365 Wrestling, Day 55: Jordynne Grace vs. Skylar (Beyond, 2/24/18)

365 Wrestling, Day 55: Jordynne Grace vs. Skylar (Beyond, 2/24/18)

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

Looking for one of the most influential independent promotions of the past 10 years? Look no farther than Beyond Wrestling. This promotion based in the Northeast U.S. has seen a stellar array of talent pass through: some making guest appearances, but others working there regularly and parlaying that success into big opportunities for major companies.

Beyond’s list of “homegrown” alumni includes a slew of wrestlers now in AEW: Orange Cassidy, MJF, Santana, Ortiz, Kris Statlander, Alex Reynolds, John Silver, Allie, The Butcher, The Blade, Tracy Williams, Joey Janela, Penelope Ford … I could go on. Beyond also has become known for making women’s wrestling and intergender wrestling important components of its product. The latter generated a viral, highly controversial, hotly debated spot involving Chris Dickinson and Kimber Lee that you can watch here:

Beyond even developed its own all-women’s affiliate series of shows, Women’s Wrestling Revolution. Two familiar foes from those events locked horns for Beyond at its I Want It All event, held February 24, 2018.

This match is available for free on Beyond’s YouTube channel, which I have embedded oh-so-helpfully below:

The Context

You probably know Jordynne Grace from her recent exploits in Impact Wrestling, but she’s a seven-year vet at this point. As the commentators note on this match, Grace started out in wrestling when she was just 14 years old. She’s one of the top women in the Beyond/WWR umbrella at this time, winning the Tournament for Tomorrow at the end of 2017 as well as the Revolutionary Rumble the month before this event.

I didn’t know much about Skylar and never had seen her wrestle coming into this. Some research on the Series of Tubes told me that she debuted in 2016. The commentators provide some valuable context as the match begins, noting that Grace defeated Skylar during her victorious run through the TFT.

The Match

These two make very good use of their time in the ring. I enjoy watching Jordynne Grace in the ring, both for her feats of strength and the way she can hit another gear and quicken the pace. We see the latter in the early minutes, as these two combine for seven pin attempts. This creates an immediate sense of urgency for both, and emphasizes the importance of the ouytcome. There’s an especially smooth counter by Skylar on Jordynne’s attempted sliding clothesline, ensnaring her arms for an attempted crucifix pin.

Jordynne is the more proven performer here and she makes Skylar look as good as possible. Skylar holds up her end by hitting all of her offense crisply and with intent. There’s a unique take on the overdone apron bump to set up the closest thing to a heat segment in a back-and-forth match; Skylar misses with a running kick from the apron, gets hoisted with an electric chair, and dropped ring-first on the apron.

Skylar makes a nifty comeback, stringing together a fine flurry of moves. The finish comes abruptly, with Skylar countering another electric chair to surprise Grace in a successful pinning predicament. Given the relative status of both on the card in the Beyond/WWR realm, it’s a result that makes sense.

Random Thoughts

–I’m always a fan for a good-looking spinebuster, and Jordynne hits a sweet one in the home stretch of this match.

–It turns out that 2018 is a big year for Jordynne Grace; she shows out in the Over Budget Battle Royale at All In in September, and signs with Impact shortly after that and quickly enters the title picture.

–I could have done without the commentators implying a fast pace worked against Jordynne Grace because she’s more likely to get blown up because of her size. First off, rude. And secondly, I have eyes and have seen her matches.

Final Rating: 6.1

I couldn’t help but compare this match to another recent viewing in the project where a rising prospect upends a proven star: the Booker T-Bret Hart match. In that contest, Bret dominated his opponent and got caught in a pin at the end, after keeping a methodical pace and allowing little offense. Jordynne Grace controls this match at well, but Skylar gets in more offense, scores a few near-falls along the way, and both maintain a quick urgent pace. I think Jordynne Grace is one of the top women on the current scene, but this is a fine performance by both and a good match worth seeing.

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

Up Next

Back to Mexico for an action-packed mano e mano match.

Got something to say about this match, or the project, or anything wrestling-related? Reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling, Day 48: Women’s Tag Elimination Chamber (WWE, 2/17/19)

365 Wrestling, Day 48: Women’s Tag Elimination Chamber (WWE, 2/17/19)

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

With eight hours of TV to fill each week, much of what happens on WWE programming tends to run together or fade into background noise. Storyline continuity is hit or miss. This can make things incredibly frustrating if you’re a week-to-week viewer. It also means that casual and lapsed followers can parachute in for the big events and not really miss out on anything.

And yet, when it comes to the big events, WWE still can put out some highly entertaining stuff — which is what makes the slog of the regular weekly TV so frustrating to so many. When it comes to big spectacles, no one does it better. I’m talking about highly-intricate concept matches like the Royal Rumble and… the Elimination Chamber.

