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 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly 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 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly 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 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly 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 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly 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 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly 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 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly 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.

365 Wrestling, Day 27: Tatsumi Fujinami vs. “The Masked Canadian” (NWA Hollywood, 1/27/78)

365 Wrestling, Day 27: Tatsumi Fujinami vs. “The Masked Canadian” (NWA Hollywood, 1/27/78)

365 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

There are several benefits to this project for me, whether it’s seeing ballyhooed matches that I missed or filling in gaps in my fandom. I also enjoy finding those deep tracks, those unlikely matchups from back in the archives. Today’s selection is definitely a deep track: Tatsumi Fujinami facing Roddy Piper (under the mask as the Masked Canadian) for NWA Hollywood from Jan. 27, 1978.

This is a rare find. Cagematch lists this as a 30-minute match but any video I can find of it is incomplete. I’ve posted the most complete version on my YouTube channel, and embedded it below:

The Match

It’s hard to imagine in modern times a WWF champion appearing on an NWA event, but the 1970s were a different time and here Fujinami is, defending the WWWF Junior Heavyweight Title, which he won just four days prior at Madison Square Garden. Fujinami goes on to really put New Japan Pro Wrestling’s junior division on the map before evolving into one of the “aces” of the heavyweight ranks. He’s only starting to enter his prime here and is in tremendous shape, with what I would describe as a lean swimmer’s build.

You might know about other wrestlers who went to masked characters — Dusty Rhodes as The Midnight Rider is probably the best example. Piper, the top heel in NWA Hollywood at the time, went under the hood after dropping a loser leaves town match. He is unrecognizable here in a white and red mask and full bodysuit and changes up his wrestling style as well. He even gives Fujinami a handshake of respect before the match begins.

As mentioned, this is clipped. Shots of people in the crowd, including at one point a uniformed police officer, serve as jump-ahead moments. For some reason, even with the editing, we get a full minute or two of Fujinami hooking the Canadian in a headlock, followed by a figure-four variation around the head. What’s worth noting is how Piper stays right with Fujinami during some of the hold-for-hold work, showing more technical prowess than we typically see from the Rowdy Scot.

The crowd is very invested in seeing Fujinami exact punishment on his masked foe, but the action itself is rather basic. A few moments jump out–literally–such as Fujinami hitting a tremendous leapfrog with an astonishing vertical leap where Piper barely has to drop his head. Fujinami shows that athleticism at the finish as well, leaping up onto Piper’s shoulders with what would be a huracanrana set-up in later years but here, the champion drops down to ensnare him in a sunset flip.

The wrestlers aren’t the only ones who get athletic. Check out a great leap into position by the referee to make the count after a diving splash and pin attempt by Fujinami.

Final Rating: 5.3

This is worth watching for its rarity, and the novelty of Piper wrestling under a mask and working a different type of match than his usual madcap frenzied style.

Up Next

Maybe the best non-Rumble match in Royal Rumble history.

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365 Wrestling, Day 26: Chris Adams vs. Gino Hernandez (World Class, 1/26/86)

365 Wrestling, Day 26: Chris Adams vs. Gino Hernandez (World Class, 1/26/86)

365 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

Some wrestlers are just meant to be the bad guy. Gino Hernandez is one of them.

Hernandez is in my personal pantheon of the most effective heels in wrestling. He oozed arrogance, wasn’t afraid to let his opponent get their comeuppance (working multiple head-shaving angles during his career), and had one of those intrinsic qualities in a wrestling villain: he made you want to see him take an ass-kicking.

Much like another standout of the territorial era of wrestling, Hernandez doesn’t get his just due. He’s best known for his work in three territories — World Class, Southwest Championship Wrestling and Mid-South — and while all three definitely are worth watching, they have less following than other major promotions of the era: the WWF, Jim Crockett Promotions and the AWA. Had Hernandez not died suddenly at the age of 28 (and more on that later), I feel his joining one of these companies would have been inevitable, and then, who knows?

