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, atómicos) in all its splendor.

You can watch this match on Peacock.

The Match

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

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

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

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

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

Final Rating: 6.5

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

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

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

What’s Next

Now, how about an American twist on lucha?

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

365 Wrestling, Day 23: Ricky Morton vs. Brad Armstrong (IPW, 1/23/96)

365 Wrestling, Day 23: Ricky Morton vs. Brad Armstrong (IPW, 1/23/96)

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

Brad Armstrong is a wrestler’s wrestler. He’s celebrated within pro wrestling for his high level of skill in the ring, and seen as one of the prime examples of an extremely talented wrestler who never received a real chance.

It’s hard to believe that, this November, it will be 10 years since Armstrong’s death.

For this installment of 365 Wrestling, we take a look at one of his matches in a rather unique environment: against Ricky Morton for IPW Pro Wrestling in Asheville, NC, on January 23, 1996.

You can find this match on YouTube, and I’ve embedded it here:

The Match

This match happened a couple of months after the closure of Smoky Mountain Wrestling, where Morton and Armstrong were both top guys. They’re working here for IPW Pro Wrestling, which is running its first — and, as it turns out, only — event held under that banner. This event happened at O’Sullivan’s, a bar in Asheville, NC. Al Getz, a longtime manager and commentator in the Southeast and Friend of the Blog, ran this show. If you enjoy this project, you definitely want to check out his current efforts at Charting The Territories.

The commentators present this as a good, clean wrestling match between a pair of fan favorites. Instead, we witness the tale of the slow, subtle, decline of Morton’s ethics to end up the full-blown heel. Moreover, Morton completes this transformation in less than 10 minutes, taking one shurtcut after another. Midway through the match, Morton is bending every rule he can and breaking some. He pulls hair. He manipulates the fingers of Armstrong, then stomps on his hand. He goes for the eyes. Meanwhile, Armstrong’s frustration builds.

Brad makes his comeback shortly before the 10-minute call, and shortly after, it’s all over, as Morton sweeps Armstrong’s legs out from under him, folding him up for the pin and putting his feet on the ropes for the assist. The sudden result is underscored by the referee making the three count at a much quicker pace than other pin attempts — a longstanding pet peeve of mine when it comes to wrestling.

Final Rating: 5.8

You would be hard-pressed to find a more intimate setting for a match than this bar in Asheville. This added to the “rare find” feel for me when I initially found this online. This is a fine example of a good, solid, well-worked wrestling match. Everything that happens has a purpose. I think it’s definitely something young and new wrestlers should check out, particularly how Morton cuts off multiple attempts at a comeback by Armstrong and does so simply and effectively to halt Armstrong’s momentum. The finish left me lacking. It feels like these two were waiting for the 10-minute call and just wrapped up as soon as possible.

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

What’s Next

Lucha libre steals the show on pay-per-view.

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365 Wrestling, Day 22: Diesel vs. Bret Hart (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/22/95)

365 Wrestling, Day 22: Diesel vs. Bret Hart (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/22/95)

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

There are certain wrestling tropes that always will hook me. One of them is the matchup between a big person and a smaller person… power versus speed. Height and weight against quickness and savvy.

I think you’ll enjoy this version of that tale, coming from the 1995 Royal Rumble when Bret Hart challenged Diesel for the WWF World Title.

You can watch this match on Peacock.

The Match

This is the first major challenge for Diesel (aka Kevin Nash), who became champion in November of 1994, defeating Bob Backlund in eight seconds at Madison Square Garden just three days after Backlund dethroned Bret at Survivor Series. That included a banner 1994 for Diesel. After eliminating seven wrestlers from that year’s Rumble, he went on to win the tag, Intercontinental and World titles in WWF before the calendar turned to 1995.

Bret is seeking his third reign as champion but finds he can’t match up against the size and power of the champion. As a result, he comes at this match with a more aggressive attitude than at any point since his days as part of the Hart Foundation tag team when they were heels in the 1980s. Working over Diesel’s legs around the ringpost becomes a repeated tactic of the Hitman, as is keeping submission holds applied after Diesel has reached the ropes to break. Bret actually plays the de facto heel for most of the match with his rule-bending, relentlessly attacking Diesel’s left knee.

Hart takes a few chances that are not part of his standard approach, diving through the ropes on Diesel and then going for a plancha over the top to the floor. The latter works out poorly for the challenger; Diesel runs him back into the ringpost, and note the priceless expression on Bret’s face prior to impact.

