365 Wrestling, February Recap

365 Wrestling, February Recap

You only have to look at the calendar to see how behind I am on watching and writing about these 365 matches before the year is over. I’m still grinding away, though, and don’t plan on throwing in the towel. (With that said, note to self, find a good match with that gimmick for the list…)

Anyway, here are some numbers and rankings with two months of matches down!

FACTS AND FIGURES

22 — The number of different companies and promotions included in the 28 matches in February.

4 — The number of WWF/WWE matches on the February list, the most of any promotion.

25 — The total number of years represented on the February list. This was totally by design, as I was aiming to watch at least one match from every year between 1980 and now as early as possible in the project.

29,640 — The total number of words I wrote in the 28 entries for February.

60,259  The total number of words written so far in the project.

16.16 — The percentage completed. A long way to go!

THE RANKINGS

Reminder… I’m not a star-rating guy. I prefer the 10-point scale instead. I consider anything rated at 5.5 or higher to be worth watching, and worth you taking the time to seek it out. It’s also worth noting that I think any ratings or rankings of entertainment are fluid in nature. I might go back later and see one of these matches and like it significantly more. This was my initial take on each match, after finishing it. Anything bolded is what I would consider to be a great match.

FEBRUARY RANKINGS

  1. 8.2, White Castle of Fear Strap Match, Non Title: Sting vs. Big Van Vader (w/ Harley Race), WCW Superbrawl III, 2/21/93
  2. 8.0, NWA International Tag Titles-Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu (Ch) vs. Ishin Gundan (Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu), All Japan, 2/5/86
  3. 7.8, Kana vs. Meiko Satomura, Triple Tails, 2/13/11
  4. 7.8, 2/3 Falls: Mistico vs. Ultimo Guerrero, CMLL Arena Mexico, 2/25/05
  5. 7.6, Ben Carter vs. B-Boy, ACTION: $2500 vs. Hair, 2/7/20 
  6. 7.5, Jim Breaks vs. Adrian Street, Joint Promotions, 2/12/72
  7. 7.2, SMASH Title-Dave Finlay (Ch) vs. Tajiri, SMASH 25, 2/19/12
  8. 6.8, Vacant WWE Women’s Tag Titles-Elimination Chamber: Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection vs. Carmella & Naomi vs. Nia Jax & Tamina vs. Fire and Desire vs. Iiconics vs. Riott Squad (Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan), WWE Elimination Chamber 2019, 2/17/19
  9. 6.7, WWE Tag Titles-Los Guerreros (Ch) vs. Team Angle (w/ Paul Heyman), WWE SmackDown, 2/6/03
  10. 6.7, Steel Cage: Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon, WWF St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, 2/14/99
  11. 6.5, I Quit: Jake Manning vs. John Skyler, PWX Rise of a Champion IX, Night One, 2/15/14
  12. 6.4, Japanese Death Match: Super Crazy vs. Yoshihiro Tajiri, ECW in Jacksonville, 2/4/00
  13. 6.3, Junkyard Dog & Dusty Rhodes vs. Ted DiBiase & Matt Borne, Houston, 2/11/83
  14. 6.3, WOH World Title-Kelly Klein (Ch) vs. Mayu Iwatani, ROH Bound By Honor 2019, 2/10/19
  15. 6.2, Slim J vs. Andrew Alexander, NWA Chattanooga, 2/18/11
  16. 6.2, Rock ‘n’ Roll Express vs. British Bulldogs, When Worlds Collide, 2/2/89
  17. 6.1, WWF IC Title-Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Ch) vs. Undertaker, WWF Shotgun Saturday Night, 2/8/97
  18. 6.1, ECWA Mid-Atlantic Title-Prince Nana (Ch) vs. Ace Darling, 2/28/04
  19. 6.1, Jordynne Grace vs. Skylar, Beyond I Want It All, 2/24/18
  20. 5.9, TNA World Tag Titles-Monster’s Ball: The Wolves (Ch) vs. Decay (Abyss & Crazzy Steve) (w/ Rosemary), Impact Wrestling, 2/16/16
  21. 5.9, No DQ: AJ Styles vs. Sandman, NWA-TNA Weekly PPV #34, 2/26/03
  22. 5.8, Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, Semifinals: Kayden Carter & Kacy Catanzaro vs. Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez, WWE NXT, 2/3/21
  23. 5.5, TWGP 2005, Quarterfinals: Chris Hero & Mike Quackenbush vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico, CHIKARA Tag World Grand Prix 2005, 2/20/05
  24. 5.5, Satoshi Kojima vs. Drew McDonald, Reslo, 2/27/95
  25. 5.2, WCW U.S. Title #1 Contendership: Booker T vs. Bret Hart, WCW Nitro, 2/22/99
  26. 5.2, El Texano, Silver King & El Fantasma vs. Samu, Fatu & Fishman, UWA, 2/9/92
  27. 5.0, Mesias vs. Takeshi Morishima, AAA, 2/1/10
  28. 5.0, Randy Savage & Lanny Poffo vs. Lou Winston & Jerry Bryant (w/ Eddie Gilbert), Memphis TV, 2/23/85

