up into an attempted suicide dive by Skyler and both men end up bleeding profusely.

Down the home stretch, we see two impressive spots: Manning delivers a jumping piledriver off the apron through a table. Later, Skyler hits Manning with Sliced Bread #2, but across the seats of two chairs facing one another. The former just looked cool. The second was spectacular and also spectacularly dangerous, with an especially nasty-looking landing for Skyler.

The conclusion has two callbacks. Skyler breaks out handcuffs and commentator Chris Shore does some good work identifying this as a previous tactic of Skyler’s in I Quit matches. The handcuff plan backfire on Skyler, leaving him at the mercy, or lack thereof, of Manning and his leather belt. A solid flogging ensues until Skyler finally surrenders.

Random Thoughts

–I’ve written before about how the periphery of a match, like referees and commentary, can add to a match or subtract from it. Shore’s note about Skyler’s previous use of the handcuffs is literally the only good thing I have to say about the commentary here. It distracts from what’s happening in and around the ring. I honestly would have preferred a live feed with no commentary track.

–The production team doesn’t do this match many favors. The cameras catch Manning getting color on the floor after the chairshot, then tip off Manning’s retaliation as he’s clearly seen lying in wait with the chair before Skyler’s suicide dive. Still better than watching a match with camera cuts every 2 seconds (I’m looking at you, WWE …)

Final Rating: 6.6

This is a violent, satisfying culmination to the nine-month feud between Manning and Skyler. The pre-match video does a fine job summarizing their issues. I felt like I jumped right in and immediately had a good grasp of their rivalry despite no prior context. Both Manning and Skyler are among the best of an excellent crop of wrestlers in the Carolinas in the last 15 or so years. Manning is especially underrated. I watched him have a very good technical match against Lucky in West Virginia so it was a treat to see the Manscout show his range in a more brutal match here. A good match that honestly would have ranked even more highly with me if the commentary had been better.

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

Up Next

A third straight gimmick match, this time the Monster’s Ball.

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 45: Steel Cage, Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon (WWF St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, 2/14/99)

365 Wrestling, Day 45: Steel Cage, Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon (WWF St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, 2/14/99)

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

Nothing warms my heart like hearing from readers who are enjoying the project, and also seeing people share, retweet and like the social media posts promoting entries. So far, one of the biggest supporters of the 365 Wrestling project and this site has been Matt Griffin, who currently is the promoter of ACTION Wrestling (which this site sponsors).

I want to make things here a bit more interactive, so when I came up with the concept of offering guests the chance to pick matches, Matt was an easy choice.

His selection? Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon in a steel cage, from the main event of WWF’s St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on February 14, 1999.

Why did Matt choose this match?

“It’s Vince — the figure that has dominated and changed wrestling. Everything in the Wrestlemania era, always comes down to Vince McMahon. And Austin vs. Vince is his first real singles match up, when he was well into his 50s. Never let anyone say that for better or worse, Vince will show his locker room that he will step in the ring and do the same thing he asks them to.

“Vince vs. Austin is likely the most important feud in WWF history in any case, it carried the water to take the 83 week dominance away from WCW, but this match also happened on the show that was the lead-in to Wrestlemania XV.”

You can watch this match on Peacock.

The Context

The Austin-McMahon feud began about a year ago when Stone Cold first became champion and this is hyped as the “final chapter” between them. As we all know, this was far from the end of the hostilities between Austin and Vince, but there is a transition after this as The Undertaker’s group, The Ministry of Darkness, also gets involved… along with the McMahon kids, Shane and Stephanie.

This specific match came about after Vince won the Royal Rumble in January and, with it, a shot at the WWF World Title at WrestleMania. Vince didn’t want that match, since at the time The Rock — part of McMahon’s Corporation stable — was champion, so he turned down the title shot… only to have WWF Commissioner Shawn Michaels explain the honors would go to the runner-up in the Rumble, Austin. That led to Austin putting his WrestleMania title shot at stake to get Vince inside the cage for this match. In the build-up, Vince agreed no members of his Corporation faction would interfere, while Austin wasn’t allowed to touch McMahon until the match.

