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

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

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

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

Arn Anderson and his spinebuster.

Randy Savage and his flying elbow.

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

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

You can watch this match at this link.

The Match

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Rating: 6.4

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

Up Next

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

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365 Wrestling, Day 17: The New York Rumble (WWF, 1/17/94)

365 Wrestling, Day 17: The New York Rumble (WWF, 1/17/94)

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

It’s January, and that means it’s Royal Rumble season!

I.

Love.

The Royal.

Rumble.

It is appointment viewing for me every year, no matter whether I have been following WWE from week to week or haven’t watched in months. I watched the very first one — not the pay-per-view in 1989, but the original Rumble that aired free on USA in 1988 — and was enraptured. I think I wore out my VHS copy of the ’89 Rumble, which was used for background and time cues while re-enacting my own Rumbles with action figures.

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

Or had I …

I discovered a Rumble held at a house show at Madison Square Garden on January 17, 1994, five days before the Rumble pay-per-view took place that year. Some hearty individual toted a Camcorder (after all, remember, this was 1994) into the Garden and recorded the whole thing. You can find it on YouTube or Dailymotion with some shrewd searching.

The Match

In several ways, this serves as a dry run for the Rumble on pay-per-view a few days later. The final four, for example, is almost the same: with Fatu, Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels in at at the end. Owen Hart joins them, in a spot that would be filled by Lex Luger five days later.

The other most significant harbinger to the pay-per-view Rumble is an early run of eliminations by Diesel. Crush and Randy Savage, who have their sights set on a meeting at WrestleMania, lock horns in the Garden and, in both Rumbles, Crush tosses Macho Man.

I got a kick out of the rather random selections who fill out the 30-man field. As I mentioned on Day 13, this era of WWF is one of my biggest gaps as a fan and I forgot that certain mainstays of the 1980s are still hanging around on the roster at this point: Iron Mike Sharpe, Virgil, Jim Powers, Rick Martel … I’m looking at all of you. Sgt. Slaughter also makes an appearance in what marks his first match since September of 1992, according to Cagematch.

A few other highlights that stood out for me:

–The 1-2-3 Kid (who you may know better as X-Pac) and Diesel have a nice exchange early in the match.
–Crush looks strong throughout his approximate 15 or so minutes in the match, ousting Savage and Bam Bam Bigelow, until a dropkick from Bret Hart sends him to the floor.
Johnny Polo (aka Raven) makes an appearance and does his damnedest to sell for others. Note a heedless-looking sternum-first collision into the turnbuckles not long after he enters.
–Michaels and former partner turned nemesis Marty Jannetty going at one another like The Chicken and Peter Griffin when HBK enters at #29.
Doink delivering a suplex to Bart Gunn near the ropes that dumps Bart out to the floor.

The major story here, though, is the one between the two Hart brothers. Despite all of their issues, Owen saves his big brother from elimination on several occasions. Once the Rumble is down to the final two — Owen and Fatu — Samu comes out to support his fellow Headshrinker while Bret heads back down ringside to cheer on Owen. The final few minutes play out more like a standard wrestling match than the end of a battle royal, but the action is solid, with Owen ultimately prevailing.

Final Rating: 5.8

Even a bad Royal Rumble is still pretty fun to watch at least once, and this one is better than some of the offerings that made pay-per-view. Owen was such a talented performer and seeing him win here makes you wonder what might have been had he gotten more of an opportunity during this era.

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

What’s Next

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

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365 Wrestling, Day 16: Dory Funk, Jr. vs. Billy Robinson (Houston, 1/16/81)

365 Wrestling, Day 16: Dory Funk, Jr. vs. Billy Robinson (Houston, 1/16/81)

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

In early 2021, a debate about the wrestling of Dory Funk, Jr., mushroomed into a debate about how wrestling can and should be consumed. If you’re part of Wrestling Twitter, then you probably already saw it, and also, my condolences for being part of Wrestling Twitter.

