365 Wrestling, Day 36: Leakee vs. Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose (FCW, 2/5/12)

365 Wrestling, Day 36: Leakee vs. Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose (FCW, 2/5/12)

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

It’s a fair criticism that WWE struggles to make new stars but when The Shield formed, it was the launching pad for three future headliners.

Together, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns made a greater impact as a unit than any WWE faction or group since D-Generation X. Each also went on to stardom individually. Rollins and Reigns remain fixtures at the top of the card for WWE, and Reigns finally has blossomed into the company’s unquestioned top draw. Ambrose, who you also may know as Jon Moxley, has played a prominent role throughout the short and growing history of All Elite Wrestling.

After the Shield dissolved the first time, an eventual match between the three of them seemed inevitable. I thought it would happen at a flagship event like WrestleMania or SummerSlam. Instead, they met in a triple threat at Battleground in 2016 — right after WWE went to a brand split — for the WWE Title.

However… before they became The Shield, these three crossed paths one other time, when they were in the WWE developmental system.

You can find this match on YouTube.

The Match

Before NXT went from a quasi-reality competition to WWE’s developmental-territory-turned-third brand-turned-developmental-territory, WWE used Florida Championship Wrestling to prepare its rising talent. All three members of the Shield were part of the FCW roster, and meet here in a triple threat match to determine the next challenger to Florida Heavyweight Champion Leo Kruger (you may know him better as Adam Rose).

Reigns is going by Leakee (pronounced lay-ah-key) here. It sounds good but it reads like “leaky”, which is why I am guessing the name did not stick. Reigns gets enough guff on social media as is, imagine how bad it would be if his name looked like “leaky.” And people thought Bron Breakker got a bad hand from the WWE name generator.

But I digress…

Rollins and Ambrose were veterans of the independent scene before coming to WWE, while Leakee is about 18 months into his wrestling career. Leakee is much leaner than the Reigns we know now, not to mention greener. He also shows some athleticism that isn’t part of the usual Reigns game. Early in the match, he kips up out of a Rollins headscissors. Later, he busts out a leapfrog. And his finisher is Checkmate — a spinning bulldog where he leaps and then changes direction in midair.

Ambrose is the engine that keeps the match moving. He spends some time jawing at William Regal on commentary and Regal talks about their past history — they wrestled once in FCW about three months before this match aired — and how the two are bound for another violent collision. Regal’s verbiage and delivery here is tremendous and made me want to see more of their feud in FCW — likely as part of this project. Ambrose starts the assault on Leakee, then double-crosses Rollins to queue the finishing stretch. Ambrose also advances the story with Regal, borrowing the Regal Stretch and the knee trembler from the Englishman.

Rollins is doing the same schtick he later does in NXT, with the floor-punching, moshing entrance. He’s the forgotten third man in this match at times but everything he does is smooth and looks good. He delivers a particularly on-point springboard knee during the finishing stretch.

Most of what happens here is standard WWE multi-man match fare that you’ve likely seen a hundred times before, but the finish stands out. Leakee blocks Ambrose’s finisher and hoists both his future stablemates for a double Samoan drop. It’s an impressive show of strength and succeeds in the ultimate goal to elevate him as a title contender.

Final Rating: 5.4

This is a fun way to spend about 10 minutes and an interesting snapshot into the past history of three of the most significant wrestlers of this generation.

Up Next

A historic match from New Japan.

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365 Wrestling, Day 35: Super Crazy vs. Tajiri (ECW, 2/4/00)

365 Wrestling, Day 35: Super Crazy vs. Tajiri (ECW, 2/4/00)

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

If familiarity breeds contempt, it’s no wonder that the rivalry between Super Crazy and Tajiri in ECW is so delightful.

Whether it be in a singles match, a three way dance, or a tag team match (as opponents and occasionally as partners), Tajiri and Crazy consistently brought out the best in one another. Without their matches against one another, neither would have the level of fame or notoriety in the wrestling community they rose to achieve.

In this entry we examine one of their meetings: a Japanese Death Match from an ECW house show held February 4, 2000, in Jacksonville, FL.

The handheld version of this match, which is what I watched, is available on YouTube. You can also find it on the Highspots Wrestling Network. It later aired on the Feb. 13 episode of ECW Hardcore TV.