Vince does his best to trick Austin out of the match with various antics, including spitting in Austin’s face during a segment also involving Michaels on the Sunday Night Heat pre-show earlier in the evening.

The Match

My take: The WWF held this pay-per-view in Memphis, and I can’t think of a more fitting setting for a match that relies heavily on smoke and mirrors and shenanigans. What we see here is an updated, amped-up, more “adult” version of the battles between Jerry Lawler (who is on commentary and fights an ongoing battle with laryngitis) and Jimmy Hart from the early 1980s.

This match is all schtick from beginning to end. It’s also another example of what we saw in the entry for February 11, with the bad guys — or bad-guy boss in this case — finally getting a comeuppance. There are a few minutes of stalling but that just brings an already-engaged crowd to a proper boil. When Austin feigns a knee injury on the floor to lure Vince within reach and then levels him with a clothesline, there’s a huge roar.

Everyone remembers this match for Vince’s huge bump, where he falls off the side of the cage through a table. It’s a gruesome landing; Vince hits the table and bounces off it before it collapses under him. Based on my research, Vince fractured his tailbone on the spot, and I am not surprised. That would have been enough but when Howard Finkel comes in the ring to announce Austin the winner due to injury, Stone Cold grabs the mic and says he’s not finished. It’s a great touch that further engages the crowd, and gives Vince several valuable minutes to recover, also extending the match through smoke and mirrors.

A beatdown ensues inside the cage that leaves Vince a bloody, battered mess… but when Austin goes to leave the ring, McMahon lures him back in by taunting Stone Cold with what my father once called “the single digit of friendship.”

Just typical behavior by the CEO …

Everything works until the finish, which is like the wrestling equivalent of a goofy Looney Tunes comic where a faux pas by Elmer Fudd allows Bugs Bunny to escape down the rabbit hole. Vince just coaxed Austin back in the ring a second time and eats a Stunner when the Big Show (or, as he’s announced here, Paul Wight) comes up through the ring in his WWF debut after jumping from WCW. Wight manhandles Austin a bit, then throws Austin into the cage, which snaps a section free, allowing Stone Cold to drop to the floor and win the match.    

Matt’s Take: “This was great! Vince as a performer has always been fantastic and a character. He looks completely jacked as he walks to the ring, a lifetime interest in bodybuilding paying off in spades. Several times before Vince flies off the cage, you can catch him quickly looking back and making sure he is in the right place to land. Austin rams Vince’s head into the cage and he explodes backward, downward and through a table as if launched from a high powered slingshot.  A requisite gurney spot (oh yes, the match hasn’t started officially) with Austin jumping him in the aisle is pure heat, tossing refs and officials aside to get Vince back in the cage.

“A heating beating ensues, with Vince taking multiple cage shots to the face (to ensure he has reason to blade for extra heat). A stunner, with Austin talking trash to Vince’s face and then… “THAT’S PAUL WIGHT, THAT’S PAUL WIGHT!”  The former Big Show is in WWF and lays Austin out. At Vince’s behest he throws Stone Cold into a section of the cage… which busts completely through. Austin ends up on the floor and wins, keeping his shot at the WWF title at WMXV.”

Random Thoughts

–Lawler sums up the appeal of the Austin-McMahon feud in a single line during the ring entrances: “How many rednecks around the world would love to get the chance to slap around their boss?”

–Speaking of commentary, Michael Cole is the lead broadcaster for this one, part of a several-month stint in late 1998 and early 1999 when he stepped in after Jim Ross suffered his initial bout of Bell’s Palsy.

–Some of the Austin-McMahon stuff has been affected by the fact that the wrestling business as a whole took the “evil authority figure” concept and proceeded to drive it into the ground over the ensuing two decades, but the energy and heat here still cannot be topped.

–Is there a more dramatic and more effective transformation in wrestling that Austin evolving from Stunning Steve into Stone Cold?