I won’t get into the nuts and bolts of it, only to say this: if I believed the quality of a wrestling match or a wrestler only could be determined by evaluating it in its immediate real-time context, and could not be evaluated through the prism of history, well, then I wouldn’t be doing this, now would I?

Anyway, let’s get to today’s match, between Funk and Billy Robinson in a Reader Recommendation from Jeremiah Lawson. You can watch the match on YouTube, or below:

The Match

Neither Funk nor Robinson has the physique you’d associate with the prototypical pro wrestler, but their skills shine through from the opening bell of this match. In so many matches, the chain wrestling serves as a feeling-out process and comes across as more cooperative than competitive. Here, everything feels like a struggle.

It’s difficult to describe this match without getting into a hold-for-hold description so I definitely suggest you watch it. Funk, an Amarillo native and former NWA Champion, is the hometown guy in this Houston match, though the catch-wrestling expert Robinson does earn several appreciative hoots on his impressive reversal of a double knuckle lock into a single-leg takedown.

The first 10 minutes are largely back and forth but that changes when Dory starts unleashing his trademark forearm uppercuts. Robinson eats several of them, and sells each a little more than the last, emphasizing the steady attrition of weathering Funk’s blows. Both men quicken the pace at the “five minutes remaining” call from the ring announcer (Boyd Pierce, I think?) but with subsequent time calls at three minutes, two, and so on, it doesn’t take a mastermind to anticipate this one is going the distance. The crowd boos the time-limit draw somewhat, and both men shake hands before exiting.

According to Cagematch, Funk and Robinson wrestled as singles opponents 10 times but there was never a winner. Each of those matches ended in either a double countout or a draw.

Final Rating: 6.0

One of the tricks of pro wrestling is to wrestle a long match but make it feel shorter than it is. Funk and Robinson go 20 minutes but it flew by fairly quickly to me. I wouldn’t call it an action-packed match, especially by the standards of modern pro wrestling, but both guys stay busy and keep working throughout. This is a good, solid match — nothing more, nothing less — and young wrestlers could learn something from it.

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

What’s Next

A Royal Rumble match that you’ve probably never seen.

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365 Wrestling, Day 15: Stan Hansen vs. Ashura Hara (All Japan, 1/15/82)

365 Wrestling, Day 15: Stan Hansen vs. Ashura Hara (All Japan, 1/15/82)

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

I’ve got to confess something. I have a serious, wrestling-related, man-crush on Stan Hansen. Have for years, and it’s time to admit it.

For me, Hansen is one of the best to ever step into a pro wrestling ring, by any metric you care to apply. Five-star matches? He has multiple, according to Dave Meltzer. Longevity? Hansen had more than two decades as a major name, wrestling both in the U.S., and in Japan. He was able to hold up in the grueling Japanese style in lengthy matches and was known for his rugged presence and style — a reputation helped along by being so near-sighted that he was notoriously snug in the ring.

The Match

First a little context: after several years as a top gaijin heel for New Japan Pro Wrestling, Hansen jumped at the end of 1981 to NJPW’s main rival in the country, All Japan Pro Wrestling. He made his debut with All Japan in December of 1981, seconding Bruiser Brody and Jimmy Snuka in the 1981 Real World Tag League finals against the Funk Brothers. However, this bout with Hara was his first match in AJPW since making the move, although he did work a few tours in the mid-70s for the promotion, albeit with a beard and shaggy blond hair that was more Moondog than cowboy.

There’s a packed house in Kisarazu, a city in the Japanese province of Chiba, on this night. The anticipation for Hansen is palpable. From the second his music starts, many of the fans come to their feet as he stalks toward the ring. Hansen’s known for being a heel in Japan, but the starstruck crowd starts chanting his name mere seconds into the match, as Hansen physically overwhelms his foe. Even a chinlock advances the tale being told. Note the mannerisms of Hansen, the extra torque he puts on the hold as he wrenches Hara, and the facial expressions of Hara.