PROJECT TOP 10

  1. 9.0, WWE World Title-Last Man Standing: John Cena (Ch) vs. Umaga (w/ Armando Alejandro Estrada), WWE 2007 Royal Rumble, 1/28/07
  2. 8.9, Rockers vs. New Orient Express (Tanaka & Kato [aka Paul Diamond]) (w/ Mr. Fuji), WWF 1991 Royal Rumble, 1/19/91
  3. 8.7, OMEGA Tag Titles-Hardy Boyz (Ch) vs. Serial Thrillas (Mike Maverick & Shane Helms), Wendell, NC, 1/29/99
  4. 8.2, White Castle of Fear Strap Match, Non Title: Sting vs. Big Van Vader (w/ Harley Race), WCW Superbrawl III, 2/21/93
  5. 8.0, NWA International Tag Titles-Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu (Ch) vs. Ishin Gundan (Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu), All Japan, 2/5/86
  6. 7.8, Kana vs. Meiko Satomura, Triple Tails, 2/13/11
  7. 7.8, 2/3 Falls: Mistico vs. Ultimo Guerrero, CMLL Arena Mexico, 2/25/05
  8. 7.8, WWE Cruiserweight Title-Tajiri (Ch) (w/ Akio & Sakoda) vs. Rey Mysterio, Jr., WWE SmackDown, 1/1/04
  9. 7.6, Ben Carter vs. B-Boy, ACTION: $2500 vs. Hair, 2/7/20 
  10. 7.5, Jim Breaks (Ch) vs. Adrian Street, Joint Promotions, 2/12/72

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can watch this match on YouTube.

The Context

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

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

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

The Match

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

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

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

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

Random Thoughts

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

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

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

Final Rating: 6.3

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

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

Up Next

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

I love having feedback from readers. Send it to me — good or bad — along with any match recommendations you have! Just reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling, Day 37: Los Guerreros vs. Team Angle (WWE SmackDown, 2/6/03)

365 Wrestling, Day 37: Los Guerreros vs. Team Angle (WWE SmackDown, 2/6/03)

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

Underrated and unappreciated.

These are just a few of the words I would choose to describe how Shelton Benjamin has been used — or not used — in WWE.

This project has allowed me the chance to reflect and pontificate on my various favorites in the realm of costumed murder gymnastics: Jushin Liger, William Regal, and Stan Hansen, just to name a few.

Shelton caught my eye in a dark match before watching RAW in Knoxville in the spring of 2001. His legitimate wrestling background combined with some freakish feats of athleticism always made him stand out to me. We all have our personal favorites, and he’s one of mine.

He’s also in action in this, the 37th installment of 365 Wrestling, pairing with Charlie Haas in the still-new-to-WWE Team Angle gimmick against Los Guerreros with the WWE Tag Titles on the line.

Now that the WWE Network has migrated to Peacock, where, at the time of this writing, only the last three years of SmackDown are available, fret not. You still can find this match on Dailymotion, or embedded below:

The Context

Benjamin and Haas spent the bulk of their time in WWE’s developmental system working in tag teams, but not with each other. They started teaming together in the fall of 2002 in dark matches, then made their televised debut on the 12/27/02 episode of SmackDown as backup for Kurt Angle, playing off their legitimate athletic credentials. Both wrestled in college–Haas at Seton Hall and Benjamin at Minnesota, where he was a two-time All-American. New to the main roster, Haas and Benjamin made a quick rise in the tag division, getting this title shot after defeating Edge and Chris Benoit the preceding week thanks to some help from Angle himself.

Eddy Guerrero and Chavo Guerrero, Jr., are the reigning champs, winning the titles in an excellent three-way match at Survivor Series the prior November. They’ve made four televised defenses heading into this match.

The Match

This match serves as a classic example of how to establish a new act as an immediate, credible presence in a promotion. Haas and Benjamin are the rookies (or, presented that way, even though Haas started wrestling professionally back in 1996) but they have instant credibility due to their amateur backgrounds, which Michael Cole and Tazz take great pains to tout on commentary. Cole goes the standard route with resume-reading, while Tazz points out specific things the challengers are doing and techniques they are displaying that make them a threat to the Guerreros.

In a traditional match layout in American wrestling, the fan favorites outwrestle the heels, who have to take shortcuts to seize the advantage. This match flips the script. Despite their experience edge, the champs are unable to outwrestle their pesky young challengers. Instead, it’s Eddy and Chavo using the dirty tricks and pulling out all the stops to take control — after all, “lie, cheat, and steal” was the Guerrero credo at this point.

We watched another tag title match on SmackDown in the January portion of the project, and this match exceeds that one in almost every aspect. The work is superior: with more athleticism and more intensity. The early mat wrestling occurs with a purpose, unlike many instances in the last 20 years where such exchanges come off like a feeling-out process or — my pet peeve — a cooperative affair where one wrestler has a hold but is then waiting, or even assisting, in what becomes a showcase of reversals.

The titles seem like more of a prize here, as well. Both sides go for pin attempts early and often with frequent tags by each team. Overall, a greater sense of urgency is created that adds significantly to the overall presentation.

These four wrestlers aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. The true heat segment begins after a collision between Shelton and the referee knocks the official into Chavo, launching him into the commentary table at ringside. When Eddy makes the inevitable hot tag, he never leaves his feet during the initial comeback, still cleaning house on the challengers, flinging Shelton out of the ring and even taking a kick at Paul Heyman, who is in Team Angle’s corner.

The match builds to its biggest moves at the end. Superplexes from the top rope. Frog splashes. Dives, or falls, from the top rope to the floor. The drama heightens, with a couple of very credible false finishes along the way, but after all the big moves, some confusion by the champions about who the legal man is leaves Eddy prey to a rolling cradle by Haas that ends the match and Los Guerreros’ title reign.

Random Thoughts

–Team Angle spent most of their time in WWE developmental in tag divisions, but not with one another. In Ohio Valley Wrestling, Benjamin paired with Brock Lesnar, followed by a team with Redd Dogg (better known as Rodney Mack, after Lesnar got called up to the main roster. Meanwhile, in WWE’s other developmental territory, Heartland Wrestling Alliance, Haas was teaming with his brother, Russ Haas, until Russ’ untimely death in 2001.