–It’s influenced by hindsight but the entire debut of the Big Show here just reminds me of all the later instances in TNA where a former WWE wrestler would make a surprise appearance and, to avoid any copyright infringement, Mike Tenay and Don West would introduce them with something ambiguous like, “We all know who THAT is…”

Final Rating: 6.7

This is one of the best matches I’ve seen involving a non-wrestler. It’s got historic value because, as Matt mentioned, this is Vince’s first match ever. Austin beats Vince to a bloody pulp after about a year of build. This would have been an ideal time for Vince to take an extended break in front of the cameras, but I guess that works better for a territory than a major televised wrestling company. There may not be a better example of a match working on nearly every level despite very little wrestling actually taking place. It would rate higher for me but the finish knocked it down a peg or two.

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

Up Next

Another gimmick match. This time, we head to the Carolinas for a match that’s all about making your opponent say those two little words…

Are YOU interested in making a match suggestion for the 365 Wrestling project? I’m accepting limited guest submissions for the remaining entries in the year. Just reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling, Day 44: Kana vs. Meiko Satomura (Triple Tails, 2/13/11)

365 Wrestling, Day 44: Kana vs. Meiko Satomura (Triple Tails, 2/13/11)

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

Let me tell you about the time that Asuka came to my small hometown in East Tennessee about 10 years ago.

She was known as Kana at the time, and was working a weekend of shows in the Southeastern U.S. for CHIKARA. They had been in North Carolina the night before coming here.

That CHIKARA card remains one of the most entertaining wrestling events, from start to finish, that I’ve seen in person. Kana headlined that night, facing Sara Del Rey in a main event back before women in main events became cool or acceptable across wrestling. What I remember most about that match (other than its general excellence) is that Kana, who, up until she signed with WWE, wrestled barefoot with kickpads on, delivered a kick to Del Rey that broke the kickpad off her shin.

That was the same trip where, according to a story told a few times by Sugar Dunkerton, Kana and the rest of her traveling party from Japan got their first experience at a buffet restaurant when Suge and friends took them to the Shoney’s just up the road from my house.

And since has closed.

And been leveled.

With a car wash being built in its place.

Depressing, isn’t it?

Anyway, in this entry in the 365 Wrestling project, we see Kana — about nine months prior to her American foray and Shoney’s experience — in action against Meiko Satumora from February 13, 2011, in Osaka.

You can watch this match on YouTube, or embedded below:

The Context

First came the Triple Tails stable, a faction that consisted of Kana, Io Shirai (who followed Kana to WWE where she has been a two-time NXT champion), and Mio Shirai (who retired from wrestling in 2015 due to concussions). Then, these three started running their own events from time to time — including this one, held in Osaka. The Kana-Satomura match was the main event.

This is the fifth time Kana and Satomura have been in the ring as opponents but just the second time in a singles match. Satomura won that prior meeting, which happened on April 29, 2010.

Satomura has the huge experience advantage here, with about 15 years’ experience as a pro at the time of this bout. Kana started wrestling in 2004, then stepped away from the squared circle only to return in 2007.

The Match

The topic of how surroundings add to the entertainment value of a match has come up before in the project and does so again here. Unlike other recent entries, where a raucous crowd or a unique setting like Penn Station helped elevate the fare inside the ring, the crowd here for Kana vs. Satomura is quiet for much of the bout, watching with silent intensity. In this case, it augments the action in the ring to a great deal. You can clearly hear the pops and smacks as strikes land, as well as the screams of pain and effort from either side of the several submission holds that are applied during the match.

From beginning to end, Kana seems driven to prove herself against her more experienced foe. She spurns Satomura’s attempt at a handshake before the bell, kicking away her hand and blasting Meiko with a forearm to promptly initiate the action. Shortly thereafter. Satomura hooks Kana in a belly-down armbar, and while Kana makes it to the ropes, the hold was applied to an extent where there’s a prolonged break while the referee checks Kana outside the ring to make sure she can continue.

