365 Wrestling, Day 41: PAC vs. Kzy (Dragon Gate Truth Gate, 2/10/19)

365 Wrestling, Day 41: PAC vs. Kzy (Dragon Gate Truth Gate, 2/10/19)

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

Pro wrestling is, above all, subjective. Still, if you asked even a diehard fan to list the best wrestlers in the world, would PAC even make the list? Because he should.

The man you also may know as Neville from WWE might be one of the more underrated wrestlers out there today. It’s not that people don’t recognize he’s good; they don’t recognize how good he is. Perhaps that’s a casualty of being signed with All Elite Wrestling and, as someone living in the UK, forced to take an extended hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

His early work on the independents as a clean-cut high flyer makes for a nice highlight reel or gif, but he really hit his stride as the bearded bully of the cruiserweight division in WWE — and then expanded on that with his Bastard PAC persona once he left WWE. Now that PAC is AEW’s first All Atlantic champion, it will be interesting to see what his future holds. For this entry in 365 Wrestling, we look at the recent past of Pac, in this match from 2019 against Kzy for Dragon Gate.

You can watch the match on Dragon Gate’s streaming site, the Dragongate Network. You may or may not be able to find this match online with some shrewd searching.

The Match

When PAC walked out of WWE in October of 2017, he spent a full calendar year on the sidelines. He made his return not in the U.S., or England — but in Japan for Dragon Gate, his home away from home while building his name. Two months later, PAC won the Open the Dream Gate Title, a belt we’re familiar with from a prior entry.

This is PAC’s first defense of the title and it comes against Kzy, a product of the Dragon Gate dojo who by this point has become one of his home promotion’s top fan favorites. Dragon Gate is all about factions, and each man is joined by his crew. PAC is with R.E.D., the top heel faction in the promotion at the time. Kzy is repping for Natural Vibes, and joins his mates in a goofy synchronized dance number during the introductions.

The setting here is Hakata Starlanes, a bowling alley in Fukuoka that hosted wrestling events for many years before it closed in early 2019. Dragon Gate ran this venue regularly, and this was that promotion’s final event there. The intimate environment adds to the atmosphere, boosting an already engaged and boisterous crowd. And both wrestlers seemingly graze the relatively low ceilings on some of the flying maneuvers, especially a pair of top-rope superplexes.

The Fukuoka fans appreciate PAC, but they’re rooting for the challenger and a title change here. The feeling-out process is brief. After some early bullying by PAC, Kzy reverses momentum with a spectacular suicide dive that launches both wrestlers into the crowd. PAC answers with the first of those superplexes, and all within the first five minutes.

The story boils down to whether or not Kzy can avoid PAC’s finisher, a spectacular corkscrew shooting star press he calls the Red Arrow. PAC teases the move several times, only to be cut off or have Kzy roll out of striking distance. Kzy has a top-rope finisher of his own — a frog splash — and the first time he leaps with it, PAC gets his knees up to block, eliciting a collective moan from the crowd that is one of my favorite moments of the match.

Toying with his foe early, PAC goes from arrogance to all business, reaching deep into his repertoire for a backslide spike and avoiding defeat after Kzy hits the frog splash on his second try. In a match full of big moves, the finish is the biggest — an avalanche tombstone by the champion, followed by the Red Arrow. PAC remains slumped across the challenger after the three count, a testament to the physical toll.

Final Rating: 8.5

I don’t watch as much Dragon Gate as I should, considering that I consistently enjoy their product. This match contains everything I like about Dragon Gate: tremendous athleticism, eye-popping highspots, a beloved fan favorite, a match with significant stakes, and a fully engaged crowd. It’s also a showcase for PAC. He’s a much more complete wrestler in this bully bad guy persona. Everything he does is crisp, connects well, and is delivered with intent. This is a great match well worth your time.

Check out the full list of 365 Wrestling entries.

Up Next

Ten pounds of gold and two out of three falls.

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365 Wrestling, Day 40: Ricky Steamboat & Don Kernodle vs. Ivan & Nikita Koloff (NWA JCP, 2/9/85)

365 Wrestling, Day 40: Ricky Steamboat & Don Kernodle vs. Ivan & Nikita Koloff (NWA JCP, 2/9/85)

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

Look at just about any era of pro wrestling in North America, and you can find someone portraying the role of an evil foreigner.