We’re watching one of those Chamber matches today. Specifically, the 2019 Chamber match where the very first WWE Women’s Tag Champs were crowned. Your participants: the Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection (Sasha Banks and Bayley), Fire and Desire (Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville), The IIconics (Peyton Royce and Billie Kay), The Riott Squad (Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan), Nia Jax and Tamina, and finally the duo of Carmella and Naomi.

You can watch this match on Peacock or on the WWE YouTube channel.

The Context

The Elimination Chamber has been part of WWE since 2002, and the centerpiece of the company’s February pay-per-view since 2008. This is just the second Chamber match involving women and also the second time the match has had tag teams, instead of individual competitors. Vince McMahon announced women’s tag titles were on the way near the end of 2018 and, in the weeks leading up to this pay-per-view, the field of six teams coalesced with three teams each representing Raw and SmackDown.

A few of the teams were thrown together not long before the Chamber match. Nia and Tamina didn’t team together for the first time until two months prior. Carmella and Naomi joined forces just a couple of weeks before the Chamber match. The other four teams have more experience teaming together, or an established bond between them dating back quite some time, or both.

Another interesting note, that all 12 women in this match spent at least some time in the WWE Performance Center and half of the participants trained entirely under the WWE PC umbrella: Naomi, Carmella, Mandy, Sonya, Nia Jax, and Liv Morgan.

The Match

With two months of hype and build and the opening spot on the card of the last pay-per-view before WrestleMania, there’s an abundance of window dressing to make this match seem like a big deal. It’s the little things for me, like the gear choices we see through all six pairs. Even the new duo of Carmella and Naomi are decked out in matching outfits, which is always a winner for me when it comes to tag wrestling.

The new tag titles might be at stake but this entire match takes place under de facto tornado tag rules, with all four wrestlers from the first two teams in the match at the beginning, then each other team entering the match as a duo.

There’s a lot going on here, with a dozen wrestlers taking part in a match that is longer than 30 minutes from bell to bell, and well past 40 minutes counting entrances and post-match pomp and circumstance, so I’m just going to try to take a broad view.

This is the best I can remember seeing Mandy Rose look in a match. She takes some nasty bumps–note a reverse neckbreaker on the platform outside the ring, with one foot hung in the cage at the time. She also scores a very believable near-fall after hitting a beautiful Angel’s Wings on Sasha once it comes down to two teams. Deville first caught my eye when she had an outstanding match with Asuka at an NXT house show in Spartanburg, SC (one of the few times you’ll see an entire crowd react to something as “pedestrian” as a double-leg takedown). Sudden explosions of movement produce the biggest moments for Deville here, whether it be cutting off Sasha’s double-knees across the back with a modified spinebuster or unleashing to bisect Sarah Logan with a spear near the tail end of a series of big moves involving 10 of the wrestlers in the match.

The IIconics are fabulous here, and stand out with their character work. It starts from the moment they step out on the stage holding hands, and continues until Billie Kay says a distraught “I’m sorry” to her bestie — nice catch by Renee Young on commentary to identify and acknowledge this — before both IIconics get walloped with stereo Samoan drops to get eliminated by Nia and Tamina. Their antics get some of the bigger reactions from a crowd that is occasionally apathetic through the first half of the match.

I’ve long felt Liv Morgan is criminally underrated in WWE, and man does she have some great moments here. The Riott Squad might be heels on the booking sheet, but as one of the smallest wrestlers in the match, Liv also shows plenty of fire. There’s a fierce little exchange of slaps with Deville and she gets tossed around at the expense of her opponents throughout her time in the match. Little touches add a lot, such as Liv screaming “No!” repeatedly as Nia hoists her for a Samoan drop off the second rope.

Nia and Tamina are the final team in the match and serve the role they should, as the two monsters who wreak havoc but get ousted down the stretch. The production team does its best to ruin one of their most impressive spots, swinging both IIconics in tandem repeatedly into the cage, with the frequent camera cuts missing almost all of the impacts into the fence. As the two biggest people in the match, it takes two of the bigger spots to eliminate them. Nia charges at one pod and ends up eating shit through the wall, putting her down for the count while Sasha, Bayley, Rose, and Deville pool their efforts — literally — stacking up to pin Tamina after a Bayley flying elbow.

Any way you slice it, though, this is the Sasha and Bayley story and they are the MVPs of the match. It starts with Corey Graves sowing seeds of dissension by noticing past betrayals between the two in the other women’s Chamber match, but throughout the match Sasha and Bayley work as a seamless team, saving one another on multiple occasions. When Bayley gets sent crashing into one of the pod supports and knocked out, Sasha climbs down off the pod to check on her, getting jumped and leading to the finish.

Sasha does a spectacular job in particular. She gets sent careening shoulder-first into one of the pod structures and sells the arm injury consistently for the rest of the match. The babyface duo that could thinks they can… and thinks they can… outlasting all competitors to come back around against the same pair they faced at the start of the match, Rose and Deville. Sasha comes out on top, submitting Sonya with a modified Banks Statement, using her leg rather than her damaged left arm to cinch the hold. The variant looks even nastier than the standard hold.