There are a ton of wicked strikes in this match, especially kicks, and you can hear every single one of them. Speaking of strikes, Satomura seemingly gets annoyed with her less experienced rival midway through the match, uncorking an array of big forearms and elbows, punctuated by a back kick to the face of a kneeling Kana. This last kick, captured from mat level by a ringside camera, looks absolutely murderous in its delivery.

All this seems to do is further anger Kana. Every time Satomura gets the upper hand, no matter what punishment she exacts, Kana comes back with increasing amounts of fire. After several more minutes and several more head kicks, when Satomura goes back to the already-weakened right arm of Kana, it seems to be more out of desperation than it is a focused strategy. Even delivering her death valley driver — one of Satomura’s finishers — on two occasions isn’t enough to seal the deal.

Once again, Kana rallies, unloading more kicks before ensnaring Meiko in her chickenwing with a bodyscissors (now known as the Asuka Lock for WWE fans). Kana screams in rage and emotion as she applies the hold, sending Satomura into oblivion. The crowd responds to the victory over the more established Satomora with arguably its biggest reaction of the entire match.

Final Rating: 7.8

I’m stingy when it comes to declaring a match to be “great” but I honestly don’t know how else to classify this match. It succeeds as a classic example of what makes Satomura so outstanding. It succeeds as an example of Kana’s scintillating potential that led to her signing with WWE. It succeeds as a pro wrestling match, and a fine example of the joshi style. If you’ve only seen Asuka in WWE, this match represents a different side of her wrestling ability.

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

Up Next

The next match is a suggestion from ACTION promoter Matt Griffin, who brings to the table a “big moment match” from arguably the most important wrestling feud of the 1990s.

Are YOU interested in making a match suggestion for the 365 Wrestling project? I’m accepting limited guest submissions for the remaining entries in the year. Just reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling, Day 43: Jim Breaks vs. Adrian Street (Joint Promotions, 2/12/72)

365 Wrestling, Day 43: Jim Breaks vs. Adrian Street (Joint Promotions, 2/12/72)

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

Wrestling is so diverse and wide-ranging, and that’s a big part of the appeal for me. As someone who’s approaching his mid-40s, and has been watching wrestling or at least aware of it since 1987, it’s been exciting as part of this project to check out some of the wrestling I have missed through the years. For today’s entry, I definitely missed out, because I wasn’t even alive yet.

Without further ado, let’s dive into this match between Jim Breaks and Adrian Street from England on February 12, 1972.

This match is on YouTube and also embedded below:

The Context

This match is six five-minute rounds, for Breaks’ British Lightweight Title. This isn’t the project’s first foray into the concept of European rounds but the rules are slightly different for this one: the first wrestler to score two falls by pin or submission, or a single fall by knockout, will win the match.

Breaks was a longtime fixture on the British scene, and is best known today for his trademark submission–the Jim Breaks Special, a painful-looking hold that involves contorting the opponent’s arm in a way arms are not made to bend and then hoisting them into the air. Breaks is in his third reign as British champion, and also the European Lightweight Champion at the time of this bout. This one is taking place at a catchweight, however.

If you’re familiar at all with 1980s wrestling in the U.S., you probably know about Street. His Exotic One act is still in its early stages here, but it would propel him to opportunities to wrestle all around the world. He even recorded his own theme music:

In doing my research for this entry, I was surprised to see that Street debuted in 1957, when he was just 16 years old, as Kid Tarzan Jonathan.

The Match

The contrast between the two competitors is stark. The no-frills Breaks is in a pair of simple black boots and green trunks. Street, meanwhile, is resplendent — that’s right, resplendent — in a black robe with white and purple trim. The commentator describes Street as wearing “all mauve” for the match: trunks, boots, and even a hint in his hair. Street is also considerably leaner here than he is in any of his American matches from later years that I have seen.

He’s going to need to be as spry as possible going against Breaks. The ensuing match goes all six rounds and lasts nearly 30 minutes. There are very few strikes thrown and fewer traditional wrestling bumps. However, I remained engaged and entertained for the entirety of the match. The classic British style emphasizes hold-for-hold wrestling and submissions, and we get that in spades here. Eventually, each wrestler identifies a preferred target: Breaks zeroes in on Street’s left arm and hand, while Street focuses on the nose of Breaks.