–Is that a Burberry scarf that Heyman is rocking at ringside? Perhaps this gave early inspiration to MJF, who was 6 years old at the time of this match, by the way.

–Speaking of Heyman, at one point he starts screaming bloody murder as Shelton gets choked with the tag rope in the corner by the Guerreros. It adds to the moment.

Final Rating: 6.7

This is an all-action tag match with real stakes, a creative finish, and it’s historically significant as it marks the start of the first title reign for Benjamin and Haas. Any booker could take a lesson from the way Team Angle gets presented, and built up quickly as contenders, then champions, but without having them shoved down the throats of the audience.

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

Up Next

An exciting take on a longstanding narrative trope: the young up-and-comer looking to make a name against an established veteran.

Send feedback or recommend a match for one of the upcoming dates in 365 Wrestling! Just reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

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.

Simple? Ha! I’m pretty sure that the difficulties of staying caught up on watching wrestling and writing about it is the epitome of a First World Problem, but when life gets in the way, it can be easy to fall behind.

Still, I’m pretty pleased about how January turned out, in terms of match quality, match variety, and also the writing itself.

FACTS AND FIGURES

21 — The number of different companies and promotions included in the 31 matches in January.

4 — The number of promotions that made the January list multiple times. WWE and WCW led the way with five matches each. The Memphis territory and All Japan each had two matches

2 — The maximum number of appearances by any one wrestler on the January match list. Of those appearing twice, most did because they were part of the house show Royal Rumble from 1994 at Madison Square Garden. Five wrestlers appeared twice on the list and were not in a Rumble: Steve Austin (in his Stunning Steve gimmick), Bobby Eaton, Ricky Steamboat, Juventud Guerrera, and Minoru Suzuki.

30,822 — The total number of words I wrote in the 31 entries for January.

THE RANKINGS

Here are my rankings for every match I watched during the month of January. I’m not a star-rating guy. I prefer the 10-point scale instead. I consider anything rated at 5.5 or higher to be worth watching, and worth you taking the time to seek it out. It’s also worth noting that I think any ratings or rankings of entertainment are fluid in nature. I might go back later and see one of these matches and like it significantly more. This was my initial take on each match, after finishing it. Anything bolded is what I would consider to be a great match.

With all that said, here’s January:

  1. 9.0, WWE World Title-Last Man Standing: John Cena (Ch) vs. Umaga (w/ Armando Alejandro Estrada), WWE 2007 Royal Rumble, 1/28/07
  2. 8.9, Rockers vs. New Orient Express (Tanaka & Kato [aka Paul Diamond]) (w/ Mr. Fuji), WWF 1991 Royal Rumble, 1/19/91
  3. 8.7, OMEGA Tag Titles-Hardy Boyz (Ch) vs. Serial Thrillas (Mike Maverick & Shane Helms), Wendell, NC, 1/29/99
  4. 7.8, WWE Cruiserweight Title-Tajiri (Ch) (w/ Akio & Sakoda) vs. Rey Mysterio, Jr., WWE SmackDown, 1/1/04
  5. 7.4, Yuji Nagata vs. Minoru Suzuki, NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 7, 1/4/13
  6. 7.2, NWA Worlds Hvwt Title-Ric Flair (Ch) vs. Bobby Eaton (w/ Jim Cornette), WCW Main Event, 1/7/90
  7. 7.1, Chavo Guerrero, Jr., Juventud Guerrera, Lizmark, Jr. & Super Calo vs. La Parka, El Dandy, Psicosis & Silver King, WCW Souled Out 1998, 1/24/98
  8. 7.0, Dog Collar: Joe Black vs. Will Huckaby, Southern Honor Wrestling, 1/10/20
  9. 6.9, ROH World Title-Bryan Danielson (Ch) vs. Chris Hero (w/ Adam Flash, Bryce Remsburg, Nate Webb & Necro Butcher), ROH Hell Freezes Over, 1/14/06
  10. 6.8, GHC Hvwt Title-Kenta Kobashi (Ch) vs. Minoru Suzuki, NOAH Great Voyage 2005, 1/8/05
  11. 6.5, Michiko Omukai 10th Anniversary: Michiko Omukai vs. Lioness Asuka, ARSION, 1/13/02
  12. 6.3, Steve Grey vs. Zoltan Boscik, Joint Promotions, 1/31/79
  13. 6.2, El Generico vs. Jushin Liger, PWG Kurt Russellmania, 1/30/10
  14. 6.1, Anything Goes: The Fabulous Ones vs. The Moondogs (w/ Jimmy Hart), CWA at Mid-South Coliseum, 1/9/84
  15. 6.1, Dustin Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat & Ron Simmons vs. Dangerous Alliance (Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton & Steve Austin) (w/ Paul E. Dangerously), WCW WorldWide, 1/11/92
  16. 6.0, Ricky Steamboat & Sting vs. Dangerous Alliance (Rick Rude & Steve Austin) (w/ Paul E. Dangerously), WCW Clash of the Champions XVIII, 1/21/92
  17. 6.0, 2/3 Falls: Roddy Piper, Rick Martel, Dutch Savage & Stan Stasiak vs. Buddy Rose’s Army (Buddy Rose, Butch Miller, Luke Williams & Sam Oliver Bass), PNW, 1/5/80
  18. 6.0, Dory Funk, Jr. vs. Billy Robinson, Houston, 1/16/81
  19. 5.9, Allie Kat vs. Savanna Stone, SUP Graps I am King, 1/20/19
  20. 5.9, Knockouts Title-No DQ: Gail Kim (Ch) vs. Awesome Kong, TNA Final Resolution 2008, 1/6/08
  21. 5.8, Brad Armstrong vs. Ricky Morton, International Pro in Asheville NC, 1/23/96
  22. 5.8, New York Rumble, WWF at MSG, 1/17/94
  23. 5.8, Rosemary vs. Samara, RISE 2 – Ascent, 1/27/17
  24. 5.8, BJW Death Match Hvwt Title-Abdullah Kobayashi (Ch) vs. Shuji Ishikawa, Big Japan, Korakuen Hall, 1/2/13
  25. 5.5, Stan Hansen vs. Ashura Hara, AJPW New Year Giant Series, Stage 11, 1/15/82
  26. 5.5, Jumbo Tsuruta & Great Kabuki vs. Fabulous Freebirds (Michael Hayes & Terry Gordy), AJPW New Year Giant Series, Stage 19, 1/22/84
  27. 5.5, Mr. Wrestling II & Kevin Sullivan vs. Austin Idol & Masked Superstar, Georgia TV, 1/26//80
  28. 5.3, Jerry Lawler vs. Jos LeDuc (w/ Jimmy Hart), CWA Memphis, Mid-South Coliseum, 1/18/81
  29. 5.0, Juventud Guerrera vs. Mortis (w/ James Vandenberg), WCW Saturday Night, 1/3/98
  30. 5.0, WWE Tag Titles-Paul London & Brian Kendrick (Ch) (w/ Ashley Massaro) vs. William Regal & Dave Taylor, SmackDown, 1/12/07
  31. 4.5, Regina di WAVE Title-Hikaru Shida (Ch) vs. Sakura Hirota, Pro Wrestling WAVE Nagoya Volume 8, 1/25/15