Every time Hansen Irish whips Hara into the ropes, or goes into the ropes himself, there’s a discernible buzz from the crowd as they await the Lariat … Hansen’s signature and brutal-looking clothesline finisher. After a couple of teases, including a jumping knee that fells Hara with ease, Hansen unleashes his signature strike to the delight of the crowd. The only unfortunate circumstance is that there’s a nonsensical camera cut as Hansen delivers the move, detracting from its apparent devastation. Hansen makes the cover and wins a match with a 45-minute time limit in less than three.

Give Hara credit for treating Hansen’s lariat like death itself. Young boys in matching red windbreakers (including a young Haku) come out and give Hara the full stretcher treatment. As he is carried to the back, his foot quivers a bit to add just a little extra seasoning to this delectable entree of salesmanship. It’s a solid piece of business that, in hindsight, would have meant more had Hara not been back in the ring two days later.

Final Rating: 5.5

I’m a big believer that the quality of a match depends, in part, on how effective the match is in accomplishing its goal. The objective here is to establish Hansen as a force to be reckoned with in All Japan, and they overachieve in meeting that objective.

You can bet your hat and your boots, cowpoke, this won’t be the only Stan Hansen match as part of the project.

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

What’s Next

A throwback showcase of scientific wrestling.

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

365 Wrestling, Day 14: Bryan Danielson vs. Chris Hero (ROH Hell Freezes Over, 1/14/06)

365 Wrestling, Day 14: Bryan Danielson vs. Chris Hero (ROH Hell Freezes Over, 1/14/06)

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

On January 14, 2006, Ring of Honor and Combat Zone Wrestling both held events in Philadelphia. No one knew it at the time, but this sparked a lengthy inter-promotional feud that provided a modern blueprint for what storylines of this type can be.

ROH called its event on this date “Hell Freezes Over” and it was an apt title with Chris Hero coming in and, in his very first match in the promotion, challenging Bryan Danielson for the ROH World Title. In the wake of this match, the CZW interlopers start showing up on a regular basis and exact some major violence in a “shock and awe” campaign on an ROH roster known more for “pure” wrestling and splintered by their own rivalries.

You can watch this match on Ring of Honor’s YouTube channel, which I’ve embedded below:

The Match

Since winning the ROH Title the previous September, Danielson had made a point to defend against competitors from other promotions as well as ROH mainstays. Hero used this “open contract” as his pathway to a title shot.

But how oh how to build it? Neither promotion had TV and YouTube was not the online powerhouse that it has become. So, how would Hero get his message to the masses? Twitter didn’t even exist yet. Neither did Instagram. Facebook, like YouTube, was still a relative neophyte in the online world.

There was only one answer. Hero had to write out what he had to say on LiveJournal, y’all!!!

Danielson added extra sizzle the day of the title match, when he crashed the afternoon CZW show in street clothes and cut a scathing interview on the promotion, its wrestlers and its fans, leading to a pull-apart brawl involving wrestlers from both rosters. Unfortunately, I couldn’t track down video from this.

The atmosphere at the start of the match is tremendous. There are MMA walkout vibes as CZW wrestlers Spyder Nate Webb, Adam Flash, Necro Butcher and a young Bryce Remsburg accompany Hero to the ring. The challenger is the invader and gets booed loudly but there is also a vocal contingent of CZW fans present. Whipping the fans into a frenzy, Hero grabs the mic and vows to win the title, take it back to CZW, and throw it in the trash. Meanwhile, Necro is so hyped before the match he punches himself in the head repeatedly until he draws blood.

This ROH Title run is my favorite iteration of Danielson’s work. The closest comparison came recently, when he emerged as the top challenger for Hangman Adam Page in All Elite Wrestling. Here Danielson is a supremely confident, technically proficient bully, bringing that same attitude to any and all title defenses.