Both wrestlers are acknowledged as “rule benders” by the commentator, but Street has more fan support. Breaks doesn’t help his own cause, yelling insults at Street both during the action and in the brief breaks between rounds. After submitting Street to the Breaks Special in the fifth round, Breaks taunts Street to pack it in if he can’t continue, eliciting loud jeers from a rather packed-looking crowd.

Breaks does some nasty grappling. He bends, twists, and wrenches the hand and wrist, each time producing a popping sound through a bit of sleight of hand. It looks and sounds gruesome.

While Breaks has the grappler reputation, Street holds up his end. One minute, he’s prancing around the ring. The next, he’s wrenching Breaks in a hold. All the grappling comes off as legitimate, nasty, and inspired by ill intent. The entire proceedings have a real sports feel. After being submitted in the fifth round, Street comes out and shows a ton of fire in the final round. The match ends in a well-fought draw after each man scores a single submission, and leaves me wanting more.

Random Thoughts

–To say the commentary on older British wrestling is different might be an understatement. I watched this one sans headphones for part of the match and my wife asked me if I was watching golf.

–Street busts out a sweet flying bodyscissors in the second round that would fit in just fine in the modern style of wrestling.

–Breaks, whose trademark submission is used by current wrestlers, was arrested in 2019 and facing homicide charges for the death of his girlfriend. The most recent update I can find is that Breaks was deemed unfit to stand trial and admitted to a psychiatric hospital due to senile dementia.

Final Rating: 7.5

The grappling, matwork, and submission battles would hold up in any modern promotion — though some slight tweaks to incorporate more strikes likely would be needed. You’ll see a different side of Street here, as this battle with Breaks provides a fine showcase for him to display his wrestling ability. This one comes highly recommended.

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

Up Next

We take a look at some joshi action with a meeting between two of the top practitioners of that style.

Enjoying the project? Then shoot me some of that sweet, sweet feedback. 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 42: JYD & Dusty Rhodes vs. Ted DiBiase & Matt Borne (Houston, 2/11/83)

365 Wrestling, Day 42: JYD & Dusty Rhodes vs. Ted DiBiase & Matt Borne (Houston, 2/11/83)

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

I try to stay away from absolutes when talking about any art form–and wrestling counts. However, while I wouldn’t want to anoint any wrestler or act as the most popular of all time, I feel confident saying that no one got bigger reactions as a fan favorite from their audience than Junkyard Dog in his heyday received in the Mid-South territory.

There certainly have been acts who captivated their fan followings in the territorial era: Jerry Lawler in Memphis and the Von Erichs in Texas come to mind. Hulk Hogan became a huge fan favorite that helped the WWF become a nationwide and eventually global phenomenon. I’m telling you, if you haven’t heard it or seen it, the reactions to JYD in Mid-South were comparable.

I asked one of my longtime friends, Bruce Cook (check out his Slurptoast podcast!), who grew up in Louisiana in the 80s when Mid-South was at its heights, to describe the phenomenon of JYD as someone who got to witness it in person:

“JYD was my first favorite wrestler,” Bruce wrote. “I grew up in Louisiana in the 80s, Mid-South was my home territory and Junkyard Dog was my hero.

“There was nothing like hearing ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ hit and watching Junkyard Dog come to the ring with his collar and chain. It was nothing short of electric. He held the entire territory in the palm of his hand years before Hulkamania was a thing.

“The Mid-South territory was, at the time, largely blue-collar working people of all races,” he added. “JYD was a hero for the people – all of the people. He unified. He was inspirational as well as aspirational. No matter how big the obstacle, given time, JYD could overcome it. The crowds were electric.  From those first Queen bass notes until the Big Thump landed, everyone was on their feet.  Everyone was chanting J-Y-D.  Everyone was cheering.  Everyone was a JYD fan.”