Diesel gets Hart back in the ring and delivers his Jackknife powerbomb, and here’s where the match enters strange new territory. Shawn Michaels, Diesel’s former partner turned rival, hits the ring and attacks Diesel–albeit a beat late, forcing Bret to kick out of Diesel’s finisher. Despite Michaels’ beatdown, the referee says the match will continue. Later, when Bret hooks Diesel in the Sharpshooter and Bret’s brother-turned-nemesis Owen Hart attacks, once again the match continues. It takes a ref bump, which cues a slew of rule breakers to storm the ring and attack both competitors, before the match ends in what is ruled a draw.

This match represents a great example of why Bret Hart is held in such high regard. His fingerprints are all over the match layout. Bret comes up short against the size and strength of the champion, but shows his savvy as the more experienced competitor and actually controls the majority of the match. I’ve seen this referred to as a carry job by Bret Hart but I don’t see it that way. Diesel serves a needed presence here with his presence and power. I thought he does a solid job selling the work done on the knee/.

One thing is certain: in today’s wrestling climate, the interference / draw finish would have been roasted on social media. For good or for worse, fans will not accept non-finishes in major title matches today.

Final Rating: 7.3

This is a challenging match to rate. As mentioned, I think Bret puts in an all-time performance here and Nash deserves a share of the credit as well. In this case, I think the efforts of the wrestlers are hamstrung to some degree by all the interference. This is definitely the best match involving Kevin Nash I’ve seen so far, but all the shenanigans held it back for me from all-time-great territory.

Up Next

Two really good wrestlers walk into a bar in Asheville. Good wrestling ensues.

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365 Wrestling, Day 21: Alex Shelley vs. AC Mack (Southeast First, 1/21/22)

365 Wrestling, Day 21: Alex Shelley vs. AC Mack (Southeast First, 1/21/22)

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

I recently described this site as the pro wrestling equivalent of “Quantum Leap” — jumping around to different points in history to watch and review a noteworthy match, then move on to something else. I’ve been supporting the work being done at ACTION Wrestling for a while, so I decided to shake things up and do the first live review of a match for the project.

I certainly picked a good one… the main event of Southeast First, which saw Alex Shelley defend the IWTV World Title against AC Mack.

If you missed the live stream, you can check out the full show on demand at IWTV.

The Match

You can tell by the photo on this entry who won the match and frankly I was shocked by the outcome. Part of my surprise stemmed from the same stigma plaguing Southern wrestling that led Matt Griffin and others to hold this event, as he explained in our preview.

I also think that, unfortunately, wrestling history and especially recent wrestling booking have conditioned fans to anticipate unsatisfying conclusions. A feel-good moment gets replaced for the chance at building heat for another match down the road. Modern WWE booking is an excellent example of this, but think of all the other times a booker waited too long to give a wrestler who had connected with the crowd a run with the main title. By the time the move gets made, the wrestler already has cooled off.

The booking for this card, which was highly entertaining from top to bottom, plays off of these fears and ultimately provides a satisfying conclusion to a story that ACTION had been telling for months. It began when Mack, a former ACTION Champion, won the 2021 Scenic City Invitational. Then, in December, Mack was named the No. 1 contender for the IWTV Title. That championship saw its profile rise last year, with Pro Wrestling Illustrated recognizing it as an official world title.

Mack gets a hero’s welcome from a jam-packed crowd at the Rec Center in Tyrone, GA. Shelley, meanwhile, is the immediate heel. The opening note of his music is enough to turn the crowd against him — not because of anything Shelley has done (not yet), but merely because he’s the guy going against ACTION’s favorite.

This match is also proof that you don’t need a massive building or storied venue to create a great atmosphere. A humble rec center in Georgia feels like a facility 10 times that size when everyone in attendance is shoulder to shoulder, standing and making noise. Mack is in his element here, handling his own ring introduction as has been the custom for ACTION. When ring announcer Scott Hensley finally gets around to introducing the champion, he can barely be heard over the boos. Shelley grabs the microphone and adds some extra heat to the proceedings.

Now for the match itself… What ensues here is a modern twist on the old tale of a traveling champion coming into town to defend against the local favorite. The story centers around the left arm of Mack, which Shelley focuses on with ill intent for the vast majority of the match. The moment that cues the arm offense is a creative one. Mack is standing ringside when Shelley feints, vaults over the top rope with an up and over and brings both feet down across the left forearm of Mack, which was outstretched across the apron.