The foreign heel is one of those tried-and-true tropes of wrestling, for better or worse. Evil German and Japanese wrestlers were commonplace in various territories after World War II. Then, during the Cold War, Russian bad guys were the du jour choice. Iron Sheik emerged as an America-hating Iranian in the 1980s; he also stands out as one of the few foreign heels who truly was from the place he portrayed, though he ironically spent time before wrestling as a bodyguard for the Shah of Iran, fighting against the type of extremist he portrayed in the squared circle. Sometimes, promotions in other countries would flip the script by bringing in evil Americans; Sam Adonis, the brother of WWE broadcaster Corey Graves, found great success as a heel in CMLL working an over-the-top, pro-Trump American gimmick.

Two of wrestling’s most famous foreign antagonists were Ivan and Nikita Koloff. Ivan carried the “Russian Bear” gimmick for more than 20 years. He’s also famously the man who ended Bruno Sammartino’s 10-year run as WWWF Champion, then went on to extended success in the National Wrestling Alliance. He was a fixture for years on wrestling on TBS, first for Georgia Championship Wrestling, then for Jim Crockett Promotions when Crockett took over the time slot after absorbing Ole Anderson‘s promotion.

In this entry of 365 Wrestling, the Koloffs face Ricky Steamboat and Don Kernodle from the February 9, 1985, episode of WorldWide Wrestling.

You can watch this match on YouTube:

The Match

In 1984, Ivan brought in his “nephew” Nikita to Crockett’s realm and they became top villains in the promotion. At the time of this match, they’re the tag champions for the second time. Kernodle played a role in that first tag reign ending. After returning to JCP in 1984, Kernodle became a “turncoat” and allied with the Russians, until they blamed him for losing the belts and “injured” Kernodle. Kernodle wrestles this match wearing a neck brace, a visual symbol of the damage wrought.

The pairing of opponents to the Koloffs is interesting. Kernodle and Steamboat were on opposite sides of The Final Conflict, the cage match for the Mid-Atlantic tag titles that is considered the genesis for Crockett deciding to hold the first Starrcade. David Crockett and Tony Schiavone don’t mention that history, unfortunately.

The ensuing match isn’t some astonishing display of athleticism. Any play-by-play is pointless, as the sum here is much greater than any individual part. An incredibly rabid audience elevates every aspect of the match, from the Koloffs working the crowd and heavily selling Steamboat and Kernodle’s early offense, to the extended segment of the match where Kernodle is isolated and the Russians focus upon his neck injury, to the frenzied finish. Nikita is incredibly green here — only about eight months into his career — but the three veterans in the match shroud his inexperience and keep this match rolling. It goes about 15 minutes from bell to bell, but time flies.

If you enjoy studying wrestling, or you’re a wrestler yourself, observe the way they tease Kernodle making the tag to Steamboat and then find different ways each time to block Kernodle from making the exchange. Eventually Steamboat loses his patience and comes charging into the ring, sparking a melee that leads to Kernodle getting some revenge on Ivan, and the pin. There’s no tag, and thankfully no one on commentary complaining about who is legal; the action and the broadcasting are on a more visceral level here.

This is billed as a Flag Match, which apparently just means the winning team gets to wave their nation’s flag after getting the fall. Steamboat and Kernodle get to do so for only a few seconds before the third Russian, Krusher Khruschev, storms the ring. Another brawl ensues, but Steamboat wields the Russian flagpole to send the Soviets scattering and the good guys are left standing tall.

Final Rating: 6.8

This is a great example of a throwback 1980s match, and what older wrestlers today grouse about when they say it was easier to work in front of crowds “back in the day.” Steamboat, Kernodle and the Koloffs wrestle a rather simple match but do it so well that the crowd eats up every second of it and remains fully engaged. Getting to chant “U-S-A” at the top of their lungs didn’t hurt.

While many “evil foreigner” characters tend to age poorly and come off as a display of ugly nationalism today, the Koloffs hold up. That’s because they are imposing and convincing heels who use more than just anti-American schtick to build their heat.

Up Next

We examine one of the wildest high-flying matches you’ll find, and one you probably have not seen.

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365 Wrestling, Day 39: Undertaker vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (WWF Shotgun Saturday Night, 2/8/97)

365 Wrestling, Day 39: Undertaker vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (WWF Shotgun Saturday Night, 2/8/97)

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

What makes a good match? And, when evaluating a match, how much does what happen before and after the bell influence things? How about the surrounding environment?

These questions prove relevant in this entry of 365 Wrestling: The Undertaker taking on Hunter Hearst Helmsley in this episode of Shotgun Saturday Night from February 8, 1997.