Random Thoughts

–Four commentators for this match: Michael Cole, Beth Phoenix, Graves, and Young. That’s at least one too many voices for me, and reminded me of this:

Not pictured: Dr. Joyce Brothers

–This had the most people in a single match in the project since the “New York Rumble” I watched as part of the January list.

–This match is just more than two years old, but one-fourth of the wrestlers are no longer with the company. In addition to The IIconics getting let go, Logan got released exactly a year before in April of 2020.

Final Rating: 6.8

This match has some rough spots but the intensity builds as things progress, and the crowd is highly engaged by the time we get to the finishing stretch. Plus, there are legitimate stakes, and historic value as both a rare women’s match and a rare tag match takes place inside the Chamber. The right team wins. There’s lately been some speculation on Twitter about what just kind of impact Sasha and Bayley have on future generations of women’s wrestlers. Performances like this can and should be cited as an example.

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

Up Next

A look at one of the most talented, most underrated wrestlers to ever come out of the Southeast.

Bring out your feedback, your praise, your match requests. 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 44: Kana vs. Meiko Satomura (Triple Tails, 2/13/11)

365 Wrestling, Day 44: Kana vs. Meiko Satomura (Triple Tails, 2/13/11)

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

Let me tell you about the time that Asuka came to my small hometown in East Tennessee about 10 years ago.

She was known as Kana at the time, and was working a weekend of shows in the Southeastern U.S. for CHIKARA. They had been in North Carolina the night before coming here.

That CHIKARA card remains one of the most entertaining wrestling events, from start to finish, that I’ve seen in person. Kana headlined that night, facing Sara Del Rey in a main event back before women in main events became cool or acceptable across wrestling. What I remember most about that match (other than its general excellence) is that Kana, who, up until she signed with WWE, wrestled barefoot with kickpads on, delivered a kick to Del Rey that broke the kickpad off her shin.

That was the same trip where, according to a story told a few times by Sugar Dunkerton, Kana and the rest of her traveling party from Japan got their first experience at a buffet restaurant when Suge and friends took them to the Shoney’s just up the road from my house.

And since has closed.

And been leveled.

With a car wash being built in its place.

Depressing, isn’t it?

Anyway, in this entry in the 365 Wrestling project, we see Kana — about nine months prior to her American foray and Shoney’s experience — in action against Meiko Satumora from February 13, 2011, in Osaka.

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

The Context

First came the Triple Tails stable, a faction that consisted of Kana, Io Shirai (who followed Kana to WWE where she has been a two-time NXT champion), and Mio Shirai (who retired from wrestling in 2015 due to concussions). Then, these three started running their own events from time to time — including this one, held in Osaka. The Kana-Satomura match was the main event.

This is the fifth time Kana and Satomura have been in the ring as opponents but just the second time in a singles match. Satomura won that prior meeting, which happened on April 29, 2010.

Satomura has the huge experience advantage here, with about 15 years’ experience as a pro at the time of this bout. Kana started wrestling in 2004, then stepped away from the squared circle only to return in 2007.

The Match

The topic of how surroundings add to the entertainment value of a match has come up before in the project and does so again here. Unlike other recent entries, where a raucous crowd or a unique setting like Penn Station helped elevate the fare inside the ring, the crowd here for Kana vs. Satomura is quiet for much of the bout, watching with silent intensity. In this case, it augments the action in the ring to a great deal. You can clearly hear the pops and smacks as strikes land, as well as the screams of pain and effort from either side of the several submission holds that are applied during the match.

From beginning to end, Kana seems driven to prove herself against her more experienced foe. She spurns Satomura’s attempt at a handshake before the bell, kicking away her hand and blasting Meiko with a forearm to promptly initiate the action. Shortly thereafter. Satomura hooks Kana in a belly-down armbar, and while Kana makes it to the ropes, the hold was applied to an extent where there’s a prolonged break while the referee checks Kana outside the ring to make sure she can continue.

There are a ton of wicked strikes in this match, especially kicks, and you can hear every single one of them. Speaking of strikes, Satomura seemingly gets annoyed with her less experienced rival midway through the match, uncorking an array of big forearms and elbows, punctuated by a back kick to the face of a kneeling Kana. This last kick, captured from mat level by a ringside camera, looks absolutely murderous in its delivery.

All this seems to do is further anger Kana. Every time Satomura gets the upper hand, no matter what punishment she exacts, Kana comes back with increasing amounts of fire. After several more minutes and several more head kicks, when Satomura goes back to the already-weakened right arm of Kana, it seems to be more out of desperation than it is a focused strategy. Even delivering her death valley driver — one of Satomura’s finishers — on two occasions isn’t enough to seal the deal.

Once again, Kana rallies, unloading more kicks before ensnaring Meiko in her chickenwing with a bodyscissors (now known as the Asuka Lock for WWE fans). Kana screams in rage and emotion as she applies the hold, sending Satomura into oblivion. The crowd responds to the victory over the more established Satomora with arguably its biggest reaction of the entire match.

