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.

Back when the Monday Night Wars were in full swing, WCW became extremely aggressive signing wrestlers. This created a glut of talent — more than could be used at any one time — to the point that wrestlers were under contract for years and rarely booked or not used at all. 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.

You can find this match online with a shrewd bit of searching.

The Match

A quick plug of the WCW Hotline by Mean Gene Okerlund has us fully ensconced in WCW nostalgia mode. Tony Schiavone spends a little time on commentary building a story that Mortis is out to become the best masked wrestler in WCW. This is one of those C-show plots that basically occurred in a vacuum. Case in point: Juventud wins the Cruiserweight Title for the first time less than a week later on Thunder, while by February of 1998, Mortis has abandoned the character altogether, unmasking and allying with Raven.

More people are aware of the ability of Mortis (aka Chris Kanyon), and his influence on future wrestlers, after his Dark Side of the Ring episode. We see some of that innovation here. Following a very well-timed bit of interference by James Vandenberg (better known as the Sinister Minister these days), Mortis takes control and busts 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 has a big size advantage and it plays into a teased comeback by Juventud, who converts an apparent tilt-a-whirl headscissors into a sleeper (Dusty Rhodes delightfully calls this as a “whirlybird”). Later, Juvi uses Mortis’ larger size against him, countering an original Flatliner (from a fireman’s carry off the second rope) with a sunset flip powerbomb. However, it’s not long before Mortis finishes with a move Schiavone calls “the D.O.A.” but is now the move we wrestling aficionados know as the Flatliner.

Final Rating: 5

There’s nothing wrong with the action here, but not a lot worth seeking it out, either. However, current and aspiring managers should watch the interference by Vandenberg for the artful timing on opening the ropes quickly and at the exact ideal moment.

What’s Next

It’s January 4, so there’s only one destination… The Tokyo Dome.

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

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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.

Thanks to the advent of streaming services in recent years, American wrestling fans have more access to Japanese wrestling than ever. One company that still flies a bit under the radar is Big Japan Pro Wrestling, which features both a strong style division and a death match division. Big Japan holds an event almost every January 2, and in this installment, 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. You can watch this match on IWTV.

The Wrestlers

I’m not familiar with either of these guys so I thought some brief context would be helpful. Abdullah the Butcher helped train Kobayashi and Kobayashi looks like the Japanese version of that icon. Ishikawa’s got a significant size advantage, but Kobayashi has held the title for more than a year and successfully defended against Ishikawa in May of 2012. At the contract signing, Ishikawa jumps Kobayashi, stuffs him into a port-a-potty, pants him and sprays window cleaner on and up his ass (Yes, really).

The Match

The stage is set with the usual plunder in a match of this type but some other elements that fit the theme of the Japanese new year:

–Kobayashi comes to the ring with an orange tied to the top of his head, which represents the continuation of family.

–There’s a glass version of Kadomatsu, a plant decoration that Japanese tradition believes to be the temporary dwelling place of gods, propped ominously in one corner. Japanese families keep it outside their home until January 7, then burn it on the 15th, but this version gets destroyed when Kobayasahi obliterates Ishikawa with it.

–Ishikawa busts out a Kagami Mochi, which is a New Year’s decoration made of two round rice cakes. The version here contains, well, something sharp that lacerates Ishikawa quickly and profusely once Kobayashi shoves it into his head.

Both men waste little time making for the plunder, building to a spectacular moment where Ishikawa lays a pane of glass against three propped chairs and scales the ropes, only to get superplexed through the glass himself. After exhausting the supply of weaponry, 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.

Final Rating: 5.8

Death match wrestling is more prominent than ever in the U.S. I’ve certainly seen some great death matches through the years, and some that were just awful. This battle fell in the “good” range for me. Having an invested 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.

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.

The first installment in the project and we’re kicking things off by spotlighting two of my all-time favorites.

Rey Mysterio, Jr. has 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. Tajiri, meanwhile, is a fine example that a wrestler doesn’t have to take a turn as a headliner to be memorable. Tajiri spent his entire time in American wrestling in the midcard, but his look, style and charisma paved a path to success for the Japanese Buzzsaw in WWE and ECW. Like Mysterio, Tajiri is still active. Though he’s slowed down more than Rey, Tajiri became MLW Openweight Champion near the end of 2021.

You can check out this match on Peacock. You can also watch a clip from the match in the video above.

The Match

Rey gets one more crack at Tajiri, who dethroned Mysterio 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.