The Match

These two are familiar foes by now. They had a couple of house show matches before their contest at the 1999 Guilty As Charged pay-per-view that really sparked their rivalry in the promotion. According to Cagematch, this battle in Jacksonville is the 28th singles match between Tajiri and Crazy in ECW, with the two mostly trading wins back and forth. It also doesn’t count some excellent three-way matches, with Little Guido and Jerry Lynn as the respective third man.

This particular match happens just a few weeks removed from the 2000 version of the Guilty As Charged pay-per-view, where Tajiri and Crazy teamed together on the whim of Steve Corino to face another haphazard duo in Guido and Lynn, whose team fell apart when Guido turned on Lynn. And yes, it was as confusing to watch as that last sentence was to read.

A Japanese Death Match might sound like something in Big Japan, but here, it just means there are no disqualifications and any and all weapons are allowed. There are some excellent technical exchanges in Crazy-Tajiri matches but this is not one of those matches. Super Crazy sprints to the ring, launching himself at Tajiri with a springboard missile dropkick, and it’s violence, plunder and blood from there.

This is ECW, and a gimmick match, which means chairs, tables, and a fair amount of “hitting each other with stuff” spots, along with some degree of “setup time.” Setting up a table or ladder spot can seem endless and kill a match’s momentum. Here, Crazy and Tajiri both do a credible job of keeping the action going without requiring too much suspension of disbelief (aside from the usual level of suspension of disbelief required to watch wrestling in the first place).

Both men end up bloody by the conclusion of this match, which sees both incorporate plunder into some of their signature offense. Tajiri delivers his baseball slide dropkick with Crazy in the Tree of Woe, but places three chairs in front of his nemesis’ head before delivering the blow. Later, Super Crazy soars off the top rope with a legdrop on Tajiri through a table on the floor. Upon impact, the far end of the table flips up and hits Crazy–not planned and likely painful but adding positively to the mayhem.

Tajiri is more polished in his match with Rey Mysterio from the very first entry in the project, but here, he’s younger and incredibly over with the crowd despite technically being a heel (though a turn is not far away for the Japanese Buzzsaw). At one point, after Super Crazy gets lacerated, Tajiri makes the most of it with the crowd: licking his fingers (ew), wiping his enemy’s bloody head against the shirt sleeve of the referee, and biting at Crazy’s forehead.

The violence builds. At one point, fans ringside feed chair after chair to Super Crazy at one point in the match while chanting “ECW!” in a great example of the organic, visceral feel that gave ECW its charm. The match culminates with one of the nastier spots I have seen in bouts of this type. It’s so over the top that it should end the match, and does.

One more note: Lost in the weapons and chaos is one of the smoother variations of Tajiri’s handspring back elbow. Tajiri sprints into the ropes, and Super Crazy comes forward into the elbow, avoiding the “standing there waiting to be hit” that is seen often with similar moves of this type.

Final Rating: 6.5

Tajiri and Super Crazy brought out the best in one another. They had better matches than this one, but this sample from their body of work is elevated by the finishing spot, which I am determined not to spoil and for you to witness instead.

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

Up Next

A triple threat with the members of the Shield before they became the Shield.

Feel free to reach out on Twitter where you also can keep up with all the updates on 365 Wrestling. Send a tweet, a DM, or fill out the contact form on the site to suggest a match to watch for one of the upcoming dates.

365 Wrestling, Day 34: Low Ki vs. Amazing Red (HOG, 2/3/18)

365 Wrestling, Day 34: Low Ki vs. Amazing Red (HOG, 2/3/18)

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

There’s no denying that Ring Of Honor has been a major influence on the modern wrestling world. Some of the biggest current names today previously wrestled for ROH. And the in-ring style of the promotion, which set it apart from other American companies for several years, now can be found, well, just about anywhere.

Back in the early days of ROH, when the promotion was running monthly events in an oddly-lit rec center in Philadelphia, one of the most famous matches from that first year of existence pit Low Ki against Amazing Red. These two faced off as part of the tournament to crown the first ROH World Champion and combined for a famous, often-imitated opening minute.

Nearly 16 years later, they met again, in this match for House of Glory from February 3, 2018.