Today we take a look at Hernandez’s final match before his death, a grudge match against former partner Chris Adams from World Class’ Wrestling Star Wars event on January 26, 1986.

You can watch this match on the February 1, 1986, episode of World Class TV, which is available on Peacock.

The Match

As the Dynamic Duo (a team name Hernandez also used for his pairing with Tully Blanchard in Southwest), Adams and Hernandez won the NWA American Tag Titles in World Class on two occasions. They replaced the Freebirds as World Class’ top villains in 1984, moving right into a feud with the Von Erichs and headlining at the Cotton Bowl in the fall of 1985, where they lost a hair vs. hair match. Soon thereafter, Gino turned on Adams, setting the stage for a feud between former partners. This was their first match –and, as it turns out, only match — since the split.

The psychology around this match is great, and something modern wrestling should look at. In a grudge match, it generally doesn’t make sense to come out and lock up collar and elbow with your hated rival. Or chain wrestle. This match has none of that. Adams comes at Hernandez with fists flying before the official starting bell. Gino begs off as the Fort Worth crowd howls for blood, as he keeps taking a beating. I especially love his woozy punch-drunk swing at nothing after getting thrown headfirst into the top turnbuckle.

Rage quickly trumps discretion. Each man goes for bigger moves off the second rope and, each time, that backfires. One of these misses sets up the finish, as Adams hits a back body drop (have I mentioned I’m a sucker for a good one of these), then clocks Gino with his superkick. The crowd erupts and Hernandez sells it like he got clocked on the jaw with a hammer, rolling semi-conscious out to the floor. Did I mention all this happens before the five-minute call in the match?

Adams has the match won but pulls up Gino from a decisive pin attempt twice. After this second reprieve, following a piledriver, Hernandez goes for the shortcut… a bottle of “Freebird hair cream” at ringside. This is a great example of long-term storytelling, a well-established piece of the World Class mythos with an unknown list of ingredients but powerful hair-removing quality. Gino takes the cream and puts it into the eyes of Adams, who drops to the mat like he’d been burned with wildfire. There’s a nice touch where the referee promptly removes his shirt, trying to rub the licentious lotion out of the eyes of the Englishman. This is a repeat of the same angle the Freebirds had run with Junkyard Dog in different territories

Final Rating: 6.8

This match is an excellent example that, sometimes, less is more. Not every major match has to be a lengthy epic containing multiple false finishes. Bell to bell, this match is well under the 10-minute mark but Adams and Hernandez make the most out of every second they have in the ring. The stage is set for a tantalizing feud between the former partners but Hernandez died just a few days later, with his body being discovered February 4 in his apartment after he missed several dates for World Class.

His cause of death was listed as a drug overdose but the circumstances have remained under scrutiny, especially after the recent “Dark Side of the Ring” episode on Hernandez:

Up Next

We head to the Los Angeles territory to see a familiar face in an unfamiliar role.

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365 Wrestling, Day 25: Osirian Portal vs. The Colony (CHIKARA, 1/26/09)

365 Wrestling, Day 25: Osirian Portal vs. The Colony (CHIKARA, 1/26/09)

365 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

For all the people who have talked about how pro wrestling is influenced by comic books, I bring you CHIKARA Pro. In its 18 years of existence, this promotion based out of Pennsylvania provided something new in American wrestling: a roster full of colorful characters — many of them masked — and an in-ring style influenced heavily by lucha libre with some dollops of Japanese wrestling mixed in as well.

There was a time, in the late 2000s and early 2010s, that CHIKARA was one of the hottest promotions in all of independent wrestling. Today’s selection, a tag match between the Osirian Portal and The Colony from January 25, 2009, is part of that stretch in time. Many of CHIKARA’s core roster members were trained there and have gone on to stardom in the wrestling world. The list of in-house alumni includes Orange Cassidy, Drew Gulak, Eddie Kingston, Lince Dorado. Chris Hero and Cesaro were mainstays for years, as were names like El Generico, Kevin Steen (now Owens) … the list could go on for a while.