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 taken from anime. He’s one of the most influential ever in terms of popularizing the cruiserweight style that you can now see throughout wrestling at all levels in all weight classes. His career spanned more than 35 years in total, and while he definitely slowed down in the final years of his time in the ring, he was still going out and having good matches. In fact, just a few months removed from retirement at the Tokyo Dome, 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 practitioners of the craft, ever.

On 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 Context

Liger keeps wrestling for about another decade after this match, but in terms of getting a major push in his home country, those days are winding down and putting him on a track for New Japan Dad status. At the time of this match, it’s been 10 years since his 11th and final run as IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion — a statistic I found astonishing.

Generico, by contrast, is on the rise. He’s one of the biggest stars on the independents at this juncture, as well as being a fixture for Ring Of Honor. Generico, who was downright skinny earlier in the 2000s, is still lean here but far from a string bean. He’s also yet to put on the mass he accumulated before signing with WWE, which led to him being unmasked and named Sami Zayn.

The Match

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’s signature stuff. For example, if X-Pac is wrestling, you’re bound to see a Bronco Buster and probably an X-factor, win or lose. Fans come out for these matches to see their star of choice “play the hits” and 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, Generico is a willing foil, 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, starting when Generico clocks Liger with a leg lariat, leading the legend to roll out to the floor. Generico wastes little time, springing to the top rope and off with a picture-perfect moonsault to the floor. I’ve seen this called a Spaceman Moonsault a few places, for what it’s worth.

After that big dive, both guys are still “playing the hits” but at a decidedly different tempo. Generico busts out a Blue Thunder Bomb and multiple running big boots, now known as the Helluva Kick in WWE. 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.

Random Thoughts

–Some fan named Kirby wins a raffle to do the introductions for this match and he crushes it.

–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.

–I watched this and the RISE match through the Highspots Network on my laptop and the interface is not user friendly at all. Specifically, I miss the ability to rewind back a few seconds. Instead, it’s drag the cursor on the scrollbar and choose your fate. Maybe the Roku app is a little easier to navigate?

Final Rating: 6.2

The opening few minutes are tame and not especially compelling but these two make up for it with a strong finishing stretch. Generico sells everything Liger does well, and the uniqueness of the matchup adds to the value of watching this as well. Definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re a fan of either–and I happen to enjoy both.

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

Up Next

The date might be old (from the 1970s), but both wrestlers involved are brand-new to me.

Got something to say about this piece, or the 365 Wrestling project? Interact with me on Twitter where you 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 for the project.

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.

What qualifies someone to be considered an all-time great wrestler?

Is it the ability to sell tickets or pay-per-view buys? What about longevity? How about the ability to re-create yourself, and keep things fresh? Maybe it’s the level of influence over future generations of wrestlers?

Matt and Jeff Hardy check every one of these boxes. How many wrestlers who step through the ropes today grew up watching the Hardys in WWE? They’ve found ways to keep themselves fresh, especially with the “Broken Universe” personas. Even now, both are still regular fixtures on TV for two different promotions. 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–and not the so-bad-they’re-good heels. Not the “cool” heels. Nope, in this match from OMEGA (the promotion the Hardys helped start themselves) in 1999 against Shane Helms and Mike Maverick, the Hardys receive nuclear levels of heat from a packed high-school gym.

Let’s proceed, shall we? This match is available in two parts on YouTube, and embedded below:

The Context

You know three of the players in this match. Maverick didn’t reach the heights of the Hardys or Helms in wrestling, though he did spend some time in ECW 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 the 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. That also happened to be the alma mater of Helms and Maverick. Hundreds of people are packed into the high school gym for this one and there are several minutes of prelude on the video before the match actually begins. Maverick and Helms, who are out first, are greeted as conquering heroes and receive thunderous applause. Meanwhile, the Hardys already are a known presence on WWF TV but that doesn’t win them any supporters in the crowd. Both Matt and Jeff get booed and heckled mightily from the moment they enter the gym — an off-putting sight at first given their later lengthy track record as fan favorites. Matt tries to stir up the crowd even more, making a reference to how he and his brother will be “winning on Sunday Night Heat” after beating Helms and Maverick here.

