Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Antonio Inoki vs. Andre the Giant 10/07/1976

Back Story:

So it may seem I'm in a bit of an Antonio Inoki obsession. I wasn't into puro when he was at his peak, and after watching IGF 8, I really want to know who the hell this guy is and why he was so popular. So I, like millions of people, went to Wikipedia for my information. On his Wiki page there is a list of shoot fights that he was in, and on this list, directly after Muhammad Ali, is ANDRE THE GIANT. In a shoot fight. This of course is preposterous. But nonetheless I had to watch it. So I tracked down the footage and popped it in. What I found is basically the very soul of what IGF's booking philosophy is 30+ years before its inception.

The Match:

Andre the Giant is a big man. When these guys start to lock up it looks like Inoki is in danger of being mauled by a bear. The good thing about this match is despite looking so small, Inoki still carries himself like the baddest man on the planet. It's not very often that a guy can carry himself as a badass and still play an underdog. Inoki gets to play his game after countering out of a head lock and locks up the Giant's arm. Andre gets the ropes but there's no rope breaks here. Andre finally counters by dead lifting his opponent over his head and dropping him to the apron. Andre was great at selling his arm and when Inoki came in it was with a PURPOSE. "I'm gonna mess that arm UP!" He hits a couple of dropkicks but Andre eventually catches him to show some dominance. This ain't gonna be easy.

At about ten minutes in Andre officially gains control. Doing some neck work. What the hell is that move called where you but a guy's head between your legs and you jump up and down? the fellow calling the match said "jumping head scissors." I was hoping for something a little cooler, I'm sure Gorilla Monsoon had a better name for it. Anyway, Andre does it here and I wish that some big man would add it to their arsenal today. Khali would be cool if he could jump. Andre then trades in the neck for the leg. His moveset is actually pretty neat in a weird way. He then trades in the leg for the back when he goes for a surfboard. I'm not sure if Andre doesn't have the patience to actually pick a body part and work it or if he just wants to hurt everything.

After being knocked out of the ring, Inoki comes back with another drop kick and starts hitting some chops. The crowd is eating it up. Andre misses a charge in the corner and looks like he's knocked loopy. Inoki goes to take advantage but Andre takes him down and starts working the leg again. Inoki chops him a couple of times in the head but Andre shrugs this off and hits his own GIANT HEADBUTT of his own. Inoki goes for an arm bar but fails. Andre pays him back by putting him under the bottom rope and standing on it so that the rope strangles Inoki. GENIUS.

Eventually they're standing and Andre puts Inoki in a cobra clutch maneuver. Inoki in an attempt to escapes leaps over the top, but is pulled back in by Andre. Inoki goes for it a second time and they spill out ot the floor. Andre goes for his GIANT HEADBUTT and hits the ring post instead. They make their way in and we have ANDRE BLOOD!. They do an awesome spot where Andre picks him up in an Argentine Back breaker and Inoki kicks off the the top rope flipping back to the floor and this momentum carries Andre over so that Andre is on his back and Inoki has his back on Andre for a pin. Very cool. Andre kicks out at two with AUTHORITY. The ref goes to check on Andre's head and the Andre repeatedly tosses the ref away. The ref calls for the bell and they continue to fight.

Inoki Wins via TKO.

They announce the winner but Andre continues to kick Inoki out of the ring so that he doesn't get to bask in the win. The ref finally raises Inoki's arm but Inoki takes it away and basically says let's keep going. You know, because he's a badass. And so they do and it takes about five ring boys to pull The Giant back. Inoki is awesome here, telling everyone to get back despite it not working out just moments ago. Eventually after much shenanigans, Andre leaves, presumably to drink 24 liters of wine. They hold a title ceremony afterwards and the crowd is throwing not only garbage but their SEAT PILLOWS at the ring. Who in their right mind thought that finish was going to go over?