In short, if your exposure to the Junkyard Dog is limited to his time as a second banana to Hogan in the WWF, or his run in WCW when he was at the tail end of his career, you’ve been missing out.

Let’s correct that, shall we, with this installment of the 365 Wrestling project, as JYD teams with Dusty Rhodes to take on Ted DiBiase and Matt Borne in Houston from February 11, 1983.

You can watch this match on YouTube.

The Context

Houston, as mentioned, was considered its own promotion but was friendly with Mid-South and this is a top Mid-South storyline brought to the Sam Houston Coliseum. The centerpiece is the feud between JYD and DiBiase, which began in the summer of 1982 when DiBiase turned heel on the Dog to win the North American Title — Mid-South’s top championship at the time.

DiBiase then formed the Rat Pack, a stable consisting of himself, Borne, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan. The latter, wearing a gorilla suit (yes, really), interfered in a tag match with a loser leaves town stipulation to cost JYD and send him out of the territory. The next week, in what was no doubt a huge coincidence, a masked man named Stagger Lee matching JYD’s size and wrestling style debuted in Mid-South. Junkyard Dog made his “return” after the terms of the loser leaves stipulation expired and the feud with DiBiase and company continued.

At the time of this match, DiBiase has lost his North American Title but remains one-half of the Mid-South tag champs with Borne. The champions actually defended against this same duo of JYD and the Dream five days earlier, on Mid-South TV. The titles are not on the line for this rematch.

The Match

If you’re looking for a match with back-and-forth struggle, compelling false finishes, or seeing the heels in control… this match is definitely not for you. JYD and Dusty dominate this match and pummel their villainous rivals from pillar to post from the brawl that sparks as the two fan favorites enter the ring all the way through the Dog hitting his Thump powerslam to finish things.

Every time Borne and DiBiase gain some semblance of momentum, they quickly get cut off. For most of the match, though, the Mid-South tag champs are getting thwacked and thrashed, or rolling outside the ring in order to regroup. The crowd loves every bit of it. There’s no commentary for this video, so you can hear the hoots, hollers, laughter, and sheer delight from the fans.

Dusty is the special guest star of sorts helping JYD in his quest, and he’s in his element, mugging and preening to the crowd. As popular as he is, JYD is even more beloved. The audience at Sam Houston Coliseum goes nuts when JYD finally gets tagged in to face DiBiase one on one, and he’s also the one to score the pin in the match — propelling that rivalry forward while Dusty goes on to another territory.

They spend almost all of the match getting destroyed but DiBiase and Borne put on a fantastic performance here. DiBiase in particular has some great sells of the punches, headbutts, and elbows he takes, whether that means landing on his back and then flipping over onto his belly after he hits the mat, or some exaggerated staggers and woozy facial expressions. The fans are here to see JYD and Dusty reign supreme, and they do, but DiBiase and Borne make them look like killers.

Random Thoughts

–Footage of this match, previously unseen, emerged as one of the Hidden Gems on the WWE Network. One can only hope that this and the other examples of unearthed footage will end up in Peacock as part of their content migration, which is supposed to be complete by sometime in August.

–After the initial brawl before the bell, DiBiase goes nose to nose with JYD. Turn your sound up before what happens next. Just trust me.

–The production values on these matches from Houston have been excellent. In one of the rare moments where the Rat Pack have control, the camera zooms in on Dusty right before Borne delivers a leaping stomp to the head that looks downright brutal.

Final Rating: 6.3

If you’re following along with the project, you might notice I gave this match and yesterday’s selection the exact same rating, but they could not be more different aside from the general rules and context of a wrestling match. I don’t think a modern promotion would put on a match of this type, especially involving headliners, for fear of criticisms of the heels getting buried. Maybe bookers should look to the past, because this is a satisfying match that hits all the right emotional buttons and plays off something as simple as seeing the villain, or villains in this case, receive some long-awaited payback. It’s a lot of fun, and recommended for sure.

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

Up Next

Back to the United Kingdom for the first match in the project that happened before I was born.

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.