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

The Match

Amazing Red is one of those guys who was setting new standards in the ring during the 2000s but, due to injuries, was not able to reach the heights of stardom of some of his peers. Red was a fixture for both ROH and TNA during its early years. In the latter, Red pioneered the X-Division style against opponents like Low Ki, AJ Styles and Jerry Lynn. No matter the match, his aerial antics were a constant source of unabashed delight from commentator Don West:

Here, Red is the top champion for House Of Glory, a promotion in New York City that grew out of a wrestling school Red founded with the same name. Anthony Gagnone, who Red beat for the title, is trying everything he can to bring down the popular champion, including bringing back someone from Red’s past… Low Ki, who had never lost a singles match to Red.

Low Ki is in his Hitman-inspired “Agent 47” attire, which makes sense since he’s the hired mercenary here on Gagnone’s behalf. He starts out as a havoc-wreaking heel, punching a chair into the face of the referee — and said official sells it so strongly he lies motionless for the remainder of the match, to the point Red and Low Ki literally have to work around his prone form.

The match takes a turn when Low Ki and Red fight through the crowd up onto the stage. As much as I loathe people using the term “sequence” to describe pro wrestling, that’s the best way to explain what happens next. The history of these two plays heavily into the booking of the match, and what ensues is dedicated to trying to re-create the special opening to that 2002 ROH meeting. “Trying” is the key word in the previous sentence. The opening minute of the 2002 match is incredibly choreographed like a Hollywood stunt fight, but it stands out because it was so unlike anything else happening at the time — evidenced by the amazing reaction by the Murphy Rec crowd. This is a pale imitation in better video quality, relying on extra bells and whistles like weapons (a chair for Red and a wooden pole Low Ki snaps in two and wields like fighting sticks.)

Next Low Ki takes control in a stretch that felt long and meanders, both psychologically and directionally as these two circumnavigate the ringside area. The commentary doesn’t match the action, either, as they discuss Low Ki’s drive to cripple Red or end his career while his offense consists of chops.

The home stretch is the highlight, cued when Red delivers a beautiful spinning DDT. Low Ki offers a nifty counter when Red attempts a catapult, landing on the middle rope and springing off with a double stomp. Red and Low Ki tease the same finish that ended their 2002 ROH match, but Red counters with Infrared to finish it.

Final Rating: 4.9

Red and Low Ki fail to recapture the magic of their 2002 meeting. The portion of the match on the stage feels forced and comes off overly cutesy. At one point, when Low Ki is stalking and chopping Red on the floor, I found myself checking how much time remained in the match — never a good sign.

You might enjoy this if you’re a huge fan of Amazing Red or Low Ki, or both, but this was not for me.

Up Next

We examine a chapter from one of the classic rivalries from ECW.

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365 Wrestling, January Recap

365 Wrestling, January Recap

It seemed simple enough on paper: watch 365 matches in 365 days, one from each day of the year.

The first month of entries is in the books, and rather than provide you with a written recap, I’m taking a different approach.

I’m partnering with my friend Tom Batista, host and creator of the Military Industrial Suplex Podcast for a special series of podcast episodes. Each episode will recap one month of entries here at 365 Wrestling.

Our January recap episode includes:

  • A quick introduction of the project, and the reasons behind it
  • A countdown of the top five matches of the month
  • An interview with Thomas Simpson, OMEGA co-promoter, talking about our Day 29 entry, the Hardys vs. Serial Thrillaz tag team match

Listen to the full episode.

The Military Industrial Suplex Podcast is proud to be part of the PWOM Podcast Network. Find PWOM on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast platform.

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365 Wrestling, Day 33: Rock ‘n’ Roll Express vs. British Bulldogs (2/2/89)

365 Wrestling, Day 33: Rock ‘n’ Roll Express vs. British Bulldogs (2/2/89)

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

This entry needs no lengthy introduction. It’s a dream tag match between two of the most popular teams from the 1980s… the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express face the British Bulldogs in their only meeting, from the WWA International Bash on February 2, 1989, in Kansas City.

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

The Match

This event was a cross-promotional effort between the AWA, All Japan and what was left of Central States Wrestling. Even though both the AWA and Central States are in decline by this time, the number of empty seats in the building is shocking given the lineup that includes Stan Hansen, Tenryu, Misawa, Jumbo Tsuruta and more. It speaks to how the Internet and tape trading dramatically changed wrestling fandom.