I mean this is it folks. This match was actually kind of fun to watch because Andre is amazingly agile here. They do some really cool plays on the big man/little man game and Inoki is really, really over. But this finish was non-sense, and the crowd thought so too. It's worth watching if you're a fan of either guy, and it's always fun to see a crowd get so pissed at a finish that they would throw stuff at the ring. But be warned, it's not for everyone.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Go to Puroresu Central!

Puroresu Central is an amazing, AMAZING, resource for all things puro. You'll find a bevy of wrestler bios and promotion histories, as well as a cornucopia of move clips. So if you're reading a review, and you don't know what the move is that the reviewer is talking about, you can usually search the site and find a clip of it. HANDY. Also, it has a few show reviews that I've written. He just now put up the one I wrote about IGF Genome 8, which I have a couple of clips posted here on this blog.

The guy who's running it is also having a great puro DVD sale so buy stuff off him so he can keep this incredible resource for wrestling fans up and running.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Analysis: Big Show Vs. The Undertaker.

The April 24th edition of Smackdown was to feature several talents who would be leaving the brand after the Backlash PPV. One of those talents was The Big Show. The Big Show was drafted to the seemingly over-crowded RAW brand and would be facing a man whom he had several battles with in 2008: The Undertaker.

This match had next to no hype and on Sunday, and neither man is booked for a PPV match. So why was this match more intriguing than pretty much anything going this week in wrestling?

In terms of structure it was pretty typical for these two: two beasts slugging it out. Depending on your tastes you either loved it or didn't. I'm a fan of two guys who can slug it out well and these guys can. The match was built around the Undertaker's neck not being 100% since he lawn-darted himself into the floor at Wrestlemania. And it worked fine.

The real drama came when The Undertaker went for "Old School" walking for the ropes. On the way down, Big Show blasted him in the face with the deadliest right hand in wrestling. The Undertaker was sent loopy and rolled in the ropes, keeping the Big Show from capitalizing with a pin. The Undertaker was amazing here. For a guy who spent the first chunk of his career being a guy who wouldn't sell for anyone, now being one of the best ones on his company's roster is kind of amazing if you think about it. So while Undertaker was trying to pull himself up in true Rocky fashion, The Big Show fired another shot at the back of The Undertaker's head, knocking him out. The ref stopped the fight and The Big Show was handed a huge win over The Deadman. By KNOCKOUT.

Up until this point there was a good amount of tension. Many wrestlers in their last show before jumping brands lose. It's kind of a strange way of WWE keeping that "time honored tradition..." going despite the wrestlers still staying under the same roof. When Undertaker was caught up in the ropes, you had to think that this is how he was going to be saved. That he'd turn around and catch The Big Show before he could deliver that fatal blow and win the match. But it never came. The Undertaker got dropped.

The post-match work was just as engaging. The Undertaker pulling himself and asking for more. Big Show ready to oblige but getting peppered with some fists and sent out of the ring. What's great here is that he never takes a smile off of his face. He won. Most folks would run off with their tails between their legs and have a boo-boo face on. Not Show. He was laughing at the guy. Laughing at The Undertaker.

So why was this more interesting than just about everything else that going on in the "WWE Universe"? Because, it could just as easily mean nothing as much as everything for both of them. This match gives The Big Show a ton of bragging rights heading over to RAW. He's got heat for beating up on The Undertaker. It's enough to set him far apart from a very crowded RAW. If Randy Orton doesn't get to go over Triple H and get another title run, then Big Show should most certainly be next in line. This angle with Undertaker has given him more than that awful love triangle story could ever give him. It gives him his edge. It makes me really dangerous.

For The Undertaker, this could set up a very intriguing run as The Deadman Who's Almost Done. With word going around that he's looking to leave the business in over a year, The Undertaker being portrayed as an underdog, is a novel and fresh approach to a character that has run a gamut of reincarnations. Not just an underdog to men bigger than him like the Big Show, but men younger than him. It's a way to not only humanize but assuredly immortalize this character one of the most enduring draws in wrestling.