Hero proves a nice foil for Danielson. After quite a bit of stalling and crowd work, we get into a strong technically-minded match that devolves into strikes, and then goes back to mat wrestling and holds, and so on. Momentum swings when Hero focuses in on the left arm of the champion. This includes a nifty hammerlock into a backbreaker with Danielson’s arm pinned behind his back that would have made the Andersons nod in approval 20-some years prior. Check out the 18-minute mark of the match or so, for some slick arm-related torment by Hero and some equally smooth counters by Danielson.

The champ breaks out of the hold by literally slapping his way out of it, unloading with strike after strike using his good arm and hand. After an aggressive back-and-forth of pin attempts between the two, both men try to finish it by submission — Hero with a version of the hangman’s clutch (or inverted cravate) with the arm trapped, and Danielson with his Cattle Mutilation.

It’s worth noting the changes in the crowd dynamic over the course of the match. As the match progresses, though, Hero starts earning the begrudging respect of the ROH fans — though not their support — before eventually succumbing to a crossface chicken wing at center ring.

Lenny Leonard and Dave Prazak do a fine job on commentary: Prazak as the straight man calling it right down the middle and Leonard as the analyst leaning to favor the home team. When Hero hits his Hero’s Welcome finisher, Leonard’s repeated yelling “No!” adds to the imminent peril of the title changing hands.

Unfortunately, we have very little time to digest the outcome. Hero and the CZW crew make an immediate retreat after the final bell, and a segment ensues with The Embassy that sets up new potential challengers for Danielson but feels quite rushed.

Final Rating: 6.6

This is a good match worth seeing independent of the ROH-CZW feud and a fine microcosm of the Danielson ROH reign as a whole. Seek it out and, if you haven’t seen it and have access to ROH’s 2006 shows (which, like most of the promotion’s early library are out of print and have not been released on the ROH Honor Club streaming service), I recommend going for the ride and checking out the entire seven-month run of shows chronicling the feud between ROH and CZW.

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

What’s Next

The Lariat cometh to All Japan.

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365 Wrestling, Day 12: Paul London & Brian Kendrick vs. William Regal & Dave Taylor (SmackDown, 1/12/07)

365 Wrestling, Day 12: Paul London & Brian Kendrick vs. William Regal & Dave Taylor (SmackDown, 1/12/07)

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

William Regal is an all-time favorite of mine. He can bust out some smooth technical wrestling, or throw down in a brawl. He’s shined as both a singles and tag wrestler, as a standalone character, part of a group, or in a henchman-type role. While he spent the bulk of his in-ring career as a heel, he did some fine work on the babyface side of things during alliances with Eugene and Tajiri that both led to eventual tag title runs. Within wrestling, there are few who are held in as high regard for their craftsmanship as the native of Blackpool, England, who was released from WWE earlier this month after more than two decades with the company.

Today, we’re taking a look at a match from SmackDown in 2007, where Regal teams with fellow Englishman Dave Taylor to challenge Paul London and Brian Kendrick for the WWE Tag Titles.

You can watch this match on Peacock:

The Match

London and Kendrick have been champs since the previous May, an eight-month reign that already had set the record as the longest run with the titles since they were introduced in 2002 following the first time WWE worked a brand split. They’ve crossed paths with the two Brits a few times before this, and notably in a four-team ladder match titles the prior month at the Armageddon pay-per-view that is worth watching (but not for the squeamish as Joey Mercury suffers a ghastly facial injury).

On this episode of SmackDown, Regal and Taylor approach the champs backstage reminding them this will be a straight-up wrestling match, with no ladders or other shenanigans.

Now to the actual match, where Regal and Taylor play the heel role quite well as a pair of rugged wrestlers with technical skill. They spend the first few minutes feeding into the fast-paced, occasionally high-flying offense of the champions. London and Kendrick have a major size disadvantage and tag frequently. Note the sequence with three straight tags and immediate attacks off the top targeting the back of Regal, punctuated by a London double stomp.