Anyone who follows wrestling knows the traditional formula of a tag match, where the heels take control of the match, the babyface in peril (a role Ricky Morton is so well known for, it’s named after him: i.e., “playing Ricky Morton”) We all know the traditional tag team formula by now: feeling out process / the heels are sent reeling / the heels take over / hot tag / finish.

I enjoy matches that try to change up this script, and this one falls in that category as the advantage ebbs and flows. I don’t know if the Bulldogs ever were heels as a tag team in the U.S., but they fall into the de facto rulebreaker role here. It makes sense, since Davey Boy Smith and Dynamte Kid are bigger, more muscular, and able to bully their smaller opponents. They take to the role with gusto, especially when they start flinging around Morton in the most extended control segment for either team in the match.

These four maintain a brisk pace with very few lulls or stalls. It’s an excellent example of how to wrestle a long tag match, and wrestle it well, without doing anything wild or reinventing the wheel. We also get to see several atypical maneuvers, whether it’s seeing Morton and Robert Gibson distract the referee to deliver some groin-targeted offense to Dynamite, Dynamite Kid doing his darnedest attempt at an MMA-style kimura, or Davey Boy making a rare foray to the top rope. There also are a couple of exchanges between Morton and Dynamite that serve as a tantalizing appetizer for a singles match that unfortunately never happened.

Carmine DiSpirito and Johnny V are on commentary here. Johnny, who managed Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake against the Bulldogs in a lengthy feud for the tag titles, openly roots against Davey Boy and Dynamite, calls back to that feud, and refers to them has halfwits. Blessed are those who maintain storyline continuity …

Final Rating: 6.2

The matchup here is a tantalizing one because it’s the only time these four wrestled one another, in any combination, according to the research I’ve done. DiSpirito does his part to sell it, calling it “the greatest tag encounter of all time.” This match doesn’t meet that lofty billing. Nevertheless, it’s a very good match with four experts in tag wrestling, worth watching for the nuances, the twists to the standard tag formula and the historical value.

Up Next

Two wrestlers who changed the game in the 2000s run it back in 2018.

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365 Wrestling, Day 32: Aja Kong vs. Bull Nakano (AJW, 2/1/92)

365 Wrestling, Day 32: Aja Kong vs. Bull Nakano (AJW, 2/1/92)

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

As a writer, I tend to focus on the stories of pro wrestling. These stories might be long-term, such as the booking of a feud or build to a major event; the layout of an individual card; or the psychology behind a single match. One recent entry told the story of man vs. monster and we kick off February with a take on monster vs. monster, as Aja Kong faces Bull Nakano for AJW in this match from Feb. 1, 1992.

The Match

For decades, All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling was the top joshi promotion in Japan and, with a 37-year existence, certainly the longest running. Bull and Aja stand out as two of the top stars in the promotion’s history, and both trained in the AJW dojo. By the time of this match, the feud between Kong and Nakano is approaching its second anniversary. For the bulk of their rivalry, Kong has been chasing Nakano, who’s holding the WWWA World Single Championship — the top title in AJW.

Both women bring an imposing physical presence to the ring, so seeing them collide is a spectacle, even though this is one of their shorter one-on-one meetings. It’s also more of a storytelling device than a match and very little of the action takes place in the ring. I’ve written before about grudge matches that have a sense of urgency and feel like fights, and that’s the case here. Kong rampages to the ring throwing chairs but, the second she hears Bull’s music start, Aja high-tails it back through the crowd and drags Bull back through the entrance door.

Brawls through the building have been pretty common in what little joshi I have seen, but this one has a different feel and intensity. It’s also a unique matchup between two wrestlers who are used to overpowering their opponents, but seem almost equal in size and power. Fans, dojo students and ring crew orbit around the duo, who are more content to annihilate one another than even try to have a wrestling match.

The action reaches the ring, Bull is bleeding and both are waylaying one another with weapons in full view of the referee. The official is powerless to stop them and gets blasted himself every time he tries to intercede. Each wrestler whiffs on a move off the top: Bull with her somersault leg drop and Aja with a diving headbutt. Finally the referee has had enough and all the peripheral staff and wrestlers swarm the ring, trying and failing to separate them. The brawl spills onto the floor and continues until Bull makes a retreat. After Aja Kong cuts a brief promo, there’s a great wide shot to show the effects of the havoc wreaked in the building. Two of the four sections of ringside seating are wrecked completely and Aja stomps across the fallen chairs before heading for the exit in the final seconds of the video.