CHIKARA closed down in the summer of 2020, after multiple allegations were made against the promotion and individuals who worked there as part of the #SpeakingOut movement. In the wake of those allegations, Ophidian — one of the four wrestlers in today’s match — announced his retirement from wrestling.

You can watch this match on IWTV.

The Match

CHIKARA’s tag titles, Los Campeonatos de Parejas, are on the line here. These championships were the top prize for years; CHIKARA didn’t even introduce a main singles title until the end of 2011. Los Campeonatos title matches usually were two out of three falls and did not come easy. A team had to have three points to challenge, which meant winning three matches or falls in a row. Lose once, and it was back to zero.

The challengers here are part of The Colony: a stable of masked wrestlers who portrayed characters that were part of an ant colony. Such a concept would be Wrestlecrap-worthy for most promotions but, in he often wacky world of CHIKARA, it worked. Fire Ant and Soldier Ant have assembled a whopping seven points as contenders — the most of any team in promotion history at the time. Due to their high point total, the Colony got the chance to choose the match stipulations and decided the match would be decided in a single fall.

Speaking of wild gimmicks, the champions — Amasis and Ophidian — have Ancient Egyptian influences, with Amasis the “funky pharaoh” and Ophidian acting like a serpent. You might have seen a video of some of their antics that went viral in 2011:

With a standard one-fall format instead of two out of three, there’s a greater sense of urgency. The match is not perfect and takes a few minutes to hit its stride. The CHIKARA style is also, admittedly, not for everyone. Some people can’t get past the gimmicks, some heavily choreographed segments and the liberal amount of comedy in many of the matches. Here, for example, the Portal go for the hypnosis trick in the video linked above, only to have Soldier Ant use his “military discipline” to resist, salute and grab Ophidian so that Fire Ant delivers a splash across the serpent.

Even if CHIKARA is not your taste, there is plenty to like in this match. Fire Ant busts out some nice high-flying moves. I particularly enjoyed when Soldier Ant has Amasis secured in a rear waistlock, with Amasis grabbing the ropes. Fire Ant walks up his partner’s back, leaps off the shoulders of Amasis and down on to Ophidian at ringside. Old-school tag fans, and wrestlers who work tag matches, should pay attention to the portion of the match where the Portal isolate Soldier Ant. They do a fine job cutting the ring in half, and finding non-traditional ways to cut off Soldier Ant and make tags.

Tag matches in CHIKARA are fought under lucha rules but even those guidelines become theoretical down the stretch with all four men frequently in the ring at once. Amidst all the complicated sequences and flying, a rugged lariat by Amasis stands out. There’s a spectacular near-fall where the champions hit 450 splashes in stereo. Speaking of great false finishes, another comes when Fire Ant drills Ophidian with a Beach Break, and on the ensuing pin attempt, Ophidian’s foot barely reaches the bottom rope in a peak example of placement and positioning.

The mach culminates with its biggest spot. Fire Ant sets Ophidian on the top turnbuckle, but before he can execute, Ophidian counters with a Destroyer off the top. This is sold as it should be as a killer, and Ophidian finishes it via Cobra Clutch with a bodyscissors.

Final Rating: 6.3

CHIKARA had some amazingly devoted fans and also plenty of detractors. If you’ve never watched this promotion or the comedy antics turn you off, I still suggest giving this a watch. Shenanigans aside, it is a very good tag match.

Up Next

We spotlight one of the bright stars of the 1980s who left us too soon.

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

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

365 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

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

You can watch this match on Peacock.

The Match

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

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

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

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

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

Final Rating: 6.5

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

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

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

What’s Next

Now, how about an American twist on lucha?

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.