365 Wrestling, Day 3: Juventud Guerrera vs. Mortis (WCWSN, 1/3/98)

365 Wrestling, Day 3: Juventud Guerrera vs. Mortis (WCWSN, 1/3/98)

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

Our third installment of this unique traipse through the history of costumed murder gymnastics is also the first Reader Recommendation of the series.

You see, back when the Monday Night Wars were in full swing, WCW became VERY aggressive signing wrestlers to contracts. This created a glut of talent — more than could be used at any one time (much like what WWE faces now, even with all its different “brands. Anyway, this also led to some bizarre and highly entertaining matchups on WCW’s three C-level shows: WCW Saturday Night, Pro, and Worldwide. We reach into that wacky grab bag for today’s match: Juventud Guerrera vs. Mortis from the Jan. 3, 1998, episode of Saturday Night.

The Context

Mortis spent most of 1997 feuding with Glacier. This evolved into a tag rivalry, with Mortis and Wrath (aka Bryan Clarke or Adam Bomb) taking on Glacier and Ernest Miller. The whole angle between them basically got dropped by late summer of 1997.

As for Guerrera, by the time this match aired, he had been with WCW for about 16 months. That included sporadic appearances on the flagship show Nitro, and several challenges for the TV and Cruiserweight titles, but no real success to speak of yet.

The Match

Tony Schiavone spends a little time on commentary trying to build a story around this match, that Mortis was out to claim he was the best masked wrestler in WCW. The size difference between the two is… significant. Mortis starts out with some basic clubbering but the match hits a second gear after an artful bit of interference by James Vandenberg (better known as the Sinister Minister these days), who yanks down the middle rope to send Juvi spilling to the floor in an excellent bit of timing.

After that, things get wild, starting with Mortis busting out this:

After consulting with WCW super-enthusiast and technical wrestling specialist Jeff Connelly, we’re going to call this a deadlift pumphandle fallaway slam. It’s not so much the trip as the landing — Juvi gets dropped throatfirst across the top rope then crashes back to the canvas.

Mortis isn’t done. He follows up with an electric chair into a sitout facebuster. Though Mortis dominates most of the match, Juventud gets a few chances to shine: executing a partial tilt-a-whirl into a sleeper that Dusty Rhodes delightfully calls a “whirlybird”, and then countering an original Flatiner (from a fireman’s carry off the second rope) with a sunset flip powerbomb. Soon thereafter, Mortis finishes it, blocking a leap off the top by Juvi with a standing Flatliner — called “the D.O.A.” by Schiavone. Later, as Kanyon, he starts using this as the Flatliner.

Random Thoughts

Mean Gene Okerlund shills the WCW Hotline prior to this match. That really took me back, you guys … I don’t remember ever calling it, though. How about you?

— It’s the first episode of WCWSN since Starrcade ’97, and Schiavone and Dusty spend a good bit of time on commentary talking about all the controversy, and how Sting is the new world champion. If you weren’t following wrestling at that time, you probably won’t understand how unique and impressive the build for that match was … and how disappointing the actual match between Sting and Hollywood Hogan ended up being.

— This match basically occurs in a vacuum from a booking perspective. Even though he’s in glorified enhancement talent mode here, Juventud won the Cruiserweight Title for the first time less than a week later on Thunder, later embarking on a feud with Chris Jericho that costs him his mask. Meanwhile, Mortis abandons the gimmick altogether by February, allying with Raven.

Final Rating: 5

There’s nothing wrong with the action here, but it’s one of those matches that is just kind of there for me. Sure, Mortis busts out a couple of crazy moves (most notably the one in the gif above), but the match itself is skippable. Booking moves for both render it irrelevant and there’s no real heat, drama, or stakes in what amounts to a glorified squash for Mortis except for a couple of big moves by Juvi.

What’s Next

Two grumpy old men collide to bludgeon one another relentlessly in a massive venue.