This is why we can’t have nice things, Aja!

The careers of these two juggernauts veered in different directions. Nakano retired before the age of 30 due to accumulating injuries and entered the world of pro golf, qualifying for the LPGA. Kong, meanwhile, is still wrestling. You might have seen her make appearances for several American promotions in recent years, including AEW, SHIMMER and CHIKARA. Kong also founded the ARSION promotion, which was featured in a previous entry.

Final Rating: 6.0

This is not much of a match but it’s a fun brawl to watch and the presence of both wrestlers is captivating. The goal here is to tease a bigger confrontation between these two down the road, and they succeed… and that match will be the subject of a future entry in this project.

Up Next

Two of the top tag teams of the 1980s meet for the first, and only, time in a legitimate dream match.

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365 Wrestling, Day 31: Steve Grey vs. Zoltan Boscik (Joint Promotions, 1/31/79)

365 Wrestling, Day 31: Steve Grey vs. Zoltan Boscik (Joint Promotions, 1/31/79)

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

While still in the planning stages of the project, I reached out to some friends of mine — some fans, some active wrestlers — for recommendations on matches and individual talents I should seek out. “The more random, the better,” I said. One of the people I asked for suggestions from was Jason Kincaid. He suggested a handful of names, including Zoltan Boscik.

Why this guy, I asked?

He answered:

“The draw Boscik has on me is the beautiful combination of: innovative grappling (escapes that I’ve never seen before), having the body and face of someone’s mean-ass dad that you’re nervous around, and shitty (foreign) heel attitude; complete with perfectly exaggerated facial expressions and body language. I feel like anyone who’s a fan of Lord Steven Regal will get the appeal of Zoltan Boscik.”

Fair enough, so we can all check out this match between Boscik and Steve Grey from January 31, 1979.

I’ve uploaded this match to my YouTube channel and embedded it below:

The Match

If you’ve never watched older British wrestling, the style is very different from the wrestling you see elsewhere. Wrestlers face off in rounds, usually lasting three minutes or five. They’re working three-minute rounds here. The first wrestler to pick up two falls wins, with fall victories possible by pin, submission, knockout (failing to answer a 10 count) or disqualification. Wrestlers received two warnings (known as public warnings) for illegal tactics before getting DQ’d, and a disqualification usually ends the match, not just the fall. There are also certain tactics that are common elsewhere in wrestling that are not allowed — namely, not being allowed to hit a grounded opponent.

This match is the opener in a tournament to crown the new British Welterweight Champion. The tournament took its time to play out, starting here and not ending until late June. Grey is the current British Lightweight Champion, a title he’s held since April of 1978. Boscik’s background reads like something from a movie: he was born in Hungary, fled to England during the Communist uprising in the 1950s, and established himself as a fixture on the British mat scene.

The video starts off at the beginning of the third of nine three-minute rounds, with no score in the match. The first man to score two falls advances. Grey is the definite crowd favorite. That positions Boscik as the heel, a regular role on the British circuit and one he plays to near-perfection here. Boscik breaks the rules a few times — and picks up two public warnings in the process.

When Zoltan is on offense, he’s nasty. There’s a nifty counter in round four where Grey has him in a hammerlock. Boscik goes for the ropes, delivers a backwards kick to Grey’s knee, and another back kick to the head to turn the tide. Meanwhile, Boscik puts in work to make his opponent look good. He flings himself into multiple bumps with reckless abandon. He milks counts to engage with his foe. He begs off, only to bushwhack Grey when his guard drops. It only adds to the crowd support for Grey and their antipathy towards Boscik, which intensifies when the Hungarian goes for an Octopus hold twice, using the ropes to set up the move each time. The fans scream bloody murder each time, and boo lustily when the second attempt at the hold forces a Grey submission, evening the match at one fall apiece.

With the score of the match tied, Zoltan turns up the intensity, hammering Grey down to the mat, withdrawing so the referee can make the 10 count, and then moving in and walloping Grey immediately once he comes up off the canvas. It’s an effective, relentless approach and one that I would recommend for any wrestler to consider should they find themselves the heel in a Last Man Standing match.

The differences in style and presentation add flavor. It’s off-putting to see the referee making verbal counts on pinfalls without actually hitting the mat. However, on the standing 10 counts, I could listen to that deep brogue accent of his all day. Meanwhile, the warnings system emphasizes any and every underhanded tactic that is employed.