Final Rating: 7.8

I’m stingy when it comes to declaring a match to be “great” but I honestly don’t know how else to classify this match. It succeeds as a classic example of what makes Satomura so outstanding. It succeeds as an example of Kana’s scintillating potential that led to her signing with WWE. It succeeds as a pro wrestling match, and a fine example of the joshi style. If you’ve only seen Asuka in WWE, this match represents a different side of her wrestling ability.

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

Up Next

The next match is a suggestion from ACTION promoter Matt Griffin, who brings to the table a “big moment match” from arguably the most important wrestling feud of the 1990s.

Are YOU interested in making a match suggestion for the 365 Wrestling project? I’m accepting limited guest submissions for the remaining entries in the year. Just reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling, Day 41: Mayu Iwatani vs. Kelly Klein (ROH, 2/10/19)

365 Wrestling, Day 41: Mayu Iwatani vs. Kelly Klein (ROH, 2/10/19)

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

Women’s wrestling in America is bigger currently than it’s ever been. In WWE, women main event pay-per-views, including WrestleMania. In All Elite Wrestling, the Unsanctioned Match between Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa has been praised by some as one of the best matches in the short history of that promotion. Ring of Honor has featured a slew of wrestlers who have gone on to be huge stars, but their women’s division has sputtered, ebbed and flowed (mostly ebbed) for the most part.

Ring of Honor’s level of commitment to its women’s division increased when it introduced a title for females — nearly 16 years after the promotion opened.

This match is available on Ring of Honor’s streaming service, Honor Club.

The Context

ROH announced the inception of this title at the end of 2017. The first champion was crowned in a tournament that culminated in April of 2018 at Supercard of Honor XII, with Sumie Sakai defeating Klein in the tournament final.

Klein, who debuted in wrestling in 2006, won the title at Final Battle 2018 in a Four Corner Survival match that also involved Madison Rayne and Karen Q. At this point, ROH had spent the last couple of years building Klein as a bully heel which included a two-year stretch where she was not pinned or submitted. That streak ended with her loss to Sakai at Supercard of Honor.

Iwatani is a product of the Stardom promotion in Japan, which was working as a partner with ROH and its women’s division at the time. Part of the first class of trainees out of Stardom’s own wrestling school, Iwatani reached the semifinals of the Women of Honor Title tournament in 2018. Prior to this match, one of her chief achievements was becoming the first Stardom wrestler to simultaneously hold that promotion’s World of Stardom and Wonder of Stardom titles.

The Match

There are certain stories that just work in wrestling, and for me, the scrappy underdog taking on the dominant heel is one of them. We see a version of that play out here, with Klein as the dominant and nearly unbeatable champion. Iwatami is the undersized challenger and shows a load and a half of fighting spirit. Some little touches help set the stage: Mayu is unable to execute a side headlock takeover in the early going, or Irish whip her bigger and stronger foe off the ropes.

What ensues is a war of attrition, with Klein trying to overwhelm Mayu with her strength and, at times, brute force. Mayu responds with fire. There’s a comeback by the challenger that strings together a flying headscissors, a basement dropkick to a seated champion, and then a crossbody off the top rope to a standing Klein on the floor after Klein powders out of the ring. Klein pops right back up and delivers a wicked German suplex on the floor. The 1-2 combination punch of these two big moves kicks the match into another gear and secures the interest of the crowd — impressive considering ROH crowds had a tendency to be indifferent at best for Women of Honor matches in the past, perhaps because they were relegated often to YouTube-only content or used as filler on live events.

The match is just over 11 minutes from bell to bell but because they are pulling out some major moves the level of punishment seems appropriate for a match double that length. Klein gets frustrated because she cannot put away Mayu. This opens the door for the challenger, who capitalizes. She hoists Klein with back-to-back Tiger suplexes, punctuated by a kick to the head. Iwatani heads to the top rope for a moonsault that the commentators (more on them in a bit) sell as her signature move, but Mayu lands on Klein’s legs and the champion kicks out. If this was a mistake that led to an audible, it only serves to make the champion seem more formidable, as a second moonsault seals the deal and the surprising title switch.

Random Thoughts

–Regular ROH play-by-play voice Ian Riccaboni wasn’t able to attend this show so NWA Worlds Heayweight Champion Nick Aldis joins Caprice Coleman on commentary. The combination is pretty fantastic. Coleman provides some insights on the mindset of a champion and starts teasing the upset hard in the final minutes. Meanwhile, Aldis does a fine job connecting the dots of the narrative, most notably when Mayu nearly lets herself get pinned after Klein catches her with a boot to the head.

–Sakai, the first WOH champion and the last person to pin Klein in ROH before this match, is in Iwatani’s corner.

–After the early “feeling-out process”, Klein hooks Mayu in a cravate and delivering repeated knees to the head. Big fan of that spot.