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

What’s your favorite random match from a WCW C-show? Have 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: The Master Index

Featured365 Wrestling: The Master Index

365 Wrestling is my project for 2021, where I’m going to watch a wrestling match for each day of the year, from that day of the year. Here’s a running index of the content so far:

“Rules” and Details on 365 Wrestling

January 1: Rey Mysterio, Jr. vs. Tajiri (SmackDown, 1/1/04)
January 2: New Year Death Match (Big Japan, 1/2/13)
January 3: Juventud Guerrera vs. Mortis (WCW Saturday Night), 1/3/98
January 4: Yuji Nagata vs. Minoru Suzuki, NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 7, 1/4/13
January 5: 2/3 Falls, Buddy Rose’s Army vs. Roddy Piper, Rick Martel, Dutch Savage & Stan Stasiak, Pacific Northwest Wrestling, 1/5/80
January 6: No DQ, Gail Kim (C) vs. Awesome Kong (TNA Final Resolution, 1/6/08)
January 7: Ric Flair vs. Bobby Eaton (w/ Jim Cornette) (WCW Main Event, 1/7/90)
January 8: Kenta Kobashi vs. Minoru Suzuki (NOAH Great Voyage 2005, 1/8/05)
January 9: Anything Goes, Fabulous Ones vs. Moondogs (CWA Memphis, 1/9/84)
January 10: Dog Collar, Joe Black vs Will Huckaby (Southern Honor Wrestling, 1/10/20)
January 11: Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes & Ron Simmons vs. Dangerous Alliance (WCW WorldWide, 1/11/92)
January 12: Paul London & Brian Kendrick vs. William Regal & Dave Taylor (SmackDown, 1/12/07)
January 13: Lioness Asuka vs. Michiko Omukai (ARSON, 1/13/02)
January 14: Bryan Danielson vs. Chris Hero (ROH Hell Freezes Over, 1/14/06)
January 15: Stan Hansen vs. Ashura Hara (All Japan, 1/15/82)
January 16: Dory Funk, Jr. vs. Billy Robinson (Houston, 1/16/81)
January 17: New York Rumble (WWF at Madison Square Garden, 1/17/94)
January 18: Jerry Lawler vs. Jos LeDuc (w/ Jimmy Hart) (CWA Memphis, 1/18/81)
January 19: Rockers vs. New Orient Express (Pat Tanaka & Kato) (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/19/91)
January 20: Allie Kat vs. Savanna Stone (SUP Graps, 1/20/19)
January 21: Ricky Steamboat & Sting vs. Rick Rude & Steve Austin (WCW Clash of the Champions XVIII, 1/21/92)
January 22: Jumbo Tsuruta & Great Kabuki vs. Michael Hayes & Terry Gordy (All Japan, 1/22/84)
January 23: Ricky Morton vs. Brad Armstrong (IPW in Asheville, NC, 1/23/96)
January 24: Chavo Guerrero, Jr., Lizmark, Jr., Super Calo & Juventud Guerrera vs. La Parka, Psicosis, Silver King & El Dandy (WCW Souled Out, 1/24/98)
January 25: Hikaru Shida vs. Sakura Hiroto (WAVE, 1/25/15)
January 26: Mr. Wrestling II & Kevin Sullivan vs. Austin Idol & Masked Superstar (Georgia Championship Wrestling, 1/26/80)
January 27: Rosemary vs. Samara (RISE 2 — Ascent, 1/27/17)
January 28: Last Man Standing, John Cena vs. Umaga (WWE Royal Rumble, 1/28/07)
January 29: Serial Thrillaz vs. Hardy Boyz (OMEGA, 1/29/99)
January 30: El Generico vs. Jushin Liger (PWG, 1/30/10)
January 31: Steve Grey vs. Zoltan Boscik (Joint Promotions, 1/31/79)