Final Rating: 6.0

Given that this match is nearly 35 years old, you might expect a slower, even plodding tempo. The rounds system allows these two to keep up a brisk pace and on occasion, when one man is stringing together a combination on offensive maneuvers, the end result holds its own against the majority of today’s fast-paced, super-athletic style, even if the moves being used would be considered basic by modern standards. At less than 12 minutes, I would recommend this match as an introduction to the format of European rounds if you are unfamiliar with this style.

Up Next

Kicking off February with a battle between two joshi monsters.

One month down in the 365 Wrestling project! What do you think so far? Reach out on our social media: FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

365 Wrestling, Day 30: El Generico vs. Jushin Liger (PWG, 1/30/10)

365 Wrestling, Day 30: El Generico vs. Jushin Liger (PWG, 1/30/10)

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

When it comes to sheer longevity and maintaining quality over an extended period of time, is there any wrestler who can match the legacy of Jushin Liger?

Liger spent more than three decades in the character he adapted from anime. He’s one of the most influential ever in terms of popularizing the cruiserweight style that you can now see throughout wrestling in all promotions, at all levels, in all weight classes. Even as his retirement approached, he was still going out and having good matches. In fact, just a few months removed from his final matches at the Tokyo Dome at Wrestle Kingdom 15, Liger had a fantastic match with Minoru Suzki at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s King of Pro Wrestling event in October of 2020.

While other long-tenured wrestlers stand out through their ability to reinvent themselves, it’s the durability and consistency that jump off for the page for Liger. His track record also led to this amazing statistic and graphic that was posted on Twitter back in 2018:

Simply stunning. Liger’s longevity is a major reason why I consider him one of the top 10 pro wrestlers, ever. In this installment of the 365 Wrestling project, Liger is in action against another beloved masked wrestler, El Generico. This match went down in 2010 as part of PWG’s Kurt Russellmania event in California.

You can check out this match, along with pretty much the entire archive of PWG and a bunch of other content, on the Highspots Wrestling Network.

The Match

Even here, 10 years before his retirement, Liger is more of a novelty act than a title contender. At the time of this match, it’s been 10 years since his 11th and final run as IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion — an astonishing statistic. Meanwhile, Generico, who you also might know as Sami Zayn, is on the rise.

If you’ve ever been to an independent show with a big name on the lineup, you know you’re going to see said name “play the hits” and deliver their signature moves. That’s the way this match starts. Liger runs Generico through some of his better-known mat work and submission holds, like the Mexican surfboard. The crowd is engaged, everyone seems happy and nobody’s having to do anything particularly dangerous or crazy.

But that doesn’t last long!.This match hits a different gear when Generico clocks Liger with a leg lariat, leading the legend to roll out to the floor. Generico quickly springs to the top rope and off with a picture-perfect moonsault (some call it a Spaceman Moonsault, a name I dig) to the floor. Seeing Generico here, and how much he was universally beloved by audiences in the gimmick, it’s amazing to reflect on his transformation into the smarmy, scuzzy, conspiracy-theory-spouting heel that Zayn has become on WWE programming.

After that big dive, both guys are still “playing the hits” but the tempo sure has quickened. Generico busts out a Blue Thunder Bomb and multiple iterations of his running big boot in the corner. In another impressive feat of aerial derring-do, he goes coast to coast on a somersault legdrop across the back of Liger, who’s hung up on the top rope in the adjacent corner.

Liger brings it during the finishing stretch as well: a brainbuster, a release German suplex, a shotei and a Liger Bomb are all on the menu, with the latter move disrupting Generico’s attempt at the always spectacular and dangerous-looking top rope brainbuster. That sets up Liger to hit a second brainbuster on Generico and end it.

Final Rating: 6.2

A strong finishing stretch elevates this from “amusing curiosity” to a match you should seek out, especially if you’re a fan of either wrestler.

Up Next

We head to England for some vintage action, taking place one round at a time.