Current fans of WWE are used to sweetened crowd noise by now but it’s become the norm for the blue brand for years. It’s off-putting to hear these big oooh’s and ahhh’s during the hot tag by Kendrick and finishing stretch, while all the fans on camera are sitting there, silent and passive. Regal reverses a cross body by Kendrick into a pin attempt for a convincing near-fall, and shortly thereafter, Kendrick catches Regal in a backslide for the sudden victory. The facial expressions and mannerisms of both challengers selling this sudden and crushing loss are pretty great.

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

Final Rating: 5.0

There’s plenty of good talent in this match and while there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing, there’s also not anything to make it really stand out, either. That said, itt’s something to go back and watch WWE television that is 15 years old and watch a product that looks and feels pretty much the same as the current stuff.

What’s Next

We take a step into the world of joshi.

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365 Wrestling, Day 11: Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes & Ron Simmons vs. Dangerous Alliance (WCW WorldWide, 1/11/92)

365 Wrestling, Day 11: Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes & Ron Simmons vs. Dangerous Alliance (WCW WorldWide, 1/11/92)

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

The Dangerous Alliance is one of my favorite factions in wrestling.

Paul E. Dangerously (who you might know better as Paul Heyman) formed the Dangerous Alliance over the span of several weeks in late 1991. Dangerously, who had been fired in storyline from his commentary position, was out for revenge. By late November, he had assembled his squad: Arn Anderson, Beautiful Bobby Eaton (who we’ve already seen as part of the project), Stunning Steve Austin (long before he was Stone Cold), Rick Rude, Larry Zbysko, and Madusa.

The Dangerous Alliance never reached the heights of success of other major heel groups in WCW like the Four Horsemen and the New World Order, but stand out by having good to great matches almost every week across WCW’s various programming. Matches like today’s entry, from WCW WorldWide on January 11, 1992, pitting Anderson, Eaton and Austin against the trio of Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes, and Ron Simmons.

You can find this match online with some strategic searching.

The Match

By early 1992, the Alliance controls two titles in WCW, with Austin the TV Champ and Rude holding the U.S. Title. Anderson and Eaton are chasing the tag titles, currently held by Steamboat and Rhodes. They won the titles from Arn and Zbysko at Clash of the Champions XVII in November of ’91, beating Arn and Zbysko when Steamboat showed up as a surprise partner for Rhodes after the champs broke the hand of Rhodes’ original partner, Barry Windham, earlier in the night.

All caught up? Good.

Tony Schiavone is on commentary solo and does a good job keeping track of so many moving pieces, including more subtle cues, such as when a groggy Dustin Rhodes reaches for a tag in the vacant neutral corner. From a structural standpoint, note how each of the fan favorites has a separate chance to shine early, as each man single-handedly clears the ring of his three Alliance foes. Paul E. helps sell it, twice dialing up some unknown soul on his gigantic handheld phone trying to get his team back on track.

Teamwork is one of the themes of this match. In an innovative transition, the Alliance take control when Arn smashes Dustin’s into Eaton’s noggin on the apron. Much of the action here would be defined by modern standards as basic. No crazy moves. Not trying to re-invent the wheel. But the difference is that everything is done with precision and intensity. It’s good solid wrestling, and lots of it, happening at a brisk pace from bell to bell.

The little touches really elevate this six man, such as:

–When Dustin kicks out after eating a huge clothesline from Austin, Steamboat (who was already headed in to try and break up the pin) starts cheering on his partner.
–As the beatdown on Rhodes continues, Arn backs into the ropes to deliver a stalling kneedrop to Dustin, only for Steamboat to slide into the ring and take the knee across his own back.
–A unique turnabout spot, where Arn goes to ram Dustin’s head into the outstretched knee of Austin in a tag-match spot we’ve all seen a million times, only for Dustin to send Arn’s cranium into the knee instead. Arn and Dustin smash skulls after the impact while Austin, doing the Wrestling Gods’ work, stumbles to the floor, selling his knee after the impact.