Credit Mack for selling Shelley’s arm attack like it rendered the limb useless. That also negates Mack from using his signature move, the Mack 10 — a cross-armed version of the Pedigree. It’s been established as a match ender in ACTION and it’s other affiliated promotions, but after the champion’s work, Mack cannot hoist Shelley and deliver the move, though not for lack of trying.

Eventually, ACTION CEO Matt Griffin comes ringside and most of the other wrestlers on the card — an inter-promotional effort featuring talent representing eight different Southeastern companies — join Griffin. Wrestlers, staff and fans surround the ring, banging on the apron and urging on the challenger. This really adds to the atmosphere and makes for a great visual.

You probably have seen Shelley wrestle or at least know of his work, though he’s had more success as a tag wrestler than in singles. A veteran of Ring of Honor and Impact Wrestling and a tag champion for both companies, Shelley won the IWTV Title in October. He proves his mettle in the ring by rising to the occasion as the traveling champion facing the local hero and crafting a compelling story in a singles match of a significant length with major stakes. He’s eating up the boos from the crowd and nearly every movement, gesture and expression only raises the collective ire against him. His arm offense looks nasty and his sells and facial expressions add so much.

What’s happening here doesn’t feel like just another match and the champion sells the threat to his title reign by digging deep into his repertoire to break out a Shell Shock, the move better known as Jay White‘s Blade Runner, which White adopted after taking it from Shelley in one of his very first matches. Mack kicks out and Shelley immediately turns Mack into the Border City Stretch, a variation on the crossface he’s already tortured Mack in previously. This time, the challenger rolls Shelley onto his shoulders and… pins him.

Final Rating: 8.2

This was a fantastic match on what should be an early 2022 candidate for the best wrestling show of the year. It won’t make many match of the year lists, partly because it’s still just January and partly because it lacks some of the elements that a vocal part of the fandom believe are needed to be one of “the best” matches. However, I am hard-pressed to find an area where this match falls short.

Shelley does a masterful job as the visiting champion and Mack is in his element as the hometown hero finally getting his big match. The crowd is invested for every second. The work is smooth and compelling. The conclusion is sudden, satisfying… and also historic. With the win, Mack becomes the first openly gay male world champ in wrestling history.

It won’t make many match of the year ballots… but it should.

Up Next

Another ballyhooed but new to me non-Rumble match from a Royal Rumble of yore.

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365 Wrestling, Day 20: Atlantis vs. El Satánico (EMLL, 1/20/84)

365 Wrestling, Day 20: Atlantis vs. El Satánico (EMLL, 1/20/84)

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

I’ve written in the past about the gaps in my wrestling fandom, and today’s selection represents another of said gaps: older lucha libre. Specifically, a match from EMLL (the predecessor of CMLL) on January 20, 1984, between Atlantis and El Satánico.

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

The Match

Satánico is the lucha embodiment of a grizzled vet. He’s already got more than a decade of experience at the time of this match. He went on to work extensively at CMLL’s wrestling school and, as of January 2022, still was working the occasional match … at 72 years old. Atlantis is almost 60 years old and still wrestling fairly regularly, but in this match he’s still a rookie in the midst of his first calendar year as a luchador.

The video quality is mediocre but that does nothing to conceal the story taking place in the ring. From the opening seconds of the match, when Atlantis unleashes a series of dropkicks and each blow sends Satánico sprawling backward, Satánico sells everything Atlantis does to him with conviction and the enthusiastic crowd quickly is enraptured in the tale being told.

This match goes the full three falls and the first two feel like a precursor setting the stage for the violence that awaits in la tercera caida. After pinning Atlantis to even the match at one fall apiece, Satánico continues to attack in the break between falls, ripping open Atlantis’ mask (a common trope in lucha matches) and drawing blood. The best visual in the match is in the image at the top of this piece, with Satánico biting and mauling Atlantis, who is writhing in anguish until the referee has to physically pry them apart.

Atlantis makes a comeback shortly thereafter, quickly busting open Satánico and now both are a bloody mess. Both men start trading punches, but after each unleashes a strike, he falls to his knees in exhaustion. The concept of wrestlers throwing tired punches isn’t something you see often (a barbed wirematch between Jerry Lawler and Dutch Mantell from Memphis in 1982 is a great example), and I think it tends to add plenty of flavor to a match.