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365 Wrestling, Day 29: Serial Thrillaz vs. Hardy Boyz (OMEGA, 1/29/99)

365 Wrestling, Day 29: Serial Thrillaz vs. Hardy Boyz (OMEGA, 1/29/99)

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

How many wrestlers who step through the ropes today grew up watching Matt and Jeff Hardy? They rank as one of the most beloved duos in the history of tag team wrestling. While each has spent some time on the Dark Side as an individual (Matt more than Jeff), the Hardys as a team were consistently fan favorites … but not always. In this installment of 365 Wrestling, the Hardys take to the ring as heels, in this match from OMEGA (the promotion the Hardys helped start themselves) on January 29, 1999 against Shane Helms and Mike Maverick.

This match is available in two parts on YouTube, and embedded below:

The Match

You know three of the players in this match. ECW diehards may recognize Maverick as Jack Dupp.

For all the details on this match, I went straight to the source: Thomas Simpson, one of the co-founders of the OMEGA promotion, and someone I did commentary for on some independent shows in South Carolina a few years ago. The Hardys had been OMEGA champs for about six months, winning the titles off of Helms and Venom (aka Joey Abs from the Mean Street Posse in the heyday of the WWF Attitude Era). Simpson noted Venom was substituting in that match for Maverick, who had broken his arm when he fell off a roof while working a construction job.

This match takes place at East Wake High School in Wendell, NC, also the alma mater of Helms and Maverick. The challengers are out first and greeted as conquering heroes. Meanwhile, the Hardys already are a known presence on WWF TV but they get booed mightily. Matt stirs them up even more, stating that he and his brother will be “winning on Sunday Night Heat” after beating Helms and Maverick.

This match is filmed on a handheld camera and, once it’s under way, you can hear someone in the crowd say, “They’ve gotta win the belts or the crowd’s gonna riot.” That’s a good summary of the raucous atmosphere for this match. The crowd at East Wake High helps elevate what’s happening in the ring — and the match itself already is quite good.

Maverick and Helms work with a big man/little man dynamic that I’ve always enjoyed in tag teams, and they do it well. Twice, Maverick flings his partner into the air to do damage to their foes: a gorilla press that turns into a splash for a close two count, or launching him out of the ring to land on both Hardys. Such power already has been established through some early interactions with Jeff: delivering a brutal-looking spear and then catching him in midair to disrupt the Hardys’ now-well-known Poetry In Motion double team.

Helms plays a spectacular face in peril and is the engine that keeps this match going. He spends more time in the ring than anyone else, and the fans bite on every bit of offense he musters up. When he gets cut off, it just builds the anticipation. Helms continues to sell but never completely fades, showing enough fight to keep the already-rabid crowd engaged.

Jeff Hardy is in splendid form here. This is 1999 and well before many of the catastrophic landings and injuries that Jeff has accumulated through the years, so he is still at his physical peak. At one point, Jeff busts out a springboard swanton off the top rope, chains it directly into a quebrada and makes it all look effortless. In front of a different crowd, it might have earned a golf clap of appreciation or even outright applause. Here, Jeff culminates the high-flying combination by hugging his brother, only further enraging the crowd.

As the match progresses, Matt ensnares Helms in a sleeper and many of the fans start clapping and stomping, to the point that the camera filming literally starts to shake. We’re 15 minutes into the match at this point and it feels half as long — if that.

There is creativity on display here. These four twist the standard tag formula, first during their control of Helms. Then Helms makes the “hot tag” to Maverick, who promptly gets cut off. A ref bump leads to a visual pin by the Hardys, not the fan favorites, as is usually the case. When a replacement referee finally scurries to the ring and makes a count that ends in a long two, Matt responds as a true heel would: first by powerbombing referee #2, then hooking Helms by the arms while Jeff brings a chair into the ring.

By now, you can see what’s coming from a mile away, and so does the crowd, but that doesn’t make it any less satisfying. Helms moves, Jeff pulverizes his brother and gets knocked to the outside. Helms and Maverick both scale the nearest corner, with Helms leaping off of his partner’s shoulders with a splash to score the win and take the titles to the delight of the packed crowd.

Final Rating: 8.7

These four combine to create a love letter to Southern tag wrestling with a modern adaptation through the moves used. The crowd is red-hot throughout and shows no signs of tiring out or losing interest. The end result is fantastic, and a must-watch, especially if you’re a Hardys fan.

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

Up Next

We take a look at another wrestler who embodies excellence over the long haul.