Final Rating: 6.3

This is the fourth match involving Klein and Mayu, and their third meeting in singles action. They display some impressive chemistry that makes me want to revisit those earlier contests and helps carry this title match. The two women combine for a logical, strong story that progresses as Mayu wears down and eventually conquers the dominant champion.

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

Up Next

Two of the most charismatic fan favorites of the 1980s join forces.

Now it’s your turn to let your opinion be heard. Send your feedback 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 34: Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, Women’s Semifinals (2/3/21)

365 Wrestling, Day 34: Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, Women’s Semifinals (2/3/21)

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

Originally, when I first started the project, I planned to do one entry for every day, on that day, as we navigate through a full year.

Looking back now, more than a fourth of the way into the year, I only can react thusly to such ambitions:

Anyway, one benefit to being behind the actual calendar, is that 2021 matches are now in play. Thus, I decided to take a look at one of the matches from the first-ever, and recently-completed, women’s edition of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Specifically, taking a look at the semifinal match pitting Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro against Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez.

You can watch this match on (sigh) Peacock or on Hulu.

The Context

WWE started tag tournaments under the Dusty Classic name in 2015. This was the sixth iteration of the tournament but the first time they had separate men’s and women’s divisions, although the women’s field was only half the size of the 16-team men’s bracket.

Kai is the only real veteran in this match. The native New Zealander broke in in 2007 and wrestled around the world by the time she signed with WWE near the end of 2016. Kai showed the ability to be a captivating fan favorite during her time on the independents and aboard, and early in her WWE run, so of course, she was turned heel at the 2019 Survivor Series.

Carter, who was trained at the Dudley Boys’ school, has been wrestling since 2016. Catanzaro, a former Junior Olympian and college gymnast, and earned some level of fame on the American Ninja Warrior show before signing with WWE. Catanzaro and Gonzalez, a former basketball player, are total products of the WWE system, with all their training coming in the Performance Center.

As for the teams, Kai and Gonzalez first allied last March when Gonzalez helped Kai win a cage match over her former partner, Tegan Nox. Carter and Catanzaro didn’t start teaming together regularly on TV until the Dusty Classic.

The Match

One of my favorite dynamics in wrestling is the combination of different sizes. Put a big wrestler in a match with a smaller wrestler, either as opponents or as partners, and you’re likely to have my attention. Here we have a couple of manifestations of the theme, with Kai teaming Gonzalez, a legit 6-footer; and the two of them taking on the scrappy undersized babyface duo of Carter and Catanzaro.

The dynamic plays out two ways, with Gonzalez throwing around her two opponents (the moments where she is in against Catanzaro make for quite the size discrepancy), or with Kai using Gonzalez as a launching pad to add momentum and impact to her own moves, such as a double stomp in the fairly early going.

This match is far from perfect. Catanzaro can pull out some spectacular moments, whether it’s hearkening back to her American Ninja Warrior past with a dive off one of the light pillars in the venue or hitting an impressive twisting splash off the top, but she struggles here with some of the nuts and bolts of wrestling like basic moves and transitions. Kai, meanwhile, is the engine that makes this match go. She’s the most experienced and has the best timing

The finishing stretch is a solid one, with Catanzaro’s dive the catalyst, and Kai and Gonzalez prevail in the expected result of a fine TV match and tournament affair.

Random Thoughts

-Nice to see Carter and Catanzaro wearing matching gear for this match. Little touches like that make a team seem more permanent, and less like a fly-by-night slapped together to fill a spot in the tournament.

-Another nice touch; the heels’ initial control segment occurs without the need to break the rules, speaking to their experience advantage.

Final Rating: 5.8

When assessing a wrestling match, does the whole matter more than the sum of the parts? The match feels like a collection of moments: some excellent, some awkward, most technically good. I have friends who say NXT is the best wrestling on the planet. I would argue these friends need to watch more wrestling from other promotions, and other countries, but, in terms of what happens in the ring, they have a fair argument. However, to me, NXT often feels like someone went into a laboratory and tried to replicate the formula for a “great match” in the super-indy era that began in 2005 or so. They tick all the boxes of what is now regarded by critics and fans as a “good match” but it all happens here in a vacuum with minimal emotion and no real reason for me to care.  

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

Up Next

One of my favorites faces his best opponent. You had me at hello.

Enjoying these write-ups? Feel free to reach out on Twitter where you also 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 to watch for one of the upcoming dates.

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 25: Hikaru Shida vs. Sakura Hirota (WAVE, 1/25/15)

365 Wrestling, Day 25: Hikaru Shida vs. Sakura Hirota (WAVE, 1/25/15)

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

I’ve waxed philisophic from time to time on my motivations for attempting this project. One of those motivations is the chance to see certain wrestlers before they “made it big.” Such is the case with the entry for January 25, where Hikaru Shida is in action several years before she made her way to America and became champion for All Elite Wrestling. In this one, Shida is defending the Reina di WAVE Title, for, appropriately enough, Pro Wrestling WAVE in this match against Sakura Hirota from 2015.