Final Rating: 6.8

Working wrestlers should watch this match for a master class in heeldom by the rudo, Satánico. Note the little things he does along the way. Satánico cheats several times — known as fouls in lucha — but he does it with such quickness that, if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss it. It’s artful rulebreaking, like watching someone who knows close-up magic perform sleight of hand. He counters moves not with some cute technical reversal but with violence, such as when Atlantis goes for a pin off a sunset flip and Satánico just kicks him in the head to escape. The utmost rudo, even after the match, Satánico sticks to his nefarious act, bating Atlantis into a handshake only to sucker-punch him and dump him out of the ring. Atlantis shows he’s still learning — he has a bad habit of playing to the crowd for approval after any offensive maneuver, looking to the fans like he’s trying to decide what to bid on “The Price is Right” — but there’s still a lot to like here.

What’s Next

We go live to review a match from Southern First.

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365 Wrestling, Day 19: Rockers vs. New Orient Express (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/19/91)

365 Wrestling, Day 19: Rockers vs. New Orient Express (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/19/91)

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

Like I said a couple of entries ago, I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Royal Rumble and watched them all. As a kid, that meant dad ordering the pay-per-view and watching it together.

So, here’s the thing. I remember ordering the 1991 Rumble. I remember the Rumble match. I remember Virgil finally decking Ted DiBiase. I remember Sgt. Slaughter winning the title. And while I’m sure I saw the opening tag between the Rockers and the Orient Express, well …

Sooo, we’re correcting that today.

You can watch this match on Peacock, by the way.

The Match

By this point, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty have been wrestling the Orient Express dating back to WrestleMania VI. That rivalry’s been going on so long that this is actually the second version of the Express to go against the Rockers. After Akio Sato left the WWF, he was replaced in the team by Kato — aka Paul Diamond, a former longtime partner of Pat Tanaka as Badd Company.

If you like double-team moves in tag matches, or exchanges involving all four wrestlers, then this is the match for you. I won’t spend time trying to recap it all; just go and watch, or rewatch, it for yourself. These two teams pack so much action, innovation and creativity into this match.

The finish is outstanding and worth a deeper dive. The Rockers set up for a Rocket Launcher on Kato, but Tanaka intervenes to break it up and Shawn crashes to the floor from the top rope. The Express isolate Marty, with Kato slingshotting him into a knife-edge chop by Tanaka. They go to repeat the move, but this time Shawn saves the day, decking Tanaka, who doubles over as Kato unknowingly slingshots Jannetty, who catches Tanaka in a sunset flip for the three count. With poorer timing or less talented wrestlers, this would have come off as clunky and overly choreographed. Good execution makes for a slick, seamless culmination.

Roddy Piper joins Gorilla Monsoon on commentary here and adds quite a bit, enthusiastically praising the skill, talent and athleticism of all four competitors. On the few occasions where the action slows down and someone gets put in a hold, Piper is quick to explain how the hold is effective and the strategy behind it. He does everything that an analyst on commentary should do, in my opinion…

Final Rating: 8.9

I definitely have never seen this match before, because the product produced by these four here is unforgettable. I loved this match. They go almost 20 minutes and I could have watched them battle for another 10.

Placement on the card can help, or hurt, a match. Putting this match first was the ideal spot, whipping an already eager pay-per-view crowd into a frenzy. It’s also worth noting how atypical this match was for WWF, especially in this era. A nearly 20-minute match, worked at this pace, with this many big moves and double teams and high spots just didn’t happen in this company, at least in this era.

Looking back, and seeing matches like this, it’s rather astonishing that the WWF never gave the Rockers a run atop the division. All four guys get their chance to shine in this match, but make no mistake, this is really a showcase for the Rockers. It’s celebrated as one of the best undercard matches at a Rumble, and for good reason.

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

What’s Next

We head down Mexico way.

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

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

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

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

I.

Love.

The Royal.

Rumble.

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

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

Or had I …

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

The Match

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

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

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

A few other highlights that stood out for me:

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

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

Final Rating: 5.8

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

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

What’s Next

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Match

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

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

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

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

Final Rating: 6.0

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

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

What’s Next

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Match

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

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

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

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

Final Rating: 5.5

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

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

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

What’s Next

A throwback showcase of scientific wrestling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Match

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Rating: 6.6

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

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

What’s Next

The Lariat cometh to All Japan.

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