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365 Wrestling, Day 28: John Cena vs. Umaga, Last Man Standing (WWE Royal Rumble, 1/28/07)

365 Wrestling, Day 28: John Cena vs. Umaga, Last Man Standing (WWE Royal Rumble, 1/28/07)

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

The Royal Rumble match is a spectacle that wrestling fans anticipate every January. The event itself has produced some gems on the undercard in recent years. This entry spotlights one of those standouts, from the 2007 Rumble: John Cena vs. Umaga in a Last Man Standing Match.

You can watch this match on Peacock. Just go to the 1:04 mark of the video.

The Match

This is Cena’s third, and longest, reign with the WWE Title. Umaga has been built as a juggernaut since returning to WWE in April of 2006. He went undefeated for about nine months, a streak that ended earlier in January when he challenged Cena for the title and lost on a roll-up after dominating the match. After that outcome, heel authority figure Jonathan Coachman (and hasn’t that become an overdone storyline trope in wrestling?) made this rematch.

Cena might be the box-office draw but the star of the match is Umaga. The anything-goes format provides a fine showcase for his athleticism, size and overall fearsome presence. He’s also a credible threat here after several months of steady build as a force. Would this match have so much sizzle if Umaga had been trading wins and losses, instead? Definitely not.

Umaga is such a force here. The tale here is less a battle of two competitors, but one between man and monster. Cena takes a beating throughout and when he does rally, it usually ends with him getting clobbered by the Samoan Bulldozer. Overwhelmed by his foe, Cena has to escalate the violence beyond the normal standards of a wrestling match to even faze the challenger. As a result, Umaga takes some insane bumps down the stretch: getting the ringside steps thrown into his face, and having one of the commentary monitors smashed into his head while Umaga’s head hangs, seemingly lifeless against the ringpost. And yet, like the killer in a slasher movie, Umaga rises again and again.

As the violence builds, Cena pays the consequence and bleeds profusely. In fact this stands out as the last memorable use of blood in WWE until the promotion makes its PG pivot. To this day, WWE continues to avoid blood as a storytelling device, while chastising would-be competitors for it.

One moment in this match sticks with me, which I can describe best as a stunt. With this being the era of three brands of main WWE TV (ECW being the third), there are three commentary tables at ringside. Umaga stacks Cena on the ECW table, climbs on the far edge of the far table (where Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler are calling the match) and gets a running start. He leaps off the middle table for a splash that Cena avoids, and the table does not so much break but explode under Umaga’s mass. The challenger barely beats the 10 count in a delightfully close and completely believable false finish.

We reach the climax when Umaga’s manager, Armando Alejandro Estrada, literally dismantles the ring and removes the top rope and one of the turnbuckles. Umaga wields the turnbuckle for a version of his Samoan Spike, but Cena turns the weapon on the wielder and uses the top rope to throttle the challenger into unconsciousness. The fact it takes two separate stranglings to finish the job only underscores the unstoppable atmosphere of Umaga.

Speaking of the commentators, Ross is in his prime here and I can’t think of anyone better to provide the soundtrack for this match, in this era. His “Oh Jiminy God!” when Cena smashes a monitor into Umaga’s head, is a genuine reaction and his line that “even monsters have to breathe” at the finish provides logic and justification for Cena’s brutal tactics.

Final Rating: 9.2

This is one of the best WWE matches of the decade, and maybe the best modern example of the last man standing stipulation. It’s also a perfect example of Cena as the never-surrender fan favorite, and who was, at his peak, the closest approximation to Hulkamania that WWE has produced. It’s also the peak moment in WWE for Umaga, whose fantastic second run with the company as a singles competitor is somewhat overshadowed by its brevity. Consider that, 2 1/2 years after this match, Umaga was released by WWE after two violations of the company wellness policy. He sadly died a few months later, at just 36 years old, of a heart attack brought on by acute toxicity from taking several painkillers.

Other pro wrestlers usually point to the Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit match from the 2003 Rumble as the best non-Rumble match ever. If Angle-Benoit is the wrestling equivalent of a symphony, this is the equivalent of a blockbuster action movie. Is one better than the other? That’s really in the eye of the beholder, as the two products are so different that it’s difficult to compare them outside of the shared setting of a WWE ring.

Up Next

We head to 1999 and a packed high-school gym in the Carolinas to see one of the most beloved tag teams in wrestling… as heels?

What’s your favorite non-Rumble match from Royal Rumble pay-per-views? 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.