The Match

Once the match is well under way, you can hear the voice of someone standing near whomever is filming the action on their handheld camera 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. Just like certain sports teams and colleges promote their home fans as a de facto extra member of the team, the crowd at East Wake High helps elevate what’s happening in the ring — and the match itself already is quite good.

Maverick isn’t an overwhelming physical presence, but he 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, whether it be on 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 it’s 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, even if it ends with him getting cut off. After an initial exchange with Matt where something as simple as a leg trip by Helms gets the crowd cheering, Matt turns the tide with a handful of hair followed by two knees to the midsection in the corner. Helms promptly counters in the far corner by flipping up and over Matt, but lands clutching at his midsection in a spectacular snapshot of nuanced selling. While taking the heat of the match, Helms continues to sell but never completely fades, showing enough fight to keep the already-rabid crowd engaged.

Meanwhile, the Hardys put together an homage to the Southern-style tag teams of yore, but with a modern twist — especially through Jeff. This is 1999 and well before many of the catastrophic landings, injuries, and mishaps out of the ring. Jeff Hardy in 2021 is still a very capable wrestler, but watching him here shows a level of athleticism and mobility that was hard to match at the time. Jeff busts out a springboard swanton off the top rope, and chains it directly into a quebrada and makes it 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 heels continue their control, Matt ensnares Helms in a sleeper. Many of the fans start clapping and stomping, to the point that the camera filiming literally starts to shake. We’re 15 minutes into the match at this point and it feels half as long — if that. A few moments later, Helms finally makes the tag to Maverick and we see one more final twist on the standard tag formula. The Hardys cut off the “hot tag” by Maverick in short order, and in the process, the referee gets wiped out. The Hardys simultaneously hit a splash and leg drop off the top on Helms. Jeff has the pin, and in a situation that is rare for heels, has the match won but there’s no referee! A replacement referee finally scurries down, but Helms is able to kick out at 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.

Random Thoughts

–This was the end of an era for OMEGA. Having dropped the titles, the Hardys go to the WWF full time. By May of 1999, Helms and fellow OMEGA product Shannon Moore are in WCW as 3 Count. Venom, though not part of this match, also makes his move to the “big leagues” as Joey Abs. The promotion ran one more event in July of 1999 and a reunion show in December of 2000 (no Hardys on the card, though) before the brand was resurrected in 2013 for 10 shows over a 2 1/2-year span.

–Wrestlers who regularly work as a tag team and might want to look at some new twists on the standard tag formula need to watch this, especially the twists and turns during the finishing stretch.

Final Rating: 8.7

These four combine to create a love letter to Southern tag wrestling with a modern twist 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.

Like what you’ve read here? Follow me on Twitter to keep up with all the updates on the 365 Wrestling project. Send a tweet, a DM, or fill out the contact form on the site to suggest a match for the project.

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

365 Wrestling, Day 28: Last Man Standing, John Cena vs. Umaga (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.

I don’t care if you are the most devoted fan of something, you’re going to have gaps. Especially when it comes to something as diverse as wrestling, when there are so many different varieties and flavors out there, only so many hours in the day, and the current era where there’s an overwhelming amount of footage out there to watch.

But anyway… gaps. I’ve written about these gaps before (like here and also here), And, one of those gaps was the 2007 Royal Rumble. I’ve written before about my love of the Rumble but this was one of those years that I did not watch live. I caught the Rumble several years later, but never the undercard, and in the process, I missed out on the John Cena vs. Umaga Last Man Standing match, which is generally regarded as one of the best non-Rumble matches in the history of the Rumble events.

This oversight has been addressed. If you’ve not seen the match, or just want to relive it before reading further, it’s available on Peacock. Just go to the 1:04 mark of the video.

The Context

This is Cena’s third reign with the WWE Title and he is about two years into his decade-long run as a “top guy” for WWE. He’s met quite the obstacle in Umaga, who is in his second run in the company after previously spending time in the tag division with Rosey in 3 Minute Warning. Umaga went undefeated on WWE TV from the time he debuted in the gimmick in April of 2006 until January of 2007, when he challenged Cena for the title and lost on a roll-up. That outcome led to this rematch thanks to heel authority figure Jonathan Coachman (and hasn’t THAT become an overdone storyline trope in wrestling, Dear Reader?)

On the go-home episode of Raw before the Rumble, Umaga put Cena through a table with a splash off the top, aided by Coachman and Umaga’s mouthpiece, Armando Alejandro Estrada. Cena has to be helped to the back, and earlier on the Rumble, he’s in the trainer’s room getting checked out by the doctor — complete with an unexpected visit from Vince McMahon who seems downright gleeful at Cena’s condition and the slim chances of him retaining the title.

The Match

Cena comes out with taped ribs still showing the effects of the attack by Umaga and his cohorts six days earlier. Umaga comes off super impressive and dominates the majority of the match. When Cena does rally and start mounting some offense, oftentimes it ends with Umaga clobbering him. I’ve written before about escalation of violence as an effective way to structure a match and it definitely works here. Cena, who already took a beating against Umaga in a straight-up wrestling match and won in flukey fashion, eats more punishment in this one until he ramps up the violence–first and foremost by throwing the STEEL(!) steps out of the ring and into Umaga’s face. I let out a gasp when it happened, it was so unexpected. The crowd loves it, and it draws the biggest cheers yet for Cena, but Umaga also reaches his feet well before the 10 count.