This culminates a four-month rivalry between Rey and Tajiri, and their familiarity shines through in this one. Rather than go right 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. Each man anticipates key offense of the other: Rey blocks signature Tajiri maneuvers like the springboard back elbow and the Tarantula, while, late in the bout, Tajiri avoids a springboard senton by Rey with 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. The highlight of that attack is a pinpoint standing dropkick to the knee while Rey is hanging upside down in the Tree of Woe.

The finishing stretch is strong with each man scoring 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.

Final Rating: 7.6

This is a very good match that showcases both Rey and Tajiri in their primes. Everything flowed well and looked good. At under 12 minutes (counting entrances, and minus an early segment of the match we don’t see due to the commercial break), this is a brisk, action-packed match with real stakes, a strong narrative centered around Rey’s left leg, and a satisfying, definitive conclusion. Seek out this match if you haven’t seen it.

What’s Next

We head to Japan and ring in 2013 with a death match.

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

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365 Wrestling: The Master Index

Featured365 Wrestling: The Master Index

365 Wrestling is my project for 2022, 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: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 9, 1/4/15)
January 5: Roddy Piper, Rick Martel, Dutch Savage & Stan Stasiak vs. Buddy Rose’s Army (Pacific Northwest Wrestling, 1/5/80)
January 6: Awesome Kong vs. Gail Kim, No DQ (TNA Final Resolution, 1/6/08)
January 7: Ric Flair vs. Bobby Eaton (WCW Main Event, 1/7/90)
January 8: Kenta Kobashi vs. Minoru Suzuki (NOAH, 1/8/05)
January 9: Fabulous Ones vs. Moondogs, Anything Goes (Memphis, 1/9/84)
January 10: Joe Black vs. Will Huckaby, Dog Collar (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 (WWE SmackDown, 1/12/07)
January 13: Lioness Asuka vs. Michiko Omukai (ARSION, 1/13/02)
January 14: Bryan Danielson vs. Chris Hero (ROH Hell Freezes Over, 1/14/06)
January 15: Stan Hansen vs. Ashura Hara (AJPW, 1/15/82)
January 16: Dory Funk, Jr. vs. Billy Robinson (Houston, 1/16/81)
January 17: New York Rumble (WWF, 1/17/94)
January 18: Masato Yoshino vs. Don Fujii (Dragon Gate, 1/18/11)
January 19: Rockers vs. Orient Express (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/19/91)
January 20: Atlantis vs. El Satánico, 2/3 Falls (EMLL, 1/20/84)
January 21: Alex Shelley vs. AC Mack (Southern First, 1/21/22)
January 22: Diesel vs. Bret Hart (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/22/95)
January 23: Ricky Morton vs. Brad Armstrong (IPW, 1/23/96)
January 24: Chavo Guerrero, Jr., Juventud Guerrera, Super Calo & Lizmark, Jr. vs. La Parka, Psicosis, El Dandy & Silver King (WCW Souled Out, 1/24/98)
January 25: Osirian Portal (Amasis & Ophidian) vs. The Colony (Fire Ant & Soldier Ant), CHIKARA Revelation X, 1/25/09
January 26: Chris Adams vs. Gino Hernandez (World Class Wrestling Star Wars, 1/26/86)
January 27: Tatsumi Fujinami vs. “The Masked Canadian” (NWA Hollywood, 1/27/78)
January 28: John Cena vs. Umaga, Last Man Standing (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 Recap Podcast on The Military Industrial Suplex w/ guest Thomas Simpson

February 1: Aja Kong vs. Bull Nakano (AJW, 2/1/92)
February 2: Rock ‘n’ Roll Express vs. British Bulldogs (WWA International Bash, 2/2/89)
February 3: Amazing Red vs. Low Ki (House of Glory, 2/3/18)
February 4: Super Crazy vs. Tajiri, Japanese Death Match (ECW, 2/4/00)
February 5: Leakee vs. Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose (FCW, 2/5/12)
February 6: The Cobra vs. Shiro Koshinaka (NJPW, 2/6/86)
February 7: Ben Carter vs. B-Boy (ACTION, 2/7/20)
February 8: Undertaker vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (WWF Saturday Night, 2/8/97)
February 9: Ricky Steamboat & Don Kernodle vs. Ivan & Nikita Koloff (NWA JCP WorldWide, 2/9/85)

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, watch and review a match that occurred on that day. For example, on January 1, I’ll post a review of 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

That’s basically it. I started out with more rules, but it’s enough of a challenge keeping up. In the spring of 2021, my family and I got COVID-19. That plus some other family issues, plus a big work opportunity that came along in the summer, meant I had to put the project on the back burner. My plan is to revise the initial batch of 60 matches, rewatch them, and maybe swap out a couple of lackluster entries from that group, while I build up a queue of entries and then do my best to stick with the calendar during 2022.

I hope you’ll be back to join me on this journey.

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