So yeah, there's a little bit of buzz going around, but unfortunately this could just as easily be dropped. Neither man is booked for this Sunday's PPV and neither man will face each other for any type of pay off. This could be a brilliant angle worked by two amazing performers so that both are in a good position on their respective shows. Or it could be two amazing performers wanting to tell a good story for the fans. Even if it's for just one night.

Regardless, The Big Show and The Undertaker proved that they can continue to be engaging and fresh, despite being two seniors of a very young roster. I can't think of many wrestlers with their experience in the WWE or in TNA who are doing the same. So for that, they should be applauded.

Feel free to share YOUR feelings one way or the other. That's what comments are for.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What I Got From IGF GENOME 8

So, I was writing up a review for IGF Genome 8, and realized there were two things that I really took away from the show and that I can't wait to share. One is Jon Andersen tossing Taka Kunou. Here's that:

Fun, right? The second is Yoshihiro Takayama at a press conference:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Steamboat Vs. Savage Wrestlemania III

So with Ricky Steamboat kicking ass at Wrestlemania 25 and again on the following RAW, I decided to go back and watch what many folks consider to be one of the best Wrestlemania matches EVER. I haven't watched the match in years, but when I was a young lad I loved it. Savage was my favorite wrestler in the world and I used to dress up like Ricky Steamboat. Head band, gui, black pants. All that. There's a picture somewhere.

Anyway, my wife and I decided to pop it in instead of watching Heroes, because Ricky Steamboat kills Heroes everytime. Honestly, George "The Animal" Steele at ringside kills Heroes every time. The story leading up to the match is Savage, the Intercontinental Champion, tried to end Ricky Steamboats career via a crushed larynx. Steamboat of course is known for resilliance, and makes his way back to challenege for the title on the Grandest Stage of Them All. There's a sub-story that revolves around George Steele's love for Miss Elizabeth, Randy Savage's oft abused valet, and Ricky brings George to ringside in order to have a psychological effect on his nemisis.

The match holds up in certain areas. In terms of match structure this has been copied and duplicated hundreds of times over. Nearfalls, ref bumps, interference, it's all there. So if you've watched the WWE or really any wrestling for an extended amount of time, this match won't seem very fresh, because the idea has been worn out since 1987. The upside is seeing two fantastic showmen perform the formula.

Savage is spry and athletic. If you're only familiar with WCW Savage, this could be a great wake up call. He's a creative brawler, and his moves look slick, especially his elbows to the face.

Steamboat is made to get beat up and make big comebacks. He's truly one of the best people at that and its why he was always face. The Steamer was so good at making everything big enough so the folks in the back row knew what was up. And when fires it up, he makes sure the entire crowd is with him. This is where Steele also comes into play. At one point Ricky is laid out in the front row and Steele has to lift him to his feet and carry him to the ring in order to beat a ten count. Steele is an extension of the thousands in attendance. They want to help the good guy. They want to save the girl. They want to make sure the bad guy gets his comeupunce.

And it is Steele who turns the tides. After a ref bump, Savage hits a beautiful elbow drop and has The Dragon beat. Seeing that the ref is done, Savage decides to do a repeat, and drop the ringbell across Steamboats throat from the top. Steele comes to the rescue and pushes the villian from the top. The ref recovers, and Steamboat flashes a cradle on Savage for the three count.

Looking back on the structure of the match, it becomes obvious that this match is not about Ricky Steamboat becoming champion. It's about Savage being the next big thing. Jesse Ventura puts Randy Savage over big time, saying "He's the best athelete in the sport of wrestling." And the structure of the match keeps the fans happy by seeing Savage get beaten, but it saves Savages face. He had Steamboat beat. And if it weren't for some interference, he would have still had him beat. And after everyone basks in the glory of the new good guy champion, they'll go back and realize, Savage is a threat to everyone. Including the top title.

Which is where he went: one year later at Wrestlemania IV, Savage won his first World Title.

So if you haven't in a while, or never have, go back and check out this classic. It's still worth it.