Steps become the great equalizer for Cena… for a while, that is. Eventually the steps come into the ring and Cena attempts to deliver his FU (soon to be renamed the Attitude Adjustment when WWE goes PG later in the year) across the steps, but is unable to hoist Umaga. The champ crashes facefirst into the edge of the steps, and comes up bleeding, soon forming the proverbial crimson mask that stands out as the last effective, memorable use of blood in WWE until the promotion makes its PG pivot–and also a storytelling device that WWE has continued to avoid to this day.

Since the steps aren’t getting it done anymore and a bloody Cena is being pushed to his limits, he continues to escalate the violence. He rams Umaga shoulder-first into the ringpost, leaving him dangling there while he yoinks a monitor from one of the ringside broadcast tables and smashes it into the challenger’s head, which is resting against the post. This also provokes a fabulous and completely genuine “oh Jiminy God!” call from Jim Ross on commentary.

Even through brutal moments like taking the STEEL(!) steps to the face and becoming the meat in a TV monitor concussion sandwich, there seems to be little doubt in the overall story of the match or in the crowd that Umaga is going to get to his feet. That changes when the action spills to the floor, where the two combatants take advantage of the three announce tables (one for each brand, you see). Umaga stacks Cena on the ECW commentary table, then climbs on the far edge of the far table and takes a run at Cena. He leaps off the middle table for a splash, Cena rolls out of the way, and Umaga destroys the table in a fantastic-looking moment. Umaga barely beats the 10 count in a delightfully close and completely believable false finish.

What follows? Another escalation of violence, of course. Estrada undoes one of the top rope turnbuckles and Umaga tries to wield it for a version of the Samoan Spike. Cena avoids it, uses the turnbuckle as a weapon himself, and finally fells Umaga, using the top rope to throttle the challenger into unconsciousness. The fact it takes two separate stranglings to finish the job only underscores the unstoppable monster atmosphere surrounding Umaga at this time.

What really makes this match work is the performance of Umaga, a fantastically athletic big man who ends up in a perfect position thanks to being slowly and steadily built up through booking as an unstoppable juggernaut. Would this match have so much sizzle if Umaga had been trading wins and losses, instead of a nine-month undefeated streak prior to his first meeting with Cena? Wins and losses matter.

Random Thoughts

–Of Cena’s 16 reigns with one of the two world titles in WWE, this was by far his longest reign: 380 days from winning the title on Sept. 17, 2006, until Oct. 2, 2007, when he vacated the championship due to a torn pectoral.

–Estrada really did an effective job as a manager and mouthpiece for Umaga. He got lost in the shuffle during the build to the hair vs. hair match at WrestleMania 13 that spring.

–Umaga, who was released by WWE in the summer of 2009 after two violations of the company wellness policy, died that December of a heart attack brought on by acute toxicity from taking several painkillers. He was just 36 years old.

–The crowd proves whatever negative stereotype you prefer regarding wrestling fans when they start a “we want tables” chant while there are STEEL(!) steps lying in the ring and being used.

Final Rating: 9.0

This is a fantastic match. I know plenty of people, especially those who are wrestlers themselves, who hold up the Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit match from the 2003 Rumble as not only the best non-Rumble match ever, but one of the best wrestling matches 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.

Cena is at the peak of his fan favorite status, before a sizable percentage of the WWE audience starts turning against him. It helps that his act still has some edge to it at this time; Cena, and everyone else, end up de-fanged when WWE tames down its product in the wake of the Benoit murder-suicide that summer. Umaga ends up losing his monstrous aura after losing to Bobby Lashley at WrestleMania in the hair vs. hair match that involved McMahon and Donald Trump as managers.

The only match thus far in the project that has been on this level, to me, was the Rockers vs. New Orient Express tag match from the ’91 Rumble. I personally give this one the edge because of the higher stakes. Now, let’s see what can top it.

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

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: Rosemary vs. Samara (RISE 2: Ascent, 1/27/17)

365 Wrestling, Day 27: Rosemary vs. Samara (RISE 2: Ascent, 1/27/17)

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

There have been a lot of new visitors to my humble little corner of the Series of Tubes as of late, and if you’re one of them, welcome! I’d also like to take a minute to thank Southern Underground Pro (aka SUP Graps) and ACTION! Wrestling for their support of this endeavor.

If you’re here for the first time, or a repeat visitor, you’ve probably noted that we’re not exactly on pace with the current calendar as it stands, but that’s OK. It’s a marathon, people, not a sprint and there’s a looooooong way to go until December 31.

The entry for January 27 is a Wednesday and that means it’s Women’s Match Wednesday. This specific installment centers around my appreciation of one quality–in friends, in art, in entertainment, what have you. And that quality, my friends, is Commitment To The Bit. It’s also why I have a great appreciation for the wrestling persona of Rosemary. She’s in action here against Samara, from an event for the now-defunct RISE Wrestling promotion.

You can find this match on YouTube but if you want the full version with all the bells and whistles, the Higbspots Wrestling Network has it.

The Context

This event is under the banner of RISE, which started out ostensibly as a feeder promotion for SHIMMER — a well-known independent women’s promotion that became a platform for a ton of wrestlers who went on to sign with major promotions. Pull up this entire card and you’ll see quite a few recognizable names, as listed below.