Lest we offend the copyright gods, I’ll just tell you you can find this match online through a little bit of shrewd searching.

The Match

Shotgun Saturday Night started at the beginning of 1997. and the initial run of episodes aimed to present an edgier product and wrestling matches from unlikely venues — such as Penn Station, the site of this match.

If you’re going to judge this match solely by what happens from bell to bell, you’re going to be disappointed. There are two commercial breaks — one right as Undertaker hits the ring. Much of the action unfolds in the punchy-kicky style that was more common than it should have been during the Attitude Era. Helmsley’s Intercontinental Title is on the line but he retains when Undertaker drills Helmsley in the head with the belt, right in front of the referee.

The setting — smackdab in the middle of Penn Station — adds so much to the presentation. Helmsley’s snob gimmick perfectly fits the environment. He arrives in a stretch limo that pulls up outside, says a few quick words about how he wouldn’t get caught dead riding one of the trains at the station, and then descends a staircase into the concourse. Undertaker’s entrance is even more surreal in the context of Penn Station, coming through the crowd.

Standard WWF/WWE programming carries a sameness from show to show and week to week… and has since the promotion truly “went national” in the late 1980s. Here, we get wide panning shots to take in the crowd and the limited space, unlike the glut of camera cuts that characterizes WWE shows today. The ring looks considerably smaller than the 20-by-20-foot squared circle WWE typically uses. It catches the eye and draws your interest.

The post-match is the best part of the entire endeavor. After taking a chokeslam, Helmsley tries to retreat and a chase ensues up the stairs, where the Deadman grabs Hunter and delivers a tombstone at the top of the escalator. Taker stands tall, soaking in the cheers of the crowd as Helmsley’s unconscious carcass heads down the escalator.

Final Rating: 6.1

The atmosphere, the entrances, and the post-match make this highly entertaining even if the in-ring action is nothing special. Given the status that both Undertaker and Triple H have achieved in WWE lore since then, it’s surprising to me that this match has flown under the radar. That tombstone on the escalator should have been fodder for so many video packages.

Up Next

Some good ole-fashioned geopolitical tag action.

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365 Wrestling, Day 38: Ben Carter vs. B-Boy (ACTION Wrestling, 2/7/20)

365 Wrestling, Day 38: Ben Carter vs. B-Boy (ACTION Wrestling, 2/7/20)

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

Pro wrestling is just another storytelling medium. Like any established art form, you see the same themes play out, in different variations. One of my favorites is the young rising star facing the wily veteran, and we’ve got a fine example of that here: Ben Carter against B-Boy from ACTION Wrestling’s February 7, 2020 event.

You can check out the entire catalog of ACTION events, over at IWTV. However, you can watch this match for free on Youtube:

The Match

You may know Carter as Nathan Frazer, the name he adopted after joining WWE and NXT UK.

Before any of that happened, this import from the United Kingdom was turning heads on the independent circuit in the United States, including this quasi-galaxy of Southeastern promotions — which includes ACTION, Southern Underground Pro, TWE and the Scenic City Invitational — that shares the same booking continuity.

Carter set up this match with a brief challenge:

B-Boy, meanwhile, has been a fixture for the highly influential Pro Wrestling Guerrilla promotion in southern California since PWG began. He made a few prior appearances in the ACTION sphere previously, but you also might recognize him from Seasons 1 and 2 of Lucha Underground as Bael.

The Match

What begins with a handshake of respect quickly devolves into violence, in a good way. An early taunt by Carter, though it responds to one of B-Boy’s own, upsets the veteran and triggers a nasty forearm that Carter sells like a knockout blow. That’s just the start of what’s to come.

B-Boy chains a La Magistral into an ankle submission, then starts flinging his foe around the ring. The most stirring is either a death valley driver into the corner or a flat faceplant by Carter when he’s chucked to the floor. B-Boy’s vaunted strikes also do damage, and Carter sells the punches — which are delivered sparingly — like possible knockout blows. B-Boy’s more the grizzled veteran than the outright villain but he heels it up in one of my favorite moments: positioning Carter in a chair out on the floor, doing a full lap around the ring to gain momentum and … poking Carter in the eye.

Carter plays the young upstart who takes a beating but keeps coming back time and time again. If you’re a longtime wrestling fan like me you’ve seen this story told countless times, but here it works well because Carter does an excellent job fighting from underneath regardless of what B-Boy does to him. At one point, the New Age Punisher screams for Carter to stay down. Carter does not, and that brief snapshot encapsulates this entire story.