January Review


February 1: El Mesias vs. Takeshi Morishima (AAA, 2/1/10)
February 2: Rock ‘n’ Roll Express vs. British Bulldogs (AWA/AJPW/Central States When Worlds Collide, 2/2/89)
February 3: Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Semifinal, Kayden Carter & Kacy Catanzaro vs. Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez (WWE NXT, 2/3/21)
February 4: Japanese Death Match, Super Crazy vs. Tajiri (ECW, 2/4/00)
February 5: Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu vs. Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu (All Japan, 2/5/86)
February 6: Los Guerreros vs. Team Angle (WWE SmackDown, 2/6/03)
February 7: Ben Carter vs. B-Boy (ACTION, 2/7/20)
February 8: Undertaker vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (WWF Shotgun Saturday Night, 2/8/97)
February 9: El Texano, Silver King & El Fantasma vs. Samu, Fatu & Fishman (UWA, 2/9/92)
February 10: Kelly Klein vs. Mayu Iwatani (ROH Bound By Honor, 2/10/19)
February 11: Junkyard Dog & Dusty Rhodes vs. Ted DiBiase & Matt Borne (Houston, 2/11/83)
February 12: Jim Breaks vs. Adrian Street (2/12/72)
February 13: Kana vs. Meiko Satomura (Triple Tails, 2/13/11)
February 14: Steel Cage, Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon (WWF St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, 2/14/99)
February 15: I Quit, Jake Manning vs. John Skyler (PWX Rise of a Champion IX, Night 1, 2/15/14)
February 16: Monster’s Ball, The Wolves vs. Decay (TNA, 2/16/16)
February 17: WWE Women’s Tag Title Elimination Chamber Match (WWE Elimination Chamber, 2/17/19)
February 18: Slim J vs. Andrew Alexander (NWA Chattanooga, 2/18/11)
February 19: Dave Finlay vs. Tajiri (SMASH, 2/19/12)
February 20: Chris Hero & Mike Quackenbush vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico (CHIKARA, 2/20/05)
February 21: White Castle of Fear, Sting vs. Big Van Vader (WCW, 2/21/93)
February 22: Booker T vs. Bret Hart (WCW, 2/22/99)
February 23: Randy Savage & Lanny Poffo vs. Lou Winston & Jerry Bryant (Memphis, 2/23/85)
February 24: Jordynne Grace vs. Skylar (Beyond, 2/24/18)
February 25: Mistico vs. Ultimo Guerrero (CMLL, 2/25/05)
February 26: No DQ, AJ Styles vs. Sandman (NWA-TNA, 2/26/03)
February 27: Satoshi Kojima vs. Drew McDonald (Reslo, 2/27/95)
February 28: Prince Nana vs. Ace Darling (ECWA, 2/28/04)

February Review

March 1: Bruno Sammartino vs. Ernie Ladd (WWWF, 3/1/76)

365 Wrestling, Day 2: New Year Death Match, Abdullah Kobayashi vs. Shuji Ishikawa (Big Japan, 1/2/13)

365 Wrestling, Day 2: New Year Death Match, Abdullah Kobayashi vs. Shuji Ishikawa (Big Japan, 1/2/13)

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

From cruiserweight excellence on January 1, we pivot to blood-soaked mayhem in the second installment of the series. While New Japan Pro Wrestling has made a tradition holding its major event of the year every January 4, another Japanese companies have their own noteworthy dates each calendar year. Big Japan Pro Wrestling, which features both a strong style division and a death match division, has kicked off its yearly campaign with an event on January 2 dating all the way back to 1997 (and skipping 1999, for some reason).

Specifically, we’re firing up the main event from Big Japan’s January 2 event in 2013, with Abdullah Kobayashi defending the promotion’s Death Match Title against Shuji Ishikawa in a New Year Death Match. I have never seen either man in action, so we’re just going to dive right in. You can watch this match, and several Big Japan events, on IWTV.

The Context

Kobayashi has been BJW’s Deathmatch Champion for more than a year, since winning the title on December 18, 2011. Kobayashi and Ishikawa wrestled each other multiple times in 2012, including a successful defense by Kobayashi in May in a Fluorescent Light Tubes and Free Weapons Death Match. There’s a video package detailing the build to the match, where Ishikawa challenges Kobayashi after a successful defense, and then a subsequent contract signing. Both meetings end the same way, with Ishikawa attacking Kobayashi, stuffing his head in a toilet and, at the contract signing, spraying Windex on and up his ass (I wish I was kidding).

The Match

The stage is set with various means of mauling prior to the match, with light tubes propped vertically against opposite sets of ring ropes. A barbed wire board is propped in one corner, while, across the way, a pane of glass leans ominously against the corner pad. A third corner includes what looks to be a plant of some type, which we’ll get to later and made more sense to me after some research.