Rosemary enters this match in the midst of her first and, to date, only, reign as Knockouts Champion for Impact Wrestling, which was still known as TNA Wrestling at the time of this event. This is her first appearance for RISE in the full Rosemary persona, which debuted out of the blue for TNA but evolved more slowly on the independent circuit from her initial run in North America as Courtney Rush. Samara is a Southern California product wrestling close to home in Los Angeles in this one. She’s now known as Sareena Sandhu and has landed in WWE, making an appearance teaming with Charlotte Flair for their Superstar Spectacle event. According to Cagematch, that was also Samara/Sareena’s first match in more than 18 months.

The Match

Back at the beginning of this write-up, I talked about the value of Commitment To The Bit and it’s one of the main reasons I find the Rosemary character so appealing. Rosemary remains immersed in her character completely, from the first moment she steps through the curtain, and we see that here. It also helps that she’s concocted an extensive background like that person in your D&D group who’s written a 20-page backstory for their half-orc bard. And I mean that as a compliment.

She gets a star reaction and many phones are out to take pictures and video as she stalks around the ringside area. Samara, her less-experienced foe, comes charging through the curtain with no music and a belly full of babyface fire … then looks in the ring and has what I best can equate to a Ron Burgundy-in-the-bear-pit moment.

What ensues is a narrative of a frightened and intimidated Samara finding her nerve to do battle… while Rosemary busts loose the pro wrestler’s equivalence of a greatest hits medley. The Upside Down, the mist, the Red Wedding (which is called an F-5 here) … it’s all featured. I enjoyed moreso the elements of Rosemary’s offense that are less part of the “signature moveset”: cutting off an attempted suicide dive by Samara with a leaping strike, then dashing off the ropes to apply a Mutalock while on the run. The speed with which Rosemary hooks the hold, and the snap as she flips over into the bridge, is a fine display of her athletic ability and flexibility.

The match ends as you’d expect with Rosemary hitting her finishing move. Even though she’s ostensibly the heel here, the crowd is definitely behind her, with big reactions for all of her well-known stuff.

Random Thoughts

Dave Prazak and Allison Danger are on commentary here. Prazak is the man behind SHIMMER since that promotion ended so his knowledge on women’s wrestling is substantial. The commentators definitely add to the presentation here, whether by musing on the evolution of Rosemary into her current form here, or noting the low ceilings in the venue and that the ring has been lowered as a result to allow the wrestlers to be able to fly off the top rope. Those little details can go a long way.

–Counting Samara aka Sareena, there are four wrestlers on this card who now work for WWE. Mercedes Martinez, Shotzi Blackheart, and Chelsea Green are then others. Green faces Britt Baker, now a fixture for AEW’s women’s division, in the semi-main of this card.

–I’m not sure why but it was at least a little jarring during the entrances when I realized the audience for this all-women’s wrestling event is being performed in front of an audience that looks to be 95% dudes.

Final Rating: 5.8

This is a fine example that a wrestling match doesn’t have to be some sort of epic to be worth watching. They tell a solid story here with an overmatched and frightened Samara finding her will and fighting back, while Rosemary plays her role to the hilt. Everything they do looks smooth and clean. If you’re a big fan of Rosemary, as I am, you’ll definitely enjoy this but if both these ladies are new to you, this one is still worth watching. And, at less that 10 minutes from bell to bell, it’s not a huge commitment of time, either.

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

What’s Next

A highly-regarded classic title match from a Royal Rumble event of recent yore that I somehow never have seen… until now.

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 26: Mr. Wrestling II & Kevin Sullivan vs. Masked Superstar & Austin Idol (Georgia Championship Wrestling, 1/26/80)

365 Wrestling, Day 26: Mr. Wrestling II & Kevin Sullivan vs. Masked Superstar & Austin Idol (Georgia Championship Wrestling, 1/26/80)

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

I wouldn’t be a wrestling fan if it wasn’t for my dad.

Oh sure, I discovered the sublime art of costumed murder gymnastics myself, turning on the USA Network on a Sunday afternoon in 1987 in the midst of a squash match. I don’t remember all the particulars, but I distinctly recall Junkyard Dog and Hillbilly Jim teaming together … maybe with Billy Jack Haynes? Not long after, I remember expressing my newfound interest to my parents. Turns out, dad had been a lifelong fan of wrestling himself, but, with my parents deciding they didn’t want to risk warping my fragile little mind (ha!) he wouldn’t watch it in the room. Dad also likes to tell the story that, as a wee tyke in the early 1980s, I had a habit of awaking from my Saturday afternoon naps right in the middle of the main event of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. Or maybe WorldWide?

Anyhoo… Dad had and has his favorites like any fan. Two guys near the top of his list are featured on opposite sides of our January 26 entry for 365 Wrestling: Mr. Wrestling II and Kevin Sullivan going against Austin Idol and Masked Superstar on Georgia Championship Wrestling TV from January 26, 1980.

You can find this match on YouTube by searching for the full episode of TV. Start watching at the 12-minute mark.

The Context

Mr. Wrestling II and the Superstar were longtime rivals by now, embroiled in a seemingly endless feud. Each man had ripped off the mask of the other on TV, with the de-masked individual in either case quick to cover his head to reveal his face being shown, of course. At the time of this match, II has just dethroned Superstar to become the new Georgia Heavyweight Champion. The Masked Superstar also has an ongoing $3,000 bounty he’s agreed to pay for anyone who can break his dreaded Cobra Clutch.

Meanwhile, Idol and Sullivan are in a feud of their own. The video of this episode features pre-match interviews with both teams, and mention is made of Sullivan’s family. I did some research, which told me the feud started when Idol reportedly broke the leg of Sullivan’s brother in another territory. After Idol and the Superstar have their say, Solie interviews the trio of Sullivan, II, and Steve Travis. Sullivan and Travis originally were slated to team up for this match but Travis and his slouched cowboy hat have agreed to step aside for the masked man.