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

The Context

The Reina di WAVE is the top singles title in Pro Wrestling WAVE and Shida was just the second champ in the history of this title. This marked her third defense since winning the title on August 24, 2014. Shida is 26 years old here and she’s about 6 1/2 years into her pro career. Her opponent, Hirota, has nearly two decades of experience.

The Match

There’s so much negativity about wrestling on the Internet, and I don’t want this to be just another voice adding to the din of rage and complaining. Besides, life is busy. I barely have time to watch the wrestling I want to (as evidenced by the fact I am about three weeks behind on these entries), so why would I waste time watching and writing about and thinking about wrestling I don’t enjoy?

All of that said… guys and girls, this was rough. For one thing, these two did not mesh particularly well. The work is sporadically sloppy throughout the match, with Hirota the bigger offender. This is my first time seeing Hirota wrestle, and I guess she goes for a comedy gimmick, but it didn’t come across to me. She goes for some big spots in the first half of the match, and the crowd certainly likes the end result, but the set-up in a couple of instances looks like she’s moving in slow motion.

Meanwhile, Shida comes across as the champion just looking to cut off the shenanigans and retain her title. Highlights include a superplex, which begins with Hirota standing on the apron outside the ring; and a fireman’s carry into a nasty-looking backbreaker. She also does her part to make her opponent look like a threat to the title, whether it be selling an open-handed slap to the abdomen that she takes on the run like she has been stabbed with a rusty shiv, or clutching at her arm after a few arm-related submission attempts chained together by Hirota, to varying levels of success in the execution.

And then there’s the referee… a few people who know way more about wrestling have the philosophy that if the referee in a match is good, you’ll never notice them. But if the referee is bad, he or she sticks out like a sore thumb. Watch enough Japanese wrestling and you’re bound to see an official with the occasional hitch in their giddy-up when making the two count and going for the three count, providing that extra little flash of time to build drama before the three count. This… is not one of those matches. I’m not sure who the official is but they take a pause following almost every two count in the match. These pauses just seem to get longer, to the point that the hesitation lasts for a full second in some cases before going for or, in the case of Shida’s running knee that finishes the match, finally counting for three. The prevalence of these long two counts took me out of the match completely. Every attempted three count feels incredibly telegraphed. As a result, none of these big moves or near-falls feel particularly special and by the time the match ended, I was honestly glad it was over.

Final Rating: 4.5

Both wrestlers work hard and the crowd is pretty into this but I can’t recommend watching this match, even if you’re a huge fan of Shida or joshi in general. At least I’m not pausing an extra second before explaining my rating. Can it get worse from here? There are 340 more opportunities to find out. I hope you’ll stick around for the journey.

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

What’s Next

Let’s go to Georgia for an old-school classic featuring four mainstays of the 1980s.

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 20: Allie Kat vs. Savanna Stone (SUP Graps, 1/20/19)

365 Wrestling, Day 20: Allie Kat vs. Savanna Stone (SUP Graps, 1/20/19)

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

Today I’m taking a look at a match from Southern Underground Pro (or, as they’re often referred to online, SUP Graps) and their I Am King event in 2019, where Allie Kat took on Savanna Stone. This is only the second or third time I’ve seen Allie Kat in action and my first time watching Savanna, so hooray for novelty and let’s get to the match.

By the way, you can watch this and all SUP events to date on Independent Wrestling TV. Introductions for this one start at the 33-minute mark.

The Context

Allie Kat is a SUP Graps regular and this is her sixth appearance for the promotion. She’s also got one of the more well-established characters on the independent scene today, as a cat who wrestles (No, really, it’s highly entertaining). Meanwhile, this is the SUP Graps debut for Stone, who’s about two years into her career at this point.

The Match

Allie Kat is not only the established presence for SUP Graps, but also the crowd favorite–to the point she draws huge “meow!” chants that begin during her entrance and continue intermittently throughout the match. The story they tell is a longstanding wrestling trope — the hometown favorite going against the latest invading villain — and both play their roles quite well.

Allie Kat has tons of charisma and brings a whimsy to her in-ring style that is infectious. She also can get physical when she needs to; case in point, a snug-looking hip attack and cannonball senton in succession during her comeback, and a wicked forearm smash to precede the finishing stretch. Stone, meanwhile, shows a solid savvy in a heel role that belies her relative inexperience. The heel heat focuses around Stone and trying to mangle Allie’s left arm by any means necessary, and she does a fine job changing it up, with the usual arm-related offense you’ve seen a billion times in matches intermingled with some casual savagery such as manipulating the fingers and outright biting the hand on a couple of occasions.

I found the finishing stretch compelling, even though it included one of my pet peeves — repeating the same spot or match after a miscue on the initial attempt. In the greater story, with Stone working Allie’s arm, it all works out, as it provided another of several incidents where Allie is unable to hit her finishing move (that would be the Pussy Piledriver). Ultimately, Allie is able to hit the piledriver and score a hard-fought victory.

