Tonight's card has a couple of nifty little reoccurring themes. This one runs a little long, for reasons you'll see later but we've got a good mix though, with matches spanning nearly forty years! Some high flying action, some crazy ass bloody brawls, some nifty joshi, and even a quicky tag match that features a Terry Funk run-in. Because you can't keep me away from Terry Funk.
As with all my mixtapes, I have the matches saved in a playlist form, so you can sit back and rock out the matches without having to do much of anything:
Four title matches this week, none of which are the NWA Heavy, WCW World, or WWF title, which surprises me. Speaking of titles let's kick this mother off with STEVEN MOTHER F'N REGAL.
TELEVISION TITLE MATCH
LORD STEVEN REGAL(c) vs. "THE BRITISH BULLDOG" DAVEY BOY SMITH
Davey Boy brings the goods with the size and acrobatics. The early wristlock counter wrestling is so damn slick, and never boring. Davey Boy's acrobatic counters are still impressive for a guy as beefed up on natural supplements as he is. The fifteen minute time limit creates an interesting story, with Regal being in NO rush to finish the match. He's the champ, a draw is a win, and he's more than happy to sit on his submissions. Davey Boy, as a character, rarely feels like a smart wrestler. He gets by on his super human agility and power. It's not until the match hits the final four minutes that Davey realizes, "oh crap, I gotta do something". Check how he goes for the vertical suplex, and decides not to delay it like he usually does. THERE'S NO TIME. It's like a guy losing on points in a boxing match realizing they have to KO. Regal kicking out of the powerslam was huge. We all know that's Davey's preferred finish, but it's not treated like an automatic death move. And you can see him take that frustration out on the piledriver. That move looked violent as hell. Regal just tried to survive, and if you ask me this is a great way to keep a champion looking strong without putting him over the challenger. It's so much better than say having Randy Orton decide to just punch a guy in the nuts to end the match. Anyway, it's a good story watch it.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
TAKA MICHINOKU(c) vs. EL PANTERA
Holy balls, this is nuts. The apron spot into the corner tope was mind blowing. But unlike a lot of spot fest type matches this one is actually worked really smart. Pantera is actually using his dives to work a body part, which I can't say I've seen much of ever. More flippy dudes should watch this match to learn how to build a story around their dives. Just so many good spots all built around breaking a guys back. Definitely watch this one.
DR DEATH STEVE WILLIAMS vs. SID VICIOUS
Hell's yeah, this one works fast with Sid and Steve Williams bringing the clubbing blows and power game. It's big man vs. big man game, and it feels like you're watching two superstars about to put on a classic battle for dominance. Sid actually plays it smart after the hot start trying to slow it down and work methodically, but Dr. Death is too much for that, he wants a bomb fest until someone can't stand. It's a damn shame we couldn't get a finish here, but what we do get is a nice teaser and pretty solid Skyscraper beatdown that ends with Norman trying to console Steve Williams with a teddy bear. So it's a must watch situation.
SMASH DIVA CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
KANA(c) vs. SYURI
One of my favorite matches from last year, Shuri plays the first chunk like a woman with determination and confidence, and it works for a little bit. She seemingly has Kana's number with some nice kicks, using them to disrupt Kana's technical attack, but eventually it catches up to her. Kana does some cool ground work, trying to twist up Shuri's legs to make her think twice about using them. I also liked the German suplexes as a defense to keep Shuri disoriented. There's some really good strikes in this, with some cool kicks to the face that look brutal. There's one that Kana nails and she shows so much glee, thinking she'd knocked the challenger out. That's the moment where Kana gave up on her gameplan of twisting Shuri until an eventual submission and got stuck trying to land a knockout. FOOL. Love Shuri's clinch knees that transition into that weird hangman knee that really works for me. My favorite may be Shuri's pump knee to Kana's face that pretty much turned the tide in her favor. Anyway, there's plenty of good stuff, it doesn't overstay its welcome, and it shows there's some good ladies rasslin' out there.Check it out.
DUSTIN RHODES & RICKY STEAMBOAT vs. BUNKHOUSE BUCK & ARN ANDERSON
Fun match that is a good lesson in ring dynamics when working tag matches. Buck and Arn do a great job of cutting the ring off down the diagnol, and Parker and Meng up the ante by not allowing Rhodes to run around the outside to break up any illegal shenanigans. The concept of just too many people gets built on especially well when Arn goes for a DDT, Ricky blocks it by hanging on the ropes, gets clotheslined by Buck, and harassed on the outside. The odds were just too great, and made even worse when Terry Funk skulks out there. My big dissapointment is that Dustin Rhodes lost the match on a TRIP. How lame is that? But otherwise a solid TV match to build the feud.