The finish reiterates the theme of sacrifice and teamwork when Steamboat disrupts a double-team by Arn and Eaton, and Simmons catches Beautiful Bobby in midair for a spinebuster to give the good guys a rare victory over the Dangerous Alliance. No time to celebrate. as Zbysko comes hustling to the ring for a 4-on-3 beatdown, which sees Steamboat eat both a spike piledriver and a flying legdrop by Eaton before Windham sends the rulebreakers scattering.

Final Rating: 6.8

With a less talented group of wrestlers, this match easily would be skippable. Instead, the little touches, the overarching storyline and the overall talent of the six men involved help make this a compelling watch.

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

What’s Next

Some tag action from 2007 featuring one of my favorites.

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365 Wrestling, Day 10: Joe Black vs. Will Huckaby, Dog Collar Match (Southern Honor Wrestling, 1/10/20)

365 Wrestling, Day 10: Joe Black vs. Will Huckaby, Dog Collar Match (Southern Honor Wrestling, 1/10/20)

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

With the free agent market in wrestling flooded in 2022, many promising talents run the risk of remaining relatively unknown or never getting the opportunities on a bigger stage. One goal of this project is, when possible, to spotlight wrestlers who I feel don’t get enough credit for their work. This match involves two of said wrestlers, Joe Black and Will Huckaby. I’ve worked as a commentator or “authority figure” at shows involving both, who put together a memorable feud that culminated in January of 2020 in Southern Honor Wrestling in a Dog Collar Match.

You can watch this match on IWTV.

The Match

An excellent video detailing their six-month rivalry runs right before the match. At one point in the build, Black blasted Huckaby in the head with a glass bottle, leading to a storyline eye injury that had Huckaby wearing an eyepatch, even on shows for other promotions or in different states. That type of storyline continuity is rare on the independent level, where two guys could be embroiled in a hated rivalry one night and then teaming together the next and it all ends up on YouTube by the following Wednesday.

SHW held a special contract signing at a prior event, where Huckaby slices his arm and signs with his own blood. Gruesome, but compelling. Both men are underrated talkers and Black especially shines through. This line stands out: “Your blood that you signed the contract with is gonna be the same blood I coat my hands with and wipe on my chest as war paint.” Yes. Sold.

A big-fight feel adds a lot to a match (as we’ve seen in offerings from New Japan and NOAH), and it’s in full effect here despite the more intimate atmosphere. The entrances add extra sizzle, with Huckaby and Black both dressed as homages to famous Marvel characters (the Incredible Hulk and Wolverine, respectively).

What ensues is nearly 30 minutes of one of the most physically intense matches I have seen. Black and Huckaby start out at a slower pace than I expected given the “blood feud” build, but this allows more time for the violence to escalate.

Huckaby is in full heel mode. He delivers a knockout punch to one of the two assigned referees at the opening bell. After Huckaby powerbombs Black twice through a table at ringside (watch the table explode on the second, and half land on Joe in what could have been nasty), he threatens the referee still standing to get unlocked from the chain linking them. Huckaby goes wild, dismantling the ring to expose the boards underneath the canvas. Then, when a package piledriver fails to produce the three count, Huck starts removing boards, flinging them across the ringside rail in a melee reminiscent of watching Bruiser Brody run amok.

Meanwhile, Black does great work as the gutsy, undersized, fan favorite. He’s got the crowd support and summons the spirit of the character who inspired his gear for the match, taking a serious beating but “regenerating” each time. His offense is just as physically punishing, if not moreso, than Huck’s. Once the boards are removed to reveal the metal substructure of the ring, Black dumps Huckaby on not one but two front suplexes into the abyss.