Kobayashi and Ishikawa get right to working plunder into the match; several light tubes are shattered in the opening minute, and the barbed wire board soon follows. I won’t even try to detail all the specific moves and tactics these two use but suffice to say that the blood quickly starts flowing. Ishikawa makes liberal use of several items from a Grocery Bag of Doom he brings with him to the ring. While several of the weapons quickly get destroyed, they build nicely to use of the pane of glass, which Ishikawa lays flat against three propped chairs and scales the ropes, only to get superplexed through it in the most spectacular spot of the match.

With no weapons left to use on one another, champion and challenger resort to trading strikes — including several shoot-style headbutts — in an exchange that makes Kobayashi look more formidable than anything else in the match to this point. Ishikawa gets the better of the champ, though, and finishes it with a splash off of the top rope. The blood is profound (and spatters one of the ringside cameras late in the match in an excellent visual) but when assessing all the violence, Kobayashi definitely takes the worst of it over the course of the match and has lacerations all over his body by the time the final bell rings.

Random Thoughts

So, after watching this match, I did some research online about New Year’s traditions in Japan, and several are incorporated into the match as weapons. Specifically:

–Kobayashi comes to the ring with an orange tied to the top of his head, which apparently represents the continuation of family.
–Ishikawa busts out a Kagami Mochi, which is a New Year’s decoration made of two round rice cakes. There’s a special ingredient in this one that I’m pretty sure was a razor blade. Whatever it is, it’s sharp and cuts open Ishikawa quickly and profusely once Kobayashi shoves it into his head.
–For most of the match, there’s a plant staying in one corner that I’m pretty sure is a deathmatch take on Kadomatsu, a plant decoration that incorporates bamboo shoots, plum trees, and pine trees and that Japanese tradition believes to be the temporary dwelling place of gods, who visit to bless the people living in the homes it decorates. Families keep it outside their home until January 7, then burn it on the 15th. It’s one of the final pieces of plunder destroyed in the match, and what Ishikawa doesn’t know is that Kobayashi has replaced those bamboo shoots with Folger’s crystals–I mean, er, green-painted light tubes.

Final Rating: 5.8

People tend to either love or hate death matches. I’ve certainly seen some fantastic ones, and watched others that were just awful. This battle fell in the “good” range for me. I tend to prefer matches of this genre where they build to the weapon use, and the biggest spot is the culmination. That really isn’t the formula they follow here, but it worked because of the wicked exchange of strikes near the end. Having a red-hot crowd certainly helped. Ultimately, if you like death match wrestling, you’ll like this. If you don’t like death matches, just skip it.

What’s Next

We make our first (but definitely not our last) foray into the grab bag of bizarre matchups that embodied WCW C-shows in the late 1990s. See you then!

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

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 1: Rey Mysterio, Jr., vs. Tajiri (SmackDown, 1/1/04)

365 Wrestling, Day 1: Rey Mysterio, Jr., vs. Tajiri (SmackDown, 1/1/04)

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

What makes someone an outstanding performer in the realm of pro wrestling? Should they be measured by their single “greatest” match? Their ability to sell tickets (when we aren’t in the middle of a plague, of course) or move merch? In recent years, I’ve placed more stock in longevity as a key determinant in wrestling–whether it be the ability to reinvent yourself time and time again to remain relevant, a gradual evolution to become one of the top practitioners of your craft, or being able to sustain excellence for years… even decades.

For me, Rey Mysterio, Jr,. falls into that latter category. He’s slowed down some, naturally, after the pile-up of years and injuries but his appeal, his style and many of his signature moves remain, in many ways, timeless. In the opening installment of 365 Wrestling, I decided to watch a match between Rey and another personal favorite, Tajiri, from the New Year’s Day episode of SmackDown back in 2004. You can check out this match, and every episode of SmackDown except the most recent four episodes, on the WWE Network. You can also watch a clip from the match in the video above.

The Context

Rey gets one more crack at Tajiri, the man who beat him for the Cruiserweight Title the previous September. Tajiri’s reign included him bringing on two lackeys to watch his back and interfere on his behalf, Akio (better known as Jimmy Yang) and Sakoda.