TATSUMI FUJINAMI vs. KEIJI MUTOH
Two of my all-time favorite wrestlers putting on a great 14 minute match. Mutoh goes for instant kill in the opening minutes, and Fujinami counters with the intent to wear down the younger competitor with some tight headlock work. It works for a while, but Mutoh gets to show he's got some ground game with some toe lock stuff. The story here is that the longer this goes the more it favors Fujinami, who is more than happy to ground you and tortuously wear you down. Late in the match he decides the smart move is to go for the leg and just keep on that until eventually success. As soon as Mutoh gets an opening, he decides he has to go for broke again, because he can't win the ground war. Drop kicks, moonsaults, german suplex, he throws it all at the legend, but it doesn't keep him down. Last resort: FLASH PINS! I really love the inside cradle spamming. What makes it work is how fast Mutoh applies them. Fujinami has no room to get his bearing and is probably dizzy by the time the third one gets locked on. Great finish that really shows the "wrestling genius" of Keiji Mutoh.
L.A. PARK vs. DR. WAGNER JR.
Gotta have a blood feud lookin' brawl among all these technical heavy matches. So I'm going with Park/Wagner from earlier this year. The first fall brawling is inspiring. Really dig it when Parka is guiding Wagner down the aisle with heabutts and then just decides to toss him off the ramp. I always get weary of matches with crowd brawls because some assholes just grab a guy by the back of his neck and walk around to whatever spot they want to do. This felt like a FIGHT! I also really dig the long camera angle shots slightly above the crowd, where it looks like someone caught this psychotic fight with their camera phone. Feels like chaos. And Parka taking Wagner's face and slamming it into the ring post while on the top rope and later slamming it into the mat is a thing of violent beauty. The finish is wonky in a funny way, but I don't feel like it ruins the madness that came before it. One of the best matches of the year.
VADER vs. PJ WALKER(Justin Credible)
We gotta have a squash match, so I picked another Vader match because, duh, it's Vader AND it's Justin Credible being a jabronie! Vader lets PJ have his best shot before tossing him across the ring. Good times. We even get some good promo time after. Also, for those that follow my blog and my New Generation Era Project, you'll know this is one of many PJ Walker squashes I've covered. And if you aren't keeping up with my New Generation Era Project, get on the ball, Paul.
2 OUT OF 3 FALLS FOR THE NWF CHAMPIONSHIP
ANTONIO INOKI(c) vs. BILLY ROBINSON (1975)
I know, I know, I'm asking a lot. You're probably sitting there on your computer going, who possible has time for that. And even if you do have time for it, you might not even like it. I don't know if today's audiences can even deal with a match like this. But I love this match, it's my fucking mixtape, and let me tell you what's badass about this match.
For starters, these two WORK holds. They don't just go through moves, and do so just fit in more shit. Each hold becomes it's own segment. Take for example the opening headlock from Billy Robinson. He wrenches on that shit periodically to make sure he's doing damage. This sets the tone for the whole match, because this story is going to be about two masters of the craft trying to wear the other one down. It's a test of will and endurance. Maybe the best segment in the whole match revolves around Inoki trying to keep Robinson's head in a leg scissors. I've seen plenty of good head scissor bits, but this one may be the best on. It just lasts so long, and Robinson's struggle is so desperate that the crowd actually cheers when he escapes - in a match against King God Inoki. That's crazy. And Billy sells it like that whole section really took a toll on him, which helps deepen the story.
When things pick up from the holds it happens suddenly and violently. Like when Inoki did that kangaroo kick, or when Robinson gave him that nasty backbreaker. They do a good job of breaking up the mat wrestling, while at the same time showing desperation and frustration in the wrestlers.
You also get a really nice story of ring placement. A lot of the work jgets maneuvered to the sides so that the wrestlers, whenever they get a good advantage, are too close to the ropes to create any real damage. Sometimes you'll see Billy decide he'd rather escape a hold and maybe slap one on in the process than actually reach out for a rope break. As the match is winding down in time, you'll also see Robinson roll to the ring apron to stall for more time, and if you were paying attention to the first match of the mix, Regal does the exact same thing. Showing ring awareness, and using rules to your advantage is a great way to tell a strong story that makes the fictional play or pro-wrestling more three dimensional
The first fall doesn't even come until around 40 minutes in. Inoki sells it perfectly too. He looks legit pissed and he comes out swinging to make up for it. He knows it's going to take everything he has to just tie it up, let alone get two straight in the next 20 minutes. Billy, he don't give a shit, he's fired up but knows he's in control, and that if he just sticks to his guns Inoki will make a desperate mistake that Billy can capitalize on.
The ending is intense, and satisfying, and the match as a whole is one of the best 60 minute showdowns you're going to see. Get a glass of wine(may I suggest Dexter Lake 2010 if you can find it, OR Dr Hermann if you want a Riesling done right), maybe put on a favorite album, and chow down on this one, because it's worth the time.
And after you watch tell post a comment about what you liked about the match. Wear your experience as a badge of honor among your fellow wrestling nerds.