I’ve talked before about my work in wrestling as a commentator from time to time, so naturally, I find myself focusing on the commentary when it’s there. Dylan Hales and Steven McCash are on the call for this match and do a very fine job, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve known Dylan online for years. They sneak in nuggets of greater context without taking away from the action happening in the ring. When Allie Kat goes to do a dive to the floor on Stone but doesn’t have the nerve, setting her up for an ambush that targets the left arm, the pair of commentators quickly and succinctly summarize Allie’s past hesitancy on dives. This also produces the line of the match from McCash, who encourages Allie to go for it because she’s got eight more lives if she misses. Top. Notch.

Random Thoughts

-This is my first time really checking out this promotion aside from a few clips on YouTube and the occasional gif, and that needs to change. The production values for the event are excellent, from the different camera views to the crystal-clear sound of the commentators to just the overall look of the video.

-To help with the “underground” feel, we’re in an intimate environment with a pretty low ceiling. There are no seats, so it’s literally standing room only for everyone. The ring announcer, Righteous Jesse, is especially intense… so intense that I kinda want to get the guy hooked up with a throat lozenge sponsorship or something.

-Speaking of the intimate environment, this event was filmed at The Basement East, a renowned venue in Nashville that unfortunately suffered catastrophic damage last March when a tornado hit the Nashville area. It’s since been rebuilt and looks to reopen in February according to their website.

Final Rating: 5.9

What is the goal of a wrestling match? Everyone has their own ideas. Is it to tell a story — whether as a standalone match, part of a greater ongoing tale, or both? Is it to give both competitors a chance to showcase their skills? Is it, simply, to engage the crowd? This match succeeds on any of those fronts, and I came away wanting to see more of both ladies going forward, as well as more of SUP Graps.

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

What’s Next

It’s back to WCW in 1992 for another scrap featuring the Dangerous Alliance.

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 13: Lioness Asuka vs. Michiko Omukai (ARSION, 1/13/02)

365 Wrestling, Day 13: Lioness Asuka vs. Michiko Omukai (ARSION, 1/13/02)

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

I embarked on this project for three reasons:

  1. To get back in the habit of original writing again. As a freelance writer and editor, I’m writing all the time, but that’s also work, so even though the subject matter is varied, like any job, it’s work.
  2. To focus on wrestling I enjoy, and the concept of enjoying wrestling, and combat the ever-present negativity in wrestling fandom.
  3. To watch wrestling I haven’t seen yet.

Like anyone in any fandom, I have gaps: New Generation WWF, the Four Pillars era of All Japan … and pretty much all of lucha libre and joshi. This week, for Women’s Match Wednesday, I take a foray into the latter for this match from ARSION in 2002 between Michiko Omukai and Lioness Asuka.

Now for the bad news… I can’t find this match for free anywhere online. However, you can buy it as part of this DVD in the Best of ARSION comp over at IVPVideos.

The Context

This is the 10th Anniversary match for Omukai, who started in wrestling in 1992 when she was 16 years old. This is less of a big deal than you’d think or than it would be most places in America, as it’s pretty common for women’s wrestlers in Japan to debut before they turn 18.

Her opponent, Lioness Asuka, already has 20-plus years under her belt. She’s also the reigning Queen of Arsion champion, which is the top title in the promotion. She’s best known for her tag run with Chigusa Nagayo as the Crush Gals. Lioness Asuka also was part of the women’s elimination tag involving several Japanese wrestlers at the 1995 Survivor Series.

The Match

So much for starting slow … Omukai launches herself at Asuka with a flying knee, over the referee’s back while he’s busy checking Lioness Asuka before calling for the bell. I wrote about escalation of violence in the dog collar match I watched on January 10, and what follows is a variation on that theme. Strikes and submissions set the tone; take special note of a sweet transition into an armbar by Lioness Asuka at the approximate 7-minute mark of the video before matters hit a new gear.

From there, the action spills into the crowd and Lioness Asuka ratchets up the intensity. First, she lays a table across her opponent and launches with a double stomp off the top rope. From there, they go allllll the way up through the crowd to the far end of the building. Lioness Asuka outstretches Omukai on yet another table, ascends a steep set of stairs to a small balcony, and jumps off with yet another double stomp that looked brutal!

Now they head alllllll the way back to the ring, where Omukai makes a comeback with a delayed axe kick, followed by a leaping kneedrop from the apron across the back of Lioness Asuka’s head. The action remains intense during the final minutes. Lioness Asuka hits a huge Liger bomb at center ring, but Omukai kicks out at one to the shock of the crowd. They keep scrapping until the bell sounds as the time limit expires, and the fight keeps on going beyond the bell, with the referee and officials having to separate them.

Random Thoughts

-Early in the match, Lioness Asuka has Omukai by the legs and is going for an apparent Boston crab. Instead, Omukai sits up in the hold and slaps her opponent in the face a few times. I dug that.

-As mentioned I haven’t seen a lot of joshi, but in what little I have watched, there’s at least one moment where someone’s going to be in a submission hold and screaming like they’re suffering indescribable torture.