The Match

The fists and feet start flying from the moment Sullivan and II try entering the ring, and the audience loves it. This kind of heated brawling fits the studio wrestling of the territories so well, with such intimate surroundings and the fans right on top of the action. Seeing Sullivan as a clean-cut babyface is interesting and such a departure from the majority of his later work. He spends the majority of this match as the good guy in peril. Idol and Superstar prevent a tag at every turn. Take note of some of the little things the heels do to keep Sullivan from making the tag. At one point, after Sullivan reverses a suplex on Idol, the Universal Heartthrob blocks off Sullivan with his own body, just planting a leg in front of Sullivan for enough time for Idol to make the tag/

Sullivan keeps fighting and keeps getting knocked back. Meanwhile, the studio audience starts chanting “Two!” at one juncture in their eagerness to see the masked man get into action, while Gordon Solie’s commentary is on point to help keep the overarching narrative flowing. Finally Sullivan makes it to his corner and the crowd goes bananas as II charges into the ring. Looking at Mr. Wrestling II from a modern view, you might wonder what all the fuss was about. He doesn’t have a good physique, his plain white trunks and boots couldn’t be more basic, but he brings so much fire and charisma that made him beloved by the Georgia fans in particular. Though he’s known more I’d say for his singles work, he’s got some great hot tags in him (see the Christmas night steel cage tag with Magnum TA against Jim Neidhart and Butch Reed from Mid-South for evidence, if you haven’t seen that match).

II has the studio audience in the palm of his hand and has the heels reeling with strikes and several of his “patented” knee lifts. Idol trips up the masked man as he goes into the ropes, and that’s apparently enough for the referee to call for the bell. Such a result would get blasted by Twitter nowadays but the actual outcome of the match gets overshadowed as the brawl continues between the four men. Superstar hooks II in the cobra clutch, and II is able to break the hold–with a little help from Sullivan and the unwitting aid of an Idol on all fours. Still, the crowd goes nuts and Solie succinctly describes the $3,000 challenge to break the Cobra Clutch as Idol and Superstar head for the heels.

The segment closes with more words from II and Sullivan, further hyping planned singles matches for the two pairs at the next event at the Omni in Atlanta.

Random Thoughts

-Solie’s outfit for this episode of Georgia TV is a whole mood … especially the pants!

-Idol, who is Georgia’s TV champion at the time of this match, is a guy who I think is pretty underrated. His stint in the WWF ended well before that company reached national and international prominence. He didn’t work for Jim Crockett Promotions after it absorbed the Georgia promotion and established itself as a competitor to the WWF. He’s best known for his work in Memphis, which while a highly entertaining territory, didn’t have the same platform. Just makes you wonder what might have been …

-You might know Masked Superstar better as Ax from Demolition, which started their multi-year run as a top team in the WWF at the beginning of 1987. I love his cool, calm demeanor on the interview here. He just stands there and tells you in a measured tone exactly what he intends to do. It’s also a nice contrast to Idol, who has a more bombastic speaking voice.

Final Rating: 5.5

The action here is fairly standard, but this is worth watching because of the wrestlers taking part in the match, the chance to get a good luck at Sullivan as a clean-cut fan favorite, and as a snapshot for how wrestling booking works, or was supposed to work, during this era. Use the TV show to get people to the arena for the next event. This clip is more than 40 years old but it left me wondering how the two matches at the Omni ended.

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

What’s Next

We go to 2017 and California, and a match featuring perhaps my favorite character in all of current 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 24: Eight Man Tag (WCW Souled Out, 1/24/98)

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

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

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

You can watch this match on the WWE Network.

The Context

Eric Bischoff and his role in wrestling remains a pretty polarizing topic, but I always felt he deserved credit for making the cruiserweight division relevant during his time running WCW (which was 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. Would there have been a Lucha Underground if not for these moves? I think it’s a fair question.

This is the first look at most of these guys as part of the project, although La Parka is a longtime favorite of mine. Juventud was part of the January 3 selection, and since that match aired, has already won and lost the Cruiserweight Title.

The Match

This match is contested under lucha libre rules, meaning that leaving the ring is just as good as a tag in the corner. Even then, the rules kinda sorta pretty much get thrown out the window by the end of this match. If you’ve been reading this long, you know these write-ups are not intended to be a move-for-move recap of every match I watch, mainly because I want to encourage you to seek these matches out, watch them for yourself, and come along on this journey with me.

That said, there are some highlights:

–Calo and Psicosis start, but 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 a sequence of dives near the end of the match.
–A couple of nasty-looking clotheslines to cut off dive attempts.

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 finishes things with a tornado DDT on Psicosis, La Parka runs amok with a steel chair, wiping out every member of the four-man team that just defeated him, and then bonking Dandy and Silver King 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.

Random Thoughts

-This appears to take place before Heenan starts waxing philosophic about how Super Calo’s hat always stays on his head. Or maybe it just doesn’t come up here?

–Speaking of Heenan, I laughed out loud when he praised La Parka for having “pizazz.”

-I always love those moments when Dusty is on commentary and gets so excited about what he’s seeing that he drops his accent and reacts in his normal speaking voice. That happens at least twice in this match, by my count.

Final Rating: 7.1

This match lasts less than 10 minutes but damn if these eight don’t pack in a good 20 minutes’ worth of action (or more) in the time that they are given. 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.

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

What’s Next

We head back to Japan for another joshi offering, this time featuring one of AEW’s top women’s talents.

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.