Early on, Dylan Hales mentions Carter’s pace advantage and Carter makes use of pace in his comeback. Carter hits that next gear very quickly, unleashing bursts of explosive offense in an attempt to narrow the gap and overwhelm B-Boy.

The action builds to a compelling and believable series of false finishes. We see powerslams. Tiger Drivers. A Canadian Destroyer. A midair cutter. A DDT on the floor. A brainbuster. After all that, Carter’s pin comes out of nowhere but after all that’s happened, it satisfies. The action is something that would be standard business in a PWG ring, but in this environment — a rec center in a small Georgia town on the periphery of Atlanta — it stands out, and it’s outstanding.

This match intended to propel Carter into a major push but this was ACTION’s last event before the pandemic. By the time shows resumed, Carter had signed with WWE.

Final Rating: 7.8

This is an excellent match and, according to ACTION CEO Matt Griffin, one of the best matches in ACTION history — although I think the IWTV Title Match from Southeast First surpasses it. It’s definitely worth seeking out and watching. Even if you’re seeing both wrestlers for the first time, the story is easy to grasp, well-told, and executed with barely a hitch.

Up Next

A snob turned wrestling champion and a zombie funeral director walk into Penn Station. Hijinks ensue.

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365 Wrestling, Day 37: The Cobra vs. Shiro Koshinaka (NJPW, 2/6/86)

365 Wrestling, Day 37: The Cobra vs. Shiro Koshinaka (NJPW, 2/6/86)

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

New Japan Pro Wrestling has produced, over the course of its history, some of the best wrestling on the planet. And the Best of Super Juniors is probably my favorite of their annual tournaments: first because I enjoy that style of wrestling, and second because it gives the junior heavyweights — who usually are second banana in the promotion — a chance to shine.

The IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title is the top prize for the New Japan juniors. At the time of this writing, there have been 41 wrestlers to hold the title for 91 combined reigns. Past champions include Jushin Liger, Finn Balor, Kota Ibushi, Kenny Omega, Owen Hart and more … but it all started with today’s match selection, a bout between The Cobra and Shiro Koshinaka on February 6, 1986, to crown the first IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion.

You can watch this match on New Japan World.

The Match

Koshinaka got started in All Japan, NJPW’s top competitor, and jumped over in 1985. The Cobra is George Takano, who is working here under a mask and billed from Uganda. The match is the culmination of a round-robin league tournament to crown the first IWGP champion. Other participants in the round-robin included the original Black Tiger, Mark Rocco, and Keiichi Yamada (a young, unmasked Liger).

After a month of round-robin league wrestling to get to this point, and a loss to Koshinaka during the block, the Cobra isn’t wasting any time. He takes the fight right to Koshinaka and, mere seconds in, hits a fantastic standing dropkick. I’ve watched, well, more wrestling that I probably would care to think about and this is one of the best dropkicks I’ve seen. It also elicits one of the great “OHHHH!” reactions known to Japanese crowds.

There are a few lulls, mostly to sell holds, but otherwise this match keeps the pedal pressed into the proverbial floor. The finishing stretch would hold up against any modern Japanese juniors match, with both men trading some very close near falls to the delight of the Sumo Hall crowd.

As is often the case, the small moments stand out and really tie together this match. The Cobra is aggressive in going for pins. After weathering the initial storm by Cobra, Koshinaka shows some grit with a running cross body, but note now he jams a forearm into the face of the Cobra on the impact and the landing. Later, Koshinaka lies prone with a twitching leg after taking a tombstone. That and a running legdrop still aren’t enough to put away Koshinaka, and the crowd starts chanting for him as he counters a top-rope splash and hoists the Cobra in a bridging German for the historic victory.

Final Rating: 6.3

This is a good match with a couple of off moments, such as The Cobra coming up short on a cartwheel into a dive to the floor. There’s probably nothing here you haven’t seen before, but it’s a well-worked match and a historic one to boot.

Up Next

A very good example of the youth vs. experience story, told inside the squared circle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find this match on YouTube.

The Match

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

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

But I digress…

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

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

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

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

Final Rating: 5.4

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

Up Next

A historic match from New Japan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Match

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Rating: 4.9

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

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

Up Next

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

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365 Wrestling, January Recap

365 Wrestling, January Recap

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

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

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

Our January recap episode includes:

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

Listen to the full episode.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Match

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

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

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

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

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

Final Rating: 6.2

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

Up Next

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

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

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

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

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

The Match

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Rating: 6.0

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

Up Next

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

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