The Match

This culminates a four-month rivalry between Rey and Tajiri, and their familiarity shines through in this one. Rather than go flying at one another, and flying around the ring, at the opening bell, they opt for a more patient, mat-based battle in the opening minutes that runs counter to what most might expect from a matchup between these two. Each man anticipates key offense of the other: Rey blocks signature Tajiri offense like the springboard back elbow and the Tarantula, while, late in the bout, Tajiri avoids a springboard senton by Rey into a sweet counter to a half crab on the left leg, which is the main target of Tajiri’s offense for most of the match.

After relying on a distraction from Akio and interference by Sakoda to get control of the match, Tajiri really works over that leg, busting out the shin breaker best known as one of Ric Flair‘s favorite moves, the aforementioned single-leg crab and (my personal favorite) a pinpoint dropkick to the knee while Rey is hanging upside down in the Tree of Woe.

The finishing stretch is a good one. Tajiri delivers a nasty-looking running sitout powerbomb for a long two count. Rey counters the following Buzzsaw Kick with a double leg bridge for a very believable false finish. Ultimately, Rey foils interference by Akio and Sakoda, hooking Tajiri with a huracanrana into the pin to become two-time Cruiserweight Champ.

Random Thoughts

–Because this is the opening match on the show, I watched from the very beginning and was reminded of Hardcore Holly getting the rub as Brock Lesnar’s challenger at the Royal Rumble, and the SmackDown credits, which were a fine trip down memory lane as they’re the same credits and theme song from SmackDown: Here Comes The Pain, a game I played habitually for most of the mid-2000s.

–Sending out Akio and Sakoda in blue shirts with black pants wasn’t the best choice. On wide shots, they looked to similar to the uniform of the time for SmackDown referees.

–Hearing Michael Cole on commentary underscored just how long he has been a lead broadcaster for WWE. Has anyone else had a longer stretch as a key part of week-to-week TV for the company?

Final Rating: 7.8

This was an excellent match that showcases both Rey and Tajiri in their primes. Everything flowed well and looked good. At under 12 minutes (counting entrances, and minus the early portion of the match we don’t see due to the commercial break), this is a brisk, action-packed match with real stakes and a satisfying conclusion. A high bar has been set for tomorrow.

What’s Next

We head to Japan and get hardcore with a death match.

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

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: The Project

365 Wrestling: The Project

Greetings, all! I’ve re-imagined my long-dormant WordPress site to focus on my favorite of favorite hobbies: professional wrestling. I discovered wrestling when I was 9 years old, and since then I’ve pretty much been hooked, although there are times life gets in the way and my fandom has lapsed. I’ve also been fortunate to work in wrestling on an independent level, mostly as a commentator but also a ring announcer. I even had the chance, long ago, to dabble in some booking.

For a while, I’ve missed being able to write about wrestling, but struggled to find a way to funnel that desire into something that felt unique. I don’t have the time to work for a wrestling news site anymore, and everyone has their take on the latest episode of Raw, Dynamite, or pay-per-view. Meanwhile, with the proliferation of accessible wrestling content now out there online and the aforementioned life getting in the way, my fandom has gaps. Big, gigantic gaps.

And so, I came up with 365 Wrestling. The concept is simple: for each day in the year, write a match that occurred on that day. For example, on January 1 (tomorrow), I’ll watch a match from a previous New Year’s Day… and so on, and so forth, all the way through New Year’s Eve.

The “Rules”

–Trying to avoid matches I already have seen and remember

–Avoiding the same wrestler or promotion on back-to-back days

–A tag match every Tuesday

–A women’s match or intergender match every Wednesday

EDIT (6/3/2021): Falling behind on entries by about three months due to a combination of work, travel, family responsibilities, and getting COVID rendered the themed entries for Tuesdays and Wednesdays rather pointless.

This will be a work in progress, to be sure, but it all starts tomorrow with a lovely little bout from 2004 that involves two of my all-time favorites. I hope you’ll be back to read my thoughts on that match, and join me on this journey.

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