-If those Korakuen Hall bleachers could talk, I wonder what they would say about all the brawls through the years …

-Lioness Asuka has a few masked lackeys at ringside, providing helpful assistance like holding Omukai in place to eat a dive from Lioness Asuka, or supplying tables. I have no idea or frame of reference for what these henchmen (hench-people?) signify.

Final Rating: 6.5

I’d never seen either of these wrestlers before so I came into this with no expectations but was pleasantly surprised with what they did in 15 minutes of work. The level of violence and intensity surpassed anything that happened in the No DQ title match from TNA I watched last week. The draw finish and their willingness to keep fighting left me wanting to see more. I’ll definitely be checking out more joshi as the year continues.

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

What’s Next

An interpromotional title match ends up being the spark that starts one of my favorite feuds in 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 6: Awesome Kong vs. Gail Kim, No DQ (TNA Final Resolution 2008, 1/6/08)

365 Wrestling, Day 6: Awesome Kong vs. Gail Kim, No DQ (TNA Final Resolution 2008, 1/6/08)

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

Are we still amid the peak era for women’s wrestling? Have we reached that peak? The prominence of women’s wrestling definitely has grown in recent years. Major promotions’ women’s divisions spent the 1990s earmarked mostly for bra-and-panty type content or forgettable filler matches — assuming a women’s division even existed at all. Today, that’s changed. Women have headlined pay-per-views, including a WrestleMania.

TNA Wrestling (now known as IMPACT) didn’t even institute a women’s title until late 2007 — more than five years after the promotion started running. The quality has ebbed and flowed through the years but, today, their Knockouts division holds up with as good a collection of female talent as any other company: Jordynne Grace, Deonna Purrazzo, Rosemary, Kimber Lee, Taya Valkyrie, Su Yung, just to name a few. And it all started with a rivalry between Gail Kim and Awesome Kong, the competitors in today’s selection as part of 365 Wrestling. In this one, Kim defends her Knockouts Title against Kong in a No DQ Match from Final Resolution 2008.

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

The Context

Kim became the first Knockouts Champion in the fall of 2007, and her major rival during that reign was Kong, who had made a name for herself in Japan and on the U.S. independent circuit before coming to TNA. The rivalry between Kim and Kong helped put the Knockouts Division on the map and established it as an alternative to the women’s matches coming out of WWE at the time.

You also might recognize Kong from her role on the GLOW Netflix show.

The Match

Certain stories just work in wrestling, and they’ve been told countless times through the years. This is one of them, with the gutsy underdog babyface (Kim) going against the unstoppable juggernaut heel (Kong). Kong is in her element in this match, battering Kim and throwing her around. An early exchange on the ringside floor helps set the tone, with Kong menacing Mike Tenay and Don West and teasing an Awesome Bomb through the commentary table. Meanwhile, Kim does a great job helping to make Kong look like a monster. She takes a spinning backfist while seated on the top turnbuckle, taking a spill that looks even nastier when one leg gets hooked, leaving her dangling above the floor.

They reap plenty of fruit from the No DQ stipulation. A brawl through the crowd whips the Impact Zone fans into a frenzy and that battle sees the first major momentum shift in the match in the champ’s favor, when Kong misses on a charging attack and Kim zeroes in attacking Kong’s lefty arm and shoulder. Later, after Kim eats a sweet-looking wheelbarrow facebuster and narrowly kicks out, Kong releases her frustrations after the near-finish by annihilating the official with an Awesome Bonb, then a chairshot. Ultimately, Kong’s aggression proves to be her undoing; Kim gets the chair and delivers multiple blows, followed by a splash off the top for another near fall counted by a replacement referee. When Kong hits Kim with a chokeslam for another close two count, and Kong goes to powerbomb that referee as well, Kim ensnares Kong in a schoolboy for the pin, after which the official flees in terror.

Random Thoughts

–TNA/IMPACT has produced a huge amount of nonsense through the years, but much of the in-ring product is good to great. The Impact Zone crowd added a lot to this one, even if some or most of them may have been plants.

–Speaking of nonsense, after meeting in a title match with a stipulation, these two wrestled AGAIN on the subsequent episode of TV, where Kong won the title after interference from her new manager. Why not do that here, especially since Tenay explicitly mentions “an associate” of Kong’s being in attendance for the pay-per-view? Beats me.

–Kim’s facial expressions and mannerisms after felling Kong with the chairshots and splash, only to get a two count, were great.

–A couple of unprotected chairshots in this one, which always makes me cringe a bit given what we have learned in recent years about concussions.

–This was one of two TNA pay-per-views in 2008 called Final Resolution, with the other happening in December. Weird.

Final Rating: 5.9

This rivalry between Kong and Kim helped establish the new Knockouts division, and this is the best match from their feud that I have seen. It’s a solid, satisfying watch in the “three star” range.

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

What’s Next

Two of my all-time favorites collide one on one in this contest from 1990.

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.