Both men end up getting released from the chain, which takes away from the hype surrounding the stipulation, but they compensate for any disappointment with–you guessed it–more violence. We see blood. We see weapons. We even see green mist. Things spill out of the ring and into the parking lot, where hostilities are capped by a protracted brawl around and on a car in the parking lot before Black finishes it with a Falcon Arrow onto the front windshield.

Final Rating: 7.0

I’ve always enjoyed the dog collar match as the way to settle a feud for good. This one delivers. The escalation of violence throughout keeps the fans invested. Although the stipulation gets cast aside, it allows for a spectacular final spot in the parking lot.

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

What’s Next

Things get Dangerous in 1992 for a six-man tag from a WCW B-show.

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365 Wrestling, Day 9: Fabulous Ones vs. Moondogs, Anything Goes (Memphis, 1/9/84)

365 Wrestling, Day 9: Fabulous Ones vs. Moondogs, Anything Goes (Memphis, 1/9/84)

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

There were several different promotions that ran in the area, but when you think of Memphis wrestling, you’e probably talking about the Continental Wrestling Association, when Jerry Jarrett (Jeff’s dad) split away from Nick Gulas.

If you’ve never seen 1980s Memphis wrestling… it’s wild, y’all. The CWA held weekly shows at the Mid-South Coliseum every Monday, and hyped them on TV that aired live on Saturday mornings. Having a major arena event once a week allowed all kinds of creative leeway and wild matches. Win or lose, the story could continue the following week. The TV show often got crazy, with uncontrollable brawls fairly common.

Today, we visit Memphis for the first time (but definitely not the last) in this series, to watch The Fabulous Ones, Stan Lane and Steve Keirn, take on The Moondogs in an Anything Goes Match from January 9, 1984, in the Mid-South Coliseum.

The Fabulous Ones were paired together in 1982 and got an immediate on-camera endorsement from Memphis wrestling legend Jackie Fargo. That propelled them to huge fan favorite status, along with some video packages that, viewed with a modern eye, fall in the so-bad-they’re-good category.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

This type of gimmick would have had the opposite effect today — making Lane and Keirn either a comedy act or huge heels. In Memphis in the 1980s, though, it worked. Making several stints in the promotion, they held tag titles on 17 (!!!) separate occasions. Then again, rapid-fire title changes also were rather common in Memphis, especially with the aforementioned weekly shows at the coliseum.

Now to the match, which you can find on YouTube, or, I’ve embedded it below:

The Match

There were several iterations of the Moondogs through the years, but we’ve got the two main ‘dogs, Moondog Rex and Moondog Spot here. Whatever the combination, the Moondogs always had the same basic premise: rugged-looking dudes with shaggy, bleached-blond hair, cut-off jeans, and a propensity to brawl. The ongoing battle between them led to this match, where anything goes and the referee (Memphis mainstay Paul Morton, Ricky Morton’s dad) doesn’t even step through the ropes, instead remaining ringside.

The Match

Ever seen a wrestling match touted as a huge grudge match, but where the participants start out with basic, traditional wrestling like a collar-and-elbow and a headlock? This… is not that type of match. Rex and Spot jump the Fabs as soon as they reach the ring and a wild brawl ensues. The end result is a variety of wrestling that would make the philosopher Hobbes proud: it’s nasty, brutish, and short. Lance Russell announces an official time of eight minutes once the decision is rendered, and a couple of minutes of footage are trimmed from what is accessible.

What’s here, though, is a hoot from bell to bell. There’s a sense of urgent viciousness and, combined with liberal use of the weapons, the heat is palpable and the Memphis crowd loves every minute of it. After Rex fails to rotate on a backdrop into the timekeeper’s table and just smashes his face into it, Rex brings the heavy wooden table into the ring as another element of plunder. The chaos and carnage continue until the Fabs grab the signature bones of the Moondogs from manager Jimmy Hart. A couple of clubberings with the bones sends the Moondogs fleeing for the exit, and a 10-count by the referee cements victory for the Fabs.

Final Rating: 6.1

This is a lot of fun while it lasts. The intensity of the brawl would be very difficult to sustain in a longer match. This match also provides a fine snapshot of the wild and woolly atmosphere of Memphis wrestling during its heyday in the 1980s.

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

What’s Next

A modern twist on one of the great score-settling gimmicks in wrestling — the dog collar match.

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365 Wrestling, Day 8: Kenta Kobashi vs. Minoru Suzuki (NOAH Great Voyage, 1/8/05)

365 Wrestling, Day 8: Kenta Kobashi vs. Minoru Suzuki (NOAH Great Voyage, 1/8/05)

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

For about five years, Minoru Suzuki topped my bucket list of wrestlers to see in person — a feat I was able to cross off in October, 2021 when he took on Anthony Henry as part of a tour of the U.S. He threw brutal-looking-and-sounding forearms and chops. He cackled maniacally. I brought him an “I Survived the Suzuki Incident” T-shirt. It was fantastic.

Today, we take our first (but definitely not the last) look at Suzuki as part of the project. Check out this treasure from Pro Wrestling NOAH‘s Great Voyage 2005, where Suzuki challenged Kenta Kobashi for the GHC Heavyweight Title.

You can find this match on Youtube or, watch it embedded below:

The Match

Kobashi has been GHC Champion for nearly two years and this is his 13th defense. Having one grueling title match after another have worn down the beloved champion.

When I say beloved, I mean it. The NOAH crowd is so behind Kobashi that when he clamps a headlock on Suzuki at the five-minute mark, the fans LOSE THEIR MINDS. For a headlock. The two wrestlers stick with it; Suzuki crumples in the hold as Kobashi wrenches, and when the action briefly spills to the floor, Kobashi re-applies the headlock, gets back to his feet, clambers up on the apron and drags Suzuki into the ring, still ensnared. The crowd loves every bit of this.

Choices like an extended headlock seem wise with how gingerly Kobashi is moving. A pair of massive knee pads indicate the accumulation of damage he has accrued in 15-plus years wrestling regularly for All Japan and NOAH, and any actual running by Kobashi is absent aside from one Burning Lariat at center ring.

Kobashi brings the intensity and has the fan support, but Suzuki makes this match go. He uses his quickness and catch wrestling to compensate for his lack of size. While eating machine gun chops in the corner, Suzuki catches Kobashi’s arm and transitions into his hanging triangle choke over the ropes, setting up a focus on the right arm that remains a theme of the challenger’s offense for the rest of the match. Kobashi weathers the storm, also surviving a standing RNC on the outside of the ring by crawling off of the elevated entrance aisle. In another example of the evolution of Suzuki’s character and wrestling, Suzuki hits his Gotch piledriver — a sure-fire match ender today — but doesn’t even go for a pin after hitting it here, instead choosing to toy with Kobashi.

Instead, Suzuki is focused on making the champion submit. He elicits anguish with an octopus stretch. Then, after Kobashi rallies with the aforementioned lariat and a powerbomb into a jackknife pin attempt, Suzuki promptly counters into an MMA armbar. Kobashi outlasts this too, and then unleashes hell on Suzuki with two clubbing clotheslines, a running lariat, and a backdrop driver. Slaps by Suzuki only anger the champion, who delivers yet another lariat and three consecutive backdrop drivers. Almost out on his feet, Suzuki musters enough energy for a final, feeble slap… a precursor to yet another Burning Lariat and a now-inevitable outcome for the champ.

Final Rating: 6.8

There’s a lot to like and the novelty of the matchup is one of the main reasons for watching. Making an early-match headlock compelling and creative was quite the feat. Still, with Kobashi facing some physical limitations, the end result only reaches a certain height.

What’s Next

Tag team mayhem in Memphis.

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

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